Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This winter is the third time I've taught sewing classes.  With each session, I find myself in greater disbelief: people want to come over to my house during the day and use my ironing board and chat about fabric with me?!?  Okay!  Where do I sign up?!?

So, needless to say, sewing class is delightful.  We saw the sun for a bit yesterday, which was also delightful.  And a nice reprive from the grayness, which is back this morning and guaranteed to stick around all day. 

My plans for the day include some phone calls, making a quiche for dinner (I think I'm going to try this recipe), and cutting a million little triangles for party banners.  I've been cutting them all week, with no real end in sight.  But it's a cozy task that I can move around the house with me and it's easy to work on if I have a spare 15 minutes here and there. 

Today I'm also listening to some lectures for an online class that I'm taking.  Have you heard of Coursera?  My brother introduced me to it during his last visit and told me about a class on small business growth that he had signed up for.  So I signed up too!  It just started this week, but I can already tell that I'm going to learn a lot.  I can't get over how awesome the whole concept is- tons of interesting classes, taught by professors from major universities, all online, all free- what could be better?  If you like to learn new things, you should totally check it out. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

ice on the bird feeder

It's been cold here.  Like ice-on-the-bird-feeder cold.  We almost never see ice in Charlotte. 

Birds, however, are another story.  This morning, I realized that after a really fun weekend full of friends and meals and games and mandolin-playing, we had taken exactly zero pictures of any of that.  What we do have, as usual, are plenty of bird pictures.

Maybe we were too busy having fun?  Is that a thing?  I've never really thought it was a thing, but I'm willing to change my mind. 

In other news, did you know that postal rates have increased as of today?  For some reason, I didn't think this was a big deal to me, until I remembered that I ship lots and lots of things.  So I spent two hours this morning frantically researching the new rates and applying them to all the items in my shop.  After checking all the options, my guess is that I will never have an international order again, as it now costs about $40 to mail an envelope to Europe.  Yikes. 

We've heard a lot of great music lately, some of it from Steve's mandolin, some from the CD player.  Do you know The Lumineers?   We heard them on SNL last week and immediately bought their debut album from Amazon (only $3.99 for the mp3 version!).  We have basically had it on repeat for the past four days.  The music is mellow and folksy and just the thing to have in the background as you work or cook or chat with friends.  We've listened to it so much already that it's quickly becoming the soundtrack of our winter and I wonder if I'll ever be able to hear it without feeling a little cold. 

Today I am making soup and preparing for sewing class tomorrow.  It's our second week and I'm already loving it, just like I knew I would. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

we belong

After Steve and I woke up to "We Belong" by Pat Benatar one morning this week and couldn't stop singing it while we made breakfast, I commented to him that there are lots of song about belonging together.  And Steve said, "Because that's what everyone wants- to belong."
I thought about it all day.  I thought about how lucky I am to belong to Steve.  I thought about all the people that make me feel like I truly belong. 

Today is Natalie's birthday.  We're getting to the age where there are very few people we've known longer than each other. 

I know that some people think back on elementary school and remember being left out.  I remember waving to Natalie from the lunch line.  We were in different grades and couldn't sit together, but it was enough for me to know that we both wished we could sit together. 

I think some people remember middle school as feeling awkward and avoiding bullies.  I remember picking outfits together before sock hops and never feeling more confident in what I was wearing than when she gave me her stamp of approval.

High school can be a blur of breakups and not feeling popular enough.  I remember always having someone to stand with at football games and going to a dance once with just she and her date (which seemed regular at the time, but in hindsight appears slightly unorthodox). 

When you start college, everything is new and scary.  But as long as I could still stretch the cord on the phone in my dorm out into the hallway and lean against the wall to talk to her, nothing seemed that bad. 

And now we are grown.  Right now, our lives look pretty different.  She spends her days wrangling three small children, while I spend mine stitching.  And the amazing thing is, that even though I don't have a single kid and she can barely sew a stitch, we still belong with each other. 
Always have, always will.   

Thursday, January 24, 2013

the secret life of layers

Good morning, friends!  Is it chilly where you are today?  Our thermometer was already reading the estimated high of 36 when we woke up, so I piled on several layers to keep out the cold.
I've learned a couple of valuable lessons lately about layering for warmth that seem so super obvious, I'm not sure why I haven't always known them.  But I didn't and maybe you don't and I hate to keep such important knowledge to myself. 
Number one: always tuck in.  I am not a tucker.  I tell myself that women's pants are not conducive to tucking (they're not) and that I like the look of a shirt peeking out from under another shirt (I do).  But I have started wearing an extra shirt, usually just a thin tank top, just for tucking in.  It has been practically life changing in the area of warmth because, no matter which way I bend, there is never a draft.  
Number two: legs need layers too.  Now I know- nobody wants to look thicker than they already are in the winter.  But I bought these long underwear last week and have worn them almost every day since and I'm telling you that you want some.  They are fitted enough and silky enough to wear under my slimmest fitting jeans without any problem.  


Number three: solid colors are your friend.  Now, as a person who owns more striped shirts than I care to admit, it is sometimes difficult for me to buy a solid colored shirt.  They seem boring.  But what is boring on its own is just the thing for layering!  Last week I needed a solid white shirt to use for photo shoots, so I ran into Target right before I had to pick Steve up from the train station.  As fate would have it, long sleeves were on sale.  I found two different white styles that I liked, and then grabbed a black and a pink in the same styles.  I didn't intend to buy so many shirts, but I got wooed by the cuffs- I love shirts with cuffs that are at least 2" wide.  My plan was to try them on at home and return the ones I didn't want.  Except once I got them home, I realized that I didn't have any other solid shirts and started wearing these four under absolutely everything. 
I think the best thing (other than being way more comfortable) about my new found layering knowledge is that it makes me more likely to want to be outside during the winter.  One of my goals for this year is to be outside more and I'm excited to say that I'm off to a great start!
Speaking of layers, we have three events over the next four days that I need to provide dessert for, so I'm working on a double layer Peppermint Chocolate cake today.  Steve and I are both so excited about it- I just hope we'll be able to save some to share with our guests!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

behind the scenes

We had a great weekend.  We really did.  We ran errands and relaxed; cooked together and ate out with friends; cleaned the car and played tennis. 
We took 578 pictures this weekend.  And they were all of me.  Yikes.  
I had seven scarves and about eighteen bags that desperately needed to be photographed on a person.  Specifially, a female person.  And when you're running a small business, you often end up doing the less desireable tasks.  Like being photographed 578 times. 

And if, by chance, it's January and you are being photographed outside in a thin shirt, you may find yourself putting on all seven scarves at one time to keep warm.  Which worked quite well, if you were wondering.

Steve, in his infinite patience and helpfulness, was the perfect photographer and worked hard to get the shots done as quickly as possible.  He shouted out things like "turn ten degrees to your left" or "move your elbow" while circling me with the camera to get the best angle.  If you're trying to picture this in your head, yes we were out in public and yes, people stared.  I've kind of gotten used to it and I just try to pretend that I'm famous and it's regular to stand around in sunglasses while a man using a very long camera lens yells commands from down the sidewalk. 

I'm still working my way through all the bag photos, but they will be showing up in the shop throughout the week.  Also, if you're looking for baby gifts, grab them now because most of the baby items will be disappearing from the shop within the next two weeks.  We're doing some restructuring and I'm super excited about it. 
Today I'm straightening up the house after the long weekend and making a quinoa salad to go with the leftover hamburgers we'll be having for dinner- so good!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Yesterday started out dark.  The daffodils were up, but the sky was gray and the air was wet. 
As the day went on, it just got darker.  I drove around and ran errands and got soaked every single time I got out of the car.  
It rained and the backyard flooded and I couldn't wait until we could finally be home for good in our cozy, dry house. 
After dinner, the power went out.  And then it was really dark.
Thankfully, we already had a fire going.  We lit a few candles and spent the evening by the fire.  We talked and ate chocolate and played Yahtzee and Steve played Turkey in the Straw on his mandolin.  It was a lot like camp.  Or the 1800s.  
This morning, we woke to sunshine and frost and electricity (yea!).  I'm looking forward to snapping some pictures while the sun shines and making soup for the weekend.  Steve is working from home and I couldn't be happier for the company!  We've got a long weekend ahead with several fun things planned- I'll meet you back here on Tuesday to tell you all about it.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

warm food for a cold day

I find creamy rice to be the ultimate comfort food.  Well, truthfully, I find chocolate to be the ultimate comfort food, but I can't serve that for dinner.  Very often.  
Recently, Steve and I tried another new recipe from La Tartine Gourmande- Gorgonzola and pear risotto.  Risotto is a dish that takes patience, so it's great for a night when you have nothing else to do but hang out in your warm kitchen with people you love.  It's sort of an event in itself, making risotto.  

1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
3 red pears
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus extra
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
2 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
1 1/2 cups carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
3 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Dice 2 1/2 pears and thinly slice the remaining 1/2 pear.  In a frying pan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter and cook diced pear 3-4 minutes until soft; set aside.  Add a little extra butter to the pan and cook the pear slices 1-2 minutes on each side; set aside.
Heat the broth in a pot and keep warm.
In the same frying pan, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Add the oil, shallot, leek, rosemary, and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until soft and fragrant.  Add the rice and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed. 
Add 1 cup of broth and cook, stirring occasionally.  Wait until the rice has absorbed all the liquid before adding more broth.  Repeat until you only have 3/4 cup broth remaining, then stir in the diced pears and add the rest of the broth.  Cook until done and remove from heat. 
Stir in the cheeses and season with pepper.  Cover and let sit for 2 minutes.  Discard the thyme and rosemary and stir in the parsley.
Garnish with pear slices, walnuts, and a drizzle of olive oil.  
We both loved this dish!  I had intended to make a salad to go with it, but in the end, we just ate the risotto as our whole meal.  It's one of those dishes that could easily be eaten out of a deep bowl, in your pajamas, on the sofa.  Perfect for a movie night or a snow storm or just a wintry Saturday. 
Speaking of snow, I'm wishing for some, as it's 45 degrees and rainy here.  Thankfully, the house is nice and warm and I'm working my way through a large pile of sewing projects that all need to be completed this week.  If the sun ever comes back out, I'll snap some pictures to share!  

Monday, January 14, 2013

winter mantle / it's dark in here

How about today I treat you to some fairly dark pictures of our cozy winter mantle?  And you can squint your eyes a bit and imagine what it looks like when the sun is out or when Steve is behind the camera using settings other than "auto".  And then, while we're at it, we'll glance at the time and see that it's after 4pm and wonder why I'm blogging this late in the day anyway.  Probably, we'll just shrug our shoulders and murmur something like "it's Monday" or "January will do that to you..."
But really, I have been thrilled with the transformation the mantle has made from holiday to winter.  The cedar wreath is still kickin'.  The white lights are still up.  And everything is better with silver, amen?  
Speaking of silver, check out that gorgeous silver tray that Steve's mom gave us.  It was originally meant to hang above the stove, but has spent its time since arriving here last fall hanging out in the guest bedroom and on the mantle.  I can't commit to one spot for it yet.  
I wish I had some pictures to share from our weekend, which was super fun and included activities ranging from making our own board games with my brother (and laughing until we were almost sick) to a great lunch with friends to finding what is hopefully the perfect sewing stool.  And all we have to show for it are some bird pictures
Today, I've been catching up on the laundry and cutting out 375 triangles for a party banner and no that is not a typo.  Three hundred seventy-five.  Tomorrow, I plan to give my hands a rest with some sewing and ironing.  It's all about perspective, isn't it? 

Friday, January 11, 2013

the thing about january

So here's the thing about January: it's the month where you have to look harder for beauty.  It's not full of flowers, or changing leaves, or decorations of any sort.  January, on the surface, is bare branches and dry skin and gray skies.  It's the month that I'm least likely to pick up the camera, the month that I'm most likely to despair about my hair. 
But if I turn on every lamp in the house (and don't bother noticing what the static electricity has done to my hair), I can see it-
A lovely striped wool blanket;  
A bowl of bright oranges;
A flannel throw pillow, just right for leaning on.  
So today, one-third of the way through the month, I'm declaring victory.  I'm resolving to drink more hot beverages and read under a blanket and bundle up for crisp night walks with Steve.  I'll try to remember how awful it is to spend hours ironing fabric in the summertime and how much I dislike shorts.  And, while I'm never one to wish time away, I bet February will be here before I know it. 
This morning I'm shipping out orders and listing new items and enjoying my brother's company (once he wakes up).  We have lots of fun plans for the weekend- hope you do too!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Hi friends!  I'm just popping in for a quick "hello" because it's Wednesday and I almost always blog on Wednesdays.  However, today I have been running around from the moment I dropped Steve off at the train station and now it's almost time to go pick him up again!
Other than the grocery store and the bank and the usual types of running, I also was able to run and pick up my brother, who will be staying the rest of the week with us.  We're so glad to have him here.  (Secretly, I am hoping he'll help cut fabric.)
Once I picked him up, we ran together to The Boulevard to pick up a bunch of Plumfield Shop merchandise.  All I have to do now is photograph it and everything should be available in the shop by next week.  I love putting new stuff in the shop!
Hope your week is moving along nicely- is anyone else cheering that we're over halfway through?  

Monday, January 07, 2013

so I married a bird watcher

We didn't do anything especially photo-worthy over the weekend.  Mainly, we just took down Christmas lights- ours, our neighbors, the ones at the entrance of our neighborhood.  It's hard when it's over, isn't it? 
Taking down the holiday decorations always makes me want to redecorate.  So today, I'm scrubbing the house from top to bottom, because I like to decorate with a clean slate.  Literally. 

Other than winding one million strands of white lights, we also made these amazing pancakes for dinner and watched the season premiere of Downton Abbey.  I can't actually remember the last time I was so excited for a TV show.  Steve and I cuddled up and sipped our tea and loved every minute of it, even though it kept us up way past our bedtime.  I've made a vow to go to bed early tonight, that I'm sure I will immediately want to break once Steve gets home and we start having fun. 

I'm gearing up for a full week- and I'm sure it will feel extra long, being the first five day work week since Christmas.  I posted a bunch of new zipper pouches in the shop last week and will have some more cute pouches, plus new throw pillows to share soon!

Friday, January 04, 2013

this year: be awesome

I love how each new year encourages me to be better.  When I look over my lists of goals for this year, and years past, the theme always involves more- more kindness, more practice, more living. 
This year, we're setting some lofty business goals, as well as trying to learn a new language.  And because I think that learning something new is one of the best things you can do with your time in the winter (isn't it too cold to do much else?), I am teaching another beginner's sewing class.   
 I've said it before, but learning to sew was one of the best things I ever did.  So obviously, I want to share the joy by teaching lots of other people to sew too! 

To find out more details, click here, or on the "classes" tab at the top of the page.  Classes begin on January 22nd and I only have a limited number of spots, so make sure to sign up early! 

I'm especially excited about the projects we'll be making together- either a set of cloth napkins (so handy!) or a fun tote bag (you can see Maddie rocking hers above).  Either way, you're guaranteed to come away with something useful!

Today, I'm busy trying to keep warm and cook up some tasty things for Steve and I to eat over the weekend.  I'm also working on a large fabric order that includes some canvas to make more lunch bags for the shop.  Hope your weekend is happy!


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