Archive for March, 2011

Scenes from Syrup Season 2011

Posted on March 21st, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

Syrup season kicked off this weekend at Maple Moon Sugarbush! Mike and I helped collect and boil…

Maple steam pouring from the saphouse roof.

Very steamy group shot next to the evaporator.

Maple looooove.

Unfortunately, we are missing most of the season this year due to a business + pleasure trip out to the Pacific Northwest. We leave tomorrow and will be gone for a couple weeks. I will probably be tweeting while on the trip, but most likely I won’t be posting on the blog very much, if at all.

When we get home, though, it will be time to start our garden. AND!! Our new neighbors {renting our cottage} have three chickens, and we talked with them about maybe letting them brood out, so we might have some little chicks pecking around the farm soon! I can’t even explain how excited I am for spring/gardening/chickens. So, stay tuned for posts about all of that coming up in the near future.

Until then, stay in touch via Twitter!

30 for 30: Twelve

Posted on March 18th, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

The times, they are a-changin’. For starters, we’re this close to being done cleaning and fixing up our cottage well enough for the new neighbors to move in! Among other things, we expanded the bathroom and installed a bathtub/shower, installed a heater, and scrubbed that baby from floor to ceiling. Someday I will do a sweet post with before and after pictures of the whole place, but it’s not quite ready for that yet. Right now, I’m ready to be done with the work, for sure, and also excited for them to arrive. If all goes well, they’ll be moving in today!

Also, we’ve entered spring, folks. The world is thawing like crazy. Snow is dripping off the roof, there’s mud everywhere, and the air smells like sunshine and earth. Glorious, wonderful, long-awaited spring! But believe it or not, the change of seasons is bittersweet because I’m really going to miss playing hockey with my man. Seriously, it’s better than couples therapy. Not that we need therapy…We fight hardly ever, and I think hockey has a lot to do with that. It’s a supreme release of anxiety or any other kind of negative energy, and it’s fun as hell. I’m already looking forward to playing again next winter! But then again…spring rocks. I’m excited for spring, too.

Due to the recent appearance of mud all over the place, I had to break out the mud boots this week- which means I am breaking the 30 for 30 Challenge rules a teeny bit…but I had to! I can’t wear my mukluks in the mud! And since I haven’t worn my mukluks at all in the challenge so far, I am going to just pull an ol’ switcheroo and replace them with my mud boots. You understand, right?

So here is my first spring-like outfit…mud boots and jeans and a simple button-down shirt. Simple and casual for working around the farm. It might seem like a boring outfit, but I am absolutely loving not needing to dress in a million layers and squash my hair with a hat all day long every day. I feel so light and free! It’s still just chilly enough to warrant cozy socks and a light jacket.

We’re kicking off spring this weekend by heading to my folks house to make maple syrup with them. I’m looking forward to the family-time, out in the woods. I hope yours is filled with sunshine and fresh air as well!

Coat: Handmedown from my mom / Shirt: J Crew / Jeans: Andi’s Closet / Knee-socks: Target / Mud boots: Fleet Farm

The Luck o’ the Irish to Ye!

Posted on March 17th, 2011 by Tonia 4 Comments

Happy St. Patty’s Day! I hope your day and night are filled with fiddle music, dark beer, brogues, and possibly a bagpipe or two. Our local playhouse is opening a production of Dancing at Lughnasa {you may have seen the film starring Meryl Streep back in the ’90s} tonight and will probably be serving some frothy, dark drink specials at intermission. It’s bound to be a great time!

I would love to go, but we are in over our heads with work right now, and we’re tightening the financial belt because we’re taking off in a week for a business-plus-fun-trip out to the Pacific Northwest. I hate missing out on fun things happening in the community, but actually, staying home and working and not spending any money is probably the more genuinely Irish way to celebrate the holiday anyway.

But, I will take time to play a few jigs on my fiddle tonight in honor of my one-half-Irish-heritage. Actually, the family tree is a little confusing on that side of the family, so we’re not sure. Besides the Irish part, there could be some German in there, some English, and possibly some Native American, depending on how scandalous our great-great-grandparents were. But every year on St. Patty’s Day, we’re one-half-Irish. 😉 And of course we’re always one-half Italian and we’re definitely sure of that. Those Italians run a tight ship…there was no way anything other than Catholic Italians were squeaking their way into that lineage. Call it ethnocentrism or whatever, but it sure makes tracing your family-tree easier!

Have you traced your family-tree? I think this holiday- which centers around family, traditions, and heritage- is a great opportunity to get more in touch with whence you came. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt, uncovering clues that lead you to the next connection and the next, farther and father back. My dad and one of his brothers got really into it several years ago, and discovered a whole slew of living relatives in Northern Italy that we had never met. We ended up traveling there and meeting them, and now we have strong bonds with them and they have come to the States to visit us many times since, including for my wedding!

My Italian cousin Simone and me at my wedding.

It’s amazing to think we could have gone our whole lives not even knowing that that part of our family existed, if no one had bothered to look into it. The world got much smaller that day when we all sat around the table in Italy and looked at each other for the first time and recognized family traits in each others faces. It was really amazing. Family is an amazing thing.

But we’re supposed to be talking about the Irish today, not Italians! Italians always take everything over!! 😉

The Irish, as a culture, value family and human connection above all else {well, human connection and good whiskey}, probably because they had/have very little else. Their resilience and hope in the face of extreme depression and poverty is a reminder that we don’t need material things in order to live fulfilling lives. We just need each other. When you look back on your life in your old age, you won’t remember the things you obtained along the way- you’ll remember friends and family and the moments you shared together.

I think that this is what is at the true heart of why I strive for a more simple, un-materialistic, eco-friendly lifestyle. I want to fight the good fight against what our society tells us is important {money, “success”, conventional beauty, material possessions, etc.} and let my days be filled with what really matters to me: The people I care about, hard work, good food, music, good books, learning new things, and animals.

Usually, life is at its best when it is going by unconsciously. When you’re baking a loaf of bread and chattering away with your husband. Or spending an evening playing a board game with friends. Or working hard with your dad to rake leaves into a huge pile so you can cook potatoes in it. Or brushing your horse and breathing in the sweet smell of its coat, in the silence of the barn. A million tiny moments that pass by unnoticed but accumulate into a life well-lived.

So raise your glass tonight to family, friends, and to this beautiful blink of an eye that is life. Oh, and in case you’re in our shoes and you won’t be going out on the town to celebrate, here are two recipes to make your home smell good and Irishy:

Very Authentic Irish Soda Bread

Homemade Irish Cream

Ruese Tues: Making Second-Hand Clothes Look Fresh

Posted on March 15th, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

This whole 30 for 30 Challenge has got me thinking about clothes like crazy. Making clothes, wearing clothes, swapping clothes, reusing old clothes in new ways, and giving away clothes I don’t wear anymore. When I started the challenge, I boxed up a huge amount of my clothes and sent them away with a close friend of mine who volunteers at a house for women and children who have lost their homes- helping them to get back on their feet. It’s nice to think about my clothes being enjoyed by those folks.

I have an outrageously cool girl-cousin who lives in Brooklyn. When we were kids, she would bring me huge boxes of her clothes when she would come visit in the summer. I got to pick through them and keep whatever I wanted. We didn’t have a shopping-mall closer than three hours from our house, so this was the closest I ever got to a shopping spree, and it made my little-girl heart skip a happy beat.

Aren’t second-hand clothes great? Whether you get them handed down to you, or you like to shop at thrift-stores, the thrill of acquiring something really cool for really cheap is a wonderful feeling.

My favorite secret spot to shop for second-hand clothes is Mike’s side of the closet. Shhhh! Don’t tell him! Ok actually he already knows about this habit of mine…I repeatedly get in trouble for wearing his flannel shirts and wool socks, and even sometimes his tighty-whites, which are huge on me and I have to fold them over like five times. He knew what he was getting into when he married me, though. I have a history of wearing boy clothes.

The tragedy here is that I never had a sister. I never had anyone to share clothes with growing up. My best friends were {and still are} three sisters, all with names starting with “C”. I would see the Three C’s sharing clothes with each other all the time, and it made me enormously jealous. The fact that they had each others’ closets to go searching in for something fun to wear when their own clothes seemed blah……but all I had was my little brother.

Photo credit:

{Sorry brother, you know I love you. And I’m pretty sure you know the next part of this story…}

So what did I do? I took clothes from my little brother’s closet. He would catch me wearing an entire outfit comprised from his closet, and it drove him absolutely crazy. I told him fair’s fair and that he could wear my clothes if he wanted to….but he never wanted to….Oh, what the boys in my life have to put up with! But that’s the story of how I developed my tomboy-ish style.

One of my most favorite blogs, Tomboy Style, has a new series called Q&A in which real-life tomboys are interviewed. I love the questions and the answers. These are wildly independent and unique women to look up to and admire. In a world where it seems like all the worst human qualities are glorified and deemed as “cool”, it’s wonderful to see real, intelligent, brave women lifted up. They make me proud to be a woman. Also a great place to get outfit inspiration. Check it out!

Sometimes second-hand clothes need a little freshening up, though. I love this post with some really easy ways to alter clothes and make them fresh again. For example, this gingham blouse used to be red and white before a good dye-job. Much prettier now, and any stains from its previous life were covered up.

Check out the full post for more tips like this. And I thought of one on my own, too. Screen-printing! You could make a boring old shirt look awesome by screen-printing an original design on it. This is a pretty ambitious project if you don’t already have a screen, but there are several good videos online, like this one showing how to make a screen, and this one talking about the right ink to use, this one showing how to cut out your design, and this one showing how to actually get your design onto the shirt.

I did a lot of screen-printing in college, and it was really, really fun. There is something so rewarding about seeing your artwork on your own clothing. Once you get the hang of it, you will be hooked, and you will probably want to screen-print everything in your house- pillows, towels, clothing, table linens…

An old tea-towel is given new life by Etsy seller ohlittlerabbit

If you like J Crew as much as I do, you already know that the cool thing right now is screen-printed shirts. They have whole tables of screen-printed shirts in their stores. But you can have way more fun and spend way less money and end up with something way more unique and special by doing it yourself. And if you start with second-hand clothing, you’re reusing instead of buying something new. Win-win-win!

Please do a little homework before starting this project, and try to find inks that are eco-friendly. This article is very helpful in that regard. Save leftover ink in mason jars when you’re done- they keep for a long time- and wash your screen thoroughly so you can use it to screen again and again. Happy screening!