Lately...

Lately...

I feel like I've entered a strange season over the last month. Lots of uncertainty, change and lack of time to really be sure of anything. Without really going into too much detail, I will say that I tend to put myself in situations where I over-work and the work/life balance goes out the window. March - June was just that - losing stability in the midst of chaos (good and bad)! I had some really great clients to work with, a big grand opening event to plan and a ton of content creation going in and out the door. Overall, it was a big success and I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish in my first six months on my own...

Making TIME for Adult Spring Break

Making TIME for Adult Spring Break

No matter how old I get, mid-March always seems like a good time to get away. And this past week, we did just that. We hopped in the car and took a good old-fashioned family road trip to Seaside, Florida...While I didn't purchase a ton of new clothes for this trip, I was excited to find some great espadrilles and this great boho beach hat from Forever 21 (of all places)! But, my favorite new accessory for our adult Spring break trip was my new JORD watch...

Making Waves

Here's the deal - [rewind sound] I went to school to be an opera singer. When I finally realized that path wasn't a good fit for me, I moved on to the business side of the entertainment industry. The last decade has been a whirlwind - from event and video production, to advertising in the Hispanic market all the way to events and experiential marketing right here in Austin...my whole life has culminated up to this very moment, and I'm standing here finally connecting the dots. 

All things Austin Interior Design with Tribeza

All things Austin Interior Design with Tribeza

You know it's going to be a great Sunday when you get to spend it touring brilliantly designed homes all around Austin - and that's exactly what it was last weekend thanks to Tribeza! These homes were designed by the best and brightest interior designers in town, and thrilled to share some of my favorite details of each spot along the tour.

The Austin Trail of Lights from an Insider

In my world, Christmas is 365 days a year. Literally. I work on planning a holiday event all. year. long. How many people can say they get paid to plan the happiest event of the year in Austin, TX? One of my projects is to produce the 2nd largest event in Austin, TX - the Austin Trail of Lights. Because of this, I like to consider myself a true expert in navigating this original-Austin event.

San Miguel - Part II, The Dress Shop

 
The dress that enticed us into Sindashi from the street...

The dress that enticed us into Sindashi from the street...

 

It was a rainy afternoon on our second day in San Miguel. We spent the day walking down the cobblestone streets, in and out of local shops and galleries, wine-tasting and eating along the way. When the rain finally stopped, we ventured down Mesones into a shop called Sindashi. Much to our surprise, each piece was handmade and hand-painted. From shawls to dresses and skirts, to hand-beaded ball gowns - I was enamored by the color surrounding us. It took about five minutes before Judy and I decided we were going to play dress up. The next two hours were spent trying on dress after dress, and making friends with other women as they visited the shop. Oddly enough, two of the women we met were also from Austin! Small world. We found the sweetest dress for Carrie too!

Carrie trying on a dress for her son's wedding. 

Carrie trying on a dress for her son's wedding. 

Judy & I in maybe our 3rd dress? 

Judy & I in maybe our 3rd dress? 

It was Judy's birthday and she ordered a custom dress before we left the store - I can't wait to see the finished product when it's complete! 

 
The dress from the storefront...can you believe all the detail? And the train? 

The dress from the storefront...can you believe all the detail? And the train? 

 
This. red. dress. I fell in love with it. Vibrant, richly dyed fabric with handpainted and handbeaded flowers everywhere you looked. This dress probably weighed 5-10 lbs - it was crazy! I tried it in black too - still may have to order that one. 
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This. red. dress. I fell in love with it. Vibrant, richly dyed fabric with handpainted and handbeaded flowers everywhere you looked. This dress probably weighed 5-10 lbs - it was crazy! I tried it in black too - still may have to order that one. 

In theme with last week's post, everything I love about traveling happened during our visit to San Miguel. You know you're on a true vacation when you don't care what you might be missing, because you want to stop right where you are and soak in the opportunity to act like a little girl and play dress up. I was grateful to the boys for being so patient with us during this pitstop - it's one of my favorite memories from the trip. If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind dress for an upcoming event, look no further. Sindashi will create and paint a dress to your liking. The dresses pictured were off the rack, but they do custom orders all the time! 

San Miguel de Allende - Part I

The most iconic photo of the trip. 

The most iconic photo of the trip. 

Life happens, and before you know it it's the end of November, and your last post was at the end of August! Honestly, life has really gotten crazy the last couple of months. I took on some extra consulting work in addition to my full time job, and it turned my world upside down (in a good way!). It's been an incredibly rewarding experience, and I've learned so much in the process - but I've also been unable to focus as much on my own blog. I'm finally comfortable with the new workload and schedule, and have figured out a way to fit in my own life - what a concept, right?!

So that brings me to our recent travels.

A couple months ago, my friend Judy reached out inviting Chris and I on the trip of a lifetime, celebrating her birthday with her in San Miguel de Allende during Dia de Los Muertos. In case you're unfamiliar (as I was before we went), San Miguel is right in the center of Mexico, and is known for it's Dia de Los Muertos celebration. People come from all over the world to experience it - and thanks to Judy, we were able to experience it too. 

Day One:

The first part of the day was spent driving from Querétaro to San Miguel. Once we arrived at our incredible villa, we hit the town for a local dining experience. We ended up at a tiny little hole-in-the-wall spot, and ate food made by the sweetest locals. The ladies were making fresh masa for gorditas filled with chicharrónes, quesadillas with cheese from Oaxaca, flautas, chile rellenos, a horchata that was OUT OF THIS WORLD and more - it was incredible, and only cost $8 to feed Chris, myself and our friend Lorena. It was filling and delicious, and set the trip off on a great start. Later that night, we walked over to a local bar with a beautiful rooftop looking out at La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, the city's most recognizable landmark (pictured below). We went inside and enamored at it's glory...and then ate again. Elotes (street corn) and ice cream from street vendors. Finally, we all returned to the villa, turned on the fireplaces (YES that's plural) and went to bed. 

Casa de Rosalinda - a gallery of our villa
Probably my favorite part of our villa - these vintage African poufs. Drop me a line if you're interested in these...The Southern Influence is going retail in 2017! 

Probably my favorite part of our villa - these vintage African poufs. Drop me a line if you're interested in these...The Southern Influence is going retail in 2017! 

Our arrival to Casa de Rosalinda. Pictured from L to R: Carrie, Judy, myself

Our arrival to Casa de Rosalinda. Pictured from L to R: Carrie, Judy, myself

Coctel de maquillaje 

Coctel de maquillaje 

Parroquia de San Miguel 

Parroquia de San Miguel 

The view from our rooftop patio at Casa de Rosalinda 

The view from our rooftop patio at Casa de Rosalinda 

Days Two & Three

The days that followed on the trip were much like the first - walking, eating, wine tasting and shopping. One of the things I loved so much about San Miguel was how authentically Mexican it was, despite the almost 50% expat population. I always felt safe, loved the walkability of the entire city, and especially loved the breezy weather. The sweetest surprise was the level of hospitality offered to us everywhere we went. It's as if we had known some of the people we met our entire lives - it was unreal.

We spent our final full day in San Miguel in preparation for a truly authentic Dia de Los Muertos celebration -  and we did it all. We had our faces painted in an old apartment building tucked away on a cobblestone street, we watched wildly elaborate street parades pass by with 10-foot-tall Catrina puppets dancing to Mariachis, we celebrated the spirits returning at midnight in the central garden with the rest of the town - it was absolutely unforgettable. We topped off the night with a decadent over-the-top meal at the Rosewood hotel. Icing on the cake.

Shoutout to Judy - she has the purest heart, and most genuine soul. Judy planned the whole trip even though it was her birthday...it was a truly authentic experience - one we'll never forget - and we're so grateful for our friendship with her!

Pardon the cliche - but life is just too short. Through tragedy and grief, taking new jobs, moving cities and watching friends come and go - I've learned to just say "yes" when God provides. We got an email about this trip and said "yes" all in the same day. Fall is an intense time of year for me - I'm usually in the middle of planning the Trail of Lights with my incredible team, but they graciously gave me a few days to escape the chaos and travel out of the country. We needed it; time away to remember the natural beauty in the world - from the hills of Mexico to the handmade art and beautiful human spirits around every street corner. It was a reminder of the simplicity in life, a reason to take a step back and remember to have perspective and gratitude for everything with which God has blessed us. All I can say is when life hands you the opportunity to leave your comfort zone, to travel and adventure and renew your spirit - say yes.

Myself, Lorena & Chris having Helado de Fresas y Crema - probably my favorite street food of all time.

Myself, Lorena & Chris having Helado de Fresas y Crema - probably my favorite street food of all time.

Helado in the streets of San Miguel 

Helado in the streets of San Miguel 

Taking a rest at a boutique on Mesones  Top: Free People Jeans & Boots: Lucky Brand

Taking a rest at a boutique on Mesones 

Top: Free People

Jeans & Boots: Lucky Brand

Midday taco time in San Miguel

Midday taco time in San Miguel

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Wine tasting for over 3 hours during a rainstorm...good times had by all! 

Wine tasting for over 3 hours during a rainstorm...good times had by all! 

#ihavethisthingwithdoors Handbag: Kelly Wynne 

#ihavethisthingwithdoors

Handbag: Kelly Wynne 

On the cobblestone streets of San Miguel Fringe Boots: Free People  High-waisted jeans: Levi's (Anthropologie)

On the cobblestone streets of San Miguel

Fringe Boots: Free People 

High-waisted jeans: Levi's (Anthropologie)

One of my favorite photos from the entire trip. Chris captured the pure emotion of Dia de Los Muertos - the celebration of life and death. This sweet lady made my heart melt. 

One of my favorite photos from the entire trip. Chris captured the pure emotion of Dia de Los Muertos - the celebration of life and death. This sweet lady made my heart melt. 

Dia de los Muertos preparations. Flower crowns in full force. 

Dia de los Muertos preparations. Flower crowns in full force. 

chris-and-arielle-town-square-parroquia-the-southern-influence-blog-chris-olfers-photography
cobblestone-streets-the-southern-influence-blog-chris-olfers-photography
Dinner at the famous Rosewood Hotel

Dinner at the famous Rosewood Hotel

The whole group before heading out for Dia de Los Muertos festivities

The whole group before heading out for Dia de Los Muertos festivities

To experience the trip for yourself, check out Chris' 3-part vlog on the Mexico trip! 

Stay tuned for San Miguel Part II - - The dress shop next week. The most amazing, custom gowns I've ever seen in my life (and they let me play “dress up”!!) - excited to share the brand story with you!

Intentional Gratitude

I've heard the saying, "start each day with a grateful heart" a number of times over the years, and it's never really resonated with me. It's a great saying, but I've always forgotten about it when it mattered most: getting out of bed everyday at 6 AM, when I'm groggy and rushing out the door for work. 

Recently, life has been really fast. Everyday seems to pass without a moment's notice, and the next thing I know, I've gone through another day of work, without considering the tiny blessings that God has bestowed on me in my daily life. We were at our Gospel Community Monday night, and during the prayer someone said something along the lines of, "God cares about even the small details in our life..." and for some reason that really hit home for me. God cares about every aspect of who we are, he cares about every minuscule detail - every little hair on our head. So why don't I actively thank him for being in the details and for giving me so much every day of my life? 

The truth is, this has been on my mind over the last few weeks and I think He's really working in me, because the topic continues to come up and it's been a common theme in my life lately! There were a couple days over the last month where Chris and I were both buried in our work, and the anxiety had overcome us. I was so tired of both of us beating ourselves up and wallowing in self pity. SO - I grabbed a dry erase marker and asked Chris to stop what he was doing and tell me everything he was grateful for in that moment. Here we are, 3 weeks later and there's now dry erase marker ALL over the floor-to-ceiling windows of our condo. Honestly, we probably look like crazy people...and you know what? We are a little crazy, haha. But every morning I open my eyes and the first thing I see is a list of all the things I have to be grateful for. All the gifts that God gives to me daily. From every breath that I take, to my husband and my friends and family - it's a long list, but it sets the tune of my day and helps me to stop and take a moment to reflect each morning before I jump into the hustle of the every day. 

The funny part of all of this? The minute I started thanking God daily, and thinking about these things more often...the more God has blessed us. We have so many things moving right now between our full time jobs, VacayBox, and my freelance writing, that I'm amazed at how much He is stretching us. He is constantly reminding me that I can do this, that it's what I was called to do. Every time earthly doubt begins to swallow me up, He gives me a new opportunity or project. I'm taking this as a commandment to use the gift I've been given. I love to write. It fills me up. I love writing here in my blog, to the people I love, and I'm passionate about writing that helps local businesses grow. And for the first time in my life, I finally feel like I know what I'm doing, and even more, what I WANT TO DO. 

I wrote this post because I've begun to understand the importance of gratitude, and the difference it makes to ACTIVELY practice it each day. I've created a cute little worksheet called a GEBY (Gratitude, Exercise, Breakfast, You) that you can use every morning to help start your day on the right foot. Chris & I learned about this method by watching this video featuring Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo.com. It has helped Chris and I immensely and has opened our eyes to the abundance of blessings right in front of us. I find that by practicing intentional gratitude daily, I'm able to live more simply and that I'm able to be a blessing to others far more often. Also, I think it's made me less bitchy...but you'll have to ask Chris about that! I'd love your thoughts on gratitude, and how you remind yourself to stay present, think positively, and to be grateful every single day. Comment below or email me!

Coastal Texas Hideaway: Cinnamon Shore - Port Aransas, Texas

We're in the heat of summer - and in Texas that usually means it's nearly too hot to be outside and we're all beginning to think that fall can't come soon enough. A weekend away at the beach was just what the doctor ordered, so we packed our bags and headed for the Texas coast. I can't really say that the warm ocean water helped us beat the heat, but it sure kept my mind at ease! 

If you're a 30A junky like myself, then you know you have to leave your emerald water expectations at the door. Aside from that, Port A hit the spot! We were spoiled at Cinnamon Shore. A far cry from the rest of Mustang Island, the beach at Cinnamon Shore was pristine and well-kept with minimal driving traffic. The Cinnamon Shore development is a new(ish) beach community on Mustang Island in Port Aransas, TX. Only a few years old (and admittedly 50% still under construction), it boasts a slew of southern homes complete with adirondack chairs on front porches and happy families enjoying time away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind. The beach staff was friendly, the burnt orange chairs and umbrellas were also a nice touch! They've worked hard to create a community atmosphere and offer everything from morning yoga, kids camps, movie nights and sandcastle-building lessons, to beachside bonfires and s'mores. If you're anywhere near the TX gulf, pack your bags and hit the road - Cinnamon Shore is the best kept secret on the Island. 

Here are some photos from our weekend away...

P.S. If you're seriously interested in booking a trip, I recommend doing it soon before they book up for the next peak season. Still need convincing? Check out the Coastal Living Showhouse and their feature on this quaint little seaside town.