Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Update from The Manor

Mmm...the smell of gingerbread baking in the oven. It's a sign the holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving day is a time to be thankful for the blessings and bounty of the year. This year, my husband and I find ourselves especially thankful. For four of the five years we've been married, we lived with my in-laws. What was supposed to be a few months in a converted garage turned in to much, much longer. We prayed, begged, bartered, all but stole to get a home of our own. Year after year, this prayer went unanswered. Or did it? I like to think it was a wait...not yet...nope...uh-uh.... Until September. I made an out of the blue call to a friend of mine and asked if there were any lofts available where she lived. She said she thought there was one. There was. This was on a Tuesday. On Thursday we went by for a peek. On Friday we signed the papers. A week later, we were in our own place. Funny isn't it? We can pray for years for something and when the time is right, it happens so fast it makes your head spin!

I found some pictures of the Manor (it's a loft but I have high aspirations and a very fertile imagination) and thought it appropriate to post a little thanksgiving tour. A harvest Open House if you will.


This hangs next to the front doors
(we have double, green, metal doors that lead from the Manor to the outside world).
It's a wonderful reminder that we're not alone.

Walking around the main building the houses 11 of the 16 lofts,
the trees are aglow with Autumnal splendor

I got a little crafty this Halloween and created the banner
which only, sadly, this picture gives a tiny peek

Happy little black cat!
Before we got Master Colby, this little fellow
was our feline companion for the witching season

Sugar and spice and everything nice!
I found this old spice rack at my grandmother's church bazaar
about two years ago. I paid a whopping 50 cents for it!

Apples and pears.
Definite signs of the season.

Awesome Photographer husband and I both LOVE to cook.
This is just a portion of the recipe collection we've amassed.
The rest are in three ring binders in the cupboard.
You can't see it, but on top of the main cookbook selection
sits a program from Alton Brown's Good Eats ten year anniversary celebration.
AP husband and I got to go and see it filmed at the Cobb Energy Center in Atlanta, GA.
Do I even need to tell you how awesome that show was?
Look! Up the stairs!
A rare photo of Master Colby's face.
He's the most camera shy cat I've ever known.
The minute he sees you have a camera, he turns his face and refuses to look!
If he wasn't a guy I'd swear he was a diva!

I bought this key years before we moved into the Manor.
I've always harbored a deep love and fascination for old keys.
This one conjured up images of magic wardrobes and
mysterious boxes filled with treasure. And a home of my own.

Just a small portion of the large collection of books I have.
AP husband was putting them all away, pulling them out of boxes,
stacking them on shelves and exclaimed, "Where do you find this stuff?!"
I think it was when he found a gigantic "Complete Shakespeare".
"I don't know," I said, shrugging, "they just follow me home."

Two hundred year old wood floors.
An espresso cup and saucer set purchased at a yard sale for $2.00
Fresh ground coffee on a Saturday morning.
Priceless.

My mother instilled within me a deep love for crafts.
After a neighbor bestowed upon us heaps and heaps of hot peppers,
I thought it best to preserve them in vinegar.
I added a couple of cloves of garlic and...well,
let's just say you want several glasses of water to go with this vinegar!

A little something I'm cooking up for my soon-to-be Etsy shop!

I love owls.
I love fabric.
I inherited a virtual library of vintage fabric from AP's grandmother.
I've been stitching for months now and there's not end in sight!

A little pillow and an attempt at hand stamped "ribbon"
May your Thanksgiving Day be blessed, full of family and friends, feasting and fun. May you eat more turkey than you can hold, drown your mashed potatoes in gravy, watch at least one parade/football game and laugh until you think that turkey is going to come back for a second round. And may you all pause for just a moment and remember the things you have to be thankful for. I'm sure, if we thought hard enough, we could write a book on those things alone.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Love,
Jen

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food: Celebration, Sustinence, Much Needed Overhaul


Thanksgiving is next week. I think I saw some turkey plates and napkins last night at an undisclosed shopping center (you know, the one done up in red and white with bulls eyes on every tag?) Honestly, I didn't let it bother me. I love Thanksgiving. I love Christmas. I'm glad they happen within a month of each other. It's nice to feel like I have two months of celebrating to do. Of course, I like to count Halloween in with the holiday festivities and if you tag on New Year's you have four holidays together that are all about fun, gathering together, and food.

Ah, yes. Food. Nourishment. Sustenance. These are the words that spring to mind when I see a plate of homemade pasta, a bubbling cauldron of stew, a loaf of bread still warm and steamy from the oven. What does not come to mind is anything wrapped in plastic, cardboard, or housed in a freeze dried box. That's called eating on the fly. Sadly, it's what most of us have come to regard as "lunch" and "dinner".

I've said this before (and I'll probably say it again): I know life has become hectic. There are so many out there who long for a slower pace but are unable, for whatever reason, to attain it at the moment. And yes, there are those who don't want it. I think they just haven't slowed down long enough to know they want it, but I digress :)

There are things about my own life I cannot change right now. I work in an office with wonderful people but I am a slave to my desk and a wringing, impatient phone. The calls are 7 times out of 10 wrought with frustration, impatience and annoyance. I understand business must go on. But so does life.

I eat at my desk. My break doesn't come until 3 and my metabolism will not allow me to wait that long to eat. So my lunch is usually punctuated with the shrill ringing of phone and the request from a co-worker. For thirty minutes every day, I get to breathe. If it's sunny (or moderately dry) I go outside and I do not care how hot or cold it is. I need the fresh air, the sunlight, the misty rain on my lips and fingertips. I need to partake of something sustaining. Food nourishes the body; nature nourishes the soul.

Not only are we running at break neck speed, past healthy meals and communion around the table, we are blind to the beauty around us. There are acres of trees changing garments, showing off and showing out before they don their drab, peasants' garb of winter. Do we see the tree aflame in the early morning light? Do we see the field awash in a silver mist? Or do we only see brake lights, hear horns honking, feel anger and possibly rage?

Guilty. Loud gets noticed. It's a pitiful fact. Throw a fit and the world will know about it. Weep behind locked doors and no one will be the wiser, coming to you the minute you emerge with problems of their own.

There is strength in silence, my friend. Strength to be found in the peaceful hours before dawn, in the stirring of a pot of homemade tomato sauce, in partaking of bread and wine with a loved one. Would I love to do this every day? Make a home cooked meal, grind my own wheat for a fresh loaf of bread once a week? Roll out my lasagna noodles on my counter instead of dumping them from a box? You bet I would. But I have yet to reach that point in my life. Until then (and yes, I will make it there), I set aside one afternoon a week in which to make a life. One afternoon, after work, for kneading and stirring and chopping and cork-popping. It makes an ordinary day seem extraordinary. And for a few, blissful hours I can sip of what will be.
*image found here

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Bookbinder

The swish-swishing of her skirt brushed her ankles with melodious comfort. She smiled, her bare feet pattering across the worn floorboards. It was still dark, morning's light at least another hour off. The kettle was on and the water was just beginning to dance. Poured into the battered ceramic mug -the one with the chip out of the handle- it opened up the tea leaves, the jasmine petals, sending the exotic fragrance upward, up the staircase before her.
Pit-pat went her feet. She sat the mug down on the table and ran her hands across it's smooth surface, worn shiny with age and use. The board had been found at an estate sale, pulled up from a cellar, cast aside for the garbage pick up later in the day. They'd given it to her, said it was of no use to them. Lovingly she brought it back to life, gently rubbing beeswax over the lines and grooves. Stories were etched in it's fibers and she strained hard to hear them in that early morning stillness. If only she knew the language she'd be able to understand it's tales, enjoy the ruminations of the forgotten once tree.

Upon its back she placed the supplies: leather, waxed thread, needle, end papers. The paste was oatmeal thick, coating first one side of the chip board, then the other. Finely textured the papers were laid, bone folded and smoothed. An awl punched holes, almost evenly, down the spines of carefully folded papers. Some of their edges were torn, some were smooth, herbs in that one, threads of a favorite yarn in this one. It came together, slowly, as the sun rose and the mist burned off the autumn leaves. The leather, supple to her nimble fingers, conformed to the boards, binding to the codices. The clamp in place, she sat back and smiled. Another volume bound, waiting for someone's stories. Her trade labeled her "bookbinder" but she knew herself to be one who fashioned keepers of dreams.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nourishment

Squirrels abound in the autumn months, searching for buried treasure under oak trees. Bears fill up on deer and fish, readying their bodies for a long winter's nap. Animals know that fall is a time for preparation, when harvest comes to a close and winter's chill approaches. They seek out nourishment, collect food for the long winter to come.


We human animals have long forgotten what it means to rest and nourish the body and soul. Modern life has taken from us the rhythms of the seasons, of sunup and sundown. Instead of resting during the dark months, we trudge on, up the ladder, through the walls, in spite of our bodies begging us to slow down, pause, to stop.



While most of us can't make our own schedules, we can make changes that will help us take back, bit by bit, the natural way of things. The way our bodies, on a primitive level, need, long for, and desire.



Over the past few years, I've been researching slower cultures. There is no perfect place on this planet, this is a fact. But I believe that older (and wiser) cultures, which have the benefit of thousands of years of trial and error, have a lot to teach our young and perilously impressionable nation. As an amateur (and hopefully, one day, professional) cultural anthropologist, I am fascinated by every culture, moved by some ritual or some tradition that seems to project a slower, gentler time. They can all teach us something valuable about live, about ourselves. But the one culture that has resonated with me is that of Europe, especially of the United Kingdom, France and Italy. I love the rural countrysides, the old-world cities, the accents and whirlwind of the old colliding with the new. But what really has captured my attention is their culture that revolves around food.



I've been wanting to do a series centered around food and culture for quite some time now. What better time to begin the slow resurrection of the senses than autumn? Especially with Thanksgiving two weeks away and Christmas around the bend. I have grown weary of fast food, thirty minute lunch breaks and haste in every aspect of our day to day lives. I know there are things that must be done, I understand that we can't all determine our own hours. But what we can do is take the time to prioritize and make an effort to better fuel our bodies while also fueling our souls. I hope you'll join me as I ramble through the woods and fields, the farms and villas of an old world that has captured my imagination and my heart. I hope to do them justice. I hope to learn from them and integrate traditions and menus into my own, harried life. And I hope to have some friends along for the ride :)



Do you have any "slow down" traditions of your own? Have you, too, felt a tugging in your soul to slow down and rest, to follow the rhythms of the natural world? What have you done to rejuvenate your own weary body and mind? I'd love to hear from you on this!



Cheers!
Jen

*Click on photo for original location and photographer credit*

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pause and Enjoy the Moment

It's raining again. That means traffic. Disgruntled clients. Wet shoes squeak-squeaking down the hall.

*pause*

When I was little, I heard that when the rain hits the pavement, it births a rain fairy. That's the spatter you see. Wings unfurl and for a split second, they are visible to the human eye.

*deep breath*

I can see them now, out my window. They're dancing. The leaves have bowed and offered their stems. A waltz cued up and they are swirling and twirling together on an asphalt dance floor under the roof of heaven.

*smile*

I'm glad it's raining. Traffic means I get a chance to watch the life around me. I can pause and catch the fairies as they wink at me, dissipating into the atmosphere to go and tango with the clouds.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Holidays are Upon Us

I was in a large, very popular shopping establishment last night and saw something rather annoying. Christmas trees. Why is that so annoying, you ask? Because there's another holiday that happens before Christmas (one month before Christmas to be precise) that always gets overlooked. Thanksgiving. Whatever happened to Thanksgiving? Giving thanks. Perhaps it's not as important now as it once was, when the summer's harvest was in the barns and cupboards, when people knew if they had not had a prosperous year prior they would have to face a long, cold, hungry winter. Perhaps that rampant disease of consumerism stepped over Thanksgiving because, who goes Thanksgiving shopping? There's the turkeys of course, and the cranberry sauce. But it brings in no revenue? Not like Halloween or Christmas.

Pause.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks. What do we have to be thankful for, anyway? True, most of us don't have to bring the crops in before the first frost. Most of us don't have to can and preserve our winter rations. Most of us didn't toil all spring and summer to build a home, a life. Or did we? Spring gives us renewal, rebirth. Summer is time to play. Autumn brings with it a harvest of abundance. We sow our seeds, be they peony's or resumes. We run through sprinklers and catch some sun by the pool. We save our pennies for that latte on Friday.

Our cupboards are full of boxes and cans, our fridges with plastic and Styrofoam. We have heat and air and clean running water. Our children are fed, our pillows are soft, and, if we're really lucky, we have a few moments at the end of the day to breathe deep, put our feet up, sip a hot cider, and dream.

Thanksgiving. It should not be overlooked. Pause. Reflect. After the sugar high and let's pretend of Halloween are through, before the rush of in laws, outlaws, and good old Saint Nick. Take a moment and gather, with those you hold most dear. Hold hands around the table, the sofa, the bonfire on a brisk November night and take a moment to give thanks.

(PS: For one last hurrah of Halloween fun, tromp on over to my Woolgatherings blog and see what fun I had reading tea leaves on All Hallow's Eve ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Everything Worth Knowing...

...I learned at the beach.

It was three years ago, the year before my Dad died. Jon and I went to the beach for a couple of days with my family. We were only able to stay a weekend to their 10 days, but it was a nice get away.

I tend to get all my ideas when I'm near water. Oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, mud puddles, rain storms, tubs, showers. It came as no shock, as I was journaling one night after a stroll on the beach, that I was inundated with quips about life (my life, to be more specific!). Now if only it was as easy to keep these at home as it is on a three day sabbatical to the seaside.

Wake up early with an anticipation for the day
Take the time to stretch as soon as your feet hit the floor
Linger over hot chocolate or tea while reading the Bible or just watching the early morning clouds scuttle by.
Granola bars will keep you for about an hour.
Go for a leisurely walk or bike ride every morning. Don't count miles, calories or fat burned. Explore! And don't turn around until you get hungry.
Cook breakfast - eggs, bacon, scones with pear butter, fresh fruit and juice. It will keep you going for hours (much longer than the granola!)
Find time to do what you love.
Drive just to see what you may discover. Make impetuous stops along the way.
Wear what you like. It's amazing how one outfit can make you feel uncomfortable and awkward and another can make your comfortable in your own skin.
Casual is the way to go.
Take care of yourself but don't fuss. As long as you are alright with you it matters not what others think.
Sit down to eat.
Play hard.
Do cartwheels.
Take as many pictures as you want.
Spend time with friends.
Give random gifts.
Keep things neat and clean but perfection is unnecessary.
Take long walks with your significant other.
Hold hands.
Kiss when you feel like it.
Don't be afraid to ask (or answer) the hard questions and be prepared for the reply.
Be open to wisdom in all its forms and listen for it in the most unlikely of places.
See the extraordinary in the ordinary (and vice a verse).
Do what you do, not to impress but to fulfill your life's call. It's in your heart, let it out!
Everyone has a story to share and wisdom to impart.
Look for treasure.
Take showers during the day. It is refreshing to be clean.
Pause for a long, hot bath.
See the world through the lens of a camera.
Eat dinner together and share recipes.
Be silly.
Give love.
Wear sunscreen.
Things don't matter, time does.