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Monday, December 24, 2012

Maxwell-Concklin Christmas III

I feel so lucky to say that this is my third Christmas with John. In a way, it's our fourth together, because he was the first person I heard from, via text message, on Christmas morning 2009. That was before our first date, and I remember being really excited it. :) 

I've told you about our tradition of having a private celebration before we leave town to be with family, which is one of the best ideas we've ever had. The photo above is a card John gave me, which was perfect. I was in tears before the first gift was opened. He's also gotten especially good at making our favorite drink, pictured below. 

We had said cocktails, let Herbie annihilate his stocking, and baked a wheel of Camembert with sun-dried tomatoes. We exchanged gifts before cooking Halibut in a Shallot Caper Vinaigrette and opening the wine. It was romantic and wonderful, and I already can't wait until next year. 

I'll be taking a few days off this week to be with family and friends, but meanwhile, we wish you a beautiful, cozy Christmas with the people you love most!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

(More) Little Holiday Moments and Tips

Part of me doesn't want this week to end, because once Christmas arrives, everything is gone in a flash. The little moments are what I'll miss. Herbie's obsession with his stocking, our tradition of baking together, and these secret chocolate chip cookies. I suppose the challenge will be to make little moments in the plain old normal, busy days that don't feel so magical. These two certainly make that easier.

Some holiday things:

We're having this baked Camembert tonight as part of our (private) Christmas Dinner.

I made these Apple Cider Caramels via Smitten Kitchen, and they're amazing. 

For your after dinner drink, a Cardamom Fashioned.

The best place to order beautifully designed gifts using wedding photos, Pinhole Press.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to Make Hot Mulled Cider

If you're anything like me, this illustration from Lisa Congdon captures everything you're feeling this week leading up to Christmas. I feel like I've been waiting ages for Private Christmas, which is finally here (tomorrow). We can't wait. We're also excited about the Bubblies and Big Reds Tasting at The Community Tap tonight. On Friday, it's off to Atlanta to begin family celebrations. Are you celebrating this week, or do you save it for the 25th?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sandy Hook

It's hard to know what to say about Sandy Hook.

I can't stop thinking about the children, and I'm sure you feel the same. Somehow, more than any other recent tragedy, it feels like we're all in this together. We're all grieving, and we're all brought to tears by each child's photo. We are all heartbroken to imagine the terror those sweet faces experienced in their last moments, and the unimaginable, gaping loss surely felt by their families.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why blog?

I've asked myself many times why, and if, I should blog. What an egocentric pursuit, I tell myself. Flee to the Cleve started as a creative outlet when I left opera - and a way to document an exciting, spontaneous move to Cleveland. There was a lull while I was planning our wedding, but it remained a place to record moments in our little family's life that would otherwise be forgotten.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to be cool (Keep hope)

Downtown City Lights - New York City Street Abstract 8x12 Photograph

My heart is so heavy today with thoughts of the children and families touched this morning in Connecticut. I feel so helpless, but I wish glimmers of hope for them all.

Carefree summer, and a bit haunting.

How to be cool. (Keep hope)

Math of relationships, because it's not always rosy and laughter is crucial.

As much as possible in this time of mourning, enjoy your weekend,


Thursday, December 13, 2012

What is Marriage: He's predictable and I'm not.

Earlier this week, I read somewhere that kids thrive on regular schedule and routine. I immediately felt a little alarm go off when I remembered that consistency is not my strong point. In love and support, sure, but in scheduling and daily activity? No way.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Inspiration: We Took to the Woods

In the spirit of little holiday moments, I have to tell you about my recent trip to We Took to the Woods. You may have seen them on the Garden and Gun Blog last month. These photos were taken by the owner's daughter (see the rest here), and they capture a bit of the ambience, but really, you have to visit. Upon arrival, you see rows of fresh wreaths on wooden benches in front of the shop. The one pictured above was my favorite.

Entering invites delightful woodsy smells to overtake you, and suddenly you're enticed by candlelight to stay a while, have some cider, never leave. There are plaid blankets and wall hangings, antique ornaments and Mast Brothers Chocolates. There are beautiful antique decanters and carefully selected letterpress stationery. The owners are there, and they want to talk to you, get to know you, adding to the already palpable sense of warmth. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dogs Driving for Your Weekend

You absolutely must start your weekend with this. It's given Herb so many ideas.

Rescue dogs driving cars.

From Herbie (and me) to you, have a wonderful weekend!


Other posts:

5th Graders: Highlight of my week


Until everyone we love is safe is what you said. I worry a lot; you know this. Lately I've been worrying that John will be in a wreck, for no good reason other than the fact that he's been on the road more frequently, driving home after long days and late night orchestra gigs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What is Marriage: Texting Started it All

Yesterday was December 4th, one of the three dates John and I place on a little memorial pedestal. We have both described how we met, and I've mentioned some of the circumstances that paved the way for our marriage. December 4th, though, was like the seal on a secret, hopeful little package we were putting together piece by piece.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Day I Met My Match

Herbie's first days at home

My dog is a mini me. I don't know if I knew that the second I saw him or if it happened later, but I think it was the first. After visiting every shelter in Baltimore County in August 2009, it seemed impossible to find a dog that was an acceptable size for my tiny apartment. That apartment was amazing, by the way, on the corner with a view, and incredibly peaceful. At the shelters, there were so many boxers and pitbulls. Some of them broke my heart, but they wouldn't have had the room they needed with me, plus let's just face it, I wanted a living, breathing stuffed animal. One day I was visiting the Balt City SPCA for the 10th time, and there was a new dog, a small one: mangled, terrified little Herbie with huge eyes and a teddy bear face. Love at first sight. Really. We looked at each other and knew. There was an understanding. He said I think you could love me and I said yes I could. He had literally just arrived, been given up by his owner, and he was windswept and disoriented to prove it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

5th Graders: Highlight of my Week

At Governor's School last week, I did lots of things. Somehow, though, the highlight was a crazy group of 5th graders who visited campus. I wasn't exactly dreading helping with the event, but it wasn't on the list of things I was looking forward to, either. When they arrived, we got them off the bus, let them use the bathroom, and corralled them in a lobby to regroup.They were given a choice between music, visual art, and dance, and the music kids were told to stand next to me. I was ambushed and noticed right away that personal space was not a priority. Somehow I didn't mind, though; I kind of felt like Mother Goose (was it her?) with the huge skirt hiding lots of happy children. Plus, they didn't have that weird smell yet that 5th graders get after recess.

Right away these kids had questions and energy. So many questions and so much energy. They were incredibly bright. I've spoken to many groups of 8th graders about Governor's School opportunities, in big groups and small groups and one-on-one. The 5th graders' questions were way better. They were more enthusiastic and willing to think outside of whatever box gets put around us in middle school.

We all know that middle school is rough. What happens, though, to make us start judging one another constantly? Then we are afraid to be so bold with our questions, it's harder to think outside the acceptable box, and we make sure, in any situation, that our enthusiasm is dulled just enough to avoid criticism. Those habits seem to stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Maybe 5th graders have the answer: fewer filters and more happiness.

Happy Monday,


The monkey is by Sharon Montrose from 200x200. He seems like a 5th grader.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shop Small - My Favorite Companies {and Indie Craft Parade}

It's fun to see all the bloggers' gift guides going up at this time of year. I've discovered a lot of great small companies that way over the past few years, and I always look forward to seeing new ideas (like these and these).

I also loved Amex's Shop Small efforts last Saturday. It was nice to see a giant supporting small business!

Here's a chance to support local artisans this weekend and do some holiday shopping. The Food Truck Rodeo certainly doesn't hurt, especially because Neue Southern's new menu made my eyes pop. Flounder and Greens and Israeli Couscous forever.

Other businesses I love:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

What is Marriage: Holiday Traditions

What would marriage be without two different families to negotiate around the holidays? John and I got lucky; our parents live only three hours apart, so we're able to see them both over Christmas. Typically we spend Christmas Eve in Atlanta with his mom and Christmas Day in Aiken with my family. Although it was exciting to share each other's family holiday traditions after we met, it's been just as lovely to develop our own.

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays means different things for different people. Hopefully, all of you had a great time, and if you're lucky, you might even be starting this week with one or two more stories for the books. Perhaps you bravely got on your little cousin's trampoline, only to feel closer to 30 than ever before in the grasp of the motion sickness that ensued. Your little brother might have convinced your dad to go to Black Friday at 1 am "to get shampoo" and visit Waffle House. Your dad might have even gotten up to dance Gangnam Style during Saturday dinner.

These things all happened in Aiken this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Holiday Weekend

Thanksgiving was wonderful. Hope yours was, too! Today is for family, yoga, rest, and movies. Here are some photos from our holiday.

And from Tuesday, when Herbie and I collapsed at 9:30 pm after the start of our holiday. It's been a busy fall.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November Gratitude: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday. It's kind of incredible that in a country so preoccupied with consumerism, we have a day devoted to gratitude.

This year, I'm especially grateful that I married John Concklin, truly the best gift I've ever been given. His support, in big and little things, is unwavering. He has shown me what it means to take care of another person. Also, he does the dishes. Our dish washing philosophies are different. I would rather relax for a while after dinner and force myself to clean up later, and he would rather do them immediately. This, as you can imagine, works out very well for me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Live Without Irony

Did you see this great piece in the NY Times about living without irony?

Whether you've ever considered yourself a hipster or made fun of one - or if you've ever thought about what it means to live authentically - this is for you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Confession. I work too much.

Confession. I'm imagining myself in a tiny Real World confession room with that loud girl (Melissa?) who had braces from New Orleans, which I watched religiously for that entire season in 2001 and after that, never again.

I work too much. 

I even create fake work so that I can be working.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

For Converse: Plan and Invitation to Current Students

Hello, Converse Supporters,

A plan for moving forward, and letter to me from Student Body President below the break:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update for Converse Women

I continue to be overwhelmed by your heartfelt explanations of why you believe we must hold Converse accountable for the image that Roxie projects.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Messages from Lisa Congdon

Hi, Friends,

Though my creative energy is spent elsewhere this week, I can't help but share these with you.

Handlettered by Lisa Congdon, this reminds me of John. We knew almost immediately after dating that we would marry, and it did feel something like a missile, albeit a good one. I didn't think I was ready, but he patiently showed me the way.

And this - humanness. What a beautiful word. It isn't about perfection or success. It's about doing the best you can at any moment, and finding connections with the people around you. A nice thought.

Apparently today is for inspirational quotes. xo.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November Gratitude: Community and Sisterhood

This November, I'm grateful for so many things.

One of them is community. The graduates of my small women's college have recently united to express discontent in a new, regressive image being projected by the school.

I was already a proponent of single gender education, but the graceful, intelligent way my fellow alumnae have expressed their concern this week has been nothing short of inspiring. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have meaningful dialogue about the importance of avoiding gender stereotype and repression in a place that was built with the intention of empowering women. Stating that as your mission, friends, comes with responsibility.

Sometimes, community surrounds you when you least expect it. I felt the warmth of my Converse sisters at our wedding, when they showed up from all over the country to stand in a circle around me. What a nice reminder, in busy November, that it's always there. It's ready to stand together when it counts.

I wish community and sisterhood for you all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eat this: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

John and I are trying to limit indulgent baked goods, so when I got a seasonal urge to bake with pumpkin, I turned to Eating Well. What I got was this delicious recipe that you should try if 1) you like baked goods that use whole wheat flour, 2) you don't like breads that are overly sweet, or 3) you just love fall.


Monday, November 12, 2012

An Open Letter to Converse Women

Dear Sisters, both Pink and Red,

Some people may wonder why our reaction to "Roxie the Red Devil" is so strong. They may not understand the common bond we share that is masked in class warfare: Devils vs. Panthers. They may not understand why we love Richard despite his toothy grin, or worse, they may not understand our deep-seated respect for Converse Tradition and, most of all, the college's fundamental mission to empower every type of woman. 

Weekend on Instagram

This was my weekend. I don't know why life has been so exhausting recently, but it's been hard to get me to do anything on Saturday or Sunday beyond what you see in these photos. Dog pillow, bear slippers, rest. 

I did visit Community Tap for the Food Truck Rodeo, though, and my mom and brother surprised us by coming up last night for dinner. 

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 9, 2012

What is Marriage: So Check Us Out


John's better at this than I am. Seriously. Sometimes I start talking about how blogging is egocentric and I need to delete this entire thing. John stops me. Sometimes I say that I wasted my college and graduate school years on something I'm no longer doing, and that whatever money in the universe was intended for my education should have been spent studying A and B and maybe even C. John reminds me that music is how we met. Sometimes I unleash a torrent of self-loathing in an effort to pay some sort of retribution to my waistline for too many calories eaten, and John has to listen to every word of it. He still does a little cheer and a little dance, though, and says I look great. Sometimes he even lifts me in the air and uses a foghorn.

That's his job, I guess. Cheerleader. Was that in our vows? We should have employed the actual term, and that would have made us The Spartans. I promise to be your cheerleader and jump up and down screaming when you score a goal. John Young Shik Spartan and Lauren Ashley Maxwell Concklin Spartan.

Being my cheerleader is a hard job. I have a problem with perfectionism, as you know, and the other thing is anxiety. I worry about Herbie being at home alone, and I worry about the next career step, and I worry about having said something wrong. John tells me all those things are going to be fine.

I try to be John's cheerleader, too. I got him to spend more than two minutes inhaling each meal, and sometimes in the final, excruciating moments of a hot yoga class I whisper for him not to grimace. I even got to help a little bit in this whole crazy transcontinental job search.

I like to think we're winning in this, each giving the other what's needed. So check us out.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

To do: Neue Southern, Community Tap, Dapper Ink Block Party

This weekend, I want to look for dining room chairs at Shinola, eat Korean Fried Tofu from Neue Southern, and check out Dapper Ink's letterpress. The Pisgah Brewing tasting is icing on the cake.

Greenville, see you there?

Embedded image permalink

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November Gratitude: The best thing my dad ever gave me

Sherrod Leonard Maxwell III, my dad, amazes me. He has gifts that are used to help people all over the world. He works for a DOE National Lab and develops methods that have helped prepare the CDC, EPA, and FDA for life-altering things like bombings, natural disasters, and nuclear emergencies.

Before he was saving lives, though, he very intentional about communicating this message to his little girl, who had his own brown eyes, good intentions, and a little too much self-doubt for her own good:

You can do anything you want to do. You're smart and talented, and if you put your mind to it, you're going to do great things.

I remember hearing those exact words over and over and over again. His unwavering support was obvious, from kindergarten to college to graduate school to the job search.

The result of Dad's prediction is yet to be determined, but I know one thing: when I consider a new goal or my biggest aspirations, his voice is always there, in the back of my mind, with his message ringing clearly.

I'll always be grateful.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Knack Studios {Greenville, SC Art}

Yesterday I went to see my friend Barb at Knack Studios, and I have to share her with you. I stumbled upon Barb's work after finding some of her pieces at a local antique store. Her card was there with her studio address and I drove right over, thinking she might have a shop I could browse. She didn't have a shop, and she was actually right in the middle of a shoot for her book (available now for pre-order!), but she was so sweet and gracious and let me come in and look around anyway.

Why Women Should Vote

 Happy Election Day! 
From one of my favorites, Lisa Congdon.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Alanis, Feminism, and '90's Girl Rock

This is for all my friends who, like me, sang impassioned renditions of "Head Over Feet" behind closed doors in the '90's, felt appropriately confused and enraged when they found out You was Uncle Joey, and thought "Ironic" was the most poetic thing they'd ever heard in 1996. (It's okay, we were 11.)

Alanis recently wrote this piece about Feminism, and the remnants of middle school Lauren couldn't help but click. The path to her point is convoluted, but eventually she makes a good one: while the Masculine and the Feminine are indeed different, we all harbor elements of both. Allowing them to work alongside each other is essential and allows one to complement the other in a way that could provide society with the unification we've all been wanting. 

Eight years after we all put one hand in our pocket, Alanis provides her commentary on what Jagged Little Pill was - or what it was working towards. Some of us may have beat her there, but it's nice to know she's on board. 

Weekend Highlights on Instagram (and where to eat in Greenville)

I had to work most of the weekend, but here are a few moments captured on my Instagram: North African Vegetable Soup at The Lazy Goat, a martini at 21 East, and poor Herbie staring at the dog he's too scared to befriend.

Another recent highlight was happy hour at High Cotton. We knew immediately that our bartender could be trusted with an Old Fashioned (it was delicious), got the cocktail with the cucumber-infused Gin (never disappoints), and will be going back as soon as possible to visit our new friend (with benefits). 

Last but not least, we went to Cazbah for tapas, wine, and most importantly, the tiniest and most delicious Bread Pudding we've ever had.

Happy Monday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

November Gratitude: Artists and Hurricane Sandy

Gratitude is always on my mind, and what better month to explore it than November? Sometimes cliches are a good thing.

Today, I'm grateful for artists who use their gifts to do good.

At the Governor's School, every student takes Humanities classes that focus on three questions: Who are we as artists? Why do we do what we do? Why do the arts have value for society?

I've been asking myself those things for about 10 years. John and I have also had countless conversations about the value of art as we decided whether or not we could justify pursuing careers in performance. There are many arguments for the value of dedicating your life to that, but after various bad experiences and a couple of corrupt organizations, the two of us had plenty of doubts.

Returning to a little haven for artists (Governor's School) that is largely untouched by career-driven, competitive mania has been refreshing. It's rejuvenating to be around a lot of talented young people who want to use their art to initiate positive change, and it reminds me why I loved music in the first place.

Many artists have been using their powers for good in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. One great example is 20x200, who has raised lots of money this week with sales of two different prints being allocated to relief efforts. My favorite is "We Are So Good Together."  I'm partial, though, because I sent it to John once shortly after we started dating. :)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Living with Plants: Air Plants by Sea & Asters

Hi, friends,

I mentioned last week that I'm going to try, as we get settled, to add plenty of green life in our home. I've been wanting to try Air Plants for a while. Low-maintenance is good for me, and these don't even require soil. When I found Sea & Asters, I had to give it a try. This shop handmakes little custom pods for you that are perfect homes for the Tillandsia she sends along with them. Take a look at what I got in the mail this week.

The pods are so tiny and beautiful. The shop owner also sent a handwritten thank you note, which totally won me over. I chose gold to complement our living room (work in progress), but it was nearly impossible to turn down this sweet little heart.

The best thing is that I'm only going to have to soak these once every week or two for them to thrive.

Happy air planting, and big thanks to Sea & Asters for the lovely order.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween from 20x200

Happy Halloween, friends!

This is "Powerpuff Girls" by Amy Stein, via one of my very favorite companies, 20x200.

Wishing you a spooky night and a great sugar high.

One Last Wedding Tip

As a final homage to six months of marriage, here's one last wedding thought:

No matter what you do, or how your makeup looks, or what florist or vendor might be calling, carve out a few moments with the people who matter most. You'll remember them for the rest of your life. 

With Dad, it was his great toast and this hug.

With Mom, it was a quiet moment in the bedroom upstairs.

With Ellen, it was when I decided that despite being fully dressed, I had to take it all off and go to the bathroom anyway.

With Slifer, it was when he came out of nowhere to throw that wad of tissue over John's shoulder during our vows.

Our Vanderbilt friends hid us in a corner while we ate everything in sight.

Tara brought me wine before the reception and made sure my hair didn't look crazy. I saw Carolyn right after the ceremony with tears in her eyes. Tally came to say hi before going to play in the park across the street. My big sister was there just like always.

I could go on and on.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for being amazing. 


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