This winter has been a little unusual and delightful since for the first time in years I haven't worked an outside job. I mean, I still teach, but only one class a semester for the past year or so, and that class is entirely online. And as any woman who doesn't work outside the home knows, there is plenty to do in and around a home each day. Add building another business (Ride and Shine), a puppy, and my husband's two knee replacements to the mix and this was a perfect winter for staying close to home. It has also been a treat to settle into a home and work on improving our surroundings. We rent, so there is nothing we can do structurally, but we like this house and it has been easy to work with what we have here.
After two years with our belongings in storage while we lived at the resort in the summers and in a sweet little cabin in the woods for a winter I was ready to have all my stuff around me again. I think JC could have stayed in that cabin again, but I like having my own things and the storage units depressed me. I never could find what I wanted and it was such an ordeal to go in and try to sort, find, retrieve, discard. I was so happy to find this house in an area we really like and was more than happy to hire the guys who helped me get everything from storage to here in one weekend. One day, really.
We discarded much of our old furniture when we left our old home, knowing we were ready for a change and knowing that there wasn't much point in storing furniture we were ready to offload. Therefore one of the first tasks was to find some new used living room furniture. I'd kept a leather loveseat I'd found in a thrift store and I knew I wanted leather since we have dogs and a cat and our style is a little bit western. Craig's List yielded a big sofa, chair and ottoman in a style we liked, and the quality we wanted, but in a slightly weird color due to some extreme fading at its previous home. I thought it was worth the risk and we've oiled it, which improved the color vastly, and are working on a color scheme that ties everything together with the wood walls in this house and the sage green carpet.
An upholsterer is on tap to restuff the chair cushion and create a new backing cushion for the chair, and restuff the ottoman with firm foam so that we can use it as a coffee table. Can't wait until that's all finished. New lampshades are on order and the living room is just about complete - next summer I'll look for rugs for the dining room and living room, and a sofa table for behind the loveseat, but aside from that I'm really pleased with our living space for the first time EVER! We are still making do, but the making do has definitely taken a step up.
Our family, all of us, love our living room.
Another fabulous find was this armoire for JC's clothing. We'd off-loaded an enormous dresser in the big purge and JC was left with no place for his t-shirts. This piece fit beautifully in the big room we chose for our bedroom in this house and I like the dark wood against the white walls.
Yet another pressing issue was that we'd let our guest bed go (again, the whole storage issue) and we tossed around a lot of ideas, went looking for a new bed for ourselves (drawn especially to platform beds with big storage drawers), and then stumbled on another second-hand find in our local paper. The ad was deceptively low-key, and the bed itself was buried in the list of other things for sale. But the words "spindle bed" caught my eye and we went to look at it. What we got was a gorgeous piece of furniture with a barely touched Sterns & Foster mattress and box springs. Score! That went into our room and completed it.
The nice spin-off from our getting a new bed for ourselves was that we were able to recycle our bed (still in great condition) up to the guest room, again completing that. It was all falling into place. And somehow I feel like it is because I am more present in this house, more invested in making this a home, more appreciative of being settled in a place that I like.
It feels good to cook here, it feels good to run the vacuum around, and it feels good to get things organized! Like the tiny, tiny pantry we've got. You work with what you have, right? In my mind, its a blessing in some ways as it limits the amount of hoarding we can do and it is always right there in our faces. Things don't get lost in this pantry.
I've had to part with many of my collections - happily not the mixers (although I'm not collecting any more), and it is still a little crowded in the kitchen. I'll never be one that has bare counters unless we move into some house with amazing storage again. We need a pot rack to get our pots and pans out of the valuable kitchen cabinet real estate but I'm pretty particular about what I want (Enclume, thank you very much) and can't really afford what I want right now. I'm watching ebay and waiting. The kitchen gets cluttered, but because I'm here it also gets cleaned often.
Its good, its great to be invested in making our home comfortable, warm, and inviting. I love being home. Love haing my micro-studio downstairs, love having the office with room for yoga, and can't wait for spring to be able to spread out in the backyard. If anything, its hard to pry me out of here. I have strong hermit tendencies and feel like most everything I need is here. The horses get me out more than anything else. I shudder to think of what might happen if they were here too.
The fabulous website called Apartment Therapy hosted a January Cure which I mostly participated in and I learned a lot. I started bringing flowers into the house again and they have brightened up the winter days. The house feels good. The house is home.
Over the years I've realized that I'm not a production person. This has not served me well as a business model, but I've come to accept it and therefore I've not tried to earn my living as an artist. I really really REALLY like making things, and I like selling things to people who like what I make, but I suppose ultimately I am making things to make and not to sell. So, what does that mean?
In the past few years I've made a number of pairs of fingerless gloves using a pattern from Alabama Chanin - making them with t-shirts that I loved but never wore anymore, making them from felted cashmere sweaters to give away at Christmas, and then it occured to me that I could make them with fringe - to cowgirl them up a little.
The first pair was quickly laid out, cut, pinned and sewn by hand during several feverish sessions of making. And I loved them (I still do love them - they are lightweight yet warm, comfortable and flexible, and they leave my fingers free for using my phone, feeling the reins, tying my shoes). So I thought, naturally, of putting them into the etsy shop.
Next the thought occurred to use two layers of fabric and stencil a western design on the outside, stitch around that and cut out the inside so there would be a beautiful, contrasting embellishment to go along with the fringe. This is my test pair, and you can see on the lower right that I started out not stitching around the design with enough room to cut out the fabric (the stencil I used is rather fine) and I learned as I went along. I also learned that with four layers of fabric and the fringe things get a little bulky for hand sewing. Still some bugs to work out here, but the overall look is just what I wanted. I'll keep and wear these for sure.
The plain pair got put to the test last weekend when I went riding with friends and they passed with flying colors. A little bit of western flair, a nice bit of coverage from the sun and the chill of winter riding and, well, the possibilities seem endless. I will list some basic colors (black and brown) right away, and then a pair or two of the reverse applique gloves with the option of custom colors. I can see someone wearing a white on cream pair for a western wedding, or using custom colors for shows. I'm pretty thrilled about these.
Check 'em out soon in the Ride and Shine etsy shop!
This will go down as a winter to remember, but not necessarily in a good way. This will go down as one of those winters we've endured, made the best of, and weren't sorry to see go. This is looking like the winter that never happened. Last year was a disappointment, but we got a lot of snow early - in November and December, then January rolled around and it was as if a spigot got turned off. This winter we didn't even have that.
When you live and work in the Sierra, you depend on snow. We need snow for right now - for skiing and snowmobiling and all the other winter sports this region depends on, and we need snow for later. Snow sits up high in the mountains and holds the water, releasing it through spring and even into summer many years, recharging the lakes and rivers. If there's no snow, there's no water and the last two years we have see the utility companies drain our reservoirs to puddles that haven't had the snow to recharge.
We've all worked hard to stay positive, cause if you've lived here long enough you've been through a dry winter or two and are well aware of the fickleness of Mother Nature. I remember ushering around a representative from National Geographic a few years ago, who flew in from Washington, DC to help us launch the geotourism project. He told me that one of his strongest impressions of people out west was our attachment to and fascination with the weather. We talk about weather a LOT in the west and probably even more in the mountains. It is part of our fabric here - we aren't insulated from the seasons and what each promises and then maybe, just maybe, delivers.
So you live here long enough and you acquire all the things you need to make the most of whatever nature throws at you. Record-breaking snowfall? No problem - we've got our snowshoes and our snowblowers and winter layers. Cold and no snow? Heck, we'll break out the ice skates and the hiking boots. You can't stop people in the eastern Sierra - we are an active bunch and we all know that there's no sense crying in our coffee. It could all change in 5 minutes (well, not really, but we like to think so).
Fact is, we are all worried. This is turning out to be one of the driest winters on top of a very dry year already. Reservoirs have been pulled to minimums and wells are going dry in the valley. The fires we experienced last year in the Sierra loom over us as omens of what to expect this year. People are getting laid off from work and it is a long time to the summer season. We are good at making lemonade but now we're getting a little shy on sugar and it is making our lips pucker.
JC has headed over to the resort to do some work for a couple of weeks - more to keep busy and productive than any real need to do the work right now. Here at home I start my days with yoga and a "stay positive" mantra. The sun is out, after all, and it has been absolutely gorgeous. I can ride my horse in just a t-shirt and jeans. The sky is still a brilliant blue and every day I think how lucky I am to live in such beauty.
We won't forget this winter, but we won't be sorry to kiss it goodbye.
Sometimes I just get so excited about an idea I can't wait to see it to fruition and that is when I wish the "real" world could just be put on hold for 48 or 72 hours so that I could work uninterrupted. Dogs would not need to be fed or walked, meals would magically appear and then disappear, and the house would just stay clean.
Don't ask me why I am so excited about these gloves - I just am. Fingerless gloves are so fun and easy to wear anyway and adding fringe - well, it's just so western! I see these being worn on a horse, off a horse, in town and out on a date. They are like owning a fringed leather jacket. You put it on and whatever you are wearing is transformed into cowgirl.
The first ones were straightforward brown cotton knit with fringe. Then I had the idea of adding another layer of fabric and doing a reverse applique with a western-type design. Off to the thrift store I went for a couple of large t-shirts in the right colors.
I scrounged through my stencils and assortments of Sharpies, fabric paint, and miscellaneous pens, looking for something on hand that would work on this color.
This first pair may end up being mine - just because I see some mistakes. The stencil is quite fine and it's hard to get much of anything cut out from the center of the stitches so the contrasting fabric underneath really isn't showing off the way I imagined. I'm going to soldier on with these, though, in hopes that I can work out whatever other design issues come up - I can see that four layers of fabric PLUS the fringe may prove to be a challenge for hand stitching... I may need to invest in a thimble to save my fingers.
That's why I need the time. Could the world just stop, please? Alas, it does not. My photoshop class begins tomorrow, JC is packing to go over to the resort for a bit, we're dog-sitting for our neighbors, I've got horses to ride.... life to live. Having JC gone will allow me the freedom to work my schedule out the way I want so I can squeeze out as much stitching time as humanly possible while not ignoring my life obligations and I know that every creative person experiences this very same thing. The juggle. We have to learn to work with it. Pupzilla is going with JC and the two older dogs are relatively easy - food, a walk and they are good for hours. I'm learning to organize and focus my class time to be as efficient as possible while still being attentive to my students. The house is coming together and will be easier to keep clean with half of us gone. I should be able to whip these out over the timespan of a movie or two.
I'll post when I complete these and I just can't wait to figure it out and get a few into the etsy shop to see if they are as well-liked by others as they are by me.
Way back in October I signed up for a year of online yoga . We were settled in our new place just about halfway between towns and I knew that establishing a yoga routine was going to have to happen at home. You just can't get me out of here early in the morning... I start slow. But we have a nice office downstairs and there's room for a yoga mat (plus it encourages me to keep stuff from cluttering up the floor).
That is how I found myyogaonline.com and it has been just what I hoped. Excellent instruction, structure if I want it but also the freedom to seek what I think I need for the day, yoga but also recipes, meditation, and encouragement from the online community. I love it. Periodically they'll offer a seasonal program, like in December there was a two week sleep & immunity class, and currently I'm in the middle of a 21 day strength challenge, which also includes a three-day detox.
Which is how I'm learning to eat kale. (Confession: I have a weakness for salty kettle chips after riding and would love love love to find something that reduces the damage to my hips those salty kettle chips bring on). For a snack during this detox, the suggestion is to make roasted kale chips. I made my first batch yesterday with olive oil and coarse salt and once I got past the smell (it smells, well.... green), I found I really enjoyed crunching on the leaves and along with a handful of almonds they made a great after-riding snack. They are ridiculously easy to make, too, leaving no excuse for paying $5 for ready-made kale chips.
The other recipes for the day (with the exception of the millet porridge - bleh) were and are wonderful and keepers.
Dinner involved a little more prep, but also made a large amount of chickpea curry stew, which we enjoyed over basmati rice. I left a little out for another meal, then froze the remainder and we'll eat it some other time. Making some of these recipes means planning ahead - like with the chickpeas. They had to be soaked for a day, and then cooked for about an hour and a half before they softened. We had dinner kinda late since I went for an afternoon ride, then went shopping for bird seed and storage baskets.
This chickpea curry stew called for lots of really killer ingredients - onion, garlic, ginger, yams, bell pepper, coconut milk, diced tomatoes and, of course, the chickpeas. It was delicious - well worth the wait. We had to improvise a bit on the curry powder since someone replaced the curry powder jar in the cupboard with no curry powder in it (who would do a thing like that????) - but it actually worked out just fine using turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili powder.
I am not so excited to be finishing off the millet porridge this morning, but looking forward to making lunch and dinner today. And it ties right in with apartmenttherapy.com 's January Cure assignment, which is to work in and on the kitchen this weekend. I'll be making meals, organizing the pantry, and addressing some of the shortcomings or uncompleted projects in the kitchen.
Disclaimer: I am not a purist - I am still drinking my morning coffee AND I had wine last night. It's my detox, right?
JC had a field day teasing me the other evening, noting that it really hadn't snowed since our wedding. I wanted a snowy, winter wedding and we just barely got that - a storm rolled through the day before our wedding and I got my snow. The rest of that winter? Nada. We moved up here to the snow line last winter and it started out with a bang. December 2012 was really lovely with snow. Then the new year rolled around and the spigot was shut off. The spigot stayed off all through 2013 and has only dripped once or twice. We are now looking at year three of a drought in the West and it is hard to stay positive.
One way we do our best is by continuing to get out. People here are outdoors people, recreation people - and despite all the hardship that a snowless winter brings, people get outside and do things. They trade the skiis for the bikes, or the snowshoes for the hiking boots. We look for ice.
Beautiful lake ice. There's just a short window for skating most years - the sun has to be low and the temps have to stay cold. Facebook groups pop up with reports from the most adventurous skaters seeking ice in the backcountry and in unusual places. We tend to stick with the standard venues.... the ponds and lakes that sit in the shade or up high or down low where the cold sinks. Ice skating makes us happy when there is a lack of snow - it is the silver lining to a drought year.
I'm always happy to be outside in this incredible place, to fit earbuds to ears and turn the music on, to glide and turn and practice. It is a little present from the weather gods, who for some reason see fit to deny us our very life's blood the last few years. The rest of the country is reeling from snow and bitter cold while we seem to be stuck in nothing. Just nothing. I try to be accepting, but it is an uneasy acceptance. And thank goodness we have had some skating to keep us from slipping into depression as we watch the snow on the mountains shrink, know that the lakes are low to begin with, and wonder when (or if) we'll see any storms this winter.
Joni Mitchell always pops into my mind:
"I wish I had a river that I could skate away on"
But really, I just wish it would snow.
Earlier this year, my sis-in-law lashed out at the John Lennon Christmas song, "So This is Christmas", stating that she didn't like songs that played on the listener's guilt. I'm of another mind, and I like to look back and evaluate what I've done - what goals I've accomplished, what I've let go of, and what I'd like to do next, better. We are different that way and isn't that what makes the world go 'round? Who was it that said a life unexamined was a life not worth living (or something like that)?
That said, I'm not a fan of "the year in review" - rehashing events (especially those of a small town), and I'm not going to subject anyone to MY year in review. Suffice to say it was a good one overall. I'm happy in my life. I love being at this stage, where I feel I've let go of a lot of the little stuff (or the stuff I have no control over) that used to cause me such angst. These days I feel calmer, more peaceful, more accepting of myself and of others.
This year I have goals and dreams, of course. I'm starting a 21-day detox-fitness challenge tomorrow. Last night I was loading photos from years past on to a digital frame we received for Christmas and I can't say I'm very happy with aging. And there are some aspects of that I have some say in - so I'll try to get more fit this year. I've been doing (almost) daily yoga for about 3 months now and it has been great. I look forward to it, I have little to no back pain these days, and my flexibility is improving. One goal is to change our diet to a lighter one better suited to our metabolism these days - more soups, more salads, a little less meat. Nothing drastic, just an adjustment.
We are bringing this little guy home in a week or so and that will change our lives (again); it is certainly going to change the animal dynamics around here which currently look like this:
And I'm going to continue to refine my metalworking skills and add to my etsy shop regularly - it has been a good fall in terms of that, I'm signed up for a refresher class with Stephanie Lee later this month, and the ideas are flowing - it is a good time for creativity. The micro-studio has shown me that it doesn't take much space to get the work done although my long-term goal for a studio is to find a vintage trailer, maybe around a 20 footer, and remodel it into a studio on wheels. I'd love to be able to pull my studio where-ever I need to and have it be all set up and ready to go.
Enough rambling. It was a good year and I think 2014 is going to be a good one too. It would help if we'd get some snow here - our livelihood depends on it as well as the state as a whole. The days are getting longer, the seasons are shifting again, and we're trying to make the most out of every precious moment. Have a good year, my friends, and stay in touch.
Just discovered Blogsy.... goodbye native WordPress and TypePad apps - I'm hoping this is the answer to iPad blogging.
At the last minute - and I am seriously saying the LAST minute - my husband decides it would be a good idea to join our southern California family members for Christmas. This decision arrived on the afternoon of Monday, the 23rd, and I promptly embarked on an all-out holiday baking push to finish all the cookies, all the cinnamon rolls, all the last minute gifts wrapped, packed, and ready to go.
We celebrated our personal gift exchange late on Christmas Eve, after the suitcases and dog bag was packed, after the bikes were loaded on the truck, after a dash through the house to make sure we didn't return to total disaster.
When you live in snow country, and there is no snow and above normal temperatures for weeks on end it throws you for a loop. On Christmases past we have skied, snowmobiled, ice skated, and snowshoed. This year we were considering a hike or a horseback ride but suddenly the thought of true warmth (80 degrees as opposed to 50 degrees) sounded even more appealing. Especially since we'd each been battling a ferocious cold.
We drove down Christmas Day with clear skies, sandals, and the truck stuffed with goodies, and arrived at my mom's just in time for Christmas dinner with a crowd. Family from far and near gathered to crowd the living and dining room and stuff ourselves on baked ham & potatoes, chili & cornbread (the unexpected hit of the evening), vegetable soup and salad - something for every taste followed up by a table full of desserts. There were gift exchanges, toasts, laughter, and love.
The next day we rose to sunny skies and 80 degrees at the beach. We got in the true spirit of things SoCal style by battling our way north on the freeway, but our reward at the end of that drive was a first time visit to our OC friends and their dynamite mid-century home. And a quick trip to see the true downtown of Santa Ana, "the circle" - historic buildings, antique stores, bars, and eateries. After goodbyes there we raced back south to fit in a short walk on the beach before another Christmas (her first!) with our granddaughter.
The next day it was a trip to Coronado with more family - walking on the beach, sipping cocktails by a fire pit after watching the sun go down over the Pacific, admiring the old-school beachy glamour of the Hotel del Coronado.
And then there was one more day of sun (I even carved out an hour of sunbathing, magazine in hand, as I did as a teenager) followed by family and feasting, followed by an enthusiastic version of a white elephant gift exchange.
And now we're home. Still fighting off the colds and coughing spells, but wrapped in a blanket of love and laughter and memories that you can't buy with any amount of money. Our lesson? There is always lemonade to be made.
We'll return to fretting over the weather and the lack of snow but somehow it will be much more bearable after our short foray away. We'll survive this, as we have survived other challenges, and we'll stay strong in each other's arms and in the protective cocoon of family love. We feel blessed this holiday season as one year slides into the next and hope you do too.