Adventures in Charlotte: Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

A couple weeks ago, we went to visit the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. We are on a mission to explore Charlotte and we’re having so much fun while we’re at it. The DSBG is about 20 minutes south of Charlotte, near the NC/SC border, in Belmont.  It was a beautiful, albeit steamy day, capping off at around 95 degrees. We were only there a couple hours, but managed to walk all of the grounds and snap some good photos. Our last botanical garden visit was to The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC and in comparison the DSBG is much smaller, but still absolutely beautiful. Definitely worth the trip.

DSBG-blog

Linus turns 12

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Twelve years ago last Tuesday, my sweetest friend was born. By my side, rain or shine, he is steady, true and full of love. I cannot believe he is twelve already. It feels like only yesterday that I went to the airport to pick-up the cutest 2.5 pound ball of fur that I’ve ever seen. He flew in from Oklahoma, alone in his cat carrier and scared to death from the plane ride. I kneeled down to peek inside and saw two quivering ears popping up out of the shredded newspaper. I reached in to help him out and fell in love. I never would have imagined that a tiny little puppy would be able to completely change my world like he has. We haven’t looked back since that day. Where I am, he is. And where he is, so am I.

Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet pup.

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” 
― Elbert Hubbard

Love Blooms

edit-IMG_2531 A couple years ago for our anniversary, Steve gave me a little baby rose bush. It was in a miniature pot and had the sweetest teeny, tiny, little bloom on it. I am not so great at keeping plants around, but amazingly enough I have been able to keep this little plant alive for over two years. It’s gigantic now compared to when we got it and what’s even more exciting is that after two and a half years, our sweet little rose is blooming again. It had been so long since it first bloomed, we had sort of accepted the fact that it probably wouldn’t happen again. But lo and behold, there it is. I’m so happy we were wrong. Hopefully it won’t be another few years before it flowers again. It’s too pretty to wait so long in between.

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The three pots on the right are the cat’s. We’re currently attempting to grow a pot of cat grass and two pots of cat nip. As you can see, the cat nip never last long. They are basically demolished immediately upon sprouting.

Hello, 31.

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Today is my birthday and I’m ready for another wonderful year. To help me make the most of it, I like to create a goal list that helps stay me on track throughout the year. I really believe the key to making these lists is to be specific. The more specific your goal is at the beginning the less room there is for interpretation and ultimately procrastination. Some of these are small goals and others are long term, but all of them will help make another great year. Here it goes:

  1. Curl my hair more, at least twice a week
  2. Rebuild our backyard deck
  3. Go back to North Carolina ❤ (and perhaps stay there forever)
  4. Blog more, 3 times a week is my goal
  5. Post at least one thing a day on Instagram
  6. Complete an entire greeting card line for all occasions
  7. Expand our product line to include ready-made custom invites, art prints, notebooks and tote bags
  8. Actively pursue more custom work that fits in with my goals
  9. Start selling my products wholesale and get into 10 stores
  10. Continue to workout on a regular basis, three – four times a week
  11. Clean out and organize our house
  12. Take time to experiment with new art projects and leave room for failure.
  13. Reach 500 Etsy sales
  14. Do at least one craft show – Rustbelt Market or the Detroit Urban Craft Fair
  15. Start participating on social media more, especially Twitter, on a regular basis
  16. Go to a conference
  17. Solidify my brand style and marketing plan
  18. Get a business mentor
  19. Start Screen Printing
  20. Read a book a month, bonus if at least half of the books are from my 2014 Reading list
  21. Spend quality time every day with Linus ❤
  22. Build my creative confidence and continue to improve my skills
  23. Try a new local restaurant every month
  24. Create a line of products whose proceeds go to an animal welfare group
  25. Improve my product photos
  26. Go to a concert with Steve
  27. Learn to sew
  28. Build a new portfolio site
  29. Go on a date a week with Steve. All fun, no business.
  30. Get an actual (not-for-profit) hobby, maybe photography.
  31. Get a cute swimsuit and swim in the ocean

A few ongoing goals of mine are to strive to focus on quality over quantity, to slow down and relax, and to accept that fact that some things just take time. I’m a hyper productive person and I want what I want, when I want it, so I’m really trying to have more patience just in general.

Steve and I both took that day off work to spend the day. Two years ago today it was 80 degrees outside and we went to the Detroit zoo. Today was 40 out, and we decided to go to the zoo again. It was chilly, but with the winter we’ve had 40 felt like a heat wave. Happy weekend, everyone!

See my last couple lists:
29 in 29
30 in 30

 

Goodbye, 30.

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Today is my last day of being 30 and I’m actually sad to see it go. I wasn’t thrilled about turning 30 (who is, right?), but it turned out to be an amazing year. I don’t really like the idea of turning 31. I realized though that the 20’s might be gone and now so is 30, today – RIGHT NOW, is the youngest I’m ever going to be again (and that was the exact thought behind this card I made a few weeks ago). So I’m going to enjoy it rather than feeling like an old lady.

30 was a truly great year. I was busy. I changed gears in my life and my business and it made a huge difference. I feel like a new person and am really excited about the direction I’m moving in. Let me tell you a little about what happened this past year.

1. I got a new full time job. The job I was at was draining me. I was bored and feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere with it or doing anything to make myself a better designer. It wasn’t a bad job, but it wasn’t right for me. I accepted a promotion and moved up to a Senior Designer within the same organization, but in a new department. I work at a public university, so a new department basically means a new company. All new management, different project focus, pretty much different everything except the name on the pay checks. So far it’s been really great and I’ll celebrate my one year anniversary on May 1st.

2. Got a better sense of my creative style. This started with getting a better idea of my personal style. My work is more cohesive and recognizable.

3. Changed gears with my business. When I started out I knew nothing about what I was going to do other than the fact that I wanted to do it. So it really took some work to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to do that. I think I’ve done a really good job over the last year in determining what it is I actually want to be doing. This is a process though and it’s something that is going to evolve with me as I go.

4. Wrote a serious, professional business plan and set my one, five and ten year goals. I feel so much more confident about the direction of my business and exactly where I’m going.

5. Started sharing my work publicly online on things like Instagram and Behance. This has really made a huge difference in starting to build a name for my company.

6. Put together a better household financial plan. I’ve always been very financially responsible, but this year we really adjusted how we do things to make sure we are saving as much as we can and also paying off as much debt as we can. We set in a motion a three year plan to have all of our debt paid off except our house, while still be able to do fun things together like go on vacations.

7. I got more courageous this year. I don’t want to say that I’m an anti-social person, because that’s really not true. I love meeting new people and making friends. I am very socially timid though. I don’t like big crowds and I’m uncomfortable around people I don’t know. I took some big leaps this year and searched out new groups and communities. I also started engaging with new people more through social media. I also attended a Minted “Mintie Meet-up” and met some great new friends.

8. Got more involved in Etsy Teams and the Etsy community.

9. Updated my brand and created a new logo that fits more with my personal and creative style.

10. Started a greeting card line. This was a major turning point with HPC this past year. It helped me get more products out there and helped to let me define my illustration style. It’s a process, but with every new release I feel like I am getting better, more cohesive, beautiful products.

11. Figured out a different more efficient way to produce our products. It’s been more cost effective and also lets me test new designs without investing a ton of money that could potentially be lost.

12. Changed our studio to set-up a more production efficient space to meet demands of increased sales.

13. Really focused on quality over quantity. I did this both at home and with the business and products I create. It’s helping me create a clutter-free home that we truly love and also helping focus my brand to a very specific style.

14. Set-up a print studio in our basement for block and screen printing that I can get as messy as I want. So much fun!

15. Took on custom wedding invitations clients and started focusing these to hand lettered designs only. That’s what I love to do and anything outside of that is distracting me from my goal and not adding to my portfolio.

16. Our cards were featured on amazing blogs like Oh So Beautiful PaperPaper Crave and also on the Lonny blog. This was and is so exciting every time it happens.

17. Did an online exhibition with Paper & Stitch.

18. I created an absolute ton of new greeting cards this year. It was really surprising to me to see which ones were popular verses what wasn’t.

19. Spent a lot of time refining my hand lettering skills. It’s starting to become second nature to me now when at one point a few years ago it seemed almost impossible.

20. Started getting my products ready for wholesale and making connections with local shops and designers. We are very excited to announce we have officially started selling our products wholesale!

21. Built our own privacy fence.

22. Took Linus on a lot of adventures like the cider mill, Downtown Royal Oak, lots of car rides and some vacations.

23. Went to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC.

24. Drove to the UP for Steve’s 30th birthday

25. Spent a weekend in Traverse City, MI with Steve and Linus

26. Installed a new super efficient furnace and central air. We didn’t have AC before so we are both so excited about this one.

27. We realized that Steve has a gluten allergy and we switched over to a gluten free diet. It has made a huge impact on how he has been feeling.

28. Started an art collection of different prints from different designers and illustrators to hang up around our home.

29. Handmade a wooden headboard for our bedroom and made this a cozier space for us to relax.

30. Won an online photo contest with my favorite yarn store for a free gift card. This was a joint effort between me and the cat. I took the picture, she looked cute for it.

That’s a lot of stuff going on. I’m so excited about getting started on the next year. Stay tuned tomorrow for my 31 in 31 list.

Check out my lists from the last couple years:

29 accomplished in 29
29 in 29
30 in 30

Happy Birthday, Linus!

Today is Linus’ 11th birthday. I like to make him little hats to celebrate. This year we made a gold crown that he particularly hated. Besides a general death stare in my direction and a lot of wiggling around he was such a good sport about it. I cannot believe he is 11 already. Happy birthday to the sweetest dog ever!

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The story of Lilly and the last time I slept

I didn’t get much sleep last night. As I was reflecting back on why exactly that is I thought it might be a good story to tell you. It all starts in October 2009, a week before Halloween. The last time I really knew what a full night’s sleep felt like.

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​ Steve and I were just starting our relationship. We were falling madly in love with each other and like a lot of people do, we thought it would be a great idea to get a(nother) pet. On a trip to the pet store to pick-up food for Linus we happened to wander by the cats that were available for adoption. Most of them were sleeping with their backs turned to us and couldn’t care less that we even existed, except one. This cat was different. She was friendly and excited to see us. Rubbing her entire body up against the glass like she was glued to it, reaching her paw out like she wanted to shake hands, her purring was so loud we could practically feel the vibrations through the glass. She worked us. Bad. We got our food and went home, sad to leave her there. We found ourselves not being able to stop thinking about her. We called the adoption agency and filled out an application. Within a week we were accepted and told we could bring her home. Oh, we were so excited and couldn’t wait.

On the day we went to get her from the pet store we met a cat that we had never seen before. She was pissed and mean. I tried to pet her and she swiped her little jagged claws at me like she wanted me dead. Steve and I looked at each other scared for our lives. The ​adoption manager assured us that she was upset about being cooped up in her cage so long and she had just had her nails cut and that she would calm down and return to her normal, lovely little self. So we put her in the pet carrier and took her home. On the way home we heard a little “mew” from the back seat. I reluctantly turned around and put my finger into her carrier hoping it would not have been bitten off. I left a nose and a little lick, followed by a couple more friendly meows. Phew. Thank goodness we weren’t bring devil kitty home. Or so we thought.

The first night home was eventful. Within five minutes of letting her out of that carrier she ran away.  Out the door, down the stairs and into the dark. Steve chased after her in his socks and brought her back. We immediately got her a little red collar with a jingly bell on it so that we could track her whereabouts. Ninja kitty no more. Best $4 we ever spent. ​

Fast forward a couple years to the recent past. Lilly is a wonderful kitty. She is friendly, warm and loving. She loves people and is extremely personable. She visits with our house guests and even tries to snuggle up with our dog. He doesn’t like her, but he does tolerate her. Sometimes she hides on him and when he walks by she bats him in the head. This of course turns into a high speed chase throughout our house. They never hurt each other and its actually pretty funny to watch them play.   ​

During the day she sleeps. She also sleeps in the evening and into the night. But around 11 p.m. things change. Our house turns into a war zone. Lilly is awake and has a full tank of energy. ​She comes up into our bedroom to lay on me making sure to headbutt the phone or book out of my hand so it is clear what my priorities are. Its time to pet her. And love her. And give her my undivided attention. Ok, cat. I’m on it. Eventually though I fall asleep and this is when things really get crazy. She is wired. Sleeping is not an option. She walks on my face, walks on Steve’s face, walks on the dog’s face. Now we are all pissed. She takes off running at full speed through the house. Naturally the dog goes after her to warn her not to come back. This buys us a few precious moments of sleep.

2 a.m. scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch rhythmically on the wall. ​Pillow thrown, target hit, but not down. There she goes racing down the hallway, dog not far behind. 2:15 a.m. repeat. 3 a.m she is standing on my back meowing. 3:30 a.m. I dream that someone is punching me in the stomach and wake to find the cat headbutting me in the ribs. 3:32 a.m. a tail is flicking me repeatedly in the face as she tries to get in the nearby attic door. Now I can’t be sure, but it would seem logical that I am now threatening to lock her outside. Steve calls her over to leave me alone. I contemplate what it would be like to go back in time and talk myself out of adopting another pet. 4:40 a.m five minutes before Steve’s alarm goes off, she is now on her normal routine of waking him up. She is hungry and craving love. She gets him up and follows him down stairs. I have 2 precious hours before he leaves for work, time to sleep. 6:45 a.m. I feel the gentle grasp of her teeth on my jugular. The dragon is letting me know its time to get up. By 8 a.m. I am walking out the door to go to work and she is sleeping peacefully on the chair. I make sure to wake her up before I go.

Sweet, sweet little cat. She is so very lucky that I love her. ​

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Dear 30.. Let’s be friends.

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Since I posted my 29 accomplished in 29 list it only makes sense to do a 30 in 30 list as a follow-up and reminder to myself for when I get distracted in the monotony of everyday life. Turning thirty is not the easiest of milestones and to counteract that I am focusing on the good. No. Nope. I’m focusing on the GREAT. I feel like I finally have a solid footing and I am just getting started. My overarching goal for this year: have fun in the everyday. Life is way too short to postpone that. So my plan is to do all of the things on my list and have a blast doing them. Let’s go:

​1. Start running and complete a 10k
2. Start offering custom illustration and branding work
3. Return to the custom weddings invitation game on my own terms – (no more hand trimming)
4. Take HPC wholesale
5. Get a cute swim suit and go swimming in lake Michigan
6. Take up calligraphy
7. Get a bike (with a bell) & go biking with Steve
8. Travel: Boston, MA, and Wilmington, NC (Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC just got checked off the list)
9. Plant and not kill a garden
10. Wear more cute skirts
11. Redo our backyard deck
12. Get on my web game – be more efficient in html & css
13. Learn (well, relearn) French
14. Take a class
15. Go horseback riding
16. Wake up on time to make more of my day, in other words stop hitting snooze
17. Code a new portfolio website (in progress)
18. Go to a concert with Steve
19. Create a cohesive, accomplishable (and amazing) five-year business plan
20. Get fancy at cooking
21. Take Linus on adventures
22. Start a daily creative project (just started this yesterday)
23. Participate in Blogging for Books (in progress)
24. Get my letterpress on
25. Knit some really cute knee socks (like this)
26. Start writing a book
27. Focus on quality not quantity
28. Create a giant painting for our living room
29. Cook my way through Clean Start
30. Do something for the greater good
Bonus: Attend a conference

​And there it is. It’s going to be a fun year. ​

29 in Twenty-nine

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Today I am saying goodbye twenty-nine. It’s been a lot of fun. This was a monumental year. Difficult at times, but worth every single second. And at the end of it I feel stillness. Calm. I started the year with this blog post about feeling restless and searching for more and this one about making the most of 29. Mission accomplished. I ended this year with a sense of complete accomplishment and peace.

As I listed out what my biggest triumphs from the past year I couldn’t believe some of the things that are on there. I still can’t really. Small actions really add up over the course of a year. A year from now you’ll wish you had started today, right? I couldn’t agree more with that. So here we go.. my 29 from 29 list in, no particular order.

​1. Attended Making Things Happen (MTH)
2. Turned down the volume on my chronic anxiety
3.  Started my business
4. Read a heck of a lot of books
5. Got back into drawing
6. Discovered a passion for illustration & lettering
7. Stayed on Mackinac Island with Steve and Linus
8. Visited North Carolina
9. Exhibited in two craft shows
10. Accepted into the National Stationery Show (though I have decided to wait another year)
11. Saw my beautiful friend’s brand new baby right after he was born – yay Ben!
12. Visited Bell Isle, the Riverwalk in Downtown Detroit and Eastern Market
13. Tried my hand at painting with watercolor and gouache
14. Got back into printmaking
15. Completed all kinds of DIY projects from Pinterest
16. Cleared out the clutter from our ENTIRE house
17. Turned an extra bedroom into the business’ office
18. Defined my direction and vision for my company
19. Attended two Making Brands Happen webinars
20. Grew a stronger marriage with my husband
21. Cooked an entirely homemade Thanksgiving dinner (and it was delicious)
22. Purchased a letterpress
23. Spoke up when I had something to say
24. Started learning to do product photography and fell in love with photo styling
25. Made some wonderful friends at MTH in NC
26. Let go of perfection – maybe the most important accomplishment this year
27. Painted a portrait of Snoop Dogg  🙂
28. Started thinking about babies
29. Slowed down

Twenty-nine is over and its time to move on. I’ve got more to do, bigger and better, even more awesome to fulfill. Its time to get going. Let’s do this thirty.