Studio Days // Reflecting on the Second Half of 2016


My second half of 2016 was busy, busy, busy. I designed two more collections for HOWL for two more fashion shows. I also moved from Columbus, to Dayton, and finally to Cincinnati, which is my new home. If you ask me, that's plenty of stress already over six months' time, but the crazy part is that originally none of that was in the game plan. But in the spirit of my word for 2016, "NOW," to prompt less thinking, more acting, I went with it. And then some. Here's a little recap of some of the highlights from the last six months.

2016 in three words: Exciting, challenging, and sleepless!

My common state of being: Tired, but focused and moving. I pulled a lot of all-nighters and created an ever-growing to-do list (I still don't even have all my boxes unpacked). I'm ending the year absolutely exhausted, but even more in focus with my 2017 goals.

Favorite accomplishments: If you remember back in June, I had the opportunity of showing a collection for Alternative Fashion Week. It was such a cool experience, and to my surprise it led to an invitation to show at Fashion Meets Music Festival and Fashion Week Columbus. All of these shows were on my brand bucket list for HOWL, but I never expected to have them all happen in a matter of months! That took a whole lot of work, but was a very happy and unexpected surprise. Here's a peek at both of those shows.

Photo creds from top left:  1 + 4, Kris Misevski  |  2 + 3, Tony Bentivegna

FMMF, the Fashion Meets Music Festival, was such a cool experience. It's basically a weekend of concerts and fashion shows in one place. Highlights for me included the fashion shows by local designers/friends, the coolest-ever finale show by Project Runway All-Stars winner Michelle Lesniak, and of course, having my family there for my first ever solo show. Plus, it was just so cool to be having a show in the same venue as some really big-name musicians, including one of my all-time favorites, BORNS. I even had my models walk to his song, Electric Love, to show my admiration. This collection was called Moonbow, and was basically just a bright, festival-ready take on the Alternative Fashion Week collection.

Photo creds from top left: 1, 2 + 5, Lauren Ashley  |  3, Stephmina Photography  |  4, Kris Misevski 

Fashion Week Columbus came as a total surprise to me this year. It's been a long-time dream of mine to have a collection at this event. I used to go to the runway show as a blogger every year and my mind would just spin with ideas of what I would want to do one day. Well, back in the beginning of 2016, when HOWL was just the tiniest, newborn brand, I auditioned and ended up being the runner-up for the final place in the show. Little did I know, due to a couple twists of fate, there ended up being an open spot and, all of the sudden, a years-long dream was becoming a reality! The rest of the designers had already been working for months and I had just a few weeks, so it was stressful to say the least, but it all came together in the end.

The show was called, Red Moon, and was a spin on the Little Red Riding Hood. I always love to mix masculine with feminine styles, so this collection really expressed that, with half of the models walking as "Little Reds," complete with fresh flower baskets from Dummen Orange, and the other half walking as the wolves in masks that my sister put in hours to help me get done, God bless her. They were full-face masks worn backwards, so it came off as a little surprise on the runway when the girls turned. It was my personal nod to the wicked side of an otherwise romantic collection. 

Not bad for the brand's first year, huh? I'm looking forward to continuing the momentum in 2017, but working to be ahead of it and in control of it, rather than frantically riding the wave. 

Lessons learned/skills strengthened: I've gotten more draping and construction experience this year than ever. I also learned that I can make pretty much anything happen in crunch-time. There were times leading up to Fashion Week Columbus where my workload was seemingly impossible and the pressure was really overwhelming, but I stayed focused and made it happen. Was everything perfect? Not even close. But I kept trying to remind myself about the value of imperfect progress, something that kind of stays on a loop in my head. I also got a little better about the on-camera interviews/public speaking that goes along with all of this. I even presented as a featured speaker at an event after FWC, and I didn't die! This has always been the hardest area for me. I've worked on my on-stage nerves for years with little-to-no progress, and I finally feel, dare I say, slightly capable in this area. Not great by any means, but capable. This is major for me. 

Little things I've loved: Spending more time with both mine and Zach's families than we've been able to in years. Finding new places to love in Cincinnati. Shopping for decor for our new place. Taking walks to our neighborhood library. Making about 100 bracelet sets as thank you gifts. Meeting so many new people and having so many thank you's to give. 

It's been a big year and I can't wait for more in 2017. Check back in tomorrow for a goal-setting checklist to get it started off strong! 

 

What were some major moments in your life this year? Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear them!

 

Happy New Year, friends!

FWS Reader Appreciation $50 PayPal Giveaway!

Happy holidays, FWS friends! I've had a pretty wild year and it's shown here on the blog with some inconsistency and even ghosting out for a while to focus on my personal/professional life. Overall, the break has been great for me, and I'm more inspired than ever for new and exciting blog content for 2017. However, I know as a reader, that can sometimes be frustrating and/or confusing.

As a thank you for sticking by me and a hope for new things to come, I want to take some time this holiday and say thank you to all of you. Anyone who has kept up with what's been going on around here this year, I want you to know it means a lot to me. You're a special crowd and you deserve a treat!

So how does $50 PayPal cash to spend however you like sound? Good? Great!


To enter:

  1. Entries are for loyal readers and new visitors alike. Just make sure you are following the blog, either through email subscription on the sidebar or via Bloglovin.
  2. Check out my recent post series, The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides (links below), and pin your favorite guide. You can also access the pins on my Free Wills Studio pinterest board.
  3. Leave me a comment with a link to your pin. Make sure that your comment is linked with your email address so I can contact you if you are chosen.
  4. Voila! You're done! The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on 12/31. A winner will be chosen on 1/1 through random comment selection and announced here on this post.

 

I wish I were giving away a million bucks, because you all are worth it. Happy holidays!

Update: Congratulations to Jessica Mielke! Your comment was chosen randomly and you have $50 PayPal cash heading your way!

~xoxo    Ashley

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Party Animal

Today's gift guide is the last of the series and it's all about the season's parties, especially the big one on New Year's Eve. I've got some of the most festive party-perfect finds, either for your own celebrations, or to gift to your most fun-loving friends.

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Gear up for a special night with a pretty gold mask bottle opener, sparking cocktail party picks, metallic lace crowns, and an ultra-luxe disco ball. There's never a better time to get really decked out in pieces like this dusty pink faux fur jacket, a glam pair of embellished silver heels, and feathering beaded statement earrings. Add even more sparkle with a lilac sequin mini bag and matching iridescent phone case, both from Skinnydip, or these shimmering hair glitter sticks from Free People. And what's a party without some treats? This Rebecca Minkoff-created limited edition Chandon with some champagne and strawberries macarons from Dana's Bakery sound absolutely perfect.

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Nothing says "life of the party" like some festive duds. A green velvet blazer, balloon print tie, party cup cufflinks, and bronze oxfords, plus a spritz of Viktor and Rolf's Spicebomb, send that message loud and clear. Every party animal needs the right bar essentials, like these encouraging bottle openers, some stylish sceptor cocktail picks, and the pièce de résistance, a rolling cooler that is as sleek as it is functional. JT's own Sauza 901 tequila along with some chocolate almonds parading as martini olives get the night started on a tasty note, while a deco-style wireless speaker and copper plated dice set help up the entertainment factor.

Do you have any exciting New Year's Party plans?

 

If you're scrambling for some last-minute ideas for anyone on your list, make sure to check out the rest of the series:

The Trendsetter  |  The Free Spirit  |  The Techie  |  The Entertainer  |  The Animal Lover  |  The Homebody  |  The Athlete  |  The Old Soul  |  The Artist  |  The Prepster  |  The Music Buff

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Music Buff

I'm hoping for the sake of your sanity that you're almost done with your holiday shopping. If you're not, however, the good news is that standard online ordering is still available for on-time Christmas delivery for almost all sites. And in the meantime, if you're still looking for something for the music aficionados on your list, maybe some of these fun ideas will hit the right note.

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Your vinyl-collecting friends will love this 12x12 marble frame for displaying their favorite album art, the EP-33 Bluetooth turntable in the prettiest hue, and these super-sleek headphones by PRYMA. Give the gift of iconic style with a Sgt. Pepper-esque toggle jacket, a Biggie nameplate ring, and some Ziggy-inspired lightning heeled ankle boots. If anarchy is your giftee's middle name, they'll love Oh So Pretty, a striking visual history of punk in Britain, as well as some makeup from Ardency Inn, a brand built on the downtown NYC music scene, and the most adorably aggressive punk salt and pepper shakers from Jonathan Adler. Or give them some clever lyric-inspired products, like this bobby pin dish that speaks the truest of truths, a "Funky Town" keychain, or "No Scrubs" doormat.

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Audiophiles will love a stylish vinyl storage crate, the impressive Marshall Major II headphones, or an army green Bluetooth record player from Audio-Technica x UO. Keep them styling in a sweatshirt from Zara's Rolling Stones collection, some Rock & Roll Suicide face scrub made with volcanic ash and green clay, or a pair of classic hip-hop favorites, the Adidas Superstars. Accessories like these music-themed beaded lapel pins, a guitar pick-holding keychain, and a guitar print slim tie let him wear his passion on his sleeve. For music-makers, deck out his studio space with a "Kanye for President" desk plate or give the gift of inspiration with Anatomy of a Song, a look into the creation of some of the most impactful and iconic songs ever recorded. And for the serious musicians, the award-winning Seaboard RISE is considered one of the most innovative products of the year (you can see it in action here).

Are any of these music gifts on your wishlist?

 

Still shopping?? Let Free Wills Studio help! Check out these other gift guides for more links and inspiration.

The Trendsetter  |  The Free Spirit  |  The Techie  |  The Entertainer  |  The Animal Lover  |  The Homebody  |  The Athlete  |  The Old Soul  |  The Artist  |  The Prepster

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Prepster

The classic styles of these prepster gift guides are probably the furthest from my own personal style, but I always love them for one simple reason: the styles are classic. That means these gift ideas can work for your boyfriend or your grandpa, your bff or your child's teacher. Plus, classic gifts in polished styles feel luxe, so even though they might be generally universal, they still feel special to the recipient. Easy for you, special for them; basically, everybody wins.

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Our preppy pals would love these updated takes on classic pieces. The Tippi sweater from J. Crew, one of the brand's best sellers since 2011, got a mini makeover in this fair isle print with athletic striping, while the Tory Burch Gemini Link necklace features a graphic abstraction of the iconic brand logo. Our classic gal will be pretty in pink with some Tata Harper lip products, the super-stylish "Rose Gold Dawn" watch from KYBOE!, and a posh flamingo iPhone case. Leather is even better when it comes in rich colors, like on this purple Day Designer binder, the bright pink Tory Burch convertible bag, or these rich canary yellow suede smoking slippers. Audrey at Home, a peak into the icon's private life, favorite recipes, and memories, as told by her son, would make a lovely gift. And similarly, help your giftee create her own home memories with vibrant tobacco leaf tin plates, a quirky pineapple tumbler, and a classic gold bar cart.

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Celebrate your recipient's classic good looks and style with a cheeky Tall, Dark, & Rich gourmet chocolate box and the Men and Style book, an in-depth look at fashion with insight from the industry's leading men. Speaking of style, help keep his classic look on point with a Nanamica down-filled pullover, a colorful Nixon watch, timeless lace-up boots, and a box of mixed print socks from The Dapper Way. Give him the gift of being happily imbibed with these embroidered beetle cocktail napkins, a retro-inspired steel flask, and a classic lucite bar tray. A Tommy Hilfiger hard-shell suitcase, shaving set from Baxter of California, and wood grain wireless speaker offer a style upgrade to his everyday items.

What's your favorite classic go-to gift?

 

If you're looking for more gift-giving ideas, make sure to check out the rest of the series:

The Trendsetter  |  The Free Spirit  |  The Techie  |  The Entertainer  |  The Animal Lover  |  The Homebody  |  The Athlete  |  The Old Soul  |  The Artist

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Artist

I think it's so much fun to shop for people who really appreciate art and design, so I really ran with these gift guides. Whether it's a reinterpretation of a classic work or an entirely new innovation, I love how these everyday items are taken into a more clever aesthetic territory that the art-lovers on your shopping list are sure to appreciate.

*As with a lot of the guides, so many of these items are entirely gender-neutral, so take the "his" and "hers" very lightly.

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Strong geometric shapes are a major accessories trend this year, as seen in this colorful mosaic Delfonics clutch and sculptural leather and wood fanned earrings. I think the tongue-in-cheek surrealism of these Milk lip markers and banana vase is really clever, while a plate set from MoMA celebrates a leader in the Surrealist movement, René Magritte. Any perfectionist would appreciate both the spacially-balanced zen that is Things Organized Neatly, as well as the Slate, which instantly digitizes detailed paper drawings. Color amps up a painted denim jacket and a beechwood backgammon set, while graphic black and white packs a punch on a pair of flatform trainers and the most gorgeous chocolate caramel marbles from Maggie Louise Confections. And finally, these adorable wooden dolls painted like famous artists would surely be a cute surprise for any art-loving lady.

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If the clothes make the man, than this artist needs some creative duds, like a scribbled star print shirt, color wheel cufflinks, marble-soled sneakers, and an inky, artsy watch. For gifts that entertain, a comic strip coloring book and Bourgeois colored pencil set are frugal finds, while an uber-modern acrylic chess set and whimsical easel tv stand are splurge-worthy gems. A fine arts buff will appreciate a match strike inspired by Roman sculpture, and a graphic artist will love the CMYK coasters, a nod to the classic ink color profile. Soaps from Wary Meyers, a company doing truly gorgeous things with glycerin, and artfully-packaged Nathan Miller chocolate bars, which come in flavors like salt + wafer and pretzel + cherry, make for stocking stuffers that are true treats.

What's your favorite art-inspired find?

 

Before you go, check out more gift guides from the series:

The Trendsetter  |  The Free Spirit  |  The Techie  |  The Entertainer  |  The Animal Lover  |  The Homebody  |  The Athlete  |  The Old Soul

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Old Soul

Of all the gift guides, I have to say, this one really sings to my soul. I'm a sucker for an antique, a vintage style, a reference to a bygone era. If you're looking for something for the old soul on your list, that person who seems a little more 1916 than 2016, I've got you covered with these vintage-inspired finds.

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Any gal with an old soul can appreciate that velvet has taken over the fashion world as of late. Celebrate her velvet-loving inner Queen Victoria with a mix-and-match choker set, star-embroidered jacket, saffron Clare V. clutch, and smart pair of flocked Mary Janes. A butterfly hand fan, beaded tassel earrings, and a floral fragrance inspired by Monet (in a charming pin cushion bottle to boot) provide the perfect accents for our vintage pal. A hobnail pitcher would add charm to any table, while a dreamy portrait would be a classic touch on the wall. Lastly, Jane Austen classics in the prettiest illustrated covers, a retractable feather pen for those that prefer a note to a tweet, and a stylish engraved domino set make for unique gifts that she's sure to love.

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For the dapper dude who appreciates a classic style, this forest green velvet blazer, wool and leather smartphone gloves, and wingtip boots with a modern sole are sure to impress. Classic-yet-entirely-unique accessories, like a wildflower print silk tie, a nautical signet ring featuring a 16th-century ship in a tattooed style, and a pair of beetle cufflinks evocative of Victorian-era entomology make for great gifts. The impeccably-groomed will love the styling products from Triumph & Disaster and this vintage shaving mirror, which is equal parts rugged and elegant. A "Truth Serum" decanter and Edison cloche lamp are clever takes on vintage decor, while a collection of classic adventure books and a backyard bocce set give leisure some old-world charm.

Are you a vintage lover?

 

Scrambling for ideas for the rest of your list? Make sure to check out more from the series:

The Trendsetter  |  The Free Spirit  |  The Techie  |  The Entertainer  |  The Animal Lover  |  The Homebody  |  The Athlete

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Athlete

Being a fitness fanatic can require a lot of gear, so gifting your athletic loved ones with some of the newest can be really well-received. From the frugal (socks) to the splurge-worthy (fit watch), whatever your budget, these finds can help you show your love in the most "fit"-ting of ways.

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Give your loved one the gift of comfort on her winter run with a wraparound sweatshirt featuring climaheat insulation, the PureBoost X trainers, which boast energy-returning properties, and the chicest wireless earbuds around. For pilates/yoga/barre lovers, they'll be styling for class in ballet-inspired grip socks and leggings, an art deco yoga mat, and quilted mat bag. For cardio junkies, the most adorable pair of Title boxing gloves, a super-sleek infuser water bottle, and the ultimate gym bag essential, dry shampoo. The Fitbit Charge 2 in my favorite color combo, lavendar and rose gold, and a fitspiration journal will help her keep track of all her goals and accomplishments.

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Winter workout gear should keep you warm but still look look stylish, and this tech fleece funnel pullover, designed to cover the ever-freezing lower half of the face, tapered joggers, and Flyknit Roshe 2's, all from Nike, hit both of those requirements. A coordinating Series 2 smart watch from Apple and Nike+, a Blender Bottle combo pack for protein shakes on the go, and a sleek water-resistant gym bag are everyday essentials any fit guy would love. A weighted jump rope and adjustable dumbbells will keep his muscles toned, while a sportsman recovery kit and trigger point massage balls will give them relief. And what's a workout without music? This bluetooth bike speaker is waterproof and shockproof for long rides, while these Bose wireless headphones provide powerful audio for the gym.

What's your go-to workout? I'm a big fan of Pop Pilates, but I'm always looking for something new. Leave me a comment and let's talk fitness!

And if you're looking for more gift ideas, make sure to check out some more from the series:

The Trendsetter  |  The Free Spirit  |  The Techie  |  The Entertainer  |  The Animal Lover  |  The Homebody

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Homebody

This gift guide is for the people who know the true spirit of the holidays: that there's nothing better than being curled up and cozy at home. So grab a luxurious throw blanket, light a seasonally-scented candle, and snuggle into these homey finds.

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Comfort is king for this homebody queen. Give the gift of softness with this Eberjey nightshirt and eye mask, a leg-warming pair of socks, fluffy faux fur slippers, and a gorgeous velvet blanket. For the bath-lover, this pressed flower tub board and these luxe bath crystals would make a soak extra indulgent. And how great does it sound to curl up with some gourmet s'mores, a cup of french press coffee, and the latest edition of the ever-inspiring Domino: Your Guide to a Stylish Home? Lastly, an adorable brass plant mister and these beautiful succulent-topped bottles would make a great addition to any home.

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The holidays are looking extra cuddly with this plaid Pendleton blanket, a hooded robe from Ugg, suede and sheepskin slippers, and a pair of chunky camp socks. And how about giving the gift of lounge with his very own hammock, which can be set up indoors, perhaps in front of a roaring fire made with these all-natural pine cone fire starters? Crack in a Box from Dude, Sweet Chocolates is packed with nuts and would go great with a beer-filled stoneware growler or a strong cup of joe fresh from this camper's grade enamelware coffee pot. Some earthy, spicy soaps, a "Christmas on Cedar Run"-scented candle that smells of mulled wine, chantilly cream, smoked pine and winter berries, and the Cabin Porn coffee table book all add to the tucked away, cozy cabin vibe any homebody would appreciate.

And now the ever-important question for all the homebodies out there: what are you currently binge-watching? Leave me a comment and let's talk Netflix.

 

And if you're looking for some more gift ideas, check out these other guides from the series:

The Trendsetter

The Free Spirit

The Techie

The Entertainer

The Animal Lover

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Animal Lover

Christmas is just around the corner, but have you thought about your pet yet? Today's gift guide is all about furry friends and/or the people that love them most. These gift ideas aren't necessarily "his" or "hers," but rather just a way to kind of present cat-focused and dog-focused ideas. Obviously we've got a lot of cat-loving guys and dog-crazy girls out there, so take the categories very loosely.

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For the quirky cat-lover, a cute granny-esque sweatshirt and a pair of purr-fectly on-trend sheer socks let her show her love, as does the friendship collar set, which comes with a matching bracelet for the pet owner. For the home, a salt and pepper duo, stacking measuring cups, and silhouette pillows add a sweet touch. Your feline friend will love the dj scatchpost turntable, the most adorable catnip cactus and jar, and a cozy, extra-chunky knit bed, while a bamboo brush and bright cardigan sweater will keep them looking sharp.

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Celebrate man's (or woman's) best friend at home with a set of dog-a-day plates, a charming canine cheese board, or a personalized royal pet portrait, which might just be the cutest thing ever. A pair of dog face cufflinks and animal lover tee let him wear his heart on his sleeve, literally. Kiehl's grooming products, a bright jacquard sweater, and graphic geo collar will keep your pup looking fresh, while a bed from Lion + Wolf will keep him comfy and cozy. Nothing says happy dog like being well-fed, and this puzzle toy from Up Dog does double duty by releasing treats when solved. Speaking of treats, these cheese biscuits from Harry Barker, perhaps served up in a new ceramic bowl set, are sure to please.

Now the real question: are you a cat person or a dog person? And do you buy your pet a gift? Leave me a comment and tell me your verdict.

 

And if you're still scrambling for some last-minute gift ideas, make sure to check out more gift guides, like the Trendsetter, the Free Spirit, the Techie, and the Entertainer.

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Entertainer

No one deserves a gift around holiday times more than the ever gracious host/hostess, am I right? Maybe you've got some parties coming up and are scrambling for some new ideas on gifts to give, or maybe someone on your list is the ultimate dinner party thrower. Whatever the reason, these 24 gift ideas are sure to make the entertainers on your list happy.

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When in doubt, you can't go wrong with pretty, polished, and a touch of whimsy. Fresh flowers, like this gorgeous winter bouquet from Farmgirl Flowers, are always a great go-to, but you can also flex your floral muscles with inspired pieces like this Juliette Rose Apron, Fields Abloom Thank You Cards, or Flower Cocotte from Le Creuset. Speaking of go-to gifts, can a stellar hostess really have too much wine, like these great message-ready speak wines, or drink accessories, like a cocktail shaker in the prettiest pink or this glam textured pitcher? I don't think so, and neither will she. Serve up something sweet by gifting the Beta Pastry Server, some patterned dessert plates, and a pair of ikat tea towels. And lastly, a cocktail recipe book full of gorgeous illustrations and a mercury glass candle would be welcome additions to many homes.

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I love a natural texture or rustic element for entertaining, because not only is it a strong, classic look, but it also inspires a fuss-free, relaxed environment, which in my book is a happy environment. Pieces like this reversible prep and serve board, marble print potholders, driftwood knife block, and agate soap holder evoke that sense. Classic gold elevates necessities, like the Lion Salt and Pepper Shakers from Nate Berkus, or the Top Shelf Bar Tool Set from CB2. St. Frank offers the coolest authentic traditional finds, like a tablecloth of West African mudcloth and coasters modeled after Rwondan peace baskets, for a truly special gift in all price ranges. And lastly, a foodie/chef could appreciate receiving this Todd Snyder apron, designed in collaboration with chef Dan Kluger, the Food and Beer book, where beer is elevated through fine dining pairings, and a spicy syrup set or organic mint grow kit to give their go-to's an extra flavor boost.

What's your favorite entertaining gift?

Need some more gift giving ideas? Check out my guides for the Trendsetters, Free Spirits, and Techies!

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Techie

Tech gifts get cooler and cooler each year, and I'm really excited about these lists. I'm constantly amazed at how tech products manage to get so much more powerful year after year, while simultaneously getting sleeker, chicer, and better-designed. From an adorable suitcase that weighs itself to a headphone set that serves as a private theater for your eyeballs, these are some of my favorite finds for the techie on your list!

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For the girl on the go, the SCOTTeVEST has 18 pockets for all your devices and accessories and even allows you to connect to the garment's secure network. Combined with the Luster cord organizer and Raden's A22 Carry smart suit case, which has proximity and weight sensors as well as dual charging ports, her next trip just became a lot less painful. Accessories are always a great gift, like these funny touchscreen gloves, chic tassel lightning keychain, wireless headphones in the prettiest color, and Fossil smartwatch, which strikes the perfect balance between the newest technology and classic good looks. The new Dyson Supersonic hair dryer and APA Sonic toothbrush will up their beauty game as well as their counter space game with their sleek designs. Speaking of sleek, how beautiful are the Dock+ charging dock, HP Spectre x360 laptop, and Samsung Class Serif tv? I'd say they would be a major tech style upgrade for the home of anyone on your list.

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Staying warm and also connected this winter is easy with this insulated and battery-heated vest and touchscreen gloves, both of which would come in hand for a day out with the Yuneec Breeze drone. Drones are really a hot-ticket item this year, and there are lots to choose from. This model captures 4k ultra high definition video and picture, and has 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon, even though it's up to $1000 dollars less than many of the competitors. But if you're looking for more of a hands-on action cam, the 360° 4k camera by 360fly offers a list of impressive capabilities. In useful gadget news, there's the Plume WiFi pods, which offer portable self-optimized cloud-powered WiFi for a faster, uninterrupted connection in all rooms of your home, the Orbit key-finder keychain, which can help find your keys or your phone through the app, as well as a slew of other bluetooth capabilities, and, lastly the TP-Link smart LED light bulb, which allows you to control your lighting from any device, including voice control through Alexa, like with the new 2nd-generation Amazon Echo Dot, which gives a lot of the same Echo bang for less of your buck. A gooseneck device arm and 10 foot weighted cable are a dream for the avid watch-in-bed user, while the Avegant Glyph headphones bring the viewing experience (and so much more) directly to your eyes. And my last (and favorite) is the Wacom Smartpad, which instantly digitizes sketches and notes to your devices.

Have you tried any of these tech finds?

 

Looking for more gift ideas? Check out these gift guides for the trendsetter and the free spirit. Shop, browse, click, stay a while. :)

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Free Spirit

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Another day, another gift guide! Today's focus is on the free spirit, that bohemian, earthy creature with an open mind and lots of style. Celebrate them with natural materials, artful textures, and handmade products.

"If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that's his problem. Love and peace are eternal." ~John Lennon

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I love the gypsy boho feel of this Zara jacket with bird embroidery, mix and match stacking ring set from Free People, gold fringe Stella & Dot necklace, and these over-the-knee Sigerson Morrison boots. I can see these pieces being very versatile in pretty much any wardrobe. Or cozy up their home with the gorgeous textured market throw and zodiac candle, which is made from natural soy wax and recycled glass. Give the gift of negative ion health benefits with a 100% natural Himalayan salt lamp. A pretty agate phone case, petal-infused oil, and romantic floral journal will up their essentials game. And nothing is more unique than an artisan-made gift like this GAIA clutch, hand-crafted by refugee women from vintage textiles, or this hand-crafted bongo drum, which, let's face it, even if they couldn't play would still make the coolest side table.

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Rugged men do not have to be without style, especially with pieces like the UO blanket jacquard flannel shirt, all-weather high-tops from The Hill-Side, and military tote bag by Rothco X Lucid FC. Extras add a special touch, like an earthy cologne, stone-beaded bracelet, washed-cotton western bandana, and leather keychain from park and trail advocates, Parks Project, reading, "Leave it better than you found it." And envision this scenario: your recipient curled up under this Morning Culture La Playa Throw, reading Home is Where you Park It with a tea-filled ceramic drinking bowl, while some balsam fir-scented incense burns. Sounds pretty cozy, am I right? And if you're looking for something really unique, the kalimba recorder is a thumb piano that allows for recording, looping, and manipulating simple melodies.

What's your favorite free-spirited gift?

WHILE YOU'RE HERE, WHY NOT CHECK OUT THE DAY 1 GIFT GUIDE FOR THE TRENDSETTERS? AND MAKE SURE YOU'RE SUBSCRIBED FOR EMAIL UPDATES BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT MORE TO COME!

 

The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides: The Trendsetter

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Hello, blog! Oh, how I have missed you. To my regular readers, I sincerely apologize for my unexplained absence as of late. Long story short, I have created three fashion collections and lived in three different cities in the past several months. The majority of these events were unplanned and I was simply too overwhelmed to keep up. I'll give you more information in future posts, but for now, I couldn't miss the chance to make my comeback with my all-time favorite blog series, The 12 Days of Holiday Gift Guides!

If you're new around these parts, I have a different gift guide for each day to suit ALL the personalities on your shopping list. It's a lot of fun, and I even have a giveaway coming your way at the end, so make sure you're signed up for email updates so you don't miss out!

You may have noticed I've got a handy, dandy new site logo design. While I'm loving the logo, many other aspects of my site redesign are very much "in progress," so bear with me while I work on getting it all styled just right.

And speaking of style, that's the focus of today's guide. I've rounded up some of my favorite, trendiest, well-designed pieces for those people in your life who treat every sidewalk like a catwalk, every shopping trip like an adventure, and every day as an opportunity to shine.

"Call me ranch, cause I be dressing." ~ancient meme proverb

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Pajama-style dressing, choker necklaces, and velvet everything have pretty much taken over the fashion world lately, so every trendsetter will appreciate that H&M top, Bauble Bar necklace and Free People boots. I'm loving the bold colors on the artful minaudiere bag, decorative geode box, and gorgeous drop earrings. I've had my eye on an instant film-developing camera for a while now. I'm pretty sure they're a blogger requirement these days, as is that clever message board, and the new Coveteur book, loaded with style inspiration for both your space and your person. A beautiful Diana Vreeland fragrance that my vanity is begging for, along with a super fresh pair of  sunglasses, and a fully-stocked nude lip kit, and your style maven is set!

But what about that fashionable fella..? Don't worry, he's covered, too.

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I've always have a certain respect for a man who appreciates style, and I feel like current times especially celebrate fashionable expression in the men's department. One of my favorite trends right now utilizes traditionally feminine touches on menswear, like the rose embroidered denim shirt or that Paul Smith scarf with a red lip motif. The sleek, minimal lines of the backpack, watch, and sunglasses project a clean and confident look. Design aficionados will appreciate the names (and looks) of the Jordan Westbrook 2.0s, Comme des Garçons cologne set, Herschel leather fedora, and Jonathan Adler phone case. And lastly, I think it's great to give gifts that are useful items but artfully upgraded. Ideas like the Jeremyville Man Scrub trio, strum metal wall organizer, and marble Happy Plugs bluetooth speaker will keep his world a little cleaner, a little more organized, and a whole lot more stylish.

What's your favorite stylish gift?

Leave me a comment below and let's talk shop(ping)!

 

NEXT UP ON THE AGENDA, TWO DREAMY, BOHEMIAN GIFT GUIDES FOR THE SPIRIT. CHECK IT OUT TOMORROW!

VIBES // Blogger in Hiding

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Hi old friends! In case you've been wondering, I've been on an unofficial hiatus from blogging over the past week as I'm gearing up to show my collection at Fashion Meets Music Festival this weekend. I'm really excited, as it's a pretty big honor. The festival boasts an incredible lineup, with musical acts like BORNS, Matt & Kim, and Passion Pit, to name a few. Plus there's a great lineup of fashion shows, including a collection from Project Runway All-Stars winner, Michelle Lesniak. I was a big fan of hers while she was on the show, so I'm extra excited for her runway show.

I won't be back posting until next week, but when I do get back into the game, I've got a few things up my sleeve, including some great giveaways, a look at fall's best trends, and a whole lot more! In the meantime, I thought these images were a pretty funny look at how I feel when I'm on a blog break. It's basically a mix of glorious stress-relief and horrible, horrible "Don't look at me" shame.

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Until next week!

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Weekly Roundup 34/52

Ahh, the glory of a routine. Or at least the semblance of one. This month I've had two temporary homes while relocating cities. Zach and I are living in Dayton currently, where our families are from, while working on making the transition from Columbus to Cincinnati. It's been a little crazy - Zach's still been working in Columbus and I'm trying to get ready for the Fashion Meets Music Festival - but it's something we've wanted to do for a while, so we're making it work. I'm currently renting a room with my friends for a couple of months and then, job-status-depending, we'll eventually make the move further south. I've felt like a vagabond at times, so it feels good to finally be settled in and getting back into the swing of things.

I haven't posted a links roundup in a couple of weeks, so that means I've got a lot of great finds for you! I've also got a few giveaways I'm excited about planned over the next few weeks, so you probably want to make sure you're subscribed to blog posts so you don't miss out! Now, onto the links!

1  Karen Walker's campaigns are always impactful, and the most recent, Magic Hands, a collaboration with Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style is a match made in heaven. It stars the hands of a couple of truly fascinating women decked out in the coolest rings, proving style gets better with age. (Karen Walker)  |  2  The nosy Nancy in me really loved reading these stories behind the tattoos of strangers. (Man Repeller)

 

3  I love learning about the schedules of artists. It's a fascinatingly tough balance to achieve between strict self-discipline and creative freedom. This look into a day-in-the-life of designer Rachel Castle is a part of one of my favorite blog series, Extraordinary Routines. (The Design Files)  |  4  I am so inspired by the inventive silhouettes and textures in Claudia Li's Fall '16 collection. I'm especially impressed with how she uses common materials, like denim and yarn, to create such dreamy pieces. I mean, look at those sleeves! (Honestly WTF)

 

5  So I'm not exactly in the "back to school" demographic (like even a little bit), but I still thought all three of the styles in this tutorial were really pretty and perfect for adults and teens alike. (Kayley Melissa)

Also click-worthy...

Loving the prints and pj-shapes in the Drakes x J. Crew collab.

A lovely lavendar and vanilla body butter DIY.

I'm crazy for these earrings.

Love this series and these pics.

This just might be the sports bra of this busty gal's dreams.

Have you entered my giveaway with Latherology yet?

 

What links are you loving this week?

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Latherology Giveaway!

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Hair, hair, hair... As we sweat it out in the final days of summer this seems to be one of my most talked about, or I guess I should say griped about, topics. You see, it's a Wills family trait to have very, very (I'm talking abnormally) thick hair. Enough hair for several people thick. This is both a blessing and curse, but amidst all this humidity it's definitely been feeling like more of a curse as of late. In the heat, my hair gets dry, frizzy, and just completely massive.

In times like these, my hair requires some extra tender lovin'. It needs hydrated, it needs managed, and it needs to be cared for as gently and simply as possible. Less fuss = less frizz = a much happier me. Latherology-Giveaway-Shampoo-Conditioner-Formulas

So I was THRILLED to get the opportunity to try Latherology, a hair care company that believes in high-quality ingredients and a simple approach. Their Cleanse and Condition products are made with 100% essential oils, so they are extra nourishing, and are sulfate- and paraben-free, so your hair won't get weighed down with unnecessary build up. They are also non-toxic, cruelty-free, and contain no formeldahyde, lye, parabens, sulfates, phosphates, phthalates, SLS, or sodium chloride. Bottom line: it's what my hair wants and needs and nothing else.

But I haven't even told you the coolest part yet. When you order a Latherology set you get to create your own custom mix from start to finish! The first step is choosing a base, either one for natural or treated hair. I went with the latter to give my processed hair some extra nourishment, and because, like I said earlier, it is D-R-Y.

Next, you get to choose between five different carrier oils. These bad boys don't carry a scent, but each essential carrier oil provides unique nourishing benefits, so you can choose based on what your hair needs most. I knew I needed a lot of moisture, but I have also been feeling like my hair is just so heavy these days, so I inevitably chose grapeseed oil for it's conditioning properties but also because it is lightweight.

Finally, the part I found the most fun, choosing your scents! I spent more time than I'd like to admit happily making scent mixes. I finally decided on frankincense and eucalyptus because I wanted something meditative and relaxing, and I have no regrets. It smells really nice, but more than that, the scent makes me amaaaaazing. As in zoned-out, trip-to-the-spa, pure bliss amazing.

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I kind of knew what I wanted going into the mixing process: moisture, more moisture, and a calming scent combo. But if you want a little bit more of a guide, Latherology also has this really cool quiz tool to help you come up with some combinations for your own specific needs.

Would you like a chance to try a custom blend yourself? Well, good news! The kind folks at Latherology are offering a FREE custom blend to one lucky reader! Just hop on over to this post on Instagram and follow the super-simple entry rules for your chance to win! The giveaway will run until this Sunday (8/28) at 11:59 pm, so get tagging!

And if you just can't wait to try your own, you're also in luck! Latherology is offering readers $7 off their first order when you use the code SAVE$7FWS at checkout. Your hair will be so happy.

 

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Photos by Laurel Marie Photography.

Our 'Last Days of Summer' Happiness Challenge: FIND MORE FUN!

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I feel like a broken record, but life for me and Zach has been pretty crazy lately. We moved out of our place in Columbus and into a temporary place (for a few months) in Dayton. After which, career moves depending, we'll likely be moving farther south to Cincinnati, but that's still a little up in the air, which is an unsettling place to be, to say the least. Our schedules are thrown, my work resources are scattered, and I'm frazzled at best. But you all have moved, you know this. It's STRESSFUL!

We had been really enjoying keeping up with our monthly Happiness Project goals, but last month came and went and, amidst the chaos, we did absolutely no work on the chapter. I thought about trying to throw the post together, riddled with apologies. I thought about completely skipping it. I even thought about quitting the project altogether. Especially since the current month's "work" is all about taking time to play. Play?! How do I possibly find the time for that right now?! But, in fact, because of all the stress, I think that's possibly why it's more important than ever to find time to fit it in. We could both use a few fun mental breaks during this time.

So we've made a plan! We took the aspects that stood out most to us in the chapter and picked some things we'd both like to focus on. Some together, some separate. If you'd like to take these prompts and put together your own little challenge to have some fun over these last few weeks of summer, I'd love to hear about it! You can tell me your goals in the comments and even check back in the beginning of September to share your results!

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1. Find fun in the everyday.

Fun does not have to be a week-long Disney vacation. There are lots of ways to enjoy yourself even on the most mundane of days. Whether you like to do the daily crossword in the paper, spend time gardening, or even organizing your sock drawer- hey, whatever floats your boat! Figure out something simple that you truly enjoy (not something you wish you enjoyed) and find a way to notice it and practice it more in your everyday life.

For Zach and myself, we really like to be creative, so we're opting to take more photographs everyday. It's an effort to notice beautiful moments we may be overlooking.

2. Be a kid again.

Think back to your 10-year-old self, what did that child LOVE to do? If it was building model cars, roller skating, or belting out show tunes, it's safe to say that your adult self still loves this activity (or at least a version of this activity).

For me, when I think back on my childhood, it seems like I was always either jumping on the trampoline or making choreographed dances with my sisters and friends. So I'm choosing to dance more and Zach picked playing basketball. Both of these are also exercise, so I'm going to go ahead and give us like 1000 bonus points. Feel free to do the same.

3. Start a collection.

I can't say either one of us is much of a collector. I appreciate it from a novelty standpoint, but definitely not from a clutter standpoint. According to Rubin, however, a collection "provides a mission, a reason to visit new places, the excitement of the chase, a field of expertise (no matter how trivial), and, often, a bond with other people." Looking at it that way makes it seem a lot more appealing to me.

I had gotten a vintage merkabah kind of decorative object, similar to this, for two or three dollars at Goodwill, and I really love it. I'd like to make it a point to keep my eyes open for more things with those geometric and vintage qualities and start, what I'll call for now, an "orb" collection. Zach's idea is a bit more sentimental and I'll share more about it when we recap in September.

4. Challenge yourself.

These first three fun prompts have value: they're relaxing, they inspire creativity, they promote positive energy, etc. However, when you really get down to it, taking on the category of challenging fun is the most rewarding. It's also the most taxing, because it requires time, hard work, and planning ahead. Plus, it can lead to more frustration, anxiety, and the fear of possible failure. In this, however, lies the key. Because we must put more into challenging fun, we will also get more out of it. It can lead to better relationships, mastery of a craft, and important personal growth.

So think of something that you know you enjoy but have a hard time devoting yourself to, be it from fear, lack of commitment, whatever. That should be the focus of your challenge goal. For me that's illustrating. I hobby I consider both incredibly rewarding and almost impossible to actually sit down and do. And for Zach it's writing, of which he has similar feelings.

Are you inspired to take part? You can work on one of these categories or tackle all four.

Share the ways you're challenging yourself to have more fun in the comments so I can cheer you on! Plus, make sure to check back in early September for our recap!

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Weekly Roundup 31/52

Hey pals! I'm up to ears in moving and moving-related stress this week, but it's all good because I see the exciting changes on the horizon. I've been doing a bit of the in-between-homes limbo so I'm really excited to be finally getting settled in the upcoming week. Structure has never sounded so good.

Speaking of good, congratulations to Candy, the winner of the $100 gift card giveaway with The Limited and Tanger Outlets! I've got several giveaways lined up over the next few weeks, so make sure you're subscribed to email updates so you don't miss them! And for some more good, let's dig into some of my favorite links of the week!

1  I stopped in my web-surfing tracks when I saw this handmade ombre clay bead chandelier. The colors, the texture, the classic style- it's just SO good! The other styles are just as gorgeous, too. (Klaylife)  |  2  I thought everything about this baby girl nursery makeover, from the inspiration to the diy projects, was just perfect. (I Spy DIY)

 

3  I just loved looking through these comparison images of how much your hair part can affect the look of your face. It's inspired me to do a little experimenting. (Refinery 29)

 

4  This year has really held a lot of career ups and downs for me. I've been given some really amazing opportunities while also facing more rejection that I ever have in my life. My sister sent this to me this week and I thought the message was pretty powerful. (Elle)

Want a few more...?

The prettiest fireplace/mirror situation ever.

I loved reading about this rainbow blanket project.

Jonathan Adler is so clever.

Are new moon manifestations the new #goals?

I wish this notebook existed when I was a teen.

Free People is rocking my world! Check out these boots and this jacket. So dreamy, right?

Plus, my favorite follow of the week: @americasgotnotalent. This IG account is exactly what it sounds like: ridiculous, cringe-worthy, and a total guilty pleasure.

What are your favorite links of the week?

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FRIDAY VIBES // Summer Braids

Braids in summer are the perfect combo: you get to keep your hair off your face and still rock some major style. Plus they're pretty much the ultimate solution to less-than-perfect hair woes, from hiding roots to extended your wash for another day. This week I'm looking to the ladies of Instagram for their endless braid creativity. I'm crazy about these looks, especially the newer trends of braid rings and mixed textures.

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Have you tried any of these braids?

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