Here's to Celebrating.

Last year, Adrian declared 2013 the year of the Arvizus. Some monumental events occurred and 2013 filled my heart with more hope than 2012 would have ever thought possible. So since Adrian called it last year, I'm calling it this year: 2014 is the year of the Arvizus, part two. And because I love even numbers and because being hopeful seemed to work out last year, we're sticking with the theme of yes.

Adrian and I wrote out some detailed resolutions/goals together for 2014, but I wanted to write out a few quick "this is the direction I want to head in" thoughts for me and maybe even this blog. 2013 was a big year for responsibility and hard decisions and getting our health on track and all those adult things. And while those are great and we'll continue, I don't want to entirely toss out that little joys side of me. 

You know, the side that likes confetti. And bright colors. And mini champagne bottles.


So here's to celebrating and balloons and glitter everywhere and fresh flowers and being bold. To developing talents and following my loves. To enjoying time with my husband and my family and that tiny baby niece that I just adore. To making dreams happen. To traveling. To guarding Saturday mornings for coffee and thoughts. To going out with girlfriends.

And to continuing to make good, grown-up decisions. And celebrating those decisions with confetti, of course.

A mantle without a fireplace.

In the Christmas of my future dreams, there's a beautiful fireplace. It emits coziness, style and Christmas magic. Adrian and I sit in matching wingback chairs, sipping hot chocolate under the snuggliest of blankets. As we laugh at the whipped cream on Adrian's upper lip, someone happens to pop up with a camera and snaps a picture and we return each year to that photo and remember how happy we are.

Right.

In my current Christmas, we rent a small apartment that once had one of those little gas fireplaces. It gave me such intense headaches that we asked the landlord to remove it. So now we are without fireplace, but also without headaches. So there's that. 

I'd love to have that most perfect fireplace and mantle, with monogrammed stockings hanging perfectly in a row. But for now, we don't so we made do with what we have: a bookcase.

Sometimes, you make the best of what's around. 

So then, show me your mantle, won't you? Whether you have that quintessential Christmas mantle or you made the best of what's around, I'd love to see it! Leave a link in the comments, please?


Never Too Late To Love: An Urban Photo Shoot

When I moved to Chicago seven years ago, I came as part of a volunteer program. One part of what I loved about the program was that they provided housing and (bonus!) roommates who were also volunteering. I flew into Midway, having never before so much as visited Chicago and not knowing a single person. Emily was one of the first people I met here in Chicago. She was my roommate and quickly became a friend. 

When we first lived together, there was so much about Emily I didn't understand. My New England upbringing could not comprehend the slow and relaxed pace of life that Emily had acquired growing up in the South. But oh how I love that about her. She takes life as it comes and is never rushed. She savors meals and moments. And when you're with her, well, you can't help but slow down and enjoy life a bit yourself.

In seven years of friendship, what I most appreciate about her is that she is loyal and dependable. Three years ago when Adrian and I got married and he was working nights, it was Emily who drove me back and forth between apartments. She carried boxes and boxes night after night. And without complaint. When life is rough and I just need a friend, I know without a doubt that she is there.

Plus she is hilarious. Which is obviously a friendship must-have. 

We headed out to Pilsen, this wonderful neighborhood on Chicago's west side. Pilsen has a thriving artist community and is known for its beautiful murals. Emily loves living in the city and wanted city character in her pictures. So we braved the elements and headed to Pilsen.

I've driven by this mural many times and just adore it's bold statement and graphic qualities. After driving by a few other murals, I remembered this one and knew it'd be perfect. 


As we started, an older man came out onto his back porch and watched. It's a city so it happens. But my favorite part? When it started to rain and he saw that only Emily had an umbrella, he went in his house and found an umbrella to offer us. My sister says that would never happen in New York City. So, Chicago- 1. 
This is my absolute favorite. It is so very Emily.




How amazing is her coat? Perfectly bright for a rainy day. 

Thank you so much, Emily for all these years of friendship, the talks over dinners, shushing that one roommate all those years ago and for graciously allowing me to share your first name! And of course, thanks for being awesome in front of the camera and for having that show-stopping smile. Much love!

My imaginary universe.

I'm huddled up quietly in my bed by myself tonight. And I could not be more content. The past few days have dropped into the below freezing temperatures, heralding in our first snowfall of the year. The heat has been on, hot chocolate has been made and my feet are forever wrapped in the fuzziest of socks. Right here, right now? I am blissfully happy at the promise of winter. (Remind me, please, of this moment come February, no?)

I know I have written on this before, but each year I find myself increasingly more like my father. For better or for worse, depending, I suppose, on who you ask. And in this year, I am most certainly the most Paul I have ever been. 

You see, this onset of winter, it's not only the coziness of a blanket and socks and hot chocolate that I look forward to. It's the quiet. The peace. The "Sorry, I don't much feel like coming out because it is beyond freezing outside." The space to think and dream and plan.

I've been quiet here on the blog for some months now and I believe part of that is rooted in my recent transition to a new position at work, a position that requires much more social interaction and many less solo projects. These changes, while ultimately good, are stretching and pushing me beyond my normal comforts. And when I return home, I want to disconnect. And mostly not blog.

This is the Paul in me. The part of me that craves the quiet freedom of working alone. Of following your own rhythms of work. Of allowing yourself to focus on one project until it is done. And it's the part of me that lately feels overstimulated and drained. 

Tonight I felt myself reaching my limits, of having pushed myself beyond the "this is character building" and into "this is just not me." And I crawled into bed and remembered that at one point way back when, I had this blog that I wrote in for moments such as these. In this blog, I'd type out my thoughts and follow each one until it's very end. Sharing some and guarding others just for me. I'd tell Adrian I just needed a little time and I'd go in another room, though never too far away. Sometimes he'd check in on me but mostly he'd wait until my thoughts appeared there on the blog the next day. And he'd read them and come home ready to talk about them with me. After we'd both had a chance to think. He's a good one, that Adrian.



A few years back some friends and I used to partake in this beautifully balanced activity we called Collective Solitude. Together, armed with laptops, books, journals and iPods, we'd find a corner in a coffee shop. Each would write or read or listen to music, but always within a whisper of one another. Should inspiration strike or the need for feedback or just human connection, there we were. But the majority of time, we sat in silence, each following our own thought paths. In the end, we'd often share where we had gone and what thoughts we'd come across on the way. 

I think I need more of that. 

So tell me, introverted friends, how do you stay balanced? How do you follow your thought paths while allowing for interruptions because they often must happen? How do you stay fundamentally you? And how do you? Yes, just how do you?

Until then, I'll be lost in some project. I'm sure.

Haley: A Fall Photoshoot

Hello friends! It's been some time. There are many reasons I haven't been around this space and one day I will get into it more, but not today. Even when I'm away, I feel like I'm always thinking about this blog and what I want it to be. I'd love to define it, to tell you all exactly what you will find here. Every expert says I ought to find my niche and direct all my posts to that niche. And maybe if money were involved, perhaps I would. But it's not so I don't think I will. This space has been the home of many ideas and times and changes. For awhile it housed primarily just writing. And then some decor. And some parties. And a few blog designs here and there. I've loved that over the years I've had a space to try new things, to discover new loves and to experiment. 

I also love that this blog has motivated me. I want to show up here each week with something new to share. Something to contribute to the greater blogging community. I'm amazed by others' talents and passions and the ability to find such talents with just a few clicks. The internet has become my window into the lives of artists, photographers, graphic designers, party planners, videographers and authors. And it is truly astonishing to think what a blessing that is. 

Over the past few months, armed with the vast knowledge of the internets, I have been diving back into photography. My mom started me in photography classes back when I was twelve and I loved it. I learned to shoot in manual and to develop in a darkroom. In the past few years, my perfectionism has gotten the best of me and I've let my photography skills go, assuming that my photos would never turn out exactly how I envisioned them.

Oh but that blogging community got to me. I wanted to contribute and to put myself out there. Eventually my desire to share and contribute won out over my need for perfection. I dove into whatever  photography resources I could find and began learning the ins and outs of my camera. 

All of this is to say hello and thank you. Thanks for taking time to come by here and see what I'm working on. For creating such wonderful works of your own. For sharing all your knowledge on the internets. And for continually motivating me to show up here and create.

Ok, so let's talk about this beautiful friend of mine, Haley.

Haley and I have been friends for about seven years now. And for seven years, I have been amazed by her loyalty, dedication, energy and passion. Haley is one of the busiest people I know, but never in that "How are you?" "I'm soooo busy" kind of ways. She rarely, if ever, complains or talks about how busy she is. She just goes out there and gets stuff done. She is fully committed to her teaching job as well as to her church community. When there is a need, Haley is one of the first to jump in. She takes initiative and knows her strengths well. As a friend, she is there however she can be. She maintains strong ties to her family, hometown and college community through frequent phone calls, packages, and visits.

In short, I adore her and very much value our friendship.

I've been wanting to do a fall photoshoot and I knew Haley, being an outdoorsy midwestern girl, would be perfect for it. When I told her my idea, she loved it and started prepping her outfit. We waited patiently for the leaves to change and finally set out last week to capture her in the midst of peak leaf season. We had such a good time in the middle of this city block. To one side was a basketball court and two other sides were busy city streets. People passed by, watching as we worked. But Haley was a champ, embracing the awkward moments.




I wanted to create a little graphic to honor Haley for the years of service and to remind her to be proud of all the incredible work she has done here in this city.

Thank you Haley for who you are and for how you've inspired the rest of us to go out there and get it done. Whatever it may be.

Introducing Alexia.

Friends, friends, friends. I have so much to tell you. I know I say this all the time, but I am in love. Beyond in love. 

I am so, so thankful. My heart is bursting. My sister went into labor a few Fridays ago. And Saturday afternoon? My beautiful little baby niece was born. Alexia Lidia. 8lbs, 15oz. Sigh. I love every tiny little pound of her.


Best of all? My sister was just a bit early which meant that I was able to fly home and spend an entire week with her before I had to return to start the school year. I was even fortunate enough to get here in time to snap photos of my sister's little family in the hospital. Giving gifts is one of my absolute favorite things and I am sure these photos will be among the best gifts I ever give to my sister. 







Do you see all that hair on tiny baby? Sigh.


Now that I am back in Chicago, I miss this little lady every minute of every day. I text and/or call Erin every couple hours to find out what my favorite baby is up to. Usually she's sleeping or eating or crying but I just have to know. When I'm lucky, Alexia and I facetime. Sometimes she doesn't know we're facetiming but I'm convinced that later in life she'll know me by my voice from all these phone calls. 

I feel so beyond fortunate to have been able to spend her first week with her. And to have been given free reign to snap bunches and bunches of pictures. I love that little baby girl and simply cannot wait to get to know her as she grows and changes and becomes whoever she is. I just adore her and can. not. wait. 

Joie de Vivre: Photos celebrating life in Chicago


A month or two ago I realized that if I wanted to work on my photography skills, waiting for people to ask me to take their photos just wouldn't work. I had hoped opportunities would just come about organically. 

They didn't. 

So I decided that if I wanted to practice, I needed to put myself out there, regardless of how uncomfortable that may be. 

I talked to my bravest friend, Meredith and asked if she might be willing to push through some potentially awkward moments in hopes of creating some beautiful photos. Luckily for me, she agreed. 

We set a time and I started scouring the internet for the best photo locations in Chicago. And I'm fairly certain I found it. Absolutely astounding location? Montrose Harbor. City skyline. Sail boats. And free parking to boot!








I am in love with how these photos turned out. Meredith has such a bright personality. She's quick with a joke and a smile. We thought a bouquet of balloons would suit her perfectly. And her hair? Amazing, no? 

I'm so glad to have put myself out there. It has given me the confidence to go out there and chase down other opportunities. So be on the lookout for more photos here on Oh Hello, Love!

Erin's Black, White and Teal Baby Shower.

Friends, it's been a little while. I've been feeling under the weather for quite a while now. I've been to the doctor more times in the past two months than ever in my adult life. I think things are on the upswing now so I'm hoping to get back to my regular life in the next couple weeks. While I'm up and with some energy, I wanted to share with you all an event from a few weeks ago that meant so much to me.

When I first found out my sister was pregnant, I was thrilled. A few weeks later, I laid awake in my bed with the sudden realization that we would have the opportunity to throw a baby shower. I shook Adrian awake to share the great news. I don't remember his exact response but I'm most sure his enthusiasm matched mine. (Note: sarcasm.)

Then I heard that Erin didn't intend to find out if she was having a boy or a girl. That sound you hear is the sound of my baby shower dreams come crashing down. Throwing a gender neutral baby shower was a challenge. I struggled with what colors to use and how to decorate. Many, many phone calls later, my aunt, my mom and I decided on black, white and teal.

I started the baby shower process by creating somewhat of a logo for the party. I wanted to create something that could be duplicated throughout the shower and that could eventually be used as decor for Erin's nursery.



I wanted the logo to be reflective of the bilingual nature of my sister's family. So I came up with "Bienvenido (welcome) Baby Santana." I then searched for royalty-free stock photos to create a large poster with the logo to be used as a focal point for the baby shower decor and, again, that could later be used as decor in the nursery.

The combination of the logo and the stock photo came out beautifully.



I was so thrilled with how well it was printed. For just $3.50, Staples printed a 2' x 3' black and white poster for me. At the end of the party. we carefully took down the poster and gifted it to Erin to use as she'd like. 

The flowers came from inspiration on Pinterest. Adrian and I used this beautiful tutorial from Lia Griffith. We modified it quite a bit to make the flowers are large as they were. Adrian created the leaves from scratch. I loved loved how they turned out. The paper for the flowers was a slight pearlescent white and worked beautifully.

I used the logo again on the glassine favor bags. I simply printed the logo on the bags from my home printer and heat set them with a hair dryer. Adrian spent hours the night before the shower making raspberry macarons, which we placed in the bags and gave out as favors. I loved how they looked in their little logo bags. Sigh. I loved it.



My aunt, my mom and I wrote up a list of the food we'd prepare for the shower. We fretted if there'd be enough. I laugh about it now. We had so. much. food. It was ridiculous. But so so good. We had everything. Mini muffins and cinnamon buns. Fruit skewers. Mini yogurt parfaits. Croissants with chicken salad. Veggie cups. Meat balls. Cold cuts and cheese. Eggs. Everything. 

And it was wonderful.

Seriously.

Because Erin is not the center of attention type, we veered away from embarrassing games and encouraged guests to decorate onesies in a variety of sizes. We labeled a few months 1-12 so that Erin could use them to take pictures of her little one each month as he/she grows. I was so impressed with the talent at that party. One of Erin's friends even recreated the "Bienvenido Baby Santana" logo on a onesie!




A couple days after the shower, Adrian and I took Erin, Danny and their puppy Bronx out to take some pictures. I can't wait to share some of those photos with you next week. So be on the lookout for those!

I am so happy with how this shower went, thanks mostly to my mom, my aunt and of course Adrian. Erin was certainly showered with love and it was clear that everyone is so excited to meet this little baby!

Nothing to do and no where to go.



When I moved to Chicago I thought it'd be temporary. Seven years later, temporary seems a distant dream. For a while, Chicago had become a second home. But, still, I had always said that as soon as my sister started having children, I wanted to move back to New England. I wanted to be there as her children were born. I wanted to be the kind of aunt to her children that I have been so fortunate to be to my husband's nephews. The aunt that takes them places, hosts movie nights, and always makes them feel loved and completely special.

Now that my sister due with her first baby in August, little pieces of my heart sometimes break knowing that I will most likely miss so many of her and baby's firsts. I know that living so far away is going to require a bit of creativity to be able to be as involved as I want to be. And I know, too, that I will have to relish those little face-to-face moments I do have.

A few weeks back when I was home for my aunt's birthday, I spent a couple days at my sister's before anyone else knew I was even in town. And it was wonderful. Each morning, I woke up and made my way to my sister's room. Danny had already left for work so I crawled into bed next to my sister and waited for her puppy Bronx to jump up. Within seconds, he was on the bed and ready for snuggles.

We spent about two hours each morning just chatting, watching funny videos and gossiping about blogging. Every fifteen minutes or so, one was us would comment, "One of us should really get up and get in the shower." But we didn't. At least not for a few hours.

Though I've missed much of my sister's pregnancy and have had to keep up mostly through photos and phone calls, I feel lucky to have had those couple mornings with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Those mornings remind me that though I may not be there for every moment of my future niece of nephew's precious little life, I will do my absolute best to be fully there when I can be. With nothing to do and no where to go.

Free Loves: All my dreams.


Be it that my sister is in Paris or because I've just been watching far too much Gossip Girl, lately all my dreams begin with Paris. I've never been to Paris but I just know I'd be in heaven there, amidst the street cafes, macarons, museums and history. Sigh. My heart bursts at the thought.

One day it will happen. I'll make sure of it.

Click here to download wallpaper


To install as phone wallpaper:
1) Click on the link to download the wallpaper
2) Click on file, then download (or simply click the down arrow under "File")
3) Once downloaded, upload in an e-mail to yourself.
4) Open the e-mail on your phone and save the image then set as wallpaper.
5) Remind yourself daily that you got this and then go out there and chase down those dreams of yours!

Until then, enjoy this free love!

#BloughBirthdayBrunch

A little over a month ago, my friend Meredith and I were out for drinks and she shared that she had started a pinterest board for her upcoming birthday. She wanted to have a birthday brunch with a teal and yellow theme. So right then and there, we jotted notes and ideas on a napkin and dreamed about what could be. From there, we set about making lists and doing projects and collecting teal and yellow everything.



This is perhaps the best, most beautiful party I have been involved in thusfar. I am absolutely in love with how it turned out. Everything we had hoped for came to be and it was just perfect. 


The idea was an indoor light, airy garden party, focused around all things Meredith.  Guests arrived in their best garden party attire and the new Great Gatsby soundtrack played quietly in the background.  Guests mingled and chatted, catching up with old friends and introducing each other to new friends.

We gathered some of her favorite foods, including the most delicious doughnuts from Glazed & Infused. Sigh. So good. 


Fruit skewers, mini omelets, yogurt parfaits, mini pancakes and sausages rounded out menu.


And because it was a brunch, we of course had to include a mimosa bar, complete with champagne and juices of all kinds: orange, blood orange, strawberry, and mango.


Once everyone had a chance to eat, we played a very special game. Meredith is one of the most optimistic, positive and hilarious ladies I know. Part of the Meredith charm are her commonly used and laughter inducing phrases. I scoured her Facebook and twitter feeds and sought the help of roommates and friends and we compiled a list of Meredith's most quotable moments. I then created "Meredith Bingo" with 20 different bingo cards. 


Meredith Bingo was such a hit. As we called out each square, friends laughed and others shared stories behind the quotes. 


We collected a few of Meredith's favorite things to offer up as prizes. A couple prizes, such as going for a walk and a Redbox rental, required certificates so I created them. 

Lastly, because you know I love a little photobooth action, we set up a photobooth with teal, yellow and white streamers for the background. Meredith's roommate provided garden party themed accessories.


Meredith's roommate Ashleigh (pictured above!) created the hashtag #BloughBirthdayBrunch so that guests could share and easily find photos on social media. I was so excited to see how others photographed the party!

I loved this party. It was exactly as Meredith and I had dreamed a little over a month ago. I am so grateful for my friendship with Meredith and I was honored to play a part in celebrating her birthday!

So happy birthday to this beautiful lady!


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