Category Archives: gut check


coco+kelley kristin armstrong quote

It’s been far too long since we’ve had one of my personal posts around here, but I’ve had a harder time than usual trying to put life into words lately. It’s now almost June and I can confidently say that this year has been challenging in a whole new way for me. The past few […]


  1. Kristin

    I love this quote too. Kristin Armstrong is fantastic — she writes a weekly column for Runner’s World that is always full of wisdom. The column is available on their website and I highly recommend it!

  2. Lola Falk

    What a beautifully honest (and timely!) post. I’ve been much in the same boat as you, particularly with this year – a lot of peaks and valleys, with an unsettled feeling of “what’s next?” boiling beneath the surface.

    I believe these moments of discomfort are truly a gift – as successful independent business owners, we’re always going to have that itch for what the next step/change is. It’s how we grow, thrive. That’s why we got ourselves on this crazy path in the first place.

    I love your newly directed focus on charitable giving – I feel that even when I’m having months where I’m squeaking by financially, there is always a small bit that can be given back. While I like to support causes dedicated to helping women and girls around the world specifically, there is one little cause in particular that is near and dear to my heart – they’re a Michigan-based organization called Handbags of Hope. They provide support and advocacy for women dealing with domestic abuse – and their defining trademark is always offering these women a new handbag filled with toiletry essentials. The idea being that many of these women are fleeing dangerous situations, and many times the handbag gets left behind. The handbag is a symbol of a woman’s strength, what she carries her most prized and personal items within. Given what my brand and products are all about, it felt like a perfect match :).

    Please keep us posted as things unfold for you! I wish you all the best.

  3. Robyn Arouty

    This is so wonderful Cassandra…so happy for you! Indeed I have a story…

    Spent many years “bored” as you say…but depressed too, because I knew there was more & different & wonderful that I was capable of having in my life. Just had no idea how to tap into it or where to turn. I sent daily wishes into the universe for things to become more clear & for guidance to the right people, places, & things.

    Very long story short: I was on sabbatical from my psychotherapy private practice when I met up with the guy that originally sold me my very groovy mustard yellow original vinyl with dual chrome 4-star bases “shrink’s sofa.” (I know you will appreciate that description LOL!) We went out for dinner one night & my life changed forever.

    He was a mid-century design guru & taught me everything he knew. I soaked up everything fabulous about design, which is when I first found your blog. I taught myself graphic design & photography & he set up a studio in our home for me to shoot all of his daily finds for the online store we were running by then. Nope, never went back to the day job. This was too fun & scary & exhilarating to even dream of doing that.

    About 3 years later I stumbled on a facebook group that was walking dogs on the weekends for the city’s animal control shelter & I joined them the following Saturday. Again, my life would never be the same. Brought my camera up the next weekend & took some pics of volunteers with the dogs they were walking & they found their way to facebook on my personal page that night.

    I kicked the boyfriend to the curb & became a crazy dog lady. Soon I teamed up with Craig Malisow from The Houston Press & he wrote amazingly creative descriptions of the dogs & cats I would photograph that were up for adoption. We saved lives together every week…& I was hooked. Pretty soon people were asking if I could take photos of them with their dogs.

    Six weeks later I had a full-time business I never even planned. There are no rules & creative juices flow every minute in just the way I always dreamed it. The business remains my platform for advocacy & rescue work. I’m definitely never bored! And I realized the only real way to a fulfilled life is to be of service to others.

    Best of luck to you. Be humble. Be curious. Be yourself. Hugs.

  4. Julie

    I struggle with this as well, I’m about to head into a new chapter in my life. All three kids will be in school and for the first time in years, I should have a little more “me” time. I am desperately wanting to move forward with my love for interior decorating/styling, it’s my passion. But boy oh boy am I ever terrified to take the leap. But at the same time, if I don’t I just know I’ll always regret it. So, here’s to being uncomfortable, here’s to being confident with uncertainty, here’s to just doing it! xo Julie

  5. Ivana @ Macarons and Pearls

    I love it, when I stumble upon such a honest and inspiring post. And it’s funny, too, because I was thinking about this very same thing just yesterday: how stepping out your comfort zone is so important for your personal growth. I’m not a very adventurous person by nature: I don’t need adrenaline shots to feel alive, and I like to feel comfortable (I mean, who doesn’t?). In fact, my last four years were all about comfortable: living with the Prince Charming, working in a great, but not overly challenging job, just cruising. And then, BAM! Prince Charming turned into frog, my job was boring me to death, and I hated the country I lived in. Changing all that required a lot of efforts and energy and testing my inner strength (yeah, it is possible to dump your fiancé, move to another country and start a new career in a matter of one week). And that’s when, after so much time, I felt alive again. Just as you said: there was fire under my ass again 🙂 and I like it! Now I make a conscious effort to put myself through more challenges: it may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Comfortable doesn’t make me move forward. Challenge does.
    Thank you so much for posting this quote and your own thoughts: I’m going to print this out and keep it nearby for those moments when I feel uninspired 🙂

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      well, aren’t you an added inspiration!! the thing i forget about when i write these posts is how i get so much out of them, with stories like yours. what an amazing leap of faith to make all those changes at ONCE! so incredible, and i’m happy to hear you’re happier, too. virtual high five to us both! 😉

      1. Ivana @ Macarons and Pearls

        Thank you so much! Blogging can sometimes seem like a solitary journey, and it’s posts like this one that remind me that I’m not in this alone, that there are people out there that go through similar situations and insecurities. It’s such a great source of inspiration and strength! High five to you, too 🙂 And I hope to hear more about your progress!
        Have a fabulous day!

        xx Ivana

        1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

          we’re absolutely in it together! that’s the beauty (and downfall) of the blogging community. the connection it creates is amazing – i just wish it wasn’t across states, countries and oceans! good luck to you ivana!

  6. Carolyn

    Great Post! Just writing it down you will see changes. When I have hit those points I realize I either am needing time off or new stimulation. Find your fire – it isn’t always easy but certainly worthwhile.

    You can settle down later 😉 Enjoy!

  7. MDZags

    This is such a timely and fabulous post! I was just checking back with the comment I had left on the resolution post 6 months ago. I have tackled some of my goals (hello relocation!!) and others (Why is dating new men such a challenge??) and have reassessed my priorities as the year (and I) have progressed.

    I think it is brave, smart and necessary that you are investing in an assistant. Not only is this the next stop for your business, it is essential for your personal, professional and emotional well-being. Never, ever question that. If you decided to go back to school for your MBA would you question taking out a student loan? I highly doubt that. Because you know the return-on-investment is a sure thing. As is investing in an assistant.

    As for investing time and energy into others. Well, nothing says, I was genuinely thinking about you, like a hand-written note.

    I often find that volunteering is the best part of my week. I almost feel guilty, because I often think I get the most out of it. Do you want to give an organization your professional skills and talents, or would you prefer a more hands-on approach? JVC is a favorite charity of mine, as is any Friends of the Library program. Go back to the basics. What interests you? What do you have a soft spot for in your heart? What was your passion at age 7? Perhaps you could work with a women’s shelter and teach them how to make a few cost-effective, nutritious and easy meals. Not only will you enjoy this (I am assuming) but they will acquire life long skills as they set out into the world as survivors.

    Stay brave. Keep investing in your happiness and growth. Re-evaluate and evolve. Stay fabulous!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      aw, thanks for checking in with me on this too! (and yes, why is dating new men such a challenge!?). loved your comment and insight, and funny you mention hand-written notes as it’s been something i’ve been trying to do more of but need to do WAY more of! love the idea of working with a women’s shelter too. sending you a big hug and thank you! xo

  8. barbara

    Thank you for this post- I love reading about your real life, thoughts, inspirations, disappointments, and life presents! While reading about new products, seeing pretty rooms, etc is a slice of happiness during the day, I also relish the real stuff.

  9. Lindsey Cosgrove

    Hi Cassandra, great post! I wanted to share one nonprofit I believe in: the National Guild for Community Arts Education. Full disclosure: I love this org because I work there! The National Guild is on a mission to make arts education a part of life and community for every person, across the country. We do that by providing resources and training for the dedicated folks who run nonprofit arts organizations. Many of the leaders of these organizations started off as artists, dancers, musicians, actors, or writers and come to their positions as business leaders with tons of passion, but very little know-how. That’s where we come in. Because our theory of change is a little wonky – because we don’t actually serve kids, but the adults that serve them – we have trouble getting people’s attention. But the impact of training nonprofit leaders is HUGE in the lives of children and communities. Anyway, thanks for this great post! I hope you’ll check out the National Guild.

  10. cozbi

    thank you oh-so much for this post. the quote + your thoughts are not only relatable but so, so appreciated. great food for the heart and mind and soul to digest. much needed for you and myself too! thanks again!

  11. Jess

    Wow! Really needed to read something like this today! Thank you for sharing and know that by doing that you have helped more people than you realize :). I am going to embrace the discomfort! Thanks again!

  12. Mrs. ShuGar

    Thank you so much for sharing of yourself. I can definitely relate to this feeling of being uncomfortable and the fear with that. However, when I look back at moments where I felt I truly accomplished something admirable, it’s when I initially felt uncomfortable. Uncomfortable = Growth

    I felt this way when I contemplated blogging for a long time. It made me uncomfortable putting myself out there and not knowing if anyone will ever read it. Ultimately, we can only follow our hearts and be true to ourselves. Everything else is out of our hands.

    Be inspired by your talent and your beauty. I try to remind myself of this daily. Best of luck!

  13. Desirae

    Lovely post Cassandra-thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. It’s uncomfortable enough sometimes just sharing and trying to be out there! You are doing a great job and I often feel very inspired by reading your blog, in fact it’s one of my daily reads. I started my design business about a year and half ago and I still don’t know where I am, where I’m going and what the future holds (which I guess is ok but it’s hard to think in that mind set). Your thoughtful post has inspired me more to continue my ventures and be ok with the uncomfortable parts of being a business owner and trying to seek satisfaction with what I am doing, which is actually a true passion of mine and what i went to school for, however hard at times nonetheless. I’ve also been thinking long and hard about what it really means to network and get out in the world of meeting others who have a passion for the same things I do. After some serious soul searching i’ve found that it’s ok to seek advice and inspiration from others, even if they are doing more than me-does that make sense? Good luck and I love your idea about giving back to others in your community. There is a small charity in my community of West Seattle called West Side Baby that is always in need of volunteers and donations. I’m a mom of three and feel so fortunate to have never been in need of anything for my kids-but many do, and that is where WSB comes in.

    Thanks again for the inspiring words and good luck with everything! I look forward to seeing more of your work on your blog!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      i think you totally touched on something that it’s so hard to admit – that it’s ok to seed advice and inspiration from others. it’s hard to admit we don’t know the answers, that others may be doing things better than we are, that we are lacking in certain aspects. but the best friends i have in the blogging community are the ones who are sharing their advice and experiences with me, and i cherish those. i hope you have those same people in your life who can offer the same! it’s so valuable!

  14. adrian

    I love the program Big Brother Big Sister. To be able to make a big impact young kids means a lot to me. These kids have not been dealt a good hand, and I love being able to inspire in a way that I can witness first hand. It also allows you to be a kid as well by running around at the park, going to animated movies, and crafting!

    Good Luck Cassi!

  15. Naomi (Design Manifest)

    I relate to this SO much!! Around owning a business and next steps and how I approach things differently in this decade. I do feel I’ve been playing it a little safe recently and I don’t like it. Like I’m doing it because that’s what one is supposed to do, but not what I’m inspired to do. So good of you to go back to your list. You’ve inspired me to look again at my own goals.
    And Bravo for adding charitable activities. That is always on my To-Do list and always manages to get pushed out by some other priority.
    Love this post.

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      always love hearing from you lady – it seems like our lives tend to fluctuate together 🙂 sending you big hugs and hopefully we can both push ourselves forward! xo

  16. Lori

    I have found the daily newsletters from this site invaluable in my search for “what next”. The overriding theme from all these great thinkers is that to truly find meaning/happiness you need to have a bigger mission to give back to the world in some way, not just the desire to be successful for yourself.

    I realized that my love of textiles and desire to start a business sourcing unusual things that glorified the craft could be expanded to helping others earn a living and hopefully garnering more appreciation for time honored traditions of weaving around the world.

    Bigger mission, bigger payoff. Good luck in your search!

  17. Heidi

    Thank you so much for this–I am at a crossroads in my career and have been feeling very isolated in it–it is just incredible to know that you and others are having similar feelings. The buddhists all say that a key to enlightenment is “living beautifully with uncertainty and change”–I try to work with this a little every day, and try not to lean back on what is simply comfortable. In my life, comfortable would be going back to work in a design firm, even though I don’t deal well with office politics or working for bosses. Uncomfortable would be going out on my own, with the scary prospect of not making enough money. Whatever the future will bring, I hope we can all continue to support each other in our discomfort!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      heidi, i LOVE that saying – it’s wonderful. i’m adding it to my reminders – such a perfect mantra for life right now. good luck with all your future decisions and endeavors! going out on your own is absolutely scary. all you can do is prepare yourself the best you can for it and make the leap! xo

  18. Justine

    I couldn’t agree more Cassandra! I’ve always maintained that working for yourself is about being uncomfortable 90% of the time. As soon as you feel comfortable it’s time to push again. Being willing to be uncomfortable is all you need!

  19. michelle


    I have just found your blog through a link on Apartment 34. This post is fantastic. Thank you. Isn’t it funny how sometimes you stumble across something at exactly the right time as if its written for you? Well, that’s how I feel with this post.

    I’m now going to check out the rest of your blog 🙂 and have added you to my bookmarks

    M x

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jeisa chiminazzo

Last night I had the pleasure of spending the evening at a party with some good friends that I didn’t share nearly enough time with in 2012. The night alone was enough to spark some resolutions about friendship (which you’ll read about in a minute) but when I was chatting with the host about the […]

30 responses on “NEW YEAR’S WORDS + WISHES

  1. Katie

    Create was my word last year, great choice! I chose build for this year. Build on what I created from last year. I absolutely love your #6- it’s on my list too. I find the older I get the harder it is to find good, genuine friends.

    Cheers to 2013!

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      funny enough… if i look back on 2012 i’d say my word might have been build… building a platform for which to launch new ideas and creations. interesting how it works both ways, huh!? cheers right back at you!!

  2. jessica

    Great post!!! I can definitely relate to many of those resolutions. I like the word choices for the years. It’s a good thing to go back to when you feel like you may be straying from what you want to be doing.

  3. Shelley@RefreshInteriors

    Picking a word for the year is SUCH a great idea, I was thinking similar thoughts like you for the year…new promises to myself. My word also came instantaneously to me…perspective. This was definitely an inspiring post Cassandra…I hope we meet one day, you’re a lovely human being if I may say so and I will be sure to stop by here more often!

  4. BrookeJ

    Love number 10–I want to learn new things (and I love the idea of doing something quarterly as oppossed to monthly)! Great post.

  5. Donna

    Fabulous blog – and I really love that word code for the year too!! My word would be ‘inspire’ – within me, around me and globally.

    Great reading your blog, I look forward to it each time I see the post xx

  6. caroline lee

    i really love this, cassandra — especially your focus on the joy that comes when we create. i’ve been noticing so many people lately, who are focusing on their ‘pursuit of happiness’, and yet they don’t REALLY know what happiness will look like when they find it, or when it is ok to stop. in reality, i’m realizing that happiness isn’t a destination, but instead, it’s a journey and an experience — and i see happiness in people most often when they are creating. anyway, i just love this.

    meeting + working with you in 2012 was such a joy, and we just love you and who you are. it’s worth mentioning, too, that whenever/wherever your name comes up, others only have nice things to say about you. that is somewhat rare these days, i think.. so know that you are loved and appreciated far + wide for being someone that values others, values their happiness + creativity, + is a genuine friend. much respect, lovely! xo

    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      sweet caroline, you made me tear up!! thank you thank you for your kind words, and also for contributing to one of my very favorite memories of this year. if it weren’t for you and jayden, i wouldn’t have such lovely images to cheer me up on bad days and conjure up such feelings of gratitude. i feel blessed to have met you both and spend a bit of time with you this year! i hope it won’t be the last. xo


    I couldn’t believe when I read this because I have personally chosen a word instead of a resolution for a few years now, and hadn’t heard of anyone else who did that!! Sometimes I don’t even happen upon my word until mid-year, but each word is truly a great summation of each year. Two years ago I chose balance, and last year it was consistency. I hadn’t thought about this year’s word, so I’m happy I read your post today so I can start figuring that out. Happy 2013!
    xx Liz

  8. MDZags

    While I rarely post comments on blogs this very open, honest and reflective piece has me tapping on the keys. My list of resolutions, goals and inspirations is very similar. Well, maybe not the assistant but there is always 2014. 🙂 Because my list is expansive, detailed and required a significant amount of soul searching I decided to start a journal to capture 2013 and how I tackle all of these goals. After all, I’m a human. These will evolve as I embrace life, new goals emerge and some prove to be more daunting than my plate can handle.

    I have divided the journal into different sections with “Prompts” The resolutions. My personal mission statement (A work in progress), “That Girl” The woman I want to be, the men of 2013 (This year I may only date new men. No old acquaintances. No flames that have fizzled. Nada. NEW NEW NEW.) a reading list, drink of the month (Move past the vodka soda) and a to-do list (as goals, adventures, projects emerge.) That is just to name a few.

    Also, on the last page I wrote a letter to myself. About who I am today, why I have set these goals and the vision I have for myself.

    Thank you for having this blog. Its a very brave and public journal as you evolve this year.

    Best of luck creating. I will enjoy watching.


    1. Cassandra LaValle Post author

      Oh, how I love this idea. Please keep me posted on how it goes!! So thoughtful and organized. And, wow do I hear you on the dating new men. Perhaps I should add a section to resolution #7… hugs and happy wishes for the new year! Thank you so much for sharing your resolutions and your little journal concept with us! It’s fantastic. xo

  9. Shamila

    Cassandra – these are very well crafted intentions. Mine are uncannily similar, thus I truly enjoyed reading your articulated plans for 2013. I look forward to seeing you and possibly working together on something fun and sparkly! Here is to another splendid year of success, better business practices, and creativity while spending time with those lovelies who better us and make our worlds genuinely wonderful!

      1. Shamila

        Cassandra, I am seeing this response right now, 17 days later! Oh, yikes! It is an important priority on my list as well. While the year is young and fresh, let’s meet to talk soon, so on board! xoxS

  10. Lisa

    Great post. My word would be a year of GOODNESS. A quality I love in other people and strive for in myself and my children but want this to be the theme of the year. Here is to 2013!

  11. Linda - New England Fine Living

    Wonderful post! I completely understand what you mentioned about last year. Things really started coming my way, but I personally had too many of my own things going on to open my arms to all of the opportunities. I moved our of my comfort zone (lived in the same area for 47 years), bought a new house with my guy, and we blended our families. It has been a wonderful challenge, but this year is my year! We have set down new roots, all of the first time “new” traditions of holiday changes are over, and I know how to find the local shopping areas! I have been rebranding my business and very excited about 2013.


  12. Tobi

    My word is Inspired as in Inspired Design, Inspired Business, Inspired Life! And I even wrote a blog post about it today, too. Great minds think alike.

    Thanks for inspiring me so often, Cassandra. Looking forward to spending more time with you in 2013.

    xoxo, Tobi

  13. Patti

    I love the word for the year. I started a 365 project yesterday. 365 things to think, believe and do. The first day was to choose a word. The word I chose was “flow”. I want my 2013 to flow. smooth sailing and lots of creating. much love, Patti

    1. maureen stevens

      Amazing resolutions Cassandra! I for one have been inspired by you and what you have brought us in 2012. I can’t wait what you have in store for us in 2013. Cheers to FOCUS + CREATIVITY, saving pennies and your birthday in Paris!

  14. Katie

    Happy New Year Cassandra! I may just have to print out your resolutions for myself (with a couple tweaks here and there). I couldn’t agree more about your #6. My hubby and I were just talking about this last night. So true!

    Thanks for all the fantastic contacts you have so graciously given me this year!

    Cheers to 2013! I’m looking forward to seeing what you “create”!!

    xo, Katie

  15. tiffany

    As I was reading your word for this year {create… it’s the word I chose this year as well!} and resolutions, I seriously felt like I was reading my resolutions for this year lol! I love your blog and look forward to seeing what you will create in 2013. Cheers to an amazing year!

  16. Julie

    This was perfectly written. I love the idea of choosing a word for the year, just love it! All the best to you in 2013… it’s going to be a goodie I think!


  17. cecilia

    I love your heartfelt posts. You can really feel your honesty and thoughtfulness. I agree, 2012 was a breakthrough year for me professionally and creatively, and hopefully will only get better. Your #6 cutting out “friendships” that don’t fit in that genuine space that you classify the other cherished friendships/relationships you have – and investing time in those that you truly care about. This I did a few years ago. When you accomplish #6 and continue to focus on you and what makes you happy, I promise you that #7 will come. When you least expect it to, and when you’re not looking for that person. Trust me on that one. You are inspiring to me! I can’t wait to see the original content you continue to bring on!

  18. Yvette

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I have to say it just keeps getting better and better. I love your thoughts on the new year and I love the word Create. I so relate to this. I live so much in my head… this year I had resolved to Do more. Just DO. Not just think about working out more but Doing it. Not think about getting out more and dating just Doing. I suppose Do or Doing is my word. 😉
    Thanks for sharing.
    Keep up the good work and here’s to a productive, happy, stylish and FUN 2013!

  19. Helen

    Hey Cassandra, I’m a very new follower of you blog having stumbled across it around the new year and instantly fell in love! Love the aesthetic and columns you and the contributors create and also loving the Internet for continuously stumbling across awesome sites!
    Just wanted to wish you good luck with your goals, I myself am also trying to continuously learn more and more – the hard thing is that there’s just so much out there that I’m interested in and can learn, so this year it’s all about becoming a better geek and by the end of the year I should have built my own app!
    I have various other goals that I also blogged about – it’s about the accountability of it isn’t it? – but I won’t bore you with such details, apart from the shared resolutions with creating more regular and new columns and just being more successful and awesome in all major facets in life. So good luck and looking forward to reading more posts this year from coco+kelley! x Helen

  20. emily

    Just reading this (apparently “stop procrastinating” was not on my list of resolutions this year…) and wanted to say bravo for making your list official and intentional and thoughtful. Also…from a purely personal perspective, I loved working with you this year on one of our most fun collaborations to date. You are truly a Leading Lady. Thanks for pushing us to create something wonderful and for being part of our year at Elva…cheers to a happy, healthy, and CREATIVE 2013, gal!


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