Homemade muffins were a weekend breakfast staple in my house growing up. We would go pick our own fresh blueberries practically just to have for muffins. My mom would freeze them in big bags so we would have them for muffin making year round. We also made banana muffins, peach muffins, and strawberry muffins, but blueberry (with lemon and walnuts!) will always be my fave. Last summer, I went blueberry picking with some friends on the North shore, just outside New Orleans. I have a large bag of those blueberries in my freezer just for muffin making! The recipe we used growing up is great, but after going gluten-free, I found I didn’t like the way the muffins in that recipe came out as much. I also like this GF Blueberry Lemon Ricotta muffin recipe, but when I came across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen I knew it was bound to be great. I tweaked it a little to make it gluten-free, more lemon-y, and to add walnuts, and I’m in love with the result! The first time I made these was over Mardi Gras when Drew’s mom was in town and Susie and I had eaten them all within 24 hours. They must be good, because when I made the next batch, even Drew (who says he doesn’t like blueberry muffins) ate TWO!
Blueberry Lemon Walnut Muffins
makes 12 muffins, adapted from this recipe
-6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened (OR 6 Tbsp salted butter & decrease salt to 1/8 tsp)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 large egg
-3/4 cup sour cream
-zest of one lemon or orange (at least 1 tsp)
-1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (I just squeeze some in)
-1 1/2 cups flour (I use GF all purpose mix)
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt (OR 1/8 tsp if using salted butter)
-1 cup blueberries (use fresh, or ones you’ve frozen from fresh, don’t buy frozen)
-1 cup walnuts, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.
2. In electric stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, beat, then beat in sour cream, zest, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Mixture should be creamy and slightly fluffy (I use one of the highest settings on my mixer).
3. Stir together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in a separate bowl.
4. Turn mixer setting down to just a stir and slowly mix in dry ingredients (in about 1/4 cup-fuls) just until combined.
5. Gently fold in blueberries and walnuts.
6. Batter will be thick (almost like a cookie dough). Scoop into prepared muffin tin cups.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown and when a tester comes out clean.
8. Remove from muffin tin to a wire rack to cool.
9. Serve warm with a pat full of melting salted butter.
Hello 2016! As I always do, it is time to share my goals for the new year. I love setting goals and giving myself a roadmap of where I want to head in the next year. Things always change slightly from where I think I’m going to where I end up, but setting goals helps me to go somewhere on purpose instead of aimlessly working my way through life. In the past, I’ve spent a lot of time in reflection of what worked and didn’t over the past year, where I want to be a year from now, and what I need to work on to get me there. My goals aren’t just yearly in nature, but often flow and build on each other from one year to another (and I break them down month by month throughout the year to ensure I’m living with intention and making progress on what is important to me). That system has worked wonderfully, but I wanted to dive even deeper this year. So I decided to try out Lara Casey’s Powersheets (I’m using the 1-year workbook) this year. I’m already loving the process and I’m excited to see how this helps me even more this year! (see my reflections on 2015, here)
I’m at an interesting place in life right now, where I feel like it is time to make some decisions on what direction I want my life to take. Several years ago, when I graduated from college, I started a “Real Life List.” On that list were a bunch of things that I’d always wanted to do, but being in college had held me back from. Once I graduated and I was more in control of how I spent my free-time, I started working on the list. In the last two and a half years, I’ve pretty much completed most of the things I wanted to do (and working on a few last ones!). See the updates to that list, here.
The more I’ve thought about that list over the last several months, the more I’ve realized that it was really just a sampling of things I wanted to try out in various creative disciplines. I’m very happy at what I’ve learned by completing those things and how exploring those creative disciplines have stretched me as a person. But now I’m at a point where I want to do more strengthening than stretching. I want to delve deeper into my passions, rather than just scratching the surface of my interests. I feel like I’m moving on to a new phase of life and I’m really pumped about it!
My goals for this year are a little different than in the past. They are categories that I want to make a priority (similar to Jess Lively’s Values Based Intentions) by establishing routines that make working towards them a regular part of my life. I’ll take these values (and I have ideas of where I want them to take me this year), and break them down into steps that I can work on monthly, weekly, daily. I’ve listed some of what they mean to me below each one. They all tie into my goal of living a simple, well-intentioned, thoughtful, and creative life.
I think some pretty awesome and exciting things are in store for 2016. Word of the year: STRENGTHEN (to strengthen not just stretch – to delve deeper into my passions rather than just scratching the surface of my interests).
create daily – spend time daily in my studio – painting, drawing, quilting, design – working towards my 10,000 hours in surface pattern design – to gain direction, clarity, refinement, progress, and purpose in my work – to define my SPD style and build my portfolio of designs/patterns – actively work towards my dream of becoming a textile designer – “do one thing a day in the direction of my dreams”
live simply – reduce stress and anxiety by being thoughtful and well-intentioned with time, money, resources, choices – financially/debt free – reduce physical and mental clutter – simplify wardrobe – simplify posessions and belongings – simple, whole foods – fill our lives with only things that spark joy – safe and loving home – waste less – recycle more – consider the environmental impact – “have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”
value rest – live with intention (time, energy, creativity, goals) – not over-scheduling myself – mindfulness – being present and aware – bliss in the everyday – recharging, refreshing, relaxing – down time – fill my cup – take care of myself – eat well – exercise/yoga/walks – take breaks – be a happier, healthier, kinder person – establishing daily routines (to simplify and reduce stress) – calmer mind – making time to read for pleasure and expansion – journal – going to bed earlier, getting up earlier, not being late for work – longer, better sleep – movie/date nights with Drew – make time for intentional marriage – can’t be strong without rest!
be open to adventure – travel – explore – learn – expand minds and horizons – love the world – seize opportunities – to be happier, healthier, more open-minded people – be more open to leaving comfort zone – travel to Europe! – read – take workshops and continue textile design education – live a great story
Here’s to making things happen in 2016!
A few quotes to inspire your goal setting this year:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
“Success is a series of small things repeated, day in and day out.” -Robert Collier
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘no.’ If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” -Nora Roberts
“The grass is greener where you water it.”
P.S. Past old year reflections and new year goals: Reflections on 2015, Reflections on 2014, Goals for 2015, Reflections on 2013, Goals for 2014, Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013, Happy 2012, 2011 and 20 Before Twenty.
Happy New Year! 2015 was such a wonderful year filled with travel and creative pursuits. I love reflecting back on all that has happened over the past year. I love setting goals and working to fulfill them. This year I used my planner system to track my yearly goals (see my goals for 2015 here) and break them down by month. It was a nice way to help me stay on track. Here are some of the things I accomplished in 2015:
- quilting – I learned to quilt! I’ve wanted to learn to quilt for years and I finally made it happen in 2015! I made two throw sized quilts. The first one I started at the Cotton and Steel Patchwork Weekend Workshop I attended at Anna Maria Horner’s Craft South in Nashville this summer with all the designers of Cotton and Steel. I did all the patchwork on the top of that one, then I sent it off to a lady I met at the workshop to long-arm quilt and bind it for me. You can see it finished, here. I did every single bit of the second one myself! I picked out a design, picked out fabrics from my collection, even designed some of the fabrics for it myself, I did all the patchwork, sandwiched it together, quilted it, and bound it! I was so scared to do all parts of it, but I’m so happy I did! It feels like a great accomplishment! You can see my Value Quilt finished, here. I realized that I really love quilting and I’ve already been planning more! It is just so nice to snuggle up on the couch under a quilt I made myself! Violet even loves to sleep under them! I’m so glad I attended that workshop this summer and I also read the quilting books that my dad got me for Christmas last year (love this one).
- ceramics – Ceramics wasn’t originally on my list of goals for 2015, but it was on my Life List. I took a hand-building ceramics class in college (and loved it) and I had always wanted to learn wheel throwing. I had in mind that sometime I might sign up for a month or two of classes at a local studio only a few blocks from our house. Well, early this year, a friend of mine from our 20/30s church group, who is a much more experienced ceramicist, asked if I wanted to start taking classes there with her. Of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to have someone to go with! We started there in February and I continued through the early part of April (read about it, here). I took a break for the summer and picked it up again in October, November, and December. So nearly half the year I spent weekly making pottery! It is a great studio, where you can just come in and make whatever you’d like (with the owner there to assist you if needed). I learned to use the wheel and made lots of mugs and bowls along with two handmade pour-overs for Drew, and various other little trays, dishes, and vases. I also made a few more hand-built pieces. I’m so glad I got back into this! I really have enjoyed using a handmade mug for tea, hot chocolate, and my warm honey/lemon water in the mornings.
- surface pattern design – I didn’t quite put together the 2-3 SPD collections this year that I originally wanted to do, but I did make quite a bit of progress on my design work. I put together one collection, made a mini portfolio, and started on some other collections, but then I attended a Fabric Design Workshop this summer in NYC with Heather Ross and Anna Maria Horner and decided to take a different approach to building my body of work. In addition to expanding my knowledge of the textile industry, seeing how Anna Maria Horner, Heather Ross, the designers of Cotton and Steel, and Bonnie Christine (I took classes with her in 2014) approach their design work was so eye opening. They all have different strengths and styles and design very differently. I had a nice chat with Heather Ross at the end of our workshop and she really helped me see that I needed to focus on building a unique voice for my work, to fulfill a niche not already occupied by other designers, and helped me to start thinking a little deeper about what kind of work I wanted to make. Chatting with Melody Miller and Alexia Abegg of Cotton and Steel really emphasized that point further. I also realized that my art background was a huge asset and to find my voice in the design world I needed to experiment a little more with various ways to create patterns and artwork and figure out what process(es) worked for me. So I took a little more time to research fabric design traditions and techniques and put together a style board of design inspiration that really speaks to my soul and the heart of the work I want to create. I’ve experimented with sketching more in my sketchbook, turning those sketches directly into patterns, designing directly within Illustrator, designing in Photoshop, coming up with a design, carving a stamp block, block printing it, and then turning that into a digital design, working with watercolors and India ink to paint sketches and then digitizing those, and experimenting with my abstract painting style in pattern work. I still have a long road ahead in my design career, but I’m happy to be where I am today compared to this time last year! I did print some of my own designs on fabric via Spoonflower this year! I also designed a fabric for my niece’s homecoming dress!
- calligraphy – In 2014, I joined the New Orleans Lettering Arts Association. In 2015, I went to one of their meetings on Copperplate Calligraphy. I also took Melissa Esplin’s I Still Love Calligraphy course (it was a 2014 Christmas gift from Drew) and some other lettering courses on Skillshare. I love what I learned from those classes, but I realized that I prefer the more whimsical and natural style of my hand-lettering over the more formal looking Copperplate Calligraphy. I also improved at digitally hand lettering on my Wacom tablet and I incorporated more of my hand lettering into blog images and my other design work.
- blog – I delved a little deeper into some of my inspirations and a bit more of my creative story on the blog this year. I also redesigned the blog, adding recipes and projects pages to make those much easier to find. I got a little frustrated with blogging this year though, at how much time it takes (when I’m also working full-time and working on a million other creative projects) and the way I let my monthly “Life Right Now” posts add pressure to my life and become another insignificant item on my to-do list. Blogging isn’t my true love, I don’t make money from it, and I never plan to become a professional blogger. I do love having the record of creative projects and using it as a place to inspire others. I would love to get better at sharing more about my designs, design process, etc. In the future though, I plan to step back a bit and only post when I have something meaningful to say or share to inspire others (I don’t think my monthly recaps really do that!).
- read – I read several books and wished I’d made the time to read more! I worked on so many different projects this year that it seems like my free time was spent creating or doing various other things. I have a huge stack of books on my to-read list and I’d love to make more time next year to rest and read.
- pay off debt – We started paying on Drew’s student loans in his parents’ names this year (or at the very tail end of 2014) and so far have paid off over $30,000 (yes I said thirty thousand dollars) this year. We’ve made debt pay-off a priority in our lives (my entire salary (except for what we use on travel) goes towards it, plus some of Drew’s every month) and we do our best to live simply to be able to accommodate it. We could have done a little bit more, but our travels this year interfered with it. We only have around $12,000 left until we are debt free and I can’t wait to get there in 2016! I highly encourage anyone who is in a rough spot with finances to read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and start thinking differently about money and spending. Paying off debt like this felt like it would never be possible for us a few years ago. In the last three years (part of which I was still in college for and had no steady income coming in) we’ve been able to pay off Drew’s credit card debt, his car, and now his student loans.
- simplify – I’ve always loved the idea of simplicity, so much so that Drew and I named our web and graphic design business Pure Simplicity Designs when we started it over five years ago. For years, I’ve also loved the idea of living simply, but I’ve put it into practice more this year than ever before. Starting on our debt pay-off plan several years ago really pushed us in this respect and we’ve only continued to grow from there. This year in particular, I took to heart the idea of only having things in my home and life that bring me joy. I’ve cleared out a lot of our unused possessions, cleaned out my closet several times leaving only clothes that I really love and wear, and tried to simplify my time by not over-scheduling myself. I also started to try and implement routines and practices into my life to help me live a calmer and more mindful life (see this list also). Some of those include establishing morning and evening routines, like morning stretches and drinking warm honey/lemon water from a homemade mug every morning and showering by candlelight with soothing music in the evenings (I’d love to then read in bed to decompress before I sleep). I also established a better planner system to help me keep track of my work and personal to-dos and prioritized specific tasks for each day. I’ve also tried to practice mindfulness, by simply being aware and present in the current moment. I started my own modified “morning pages” practice of journaling, where I clear my head by writing things out that are on my mind. Living a calmer and simpler life is something that I hope to work on for the rest of my life, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made this year.
- travel – Goodness, we traveled way more than we had originally planned to in 2015! In April we visited Drew’s brother in San Diego and then took a road trip across California. In May we visited family in southern Illinois. In June we went to NYC for a textile design workshop and Drew went to Philadelphia for a work conference. In July we visited Asheville, NC and also went to Nashville, TN for another workshop. In September we visited Austin, TX for the first time (Drew went back again later that month for a work trip), spending some time in Houston along the way. In October Drew went back to Cali to visit his brother over his work fall break. In November we went back to southern IL for Thanksgiving. Thank goodness everyone came to New Orleans to visit us for Christmas!
- house projects – This year we added a church pew and wall shelves to our foyer/dining room, painted the hallway and kitchen, and worked on re-designing our bedroom (we painted an awesome accent wall that you can see in the photo collage above!). We made over a side table, added lots of throw pillows, and cleaned out and simplified our possessions. After years of searching, I also found nightstands for our bedroom! I also set up a better workstation in my office – with a desktop computer and a more comfortable office chair.
Woo! 2015 was quite a year! Reflecting back over everything makes me really satisfied with all that I was able to accomplish personally in addition to working a full-time day job! I’ve come to realize that if I want to accomplish my personal goals while still working full-time and maintaining everything else in my life (eating, sleeping, etc.), I simply don’t have the time, energy, or space in my life for drama or chasing after things that don’t align with my goals. I’ve had to say “no” to a lot of things that could have been awesome, but that aren’t leading me in the direction I want to go.
I can’t wait to share more about my goals for 2016 with you (coming soon)! This year I’m working with Lara Casey’s Powersheets and I’m excited about Making Things Happen!
P.S. If you want to read more about what I was up to in 2015, check out these posts: November 2015 | October 2015 | September 2015 | August 2015 | July 2015 | June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015
One of my biggest (and scariest!) goals for 2015 was to learn to quilt. I grew up sewing and collecting fabric, but I’d never made a quilt before. It’s no secret that I would love to design my own fabric collections one day. Part of being a fabric designer (at least for quilting cotton collections) is making them into quilt patterns and quilts, so it was something I needed to learn to advance my career professionally. It was also something I wanted to know how to do. I studied quilts a bit in college and incorporated elements of them into my painting and art work. I even made a quilt top in college (that turned out rather horribly! I wish I knew then what I know now!), stretched it, and painted on it for my abstract painting class final (it is hanging in our living room!). I love quilts and the history in them. I love the mix of fabrics and the ability to put time and effort into something that can be used to cuddle up on the couch with and also pass along to children and grandchildren. Such beautiful works of art! I had also amassed a nice collection of fabrics and needed something to do with them!
You might remember this photo (above) that I posted on Instagram around this time last year. Last year for Christmas, I asked my dad to buy me a couple quilting books I wanted (LOVE this one) and some new fabrics from a local (to Southern IL) fabric store (the amazing Hancock’s of Paducah) to use in a quilt I wanted to make. My caption on this photo was, “Love, love, love all these new fabrics that I’ll be using this year as I teach myself to quilt! #2015 #makeithappen #starttoday” I’m so happy to say that I made it happen! I not only used those fabrics above (and more from my collection) to make this value quilt, but as you already know, this past summer I attended a Patchwork Weekend Workshop at Anna Maria Horner’s Craft South in Nashville with all the designers of Cotton and Steel. I learned some additional quilting tips there and pieced my Mod Hexagon Quilt. I did all the piecing on that quilt, but was nervous to do the quilting and binding myself, so I sent it off to a lady that I met at the workshop to long-arm quilt and bind it for me. It turned out wonderfully! But I’m happy to say that on my Value Quilt, I conquered my fears and did every single bit of it myself!! I pieced it (even designing a few of the fabrics myself!), quilted it, and bound it! I’ve done a lot of cool things this year, but making this quilt is perhaps my proudest accomplishment of the year!
Here are some photos from the process (with pretty afters!):
Pulling out fabrics from my collection and organizing them into light, medium, and dark values.
I had to set my old desk back up in my office to have a cutting table.
One of my greatest quilting fears was not getting the seams on the squares to line up correctly. I had a rather frightening experience with this when making the quilt top I painted on in college. But thanks to Alexia Abegg (one of the designers of Cotton and Steel), I did it! At the workshop I attended last summer, I asked her to show me her secrets to getting those intersections to line up perfectly. Turns out, it isn’t that hard! The secret is in making sure your blocks are the same size (I already knew that part), and then making sure you press your seams for the rows in opposite directions so that they nest into one another at the intersections. Before you sew, you nestle them together and pin in place. It worked wonderfully!
I was also really worried about whether or not I would even be able to quilt this on my basic Singer sewing machine. But it worked just fine! I did simple, straight line quilting on either side of the diagonals. Quilting it on a diagonal helped to reduce some of the bulk stuck under the neck of my sewing machine. Drew helped me pin baste the quilt sandwich together (you are the best, love!).
I also have to give a shout out to JoAnn Hinkle of In Stitches in Lebanon, TN. I fell madly in love with that black and white fabric (Faye Burgos of Marcus Brothers Fabrics, Medallion Trellis in Black from her Quartette Collection). But when I went to buy more of it online for the backing, it was out of stock everywhere! I guess it isn’t in print anymore. I searched the Marcus Brother’s fabrics website for retailers of their fabrics to see if I could find someone with it in stock. There weren’t any quilt shops that had it in New Orleans, so I looked around Southern IL (my hometown). Hancock’s of Paducah didn’t have it either. So I started looking at Quilt Shops in the Nashville/Lebanon, TN area (where my older sister lives). I got in touch with JoAnn of In Stitches and she tracked it down for me at a warehouse. Thank you so, so much JoAnn!
I had never made binding or bound a quilt before either, but it turned out wonderfully! These clips were great (there they are in a handmade bowl I threw in my ceramics studio!). The dark pink/wine colored thread that I used to hand sew the binding on the back of the quilt actually belonged to Marie, my first cousin twice removed (the daughter of my Papaw’s uncle Courtland). Her niece passed along a lot of her sewing things to me, mostly colorful spools of thread. Marie grew up on the same land that I did. Love that little extra bit of history included in this quilt.
Drew holding the finished pieced top up in City Park in New Orleans so I could get a nice photo of the top!
And now, the after photos:
This quilt is a memory quilt of sorts in that it contains fabrics from my collection through the years. Some of these I collected as a child for various sewing projects, some I bought in college for art projects, some I’ve collected as I’ve traveled – a cute fabric shop we went to in Portsmouth, NH on our honeymoon, some fabrics from Portland, OR, some from here, some from back home. It also contains fabrics from many of my favorite fabric designers, some of which I’ve had the opportunity to meet or get to know in the last year or two. I also designed a few of these fabrics and had them printed on Spoonflower. That rose pink floral on the eggplant background above is mine. That is a little rose I illustrated from the rosebushes we planted in the front yard of our apartment.
The handwriting fabric, above, is my Mamaw, Evelyn’s, handwriting. It is her telling me “I love you” on a note she gave me when I was little. I turned it into a pattern and had it printed. There is also another fabric in this quilt that is my handwriting saying “I love you” back. The small blue and white check next to it is actually a bit of one of my Papaw’s shirts.
I love the mix of colors along with bits of black and white (and metallic gold!). I have a slight obsession with black and white. I feel like you don’t see a lot of quilts that use black in them, but I love the sophistication it adds and helps to balance out the colors a bit. This quilt is so me!
I just love the way it came out so much! I love the simple diamond pattern on the back from the quilting.
I just finished sewing on the last bit of the binding last night. I can’t wait to snuggle up under it on the couch for movie nights! Violet loves sleeping under my last quilt, I’m curious if she’ll like this one just as much.
The flowers my dad gave me for Christmas look so pretty with it!
I put together this basic instruction guide on what I did, in case you want to make your own: