ready for winter lights & nights

Our_house_bb Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I spent Sunday afternoon adding a little sparkle to our humble abode.  So I pulled out the pansies and filled our flower boxes and urns with various evergreen sprigs, holly berry twigs and pine cones.  For some other cool winter container ideas check out this Cottage Living Magazine article about flower boxes.


all dressed up for the holidays

B_xmas_1b_2Putting together silly scenes for our store windows is always a fun part of my job.  At our Berkley location we have our stuffed Santa peddling the Grinch off to the North Pole to teach him all about Christmas cheer.


And our sassy shopper is set to go with all her gift wrapped goodies.


The Rochester store welcomes you with shimmering packages & small bauble-filled trees.


While our happy party guest brings loads of lovely things to her holiday gathering.

a merry melody from Regina Spektor

Regina9b_1I was listening to the latest Regina Spektor song, Fidelity in the car while running my errands today and couldn’t help not to get this merry melody in my head. 

So there I am… pushing my grocery cart down the cereal isle singing (in my head of course) ha..ah.ah..ah.ah.ah…ah…ah. ah.ah.. ha .ah ..ah. ha heart"…. you’ll see what I mean when you watch her lovely video.

Here’s what they say about her latest album, "The style known as "anti-folk," as realized by practitioners like Ani DiFranco and Billy Bragg, is derived from a punk aesthetic, and thus tends to be spare and confrontational. But while Regina Spektor’s music is anti-folk in the way it subverts the traditional coffeehouse vibe, it’s less interested in rebellion and more concerned with the joy of eccentricity, melody and surprise.  It’s a consistently intelligent and daring record, yet remains enormously listenable–a neat trick for anti-folk, or any other genre of music for that matter." –Matthew Cooke

Detroit Home – Nov/Dec 2006



The quirky creations and cheerful displays at catching fireflies never disappoint.  Snag some miniature beaded wreaths, ice kabob drink molds and cool shooters by Fred, along with Aunt Sadie’s holiday candles in sentimental winter scents such as gingerbread, candy cane and bayberry.

Other items pictured in the photo include the dvd fireplace and wine tasting kit.

brown line to armitage

Downtown_5Whenever I head to Chicago on business, I try to schedule an afternnon of play which usually means taking a short EL ride to a delightful little shoping district on Armitage Avenue.


There are loads of lovely boutiques.  Some of my favorite stops…

art effect – they carrie lots of sweet things (including my designs)

1154 Lill Studio -an innovative design-your-own handbag studio

Lori’s Shoes – loads of cool soles


Two super cute pet places dog-a-holics and barker & meowsky

Paul Frank – his stuff is just fun


And there’s stinky pants… isn’t that cutest name for a fashion forward kids shop?

American Apparel – hip socially conscious jersey goods


the powder room – this make-up boutique has a fabulous window display

Paper Source – a dangerous place for anyone that enjoys paper, stamps, ribbons & findings

LUSH – a bath & body shop experience like no other (I like this place so much, I dedicated a separate entry about it)

Plus there are many more wonderfully unique shops that didn’t have web links so if you’re headed to the windy city, take a break from the Miracle Mile and discover some of these great independently owned gems!

love love love LUSH

Lush_3b_1How can I put this?  Lush is like a amazing farmer’s market stand but instead of stocking ripe tomatoes and crispy cucumbers they specialize in bubble bars, bath melts, sensational soaps and lavish lotions…. I mean just look at their display… it makes me drool.


They also publish an entertaining catalog/newsletter called Lush Times that is chocked full of fun stories and in-depth descriptions of their large variety of products.

On my latest trip to Chicago, I purchased a Christingly Bubble Bar and I can’t rave enough about it.  I actually broke it in pieces and used it three different baths.  The scent was sooo yummy, it produced loads of bubbles and my skin never felt softer or smelled better.


To no surprise, Lush believes in making effective products out of fresh organic fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils and safe synthetics, without animal ingredients, and in writing the quantitative list on the outside.

And good news for all you Detroiters…  it looks like Lush will be coming the Somerset Collection soon!

cycle stones by dog star designs

Dog_star_3On the edge of the Northern boreal forest, in a log cabin, you will find artists Christine and Gregory Bolstad living life on the terms they desire.  In 1994, this husband and wife team created their business, Dog Star Designs. 

Utilizing creativity and promoting connectedness to their customers, Christine and Gregory Bolstad put energy and fun into each of their designs.  Both trained artists and natural educators, Christine believes that “part of the creation process is sharing the beauty with others.” 

Dog_star_1 Deriving its name from the Dog Star (the brightest star in the night sky) the “legend of the Dog Star" explains that if two people are separated by distance, each can view the star for a feeling of togetherness.”  Togetherness is the Bolstads’ bottom line; curiosity and experimental collaboration is both the motivation behind the business and the cause of fresh and exciting ideas. 

Their biggest accomplishment in their business is that being “able to do what we love shows in our work and dealing with others,” says Christine.  She adds that this accomplishment is empowering when “looking out our window, knowing this is what we want our life to look like.”

For anyone struggling to find passion in their work and to build on the dream of self-employment, Christine offers the following advice: “Do what you do best and do your best.” 

Dog_star_2We’ve recently started carrying their cycle stones at both our stores (unfortunately they aren’t available on-line because each stone is one of a kind)

You can use this inspirational word worry stone to relieve stress and to break the vicious cycle of bad habits. Keep it with you to derive the power you need to edge out any negative thoughts and change them forever into positive life-enriching properties.

Because they are each made by hand, the shape of them makes them soothing to touch and rub. They retail for $2 each.

sailor snuggles in our catching fireflies tote

SailorSailor must have gotten wind that there’s a pretty kitty named Piper that hangs out at our Berkley store.  Lucky for him our purple tote is just the right size for him snuggle in for the trip to see his lady friend.


Piper is all dolled up and can’t wait to meet him! 

I’d like to thank Ellen Wexler for sending this silly photo of Sailor. (even our furry friends love going to catching fireflies)

kiva – loans that change lives

Steve & I love being entrepreneurs.  Even though we work way more than 40 hours a week, it’s very exciting and gratifying to watch our business change and grow.

So when I read about this great organization called Kiva in our Entrepreneur Magazine I was excited to see how I could help entrepreneurs in other countries grow their business.Kiva_1

This is how it works: Kiva lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world. By choosing a business on, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.

This past summer I donated a sum of money to Pulperia Blanca to help her start selling meat in her grocery store located in Honduras.  Since then she has paid back half the loan and I plan on recycling my original donation to help another business.

Steve & I have been so blessed with the success of our company; I feel this is a great way to give back to those who are striving to do the same.

If you’re looking for an alternative holiday gift for a fellow entrepreneur, a Kiva gift card is a great idea.

arts & scraps inspires creativity

Arts_and_scraps_2When I attended Eastern Michigan for my special education degree, I used a wonderful resource called The Scrap Box for a lot of my school projects and lessons.

I also picked up a number of unique goodies from there for my then blossoming recycled paper business called April’s Ideas (now a.i. paper design)

Now that our studio is based closer to Detroit, I’m happy to say we regularly donate all kinds of art goods to another great resource – Arts & Scraps.  Their mission is to provide children with affordable and creative experiences using recycled industrial scraps to actively involve them in learning while increasing their confidence and encouraging independent thinking.

Art_scraps_1_2 Art_scraps_2_2 

How awesome is that?  Like any non-profit, there are always lots of opportunities to donate money, volunteer your time, or drop off goods that you might normally throw away.  They recycle 28 tons of material annually and serve over 275,000 children! 

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