Ode to My Wife: Cool Music Purse -un 29
This entry was posted on December 19, 2015.
Artsy American Gifts for Music Lovers
Cool Music Purse -uns, Steve Morley and his wife, are both our number 29 because Steve commissioned wearable music art from Violettes by Becky as a Xmas gift for his wife; and a woman who plays trumpet is obviously "cool". So I asked this thoughtful husband to write an Ode to His Wife for our cool person blog series. HERE IT IS from Steve about his wife, Brenda------
I'm sure most everyone views his or her spouse as a unique individual. Not to take anything away from any of them, but my wife, Brenda, is—in my opinion, at least—particularly unique. Her interests and pursuits include farming, raising small livestock and gardening; health and nutrition; painting in pastels and oils; and playing the pennywhistle, trumpet and flugelhorn. Take my word for it: she's good at all of them, from painting “plein air” scenes of the outdoors she so loves and breeding top-notch Shetland sheep, Cashmere goats and French angora rabbits (whose wool she shears, cards and spins into fine yarn) to researching and preparing high-quality, nutrition-rich food and playing trumpet and flugelhorn in a local church orchestra and a 30-piece brass band. In the past few years, though, playing her horns has taken on special significance.
Brenda's grandfather was a professional artist and illustrator, and between her exposure to his work and her own natural aptitude for art, she developed into an artist of considerable skill. Once her daughter went off to college, she determined to take art more seriously, and in the decade or so since then, she's developed into a fine pastel and oil painter. While art has been a constant in her adult life, Brenda had a passion for the trumpet from a young age and, through her college years, she ate, slept and breathed (well, duh) the wind instrument. Adult life, as it turned out, would take her in a different direction, away from the upstate western New York dairy farm where she grew up, and away from the trumpet for many years. Finding, and developing, her voice on the horn again is a full-circle occurrence, which is a large part of why it means as much to her as it does. Every spare minute she has (and with all her pursuits, spare minutes aren't always that plentiful), she's in the small room at the back of the modest but cozy farmhouse we live in, doing trumpet warm-ups and exercises, or even just prepping for practice by "buzzing" into her mouthpiece for a minute or two; I've learned to quickly recognize this odd, vibrating sound, which initially would prick my ears up as though a giant mutant insect had gotten loose in the house, sending me on a momentary mental search for a much larger fly swatter than we actually own.
Life on a working farm is serious business, and having grown up on one forged a seriousness in my wife as a girl and, later, an adolescent who had to complete her farm chores before she could get back to her waiting trumpet. She's a hard worker, not afraid of hefting a sledgehammer to pound a fence post into the ground or reach inside a ewe who's having trouble giving birth. It's her choice to operate our small non-commercial farm, which she does out of a deep commitment to raising high-quality food and living in as natural a manner as possible. (See below for more on this.) She's equally serious about her horn playing, approaching it with the same discipline that takes her outside twice a day to feed and care for her flock, facing sweltering heat in the Tennessee summers and rain, ice and snow in the wintertime. The payoff is perhaps bigger, and more personal, when it comes to the horn: she's now a private student of a top L.A. studio trumpeter, a member of the Brass Band of Nashville and plays weekly with the praise orchestra at a church south of downtown Nashville. She's about to make her debut with a local pop/rock party band, something she's never done before. As a former pro musician myself, coming from a rock background, that tickles me to no end. Compared to her nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, it's easy for me to feel like a sloth. That probably doesn't tickle me all that much . . . but it doesn't stop me from being very proud of her.
When it came to finding a special Christmas gift this year, finding something related to the trumpet was a no-brainer. Finding out about Violettes by Becky this past fall was a streak of amazing luck. While Becky’s inventory didn't include any horn-themed products, I had a hunch she would know just what to do, and that hunch proved correct. She offered several creative possibilities and carefully considered my feedback on them. We arrived at a design idea for an elegant and yet playful trumpet-adorned purse that Becky executed beautifully, investing not just skill and creativity but real passion and heart into the final product. At 57, I still have some of that kid-like excitement about Christmas, but this year I'm more excited about the custom-made purse I'll be giving to my wife than I am about anything that will be setting under the tree with my name affixed to it.
Thanks a million, Becky, for being a part of what I'm sure will be a memorable Christmas in our home. And to my wife—Merry Christmas with lots of love!
1. Violettes: I myself am a "foodie" and gourmet cook so I like to hear more about food and nutrition. I have met people so into health and nutrition that they only eat uncooked vegetables. Some people are adamant about getting interesting grains into their meals . . . What is her style of nutrition?
Steve: Brenda is very practical, and often finds herself with limited time for meal preparation, so she generally keeps things basic, but tasty. She focuses on the most important food groups for health and nutrition —protein, vegetables (typically garden-grown or organic) and healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, coconut oil and quality real butter). She raises a significant portion of our meat—lamb, goat, rabbit, duck, chicken—to be confident about what’s gone into the animal and certain it was healthy, happy and humanely treated. We supplement with grass-fed, organic beef and sausage from the Farmers’ Market. It’s pricey but we figure it’s an investment in our long-range health. Fish is served less often, and effort is taken to buy wild-caught salmon or types of fish less likely to be mercury-contaminated. We also get our own free-range eggs, and those are a staple food item. She is keen on avoiding refined sugar (as well as any kind of processed foods), so she will sometimes make a fruit cobbler or pumpkin pie using agave syrup and turbinado sugar in limited amounts, and making the crust with combinations of non-wheat-based flour. We don’t avoid wheat altogether, but try to limit it. We sweeten drinks, cereal, etc., with stevia and good honey most of the time.
2. Violettes: Farming and gardening can be labor-intensive; does she have time to cook, too? What are typical dishes or favorite dishes that she makes for dinner?
Steve: During gardening season, Brenda is often extra-busy, though the farm—not counting maintenance—isn’t extremely time-consuming on a daily basis. It’s the combination of farm work, upkeep and meal preparation along with her other pursuits that creates her time constraints. Salad is a staple (using a base of shredded cabbage and carrots, perhaps kale or parsley when lettuce and spinach are out of season); we will sometimes have potatoes or pasta (sometimes gluten-free, sometimes buckwheat, sometimes regular), but more often she will go easy on carbs, especially simple carbs that bump your glucose levels up too quickly and too high. We’ll have brown or black rice, a mixture of quinoa and millet, or maybe buckwheat. Brenda likes to make soups and stews year-round, and makes a thick, yellow split pea soup that’s great over any of the grains/grain substitutes mentioned above. She likes to make roasted vegetables, which include chunks of white and sweet potatoes, onions and brussels sprouts tossed into a pan with oil and seasonings. One of her special dishes and a family favorite is Duck Paprika, which has a flavorful sauce that I think includes curry. Her homemade spaghetti sauce is excellent, using tomatoes she’s grown and canned. She’s creative about using whatever’s on hand, again an outcome of time limitations and the desire for simplicity. She’s not hugely into cooking most of the time, but she is hugely into eating healthy and usually simply, so that is what drives our menus. It might be salmon patties, meatloaf burgers or simple baked rabbit or chicken with side dishes, or perhaps a one-dish meal like a stir-fry over rice. When the time and inspiration are available, she’ll experiment with things like black bean brownies, coconut-cacao squares or crackers made from almond flour and seeds. When milk and eggs are especially plentiful and need to be used, I might get surprised with a batch of pudding—always certain to bring a big smile. Our way of eating may often be simple, but it’s rarely boring.