Brika

Take An Inspired Road Trip With Ortolan

Sisters Bethany and Jenna are creative forces in their own right (they have combined talents in fashion design and illustration), but when they come together to make, magic happens. Ortolan is the result of this partnership, and their handmade house linens and accessories are the beautiful byproducts. Take a beautiful West Coast journey as Bethany explains where and how they find inspiration.

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My sisters Shaena and Jenna embarked on a 5-week cross country road trip this summer. When they hit California, they scooped me up in Los Angeles to journey up the coast of California to gather inspiration for our 2014 collection. Where the sea meets the land is an important place to draw from when we are brainstorming ideas. Big Sur is a perfect location, it blends our two favorite places on this planet—the forest and the sea.

Ortolan Organic Big Sur, California© Shaena Mallett 2014

The navy waves napkin is great example of the ocean working it’s charm on us. Jenna and I could watch rolling waves for hours—this style is a way for us to bring that feeling into our home everyday.

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Big Sur is positively dreamy, and Pfeiffer Beach is hands down my favorite spot in California. It’s a great place to let inspiration flow with a mediative walk.

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Jenna’s illustrations come right from mother nature. Many designs in our collection are gathered on the shore.

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Usually we keep to a pretty classic color palette, but Jenna and I both loved this pinkish purple seaweed that washed ashore.

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There are so many amazing creatures in the sea. This was my first spring in California and I took a boat out on a whale watching trip—they are majestic and mysterious animals. Our whale pillow is a humble nod to one of our favorite creatures of the ocean.

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Shop Ortolan’s entire inspired collection & add a touch of the sea to your own home.

Photos by Shaena Mallett (@dearsweetetcetera) & Derin Thope.

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Tips From Our Makers: On Making Time

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Make a plan & stay true to your vision. Starting a project requires time and a lot of planning. Don’t rush decisions because of a timeline. Take time to think about what you want and never diminish your personal standards of quality. – Aymie Spitzer, Neighborwoods

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Tip: Create a schedule, building in time for the unexpected. 

Make time for what you love. I live by the words, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” Make time for what you love and inspiration will follow. – Araya Jensen, Wind & Willow Home

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Tip: Pick a set time each day (or week) to work on your project.

Give yourself hours—not minutes—to create! I find that having an extended block of time (6-8 hours) to do nothing by design can product great results. Sometimes the best way to get around creative block is to step away from a design and return to it another day. – Amy Lowry, Field Trip

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Walk away from a project, come back, and make revisions. Take time and be patient. Research is key, then give the project time to develop. Walk away, come back to it, make revisions, and don’t settle until you are confident in what you’ve produced. – Shannon Kennedy, Sass & Peril

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Looking for more tips from our Makers? Read their advice on finding new ideas.

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8 Awesome Apple Recipes

We still get the health benefits of an apple-a-day if it’s in the form of something sweet and delicious, right? Either way, we’re so excited about all the baking the fall season is about to bring us. Here are some apple treats we can’t wait to try!

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The Easiest Apple Tart

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Mini Caramel Apples

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Stuffed Apple

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Warm Cinnamon Apple Chips

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Double Crumb Apple Crisp

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Sparkling Apple Cider

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Apple Granola Bites

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Apple Beignets with Caramel Sauce

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Tote  |  Lunch Bag  |  Preserves  |  Print

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Bite Me More: Easy Tomato Soup with Parmesan Dumplings

Looking for the perfect quick and easy tomato soup recipe? Here it is, a delicious tomato soup that can be made in less than 30 minutes, but don’t let the speed fool you. This quick bowl of comfort not only offers up depth of flavor, but also is elegantly topped with Parmesan dumplings to make it a perfect entertaining first course.

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Ingredients

Tomato Soup

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp shallots, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes, not oil-packed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained

Parmesan Dumplings

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

1) For the soup, in a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, shallot and garlic, cooking 4-5 minutes until tender. Add carrots, celery, red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, lime juice, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes to soften vegetables. Add chicken broth and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat and either puree directly in soup pot using a handheld blender or place half of the tomato soup mixture in a countertop blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining tomato soup. Return all of the soup to the saucepan. Reheat when ready to serve.

2) For the Parmesan dumplings, combine flour, Parmesan, basil, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg and vegetable oil. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture with a wooden spoon until combined. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Using ½ tsp measuring spoon, drop slightly rounded dough into boiling water. Cook 4 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Serve with soup. Garnish soup with sliced basil.

Yield: 25 dumplings

Serves 6

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Heirloom Tomatoes Print  |  Heart Bowl  |  Wooden Spoon Set

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Tips From Our Makers: On Finding New Ideas

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Write down every idea. When you have an idea, write it down. Don’t let any of them get away from you, whether they’re good or not, they might come in handy or spark other ideas. Nurture your creativity by making things happen. – Becky Hui Chan, Honey & Bloom

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Tip: Always carry a notebook or app like any.do or Evernote.

Look to nature. Your next idea is contained in your last one. Go outside. Look down. Notice how nature does it—how it arranges things. Look up. Do the same thing. Read a great book; something that challenges you. – Jennifer Seymour, Sea & Stone

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Build a reservoir of ideas & inspiration. I have a big mason jar of started projects; pieces that aren’t taking shape as I envision them. Most of the time I’ll get a really great new idea from a challenge that I’m faced with so I appreciate these little pieces of well-intentioned inspiration. I go back to a lot of them when the right component, color or design occurs to me. – Shannon Kehler, Moonlight for Violet

Check back next week for tips on making time for your craft.

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12 Ways To Live Each Day To The Fullest

On any given day, someone is in a tough meeting at work, someone else is at the bedside of their sick child, someone else is cooking dinner for their family. On this day, at this moment, people all around the world are living a wide range of experiences from the devastating to the mundane to the sublime—but we are all encouraged to live each day to the fullest, as if it were our last. It’s great advice, but how do we go about putting it into action when we are all living different experiences? I believe that in order to live each day to the fullest, we need to find that peaceful place inside of us. From there, we can choose what is best for us on any given day. Here are some ways to put living your life to the fullest into action regularly:

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  1. Laugh as much as you can
  2. Connect with people, see the humanity in all around you
  3. Take smart risks
  4. Spend time doing things you love (even if only for a few minutes!)
  5. Treat yourself to simple pleasures
  6. Hug freely and often (and appropriately!)
  7. Know that you deserve to have a great day
  8. Take what you need from what is available to you
  9. Immerse yourself in one thing at a time
  10. Ask for what you need
  11. When a frustrating situation arises look for creative solutions
  12. Never stop working towards your dreams

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 Print by Off Switch

The list could go on, but these twelve things as a start will lead you to live everyday to the fullest no matter what your circumstance may be. What’s on your list?

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7 Creative Ways To Display Books

Forget the boring old book shelf. The beauty of books should be incorporated into home decor, and here are a few fun ways to do so.

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Transform industrial pipelines into a shelf.

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Use an old piano as wall art/a shelf.

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Never use a bookmark again (plus it looks cool!)

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Put the shelf near the ceiling

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Why not turn a whole wall into a library?

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Display books horizontally

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Build a tree of books

 See more home decor ideas here.

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6 Gift Picks For Guys

Our merchandising assistant Gavin is known around the office for having great taste, so we thought we’d ask him to share his must-have items for guys this season!

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1. Classic Shave Oil by Brooklyn Grooming: “Cold and dry winters are ahead. Brooklyn Grooming Shave oil is my go-to during cold months.”

2. Arrowhead Cufflinks by Blue Dot Jewelry: “The perfect fall accessory.”

3. Earl Grey Apron by Hedley & Bennett: “I am determined to start cooking this year. Maybe a great apron will jump start my motivation.”

4. Inkblot iPhone Case by Mod Pieces: “I love the subjective nature of abstract art. This phone case is just that.”

5. Leather Phone Wallet by S&D Portland: “I love that this combines your wallet and phone.”

6. Sand La Playa Blanket by Perf: “Apparently the polar vortex is coming back for us this fall. Handmade blankets anyone?”

Plus, shop all gifts for guys here. 

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Bite Me More: Easy Grilled Cola Chicken

The 30 Minute Answer to “What’s for dinner?”

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Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1½ inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juce
  • ½ tsp dried Italian herbs
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cola BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions

1) Place chicken in a shallow dish and toss with olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, Italian herbs, salt and pepper. Let chicken marinate while preparing the barbeque sauce.

2) For the barbecue sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine ketchup, Coke, brown sugar, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and hot sauce. Whisk until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium heat, turn to low and let gently simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter.

3) Preheat a lightly oiled grill to medium-high heat and thread chicken pieces onto skewers. Discard any remaining marinade. Grill skewers for 10 to 15 minutes, turning after 8 minutes, until juices run clear and chicken is cooked through. Baste with barbeque sauce in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve skewers with remaining barbeque sauce.

Serves 6-8

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

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1. Need a little gallery wall inspiration? Click here.

2. The U.S. Open inspired us to do more than just play tennis

3. An ice cream float for grownups.

4. Now this is some amazing art.

5. The best fall recipes in one handy place.

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Tips From Our Makers: On Enjoying The Process

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Enjoy the process of your product. I think it’s important to enjoy the process of your craft. Making jewelry is therapeutic for me and I truly enjoy every aspect of it. When I’m enjoy the process, the designs are better.  - Heather Albro, The Bird’s Word Boutique

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Tip: Create a comfortable work environment. 

Don’t over-think or judge your initial work. I believe that everyone is innately creative. Some people just exercise the creative muscle more than others. Don’t over-think or judge yourself during the process. There are no rules! – Annette Stepanian, Confetti by Annette

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Make “creating” a priority in your schedule. Creativity is an extension of your personality, so why minimize to something you’ll get to in your “free time”? Give it priority, and it will spill into and enhance many other aspects of your life. – Michelle Meronek, GOLDhearted

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Tip: Make concrete creative plans. Get a membership to an art gallery, take a class to learn a new skill, or plan an annual getaway!

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5 Ways To Enjoy Fall

I love Summer. I also love Fall. However, I do not love Winter which is what makes fall so bittersweet. To emphasize the sweet rather than the bitter, I’m making a short list of all the wonderful things that go along with the upcoming crisp, fresh season. Just like a trip away makes us appreciate home more, the changing seasons allow us to appreciate each for all the wonderful things that come along with it.

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1. Fall Fashion. It goes without saying that Fall is when fashion peaks. Heavy September issues full of cozy sweaters, deep and rich colour, gorgeous scarves and boots for everyone!  Although I’m a big believer in transitioning my summer wardrobe into fall for as long as possible, I still get excited about the endless outfit options Fall brings.

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Scarf by Ichcha

2. Long walks in the crisp air. There’s something about fall air that beckons you outside. Perhaps it’s knowing that winter is next in line. So grab a favourite guy or gal, throw on some light layers and head out for a few hours to enjoy the softer sunlight and crisp air before hibernation season begins.

3. Fall TV line up. After a season of “nothing is on!” it is fun to get back to favorite shows and get excited about new ones.

4. Final farmer’s market days. Hit your local market for the last of summer produce before apple and pear season sets in. Savour the heirloom tomatoes, juicy peaches, and sweet corn and say goodbye to them until next year.

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Print by Renee Garner

5. A fresh start. The wonderful thing about changing seasons is it gives us a point in time to stop, reflect and press the reset button. Have some of your goals gone by the wayside? Has life become off balance in some way? Now is the time to change that. Sign up for a course you have been thinking about taking, start up your exercise routine again, and begin to make possible what you’ve been telling yourself is impossible!

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Print by Yellow Heart Art

What is on your Fall short list?

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6 Totes for Every Occasion

Fall fashion is definitely one of the best parts about the season. We’re excited to shop for cute boots, soft scarves, knit sweaters and of course the perfect tote. Here are 6 options to make a statement this autumn no matter where you’re headed.

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1. For a weekend getaway  |  2. To take to yoga  |  3. To take to the market  |
4. Bring to the office  |  5. For running errands  |   6. For crisp sunny days

Plus, shop all totes here

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6 Ways to Get Creative on your Commute

It’s easy to dread the daily commute, but instead of thinking of the time spent on a bus, train, subway or in the car as wasted, why not make the most of it? Here are 6 easy ways to get creative:

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1. Learn something. Load up your iPod or phone with podcasts. There’s something for everyone: pop culture, economics, try learning a new language, or listen to lectures from an entire university course with iTunes U. This is great if you’re driving long distances.

2. Write, Draw + Doodle. If you take public transportation, keep a notebook and pen handy. Even if you’re not feeling particularly creative, force yourself to put pen to paper, even if you’re just doodling. Try word association games, or observe other passengers and write a story about them. You never know where your train of thought will take you!

3. Daydream. Next time you’re on the bus or train, put away your phone and laptop, plug in your headphones, close your eyes and relax—how often do we get the chance to do that? Plus, the solutions to problems often arise when your mind wanders off.

4. Do something with your hands. Take up a new skill like knitting, sketching, or jewelry making.

5. Plan to get creative later. If you’d rather get work done on your commute, take a few minutes to plan creative outlets for another time (our Makers say it’s important to schedule time for creativity). Research events and programs like cooking classes, art lessons, or dance lessons, or find out where you can get an easel and paint in your neighbourhood. Write it down as a personal commitment—it will give you something to look forward to.

6. Download a few good apps. Try Glitche to create cool digital art, make word art with Type Drawing, or write on a virtual typewriter with Hanx Writer.

What are your ideas for making the most of your commute?

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

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Throw one last summery dinner party this long weekend!

1. An interesting experiment on the science of small talk.

2. On answering the big questions (like does your goldfish know who you are?)

3. Our co-founder Kena listens to this on her way to work & laughs out loud.

4. Drool over these gorgeous celebrity spaces.

5. Stock up on some great reads for fall.

+ we’re having a Labor Day Weekend sale! Save 25% with code ENJOY25. Click here to shop.

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Creative Career Spotlight: Wedding Stationery Star

Amy Long is the owner of A Paper Wedding Inc., a business that provides personalized paper for weddings including invitations, save the dates, place cards and even signage. She says she “absolutely loves designing paper products that put the starting and finishing touches on weddings.”

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Alysson Copeland Photography

Walk us through a typical day on the job.

Amy: A typical day in the studio would include going to meet up with a bride and discussing all the possible options she has for paper. After that meeting, I would start creating and setting up samples for her to receive in the mail. After the samples are finalized, I go into print production where I actually print all the products I design and then package it to send to the client. I think that is one of the coolest parts of my job is that I get to have a hand in every step of the process.

What are the best parts of your job and what are the most challenging?

A: The best part of my job is being able to truly make a girl’s dreams come true with what she is imagining for her wedding. Paper has a way of adding the special touches to an event. It all starts with invitations setting the theme of the wedding, to then finishing it with menus placed on the table at the reception. Probably the most challenging part would be staying on top of the newest trends. Weddings themes are always changing with what’s new and what’s the best way to do things. I always encourage brides by saying  “this is your day, so don’t let what is supposed to be in style hinder what you have always dreamed of for your wedding.”

Why did you choose your career?

A: I chose my career because I absolutely love designing and drawing, but at the same time I have such a passion for working with people. For awhile I tried figuring out how I could incorporate the two, and then after designing the paper products for a few of my friends’ weddings, I knew that this was the career path I wanted to take. There’s also something just so exciting about hearing everyone’s love story…it never gets old.

Any advice you’d give to others who want to enter your field?

A: My advice would be to not give up or beat yourself up over mistakes you make. It’s in the mistakes that we make that teach us how to do better the next time. If I gave up after my first mistake in this business, I would have been done with A Paper Wedding a long time ago. I have learned so much about persevering and finishing strong.

Know someone with a cool creative career? Tell us by tweeting @shopbrika or email hello@brika.com! Plus, read about more creative careers here.

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3 Easy Ways To Think Positively

Every book on personal development, success, and happiness will tell you how crucial it is to think positively. Experts in their respective fields from Deepak Chopra, to Gretchen Rubin, to Diane Von Furstenberg have written about how keeping their thoughts positive is a key to their success and happiness.

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Sometimes as we rush through life, it’s a challenge to ensure your thoughts are consciously positive and are not just running on automatic. My personal solution is to find easy ways to incorporate positive messages into my life. They become little reminders that pop into your life sometimes just when you need them. Here are 3 tips to accomplish just that:

1.  The power of a password. At one point, I was very unhappy in a job. When I finally decided that I had had enough, I went into work and changed the password on my computer to: “Two Weeks Notice”. I typed those three simple words at least once a day until the day I was able to say it in person. Consciously and subconsciously, typing those words motivated me to crank up my job search and helped me to visualize what I actually wanted. If there is something that you’re striving for or if you have an goal for the year, why not incorporate a positive reminder in your password(s)? Other examples could be: ‘workouttoday’, ‘callafriend’ or ‘createnow.’

2.  Keep them visible. Surround yourself with positive messages and it will be a lot harder to let negative thoughts seep in. Try a post-it note on your bathroom mirror or fridge, a favourite quote framed in your front entrance or a note to yourself pinned on your bulletin board at work.

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3.  Keep them close. One year I had an amazing yearly horoscope. It wasn’t so much what it predicted, but rather the message for how I would live my year. I didn’t want to forget what it said so I had it laminated and put it inside my wallet. Pulling out that card once in a while reminded me how I wanted to live and that I was meant to have a great year.

What are the ways you focus on positive, good messages in your life?

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3 Ways To Make Monday Better

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1. Find out what you should be making for dinner tonight.

2. Reach your potential with these 6 simple tips.

3. Take a minute and reorganize for a fresh start to the week.

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8 Beautiful Braids

There truly is a braid for every occasion. Whether it’s fancy, casual, simple or complicated, a great braid is a work of art. Here are 8 styles we love:

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The Messy Fishtail

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A Knotted Braid

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The Braided Updo

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The Elsa Braid

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The Loose French Braid

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A Braided Bun

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A Wrap Around Braid

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The Messy French Twist

See all our hair inspiration in one place.

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Tips from Our Makers: On Starting a Project

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Just start! Don’t over analyze or over-think too much because you’ll only create your own mental stops. Grab the first step and do it. Just do it. Don’t be worried about “what could happen,” focus on what’s happening right now.  - Ellen Bennett, Hedley & Bennett

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Get your ideas out in a tangible way (it makes room for new ones!). Beginning a project is often the hardest part. Our best advice is to gather your materials and just being creating. You can always edit later, but getting your ideas out makes room for new ideas to rush in. Sketch. Make drafts. Experiment. Mess up. Waste materials. Have fun.  - William & Jessica, Son of a Sailor

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Perfect your ideas through trial & error. I’m a person who has a million ideas and sometimes it’s hard to take an idea and start making for fear of it not being perfect. So, I would tell others to just start something. You’ll figure it out as you go. Sometimes your perfect idea in your head may not result in a perfect product, but you’ll find ways to make it perfect through trial and error.  - Bethany Nelson, Milkhaus Designs

Check back next week for tips on enjoying the process.

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

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1. We’d love to knock on one of these doors.

2. A different (and hilarious) take on women & art.

3. Listen to this cool twist on an ’80s hit.

4. A perfectly sweet & ‘fun’ recipe to try.

5. A great read on consumption and making mindful purchases.

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Bite Me More: Ultimate S’Mores Layer Cake

S’mores, the perfect trio of chocolate, graham and marshmallow, are no longer just for campfires and Kumbaya. Lisa, the trailblazer she is, has brought the fireside fun indoors with this unbelievably delicious S’mores Cake, with layers of fudgy brownies and chocolate chip graham, all iced with a toasted marshmallow frosting. Really, this is cake and camping at its finest!

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Ingredients

Fudgy Brownie Layer

  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Graham Layer

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

  • 20 regular marshmallows
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 7oz jar marshmallow fluff
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Graham cracker crumbs, for garnish

Mini marshmallows, for garnish

Melted semi sweet chocolate, for garnish

Directions

1) For the brownie layer, preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat two 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line both pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk melted butter, sugar and brown sugar until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips, stirring until flour has disappeared. Spread into prepared pans and bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before assembling cake.

2) For the chocolate chip graham layer, preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat two 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Line both pans with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, combine well. Add vanilla extract, mixing until combined. On low speed, add graham cracker crumbs, flour, salt and baking soda, mixing until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and spread into prepared pans. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely before assembling cake.

3) For the toasted marshmallow frosting, place marshmallows on metal skewers and toast carefully over an open flame. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, toasted marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, icing sugar and vanilla, until fluffy and a spreadable consistency.

4) To assemble the cake, place 1 brownie layer on a serving plate. Spread ½ cup marshmallow frosting over the top. Top with chocolate chip cookie layer. Spread ½ cup of frosting over top and place remaining brownie layer. Spread ½ cup frosting and top with remaining chocolate chip cookie layer. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Gently pat graham cracker crumbs around the sides and top of the cake. Garnish with baby marshmallows on top and drizzle with melted chocolate to hold them in place.

Serves 12-14

smores

 

Cake Cards  |  Muskoka Campfire Candle  |  Family Trees Napkins

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Creative Career: Chief Floral Designer

Alex is the creative director, owner and chief floral designer and owner of Patchouli, a floral events business that is run out of a studio space that’s tucked away on Queen East in downtown Toronto. They create floral arrangements that reflect and accentuate the wild beauty of Mother Nature.

flowers5Photo by Tamara Lockwood

When did you know you wanted to become a florist and start your own business?

A: I always knew that I wanted to love my job, whatever that may be. After working for big companies in corporate jobs for several years, it became clear to me that I wasn’t quite in the right place. I had worked for a florist several years earlier and remembered how hours would pass while I happily worked into the night. It was intoxicating. It was the kind of job that I really was able to lose myself in. I took the leap over three years ago and have no regrets!

What’s a typical day like on the job?

Alex: Each day really is so different. If we’re doing flowers for a wedding, we make a great playlist, grab some coffees and spend long days at the studio making a big mess! On those days, there’s rarely a surface in the studio that’s not covered in flowers! Other days are bridal consultations, ordering and planning for weddings, deliveries going out the door, etc. Despite my being a Virgo and loving order and routine, I often quite like the variety of my job.

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What are the best parts of your job?

A: The best part of my job is when a bride and groom email me the day after the wedding to tell me that our flowers added beauty and magic to their day. At that point, all the hard work is totally worth it. 

What are the biggest challenges?

A: There are many moving parts involved in running a small business from websites to customer service to inventory control, the list goes on. It is sometimes challenging staying on top of everything while also nurturing your creativity; something that requires time to be alone, go out in nature, and get inspired.  

flowers1Photo by Tamara Lockwood

Tell us something about your profession that may surprise people. 

A: With hauling buckets of water, long hours on your feet, boxes of flowers being packed in cars and up narrow stairwells, being a florist is a very physical job. If you’re a florist, you need to be a bit tough!

Any advice for budding florists and/or entrepreneurs? 

A: Technical skill of course are very useful and necessary. Any good florist needs to know the practical side. It’s also important to know the market you are in, and know where to position yourself. Social media presence of course is also very helpful, but what you need more than anything is an eye for design, and the ability and desire to work really, really hard! 

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Find the perfect vase for your own bouquet here.

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10 Stellar Spaces for Dreaming & Creating

To paraphrase Virginia Woolf, everyone needs a room of one’s own to foster creativity. Whether it’s a room, corner, nook, or cranny, our Makers have some beautiful spaces where they dream, imagine, and of course create the beautiful goods on BRIKA. Here are 10 examples of where the magic happens:

1.scoutdesk

“Most of my projects start in my sketchbook. It’s full of (mostly horrible) sketches and doodles, and from there I hone the designs to something somewhat cohesive.”
- Kathleen Turner, Scout & Lilly


2.Forestbound-Handmade-Accessories-BRIKA.com-Photo-4

Alice Saunders, Forestbound 

3.BRIKA-Hello-Bright-Photo-4

“I feel most like myself when I’m making something, and that is a place I want to live out all of my days in.” – Caitlin Parker, Bright July

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“Handmade objects can be very meaningful in a world where so many things are designed to become obsolete.” – Jacequeline Schmidt, Screech Owl Design

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 Jessica & William, Son of a Sailor

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Erika Riggs, Rouge & Whimsy

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“I usually start with a collage in my sketchbook. I find a theme I like and run with it.” - Molly Covert, Rabbit Foot Fern

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“”There’s a long list of tools I can’t live without in this line of work. One quietly underrated tool is a nice sharp pencil.” – Matt Voight, Milled Co.

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“To be honest, most of my work is trial and error. A lot of my finest design moments have been accidents.” – Meera Lee Patel

10. HoneyBloom_AB-0565

Becky Hui Chan, Honey & Bloom

Looking to create your own inspirational space? Find the perfect prints, paper, and decor here.

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3 Ways To Make Monday Better

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1. Paris or New York? Take your pick.

2. Take a moment and relax with these tips.

3. See how you’re inspiring us.

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Daily Habits of Top Women in Tech

BRIKA_ExclusiveiPhone_Infographic
Here are 8 other apps they recommended to make the daily tasks more enjoyable (bonus—they’re all free!):

1. Epicurious: 30,000 fresh recipes right at your fingertips.

2. Oyster: For the bookworm—access to hundreds of thousands of books that you can read on the go.

3. Duolingo: Time to kill on the commute? Try learning Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian or English. 

4. Pocket: Save interesting articles, delicious recipes, and fun videos in one handy spot to watch and read when you have time.

5. Mint: For tracking, managing and budgeting your money.

6. Trello: Make project management a piece of cake—it’s the ultimate to-do list.

7. Lifecake: Watch the kids grow and share with family and friends.

8. Waze: Get where you need to go even faster with this traffic app.

What are your favorite apps right now? Shop our exclusive iPhone collection designed by 3 talented artists.

 

 

 

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

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1. 10 creative habits you should steal.

2. A pretty depiction of the introvert’s heart.

3. Listen to a beautiful rendition of an old song by The Civil Wars.

4. As if dogs could get any cuter.

5. Read this heartwarming sports story.

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Back-to-School Tips from Maker Moms

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We asked some of our Maker moms how they make that transition back to school as smooth as possible for the kids (and themselves!). Here’s what they had to say:

On spending quality time together:

“[We] just have swimming days in the pool/lake—as many as possible to enjoy the summer!” – Kayo Master, Mi Cielo

“My oldest is just going into 1st grade but we are carrying on the tradition to have a special mom/daughter day before school starts—shopping, playing, and going out to lunch. Just the girls! I think I enjoy it as much as she does. ” – Araya Jensen, Wind & Willow Home

On making the transition easier:

We do a lot of talking about it. I share my school experiences with the kids and they ask questions. They think it is so cool that they are doing the same things and having the same feelings that their parents had (soooo long ago).” – Araya Jensen, Wind & Willow Home

“Tristan is actually starting kindergarten this month so it is a BIG step for us!! I’m planning on bringing him with me to every small event toward the starting day of school. That way, he can get used to the environment and have a better understanding of what will await him.” – Kayo Master, Mi Cielo

“As daily preparations go and getting back into the swing of things, we do feel that it’s important to have a fairly set schedule of morning duties, as children seem to self motivate and thrive when they know what’s next! That starts with picking out outfits the night before, preparing the breakfast table the night before, and upon waking they are given about 10 minutes to wake up and stretch to prepare their bodies for a day full of activity.” – Kiana Mosley

“We like to talk about the start of school several weeks before it actually happens, especially during meal times. This gets the girls excited to start. Also, when starting at new schools, we’ve been able to arrange get togethers with future classmates during the summer so that there are at least a few friendly faces on the first day.” – Anri, Stitched by Anri

On making traditions: 

“For the car ride to school we pick a pretty upbeat soundtrack — that seems to influence a fun and positive attitude. Our favorites are MAGIC, Jack Johnson, Colbie Calliat, Sugar Ray. ” – Kiana Mosley

“I do like to take a photo of them on the first day!” – Anri, Stitched by Anri

See 7 summery crafts to do with kids before school starts & our back-t0-school shop.

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7 Summery Crafts To Do With The Kids

What better way to spend some quality time with the kids before school starts back up than with a fun DIY project? Time to get crafty!

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Colorful Japanese flying fish

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Create cute animals out of household objects (and recycle, too!)

sailboat

Make a summery scene

rocks

Spend some time outdoors collecting rocks & paint them!

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Decorate those notebooks for school

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Make some jewelry together

instrument
Get them ready for music class

Plus, check out our shop here & see what tips our Maker moms shared for sending the kids back to school. 

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3 Ways To Make Monday Better

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1. Take Food52′s fun (and sweet) quiz.

2. Get inspired to dream bigger.

3. Work on your productivity and have a great Monday!

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Uppercase Magazine: A Passion for Pigment

UPPERCASE is a quarterly print magazine for the creative and curious with content inspired by design, illustration, type, craft and creativity. Through beautiful design and engaging profiles, readers are inspired by artists who have turned their craft into their career. Editor Janine Vangool highlights a BRIKA artist who is known for her vibrant prints.

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Whether a subtle shade or vibrant value, color is the jumping-off point for creative exploration and personal expression. Color offers endless inspiration… and as designers, illustrators, artists and craftspeople, we all share this passion for pigment!

The summer issue of UPPERCASE magazine is art directed like a rainbow. Starting with red at the front and working its way to a violet conclusion, the artists and their work profiled were considered for the palette of work and how they’d fit in the magazine’s spectrum of inspiration. (To see a video of how this was done, click here.)

Shana Frase is a BRIKA artist whose work is driven by a love of colour. Using saturated and appealingly drippy watercolor, her work appears expressive and spontaneous. She asks visitors to her website “Whats your favourite color?” and in response presents them with a variety of swatches with which to navigate her work.

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Everything Print

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More Thank This Silk Scarf

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Drip Drop Card Set

Please sign up for the UPPERCASE weekly newsletter for free content previews and a $10 coupon. To find out more about UPPERCASE magazine, please visit their website

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

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We created a Pinterest board so you can share your inspiration.
See what you’ve been pinning!

1. Are we a remix culture? This video raises a few questions about creativity.

2. Here’s an eye-opening infographic.

3. Mastering the Art of French Cooking (and applying lessons learned to entrepreneurship).

4. Already dreading making school lunches for the kids? Help is here.

5. What does minimalism mean to you?

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An Indigo Beads DIY

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Materials

  • colored clay
  • suede cord or hemp
  • a baking sheet
  • a toothpick
  • acrylic paint
  • paintbrushes

Directions

1. Roll the clay into balls and use a toothpick to create a hole (make the hole a bit bigger than you’d like since the beads will shrink slightly when baked).

2. Bake the beads on a baking sheet according to the instructions on the clay package.

3. Paint the beads after they’ve cooled. Use fine paintbrushes or the head of a nail to create polka dots — get creative!

4. String them onto suede cord or hemp to create necklaces.

necklace copy

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7 Cool Ways to Store Things in Small Spaces

We’re always looking for innovative ways to store things, especially in small places. Here are 7 of our favorite ways to take advantage of every inch:

1.stairs

A hidden spot in the stairs

2. garage

Keep the garage organized

3. pegs

Peg board shelving so you can adjust as needed!

4. ladder

A DIY ladder wardrobe with lots of hanging space

5. books

Display kids books in a fun way (and save space)

6. hangingnightstand

A hanging nightstand leaves space underneath

7. kitchen

Save your drawer space & make utensils easily accessible

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Bite Me More: Chipotle Burgers with Creamy Coleslaw

If you can stand the heat and want to get out of the kitchen, it’s time to go outside and get grilling these fiery fantastic Chipotle Burgers. Infused with smoky chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and cumin, these tasty beef burgers are topped with a kickin’ creamy coleslaw and a spicy special sauce. Yes Siree, spice up your life and bring on the heat with these easy and delicious Southwestern-style burgers!

burger

Ingredients

Chipotle Burger

  • 1½lbs ground beef
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 2 tsp adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Creamy Coleslaw

  • 4 cups shredded coleslaw mix
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp adobo sauce
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Spicy Special Sauce

  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp chili powder

4 hamburger buns

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 avocado, sliced

Directions

1) For the hamburger, preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place ground beef, chopped chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, salt, cumin and pepper in a large bowl. Mix all ingredients together using your hands, taking care not to handle the meat too much. Form the meat into 4-6oz. patties. Lightly oil the grilling surface and place patties on the preheated grill. Cook for about 6-8 minutes per side, depending on desired doneness. Remove from grill.

2) For the coleslaw, while the burgers are cooking, in a large bowl, combine coleslaw, mayonnaise, parsley, lime juice, adobo sauce, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Toss to combine well. Set aside until ready to assemble burgers.

3) For the burger sauce, in a medium bowl, whisk together sour cream, salsa, mayonnaise, lime juice, sugar, cumin and chili powder until well combined.

4) To assemble the burgers, spread the burger sauce onto the insides of the top and bottom of the buns. Place a layer of coleslaw on the bottom bun followed by the cooked burger, a large slice of avocado, a tomato slice, another layer of coleslaw and the top bun. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Serve these delicious burgers with:

tablesetting

Napkins  |  Candle  |   Table Runner

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30 Things To Do Before Summer Ends

stars

1. Try a new restaurant in your city.

2. Host an amazing summer dinner party (these inspired us).

3. Spend a night under the stars and see how many constellations you can name.

4. Go to an ice cream shop and try a flavor you’ve never had before.

5. Catch a movie at the drive-in theater.

6. Buy fresh fruit and make a big batch of sangria (or try these drink ideas).

7. Enjoy an outdoor concert or food festival.

8. Head to the water—go boating, swimming, or waterskiing.

9. Have a bonfire (and make delicious s’mores).

10. Make your own popsicles: try these or these.

11. Get crafty. Try these DIYs.

12. Organize an outdoor group activity like beach volleyball, soccer, or ultimate frisbee.

13. Go on a road trip (it doesn’t have to be far!).

14. Find a local farm and pick fresh fruit.

15. Make jam, pies, and cakes with all that fruit!

16. Catch fireflies in a jar.

17. Go canoeing or kayaking.

18. Sign up for a 5k run or fun triathlon.

19. Plant a garden (including fresh herbs!).

20. Bring some of the outdoors inside.

21. Go camping, even if it’s just in the backyard.

22. Enjoy a long, leisurely bike ride.

23. Plan a picnic with friends.

24. Go skinny dipping!

25. Wake up early to watch the sunrise.

26. Go night swimming.

27. Try a new activity—rollerblading, anyone?

28. Read a good book (finish Gone Girl or Wild before they hit theaters this fall!).

29. Get one last bright manicure and pedicure.

30. Go on a hike or nature walk (pick wildflowers and press them in a book after!).

Get even more summer inspiration here & see our must-have accessories.

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3 Ways to Make Every Day Feel Like Vacation

One of the best parts of vacation is experiencing something new and unfamiliar—the sense of daily adventure. Returning home from a fantastic vacation doesn’t have to mean settling back into the same old routine. Try these 3 tips to bring that holiday feeling to your every day life:

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1. Weekdays don’t have to be boring. Unless I have dinner plans with friends, I have a tendency to come home from work and settle in for the night. But who says it has to be that way? It’s amazing how much you fit into one day when you’re on vacation. Why not come home and go for a bike ride, or visit a nearby art gallery, or walk to your neighbourhood ice cream shop?

2. Take one day on the weekend off completely. What’s so fantastic about vacations is that they really allow you to disconnect. No errands, no work emails, no housework. Why not designate a day on the weekend to truly turn off? Get all your errands and housework done on one day, and let the other day be your vacation day. Plan to spend that day in the park with a picnic, or a day excursion out of the town, or even just spend time visiting sites within your own city.

3. Try something new. In a new town, you have to take risks. There is no dependable way to choose the right menu item. So why not go beyond your comfort zone at home? Try the local Indian restaurant. Go listen to some flamenco guitar just to see if you like it. Watch a documentary if you normally go for hollywood flicks.

Nothing can replace a far-off vacation, and if you’re looking for destination inspiration, look here. But why not try to incorporate the best parts of a trip away into your life today?

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5 of our Favorite Foodie Instagrams

We’ve all posted pictures of amazing meals we’re about to devour, but these Instagram accounts take food photography and filters to a whole new level. Warning: don’t view these on an empty stomach!

1.

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Keiyamazaki: For food that’s almost too pretty to eat
(and makes us want to take a trip to Japan ASAP!).

2. Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 3.42.03 PM

Art of Cheese: For cheese platters that will have you organizing
your next wine & cheese party in a heartbeat.

3. Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 3.42.58 PM

Spoon Fork Bacon: For fresh recipes & beautiful photography.

4.

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Let Me Eat Cake: For those with a serious sweet tooth.

5. Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 3.45.19 PM

 Ida Frosk: For super creative food styling.

What are your favorite accounts for viewing delicious meals?

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Add More Color Into Your Life in 4 Steps

Annette Stepanian the founder and designers behind the jewelry line Confetti by Annette knows a thing or two about adding color to the every day. She shares her tips below!

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Jonathan Adler once said: “Those who are afraid of color are afraid of life.” Because color can convey such joy, vibrancy, and enthusiasm, it may seem a little daunting when you first start incorporating into your life. Here are four easy steps to do just that:

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1. Figure out your go-to color palette

Take an objective look at your closet and your home and take stock of the colors you naturally gravitate towards. Go through your Pinterest boards or cut out pictures from magazines and see if you can find any common patterns in the types of colors your eye is drawn to. We all have our personal favorites because we naturally associate certain colors with specific meanings.

2. Take that color wheel for a spin

Remember the color wheel we learned about in grade school? An easy way to add more color into your life is to to take the colors you identified in the first step and find either analogous or complementary colors on the wheel. Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel. Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such red and green. These color combinations will always work. In my book, white, gray, black and beiges are freebies! These colors will all harmonize with most other colors on the wheel. Use them as much or as little as you want.

3. Add small splashes of color

Now that you have an idea of your favorite colors and how to harmonize them, it’s time to start incorporating them into your life. If the thought of straying from your tried and true colors scares you, start with a small splash of color. Accessories (such as a scarf, jewelry, or even nail polish) are an easy way to do this and require little commitment. And don’t forget that color can also be incorporated into your home with a few throw pillows, some art on the walls, or a vase filled with flowers!

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4. Turn to nature for inspiration

As you start introducing more color into your life, you’ll grow more comfortable with playing with new combinations. Some of the most beautiful color combinations are reflected in nature, so use that as a starting point. From the different shades of pinks and marigolds found in a field of flowers to the crisp turquoise blue ocean, Mother Nature is the Queen of Color. Be playful, try new things and don’t overthink it. My philosophy is if it makes you’re comfortable and happy, then go for it!

Click here for some serious color inspiration  & shop Annette’s vibrant jewelry here

Posted in BRIKA Inspiration, Other | 1 Comment

3 Ways To Make Monday Better

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1. Learn about coffee around the world as you drink your morning cup o’ joe.

2. Watch Sam Smith’s new music video.

3. Yes, you can make art out of flower petals!

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

tulips

1. Is this the best ice cream flavor ever?

2. Learn a little about the science of color.

3. How to have fun with words.

4. Got a watermelon? Read this.

5. Visit our new destination for inspiration.

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10 Ways to Be the Perfect House Guest

cottage

Our family recently became the proud owner of a summer cottage on a lake just one and a half hours outside of Toronto. It is a very (let me emphasize the “very”) rustic place with a number of “bunkies” on an island. What it lacks in luxuries, it certainly makes up for in “spirit!” It is most definitely a place meant for having guests. So far this summer, we have had visitors up every weekend (including 2 weekends with 20 people each). As a hostess, I’ve been lucky to have friends who have been the epitome of perfect house guests! Here are a few things I’ve noticed that they’ve done that have made our weekends together stellar:

1. Bring your own beach towels. There’s nothing like having less laundry to do. Plus, you’ll be able to keep track of which one is yours more easily.
2. Volunteer to cook a meal or bring the apps. Being able to cover a full meal or snack for all guests is golden! Even if you just bring all the ingredients, you can have fun preparing and cooking together.
3. If you’re going to give a gift, do it after the visit. Although it’s more typical to bring a gift when you arrive, it might be more valued if you give a gift after the visit! See what they could be missing in the kitchen or check out their decor and then find items that will fit just perfectly.
4. Understand the rhythms of the house. Early risers? Shoes off in the house? Get to know the schedule and rules of the house.
5. Offer to do the dishes. Always.
6. Stock up on beverages. Both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic kind! You can never have too much to drink when it’s hot outside.
7. BYODR. Whether you are gluten-free, a pescetarian or allergic to x,y or z – make sure you bring your own stash of food that covers your dietary restrictions.
8. Be independent. Bring a book or be able to genuinely relax. If the host/hostess hasn’t made any plans, find ways to unwind by yourself.
9. Clean up after yourself. That’s fairly obvious, right?
10. Be flexible. Ultimately, things won’t go according to plan, and the more open and creative you are to “Plan B”, the better!

See our Cottage Life Collection to find the perfect gift.

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5 Tips for a Creative Career & Life

Over the course of my career, I’ve interacted with many amazingly creative people  — from fashion designers, business leaders, creative directors, Makers to bona fide visionaries. They have all had an incredible influence on my philosophies about work and life. My biggest takeaway from working side by side with this impressive group of people is that you CAN build a creative career and life. Your creativity doesn’t have to be something you nurture only in your downtime. I would argue that you are ultimately doing yourself a disservice if you don’t find ways to ignite your creativity through what you do everyday. Here are 5 tips for a creative career and life:

CreativeSpark

Print by Monorail

1.  Creativity is about taking risks. Most creativity involves some kind of risk — risk that you will be laughed at, criticized, judged or even fired. But there is also no great reward without great risk. So in order to innovate, taking risks is absolutely necessary. Call it blind bravery — the idea that sometimes you have to jump without a net and have faith that one will appear if you need it!

2. It is all about the hustle. I heard Gary Vaynerchuk speak at my business school a few years ago — he is all about hustling in order to create. For those of us seeking more creative career paths, hustling is a pre-requisite to success. It means readingresearchingcold-callingcold-emailing, meeting with hundreds of people to get the introduction or information you need. Through this process and you’ll likely become more focused and therefore more strategic…strategic hustling, if you will?

3.  Develop your personal brand. Know who you are, what you’re great at, what you love and what you believe in. Weave all that into a fascinating story about yourself and carry it around with you. People want to work and connect with you, not your resume.

4. Seek out like-minded people. It is hard to follow your heart when all you hear around you is “that’s crazy — why would you want to do that”, “it’s not stable”, “what if it doesn’t work” etc. You spend all your time shielding your resolve from everyone else’s point of view. Since I’ve decided to take the entrepreneurial route I have been in touch with so many entrepreneurs and the support and like-minded thinking has been incredibly invigorating! Make a point to find people who think about life and work like you do.

5.  Look at your career and life like an adventure. There is no set path so nobody can tell you exactly what, when and how to do something. Leverage your passion, listen to your gut and have a vision and you will have quite a ride! (ahem, speaking from recent experience on this one ;))

If you haven’t yet signed up for BRIKA, hop to it and discover well-crafted goods from inspiring and passionate Makers at brika.com.

Did you like this story? You’ll probably like these as well!

  1. Building BRIKA’s Creative Community
  2. Jenn Liddiard on Getting Creative
  3. Mix-and-Match Jewelry

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Learning to Look Far & Wide: A Q&A with a Founder

Far & Wide Collective discovers the beautifully unique and carefully made things one can only stumble upon in the tucked-away workshops and rural village markets on exotic travels. Founded by Hedvig Christine Alexander, Far & Wide connects artisans in emerging economies to the international market and helps artisans partners grow their businesses, to help with sourcing new products and to developing new artisan networks and channels. Shop the collection here.

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Kena: Tell me a little about your story.

Hedvig: After graduating from University, I ended up going to Afghanistan where I stayed for 7 years. I worked for the UN and for several NGOs including one where I worked to revive Afghan arts and crafts. I saw firsthand how quickly people were able to produce very high quality, very beautiful products if they had the right kind of support, but how difficult it was (even for an artisan with a great product) for them to connect to consumers in North America. So when I moved to Canada about five years ago, I thought if I was going to continue to try to make a difference, that difference would be the most important. There are many NGOs doing incredible work, but they largely lack experience in business and retail. So I thought I should try to understand that area, to really be able to help the people I’m working with.

K: That’s one of the reasons why I was so fascinated by what you’re doing – it is one thing to help a community make product, it is another to ensure they are serving a real market with that product.

H: That’s right. The missing piece is access to the market. If you see a group of 5 widows with eight children to feed and you discover they do beautiful embroidery, the inclination is to give them money to produce more scarves. But at no point are you thinking about the colors of the scarves, the kind of embroidery, who is going to buy them, what kind of fabric, what season, all the things that any buyer would consider in the retail market. We need to turn that around and have a more demand driven vs. supply push approach when it comes to developing product.

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Jamdani cotton scarves woven in West Bengal 

K: What initially brought you to Afghanistan?

H: I’ve always believed social change is possible with the right circumstances. As a child I paid a lot of attention to what was happening in Afghanistan. I grew up in the time of the Cold War and from a young age felt very sorry for the Afghan people who suffered greatly – they were caught in the middle of a war that had very little to do with them! I was already intrigued by Afghanistan, but then 9/11 happened and I was graduating a few months later, so of course I went!

Towards the end of my time in Afghanistan I thought a lot about how to include producers of craft in the global economy. I felt that if we really are serious about  helping people move up the prosperity ladder then we need to do something about giving them this kind of access.

K: Tell me about a family or community that has been impacted by your work with Far + Wide Collective.

H: We are still small, but you don’t have to buy very much for it to make a significant impact. There is a girl I know from my time in Afghanistan who started a jewelry business just as I was leaving there. In five years, she’s done incredibly well. I saw her transform from a 19-year-old girl who was coming back from spending most of her life as a refugee in Pakistan turn into an empowered, strong woman who has a family, married for love, and is now also a successful entrepreneur. In fact, not only does she run her own business, but has also become a catalyst for change in her community. She is helping develop other businesses including one that involves recycling paper waste into packaging materials.

That’s what access to markets and the world economy brings – it opens up markets to consumers, to their preferences, to what they want – a different kind of vision to what people in Afghanistan are used to. So apart from being an economic driver, it’s also just an incredible connection for people – it breaks the isolation and helps them aspire to something bigger and pull their community out of economic hardship but also lack of education and other things.

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Studs featuring uncut Afghan emeralds

K: How do you educate remote communities, say in Kenya, about the consumer in New York City?

H: It is still very hard for the woman who weaves baskets in her mud hut to understand the woman in New York. We try to tell them about it and show them pictures of where that woman lives and what her life is like. We want to give that woman the market research she needs so she can grow her own business knowing what the end consumer wants and move her business to the next level.

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Pink Striped Basket handwoven in Kenya

K: How can we as consumers help?

H: I grew up in Denmark in a time when it was too expensive to buy “cheap things”. So you would save up and buy something special and have it for many years. Now our consumer culture has become more disposable and consumerism in general is highly driven by big box stores where their story is: we’re the cheapest. I think a basket like this isn’t expensive because it will last you longer, you will like it longer, you won’t get rid of it next year.  Consumers could help by making more conscious choices, perhaps by shifting their mindset when buying.

K: Who do you most admire?

H: I admire so many of the women that I’ve worked with. They’ve broken through so many overwhelming obstacles to achieve success. I really admire women who’ve found a way to overcome and had a vision in a place where there really wasn’t room for a vision of this kind.

K: They had to find it themselves – there was nobody to emulate.

H: Yes exactly, it was a vacuum. These women have an incredible drive. And it lies in all of us, it’s just whether you’re able to find it yourself or if someone or something pulls it out of you.

K: How do you define a well-crafted life?

H: A Well-Crafted Life is one where you follow and live (to the best that you can given your surroundings) the instincts and beliefs you have. As an entrepreneur with two small children and a husband who travels a lot, I often wonder if I’m doing the right thing, but I do think that when you’re involved in doing something that you believe in, and feel you’re making a difference (and you don’t have to travel to Afghanistan to do that) then the satisfaction and sense of achievement you feel when things go right is so wonderful and it makes you feel so full of energy, which makes you a much better person, citizen and wife.

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3 Ways to Make Monday Better

attitude

1. Feeling stressed already? According to Fast Company, all you need is 60 seconds and one word to help.

2. Take a minute and listen to Keira Knightley and Adam Levine’s lovely duet from Begin Again (and then make sure to see the film!).

3. Read a love story from The New Yorker’s archives.

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

water

1. Go Greek with this delicious recipe.

2. What’s your summer jewelry style? Find out here.

3. This sounds like a kid’s dream.

4. Take a real break this weekend.

5. Spend some time in The New Yorker’s archives (and here are 14 great recommendations).

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8 Fresh Summer Drink Ideas

Is there anything better than relaxing on the porch with a refreshing drink on a hot summer day? Try one of these recipes to spice up your morning coffee or happy hour, and if it’s a success, host a get-together (because great drinks are meant to be shared)!

farm

Farmhouse Jam Cocktail

nutella

Nutella Iced Coffee

lemonade

Raspberry Peach Lemonade

sage

Grapefruit Sage Mimosa

sangria

Sangria Swirled Frozen Margarita

thai

Thai Iced Coffee

smoothie

Raspberry Sunrise Smoothie

cocktailA Florodora

Which recipe will you try first?

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Bite Me More: Cowboy Blondies

Yeehaw! Chef Lisa has taken the traditional Cowboy Cookie (usually a dry and boring desperado-of-a-cookie) and turned it on its saddlebag with her easy and original Cowboy Blondie Recipe. One bite of these moist and delectable Cowboy Blondies, loaded with chocolate chunks, oatmeal and coconut, and drizzled with a candied pecan topping, will leave you thanking Lisa, the old galoot.

blondies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1½ cups chopped white chocolate

Pecan Topping

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup icing sugar

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 13×9-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

2) In an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, adding eggs one at a time until combined. Add flour, baking soda, salt, oatmeal, coconut, semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate, mixing on low speed just until the flour disappears. Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 25-26 minutes, until golden brown on the top. Remove from oven and let cool completely before topping goes on.

3) For the pecan topping, sprinkle toasted pecans over cooled cowboy blondies. In a medium saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil over medium heat. Whisk constantly and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Gradually whisk in icing sugar and stir for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Pour over pecan pieces and let set completely before slicing.

Yield: 24 squares

If you wonder why it’s the blond(ies) having all the fun, check out these Gooey Brownies with Fudge Frosting

BRIKA picks for this recipe: 

blondie

Howdy Pillow  |  Whiskey Candle  |
Williamsburg Beard Oil  |  Horseshoe Pillow

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A Made in NYC Summer Giveaway

Celebrating and supporting artisans and their own exceptional goods is our main goal here at BRIKA. Not only do we love learning the story behind how each beautiful item comes to life, but we think it’s so important to support local industries. That’s why we’ve teamed up with Bow & Drape and Oak73 to bring attention to the Made in America movement, with particular emphasis on the sustainment of New York City’s garment manufacturing industry. Together we’ve also put together an amazing summer prize pack (including a gorgeous necklace by History & Industry, a Brooklyn-based designer).

BRIKA-BOWDRAPE-OAK73 PARTNERSHIP 2-2

Read more about New York City’s garment manufacturing industry on Oak73′s blog, and enter the giveaway below (bonus entries for sharing!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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5 Ways To Have A Well-Crafted Weekend

coloro

We love a neutral space with tons of colorful accents!

1. Small space? No problem!

2. 10 cool things to make this weekend.

3. Now this is some fresh wall art.

4. What’s your ‘spot‘?

5. Who exactly is the American Girl, and what does it have to do with selfies?

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