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Cloak of Many Feathers

cloak-of-many-feathersEver find yourself staring into your closet like it’s a black void? Or a jungle of tweed, leather, corduroy, cotton, and denim- purses perched precariously like monkeys ready to swing down on you while scarves weave like vines across tangled branches of hangers, some of them bare as the escapees accumulate on the floor like shed leaves? The lion, the witch, and the rest of Narnia could all be hiding in there and you’d be none the wiser. But more importantly where the heck is that perfect lightweight cardigan you’re looking for and should have been out the door with 15 now 16 minutes ago?

In my post on decluttering the nest, I mentioned seeing the trees through the forest. The closet is the heart of that forest- the shining example of how establishing and maintaining an order can pay off exponentially just by making it easier to get out the door in the morning or pack for a trip. I remember the moment when I first fell in love with the idea of bringing order to the black hole some refer to as the clothes closet. I was a college student being given a home tour for a family for whom I was housesitting. The house was lovely, but forget the fireplace and walls of windows- the closet was immaculate, pristine, a thing of wonder. Clothes organized by color going from sleeveless to short-sleeved to long-sleeved. There were drawers for non-hanging items. Special hangers for belts and scarves. Shelves for hats and purses. Rotating shoe racks. While they were in Hawaii enjoying paradise, I pulled up a stool in that closet and sat in awe of the ideal organization system that had somehow magically transplanted from the Sex and the City set to a lake house in North Carolina.

Now while we don’t all possess a walk-in closet that would make Carrie Bradshaw forget all about Mr. Big (for while anyway), we can, however, all take steps to make it easier to see our forest of fashion options a bit more clearly. Aside from making it easier to throw together an outfit, without some intentional prevention lovely items will get pushed into the shadowy corners of the closet (aka Siberia) not to see the light of day again until you change zip codes. Reorganization can help your clothes get more even wear as you are more likely to rotate through outfits and also help you realize what items are not seeing the light of day and are ready to leave the rotation permanently via donation or consignment.

For me, it’s the little things that make all the difference. A jewelry stand that I can have out in the open to make it easy to see all the options. Specialized bags that make packing for a trip easier. A cosmetics case I can keep out and I don’t feel the urge to hide under the sink when company comes over. Because I don’t want to just consume-consume-consume (which my mom would call clutter-clutter-clutter though I believe the current buzzword for this is “fast fashion”) I try to buy clothes that are well-made and more classic than trendy. I also invest in (or improvise my own) organization products that make it easier to see what I actually have on hand.

While there are plenty of experts out there to give us advice, Nesting Chicks need a special space for their cloaks of many feathers. I’d like to hear from you: how to you establish and maintain order in your clothes closets and other “getting ready” spaces like the bathroom, the bedroom, etc. For those of you who have made it from jungle chaos to manicured forest, draw a map for our sisters still fighting through the foliage!

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Setiquette: The Art of Table Setting

There’s nothing better than sharing food you love with people you love in a place you love: your home. That’s why one of my favorite social events to host is the dinner party. Well, that is until about three hours before everyone is due to arrive, when I try to cram in a day’s work. Sticking with the positive, I’d say the thing I love the best is setting the table. I can’t always control when the crock pot creation doesn’t resemble the cookbook pictures or when the weather forces the BBQ indoors, but I can reclaim my serenity as I lay out my serving dishes and decorative table pieces. From special sangria pitchers and pretty bread baskets to seasonal serving platters and funny cocktail napkins, I love laying out the table, be the occasion casual or formal. It’s the food form of the welcome mat!

While I am always merely happy that anyone is cooking for me, I have to confess I get a special thrill when I arrive at a friend’s house and see a beautifully laid table, set with love and care. As a child, I usually grumbled when sent to haul the card tables from the garage, but once my mama had transformed them with table cloths, runners, placemats, napkins, and seasonal cercis, I was inevitably energized and excited for the meal and celebration to come. There is just something fun about breaking away from the typical dining routine and bringing out festive colors and taking down the fancy china from the top of the hutch.

I’m not talking only about formal table settings using real, freshly polished silver and multiple salad forks. Imagination goes much further than expense, in my experience. Creative place cards or handcrafted table décor made by the resident 4 year old (or 40 year old), droll napkin holders or a few tapered candles, and unique baskets or pottery thrown by someone you know are conversation starters– they add a splash of the extraordinary to the table. Sometimes with what my crockpot yields I have to splash twice (when all else fails, add some appetizers, pour the wine with a heavy hand, and distract-distract-distract with crazy coworker stories– unless, of course, your guests are your crazy coworkers in which case the dinner was probably doomed from the start)!

What about you, my feathered friends? What are some of your favorite table toppers?

Perhaps you have some setiquette words of wisdom for someone hosting their first dinner or other festive occasion. Or maybe you have a memory of a favorite table you’ve set (or sat at) that you’d like to share.

Send us a picture if you have one!

p.s. If you looking for something special to add to your table, here are a few of my favorites from our shop:

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Summer is Wine-ing Down

Warning: The author of this post may seem more of a lush than she is. Truly.

summer-is-wine-ing-down2Summer’s winding down. Tan lines peaked, first-day-of-school pictures are snapped, and cool breezes put a bounce in the step of everyone from my friend’s 12-year-old retriever to my sister’s three-year-old son, who loves picking up the “feathers” falling from the trees (I swear I’m going to correct him just as soon as that stops being adorable- hopefully before his first science class).

I should be sad. I love summer: snow cones, long days, and the barbeques- oh the barbeques! My beach bag begs from the corner: what, pray tell could possibly be better than summer?

But that autumn season, she is smart- she knows how to play her cards. Or as Emily Dickinson’s more cheery friend Helen Hunt Jackson put it, September offers “summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer.”

The crisp whites and sparkling pinks of summer slowly, then suddenly, turn to autumn’s reds and warm burgundies. Hints of citrus and floral notes are replaced by whispers of cinnamon and whiffs of smoky flavor. The changes, some sizeable and others subtle, soothingly drift onto our menus, sweet and tangy to the taste. We raise our glasses weighted, warm, and full-bodied to toast the season of change and welcome the possibilities it brings.

I am talking about wine, of course. I love wine! And there’s no better season for wine than autumn.

summer-is-wine-ing-down3One of my favorite things about wine is the fun, creative, or beautiful ways there are to store, carry, serve, and preserve it. I have a leather wine holder a friend brought me from Argentina that I treasure. I have wine corks I brought back from South Africa and I love the memories those uncap. I have a red leather champagne bottle cover just waiting for the right occasion. From cat-shaped carafes to sassy charms, beaded bottle covers to quirky openers, there are a plethora of ways to add some seasonal spice to your wine-drinking experience. So whether it’s a simple glass on an ordinary Tuesday or a bottle to commemorate a special moment, I hope will find a way to add some festive fall fun to your vintage. If you’ve read my previous post on feather spreading, then you’ll understand why I have my eye on a certain Eiffel Tower wine rack.

However you choose to celebrate the arrival of autumn- be apple picking or wine mulling or both- I raise my glass here in the Blue Ridge to us Nesting Chicks: a joyful, grateful cheers to the new season and all its/our possibilities! You can click here to view our Vino Living line of products.

Contributed by Shaw Hipsher. The Nesting Chick welcomes your comments!

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Decluttering the Nest

We all know the feeling. You open your front door and immediately want to close it as it feels like moving would be easier than reestablishing order over the chaos that has slowly, yet slyly and steadily, taken over. Well nestlings, sometimes we must first ruffle some feathers to get the look we’re after. There are a lot of different approaches you can take on home organization. And I have tried many of them. Before my move-before-last I listened to Gail Blanke’s Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. For my most recent move, I listened to an audiobook version of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. A friend from college has devoted next month to the 30 day Minimalist Challenge – plus the challenges visualized in this calendar to the right created by Into-Mind – and it brought the whole decluttering concept back to the front burner of my thoughts.

It can sound negative to say that this work that is never done, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: this work is never done. So I think the answer lies in reframing how we view the tasks associated with “tidying up” because we always get some much-needed joy and productive energy from the result. Think of it as an extension of the time-tested PSA “the more you know…” attitude. Decluttering is not just a random rainy Saturday morning activity. It’s a lifelong project that goes well beyond our physical nests to the metaphysical nests we all maintain to varying degrees of tidiness in our hearts and minds, and yes, even our souls. It’s continual- a constant- but we can find ways to make it more manageable.

On my childhood soundtrack, one invariable is my mom’s sayings. “Don’t put it down, put it up.” “A place for everything and everything in its place.” “Less is more.” While I will confess, I have rolled my eyes on more than one (hundred thousand) occasion(s) at these mantras growing up, when I actually apply them in my adult life I feel happier, more unencumbered, and function much more efficiently & effectively. Whether by reconfiguring a closet or mudroom by adding hooks or shelves or containers to give everything a place and thus make it easier to put things up, or by lightening the load by tossing (or donating or selling) items no longer needed or used, these repetitive processes help me “take back my house”- and my life. We all know there are so many things we can’t control that can cause intense anxiety, but our nests don’t have to be one of those things. When we reach past our physical nests to those metaphysical spaces, we find that there are also many things that impact mental clarity, emotional stability, and spiritual health that we can control and declutter. We just have to take the time to see the trees through the forest- and when necessary do some clearing for erosion-prevention! I don’t know of a decluttering plan for a home or personal growth that doesn’t involve letting go of or removing things that hold you back or make you feel closed in or simply don’t get utilized any longer.

In her famed editorial Wear Sunscreen, Mary Schmich advises to “Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.” So my feathered friends, I want to hear your inspiring suggestions. What is your advice on decluttering? How do you tackle the clutter in your life? What do you know now about tidying up that you wish you knew at 20 or 40?

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Spread Your Feathers

As Gabi Mann knows from watching the crows she feeds at her home in Seattle, birds can travel great distances to acquire items for their nests, or even gifts for friends. Like birds, our nests are often decorated with tokens of places we have been. Some are carefully chosen mementos and others just sentimental keepsakes of travels past. How often have you smiled to find a forgotten ticket stub, boarding pass, and receipt floating around in a coat pocket or purse? Some of these paper remnants get promptly tossed upon discovery, and some we can’t quite part with yet, or ever, and they even get passed down the generations. Case and point, I still have my grandmother’s Indy 500 tickets from the 1920s.

Sometimes we know in advance a torn ticket stub will be a special keepsake, while others, like a first date movie ticket, take on an unexpected significance after the fact. If your nest is like mine, it also has plenty of relics from places that people you love have traveled to as well as reminders of the places you long to visit. For me, at the top of the list is “ah Paree, oui oui!”
spread-your-feathers2In my jewelry box, I keep a small silver thimble of the Eiffel Tower – a gift from my much cooler, much older sister, when I was 14 years young and “much older” was a desirable characteristic. And while my cynical side is deeply suspicious that this gift cost much less than the allotted parental budget line for “souvenirs for sister,” just holding that twenty–year-old tarnished thimble can transport me clear across the Atlantic. My imagination takes flight and there I am in the City of Light, sitting at a small nondescript café, watching through the steam rising off my coffee as people and bicycles splash through Parisian

When I’m feeling especially imaginative, my mind’s eye puts me on the wing of Victor the Eagle as we enjoy a birds eye view of the streets of Paris. Watching even virtually as Victor spreads his feathers and flies off the Eiffel Tower is awe-inspiring. Perhaps that’s why Emily Dickinson described hope as a “thing with feathers?”

Our nests need these fun and fanciful reminders of things to come… things to hope for… things to dream about… evidence of places we have or will spread our wings, and our feathers.

What relics do you keep around your nest and to what far-off -or nearby- places do they transport you? When you get out last winter’s coat, what will you find in the pocket? And what do you hope to leave behind in those pockets when the warmth of spring arrives once again?

Contributed by Shaw Hipsher. The Nesting Chick welcomes your comments!