24 November 2020

A letter to a college student about my career in graphic design

Dear Chloë, 

Thank you for asking my advice on the subject of Graphic Design. I’m so flattered and know that whatever career path you take, you’ll really fly! I’ve been so impressed by your many talents and skills, I’m sure it’s hard to choose a favorite. Luckily, I have a feeling you’ll be able to keep dabbling and stretching yourself in each area and gain even more areas of expertise. This was fun to look back on the many years of growth. I’m always happy to help you if you have more questions. xo. Marta Dansie

Describe education and career path. My education took some twists and turns and looks different than I had once hoped. I finished a couple years at the U of U. I took communications and health and family consumer science courses (which I loved). However, I spent most of my time in the Arts building, working on prerequisites to apply for the Graphic Design program. I loved Art History class and the 2D and 3D art classes stretched me in new ways. I was exposed to creative mediums I had never tried before. I loved my artsy classmates, from all walks of life, who worked long hours in the Art building. I took Photoshop software classes and worked on building my portfolio. I looked forward to learning more about graphic design and hoped I would be accepted. My husband, Dan was applying for law schools at that same time. He received good news of acceptance to a law school in California while I was denied entrance to the graphic design program; my portfolio needed work. Now that I know better, I realize it lacked a cohesive theme running through each piece. 

We moved to California and I looked for work to support Dan. I submitted that same portfolio for a graphic design position at a big printing firm called Kenny the Printer. By some small miracle, I got the job and received a baptism by fire, learning graphic design on the job. They must’ve been very desperate to fill the position. I learned a lot that year, my co-workers were very patient with my shortcomings. I think back to that year and am grateful I learned how to design something from scratch and send it to print. I learned the importance of CMYK colors, high resolution images, getting approval signatures from clients and creating vector images. I worked there for a year and decided to start my own freelance business, working from home, once we moved home to Utah. I’ve been self-taught ever since!

How did you choose graphic design. I have loved magazines and note cards my whole life. My cousin and I were pen pals at a young age and I enjoyed finding the best stationery for our correspondence. I’ve always been drawn to typography on signage and into fonts and how they paired up. I love how something like a logo can say so much about a business, even down to the paper it’s printed on. These choices all add up to create a story about what that business wants to be. I liked collage work and scrapbooking. I thought learning how to format items on a page would help me make books and writing was a passion too. My sister needed assistance designing Opa’s books, and I needed a job as a newlywed, so it fell into my lap. She painstakingly helped me learn the basics of layout and design. I owe her a lot for being so patient. 

Would you change anything to get into this career. I would’ve liked to finish school, however I think learning as I went was also incredibly helpful. I was ashamed that I was a “drop-out” for a long time and realize now it’s okay that I made different choices and supported my husband in the process. I would’ve been easier on myself knowing that plenty of people find their passion in unique ways. When I was building the portfolio for graphic design, I wish I would’ve chosen a topic or theme that I was passionate about. It would’ve been better executed had I really dug in deep and worked on something that mattered more to me.  I really appreciate artists and wish I was one! Delving deeper into illustration would’ve added another killer ingredient to make the graphic design work more special. 

How has graphic design changed since I started. Social media has changed graphic design! There are so many apps and templates available now. We had to create everything from scratch. I am grateful for YouTube. Since I am self taught, everytime I’m stuck with an issue, I can google it now and receive immediate help! The programs continue to improve, it’s fun to continue to learn new things in Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. I love the big, wide world of graphic design and how easily you can find fellow designers through social media. Collaborating with other artists (I’ve never met) is one of my favorite newer things that I’ve enjoyed. 

 Is there anything about your job that surprises people? I’m not sure what might surprise someone. It is funny that I have a handful of clients I have never met. The majority of the time I create something for someone, have it printed in another state and have the print shop deliver it straight to my client. I don’t get to actually see the printed piece! This is only after years of building trust with both my client and this print shop to know it’s gonna be high quality work. 

Another surprising thing is how I get inspired. I will see wallpaper, a child’s drawing, typography on a bus or a clothing catalogue and find it super inspiring. How it’s placed or the colors used will provoke me to create something. I like that circle of inspiration, go go going forward.

What type of people do you work with? One of the best things about being a freelance designer is getting to work with the people I want to work with. At first, I said yes to anyone who was willing to pay me! Now, I can really hone in on the type of clients I want. If I can tell that a client seems high maintenance or impossible to please, I can say no and direct them to another fellow designer. I have the pleasure of working with awesome people. I choose to surround myself with people who are thoughtful, artistic and creative which makes me so happy. 

There is a customer for every budget and I’ve weaned the clients who don’t want to pay my prices and customers who don’t understand why paper goods are important! I love commissioning other illustrators as well. I  work with artists who want to sell their goods at craft fairs and need help with prints, labels, packaging and business cards. I find a lot of joy supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and handmade artisans, so bouncing ideas off each other is worth gold. Gaining a network of creatives who share ideas and resources has been the key to any success I’ve had. I highly recommend finding your people, the kind who aren’t jealous but are the enthusiastic, cheerleading type. This is what every small business owner needs. 

One of my very best friends is what one might call direct competition. She emailed me after following my blog for awhile. We are moms running graphic design businesses out of our homes, we have similar aesthetic tastes, we both create paper goods and work with a variety of clientele. However, instead of jealousy, she created this thoughtful environment of sharing ideas and building each other up. She fawns over and emails me the links to the coolest scripty fonts, the best printers in town, and letterpress inspiration. We often help each other when we are stuck - designwise. We have discussed pricing, printing woes, problem clients and given each other plenty of advice - usually in the wee hours. I’ve been amazed that this friendship has only grown and never felt competitive. It’s one of the best things I’ve learned in my life. 

Describe a typical day of work. I am first and foremost a mother, so I am usually busy doing mom tasks for the most part. However, I carve out time to do emails and work at the computer for a few hours. After lunch I will work and then after bedtime, I get back to work. I squeeze in emails here and there. In my busy season, I have to stay up late or get up early to have quiet time to work. I am usually balancing many clients at once and they are all at different points in their projects. I will be in final revisions with one client, corresponding on the inspiration board of another client and sending files to print and emailing new clients along the way. Sending invoices and purchasing royalties to commercial clip-art is constant as well. I’ve been upping my game with posting on Instagram in my down time. Once a quarter I’ll photograph my own paper goods, which takes me a full day to shoot and edit and prep them for Instagram posts. I enjoy this type of photoshoot work, otherwise I’d outsource it. I like that I can figure out how to balance my work and take on as many clients as I feel I can handle. Even though taxes, invoicing and the nitty gritty is never fun - it is an important part of the job that can’t go ignored. 

Has Covid changed my job at all?  Thankfully no. One of my busy seasons is fall, gearing up for the holidays and more clients have reached out to me this year which is amazing. I think everyone is craving season’s greetings and sending well wishes to all their loved ones. People are also being generously thoughtful in choosing to support small businesses at this time. I feel so grateful! My kids are homeschooling because of Covid, so finding any alone time to work has been more difficult this year - but locking myself in my room while my husband takes over in the evening has been helpful. I’m grateful for a partner who has supported me in my business since day one!

What do I need to know to be a graphic designer? (I could go on and on about this question!) You’ll need skills in Adobe software. We all have our comfort zones, but knowing InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop has served me well. For instance, you would build a logo for a billboard in Illustrator, you’d do fine detail work on images with Photoshop and create a cookbook or multi-page pamphlet with InDesign. They each have their solid strengths and knowing which one will provide the best end result is helpful. You’ll need to learn how to finalize each product; usually graphic designers are the middle men. Clear communication with clients is key. Are they putting the final image on a t-shirt or a skateboard? Do they need it for a website or a business card? I often find myself problem-solving for  clients and knowing which type of artwork file my client needs in the end is the solution. Dabble around in what you like best; formatting books, making logos, website work, doing product design, etc. I think eventually creating a niche for what you prefer to design is the best way to go about finding your favorite clientele. 

Another important skill is knowing how to take feedback well. Learn to know that not everyone has your exact same aesthetic and be willing to lean in an opposite direction for your client’s tastes - not your own. Once you build up enough work, you will start pulling in clients that like your work and appreciate the type of design you do best! You’ll need to put yourself out there and be willing to drum up business, post on social media and charge your friends (or offer trades) for your design work. It’s awkward at first, but it helps with your mindset to take your business seriously.

Is it necessary to graduate with a degree in graphic design? No, definitely not. However I think the education would be extra helpful tools in your toolbox; the more experience you have with graphic designing, the better! A design firm is more likely to hire someone with a degree and killer portfolio. No one has ever asked me to see a diploma (phew!), however they do want to see what I’ve designed in the past. 

What skills or practices have you learned from your job that have positively impacted your life? Time management. Making tight deadlines! Clear and transparent communication with clients. I’m so much better at responding to emails rather than ignoring them. Knowing I’m not for everyone and that’s okay. Pushing myself to make goals and work to achieve them. Showing my kids that I run my own business and work hard. Knowing if the breadwinner in our family loses his job, I have the skills to earn and provide. Running in the same circles as other like-minded small business owners makes me happy; we are all cheering each other on. Looking for inspiration everywhere and getting paid for being creative is really wonderful too.

What’s your end goal for your career? I look more at this career as a side hustle or fun hobby that makes a little money. I am not a big dreamer in that way, however I do think it would be neat to write, design and publish a book someday. I used to crave to be discovered or gain fame in some way and now know that fame is not shiny or very glamorous. I am glad I can do little design jobs as they come and fiddle with personal projects here and there. I love finding beauty in the ordinary and that’s what I’ve come to enjoy in my own work. No one else needs to think it’s ultra fabulous - if my client and I am pleased with it, that can be enough.

Do you expect your job to change within 5 years? Yes and no. I think the basics will stay the same however I think the trajectory is headed for more social media presence and websites for growing businesses. More shortcuts for creating graphic design pieces will come about, but having your own toolkit and knowledge of building graphics from scratch will always be helpful. Hard work will never go out of style. I think it will be a popular field of interest, however the opportunities are endless. I think people will crave a unique and artistic voice, because we will be inundated with the templates and the color palettes that get overused. True, artistic taste and an unapologetic one is always more interesting to look at.

What is the hardest / least favorite thing about your job? The business-ey stuff like taxes and making sure I don’t spend more than I earn is not my favorite. Invoicing clients and figuring out how much to charge took a long time to get right. Figuring out what your time is worth and asking for it is hard! I also find it tough when I feel stuck and need to start over or if I have a super picky client. Sometimes it is like mind-reading, hoping to know what they want! People are passionate about their businesses and need their logo to be just right; so pulling out a lot of details and information is helpful. Tight deadlines on big projects have given me many sleepless nights, but the feeling of accomplishment helps ease the pain. 

What is my favorite part of the job? I love creating something that didn’t exist before. I enjoy listening to a client’s needs and then designing something they are really pleased with! I love packaging orders with extra care. I love building a client’s main logo and then morphing it in new, yet cohesive ways within their printed materials so it all works together. I really love sharing ideas and talking business with other small business owners. I love discovering cool new illustrators all over the world and buying the rights to their work and utilizing it on my own. I enjoy pushing myself to get better in certain areas or make mini goals for my work. I love that I can do it at my own pace, take on the clients I want and shut it down if I need to. I love working from home and having the freedom to put my kids’ needs first. It is kind of a dream job for my situation. I feel so lucky!

27 March 2020

Pandemic journal prompts

I feel like one of the best things we can do during this pandemic is to keep a journal.  In case you need some inspiration for yourself or your homeschooling students, I found some interesting questions and 
created a list of prompts, adding a few more of my own. Click the image above to save and print. 
If you prefer to copy and paste your questions, instead of printing out the questionnaire, here you go! 

Questions for journaling during Covid-19 Pandemic

What did the government announce/declare/implement today? 
Does it impact your life? Why or why not? How did your family respond?

What is open in your neighborhood? What is closed? What does your neighborhood 
look like? Are people walking around?

How is today different from yesterday for you, your family, our nation, the world?

Do you see any examples of racism, privilege, and income inequality in any of the events that happened today? (Locally, at the state level, nationally, or the world?)

Did you see anything today that gave you hope? Anxiety? Fear? 
(In person, in the news, or on social media?)

What does your family need today that you might not have, have enough of, 
or have no access to acquire? What do you and your family have that others 
may need?

How are you spending your time? Who are you social distancing with?

What is currently bringing you the most comfort?

What are your favorite foods, games, friends, electronic apps, television shows?

What are the worries you’re concerned about at this time?

What things have stayed the same for you during the pandemic?

25 March 2020

Free scavenger hunt + nature journal printable

We've never seen days like this. We are isolating our families due to the rate of Covid-19 raging through each nation. The news is rapidly revolving; a cycle of bad news turning worse and then deadly. It's hard to stay on top of the news, our work responsibilities, our kids' needs, our own health - mental and physical - and our list of obligations that once seemed so important. We are grinding to a halt and lifestyles are changing without notice. My expectations of being an ideal homeschool teacher in this climate of uneasiness and stress have lowered significantly over the past week. However I've already seen so much good rise to the top of this pandemic. Good people everywhere putting in their two cents, doing what they can or, in some cases, putting in their ALL, with their abilities and talents to help others. I've been pondering what I can do, I'm starting very small with this idea. We are in this together.

Since we are all social distancing, I thought I'd recreate some of my printable designs from the past and offer them to you for free. Keeping our kids entertained and semi-educated while school is cancelled is a full-time job. I hope you're inspired to create a family fort, campout indoors or send some scavenger hunt printables door to door to show some love to a friend. Simply click on the image to print!

21 April 2019

Sunshine between the slats

I have a vivid memory of sitting on my dad's lap at church as a little girl; rolling his tie up into a tight cinnamon roll beneath his chin. Then I'd let go and the neat patterned fabric would race down his chest to my delight. I'll never know if this was endearing or an annoyance to him, as he was likely distracted from the Sunday messages given. I don't recall any kind of frustration on his part, as he'd let me roll his tie repeatedly. I've learned that the phrase warms my heart is actually a thing that feels real when thoughts like this bubble up in my vulnerable state. Tender father and daughter memories have been popping up clearly in my mind since my dad passed away in August. Immediately following his death, I relived his last days and weeks and months again and again in my mind's eye since they were filled with miracles and mercies (as well as so much unbelief that he was really gone). Recently though, I have been looking back on my childhood and his fathering ways with brand new eyes.

My own little girl turned three last month. Amusingly sweet and entertaining quips come out of her mouth daily. I am often alone with her nonstop (mostly coherent) chatter at mealtimes, story time or nap time when these adorable remarks come streaming out. I smile at her, praise her, laugh aloud, and often text Dan the funny things his darling daughter has come up with. She likes naming all the people who live in our home and sweetly reports, "we are a family!" She remembers her manners and randomly tells me, "Thank you mommy!" / "This is delicious, mom!" / "I sure love you, mom!" / "I'm a good maker!" (After she bakes with me and licks the beater.) One quiet afternoon while I was busy in another room, she was playing pretend with her little kitchen. I heard her knocking on the bathroom door - which she had just closed and no one was in. I later learned she'd made a pretend pie, with a tiny pot containing the only ingredient, a green plastic pear. She knocked again and left it next to the door, on the hardwood floor of the hallway. I hear her softly musing to herself, "They're not home, so I'm gonna leave it on the doorstep. They'll have a lovely surprise when they get home!"

Sometimes - no - all the time, I feel guilt that I haven't written down the classic sayings my children have said, the hilarious tales they tell and all the good, thoughtful and even naughty acts they've done. I had a quiet moment of reflection while sitting on my daughter's bed the other afternoon. She sat up real close to me with a peaceful, contented gaze; a possible approach to prolong nap time and she inspected my ears, my eyes, wrinkles, freckles and my mouth. As mothers tend to do, I thought what a golden moment this was and intentionally appreciated it; the afternoon sun warmed my toes through the blinds and the sun made shadows across the stack of storybooks she'd chosen. I thanked God my children are healthy and happy and we have a home so full of love and laughter. I felt the truth of my charmed existence right then. All is not right in the world, but all was right in our world. I knew Claire wouldn't remember that specific moment we shared together and how much my heart was bursting with love for her and her brothers. I felt so grateful and in love with my little simple life.

It gently dawned on me, as I watched the beautiful dust particles dance through the slats of sunshine, my dad would've had moments like this with me and all my siblings. And he would've scooped it all into his heart. So many memories packed into his parenting satchel that I can't even remember. All the parenting duties, huge sacrifices, clean-ups, squabbles and forgivenesses, chit chats, long road trips, family meals, errand runs, explanations, the listening and the endless acts of patience.. the thousands of moments wherein he was instilling his love, his encouragement, his support, and his confidence in me that live within me that I cannot even remember. How lucky and blessed am I? I am well aware that having a father who is present and loving and nurturing and wonderful is a rare and wonderful gift. I think of the millions of moments you wish you could thank them for on Father's Day that you can't conjure up the right words for. Knowing these moments between us existed gives me lots of comfort.

That overwhelming love that you feel for someone in your life who is irreplaceable. The love that spills over all of us while we cry and mourn and miss him. In my heart of hearts I sometimes wonder and hope and cry, I hope he knew how much I truly loved him... (and admired him... and respected him and wanted so much to be like him). Did I say it enough? Did he know? Because in the end (as clichéd as it sounds) love is what matters. That is what holds. And a dear friend Hilary, wisely advised me as I sobbed to her over brunch (as you do with dear friends), "I am sure he knew how you felt. You two had a beautiful relationship, working together and so on.. but he knows even more clearly now. He still knows how you feel." What soothing words for my aching soul. Yes, yes indeed. I believe it is so!

Today is Easter and the holiday feels more meaningful than ever before. My faith in Jesus Christ has felt much more personal since my dad died. I am striving to understand why death is such a big part of our earthly experience and why people have to suffer and feel the depth of loss and sadness. I know Christ lives and I know He felt all the pains of the world. I also have learned heaven is not too far away. I feel my dad's spirit and feel that he is content and at peace and doing good things in the afterlife. I am so excited to see him again. His presence on earth is deeply missed; family parties are different, our whole lives are different now. The hole he left in our hearts is wide. Some days I feel sadness sweep over and crash me down like an ocean wave on the sunniest of days. And then I get back up and feel fine again, it's a strange cycle but it is teaching me more about life (and what matters) than I understood before. I will end with a few of my favorite quotes by our dear prophet.

"We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life."

 "Without our Redeemer’s infinite Atonement, not one of us would have hope of ever returning to our Heavenly Father. Without His Resurrection, death would be the end. Our Savior’s Atonement made eternal life a possibility and immortality a reality for all. I testify that He is the living Christ—our Lord and Savior, Redeemer, Exemplar, and Judge. Thanks to Him, no condition is hopeless. Brighter days are ahead, both here and hereafter."
- President Russell M. Nelson

The Lord said, "Fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.” (D&C 101:36.)

23 January 2019

Two thousand and seventy posts.

I can hardly believe this will be number 2,070. I've posted a lot throughout the years and yet rarely return to read them. The recipe section has been helpful, although I've succeeded at avoiding the rest. The other posts, I am happy exist, even if I don't want to see them. I hear of celebrities who don't watch the films they star in. Which seems preposterous, but I get it. It feels like a no win situation. I will likely cringe at the sight of most of these essays. Especially the ones that are dripping with self righteous advice or motherly counsel. Gotta love mothering advice from someone who has been a mom all of a year and a half. The posts that are decent, I will feel guilt I abandoned my writing practice so early on. And of course the mom guilt sets in for the fact that there are so many posts about my sweet firstborn, baby Benji and hardly any description about our other two, who are equally as sweet and adorable.

I hope to describe them accurately in future posts as I see they change so rapidly. My heart feels consumed with loving them and knowing them and observing them, the writer in me wants to describe every inch of raising them. I battle with being fully present and also taking constant notes about who they are, what they said, and how they feel so fresh from heaven. Seth, age 6, talks regularly about his Opa and will bring him up in casual conversation without any prompting. I feel like my dad is their guardian angel in a very real way. The way that Opa is in their thoughts more so than ever before makes me think their open, unjaded souls can possibly feel heaven more clearly and closely than I can. (Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.)

I remembering hearing the phrase the more you know, the more you know you do not know. I am beginning to see that within myself more clearly these past few months. Oi vey, I cringe at what I thought I knew. Ignorance really is bliss and childhood is wasted on the young and all that. Perhaps it is harder for me to write these days because of this feeling of not knowing. I feel uncertain in so many subjects and the written word feels so solid. I want to write but also want the ability to erase and make new drafts and not be so harshly judged on the words I put down. Even if it's just me playing the critic.

However I plan to keep posting as I have the past few days - it is a small new habit but I do feel lighter. I feel like this is a good direction for me to go, as I have been quite directionless lately. I have a lot of healing to do and the best way I know how to understand what I am going through is by writing it out. I can only hope and work toward making the next two thousand posts better than the last.

"Ancora Imparo" is famously attributed to Michaelangelo at 88 years of age.
I am still learning.

22 January 2019

A feeding frenzy

I am getting the hang of this posting again and (knock on wood) liking it. Even if no one bothers to come read, it's a safe landing spot which is exactly what I need. Instagram feels too showy for my quiet heart these days and is becoming less and less about connection as it is about commercialism. Sure, I love a good dose of advertising, clever wording, neat tips and favorite new finds. The commercial-filled stories and affiliated links have become overwhelming. I've taken time off and weeded out a lot of the extras and honed in on the "influencers" I actually want influencing me. It really did run away with me the past few years. I spent so much time on Instagram and have nothing to show for it.

The other night after a big family dinner at The Porcupine, Heidi and I chatted about our love / hate relationship for Instagram and how we are attempting to break our addictions to the constant checking habit by removing the app from our phones. We were laughing at the absurdity of us scrolling down the rabbit holes; hunting and searching for more and more and more - often linking from one gram to another in hurried fashion. She responded, But what is it that we are searching for? Nothing really ever quenches it. It's so true. Nothing actually fills that strange gaping sensation.

Of course I am not saying it's all bad. I love the up close peek into how others live, the similarities and differences between us, and the quick connection to other creatively minded individuals. I've found so many fantastic people to follow who inspire me by the way they live. Sean McCabe is an interesting fellow who is a low key, motivational speaker type. (The opposite of a Gary Vee type. P.S. Gary recently predicted that Instagram will become the new MySpace and will eventually go away. I was kind of happy when I heard him going off on the topic.) Sean has created a few cool writing courses. I find his IG stories and posts pretty helpful and motivating. He listed stats awhile back, noting the differences between CONSUMERS vs. CREATORS. Sean related this to not stressing about competition in your creative field since there are so many more consumers out there, waiting and ready to consume what you are creating.

This struck me. Ever since I logged onto the shiny new Instagram app, I've (sadly) become much more of a consumer than a creator. I didn't allow the connectivity to motivate me nor have I used it as a tool in my creative process or drive - of course it has done wonders for the influencers out there. There is huge potential. It is what you make of it. I thought back to the time when I was creating on the daily and how happy I felt blogging and writing every day. Even with the non-existent wage I made blogging all of those years, I still felt productive and satisfied within that sphere. I created friends that are still lifelong, ride or die friends through our blogs. The community that you can find online is pretty awesome, if you choose them well. My whiplash of realizing all the consuming I've been doing; other people's ideas, products, ideology, methods, routines, families, comparisons and more definitely made me take a step back.

I began thinking and asking myself questions. Some, I have decent answers to, others I shrug my shoulders at. Why are we sharing so much on social media? What is the point? How is it helping? How is the consuming aspect of this getting me to where I want to go? What do I want in life and how am I going to get it? Is Instagram helping or hindering my efforts? Do I feel motivated or depleted after checking in? Am I building friendships? Am I feeling bitter towards others? Am I understanding my purpose more clearly? Do I waste time? Can I scroll without comparing? Can I become a better creator than a simple user? Is this the arena I willingly want to be involved in? Can I use it as a tool to better myself? I love certain aspects of it. It's a little bit like a pretty magazine which I've picked the feature articles for. Still, opening my eyes widely to why I consume more than create was the first step in getting un-addicted to Instagram. After a long break, thankfully, it no longer feeds me when I'm hungering for something.

I've been almost unknowingly shoveling in all that my Instagram feed was feeding me without feeding myself first. If Instagram were a trough, I have definitely played the pig. The shine has worn off and I am proceeding with caution.

21 January 2019

am a fan

+ I am currently revamping our living room and when seeking inspiration, I landed into Anna Spiro's gorgeous book. I love that it chock-full of decorating advice, saturated colors, mixing patterns (my fave) and celebrates collecting things you love for your home. Homebody by Joanna Gaines is also a great resource for getting started!

+ Speaking of interior design inspiration, Karin Bohn is a new find and I love her youtube channel. She seems to be an incredible boss lady - running her own company in Vancouver and also such a likable person, sharing lots of tips and tricks. I appreciated her inside look on remodeling her own townhouse.

+ I am reading the Wizard of Oz for the first time to my boys and am discovering the fun of reading a familiar classic story aloud again. We are all loving it and I am doing my best at all the voices. Their aunt is taking them to the play in a few weeks and then we are going to Wicked next month (hip, hip!), so it'll be all kinds of magic this season. I love that they're still young and love this kind of simple activity with me.

+ My friends turned me onto Madewell earrings. They're trendy, adaptable and casual without breaking the bank. They also may have turned me on to clearance velvet shoes.

+ My two year and I love these interactive recipe board books. They are darling and beautifully illustrated. Claire loves all the tabs and pulls. We have the Cookies and Pancakes books in our library.

+ Clinique cleansing balm and Belif moisturizer have been my all-stars in rotation this year and never fail. Some beauty guru got me hooked on these too.

+ A dear friend introduced me to the scent Philosykos by Diptyque. It's absolutely unique and memorable. If you like grapefruit, you'll love their Oyedo scent and Do Son is freshly delightful too.

+ This cozy classic Pendleton blanket. My obsession with blankets is not going away anytime soon. This reminds me of my dad and Dan.

+ Mercury glass lamps. I have my eye on this one.

+ This TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert got me thinking about writing and creating. It's ten years old, yet still applicable. I completely loved and could relate easily to the following passage:

I had this encounter recently where I met the extraordinary American poet Ruth Stone, who's now in her 90s, but she's been a poet her entire life and she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, "run like hell." And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times she wouldn't be fast enough, so she'd be running and running, and she wouldn't get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it "for another poet." And then there were these times -- this is the piece I never forgot -- she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right? So, she's running to the house and she's looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it's going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand and she would catch it. She would catch the poem by its tail, and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact but backwards, from the last word to the first.

20 January 2019

Switching gears and changing lanes

On the last day of the year in 2018, I received an incredibly helpful piece of advice at a New Year's Eve party. It came by way of chatting with a real writer, a friendly woman named Ruth, who I had met just hours earlier. She recently found out her novel is going to be published! Wow. I felt so happy for her. Truly! What a huge feat. That's the coolest. I grilled her with writer-y questions and (gasp) confided that I too like to write. (Hmmm. Inner monologue eye roll. You may as well be telling her you are a tennis player. Haven't picked up a racket nor a pen in forever. No, more like, foreeeeevvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeerrrrrrr.) In our chatting I became enthused that I could / should practice writing again. Yet another nudge for me to write stuff down. Well-meaning, dear friends have been telling me to do so for a few months now. I've brushed them off. Funny when a perfect stranger's advice can waken your senses more than your own mother's (husbands, best friends, siblings, etc). Or more like, a perfect stranger gives you advice in a similar vein to what your own mother has been saying all along, and you perk up and take it for what its worth. Humans are funny creatures. (Other lessons: Listen to your mother. Moms can never win. Also, moms never get the credit. Moms are the best. Moms always know.)

Still at this very low point of my writing career (ha. career. as if.), I still think about writing. Almost daily. More than I ever think about playing tennis. Doesn't that count for something? Like a nagging younger sibling, wearing a ball cap backwards and an unhitched strap on her overalls, my wannabe-written-words want attention. In recent years I've programmed myself to ignore the urge to write anything down. Nap. Dishes. Scroll Instagram. Bathe. Read. Podcast. Laundry. Mrs. Maisel. Seinfeld. Meghan Markle news. Bake. Organize a cupboard or two. Rearrange furniture. Of course none of these activities are as satisfying as having written. Like scanning the channels even when there is nothing good on. Its a numbing way of distraction. Distraction of actually caring to put real thought into something. I've sometimes thought, as the writers-guilt gnaws away at me - usually while I try to fall asleep - it's an odd habit to try to will away something you actually want to do. My inner monologue rolls its eyes as I have these cliche writer chit chats to myself. Writers angst; as if this were a real problem in life. I can go on and on. And I have. (Did I do too many research projects on Vincent van Gogh as a teen? Am I this narcissistic / dramatic by nature or nurture?) A brilliant sparkly essay idea comes to me in the morning and I'll have talked myself into, and finally, out of writing it by lunchtime. It's a slow kind of torture we Creatives know well. I'm using that term loosely. (At least I remember how to spell loose vs. lose. Pet peeve.)

To continue lamenting, I've now curated an automatic response of pushing ideas far far down; the corners of a duvet into their cover. Last summer I searched high and low for the best duvet and coordinating duvet cover that had strings and loops which I could then tie up those corners into their places for safekeeping. No wiggling out of place. Stay put. A sure promise that at least one thing in my life was in control. Double knotted duvet. Stay in your lane. Dan was excited to learn this phrase the other day. I smiled to myself as he mentioned it (because I relish in the times when I know things before he does - it's a rare treat) and agreed. Yes, 'stay in your lane' is an extra handy phrase to keep in one's back pocket. Whether it be an athlete tweeting a response to the current President of the United States or a harmless jab in a bit of banter, it is a clever little comeback. (Or maybe a sassy judgement call that I have no business offering.)

One, I realize, am often telling myself in one way or another. Cornering myself into my current situation with a tight knot - no hope of slipping to freedom of maybe, possibly, trying out another 'lane' in life. Staying in your lane comes with benefits, I suppose. Comfort Zones feel so good. I've molded to my lane and my lane has molded to me. Stick to what you know, what you're doing, what your habits are. Stick right here. Remain status quo. Just keep doing what you're doing. No progress, no problem. No rocking the boat. Stay in your lane. Mind your own business. Don't try to think outside the box or push yourself in any way, shape or form. Progress, evolution, improvement... it is for other people.

This has been what I've been telling myself unconsciously. To be honest, my lane isn't doing anything for me anymore. Like the worn out bra that has lost its elasticity and therefore, all its function. The bra that has faded into a useless morning ritual rather than a helpful undergarment. It's time for change. I've been feeling it in my bones and all signs have been nudging me to go ahead and get out of this lane. So when I was chatting with this warmly open Ruth, over plastic cups of rice pudding on New Year's Eve, it resonated again. Another nudge.

Write your second book first.

Wait, tell me again. I heard her the first time. I just liked every word she just said so much. She had just opened my pandora's box. The advice had been discussed during a session of her monthly Writing Club. Yes, yes, of course. Making perfect sense in my mind; the first book has all the weight and pressures to succeed. All your life's courage poured into the pages of that first book. It can't possibly measure up to what you've deemed a first book should / could be. The wish to write and fear of doing so has bullied me into a tight corner. Not writing is easier than writing. Completely frustrating for someone who needs to write - yes, but easier than switching lanes, creating new habits, being courageous, switching gears, stomping out fear, and practicing rough drafts. And getting up early to make time for the thing you want to do most. I'm tucking this rough draft into my blog and promise to wake up early and write again. And again. And again. Until I'm in a new lane I hardly recognize. 2019, I'm counting on you.

12 June 2015

new designs for my paperie shop

i've been busy filling orders this month for newlyweds, new business owners and new babies too. i absolutely love creating designs and am thankful i can keep busy working at home as a freelance designer.

31 January 2015

am a fan

a few faves from 2014 

+ am a fan of the Urban Decay Naked 2 Basic palette of eyeshadows. I love this for the matte, no-shimmer, very basic neutral shadows for day to day to day wear.

+ am a fan of Honest Co. hand sanitizer spray. I love this simply for the ease I can spray it into my kiddos' hands while reaching behind me in the car without having to look. They think it's cool too.

+ am a fan of Sour Patch Kids. Of course. Best movie purse snack.

+ am a fan of this BB Cream by Bobbi Brown. It feels luxurious and creamy and applies beautifully with fingers or a synthetic brush, I like a flat head kabuki type over a classic 'foundation brush'.

+ am a fan of lush liner. This Benefit They're Real Push-Up Liner is great for the winged look. Try this sucker. It's black black and is a great way to apply a thick gel liner without too much hassle (no brushes required). It stays all day and has a great formula. Yes and yes.

+ am a fan of this Chanel black waterproof long-lasting eyeliner. Awesome for rimming your waterline. Love this, it's my go-to for black liner. Really black, really stays put.

+ am a fan of the NYX Wonder Pencil. It's a cheap trick, literally. I like rimming my lower lash line with this nude color (so much better than 60s white liner) to brighten a natural makeup look. It makes you look bright eyed and bushy tailed after a late night. The wonderful thing about it, is it can also be used as concealer or reverse lip liner too. Keep this baby in your purse and you'll thank me later.

+ am a fan of L'Oreal's Telescopic Shocking Extensions waterproof mascara is one of my favorite finds of 2014. A makeup artist recommended it and I've been super happy with it.

+ am a fan of Laura Mercier's translucent powder for setting your foundation or BB cream. Also came highly recommended to me, this stuff is finely milled and really makes a beautiful matte finish.

+ am a fan of Philosophy Fresh Cream body lotion. I hate most scented lotion, sorry, just sayin'. But this one is fresh and not fruity or florally. You have to smell it to believe it. It's really yum without being overboard. Am obsessed.

+ am a fan of this L'Occitane shower oil in almond scent. Another lovely, lightly scented shower oil that moisturizes and cleans and lathers too. Such a girlie gift that every woman would love.

+ am a fan of this new perfume. ooh la la! my cute cousin Whitney discovered this Vanille perfume in Anthropologie and gave it to me for Christmas. Normally I would cringe at a warm vanilla smell, but not this one. It's so inviting and light and genuine and the notes are not too high or low, just vanilla goodness. But not the sick syrupy vanilla candle type scent you may be used to. Give this a try, I promise you may just fall for it.

+ am a fan of Bumble and bumble Pret-a-Powder. It is the real deal. I use it all the time. It even comes in a tiny travel size too. It's like the old school shake-in dry shampoo but it volumizes and gives your hair a matte beachy texture all at once. Since it is white, I love putting it in my roots before bedtime to give my maine a messy voluminous second day look perfect for messy buns, etc. This stuff is my hair heroine.

+ am a fan of this Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating Mask for medium to thick dry hair. This jar has lasted me at least two years. It's a dreamy thick conditioner, perfect for weekly deep conditions while you soak in the tub or take a steamy shower. It softens and hydrates your hair like nothing else I've used. Your hair feels so silky and smooth and shiny and totally hair commercial material. It's a beefy price, however a little goes a long way and it lasts forever. I dye and blowdry and sometimes curl my hair (we all beat up on our hair!) so I love that this mask restores the natural moisture that processed hair can lose.

+ am a fan of this Ocean Salt face and body Scrub by LUSH. It's so great for men and women. My dear friend Miranda introduced me to Lush and I'm scrubbing my wintery scales away with this happy blue hued sea salt scrub. I ignore the matchbox cars that rim my tub imagining myself at a dreamy spa, this scrub softens and exfoliates so well!

+ am a fan of lips these days. I love the tiny vaseline jars, such a perfect size for a nighstand or purse or car! Another obsession is a strong statement lip. Nars Audacious Lipsticks have recently been launched and I love their new formula, they are power packed and creamy and matte. The color Grace is a must-try. I depend on Bobbi Brown, Urban Decay and MAC lipsticks for reds, corals and nudes. My recent drugstore discovery is Mabelline's Color Sensation lipgloss Elixer in Blush Essence. It's a bright razzleberry tone that's fresh, not grandmother-y. Perfect for Valentine's and spring.

+ am a fan of Josie Maran's concealer stick. So essential for a woman on the go! This is a perfect crayon to dab on and run. I love the consistency of this stuff; it's no fuss and works awesome.

+ am a fan of Coke Zero with lime at the end of a long day. yes and yes. Like a little treat to look forward to after the boys are in bed!

+ am a fan of nani hats. My friend knits hats and I was excited to give my boys warm hats for the holidays. They are so darling, so soft, such hip colors and perfect for girls and boys and she has adult hats too. Tiffany is super talented and local too. I love supporting handmade artisans!

+ am a fan of Dale Carnegie. I've been reading this book, thanks to my good friend Collette who has encouraged me in so many ways lately. A perfect self-help book that's not too daunting or draining. This book was published way back in 1937 and every point it makes is so valid and intriguing. It can definitely help you work with the people in your life; your community, your business, and your family in a whole new way. This book is one I've underlined and will be recommending for years to come.

19 September 2014

i love september

i've been busy updating the mini mart shop with all kinds of invitations, cards and these latest rounded square halloween gift tags. pop over and check it out. my christmas card designs will be on sale october first. i would love to customize your season's greetings this holiday. let me know if you're interested! thank you for supporting small businesses and my passion for paper. i love running this little online shop!

25 May 2014

kids camping party ideas & printables

purchase this camping party invitation printable here.

school's almost out and my little ones are already gearing up to camp out in the backyard!! benji is getting old enough to enjoy hiking, going on nature walks, and even loves listening to spooky stories. (scooby do is on repeat these days, whether i like it or not.) thanks to his mountain man dad, my boys are learning about explorers and the great outdoors. since benji is nearly done with kindergarten, i started imagining up some fun traditions to help swing in the season of summer! my sister has a shaving cream slip n' slide party in her backyard. another mom loves pelting the kids with water balloons at the bus stop for a sneak attack water fight! i also like the outdoor movie idea of cozying up under the stars. i'm dreaming up a special cousins camp out, a perfect way to celebrate the summer, teach my kids the joys of the outdoors and give my siblings the night off.

throwing a casual (and often, spontaneous) party that focuses on the kiddos is key; no birthday cake or presents or too much decor to worry about, just pure fun designed with kids in mind. benji loves making lists and schedules, so i usually let him help me dream up our events. anticipation is half the fun. here's to happy campers!!

our brainstorming came up with these camp out party ideas...

flashlight fun / sleeping bag sack races / s'more brownies / daytime scavenger hunt / glowstick tag / dot to dot constellation games / nature walk / pajama dance off / lantern-lit bracelet looming / make your own trail mix / camper camper bear (instead of duck duck goose), paint wooden snakes (available on amazon.com) / mix up kool-aid bug juice / rope tug o' war / eat ants on a log, oreo mud pies, cheetos (fire flames) and mini hot dogs / nerf gun bullseye target practice / battery-operated candles / spooky stories...

find this camping party printable invitation in my shop! a scavenger hunt printable is also part of your purchase. please note: if you're not keen on hosting a sleepover, there is also a blank camping invitation included for you to write in your own information; whether it be for a family reunion, a scouts meeting, a group hike, a couples shower or a late-over for friends! customize this printable to suit your needs. 

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