Friday, March 29, 2013

a lunch so exciting, you eat it early

On a visit to Natalie's house last summer, she made this quinoa salad.  It's not really a winter dish, since it's cold and uses fresh veggies, but somehow I've managed to make it like ten times since then.  It is so, so good. 

Also, I've finally learned how to pronounce "quinoa".  It sounds like "ki- nwa" and it took me forever to remember that. 

Here is the recipe- I don't know where it came from originally, but maybe Nats will pop in with a comment and tell us-

Quinoa Salad

Cook 1 cup quinoa according to package directions, but in vegetable broth instead of water.  Put cooked quinoa in a large bowl.
Dice 2 mangoes, 1 cucumber, 1 tomato, and 1 green pepper.  Add to quinoa.  Add 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained.  Add some chopped basil (or other herbs) and 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese. 
For the dressing, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, and 3 tsp. honey. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste.  Whisk the dressing until everything is combined and then stir into the salad.

This recipe makes a big bowlful- probably 10-12 servings.  I like to make it over the weekend and have it for lunches all week.  I will leave out the herbs and feta and just add them in each time I serve it because I don't think they keep very well in the salad. 

Quinoa is a great source of protein and calcium and is gluten free!  I love having something special planned for lunch during the week.  Normally, I don't plan out my lunches and just wander into the kitchen around noon to see what I can find.  But on days that I have a big bowl of quinoa salad in the fridge?  I find myself eating at 11:30am because I get hungry thinking about how good it will be!

Do you have big plans for Easter weekend?  We'll be visiting with lots of family and hoping for warmer weather! 
*Quinoa can be kind of pricey and/or difficult to find, depending on where you shop.  I like to buy a big bag of it at Target and think they have the best price.*

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

on monogramming

My big sewing project for the week is a set of four monogrammed pillows. 
I have a love-hate relationship with monogramming. 

I always forget how long it takes to get the design right on the computer before I can transmit it to my machine.  Do you picture me typing in a few letters and pressing "Go"?  Yeah, that's what I pictured too, before I owned an embroidery machine. 
Really, I do lots of adjusting size and spacing and stitch type.  Who knew there were so many stitch types?  The key is to make the letters look smooth and nice, while keeping each stitch at the optimal length for not getting easily snagged.  I wish there was a button for that. 

This particular design has over 18,000 individual stitches.  It takes about an hour to stitch out the whole design.  And, unlike the dishwasher, my sewing machine needs frequent babysitting while it's working, so I can't just get it going and move on to the next thing.  I can leave it for small intervals, but basically find myself chained to my office for about four hours today.  Good thing it's pretty in here

I think I'll sneak into the kitchen soon to grab some lunch, which is quinoa salad, which I am super excited about.  In fact, why don't I share the recipe on Friday, because I bet you'd be excited about it too!

Monday, March 25, 2013

the secret of a short list

As we dashed around town getting things done, the birds all crammed underneath the tiny ledge of our bird feeder to stay dry.  It was so wet and cold this weekend. 
I would have loved to tuck myself up under the large roof of my own house and stay dry as well, but instead my navy rain boots got quite a workout.  I don't know if I've ever actually been so thankful for my rain boots as I was this weekend. 

Steve and I try to cook dinner together one night each week.  Saturday night we made chicken with sun dried tomato sauce.  I highly recommend it.  We served it with mashed red potatoes and a spinach salad and it was the perfect spring-that-feels-like-winter meal. 

Today, it feels like I have a million things to get done.  I like to try to increase my productivity by making a fairly short to-do list.  Have you ever tried that?  I find that if my list is too long, I get overwhelmed and don't complete as many items and then I feel defeated.  But if my list is short- I know I can get it all done!  And then I feel so great when I do that I just may tackle a few other things as well!  It's a productivity trick that works quite well for me. 
Hope your Monday is productive too!

Friday, March 22, 2013


Do these bow ties remind anyone else of Easter candy?  I've been shipping out ties all week and am excited to start on some new color options, but I just can't get enough of this classic oxford cloth

I'm still perfecting the bow tie pattern, actually, but I think it is almost done.  I really enjoy making patterns.  It reminds me of drafting class in college, which I also really liked. 

I have a large stack of pocket squares, all cut out and waiting to be finished.  I'm in one of those phases where there are so many projects I want to be working on that I just dash from one to the other because what I really want is to be doing them all at the same time. 

This weekend, I'll be taking a break from sewing projects, but still probably dashing from one thing to the other a lot.  It's just been that kind of week.  We do plan to do a little bit of relaxing though and I've got my eye on these beautiful naturally dyed Easter eggs to try out.  Do you plan to dye Easter eggs this spring?  I'd love to hear if you have any favorite techniques!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

a love-hate relationship with pear trees

Despite the fact that we've seen a couple of days in the 40s and there is a freeze warning in effect for tonight, the plants are soldiering forward and pretending that spring is here.  Steve took some great pictures of our hyacinths and daffodils yesterday.  I barely even knew the hyacinths were blooming, because it's been too cold to be outside much. 
Also blooming- the pear trees.  And they are a force to be reckoned with.  And by that I mean that I love them so much and those white flowers all over town make me so happy but they have had me coughing and sneezing for five days straight.  I can't even be mad about it, that's how much I love the pear trees. 
Right now, I have a stack of new fabric on my cutting table and another big box of fabric on its way to my house.  New fabric is one of my favorite things- so much potential! 
Do you ever look at your calendar or to-do list and laugh to yourself and wonder "who is actually going to do all that?"  That's how I feel about April.  I'm off to tackle a few things now to try and lighten the load!

Monday, March 18, 2013

how to carry your shoes in style

I was talking to my mom last night about my newest product- the shoe bag- and realized that I hadn't shared it here on the blog yet.  The shoe bag was created because of the belief that many women (and men) take an extra pair of shoes to work with them and might enjoy a professional-looking bag in which to carry them.
This belief comes mainly from observation and speculation, not personal experience.  I work at home, in my slippers
(Side note: I realized that it would be helpful to photograph the bag with a work-type shoe, which I do not own, so I sent a last minute email to Natalie the night before she arrived here that said, "Bring a pair of sensible pumps.  This is not a joke."  And, like a true best friend, she showed up with these nice shoes for us to photograph.)
So- the shoe bag!  I used a lovely natural colored canvas that is pretty heavy.  The zipper is brass, which I think adds just the right amount of fancy.  The bag has a wide leather handle at one end and a leather tab at the other.  I adore the color of the leather- it's a piece I have that isn't large enough for bags, but works quite well for smaller embellishments. 
The bag is unlined, so I enclosed all the inside seams with blue and khaki striped bias tape.  It's like a fun surprise when you open it! 
Although I originally had the office on the brain when I designed this, I've thought of so many other uses since then- like travel or storage (keep the dust off your wedding shoes!) or things that aren't even shoes. 
We had a successful fabric shopping trip over the weekend, so today I'm getting organized for the next round of bow ties and pocket squares- just in time for Easter!

Friday, March 15, 2013

eat your veggies

This week, we've been mostly living off of all the leftovers from the food I cooked for our weekend with friends, but I did have to make a few things to supplement.  I roasted a chicken, which we've enjoyed for lunch and dinner, and I made up a new broccoli dish to go with it. 
Disclaimer: we almost never eat frozen vegetables.  I usually feel like they taste floppy and bland compared to fresh and can't bring myself to cook them. 

But I totally loved this broccoli dish.  I threw in several favorite flavors and some nuts (for crunch) and I found myself thinking that frozen veggies aren't that bad after all. 
Garlic Broccoli with Cashews (serves 2-3)
Heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. 

Add 8 oz. thawed frozen broccoli to the skillet- thawed frozen broccoli sounds confusing, but you know what I mean, right?
Stir to coat broccoli with oil and garlic and cook over medium low heat 6-8 minutes until broccoli is heated through.

Chop 2 Tbsp. cashews and sprinkle on top of broccoli.  Crumble goat cheese on top as well and serve. 

The garlic and cashews remind me of Chinese food and I love the balance of salty and sweet.  I think that this dish is best eaten right after you cook it, so I made just enough for the two of us each night.  But, as you can see, it takes about 10 minutes total, so it's a very easy thing to whip up. 
Do you have exciting plans for the weekend?  We're sourcing fabric for more bow ties and hoping to enjoy some warm weather!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

you're never fully dressed without a... scarf

Now that spring is almost here (please, spring, be almost here!), my thoughts are turning from long infinity scarves to something a bit smaller- the square scarf.  I've seen these jaunty neck scarves popping up all over the place and they always remind me of really stylish women- Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly. 

Audrey really knew how to rock a scarf.  And I've been learning, so I thought I'd share a bit of the process. 

Start by folding your square scarf in half, like a triangle.  My scarves are about 22" square, but you could use a slightly larger or smaller size. 

Fold the point of the triangle up towards the long side at the top, but not touching it. 

Fold the scarf in half from the bottom to the top as many times as you need to to achieve the width you like.  I folded mine two more times. 

Now you have a long, skinny strip of scarf that you can do lots of things with.  Tie it around your hair with the knot on top and tuck the ends under.  Tie it onto the strap of your bag for some extra flair.  Or tie it around your neck.

I like to tie a basic knot off to one side of my neck.  Remember- not too tight!  When you do this, you will be left with one end pointing down and one pointing up. 

Tuck the end that points up down between the scarf and your neck so that it comes out the bottom and both ends are pointing in the same direction.  Easy!
I think that these square scarves are a nice alternative to a necklace when you want something a little different.  I have two color options in the shop right now and more on the way!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

popcorn on the porch

How to describe a weekend with my best friend?  It was fun and crazy and messy.  It felt too short, as usual.  It was loud (every time she comes, she seems to bring more children with her...).  It was just what I needed. 

There was lots of eating, lots of laughing, lots of reminiscing.  There were made up games and hot chocolate chip cookies.  There was, thanks to our wonderful husbands, a little bit of time to talk about important things, like raising kids and being brave and big life decisions. 

Our house narrowly survived the visit.  By the time they left, the front porch was strewn with popcorn and crumpled up paper.  There were finger and nose prints on every glass surface and not a clean dish towel or napkin to be found. 

But within a few hours after they left, the house looked fairly normal, the washer was cranking out clean linens, and I found myself secretly wishing that someone would call me from the potty for help. 
"It's so quiet in here," Steve commented as we prepared dinner. 

In other words, we miss them terribly already. 
Thankfully, I have plenty to work on to keep me busy this week.  The big tote bag sale is still on and I have sold out of a couple of styles already.  We're participating in a wedding show in April, which means I'm making lots more bow ties!  And I have a fun new product that I'm photographing today that should be listed in the shop by the end of the week.  Whew- I love a long to-do list!

Monday, March 11, 2013

happy monday

Happy Monday, friends!  I hope your weekend felt like spring!
Ours was great.  We had sunny weather and a house full of friends.  Everyone headed home this morning and I've been working hard to restore some order to the house- it definitely looks like seven people have been living here. 
I'll be back tomorrow to share more about the weekend!

Friday, March 08, 2013

forcing spring

We're expecting company this weekend and I have been trying all week to pull the house into spring mode.  I can deal with out-of-season decor when it's just the two of us, but I try to keep things on track when we're having visitors.  You're welcome, visitors. 
But aside from the daffodils that are cheering up the front yard, it hasn't felt or looked like spring at all.  It's been cold and windy.  Some days we don't see the sun.  I took down all the pine cones and the garland, but it felt wrong.  In my heart, it was still winter.
So I've been taking baby steps.  I replaced the pine cones with Easter eggs and bargained with myself to keep the white lights up on the mantle for another month.  I ventured outside, wearing a ski coat, and cut some daffodils and budding branches. 
I put a bunny on  plate in the middle of the dining room table and called it a day.  There's only so much you can do to force a new season into existence.
Today, perhaps because of the progress I've made, everything else seems to be catching up.  The sun is shining and the temperature has already crept into the upper 40s.  The house is warm, mainly because I'm cooking about nine different things all at one time.  And I purposely layered up a hot pink tank top, an orange shirt, and a bright green hoodie, thereby turning myself into a bit of an Easter egg as well. 
I think that real spring will be here in no time.  Hope your weekend is sunny!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

zucchini noodles

Last night, we tried something completely different for dinner: zucchini noodles.  I used my new mandoline to slice the zucchini into super thin strips (like noodles, see?), but I was nervous the whole time because Steve told me that the mandoline is the second most dangerous kitchen utensil.  I don't remember what the first one is, but I don't think I own it. 

Thankfully, I managed to slice up six medium sized zucchini without incident (I peeled them first, FYI).  I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet and added some minced garlic once it was hot.

Then I threw in the zucchini, stirred it all around, and sprinkled on some onion powder.  I went light on the seasoning this time, but next time I think I would add more. 

We ate our zucchini noodles just like regular pasta- under lots of sauce and Parmesan cheese, with a salad on the side.  They were really tasty and I think this makes a great meal if you are trying to eat gluten free, or trying to fit more vegetables into your day. 
This morning, I shipped off my first bow tie and am making several more.  I'm also studying for the final exam in my small business growth class.  I have really enjoyed the course and think I'm going to sign up for another class this spring! 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

how to fold a pocket square: four point style

In conjunction with our new line of menswear items, Steve and I are working on some tutorials for how to actually use these items.  We have been doing a lot of research on tying bow ties and folding pocket squares and today I'm going to share one of the techniques we used during last weekend's photo shoot: folding a four point pocket square. 

Lay your pocket square on a flat surface with the points facing up and down, like a diamond.

Fold the bottom point up toward the top point, but slightly to the right.  The two points should be even in height and your pocket square should look like a triangle now.

Fold the left corner of the triangle up toward the top two points, but also slightly to the right of the farthest right point.  Now you should have three points, all even in height. 

Fold the right corner of the triangle up toward the top three points, but slightly to the left of the farthest left point.  Now you have four points, all even in height. 

Fold the left side in towards the center.

Fold the right side in towards the center.  You will probably have to hold these folds in place. 

Fold the bottom point up towards the center to meet the side points.  Now your pocket square should look like a rectangle with a jagged top edge. 

Flip the folded square over and slip it into a pocket. 

You can choose to have a lot of point showing, or just the tips.  I love how the contrasting rolled hem on our pocket squares really shows off the detail of this fold! 
Did you know that a man's pocket square is supposed to coordinate with, but not match, his tie?  That means that a striped pocket square shouldn't be worn with a striped bow tie, but would be brilliant with a solid blue one


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