For all we talk about “living in the moment” and “being present,” I have to say it can be hard to practice what we preach. This is especially so whenever we work on our winter issue of Bella Grace. You see, it’s actually the middle of October as I write this, and while in other parts of the world the air is f illed with autumn chill, we’re experiencing another heat wave in Southern California.
It’s likely the last for the year, but it’s the one where all you can think about are the cooler, cozier days ahead. I’m longing for my comfiest sweaters and fluffy socks while my reality is sundresses and sandals. It’s not a bad reality, really, and I’m sure before I know it I’ll be yearning for warmer days once again.
There are some little things I’ve been doing to help me create that winter coziness I’m craving so badly. I’ve started lighting candles in the evenings to give my home that warm glow. I’ve pulled out my super-soft throw blankets and draped them all over the sofa. It’s too warm to cover myself with one, but they are certainly cozy to gaze at.
I’ve also switched up my reading list. Does anyone else read different genres during the different seasons? My summer months are filled with light, fluffy literature, where my book stacks in the winter are made up of cozy mysteries and heart-pumping suspense novels. I don’t know
what it is, but there’s nothing quite like curling up with a good “whodunit?” on a cold winter’s day. A few of my favorite cozy-mystery writers include M.C. Beaton, Agatha Christie, Louise Penny, and Nancy Atherton.
These are just a few of the tricks I’m using to invite winter comforts into my day while still enjoying (or trying to) these 90-degree days. Soon, the air will have a nip in it, and the days will get shorter while the nights get longer. But for now, it’s OK to pretend that winter has already shown its blustery face.
I think that many of us, when all is said and done, hope to leave this world having made some sort of impact. Whether it be a small or large one, we just want to know that we did something special with the time given to us.
I recently lost a friend in a car accident. As the news of his passing spread, seemingly endless tributes were posted on social media. It was very clear that this was a profound loss for many people.
I wondered what it was about this 26-year old, with his fiery red hair and deep belly laugh, that touched so many lives. As I read through his other friends’ posts, it became clear: he made you feel good about yourself. He showered people with compliments. He told people he admired them. You always felt better after being around him, even if it was only for a few minutes.
It made me realize how little I compliment people. That’s not to say I don’t have something positive to say about someone. I just usually do it in my head. I will find myself thinking about how lovely someone’s shirt looks on them, or will admire someone for working so hard on something. Why do I keep these kind thoughts to myself?
Many of us try to learn something after a tragedy. We reflect and we hope we can find something good to come out of it. I’ve learned that you can never be too kind. You can always be kinder, and that is what I will try to do each day as I remember my friend who sprinkled the world with joy. I will tell someone they look nice, or that they’ve done a terrific job. I will do my part to make the world a gentler, joy-filled place. For Alex.
Whenever I think back to the summers of my childhood, all of the trips to the beach my mom took us on are the first to come to mind. Living just about 25 minutes from the ocean, we were there at least once a week. Our car had a light layer of sand, our skin was always a little pink, and my already blonde hair seemed to get even lighter with each passing day. One detail I seem to remember most is the lunch my mom would pack: grapes, Doritos, pepperoni, string cheese, and Capri Suns. So simple, really, but to this day I still get the craving for that exact meal when summer rolls around.
Even during our trips to the beach, my mom always kept it simple. She knew we needed little more than a good snack, sunscreen, and a beach towel. Our imaginations would take care of the rest. Growing up, it took very little to please us, and that’s a feeling I strive to return to as an adult.
To me, simplicity, is at the heart of summer season. People will always ask why summer is my favorite season, especially when the temperatures spike upward of 100 degrees. Everything is different in the summer. People seem more light-hearted and spend their time finding joy in the smallest of things. We bury our noses in the different books on our summer reading lists. We take naps outdoors under the shade of a tree. We invite our friends and family over to talk and roast marshmallows over a roaring bonfire.
Life seems to slow down in the summer. We pay attention more. We savor it all using all of our senses. We notice the touch of a soft dress on our sun-kissed skin. We breathe in the smell of food cooking on the grill. We find comfort in the sound of waves crashing along a shoreline, or the gentle hum of a fan. It’s a magical time of year.
One of my favorite parts of putting together each issue of Bella Grace is reading the responses to our social media prompts. For this issue, we asked our readers what life lessons they learned from their mothers or those who served as maternal figures. Many of the responses brought me to tears.
I’ve been blessed with an amazing mother. She’s taught me so much, whether it be something small, such as how to make an amazing dessert out of nothing but graham crackers and cake frosting, or something profound, like the importance of being there for your loved ones. She’s always been there for anyone in need, and this year it’s been our turn to be there for her.
Just under a year ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I still can’t forget the day she called to share the news. I was devastated. We all were. I consider my family to be very fortunate because we really haven’t had to deal with very much adversity in our lives, and we all felt a little ill-equipped to handle it all. So, we did what mom always did for us: We were there. Sometimes that’s all you can do.
Being there isn’t always something physical. It can be many things. Being there means picking up the phone to check in with someone who may be a little down. It means sending a quick text or email to wish someone good luck on a job interview. For my mom, being there meant calling to talk to her and being OK if there wasn’t much to say. It meant making sure my dad had lunch while she was in surgery, even when he insisted he wasn’t hungry.
I’m happy to say that she is currently on the winning side of her battle. It’s been a hard year for us, and many people have asked me how I’ve managed to stay so strong and positive during it all. The answer is simple: “I got it from my mama.”
To being there,
Like many of you, I spend far too much time on Pinterest. I use it toget ideas for our publications and I use it to keep track of all the things I hope to make one day, if I ever find myself with endless free time. Though I’ve created many boards to keep track of everything, there is one that is my absolute favorite. It’s where I pin anything that gives me a cozy, warm feeling when I look at it, and naturally, it’s named “In Search of Cozy.”
I feel like I’m forever in the search for cozy. To me, there is no greater feeling and I am always trying to capture it in various aspects of my life. My office has twinkle lights strung around, and there is an armchair with a blanket for when I need to create a sense of calm in my busy days. I also have a few playlists that make me feel like I’m sipping coffee at a coffee shop orat home on a rainy day.
At home, my sofa is loaded with pillows and throw blankets and is just calling to be curled up on with a book and tea. Candles grace whatever surfaces the cats can’t rest upon and stay lit late into the night.
I try to keep something delicious, whether sweet or savory, cooking in the oven. When the television is on, it’s usually turned to something that is charming, uplifting, and comforting. With how busy life can be, I am not at home nearly as often as I’d like, so I like to make our house a nice escape. Creating a feeling of coziness all around me is something that fills me with such warmth and joy.
In many ways, I aim to make Bella Grace feel cozy. When you pick up each issue, my goal is for it to feel like a warm, fuzzy throw blanket, or a cup of your favorite tea.
My favorite place to spend time at home is in our backyard. Despite having a fairly small house, we have a good-sized backyard, surrounded by fruit trees and overgrown herb plants. We’ve strung bistro lighting across the entire length and when lit up never fails to make every moment magical. I especially enjoy sitting on our porch with a cup of coffee in the morning and gazing at the old barn that sits in the yard of the house next to ours. The house was remodeled to look quite modern but they left the barn untouched.
Last week I woke up to find a group of construction workers on the roof of the barn pulling away all the old roofing. They were doing it with such care that my husband and I were certain they were restoring it. When I came home from work that day, I was devastated to see they had completely torn down the barn. I was sad about it — that was certain — but I didn’t realize just how sad I was until I went out onto the back porch, looked over the fence where the barn used to be and saw nothing.
I’ve always wanted to live in a small, rural town and having that barn so close made me feel as though I was living out that dream in some way. The brown, weathered wood served as a gorgeous backdrop when my husband and I got married in our backyard. Just looking at it made me happy. Now that it’s gone, I’m glad that I spent so much time appreciating and admiring it.
It’s funny how we can become so attached to something so insignificant. I have a friend who, despite having a modern house, can’t bring herself to replace the old sink faucet in her bathroom. She’s completely charmed by it and finds a touch of romance in it. I have another friend who drives past a certain house each day on her way home because she loves looking at their hollyhock plant. She’s always a little sad when the flowers have died for the season.
It’s feelings like these that drove us to create Bella Grace. We knew there were people out there who would appreciate these tiny but significant parts of our lives, and we knew they wanted to share their own moments. As we put together each issue, we realize there are even more kindreds out there than we ever imagined, and we are delighted and honored to play a role in sharing their stories. It’s hard to believe that this is our ninth issue of Bella Grace. We sometimes get nervous and wonder if there is enough material out there for us to keep things original and exciting, and we love seeing submissions pour in, proving there will always be plenty of beautiful stories to share. Thank you for sharing them with us.
some sunscreen, and head outdoors. Read a book, play freeze tag with your kids, draw on the sidewalk with some chalk, or do absolutely nothing at all. The choice is yours.
To slowing down and savoring summer,
Summer is quickly approaching and I couldn’t be more excited. Despite the often-grueling heat, it’s my absolute favorite season. This time of year always brings back the fondest of memories from my childhood and it gives me so much to look forward to.
Why do I love summer as much as I do? It’s the calm I feel when I curl up on the couch at night to read a book with the windows and doors wide open. The comfort I feel wearing nothing but flowing dresses and light fabrics. The joy of cooking dinner on the grill every night. Eating veggies grown in our garden. Driving with the windows down and blasting the happiest of music. Sitting outside and talking under the glow of twinkle lights. For me, summer is the time of year where everything slows down and life seems a bit simpler.
A couple years ago my husband and I visited the gorgeous island of Kauai for our honeymoon. We spent two weeks there doing almost nothing other than relaxing outdoors by the pool or on the beach. We were hardly ever indoors, opting to have our coffee and eat our meals outside on the lanai. By the end of our trip we asked ourselves why we didn’t spend as much time outside at home. When we returned home we made a promise to each other that our summers would be spent outdoors as much as possible.
For the most part we’ve kept our promise. We have our meals in the backyard and linger there long after the food is gone. We fill up a kiddie pool nearly every weekend and spend the days relaxing in there with a cold drink or book in hand. (We even encourage our friends to bring their own pools over to soak in.) We might not be children anymore, with months off to enjoy summer, but making a little extra effort to slow life down during those months really helps to savor the free time we do have.
It’s so temping to over-schedule summer weekends and evenings. Trust me, I try to do it all the time. This summer, I encourage you to slow life down a bit. Turn off the TV, pour yourself an ice-cold glass of tea with lemon, slather on
I love when people are walking contradictions. Aspects of their personality really shouldn’t go together, and yet they combine to make a wonderful human being. It’s really quite magical.
My friend Rachael rides a Harley. The kind with those really high handle bars. She wears leather chaps and a vest and looks really tough. Whenever she arrives at her destination, she changes into some of the girliest outfits you’ve ever seen. She loves glitter, the color purple, and heavy metal. I adore her.
I have another friend who is loud and can sometimes come across as pretty brash. He likes to be the center of attention. The life of the party. He drinks whiskey and reads Bukowski. When he gets home from a night out, he likes to pull out vintage poetry books and have a cup of tea while he reads his favorite words from Keats.
Even I have a few quirks. I love makeup, Jane Austen, knitting while also having a penchant for video games and hockey fights. I have a job where I frequently reveal very personal things about myself, yet I’m really quite shy and private.
It’s all too easy to judge someone just by looking at them. It doesn’t take much effort to form an opinion about someone with just one glance. Growing up, I did this more often than I’m proud of. My extreme shyness made it very hard for me to get to know people. Thankfully, I’ve managed to come out of my shell and now really enjoy getting to know people. What a true pleasure it can be to get to know someone and learn of all their wonderful contradictions.
One of the great joys of working on Bella Grace is having the privilege of sharing the stories of so many people who like what they like, unabashedly. They know what brings them happiness and they continually seek it out. They love breathtaking foral arrangements just as much as they love shabby, weather-beaten buildings. They find beauty and inspiration in it all. What a wonderful way to be.
I urge you to find what it is that you love and embrace it. Don’t apologize for it. As Howard Thurman wisely said, “Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I love hearing tales of people breaking from the norm. Most of them find that it makes them nervous at first, but soon realize what pleasure they get from it. Wouldn’t that be a great story idea? Consider making an “unresolution” for the New Year that says you won’t follow all the rules anymore. And, of course, tell us exactly how that turned out for you!
To bending the rules,
We didn’t go out to eat very much while I was growing up. Dining at a restaurant was truly a treat for us because it was so rare. Instead, my mom (a fantastic cook) and dad would meticulously plan out our weekly menu, asking for suggestions from each of us kids. We always had the same requests: chicken fettuccini for me, pizza for my brother, and my sister had a fondness for anything with shrimp.
On occasion, my mom would plan a special night of breakfast for dinner. To us, it was just the wackiest idea, eating pancakes for supper, and we loved it. It was a break from the norm and something we were always excited for. It was almost as exciting as when we’d get a surprise slice of leftover birthday cake for breakfast. As children, we loved testing the supposed “rules.” Staying up past our bedtime? Watching a scary movie? Sign us up!
As an adult, I don’t have anyone dictating the rules anymore (unless you count my husband forbidding me from using metal utensils on our non-stick pans), and yet I manage to still follow a lot of those from my childhood. I certainly don’t eat breakfast for dinner and I can’t remember the last time I had cake in the morning. Heck, I still have a self-imposed bedtime.
I’ve never considered myself a rule-breaker or a rebel. The first time I was grounded was at the young age of 21. I usually play it safe, but when I think back to the joy I feel when I’ve allowed myself to break outside of the norm, I wonder why I don’t do it more. Why don’t I stay up all night reading a good book? When it comes to dinnertime, we aren’t we scrambling up some eggs and frying some bacon?
It’s true that rules are made for a reason, but it’s just as true that some rules are made to be broken, especially those that, when broken, bring a lot of (safe) happiness. Clothing patterns can be mixed. Journals can be written in in any direction. You can have frozen yogurt for lunch if you really want to.
My husband and I have an agreement. He cooks dinner (I’m admittedly not the best at following recipes) and I do the dishes. Each night after we finish eating I stare at the pile of dirty plates in the sink from my spot on the couch and think about how much I don’t want to do them. (It really is quite funny that you can only see the sink from where I sit. It’s like they’re calling me. Teasing me.)
I hate doing the dishes. I really do. So, I will let them pile up at times and when I eventually do them, I curse myself for not doing them sooner when there was just a few to wash. Once they’re done, I sigh in relief and vow to do them right away next time. A promise to myself I have yet to keep.
There are certain things in life we have to do. There really is no way around doing them and yet we put them off. We spend our energy dreading those tasks instead of just doing them. It’s really quite silly. Those tasks are not nearly as horrible as we make them out to be in our mind. This is something we need to stop doing. Instead, we should be looking for ways to make these chores more enjoyable. We have to do them, after all. We might as well have a little fun.
In an effort to tackle my hatred for doing the dishes, I’ve been trying to put a positive twist on it. I’m sure most of you can agree that just the sight of a lit candle is calming. It certainly is for me, so I’ve been keeping a lit candle near the sink. It immediately changes the mood in the kitchen. I’ve also recently developed a bit of a podcast obsession, so I’ve been saving some of my favorites to listen to while I do the dishes and other household tasks. It makes the time go by much quicker and I’m entertained.
A lot of this has carried over into another thing I really don’t like but have to deal with regardless: traffic. My commute is about an hour each way and most of that is spent going incredibly slow. To make the drive less stressful I’ve started listening to audio books. I also make sure I have a refreshing beverage to sip while I creep amongst the other cars.
There are so many things that will add stress to our lives. There is no need to create more of it unnecessarily. Let’s all take a pledge to handle our “must-do’s” in a more positive light!
To putting a positive spin on it,
Bella Grace is about celebrating life in times of joy and also times of hardship. To show our support for our readers who have been affected by breast cancer, we will be donating a portion of all Bella Grace proceeds in the month of October to support breast cancer research.
easy to feel disconnected from yourself — like you’re just going through the motions of everyday life, not taking the time to think, relax, or breathe.
One of the great things about working on Bella Grace is that I feel like I’ve gleaned so much wisdom from all of the talented writers we publish. They each have a gift for sharing their thoughts on life, and I feel them making a profound impact on me. And for that, I’m grateful.
For years I’ve worn my busy-ness as a sort of badge of honor. I’ve taken great pride in never sitting still. Why just sit and watch TV when you can knit while watching your favorite show? A weekend with tons of plans was something to look forward to. A day where I rose with the sun and kept on going until late into the night was something to be proud of.
You know what? I’m tired of being busy. Exhausted, even.I’ve never had an easy time just relaxing. My mom will tell you of the summer vacation when I missed being in school so much that I created my own homework assignments in hopes of staying busy. I’ve always thought it was pretty funny, but now that I think about it, it’s kind of sad that a 9-year-old wouldn’t just let herself be a kid and do nothing.
The truth of it is that I feel guilty when I allow myself to just sit and be still. How many of you feel the same? We feel there is always something we could be doing or working on. There are so few free hours in each day, we have to use them all, right?
It’s wrong. So wrong.
As I finish up this issue of Bella Grace, I’m craving calm and quiet. I want to pull on my favorite pair of socks (if you’ve been reading Bella Grace since the beginning, you’re probably seeing a recurring theme of the calming effects socks have on me), light a delicious smelling candle, sit on the couch under my favorite timeworn throw blanket, shut my eyes, and just be.
Something inside me has shifted (or maybe I’m getting wiser with age) and I’m realizing how important it is to make time for myself. It’s something I’ve been telling others for years, but I just starting listening to my own advice.
It’s so important to take time to just be alone. You don’t even have to do anything. You can simply sit with your thoughts (or lack thereof, which is just as nice, to be honest!). The days and years go rushing by and it’s so
There’s been an ongoing joke in our circle of friends that my house is slowly becoming a farm. Truth be told, they might be on to something. It all started innocently enough. When I began dating my husband, I already had a cat. Soon after moving into our first apartment, we thought Clara might be a little lonely so we rescued Abbey, another cat. A year later, we desperately wanted a dog, but weren’t able to have one because our apartment didn’t allow it. So, we searched for a house and just a couple months after finding one that allowed dogs, we adopted Hamburgers, our scruffy pup that bears a shocking resemblance to Toto from The Wizard of Oz. Then, we decided we need a yard, and so we moved to the house we currently live in. Like most people with a yard, we wanted to do a little gardening, so we planted flowers. Then to the flowers we added fruits and vegetables.
We just recently made a new addition to our little urban farm: chickens! After a few years of talking about it, we finally took the plunge and now have four chicks (McNuggets, Giblets, Wing, and Martha, for those who might be curious) in a brooding box inside our garage. In a few weeks we will move them to the coop we are building and then we can expect eggs a few months later.
If you had told my younger self that I would grow up and have a house that is slowly turning into a farm, I wouldn’t have believed you. I thought I’d have some fast-paced, exciting life, but instead, it’s a small, slow life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. On a stressful day, there is nothing quite as calming as grabbing a shovel and tending to the garden. And there is nothing as satisfying as eating food that you’ve grown yourself.
Now that we have the chickens, we find ourselves spending more time outside playing with them (Yes, they love to play!), and less time inside in front of the TV. We sit outside, talking about our days and our dreams of one day owning land that we can truly call a farm. We find comfort in our surroundings. I’m so thankful for the calm, simple life I live. It balances out my work life, which is fast-paced and rarely quiet.
What you hold in your hands is the first quarterly issue of Bella Grace. It’s another dream of mine, just like that large farm in the middle of nowhere. However, this dream has actually come true, and it’s because of each and every one of you. Whether you are a contributor to Bella Grace or purchased a copy, you’ve made this possible for us. Words can’t express my gratitude.
With infinite thanks,
When we launched Bella Grace, we crossed our fingers and hoped you would like it. We weren’t prepared for the overwhelmingly positive reaction we got. We are so humbled by each and every letter we’ve received, and are so thankful that we have created a home for so many of you. Because of this reaction, we’ve decided to make Bella Grace available quarterly, and that is all because of you, our readers, our kindreds. None of this is possible without you.
With humble gratitude,
Those of us in Southern California are finally enjoying cooler weather after what seemed like a never-ending heat wave. There is a chill in the air in the mornings, and it’s finally cool enough to dust off our boots and scarves. The fact that I was able to wrap myself up in a throw blanket before grabbing my laptop to write this letter thrills me to no end.
It’s not quite cold yet, but it will be. With cold weather comes a constant feeling of coziness. Cold weather means oversized, soft sweaters, warm beverages sipped from large mugs. It means candles burning and something delicious simmering on the stove top all day long. It means the holidays are coming.
Each year I get ridiculously excited for the holidays. I always have, but as I’ve gotten older my reasons have changed. As a child I looked forward to sweet treats and gifts under the tree. Now that I’m older, I look forward to that special feeling in the air that comes with the holiday. You know that feeling: homes feel cozier, people seem happier, life seems a little lighter. The other reason I look forward to this season so much is because of a tradition that I’ve been doing almost my entire life.
I love Christmas trees. I love the brightly colored bulbs that hang from the branches and the glow of the twinkle lights wrapped all around. Once we put the tree up, it’s not uncommon for me to stay up late into the night or wake up early and sit in silence with the room lit with just the glimmer of those lights. At least once a holiday season, I drag my pillow and blankets out to the couch and let myself fall asleep in the barely lit living room. It fills me with a warmth that I can’t describe.
It’s such a small and simple thing, this tradition of sleeping with the Christmas tree aglow, but it means the world to me. Since the launch of the first issue of Bella Grace, I’ve had countless conversations with women about these seemingly small and simple things. I’ve had readers write me to tell me that they’ve always felt bad for being so charmed by such ordinary things, but reading the stories in Bella Grace made them feel OK about it.
One of my very favorite movies is “You’ve Got Mail.” I blame this on my secret dream of owning a children’s bookstore as well as my affinity for turtlenecks. The movie is filled with nods to the simplest of pleasures; freshly sharpened pencils, the smell of Scotch tape, and twinkle lights are just a few of them. I think most of us have watched the movie while longing to live the life of Kathleen Kelly, who was a simple person with a passion for life.
There is one particular line from the movie that stirs my soul. Kathleen shares with her Internet suitor: “I lead a small life — well, valuable, but small — and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?” Those who are familiar with the character know that Kathleen is actually quite brave, so she must live a small life because she enjoys it.
I live a small life, and it’s a life I love. I don’t yearn to visit far-off exotic places, nor do I wish to be famous one day. My only wish is to continue to live this small life that I love so dearly. A life where a hot cup of tea brings me as much joy as a showy piece of jewelry would. A life where I yearn to curl up with a good book on a rainy day. While some might scoff at how easily I can be delighted, I believe there’s much beauty to be found in living life this way.
Bella Grace came about because of a shared love of simple and slow living between Stampington & Company’s president, Kellene Giloff, and myself. A small-town girl, Kellene knows how much joy and pleasure can be found in the littlest of things. We are both firm believers that there is so much magic and beauty to be found in the ordinary and in the everyday. For years, the idea of doing a magazine that focused on tales of living with purpose and authenticity was just a dream. We weren’t sure if we could pull it off, but we also couldn’t stop thinking about it.
What you hold in your hands is a dream come to fruition. It is filled to the brim with narratives from inspired writers and pictures from talented photographers. It has stories — heartfelt stories — about slowing down and being present in life. These stories talk about the beauty to be found in both the big and little things. While this dream may have been ours, it never would have been possible without the graciousness of our team of contributors. Without them, there would be no stories to share, no pictures to look at. I have to say a sincere “Thank you,” to all of them.
Bella Grace is meant to be savored. It is meant to get tossed in your beach bag, or tucked under your pillow to enjoy before bed. It is meant to be read over and over again. It is meant to inspire you to see the beauty and the magic that surround you, no matter where you are. It is meant to be written in and dogeared. It is meant to accompany you on this beautiful adventure that is life.
To all of life’s adventures,