Today, It's Snowing

Birch & Pine | Today, it's SnowingI lie somewhere between slumber and awake and the muffled sounds of my heart ready themselves for the day in a chorus of shower water rushing and pulsing, belt buckles clicking, bristles through tangles, unintentional boot stomps, for they are simply well-made and heavy. I need those extra minutes, they think I'm sleeping. Shhh...mama's asleep. Instead I am listening to them, smiling, burrowing into the linen, the morning linen that is different than the night linen, warmed by our bodies overnight and the weight of it ideal. It is a phenomenon I question daily, how this happens, but the question is merely curiosity, I care not so much how it happens but that it does. I rise to give kisses and hugs and a million I love yous as they scurry and flutter out the door and then it's just me, the dog, and coffee. I've a new mug, this ideal little vessel with a thick, wide handle, tall and the clay was left thick and rich, perfect for my hand and lips to wrap around snugly. I don't know the maker, or how old it is, I just know it is perfect and from a friend and I love the ripples of the clay from the wheel and someone's hands, and the carefully chosen speckled glaze.

I've been writing. Little things, long things. Mostly for myself, and mostly ramblings. My house and my life strange and shifting, most surely there are other things I could and should be doing, but instead I find myself sitting at a makeshift desk, a free crate found on the side of the road. I am learning to play the cajon and it serves as my chair, I hunch over the keys and occasionally note I'm no longer twenty-one and straighten my back and pull my fingers from the widespread stance they assemble to form words on a screen and wrap my arms around my spine and reach for the opposite elbow. Then I tap a bit on the cajon, little bits of practice here and there because I've always wanted to learn and I'm not half bad at it.

The house is mostly empty now, and when I cleared it, there wasn't a lot, not nearly as much as it felt to be. It was bare in under an hour, and the only things I miss are the worn farm table and my rocker, and I will miss them until I one day have a place to put them again. Worth saving, those two things. Otherwise a small pile of things remains, a box of books and records, the brass candlesticks from my grandmother, woven baskets and found pieces of pottery, art and that wall hanging we found the weekend we got engaged, the one we bought for a dollar. Before I began to pack things away, I photographed the house as it was, wanting to remember it. The first house that wasn't a mishmash of hand-me-downs, but bits and bobs carefully chosen by both of us, a home that we both had a hand in. Then I gathered everything we loved most in one place and surveyed it, most of it found, much of it stones and branches, all of it meaningful, and admired that these things looked seamless together, as if it was purposeful but it wasn't at all.

It's funny that I'm writing now, the near-desperate urge to sit uncomfortably on the cajon, awkwardly bent, with no place for my legs to rest and the crate shakes with every stroke, when around me is disorder, a half-finished wood countertop in need of planing, drawers for a dresser in varied stages of white paint, heavy Irish linen laid out on the floor and a sewing machine plopped unceremoniously on a wooden stool. I read once that brilliantly creative people are often messy and I've scoffed at it as I straightened my workspace to just so, tightening up the lines of items on a sparsely populated desk. For years, I thought this was how I needed to create, in a perfectly aligned way, and in fact, nothing remotely good or often, even anything, came out of the perfection. A blank page or a trashed one, for I spent far more time arranging everything around me than actually making anything of substance, for I was too exhausted and spent. Yet here, I am writing daily, a ritual that has come about effortlessly, strangely and suddenly. A simple practice that arose without warning, it just is, as if the chaos and mess of my life pushed me into it and whispered, now. 

Season of Thanks

I have a few moments to myself this morning, although no doubt there are things I could be doing, things I will get to later today, ones scribbled on the back of a catalog that I've not yet perused and likely won't. My "desk" (soon to be the dining table in the Airstream) is covered in notebooks and mail and bills, haphazard to-do lists jotted down on anything handy. Organization has taken a bit of a backseat in my life these past few months, along with everything else...like swept floors and a social life. Currently, every surface in our house is covered in walnut sawdust. My writing, this thing I turn toward to make sense of it all, the worst of the losses. So even though my list is long, I couldn't ignore the urge to write, to share with you all. After all, it's been months. Thank you for waiting, thank you for reading. I'm so glad you're here. I don't normally stop for coffee, but this morning I did, a rare treat. As I stood at the top of the steps leading to the coffee shop, I looked out at the crisp, gray-blanketed morning and breathed in deep. My eyes, my heart, my mind were clear. For just a moment, I could see what life will look like after this last stretch of crazy, these last nineteen days where our lives are consumed by the build, as we rush and push and fight against the Airstream's ever-present, ever-strong will. Last night, our anniversary (the one we were too busy to remember and only knew of when a dear friend reminded us), we ate carnitas and drank red wine while sanding our self-built walnut countertops. We stayed up later than usual to listen to Ella and eat a piece of chocolate cake a friend was so kind to drop by for us when I texted her my confession: we forgot our own wedding anniversary. 

We knew it would be a test of our will, our strength. Yet when it's all you have, when it's all you want, isn't there no other option? When we sold our first Airstream last December, at first, I'll admit I was grateful. I breathed a sigh of relief. Hell, we celebrated. We toasted with champagne, barefoot with Willy and Ashley in their California kitchen. We were certain it was time to move on, that we'd gleaned everything we could from the road and we were so ready to settle down again. Until we did. We deliberately sought out a small house, nine-hundred and thirty square feet. Tiny in comparison to the homes in our neighborhood, monstrosities with three-or-four-or-five thousand square feet of dead space, corners to dust and little else. Suddenly, we found ourselves missing one another...in the same house. A self-labeled introvert, a person in need of time alone, space to recharge and revitalize, and I found myself craving the closeness of the Airstream. Never far away from one another, and alone time was sought outside. Under the trees. A walk along the beach. A run through the campground.

It didn't take long at all for us to recognize our mistake, our rush to return to a life of ease and convenience. Less than a month in, we began scouring the internet for Airstreams. Less than two months from finalizing the sale on our first Airstream home, and we'd purchased and began demolition on another. At first, we weren't quite certain what the Airstream would become for us. We knew that despite our feelings of regret and grief for the loss of the road, for tiny living (for it was most certainly grief - so many tears were shed, they still are, a year later), we'd needed to come home and face so many things. Familial relationships, yes, but on a more personal note, our own emotional growth. I've said this many times and even now, all these months later, it rings true. We had to come back here to realize so much of what we learned out there. 

Understanding our true and full desire to live life differently and be okay with ourselves in that desire, to grasp that while we may forever be defending living tiny, it doesn't mean that we are living irresponsibly or are somehow less 'adult' than our peers. I feel that many people we know or meet, who don't understand why we'd want to live small, see us as somehow lesser than they. We are often the target of pity and criticism. One hundred and sixty square feet? Incredulous. But why would you want to? That's way too small for three people. Ellen chimes in - plus a dog and a cat. They shake their heads, as if electing to live tiny means we're somehow in need of their assistance, or that we're seeking freebies, or that we're not willing to work for what they and so many others have - things we currently have, and are happily, eagerly leaving behind. This is a choice, not a sentence. Recently, another woman at my daughter's school peered at me with worry as we waited for our children to be released to walk home: oh, how are you, honey? We'd recently gathered for drinks on an unseasonably warm Friday evening where we shared our story, and she'd been questioning, confused, at our choice to live small.

I run along the streets in our neighborhood, homes with perfectly manicured lawns, the houses themselves sprawling and beautiful. There was a time in my life where I thought that's what I wanted. The dream, right? And then I started working toward that, living it. Somewhere along the way, thank goodness, we decided to sell everything we owned and travel. We went on the grandest, most difficult, life-changing, eye-opening, brilliant adventure and emerged as entirely different human beings. We didn't know it right away. We thought that by coming home, it meant we needed to fit in, to have a house packed full of things, but ultimately, it didn't take long to realize that we've been beautifully and irrevocably changed. That fitting in, for us, is for the birds.

It's taken this past year, of living in this neighborhood, surrounded by excess - where people have more than they will ever need, land and space that could house so many in need, money that could feed the hungry, to realize that fitting in would mean letting go of our values and principles, our commitments, our desire to help others, our dreams. Our dreams are different. They don't fit into a mold predetermined. They are ours. I can say that, wholeheartedly and with complete confidence. As I walked with my coffee this morning, amongst men and women in suits, half hidden behind newspapers, I realized I was smiling. Broadly. For the first time, I realized that soon, I'll be living in the Airstream with my little family - but that doesn't mean I'm not part of the world itself. Life will go on. We'll shop at the same grocery store, pick up coffee from the same place, go to dinner at our local haunt. Living tiny doesn't exclude us from the norm, it just affords us so much more. Brings us joy. Allows us to live our dream, to pay down debt we'd not otherwise be able to unearth ourselves from, for me to pursue my design business, to travel again, to cultivate closeness and a family bond unbreakable.

If we didn't want this, if we didn't believe in it, we wouldn't have spent the last eleven months working toward it, even in those moments we weren't sure what would happen - and there have been many of those. We'd have not spent the last five of those months working every weekend, toiling our bodies until they were so weary and broken all we could manage was falling into bed, ignoring the piles of dishes in the sink and laundry to be done. We'd have not spent hours working when it would been far easier and more enjoyable to ignore the work and have a relaxing, comfortable weekend. It's not been easy to watch our daughter sit on the sidelines as we've worked, but we're all we've got. Just the two of us, our four hands working until cut and bruised. Tears have been shed, arguments had, frustrations taken out in walks around the block to cool off, or a beer can snapped open with a pffffsshhhhhhhh. Yet as my sister's boyfriend wrote me yesterday (after admiring our will to fight through the Airstream obstacles, admitting his fear that he'd want to give up) it's better to live than merely exist, he said, and you're living! 

We are living, friends. Really living. We are seeking out what we want and desire most in life, the opinions of others be damned. Thank goodness for that. We aren't sloughing off our responsibilities in the process, in fact, we are enabling ourselves to more effectively meet and exceed those responsibilities. We are choosing, one step at a time, to live a life that gives us so much. We aren't just building a home, we are building a life. It will have only taken us a year - one short year - to move back into an Airstream. No, it's not our first one - that one will always be missed, but like the things we've learned this year, the ways in which we've grown, this Airstream is better for it. The experience of it all has given us a gratitude and understanding we'd have not had otherwise. Isn't that a beautiful example in this season of thanks? Friends, if there's something that is keeping you from something you dream of and long for, whatever that may be - know that's it's not too late. You've not fucked up too much to fix it. Past mistakes are just that - past mistakes. It's never, never too late to go after the life you want. So go. Do. I can promise you it'll never be something to regret.

Unstable Skies and Bare Bones

Birch & Pine | Vintage Airstream Renovation, August UpdateAn entire month has gone by since my last entry here, and that's not at all surprising. August has been an absolute whirlwind, with my daughter starting school, E returning to teach, and getting our Airstream funding in place - the work has been nonstop. We are eating, breathing, and dreaming all things Airstream right now it seems...when we're not actually working on it, we're ordering supplies, sketching up designs, mapping out systems like electrical, plumbing, and propane, managing our budget, discussing/problem solving, and researching. In between all that we are attempting to live life as normally as possible - having dinners with new friends from our daughter's school, making sure homework is done, eating healthy(ish) homecooked meals, working, appointments, exercise, housework, errands. Needless to say, blogging and keeping up with social media has fallen to the back burner, but I really love the community! I love how Airstream renovators and tiny house builders come together and offer one another advice, help, and encouragement and so I am trying my best to keep posting, knowing that we have a lot to offer others, seeing that this isn't our first rodeo. We've made great strides in the past few weeks with the Airstream, and so far are on track with our schedule. Our goal is to have interior skins back in by October 1st, and there are many, many things to do before then. We are setting goals by weekend starts - so in order to stay on track, we needed the subfloor in by last Friday. We got the last piece into place around 8:30pm Friday night as the sun went down and were able to get moving on waterproofing - a massive task - on Saturday...until it rained.

The weather has been such a wildcard, and when I say wild, I mean wild. It's been absolutely crazy, just totally unstable skies. We've been dodging tornadoes and flooding...so when the sun comes out or at least the rain tapers off to a sprinkle or drizzle, we rush out and work. I'm really ready for some dry skies...because waterproofing a trailer in the rain doesn't really...work. Someone pointed out on that it's a great way to check for leaks, but we sure know where those are at this point! Yesterday (Sunday) we spent the day doing Plasticoat removal, removed old sealant around the former AC unit and fan openings with a heat gun, and were able to install two of the three fans (we installed the first Saturday) and do one patch, which we buck riveted into place - any exterior installations such as those will be done with the buck riveting gun and bucking bar for a watertight hold. If the weather holds, we'll hopefully get the second rooftop patch into place this evening and with all luck, get our AC unit installed. We need to (quickly) build a support system for underneath the AC until we can get the interior skins back in place, so there are several 2x4's in the back of our truck, ready for that task. We highly recommend this, the structure of the Airstream without interior skins may not be strong enough to hold the weight of the AC unit, so in order to avoid having your roof cave in, support the unit from the interior.

'Waterproofing' is far more than just sealant, we'll be doing some significant patching, updating the marker/running lights, updating the porch light, removing the lettering and identifying plates, soaking in paint thinner, polishing, and reinstalling, installing a new license plate holder, straightening the door and adding new gaskets, replacing broken window latches, and so on...and so on. When that's all said and done, we'll be caulking every single seam, inside and out, and all interior rivets.

We have until the second weekend in September.

The following week we plan to run all electrical, and by the weekend next, the goal is to have the whole thing insulated. Then we start the oh-so-fun task (no, really, I love riveting those skins back into place) of installing the interior walls! We will also be building new end caps, as the originals are long gone - we sent them to be recycled. They were cracked, broken, and the rear cap was molded for a shower from the original rear bathroom...which didn't work for us, as we've decided to relocate the bathroom to the middle. We'll be fabricating our own, which I'm a little nervous about!

If we can stay on track, fall break begins the weekend we'll be riveting the interior skins back into place, and we'll have two glorious weeks to paint, install lighting, flooring, and begin our bathroom build/run plumbing. We've been doing extensive research on crafting a walk in shower/wet bath and are nervous and excited to start the work.

This project is turning both of us into a ball of nerves - until you really get into the meat of this kind of work, you can't know how much effort it truly takes, mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially. There's so much to consider: time management, budgeting (staying on track with our meager budget is really difficult, I'm already concerned we'll go over), stress relief (when to walk away when frustrated so you don't yell at someone you love), when to push physically and when to refrain, and when to take a moment and marvel at the task just accomplished, because it is a big deal and we're building a home, an investment, and the ability to be mobile.

I'm sometimes jealous of renovators who were able to start where we'll be sometime in October, with the interior skins back on and ready for paint. This is the second renovation we've done now that we've stripped the Airstream down to bare bones and are building it back up entirely new, from metal work on the chassis to new brakes to installing new everything else, but then I realize that for us (let me emphasize the for us part again), it's the right thing to do. It makes our bones weary, but it strengthens us too. It is teaching me to be thorough, something I needed to learn in my life. To not take shortcuts. To be self-sufficient. To work insanely hard for what I want or need. Yeah, it would absolutely be easier to have someone else do the hard work for us (and would sure cost a lot more for their labor), but when this is all said and done, we'll have built out not one, but two vintage Airstreams new, and learned so much about the process, the effort, and the reward. That, to me, is enough to curb the jealousy, keep my head down, and continue working.

Summer on the Lake with Bridge & Burn

The past few weeks were wonderful, to say the least. Summer on the lake is always amazing, but this year it was the best yet. Perfect weather, the celebration of my thirty-first birthday, time with friends, gin and tonics and local brews, dinners on decks overlooking the sunset, paddles, long days of sunning and swimming, and my very first water ski.

I packed a few of Bridge & Burn's summer pieces into my bag: I can't get enough of this company's summer collection! I love the ease, comfort, and look of everything they've sent over for me to try. The versatility of these pieces, with their tomboyish edge, suit the lake (and me!) perfectly. Also...the morning we shot the first outfit was incredible. The fog was so thick you couldn't see across the bay, but slowly the sun began to burn off the moisture. Paddling out onto the lake was nothing short of magical. I miss our time on the water already...rising slowly, padding into the kitchen to make some coffee, watching the sun rise over the water with my hands wrapped around a warm mug, afternoon cocktails, time spent just being. We always leave so renewed and refreshed, individually and as a family. One day we hope to live on the water...can you see why?

These four items are all part of my thirty-seven piece capsule wardrobe, which I started back in June. I love how they work for summer. The lightweight and breezy Tayler dress has become a staple in my closet for warm nights spent barefoot with a beer, and the linen Market Trousers make me feel dressed up without being over the top. Sometimes I pair them with a black camisole for a night out. The Florence Leaf espadrilles are sweet slip ons that I loved having on the dock and the boat at the lake.

Below, sipping a locally brewed beer and enjoying the last night on the lake. There was the softest wind and I loved the look and feel of the dress on my summer skin.

Airstream Inspiration

Airstream Inspiration via Pinterest | Birch & Pine From a design standpoint, the functionality in our first trailer was sorely lacking. I had no idea what we really needed, and due to budget and time restrictions, we cut corners and changed plans last minute, resulting in some thrown-together solutions that didn't work well for full-time living. For example, while I loved the look of our custom sliding cabinetry, it was often frustrating when using daily. Having to wait for someone to move to access something on the opposite end of the cabinet got old...and got old fast.

However, I really loved the overall feel of our trailer. We loved the birch plywood against the white walls and the organic elements throughout: linen, wool, metal, stone, and live plants. When we welcomed friends into our space, others could feel that the trailer was special. It was their favorite Airstream they'd been in, or it made them feel something wonderful, or it was so beautiful they just wanted to hitch it up and start traveling themselves. I can't help but agree - it was special. It was our truest dream, a place we built ourselves over the course of a year. Our Airstream wasn't perfect, but it was filled with love, dreams, hope, and the hardest work we've ever known. It was home.

The new Airstream will be our temporary home as we actively (and hopefully quickly!) pay down debt and start planning and building our tiny house! Because we will be living in the Airstream full-time in the Midwest (think very cold winters, stifling and humid summers), and will be going to full-time jobs and school, we are adding in all the amenities: heat, A/C, a water heater, a stove and oven, a real fridge, and even a compact dishwasher. Some of the other elements I've planned for: real countertops, deep drawers with locking mechanisms (for when we do travel), a wet bath with shower, toilet, and tiny sink, and a private bedroom. The main living space will consist of a deep sectional sofa wrapping around a table with a marine pedestal leg: this way we can drop the table down with ease and create a second full size bed.

Keeping the design simple and clean is important to me: I get overwhelmed when I see tiny spaces that have a million things going on. Though once again, I'm learning from my past mistakes: in our first Airstream, I didn't break up all the wood...I love brown, but it was a bit much, even for me! I was so afraid to have too much going on that I went overboard with one material. Currently I am leaning toward a solid wood countertop, marble tile (I love these geometric patterns popping up these days), and solid white drawer fronts in the kitchen. Whatever tile and countertop I end up choosing will be mimicked in the bathroom for continuity.

Just as I did with the 1957 Airstream's custom sliding door cabinetry inspired by mid-century credenzas and brass globe sconces similar to the original trailer lighting, it's important to me to incorporate a nod to the era the trailer was built. For our new Airstream design, warm wood tones and textured upholstery will pay homage to the 70s, with plenty of modern touches to keep the interior sleek and clean. The goal is to create an Airstream home that truly reflects who we are and what we love. Recognizing what we need, what we want, and what we love happened through the process of doing this once already, and I'm thankful for that experience. I am so excited to start building and craft a space that helps us truly embrace living tiny and reach our long-term goals.

Why We're Renovating Another Airstream

Why We're Renovating Another Airstream | Birch & PineI've been putting off writing this post for three silly reasons: one, it's gonna be a doozy. It's long and rambling and involved. Reason two: (the big one) I am afraid of admitting I want to live tiny. I'm still working through some of the reasons why I might be struggling in my admission to live small. It seems a bit pathetic when you think about it - we already did this once. We sold everything we owned (including a 1600 square foot house and extra cars) with the exception of the things that fit into our self-renovated 1957 Airstream. The plan was to travel for a year and then settle somewhere and live in the trailer while we built our dream tiny house. Our dreams haven't changed, even when our plans were derailed. For six months, my family of three, plus a dog and cat, lived in 160 square feet: 10% of the house we sold and left behind. Sometimes it was terrible. Sometimes it was glorious.

See, I'm afraid to be different and to want things that others don't want. Around our current neighborhood, where homes range from 190k to million dollar (or more) homes, we are definitely going to be the odd ones out. When meeting new people, I don't mention last year's travels very often, nor our goal of building a house. I might mutter something about wanting to build a house, but I don't admit that it will be 500 square feet, nor that we will live in our Airstream while building to save money on housing. We'd be the weirdos, the strange hippies, irresponsible, childish. I don't believe these things are true, I don't see how not wanting to have debt is irresponsible, but that's what makes you a responsible adult in America, right? Having the pretty house, the two cars, the right things, and the status that comes with.

Three? I'm embarrassed (and a little frustrated with myself) that I don't want to admit I want to live tiny. Does that make sense? I'm angry at myself for my lack of admission. Not only am I afraid, I feel really pissed off that I am afraid. 

I mean, when it comes right down to it, it's not a question of whether or not I want this. I DO. I fall asleep thinking about one of two things these days: money and living small. How not having a hefty mortgage or rent payment each month and owning our home outright will allow us so much more financial freedom, freedom to get out of crushing debt, freedom to travel again one day, freedom from the stress that plagues us monthly when payday is spent on bills...our car debt, our credit card debt, and the costs to power a large house.

I wish I wasn't so afraid of what others will think, but I am. I don't want our daughter to have to defend us and our living choices when her friends come over after school. I don't want the other parents at school to think we're weird and not let their kids come over. Online, it's different. We can seek out those who are like-minded or at the very least, understand where we're coming from and find community and support. In our current neighborhood, we've noticed that there are the ones that have and the ones that don't, and we can't keep up. We don't necessarily want to keep up, but we sure feel the pressure to! Yet for us to reach our financial goals (being 100% debt-free by 2019, just 2.5 years from now), living small is the only way for us and our current budget. We looked at houses recently and toyed with the idea of buying a house locally, realizing we'd thrown $14,000 away this year on rent alone and would have nothing to show for it when we moved out. We added up three years of living here and realized we could potentially build a tiny house on that amount (around 40k)! It was all suddenly very difficult to stomach. Buying a house didn't feel right: getting into more debt while trying to pay off debt (school loans, credit cards, and our 2014 car) didn't make a lick of sense...but neither did throwing away thousands on rent.

When we purchased our current Airstream, we really wanted another project and a means to travel comfortably whenever possible. We were missing being a part of the Airstream community, missing travel, missing the work of renovating itself. As we realized our budget was seriously hindering our housing options, especially considering our financial goals, we started dreaming about renovating the Airstream as a fully functioning living space (unlike our first Airstream, which was much more suited to the camping lifestyle and was built out more like a converted Westy or Sprinter, very minimal with a portable single burner stove, no hot water, and a homemade composting toilet). Much of our reasoning for returning to life in 160 square feet is need based. 

Sure, we could go into more debt and have a mortgage, or throw away more hard-earned cash on rent...but in order for us to reach our personal financial and lifestyle goals, we need to severely reduce our monthly spending (and I need to be working full-time, which I'm currently not, but I've had several fantastic interviews). In July, we will be completely paying off one credit card and some of another (we only have two). In August, we will be starting the rebuild in the Airstream in hopes to move into it when our lease is up in December, and will likely spend around $30k to finish the entire renovation, which I'll post about later this week. I've written a detailed post about the design, elements, and amenities that we plan to include. In preparation for the renovation cost, we have been working hard to pay down debt and reduce the amount of cash leaving our bank account monthly to pay interest on credit cards. We've drastically reduced our unnecessary spending, eating at home instead of out and only purchasing new things when they are desperately needed (case in point: Ellen keeps sewing up the bottoms of her shoes so she doesn't have to buy new ones and I wear shirts with holes in them and run on threadbare Adidas I've had for four years that make my left leg cramp up something fierce). However, we will once again own a finished, gorgeous Airstream outright in no time at all, and continue our path to being debt-free.

So there you have it. The Airstream means a lot to us, sure. We love Airstreams! You may not know that this is actually the third Airstream we've bought, not our second. We rescued a 1961 Bambi while we were traveling and sold it to some friends in Southern California who've worked to make it stunning and not that far off from what I would've done with it. This Airstream though...means freedom. Freedom from debt. Freedom from excess. Freedom to pursue our dreams: travel, experience, minimalism, owning our possessions - not being a slave to a bank. This Airstream gives us hope. It makes us smile. It reminds us to work hard for everything we have in life. It brings us community and friendship with like-minded folks. It teaches our daughter to live simply and work hard and to be content. It brings our family closer together. It enables us to travel comfortably with our pets and visit all the amazing folks we met while we traveled, people that have become some of our closest friends and some, our family. This Airstream, to us, is everything. 

*Above photo was taken by me of E and A and our first Airstream in July 2015, on the road in Wyoming. We stopped here to take in the view and run in the wildflowers and climb rocks and revel in the road. 

A Nomad, A Transient

A Nomad, A Transient | Birch & Pine “I can define myself around the journey. I can become the journey," Erden says. "I am that person now — a nomad, a transient.”

Last weekend, Ellen asked if I would listen to something with her, something she'd heard while running errands. Something that she finished listening to in the parking lot of a Staples, and then entered the store in tears. So I listened.

My friends, I don't know who you all are. I don't know everyone who reads this blog, and I don't know if anyone who knew us personally before we traveled reads. Yet as this is my space, the little corner of the internet I pay a small fee to be my own, this is where I share my heart. I am often hesitant about sharing my heart so publicly, except that I always hope that someone, somewhere will read my words and feel less alone, feel inspired to change, to release, to cry, to laugh.

It's often no longer talked about, but it's not forgotten amongst me and my family that we did travel. It was cut short and we spent months grieving. Only now, after the mark has come and gone, the day when we should've ended our year long journey was a month ago, can we truly begin to move forward. It would've been over now anyway, we say. Only it's not over. Those six months spent on the road changed us irrevocably. Beautifully. They were so needed. We are not the same people, none of us, even our daughter. We are nomads, we are transients. Our circumstances are dictating much in our lives, and we are facing much that we need to face. But the truth of it all...whether or not those around us see it, or want to see it, we are changed beings. We cannot possibly be who we were before we left, and most importantly, we don't want to be. We are allowed to define ourselves by our journey. Who we are now, who we will continue to become, how we want to live from here on out.

Erden Eruc said it so beautifully. Please read or listen to his story here. We didn't travel for nearly as long as he did, and our methods were vastly different, but we feel what he feels. You'll catch us all with that faraway look on our faces, we are gone. We aren't in the kitchen or the grocery store or wherever we are physically standing. We are gone. We are on the road.

Summer Capsule Wardrobe: Part I

I am five days into my summer capsule wardrobe experiment...and so far, so good. I had to do a quick recount once, when I realized I'd forgotten about some clothes in the dryer. I added two of those things to my total, which is now at the maximum number of items allowed (37, listed below to keep me accountable). I am hoping to spend a little birthday money next month and replace a few items that are worn out or too big, just freshening up my closet a bit without dipping into our monthly expenses or savings (remember, not only are we simplifying...we are working toward becoming completely debt-free!). Until then, I'm wearing what I have already in order to stay cool in this heat wave and today I'm listing my pros and cons of this experiment so far: The Pros: It's been nice to see my seasonally appropriate items hanging in the closet and folded in my drawers at a glance. Everything looks so coordinated and I like what I see, making it so much easier to get dressed in the morning. I also put together an outfit I've never worn before, so I'm getting more creative with mixing and matching already.

The Cons: I am a little perplexed on what to do when packing for our annual trip to Canada. We spend two weeks at our family cottage on the water, and it can get pretty chilly up north. I usually pack a sweater, a flannel, a fleece, and a rain jacket. The weather can be fairly unpredictable there, unlike summer in the Midwest - which is always hot, humid, and nearly unbearable. The rules of the experiment stated that I needed to take into account all trips I'd be embarking on when choosing my items for my seasonal capsule, but what about the trips that take you into entirely different climates? Keeping four cold-weather items out for only two weeks of the three months in my summer capsule felt like a bit much, considering the space that could be left for tank tops and cutoffs for the 90+ degree temperatures at home. I think I will evenly swap out items I'd never wear in Canada (like my silk blouse or tailored trousers) for some warm clothes I'll need while at the lake.

All in all, this has been really exciting for me! I particularly enjoy addressing the areas of my wardrobe that need updating. I've never been great at noticing when things are worn out or too big, but narrowing things down and having less to choose from shines light on the problem areas (especially since I've worn the same well-used, two-sizes-too-big tank top three times already). So far, I haven't missed any of the items I put in the box labeled 'maybe' (nor can I remember what I put in there). Have any of you checked out the capsule experiment and/or started it?

 

Building My Capsule Wardrobe

Have you guys heard of the capsule wardrobe? My friend Jessica is blogging about building her own capsule wardrobe and through her experience, I was introduced to the Un-Fancy blog. I'd heard the term capsule wardrobe tossed around before, but wasn't quite sure what it entailed. In support of my own efforts to become (my version of) minimalist, I thought I should check it out in the hopes that I'd find some direction for my personal wardrobe struggle...I touched on this a few posts ago when I counted all the things in our house. I was definitely feeling that my 82 items of clothing (outside of whatever was in the wash that day, so perhaps closer to 90), was far more than I was willing to have around. Getting dressed is often frustrating, and I get annoyed when I have to stuff my clothes into dresser drawers or move a lot around just to put away clean laundry.

Looking at the numbers, I don't have a lot of clothing: that number includes socks, bras, underwear, dresses, a swimsuit, pants and tops for all seasons. Yet for me, for my well-being, I still have a wardrobe that doesn't reflect who I am or what I truly love to wear. It's less about the number and more about the emotion behind the clothing items I've purchased. The number exists as it is because I don't have a full understanding of my personal tastes. I'm still very much influenced by social media and fashion trends, emotional shopping, and a great sale at J. Crew announced via a bright, poppy email in my inbox. Instead of diving deeper and asking myself questions about what I truly love, I continue to let others tell me what I should have. As an experiment, I'm going to try the Un-fancy method of the capsule wardrobe, following the rules to a tee in hopes that I will find clarity. Being that the summer solstice was just two days ago, I'm going to work through my clothing today (no waiting!) for the summer season and be sharing my experience with building my capsule wardrobe here on the blog. Be back in a few days with my initial findings! Interested in joining me? Leave a comment below!

Taking Steps Against Debt

We are currently living within our means. That feels extraordinarily good to say.

However, one might conclude after such a statement that we're financially stable, that all our ducks are in a row, that we've got it all figured out. Unfortunately, and it pains me to admit this, but that's not at all the case. Living within our means is a step. A small, sure, steady step toward our goal of living without debt. What this looks like for us, on a teacher's salary (and my infrequent freelance work), living in a city where the safe neighborhoods are skyrocketing in cost, is quite simple: we live paycheck to paycheck and extras don't exist, or at least not very often. Here's what we're doing these days in an effort to craft a future without debt:

  • Ellen set up an Excel document and spends one or two days a week working on our budget. Where I'm terrible with numbers and money, she's excellent, so our system works well for us. She works on the budget and on payday, immediately pays all bills online, which are dated in the budget. The budget spans several months out, so we can see exactly where our cash is going and allows us to save and plan for upcoming events, like school clothes for Adelaide or our yearly trek to the Canada cottage. She then briefs me weekly on where our income is headed and how much, if any, is leftover.
  • Gone are the days of wayward spending, where we'd hop around on weekends spending a little at the coffee shop, a bit more for afternoon beers at the pub, and maybe a dinner out, a plant buying spree, or an online Amazon or Madewell order...and then suddenly, we're confused about where all of our money went and are struggling to make the numbers add up.
  • Instead of relying on hindsight, we're planning ahead. We're structuring our budget and life in order to have a better future, even if it means that we're not able to have the immediate gratification of a weekend out or new clothes, where we're curbing 'fun for now' in hopes that we'll have less stress later. 
  • I keep a saved note on my phone, a running list of tasks or fun things to do that fight the urge to get out of the house and go spend. Whenever we're bored and we start talking about just 'running to the thrift store to look around' or 'let's just grab a beer at the pub', I'll pull out the list. There's always something on the list that we can tackle. Once knee deep in the task or activity, we always feel better that we're working on something productive rather than be out spending money we don't really have to spend. I will share some of those ideas in another post!
  • We are actively paying down credit cards and school loans. We plan to have one of our credit cards completely paid off by August and another partially paid off. We took initiative and worked with our lenders on getting our student loan payments into a bracket that we can actually pay, and plan to increase the payments once our credit cards are paid off.

Recognizing that we are in control of our finances, despite the (severe) limitations of our current salaries, was life-changing. Sure, it may not look like a whole lot of fun right now...but fun for now is what gets us in trouble and leads to stress and/or guilt that's just not worth that dinner out or that spending spree on clothing we'll rarely wear. It all comes full circle, especially as we're working to streamline our entire lives: eating at home instead of out is healthier and often tastes better, and shopping emotionally instead of practically leaves us with things we didn't need or want in the first place. So instead of continuing a pattern of spending, we took a step toward our goals of being debt-free. The road ahead is long and the step isn't particularly glamorous, but it's one that is already giving us a feeling of accomplishment and reward...and it feels really, really good.

Social Media and The 'Right' Things

As the words came out of my mouth, I knew they were wrong. I'd actually been making an argument for buying a certain expensive, popular item of clothing in order to remain relevant to my Instagram followers. I was mortified. Admitting it now...also embarrassing. I'm also sure that a great deal of the people reading this post have been swayed by what's trending on social media, however - can we admit it? Don't we all own a Chemex or an iPad or that perfect pair of sunnies because it's the 'right' thing to have? I'm raising my hand, not proudly, but honestly. I have done this. I've been swayed by trends and popular items all too often, yet we cannot afford to have all of the things everyone says we must have to be interesting and popular on social media (which I am largely dependent on for income). Yet many of the things we've bought into over the years have ended up being sold at a tag sale or tossed haphazardly into a box headed for the local thrift store. It all seems pretty silly doesn't it? In order for me to provide for my family, I have to stay relevant and on trend: that being me isn't quite enough.

Years ago, when Adelaide was a baby, it was very popular to use a lot of bold color in decorating. My friends were insistent that I ditch my love of neutrals and adapt to the trend: neutrals are boring, they insisted. The popular decor blogs reiterated their point. Perhaps my love for all things brown and white was boring, I began to wonder. Little by little, I started painting perfectly good pieces of wooden furniture in bright, poppy hues that were, yes, admittedly pretty, but they weren't me. They made my head spin, all those bright colors against brightly colored walls. I longed for the days where I'd been true to myself and what loved. I tried stripping the paint from antique dressers and my pretty oak nightstands, but the damage had been done. I'd bought into what others were telling me I just had to have...and forgotten self in the process.

In sharing my family's journey to a simpler life, I want to explore the reasons behind the decisions we make on a heart level. I want to understand why I sometimes compulsively shop, why I bought a Chemex instead of a Mr. Coffee. Truthfully, I actually really love our Chemex and enjoy making coffee in it every morning. I think the way the light catches on the glass is beautiful and it makes me happy to look at...yet not every purchase I've made, or every decision made about big life stuff (like having a mortgage when we don't want one), has been solely based on what's best for us - for our family and for our needs and wants. So much of what we do is heavily influenced by what is deemed as 'right': before the Chemex was trending, the French press was trending. 'Arriving' at true adulthood is often measured in a mountain of debt surrounded by a picket-fence...but what if that's not what we truly want?

What if that is okay for someone else, but not for us? Are we irresponsible or less 'adult' because we want to live with less and live tiny? Does not buying whatever's trending make us less relevant or 'cool'? Maybe sometimes the thing that's trendy is something we actually really love (like my Chemex) and use and makes us happy. I think the problem starts when we feel the need to have all the 'right' things, even when we can't afford them, only to appear to have our shit together, to be effortless in how we appear to others...not only are we potentially amassing debt and things we don't love or want, but we're lying about who we really are...and worst of all, we're lying to ourselves. We aren't asking ourselves what we truly want out of life. Who we are. What things in life bring us joy. These are questions that we're working to answer in our family these days, attempting to forget all the 'right' answers, the trends, the so-called measures of adulthood and ask very simply and pointedly: what do we want? What brings us joy?

The Dialogue of Simplifying

I spent a day last week working my way through closets and drawers and even the dreaded basement, which is currently serving as locked storage for our vital Airstream walls, windows, and framings that we wouldn't dare leave in the garage, where they could be easily stolen and scrapped. As I sorted through my clothes, I was able to quickly fill a reusable shopping bag with items that were torn or I'd forgotten existed. The week prior, I'd filled half a bag and sent a billowy vest to my sister, who's pregnant. I thought she could use it as her belly grows. I told her I didn't need it back. Yet after counting my clothing and shoes yesterday, I'm not convinced that I've pared down in a way I can be proud of. The same dialogue is still running through my head, even two and a half years post our decision to truly simplify.

Perhaps I'll need that this winter, maybe I'll wear it once I lose another few pounds. It's a cute sweater, really cute...but it doesn't really suit my body type. If I get rid of it, I won't have a camel sweater anymore, so no variation amongst my sweaters. What if I get an office job and need those slacks? I've never worn them, but they do look really good on me. I should hold onto them. I should keep the belt that goes with them, although I am not a fan of the logo on the buckle. I hate belts. I should get rid of it. I barely wear this dress, but it was a birthday gift and one I asked for. Maybe my taste has just changed. I'll hang it back up anyway, I feel guilty. These loafers are my favorites and the others hurt my feet, but the other ones are black and not camel and they're vintage - I'll never find another pair like these! They were only eight dollars. If I toss them into the donation bag, I'll be accepting that they were a waste of money. Worse, I'm accepting that I don't really know my own style. That probably means I don't know myself as well as I thought I did. Great. I'm nearly thirty-one years old and just as indecisive and terrible with money as ever.

Paring down, simplifying, purging, streamlining, whatever word you choose to describe the act of letting go, is more than just making piles. We question ourselves, our spending habits, our tastes, our emotional well-being, our ability to purchase responsibly. We're taking much more into account as we begin sorting through things we've spent our hard-earned money on. It's no wonder so many of us struggle with the act of simplifying. It's not just the enormity of the task, but the accompanying emotions we're sorting through as we make those piles of things.

Six Months and Counting

It's been six months since we lived in 160 square feet of vintage Airstream travel trailer while traveling around North America.

Currently, we reside in 930 square feet of brick-and-mortar duplex in the Midwest.

Today I decided I want to write more about my family's desire to live with less, live simply, whatever you want to call it - to be free from the burden of excess, to purchase purposefully, live small, and rid ourselves of debt. Six months and counting: that is, I'm counting the things we've accumulated since we left our Airstream trailer. Did you know that when we sold it, we sold it in California and then traveled around the country for awhile with everything we owned in our SUV? Everything. 

While writing this post, I took my cup of coffee, a pad of paper, and a pen, walking through the rooms of our house on the main level only and began taking inventory. My findings are as follows:


 

  • Living Room 135 
    • Plants/pots counted as one, books + 2 that friends are borrowing, decor, furniture, art
  • Dining Room 134
    • This number surprised me, our dining room looks quite austere. A table, rug, six chairs, a crate turned bar...but inside built in cabinetry and a closet, the number quickly rose.
  • Kitchen 271 
    • For this, I counted every single item in the kitchen, including individual flatware. Containers with lids were counted as one if they had a match (ours actually all do right now). I also counted the photos and artwork and cards from friends dotting the fridge and the magnets that hold them in place.
  • Hallway 2
    • Artwork, made by me and a trundle bed we need to take to Goodwill leaning against the wall.
  • Bathroom 88
    • Shower curtain, rug, soaps. Things like a package of toilet paper and a box of Qtips are counted as one, but towels and lotions and things are all separate.
  • Master Bedroom 277
    • Furniture, sheets, pillows, decor, artwork, lighting, computers, camera gear, clothing.
      • Kate owns 82 items of clothing and 11 pairs of shoes, excluding a few items in the wash.
      • Ellen owns 73 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes, excluding a few items in the wash.
      • I didn't count individual items in our two office boxes that hold sentimental items like letters, drawings from our daughter, photographs, tiny gifts. Those boxes are sacred to us.
  • Adelaide's Bedroom 273
    • Furniture, sheets, pillows, decor, artwork, lighting, toys, jewelry, clothing.
      • Adelaide owns 57 items of clothing and 5 pairs of shoes, excluding a few items in the wash.
      • Bedding, furniture, lighting, and decor only comprises 20 items of the total. The rest is made up of toys, art supplies, and books. I counted each piece of furniture in her dollhouse and each dish or faux food item in her play kitchen as one item.
  • Front + Back Porches 15 
    • Chairs, tables, plants/pots, raised beds for herbs.
  • Main level total: 1, 195 items 

 

Ellen and I have been engaged in some heavy conversations lately about what's next for us, and while that plan isn't definitive yet, we do know the following:

  • We want to be debt-free and are working diligently toward this goal.
  • We want to live simply and live small.
  • We want to be purposeful and intentional.
  • We want to have the freedom to travel when possible, but have a stationary home to return to.
  • We want to connect with others.
  • We want to share transparently about our relationships with things and our journey to a life we want.

This post is about that transparency I mentioned above, the journey we are on. I keep thinking that we're starting over in this path to simplicity, and perhaps in some ways we are...but this all really started when Ellen and I, two best friends from college, reunited after seven years and had a conversation that connected us: we both wanted to build a tiny house someday. We never really lost sight of that goal, and we've already built and sold one and are working on another that will serve as a placeholder until we can build our tiny dream home on a plot of land. The last four years have been an evolving effort toward a life that makes us better, a life that we want because it's what's best for us.

Starting today, I am going to make a conscious effort in this blog space to share our hearts toward our version of a simple life. In the coming weeks, I will be continuing to streamline the blog a bit more in an effort to share about all of the things I mentioned above. I will be sharing more about our current Airstream renovation, small space design and functionality, our future plans, and some strategies we are currently putting into practice to pare down our belongings and reduce debt.

Counting the things we own and sharing the numbers is in an effort to share honestly about where we are currently and open up room for discourse: is simplifying our lives about the number of things we own, or is it about the way a space makes us feel, or is it a combination of both?

Progress: 1977 Airstream Overlander

Last weekend I actually remembered to grab my camera along with the milk crate of tools we carry to the wayyy back of our shared backyard (we live in a duplex with some super kind and understanding neighbors) and grab some shots of the progress in our latest Airstream project. I'm pleased to say that despite having a busy few weeks after returning from our sojourn out west for spring break, we're still moving right along.

I'm sharing these images five days post capture and we're about to get back out there tomorrow and Sunday (the best way to celebrate Mother's Day, in our opinion). We're moving some things around in our schedule to better accommodate weeknight working, especially as the days are getting longer and the weather is warming considerably - 80 degrees is my JAM. We're buckling down and getting serious - because we've set a date to be finished (May 2017, if not sooner), and when I say finished - I mean finished. Solar, propane, hot water, the build, AC and heat, polish, you name it, it'll be done, son.

We learned quite a few things the first time around that have been invaluable so far in the planning, budgeting, and work itself. For example:

  • It might be cheaper to go with an older Airstream initially, but before you know it you've spent twenty grand and don't have enough cash flow to put in things like hot water or heat.
  • Make a complete budget up front and then triple it.
  • Set a reasonable timeline and then triple it.
  • While Airstreams are, on the most basic level, similar to all other Airstreams - they are all individuals and have their own set of quirks and issues (kind of like people).

We have received some comments about the crazy fast progress we're making on the demolition stage, and we aren't denying it. There's a big difference in us tackling demo nearly two years ago on our '57 Overlander and us tackling demo on this gal. We aren't fearful and questioning, we do have an entire, complete gut-job-and-rebuild under our belts. We are able to jump right in and work - there's very little standing around with bewildered looks on our faces, minus that little section of subfloor in the image below (street side, behind the wheel well). That one was an absolute bitch to get out and it was a total team effort. While we've had this Airstream three months to the day, the images in this post are about 30 hours of work overall and not one penny spent. It's pretty much night and day compared to our first renovation - getting to this point took us several months of consistent working weekends and weeknights.

This past weekend we finished removing some stubborn sections of subfloor, started removing the old hydraulic brake system (see that vacuum reservoir in the image above - the black tank with a hose on the right side?), removed the old defunct A/C unit, removed the broken step to repair, removed the decorative blue striping on exterior (this was super easy - just popped rivets and peeled away), made some exterior repairs, and started the removal of the belly pan to remove the tanks.

The exterior is in pretty great shape - it looks rougher than it actually is, simply because it's dirty as hell and the Plasticoat is degrading up on top. We worked on a section of exterior skin (to the right of the door), where someone, at some point, shoved some new subfloor into the shell, which caused the C-channel to bend and that panel to bubble out. It was a pretty simple fix to pull in the shell and straighten out the C-channel. I'm always amazed at the quick "fixes" we find inside these old beauties that do far more harm than good and don't solve the problem, just merely cover it up.

Overall, we are just pleased as punch with the condition of the trailer - our lists are long, but everything is doable and we are excited to tackle each thing. This weekend our goals include:

  • Dropping the belly pan
  • Dropping the tanks
  • Grinding rust off the chassis
  • Removing broken propane lines
  • Wrap up removal of hydraulic brakes (we will replace with electric brakes down the line)
  • Remove old fans (five total)
  • Remove and store wheel wells
  • Hopefully renting a pressure washer and giving everything a good wash (inside and outside) and a bleach (inside)

These are the final things we need to accomplish to wrap up demolition and prep the trailer for repair and rebuild (read: start spending that paper). We are beyond excited. Trailer work days are, without a doubt, our favorite days of the week. I'll be back with another update next week - and check below if you're looking for info on useful tools for subfloor demo! We've had a lot of questions about what we use and how the hell we got it out so fast - so take a peek if you need!

For fun, a shot of Ellen ripping out subfloor with nothing but brawn. We are both getting some serious muscle back - we joke that if we just renovated Airstreams for a living, we'd be super ripped year round.

Subfloor demo:

  • angle grinder: cutting bolts
  • Dremel: for those hard to reach bolts in corners
  • vice grips: fantastic tool for removing rusted screws stuck in the chassis - break the wood away, latch that shit on and it works beautifully and quickly
  • crowbar, wonder bar
  • cordless drill with #3 Phillips bits and a 1" hole saw: use the saw to drill holes into the subfloor, then slide a crowbar into the hole - hit with a rubber mallet to pry the subfloor out of the C-channel
  • circular saw - we know some people use jigsaws, but with a circular saw you can set the depth of your blade and not hit chassis - pretty great for breaking up the large pieces of subfloor, which are much more manageable in small bits
  • beer
  • good music

Slip Clayware

When I started this blog, I knew that I wanted to work with artists and makers from all over, sharing about their process to end product, who they are, and why they do what they do. These posts tend to take quite a bit of work for everyone involved, so they are much fewer and more far-between than I'd like - but on the plus side, it gives me time to seek out really incredible people and work closely with them - really diving in and getting to know them and their work.

Today I'm talking with Brooklyn-based artists Andrea Juda and Kristin Mueller, who together make up Slip Clayware, who are producing ceramics that at once feel modern, earthy, and perhaps something you'd find in an art professor's home in 1970. Each piece is structured, yet organic and fluid, and even when meant to match, the subtle differences in each dish is unique. I chose two white hummock mugs and a glaze match in the sugar and creamer set in white - which have received so many compliments from friends already, and they only arrived a few weeks ago. Check out the interview with the artists below!

"in ceramics, slip is clay in its most fluid state - capable of taking on any form. Slip Clayware pushes the bounds of traditional notions of form, functionality, and materiality in the art of ceramics. Here you'll find a home for your morning coffee but also pockets for your wall. We're ever expanding the scope of the needs our pieces can address, with many designs incorporating a range of materials..."

Tell me a bit about yourselves individually and how you know one another. What made you two decide to go into business together?

Kristin: We’re pretty different people, actually, and I think that in an odd way that’s part of what makes it work. By day, I’m an architect. I love experimenting with ways that a functional problem can be solved with a unique form, and love building models and working with my hands. I met Andrea at the architecture firm I used to work at, and was probably more inclined toward the friendship just because she did something totally different than me.

Andrea: It’s true. I work in marketing so I’m into figuring out what people like and how what we do meshes with what they need. The business was really just the next step in what started out as a hobby with a coworker. When we realized how our different skills made for a balancing of focus in the pieces and production, it made sense to see if people might be interested in buying what we loved making.

Tell me a bit about your favorite pieces, why you love them, and how you comprise your collection. Do you have any new pieces or ventures you are excited about and would like to share?

Our favorite pieces are ones that are a new take on traditional ceramic techniques, forms, or functions. For instance, our Dune Mug uses the act of glazing the piece (which is essentially dunking it into a bucket of liquid glaze) to inform the pattern on the piece: we simply dunk it at an angle, creating the unique diagonal line between glazed and exposed clay portions. An example of traditional function informing our pieces would be the Whorl Mug, which gets its diagonal handle form from the natural placement of your hand when holding a mug. It’s a unique and fluid form that has functional roots, and that’s sort of our ultimate goal some combination of all those aspects.

When it comes to curating what makes it into our collection (because, let’s be real, a good design process is 90% “learning moment” failures) we try to ensure clusters of pieces work well together aesthetically and have supplementary functions. Even the process of naming the piece helps us get at what we love about it and how it fits in with the others. Dunes, Hummocks, Pebbles, Plumes these all have geologic undertones that relate to the forms of the pieces and their essential earthborne nature. Lately we’ve been experimenting a bit with nonfood functions everyday objects such as lamps or clocks that serve needs away from the dinner table. It’s a very different process beginning to incorporate other materials but also exciting because of this.

I think the readers would be interested in knowing the process behind the creation of your products. Would you pick one you love and lead us through the making?

Our Dimple Tumbler is probably one of the most fun pieces to make. This one can put you out of your comfort zone in its final stage because after throwing a perfectly symmetrical form, we “ruin” it by holding it as you would when it’s solid, but while it’s still wet and malleable.

To break it down from stage one though, first we take a clump of clay that weighs about 1.5 pounds and “wedge” it, which is a repetitive kneading process that removes air bubbles and actually aligns the molecules in an optimal arrangement for the wheel. Then comes the throwing process, which, when you’ve made a piece several times can be accomplished pretty efficiently your hands start to gain muscle memory of how best to make the piece quickly.

For the Dimple Tumblers, once we have a perfectly tapered cup, we pinch the sides of it to deform it into a shape that is comfortable, natural to hold, and unique between all. The piece then dries for a bit before it’s cleaned up, stamped, and sent to the bisque kiln. After firing for two days, it’s ready to be glazed. We dunk our Dimple Tumblers ¾ of the way into the glaze bucket, leaving some exposed clay at the base. It goes through another round of firing and is ready for our customers!

Tell me about a typical day for you both – at Slip Clayware and daily life, from the mundane to the creative!

Behind all the curated Instagrams is a lot of mud. It’s true most of it is a messy, muddy process that requires some cleanup, but who isn’t up for that (well, the first part) after a day at the office?

Where is your studio located? Tell me a bit about your surroundings and what you love about it. Do your surroundings inspire your work in any way?

We work out of a communal studio in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn which means we share the space with a lot of other great ceramic artists doing a range of work. There’s always some great new piece out of the kiln that we can ask each other about and learn different techniques and combinations through less trial and error personally, which is great a true studio environment.

Where do you gather inspiration? Travel, your city, other experiences? Share a bit about how you take that inspiration and translate it to ceramics.

We actually mesh well as travel partners too, so we’ve been to a few places recently with some really interesting geologic histories and soil textures and colors. Iceland was full of amazing volcanic formations and a deep, rich soil. On our trip to Oman we could witness the contrast of the sandy dunes with the cavernous, layered canyons in all their colors. In the end, what we produce is made out of those same essential elements taking some of those qualities we love and letting them find their way back into the pieces is always a fun challenge.

Relationships can be pretty tough – we’re all human, after all, with pretty crazy emotions at times. Do you two have any rules or rituals between you two to keep things running smoothly in business?

Generally, we just talk it out it. It helps to be friends first in certain ways. We try to be reasonable about our expectations when it comes to production, but maintain a healthy balance of experimentation. It can cause some friction at times, but it’s never been anything we can’t work out and learn from.

Is there anything that has you especially excited these days – a new music discovery, finding a fantastic artist, side projects you’re working on, personal triumphs or endeavors?

Summer in New York is always exciting, and a chance to try out some new pot shapes for the container garden!

Do you have a storefront, online store, or a place where people can find your offerings?

You can get one of our pieces through our Etsy store, SlipClayware, and can find out what we’re up to at slipclayware.com and @slipclayware on Instagram.

I cannot wait to order a few more pieces and incorporate them into our home - the care that goes into these pieces is clear to the receiver, and we've truly enjoyed using them in the last few weeks for coffee, tea, and even a homemade salad dressing I whipped up and served in the creamer dish. I love having pieces like this in our home - these entirely multi-functional art forms that look lovely on display and in use.

Support the work of Brooklyn based ceramic maker Slip Clayware by visiting the site here and ordering a few of these gorgeous pieces for your home or collection.

On the Road with Bridge & Burn

birch_and_pine_road_trip_with_bridge_and_burn I have been a longtime admirer of Bridge & Burn, a clothier based out of Portland, Oregon, since I first discovered their simple, straightforward, often androgynous line a few years ago. It's not very often that my wife and I can both shop at the same store and find pieces we absolutely love, so when Bridge & Burn reached out to partner with me here on the blog about their upcoming spring and summer lines, I enthusiastically jumped on board. Our upcoming road trip was on the horizon, so I packed the pieces in my bag and set out on the road, and I can't say enough about the versatility and ease of the pieces this company has to offer. The lines are classic, clean, and yet approachable and easy to wear, perfectly suited to the traveler.For starters, the Fairmont Spring Jacket in gray was a lifesaver - in March, even in the California desert, the minute the sun dipped below the horizon, the cold would set in. I even slept in the jacket a few extra chilly nights, it was that comfortable! I loved the pockets - doubled up pockets with snaps so I could store my phone, lens cap, film, and chapstick in the top pockets securely on hikes, while able to tuck my hands in the side pockets to stay warm. It was flattering on, feminine yet sturdy, and took the intense wear as I slept, cooked, hiked, set up camp, and frolicked around. The fabric snagged on scraggly bushes countless times and didn't rip...although I can't say the same for my bare feet, I'm still baring some gnarly scratches from running around in the hi-dez, tipsy on cheap boxed wine.

If you haven't already...go buy a BURN tee right this minute. This shirt is by far the most comfortable tee I've ever worn...in fact, I wore it for the majority of our trip, stink and all - it was just too damn good. I washed it the minute I got home so I could put it back on the next morning. I'll for sure be buying more of Bridge & Burn's tees, which are all pretty darn adorable.

This top was perfect for the wonderful summery days we experienced in White Sands and Joshua Tree, ideal to shade my pale winter skin from the always-stronger-than-you-expect desert sun, but the breathable white cotton fabric keeping me nice and cool. This was also my go-to top when we stopped in various towns to pick up supplies, just for a quick put-together look (although my unwashed hair and dirty feet weren't fooling anyone).

Lastly, this dress...when I received it in the mail, I told Ellen that it was so me. Structured, somewhat fitted, yet still loose enough to be casual and versatile. In all honesty, I was a little disappointed in the starchiness of the fabric at first, but it has softened after a few wears and washes. It's the perfect spring dress, and I have a feeling I'll be wearing it often this season on date nights out grabbing cocktails downtown, on Saturday mornings at the farmers' market with my little family, and for hosting dinners in the backyard with friends.

Outside of a few other pieces, namely a pair of leggings, a grey sweatshirt, my Ace & Jig pants, and my vintage jean shorts, I wore the four pieces you see here for the majority of the sixteen days spent on the road...I didn't need much else at all. Find these pieces and the rest of the Bridge & Burn spring line right here, and be sure to follow them on Instagram and Pinterest (love their boards!).

*This is a sponsored post, but all words and opinions are my own, obviously - I just admitted to my clumsy tipsy desert runs in bare feet and the stench of no showers for days on end.

Houseplant

A few of my plants are dying. How did I not notice? I look at them daily. Surely I should have seen the leaves begin to curl inward, shrivel on the ends, all that brown on the dragon tree - so much brown that when I finally did take note, the long strands of leaves came off in my hands as I reached into the depths of the plant, which always feels like such an intrusion. More than a dozen, perhaps even twenty, brown and crisped leaves that I carried to the wastebasket. I returned to the living room and pulled the tree from the corner and examined it, noting that the tops of the two branches in the front, one three feet tall and the other two, much shorter than the back, reaching six plus feet, were actually drooping downward, just entirely bowing to the earth in concession, a sad but knowing submission of their end.

Was it gradual? Was I too busy to take note? I thought about rearranging the living room, the tree is large and needs quite a bit of space. Perhaps I could live with an odd furniture arrangement for a few weeks while I nursed the tree back to health. Did the winter take it's toll? There were so many days made up of the darkest gray, and not a single southern facing window in the house. Not a one.

The plant from the dining table, this soft and slightly waxy beauty I picked up and slipped into my cart at the market, might make it through. I took it from the table when I woke this morning, it's very early and I wanted that soft easterly light to slice through the glass of the front windows and land, hop, land on the leaves, they were a bit more silvery before and I hope to see that color again and soon. I placed it on the end table by the sofa, where all the little plants in their terra cotta pots make the rotation to eventually. While I'm writing, I'm sitting in a chair near it and watching, and there are a few leaves that as I lift my head to check on it, are beginning to reach toward the sun. There is hope.

The light is coming in the windows full force now, thick and golden, the light of the end of winter, the beginning of spring. It seems easy...the answers are there. Light, water, pruning, larger pots when needed. It's not as if I'm unaware of what they need. I'm watching these two plants, one brightening now with the warmth of the light, the other still broken and drooping. I knew what it needed, but the mistake was made. I didn't nurture it, or notice it's needs. It began to droop and wither and die. It's hurting because of me, because of my misstep, my lack of attentiveness.

Goodness, I really love them. I truly do. So why did I glance over and find that their death was imminent? Weren't there signs? Shouldn't something I claim to love so deeply, something that makes me so happy, be not just noted or glanced at, but fully invested in and taken care of? Shouldn't I be working towards thriving, not just surviving?

A Strange Sort of Perfect

You all may have noted my lack of consistency in writing here on this online journal...well, ever, although last month I wrote a staggering four entries - quite possibly the most I've ever written in one stretch of measured time. It's not for lack of wanting to write, in fact, I have a fairly constant stream of thoughts that move through my head, and I can see the words formulating on the page...err, screen, as pieces come together in blocks and bits.

This space has always been a strange one to tend to, it takes time to locate where the laptop ended up - it's not something regularly accessed by me - and then to be certain that the elements to write are just so. I prefer to write in the early morning with coffee or late in the evening with a glass of wine or splash of bourbon, and there mustn't be distractions, the music must be on, the house clean, and so forth. I'm working on this, this need for the ideal circumstances in order to create in any regard - it's an odd sort of perfectionism that can be completely debilitating to my creativity, which is undoubtedly, endlessly frustrating to someone who needs to create in some form, daily, to feel and process life itself. Until then, I will likely only post when the pieces are just so, although today they aren't so much but I needed to write.

Today I've eaten - a colorful brunch mash of smoked salmon, a poached egg, pickled beets, spinach and kale, almonds, capers, parmesan - and managed to brew a cup of coffee in a quiet kitchen, yet the kitchen is vastly unfinished...we've been working on it, and the wall that housed old, flaking cabinetry is being patched, and the cabinet doors need to be reattached and the tile isn't even bought. I am sick, again, this time with a cold that makes my head feel fuzzy, Adelaide vomited in the kitchen on her way to the bathroom that is down the long hallway of our shotgun house, and Ellen's gone at work, her first day teaching at a low-income, high-risk elementary school downtown. I've not brushed my teeth or had a shower, but my daughter is sleeping and maybe this is the moment that I have...so I'm writing, even when the elements are so perfectly imperfect, but it's been nearly a month since my last entry and so much has happened.

We bought an Airstream last week, the same model we had before - just twenty years newer than the last. I'm brimming with excitement over the possibility and though we likely won't get to work on her for another couple weeks as we settle into yet another change and finish our kitchen, I find myself dreaming of design as I shower, or as the kettle is coming to a boil, or as I begin to drift off to sleep. I walked back to where we've parked her yesterday evening, as the sun was setting, to see her dusted with snow and to remind her - to remind myself - that we will take care of her soon, that soon I can throw myself into this project, to work hard again. I'm ready to physically exhaust myself, to work until my fingers are raw and sore, to see the efforts written all over my body...the tone and the glow that no amount of time at the gym gives me, because the gym doesn't exhilarate me like this kind of work does. I am becoming acutely aware of how passionately I feel about renovating old spaces, particularly Airstreams - how never before in life did I throw myself into work. The prospect of taking something forgotten or neglected and transforming it into a space that isn't only functional and beautiful - but makes you feel something - is what I want to do with my life. To have the ability to haul it around and travel with it is just an added bonus.

I am reading lately - in keeping with my resolutions, which I shared in my last post, I've purchased eight books of various genres. I'm attempting to read slowly, to not rush through any of the pages, which is especially difficult for me, my reading pace has always been exceptionally fast and when I love a book, I cannot seem to put it down and can read three-hundred pages in just a few hours. Yet there's something nice about making myself stop, return the book to the shelf, and digest it all before returning. There is a detailed list at the bottom of this post, along with links, to the books I am currently reading.

It feels good to be working toward the goals I set at the beginning of this year, even if they are small steps. It's only February tenth and we've purchased an Airstream and the books, and I'm attempting to care less about sharing perfect visual moments and instead take photos that mean something to me - sharing the real bits of life - grainy or unfocused or unfinished or messy. I spend time sketching or designing nearly every day now, even on the busiest of days I still carve out a few moments to even just browse favorite sites or Pinterest to get inspired, or to listen to a record and let my mind drift and wander. I'm working though, working and evolving and attempting, even in the face of daily life and it's shit, and that just feels damn good.

And now I'm recognizing that this post is just a whirl of word vomit, but at least I wrote, yes? More to come - at some point or another.

Images:

Coffee the morning of this post, in our unfinished but already beautiful and far more functional kitchen.

Our new Airstream in our backyard, which has a lovely story behind it. Can't wait to share more.

Sketching from a photograph for Adelaide in the fading evening sun, she loves to watch me draw.

Adelaide standing at the back window, watching for Ellen to come home from work. My new favorite photograph.

Morning light in our living room, hot coffee, some of the books I purchased and one old, given to me by my late grandfather, a man I miss daily. I love this reminder of him and his encouragement to keep learning, always.

Reading list: 

When Breath Becomes Air / Paul Kalinithi

Simple Matters / Erin Boyle

Felicity and A Thousand Mornings / Mary Oliver

The Complete Stories / Flannery O'Conner

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M. Ed. & Lisa M. Ross

The Goldfinch / Donna Tartt

Georgia O' Keefe: A Life / Roxana Robinson

This Morning

It is snowing, fat flakes in that strange and swirly dance, and I wonder what makes the visual of snowfall so appealing to the eye. I am listening to Joni Mitchell, not ironically or to win popularity points, but because I have a running list of artists I dip into when bored and needing to listen to something new. For me, Joni Mitchell is new.

My coffee tastes strange, and I realize it was the onions from breakfast that are interfering with the taste, the fried onions over eggs with a salsa I made two days ago, a mash of what we had on hand.

I am coughing, wheezing. It's been a week now, a week of sickness. I am hardly complaining - I'm rarely ill. I keep remarking on how odd I feel, this foreign feeling of being weak and defeated by my own body.

I am thinking about purpose, travel, contentment, and goals. I am reading and re-reading the page I wrote, in my clearest cursive so I could read the words easily, of the things I want to do in the coming year, because I don't shrug off resolutions and goals as silliness, I believe they matter and keep me working, trying, on the cusp of my own version of greatness and purpose. To have none means I have given up.

I am making lists, lists of books that teach me something, anything. I am taking suggestions, feel free to leave anything in the comments section below.

My wife and I took up a table for a few hours yesterday, at the busiest brunch place in our neighborhood, on a Sunday morning, talking - no small feat for two easily distracted humans - about my desire to take some time away from social media, and our summer travels, and then we were just talking, talking about all of the things we haven't said one word about to one another yet, about what we did and what we want and then she was crying and I was fighting the little pricks of water threatening to tumble, and we knew, at once, what we needed to do and where we go from here, even if we don't yet know how.

I am trying to decipher myself, convincing myself it is okay to still be evolving - to not know yet, even though societal pressure is strong and unwavering.

I am still sad. My wife is sad, our daughter is sad. BUT - we are working on changing that, not giving up what we want and seeking to satisfy our traveling souls.

Above:

  • Explore the East Coast. Make it to Maine and maybe even Prince Edward Island. Spend the summer in a new Airstream. Read the books that speak to my soul and teach me things I need to learn. Find my voice and write. Take photographs that mean something. Embrace my realities. Enjoy motherhood with fullness. Love my wife with abandon. Take note of all the little moments that make up the whole. Know myself and all I need - ignore the naysayers and feel fully alive. Create daily - write, take photographs, draw. Pursue dreams, passions, and work hard. Print my work. Start a shop with my beautiful wife. Love my friends - invest in them. Continue the path to healing, health, and overall wellness. Embrace it all.
  • The happiest I've ever been - standing on this beach at sunset, dirty, wild, free.

 

BEND

birch_and_pine_british_columbia_goldpan_travelIf I am left alone for any length of time, I fall apart. I don't know how it happened...but the road got ahold of my heart, my soul, my everything. My days have turned to mush, these slippery messes of minutes and hours where I'm doing things. Making quick work of our tiny kitchen after meals because we've had the practice, wiping out the toothpaste in the bathroom sink, walking load after load of laundry up and down the stairs, writing out my goals for the coming year and working, bit by bit, on them. Yet there is no purpose in any of it. I feel nothing. The same tasks, albeit differently accomplished, while out on the road gave me purpose, made me feel strangely alive. I'm questioning everything - why rooms must have certain elements to make them rooms, why we feel that we are successful based on our money, our accomplishments, our creative endeavors, our following, how 930 square feet can feel too big, if the world exists outside this living room window of mine, or if it has disappeared now that I cannot be out in it.

I break down when I hear the songs we played on the stretches of road to and from Alaska, yet sometimes I put them on just so I can cry for what is lost. I didn't think I wanted it...yet all I know is the road now, what it can give me, teach me, and show me. I am trying to bend, trying to see the good, find some sort of opportunity in where we are, but my heart is elsewhere, and the longing for what was deepens and strengthens every second. I am heartbroken, like I lost the love of my life to the harshest death.

I am remembering so much now, the scent of Peter and Kate's home in Portland, the balmy eve on their porch drinking wine and talking into the darkness, singing in the rain with Dan and Ellen - we were hardly practiced, but it didn't matter. We were in Alaska, surrounded by the sea, the mountains, the glaciers and their tumbling waterfalls. The night where we gathered in Oregon and made paella over the fire and drank and rejoiced our good fortune as travelers, the way the air felt walking along the boardwalk in Astoria, or the blissful warmth of the ocean at summer's end, naked babies running in the waves with me.

Listen here and here - the songs from the road to Alaska, the songs that played again and again and never grew old as we drove alongside the beauty you can't fathom, even when presented to you.