Thursday, October 31, 2013

fall/winter 2013 bow tie collection

Friends, we have some seriously awesome bow ties in the shop for fall and winter.  Awesome like I can't even pick a favorite.  Or three favorites.  So I'm just going to show you all of them.  

The world map tie is back and as popular as ever.  I bought enough of this map fabric back in July to last through the holidays.  At least I thought I did.  Once I ran out of that yardage (in September), I found another bit that will hopefully last me another month or so.  It's kind of like a scavenger hunt, buying fabric.  (Exciting side note: this fabric will soon be available in two sizes of leather bottom pouches as well!)

This orange and navy I chose because I love the bold colors, and then later realized that it would be perfect for an Auburn or UVA fan.  Not that I'm endorsing UVA fans, but business is business.  

The typeface tie was a wildcard and I've been a bit surprised by how popular it is.  I've had to go hunting for more of this once or twice too, but now we are stocked up for the season.  I love how the graphic black and white can work with any color shirt or jacket.  

Mint green continues to be a popular color this year, especially for weddings.  I didn't know if I'd find a winter counterpart to my mint seersucker tie, but this cotton wale pique works really well for the cooler months.  I also have some in red, for the Christmas tie crowd.  

I'm on a big mustard yellow kick this fall and would wear this tie myself, if I could.  In fact, I wish it were a shirt.  In fact, maybe I need to get serious about learning to make my own shirts.  But until then, I can just enjoy having this cheerful checked tie around, brightening up the office.  

So that's the starting lineup!  I have other ties in the shop too, but these are the newest batch.  We're working on some lovely packaging as well, so any gift ties will arrive ready to give!

It's hard to believe that tomorrow is November.  We're looking forward to a quiet weekend, hopefully involving time on the patio and pumpkin frozen yogurt.  I'll meet you back here next week!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

less is more

Six months ago today, we met in an apartment in Taiwan.  We didn't know much about each other, or speak the same language.  But he'd seen our picture and we'd seen his and, somehow, we turned into a family, right then and there.  

Our lives are so different now, than before we knew him.  We do less.  We volunteer less, we plan less social activities, we accomplish less in a day.  We sleep less, the house is much less clean, and I think I even eat less, because someone is always stealing my food (he calls it "sharing").  

And I think that it's one of the big mysteries of life, how less can feel like so much more.  We added one small person to our already happy family of two, but our joy has been multiplied tenfold.  

Today we are celebrating by reading books and eating tacos (and maybe M&Ms!) and just generally being together.  Being together is the best celebration of all.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

let's talk about grits

Do you know I'd never even tried grits until a few years ago?  I always assumed I didn't like them.  And I probably don't like them prepared a lot of ways.  But these dinner grits are the perfect thing for a cold fall evening and they cook in the crock pot, so they're basically impossible to ruin!

Slow Cheese Cooker Grits

Stir together 2 cups uncooked stone ground grits and 6 cups water in a slow cooker.  Cover and soak 6-8 hours. (I've soaked as few as 2 hours before and they turned out just fine).  Cook grits on high 2- 2 1/2 hours, stirring halfway through.  Stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream, 2 Tbsp. butter, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  

What makes these grits a viable meal option, in my opinion, is what you put on them.  Most recently, we topped them with bacon (do you make your bacon in the oven?  Once Natalie told me about this trick, I've never looked back.), sauteed peppers, more shredded cheese (obviously), caramelized onions (here's how to make them), and mushrooms.  I sauteed the mushrooms in some butter, garlic, salt, pepper, and Marsala wine.  I could have eaten a whole bowl of just those mushrooms.  

As is usually the case on Mondays, I'm feeling optimistic about the week and all I'll accomplish.  I'm working on a new project for the shop, as well as restocking some sold out items.  I'm planning a few product posts for later this week because I feel like it's been awhile since I've shared what I'm working on!

Friday, October 25, 2013

fall in the mountains

So it's Friday, again, and I'm still trying to finish blogging about the previous weekend.... again.  It's been difficult to find time to write lately, mainly because my quiet morning hour has all but disappeared, naptime is filled with sewing, and if I have a spare moment that I think about sitting down to blog, I can usually visualize the dirtiest parts of the house staring me down like, "Seriously?!  That's what you're doing now?!?"

Anyway, it's 7:30 am and the little one is still asleep, so here we go- 

I love visiting my mom in the fall.  Fall is so beautiful in the mountains and her yard was full of mums and pumpkins and we played outside all afternoon and then slept warm under flannel sheets.  Her neighbors have lots of great toys and a willingness to share, so Arthur basically ran from one super fun thing to the next the whole time and cried when we had to go inside. 

I mean, seriously- this is what a good time looks like.  Most of the time while he was driving around, he had a very focused look on his face, but occasionally he'd break into a "this is the coolest thing I've ever done" grin.  

Now that we've lived here in the flat-lands for a bit too long, I almost always under pack when we go to the mountains in the fall.  This trip was no different and found me wearing every layer I'd brought, plus the gloves with the hole in the thumb that luckily happened to be in my vest pockets, plus Mom's shoes.  I should probably just store a parka and boots at her house and call it a day.  

We LOVED seeing everyone last weekend, but I also know we're going to LOVE being home for this one. Steve's got plans to work on the new patio, I'm hoping for some fall fun outside, and we're hosting a special birthday dinner on Sunday.  I feel like I've been slacking in the recipe-posting area lately, so soon I'll be sharing the amazing grits that we had for dinner last week.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

all I know

We took a quick trip over the weekend to see family and say goodbye to my best friend's childhood home. I moved semi-frequently when I was growing up, so my happy memories at my own homes are spread about- a few at one house, a handful at another.

But this house is covered with 24 years of memories and they all come rushing back to me if I stop to think-

Throwing markers back and forth out of the second story windows.

Hiding a tape recorder of scary noises in Little Becky's room and then waiting outside the door to see what would happen.

Getting covered in mud at the beaver pond.

Climbing trees.

Swinging to the Eagles.

Primping for hours in the upstairs bathroom.

Spending every Christmas Eve cozy by the wood stove with wassail and appetizers and gifts.

Parties- in the basement, in the dining room, in the yard.

Hundreds of meals around the big table and hundreds more at the counter.

Don, grilling in his apron.

Pam, offering one of my particularly sweaty dates a towel to dry off.

Sunning on the deck.

Little Becky, getting married in the garden.

It was Sunday afternoon and Adam and I lugged pots of herbs to the car so that I could plant them at my own home.  He said, "It's weird that these are our last moments at this house.  It's all I know."

We sat on the deck and talked about how surreal it is, to watch our children play where we used to play. We talked about the path through the woods and how you can't even read the sign at the entrance anymore. We talked about where the pets are buried.  Natalie climbed her tree, for old times sake.  

But mostly, we didn't talk about the end.  We just enjoyed the weekend, the fall air, the remaining flowers, the laughing children. 

Just like we are taught that the church is not a building, I learned long ago that a family is not a house.  No matter how much joy you experience in one place, you always take the best stuff with you when you go.  

We spent the rest of our weekend at my mom's house and had so much fun in her beautiful yard- I'll be sharing pictures later this week.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

backyard living

So- we all have a huge crush on the new patio.  It's for keeps.  We spent the weekend on it.  We had friends over this week, just so we could eat on it (okay, not really- we also really wanted to see them).  Arthur and I hang out there in the afternoons when I have reached that point of "oh my gosh I need Steve to come home from work right now" and it totally helps pass the time.  

Here are a couple of pictures of the patio from above.  Steve taped the camera to a 20 foot pole and set it to take a picture every five seconds.  If you know Steve, this will sound regular to you.  If you don't know Steve, I'll bet you wish you did now.  

Speaking of Steve, who is not only creative, but efficient, he has already started working towards our vision of partially enclosing the patio by building some awesome raised beds.  

Future projects include portions of fencing, a gate, some long bench seats, and storage.  The beds are a great start and I can't wait to fill them with herbs in the spring!

Arthur likes the patio because it gives him tons of room to drive his tractor around.  Also, he just likes to run back and forth and yell "new patio!!"

Today, in addition to enjoying the new patio, I am finishing up a batch of bow ties and working on an exciting new travel blanket pattern.  It's practically blanket season- who's excited? 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

weekend highlights

It feels weird to be talking about the weekend when it's already Wednesday, but I'll just do it- our weekend was dreamy.  Saturday, we shopped for fall clothes and then grilled dinner on the new patio.  Sunday was cool and misty and we put on sweats after church and Steve and I hung out in the kitchen during nap time and chatted about plans for our patio while I baked a pumpkin cake.  Later that day, I sat on the sofa and watched Arthur play and realized that it was the first time I'd felt truly relaxed in over a month.  

We made a quick trip to Lowe's on Sunday afternoon and were gifted with one of the free kids building projects that we'd missed last month.  It was a fire truck (exciting!!) and the menfolk came home and immediately started building.  

Somebody doesn't like loud noises, but is willing to bear almost anything for a fire truck.

We were in and out a lot- on the patio, chatting with neighbors, enjoying the fall air.  Sunday evening came and I could hardly believe that we got another whole day.  

We celebrated with apple dip.  My friend, Jess, used to make this all the time in college and it makes a great fall snack.  Just mix 8 oz. softened cream cheese, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and a bag of toffee pieces (from the baking aisle) and you've got a sweet dip that is lovely on apples, pears, gingersnaps, your fingers- you name it, it's probably delicious.  

The boys spent Monday running back and forth to Lowe's and Home Depot and working on some raised beds around the patio, while I spent the day catching up on sewing and getting a haircut.  

Although it's not nearly as exciting as when the men were here working on it, Arthur still likes to gaze out the back door at the patio and talk about it.  I'm working on some pictures and will share soon!

Friday, October 11, 2013

(the unofficial) fall break

Not a single person in this household is currently attending any school of any kind, but I am declaring this weekend "fall break".  Steve is off on Monday, the air is finally cool, and we have a new patio to hang out on.  Plus, we all deserve a break.  

Our new patio should be complete later today and I'm already dreaming of grilling sausages and pineapple and giving the lounge chairs a more permanent spot.  Perhaps we can convince Arthur that what he really wants to do is ride his tractor back and forth on it for an hour or so while Steve and I sip drinks and chat? I'll let you know how that dream turns out.  

Nothing sounds better right now than a couple of days with no alarm clock and no real schedule.  I've been thinking about what I'd like to wear during the cold months and am hoping to get a few things this weekend to round out my wardrobe.  Every fall, I pull out last year's clothes and wonder exactly what it was that I wore for five months while it was cool outside.  Then I remember (mainly yoga pants and hoodies) and vow to do better this year.  

I'm also hoping for a few hours to catch up on some sewing work because I feel perpetually behind right now.  Which is both a good and bad problem to have.  

Here's hoping your weekend is a bit of a break too!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

you make the best fried chicken

I would like to preface this recipe suggestion by saying that I do not often fry food at home.  Maybe 3-4 times a year?  There is something about admitting that I fried food that makes me feel like I will be judged by all the organic salad eaters.  You know who you are.

But you guys- I can't keep quiet about these chicken tenders.  They were AMAZING.  I wanted to keep eating them all night.  Steve took one bite, looked up at me, and said, "How did you do this?"

And they were super easy.  I tossed the tenders in the marinade in the morning and mixed up the flour mixture at the same time, so when it was 30 minutes until dinner time, all I had to do was give them a quick dunk and 3 minutes of cooking time on each side. 

Here's one thing I think that helps make this chicken awesome- the flour mixture has three tablespoons of buttermilk in it.  So instead of dredging your tenders in a powdery mixture (as I've done every other single time I've made fried chicken) you are dredging them in a chunky mixture.  The result?  More crunchy bits. And I think we could all agree that fried food needs as many crunchy bits as possible.  

Making dinner feel even more like a party was the fact that I finished a new set of cloth napkins yesterday, just for us.  It is very rare these days that I make time for a personal sewing project- you know, like the shoe cobbler's kids?  Natalie and I laughed about this recently when I had to go out a buy a $15 TJMaxx diaper bag, while many of my friends walk around with Plumfield Shop originals.  

Anyway, the napkins completed my vision for our fall and winter table top, which includes the lovely gold placemats Steve's mom gave us a few years back and our winter dishes.  Yes, we have winter dishes. Mainly because the dishes we bought right after we got married have hydrangeas on them and I cannot serve Thanksgiving dinner on hydrangeas.  

Tonight we're trying out this recipe for slow cooker carnitas- I'll let you know what we think!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

fall/winter 2013 scarf collection

In honor of the fact that the temperature is supposed to remain well below 70 degrees today, I thought I'd do a thorough going-over of the new scarf collection that is in the shop.  It's pretty fabulous and I love that each one brings something very different to the table.  

First up is the plaid, which has such a surprising color palette that it took me a few glances at the fabric to realize how great it is.  But then I realized and bought a whole bolt, because I feel like other people are going to realize too.  Deep eggplant, electric blue, and bronze, with a snazzy bronze edge = trendy, without being predictable.  Also, who doesn't love plaid? 

Here we have the other more casual scarf, the maroon and orange check.  In addition to being the perfect fall colors, maroon and orange are also our school colors (go Hokies!), so we are, obviously, crazy for this one.  

I think that every man should own a great black and white scarf and I love this mixture of different sizes of hounds tooth- so much more interesting than just one size!  A black and white scarf matches almost everything and looks sharp with a black or gray coat for work.  

Last up, and possibly our favorite scarf this year, is the green herringbone.  I'm a sucker for herringbone anyway, but finding one in this vibrant green was such a huge stroke of luck.  It has the polished look of wool too, but is actually 100% cotton like all the rest of the scarves.  

In the past, we've carried a few wool and a few cotton scarves, but this year we've gone all cotton.  It's so much nicer against your skin, which I consider a huge deal, plus it's machine washable!  

I think that scarves make such great gifts- they're personal, but you don't have to worry about size or fit. Men can be difficult to shop for anyway, so I love hearing from people around the holidays that they are ordering my scarves for their dads, husbands, brothers.  And this year, you can order matching father-son scarves, which would be so cute for family photos- just enough matching without being weird.  (Side note: I was allowed to pick the outfits for a family photo once when I was 11 and we all ended up in red turtlenecks and denim.  Not my finest moment.)  

Today, we're running errands and I have a stack of ironing to tackle.  It's cool and gray and I'm getting excited that I might need my slippers soon!

Friday, October 04, 2013

pretending fall is here

So begins the time of year when I am in constant denial about the weather.  It's October.  There are pumpkins everywhere.  Magazines show up in my mailbox with pictures of pie and stew on the front.  And it's going to be 86 degrees today.  

Of all the minor unfair things in life, hot weather in October is probably the worst.  

We went to a pumpkin patch with friends this week and wore jeans and almost melted into them.  Last night, Steve asked me where Arthur's sandals were and I told him that I'd already put away all the sandals for the year, because it's fall.  I think I heard him snicker.  

It's too hot for pants, but I feel silly wearing shorts.  All the summer produce is gone, but what are we supposed to do- sweat through a bowl of chili for dinner?  

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I used to live in the mountains, where warm weather did not arrive until well into May, and I found that equally maddening.  Perhaps I'm just not good with seasonal change?  

We're taking advantage of the (way too) warm weather this weekend to get some outdoor chores done.  I also plan to get out the sweaters and make some soup (lentil!) and hope for the best.  See you next week!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

aaaaand... we're back

Hello there, friends!  Happy October!  We're starting to get back to normal over here after a whirlwind end to September.  We got to see lots of family and visit the ocean one more time- the perfect goodbye to summer.  

Arthur was showered with love and toys and, as usual, ate like a field hand and charmed the socks off everyone he met.  Every week, we marvel over how much he's grown, how many new words he knows, and how we feel like the luckiest parents on earth.  

His newest phrase is "help you!", which means that laundry, dishes, and making dinner all take about three times longer than usual.  I love his helpful spirit though and every so often he does something that is actually helpful.  

We're planning to stick close to home and work on some household projects this month.  Doesn't the fall air just inspire you to get things done?  Business-wise, I'm preparing for the holiday rush and stockpiling scarves and leather pouches.  October is the last chance to get ahead before things really get crazy around here.  

Hope your fall is off to a lovely start!  Shall we talk about soup again soon?  It's almost time!


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