Best of All, We Love the Fall

Monday, September 24, 2012
The autumnal equinox came and went on Saturday and already we're noticing the night creep into more and more of our daylight.

I don't mind the longer evenings though. Andy and I often devote an hour or so after work to hike through the autumn forest looking for grouse until twilight falls and by the time we return home, it's nearly dark. The darkness reinforces the idea that autumn evenings are for quiet, peaceful projects . . . or movies and popcorn.

Although we've had a bunch of blustery, autumnal weather (aka, down right cold and wicked) lately, we've somehow managed to avoid a killing frost. The garden keeps chugging along, but since we've had such minimal rainfall in the last month and significantly less daylight, things like cucumbers aren't plumping up overnight like they were back in August. While I have a rather sadistic wish for all of the pole beans to just freeze already one of these nights (the thought of washing, chopping, and blanching another gallon or two of green beans makes me rather weary - although I know I should be relishing the bountiful harvest), I'm still pulling for the Brussels sprouts which are still teeny tiny.

Even with the lingering garden produce, it's clear that autumn's here in earnest. We're all set with firewood for the year so other than some restacking, we won't have to devote much time to that autumn chore. Still there's a sense that it's time to start making preperations for the winter ahead. Andy and I like to walk around these days and say knowingling to each other, "Winter is coming." It makes us feel very profound.
Source: via Amanda on Pinterest

I have to admit, apples get a higher ranking than pumpkins as "autumn food of choice" in my book. Already we've been noshing on apple cider and some local apples. Hopefully within the week, I'll have time to make a batch of applesauce.

I always feel the most myself in the autumn. External demands on my time decline and I get to reclaim my wardrobe of sweaters and vests (but never together . . . I do not do sweater vests.) Besides, I think it's easier to think clearly when the air is crisp and the leaves start to fall. While I miss the wildflowers of the spring and summer, I find the starkness that comes after the fall color and before the snow beautiful in a simple, timeless way.

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” - George Eliot

What do you love about the fall?

Be sure to link up your autumn themed post as part of Margot's September Blog Party.

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On Participation Awards

Sunday, September 23, 2012
We all know that many critics of the Millenial generation think we're a little lazy and spoiled. According to the critics, we received way too many participation awards as children and our parents and teachers focused too much on our self-esteem for us to really be hard-working and contributing members of society now that we're all grow'd up. (Note: apparently the fact that Baby Boomers hijacked the 9-5 work system doesn't factor into Millenials' floundering . . . ?)

I have a fair share of participation awards tucked away somewhere in my childhood bedroom: certificates from speech competitions and plays, gaudy pedestal trophies from soccer seasons, pins, badges and pucks from my hockey playing days.  While I was active child, I was by no means an athlete. While I had a good imagination, I was by no means an actress. The only merit I used to "earn" this myriad of awards was a willingness to "stick it out for the long haul" - to play the entire sports season or make every rehearsal and performance. I didn't particularly excel at any of my extracurricular childhood pursuits, but, by gum, I did them anyway.

Despite five years on swim team, I don't think I have a single swimming "trophy" in my collection

I've been thinking a bit about participation awards lately. Mostly, I suppose, because it's been such a manic month in which - I kid you not - I have had a grand total of three days off. On Tuesday night, as I submerged six pints of homemade barbeque sauce (the last item on my "to can" list for the summer) into the hot water bath canner, I said to Andy, "You know, I'm kind of proud of myself. I've done everything this month that I'd said I do."

It's true - over the last month +, I've worked two jobs, kept up with the garden and Etsy, made rather feeble attempts to keep my online content fresh, and didn't shirk out of single one of my freelance writing obligations. If it sounds like bragging, it's really not meant to be. I say it more with a sense of wonderment than pride: I did do it all.

Obviously, going at a breakneck pace isn't desirable for the long haul. The schedule I've kept over the last month is really bloody stupid and I don't deserve congratulations from myself or others for maintaining it. It's a schedule good on the bank account, hard on everything else.

And this week I've felt myself wearing out. I've needed a lot more sleep than I would in normal circumstances. I'm emotional and irritable.But it's all ending soon. I keep whispering the number one under my breath. One more set of "days off" spent working at a second job. One more month of full time work.

You know, I don't think the participation awards I received as a child made me lazy and I don't think they were totally without merit.

Because sometimes just sticking it out is laudable. We don't have to be doing mindblowing things all the time. We don't have to be the best of the best. In fact, the best that most of us can offer the world is simply doing what we said we'd do.

We're adults now. There's no one handing out needless awards that will just gather dust and eventually be tossed in the trash or make awkward appearances at a garage sale. But if there was I'd stand up and accept my participation award for this month gone by with pride.
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What Does A Yarn-Bender Look Like?

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Well, probably a little like this:

After nearly a year of hardcore stash busting, I sprung for some new yarn a few weeks back. It arrived early last week and I've been busy winding up skeins and busting out some new headbands for the Etsy shop. Nothing like a whole new batch of beautiful yarn to get your imagination churning. I feel so fortunate that Etsy sales picked up in the last few weeks, meaning that my new yarn was paid for completely with Etsy funds. Bam!

Uh-oh, I have a feeling that Etsy is just going to be fuel to the fire that is my fiber obsession . . . .

Here's what's been on my needles lately:

A bloggy friend requested a "cable-y" scarf knit out of some alpaca yarn she'd been gifted by a friend who raises alpacas. I was more than happy to oblige. This is what we came up with:
I loved working with her and I love this scarf. In fact, I'll be a little sad to send it off on its merry little way, but I promise, it is getting shipped tomorrow!
By the by, I'm more than happy to do custom orders. Just drop me a line about what you have in mind and I'm sure we can work something out. Just, for the love of all things holy, if you're thinking of a custom item to give as a holiday present, let's start that process ASAP, eh? That way I don't have to spend Christmas Eve knitting my fingers to the bone while Elf loops endlessly in the background, dontcha know?
Another new headband - quite similar to one I made last month, but with much softer yarn.

It seems only right to be settling in with a new batch of yarn, while the leaves start to turn outside and overnight temperatures dip lower and lower.

How are you settling in for autumn? 
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We Gardeners Are Fickle Folk

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Right now, my mom and I work the same job, although never together. As a result, we share some co-workers.

When we're not at work, we're tending our gardens, which include several rather prolific cucumber plants. (The never-ending fridge pickle container in my fridge has not seen an end yet.)

Seeing as Mom and I are both blessed with cucumber plants that keep giving and giving, we're both prone to share the wealth with our co-workers. So last week, when I was harvesting several pounds of cucumbers for my first-ever attempt at canned dill pickle relish (a success . . . more on that in a later post), I saved the straightest, plumpiest, most beautiful cucumber to give to a co-worker. When I handed over the cucumber, my co-worker said, "Oh yeah, your mom gave me one yesterday." (She still took the cucumber, I mean, it was lovely.)

If you grow cucumbers, you know that the vast majority of cucumbers that you pick don't resemble the straight, homogenous cucumbers you buy at the grocery story. Some of the cucumbers look like golf balls, some look like the letter "C", some are real skinny at one end and super fat on the other. They all taste good; they just all have their own individual style.

When I told Mom that I'd brought this co-worker a cucumber, Mom said, "Yeah, I brought her my straightest, plumpiest, most beautiful cucumber yesterday."

Oh, we gardeners are fickle folks.

We all know our cucumbers come in all shapes and sizes, that our tomatoes have blemishes, that slugs and who knows what else love to munch our cabbages and potatoes, that our peppers, cauliflower and broccoli are often much smaller than what we're used to finding in stores. The vegetables may have some faults and imperfections, but that doesn't diminish their value. Unless, it seems, if we're giving away our veggies.

Because when I give away my vegetables, I give away only my most beautiful vegetables. I really want to put my best gardener face forward when I gift my vegetables in a gesture that's part generosity, part survival (OMG - I can't use all of this!) and part vanity (Look at how awesome I am . . . can you believe I grew this?!)

The cucumber story not only explains where my control issues come from (thanks Mom), but also shows the twisted value we all place on perfection . . . or rather, "perceived" perfection.

It's amazing how the myth of perfection permiates our everyday dealings. Even when we all know better, we remain tied to the idea that we must at least give off an impression of being pretty close to perfect.

My co-worker probably wouldn't have been any less grateful and gracious if I'd given her one of the more funky cucumbers. It would have tasted the same. Heck, it might even have sparked some conversation or at the very least, a smile.

So where am I going with this post? I'm tempted to say, and who really wants/needs perfection anyway?! But no matter how much we acknowledge the fact that we'd better off if we could just ditch our unattainable notions of perfection, I have a feeling that none of us will really be truly letting go of the pursuit of perfection (despite our best conscious efforts) any time soon.

They say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. But I have a better idea when it comes to our twisted relationships with perfection: laugh at the ridiculousness of it all and celebrate our vegetables all their shapes and sizes. 
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A True Story

Saturday, September 8, 2012
The other day, Andy said, "You know, one of these days, we should really put some effort into straightening up around here."

And while I admit that we may have a bit of a mess/disaster issue on our hands when I am losing things - knitting needles . . . books - in the couch on a nightly basis (and we can't even blame children for the current state of our happy abode), my knee-jerk reaction to Andy's critique was, "It's fine. NBD." Who doesn't feel more at home in a home that looks like a tornado ripped through it?

Obviously, it could be way worse. Conversely, it could also be a lot better.

But like Scarlett O'Hara always said, I'll think about this mess in October.

Oh wait, Scarlett said "tomorrow," didn't she. . .

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September Sponsor Round-Up

Friday, September 7, 2012
I'm taking a break from washing, chopping and blanching green beans to introduce you to some of the lovely ladies sponsoring Of Woods and Words in September.

Seriously, right now our pole beans are providing us with a gallon bag full of green beans every two days. On the evenings when I'm not picking green beans, I'm busy preparing the beans for the freezer. Good thing I found such a good recipe for homemade green bean casserole last autumn!

But enough about my beans; now's the time to spill the beans on this month's sponsors:

Diane of Always Crave Cute

Diane's a fellow Minnesotan and she finds the cutest vintage picture books ever. Seriously. Check out her Etsy! 

Margot of Newfoundlander at Heart

If Margot and I lived closer to each other, we would officially get nothing done because we would be too busy canning everything. Be sure to swing to swing by her blog, Newfoundlander at Heart, all month for Margot's September blog party: a celebration of all things autumn with recipes, crafts, and more! 

Katherine of  Irish Italian Blessings

Katherine's been a good friend of Of Woods and Words for a while now. I love keeping up with her and her littles over on her blog.

Amanda of Dragonflight Dreams

 Amanda's another 20-something making a handmade life for herself. She's a gifted graphic designer with some amazing screen prints in her shop.

Kassi of Truly Lovely 

These two ladies are always up to something. You can join them for their weekly linky party: Fancy This Fridays.

Nina of The Adventures of ArtsyNina
Another fellow Minnesota. :D She just opened a new etsy shop which features upcycled vintage jewelry. Check it out!

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!  Want to be an Of Woods and Words sponsor? Click "Sponsor Me" up above for all the details.

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And then Autumn came . . .

Monday, September 3, 2012
I love Fall. It's always been my favorite-iest of seasons. And around here, with the non-stop madness of "go, go, go" that summer brings, we tend to put autumn on a pedestal. I'll admit it - I have ridiculously high expectations for the season this year.

While autumn does mean shorter days and the ever-nearing possibility of snow (oh yuck!), I always find the nip in the air invigorating and grounding. With autumn being the back to school season, we've been conditioned to view fall as a time to buckle down to the serious tasks at hand and to reestablish structure and schedule in our lives. Now is the time to write out business plans, figure the projects that will keep us busy and employed during the snowy season ahead, and to put up the garden's harvest.
Here's what I'm looking forward to this autumn:
  • Finishing up my garden "putting up" projects: freezing tomatoes and green beans, canning jalapenos and homemade dill pickle relish, making the final batch of pesto.
  • Long walks in the woods during grouse hunting season
  • The return of a normal work week. As fun as the whole working 13 days in a row has been, I'll be happy when September wraps up and I return to working 5 days a week . . . like a civilized person. 
  • Autumn knitting projects 
  • Cool evenings 
  • Bright blue autumn skies 
  • The smell of fallen leaves

In other autumn-ish news:

I made my first sale in the Etsy shop last week. Woot-woot! So I did the only logical thing one should do after their first (very small) sale - ordered a whole bunch of new yarn. I can hardly wait for it to arrive so I can start designing more headbands and other pretty things for the shop.

I also have a bunch of lovely sponsors for September (check out the left sidebar!) who I'll be introducing later this week. If you'd like to join them, it's not too late. Just click here to grab a sponsor spot: ads run for 30 days.

What's your favorite season? What are you looking forward to this fall?
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