Step Away from the Screen and Make Something

By | A thousand words, step away, Thoughts | No Comments

step away from the screen

Hi. I’m Laurie and I’m addicted to screens.

But I’m not so naïve as to think I can live a life without them.

So instead I have set out to change my relationship with screens. To make my time on the screen more mindful and less mindless. To spend less time curating and more time creating. To use screens more responsibly. I’ve done this by setting two goals for myself:

  1. I intend to MAKE something every month in 2013. A real thing. That you can touch. Or stand in front of. At least one thing per month. If I make more, then heck — awesome. But at a minimum, I have to produce at least one real thing — something not digital — at least 12 times this year. I’ll show you my January project soon!
  2. Since so much of my time in front of screens is spent creating things for other people, I intend to carve out some of that time for myself. So I have embarked upon a 365 Day challenge: To design the words “Step Away from the Screen and Make Something” every day for a year. Yes, I’ll be doing this on a screen. And yes, I get the irony. But as a graphic designer in the 21st Century, the computer is my medium. I can’t really change that. The key here is that I’ll be creating these designs for me. No client, no friend needing a favor, no one but me. And the designs will also serve as constant reminder to spend more time away from the screen.

Hopefully, after a year of staring at these words, I’ll learn.

Are you addicted to screens? What do you do when you feel like they’re taking over your life? I’d love to hear.

Twenty Twelve’s Got it Goin On

By | Food, House, Thoughts | One Comment


Well. Here we are again. The new year approaches. And quickly. It’s time for fresh starts. Renewed energy. High hopes. Our annual New Year’s Day bash (back after taking a reluctant year off). And most importantly: Collard Greens.

And as my annual gift to you, the awesome people who live in my computer, I bring you once again my recipe for Collards, which, along with Black Eyed Peas and Pork (hog jowls, ham, bacon, whatever), are the law down here in the South. They’re supposed to bring you luck and fortune, which you can’t say you don’t want at least some of. And, bonus! these collards are crazy good. So go for it — make yourself a mess o’ greens and bring on the luck. Happy new year, friends.


Braised Collards of Deliciousness

– 4 bunches of collards, long stems and tough ribs removed
– Salt
– 1/4 cup brown butter (recipe included)
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– 1/2 chipotle chile en adobo, all chopped up (to taste — it’s intended to add smoky, not spicy)
– 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– Pepper vinegar (recipe follows)

CollardsWash the greens thoroughly in a whole lotta water (I fill my sink and wash them in there). Place the dripping wet leaves in a pot with a little water in it, add salt (to taste). Cook the greens for about 10 minutes (until they’re all wilted and reduced down quite a bit). Remove and place in a bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat 1/4 cup unsalted butter on medium-low until it turns brown and nutty. Strain off the milk-fat solids. (This is something I make a big batch of ahead-of-time and keep in the fridge.) Increase the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, pepper flakes and chipotle, stirring occasionally until the garlic is lightly colored and onion is soft. Add the greens, their reserved cooking water, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 30 minutes and taste again for salt (they can use a lot). You can continue cooking until the greens are “within an inch of their life” or you can stop here. The longer they cook, the better they”ll taste.

Serve with pepper vinegar on the side.

pepper vinegarRecipe for Pepper Vinegar: 1 cup white vinegar + 4 oz serrano chiles. Drop the washed and dried chiles into a bottle that has been freshly washed in hot, soapy water. (A narrow neck bottle is preferable so the vinegar can be drizzled rather than poured, but it doesn’t really matter.) Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small pan, then transfer to the bottle (via a measuring cup or some other easy-pouring device). Let it sit uncapped until cool. The peppers will absorb some of the vinegar. Add more vinegar to fill the bottle, then cap and set aside in the cupboard. The vinegar will be best if you make this ahead. But you can speed the process by including one pepper sliced into “coins.” Plus, the discs look cool floating around all the whole peppers.


(Thanks to Deborah Madison for the original base recipe, and especially for the brown butter secret. You have been helping me for many years to make people’s New Years just that much luckier and fortunier.)

It’s new. It’s old. It’s different. It’s the same!

By | Thoughts | No Comments

So remember when I used to write in my writing blog? The one called UpsideUp? And then I changed UpsideUp to a design blog? That has a lot of pretty pictures but not a lot of writing? Yeah. That.

Well now there’s this. LaurieSmithwick dot com. Aka, Not Only But Also. As in, Not Only is there all the stuff I do in my life, But Also there’s this blog.

For the time being, it will serve as a place to find all those old UpsideUp posts that you have missed so terribly all these long, cold months (sarcasm font). And maybe at some point, it will serve as a place to put new posts.

In any case, here it is. Happy reading.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

By | Monkeys, Rock the vote, don't tip the vote ovah, Thoughts | One Comment


Welcome to the day we’ve all been waiting for!

I hope you voted. And if you haven’t, there’s still time!! 2 whole hours still, even on the east coast. Stop reading now. Go vote! Then come back. We’ll wait.

Here in NC we’re all very excited because we’re a battleground/toss-up state for the first time in, like, ever (or at least the first time in my ever). This is represented on projection maps with a color other than blue or red. Sometimes purple. Sometimes yellow. Sometimes light blue. Sometimes pink. We’re like a bag of Skittles. Aww, precious. Also, not only are we voting for president, but we are also electing a Governor, a Senator, and a whole slew of judges. Big responsibilities here.

Anyway. We voted! Feel the power! Look at my big strong muscles!

The whole endeavor took about 2 hours, which isn’t so bad, all things being equal. We brought Zoe and Lucy with us, and the church where we vote has a playground right next to where the line was, so they got to play while we stood in the spitting rainlet making small talk with the huddled masses. Once inside, we signed in and got down to business. This meant we proceeded directly to the much anticipated Kids Voting booth, regrettably located in a small storage hallway, inches from the bathrooms. This did not impact our visit to the booth, but I can imagine the teenager manning the booth had some opinions about his circumstances. Zoe and Lucy told the guy what grade they’re in and what school they go to and the guy colored in some circles on the tops of their ballots and then handed them over.

It was all very serious.

Inspecting the ballot
Lucy and Zoe inspect the ballot.

Lucy and Zoe vote.

Lucy and the ballot box
Lucy puts her ballot in the box.

Zoe and the ballot box
Zoe puts her ballot in the box.

The girls were thrilled to finally be able to vote for some girls. O’ the indignity of voting for all men. Post-feminism indeed.

After that, Lucy accompanied me, and Zoe accompanied Bob as we voted in the grown-up booths. Sadly our ballots didn’t have pictures of all the candidates on them. But it was pretty darn thrilling to push that final button — the big blinking green one that says “CONFIRM YOUR VOTE.”

After what feels like 5 years of waiting, wondering, speculating, worrying, hypothesizing, fretting, cheering and holding your breath, the Unknown portion of the 2008 Election is coming to an end. All these months of not knowing what was going to happen have taken their toll, I believe, on the American collective consciousness. I think we’re exhausted. And depressed. And anxious. And all those things that arise from months of not knowing something. This election has been going on for so long, seemingly increased, of course, by the 24-hours-a-day of news and punditry, I think we just need to know. At the risk of sounding naive I feel that any result will be, for me, easier to deal with than all the uncertainty and anticipation we’re swimming in now.

And so my friends, I wish you all happy returns. I hope things go exactly the way you want them to. And I hope tomorrow is filled with the known. Overwhelmingly so.

xo, L

Do I have any readers in Charlotte?

By | kirtsy, Thoughts | One Comment

If so, you’re invited!!

Hey Queen City!!

The kirtsy chicks will be rockin Charlotte this weekend and we would love to hang out with you. So hey — come have a cocktail with us Saturday night!

Here are the details:


Apostrophe Lounge
1440 S. Tryon (across the street from Amos’ Southend, on Tryon and Camden)
Saturday, October 18


Plenty of parking around the back (drive past the building and turn right). Or, if there isn’t a show at Amos’ you can park in their lot for freezies.

Can’t wait to see you!

(PS, here’s a map!)

Why I Eyes Ya

By | Love Thursday, Monkeys, Video killed the radio star | 7 Comments

Coming up for air from my self-imposed/inadvertent blogging hiatus to make sure you have seen this video:

(Can’t see it? Click here.)

In case you’re wondering where my head is these days, it’s a little obsessed with this video.

Also, working too much. But that’s nothing new.

Also. Zoe and Lucy turned 6 on Tuesday. That’s old. They start first grade on Monday. Yow.

Also. 9 years ago today Bob and I had this awesome wedding thing in front of a lake in the NC mountains. I’m feeling grateful today that I get to spend my life with someone so funny and smart and sweet, and just so thoroughly good.

Okay. As you were. I miss you.

xo, L

It’s very simple: we just don’t like boys

By | Funny ha ha, Monkeys, Overheard | 9 Comments

I voted!

Yay North Carolina with your badass primary today. Go on wit’ ya bad self.

Zoe and Lucy and I went to vote before school this morning, and they enthusiastically helped me push the touch-screen buttons on my electronic ballot. I would say “touch the box next to Person ABC” and they would do it, clearly delighting in their power. I saved the president choice for last, just to savor it a little — the first presidential primary in my long NC history to actually matter, and matter a lot, at that. Plus, although I knew who I was going to vote for, I was still struggling, even at that 11th hour, with the conflict that comes from wishing things were different from what they actually were. I was excited about my choice, but I was still wishing that I was equally excited about the other candidate.

Finally I asked Zoe to touch the square next to Obama’s name. She did it, but she turned to me and said, loudly, “Mama, why are you voting for Barack Obama? Why aren’t you voting for Hillary Clinton?”

Quietly, I explained that I had decided to vote for Obama and that I would explain why after we left. As if I needed reminding that I had only just jumped down off the fence.

“But Mama,” Lucy chimed in, same volume as Zoe. “We want to vote for Hillary. Can’t we vote for Hillary and Obama?”

People turned toward us and smiled the smile. You know the one — the smile that says “I envy the innocence and outspokenness and conviction of a five-year-old.” Or maybe it says “Your kids are voicing the inner turmoil I feel too.”

Oh, or probably it was just because they could imagine how I felt standing there in the middle of Midwood Baptist Church while my private ballot was read aloud for all the world to hear.

Cute kids.

xo, L

The site formerly known as sk*rt

By | kirtsy | No Comments

Sk*rt is over. Yesterday. Old News.

No, we’re not shutting it down, even though that’s what some people might like.

Just the opposite. We’re aiming for bigger and better, starting fresh, onward and upward. A fabulous new name. With less hyphen!

And in true sk*rt fashion, we’ve decided to do it with a great big contest — The What’s in a Name contest — and turn the naming decision over to our clever readers (which hopefully includes you!). And y’all — the prizes are big. A fancy new cord-free/hands-free phone. A Magic Bullet blender/food processor. And a free BlogHer Registration. That’s over $700 worth of stuff. Just for helping us find a new name.

Entering the contest is super easy. Just leave a comment at the sk*rt blog or over here, at this sk*rt post letting us know what your favorite choice is from the list of new names — or you can even suggest your own. We like this option since all the brainstorming has left us a little brain-dead. Surely you can come up with something AMAZING.

Enter as often as you’d like. But you’ve got to do it fast. Because the contest ends this Friday. As in tomorrow. Sorry to be letting you know a little late. But you’ve got almost 48 hours left, and I know you work best with a deadline.

Thanks friends!
xo, L

Where else is Laurie?

Snapchat: @stepawayFTS