Emily M. DeArdo


My First Stitch Fix Box--An Honest Review and Tips

fun, fashion, Stitch FixEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I've been curious about Stitch Fix for awhile, but my size prevented me from giving it a try. But since April I've lost 27 pounds, and I finally decided that the time was right to give this a whirl. If it was all terrible, well, at least I knew it wasn't for me, and I was out $20. But I was really intrigued by the idea of a stylist picking clothes for me. 

So what is Stitch Fix? It's a styling service. Here's how the site describes it: 

Stitch Fix is an online styling service that delivers a truly personalized shopping experience, just for you. Fill out your Style Profile and a personal stylist will hand pick pieces to fit your tastes, needs and budget—and mail them directly to your door. Each box contains five items of clothing, shoes and accessories for you to try on at home. Keep what you love, send the rest back in a prepaid USPS envelope. Shipping and returns are free—even for exchanges!

The Style Profile is really detailed--it's just not stuff like your weight and height. They want to know as much about you and your style as possible, from how much skin you like to show, to your proportions, and what kind of trends and styles you'd like to try. You can even set a price range for individual categories and ask them not to send certain things. For example, in my Style Profile, I ask for no bracelets, rings, or just about any type of shoe other than a flat or heel. 

There's also a place to add a link to your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest Style Board, so your stylist can get a feel for what you like. Finally, there's the "style note", where you can ask for specific items, talk about events that are coming up (I mentioned my brother's wedding in the spring), or generally discuss your style or anything you'd like to see in the box. 

So, after you fill out the Style Profile, you will pay $20 as a styling fee. This is taken off any items you decide to keep in your Fix, so I look at it as a down payment on whatever's in the box. Keep in mind that a real person will personally select all five items that come in your box for you, based on what you've told him/ her. 

When the box arrives, it's time for the fun--trying on pieces. This is where I think Stitch Fix has a leg up over normal shopping. Since the box is shipped to you, you have your entire wardrobe at your disposal when you get these pieces. You can see right away if the things that were sent work with items you already have! You don't have to stand in the dressing room and think, "Do I have anything that will go with this? How will this look with my favorite heels? Do I already have things this color?" To me, that was huge. I'll explain more in a second, when we get to the pictures. 

(A word about the photos: This was my first time doing this, so they're not great. I'm sorry. They will improve in future Stitch Fix posts, I promise!!)

So, here's what comes in your box: 


Five items are in every box. Along with that, you get a pre-paid USPS envelope (A BIG one) that you use to send back whatever you don't want. It's already labeled, all you have to do is put the clothes you don't want in and drop it in the mail box! You also get a note from your stylist, as well as style cards for each item in your Fix. The style cards show two styling ideas for each item. 


As you can see from my note, my stylist, Christine, went above and beyond! She looked at my Pinterest board, and read my notes, and took them seriously! Three of the items I received were directly based on what I asked for, and the other two are totally my style. 

So, here go the clothes: 

Item Number 1: Pixley Greenich Striped Knit Top $48 


I love a good Breton top, which is evident on my Pinterest page, so Christine knew what she was doing when she sent me this! It was heavy, almost sweater-like weight, so it's not just a t-shirt. It was very comfortable and soft, and I loved it--except....


Elbow patches that weren't elbow patches. These are more like forearm patches on me, because the sleeves were too long--I have short arms--so it didn't work the way it was supposed to work, and made the shirt look too big. I loved this item, except for those dang patches!

(Styled with my Talbots jeans--so many jeans are long on me, and I should've rolled the cuffs, but I was in a hurry to show gorgeous clothes to everyone! The earrings are Silpada studs.) 

Verdict: Returned


Item Number 2: 41 Hawthorn Nadia Cargo Rain Jacket $78



This was an item I specifically asked for, and I love it! I love the navy color and the whimsy of the polka dots. The coat also has a hood, and an adjustable waist, so you can cinch it however you want. 

A better view of the cinched waist. 

A better view of the cinched waist. 

The coat has a lovely soft liner and great pockets, so I knew this was a keeper. It's going to be one of my favorite pieces! 

(Styled with the jeans and my Garnet Hill flamenco knit skirt from about 12 years ago. When I find something I love, I wear it until it dies.) 

Verdict: Kept!


Item Number 3: Pixley Selena Faux Leather Detail Cardigan $64



I love a cardigan. I do. Especially a lovely, soft, v-neck cardigan. However....


Sadly, I am like the T.Rex in Meet The Robinsons: 

So as much as I loved this one, it was a no go. 

(Styled with Talbots jeans, J. Crew indigo t-shirt, Clarks patent leather flats)

Verdict: Returned

Item Number 4: Margaret M Kayla Skirt $64

This was another item I asked for specifically--a jersey skirt. I hate pencil skirts and like A-lines, full skirts, anything that's not a pencil. Christine saw that and sent this one accordingly!

I styled it two ways: 


Styled here with the same J. Crew indigo tee and black Clarks flats--the more casual look. 


This is with a J. Jill white camisole and a Banana Republic red v-neck cardigan (very lightweight so it's a great layering piece). 

Here's a detailed shot of the skirt: 


I adore this skirt. I love that I can interchange it with so many things--I even have a navy blue cashmere sweater from J. Crew that will look fabulous with this. I can wear it with flats, or I could wear it with tights and heels or my boots. This is a total winner!

Verdict: Kept!

Item Number 5: Pixley Millie Textured Knit Dress $58

This was the one item in my fix that I was sort of nervous about. I love dresses, but it can be hard for me to find one that looks good on me. However, I was so excited to see this navy blue and white piece! And it is, by far, the most popular item in this Fix, according to my Facebook and Instagram friends: 


The white part is sort of fuzzy--very soft, and the navy blue detail around the neck is mesh, but it works! This dress is going to be great for so many things--Easter, wedding rehearsal, bridal showers, etc. I'm so excited to wear it! 

I didn't take photos--bad blogger--but I tried this with my red cardigan from the previous item as well as a J. Crew navy blue cardigan I had, and both were winners. This dress could be styled up or down, depending. I could wear pearls with it, or a more casual necklace; I could wear my gold Sperries or my favorite patent leather black heels. I love a good mix and match piece. And this dress was so comfortable!

Verdict: Kept! 

I would've kept everything in my Fix, if not for those pesky elbow patches. If you keep all five items, you get 25% off your order! But those patches were my downfall, so those pieces went back. 

Once you decide what you're keeping, you go to "check out" on the Stitch Fix page/app. Be very specific about what you liked/didn't like about each piece, so your stylist can get the best feedback possible!

And now, for TIPS and FAQs. 

You do not have to receive a fix every month. You can receive one every 2-3 weeks, every month, every other month, quarterly...there's a bunch of ways to set it up! There is NO obligation to buy another box after your first one--it's completely up to you. I have heard that it can take two boxes to get you and your stylist to jell, so I do think it's probably worth getting two boxes, which I would've done even if I hadn't loved everything here. The fact that I loved everything just made it even easier! You can also adjust your Fix shipment schedule at any time. 

If you want to try Stitch Fix, I'd appreciate it if you'd use my referral link: I get a $25 credit for every Fix purchased via my link. However, my opinions in this post are totally my own. Stitch Fix didn't pay me to write this! 

Once you check out, your card will be charged for what you kept. The $20 styling fee will be credited to your purchases. There is also sales tax, which I forgot about--it was about $15 on this order. (Can't we all be like Pennsylvania and remove sales tax on clothes? Come on!)

If a piece in your fix isn't your size, you can ask for an exchange--sizes only, not colors. (At least not yet.) 

My Tips for Getting a Great Fix

1. Be VERY specific when filling out your Style Profile. I wrote things like "I hate pencil skirts, distressed/ripped items, dolman sleeves, and stilettos." I also dislike skinny jeans and ponchos, so I wrote that as well. I also noted that my brother is getting married in the spring, so I'd like to see spring dresses, and that I love flats and A-lines. 

In addition, you can write a note to your stylist after you schedule a fix. I wrote that I wanted a jersey skirt and a rain jacket, and behold! They appeared!  For my next Fix, I have noted that I'd like to try v-neck cardigans again, as well as pullover sweaters, and see things that I can wear to holiday gatherings. I'd also like to see a scarf or two, since I love to accessorize with them. 

2. Do a Pinterest board. Here is mine, and you can see, my stylist definitely looked at it! If you don't have Pinterest, it's worth it to get it just to do this board. If you type in "women's fashion" in the search bar, five million pins will come up. I love how Duchess Kate dresses, so she figures in a lot of my pins. I have a fairly classic, pretty style, and that's reflected in what I've pinned. Take the time to do it; it's fun, anyway. At least I thought so. Also put "Stitch Fix" in the title, so if the link is wonky, your stylist can still find it. 

3. Do not lie about your measurements. Come on, ladies. Put your real weight, your real bra size, your real height. Just be honest. :) And update it! If you've lost or gained weight, put that in there. Always give the most recent information so you can get your best fix. This also applies to the Pinterest board--keep it current. If you search "Stitch Fix" on Pinterest, you'll get lots of ideas and see items that Stitch Fix has, so your stylist can pull them for you (if it's available)! 

So, that's my first Stitch Fix box! The next one is arriving in mid-November, and I can't wait to have another fashion-y post with you. Sometimes we just need something fun, right? If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments!





Food Friday 6: Pork chops with apples and onions

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Continuing my apple theme here on Food Friday, here is one of my favorite pork chop recipes (besides this one). Apples and onions are a classic combination and they work well with the pork chops. Pork is really easy to overcook, so be sure you don't--keep an eye on them! Dry pork is really terrible. The recipe also calls for apple cider, so we're really getting the full apple effect here. (If you don't have cider, you can substitute water or apple juice.)


Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

from Dinner: A Love Story

Four pork chops, about 1 1/4 lbs., without bones, salted and peppered on both sides

olive oil, for the pan 

one apple, sliced

one large onion, sliced to the same width as the apple slices (You want these fairly thin)

two tbsp. mustard (dijon, whole grain, whole grain dijon....whatever)

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. apple cider, apple juice, or water

Heat a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat and add olive oil to the pan. When it's hot, add the pork chops and cook for four minutes on each side (they don't have to cook through). Remove the pork chops to a plate. Add the apples and onions to the skillet (adding more oil if needed), reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. 

Add the mustard, cider, and vinegar to the pan, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil for one minute. Add the pork chops back in, nestling them in among the apples and onions, and reduce to a simmer. Put the lid on the pan, and let cook for five more minutes. When time's up, remove the lid, and serve. If the sauce is still too thin, remove the pork chops and boil, uncovered, for a minute. 


Note: the original recipe called for the apple to be peeled, but I didn't peel it. The apple skin has a good amount of fiber in it, so not only is it better to eat the whole thing, but it reduced prep work! 



Yarn Along No. 63

books, knitting, yarn alongEmily DeArdoComment

Anddd we continue the knitting! Since I'm working on getting the ebook ready for publication (you can pre-order here!), I'm keeping the blogging to a minimum and devoting all my energies to editing, and knitting, because I have commissions!



So here we have a commission: this is the Lady Sibyl (after the youngest Crawley girl on Downton Abbey). The book was pretty good. Adriana T. can be hit or miss, and I'd wondered about this when it first came out. It's got a bunch of side plots/characters that the book doesn't need, but the core story is good. 


Food Friday 5: A recipe for apple season

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdoComment

I actually have two recipes for apple season, but I want to share the second with you next week. 

This is a great time to see if there are any U-pick orchards or farm stands near you, because apples and so many other vegetables and fruits are peaking right now. Every year my parents make at least one trip to the fruit farm near us to buy cider (even peach cider!), apples, and other produce and locally-made products. So while you can always get apples at the grocery, when they're local and fresh, they're even better!

There are so many types of apples, it's enough to make your head spin.  I like Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious, Jonathans, Galas, Fijis, and Honeycrisps. You can taste test to see what you like best--I think it's fun to try the different varieties! Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, and various antioxidants. So besides being delicious, there are plenty of health benefits in them. 

This year my bag of apples are BLANK HERE, and when I have the bag on my counter or in my fridge (and you can even freeze them for longer-term storage), I pull out my apple recipes. This first one is a very quick option for a filling breakfast the next morning and it takes less than five minutes to prep. Really. 

Overnight Apple Oatmeal

adapted from The Oh She Glows! Cookbook

2 apples

1 cup oats (I use steel-cut)

1 cup vanilla yogurt (you can use coconut or non-dairy yogurt if you want) 

Peel and core both apples. Grate one into a mixing bowl, and dice the other. Place the diced apple in the mixing bowl. Add the yogurt and oats and mix well. Place in the refrigerator over night (or for at least two hours). In the morning, you'll have a ready to eat breakfast, no cooking required! 

Yarn Along No. 62

books, knitting, yarn alongEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I'm SO GLAD that I'll be having a new, fun, just for me project starting soon! But in the meantime, here are two recent Barton Cottage Crafts finished products for your perusal. :) 

First up, the Fanny Price. I chose this color way (called "Surf's Up") because of Fanny's brother's enlistment in the Navy, as well as Fanny being from Portsmouth, a naval port in England. 


And here's the Brianna Randall, based on the Outlander character who wore a Day-Glo colored dress to the moon launch party in Drums of Autumn. I think she'd love these colors!


Right now I'm reading The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker, which I checked out of the library along with several other novel, so I'm looking forward to reading them!


(Speaking of reading: Don't forget that my ebook, Catholic 101, is available to pre-order!

Catholic 101 is available for PRE-ORDER!!!!!

Catholic 101, current projects, writingEmily DeArdoComment
Catholic 101 (1).jpg

Guys! I'm so excited to let you know that my eBook, Catholic 101, is finally available for pre-order on Gumroad! Yayyy! 

It works just like regular pre-orders; you'll be the first to get it when it's officially released next month. You will need to download the Gumroad app on your tablet or phone, which is super easy to do--you can just search for it in the app store--and voila, access to the book! It'll also be available on desktops, you just don't need an app for that. It works right off the Gumroad website. How easy is that, right? 

It's $9.50 for 80 pages of content, with several pieces that are new and exclusive only to the ebook--you won't find them on the blog or anywhere else. I wrote special pieces on the ten commandments, Mary, angels, Christmastide, Papal elections, and the Trinity--six new ebook exclusives! 

I've been working on this project for over a year now and I'm so excited to finally present it to you. I hope that you all love it! If you have any questions, please let me know! 

Welcome, October

behind the scenes, essays, current projects, writingEmily DeArdoComment
anne october.jpg

 A month ago I was in Duck, NC, sitting in Duck's Cottage, writing in my journal and thinking about what the month would hold. And now it's October, one of my favorite months of the year. It finally feels like fall here in Ohio, so all the windows are gloriously open, the nights actually feel chilly, and it's definitely candle-lighting season at my house. 

September was a month of great progress, both inner and outer, and I'll be writing about that over the next few days. My October Power Sheet tending list is huge. A lot of it is small things, but there's a lot I want to accomplish this month! One of the big things is finally finishing my ebook and getting it ready to sell! Yay! It's so close, guys, and I'm so excited to present it. 

Do you set monthly goals? What do you want to accomplish in October? 

And happy Feast Day, St. Therese!  Little bloggy throwback there. 

Have a great Sunday, everyone! 

Kneeling, Standing, Sitting....

essaysEmily DeArdo2 Comments
I'm going to hide under the covers until the NFL controversies are all over....

I'm going to hide under the covers until the NFL controversies are all over....

While I'm on a controversial topic jaunt, I might as well address the NFL thing.

Here are my questions: 

What are the players who are kneeling trying to accomplish?


Is this the best way to accomplish it?

My answers are, I'm not sure anymore, and two, no. 

I think all this started with Colin Kaepernick wanted to protest police brutality against unarmed black men, and support the Black Lives Matter movement. OK. He has a right, as an American citizen, to do that. I'm not generally a fan of "awareness" campaigns; for example, I think we're all aware of autism, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. by now. The general public does not need to be made aware that these things exist. But let's leave that for a second. 

Some people have the idea that free speech= "consequence free", "say what I want any time I want to say it" speech. Much the same way that your right to extend your arm ends where my nose begins, protesting something on company time, and/or while representing a team/country/group, can get you into trouble. 

NFL players are citizens, and they have the same rights as all citizens do. But when they wear the uniform, when they go out to play, they are representing their team. And most teams, and most leagues, and most businesses,  have rules about appropriate behavior when you are on "company time". 

Which leads me to point two: this is not a good way to bring attention to the matter. First off, most people watching don't care what the players' political causes are. Let's just be honest. When people go to a game or a concert or any entertainment event, they usually don't want to hear the political stylings of the actors/athletes/entertainers involved. A famous example is the Dixie Chicks, circa 2005. Most people just want to be entertained. If people wanted politics on Sunday afternoon, they'd be watching CNN or MSNBC or FoxNews, not The NFL on CBS

So, any attention brought to these causes, during these protests or whatever, is negative attention, especially when it is done in a way that is sort of classless. One can discuss a cause that is close to one's heart during a concert or something. I've attended concerts where the artist has spoken about her love of the environment and protecting it, or the artist's particular charity. That's one thing. To do it in a way that is not quite so full of comity is a bit...gauche. And also, it's not productive. It completely turns off people from what you're saying to how you're saying it. 

 When you are an athlete who decides to take a knee during the national anthem, which holds a fairly sacrosanct place in American public life, you are most likely going to get backlash. If you're going to protest during a game, could you choose any worse time to do it? I think not, just from a PR standpoint, or even a common sense standpoint. 

If racial injustice/ police brutality is something these players wish to draw attention to, that's great. Do it on your own time, guys. It's not like any of you lack for a bully pulpit, should you choose to take it. If you genuinely care about a cause, then start a foundation. Give press conferences. Make speeches. Visit the mayor, the governor, Congress. Do it in myriad other ways than refusing to stand and salute the flag of the country that, with all its issues, is also allowing you to make millions of dollars a year playing a game.  The fact that you can do that, that you are doing that in America is sort of amazing in and of itself. And, oh, those millions of dollars? Are sort of dependent on not irritating the people who come to watch you.  Ask the Dixie Chicks how well politicking from the stage helps you to sell records. 

There are many ways to make a positive contribution to our political life, and there are many ways to protest. This is not a productive one. No one wants to see the host of Face the Nation  on The NFL Today. No one tunes in to the pre-game show to hear what Bill or Terry or Boomer or Shannon have to say about politics. They want to hear them talk about defensive schemes and coaching changes. If you want political commentary, you're watching a news channel, not sports. 

The argument can be made that people should be disturbed, they should be shaken up, by these things going on. OK, again, fine. That's a legitimate point. But there is a time and there is a place and there are much better tactics that will serve to make your point, other than refusing to stand for the national anthem. Think about other, more constructive options. Because what's happening is, attention isn't brought to the cause. Attention is brought to you, making it look self-serving and egotistical. 

Because right now, we're not talking about any Big Issues. We're talking about which team had the most players kneel during the opening of a football game, played in the Wealthiest Country in the World, by guys who are getting paid millions to catch, or stop people from catching, a ball. 

(And if you want to make your point, please don't wear socks that have pigs dressed as cops, because that's just horrible bad taste, and keeps you from making your point and helping your cause. )

**Just a side note: I don't mind that the players get paid a lot of money. It's a basic principle of economics. They do something a lot of people can't do, and a lot of people will pay a lot of money to watch them do it. I'm just using it to illustrate the point that they have a lot of resources at their disposal that could be used to further any cause they care to champion in a more positive way. 

What We Think It Means

Catholicism, essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Most of us are probably familiar with the line from The Princess Bride : "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." 

There's a lot of that going on in our country today. 

Let's take a really common word: Sinner. What does this word mean? 

If you google the definition, this is what you get: 

a person who transgresses against divine law by committing an immoral act or acts.

If you're Christian, we could take this to mean--breaking the 10 commandments, for a start. But you can break that down into lots of other things. 

But the whole point of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to Earth and died to save sinners, which is everyone. No one is perfect. Every single person is a sinner. 

So when I see signs that say "sinners welcome" on church billboards, I wonder, where are the churches where sinners aren't welcome? Because that's the whole reason the churches exist

Now: that being said. There is a difference between a repentant sinner and a sinner who persists in sinning. When you go to confession, one of the key things in order to receive absolution is that you must be sorry for your sins, but you also must say that you're going to try to avoid it in the near future. So, if you go into the confessional, and you say you gossip, and you're really going to try to stop, but you don't mean it--you have no intention of stopping, you just want the "rubber stamp", so to speak, of forgiveness--then it's not true contrition. You have to have the contrition. 

But if you go in and say you're going to stop gossiping, and then you go out to dinner the next day with your friends and you gossip, and then your next thought is Oh dang it! , then you're trying to stop. You're not perfect. You haven't conquered that sin yet. But you are attempting to quit. That makes a difference. It's like a person who's trying to lose weight. Sometimes you gain some back, but the key is--are you still trying? If you are, then you're on the way toward success. If you're not, then....

Now, this is all wholly different than saying "we welcome sinners, and you can just keep right on sinning and that's just fine with us." NO. Nuh-uh. 

Every person, in every pew across the world, every weekend, is a sinner. But there's a difference between a church who says, "we love you, but this thing you're doing? It's not good. It's sinful. It needs to stop," and a church who says, "oh, we love you and your sin. You don't need to change. That's OK. Because it's not really sin anyway. It's just you!" 

What did Jesus say to the adulteress? Go and sin no more. Not, oh, it's OK lady, keep doing what you're doing. 

Sin is terrible. It had terrible consequences. We all sin. But that doesn't mean that we should keep doing it because it's our default, so to speak. We have to work against it, and try to become the people God created us to be. Everyone has a particular fault--or several--that they struggle with. I sure do. I'm sure you do. Everyone does. 

God applauds effort. The church applauds effort. Effort actually counts! But saying that a person's decisions are not sinful, that we just love them as they are--that's a lie. That's what GW used to call the soft bigotry of low expectations. 

Christians are required to love everyone. What's that line from The Incredibles? "The law requires that I answer no!" But as a wise Dominican once told me, "people don't have to like you. They have to love you." 

Love is hard  and love is tough. A parent that doesn't discipline his kids ends up with spoiled brats. A church that doesn't try to guide her people toward salvation, our highest possible God, and eternal life and happiness with God, isn't doing its job. The Church isn't loving you if it's not telling you the truth in charity. It's doing you an eternal disservice. 



Food Friday 4: An Outer Banks recipe

Food Fridays, food, recipesEmily DeArdoComment
From Our State magazine 

From Our State magazine 

This is one of my favorite recipes from The Outer Banks Cookbook. Whenever I feel the urge to get the beach, but can't, I usually make this. Shrimp are one of my favorite foods, and they're a good nutritional deal too; they protein-packed (one shrimp contains about 3 grams of protein, and 3 ounces of shrimp is almost equal to a 3 oz chicken breast for protein, having about 20 grams), and provide important nutrients like selenium, Vitamin B12, and phosphate. 

This is a very, very easy recipe--it requires only one pot and, aside from the shrimp and Old Bay, these are probably things you keep around your house. (Unless it's my house, in which case, I always have shrimp and Old Bay!) Even if you don't like beer, try this. Trust me. 

Shrimp 'n' Beer

from The Outer Banks Cookbook by Elizabeth Wiegand

2 pounds shrimp, unpeeled

one 12-ounce beer (not lite)

1 cup water

1 medium onion, sliced

1 lemon or lime, sliced

4 garlic cloves, slivered

1 bunch parsley, coarsley chopped (or about 1/4 cup dried)

1 tbsp salt

2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. whole black or mixed peppercorns

1 c. prepared cocktail sauce (your favorite brand)

Rinse shrimp and set aside to drain. 

In a large pot, add beer and all other ingredients. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and allow to bubble for two minutes, reduice heat if necessary to keep it from boiling over. 

Make sure the beer mixture is at a raucous boil, then add the shrimp. Stir often, and cook just until the mixture returns to a boil and the shrimp turn pin. Drain. 

Serve in a large bowl, with an extra bowl for discarded shrimp shells and a small bowl of cocktail sauce.


Sometimes Old Bay seasoning is labeled "Chesapeake Bay seasoning" or "Chesapeake Seafood Seasoning". You can usually find it in the seafood section of the grocery store, or at places like Williams-Sonoma in the spice section. 

(And congratulations to Abby, who won a copy of Reading People! Thanks to all who entered!) 

Yarn Along No. 61: Barton Cottage Crafts and Linen

yarn along, books, knittingEmily DeArdoComment


Barton Cottage Crafts is what I call my nascent scarf business. It's named after the Dashwood ladies' house in Sense and Sensibility, which is also what I call my own little house, and I think it has a nice ring to it, right? So this week I'm showing you what I'm working on there, as well as linen piece progress.


This is the Anne Shirley scarf, done in an autumnal colorway to channel Anne's love of October. 


This is the Lady Edith, done in blues and greens, and named after Downton Abbey's Lady Edith Crawley, who looked quiet lovely in these shades (even if she wasn't my favorite character. :-P) 


This one is in progress, and it's the Brianna Randall, named after the Outlander character. I chose to name this bright colorway after Brianna because of the Day-Glo colored dress she wears to the moon landing party in Drums of Autumn

All of these scarves have been commissioned, but I'm hoping eventually to knit up enough stock to have an Etsy shop for them. If you want one, just drop me a line and we can talk! 

For my own personal knitting, we've got the linen kerchiefs going on.  There's the supermoon one, in purple linen (Venice colorway): 


And the sans kerchief, in the Truffle colorway (these are both Quince and Co.'s sparrow yarn). 


The Supermoon has a textured pattern, so each row is different; you work in sets of seven rows at a time. The sans is just stockinette stitch, so it's a lot easier! It's also the project I brought on vacation because I thought it would be nice and relaxing to do, which it was, for the most part, but linen can be a pain when you're purling, especially in the beginning. Gah! 

When I have commissions, I work on my own pieces on the weekends only, usually Sundays, because I want people to get their pretty scarves as soon as possible! So I've been going back and forth between the two linen projects. No rush on those, especially on Supermoon, since it's a bit more complicated than anything I've done before. 



Postcard: Duck, North Carolina

travelEmily DeArdoComment

This is an update to a post I did a few years ago, which focused solely on Duck. Now, while my family has stayed in Duck every time we've gone to the Outer Banks, this year we ventured further afield and went to Corolla, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills, so I've included my recommendations for restaurants and shopping (when applicable) there as well. I hope you find this entry helpful if you're planning a trip to the Banks (which you should totally do). 

Getting There

You can fly into the Outer Banks--the Richmond, VA airport is fairly close--but I recommend driving, because, if you're spending a week at the beach, you're going to need a lot of stuff. For me, it's a drive that can be done in one very long day, but both times I've gone, the drive has been split into two days on the way there, and done in one on the way back. 


The house we stayed in was a Sun Realty NC rental. They have a HUGE variety of properties to fit every budget, are pet-friendly, and are fantastic to work with. (They also support the CF Foundation!) They have everything from tiny beach bungalows to multi-story houses with pool tables and in-ground pools. 



The food in the Outer Banks (Hereafter OBX) is fantastic, especially the seafood. Here are some of the places we've enjoyed eating: 

In Duck...

The Blue Point for a nice lunch or dinner. Located in the Waterfront Shops, you have a lovely view of the sound. 1240 Duck Road. 

Duck Pizza Company: It's a Sunday evening tradition--don't go grocery shopping, get Duck pizza. They deliver, or you can eat at their shop in the Scarborough Lane shops. 1171 Duck Road. 

Duck Donuts:  Incredibly delicious. Yes, they have locations around the U.S. now, but eating Duck Donuts in the OBX is something special.  1190 Duck Road (locations throughout the OBX, check their website for locations and hours--the one in Corolla is only open until 3 pm!)

Sooey's BBQ and Rib Shack: Get some Carolina cue in the Scarborough Faire shops (right next to the Scarborough Lane shops).  1177 Duck Road. 

Duck Deli:  A large menu, indoor/outdoor setting, and a casual vibe. They also offer take out and live music and entertainment on some evenings. 1223 Duck Road. 

Roadside Bar and Grill: My favorite new place--the shrimp and grits were absolutely perfect. There were so many delicious sounding things on the menu that I could've eaten here every day of our vacation and had something new each time! 1193 Duck Road

In Manteo...

Big Al's: We ate here on our way to see The Lost Colony (More on that below) when we visited in 2010. Fantastically fun retro diner. 716 S. Highway 64. 

In Corolla....

La Dolce Vita: An Italian restaurant that has upscale/casual vibes. If you can be both at one time, this place is. Beautiful decor and fixtures but still a place you can visit in your shorts. :) The food was delicious! There are familiar classics, like spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan, but also dishes like chicken saltimboca, which aren't seen as often--and is delicious. Located in the TimBuck II Shopping Village, 798 C Sunset Boulevard. 


In Kill Devil Hills...

Jolly Roger: OK, this place looks sort of weird from the outside, but inside, it's a great Italian restaurant, but with plenty of other dishes, like their fantastic crab cakes, to whet your appetite. And characters from The Little Mermaid are painted on the walls! 1836 North Virginia Dale Trail. 


Grocery Stores

Food Lion in Corolla is your big box grocery store; there's also a Harris Teeter. In Duck, you have two smaller choices: Tommy's, which is a gourmet market and sells a ton of fresh seafood, general household goods,  as well as other gourmet eats, is in the waterfront shoppes. Your other option is Wee Winks, which is less pricey and But Tommy's is our general pick for groceries. 



That's right guys--book stores. Two fantastic independent bookstores!!!! Both have really friendly staffs and are heaven for book browsers. 

Duck's Cottage: My true love. I go there almost every day when I'm in Duck. Not only books--coffee and pastries, too, that you can eat in the shop or on the adorable porch outside. Treats and water for pups, too! Small, but an incredibly diverse collection, and they'll order books for you. 1240 Duck Road. (In the Waterfront Shops) 

Island Bookstore: Scarborough Faire shops. Packed to the rafters with all sorts of books, including ones that are crazy hard to find. A great place to dig around and browse. The Corolla location is a bit bigger and the selection is just as good. (1130 Corolla Village Road--it's sort of hard to find, but worth it!) 



Duck is known as a shopper's paradise, and there's a lot of great places to check out. The Scarborough Lane and Scarborough Faire shops are a good place to go when it's raining since they're more covered; the Waterfront Shops overlook the sound. The Fudgery at the Scarborough Lane shops is to die for, and the Christmas Mouse shop there is really cute. I love just about every shop in the Waterfront Shops. There's also a Life is Good store! 



The Beaches are divine. If you rent from Sun, you'll have private access routes to the beaches. You can also rent beach items--chairs, noodles, floats, even bikes--from various companies around town. The beaches all have lifeguards and boards noting the weather conditions, water temperature, and other things. Be aware of riptides and how to get out of them before you go, though--every house that Sun rents has information sheets about these in the main room. 



The Lost Colony is one of America's first outdoor drama performances, and it's one of the good ones. The performance features really cool sets and music, and is located in an outdoor amphitheater that overlooks the water. Wear bug spray and bring a jacket, because it gets chilly! But it's a great performance that details what might have happened to the "lost colony" of Roanoke. 1409 National Park Drive, Manteo, NC. 


If you want to see where the Wright Brothers took their first flight, head to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. (Even though the first flight was in Kitty Hawk, the museum is located in Kill Devil Hills. Go figure.) 


The OBX is a great place to learn to surf, SUP (Stand up Paddleboard), body surf, kayak--all sorts of things are available. There's fishing off the research pier, kite flying, and a lot more. 

Getting around/miscellaneous

Everything in Duck is off the main road--route 12, or the "Duck Road." It's easy to get around via car or even bike--and to get to the other towns, you either go north or south. Corolla, the city north of Duck, is pretty remote, and in Carova, you need 4x4, or you aren't going anywhere. 

Saturdays are crazy, because that's the biggest day for people leaving and arriving in the Outer Banks. Be prepared for slow traffic on the bridges and once you're on the island. It gradually clears up as you get closer to Duck. To avoid the traffic when you're heading home, leave really early in the morning. We found that if we're across the bridge by 11, we can avoid the traffic, and we usually get Sunday-Sunday rentals--the traffic isn't quite as bad then as it is on Saturday. Also be sure to study the hurricane information sheets in your hotel/rental, as well as the rip tide info. 

Your rental company will tell you what you need to bring in terms of cooking/household gear. If you're like me and you like to cook, you might want to bring a decent knife and cutting board, since those can be hard to find in rental houses. 




I'm at ESTJ, how about you? (And Why It Matters) And a Giveaway!

booksEmily DeArdo4 Comments
Reading People Quote.png

If the headline of this post doesn't make any sense to you, that's OK. Hopefully it will shortly. 

If you're like me, you love personality quizzes. I remember taking them in Teen and Seventeen back in high school--"what fall makeup look is for you?" "What Drew Barrymore heroine are you?" (Yes, that was a real quiz). And I've always loved them. I've taken the "What Jane Austen Heroine?" quiz are you many times, bouncing between Marianne and Elinor until I've finally, consistently, landed on Elizabeth Bennet. As much as I originally wanted to be in Gryffindor, many Sorting Hat Quizzes have led me to Hufflepuff, where I have finally become a Proud Badger. 

But why do we do this? Is it just for fun--or do we take these quizzes to learn something about ourselves, to try to figure ourselves out? Anne Bogel thinks that it's the latter. In her new book Reading People, she walks the reader through several major personality typing systems, and doesn't just give us the information on them--she shows us how knowing ourselves, through the lenses of these systems, can help us live better lives. 

Anne discusses some of the main personality tests/divisions, starting with whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert (but you're never 100% one--everyone has qualities of both), or a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP--I'm not, at all). From there, she discusses other major personality systems and theories. While Anne writes about all of these in an accessible, conversational style, I thought I'd walk you through the systems and types she discusses and share insights I gained from reading: 

  • As I said above, I'm an ESTJ. I am an extrovert (E),which means I seek out stimulation, and I'm focused on the world around me, as opposed to being focused mostly inside my head. I, and all extroverts, actually think faster than introverts, because the neurological pathways in my brain are shorter. So if you hang around me long enough you'll probably hear me say, "No, we've moved on" or "keep up" (and this also relates to something else I discovered as I read Anne's book, but that we'll talk about in a second). Anne gives an example of a friend wanting to discuss an evening out after it's happened, and that is so me. I love to talk about movies, theater, etc. right after the event is over, and it probably explains why I'm so wired after a performance. I need to talk about it! It's a lot more than just preferring quite over noise, and I'm not a pure extrovert (because no one is a purse intro/extrovert)--in church, I find it excruciating, and highly irritating, when we have to "meet and greet" at the beginning of some Masses. I hate that stuff! 
  •  Highly Sensitive People. I am not a highly sensitive person. Sensitive, in this case, meaning sensitive to noises, emotions, tactile feelings, violence in television/movies/books, etc. (It's not that I don't have feelings!) One thing I found interesting here is that HSP are very affected by caffeine, which I am not; I can have a cup of coffee and then go right to bed. I don't mind loud noises, I can watch the news without freaking out about all the evil in the world (although I will get annoyed at the levels of stupidity I see), and I am definitely not very sensitive to pain. (I couldn't be, with the life I've had. I'd be a bawling, incoherent mess!)  
  • Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages: There are five love languages: Quality Time, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Service, and Physical Touch. You can take a quiz (link at the bottom oft he post) to determine how you rank. My top two are  Quality Time (9) and Gifts (6). If you're around me, you'll notice I get annoyed when people text or look at their phones if I'm trying to talk to them: because this violates the rule of Quality Time. Now, that doesn't mean that if we're in a room together, I will FREAK OUT if you check a score on your phone, but if I'm having one-on-one time with someone, I want the person to be engaged with us, or it's not Quality Time. It's just time in the same space together, and then, why aren't I reading? :-P This is also why, since my hearing loss, I prefer smaller gatherings of people to large, big ones. It's not that I don't love all my friends--I do! But I can't follow the conversation as easily when it's multiple people, so I just get all annoyed. 
    "Gifts" does not mean what you think it means. It doesn't mean that I want actual pricey gifts all the time or I don't believe you love me! Dad made me really happy when, during our last vacation, he brought me back some shells from the beach that he'd gathered during his walk. That was a fabulous gift. My mom sends me a real birthday card in the mail every year, which is big for me. I love receiving that card. (My sister, on the other hand, doesn't rank gifts very highly at all--which is hard for me, because I like to get people gifts for their birthdays!)  
  • Keirsey's Temperaments: This is very similar, and connected, to the Meyers-Briggs Personality type, but it's less specific. Keirsey is focused on what we say, and what we do: how we use words, and how we use tools, a tool being anything that "can be used to affect action." There are four types, in his system: Artist, Guardian, Idealist, Rational. I'm a Guardian, which is the largest segment of the population. I am "sensible and judicious...reliable, dependable, and consistent." I love my routines and habits, and when I don't have routines, I tend to get flustered and unproductive. Nearly half the US Presidents have been guardians. If you've seen Mary Poppins you might remember Mr. Banks' song, "The Life I Lead": "My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due/ at six-oh-two/ consistent is the life I lead!" 
  • Meyers-Briggs: I'm an ESTJ, which we'll talk about in a second. 
  • Clifton StrengthsFinder: You have to pay for this test, so I haven't taken it, but the link is at the bottom of the post, anyway. From Anne's descriptions, it sounds really interesting. The idea is that you are only good at certain things: focus on what you do best, and do things that play to your strengths. 
  • And finally, the enneagram, which Anne calls the "negative system": this is the one that will most likely show you the dark sides of your personality, the things you mess up. 

But the two sections I found the most useful were the ones on the Meyers-Briggs types and cognitive stacks. MIND CHANGING! 

I'm an ESTJ, which means I'm Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging. What does that mean in English?

It means that I like to be around people; that I take in information via observable facts; that my decision making is logical, analytical, consistent, impartial, and task-oriented; and that I prefer to have decisions settled, and I feel better once a decision is made. "Judging" in this case means I prefer to have decision making behind me. I don't take forever to make a decision. This was evident when I was considering whether or not to be listed for a lung transplant. Once I knew that I needed to have it (and that's a key point: once I had come to that conclusion myself) I knew that the logical thing was to start to work on getting listed. Decision made! I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of transplant, because to me, the pros and cons were easy: without it, I'd die. With it, I might not. Easy decision! 

I like things to be systemic, and I like them methodical. I do get a sense of joy from crossing things off my list.  

I'm Minerva McGonagall: she's an excellent example of an ESTJ. She didn't give Harry and Ron any leeway when they were late for her class on the first day of classes; she has high expectations for her students; but she also has a rarely-seen soft spot for them, like when she offered Harry a biscuit in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or when she tells Harry that it's good to see him before the Battle of Hogwarts. 

Now, the thing that was really mind changing for me was the idea of cognitive functions. This is different ways our minds are capable of working, and this really spoke to me. Because as an ESTJ, or a Guardian, one of the things I've always thought was wrong for me was the idea that we're not really warm people. I am quite warm--with people I know. I may be logical, but I'm not Spock or Sheldon Cooper. I have compassion, to an extent. I'm blunt, but only when I absolutely have to be. The rest of the time I'm like my namesake, Auntie Em: "For twenty-three years I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you. And now, being a good Christian woman, I can't say it!" (Or McGonagall's, "Oh, there are several things I would like to say!") 

 So am I not an ESTJ? 

Well, no, I am. But I have other functions too. Anne explains there are four levels in the cognitive stack: The dominant, the auxiliary, the tertiary, and the inferior. The dominant is the way you act, instinctively. The auxiliary can be the way you've learned to act, or requires conscious thought. It's the co-pilot. The tertiary and the inferior come into play, but they can be easily shadowed or not expressed. 

So for me, it works like this: 

Dominant I think in black and white: there are clearly defined boundaries, clearly defined "good" and "bad" in my world. I like to be in charge. My boundaries are solid. I don't mind confrontation (especially if it has to do with deeply held principles). And what I consider "confrontation" may not be what you consider "confrontation." 

A funny story to illustrate this: at one point, my siblings and I were having lunch with my co-workers. At the end of the lunch, one of my co-workers said to me, "Are you guys like that all the time?" Meaning, that...overwhelming, loud, and combative?  "Yes," I said. It's no coincidence that my little sister used to declare it was "[her] turn to talk" at the dinner table. The three of us have different personality types, but we are all strong personalities. We sound like we're yelling at each other, when really, we're just talking. 

Auxiliary I store data and information about people. I will know your birthday, your anniversary, your kids' names and quite possibly their birthdays, and your pets. (My mom is crazy good in this department. My brother has a crazy ability to remember what year movies came out.) I respect tradition and like things to be organized and structured, even just loosely. When I taught CCD classes the content of the lesson was less scripted than how the lesson would go. First, this. Then, that. (That doesn't mean that my environment  is organized--to the untrained eye, it's not. But I know where everything is. My books are highly, highly organized, as are my CDs and my DVDs). I can get nostalgic. 

Tertiary I call this my "web thinking" or "Wikipedia diving", or, more quickly, "RABBIT!" Remember "try to keep up"? This is that in action. I synthesize ideas, make quick connections, and will comment on it even if no one else sees it. This also has to do with my reading list. I read Gifts from the Sea on vacation, so now I'm reading the novel The Aviator's Wife, about Anne Lindberg, who wrote Gifts from the Sea. I'm reading Troubling A Star, about a trip to Antartica, so last night I was on wikipedia, looking up stuff about Antartica, and then searching for Antarctic cruises (not that I'd ever take one, but...). I can wikipedia dive for hours, clicking on links in articles that can lead me far away from what my original search term was. 

Inferior I actually use this one a lot--I could almost swap my auxiliar and inferior, sometimes. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, which is part of the Dominant, above. I'm creative, I feel things deeply, but I don't always express it--either because I think I can't, or I just don't feel comfortable doing so. It's like when Marianne says to Elinor, "Elinor, where is your heart?" Elinor certainly has a heart, but she's not Marianne. She doesn't feel she's a liberty to share it. 

All four of these work together to make my personality what it is. And the thing is--it's great that I know this, because I'm not just "being difficult" when I don't like the meet and greet before Mass, or when it drives me nuts that people say "let's get together on Saturday" and then it's Thursday and no plans have been made for Saturday. But there's the other side, too, because as Anne reminds us, the world isn't always as we want it. So there's coping--knowing that your spouse, or your best friend, also has her personality, and that they really aren't doing things just to annoy you. How can you reconcile your needs with the other person's needs, or actions? It's a fine line. 

Anne's book makes what can be a very dry, academic subject interesting and lively, and I'm sure I'll be diving back into it often, since I love this kind of stuff. I highly recommend it! If this sounds like your thing, you can pre-order here. And if you do it by September 19 (next Tuesday!), you get lots of free goodies! 

So now that I've shared all my personality things with you, it's your turn. What personality test is your favorite? What's your love language? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Share in the comments!

Every comment will be entered to WIN a copy of Reading People!  You can get an additional entry by subscribing to the blog. The contest will run for a week, and I'll announce the winner on September 20!




HSP test

The Five Love Languages

Keirsey Test

Clifton StrengthsFinder

Enneagram test (one of many you can find online) 


Duck: Days 5-7

travelEmily DeArdo2 Comments
Sunset on Thursday, August 31. 

Sunset on Thursday, August 31. 

Day Five 

We had a delicious lunch at The Roadside in Duck, which was a new restaurant for us, but one I must go back to, because they had the best shrimp and grits I've ever had in my life


The restaurant was really cute, with creative touches everywhere, like the following: 


After lunch, it was back to the house for more swimming, reading, and knitting. I brought a very simple project with me (just stockinette stitch) in Quince and Company's Sparrow linen yarn (Truffle colorway). I'll talk more about this in my next yarn along. 

My knitting/reading chair--the natural light, and that lamp, were perfect! 

My knitting/reading chair--the natural light, and that lamp, were perfect! 

And Thursday night was the kickoff to the college football season. It was strange watching football at the beach! But like good Ohioans, we settled in to watch Ohio State play Indiana. 


Friday morning, September 1. 

Friday morning, September 1. 

Day Six 

All week, Dad had promised me Duck Donuts on Friday--Friday treat! (As I took to calling it.) And lo, there were donuts, and they were magical. But we'll talk about those in a second. 

First, though, a note about me and vacation. Normally, when I'm on a long-ish vacation, there comes a point where I start thinking about the things at home--not in a bad, panicky way, but in a sense of, how can I take this vacation sort of atmosphere back home with me?  And then, of course, I do start thinking about projects, and blogging, and things to write, and what I'd like to do at home. So Friday morning I spent some time in Duck's Cottage, writing and thinking about these things, while mom and dad walked around and browsed the shops. 

(I also bought new books. But that's par for the course, in the Cottage. I also bought some of their coconut crunch coffee to take home!) 

So when I was done, Mom and Dad picked me up, and we headed for Duck Donuts. 


There are locations all over the country now, but this is the original shop. The way it works is this: they have one "type" of donut--there aren't Boston cream or strawberry jam filled or anything like that. It's a basic donut, made fresh. What makes it different is the topping options: you can glaze, top, and drizzle to create whatever type of donut you desire! And no matter what, a donut is $1.50--so whether it's plain or abundantly topped, one price. 

You fill out your order sheet, pay, and then pick up your fresh, made to order, heavenly scented donuts .

Here: chocolate dip with rainbow sprinkles, and a simple glaze. 

Here: chocolate dip with rainbow sprinkles, and a simple glaze. 

That was our lunch that day, and it was delicious. 

Dinner was in Corolla again that night, and it was sort of eh. Not my favorite, but it was passable. 

I couldn't believe Friday had come so quickly. That's the thing about vacations, I've noticed--the days are long but the week is short! (And life, in general, right?) I was getting up around 7:45 every day--loads earlier than usual--and going to bed around 9:30 or 10, so my days were longer, but they were nicely full. Or maybe it's just being at the beach? There's something about it that naturally allowed my days to include lots of different activities. 


Saturday, September 2

Saturday, September 2

Day Seven 

It was our last day in Duck. I'm always sad about this, but determined to enjoy the last day--you know the feeling, right? 

I had a visitor during my morning prayer/journal/reading devotional time: 


Our plan on Saturday was to pack, clean the house (in as much as we had to), watch the Pitt game, and then go to Mass in Kitty Hawk and dinner in Kill Devil Hills. If you're not familiar with the Outer Banks, Duck is one of the northern beaches, along with Carova, Corolla, and Southern Shores. Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk are in the middle of the Banks, and there's a lot of activity down there--they're both bigger towns than Duck. 

Mass was...well, less said about that particular parish, the better. Dinner was fun though. We went to the Jolly Roger in Kill Devil Hills, which is an Italian restaurant--but it's so much more than that. The menu was huge, the crab cakes deservedly award-winning, and the decor was fun: 


And our final stop in the OBX was the Duck Donuts nearby, to get breakfast for the next morning--and to get mom a donut, since she hadn't had one during our first trip. 


Sunday morning was gorgeous--we got up a little before 6, in time to catch a sunrise before we left the OBX and headed home. 



Duck: Days 3-4

travelEmily DeArdoComment
Tuesday morning

Tuesday morning

Tuesday morning was, as you can see, gray. And rainy. And windy. It was going to be a day for indoor things. So I read The Lake House, which I'd picked up at Duck's Cottage on the first day, and we went to The Blue Point for lunch. 

A very wet Duck horse 

A very wet Duck horse 

I like to go to the Blue Point for lunch at least once during a stay in Duck, and Tuesday was our day. We tried to walk along the Waterfront Shops for a bit, but it was just really, really rainy/windy, and sort of gross. So we headed back home, but did venture out again for dinner, this time to Corolla, the town north of Duck, for Italian food at La Dolce Vita. After dinner, we visited the Corolla Village, which is home to the Island Bookshop's Corolla location. And behold, another horse!


We had high hopes that Wednesday would be better, weather-wise, and we weren't disappointed!

Day Four

Wednesday morning

Wednesday morning

The weather was perfect--sunny and breezy, so we spent a lot of time at the beach. The red flags were still up, but you could stand at the edge and let the waves wash over you. Because the moon was heading to full, the tides got stronger every day we were there. 

I experimented with watercolors, read books and magazines, and generally had a great time basking in the ocean. 

Wednesday was our "day in", where we didn't go anywhere except to get ice cream at the Waterfront shops after dinner, and a 1/4 pound of fudge from Candy and Corks (also in the Waterfront shops). It's not a beach vacation until there's some fudge eaten, that's my rule!

It was a nice night, so I took advantage of it to take more horse photos: 



What I read on vacation (and a new book preview!)

booksEmily DeArdoComment

I always read a lot on vacation, especially beach vacations. This year was no exception! So for the bibliophiles among us, here's my reading round-up. Books I bought will be noted, and where I got them! 

Vacation book collage.jpg

The Three Year Swim Club: bought at Duck's Cottage. This book tells the story of Maui's sugar ditch kids--kids whose parents worked on the large sugar plantations and who learned to swim in, yes, ditches. Thanks to the work of an incredibly motivated teacher, these kids formed the Three Year Swim Club, with the goal of qualifying for the 1940 Olympics. A well-written, well-paced and engrossing story for anyone who likes nonfiction/sportswriting. 

Gift from the Sea: I read this years and years ago, and then forgot about it. When I was packing I thought it would make a good devotional, so I tossed it in. I was so right. If you haven't read this little book, please pick it up. It's easy to read, the chapters are incredibly relevant, and it's great devotional reading. So many ideas were sparked by reading Anne Lindberg's words. 

Pride and Prejudice: The more I read this, the more I realize what a true masterpiece it is. It is tightly plotted--nothing is wasted--the story moves so quickly, but the development is true. Jane knew what she was about when she wrote this one. 

Mediterranean Summer: This was one of the first books I bought during my first ever Duck's Cottage trip in 2008, and I love it. I read it twice on this trip! It tells the story of a traveling American chef's summer as the chef of a private Italian yacht. There's food stories, storms at sea, a crazy boat party or two, and the difference between pate and foie gras is explained. (Or not.) And there are recipes! 

The Whole World Over: This and I See You Everywhere are a my favorite Julia Glass novels. This one was one of the first 9/11 novels, but it doesn't feel contrived. It's just great writing, with characters that you think about long after the book is over. 

The Lake House: The second book I bought at Duck's Cottage. This is Kate Morton's newest, fresh in paperback. If you've read her others (like The Forgotten Garden) you know there's usually a strong mystery component. Well, this book kicks it up by actually making it a detective story--as in, detectives are involved! I was completely engrossed, and this is up there with Garden in my estimation. A great vacation read. 

The Cloister WalkOne of my old Kathleen Norrises. Good for devotional reading and quick dipping in and out--the chapters are various essays, some one page, some multiple, but almost all of them are good reading. 

If The Creek Don't Rise: Third from Duck's Cottage. This was....Ok. It had potential that wasn't reached. It's supposed to be the story of Sadie Blue, an Appalachia girl who is stuck in an abusive marriage who wants to learn to read and befriends various people in her community. But it ends up being almost a compilation of short stories and character sketches that add up to few concrete endings and lots of loose ends. Meh. 

The Beach House Cookbook: I picked this up at the Island Bookstore in Corolla. I love a good cookbook, and this one is all about beachy recipes--fun, beach house inspired, but simple, from author Mary Kay Andrews. I'm trying out several of the recipes this week! 

Faithful: Also from the Island Bookstore, except the Duck location. I've been wanting to read this new Alice Hoffman novel for awhile, but was determined to wait for the paperback. Glad I did, but also sad because this was a good book! It's about Shelby, a girl who was in a car accident with her best friend--Shelby survives without a scratch, but her friend is in a coma for the rest of her life. The novel deals with grief, creating a different life for yourself than you imagined, and family relationships. It's a winner. 

War and Peace: Also Island Bookstore, Duck. I know, I know. Beach read? Hardly! But I've been wanting to give it another go in a different translation, and this one seems palatable. 

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Louisa Adams: Duck's Cottage. I've been wanting to know more about our first ladies, and this biography jumped out at me. Started this one yesterday.

Eat Pretty Every Day: 365 tips for better health. Sounds good to me! In Duck's Cottage there was a display that said "September is the new January", and this book was one of the displayed titles. So, go display creator, you got me to buy it. :) 

And now....a new book preview!

reading people cover.png

I'm on the launch team for Anne Bogel's (Modern Mrs. Darcy) new book, Reading People. It's right up my alley--all about personality types, tools for figuring out your personality type, and how to live with others, based on their personality type. If you liked Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before, I think you'll really like this book. I'll be talking more about it next week, so stay tuned! If this sounds like something you'd enjoy, pre-order and get bonus stuff!  Yay free!  You have to pre-order before September 19th, so move it! 

What good books have you read lately? 




Duck: Days 1-2

travelEmily DeArdoComment

Since we were in Duck a week, I thought I'd break my journal entries up into a few days so that we can really get the goodness. 

We arrived in Duck around 10:30ish, which was part of the plan. We wanted to be over the Wright Brothers Bridge before 11, because that's when we'd heard traffic got nuts. We succeeded, drove to our rental office, and arranged to be called when our house was ready. 

In the meantime, we headed to the Waterfront Shops, where I indulged in visiting Duck's Cottage (AKA, Favorite Place on Earth), bought books, and had coffee while my parents walked around. 

We had lunch at Duck Deli across the street, which was good, and plotted out our grocery shopping list. Then it was back to the Cottage porch to wait for the phone call. I had a great time sketching and journaling from my perch with my Mucky Duck. 

We got called a little after one--our house was ready! Yay! After provisioning at Wee Winks Market (and having an issue with the cashier, but that's another story), we headed to Barrier Island Station, and our condo for the week. 


Our house is the lower deck and the floor beneath; my room is the bay window on the ground floor. 

The house had two levels, with two bedrooms, the laundry room, and a full bath on the ground floor, and the master suite, living room, kitchen, dining room, and porch on the second. So there was a lot of stair climbing involved for me, since my room was on the first floor! But hey, who cares? 

Dad and I were hot from the drive, and it was warm in Duck, so we quickly jumped in the pool and went swimming before dinner. 

We had pizza from Duck Pizza for dinner and we were all ready to go to bed sort of early, because we'd left Williamsburg rather early in the morning (before 8 A.M). 

When I'm at the beach, I always seem to go to bed earlier and get up earlier; I think it has to do with the sun setting and rising earlier than it does in Ohio (about a half hour earlier). And all that fresh air can make you tired!

Day two 

View from our deck of the ocean, Monday morning 

View from our deck of the ocean, Monday morning 

The winds were absolutely nuts, so we couldn't go swimming  in the ocean--in fact, the red flag that screamed NO SWIMMING was up almost all week. If you go into the water when that flag is up, you can be ticketed. We did go swimming in the pool that morning, though. 

We had lunch at the house and then went to the Scarborough Faire and Lane shops before eating dinner at Sooey's Barbecue, a place we'd eaten at before and enjoyed. At Scarborough Faire, I went to the Island Bookshop's Duck location. 

Well, hello, horse and teddy!

Well, hello, horse and teddy!

In Duck, the Winged Horses are a Thing--it's a public art installation celebrating the first flight's centenary in 2003. The horses are everywhere: along road ways, in shopping centers, and in stores. You'll see them a lot in my posts! This one is obviously well-housed in the Island Bookshop! (The horses are all throughout the banks, not just in Duck.) 

We grabbed a cup of coffee at Treehouse Coffee, and then headed to the Scarborough Lane shops, where I spent most of my time in the Spice and Tea Exchange, where I bought some new tea and a seasonings blend. When I was paying for my purchases I looked up--and saw it was pouring. 

"Welcome to the Outer Banks," the lady behind the counter said. Pop-up storms are not at all uncommon. 

We ran to Sooey's for dinner and had some excellent barbecue before heading back to our rental (named Seaside Serenity). By this point, it was crazy windy--a storm was clearly blowing in, quite literally! 



Yarn Along No. 60: Yarn in Colonial Williamsburg

yarn along, history, knittingEmily DeArdo1 Comment
Freshly dyed yarn in the weaver's shop at Colonial Williamsburg

Freshly dyed yarn in the weaver's shop at Colonial Williamsburg

This is an extra special yarn along, because today we're not talking about knitting, we're talking all about yarn! We're taking a field trip to CW and the Weaver's! 

A few months before I visited CW, I heard that it was possible to buy yarn that was completely handmade by the artisans at Williamsburg, using 18th century methods. Of course, this piqued my interest! I knew that I was going to want some of this special yarn. 

The yarn at CW starts with the wool, of course. The wool comes from their herd of Leicester Longwool sheep. 


Leicester Longwools were developed in the mid-18th century by Robert Bakewell of Leicester, England. The breed became popular throughout the British empire; George Washington purchased Leicester Longwools for his flock at Mount Vernon. 

According to the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeder's Association, "The fleece of the Leicester Longwool is prized by hand spinners and crafters for its curl, soft handle, and lustrous beauty... The wool dyes exceptionally well, maintaining the purity of color; the natural luster still shines through. This premium wool is very versatile, working well for combing for worsted products, carding for woolen products, and felting projects. " 

The sheep are very rare these days, and CW plays a big role in keeping the breed alive. 

So, we have this gorgeous wool, which looks like this, in its raw state: 

Check out that curl! 

Check out that curl! 

The wool is incredibly soft, even in this "raw" state, and really pretty. At least, these pieces are!

The sheep shearing is done by other people. Before it reaches the weavers, the wool also has to be skirted (taking out pieces that are too short or too matted to use), and scoured (cleaned). 

After the wool is clean and dry, it's ready to card. 


Here you can see a few things--raw wool, that needs picked over (in the crock), wool that's been cleaned, but needs carded (back basket), carded wool that's being spun (on the spinning wheel), and finished thread/yarn on a bobbin (in the yellow basket, foreground). The bobbin will go into a shuttle, to be used in weaving, as seen below. 

The weaver is holding the shuttle in her left hand; here, she's weaving linen cloth. 

The weaver is holding the shuttle in her left hand; here, she's weaving linen cloth. 

After the wool is spun, either with a drop spindle or on a spinning wheel, and the appropriate thickness reached (I'm simplifying, massively, for our purposes), it's time to dye!

At CW, there's an entire book about how to dye with their natural dyes. Since the colors are all natural, it's really hard to reproduce exactly the same colors. In fact, it's probably impossible. So when I went to buy my yarn, I chose two skeins that were close--but they're not identical. 

You can see, even dyed in the same vat, they're different--but close enough! The differences really drive home the hand-dyed nature of it, for me. 

You can see, even dyed in the same vat, they're different--but close enough! The differences really drive home the hand-dyed nature of it, for me. 

Here's what the CW website says about 18th century dyeing: 

Nature provided the colors used in dyeing textiles in the 18th century. Today, Colonial Williamsburg’s weavers use the same 18th-century recipes for dyes – all safe enough to drink. An insect called the cochineal from South America makes the color red. 70,000 cochineal are needed to make a pound of red dye that can turn everything from leather to makeup and frosting red – including paint and textiles. Brown comes from walnuts, blue from indigo from South Carolina, Spain, or South America. Purple comes from the Spanish log wood tree, and turmeric from India gives yellow its hue. Orange comes from the root of the madder plant.
Wool is the easiest fabric to dye; cotton is more difficult, and linen is the most difficult of all – the dye tends to sit on the linen, in a sense, not in it. Dyeing was often done on plantations, using different colors of clothing to identify slaves from the same plantation – colorful and expressive folk art came from this practice as slaves used the rich colors to express individuality. (For the rest of the article, click here.) 

As you can see, the weavers at CW get incredible colors from their natural dyes! They were really beautiful, even more so in person. 

I hope this post gives you a taste at how difficult it is to make yarn, especially if you're doing it completely by hand!  I'm so glad I was able to purchase some of it! 

If you go to CW and are looking for yarn, I found it for sale in the Prentis store and at the Milliner's. Be warned: It's going to cost you more than the $10 skein at Jo-Ann's! But I hope after reading this you'll see why, and appreciate the artistry that goes into handcrafting yarn. 

Some articles, if you want more: 

"Everything you've been dyeing to know about 18th century weaving", Making History Now

"Weaver", history.org

"Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing" Colonial Williamsburg Journal

Hamrick, Max. Organic Fiber Dyeing: The Colonial Williamsburg Method. AQS Publishing. 

Colonial Williamsburg

travelEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I've been to Williamsburg before, but it had been a long time--five, six years or so?--and I was excited to come back, because I adore colonial history, but also because there were some new things I wanted to see, like Liberty the briard (their new mascot), and the Market House. And the last time I visited CW, I wasn't a knitter, so I didn't care about the weaver's shop. This time, I wanted to get my hands on some completely CW produced yarn, and I was very interested in visiting the weaver and seeing how colonial yarn and fabric were made. But that is a completely separate post--tomorrow's yarn along. So those of you who love knitting and textiles can geek out with me, and those of you who don't can move along. 

This is an overview post--I'll be doing a post card with specifics--addresses, hours, websites, etc.--later this week. 

We got to Williamsburg on Friday evening, and after checking in at our hotel, we went to Merchant's Square for dinner. It was Freshman move in day for William and Mary, which abuts CW, so there were lots of Bright Young Things and their parents swarming around. But that didn't stop me from getting a Divine Sandwich. 

Virginia Ham and cheddar on French bread, with house dressing. Because you have to have the house dressing at the Cheese Shop. 

Virginia Ham and cheddar on French bread, with house dressing. Because you have to have the house dressing at the Cheese Shop. 

We walked around for a bit and went in and out of the shops before going back to our hotel. The Historic Area opens around 10:00, and I wanted to be there pretty early since it was going to be a warm day (low to mid 80s). I also was going to bring my big sketchbook and I wanted to get in some sketching!

Saturday was a great day. I had three goals for the day: Sketch, meet Liberty, and buy some CW made yarn. The yarn they sell is completely made at CW--the wool is from their Leicester Longwool sheep, and it's made completely on site. Again, more about this tomorrow. I achieved all my goals!

Recently dyed yarn in the weaver's shop 

Recently dyed yarn in the weaver's shop 

Liberty is a briard, a breed of dog probably brought to America by Thomas Jefferson from France. You can read more about Liberty here

I am not really a dog person, but she's so cute! 

There are actually two Liberties--a brother and sister pair of Briards that take turns appearing. These pictures don't really capture it, but she's a pretty big dog! Her handler also said that the breed changes color as they age, which I thought was really interesting. The colors of her fur now are not the colors it'll be as she grows/ages. 

Speaking of animals, I was also really excited to see the Leicester Longwool sheep, which are part of CW's Rare Breeds program. They are super cute! (More on them n the yarn post.) 

Sheep with their herder in front of the Randolph House. 

Sheep with their herder in front of the Randolph House. 


I had a lot of fun sketching the historic district. When you sketch outside, people comment, which I don't mind. It's sort of fun. I'm adding some more notes and collage bits to the pages, so they're not done yet, but when they are, I'll share them here. 

I always love going into the milliner's shop, which sold clothing, accessories, and toiletries, as well as sewing and knitting notions. CW actually has a milliner and mantua (dress) making shop, as well as a separate milliner shop, both based on historic records from the colonial era. In the former, you can see pieces being made and even try on colonial stays. The work the milliners do is exquisite. 

You can buy complete outfits from them, or, if that's too rich (and the outfits cost hundreds of dollars, which makes sense, given the work involved!), there are muffs, mitts (fingerless gloves), hats, handkerchiefs, and other smaller items. 

For lunch, we ate at The King's Arms, one of CW's four taverns. 


I had peanut soup and Virginia ham with sweet potatoes and a tiny biscuit. Delicious. 


On top of the peanut soup are "sippets"--basically day-old pieces of bread that have been toasted, like croutons. Sippets are technically made from Sally Lunn bread, a popular Colonial recipe. Peanut soup is divine. I'll be posting the recipe soon! 

After lunch we spent a few more hours in the historic area before we had to leave to go to Mass at a nearby parish. But we were back for dinner at Chowning's. 

We shared this "crock of cheese". And it was delicious. 

We shared this "crock of cheese". And it was delicious. 

We were seated on the second floor which gave a neat ambiance to the meal. By the end of the meal we were the only ones there! (There were more people below in the two dining rooms on the first floor.) 


CW was a lovely start to our vacation, and a nice break in the 10 hour drive from Columbus to Duck. We got to relax, sleep in nice beds, and have a good time. 

On Sunday we left around 7:30 and headed to the Outer Banks!