peppermint patties

These peppermint patties have become a tradition in our house at Christmas. Every time I make them I think that if I could, I would send these to everyone I know. This year, the best way I know to spread Christmas cheer is to share the deliciousness with you in recipe form.

This recipe is as simple as it can be, given the chocolate dipping process. If you’re like me and only have time for one or two homemade treats, trust me, this one should make the cut. Also, they’re technically gluten free if you use GF chocolate chips.

Enjoy, with love from me to you.

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Homemade Peppermint Patties

1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp. peppermint extract
5 ½ c. powdered sugar + additional powdered sugar
2 (8 oz.) bags of chocolate chips

Step 1: The Inside
In large mixer bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract. Add 5 ½ cups powdered sugar slowly. Beat on low speed until smooth and well blended. Dough will be extremely thick, so this works best if you have a powerful mixer. Turn mixture onto surface sprinkled with a little extra powdered sugar. Knead lightly to form a smooth ball. The texture should be very similar to play-dough. If your dough is too sticky, add additional powdered sugar.

Use a teaspoon to measure out 1-inch or smaller balls of dough. Place 2 inches apart on waxed paper. Flatten each ball into a ½ inch patty with the bottom of a glass. Let dry in the fridge 1 hour or longer, then flip and let the other side dry for at least an hour.

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Step 2: The Outside
Melt chocolate chips (some, not all) in a microwave or double-boiler over low heat (I’ve had better luck with the stovetop method). With fork, dip each patty into the chocolate. Draw fork lighty across rim of pan to remove excess chocolate. Place dipped patties onto wax paper and refrigerate to harden chocolate. These are enjoyed best right out of the fridge but can sit out for a short amount of time.

Makes 60-65 delicious patties.

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Merry Christmas!

finishing > starting

“Kenneth Tuchman, founder of TeleTech, defined his own form of discipline in a recent interview. "I’m a finisher in a society of starters…I have this vision that is constantly evolving in my head.” (Adrienne Sanders, “Success Secrets of the Successful,” Forbes)

— from The Millionaire Mind, by Thomas J. Stanley

This phrase “a finisher in a society of starters” has stuck with me since reading it a few months ago. New ideas and projects are exciting, but I’m realizing that finishing them is much harder (and maybe even more important) than starting them.

My resolution for 2015 is to follow through.

I mean this in the most practical sense. To finish: books I’ve started, craft ideas I bought supplies for, home improvement projects that are 95% there. I will make a conscious effort to finish what can be finished, or decide to abandon the project altogether instead of letting it hang around half-done.

I guess I can start by finishing the book that inspired this post.

always learning.

My husband, Andrew, is a lifelong learner. Using his graphic design degree as a foundation, over the past few years he has taught himself web and app design, he voluntarily hired a math tutor (for fun), and just this year, he’s learned to code for the web, is studying app development, and taking German lessons. This constant desire for learning has been both admirable and frustrating at times.

I am not wired this way. In fact, I once took a personality test that said something to the effect of ‘you avoid tasks you’re not good at’. This is absolutely true: I like being good at things. Which makes it hard for me to learn new things because I know I’m going to be really bad at them for a while. It’s a risk I haven’t been willing to take very often.

I’ve come across several articles lately about this very topic, both citing research by Carol Dweck of Stanford. One references a ‘growth mindset’ and a ‘fixed mindset’. Another terms it ‘learning orientation’ and ‘performance orientation’. The basic idea is that some people operate under the assumption that improvement and growth is always an option. Others approach life believing that talents and skill are fairly fixed, and it’s better to stick with what you know. For whatever reason, I’ve always fallen into the latter category.

A few months ago when Andrew started learning German, I decided that I would give it a try too. I’ve always wanted to speak another language (and I might be just a little bit competitive). Andrew is taking lessons through his work, and I’m using the Duolingo app. We practice our limited vocabulary on each other. Already, I’ve been pretty excited about the basic terms I’ve picked up and genuinely excited to keep learning more.

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At the same time, I’ve finally started reading some of those books on my ‘to read’ list. Maybe it’s Ella’s arrival and my determination to not be simply defined as ‘a mom’. Or maybe it’s motherhood itself: the knowledge that just a few short months ago I knew nothing about raising a child, and now I’m literally learning something new every day. Either way, I’m starting to climb out of this rut of being content with what I know. It feels really good to stretch those muscles again and realize I am capable of learning more.

People say our education system is broken and I absolutely agree. I spent my formative years earning good grades and being a good student instead of developing a true love for learning. Thanks to people like Andrew with a ‘growth mindset’, I’m starting to see it’s not too late to change that.

shifting seasons.

A new season of life is beginning at our house, and it seems only appropriate that outside the weather is making a corresponding shift. Cooler days and nights have ushered us into a season of apple picking, boot wearing, and cider drinking.

About the time the weather began to change, our little Eleanor Angelene Ramos was born. She came just two days after we wrapped up this year’s Indie Craft Parade.

Somehow, that was four and a half weeks ago.

If I had to describe the past few weeks, I would use the words surreal and unhurried. It’s a very strange season of quiet and yet unrest. We’ve had to slow down drastically to accommodate the needs of this new little one. But that means enjoying our house more: sitting on the front porch and getting to know our neighbors, enjoying more walks and a new definition of family time. We are not typically routine people, but I’m already beginning to crave consistency in this new normal (especially when it comes to sleep!).

Thankfully, we’ve been supported by amazing friends and family sharing food and advice. Everything is new and I don’t know of another month in our lives where we’ve learned so much so fast!

For now, I’m ready to pull out my sweaters, eat some pumpkin muffins and enjoy this amazing season.

taking note

Yesterday was a lovely day. 

- yoga (for the second time in my life) with friends
- a little kitchen reorganization with my mom (nesting?) 
- a wonderful dinner out with Andrew and a night full of great conversation

I have no photos to prove these things. No selfie to show off the eye makeup that I never wear. 

But I am very sore, very rested, and I woke up to a clean kitchen. Days like yesterday are good for the soul. Things accomplished, but also time spent ‘just being’ (in the words of the yoga instructor). 

a legacy of getting things done.


image via Upstate Business Journal

Doing some reading and research about Greenville’s textile history and came across an article about Mary Putnam Gridley, someone I’d never heard of before today.

What a legacy wrapped up in this single sentence: “A tiny woman, under 5 feet tall and weighing about 90 pounds, she nevertheless was able to organize people and get things done.”

Mary influenced so many various facets of Greenville (the library, a farmer’s market, hospital, chamber of commerce, etc.) that the most likely reason for her notability almost pales in comparison — she was the first female mill president in the South.

Read more of her story here.

I don't know what it is.

Some days I can really appreciate beauty more than others. Maybe every designer feels this way, but there are days like today when I look at dribbble and am truly amazed and appreciative of all the work that’s being produced in our industry.

And then there are other days when the talent I see there is amazing in a really depressing way and I’m consumed with thoughts of self-doubt, and wonder ‘why am I not that good?’ 'why do I bother calling myself a designer?’, etc, etc…ad nauseum.

I’m not sure what makes the difference, but I’m really grateful for days like today when I can genuinely admire and appreciate others’ work for what it is. Without comparison or jealousy.

Here are a few things that I’ve found completely and totally inspiring lately.

Seed Circus lettering via Milkwood / Micah 6:8 by Matt Scribner / house sketch by Steve Wolf / the excellence of Trouvé Magazine

Thoughts on motherhood from a not-yet mom.

Technically, I’m a mother. 

I’m five months pregnant, so people tell me this is my first Mother’s Day. But for all practical purposes, I am not a mother. I haven’t experienced the labor, the sleepless nights or the constant care for another human being, so I don’t feel I have the right to claim that title just yet.


Pretty Mother’s Day flowers from our yard.

To be honest, choosing motherhood was actually fairly difficult for me. Possibly because it seemed to be a foregone conclusion most of my life. In church as a young girl, I always got the feeling that education was good and all, but really, every girl was supposed to become a mom. Unfortunately, I can’t say we’ve come all that far in thirty years. Even in the past week, I’ve heard things like ‘you’ll never know true love until you have your child’ or 'now that I have children, my life has true meaning’.

I know these things are said with good intentions, but I don’t think people realize the importance they’re placing on a single (albeit all-encompassing) aspect of their lives and the message it’s sending. I’m curious how my feelings about this topic will grow and change in the next year, when I have a little girl standing in front of me. But one of the things I want to teach her is that her value does not depend on other people

And wouldn’t those 'other people’ include children?

I want her to know that having or not having children does not make her more of a woman. Somehow, even in our Christian communities, this is not a message that girls hear loud and clear. This time last year, a friend wrote on Facebook as part of a Mother’s Day post “You don’t have to be a mother to be a valuable woman.” It stopped me in my tracks and it brought me to tears. This was the core issue I had been wrestling with for the past few years: Did God really create women just for the purpose of bearing children? If I don’t have a desire to have children, does that make me a bad person? If this is supposed to be my purpose in life, is something wrong with me for not wanting it?


Me, with my mom and my grandma.

Today I want to honor my mother, grandmother and all the women in my life who have cared for me over the years. I will wish a Happy Mother’s Day to women who are caring for the children in their lives — their own or not. I think the true sacrifices of motherhood deserve to be honored, not idolized.

I’m so grateful for a good friend who asked me hard questions and helped me work through some of these issues. And thankful that in spite of our hangups, God can still make truth clear — our value does not depend on other people.

It’s a lesson I think motherhood (ironically) will continue to teach me every day.

Along these same lines, I really appreciated this article by Anne Lamott yesterday. Very similar to what I’m trying to say, but much more articulate.

Not as busy as we think.

“The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet simultaneously make it clear that you are completely on top of your game. These are not exactly humble brags. They are more like fretful brags, and they are increasingly becoming the idiom of our age.”

“The answer to feeling oppressively busy, he says, is to stop telling yourself that you’re oppressively busy, because the truth is that we are all much less busy than we think we are.”

— Excerpts from Hannah Rosin’s article about the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One Has the Time.

I’m already looking forward to reading this.

Plan, to be surprised.

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Photo by Paige French

Life has a way of running everything together, so that before one thing is completely done, another has already begun. I suppose this is how weeks and months can pass by unnoticed, and somehow we realize that it’s almost April.

This collision of timing is exactly what happened when — in the middle of planning for The Makers Summit (which was a super inspiring, beautiful, wonderful day!) — Andrew and I learned that we were expecting a baby.

In the past few weeks, we’ve finally been able to tell friends and family. And while it’s early on this road we’ve never been down before, it’s already been full of surprises.

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So far, I’ve been surprised:

· that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I immediately wanted to only think/talk/pin about baby and pregnancy things. This is a very strange thing for someone who hasn’t spent much time thinking about having children of my own. And difficult because we couldn’t tell anyone for a little while.

· about how absolutely exhausted I’ve been

· that I haven’t had more compassion for my pregnant friends in the past

· that I’m not too concerned about eating healthy just because I’m pregnant. Most of the time I find myself just trying to find something to eat that sounds decent, which has begun to include cheetos and pop tarts.

· by the overwhelming support and encouragement from friends and family. I have to admit that as our friends without kids have dwindled over the past nine years, there were times I felt like new babies meant somehow I would lose a friend. A ‘loss of solidarity’ is how another friend put it. And while I know in my heart that it’s silly, I also know that I have friends out there who may feel the same way. Andrew and I have felt so much support from our friends — both parents and non-parents — and it’s meant so much to us.

· by the heartburn. So much awful heartburn!

on balance.

We’re in go mode again, this time getting everything ready for this weekend’s Makers Summit.

In the back of my mind, I’m still thinking a lot about rest and balance and what that means — especially in times like this, when there’s just so much to be done. I’m more convinced than ever that rest does not mean doing nothing. Some days, it’s truly more relaxing to get things off the to-do list than to ‘relax’ in front of the TV.

One of the most helpful things I’ve read about the topic comes from the famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) book by Sheryl Sandburg, Lean In. She argues that work-life balance and the idea of 'having it all’ is a myth. And it’s actually a pretty harmful one. She says 'having it all’ undermines the realities of give and take that are required to live life every single day.

Sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes, and we’re constantly choosing to set one thing aside in exchange for another — maybe it’s healthy eating, maybe it’s sleep, work, or having a clean house. But setting priorities are a necessary part of life, and something you don’t just do once. The more I think about it, a balance where every aspect of life holds equal importance at all times seems both tedious and precarious. I know that I can’t do everything well all the time. And I’m setting myself up for failure if I try to convince myself I can have it all.

For today, give-and-take means that I spent more on groceries to buy myself flowers and enough prepared meals to get us through Saturday. I may not be cooking from scratch this week, or cleaning my house, or being Wonder Woman, but I’ll be able to spend a few minutes with my family, get a decent amount of sleep, and get everything checked off the to do list. And that’s what is important for the moment.

Do What You Love?

I really enjoyed this article that a friend shared with me today. I’ve had a handful of conversations around this very topic in the past month and it’s definitely worth the long-ish read.

The article challenges the oft-repeated mantra of the creative industry, Do What You Love — a phrase that’s started to ring more and more hollow as of late. The author, Miya Tokumitsu outlines the deeper consequences of this philosophy. And it’s incredibly thought-provoking.

imageA quick search illustrates how pervasive (and persuasive) this idea is.

I’m including a couple key excerpts from Miya’s article below, but these are tiny pieces of a much bigger and more important essay. I strongly recommend you set aside a few minutes to read and consider what she has to say.

“By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, [Do What You Love] distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it.”

“No one is arguing that enjoyable work should be less so. But emotionally satisfying work is still work, and acknowledging it as such doesn’t undermine it in any way.”

“It hides the fact that if we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time.”

This line of thinking makes me even more eager to dig into this book I’ve had sitting on the shelf for weeks now.

the best part.

I love having a reason to give gifts. To me, Christmas is a wonderful excuse to buy and make things for the people who matter to me.

If I’m really honest, I should be more generous all year long. So presents this time of year (no matter how small) are a great reminder of how much better it feels to give and share good things with each other.

Rosemary sprigs + leftover pipe cleaners = tiny fragrant wreaths

on work and rest.

To say there’s been a lot going on lately would be an understatement, but lots of work means there’s a lot to be excited about.

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First, The 2014 Makers Summit site launched this week, momentous not only because of the fabulous new lineup of speakers this year, but also because of how it was made. Andrew has spent the last three months learning to code at The Iron Yard Academy. This website was the first real-life project that he has not only designed, but also developed. I’m so proud of his endless curiosity and his desire to learn.

Check out the finished site here and be sure to notice the amazing sponsors and speakers who will be part of the event on March 1. If you’re a creative business owner, this day is for you!

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Also coming up very soon is the Indie Craft Parade Holiday Fair! I still find it hard to believe we’re already shopping for Christmas gifts and making wreaths. But somehow, Thanksgiving is this week!

While the Indie Craft Parade world has been full of events and fun things, my day job has also been a non-stop whirlwind. Professionally, this year has been challenging, simply due to the sheer volume of work needing to be accomplished. I’m happy to be part of a team who knows how to make things happen. I’m also incredibly blessed to work for a company who realizes that life should not equal work.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how busy we are. Andrew and I have intentionally cut things from our lives in order to make more space to live, and yet it seems that we immediately fill that space up again.

When I do rest, it’s hard not to feel guilty or to make excuses for spending time reading a book. When did that happen?

“Productivity is not the only measure of time well spent.”
— Nikaela Marie Peters, Kinfolk Volume 9

It’s been important for me to realize how much these feelings are self-imposed. Getting things done is wonderful. But stopping to enjoy life is necessary.

I’m starting by reclaiming my weekends. Last Saturday, I spent time sitting on my front porch with friends. Doing…nothing. Just sitting, talking, and drinking hot chocolate.

And today was another lovely restful weekend day. Nothing planned beyond a morning spent sharing breakfast with friends. We had an impromptu afternoon of errands and now, I’m spending some time on the computer getting a few things done before I do some reading. Without feeling guilty.

Here’s to more weekends and holidays that are truly restful.

rest and recovery.

This year, I’ve had several rounds of major dental work. The last couple days have been spent recovering from the most recent surgery.

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In spite of how sad I look, yesterday was a good day.

I was reminded just how blessed I am. Friends and coworkers checking in via text message, delivering milkshakes and applesauce and making dinner for us. My mom insisting on coming over to do my dishes so I wouldn’t worry about it. Having a live-in nurse(ing student) to help me figure out the medications I’m supposed to be taking and when.

I am so grateful for this community that surrounds me. And for the opportunity to learn how to accept the help — and rest — that’s being offered to me.

What am I making?

As a constant promoter of makers and their handmade goods, I often get asked what it is that I make. Surprisingly, it’s a question that I don’t have an answer for, and haven’t had for a while now.

If I think about it too long, it makes me sad because I’ve always made things: as a kid it was friendship bracelets and clothes for my stuffed bunny, and more recently there was sewing, paper goods, felt food and gifts for friends.

But all that was before Indie Craft Parade.

Since beginning this venture several years ago, my creativity has been channeled and stretched in many different directions. Very few of which feel like ‘making’.


Lately I’ve been trying to reconcile the desire to create something tangible with what I actually spend my evenings doing — supporting and connecting others who make. To be fair, I don’t know if there’s anything more energizing than seeing a creative person succeed doing what they’re gifted to do. But sometimes, not having something that I make — a thing — makes me feel like an impostor of sorts.

This has been on my mind a lot lately, and my conclusion at the moment is that if I want to live a balanced life, I need to be okay with the more abstract things I’m making: connections, opportunities, relationships on behalf of others.

The reality is that I’m incredibly blessed by what I get to do as a part of Indie Craft Parade and at my full-time job. So I guess for the past four years I have been making something, it’s just not something you can buy or sell. And it’s not an easy answer to the question “What do you make?”.