ENCHANTING READ: “CARAVAL” BY STEPHANIE GARBER

Inspiration

There is perhaps nothing better than curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s night. Living in Central New York, I love using the cold, dark winters as an excuse to catch up on my reading.

I adore getting lost in a book. But it’s not always easy to find out one that I can get lost in. One that presents the ideal blend of unique, like-able characters, suspense and an original story line.

For me, “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber hit all of these high points and then some. Truly, I could not put this book down.

Revolving around sisters Scarlett and Tella Dragna, “Caraval” is the story of their adventures as they are presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to attend Caraval – the magical once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show. Readers should not be fooled by the fairytale mystique, however, as the story quickly moves from magical to treacherous, and the girls learn that Caraval is so much more than just a performance.

There were many great elements to this read, but what I enjoyed most was the pace of the story. It constantly kept me guessing. Every time I thought I had solved the mystery, the story took me for another loop.

I am so thankful I picked up this read at the bookstore and hope that you enjoy it just as much as I did! I definitely feel more inspired for having read it.

Here’s to eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel, “Legendary” on May 29!

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SHARING OUR ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS!

Inspiration, Review

This summer I had the supreme pleasure of announcing Andy and I’s engagement.

Between trying to sell our house and planning our wedding, the last few months have been a whirlwind. Having known that our engagement ultimately meant that all Hell was about to break loose in a chaotic frenzy of dress shopping, color-scheme planning and card-crafting galore, I also knew that I wanted to have this special time in our lives preserved.

When we first started planning for our wedding next October, an engagement photo shoot was on my list of top priorities. I knew it would be a time for us to have this special time captured in a setting much more casual than the actual wedding. Not to mention engagement photos are great content for save the dates!

Last month, we had these much-anticipated photos taken by local Korver Photography and I truly couldn’t be happier with the results! They provided us with absolutely stunning photographs that we will both cherish for many years to come.

Fast forward to the present and I’m really excited to share some of my personal favorites (below) and the full collection here.

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Calming Your Mind and Environment: Adopting the Hygge Lifestyle

Inspiration

Like all other functioning adults, my life can sometimes be a little bit hectic, a little overwhelming and a little bit stressful. The good news is, the internet is constantly coming up with new ways for us functioning adults to deal with our stress, create zen and find our happy place!

With wedding planning and home renovations preoccupying all of my time, I’ve been finding myself (just a little bit) stressed but also, very much focused on design. This comes from thinking about decor, color and themes in both situations. What do the stress and design-focus have in common? My recent discovery of hygge.

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Hygge is a word you may have heard a time or two within the last year and is a Danish term that encapsulates the Scandinavian concept of coziness and the happiness created from life’s simple pleasures. More simply stated, it is the Danish secret for living a happy life. After watching Scandinavian cultures continually rank as having the happiest citizens in the world, Americans have taken note, and popularized hygge in our culture last year.

Still confused on what hygge is? Think coffee, cake, warm textiles, candles, nature walks and time spent with friends.

I first read about hygge in the New York Times last year, but due to recent stress levels decided to further my research. Just this week I came across this book, which provides tips and advice for living a more hygge life. I loved this charming book and speed-read it in one sitting.

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From all of my research, these have been my key takeaways:

Learn to be at peace when alone and in the company of others. Whether you are spending a restful night at home reading or participating in a family get-together, hygge is about appreciating the simple things and knowing how to be happy no matter your social situation. You’re happy to have time alone and just as happy to have time with friends and family.

scandi-image-3-400x600Keep it fresh. For a stress-free environment, do your best to eliminate clutter from your surroundings. You may not realize it, but a messy space can subconsciously influence your mood in a negative away. Another great way to improve your space is to add plants and greenery.

Spend time outside. A key part of hygge is being active, especially outside and regardless of the weather. Being outside in nature helps put your mind at ease. It’s also important to note that one should be active for the sake of being healthy and happy, and not with the goal of looking good.

Eat, drink and be merry! In the United States we tend to demonize food, especially food that which isn’t kale, quinoa, etc., etc. Adopting hygge means allowing yourself to curl up with a cup of cocoa, mix up a whisky beverage and slice into a chocolate cake.

As Andy and I get closer to completing our home renovation projects, I’m determined to adopt these lifestyle habits for a stress-free sale, move and wedding-planning extravaganza. Plus, fall seems to be the perfect time to curl up in a knit blanket with a favorite book and a cup of coffee.

 

 

FOR THE LOVE OF PHOTOGRAPHY: A NEW CAMERA FOR CONTINUED INSPIRATION

Art, Inspiration

It’s been over five years since I last bought a camera. Needless to say, it was time for an upgrade.

Looking to up my photo game with with our wedding and honeymoon in Hawaii coming up next year, and the possible sale of our home this fall, now seemed like a great time to invest in a better camera.

Although I had my eye on a top of the line machine, we decided to go middle of the road, investing in a DSLR without breaking the bank (or our wedding fund!).  After scouring the internet for products and reviews, I came across the Canon Rebel T6 and after reading positive review after positive review, decided to give it a try.

An extremely popular model, we went with a kit purchase on Amazon and, in return, received the camera body, two lenses, a camera bag, a table top tripod, cleaning supplies, three filters, etc. etc.

Overall, I am very happy that we went with the kit and am especially pleased with the camera body,  the Canon lenses and the Canon case, and have been using the camera to capture moments around the house.

For the past year, a large portion of my job has revolved around taking photos for my company and as a result, photography has become something that I associate with my job. Buying this camera was also a way for me to reconnect with my artistic photographer side and enjoy capturing moments in my free time.

Long story short, I would definitely recommend this camera to a friend – or readers! Especially those who are just getting into more professional-grade photography. Truly, the camera is very user friendly while still offering a wide range of settings and capabilities.

Stay tuned for more refined photographs! But for now, enjoy these photos of Andy with our dogs. (Would you expect anything less?)

ANNOUNCING OUR ENGAGEMENT!

Festivity, Inspiration

So ecstatic, excited and proud to be announcing my engagement!

You may or may not have noticed a lull following my last post but, as you can imagine, the past week and a half has been a complete whirlwind!

Andy totally surprised me with this one (as is the ultimate goal), treating me to a romantic dinner at the Brewster Inn in Cazenovia, NY. Little did I know that our post-dinner stroll down to the lake would end in him getting down on one knee and breaking out the perfect ring from his suit jacket!

The restaurant staff did an amazing job as well, going the extra mile to make the evening special and (just as importantly) helping to keep me totally oblivious!

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It was perfectly romantic and elegant (both the evening and the ring) and was everything I could have ever asked for. I’m a lucky woman!

Needless to say, the last 10 days or so have been full of celebrating with friends and family. We are truly blessed to have those of you in our life that have gone above and beyond to make our engagement a special time in our life and have gone the extra mile to make us feel loved and supported – we can’t wait to have you at our wedding!

Aside from celebrating though, there’s also been a lot of work getting done vis a vis  WEDDING PLANNING! And may I just say, I never had any idea just how much planning went into a wedding? I’m tired already! But in the best of ways.

Stay tuned for more wedding-inspired writings, artwork and DIY. This occasion has helped me realize now more than ever just how inspirational love can be!

Wildlife Inspiration: Wolf Mountain Nature Center

Inspiration, Travel

IMG_3478Anyone who follows this site knows that I am inspired by nature and, more specifically, wildlife. I love animals.

This weekend I decided to go out with Andy and members of his family to find some wildlife inspiration, spending time exploring one of Central New York’s wildlife gems: the Wolf Mountain Nature Center.

Currently home to 13 wolves (plus two new pups!), four coyotes and handful of arctic foxes, I can’t say enough great things about this organization. The grounds are beautiful, hidden atop a picturesque hill in CNY, the staff is overwhelmingly friendly and their mission is honorable and strong, focused on protecting wolves and teaching visitors the beauty of wildlife and the importance of conserving it.

Our group spent a solid two hours exploring the grounds, walking to each enclosure where we were introduced to residents and given new tidbits of information by the awaiting staff members. Aside from learning a lot about the organization, its residents and the wild canine species, the best (although admittedly surprising) part of the visit was how friendly the wildlife was.

With most of the animals being born at the Center, they are all used to human contact, a trait that is critical in regard to medical treatment. Although you won’t get to pet a wolf on your visit, you will definitely get to see them up close and personal as they come up to the fences to check you out.

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Inspired by these encounters, I’m already in the midst of planning my next visit to the Mountain! There’s nothing quite like seeing the beauty of a wild animal, content in a humane and conservation-focused environment to warm your heart and inspire you in the best of ways.

If you’re an animal-lover such as myself, then Wolf Mountain is a resounding must-visit. To learn more about the Center and its residents click here.

In Search of Flowers 🌸

Inspiration

Memorial Day weekend is fast-approaching and Andy and I are on a mission to dress up our home for the (un)official start to summer.

One of the cheapest and most effective ways to dress up your home? Flowers! Bright, beautiful and festive, I absolutely adore flowers. They look great, they smell great, and sometimes, are downright magical.

I want all the #flowers!…But mostly the sea #dragon 😁🐉🌸

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And what’s more fun than enjoying flowers and plants from the comfort of your home? Shopping for them!

🌹Flower shopping = my favorite kind of shopping #springhassprung

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Check out some of the photos I snapped this week on our quest for the perfect floral decor:

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Singing in Chobani’s “Fruit Symphony” Commercial

Inspiration

All the years I spent pursuing my love of music, I never pictured myself in a national commercial. I am truly overwhelmed in the most positive of ways, and have so many thoughts and feelings regarding the amazing opportunity I was given. Right now, all I can say is that I am truly blessed and have led a very fortunate life. Thank you, Chobani, for being a force of good in this world and for helping me to live my dreams.

Read more about the new commercial on Fast CompanyMediaPost and brandchannel.

HOW TO BE MORE CREATIVE IN 2017

Inspiration

New year, new you right? At this point we’re all focusing on the resolutions we made last weekend, promising ourselves that this year would be our year and that the next 365 days will bring greater satisfaction and contentment than any other year has ever seen before!

…Perhaps a wee bit dramatic but, then again, our new year’s resolutions typically are, right?

This year add another, and totally obtainable, resolution to your list by resolving to be more creative! While this can easily be reached in a number of different ways, check out my suggestions below if you are seeking a little inspiration:

Get inspired! One of the most important steps in being creative is being cognizant of where your inspiration comes from. Whether it’s books, television, poetry, film, spending time with friends and family or whathaveyou, embrace that which inspires you!

For example, I gifted myself some inspiration post-Christmas with this fabulous t-shirt:

 

Invest in new supplies. Everyone likes new toys. By treating yourself to some new art supplies or kitchen appliances, you’re much more likely to get into your workspace and actually create.

 

Consider a daily calendar. Last year I made use of the “Craft-a-Day 2016 Day-to-Day Calendar: 366 Simple Handmade Projects” desk calendar, which featured a new craft every day. While I never actually completed the crafts presented in the calendar, having it sit on my desk was a great reminder to be creative on a daily basis, and provided me with some fun ideas for future art pieces and crafts.

Try new things. If you like to cook, try new recipes. If you’re an artist, try new media. If you’re all out of inspiration, step outside of your comfort zone and make it a priority to experience new things. Go see a play, experience nature in a new way, try taking a creative course or learn a new skill.

Keep an idea book. Before there was Pinterest, many creatives would (and many still do) keep idea books. Invest in a sketchbook or notebook in which you can write, draw, paint, collage and paste all of your musings and inspirations. It’s so easy to get caught up in your mind and allow the intimidation of a blank page hold you back. Break that barrier by letting loose in your idea book!

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So while I hope you are able to stick to all of your 2017 resolutions, I especially hope that you find this year to be one filled with copious amounts of inspiration and creativity. Cheers to perpetual creation!

Feature photo retrieved from https://unsplash.com/search/creativity?photo=bYOi200uQ6w