One Post Before Fall Ends

When life gets busy, something has to give. These days, it’s my personal blog, but I love to have it to look back on, document my life and keep my little part of the internet.

I turned 35 in November. I’m enjoying my 30s, and appreciate the chance to get another year on this planet. Better late than never, here goes a list of the things that happened at 34 that I’d like to remember:

1. I became a mama. Being a mama is pretty amazing. You get to run with glee towards a fire engine at a kid’s party and people just think you’re being a great mom. Ha! Impending motherhood also gave me a kick to start things going on other dreams I had before I got sucked into a vortex.

blog2

2. Case in point: I became an official small business owner with my design partner-in-crime, Ann. We started Design Move Toss, LLC, which is a virtual and in-home interior design consulting gig. The goal is to have it be a fun and creative outlet where we can help people, make some extra money, and let it grow responsibly and organically. I’ll probably talk about it more, and we’re in the process of getting our logo / collateral redesigned soon! However, it was great to get started and not worry about making everything perfect in the beginning. Anyone else have a tendency to suffer from perfectionism paralysis?! Oy.

3. I really made a go of my Etsy shop selling watercolors and custom home portraits, and was pleasantly surprised to exceed my expectations in sales! I want to explore some paper collage and larger scale paintings this year, but we shall see. (Again, that limited free time and day-job thing).

4. I went out of my comfort zone a few times, and as usual, was glad I did it!

5. I said “no” when needed, to make sure I wasn’t spreading myself too thin, so that I can be there for my family. Although, who wouldn’t want to hang out with this sweet baby?

blog3

6. I tried to stay present in the moments and enjoy my new baby, and was “gentle” with myself, per the wise advice of Leya (Curious Bird).

7. I read some books for fun. I laughed with friends. I watched more TV than one should, and tried not to feel too guilty. I ate lots of chocolate muffins in the afternoons with a side of coffee.

8. I got to spend lots of time with our family and friends, which is the most important thing to Mike and me. Having Henry as initiative for people to visit really helped! My heart bursts when I see how much he is loved by my amazing relatives.

9. We got to go to NYC, Washington D.C., Indiana and Florida. Not too bad for year one. (We also all got severely sick in NYC with our Indiana relatives, but have many stories to laugh about now).

10. I picked up my knitting needles again! I’m making Henry Pickles (his nickname) a Fair Isle sweater.

blog1

I’m looking forward to see what good things 35 brings!

Posted in Life | 1 Comment

Scenes from our days

20130928-085733.jpg

20130928-092235.jpg

This is my first attempt to blog from my phone in order to write more often! The weather in Philadelphia has been gorgeous. There’s just a hint of crispness in the air, but you can still wear flip-flops with a long sleeved shirt. Driving with the windows down is a must in my opinion.

I’m taking advantage of the roof deck for lunch at my work. Our office moved from downtown to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. While I miss working downtown, I’m used to my new routine (although I do miss my bicycle commute).

We are making the best use of this weather right now by going for strolls to the library after work/daycare, meeting up with friends, and walking around our neighborhood.

The new Barnes museum has a wonderful outdoor area with gravel on the ground that makes me think I’m in Paris (if only for five minutes)!

20130928-102925.jpg

20130928-102955.jpg

20130928-103029.jpg

Posted in Bebe, Life, Philly, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Summer Corn Chowder

Before Summer officially ended, I made a huge batch of Summer Corn Chowder. Using a few recipes for inspiration (the ever fabulous Ina Garten and a few others), I came up with this recipe. It is delicious, if I do say so myself. I ate it for about a week solid.

I’m hoping to make it one last time before the leaves turn.

Ingredients:

DSC_0438

Directions:

DSC_0440

Rustic chic table setting:

DSC_0443

Food detail drawing:

DSC_0444

My favorite companion to soup:

DSC_0445

I heart soup.

Posted in Food, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Fermented Sourdough Starter Hooch Juice

My father has one sister, Aunt Sissy. She is a prolific bread baker, reader, nurse, teacher, mother of four, dog-lover, and overall amazing woman. When I was going to college in Indiana, she was a 5 hour drive away in St. Louis. Their house was my home away from home when I was burnt out on being a college student (for what felt like a decade), overcoming college-angsty heartbreak or just homesick. The years I got to spend with them there (and my uncle and four cousins) are some of my most treasured memories. Whether it was taking my younger cousins to the movies, having “nights of beauty” where I’d dye my cousin Cara’s hair and we’d experiment with makeup, or just reading on the couch and talking to my aunt and uncle.

When she visited me in March to meet Henry, she brought a sourdough starter for me and taught us how to make her go-to no-knead sourdough recipe. The mad-scientist type process of having to feed the sourdough starter appealed to me, and the low effort for a delicious baked bread. I’ve made no-knead and kneading required breads before, but never with a starter. This one is delicious, and takes 5 minutes of preparation. You just need to find a starter or make one yourself!

My aunt uses a chopstick to stir the bread, and I’m a convert. Less shagginess to cling on to the utensil, and it does the job. Just plan ahead 14 – 20 hours ahead of time to allow for the rising, second rising and baking. Other than that, it is totally simple.

I follow the recipe linked above from Heather at A Real Food Lover. I just take one chopstick and mix 3-1/2 cups of bread flour, 1-1/2 cups of non-chlorinated water (I leave my Philly tap water out for 12 hours prior), 1/2 cup sourdough starter and 1-1/2 teaspoons of sea salt in a bowl. My preferred method is to stir everything vigorously and try to get all of the dough wet until it’s in some semblance of a ball. However, it doesn’t seem to matter. If there are dried bits of flour on the bottom though, it will mix in once your dough rises.

Cover it with plastic and let sit (room temperature) for 12 – 18 hours. Here is my dough after about 18 hours. Also note my really cute BKR water bottle that I love, but I accidentally dropped and broke (so need to purchase the glass bottle part again soon).

DSC_0407

 

Take your dutch oven (oval shaped if you’re lucky like me and have a pretty purple one from…you guessed it…Aunt Sissy) and spread butter all over the bottom and sides. Round would be fine too, it will just give you a different shaped bread. Sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom and shake it so it hits the sides.

DSC_0411

 

I have dumped the ball of dough into the dutch oven, or floured a surface and kneaded / folded it gently into a football shaped loaf. I had the same results both times. Either way, shape it into a loaf looking thing and center it in your dutch oven. Cover with the lid and let rise for 1-2 hours.

DSC_0415

Heat oven to 500 degrees, and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. After 30 minutes, take the lid off, and (very important here, folks) reduce heat to 450 degrees to get this nice crust. Do not forget this very important step and turn your loaf of homemade goodness into a burnt football. However, if you do as I did, you can scrape it off and still eat it. Might I suggest additional toasting and lots of butter?

If you do it correctly, the top will look like this. Mine doesn’t spread out to fill the whole oven, but it still creates a beautiful shape. Let it cool uncovered or even taken out of the dutch oven, slice and enjoy! It is delicious warm from the oven, and also toasted with  butter. But honestly, is there anything better than toasted bread with butter? It’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or a hearty salad.

DSC_0419

It goes fast, so plan ahead to make more! I keep mine (after it’s cooled) in the same dutch oven I baked it in with the lid on. This is also the perfect excuse to keep my beautiful Le Creuset oval oven out on the countertop.

IMG_6827

 

I’ve said it before, but there is really something magical about making bread. There’s an invisible thread that connects you to the millions before who created, passed on and taught this small act of providing sustenance to your family. It’s the childlike glee I get to see the chemical process that creates something delicious out of a few ingredients, patience and time. And the smell in your home before, during and after the baking process.

Thank you, Aunt Sissy, for years passed and years to come of love and support. And thank for bringing me a jar of fermented sourdough hooch juice into my life and connecting me to something big, small and outside of the intensity of new motherhood. I love you always.

P.S. Hooch is the alcohol substance that can build up over your starter. It makes me laugh for no particular reason other than it sounds funny.

Posted in Food, Life | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Watercolors for Caitlin Wilson

Right before Henry was born, I was commissioned to paint several water colors for Caitlin Wilson, thanks to a referral by Rachel Grace. My illustration style and what she needed turned out to be a good fit, and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to work with her. Caitlin is an amazingly talented and creative designer.

IMG_4652

I had so much fun bringing her lovely pillows and interiors to life in watercolor for her portfolio and website relaunch. I always love a fellow enthusiast of bright and happy colors.

IMG_4637

As I mentioned in a previous post, I loved being able to do something that felt “normal” in the early days of motherhood, as I was feeling tied to the sofa while feeding the baby or trying to sleep. It was a bit stressful as well definitely, but it helped me to work faster and  plan my time differently. Instead of painting a watercolor in 2 shots, I had to think of what I could accomplish in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and be flexible as well. As sometimes my mom could hold the baby, and sometimes he needed me, as I am his food source!

IMG_0311

This type of working means that I have to leave my studio area in progress sometimes, and avoid the common procrastination trap of thinking everything must be neat and clean before I can start working. Sometimes you just have to get it done, even if it’s painting on your bed while watching TV with a cute little boy who just wants to snuggle next to you.

IMG_7512

Caitlin could not have been sweeter or more understanding regarding working with a brand new baby, as she’s a working mom herself. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet her in person before she relocated to Portland, but I can definitely say she is a sweetheart (via email) and a talented and hard worker who deserves great success.

DSC_0451

Enjoy the details of these watercolors. The floral pillow with navy piping was my favorite to paint. Okay, and the bulletin board!

Posted in Illustration, Painting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Drawing Houses

It seems like the trees in my neighborhood were just shaking their pink pom-poms announcing spring, but we’re already in the middle of summer thunderstorms.  It must have taken that long to start adjusting to the new rhythm of my life.

IMG_6407

Our schedule is getting easier, or we’re adapting and becoming more efficient baby wranglers. We’re learning to pick and choose some nights. The kitchen remains clean, but we’ve left clean laundry unfolded in favor of more time with Henry, dinner out with friends and a whole book read last week. I thought about doing it tonight, but decided to check in here instead.  Every day is a choice when it comes to time, but I’m trying not to sweat it or spread myself too thin.

I’m feeling very grateful to have the need to carve out time to finish some house illustrations, and create floral garlands for photographer Anna Peterson’s new logo.

IMG_6158

This row home drawing was one of my favorites to do, mainly because it was for my friend who is a total sweetheart, and also because I loved painting the little flower boxes. I was especially happy to finally finish this, since it was part of a long overdue wedding gift I’d been meaning to send, but some baby got in the way. I told myself I technically have a year according to Emily Post, but I felt really guilty not finishing yet when she threw me a Book Club Baby Shower and cooked me a delicious chicken pot pie and S’mores bars shortly after Henry was born!

IMG_4935

This sweet portrait was a commission (and surprise gift) for the parents my friend, Rachel. They were moving to be closer to her and her growing family, and she wanted to document their beloved home of thirty-six years.

IMG_4930

This Cincinnati home portrait was finished just in time for Father’s Day.

IMG_5022

Alright, I’m off to delay yet one more day of folding laundry (probably).

Posted in Etsy Shop, Illustration, La Tienda, Painting | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Notes from a New Mama

When I last left off, (two whole months ago!), I was having a little too much fun acting crazy with my big belly, which is a completely fun prop before it exhausts you. Sadly, the writing waned as I was tying up loose ends at work, getting the house ready and trying to enjoy the last bit of selfish me-time for awhile by taking naps, going to the movies and just doing whatever I wanted.

IMG_4923

Henry Andrew was born in February, and we are counting ourselves very lucky to have a happy and healthy baby boy. I think he’s already a little flirt, and is making friends and charming women and men alike wherever he goes. Mike and I were so excited to finally meet him, and it’s so cool to see what a sweet dad Mike is becoming. And to see someone who had never changed a diaper become a pro in a few short weeks!

IMG_5040

I was so very lucky to have my mom stay with us for five weeks to help during this exhausting yet very special time in his life, especially since Mike didn’t have much time off work. I was grateful for her support, advice, cooking, cleaning, for another set of hands to hold the baby, for hands to hold me if I was overwhelmed, and to see the magic of my mom becoming a grandparent and falling in love with this little boy. 

Apart from the intense new motherhood experience, I also had the opportunity to work on some design and illustration work. A friend and I did some virtual interior design for a client in New York City, and I did some watercolor illustrations for a fabulous local designer. It was boot camp in terms of figuring out free time with a new baby, but it also helped me to reconnect with the part of myself that is “Marissa” and not just a source of nutrition and love for a new human. Please refer to the part where my mom was here for 5 weeks lest you think I’m pretending to be a super-mom.

IMG_4848

Some days I felt like I never left the sofa while feeding the baby. Though I spent many hours gazing into this baby’s sweet face, I also watched all three seasons of Downton Abbey. Yes. It is all it’s cracked up to be, and I’m already missing it!

Mom and I baked three chocolate chip cakes in five weeks, and got hooked on no-knead sourdough bread which my Aunt brought for us with a starter.  We balanced it out by making some bright colored salads with the first of the gorgeous spring vegetables. I am so excited for Spring!

IMG_5688

The weather has been cold but sunny in Philadelphia, and we’ve been taking Henry on walks in the neighborhood. We have some friends in the neighborhood who occasionally join us, and I have been treating myself to hot chocolates at our local coffee shop as an extra incentive to get outside! He loves being carried around in our Baby Bjorn and will fall asleep for entire hours it seems.

IMG_5570

I did finish knitting a baby sweater for lil Hen before he was born. It’s way too big, but he looks pretty cute wearing it at around two weeks. It’s crazy how quickly they do grow and how their faces change. He already looks entirely different than in this picture. We’re enjoying him and adjusting and learning every day.

IMG_0197

I’m not sure how much I’ll post about Henry or being a mom on here in the future, but wanted to show my face and introduce you to our little boy. Thanks for being my virtual friends, and  I look forward to reconnecting on this space with you all in this coming year.

xoxo,
Mariss

Posted in Bebe, Life | 1 Comment