Category Archives: Community

The Power of Craft

_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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Eat Boutique Holiday Market

displayOn Saturday I was able to sneak away to Boston for the afternoon to partake in Eat Boutique’s Holiday Market.  It was such a gorgeous venue, filled with makers and food vendors, and offering a packed schedule of amazing author appearances and events.  I jumped in at the last minute to get my book signed by Joy the Baker, which was certainly a thrill.  But the biggest thrill of all was connecting with Lucinda Scala Quinn, former vice president at Martha Stewart Omnimedia and author of many amazing books including, Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys.  She was so engaging, warm and welcoming, and I can’t wait to use her book to feed my hungry boys.  Even though they are only 3 and 5, I am already amazed by their appetites.  Much of my day revolves around feeding them: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.  Bowls upon bowls of fruit slices, veggies with hummus, hard boiled eggs….  It’s like shoveling coal into a fast burning furnace and I need all the help I can get to avoid getting into cooking ruts.

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_MG_0558Getting out to events like this is such a refreshing change of pace for me.  There is a part of me that feels that between having two kids so close together, writing book after book and juggling a freelance career, social networking fell by the wayside.  And that is such an important thing as an author.  I missed the boat by a few years in terms of social media, and as much I understand the value of networking and “getting out there” it just feels really difficult given the demands of home.  All of that to say, it was such a treat to spend an afternoon meeting movers and shakers of the food world.

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Home Again

_MG_3772In past years I have gone through a mourning period upon returning home from Michigan.  This year it felt good to be home, and that, my friends, is HUGE.  I have struggled for years to accept Providence as my home.  I have always enjoyed this city, but it always felt like a semi-permanent residence, despite the fact that we own and love our home and have found a great community.  But this was the year where it all fell into place, and I worked really hard on adjusting my thinking to view my city in a positive light, despite its issues.  Because let’s face it…there is no such thing as a perfect place.

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_MG_7410Upon returning home the first thing we did was pay a visit to our farmers market.  Oh how I’ve missed our market.  We are in the middle of some major kitchen work (more on that later) and so I was limited in what I could buy since we are without a place to cook for the next two weeks.  So basically we just bought a ton of fruit and ate it all day long!  The following day the boys and I drove to the Cape to help my friend Sarah celebrate her daughter Emily’s birthday.  It was the loveliest party and I was once again blown away by Sarah’s creativity.  Would you look at those cupcakes and cookies?  She made it all, even down to the starfish hair clip (embellished with french knots) in Emily’s hair.  Although we are already midway through August, summer still feels delicious and although we ache for the lake, and miss my parents terribly, it sure is good to be home.

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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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_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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Fall Reading Giveaway and Medieval Festivities

2014-10-12_0001I was so inspired by your reading suggestions, that I did something I never do.  I went into the bookstore and walked out with four brand new books.  I always get my reading material from the library, but lately, I am having trouble with the whole system.  It is a wonderful thing that we are able to reserve titles, but as luck would have it, I usually reserve three or four titles and they come in at different times, meaning multiple trips to the library, and then I am always late returning them and the pressure to finish them in two weeks is just too much.  I know- big problems, right!  So I decided to treat myself and luxuriate in four brand new books that came with no due dates or deadlines.  And then I read all four in two weeks.  Ha.  And let me say this- you guys sure know your stuff.  I LOVED each of these books.  They were all heartbreaking, and beautiful and written so very well written.  As far as a favorite, I am torn between We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Burial Rights.  Both titles were such good reminders of the importance of love, community and open lines of communication- without those, we are so lost.  And now, as a way of saying thank you, I want to pass along these books (as long as you don’t mind my tear streaks on the pages!) and keep the reading cycle flowing .  Just leave a comment here, and make sure I have a way to get in touch with you!  I’m going to give away two bundles of two books each:

Bundle #1: Beautiful Ruins and We Were Liars

Bundle #2: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Burial Rights

**Giveaway is now closed**

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_MG_6357And now in other news, we joined in our first Medieval Festival this weekend, and it was so much fun.  We reused our Halloween costumes as dragon costumes, and the boys got their first pair of swords and shield (this must be some kind of boyhood rite of passage, right?).  I love the picture of Vik getting ready to ride the dragon zip-line.  He’s scared, but there is no way he is letting his brother do it without him!  That kid has such courage- it must be a younger brother thing!  Life is so busy right now with these two hooligans….but so much fun, so much adventure, so much laughter.

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Squam and Coming Home

_MG_5118Life seems to be racing by at lightening speed these days.  My husband and I are a bit like ships passing in the night.  Big things are happening, thrilling things…but it is tiring to keep up the pace.  I’m excited for fall.  It feels like things will be settling into place a bit and I am looking forward to crisp days and cool nights.  This past weekend was a delicious preview of fall, as the leaves were just beginning their change, and the air was chilly and sweet with the smell of damp earth.

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_MG_5047Squam was gorgeous, as always, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sink in and relax.  Instead I kept myself busy, taking pictures, touring the surrounding towns and selling my wares at the fair on Saturday.  I didn’t have the brain power needed to take classes this year, though if I had, I surely would have taken Ann Wood’s class and made my own sweet little mushroom.

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_MG_5469I drove back Saturday night, which was crazy since it was raining hard and I didn’t get home until after 1am.  But I was ready for a relaxing Sunday at home, and I needed family time.  Do you ever get that panicky feeling, thinking about your sweet little ones tucked into their beds far away and think- “Okay, I need to get on home.  NOW.”?  Home…it has been on my mind a lot these days.  I am learning that for now, it simply means wherever my family happens to be at the moment.  It may not be the perfect physical house in the perfect town…but if I’ve got my people, I’m all good.

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Squam

_MG_0210Oh, Squam… knitting lakeside, late nights around the fire, beautiful yarns to covet, and a spectacular setting in which to relax.  I took only one class, and spent the rest of the time lightly helping Elizabeth (she’s always too concerned about me relaxing to really let me help!) and settling into a quiet rhythm.  Having a bit of time away from the kids and home really gave me a chance to reflect on how busy life has been lately, and to set some new intentions for myself, my family, my work and my creativity.

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_MG_0330What I love so much about my yearly pilgrimage to Squam is that in some ways it is always different, and in some ways it remains the same.  This year I enjoyed more solitude, heading off on long hikes, a drive through the winding country roads, and quiet reflective photography walks through the camp.  Sometimes I think this is what I miss most about pre-kid days- long stretches of solitude.  That being said, I missed my little guys- but was excited to find that I had no anxiety about being away from them as in past years.  That extra year really helps- they are each others best friends, so even when I’m away, they still function as such a tight little unit.

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_MG_0313I found myself startled by the raw beauty of New Hampshire.  Maybe it was the harsh winter but everything feels so lush and verdant this year.  I found thickets of lavender in an abandoned field during my drive and I stopped to clip as much as I could carry.  The car filled with the rich scent as I wove on through the country roads and it felt, in that moment, that all was right in my world.

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_MG_0393And that really is what this Squam was about- everything felt so right.  No one knows how to bring the magic like Elizabeth, and year after year she knocks me off my feet with the heart she puts into each gathering.  The fair, which is held on the last night, was off the charts.  I sold some fun bits from India- and it was really amazing to connect with many blog readers, and textile enthusiasts.  The only downside (or possibly upside!) is that there was little time for shopping.  I did grab one skein of heavenly yarn, and just like that, I managed to bring home with me a little magic.  Inspired by the amazing knitters and artists I had to the pleasure to meet, I find myself eager to dive into a hundred and one new projects- sewing (oh the handmade clothes on parade!) and knitting (oooh did I get some compliments on my Antler– so damn proud of that thing). And so it begins, the burst of Squam fueled creativity.  I’ll ride this high for as long as it will take me.

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Squam

What a treat it is to return to Squam year after year and soak up the creative mojo that only Elizabeth knows how to throw down.  And throw down she did- this gathering was EPIC.  Let’s start with the fact that I was able to go alone- no babes along for the ride.  I wasn’t quite sure I was going to pull off my solo escape, but Vik took to the bottle like a champ.  And just like that…a bit of wild freedom!

I was a bit late to the party, arriving on Thursday evening, but rooming with my very favorite person in the world eased me right into the swing of things.  We’d been wanting to room together since we met at Squam four years ago but babies kept getting in the way of our grand plans.  We talked and knit late into the first night, and it was pure bliss.  Don’t let her sweetness fool you, that Kellen has a wicked sense of humor- and you know I like me some sass.  Our cabin mates in Nirvana were equally wonderful- such a hilarious, talented, genuine group of women.

The rest of our time flew by- I didn’t take a single class, just wandered and tried my best to capture some of the magic with my pictures.  Somehow I always fall short- it’s just too damn magical.

Harriet Goodall‘s class pretty much turned me green with envy- starting with a pile of organic materials her students wove these incredible baskets.  It was such a visually stunning class…

On Saturday, there was not one, but two giant parties.  First, the Ravelry Revelry…a knitting party complete with kegs, candy, and knitting relays (no, seriously).  And in case you are shaking your head in wonder, let me tell you, those knitters know how to party.

And later in the day, the Squam Art Fair, where no wallet is safe.  To say everyone was enthusiastic about the fair would be an understatement- they were lined up half an hour before opening.

Maybe it was just for the free beer (but I’m guessing the piles of luxurious yarn, and other handmade goodies might have had something to do with it)…

As amazing as the experience was, by Saturday night, I was missing my boys something terrible.  I was all to happy to wave goodbye to that magical place and return home, to a little magic of my own in the form of two boys who were beyond thrilled to see their mama.  Though there is no doubt my step is a bit lighter, my knitting skills a bit sharper, and my outlook a bit sunnier.  A dose of Squam was just what I needed to kick this summer off to an incredible start.

Squam, A New Offering

If I could pinpoint the moment when my creative life began flourishing, it would be the first time I attended Squam back in 2009.  I was a newlywed, and had just left my job in the non-profit world.  I was making a go at it as a freelance writer, focusing mainly on grant writing and other non-profit writing gigs.  But I really wanted to be writing for magazines- lifestyle, art, food- these were the subjects I longed to cover. 

I signed up to attend Squam with my mom, and promptly sent Elizabeth an email introducing myself, and asking if I could pitch the Squam story to a few magazines.  The rest is history- articles in national magazines, a book, an undying love of photography, a little sewing studio of my own, and a forever friend.  Elizabeth now lives down the block- I can see the lights of her house from my window as I type.  I feel so blessed to have her in my life- we’ve had our share of adventures, oh yes.  I have now attended Squam in every capacity- as a student, volunteer, and teacher.

I am thrilled to be attending the sold-out June session, perhaps peeking in on a few classes, but mostly just photographing the weekend.  But perhaps I am even more thrilled to be teaching in September, at a brand new gathering, with Taproot and Squam joining forces for a celebration of simple living.  With an emphasis on organic, sustainable, locally-sourced food, and a superstar list of teachers, I know it is going to be epic.

My class, Local Flavor, is a total dream- we are going to spend an entire day exploring the farms and thrift shops around Holderness, New Hampshire.  We’ll visit a creamery renowned for its cheeses and ice cream, we’ll explore a farm that also serves as a community school, we’ll enjoy a farm-to-table lunch, and we’ll scavenge fabulous little thrift shops.  Armed with our cameras, and a sense of adventure, we’ll soak in all the beauty New England has to offer.  I can’t wait…and if it is in the cards for you, why don’t you consider joining me?  You know we’d have a blast!

A Weekend with the Soule’s

A four hour trip to Maine in a snowstorm, with the boys in the backseat, refusing to nap no matter the gentle rhythm of the car, or the soft music playing.  My husband and I kept wondering if we were crazy to attempt such a feat, but once we arrived, and saw the charming farmhouse, snowy fields of sheep, chickens, turkeys and pigs, we knew we had made the right decision.  Sometimes you just have to follow your sense of adventure.  And follow it we did, right to the lovely homestead of the Soule family.

We spent the weekend “helping” around the farm, and by helping, I mean I took pictures, and Vijay played in the mud (March is mud month on the farm- and boy, do we have loads of laundry to prove it!).  He did give the sheep plenty of love…Amanda seems to think Vijay is in need of a pet sheep.  Hmmm, sheep in Providence, could it be?

We also spent some time watching water boil…I assure you, it is much more exciting than it sounds when the water happens to be laced with maple sweetness, and a warming aroma.  Making maple syrup is especially gratifying when the morning after, you enjoy a pancake breakfast.  You can certainly appreciate every sweet syrupy bite, knowing what went into the making.

Because it was a rough winter for bees, we got to enjoy double the sweetness, as we watched honey extracted from hives that didn’t make it through the cold months.  I’m not sure there was much left to extract after the kids got their fingers in there for a taste.

Back in the city today, with nothing on the agenda but a long walk to campus, and a visit with friends, we find ourselves missing the quiet, easy rhythm of the farm life.  Oh please, who am I fooling?  With seven kids, four adults, two pigs, four sheep, three turkey, countless chickens and one duck, the weekend was anything but quiet, and farming is anything by easy. But we do miss it- we were so warmly welcomed into the fold, and we are already wondering if we “helped” enough to get invited back during the busy, summer months on the farm.