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5 tips to beat winter (hint – it involves margaritas)

I don’t need to tell you about winter fatigue. If you live in pretty much ALL of the US, you’re feeling it right about now. (please- no comments from my home state of California- rain doesn’t count)

Hopeful is the best way to describe going in to March. There is a very slight chance that temperatures could get up into the 40s, and I know we would all be shedding our down coats if that miracle were to happen. But until then, there are a few things I like to do to awaken my senses without leaving the country. (although leaving the country is also a fantastic idea)

For only $25 a week, my friends over at FLEUR (check out their new shop in Logan Square!) will arrange spring blooms to freshen up the inside of your home or office. I can’t think of a better way to beat the winter blues than by bringing in an abundance of color and scent inside. Check out their instagram feed for a (free) visual feast.

Photo Courtesy of Fleur

There’s nothing like your sense of smell to take you on a journey- either back in time to an outdoor garden you once strolled with your grandmother, the scent of roses surrounding you while her papery skin held your hand tight, or that yoga retreat with the ginger garden and fresh hemp smoothies that formed a connection with the loveliest ladies you ever met. Take that trip with a gorgeously packaged and small batch Brooklyn-made Perfume, Oil, or Candle with MCMC Fragrances. Anne and Katie formulate and bottle each carefully crafted natural perfume and oil in their Brooklyn studio.

Photo Courtesy of MCMC Fragrances

What about winter citrus doesn’t make your taste buds pop a bit? I love to squeeze lemon in my water in winter, for that dose of vitamin c and a tangy jolt. But my favorite winter citrus, the grapefruit, is not only super juicy and in season right now, adding this to a salad can be the lovely wake up your taste buds are looking for. Check out this citrus salad recipe from JOY THE BAKER. Her site (and podcast) are super fun and EVERYTHNG I’ve made has been so good! Spicy pumpkin seeds shown here from her site too.

Scrub off the old and get ready to show your skin. I love the scrubs over at Bliss, and have also had my eye on one of the packages at the Langham, Chicago’s Chuan Spa. I can’t think of a better way to spend a dreary Chicago afternoon.

What about the sound of a shaker mixing natural garden fresh ingredients together for a perfectly crafted cocktail? (is that a stretch? I think not) If you want to know what I’m talking about, go visit my second favorite bartender, KYLE at Blackbird. He’s the head bartender/amazing cocktail crafter over there. I adapted his Romeo and Juliet when he headed up the cocktails at the Violet Hour, and this summery rose water margarita is my favorite cocktail ever.

Photo by Julia Franzosa

I never promised you a Rose Garnish

Makes 2:
4 oz. Silver Tequila ( I like Milagro)
2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. of Agave or simple syrup
6 drops of rose water
couple dashes of bitters
mint and rose petals for garnish
shake with ice and serve
top with one more drop of rose water and bitters

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 | Comment »

What to write on Blank Response Cards

Have you ever received one of these blank response cards in a wedding invitation, and wondered, What am I supposed to write on this RSVP card? I found the answer for you in the sweetest children’s book published in 1962.

I’ve talked about Ex Libris before, a company from Oregon that takes old books and repurposes them as journals, leaving some of the original pages in with the blank journal pages…. but I was going through my old work journals (which is always interesting, finding to do lists, past challenges, etc) and never noticed that one of the journals I wrote in was a charming children’s book instructing young scribes the art of formal letter writing. How could I have never noticed this? (Probably working) The book, published in 1962, Dear Dragon, is so sweet, and helpful.

Of course, it’s pretty tongue and cheek now… A great 2015 response could be:

We are so excited to attend your wedding this summer! Can’t wait to celebrate, Marisa and Peter.


Thank you for thinking of us. Unfortunately, we are unable to attend your wedding in September, and wish you so much happiness. Congratulations, Marisa and Peter.

What do you think – do you prefer writing a personal note, or checking a box saying you will attend?

Posted on February 20th, 2015 | Comment »

A Love Note for you…

…To send, gram, email, or print and cut and slip under the door of that cute guy or gal down the hall. (printable version in the link below!)

If you’re looking for a small token of affection for that special someone (your mom, children, best friend, teacher, co-workers totally count!) in your life, download this card, print and cut out along the crop marks and send over a hand painted Valentine! Or just email it like I’m doing :)

Hope you have a great weekend. If you’re in Chicago, you should totally get a Heart shaped deep dish pizza.

Here’s the link to download a high resolution file for printing! (They will fit in an A2 envelope)


Posted on February 13th, 2015 | Comment »

G+J in the Press in 2014

There was all sorts of wonderful surrounding Ghienhel and Jonanthan’s rooftop wedding at the Peninsula this May, which was planned by my friends at Estera Events, (which was just named in the top 63 planners in the US by Martha Stewart!) The vendors involved with this wedding were all so committed to executing their vision for a glamorous, classic wedding.

In 2014, their wedding was posted on my absolute favorite wedding blog, Snippet and Ink:

Gorgeous Pink Coupe Champagne Tower by Nimble Well.

Their Wedding Backdrop, designed by another fantastic vendor, Kehoe Designs, was named in the top 15 of 2014 by Snippet and Ink.

Images above shot by Husar Photography.

Then, just this month, their wedding was featured in print over on CS Brides!

This was a true creative collaboration with G and J – which is my favorite way to work with a couple. We both contributed to the process by communicating, being open to trying out ideas, and then they trusted me to bring it all together in the end. You can see the process of creating their invitations in an earlier post- truly one of my favorites of the year!

Invitation Photo by Julia Franzosa:

Posted on December 24th, 2014 | Comment »


I posted this photo last year at this time on Instagram from Cate Blanchett. It’s from the January 2014 issue of the American Vogue, and I feel it needs repeating. It must be this time of the year that prompts these feelings in me, the self doubt comes creeping in, that comes with the territory of creating things for hire. Where am I going? What’s the next step? Is my point of view clear? How do I grow my business in a smart way? This sort of helps me remember how normal it is to feel this way. It’s also a gentle reminder to reach out. To embrace those around me who are also tackling solo entrepreneurship. What a wonderful reminder last week at the Forth holiday party. Being part of a larger group of creative people is SO good. So, maybe the holidays are that time, things slow down and speed up at the same time, we over-indulge, all sorts of things crop up from spending time with or apart from family, but just remembering we are not alone just helps. And if you are truly alone, I hope that you have the courage to reach out this time of year. Just getting out of the house, and attending a holiday service, or a book reading (I was shocked and excited for the women owners of women and children first- their store was packed last night!), or smiling at the person next to you, can be a great start to connecting with someone this holiday season.

Posted on December 14th, 2014 | Comment »

Classic Wisconsin Wedding by Emily Steffen

UPDATE: Sara and Nick’s wedding was featured on Martha Stewart Weddings!

I love it when my clients come to me for what we are known for – classic, timeless wedding invitations, which also fit the description of Sara and Nick perfectly. Sara and Nick wanted a custom crest created for their summer wedding in Wisconsin. They felt their crest should be a logo that branded their entire wedding, from save the date’s that we helped them with in 2013, to the thank you notes they are probably still getting out! However, as we went through the design process, we uncovered an even more significant representation of their wedding, the compass. It signified their journey as a couple and the destination of their guests. Of course, their initials, N and S, made the choice even more fateful.

Photos here by Emily Steffen, unless otherwise noted.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Drake Design

Photo courtesy of Sarah Drake Design

photo courtesy of Sarah Drake Design

We created a stamp for their Field Notes save the dates. The rustic looking prints helped set the tone of the destination.

Posted on November 12th, 2014 | Comment »

watercolor save the dates, the process

It’s save the date time, and this fall we’ve been creating a few for our custom wedding invitation clients to help set the tone for their 2015 weddings. I loved the process of creating these sweet watercolors for our clients who are getting married in Charleston this spring. Each panel of the accordion fold is dedicated to an event of the wedding weekend. The watercolors didn’t all start out like this though. Thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the paintings that weren’t so cute at first! Maybe I should call them watercolor warmups? Here’s the process!

The first few rose attempts. I ended up using the rose on the bottom left, paired with two leaves:

Teacups were a bit challenging to get the shape and proportion right:

I could paint leaves all day, but I couldn’t get the cross right at first. Then the color had to be adjusted on screen so they all worked together:

The printed result:

Posted on October 29th, 2014 | Comment »

How a letter opened a door…

I thought about titling this post, “How a letter changed my life” but that sounded a little overstated. Maybe it changed the course of my business, though, and helped plant the seed of creating heirlooms that hold memories. One of those occasions involved a letter from my grandfather.

A huge part of creating our monogram collection came from a very important person in my life, and the fine china we’re offering wouldn’t have come to fruition if not for my grandfather, more affectionately known as Pop. Pop was a an amazing painter and sculptor, creating detailed, realistic carvings out of stone and wood, lovely landscape barn paintings (one of his specialties) and for many years, beautiful florals on fine china. Pop taught china painting for over 20 years, to dedicated students in northern California. As a child I received special pieces from Pop; more memorably a plate only brought out at christmas, and a delicate mug, covered with pink roses and rimmed with gold. I thought it was pretty special to receive such pieces. But it wasn’t until I was married in 2000 that he started sending me plates; you had to be married to receive such beauties. They are exquisite, and I have a variety of dessert plates mostly: a set of four autumn-themed in browns, golds and reds, a sweet set of purple toned flowers with more gold rims, a teapot.

Knowing how special his talents were, I wanted to learn, and as he got older, I realized I had better ask soon. So I wrote to him and asked and received this letter back, telling me where to buy china, and how he would be ready to teach me the following summer I was in California. This undoubtedly has played a huge part in our offering, in the inkling to create it and we actually have our china manufactured at the very place he recommended and used for his own china.

What about you? Has a letter ever brought you a new opportunity?

Posted on September 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Living Outside

I’m still on my mini sabbatical; refueling before getting back to work on Tuesday. We returned from our road trip out west, and the change of scenery and even all the driving really did my soul good. Just seeing the different colors and scenery was vacation enough, but we spent so much time outside, and it just felt good.

Of course just spending time in Yellowstone National Park was great- to see the amazing landscape and the animals that I never see was so much fun. We’d be driving by a meadow or river, and then come across a herd of Bison pretty regularly while we were there. On the way, we even saw a mom and baby moose. And bears! We saw four off at a pretty safe distance- it was definitely a highlight of the trip. I was actually terrified that we would be eaten by bears. That may sound irrational, but all the places we camped had really strict food storage requirements that I took SUPER seriously. Everything had to be packed up when not in use, even stoves and water and toothpaste. If a blueberry fell on the ground I’d be searching around for it on the ground, and then scanning the horizon for the bear it would lead to our camp. I learned later how rare it was for a bear to even want to come near people, but while I was there I was sort of obsessed. And the water- I get in water whenever I can- it’s my thing, and we found a boiling river that fed into a cooler river, that created a natural hot springs. We had to force ourselves out of this place, after two hours in the water.

But, aside from all the driving, we spent every moment outside. We camped most nights, once even on the side of the road in a beautiful canyon by a river, and because of the strict food storage requirements mentioned above, wherever we drove, we had everything we needed to stop, cook or make lunch or dinner, if we were too far from our camp when we were hungry. So, we would see a beautiful spot, and pull out our food, and make sandwiches, or boil pasta, or prepare one of the super crazy freeze dried space food concoctions my husband purchased for the trip, including the ice cream sandwich pictured here.

There’s just something about having everything you need to survive with you, living outdoors for a while. Definitely not living off the land. I mean, we had ice, and grocery store food, and NEEDED our car to survive for sure. But that sense of respecting, and being so close to nature, sleeping under the stars, finding all of our entertainment from outdoors (no wifi or even cell service in yellowstone): staring at the sky, hiking, swimming, (and once instance of making a teeter totter from a tree trunk) and just feeling the senses on your skin. That’s what I love. Just being outside.

Posted on August 29th, 2014 | Comment »

Color Cause and Effect

Last year, when we bought our first house in Rogers Park, I spent a lot of time looking online, scouring design blogs for the perfect white to paint our new living room and dining room, because yellow and red weren’t exactly my first color choice:

I chose Benjamin Moore’s Super White, as it offset the dark wood baseboards and loved how crisp and clean it made the two rooms. The foreground is the living room in this pic, sorry I don’t have a better shot. (You can see the other white in the foyer, which I can only guess is Navajo white, haven’t gotten around to brightening up that room yet)

So… when it came time to paint our downstairs bath after a year long renovation that my husband did himself completely independently, (more on this later) I thought, why reinvent the wheel? I’m trying to keep everything simple in my life, and since I’ve already found the perfect white paint, why not just pick it up for the bathroom? So, I did, painted it, and we noticed it just wasn’t right. The new shower’s subway tiles now looked cream, which is not the color we were looking for:

Now, we had to think about it. What color would look clean and crisp, and offset the tiles, making them look more white? We got out the swatch book, laid a tile right on top of the colors, and chose a creamy white for the trim: Cloud White, and a light grey for the walls: Harbor Grey. Both by Benjamin Moore. I think it really helped the tile! What do you think? Do you have a favorite paint color?

Posted on August 11th, 2014 | Comment »