Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Chat With: Jessica Jones of How About Orange

I've been following graphic and textile designer Jessica Jones' blog, How About Orange, for almost two years now so I'm thrilled that she's popped in for a chat about her work. Her site is such a great resource for design, unexpected craft tutorials, great downloads and freebies and just all around cheery things. Not to mention the fact that she's a total type nerd. I haven't the slightest clue about which fonts are cool or not (poor Comic Sans), but posts like this and this, make me want to stock up. Read on for Jessica's thoughts on running an online shop, keeping her spirit open to new ideas and some Chicago travel tips.

Okay, so I just have to start by asking: why so infatuated with the color orange? Your home seems to be filled with it and I love how your family and friends know that gifting you something with that color will delight you.

Orange... it's happy and energetic. I like happy things. I've also heard it associated with intelligence, so I'm trying to boost my IQ by surrounding myself with orange. So far it's not working, unfortunately.

Now tell us what a typical work week is like for you. How do you manage your time to create and share so many great projects?

I work as a graphic designer developing brand identities and marketing collateral so my weekdays vary a bit depending on how many design jobs I'm working on at once. I might devote between 15 minutes and a couple hours each morning to How About Orange, fielding emails from readers, looking at submissions, preparing posts or hunting around the internet. If I have a free afternoon or time on the weekend, I'll work up a DIY tutorial.

You used to have an Etsy shop and decided to close it down last year because you weren't enjoying the tedious parts of running an online business. Do you still feel the same way?

Absolutely. It was a fun venture, but its time was up. I'd viewed the shop as a hobby, like stamp collecting. It paid about as well, too. I was in it for the fun, and once the thrill wore off, it made more sense to spend all that time on other projects with better payoffs. I discovered I don't have much interest in order fulfillment. I'd rather sell my designs to other companies and leave the rest to them, freeing me up to make more designs.

What should people consider before opening up shop? What were the best and challenging parts of having your own business?

I think to be successful with an online shop, you need to give it serious focus and constantly think about growing your business if you intend to make money from it. Alternatively, if you'd like to run your shop on pure joy, that's excellent, too. The bottom line is that it needs to feel rewarding somehow, so think about what kind of reward you're looking for and plan accordingly. And don't worry too much; when it stops being satisfying, you can always quit.

For me, the best parts were making things to sell (until I got sick of making things to sell), designing cute business cards, connecting with happy customers and seeing items fly off my shelf. The annoying parts were boxing up orders, filling out customs forms, standing in line at the post office, filing sales tax returns, fielding customer questions and wondering where to put these lovely products that were now cluttering up my nice tidy office.

You just released the Outside Oslo fabric collection in April. Is there anything new in the works for the coming months?

I'm planning to work on another fabric collection when I can fit it in between other graphic design projects!

Oh I can't wait to see! In the meantime, where can people find your fabric designs to use for their own creations?

To purchase them online from the companies who manufactured them, head to The Needle Shop or JCaroline Home. You can also buy them at independent fabric shops around the US and in a few boutiques abroad.

Now would you ever venture into other products? If so, what materials would you love to work with next?

It would be fun to design wallpaper, dishes, lamps or other home items. Maybe someday.

I can definitely see your designs on all sorts of home decor and perhaps your mom could lend a hand in making some prototypes. She's such a talent behind the sewing machine! I love all the things she's made for you especially that weekend bag. Did you get your creative genes from her? How did she nurture that creativity while you were growing up?

There are some creative brains on my dad's side of the family, too, so I suspect it's a combination. My mom's favorite subject in school was math, so it's certainly possible I was adopted and they haven't told me yet. Mom fostered my childhood creativity by praising every single thing I ever made. To see some fine examples of my early work, look here and here.

Aww, you put your whole heart into that tiny book. Now that you're a bit more experienced in the creative fields, what do you do to keep that spirit open to new ideas and inspiration?

I think "open to new ideas" is my default setting, and I just need to make sure I'm supplying enough input to give my brain something to chew on. It's like a blender that's turned on, but nothing happens unless you dump some food in there to be churned around and processed. So I enjoy reading books, looking at people's amazing work online and keeping my eyes open when I'm out and about. I recently went to Stockholm to soak up the atmosphere and admire Scandinavian design. Good stuff for the blender.

Traveling is such a great way to jump-start ideas and see the world in new ways. So tell us, what are your favorite off-the-radar places to eat, shop and play around your own hometown?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota and my hometown has a population of 2,000. It's way, way off the radar, so let's go with Chicago instead, where I live now. Have brunch at M Henry or Crêpes à Latte. Buy some cool fabric from modern designers at The Needle Shop, get things for your home at The Sweden Shop, and find awesome jewelry, clothes and accessories at The Mexican Shop. (Yes, I only frequent stores with the word "shop" in their names.) Then have dinner at Wholy Frijoles (chipotle mashed potatoes!) or Geja's Cafe for the best fondue meal ever.

Images: all from

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where to Find Dry As Toast and Me on the Internets

I was already knee deep in social media before and in the last couple of weeks I've expanded my reach with two new accounts. Some remain for personal use and interacting with my friends and others are to engage with you in different ways. So to save myself from posting the same thing four different times and subject you to that redundancy, I've listed out what different things you can expect if you follow me in the social media sites below.

Dry As Toast will of course remain the hub of it all. Here, you'll be treated to posts about relationships, art, travel and lifestyle as well as my insight on personal topics and interviews with awesome people. I'll also share details about articles I've written as I continue to add to my portfolio. I've narrowed down the blog's scope to really produce some thought-provoking posts, but that said, expect me to pop in with my snarky observations from time to time. As much I want to contribute something meaningful to the sea of drudge, I think it's perfectly fine to kick back and comment on the madness every now and then.

Shortly after redesigning the blog, I abandoned the old Facebook Group and created a brand new Page for Dry As Toast. I put a few more touches on it over the weekend (like the ribbon photos at the top, which include links to the topics I will cover here) and followed some favorite blogs. Aside from links to blog posts, I'll be asking questions to pick your brains or just pop in to see how your week is going. Remember the random ramblings you'd been privy to all these years? Well this is now the place where we can chat about those things. I hope it becomes our go-to place for conversations and feedback when those thoughts are much too short to warrant an entire post.

I will also share fun links and finds so be sure to pop in regularly and "like" the page so you'll be notified of any updates and chats! Who knows? Those Facebook conversations could evolve into a blog post, too.


Twitter will be more about me than the blog itself. Expect random thoughts, day-to-day doings, my interactions with followers and other creative types and my life as a writer. I won't be posting links to blog posts regularly, but expect a comment made there to either spin into a future post or be inspired by something recently written. If you're curious about what's in my brain or experience New York City through my eyes, this is where to go.


Pinterest is one of my latest acquisitions! For those who aren't familiar, it's a collection of virtual inspiration boards that allow you to pin and share images from around the web. I was already searching through the site for weeks to find ideas and beautiful photos to share with you here so I finally decided to just get an account and stop clogging up my browser's bookmarks tab. I admit I use it more for my own research and inspiration than interacting with the other members, but it's been fun poring through other people's pinboards and discovering new websites and talents.


Even though I joined Google+ a few weeks ago, I hadn't dabbled much with the site until this past weekend. I'm still playing around with it, but am slowly getting more comfortable with the format. This is a great place to break out of 140-character restrictions, use complete sentences (hooray for proper grammar!) and give yourself a bit more room to expand on thoughts and ideas (almost like Tumblr). Like Twitter, you can follow anyone and anyone can follow you, but you can limit who views what you post and choose to either share things with the public or only certain circles. In this way, you can keep your followers satisfied by only exposing them to things they'd enjoy, keep from sharing details of your personal life with total strangers and only follow the people you're actually interested in.

I still don't know what role this will play in regards to Dry As Toast, if any, but for now I like that I can introduce myself to a new audience, meet and interact with others who share my interests, which in turn makes followers more inclined to respond to the things I share (as opposed to Facebook "friends" who really don't give a crap about your dilemmas). I'm starting to see Facebook as the place to get your quick dose of gossip - who's doing what, who hates their job, who just got married - and my Google+ stream as a playground for artistic minds and thinkers. It's almost like having another Google Reader except it's easier to comment and start conversations with the person who posted without having to leave the page.

The site is still very much in its infancy, but it's really gaining momentum as more people join in. For now, I shall use it as a smarter alternative to Facebook, to discover new things and the place to head to if I ever need to bounce ideas and questions off people who will actually respond.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Inspiration

I watched this TED talk months ago and made sure to bookmark Sarah Kay's inspiring speech about empowering youth through spoken word. It's really quite moving and makes me want to see her in person someday. She starts and ends her talk with two breathtaking poems, "Point B" and "Hiroshima." Tell me if it doesn't make you want to do something.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Night Falls Upon New York City

I hope you all had a beautiful weekend. Mine was completely lazy, hot and unbearable, but finally braving the heat to view the city at night from the top of the Empire State Building tonight was definitely worth it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

They Draw & Travel Illustrated Maps

As soon as I learned about They Draw & Travel a month ago, I just had to write about their awesome maps. A spin-off of the popular They Draw & Cook, this site has a collection of illustrated maps pointing out off-the-radar spots and insider details that give travelers an intimate sense of places around the world. Best yet, some of the results are beautiful enough to post on your walls! Read more about They Draw & Travel on Travel + Leisure's blog Carry On.

Here, a few maps from the site:

Is there an illustrated map for your next destination?

Images: Aneu Martinez (via TDAT), Jack Reilly, Jenn Tse (via TDAT), Kaitlyn McCane (via TDAT) and Cybèle (via TDAT).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

25 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Fresh

Guess what? This relationship is officially my longest one yet! Sure, we've had our bumpy moments, but I can honestly say that things are so much better this time around. It just feels...easier, healthier. Even the rough bits where we really have to sit and figure things through eventually evolves into progress. Luckily, we're not always dealing with the Debbie Downer stuff and have our own little ways of keeping each other enamored:

1. We play fight, tickle and tease each other A LOT. We've just grown sillier the closer we've become.
2. Even when I'm incredibly tired, I've learned to greet A. with nuzzles and a smile when he wakes up.
3. I have this secret fear of running out of "I love you" minutes, but I say it incessantly nonetheless. He does, too.
4. Random adventures - even if it's a mile-long scavenger hunt at 11 p.m. and stopping into eight stores in search of a particular chocolate biscuit.
5. We don't let "I'm not in the mood" become a habit. There are many ways to get over the hurdle.
6. Spontaneous singing and dancing in the apartment, on the street, in the shower, on the bed, etc.
7. Alone time. At the risk of sounding cheesy (too late for that!), we also have "study buddy time" and "cuddle buddy time."
8. We've shared things with each other we've never told anyone else.
9. When I ask him all about science he actually makes it interesting for me.
10. We give each other room to grow and push each other through our self-defeating tendencies.

Well a couple months ago, I was given a fun assignment for Latina to brainstorm a list of creative ways to keep the spark alive in a relationship. A. gladly contributed a few ideas (some were used, some were most definitely NOT for anyone else to know) and my friends chipped in unique tips of their own for what turned out to be a fun collection of 25 ways to keep your relationship fresh.

But this list is far from complete, so I'd love to know: how do you keep your relationship exciting?

Image: Mikie Ericson

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Cultivate Your Creativity

This week's Monday Inspiration is a spotlight on Cultivate Your Creativity, a digital workbook filled with uplifting messages and activities that will motivate you to nurture your inner artist. So for those struggling to find balance between life and pursuing your dreams, author Jessika Hepburn, who also edits Oh My! Handmade Goodness, shares the importance of setting time aside to celebrate your awesomeness, cultivate an empowering support network and revel in your "creative spark."

Thanks for taking the time to talk about your latest project! Oh My! Handmade Goodness is such a great resource and community for indie artists, designers and children's retailers so I'm excited that you decided to share what you've learned and experienced with this book. What spurred you to produce Cultivate Your Creativity?

I was needing a calm and reflective space to create. Oh My! Handmade has been skyrocketing and I was feeling overwhelmed and unable to create. When I don't create I feel off kilter and even more overwhelmed, so I started drawing and brainstorming on paper again, and it felt so wonderful! I remembered how when I worked with at-risk youth I used to make them illustrated journals with prompts and how transformative that experience was for all of us. I thought why not share this and see if other creatives are also needing that space to just be and if this workbook can help them find it.

You said that this book came after a year of listening to the needs of creative entrepreneurs. What did you learn from them during that time?

Oh so much! I learned that we are all up to our ears in emails, deadlines, launches and new ideas plus dinners to cook, messes to clean, children to parent and responsibilities to attend to. There isn't much room for reflection or just simply acknowledging everything going right in all that chaos. I also learned that many creatives are brutally hard on themselves, they worry about failing or not doing things perfectly, or that they - and their work - are not good enough and quite often downplay their true awesomeness.

So many creatives are incredibly generous and while they have a hard time sharing their own abilities, they are always quick to celebrate others. So Cultivate Your Creativity was meant as a way to get us all to acknowledge and own our beauty and triumphs while taking the space we need to breathe before diving back into building our dreams.
And I'm sure this was quite the triumph for you! How did you decide what activities to include in the workbook and what messages to share with your readers?

It was a really interesting process of illustrating some of my biggest inspirations, quotes that have sustained me through hard and amazing times. I also drew on concepts that I think are vital to business and creativity like planting and tending our dreams, identifying the keywords that really define the heart of what we do, noticing the way actions ripple outward and how we impact others and some tools that have really helped me get my ideas out of my head and onto the page.

You're not only editor of your site, but also an artist/entrepreneur yourself and have started a range of projects including art empowering camps for inner city youth. How did these experiences influence your book?

Like I mentioned before, my youth groups dealt with really heavy topics like abuse, addiction, violence, poverty, racism and suicide and I used journaling as a way to help them channel their struggles and transform them into something beautiful. I think that is what makes creatives so unique - we are able to take our experiences and channel them into something tangible. My own life experience and work with communities has taught me that we are all seeking a sense of belonging, no matter how hard our lives are or how successful. We all want to have a place and be recognized for our own unique abilities. The difficulty for many of us is knowing how to let that out and share it with the world.

I wanted Cultivate Your Creativity to be that safe and beautiful place where you can let yourself shine and revel in all you can do. It can be easy to get caught up in the daily grind of running a business, and for many of my readers, parenting as well, that we lose sight of how many blessings are all around us, how much we are capable of and how incredible we are. I hope the workbook gives people a few moments of peace and reflection so they can reach inside, release and revel in their creative spark.
What was the biggest challenge while writing the workbook and what was your most fulfilling moment?

My biggest challenge was time, which was ironic because here I am writing a workbook about taking time and struggling to find it. I put at least 40 hours a week on OMHG, parent two girl beasts full time and have clients and other projects going on behind the scenes. I was struggling to find my own time to create, which was both the catalyst and the challenge in creating the book.

My most fulfilling moment was by far sending it out into the world and getting such a positive and amazing response from the community. I've already seen pages being worked in, heard about people taking time for their own creativity and even a tweet from you about busting out your watercolors for the first time in months! To me that is the best gift I can imagine and can't wait to see what other creations come of it.

Well I'll be checking out the Flickr group you've created to see what it has pushed others to do too. By the way, I really love your illustrations! They're so sweet and cheerful. How did you fall into design?

Thank you! I had so much fun with the illustrations! I think I've always been a designer but it's in the last 5 years that I have really focused on those skills. I did my first computer camp when I was 8 and in high school my teacher insisted I should go to school for design. I laughed and said I would never work at a computer all day, that I would rather be talking with people and changing the world. Thanks to social media I can do all of those things now!
Well you must really love what you do because not only do you run OMHG and your own design and marketing business, but you also just opened up an online store with Friday's book release! What other goodness can we expect from the Oh My! Shop?

So many exciting things are literally in store for the future. Expect prints, services, some more books and even a collaborative project focused on our #omhg chats that readers will be able to participate in!

Speaking of which, your Thursday Twitter chat sessions always look so fun. I usually lurk and read along during your hour-long virtual meet-up or make sure to catch up after work. It's so nice to see everyone cheering on each other's successes and supporting one another through the frustrating moments of self-discovery. Why is it so important to cultivate and surround yourself with such a group?

I think our #omhg chats are the best part of the time I spend online. Anyone who works from home knows it has the potential to be isolating and lonely. Plus, your offline community might not understand the success and sadness of running a creative business. They don't see how insanely thrilling a recent feature or sale might be, not because they don't care about your success or are happy for you, but because they just don't get it.

Having a community of people you can connect with and relate to online or offline who are just there to talk, not to promote or give advice, but to listen to all perspectives and celebrate each other is the best thing ever. I am now seeing people take those relationships further, chatting regularly without the hash tag and even planning hang-outs. Having friends that get you and your business will give you the confidence you need to keep pushing forward. I know that I look forward every week to our Thursday chat and the chance to really connect with the amazing talent and intelligence of our #omhg crew.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Friday!

Did you know I'd never tasted a macaron until just a few days ago? Why didn't anyone tell me they were more cakey than cookie?! These, from Lily O'Brien's Chocolate Café by Bryant Park were so delicious, I only allowed myself teeny little bites from my Nutella-flavored treat because I didn't want it to end.

This week I'm also happy for:

- A great friend who shared some wonderful news with me!
- A certain someone moving one step closer to something he really wants.
- Cryptic gratitudes.
- My brother, who's just entered his twenties! Craziness.

And some links for your enjoyment. Happy weekend everyone!

Oh sweet, sweet summertime: Ten frozen desserts to make at home.

In this week's oddball news: Christopher Walken reads "The Three Little Pigs."

A love & sex tip: What foreplay should be.

Things that will brighten up my cubicle: These recycled paper pencils and leather notebooks.

My next career investment: Better business cards.

I say "duck" when I'm mad: Funny auto correct horror stories.

Now we can rest easy: How to not die in a plane crash.

Reason #409 why I should be in San Fran: Photos from Urbanic's Summer Social make me want to make wrapping paper pinwheels and push around an ice cream cart. Omg, that could be my summertime side hustle! Okay fine, maybe not...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tips for Maintaining Curly Hair

Last year I made the easy decision to stop straightening my hair. I was tired of spending an hour under the hair dryer and suffering through hell fire to blow the curls out only to have those rebellious corkscrews spring right back to life within hours. I was so over it! I just decided to let my curls fly free instead of fruitlessly trying to tame them and after talking about it for a year, I finally booked an appointment at a semi-fancy salon (instead of heading to the usual Dominican locales) for a hair cut that would suit my hair type. Nothing drastic because change makes me hyperventilate, but just enough to add a little bounce to my tired look.

Because this was my first time sitting in with someone who knows how to deal with curls, I took the opportunity to ask my stylist CeCe at the Scott J Aveda Salon on East 86th Street for her tips on keeping them healthy.

1. Check the ingredients on your product labels and stay away from ones that contain alcohol. Curls are naturally on the drier side so even though your conditioner makes them feel smooth (due to the waxes in the formula), using mousse, gel or leave-in conditioners with alcohol afterwards will zap hair of its moisture and leave it feeling brittle and looking dull.

2. Try to go as long as possible without washing your hair. Constant washing and harsh chemicals in some shampoos can damage your curls and also leave them feeling dry. That's not to say walk around with a stinky head because by all means DON'T, but wait about three days if you can before rinsing them out again.

3. CeCe suggests cutting your ends every six to eight weeks. Not only does this keep growing hair healthy, but curls that grow too long can look lifeless too. Mind you I hadn't cut mine in over a year and my curls stretched out to reach the small of my back so I was long overdue for a snip. Only a couple inches was enough (I have this fear of looking like a child if my hair length is above my shoulders) and I was really happy when my hair felt so light and bouncy on my way out the door.

4. Layers also help add shape and volume to curly hair. My previous layers had grown out long ago and because my hair was all fairly the same length, I'd have a flattened top and all the curls weighing my hair down at the bottom. Not exactly the best look.

5. You know what else weighs hair down? Too much product. And knowing this I still use palm-fuls of leave-in conditioner. That's how scared I am of looking like an upside down mop. I kept asking CeCe, "Are you sure you don't want to put a little more on there?" and my body tensed up each time she'd run her fingers through to scrunch and fluff. Yes, my hair grew a bit more on that humid afternoon in the park and yes, I'd definitely put more curl enhancer in my hair, but I was surprised at what so little managed to do.

6. Before going out into the elements (and either before or after you style your hair), remove some of the moisture to reduce future frizz. Know that a diffuser is not for everyone. Depending on your curls, it could either gently circulate warm air around the strands to leave you with dry and soft ringlets...or it could crank up your hair's volume up to 11 and leave you looking like a Fry Kid. That's exactly why I stick with simple air drying (though the results are hard to control) or wrap my hair in a linen tea towel for a few minutes as soon as I step out of the shower. CeCe stuck me under a futuristic-looking infrared heat lamp for no more than 10 minutes and my hair was completely dry!

7. When you apply your styling product, it helps if you twist some of the curls around your finger to help define them. When you're done, do. not. touch. them. Tell your grabby boyfriend, too. If you want to avoid a frizz attack, it's best if everyone keeps their dirty, oily hands to themselves and just let them be. At least until they're dry and then I say all bets are off because really, what's the point of having a head full of beautiful loose curls if no one is allowed to enjoy them?

So curly-haired girls, tell me: how do you keep your locks looking their best? I'd love to know what products you use! (Psst, I stick to the cheap drugstore goods like Garnier Fructis, but I wonder if it isn't time for a change?)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

{He Says/She Says} On Polyamorous Relationships

Before my current relationship I had no idea of all the different ways a partnership could take form. Sure, I'd heard about swinging and open relationships, about polygamy and how practically every guy yearns for threesomes, but those were all terms said in jest and without knowing what the differences were or all the variations that exist in between. Since dating A., I've not only learned and appreciated the different ways a loving relationship could exist, but also questioned my own traditional upbringing on what a relationship should look like.

A few friends of ours introduced me to the world of polyamory in which couples are free to fall in love with others and it's been interesting watching other's experiences with that lifestyle. Although A. and I have no interest in pursuing relationships with other people (one is quite enough for the both of us), we openly talk about our thoughts on the subject - and other varieties of intimate relationships - fairly frequently. And with news that the polygamous stars of TLC's reality show Sister Wives are filing a lawsuit Wednesday against Utah to make their lifestyle legal, we thought we'd chime in on the subject. Here's what we each have to say about polyamory.

{He says} Polyamory can mean a lot of things, depending on the situation. A couple may incorporate a third (unicorn) into their already-strong relationship, or one member of the couple may maintain extra-curricular "dating" relationships outside of their main one. Further, relationships could hypothetically span a wide range of people, each having their own bond with one another. The trend, though, is not toward stability.

Because polyamory is only starting to spread, I hesitate to make a general statement about it that might offend its staunch supporters, but alas, I must be honest. The only successful long-term polyamorous relationships I've seen have been triads that start out as a solid companionship between two people. Every other aspect of polyamory that I've seen has been fleeting and temporary. That isn't to say that it can't happen, but the lifestyle lends itself more to exploration than longevity.

Personally, the thought of kindling another relationship on top of the one I already have makes my palms sweat. Maybe I'd feel differently if Dorkys wasn't such a handful. Who knows? As it is, I wouldn't turn down the opportunity to flirt and play with others together with no strings, but franchising the relationship would stretch my resources too thin.

{She says} My first thoughts when I hear about polyamorous relationships deal with jealousy. How don't the people involved feel threatened? I'm sure it could work, but only if every link in the chain is safe, honest and checks their ego at the door otherwise girls will end up crying when he spends more time with one instead of the other. Or at least I know I would.

I also wonder how deeply they can all love one another in the initial stages. Where do they find the time and energy it takes to build something meaningful in multiple relationships? I know some poly people feel restricted by idea that once you fall in love with someone, you're forbidden to feel the same for another person. I understand that, but at the end of the day, I like having my one go-to person and learning how to compromise and figure out the puzzle that is this sole relationship. Because I've no other choice (other than breaking up and finding someone else, of course), I'm forced to learn what makes him tick, what ticks me off and how we can become a better fit for each other. This isn't to say other things are off limits, just that at the end of it all, we'd rather just come home to each other.

Still, it's beautiful to see people pursuing and giving love with no qualms about what society deems appropriate or not and I admire their ability to put aside any insecurities to do so. The first time I attended one of their events, I smiled at the thought that everyone's just trying to find what suits them and makes them happy whether it'd be for the moment or something long-lasting. It's obviously not for everyone, but just because it's not doesn't mean it's wrong.

What do you think about polyamory? What would it take for a consensual non-monogamous relationship to truly work?

Images: and

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Inspiration

Some of these tips are no-brainers, but you might still glean new ways to keep creativity flowing from this short video. My favorite? Number 25: Stop trying to be someone else's perfect. (via Neatorama)


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Happy Weekend!

Well that week went by quickly! Did you all have a good one? I'm actually about to head out to my sister's boyfriend's birthday dinner. A. and I have been wanting a reason to pull out the fancy clothes again because it's been way too long. Do you ever wish you had a fancy occasion to get prettied up for? Two years ago I couldn't stand the thought of attending a wedding and now I wish someone in my circle would tie the knot already so I could get dolled up for it! (Hint, hint guys!)

This week I'm happy for:

- A low "unread" count on my Google Reader even though I cheated and marked many as "read." What? That thing makes me anxious!
- Having spent a lovely afternoon at the park and crafting with a good and talented buddy. I always feels so nice after talking to her about art and working through our fears. So positive. In fact, she writes these poems and took my profile photo (right) for Anthology's contributors page.
- Homemade lemon chicken with white rice, biscuits and corn.

And a few links from around the web:

WATCH Science comedian Brian Morrow reminisces about his life-long love affair with space travel. P.S. Did you guys catch yesterday's final shuttle launch?
LISTEN Adam Parks streams The Illuminated Mixtapes playlists online, each with an illustrated cover. (via Swissmiss)
TASTE I might have to actually make this pepperoni pizza monkey bread someday.
DO Try to follow the 10 rules in Chris Anderson's Email Charter. Help stop the inbox madness.
MAKE Your very own scratch-offs.


Friday, July 8, 2011

A Snack Tour through Lower Manhattan

Last weekend, Heather, of Joy De Vivre, and her husband, Gabe, came to town to spend their Independence Day holiday in NYC. They hadn't been back since 2009 so it was great to see them again! A. and I (but mostly A.) guided them around Union Square, the Village, the Lower East Side and Chinatown for what turned out to be some yummy sort of snack tour.

We met up in 14th Street's Union Square to then make our way over to Artichoke for lunch. (1) It's a tiny pizza joint with no seating and old-school music so people order and then eat their slices out by the sidewalk. There are only a handful of toppings to choose from, but the ONLY one A. and I get is the artichoke with spinach. (2) It sounds odd, but trust me it's so good, cheesy and creamy with a perfectly crispy crust. One slice is plenty big for two to share. (Later on during our walk through Greenwich Village, we saw that there's an Artichoke on MacDougal Street too!) (3)

After stuffing our faces, we walked towards the Village, pointing things out while catching up on work, life and etc. We knew the gloomy weather would mean an empty park devoid of weirdos and street performers, but we passed by Washington Square Park anyway. (4)

You know I couldn't swing by the Village without a stop into Popbar for gelato-on-a-stick. Even though it'd been raining on and off all afternoon, it was still warm outside. I dared to try something other than my usual mango sorbetto, but alas, the blood orange flavor just didn't do it for me. I think Heather and Gabe enjoyed their chocolatey, nutty treats though! (5)

A quick decision to take the train down to Chinatown landed us on Grand Street and soon enough the boys were happily munching away on spicy pork jerky from Malaysia Beef Jerky. (6) I decided to hold out for the real reason why I'd venture so far downtown: Vanessa's Dumpling House. (7) There's limited seating and the place is always incredibly packed and with good reason: the chive and pork dumplings are amazing and the four-for-a-dollar price makes them even better. Lately I've been craving pork dumplings non-stop and only wish this place were closer to home. (Thankfully I have Ginza in Midtown East to fill that hole.)

We walked off our second meal with a stroll through the Lower East Side along Bowery Street. At one point, the four of us were drawn into this insane shop filled with the most lavish chandeliers and imagined what it'd be like to live in a house that would warrant such a purchase. (8) I love how all of them had a "sale" tag too...

I thought we'd run out of things to do until A. had a genius idea. "Hey, isn't Papabubble around here?" Yes! Artisan hard candy handmade on the premises! (9) A few blocks later we were tasting delicious samples of fruity and sour creations and watching two employees work away on a block of caramel. (10) The only bad thing about the shop is that it's so hard to choose which to buy! (11) I bought the colorful pack of Fruit Mix flavors that I always get, but after trying Gabe's sour Acid Drops, I'll have to go with that one next time around.

With our collective sweet tooth satisfied we took the train back uptown and parted ways. (12) A. and I had a great time showing Heather and Gabe around for the afternoon and I'd like to think they had a fun time tasting a different side of Manhattan too.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Chat With: Liz Libré of Linda & Harriett

If you've followed the stationery business in the last four years chances are you've heard of Linda & Harriett or at least have come across some of the company's colorful products and striking patterns. Letterpress cards and the wildly popular annual calendars are just a few of the treats Brooklyn-based designer Liz Libré offers up as her newly-reopened Outlet and Craft Bin sections on her shop also gives new to re-purposed supplies. Below, Libré answers a few questions about taking risks, following her gut and how she manages work and life with her beautiful 9-month-old son. She even shares a list of her favorite spots around NYC at the end!

First off, congratulations on reopening the Outlet and Craft Bin shops on your site! I love how the Craft Bin re-purposes your unused supplies. How did that idea come about?

We started collecting non-sellable paper - anything that was misprinted or folded or ripped - not really knowing what we were going to do with it, but couldn't bare recycling as is. When the bins started overflowing, I created the "ReDesigned" line that re-purposed all this paper into things that we could sell. Eventually, the bins get low so that wasn't sustainable, but opening the Craft Bin up when we want works really well.

We opened it up for the first time a couple months ago when we wanted to make room for new things. Recently, we had more stuff to offer, so we opened it up again. It works well for us because we want more shelf space and don't want to throw anything away, and our customers get a great price on nice paper goods.

When deciding on which projects to pursue, do you reach out to family and friends for feedback or do you mainly rely on what feels good to you?

My gut is my compass. Always. When I get an idea, I check in with my husband and partner, John. He doesn't always agree with me, and I don't always listen to him!

I know you give yourself the freedom to explore different medium in your products with letterpress cards and most recently, watercolor designs on your charming notepads and upcoming 2012 calendar. How do you make sure that your products still remain part of a cohesive collection? Or do you simply create what makes you happy regardless of how it relates to the other items in your shop?

I was very aware and did worry a bit that working in watercolor was such a departure from my normal medium of letterpress. But I've never been a printer, so while I felt a little apprehensive about mixing it up, I was also feeling like it was time to explore something new, and even craving it. Ultimately, I think the designs were still very L&H, which is important.

Why do you like to experiment with different materials? What medium and product items haven't you dived into yet that you'd like to explore in the near future?

I worked with lots of different media in college. Non-traditional stuff - like chocolate frosting, toilet paper, Easy Cheese, plungers. It was exciting and freeing to work with so many different materials. So while I love letterpress and always will, I was really excited about doing some looser hand-lettering and playing with color variations. I'd love to do more screen-printing on textiles. I'm also in the process of collaborating with a woodworker friend on a project that we're hoping to launch this fall so stay tuned!

I've seen the feedback on your birthday and postcard calendars and it's been incredible, but to be honest, the postcards were much too cute for me to part with! Will we continue to see new designs on these two popular items year after year?

Three things have to happen for me to keep doing the letterpress calendar: I have to like creating it and like the finished product and people have to keep liking it.

Last year you decided to back away from selling your products wholesale and instead do limited edition monthly projects sold exclusively on your website. What have you learned since changing gears?

I thought the monthly projects set up was going to work better than it did. Producing something every month was a little too strict. I'm glad I pared down my wholesale offering because I wasn't enjoying the process of creating it or the finished product as much as I should have. Or as proud of it as I wanted to be. I'm not opposed to doing it again, but it would have to work differently. And I'm just not sure what that means. So for now, we're just offering a few products that I absolutely love.

That's brave of you to recognize when something isn't working for you and dare to change it up until you find the right fit. Did you worry at all about the market's reception before making this decision?

Yes. I worried that I'd lose a lot of wholesale clients, but that hasn't been the case.

With a new baby on the scene, things must get incredibly hectic for you and your husband. How do you balance your time between developing your business ideas and raising a family?

A reliable and lovely babysitter! Honestly, that's a crucial part of it as well as a fantastic assistant who oversees a lot of day-to-day happenings. I work four days a week, 9 to 5. I know that is a solid chunk of time, but it flies. I've never had a concrete start and end time to my work day, even when I worked for other people, so it's been a big adjustment. That, and I just plain don't want to dive back into work late at night like I used to. I'll do it from time to time, but it's not something I want to do every night. I sound so old saying that, but it's true. John is very much involved in L&H, but he's a freelance copywriter as well, so he's busy with his own work, too.

How do you stay motivated to keep creating good work? Where do you pull inspiration from when you're feeling stuck?

The motivation is almost always there. I love creating and always will. I go through lulls and have to remind myself to have some perspective; this has happened before, so just be patient. When I get stuck, I like talking to other creative friends or getting out some blank paper and playing. Sometimes, I just need a good run. Inspiration creeps in even when I'm in complete Mommy mode, which has definitely surprised me. While I was giving Griffin a bath the other night, I stopped in my tracks at the color combo of his deep yellow rubber ducky and the pale mint color of the bath water. It was striking and so beautiful. And for months now, I've done my best and clearest thinking around 6:45pm, when I'm giving Griffin his bottle before bed. So I guess it's still coming in from all angles as usual, just in a new way, which is pretty cool.

Check out the Outlet and Craft Bin, which will be open for the next two weeks, for unexpected gifts like handmade flower pins made of letterpress stock and envelope liner sheets that serve wonderfully as wrapping paper. And stay tuned for the 2012 letterpress and watercolor calendars to be released this month. Finally, as a fellow New Yorker, Libré shares her favorite spots around the city that are simply must-dos for guests.

The High Line: "It's not so off-the-radar, but it's pretty special. And while you're in the area, grab beers and burgers aboard the docked Lightship Frying Pan as the sun goes down."

Blue Sky Bakery: "Best muffins you'll ever have. Get anything with chocolate chips or pumpkin. The owners couldn't be nicer."

A. Cheng: "I'm sort of a lazy shopper. I don't really like sifting through a ton of clothes and tend to stick to stores I like. This shop has a great selection of clothes and accessories. It makes it more fun and enjoyable for me when a shop is well-curated to my taste, and I definitely find that here."

Franny's: "This is the best pizza and pasta in NYC. Don't miss the fresh always-changing appetizers. I sat next to Conan O'Brien and his wife here on the last night of his show before he moved to LA. When they got up, the restaurant clapped and he was shaking hands with people. It was a great NY moment.

"The owners also have a cheese and provisions shop that sells amazing food. It's pricey but incredible. The salami sandwich is my favorite."

New York Central Art Supply: "It has the best selection of paper from all over the world."

Prospect Park: "Every time I run or bike in here, I tell myself how lucky I am to live near this park. The loop is less than 3.5 miles around and it feels a world away from the city much like Central Park does if you're in Manhattan."

Images: all from

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Something for the Fellas

Last month, A. and I headed to the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, a market of more than 300 artists and indie businesses selling a variety of handmade goods. There were booths lining the paths of McCarren Park filled with art, books, jewelry, stationery, clothes, totes, housewares and offering handmade workshops.

A. needed to find something awesome to send for a gift exchange and I suggested he hit up the craft fair with me. Surely he'd find something interesting and unexpected there, I said, and he did! At Sharp Shirter's booth he found this tentacle shirt for his gift recipient (which was well-received, by the way) and then scored this sweet Panda Bitchslap shirt for himself. Who knew pandas were so testy about photo-taking hipsters?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Friday!

Hooray for the weekend and a holiday one at that! Unfortunately, I'll still be putting in some work hours, but at least I won't have to schlep to the office for a few days. Plus, Heather will be back in town and in much nicer weather so we'll actually get to enjoy ourselves without crying out from the freezing cold.

For Happy Fridays I'm going to start listing a few things I've been thankful for during the week (cause Lord knows I need a reminder every now and then) and sharing links to fun things that appeal to your senses (along with a few other goodies, of course).

This week I'm happy for:

- This week being over. I'm so serious.
- Happy hours, goal-setting sessions and chats with a good friend
- Frequent trips to Central Park
- That I don't have to live with any roommates (especially when I come home wearing my cranky pants)
- Receiving "Handmade Weddings," "Paper + Craft" and "Little Book of Letterpress" to read and review for you guys.
- That I finally booked an appointment for my first fancy haircut tomorrow. Only thing is I'm trying out a new place and getting my hair cut in its curly state rather than straightened and holy crap, I'm so anxious!

What are you grateful for?

SEE Grab a blanket and catch these free outdoor movie screenings in NYC this summer. (I'm finally catching The Social Network next week!)
TASTE How classy are these jelly shots?
LISTEN I'm currently loving "Love Long Distance" by Gossip. Last week it was all about the "Men in Love" though.
SMELL If you want the scent of newsprint wafting through your home, get a whiff of The New York Times with this candle. Seriously? Growing an indoor orange tree sounds a whole lot sweeter.
FEEL You'll be touched by other people's selflessness and love through the "Born in the Sky" legacy project, a collection of letterpress poems written by pediatric patients who are fighting through terminal illnesses.
DO Participate in Bike and Roll's NYC "hop on/hop off" program that lets you borrow a bike and then return it at any of its 11 locations. Prices range from $12 per hour to $69 per day.
BUY Cute illustrated mugs.
MAKE Or just create your own.