Preparing for Christmas

_MG_0093The holidays haven’t felt rushed at all this year, instead they feel slow and sweet.  We decorated our little Charlie Brown tree as a family (only one ornament casualty, which is truly a Christmas miracle). Out of all the trees in the lot, Vijay picked the smallest, cutest little tree.  It was the perfect size for the boys to decorate and once I had strung the lights and garland, they handled the rest.  We put candles in all our windows and at night, when the candles are glowing and the tree twinkling, it feels pretty magical in this little home of ours.

_MG_9709We’re keeping things really simple this year in terms of gifts- the boys are getting hockey skates and perhaps a few books and little stocking stuffers, and for the rest of our immediate family, we’re continuing the tradition of giving Pinhole Press calenders, which everyone requests year after year.  As much as I love crafting, it feels good to have lifted the self-imposed pressure to make something handmade for everyone on my list.  _MG_0110We used Tiny Prints this year for our Christmas cards, and I was immensely proud of myself for finally organizing all of our friends and family into an address book that I uploaded right to the website for printing labels.  Why oh why did it take me so long to do this?  Not having to write so many addresses by hand- priceless!  I’m looking forward to these next few weeks rolling out slowly, giving all of us time to savor the holiday spirit without feeling rushed or pressed.

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Martha’s Vineyard

_MG_9883I found myself making the quick trip to Martha’s Vineyard this weekend to work on a few last minute details related to Little Bites.  It was bone-chilling cold when I arrived, after having been delayed for a few hours because it was too windy for the ferry to embark.  After working through the afternoon, we began losing the light at 3 o’clock.  I had forgotten how early the dark comes during these winter months.  By 4 o’clock the sun was setting, igniting the sky and dancing over the churning waves.  I quickly made my way out to the end of the island to capture the sunset against the working docks of Menemsha, a small fishing village.  I love the patina of the worn fisherman sheds, and the way the boats and all their rigging look against the setting sun.  I tried so hard to capture the way the sunset lit each surface with a different light ranging from pink to twilight blue.  But I’m not sure you can really capture the sunset and the light as seen with your eyes.  The raw wonder of it all is a bit lost in translation….  It will most likely be quite some time before I see this Island again…work on the book is just about done, and it will be off to the printer soon.  I will sorely miss my seasonal weekend escapes to this breathtaking place.  It’s so nice to slow down every now and then…if only for a sunset.

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Chicago

_MG_9309Chicago has had a hold on me for years, ever since I left it for Providence back in 2005.  Returning annually for Thanksgiving has always been bittersweet.  I always take a stroll past my old apartment, and the various places I waitresses, and I take an El ride since I probably spent more time on that damn train than anywhere else in the city.  This year was different- I had a great time exploring the city, but honestly it didn’t pull me back in at all.  Perhaps I’m simply growing up, or perhaps I’m done romanticizing my early twenties.  Or…most likely, I’ve settled into a happy place once again with Providence.  Whatever the case, I was happy to come back home, happy to drive the familiar streets while dropping Vij at preschool, and practically ecstatic to grab a coffee from Blue State, where the barista knows just how I like it.  All that being said…back to Chicago.  It was great fun, even if it was freezing cold and the kids preferred swimming in the hotel pool over every other activity!

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_MG_9291We didn’t do as much as I had hoped, mainly due to the freezing temps and the fact that both boys caught a cold and pretty much wanted nothing to do with anything besides the hotel hot tub!  But I did get out for a few naptime walks, where I took in a few of my favorite sites and shops.  Above is the ceiling in the Chicago Cultural Center, which is simply breathtaking.  Worth a stop if you’re in the Millennium Park area.  A few other favorites include P.O.S.H. (an adorable, eclectic shop that goes all out for Christmas), A New Leaf (the most amazing floral shop I’ve ever come across), and Heritage General Store (a hybrid between a coffee shop and bike repair shop).  I tend to visit the same places every single year, and could probably use a few recommendations to spice things up.  Does anyone have cute shops/ great restaurants/ fabulous coffee shops or other cool things to recommend in Chicago.  To try and find a concise guide to this stuff online is like panning for gold, and whose got that kind of time!

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_MG_9342(all of the above are from A New Leaf)

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_MG_9196(all of the above are from P.O.S.H.)

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_MG_9412(and obviously the above are from Heritage General Store)

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Giving Thanks

15628488030_e2cf3ae38d_oToday I am feeling thankful for the year we’ve had so far.  It has been one of the most emotionally difficult years in so many ways, but it has forced us to stretch and grow (uncomfortable as it may be) while we figure out what’s next for this little family of ours.  I have battled with my love for Providence, and feeling overwhelmed by work.  I’ve learn to let go as Vijay ventured off to school for the first time.  We’ve had major house repairs that took us by surprise, and cost us a pretty penny.  And there have been personal battles that threw us all for a loop.  But as the year begins to draw to a close, I can’t help but feel that so much of the stress is behind us for now.  I remember complaining to my mom that, “I just want it all to end.”  It being the stress, unwelcome surprises, and upheaval.  She just looked at me and said, “It will end when life ends.”  True enough (though not quite the sympathy I was looking for in the moment!).  Life is messy and unpredictable.  But beauty comes from broken places, and how are we to appreciate that beauty if we haven’t been through the darkness?

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15789693546_d1ce059ba2_oIn just a few hours, Vik and I will join Vijay at his preschool, and along with all of his classmates and their families, we’ll be treated to a Harvest Feast that the kids cooked themselves.  Pumpkin muffins, apple sauce, vegetable soup, homemade bread; they’ve been hard at work.  Vijay is so excited that he’s been counting down for weeks.  “How many more days until the Harvest Feast?” he asks every morning.

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15627540839_d719ffaa81_oAfter his Harvest Feast, we’ll board a plane to Chicago, my favorite city, where we’ll spend Thanksgiving surrounded by family.  I’m feeling very thankful indeed.  Life is messy, as I’m continually learning, and the house will always need cleaning, and the laundry will always need folding, and the to-do list will never end.  But these are the signs of a life well lived, a life that is full of love, and chaos and laughter, and most importantly little people.  Oh, those little people- that’s where it’s at.  I hope you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you back here next week with pictures and stories to share from the Windy City.

(pictures from my recent Gardenista article on Tower Hill Botanic Garden, the most magical place)

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A Reading Update

2014-11-19_0003I went on a binge this past week.  A reading binge, that is.  It’s like I couldn’t put my book down, even when the dishes, laundry and cooking (not to mention the boys!) were calling to me.  I’ve been single parenting quite a bit while my husband travels for work, so when he gets home, I retreat to the couch for a bit of down time.  Minutes turn into hours and before I know it, I’ve finished a book in one sitting.  When I get up out of my stupor I feel completely relaxed, and at the same time invigorated by the beauty of the story I just read.  You guys know your books- I have been relying solely on your recommendations, and I have not been steered wrong once.  I am slowly working my way through the list…savoring each read.  What’s amazing is that they are all different- mystery, YA, established authors, new writers- but they are all amazing.  I’m back to the library for my books now- with my new addiction I just couldn’t afford to keep up the bookstore thing! I’m no book reviewer, and you can easily read the blurb for each of these online, but here are a few thoughts…

Eleanor and Park, my favorite of the bunch, is a YA novel, but so beautifully written that it will take you right back to the awkward, painful, and often heart-breaking high school years.

The Furies is also set in a high school, where the students are behaviorally challenged, and their teacher, Alex, is recovering from her own traumatic incident.  A fast paced, thrilling read.  I liked it quite a bit, and sped through it, but it didn’t touch me, like Eleanor and Park.

Delancey is Molly Wizenbergs latest book, which picks up where A Homemade Life left off.  If you love food, and you’ve always wondered what goes into opening a restaurant, this book is for you.  I appreciated that it did not glamorize the process, but kept things very real; from the emotions, to the amount of physical labor and financial strain involved in starting up a business.  Basically, this book has me dying to jump on a plane and head to Seattle to soak up the food scene (it sounds incredible!).

Still Life is the first of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Mysteries.  I love mysteries, though I like mine a bit more on the dark and gory side (that makes me sound weird, but whatever, it’s the truth!).  That being said, I loved the characters, and the setting; a small, picturesque town south of Montreal.  I’m definitely hooked enough to check out the next in the series (I believe there are 10 total).

And now, waiting for me on my nightstand….

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Cables and Changing Seasons

_MG_8549It snowed last week, the first snow of the year.  Vijay and Vik went outside just long enough to throw a few snowballs at each other, and then they came back inside and pretty much refused to leave the house for the rest of the weekend.  They wanted to wear their fleece pajamas and take warm baths, and build forts and pirate ships out of all the couch cushions and blankets in the house.  They are SO not cold weather kids.  It is laughable, really.  And perhaps the transition into winter will be extra difficult this year since we had such a lovely fall, full of sunshine and gradually changing leaves.  It fooled us all into thinking that winter might not be that bad….but apparently, it is supposedly there is a polar vortex coming our way.

_MG_8558On a sunny day last week (maybe one of our last?), I headed out into the falling leaves with my friend Sarah, and her daughter Emily.  We wanted to take some pictures of Emily in the sweater that I had knit her paired with the tunic that Sarah made.  The sweater goes by the name of Miss Korrigan, and it is the loveliest little layering piece imaginable.  Sweet cables, seed stitch trim, and luscious purple yarn combine for the perfect fall sweater.  Every single time I knit a little girl’s sweater for Emily, I start thinking about having a little girl of my own.  And then I snap back to reality and realize that I am perfectly happy knitting for little Em…at least for the moment!

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Cozy Quilted Vest

vest1This post has been a long time coming.  I believe I started working on this vest three or four months ago, and I had planned to finish it sometime in early September so that I could wear it throughout the fall.  But it’s worth the wait.  Cozy, stylish, a great layering piece; this vest has got it all going on.  When I first saw the pattern over on The Purl Bee, I knew I needed to make one for myself in the exact fabric that they used.  Because the more I sew, the more I hone in on pieces that I would actually wear, and let me tell you, I haven’t taken this off since I hand-stitched the last inch of binding.

_MG_8634I happened to see Elizabeth while wearing my vest- well let me pause here, I didn’t just happen to see her, I was over at her house using her shower because we were without plumbing all last week.  Though not to worry, a trillion dollars later and a completely torn-up front yard and it’s all good.  Hooray for 110 year old homes and pipes!  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, Elizabeth saw my vest and flipped.  I think I’ll have to make her one for Christmas.  She actually thought I had sneaked off to NYC for some shopping (in my spare time) and picked up this vest at some chic boutique.  See why I love her!?  While I’m not sure I’d go that far (she didn’t look closely!) this vest is pretty darn fabulous.

vestThe last thing I’ll say before I wrap up this love story is this- don’t be fooled.  Oh…a simple quilted vest!  How easy.  Nope- this one was a lot of work.  It wasn’t hard, per se, just labor intensive.  The arm holes as well as the entire outline of the vest is hand-stitched binding.  Let’s just say I’m all caught up on Homeland!

_MG_8647Previous to this project, I was at a crafting stand-still.  I just haven’t had the time.  I’m vowing to change that.  I’m trying to get better about putting my computer away once the kids are in bed, and using that time to indulge in things that feed me, instead of just working late into the night.  This week I took a Bikram yoga class.  I’ve been reading (making my way through your recommendations) and I’ve picked up my knitting needles again (that beautiful yarn above is halfway to a sweater right now!).  I know…party on, right!?

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Thank you!

_MG_8816Thank you for all of your orders!  I love doing these little pop-up shops because they reconnect me with so many great people.  I recognize many of you from Squam, or as long-time blog readers, and I so appreciate you supporting my little enterprise!  If I was forced to pick a favorite item from the shop, it would have to be the tunic pictured above.  I have a short-sleeve version in a different fabric that I wear all summer long, and now, I’m wearing this one just about every other day this fall.  I just love how bright and pulled-together it looks when paired with jeans.  It sure beats sweatpants and a tee shirt, which is a look I’m trying really hard to save just for the gym these days!  Anyway…thank you again, and the shop will stay open for a while longer.  There are still plenty of goodies left.

Pop-Up Shop is OPEN!

_MG_8082Good morning, and happy Monday!  The shop is live, and I couldn’t be more excited.  My husband and I worked hard to source a bunch of amazing, one-of-a-kind products for you, and I hope that you love them as much as we do.  You’ll find everything from sari-wrapped notebooks (above) to kantha quilts (below).  I’m also offering prints of my photographs from our trip to India.  Please note that there are two pages of products- once you scroll through the products on the first page, there are tiny page numbers below, and clicking on the 2 will take you to the other page of products.  Finally, if you have any questions at all, leave a comment here or shoot me an email at christine.chitnis@gmail.com.  Happy shopping!

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A Little Peek

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SHOP UPDATE: OPENING MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10 at 9am EST

I’ve been hard at work behind the scenes putting together my pop-up shop.  I feel so thrilled just sitting in my studio surrounded by all of these beautiful items, and I can’t wait to send them out into the world.  Above you can see the shop taking shape, and below is a little peek at a few of the “stocking stuffer” offerings.  Oh my goodness, do I have some gorgeous notebooks, ribbons and pouches for you!  I have a very limited quantity of items, so if there is something that you have your eye on, jump on it!  In terms of explaining my shopping philosophy, allow me to repeat what I wrote in my previous shop announcement: If you are looking for cheap finds, you won’t see them here.  This is the thing about shopping in India- many visitors go for the cheapy stores.  Pillow cases for $5!!!  Amazing!!  But I can’t do that kind of shopping simply because I have to know that it was made/sourced fairly, the materials used are authentic, and that the artisans were fairly compensated.  I also want to find very unique, possibly one-of-a-kind goods.  I hope that shines through the shop.  And if you have any questions- shoot me an email, or leave it in the comments, otherwise, I’ll see you on Monday morning!

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