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The Perfect Summer Snack

I discovered this combination twenty years ago and still look forward to it every summer. Toast two slices of bread. Let cool for a minute, add mayonnaise, thick slices of fresh tomato, sea salt, black pepper, and dried Italian seasoning. I know, you'd think it should have fresh basil because it's so readily available in the summer... but this is more about a food memory for me. Twenty years ago in my area there was not a lot of fresh basil to be found. It wasn't in every garden the way it is now. I think the Italian seasoning makes it! Serve this open faced.

Tomato heaven... I promise.

From a Pallet of Wood

As part of our planning and purging in preparation for our Vermont move (ha!), we let go of many, many things that didn't make the "do we want to move this to Vermont?" cut. Our deck furniture was one of those things. It wasn't beautiful. It came with this house when we bought it and served it's purpose (in an early 90's hunter green sort of way) while we were here. We felt no need to bring it with us though... to the swap pile at the dump it went!

It feels liberating to get rid of stuff that you don't find to be beautiful or useful, especially big stuff! There was no love lost with the absence of our hunter green deck furniture... until we realized that we were not in fact going to be moving at this time. Hmmm... where do we sit?

Where do we have dinner from May through September?

The deck is our secret place here in the city. The front porch is pretty, but the deck is tucked away out back and is really the only private feeling spot we have. It gets a lot of use in the summer.

We searched tag sales, roadsides and flea markets for 3 1/2 months for the right second hand outdoor dining set to make it's way home with us. We had no luck, nothing could be found. Finally, we broke down and purchased three red adirondack chairs. It was a start to reclaiming our precious outdoor space, sitting on the deck (literally) was getting old.

Then, Emily thought we should have a little coffee table to go with our new chairs. Something that we could rest our iced tea, projects, or even our feet on while we hung out on the deck. Refusing to buy brand new for this idea, I remembered Rachel's pallet table that she made and showed it to Adam. Using the idea of repurposing a free pallet (thanks Willards!), he set to work...

Two hours later we had the perfect, outdoor, don't care if it gets rained on, wooden table for our deck! He used fallen maple tree branches for the legs (peeled the bark off) which I think are so cute, though he probably wouldn't say they were cute. It is sturdy! And so much more us than a predictable glass topped, metal framed table.

In the end, we have a table that is the perfect size and height for our little sitting area out back. We are still holding out on purchasing brand new for our dining set, but I don't know how much longer we can wait, August is just about here already! Until then, if you ring the doorbell and we don't answer - come around back and you'll find us here. I'm sure we can rustle up a tall cool drink for you.

Summer Studio Tour

Felt a little stuck this week so I straightened and rearranged a bit. All better.

Today Emily and I will make a new curtain for the bathroom.

Teach the Child

From a very early moment in my mothering career I 'got it' that if I didn't take the time to teach my child a job or task, there should be no expectation on my part that she would know how to do said job. For instance, bed making is a classic example. By age four (maybe younger?) Emily started making her own bed. When we first talked about her doing this, my assumption was, she'd just do it... such poor thinking on my part! It wasn't that I cared if her bed was made well, but she cared... nobody, even a little one, wants to climb into a sloppily made bed at night. Observing her frustration was a light bulb moment for me.

Teach the girl, mama!

And so I did. From that point forward I realized my role in teaching her new chores or tasks was key to her feelings of success. Maybe a better way to describe it (instead of teaching) is to say I work alongside her until she has confidently learned the job at hand, which really only takes 2-4 times depending on what the work is.

This still applies today at age twelve. This summer I've been helping Emily establish a small cooking repertoire of simple, nourishing meals that she can prepare for herself. This is a necessary life-skill to have. I've waited until now given that Emily is not naturally interested in cooking the way I was from a very early age, but at twelve, it is time to start learning to feed yourself something beyond peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese (which are fine, we are just hoping to expand the rotation).

I am teaching her different meal/snack ideas step by step, we are also preparing a menu to be posted in the kitchen that she may order from (and be her own chef). We found that she is the type that waits until she is too hungry to make a good decision and will likely grab something that might not be the best choice, like a handful of pretzels... but if she looks at her menu and sees the choices in front of her, she might decide that sliced apples with almond butter or a simple green salad topped with leftover chicken takes two seconds longer to prepare and her body will be happier for it. Emily really likes things spelled out for her.

This 'teach the child' concept applies to everything around the house - washing cars, vacuuming, dusting, giving the dog a bath, sorting laundry, organizing her closet and dresser drawers... the list goes on. A while back I was going through my cabinets and everything seemed so jumbled and out of place, my immediate Virgo response was to feel frustrated with the person who stacked the dishes in such a state (I had a photo of my cabinets before we straightened them and accidentally deleted, but you can imagine all of that pyrex teetering, just waiting to crash...), and then I stepped back and checked in with myself, rather than automatically pass the blame. Had I taken the time to show my helpful dishwasher-emptier exactly how to nest and stack all the pyrex, as well as place matching lids on jars but not screw them on (I know, I'm nuts to think my jars need to breathe)? No, no I had not.

So, I did take the time... and now, we live in a land of beautifully arranged pyrex and glass jars that can breathe. Mama's happy, and my girl feels confident in a job well done. This simple idea of teaching the child definitely makes for a happier, more peaceful home.

lavender vanilla cupcakes

Don't mind me, just setting the tone for the week here... pretty cupcakes, pretty dishes. Seems like a worthwhile start, don't you think? I'll have to show you this full set of dishes sometime - a depression era, service for twelve (minus one tea cup), luncheon set. Platter, creamer and sugar bowl too! Oh my it is exquisite, the whole lot of it was found for under $10 which I just couldn't believe!

A couple of months ago we had a little luncheon here and just as our guests were about to arrive, I glanced down at the sparkly, fully set table (not these dishes, others) and noticed that every single item on there was thirfted - linens, sterling, monogrammed glasses, etc. Every single thing! Not an intentional design, it's just the way things happened to be, and how pretty it was. I wish I took a picture.

I wanted to share with you a little more about cooking/baking with lavender. Truthfully, I haven't been doing much baking lately. Of course, the heat and the abundance of seasonal produce has kept me away from the stove quite a bit, but also, I haven't been eating gluten (it's been a month today actually). It's not something I've mentioned here yet, when I'm ready and have more information to share, I will. Given the season however, the desire to bake (thankfully) hasn't been a pressing issue for me. There is a huge social and emotional component for someone who is such an avid cook/baker to have to give up what feels like 2/3 of their repertoire to become gluten free. So, with hands on my hips and heels dug firmly into the ground I stubbornly declare that right now I don't want to play around with potato starch and rice flour and tapioca and blah, blah, blah... I want to use my favorite, predictable wheat flour milled in upstate New York.

I will miss that perfect flour terribly.

I know eventually feelings will subside, autumn will return, and I will set up my gluten free pantry, properly, for the afternoons of baking that will of course return to my life. For these cupcakes however, I tried Bob's Red Mill, Vanilla Cake Mix with the addition of lavender (1 1/2 tablespoons, dried) and Martha's Buttercream.This was a leap of faith for someone who's go-to baking book is called All Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar Packed (that is an excellent, must have book by the way). Bob's Vanilla Cake Mix was fine, different from the real thing and a little rubbery, but fine. Actually, it was much better than I expected it to be.

If you read between the lines in that last paragraph you might have deciphered a recipe somewhere in there. Use you favorite vanilla/yellow single layer cake recipe and add 1 1/2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers, chopped fine.

You can add lavender to cookies like Snickerdoodles also and you will pleased. The Snickedoodle recipe that I've used for 16 years is from Just a Matter of Thyme (another sweet, homey cookbook). Melissa loves to make Vegan Yum Yum's recipe, so you can try that too. I add the flowers after I've creamed the butter and sugar, but before flour is added. For most cookie recipes, 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons dried, chopped flowers will be perfect.

As you can see, it's more of an idea than a recipe, but quite special and delicious all the same. I hope you get a chance to play around with herbs and edible flowers in your cooking this summer. This weekend we added macerated mint to a batch of Lavender Lemonade and it was remarkable!

summer studio tour :: 3

Thank you so much for your wonderful words about my latest painting. It leaves me speechless that something so personal to me can feel so personal to you as well, that is quite beautiful. Prints will be available but I am not sure exactly when. I'm working on a few new pieces and am also re-working my little art shop... it feels time for the art goodies and sewn goodies to take up separate residences. I hope to share some further news within a few weeks or so. Thank you for your continued support. I know it sounds terribly cliche, but your enthusiasm is a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me, truly.


With my coconut oil slowly returning to a semi-solid state just this morning (I hope it is normal to measure a heat wave by counting three days in a row in which the coconut oil is liquid...), I really didn't think I'd have too much to share this week. It was hot. We've been lounging around, sipping cool things, going swimming, and generally wondering when it will not be so hot.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I took a look at my photos from the week and there was indeed a bit of productivity!

It wasn't much, but a satisfying balance of work for customers, work for me, and work for our home. How are you all doing? We'd love to peek into your creative space if you'd like to share!

Edited :: Mr. Linky seems to be down right now... certainly link to your summer studio in the comments. I'll add them in later when the program is running again.

My Go-To Girl

Any art and craft studio worth it's salt should always be well stocked with all manner of useful things. Well, we hope for this anyway, right? Imagine my frustration (and full admission that it is really time to get in there and straighten up) when I couldn't even locate a simple pencil the other day.

Wait, check out Emily's desk, she is always well prepared and organized.

Into her room I went and will you look at what I found upon opening the drawer... close to a dozen, perfectly sharpened, ready and waiting, Ticonderoga's (her pencil of choice... yes, she has a pencil of choice). Of course.

A place for everything, and everything in it's place. That's my girl.