How to be Charming :: Disclaimers + Definitions

I tweeted the other day that I have this weird fascination with etiquette. I'm constantly looking up ways to do the proper thing, whatever that may mean. It may sound odd that a twenty-something girl living in in 2014 loves to read the rules of etiquette, but it's true. I think there's this lack of respect, both for ourselves and for others, that could really be fixed by basic etiquette training. 

I've posted a few things on this topic, though I mis-labeled it Ladylike. I've wanted to write more, but the term just kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Because, you see, I identify as a female, a feminist, and very feminine. My dilemma, always, is how I reconcile these. If I identify as a feminist, is it still okay for me to write about femininity? My heart tells me yes, because being feminine makes me happy and comfortable. But I've just always been terrified at how people will perceive it.

So, consider this my official disclaimer post. I am planning on starting a series called How to be Charming, which will include writings on femininity and etiquette, and I don't want to be afraid of what people will say. I'm not saying that women should do these things in order to be a woman, or even feminine. It's my own personal perception of femininity and etiquette, and it may not be right for everyone. 

I think my biggest pet peeve about blogs in general are those who write from this perspective - as if their how to is the end all. Mine is not. I'm not all knowing, and I will never write something that I feel contradicts my personal beliefs about choice and gender. I'm writing about my experience and how I want to be. That's all. 

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I also wanted to use this post to define a few things. Mainly, what do I envision this series to be. 
Well, first of all, what is charming? I've read a few different definitions of the word, but the one I like most is a power of pleasing or attracting, as through personality or beauty.

This. This is exactly why I use the word charming in my branding. It's not a physical representation of beauty, nor is it solely how you act or feel. It's a broad definition of pleasing others and making them comfortable and happy in your presence. 

A few other words I've chosen to define this new chapter in my life and my blog include authentic (not false or copied; genuine; real), elegant (gracefully refined and dignified, as in tastes, habits, or literary style), lovely (having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye), and generous (free from meanness or smallness of mind or character). It's a combination of all of these that, to me, make up this ambiguous concept of charming

For me, it also has a lot to do with etiquette, or the conventional requirements as to social behavior (remember, I was a sociologist major, so etiquette has always fascinated me in one regard or another). And why does etiquette matter? Because how we act affects other people. I'm not doing these things because it feels right, but because it's the polite thing to do for others. It's to makes others feel important; to let them know that their feelings and comfort are important to me. 

I guess the most important thing now is why. Why am I choosing to do this? Why am I making a conscious decision to research etiquette and share it with you? Why do I want to explore my femininity, and most importantly, why do I want to write about it?

Call it a rut, or just a really difficult month. April was hard you guys. Really, really hard, in many, many ways. It's not that I necessarily did anything wrong, but I know that I could have acted differently in situations to make those situations easier. I just think I need a new perspective, explore different ways that I can act to make life easier for both myself and others. 

So! What topics are you interested in reading more about? Think, table manners, wedding etiquette, how to act on social media. And it's not just limited to etiquette either. I'm attempting a different lifestyle, one that makes me feel better about myself and the way that I treat people. I'd love to know your thoughts and ideas!


Try the World :: Japan

Remember when I told you about that amazing new box company that sends you stuff from all around the world? Well, Robert and I got our second box recently, and it was (almost) as good as our first! I say almost because, well, Paris.

This time, however, we got all sorts of goodies from Tokyo! Japan is pretty much known for yummy snacks and sweet treats, so obviously we enjoyed this one too. 
In this box :: Seaweed // Sugar Candy // Ginger Paste // Caramel Candy // Rice Cakes // Chopsticks // Tea // Origami Paper // Bean Cakes


Paper Bow Garland Tutorial

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I am about as un-crafty as they come. People don't believe me, but it's true! I don't even know how many unfinished projects I have laying around my home, just because I didn't like how they were turning out. That being said, every once in a while I'll try a project that just works

I saw this feature on Green Wedding Shoes a few weeks ago, and I fell in LOVE. I mean, that dessert table? Full of bows! How could I not love it?

As soon as I saw it, I was reminded of this paper bow tutorial I saw last year on How About Orange, and I knew even I could figure out how to make a bow garland. The only thing about this template, however, was that it had the wrong type of ends for this type of project. I wanted the ribbon to hang down from the bow, not out the side. So, I created my own template.

Anyway, I know you're all wondering how the finished project turned out, and I'm proud to announce that I actually succeeded at a DIY for once!
My sweet husband made most of the bows for this project. He's a good blog husband.

Paper Bow Garland Tutorial
1 // Print out the paper bow template, which can be downloaded here as a PDF, and cut out the shapes.

2 // Trace the bow shapes (four total) onto different colored and patterned paper, and cut them out. To make the bow, fold the rounded shape so that the two ends meet in the middle, and tape together. Wrap the small, rectangular shape around the center of the rounded shape, and tape shut. Take the two longer pieces, shaped like banners, and tape to the back of the bow so that the cut out pieces hang below. Trim as you like.

3 // Take a long ribbon or string and tape to the back of the bows, leaving a couple inches in between each bow. 


The Thing About Creative Vulnerability

There's a hard lesson that we all learn when it comes to creativity - that of vulnerability and integrity. I remember the first time I created a calligraphy piece for someone and they were upset with the end result. I was SHOCKED. I have so many pictures of my work on my website and my Etsy shop that it shouldn't be a surprise when I create an order with my signature whimsical style. It hurt. Why wasn't my work good enough for them? They chose me for a reason - was it just because I was the least expensive? Because they couldn't find anyone else? Because I was the only one that could (and would) accommodate their slightly ridiculous demands? 

I've been doing this thing for a little while now, and it still sucks when people ask me to change my style. I'm not talking about edits to what I create for them, but my actual style and taste. It happens in all aspects of my business - my calligraphy, my design work, my planning style, my blog, and even my writing.
I'm learning a lesson, still, about creative vulnerability and integrity. I don't know that I'll ever get to the point where it doesn't suck to be questioned and told that my work isn't good enough, but I do need to realize something. I'M good enough, and my work is good enough. They did hire me for a reason, you know. It just might not be right for them.

Accommodating  clients is just part of life, but that doesn't mean we need to sacrifice our creative integrity. If you have a vision, stand your ground. It's your vision and you need to learn to trust your instincts. If you don't, you'll never realize your creative potential because you're constantly questioning yourself and imitating others' work rather than discovering your own. Now if I could only take this lesson to heart. 


A Charming Routine

If you know me in the real world, you know I can be frumpy. I tend to wear my hair in a messy bun almost every day and maxi skirts are my favorite piece of clothing ever invented. The thing is, however, I still try to feel good about myself, I just do it in a different way. How, do you ask?
My daily routine may not always involve makeup or a blow dryer, but it does involve a few other things that make me feel good about myself.

I start with what's underneath. It doesn't matter if I'm going to be the only person who knows in any particular day, pretty underthings always make me feel good about myself. If I'm not wearing makeup, I make sure my face is washed and my eyebrows look nice. My nails are always filed and clean (gel manicures are one of my indulgences in life) and I make sure that I smell pretty. The last bit in this formula is a bow, usually in my hair, though I've been known to wear them on my shoes or on a ring (too). It's not a complicated routine, and I can (and usually do) get out the door in less than fifteen minutes, but it works for me!

Bra and Panties :: Elle McPherson via Net-A-Porter // Perfume :: Chance by Chanel via Nordstrom // Shoes :: Kate Spade

Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


A Personal Trip :: Cambria

I'm an introvert, and as such, I've never felt embarrassed or ashamed to be seen alone. I usually go out to dinner or happy hour by myself at least once every few weeks; it's my happy time, my time to recharge and just be

Last week was hard, you guys. I don't need to give details, but just believe when I say that I'm not being dramatic here; it was hard. Like, maybe the hardest week I've ever experienced. Character building, I suppose? But that doesn't make it any easier. 

After coffee with two of my dearest girlfriends, I realized what I needed to do for my sanity and my confidence and my marriage: I needed to get away. And I don't mean just getting dinner alone or staying with a friend or even taking a day off. I needed a vacation. I needed a personal few days. 

We're lucky enough to live near Santa Barbara and visit Santa Ynez wine country quite often, so that was out. Ojai was too close. Los Angeles too crowded and too familiar. I needed somewhere that was near enough to drive in a few hours, but somewhere I could experience all on my own for the first time. 

Lucky enough, the Central Coast is only a three hour drive from our little bubble, and I knew where I needed to be. 
Cambria. I'm fairly certain that this little slice of California, secluded and next-to-untouched, is one of the most breathtaking and reinvigorating places in the world. At least, in my world. 

I stayed at a little inn right on the beach. I drank wine on the patio, wrapped in a blanket, and wrote in my journal while listening to the waves crash. I rented a bicycle and did some wine tasting. I ate a lot of clams. I walked along the beach, taking in the chill in the air and thought about what I believed in, what would fulfill me in this life, what I need to change to be satisfied and feel good about myself. 

I left with a new sense of me. Corny? Sure, but it's the truth. When you spend forty-eight hours in a beautiful place, alone, left to stew in the thoughts of right and wrong and the idea that maybe life isn't so black and white, it's impossible not to change your outlook. Things aren't fixed, really, but I have a better idea of what I need to do in order to fix me. I don't know that I'm going to feel better right away, but at least I'm on my way


A Simple Spring Table at Home

One of my very favorite things to do is style a pretty table. For my shoots (the most recent of which is on 100 Layer Cake today), I always try to put a lot of thought and personality into my tables, from the linens to the flatware to the centerpieces and china. It's so much fun to play around with different patterns and colors and textures, to create something pretty and unexpected. There are times when I just bring out whatever I have at home on hand, and create something in our little apartment. And though it's a little gloomy outside today, I thought I'd bring a little sunshine into our home. 
I think sunflowers are the perfect flower to bring home. They're fairly easy to find, very simple to arrange, and brighten up a space. Nearly everything on this table I bought from Target or Pier 1 or Homegoods, and those little bowls were an amazing find at Cost Plus for only $3 each! How wonderful is that?


Three Ways I Make My House a Home

I guess the title of this post should really be "Three Ways I Make My Teeny Tiny Apartment a Home" but eh - semantics. I wrote a post a few months ago on Four Secrets to My Happy Marriage, and I wanted to expand on that idea with my home. The thought behind it is that what I do is what I do, and I want to share it, even if it isn't right for you. 

Creating my home has always been one of my number one priorities, other than nurturing my marriage. My home needs to be a place for us to feel safe and comfortable, a place that we want to come home to. It's a place that we entertain in, and where our friends can come for good food and good company. I don't think it would matter if we lived in a little apartment or a massive mansion - adding that personal element will always be important to me, and I think these things will be carried with me throughout my journey as a homemaker. So, here are a few ways that I make my house a home. 
1 // FIND BEAUTY IN THE IMPERFECTION. Robert and I don't have children (not for lack of trying), but we do have children come over to our home every once in a while. Though I have put a lot of thought and intention into the decor of our home, it's meant to be lived in. Children are welcome to come over with their sticky fingers and juice boxes and have free reign. It's that idea that things don't need to be perfect to be beautiful. Nothing is sterile here, because we actually live here. We spill things and things get messy and I would never be upset if a friend's child came over and broke something, even if it was important to me. That would be ridiculous. Children are children and we are people, and my priority is to ensure that everyone feel comfortable here, not like their flailing around in a china shop. Not cool. 

2 // MAKE MEANING. I have nothing against people that curate items for their home because they look nice or go with the aesthetic. Making a space beautiful is an essential part of creating a comfortable home. I do believe in using things are meaningful to you and your family, however. It's just about integrating these pieces in a way that fits with everything else. I don't believe in buying artwork or photos for decor; I just use what my family already has. I want it to feel like my family is present here, even if they live much farther away. And I have to say - I do get disappointed when I see home tours and there doesn't seem to be an ounce of personality or intimacy in the space. To each their own, but I wouldn't want to live somewhere so perfectly styled but void of personal touches. 

3 // IT'S ABOUT THE DETAILS. I have a tendency to collect knick-knacks, but I always buy them with the intention to use them. Think, paper straws, little dishes that are always filled with candy, a drink station right on the kitchen counter (coffee or tea or chai are always readily available in our home) and plenty of blankets and pillows on the couch to stay comfy. I think people notice when you put thought into the details in your home, and goodness knows that Robert and I prefer to keep it that way. It suppose it goes back to that first point - our home is lived in, and we want to make living fun and meaningful and memorable. 

So, there it is. Three ways I make my house a home. I know they aren't too significant, but I've put a lot of thought and effort and even research into how to make my home the sanctuary I've always wanted it to be. I know I'll learn so much in the next few years, and for the rest of my life, really, but this is what I value and live like now.


What I'm Reading :: Beautiful Bastard

Just a note...this is actually the second time I'm writing this post. I got through ALL the way to the end before Blogger decided to delete it all and autosave. I threw a little tantrum, did some retail therapy (I wasn't having the best day in the first place) and now I'm back. 

I am not ashamed to admit that I've read and reread all three books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. I know there are still women out there who keep their Christian Grey fantasies a secret, but I will tell you right now that I'm counting down to Valentine's Day next year. 

Now, enter the Beautiful Bastard series. To be honest, it took me a while to actually want to read the book because of the name, but I quickly got over it once I realized how addicting the story is. 
About Beautiful Bastard...

An ambitious intern. A perfectionist executive. And a whole lot of name calling.

Whip-smart, hardworking, and on her way to an MBA, Chloe Mills has only one problem: her boss, Bennett Ryan. He's exacting, blunt, inconsiderate--and completely irresistible. A Beautiful Bastard. 

Bennett has returned to Chicago from France to take a vital role in his family's massive media business. He never expected that the assistant who'd been helping him from abroad was the gorgeous, innocently provocative--completely infuriating--creature he now has to see every day. Despite the rumors, he's never been one for a workplace hookup. But Chloe's so tempting he's willing to bend the rules--or outright smash them--if it means he can have her. All over the office.

As their appetites for one another increase to a breaking point, Bennett and Chloe must decide exactly what they're willing to lose in order to win each other.

There are three main books in the Beautiful series and a handful of smaller novellas with lots of lemons and fluff, not that I'm complaining. The first book, Beautiful Bastard, isn't actually my favorite of the three - that would be the third, Beautiful Player. The second, Beautiful Stranger, is probably the most...devious, as much as I hate that word. Each book focuses on a different couple, all of whom are friends and whose worlds intertwine. Each one is steamy, absolutely hilarious, and so sweet in the most unexpected of ways. 

Probably one of the things I love most about these books are the characters. A big problem I have with contemporary fiction, including Fifty Shades of Grey, is how everyone feels the need to suppress the female characters. Every time I start reading a book and it's revealed that the main characters are a virgin and a bad boy, I have to take a step away and think about whether or not I actually want to read it. This series most definitely breaks that mold. You have really strong female characters who are sexually confident, successful, smart, and do not let a man dominate her (unless it's in the bedroom). It's refreshing, really. 

I'm also a sucker for series that weave multiple story lines in one universe, which might be why I love this series so much. Another example of this would be the Rosemary Beach series by Abbi Glines, which I absolutely adore. That one is more sexy young adult, and I could totally see it being made into a teenage drama a la OC or Dawson's Creek. It's fantastic. 

I've read a few other books lately, including Play in the Stage Dive series. I did a little review of Lick last year, which was the first book in the series, and I have to say that I liked Play just as much! This series also has different characters and stories incorporated into the one Stage Dive universe, but with a rock star twist. These books are hilarious and wonderful in every way possible, and I cannot wait for the next to come out!

I would also recommend LoveLines, which was completely adorable, and the Unidentified Redhead, though I'm only on the second book in that series. As of today, I'm happy to report that I'm actually ahead of my reading schedule, and have read twenty-one books toward my goal of seventy-five for the year!

Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


Ask Me Anything v.1

A few weeks ago I let you all know that I'm going to start an Ask Me Anything series, and a few people sent in questions, mainly about wedding planning and blogging. Since I addressed the former in a fairly lengthy post a couple weeks ago, I thought maybe I would talk about blogging today! I do have a series called On Blogging, but I figured this would be a little bit of a different format. 

My very first question was sent to me by Sarah from 702 Park Project. She asked...
My question is how, as a new blogger, should I generate traffic to my blog? I use social media, and try to comment on other blogs regularly, but I was just wondering if you had any other ideas to throw out.
I think, for me, one of the most important qualities when blogging and interacting with other bloggers is sincerity. I think that commenting on other blogs is great, but it should never be used as a tool just to get traffic back to your own blog. That being said, if you expect other people to read your blog, you should probably take time out to read other blogs too, but never feel guilty because you can't read all the blogs in the world. There are a lot out there, and you can't expect everyone to read yours either. Instead, find ones that you really do love, leave genuine comments, and people will realize what a real and kind person you are. Maybe it's me being idealist, but that's my favorite way of networking in the blogging community.

I'm a firm believer in sponsoring other, not necessarily bigger, blogs as well. There are button swaps and giveaways that you can participate in, and I really think that it's just a matter of finding what works for you and your blog. As someone who does make a little money from her blog, I have to say, don't feel weird about giving a blogger money if you really like their work. We've spent years on our blogs and I think most of us love promoting other people and discovering new up and coming blogs. Definitely evaluate why you would want to sponsor a particular blog - does it match your values? Would your blog attract a similar readership?

But beyond all of that, the number one most important thing when trying to build your readership is CONTENT. Makes sense, right? You'd be surprised. But it's always going to come back to content. Do you have something valuable to say? It doesn't matter if it's about your life or your house or tutorials or recipes or whatever, YOU have to value the content of your blog in order for others to value it too. Is your content compelling? Do you have photos to back up your writing? Does your voice come through, and do readers have a reason to come back? If you put out good, valuable, interesting content, people will notice. I promise.

Okay, so that's that! My very first Ask Me Anything post! If you have a question, about anything of course, feel free to email me or leave a comment with your question and I'll be sure to answer it in an upcoming post. 


Monday's Mantra

Happy Monday friends! We had an awesome, relaxing weekend over here, with some wine and friends and a couple movies. We saw Captain America on Saturday night which was SO GOOD. Nothing can beat the Avengers in my eyes though, which we watched (again) on Sunday morning. I could watch that movie over and over again...

I have a fairly calm week ahead of me, with some fun calligraphy projects and whatnot. It's nice to just relax, you know? Anyway, here's your inspiration for this Monday! Hope you all have a wonderful week!
Quote by Dr. Seuss!


10 Years is a Long Time

Sometimes ten years can feel like a lifetime, but at other times it feels like we are still seventeen, making googly eyes at each other. I still can't believe that we've been together for TEN YEARS today. Crazy time. 
Happy anniversary Mr. Husband-Man. It was ten years ago today that we sat in our friend's yard and you asked me if we just wanted to make things official. Aren't you glad I said yes?


SB Wine Release Party + a Giveaway

Friends! First things first, I want to invite you to a little wine release party that's going down at the Santa Barbara Whole Foods this week. I know it's a little late notice, but let me know if you're going to make it! I would love to see you there!
Okay then! Now for the fun part. Well, the wine party would be fun,  because well, duh, it's wine, but now for the giveaway. If you've only been following me for a bit, you may not know this, but I love doing little giveaways on my blog to say thank you for being so supportive. You guys are really, really awesome and I appreciate each and every one of you! 

I like picking a different place for each giveaway because I think it's fun to be able to spoil yourself every once in a while! I could do Target or Amazon, you know, for useful shit, but what's the fun in that? That being said, in honor of spring, I thought I would do a little gift card giveaway to...J.Crew. What do you say?
Image via J. Crew

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. I was also compensated in exchange for attending and promoting the wine event in Santa Barbara. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!