Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tree Dreams Are Made Of These

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes the night before Thanksgiving feeling completely drained after 6 hours of driving accompanied by a 7 hour whirlwind tour of Memphis that day. As Charlie stood by my side doing the drying he asks, "Can we take a walk through the property tomorrow morning? I found a Christmas tree I want to cut down and use this year and I want to make sure you like it." Well, that perked me right up.
Like it?
Of course I am going to like it! This is what my homesteading dreams are made of for Pete's sake! To have land that provides almost all of our needs was the main motivation behind undertaking this move in the first place. Never mind that I tend to be persnickety about how tall and full our Christmas tree is. I know I scrutinize and inspect potential trees for bare spots, girth, limb strength and the perfect shade of evergreen. I can't imagine anything more bucolic than cutting down our own Christmas tree on our own land. I will love this tree no matter what.
After coffee on Thanksgiving morning, I pulled on my Wellies and followed him down the hill behind the barn. There she stood in all her splendor; a gorgeous tree that I think might be juniper or something of the sort. Her limbs would never be able to support heavy ornaments so decorating would need to take a different spin but that didn't matter because we were cutting down our own tree on our own property. That trumps using the antique mercury glass kugels.

 Out of respect for the sanctity of the Thanksgiving holiday I never, ever start decorating for Christmas until the Sunday after. It is my solemn rule. One holiday should never impede on another ~ they all deserve their fair share of time and attention. So after church while my heart was feeling full, grateful and ready to focus on only the good our sweet little family of four traipsed down that hill to get our first official Christmas tree for our new home. I watched the boys cut it down as Christmas carols rang through my head and even sang some aloud as the boys dragged it back up that steep incline. Charlie and Ryan were even forced  willing to pose next to the tree for a perfectly bucolic Instagram shot. Oh, Christmas tree indeed.

I'm not sure where and when it started to go wrong or what the hell happened in that barn but someone got a little slap happy with the chainsaw and the next thing I knew I was presented with a tree that did not remotely resemble the tall, lush one I approved at the bottom of the hill. They knew it too because they didn't even try to argue or pretend that the little, stout, chopped up thing was acceptable. In fact, I was told not to worry that there was a back up tree down there we could use instead.

Take two.
Back down we went but this time the kids disappeared into the woods together which left Charlie to drag the tree all the way back up himself because I needed both hands to carry the chainsaw and take pictures. He was out of breath, exhausted and mildly annoyed by the time we made it back up but it was his own fault since he was so overzealous with the chainsaw. I stayed outside this time to oversee the trimming and before you could sing Jingle Bells we were bringing her inside to take center stage in the living room.
It wasn't even a full half hour later that I noticed something smelled funny. Every time I walked into the open space that is our kitchen, dining and living room it smelled like cat pee. I had purchased a new candle which was burning so it was hard to determine at first where the smell was coming from. We have cats but they are not allowed in the house. And how could a cinnamon clove candle smell like cat pee?
I blew it out but the pee smell was still there. I gathered the whole family to see if they smelled it too. I think Charlie thought I had just changed my mind and didn't like the tree anymore, Ryan agreed that it stunk and Liam refused to take sides. Charlie was angry and asked if I wanted the tree out of the house. I felt bad. He went to all that trouble to cut down the tree(s) and it was pretty but we all know that no one can live with a pee tree.
So out it went.
look carefully and you can spot the possible culprit in the grass ~ funny he should be hanging out down there

Not one to waste things, I grabbed the vintage apple picking basket I had purchased a month earlier and filled it with trimmed branches for the front door. A few years back Southern Living featured an apple picking basket filled with wheat on a front door instead of a wreath and I was bound and determined that someday I would find the perfect one for my front door. I was disappointed about the tree but my apple picking basket success made up for it. Focusing on only the good was working after all.

On Friday morning Charlie said he was just going to go pick up a tree at a lot while I was at work. After the entire tree debacle I knew I was not going to press my luck and micro manage the selection. Unfortunately, I forgot that he wasn't here last year when the kids and I went to the Christmas tree lot and bought the world's most expensive Christmas tree. I also forgot that my husband is the cheap frugal one in our relationship and that the thought of spending upwards of $100 on a tree would make him lose his mind. I get a text late in the afternoon that says "We are getting an artificial tree."
Long story short, I had him meet me at Lowe's on my way home from work where I quickly chose a tree without closely inspecting, examining or fussing over that only cost $39.98. Christmas saved.
Oh, and don't worry about the two trees that unnecessarily lost their lives. I trimmed more boughs for the top of my china cabinet/bar and even used some in this week's floral arrangement. In small doses, you can't smell pee.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Giving Thanks

Well, I did it.
Despite a Hail Mary grocery shopping that involved only buying core ingredients I knew I could make some kind of Thanksgiving meal out of, we ended up having delicious food, a lovely day together and most importantly a pretty table.
As I was panicking prior to the big day people kept telling me to stop stressing about not having time, that just being with my family is the most important part. While I nodded my head or responded to texts with "I know, I know" and "Of Course it is :)" quietly inside I was screaming: "No shit Sherlock. I know this and agree wholeheartedly. But it's all the components of Thanksgiving; the planning, the cooking, the setting of the table: that is what I love so much about it! What the ?!@*" Argh!
If I had my way I would be baking the bread for the stuffing from scratch, making my own fried onions for the green bean casserole, baking a variety of desserts, not just the pumpkin pie recipe from the back of the can (which I actually altered slightly and the pie ended up being amazing). I think you get the idea. To not have time to do the things you enjoy unless you want to give up sleeping sucks. There's no other way to put it.

Last year I was fine with ordering the meal pre cooked due to our crazy living situation. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, one that is a precious memory I will cherish always. But it was supposed to be one, repeat ONE wonky holiday season followed by a return to normalcy once we were settled in. Feeling so ill prepared and overwhelmed this year was not ok because it was not supposed to be that way.

I left church on the Sunday after Thanksgiving with a tugging in my heart that I need to do a better job of seeing all the good rather than focusing on all the negative.  There is so much good! So why do the little negative things always seem to overpower it?
When I sit and think about our whole journey here how can I not feel all warm and fuzzy inside? It wasn't easy, goodness knows it wasn't easy but everything has worked out to surpass my every expectation. We have everything we dreamed of having in a home and in the location. We thought it would be out of our reach to have it all. I have been blessed here with some of the sweetest friendships I have ever had in my life and when I step back and see how they have been so divinely orchestrated it actually takes my breath away.

The dreams I still have are starting to take form and I know with every fiber of my being that I will walk into the fulfilling life I began dreaming about finding all those years ago.
So this holiday season I am going to try my hardest to see the good through the ugly, the light through the darkness and remember all the amazing things I have already seen happen. It may be the only way I can survive December. ;)

"When I started counting my blessings my whole life turned around."
~Willie Nelson

Sunday, October 30, 2016

You So Fancy

As a child, my family headed down to Florida on bi~annual summer visits to see my paternal grandparents MeeMee and Tee. MeeMee was originally named Meemaw by my older cousins, but then I came along and could only say MeeMee and it stuck.  I have no idea how we started calling my grandfather Tee, unless it was somehow derived from his middle name which was Lee. Everyone on my dad's side had weird nicknames. My great grandmother Laura was called Moonie, my grandmother's identical twin sister Louise was Boo and Moonie's sister was known as Auntie John but her real name was Ruth. Tee used to call me Mabel and my sister Mildred. I loved being called Mabel because it was sweet and pretty. To this very day it drives my sister crazy that she was Mildred because it's just not as nice as Mabel. Weird names aside, my grandparents must have been able to only take so much of 4 rambunctious kids because visits were bi~annual and we would never stay at their house. They would always rent us a condo right on the beach somewhere in the Clearwater area. 
All day long we would bounce between the pool and the beach begrudgingly coming inside between 12-2 pm because our mother was terrified our pasty pale Irish/Scotch bodies would burn to a crisp under the hot Florida sun. Family legend had it that one of our cousins once stayed outside between 12-2 and paid the price with a very bad case of sun poisoning. After the danger of being scorched by the sun had passed, it was back to the pool where cannonballs and spitting water abounded or down to the beach where you could safely pee in the water without being discovered. In the late afternoon we were once again dragged back inside kicking and screaming while spit shined, dressed up and loaded into the wood paneled station wagon for dinner over at MeeMee and Tee's. Dinner would be an hours long affair that began with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Every single night. 
My very petite grandmother who spent her days in slim, tailored ankle pants, cardigan twin sets and loafers would have slipped into something more dressy like a perfectly Floridian flowy caftan. She served Old Fashioneds and Tom Collins in her fancy crystal while my parents tried in vain to keep us from devouring an entire platter of pigs in a blanket. A few cocktails in they stopped counting how many hot dogs we had eaten and would usually share the booze soaked fruit leftover from their drinks. If not, there would always be an abandoned glass somewhere in which you could scavenge a slice or two of whiskey soaked orange and some maraschino cherries. That friends, is why my brother Tom and I both call the Old Fashioned our favorite drink. Those delicious memories run deep.
When dinner was finally served it was at the dining room table under the watchful eye of Grandfather Taylor whose portrait hung over the giant mahogany buffet. We never misbehaved at that table because no matter where you were sitting in the room he was watching you. He had been a Methodist minister in East Tennessee and I don't think anyone ever gave him a nickname simply because he was terrifying. We would never go into that dining room alone and God forbid you had to and the lights were out. Holy shit. You just knew that he would climb out of that painting and get you. Ironically, he now presides over my dining room table and I've become quite fond of the old fella. Oddly enough, he doesn't watch me anymore. Maybe because he's happy I brought him back to Tennessee after all these years.

My mother's family was the exact same way, minus the strange nicknames. I grew up firmly rooted in the notion that you always ate at the dining room table on the fancy china and if there was company, booze must flow first and little hot dogs rolled up tight in some lightly browned and slightly puffed breading should always be served. It wasn't because we were raised by amazingly talented chefs who entertained to show off their cooking prowess. The food was always good but not Michelin starred meals. This was just how they lived. Elevating the everyday into something just a little more special even if it was just with the people you love most.
I am fortunate that aside from all the ancestral oil paintings, I also inherited the entertaining gene. I'm no professional chef, but enjoy nothing more than feeding people I love at a beautifully set table. After over 20 years of doing it myself, I've found that there is no need for fancy crystal, floor length tablecloths or mini hot dogs. Just plenty of booze and a watchful ancestor will do. Although the hot dogs are always a nice touch.

Our deck is hand down the best spot for all of my entertaining aspirations. I did not find outdoor furniture I loved this summer and while sad at first that it cramped my style, it was actually serendipitous because we discovered that many of the boards on the deck were not cut long enough to safely support weight. Charlie discovered this standing in front of the smoker in the front left corner. Horrifying. Imagine if I had loaded a table, chairs, bar and the outdoor sectional I dream about on there? I shudder to think. By the end of September the boys had replaced all the offending boards and even added the posts and lighting I asked for. Now Charlie and I enjoy the deck most evenings sitting under the lights on our fold up camp chairs. Hey, if those camp chairs were good enough to serve as living room furniture in the apartment then they are good enough to serve as deck furniture too. For now at least.

Now that cooler weather is finally upon us I decided that I cannot wait for proper outdoor furniture or a freshly painted deck and posts to entertain outside. Life's too short. We invited some good friends over to share a meal and reminded them to bring their own camp chairs.
I lugged a fold up banquet table out of the barn and threw a huge piece of striped fabric and a denim remnant over the top just like I did for the pop up market. I not only grabbed mix matched vintage glasses, flatware and napkins but even dining chairs too. We served Joan's fabulous pot roast, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans from the farmer's market followed by an amazing apple pie that really deserves it's own post.
There was an epic game of Catchphrase with the kids outside as the sun set and I'm glad that we didn't worry about the level of fancy ~ we seized the moment and just did life.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Life Goals

Every night I set my alarm clock for 4am with the intention of rising early in order to have some me  time before the crazy of the day begins. If I'm up at 4, I have enough time to sip my coffee, relax a bit in front of the computer, exercise and maybe even blow out my hair because sometimes I like to look presentable when I go to work.
I am a visual person so as I doze off I mentally walk through what the next morning will look like; from boiling the water for the coffee to the healthy lunch I will pack myself to the six pack abs I will have as a result of all that hard earned exercise. I think of ways I can be good to others and how I can leave the world just a little bit better off than it was the day before because I always like to do my part. I eventually drift off into dreamland happy, confident and proud of how ambitious and on point I am.
The reality is that every single morning I hit snooze until 6:30/ quarter to 7. When I am finally able to drag myself out of bed I am super stiff and achy because two dogs lay by my feet limiting my movement for a solid 8 hours. I let them out, hobble into the kitchen to put the kettle on and head downstairs to feed Frankie. By then the kettle is usually boiling and as I pour the water over the coffee grounds I will sometimes remember a forgotten load of wash that now smells like mildew so I have to rerun it on the sanitize option in order to get the stink out. You know it's bad when your family inquires if their clothes smell when you come carrying a freshly folded pile of laundry into their rooms.
By the time the carafe is filled it's light enough to let the chickens out so I throw on wellies and head out to the barn and the coop. The ladies come dashing out and wildly prance around getting their morning exercise while I am out of breathe with legs that feel like jelly just walking back up the hill to the house. So much for that six pack. I maybe have 15 minutes to sit and suck down my coffee before jumping in the shower and getting dressed. My super curly unbrushed hair that I have been shoving into a bun everyday has dreadlocked itself which means I will have to spend extra time trying brush them out someday soon or maybe I say the hell with it and just start wearing my nose ring again and going with my own brand of a 40 something punk/ alternative look? Decisions, decisions.
Breakfast tends to be a pack of animal crackers or fruit snacks eaten in the car on a generally long drive to wherever I am working that day. After a "healthy" breakfast like that it only makes sense to eat some kind of fast food for lunch so there's that. If I'm lucky sometimes I make it home before the sun sets, figure out if we will follow through with our meal plan for the night or just have what we have dubbed a "fend for yourself" night  (because thanks to all the highly nutritious stuff I consumed during the day I am sometimes not even hungry). I maybe have about 2 hours to hang out with the family before bed time and setting that alarm for 4am because tomorrow will surely, surely be different, right?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result isn't it? Just checking.....
My follow through to these best laid plans may be pathetic but a few Sundays ago as we drove to church I decided out of the blue that I was going to treat them all to kick ass grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch when we got home. No one got their hopes up thanks to my recent track record of follow through. This mildly annoyed me because I am an ambitious woman who can do anything she puts her mind to. I would show them. A few hours later I fried bacon, sliced tomatoes, saved a gorgeous loaf of artisan baked bread from molding and took great care to layer an extra slice of cheese on each sandwich (because melted cheese of course) when I realized that I may not cross things off on my to do list, be on top of everything I want to be on point with or to even be the upstanding social citizen I wish I was (sometimes recycling is annoying and I don't let people pull out in front of me when driving because they might be too slow), but dammit: when push comes to shove I can make one hell of a grilled cheese sandwich when I want to.
That my friends, is success. I'll take it where I can get it.
(Just turn your eyes from the dirty dishes that are probably still in the sink)

Friday, September 9, 2016


Our little farm is nestled at the end of a dead end road that is probably about a mile long and densely wooded. There's a good possibility that there are more deer living on our street than humans but since neither are often visible I'm really just guessing. Three other houses sit down at the end of the road and I believe there might be two others hidden deep into the woods at the end of long, winding dirt driveways. I assume a dirt driveway must lead to something or another but who really knows? I'm certainly not brave enough to find out.
We haven't officially met any of the other people who live on the street unless you count the couple about 1/4 mile up with the crazy loose dogs that jump out in the road and chase your car as you drive by. There's about 4 or 5 of them with a large snarling boxer as their ringleader. The woman just helplessly throws her arms in the air if she happens to be outside when the boxer leaps out in front of you. Meanwhile, you hardly notice her because you've just had a mini heart attack that has dislodged your heart and pushed it up into your throat. As you are choking on it you pray your car comes to a screeching halt so you don't hit the son of a bitch. This dog is lucky that it would be socially awkward to hit him right in front of his owner because he is such a menace that it has actually become tempting. A man who must live with the woman and said dog has actually given us permission to "just run him over" but we don't because he only yells it if he happens to be standing in the road when one of these incidents occurs. We realize he is probably just frustrated and embarrassed that the menace refuses to listen when called. And as tempting as it might be in that moment to lay the pedal to the metal, as fellow dog owners we couldn't imagine living with ourselves if we hurt one of them even though I've sometimes wondered if the world wouldn't be a better place without that boxer and his gnashing teeth and nasty growl. 
Naturally, these run ins don't count as "meeting" the neighbors and the people whose homes are in closer proximity to ours just mind their own business. In the first few weeks we would wave if we happened to be out front as someone drove by but our house is set off the road a bit and you can't really see well enough to know if they waved back. After a while we just stopped because it felt stupid. It doesn't bother us that no one has stopped over and I wouldn't say these people are unfriendly. Fact is, our driveway is gated and the gate is always closed. Not because we are unfriendly, but because we have three dogs and four free range hens and prefer to keep them from wreaking havoc upon the neighborhood. We feel it is the neighborly thing to do. Besides, let's give these people the benefit of the doubt: how would you feel if a Subaru Outback with New Jersey license plates came rolling down your bucolic Tennessee backroad? There goes the neighborhood indeed.
Truth be told, I was embarrassed about the Jersey plates myself because I didn't want these people to think badly of us. Jersey people have a bad rap and sometimes rightly so. Since I was born, raised and spent the first 40 years of my life living there I have no shame in saying that. People are different out here. It's a kinder, gentler place. Except in the isolated case of a loose, roaming boxer. I know when I see New Jersey plates driving around Nashville I gasp a little and say a quick prayer that if they're moving here it's because they love and appreciate this place like we do. I don't want anything about it to change and I will singlehandedly build a wall around Tennessee if I need to in order to keep that from happening. I hope you know I say that with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. 

A few weeks back a small black pickup truck came languidly rolling down the street. There were two pit bulls hanging out in the back and an elderly gentleman up front who had a longish grey ponytail hanging from the backside of his baseball cap. He stopped at our house, got out and introduced himself to Charlie who just so happened to be outside. He shared how he and his wife live right at the end of the road in the exact spot where our street forks off sharply to the left. It's a tidy house nestled in a grassy knoll with a front porch and picket fence both painted a white that has seen brighter days. They have numerous outbuildings and a gazebo with a swing. We knew exactly what house he was talking about. Their place exudes a coziness that had caught our eye many times.

We were driving back from running errands in town a few days later when we spotted the two of them sitting on the front porch. It seemed like the perfect time to stop. They introduced themselves and somewhere in the introductions felt need to make mention that they are "just simple country folk". Maybe the black caftan I was wearing over my skinny jeans or the stack of bracelets on my arm looked fancy to them. I'm not sure. I may finally live in the country here in Tennessee but I still feel the need to accessorize most days. I did silently thank the Lord however that I didn't wear the navy maxi dress with the long caftan sleeves that looks like I should be serving drinks poolside in Palm Springs. That would have been a bit much. But fancy or not, it was without hesitation that they invited us right inside their humble abode because people here don't look at you funny with one eyebrow raised assuming you have an ulterior motive for being there. People out here still drop by unannounced to see how you're doing and invite you in to sit for a spell. Back home I wouldn't even do that to my parents or siblings. Back East you just don't.

We spent a good hour that afternoon chatting with them. Turns out they've lived right here in this pristine hamlet all seventy of their some odd years. They are as passionate about the state of Tennessee as they are this neck of the woods and they don't have to explain on either account for me to understand why. They have a cabin on 10 acres about an hour from here that they like to escape to because I guess that even when you live in a small village with just over 600 residents you must still feel the need to get away sometimes. I get it. Their kids are grown with families of their own so it's just the two of them in that sweet little house filled with over 40 years of memories and collected mementos. When they heard that this was our first summer without vegetable gardens the wife disappeared through the back door and returned with her arms full of tomatoes and cucumbers. I sent Charlie back down with a dozen eggs from our hens later that day. It seemed like the best way to reciprocate.
We've been back to visit with them again. Turns out the wife and I share a love of books and cooking. She's welcomed me into her kitchen where she's shared her well worn cookbooks and handwritten recipe journal with me. My heart skipped a beat looking through pages and pages of gracefully scripted dishes. We were standing over her recipe for Chess Pie when I told her I had never had it before. Like Southern hospitality, it doesn't really exist where I'm from.  I couldn't tell if her reaction was of pure shock or pity that I have been deprived of something like Chess Pie. She immediately went to the sideboard and lifted the dome from a pretty glass cake stand.
"I have one slice left of a Chess Pie I made." she said and then she looked slightly embarrassed. "Of course, it's a few days old now and I don't make my own crust anymore, but you really need to have some."
She grabbed a fork from a nearby drawer, carried the pie tin over to where I was standing, cut a generous chunk from that remaining slice and literally fed it to me. Like, actually spooned it into my mouth. I chewed slowly. It had a custard like consistency mixed with a crisp, sugary bite. It was not too overwhelmingly sweet and reminded me of brule but with a pie crust which in my opinion made it even better. For me, sometimes something very moist needs something dry to balance it. It was a delicious combination and she was thrilled I thought so.
Before we left she insisted that I borrow one of her cookbooks so I picked one she had mentioned was a favorite. It's nothing fancy or specifically Southern, just a soft cover spiral bound cookbook where she has lovingly drawn green hearts around certain recipes that must have proved their worth at her table. I thought of the hundreds of hard cover cookbooks I have at home with their lush photography, inspiring covers and was a little uncomfortable at how extravagant they would seem to someone who confessed she buys all her books at Goodwill. She doesn't turn her nose up at soft covers the way I do or choose cookbooks based on whether or not the images are so striking that they make her gasp for air or if the recipes use only the finest seasonal ingredients. She's looking for the tried and true ~ simple meals that not only fill the belly but end up filling the soul with comfort and a peace that all the aspirational visual imagery in the world cannot provide. Best part is, she doesn't even realize it.
Once upon a time I used to dream of spending a week or two taking cooking classes in the heart of Tuscany or Provence. Now I think I would sell my soul for a week spent by her side in that modest kitchen hearing the stories of our little village, growing up in the South and learning how to make proper biscuits and other classic Southern fare. And let's not forget that amazing Chess Pie.

Oh, and by the way they told us they don't often drive down our street. For one it's a dead end and for another there's those damn dogs. 

She also loaned me this amazing book about the history of our village. There aren't words to describe how awesome this is and how hard it will be to give it back.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Mix

Dinner party with friends:
Old classic Wedgwood dinner plates
Vintage mix match flatware
Chambray napkins from West Elm
Rattan chargers 
Vintage mix match glassware
Oversize scarf from American Eagle as a table throw

My infatuation with pink has held steady all summer long and shows no signs of letting up. With deep emerald green accents it may take me all through fall and winter too....

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Playing Tourist in our City

 When my brother, sister in law and mom came into town to visit earlier this month it gave us the perfect excuse to play tourist right here in our own city and all I can say is who knew Downtown on Broadway was so crazy? My daughter said and I quote, "This place is crazier than New York City." She may be right. While it was a blast exploring it all for the first time together my heart definitely lies outside the city limits in that rolling green countryside I am so fortunate to call home.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer in the South

No, seriously....TGIF.
There's been so much going on as we continue to settle in to the new homestead and in between projects, work travel, visitors, more projects and more work travel, we have been trying to enjoy our first summer in the south. And it's been a hot one. Like, really, really hot. So hot that you just want to lay around doing nothing except maybe read a book and refill your wine glass every hour or so because hydration is critical in heat like this.
Since I had a few minutes this morning while I enjoy my coffee and it's been a minute since I've written anything, I thought I would pop in, say hi ~Hi! and share the easiest salad that is perfect for those days. Plus, it takes no fancy kitchen skills which is helpful because after all that wine you need to stay hydrated, let's just say your kitchen skills may be slightly impaired. It's been on rotation in this house and not because my skill level is questionable but more because melons have been ridiculously delicious this summer.
There's no real recipe ~ I just ball up some cantaloupe, slice some fresh mozzarella and prosciutto, throw in some basil and toss with some black pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil. It keeps well in the fridge but I prefer it to be at room temperature which makes it perfect for bringing any leftovers to work for lunch. Except at work there's no wine. Bummer.
We are having our first official dinner party tomorrow with some new friends and I am trying to wrap up both my table and menu plans. Two of my most favorite activities. Along with drinking wine of course.

Happy Weekend Friends!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pop ~ Up Market!

It all started with the lamps I found at Goodwill. Gaudy enough to be completely fabulous, they were the launching point for my booth.  I instantly envisioned a bar/buffet table with these two lamps anchoring the ends. All I would need to do was find the perfect shades that would take the glam down a notch and make them feel current and right now.

A week or two later I found this amazing oil painting and fell head over heels with everything about it. My love for old oil paintings runs deep but the pink and white dress, the gold frame ~ she was a perfect match for my lamps. I knew then that my core color theme would be pink, white, gold and black. Black because I found the most amazing black drum shades for those lamps on clearance at Pottery Barn.

Even though I started planning and acquiring the pieces for my space over the winter, I could only do so much living in a tiny apartment. Then we were moving out of the house in NJ, closing on the house here in TN, cleaning, painting, unpacking and while I could see my set up clearly in my mind, time was no longer on my side in bringing it to fruition. In fact, time was running out quickly and I felt unprepared and ill equipped and worried I had made a big mistake committing to doing this in the first place. It was uncanny that while I secured my space back in December of 2015, that it would coincide with finally moving into our home 6 months later. What are the chances?
The week after the movers came I had to fly back East for a meeting which meant another week of getting nothing prepared. Long story short, I found out while I was there that I would also need to spend the entire week prior to the market in Memphis for work obligations. I about near lost my mind.
I debated pulling out of the market ~ I am not one to do things half assed but I stood to lose a ton of money as well as the opportunity to ever do one of these again if I left them with an empty space last minute. I waivered back and forth for days on what to do but ultimately decided to go for it. Half assed or not. Nothing great every came easy anyway, has it?
God always has a way to work things out even when they seem most impossible. This little farm here in my favorite town in America is proof enough. And he always gives beauty for ashes. 
You know how I know this?
That mess the former owners left us in the barn had piles of old barn wood in it. Fabulous old barn wood that Charlie used to make me an amazing sawhorse table. It came out so good in fact that I put it in my home office/studio space for photographing merchandise for the shop. (There was also an amazing giant, antique porcelain kitchen sink out there too that is going to be reused in a magnificent way, but that is a whole other story for another time) Some lady at the market even inquired if it was for sale! 
The most beautiful thing of all though was when I walked into Liberty Hall at the Factory and saw my space was that it was up against a brick wall. I nearly cried with joy. It gave me a place to hang the little gallery wall I envisioned and the best part was that there were pre~drilled holes in the wall. I just slid little screws in them and viola! My gallery was complete.
God is so good y'all.
The market was a big success for me, I met some amazing people and since then the online shop has been really busy with tons of hits and people saving it to their Etsy favorites. Whether it is related, I don't know but I couldn't have asked for more. Some lady even came back as the market closed out and bought all the fabric I used to create my "dining table". Unbelievable!

I haven't committed to the October market yet; I am still deciding only because it is so close to the craziest time of year at work for me. But who knows? Thoughts of a fall/winter theme are already racing through my mind....

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Sweetest Moments

There have been so many sweet moments our family has shared through this journey that are forever ingrained in my memory. Those moments when I thought I was losing my nerve and about to run home with my tail between my legs but my son's pep talks and confidence in me reminded me that I could do this. Our two months spent here alone together was time I could never replace and some of our best mother/son moments. I smile when I think about all the nights my daughter and I stayed up way too late giggling and being silly in our shared bedroom back at the apartment. Or that Saturday morning a few weeks back when I was walking through the airport from my final flight home and saw Charlie standing there at the end of the terminal waiting for me. I will never forget how full my heart felt and how happy he was to see me; knowing that this time we were together for good.

I don't know what you call it, but I am one of those people who gets a vision for almost everything. Naturally, I had built the entire scenario up in my mind of the first moments Charlie would step into our new home, admiring and taking it all in while I anxiously waited for his inevitable approval. As we pulled up to do our final walkthrough the evening before closing I realized that things were not going to materialize as I had imagined.
The sellers were there and no where near moved out. I counted 7 dogs and 2 horses roaming around the property, which to our dismay, they had completely stopped taking care of since the home inspection. Since May is pretty much full blown summer here in Tennessee the property has become a veritable jungle and I cringed as we walked passed empty cans, bottles and other assorted garbage just thrown on the weed infested lawn. If you think the house was in much better shape then guess again. There aren't many words to describe the level of filth we encountered. Needless to say, Charlie was obviously completely horrified that he was about to plunk his money down on this place.
It was definitely not one of the sweetest moments.

We arrived to the house a few hours after closing ready to start cleaning and prepping it for painting. My realtor/girlfriend showed up right behind us in her sweats with rubber gloves in hand. We scrubbed the kitchen for hours, laughing, joking, squealing in fear and disgust at some of what we found. We cracked a bottle of Dom I had long been saving for this very occasion and feasted on some fine meats and cheeses.
Despite the fridge alone taking 2 hours to clean and sanitize, it was one of the sweeter moments and other than the obvious good company, I'm sure the Dom played a little part in that too.

We have spent the past 5 days cleaning and painting. Our backs ache, our joints hurt, there has been plenty of crankiness and we have come close to having some arguments. I was standing out on the deck the other evening taking a breather and soaking in our beautiful surroundings when Charlie walked out to join me. We were quiet at first standing there leaning over the railing when he finally spoke. "I do see the potential here. I can see gardens out there and our family sitting out here enjoying it all on this deck. I just can't believe  that this place was left like in this condition for us."
My need to hear him say that he finally saw what I did in this place made up for a lot of those not so sweet moments.

Sunday night I decided to make a proper dinner. With the movers arriving yesterday to deliver our stuff I figured the rest of the week will be a meal time crap shoot. I stood here in my new (and clean) kitchen chopping vegetables with a cocktail by my side and Waylon Jennings on the radio. As I took my time preparing our meal I remembered how many evenings in NJ where I stood in that little kitchen with a cocktail by my side, Waylon on the radio all the while dreaming that someday we would own a farm in Tennessee.
We are finally here.
That is most definitely the sweetest moment of all.

Monday, May 9, 2016


The spring season is a busy one in the world of women's apparel retail. Easter generally flows right into Mother's Day and the build to Mother's Day is considered to be the "Black Friday" of the season. Needless to say, I was not really excited about working my second Saturday in a row, especially since this busy period has meant that Charlie and I have only had 2 days off together since he arrived in Nashville on April 16th. It's feels like a big fat tease: he's finally here but I just work all the time.  Let's not even discuss the fact that my job now encompasses 4 states and I spent the middle part of the week on another whirlwind trip to the OKC.
Anyway, at some point during the day on Saturday a woman that works for me casually mentioned that someone had dumped two puppies in her yard about a week ago. She was doing her due diligence to see if she could find their rightful owner to no avail. Her neighbor agreed to take the boy puppy but she was yet to find a home for the girl and was not going to be able to keep her permanently.
I asked her to show me pictures of the dog and mentioned that we had been discussing getting a 3rd dog since we will have so much land. I prattled on about needing a bigger, more serious dog for the property than our two spoiled "city" dogs and how I love labs and blah, blah, blah. 
Then she held up her phone and showed me this face:

I mean, really.....
I sent some pics to my husband and before I knew it, my daughter was texting me begging me to take the dog. They had already sent pictures to my son who is currently in South Carolina and now he was begging for her too via long distance. Being the sucker I am, we met up with her and the puppy later that evening to see if we thought she would be a fit for our family.

 By the way, have you ever seen a shopping center with a park/green space smack in the middle of it? No, me either until I moved out here. God bless Nashville.

She stole our hearts.
We know we are totally crazy taking on a puppy at the same time we are trying to move and be settled in our new home. We are going from a 2 dog family to a 3 dog, 2 cat (we are keeping the property's current barn cats) family with 4 hens on the way in a matter of a two weeks. Insane.
But the reality is, there is never an optimal time to take on a puppy, this little girl needs a home and I may just be certifiably crazy. 
So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Frankie. My daughter came up with the name and given our love for our new hometown Franklin I thought it was quite apropos. I am sure I will be complaining about the shedding but that face tells me it will all be worth it.