moving on

Throughout the course of my relationship, I feel like I lost pieces of myself. Or, in the instances where the pieces weren't lost, I felt like I blurred the edges quite a bit. This is the absolute worst, ok. My only recommendation for you is to avoid it, at all costs. Like Janis Joplin said, you're all you've got.

So. Part of the past year has been a reclamation of self. For example, my ex called me Ginger. This was a edited version of a nickname given to me by a friend many years ago - Ginger Peaches - and it became completely interchangeable with my real name, Meaghan. I used to, and still do, answer to both. I did not want to drop the Ginger nickname, as it felt woven into my identity. So I just decided it was mine and I was keeping it. The end.

A year out from everything, I've come to realize there are other things I want to keep, dispose of, or just let go. This blog is one of them. While public processing may still occur, I need to separate myself from this space and continue to move forward with my life. There are so many threads of my marriage and relationship woven into the archives of Oh Meaghan, and try as I might to set off on a new course, I can't. I avoid this space because it doesn't feel like my own anymore.

So, I've done a lot of thinking over the past many months and thought about the ways in which I use social media, including blogging, and the type of writing and sharing I want to do. I've thought about my lifestyle, my needs, my interests. I've thought about safe space, guarding my personal life while also sharing my identity - whether that's as a crafter, baker, queer femme, party planner, or just a human being trying to navigate this weird world we live in. I've thought about how I want to interact with the internet/world, and whether I care about it interacting with me as much as I used to. More often than not, I just want to say things or share things without any expectation of outside interaction. I want an archive of things that interest me as much as I want an interactive space. Also, I would like to merge my crafty business with my blogging with my aspirations to dabble in event planning on a small-time/amateur scale. Wrapping all of these activities into one name and one space seemed essential.

On the tech side of things, the reality is that I've dedicated a lot of time to make Blogger work for me, and it's a clunky interface with inconsistent reliability when it comes to a lot of things. Wordpress is, for all intents and purposes, above my head and completely out of my wheelhouse. I'm not interested in cultivating a blog with thousands of followers and hosting my own site and all of that really intricate, time-consuming stuff. I have, over the past two years, grown to love Tumblr. I use it to host Butches + Babies with almost no issues to speak of, and it's given me access to a whole world of social justice networking and sharing that frankly has never existed for me in any other sphere. On top of that, it's easy to use, mobile-friendly, and well-integrated to social networking without the use of outside apps. These are all reasons why it makes sense for me to move, and so move I shall!

I ask loyal readers of Oh Meaghan to bear with me as I move my thoughts and life over to my new space, So Gingerly. I've tried to take the time over the past week to get things ready for you over there, and it should be easy to reconnect using the RSS reader of your choice, or to follow me directly on Tumblr. I want to thank all of you for supporting me through the past many years, and especially the last one. I've been blogging in various spaces since 2005, and I genuinely cannot imagine my life without it.

xo,
meaghan

anchors sink

One of my dearest friends told me once that my ex's obsession with anchors was incredible foreshadowing for the way my relationship would end - the anchor of my ex, or our incredibly doomed relationship, held me in place like a boat in the middle of the ocean.

On Saturday I will celebrate a year since my ex left. A year of intense, well, everything. Growth, pain, learning, and self-discovery. Ten months of therapy, countless nights crying myself to sleep, and a grief so complex and uncomfortable that sometimes I literally thought I was losing my mind. In the end, though, I survived. I feel more like myself than I ever have in adulthood and I'm actively planning out the next steps and adventures to make this life my own.

In August, I'll be 35 years old. My therapist asked me once if I was wrestling with any lingering disappointment about my life being pulled out from under me like a rug...at this particular age, when women are expected to have married, reproduced, and settled into their careers. Queer or not, there is some societal expectation that we conform to this model. At first, I was devastated. I had internalized all of the messaging that women get from the completely toxic media, and I immediately felt like a washed up old spinster with a dead-end career, crappy relationship prospects, and absolutely nothing going for me. My divorce felt like a death, of sorts.

Time has really helped me sift through those feelings for me, and I'm not nearly as uncomfortable with my reality as I was last April, let alone the six and a half years before that. This is one of many reasons why I feel like I'm on a really amazing path. I feel happy and secure, less tempestuous and needy, and clearer than I have ever been about what I need in my life. I've discovered a lot of truths about myself along the way, too. I don't mind being alone, at all. I'm more of an introvert now than I ever was before. The suburbs are not where I need to be, and I'm beginning to more clearly see that my ex's inflexibility with moving away from them was in part what kept me miserable. They have suffocated my queer identity in ways I couldn't even begin to articulate until late last year. I have plans in the coming months to move, to start up some exciting side projects, and to authentically focus on finding my place in this world.

As a Catholic, the symbolism of my ex leaving me on Good Friday is not lost on me, nor are the words my father said to me two days later on Easter Sunday, when I told them I had been abandoned. He said, "one day you will look back at this, and it will be hard, but you will see this all as a blessing." It's a testament to my strength and conviction that I agree with him now. Healing takes time, and I'm giving myself as much as I need. I'm not old, I'm wise. I'm not washed up, I'm refreshed. I'm excited about building this life for myself on my terms again, prioritizing myself in healthy ways, and believing that my future is a unique combination of destiny and focused determination.

Before Jack Frost decided to torture us with weekly snowstorms all the way through March, my plan for the weekend was to fly kites with my bestest people on the National Mall for the National Kite Festival, conveniently scheduled on the same day my ex left. I found a quote from Augusten Burroughs that felt so incredibly poignant in light of the past year:
And I began to let him go. Hour by hour. Days into months. It was a physical sensation, like letting out the string of a kite. Except that the string was coming from my center.
We're all the victims of a lot of unhealthy programming when it comes to love and relationships. I held so tightly onto the crumbling artifice of my relationship because I believed I would never get another chance to love again. But with my family and friends, I see quite clearly that love is never depleted, only renewed, restored, and given ample opportunities to grow over time...so long as I'm open to it. This year has been as much about healing as it has been about learning. Everything I went through will help me be better - love better - in the future. And it has reinforced the very significant truths that I had so much trouble believing a year ago: I need love, I deserve love, and I'm capable of loving. If that isn't a blessing, I don't know what is.

david's stitch

As I continue to navigate this "personalized stitch" journey I've put myself on, I decided to throw myself a bit of a challenge by stitching up a custom name stitch in Arabic for my friend David. Why not, right?

Intended to be a surprise, this stitch was made quite secretly and I quickly realized that I was on my own when it came to making sure that I was executing the script/letters properly as well as spelling his name accurately. I settled on this spelling - ديفيد - because it was the version I saw most frequently in all of my searching. I realize that's a rather intellectually lazy approach to this project, but I had a bit of a time crunch. Fortunately, he said it was perfect and immediately hung it up in his apartment. I'll take it!

Fabric: Octoberama in Blue by Charley Harper for Birch Fabrics

coming soon - letter stitches

Currently in the process of incorporating a line of custom letter/initial stitches into my Oh Ginger line! I'm zeroing in on ten fabric + felt combinations for the time being (a combination of modern and vintage fabrics with my signature wool blend felt). I'll offer two font options - cursive or block lettering - both of which are hand-drawn and hand-cut by yours truly!

Each stitch will be 4" round, finished off in my usual heirloom quality style, and there will also be quantity discounts available for folks who might want a series of stitches to hang along a wall/cord for nurseries, weddings, special craft nooks, and the like. 

In addition to these stitches, I'm also changing up the way in which I do personalized stitches by incorporating my love of hand-lettering, a wider variety of fabric choices, and more felt!

Lots of creativity and changes afoot. Please stay tuned!

custom stitches

Last week I was asked by a friend to make a set of three custom stitches for her boss who was just legally married to her partner of many years! Yay love! After a little back and forth about the couple and their son, I dug into my fabric collection and found three complementary patterns that I thought might suit them for custom initial stitches. After a little fighting with my printer, a giant surrender (that may have involved a tear or two...and yelling at printer cartridges), some graph paper, and hand-generated letters for the initials, I was ready to stitch! I used three five-inch vintage metal hoops for this project, and added a bit of natural twine to the top to help make hanging them a little easier.

This project inspired me more than I realized, and I've since gone on a quest to find more fabrics that I could use as a background for these felt initial stitches. I've always had custom stitches available in my Etsy shop, but I'm going to work on creating a more comprehensive and cohesive line so that customers can pick and choose fabrics and letters that might satisfy a variety of decors and such. I'll keep you posted! In the meantime, feel free to e-mail me with a custom request!

hot + sour soup

 
The first thing I turn to when faced with a head full of snot and misery is hot & sour soup. Does it work? I have no idea, but it makes me feel better. Tart and spicy comfort food. It occurred to me yesterday when I was feeling particularly rough that I haven't ordered Chinese since I moved last year, and I have no idea what the local restaurants produce. Even at $2/pint, I didn't want to chance it. So after a little bit of searching for "easy hot & sour soup" I found a recipe that seemed like I could pull it off after work.

After standing for thirty extra minutes in the ridiculously freezing cold waiting for the bus home, I spent a good twenty minutes talking to myself in the Asian foods aisle at the grocery store. There are so many choices! Chinese sesame oil? Korean sesame oil? Is this when Ina Garten chimes in and says, "just pick a GOOD one, darling". How do I know what's good, Ina?! I went for middle of the road price-wise across the board with the ingredients, and even bought my first bottle of sriracha! Organic tofu, organic scallions, a knob of ginger, button mushrooms, ground pork, and pre-minced garlic because I'm sick alright?! Give me a break.

After marching all the way home and dropping my bag of ingredients on the counter so I could blow my nose, I set to work making my magic soup elixir. This recipe is easy and fast, and while I made a few adjustments here and there, I really feel like this is good enough to be my go-to sick soup from now on. It makes a rich, spicy, delicious homemade broth when you feel like crap completely possible. Plus, it's FULL of the good stuff unlike that broth-heavy stuff you get from your local Chinese joint.

Hot & Sour Soup
Adapted from Food52/Joanne Chang's recipe from her book Flour, Too
Serves 4 to 6, or one whiny sick person with lots of leftovers

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
4 scallions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish
8 ounces ground pork
4 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 pound soft or firm tofu (not silken and not extra firm), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 or 5 medium button mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2/3 cups rice vinegar, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
2-3 teaspoons sesame oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
2 large eggs
White or black pepper for garnish

In the saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. You want to break up the pork into smaller pieces with a spoon, but don’t worry about breaking it down completely or cooking it through.

Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the tofu, mushrooms, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, black pepper, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce and bring the soup back to a simmer over medium-high heat. Taste the soup. If you want it hotter, add more Sriracha sauce; if you want it more sour, add more vinegar.

Let this simmer on low for 10-20 minutes while you do your neti pot and put your pajamas on.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. With the soup at a steady simmer, slowly whisk in the eggs so they form strands. Bring the soup back to a simmer. Serve immediately, garnishing with whatever you want - sesame oil, black pepper, more Sriracha, scallions, etc.

Pour a hearty serving into your favorite bowl, snuggle into your bed, and watch a few episodes of Couples Therapy on VH1. You'll feel better in more ways than one.

interlude

Cake Spread by Paul Ferney
Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott, via Captain Awkward

you get to tell your own story

For the past two weeks, I've hesitated writing an end-of-year post that wraps up everything that 2013 put me through. Part of that hesitation centered around not wanting to write, whether it was because of my persistent belief that my writing is never good enough or just because I'm too lazy. The rest of the hesitation has to do with the 34+ years of training I've had in avoiding my own instincts and not making myself a priority, though I'm sure that there are some people out there who would suggest that manners or a solid sense of propriety is what keeps me so...contained.

The reality is that I constantly struggle with my ability to, and comfort with, tell[ing] my own story. Or, in plainer English, telling my truth. It's the direct consequence of growing up in the world, I reckon. I don't know how I could've avoided it. I grew up in an upper middle class suburb of the most/least diplomatic city in the country, if not the world, the product of a working-class-turned-pink-collar mother and solidly middle class midwestern father. There are ways a young woman of this breeding should behave, things she should say, and ways she should interact with the world that are okay, and then decidedly not okay. There is no gray area, there is no malleability. When I graduated high school, I knew certain things to be true: men, specifically those in my peer group, would never respect me; women, specifically those in my peer group, would always be in competition with me; sculpting the truth would always outweigh telling it outright if you wanted to get something (or out of something), specifically from people older than you; and that being demonstratively heterosexual was the only appropriate way of concealing the fact that I was the dyke the football players knew me to be. Great lessons, right?

In therapy, over the past nine months, I've been more candid and truthful about who I am, what I believe, what I want, and what I've been through than I have ever in my whole life. This has been liberating and subsequently one of the most challenging things I've ever done. It wasn't until recently, though, that I genuinely felt like it was all worth it. That is due to, in no small part, the perception of people in my life who have told me how much I've changed/grown/come into my own. Not only that, but there have been people who have thanked me for telling my story so fearlessly and unapologetically, which is strange to hear because I don't feel like I've ever done that before, and I've felt guilty for the past nine months about doing it so publicly. But, I attribute all of this change, external and internal, to the fact that I have learned that I get to tell my own story.

Telling the entire internet that was in an emotionally abusive relationship isn't easy, and it's not something I did (if you can believe it) out of malice toward anyone, including my ex. I'm very cognizant of the fact that people can figure out who I am, and who I was married to, by reading this blog. There is little anonymity in what I'm doing here, and I'm glad for it. What I realized pretty early on in my "public" processing, though, is that I had absolutely no idea what emotional abuse looked like, and that felt weird. As a 34 year-old woman who reads compulsively and consumes information like it's oxygen, I should know these things, but I didn't. When people, including my therapist, would tell me what I was explaining to them was emotional abuse, I was baffled. Like most public school kids, I sat through hours worth of sex education classes (unless I opted out of them). Learning how to put a condom on a banana is an important skill; safer sex is best! But I think it would've benefited the young people of my generation (and all generations) to understand the complex and nuanced insidiousness of emotional abuse. It's not that complicated and completely complicated, all at the same time. 

I think that if I were to set out teaching young people what emotional abuse looks like, I would still struggle. For a lot of kids, myself included, emotional abuse just looks like "life after puberty". I was harassed daily for my weight, my looks, my clothing, my sexuality, the way I felt my feelings, my commitment to justice, and quite often...my indifference to my peers who were in positions of social power. This kind of harassment is, more or less, a fledgling form of emotional abuse, and the lack of intervention from anyone in a position of administrative power allows these perpetrators to grow up into people who don't exactly know how to treat anyone well, including their loved ones. There is a fine line between honesty and cruelty, and it was often crossed around me...and plenty of kids just like me, too. No one ever told me that what I was experiencing wasn't my fault, that I didn't deserve it, and no one punished (formally or informally) the abuser. I learned how to ignore it and muscle through it; I learned how to become numb. As a teen, I found solace and comfort in my friends, but as the world continued to press down upon me (through the process of coming out, especially), I felt more and more disinclined to reach out to people because nothing ever seemed to make things better. I feared being perceived as a whiner, a complainer, someone who wasn't good at her life. I didn't know how to ask for help; I only knew how to make sure that the people who were hurting me continued to live undisrupted lives. 

I still hesitate talking about my most recent relationship with my closest friends, and even acquaintances and strangers, because sometimes I don't feel like I'm much different than I was when I was in the throes of the worst part of my relationship. Sometimes I fully believe the "you're just making this shit up" script that I've mostly tucked away in the back of my mind (which incidentally comes out of a cartoonish version of my ex's face attached to the body of a jack-in-the-box). The invisibility of my experience made it seem like I was trudging along through life just fine when I wasn't. The only certain way I can open myself up to people is to be completely, and sometimes explicitly, honest. This makes people uncomfortable. This makes ME uncomfortable. But, I decided that I needed to tell my closest friends what my relationship looked like, the evolution of my process, my pain, and the ways in which I have moved through healing. I had a choice -- feel pain, feel SHAME, and keep these things buried within - or - say something. So I said something, and I will continue to say things for as long as I need to in order to feel safe in my own life and in my own body. I'm okay with being an outspoken queer femme who was literally kicked out of her emotionally abusive relationship if it helps one person look at their own relationships and question whether they're meeting their needs.**

This isn't the first time I considered not telling my story in order to protect someone who didn't deserve to be protected. It's a habit of mine; a vicious cycle which generally renders me numb and inaccessible after a while. My other big-but-not-quite-marriage relationship ended in a similarly complicated way; I felt bullied by my ex's needs (and her friends) and thus went into a self-protective mode of robotic indifference. I think that any mental health professional would call this codependence. There's a cultural understanding of codependence that indicates it is something that the codepenDENT needs to grow out of, but what I think is often overlooked is the ability of the victim of emotional abuse to see that they are engaging those behaviors at all. Codependence in the last years of my relationship was a means for [emotional] survival; my physical self was preserved and safe, the rest was manageable if I knew what to say and how to say it. Between the blaming, gaslighting, manipulation, projecting, and responsibility placed upon me as a caretaker of someone with an inconsistently-managed mental health issue, I was depleted. Somehow my ex managed to grow into a person who was objectively nice on the surface, but someone without a clear sense of how to interact with other people in a truly kind and compassionate way. Every single exchange was a transaction, and I was always in the red. I have compassion for the reasons why this is the case for them, but I also never distanced myself from the reality that they turned into an unhealthy adult without a consistently functioning moral or emotional compass. Past trauma became a justification for present-day manipulation; I often felt guilty for what they went through and made it MY responsibility to make it better. What I've learned in therapy is that living like that is absolutely unfair and unhealthy. And, in the context of sharing my story, there is absolutely no reason why I should protect the people who hurt me, including preserving their anonymity or coding things in conversations and on social media so as not to make mutual friends feel awkward if they chose to maintain a relationship with my ex/an abusive person. It's tough to accept the fact that a person you know and love is also treating someone you know and love like shit, but that's what happened.

That was a tough conclusion to reach, though, because we live in a culture that attempts to silence victims at every turn, placing the culpability in their hands for guarding their own experiences so as not to make anyone else uncomfortable. It's the curse of the kid who always wanted to be cool, never accepting the fact that her version of cool was so much more interesting and authentic. It's the curse of the young woman who never believed she was pretty enough for the people she wanted, letting them guide her sense of self [worth] rather than developing a hearty one of her own. There is no one to convince you otherwise once you've been touched by that kind of judgment and cruelty, and the process of climbing out of it is complex and painful. Among my closest friends, I have a reputation for being a chronic, and sometimes unsolicited, dispenser of honest opinion, yet I never practiced turning that mirror toward myself and accepting the ways in which I was too harsh on myself, or sabotaging myself, or not trusting myself to love myself the best of all. I don't blame myself for staying wrapped up in a completely unhealthy relationship; I did it for the noblest reason of all...love. But I do have a truth and I simply cannot let myself ignore it. It's true: I settled. And it's true: I deserve the best.

What has helped me greatly in sharing my story has been constructing a mental list of things I need from my friends and family to navigate this grieving and recovery process. I keep these in mind when I'm having conversations, or when I want to have conversations, with people about my relationship. It's not only helped me keep some healthy boundaries, but it's helped me weed through people who might be less than supportive in the end. This might be a useful checklist for other folks interested in supporting their friends through traumatic emotional abuse in their own lives, too.

1) Believe me. It's not your responsibility to judge or reinterpret my pain or experiences.
2) Take sides, because it's probably reasonable to do so. Neutrality is insulting to victims, and it perpetuates the invisibility of emotional abuse. If you don't believe me and acknowledge what I've been through as something I didn't deserve, then I don't need you in my life.
3) Listen, as often as you need to, as often as you can. Unpacking the experience of being emotionally abused while grieving is a long, meandering, and painful road. It helps to know you'll be there for me.
4) Take care of yourself and give me some space. Take some time to do an assessment of your own relationships and make sure you aren't experiencing similar issues.
5) Don't make it about you. Sure, there were probably warning signs, but emotional abuse is deeply complex and also hard to see. There are no visible bruises, and it was essential for me, the person who was abused, to keep up appearances, even if I didn't realize I was doing it. So don't get wrapped up in the "I should've seen the signs!" stuff. Start from the moment I open up and move forward, learning with me.

2013 didn't seem to be an easy year for most people, and I'm quite content seeing it go. I have a much more grounded and patient optimism for what 2014 will bring, and I have a clearer sense of direction and self than I've ever had before. My world, instead of shrinking and suffocating me in my relationship and after it ended, is only getting bigger. While I'm still careful to accept the perceptions of people around me as an indication that I'm whole, fixed, all better, or on the right path, I am opening up more and more as my grieving process continues. I feel safer. Stronger. More content. More certain that I can handle this big bad world on my own if I want to, which is probably the most enormous revelation from the past few months. The goal for 2014 is to keep things moving in this direction.

----------
** Just like I was okay being the outspoken queer femme who wasn't going to legalize her marriage for the sake of appeasing anyone, and the outspoken queer femme who doesn't understand why people don't wear slips anymore.

my favorite bag ladies

Apropos of nothing, I'd like to share with you my three favorite bag/tote/pouch makers. While I have been known to troll around the clearance bag section at Target and buy tote bags for myself in a variety of patterns, colors, and sizes, the truth is that my heart is dedicated to these three ladies and their fantastic bag making skills. I seriously covet everything they make and fight with myself monthly when I have a little bit of money squirreled away that should, in theory, go into savings. I'm not a mass-produced, hot-off-the-presses kind of bag hoarder. I look for certain characteristics when shopping for bags because, like shoes, I will [unintentionally] beat the crap out of them in no time. So...what do I look for in a bag?
  • Simplicity, first and foremost. The most elaborate pattern I wear on a regular basis is a basic stripe, so it's next to impossible to convince me to carry something around with some floral bonanza happening all over it. On top of that, the shape of my bag must be pared down. 800 straps and 3,000 pockets? No.
  • Durability. I am tough as hell on the bags that I carry and the pouches that I stuff to the brim with all of my purse necessities. The other day, as I hauled in supplies for a wedding I planned, my purse was stuffed with all of its standard contents PLUS a flat iron, two cardigans, a hot glue gun, chalkboards, multiple pairs of scissors, some candles, and a bottle of water. My bag didn't buckle or break under the pressure. Good bag.
  • Natural materials. Linen, canvas, leather, cotton duck, etc. It has to be and look natural.
  • Interior pockets. I'm neurotically organized, so don't give me a purse that won't satisfy my need to put things in their proper places.
  • Timeless style. My current bag has lasted through an entire year, transitioning season-to-season without trouble. I like this.
So here are my favorite bag-making gals in no particular order.

MADE BY HANK // shop // blog // facebook // instagram
Katie Henry uses upcycled/repurposed vintage fabrics and leather to create her incredible bags, totes, clutches, and pouches. Her concepts are innovative and functional, her sewing skills beyond amazing, and her enthusiasm for Friday Night Lights completely infectious. (She doesn't even know me and she was the primary reason I watched the entire series in approximately two weeks. And also one of the reasons why I love Tim Riggins, naturally.) I have one of her foldover/crossbody clutches, which is great for touristing around NYC and travel in general, as well as a few other smaller pouches which I use to keep my purse organized. I use the mini-pouches she sometimes throws in as a gift with purchase for coins and my Square reader.

 MILKHAUS DESIGN // shop // blog // facebook // instagram
My brother and his partner gifted me my Milkhaus Design zip tote last year for Christmas and I'm madly in love with it still. It's durable and functional, impeccably made and thoughtfully designed. Bethany Nelson, the shop's sole designer and maker, was also recently the Etsy Featured Seller! Bethany creates lovely screenprints for her bags, totes, pouches, and even a line of home goods

FOLIAGE HANDBAGS** // shop // blog // facebook // instagram
Tessa Valyou, **one half of the duo that runs New Duds, recently branched off and started a line independent of her husband's screenprinting efforts with Foliage Handbags. Using some of the incredible designs her husband generates, as well as waxed canvas, vintage fabrics, and sumptuous (yeah, I said it) leather, Tessa's bags and pouches are expertly made and oh-so-useful. I use one of her feather pouches as my "basic necessities" bag and another feather pouch as my wallet. They've lasted without issue for almost two years! Her leather pencil pouches are completely handsome, too. I can't wait to see what she continues to produce for this line!

I've made it a matter of principle to support handmade -- or at least consider it as a my "First Resort" when I start to shop for something -- and I think it's important to share your experiences with independent designers as much as possible. Word of mouth is the most effective means of increasing business for these folks. I hope that in 2014 I can continue to share some of my favorite indie crafters and shops here, and I hope you consider shopping handmade as a First Resort this holiday season (and always), too.

custom ornaments by oh ginger

Nestled in the heart of Harlem is a fantastic coffee shop, owned by my brother's friend Aaron, called Lenox Coffee. It opened two years ago and serves a bustling and diverse clientele delicious coffee, espresso beverages, pastries, and other delights seven days a week. Aaron was so enamored with my PATCHWORK ornaments that my brother and Aaron decided that Lenox needed ornaments of its very own. After plenty of deliberation and thousands of teeny-tiny stitches, I give you the Limited Edition 2013 Lenox Coffee Ornament.

Each ornament is constructed with one of four gorgeous plaids from lightly-felted vintage Pendelton kilts. I paired each plaid with its own shade of wool blend felt, which either complements the colors within the plaid, and then stitched onto 100% natural linen. Secured to the top of each stitch is a custom laser-cut insignia with the shop name and date. These ornaments are heirloom quality and will last a lifetime as I painstakingly secure the linen into the embroidery hoops in a manner that will stand the test of time. Each ornament has my logo stamped on the back and is finished off with a piece of rustic twine.

You can get your very own Limited Edition 2013 Lenox Coffee Ornament at Lenox Coffee in Harlem before the end of 2013. Lenox Coffee is located at 60 W 129th St, New York, NY 10027, a few blocks down from the 125th Street subway station. 

If you see a handsome redhead working furiously on his laptop, say hello. That's my brother! And if it's not my brother, well, sorry. That's awkward.

All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.