Friday, January 1, 2016

A little wrap-up of these finals days of the year and a recipe

Ah, these final, busy days of the year.

Christmas doesn't mark the end of celebratory preparations around here because we have a late December baby in this household.

Jacob's 9th (!!) birthday was Monday.  Since his birthday is only three days after Christmas, we always hold it on the exact day it falls. And we try our very best to avoid wrapping birthday presents with Christmas-themed wrapping paper. ;)

This year, the party was at the local bowling alley's arcade.  There was pizza, a Star Wars Kylo Ren cake and much game-playing (and running around.)

This boy has grown up so much in the last year!

Since Jacob's birthday, we have enjoyed quiet, restful days. And it's been especially easy to laze about when we've gotten nothing but rain for nearly a week straight!

These days are my favorite.  We relax, read, watch TV and movies, write, draw.  I love the fact that all pressure is off and we can simply BE in all the post-holiday glowiness. 

No school, no work, nothing pressing but petting kitties and doing whatever it is that we desire!

In addition to all this doing-whatever-we-wishness, eating has also been a frequent activity.

My mom brought over for Christmas dinner an incredible and addictive kale salad that I've made twice in the last week.  It's lasted maybe 24 hours each time.  

Since it's a tradition in the South to eat greens on New Year's Day for good financial luck, this seems like a perfectly reasonable (and let me assure you, *much* tastier) substitute for collards.

The lady who gave my mom this recipe calls this the Convert Kale Salad because it'll convert anyone who tries it to liking kale! It's wholesome and full of delicious flavors.  Thus far, I've doubled the following recipe both times.

I've also eaten this salad for breakfast on two occasions. And I'm one who usually makes plenty of poor food decisions in the morning--such as skipping breakfast altogether or going straight for doughnuts.  

Convert Kale Salad
Serves: 6-8
 Time: 15 minutes prep, overnight marination

5-6 cups kale, washed and chopped
1/2 cup dried currants or coarsely chopped raisins
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon honey
zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix kale, fruit, lemon zest and nuts in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and honey to make a dressing.  Pour dressing over kale.  Using your hands, massage dressing into greens to coat evenly and reduce overall volume of greens by about half. (This step is weird but important--do not skip it!)  Refrigerate overnight or for six hours minimum.  Toss and serve.

Since pine nuts are pricey ($7.99 for 8 oz. at Trader Joe's and that's a good price), I'll be subbing toasted pecans the next time I made this.  So, on like Sunday.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hope you rung in the New Year in the way you like.  We bade 2015 farewell with friends, card games and various libations. 

And now it's back to a few more days of delightful lounging.

Happy New Year, friends!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

All is merry and bright!

Now to wrap presents and tidy the house for company on Christmas day!

Wishing you peace and joy this season,

Sunday, December 13, 2015

'Round Here

'Tis the season for lots of goings on!

In the shake of a lamb's tail, we're smack dab between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I'm reeling!

Over the past few days, we've spent an hour here and an hour there decorating. 
It's going to be a two-tree year here--and probably that way for the foreseeable future!  I switched to an artificial tree a couple of years ago when single after only ever having live trees.  Learning how easily they go up, I had no intention of going back to a real tree.  

But Matt really wanted a live tree.  And considering he wants for so little...

So there's a live tree tucked away in the corner of the dining room.  The glow is simply stunning!

And we'll be putting up the artificial tree in the living room this week.  

Photos to follow of course!

In the meantime, isn't this the sweetest little tree ornament?  My friend Stacey of Cottage Industry made it from a vintage quilt and it hangs prettily on the front door knob!

Matt and I are also steadily making headway in setting up the house.  For now we're focused on the studio.  It's the front bedroom of the house, right off the living room. It was the space in which we dumped all the boxes upon moving in.  And while it would probably still be considered a cluttered wreck by most, it really is on its way!

For instance, my desk.

I spray painted two filing cabinets from Habitat Restore in a gloss apple red and had an 8-foot piece of particle board cut to depth at Lowe's to serve as the desktop.  Since particle board isn't the prettiest, I then wrapped it in the cheeriest yellow gingham oil cloth!  Add in an aqua IKEA metal office chair and this room is looking better by the minute. ;)  

We'll also be hanging some shelves above the desk for vertical storage.  I had to laugh when I realized the shade of paint I chose--Sherwin Williams Aqueous from Lowe's--was almost identical to the shade of aqua on my running shoes. #ihaveaproblem

Oh, and I can't forget some major progress made in the kitchen in the last few weeks!

Right before Thanksgiving, I shared a sneak peek of a kitchen project on Instagram (follow me @harmonyfarmcandles!)

At the Country Living Fair back in October, we picked up a neat industrial rolling cart with wooden bins.  The base fit perfectly between our stove and fridge in a space that didn't have any cabinetry.  However the top (which fortunately wasn't attached) was too large.  

So, particle board to the rescue again! Lowe's cut a piece to the specs needed for the top and a local HVAC company wrapped it in zinc. 

The base of the cart got a coat of glossy apple red spray paint--just like the filing cabinets in the studio--and I painted the wooden bins white. 

Now this cart provides some much-needed counter space in our petite, vintage-style kitchen! 

This little red shelf above the stove also went up the other night.  Matt was at his weekly bowling league and I was tired of looking at the blank space between the top of the stove and the bottom of the over-the-range microwave hood.   

The shelf had hung over the previous stove and I figured we could use it again.  After more glossy apple red paint, I thought, 'oh, I'll get this up and surprise Matt when he gets home.'  

Ahhhh, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions...

So, after putting Jacob to bed, I started up, all bright-eyed and optimistic.

A job that I thought would simply require nails ended up with me drilling additional holes into the back of the shelf over the kitchen sink (to catch the sawdust of course!), drilling holes in the wall, and pulling the 400-pound stove away from the wall to find dropped screws and to vacuum up sheetrock and wood dust.  

Not to mention all the finagling with the drill. Oy vey! In order to hide the additional screws. I had to drill the holes in inconspicuous spots. But inconspicuous spots can also be hard to reach with power tools or even regular old screw drivers...

Needless to say, my 'surprise' concluded with Matt coming home to a deranged-looking woman with tools and vacuum cleaner strewn about the kitchen at midnight!

In the end, though, the shelf is up!
But I wouldn't recommend putting anything heavy on it! :P

This week is my last week of candle-making as I finish wholesale and Etsy orders for the calendar year.  This Saturday, I'm also doing a pop-up shop at the Southpoint West Elm in Durham which I'm incredibly excited for!  It'll be interesting to see how many last-minute shoppers there are on the final Saturday before Christmas!  If anyone reading is local, I'll be there from 12-4.

We'll also be going to see the new Star Wars movie, finishing Angel Tree shopping, and Jacob's class has a holiday party Friday that I'm helping with.  Clearly, it's going to be a full week! ;) 

What's keeping you busy these days?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ramblings on risk and gratitude

This little boy stayed home from school last Thursday with a fever--that ultimately turned out to be strep throat. :/

However, he was quite happy to camp out on the couch with many pillows, blankets, kitties, books and Netflix while I worked. 

Kitties really make everything better, don't they? Daphne is our little cream puff marshmallow angel!

Since working entails me going to the workshop in our backyard, I could check on him repeatedly throughout the day and take pauses as needed. 

To have this luxury floored me on this particular, warmer-than-usual November day.

It's been a little more than a year since I left my previous job.  That position was at a public library and there were many aspects of it--mainly brilliant co-workers and a mission I very much believed in--that made it excellent. 

 But it was an office job (and wow, have I learned over the years that office jobs don't suit me!) and the pay was pretty paltry considering the responsibilities and expectations. Additionally, the hours were going to change and that would necessitate childcare after school. 

After going through an exhausting divorce and other losses the last few years, I knew I wanted to be available to Jacob while we continued to adjust after big changes.  To be a consistent and loving presence for him feels like my most important work at this time in life.

And with him almost 9, I feel like the years have flown by at an astonishing pace!  I didn't want to miss time together for a job when there are many, many more years ahead to work. 

So, with a mix of bravery and trepidation, I gave my notice to pursue a new path.

Fast forward to a feverish boy and a working parent's dilemma.  Which is no longer my own dilemma because circumstances have allowed me, and are such that I have been able, to strike out on my own for work.   Talk about a moment of exceptional gratitude.

Leaving a steady job felt rather risky. It was a calculated risk, but a risk nonetheless. 

 However, a year on the other side of that decision, I'm deeply glad I didn't choose comfort or predictability or the known. Thanks to the support of family, my loving man, friends, and business associates, along with my own skills and determination, when my son is sick, I am able to be there for him without guilt or outside pressure.

The privilege of this situation is immense.

I feel very often these days that I live a charmed life.  It's most certainly imperfect and filled with struggle at times (though usually of my own making.)  But it's something I've wanted and strived for for so long. 

I've been moved over the years by women, both in real life that I know, and via blogs, that have earnestly sought to live authentic, gratitude-filled lives. That looks different for different people but the commonality has been intention: the making of deliberate choices when they're available; focusing on relationships and life's work; choosing to be grateful more often than not.

Where I am today is a culmination of fortune, happenstance, better (and let's be honest, poorer) choices, privilege, risk-taking, work on myself, and luck, to mention just a few factors.

And for all of this, I am most grateful.  Especially to have this boy who is now fever-free and back to his bouncing-off-the-walls ways.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Morning Music: Andra Day

You're welcome in advance. ;)

Newcomer Andra Day's commanding voice is simply mesmerizing.

Displaying shades of Adele and Amy Winehouse--though she's American--she blends soul, pop and blues in a most satisfying way.

I've been listening to her debut album Cheers to the Fall pretty much non-stop while working for the past several days.

Here are a few of my favorites from the album...

And as a HUGE fan of Florence + the Machine, I adored Andra's stunning live rendition of their "Cosmic Live."

Finally, I was delighted to hear her cover of Muse's "Uprising."

It's such fun to discover and enjoy such talented artists.  Post any recommendations you have for artists or albums to check out in the comments!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The need to be creative


What a hectic couple of weeks!  This is the busiest time of year for my candle business.  And this little cottage industry has been *quite* industrious the last several weeks--for which I'm most grateful and happy (if not bone-tired many nights!)

For me, working with my hands is deeply satisfying and, frankly, vital. Candle-making certainly works well as a vocation for that reason.  Being able to smell all the amazing scents is certainly a perk too! ;) 

But even making candles by hand all day apparently doesn't satisfy the insatiable need to create.  Working on a project--whether it's painting a piece of furniture, crocheting a scarf, dabbling in drawing or stitching fabric--is satisfying at the soul level.  Also, being in the act of creating and making seemingly turns off my brain and its constant thinking.  Creating allows me to be as much 'in the moment' as I think I can possibly be as someone who is perpetually planning and thinking ahead.

However with working, parenting and life in general being so full right now, there's not been much time for fanciful, experimental or new creating. 

I do hope to make some glitter houses in December. That's something I've done in years past using paperboard houses from hobby stores.  I've also used templates--these by Better Homes and Gardens are great and easy to assemble--and cereal boxes to make houses. 

This mini house was made last year with friends and is accented with a cupcake topper tree and deer!

And of late, I've become completely, totally, absolutely obsessed with felt flowers. 

I think it was on Instagram that I ran across The Felt Flower Shop.  

Be still my flower-loving heart!

Felt wildflower corsage from Felt Flower Shop on Etsy

Felt wildflowers on wood letters

Felt wildflower wreath
How charming are these creations?  The colors of felt are incredible, as are the shapes and textures of the petals. Many of the flowers are simply assembled with hot glue.

Having gone through a phase of making coffee filter flowers.  And having an undying flower infatuation, there's something about re-making real, live items in another medium that is massively appealing. 

Fortunately, there is no shortage of tutorials for making all sorts of felt flowers.  Finding tutorials for some of my all-time favorite flowers like dahlias, peonies and cabbage roses was a thrill as I dream about trying a new craft. 

So, sometime after the holidays, in the dead of winter, don't be surprised to find me surrounded by felt petals and strands of hot glue!

What drives your creative passions?  And what are you making--or hoping to make?

Links and sites mentioned in this post are not sponsored.  They are simply things and shops I love and want to share!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Country Living Fair: Atlanta 2015

A week ago (can't believe it's already been that long!), 
Matt and I headed out of town, southbound on I-85.  

Destination: the Country Living Fair in Atlanta!

This was my second time attending the fair.  Stacey of Cottage Industry and I went in 2012 and had a great time shopping together.  This trip was Matt's maiden voyage to Stone Mountain Park.

I remember being thoroughly taken with the beauty of the fair's location last time. The wooded slopes of the mountain were again ablaze in color.  A peacefulness permeated the surroundings.

Nestled in a portion of the woods was the fair itself.  On meandering paths, vendors sold their wares. 

And in an adjacent open field was the fair's main stage, food vendors, pavilion and this glorious pile of pumpkins and gourds. 

In a number of areas, Country Living magazine cover photos were blown up and hung on tents or buildings.  I loved seeing these familiar images in even greater detail.

We enjoyed taking in all the sights the fair had to offer. From antiques, to vintage items, handmades, upcycled pieces, art and more, there was no shortage of delightful items. 

These merino felted wool hats by Miss Fitt of Durham, NC (just down the road from home!) were absolutely incredible. 

With winter around the corner, a cloche might be needed, right?

There were many touches of fall decor to be found...

Aren't these chenille pumpkins with twig branches the charmingest?

And there were even glimpses of Christmas goodies.  My eyes were continually drawn to the shiny baubles!

It was exceedingly tempting to not buy more glitter houses.  I have an illness for them that involves pinning many pictures of them.  But I resisted this time, though I will have to make some for Christmas this year for sure!

Recently, the Go Girl Shoppe in Raleigh, NC started carrying my soy candles.  Meghan, the Go Girl, was a vendor at this year's fair as well.  Her space was actually our very first stop on Friday because I was dying to see her vintage travel trailer in person!

Cute, right?

Oh, and hey, look!  These are rather familiar...

One of my favorite aspects of the fair also involved a camper.  This is Modern June's vintage Shasta, Sew Junie. Look at this cutie-pie-on-wheels!

Lastly, getting to see the Beekman Boys--Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell--had me giddy. 

Never you mind that this is the third time I've seen them in as many years.  I promise I'm a completely benign fangirl...

 During their chat with the CL editor-in-chief on the main stage, I kept elbowing Matt and saying things like, "aren't they hilarious?!" and "they're just the best!!"  It truly couldn't be helped.  But he laughed and appreciated them too because how can one not?

After their talk, we high-tailed it the book signing line.  I've owned The Bucolic Plague and The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook for several years (and actually had them signed back at the 2012 fair) but hadn't yet picked up their newer books: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook and 
Beekman 1802 Style.  With copies of these in-hand, we made our way through the line and met Brent and Josh (yet again), who are so very gracious and down-to-earth.

For a 48-hour trip, we surely packed in quite a bit.  Matt and I always have fun together but this was an especially sweet weekend.  Seeing so many pretties stirs happiness in my core.  And because he's the best, Matt wants me to do/see all the things that make me happy.  So therefore we spent many hours trailing through the woods, exploring, discovering, admiring and, of course, buying together.

'Twas a lovely time and it will be fondly remembered.

Now to finally unpack and put out our finds...more on that later!

All photos taken on my iPhone 5c and edited in Ribbet.