Monday, January 31, 2011

A Note from New York

I've been traveling for work (and pleasure) since Thursday and I'm glad that I'm sneaking in and out of the city between snow storms. I saw a handful of friends and former colleagues while I've been here, which was lovely since catch up time is always enjoyable. And I hopped onto a train and spent a full 24 hours with a good friend from home (we went to kindergarten together) who recently welcomed baby Gus into the world. It was so good to see them and to get to snuggle with Gus for a while.

I am extremely thankful that my job has enabled me to maintain my ties with the East Coast because there are some very important-to-me people who live here. And deep down, this area of the country feels so very familiar to me that it's always nice to spend time here. But I have to say that more and more, it's hard for me to be away from home for more than a handful of days. I long for our routine, for the comfort of our house, and for the simple pleasures of being able to cook myself something delicious in my own kitchen. 

I find this interesting because I used to live in NYC and I know my way around. And that is comforting in a sense, but I have definitely adapted to the Midwestern pace of life. And, I'm realizing that because it feels like it took me so long to find a place and a partner that both really suit me, I'm a little reluctant to spend too much time away from them.

Maybe that means I'm growing up. Or that I'm a creature of habit. Or that I just like life to be quieter than it is in the city. Or that I'm listening to myself more. Either way, I'm happy that I'll be heading home today.

P.S. Central Park was of course a lovely sight with piles of snow everywhere.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Behind the Scenes: Making the Invites

I've been thinking a lot about bunting lately, particularly in relation to our wedding invites. They are involved in our design idea and for a few weeks, I thought that I had to find the perfect one to buy. Until I realized that a paper bunting is ridiculously easy to make, especially with the help of a handy scalloped paper punch from my local Micheals store.

Sure, it's not as comforting to me as sewing is, but it's pretty gratifying to turn a stack of paper into pretty circles, all with perfect edges. I did my best with my assortment of papers, trying to keep it close to our palette and not go overly girly, though obviously that is a lot of pink you see up there (the colors are mixed differently depending on which part of it you are looking at).
I can't wait to see how these wind up working in the layout draft that we have going on—which we don't need to have done until later in February or really, early March, but I like to be on top of my to-do list! Not to mention being able to cross something off that I could start and finish in a matter of an hour.

I am fairly confident that I'll be inviting some of my friends over to make strands of these for decorations. I just need to figure out a super easy, and yet sturdy way to attach the circles to the string.

On an entirely unrelated to weddings note, I'm spending the weekend in nyc and DC (going to meet the new little Gus, who was born to friends a few weeks ago), and am loving the plus 30 degree weather. And of course, seeing friends. That is always a good thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Things...Cloth Napkin Edition

I've started our registry—using Wish Pot, which allows you to add anything from anywhere, which is fantastic and I will tell you more about in an upcoming post—and I'm currently experiencing a little cloth napkin love. The ones that we use currently were free at my first job, which means I've had them for, oh, about 6 years. They are lovely bright striped numbers, but they are faded and stained, and I think it's time for something a little bit more grown up. I know it may seem a little silly to spend a lot of time thinking about cloth napkins, but when they are really the only thing decorative on our table at most times, I would love to have some that transmitted more of the feel of the rest of our house—calm, subtle, soothing. And for the purposes of your imagination, our table is wide wood planks, so keep that in mind as you look at a few versions from very talented makers that I am loving this week.

The one above is from Heather of Skinny La Minx in Cape Town. That is her Specimens napkin, and I love the grown up gray paired with the fun graphic print.

This is the Checked Linen Napkin from Sam at Inklore. Oh, how I love the look of linen.

Okay, these are actually the Seasons Tea Towels by Claudia Pearson, but I do love the bright colors so I might email her to see if she has any plans for napkins in the works. These would be lovely with either white plates, or even the jadite plates that we currently have.

I'm curious how you all have approached your tableware and linens. Did you start with the plates and go from there? Did it just come together naturally?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekend Highlights: Revisiting an Old Favorite

 When I was in college, oh, about a decade ago (!), one of the things that I loved most about where I went to school (LA) was the abundance of excellent vegetarian restaurants. And while I am no longer vegetarian, some of the things that I learned to love at that time in my life have kept their hold on me. Primarily this involves foods that I ate at Real Food Daily, the most amazing vegan restaurant, that I regularly make at home from their first cookbook. Soba noodles with peanut sauce, skillet cornbread, balsamic vinaigrette, and this weekend, carrot cashew butter.

I am aware that the fact that carrot cashew butter had me dancing around the kitchen will just make you think I'm strange and easily excited, but let me also tell you that it is one of the best things to come out of my kitchen in a long time. You cook a lb of carrots and one onion until then are tender, then puree them with maple syrup, Chinese five spice powder, miso, raw cashews, and a bit of salt. The result is surprisingly decadent, and a flavor quite unique. At the restaurant, they serve this instead of butter with bread. At home, I eat it with a spoon for a snack.

It was a good weekend in the kitchen and I made a whole long list of things—including buckwheat crackers which you can see above, and dinner for the friend (and her husband) who is going to marry us in July. I also was fortunate enough to remember the simple pleasure of curling up with a mug of tea and a good book, reading in the warm winter sunshine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photographer Spotlight: Pat Little

My sister gifted me this print over the holidays and let me tell you, I love it so much that I am refusing to hang it up. Instead, it's right here by my computer, leaning against the wall, right by my tea/coffee/matte coaster. This is a handy way for me to get to Really enjoy it every day, even though it makes my desk top a wee bit crowded.
It's a print from photographer Pat Little, who's local to the area in Central PA where my sis lives (and was apparently nominated for a Pulitzer for photojournalism). The image, though, is actually from Scotland, which I think makes total sense. I imagine greenery just to the sides of where this image was captured, and a lovely, cracked old-on-the-outside, new-on-the-inside farmhouse with a huge apron front stove.

I've been a little prone to making up fantasy stories lately, as a way to escape the frigid weather. And to planning the part of the garden (flowers, fruit) that I'm responsible for. Trying to figure out if a bathtub planted with flowers could work in our yard.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bedroom Makeover

For a few months now, we've been working on getting the old carpet in our upstairs—which has our master bedroom, hallway with closets, and the master bathroom—replaced with wood flooring. The biggest reasons for this were that aesthetically, I much prefer wood (and the downstairs is wood), but even more importantly, the folks who owned our house before us smoked. And while they didn't smoke in the house, their clothing transferred some of the smell to the carpet...and it lingered just enough to bother me. As I think it would any non-smoker. Plus, carpet doesn't last forever and after I think about a decade, that carpet needed to go!

So I did my research to find eco-friendly flooring that would match the oak we have downstairs. I wanted both wood that was Forest Stewardship Council certified (so we knew that mountains weren't being irresponsibly logged for our floors since we like the mountains), and that we didn't need to have chemical-laden adhesives or finishes applied since we can't open the windows to air the space out...and sleeping and inhaling those fumes was highly unappealing. I found engineered oak from Kahrs, got the New York red oak that matched our downstairs and we were off.

Let me tell you, this was not as easy of a project as I had thought (the details are uninteresting, but I learned a lot about accountability—meaning, if you ever order something for a big project, check every box TWICE to be sure you got what you thought you should—and I am a big fan of the company that we hired to install it. (We considered doing it ourselves, but after watching professionals for five days, I am eternally grateful that we didn't.)

The result? Airy, spaciousness that feels more open and clean. The sunlight plays off of the golden hues of the floors in a remarkably lovely way, and it's really easy to clean (no need to haul out the vacuum). I really loved our house before, but this has completely transformed the upstairs into one of my very favorite spaces.

And it inspired me to clean out all of our closets and half of the basement, and to do a mini makeover of the bed area of our master bedroom. I changed the bedskirt to one with more ruffles, changed the curtains to ones that were heavier (and creamy silk, which is a nice backdrop), and I brought up my quilt from Katherine and some pillows that suddenly cried out to be there. All of these things were already in our house, I just repurposed them, which was very exciting.

It's been a little hard for me to leave the house the past few days, but I think that's probably a pretty good problem to have.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Dress is in the Mail...

Yesterday, I dropped my dress panels off at Fed ex and while I knew that it would be hard, I had no idea that I'd walk out of the store filled with terror that something would happen to them in transit. Rationally, I know that Fed ex is pretty reliable, and it will most certainly get there—and if for some reason it doesn't, there are other dresses. But still, after working for two months (and what I figure to be about 100 hours) on the panels, I do kind of want everything to be okay.

I am mostly trying not to think about it until Monday, when I will be checking the tracking number to see if they made it to Alabama, and I'm helping myself out by starting to dream about some potential accessories.

I've ordered a color chart of fabric from Alabama Chanin so that my sister and I can decide what color her dress should be—we can't decide between a deeper shade of ruby or a lighter pink—and I've started poking around for earrings, and other fun items, like this lovely, lovely clutch from Emersonmade.

I am not going to order or commit to anything until I actually, fingers crossed, see the dress in person, but it's fun to be at the point where thinking about it feels like the right next step to take.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photographer Spotlight: Sarah Storm

In honor of the snow storms that are making the rounds this week, I thought I'd share some lovely work from photographer Sarah Storm. Sarah is a photographer from Colorado who loves to capture the beauty that's all around us and share it with the world. I am totally smitten with these snowy forest prints and they are making me reconsider the beauty of my own snowy landscape (lest I get wrapped up in how messy the roads are). Take a peak at a few more of my favorites (all of which, for the record, are extremely affordable, should you be in the market for something pretty to liven up your walls).

Sarah also has a fine art shop which you can see right here. If you're one of the lucky ones with a snow day, enjoy! If you have to go to work, drink some cocoa at your desk!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Panels Are Done!

Good news! I finished beading the eighth panel of my wedding dress yesterday, which means that our part is done! Let's see, it took just about two months to do the stitching and the beading and I enjoyed 90% of it—I have to admit that there was a time at the start, and then again towards the end that I had to power through with sheer determination, but overall, I loved the experience. And the result, as far as I can see it so far. 
I learned a lot about stitching and fabric in general, and also about my love of this type of repetitive work—it may be slow going, but each tiny stitch adds up to a remarkable whole. And the only way to enjoy that remarkable whole is to keep on keeping on. Not to mention that it's an incredibly relaxing way to end weeknights, with something tangible and real in my hands. And that it's given me plenty of time to think about the day that I will eventually be wearing this dress, which has made me feel incredibly grounded in our wedding planning process. 

I'd say it's a win-win!

And I think we've even decided to get an Alabama Chanin dress for my sister too. I'm thinking that we'll have them put the dress together and then we'll embellish the bottom quarter or third so that it's not such a big project. But that way, her dress will echo mine and she'll get to enjoy a little stitchery love come July. I can't wait!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wedding Update: Invitation Inspiration Board

Since I knew that we'd be spending a good amount of time over the holidays with the lovely family member who is going to be designing our invitations, I went ahead and put together a little inspiration board to get us started. We're still a ways off from needing to send these out, but I like to be ahead of schedule:)

To make the board, I added a bunch of images that I liked to my pinterest account, then had my bff go through and help me figure out what it was about each image that I liked. SO helpful. From there, I pulled the images that I liked best and voila, inspiration board was done. (Note: the color palette will still be more like this.)

I love the mix of natural elements, handmade touches and simple embellishment, along with the handmade fonts at the bottom.

We have an initial draft of the invites in the works, though I have some work to do on procuring an element for'll just have to wait and see!

P.S. You can see where all of these images came from right here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Joy of a Good Mug

For at least the past two months, Josh kept mentioning how much he wanted a honey pot. Apparently, they make drizzling honey onto toast, cornbread or into tea—three things that we do a lot of in our house—much easier than a spoon. And it reminded him of his home growing up. I hoped that somehow we'd stumble across one, and then miracle of all miracles, my sister gave us one—unknowing of how much we wanted one—for Christmas. It came tucked into a sweet basket with two mugs (one of them is pictured above, the other was probably in use at the time of this photo), tea, and honey and was a perfect present. The pottery is from Groundhog Blues Pottery, a business near where my sis lives, and it's sturdy and smooth and well shaped (it fits your hand really nicely). And as our household is currently battling a wicked head cold, having something lovely to sip tea out of is really brightening the mood around here:)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy 2011

Wow, what a difference a week away from work, my computer, and multitasking can make! I admit that I'm a little reluctant to jump back into the swing of things, but so it goes (and I figure it's certainly one way to stay warm in the frigid Iowa January!). Vacations are good.
I was at the Jersey shore for the holidays—an area I love in the winter because it's so very quiet and peaceful—and I was one of the lucky ones who got to witness the crazy east coast blizzard the day after Christmas, and yet, wasn't really impacted by it. Sure it meant that I stayed holed up in the house for an extra day, but that's what the holidays are for anyway, I figure. It also bought us an extra day with part of our family who decided to wait for the roads to clear up a bit, so it was a big win in my book. Other than shoveling, the time was filled with sewing (my dress), eating (ravioli, panettone, crab cakes, countless cookies, and much, much more), sitting around the table telling story after story, and taking long walks bundled up. It was lovely to have such an extended bit of family time.

After the shore, we visited my sister and her hubby in State College, PA—which is home to the part of my father's heart that is not filled by his family...he is one proud alumni!—and Josh got to see where many of the stories that were told around the dinner table took place. And while I didn't go to Penn State, I've spent so much time there over the years visiting my sister, a good friend, and cousins, that it feels like a very familiar happy place. As a bonus, we even managed to go for a good hike (and steered clear of the hunters) in a local state park.

Our extended road trip was definitely a lot of time in the car, but when that just means quality time with the one you love, you learn to be grateful for the hours. And I definitely was.

Meet me back here on Wednesday for a peek at a few of my favorite homemade and handmade gifts!