Friday, September 28, 2012

tiny visitor

Yesterday afternoon, I was in the family room, hanging wet laundry on the drying rack.  I glanced over and saw what looked like a tangle of thread on the carpet under the coffee table. 
There's always thread on the floor here. 
I went to the laundry room for more cloths and, when I came back, the thread had moved to the side of the love seat. 

This was a new one.  I walked closer to investigate the magical moving thread.

Clearly, I need a stronger contact prescription. 
You may be surprised to find out that I was less upset to find a lizard on my sofa than I would have been if it was a bug of the same size.  Lizards are a little cute, almost.  People keep them as pets.  Nobody gets their kid a millipede for Christmas. 

It wasn't difficult to get my new friend outside.  It was a bit harder to get him to let go of the orange cup, which he was clinging to as if his life depended on it.  I finally had to fling him off and send him sailing across the yard.  Not how I usually like to say goodbye to a guest, but he was uninvited. 
Is anyone else thrilled to pieces that it's Friday?  We have a busy weekend ahead, but it's a different kind of busy than the weekdays, so I don't mind.  Plus, busy with Steve is a thousand times better than busy apart.
I hope you're able to make the most of this last September weekend!  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Well, it's officially fall and you know what that means- soup.  Like for real, once a week, make any kind you want, soup.  In the summer, I try to limit my soup-making to about once a month and I only make soups that seem "summery".  It's an elaborate system I'm working with over here.
This week's soup is butternut squash, which I consider the ultimate fall soup.  It's basically like carving a pumpkin and then cooking it and blending it into soup.  Butternut squash soup is really easy to make and hardly requires any ingredients. 
First, cut a butternut squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds.  Put both pieces, cut sides up, in a shallow dish and roast in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. 
While you enjoy the sweet aroma of roasting squash, chop up an onion. 
Saute the onion in a little bit of butter or oil until it's tender.  Scoop the flesh out of the roasted squash pieces and add it to the onion.  Then pour in 4 cups of broth and 1/2 cup roasted nuts.
Let this mixture simmer over medium low heat for about 30 minutes.  Then transfer about 1/4 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour the smooth soup back into the lumpy soup and keep transferring out portions and blending them until all the soup is fairly smooth. 
Stir in 1 cup cream or milk and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Bring the soup almost to a boil, then remove from heat. 
As you can see, I haven't even gotten my soup bowls out for the season.  Our house is in a real state of transition right now- it looks like fall, but also like summer and furniture is being moved from room to room.  One of our goals for the upcoming weekend is to put things right and settle in a bit more.  I'm wishing for my sewing space to be finished, but also enjoying the process of finding just the right pieces and colors to make it perfect. 
Today I have my ironing board set up in front of the living room window.  The oak tree in the front yard has started to change from green to orange and I love being able to keep an eye on it while I work.  I'm working on some more throw pillows for the shop and hope to have them finished by next week!

Monday, September 24, 2012

they just keep growing

She was just as precious as I knew she'd be.  I love to study the face of a new baby and dream about what they will become.  So much promise in such a little package. 

It really does seem like just last week that this one was born, and now she's running around and yelling out "Uncle Steve!", just like her big sister. 

And her big sister, looking more and more like her mom every day, is now old enough to tell me things like "don't put too much brown sugar in Rose's oatmeal" and "do NOT use the overnight diapers".  If it came down to it, she could totally run that household. 

I love fall visits because the weather can't be beat.  The only thing better than a Saturday walk in the fall is a Saturday walk with friends in the fall. 

Leaving is the hardest part.  But every time I started to feel sad on the ride home, I reminded myself that I'd rather have wonderful friends to visit and miss than not to have them at all. 

My to-do list for the week is a mile long, but there is something about the crisp air that makes me feel like I can tackle anything!  

Friday, September 21, 2012

rice pudding

This week, I learned to make rice pudding.  It is a childhood favorite of Steve's, but I don't think I'd ever eaten it before.  We used a combination of his grandmother's recipe and one that was in my new cookbook and came up with something quite nice.  Here's how it goes-
Heat 2 1/3 cups whole milk in a heavy pot over medium high heat.  Stir in 2 tsp. vanilla and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon.  Keep stirring while the milk heats so you don't get a skin. 
When the milk is very steamy and close to boiling, turn the heat down to low and add 1/2 cup arborio rice (or any other risotto rice will do).  Cook and stir for about 30 minutes or until most of the milk has been absorbed by the rice. 

Meanwhile, toast some nuts (I like pecans or walnuts) in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes.  Chop the nuts and set aside. 

When your rice mixture is done cooking, stir in 1/4 cup sugar (any sugar will work- I used cane), 1/4 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup raisins. 

The mixture should be the consistency of thin pudding at this point.  Put a lid on your pot and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or until it's firmed up and cooled down a bit.  You want to eat it when it is just warm, not hot.  When it's ready, spoon it into bowls and top with the toasted nuts.  This recipe makes enough for 4 small servings. 

I'm excited to have a new dessert to add to my fall repertoire!  It is warm and creamy and the perfect thing on a cool evening. 
This weekend, we're headed up to visit our best friends and kiss some new baby cheeks.  Hope your weekend includes something sweet too!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

moon walk

We chased the moon around the neighborhood the other night.  I love walking in the fall.  There is nothing quite like the crisp air to make you feel healthy and alive. 
I think that I have an extra appreciation for my health in the fall because one year I missed it.  I got sick and stayed sick right on into winter and I remember how sad I was to watch my favorite season pass by outside the windows without me. 
So now I wake up some days and I'm just so excited to be climbing out of bed and getting dressed.  I'm excited that I can sew and take care of the house during the day.  And, at night when we walk, I'm so thankful for the energy to put one foot in front of the other.  It's easy to take for granted the fact that we live and move and breathe every day- like it's a given.  But it's not a given, it's a gift. 
This week has been....crazy.  I can't think of how else to describe it.  And yet, this morning I am making soup and doing laundry and preparing to sew more tote bags.  I'm comforted by the consistency of these things.  I'm thankful for the routine of stirring something on the stove- I know how to make soup. 
I'm also thankful that Steve has been taking lots of pictures with our new camera lens- I don't think I've taken one all week!  I did, however, get some pictures last weekend of our newest dessert obsession- stop by tomorrow and I'll share the recipe!

Monday, September 17, 2012

you can keep your swedish meatballs

We've taken two trips to Ikea in the past ten days.  I'm not proud of it, but there it is. 
After dog-earing the heck out of the Ikea catalog, we decided to brave the store last Saturday.  The lure of inexpensive, solid wood furniture won out yet again over reason and sanity. 
The place was mobbed, as usual.  We wove our way through and I kept a detailed list of what we wanted and it seemed like things were going pretty smoothly. 
We were ready to leave.  Last step- collect your items from the warehouse and marketplace.  We searched and searched and couldn't find what we were looking for.  I started to get hungry.  We'd be in there for hours!  I may have suggested abandoning the mission. 
But Steve, having a stronger spirit, pushed us onward.  We went back upstairs in search of anyone who could offer help.  We found a kind employee with a computer.  He looked up all the items for us. 
They were out of all but two items.  I was outraged.  Steve was pretty mad too, although I know he doesn't appear to be, but believe me- this is his mad face.  He's just so darn cheerful it's hard to tell. 
We picked up the two items and left the store, vowing to never return.  Morale was low.  I even suggested creating some sort of signed statement, swearing off Ikea for life.  We came home, threw away the catalog, and assembled our furniture. 
But here's the thing: when you are looking for shelves and a cabinet to match your new Ikea desk, your best option is actually going to be... wait for it... Ikea.  I know- it's shocking. 
After searching all week, desperately trying to find these items elsewhere, we gave up and headed back to Ikea.  This time, I checked online first to see if the items we wanted were in stock.  We went in with game faces on and came out, an hour later, relatively unscathed. 
The good news is that I am beyond thrilled with how my sewing space looks.  Tonight we're assembling the last of the furniture and then the big task of moving all my fabric begins!  

Friday, September 14, 2012

rosemary wreath

With the chill in the air this week, I've been thinking about decorating for fall.  I have a couple boxes in the attic, filled with ceramic pumpkins and pressed leaves, but it certainly feels too early for that.  I'm wearing a tank top this afternoon, for heaven's sake. 

So I cleared off the summer mantle and wandered from room to room, as usual, looking for items that made a nice grouping.  I settled on some large white magnolia branches and the gold candle holders that I made last December and let those two things set the tone. 

I found a gold charger, some books, and a framed hydrangea print.  The only problem with this particular group is that everything is pretty short.  I like to have at least one tall piece on the mantle to break up the large expanse of white, but I just couldn't find anything that would work.
I decided that a wreath would be perfect, but of course none of the ones that I actually owned would do.  Way too easy.  So this morning found me staring out the back door for wreath supply inspiration.  My eyes landed on the rosemary. 

I cut twelve long stalks of rosemary.  I didn't set out to cut twelve.  I just kept cutting until the bush started to look a little empty. 

I got the trusty garden twine out of the garage. 

This project would have probably been way easier with a wreath form or some floral wire, but I didn't have either and it turned out okay.  I took six of the stalks and laid them in a circle-type shape with the ends overlapping. 

Starting at the bottom, I tied the twine around two stalks, securing them together. 

Then I wrapped the twine around the rosemary, making sure to secure all the ends.  Once I finished the initial wreath shape, I bent it and stretched it a little bit to make it more circular.  When I was pretty happy with the shape, I added the other six stalks, right on top, and continued wrapping the whole thing with twine until all the pieces were included. 

I added a bow, also made with twine, and hung it on a tiny nail.  I think it looks just right and it also makes the family room smell great. 
I'm thrilled that the weekend is finally here!  We're hoping to make some more headway on my office redo, plus enjoy the fall air!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

crammed = cozy

We have been working on a pretty major project around here that involves redoing my sewing space.  It is moving along quite nicely and I can't wait to have pictures to show of the finished product!  Right now we have most of the furniture in place, but are still scouting out things for the walls. 
One of the happy surprises that has taken place as a result of all this reorganization is that our dining room has taken on a new look as well. 
Confession: I've never been crazy about the dining room. 

I feel terrible saying that.  Some people don't even have a dining room.  We even painted ours a lovely color last year.  But there it is- I'd almost always rather eat in the kitchen.  Since it's just the two of us, it makes sense to eat at the counter a lot of times.  But it doesn't really encourage lingering over meals and, if there's one thing I love, it's lingering over meals. 

But with the arrival of some new office furniture, we had to move a few things out of the living/sewing room, and they all got moved to the dining room.  And instead of looking crammed, it looks cozy.  We pretty much want to be in there all the time.  I never would have guessed that filling the room up was the trick.  I always thought we needed new chairs. 

This week, I've divided my time between moving into my new office space and posting lots of new items in the shop.  Have you seen the scarves yet?  There are six new patterns and I want to wear them all.  At the same time.  But it's going to have to get a bit colder before I try that.  I always love to know what someone other than myself thinks about fabrics I've chosen, so I'm super curious- which one is your favorite? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'd climb a mountain for you

We went hiking yesterday.  It was Steve's birthday activity of choice and the weather was perfect for it.  I'm not really what you'd call a "hiker", but I loved being with Steve, being outside, and the lovely views. 

We hiked Crowder's Mountain, which is about 45 minutes from here and the closest mountain to us.  I giggled when I saw it because, having grown up in the mountains, this one seemed pretty miniature.  However, it did not seem miniature when I was dragging myself up 367 steep steps at the top, so I guess we see who had the last laugh. 

I packed a picnic lunch and Steve couldn't believe it when I busted out the deviled eggs.  I guess he expected energy bars and trail mix (we did have trail mix), but hey- it's a hike, not hard time.  I see no reason not to eat civilized food, just because you're on top of a mountain.  I did not pack cloth napkins though, if you're wondering.

It was really fun to people-watch.  We saw lots of father-kids outings and decided that hikers have the best behaved dogs.  We took one trail to the top and a different one on the way down.  Both trail descriptions said "strenuous".  This morning, my legs are in perfect agreement with that description.

Today is Steve's actual birthday, so we started with our favorite breakfast.  We'll continue the celebration when he gets home from work tonight and finish off the day with homemade whipped cream and berries. 
This is the eleventh birthday I've celebrated with Steve and with each one I am just so thankful to have gotten to spend another year with my favorite person. 


Friday, September 07, 2012

design your own fabric

I believe it was around the end of July when Steve and I started discussing fabric design.  We were talking about how people would probably really like fabrics featuring their city or town, especially if it's a small town that doesn't usually get a lot of notice. 

As I am from a small town and also currently have merchandise for sale in another small town, this idea was especially intriguing to me.  I started doing sketches and learning how to use Inkscape and, before I knew it, I was ready to order some samples. 

 We ordered from Spoonflower and I can't say enough good things about them.  They have ten different fabric types to choose from.  So far, I've ordered the cotton-linen canvas for tote bags and the organic jersey knit for scarves.  Both are fantastic.  My orders (I think I placed four last month) have all arrived several days earlier than expected.  When I email with questions, they are answered immediately.  And I love that Spoonflower is a small business, based right here in North Carolina, that cares about using natural dyes. 

So far, I have designed two patterns for Davidson, NC, three patterns for Charlotte, NC and four patterns for Blacksburg, VA.  The Davidson and Charlotte totes are in retail stores only right now, although I will happily take orders for them as well.  The Blacksburg totes will be available in my Etsy shop in the very near future. 

I've already sold out of this design and am expecting more fabric early next week to make more.  It is interesting to see which designs are the most popular and I think that information will be super handy as we design more fabric. 

I've talked with a few people who are planning to order several Blacksburg totes to give as Christmas gifts and I love the idea!  What fun to give someone a bag made with completely original fabric featuring a place that is dear to them. 

In fact, I love the idea so much that I am hoping to design fabric for more locations this fall.  But I need ideas!  If you're interested in a local tote for yourself or for gifts, let me know what you'd like to see and we can work together on the specifics. 

After all the excitement of last weekend, I am super thankful for a weekend at home.  We'll be celebrating Steve's birthday and I can hardly wait for the fun to begin!


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