Have you ever had one of those months where you sit down at one point to take a breath and realized 3 weeks has gone by since you did it last? That has been late September - late December for us.
In early September, I accepted a job with a community health non-profit and went through HR processes and training before finally getting to actually start in the office at the end of the month. I LOVE my new job, it utilizes all of my talents and the people I work with are simply amazing at what they do. Additionally, it's a 7 mile commute round trip and for 4 of those miles, I drive the shoreline of Lake Michigan! I'm a pretty luck girl!
On October 9th, my first bridesmaid flew in from Florida and my Maid of Honor arrived the following day. On October 10th, the three of us finished my dress (whew!) Future Hubby is now just Hubby, because we were married on October 12th at a small-ish ceremony with close friends and family, with a beautiful reception that followed. Pictures of my dress, the girls (and the boys), the country club and more when I get them back from our photographer (very soon).
Photo Credit: Loon Lake Photography
November / December has been a blur of holidays, unpacking wedding gifts, writing thank you notes and trying to make times for ourselves and our hobbies. There has been lots of laughing, reading, movie watching, quilting, knitting and cooking. Stay tuned for updates on all of those fronts.
This is where I'll leave you today. Later I will pick up with my love for my Farmer's Wife Quilt and pictures of all of the Christmas presents I made.... that I can share since they have all been gifted now!
In the last two weeks I have noticed the dark beginning to creep in. A few nights ago, after supper, I commented that it looked like we had rain coming in over the lake. The rain never came. The next morning while making a second cup of coffee I commented that it looked like another gray day was ahead.... then I realized I was wrong. Very wrong. The weather that day was forecast to be beautiful. It's dark outside because the seasons are changing. It's been such a long summer, I've forgotten what it is like to not have that beautiful morning light before 7am. Our local weatherman said last night that we will be loosing three minutes of light every evening between now and the winter solstice.
Those who know me, know I will not be mourning the end of summer. As a super fair skinned redhead, summer has never been a favorite. I love the early creeping dark in the evenings, the cool mornings, knowing a 'new year' will be starting again (6 years of college cements September as the start of the year in your mind for a long time) and a great excuse to put pumpkin in anything.
Autumn will be a busy season here at The Red Homestead. As you may have guessed from this post, there is a wedding coming. By "coming" I mean in October.... of THIS year! From the wedding until Christmas marks Future Hubby's busy season at work. Additionally, I have a super exciting announcement next week that will show you how I will be spending most of my time starting next week (no... it's not a baby or anything that requires feeding). By exciting, I mean exciting for me, I imagine you could probably care less... but I need something to build anticipation here.
Baby gift for Future Hubby's boss, who is due the day of our wedding!
In the meantime, I'm working on my wedding dress. Full sewing of fancy fabric has commenced. After a sewing marathon yesterday, fortified by a big pot of hot black tea and homemade shortbread, all that is left to do is hems on 4 layers of skirt, some hand finishing on the lining and sewing on about 15 pearl shank buttons.... then the whole project is done!
My beloved 1962 Kennmore, given to me by future FIL after his mother passed away.
I've also been knitting the most mindless things to keep my hands busy, to keep the stress from creeping in. Like a dozen white cotton wash cloths for face washing. From the Yarn Harlot's recipe, using just under a full cone of crochet cotton. I'm so excited to start using these! Such a simple luxury.
Started on August 10th and finished on September 15th, with a few distraction projects along the way.
Quilting has also been happening. My friend, Helen, showed me how to do a disappearing 9-patch at our craft guild night a few weeks ago and I've been in love. I've made multiple lap size blankets in this pattern this month. You can do a 9 block, lap sized blanket with 5 fat quarters and 1/2 yard of solid (the white in mine), plus sashing, binding and backing, which makes this a pretty cost friendly project. It works up amazingly quickly as well. These two things combined make it a great gift project. I'm planning a how-to post when I put my next one together.
The patterned fabric is from a fat quarter bundle I picked up at JoAnn's on sale. Yes, those are handknit socks, in case you were wondering.
All that is missing from this week is a treat made from pumpkin and a big pot of tea. Thinking we might have to rectify that today.
The Truth: We went six months without chairs for our kitchen table.
The Explanation: We have an awesome little tulip style table that I bought for my first post-college apartment and I had great directors chairs that I used for seating. It was my first place of my own and that set up was my favorite part of my apartment. Future Hubby entered the picture and was less than thrilled about the chairs.
Eventually, we moved in together, to a cute little house with a real dining room. We inherited a vintage dining set from his family, so we sold my chairs and moved the table to the basement. A few years later we move to the lakeshore and back into a much smaller space. The dining set was passed onto other family members and we brought the tulip table back into daily use..... except we now had no chairs.
I continue to be in love with these chairs, and someday, when we have room for a large table again, we will end up buying these.
Photo Credit: Pottery Barn
For now, we were looking for something budget friendly, that wouldn't take up a lot of space.
I bought two of these chairs at Goodwill for $10 total. My grandmother had this style table and chairs in her kitchen (in Maple... not this paint scheme) when I was growing up and I always loved them. They are seriously comfortable chairs. I've spend hundreds, maybe thousands of hours sitting in Grandma's chairs, just like these, so they had a pretty big sentimental pull too.
The Nitty Gritty: These paint on these chairs is UUUGLY! It was also very poorly done in multiple coats. I am a super impatient person and it paid off this time. I ran across automotive spray primer at our home improvement store. It is thicker than regular spray primer and it has very slight texture. My goal was to avoid sanding off the old paint and I thought this might even things out enough to avoid it. I put on 3 very thin coats of automotive primer and then covered it with 4 coats of Krylon gloss Cherry Red. The automotive primer made the paint even without all the sanding. It is not perfect, but for a quick job, I'm quite happy.
Future Hubby brought some polycrylic top coat to help seal it all. It will probably get a good sanding and one more coat of red before I seal it.
The Verdict: Future Hubby is not thrilled about the color. I am. Without the polycrylic they seem to be holding up well, but will do even better with the topcoat. They probably do need a little sanding. There are no ultimate short cuts, sadly. However, there are products that make things a bit easier.
In the end I LOVE these chairs. The solid color highlights the shape of the chair, which is classic farmhouse. I also think of my Grandma every time I sit in them, and about the hours we spent in the kitchen together. I never would have thought such a basic thing would turn my cookie-cutter rented kitchen into the homiest room in our house.
Blogging from my parent’s house would be so much easier if I
had remembered to bring 1) my cord to connect my camera and/or phone to my
computer and 2) my computer charger (since no one here is running a mac).
In the little bit of battery time I have left, and puttering
with the blog on my phone I can tell you I’m having an excellent little escape
into the country, back to my teeny-tiny (only 600 people) hometown with the
funny name. To protect the rights and location of the innocent, I cannot tell
you that name, but rest assured if I told you, you would be shocked, then you
would laugh. It’s okay, we all still do it and we grew up here!
My brother has this little buddy he calls "Garage Toad." This is because he is a toad that lives in the garage. This is Garage Toad's wife. Thus named, because she is smaller than Garage Toad, not because we actually know anything about her gender or relationship to Garage Toad.
Moving inland from the lake I’m shocked how green things become,
and humid. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. The flat landscape, mile high corn and
cicadas always will be home for me. Future hubby, who grew up in northern Michigan,
always says that when we hit the hills north of Clare he feels like he is home
(even though his hometown is much farther north) and I say it reminds me of
vacation! On the flip side of the coin, when the hills fade away and fields
take over the southern Michigan landscape I feel like I’m coming home. Clearly,
we’ll have to work on finding a middle ground…. so far, being at the feet of
Lake Michigan is working well for both parties.
In a few days I will pack up and head back for the Lake.
Which despite living there now, and knowing it is my drive towards home, still
feels like the beginning of a vacation. That is one of the best things in life
right now; coming to see my family gives me the comfort of going home and going
to our new home, feels like driving towards vacation. How much more could you
I am so excited! Heather is back with us today for another Essential Skills post on photography! Last time she was with us she talked about the rule of thirds. I don't know about you, but I've been having a lot of fun playing with that one! Today she is here to talk about something I am very bad at, group photos. How many of you have a group photo where an essential body part of a family member is missing, how about a floating hand, or maybe that ever popular girl group photo where gravity seems to have doubled? Heather is here to fix that!
Group photographs can be tricky. You are dealing with anywhere from a couple of good friends to a room full of people.
That means different people with different personalities, comfort levels with the camera, different blinking speeds, etc etc. How many times have you FINALLY gotten everyone to sit still and FINALLY got it so that your cousin isn’t making that face and you take the PERFECT shot just to realize that someone has their eyes closed?.
I wanted to give you something a bit more solid on the “how-to” behind group shots, besides whatever is residing in my brain pan, so I hit my bookshelf... and then I realized something. Photographers don’t really like to answer this question. There is too much that can go wrong. I have books that go on and on about lighting, but not about grouping a few friends together for a shot. Or maybe that says more about me. I am not big on having my picture taken, although I love taking them. Go figure.
So, let’s start with what we DON’T like about group photographs and then maybe we can find ways to avoid them.
If you are a girl, you know what I am talking about. For whatever reason, someone, at some point, seems to have told us that to get an entire group of your girlfriends into a shot, you need to give in to gravity.
Why do we all do it? I am not sure. They always seem to turn out okay-ish and we must figure that “hey, that’s good enough”. You can see everyone’s face and everyone is smiling, so now I have proof that we were all there at the same time.
We can do better.
Try to make the situation a bit more natural. It isn’t comfortable to do this “lean” and some of that leaks into our expression, whether we mean to or not. Do something that is more comfortable to you. Have the group come together quickly and snap the shot. Odds are that they will group themselves into something more “normal”. Your job then is just to make sure that you can see everyone’s face. We aren’t striving for perfection. These aren’t runway models and that isn’t the point of this picture, we are trying to capture them in this moment. Basically, a snapshot. Try not to over think it.
Hands can be tricky in pictures. You wouldn’t think so, you are focused on the face, so where do the hands come in? We sometimes get so caught up in arranging from shortest to tallest, being aware of what faces the room’s clown is making, keeping that one individual from wandering away, etc that the shot becomes so overworked and unnatural that it shows in our hands. What do we DO with them. Sometimes, the answer is to hide them. Take a pose more commonplace. Take that tall, gangly teenager and tell him to put his thumbs in his pocket. Just change that and often, the stiffness will vanish.
The Class Photo
There is always that group photo that everyone has to line up for. Tallest in back, shortest in front or sitting. Sometimes, these just need to be done. They are for record keeping purposes, you know the drill... aaaand smile! For these, there maybe isn’t so much that you can do, just keep it short, simple and painless as possible.
Tell a joke or just talk to your group, this doesn’t have to be awkward.
Don’t say “cheese”, it makes your mouth do weird things. You are trying for a natural smile. If you have to make them say something, pick a word that ends in an “uh” sound. Saying “mocha” or “yoga”, makes the mouth end in a more natural smile. Pick a funny word, make them laugh and get a natural, relaxed smile.
Take two photos, someone had their eyes closed. I know it and you know it.
No one looks their best under these, so if possible, go somewhere else. Odds are, your subjects will also be more comfortable and your shot will look less posed.
Use your environment.
If you have a big group, use that park bench. It will look more natural than “the slouch” any day!
Children can be a challenge, because they are always in motion. Keep your arrangement short, to the point and fun. Make a game out of it, sing, or if you need more time, keep them moving. Have them stand up, then sit down, touch their nose etc etc and that gives you the time you need to find the camera, the memory card, whatever it was you were looking for, or just to catch your breath. Recently, I was with a group of preschoolers. On the way to their playground, there was a painted map of the United States on the blacktop. We told them to run and sit on a state, any state, just not a state where anyone else was sitting. Spacing issues were solved and the giggles from their race only made a relaxed and cute shot that took two minutes. And no headaches. Yay.
This method can be applied to adults, too.
Give them something to hold onto. Popsicles and sitting on a railroad tie work, too. Hey, there is nothing wrong with a little harmless bribery on a hot day.
Sit them all together on the slide, have them grab a stuffed animal off the floor and hold it, your possibilities go on and on.
We all do it. It has been an age, you are finally meeting the girls for some long awaited catching up, hugs and gossip. Naturally, this happens over food or drinks. You ask the server to take a shot of you and your friends.
Really, there isn’t a lot you can control in this situation, but I do have a couple of tips.
Take the shot just as you are all coming together. Get that hug, that smile as you all see each other for the first time after a long absence. If you are at the table, take the shot before your food gets there or just as soon as it does. You would much rather have a picture of your friends with a delicious meal, rather than your empty dessert plates.
If there is a big group, you might be sitting at a longer table. Your server is at the end of the table and the two people closest to the camera are really the only ones you see. Try having the people now at the “back” of the shot to stand up, making it easier to see everyone’s face without having them lean in so far that they are resting that face on the table.
Don’t Sweat It
Now that you have some different ideas on how to tackle that group shot, try some out. Practice. Get out there with your camera or your camera phone and just have fun.
Thank you, again, Heather! I'm sure we all learned a lot. For example, I have learned that I should forbid you from putting photos of us in Jr. High in my blog posts!
A few months back I wrote about The Historian, which I love and continues to be one of my favorite books I've read in 2013. This month it had real competition, The Art Forger. A beautiful story of a young struggling artist, searching for validation, interwoven with the story of the women who started the Boston Art Museum. It's one of those books that I can't tell you anything or I'll tell you everything and then you won't enjoy it when you read it. Yes, I said when, because you must read this book!
Honorable mention goes to Tuesday's at the Castle. Excellent book for young readers with a fierce female main character. I know at least one little girl who will be getting this book from me for Christmas this year!
I keep telling all of you what you should be reading. Now it's your turn, what should I be reading??
Totals: 49 (10) 1 more book to reach the 50 in 2013 goal!
Coming from a family of artists and craftsmen, many of whom do not think they fall into either category, I have a soft spot for those types of people and the items they produce. If they are local it is even better. So naturally, a local man making stunning wooden kitchen implements won me over immediately.
I met Paul Rutgers at a farmer's market in southern Michigan last summer, when I was working down their for my Master's internship. I decided to forgo all the fresh produce and baked goods I usually bought at the market every week and buy a single, Hickory, long handled spoon. I brought it back to the office after lunch and sat it on my desk where I forced all my co-workers to appreciate it. There was a lot of conversations like this:
Me: Here touch this!
Co-Worker Whyyyy? (skeptic look) Me: It's amazing! The wood is actually soft!!
Co-Worker: "Riiiight" (crazy look) Me: Just TOUCH it! (thrusts into co-workers hands)
Co-Worker: Wow! Where did you get this? It IS amazing.
I think that conversation sums it up pretty well. These are among my favorite kitchen tools ever. Properly cared for they will last forever. Nothing, in my mind, is more beautiful than something created by human hands, intended for daily use.
Another was added to my collection by my future in-laws for Christmas last year, a walnut ladle type spoon. The next on my list are a few serving spoons for table use in a variety of wood types.
These spoons remind me daily of quality over quantity and encourage me to keep old traditions alive. From cooking and baking to knitting and quilting to wood working, these spoons encourage me to keep-on-keeping-on, even when these pastimes seem like a lot of work for the payoff. Learn a skill set that will serve you well and lean on others to fill in the gaps. For wooden spoons, I have found someone to go to.
Note: I am not promoting Paul Rutgers products, nor was I asked to. Rather, I am writing to encourage you to look for local craftsmen in your area and buy from them, because they have mastered skills that are fading in a modern world and because it helps reduce the support of the commercial industrial complex. Plus if you compare my spoons to the nicest thing the national big box home store can offer you would be crazy not to pick the ones I bought from this local man. If you don't have a local person pumping out wicked wooden kitchen tools, you can find Paul Rutgers here, and he does mail order.
In the wedding planning process lots of people are there to keep you accountable.... most of those people want money. Then, there are family members asking you if you have made phone calls and taken care of minor details that you are trying to pretend that if you ignore them long enough they will go away (the details, not the family members). In my case there is one more person, unexpectedly, that is keeping me on the ball on this project. Every Sunday Father Tom asks "How's your wedding dress going?" Yes, my priest is keeping me accountable for progressing on my wedding dress. Which is a good thing, because lately I've been pretty low motivation on just about everything in life, not just this dress.
Things with this dress have fallen into place and the muslin is done!
The next step is to pull out the $300 worth of lace and silk chiffon in my closet and start the REAL thing (stay tuned for more photo updates).
Thanks Father Tom, the dress is going better than I expected.
First things first. A big THANK YOU is in order to all of you. Over the weekend the blog hit 1,000 visitors and I am so grateful for each and every one of you who take the time to stop by our homestead while you drink your morning coffee or avoid productivity after your lunch break. Thank you! There is much in store for our urban homestead, so keep dropping in, we love having you!!
Other big news around here is that I finally got around to replacing my laptop! My poor old HP was no longer portable. The hinges had completely broken down and it sat open on the table all of the time, and it also no longer held any battery charge. For as often as I have to pack up my office and head down state to a meeting, that doesn't really cut it for me. I switched over to a MacBook Pro and while I'm in absolute LUURVE… it's been quite a learning curve and I'm still struggling to make it do basic things. So if pictures are missing or it looks like I've turned off my spell check, I'm sorry. It will get better. I promise!
Now, for one of my other loves: my patio garden. At our townhouse we have been provided an 8x8 foot patio. All personal belongings are supposed to be directly on the concrete and plants can be planted on the two side edges. Once again, we see the theme of limited space. Future Hubby and I set off to the Habitat ReStore a month ago and bought some old oak dresser drawers (there was no dresser, just drawers…. don't fret). Future Hubby reinforced the bottoms, drilled drainage holes and covered them (on the inside) with steel mesh and put some feet on them to lift them off the ground. I covered them in a few coats of 2nd hand exterior paint from the ReStore ($8 for a nearly full gallon of Sherwin Williams exterior paint!).
I filled them with soil…. yes, I had to buy dirt. To a country girl that seems like the dumbest thing I've had to do in years, and also possibly the most surprisingly expensive as well.
I planted my starters that have been growing on our kitchen table since March and some seeds as well. I put popcorn in the ground to the right and sectioned it off with some spare yarn and bamboo kabob skewers, to spare it from the lawn service's weed-sackers, and we have a garden!!
This is, hands down, my favorite place in our home right now. Late afternoon often finds me in a lawn chair, with a cold drink sitting on the grill shelf, my bare feet propped up on the planter next to the pumpkins and a book in my lap. As close to heaven as you can get on an 8x8 ft patio in the city. Although, if someone wanted to send a super cushy outdoor chair, I wouldn't turn it down….
Yes, I do see the irony in posting about my love of my patio and garden when we are in the middle of a heatwave in Michigan that prevents me from being able to enjoy sitting out on the patio. By next week I'll be back out there with my iced tea and a good book.... just you wait and see!
As you have probably caught on by now, I love a good memoir
and this month was thick with them. 52 Loaves was the fault of much inspired
bread baking in our kitchen and Knitting the Threads of Time was a great
knitting companion, however American by Choice was my favorite… by a long
When I was commuting 5 hours round trip to grad school three
days a week, I fell hard for audiobooks. They really helped pull me through my
commute, especially the evening one, usually after dark. I find myself still
checking out audiobooks from our local library, which has an amazing selection.
American by Choice was one of my audiobooks for June, and is actually read by
Craig Ferguson. One thing I dislike about the memoirs of funny people is that
they are either terribly depressing and not funny at all or they come across as
trying WAY TOO HARD to be funny. This book is neither. Ferguson is honest about
struggles but carries his familiar tongue-in-cheek humor all the way through
(for another comedian’s funny memoir check out Dawn French’s book).
Laurie Notaro is also an excellent book if you need a good
laugh. Future Hubby hates me reading her books in bed, because I end up
laughing so hard I keep him awake.
This month I encourage you to read something funny! It’s
summer after all, have some fun with it!
I am super excited this morning! One of my favorite people is here today to talk to you about making your photographs better! Heather and I have been friends since 4th grade and I have gotten to watch her passion for photography develop and sit for a lot of photos for her projects. She is an amazing woman with mad skills and is here to share her wisdom and answer any photography questions you might have. With all of our Essential Skills posts, if you have questions or items you want addressed in the next post in the series, please post them in the comments, and I promise Heather or I will get back to you in a speedy manner. Before I pass things off to Heather, I should note that I love the photo of Heather and her Dad that she uses in this post. I love her dad too, such a great, funny guy.
Take it away, Heather!
Photography. There is a sea of conversations to be had just with that single word. My
relationship to it has been as creator, hobbyist and dabbling enthusiast.
I love pictures. More so, sharing them with the world. Pictures are one way I have to
share how I see things with someone else. I have a unique view. And so do you.
Photography has become something that is so available to everyone that it has almost
become a sort of unseen skill set, something we overlook as being special. It is
incredible to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
One of my favorite photographers, Richard Avedon, has a line that I particularly like to
describe how I feel about photography. “All photographs are accurate. None of them is
the truth.” (If you are unfamiliar with his work, please look him up! His work is stunning).
Photography is what you choose to reveal. And it is what you choose to leave out. The
final shot isn’t the whole story, it is just one moment of one. How much it tells is up to
you and that is what I feel is so fantastic about it!
This series is about getting down to the basics, answering questions or just general
conversations about day to day dealings with photos. Because, whether you are
attaching a photo to an email, taking a picture of some fancy dessert or posting your
latest update, chances are that pictures are a part of your daily life. I believe everyone
has the right to the title of “Photographer”.
The first time I held a camera, it was love. And not the instant kind, it was the kind you
had to send off and wait with bated breath to get those 24 shots back and remember
those particular moments. However, my allowance, and economy dictated that I refine
my technique some and, maybe, I can pass along some of my early lessons or musings
on to you...
One of the first things I learned was to consider what it was the camera was “seeing”, to
know my frame. Think of your view screen as sort of sectioned off into thirds. A vertical
section of top, middle and bottom and a horizontal section of left, middle and right. This
sort of helps you to place your subjects. If this is a landscape, for example, you might
place the land in the bottom two thirds and the sky in the top third. Or maybe the sky is
particularly noteworthy and you reverse that (sky is top two thirds and land the bottom).
The reasoning behind this is that the human eye is drawn to a sort of unevenness. The
viewer will hardly spend any time on a picture where all the information is dead center.
You want their eye to travel all around the frame and take it all in.
Photo Credit: Heather the Photographer
Please leave comments about what questions you have, thoughts you have, absolutely
whatever crosses your mind!
We’ve all got a list of things we feel like we should do for
ourselves, but we don’t know how to do them.Maybe it’s editing your own photos? Hemming a pair of pants or a skirt?
Perhaps the most basic of car maintenance has you stumped? Or maybe you really
wish you could store some of your own fresh food for the winter, but don’t know
how.I’m talking about skills that
everyone needs, but we too easily outsource them to others and pay too much to
have them done, or worse yet, we just don’t do them at all.
One of the big things that pulls people into homesteading is
a desire to “get back to the land” or to live simply as their grandparents or
great-grandparents did. Our grandparents had some mad skills though.How do you develop those skills if you don’t
have them? You ask someone to teach you. Since finding someone close by with
the skills you need is not always possible, we’re going to bring those people
to you. Here.
The purpose of the Essential Skills Series is for us to pass
on skills that will help you save time, save money, be more self reliant or
find self-satisfaction in your own home. A variety of guest posters will be
popping in to share their passions and a little how-to with all of us.
We’ll get the ball rolling next week with one of my favorite
people in the world, Heather, who will be stopping in a few times a month to
talk about photography, editing and storing our own photos.
The Artist as a Young Woman
(aka The World's Best Selfie)
We will be bringing you lots of great stuff, but this is a
learning form for everyone. So, if you are looking for help with a specific
skill or have questions about conquering a task at your home but don’t know
where to start, leave us a comment and I’ll do my best to find an expert to
post an answer to your question!