Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Good Reads // Trader

Y'all. I think I'm breaking some kind of record this year. I've read two science fiction books since June. In all honesty though, the book I want to share with you today is one of my all-time favorites. It's rare that a book compels me to re-read it several times in my life... but Trader by Charles de Lint is one of those books. I've probably read it four or five times. The only other books possessing that distinct honor are Jane Eyre, Seabiscuit, and Anna Karenina.

Imagine waking up as someone else. As unlikely as it seems, this scenario is exactly what happens to a luthier named Max Trader. Wasting no time getting to the pith and action of his story, de Lint begins his novel with Trader waking in bed to find that he is not in his own room or even in his own body. Instead, he's been inexplicably plopped into the body of a jobless womanizer named Johnny Devlin. In a spiraling series of events, Trader finds himself fired, evicted from Devlin's apartment, homeless on the streets, and essentially despised by all of Devlin's associates and "friends." He's unable to seek help even from his own acquaintances because of the utter outlandishness of his story. In fact, the only person who believes his story is another homeless man, which frankly doesn't add much to Trader's credibility.

A fast-paced read, Trader is the perfect book to read while snuggled up with coffee on a cool fall evening. De Lint delves into questions about attraction, love, friendship, prejudices, and our sense of self. And, trust me, the ending is not at all what you will expect.

De Lint is actually a Canadian author so his books are occasionally difficult to find in American bookstores. However, you can easily order them off Amazon or through a Kindle. I highly recommend this novel if you're in the mood for a feel-good story.

Read anything good lately?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Around Town // Worthington Farm Hike

This transitional period between summer and fall is one of the best times of year to hike. The weather is balmy and cool, with a slight breeze that provokes the half-hearted consideration of a light jacket. The fields and trees still maintain their lush summer greenery, but a few maples have begun their slow transformation into gold and crimson. Here and there, scattered leaves punctuate the still-green lawns, a herald of the approaching torrent of color that will soon blanket the earth.

Last weekend, Mark and I revisited Monocacy Battlefield to hike the trails at Worthington Farm. This past spring, we walked around Thomas Farm and the battlefield welcome center, but we had not yet paid Worthington Farm anything more than a passing visit. In my opinion, this farm afforded walking trails more beautiful and secluded than Thomas Farm, resulting in one of the most enjoyable hikes I've had in a while. Mark and I agreed that the farm is hands-down one of the loveliest places we've found in Maryland. Around every corner, we stumbled upon some brace of trees, river bend, or harvested field that just took your breath away, as if nature had put more effort into this little spot.

I can only imagine how beautiful this place will be once autumn begins in earnest. Mark and I both think the river edge here is the perfect place to relax with a book. It's hard to imagine that land so beautiful was once someone's home.

Monocacy National Battlefield
Worthington Farm
4632 Araby Church Rd.
Frederick, MD 

Park Visitor Center
5201 Urbana Pike
Frederick, MD 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fall Crafts // Chalkpaint Pumpkin Pillow DIY

 A few weeks ago, I came across Stone Gable blog, a beautiful blog with farmhouse decor galore. Its writer Yvonne shares several adorable farmhouse-style decor tips, including this post on fall pillows. I quickly subscribed to the blog (and you should too!) and since have loved reading her recommendations and tips for home decor. I decided to try my own farmhouse fall DIY, inspired by Stone Gable. And what better way to achieve farmhouse style than with chalkpaint?

This fall DIY was both cheap and easy. I found this cream pillow in the clearance section at HomeGoods. At only $10, the pillow was much cheaper than a pillow cover and insert! It's kind of hard to tell in the photos, but it has a slight shimmery thread running through it. I was a little nervous about using chalkpaint on the fabric, but I had always heard that it was possible. So why not give it a try?

For this project, I didn't use Annie Sloan, my usual chalkpaint go-to. Instead, I used another brand: FolkArt Home Decor paint. You can actually purchase it online from JoAnne craft stores, although I ordered mine through Zulilly. 

What You'll Need:
- a neutral pillow or pillow cover
- chalk paint in colors of your choice
- assorted brushes

If you can draw a basic pumpkin, you can do this DIY. For my pillow, I used Folk Art's colors Sage and Savannah. I traced the round pumpkin body in the pale turquoise Sage color and then added the stem in Savannah brown. The next step was to simply fill in the lines! The chalk paint adhered to the fabric in kind of a "streaky" way-- which totally worked for the shabby-chic vibe I was going for. I added a streak of creamy white acrylic paint (pulled out of my paint box) just to add a bit of "highlighting." 

And that easily... the pillow was done! Like all chalkpaint, the pillow dried quickly. Wondering how it "feels" to the touch? Kind of like an applique or like outdoor fabric. It's not as smooth as the original feel, but it seems like it will hold up well. For cleaning, I would probably recommend just spot-cleaning with a warm cloth. 

If you're into chalkpainting, I highly recommend trying it out on fabric like this. I love the way the pillow looks on our couch. It's the perfect touch of fall! Not over the top, but just a little festive.

Do you like decorating for fall? Or are you one of those people who dreads the holiday/seasonal decor posts like this? Haha! Well, I hate to break it to you, but I'm all about pumpkins and fall, so you might want to bear with me over the next few weeks.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Crafts // Wheat + Berries Table Arrangement

This year, I've really gotten into decorating for fall. I don't know if it's a side effect of being around so many inspiring creatives at the Frederick chalkpaint and antique stores, but I've found myself brimming with ideas for fall decor and crafts.

One super-easy fall craft that I really enjoyed was this Wheat and Berries Table Arrangement. It's incredibly easy and required a few simple materials and just a few minutes of my time. Which, as you all know, easy DIY's are what it's all about.

When picking out my centerpiece look, I decided to go with wheat and berries because I wanted to get volume without a lot of effort. I'm no florist, so my flower arranging skills are somewhat limited. I had the turquoise glass container on hand, an old find at HomeGoods.

What You'll Need:
a cute container
faux wheat (varying sizes)
faux berry stems
tiny pumpkins
table runner

What You'll Do:
- Arrange the wheat steams around the perimeter of the container.
- Building upwards, insert the berry stems and then the tallest wheat stems.
- You want the arrangement to build upwards, almost in a triangle shape.
- Fluff to create volume and a "messy" look. You may not go for this look, but I wanted it to look kind of haphazard, as if we just grabbed some twigs and wheat and tossed them in the pitcher.  There's probably a florist out there cringing at my ineptitude right now. My apologies, Anonymous Florist.
- Arrange the pumpkins at the base of the container. Again, try to go for a jumbled look.

This simple design is one of my favorite fall tables so far. I really love the natural feel it has. The rustic table runner paired with the smooth glass and white pumpkins creates an eclectic vibe that perfectly suits our home's decor. Also, an arrangement I don't have to water? Well that's even more of a plus.

Our chalkboard statement wall is the perfect seasonal backdrop. An eraser and a bit of chalk are the only tools needed to create a cute holiday banner. As a white girl, I of course had to represent my species with a pumpkin spice themed design.

Stay tuned for more fall crafts and ideas. I'll be posting several more over the next few days as we decorate for fall.

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This post shared at the A Little Bird Told Me Link Party and featured at Mama's Happy Hive. 

Mama's Happy Hive

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Living Small // Green Cleaning Products

Today, I'm going to deviate from my fall crafting series and talk about something a little more practical: house-cleaning. Boring, I know, but unfortunately a necessary evil.

Lately, Mark and I have been making a conscious effort to leave a smaller footprint in our lifestyle. One of the ways we've tried to make this change is by choosing green household cleaners that use nontoxic, all-natural ingredients and chemicals. While green products can be somewhat pricier than your typical cleaner, I've learned that it so worth it to spend a little extra money in order to avoid possible health hazards down the road. The impetus to start buying green cleaners came after learning that the chemicals in our household products have been linked to breast cancer. Because a history of cancer does run in my family, I took the warnings to heart. I would rather spend a few extra dollars now than regret it later.

I decided to share a few green products I've been using lately, along with a little review on each one. Let me know if you've ever used any of these cleaners. Or, if you have your own favorite green cleaning products, share in the comments below.

All-Purpose Cleaner:
J.R. Watkins All Purpose Cleaner
Streak-free with a calm, lavender scent. This spray is my favorite "all-purpose" kitchen and surface cleaner yet. It's what I use to wipe down the countertops after meal prep or to give the bathroom a quick mid-week spot-clean. It doesn't have the harsh, abrasive chemicals of Clorox or bleach-- so if you spill chicken goo all over the counter you may still want to reach for a Clorox wipe. But for everyday messes, this spray is by far my favorite.

Hardwood Floors:
Method Squirt + Mop Wood Floor Cleaner
My biggest issue with wood floor cleaners is the waxy film that many leave on my floors. At first, I thought the streaks were from a dirty mop. But no matter how diligently I cleaned my mop, I still felt like a haze was on my wood floors. Finally, I tried out Method's Squirt + Mop wood floor cleaner. It does a great job, leaving my floors glistening and shiny. I highly recommend this product.

Method 4x Concentrated Laundry Detergent
I just bought my first bottle of this detergent but have been very impressed with it already. It smells amazing and does a great job, even on Mark's grungy work pants. A small little capful does the trick, which gives me the impression that one bottle will last awhile. My favorite flavor is grapefruit!


Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent
This detergent is my typical go-to, but it tends to fly off the shelves pretty quickly. I usually buy the lavender scent (what is it with me and lavender??). It doesn't leave your clothes with that clean laundry scent as well as the Method detergent, but it does do the job. I probably prefer Method over Seventh Generation, but have always been very satisfied with this product as well.

Method Bathroom Cleaner
To be honest, I'm not entirely happy yet with green bathroom products. While the kitchen, floor, and laundry products always seem to get the job done, the bathroom never seems quite as sparkly-clean as I would like. This Method cleaner is the best of what I've tried, but even so I'm not crazy about the scent and don't feel that it cuts through shower scum as well as other cleansers. I've heard that Apple Cider Vinegar is a great shower cleaner. Has anyone tried this with success? Or do you have another natural bathroom cleanser that you like?

What green products do you use around the house?

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Fall Crafts // Stovetop Apple Simmer

Over the weekend, Mark and I both came down with vicious summer colds. Our house since has been a cacophony of sniffs, sneezes, coughs, and moans. We both agreed that during the seasonal shifts--from summer to fall and from winter to spring--we always get sick... and it's always much worse than anything we get during the winter. Usually, I'm way more prepared, stuffing our gills with vitamin C and elderberry. But with all this beautiful 70 degree weather, the word "cold" just didn't enter my mind. So here we are, sick all weekend and still sick on Monday.

Naturally, I thought that a fall craft made all the sense while I'm cooped up in the house. And what other fall craft than a stovetop simmer? 

^ that's sarcasm, my friends.

As I'm chopping apples and gently stirring the pot of water, Mark groggily looked up from his post on the couch and croaked, "Honey what on earth are you doing?" 

Equally snotty, I croaked back: "Making an apple and orange peel simmer." 

"Babe. Why? Neither one of us can smell anything."


According to Mark, my shoulder's literally slumped. Great planning on my part, right?! I go and make a fall stovetop simmer while I have a cold. So, friends, here I am today sharing a fall craft recipe... and I can't even gush over how lovely and homey it smells. For all I know, it could smell like the inside of Mark's rugby boot.

In all honesty, I do know how it smells. Common sense dictates that anything involving apple, cinnamon, and orange peel has to be happy on the nose. Plus, there was this one glorious moment when I sniffed really, really hard and the teeniest whiff of apple pie reached me. This occurred while I was upstairs-- which leads me to believe that the aroma had permeated the entire house... which is a much further reach than a candle!

Tired of this poor-little-me rant about my cold? I don't blame you. Read on for the recipe below.

What You'll Need:
- a large apple
- the peel from one orange
- 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- small pot

What You'll Do:
- Chop the apple, and peel the orange. This is a great way to use up the last fruits from your trip to the farmer's market. That is, if you're like me and overestimate how much fruit your family can eat before it all goes soft. 
- Optional: At this point, if you're a blogger, you should carefully arrange you fruit and precariously stand on a stool to take an aftsy-fartsy photo of it. Sorry, y'all. Colds apparently make me sarcastic and grumpy. 
- Toss the fruit into the pot of water. 
- Add your cinnamon sticks. 
- Pour 1 tsp of vanilla extract on top
- Turn eye on low and allow to simmer throughout the day

Experiment with other scents and flavors as well. I chose these fruits and spices because I associate their scents with fall. However, I'm sure you can experiment with other citrus-y scents-- like lime or lemon--and mix in some herbs. Maybe even lavender? 

This stovetop simmer is a great way to give your whole house a fresh smell. It's a great idea if you're expecting guests-- who doesn't love walking into a house that smells like apple pie? The only hazard may be your guests actually expecting there to be an apple pie. 

I let the pot simmer for a few hours and then put it in the fridge. You can reuse the same fruit for 2 or 3 days. Just drain the water and, when you're ready for fresh fall scents again, pour in some fresh. If you allow the pot to simmer for a few hours, you may have to add water periodically as it evaporates away.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

What scents do you associate with fall? 

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Friday, September 18, 2015

20 Fall Date Ideas

With the Autumnal Equinox just next week, I've really been in the mood for all things fall lately.  I'm all about knitted blankets, hot tea, and cozy socks-- and have been attempting to force the Maryland weather to cooperate with my fall mood. However, this area seems to want to hold onto summer a little longer, keeping the temperatures in the mid 80's this week. The hubs says I need to just appreciate the sunshine while it lasts and stop trying to force winter upon us. What do you think? Are you chomping at the bit for fall or dreading the end of summer?

In preparation for the upcoming chilly autumn weekends, I put together a list of 20 fall date ideas. This list is a combo of favorite dates and dates we'd love to try. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments-- I'm always looking for fun ways to branch out from our routine.

1. Pack some cozy blankets and go for a picnic in your local park or countryside-- somewhere you can really enjoy the fall foliage

2. Make a boring chore fun-- rake up the leaves in your yard and play around in the leaf piles. Who says you can't act like a kid sometimes?

3. Attend a college football game together. One of my favorite date memories is going to a Virginia Tech football game with Mark.

4. Go to your local fall festival or Oktoberfest celebration.

5. Go tent-camping for the weekend. The chilly night air presents a perfect excuse to snuggle up next to your sweetie.

6. Bake some fall treats together and share with your neighbors.

7.  Have fun together in the kitchen by meal prepping for winter. Fix soups, crockpot meals, chili, pasta sauce... all those hearty winter and fall meals.

8. Go apple picking at a local orchard and bake an apple pie afterward.

9. Take a beer brewing class at a local brewery. Mark and I are actually considering doing this as our anniversary date this year! It's a fun way to learn a hobby together but also supplies you with a possible gift idea for family and friends.

10. Have a backyard bonfire and make smores. Invite some other couples over and make it a party!

11. Host a baseball World Series party together and cheer for your favorite team.

12. Visit a pumpkin patch and then carve a jack o'lantern for your front porch.

13. Get lost together in a corn maze.

14. Visit a haunted house. Again, a perfect excuse to hold hands and stay close!

15. Get some fresh air and exercise together by going for a scenic bike ride.

16.  Pack a few blankets and drive out to the country to star gaze. My dad always said that chilly nights were the best times to see the stars. Let's see if its true!

17.  Fix some hot chocolate, grab your favorite books, and snuggle together on the couch and read. The original version of Netflix and Chill.... Paperback and Chill.

18. Make caramel apples and add all your favorite crumbled toppings.

19. Visit a winery to enjoy the grape harvest.

20. Go to the beach! Believe it or not, one of my favorite times to visit the beach is during fall. The busy touristy spots are suddenly empty of everyone but locals-- a perfect backdrop for a long walk together to just talk and hold hands.

What do you think about this list? Give some of them a try-- see what kind of memories you make. After all, we all get tired of just watching Netflix on the couch. If you have some of your own ideas, please feel free to share. Or, share your stories after you go on one of these fall dates!

Happy weekend!

Check out the Link Party Palooza over at Tater Tots & Jello for more awesome projects, fall ideas, and yummy recipes! And if you found this post via the linkup, welcome to our new little space! We hope you'll stick around awhile! Visit our about page for an introduction and to see our most popular posts. Thanks for reading and happy weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Summer Bucket List, Revisited

Several weeks ago, I shared my Summer Bucket List, a casual list of twenty wishes I had for Summer 2015. They varied from eat a tomato sandwich to ideas for summer trips. While I didn't quite get everything "checked off," I still had a wonderful summer. To be honest, the list wasn't so much a "to do" list as a "just for fun" list. Some of the things happened, and some didn't. Yet overall we had a wonderful summer trying new things and making memories. 

1. Read, read, read.
Success! I intentionally carved out a least fifteen minutes everyday to read, whether it was early in the morning or just before bed. I was able to get through several books for the first time since college. Follow my Good Reads series to see my favorite summer novels.

2. Finish renovating our kitchen.
Mostly a success. The main project is completed, but a few annoying details remain... like outlet covers, replacing the garbage disposal, etc. 

3. Camp at Chincoteague Island and kayak to see the wild ponies.
Sadly, this never happened. My summer was woefully bereft of wild ponies. We did go camping at Gambrill State Park howeveer!

4. Indulge in something sweet at Rita's Italian Ice.
Oh yes! Sweet, sweet success. Maybe a little too much. 

5. Eat clean and green.
Despite the above... I did manage to eat more greens this summer. It's so much easier to eat green in summertime, don't you think? When all the veggies are fresh and available at your fingertips. 

6. Visit the downtown farmer's market.
Even though it's only a block away, I somehow haven't gotten to the market yet. But harvest time isn't over I'm not writing this off just yet. 

7. Have a cookout on the patio.
Does Moes to go count? 

8. Bike around historic Frederick.
Mark and I followed the Historic Bike Tour and discovered so many new places in our little city. 

9. Eat a juicy tomato-mayo sandwich, with a fresh banana pepper on the side.
Of cooourse! Does summer even happen if you don't eat a tomato sandwich? 

10. Experiment with fresh salsa recipes.
Well, I don't know how experimental the recipes got, but I did sample with some fresno chiles and habaneros. Nearly burned our pants off, but hey. 

11. Write several book chapters.
All are badly in need of revision, but I managed to get the page total up to 250!

12. Go for evening strolls around Baker Park.
Solo greatly benefited from this addition to the bucket list. 

13. Locate a Maryland lake perfect for swimming and fishing.
Nope. We did splash our feet in Carroll Creek. Does that count?

14. Build an old-door headboard for our master bedroom.
I ended up going with an old window instead of an old door. Post to come soon!

15. Catch a jarful of fireflies.
Not quite a jarful, but I certainly caught my fair share on our evening walks. 

16. Play a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Mark checked this one off for me. If you're interested, there's usually a pickup game every Sunday in Baker Park. 

17. Watch fireworks in the park.
To a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner in which the entire crowd suddenly shouted "O!!" ... apparently a Baltimore Orioles tradition. It startled this Nats fan more than the first firework boom.

18. Go to a baseball game.
Both Major and Minor leagues! Check and check. 

19. Plant more flowers that any reasonable person needs.
Despite Mark's raised eyebrows, I did once again cover the front stoop with flower pots. I know he secretly loves it though. 

20. Try my hand at plein-air painting.
This so did not happen. Ha! Too busy chalkpainting it up at Repurposed & Refined. 

How about you? Did you check off all the items on your summer bucket list? What's your favorite memory of summer? 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dear Hush Puppies...

Dear Hush Puppies,

I want you to know that I have always been a high-heels girl.

Wedges, pumps, stillettos--I started wearing them in middle school and will most likely be the wobbledy grandma giving her children and grandchildren heart palpitations as I teeter-totter around the assisted living home. My undying love for the high heel notwithstanding, I have to admit that wedging your toes into a sexy little shoe can get downright uncomfortable. A few hours at church is one thing. Eight hours on your feet at work is another thing entirely. And frankly, I just don't think you should have to sacrifice your little toe for style and beauty.

Enter your Allie Dalten wedge heel.

I. Can't. Even.

Those who follow me on Instagram or have spent any manner of time in my presence lately have undoubtedly heard about my Hush Puppies wedges. Here are the two things that everyone needs to know RIGHT NOW about these shoes: 1) they feel like you're walking around on on a cloud, and 2) they come in mint. Yes, mint!

I first heard about these wedges and their alleged comfiness through one of my favorite Instagram feeds @whitv. A Greensboro based graphic designer, Whitney posted a "shoefie" of her mint colored wedges, lauding them as the "comfiest wedges I have E V E R worn." My brain glossed over her caption and focused instead on the adorable mint color they came in. A comfy shoe that was actually cute? Could it be true?

After seeing @whitv's post, I ordered my own pair. Hey, I'll just return them if they don't work out, I thought to myself. The moment they arrived, I slipped them on. I may or may not have moaned "OMG" when I put them on my feet. I do know for a fact that I rushed into the living room and brandished a shoe in my husband's face declaring something along the lines of:

"Mark, these shoes are so stinkin' comfotable! And look! They're adorable! They're comfy and adorable! Do you realize what this means for humanity??"

Between you and me, he did not seem nearly as impressed as he should have. But I didn't care. I knew I had stumbled upon shoe-shopping gold.

To test this seeming miracle, I decided to put the wedges to the test. I would wear them all day at the vintage furniture shop I manage in downtown Frederick. If the shoes could stand up to the all-day bustle of shop life, then I knew they would be keepers. So, what was the verdict you ask?

The Allie Dalten wedges not only stood up to my little test, they performed better than most of my go-to work sandals and flats. These are truly the comfiest heels ever made. I stocked shelves, I moved furniture, I helped customers, I did the books, I stood in line at the post office--all without a grimace of pain. In fact, I didn't think about my feet at all other than to reply to the somewhat comical number of compliments on the shoes' minty cuteness. And frankly that's how women's shoes should be. Why should we have to sacrifice comfort for style or style for comfort? We shouldn't. It looks like (and feels like) Hush Puppies agreed with me. Now, I'm like a born-again wedge fan, practically flinging my shoes at strangers, trying to spread the good news of cute comfort.

So thank you, Hush Puppies. Whatever technology you put into your shoes, it's working. Whatever shoe designer or lab technician gets the credit for this particular wedge, please give them a high five from Abigail in Maryland. Because you have seriously made my day. I mean, come on, I even blogged about it.

From the bottom of my soles, I do thank you.

Abigail Hobbs
a middle-class blogger with happy, cute feet

P.S. The shoes are currently on sale for a great price. So if you want to plan ahead for next summer or happen to live in some sunshiney area, I highly suggest you check them out. Literally and figuratively.

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