Jamaica, Local Flavor

Now that we’re back in Rhode Island it’s hard to believe that somewhere out there the sun is beating down on white hot sand while the ocean waves roll lazily on the shore. It’s hard to believe that somewhere out there it is 80 degrees with the slightest breeze blowing in off the ocean, rustling…

Jamaica, at the market2Now that we’re back in Rhode Island it’s hard to believe that somewhere out there the sun is beating down on white hot sand while the ocean waves roll lazily on the shore. It’s hard to believe that somewhere out there it is 80 degrees with the slightest breeze blowing in off the ocean, rustling the leaves of the palm trees. But what is really hard to believe is that we choose to live here in New England when we could be living there (joking…kind of)! Our trip to Jamaica was heaven on earth. It was so nice to escape the winter sickness that had descended on our family during the last few months. Digging our toes into the sand, basking in the sun and swimming the day away in the ocean proved to be immensely healing. We’re back and feeling good!Jamaica fish

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Jamaica lobster

Jamaica menu Of course all of the Vitamin C helped too. We indulged in fresh pineapple ever morning, and coconut water straight out of the coconut every lunchtime. Jamaica is a place of such abundance in terms of local food offerings. We ate so well while we were there- lobster, fish, jerk chicken, tropical fruits and avocado as big as our heads- it was all so incredibly fresh and delicious. I spent an afternoon wandering the market and trying all kinds of interesting fruits: soursop, custard apple, sweetsop, guava and naseberry. I also bought bags of sugar cane for swirling in our nightly piña colada (made with fresh coconut meat and fresh pineapple- heaven on earth).

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Jamaica, at the market The seafood offerings made for some memorable dinners. Curry crab and jerk lobster were the crowd favorites, served alongside fried plantains and rice and beans. There is also a Jamaican fish dish called Escovich, which is best described as lightly fried red snapper served with vinegar pickled vegetables. It is so tasty.

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Jamaica fishing boats

Jamaica crab Tomorrow I’ll share with you a bit more of our trip, like where we stayed and a glimpse of the gorgeous sunsets that I am now missing terribly!

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Fair Isle Success

I made a promise to try to push myself to learn new techniques and skills this year.  First up…stranded colorwork knitting. For some reason, stranded colorwork always seemed really hard and kind of scary. I posted a picture of my yarn stash on Instagram last week along with a caption about my resolution to learn…

_MG_1935I made a promise to try to push myself to learn new techniques and skills this year.  First up…stranded colorwork knitting. For some reason, stranded colorwork always seemed really hard and kind of scary. I posted a picture of my yarn stash on Instagram last week along with a caption about my resolution to learn colorwork, and a few people commented that I should try YouTube. I was unsure that I could learn via video but it was surprisingly easy! I watched a few videos and then gave it a shot.  I had to get the hang of holding two strands at a time, which was the most challenging part.

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_MG_1894I picked the Schuyler hat for my first pattern.  I found it via Fringe Association and I’m so glad I did.  This is such a beautiful, wearable pattern.  I’m thinking of lining it with fleece, which would make it the perfect winter hat!  Of course everyone in the house is fighting over it, so I already have a second colorwork hat on my needles.  And you know two more will have to come soon after!  At this rate I’ll be ripping through my stash in no time…which can only mean one thing… yarn shopping is in my future!

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The Power of Craft

I hope you had a very merry Christmas. I’ve been bursting to share this story and these images with you for weeks now, ever since I sewed the last stitch on this dress.  Allow me to start from the beginning: this past summer and fall proved to be a very challenging time for my parents…

_MG_1493I hope you had a very merry Christmas. I’ve been bursting to share this story and these images with you for weeks now, ever since I sewed the last stitch on this dress.  Allow me to start from the beginning: this past summer and fall proved to be a very challenging time for my parents as they dealt with many difficulties related to my younger brother.  I saw my mom stripped of so much of her joy as she internalized the stress of the situation and quite frankly, it broke my heart.  I decided that I wanted to use the power of handmade to create something of beauty for her.  I decided that I would finish her Alabama Chanin dress in time for Christmas (you might remember this past summer when my mom and I took a class from Natalie Chanin at Blackberry Farm– this was her garment from the class, which she had barely started).  It was a ridiculously lofty goal what with 6 large panels of applique to conquer, so I decided to enlist the help of my community.  I envisioned an old-fashion quilt circle with women coming together to create something of beauty.  I imagined each stitch sewn with intention and love.  Three amazing women came forward and offered their sewing assistance, and together we created this masterpiece.  I sent them each a panel, and made a little instructional video, and a few months later they sent me back their panels, each completed to perfection.  I stitched up the panels- my three, plus the three others, and finished off the neck and arm holes.  In all it was a six-month project.

bustOn Christmas morning I had the dress swathed in sheets of tissue paper, wrapped in a big box covered in red sparkly wrapping paper.  It was the last gift my mom opened and she was absolutely speechless.  Nestled in along with the dress I had notes from the women who helped to sew her dress:  Kellen Meyer, my sweet Squam friend, was one of the amazing women who lent her talent to the project, along with Amy Mercer, a lovely knitter, seamstress and blog friend, and Ann Ryskoski, a long-time friend of my moms.  The dress fits my mom perfectly- it is quite amazing.  I hope it brings her joy each and every time she wears it.  There is something so powerful about wearing a garment that other hands made for you with love and intention.  This was the most fulfilling and uplifting project that I made this year and it got me thinking: the power of handmade is incredible.  I would love to do this again- craft a beautiful garment for someone who needs a touch of joy in their life.  What do you think?  Would any of you be into that?  Together we could pick someone to receive the gift, and then decide on the garment.  Together we could make beautiful things and spread some handmade joy.  Give it some thought…and keep in mind you don’t have to be a master crafter.  If you can hand sew, you can make an Alabama Chanin piece.  Another idea- an Alabama Chanin sew-a-long in the Providence-area- I’d be happy to host at my house!  Wouldn’t this be a fun way to kick off 2016?!  I’m ready for some deeper, more fulfilling making in the coming year.

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Chicago

It has been a family tradition for the last seven years to spend Thanksgiving in Chicago.  Chicago is the city associated with much of my early twenties- I lived there when I first graduated from college, it’s where I started my career in non-profits and at the same time slung beers at night to pay…

_MG_0318It has been a family tradition for the last seven years to spend Thanksgiving in Chicago.  Chicago is the city associated with much of my early twenties- I lived there when I first graduated from college, it’s where I started my career in non-profits and at the same time slung beers at night to pay the rent, and eventually it is where I met my husband.  To say that it holds a mixed bag of memories is an understatement, but mostly, I look back on that time with great fondness.  Visiting now with my kids in tow is such a treat.  This year I was laid low for about 48 hours with a nasty virus, so my sightseeing was cut shorter than I had hoped.  Though I will say that recovering in a cushy hotel room with room service and cable tv certainly made the virus much more tolerable.  I think that’s the biggest break I’ve had all year!  But I’d love to share with you a few of the things that we enjoyed during our time in Chi-town.

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_MG_0213My first stop was an incredible hotel/ restaurant in the Fulton Market district called The Soho House.  I’d been seeing images of this magnificent space all over Instagram and I was dying to see it for myself.  The food was delicious, especially that almond croissant pictured above.  My family members are creatures of habit and we stay in the same hotel every year, but if I could convince them to try somewhere new, The Soho House would be it!  What kills me is that I used to work in Fulton Market ten years ago- it is where the non-profit I worked for was headquartered- and there was practically NOTHING there but butcher shops.  Now it is full of awesome restaurants, cafes and shops.  It would be such a blast to work in the area now…*sigh*

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_MG_0230My next stop was my all-time favorite little shop in Chicago, which is especially joyful during the holiday season.  P.O.S.H. carries a variety of vintage and new finds, many sourced from France and flea markets across Europe.  I could spend hours browsing their displays and collections.  This shop is always such a treat!

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_MG_0392The brand new Restoration Hardware on Dearborn Ave. is probably the most breathtaking home store I have ever set foot in.  It is housed in the Three Arts Club, built in 1914 in a largely residential section of the Gold Coast.  It seems silly to direct you to this video of the store, but if you are interested it really captures the five floors of elegance, the incredible  steel-enclosed garden courtyard cafe which is home to a restaurant, wine bar and coffee shop, and the rooftop park.  This space was just stunning, and my mom and I happily spent over an hour just wandering around in complete awe. In my next life I’m coming back to live in this building 😉

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_MG_0360Lastly on my must-visit shop list is The New Leaf, a gardening store that offers so much more than flowers and plants.  This store is like a winding treasure hunt, with rooms filled to the brim with glassware, tiles, ribbon, vintage furniture pieces, ornaments, holiday decor and more.  If you’d like to see more of the shop, check out the article I wrote for Gardenista last year.

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_MG_0532If you can believe it, most of the above was squeezed into a few hours while the rest of our time in the city was spent exploring as a family and enjoying the hotel pool!  We took the boys skating at Millennium Park, which they loved, and we sucked it up and paid to go to the top of the John Hancock.  I balked at paying, but it was worth every penny.  The views were spectacular and the boys got a big kick out of the experience.  We also spent a morning at the Lincoln Park Zoo, but it was bitter cold and we all lost our excitement after an hour or so.  Once we saw those poor, freezing flamingos we called it a day.  All this to say, we had an amazing time.  Spending time in Chicago feeds my soul on so many levels- it reminds me of the energy of my twenties, it leaves me breathless with its gorgeous architecture and design, it fills me with beauty as I see the sights though the eyes of my boys, and mostly, it makes me appreciate how lucky I was to once call this city home.

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Where I Stand

It’s been hard to find the right words to describe this season of our lives and all the changes that we’ve experienced.  It is tempting to sum it up into one word- busy- and leave it at that.  But really it feels much more complex.  There is a certain amount of guilt- I am away…

15628151567_4a5affe490_oIt’s been hard to find the right words to describe this season of our lives and all the changes that we’ve experienced.  It is tempting to sum it up into one word- busy- and leave it at that.  But really it feels much more complex.  There is a certain amount of guilt- I am away from home and the boys much more than I’d like to be.  Just the other day my son cried as I left for work, “You are too busy for me, mama.”  My heart shattered.  There is a certain amount of loneliness- I dearly miss our sitter, whose presence was a bright spot in my week.  There is a certain amount of excitement- weddings and birthday parties to attend- along with the inevitable letdown that comes afterward.  There is a large amount of mourning: the loss of free time, time to cook, knit, sew, create.

It’s funny, when my boys were babies I spent most of my days trying to pass the time.  There were hours spent pushing the stroller aimlessly around town, attending story hour at the library and wiling away the afternoon at the park.  There were long afternoons when the boys were napping and I was stuck at home in a quiet house.  Life felt busy, but the busyness was all due to motherhood, and really, our time was our own to spend how we wanted.  I loved it, but at the same time struggled against the monotony.  Now when you add in school and working outside of the home, there is this feeling that our days are not our own anymore.  Free time is precious and dwindling.  I can only imagine how it will feel once the boys are involved in sports and after-school activities.  There is this part of me that wants desperately to go back to those slow days of new motherhood.  I wish someone had told me how fast it goes.  And I wish that I would have listened.

I feel a bit lost right now, if I’m to be honest.  I speed through the week- working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday- rushing between school drop-off and work, then back home to throw together a lame excuse for dinner.  I drop into bed exhausted, with no will to craft or read.  Without my creative pursuits I am adrift, an anchor-less boat bobbing in a rough sea.  This space may be quiet for a bit as I figure out my way, but I hope to see you here on the other side.  I’m not sure what blogging will look like moving forward.  Maybe once a week, maybe once a month.  I hope when the dust settles, you’ll be here.  I do so cherish this space, and the conversations that we have.  Life is beautiful, and hard, and then beautiful all over again.

xo

Brimfield, With a Mission

We’re nearing the end of a large kitchen renovation, and a new look for our living room and entryway.  The former living room was near and dear to my heart- I loved the colors and playfulness, and I loved that the furniture was all secondhand, various finds over the years- but to be completely honest,…

_MG_8053We’re nearing the end of a large kitchen renovation, and a new look for our living room and entryway.  The former living room was near and dear to my heart- I loved the colors and playfulness, and I loved that the furniture was all secondhand, various finds over the years- but to be completely honest, it was never a very comfortable room.  The chairs were low and uncomfortable, the coffee table was always tipping when the kids were around, and the couch was stained and floppy, having lost its fluff years ago.  It was time for a redo.

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_MG_8041We moved into this house 6 years ago when I was in my mid-twenties.  My style at that time was eclectic, thrifted and colorful.  It was super fun, but over the years, my tastes have changed.  Now I crave clean spaces, white walls and little to no clutter.  Simple.  Natural.  Cozy.  With this in mind, we painted the entire downstairs white, with the exception of the softest taupe in the dining room, and we sold off all of our living room furniture, save a lamp and an end table.  I chose a few new pieces of furniture and a new rug, but for the accessories I wanted some vintage finds.  So on the hottest day of September (not a fact, just a feeling) I headed to Brimfield in hopes of scoring some cute end tables and something really special to hang on the wall.

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_MG_8024Would you believe I came home empty-handed?  It was so hot, and I was so overwhelmed trying to find that “perfect” piece, that I pretty much gave up after many hours of wandering.  The one little table that I had my eye on was already sold when I went back for it.  So it is back to the drawing board.  Many of the pictures here capture the style that I am after, which I guess I would call “simple farmhouse.”  Linen, white walls, soft colors, clean lines, rustic wood.  I can’t wait to give you a house tour once it is all pulled together, though it seems that might be a bit farther off than I thought!

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First Day of School

It kinda blows my mind how much my boys have grown and changed over the past year.  They are like these little men, tan and lanky, full of mischief, brimming with confidence.  Vijay is starting preschool today, and he’ll be attending three mornings a week.  He’s pumped to be back in school!  Today was his…

_MG_8089It kinda blows my mind how much my boys have grown and changed over the past year.  They are like these little men, tan and lanky, full of mischief, brimming with confidence.  Vijay is starting preschool today, and he’ll be attending three mornings a week.  He’s pumped to be back in school!  Today was his first day and he was all, “Let’s DO this!”  Vik will officially start next week, though he had his orientation yesterday and loved it.  He’ll be attending two mornings a week.  I am looking forward to having one-on-one time with both of them this year while the other is in school.  In the afternoons, I will go to work and my husband will take over.  It is going to be a juggling act to be sure, but we’re both excited to spend lots of quality time with the boys.  These years are flying by so quickly, and we want to be home together as much as possible while we can.

Just for reference, below is the picture from last year- all nervous smiles from Vijay and relative clueless smiles from Vik!  I swear they have both grown about 5 feet since last year (check out their heads in relation to the mail slot!)…how I’ll keep enough food in the house come their teenage years, I have no clue 😉

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Time

Sometimes I wish I had less interests, which sounds like an odd thing to say I’m sure.  The problem is that there is SO much I want to do everyday and there’s limited time to do it.  I want to work on sewing and knitting project, as well as home projects.  I want to visit…

_MG_7986Sometimes I wish I had less interests, which sounds like an odd thing to say I’m sure.  The problem is that there is SO much I want to do everyday and there’s limited time to do it.  I want to work on sewing and knitting project, as well as home projects.  I want to visit my garden and spend time watering, harvesting and weeding.  I want to sneak in a work out (I am currently obsessed with boxing!). I long to catch up with friends over coffee.  I enjoy being in the kitchen trying new recipes along with old favorites.  I love reading.  I yearn to wander around town with my camera.  And that doesn’t even touch on larger interests that I’d love to pursue with abandon, such as travel. But most of my time at home goes into mothering and running a household- and I feel privileged to spend my days doing this, don’t get me wrong.  But you know how it goes….  Sometimes I even wonder if I should try to shift my mindset: less hobbies, less doing and more being.  Yet these things bring me great joy, and each one brings a different sort of joy.  Gardening invigorates me, knitting relaxes me, photography engages me…  This has all been on my mind lately as the busyness of fall begins and I find myself trying to carve out a minute here or there.  It has also been on my mind ever since I read Felicia’s post on “Craft in the Middle of Motherhood.”  There are weeks, and months, and even years where these “hobbies” have been my lifeline, drawing me back to my whole self when I was lost in the fog of new motherhood.

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_MG_7964As mother’s we are hardwired to feel guilt, I suppose.  Are we doing enough?  Are we giving enough?  Are we providing enough?  There are times when my guilt wells up- when I lose my patience and snap at the boys for something silly, or when I’m knitting on the couch and they ask me to play.  Often it is evening time, and I’ve been caring for them all day, cooking for them, swimming with them, reading to them, and I just need a minute to unwind.  But I feel guilty because I know they would love for me to play, and I know this time is fleeting and there will be a day when they want nothing to do with me.  But where is that line between preserving one’s sanity, and cherishing every moment with your children?  I don’t know the answer to this question, though it is one that I frequently ask myself.  For now all I know is this- the vines were heavy with tomatoes, and the kale was overgrown, and the garden called for my attention, and I spent the evening hours there and it felt so good.  That will have to be enough for now.

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New York City

My husband and I have an anniversary coming up.  On September 1 we’ll be celebrating 8 years of marriage, which is quite exciting.  Unfortunately, he’ll be away on business for the actual day of our anniversary, so we figured we’d celebrate a bit early.  When work called him to NYC for the day, we decided…

_MG_7869My husband and I have an anniversary coming up.  On September 1 we’ll be celebrating 8 years of marriage, which is quite exciting.  Unfortunately, he’ll be away on business for the actual day of our anniversary, so we figured we’d celebrate a bit early.  When work called him to NYC for the day, we decided to make it into a romantic overnight.  It was the perfect escape and we enjoyed a gorgeous dinner in the West Village, a leisurely morning in SoHo, with breakfast at The Butchers Daughter, and lots of wandering.  Although I came away with tons of inspiration, I ended up not buying a single thing.  I’m in the process of decluttering and refreshing our home right now, and I’m finding less and less desire to bring new items into our space.  Rather I’m trying to rework and repaint and refinish items that we already have.   Although when the time comes and everything is pulled together, I have no doubt a few fun accessories will be needed!

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_MG_7887Because Vijay has to work on Monday, Elizabeth came on the train with us and stayed for the day so that I’d have someone to pal with.  She’s working on some fun stuff for Squam right now, and we scoured the city for the perfect fabric and accessories.  Of course that meant a stop at Purl.  It also meant lunch at ABC Kitchen, a wander through Union Square Greenmarket, and the most incredible ice cream (a scoop of ginger and a scoop of dark chocolate- combo made in heaven) from the Van Leeuwen truck.  I will dream about that ice cream until the next time I can hunt it down.

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_MG_7937It seems that work will be taking my husband into the city every few months, and I am always more than happy to tag along.  I get such a creative burst of energy from these visits and I return home eager to start creating and crafting.  I’m pushing for a fall visit when the leaves are turning and the air is crisp and my needles are calling out for a cozy new fall knitting project.  We’ll see… a girl can dream.

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Tower Hill and Fall Colors

I had the most beautiful of book signings yesterday at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA.  There was a nice turnout for the cooking demonstration, and the hour flew by as I made Zucchini Muffins with Peach Preserves and Summer Corn Fritters from Little Bites.  All of the produce was sourced from my garden,…

_MG_7658I had the most beautiful of book signings yesterday at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA.  There was a nice turnout for the cooking demonstration, and the hour flew by as I made Zucchini Muffins with Peach Preserves and Summer Corn Fritters from Little Bites.  All of the produce was sourced from my garden, the farmer’s market or the gardens at Tower Hill.  It was all delicious, and prompted a great number of book sales.  In all, it was one of those afternoons where I was reminded of the reason I love writing books; connecting with people over a common message.  Of course I failed to get a single image of the actual event because I was too busy…but that’s a good problem to have!

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_MG_7641I arrived an hour early to Tower Hill, simply to have enough time to settle in and go for a quick wander.  The grounds were so lovely, and I was surprised to find that fall colors were starting to make their appearance.  In fact, with the overcast skies, it felt much like a fall afternoon.  I love the gardens and grounds at Tower Hill because they change so beautifully with the seasons.  Having spent the last week hardly leaving the water thanks to my two little fish I was still feeling smack dab in the middle of summer.  This weekend reminded me that fall is indeed around the corner, with all of the crisp air and vibrant foliage that it brings.  I say bring it on (but give us a few more weeks of pool weather, if you will!).

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