YOGURT AND FRESH BERRY PARFAIT

I've always adhered to the mantra that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  My mom made for me (and still makes me when I go home to visit) a giant bowl of oatmeal for breakfast layered with raisins, flax seed, walnuts, and whole milk.  She taught me that a hearty breakfast and a healthy lunch will power you through the day, while a lighter dinner like a salad is all your body needs as it is about to go into rest. Her salads are no mean "light," containing a mix of greens, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, and Braggs nutritional yeast.  But, it makes sense to feed your body fuel when you need it and go lighter when it doesn't.

So, every morning for breakfast I scoop either oatmeal or yogurt into a mason jar for an easy, but hearty, grab and go on the way to work.  Summer weather has me gravitating towards the yogurt for obvious reasons (and the plethora of fresh berries at the grocery store make it a no-brainer as well).


I start with either organic whole milk plain yogurt or whole milk greek yogurt, then sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top.


Add some fresh raspberries, blueberries, or sliced bananas and drizzle with honey.


Repeat a second time and you've got a quick and delicious portable breakfast!


Many people (or most people I would garner to say) are nervous to choose whole over non-fat when staring at the cooler in the grocery store.  However, many studies have found consuming whole milk actually has numerous benefits compared to its lesser fat counterparts.  "At the simplest level, people eating more high fat dairy products will have enough calories so they won't feel hungry enough to need additional calories from sugary foods." (1)  "When people reduce the amount of fat they eat, they tend to increase their intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar, the driving forces behind the bulk of our nation's chronic health problems." (2)

Choosing regular vs greek yogurt is primarily based on taste and texture preference since they are deniably different.  However, greek yogurt does have an edge with protein and sugar.  "In roughly the same amount of calories, it (greek yogurt) can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content in half." (3)

I have yet to try overnight oats despite not being a picky eater, I am wary that I would not like the texture.  Do you have any favorite overnight oats recipes that might overcome my hesitations?  What are some of your favorite things to make for breakfast on-the-go?

(1) Source: Time magazine
(2) Source: US News
(3) Source: US News 

READ SHOP

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a day of exploring with Christina Kwan from Tide & Bloom.  Part of our adventure took us just north of Atlanta to Vinings Jubilee.  We halted in our tracks when happening upon Read Shop..."What is this adorable place?!!," we said.  No surprise, it happens to be from the same visionary behind The Merchant, one of my favorite shops in Atlanta.  



With dark navy walls, leather seating, antique tables, and ladders for reaching top shelf books, Read Shop feels as if you've stumbled into a friends library.  Filled with a curated assortment of owner Dan Collier's favorite books, hand-picked selections, and NY Times best sellers, alongside a few thoughtful giftables and greeting cards, the shop evokes the same love for paper goods as The Merchant and Archer Paper Goods, while remaining its own delightful concept all the same.


The bookstore also boasts a coffee shop brewing Stumptown Coffee, an amazing company that supports coffee producers by forming partnerships with them through regular visits, implementing new techniques, identifying and investing in future producers, and paying a fair wage (you can read their story here).


What Dan Collier concept isn't complete without branded cups I'd love to buy in bulk?


Above the seating area is an inventive "chandelier" of books.


Owner Dan Collier has over 20 years experience as a wholesaler at the AmericasMart with the Daniel Richards showroom (which has recently expanded) and successful retail locations including The Merchant (on both the Westside and at Krog Street Market), Collier Candy Company, and Archer Paper Goods (both at Ponce City Market).  Dan is truly an inspirational entrepreneur and so I reached out to him to ask a few questions, which he so graciously answered.

Where do you glean inspiration to keep your assortments fresh and unique both in your retail locations and established showroom at the mart?
In truth we/I get inspiration from everywhere - social media, print mags, tv, word of mouth, and trade shows.  I question and listen to what our employees have to say about trends and I look to our manufacturers to set new trends.  And finally, my intuition speaks to me about what is trending up and down and I go with that most often.

With so many different facets of your business, what are some of your favorite tools to stay organized?
I'm old school by keeping things organized.  I have one of our assistant managers come into my office every couple of weeks and he files all of our orders, paperwork, etc.... And, I like to make piles of paperwork and catalogs, leads, etc.  Then, I go through and edit what I don't really need.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to a budding entrepreneur?
Owning your own business is all consuming.  You have to be willing to work, work, work.  I built this business on 14 hour work days, weeks without a day off, and making our business the single most important thing I do everyday.  Sometimes, I do take a day off and I do go on holiday...but because I'm more interested in producing, being away from work is not a priority.  I take great joy in working, and I love the people that I work with, It's fun for me.

What is your favorite travel destination, either for relaxation or creative insight?
London is my favorite place to go for both.  I go in September every year for Top Drawer and it's a great escape.

The Merchant, Read Shop, Archer Paper Goods, and Collier Candy Company all have a vintage feel.  Can you share a little about the direction for the Collier Department Store planned at the urban renewal project on Memorial Drive?
The department store will look and feel like nothing else we have done.  There will be no vintage, it will not have the same lines that our other stores have, it will have totally new offerings that we have not dabbled in the past.

Are there any future plans to create an online storefront?
We have just recently beefed up our online presence.  You can find our online store at shopthemerchant.com.  We are adding new product everyday!!

Read Shop is located at 4300 Paces Ferry Road SE Suite 125, Atlanta, GA 30339.  Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 7am - 6 pm and Sunday 8am - 5pm, Contact: 678.742.7853.  You can also visit a "mini" version of Read Shop at Krog Street Market near the front entrance.  Follow Read Shop on instagram here.

*The urban renewal project at the old Atlanta Dairies Cooperative at 777 Memorial Drive is a mix of shopping, dining, office space, apartments, music venue (from the owners of the Georgia Theatre and Variety Playhouse), as well as "The Yard," over an acre of outdoor space for events and to relax, set to open late 2017.  Collier's Department Store is anticipated to be 10,000 sf with "a focus on everyday conveniences like cosmetics and personal care, baby and kids, furniture, denim and workfare for men and women, home decor, confections, stationery, and books" (from What Now Atlanta).  We can't wait!

POTTING A FIDDLELEAF FIG IN A BASKET

I have to admit I've fallen in love with the fiddle-leaf fig just like nearly everyone else.  What first drew me to the plant I kept seeing popping up on blogs and in magazines wasn't entirely the plant itself, it was the idea of potting a plant or tree in a basket, which is how the fiddle-leaf fig is most often shown.  Something about the natural texture of the basket with the tall stem and the lush waxy leaves creates such a nice balance.  Below are some beautiful examples shown in inviting spaces...












I've had my fiddle-leaf fig for about a year now and it's doing quite well so I think it's about time to pop his pot in a basket and give him a permanent home!  I hunted around to find the perfect one - My fig is still quite small so the basket can't be too tall or the lower leaves won't clear the top (12-14" high will probably be perfect) and I prefer the clean look of a basket without handles, although not all of the great options I found meet this requirement.  Here are some of my favorites...

Small 14.5" diameter X 11.8" high $38


Bangla Storage Basket from Room & Board
12" high X 16" diameter $60


Large 14" high X 14" diameter $40


Medium 14" high X 13" diameter $100


3 great sizes perfect for a fiddle-leaf fig!  
Small 11" X 11" $48, Medium 12" X 12" $56, Large 14" X 14" $65

Medium 12" high X 14" diameter $30


Large 14" high X 14" diameter $45


Medium 11" high X 12" diameter $35


Large 12-13" high X 12-13" diameter $98


Small 14" high X 15" diameter $24.99


All of the baskets above must be used just as an outer decorative layer, the fiddle-leaf fig still must be potted in another pot.  However, Terrain has an all-in-one option that relieves worry about water damaging the basket and also about finding the perfect fit particularly for the opening of the basket so the pot isn't too noticeable tucked inside.

Small 13" high X 11" diameter $38


What's your favorite?

CHILLED CUCUMBER AND CORN SOUP WITH AVOCADO TOASTS


This cold soup from "Dinner" by Melissa Clark has to be the quickest and most refreshing meal for Summer days when I'd rather be relaxing out by the pool or enjoying a long walk - seriously 15 min prep time tops!  And, most of the ingredients were picked up at my local farmers market, which I shared in my last post.  Melissa recommends serving with avocado toasts, which I found to be a great compliment in flavor!  And, something I can now add to my arsenal to make for a quick snack.  Together, the two can be a meal.  Or, serve the soup alone in teacups or other small bowls as a first course.




Chilled Cucumber and Corn Soup
Makes: 2 to 4
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
1 lb cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
2 cups cold buttermilk (or use 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt plus 1/4 cup milk or water)
1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
2 scallions (white and green parts), trimmed
1/2 cup packed mixed soft fresh herbs (any combination of mint, parsley, dill, basil, and cilantro), plus more for serving
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar, plus more to taste
3/4 tsp sea salt, plus more if needed
kernels from 1 ear fresh corn
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions:
1) In the bowl of a blender or food processor, combine the cucumbers, buttermilk, garlic, scallions, fresh herbs, sherry vinegar, and salt.  Blend until smooth.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.
2) Distribute the soup among four bowls, and serve it garnished with the raw corn kernels, the extra mixed herbs, and drizzle of olive oil.  Serve the avocado toasts alongside.

Avocado Toasts
Ingredients:
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced
4 slices bread, toasted
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
1/2 lemon
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:
Smash the avocado slices on the toasted bread.  Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the avocado.  Squeeze the juice of the lemon half over the top, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper.  

FOOD CHALLENGE

My mom is an amazing cook (and baker as well).  As a young child, I remember having packed school lunches of homemade hummus on freshly baked bread and eating hearty bean soup or chili out of a bright yellow Tupperware container.  Every Summer, my two sisters and I would prepare the garden and my mom would bring us to the hardware store or nearby nursery to pick out small flowers and packets of vegetable seeds.  The hand-pump water spigot in the yard enabled us to pick crunchy beans straight from the garden, quickly wash under the water, and pop in our mouths before running off to play in the woods some more.  We took at least once weekly trips to the food co-op where we stocked up on binned flour and spices, dried pineapple, and a range of other natural foods.  When raspberries and strawberries were ripe, we traveled to local fields to handpick and fill ice cream pails with the sweet fruit which we ate by the handfuls or drizzled on top of shortcake.  I was taught the importance of knowing where (and who) our food comes from, the joy of seeing something sprouted from a seed made into a meal, and the simple fact that something healthy tastes more amazing than manufactured food any day.

Making time to cook more and learning about food in general was one of the most important things I included on the "bucket list" I shared in my last post.  Over the years, my mom's passion for food has continued and she has built upon her knowledge  in a truly inspiring way.  Just as her mother (a mother of 12) passed on a love for cooking and baking, I also want to learn from my mother.  So, when I was home for Christmas I asked my mom if she would give me a "food challenge" every month.  I figured once a month was a small enough goal to ensure we stuck to it and I would have time to incorporate it into my busy life (a busy life I know you all share as well).  I also knew (and desired) that this food challenge wasn't going to just be running to the store and quickly throwing something together.  Knowing my mom, she would urge me to learn the origins of the food I was cooking with and its health benefits as well so there would be some research and prep time involved.

I'll share some of the past "challenges" I completed in future posts, but for now I want to share June's Food Challenge:

"Establishing a personal connection with those who grow/raise our food causes us to more fully appreciate what is on our plate.  Because the products are grown in close proximity to home, the freshness factor and reduced environmental footprint is also a huge benefit.  Slowing down during a portion of our day to stroll through a market is therapeutic.  Often, musicians perform adding to the zen factor.  Dad likes farmers markets, too.  He scans the tents for home-baked cookies, brownies, caramel rolls...and chats with the farmers.  So, markets are a social outlet, as well.  Is it quite obvious what June's lesson is?  Yes, go to a farmers market to purchase something locally produced.  For bonus points, select something in-season like rhubarb, radishes, stinging nettle, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, lovage, chives...  Become familiar with what's in-season.  Being conscious of what is available at farmers markets during various times of the year is a natural way to learn.  It's really quite amazing to think about what has been provided to us at the most perfect time.  Stinging nettle (aka "sting weed") leaves, which are harvested in the Spring when they are more tender, are beneficial for Spring allergies.  As we move into Summer, fruits like watermelon and peaches are loaded with water when our bodies require hydration.  In the Autumn and approaching Winter, produce is heavier and warming like squash and pumpkin.  Living in a large city, you have access to several farmers markets.  You took us to an amazing one when we stopped to visit a few years back that I so enjoyed. So, there you have it.  Shop at one of your crazy good farmers markets and eat your purchases in thankfulness to the farmers who grew/raised what is on your plate."  - mom

I started the challenge by researching what fruits and vegetables are in-season in Georgia.  The Spruce has an alphabetical listing by state that proved to be very helpful.  I made a short list of fruits and vegetables, then looked through a few of my cookbooks for recipe options depending on what I might end up finding at the market.  I narrowed it down to a few that sounded refreshing for Summer - Sweet Corn Soup with Black Sesame Gomasio and Chives from "At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen" by Amy Chaplin, Chilled Red Pepper Soup with Sour Cream from "Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and Chilled Cucumber and Corn Soup from "Dinner" by Melissa Clark.

The next step was to choose a farmers market.  As my mom had mentioned, we have so many great options in Atlanta.  But, I decided upon the Ponce City Farmers Market, which is every Tuesday from 4-8pm in The Shed on the BeltLine just outside of Ponce City Market.  The BeltLine, if you have not been, is one of the most amazing things in Atlanta - a walking/biking trail that utilizes former railroad corridors that will eventually connect numerous neighborhoods in the city.  The portion of the trail completed on the Eastside of Atlanta starts basically at Piedmont Park and ends at Krog Street Market, with numerous restaurants and parks to stop at along the way.  Ponce City Market, where the farmers market is housed, is an amazing thing in itself.  Envisioned by the same developers as Chelsea Market in New York City, the historic Sears, Roebuck, & Co. building now has a central food hall, shopping, flats, and rooftop mini-golf, boardwalk games, and restaurant.  Clearly now you'll understand why I threw on some shorts and planned for a night walk along the BeltLine and some perusing in PCM after the farmers market, this was turning into a real adventure.


In chatting with a few of the vendors, I learned it was still a little early for sweet corn in Georgia and I didn't spot red peppers at any of the booths after a quick loop around.  So, I landed on the Chilled Cucumber and Corn Soup.  The recipe is so simple and with just a few ingredients involved I was able to pick up most of what I needed at the market - cucumbers (and a dozen eggs) from King of Crops.


Garlic and a mix of oregano, basil, and dill from Truly Living Well.


While sweet corn wasn't in season enough to make it the star of my meal, I was able to snatch up a small ear from Gilliam's Community Garden to sprinkle on top of the soup.


Check back tomorrow for the full recipe!

THE CYCLE OF GRACE

For years now, not just when a new year rolls around and it seems right to "set some resolutions." But, as something consistently on my mind is the feeling of finding more purpose or fulfillment (or whatever the right word might be) in this life. I can't say it's completely a feeling of yearning for increased happiness as I have been incredibly blessed. But, for a long time now there is a yearning to get more out of this life I have been given.

I didn't legitimately ponder what I might do to find what I felt was missing or what was maybe there, but not present in a large enough part of my daily life until near the end of last year. I opened up "notes" on my phone and started a random list of things that I had been wanting to do, but never devoted the time. A bucket list of sorts. Not things like "travel to New Zealand" although that is something I'd like to do. This list contained thoughts like "learn to play piano again, read more, do charitable work, wear lipstick, edit my home and closet, cook, be more patient."

The first note on the list, "get more out of each day - less sleep" pretty much summed up my initial thoughts on how I might find more fulfillment... If I do more, pack more into each day, surely I'll be fulfilled, right?

While I think it is important to not take for granted the precious time we have on this earth and I do wholeheartedly plan to incorporate many of things on my list (as well as others that come along the way) as they're easy experiences to take on here and there, nothing to unachievable. The path to what I've been trying to work towards this year was clearly drawn for me through the sermon at church on January 8th. Lead pastor, Kris McDaniel, at Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta was speaking on the cycle of grace. The cycle would have us go clock-wise. First on acceptance by incorporating scripture and prayer into our lives among other things. Then on sustenance through structure and practice (as well as good wine, fellowship - friends, rest). Then identity (or significance). And lastly, fruitfulness (or achievement).


Kris spoke to us about being flat worn out because we're doing it backwards and going counter clock-wise starting with achievement - We think we'll feel at peace by working hard and getting significant.


Achievement is a fruit, not a start. Such a simple, but eye opening way to look at how we approach our lives. So, I have a clear direction of where to start now... I will start at the proper beginning with acceptance.

To dig in further, read "The Cycle of Grace: Living in Sacred Balance" by Trevor Hudson.

GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH PATTERN MIXING

There really are no "rules to pattern mixing."  You can put together any print, or even clashing prints to create unexpected outfits.  But, for our purposes let's talk about everyday looks that are polished,  sophisticated, and appropriate even for the office!

The two simplest ways to pair prints together are either 1) combining a small scale print with a larger scale print or 2) combining a stripe, polka dot, gingham, or animal print with any other print.  Typically just two prints are great to combine - If you're wanting more layers for your look, add in neutral solids such as chambray*, white, black, army green, tan, etc. vs. adding in a third or fourth print.

Many suggest finding a common color (or colors) that tie the two prints together.  This is a good suggestion, but not absolutely necessary in my opinion.  More importantly, consider the intensity of your color palette - mix pastels with other lighter tones and brighter hues with other bold tones.  You can also use patterns with the neutrals I mentioned previously - white, black, army green, and tan.  These go with virtually any color whether they be pastel or bright.

Stripes, florals, and polka dots are the easiest patterns to combine so start here and continuing playing with other prints as you get more comfortable.   

 Jessakae
Jessakae

This Time Tomorrow
This Time Tomorrow

A Beautiful Mess
A Beautiful Mess

 Belle of the Ball
Belle of the Ball

Gingham is also a great neutral print to mix with others.  Notice the scale in the example below...the gingham is small and tight, which pairs nicely with the blown up floral.  


This gingham is a little larger in scale, but the flowers are also more bold so the two "are going to the same party" as some might say.

Clothed Much

These two prints do not have a common color, but the ditsy floral and pastel gingham have the same soft feel.  And notice the use of army green as a neutral - see it does go with everything!  I'll have a post coming up later on how amazing army green, and even camo, can be as staples in your wardrobe.

 The Atlantic Pacific

Both polka dots and animal prints are "neutral prints" that can pair with any other print, and also each other as this example shows!  It also shows how great prints can "match" without any common colors at all.

Style Me Grasie
Style Me Grasie

*The definition of a small scale print is "something that is drawn in miniature" - think small polka dots and ditsy florals.  The definition of a large scale print is "something that is grand or is big" - think large floral prints or loud geometric prints.

*Chambray (pronounced /SHamˌbrā/) is made in both prints and solids, but in current fashion is most often seen in the form of a blue button-up shirt that looks like lightweight denim.  See some examples of chambray here.  Think of chambray like your favorite pair of denim jeans...it goes with absolutely everything!  It's nice to have a few difference shades of chambray shirting on-hand as basics in your wardrobe.  Wear buttoned-up and tucked into a skirt, un-button and wear over a tank, or tie around your waist!

Wanting to up your ante?!  I've provided some great examples of more forward patten mixing that show intentionality in coordination and refrain from looking like they got dressed in the dark.   

 Ramblings with Rin


 My Other Closet is Couture

I'd love to see some photos of the looks you've put together with creative pattern mixing, maybe they'll even be posted in a future blog post so we can all be inspired!  Please email to hello@fortandfield.com with the email titled "I've got pattern mixing down pat!"  Please include your name and a link to your blog or instagram.  

Also please include any tips and tricks of your own in the comments below.

THE STORY OF OUR FOUNDING...

Growing up in a small town in Minnesota, I explored 40 acres of field and woods, played store with my two sisters, and sewed and crafted with my mom. The fort & field name grew out of this lifelong love of the home and garden... "fort" for home and "field" for garden. 

While the roots of fort & field started when I was just a child, the business I had always dreamed of was formed in 2004. 

During the holidays of that year in a small paper store, I saw a ball of traditional red and white striped bakers twine and fell in love. In the meantime while I started the exhaustive search to find the source, I measured and rolled red and white striped yarn I found in the seasonal section of the craft store into balls and it sold like hot cakes. The manufacturer of the twine I had seen at that paper store had sadly gone out of business, but I was later able to find a supplier to bakeries of 2 pound rolls in a rainbow of colors. A few years later, many companies joined the marketplace and the twine was used in everything from crafting to party planning!



While my intention had been to start a business with home and garden products, around this time the initial seeds of the do-it-yourself party planning movement had just begun to be planted and I was thoroughly inspired. There were only a handful of the blogs and websites we are lucky enough to have now so I spent hours pouring over vintage craft books at the library, the Martha Stewart crafts website, and anything else I stumbled upon. 

"Down the rabbit hole" as my early days on the internet were called, I frequently ended up on sites in England, Australia, and New Zealand. The English, I discovered, used small colorful striped paper bags to package small items purchased at gift and candy stores. It's hard to believe now, but here in the US at the time there were very few, if any, patterned paper bags available for sale. So, I started importing the bags from England. Because there was such a void in the marketplace for such a bag (and also because of the high shipping costs to import the bags), they originally sold for $80/100 bags! Year after year, as more options became available through both small shops and large retailers, the prices went down and there are currently a plethora of options available. 

Shortly after, I added colored and square paper doilies to the shop, a variation from the typical white round paper doily. In a long search one afternoon for new doily styles, I landed on a seafood restaurant supplier site. While visiting a new site, I often clicked through the other sections to see if I could spot a fantastic restaurant supply product that could translate to the party arena. On this afternoon, I saw a black and white pencil drawing of striped paper straws. I had never seen a paper straw, let alone a patterned straw in my life, but they certainly seemed interesting! So, I ordered a box of solid white and a box of red & white striped. I figured "what the heck, I'll try them out!"... and the rest is history! These original straws were still manufactured in the same process I believe as in the 50's and 60's, very lightweight and a waxy paper that was prone to unraveling. Just a few years later, striped straws have become (quite literally) a must-have staple for every party and wedding. The manufacturing process was perfected and every pattern and color of paper straw is now at arms reach!

I spent the next 13 years sourcing and bringing to the marketplace other unique and hard to find party and packaging supplies, selling directly to individuals and wholesale around the world. Below is the stack of boxes ready to be shipped out to some of my very first customers, my version of saving the first dollar earned in this digital world we live in. Such a wonderful and exciting time as the DIY craft and small business movement was starting to inspire so many!


I was honored to have fort & field featured in Real Simple Magazine, Family Circle Magazine, Southern Weddings Magazine, Eco Beautiful Weddings Magazine, and Wedding Style Guide. fort & field has continued to offer essentials for any event. And, in recent years expanded to include carefully curated pieces for home, garden, gifts, and fashion; the lifestyle company I envisioned at fort & field's inception so many years ago. Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me on this journey and in all that is yet to come!