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Although I do have a few things ready for this upcoming weekend, I seem to be lagging behind the entire holiday season this year. I find the term procrastinator doesn’t suit well, as it implies I’ve been intentionally avoiding the thoughtfulness of the season. It turns out, the logistical mess of our lives this Fall has meandered into this part of the year as well. Again, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and our home, to take a deep breath and prepare for an intentional reset beginning next week. In the meantime, I have gifts to purchase and wrap and bags to pack like many of you, so at the moment, I’m feeling grateful for free two day shipping.  For those of you in the same place today, I thought I’d share a few favorites for the adults on our lists. Peace to your efforts and cheers to thoughtful gifting, even in the last minutes. Wink.


Timex Southview Watch | Something handsome for the one with classic, understated style.

Wood Soup Bowl Set | Something functional and warm for the one with open shelves or glass cabinets in the kitchen.

Brass Chamberstick Candlestick Holder | Something romantic for the late-night artist, the early morning reader, or the gracious host.  Pair with a set of these candles.

Barebones Living Small Garden Scissors | Something small for the one always lost in the garden.

Honeycat Lariat Dropbar Necklace | Something pretty for the one always borrowing your favorite necklace.

Felt Laptop Case |  Something practical for the one who commutes.

Wabi Sabi Welcome | Something reassuring for the one who feels imperfect.

Barbones Living Beacon Light | Something bright for the one who loves the outdoors.

The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School | Something helpful for the one who wants to learn.

Bose Micro Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker | Something portable for the one who loves to move.

Everlane Cashmere Scarf | Something cheerful and cozy for the one who despises the grey winter.

betterfelt Classic Wool Slipper | Something meaningful and utilitarian for the one with cold feet.

Mkono Himmeli Hanging Planter with Ceramic Plant Holder | Something unexpected for the one who dreams of greenhouses. 

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G Lens | Something perfect for the aspiring photographer.

Matryoshka Ceramic Measuring Cups | Something unique for the one always in the kitchen.  

Afghanistan | Something stunning for the world traveler or photographer.

Phone Tripod and Remote | Something useful for the DIYer, blogger, or online socialite.

Everlane Leather Foldover Crossbody | Something special for the one who means most.

Our family is traveling for Thanksgiving this year, something we haven’t done in several years. Sometimes a change of habit is in order. Still, I have received several questions from readers asking some version of how we create our weekly table, and as this next week turns the corner I thought Thanksgiving might just be the right time to share. Naturally, the ideas here apply beyond the annual Thanksgiving meal, and that’s kind of the point. I find excess table accoutrement cumbersome for our small-ish and active home, and I have learned the value of a few steady table pieces with shifting organic detail. Simplicity truly is beautiful. It also keeps the set-up manageable to involve children. Wink. Here’s a few guidelines and sources for our table.

imperfect is perfect / Our linens are often wrinkled and napkins or plates mismatched. The botanicals are sometime fresh and ornate or other times clippings from a nature walk or dried after use. Some of these details I’ve slowly let go over the years, learning sometimes the imperfect is perfect.

mix + match style | We often use our daily wear dishes and glasses, mixing in a few pieces of China plates Mark found in a flea market at the beginning of our marriage. We also have a few random pieces that were passed down to us as an inheritance. Our cloth napkins have also come from various places and people. And we use a variety of ceramic, brass, and wood candlestick holders.

layered botanicals and edibles | Sometimes I find beautiful greens in the grocery store and sometimes I find them in a field. I am always a sucker for Eucalyptus. For this particular table I used some Eucalyptus I had dried the week before, adding in some fresh greens and bare branches. For last year’s table, I foraged all the greens, adding seasonal fruit and gourds. Leaves make perfect name tags.

garland | This is extension of the last bit, but a few of you have specifically asked me about garland, so I thought I’d separate these instructions. The way I make table garland is very, very simple. I grab plenty of greens, especially if I’m foraging them. If they’re fresh, I place them in water until they’re ready to go on the table. Some plants don’t dry as well as others. I begin with the broadest foliage and place them in opposite directions at each end of the table. Then, I slowly layer them, piece by piece, a little staggered, trimming them as needed. I fill in gap with smaller pieces, and make sure the center, where the branch stems meet, are properly covered. Then I add in pieces of seasonal fruit and gourds, opening pomegranates. I only added gourds this year.

quality, neutral basics | If you follow our table for long, you’ll realize we have the same pieces used again and again. We have two white, high-quality linen table cloths, our white everyday dishes with a few China pieces that rotate, glasses and carafes, wood chargers, and a mixture of candlestick holders. Seasonal details change with the foliage and the napkins, adding color and making each table unique. We add more florals in the spring and summer and more evergreens in the winter. Even though a few of our basics were more expensive, they are things we use again and again, not simply once a year or on a holiday.

I’m sure there are details that I didn’t cover here, so feel free to ask questions in the comments. Otherwise, happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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It may sound silly, but gift wrapping is one of my favorite parts of gift giving. It is the icing on the cake, the thoughtful finishing detail to what I always hope is a thoughtful gift. That said, like many other areas in our life, I have paired down this process over the years, opting for more economical and ecological options to create less waste. As it turns out, simplicity and economy can be just as beautiful as all the glittery frills. Today, I’m partnering with Mpix to share a few ways I am using nature and photographs this season to beautifully and economically wrap our gifts.Holiday Gift Wrap, three WaysHoliday Gift Wrap

WRAPPING BASICS

sturdy craft paper and natural twine / For starters, I keep a large roll of sturdy craft paper (found at most hardware stores) and natural twine on hand at all times. Having a natural colored base allows for versatile, seasonal details based on the holiday or celebration at any point in the year. Plus, with craft paper, there’s the opportunity to transform it to kindling, coloring paper, or a craft project after the gift has been unveiled. Another option might be to use small swaths of cloth or cloth bags for wrapping.

washi tape / It’s easy to find washi tape anywhere these days, the dollar store to high end paper stores. I like to keep a couple around for my children’s artwork and crafts, but they come in handy for taping branches or photos to gift wrap, too. Wink.

twigs with colorful leaves or berries / This is an excellent way to include children in gift wrapping. They can help search for fallen leaves or twigs, or even learn how to prune a few on their own. In the past, I have also snipped stems from our Christmas tree for wrapping, but this year, we gathered a few bits from our nature walk earlier this week––colorful cedar branches and assorted tree berries.

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PHOTOS, THREE WAYS

photo prints / For friends and family who might who might appreciate an updated family picture for a frame or even a landscape from a favorite trip during the year, try taping an image to the wrapping or tucking it in the twine. I used double-sided tape on some and washi tape on others. Double-check the washi tape first to make sure it won’t ruin the photo paper. Pair smaller natural accents with larger images and vice versa for images that take up less space. Use natural pieces that complement the colors in your photo. I loved how the orange cedar complimented the sunrise in one of my images.

photo magnets / A medium sized photo magnet can be ideal for minimalist family members or those who love to keep images on their fridge. They’re strong enough to hold a piece of paper, too. So if you have littles, this might couple well with a handmade card or Christmas drawing. I used washi tape for the photo magnets, accompanied with purplish leaves that complemented the images.

mini-photo gift tags / You know those little scraps of paper leftover during the wrapping process? Tape a mini-photo to a piece of torn scrap paper and use it as a gift tag! I hole-punched the paper and used twine to tie with a small branch. Write a small message on the back and presto! It’s something special for the recipient to keep and more economical than purchasing pre-made gift tags.

Happy wrapping, friends!

 


This post is sponsored by Mpix, a photo lab based in Kansas, committed to quality printing services. All images and thoughts are my own. 

handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-5handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-6 handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-2handmade_gift_for_the_fall_table-4Although I love sharing and receiving gifts for special occasions, my favorite gifts are the ones shared for no reason at all. Don’t you love receiving random gifts from others? Maybe a stranger in line before you purchases your coffee or maybe a friend drops by a new candle or a neighbor leaves you a baked good. While small, these thoughtful acts can shift the course of our day. They gently remind us we’re seen.

This last weekend, my sister and I arranged bare branches, succulents, and candles across our backyard tables for Liam’s birthday, when she had the lovely idea to wrap some grasses I had purchased for our yard and use them, too. I tend to always keep some craft paper and twine around the house for these sort of ideas, and with several hands to help, we had added just the right mixture of textures to the table for early fall. These hand-wrapped plants would also be the perfect way to surprise a friend or a neighbor with a little gift for their own table this season.

The project is simple enough for the smallest of hands and the materials needed are quite simple, too: craft paper, twine, scissors, and a small plant or cutting flowers from a garden. You might also consider drafting a brief note to attach or adding a drawing/painting from your child. Discuss together with your children who might like a new plant for their table, or who might simply need a gift from a friend? These small gifts can remind us all to pay attention to those around us, especially to those around us who may need a reminder that they’re seen.

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Rolling beeswax candles is perhaps one of my children’s favorite activities for the home, a task that needs tending more often in the autumn and winter seasons here. Most days, rolled candles array our mantle or tabletop, ready to light whenever the mood of our home needs a little twinkle––whether a family meal or a hum-drum school day. And every Friday night, when the kids set the table for our family Sabbath meal, the candles neatly wedge between our food and plates and flowers. I keep spare sheets in our bureau near the dining table, to quickly roll in a pinch, as they also make the perfect handmade gift for a loved one, a new neighbor, or a seasonal celebration of any sort.

With a little guidance, even preschool children can help with this activity. I’ve purchased this set several times and have never had any trouble with broken sheets or brittle-ness. And of course they always smell divine. It’s a nice starter set, as it includes everything you need, but I do recommend you also purchase an extra spool of wick, as we tend to run out of the pre-packaged wick before the wax sheets. I’ve considered contacting the same company to see if they offer an option to purchase only the wax sheets, but I haven’t done so yet. It seems silly to keep purchasing the same set when we have wick already.

We usually half the large wax sheets into smaller squares, which I recommend unless you’re looking to create particularly long or wide candles. I also encourage my children to keep their fingers straight and to roll slowly like dough––gentle, but tight rolls––as they initially want to use their finger tips to push and sometimes fold the wax instead of rolling it. This has happened a couple of times, and we’ve simply massaged the wax back together into a roll.

Sometimes I prefer the tidy, smooth lines of a tapered beeswax candle, which you can purchase nearly anywhere now. If you prefer the same, especially for special holiday meals later in the season, I’ve purchased and loved these. This fall, I hope to melt and dip our own candles with the kids, a more occasional activity as it requires more time and clean-up. I would love to hear if you have any favorite beeswax sources, for sheets or lumps of wax? I’m sure other readers would like to hear, too.

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A small bundle of fresh flowers for the home can be water for the soul, especially in these late summer months when the temperatures soar and the fields lie crispy and parched. I tend to sprinkle small bundles or sprigs throughout the home, on tables, night stands, and bathroom counters, even in the boys’ room. Although I do this year round, it feels more satisfying somehow in August.

Georgia O’Keefe once said that “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time,” but I imagine more often, one might appreciate fresh flowers long before pausing to study or paint one, possibly even without consciously knowing it. Perhaps we don’t quite understand why a certain spot in our home or in another’s feels peaceful or inviting, or why we feel happier doing the dishes or quietly taken care of as we flip off the bedside light. Perhaps those little blooms are hydrating us, even when we haven’t time to notice.

Fresh flowers do not need to be large or expensive to shift the countenance of a room. A humble market bundle will do the job beautifully, and economically I might add. I keep my weekly budget at $10-$15, bumping only on occasion for special dinners or guests or on a particularly crushing week. Most weeks, one of the children join me, snipping stems and filling pitchers with water. It gives them joy to create simple arrangements, and more indirectly, they experience how flowers might water or bring life to many things––a home, a soul, a friendship––in oppressively hot seasons. Welcome, August.

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I regularly have people ask me how I plan our family meals, and also how I include the kids in the kitchen. I’ve been working on a small upcoming project regarding this topic, which I’ll have more on soon, but for now, I thought I’d share a sample meal plan from our summer table, as it can be helpful for me to peek in on what others are doing when I’m in a rut. As for recipe books, I’ve been mostly using Clean Slate––which I love for the juice/smoothie recipes, educational front matter on clean eating, and detox plans for when for my system feels inflamed (often after summer vacations)––and It’s All Easy––because I am an unabashed GP fan and I love recipes that sound fancier than they are, such as cauliflower tabbouleh, zuni sheet pan chicken, and Bo Bun salad.

Between May and October, our family almost exclusively grills meat, saving the cool air and energy indoors. We still enjoy weekly pancakes on the griddle each Sunday morning and the occasional roasted vegetables with dinner, but more often we eat our veggies raw and varied in these hot months––chopped, spiraled, sliced, minced, or even whole. I find the varied presentation helps disguise their simple nature and also the feeling of redundancy, “carrots for snack again?” Slice or chop them differently, and you may never notice.

Summer produce is my favorite for three reasons: peaches, watermelon, and berries. These fruit naturally end up on our weekly menu in any manner until the season’s end. For simplicity right now, dinner is the only planned meal. Breakfast and lunch are an assortment each family member chooses from at will. We encourage taking only what you’ll finish, and always being considerate of others if you’re about to finish something off. I’m fairly certain years of making morning eggs has burned us out a bit, and no one seems to complain when they are gone for the week. Wink.  Dinner is specifically planned each night, and on the best nights, there’s leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day. I sometimes shift evening meals around when unexpected things occur in a week (which they almost always do), so it’s nice to have a solid crockpot choice (shredded BBQ chicken for us this week) or an accessible main course for last minute meals. I often have frozen chicken breast or tilapia in the freezer for this reason. One easily grills and the other quickly thaws when I’m in a pinch. For those who are interested, here’s this week’s menu:

 

breakfast

eggs with mixed greens and berries

red or green juice

cereal/oatmeal with berries

fruit + yogurt

lunch

dinner leftovers

lunch meat or hard-boiled eggs

spinach salad with veggies

chips + fresh fruit

• dinner

 grilled pork tenderloin stuffed with fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella, served with roasted green beans and asparagus

grilled chicken breast, served with lemon and herb pasta with cherry tomatoes

street tacos, a weekly community meal with friends

shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches, served with jalapeño coleslaw and mixed salad greens

Bo Bun Vietnamese salad with grilled shrimp

grilled salmon, served with cauliflower tabbouleh

one family eat out night

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I love fresh eucalyptus, and it’s quite possible to find a bundle in a vase or drying on a wall somewhere around our home often. My children tease me that I’m trying to allure koalas, but truthfully, they’re an inexpensive way to add muted green tones and gentle fragrance to our spaces. They tend to last longer than fresh blooms and are just as lovely and fragrant when dried, which makes them as much an economical choice as an aesthetic one. That combo wins big points in our home.

The scents of a home have always felt equally as intrinsic to me as the visuals. There’s something comforting about a good, natural home scent, whether the food on the stove, the glowing winter candle, or the diffuser on the shelf. With no surprise, Mark and I have a soft spot for old homes and have always chosen the quirky charm of an old fixer-upper over the swanky new ones, but they can easily smell musty or forgotten if left alone too long, especially our closets.

Closets and drawers feel especially important in the winter home when they’re stocked with cozy knits. I imagine no one truly likes pulling a sweater over their head that smells like dust and neglect, even though many do. This season I decided to make some natural, gentle scents for our family’s closets and drawers using the dried eucalyptus leaves, dried lavender (another favorite bloom that I wish we had enough sun in our yard to grow), and essential oils.

They were quick and easy to make and easy enough for children to help, although I recommend gloves in case they are at all sensitive. I purchased the little cotton pouches at our local craft store. You can find something similar here or here, or simply sew them yourself. (I’m not quite skilled enough for that yet.) I opted for the drawstrings so I could empty and refill as needed. While more expensive or difficult to make on the front end, they seemed like a wiser choice for the long run. If you don’t have lavender growing in your yard, I usually purchase mine in bulk at our local grocer. Below I jotted down the loose measurements and process I used. I’ve placed them in bureau drawers or simply hung a few on hangers in the closets. (Parents: please read the note below.)

5 dried eucalyptus stems

2 cups of dried lavender

lavender and eucalyptus essential oils

small cotton drawstring pouch

bowl and spoon for mixing

hand blender or food processor to chop the eucalyptus leaves more finely

Lightly hand wash and air out purchased pouches ahead of time. Strip the eucalyptus branches and crush the leaves to release a bit of scent. Mix together with the lavender. Add 5 drops of each essential oil and mix again with a spoon. Fill the pouches to your liking. I folded the top of the pouches over to make them a bit smaller. It should make 6-8 pouches.

A SPECIAL NOTE: If you’re adding these sachets to a child’s closet or bureau, make sure they are out of reach or that children who are old enough know not to open, touch, or eat the contents. With babies, simply hang in their closet or wardrobe to more gentle diffuse the scents. Their skin may be too sensitive for the sachets to rub directly on their clothing. 

 

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It’s Friday, friends! Do you feel a deep sigh of relief, too? The weekend is here, and again I’m ready for it. I’m beginning a new series here this year creatively titled “for the weekend”–I know, how did I ever think of it? Anyhow, I sometimes feel like the mood of this space is too task driven and serious, so I wanted a way to share the lighter, more frivolous ways we celebrate our weekends, too. Like most everything here, they’re sure to be relatively un-fancy, small bits, but as most of us realize, little things matter. I hope it’s a series that offers a reason to sink into the weekend a bit more.

For this week: a recent cocktail I’ve enjoyed this season. It’s light in flavor with just enough rosemary to taste like winter. For the kids, I sub orange Italian soda or muddle orange with the apple, for a less sweet option.  Enjoy!

APPLE ROSEMARY RICKEY COCKTAIL

Muddle 3 slices of tart apple and a 7-10 fresh rosemary leaves in a glass. Add ice. Add 2 oz. of Cointreau and 1/2 of fresh squeezed lime juice (approx. 1oz). Top with sparkling water or club soda and stir. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

*To make without the alcohol, substitute orange italian soda for the Cointreau and sparkling water, or simply muddle fresh orange for the Cointreau.

Happy weekend, friends! xx