Let your light shine

I’m feeling inspired this morning.

Maybe it’s the creative spirit in me that is totally energized by other creative people. Or maybe it’s the fact that my favorite coffee mug was dirty in the dishwasher, so I had to use the extra BIG Starbucks mug that says “Hawaii” across the side. Caffeine-induced or not, I’m still feeling inspired.

While checking my inbox, I stumbled upon a promotional email from Melissa Darst Photography (Melissa is a friend that I used to work with). She owns her own family photography business — and has done a couple of shoots of our family (while successfully chasing our toddlers and the fading daylight). I’ve always been a fan of her work and impressed with her creativity — but this morning, I was in for a treat.

Here’s her new video:

What I love most (besides those cute babies of hers!) is that she brings a bigger philosophy and heart to her photography. You can tell that she is moved by it — that it’s her art, her passion. And considering that she was my client services counterpart at a small ad agency just 5 years ago, I am so impressed by the company she has created.

After email checking, I popped over to Twitter. (It’s a big coffee, I had some time to spare.)

Another group of inspiring women (all with previous big-time magazine experience in the Big Apple) have created another effervescent company: Verily Magazine.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven’t fully read the magazine yet — but I’ve read many reviews and am very intrigued by the publication’s philosophy. From their website:

Like so many things in NYC, Verily was born over a gathering of friends for brunch. We ended up on the topic of women’s magazines – in particular, how most of them didn’t seem to reflect our lives or our philosophies as women. Here was a diverse group hailing from all over the country and working in everything from fashion to medicine to philanthropy. We had gone through the learning curve of our first jobs, navigated life in a new city, and been on more first dates than many of us would like to admit. If this group of modern women were all feeling overlooked, surely others must feel the same way?

In other words, Verily is less about sex tips and more about substance — something much needed in the women’s magazine genre.

And finally over to Facebook. (Coffee’s gone, but now I have a nursing baby.)

Another one of my favorite female entrepreneurs, Lisa Leonard, creator of the ever-so-beautiful Lisa Leonard Designs jewelry company, is introducing her new “Faith Collection.” [You may remember I interviewed Lisa not long ago for my Three Questions series.]


This special collection is inspired by the heartbreak, grace and profound joy she has experienced in her own life with a son with special needs — and now she shares her creative pieces to be a source of light and encouragement in the world.

She also created a short video about her story.

What I find most compelling about all of these women is that none of their work is manufactured or insincere. It all comes from a place that’s bigger than just making money or having a little fun — it comes from a desire to make a difference.

Whether it’s taking pictures that captures hearts. Creating a magazine that speaks to people. Making jewelry that delivers grace. Or being a mama who grows a family. It’s never to late to let your light shine — but it has to be ignited from a place within you.

Which reminds me of my very favorite quote by St. Teresa of Avila: “If you are who you were meant to be, you will set the world ablaze.”

And speaking of that, I’m off to try out my new Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred DVD. My muscles are gonna be ablazin’ after this.

Treasure hunt

[Warning: forgive my stream of consciousness here, it’s Advent. I’m shopping for Christmas gifts. I’m not thinking eloquently.]

Christmas shopping online is like a treasure hunt.

I’m not an online shopper really — I don’t know all the bargain sites or “unique gift” sites or brand names that have secret deals for email club members.

And so, when I dabble in the online shopping world (as I’m doing this year) I tend to stumble upon all sorts of interesting things — from gifts to recipes to DIY projects to fantastical blogs that I’ve never heard of. I thought I’d gather a few together for you to view — in case you are like me, and only visit a hand full of the same websites every day.

Have you heard of Daily Candy? And no, I’m not talking about my afternoon chocolate habit.

Daily Candy has a “Gifts under $30” guide that I found interesting. One of the featured items were these little mugs — perfect for the coffee-loving couple in your life. Though I kind of like the mustache one for everyone.

When I clicked on the coffee mugs, I saw that they are from a guy named Jonathan Adler. Is he some famous person that I’ve never heard about? He has some cool stuff on his website as well.

[OK, just Wikipedia’d him and turns out he’s a “designer renowned for his “happy chic” approach to home furnishings and interior design.”]

And so there it is. Happy chic.

Oh, look. More mustaches.

Daily Candy also linked me over to Uncommon Goods, a site that has all sorts of unique gifts from art to cookware to jewelry. Check out this festive sangria pitcher:

But when it comes to jewelry, I love Lisa Leonard Designs. I’ve blogged about her “Word of the Year” necklace before, and I also have this necklace  with the names of “my treasures.”

But all of her jewelry (and home decor) is handmade, unique and meaningful.

Moving on.

I posed the “best websites to buy gifts?” question to a couple of ladies in the restroom at work.

(Yes, this is where women have these crucial conversations.)

And I was told about a designer who is supposedly “all the rage” for ‘tween and teen girls right now. Who knew? Her name is Vera Bradley. When I said, “Who’s Vera Bradley?” I got the wide-eyed, “What?!” look.

Turns out I’m not very hip in the handbag scene.

Somehow, in the midst of it all, I landed on Pinterest. Yes, I’m sure you all know about this addictive website — though I’m not a total Pin-head. (I just made that up.)

What I found there was perhaps the most delicious thing of all. But first, here’s the picture:

And now, here’s the recipe. 

But I can’t stop looking at the picture… must… eat.. you.

When it comes to giving gifts, I’m a a free spirit. I love to find hidden gems that are just the “perfect fit” rather than checking off a list. That’s the same reason I don’t really like buying things on registries. Though practical, it can take the fun out of it. To me, gift giving should be a treasure hunt. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to be store-bought. It just has to come with a little thought.

And ah, when you find that perfect treasure…

Now that is the joy of giving.

Today I love

1. Chipotle cups

The Chipotle near my work doesn’t have good iced tea. It tastes old. So I always have to get Diet Coke with a splash of Dr. Pepper at the top. But nevertheless, I like the cups because there’s fun little writing on the side — with my cup today saying: “Hola little Pepper guy — I heard a rumor you ended up at Chipotle!” It’s signed “Guillermo.” I don’t know who this Guillermo person is, but I like him.

2. Wrapping presents in torn magazine pages

As you know, yesterday was the hubby’s bday. I wrapped his present with ripped pages out of Better Homes & Garden magazine. It makes me mad how this iPhone photo didn’t focus, but it makes me happy to see my shredded-paper bow. I’m thinking this may be a fun art hobby that I will pursue more of. And it’s a good way to recycle old magazines.

3. Michael McDonald Pandora radio

There are tons of old school gems on this pretty little station that makes me sing loud at work. It may annoy my coworkers, but it sure does make my heart glad. “Rich Girl” was playing when I snapped this shot below — and now Earth, Wind and Fire are jamming to “September”…

Ba de ya, say do you remember? Ba de ya, dancing in September… ba de ya… never was a cloudy day…

4. Bangs

I feel young and hip and like I want to go roller skating. That’s Dominique on the left who rocked them at the salon.

Hope you’re having a happy Wednesday… did I get Earth, Wind & Fire stuck in your head?

Ba de ya, dancing in September… ba de ya… never was a cloudy day…

I love this house

As a young couple, hubs and I often fantasize about the dream house we’d build someday. I think even old couples do that, too. It’s fun, isn’t it?

As tried and true Texans, we tend to like the sophisticated ranch style decor that’s ubiquitous in the Texas Hill Country — but there’s a part of me that likes to pretend I’m from the Hamptons (mostly when I wear white skirts and watch the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network). This is the same part of me that love, love, LOVES this house from the movie, “Something’s Gotta Give.

Most of this house was created on a Hollywood Sound Stage — but I adore the crisp whites and the big windows. So feng shui. Warning: when I talk about the Hamptons, my tone immediately becomes a bit pretentious. I can’t help it.

The facade is an actual house in The Hamptons.

But the inside… ah, the sweet inside… is created by a set designer. The decor does have a tendency to be a bit marmish in places, but most of it is simply beautous.

“Dahhling, would you like a glass of Chahhhdonay?”

This is my favorite room. I love the open windows and long drapes. I love the wooden floors and lamp-lit ambiance. So cozy.

And in a thunderstorm? PERfection. Those chairs look comfy.

Would you like a cafe latte with breakfast?

I love this kitchen, too. The big, black countertops juxtaposed with the crisp white cabinets.

I googled “house in Something’s Gotta Give” because I wanted to learn more about it and I found these great pics. Thanks to this blog for more info.

As the Barefoot Contessa says, “How bad can that be?”

My Favorite Things (this week) Vol. 11

My Favorite Things (this week) is a fun way to share the little, big, amusing, beautiful, interesting, and sometimes just plain helpful things that I run across each week. There’s no formula to the pickin’. Just random things that make me smile. And smiles are made to be shared. See more Favorite Things here.

1. “My Treasures” necklace from Lisa Leonard Designs

I’m obsessed with Lisa’s jewelry. Her tagline is: Meaningful, unique, handmade jewelry — and I have found all to be true. My highly anticipated necklace (that I bought for myself! woo!) arrived in a small brown box with a turquoise bow. I grinned from ear to ear when I carefully opened the lid to reveal my sterling silver charms. Four, sweet, handmade charms: the first, a jar with hearts that symbolizes “my treasures.” The other three are stamped with the names of my hubby and two kiddos. They are truly my treasures — and now I can wear them every day close to my heart.

2. Handmade mobile from Jenna Bee’s Paper Creations.

First of all, I am obsessed with Etsy. It’s like being friends with the most talented people who make you pay for their stuff. Not only did I receive this unique, one-of-a-kind handmade mobile for Kate’s nursery, but I also received a handwritten thank you note. Now that’s customer service.

3. Dresser knobs from Hobby Lobby

I’ve been looking for something with character to replace the boring, old wooden knobs on Kate’s dresser. Her nursery is a mix of mostly pinks and greens, so these porcelain green knobs add some character and color to her hand-me-down dresser.

That’s all for now! Hope this weekend is full of your favorite things.