HEY, IT'S US | PHOTOS FOR OUR BABY

 
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The fact is we don't have many photos of ourselves. Maybe more than you do, but for two people who have co-authored a blog almost every week for two years, you might suspect we would have more photos of ourselves. As we (startlingly) approach seven months of pregnancy we naturally discuss what our child will learn about us before shim was earthside. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture of our Moms and Dads from decades gone by are worth a million. So we spent an evening compiling images of our shared life (admittedly all but two are from after we were married), sent them off to our favorite printers, and now we hold them in our hands to share with our kid someday. 

Scanning through the thousands and thousands of images on our trusty Macbook (we really do share everything) irradiated just how many beautiful things we've been through together. Such grand adventuring has also meant plenty of "little deaths" to the lifestyle or locales that we knew—and little deaths will keep coming—but the bottom line is ours is a life that has always been Really Fun and Very Good and there is no reason to think it will grow to be anything but. From renovating a puny camper  while raising goats to climbing a Greek mountain during a North African dust storm to driving an inscrutable number of miles through New York (as in photo two). In our almost-two years of marriage and almost-six years of being together, we have stories-a-plenty to share with shim! 

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If you're wondering where we are in this slam dunk of a moment — it was our very own Ohio, at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The best.

If you're wondering where we are in this slam dunk of a moment — it was our very own Ohio, at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The best.


—M&S

BREWING + CANNING | A HOMEMADE LIFE

 
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A few years ago, we approached an extremely talented artist about crafting a logo for our new blog, the concept of which boiled down to this: A Homemade Life. It was an ideal we aspired to, which inspired us. We'd traveled a good bit, ventured out of our respective comfort zones, and met a lot of cool, very cool people doing & creating cool, very cool things. That is to say, they were spending their lives not so much as consumers, but as producers (who also enjoyed the distinct pleasure of consuming the wonderful things they were producing). We wanted a piece of that pie. And starting a blog (this blog) would allow us to document our journey, while surely keeping us honest along the way. 

The final illustration that landed in our inboxes was a pure manifestation of what we were reaching for: ingredients fresh from the field, and a well-loved cast iron for cooking them; an abundant honey harvest to enjoy with homemade bread; jars, jars, many mason jars; and, of course, home-brewed beer. It really is a lovely image, and fortunately enough, one that represents many of the experiences we've enjoyed over the past few years. Still, in the interest of keeping it honest, it's important to admit that those experiences don't just happen everyday. For instance, we hadn't canned any tomatoes for two years despite our frequent vows to do so. As for home brewing, that had only happened three times in two years.

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...until last Friday! Sometimes you get an opening to Make Things Happen, and Make Things we did. The reality, we've found, is that such self-reliant tasks often need a bit of outside help to actually happen. Like when your boss at the vegetable farm generously allows you to take home two crates of tomato seconds, free of charge; and when your parents let you invade both their kitchen and garage for the day, filling the air with the swirling aromas of tomatoes simmering & hops thrown into the brew kettle. 

So, Sam cranked the hours away with The Squeeze-O — an incredible, old-fashioned tool lent to us by the same generous veggie farmer mentioned above. I settled into the familiar routine of cleaning, sanitizing, brewing, and then cleaning & sanitizing some more. It was a wonderful day devoted to All Things Homemade, right down to the lovingly-knit wool cap that I wore all day (thank you, Sam!). Now, there is tomato sauce put up in the cupboard for winter; there's beer, too, just waiting to be bottled. 

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—M

AFTER THOUGHTS + APRICOT BREAD

 
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Between moving, leaving our jobs, and becoming pregnant, we have veritably Kicked Up the Dust.  If our hearts are a home, we picked up the dirty rugs, beat 'em real good, swept the floor and carried on (rugs in tow . . . I would never leave the rugs). Ever a fan of the metaphor. But we did literally make that move, not just metaphorically. And now the dust is settling. There is much left to discover and even more to discern, but I can say with a good solid amount of clarity that Mark, baby and I are charting the right course. I do not know how to explain how a house can take care of someone—repair someone, even—but this is quietly, very quietly, happening.

We moved back to Ohio and into my grandma's house two months after she died. This was not the plan. The plan was to move in with her. I felt collapsing sorrow when she died despite knowing she is imprinted on my soul + lives, without suffering, brightly in my memory. But to know me is to know how much I cherish the women who raised me. Long before we had any notion of moving back to Ohio, when we imagined farming in Vermont for years and raising babies in the green mountains, my grandma sent us a piece of mail entitled "after thoughts" which was a pros and cons list of moving in with her. Pros included things like "running hot water" (a luxury we did not have at the time); cons such as "old woman hard of hearing" (ha!). A year later, she's gone and I'm sitting in her kitchen; my kitchen. At the top of the stairs lives "after thoughts", framed and hung with prominence. It is something of a tangible reminder that opportunities can be subtle, can be sweet, can be written with shaky cursive on a scrap piece of paper (in the case of "after thoughts"). It gives me reason to suspect that even when we're not open to them, opportunities might just come back around. And I love this. 

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As for the house, it is imbued with my grandma, the kitchen most of all. The thick plaster walls are home to some of her best paintings—like the mama goose and her gosling (pictured above; It is a particularly poignant painting for me, because Mark calls me Goose and we both call the baby our Gosling. It feels as though she made that painting to encourage my own journey into motherhood. I hold firmly that these things are not coincidental.), or the wood-burned peg rack of a paddling of ducks that has hung in the same spot my entire life. When she died, I was gifted her great-grandmother's 100-year-old quilt and her recipe book. Both are treasures worth more than gold. I christened her oven by baking a recipe from her book that I had never tasted: apricot fruit bread. I did not alter a single ingredient, which means I used shortening in lieu of butter or oil. And you should too, if you give it a try. And you should give it a try, because recipes only make it into grandmother's cookbooks if they are time-tested and Very Delicious.

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MARIELLEN'S APRICOT BREAD
makes two 9x5 loaves or one 9x5 loaf if halved

INGREDIENTS
1 c. dried + diced apricots
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
4 eggs
4 c. sifted flour
2 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 c. milk
1 c. pitted + diced prunes or raisins or currants (optional)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

STEPS
—Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
—Cover apricots and prunes (raisins, etc) with hot water and let sit for 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
—Cream together the sugar and shortening for 3-5 minutes.
—Add eggs and beat until light in color.
—Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the eggs alternately with the milk.
—Stir in the fruit and nuts.
—Pour into greased and floured 9x5 pans and bake 60-65 minutes.
—Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
 

PEAKS ISLAND, MAINE + A WHIRLWIND MONTH

 
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In the last four weeks, we have participated in no shortage of self-induced upheaval, insomuch as we went from having Very Routine Lives to routine-less, travel-heavy existences in far flung spots on the map. This was a month that saw our toes in the frigid Atlantic and laughing at seals while aboard a fishing boat named Dasakamo; a month that watched us move out of Vermont and into a two-story brick house in our home state; a month that had us pouring Austrian beers at a resort biergarten not two days after weeding a dahlia patch on a friend's produce + flowers farm in the middle of nowhere. Nothing has felt routine save the baby in Sam's belly kick, kick, kicking. Which, as it were, occurred for the first time at the beginning of this whirlwind month during a magical trip to Peaks Island, Maine . . .

As vacations are concerned, this one was especially memorable. The five of us stayed with a positively inspiring couple in their oceanfront home on Peaks Island. Not a bad place to conduct our final hurrah. There was a lobster dinner with the day's catch, cooked in ocean water. There were sauna sessions followed by a mad dash into the numbing waters of the Ocean. Morning walks around the island ushered in our days; a late night movie capped them. And a few hours before traveling home, we were treated to an impromptu, breathtaking tour of Casco Bay by way of our host's boat. We rode by pairs of mega-athletes tethered to one another, swimming from island to island (excuse me?) on our way to Chebeague Island, a rural fishing island that was inexplicably home to mouthwatering breakfast sandwiches and pastries. We purchased Robert McCloskey's One Morning In Maine for our baby because, you know. A month later we're missing our friends to be sure, but relishing what was a perfect coda to our time in the Northeast, lived alongside some very special people.

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—M&S