Monday, October 26, 2009

one step closer

That’s right- Michael and I are one step closer to our dream of owning a life size version of Monopoly. I’m hoping a four foot tall thimble shows up next.


Sunday, October 18, 2009


What a cold couple of days. On Wednesday, I was convinced I had slept right through my second favorite season and had woken up to winter. I am trying to convince myself that my beloved fall is just going through a phase and soon it will be back to its old self. Crisp air (but no more of this 45 degree nonsense), crunchy leaves, blue skies and puffy clouds. Surely this isn’t the beginning of winter- I don’t think I’m ready. (On a side note, I was talking to a friend from Washington state today and I remarked on how cold it had been and how that  isn’t normal for this time of year. She said, “You know, ever since I moved here a year and a half ago, people keeping saying that the weather isn’t usually like this.” It’s true- our weather is so weird.)

The only good thing about winter is that when it has gone on forever, and I’m certain that I can’t take another day, spring (my absolute favorite season) comes along and kicks winter’s butt.

I’m trying to make the most being cold (ALWAYS SO COLD!) I’ve got a cat laying across my lap , a cup of earl grey, and I’m wearing the best slippers ever. Known as my smurf slippers, these shoes are the equivalent of sticking your feet into a couple of pillows. Very soft and very warm.


Seriously, I know a thing or two about staying warm. One Christmas, everything Michael got me was for “Project Warm Nat.” I ended up with a Mary Poppins coat, some cashmere lined leather gloves, a hat and scarf set, and my favorite thing ever- the wood stove. There are moments in the depths of winter that I stand as close to the stove as possible. I have to consciously tell myself not to touch it- I just want to wrap my arms around it and give it a hug. It’s almost worth being cold just to experience the pleasure of finally being warm. Almost.

The only problem with the wood stove is that I’m not very good at making it work. Despite this significant failing, the wood stove and I remain on very good terms. I know some of you, with your fancy fireplaces that come with switches, don’t understand. Honestly, I kind of wish I didn’t understand. It’s incredibly frustrating to have this thing- this key to my happiness- sitting just 3 feet away from me and instead of emanating 600+ degree heat and driving Michael into another room or outside altogether, it stands there silent, cold. This winter I am determined to possess the knowledge and skills to make the wood stove go.

First, there needs to be wood available and split- I have tried splitting wood exactly one time. I was quickly convinced that anything requiring an axe is not my domain. It’s not that I don’t want to do physical labor, but more that I have terrible aim and I was pretty nervous that I was going to hit my shins with the axe instead of the log. Here’s my plan for this- we have a friend who has a hydraulic log splitter. I’m hoping to convince him to bring it by one day and just get all the wood split in one go. Then I can stack it somewhere to keep it dry. 

Once you have wood split and ready to go, you still have to light the fire. I’m just going to go ahead and admit it- I suck at starting fires. I’ve tried so many times (usually out of desperation because Michael isn’t home and I need to force myself to get out from under the electric blanket) but I have yet to successfully light a single fire. The key, I learned towards the end of that first winter, is to never let the fire go out. There have been (more than a few) tears shed over a fire that went completely out.  So, my plan for this is to set my alarm if needed, get up at 3am, and keep that fire going. It’s just not worth the heartache.

So, there’s my plan. I’ll have to let you know how it goes. Oh, and if you have any wood that you want to get rid of, let me know. Oak, walnut, maple, 2x4’s, broken chairs… I’ll take it. I’ve discovered that 100 year old wood paneling burns very hot- it’s my preferred fuel, really.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

the power of a name

Michael is always insisting that we need to get a kitten. When we first got married I thought that his desire for a cat was kind of cute and so I gave in. I didn’t realize that his desire wasn’t for a cat, but for a kitten. He loves how playful they are and I have to admit that kittens do melt my heart a little, too.

So we got Elle all those years ago. (Seven years ago, to be precise.) And she’s a great cat. 


But, it wasn’t long after Elle was full grown and stopped being so playful that Michael started to insist that we needed another kitten. And so we got Joe.

Joe in boxHe’s not so playful anymore. (And yes, that is the box where I keep my underwear. What? you don’t keep your undies in an old vodka box?) It really is crazy how much I love this cat. I love that he rolls around on the floor, all stretched out, meowing for you to feed him. He is always hungry. Always. I should have known something was up when we were choosing which kitten to adopt and I read the card that described Joe. It said “He sure does love to eat.” Yeah.

When we moved back to Fuquay, the house came with another cat.

Cat I have resisted Michael’s insistence that we adopt this cat. I don’t want another cat. No one ever talks about the “crazy cat man with four cats” but everyone knows about the “crazy cat lady with four cats.” Plus, this cat is semi-feral and would undoubtedly beat up Elle and Joe. And… he’s not the prettiest cat I’ve ever seen. He likes to sleep under the cars which means that he is regularly covered in oil and looks dirty. Despite all this and after weeks of threatening to take him to the pound, I started feeding him. I’m still resisting the idea that we own another cat, and so I have refused to name him.

We call him Cat.

Wouldn’t you know it… a few weeks after moving back, another cat showed up. And of course we started feeding it because we are suckers.

other cat 1This cat, or as we call him- Other Cat- is unlike any feline I have ever known. He is incredibly affectionate. He follows me around the yard and if I happen to sit down in one of the rocking chairs outside, he jumps up in my lap every time. He reminds me of the story in the Bible about the woman who was forgiven much and therefore loved much. This cat seems to be pretty aware of how much his life used to suck and is therefore grateful for the love and attention that we give him.

There’s yet another cat that keeps coming around. I don’t have a picture because he is NOT our cat. Michael has named him Ugly Cat. I’m hoping that we can encourage the neighbors to feed him. I just don’t think I can handle being the “crazy cat lady with five cats.” That’s just excessive.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

reason #159

There are many reasons why I love working from home. Last week I discovered another one.

sweet potato saladOne afternoon I decided that I wanted to try a recipe for a warm salad made with sweet potatoes, red onions, and chickpeas. Considering that Michael will only eat one of the three previously mentioned ingredients, I had no intention of making it for dinner. In fact, he gives me such a hard time about any kind of beans that I’ve stopped trying to sneak them into things. By being home for lunch, I can make all the gross-but-good-for-you meals involving beans, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and squash that I want.  I was in heaven this week when I ate beans and rice for lunch every day. (Maybe my idea of luxury needs to be slightly refined. Hmm…)

The salad turned out great. I changed it quite a bit from the original recipe (which called for butternut squash, tahini and mint, none of which I had on hand.) I’m really bad about measuring, and I made this last week so I might be forgetting something, but here’s my best guess at what I did.

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad, serves about 4

3 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 a red onion, diced

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

fresh basil, chopped

2 tbs olive oil

1-2 tbs balsamic vinegar

salt/pepper to taste

Coat the sweet potato cubes in 1/2 of the olive oil (about 1 tbs) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 375 for about 35-45 minutes. After the sweet potatoes are done, combine them in a bowl with the chickpeas and red onions. In a medium bowl, mix the balsamic vinegar and the other tbs. of olive oil (can use flaxseed oil if desired) along with the basil and additional pepper. Drizzle over the potato/chickpea mixture. The salad is great warm or cold.

it’s about time

pottery wheel and chair

Finally, after many, MANY months my wheel is back where it belongs. I have had such a good time this week playing with clay out in the barn. Fresh inspiration from a friend was just what I needed to get myself back out there.

candle holders 2Candle holders

casserole dish  Casserole Dish

Thursday, September 24, 2009


It saddens me to say that I haven’t done much pottery of late. Actually, I’ve done nothing since mid-summer. But, I am determined to address this problem and plan to get out there, move some things around, clean out my space, and start throwing again. Especially with this nice weather- I can’t let this time slip by.

Although I haven’t done any pottery, I have found other outlets for my creativity.


I go through phases with sewing. Until recently, I hadn’t sewn anything that wasn’t intended for someone else. I bought this material off the internet (my first foray into purchasing material without actually holding it in my hands.) I had originally intended to use it to cover some cushions, but it didn’t look quite right in the living room. So, I thought a nice, long skirt was in order. It’s very basic, but sometimes that is exactly what I need.


Much to my husband’s delight (and my waist’s dismay) I’ve gotten back into baking. I’m probably the last person to jump on this train, but the book  Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day has captured my heart. I think I’ve made pizza at least once a week for the last month. I’ve also made cinnamon buns, miniature loafs, and countless rolls.

little bread loaves

bible verses

Even before we started remodeling the kitchen, I knew I wanted a place where I could write quotes, bible verses, etc. I originally thought I would incorporate a chalk board of some type, but after we finished the kitchen, there just doesn’t seem to be a good place to put one. One advantage of having a tin backsplash is that magnets “stick” to it. Using some cardstock, fabric, a sewing machine, and my beloved button magnets, I fashioned a pretty good alternative. A bit more time-intensive, perhaps, but they fit me better I think.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

too much?


Michael is making amazing progress on the kitchen. After months of building cabinets, installing appliances, doing electrical work (and other boring stuff), we’re almost ready to do the fun stuff! If you’ve never built a kitchen from scratch (and really, how many of you would be that crazy??), you might not realize how many different stages there are or long everything takes (or how most everything requires a power tool that makes me nervous). But now—NOW—we are ready to start picking the wall color, the ceiling color and, most importantly, the photos that will hang on the walls. Finally- it’s MY turn!!

japanese eggplant

The living room is a lilac color. If you haven’t seen it in person, you might be wondering why I picked purple. Sometimes I wonder why I picked purple- it’s not like it’s my favorite color. I don’t even HAVE a favorite color. But, now that 1/4 of the wall space of my entire house is painted purple, I feel committed to making it work. Since you can see through the kitchen to the dining room and living room, I’d like all three rooms to feel tied together.

purple peppers

red onions

And so, that is how I came up with the idea of lining the walls of my kitchen with photos of purple foods. The photos above were taken on a recent trip to the Farmer’s Market- eggplant, (purple!) peppers, and red onions.  I’m hoping to include grapes, plums, blackberries/blueberries, red wine, and maybe even beets and radishes. I had a pretty cool shot of some red cabbages, but Michael said they looked like weird alien brains. He’s not entirely convinced that photos of purple foods is what our kitchen needs… he thinks the house may have reached its limit for the amount of purple it can pull off. Too much purple? Never.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yin and Yang

DSC_0954Alert, curious, active, and adventurous

DSC_0964Sleepy, lazy, and the biggest scaredy cat I’ve ever seen

Sunday, August 9, 2009


On a recent visit to my parent’s house, my mom gave me an envelope with an assortment of pictures from my childhood.  Natalie Age 3 cropped This is me at age 3. I have very clear memories of how much I loved that dress. I think I wore it several times a week. I was pretty cute, I’ll admit it.

Natalie Age 10 croppedThis is me at age 10. The 80’s were not kind to me. For goodness sake- I am wearing TEDDY BEAR EARRINGS! And you cannot possibly imagine what it took to make my bangs look like that. I do look happy in this picture… perhaps someone saw my sweatshirt, took extreme pity on me, and gave me a hug?

Natalie Age 13 cropped Things did not improve for me in middle school. This is me at 13. We had a dress code, which looking back now, I am very grateful for. Who knows what I would have turned up in. I seem to have given up on the perm by this point, but I’m not quite ready to lay down the curling iron or my hairspray. I also seem a bit suspicious of the photographer (or perhaps I just caught sight of myself in a mirror?)

Natalie Wedding picture cropped This is me at 23, when I married Michael. Much better, yes?


I turn 30 in two weeks. That seems like a lot of years. I’ve always looked forward to getting older- I’m not sure why. When I was younger, it probably had something to do with the fact that I would eventually be able to wear makeup and drive. Now, I’m excited about getting older because I’m looking forward to (hopefully) becoming wiser and kinder. Growing older means living out my days with the most amazing man I know; growing and learning together. I can’t imagine a more lovely thing to look forward to.

Friday, August 7, 2009

thursday night in the country

Michael and I were delighted to have some good friends joined us as we set ablaze a massive pile of construction waste. We’ve needed to burn the pile for quite some time, but we’ve been waiting for the weather to cooperate. We don’t have any malls and the nearest grocery store is 10 minutes away, but you just can’t do this in Cary, you know?

fire m,k ,j

fire couch 

fire chair

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

job searching

An email I received yesterday:

“Dear Natalie,

Thank you for your interest in employment with _______  Community College.  You recently applied for a position as an advisor through our online applicant tracking system.  Unfortunately, it has been determined that funds are not available to fill the position at this time.  Please visit our website periodically for other openings and/or the status of your application.  Best wishes in fulfilling your employment needs.

Human Resources”

Well that just sucks.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

walking a cat


(Notice who’s feet those are… not mine. I would never try to walk a cat.)


Why do I love this cat so much?


(He looks downright slim here, doesn’t he? It’s the camera angle, I’m afraid.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tennessee So Far

mountain scape tnjohn olivers cabin tntunnel tn mtnschurch tn mtns church pews tn mts creek tn mtns The Great Smoky Mountains National Park- absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


chair and hydrangas

lantana and porch

lilly and oak leaf hydranga

mike playing dulcimer

I love being home.

From the top:

Hydrangeas that my mother gave me, pottery wheel and chair

Lantana and front porch

Day lilies and oak leaf hydrangeas

Michael playing the dulcimer that he and Jonathan made

Monday, July 20, 2009

When things don’t turn out the way we plan

I’m a planner and a list-maker. I’m one of those people that will write down things I’ve already done and then cross them off. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of seeing a quantified list of things that I have accomplished. Sometimes, I even flip through my planner and marvel at all the times I’ve gone to the bank, swept the floor, bought groceries, and done laundry. Some people might find it silly to record these activities, but to me, they are accomplishments.

Now that we are squarely in the midst of our renovation project, I’ve learned to plan in a different way. Instead of planning on things getting done by a certain date, I’ve had to learn to step back and let go. There are moments when I’ve despaired and wondered if we would ever finish. There are still moments when I wonder what it will be like to cook a meal without first having to wipe sawdust out of my pots or move drills and sanders out of the way.

Last week, we had a few really happy moments when things turned out much better than I planned. I have gotten used to things being so incredibly hard, that when things actually work, I find myself surprised. 

water spicket

Take this water faucet, for example. In its place has been a different water faucet that hasn’t worked for the last several months. It was impossible to turn on, and when you finally did get it on (with the help of a wrench and some major bicep action), you couldn’t get it off. My way of dealing with this was to quit using it completely. That was fine, except when I needed to water my flowers. I had resorted to filling a watering can in the bathtub and then hauling the water out to the flowers. As you can imagine, this was frustrating.

However, it wasn’t frustrating enough to actually do anything about it. It wasn’t until the stupid faucet broke completely and started leaking all over the ground that we decided it was time to take on the task of fixing it. I think the reason we put it off so long was because it just seemed like it was going to be one of those things that became A BIG DEAL! You know, one of those projects that takes up an entire day, requires three trips to Home Depot, and ends up costing a lot more money that you originally anticipated.

I am ecstatic to tell you that replacing the faucet was actually… fine.  It took less than an hour, we had all the right parts, and digging the hole was easy (probably because the ground was so wet… whoops!) This is so weird to say, but we were VICTORIOUS. Perhaps this is a sign that our luck is changing?

Perhaps not?


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Renovation, *sigh*

We’re making fairly good progress on the house. Things are much easier now that M. has use of his right arm. The kitchen is coming along nicely and it won’t be long before I can start unpacking all the kitchen stuff that has languished in boxes for the last several months.

Speaking of unpacking—I finally finished unpacking all our clothes. I had decided that when we moved back from Chapel Hill, I was going to go through our master closet and sort through all the stuff that has taken up space on our shelves. I gathered quite a bit to donate to the thrift store. Here’s the result of several days of sorting, hanging, and folding:

closet no joeWait… what is that on the lower shelf?

closet with joe  Why yes, that IS Joe… our cat.

Joe basketHe’s my favorite cat… besides Elle. He’s adorable and (because he’s so fat) he’s a lot of fun to pet. Joe has decided that this basket is now his preferred napping spot. It’s quite charming, except that this is where I put all my tanks/undershirts. I probably should keep the door closed or shoo him out of the basket… but instead I’ve started turning the shirts inside out so that the cat hair won’t be so noticeable. 


DSC_0713  DSC_0715




DSC_0789Some things we’ve been up to lately:

sunflowers and carrots at the farmer’s market in FL

butterfly watching

spraying the ceiling, walls and cabinets (M. has a dislocated shoulder!)

a ball of clay and the finished pot