Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Back Forty Weekend

I just got back from one of the most relaxing weekends I've had in a long time.
A little back story: last spring one of our fellow Beehive members, Jenna, moved with her husband Jeff to the Back Forty Farm in the Lanark Highlands to take over an artisan cheese business. Jeff mastered his cheese skills and at the same time, they converted the former sheep shed into a gorgeous studio for Jenna’s textile work. After living in Hamilton for a long time, this was a huge change for them, and visiting for the weekend showed me just how different their country life really is. Jeff and Jenna have settled in beautifully to their new life, and spend their days working their crafts and tending to their land and home. Jeff asked all of us in the Beehive if we would join them for Jenna's 30th birthday as a surprise. They were kind enough to take a weekend off, and host us for some serious relaxation, local exploration, and the most amazing food. I can't really describe how enjoyable my time was, or how in awe I am of the dedication, passion, and hard work that goes into their farm and lifestyle, so I'll share some photos, and hopefully they are a breath of fresh country air to you as well.
Jeff and Jenna live in the COUNTRY - the roads were gravel and very dusty. 
This was prime real estate all weekend. Also, Hollie and Mike and Beau make a cute family.
I walked out the door to these cuties every morning.
The small, black one is "Blackie", the mid-sized one is "Mid", and the biggest one is "Big".
They are meant for food so they don't have cute names,  but they are so very sweet and funny.
Jenna showed us the lay of the land.
We did a lot of sitting, sprawling, lounging, chatting, snoozin', relaxing, reading, etc. Those were nice times.
Like I said...
I didn't take any photos of the AMAZING meals we ate, but here's a photo of Jen and Kev hulling jalapeƱos.
On Sunday we went to the lake.
It was beautiful and private and serene.
Then we decided to leave our little haunt on the edge, and swim across the lake to a floating dock.
Which is where we found a ROPE SWING! And of course Kevin had to go upside-down.
After our swim, Jeff presented us with The Cheese Plate of All Cheese Plates.
Like...this thing was ridiculous, and I still can't believe they shared this much cheese with us.
We could hardly handle all this cheese.
It was the most delicious cheese I've ever had, and so cool to know that Jeff had made it by hand from start to finish.
Jeff and Jenna also have bows and arrows, so needless to say, target practice was on the agenda.
The boys were eager to start fire-time early.
We spent our evenings around their fire pit, playing games, drinking a wheelbarrow full of beers,
listening to Jen and Mike duet, learning to make spider weenies, and judging cartwheels.
It's important that you know that Lanark County is the Maple Syrup Capital of the World.
If you ever go there, you should eat at Wheelers because I think that's where most of the maple syrup comes from,
and they just make great pancakes.
Wheelers also has alpacas.
Wheelers ALSO has a chainsaw museum. So...ya, here are some of our boys looking at chainsaws.
Of course, we couldn't leave until Hollie had shot a gun. She's the bravest bee.
So that was my weekend...it was a really good one. We all really miss having Jenna and Jeff in Hamilton, but it made us so incredibly happy to see them loving life in the Lanark Highlands. Thanks guys, so much, for having us. We had the best time, and have decided to invite ourselves over for your 31st birthday. 

Oh, and if you enjoyed this post, you can thank my dear friend Jane, who keeps pestering me to blog, which has actually been a major annoyance motivation. Thanks Jane. 
What a brat. Here you go…now quit your yappin’.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Boom! Hearts!

Happy Valentine's Day! This is the cutest of all cute days.
Some of us bees attacked some of the other bees with tons of love last night.
Check it out here...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January Project #2: The Harry Potter Shower!

In the spirit of trying to post about my finished projects, here's an update on the Harry Potter wedding shower we threw for our friend Terri! Jaimi and I are her bridesmaids, and we know nothing about Harry Potter, except that Terri loves the books, so we thought we'd give it a go.
It may not have been completely canon, but it did come together pretty darn well. Stef made them "Head Boy" and "Head Girl" shirts, and even created a pensieve for us to put our fond Terri-and-Alex-related memories into.  We played Aurors vs Death Eaters, and offered a 24 of Butter Beer as a prize. We covered the table in potion ingredients, and incorporated a hunt for the seven horcruxes. Among the spread of amazing food was snitch pops, edible wands, and in true British fashion, we ate Steak & Guinness meat pies. Everyone tried to guess the flavors of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. And there was a real stuffed owl.
It was a pretty nerdy party. One of my favorite parts was the Sorting Hat ceremony, when we divided all the guests into their Hogwarts houses.
I'm about to explain the magic here, so cover your ears if you don't wanna hear how it works... We stuck a phone with a speaker in the hat, Kevin went up to the loft, and we set it to speaker phone. He could hear us announce the persons name when they put the hat on, then he would speak about them, and his voice came out of the hat. It was SO great.
A true Slytherin!
So, the four houses competed against each other to win prizes and prove how much they knew about Ter and Alex.
Then we did Fire Whisky shots. Apparently this is a Harry Potter thing - Whisky + Tabasco Sauce, and it was gross. But hey...
Kevin made a nice little speech.
All in all, it was the most *magical* of evenings, and definitely the most upbeat wedding shower I've ever been to. I'd call this project a total success.

Upcoming Projects:
February Project #1: Operation Terri-Gets-Married
February Project #2: The Braided Rug

Monday, January 14, 2013

January Project #1: The Baby Quilt

At the end of the year, I posted about my 2013 resolutions. One of them was to “finish what I start”, and under the same umbrella, tackle (and finish!) two projects each month. I’m thinking that a good way to keep myself accountable to this is to post about them here!

My first January project is done, and it went so well! It was part of a baby shower for my dear friend Meag Tutti. She’s due at the end of the month, and we hosted a Quilting Bee shower for her this past weekend. My biggest involvement with this shower was the surprise quilt we gave her as a group gift.
Her nursery is themed with woodland animals, so about a month before the shower, my friend Sarah and I planned out the quilt, drew up some woodland animal patterns, and put together ‘embroidery packages’ for a bunch of Meag’s friends to complete. Once we had all the finished pieces back, we pieced everything together with some amazing fabrics we found on Etsy and at Needlework, and set it up in a frame.
Some of the squares we received!
Figuring out the pattern...
Some of the cute fabrics we used.
We unveiled the quilt at the shower, and Meag was blown away! It was such a nice moment. Sarah became our official quilt teacher - there were 10 chairs, and about 40 people, so we just took turns learning and stitching. What's happening here is that the finished quilt top, the batting (in the middle) and the back of the quilt (plain brown cotton flannel) are being stitched together to actually finish the quilt. Once that's done, we'll add bias tape around the outside as the last step.
Sarah is a really good teacher.
This is one of my favorite crafting projects I’ve ever worked on. Someone at the shower mentioned that it wasn’t just a quilt – it’s an heirloom and I think that’s a really special way to look at it. We had a second quilting night last night, and I guess technically I can’t call this project ‘finished’. The entire thing needs to be hand-quilted, so it will continue to be a work in progress for the next few weeks, but getting it ready in time for the shower was the main objective here, so in my books….success!

Oh, and how cute is Preggy Meaggie? Seriously!
(All high-quality images taken by Michelle Drew)
And in the spirit of keeping you posted, here are my upcoming projects!
January Project #2: The Harry Potter Wedding Shower
February Project #1: Operation Terri-Gets-Married (SO excited!)
February Project #2: The Braided Rug

Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year

The last day of 2012! And if I can use one word to describe this year, I'd say... pretty-glad-it's-over. It's been a tough go. Lots of stress, plenty of tears. But at the same time, as much as I'm glad to see the calendar flip to 2013, there have also been some good memories made and some amazing friendships developed.

I think there is something important about writing some things down at the end of a year. Whether you call them 'resolutions', or 'goals', or even if it's just a look back...it sets your feet firmly in a time and place, and I think it builds our character to take a good hard look around ourselves.

So first, a look back at the last 12 months. And yes, I'm scrolling through my Instagram page to try and remember what the heck I did this year. And then a few quick resolutions for 2013. :)

January marks the month I started and ended resolution #2 I made last year: "Make my bed every day." I started off so strong! But I didn't last, and soon Kevin was making the bed, and I was like "Hey! This is way easier!" So...yeah. January also marks the first full month of one of my best friend's greatest endeavors. The Cannon opened on December 21st, and by January it was already packed and had totally become an instant haven for lovers of Hamilton, coffee, great food and meaningful time spent with friends. This shop has become my happy place, and my favorite coffee shop in this city. It's been amazing to see Anne and Cindy grow it from the ground up, and dangit! Those lattes!
First latte at The Cannon!
February. 2012's hardest month. I remember sitting in the doctor's office, and telling her that my anxiety was suffocating me. Bless her heart, she said "I'm not giving you medication. Let's try some alternatives." She showed me some breathing exercises and recommended going on a walk every evening to clear my head. Simple solutions, but so helpful at that time. This was the first time I've ever dealt with this, and it's been a bit of an interesting realization, as I never pegged myself as someone who would be crippled by emotions, or tangibly affected by social anxiety. For some reason, to me, that was something other people suffered with, and I never expected those feelings to just pop up. This has been an ongoing process, but has grown me in ways I couldn't have imagined. February brought a lot of heartache, as I watched a lot of hearts get broken, and witnessed a lot of hurt around me that I couldn't control. It felt like a very sudden jump into being "grown up", and I quickly remembered the resolution I had made just weeks earlier: "Learn to suffer well: We live in a broken world, and we can't wrap our minds around the terrible things that happen. I want to be a person who knows that is true, and who looks forward to God's kingdom being fully realized and everything set to right, but also lives in the tension of knowing that we're not there yet. I want to 'sit shiva' with my friends that are grieving. I want to acknowledge pain, instead to digging desperately for optimism. I want to make soup for people who are sad. I want to cry over broken hearts and broken lives." I think God was preparing me for a big, hard year. 
Night walks.
February was also the month that Needlework opened. Two of my dear friends started this sewing shop, and it's become my other 'happy place'. Their little line up of sewing machines, and their giant cutting tables became the place where I practiced creativity this year, and where I was able to find moments of clarity and peace when shit hit the fan. Who would have thought that local businesses could be such a literal blessing, but Needlework (and the Cannon) have both been that to me this year.
Needlework, just before it opened.
March was one of those months that was just full of a bunch of fun events. A few of us organized Cash Mob. We threw a dinner party at the Baltimore House. Lindsay and I launched an online fundraiser to renovate our vintage camping trailer (a project that is still a long way out, unfortunately). I have learned this year just how much I'm a person who likes to Do Things. I love organizing, and planning, and bringing people together, and working on projects bigger than myself. It's a good thing, but it can be dangerous. Keeping busy can swallow you up, especially when you know that it's rest and quiet conversations that will stir your heart. Doing Things is a distraction, but it is also a joy. It's learning to find that balance of productivity/excitement/creativity and stillness/peace/reflection that is so hard.
Dinner at the Baltimore House.
April was full of more fun things. Like...going to see First Aid Kit in Toronto. And concluding forty days of "climbing high mountains" and ending that journey by celebrating Easter on the escarpment. And throwing a dance party to raise the last of the money for Sweet Ice's camping trailer. That was a good month.
May was a month of fresh starts. The days got warmer, and summer activities started. We cleaned up the back yard and I started jogging. I took some "offline" time to clear my head. Sweet Ice got rolling again, we sold our house, and started house hunting.
Hamilton Waterfront.
Cleaning the backyard.
The wallpaper I loved when we were house hunting. Wouldn't have guessed that this house would eventually be ours.
June's greatest accomplishment was the Sweet Ice commercial. It kindof speaks for itself. I'm still blown away that this came together, and I feel so very proud of it.
July is defined by the Great Disaster of 2012 - the flood. This was an absolutely awful month full of stress, disruption and unsettledness. We spent the next 3 months moving around, living out of a laundry basket. The greatest thing I learned was that people are kind, and so hospitable  It made me want to be kinder, and more hospitable. I hope that if someone I know has a disaster in their home like we had, I will be the kind of person that welcomes them into my home, because we were so blessed by that.
The only saving grace in July was the three amazing weddings we got to attend. Kevin's sister got married, and I had the honor of being in her wedding party and Kevin officiated their ceremony. It was pretty darn special. Kevin also got to stand up in the wedding of our dear friends Aaron and Cath. Lastly, my cousins got married on the beach, and Kevin officiated their ceremony. Then there was a pig roast.
August! We got our new house on the first of August and began renovations right away. We unpacked the kitchen, watched the contractors knock down a few walls, then escaped to the cottage for a week. Thank God, because the renovations were the biggest undertaking of life, and we had no idea that we'd still be working on the main floor at the end of December. The house has come a long way though, and it is slowly and surely becoming a home. We feel so blessed to have gotten this house - it really is (or will be) our dream house, and we're so thrilled about the location. I'm excited to see what life will look like in 2013 in our new place!
August is also when I accomplished last years resolution #1: "Pay off my school debt." Buying a new house is what allowed us to do so, and it was a huge weight lifted! 
September, in Hamilton, is basically know as Supercrawl Month. Most of the people I know are basically getting ready for Supercrawl for the first half of the month, executing whatever awesome thing they’re involved in, and then spending the second half of the month coming down from the Supercrawl high. It’s a good month. A crazy one, but so good. I had two awesome ways to get involved this year. First, Sweet Ice was setting up, for two days this year instead of just one, and second, the Beehive was installing our Modular Beauty piece. We got ready, we executed, and then we rested.

October was a great month because I really got to settle into Autumn. Every year I say that I want to do more “Fall Stuff” and unfortunately this amazing season only lasts about three weeks so you really have to make an effort to squeeze all that Autumn goodness out of it. Kevin and I went for a lot of walks, we carved a pumpkin, we drank apple cider, etc etc, but the most exciting I did was Sports! (I capitalize it, because it really is a new concept to me…almost otherworldly, actually.) My carpoolie Meag and I partnered up for a charity bike ride and we killed it! And it almost killed us. But we did it! Also, we finally moved into our new house at the end of October. It’s been a bit like camping, because we’re missing a lot of the essentials (stove, laundry, bathroom sink), but it’s cool how well you adapt to making all your meals in a slow cooker, using the laundromat, and washing your hands in the bathtub.
November was the month of 'making home'. I started making pillows, and decorating for Christmas, and buying furniture and finishing projects. I got some kind of second wind, and just stormed through home-projects.
Linds and I hosted the Not-So-Sweet Ice Dance Party, our season closer, and it was super fun and successful. It's always so humbling to see all these amazing people come out to enjoy snow cones and dancing, and to hear their feedback. It was such a great way to close our season; especially to end on a high when we were both ready to hibernate for a few months. November was also the first time we welcomed a big group of people into our home. We've always wanted a place where we could host large gatherings, and it was really cool to offer our place for our friend Tim's CD release party. I hope that this year will bring many more gatherings of friendly faces.
Aaaaand December. Lots of highlights in December. Obviously Christmas is always a fun time, but I had the added bonus of an amazing trip to Buffalo with Kevin, where we saw one of the best concerts of my life. Not to mention Shopocalypse, where our church raised over $7000 in one night to provide fresh drinking water to an underpriviledged community in Ethiopia, AND I got to celebrate my birthday about 4 different times because I'm spoiled like that. 
Whew! So there's the nutshell version of my year.
Now, the new year...let's address that. I'm declaring 2013 to be the year of simplicity.
Here are my four resolutions.

Slow down. 
Take a deep breath, don't sweat the small stuff, say no to things, enjoy my evenings. Read some books. Take time to sit and craft and talk.

Clean Up
Organize my life/house/brain. We've got housemates moving in this Spring, so the goal is to have all things in their proper place, and a purged and organized home before then. Also included here: cleaning up finances! I want to pay off our  $7000 car debt in 2013. We were debt free for two weeks in 2012, and it was nice...but then our car died! I want to get back there by the end of the year. 

Finish What I Start
Accomplish two projects each month. January is baby shower and wedding shower month. February is Operation-Terri-Gets-Married and cleaning my basement. March is finishing my braided rug and....so on and so on.

Quality Time
Last year was high stress for most of the people I know. It was a a tough year, and everyone had a lot on their minds. This year, things are simpler, so I want to take advantage of that and spend more time with friends and family.

So there you go! That was a long writeup, but it's nice to take a glance back and a look forward. Happy New Year, friends!