Princess was calling.
Her moos were getting more insistent, “Milk me! Milk Me!”
It was still dark outside, really dark. There wasn’t even a hint of dawn on the horizon, but the cow needed to be milk, and my dad was still asleep.
Eric and Laura were still asleep, too. My younger brother and sister were really deep sleepers, the lucky ducks. I was an incredibly light sleeper, and I had agreed to this early morning chore, so I might as well get to it. After rolling out of my sleeping bag, I grabbed my shoes and quietly stepped down the stairs.
Grandma June was already rattling pans in the kitchen. I had no idea how she got up so early or how she managed to always be ready for when anything on the ranch needed her, but she was. I whispered a good morning as I slipped out the front door.
The sky was clear, though the stars were beginning to fade as the sun finally decided to grace us with its morning presence. Princess was waiting at the edge of the fence, desperate for release. I clipped a lead to her harness and pretended to lead her into the stall. She knew where she was going. She didn’t really need my guidance.
After grabbing a bucket and sliding a flipped one over to sit on, I got to milking. Princess was calm this morning, barely flicking her tail, and not trying to dip a manure-covered hoof into the warm, frothy milk. As I started on a second pail, I gave her rump a pat.
As soon as I was finished, I moved the pails out of harm’s way and led Princess back into her yard. Then I grabbed the morning’s handiwork and trudged back inside to give the pails over into the keeping of Grandma June.
She expertly poured the milk through a strainer. One pail was kept aside for the calves. That milk was poured into bottles. Nipples were attached so the calves could be fed – my favorite morning chore. Eric and Laura loved feeding the calves, too. There were two that needed bottle feeding that summer. The bottles got set aside for a bit, however, because the house was stirring and the flapjacks were ready. Grandpa Peary came back in from his own early morning chores, and like magic, a huge breakfast was served, and everyone was seated at the table.
I have so many memories like that of summers spent on my grandparents’ ranch in Montana. There are memories of struggles and hard work, but everything is bathed in the golden glow of July light. At the edge of every memory is Grandma June, working well before dawn and after dusk, running a household, making sure everyone was fed and safe and smiling. She knew how to tame my hair into a sedate French braid that stayed put whether I was doing chores, running through the fields, or riding a horse. She’d drive us all around the ranch land, checking on the horses, the cows, or to find the best spots for agate hunting.
Grandma June was strong, caring, unselfish, and made even the most mundane tasks feel like an adventure, though there were some real adventures to be had while she was in our company, too. She was the granite foundation of the Hannum clan.
Grandma June passed away two weeks ago. I’ll miss her so much, but my memories of her are bathed in that amazing golden glow of Montana summers, haloing her hair and causing her eyes twinkle.
I've been jealous of everyone's bar carts for such a long time. They're so stylish! They free up space in the cupboards! They scream, "Party!"
IKEA's new RASKOG kitchen cart was the perfect excuse to finally fulfill my drink cart craving. It's the perfect size for our small space, and it's a nice way to show off our pretty bottles of booze.
We're mostly wine and craft beer people, but occasionally, I enjoy a refreshing gin and tonic. (Hence the row of gin bottles on the left.) Charles is fond of a martini every blue moon. In college, I had quite the reputation as a mixologist, so I still make it a habit of keeping some mixing options on hand. To be perfectly honest, though, that Amaretto you see on the close-up image on the bottom is more for baking than for drinking.
This was a little project I did in between working on another, larger project with my Charles. That exciting (at least for us) project will be shared next week, and probably the week after as well.
Four years ago, I started a blog. Can you believe it’s been four years?!!! I wanted an outlet for creative writing I couldn’t do at work, a space where I could be myself, a space to share discoveries, recipes, and more. Four years ago, my Charles and I had owned our home for seven months and had no idea how much maintenance would become a part of our lives. I had no idea how much it would swing the focus of this blog.
It’s amusing to go back to those original posts. I didn’t post any photos to the blog until April, and those were tiny! Going back into the archives is like the adventure into how I found the blog’s voice. Of course it, like me, is constantly evolving, but it feels like after four years, this space can finally begin to sing.
A blog is only as good as its readers, and I’m so grateful to all of you, whether you’ve been following my ramblings since those awkward beginnings or you just stumbled upon it last week. I wanted to thank you all for your support and visits. You are my (mostly) silent horde, but you return, and I love you for it.
As a celebratory ye haw, here are some fun facts about the author of this here blog:
The summer of my seventh year, our babysitter took us to the library. She led us through the high-pitch squeal of the sensor-protected front doors and deposited me in the fairy tale section in the children’s area. I was surrounded by colorful spines, the smell of musty well-worn paper, and magic. That fateful summer afternoon took me on the journey of my lifetime. I had discovered my first love – the stories contained in books – and realized that someday, I wanted to write fanciful tomes of my own. And libraries – well, libraries became my refuge and my home.
In junior high, I volunteered in the school’s library, returning books, freshly checked-in, to their places on the shelves. At the beginning of each shift, I would pull each and every book out to the edge of the shelf, giving the whole room a wondrous uniformity. It was in this library that I first witnessed – and was a part of – the modernization of the catalog world as I meticulously entered each card into a computer database and allowed the librarian’s world to become more mechanized.
In college, I would reaffirm my gratitude to the library by volunteering each week at the Arcata branch of the Humboldt County Library. Under the tutelage of Maggie, the head librarian, I sorted and shelved books, checked them in, stamped due-date cards as I dreamed of my own soon-to-be-written stories – I even helped keep the community room and restrooms sparkling – anything that aided in keeping the library open. Plus, I was given the privilege of being the Children’s Story Time reader when Maggie wasn’t available, introducing new generations to the alchemy of words and developing a handy knack of being able to read pages upside down.
My most recent incarnation of library volunteer is as a board member for the Nevada County Friends of the Library. I’ll be assembling the newsletter and maintaining and growing its social media presence. It’s good to be giving back to this bewitching realm once again.
Libraries started me on the path that I continue on to this day, and I’ll be forever in debt to those book-lined shelves, dedicated librarians, and the pulsing enchantment that resides within each and every place that allows anyone to seek a story for free. All you need is a small card, which much like the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, and is full of the potential of every human mind that has – and will exist.
For all intents and purposes, 2013 was a pretty brutal year. I went through a very bad bout of depression, as did my Charles. According to the parts of the blogosphere in which I hang, this was pretty typical for most of us. I feel it, in my gut, even down to my toes, that 2014 is going to be an excellent year.
While this year was pretty darn rough, there were also a myriad of good things and progress in our little house, and lots of things were a-cookin' in my brain pan.
2013 marked our fourth year of home ownership. My, how much we've learned in that time! Wherever our next house resides, we won't be nearly as intimidated with a bit of DIY. In fact, as long as it has good bones, I think we'll be good to go.
We finally finished the repairs, both on the inside and the outside of the house, due to the original leaky sliding glass doors that became one of the banes of our existence.
In fact, we finally got all of the dry rot dealt with on the outside of the house, and everything is now sealed up, and the rain (if we had any. 2013 was also a very, very dry year.) will no longer have a chance to puddle and snuggle with the house's siding.
My horizons were also broadened when it came to plumbing. Our tub surround, whom I've dubbed Disco Stu, and I still have some things to say to each other. Will Stu get to stay? Find out in 2014.
Not everything was about repairs. I rearranged and updated the look of our bedroom this year, and even after living with it for a few months, I'm still amazed at how much more cozy it is -- and how much more lush it feels.
I did some minor crafts, just to keep things interesting, and realized how much that bright blue color that I chose for the door, and more, makes me smile.
I even made sure to get a good dose of vitamin D and participated in a Pinterest Challenge this spring. The path I made is holding up beautifully, and I've planted some green, crawling leafy things around it that will probably fill-in in about ten years.
While I didn't make a lot of art this year, I did acquire a bit more, especially in the black velvet painting collection. Charles and I even got to host the artist at our house this fall, when Chris came through town on business.
Though I'll never be too keen on driving, I did get an awesome vehicle this year. It's zippy and I love it, and I listen to tons of music during my commute to work. I continue to tweak my play list, and it continues to bring a smile to my face.
2013 also involved a lot of soul searching for me. I realized how much the ocean is a part of who I am and made sure to seek it out a few times this year. And while currently, I only get to visit, I realized it's home, both because of the Pacific's proximity and because of the folks who live there.
Charles and I also got to take a two week vacation, something we hadn't done in quite a few years, and it was wonderful and filled with beauty.
While it may have been difficult, there was still a lot of joy and wonder to be found this year. Our neighborhood may have its unique challenges, but it's a pretty place to live.
So long 2013! We're all really glad you're done, but there were still a lot of lovely things you gave us. Thank you for the gifts, old year. Now bring on 2014!
Let’s talk about skin.
No, not, “It rubs the lotion on its skin,” type of talk.
I have rosacea. It’s triggered by stress, and since it’s close to impossible to have a stress-free existence, it’s always there. It flairs up when there are a lot of things going on, for example, the owner meeting I organize each year that possesses all aspects of my life until it’s over. That type of stress causes major flair ups.
For a long time, I was using a series of products created by Mario Badescu, and they worked pretty well. They helped the redness stay toned down, and I was content. Then, the company discontinued those products.
Since then, I’ve been hopping from skin care regime to skin care regime, hoping that something would work. I tried sea buckthorn. I tried oils. I tried almost anything that I found on the internet. Finally, I think I’ve finally found something that works for me – TriDerma Facial Redness Repair and Facial Redness Cleanser.
I use the Repair after the shower in the morning and the Cleanser right before I go to bed. I’ve found that while the cleanser dries my skin out a bit, it’s better if I don’t put any lotion on before going to sleep. The redness is much, much better. These days, my rosy cheeks are more from brisk temperatures and exercise than from rosacea.
I’m not getting compensated or anything for letting you all know about my new regime, but I thought that any of you who may also suffer from little red bumps and unhappy skin might benefit from the knowledge. I’m proof that nothing works for everyone, but this seems to be working for me, and it’s one of the many things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving.
I'm about to leave for a lovely vacation. (So no post next week.) Said vacation will involve a lot of driving, mostly accomplished by my Charles. As the title suggests, I'm not really into driving. I've actually posted about it in the past. There are two things that make driving bearable to me -- in the right mood, even enjoyable -- a spot-on soundtrack and my Fiat.
I love my little Fiat 500. It's a 2012 and spent its first year as a rental car. Claret, that's what I call it, treats me well, is fuel efficient, and fits into parking spaces like a dream. It's also the perfect size for the Cornish-inspired roads of Grass Valley and Nevada City.
As far as my current playlist, this combination makes me happy. As someone who has experienced a lot of anxiety when getting behind the wheel for quite a long time, happy feelings and driving are quite a gift. In iPod album order:
"Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele"
Eels "Beautiful Freak"
Tom Waits "Big Time"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "The Boatman's Call"
The Magnetic Fields "The Charm of the Highway Strip"
The Magnetic Fields "Distortion"
"Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog" Soundtrack
They Might Be Giants "The Else"
The Magnetic Fields "Get Lost"
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Henry's Dream"
The Magnetic Fields "Holiday"
Eels "Hombre Lobo"
The Magnetic Fields "The House of Tomorrow"
Future Bible Heroes "I'm Lonely (And I Love It)
Soul Coughing "Irresistible Bliss"
They Might Be Giants "Join Us"
"The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" Soundtrack
The Magnetic Fields "Love at the Bottom of the Sea"
They Might Be Giants "Nanobots"
8in8 "Nighty Night"
The Shins "Oh, Inverted World"
Tom Waits "Rain Dogs"
The Magnetic Fields "Realism"
Portishead "Roseland, NYC Live"
"The Royal Tenenbaums" Soundtrack
Peter Gabriel "Scratch My Back"
William Shatner "Seeking Major Tom"
Tom Waits "Small Change"
Flaming Lips "The Soft Bulletin"
Devo "Something For Everyone" (My absolute favorite driving music. Though it makes it EASY to drive fast.)
Sea of Bees "Songs for the Ravens"
Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense"
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra "Theatre is Evil"
X "Under the Big Black Sun"
The 6ths "Wasps' Nest"
The Magnetic Fields "The Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees"
Eels "Wonderful, Glorious"
Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"
The Magnetic Fields "69 Love Songs"
As many of you know, I love the ocean and desperately miss it now that we live inland. What better way to celebrate my 38th birthday this past week then to take a long weekend at the coast? We feasted on wine, cheese, and crackers, filled our lungs with the salt air, and were lulled to sleep each night by the constant crashing of waves on the shore. It was wonderful, and I was home.
My Charles and I went to Anderson Valley and the Pacific Coast this weekend, specifically Little River and the Jug Handle State Reserve. As we pulled into the valley, and even more so as we arrived at the ocean, I felt my bones settle and my entire body relax. Do you know what I mean? It was glorious. As we drove away, I felt the tension return, slowly tightening as we traveled until I was back, stuck in my usual, wound-up self. But for the short bit while we were there, it was wonderful, beautiful, and right.
I love so many parts of the year, all of them in fact, for different reasons and different moods. They're always the most glorious when they are happening, no matter which they are, because of the sparkle in the air or the smell hovering around or because of a feeling that can't quite be explained. Still, I have some favorites, and the false spring at the end of January is one of them.
It was this time of the year, you see, when I was in the seventh grade, that I first read The Lord of the Rings. That was the experience that changed my life, the way I wanted to write, and taught me that the world of storytelling got even more rich, beyond the realms of the Blue and Brown Fairy Books.
False spring is also when I feel a quickening and anticipation for the future. It's when my biggest nesting impulses come to the fore. Last year, there were so many other things that I needed to focus on, I buried those impulses.
This year, I'm embracing them and making changes throughout the house. So far, I've brought in two cowhide rugs, and I love them. Their organic shapes play off of the squareness of our house and slate tiles, softening the feel of the space. We also found a lovely dresser on Craigslist for $75 that fits perfectly in the space I had planned for it. I used Morgan's tutorial, as I do with all of my new/old pieces, to bring it back to its former glory. And I still have so many plans! There are so many exciting things to accomplish this year. This is just the beginning. Spring hasn't even started yet, after all, just its promise.
A blog about writing, art, projects, or whatever else tickles my fancy.