Thrive Creatives Retreat

If you follow @conflictedpixie on the insta, you know I spent this past weekend at the Thrive Creatives Retreat in Bluemont, VA - inside my dream home, Retreat at Cool Spring. 8 other creative lady bosses and I were treated to inspired workshops, amazing meals, and girly relaxation by the dream team of Alyssa, Lauren, Rachel, and Rebecca - women I've admired from afar but now am so very happy to call friends. 

The retreat kicked off a little early due to Winter Storm Jonas with a lovely winter soup - Rebecca's go-to recipe and homemade bread. And although we had all started to get to know each other, the cheeseboard and wine at our official 'meet and greet' was a welcome centerpiece to our introductions. We were a group of photographers, handmade business owners, event planners, stylists, dreamers, and doers. As you can imagine, dinner that evening was filled with lively conversation and a delicious risotto prepared by our chef for the weekend, Alyssa's incredible mama. 

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning to enjoy a delicious breakfast (dreaming of the savory scones from Buttercream Bakeshop) and Madcap coffee brewed in a Chemex pot - the best ever!  After being gifted a Day Designer and Appointed Co. Notebook, Lauren and Char (another amazing presenter) walked us through a creative business workshop. We covered finance, marketing, taxes, spreadsheets, motivations all before we broke for lunch knowing we would need to return to some topics later in the weekend. 

After lunch, Alyssa and Rebecca led us through a hands-on styling workshop where we got to play with props to create a visual story. I brought along my new necklace design and some raw materials and I really enjoyed styling, shooting, evaluating, re-styling, re-shooting and ultimately admiring the finished image. Special thanks to Rachel (our in-house photog for the weekend) for her expertise and hand modeling skills! After another amazing dinner, we all gathered in the great room (with a caramel white russian!) to learn how to arm knit. Our handmade chunky scarfs proved a perfect cozy accessory for the chilly weekend. 

Brunch on Sunday morning was incredible...a girl could really get used to being spoiled like this. But there was more work to be done. I really enjoyed the time we spent in small groups - I learned a lot from Rebecca on blogger collaborations and Alyssa gave me a crash course on SLR photography. I think I gained a bit of confidence and won't shy away from using the 'big camera' this year. With our heads spinning over all things business, we took a break to meet Laura Hooper via Skype for an introduction to calligraphy. I became slightly obsessed with the spinach balls (I promise to get the recipe and share!) we had for dinner on Sunday evening and I couldn't think of a better way to end the day than a hot chocolate + popcorn bar and Bridesmaids viewing party. 

Monday was supposed to be our final day but we knew we weren't going anywhere because the road out was still under 3 feet of snow. So we had a leisurely day working and chatting. Our gracious hosts even snapped some headshots for the group - I opted for the underrated chin/necklace shot! Man, we sure got a lot of snow in Bluemont. By Tuesday morning, we were all ready to dig ourselves out so we headed to the parking lot and began the process. After a few hours of shoveling, an angel (with a plow on his four wheeler) appeared and helped get our cars out of the yet-to-be plowed parking lot.

The term 'self-care' is being used a lot lately and for me, this retreat defined it. I AM my business and it will not succeed unless I invest in the care of it. I am so grateful that I was included with this group of women and forever thankful for their shared knowledge and wisdom. I can't wait for the reunion!  

Behind the Scenes || 07

Happy 2016! The past couple of months have been a whirlwind. When you are a small business owner and the end of the year is filled with controlled chaos, you can be thankful for the publicity, orders, amazing customers, and collaborations.

I am so happy with the growing list of makers we are working with to stock the very best handmade goods in our online shop. Look for more goods to start arriving in early spring and a new offering of curated boxes for all your gift giving needs.

I am so grateful for all the support you showed me and my little business during the gift giving season. I can genuinely say I loved packaging each and every box before sending them around the county! I also loved being able to deliver orders with my girls in our bike. Thankful to live in such a great neighborhood within a very supportive community...who love to shop small!

Speaking of support, we were excited to be included a local paper's holiday shopping guide and an independent hardware store's handmade holiday market. I am looking forward to doing more with Logan Hardware in 2016 - they certainly have a small business model I want to emulate. 

And just like that, a new year is here. January is always the perfect time to think and plan which is why I am heading to a creative retreat near the end of the month. In addition to learning a whole lot from some pretty talented ladies, I am excited to spend some quality solo time thoughtfully planning the year ahead. In the Spring I'll be attending my first conference as a small business owner in Charleston, SC! And stay tuned for details regarding my latest focus, Studio Pixie - a modern crafting experience! 

Happy Holidays!

I love this time of year - a time for reflection and breathing. 2015 was such a great learning experience for me both personally and professionally. I can't wait to bring everything I've learned to 2016 to grow Conflicted Pixie and make some changes for the better. Wishing you the happiest of holidays and all the best in the new year...from my family to yours.

Our card photo was taken at Tell Chronicles - The Memory Shack in Arlington, VA during a fun drop-in session.

My dress - Clad and Cloth
Blake's dress - Zara
Parker's dress - Zara (similar)

That's My Bike

I am officially obsessed with my new bike and wanted to share a little more about why I love it so much. In a previous post, I mentioned I got a Madsen Cycle. It was actually pre-ordered a long time ago so you can imagine my excitement when it finally arrived. The bike was a gift to myself when I made the big decision to stay at home with the girls. 

I have not owned (or even rode) a bike since I was a child so after my sheer excitement on delivery day faded, I was kind of wondering how I was going to handle not just a bike but one with a bucket attached to the back. Speaking of the delivery, the bike arrived in the most bad ass box. I knew I needed to get comfortable on the bike before I put the girls in the back of it. The good news is the bike handles like a dream and I was off and running (actually riding) in no time...with the girls in tow.

You know me, I love a good small business success story and Madsen Cycles has one of the best! Jared (Red) Madsen designed the original bike after hauling six neighbor kids around in a wheel barrow bucket bolted to the front of their first prototype. He realized the bucket on the front created an awkward center of gravity so they stretched the chassis and put the bucket on the back. The production model has changed but the mission has stayed the same; a bicycle should do more. The bucket includes two bench seats with four lap belts and can hold up to 600 lbs. After carrying two littles and a lot of groceries, pedaling my bike is quite the workout! Check out the Madsen video (from 2011) to learn more about the bike itself...

This bike really has been a game changer for me and this is why...

1. Fitness - Did I mention that I've had two kids and a week's worth of groceries in the bucket? Seriously, the first time I did it I really didn't think I was going to make it home but for this girl, that was a good thing. I constantly struggle with putting 'fitness' at the top of my to-do list so riding the bike everywhere - with the girls in the back - is a no brainer. I've also been riding it to/from spin class. The ride home is always a treat! 

2. Social - The day my bike got delivered, my hubs was in the garage and a very excited woman stopped to talk him about the bike. She was probably the only other person in our neighborhood who knew of Madsen so it was cool to hear that someone else shared my excitement. I found out later the woman was my spin instructor! So we bonded over the bike and I continue to let her torture me every week in class. It turns out the bike is quite the conversation starter. I usually talk to no less than 3 people when I am locking it up at the grocery store - I end up answering a lot of questions and accepting a lot of compliments! It really is a gorgeous bike. 

3. Adventure - My girls love the bike! They really do. I love that we can talk while we are riding and we can explore our neighborhood like never before. There are SO many playgrounds within riding distance - the girls think I am rockstar when we find a new one. I love that I can throw water bottles, snacks, toys, and jackets in the bucket without having to pack a bag. 

Listen, I will be the first to tell you this bike is an investment. But I will also be the first to tell you that it is worth every penny. I am so glad I made the decision to spend my hard earned money (actually vacation day payout!) on something that has enriched my stay-at-home Mom/small business life so much. AND the best price of the year is happening on Friday ($325 off!) so if you are thinking about a Madsen, now is the time!

Behind the Scenes || No. 06

We are having so much fun enjoying everything this season has to offer. We love visiting the pumpkin playground at our beloved farm stand and had so much fun on Blake's school field trip.

Our BIG art shows are complete! We worked our butts off...seriously...but it paid off and we enjoyed a successful couple of days. My very talented friend, Catherine, stopped by early for Crafty Bastards to hand-letter some signage (and model our strong necklace!) for me - such a lovely final touch to our awesome booth. Selling was certainly fun - we love talking about our products and meeting customers but the highlight really was meeting and connecting with the other vendors including Erin for AwlSnap, Katie from A Childhood List, Melanie from Grey Moggie, and Sara from Girls Can Tell & Occasionette. And we loved seeing our products in print - thanks to Washington City Paper for the features!

SO, I got a Madsen Cycle. It was actually pre-ordered a long time ago so you can imagine my excitement when it finally arrived. The bike was a gift to myself when I made the big decision to stay at home with the girls. It deserves its own journal entry so I will write more later but I will say this, the bike was worth every penny!

Parker turned two years old! How did this happen? We celebrated with family, ice cream cake, and an inaugural ride on the big girl swing. We also got to meet our new nephew and baby cousin. Obviously, we are all smitten.  

Behind the Scenes || No. 05

Back to school, back to school...to prove to Dad I'm not a fool. Sorry, I can't say or hear the words 'back to school' without referencing Billy Madison! Blake started her third and final year of Pre-K and is super excited to finally be a member of the 'Super Stars'. She is becoming such a big girl and a great helper in the kitchen.

We've been busy getting ready for our first art show this Fall, Crafty Bastards in DC. Go big, or go home - it happens to be a two-day show that is one of the biggest on the east coast. Spoiler, it went very well - more on that in a future post! How awesome is that custom counter that Greg built for our booth? And I DIY'ed my booth signage with help from a fabric transfer from Lumi - check them out for all your custom branding needs.

We took a mini, road-tripping vacation to Savannah, GA a few weeks ago. We were somewhat dreading the 9-hour car ride with two little ones but they did great and I made a lot of necklaces in the car! We traveled to spend time with family and celebrate my cousin's wedding but were able to play tourists with two littles in tow as well. 

We are so lucky that my family owns an awesome bar/restaurant in the heart of the historic district - The Distillery Ale House - a great family friendly establishment with awesome food and drink. We stayed in a lovely 2-BR garden apartment complete with a brick courtyard on Pulaski Square, very close to The Distillery. I can't recommend this place more if you ever find yourself in Savannah with kids! 

We loved the Georgia State Railroad Museum and were lucky enough to visit on a day when they were offering rides on a steam locomotive that was built in 1913. Watching the turntable was a treat too - just like on Chuggington!

Other highlights of our trip included shopping at The Paris Market, Prospector Co., and Shop SCAD; eating ice cream at Leopold's, grabbing coffee around the corner from our apt., and visiting the playgrounds at Forsyth Park - which also happened to be the beautiful location for my cousin's wedding. 

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Behind the Scenes || No. 04

Farewell Summer, you really did treat us well! Our last few weeks of the season were filled with family, friends and lots of hustle. We certainly enjoyed visiting Nonnie and Papa D's beautiful new home at Lake of the Woods, VA. Sun, sand, and boating - these little girls (and their parents!) were in heaven.

No rest for the weary over here. We might have underestimated the time it takes to prep for two very large art shows but we are doing our best to build up our inventory and create a beautiful booth display that will fit in with our neighboring vendors. OH yeah and introducing some exciting new wooden goods too.

A {not so} secret confession...I am in love with my hometown. Hershey, PA you are magical and seeing my girls enjoy Hersheypark like I used to is something special. Also special...date night with the Hubs at Hersheypark Stadium to see my faves, Zac Brown Band. The show knocked our socks off and was the perfect way to wrap-up Summer 2015!

Behind the Scenes || No. 03

Love you, Summer...I really do. Especially this one. The weather has been amazing - low humidity and sunny skies which means lots of bike and scooter riding while Mama walks sad face Roxie.

And Blake won the 'Miss Smiley' superlative at Vacation Bible School. Her teacher said she smiled the whole time she was there which made me so very happy to hear. 

We've been busy planning and building up our inventory for our two Fall shows. Quite a garage workshop set-up we've got. Thankful my partner can run with my ideas - I mean, how awesome are the custom jewelry displays he created?

Although we are drinking a lot more coffee (loving my new mug!), we are also finding time to relax while watching our favorite show

I am so happy with how our upgraded product tags turned out - Moo business cards knock my socks off!

The girls and I headed to PA for a little getaway last week. We love escaping to the country where the girls have a love/hate relationship with the cows (they LOVE to see them but constantly ask about the bad smell)! 

We got to spend a lot of time with family/friends and took a day trip to my hometown to visit our favorite salon, pizza joint, and Chocolate World

Seriously, nothing better on a Summer day than green grass, sprinkler fun, and cold popsicles! 

Behind the Scenes || No. 02

Playgrounds, you save the day...every day. We have so many great options in our little neighborhood and we are loving exploring and finding our favorites. Also, high five for turf ground cover!

When we got back from vacation we found out that we were accepted to show at Crafty Bastards 2015! I've attended this show in years past and it is my absolute favorite. I am so excited to be part of this year's show as a vendor and connect with so many other amazing makers.

Catherine, my amazingly talented friend, helped me design our show booth with the Paper app by 53 - and, no big deal, she is featured in their Think Kit promo video.

I've been finding product inspiration in a lot of different places lately. After a recent stroll through Old Town Alexandria, I can't seem to get the most perfect reddish/pinkish color out of my head!

We've been spending a lot of time at our local farm stand. We are big fans of Penny the Pig and of course, their events can't be beat. Hello, free ice cream! 

Behind the Scenes || No. 01

Earlier in the month we enjoyed a road trippin' vacation to Tennessee. On our way there we overnighted in Blacksburg, VA - home to our beloved Virginia Tech - where Greg and I met 15 years ago. 

Much has changed since we went to school there but our favorite parts of campus remain and we loved sharing it with Blake and Parker. Their favorite was running through the drill field, the centerpiece of campus. Greg and I reminisced and smiled the whole time - our years spent in Blacksburg were something special, for sure. 

We stayed at a cute little Inn - and I discovered my new favorite brew while having dinner downtown. 

When we left Blacksburg we headed for Pigeon Forge, TN in the Smoky Mountains to spend a few days with my mom, brother and his family who live in Nashville. 

We stayed in an awesome cabin and enjoyed all the amenities that came with it - game room, theater, pool etc. We also loved visiting Dollywood - a great little amusement park for kids.