Friday, May 30, 2008

Being Samantha Brown

This weekend I'm headed here. The ruins of Mesa Verde. It's ten miles from my little hideaway. Remember that book everyone was crazy about a few years ago... 1,000 Places to See Before You Die? This is one of the places in that book. One down, 999 to go.

History fascinates me. I love learning about different eras and different people... about how they lived and what they ate and who they loved. This world is so big. If you started out the moment you were born... running here and seeing there... you still wouldn't get to it all. (And I'm not even talking about the oceans or space. I'm just talking dry land.) I'm awed by that. Sometimes I wish I'd stayed in broadcasting. Maybe by now I could be on the Travel Channel or something. Like Samantha Brown. I adore Samantha Brown. Didn't you just love Samantha Brown?

I think this weekend I'll pretend to be my own version of Samantha Brown, sans the camera crew. Why not? I'm always up for a little adventure.

Here's to hoping I don't tumble down ancient Indian ruins and break my collar bone. And here's to your weekend, too, wherever you are and whatever you do. My love, Brin

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The River

The snow is melting from the mountains. It trickles down, silent and ice cold, wetting rocks and watering shrubs until it splashes into the Dolores River. Every morning, Millie and I hear the river and its melted snow calling from our beds. We get ready and go to meet it.

The mornings are brilliant. Blindingly bright. The air is cool and sweet - I don't think I've ever breathed such air. Millie and I walk the gravel path to the river edge then make a sharp right to take the river walk.

Saturday I will go rafting down these freezing, chopping waves. Today the puppy and I simply sit on our rock and watch and listen.

It was too bright, really, to take pictures. You can see that didn't stop me. I'm convinced that even when I come back in the evening to take more, my snap shots won't do this place justice. It's too much. Too much beauty for two eyes and one camera. ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I'm here. Those snow-capped mountains? My new home away from home. (I took this photo about two o'clock this afternoon. You can click on it to get the full effect.) My cabin is just below the snow line on this hospitable hump. I'm told it snowed here Wednesday and again on Sunday, but there isn't any snow on the ground in my immediate area. I can see it, though. It's close. Thrills me to death.

Can't wait to show you the special place Millie claimed down by the river. We both already adore it here.

Thanks for the thoughts, prayers, comments, and the checking in. We'll dish soon. -Brin

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome,
dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
-Edward Abbey

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Moment: Trip Planning

So here it is: if you were to pack up your life and relocate to a remote cabin for six months, what would you take with you? You must take work things (computer, printer, fax, files, etc.) You must take a dog (her crate, food, etc.) And you must take all the supplies and clothing you will need to set up house and look presentable for business or pleasure. And you must fit it all in a Jeep and get it all done in two days. Ready? Go.

Yeah. I have a list a mile long of things I'm taking today: bedding, towels, toiletries, kitchen items, work supplies, dog needs, etc. I got to thinking late Sunday that, of course, I would need my emergency sewing tackle box (pictured above). And maybe a few minor tools: hammer, screw driver, staple gun, etc. And hey. A book or two and some magazines would be nice. Ooh! That quilt I'm working on! Can't forget that. And... the little plasma TV and some DVDs and my DVD player....

Oh man. Forgot my iron. ... The paper shredder. ... The camera and camera equipment... and.... ooh!... my new...


I only learned Tuesday that I would have to go. It was a nightmare of a weekend getting ready. I stressed out all week over what to take on my new excursion. Over what I had to do to leave my home and affairs behind. And wow. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to leave one world behind and head off for another.

I suppose that's why I rejoice... and I marvel... at the arrangements already made for my trip from this life to the next. When I draw my last breath - whether it's today or a million days from now - I know: I'm already prepared. Through a saving faith in Jesus Christ, I'm ready. The plan for my next "trip" is already laid. There won't be any last minute scrambling to pack. There won't be any final hour panic attacks over unfinished business here. I won't have to worry about flashlight batteries and tire pressure and my Mr. Rescue contract. In a blink, I'll be there. In a wink, I'll be home.

We spend so much time preparing for trips and vacations. For life and the future. We waste so much time and energy on things that, in the end, we'll leave behind. Throughout this stressful last week, the one thought that keeps rushing in and out of my head was a quote I was taught as a child: All these things must come to pass. Only what's done for Christ will last.

As you're reading this today, I'm on the road somewhere between Freeman House and Albuquerque. I'm also somewhere between making a living and seeing my Savior face to face. And praise God, at least one of these trips is already taken care of and paid for.

For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him
should have eternal life,
and I will raise Him up on the last day.
- John 6:40

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

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Party

So we had a party Friday. A s'more making, water balloon throwing, hot dog toasting, crazy girl playing extravaganza . The girls and I. (And tons of pink marshmallows, M&Ms, and wicked chocolate/sugar things.)

It wasn't until campfire time, when the fire was roaring and everyone was starving, that we realized: I forgot the wienie roasting sticks.

Good thing we had a new rake. We sterilized it and threaded on our dogs and voila, a wienie roast. Ah yes. A country girl can survive.

Happily, I might add.

They had wanted to go to the mall. I said I'd rather eat dirty glass than take a dozen 10 and 11 year-olds to Claire's. They asked for another outing, then, to Game World or some such place. Um... I have an idea, I said. Let's do this instead....

But Miss Brin! they argued, we want to have FUN.

Bless their poor little mall rat want-to-be hearts. I don't think any of them had a lick of fun. Especially not with the water balloons. Or the cosmic candy worm eating. Or the giant swing jumping. Or the campfire. Or the commando in the dark we played later, complete with flashlights and code words ("Afghanistan Bananastan") and sneaky girl attacks at the finish line.

Nope, not a bit of fun. Poor darlings.


Funny how I've always wanted a daughter ... prayed, prayed, prayed for a little girl to love and raise. And it's funny how God brought these girls into my life. I fought and fought teaching this class. But God, I argued, I want to teach older girls. I want to have FUN.

Nope, not a bit of fun. (Ha.) They've taught me so much. They've challenged me and encouraged me and pushed me and blessed me. (And pelted me with water balloons.) God love 'em. I had a blast. I'll miss them this summer.

Gosh. Isn't it almost insane how we think we know what's best? How we think we have it all figured out? And isn't it strange how disappointment can lead to delight? Isn't it odd to think how sometimes on the way to a dream you can get lost and find a better one?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Steak and "The Plan"

It was a beautiful, heavy-aired evening. The sky was still and leaves hung limp and crickets called to each other from behind thick grasses, too lazy to meet up and mingle.

Steak? he asked. How about steak tonight?

Perfect, I smiled. You grill meat and I'll boil vegetables and we'll sit our sluggish selves underneath the magnolia tree and call it a dinner.

So we did...

... along with a little brown dog, who had her first lesson in fire education/safety courtesy of one pretty, flicking flame.

Is there anything better than steak grilled outside? I'm sure there's nothing better than a quiet night of talking and laughing and thinking things through.

So here's the thing: the plan was... and always has been... to work my bottom to the bone until I'm 30. The day of my 30th birthday, I planned to effectually retire from all things corporate-related. I wanted to write. To bake. To welcome guests to a charming, sweet establishment and lavish them with food and music and flowers and rest. That was the plan. And I jumped the gun. I fell in love and got badly, badly burned. (Thanks for that, by the way. I'm sure you're reading.) I wandered a bit. I forgot the plan.

The plan... Hm. Here's what y'all weren't expecting: I've rented a cabin in Colorado. Around Durango. I'll be there for several months starting Monday, socking away money and taking Millie on canoe rides and writing my story. That was, after all, the plan. When I return the IRS will be paid, the land will be purchased, Freeman House will be financially do-able and henrybella's will have the strings-free funding she deserves. (Maybe I'll find a literary agent, too.) And hopefully I'll have the time and space necessary to nurse my heart back to health. Back to wholeness. That was the plan, after all. I need to stick with the plan.

See the decisions you can map out and the plan you can rectify over a homemade steak dinner? A steak dinner on a beautiful, heavy-aired evening? It's amazing how the divine and doubt... wounds and wishes... pain and plans collide on such evenings and present you with a solution.

I'll be sure to check in before we leave. We still have several days before we leave. Until then, my love. -Brin

Monday, May 19, 2008


Millie, "Sock" and I have decided to go on hiatus. Just for a while.

We'll be back soon. Until then, our love. -Brin

P.S. Millie's folks mentioned last night that they still have several Chocolate Lab puppies they'd like to see off to happy, loving homes. If you're interested, email Randy at for more information....

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Closet In the Making

She had a womanly instinct that clothes
possess an influence more powerful over many
than the worth of character
or the magic of manners.
-Louisa May Alcott

... She also had womanly instinct that if her "powerful" clothes didn't come off chairs, out of piles, and away from the dog soon, she would go raving mad.

The trouble with being a 20-something single girl trying to renovate an old house is two-fold: one, you have a small army of clothing that demands its own barracks and discipline; and two, old houses don't have closets. You see my dilemma.

I decided this week that something must be done. Poor Millie. She's gotten frowned at and scolded several times for streaking through the house with my beaded pink top. My orange Anthropologie sweater. My vintage brown skirt. My left snow boot. And it's not her fault. If I were a puppy I'd go for those things, too. I had to do something.

Enter the following: a bare wall outside my bedroom. Four antique, paint-crackled brackets from Canton. Two pine poles and one pine board. A power drill. A tackle box, a plate stand, and an untold number of shoe boxes from Container Store. What does that spell? C-L-O-S-E-T. One cool closet wall. Or at least something that will suffice for now.

It's not done. I need the weekend, only every single hour of my weekend - save and except 3 to 4 PM on Sunday - is spoken for. Next week, then? Yeah. Next week then.

Hope you enjoy your Friday. See you soon. -Brin

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Givers and a Word of Thanks

No one has ever become poor by giving.
-Anne Frank

Let's tell ourselves that every day: that no one ever becomes poor by giving. That a life given away - that love, time, energy and money - isn't lost once it's handed over. That a person who lives for himself lives for the most selfish, horrible person there is. We can't forget. Let's not forget.

I've been on the getting end of so much this week. A bouquet of roses and honeysuckle yesterday. (Aren't they gorgeous?) Then Charlotte Lyons sent wool. Grace sent a pricey bottle of champagne - my favorite and definitely NOT on my to-buy list any time soon. And Angie... a faithful reader of this blog... came across a vintage Texas Trivia game while thrifting up north and sent it on down with thoughts and well wishes.

I know it's not possible to give too much, but you all come close. I'm so blessed. Thank you all. Thanks for thinking of me and praying for me and sending your stories and wishes and thoughts and prayers. One day I'll think of way to return the blessings. Until then, please remember: no one ever becomes poor by giving. Thanks muchly. -Brin

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Junk Drawer Blogging

It's thundering and lightning this morning. A charcoal-hued sky is presiding over what promises to be a brilliant day of anticipating new deliveries and completing an exciting project. It's always a small disappointment when the weather doesn't match a mood, isn't it?

Today's a bit of a junk drawer post: a little of everything of no consequence. For instance: I can't wait to show you what I'm doing with one tiny wall in Freeman House. It's brought more excitement to this place in the past few days than anything has this year. Now that the weather is grumbling and angry and refusing to cooperate with tomato gardening plans, I plan to shirk all other responsibilities in favor of completing my little wall. Oh the luxury.

Oh! And I have ultra adorable pink and yellow apron toolbelts for the Freeman House Shop on Etsy, but it's too dark to photograph them. (Look for them on Friday!) ... While I'm waiting on print stuff for the bakery, I'm working on a new recipe: Bourbon Pecan Tartlets. I have sheets of pecans - grown right here at Freeman House - toasting in my little oven. (Although today would be a great day to bake bread.) ... I have this song stuck in my head. Phrases keep repeating themselves until they push through my lips and others take over. ... The garden is featuring enormous, ruffly squash blossoms this week. Does anyone have an old recipe for frying squash blossoms? ... I have a new knitting craze. Will have to pull that out and show you later. ... Oh. And you know that thing about people and their pets looking alike? The other night a new... er... "friend"... said, "Wow. You should see the two of you," and dashed off to get a camera. When I saw his pictures of Millie and me, I was shocked:

You know that thing about people looking like their pets? See Exhibit A....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Apron Toolbelt Comeback

Apron toolbelts are sneaking onto the Freeman House Shop on Etsy through Tuesday at 6 PM CST. For those who've emailed or "convo'd" me, consider yourself warned! -Brin (And for the folks in Demark, Canada, England and New Zealand who've contacted me, I'll change the international shipping policy today. Please read note on shop before proceeding with payment. Thanks!)

Monday Moment: Seeing Him

My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
-Job 42:5

We've all heard about God. Hearing about Him is one thing. Seeing Him is another. Seeing Him active and abounding in your life is something different still.

Last week was horrible. One I'd rather forget. I dreaded Mother's Day yesterday more than I've ever dreaded any other day. I knew it would be hard. It would require a strength that couldn't come from anywhere inside me. When my alarm went off, I cried.

The last thing I wanted to do yesterday morning was teach my Sunday School class. Little girls. Children. Mother's Day. In light of last week, I honestly didn't think I could do it. I walked into the class and as the girls wandered in I hugged and laughed and joked. Fooled myself with my forced cheerfulness. But as the class started, one of my smartest and favorite students raised her hand. "Miss Brin?" she asked, "Are you wearing new eyeshadow?"

Kids are scary.

"Yes ma'am," I said, bewildered. "Why?"

"Why are you wearing new eyeshadow?"

"Boy trouble," I said. "And what do we do when we have trouble in our lives?"

The girls sat there, staring.

"We cast all our cares on the Lord... we tell God about them... because He cares for us. All about us. Every day. Doesn't He?"

The lesson rocked along and ended with us making these for their mothers. As we were about to leave, the girls started whispering and giggling and suddenly there was mass third-grade excitement as they told me about the Mother's Day craft they'd made at school this year. A bottle vase. We made ours for you, they said. For your Mother's Day.

"If something happens to my Mom I want you to be my Mom," Cassidy said.

And there it was. There He was. There I was, seeing Him again. My ears have heard of a loving God... of a tender God... of a compassionate God, but suddenly there He was again, staring at me from the faces of little girls. Reaching out to me. Speaking to me from the depth of my deepest longing - a child. There He was... reaching out and giving me flowers on Mother's Day.

I started blinking away tears. "What's wrong, Miss Brin?" they asked.

"Nothing at all," I replied. "But what do we do when we have trouble in our lives?"

"We take it to God," Sabryn said, "and we buy new eyeshadow."

My ears had heard of Him, but now my eyes have seen Him.

Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick start your week. See you again next time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Little Earth With A Little Heaven

Earth's crammed with heaven.
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Amazingly fun agenda this weekend, beginning tonight with an alfresco dinner party. I was out this morning, snipping herbs and enjoying the perfect weather, when I realized it would be an ideal evening for Country Chicken on beds of mashed potatoes followed by Strawberry Sugar Bread with cold whipped cream. Better get busy.

I got a new cookbook for my birthday. My French Kitchen by Joanne Harris. (Joanne wrote the novel that became one of my favorite films, Chocolat.) Anyway, this cookbook has a recipe for what she simply calls Country Chicken... a recipe of bits of bacon and shallots and white wine and french mustard and handfuls of fresh herbs marinated and then roasted with tender chicken pieces. It looks divine. I have a box of Pappardelle pasta I've been hoarding for a special occasion, and I think tonight fits.

While I understand that not many folks enjoy throwing dinner parties anymore, I certainly do. Especially here. Especially now. Candles flicker from tree chandeliers and gravel crunches underfoot and stars twinkle and crickets soothe and the firepit mesmerizes and the laughter comforts. Souls rest here, it seems. Or at least they stretch out a bit. The earth here seems a little crammed with a little heaven. It makes my heart sing.

(As a side note, I'm eager to see how Millie responds to tonight's company. She's doing beautifully. I can't thank you enough for all the advice. Last night was the first night of sleep I've gotten in almost two weeks. My mattresses are (temporarily) on the floor, and I suppose that had everything to do with keeping Millie calm and quiet, but still. We slept all night! Finally.)

And as another side note, more apron toolbelts hit the Freeman House Shop on Monday! I'm excited about the new frills I added to these. So much fun.

Until then, I hope your weekend is crammed with a little heaven. -Brin

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Beauty of In Between (Or, Into the Day)

My life changed yesterday. It changed in the way I most feared... a way I had oddly predicted but for which I was wholly unprepared.

I didn't sleep last night. Around 4 AM, I got in the Jeep and headed south and west. I just drove. As day broke, I ended up about a mile from my house - here, by this patch of green. I got out and sat in the wildflowers. I cried some. I cried out more.

Several months ago a friend recommended I talk with a Christian counselor who helped her through a divorce. I went. I sat in his office - the man who's become a blessed answer to so many prayers - and I talked. And he sat quietly until finally pinching up his forehead and looking at me earnestly.

You know where you are now, right? he asked.

No, I said. I have no idea. I clenched my fists into tight bone balls and tried not to spill any tears.

You're in between.

I'm sorry? I'm where? My heart pounded.

In between, he repeated. You are not where you've been but not yet where you're intended. You are in between.

I glared at him. And what... what the crap am I supposed to do there?

He smiled sympathetically. Linger, he replied. Linger where God has you. Linger and learn.

I'd pushed that from my mind lately. You're in between. But this morning as I got back in the car after sitting and crying in wildflowers, I bent my head over the steering wheel and screamed. I screamed and screamed and screamed until... what? My head snapped up. The Jeep made several loud clicking sounds and the CD player started blaring. New CD. I stared at it, screamless.

And then I got chills. And then I felt my chest fill with air - as if I'd taken the biggest breath imaginable - and I knew. And as this song (to the right) started to play, I heard it whispered all around me: you're not in between anymore. Thank you for lingering and learning with Me here. The in between is over.

Praise God, I'm not in between anymore. I wait expectantly to see how He will turn my tragedies into His triumphs. How He will bless the in between. And there is an in between. We are led there to linger and to learn. But the in between is just that... there's something on either side. It has an end. I survived my in between. And I'm ready to tell my story. I think I'm ready now. And I think I'll call it... I'll call it... well, I must call it... The Beauty of In Between....

(If you can't hear the song, the lyrics are here. Wow.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Zombie Ramblings

Trying to decide what to do with this tile plaque my brother had made for me. Thoughtful, huh? Also hoping to get into the kitchen today. (I was thinking comfort food and a brownie tart.) And to my quilting stuff, too. (I want to do this quilt in red, white and blue fabrics in time for July 4th. Never going to happen, but I'd still love to.) And then maybe to a good book after that. And then maybe to a bath accompanied by this song. (It's much better on her new CD.) I need a mental break.

Word of advice. Not that anyone would be crazy enough to set themselves up for needing this advice, but still: don't start a baking business and get a puppy the same time. And definitely don't do those things while you're renovating a house. You'll end up a zombie like me. Just sayin'.

Speaking of the puppy, I'm worried. She howls her head off when I leave the room. And I don't mean whimpers. Or cries. She screams. It's deafening. I've tried to be home with her as much as possible - so she gets a lot of attention and room to play - but that means accidents all over the house even though we go out about 12 times a day. Yesterday I bought a baby gate, hoping I could put her in the sitting room some of the day and if she could see out of her little room she wouldn't be as desperate. This morning I put her in there and the howling started, but ten minutes later she grew mysteriously silent. And then I hear paws on the wooden floor and there she is, standing at the library door, tail wagging. The darn dog scaled the baby gate.

The puppy people at Petco tell me that 6-week old labs have little bladder control and crate training isn't advisable until 10 weeks, when they can begin to learn to hold it. Until then, they said, just be as loving and patient as you can.

So. Anyone want a puppy, a bakery, and an old house? We could do one of those life swap things....

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Moment: Remembering Goodness, Love, and Faithfulness

For the LORD is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
and His faithfulness to all generations.
-Psalm 100:5

It's not that we don't know. It's just that we forget. We get busy. Or discouraged. Or tired. We get dragged down by bills. By regrets. By loss. And some days, we just forget. We forget that the Lord is good. That His love is steadfast and endures.

And it does. We know that. It's just that we're foolish sometimes... or ungrateful other times... and we forget. We forget to look at our lives through the promise that God is good. That life can't change His goodness or His love or His faithfulness.

Maybe life's easy right now. Maybe it's not. Maybe you feel God's love and His hand in your life. Maybe you don't. Here's the thing: our feelings and circumstances... these hats we're wearing now... are temporary. They won't hang about forever. But God will. Along with His goodness and faithfulness and love, God will.

Remember that. Remember it today. Don't let life deplete or rob you of the hope and promise that's yours through Christ. The Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.

Monday Moment is a little devotional to help kick-start your week. See you again next time!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bikes and Bakeries and Lots of Fun Stuff...

A lot of fun stuff happens
when you go out on a bike.
- Stone Gossard

One of the only non-work/non-puppy related things I did yesterday was take four seconds to sit down and read Alicia's blog. There are a handful of blogs I check in on once a week (or so), but Alicia's is the only one I read almost every day. I find her fascinating and funny and freakishly talented. I'm a fan.

Anyhow, yesterday she mentioned bikes. I lay awake last night, between 4,398 puppy potty trips (in the rain), and dreamed about getting a bike like one on David Hembrow's site. Just like it. I could bike all your packages to the post office. I could take Millie on rides. I could deliver flowers and Cheddar Dill Scones to friends and neighbors. I could be that girl in the movies with silky hair and a pretty skirt and Italian sandals who bikes around with English novels in her bike basket.


More likely, I'd be the girl with a ponytail, frayed-cuff jeans, and puppy-chewed flip flops who bikes around with cans of dog food in her bike basket. And then has a wreck in the town square and dents every can and bends the bike frame and busts her nose. But still. One can dream.

It cost me $82 to fill up my Jeep yesterday. I'm getting a bike.

Ooooh. A bike like this. I can put a little advertisement for my new business on it. Charming. I could have a bell and whenever I pulled up to shops and offices everyone would exclaim....


...everyone would exclaim...

... oh heck. Here's the little big news: I'm starting a bakery.

I'm open for business June 2. And yes, I'll ship domestically here in the United States, so everyone who wants a taste of truly fresh, country-baked goodies can get their fill. The business is named after my Great Grandparents - Jack's parents - and is strongly rooted in family recipes and favorites. I've gone to great lengths to source out fresh, local ingredients: brown speckled farm eggs... quality vanilla beans... locally made molasses and brown sugar, etc. I'm really excited about this. It's such a step back from the 1-800-Cookie services and pre-packaged disappointments. This is sure enough baking... the way it used to be done, before companies mass-produced and cut corners and went preservative happy. This is honest food. Life is short... let's make it sweet, huh?

So you see why I need a bike. For deliveries. And how cool is it that I just "happened" upon a Chocolate Lab puppy a month before henrybella's launches? She's the ultimate mascot. I'll tell you: this leap of faith thing might not have been so crazy after all.... ?

Have a wonderful weekend. Take time to enjoy it. -Brin and Millie

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Millie's May Day

Okay, but don't go far. If I have to come outside and play, promise you won't go far, Mom.

I was fine inside. I had air conditioning inside. And those worn-soft, pink snowman pajamas of yours to curl up on. Why are you so excited? This is lame. I'm doing my best to humor you. chewchewchew

Wait. Found something over here. Hmm? A lizard, you say?

I found a lizard, Mom! I found a lizard I found a lizard I found a lizard.

Watch me catch him! Watch me catch them all. Watch me... watch...

... he got away. I didn't know lizards could move that fast.

Better. Let's just lie here on our backs and look up at the sky and think of all the lizards I'll catch some day. You know, when I'm bigger.

Good May Day, Mom.

Good May Day.