One stitch at a time…

17 women in a room, for 6 hours on a Saturday, and I didn’t see one look at her phone.  Life just seems to slow down, or maybe distill down, to its purest form when we are creating – creating art, creating memories, creating time for ourselves.  Or maybe it was because Natalie Chanin, the founder of Alabama Chanin, is such a calming and inspiring woman, and we were all so captured by her generous and honest stories that we didn’t want to miss a moment.  In my opinion, an Alabama Chanin workshop is worth its weight in gold (or organic cotton) and better than a day at a spa.  To slow down, listen, laugh and learn – whether you are an experienced seamstress or can hardly sew a button on – you will be rewarded beyond the notions of a sewing kit.

I moved the workshop, last minute, to a friend’s beautiful historic home (thank goodness she let us all take over!).  Tara of the FARMBAR and her friend Tina prepared a delicious meal for us.  We all left with satisfied bellies and reinvigorated minds.  A single stitch can shift your outlook on making, living and loving.  I encourage you to attend a workshop or order a DIY kit and get sewing.  At the very least, be inspired by the company’s blog, Journal.

Photos by Olivia Rae James

My heaven.

So, after all this time away, it seems sort of unfair to write this post.  Especially for those of you that do not live in the lowcountry.  But it has been a week I want to remember and here is a place to capture that.

Summer launched over the long weekend with crisp weather (yes – windows still open!), a Supermoon ( We welcomed it’s rise, chilly on the beach, with an impromptu belting of God Bless America with a batch of 25 year olds about to embark on a cross-country adventure).  And spent the rest of the night laughing.  We rose early and left the multi-family slumber party to head back home and welcome friends out to our house for a day on the creek.  After a good swim the kids harvested some veggies for dinner.  We hauled in the crab traps and after we had licked the shells clean, fired up the grill.  The kids ate early and then ran wild, while the grown-ups were able to enjoy a lovely dinner on the porch.  It was happiness.  The next evening we went to see Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers preform with Eddie Brickell.  So good, you’ll just have to find them on tour and see for yourself. That extra day slowed the week a little and then geared back up for a Thursday night theater date with my daughter to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream preformed by the Handspring Puppet Company.  Magical.  And the next night to the Cistern to see JohnnySwim preform.  Again, magical.  Last evening our friends fixed us a delicious meal on their memory patina-ed porch.  We all slept out again!  Flamenco Ballet this afternoon with my neighbor and our daughters.  And I’ve just returned from a date with a friend to see Rosanne Cash perform.  My heaven.

“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Oh, I love me some home.” – JohnnySwim

Spring Eating

It started with one planned dinner party and then, since the house was cleaned and there were leftovers – why not have another party the next day??  And then, since you’re in the mood, maybe a few more dinner guests throughout the week.  That’s what a beautiful spring will do.  We had so much good food and great company over this past week, the house feels a little quiet tonight.  But I am still reveling in my two favorite spring eats – micro greens from the garden and Otter Island oysters.

We first tried Otter Island oysters at the Ordinary on Friday night, but given the price tag of an evening at the bar, I was excited when the next day I saw that the local market down the street was carrying the very same oysters by the dozen.  So we had our own raw bar at home (my son smashed up the ice cubes with a meat pounder so we could serve ’em up all nice and pretty).  Otter Island oysters come from the A.C.E Basin, a beautiful estuary just south of us where the Ashepoo, Combahee and South Edisto rivers come together.  The ACE basin is an incredible example of public and private interests aligning for conservation and traditional land uses.

The micro greens from our garden are so good they need no dressing, maybe just a little lemon.  We were heavy handed with the beet, arugula and tat soi seeds, so we had to go back through and thin them out once they sprouted up.  And those little tiny greens have the most delicious delicate flavor.  Kind of makes me just want to have a bed only for itty bitties…

kindness + happiness

Two beautiful messages arrived in my inbox today.  The video seemed to go so perfectly with the quote, that I had to share.

The first arrived from Upworthy.  A quote from Roger Ebert, who passed away this week.

Kindness covers all of my political beliefs.  No need to spell them out.  I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.  To make others less happy is a crime.  To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts.  We must try to contribute joy to the world.  That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances.  We must try.  I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.” – Roger Ebert

The second arrived from On Being.  A beautiful video by mojebory.  Read more about the video on the On Being link.

“We are social animals, like bees or ants. These social animals have no religion, no constitution, no law, but they work together.  Nature created that way.” – Dalai Lama


Alabama Chanin + Collaborators

I recently finished my “Anna’s Garden” negative reverse appliqué poncho.  I always keep another project in the docket, so prior to heading out West, I started a floor length skirt in “Bloomers”.  Long flights are the perfect time for stitching (Natalie suggested taking a new pair of nail clippers for cutting thread).  Every second of my day is filled between work + family + projects + home, so whenever I manage to find a free moment to myself, stitching is a great release.  I can’t watch a screen, or read a book and my hands are busy – so my ears are my only available resource.  I love to listen to podcasts or new music or better yet, good stories + conversation. That is why I am so looking forward to the Alabama Chanin workshop on June 22nd at 1600 Meeting Street.

A full day workshop with Natalie + crew is an inspiring event for all levels of stitchers. I have had fun pulling all the pieces for the workshop together.  We will “pop-up” in a large, airy + bright space in 1600 Meeting with food provided by Tara + The FARMBAR and then an after-workshop cocktail party “installation” with Brooks of Jack Rudy.

On thursday Natalie will participate in LLF’s GOODBusiness Summit and Friday she’ll host a trunk show at Billy Reid.

Also, my friend Leize shared this awesome link to an AC project.  I think this jacket might be my next one….

(Photographs provided by Alabama Chanin)

Planning for Plantings

Rita came by on Sunday and we talked veggies + flowers.  We made a list of spring veggies my family enjoys, which was just about everything.  Then we consulted her companion gardening book, Carrots Love Tomatoes, to see what to put where.  In an organic garden knowing how to use the natural benefits from plants is a key component.  It is sort of like using for the vegetable garden…with the hope that all the matches work out for the season!  Some planting will begin in two weeks, but not all.

I also decided to add some more satsuma mandarin trees to the garden.  The organic supplier was out of blood orange trees, so we will wait for those.  We will move the chicken coop under the shade tree.  Rita said we can let the chickens run in the garden, but don’t want the coop too close.  So we will put the garden shed + greenhouse in the middle of the bed.  I have no idea when we will get around to building that (or the coop for that matter).  But of course I’ve got it all sketched out! Just need some time, money and a trip to the Sustainable Warehouse.


Happy Valentines Day…with 2 hours to go.  When I was putting my son to bed he told me I was his “Valentimes”.

‘Love’ installation by Laura Kimpton, Burning Man 2011

Stairway to Heaven :: Kennedy Center Honors

I must have listened to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven around a million and a half times in my 8th grade year alone.  Back when I was hanging around boys my parents likely wished I wasn’t. (I’m sure that will all come back around to me in about ten years.)  My girlfriends and I all had the cassette tape.  I think it was Led Zeppelin IV.  It was always about the music.  And I must admit, this rousing rendition of the song performed by Heart (with John Bonham’s son on drums) as the band was being honored at the Kennedy Center late last year, brought a huge smile to my face.  And tears to Robert Plant’s eyes!  Amazing.  A great way to start the weekend.  Thanks to my friend, Tara, for sharing.

“The family that works in the yard together…

…stays together.”  That is my mother-in-law’s proverb and my husband often quotes her. There is a lot to be said about working in the yard as a family.  Perhaps a time and activity that is just as sacred as the family dinner.  Made more special by hauling in the fruits of our labor for supper!  Last weekend we built the beds for the vegetable and flower garden.  (Well, all but one because we ran out of wood.)

The garden lay-out changed as we constructed the beds.  The new plan is to build the chicken coop + run in the middle of the garden.  I was emailing with Rita, a friend, fantastic garden consultant + organic farmer about the spring vegetable list this morning.  Rita is going to help us with a year of seasons – sourcing the organic seeds and plants + teaching us along the way.  My green thumb is highly contested by my husband.  Though my herb garden, citrus trees and compost pile are doing great (if I do say so myself!), my house plants basically have a 50/50 chance of survival.  And those are supposed to be the easy ones, right!?  Squeaky wheels…

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a steep learning curve when it comes to gardening + farming – but good news is, I’ve got a lifetime to work on it!  And a quote from Rita’s email to inspire me ::

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Secretly Organized

A fastidious roommate in college once said I was “secretly organized” because to the naked eye I was all over the place, but she saw some rhyme and reason behind my chaos.  A method to my madness.  Not much as changed.  When my parents were in town over the holidays, my mom said she had never seen so many boxes and baskets.  That was the first time I really noticed.  I do have a lot of boxes and baskets. Secretly organized!

I loved collecting small boxes when I was younger, most of which are gathering dust in my parents’ attic.  Though a few have survived the years with me.  But as my life and my world have grown bigger, so have my boxes.  I simply can not pass up a good Chinese water bucket or an old wooden crate or a useful basket.  We’ve got shoe baskets, toy baskets, game trunks, recycling boxes.  Some store root vegetables and squash, some napkins and aprons.  Boxes are everywhere.  Most have a special purpose and some just serve as catch-alls for clutter.

I think little in life can metaphorically be put into a box or a bucket, more grey than black and white.  But it certainly makes life a little easier when cleaning up just means tossing a [lego, shoe, magazine, paint set] into a basket.  Works for me.

(My mom also said I don’t have enough pictures of the house on the blog.  Enough with the recipes!, she says.  Well, as soon as the leaves come back and we finish a couple more projects, I will dutifully post more photos.  Right now we are hibernating.)