I first came to admire Danielle Spurge of The Merriweather Council for her mad embroidery skills — she makes initial necklaces and quirky hoops I’d love to display in my home. But then she started sharing the ways she turned her Etsy shop into a success with other aspiring creatives. The Merriweather Council has become an amazing resource for anyone who sells handmade goods. I don’t have an online shop but I am always referring my friends who do to Danielle! She is also the co-conspirator of the inspiring She Percolates podcast with Jen Hatzung, in which they interview creative business owners about what success means to them. I’m so excited Danielle is her today to tell us about how she is living out her dream job! // susannah
1. How would you describe The Merriweather Council?
The Merriweather Council is all about empowering creatives to share their work with confidence. Teaching handmade shop owners to optimize, leverage + prosper. Making, writing and working in pursuit and support of creative lifestyles — supporting yours and living mine!
2. What were you doing beforeThe Merriweather Council? What inspired you to change paths?
Actually, I was in college immediately before starting The Merriweather Council. I graduated,came home, slept for 48 hours and then got to work! I was supposed to go to graduate school but at the last minute I changed my mind. I was supposed to do something else but this is way better.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I simply love to browse vintage shops, thrift stores or antique markets. I love seeing weird, old, unusual, funky stuff. I always get my best ideas when I am fully involved in something else. So, shopping… I guess. Or traveling!
I’ve always felt that cocktails are a labor of love. Of course you can go out and get something fancy at the bar. But you can do it at home too — nothing shows you care like hand-juicing some citrus or making fancy ice.
For years I’ve been wanting to get a few girlfriends together for a Galentine’s brunch to show them how much I love them. This Four-Citrus Champagne Punch is what I’d make to pair with a homemade brunch. I love that I can make the citrus base of this recipe ahead of time and top it with some bubbly just before serving. It’s got grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime, and it’s the perfect shade of light pink.
So how is this punch a labor of love? I prefer to hand-juice citrus whenever I can. It just tastes better! That’s made easier with OXO’s SteeL Fine Mesh Cocktail Strainer, which helps me keep any pulp out of the cocktail. And the ice cubes, of course! OXO’s Xs and Os Ice Cube Tray makes the cutest ice cubes. If you boil the water first and pour it into the trays after it has cooled slightly, the ice cubes will come out clear. I love how subtle and elegant they look floating in this cocktail!
This Valentine’s, whether you’re dining with your sweetheart or brunching with your girlfriends, a homemade cocktail will do the trick. Cheers! // susannah
Thanks to OXO for the wonderful barware! I only work with brands I know and love, and I thank you for supporting them!
Go Panthers! A bright blue cocktail in honor of the Playoffs, and hopefully the Super Bowl!
Happy Sunday gameday! I’m popping in for a rare weekend blog post — so rare, in fact, that I cannot remember the last time I shared a recipe on a weekend! I’m coming at you today with a recipe for Frozen Blue Margaritas. ‘Margaritas on a Sunday?’ you ask? Yes, because today the Carolina Panthers are competing in the NFL playoffs for a chance to play in the Super Bowl!
I’ll admit I resisted liking football for a long time. I remember taking a school field trip in the 2nd grade to tour the Panthers stadium when it was brand new, but I was pretty oblivious to the sport up until college. My high school didn’t evenhave sports because it was an arts high school. (But we had musicals!)
But after lots of college tailgates, a number of Sundays watching NFL and two seasons of playing fantasy football with some blogger friends, I guess I’m a little hooked now. I’ve also reached the point where I mostly understand what is happening on the field! This is a big deal, according to my dad.
Football fan or not, it’s hard to ignore how pumped up Charlotte is right now. Panthers pride is everywhere. The skyline basks in blue lights at night. The doughnuts are doused in team spirit sprinkles. Even the cocktails at bars are blue — so I thought I’d show you how to make your own blue cocktails!
Essentially, these are regular-tasting, frozen lime margaritas. So what makes them blue? A spirit called blue curaçao! You’ll also need a blender, fresh squeezed lime juice, tequila and a lot of ice! (My friends at The Cookful have a great post on choosing the right tequila for your margaritas.)
Curaçao is really similar to triple sec, the orange-flavored liqueur at the heart of any classic margarita. It’s named for its island of origin and flavored with the dried peel of a citrus fruit called the laraha. Curaçao (pronounced KUR-a-sow) is colorless, but most of the time it is dyed a deep, exotic blue. (Don’t have curaçao? I found it at my local liquor store, but I promise I won’t tell anyone if you add blue food color to your triple sec. Totally fine. Or you can just skip the blue color all together and make regular ones!)
These Frozen Blue Margaritas are probably your most delicious companion for today’s game. I’ll be at the game today, probably feeling more like a frozen margarita than like drinking one… Fingers crossed for a Panthers victory today so they can play in (and win) Super Bowl 50. You bet I’ll be making more Frozen Blue Margaritas if that happens! Keep pounding! // susannah
P.S. The citrus juicer was a gift from Erika Gibson! I’m obsessed with all her work.
The weather finally got cold this weekend. I even saw a few snowflakes! And then it rained. And then it was sunny and almost 50°F. I present to you… life in the South.
On cold days, there’s nothing I love more than a cup of hot tea. I grew up in a tea-loving family. My mother — being from South Africa, where teatime occurs several times per day — has probably drunk 100,000 cups of tea in her life. Her mother probably had twice as many. And my sister and I fall far behind still! Earl Grey, Rooibos, Chai, Jasmine… You name it and I’ll drink it. Preferably with milk and a spot of sugar. Or lemon and honey. (It totally depends on the kind of tea.)
For this month’s Essentials post, I thought I’d show you a few of the things my mom and I swear by. Coincidentally, January is National Hot Tea Month. (I swear there’s a month/week/day/hour/minute/second for everything.)
For starters, you’ll need tea. Fresh tea. Not tea that’s been sitting on the shelves for forever. I challenge you to seek out an independent tea shop, like Goldsmith Teas, who can help you find teas you will like. (This is absolutely not a sponsored post — I just love how passionate Goldsmith is about sourcing their teas!) Let your tea shop teach you about looseleaf teas and bagged teas, too!
You’ll also need a kettle — electric or stovetop. Just a way to boil water — a pot on the stove or even the microwave will do in a pinch. Teapots are great if you’re making more than one cup of hot tea, but they’re not necessary. Lastly, you’ll need a mug to drink it in! I think tea tastes better in a pretty mug, but any mug will do. The rest is all to your taste!
Whether you’re having a cup for one or a tea party, I’m pretty sure you’ll like something in this round-up! I’ll be toasting you on my next cup of tea. // susannah
Start your day off well with a Green Smoothie Bowl! (This post is sponsored by Wolf Gourmet.)
Who’s still on the wagon with their New Year’s resolutions? You? I hope so — we’re only 11 days into the year! And if you already cheated, there’s still time to get back on track. This Green Smoothie bowl should help.
Are you wondering what a smoothie bowl is? Don’t worry — they are new to me too. I was hanging out with my yoga teacher friend one day, and she made herself a smoothie bowl. I’d never seen such a thing, but it was gorgeous. It’s honestly exactly what it sounds like: a smoothie served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon. The main difference is that you’d make a smoothie bowl a little thicker than a smoothie so you can top it with yummy things like nuts, granola and fresh fruit.
I made my smoothie bowl in my new Wolf Gourmet High Performance Blender. This is by far the fanciest blender I’ve ever used! Not only is it sleek and handsome on my counter, It has an LCD screen and a dial with four settings — smoothie, ice crush, puree and soup.
I can’t wait to try it out on some winter soups as the weather gets colder! And I have a huge list of popsicle recipe ideas for when it warms up. And don’t even get me started on frozen margarita ideas! You could also use it to make nut butters, chop vegetables, whip cream, mix sauces and grind grains. You can purchase your own Wolf Gourmet High Performance Blender at Sur La Table, Bloomingdales and Frontgate.
Okay, back to this Green Smoothie Bowl. You can make any smoothie, really, and plop it into a bowl. But to get this lovely green color, you’ll need some spinach (or kale) and half an avocado, the latter of which makes the mixture creamy and smooth. Blend it with half a banana, some ice and the juice or milk of your choice — I used Greek yogurt. You can also throw in a dollop of nut butter or a few berries! And blend until smooth. Then, add it to a bowl and top it with your favorite toppings.
See? Easy! And so healthy too! There’s nothing more energizing than getting in a few servings of fruits and veggies before breakfast. Okay, now go make a Green Smoothie Bowl before you forget what your resolutions are! // susannah
P.S. Pop over to Instagram today and keep an eye out for a giveaway! You could win one of these amazing blenders. Details to come on Instagram!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Wolf Gourmet. I only work with brands I know and love, and I thank you for supporting them!
Click through to see the Green Smoothie Bowl recipe!
It’s the first Dream Job of the new year! I’m thrilled to introduce you to my new friend Jayme Hennel, the owner and creative director of Hennel Paper Co. One of my guiltiest pleasures is to stalk stationery blogs (but I really shouldn’t because I just end up buying stationery I don’t need) so I’m no stranger to Jayme’s work. Her illustrations are so cute and cheeky — I am majorly obsessed. I hadn’t realized Jayme and her husband had relocated to Charlotte, so I was excited to come across her booth at the Vintage Charlotte holiday market at the end of last year. I love to meet makers, and after grabbing lunch with Jayme in December, I asked if I could interview her for this series.
If you love illustrative stationery or dream of working for yourself, this interview is for you. I really love Jayme’s advice for getting unstuck from a creative block. Keep reading for some awesome insight into a one-person creative business. // susannah
1. Jayme, how would you describe Hennel Paper Co.?
Hennel Paper Co. is my brain on paper. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true! So much of what pops into my head or comes out of my mouth ends up as a greeting card in my shop. I create cheery & cheeky handmade paper goods guaranteed to brighten up your day.
2. What were you doing before Hennel Paper Co.? What inspired you to change paths?
Before I started Hennel Paper Co. and even for a while after, I was working as a graphic designer at a university in Detroit, MI. I liked my job, but had this overwhelming feeling of being creatively unfulfilled. I knew that I had more to give and my heart could not rest until I did something about it. So I started HPC with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do. All I knew was that I just needed to start. Eventually, I began making greeting cards and people actually bought them. The more I made, the more that sold. It’s now over three years later and here I am, working for myself full time and trying to navigate a rapidly growing business. It’s so funny, because I didn’t wake up one morning knowing that I just had to make greeting cards, but now I can’t imagine not making them.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
Like many other creative people out there, I suffer from a kind of creative paralysis. Often times, it results of having too many ideas and not being able to decide which direction to go. I get stuck and the longer I’m stuck the harder it is to break free from. (This is a real thing, right? It’s not just me?) Anyways, when this happens normal inspiration sources like Pinterest or Instagram only seem to make it worse. So what I’ve found that actually helps is to just stop. Stop trying to think of ideas. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Just stop. Go outside, go to the mall, watch Netflix, whatever. My best ideas are always inspired by real life. Conversations with my husband, the ridiculous things I say, and real life events never fail me. Also, coffee helps.
Click through to read the rest of the Q&A with Jayme Hennel of Hennel Paper Co.!
Happy new year! Doesn’t it feel so good? I rang in the new year with new friends here in Charlotte and spent the first day of the year cleaning the kitchen and attending a yoga class. It was refreshing and renewing!
Over the weekend I spent some time reflecting on my 2014 and 2015 goals for Feast + West and for myself. This year I’ll be posting a lot less — around three posts per week instead of five. This will allow me more time to rest, spend time with friends and family and practice self-care, but more importantly it means I will have more time to develop quality content for you! I have been known to stay up until 2 a.m. just to get out a blog post for the next day — and I know I can do better than that. You and I both deserve better than that.
I have lots of new things in the works, too. Crazy exciting collaborations, more newsletters, a bunch of brands I want to work with and a growing list of recipes to try. A new look, too — coming soon! I’m really, really excited about all that’s in store for 2016. I’m no longer worried about sticking to my resolutions — I’ve proven to myself every day for the last two years (yes, two!) with this blog that I can do it! (Happy birthday, Feast + West!)I do hope you’ll follow along!
So much happened in 2015, though. Good stuff, yes, but some darker things too, of course. But overall, it was a good year. I was daring and worked hard. Here’s a quick recap, Ann Friedman-style.
Thanks for making 2015 so great. This blog wouldn’t be here without you to read it, and I’m so grateful for your support. What were your favorite posts of 2015? I scoured my blog analytics and drummed up my top 20 posts. Click through to see them all! // susannah
Every year when I come home for Christmas, my mom makes a big pot of mulled wine. It’s our little tradition. A bold red wine steeped with sugar, fruits and spices makes the house smell warm and welcoming. One mugful and I know I’m home for the holidays.
I asked my mom if I could share her mulled wine recipe with you, because I really think everyone should enjoy it this holiday. To make mulled wine, you’ll start with a bottle of a full-bodied red wine, like a cabernet or merlot.
Psst… Wish you were BFF with a sommelier? I’ve got a guide to red wine just for you! And I’ve also got one for white and rosé and sparkling wines — just in case. (That last one will totally come in handy for New Year’s Eve!)
If you’re making a lot, you might buy two or three bottles, depending on how many guests you will have. One 750-ml bottle of wine has about six glasses in it. Most guests will drink two glasses of wine per hour. Math is not my forté, but I suggest you do some before you make mulled wine, and perhaps double, triple or quadruple the recipe! How awful would it be to run out?!
The alcohol in this mulled wine will mostly cook out as you simmer the wine, so it won’t be as potent as a regular glass of wine. The longer you cook it, the less alcohol there will be. But regardless, it will keep its distinct wine flavor, coupled with the flavors you steep in it. In this recipe, we use brown sugar, orange juice and lemon juice, plus cloves, cinnamon sticks and orange slices. My mom always sticks cloves into the skin of a whole orange for added flavor. Plus, it’s just plain pretty.
Feast + West will be taking a few days off for the holiday. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you a restful weekend full of joy, love and gratitude. // susannah
In honor of the holidays this weekend, I thought I’d share one last recipe from the Bright Blog Bash! These Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Chai Buttercream Frosting were my favorite thing I made for the party. Probably because I just love those pretzel trees so much.
I spied something similar on Pinterest from the blog Just A Taste when Katie and I were planning the party, and I knew I had to make my own version. Mine are white chocolate with sparkly sprinkles I bought in South Africa this spring. Obsessed.
Don’t these just make you so happy?! Okay, I’ll stop gushing and talk about the cupcakes themselves.
This vanilla bean cupcake is just a bit more vanilla-y than your regular vanilla cake. You could totally use a cake mix. (I am not above a cake mix when I’m in a pinch. Promise.) You could scrape in a vanilla bean if you have one, or you could just use this homemade vanilla sugar. (I like to keep it on hand in my kitchen and give it for gifts!)
The frosting is a basic buttercream with the added joy of chai spaces. (Am I obsessed with chai right now? Yes, yes I am. There’s the Apple Pie Chai Sparkler we made for the Bright Blog Bash, and the Molasses Chai Cookies I made recently. And of course my favorite Dirty Chai Cinnamon Rolls — which might make an appearance on Christmas morning.)
I hope you have enjoyed Katie’s and my sneak peeks into the Bright Blog Bash! A huge thanks to our sponsors, Vivid Interiors and Sara Logan Photography for all their help and generosity! Here’s all of our posts in one place in case you missed one of our recipes or DIYs!
I’ve had this interview in the works for a while, and I’m so excited to introduce you to Christine Fleming of Might Could Studios! Christine and I went to design school together, and I think it’s always so cool to hear what my classmates are up to.
Christine is a freelance illustrator with the most adorable style and flair, and I am always seeing her intricate yet cute drawings pop up on Instagram. She’s been teaching illustration classes on Skillshare for a while — I’ve always wanted to take one! The one about drawing comics looks particularly awesome, as do the pair about writing and illustrating picture books. Another freakishly cool thing? Christine has also published two coloring books for both kids and adults! (Stop by her Etsy shop to buy!) Be sure to read her story below! // susannah
P.S. This is the last Dream Job of the year! Don’t miss the whole series. I’ve already got a few in the works for 2016 that I can’t wait to share with you!
How would you describe Might Could Studios?
Might Could Studios is basically the name I operate under as a creative. It houses multiple different focuses including: publishing projects like picture books and graphic novels; editorial illustrations for magazines and blogs; my Etsy shop, where I sell adult coloring books and custom painted nesting dolls; my design studio where I work with clients to make logos, print work, and animations; and my six classes I teach on Skillshare.
What were you doing before Might Could Studios? What inspired you to change paths?
After graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in graphic design, I worked as the lead graphic designer at a studio in Raleigh for about a year. I learned an immense amount of information there from my boss and co-workers, especially on how to function as a professional creative, how to manage my time, plan ahead, and communicate with clients. There’s no way I could have become a successful freelancer without that experience first, and I’m grateful for everything they taught me!
But, I also had the drive to be self-employed and independent. So, I left the studio, moved to Texas with my boyfriend, and began freelancing in 2012. I started out working in graphic design, and slowly transitioned into doing more illustration work. I then started working with Buzz Hoot Roar, through my friend Sarah, who I met in NC State. Buzz Hoot Roar is a team of scientists who explain scientific concepts in short, fun blog posts with illustrations. I worked as their Artist in Residence for a few months, and that was where my love of illustration really took off, and I decided this is what I wanted to do with all my time.
Fast forward through 6 months of self exploration, artistic struggles, and much couch wallowing, and I found myself at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) New York Conference thinking about making a picture book. A week after the conference I was named the SCBWI Illustrator of the Month, and I’ve been chugging away at getting my books published ever since.
When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I start every morning with breakfast and coffee while I browse Pinterest and Twitter oogling over other illustrator’s work (and maybe some foodie pics too). This gets me in the “Make something!” zone and inspires me. I started a hashtag, #moilloinspo, which stands for Morning Illustration Inspiration. So every morning while I’m drinking my coffee and looking at art, I pick the piece that strikes me the most and post it to Twitter under the hashtag, crediting the artist and linking to their website.
Click through to read more of the Q&A with illustrator Christine Fleming!