I am a compulsive photo documentarian, the extent to which I rarely show on here. If you know me in real life though, then you know that it’s an intrinsic part of who I am, and a big part of how I see and interpret the world around me. I have been taking photographs like this since I was a kid.
I remember finding the photography books in the library across the street from my house and the images were so striking, so moving. I would photocopy these images and tack them to my own wall – documentary style black and white pictures of street scenes and people. In fashion magazines it was the portraiture that I was drawn to.
I would take my film to be developed at the second floor shop down the street and like magic I would wait and see what came of those shots. I learned about different types of film processing. My first job was at a one-hour photo shop. I would see professional photographers and think what a magical and illusive job that must be. I would drive into the countryside and take pictures of fields and tractors and textures. I would stick my lens in the face of everyone I knew.
Funny enough, many of my friends went to school for photography, one even used a picture that I had taken on his camera in his portfolio. I wasn’t sure how this made me feel. Anyway, I never got the technical learning skills. Instead of going to school for photography, I went for graphic and web design because it felt more practical, it felt like something I could get a job in. It is ironic that I work as a photo stylist and do so much photography now considering that but I think it is that same internal flame that never went out and the desire to keep doing it, practicing it, and just an innate need to photograph that took me from here to there. I am still learning and refining everyday. It never gets old.
Everyday I am taking photos, when I see the light just so, or an expression on a person’s face, or an environment that moves me I take a picture and when on the rare occasion that I don’t have a camera on me, I feel regretful that I’ve missed that moment and instinctively bring my hands up to “frame the shot”, a little salute to what could be. This is a long essay to say that maybe I will share more here, and I’ve probably said it before but the sheer quantity is staggering and I have always struggled with the idea of things not having a purpose, for frivolity or marks or observation that is shown to others without clear intent. I also take a lot of personal shots of people and friends and family and those feel private but beautiful. But, I also recognize that by hoarding many of these images it’s not really inspiring anyone else but myself. So I’ll try to share more here for no other purpose than to possibly inspire, to possibly offer up my point of view, to just “put it out there”, because really, why not?
I have found my new favorite taco recipe. It’s super simple and tastes amazing. It also happens to be vegan. I first spotted this recipe on Pinterest and when we had some cauliflower from our weekly farm delivery I decided to give it a try. I did a few things differently than the original recipe and my version is below.
For instance, I added in a bag of roasted corn from Trader Joe’s that I had in the freezer and swapped out black beans for kidney beans because it is what we had in the pantry. I also opted not to char my tortillas and used lemon instead of lime because that is what we had on hand. If you’d like to see the original recipe, you can find it here.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Combine your cauliflower florets and diced sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Swirl in the olive oil and season with chili powder, cumin, paprkia, garlic powder, oregano and salt. Squeeze in lemon juice (or lime if you have it) on top of it. Combine. Then add the veggies to your baking sheet arranged in a single layer.
Roast the vegetables for 25 minutes, stirring halfway. After that, add the kindney beans to the pan and add a little more salt. Cook for 5 additional minutes, then take out of oven and set aside.
Make the crema: add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender and combine. Set aside.
Mash your avocado with the lemon juice and salt.
Put a base layer of the mashed avocado on your tortilla, followed by the roasted veggies and then top with the cashew lime crema. Garnish with some cilantro on top.
The next time that I make this recipe (which I think will become a weekly staple – it’s that good!) I will triple it so that I can make the filling ahead of time and freeze it. It would make a perfect grab and go meal. I don’t know about you but despite the fact that I love to cook, I can be a lazy eater. These pre-made are a perfect solution, and so healthy.
This was also my first time using a cream made from nuts versus dairy (our attempt at trying a month of vegan got stalled – ha!) and it was amazing. I will definitely be using this method again and experimenting with other things like maybe a cupcake frosting? Anyway, I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
Last summer I happened upon a simple and fast way to press flowers. Since pansies are on their way out for the season, I decided to preserve a few as dried flowers for future projects. You can of course press them in a book and wait over time for them to flatten, or you can also use a preservative called silica gel. Here’s an easy way for you to dry them with what you have on hand at home:
First, you should pick them in the morning when they are at their plumpest and prettiest because they haven’t been zapped of moisture throughout the day as the sun gets brighter.
Then cut off the stem at the base of the flower so it sits flat.
After that take two sheets of paper towels and arrange the flowers laying face up between them.
Then, place the paper towel sheets (with flowers in between them) on top of a plate. The moisture from the flowers will leach out onto the paper towels and you are creating a place for that moisture to be absorbed.
After you have done this you are going to want to stack another plate on top of the other plate with the paper towels with flowers in them in between.
Lastly, put another heavier bowl on top of this stack and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute and 30 seconds depending on your microwave. Microwaves differ but you can periodically check to see how it is doing.
Once you are done you’ll have a flat (though smaller) pressed flower that you have preserved which you can use for new art creations.
What do you think, will you try this technique out at home? How would you use the flowers once they are preserved? You can of course use this technique for any flower or foliage. If you do experiment with this method, I’d love to see the results!
Last fall I met Carley Summers on a panel at Highpoint Market where we were both speaking about styling and photography tips. Carley travels the world photographing homes for clients but is based in Greenville, North Carolina. She’s created a cozy home that she photographs beautifully. I recently touched based and asked her to briefly answer a few questions on what she is up to currently and how she creates a cozy home.
What makes a cozy home: Making a home cozy includes layers, textures, and placement of things that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to mean big knitted blankets, and perfect comfy settings.
How do you make your house a sanctuary: I create special sitting areas where the light in my home hits just right. It gives me a sense of peace and calm.
How does living in rural North Carolina influence your work/perspective: Life is slower here, which I like! There is a way of life in eastern NC that lends itself to a design that is easy, but I enjoy bringing in my own influence of travel and design into it.
What are things you are doing at home these days to nourish yourself: I am working on personal home projects, and searching for pieces for my clients as well! I am also taking time in the mornings to pray, and really search this time for my why and why there is such a huge pause in my life and the world around me.
Do you have a schedule, are you sticking to it: Waking up at 8, having coffee, checking emails, then house work is keeping busy and on a schedule. Also, since I can’t work with my clients, and employees, I am setting up calls each day to keep things running in my business.
What is on your schedule: There is a lot strategizing going on, and I am working on a personal project that needs a lot of attention, which helps! Also, virtual calls with my clients and touching base with their needs each day.
Do you have any book/tv/movie/podcast/music recommendations: Right now I am reading the book of Acts. It’s helping me realize all that I can do and serve others from the comfort of my own home. I am also watching A LOT of chopped, instead of pointless tv to inspire me with home meals. Also cleaning my home to French jazz music has become a little joy during the days.
For many of us, this time of enforced social distancing and quiet (or maybe less quiet with kids underfoot) time at home feels uncertain and overwhelming as we await what it means for our jobs, our bills, our food, our schools, the economy, ourselves, our loved ones, the world at large. Despite the fear, there are also SO many undercurrents of amazing things happening all around us, people working together to help one another. Things may feel uncertain right now but this too shall pass, it always does. It might be hard now and in the future but there are many, many, many people focused on helping. How inspiring that collectively we are sharing a common perspective? How many times has that ever happened before? How can we as individuals, as businesses, as organizations use this time for good? Here’s some art I created a few years ago that I intended to make into cards and prints but never did, it feels appropriate today.
Here’s a recipe for a pulled-together with what’s on hand tomato galette that we made last night. It’s very “rustic” meaning it doesn’t look super pretty, but it’s easy and tastes good.
I encourage everyone to look into their local farmers and CSA’s who have plenty of produce to deliver right now straight to your doorstep. There is an abundance of food – it just might be hard to find at the regular grocery store (especially with limited delivery drivers) and many farmers are wanting to connect with you as well. You can find a local CSA (which stands for Community Supported Agriculture) here at this link. This is a no brainer easy way to support yourself, our healthcare workers and our local businesses and farmers while staying home.
Some restaurants in the Triangle, North Carolina area are also selling wholesale groceries to anyone with delivery: Ko-An, Corbett’s Burgers and Rebus Market are a few. We are getting our produce and eggs from Parker Farms & Vineyards, the farmer who we’ve been supporting with our purchases every week at our local farmer’s market. He is delivering them to our doorstep.
I love to save images of beautifully decorated cakes and since I feel like we could all use a little distraction these days, I’ve decided to round-up some of those images and share them here. Growing up my mom used to make me elaborately decorated birthday cakes and when I would go to sleep I would ask her to tell me “the story of my cakes”, which was basically her describing each one, for each year. When I bake, I focus more on the function than the form but my tween daughter enjoys making fun creations – maybe it skipped a generation. Here are some beautiful cakes I’ve seen around:
On instagram stories the other day I asked “What Are Your Go-To Self-Care Tips in Tough Times?” – I promised I would compile a list and share some resources. Below are your ideas and beyond that my own that I’ve pulled together, many of which I had already been embracing these past few years.
When I asked you what you did to take care of yourself in this weird moment in time we find ourselves in you said:
“Just got my monthly massage. It was just nice to be able to do something for myself.”
“I’m working on decluttering and organizing projects around the house! So far the mud room/entry hall and my boys’ bedroom are done. My hubby’s office is almost done. Our bedroom and bath are almost done. It feels good!
“I’m napping when needed and using uplifting scents, including in the bath when I feel like my soul is more weary than my body.”
“Taking a slow walk in the woods and noticing all the tiny beautiful things.”
Get Outside & Get Growing:
For me, nothing brings me more calm and re-centers me more than being in nature. From planting seeds and tending a garden to just taking a walk, each of these activities is a great stress reliever. Here are some other things you can do:
Plant seeds for a future garden. Not only is it helpful to have something productive to keep you busy but it also gives you something to look forward as they emerge and change each day in your windowsill. Bonus, seeds are readily available by mail order and online and are very inexpensive. Now is the perfect time to start planting seeds. I’m aiming to create a guide in the future for you with tips as well.
Get outside, no matter the weather for at least a half hour a day. Working in a greenhouse in all weather really taught me the value of having daily outdoor time and being in touch with the seasons. Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference between being indoors all day or spending some time outside.
Create a garden bed or pull up the weeds that are overgrowing some part of your yard, windowsill, patch of dirt.
If you are lucky enough to have access to your own outdoor space, even if it is small, try to create a semi-private natural sanctuary outdoors that you can retreat to with a book, a journal, a cup of coffee.
Take a walk. Go in the woods, on your neighborhood street, sit on your stoop, drive to a isolated rural park where no one is around and let the feeling of wind and air hit your face and breath in the scents of nature.
Discover A New Hobby:
In this hyper tech focused time, we all have access to a device that connects us to so much information and stimulation. Our brains need a break from that to pause and unwind. A hobby that keeps your hands busy and your mind in flow state is ideal to help stave off the temptation to grab your phone and read another news article. A hobby also helps distract us when we are feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention when we combine an active task and movement it helps our brain process things below the surface. Taking action, any action, often feels very good to us.
Any hobby that keeps your hand busy and your mind in flow state is ideal: gardening, embroidery, knitting, painting, baking are some.
Catch up on reading books, magazines, and print materials that have piled up.
Tackle a big project: clean out the shed, paint a room, clean out the linen closet.
Be proactive: make fire cider, hand sanitizer, sourdough starter
Learn something new: an instrument, a language
Organize your photos and make a printed photo book
Tap into your intuition and make a collage for no other purpose other than just to create.
Create A Sanctuary At Home:
Our home is our safe harbor from the world around us. This is especially true in times of challenge and strife. It is easy to fall into the trap of neglecting our space when we feel overwhelmed but the act of cleaning up and keeping both a tidy but lovely space invigorates us and reminds us to focus on the good around us.
Consider your time at home a retreat/vacation. While I acknowledge this idea is a luxury for many, the core of this idea is how can you make the most of what you have?
Instead of turning on the news, listen to a bird sound radio station or a peaceful piano playlist. If you feel you must listen to the news, aim for a daily download podcast like The Daily or Up First vs obsessively checking the same sites all the time.
Nurture some houseplants to improve air-quality but also your well-being. Start with easy, low maintenance ones like ZZ plants and work your way up.
If you have even a little bit of space, create your own space that replenishes and inspires you.
Create spaces and moments in your home of calm and that feel beautiful to you. Do this with art, plants, light.
Get organized and tidy up but don’t get over focused on it. A tidy space feels encouraging and empowering.
Keep up with your chores/laundry etc/bills, so as not to be overwhelmed later – for me a little everyday is my sweet spot where I try to single-focus on one task for 30 minutes for just a few hours a day.
Bring the outside in, go outside and forage for greenery or flowers outside your door.
If it is nice outside open the windows, let the light in.
Stress Relief / Care for Yourself As Well As You Care For Others:
It’s easy to put the focus on others first before yourself and not realize that you haven’t put any energy toward yourself. Don’t wait until you are completely run-down. Here are some stress relievers to unwind:
Drawing out your ideas and thoughts for a set period of time everyday
Cuddle with a pet
Meditation has been proven to have brain altering effects to help with mood boosting. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. I have heard it said that if you don’t have time to meditate once a day then you need to do it, twice a day. I use an app called Smiling Mind. It is Australian so the narrator has a lovely accent and it even has programming for kids as well.
Deep Breathing: I recently started using an app called Breathe which walks you through the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Free form journaling is a great way to empty your head, you could do it like a brain dump just to get out things that are swirling in your head for no other purpose than to free up space for things other than worry.
Reading keeps your mind active and focused on things other than worry. When I am feeling especially overwhelmed I like to stick to cozy books or light reading. Things that are too doom and gloom tend to overwhelm me more. Some of my favorites in this genre are books by Kate Morton and Susanna Kearsley but also YA books.
Reframing the situation. What is the silver lining in the hard situation you are in now? What are three positives from it?
Pause and be still. I like to sit and watch the birds at my bird feeder. Both the act of filling it weekly but also just sitting and watching them is calming.
Writing down gratitude’s daily
Praying and “Giving it to God”
When things are challenging it feels especially good to don the cozy clothes, watch your favorite movies and find comfort in the routine of what you know.
Keep It Cozy:
Rewatch your favorite movies/shows. There is comfort in knowing how it ends.
Rewatch your favorite funny movies and indulge in laugh therapy.
Reread your favorite books: Great Expectations, I’m looking at you.
Not only does staying tidy help the mind have clear space it also helps you to feel accomplished. I speak from experience who is someone naturally prone to piles. When I take the time to deal with the things that are piling up, I feel lighter, more inspired and happier.
Create Nourishing Routines:
Are there any bad habits that you’ve been wanting to change? How can you create a new routine that changes this? It is said that if you do something 15 days in a row it reprograms your brain circuits and creates a new habit.
Take a walk each day to start or end the day in nature.
Drink a warm beverage to comfort you (preferably caffeine free if you’re prone to excitement anyway). My favorite caffeine free go-to is roobios a South African tea that has a full bodied taste that reminds me more of a caffeinated drink.
I’ve started picking up embroidery at times when I would be tempted to pick up and scroll on my phone. It’s a good reminder of the amount of times I pick it up but also keeps me off it more.
Exercising each day. Exercising is an amazing stress reliever and so good for you. If it is raining I do JustDance on the wii or a video yoga program.
Get plenty of sleep – weighted blankets help!
Drink lots of water
Eat well and cook whole food meals
Try to keep your stress at a minimum
Dance parties in the kitchen feel like a good routine, no?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on what is immediately around us, but there is a wealth of beauty and inspiration outside of our doorsteps and on the internet. Make it a point to seek out the good, the things that fill your well and uplift and inspire you, often.
Seek Out Inspiration Wherever You Are:
Plan a trip for the Fall/Winter as something to look forward to, bonus do it with friends
Listen to uplifting podcasts.
Create a playlist of your favorite music from high school or of all time, play it, sing out loud.
Seek out new and different things to follow on your social media accounts. Who are people who inspire you following that you haven’t heard of before?
What can you learn from your current situation and how can you be proactive toward the future? How are others reacting positively to the world around them and their current situation that inspires you?
As humans, connection is a vital part of making us feel whole. Take time to connect with your loved ones and give back to others.
Connect With Others:
Do some group exercises with your family outside: basketball, tennis, ping pong, four square, badmitten
Write notes to friends/send pictures
Call / Text your friends, exchange funny memes
Help others and volunteer your time and resources if you are not physically able to go anywhere
Mealtime rituals: turn down the lights, light candles, ask each other about your day. At our house we go around and say three bright spots from our day, one challenge and an affirmation for each person at the table.
Play puzzle, board and card games with your family
Cook dinner together – and dessert
Get involved in something outside of yourself that you believe in, working at a greenhouse, volunteering, etc.
Ultimately, there are a lot of things you can do to be more mindful in challenging times. I hope this list is helpful to you. In addition to the ideas above, here are some other collected resources online you might like:
One thing that I do for all classes is ask everyone to go around and list a guilty-pleasure tv show (though what is there to be guilty about if it brings you pleasure) and a good book you’ve recently read or a podcast to share.
Not only does this exercise help to break the ice and get everyone talking but it also results in an amazing list of recommendations and things to check out. I’ve been meaning to share them after each class. Here’s what was said at yesterday’s Textural Wall Hanging class along with pictures from the day:
Color: A Natural History of the Palette – What was said about it: “You learn about colors like ochre and where it originated from and how it evolved and all the different colors of ochre that there actually are.”
An interesting article from a weekly Spoonflower email about a woman who does historical research related to sewing. (Will try to find the link to the email)
Yes, Please– the autobiography of Amy Poehler because she’s funny. Interesting insight into the improv process and we love her mission to empower girls. (Side note, my tween daughter loves watching Making It. It’s a sweet crafting challenge show and perfect for watching together as a family curled up on the couch.)
City of Girls – What was said about it: “I love books about bad women. This one touches on a woman in war, showbiz and NYC.”
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of the above title) book on creativity and the process that challenges preconceived notions about what it means to be an artist but also a professional. Mostly, she encourages us to get over ourselves and just do it. Highly recommend listening to her read it on audiobook.
Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion – What was said about it: “The interesting ways that our economy has been influenced by social media, different essays about how we use these modern things instead of connecting as actual people.”
Song Exploder– What was said: “They interview musical artists and talk through their process of making their songs. It is interesting to go into their artist process and compare with others artists process and the equipment they use etc.”
Did you miss this class? We might host another on a Friday evening in March. Would you be interested? If so, email me to find out more. What is a good book you have recently read and your favorite bingeable/distracted watching and scrolling type show? I’d love to hear your picks in the comments section.
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On Saturday March 14th at 10:30am at Gather in downtown Cary, Raleigh based paper crafter Santana Douglass will be teaching a paper houseplant craft class. You can register for that class here. Green thumb not required. 😉
Here are some inspiring pieces from Brooklyn-based artist Corrie Beth Hogg who wrote the book Handmade Houseplants which I discovered last year at the library and that has inspired this upcoming class.
Corrie’s work combines paper crafting and paint into incredibly realistic “plants”. With careful attention to shape, color and structure she’s created the illusion of something real that has the potential to have a much longer lifespan in your home than an actual plant depending on your plant nurturing skills. No judgement, it can be hard!