Bewitched in Florence, Italy

Lately I’ve been having more than a few wistful days thinking about my perfect Florence, Italy. The perfume I bought while there last year is half empty and I’m afraid this is definitely not a case of the glass is half full vs. half empty. It most assuredly is half empty. This makes me panic a little. So, while I mentally travel back to this most fabulous of cities, and have effectively relived every place I visited, I thought I would create my version of One Perfect Day in Florence, Italy. True, it would be hard to have a bad day in Florence, but I have always found it helpful to read what others have to say. As someone who seeks out perfumeries and cocktails wherever I travel, if you are also inclined, be certain to check these off your list if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Florence.

Put on your walking shoes, we have ground to cover!

While there are a number of wonderful hotels directly in the heart of Florence, we found a sweet little rooftop apartment just north of the core on a quiet street, and we look forward to our daily stroll into the fray. I have found great comfort in having a place to land at the end of the day, with room to spread out, and an outdoor place to take it all in and recount the day’s events. Our hostess and temporary neighbor owns a little boutique close to the Arno, and she and her little dog, Livio, walk to and from daily, it’s a part of life here in Florence, and helps balance out the pasta and gelato you are certain to consume! 

Enjoying a spritz at La Ménagère in Florence, Italy

We begin our day with a light breakfast and coffee at La Ménagère. We happened on this spot on our second day, and returned a few times for coffee or an afternoon Spritz. Grab a spot up front to people watch. Here you’ll find not only mouthwatering pastry, but you can also order something slightly hardier if that’s what you’re after. It’s a beautiful restaurant that opens to a brightly lit sunny room in the back. Be sure to walk all the way in and check out the home goods for sale. They also have a wonderful bathroom, something I am always on the lookout for! Female. 

Once fortified and caffeinated, we’re going to make our way east to the Santa Croce area. If you’re following along on a map, you’ll find a number of different routes to take. Pick any! This is the beauty of Florence, and travel in general— the leaving a little something to be discovered along the way. The destination is AquaFlor Firenze. Heaven. Nirvana. Bliss. Be sure to walk through the Piazza di Santa Croce and take in the Basilica for which it is named en route. This is the burial place of many notable Italians such as Bartolini, Da Vinci, Galileo and Machiavelli to name a few. This is a half a day in and of itself, so for now enjoy the people and performers in the square. AquaFlor is located up one of the smaller streets just off of the southern tip of the piazza. Trust me on this however, you will smell AquaFlor before you lay eyes on the little wooden door that steps into Mecca. Outside the heavy glass door are two small shelves, perched upon each is an enormous room diffuser. It’s the street diffuser and it lures you in like the Pied Piper. Breathe in deep. It doesn’t get better than this. You’ll be greeted by high ceilings, club chairs, walls of glass and an overall swank apothecary vibe. Pause to swoon. Apparently, you are able to sign up in advance for perfume classes or to have a custom scent made for you. As this was my first time, I didn’t discover this with enough advance notice and sadly could not partake. I did however have a gloriously fun few hours sniffing, discussing and trying out fragrances while I whittled my way down to what I consider to be in my top 5 favorite fragrances. If you are an aromachologist (yes this is a word) this is an experience not to be missed. Give yourself ample time to truly immerse yourself. If you haven’t abandoned the rest of your day at this point, pull yourself away and head west.

Tell your travel buddy to pop a squat while you take it all in here at AquaFlor Firenze

Our next stop is La Prosciutteria Firenze for a glass or carafe of wine and a charcuterie plate. You’ll need time to recover from your life altering experience and might find yourself a little peckish. You can also order a sandwich here, but I do suggest you grab a little table in the back, pop your wine glass into the crafty wall mounted glass holder and dig in to a sampling of cheese, meats and all the trimmings for a proper snack. Be sure to try the truffle cream on anything. Your travel buddy will forgive you the hours spent trying perfumes.

Continue in a west-ward direction, either by route of the river or weaving your way through the streets. I don’t tend to over plan my days, as you will always see some place you want to pop in to or take photos of. These streets are filled with photo opportunities! 

The next destination is the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. This is one of the oldest and possibly most breathtaking pharmacies to behold. The Dominican monks of Florence were developing medicinal remedies and scents in 1212 using herbs from the monastery gardens and the perfumery still uses its renowned scents developed today. I strongly recommend you give yourself a strict budget before entering. This is a great place to grab gifts for friends back home and then some. I’m certain many have blown their shopping budget here. As you walk back out, pass by the Santa Maria Novella as well.

At this point your nose might be shot, so backtrack east to a little boutique called Marie Antoinette of Florence. This is for the fashionistas in your group. It’s a wonderfully curated little boutique filled with vintage Italian couture and new up and coming designers. The two women that own it are fun and clearly have a great eye for fashion. This is a one-of-a kind boutique if you’re looking to bring back a little Italian something something for yourself.

Italian spirits on offer at Manifattura

By now we’ll assume your feet are sore and you are ready for a drink. Don’t worry, the next stop is just a few doors down. It’s a little cocktail bar called Manifattura and prepares drinks made only with Italian spirits. Settle in at the beautiful bar, and put yourself in the hands of the capable and very knowledgeable bartender. Personally, I’m a Negroni girl, and was taken on a journey of next level proportions. Suffice it to say that Campari is only the very tip of this iceberg. We were introduced to numerous small batch brands of herbaceous and bitter amaros, tantalizing liquers and digestifs of such depth I almost cried. Not one to go without, we found the location where we could purchase some of our very own. We discovered our inner Italian here, and once we were ready, we were sure to hit the next stop before closing.

Enotecca Alessi is home to all of these spirits, wines and so so much more. You might consider a return trip here another day once you’ve taken it all in. They also host tastings and have a small bar to sit and sip some of their splendor. We found the particular bottles that led us here in the first place, and perhaps an extra or two. My suitcase was certain to hit maximum weight.

If you have paced yourself and spent the entire day on this route, a large extravagant dinner might not be an option. In which case, I suggest heading up to the Mercato Centrale upper level for a convivial and casual dining experience. There is something for everyone, a few bars serving beer, wine and cocktails and food options to please most. Walk the complete lap around the large dining hall before committing or better yet divide, conquer and share. It’s a fun experience and a great way to wind down your day!

Below you’ll find a link to my Google Map of all of these places! Buona giornata!

Taking Stock

What does that mean? To take stock of something? According to my often used Mac dictionary app, the phrase means “to review or make an overall assessment of a particular situation, typically as a prelude to making a decision.” We often, perhaps more often than we realize, find ourselves at turning points in our lives. These can be the major, smack you over the head obvious ones, or the opposite— sneaky little micro adjustments we make without realizing we’re doing it. Those small moments can be as pivotal to your world as those that club you over the head. 

Here we are, on the cusp of a new year, a new decade and many are making their resolutions for this year to come. I ask you to do one better. I ask you to take a few quiet moments and take stock of your past year. Look at the majors that occurred, some will make you smile while others will make you grimace. What effect did these have in your world? How did it alter your course?  Look deeper at the little micro adjustments you might have made along the way. Can you recognize those little curves in your path and the ensuing change in course direction? Maybe you met a new friend through a friend that introduced you to an exercise class you now go to all the time! Maybe you injured your foot and no longer exercise like you did. What are the many cause and effects of your year. Those are the perhaps not so little pivotal changes that you didn’t seek, but happened to you anyway. Now what does that all look like to you? How does that make you feel, says the inner therapist? What happened that you are proud of? What goals did you stay the course with? Where did you drop the ball? How did you surprise yourself? Now look ahead, take a deep breath and look at what you want in this next year, knowing that there will be micro cause and effects along the way. How will you stay on your course to what you want?

Go deeper and look at what might be holding you back from realizing these small and large goals. What’s the drag bag that’s keeping you from getting there? For me, taking stock partly means looking at what negative feelings hold me back, and cutting the line and letting it go. Too easily we can revel in those hurt feelings and injustices to our being. It’s our little soap box we stand on and ultimately whine from. Can you let that go? Many can’t and I believe that might be the one singular thing that keeps us from making progress in our lives. We get too attached to the soapbox, because it’s easier to complain and blame than it is to deal with it. If you deal with it, or better yet, if you can find your way to forgiveness of the situation or action, you’ll have released a huge pile of B.S. you’ve unwittingly been carrying around, and make room for all sorts of fabulous things to happen to you.

This sounds really good to me. Bring it.

As I take stock of 2019, there is much to be grateful for. There were many wonderful moments, too many to count. I did much of what I wanted, but I know I can always do more. I can be more, and by being more to myself I inherently become more to those closest to me. I can challenge myself more often. I can be kinder. I can be more loving. I can find the beauty in my world daily. I can also recognize when I’m doing too much. I can forgive and make precious room for fabulous things to fill me up.

This will look different to you than it does to me. We all have our stuff, and we all have our dreams, hopes, and goals. While you’re celebrating the New Year, I challenge you to take stock of this past year, and turn some of that chaos into order. Let go of your hurts, and find a way to forgive. Forgive those that hurt you, not because you seek their forgiveness, but because it will lighten your emotional load. Forgive yourself if you haven’t met your personal expectations, it’s OK. Do all of this for yourself so you can find a deeper belief in yourself. Look forward to the micro and major changes you seek in your life, and if you want them bad enough find ways to make it happen. You don’t have to do this, you get to do this. It doesn’t all have to happen at once, change takes time. Be patient and remind yourself daily of what it is you seek and why. Show the universe you are committed to your future by setting these new habits into place, and above all love yourself for being the amazing person you are. 

Cheers to a fantastic year for all!

The Transportive Powers of Scent

I’m mindlessly pushing my grocery cart down the produce aisle, and mildly distracted by the broken wheel that refuses to roll straight. I need but a few items and am in a hurry. I’m always in a hurry at the grocery. It’s my basic M.O. Seek, retrieve, purchase, get out. Seven perfect lemons, smooth skin, juicy feel, then it hits. A wave of fragrance so intimate, I pause my focused pursuit to look around. For that brief moment I fully expect to see my grandmother standing next to me. It’s Coco Chanel. Unmistakable, and in my mind she’s the only person to ever wear this iconic scent as I have always felt no one wore it like her. It’s the fragrance of love and delicious kitchen smells, dragon breathing irritation and all things she was and continues to be to me long after her passing.

Scent has the power to send you catapulting to another time and place like no other. It’s the sleeper time machine that you didn’t see coming, and a huge piece of my world from my earliest memories. I often identify perfume shops as a destination when planning vacations, and in the processes of locating these often obscure locations, amazing discoveries are made adding to the memory bank.

You see, I grew up surrounded by strong women, each with their own personal fragrance. To this day I can still send my world into a minor tailspin when one of those eau de parfum wafts past my nose, thus the power of olfactory memory. I came to believe that your scent was as unique to you as the rest of your style. The particular perfume will likely change as you grow into yourself, but it will become clear, if only you pay attention, to what type of scent best melds with your being. It’s a marriage. The wrong scent would be akin to having the wrong shoe size on, uncomfortable and perhaps slightly unpleasant. It will certainly not feel like a second skin, as your scent should be something that envelops you in more you-ness.

Perfume itself is thousands of years old. The word itself comes from the Latin per fume, or “through smoke.” Evidence of perfume making began in Egypt and Mesopotamia, for use in rituals both spiritual and sensual, or maybe they just wanted to smell great. Either way, these floral, woodsy and spice notes were a part of their culture. The earliest use of perfume bottles dates back to around 1000 BCE also by Egyptians who also happened to invent glass. Perfume bottles were one of the first common uses for it, but the oldest recorded perfume vessels found comes from the island of Cyprus made of painted ceramic. Upon further analysis traces of anise, pine, coriander, bergamot, almond and parsley, all native to the region, were discovered as preferred scents.

Perfumery in Pyrgos, Cyprus — 4,000 years old

With hopeful determination to find something new and more amazing I will set off in search of the next great discovery in each destination. I am never disappointed. If I don’t find THE perfume, I always find something, a scented lotion, soap or room diffuser with a bouquet that will forever remind me of this particular moment in time, and quite possibly a part of the city or town I may never have seen. This is worth its weight in gold, and will certainly give me the warm and fuzzies every time I lay nose to it. This is the loot I plunder and lug home in my oversized suitcase without fail.

Long after I have forgotten the name of a particular cathedral visited, or what I may have eaten at a particular restaurant, I can count on the smells encountered and more specifically the perfumes sampled to bring me right back. It’s the ultimate souvenir.

Abundance Comes in Many Forms

It’s Q4. Which for me translates to a very slow time of year for business, and yet every year it rolls around, just like Christmas. I get through the flurry of holiday deliverables, and then nothing. Zippo. And like clockwork, each year I fight the panic. Sometimes, I am successful. Other times, I manage with the grace of a passenger on the sinking Titanic. I lay in bed each morning, practicing my releasing of fear, and deepening of faith in my skills and that the universe will provide. I also lay in bed thinking that since I’m slow at the office, I could sleep in a little more, which is exactly what I should do. Take the time to restore, assess all and have some ME time. Easier said than done, but a skill worth aspiring to I’m told.

This morning I lie in bed contemplating what a gift it is to be able to do this. What I mean to say is, having a business is stressful, but with it also comes a freedom that, like it or not, needs to be exercised from time to time. I might even go so far to say that the same universe that will provide, will also provide you with some time off. If you don’t take said time off then you might find yourself miserably in bed with a heinous bug— forced down time. Personally, I prefer to manage that time-off on my own terms. 

So, what am I doing with my time? What I’m not doing is sleeping in late. I’m not capable. I think it’s fair to say that all of us have a little list of things we’d like to do, or learn or practice. This is that perfect time to do that. I have always wanted to learn animation software. I’m quite good at all of my usual Adobe apps, as I’ve grown up with them, and I use them daily. I don’t use any of the animation apps daily. I have downloaded them, poked around and then got distracted. To be honest, I’m not all that in using the timeline feature of Adobe Photoshop. I’m a print designer, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I love print. But I do see the many virtues of taking my illustration and my somewhat odd brain to another place. Animation. Oh the places I’ll go!

“Oh the places you’ll go!” Dr. Seuss

I also have said I want to learn Spanish for no less than 20 years. Lame. Really and truly lame that I haven’t. I really want to learn to speak Spanish in Spain, but this might take a little more planning, and so it goes a little lower on my list of things to do. It will, however, stay on my list, and I will get there! This is me manifesting.

What exactly is the point of all of this? Recognizing that the universe does provide an abundance of many things, including time, which might be argued is the most precious thing you can get. Next time you find yourself bored. Please, slap yourself. Boredom is dumb. There is always a way to fill that precious time with something that makes you a better you. As a mother of two, may I humbly suggest you get to it.

Life’s Twisty Turns

He’s a half switchback ahead of me. Hanna is running back and forth between us in some attempt to either speed me up or slow him down, thus bridging the gap between us. She doesn’t like when her people aren’t immediately around. She stops halfway between us and gives me that look. “Really?” She sits, almost patiently, waiting. Her breath is little clouds in front of her wet nose. I’m not in a hurry though. I’m in a winter wonderland and enjoying every kind of sensory overload. The sun filters down from the tops of the aspens, through ice crystals and loaded snowy branches to meet me in dazzling brilliance. The air is crisp. Sparkling lights pop all around. It could be millions of little diamonds, and I’m a pirate drooling at my loot. I watch my steamy breath in front of me, more little clouds from the little engine that could. I think I can. 

We’re snowshoeing up a favorite trail, Elbert Creek, which is just a few miles south of Purgatory Ski Area. It’s a quite vertical two miles up to a Forest Service cabin. Cabin is a bit of a stretch. We’ll call it a Forest Service structure, our usual destination. This will take us an hour. For the moment there is a trail, but soon we will be breaking new ground. It’s early in the season and with only a few snows to date, the path is still fresh. Crunch, crunch, crunch. My aluminum shoes slap a rhythm. You would think I’d know exactly how many switchbacks until we hit the top and head up the valley, but I don’t. Maybe eight? This track feels a little off from the hiking trail, off-piste, but whoever gets there first gets to set it, and the rest follow. I catch a glimpse of his yellow jacket ahead. He rounds the corner. 

I like this alone time. It’s good noodling time. I watch Hanna. I think about making an animation of her running willy-nilly ahead, her little feet post holing every once in a while. She stops to smell something. I think about little characters that fall out of the sky around her as she trots along. First a snow bunny, she jumps and lunges at it above, then a Christmas present floats down with bubbles. A large cat stealthily crosses her tail, she sits comically quiet pretending it’s not there. I think about a large stag leaping over her head, and a little bluebird companion that sits on her head. Larger than life blue snowflakes drifting down, bouncing off of her. I have the entire animation scripted. I ponder an overlay of the actual trail, so I stop, take off my gloves and take a few photos. He’s another half a switchback ahead. 

Crunch, crunch, crunch. I continue up. A light breeze swirls around me and up through the trees. It lifts a dusting of snow, forming a faint white whirl through the remnants of dried autumn leaves. The whites and icy blues merge with the pale grey and white trunks. Black eyes peer out from each tree. I ponder the aspens. What an amazing tree.

Fun fact: Did you know that one aspen tree is actually part of a larger organism? An entire stand is considered a singular organism with an extensive root system, and there is a stand in Utah where an estimated 47,000 aspen are all part of one stand. It may be one of the largest singular organisms in the world.

I crest the top of the switchbacks and ahead I start to see the collection of aspens of unusual shapes. Some have a perfect loop in the trunk. One grows straight up then turns a 180 and straight back down. One can’t decide which way to grow and makes a zig-zag. He’s waiting for me at these trees, because each time we get to them we discuss what the heck. Was it a massive snow year, and the juvenile and noodly trunks were twisted this way and that? Were they underground, part of the root system then decided to be trees? It’s curious. We discuss how like life these insane trees are. One day you’re going straight ahead and then something happens that causes a course direction change. You get pulled this way then that, and again you’re moving in a straight direction. Or you’re doing one thing then have a complete reverse decision and head in an opposite direction. But guess what? You’re still a tree, and you’re still growing! You can choose to be the best at everything you do and just keep adjusting as you go. It makes me think about how we are truly all connected, all of us organisms. I smile, drink some water and put my gloves back on. We’re close to the turn around point.

Hanna is sniffing frantically under the snow. Does she smell the roots that spread across this hillside, all connected in one big happy life structure. We’re more resilient in packs. She knows this. It takes many of us a little longer to figure this out. As soon as there is movement, she snaps out of her reverie and is on her way with us, closer together. A little organism of three, but with roots that reach in many directions to the rest in our little pack. This makes me happy to think about. 

We’re on untracked ground now, and the going is a little slower. We stay together as we work our way up into the shadows. The sun has dropped behind the ridge and with it the temperature. The colors shift to darker blues and greys, my breath becomes more opaque. We quietly observe a variety of animal tracks. Maybe a rabbit here, a deer there. This one could even be a cat. We’ve seen frighteningly large scat up here before, and there’s no reason to think she has moved out. I assume this cat is a female, and this is her turf. The scat a little reminder to all who pass that she’s here and aware. On your way, nothing to see here. Keep it going. I wonder what I would do if she strolled across our path, and I run through my inferior knowledge of what you’re supposed to do. Act larger than you are? Wave your arms or do you play dead? I can never keep them straight. Strength in numbers.

We reach our destination, and I slog off through deeper snow to try and find a place a little more packed down to pee. Always an issue with us hydrators. He’s waiting for me, adjusts my constantly twisted pack straps and we’re off back down the trail again. The down will be quicker, but not that much. We pass the aspens of unusual shapes, we pass the tracks, we make it back to the packed trail, and down through the grove. The sun is off of this hill now and there are no longer sparkly ice crystals to distract me. 

My head turns to food and warmth in the near future and I pick up my pace. Maybe a little barn sour to get back. Hanna senses my pep and matches me, thinking I’m playing. She pogos up and down a few times inquiring if I have any snacks. I offer her water from my tube. We both trot along, trying to keep pace with the longer legs ahead that slowly are pulling away. She takes off after him, and for one more moment I am alone, breathing in new awareness of all we have. We’re billionaires.

Or if you’re into blue…

Personal gift picks for the outdoor/fashion girl… what do you think Oprah?Classic Blue is officially the 2020 color of the year.

White + Warren Rib Cashmere Beanie Buy Here
Can you have too many cashmere hats, particularly with fluffy pompoms?

Levi’s Sherpa Jean Jacket Buy Here
A classic everyone should own.

Garmin vivoactive 4s Buy Here
If you’re active, this is awesome. If you’re not, it looks cool.

Hydroflask Buy Here
Hydrate. We like this nifty straw lid, but if you opted for the traditional lid get some reusable straws below.

Steel Straw Buy Here
This is a great pack because it comes with the little cleaning tool. Very necessary… Do your part to save the turtles.

Ray-Ban Wings II Buy Here

UGG Fluff Yeah Slide Wedge Slippers Buy Here
Like sticking your sore feet into a cloud.

North Face Aconcagua Vest Buy Here
Being a layer-er myself, this is a great piece under your Sherpa jacket.

Oprah’s Favorite Things are great, but…

These are a few of mine. At least the pink and red ones! We’ll call this list the Top 10 Gifts for Girls (Pink & Red.) Are Oprah’s color coordinated?

Rebecca Minkoff Convertible Mini Julian Backpack Buy Here
I’ve talked about this little versatile bag before, but currently wanting the red version.

Byredo Hair Perfume, Gypsy Water Buy Here
I wear Byredo’s Flowerhead all summer. Their scents are complex and wonderfully different.

Chan Luu Cashmere Scarf Buy Here
I have three. Say no more.

Kyocera Ceramic Ballpoint pen Buy Here
Not only does this pen write bizarrely well, it’s beautiful. An often overlooked accessory.

Moleskine Classic Notebook Buy Here
I LOVE these notebooks, and keep them in a few places.

BB Dakota Big Time Plush Coat Buy Here
I haven’t yet jumped onto the teddy coat trend, but this looks like a great place to start!

NEST Scented Candle Buy Here
Scents are important. Nest makes fabulous candles and diffusers. You’ll be happy to come home to it daily.

Frye Sabrina Lace-Up Boots Buy Here
I could dedicate numerous posts to Frye boots. They just fit my high arches, are comfortable and damn cute.

UGG Nayomi Cashmere socks Buy Here
And these would feel really good inside those boots.

Butter Nail Polish Buy Here
Butter polishes have a wider brush which makes you almost pro at applying, and they stay glossy. Win, win.

And the Color of the Year is…

As a lifer in the design business, I have been a Pantone enthusiast from the start. I was as enamored with the color decks right out of school as I am today, and yes I even considered a PMS black box tat on my forearm around the time I launched my own agency. Pantone has been an integral piece of my professional world from the get-go, and there is no doubt that Pantone has created a major business around being the color authority. Trend forecasting is important for any business that relies on color as part of their sell. But seriously, what gives with all the hype building up to the “Color of the Year”? This unveiling has seemingly increased proportionately with the growth of social media. No big surprise there, but from the purely analytical or psychological POV, why is it so consuming to so many designers now? What has changed? 

A little history is in order. Pantone first began in the 1950s. Its original purpose was to standardize a color system so that regardless of where or how you printed something, there was consistency across the board. Brilliant. As any designer knows, yellow is not just yellow. This standardization extended to process color as well, or CMYK. The CMYK process is a method of printing using four colors- cyan, magenta, yellow and black to build many colors with overlaying dots. Think comic books. The Pantone system also helped create a matching system for Pantone colors to CMYK colors. As a side note, many of the Pantone colors cannot be simulated with CMYK. Pantone colors are described by PMS and their allocated number. For example, PMS 185 (a fabulous shade of red.) This is where the cult like status begins.

Designers love these little boxes of color and their correlating numbers. We always have. In 2000, the Pantone Color Institute declared a particular “Color of the Year.” It’s quite the to-do. Apparently twice a year they host a secret meeting of the top brass in the world of color to determine the following year’s color. And let the marketing hype begin. Apparently, it has worked if their Instagram posts are anything to go off of. Not only is a color chosen, but it is accompanied by a deep emotional dialogue of why this color was chosen. Was it uplifting for the times, well shit that would be every year lately, or did it represent the need for our world to turn to a greener lifestyle? It gives Sephora an opportunity to match a lipstick or eyeshadow and build off that hype. It allows for all sorts of partnerships in fact; fabrics, furniture, makeup. Color of the year is good for business.

So fellow designers…
how do you feel about this? 

I love color. I’ve talked about color over and over, and how important it is to me in my particular style. Am I influenced by a COTY? Not slightly. Does it make me want to buy a new sweater in it? Not really. Is it even a little bit important to my work? Nope. Yet I read the replies to the Pantone posts and I marvel at how many people are titillated and just dying to know what the 2020 color will be. I don’t get it. Please help me with this.

I agree that color trend is important, and it does drive numerous industries. This is not in question. SO perhaps the COTY is to maintain brand awareness within the design industry. I’ll buy that, but I would be hard pressed to believe that a young fledgling designer can pop out of school and NOT have awareness around Pantone. I’m certain that brand awareness among all designers is very high. We all know about Pantone, and we love you regardless of your reasons for developing a COTY. However, there is more to design color choices than this.

I would encourage any designer out there to consider what trends are doing year to year, but to maintain a sense of self with your design, and color is an important element of this. It may just be that Living Coral is not appropriate to your client’s project. Look at the bigger picture and need. Be aware, but don’t be influenced. Be brilliant and bold, but be original and perhaps who knows, you might influence the next trend.

Can you Improve Your Creative Condition?

Exercises for visionary verve.

Years ago, I was asked to teach a class on creativity. Specifically, I was asked to teach a class on how to be a more creative person. As always, I don’t say no to any new challenge. Say yes, figure out the details later. “Of course, I would love to do this”. I don’t know how to do this, and I’m not absolutely certain it can be done, but we’ll give ‘er a go. Why not? And so, began the process of how to teach a person to be a more creative human.

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.
Lewis Carroll

To start I had to look at my own creative process. What I realized, without realizing I did it, is that each day began with a mental exercise. Whether a simple sketch, or looking up a random word, or as quick as really looking at something, anything, as if I have never seen it before. This is actually really hard to do. These actions all had something in common. They are all strategies to effectively waking up my brain. Mental stretching, active warmup for your creative id. 

You don’t usually pop out of bed in the morning and go burn up a 10k without a little stretch and warm up. So why would you think you can just sit down and BE creative. You have to ease into this. Fantastic. This would be a core component of what would become my curriculum. 

  • Do exercises to warm up your creative juices. Brain yoga.

I arrived early to set up my classroom. I asked for five round tables with enough chairs, and no other options. I covered the tables in white paper and laid out markers, paper clips, tape, M&Ms, gum and other various things to play with or eat, and then I left. I gave the class a solid 10 minutes before I arrived. This was my test. I wanted to determine whether the class in general was of the follow the rules camp, or take risks camp. I felt it would be a fairly even split.

In I strolled, glancing around to see what had been messed with, and was shocked to find that only one person had started playing with stuff. The rest sat there quite uncomfortably, uncertain and maybe seemingly slightly annoyed with the lone ranger happily munching M&Ms, and with me for being late.

What did this tell me? It confirmed what I had believed was the second and more important aspect of being a creative person, thus teaching creativity. Self-editing gets in the way. If you’ve attended classes on brainstorming, one thing you will hear is to leave the judge at the door. By nature, we are taught to self-edit. We actually get further in life when we are good self-editors. This is the mechanism that helps us shut up when we should, re-write to improve, re-think to build confidence, re-evaluate to lend certainty. Editing is the re- of all we do, and it’s an integral piece of maturity. 

But it gets in the way of being creative. Rather than re- we should be thinking free-. Free-flowing thinking, free-flowing concepts, free-flowing sketching. You get the picture. To better free- anything, you can’t have any smartass making comments about your free- and you need to feel confident to let your free-freak fly. That’s brainstorming.

  • Leave the self-judge at the proverbial door. Allow yourself to just free-flow. You can always fix it later.

This was another component. I needed to teach this very well-behaved crew how to be a little more willing to jump in, damned the consequences. So, I added a daily brain blizzard to the mix where we were all free to add to ideas. They were given the task or problem ahead of time so they would be ready to. Afterall, your dumb idea may trigger the next genius idea. Let’s throw them all into the pot. You need them all to make great things happen. Which leads me to the next element.

Sometimes, oftentimes, creativity needs fuel to fan the flames. You can’t always be creative in your lone little bubble. You need feedback. You need inspiration that comes from outside of your normal world. You need others to build great ideas. It’s fine to get a start with your own bad-self, but use others to check in.

  • Creativity magic happens when others get in the mix. You can start idea generation solo, and even fine tune it solo, but bring in the people mix along the way for a sounding board.

Inspiration is the next piece to this creative puzzle. Similar to bringing fresh eyes in, practice recall on your mental visual catalog. And if you don’t have one, then start. Personally, I’m about color, patterns, texture and draw a great source of inspiration from these literally everywhere. I take photos of interesting textures and color combos, and from time to time I’ll revisit those. Try it, you’ll be amazed how this can un-stick your brain when you are at a loss for where to go next with your piece.

This would be a weekly activity- let’s look around and see what we can find that inspires.

  • Draw on EVERYTHING for potential sources of inspiration, and document things you are intrigued and moved by. 

I also looked at when I felt most creative and did I have any triggers that helped process. Exercise has always helped me with mental clarity, and I suppose that it also helps with my “flow” If I’ve got all the jitters out, and if a bit tired, I tend to have less mental clutter. Getting outside is another big one for me. Two birds with one stone. Get out for a run. Figure out what reduces the mental fuzz, and do more of it. Yoga, meditation, dancing, cycling. It doesn’t matter, only that you determine if clearing your head helps you. I’m guessing it will.

I would love to say that we had a ten minute meditation each class, but students would have left. We chatted about this, rather than practiced it.

Clearly there can be many other means to increasing creativity. The takeaway here, is that yes you can do quite a bit to stimulate that part of you and much to aid in the process along the way. These are a few tried and true ideas. I’d love to hear more if you have some to share!

A few of my preferred creative tools!

Karin Brush Markers 
These are plain FUN! I use them to fill in and when I want a rough edge to my illustrations. They come in every color, but I am particularly fond of the grey pack. get some here

Pigma Micron Pens
You’re not really a doodler unless you have these. buy here

Rainbow Colored Pencils
Because why wouldn’t you want these? here

I Might be a Thanksgiving Failure

I woke in a sleepy panic at 1:00 am last night. Which means, while I was rolling it all through my head, I wasn’t actually acting upon it. You see, I didn’t take the frozen-solid turkey out to thaw on Tuesday when I was probably supposed to. I was trying to recall anything I had read about quick thawing frozen things, and while I know you’re supposed to thaw in cold water, this was a bit larger than a chicken breast. You do use cold water, right? Oh god, what if I give everyone salmonella. Could I get away with a little warm water? I’m still snuggled deep under the covers. It’s 7° out. Let’s not be rash. Fifteen more minutes go by. I know it’s a cold water bath, but wouldn’t that make the water too cold to actually thaw anything in time. My mother will be here around noon, and we’re supposed to make a tamarind habanero glaze for the frozen fat bird. Can’t you just glaze it frozen. Surely by tomorrow it will have thawed. My eyes close. Clearly, I’m not too concerned. 

“You have 10 people coming for Thanksgiving.” My subconscious voice is whispering in my ear, “Get your ass out of bed and take the damn bird out already.” I drag myself out from under the covers, hoping my histrionics will wake my dear heart sleeping soundly and peacefully next to me. Clearly, he’s not worried or maybe he hasn’t thought of it. Why isn’t he tormented with this? Nada. 

I slip like a ghost into the kitchen. My dog didn’t even get up with me. Lazy. I pull the frozen rock out and leave it in the sink under the watchful gaze of the glorious stars shining bright. Back to bed. Is that enough? Will it thaw? Will it thaw too fast? I could always run to the grocery and grab a handful of Swanson’s frozen turkey dinners. I’m back out. It’s in the star’s hands now.

This morning, it’s a new day. The temp has come up to a whopping 24° and I’m online reading how to thaw out a turkey, fast. I fill the sink with cold water, and plunge the bird in. You’re supposed to refresh the water every 30 minutes, for every pound. This sucker should be thawed in five-ish hours. Emergency diverted for now.

On a larger scope, this could resonate like failure somehow. To be fair, Thanksgiving has never really been my holiday to put loads of energy into. I’ve always preferred the less traditional route; tacos or enchiladas, maybe Chinese, copious amounts of bubbles- not traditional. Yet, this year it just turned out that way, and that’s fine. The bigger picture I’m getting to is more about recognizing that it’s OK is a few disasters happen. Those beautiful photoshoots of perfectly coiffed tables, glossy brown turkeys and all the trimmings, beautiful people dressed beautifully with happy smiles and amazing makeup. Well, let’s just say that’s pretty far from most of our realities. Guess what? Perfect is boring. The world isn’t perfect, but perfectly imperfect. 

I believe the act of creating a meal for a large group of people is more about where your heart is and intentions. This holiday is about being with those we love, and those in our inner circle and celebrating a night together – breaking bread together as it were. It’s not about being perfect and impressing those people. They have seen you at your worse, and still love you. Gratitude and forgiveness are a package deal. 

Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a high five. Tell yourself how much you love yourself, and forgive yourself for not being perfect. Nobody will care if you’re not perfect, or if your turkey isn’t either.