Tuesday, April 22, 2014

OBSERVING THE NOW



My friend Breanna posted this blog that was inspired the lovely Cassie of The Veda House. I really liked the idea of stopping and taking a moment to just be in the now so I thought I'd share my observations of the present moment and think it might be fun for you all to do as well.

So here I am...

MAKING good progress on a huge Mother's day illustration project for a fabulous blog.
COOKING a baked potato for lunch.
DRINKING water, pretty much what I'm always drinking.
READING essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown
WANTING my husband to come home so I can hug him.
LOOKING at the storm clouds rolling in.
PLAYING my soap opera, General Hospital in a little video in the corner of my computer screen while I work.
WASTING my time doing this instead of work.
SEWING nothing – I can't sew but I'd like to learn.
WISHING the new laLa grace e-commerce website was finished already!
ENJOYING this overcast rainy day.
WAITING for my lunch to be ready, I'm so hungry!
LIKING this print because when your hair is curly like mine you've got to embrace the mess.
WONDERING if I should paint the 2 shelves in my office gold.
LOVING my husband; always.
HOPING to make new friends at the National Stationery Show next month.
MARVELING at all the talented people in this world.
NEEDING nothing, God has graced me with more than I ever even hoped for.
SMELLING the shampoo in my freshly washed hair.
WEARING leggings, a t-shirt, sweater and socks.
FOLLOWING my dreams.
NOTICING that my body feels so much better when I workout in the morning.
KNOWING that God will always provide me with everything I need.
THINKING that I really need to get back to work.
BOOKMARKING clothes and shoes, I hate to shop, but as the seasons change it's time to buy a few new things.
OPENING the box that just arrived from my printer with my new foil cards, so excited to see them!
GIGGLING about how silly my soap opera is.
FEELING blessed.


Hand Lettering by me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

DISTRACTIONS FROM THE NOW



Sometime between the ages of 14 and 15 I began to immerse myself in the study of Philosophy, Metaphysics, Spirituality and Religion; I read any and everything I could get my hands on. These studies are what led to my becoming a Vegan and why I started to practice yoga (but that is another topic).

One thing that kept coming up was the idea of living in the moment, to be completely and fully present, to be here now. I think I was particularly interested in this idea because being a creative person I have always tended to live in my head and I sometimes spend more hours in the day dreaming than doing; which is not very productive. Dreaming of course is a good thing but only if you are able to convert some of that energy into actually manifesting your dreams (if not all of them, at least some of them).

I also tend to look back a lot, particularly when I have new idea.
I often find myself bogged down with thoughts of past mistakes, things I wish I had done differently; things I wish I hadn't done at all, and more often than not I find myself wishing I hadn't waited so long to move through the cobwebs of my dreams to get to where I am today.

I find myself repeatedly thinking things like...

Why did it take me so long to get here?
I wish I had known this a few years ago. 
I wish I had realized that sooner. 
I wish I hadn't spent so much time on that. 

And on and on and on.

I am going into the second year of business with laLa Grace and as many of you know we are also trying to have a baby so now more than ever I find my mind simultaneously filled with big wonderful Dreams and what sometimes feels like completely debilitating fears. Many of those fears stem from thinking way to much about past mistakes and my ongoing struggle with letting go of what has passed and just be here now.

My husband is constantly telling me to stop worrying about the past and just move forward. Why is this so hard to do? Do you all have similar issues? How do you overcome it?



Hand Lettering by me. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

MIRANTI KAYESS | AN ILLUSTRATION



Miranti Kayess of the blog and shop Pen & Peplum was one of the first ladies I connected with through my blog so it was both a pleasure and and honor to create an illustration for her.


Illustration by me.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

TIPS ON STAYING HEALTHY WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

1. MAKE TIME TO EXERCISE

This is by far one of the hardest things to do when you work from home; this is especially true if you run your own business which often means a never ending To Do List. It is always easier to find a reason not to exercise than it is to find one to exercise but there truly is no To Do item more important than your health!

Since beginning my work from home life over 7 years ago I have tried many times to stick to an afternoon workout schedule but I never could because inevitably I'd get caught up in what I was doing and the time would get away from me. So last August I committed to hitting the gym first thing in the morning and it has worked out great. I usually wake up between 6:30am and 7:00am; I set an alarm but I'm an early riser so I usually wake-up before my alarm. I eat breakfast (usually a bowl of Organic Oatmeal and Vanilla Almond Milk), make the bed and then get dressed and head to the gym. I like long workouts so I am there for about an hour and a half to two hours which means I'm home by 10:30am or so. When I get home I make a Vegan Protein Shake with Almond Milk and half a Banana, then I shower and get dressed for the day. So my work day generally starts around 11:30am. I know this may seem like a late start to some of you but it works for me. I find that I am much more productive during my work day when I've gotten my workout in so I actually end up getting a lot more done. Also keep in mind if you don't workout for as long as I do it won't be such a late start.

My schedule may not be right for you but I highly recommend you find one that is and stick to it. Your body and brain will thank you!

2. DON'T WORK IN YOUR PAJAMAS

When I tell people I work from home they often say, "Wow you're so lucky you could just work in your pajamas all day", yes I guess I could; but I DON'T. Now that I go to the gym in the mornings this is less of an issue because I have to shower after the gym but even before that I did not work in my PJ's.

I don't dress like I'm going to work at a corporate office but I absolutely do not stay in pajamas, not even for an hour. I generally wear leggings because I like to sit Indian style and they give me the flexibility to do that but I wear a nice shirt or sweater and make sure that my hair is combed, my face is washed and my teeth are brushed. I rarely wear make-up so I don't put any on but if you are the kind of person who likes make-up then by all means put a little on even if no one else is going to see you. Getting dressed for the day will help you feel good about yourself and therefore you'll produce better work.

3. EAT REGULAR HEALTHY MEALS

Trust me I know all to well how easy it is to get lost in your work and forget to eat but this is quite possibly the worst thing you could do; you, your health, your brain and therefore your work will suffer if you go days, weeks, months, years without eating properly or often enough.

Here's a few tricks that I've found useful to keep my eating habits on track.
  • Eat Breakfast. I used to hate eating breakfast but about 3 years ago I started to make myself eat first thing in the morning and now I wake up starving (which is a sign of a healthy metabolism). 
  • Eat small meals every 3 hours. I'm sure you've heard this a million times but it is key to maintaining a healthy weight and body. It's also great when you have a work from home schedule because small meals generally means your meal prep will be faster which means you can get back to work sooner. 
  • Set a timer for meal times. This has been the most helpful thing I've done to stay on track. Like many of you my work is creative so it is very easy to get enveloped in what I'm doing and not notice the time or even my hunger pangs. As soon as I eat a meal I set a timer (you can use your phone) for 3 hours. No matter what I'm doing the alarm goes off I am reminded it's time to eat again. 
  • Don't keep junk food in your home. I try really hard to eat whole organic foods but of course I crave a little treat now and then. The key is to make sure you only indulge in treats every once in awhile and one of the best ways to do that is to make sure you don't have that stuff laying around the house. My husband and I try to have one day a week where we eat something that's not so great for us. We eat it all in that one day and the rest of the week it's not even around to tempt us.
4. DON'T WORK WHILE YOU EAT

I know this one is also very challenging because it is oh so tempting to make your food and head right back to your desk plate in hand but this is so bad for you for so many reasons.

One reason is that it might take you a lot longer to eat if you are also trying to work which may also mean that your food will get cold or unappetizing and be left unfinished; or you'll be finishing it up when it's almost time to eat again 3 hours later. Working while you eat also causes you to eat mindlessly which is bad for your digestion and metabolism.

You've taken the time to make a nice healthy meal for yourself so now take just a few more minutes to actually enjoy it; your work is not going anywhere, it will be there when you get back.

5. DRINK LOST AND LOTS OF WATER

Drinking water is by far one of the best things you can do for your health! A lot of people don't realize this but the afternoon drag that so many of us experience is actually dehydration. When you're feeling tired try drinking an 8oz glass of water or larger as a quick pick me up. Many people will also feel hungry when they are dehydrated; I know crazy right! Imagine how many calories you'll save if you realized that your hunger pangs weren't hunger at all but really just your body letting you know that it's thirsty.

It's a good idea to drink a glass of water 30mins before a meal to help with digestion. Water also washes toxins from the body, helps to reduce cholesterol, helps the liver and kidneys function, moisturizes the skin, and tones muscles. And ladies guess what, the right amount of water will stop the body from retaining water and that is always a good thing.

So do your body a favor and drink water!

6. JUICE

Even living my Veganish lifestyle I find it challenging to eat the daily recommended serving of Vegetables & Fruits which is why I think juicing is so great. I'ts a great way to fill up on all those nutrients without feeling like you can't take one more bite of broccoli.

Please note that unless you are on a juice fast, juice is not a complete meal and should not be used as a meal replacement. I make a Green Juice or Green Smoothie to go along with one of my small meals.

One of my favorite recipes is super simple and so YUM!
  • 3 Carrots
  • 1 Apple (Red of Green)
  • 1/2 Lemon or Lime
  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • Kale (I don't add a specific amount, I just keep adding until the juice is a Green color I like)

7. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS

Studies have shown that the human brain has a difficult time focusing on a task for more than an hour straight so taking breaks is actually very beneficial to your work.

I try to take a short break every hour or so. Sometimes I stay at my computer and catch up on my favorite blogs or look for some fresh inspiration on Pinterest, Dribbble or Behance. But most times I try to actually leave my desk. I get up and get a fresh glass of water or cup of tea, or I go upstairs and put some laundry in, or I do a few quick Sun Salutations or push-ups or jumping jacks, something to get the blood flowing and my mind refreshed.

8. GET OUTSIDE

When you work from home it is very easy to become a hermit; especially if you are like me and are a homebody to begin with. I am going to be honest and share something I am a little embarrassed about... before I met my husband I would sometimes go an entire week without leaving my house or seeing or talking to anyone; I know sad right.

Well I don't do that anymore. Even in the winter I try to get outside at least once every day; even if it's just to go to the gym or the post office to ship orders. I also like to make time occasionally to meet a friend for lunch or coffee/tea and when it's nice out I LOVE to take walks so I am definitely looking forward to Spring and Summer!

9. KEEP THINGS CLEAN AND ORGANIZED

I am a neat freak so this is not generally hard for me but sometimes I'm working on a project and I pull out paints, pencils, markers, paper and whatever else I might need. Or sometimes throughout the day more and more things end up on my desk or on the floor by my desk and before I know it my office is a huge mess.

I don't know about you but I don't work well if my space is messy and unorganized for a long period of time so I've made it a habit to clean up and put things away before I leave my office for the day.

Speaking of habits, I read The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharpe about 4 or so years ago and I highly recommend it; it is a truly wonderful book!

10. CREATE A SCHEDULE

I've discussed this a bit in some of the other topics but creating a schedule extends beyond making time for exercise, eating, and breaks. It's a good idea to create a schedule for your work day and week in general. Sure your work may change a bit from week to week depending on what projects you have going on but it's a good idea to create a schedule for the task that don't change; particularly because those are the ones that aren't so fun.

For example one of my goals this year is to stay on top of my bookkeeping. I have used Quickbooks for years but have never really taken advantage of all that it can do so every year at tax season I spend endless hours pulling all my expenses together when I could have easily tracked them all year long in Quickbooks. So I've added bookkeeping to my Friday schedule. Every Friday I will login into my Quickbooks and organize the new expenses it has imported from my Bank Account and Business Credit Card.

(BTW if you're curious and are in search of accounting software I use the Simple Start Online version. It is only $12.95/month and it's great! I know a lot of small business owners are intimidated by Quickbooks but I'm not sure why; I think it is really user friendly and I love the look of the new dashboard. And if you use it properly, as I finally plan to, it is an invaluable accounting tool!)


I hope these tips are helpful to you in some way and I'd love to hear how you all stay healthy while working from home.

Illustration by me.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THE YELLOW CONFERENCE | SPREAD GOODNESS & BLOOM


A little over a year ago I connected via the beautiful worldwide web with the ever so lovely Joanna Waterfall (remember when I drew her portrait here). Since connecting, Joanna and I have had a few phone conversations and each time I end the conversation feeling a bit brighter because of her infectious positive energy.

Well, I'm super excited to announce that she has to put together an amazing conference for creative women called The Yellow Conference. Why "Yellow"? here's how Joanna explains it...

Our goal is to become like bees. Through doing what they do best, bees aid in the growth of fruits, plants, and blooms. Just like bees, we want to use our gifts and talents to bring growth and spread goodness throughout the world. What color are bees? Yellow. So there you have it.

The event will be held on August 28th & 29th at the Smoky Hollow Studios in El Segundo, CA; be sure to check out the gorgeous website for more information; registration opens in about a week!


Friday, January 31, 2014

WINTER OR SUMMER



I was born in Jamaica and moved to Miami, FL when I was 6 years old; I lived there until I was 27 then I moved to Phoenix, AZ for a few years before I briefly moved to Lewisburg, PA for 6 months before moving to Northern Virginia. Being that I've lived in warm climates most of my life you'd think I'd hate the winters here but I don't, I really don't and I think a lot of that is how happy I am here.

I read the above quote recently and it really resonated with me because this winter especially has been very very cold, we have been in the single digits with highs in the teens and low 20's for weeks and that's without the windchill factor; but I'm unphased and in fact I still find myself getting excited when I see snow on the forecast.

Sure there's less sunshine and these cold temps mean less time outside and if you do go outside you need to put on about 5 layers of clothes (no I'm not kidding). But they also mean more reasons to wear boots, more reasons for a hot cup of cocoa, more reasons to be a homebody (which I naturally am anyway), more time to enjoy long conversations by the fireplace, more time to read, more time to cuddle,  and more time to just sit and be with your thoughts.

So though I'll be happy when winter comes to an end, I am just as happy wearing this soft cozy sweater right now in this moment.

How are you all enjoying your winter?



Photo & Hand Lettering by me. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

GOODBYE 2013


So my holiday was not as work free as I had planned but that's okay because I spent it working on new laLa Grace card designs which is always really fun for me; and taking a break from everything else work related really allowed me to immerse myself in the creative side of my business in a way that I haven't been able to in awhile.

I am really happy to be back blogging though especially because during my time off I spent some time thinking about what I would like to blog about in 2014 and I'm really looking forward to sharing it all with you over the next 12 months.

I also spent a little time tweaking the design of this blog just a little bit, the changes are so small many of you may not even notice them. I like to keep the design pretty simple but I wanted to clean things up a bit and I think I've accomplished that.


Before I dive fully into 2014 I wanted to take a moment to look back on 2013 and the moments that along with the previous years have helped shape who I am today.

At the end of January (January 29th to be exact) I opened the laLa Grace Etsy Shop and other than marrying my husband it just may be the best decision I have ever made. I have learned more about my creative style in the (almost) year since opening my shop than I did in the 10 or so previous years working as a graphic designer. I have SO MANY goals for laLa Grace for 2014 I can't wait to see how things unfold and how much more I learn. The nice thing is, now when I do work on a design project I am able to bring my newly discovered style to my client work and give them something really unique. In fact I will be sharing a logo design project that I completed just before the holidays with you soon.

January through May I ran a series called Why Do You Blog? and though I'm not always the biggest fan of series like this I did it because I was genuinely curious to learn why people blog and was fascinated by all the different responses.

I'm actually planning to do another series this year though I am not tying myself down to running it weekly; I'll just run it when new ones are ready. I hadn't planned to do another series but a question has been coming up for me recently and I am really excited to see how other creatives will answer it.

In May we took a vacation to Myrtle Beach which was not enjoyable for me but it helped me to understand the kind of vacations and life experiences I long for that only travel can bring. I very much long to go abroad but there is so much in this country that I also want to see. What I learned on our Myrtle vacation is that I long for more culture based and exploratory travel. I don't really want to go on vacation to sit on a beach unless it's in some exotic country like Bali. When I travel the U.S.A I don't want to go to "tourist" spots I want to explore towns and cities so I can get to know them and what they're all about.

We are already in the midst of planning a trip to the Northwest and I can't wait!

We spent a lot of time over the summer working on our new home, I shared some pictures of the Great Room with you and will be sharing more pictures of the other rooms as we finish them up. We are close to being mostly done (though I think design is a continual process) but the other rooms are not quite ready to be shared just yet.

In August I received my first laLa Grace wholesale order and we celebrated our 1year Anniversary in Philadelphia. We had a great time exploring the city and all the amazing local vegan restaurants Philly has to offer; if you're a vegan you really must go there and try Hip City Veg and Vedge restaurant; actually you should try them; especially Vedge even if you're not a vegan.

Speaking of Vegan I really enjoyed researching the content and creating the illustrations for the Vegan Living Blogs.

I also shared two (Botanical Gardens | Harpers Ferry) mini little local excursions that I hope to do much more of this year. I think it's some times easy to forget how much the places we live have to offer so I hope to spend a lot more time being a tourist in my own city this year.

But the thing that shaped me the most in 2013 was definitely the two miscarriages that Christopher and I went through. It took me awhile to share our story but I decided too because I know reading a story like mine would have been very helpful to me when I was going through it. I was beyond touched by the emails I received from all of you and felt so blessed to be able to share life experiences (the good and the bad) through this blog with such an amazing group of people.

We have not tried since the last miscarriage in August but we are going to start trying again this month, so if you pray we'd be honored if you'd include us in your prayers.

Speaking of prayer I think we may have finally found the right Church for us here in Virginia. I loved my church in Arizona and though we've been going to one here for awhile it never really resonated with me but a friend of mine invited us to her church on Sunday and I felt almost immediately at home there. Spirituality has been a major part of my life since I was a teenager but that has really been lacking in my life recently because of not having a church that I like so it's nice to find a church that will help bring more spirituality back into my life. I don't believe you have to go to church to be with God but I do think that life is really busy and when you don't have a weekly reminder it's easy to let God take a back seat to other things that are far less important.


So anyway, that is my 2013 in review, I hope you all had a truly magical holiday and a wonderful new year; here's to an amazing 2014!


Photo by my husband Christopher, Font by me. 


Friday, December 20, 2013

HOLIDAY BREAK!



It's that time of year folks, time to unplug, unwind and be present with the ones we love during all our joyous holiday moments.

I'll be back to blogging January 6th but the shop will stay open and orders will be shipped out daily as usual.

For now I thought I'd leave you with a few photos I snapped recently on one of our snowy days, winter is really so beautiful; but then again every season has it's own unique beauty which is one of the reasons I love living in a 4 season climate.

Wishing you all a truly wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year!




Photos, font & illustration by me. 
 

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