Saturday, June 29, 2013

Don't Forget to Subscribe!

As I'm sure you're sick of hearing, Google Reader will peace out on Monday. So here's my quick little reminder to all of you fabulous readers to make sure you subscribe in some other way. I like options, so I will give you options. It seems the most popular option these days is to head over to Bloglovin', so if you'd like to do that, just click the button below.

Follow on Bloglovin

You can also grab my RSS feed or subscribe by email. And that's it from me today! I'll be back on Monday with some much more exciting content! Until then, have a super fabulous weekend! :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Favorites

It's been a productive week and I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend. As we wrap up the week, I thought I'd share a few things that I'm loving these days.

These bright color block necklaces are just what I need to spruce up my favorite light gray tee I've been wearing non-stop.
via Oh Nostalgia Designs
I wouldn't mind having this mint tee. It would also help me get away from the over used light gray tee. Though it would only feed my current obsession with mint.
via The Printed Palette
This sterling silver ring has such a simple design that is right down my alley.
via Swell Caroline
Anyone else jumping on the triangle train? I sure am with this cuff!
via Peace Love Beach
And this washi tape. Triangles and awesome colors scheme!
via The Creative Stash
This print would make a good addition to our row house.
via Pink Fox Designs
And for your reading pleasure...

Thug Kitchen always dishes out the best fucking recipes and they do what they damn well please. (Just click the link and you'll know why I'm cursing.) It won't disappoint. You're welcome.

This post on SEO basics for bloggers is extremely useful whether you just started blogging or have been blogging for a while.

And cookies that also have Oreos in them? Isn't that like a cookie within a cookie? And how can that not be good? This Cookies and Cream Cookies recipe is one that I will be trying!

What are some of your favorites this week? Any big plans for the weekend? I'd love to know!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sonoma Chicken Salad Recipe


Several summers ago, before I moved to Baltimore, I worked for a friend who owned a bagel shop. At lunch he would serve not just bagels, but sandwiches as well. One of the menu items was a Sonoma Chicken Salad Sandwich. I have never been a huge fan of chicken salad, but this salad has become one that I truly love. It is fresh tasting, flavorful, and perfect to make in a large batch to have for lunches throughout the week. I opt to serve the chicken salad in pitas rather than bread which makes it more manageable to eat as chicken salad can sometimes get messy. We even took Sonoma Chicken Salad pitas to the Orioles game on Tuesday night for dinner!



Sonoma Chicken Salad (adapted from here)

What you'll need
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 5 tsp honey
  • 4 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 3 poached chicken breasts, shredded
  • 2 cups of red seedless grapes
  • 3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Poach chicken breasts and then shred into small pieces using your fingers or a fork. Let chicken cool and refrigerate while making the dressing. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, honey, vinegar, mustard, and poppy seeds. Refrigerate the dressing while chopping the celery and pecans. Using a small knife, slice the grapes in half. Add the grapes, celery, pecans, and chicken to the large bowl with the dressing and thoroughly incorporate all ingredients. Serve in pitas. If I have some on hand, I often serve with a few pieces of lettuce to line the pita.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Basement Renovation: Part I

Today, I show you a part of our house that I hate on so many levels. The basement. I have always hated this part of our house since we bought it three years ago. I wish that we would have tackled the issues right away, but because it is the basement it seemed easier to pretend it didn't exist.

I have some photos to start with so that you will truly understand why it has become imperative that we fix the issues. And we have already started to fix the issues as of two weekends ago. Before I show the photos, there are some important things to note so that you won't judge me. (But you probably will anyway. Ha!)

1. The basement is our place to put shit that we don't know what to do with. And those lovely piles of crap that you see are soon on their way to Goodwill or the dump. That's why they are piled there. They are the "get rid of" piles that began as much smaller piles 3 weeks ago.

2. Please excuse the dog hair. We haven't swept in the basement for the past two weeks because we've been moving so much stuff around while installing cabinets and painting walls and such. And of course being that it's currently 95 degrees in Baltimore, Lilah is shedding at an exponential rate. Yes, we are gross. The carpet picks up anything and is something we've wanted to rip out and replace since day one.

3. This is the room we spend the least amount of time in. We've actually started spending more time here because of Orioles games. The tv is in the basement and we watch a lot of baseball. Spending more time here in the past month has led us to become increasingly annoyed at the basement.

Now that I've gotten my much needed disclaimers out of the way, let's take a look. Check out this awesomely disgusting room that is partially not disgusting in the small baby steps we have already taken.

Issue #1: The builder that rehabbed our row house decided it was a great idea to frame out the gas and water accesses with molding and then close them off with white painted plywood screwed into the wall. 1) We can't easily get to the hookups to turn them off in case of an emergency. 2) It is so ugly and makes them stick out even more. 3) Both are larger than need be by about double, so we have built in shelving and drywall patching plans for both.

Issue #2: Along one wall, there was a foot deep concave space in two areas. The ledge, as we called it, was not functional other than to set crap on and hold our tv, stereo, dvd player, Wii, and a gazillion wires. We wanted to put in built-in cabinets, but that isn't in our budget right now. Instead, we purchased $200 worth of white Ikea shelving units, about $50 worth of white melamine coated plywood and made it look like built-ins (sort of). We decided to paint the backs orange for a bright pop of color. We still need to finish that paint job, as you can see.

Issue #3: The walls and carpet are awful. The walls are half-painted with a new gray blue color. Andrew decided on the color scheme because he wanted something very modern. The orange and the blue gray is definitely modern. It took me a while to decide if I liked it or not, but I've decided that I do. I think I will like it even more once the carpet is gone. We're planning on removing the carpet and putting in bamboo flooring. It is affordable and durable if you get the right kind. The white walls that were originally part of the basement were done in a flat white and were dirty and scuffed from people bumping things into the walls. The carpet was already fairly scuzzy when we moved in and continued to get scuzzier due to having a chocolate lab. White Berber carpet and labs just don't mix.

Issue #4: Take a look behind the couch. There is a little bump out ledge along that wall. We've decided that once the flooring and everything else is done, we will move the couch along the short wall with the window. It'll make the room feel wider since the ledge is eating up a foot of space. We have thought about doing some built in seating on top of the ledge, but we're not sure yet.

Issue #5: This is more like a bunch of issues rolled up in one--

The drafting table and chair that you see on the right in the photo above are eating up tons of space. Andrew wanted to keep that so that he would have a space to work at home. Truth is that he has probably used his drafting table three times since we bought the house and even he is getting sick of it. There was this epiphany moment the other day when he said, "I think I'm going to put the drafting table and chair on Craigslist because I'm getting sick of it!" Woooohoooo! I hadn't said a word to him about how annoying it was because I was worried he'd give me the good old "but that's my drafting table" spiel.

The coffee table. It is ugly and was inherited from a previous tenant of the first apartment I had in Baltimore. It needs to go.

The dog crate. Lilah loves her crate. She sleeps in it at night and often during the day too. She goes to her crate when she is feeling stressed out or just needs her own space. It has to stay for Lilah's well-being, but it's so huge and we're not sure where to put it. It most likely will stay in its current place. We think that once the drafting table is gone it won't feel as big.

The stereo and Wii. We need a better piece of furniture than the ugly black cart they are currently sitting on.

As for the piles of crap, they will soon be on their way to Goodwill. Also, while it may appear as though we have guitars strewn all over the place, three of those will go back to their mounts on the wall behind the couch after the wall gets a second coat of paint.

I'll be updating you a bit as we continue this project. As for you, any huge undertakings that you've been doing lately?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Struggles in Creating a Cohesive Product Line

With a large amount of time available to really sit down and think through my designs, I have been able to be much more productive. I feel as though the quality of each design is getting better, leaving me wondering whether or not to do a complete overhaul of my shop. There are many designs that I am phasing out and replacing with some fresher items. This change is good, I think.
While I love these new items, I still feel as though a cohesive nature of my shop doesn't really exist. I tend to jump around from one thing to the next. I am inspired by so much that I have a hard time sticking to just one concept as a base in my design. Sometimes I wonder if this is a bad thing, but at other times I think it's good because I'm able to offer a variety of products to you all.

If you own a small design business, do you struggle with creating a cohesive feeling within your product line? And to those who are just customers, do you like having a variety of design styles to choose from?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekend Update

Happy Monday everyone! My weekend passed by quickly, but without much in the way of adventure. We spent a lot of time on the patio and roof deck, went to Andrew's firm's annual company picnic, and continued working on our basement project. On Friday I got some new camera gear, including a new lens that I had been wanting for quite some time. I spent some time playing with it, but have not had enough practice in yet to be perfect. Here's a work in progress.
Aside from the aforementioned, this weekend was really relaxing. It was the first weekend that I didn't work on anything in my shop since I can't even remember when. Weekends are meant to be enjoyed and I'm glad to have finally gotten back to a point where I can do just that.

What did you do during the weekend?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice

On this first day of summer, I can truly say that it feels as though the season has arrived. The menu sitting on our kitchen counter for this week's meal consisted of mostly grilled dishes. The flowers in our patio have grown from small sprouts to lush blooms. Summer cocktails or an evening beer have replaced glasses of red wine. And Lilah has assumed her favorite position atop the stairs leading from our deck to the patio.

Our summer evenings are our favorite. Dinners eaten on the patio. Baseball games listened to on our roof deck with a refreshing beer in hand. And maybe a bowl of ice cream for dessert. Not a whole lot needs to be done or said, but relaxing and enjoying the moment takes presidence instead.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Iced Vodka with Cucumber, Lemon, and Mint Recipe

We love fresh herbs in the summer, so we have planters full of them on our back patio. Our mint plant, a hearty specimen that has lived through several winters, is growing wildly. We use the fresh mint for salads, mint tea, and of course mojitos. I'm not always one to stick to the same thing and enjoy other options when it comes to summer refreshments, so I set out to create a new and tasty concoction. With an abundance of mint, a bowl full of organic lemons on our kitchen counter, and several cucumbers in the fridge, I put together this refreshing iced vodka that just might be my new favorite summer cocktail.


Iced Vodka with Cucumber, Lemon, and Mint

What you'll need
  • 2 sprigs of mint, one for muddling and one for garnish
  • 1 lemon
  • 5 slices of cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 oz vodka
  • club soda
  • ice

Directions

Pick the leaves off of one sprig of mint, squeeze the juice of half of a lemon, and add sugar to an 8 oz glass. Muddle the mint, lemon juice, and sugar until the mint is well bruised. Fill the glass with 4-5 ice cubes. Pour 2 oz of vodka over the mint and ice. Top with club soda and add cucumber slices and lemon slices from the leftover half of lemon. Stir with a swizzle stick until the glass is frosty. Garnish with the remaining sprig of mint.

Enjoy! What are your favorite summer cocktails?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Departures - Bernard Fanning

With a post about Australia yesterday, it only seemed natural to write about Australian music today. One of the things that piqued my interest in Australia from a very young age was music. This began at the ripe old age of six and will have to be elaborated on during a different blog post (one in which you will think I am a crazy lady). What is important to know now, is that I quickly became a fan of Australian music.

One such band that I came to love was Powderfinger. They were like no other band I had heard, and their singer had a very distinguishable voice that was like none other. Their sound was an instant success in my book. A couple years back, Powderfinger broke up. I very was sad. Yes, I get sad over things like these, don't you?

There is, however, a happy ending. Bernard Fanning, the singer of Powderfinger, released his second solo album, Departures, this month. I was looking forward to the release of this album for two months. Yup, two whole months I was counting down to the release date because I'm crazy like that. When the album was released, I hopped on iTunes to download it and to my horror I could only download it if I had an Australian iTunes account. Say whaaaaaat?

By Australian iTunes account, they mean an Australian address and an Australian iTunes card or credit card. Sad face. I have neither. Until.....

Me being the crazy lady that I am, I posted on Facebook about my sadness over iTunes' inability to realize that I should be able to download Australian music. And to my rescue, came an old friend of mine that I met in college that just happens to be Australian and just happens to know how to trick iTunes so that I could listen to Australian music once and for all. Haha! Screw you, iTunes gods!

And that my friends, was the longest intro to some music videos I have ever written. Sorry for that.

To be a bit more serious, when it comes down to it, Bernard Fanning truly knows how to craft an amazing song regardless of having a band to back him or not. He uses uncommon melodies and beautiful harmonies in a way I have heard few songwriters do. I leave you with Battleships, his new single from the album, and Departures (Blue Toowong Skies), an exemplary of his songwriting abilities that is written about his father's passing.

What music have you been listening to these days? Do you know or love any Australian bands?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Australia

I've written about Australia before, but only in a spattering here and there. During college, I spent a semester studying at the University of Wollongong, just south of Sydney. During my time living there, I spent as much of my free time traveling throughout Australia, a feat which is very difficult to do in such a vast land.

I spent a day snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef. A friend of mine who lives in Melbourne hosted me for a weekend of enjoying the city and an afternoon of live music. I spent four days in Byron Bay enjoying the beach life and doing nothing but relaxing after a long midterm week. A weekend was spent on Bowen Island, a bird sanctuary in Jervis Bay, where I was lucky to see fairy penguins emerge from the water to nest on the beach for the night. And another weekend was spent in a cabin in Kangaroo Valley, where I saw wallabies in their natural element hopping through the forested land.
And then there were some things I didn't get to do because I simply ran out of time and money. I remember arriving at O'Hare in Chicago after a long flight back. My parents were happy to see me and gave me huge hugs. I began tearing up. I already missed Australia and didn't want to be back. And here I was, thinking I would never be able to go back.

Two months ago, while chatting with Andrew about plans after my final months of teaching, he suddenly said, "I have an idea. Let's go to the courthouse and get married and then fly to Australia." I responded with, "Are you serious?" A few weeks later, we had purchased round trip tickets to Sydney for September.

Slowly, we're reserving accommodations and flights for more adventures while in Australia. We've made plans to stay in an apartment in Sydney for several days before jetting off to the Northern Territory where we'll be staying in a cabin near Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This was one of my bucket list items that I didn't get to do last time. We'll be staying in Cairns a few days to check off one of Andrew's bucket list items too-- the Great Barrier Reef. Never did I think I would get to see such a magnificent natural phenomenon twice in my life. And finally, we're heading to Byron Bay for several days of relaxation at the beach after a good solid two weeks of adventure. Byron Bay, my favorite place in the world. How could it not be when it looks like this?
Lots of plans still need to be made, and while we still have several months ahead of us until the trip, I am already counting down the days. It's been nearly nine years since I lived in Australia and this is a trip I've been looking forward to ever since I left.

For me, this trip will also symbolize a new start. It's a break in our usual lives. In September, when I would normally be starting a new school year, we will be traveling in a beautiful country, on our honeymoon so to speak, and celebrating my 30th birthday in Byron-- my favorite place in the world. Life doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Modern and Geometric Note Cards

If you're following me on Instagram or Facebook, then you'll already know just how obsessed I am with a new line of cards that I've been working on and slowly releasing in the shop. Inspired by a few conversations about geometric patterns with my friend Kristen, I decided to play with triangles in bold colors. This isn't the first time I've used this concept and you can see my first take on triangles and stationery here. But I wanted to try something that had even more of a pop. The result is a line of thank you and hello note cards in three different color schemes that will all soon be available in both single greeting cards and sets of four with accented solid colored cards. Each card has been paired with 100% recycled Speckletone Kraft envelopes from French Paper Co.-- my favorite! The quality of these cards as a whole does not get any better.

These cards are currently already in the shop with the rest to soon follow. I love how each color schemed turned out, and I continue to indecisively move from one to the other as my favorite. It is an amazing feeling to have something turn out just as you had envisioned in your head, and this is truly one of those types of projects.

What do you think of the new line? Are you obsessed with the current fad of bold colored and modern triangles like me?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Favorites

Yesterday for the first time in the six years that I have lived in Baltimore, I went to the basement for a tornado warning. As a Hoosier native that was born and bred in tornado alley, I decided that clearly things with the weather were not so hot when I glanced out the glass-paned door in my studio to see a sky that had turned black and green. Forget tornado warnings. Sometimes they don't predict the right thing. And sometimes they come after the fact when it is too late (like the time a tornado touched down literally three houses down from my childhood home). But when that sky is green, that's my warning. (I also often half joke that if it sounds like a freight train is about to come through your living room, then that's a good sign you should head to the basement. That sort of happened in the situation of that last little side note I made.)

This morning is a different story. Lazy, gray wisps of clouds are dissipating to show peeks of blue. It makes for a good Friday morning. Not hot enough yet that the buzz of the air conditioning units in our alley have taken over the peaceful morning. And promising of better weather for tonight's baseball game. So, what better to do than round up a few things I've been browsing upon while sipping my morning's iced coffee.

My sister has some pretty amazing recent adds to her shop, StarSeventeen. I recently favorited this hat. The colors are just fabulous! And I've commissioned her to paint a super awesome hat for me. I'll be sure to share it once it's all done!
via StarSeventeen
I'm a sucker for turquoise, and this necklace from Cat&Bot is definitely one I wouldn't mind having.
via Cat&Bot
This little bowl just makes me happy.
via up in the air somewhere
I would really love to add this scarf to my collection. Perfect for summer! Light and bright.
via LeLeni
I love this abstract painting. The colors are fabulous and I really like the triangle and geometric theme.
via Mardi & Me
And of course, I couldn't leave you without a few good things to read.

Like this mind boggling BuzzFeed article, Why No One Should Mess With the Ocean.

This recipe for spiced salmon skewers. (You may have remembered seeing these in my Instagram feed!)

And some permission to do the things you've wanted to do. I especially like that last bullet point!

Any plans for you this weekend? We're heading to the O's game tonight. For Saturday and Sunday I see some bike rides in our future, plus some painting. Yup, big basement project is underway. Will have to update you all soon!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Start of a New Era and Taking Risks

Yes, it has been a while since I have set foot in these parts. Almost a month, to be exact. In truth, sometimes you just have to put something on the back burner until you actually have the time for it, and with a lot going on in my life in the past month, there really wasn't time.

Yesterday, I spent a final day in the classroom. I had spent three days tearing down my room, giving away six years worth of materials, supplies, and other odds and ends, and it all came down to two black milk crates filled with a few things that I decided to keep. It's amazing how long it takes to build up a stock of all of these materials and supplies, and how quickly they disappear after you send an email blast to your entire school proclaiming "FREE STUFF!"

Two hours. Yup, two hours was it and all of the markers (except for my Sharpies! You can't take those from a Sharpie addict!), crayons, colored pencils, bulletin board borders and letters, books, construction paper, paper towels, and everything else you can imagine was gone. These things are GOLD to teachers and despite it all, it felt good to know that a lot of people left my room super happy with some amazing supplies for next year.

When I decided to stop teaching it was the easiest decision I had to make in a long time. And while the past week has been extremely bittersweet, I don't feel a bit of regret. In Baltimore City, six years is a long time for someone like me that came through an alternative teaching certification program. I had never intended to teach for my entire life, but just for a couple years. A couple years turned into six, and those six years were fabulous. But times change and your heart no longer feels happy or something just feels tiring about going into the classroom every single day. And then one day, you realize that summer break isn't going to be enough. That you are just too tired to think about returning.

Today is the start of a new era. I know that I am done for good, that I'm moving on to my card business. At the same time, nothing about it feels strange. I am usually free with all the time in the world to work on my business during this time of year. My brain has been buzzing with all sorts of new ideas and projects like it usually does as the school year winds down. It feels normal. What won't feel normal is when August rolls around and I'm not setting up my classroom. Summer is a good transition period. It's a great time for me to change, but I am still unsure of how I will feel when I truly realize that this is it. I'm not going back and I'm stuck with myself in my studio until I decide otherwise.

I think it is only natural to have fears amidst all of the excitement. The unknown is scary. I've crunched numbers what feels like a thousand times, but what if I forgot something? What if people stop buying my cards? What if I fail miserably? What if all of the friends I've made at school never speak to me again? These are all seriously legitimate fears that I've had roaming around in this head of mine over the last two months.

On the other hand, how will I ever know whether or not I can accomplish what I dream of if I never try? The fear of regret of what could have been, if I don't do what I feel pulled toward in my life right now, is bigger than all of those other what ifs. Wondering whether or not my business could have been a success later on in life is not something that I want to be thinking about when I'm old, feeling as though my life passed without me truly doing what I love.

Not taking this risk is the greatest risk of all.


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