I have such a treat for you all today...an interview with Christina Strutt, of Cabbage and Roses fame! Her newest book, Living Life Beautifully, has just been released by CICO Books and I was thrilled to have the chance to ask her a few questions...
Q. Hello, Christina! I am so delighted to have this opportunity to ask you a few questions today, as I have been an admirer of your work and pretty floral fabrics ever since I first walked into your original Cabbages & Roses shop many years ago!
Christina: THANK YOU!
Q. Congratulations on Living Life Beautifully! I have adored all your previous books, but I must say that this one is especially enchanting. The book is not only beautiful because of all the gorgeous homes you feature in it, but also because of the people who live in them - your wonderfully talented family and friends with whom you share your life and business.
Your design aesthetic - pretty faded vintage florals, antique furniture, white backgrounds, and flowers (cabbages!) from the garden - seems to have remained fundamentally unchanged over the years. As a young girl, were you always drawn to these same things?
Christina: STRANGELY, YES, THOUGH IF YOU HADN¹T ASKED THIS QUESTION IT WOULD NOT HAVE UNEARTHED ITSELF. I ACTUALLY WANTED TO BE A GARDENER IN REGENTS PARK THIS MUST HAVE BEEN FROM THE AGE OF 10 UNTIL 16. I LOVED THE IDEA OF GOING TO WORK ON A BICYCLE AND PLANTING AND WEEDING IN A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN I STILL RATHER LIKE THE IDEA SO IF ALL ELSE FAILS YOU MAY FIND ME AS CHIEF WEEDER IN REGENTS PARK! AS A GIRL I WAS GROWING UP IN THE 60¹S SO THE TASTES THEN WERE QUITE DIFFERENT BLOUSY ORANGE AND PINK FLOWERS AND MODERN FURNITURE PERHAPS MY LOVE OF THE ANTITHESIS OF THOSE THINGS COMES FROM REBELLION OF MY CHILDHOOD ALTHOUGH IT WAS A VERY HAPPY ONE!
Q. I so admire the way you have managed to successfully combine your home life, friends, and loved ones with your work. Was this ever a challenge for you? For example, was it ever difficult to combine motherhood and running a thriving business?
Christina: NO, ALL MY OTHER JOBS CONFLICTED WITH MOTHERHOOD. BEING A STYLIST MEANT BEING AWAY FROM HOME QUITE A LOT, WHICH WAS HARD WHEN THE CHILDREN WERE LITTLE. I ALWAYS WANTED CABBAGES & ROSES TO EMBRACE MOTHERHOOD AND FAMILY. I THINK IT IS TERRIBLY SAD WHEN A MOTHER HAS TO PRETEND THAT SHE DOESN¹T HAVE CHILDREN IN ORDER TO SHOW PROFESSIONALISM. I ONCE WAS DOING A STYLING JOB FOR MARKS & SPENCER AND MY NANNY COULDN¹T LOOK AFTER THE CHILDREN AT THE LAST MINUTE, SO I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO BRING THEM WITH ME. THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY MY LAST RESORT AND TO MY EMPLOYERS, ABSOLUTELY NOT THE THING TO DO. I HOPE THAT CABBAGES & ROSES, ABOVE ALL THINGS, IS AN UNDERSTANDING COMPANY TO WORK FOR. WE ASK A LOT FROM OUR STAFF BUT WE ALSO GIVE A LOT.
Q. There is a particular design philosophy that suggests that if one just sticks with what they truly love, everything will all come together beautifully. Am I being presumptuous to suggest you might agree with this philosophy?
Christina: I FEEL I INVENTED THAT PHILOSOPHY! IT IS THE ONLY WAY I CAN EXPLAIN THE STYLE, THE EVER CHANGING STOCK ,THE QUITE ECCENTRIC CLOTHES WE MAKE AS WELL AS THE SENSIBLE ONES. WHEN ASKED HOW A COLLECTION CAME ABOUT, OR WHY WE ARE SELLING OLD WOODEN OARS IN THE SHOP, THE ONLY ANSWER I CAN COME UP WITH IS THAT I LOVE IT!
Q. In the book, you discuss how, from the very beginning, you have never followed a conventional business plan and yet you are a highly successful businesswoman. What have you learned along the way? What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs just starting their own businesses?
Christina: IF YOU, LIKE ME, HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A SMALL GOLDFISH, HAVE SOMEONE BY YOUR SIDE WHO UNDERSTANDS THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL IS TO ABSOLUTELY TRUST THAT PERSON. IF YOU DON¹T HAVE THAT PERSON, THEN I AM AFRAID YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO WORK IT OUT YOURSELF OR DO A SHORT COURSE. THERE ARE THINGS THAT I KNOW NOW THAT I ABSOLUTELY DIDN¹T KNOW THEN. THINGS NEED TO BE PRESENTED SIMPLY AND IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE REASON WHY, THEN IT IS EASIER TO ADHERE TO. ONE DAY I WILL WRITE A BOOK ABOUT MY MISTAKES. THAT WILL BE A HUGE CHAPTER. THE SECOND CHAPTER, WHAT I UNDERSTAND ABOUT BUSINESS WILL BE VERY SHORT!
Q. Living Life Beautifully gives your lucky readers a look inside many stunning homes - including your country cottage outside of Bath and your London flat. Both of your gorgeous homes are filled with the most wonderful antiques and collections. Where are your favorite places to hunt and shop for vintage treasures?
Christina: CAR BOOT SALES, VINTAGE FAIRS, ANTIQUE SHOPS. ARDINGLY IS A PARTICULAR FAVOURITE!
Q. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Christina. I have a trip to London coming up and Cabbages & Roses will, as always, be one of my first stops.
Christina: WE SO LOOK FORWARD TO WELCOMING YOU TO OUR SHOPS!! AND THANK YOU! XC
Living Life Beautifully by Christina Strutt (photography by Simon Brown) is published by CICO Books and is available from rylandpeters.com.
While I am always trying to come up with creative, new ways to decorate for our parties, these box-folded streamers are an old favorite. They look super complicated, but are really are so easy and fun to make. I actually must give credit to my father for teaching me how to make them when I was a very little girl. I can vividly remember sitting with him at the kitchen table surrounded by piles of crepe paper streamers. :-)
These really are very simple to make and require only the most basic of folding skills, but they do require a little patience. I made the ones shown here while catching up on some episodes of House of Cards!
To make them, all you'll need are some rolls of crepe paper streamers, tape, and your own two hands!
To begin, select two rolls of streamers - they can both be the same color or you can use two different ones for a fun effect. Trim the edges of the streamers so they are perfectly straight and then line them up perpendicularly to one another. Secure with some tape (or staple).
Next, fold the bottom streamer up and over the top one and crease...
Continue to fold the two streamers back and forth over one another...
You'll end up with a neat little stack of folded streamers...
When you are satisfied with the length (or sick of folding), trim the streamers and secure the ends with more tape. Release you little folded piles and you will now have a pretty box-folded streamers!
You may remember that I wrote about Elyse Major's fabulous first book, Tinkered Treasures, last year. It was such a wonderful book, so I was absolutely thrilled when Elyse announced that she was working on a second book, Seaside Tinkered Treasures. Well, I am happy to tell you that it has just been released and it is every bit as lovely as Tinkered Treasures. This time, Elyse has come up with lots of fun projects - all with a beachy, "seaside" theme. And once again, they are all things that you can easily make with simple items found around your home. I was fortunate to be able to catch up with Elyse and ask her a few questions, so today I am so happy to share my interview with her...
Q. Elyse, Seaside Tinkered Treasures is obviously inspired by the seaside and makes one long for warm, sunny, summer days at the beach. How did your idea for this book come about?
Elyse: Hi Jessica! I’ve always loved simple summer-camp types of crafts, cheap souvenirs and the idea of furnishing a beach house. Two-thirds through the first book, I was already scribbling ideas for Seaside.
Q. The pages are filled with pretty project after pretty project. How do you come up with so many wonderful ideas? Do you ever get creative blocks? Or do the ideas just continually flow?
Elyse: I most definitely get blocks but then thankfully the floodgates open and ideas come pouring out. I think this is why I’m such a messy crafter: I’ll start working on one idea and then it will detour into something else -- next thing I know, practically every craft bin and box is open and rifled through. Walking through a pretty shop will usually trigger ideas, too (How can I made that out of popsicle sticks?).
Q. I know that “tinkering” by its very nature involves using inexpensive household items that you can find in your own home, but do you have any places/shops that you especially love to source your other supplies?
Elyse: I do and it’s the little bits of special supplies that can make all the difference in a project. Both books have a suppliers list that include my go-tos: little brick-and-mortar shops, online sellers, and even “big box” stores like Michaels. I actually find wonderful craft supplies at TJ Maxx in the paper section – it’s a great resource for trimmings, baker’s twine and cupcake liners.
Q. As a lover of pastels, your books are pure eye candy for me. Such gorgeous styling and photography! Is this a consistent palette for you? Do pastels carry over into your home décor and wardrobe?
Elyse: Thank you! That is a huge compliment because as you know, I am such an admirer of your style. Pastels have definitely made their way into my home but I attempt to temper them for my guys by pairing them with rough finishes or the occasional graphic element. In my studio aka The Girlie Office, there is no compromise – it’s all yellow, pink and aqua! As for my own wardrobe, I wear pastels in spring and summer but for fall and winter oddly enough it’s all gray and black.
Q. After being Facebook friends with you for many years now, I know that you are more than just a talented author and designer - you are a mommy, too! How do you balance the demands of a creative career with motherhood?
Elyse: Yeeks. Check out the thank you to my patient husband and boys at the close of Seaside and you’ll get a hint that I don’t yet have it all quite figured out. My boys are super proud of me and I like to think that I’m showing them by example that you really can turn what you love to do into a career that you love. Oh, and take-out from Chipotle is a big help, too!
Elyse, thank you so much for sharing with us today. I can't wait to see what you come up with for book number three!
Seaside Tinkered Treasures by Elyse Major is published by CICO Books and is available from rylandpeters.com.
So, Mini-me is officially 16 years old! Thank you all for indulging my weepy sentimentality the other day and for all your lovely comments and emails. I allowed myself a few tears, but then it was time to PARTY and celebrate this wonderful occasion! Mini-me took the lead on the party planning. She really wanted to do something fun and colorful, so she decided on a Mexican Fiesta!
The party was held at night in a dimly lit room, so unfortunately, the photos are not blog-worthy. But I still wanted to share our party details and some of the resources I found along the way. Mini-me LOVES Mexican food, so we decided to hold the party at one of her favorite Mexican restaurants. So easy for me...and honestly way less expensive than trying to transform my pastel, flowery home into a hacienda! With the food and venue taken care of, we decided to primarily focus on the decor and dessert.
We shopped around at the local party shops for decorations, but nothing seemed especially authentic or special (i.e., really junky). After a bit of research, I discovered a wonderful on-line shop, Amol's, filled with an enormous selection of reasonably priced Mexican flags, banners, pinatas, confetti, etc... That was a fun box to open!
The restaurant was already festively decorated, but we added our own touches by hanging pretty paper flag banners and a ton of multi-colored light strings (purchased at Target's after-Christmas sale for 75% off!). Pinatas were a must. We bought a huge one (locally) and Mini-me decorated it with lots of extra paper flowers and rhinestones. A real work of art which is sadly no longer with us. :-) For the tables, I found wholesale brightly colored floral oilcloth to use as tablecloths. You can find similar patterns from one of my favorite shops on Etsy called Oilcloth Addict.
We put bouquets of Mexican paper flowers in blue glass mason jars and placed them on the tables.
Cute mini pinatas, maracas, and confetti were scattered down the center of the tables.
For place cards, we used those pretty vintage paper fans shown at the top of this post - we just added tags with each guest's name.
For dessert, we had a dessert table set up with several cakes, including one we ordered from Mini-me's favorite bakery (the same one that made the cake for her very first birthday!) that was covered in brightly colored sugar roses.
We also shopped at a local Mexican grocery store for authentic sweets and candies to add to the dessert table...
So fun and colorful!
The party went off without a hitch! Mini-me had a fabulous time with all her friends...and best of all, I didn't even have to clean up! :-)
Mini-Me is turning 16. And even as I write this, I really don't know how it can be true. One day I was carrying her around in her Baby Bjorn, kissing her perfect little round head, and trying to keep those tiny socks on her little feet, and now....well, now she's almost all grown up.
When we had Mini-Me (our first), I don't think I ever really pictured this far ahead. Maybe I did in some kind of abstract way - that she would someday grow up and go to college and get married and have a career and babies of her own. But I never really imagined being here, at this point in time. And I never imagined what it would feel like to know that my days with her as a child in my home would soon be coming to an end. I never looked down at my sleeping infant and imagined that this time together would not last forever. Maybe because I was too exhausted and sleep-deprived. Or maybe it was because thinking about it would have been too painful to bear.
But of course, I know that this is exactly what is supposed to happen. That this is exactly what one wishes for their child. Mini Me is supposed to grow and separate and make a wonderful life of her own. And in so many ways that has already begun. She has a really terrific boyfriend and lots of great friends, she is starting to drive (ahhh!) and even beginning her preparations for college. No doubt the next few years will be busy and crazy and exciting.
Despite the bitter-sweetness of this time in my life, I am also so delighted to see the lovely young woman that Mini-me has become. I may call her my "mini-me", but make no mistake, she is a unique and special person in her own right. She is brilliant and funny (so funny) and clever and creative and artistic. And beautiful, too. But, as I always tell her, that's just the icing on the incredible cake. She is also better at math than me and has waaaay better eyelashes. :-)
So, Mini-me, if you are reading this, I hope you know how proud Daddy and I are to be your parents. And no matter how old you are or how far away your life takes you (not too far, please), you will always and forever be our baby. We love you and wish for you the sweetest of sweet sixteens.
The girls had a few extra days off from school surrounding President's Day weekend, so we decided to head to sunny California. It was just in time, too, as I am usually so over winter by the time February rolls around. After a few days relaxing on the beach in Coronado, we headed up to L.A. - one of my favorite (and most inspiring) destinations. My first stop was Sugarfina, a beautiful new upscale candy shop in Beverly Hills.
If you love pretty packaging, appreciate good retail design, and adore candy - Sugarfina will thrill you. What a beautiful shop - all white and aqua!
And the candy!
Everything is packaged in super chic boxes - either clear or patterned.
They have a ton of different candies - many you will recognize, but there are also many exotic ones imported from other countries. Their champagne gummy bears are very popular, but my absolute favorites are these beauties from Italy...and I love the name: Confetti Dolci!
If you are not familiar with a particular candy, you can request a sample! And if you don't have a trip to L.A. planned in the near future, you can order on-line!
Well, it is snowing again here in the D.C. area and I all I can say is "Ugh"! I am soooo ready for this winter to come to an end! Luckily, I found these pretty paper flowers at Target over the weekend...
Aren't the spring-like colors lovely? I found them in the Easter decor aisle - $2.00 a piece. I love making paper flowers myself, but I must say these are really nice and look very hand-crafted.
They would look really sweet all clustered together in a vase - a nice fresh flower substitute until the real ones begin to bloom. Or they would make beautiful gift embellishments...maybe attach a sprig to the top of a present with some washi tape?
I am a big fan of makeovers...especially when it comes to packaging. There are plenty of perfectly good items out there that could be even better with just a little effort and creativity. :-) So, when I saw these cute little chocolate heart candy boxes on sale at the drugstore for only $1 a piece, I knew I had to give them a little makeover.
This is one of those projects that is super inexpensive and so easy, but the results are fantastic! Here's what you'll need to make some:
-Small chocolate heart candy boxes (I got mine on sale at CVS, but they sell them everywhere)
-Scrapbook papers (I chose these gold and glittered papers for their luxe look)
-Fabric flowers or other embellishments (ribbons, rhinestones, etc...)
Directions: To begin, unwrap your chocolate boxes from any cellophane wrapping and carefully remove the top. You are going to use it as your stencil for the box top. Just flip it over and trace the heart shape onto the wrong side of your scrapbook paper. You will also need to cut out a long rectangular strip of paper to cover the exposed sides of your box - just measure the width.
Carefully cut both of these out.
If you plan your placement, you can get about three tops and three strips from just one piece of 12" x 12" scrapbook paper! Next, glue your shapes to the box top and sides. I like to use a glue stick or sticky dots. Allow to dry completely. Now the fun part - decorate your box! I went for simplicity with these pretty fabric flowers from Martha Stewart Crafts...
They retail for $6.59 for a set of three, but I used my Michael's 50% off coupon, which made them only $1.10 each! I just love how these turned out! These would make excellent classroom valentines or party favors.