Show Your Work: BHG Valentines

You know the best way to get more people to know that (1) You are an artist and (2) You get hired to make cool stuff?

Show. Your. Work. 

In this new XO-LP series (special for the month of March) I'll show you, start to finish, how some of my favorite projects came together. 

Better Homes and Gardens Valentines

We are lucky here in my city of Des Moines to be home to the great Meredith Publishing. All kinds of creative minds converge here to make mags like Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living and Eating Well. It's pretty amazing to have friends in this town who put their ideas in print (and then in mailboxes all over the country). 

For this particular project, wanted printable, color-your-own Valentines for their loyal readers to download, for free, from their site for the upcoming holiday. One of their specific requests: a paper airplane for the one who is so so fly. 

So I started the same way I always do: A Papermate Flair Pen, some fresh white paper and my ScannerPro app. I work by hand, almost always, with pen and paper. I scribble all kinds of doodles on the same page, filling the corners "stream-of-consciousness" style. I draw whatever I think of... sometimes that's hearts and text that all work together within a theme, other times it's palm trees, shooting stars, celery and bottles of wine with arms and legs. 

I scan in all the illustrated pages, no matter what. I have big .pdf files of unused illustrations just waiting to come to life in some project. With Scanner Pro I can keep it all, and I do. All the celery, shooting stars, and bottles of wine with arms and legs. [If you have a project that calls for pretzels with hats- I have that too. We should talk.]

From that little corner of heart + arrow pattern, I put together an 8.5 x 11 inch print to use as decorative elements for the edges of the airplane instructions, the coloring pattern for the plane itself and another border for the Valentine Word Search! [My dirty little secret: I use Photoshop. I know, I should be better at Illustrator by now, but I'm still learning. Skillshare is helping.]

Photo cred to

Photo cred to

Putting it all together, with a few illustrated folding instructions, was the final step. From there, my friends at set up this great shot of just how much fun this plane project can be. 

You can still download your free XO-LP + BHG love notes from their website. [A heart covered airplane is cool everyday, not just on February 14th.] Look for more start to finish projects in March, including a wedding, a bunch of personal stationery and a few freebies for you. 


Two Years Later: The Wedding March

Wedding photos by the super talented Justin Salem Meyer

Wedding photos by the super talented Justin Salem Meyer

I'm a wife.

Back on March 7th of 2015 I married that tall, patient man I'm lucky enough to have as a roommate. On that day we promised to keep each other grounded, and to let each other dream big. And you guys, it's not always the easiest promise to keep, but we practice it, daily. 

In retrospect everything seems simpler. I probably wouldn't have stressed about custom napkins or my non-traditional wedding get up or the weather. I would have let those weeks leading up to the wedding be filled with yoga and meditation and healthy eating. But alas, I'm not that relaxed of a human, ever. But I have no regrets about our big party. It was the very best day. 

What advice do I have for brides prepping for their big day? I'm so glad you asked, people of the interwebs, because I have a few tips.

  1. Decide what three things will make your night.
    When the wedding planning starts it is SO easy to get overwhelmed with options. Paper goods, dresses, and the dreaded Pinterest: there are all the things. For us we narrowed it down to three things that were must-haves at the wedding for each of us. We picked one we agreed on (for us that was a dance party with our favorite local DJ) and went from there. After we narrowed down what was important it was easier to budget, and to make the choice to nix a few extras that just didn't matter to us. 
  2. Comfortable shoes are 100% the way to go.
    I went for some fancy blue Ted Baker beauties, but should have stuck to wearing my favorite gold loafers (that just so happen to be from Old Navy). You will be standing, a lot. And why not keep your toes from swelling. Because your feet should be as happy as your heart on the wedding day. 
  3. Get personal.
    My favorite parts of our wedding were the most personal: matchbooks I hand drew, fishing fly boutonnieres, desserts made with love by our friends, wedding photos of our guests hanging from the walls. And you know what, those are the things our guests remember the most too. The little bits of Kevin and Laura we sprinkled in were the most beautiful parts of the day [that and the Moscow Mules we served on your way into the ceremony.]
  4. Write your thank you notes RIGHT AWAY [Seriously]
    We failed on this. Big time. Instead of writing thank you notes, we took off and hit 33 states in our first year of marriage. Write your thank you notes as soon as possible - because thank yous are important and it's more fun to write them while riding your wedding high. [Shameless plug: if you need wedding thank you notes- I can help with that!]
  5. Keep saying thank you.
    A wedding is one day, a marriage is a lifetime. And while planning the wedding took work, so does being married. Yes we wrote thank you notes (very late), but our friends and family continue to support us as people and as a married couple, in so many ways. Keep saying thank you for that support. It matters. 

Happy Anniversary, Kevin. 

And in keeping with #5: to all of our friends and family who support us with high fives & dinners together & just being out there, loving us, we can't say thank you enough. You are the very best. 

February's Favorites

I've often said I'm not a big fan of February. I love Valentine's Day, yes, but this short month always feels like it's the longest. Something about the extended winter and the slow business. But then here we are, in Iowa, with 60+ degree days and a pile of new XO-LP projects. February has felt might fine (and fleeting). 

Here's what I was loving in February:


MUJI Notebooks

MUJI is a Japanese brand known for minimal design and "no-brand" products. A bit like Ikea, MUJI offers affordable household goods, stationery, apparel and food stuffs. I first found MUJI (which means "no-brand quality goods" in Japanese) initially through my mom (always on the cutting edge, Mar). After a few trips to NYC and visits to the MUJI store(s): I quickly became hooked on their lil unlined notebooks. Blank covers leave room for me to customize my sketchbook and the small, thin books fit in all sizes of my handbags, from clutch to backpack. 

Not-so-official Holidays

National Margarita Day inspired a whole stack of illustrated limes and tequilas while Pizza Day produced a celebration of hand drawn pizza balloons. Then there's Mondays- they seem to produce some good work in the sketchbook as well. 


In addition to running her own kid clothing brand, Lot 801, Lindsay Isakson White offers up real life advice for makers and creative entrepreneurs. She's sharing her success as an online retailer with her readers and let me tell you- it's helpful. A few of my favorite finds from Lindsay's treasure troves of information: (1) Just why your email list is so important. And that your customers WANT to hear from you. (2) Remember Pitchfest? This post from Lindsay on a great pitch is a welcome addition to the pitch perfect advice. 

Missing Richard Simmons

I mean, Richard Simmons. How can you not be interested? The sassy, sequined fitness guru who got you sweatin' to the oldies was beloved by many middle Americans, like my sister Jen. So when "Missing Richard Simmons" popped up as a New and Noteworthy podcast, I had to check it out. And now, I am obsessed. I had no idea Richard Simmons was still teaching fitness classes up until 2014- when he basically fell off the face of the Earth. Dan, our Richard mission leader and host (as well as a friend of Richard's), is taking me on a captivating journey to find that curly-haired dazzling man. 

The Dip by Seth Godin

A little book packed with big questions, The Dip made for a great afternoon read and a bit of introspective thinking. Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, sometimes sticking it out to be the very best is the only way to do it. "The Dip" according to Mr. Godin (who really writes some of my favorite words, like these 13,) is that spot to have to trudge through to go from mediocre to bad ass... you know that place where people who don't want to put in the work (the incredibly hard work) to be the very best drop out of the race. For anyone #goingsolo or just striving to be the very best in your field- I highly recommend this one. There's a "The Dip Manifesto" if you want the cliff notes version.  


I love a perfect glass of wine at the end of the day (and by "perfect" I currently mean it's red, in my house and tasty- I'm not too fussy.) But without my girl Abbe to guide me, I end up grabbing the same Pinot from the shelf or risking it and trying something new, just to realize that while I'll probably still sip on it, that risky wine choice is certainly not my favorite vino. I heard about Winc through one of the many podcasts I have on rotation and thought I'd check it out. Wine delivery- total plus. Free shipping on my first order- sign me up. Handy little quiz about what you like to eat to help select "recommended" wines- I'm all in. This month I particularly liked this not too fruity Red Blend and this Super Tuscan (with a comic book label!)

Little Barn Apothecary Coconut + Mint Cooling Mineral Body Mist

At 2:30pm, on the daily, I hit a slump. I'm worn out, sleepy and ready to binge watch Olivia Pope (I'm rewatching Scandal from the beginning. Seems oddly comforting during this crazy new presidency.) A spritz of the Coconut + Mint Cooling Mineral Body Mist wakes me up annnnd makes my tired skin smell great. Bonus: Kevin loves it too and we can get it at one of favorite local spots: Eden

What were your favorite finds in February?