To the new year and how we spend our days

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” —Annie Dillard, an American author.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how this blog can evolve. All healthy things change and grow, and as a creative writing adventure, I want this blog to offer something valuable to the world. To you, the reader, who I appreciate stopping by, and who I hope gains something of value when you do.

But, I think Downtown Dame can be more. Maybe even something totally different. I don’t know what yet. And, I’ve recently learned that not knowing is more than OK. It leaves room for honest growth and true direction to take hold and soar you to new heights. I think I can offer you more in terms of insight and knowledge. And, to do that, I think I must produce something that is (even) closer to what I like than what I’d like to like. A creative production that gets me out of bed in the morning and puts me to sleep at night. It seems counter-intuitive, but a blog that allows me to pursue more of myself and less of what I think you want to see; more of what I love to do and less prestige (see more on this idea over on the blog, Brain Pickings).

I don’t know what that is yet, but as I’ve mellowed out and been offline much of the latter half of December 2013, I sense a change in direction is clearly in the winds for 2014.

Happy New Year, everyone!

And, thanks so much for reading.

P.S. The feature photo for this post is from one of my very first posts in August of 2010. Doesn’t it look different?

Special holiday meals

Since Thanksgiving we’ve been eating. Friends are making us cakes (with coconut oil) and cookies (sprinkles please!)—and tomorrow I’m gathering the Bisquick, sausage, and cheese for the best appetizer-balls around. The holidays are also a time to celebrate friends and family over a fantastic meal at a fantastic restaurant. The wax and wane and pull and tug of responsibilities and vacation during this season lends itself to going out for delicious, unique food.

Last weekend we took a walk from our house in Five Points, along the Greenway and up Lassiter Mill Road, to North Hills. Not sure where we’d end up, we decided on a quaint-looking Italian spot called Cinelli’s. It was 3pm in the afternoon, so the place was quiet except for a few customers. Parched, we drank our waters and looked over the menu. My favorite soup of-all-time was featured (Clam Chowder) and claimed to be “homemade”—so, I ordered it and a Caesar salad, one of the hallmarks of a great Italian restaurant. George ordered the Tortellini special, other tell-tell sign of whether a restaurant is up-to-snuff and an opportunity to have something the Chef is (or, should be) excited to make.

We were blown away. My expectations were honestly pretty low—most restaurants in North Hills have made a name for themselves and I’d never heard of this one—but, I have to say, the chef knocked it out of the park. I even asked our waitress to thank her/him! Don’t you love it when a meal just completes the experience?

What meal are you most looking forward to this week? Where will you eat?

Do your shopping on Person Street

My sister and I have a small, local business making prints and greeting cards. Darling & Dear began in 2011, and over the course of those two years, we’ve set up our work for sale at a handful of micro-markets (coined!). A couple of these were neighborhood get-togethers for the holidays, a couple were First Friday events at downtown shops, and one was a Pop Up Sunday. This coming weekend, we’ll go to our biggest market yet!

If you’re in the area and looking to finish up your holiday shopping come check out the Person Street Holiday Market on Saturday (from 10am to 5pm) for one-of-a-kind, locally-made works of art from a ton of vendors! Prints, jewelry, pottery, glassware, clothing, soaps, lotions, potions and more!

These people pour themselves into the work you’ll see. Every single business there, including Darling & Dear, has struggled with the demands of running a small, local business. There are so many challenges, from personal to professional, to bring these products to you, to market. But, having a passion to create is a strong and beautiful thing. Enjoy!

Person Street is surrounded by the Oakwood neighborhood and the shops and restaurants of Seaboard Station.

Food at Person Street

Get your hot coffee, tea, and sweets at Yellow Dog Bakery!

The Station is a newly opened restaurant and bar (see their menu here) at the corner of Person and Pace Streets. I haven’t been and haven’t heard (have you? please share!) but have biked by—outside there’s a high quality, Tiki-style bar, seating for dining and for hanging out, and two chimineas for maximum warmth. Pictures of the indoor dining room give off a “cozy-rustic” vibe.

PieBird, a restaurant and pie shop, is across the street and opened early in the spring of 2011 (read about my experience there).

And, the News & Observer reports that a taqueria will be opening up across from Oakwood Cafe!

Shops at Person Street

My favs are: Anvil, owned and operated by Becky Wofford (the market’s fantastic host!) and carrier of Darling & Dear cards and prints. And, Oak City Cycling, where I recently purchased a bike. Read more about the shop in my interview with owner David Zell.

Darling & Dear

At our booth: We’ll be serving FREE HOT CIDER! And offering the following outstanding sales! Find us across from Yellow Dog Bakery and Oak City Cycling (we’ll be in between, on Franklin Street).

♥ 20% OFF all framed prints

♥ Buy 2 cards, get one 1/2 OFF

♥ Get a FREE holiday card with any purchase!

See our online shop at Etsy. Plus, we’re chatty on Facebook and posty on Instagram!

Downtown Dame Holiday Gift Shop Guide (top eight picks)

This time of year you see a lot of holiday GIFT guides, but not a lot of GIFT SHOP guides. The Downtown Dame Holiday Gift Shop Guide highlights the best 8 boutiques in downtown Raleigh for holiday shopping for everyone on your list.

The hard-to-buy-for guy who digs hilarious art. The friend who moved away but will always have a soft-spot for Raleigh and North Carolina. The dad who appreciates a good joke and good chocolate. The mom with a growing and impressive locally handmade collection. The kid with every-digital-thing who really just wants a vintage star wars lunch pail to show off.

P.S. Each designer showcased in the images is linked in the blurb.

Epona & Oak

located in City Market

Gifts For Her and Him

Shop curator, Leeann Hynes gathers amazing local artists’ wares here: jewelry, pottery, clothing, art, cards, and more! Plus, who doesn’t need a massage? Cheryl Hynes offers bodywork and Monica Shelton facials available. Call or visit the store for gift cards and packages.

Moon & Lola

located on Wilmington Street, near the corner of Hargett Street

Gifts For Her


Jewelry! If you want preppy-pop or anything monogrammed, like this lovely gold and pearled ring, this is your store.


located on Wilmington Street, near the corner of Hargett Street

Gifts For Her, Him, and the Kids


feelgoodz is Toms for flip-flops. Artisans from around the world are provided fair wages to make these comfortable, sustainable (rubber) shoes. I’m loving these indoor slippers!


located on Wilmington Street at the corner of Hargett Street

Gifts For Her and Him


Vinyl bags of all shapes and sizes from weekend overnighters to handbags to wallets are made in Raleigh by . local designer Holly Aiken. She even uses the scraps! to build coasters, coffee cup wraps, and more. Her new messenger bike bags has me jones’n!

Deco Raleigh

located on Hargett Street at the corner of Salisbury Street

For Him, Her, and the Kids

Wacky, funky, hunky, local, and so much more… home decor, clothing, jewelry, art, paper goods… games, baby toys, and onsies… the list goes on while your list gets check off! Store owner, Pam Blondin, is always happy to help if you need someone to bounce ideas to.

Father & Son

located on Hargett Street, between Salisbury Street and Dawson Avenue

For Him and Her


Downstairs: fantastic retro-furniture, other home decor items, and in-house Southern Swank’s picks / Upstairs: vintage clothing and shoes / Up-upstairs: lots and lots of vinyl (records), plus artist studios and their art.


located in the Warehouse District, on Martin Street, near the old Joe’s restaurant

For Her and Him


Art. Art! And more art! Paul Friedrich is one of my favorites. Plus, jewelry, freakers, papergoods, and more.


located on Person Street, across from PieBird

For Her and Him

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Metalworks! Jewelry and many other crafts (from paper goods to handbags) by local artisans. Custom work by store owner and metalsmith, Becky Wofford by request.

During this time of ‘extra everything’

Today was a day where looking back and looking forward felt warm or perhaps like nothing at all. Weightless. Like the sunshine streaming on a clear morning or what it’s like to look out at a landscape and feel you’re seeing the whole world.

I was working and instead of checking off boxes. It was more like boxing. Left, right… jab, stick, and move. Or, dancing. Up, down… spin, reach, and tip. I was reminded of a conversation between George and Jonathan in Bored to Death’s Escape from the Dungeon! After Jonathan has alarmingly shouted over wine and martinis, “I don’t want to fail my whole 30s!”, George says, “Jonathon, it takes some time for a man to find his form.”

Does unexpected autonomy at work improve you?

Do a few days away from work refresh your capacity to get it all done your way?

During the holidays this year, during this time of ‘extra everything’, I hope you enjoy your extra work and your extra time off. Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and Happy (upcoming) Holidays from Downtown Dame!

Next: Downtown Dame’s Holiday Gift Shop Guide in Downtown Raleigh