Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lavender Hill Farm

Over the weekend, Christopher and I woke up bright & early and headed west for one of our Summertime Adventures stops for 2012: U-pick lavender at Lavender Hill Farm. The farm, located in Niles, Michigan, is situated on 30 acres of land with rolling hills of lavender, several bee boxes for honey harvesting, a wildflower preserve, and even lambs.

To be honest, this was our most questionable adventure yet. When we pulled up to the farm, we thought about turning around because it was literally someone's backyard. We couldn't find any obvious parking spots or noticeable "U-PICK" signs like most U-pick farms, and from what we could see, the tufts of lavender seemed so sparse... hardly a 30 acre farm's worth. But what kind of adventure would it be if we gave up? We walked into the small basement shop (which smelled heavenly, by the way) where we were greeted and handed a twist tie and a pair of garden shears to pick to our hearts content. 

Once we got into the field, I was happy to see that a quick walk up the hillside led to was a much larger area filled with lavender. My favorite variety was a deep purple English lavender with teeny little flowers. This past Saturday was the first week of the U-pick season, so half of the field wasn't even in bloom yet, which was a little disappointing. If you ever decide to take a visit, I would recommend going in July, when the long-stemmed and hybrid lavenders are available for picking.

There were honey bees and bumble bees everywhere. I've never been stung before, so I was a little afraid they would finally get me, but for the most part they minded their own business and I ended the day bee sting free. It was actually incredibly peaceful to hear the gentle buzz of the bees and the wind rustling through the plants. The bees helped us find the best lavender, too -- where they harvested nectar, the lavender blooms were abundant and fragrant. Thanks, bees. 

One thing we learned from this trip is that Christopher hates the smell of lavender, and like any other manly man, he doesn't really care about flowers in general. This little adventure was definitely more enjoyable for me. He was a good sport, though, holding my bouquet as needed and taking photos to document our adventure.

We paid $5 for one large bunch of lavender, which ended up filling a large milk glass vase and a mason jar at home. Not too shabby. I also bought a packet of dried culinary lavender that I'm excited to experiment with in the kitchen. The trip was two hours round trip, and we only spent about an hour and a half picking the lavender, so I don't know if we will be repeating this particular adventure. Either way, it was definitely a unique (and fragrant) experience and I'm glad we went! (we also made a pitstop at Byler's Market... their fresh donuts make any road trip worthwhile!)

Chris and I have been working on a new list of adventures for this summer, combining the activities we missed last summer and adding in a few new ones -- let me know if you have any ideas for the Indiana/Michigan area!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

This weekend Christopher and I saw Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and loved it. It was funny, dark and poignant. The last ten minutes were so sweet, I left the theater with red-rimmed eyes, the sniffles and a greater appreciation for my husband and life in general. I highly recommended it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer!

Summer is officially here! It seems like summertime is all I ever write about lately, but I just can't help it. Everything is warm and moving and so full of life. The sunshine, the green grass, the breeze off the lake... summer is my favorite season by far.

I have a little tradition once summer hits that's honestly a bit of a guilty pleasure: anytime I get in my car, I roll the windows down and listen to Alabama at full blast. Their greatest hits CD is in heavy rotation from June to September and Christopher hates it. I have a few favorite songs that I turn to time and again, but my all-time favorite is Dixieland Delight. The tempo change at the end gets me every time.

Did you enjoy that twangy guitar? How about the cheesy, poor quality 1980s footage? The southern sweethearts? And that awkward makeout scene at the end? Fantastic.

Let me tell you a little something about my roots... I was born in Oregon, grew up in Alabama, finished growing in Indiana, went to college in Illinois, and now reside in Michigan. Even though I've spent majority of my life in the northern Midwest, my southern roots run pretty deep, y'all. Boiled peanuts and sweet potato pie. Bright pink azalea bushes and hunting for crawfish in the creek. All you can eat catfish and fried okra.

When I listen to Alabama, I'm reminded of all my favorite southern things and family road trips in our blue Aerostar minivan, where the Alabama tape was played on repeat along with Billy Joel and Raffi. To be honest, aside from a few hits from the 90s that remind me of my grandpa (and Taylor Swift, who am I kidding), I'm not much of a country music fan, but I think I will always love Alabama. So what if I'm the only 20-something that feels this way (aside from my brothers, that is.)

Today also happens to be the longest day of the year. Are you doing anything special to celebrate? Or am I the only one who celebrates the most random things like they're holidays? Chris and I will be spending our evening in his sister's pool -- and with this week's 90 degree highs, there's not a better day for it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summertime Is...

Instagrammed view of Cedar Point while on the Sky Ride

Summertime is about sunshine, swimming and sandals. Summertime is about staying up late on a school work night with your best friend and watching the fireflies flicker across the lake. Summertime is about ice cream and hot dogs and corn on the cob. It's about laughter, freckles and rosy sunburned skin.

Summertime is about skipping out on work on a Friday for a spontaneous trip to Cedar Point, waiting an extra 20 minutes to sit in the front seat of the Millennium Force, enjoying the breeze off Lake Eerie, screaming your head off on Top Thrills Dragster and snapping photos on the Raptor.

Summertime doesn't even officially begin until June 20th but who's counting?

Summertime is pure happiness.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tugboat Printshop

Today I'm feeling particularly inspired by the incredible works of Tugboat Printshop. If you haven't heard of them, Tugboat is a collaborative husband and wife printmaking duo based out of Pittsburgh. They make seriously beautiful woodcut prints:

"Forest" -- I would love to have this on my wall

"America the Beautiful" -- the detail in this piece is incredible

Last summer at Renegade Chicago, I was able to meet Valerie at the Tugboat booth. It was really awesome and equally awkward. I had slight "WHAAA you're one of my favorite artists!!!" fever.

     ME: Wow, hi. Hi. I love you your work. I love your work.
     TB: Oh, thank you...
     ME: I was in the college, and I took a class. Where I made the prints.
     TB: ....Printmaking?
     ME: Yes! That's what it's called, printmaking. One and two.
     TB: That's nice...
     ME: I was inspire by you. Your work... amaze me. So good. So good.

I'm not even kidding, I sounded like an idiot. And I knew it, but I just couldn't stop the grammatically incorrect fragments from tumbling out of my mouth. I quickly had Sharon snap a photo of me next to "America the Beautiful" and ran away in shame.

It is what it is.

I'm pretty sure I'm blushing here...

 An in-progress detail shot of "Garden"

Out of all the creative processes, I probably have the most respect for printmaking, especially wood block printing. It's tedious and time consuming work, but the results are amazing. All of Tugboat's prints are filled with wonderful detail and each print tells a story. I could stare at them for hours.

For more on Tugboat Printshop, check out their website, blog, or visit their Etsy shop.
All images via Tugboat Printshop

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summery New York Prints


Totally design-crushing on these New York themed prints from husband and wife design team Eight Hour Day. Lately I've been really inspired by mid-century modern design, and the limited color palette is so summery and fun.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why I Blog

Friends, I've been reflecting a lot lately about this little old blog of mine. I'm in the process of redesigning and sprucing it up a bit, which has led me to thinking about the content I share, the words I write, and why I even blog at all.

I originally started gathered heart "as my own online collection of art, design, vintage findings, crafting and DIY, personal musings, beautiful things and inspiring bits." For the most part, I think I've accomplished just that and I love it. GH has become a place where all the little pieces of my heart are gathered into one giant collection. Not only does it serve as a personal account of my life, but it also serves as a log of inspiration that I can access anytime. I hope others are inspired when they visit, too. I think writing GH has also pushed me to live a more creative life at home, in the kitchen, with friends, at work. I've made new friends, strengthen the friendships I already have and have connected with people hundreds of miles away. The blogging community is pretty amazing.

The one thing I get caught up on is the fact that, sometimes, I feel like the things I post on gathered heart are a little superficial. A beautiful illustration, a tasty looking treat, a pretty dress. It can be so easy to get caught up in an "I want this, I want that" mentality when I share things here. My posting lately has been somewhat sparse because I feel guilty writing about a lovely sweater I want or a yummy dessert that I baked... when there are people in the world who can't afford medicine, food, or even a place to live.

But then I step back and remember that beauty is an essential part of life. I don't write about my personal faith here very often, but it is one of the greatest influences in everything I do. There is one particular verse from the Bible that I have always held close to my heart. "...Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (Philippians 4:8.)

We are called to focus on the pure and lovely things of life, to live joyfully and share that with others. I realize there are seasons in life and there is so much darkness and pain in this world of ours, but why focus on it? What good comes out of doom and gloom? Nothing but more doom and gloom.

I want to live a beautiful life. I want my home to burst with flowers (hypothetically speaking, of course) and I hope to never take any of it for granted. Will you join me?