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Apple Harvest

At the start of the year, when we decided to move–when I cringed at the thought of ripping out all the emotional threads I’ve sewn into this place–I secretly thought, “Oh!  But we will miss the apple harvest!  Perhaps we could stay just that long….”

(Be careful what you wish for).

We have two trees, one an eating apple variety, and one a cooking apple variety.  The eating apple tree is beautiful and produces some of the most delicious fruit I have ever tasted–sweet, tangy, and flavorful.  The cooking apple tree, on the other hand, is like a vertical thicket, and has small, hard, ugly apples.  Until this year, we had not harvested from it, as the apples looked so unappealing.

Last year, due to the unusually hot, dry summer, neither tree produced any apples. This  was a great disappointment to me.  This spring, as I looked at the bounty of blossoms on the eating apple tree, I thought regretfully of the harvest we would miss.

As spring turned to summer, I watched as “baby apples” replaced the blossoms on the eating tree.  It was packed!  And then, for some reason…perhaps because of all the rain, perhaps because we need to prune the tree…all the apples turned brown and rotted on the branch.  There would be no apple harvest, whether we lived here or not.  Summer slipped away into fall, and with my last reason for staying here gone, I became very impatient to leave.

September came, and on a whim one afternoon, I walked around the side of the barn to look at the two trees.  The cooking apple tree is “hidden” behind the eating tree, so I don’t see it unless I go looking.  The eating apple tree had almost no fruit on its branches, and even its leaves were sparse.  But the cooking apple tree…it was lush with leaves and packed with round, yellow-red apples.  I was amazed.  We would have apples, after all.

After such a rainy summer, it took extra time for the apples to fully ripen, but towards the end of September we gleaned almost three bushels from its branches.  I was elated.  Money is tight right now, and any source of food is welcome.  I was somewhat less elated when peeling, coring, and cutting the apples took a week and a half, and canning took another week–fitting it in around the I had other things I had to do, like go to work and do laundry–but at last the apples were processed, frozen and canned.

I have been struggling over the last few months with anger and impatience over our lack of progress towards moving.  We feel stuck, and forgotten, and we are tired, and tired of waiting, and tired of being tired.  I let this house, which I truly love, become a source of resentment and bitterness.  Some wise words from dear friends have helped me change my perspective, slowly.  I began to pray for comfort during the waiting, rather than the strength to forge my own way through.  And we were given apples…the ugly apples from the ugly tree, which I had discounted–and they softened my impatience and quelled my anger.

Thanks be to God for His provision, and for His softening of hard hearts.

And for ugly apples.

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Six Years

In 2018, my grandparents on both sides of my family will celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversaries.

Shaun and I marked six years of marriage on November fifth.

Our years are few by comparison, but I hope that one day six will be sixty.

***

I did not write last year, to mark five years, because it was too hard.  The times come when everything seems to crash around you, and a year-and-a-half later, we are still sifting through the pieces.

Together.  Thank God.

I have fallen in love with Shaun even more fiercely over the last year.  His character has truly been tested, and has not been found wanting.  I admire and strive after his faithfulness, integrity, loyalty, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

And, also, I’m completely smitten with his post-Army curly hair and beard. 🙂

***

I was cleaning out a closet not long ago, and found two shoe-box size plastic bins.  One held all of the letters and cards I sent to Shaun while he was in Army basic training.  The other held cards from our wedding, and most of the correspondence we received over our first year of marriage, while we were living in Texas.

Seeing the cards and letters transported me back to our one-bedroom apartment in El Paso.  I got a bit teary, re-reading the encouragement people sent to us as newly-weds, living a new life in a new place.  It was a hard year.  It’s taken me a while (the last five years) to realize just how hard.  Those cards and letters bolstered us through the difficulty.

I was terribly remiss in thanking the senders of those cards and letters for their thoughtfulness and encouragement–but I was grateful then, and possibly, I am even more grateful now.  The difficulties come and go and change, but we know that we are not alone in them.

***

Happy anniversary, my love.  And thank you to everyone who has encouraged us, shared their wisdom with us, and smiled and laughed and cried with us over the years.  I hope there will be many more years to come.

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Etsy Shop: New Items–Sweet Spring card and Antique Elegance candle

A few new items at Ash & Acorn on Etsy:

First, a mini-greeting card, Sweet Spring.  It is 2.75″ tall and 4″ wide, and comes with a matching green envelope, ready to carry a sweet message from you, in any season of the year.

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Second, a “new” candle, Antique Elegance, which has been in my Etsy shop before, but has received a design update.  It is an 18-inch wedding or baptismal candle, and has a very similar style to my 12-inch Antique Grace candle (they would look wonderful used as a set!).

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Drops of Glass

A few beading projects.

First, a series of wildflower greeting cards.

The forget-me-not and white clover were raffled off as part of a benefit for the library where I work.  I like them, but am going to keep tweaking the patterns.

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I was very pleased with how the clover flower came out.

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The black-eyed susan is my most bead-intensive work yet.  It also took the longest–almost four months of off-and-on work.  I’ve gotten pretty attached to it, and will probably keep it for now.

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Second, two graduation gifts, both based on Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.  I love her artwork, and the lupines from the book were the inspiration that evolved into the wildflower cards.  Both pieces were beaded freehand, with no pattern, so each is unique.

The first was beaded on cardstock, and framed behind glass.

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The second was sewn on cotton, and left framed in the embroidery hoop (and yes–that is beaded cursive!).

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And finally, a re-discovered card which was made last summer.  It was intended to be used as a baptismal card.

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Everything Green and Growing

I’ve never thought that I would like gardening much.  Kneeling in the dirt until your knees ache, the sun beating on your back, swatting at insects, yanking up weeds only to have them return as soon as you turn around–no, thank you.  A succession of dried-out, dead houseplants from my year in Texas seemed to confirm my brownthumb.

So I am still surprised when I go out into the garden and spend hours kneeling (on a really cushy pad), in the cool shade, with insects kept away by lemongrass spray, meditatively yanking up weeds–and enjoy it.  Surprised enough, in fact, that I reflexively procrastinate on gardening until it must be done.  I hope that the enjoyment will become a stronger memory than the distaste.

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In case I forget why I put up with six-month, subzero winters laced with multiple feet of snow–this is why:

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A happy thyme plant on the sunny kitchen windowsill.  Its neighbors are oregano, basil and chocolate mint.

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Last year, for better or for worse, we planted strawberry plants as groundcover in our front flower garden (a.k.a. “edible landscaping”–we are always either early or late to these trends).  They have enthusiastically filled up the available space, and this year we are getting our first real harvest.

They are small, but delicious, and have deep flavor ranging from candy-sweet to tart.

Picking strawberries is like a treasure hunt.  Only the thought of seeing how many I can gather “this time”–and love for my husband–keeps me from popping all of them in my mouth as I go.

A bowl of summer:

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When G.I. Joe Moved In

While Shaun and I were dating, I found a book in the library called Married to the Military* It’s a handbook for military spouses, sort of a bootcamp-in-a-book on everything from how to read an LES (and what that stands for), to what to wear (or not wear) to military functions, to how to stay sane while PCS-ing (at least you can try).  The summary states that “Whether you’re dating, engaged, or married to an active military servicemember or reservist—or you’ve just signed up yourself—you may feel as if you’ve somehow married the United States military!”  Yes.  That handsome man may be wearing a uniform, but sometimes the uniform wears him…and it comes with a whole bunch of strings–and more uniforms, and boots, and field gear, and paperwork–attached.

More than once over the six years of Shaun’s Army career, we felt as though there were an extra, unseen person hitched on to our relationship.  “The Army” was something like an extra spouse or an invisible child to both of us–right down to waking us up in the middle of the night (hello, recall).  It even took up as much space in the house as a third person might have, from two extra sets of boots at the door to a whole room which, at various times, was more or less dedicated to housing military gear.

At times I complained about all the extra space taken up by “The Army,” but I had no idea how much space it had actually claimed until Shaun was discharged six months ago.  Army green and ACU digital camo–which, by the way, seems to camouflage with nothing but itself–was so much a part of our domestic landscape that I took its presence for granted.  Cleaning out, I have been astounded by the volume of gear, and the way it has worked its way into every nook and cranny of our home.  Moving it all out of our house is still an ongoing process, in part because I keep finding tiny items that were hidden away and forgotten, like acorns buried by a squirrel.

So far, the total for reclaimed space stands thus:
-Half of one closet
-One underbed bin
-Two bureau drawers
-Three small bins
-Five 18-gallon totes
-One 32-gallon tote
(And a partridge in a pear tree…)

Please note that this includes only gear, and not paperwork, which is a whole different can of worms which I am currently not even thinking of opening.  Except to say that when I do, there will be a mighty big bonfire (for reasons of catharsis as well as security).

This kind of explains to me why the two of us have felt inexplicably cramped in a 1,200 square-foot, three-bedroom home for the last four years.  It’s because G.I. Joe had basically moved in and spread himself around.

Time to move out, Joe.

*Link goes to Amazon.com, in case you are curious about the book, but just get it out of the library.

 

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Boxes

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Life lately feels like a continuum of boxes.

Mentally, we are checking off the many boxes that will enable us to move to another town, another house: find a new job, find renters, find financing, find a new house, find a way to move between houses.

Our conversations have more frequently consisted of verbally checking off boxes:  “I did a, b, and c today.”  “Were you able to do x, y, z?”  We make a list of tasks and split them between us, and proudly report on our progress at the end of the day.  It’s very romantic.

Most noticeably, we are surrounded by physical boxes, of the cardboard type.  I spent two and a half weeks sorting through and packing up the items which we had stored on the unrented side of our duplex, in preparation for persons yet unknown to fill it with their own possessions. Those few weeks have made me into something of a cardboard box connoisseur.  I am collecting them, in various sizes and shapes, from a variety of sources–book boxes from my work at the library, paper boxes from the office of a family member, Easter candy boxes from the local convenience store.  I am becoming quite adept at eyeballing a heap of variously-shaped items, carefully selecting a box of just the right volume and shape, and packing everything so the contents fit together like pieces of a puzzle.  Sturdy boxes with pre-cut handles are gold, the Holy Grail of packing supplies.  My enthusiasm for them may border on the effusive.

I have also started packing up on our side of the house, choosing the least-used items to pack first.  We have no idea when we will be able to move (this depends on the person(s)-yet-unknown who will hopefully want to rent out our apartment), so I try to keep in mind that I might not have access to the items for months or, possibly, for more than a year. This sort of rigorous selection process has resulted in another round of de-cluttering–“if I really won’t need it for a year, will I ever need it again, and in that case, do I want to spend the time and energy to move it?”  Sometimes, unfortunately, I can’t recall if a certain item has been packed up out of sight in a box, or has been gotten rid-of altogether.  I’ve also started “losing” items, in general chaos that is my house lately, and I’m never quite sure that some necessity hasn’t been accidentally slipped into a box and sealed up.  I regularly check on the cats for this reason.

There are stacks of empty cardboard boxes scattered around my house, waiting to be either broken-down or filled up.  I’m starting to feel like a hoarder.  I try to remind myself that this is temporary, but then I remember that I don’t know how temporary.  I also know that when the time to move actually arrives, it will be much, much worse.  A sea of boxes.  A forest of boxes.  I’ll be wading through them, in every room.  I myself may wind up swathed in newspaper and sealed inside one with packing tape.  If you help us move, be sure to carefully check my labels scrawled in Sharpie, and be mindful of This End Up.

 

 

 

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Etsy Shop: Yes, We’re Open!

Ash & Acorn on Etsy is once again open for business!  Below are the items currently available.  Coming soon: two more candle designs, a vintage wedding dress find, and greeting cards.

The shop had been open only two days when I received my first order, a request for a customized candle for an adult baptism:

The candle is 18-inches, a variation of “Antique Elegance” (coming soon), the larger version of “Antique Grace.”  The request was that a bow and cross be added to the existing design.  It was a pleasure to create!

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Etsy Shop: Coming (back) Soon

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Ash and Acorn on Etsy will be re-opening this week.  I’ve been finding spare moments here and there–like while waiting for my truck to have the oil changed–to work on my beading, and have dozens more ideas in my head for the future.  My shop will continue to have wedding crowns and candles, but will also have other items for sale which share the “cover everything in beads” theme.

Having the shop open while we prepare to move will be an interesting exercise; all my craft supplies are in boxes, but aside from that, are easily accessible.  Conveniently, as I mentioned, beading is a craft which is easy to transport, like knitting, and is easy to do anywhere you are going to have to sit around a wait a while–if you don’t mind a few curious looks.  And if your auto mechanic doesn’t mind the possibility of a few shiny pink seed beads being left behind in his shop….

A glimpse at some of my projects lately, some for the shop, some personal:

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