Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Moment: All Roads Lead Home

I got lost recently. I got turned around and misdirected and the sun was almost directly above me so I couldn't tell East from West and... (breath)... I was lost.

So I pulled over. I tried to access mapquest on my cell phone. Nope. Network unavailable. So I tried calling 411. "What city and state?" asked the recording. Oh no. "Ummm... somewhere in Kansas." I said quickly. "I need directions."

"Somewhere, Kansas?" the lady operator repeated, matter-of-factly. "Never mind," I mumbled, and hung up.

Shoot. I hate it when I get lost in parts unknown. I was about to head back the way I came (again) when this rumbling old truck pulled up alongside me. The guy in the cab asked if I was looking for someplace."Yes sir, I am," I said. "The highway?"

He laughed. Then he pointed. To this road. "That'll get you there," he said. "But they say all roads lead home, eh?" Sure. Right. Nice man.

I took off down the road, chiding myself for being such an idiot... for just taking off without directions or maps or printed-out mapquests or anything. As I drove, my thoughts suddenly turned to that part in the Bible where Abram takes off. To parts unknown. The Lord said to Abram, Leave your country... and go to the land I will show you. So Abram left. (Genesis 12:1, 4) Talk about parts unknown. Talk about being lost! That road in front of Abram must have looked awfully intimidating. I can't imagine how that day must have played out for him- waking up, packing up, psyching himself up, and then... what? Walking. Just walking. Where to? He didn't know. When would he get there? He didn't know that, either. All he knew was that the Lord said: Leave. So Abram "left".

But he left in faith. Abram walked down the road God placed him on secure in the knowledge that while he may not know where his road was leading, he knew the One who did. He supplied the faith, and God supplied ("... I will show you") the directions. And by the way, if you're wondering - Abram's road did lead home - home to the future nation of Israel.)

I made a mental note (and took a picture) while driving down this road. I vowed to remind myself that while it seems like the roads in our lives sometimes lead to parts unknown - or seem to lead nowhere, even - that if we know Jesus as our Savior that's far from the case. God knows where we're headed. And if we'll supply the faith, our God will supply the directions.

After all, look at Abram. His bewildering road leading to parts unknown made sense in the end. And, as someone once told me when I got lost, "All roads lead home."

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heavnly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
-Fanny Crosby

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

Thursday, April 26, 2007


A sister is a little bit of childhood
that can never be lost.
-Marion C. Garretty

My sister's coming for a visit this afternoon. I've thrown open the windows, clipped roses, put on a Bach Concerto, and made pink, sugar-rimmed glasses for the strawberry lemonade. Now all that's left is to watch for her pretty face.

My sister was three when I left for college. It's strange, with the age difference she seems more like a daughter than a sister. I've missed so much of her growing up, though... what with being in college, trying to become the next Barbara Walters, and moving on with my messy, thrilling existence. Over the years we've taken days and weekends when we (I) could... watching movies, painting toenails, eating out, swimming.

She'll be grown and off soon. It's hard to believe. In Target yesterday I saw a "young adult" book called Ida B and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World. I laughed. It sounded like us. Beneath her, I know, but if we share anything it's a love of books. Well, books and hair color. But mainly books.

When I got Ida B home she looked lonely. So I made Rice Krispie treats, but they looked lonely too. So I cut them out with biscuit cutters, slid in popsicle sticks, dipped them in melted white chocolate, and added sprinkles. Lovely. By the time it was over I had almost 80, so the youth group at church got a tray full. (I walked out of church last night in time to see a deacon happily munching on a sprinkled-lollipop. I laughed half the way home.)

But my sister. I still think of her as that kid in pig tails and sandals who waited at the door for my car to drive up. It makes me wish I had been there for more of her young life. Gosh, the days fly by. If we're not careful we miss so many important moments.

But not today. Today won't be one of those days. Today belongs to pink-sugared glasses, silly books and sprinkles. Sprinkles and sisters...

...Thank God for sisters.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Steps to a Patio... As Promised

I like being outdoors.
It is just another world.
-Bette Page

(How cool is this: see this blog broken down as an easy eHow article! Click here for step-by-step viewing.)

Ahhh... a patio. A sunny patio... with flowers and glasses of lemonade and seats with cushions and big, fat books. Could there be anything better? Um... no. Not really. Let's get to work, shall we? Summer's almost here.

Okay, first things first. I am not a professional. I have not even taken a class at Home Depot. I am just a girl with very few dollars to rub together who dreams of a sunny, gravel patio and glasses of strawberry lemonade. My way is not the only way. But it has worked for me. And I have just about completed and made pretty a gravel patio that cost right at $20. Here's how:

Maybe you want a patio. Or a weed-free flower bed. Or a circle bed around a tree. Or a nice place to put a bench. Maybe you want a grass-free area for a kiddie pool. Whatever you're after, this method should work. Get an idea and then choose your location. Mine began here, at this... um... not appealing spot behind Freeman House.

STEP TWO: MARK YOUR SPACE AND REMOVE VEGETATION. It helps to measure off your space and then draw out your boundaries. String helps, especially if you're doing circles. Once you've delineated your space, clear it out. You may need to transplant some things. You may just need to hack at some things with a hoe. But you need to start with a dirt foundation. Remove any large stones, debris, etc. Trust me, it's worth the effort to start with a clean slate. (By the way, this is the point where many people will bring out the Round-Up. If that's what you like, go for it here. Since I grow a lot of my own food and flowers, I'm anti-chemicals. Do what works for you.) STEP THREE: SUPPLY UP! For my patio, I wanted to use brick reclaimed from around Freeman House. I also wanted to use gravel. Pretty basic, but I wanted visual focus to be on my container garden and outdoor furniture. Gravel and bricks may not be in keeping with your house or garden. You may want to use landscaping edging or stone... or a flower or herb border. And for your base, you don't have to use gravel. There are so many cool options out there. You can use tumbled sea shells. You can use flattened-looking marbles from Mega Glass. You could even use landscaping glass. American Specialty Glass sells it in all colors. No matter what you decide to use, ask around. I went to my local hardware store and asked for leftover and broken bags of pea gravel. I got 800 pounds of it for $16.99.

Secondly, round up all your family's, neighbors', and friends' discarded newspapers. Depending on the size of your project, you may need quite a few.

STEP FOUR: EDGE AND PAPER IT. If you're adding an edging to your space, install it here. Place your stones, dig in your edging, plant your border plants. Once you have your outer perimeter defined, unfold your newspaper. Using stacks of approximately 8-10 black newsprint sheets (no color ads or glossy American Profiles, please), lay it out over your space. Watch for any rocks or sticks that could perforate the paper; you don't want that. The newspaper acts as an organic and inexpensive weed smother/barrier under your gravel. Sure, you could buy the black landscaping cloth, but quite frankly, why would you want to spend money on the stuff when you can reuse something everyone throws out anyway? It's the week of Earth Day, people. (Plus, it works. My mother uses this method in her garden and layers several inches of mulch over the paper. She calls it "lasagna gardening". No weeds. Little money.)

As you layer your newspaper, be sure to tuck edges under edges. This helps prevent weeds from growing up between your stacks of newspaper.

STEP FIVE: GRAVEL TIME. Instead of the "bend and snap" (remember Legally Blonde?), we'll call this the "dump and spread". Now's the time to lay your gravel, taking care that you spread it liberally enough to cover the area. As you rake, check for any holes or large rips in your newspaper and fix it before adding gravel. When you're finished spreading the gravel you may want to lightly water to help it all settle.

STEP SIX: PATIO PARTY. You've done it! You've created an inexpensive place for you and yours to relax. Go ahead and add your plants, your table, your bench, your hammock, your kiddie pool, your fire pit... whatever... and enjoy your new space!

By the way, if you're looking for a little inspiration for your patio, there's a great one in May's edition of Cottage Living. And as soon as I get mine finished, I'll proudly display it everyday (for a year, probably).

Happy patio creating! I hope you enjoy your space as much as I'm already loving my (half-finished) one!

Coming Soon...

Creating Outdoor Gravel Spaces
For Under $20-
Pictures and Plans

Coming This Evening!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Garden Rambles

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt,
head in the sun, heart with nature.
To nurture a garden is to feed
not just on the body, but the soul.
-Alfred Austin

I looked and looked for my (pre-garden) garden pictures this weekend and finally found them. They are still in roll-of-film form, having predated my digital camera days. I delivered them, along with SIX other rolls of early Freeman House film I'd forgotten, to the developers yesterday. But they're coming. The horror show is coming!

It's fitting, I guess, that I spent Earth Day weekend in the garden. Saturday, as promised, I did the leg and back work no one likes doing but needs to be done. I pulled weeds and prepped for the gravel patio. (Tomorrow I'm going to share with you my Earth Day plan for building an organic gravel patio/oasis for less than $20. Really. It's pretty cool.) After unloading, moving, and spreading 750 pounds of gravel by myself, I was ready to start apartment hunting. (Just kidding.) But I was ready to do something a little less labor-intensive.

So I wired an outdoor light. Er... that is to say, I took two super-cheap lighting components and recycled them to make a patio light. That's it, above. I used a votive candle chandelier that hung in my condo in Dallas and wired it to an old, rusted floor lamp. The glass cups can now be filled with votive candles... or sand or gravel and taper candles... to light my outdoor patio in the evenings. (And before someone suggests rewiring the lamp for indoor use, let me say I tried. But after throwing a breaker - twice - I relegated it to the great outdoors. Plus, I needed an energy-free outdoor light. Two birds, my friends.)

Otherwise, I didn't get as much accomplished outdoors as I'd hoped. The weather has been very unpredictable lately, so Sunday afternoon was spent working on the sitting room. It's getting pretty, and I am determined to post pictures next week. Maybe Friday, if the paint dries in time. It's really an exciting spring at Freeman House. So much going on. So much I'm learning. So much to write about!

And so much happening in the garden. First, the edibles. The strawberries and blackberries have to be picked almost daily. It's amazing to me... novice that I am... to be able to toss organic, homegrown strawberries in my cereal each morning or blackberries in my salad at night. I got my plants directly from Nourse Farms, and I can't recommend them enough. If you're thinking of planting any berries, even if it's just one plant in a patio pot, check them out.

The squash and zucchini now have blossoms. They wave in the wind, making the squash patch look like an ever-shifting yellow rainbow. I've never tried fried squash blossoms, but I was thinking of giving it a go soon. Anyone have a good recipe?

Ditto for fried green tomatoes.

And of course, the flowers. I started so many this year from seed that it's great to have roses and gerber daisies to supply color while everything is being established. I read recently of this organization called Friends With Flowers. Are you familiar with them? I love the concept and think we need a local chapter. Besides, by June I'll probably need to be giving most of these pretties away! But I refuse to stop planting. Just look at these. I mean, can you ever have too many flowers?

Nah, I don't think so either.

Gosh... so much going on and so much to share. Isn't now a great time to be a blogger? (And a flea market/garage saler... and a gardener... and a fried-green tomato frier...)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Moment: The Makeup Tin

I always put on makeup at home.
I think I look boring without it.
-Celine Dion

Makeup is a big deal in Texas. Talk to any girl south of the Red River and I'd be willing to bet you that 8 out of 10 will admit to rarely leaving the house without makeup. Although we share a teeny bit of border with the natural state, little of that has caught on here. For the most part, we like our eye shadow heavy and our hair done.

I got my makeup habit from my mother. In 28 years I have never seen her enter a public place - even for a moment - without her makeup. She wouldn't dare. Me? I bend, stretch, and dance around the habit often. I feel rebellious when I don't wear foundation - or mascara - to work. I'm smug when I slide into church without lipliner. And I try never to wear makeup to Wal-Mart. The stores have gotten so trashy and uncomfortable down here that it doesn't seem worth it, you know?

Ah, makeup. As I reached for my Dandelion blush this weekend, I began to think about my relationship with makeup. About how, as a teenager, I would carefully "put on my face", hoping someone would spot me in a crowd and say, "You. I want you." About how, as a young adult, I spent so much time and money chasing after beauty in a bottle. Or a blush. About how, in this past week, I depended on this concealer or that lipstick to make me presentable. Acceptable. And... admit it... beautiful. We buy and wear makeup (and clothes and hairstyles and nail polish and perfume) because we need to feel beautiful. If only for a few hours. We need someone to think we're beautiful. To take hold our our hand and say, I know you. You are mine. You are beautiful.

But it's odd how we let life change our perceptions of ourselves. Just as a new lipstick can boost us, other circumstances can crush us. We gain weight... we don't feel pretty. We get older... we don't feel beautiful. We lose a man's attention or affection... we feel undesirable. And as the pounds creep on, the wrinkles etch and splinter, and kisses get shorter and fewer, it hurts. We hurt. We ache. We crawl to that place inside ourselves and whimper, but I'm still me! I still need your love!

I don't know your makeup habits. I don't know what your marital status is, but really, I don't think any of it matters. Some of us have found someone who adores us. Others of us... whether married or single... are still waiting for that someone. Hoping. But all of us... whether we realized it this morning or not... are already loved. We are already chosen. Known. Summoned.

Put it this way. Your search... your quest for acceptance, for affirmation, for love... your search is over. It ends at feet of Jesus. Pack up your makeup, friend. You are already loved. You are already chosen. You are known. You are being summoned. Makeup or no makeup. Smooth or wrinkled. Thin or chubby. Kissed or not kissed. You have Someone's attention. Before you were born - just as you are - you had His attention. And you've had it ... and will have it... all along.

I created you.... I formed you.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.

-Isaiah 43:1

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

Friday, April 20, 2007

Back Yard Makeover

I have huge plans for my garden.
I really need a rest.
-Paddy Ashdown

The back yard is getting a makeover this weekend. Gravel patio, outdoor cushions, tree-suspended chandeliers, a pergola. I anticipate breaking even more rakes and poking the fingertips out of even more gloves by Sunday evening. Should be fun. Thank goodness I have strawberry lemonade chilling in the fridge. And my herbal back wrap in the microwave. I may be half dead come Monday!

I wish, wish, wish I had the pictures handy of what the place looked like when I bought it. The back yard, that is. The first time I ventured beyond the garden gate I made my Uncle David go with me. Most of the yard was overgrown with shrubs and weeds that towered over our heads. There was a falling down screened-in porch, rotted stairs, a rotted potting shed, and heaps and heaps of trash. Not a pleasant place. (I'm going to find those pictures this weekend.)

But that's all behind me now. Yesterday I counted 31 rose bushes, four hydrangeas, 22 herbs, 16 vegetables, and countless assorted flowers (zinnias, gerber daisies, fire king pincushions, strawflowers, etc.) But it still looks unfinished. Nothing's had time to mature. Typical me, trying to run with the big boys ... the Cottage Living gardens ... in 2 months. Soo typical.

So if you need me this weekend, come around back. I'm sure you're in for a show! And if you can't make it out, don't worry. I'll have a picture of something ... even if it's me passed out in the potatoes... next week.

In the meantime, congratulations everyone! We've made it to Friday! Have a great weekend and I'll see you again on the other side. -Brin

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Diagnosis

Brave your storm with firm endeavor.
Let your vain repinings go!
Hopeful hearts will find forever
Roses underneath the snow!
-George Cooper

I was clearing away some brush and overgrowth around Freeman House a few weeks ago and came upon a treasure. A climbing rose bush was hidden under a tangle of leaves that Miss Freeman herself used to call "murder vine". If you looked very carefully you could see the poor rose was trying to climb to safety... trying to wring herself free from the murderous vine. But she needed help. I dug her up and planted her in a sunny garden corner far from scene of the murder vine attack.

And she seems to be thankful. Yesterday when I checked on her she had several sweet, soft roses on her canes. I've read that it's wise to clip the blooms so the plant's energy can go into establishing itself, so I had to, you see, bring all her roses inside. Along with a few others. I gathered them them into a powdery-soft cluster and stuffed them inside my iron wall vase that says happiness. It was significant to me, somehow... the formerly choked roses protected and lavished upon in a secure, iron vase that read happiness.

I went and saw a Christian counselor yesterday. It's a major step for me, I know. I'm writing about this because there's little doubt in my mind that a "well-meaning" person will tell another "well-meaning" person who will tell his or her church which will then publicly pray... or worse... privately whisper. (Families and churches are just made of people, after all. People we work with and shop with and sit at traffic lights with. We're all just people.) But I thought I'd head you all off at the pass and say I'm not embarrassed. That it's good every now and then to find an attentive ear. A different perspective. A little understanding.

So I talked to the counselor. We talked and pried and chuckled and cried (well, I did... a bit). He suggested after awhile that I'm not depressed... not even a touch... but that I do have Acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "What?" I cried. "I'm no Vietnam Vet! How in the world did I get that?!" But I did. He told me I had five minutes to describe what it is that's bothering me. So I did. Afterwards he handed me a little book turned to a description of PTSD. I had just described - in shocking detail - all but two of the symptoms. It's official. I am diagnosed. I am post-traumatically stressed.

I came home and looked it up on the internet. Google returned my search with a top solution: The Department of Veterans Affairs. "Oh geez," I moaned, and snapped my laptop shut.

It's actually a little bit funny to me now. I'm thinking maybe I should volunteer at the local VA hospital... what with us all having something in common and all. Seriously, I'm relieved to know why I've been such a man-on-the-mountain shut in. Why everything startles me and gives me mild heart attacks. Why I keep having these broken-record nightmares. Why I'm so terrified at even the thought of my violent married life and all... and who... it entailed. It's nothing that can't be worked and prayed through. It's just a little stress. It usually goes away with time.

So I feel a little new-ish this morning. Like I better understand my own brain, somehow. I've even developed a few ways to help me deal with the stress. I'm going to keep a rose... a rose that was rescued from the murder vine... in that iron happiness vase so I see it every morning. And if you hear me muttering, know that I'm repeating Proverbs 18:10 to myself. But please, no sudden movements. I'm afraid all us PTSD folks startle easily and we wouldn't anything weird to happen, would we?

Kidding. Only kidding. [Smile]

The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous run into it and they are safe.
-Proverbs 18:10

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Queens of the Strawberries

By my best guesstimations (as opposed to estimations, and yes, it is a word... I just typed it...) I have thirty-something organic strawberry plants at Freeman House. And ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning to have actual strawberries. Allow me to present them:


... just to post a few. I got to thinking this morning as I tromped o'er soggy garden land that perhaps I did have an idea for a June "save this house" get together, after all. And I do. This June I'll be hosting a Queens of the Strawberries Day at Freeman House. Every one's invited. We'll drink Strawberry Lemonade and Strawberry Iced Tea in the garden. We'll sit among strawberry topiaries and read menus printed along with strawberry poems and after our strawberry-inspired entree we'll dine on this... the Strawberry-Cornmeal Shortcakes featured in May's Country Home...

You won't want to miss it. It is all decided. In fact, I've gone so far as to mentally fashion the crowns that will be awarded to the official Queens of the Strawberries that day. It's inspired by Pam Garrison's crown submission in this book and will be truly crowning achievements. (By the way, you've seen it, right? It took me a whole 20 seconds to gasp, "My gosh! That gorgeous thing is made from chicken wire!?" Everyday I am more and more convinced that God is good and that Pam Garrison is brilliant. Thanks to God being good, of course.)

Anyway, I have visions of sugar strawberries and strawberry crowns and sparkly, cool, pink-filled punch bowls dancing in my head this morning. It's like a Splenda commercial up here.

So mark your calendars now. June 30th. The Queens of the Strawberries Day. Hope to see you here!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Simple Beauty

If you get simple beauty and naught else,
you get about the best thing God invents.
-Robert Browning

The Victorias came yesterday! I'm wrapped in a world of simple beauty here. Seriously. Should you boldly dare to venture into the Freeman House study, you might first have to navigate the newly-constructed maze of stacked, flowery magazines and apron and handbag scraps. The atmosphere here is one of excitement and lovely things. It's wonderful! I'm blessed.

By the way, speaking of excitement, I've added a few original, handmade pieces to the Freeman House Etsy site. Some aprons... some quilted neck-and-back herbal pillows... and this, the Creamsicle Clutch:

I have some other fantastic fabric for several other clutch bags (some will be less girly, but fantastic nonetheless). Since I sew them entirely by hand they take an entire evening, but they have this light, fresh, I'm-simplifying-my-lovely-life feel that I'm suddenly craving. I made myself one because the other night I wanted to walk downtown to our old-timey movie theatre and catch a flick, but didn't want to drag my bulky purse along. Voila! The spring/summer clutch was born, and proved perfect for my downsizing/I-just-want-to-carry-my-keys-and-cellphone-and-lip-gloss kind of mood. I can't wait to show you more!

Of course, there are new aprons, too. (They're going fast, though. I've sold two already this morning. Look fast!) I just love these aprons. So functional. So flirty. And I have it in my head somewhere that throwing these over disheveled jeans and a stained tee shirt still leaves me looking like Holly Golightly. Hmm. In my mind, anyway.

So... better be off to the post. Hope you have a wonderful Tuesday (our best day, remember). Each of you are in my thoughts and prayers... whether I know your name or not! Brin

(P.S. If anyone caught the original post for today before I took it down, my apologies. Just seemed a little too heavy... and personal... to keep!)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday Moment: What A Friend

Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
- Joseph Scriven, 1855

This is me at age 5. First day of kindergarten. Unlike my friends in the neighborhood who boarded the bus and rode to the local school, I attended a private, Christian school some 25 miles away. We usually wore dresses. Never shorts. I remember this day... being swallowed by masses of unknown children and wishing I had a friend. I recall the opening assembly, and when everyone bowed their heads to pray I told God I wanted to go home and go to school with my friend Megan. I needed a friend to spend those school days with.

Of course, since I lived so far away from the school I never really became good friends with any of the children I saw everyday. I spent my days looking forward to getting home and playing. With Megan, of course. (That's her above on the right.) We built countless mud pies and raced Strawberry Shortcake bikes and shared chips and performed our own renditions of Annie. But when I was seven, we moved. Moved to Texas. And once again I was without a friend to spend the day with. I recall climbing onto our split-rail fence one evening and crying. And praying. "God, please give me a friend," I prayed over and over.

Fast forward to 17. I climbed off that fence and went to college 7 hours away where I knew no one. I smiled through gritted teeth as I walked into my dorm. As soon as my Mom and Dad left, I sat on the bed and once again prayed. "God, please help me make friends here," I pleaded. And He did.

College flew by and soon I found myself in Dallas - first month in my own apartment. It feels like yesterday in a way... closing the door, resting my back against it, and slowly, slowly sliding down to the floor. "God, I'm so lonely here," I said. "Please send me someone to talk to."

Point is, throughout my life - like all of us - I've been in that situation where I just couldn't hack it on my own. Where I needed a friend. Someone to be there. To tackle a problem with. To bare my soul to. It happened again just this fall, when I found myself walking into a dark, empty Freeman House. I stood in the darkness and began to yell, "Why am I alone again? Why do I always end up back here... praying for a friend? Hoping for someone to talk to? Why?"

The house was still. Silent.

Yesterday in my small church we all stood to our feet and sang, What A Friend We Have In Jesus. I stood holding my hymnal, singing along, when suddenly the words jumped off the page:

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Suddenly, all those memories flooded back. The first years of school. The day I sat on the fence after moving to Texas. The moments I sat on my dorm room bed, alone. The evening sitting against the door in that apartment, crying and praying. The night I returned home to Freeman House after my marriage ended....

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

All those days and all those nights - through 23 years - I spent praying for a friend. For someone to be there. To listen...

... and He was there all along. He's been there all along.

What a Friend I've had in Jesus. What a Friend!

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer. Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

I, the Lord... will hold your hand. -Isaiah 42:6

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

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Afternoon Tea

There are few hours in life more agreeable
than the hour dedicated to the
ceremony known as afternoon tea.
-Henry James

I discovered this little tea room several weeks ago. It's called Cherubim, and is tucked away in a valley between two substantial hills. Its flowery back-side merges with a shallow, glimmering lake. The lady who runs it could win a prize for being the most gracious, wonderful woman I've ever met.

And she makes a fantastic cup of tea.

I've had a mind-bending busy week. Have you? Yesterday I was in need of a birthday gift for a precious friend, and convinced myself it was reason enough to pull into the tea room to have a look-see. (They also sell gift items.) I was surprised to find the door locked when I tried to burst in. Hmm. I rapped lightly on the door, then louder, then a touch louder. Guess she'd taken a late lunch.

But she hadn't. I turned around to see Miss Wonderful herself coming from the opposite end of the porch, cut roses in hand. She hugged me and sat me in a rocker overlooking the blooming azaleas and went to get tea.

We rocked and talked and drank our tea as the breeze blew off the lake and circled our skirts. We laughed, then grew serious, then bowed our heads as she prayed in a hushed, gentle tone. I left that porch feeling like a woman reborn.

Let me ask: what is it about a porch, a cup of tea, and the company of a delightful friend that can turn a hectic day into an unexpected gift? What is it about china and rocking chairs and laughs that can turn our hearts?

With each passing day, I am increasingly convinced that our grandmothers had it right. I've said this before, but I think we have our priorities all tangled up. I long for the days when women had time for each other. Time to sit over quilts or tea and talk and cry and pray. Time when mothers had time for daughters and daughters took time for mothers. Time for sisters to truly know each other as adults. Time when friends were dependable to meet or write or ... just be there. (Lacy, I'm so sorry!)

I'm almost sure that many of the burdens or frustrations or problems we women stew over could be lessened... if not ironed out... on a front porch with a caring friend or two. I wonder if psychiatrists and counselors would be looking for more work if we girls could just find a little time to sit each other in rocking chairs and listen.

On the way home from my porch-stop yesterday, I decided to go ahead and spend the money putting a larger porch on Freeman House. I vowed to work hard these next few years, pay off some bills, and seek out a quieter, less frantic life. I promised myself I would try to be the woman who made time. Who made tea. Who made a difference in the lives of the women I care so deeply about.

Wow. Something to chew on for your Friday, I guess! Wherever you find yourself this weekend... whether it's near a porch or not... I hope you have a happy one. A blessed one. And know that my porch... even in the condition it is in... isn't all that far away! -Brin

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bidding Battles

All lovely things will have an ending.
-Conrad Aiken

You sweet people remember Victoria magazine, don't you? Surely you do. The beautiful magazine that hundreds of us mourned when it came to an end? I have small stacks of them that are strictly off limits to any scrapbooking, tear-sheet, or daydream board-mania I fall into. At Freeman House, Victoria is sacrosanct. They, along with the Bible I've used since I was 15, are the two things (besides the kitty) that I would grab if this old place ever caught fire.

I got a little birthday money from my grandmothers, bless them. Yesterday, while awaiting my lunch partner, I called up eBay on the old cell phone. Well, what do you know. There was a bidding set to end in 7 hours for 29 pristine Victoria magazines. Most of which I didn't have. I nearly choked as I punched out my bid - $21.00! - and hit "place bid". I don't recall a word of what was said at lunch. The only thing I kept wondering was, Have I been outbid? Have I?

Miraculously, I wasn't! I've seen Victorias go for hundreds of dollars before on eBay. But not yesterday. Yesterday my grandmothers bought me 29 issues of Victoria magazine. Thank you, ladies! I will wait at the mail box everyday until Junior (the female mail carrier) brings them to my door.

But I'm glad the tiny bit of bidding excitement is over. I'm convinced that adding even one more thing or activity to my life will cause my head to roll off. A revised bid came in yesterday for more work at Freeman House. More bidding. Yikes! There are many Excel spreadsheets to review and haggle over. And of course, I make all the worker men sign my Rule #1: No smoking in Freeman House. It's necessary. Cigarette smoke makes my eyes burn and pour and it seems "smoking like a chimney" is a prerequisite to being trained as a worker man. Oh! Also the pH balance of the soil must be attended to today... Echinacea needs planting... Jeep is being recalled... taxes are due... work report is due... custom aprons need to be finished... sheets washed... 1 p.m. meeting... uggh! [Smile]

Now I remember why I loved Victoria so much. They are a respite from our lives, aren't they?

By the way, I'm already looking forward to the Second Annual Cupcake Day. The first ended up being more like a Cupcake Passover, in that the production of masses of delightful cupcakes was passed over for a trip to Best Buy to procure printer ink and a camera repair. Next year we'll make more than one dozen. We'll do it up right, I tell you. We will finally have that cupcake tower!

Until then, I think there's a great cupcake picture in the March 1998 issue of Victoria. Maybe that will hold us over for another 364 days...

Hope your busy day is wonderful! -Brin

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Annual Cupcake Day

Don't spit on my cupcake and tell me
it's frosting.
-Judge Judy

I hereby declare today, April 11, as 'Annual Cupcake Day' at Freeman House. Enter at your own risk.

First thing you should know today: I haven't had any coffee yet. The second part of the first thing is... no - I did not make or take any of these pictures. My camera is off today, apparently, telling me that it cannot "complete file transfer" and some such, so I am without original photos. I will have to share my new herbal knowledge (including how to easily root rosemary and brew your own blend of tea) another day. Oh well.

Second thing: I promise I am not trying to mercilessly torture us... you and me. I'm just offering up proof that a girl must have an annual cupcake day, at minimum, to be truly satisfied in this life. Exhibit A: the cupcake uploaded on Pam Garrison's flickr group yesterday. Doesn't just one look at that baked beauty have you daydreaming of lovely things already?

Not long ago I discovered that cupcakes are my very favorite dessert. Really. When planning my wedding I decided I wanted to do a tower of buttercream cupcakes instead of a traditional cake. I got neither. I'm still bent on having a cupcake tower, gosh to Pete, if I have to invent an occasion. (Like an Annual Cupcake Day at Freeman House.)

So here goes. I will be spending the entire late afternoon paying homage to the first Annual Cupcake Day. I will be establishing the official dessert of Freeman House. I will be dusting off my favorite cupcake recipe and littering the house with cupcake liners. After mixing in ideas from Martha Stewart's A Whole Year of Cupcakes , I will add Alicia Paulson's Cloudburst Frosting to the party. Together my recipes, liners, frosting and sprinkles and I will have a blast. There will be a mini tower of cupcakes before the days end. And when I am finished, we will have reached cupcake heaven, and the nursing home by the highway will have lots of sugar to contend with.

Sure wish you were here. I can honestly think of nothing better than a sunny spring day of cupcakes with you! Next year, I will invite you all in advance. We'll make a day of it. A glorious cupcake day of it..

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thread Count

Piecin' a quilt's like living a life.
The Lord sends us the pieces,
but we can cut 'em out and put 'em together
pretty much to suit ourselves.
-Granny Ball

I have so many projects going that involve a needle and thread. It's exciting... exciting and harrowing. A weekend guest plopped onto an armchair only to be poked with a threaded needle. Just this morning, pre-coffee, I performed amazing feats of circus aerobatics after my heel caught a rolled-away spool of thread. That's it! Time to do a thread count.

I subscribe to the beloved Alicia Paulson's style of quilting: fast, fun, and finished (i.e.: tons and tons of squares). At the rather un-eventful yard sale on Saturday, Mrs. Presley - who always wears the prettiest neck scarves over her Dallas Cowboy sweatsuits - offered to teach me to quilt in the flower garden pattern. Hmmm. Obviously my endless rows of pieced squares weren't exciting enough for her. (Mrs. Presley - rival of Miss Gunn - well, her house sits down the historic street from Freeman House and is painted atomic yellow. Not sunshine yellow. Atomic, neon, blind-all-pedestrians yellow. It always makes me slightly ill if I stare at it too long.) Anyway, I told Mrs. Presley that I was a square/crazy quilt kinda girl, and maybe I'd take on flower garden patterns when I'm more sophisticated. (Read: likely never.)

Oh well. Can't blame poor Mrs. Presley and her pretty neck scarf for trying.

I got the most wonderful shipment of fabrics in yesterday from PurlSoho. Opening of the package involved frantic scissors, flying package tape, and one screeching me. I'm thrilled with the new stuff I have to work with! I folded it away carefully, promising that as soon as I'm done designing and making aprons for INNstead (an B&B/inn-sitting company), I'd play with it all Sunday afternoon and get some great new things on the Etsy site. Until then, my rounded-up thread and I will eagerly wait.

Okay. Better be off. I have some scuzzy-looking builder men wandering around measuring so they can give me a bid on Freeman House's kitchen. I have to do some Pilates-type breathing exercises and praying before they give me the total. Failure to do so will likely involve me fainting.

(Fortunately there's fabric and half-pieced quilts nearly everywhere you turn. That should break my fall!)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Monday Moment: The Birthday Wish

With the past, I have nothing to do;
nor with the future. I live now.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ah, birthdays. They come. They go. Once again you find yourself in front of a cake, thinking of something to wish for before the candles ignite the house and require the attention of the local fire department. What is it about a numbered square on a calendar... and its requisite wish... that can be so significant?

I had a wonderful birthday! Many thanks to all of you who commented, emailed, and called. (And sent flowers. Brian, I adore you!) I awoke Saturday to the sound of someone knocking at the door. It was a friend with champagne and this book:

...And the day just kept getting better.

Yesterday, after all the Easter service hubbub died down, I found the book and cracked it open. It floored me. This little book is powerful. And as my birthday flitted away, I read, and became startling aware of the fact that I had been waiting for this day... this particular birthday... to begin again. That I had been looking forward to this day -thinking that once it arrived I could brush off past situations and hurts and at last move forward.

Why? Not to be too personal, but because I'm the type of person who can dwell on the past. I sit with my back to the future and gaze back into days gone by, thinking, Why did I do that? Or, Why did I marry him?? Or, Why didn't I have a better relationship with my parent/sibling/friend? Or, Why didn't I do ____ with my life? And though these thoughts nibble at my soul, I refuse to turn my back to the past. Instead, I squish my eyes together tightly for a time and block it out. Because surely to turn around and face my future would mean giving up on my past. Would mean leaving it as it is... with all its failures and inadequacies and heartbreaks... with no do-overs or re-writes. It would mean letting go.

This book ... The Art of Growing Up... says this letting-go problem is a natural tendency. After all, while a child can grip things almost from birth, she's almost 9 months old before she learns to release her grip. So our parents try to teach us, as best they can, the art of letting go. Of moving along. They teach us to say "bye-bye" early on. They teach us to wave goodbye.

They try to teach us, but the mastery of the lesson is up to us.

A bit farther through the book, The Art of Growing Up talks about birthday wishes. About how, as we age, we should be specific about what we wish for. It mentions wishes of: a good relationship with your children. It mentions more personal discipline. And toward the bottom, it mentions: the courage to give up the past.


I turned a year older yesterday, and though my candles were already long blown out, I squished my eyes together right then and prayed. I prayed, Lord, give me the courage to give up my past. Give me the strength to turn around and face the future You have for me. Give me the discipline to live for today... not for the people or situations of yesterday....

The phone rang. It was my Dad. "Hey, how about your mother and I come over and do some electrical wiring?"

As it grew dark, my Mom, Dad and I pulled out old 1930s wiring and rewired the study at Freeman House. We laughed and joked and ate hamburgers and choked on 100-year-old dust and took Claritins. And as they left a bright and shiny study, we hugged. "Now you can move on to something else," my Dad said.

Indeed I can. If he only knew.

I'm glad my God is the God of yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. I'm glad He is the author... and the finisher... of our faith. I'm glad He's a God who forgives and wipes away our past and has "plans to give you a hope and a future". (Jeremiah 29:11)

I am glad I have a God who can grant birthday wishes.

See, I am doing a new thing,
even now it is coming to light...
-Isaiah 43:18-19a

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

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Talent and Goodness

There is not much danger that real talent
or goodness will be overlooked long.

-Louisa May Alcott

Not long ago my mother was over. I was explaining the concept of Etsy to her, and she immediately pulled up a chair, grabbed the mouse, and began clicking furiously. Soon enough she came upon Dudadaze. "Ooooh... look at this," she breathed. And two Dudadaze fans were born.

After my mom left, I sneaked back online and shopped around the site myself. Amazing things. And when I saw this little pretty - drinking tea with a bird! - it was mine. "Happy birthday to me," I sang, clicking pay. I'm now planning to turn a small, awkward wall in the study into a Dudadaze gallery.

You know the most wonderful thing about shopping with some of these extraordinarily talented artists? They are so nice. They are so approachable. They are so humble for people who possess such a magnitude of talent.

Same thing for Ellen at BlueButterfly Designs. She's making these "trading cards" in an effort to help her friend Glenna who's battling cancer. Ellen took the Cancer Is So Limited poem, broke it down, and made cards of each phrase. (Mine says It Does Not Suppress Memories... meaning, of course, that of all the things cancer can take, it can't take our memories.) Ellen gives nearly all the money she makes from her art to Glenna and her family to help defray the cost of medical bills.

Surely these girls' talent and goodness won't go overlooked for long. Not on my watch, anyway!

So... I leave you with that little bit of shopping fun and a wish for a wonderful Easter weekend. I'm signing off a little earlier than usual this week. The yard sale was postponed until tomorrow, so I have that bit of crazy fun looming ahead. My birthday is also this weekend... here comes the big 28!... so I'm off for a little birthday/Easter fun. Should be great!

Have a blessed Easter, friends. - Brin

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A Messy, Thrilling Day

I named this blog My Messy, Thrilling Life because my days usually fall into one of those two categories: messy or thrilling. Yesterday was both.

The day was messy. Very much so. I broke two rakes, two sewing machine needles, and one glass. After (unknowingly) planting my right foot in a bed of fire ants, I raced to the outdoor shower and got my feet impossibly muddy to help relieve the stinging. It worked, but I looked like mud wrestler. Or a naughty 3 year-old. Yep, very messy.

But the thrilling part was equally as dramatic. (And almost as thrilling as these roses, which I told you yesterday keep blowing in the wind. Fabulous, right?)

Yes, no sooner had I moved here than I began hearing the name "Eva". Eva, apparently, is a chef whose family owns a civil war-era farmstead not 5 miles from Freeman House. I've heard stories about Eva for three years now and have secretly wished for an invitation to visit her place. It came yesterday.

So thanks to Sondra -the person I hope to be after having a few more birthdays - we dined on Eva's pumpkin soup, salmon with pesto sauce, and potato gratin. We were joined at the farmstead by Rod McAllister, Washington D.C.'s President of the USADF - the United States African Development Fund. His astoundingly polite and conversational British wife and teenage kids were there, too, and together we talked Tanzanian art, organic gardening, comb-overs, and iced tea vs. hot tea. It was a perfect night.

I got to thinking - after I got home - how much friends (like Sondra) and new faces (like the McAllisters) and astoundingly talented people (like all of them... including Chef Eva) - contribute to our lives. I mean, I'm blessed to be surrounded by some wonderful friends. My life wouldn't be nearly as thrilling without each and every one of you - whether we had dinner last night or meet here at my blog when we get the chance. You are special to me, and I value our friendship!
(Including you, Brian. Happy, happy, happy 33rd! I have a little surprise for you today. And I'll see you at the game!)

Yep. Friends.... Life. Whew! They can be so messy and thrilling, can't they? And to be honest, I wouldn't take my days any other way....

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Magical Apple Pie Afternoon

Good apple pies are a considerable part
of our domestic happiness.
-Jane Austen

There was something magical about late Saturday afternoon. The day began with a rumble and then a downpour... the kind of storm my Dad likes to grin and call an east Texas barn floater. My 14-year old sister had stayed the night to help with the yard sale the next morning, and since the house is a little... intimidating... she slept with me. I remember her mumbling and rolling over as lightning crackled and flashed through the large bedroom windows. "Looks like you're off yard sale duty," I told her. We pulled the quilt up to our noses and went back to sleep.

But by late afternoon the storm had drifted away, leaving puddles and bright streams of light in its absence. I wandered outside, trying to formulate a 'Plan B' for the day, and noticed there were 7 perfect climbing roses blowing in the breeze off the front porch. I guess the storm brought them. Huh. I stood for awhile taking them in and then went inside, settling on making and canning apple pie filling. Random, I know.

But the instant that homemade caramel started bubbling in the pot, I knew it was exactly how I wanted to spend Saturday afternoon. As sunlight streamed through the kitchen windows, I sliced apples and grated nutmeg and stirred and played with the amber-colored filling.When the jars went into the water-bath canner, all you could hear in Freeman House was a gentle rattle and boiling. And from the open windows, the chirping birds and water dripping off the roof ...

... It was delicous. It was magical.

As the sun set, I lined up my freshly-canned filling and thought of how easy it will be to hammer out a homemade apple pie on short notice. (Plus, since the filling is premade and preshrunk, it means you can make the perfect lattice pie crust and it not buckle or crack when you cut into the pie. Plus-er, you don't have to heat up the kitchen making filling come Fourth of July.) As the jars cooled, I made an apron for the Etsy site. Gosh, aprons and apple pie...... what a magical afternoon!

(By the way - If you want to try the apple pie filling, leave me a comment with your email address, and I'll get the recipe over to you. And of course, I won't publish any comments with your personal information.)