Category Archives: Travel

Sharing the Process

_MG_1661With every passing year I feel like I am becoming a bit wiser.  The process of aging is really a process of knowing yourself on a deeper level, I suppose.  I have become more in-tune with my strengths and weaknesses.  One of my personality traits that I am constantly working on is my type-A need for perfection.  There are pluses and minuses to this type of personality (+high productivity, -easily stressed and a need for perfectionism).  I’ve become more balanced since having kids, but I still have this need to present things in a perfect light.  For example on my blog here; I love showing off the finished product but I am not very good at showing the process.  The process isn’t always pretty but it is where so much of the important stuff happens.  I love to pull these moves: “Oh look, a completed Alabama Chanin dress/ handknit sweater/ renovated kitchen” without sharing the struggles and mistakes that came along the way.  This year I am challenging myself to start sharing the journey…the WHOLE journey…with all of you.  I’ll never be someone that airs my dirty laundry and child-raising fiasco’s (thank goodness…there are certain things I believe should be kept private!) but I do look forward to sharing things as they unfold.

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_MG_1691Coming up in the next few months I am looking forward to sharing more about the Alabama Chanin sew-a-long that I’ve organized.  It has grown beyond my wildest dreams and we now have 19 women from across the country (and one from Australia!) signed up to participate.  We’ve chosen some amazing recipients and placed the order for their garments.  This project is breathing new life into my craft practice.  I’m crackling with inspiration and ideas!  Secondly, I can’t wait to share some behind-the-scenes peeks into the process of writing my third book, Icy Creamy Healthy Sweet, which comes out this April.  This book is so darn pretty that it makes me a bit weepy- we’re talking hard cover and full page pictures for every recipe, plus a designer with incredible vision and talent (thank you Toni!).  I thought I’d share a bit about how I landed with Roost, the process of pitching the book, and also how I developed and tested the recipes, and photographed and wrote the book.  Wait until you see my homemade “studio set.”  Ha- it’s pretty hilarious!  Is there anything else you’d like me to share about this process….or about any other subjects?

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_MG_1729It felt appropriate to accompany this post with pictures from Detroit, where I spent a day exploring with my mom over the holiday break.  If there ever was a city that knows about “the journey” it is Detroit.  There are so many amazing things happening in this city- yet so much more to be done.  The people of Detroit have quite a journey ahead of them- yet they seem ready to embrace it with full hearts, and they are not afraid of sharing the process that it will take to get there.  Pretty inspirational, if you ask me.

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_MG_1667Mini Detroit Guide (as seen here):

Eastern Market: farmer’s market full of local produce, food trucks, and prepared foods, and the street art surrounding the market is off the hook!

Germack Coffee Roasting Co.: for an exceptional cup of coffee as well as roasted nuts and seeds for sale, right across the street from Eastern Market.

Will Leather Goods: an amazing store with beautifully made leather goods, plus a coffee bar.  Even if you aren’t in the market for leather goods, you’ll enjoy wandering this gorgeous space.

Selden Standard: craft cocktails and local food, the best meal I had while I was in Michigan over the break, hands down, and great decor to boot.

Avalon: a favorite bakery

Belle Isle: a 982-acre island park created as a place for Detroit residents to enjoy nature, walking paths, shoreline, an aquarium and a greenhouse.

If you are interested in a very hip, indie guide to the city, I’d suggest the Wild Sam Guide, which we purchased at The Detroit Mercantile Co.– a super cool indie shop.

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Chicago

_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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The Whirlwind of Fall

_MG_9066After such a leisurely summer, fall has taken us by storm.  We are adjusting to a new school schedule, a new job that takes me out of the home for 15-20 hours a week, a traveling husband and a calendar filled to the brim.  In the coming weeks we’re celebrating the wedding of my brother, along with Vijay’s 5th birthday, and the wedding of one of my best girlfriends.  Whew.  And that’s just October!   Busyness has been on my mind, and I am really pondering how best to strike a new rhythm to our days now that I am working out of the home.  This has meant crock-pot recipes galore, asking for help when I need it, and trying to accept that there will not be as much time in my week for creative endeavors.  Everything in life has its season and I think we are heading into a busy season, one that will stretch us to new heights, and teach us to appreciate our quiet moments together when they come.  I’m learning to embrace the new challenges and rise to the occasion.  In the midst of all this newness, I headed to Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend to celebrate an old friendship.  Her wedding is coming up in a few weeks, and I planned a girls’ weekend away so that we could all celebrate the bride.  The weather was exquisite, the meals delicious, and the company even better.  I should have snapped a million more pictures, but as part of this new phase I’m learning that sometimes it is just as important to be in the moment and allow the beauty to exist in the mind’s eye alone.  Here are a few snippets to share…  Fall is most definitely in the air.

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New York City

_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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Sleeping Bear Dunes

_MG_6709Yesterday we took a day-trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  This is an annual trip for my kids, and I’ve been going here for the past 25 years.  As a young girl, my brother and I would partake in the junior ranger program every summer, and back then the park felt like an undiscovered treasure.  This year’s trip was rather heartbreaking.  There was so much traffic and so many people.  I could see the devastating effect that the crowds are having on the dunes.  It is such a fragile ecosystem.

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_MG_6743Acts I witnessed in the span of 20 minutes: a lady putting out her cigarette butts in the sand and leaving them there, a family leaving their trash laying around after a picnic, a young boy pulling out tufts of dune grass (their root system is what anchors the grass and keeps it the dunes from eroding), and of course selfie sticks galore (no one seemed to be breathing in the beauty, rather everyone was on their phones).  The trip, despite the beauty that is still there, left me feeling distraught over the future of my beloved Northern Michigan.  I wonder where the line is between inviting people to witness these national natural treasures, and closing them to the public in order to protect the fragile ecosystems.  As Northern Michigan becomes more popular, Walmarts are popping up on what used to be farmland, the traffic in and out of Traverse seems never-ending…  I’m not sure what to do with these feelings, besides using them as a springboard for important environmental conversations with my boys.  My greatest fear is that when my kids are grown there will be nothing left here to show them.

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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.

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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Terrain

_MG_3853On our way back from NYC we stopped at Terrain for lunch and a browse.  It turned out to be the most inspiring place we visiting during our trip.  Terrain is the most gorgeous gardening and lifestyle store that I’ve ever come across.  At this time, there are only two location- one in Westport, CT and another outside of Philly.  Just imagine Anthropologie does gardening- gorgeous displays, inspiring vignettes every which way you turn, a cafe that features seasonal, fresh food.  I left with an acute case of garden envy and dreams of turning our dust-bowl of a yard into something quite lush and magical.  We’ll see about that.  We had a major plumbing issue this past winter that left our yard pretty torn up.  The boys are enjoying having a very large sand bit in which to play, but it is rather depressing, aesthetically speaking.  Maybe I can just move into Terrain.  I’d gladly water all those plants in exchange for room and board 😉

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_MG_3870I saw several books by my fellow Roost authors scattered about the store.  I have big dreams that Little Bites might find a home here.  I would seriously make the drive just to see how they had it displayed!  Well, I’d use just about any reason to make the drive again.  If you live within a 2 hour radius of a Terrain store, I would highly suggest making the trip.   I ended up buying some garden lights, and a little craft project for the boys and I to do together this summer.  I’m thinking if the lights are pretty enough, it might blind us into believing our yard looks nicer than it does!

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