Anniversary, Valentines, New Home, Oh My!

milkandhoneyluxuries

click to visit a treasury of Valentine’s Day gift ideas

I have the best blogging intentions, honestly. But in my search for balance, on busy weeks I have to let some things slide and sadly that ends up being the blog (and my hair care. I need a good two hours with foils and scissors, ASAP).
February is off to an exciting start! On the 2nd my husband and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. We went to my favorite Richmond restaurant, Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel. I got to wear another Nelli Uzun gown to mark the occasion. It was backless and floor length, which is no small feat seeing as I’m six feet tall and have a slight addiction to four-inch heels. Here we are all spiffed up to celebrate:gown by Nelli Uzun

Also happening this month, Valentine’s Day on the 14th followed by getting the keys to our new home on the 15th! I am so excited to move again (I believe this will be our twelfth abode). And the timing couldn’t be more perfect because what better way to clear out unnecessary clutter from your life than to actually pick up every single item you own and decide whether to wrap it and pack it or chuck it into the yard sale pile? Only our most loved possessions will make the cut and I am so looking forward to a lighter and airier living space in the new home. And who am I kidding, I’m also looking forward to buying some new prized possessions to decorate the new house. Pictures to follow, I promise!

 

Hot Like Fire

image via BleuOiseau

image via BleuOiseau

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, “It’s been too long since I’ve been nauseous to the point of dry heaves, sweating profusely in a room full of strangers, all while standing on one leg with the other leg held shakily against my forehead. I wonder if there’s anywhere in town where I could do that today.” As it turns out, I was in luck. Because last night I was trying to decide which yoga classes I could attend for my week of healthy additions, and none of them quite fit with my work schedule. Don’t forget, the point is to find balance, not to blow off work 4 days a week to bliss out in my favorite Ashtanga class. Refusing to give up on my goals, I started looking into my other options.

There are some fabulous small yoga studios here in Richmond, but I’m in an odd part of the city that requires a 15 minute drive to get pretty much anywhere but my corner of town. So my options are limited. Very limited. I only really had one option. The Bikram studio a mile down the road from my house.

I have heard of Bikram before and was mildly intrigued by the idea. You do a series of 26 poses over the course of 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees (with humidifiers on full blast, natch). I liked the idea of sweating out toxins while at the same time allowing the heat to deepen the stretches. Sounded fab. Then a few months ago I looked at the 26 poses, seen here: bikram_yoga_sequencePretty basic stuff. No inversions, no fast-paced sun salutations, no difficult balances… not even a simple downward dog. I immediately lost all interest in Bikram. Cut to last night. In desperation from lack of options, I bought ten sessions from the local studio’s website and shrugged it off as “well, at least it’s better than nothing, and the sweating will be good detox if nothing else”.

This morning I arrived bright and early, water bottle and face towel in hand. The lovely woman behind the counter smiled, “Is that the only towel you brought?”. Admitting that it was, she gently offered me a large white beach towel. “You’ll need one of these. Normally we charge, but since it’s your first visit it’s no trouble”.  I was led into the studio where I laid out my mat and my beach towel. It was hot, but no hotter than a summer day here in the South, and I relaxed on my mat to wait for class to begin.

People began arriving in various states of undress. Wearing a sports bra, thin tank and short yoga capris, I was soon the most heavily clothed person in the room. Now, bear in mind that nearly all these people had hard-earned physiques that warranted a little strutting. And bear in mind that, unlike me, this was not their first inferno. Class began with some breathing and stretching and I was enjoying the clear mind that yoga brings. Then the sweating began.

Poses that should have felt relaxing and elementary became labored and tortuous. Sweat ran into my eyes and I started to feel woozy and dizzy. They told me to expect this, but they also told me not to eat for several hours before a Bikram class. Since I chose a morning class, this meant skipping breakfast. My ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton and I could feel the blood drain from my face. Not knowing if it was hunger, or heat or exertion, I chose to come out of the pose and take a knee to get my head straight. We had not yet reached the point in the class when you’re allowed to drink water (Yes, there is a water bottle sitting next to me while I’m close to passing out. No, I may not drink it.), so I just took some deep breaths and with a reassuring smile from the teacher, got back to my feet and rejoined the class. It was then that the stir fry commenced. I do not know who, and I do not know why, but someone for some reason began to sweat out the scent of stir fried chicken. In retrospect I was lucky to have gone on an empty stomach, because as I balanced there on one foot, knee to my head, I was certain I was about to be sick.

The next pose was corpse pose, which in Bikram, basically consists of laying quietly on your back while your psyche fluctuates between self-pity and anguish. When the other students moved into the next posture, I just remained laying on the floor, trying to decide if anyone would notice if I removed all of my clothes. It was stressed to me, after all, that as a new student, the single most important thing to achieve is not to leave the room.

Then something beautiful happened. The teacher announced that it was Party Time. No, I was not hallucinating (though, as in Indian Sweat Lodges, it would not have surprised me). “Party Time” is Bikram-speak for “water break”. From there on, we were free to drink as needed. I finished my water bottle and was almost instantly back to a place of relaxation and contentment. Even the mysterious stir-fry smell seemed to dissipate. While it was nowhere near my beloved Ashtanga, I no longer alternated between nausea and unconsciousness, which was nice. When class was over, the teacher brought each of us a cold, wet towel that had been treated with lavender oil. We put our dripping towels in the hamper and I rolled up my now-melted yoga mat.

It was 44 degrees when I left class this morning. Getting into my car, I turned the air conditioning on full blast, aiming every vent at my face and made the short drive home that way. After a shower and a meal, I wonder if it was really as bad as I thought. Perhaps I just had faulty expectations and didn’t re-adjust properly due to lack of nourishment. I cannot express how much I hope this to be the case. Because there are no refunds and I have nine. classes. left.

New Years Resolutions, Week Two

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50-clean-eating-superfoods-While last week I focused on removing toxic things from my life, this week I’m adding back the healthy things that I’ve been missing.

In my quest for balance, I’ve taken things very literally. Picture someone on a balance beam, with unsteady footing. First they might lean waaaay to one side, arms out like wings. Then they’ll lean waaaaay to the opposite side before eventually finding their center. Last week we gave up a long list of things, which has left us lighter and less cluttered. I’ll admit it- I couldn’t go more than one day without my morning coffee. But Ryan and I did really well with the rest of our list! This week we are leaning way to the opposite side, adding in key elements to a healthy happy lifestyle.

While we are no longer avoiding gluten, red wine and meat, we are retaining some of our practices from the last week and integrating them into our daily habits. For example, as disgusting as it tasted that first day, the apple cider vinegar and lemon morning drink was actually pleasant after a few days. I love the feeling I had getting rid of clutter, so much so that I am continuing with that throughout the month. And as it turns out, I actually like almond milk in my coffee, so I’ll continue to cut back on dairy. I have long flirted with vegetarianism, and though Ryan will be happy to see steak back on the menu, I found that I can go several days in a row without meat and not miss it. (Lest you think I have a holier than thou mentality about it, I should disclose that Saturday night I celebrated the end of elimination week with a half-dozen raw oysters and beef tartare.)

We took things to extremes to find out what we could really live without. And though many things will find their way back into our life, as it turns out, some of it wasn’t missed in the least. Which leads me to this week. Additions.

Food-wise, we decided to incorporate at least two “super-foods” into every dinner this week. We planned a weeks worth of meals and didn’t let ourselves fall back on the familiar foods in this category. I’ll be sure to share the recipes and how they turned out, including the all-important “would Nate and Lilly eat it without gagging”.

Life-wise, we are adding fitness back. Wait, let me rephrase that. I am adding fitness back. Ryan competes in triathlons and is up running before the sun rises whereas I am still a lifeless lump in the bed two hours later when he returns. It wasn’t always this way. Before I began work, I had a serious yoga practice, and was in the gym at least 4 or 5 times a week. This was then:
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And this is now:

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I’ve traded my flexibility for a flexi-shaft drill.

This week I will leave my pride at the door and head back into the gym, for at least 3 (hopefully 4) yoga sessions. I am not looking forward to how inept I will feel, or how sore I will be in the days that follow. But little by little it will come back to me, and hopefully by month’s end I can dash into the post office just before they close without getting winded.

This will also be a huge week of additions for the shop. I have been trying to restock all of my sold out items and get back up to speed from the Holiday Rush. From the moment the kids head to school, until I get them in the afternoon (and then again after they’ve settled into their homework), I’m in the studio hammering, sewing, photographing and listing. My sister bought me a beautiful handmade leather journal for Christmas and as new ideas for products come to mind, I jot them down and go right back to the task of restocking. Once the shop is full again, I can’t wait to dive into the pages of notes I’ve written and share my new ideas and creations with you. My first new line will be throw-pillows that I hand print with beautiful vintage designs. I broke my “no new products until I’m restocked” rule and made a few silk pieces a couple of days ago. I’m especially pleased with this pillow, and can’t wait to make many more in a huge variety of designs. Milk and Honey LuxuriesAnd because I think every lady should have a place for her Lady Things, I also made this little zippered pouch: IMG_3859Sometimes you need to add the big things back, like family time and life-direction. Sometimes, as with me at the moment, it’s the not so big things, like healthy food and exercise. And sometimes the only thing you need to add is a pretty little something that makes you smile when you see it. Hopefully that’s where Milk & Honey comes in. Feel free to email me if there is something you would like me to push to the top of my restocking list.

Out With The Old, Make Room For The New

Necklace by Aziza Jewelry, click the photo to visit their shop.

Necklace by Aziza Jewelry, click the photo to visit their shop.

I hope everyone woke up as happy as I did this morning. It was short-lived, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Ryan and I celebrated New Years Eve at our favorite restaurant, and since I knew today was the beginning of my quest for balance, I threw balance out the window last night. We feasted like there was no such thing as a calorie and drank Bordeaux with abandon (having already lined up a taxi service, of course). Beef carpaccio, blue point oysters, lobster, filets with a bacon Gorgonzola sauce, heaps of cheesy potatoes and mounds of lump crab. It was decadent and indulgent and maybe a little (lot) over the top. I wore my new gown which was custom-made for me by my favorite designer, Nelli Uzun. dress by nelli uzun

Her work is nothing short of amazing, so I decided to share this photo from last night. Click on it to go to a photo-stream of her creations on Facebook. Honestly I almost didn’t post it because she’s so fantastic it’s hard to share! I also have her backless gown and have my sights set on that black lace confection next. Seriously, click the photo and see her dresses, I’ll wait here.

Okay, so hopefully you just got back from finding your new favorite designer. Let’s flash forward to this morning.

Feeling a little worse for the wear, but surprisingly nowhere near as bad as I should have felt, I made my way to the kitchen ready to embrace 2013. There I found Ryan making our morning drink. And it wasn’t my usual four cups of coffee. Nope, this is day one of our New Years Resolutions and the first week is all about elimination. So many people go on “detox” diets, but I don’t buy into that. Our bodies are perfectly suited to detox themselves with those handy kidneys and livers we all have. No juice fasts or colonics necessary. But I do see the benefit in giving our systems a little break now and then. A filter does a great job of cleansing a swimming pool, but it would probably do it’s job even better if we didn’t stand at the side of the pool throwing in garbage and mud. So this week we are eliminating the garbage. On this list: caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, chemical additives, dairy and meat. Instead of our usual morning coffee, it’s water with fresh lemon squeezed into it. This is what I thought I would encounter in the kitchen:lemon waterBut as it turned out, while I was sleeping off the Bordeaux, Ryan was reading articles online and learned that apple cider vinegar is a surprisingly healthy addition to any elimination or “detox” type of diet. Cut to my happiness being short-lived. Instead of the fresh tasty beverage shown above, I was met with a murky, foul-smelling concoction that tasted even worse than it looked. We both took our first sip and started gagging and laughing. What on earth have we begun. “I think it probably won’t be as bad after a few days of getting used to it”, Ryan said, his eyes watering and face pursed. I’m not holding my breath.

This week we are eliminating the junk, in more than just our diet. I will be getting ruthless on our closets and spare rooms. We bought a huge box of contractor bags (super thick and over-sized) which, by the end of the week, will be filled to their brims and deposited at Goodwill. People worry about getting rid of something and then needing it later. My thought is, if you get rid of two thousand things from your home (in our home we could reach that number in matchbox cars alone), you might end up needing one of those things later. But I would rather live in an uncluttered, peaceful environment and have to re-buy a melon-baller than be surrounded by a million things I *might* need (but probably never will).

I’m also eliminating stress this week. Only I can decide what I allow to bother me. They say that ten small stresses have the same mental effect as one large trauma. So I’m starting with the little things. The light bulb that burned out but I have to get the ladder to change it so I’ve put it off. The piles of receipts that I need to sort for the accountant. The sweater that I’ve been meaning to mend for the past 2 months. These little nagging bothers that I’ve allowed to annoy me will finally be tended to.

So this week will see the riddance of many things, but it’s only to clear the space for next week. Next week is the time for additions, in all aspects of life. I’m excited to clear the path for better things to come. Which reminds me, when I’m stirring my organic green tea (and wishing it was coffee with Splenda and milk), I will be using this spoon: milk and honey flatware

New Years Resolutions

image via play on words, click to shop their etsy store

image via play on words, click to shop their etsy store

2013 is almost here and I’ve done some serious soul-searching about what I want out of the new year. I have always loved making (and trying to keep!) New Years Resolutions, and will be sharing them in some upcoming blog posts.

All of the individual changes I will be making will hopefully add up to one larger resolution. Balance. This past year has been an amazing blur as Milk & Honey found its footing. Now that the first year is over (and the experience that comes with it is under my belt), I feel better suited to begin nurturing myself again. There will still be many nights that I’m in the studio past midnight, and most work weeks will still run over 65 hours. I really don’t even mind that part, crazy as it sounds! But I know now that the entire company won’t come crashing down if I take a few evenings a week to resume my yoga practice. I have enough confidence in my customer service that I trust I won’t lose my client base if I am unreachable on a Sunday afternoon while at the park with the kids. Things are still moving full steam ahead with the shop (some pretty exciting announcements to come, actually!), and I have no intention of ever scaling back. Quite the opposite. I simply want to add back aspects of my life that took a back seat for the past 12 months.

These aspects are fairly simple. Healthy, nourishing meals. Regular yoga. Outings with the children. Reconnecting with old friends. (I set up a coffee date with an amazing woman I’ve known since I was 13, but who I haven’t seen in over a year. We have one of those friendships where we can always pick back up like no time has passed. But aren’t friendships like that worth not letting the time pass to begin with?).

In the wake of the Holiday Rush, I had a few days to breathe deeply and introspect. Then I went back into the studio and created some of the best pieces of work I’ve made in two months. The connection is obvious, but it took me a moment to see that taking care of myself and my family directly improves my work-life as well. So, in the name of balance, I hope to share some fun blog posts over the next few months including exploring new eating habits, returning to yoga and discovering local adventures with Nate and Lilly, and hopefully discover some tips on how to juggle full-time work, full-time marriage, full-time motherhood and still find time for a glass of Malbec with a great friend.

Antiquing On An Autumn Day


Doesn’t that title sound idyllic? And the photo above, taken while we crossed over a bridge in Urbanna, Va. This is my job. Well… sometimes. I won’t discuss the fact that it’s nearly 2 in the afternoon and I’ve yet to properly brush my hair today. But for all the hard work and calloused fingers, now and then I get to have a day like the one in that picture above. White sails billowing on cold blue water as the foliage reddens the horizon. {sigh}

It started because of two things. The first being that my mother took our two little ones to Pennsylvania to visit their great-grandmother for the weekend. The second was a surprising feature on etsy that resulted in my entire stock of Thanksgiving servers being bought in the course of 24 hours. I called around to my usual Richmond haunts and no one had anything that day. Then Ryan suggested that we make a day of it and head out looking for replacement servers. What followed was one of the most blissful days in recent memory.

We started here, in the old town of Gloucester, Virginia (founded 1651) where we moseyed around the town square and popped into a few small antique shops.

By then it was nearing lunch time, and we knew we wanted to eat in Urbanna, Va. (they are famous for their fresh oysters). On the way up, we stopped at my absolute favorite antique store. I cannot say enough great things about this place and the great people who work there.
Holly Hill Farm Antiques. My Mecca. Anyone from around the area likely already knows this treasure, but for those who might be  passing through, click here to go to their website for hours and directions. Even if you have to alter your route a bit to get there, it’s worth it.

What you’ll find is an enormous farm-house from the early 1800s and over a half-dozen barns and out buildings, all stuffed to capacity with everything you could imagine (well, except silverplate, because I relieved them of their entire inventory).

just a handful of the many barns and out buildings on the property

You will find things you knew existed, but might not have ever seen, such as Prince Albert In A Can:

somebody let the poor guy out!

And you will find things that you never knew existed but that you now absolutely must have. Like this guy:
I tried my hardest to convince Ryan that this little fellow belonged hanging over our fireplace, but he remained unswayed.

You’ll also find chairs,
and garden decor,

Ryan, inspecting the garden wares

And signs,

I think that little cow is sneaking up on me

And everything else you can imagine.
I didn’t take any pictures inside the main buildings, as they were all lit with beautiful natural light. Great for the eyes, terrible for my small travel camera.

After we left, we indulged our oyster cravings then headed home. The sun was setting and we were sleepy and spent. I caught a nice picture of the sundogs, just before the sun set:

parhelia

And then it was just me, Ryan, the sunset and a backseat overflowing with silver flatware.

the road home.

Eat More Salad

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Still settling into the new workspace (those bookshelves finally arrived and they are amazing. I highly recommend them, especially at that price!) so I still don’t have pictures to share yet. But I do have some exciting news to share.

This summer I was contacted through etsy by Fitness magazine about a possible feature in their holiday gift guide. I sent them some high-res photos, then a sample set, then…. I just waited. The admin at etsy who was my liaison with Fitness said that all I could do was wait until the magazine came out because you never know what will make it and what won’t. I was out for some supplies and passed by a magazine rack (I rarely pass one without stopping. I have piles of Martha Stewart, Veranda and Whole Living stacked a mile high). Lo and behold the new issue was out and, drum-roll please….
I made it in! It took every ounce of restraint not to do a happy dance in the middle of the store, so instead I scooped up 8 copies and grinned like a madwoman the entire way to my car.

Thank you so much to the folks at Fitness for including small businesses in their publications. As a small business, I plan to return the favor by including Fitness back into my life. My thrice weekly yoga practice has dwindled to one session a month (if I’m lucky). With the Holiday Rush already underway, I have realized that I will never find time to make it to the gym. I’m going to have to make time. And I know just the magazine to bring along to the treadmill.

Autumn

Living in Virginia, this is the time of year when mornings start to turn crisp (but not cold- yet) and hoodies find their way out of the backs of closets. The coffee shops unveil their seasonal Pumpkin Spice blends (which I am sipping happily while writing this) and the leaves are just starting to hint at changing. I love this time of year. In fact, like many people, I love the change of any season. But the two I love best are Summer fading into Fall and Winter bursting into Spring.

New Years Eve is when most people make their big changes, but for me it has always been these two seasonal shifts that bring about the most change. Spring cleaning of course, but also a Fall purging, which I spent the past two weeks on. The house feels lighter, the kids rooms less cluttered and suddenly all of my favorite things are at my fingertips instead of tucked between or beneath things I don’t care as much about. After seven contractors bags worth of Goodwill donations, my closet actually has room for some new clothes. And the first new addition is already on its way from Turkey! I found an amazing designer on etsy and she’s made me a custom gown right down to my exact measurements. Being six feet tall, I’ve never owned a gown (besides my wedding dress) that actually hit the floor when I put on heels. (I will definitely share pictures and links to her in another post, when the dress arrives.)

Autumn is also the time when our family makes the annual trek up Carter Mountain in Charlottesville, Va. to pick apples. That’s my son in the photo above, picking Fujis. Just as with the summer raised garden, I think it is so important for the children to have a more hands-on approach to their food and to gain an appreciation for its sourcing (beyond the grocery store). They always fill about 5 large bags, which is fine because when you pick them yourself they stay fresh for ages. This year we are going twice. Once this weekend with friends and again in October when our beloved Fujis appear. I’m hoping to think up something special and unusual to make with them this year (in addition to the usual apple pie), and I will share the results of course.

In the meantime, I’ll be hoping for weather as beautiful as it was last year, when I took these pictures on the mountain:

Apple Picking Bliss.

Wine Table, As Promised (at last!)

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There she is at last! To be completely honest, we finished the wine table in early July. But it is summer which means birthday parties, vacations, holidays and all the rest of it. Every time I would think of something I wanted to blog about, I would stop myself and remember that I promised the table would be next. Even still, I am cheating you a little because I’m only showing you our finished results. The full photo tutorial will follow (the kids do go back to school next week after all), but for now, feel free to bask in the beauty of a fully functional home wine-tasting table.  With honeybees, natch!
On one end there are French lemonades for the kids and on the other, French wines for us. I put potted plants down the center when it isn’t full of ice and bottles. The color of the wood will patina over the next few months and I might even give it an interesting stain in the spring.

We toasted with Malbec and Pinot Noir of course, but we’ve also recently discovered Vouvray. It tastes like a non-cloying Reisling.

The honeybees were a happy accident. The gutter we bought to use as the center didn’t work at all and we thought the project was a bust. Then I remembered the planter my mother had just bought me and it happened to fit perfectly. I called her to find out where she bought it and raced out to see if they had more. By chance, they had the exact number and sizes needed to fill the center of the table. Clearly fate means for me to drink my wine al fresco.

I love this wine stopper. I make all different types which I sell in my shop here, but all these pictured are from my personal collection. I discovered this old hot water faucet handle in the attic of my mothers Victorian house, so it was far too sentimental to sell.

I hope you forgive me for taking so long with this post. I will do my best to get the how-to up soon. My husband and I made the entire thing from scratch so there’s lots of room for personalization to your own tastes. Until then, cheers!

So Many DIY’s, So Little Time

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I must have this. Must must must must. Must. I don’t make it a habit to host wine tastings (though we do taste plenty of wine at Casa Parker), but that is not going to stop me from pestering my husband to build this with me STAT. I’m picturing wine bottles and beer at summer picnics, juice boxes at the kid’s birthday parties and potted flowers the rest of the time (a centerpiece set lower than the table doesn’t block anyone’s view!)

If this photo is filling you with the must-haves as much as it is me, just click the photo to visit the tutorial. If you beat me to it (and since we have plans this weekend, you likely will), send me some pictures of how yours turned out! I will post pictures of ours when it’s done and if you’d like to show off yours just let me know and I’ll post it too. Of course, ours will look a little different than the photo above because instead of plain old corks, our bottles will be decked out in these:

Click the photos to see the current Milk & Honey line of wine stoppers. Santé