Blackberry Farm with Natalie Chanin

_MG_6350Blackberry Farm might just be one of the most magical places on earth.  The food…the service…the sweeping views…the tranquil environment.  If you throw a weekend of sewing with Natalie Chanin into the mix, you pretty much have heaven on earth.  Our sewing weekend was the culmination of our southern road trip and we truly saved the best for last.  Natalie and her team were the warmest, most inspiring teachers.  Their level of skill, attention to detail and determination to create in the most sustainable, high quality fashion possible was just extraordinary.  As we walked to class, and walked to dinner each night, we were greeted with these views…

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_MG_6202On the first day of the workshop it rained off and on for the entire day.  Of course we didn’t mind as we were busy stitching away.  But when we came out of the classroom we were met with this incredible fog, which had rolled in over the mountains.  I grabbed my camera and wandered for the next few hours trying my best to capture the ethereal feeling.

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_MG_6128I must say that in all of my travels I have never experienced such food and service.  Blackberry Farm has won several James Beard awards for both, and it was easy to see why.  Much of the food served is grown on the property, and that which they don’t grow is sourced from local farms.  The quality, freshness and presentation were incredible.

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The property is comprised of something like 4200 acres, all nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  You can walk the property for hours and never run out of places to explore.  I wish we had time to partake in the many activities- fly fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, hiking- the list goes on.  Mostly, I wish I had time to indulge in their spa services :)  The spa itself was such an incredible building.  Someday my home will be modeled after their spa…and I will live forever in quiet peace and white surroundings.  All kidding aside, by the final day I was dying to get home to my boys.  It was the longest I had ever been away and I felt completely undone by the end.  When I woke up yesterday morning to both of them jumping in bed for morning snuggles, I finally felt at rest.  I felt whole again.  My true peace will always be with them, and that is something no spa service could ever top.

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_MG_6032I don’t think I have quite processed all that I learned and absorbed during my time spent with Natalie.  I am completely addicted to her hand sewing process now and though it will take a good 6-9 months to finish my piece (of course I had to choose one of the most intricate patterns!) when it is finished, it will be a masterpiece.  Of that I am sure.  Natalie’s story was inspiring, and her fortitude as a business women was pretty incredible.  She has built the company she has always wanted- from the ground up, and with many mistakes, bumps and bruises along the way.  But she always stayed true to her belief that there is inherent worth in handmade items.  Trying on pieces from her collection, and flipping through her sample swatches (below) was breathtaking.  And although I am grinning like a fool, I simply had to include the picture below…

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Savannah

_MG_5468It’s a bit like a dream, this gorgeous Southern town.  Spanish moss hangs thick from the trees, shrouding the city in mystery.  The weather is hot and humid, the air buzzing with a chorus of tree frogs and locust.  It feels different from anywhere I’ve been before and I can honestly say that this town is a photographer’s dream.  There’s something to see around every corner- beautiful old homes, elaborate wrought iron fences and balconies, statues, parks and fountains.  My mom and I touched down in Savannah on Sunday evening and I think we’ve hit up every spot I had on our itinerary- every cute shop, every great restaurant, every historical site.  I’d love to share a few of my favorite things with you…

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_MG_5842The homes around the heart of Savannah are truly breathtaking.  We are staying at Mansion on Forsyth Park, and our favorite streets to wander are all right around our hotel.  I love the details- the colors, the front porches, the wrought iron embellishments.  This is hands-down my favorite part of Savannah- the architecture of the homes.  If you do nothing else, grant yourself a few hours to just wander the neighborhoods.

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_MG_5861Savannah is also a town known for its food scene.  We have had the most amazing meals while we’ve been here.  Clearly, having only been here for a few days I am no expert, but I did put a ton of research into our itinerary, and everywhere we went, I would ask the locals for their recommendations.  One lady asked where we had been already, and when we named the restaurants, she exclaimed “You’ve hit all the best!”  A few of our favorite stops have included…

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_MG_5641Back in the Day Bakery: the baked goods are just insane, and the sandwich menu is also really good.  We had a Farmwich, which was chock full of great veggies, butter bean spread and cheese, and we split a Key Lime Pie Bar and Chocolate Chip Cookie- insane.

_MG_5632The Florence: Best meal I have had in years.  Years.  Go here…order the vegetable platter.

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_MG_5483The Collins Quarter: Great breakfast- the ricotta pancakes were amazing, and the dish above, The Local Catch was such a fabulous and inventive breakfast dish.  Great coffee too!

Other fabulous eats that we tried:

We didn’t make it to these places, but everyone confirmed that they are great:

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_MG_5528And of course we made time for shopping.  There are so many sweet little independent shops in Savannah, many along the main street, Broughton, but many tucked along the side streets as well.  A few of my favorites included:

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_MG_5770There are so many things to see and do.  I’ll readily admit that I’m not one to enjoy historical tours and such- I really squirm when I’m stuck in a group being shuffled from place to place.  I’m sure we missed many of the “official” historical homes and such, but we really enjoyed the ones we saw.  Above is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist: A stunning church near the center of town.

_MG_5559Forsyth Park: The iconic Savannah fountain is located here, and the park itself is always full of activity; pick-up ultimate Frisbee games and kids playing at the playground.  Also, a walk down Bull Street will wind you around many of historic squares.  The homes around the squares are beautiful, and usually the squares have a statue or fountain in the middle.

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_MG_5702Wormsloe Historical Site: The archway of living oaks is one of the most enchanting things I have ever seen.  It is hard to capture its magic with pictures- it really is something you just have to experience.  You have to drive here- it is a bit outside of town- but it is absolutely worth the time and entrance fee.  Walk through the pathways and down to the water’s edge.

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_MG_5609Bonaventure Cemetery: Hauntingly beautiful and worth spending a few hours here to reverently walk through the sprawling grounds.

_MG_5848We’re off on our next leg of the trip.  We thought our little bed and breakfast was close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it looks like we may have miscalculated things.  We’ll see when we get there! ‘Tis always an adventure.

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Thelma and Louise

8303883355_2eddd51333_oYears ago when I was living in Chicago my mom came to visit for the weekend.  Because I lived in the tiniest studio apartment, she stayed in a nearby hotel.  On the last day of her visit I was in her hotel room watching her pack.  I was sitting on the bed chatting away when she suddenly grew serious.  I remember her saying something along the lines of, “I have to tell you something.”  And I knew at that moment, because of the look on her face and the tone of her voice, it wouldn’t be good news, and my eyes instantly filled with tears.  My mom was and continues to be my best friend in the whole world (aside from my husband I suppose, but that is a different type of friendship).  We genuinely enjoy each others company and have so many interests and hobbies in common.  In fact, there is no one I enjoy road tripping and traveling with more than my mom.  We love checking out new places and stopping for pictures, and we can hardly contain our excitement when we come across a roadside flower stand, or a sweet little shop or an interesting old barn.  With a house full of boys, I appreciate our shared interests more than ever now.

IMG_4119But back to that hotel room in Chicago. “I’ve been diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease.”  And there it was: the explanation as to why she had been tripping and falling so often, and why she had such trouble navigating her arms to put on her coat, and why she’d get a tremor in her lip that wouldn’t cease.  At the time, she was in her mid-forties with a young child at home (my little brother)- a picture of health and vibrancy.  I was angry- that is often my go-to initial emotion- it just seemed so unfair.  So unbelievably unfair.

IMG_0322As I’ve watched my mother deal with this disease over the past decade, my love for her has only deepened.  She is the bravest, most optimistic person I have ever met, and continues to live life to the very fullest, doing so much for others and never letting her decreased mobility or pain get in the way.  In fact, I don’t think we will ever know the real toll of the disease, because she is not one for self-pity or dwelling on her pain.  She takes medication every morning, and the disease is progressing, though if you were to meet her, there is a good chance you wouldn’t know that Parkinson’s was at play.

IMG_7274Who knows what the future looks like at this point- she could live to be 100, or the disease could progress more rapidly.  We don’t know.  But what we do know, and what a diagnosis like this brings into focus is that NOW is the time…  The time to travel, to be together, to make memories…because really, in the end, what else matters?  It is in this vein that we planned a road trip of a lifetime.  Beginning in Savannah, Georgia, where we’ll kick around for a few days, my mom and I will drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, ultimately arriving at Blackberry Farm for a weekend workshop with the one-and-only Natalie Chanin.  It’s a “girls only” trip, as my boys would say.  Once the trip is over, we’ll all meet back in Northern Michigan to spend the summer together at my parent’s home. We’re planning on lots of late nights, rooftop cocktails, photo excursions, fried chicken, ice cream, Southern roses, and inspiration enough to last us for years (I can’t wait to share!).  We’re packing our bags for take-off on Sunday.

FullSizeRender-1Now, let’s go see about getting our Thelma and Louis on…!

p.s. If you have any recommendations to share (Savannah or anywhere along our route) please do!

p.s.s. This was shared with the full support of my mom, it is really her story to tell, though it is a part of all our stories…xoxo.  And the gorgeous flower photos you see here were all taken by my mom…my artistic, beautiful mama.

Little Bites Trailer

I am thrilled to share with you the trailer for Little Bites.  We had so much fun making this video, though I will admit that with four little guys on set it was a bit chaotic!  But that is life, and that is the reality of our time spent in the kitchen.  It’s messy, and real, and wonderful.  I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Little Bites.  I’d certainly love to hear your thoughts!

A Basics Tank and Alice Top

_MG_5022Before leaving for Squam I revved up the sewing machine and made myself a few new tops.  I have been on a bit of a losing streak with my handmade attempts lately- a Scout tee that was way too short and totally unflattering, and a sweater that might very well get ripped out and re-purposed.  I’m happy to announce that with the Basics Tank and Alice Top I successfully overcame my slump.  In fact, these might be two of my most favorite handmade tops to date.

_MG_5018While at Squam, Kellen, Felicia and I took a little drive through the beautiful countryside trying to find the perfect backdrop where we could photograph some of our handmade wardrobe.  This weathered gray barn was pretty much the most perfect backdrop ever.  If there had been a way to tow it home behind my car, believe me I would have.  I need a weathered barn in my life!

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_MG_4974I didn’t alter the Alice Top at all, and it fits perfectly.  I was a bit nervous about the shoulders- I was concerned they might stick out oddly and end up looking like shoulder pads.  I didn’t use interfacing, and I think this is key to allowing the shoulders to drape nicely.  When I make my next Alice I might drop the neckline slightly- it is a bit high for my liking.  Other than that- this is an amazing top and an extremely well written pattern, though it was challenging for a seamstress of my level.  The fabric I used is from Nani Iro’s Spring 2015 line of double gauze.  The Basics Tank, on the other hand, is a very simple pattern which easily allows you to lengthen the tank.  I added an extra two inches to the tank, and I am really happy with the length.  I am in love with the Kokochi Double Gauze that I used…it is a dream to wear. If you are looking for some fun summer sewing, I’d highly recommend these two!  Now tell me….what’s currently on your sewing table?

IMG_3673*all photos by Kellen, except for the last one, which is by Felicia…thanks girls!

Squam

_MG_4809I returned from Squam on Sunday feeling completely exhausted, but riding a creative high.  The exhaustion thing was totally my fault- with two of my best Squam friends, Kellen and Felicia, staying in my cabin we never seemed to make it to bed before 1am.  At our age it pretty much felt like pulling a few all-nighters in a row.  But totally worth it.  I haven’t had time for that kind of connection in a long while.  Sitting by the fire, knitting and talking about everything from why we create, to how we raise our children (and teasing each other mercilessly)…it is a magical thing indeed when you can connect so deeply with other women.

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_MG_4592On Thursday I had the pleasure of taking Ann Wood’s class where we learned to hand-stitched a mushroom and seed pod (those are mine, above).  It was such a blast, and Ann is a generous and inspiring teacher.  She shared her vintage fabric collection with us- scraps of lace, indigo and hand-dyed fabrics, old wedding dresses and couture clothing- all for us to play with!  It was such a playful and creative way to spend a day.

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_MG_4662When we had down time, Felicia, Kellen and I hit the open road and explored the countryside.  We even staged a little barn photo shoot, which I’ll be sure to share this week.   We stopped to get coffee and take pictures of flowers.  When you are used to having kids in the car with you, little luxuries like this feel extra decadent.

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group

_MG_4799On Saturday night the Squam Art Fair was in full swing.  I had a booth selling a few new items from India, and right next to me was Roost, my publisher, selling a stack of Little Bites.  It was pretty thrilling to watch my friends purchase my book, and being able to sign their copy with a personal message.  What a fun way to soft launch Little Bites!

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_MG_5102And even though I know they’ll want to kill me for posting this picture…my girls, looking so happy.  I’m in a wee bit of denial that I won’t be seeing them for at least another year but I’ll rest easy knowing we can pick right back up where we left off…

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The Gift of Craft

_MG_4044Two years ago a young family bought the dilapidated home next to ours.  Previously, there had been a mother and daughter living there.  The house was completely run down and they had been hoarders, so the amount of stuff left behind was rather mind-boggling.  A Grey Gardens situation, if you will.  Lucky for us, the family that moved in began the long process of restoring the home to its former glory.  They have a son Vik’s age, and the boys have become fast friends.  They are expecting another baby in July; a baby girl!  You know I have a serious weakness for baby girl knits, and so I set about making a gift (or four).  Three dresses, a sweater, and a pair of bloomers later (might I have gone a bit overboard?).  I packed it all up in a large box with layers of pearly paper in between.  My neighbor was pretty blown away (and probably thinks I have way too much time on my hands!).  These are some of my favorite baby knits to date…you can see pattern details on my Ravelry page.

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sweater and bloomers

_MG_4569I love knitting and sewing for others.  Nothing can match the joy of gifting something handmade.  Also this week I finished up a quilt for my nephew.  I made my niece a quilt last summer and have been working on his ever since.  I bit off more than I could chew with the pattern (triangles are not your friend if you are not a precise quilter- lesson learned).  It took me sooo long to finish.  But I love how it turned out.  Thank goodness for long-arm quilting- it hides a multitude of sins!  The quilt was packed up with love and sent on its way.

_MG_4546Of course my hands never stays still for long.  A new stack of fabrics were waiting for me and I made myself two gorgeous tops to show off at Squam (I leave today- cannot wait!).  I’ll have to get some pictures- they are my best to date!  And I have a pile of Hole and Sons yarn waiting in the wings for the perfect project.

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_MG_3951But first up on the needles is a project to welcome baby Eve.  My friend Sarah gave birth to a baby girl last week, and I had the honor of being in the hospital to capture the moment where her older daughter met her new baby sister.  It was such a beautiful, beautiful moment, and it brought back so many memories of my boy’s first meeting.  These two girls are so lucky to call Sarah “mama.”  Life is so full of blessings at the moment.  What better way to celebrate than a bit of handmade, homemade love.  I’ll be back next week with images and stories from my time at Squam…I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am!  If you are going to be in the area, I’ll be at the Squam Art Fair selling some goods from India, as well as autographing copies of Little Bites at the Roost table!  Yes- the books have arrived!  Yahoo!  I can’t wait for you all to hold a copy in your hands.  It’s a beauty.

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Peonies

_MG_4518It finally rained this weekend; a good heavy rain.  This has been such a dry spring, and the rain was so needed.  Everything feels especially green and vibrant now.  The peonies are simply breathtaking this year (of course I say that every year).  I know the exact yards where, year after year, I stalk my favorite peony bushes.  I was excited to add a few new finds to my list this year.  I’ve been teaching the boys the names of all of my favorite flowers, and I am surprised by the fact that they have started to recognize them all on their own.  Their little minds are like steel traps, I swear.  I’m wondering if you have any recommendations for flower/ garden books that the boys might enjoy.  We read our fair share about growing veggies and fruits, and about where our food comes from, but I think they would really enjoy some books about flowers and general gardening.

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Because it’s my Birthday

8303876461_06fd140682_oI turn 32 today…and what better way to celebrate than a throwback pic to the 80’s.  Man…the 80’s were hilarious.  Candy cigarettes from the corner store and fake balloon breasts.  Those candy cigarettes actually puffed plumes of powdered sugar “smoke.”  Can you imagine getting away with that today?  I’m on the right and my older (much cooler) cousin is on the left.  Has she got the pose down, or what?!  I’m trying my best to keep up, but I look hilariously awkward.  At the risk of sounding like a little old lady…where does the time go?  And come to think of it… after nursing two babies, I might take another whirl with those balloons.

Quick Pickled Radishes

_MG_3970It was our first day at the beach, and the nip in the air made it clear that we’re still in spring, not to be confused with the blistering heat of summer.  What an odd spring we’ve had around here.  Very dry and chilly, with hot days thrown in here and there.  We are in dire need of some good rain, and I feel horribly guilty about watering my yard every other day, but I am desperate to keep the few plants we have alive.  My garden plot is coming along slowly.  I planted much later this year than ever before, and so it feels like such a slow start.  I am hoping by next week to start harvesting salad greens.  I just hate buying greens at the grocery store and market this time of year.  I should be swimming in them!  I managed to harvest one measly bunch of radishes, and decided to try a quick pickle.  I used the recipe from Cookie and Kate, with a few tweaks.  They are fabulous on everything from my morning eggs to dinner salads and sandwiches.

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Spicy Quick Pickled Radishes

  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorn

Directions:

1. Thinly slice radishes into rounds and place them in a canning jar along with the black peppercorn.

2. In a saucepan combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, giving it a good stir.  Pour the brine over the radishes, and allow the mixture to cool.

3. You can serve the radishes immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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_MG_3985It simply wouldn’t feel right to let Memorial Day pass without acknowledging the men and women who have so bravely served our country.  My brother is one of those men, and he is our hero.  He’s the shirtless one (of course!) and we love him dearly.

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