Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) So Far This Summer

I'm on a mission to get more good books into my life this year, and to that end, I've been sneaking in reading time wherever I can find it. Part of what has been working well for me is being a part of this bookish community, and listening to Anne Bogel's delightful podcast, What Should I Read Next. If you're at a loss for what to read, or simply want to spend more time around fellow book lovers, I'm telling you, check these resources out. You won't regret it. Now for the books...

Quick Lit: What I've Been Reading (And Loving) So Far This Summer

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy in sharing a few of the books I've been reading — and loving — so far this summer. In early June, my little family took a trip back to the east coast, which meant I've had an extra-helping of reading time this month. So I have six titles to recommend! Hooray!

First, three titles I would recommend to anyone:

This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

This nonfiction book had been on my radar for a while, so when I recently stumbled upon a signed edition at my local used bookshop, I snapped it up. As I read the introduction, I found myself nodding along with everything Warnick had to say about always being on the lookout for the next "perfect" place to live. So much of our identity and happiness is tied up in our sense of place, so what happens when you're not thrilled with where you're living? This Is Where You Belong gives us practical tips — like walking instead of driving, and getting to know your neighbors — that can help root us more deeply in our communities, and boost our happiness in the process. 

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

I read this for the first time a few summers ago and loved it so much that I'm reading it again — and I rarely reread. This perfect summer book is about a cook who is kidnapped by a female pirate, and it's filled with good (if bizarre) food, swashbuckling, high seas adventure, and romance. And I love that it's written by an author who lives in my town, a fact I didn't even realize until after I got the book home!

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

After reading my first O'Farrell novel (This Must Be the Place) in book club, I was hooked. I Am I Am I Am is a memoir told through seventeen brushes with death, and it had me so spellbound that I neglected making dinner, and in fact hardly looked up from the book until it was over. And can I just say how gorgeous that cover is? Read it

Next up, three titles that I thoroughly enjoyed, but might not be for everyone:

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods (The Themis Files trilogy) by Sylvain Neuvel

I'm not a science fiction junky, but every once in a while I find a sci-fi book that grabs me and won't let go — the last one I read that fits this category (smart writing, mind-bending plot) was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. In this trilogy by debut author Sylvain Neuvel (the third installment was recently published), giant robot body parts from outer space are discovered buried on earth. At first, no one knows what they are or how they got there — the first person to find one was a young girl named Rose, who rode her bike into a hole and landed in a giant metal hand. Rose grows up to be a physicist, and works on putting these parts together to make something... Whether this something is good or very, very bad quickly unfolds in this unputdownable series.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

I adored this family saga from the author of Maine and Commencement about two sisters who journey from their small village in Ireland to America in 1957. One sister ends up the matriarch of a large family; the other, a cloistered nun in rural Vermont. Family secrets, lush writing, and revelations about the human spirit abound.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This book has been talked up everywhere, but for some reason I didn't feel confident that I would enjoy it. So I'm grateful I spotted it on my mother in-law's bookshelf just at the moment I needed a new book in my hands — because I loved it. This is compulsively readable literary fiction, with characters you can root for and a twisty little mystery. Ng offers an insightful perspective on belonging, adoption, culture, the lure of perfection, and what makes a family.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my reading life as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let's do it again next month!

A Tiny Farmhouse That's Big On Style

Are you as enthralled with tiny house living as I am? If so, I think you're going to love the home we're peeking into today. Built by Perch & Nest in North Carolina for last year's Tiny House NC Street Festival, this mini-farmhouse (called the Roost 36) can sleep a family of four and — I think this is the best part — has retractable screens and a glass entry wall that can completely open up the tiny space to the great outdoors. Just look...

Perch & Nest tiny home — farmhouse style porch

Isn't this open-air dining area magnificent? Being able to have loads of windows and a fresh breeze can make a small space feel completely transformed. I could imagine spending many long summer evenings sipping sweet tea and playing games at that table.

Perch & Nest farmhouse style tiny home

Inside, the lofted ceiling, real stairs (not a ladder), and that adorable mint green Smeg fridge make the space feel cozy, comfortable, and stylish.

Perch & Nest tiny farmhouse living room

Notice the big windows, window seat, and glass doors leading out to the porch beyond. Dreamy! A second loft on this side is reached by a ladder to save space.

Perch & Nest tiny farmhouse bedroom

Moving into a tiny house can be an opportunity to discern what really matters in your life. There is room in a tiny house to nourish a passion, or keep up with a hobby — but there's no room for activities or things that you aren't really using. If you love to knit and read, you can certainly keep a basket with your current project and a carefully curated bookcase. If you love to paint, you can prioritize space for a folding easel, a case of paints and jar of brushes. You can have art on the walls, lovely clothes in the closet, and cute pillows on the couch. Just not too many ;-)

Perch & Nest tiny farmhouse exterior

Would you ever move into a tiny home? What would you bring, and what would you leave behind?

(all photos: Perch & Nest)

6 Things I Learned This Winter

I'm joining Emily P. Freeman in reflecting on what I've learned in the past season before diving into the next. From the useful little tidbits that I've found helpful, to the serious and significant, here are six things I've learned this winter.

 Photo:  童 彤

Photo: 童 彤

1. A big mug of chamomile tea can be just as satisfying as a glass of wine at 5 p.m.

In an effort to be healthier (and lose some stubborn pounds) I started skipping my usual weeknight glass of wine. And what I discovered really surprised me: sitting down with a mug of hot chamomile tea felt just as relaxing (maybe more so) than sipping wine. I realized it's really the act of sitting down and giving myself a chance to breathe that relaxes me more than the wine itself. Don't get me wrong, I still love savoring a glass of wine on the weekends, but during the weeknight bustle, it's nice to know that it doesn't need to be intertwined with my "unwinding" ritual.

2. My local (book) library has a seed library.

It's called the Green Thumbs, Green Minds Seed Library, and you can actually check out seeds to plant in your garden. And while, no, of course you won't be returning the same seeds, they do encourage you (and teach you how) to save seeds from your own garden and bring them back to the seed library. I haven't used it yet, but I'll definitely keep it in mind when we start planting our spring garden.

3. My kid will eat all manner of raw, crunchy veggies as a TV snack.

Carrots, cucumbers, fresh peas: all down the hatch, and sometimes I need to refill the plate. He's not super inclined to mow them down in quite such an enthusiastic way at the dining table, but while semi-distracted by a favorite show, they're gone in a flash.

4. The best tasting carrots are 'Mokum' carrots — but you might have to grow your own.

We found the most delightful carrots at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market: they are pale orange, finger-thin, and have an incredibly delicate, crisp crunch and sweet flavor. They're the sort of veggie that makes you realize (after months of sad, too-hard and starchy carrots), oh, so that's what a carrot is supposed to taste like! Sadly, since they don't travel well, you're not likely to find them outside of a good farmer's market — even in the bountiful SF Ferry Building market, we can't always find them.

So I took it upon myself to a) find out what these amazing carrots are called, and b) order seeds so we can grow our own. I found them stocked at both Fedco Seeds (that's where I got ours) and at Johnny's. I can't wait to get them in the ground! (And p.s., if you're a newbie gardener, carrots are a great place to start. They germinate quickly, and they're a crowd pleaser with kids.)

5. It doesn't take much to make Valentine's Day special for kids (and it means a LOT).

The background: When I was a kid, my grandpa would sneak into our kitchen early on Valentine's Day morning and put flowers, cards, and raspberry pastries on the counter for me and my mom — so I've always had a thing for making Valentine's Day more about love and kindness than strictly romance.

This year: The night before Valentine's Day, I sprinkled hearts leftover from a craft project down the center of the breakfast table, and put a card at my son's place. In the morning, I added whipped cream to our usual smoothies. The whole thing took all of two minutes of extra time, and my son was absolutely delighted. And I had a fun time, too :-)

6. Fascia connects your entire body, and it might be making you miserable.

I've learned a lot more than I ever thought I would (or frankly, cared to) because of some random aches and pains I'd been having, on and off, for months — first in my feet, then my shoulders, and finally my hip. After some digging, I've discovered the culprit: fascia. I already knew that sore, overworked fascia were to blame for the pain in my feet (hello plantar fasciitis). What I learned is that our fascia actually weaves throughout the entire body, supporting muscles, bones, and even organs. And when the fascia in one area of the body starts complaining, the pain can shift to other areas. 

Since learning this, I've added tennis ball stretches to my daily routine (with great success), and I'm hoping to pick up a foam roller and try that soon, too.

Now I'm curious: What have you learned this winter? 

What's saving my life right now

Joining Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy to share the big and little things that are saving my life right now. Feel free to share your own list of lifesavers in the Comments! 

 Photo:  Brigitte Tohm

1. Tulips.

I'll take tulips over roses, any day. I love that this time of year Trader Joe's tends to keep big bundles of tulips in stock, so I can indulge in my love of tulips without breaking the bank. A pitcher bursting with yellow tulips on the kitchen table is happiness incarnate. While they're around, I try to pick up a bundle every weekend when we do our shopping.

2. Podcasts.

I just got hooked on podcasts within the last year (shocking, I know!), but now I don't know how I lived without them. My go-to favorites are The Simple Show, hosted by Tsh Oxenreider, and What Should I Read Next, hosted by Anne Bogel. There are also some really great podcasts out there for kids. A fun sometimes-ritual my son and I do together is put on a podcast (we especially like Circle Round), get out paper, colored pencils, and markers, and make some art together as we listen.

3. Morning walks.

My morning walks by the water are like a reset button for my soul. I often listen to inspiring podcasts while I walk, but if I'm feeling really overwhelmed, I just walk in the silence. Also, since I spend much of my day staring at the screen of my laptop, gazing out across the bay is a very necessary break for my eyes. When about an hour is up, I take a detour past my favorite coffee shop to grab a mug of coffee on the way home. 

4. Good books.

As a supply side reader, I can't fall asleep without reading, so even when I'm in a bit of a reading slump, I still read at least one or two books each month. But lately? I can't get enough. My TBR is a mile long, and I fully (happily) blame the What Should I Read Next podcast (see #2 above) and the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. I joined Anne Bogel's online book club community the last time it opened for new members, and I can't say enough good things about it. In December we read Peace Like a River and The Snow Child, and I still haven't stopped thinking about them. Good books are such a lifesaver always, but especially in winter when the skies are gray and all you want to do is curl up with a huge mug of hot tea.

5. The right vacuum attachment.

File this under boring but important, hah! We've had the same Miele vacuum for over 10 years, and it's still going strong. But until two years ago, we had never lived in a house with carpeting...so we had never bothered purchasing the (admittedly expensive) special vacuum attachment for carpeted floors. That's two years we have been struggling with the wrong attachment, forcing it over the carpeting like we're in some twisted homemaker version of CrossFit. The first time we tried the new attachment, I swear I heard angels sing.

What's saving my life right now | lauragaskill.com

6. My bullet journal.

I finally treated myself to a Leuchtturm bullet journal for the new year, and I've been taking it with me everywhere. I still keep a separate journal for morning pages, and I honestly wasn't sure if keeping a bullet journal would be all it's cracked up to be. But I've found that it's immensely helpful in keeping track of ongoing lists, especially: my TBR (to be read), reading log, seasonal meal ideas, book notes, and personal goals.

7. Book darts.

I've recently discovered the joy and usefulness of these little bookish accessories, and I now I find myself reaching for them all the time. They are ideal for keeping track of favorite quotes and passages, bookmarking frequently used pages in my bullet journal, and (temporarily) marking passages in library books. Next Christmas everyone's getting a tin in their stocking!

8. Our new doormat.

It's this crazy rainbow stripe version from Chilewich, and it makes me far happier every time I see it than I think it should. I probably would have gone for a neutral palette, but my seven year old son was with me, and he was strongly in favor of rainbow! And I'm so glad we went with it. 

IMG_2981.jpg

9. Cat wipes.

Our cat Sushi has gotten a little bigger since I snapped the photo above, and he's made a bit of a reputation for himself as a troublemaker. He eats books! He literally ate my son's homework paper. (His teacher didn't believe him.) He's pretty much a homebody, but he does like to go out exploring first thing in the morning. Let's just say, we're not sure where he goes sometimes, but judging by the way he smells when he returns, I can say for sure: we don't want to know. 

I had no idea cat wipes were a thing, but we found these wipes at Petco, and they work like a charm: each one is like a damp towelette, and you just sort of pet (or vigorously scrub, depending on the stink factor) your cat's fur all over. It takes like 30 seconds, and our cat actually loves getting groomed with them. And afterward? No stink.

hugs,

Laura

5 Early December Favorites

It's been crisp and chilly here lately, a welcome change from the unseasonably warm weather we had this fall. The leaves are finally in full color, and the short days mean more time to cuddle up inside and read...preferably with a strong cup of tea and a pair of cozy slippers. Which brings me to my first favorite...

Glerups cozy Danish slippers
Garnet Hill flannel sheets

1. Glerups danish wool slippers

I recently treated myself to a pair of Glerups, which are super-cozy Danish wool slippers. I am in love! The wool is so thick and soft and comfortable (and WARM, of course), and the soles are leather, which means if you have to run out to get the mail, they won't be ruined. I picked the no-back type, but if I was still in New England I would be tempted to get the boots ... they look so very toasty. These would make such a lovely gift, and they come in child (and baby) sizes, too.

2. garnet hill hemstitched Flannel sheets

You know that feeling of sliding into freezing cold sheets? That doesn't really happen with flannel sheets, which is why I LOVE putting flannel sheets on the beds in winter. And the set of hemstitched flannel sheets I got during a recent sale at Garnet Hill (psst: looks like they're still on sale) are the softest we've had yet. 

Early December Favorites.JPG

3. Pride and Prejudice (and P&P related fiction)

I recently read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Why it took this many years for me to get to it, I have no idea. But I loved it, and have plans to dive deep into Austen this winter. But before moving on, I decided to take a detour downstairs, with Longbourn by Jo Baker. I'm a little over halfway through, and I'm glad I didn't look up the reviews before beginning, because there's a lot of hate of this novel out there! I can see where the criticism is coming from, but I'm enjoying it (so far) nonetheless. I've also read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, which is fantastic if you like quirky heroines and traveling into books (and through space-time).

4.Danish butter cookies from trader Joe's

These little cookies have been disappearing rapidly from my house, since all three of us are fans. What made me pick them up in the first place was actually the adorable nordic tin: I plan on reusing it to hold my own cookies when we start baking over the Christmas holiday.

5. Paperwhites (...also from trader Joe's!)

I usually force a bunch of bulbs at this time of year, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet - so I was excited to find a paperwhite bulb in a lovely, simple little glass forcing vase while standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe's. It's cheering up my desk as I type this, and I plan to keep the little vase to force bulbs next year.

12 Days of Holiday Hygge

I'd love to hear what's making you happy this month! And if you're looking for a fun little project, consider joining in on 12 Days of Holiday Hygge: we've just started today. You can sign up for the emails right here, or join us on Instagram using the hashtag #12daysofholidayhygge.

xo Laura

12 Days of Holiday Hygge

Hello my lovelies, it's been too long, I know! But I'm back today to announce a fun offering that I've just cooked up: 12 Days of Holiday Hygge, a free course with six emails spread over 12 days.

 Photo by  Giulia Bertelli  on  Unsplash

On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, beginning December 11, I will be sending out an inspiring email to help us get in the spirit of the season and let go of stress. Short and sweet, and just the thing to savor over your morning cuppa :-) 

The topics we will be discussing include:

  • Noticing beauty
  • Seeking the light
  • Soulful giving
  • Building compassion
  • Getting outdoors
  • Reading + reflection

I will also include a (totally optional) list of photo + journaling prompts, so we can all share and inspire one another, and a bonus podcast (or two) to download and listen to on the go. 

Think of this as a little (free!) gift to you, that you can unwrap and savor ... a little cup of peace in a busy season. Sign up here.

xo Laura

12 Days of Holiday Hygge

Simple Wardrobe Updates

Hello my dears! It's been a while. I've had so many new ideas percolating, and yet it's been just that: percolating. Brewing. Thinking. Journaling. I'm hard at work on pulling the best of Mindful Clutter Clearing into a brand-new format, with some juicy new additions (and a new website!) but there's nothing to reveal just yet. It's a slower process than I ever imagined. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite recent wardrobe updates.

As those of you who have a) taken one of my courses, or b) know me in person, probably already know, my personal style is simple. I like unfussy, casual, throw-it-on-and-go clothes. Think blue jeans, striped tops, flat (read: comfy) shoes, easy dresses, and minimal jewelry. I used to waste money buying clothes that I thought I "should" like, but no more! Accepting my simple style has been a relief. If you're a more-is-more type when it comes to getting dressed, this is probably not the post for you ... but if simple style is your jam, read on for 5 of my favorite recent acquisitions.

From where I stand

I rarely shop, so when I do my standards are high. New items need to: work for everyday wear, be comfortable and built to last, and go with other pieces I already own. On my list for this spring was an updated version of my basic jeans-and-striped-top combo; here's what I found: 

1. I'm loving the cuffed boyfriend jeans from Kut from the Kloth. Just spotted they're on super sale right now at Nordstrom Rack ... I may have to order a backup pair!

2. I adore my Garnet Hill striped top; sadly, it appears to be no longer available. It's nice and thick, similar to the classic Saint James striped tops.

3. I've been living in my Birkenstock Gizeh sandals (this pair is in 'Graceful Antique Lace') since last summer, and they are still holding up well.

4. After much searching for a new everyday leather bag, I settled on the leather Baggu tote in stone (white). It's super soft and slouchy, which I love. I have been fairly careful with where I set it down since it's so light, but the few marks it's gotten have been easy to clean off. 

French market basket - The Simple List

5. Last but not least, I have to mention my french market basket! This is a true summertime essential for me: I use it for everything from grocery shopping to toting books, playground balls, and picnic gear. The one I have is truly gigantic. It fits a ton, and has double handles so you can sling it over your shoulder or carry it in hand. (When not in use, this puppy still pulls its weight around the house as a storage container for towels and other household linens.)

Summers here in the Bay Area are so much more mellow than back in Rhode Island, I don't need to change as much in terms of what I wear. That said, I am still on the lookout for a few new items, including: shorts that don't make me feel like a total dork, and an easy dress or two with some upper arm coverage. Hah!

What about you? Have you learned (or accepted) anything about your own style preferences (or body type) that have made building your wardrobe easier? What's on your shopping list right now? I'd love to hear!

xo Laura

Random Thoughts (and a Video!)

Hello dear ones! I always enjoy Design Mom's random thoughts posts, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do the same. It's simply a roundup of all of those little tidbits I've been meaning to share with you, but haven't gotten a chance to. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments!

- I'm trying to do more baking with my son this year. He loves to cook! And of course his favorite thing to make is anything sweet. So far, I've been able to steer us to not-too-sweet treats like home-baked bread and snacking cakes, rather than iced-and-frosted confections, but we'll see how long that lasts... He did love punching down the dough when we made bread, so perhaps some more yeast breads are in our future.

Tea and Cake.JPG

A favorite bake so far was the 'perfect pound cake' from Ruth Reichl's book My Kitchen Year (seen above), a slice of which made a delicious afternoon snack on a rainy day with a mug of chamomile tea by flickering candlelight.

- I spent quite a bit of time over the holiday break clearing clutter, and it felt really, really good. As I mention often in my course, clutter clearing is a process, and even though I have cleared all of the clutter from my home in the past, that doesn't mean I'm off the hook for the rest of my life! It's all about finding balance: finding that flow of things coming in and things going out. I think it's perfectly natural to go through phases where life gets really busy, or stressful, or the kids are all sick, and the house just sort of goes to hell. The important thing is to realize you can always pick up where you left off and get things rolling again.

The things I spent the most time clearing out were my own book collection, and my son Bixby's toys. I've gotten into a good rhythm with my home library, so it was easy (and actually pretty pleasant) for me to peruse the shelves and pull out volumes I feel done with. Bixby's room, on the other hand...that's a different story!

If you have children, you know how challenging it can be to get them to let go of any old toys, no matter how threadbare, broken, or unused they are. But thankfully, this time we were able to make a deal: he could choose what to get rid of, and we would take the items down to our local used toy store together to sell. Then, he can keep the money and use it to purchase something new, or save it. I am thrilled that he got on board with this idea.

- Speaking of kids, we are thick in the middle of Tooth Fairy time, since Bix lost his two front teeth over Christmas break! Quite honestly, I am not a fan of the whole tooth fairy concept. I mean, sneaking into your child's room in the middle of the night to exchange a tooth for money...what genius parent came up with that idea?? Every time I have to do it I panic that he will wake up right at the moment I'm switching the tooth! (Is this just because our kid is a light sleeper, or do other parents feel this way too? I'm genuinely curious!)

- It's been a year and a half since we moved back to California, and I am just now beginning to feel really happy with how we have things arranged in our new apartment. It's funny, because I really expected to settle in quicker: we have basically all of the same furnishings, etc., as we did when we were in Rhode Island, and our space here actually has an easier layout than our old bungalow, and yet...it wasn't easy at all! Maybe part of this isn't so much the furniture, but getting our vibes settled in here.

Or perhaps it's because we don't have a pet - our beloved cat Ziggy, who was 15 years old, passed away just a month before we listed our house for sale, so moving in here without him felt very strange. We are tentatively thinking of adopting another cat this year, so maybe having a furry family member once again will make us feel more complete. I don't know! But I'm glad it's beginning to feel homier here, whatever the reason.

- I recorded a video for you! Actually, I recorded it to share with my From the Heart email subscribers, but since I so very rarely record videos, I decided I would share it here as well. Just this once. Probably. In it, I talk about several of my favorite crafty books released in 2016, the sleeper-hit kid gift from this Christmas, clearing book clutter, and I pull a few Creative Joy oracle cards to boost our inspiration today. Click play below to watch:

Surprisingly (to me) I had a lot of fun making this video! I'm an introvert, so I typically prefer to hide behind the camera, but for some reason, this felt doable for me. Probably because there was no live audience. Hah! 

A few items mentioned in the video:

And...since this went fairly well, I've decided I just may pop into this session of my Mindful Clutter Clearing e-course (which starts on Monday!!) and record a few videos to offer a bit of extra support and encouragement. I hope to 'see' some of you there!

xo Laura

2016/2017 :: Looking Back, looking ahead

What makes life really matter? Over the holidays I read a book that addressed this question in a beautiful, heartbreaking way: I gulped down When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi in one night and one morning: I can't remember the last time a book gripped me so fiercely, or stayed with me so indelibly. Diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon and writer, passed away while working on this book, and each page feels like a little gift to us, the ones still here. It's sad, yes, but sad in a way that breaks you open and allows a new space to be filled.

This year I'm not making resolutions in the typical sense of the word, but I am aiming to be more present in each moment. I want to remind myself to breathe and accept whatever small task I am working on with full attention. I want to allow myself (and my family!) to be a little bored now and then, to discover the joy that comes from sinking into an afternoon of doing 'nothing'.

And now, on to a few favorites from the year we are leaving behind...

Favorite new beginning:

Mindful Clutter Clearing
Mindful Clutter Clearing

2016 was the year I finally (after years of thinking, plotting, and planning) launched the Mindful Clutter Clearing e-course. This is my baby, and each sweet little note, message, and email I receive from students letting my know how taking this course has helped them make a positive change in their life makes me feel all of the hard work is worth it. (p.s., the new session of Mindful Clutter Clearing is enrolling now!)

Favorite places:

October

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, formerly known as The Ahwahnee. I hadn't been to Yosemite since I was a teen, and my husband and son had never been before, so I was thrilled when we were invited to go with Ben's family to Yosemite valley this fall. A highlight for all (aside from the hikes, of course!) was a special dinner in The Majestic...it felt like dining in Hogwart's!

Cat Town

Cat Town Cafe, Oakland. It's been two years since our much-loved kitty passed away, and we may be ready to adopt a new furry friend. Thankfully, we can visit with adoptable kitties (and sip coffee) here whenever we like!

Outer Banks

The Outer Banks, North Carolina. Beach for miles, wild dolphins, organic juices, and loads of cousins running around...if I could have stayed a month, I surely would have.

Favorite bakes...

Apple pie

We made our first ever from-scratch apple pie on Thanksgiving, and I'm hooked! I highly recommend looking up the standing mixer pie dough recipe in The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila, it worked like a charm and her clear instructions inspire confidence.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Also from The Homemade Kitchen, cinnamon swirl bread was a big hit: my little guy really loved punching (ahem, kneading) the dough. The loaves were fully enjoyed...plain, toasted with butter, and (my favorite) made into french toast for a special weekend breakfast.

Favorite moments...

December
Winter woods
December

Cocktail hour on the deck of the beach house, hiking in the big redwoods, playing in the winter woods...one thing all of our favorite moments had in common was time spent with family, deliciously unplugged.

Happy new year, friends!

xo Laura

Handmade Gift Guide 2016

The holidays are approaching more quickly than I would like to admit, and this year I'd like to use my shopping dollars to support small businesses and handmade artisans as much as possible. Being an artist or maker is a notoriously difficult way to make a living, and many rely on the surge from holiday shopping to tide them over during leaner times. Plus, handmade wares are simply beautiful! 

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Many small shops are featuring sales this week, so it's a good time to buy. And since these are small businesses (read: there could be just one person filling all orders!) it's smart to get your order in early, so you can be assured of a prompt delivery.

Pin the image above to save this list for later, or scroll down for details on all 27 finds...

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Top row: Hooded baby alpaca sweater from Ingugu; Linen pinafore apron from Not Perfect Linen; candle holder from Snug Studio.

Middle row: Striped infinity scarf from Ingugu; Cat Cave from Agnes Felt; Knitting bag from Aika Felt Works.

Bottom row: Baby bonnet and mittens set from Ingugu; Lunch Tote from Artifact Bags; Cat Lambswool Scarf from Sara Carr.

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Top row: Baby bunny doll from Timo Handmade; Bear Breadboard from Snug Studio; Rag Doll from Simpli Jessi

Middle row: Bearded sailor backpack tote from Depeapa; Plywood Dollhouse from Milky Wood; Go Bananas Sweater from Paul and Paula.

Bottom row: Nursing necklace from Freja Toys; Bunny by Oh, Albatross; Winter Garden Dollhouse Furniture Set from Milky Wood.

Handmade Gift Guide 2016: 27 Beautiful Gifts that Support Handmade Artisans

Top row: Bamboo Weaving Loom Kit from The Unusual Pear; Linen Apron from Not Perfect Linen; Felted House Shoes from Agnes Felt.

Middle row: Heart Coffee Cozy from The Cozy Project; Joshua Tree Neck Tie from Amelie Mancini; Fox Tote Bag from Gingiber.

Bottom row: Your Child's Drawing on Cuff Links from Mu Urban Jewelry; Cream and Sugar Set with Wooden Spoon from Julia Paul Pottery; Crochet Circle Scarf from iDNi.

I had such fun pulling together this collection; the whole process reminded me of the early days of blogging, and the joy of discovering all of the beauty Etsy has to offer...I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! :-)