Friday, April 30, 2010

April Mini Print of the Month: Memories of the Beach

I'm a big fan of Hannah's food blog, Honey and Jam both for the recipes and the photography. I recently discovered that she sells some of her photographs, which was very exciting to be sure, and her site went straight into my favorites for safe keeping until I was ready to post April's mini-print of the month. She takes a lot of food still life shots, but this one, called Memories at the Beach, really pulled at me since I sent so many summers on the beach in Jersey as a kid. I ordered it in a 5x7 and for the time being, it's sitting propped up by my computer at home. I can't wait to get it framed and find a more permanent home for it.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Link Love: Feeling Like Lace

I've been feeling more drawn to lace than usual lately, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite recent finds. I'm hoping to get out to some antique/thrift stores soon (it's been forever!) and am definitely going to keep an eye out for some vintage pieces to play with.

Above and below are pieces from Tuuni on etsy. She lives in Finland and uses mainly vintage and recycled materials. I am slightly obsessed with her combination of lace and linen.

This looks like a project that would be great for centerpieces at a small event. Amy over at Mod Podge Rocks posted these lace tea lights as a project of the week back in March, via the girls at the design blog Mint.

While this last one is technically a crocheted linen thread lariat, it looks like lace and would be a simple, yet stunning pair with a basic tee. This is from magdalinen, a maker based in Latvia, who offers some fantastic and floral-inspired accessories. She also uses a lot of recycled materials and linen, which is making me realize that it's really the combination of lace and linen that is speaking to me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring's In the Bag: Custom Clutches by Natalie of Stansberry

Last weekend I took a break from packing and stopped by Craft Saturday. I hadn't been to one since summer and it was so nice to get a hit of a craft fair in a very manageable dose. One of my favorite new-to-me designers was Natalie of Stansberry Design. I was drawn to her table by the thin scarves she had hanging, but definitely loved getting a close up of her bags and clutches. Love those big flowers!

About her work, Natalie says :
My maternal grandmother was an avid quilter and dressmaker. While my mother also dabbled in sewing, her real passion is gardening - especially flowers. I honor them both with my "flower-inspired" handbag and accessories line.
I just love how she's taken those influences to make something entirely new. Check out her etsy shop to see more close ups of her work. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Q&A with Sarah of Three Seeds Naturals

I've been loving some of Sarah's products—especially the moisturizing cream which has proved to be a lovely slice of luxury to keep at my desk—so I thought it would be fun to hear the backstory of her natural beauty biz.

Name: Sarah Maloy
Location  Danbury, CT
Website/Blog/store, Facebook page,

Tell me a little bit about what you make.

I make natural skin care products - lotions, creams, lip balms, and scrubs. I like the process for a few reasons - as I've learned more and more, I've really enjoyed developing my own formulas - experimenting with oils, butters and fragrances until I find just the right combination. Once I have the formula, I find it very satisfying to make a batch and have it turn out perfect. Making scrubs for example - stirring up the sugar into the perfect mix of shea butter and sunflower oil makes such a pretty texture. Or watching a batch of my Ultra Moisturizing Cream turn from a milky consistency to a rich, thick cream is exciting to see.

How and when did you become interested in making beauty products?
I became interested in making beauty products in late 2009 when I saw natural lotions at a farmer's market. I've been interested in eating more naturally, and I realized that what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in our bodies. I had seen recipes for beauty products in natural magazines, so I decided to give it a try.

 How would you describe your style?
My style is simple. I believe in creating products that do a job and do it well. I'm fairly low maintenance with my own beauty regimen, so I started by creating products I could use - I use a regular body lotion, so my goal was for my Everyday Body Lotion to go on light and smooth after the shower. Sometimes my hands and elbows need a little more, so I created my Ultra Moisturizing Cream, which has a wonderfully thick texture but doesn't leave skin greasy. I like to use a scrub, but I have been frustrated by messy scrubs that separate into an oil layer and a sugar layer - so I researched different ingredients that emulsify the scrub so it stays together. And now I'm researching formulas for a solid single-use scrub -- take a scrub cube into the shower and use it all over - no mess!
Every ingredient serves a purpose, I don't believe in adding lots of things that don't have a benefit. I also like my scents noticeable but light - the kind of scent that makes you smile when you put it on but fades throughout the day and doesn't overwhelm. And most important, every scent should bring to mind a season.
Where do you do your work?
I make all my products in my kitchen. I sanitize everything, wear gloves and a mask, and test every batch to make sure there are no contaminants.

What sets your products apart?
My products are largely natural, though I do use a paraben-free preservative and phthalate-free fragrances. They are all handmade, use high quality ingredients, and are inspired by the seasons. My company name, Three Seeds, is derived from the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter. Demeter is the goddess of the seasons, and according to the myth, we have winter because her daughter Persephone ate three pomegranate seeds. I love the changing seasons, and to me, nothing brings that to life more than the perfect scent. Three Seeds Naturals offers 5 scents - one inspired by each season, plus our signature scent, Pomegranate.

Is this your full-time work?
No. I work full-time for a large consumer packaged goods company. Much of my job involves understanding what consumers want and need and bringing that to life in a product or brand. I love that aspect of my job and wanted to apply it to something of my own; thus Three Seeds Naturals.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Home Sweet New Home

I have been rather quiet on the topic for many reasons (one of which is that I didn't want to get ahead of myself!) but we moved into a new-to-us house on Saturday. Ridiculously exciting stuff, to say the least! Last week was a blur of a busy week at work and painting the living room and priming the dining room. We wanted to get those things done ahead of the movers so that we wouldn't have to paint around rooms full of furniture.

Amazingly, after just two days here, it already completely feels like home. Yes, there are rooms that are still a mess, the fridge is giving me agita with it's noisiness, but about 60% of the house is together and it's completely lovely. It's solid and airy, comforting and quiet—except when the birds are singing, then it's downright heavenly, even at 4 am.

I will share pictures when we're ready—and tell you about my new sewing studio space in the immaculate basement!—, but I will say that if you are in need of paint colors, I highly recommend October Mist (a delightful shade of blue/sage/gray) and Old Salem Gray (a sort of olive/brown/gray) by Benjamin Moore.

I am so grateful for all of the twists and turns that have brought me to this place, to this particular house at this particular time.

[Yellow House illustration by Swallowfield, which you can learn more about here.]

Friday, April 23, 2010

Inspired Image: Amy of the Handmade Writer

Today's Inspired Image comes from Amy, who runs a new e-course called the Handmade Writer.   "Rather than focusing on any particular style of writing or for any particular type of writer, this course is about exploring the world and looking for inspiration around you. It is a designed to encourage people to take their writing a bit more seriously and find motivation to fit it into their lives." There's a session in progress right now, but stay tuned to Amy's website for info about upcoming sessions.
Hello, my name is Amy Spencer

You can find me at Bring Yourself

This image comes from a postcard that I keep on my bookshelf in my study. It is of a room in an old synagogue in Spitalfields, East London with a story. A reclusive man named David Rodinsky lived there, while working as the caretaker of the building. One day he vanished from his room and no one seemed to notice. In the 1980s, twenty years later, the room was unlocked. All Rodinsky's belongings were still there just as he had left them. This picture is of the room just after it was opened for the first time. The room was full of books and strange pieces of writing. Rodinsky, and what happened to him, became one of the mysteries of Spitalfields.

The synagogue, where Rodinsky used to live, is now a museum of immigration and diversity and I used to volunteer there. The photograph in the postcard was taken by John Freeman.

It inspires me because
of the mystery surrounding Rodinsky's story. It reminds me of a place I love.

I particularly love how this photograph shows a person who was forgotten by everyone and later remembered. I am interested by what Rodinsky left behind and how this can be pieced together to build a story about his life.

It makes me feel sad and hopeful. It makes me think of all the stories that are hidden everywhere we go.

Winner of the Nature-Inspired Necklace is...

myflsun who said... Such beautiful jewelry. I'm being inspired the beautiful spring-green trees that are busting out!

Thank you all for entering and congrats to myflsun for winning the random prize of a necklace of your choice (like maybe the one above!) from Natayla. Please email me so I can put you two in touch with each other.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Link Love: Patchwork Possibilities

I feel like I've been seeing more and more patchwork lately (though perhaps I'm seeing more because I have become much more interested in seeing more? Hmmm) and it's been giving me some fantastic creative energy.

I just learned about Fat Quarterly, a new e-magazine "written by modern sewists for modern sewists". I am WAY excited about this and I cannot wait to see the first issue. Above is some work from comfortstitches which appears in the FQ flickr pool. The pattern for the one below also in their flickr pool from flossybossy will be featured in the first issue.

If you follow my posts over on ReadyMade, you'll know that I posted this chair from Anna Maria Horner yesterday. If you don't, aren't these chairs pure amazingness? I believe I will now be on the hunt to find my own stash of vintage quilting blocks so I can do something similar...

And finally, I'm in need of a new shower curtain and while I have a gift card for Bed Bath burning a hole in my wallet, making my own—one I may surely enjoy more—is rather tempting. Especially now that I have this shower curtain tutorial from Design Sponge in my back pocket.

Don't forget, you have until 5 today to enter to win a free necklace of your choosing from Natayla!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stitch Love: Kantha Quilts

Kantha, a term I'd never heard of until a few months ago, seems to be all around me lately. A coworker of mine posted about it after seeing some lovely examples from a designer named Jeanette Farrier, and last week another coworker brought in a kantha quilt that he'd recently purchased. Since I do a lot of hand stitching, I immediately became enamored with the technique—which is essentially free form lines, often in concentric squares. And I think I'm going to try to use it as inspiration for my next project.

If this is the first time you're hearing the word, it's a technique used by women in West Bengal (and likely, other regions as well) to transform recycled cotton saris into usable materials like throws and new clothing. These seamstresses "fold and stitch the soft cloth into an ultra-fine quilted fabric which is warm and durable", says Farrier's website. She works with two villages and has helped the women there support themselves by bringing their work to the rest of us, which you can see in these first two images from her site.

Let's take a look at some other examples.

This one is from lavenderandlime on flickr.

And these one is from Charlotte Lyons over on house wren studio.

I realize I am probably leaving out a lot of information here, but I thought I'd share a little peak into one of my current obsessions. I'll share more as I learn more, I promise!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Giveaway! Your Chance to Win a Nature-Inspired Necklace

Today I have a lovely little giveaway for you from jewelry maker Natalya. One lucky reader will get to choose a piece from her etsy shop and have a pretty new necklace to wear this spring.
To enter:
1. Post a comment about your current source of inspiration—what is currently inspiring you to make things or what is filling you with new energy this spring, etc. (This could be as short as "Tulips!")
2. Make sure you post with a user name, rather than as anonymous, so that I know who you are if you win.

***You have between now and 8 pm Central time on Thursday April 22 to enter.

And in the meantime, here's a bit from Natalya about what inspires her to make jewelry in between studying for graduate classes.

Name: Natalya Lakhtakia
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Website/Blog/store:, FacebookTwitter

Tell me a little bit about what you make and why you enjoy it?
Creating is such a wonderful outlet for me.  I spend all day reading textbooks and doing clinical work, and then I  get to sit down and make something that I think is really beautiful.  I love laying all the elements out and then going through and piecing everything together.  It's both relaxing and fun!

How and when did you become interested in making jewelry?
A few years ago, a friend's girlfriend was creating jewelry, and I bought a couple of pieces from her, and I thought, "Hey! I would love to be able to make my own things!"  so I set off to Michael's, bought some supplies, and started experimenting.  Of course, what I make now is VERY different than the pieces I made back then!

How would you describe your style?
Kind of a mix!  I do a lot of what I label as "vintage chic," but I also do more modern stuff, as well as jewelry that is more classic. I think I make a style of jewelry that anyone can wear.  Most of my pieces can be worn with a tee-shirt and jeans, yet also look good with something more dressy.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere!  I have color books and I love to walk around different stores at the mall to see what is "in" so that I can make it my own.  I also draw a lot of inspiration from the supplies that I buy.

What are you in graduate school for?
I'm in graduate school, getting my masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology.  I actually graduate in just a few weeks!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Bluebells!

Saturday afternoon was very sunny with a touch of chill in the air, which meant that we headed out to enjoy some fresh air with a long walk. We found a new spot, Walnut Woods State Park, which while not filled with the hiking trails I long to exist in Iowa, it had a lovely walking path that was long enough for a nice walk. AND, the bluebells!

Oh my, I stopped and stared when I came around the bend and saw them surrounding trees as far as I could see. There were a smattering of couples with cameras, so this isn't exactly a secret spot, but it did feel rather magical to come across them unexpectedly. The afternoon light on the periwinkle flowers was just stunning and it made me feel extremely grateful to be experiencing spring.

Other highlights of the weekend included a surprise lemon tart, my first night spent by a fire pit of the season, and a pot of sauce on Sunday. It's been a little hectic, so I'm definitely making more of an effort to notice the small stuff.

Lovely photo via Pye42 on flickr as I didn't have my camera with me. The field I saw looked remarkably similar to this photo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Sixth Quilt: All about the Stitches

More than once over the past year, I've thought of this quilt as "the most heavily hand quilted thing in the history of the world". Both because I made my quilts big enough to fit on top of a queen bed and because I chose to quilt the lines of my backing fabric, this quilt is Very heavily hand stitched, which is a true testament to how much I love doing this. This front is much different than all of the others that I did—when I was deciding what to make for my friends Katherine and Jonathan, I was determined to find a way to cut straight to the quilting. I'm not as big of a fan of the process of piecing the front, so this seemed like a good solution since the piecing was minimal. And once I started quilting and saw how lovely the texture was on the front, I knew I was sold. I did go through about 4 spools of thread in the making of this though, which is a personal record. 

All of the fabric for the front was leftovers from previous quilts. The backing is the Good Folks Dusk fabric from Anna Maria Horner.

I have to admit that I'm really proud of this one and I'm going to have a hard time parting with it. But Katherine, if you're reading, I'm planning to bring this to you when I come to nyc in late May, and I know you and J will give it a wonderful home.

Since I had a few questions on my process, I'm going to take a moment to explain a bit about how I do my quilts. I quilt them all by hand because for me, that's the part of this process that I like the most. I get to spend about a year with each quilt that I make (though only a few months for the wall hanging), which has been a real plus for me since all but one of them have been gifts. It makes it easier for me to give them to friends and family when I've already had a length of time to enjoy them.

That said, there is a point along the way, usually at about the 75% completion stage that I am hit with the feeling that I Will Never Finish. My way through this—which actually hit really hard with this last quilt because of the sheer amount of stitching—is similar to how I've gotten myself through long hikes/climbs, walks or runs. I think, "Just Keep Going". That might not sound very compelling, but it really has helped me. And once I get over that hump and I start to see the end coming near, well then I get pretty giddy.

I have used my machine for some piecing, but it really depends on my mood. I don't find the need to iron seams as much when I do it by hand, so that is often why I skip the machine. As far as size, I've tended to buy 3 yards of fabric for the backing, so it winds up being about 1.25 yards in length (I make sure to save enough, about 4 inches or so all around, to use for the binding).

If any of you have other questions, please don't hesitate to ask! I'm sure I've skirted over important aspects since I'm so familiar with how I do these.

News: For anyone in or around Des Moines who's interested, I've set up a Modern Quilting Guild group for us on ning, so please register and share with your stitch happy friends. I am still figuring out how the site works, but for now I'm hoping we can use it as a way to see who's out there and interested in eventually meeting up. Thanks!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Fourth (and Fifth) Quilts: Florals and Polka Dots

I made this quilt in 2008-2009 for my friends Dan and Virginia who were married around that time. I chose the fabrics to fit their personalities and even though it took a while, it was a joy to make for them since they were entering such an exciting time in their lives. They recently moved into a new house and the quilt lives in their bedroom, where it's a lovely compliment to their blue walls and white duvet.

Here you can see it in action in Virginia and Dan's very pretty (though suitably masculine) bedroom. I am very happy that the quilt works so well with the blue of their walls.

And here's a close up!

After I finished V's quilt, I got to work making my parents a wall hanging for their house. For those of you who have been reading for a while, you will remember this one (and I'm remembering that this is not my best photo ever- sorry!), so I won't repeat myself. To learn more about it, and see my process, click here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Third Quilt: Graphic Meets Florals

My third quilt was a wedding present (well, they got it in time for their first anniversary) for my good friend Colleen. We go all the way back to kindergarten, and while we don't see each other nearly enough, she is one of the most compassionate and thoughtful people I know. I value her friendship enormously and it meant a lot to me to make this for her and her now husband Pat. In all three quilts that I've made for friends to celebrate their weddings, I've really tried to strike a balance between feminine and masculine so that they can both enjoy it.  (The paisley and the turquoise circle fabric will make another appearance on Friday!)

I'd totally forgotten how I'd used a contrasting brown thread for the quilting, which looking at it now, I'm really glad I did that since I think it really helps tie things together. And looking at this makes me think of how much I love random patchwork quilting.

And here you can see the floral backing fabric, which if I remember correctly, was yardage that I'd purchased and had for a while, just waiting to be put to good use.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Second Quilt: Pink, Brown and Yellow Patchwork

My second quilt was a gift to my sister Katie for her college graduation. I think there is remarkable progress between the first and this one and I particularly love the fabric combination that I used. The fabric came from a stash that Katie collected during high school when she sewed bags, most of which came from a nun at her school. I sort of like that even though we didn't know exactly where the fabric originated, it could be put together as a cohesive whole, which is an appropriate thought for college graduation I think! (If you look closely at the quilts over the week, you'll see fabric appear in more than one—I always have leftovers and I like the idea that I've tied them all together!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

My First Quilt: Figuring it Out Along the Way

As I wrapped up my current quilting project (you have to wait until Friday to see it!), I thought I'd share the ones that came before it since most of them were completed before I had this blog. I find it interesting to see the progression and I hope you find it interesting too!

This is the first quilt that I ever made. Well, that's not entirely true. I pieced about half of a quilt during the class I took where I first learned the craft, but after my teacher told me that she didn't really think my fabrics "went together", I stopped going and made this quilt instead. Which may have been a little immature (it was a long time ago!) but I think there is something to figuring out how to do something you enjoy on your own. I made it using fabrics that I had, and that were in my sister's stash, and while it's not the most complex of quilts, and my stitches are far from perfect, I do still love that the non-matching fabrics actually do work together quite well. And that the backing fabric is so mellow, which is a lovely alternative to the front.

 This quilt has actually accompanied me through my adult life, which is kind of amazing—from NC where I made the top, to NJ where I stayed at my parents for a while as I figured out what to do with myself after doing a year of AmeriCorps, to NYC where I learned how to be a writer and editor (and made some amazing friends), and now it lives with me—and keeps me warm—in Iowa.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Inspired Image: A Moment in Idaho

I had planned on posting my April print of the month today, but when I was getting the post ready, all I kept having the urge to share this photo instead. So I decided that it was the thing to do today! The image was taken by my boyfriend a few years ago and it's been filling me with the urge to get outside, away from the city—which we hope to do in the summer...our plans to head west for vacation are starting to form. The other thing that I'm enjoying about this photo, which we had printed and are eager to hang, is the sort of in between feeling of time that it has because of the sunlight and the moon. That is rather calming to me.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend. I have a special quilt week planned for next week as I get ready to share the one I'm this close to finishing, so be sure to check back on Monday to see what the fuss is all about!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Link Love: Spring Dresses

I tend to catch up on other blogs while I'm eating lunch each day and since I come across so many lovely things, I've decided that I should start sharing them with you. Today's topic: spring dresses.

Alicia Paulson is sewing the most darling clothes while she's waiting for the little girl she and her husband are adopting to arrive. This is one of the (many) dresses that I'd like to have in my size. 

This is a vintage dress spotted on the ReadyMade fashion blog, Off the Rack, from the closet of Krissy, who runs the etsy shop Cottage Farm. I love Jane's suggestions on what to wear with this dress, though I would be happy wearing it with a simple pair of brown flip flops and a ponytail.

I'm really trying to focus on enjoying the clothes I already own—inspired in large part by Alyson and also a looming large purchase—but I'm keeping this Tuileres Sleeveless dress from etsy seller Tortilla Girl in my favorites for when I'm ready to shop. Each one is custom made, based on a pattern that she built herself, which I love, plus a girl's got to have some ruffles, right?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Origami-Inspired Jewelry from Jenna Fizel

Jenna Fizel
Cambridge, MA
Tell me a little about what you make.
I make jewelry and sculpture based on curve-fold origami techniques. Each of my pieces starts as a single, continuous  piece of mylar or polypropylene which I cut using a CNC paper cutter. I then carefully shape each piece into a three dimensional "knotted" form.
How and when did you start working with myar?
I've been making these forms, and related forms, for awhile (about four years) using paper. I always wanted to apply them to jewelry making, and to try alternative materials for larger scale shapes. However, paper will disintegrate and crumple at small sizes. I tried many different translucent materials before finding mylar and polypropylene. Mylar is easy to fold on score lines, and looks crystalline. However, if not handled properly during folding it can crack along its folds. Polypropylene is more resistant to tearing, but harder to coax into shape. It also has a cloudier appearance.
 How would you describe your style?
While I very much admire design that is simple and clean, I always find myself drawn towards complexity in both my own work and my personal style. Instead, I try to strive for coherence and balance within intricate structures. 
What sets your work apart?
My work combines traditional and high tech practices to create something that, I believe, draws on the strength of both. I also try to use deep relationships in my designs. The curved forms I make are based on a category of shapes which were first used by the Bauhaus, and which have mathematical significance.
I know that you're mom is a quilter. Did she impact your creativity as you grew up?
I've been making "things" all my life. As a kid, my parents encouraged me to create projects out of household items like boxes, tape, bed sheets, etc. My mom first taught me to sew (along with my babysitter) when I was four, and I've been sewing off and on ever since. In recent years I've tried to return the support by helping my mom develop her web presence. We're now planning to do some collaborative projects with a combination of quilting and wearable electronics.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I tend to be inspired by whatever I have to deal with in my daily life. If I need a new bag, I'll try to think one up. Or  if I want to bind a book, I'll try it myself first. This jewelry and sculpture are based off of a long term research project I worked on in college.
Is this your full-time work?
No. By day I am a computer programmer and designer. I work on large-scale, networked applications for museums and other institutions, usually for the purpose of displaying large amounts of information in an immersive and interactive way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Family's Needlework

Many of the boxes that my parents brought me over the weekend contain sewing supplies from my Dad's mom. She made clothing, she knit, crocheted, cross stitched and did needlepoint. I am going to take my time going through the supplies, but I'm pretty sure I will never need to buy another knitting needle! The lovely thing that she did is that she left little notes everywhere—on bundles of needlepoint that were meant for one holiday, on polaroids that showed what she made each year for her church Christmas baazar, and on a stack of hand stitched linens from both she and her mother. I'll share those with you once I get them out and pressed, but in that mix was this piece of cross stitch from another family member—my great grandfather Palanjian.

I knew that my great grandfather was a tailor and that he did some decorative chair seats that have long been scattered around our house, but it wasn't until I saw this piece that I realized that I have people who did many of the same needle-based crafts on all sides of my family tree. Male and female, maternal and paternal. I know that this particular great grandfather came to Philadelphia from Armenia when he was a young man, so I can only imagine that he learned his skills before he left his country. I'm really looking forward to displaying this and to learning more about my history through the stitches that they left behind. And I'm getting a better understanding of what my own quilts might one day mean to future generations—I just hope I can be as meticulous in labeling and caring for them as my own grandmother was!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Easter Treats and Local Sights

My parents came for a visit this weekend—which was both timed for Easter and because they brought a truck load of furniture/household things/mementos for us as they are moving out of the house that I grew up in—and we had a very packed, fun and delicious weekend.

Above is the Ricotta pie that we always have for Easter breakfast. I made two this year and shared one with friends on Friday morning, and am parsing out leftovers to make the second one last as long as possible. It's funny to me that we all like this pie so much, but yet we only have it on Easter. That's tradition for you!

On Saturday we took a ride out to Lake Red Rock and had a lovely picnic lunch, then stopped by the Peacetree Brewery in Knoxville for a glass of their Hefe. And got a big bottle filled to take home. I was so happy to see that flowers have started to bloom here!

Next on the tour was Pella, which is a Dutch town about an hour from Des Moines. We took a tour of the windmill, the replica village and spotted all of the tulips getting ready to bloom for the big festival there in a few weeks. We of course had to have some Dutch letters from Jaarsma, which are flakey pastries filled with almond filling.

And I have to say that while this might sound like bragging, I made the most amazing lasagna for dinner on Sunday. We (I) started a tradition of making homemade pasta on Easter last year and since the pasta machine was one of the things that my parents brought me, I decided to make noodles for lasagna. I am always a little nervous when making pasta but I've made it enough now that I know how to do it—it's mostly about taking my time and not rushing through the steps. My mom helped me through the actual lasagna construction (I couldn't find a recipe that I liked) and I used pesto in the ricotta layer and had a layer of sauteed veggies including yellow and green peppers, mushrooms and kale. The texture of the noodles (which I precooked, just slightly) was fantastic and I'm so excited that I made enough to have a tray to put into the freezer to enjoy at a later date.

Of course, it's not Easter without chocolate, which in our house, that tends to mean dark chocolate filled with some sort of coconut and Italian cookies. Yum!