19 November 2013

A new home for Swooning Blue

Howdy folks.

As you might know, Trae and I are taking off for Europe soon, and we'll be posting lots of photos and stories from our trip. But before we go, I've decided to move the blog!

You can now find it at www.swooningblue.com. I'm testing out a new website host, so I appreciate your patience as I work out the kinks. Hopefully, this will be a better platform for us to share our travels with you. I'd love your feedback!

xx

Laura


04 November 2013

Quilting with Maura Grace Ambrose of Folk Fibers



This quilt pattern is called Log Cabin.

Life is happening so fast -- it's hard to keep track of it all. In the past month, I've gotten married, traveled to Portland, Maine, buried my grandparents on my mom's side, spent a fleeting day at Disney world (yup, I said Disneyworld), attended a quilting workshop in Austin, signed our house over to two (very lovely) renters for a year, moved into Trae's dad's place, and started two new work projects. Tomorrow, we will have been married one month. But before I go any further, I wanted to share this lovely experience in Austin last weekend. We learned how to dye fabric with indigo:


Our indigo-stained clothespins.
We learned how to piece together a Log Cabin Quilt:

Pinning the quilt together.
We learned about the lovely qualities of the Japanese sashiko thread:


And marveled at Maura's excellent handiwork on projects like this:

Maura made this flag and taught us how to bind the edges.
We stitched together our quilt top and marveled at the outcome:

Marveling at our handiwork.
Before getting to work quilting it by hand on a frame, where we talked and shared stories about our lives:


All thanks to this lovely lady who helped us understand how to do it:

Maura Grace Ambrose, at her Bernina sewing machine.

Maura is a very skilled quilt maker (check out her lovely work) and even more, a patient and charming teacher. I came away inspired and wanting very badly to begin a quilt of my own.  Trae and I are headed on our honeymoon in December (for three months!), so I think it will have to be a project that I start when we return.  In the meantime, I'll be dreaming of all the lovely patterns...like this one. Or this. Or these.




24 October 2013

Texas...and beyond.

East of Waco, Texas

It's been a road trip week . Make that month. From Tennessee to Georgia to Maine to Florida, now straight across the country to Texas. I woke up in Shreveport and I'm going to sleep in Austin. And I'm here to do this with this lady. More on that to come, but in the meantime, here are some pictures from the road this past month:

Crossing the causeway in Brunswick, Georgia.

Hilliard, in north Florida

Chattanooga

Leaves in Portland, Maine

Orlando, Florida

Crossing the Mississippi into Louisiana

Trae and I in Portland, Maine



14 October 2013

Dreaming of the country together





Well, friends, it's over. The wedding is over. And we are married! Trae and I keep smiling over those words: husband, wife. That's us! As his sister remarked, that ring looks mighty good on his left hand. Now, after the hoopla and excitement, after the celebrations and planning, I keep thinking about what it means. Marriage. Love. The long haul.

One thing that Trae and I do well together is dream. We have a lot to think about, a lot to look forward to. A lot to live for. And we're both dreaming about what's next for us. Both of us have worked a variety of jobs (although I think Trae's list far outnumbers mine -- some of his include: butcher, blacksmith, farmer, security guard, forester, teacher, office assistant, dishwasher...the list goes on) and we both want to get out of the city and start something new. The questions are: where, what.

So friends, we are dreaming. We are dreaming of a piece of land, we are dreaming of the food we will grow, the sounds we will hear when we wake up in the mornings. We are dreaming of the tools Trae will forge and the songs I will sing. We want to be in a place where "neighbor" could refer to a person three miles away whose company we treasure, instead of the stranger who lives on the other side of the hedgerow whose name we keep forgetting.

Trae and I both grew up in the country, and we are ready to return. We're not sure exactly where that will be (probably not too far from Chattanooga). We're not sure what we will do. But we are ready to go. Life is too short not to chase your dreams...



(Thanks to my Aunt Cathy for these photos!)


26 September 2013

Progress, escape. Nine more days.


Mom, on the boat to Cumberland

Wednesday, September 25. On the way down to Cumberland Island, nine days before the wedding. We're on I-75 south, stuck behind a flatbed tractor trailer hauling fertilizer and a slowpoke from Dade County. Mom's on the phone with the caterer, and I'm making a giant to-do list: arrange hay bails, buy bourbon, write vow. In between snippets of her conversation (You've got another table? Okay. If we put them outside...), mom's flashing her lights at the slow car.

Cumberland Island

Everything slows down when you get to the coast. That's why we're going for two nights. To slow down our brains. Step off the high speed wedding train for a minute and stretch our legs. Feel the ocean. Listen for birds.

Oh, we brought lots to do -- mom is sewing a dress she will wear to the wedding. I am handstitching 37 linen napkins for the rehearsal dinner. But these are slow tasks. Singing tasks. Island tasks.

The napkins I'm sewing for the rehearsal dinner.

(Photos via instagram. Find me @lvcandler.)



20 September 2013

Our wedding is two weeks away. These are my thoughts.

Trae on Cumberland, in May. We had gone for a hike out to the marsh. He proposed that afternoon.

Mom rang me up to talk numbers and napkins
and we are heading down to help this weekend again -
hang the lights and build a step and practice our waltzing one last time.

It's two weeks away, and I can't chase the thought that it's only one night.
Time knows one speed, our wedding or not, and though I wish there were some trick
to make time slow her tick, I know it will pass, just as quick as it ought.

And there is so much we'll say to all who attend
and there is so much we won't when the music begins.

Our eyes will buckdance, our hands will make bridges
and years will be pondered as we exchange glances.

The warmth of our breaths will build a church on that hill.
The people in rows, the sky holding back, the sun growing bigger,
Our bodies adorned with flowers and lace and years of learning
to love that one face. We'll do it. We'll wed.

But it's not about vows. It's hardly our night.
It's there for the feet that find that old barn -- the mouths that will eat
and the bodies that rest, after miles, and dancing, in our home, our beds.

For you there is ample. We've picked and dried grass
and put it in bottles and filled up your glass. There's a seat
at our table, a plate with your name. So eat! So dance! It's on us, at last.

I can't chase the thought. It's only one night.
Time cannot linger the day that we're wed.

It's a party, a feast, a dance, and a fire. And after it passes
a memory is all. The sun will rise and we'll rub our eyes.
And make our way home, humming, alive.

Cedar Point at sunset. From our trip to Cumberland in May.



12 September 2013

How Lee Calhoun became an expert on Southern Apples

Lee Calhoun in his garden, gathering peas in his shirt. His apple trees are trained to grow along wires in his back yard.



Lee Calhoun isn't a biology nerd. He's not a cider fanatic or a crazed apple collector. He's a polite  man who loves Japanese art, American history and gardening. Right now, he's got so many whippoorwill peas that it takes a couple shirt-loads to carry them all inside. He eats what he can and freezes the rest. Every Sunday morning, he makes biscuits from scratch and eats them with country ham.

It's the history buff in him that provoked him on a 35-year quest for southern apple trees. He retired from the army in 1976, and he and his wife, Edith, built a house near Pittsboro, North Carolina, with their own two hands. They cleared some of the woods in their back yard for a garden. And around that time, they met an elderly man who started telling them stories of all the old apple trees that used to grow where they lived, in Chatham County.

Calhoun was intrigued. He had wanted to grow some apples, so why not plant the old varieties?  He started looking for these old apple trees in the county, driving around on country roads and spotting trees from the car. He found all sorts of apples in peoples yards and pastures and old farms. He and Edith planted everything they could find in their back yard.

Lee still grafts apple trees. These are some he grafted last year. You can still see the masking tape on a few of them.

After they drove all the roads in Chatham County, they started looking in neighboring counties, and eventually in neighboring states. They'd often get a call from someone in Georgia or Virginia who remembered an old apple tree in their granny's back yard, and the Calhouns would drive hundreds of miles, just to get a cutting from a single tree. Lee has a great story about visiting a man who was skinning a muskrat on his porch when he drove up and who kept his hogs fed on doughnuts (Calhoun says they were the size of Volkswagen beetles, the biggest hogs he'd ever seen). He also met a man on his apple-hunt who drove a steam-powered tractor. This was in the 90s.

Edith and Lee researched every single apple they found. They went up to Beltsville, Maryland to the National Agriculture Library, 14 floors of old seed catalogs, farming data and paintings of plants commissioned by the USDA from the 1800s through early 1900s. They found so much information there that they moved into a hotel so they could research apples every day. It was a gold mine.

Lee Calhoun is 79 years old now. His wife, Edith, died in 2011.

Eventually, they found around 450 varieties of heirloom apple trees, although they uncovered records of nearly 2000 varieties. They planted everything they could find in their back yard and ran a nursery there for 16 years. They also wrote a book about the history of apples in the south, with detailed descriptions of every apple they found records of. It's called Old Southern Apples.

I visited Calhoun at his home in Pittsboro last week to learn more about his story, and I recorded our conversation and made a radio piece about him for North Carolina Public Radio.

What's left of Calhoun's orchard. He used to have 450 varieties. Many, like the two on the left, are gone now. In 1997, he gave his whole collection to a couple other orchards in North Carolina. All the varieties he found are being preserved.

Calhoun told me about all sorts of apples. He said a friend just sent him a package with an apple he found in Mississippi the size of a large grapefruit. It weighed two pounds! He eventually identified it as a Red Cauley.

Calhoun's yard is more sparse these days than it used to be. He's got a lot of labels hanging from his training wires that just mark bare dirt or a knotted old stump. But his Virginia Beauty is still producing. And his crab apples are ready to pick. He makes them into jam...and I'm assuming he might put that on his biscuits.

Lee's crab apple tree is looking good this year. He says he'll make them into jam.


I told him that I wanted to grow apple trees one day. He recommended I grow a Blacktwig. It's one of his favorites. And it's from Tennessee. Or possibly Arkansas. There are two origin stories for that one.

17 August 2013

old friends


You forget how well old friends know you. Friends you haven't spoken to in years. Friends you were close to at some pivotal moment. As teenagers. Young adults.


An old friend visited me yesterday. We were high school pals. And it's funny, you think sometimes that you will have to explain so much to each other after a long silence. You think you're going to have this distance, because you've become your adult self in an entirely different setting, with an entirely different group of friends and influences.




But then you see each other, and apart from filling in the timeline of what has happened and when, you forget that you're already so familiar. You witnessed each other become the deep down you. You had those teenage conversations about the world and your place in it. And no matter what has happened since, you still get each other.


I may not know how you take your coffee, or if you even drink coffee, but I know about your worries and fears, your hopes and dreams. What makes you come alive. I think it's rare and refreshing to re-meet someone you know so few superficial details about but know so well at heart.

It was nice to see you again.


24 July 2013

The Mystery of my Grandmother's Wedding Dress



My grandmother has another woman’s wedding dress in her closet, and it's completely on accident. We learned this fact together last month, in her home in Sharpsburg, Georgia. It all started with a request I made.

I’m getting married in less than three months. My fiance and I got engaged in May and set the date for October, about four and a half months out. Naturally, the first thing on my list was a dress. I made a couple appointments at different dress shops and went through the whole ordeal -- you tell a usually young, female attendant what your wedding day will be like and what styles you prefer; they select a dozen or so dresses and hang them up in your private dressing room; you try them on with the attendant’s help (this was always the funniest part to me -- they use those industrial strength metal clamps to pin the dress to your body, like stretching a canvas over a pickup bed). Up until then, it was all smiles and polite courtesies and oos and ahs and  “Oh, Cindy, you HAVE to see this one on her...” and lots of picture taking. But then they asked when the wedding was. And I told them October. And those smiles evaporated like steam.

Grandma, on her wedding day: June 12, 1954.

Grandma remembers picking her wedding dress out of a book. She was a freshman at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, 18 years old. Her mother, back in Rome, Georgia, sent her a catalog in the mail, and grandma (Betsy is her name) told her mother which ones she liked. When Betsy returned home, there was her dress, hanging up in her room. Her mother had ordered one for her while she was away. Betsy thought it was lovely.

24 May 2013

Last week...we got engaged.

I tend to romanticize a lot of things in life. But last week really was romantic. I keep thinking it's a big dream, but a look at these photos, and I know that all the happiness was real. It still is. Here's what happened, in words and pictures.

Saturday, May 11.
We set our alarms for 4:30 a.m. (Trae in Chattanooga, I in Chapel Hill) Trae called me at 4:40, asking me if I was up. It had been two weeks since we last saw each other, on my birthday. Now, we were both driving separately to Cumberland, to spend a week at the old house.

We met at the dock with a pound of shrimp and time to spare. The first day we went to the beach house and read books. I wore my bathing suit the entire day, even in the 7-hour car ride.


Sunday.
We went for a walk on the old road south of Table Point, under the tall pines. There's some sort of old road bed there - a trench running from the backside shore inland. We walked along it until the palmettos got too thick for us to follow it. We picked lots of ticks off each other. But once we stepped out of the woods onto the marsh, the breeze was wonderful.
Sunday afternoon.
We went to the north end, my favorite part of the island. I think Trae knows this. Walking around, it was low tide and the sand bar stretched out very far, making the Christmas Creek outlet narrow. Trae asked me to marry him. I said yes. He gave me a beautiful ring. Then, I took some photos, but they were all out of focus. I think I was too happy to concentrate.


Out of focus birds. Everything on my memory card of that afternoon on the beach is fuzzy. haha!











On the way back from the beach, we saw a snake track across the dunes:

 
The rest of the trip is kind of a blur. We did so much.

 
We spent lots of time fishing on the beach, and caught exactly one fish! We used it for bait to fish in the ocean and creek, but didn't catch anything else. Our worst luck yet!

 
One day we drove out to cedar point before sunset. It was such a beautiful time of day to be there. We saw bobcat tracks and watched the sun set from the tall dunes. Over the entire week, we saw two bobcats.

 


 And so many of our mornings on this porch with coffee and a stack of old magazines.

 
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