Thursday, March 16, 2017

Twirling Around Town: Madison, CT

Twirling Around Town is my new blog series about my excursions. I started this blog with the vision of writing about my travels-  of the dusty little small towns in Mississippi, how beautiful the stars were on a sleepy stretch of Tennessee highway, or the amazing Mama and Pop restaurant with the best king cake of all the land. 

I live in Connecticut now and haven't traveled far in years. Even if the destination is a couple towns over- it's still some place different with a whole new little universe of busy coffee shops, underground record stores, boutiques that sell sundresses and postcards. Each new town is another place to explore, to find little things to fall in love with, to take pictures of and document. 

Last week I met up with my mother and my brother Paul in one of my favorite Connecticut towns - Madison. Madison is a cozy coastal town that serves up a classic New England downtown with an art cinema, bookstore/cafe, boutiques, antique shops, old fashioned barber shops and plenty of places to grab a slice of pizza. 

We met at RJ Julia's -a  bookstore/cafe for lunch and book browsing. It's a tiny little nook of a cafe - something that could be written with adoration about in one of the pages in one of the chapters of one of the many books they sell.  Everyone was dressed like they walked out of Anthropologie or J Crew. So many pearls and oxfords. I sipped on coffee and took it all in.

After lunch, we browsed around. RJ Julia is known to have notable guest speakers and to be the crown jewel of downtown Madison. 

I always loved the staff recommendation notes on certain books and the narrow, dimly lit rooms. It makes me want to read and read and read and then write and write and write.

 Peace, Love and Books: RJ Julia's from the outside.  

 From the inside. 

After my mother and I perused the aisles, we decided to take a walk outside and go into the little shops and see what they were offering on this mildly warm early March day. We past by Eclectic Cafe and said we will have to come back and check it out. We admired the old-fashioned barber shop.

I ended up in Walker Loden and admired their variety of gifts, antiques and jewelry. I saw a beautiful, old fashioned Kodak camera on the shelf and I had to have it. I plucked it off that shelf (its now former home) and admired it in my hands. It fits perfectly as an antique prop in my office/babe cave :

We then walked over to more shops, window shopping. I kept track of what my mother seem to like. I wanted to get her a little something, I just didn't know what. I'd ask her questions about certain bracelets, or key pendants. I kept searching for something I know she'd actually use. 

Finally we arrived at Ciao Bella and I spotted a nautical beach bag I knew my mother would love. My mom loves the beach and often spends her summers relaxing with a new book and nice tan. I picked myself up something too: a wide-brimmed hat that says "Leave a message" in a black cursive font. If only it was warm! I told my mother I had to go back to the car because I left something as we walked out of the boutique. I told her I'd meet her at RJ Julia's. I pretended to walk to my car as I watched my mom walk back to the Bookstore. When I realized I was safe, I ran back to Ciao Bella to purchase the beach bag. When I met back up with her, I gave her the surprise!   

The three of us left downtown to get coffee and talk about life, restaurants we need to try, and other various things. It was a great moment to be around family in my favorite little coastal Connecticut town.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Spotlight: Soul Shine

Sundays are my days where I interview small business owners. I've learned so much from this series. Meredith was a wonderful person to interview: she is so intelligent and passionate and truly lovely. What I've learned is if you have a passion for something: go for it. Meredith runs Soul Shine, a shop that sells everything from jewelry to tie-dye pants. It was born out of love and continues to grow and grow and it's only at it's 1 year mark! Truly remarkable. It's inspiring to see. 

C: Hi Meredith, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me. I love that you pour so much love into your products and when I was prerusing your website I realized how much of an array of items you have. What inspired you to start Soul Shine Maine?

M: I have always been pursuing my art in one way or another… I’ve run a few small independent galleries, done endless amounts of craft shows, commissioned work here and there… I have been a glassblower, a sculpture, a potter, a metalworker, a silversmith, a seamstress, a curator, a teacher, a student …. I have always been crafting a new way to look at things or keep my hands busy and my mind busier.
After chasing the artistic dream for 10+ years, I ran myself into a creative rut of sorts and after several YEARS of trying to work my way out I decide to go back to the basics. I started sewing, dyeing my own textiles, and designing my own clothing when I was in the 4th Grade.. A craft I continued through my early twenties. I have always been into ‘unique’ fashion; Our first impression is our best.. why not make it totally unique? I sold my ‘unique’ goods at shows in the summer and even on eBay (in a time before Etsy)…
The creation of "Soul Shine Maine” was just a new spin on an old dream… to rekindle my own love for art and hopefully rescue my creative soul from the depths of a SERIOUS Artistic Block. And it worked merely by accident or dumb luck.. I listed a few of my “unique” garments on Etsy, honestly thinking no one would ever notice them… etsy is a pretty big sea of crafts people, but i guess there is room for everyone… because once I started loving my art again, and believing in it… it started to sell again…

C: You're my first interview with a business owner who does not live in CT! You are based in Maine now. How has Maine inspired you and your your craft? Are there particular places that you draw creativity from?
M: Albert Einstein said “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
This more than anything is how living (and moving) to Maine has directly effected my art. Once I got out of the hustle and bustle and compacted energy of living and working and trying to make art in cramped studios and old warehouses with multiple artists in one space, my art really began to take its own form… I prefer wide open spaces, its good for my brain.

C: Where do you see Soul Shine Maine in a year? 5 years from now?
M:  Soul Shine kind of just took off before my eyes.. I really hope that we will continue to grow the way we have been as the years go on. We are truly only at our 1 year mark now, but we have already done so much growing! Working with our own designers to use more sustainable and locally supplied materials and gearing up for an awesome Spring and Summer season…. I would love for our entire line to be 100% organic, sustainable and USA grown and made within the 2 years and possibly a store front somewhere along the coast of Maine in the summer seasons, which has always been a long time dream of mine …

C: What is your most popular item? Where's the furthest you shipped from?
M: We sell a lot of socks. Everyone need socks I guess… and our socks are pretty comfortable and stylish too! Also, they make great gifts and are excellent for dancing!
We have shipped them all over the place. We ship mostly in the US but we have shipped as far as Australia so far :)
Our second most popular line is definitely our Women’s Line.

C: I love how much variety you have in your store -anything else you are going to add?
M: I would love to add more housewares, as well as grab and go style items to fill things in… I’ll get there.

C: Biggest Challenge?
M:  My biggest challenge is definitely time management and organization!!! I am an artist by nature, naturally scatter brained and a bit of a dreamer! I try to keep myself on task and organized to the best of my abilities, although it can be a challenge some days.

C: Lastly, thank you again for doing this - What would be your advice for someone wanting to turn their labor of love into a business?
M: Believe in it. Believe in your work and yourself. Believe it is not just good enough, but GREAT!!! And don’t give up…. Thats the most important part!

ED. NOTE:  Thank you Meredith and Soul Shine. All photos are from her and her shop, you can check it out here  !

Friday, March 3, 2017

{my ode to the 1920's}

The 1920's - the decade that started my obsession with Vintage everything. The 20's, to me, were a whirlwind of gangsters and molls, of flappers and jazz, speakeasys and cloche hats. There seemed to be an abandon of rules on every level of human activity in America. Fashion was one of them.

The restriction of corsets were ditched for looser-fitting chemise, camisoles, and bloomers. Women bobbed their hair to fit under the ever-popular cloche hat and dresses were low-waisted to allow dancing to be easier.

The Charleston dance, the smoky jazz underground clubs, art deco, men in short suit jackets were all part of the tapestry that made the 1920's so silky smooth and undeniably great. Men and Women were inspired by cinema stars like Louise Brooks, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino.

Cosmetics in the 20's soared. It was a dramatic backlash to the demure Gibson girl of yesteryear. The 20's look for women are often characterized by Cupid Shaped bow lips, kohl-rimmed eyes and cheeks with bright red blush.

                                       Here's a great instructional guide to 1920's style:

                                               Women's Outwear in the 1920s

The ever popular Cloche hat.

1920's actress Clara Bow

Vintage Model Idda van Munster in 1920's attire and style 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

{top 10 favorite instagrammers}

Instagram's community is really rich and vibrant. I love the fact you can follow imagery tied in with captions and see glimpse's into another person's world. It connects us to people we'd otherwise never know. That to me, is a beautiful thing. There is such a strong sense of community that I find myself drawn to Instagram and I wanted to devote a post to my favorite IGers. There are so many people who's posts I love so chosing just ten was hard!  In no particular order:

Veronica Popoiacu's vivid gallery tells a story through color. Whether it's doors painted shades of emerald green in Philadelphia or the pink and gold of macroons at a Tea Party - Victoria always draws you in. 

Zahava's gallery is story city telling through imagery at it's best. Whether it's a grainy shot of a mustard Volkswagon in San Fran, a corner bookstore in NYC, or a portrait of a young Nancy Drew lookalike in a old, pink train - each image contains a whole new story, a whole new world. 

Briana is a designer and you can see from her gallery that she has an eye for the beautiful and detailed. Whether it's a cozy shot in Kennebunkport, Maine, or a gorgeous wintry porch in Woodstock, Vermont or a scenic shot at Lake George, NY with her dogs - Briana serves up New England in that charming, LL Bean catalog, curl up with coffee way. Being from New England, I wouldn't want to see it captured any other way!

I've known Sam since high school and she was always incredible charming, artistic and crafty. Her instagram perfectly captures her personality - whether it's a Christmas decorated mantle or a a guest bathroom re-do - she always has fresh, beautiful and real photographs that captures her move from CT to Kentucky and her every day life. Her spunk shines through each and every photo. 

Renee inspires me as a photographer. She is a true artist. Each and every photo I am in love with. There's a lot of shots of Boston that are so lovely and charming I wish I could step inside the picture and be there. But there's also girls in gorgeous dresses, storefronts dolled up in their Christmas decor in Maine, there are those beloved and treasured covered bridges New England is so known for. Each and every photo influences me and I love that. A must see. 

Rebecca always a retro vibe to each and every photograph. Based in Ireland, you always so see the lush and magical world around her. Whether it's an old fashioned landline phone, Rebecca's changing hair colors, or a shot of an amazingly gorgeous library - it's all tinted with a vintage, nostalgic yet colorful feel. That's hard to pull off and Rebecca does it perfectly. 

Brian turns every day Boston into pure magic. Some captions have the history of the old buildings of the city which makes it even more interesting to know the background. For a city I've only been to once or twice, each of Brian's photographs makes me want to drive to Boston and wander around. A true artist. 

Juliet is such a lovely presence on Instagram. She is not one of those IGers that have thousands of followers but doesn't comment back - and I love that! Her flat lays are absolutely gorgeous - they are filled with so many goodies that I wish I could fill my closet up with. She takes the viewer to another place and that is such a special quality. 

Cristina is another young woman with a sweet and charming presence on Instagram. She cares about her followers and that's often rare to find on social media when people just want more followers not a connection. She's so likeable I feel like I know her, yet I never met her. She has terrific posts about beauty and fashion and skincare. I always get such great suggestions from her!

Andrea has stunning vintage, rustic photographs that transports you back in time. Each photo inspires the writer in me. Each photo I could build a story from and that is such a special quality. When a photograph moves you, touches your heart and stirs your mind - you know the artist is doing something right. And she is. She even has an etsy store for her photography!

Monday, February 20, 2017

{floral everything}

Here in coastal Connecticut, there's finally a hint of beautiful Springtime. The snow is melting, I don't have to wear layers of jackets, and the 50 degree weather feels like 70 degrees! This warmer weather got me thinking of how fast the seasons change and how our wardrobe reflects that. It's hard to find clothes to wear when the seasons are transitioning but I found some of my favorite floral styles that can be worn for warmer or colder weather!

Temptation Island Maxi Dress from Lulu's is a perfect introduction to the warm weather. It has the dark tones of winter but the flounce and pop of apricot that ushers in the gorgeous Springtime.

This Delilah Gigi X Floral Tank from Francesca's is what I love about Springtime clothes - feminine, delicate and mauve! This is a perfect top for a spring stroll or to layer with a blazer and wear to work. With the dark red tones it also is great for the transitioning weather especially with layers.

This Italian silk scarf in ornate floral by J.Crew is perfectly vintage and sweet. Whether you are vacationing in Maine or going for ice cream, this scarf pops out with it's classic floral design and muted pastels.

This high waisted pencil skirt is lovely and chic. Pair with a light white sweater for a date night or layer it for the office and you have a skirt that can be worn for an array of events. This floral number is from Windsor.

Not all florals have to come in fruit punch colors! These black floral lace leggings are perfect for a night out when you want to go for a sexy yet comfortable look. Express has these on sale and they are just right for those nights that aren't warm enough for skirts yet.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Spotlight: Cyretta's Creations

I love interviewing people who run small businesses. Their passion and ambition is inspiring to the soul. They are people who started with a hobby and turned that love into a business into something profitable and something they love doing. My interview today was with Cyretta LaMay who runs Cyretta's Creations - a small business that makes handmade, personalized baskets.  Her story is very interesting and has a great message - it's never too late to give up on your dreams

C: Hi Cyretta, thank you for doing this interview!  How long have you been making personalized baskets?

    I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share what I love to do.  I have been making personalized baskets as well as other products for a few years now. I always like to present a gift that is different or something out of the ordinary that stands out from others and made from the heart without breaking your pockets.

C: When did you decide to start selling them? What's your most popular one?
    I decided to start selling baskets a little over a year ago when a lot of people started to ask if they could purchase something handmade by me.  Right now my most popular items are diaper cakes and baby baskets that i make as a centerpiece for a baby shower or a one of a kind gift. 

C: I see Cyretta's Creations are on Facebook and Instagram. Have you ever thought of using an online market place like Etsy or a website? What's the best way to purchase a personalized creation of yours?

    Right now i am in the process of getting my products up on etsy as we speak. I am just doing a little research to work out all of the shipping details.  Anyone that is interested in getting anything made by me personalized can email me at,  message me on Facebook at Cyretta's Creations or send a direct message on Instagram at cyrettascreations. People just give me an idea about what they want then we go from there. Pricing varies but I am very affordable. I like to know what you would like in a decent amount of time so that i can collect all the material as well as take my time so that it shows in the final product.

How often do you use social media for Cyretta's Creations? Do you feel you use it more to advertise your products?

    I promote my items on social media every time I have a new order, I post the finished product.  I use my pages to advertise because I want people to see all the items I create, that is not just limited to baskets.

C: What are your biggest challenge or challenges with Cyretta's Creations? 

    My biggest challenge with my business would be getting my larger products sold outside of Connecticut safely and still in place just the way i created them.  

C: Where do you see Cyretta's Creations in a year from now? 5 years from now?
    A year from now I hope my business will have increased, and hope to be adding more ideas to my list of creativity, and a successful website up and running. Five years from now who knows,  it may be a booming business full time.  I never put a time limit on anything.  I can only work harder everyday and push forward to achieve what i want in life. 

C: Lastly, thank you so much for partaking in this. What would be your words of advice for someone wanting to start a small business like yours?
    If there is someone looking to create some type of small business I would say go for it.  Just to think - mine just started as an hobby.  I wish I would have taken it more serious a long time ago, but it is never too late to pursue a passion. 

    I hope someone will read this and be inspired as well.  Thank you

                                                                    - Cyretta laMay

Editor's Note: All photos by Cyretta's Creations, check out her designs here.

{the heart of a flower: 5 years old today}

I've always loved writing. It was cathartic and vital to me. Some of my most heart breaking times, I wrote and wrote and wrote until the chill and hurt of my heart, my head, my bones lessened. 

Five years ago I was moving back home to Connecticut after living in Mississippi and Louisiana for two years and half years. I wanted to document everything I saw and experienced. I wanted to write about the shell of once lively coastal towns in Mississippi that were left beautiful but decayed ghosts after Hurricane Katrina. I wanted to write about my experience working in real estate for the first time. I want to describe the southern mansions I walked through that reminded of something out of Great Expectations - ethereal and abandoned. I wanted to share the tiny, little restaurants that served the best mashed potatoes or my favorite breakfast nooks in New Orleans. I can still smell the side streets of Bourbon, I still remember all the art and the best live jazz music that ever graced my ears and the festivals in New Orleans.

I still remember driving by the Gulf Coast and seeing the powerful waves as I drove to my apartment. I wanted to write about everything that was in my head so I could never forget it. 

Over time, the blog became less about my time spent down South and more about my current life in Connecticut. I wrote about my relationships, my ups and downs and also about fashion and style. I realized pigeonholing myself held me back. I wanted to write about everything that moved my heart.

I took a picture about three years ago. It was springtime and I was walking by the library and noticed a beautiful lavender flower opening up. When I took that picture and looked at it I immediatly thought I captured the heart of it. Thus the name The Heart of a Flower was born. 

I'm so thankful for that flower, for Mississippi, for Louisiana and all the people who have made it to my stories and made this blog come alive. This blog for five years has not only been a delightful hobby, but therapeutic and something I pride myself in. It all started with a move across country, then a flower by a library. You never know the things that will change your life and open new and amazing doors. I'm so glad that for five years now The Heart of a Flower has given me an outlet to write about it.

Thank you.