Not that Anybody Asked But, Where the **** Have I Been?!

Hello November. Hello friends. Long time, no chat.

I looked up recently to realize we’ve arrived at the month that means a lot to me and not only because it’s the month of my birth. November is always when we turn inward, gather friends and loved ones, take stock and pay homage to everything for which we are grateful.

If I’m being honest with you, I’ve struggled to feel grateful these past months. Ghosting you here was never my intention. While the reasons I disappeared are complicated and some too personal to share at the moment, ultimately, I became a victim of the pandemic – one of those 5.1 million American mothers who had to stop working for pay (a very critical use of language there, as the work certainly did not stop) in the midst of school closures, childcare shortages, and lockdowns. With paid work completely dried up, I could no longer call this space a job. I think when we do something consistently, but without pay, it’s called a hobby, am I right? And the pandemic certainly left me zero space for hobbies. The pandemic put me in a position that I’d never planned for – to serve as the primary caregiver in the family – and to be candid, it really sucked the life and the joy out of me (if you need background on my struggles with motherhood, head here.)

Of course I should preface by stating the obvious – I am incredibly lucky. I am beyond grateful that we have a roof over our heads, food on our table and are always able to provide for our son throughout these crazy times. Dear friends and family rallied around us when dealing with really challenging circumstances. And I realize SO many families have experienced so much more loss and deeply harrowing challenges during this whole insane experience.

Yet, my unplanned hiatus from this blog – really the unplanned hiatus from my self-determined existence – has been a palpable loss and a perpetual struggle. It zapped all my energy and narrowed my universe, leaving me adrift on a tiny island of domesticity.

Just as quickly as the sadness, frustration and loss can sweep through, I can also easily cycle back to space of gratitude though. Turning to my island family brought great gifts. Deeper relationships, better knowing and seeing and understanding. A closeness. Also mountains of dishes and laundry. So. many. dishes.

Now we’re hitting the official season of gratitude and I’m holding on to those brighter thoughts about what these past months have brought me, but I’m also really feeling the urge to break free. With actual gatherings possible again, could it happen?! I feel a bit like I might get to emerge from my cocoon.

But having been away from here for so long, I wasn’t sure I still had anything to share. For me, blogging has always been about uncovering beauty, craft, art, design and soulful intentional living and sharing that inspiration with you. What happens when you’re not sure you can still be inspiring?

Thankfully, I was able to partner with Wente Vineyardsa family owned winery – the oldest continuously family run winery in all of USA – and one that is female led to talk about their holiday theme, #MakeTime. I worked with Wente Vineyards to create a Thanksgiving tablescape in This Old Victorian, not only as inspiration for you, but also for myself. Because what I really want to #MakeTime for this year is rediscovering that spark of inspiration. That joy. And I still haven’t even hosted an actual Thanksgiving at my dining table yet!

I am feeling eager to come back to the reasons I began Apartment 34 nearly 13 years ago now, and determine where I want to take this space in the future. I gotta admit, to flex some creative muscle again, to collaborate again, to be in the company of amazing women creating things I admire again – I felt back in my own skin.

For this Thanksgiving table, I wanted a very simple and easy layered feel, focused on natural materials and muted earthy tones. The look was achieved by stacking ceramic dishware (from Heath Ceramics and Anthropology) layered in two complementary colorways, with beautiful linen napkins with an embroidered edge from The House by Tracy Simmons Design. A simple linen runner, rustic wood bowls & serving boards and vintage brass candlesticks create a warm, welcoming feel down the center of the table. Rose gold flatware and stemless wine glasses feel fun and laidback.

Rather than a traditional “centerpiece,” instead a footed bowl by Leanne Ford for Crate and Barrel filled with autumnal gourds and a simple floral arrangement inspired by the wilds of nature are the only table decor. If you wanted to up the fancy factor you could create placecards or write little quotes about gratitude to set at each seat, but I’m just so thankful to be able to gather this year – I don’t think the extra bells and whistles are really necessary. A sprig of olive branches at each place setting is more than enough.

I just want to eat delicious food and drink some fantastic wine – with other people again finally! Wente Vineyards is actually going to help us do that. They’re offering two beautiful wine bundles at 25% off the usual retail price and a flat $10 shipping. They aren’t officially launching until November 5, so my dear Apartment 34 readers, you get first crack at the Thanksgiving Dinner Pairing Set and the Nth Degree Gift Set right now.

But really, what is the point of this ramble, other than to say hi and how are you and oh yeah, I am still alive? I just felt compelled to show up here to let you know that I’ve been struggling. And I see all of you who have too. But I remain hopeful that we can come out of this collective trauma with a greater sense of not only purpose, but also appreciation for our own passions, gifts and desires. Of course, we all have to makes sacrifices in challenging circumstances, but I’ve learned you don’t want to lay yourself down on the altar of sacrifice. There is joy to be unearthed, even in the darkest times. You just have to #MakeTime to find it. Setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table definitely brings me great joy and I hope it does for you too.

I will always be grateful to you, dear readers, some – if you’re still out there – I know have been around since those early early days. Even when I was as far from this space as I could both physically and mentally get, I was always thinking about you. I do so hope you have weathered the COVID storm as well as you can.

And I do plan to be popping in here more frequently again. I can’t make any promises on when that will be, but there is so much amazing design out there and shining a light on people doing awe-inspiring work has always been the greatest gift of Apartment 34. I wonder if I can make professional treasure hunter a thing? Well, I guess I kinda am. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the Hood Canal Cottage. You can see the latest behind the scenes of that project on Instagram. And major SPOILER ALERT – I will be launching design services in early 2022. If you have a project you might want to collaborate on or just want updates on the services I’ll be offering, you can sign up for my newsletter right here.

In the meantime, I’m sending you love and gratitude this November.

photography by stephanie russo, prop and food styling by kelly allen studios

This post is in partnership with Wente Vineyards. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting collaborations that have kept Apartment 34’s doors open for more than a decade.

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