Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Benediction

The peace and beauty of a spring day
had descended upon the earth
like a benediction.
-Kate Chopin

We see spring for such a brief time here in Texas. It beckons, descends, and then acquiesces to the ever-impatient summer, leaving me feeling a little teased and abandoned. I've said it before, but I love spring. I wish she would hang around Freeman House a bit longer. It's so lovely with her here.

I woke up last night sweating, tangled in my damp sheets and wishing desperately for a ceiling fan in the bedroom. I think I'll buy one this weekend. With spring you can make it through the night without 8 tons of air conditioning...

...With summer you wouldn't dare. Which is why spring beats summer, and why spring is cordially invited to spend as long as she wishes at Freeman House.

But I think her RSVP mentioned that she must leave the party early... something about having another engagement up north to see to. Ah, well. At least spring stopped by briefly. And at least she left behind a happy, green tree.

A happy, green tree, and me.

Have a lovely weekend! Brin

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Busy Nothings

Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.
-Jane Austen

Lowe's is making yet another delivery to Freeman House today. I get excited every time the loud, rumbling trucks pull up and send forth a fork lift. It's sort of like the hatching of a spring chick... it's thrilling and fun, but it also means a lot of work ahead.

Just like these seedlings. It's so exciting to watch them sprout... after all, there are so many factors which can work against them. Yet when they get tall and gangly, the cute wears off and it's time for the real work to begin.

(Note: Notice the tall green fuzzies in the background? Butternut squash, baby. Heh-heh. It's even coming up near the trash bin outside. I have no idea how it got there.)

This weekend I'm having a yard sale. Besides putting an ad in the paper, I've done little to prepare. (If you've ever experienced a small-town yard sale in Texas, you know what I'm facing. In fact, I'm not sure why they don't televise these things. At my last (first) one, there was a fight, a theft, a mini-auction, and a stellar performance by Miss Gunn ... playing herself, of course. Have I never told you about Miss Gunn? Oh, I must. I really must. It's knee-slapping, eye-watering hilarious. Maybe after the sale this Saturday. I'm sure by then I'll have even better material.)

So yes, the yard sale. The report for work. The work on the house. (I act as my own contractor.) The library fund raiser. Busy nothings. Busy, busy nothings. But they never stop coming, do they?

It's tough to remember during times like these to make the days count... not just count the days. I try, but then the Lowe's truck rumbles up and I tend to forget. Or a yard sale looms in my future and I get covered in 50 cent stickers and... forget. I forget to try to squeeze something eternal into the "succession of busy nothings". And shame on me. It should be the other way around.

But ah... another day. Another day to try. So I guess I'm off. Busy nothings await. Have a beautiful day!- Brin

[By the way, I put a hit counter on the blog yesterday for fun. I had them start the counter at 2300. I was shocked this morning to log on and see that my blog had 72 hits yesterday while I was away. Areyoukiddingme? 72? The counter people assure me they are, in fact, accurate. So now I'm curious who all 72 of you are. What your name is. If you like brownies. If you prefer spring... or fall. If you've ever been to a yard sale. Really? There are 72 of you faceless, non-commenting folk out there who read me yesterday? I'm floored. I'm honored and stunned. And curious. Honored, stunned, and curious by and about you. All 72 of you!]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Beckoning of Spring

Spring beckons!
All things to the call respond;
the trees are leaving and cashiers abscond.
-Ambrose Bierce

I truly can't remember the last time I was this taken with spring. My senses feel gorged on the freshness of it - the dropping wisteria petals, the budding branches, the cool, lush grass. Spring is beckoning...

... and I'm falling hard.

I clipped some branches yesterday and plunked them in water. Ah, better. As I was backing away to look, I caught my heel on a box of books (of course it would be books), and smacked my fanny. But as I looked up the view was so ... spring-like ... that I stayed there, on my fanny, taking it in. What could be better than spring - outdoors and in?

Then it began to rain... that gentle, pat-pat-pitterpat rain that makes you glad you were born. It was all so wonderful I felt I could have died in that one moment.

But I didn't. So I went to work. Same thing, really...

Ah, but today. Today is the most perfect spring day I've ever seen. I'm no cashier, but I'm thinking of absconding. Clearly I haven't done a thing since spring arrived and beckoned anyway.

Question: is it just me? Does anyone else have a chronic case of the I don't wannas? I mean, have you been outside? I really must know. Because if it's just me... if this is just all in my head... perhaps I should make an appointment to see someone.

But honestly, I think I'll already know what he'll say:

"Young lady," the doctor will announce, looking at me as if I'm stupid, "You've come down with a classic case of ... spring fever."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

God, Aprons, and Etsy

I remember my mother looking in the
weekly newspaper to find a new apron pattern.
She was so proud of her new aprons.
They were as important to her as a new dress.
-From MaryJane's IdeaBook

Obviously I underestimated Etsy.

Yesterday morning, armed with the energy only 5 cups of Breakfast Blend coffee can give a girl, I happily uploaded a few pictures to my Etsy site and clicked "finished". It was my first day on Etsy, and I'd made two aprons and several other items ... herbal eye packs... hand knitted 'house helpers', etc., and figured that would hold the shop several weeks. I got up from the computer and danced around a bit, then came back a few short hours later to check my email.

God is good, my friends. And aprons sell. Obviously I underestimated all of them: God, aprons, and Etsy!

I've been to the post office three times already, sending packages to California, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. (Wisconsin!) I hurried home from this Monday night thing our church is doing and sat down at the sewing machine again. This apron... which I'm calling The Emma Apron because of the name of the fabric pattern... was born about midnight.

This God, apron, and Etsy stuff can be very, very addictive. I'm having to remind myself this morning that I do, in fact, have a real life job that I better show up for. Ha-rumph.

Aprons are much more fun.

But alas, it is Tuesday, my hands-down best day of the week. I guess I better trip on over to work (stopping by the post office first, of course!), and make myself useful until Gilmore Girls comes on tonight.

Or until the sewing machine and coffee pot call my name. Whichever comes first!

Happy Tuesday! - Brin

Monday, March 26, 2007

Monday Moment: The Key

Freeman House has a lot of doors - 32 doors, actually. Most of them are old and solid wood, and unless updated all of them have brass knobs and key holes. It's really something.

I love to get down and peer through the keyholes as children must have done 100 years ago. It's interesting to me. As I was cleaning this weekend, I started wondering about those keyholes and all the keys that locked and unlocked the doors. What happened to them? Where are they? I find it strange that of all the things found in and under this house, a single key has yet to turn up.
So I made it a mini-mission Saturday morning. As I cleaned, I played Nancy Drew and kept a look out for anything resembling a skeleton key or a skeleton key hiding place.... I got nothing. The keys remain gone... or hidden.

Seems like life is that way too sometimes. We awake one day and find we're in a new place... a lonely place... a tough place... or a depressing place... and there are no keys to be found. And despite our best efforts of looking for answers... looking for a way out... looking for that one key to getting us through life, we come up empty-handed. We are in a life of 32 doors and no keys.

Or are we? I think not. Decidedly not. I'm just one girl, but I've done my share of searching. I've stumbled and cried and prayed my way through a considerable amount of key-hunting. And I didn't find my answer in a career. (Read me.) I didn't find my answer in money. My salvation didn't come by way of a man or a marriage. My key... to this life and whatever comes after... and my hope... for this day and the ones that come after... is simply this: Jesus Christ. The only begotten Son of God. The only key that unlocks the door to eternity.

Sure, I may still be looking for keys. Keys to the 32 doors of Freeman House. Keys to baking a light, moist cake. Keys to washing my comforter at home and not getting yellowish spots all over it. But I'm no longer searching for the key. That one I have in hand... in heart. And the best part of it is, this key is universal. My key can be your key, too. All we have to do is ask.

Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
-Matthew 7:7

Monday Moment is a little devotional read to help kick-start your week.
Hope to see you again next Monday!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Potion Commotion

Announcement: it's Spring Cleaning Weekend at Freeman House.

I promise I'm not dawdling or procrastinating. I had things to do on my computer. Seriously, I'm about to start the clean-a-thon. But first I had to check Herbal Farmstead for the recipe to that antibacterial, all-natural rosemary/sage cleaner. I've already made Sue's Lavender Linen Water concoction, and yesterday when I had guests one paused in the laundry room and inhaled so deeply I was afraid she was having an asthma attack. "Smells wonderful," she said, as her eyes did this weird flutter-thing. It really caused quite a commotion.

(Of course, like my Great-Grandmother Lillie Belle Allen, I have no sense of smell, so I'm forever paranoid about the sniffs and sharp intakes of breath around me.)

But no matter. I'm completely taken with this idea of mixing my own herbs into potions for use in areas of the home outside the kitchen. I feel like a Victorian-era herbalist. Or a Macbeth-era double, double, toil-and-trouble kinda gal.

Mwa-ha-ha. I mean, who knew rosemary could clean your bathroom better and more safely than Comet? Sue did. People amaze me.

Oh, but yes... cleaning. I'm about to start. I have one more potion to mix and then my apron and I are off. I just hope I do this correctly. If I do, my bathroom will be the marvel of the town. If I don't... well, when you don't hear from me by Monday or Tuesday, we'll all know why.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Green Day (Belated)

Green is the prime color of the world,
and that from which its loveliness arises.
-Pedro Calderon de la Barca

If green is your thing, Freeman House is your feast this Friday. In celebration of the first week of spring, and in belated celebration of St. Patrick's Day, everything is exclaiming in green. Tucked away in sun-baked pots, the Greek Oregano grows....

...The grape vines trail along fences and around trees...

...The strawberries bloom (look... we have tiny strawberries!) and bush....

... The Woolly Lamb's Ear grows greener and fuzzier. (I think these are wonderful and am inclined to believe tiny angels sleep on them at night.)

... Even the lizards who play on birdhouses are appropriately, if belatedly, attired.

I feel so far removed from all the world's drama and decay today. It's hard not to be when you're surrounded by God's green handiwork and His verdant coat.

Even if your corner of the earth isn't green, of if you live in a concrete castle, we can still herald spring and mark this green day together...

So pull up a chair on the porch. Or grab a glass of iced tea and join me in front of the computer. Together we can soak it all in...

From me to you, happy spring, happy weekend... and happy green day! -B

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Osh Squash B'gosh

Show me your garden
and I shall tell you what you are.
-Alfred Austin

Okay, it's time you hear the squash story.

Let me preface by saying this: that the Tale of the Butternut Squash was not my first foray into small town grocery store shopping. One of my first posts ever was called Adventures in Adjusting, and still makes me laugh so hard I have to cross my legs really tightly when I read it.

Ahem. Anyway, the Tale of the Butternut Squash. It goes something like this: one cold, cold winter day, I was sitting in the study, bundled up in a quilt, when a recipe for butternut squash risotto appeared on FoodNetwork. Instantly, I became obsessed with making it, convinced it would warm me heart and soul and coax me out of my beef stew rut. It was 3 p.m.

I put on four extra pairs of socks and rushed to our small town grocery store. I should have known better. "Where are you hiding the butternut squash, Larry?" I ask our "produce" guy. Larry stares at me, dumb stricken. (I honestly think he's scared of me.)

"Um, Brin," he says, slowly, "I've told you bifore, this ain't Dalllas. We don't carry thet faancy squarsh."

"It's not fancy, Larry," I moaned. "It's just like summer squash and zucchini, only better. I bet you'd sell it if you would just put some out."

Gosh. Adventures in Adjusting, here we go again. So I get in the car and drive. I drive an hour and rush into Wal-Mart. I look high and low. No butternut squash. "Osh squash b'gosh," I mutter in frustration. I almost start to cry.

Ten minutes later, I'm back in the car. I drive another hour. Kroger is my next victim. And whatdya know. I find one shriveled, half-slimy, organic butternut squash. The total comes to $7 for one squash. By now I don't care. Sold!

It was 10 p.m. when I got back to Freeman House. Butternut squash didn't even sound that good anymore. Nevertheless, I roasted that sucker and made risotto. And I must say, it was pretty tasty.

I was still sore about whole squash conquest, though. As I cleaned up the mess, I eyed those slimy seeds. "You are the last butternut squash I will ever buy," I growled through clenched teeth. I carefully washed those seeds, blotted them, and laid them on paper towels. Then I walked away.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when I was sticking anything that resembled a seed into my organic seed mix. Remembering my squash oath, I found those seeds, and although they looked pretty lame, I jabbed them into dirt, splashed them with water, and begged them to sprout....


Today is butternut squash planting day, my friends. I loaded the pretties onto my old vegetable carry-all, and in rather dramatic Gone With the Wind fashion, swept my hand over my forehead and yelled, "With God as my witness, I will never go hungry... for butternut squash... again!"

Huh. Small town life. Osh squash b'gosh....

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Five Favorites

Okay, so this is a random post, but it's hump day, so go with me, m'kay?

I read. I listen. I poke around. And these five things are soaring up the chart of my favorite things ever. I thought I'd share, if for no other reason than to maybe expand our horizons. In no particular order, these five favorites are:

Favorite One: The band Late Tuesday. Although the three member band is on hiatus due to a recent marriage, these girls are incredible. Their roots are deep in Christian music, (omygosh... you should hear their O Come, O Come Emmanuel off the Christmas album), but they've gone slightly more mainstream with each album. It's still amazing stuff you could play your grandma. (Or play if you are a grandma.) You can buy their albums here, and listen to a few of their songs at the link above.

Favorite Two: A Year in Bread. I love to bake. Love it.

But even if you don't, or don't suppose you're any good at it, here's hope. This concept of A Year In Bread is simple - three ordinary people who like to bake (two girls and a guy), tackle one type of bread a month: pizza dough, hamburger buns, sandwich bread, etc., and walk you through it. All of it. Plus, they are funny. They admit it when their bread comes out whole wheat bricks. Whether you're a novice or an experienced baker, this is where you want to be.

Favorite Three: Wee Wonderfuls. I'm an amateur embroiderer, but no matter. Hillary Lang makes this stuff easy and adorable. I bought the set below with plans to make little outfits and pillow cases for a few friends with little girls....

I will offer only one warning: be very, very, careful in going to her site. It doesn't matter if you're into this stitching stuff or not. You will want to live there. You will want to be her best friend. And you will be looking for a calendar to see how far off your next payday is.

Favorite Four: MaryJane's Farm. I'm trying to save a little cash to do her one-week rural B&B program, but... we'll see. Regardless, if you haven't heard of MaryJane Butters, you will. We're getting a Farmgirl Chapter up and running in my area, and I'm thrilled. I wish she would run for president, really....

Favorite Five: This book. If you can't make out the title, it's called The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. I snatched this book off my friend Lacy's bookshelves... she hated it... and couldn't put it down. It is very, very different, and although Kimmel was a theology student, I find her theology very... off. It runs very contrary to some personally held beliefs I hold dear....

But I love stretching myself. Challenging myself. And this book was excellent, differences in theology aside. I can't wait to read it again in a few years.

Okay, so my tastes may be very different than yours. Maybe you know of something I should know about. Tell me! Tell me what some of your favorites are. Maybe we could even form a Favorites Club... you know, on that particular day when the laundry's caught up, the bills are paid, the house is clean, and the nap has been taken.

Yep, definitely then....

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Childlike and Childless

It is the childlike mind that finds the kingdom.
-Charles Fillmore

I was planting tomatoes over the weekend when the shovel hit some resistance with a loud clunk. Bending down to look, I noticed something reflecting sunlight from down in the cool, dark hole. It was glass. Or glass bottles, rather. Several of them.

One was brown glass, and had a large "A" with a bird stamped all over it. Another was short and squatty. Another was cylindrical and skinny. And then there was this one... no more than 3 inches tall, with the words "Bayer Aspirin" forged into its little sides. It's hard to see from the picture, but it's there.

I brought them in, cleaned them up (which took some doing as they were all filled with caked dirt), and put a tiny posie in the aspirin bottle. I put it on the dining room table and took a break and looked at it.

I found myself wishing, at that very moment, that I had a child.

To be fair, I've been thinking about it often lately, but at that exact moment it hit me like a tidal wave. A few weeks ago, a lady in town asked me if, when I got the house fixed up, I would consider helping the local Child Protective Services and maybe... keep a child or two in between homes? I gasped. "It's a lot to consider," I said thoughtfully. And it is.

The trouble is, I haven't stopped considering it. As I was making bread Sunday, I suddenly wished I had a little pair of hands nearby. I could imagine tearing off a small lump of dough and handing it to those tiny hands. "Push it like this," I'd say. And we'd knead away, getting flour into every crevice and cranny in the kitchen.

And then planting those tomatoes. I could just see... in the middle of me prattling on and on about planting things... the shovel hitting those bottles, and suddenly childlike enthusiasm would hang in the air as we uncovered the "buried treasure". Imagining sharing that moment with an elated little one as we rushed to pick flowers and fill the tiny bottle with water... brought tears to my eyes. Still does.

My mother and I made plans yesterday to spend my 28th birthday, in three weeks, in Savannah, Georgia. I'm manic with anticipation. But when I stop... just before I turn out the lights at night... I think, I'm 28. I won't ever be brave (foolish?) enough to attempt marriage again. I'll never have a daughter to take to Georgia on her 28th birthday.

It's enough to keep you home on a Tuesday morning, usually my best day of the week, draining a coffee pot and staring listlessly out the window.

I got an email last night from someone who read yesterday's post and expressed doubt over my childlike faith. "You make it all sound too easy," she said. "Faith is not simple. It does not make you happy."

She's right, probably. Maybe I do make it sound easy. Some days... days like today... it's not. And faith... wherever you find it and however it meets you... is not simple. It slips, and laughs, and rallies, blushes if any see, according to Emily Dickinson. And no, faith cannot make you happy.

But it is... and always will be... the substance of things hoped for. On happy days and sad. It is, and always will be, my rallying cry. My reason to turn off the coffee pot and start my day, childlike and childless. It's that way for the woman who'd like to escape her children... even if for a day, and the woman staring out the window wishing she had one to escape with... even if for a day.

Fillmore says "it's the childlike mind that finds the kingdom". Undoubtedly true. But it's also the childlike minds with faith that triumph. That seek... and find. Surely to us the Kingdom is just around the bend....

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Monday Moment: Bread and Roses

I had today's blog mapped out in my head. For this week's Monday Moment, I was going to hit on John 6... that part of the Gospels where Jesus so beautifully states that He is the bread of life, and He who comes to me will never go hungry (John 6:35). Such a beautiful analogy.

I was thinking of it because I baked bread yesterday afternoon, and as I kneaded I thought about all the things bread is. Bread is sustaining. It's nourishing. It's comforting. (A neighbor stopped by as I had a loaf cooling at the window and came in "just to sniff", she said. Even the smell was comforting.). To be exact, I was thinking of how we poke fun of having only "bread and water" in the house, but seriously... one loaf of homemade bread and a tall, cool pitcher of water and really, could you need anything besides? Bread is wonderful.

As I kneaded the dough I also thought of the things, besides bread, that I hunger for beyond basic physical needs: things like security. I hunger for security. For unconditional love. For someone to be proud of me. I hunger to matter.

So I was going to talk about all that: about how no matter what we hunger for - no matter how complicated and out-of-reach our contentment... our deep-seated longings seem - they really can all be identified and met in one place... the Bread of Life. And the invitation is there for anyone who's tired of fighting, ignoring, or feeding those vague, ever-changing cravings. He is the bread of life.

Yep, I was going to say some of that, and then I was going to quickly segue into how, upon looking out the study windows this morning, I noticed that all my carefully planted roses are gone. Vanished! Someone stole from the prayer garden. Where the darlings used to be are now five shallow holes... like empty graves. Someone came and dug up my roses. Either that, or the earth sucked them under in five precise, vortex movements. Or the dogs employed a shovel to neatly pile the dirt alongside each hole, carefully leaving all the sage untouched. The plants I labored over choosing, placing, planting, and feeding are gone. In a blink. Gone!

So suddenly I had a new blog... a Matthew 6 blog... that obviously took precedence over any bread message.


Hmm. On second thought, maybe not. Maybe they are the same. After all, whether we're talking about bread or roses, they're both temporary. Fleeting. Here last night, gone today. And someday, when we're facing the end of our lives, all the beautiful bread and roses we've enjoyed will be just that: an enjoyment that expired. A pleasure that came to an end. And then what will we have? We'll have memories, sure, but we'll still have that vague longing. In our advanced age, we'll still be looking. We'll still be hungry

Unless we look to the Bread of Life... the Rose of Sharon... whose message is unchanging and promise is eternal. Until we look there, and nowhere else, all the bread and all the roses - all our work and all our pleasure - will be futile... a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:11)

I'm not sure where this week finds you or what this week holds for any of us. But I do know this: at some point in the next seven days, we'll all be hungry. Physically, emotionally, spiritually... we'll need something. And our answer, my answer... your answer, it's the same...

Jesus declared, I am the bread of life.
He who comes to Me will never go hungry.

-John 6:35

Monday Moment is a little devotional read to help kick-start your week. Hope to see you here again next Monday!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Fileus Amongus

The trouble with organizing...
is that pretty soon folks get to paying
more attention to the organization
than to what they're organized for.
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

I had a boyfriend not all that long ago who, every time a mushroom joined us for dinner, would shudder in horror and declare, "There is a fungus among us." (Same boyfriend who in his early 20s auditioned to be a game show host and truly wanted the job.) For some reason I thought of that this morning, that and how he would always tease me about my "filing fits".

In order to maintain an effective grouping of files, you must have a system. My system is this: (1) stack everything in various neat piles throughout the house; (2) let stand at room temperature until said piles begin to slide, disperse, or disintegrate, and (3) find fresh, pretty files, label them anew, and spend an entire day shoving papers in files and asking, "why in the world did I keep this?" and "wonder what happened to that Joe Miracle guy from the college newspaper?"

Today is a filing fit Friday. [Sigh]

Oh, the stuff we keep, right? I'm a habitual thrower-outer and garage sale holder, but even so, I have a lot of paper stuff. Receipts, recipes, magazine clippings, notes, coupons, letters and postcards, drawings, Lacy's handmade cards, sermon outlines, IMs, business emails... stuff. And as I gather it from the four corners of the house this morning, I'm wondering: if it all blew away, would I notice? If it all burned, would I care?

It's odd: the more Laura Ingalls Wilder quotes I read, the more I think I should pay closer attention to the woman. She was brilliant. When I stop to consider her thoughts on organization (although I realize I'm misapplying the quote), I realize: I'm paying far too much attention to the actual organizing than to why I'm actually organizing.

So before my filing fit begins, I plan to pour another cup of coffee and determine the why before the how. I may even craft a filing mission statement to outline my objectives.

(And if that procrastination plot doesn't take all that long, I suppose I will have to begin filing.)

Have a wonderful Friday and weekend, no matter how you spend it! -B

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fog and Smock Talk

It's foggy this morning. It's the wet, foam-like fog that's so dense you expect to turn around and see you've cut a path through it as you've walked. And as I walked, I realized how silly it was of me not to post pictures of "the gardens three". Duh. Here they are, beginning with the beginning of the prayer garden...
At least the lilies (um... irises, I meant... thanks Wylee!) are going strong. Now all I have to do is divide and move them around a bit and add 27 other plants and a gravel walk and bench. Nothing to it, really. [Smile]

Now, a quick look at the Dickinson garden, all plowed up and ready to go....

Maybe you can make out the chair and side table I have way back there for taking mini surveyor breaks. (If you can't, of course, you can click on any of the images on this blog for larger versions.)

Ah, I love traipsing around this place...

Even indoors, too! Hey, now that we're inside, I wanted to show you a child's smock (apron, whatever you wish to call them) that I've made for the Freeman House etsy site:

Okay, first the quick story. This house had a LOT of stuff in it when I bought it. Some belonged to the previous owner, and some had been left by Ms. Freeman and her comrades. As soon as the former's stuff was gone, I began quickly going through the piles that had lived here since before I was born. In one box, I found dozens of old sewing patterns and a few articles of clothing. One was a child's smock, which though quite old, was the most adorable thing.

I searched and searched for a pattern, but couldn't find one. So I deconstructed the simple old one and made my own.

(The fabric rose was my addition.) Anyhow, I've found some great vintage fabric, ribbon, and ric-rac I'm hoping to include in a few of these, in addition to the fabric rose. Can't you just see a precious little girl painting in this... helping her mom or grandma or aunt in the house with this... or finding things outside to tuck in the pockets of this? Well, I can. I wish I'd had one of these when I was a girl!

I have more to come. (Also, a few new grown-up girl aprons, too. I want to keep them. All of them!) I'll post a few sneaks when I get the chance.

Wow. Thursday already, huh? Better quit gabbing and get on with the day. Thanks for joining me for a little fog and smock talk. Same time tomorrow? -Brin

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Gardens Three

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap
but by the seeds that you plant.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Most of my life, I've lived in the city. With the exception of seven years growing up, I've lived on tiny lots or in cramped apartments or dorms. But in third grade, during the first of my city years, I read The Secret Garden. Remember it? It profoundly affected me - as books can affect young girls - and all during adolescence I dreamed of a hedged, walled garden with a secret entrance.

Armed with that youthful desire, I tucked away The Secret Garden and bounded into my teen years enamored with Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Dickinson and Wharton were avid gardeners, and after devouring Emily Dickinson's Gardens, I became determined to have my garden, albeit with more of an Emily Dickinson style. But with a secret entrance, of course.

Then in my mid-20s, as I began to dig deeper and deeper (no pun intended), into the Bible, I emerged determined to plant a prayer garden.

Yikes. This Secret Garden/Emily Dickinson/Old and New Testament garden is gonna be a challenge. So I decided last week to disentangle the ideas and execute them one at a time, beginning simultaneously with the secret and prayer gardens.

But I realized very quickly my garden dreams came at a price. Literally. Have you been to Lowe's and checked plant prices lately? Sheesh! Fortuitously, I stumbled upon Farmgirl Fare (along with a few others), and learned of three reputable seed companies. I ordered seed in January, and Friday I mixed my own organic seed starting mix....

... and Saturday my Dad came over and brought me this seed tray contraption he designed and built himself. It holds eight large seed trays, and has suspended hooks for the hanging of grow lights over each tray. (Truly, my Dad is a genius)...

... And Sunday afternoon, I planted my seeds. I planted vegetables like summer squash and butternut squash and red "atomic" carrots. I planted more strawberries. I planted several tomatoes (one, called Black from Tula, turns black in the middle but is supposed to taste divine. I thought it would be hilarious to take my ex-off-Broadway neighbor a huge, ripe tomato and hear her scream when she cuts into the black, fleshy, center. Heh-heh.)

I also tucked herb seeds into the soil, and along with the usuals, like Thyme, I planted herbs like Hyssop and Sage and Dill and Mint, expressly to help fill the prayer garden. Yep, the east side of Freeman House gets great morning sun, and will make a great shady prayer garden, I think. I'm using only plants that are mentioned in the Bible (too bad that fig tree croaked), and have my eye on this great bench to hide among the plants. I can just see myself among the lilies and climbing roses and hyssop, drinking hot tea and casting my cares...

That is, when I'm not hiding and reading Dickinson in the secret/Dickinson garden.

But oh, is that ever far away. This morning, as I bounded in to check on the little seeds... which has until today amounted to nothing aside from staring at dirt, I was ecstatic to see that after THREE DAYS, I already have Thyme, Red Carrots, and Amish Paste Tomatoes unfurling themselves and yawning after a long, dormant sleep.

I can hardly sit. I'm quivering with excitement. Let the themed garden days begin!

And of course, you're all invited. I have every intention of opening the little gardens. Just know beforehand that you cannot talk in the prayer garden unless you're talking to the Almighty. (Meaning no cell phones.) And there is a strict no-romance-or-comic-books policy in the Dickinson garden. (Meaning only literature. Real literature.) And you must be happy and childlike... or at least content and not snobby... in the secret garden. (It's designed for the young or the young at heart, after all.) These are my rules. Enter as you may.


Okay, I'm off to work. Hope you have a wonderful day. And know that if tonight you hear squealing coming from the general direction of Texas, it's me. It will mean the hyssop has said hello.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Spring

Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

I walked downtown in the drizzly, expectant evening....

Blooms and colors danced through yards and over pavement.

The air felt sweet.

The trees seemed to exclaim in blessed sighs....

Surprises sprouted at every turn....

And my corner of the world seemed to be extending a gloved hand, saying:

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Monday Moment - A Harvest Ahead

My second favorite household chore is ironing.
My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.
-Erma Bombeck

I really dislike ironing. Truly, I do. But maybe it's now my second favorite household chore. My first favorite household chore being stripping.

...Er... stripping antique mantels.

This is what they don't tell you when you go to the DIY website and type in "how do I strip 4 layers of paint and stain off my library's 125+ year-old wood mantel?":

(1) They don't tell you that you will get high on chemical fumes, no matter how well you ventilate. (2)They don't caution you to wear closed toe shoes because the stripper-solution will drip... drip right onto your right, flip-flop clad foot... causing a weird sizzle noise and smoke to rise off the top of said foot. (And burn through your $2.50 Old Navy flip-flops.) (3) They don't mention that it will, in fact, take $40 of sand paper to finally see the wood grain; and (4) They never disclose that you won't look, smell, or feel like a woman again for 48 hours (minimum)-what with all the chemical burns on your feet, residue on and in every surface and orifice of your body, and construction-worker-look-alike hair and fingernails.

Egad, this place is a mess. (Maybe the guys who are coming to rebuild the hearth and chimney can finish this for me. Oh? When pigs fly? Well, okay.) Someone, please... give me an ironing board!

Ah. Hey there! Glad you're back. Hope you had a good weekend. Did you? Please forgive my ranting. I'm afraid I'm still breathing the lingering fumes. You know, when I bought this ancient, rambling, neglected place, all I could think of was cute hammers and fun decorating projects and feather beds and rose-accompanied brunches. Ha. Like life, you wake up one day and realize everything... families... jobs... houses... friendships... sleep!... and maybe even faith... is work. Work, work, work. I don't know about you, but sometimes thinking about all the work that goes into every aspect of my life makes me tired. I know thinking about finishing that mantel sure is.

So imagine my delight when I re-read Galatians 6:9 tonight: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people....

I heard a story this weekend about a mother and daughter driving through the New England countryside. They gasped when they drove upon a field covered in tulips. Yellow tulips, pink tulips. Red tulips. Purple tulips. They stopped, and soon found the 80-year old owner and caretaker.

"How did you do this? There must be thousands of tulips out here!" the mother exclaimed.

"There are over 19,000," said the old woman. "I planted them myself."

"But how?" asked the daughter.

"One at a time," the woman said, "over a span of 50 years. I always knew it would add up."

That knock at the door? It's perspective. And it's saying that all the individual tulips we plant this week... all the good we do... all the good you're doing or will do this week - trying to raise honorable families, trying to earn an honest dollar, trying to do unto others as we would have them do unto us... it's all coming back around. It's all adding up. Maybe not this afternoon. Maybe not in July. But someday. It could be 50 years from now... in 2057... but someday.

And the cool thing about "good"? About persistently striving to be better... to be godly? It has far, far reaching effects. The good you do to your boss or the people you meet through your job could come back to you when you least expect it. The good you do to your children could come back to bless your grandchildren... your descendants... your heritage. The kindness you show today will be apart of how you're thought of and talked about tomorrow... and after you're gone.

Tolstoy said the "most effective warriors are time and patience". The Bible says those who do good will reap a harvest if they don't give up. God cannot be mocked, it says. A man reaps what he sows. Hey. There's a harvest ahead.

So wherever you find yourself today, and whatever you are doing today, know this: you're not alone. You're not working or toiling or battling or facing this week alone. Your work may go unnoticed. Unappreciated. Undiscovered. But it won't forever. And there is a point to it all.

Let us not grow weary in doing good!

(So this Monday Moment is just a little read to help kick-start your week. Hope you like it. See you again soon! - Brin)

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Days of a Tree...

For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of My people;

My chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands.
They will not toil in vain
or bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call, I will answer;
while they are still speaking, I will hear.
-Isaiah 65:22-24

I love the pecan trees that tower over Freeman House. They bud, they leaf, they produce, they sleep... forever watching, sheltering, and solidly there.

Somehow - this morning - the assurance that just as a pecan tree never forgets its nature, so too does God never forget His children, is powerful to me. It gives me strength. For just like the pecan, my God is always watching, always sheltering, and always, always there...

I have a busy Friday and chaotic weekend planned, but I wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy weekend. May we all look to the days of a tree and be reminded of how deeply and completely we are loved! -B