Sunday, January 27, 2013

New York City

From about middle school onward, I was an artist. I would stay for hours in my bedroom, painting and drawing~listening to The Beatles on my record player (how about some Paperback Writer!?)~ and thinking about a life in New York City.
Tomorrow I will take my first trip. Its been a long time coming, just ask anyone who knows me well. I'm overly annoying about the topic.
The blog will be quiet this week~ no computer going on the trip...hence no post updates. But you know what I'd love? I'd love hearing your suggestions, your ideas, and your tour guide tips of what to do in the city that never sleeps. I won't have much time shuttling between meetings, but in that little time I do have~ I intend to make the most of it.
Central Park~ Photo can be purchased here
(**Dear Mom...Don't worry. I won't take a jog in Central Park at dusk. And please refrain from watching any crime scene shows next week that take place in NYC. Love~ Your Daughter)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Morning Goodness



Lots of coffee in my favorite mug after a whirlwind and glorious weekend road trip with girlfriends.
Finding a stash of hidden suckers behind our antique Biblical dude in the hallway.
Making a pot of Canaan's favorite soup.
Listening to Keith Whitley croon what 'Old Mr. Webster Could Never Define...'
Monday's are the best.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Part Two; Gumption

In 4th grade, my teacher announced that the class would be hosting an entrepreneurial fair. Each student was to thoughtfully plan out a carnival game to launch as their business and a plan to make it a success. The other 4th grade classes would then visit our carnival (with spare change in hand) and the game that drew in the most money would win. Not bad for public school, eh?
My mom, a mortgage lender and an incredibly smart businesswoman, helped me sift through tons of ideas and work the numbers until we finally landed on an ultra simple, yet genius carnival game idea. When I presented my idea in front of the class (part of the process leading up to the event), there were snickers. Other students had plans of constructing elaborate dunking machines, skee ball apparatus' and flashy ways to attract fellow peers to their booth. My pitch was a simple one. Fill a large bowl full of water, drop in floating bobbers with black dots drawn on the bottom of a select few and set another bowl of candy and prizes nearby. Each kid would pay a quarter for the chance to win a prize. The win was simply picking the bobber with the black dot. The classroom actually felt kind of bad for me after I gave my presentation. So much so that I was given the first booth space as students walked in the room. I didn't complain.
The morning of the fair, I watched as everyone pulled together their stations. Lots of frustrations, missing pieces, non-functioning machines, parental assistance and even a few tears. I sat quietly by my bowl of water and waited.
I think you might know how this story ends. My little fishing bobber booth? It won. By a landslide. Even though other games were charging double or triple what I was, mine still came in first. A shock to everyone...including me.

Why do I share that story? Well, who wouldn't want to brag about winning a 4th grade entrepreneurial fair? But beyond bragging rights, that experience was my first in the world of business and its vivid lessons have helped shape my view on basic principles like~ how to turn a little into a lot, how to work smarter not harder and how to make the simplest idea a successful one.
Those same principles have helped carry our family through over a decade of financial slim pickings. Full time missions work, a young family with student loans and overdue bills, and more recently the extended two year layoff.
So many of you sent me emails, private Facebook messages and cards regarding the Part 1 post a few days ago. I am so honored that I get to share in life with you and that you take the time to share yours. So many are struggling in various areas of life and I could relate to so much of what was said in those notes.
I wanted to follow up that post with some thoughts on gumption.

Noun

gumption

  1. Energy of mind and body, enthusiasm. 
  2. Boldness of enterprise; initiative; guts; spunk; initiative.

Gumption, seriously will get you through some tough stuff.  I highly recommend it. Actually, scratch that. I find it essential for taking a bad situation and turning it around for good, for putting one step in front of the other when all you want to do is stop and for rediscovering purpose and passion in life when each day seems to throw nothing but obstacles, hardships and frustration.
When I look back on the past two years, I am utterly amazed at what we, as a family, have accomplished. You know that saying, "it takes money to make money?" I disagree. If that were true, we'd be in a world of hurt right now. In my opinion and experience, it takes gumption to make money. It take ingenuity to make money. It takes focus, determination, tenacity, resourcefulness and thinking outside-the-box to make money. It takes a belief in your ideas and instincts and above all else it takes guts to move from an idea towards action. There is no room for fear or doubt....but it will come. And when it does, you still move forward.
And there's no room for excuses. I possess only a high school diploma. Years ago I even had one teacher tell me she thought I was mentally "slow" (not kidding.) Rise above it....whatever it is.
I wanted to share our journey in photographs. Each one of these endeavors has had its share of fears, risk and reward. The biggest one to date is in the pipeline and I want to share that with you soon.
If you have a dream, a hope, a desire for your life, get it down on paper. Start flushing it out and see if its a possibility. Actually, you know what? Even on paper it may not seem like a possibility but don't let that deter you. Test the waters, knock on doors and see if they open for you. You might be surprised.
Whatever you do, wake up each day with gumption. Even if you are reading this in a chaise lounge on your own private island with cabana boys waving palm fronds beside you~ you still need to nurture that energy of mind and body~ that enthusiasm and boldness of enterprise. A gumption mindset is the spice of life here on Earth. Purpose and passion....go get 'em tiger.


You can read about our beloved bakery, The Homestead, here . We opened it, just a few short months after the layoff began, without borrowing anything~ truly a case of ingenuity overload. The Homestead definitely scratched that itch Mike and I had since our dating days of owning a coffee shop. We loved it and we loved that a couple decided to come along and buy it just five months after opening and make it their own.

Art of Homemaking continues to grow and new opportunities open up everyday to share with readers nationwide via newspaper, magazine and web the creative and beautiful ways to make a house a home.  


The evolution of Canaan's business has been astounding. This picture, taken in 2009, was the first company photo. I love looking back on the journey~ you can read about that here. Tomorrow he and I will both speak at a roundtable luncheon sponsored by Women Leading Kentucky. He also recently spoke on a panel at a statewide Philanthropy summit. Proud, proud mama.




This is the next chapter...talk about pushing through fear. The end result? Who knows. But the journey is absolutely incredible...

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Monday, January 14, 2013

The Perfect 'Little Shoppe'








The pig...he's my favorite. In fact, he was the one non negotiable that just had to make it out of the shop and into my car for the drive home. Who can have a bad day when seeing a porcelain piggy bank on top of the espresso machine each morning?

This post isn't the first time I've talked about my favorite shop~ tucked deep in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky. Delana's Little Shoppe is literally a little slice of heaven on earth. I was a lucky girl this time around because Delana kept the lights on for me on a recent weekend road trip.

I really wish I could just bring my sleeping bag and settle in for a few hours on the floor~ digging through buckets of old buttons and notions, perusing stacks of old magazines and cookbooks, trying on piles of costume jewelry, and moving through mounds of old plates, bowls and knick knacks.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure Delana would be up for a shop sleepover, so I try to cram as much treasure hunting in as I can when I am afforded the opportunity to stop by.

I drove off with a bag full of goodies~ a Christmas gift from my dear mother-in-law. I have my eye on a few more things that wouldn't fit in the back of a Subaru....in fact, my fingers are crossed that the big, rustic green hutch sticks around that shop for just a few more months~

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Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Homemade Beef Stock


We have a freezer in the garage. Its purpose? To house stock. I love to make homemade stock. Vegetable stock, turkey and chicken are the usual suspects. Honestly, the idea of homemade beef stock was a bit overwhelming to me, so for years I have avoided it completely. Do you have kitchen fears like that?



...until recently. My yearning for French Onion Soup was enough to finally send me on an investigative quest to see just how feasible making a batch of homemade beef stock would be. My findings? Incredibly easy. The result? Delicious. The work load? Light. The price point? Worth it.

You can read the article I wrote about it here~ Making beef stock is accomplished with a variety of methods...I chose the easiest. And again, the easiest seemed to produce perfect results for that rich, full bodied bowl of soup I was hoping for.




Homemade Beef Stock

• 4 – 5 pounds meaty beef stock bones (with lots of marrow)
• Olive oil
• 1 – 2 medium onions quartered
• 4 – 5 carrots cut into large chunks
• 4 – 5 celery stalks with tops
(optional ingredients could include; garlic, parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Rub a little olive oil over the bones, carrots and onions. Place in a large, shallow roasting pan. Roast in oven for about 45 minutes, turning the bones half-way through cooking until nicely browned.
2. Once browned, place bones and vegetables in a large (12 to 16 quart) stock pot. Place the roasting pan on the stove-top on low heat, pour 1/2 cup to a cup of hot water over the pan and use a spatula to scrape up all of the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour the browned bits and water into the stock pot.
3. Fill the stock pot with cold water – 1 to 2 inches over the top of the bones. Put the heat on high and bring the pot to a low simmer and then reduce the heat to low, with the stock at a bare simmer. Cover the pot loosely and let simmer for 3 – 6 hours. Do not stir the stock while cooking. Stirring will mix the fats in with the stock, clouding up the stock.
4. As the stock cooks, fat will be released from the bone marrow and rise to the top. From time to time, check in on the stock and use a large metal spoon to scoop away the fat and any scum that rises to the surface.
5. After cooking, use tongs or a slotted spoon to gently remove the bones and vegetables from the pot. Line another large pot (8-quart) with a fine mesh sieve, covered with a couple layers of cheesecloth if you have it. Pour the stock through the sieve to strain it. Let cool to room temperature then chill in the refrigerator.
Once the stock has chilled, any fat remaining will have risen to the top and solidified. The fat forms a protective layer against bacteria while the stock is in the refrigerator. If you plan to freeze the stock, however, remove and discard the fat. Leave an inch head room from the top of the stock to the top of the jar, so that as the stock freezes and expands, it will not break the container. (Makes about four quarts)





Friday, January 04, 2013

Time To Catch You Up....Part 1



So...its time to catch you, my precious and faithful blog readers, up on life here at The Smith Homestead. Many of you have emailed, Facebook messaged and commented asking how things are~ so lets get caught up, shall we? Go pour a cup of hot tea. I've got mine right here. Oh...and don't forget a quilt. Its rather chilly out today.

If you've followed this blog for any real length of time (years, not months), you know that two years ago we were given the news that Mike had been laid off from his job right at the holidays. Pretty big blow for this family of 5. We literally returned the gifts from under the tree and immediately buckled down. There was no severance, no warning, no job waiting in the wings and only limited savings to count on. Since Mike was in the top 5% in his company, we optimistically anticipated he'd find another job in his field quickly. Not so.

Days turned into weeks, turned into months...turned into years. There were some really amazing things that happened during those two years. We opened a bakery on $2000...we'd always wanted to do that. We sold that bakery for profit 5 months later...which was a miracle and a blessing. Our son's marshmallow company was featured on The Suze Orman Show TWICE....amazing. We were incredibly humbled and amazed at the outpouring of love on our family during that time. Really....it was staggering to realize how much people love and care for and take care of others in time of struggle or need (even if not vocalized). It was the first time we truly needed to be the recipients of such generosity which was a big life lesson in and of itself.

With the amazing stuff ~ there was plenty of heartbreak, disappointment and frustration. I don't want to get too caught up on this part...but also sitting here, enjoying a cup of tea with you, I want to be candid. Because undoubtedly there are others of you facing some very stressful and hard times. Maybe physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually....whatever the case~ these times can't merely be brushed away with a smile and a cheery motivational quote from Pinterest. Nope. These times of long, deep valleys are downright horrible. Stinky. Crappy. Wretched. _____ (insert your own word here).

I can't speak for Mike, I can only share my own journey through the past two years.

The journey of watching my husband lose faith in himself as a provider for his family, lose confidence as a businessman, lose heart, lose hope, lose courage, lose energy, motivation and stamina to keep fighting the good fight. The journey of feeling utterly hopeless and helpless to do anything about that knowing he was on his own journey~ and needed to dig deep to find his way through that dark tunnel. 

The journey of feeling the deepest level of disappointment in unanswered prayers and not knowing what to do with those feelings.

The journey of recognizing on the deepest level my shortcomings (there are many) but also my strengths.
The strength of determination, drive, resolve and grit I have to make SOMETHING...ANYTHING work in our favor each day kind of surprised me. Yet I had periods of near paralyzing fear, anger, frustration and discouragement that would creep up often and I would beat myself up for not being "further along" emotionally. 


I am a big picture kind of gal. Always have been. I have a healthy dose of perspective, try not to get too caught up in the details and keep a pretty level head. It has served me well through some really hard times in life but even with all the doses of perspective one can muster~ at some point, two years of stress and anxiety worrying about where the money will come to pay the water bill will Wear.You.Out.

Hence the silence about this topic on the blog until now. Mike has landed a job. A great job, actually. Maybe even close to a perfect job for this season of life. He started a couple of months ago and you would think our first instinct would be to shout it from the rooftops! Post it on Facebook! Blog about it! Call everyone we know!
But that's not what we did.
We were actually surprised by our own reaction...or rather, lack of reaction. The job had come. Finally! But we just stared blankly at each other and quietly proceeded with life. I mentioned this odd response to a friend a few days later. I told her that it just felt weird sharing the news with everyone because we felt guilty that we weren't more excited. We didn't want to appear ungrateful (because we weren't)...we just weren't acting the way we imagined...and figured everyone else would imagine...we should act. Her response?
"Isn't it odd how these times go on for so long that there is just no energy left for joy at the end of them?" 
Yes.
That was it.
We had just been in a two year boxing match. The bell had rung. It was over. Our hand had been raised. We fought the good fight and came out on the other side.
But instead of celebrating, all we really wanted was an ice pack and a quiet corner to go recover and nurse our wounds. Because that fight was a doozy.

It seems the wounds are healing quickly. Stamina is returning....our hope is rising once again. But its a long road ahead back to "normal". Actually, I'm not sure what normal is anymore. There must be a new normal on the horizon. Both Mike and I are forever changed~ good and bad. I think my idyllic notions of life are a bit more realistic now (darn...I loved that idyllic life) but I also think I am so much more sensitive, empathetic, less judgmental and more aware of the struggles of man than I ever could have been without this journey. As a big picture kind of girl, I know that a two year layoff pales in comparison to what many journey through each day. We have friends and family truly struggling with life altering issues. We have traveled to some of the most destitute areas of the world and seen REAL poverty and financial struggle. I don't want for one minute you to think I pity myself in what we've just gone through. Not in the least. I am blessed. I know this. And I am grateful for each day~ whether the water bill gets paid or not.

(Not sure how many parts this will be. Lots to still share~ maybe next time we'll pour the coffee.)

*Thanks to my sweet friend Tina, owner of the amazing Vrai Photography, for taking that pic~

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