Why Work Parties Make The Best Reunions

I haven’t attended a college reunion since my 10th, way back in…never mind…but the main memory I have of that time is of painting a house in Dorchester, Mass. No drama, just good, wholesome fun—and a wonderful chance to reconnect with folks while doing something more constructive than drinking.

Back when the Mate and I lived in North Carolina in the 1980s, we were building a New Hampshire-style timber-frame barn together in our spare time. Well, he was project manager; I was definitely unskilled labor at the time. But boy, could I organize a work party! They were always potlucks, always featuring a cookie we came to call “barn bars,” and always well attended by folks who didn’t have enough manual labor in their lives…or maybe did, but doing someone else’s, in a festive atmosphere, was a whole different, fun animal.

We grew so fond of “barn bars” that I made them into our wedding cake. Here’s the 25th Anniversary version.

Last summer our cousins in Vermont, who are young parents, were struggling a bit to run their farm, take care of their kiddos, and make some headway on the little house they were trying to restore in order to move out of the family-owned (and often occupied) farmhouse. The Mate proposed a work party to get their home at least roofed in for the winter. Sons One and Two were in the neighborhood, and they joined in, with other cousins and friends. They worked for a week and had a BLAST.

The Mate in his element

Since this was in August, I couldn’t get away from the bakery, but I pouted and plotted from afar…

…so this year? Vermont Family Work Party II is NOW. Which is why I won’t be blogging for a little while. But don’t worry; that cyber-silence you hear will be punctuated with ringing hammers.

(Who am I kidding? With my skill set, I’ll most likely end up as Crew Chef.) 

What do work parties need at the end of a long day? PIE! (And maybe some barn bars too.)

But I’m still bringing my work gloves just in case.

Work parties. Have you been to one? Have you held one? If so, please share. If not–what are you waiting for?

Got Weeds? Pull a Modern Tom Sawyer: Try Garden Fairies

The Garden Fairies are back. 

I blogged about this a year ago, but it’s that season again. So for all of y’all who didn’t know Wing’s World in 2013, let me paint a quick picture.

My friend Susie has a HUGE, GINORMOUS garden. It’s actually a labyrinth whose winding paths enclose multiple circles of beautiful flowers and healing herbs. But the garden fairies are really only interested in the growing things, not the shape of their beds.


Like any gardener at this time of year, Susie struggles to keep her flowers one step ahead of the weeds. Like any gardener, Susie wishes she could find someone to help her with this endless-seeming chore.

But Susie is smarter than most gardeners, including myself. Susie doesn’t ask for “helpers” to “weed.” Susie invites “garden fairies” to a “garden fairy party.” Where we weed.

How brilliant is that? What woman doesn’t want to be a fairy, at least for a couple of hours?


We weed, we talk, we feel good about ourselves, and then we have a potluck lunch. (These fairies need more than nectar, ok?)

Last year, after a few Garden Fairy Parties, I decided our fairy wings needed to be more than imaginary. So I got us some.

Gretchen fairy


Hey, we’re not just doing grunt work here. We’re FAIRIES!


OK, truth be told, we don’t actually don our wings every time. They’re kind of a pain to pin on, turns out. But…we feel ’em anyway.


So think about it. Tom Sawyer made whitewashing a fence seem like the most fun a boy could have in the world. Susie makes weeding into a fanciful party. What sneaky crafty technique could YOU use to lure invite your friends into doing your humdrum work for with you?