Friday, January 13, 2017


Nothing and I mean nothing beats the sound of "Purple Rain" by Prince on vinyl. That smooth crackle of the vinyl just lends and evokes such emotion. Gorgeous. I could be in that moment forever. Freddie went through his record collection and we took turns playing songs.  

It was a good night.

{why sexy is empowering}

I recently had the privilege to do a photoshoot collaboration with Tina's Fine Lingerie and Mark Johnson. It was sexy, boudoir-esque but I was the one in control of how I wanted to be portrayed. I got to get all dolled up and wear the beautiful pieces I picked from Tina's boutique. I felt confident and beautiful. What is beautiful? What is sexy? We all have our own definitions.

To me sexy is confidence and empowering. I love Mark's work because whether the woman is wearing a ball gown or a bikini she looks happy and confident and in control. There's girls that turn into women who have always had that confidence and others, like me, who have stumbled along the way and it's become a journey. A journey of learning about yourself, the world around you and being happy in your own skin.

I've wrote about my struggles with confidence and body issues before but I find it's important to keep talking about these issues. Growing up, I was severely lanky. I ate a lot but was still tall and what other kids felt was "too thin". I remember in 5th grade a frenemy (before I tossed out all "frenemies" out of my life) told me I shouldn't wear leggings because it made me look bulimic. I had no clue what bulimia was, I just knew it wasn't a compliment. When I was 14 all of a sudden I had hips. My straight up and down figure had a curve to it. A group of close friends who turned frenemies started saying how big they were, they commented on my dress size. I wasn't a size zero like them. I was a size 5 which back when that heroin chic look was just beginning to fade out and the curvaceous looks of Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce took over, it felt awful. I was called fat and how I couldn't fit into doorways because of my hips. I quickly realized I could do something about it. I started obsessing over my weight. Online, I found forums of other like-minded girls who were anorexic. We would chat on AIM about our weight loss, our struggles. I followed "thinspo" pages. I quickly shed the weight. At first, it was an amazing feeling. I felt in control. My home life was in tatters. My father died 3 years before. I worried about taking care of my brothers and how my mom's new boyfriend was emotional abusive. Not eating and having such a limited diet took my mind off my struggles. I felt beautiful and thin, finally. I felt in control at a time where it felt like everything was spinning like a crazy drunken New Year's Eve with disco balls and champagne. But something happened: I kept losing more and more weight. My long blonde hair started to fall out. I didn't feel beautiful anymore, I felt aged and tired. I had one dream that I'll never forget where I was putting food into my grocery carriage but it kept falling through. I felt weightless and fragile. All the girls online said how gorgeous of a feeling it was. I didn't feel that way. I felt exhausted. A school nurse pulled me in one day after I collapsed in gym class. My body couldn't hold up anymore. Something snapped. I started to eat again. When I look back, I had a crazy fast metabolism in high school and I bounced back from anorexia but those thoughts - those dark thoughts - didn't end there.

I relapsed twice more. Once after I got out of an abusive relationship and moved across country. It seemed there was no "perfect weight" for me. I was either too thin or curvaceous. Then years later, I slipped back when my mom was in the ICU suddenly with brain aneurysms. I was only eating 2 luna bars a day and watched the weight fall off. Each and every time since the beginning, I was met with people who were frustrated and at times, angry with me. Why couldn't I just eat like a normal person, they'd ask. Anorexia is a complicated disorder and when you are in that storm it can at first feel so crystal clear and gorgeous. Like you are beginning to paint the best mural of your life and then suddenly you realize you used too much black and brown and the sunrise you were working on has turned into a dark, ugly sky.

Last year I was at the heaviest I ever was. I became depressed but I did something different: I resolved to get healthy.  I am more aware of what I eat and I work out as much as I can but still make sure my body has it's rest. It's great seeing the results, more defined abs and arms. This is the most confident I ever been. Which brings me to the photoshoot and boudoir and lingerie.

I've known many women who've done boudoir photoshoots. Sensual and glamorous. No matter if it's because you lost the baby weight, or weight in general, to build your model portfolio or just because you love your body and you feel like it - I say go for it! I honestly think it's an empowering experience. Of course, having the right photographer is key.  Mark makes his models feel comfortable and at ease and is always up for suggestions and ideas. I love that! I was also lucky enough to work with Tina from Tina's Fine Lingerie who helped me find a gorgeous corset and a pink and red babydoll that made me feel sensual and girly. She was funny and friendly and even though I know nothing about lingerie and consider myself way more goofy than glam, she made the process of shopping so fun and easy.

I suggest for any woman who's either in a lull or feeling great to do a boudoir shot. Have a day where you can glam it up with a sexy corset and high heels. Have a day where you feel powerful. A day where you feel like a Queen. And keep remembering that feeling. We have so many reasons to feel insecure. Let's be confident in our bodies, in ourselves, in our minds and hearts.

Editor's Note: All photography by Mark Johnson of Photography Select and corset by Tina's Fine Lingerie.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Spotlight: COTTON CANDY KISS

Sunday Spotlight is a new feature here at The Heart of a Flower that highlights entrepreneurs. Our interview is with Marie Constantino owner and founder of COTTON CANDY KISS which makes gorgeous, handmade tutus and tutu accessories.

Hi Marie! So happy to be doing this interview with you. What inspired you to start Cotton Candy Kiss?

In February of 2014, my mother and I took a weekend trip to Las Vegas to see Britney

Spears in concert. While in line for the show, I saw a mannequin in a store window that

was wearing a short, multicolored tutu. Being the girly girl I am, I immediately wanted

one. My mother and I kind of laughed it off and proceeded with our trip. When we got

back home to Connecticut, I mentioned to my boyfriend that I wanted a tutu for

Valentine’s Day. He thought I was a goofball for wanting one, but sure enough, he got me

a pink and purple multicolored one as part of my gift. When it arrived, it was packaged in

a small shipping envelope. I opened it up, and the tutu was crumpled into a ball. It took

me 40 minutes to fluff out the tutu enough to actually put it on. Once I saw it on me, I

noticed that it was a hot mess!! The elastic waistband was showing through the top, it was

made with a minimal amount of fabric so it was not really fluffy and the fabric was all

wrinkled. I felt bad because my boyfriend had paid about $50 for this tutu and it was

made very poorly. That night, I jokingly said to him, “It’s ok, I’m going to make one for

myself. I’m sure I can do better” and we continued our Valentine’s Day celebration. That

night when I got home, I showed my mother the tutu. She too was surprised at the poor

quality of it and told me how she used to make tutus for me and my sister when we were

younger and that we should definitely attempt to make one ourselves. The next day, mom

and I went to the craft store and purchased the supplies we needed to make a tutu. We

decided on a simple pink and white design, and went home and made our first tutu

together. We had so much fun making it and it came out much better than we ever

imagined. The next day, I brought that tutu to the elementary school I nanny at. I wanted

to show the mom’s I knew at the school what we created because I was really excited about

it. The mom’s went crazy over the tutu we made and that day, I received four orders! My

mind was blown. Mom and I started taking orders and within a few weeks we were

producing at least 3 tutus per week. That is how COTTON CANDY KISS was born.

Where do you see Cotton Candy Kiss in a year from now? 5 years from now?

In one year from now I would love to see CCK in at least 3 boutiques throughout

Connecticut. I would also like to help change the way people view tutus so that customers

can see the many ways they can be worn and for the many different occasions they can be

worn for. As of now, many people see tutus as mostly a costume item. I want to change

that. I want to bring tutus more into the mainstream clothing sector. They can be worn

for so many different events and purposes and I want our tutus to be viewed as the

wearable works of art they truly are. Each CCK tutu is made especially for the client.

Each tutu is handmade and customized to what the client wants. The customer chooses

their colors and design elements and then we do the rest!

In five years from now, my dream for CCK is for it to be a household name. I would love

to see us be the first tutu company to walk in New York Fashion Week. I would hope our

brand would be viewed as a company who cares about people and one that helps spread

creativity and individuality in the clothing industry and throughout the world. CCK’s

mission statement really does a good job of explaining the direction we want our business to

go in. Our mission statement is “to make our customer’s tutu dreams realities. We promote

individual creativity by having our customers be actively involved in the creative process.

Cotton Candy Kiss uses the beauty of our hand-made, personalized tutus and tutu products to

do good throughout our community. We bring awareness to a variety of different causes and

charitable organizations. We promise to always make our customers feel like the unique and

beautiful individuals they are and to promote happiness and kindness through our work.”

Where can people purchase a tutu from Cotton Candy Kiss? Such as stores, websites, etc?

Currently, you can purchase COTTON CANDY KISS tutus or any of our other tutu

products by contacting us through our Facebook page.

What tutu style is most popular?

Our short tutus are our most popular style.

Do you think you will start making other accessories along with the tutus?

We currently make hair bows and shirts to go along with our tutus. COTTON CANDY

KISS also makes tutu baskets and tutu valences.

What did you think of the Self Magazine article making fun of the woman running with a

tutu? There was a lot of controversy around that article. Do you think tutus have a place in athletics?

Wow! I never heard of this article until you brought it to my attention, but after reading it

I completely understand why it caused so much controversy. I personally am appalled. It

is a shame that SELF had to make fun of that lady for running the marathon in a tutu.

Tutus are a fun way to express yourself and they also can help people show support for a

certain issue, cause or illness. A major issue facing the world we live in today is bullying

and how easy it is for people to insult others. Making fun of that lady and her friend for

running in a tutu to show their support for her fight with brain cancer is cruel and

disgusting. SELF magazine should be ashamed of themselves. They are a magazine that is

supposed to help their readers improve their physical and mental well-being, instead they

seem to think it is acceptable to bully others. That makes no sense to me and upsets me

more than I can even express.

To answer your question about whether or not I think tutus have a place in athletics, I say

a big YES!!!!! Tutus help athletes bring awareness to certain issues and they also help

show individuality and creativity. As long as they do not interfere with the sport, why not

support athletes who want to wear them?

Where are your customers located? Is it just local Connecticut – or all over? What’s the

farthest you shipped?

Most of our customers are located in Connecticut, but we have shipped out of state to

places such as Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida. The farthest place COTTON

CANDY KISS has ever shipped a tutu was to England. We thought that was so cool

because our product was going international.

Do you make adult tutus?

Yes, COTTON CANDY KISS makes adult tutus. We have made tutus for bachelorettes,

brides, mommy and me sets, adult Halloween costumes, company functions, and a set of

our tutus were worn in the New York City marathon.

What are your favorite colors and fabrics to make?

I’m such a girly girl that I love anything and everything that is pink and sparkly. For that

reason, I have to say that I like making tutus that contain more than one shade of pink and

I also like using sparkle tulle in our designs to make them really sparkly. Adding lace into

our designs is another fabric element I like to use. It adds elegance and softness to the tutu

and it is one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Even though pink is my favorite color, I

really like all of the colors we use. We have made tutus in every color you could possibly

think of and I loved them all. They each were special and beautiful in their own way, just

like our customers who wore them. We even made a camouflage tutu for a newborn

because her father was an avid hunter. I was a little nervous about making that one at

first, but once it was finished, it became one of our favorites we ever made.

What puts you in a mood for inspiration?

COTTON CANDY KISS draws inspiration from many different places. We pay attention

to the colors that are popular in a particular season and try to incorporate them into our

designs. We also love bling and whenever we see pretty jewelry, we use some elements of it

to help create our hand done bling patterns. The biggest source of inspiration for us comes

from our customers. We always do our best to add something special into each of our

designs that really represents the person who will be wearing it. Customers are always

actively involved in the tutu creation process and when we consult with them, we do our

best to listen to what they want and to make their tutu dreams a reality.

How important do you feel social media is to Cotton Candy Kiss? You seem to have a great

online presence with it. How often do you think you spend on facebook, Instagram and

other websites for your company?

Social media is extremely important to COTTON CANDY KISS. We get the majority of

our business through our Facebook page and we use it constantly to connect with our

customers, to post pictures of our tutus and to promote our business. I am on our page at

least three times a day and if a customer messages us, I receive those messages right on my

cell phone so I can respond as soon as I possibly can. We also have Twitter and Instagram

accounts, but we do not use them as frequently as we use our Facebook. This is something

I want to work on in the upcoming year because I believe that having updated social media

accounts is extremely important to any business.

I want to say thank you Marie, I’ve known you a long time and I love seeing young

entrepreneurs doing what they love! With us concluding the interview – what is your

advice to someone who is thinking of starting a company?

Thank you for being interested in learning more about COTTON CANDY KISS!! We are

always so excited to talk about our business with others because we love designing tutus

and tutu products and want to share our enthusiasm with others. My advice to anyone

who is thinking of starting their own business is to be prepared to work hard. I would also

tell them to be enthusiastic and confident about the product or service they will be offering

and to always believe in yourself and never give up. With hard work and determination,

dreams really can come true.

Editor's Note: Check out COTTON CANDY KISS!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

{reflections on a snowy day}

Last week marked my 1 year anniversary at work. Not only that, but the new year always ushers in reflections and self-inventory. 2016 was a year of learning for me and I'd think to think I tried to focus on my health and wellness. 

The beginning of last January, I was the heaviest I ever been. I hated taking pictures and was very self conscious. At 14 years old, I became anorexic. I have wrestled with that on and off all my life. "Recovery is not linear". I felt depressed over my weight gain but knew the only way to get healthy was to finally focus on health and well-being and not starve. My boss, Narineh, is a health-nut. She gave me great advice on what to eat and how to work out.

I stopped using sugar in my coffee, I cut out soda. Freddie and I cut down eating out and I also chose healthier options. I love french fries but now I go for the salad. I started working out every day (even if it meant some days I'd hit the elliptical for only 10 minutes) and have seen a world of difference. I have slimmed down but also toned up. My arms finally have some definition. I remember in the beginning of last year feeling hopeless about my weight. It seemed like no matter how much I worked out, the weight wasn't coming off. 

I also have focused on skincare. Sunscreen everyday. All organic materials. I stopped wearing eye shadow and I took out my extensions so I could wear my hair natural and seen it grow. I stopped getting gel manicures and my nails feel healthier and stronger. My skin feels clearer. Sure, I'm getting older but I feel stronger and healthier.

There's still so much to work on but it's nice seeing progress. Progress, not perfection.

Here's to another year of progress!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

{cameo crazy}

A cameo is according to Merriam Webster is
"a piece of jewelry, typically oval in shape, consisting of a portrait in profile carved in relief on a background of a different color."

I've always loved them for how classic and beautiful they are.  I have started a small collection and am always on the hunt for more to add to my treasure trove. Etsy is a great place to find some lovely cameo pieces: 

This beautiful black cameo ring is everything I love in a cameos: Victorian style & vintage. Skeptis is a Toronto based Etsy seller that offers this lovely piece. 

This ring features a black and ivory cameo mounted on a silver filigree adjustable band.  They are from RareJewelbyKitty

These next three pairs of cameo earrings are classy and lovely but also pop with color. The color adds a modern touch and a vibrancy to the cameos.  They are all from Missigirl Designs

What are your favorite vintage pieces?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

{veronica lake style}

For New Year's Eve all I knew is I wanted to channel a 40's Bombshell: Veronica Lake. With her blonde peek-a-boo hair and those form fitting sparkling outfits, she inspired me. Veronica was born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman. She was an actress known for her femme fatale roles in film noirs. (During World War II the government urged her to change her peek-a-boo hairstyle because so many women were going to work in factories and the style wasn't safe for working conditions.)

Veronica was a slinky blonde - with a penchant for those gorgeous 1940's form-fitting dresses with lots of sparkles - was perfect for New Year's Eve fashion and beauty inspiration. She had a red lip, natural brows and a look that inspired that gorgeous scarlet-haired cartoon vixen Jessica Rabbit.

I wanted an updated version of Ms.Lake and had two gorgeous dresses, one from Lulus, the other from Polished Boutique. I ended up chosing the crushed blue velvet gown with two leg slits. Here are the dresses, some looks inspired from her and Veronica Lake herself.

Hair half covering my eye (ok, I pushed it back for the selfie) and the rest I put back with a bridal piece from David's Bridal. 

Sparkly and retro, I felt Veronica would have loved this dress from Lulus

Showing a little leg with this dress from Polished Boutique. 

Wavey dresses and sparkly gowns. I didn't do a red lip instead opting for "Stormy Pink" by Revlon.

Veronica, herself: 

Style Inspired by Veronica:

This "Slink and Wink" dress in Matte Gold is just what I picture Veronica in. Shimmery, seductive with the right amount of peek-a-boo mystery.

This Friend of Glam dress is just that - glamorous in that throwback nostalgic way. I bought in this color and felt it was perfect for New Year's Eve or any formal party. 

A more modern twist to the sparkly gowns of yesteryear. Lulus's Bariano Rebecca Dress will turn heads like Ms.Lake did. 

Check out Besame Classic Color Collection for the right shade of old Hollywood red.

And the hair?

There's tons of YouTube tutorials for getting the perfect Veronica Lake waves. Check out this Ducklings in a Row article if you want to skip the video and follow instructions.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

{my new year's eve in northampton}

This year for New Year's Eve, Freddie and I trekked to our favorite place: Northampton, MA. It's a quintessential New England downtown area except it's steeped in a gorgeous array of funkiness. There's psychedelic head shops with pipes the shapes of turtles and elephants and tie-die dresses, there's upscale Bohemian boutiques with t-shirts that are $175.00, there's a vintage store where I bought a 50's style apron dress with cherries on it. The park benches are painted in vibrant colors. The coffee shops are inviting and instagram-worthy: but also amazing to drink and eat and laugh in. The bars all have stories behind them in that Massachusetts folklore way. One of my favorite places use to be about 10 different things including a cinema, a house with a hot tub, a post office, and depending on who you talk to so many other things. There's break taking murals of empowered mermaids and women who have accomplished so much at a time when women were suppose to stay barefoot and pregnant. There's an earthiness to it that I just love. There's also that quaint New England charm that I love.

Freddie and I had dinner at Packard's. It was a curiously warm late December night but there was still some snow on the ground. Almost everyone had hats and were locals. I had a crushed blue velvet dress with two slits. I was overdressed but not one person made me feel awkward. I love Northampton for how easy-going the residents are.

I loved spending time with Freddie when the ball dropped. New Year's Eve is one of my favorite holidays. The excitement, the glitter, the sparkle, the promise of the future. I love it and I loved this year. When we first turned down the road and saw the sign that welcomed us to Northampton, overhead were gorgeous fireworks.

Fireworks. Glitter. The sparkle. The weird and beautiful and friendly. All of it. It was an adventure. Here's to 2017.