May is one of those months where I feel like everyone’s busy and that doesn’t exclude Jon and me. We’re out of town three out of the four weekends in May and we have a wedding the last weekend of the month. Fortunately, there were a couple of sweet little surprises in the mail to help remind me to take a moment and breathe during the chaos of life.

The first small package I received was from an awesome girl named Lynda. We knew each other from high school but were never close friends (it was one of those mutually respectful relationships plus she was two years younger than me). Well Lynda had found a flower tutorial from one of my blog posts and decided to make me a fabric flower and mail it to me. How nice is that! It was such delightful surprise to receive in the mail and a stellar compliment towards the blog.

The second letter was from a camper I had when I was a counselor at Sky Ranch nearly 7 years ago. It was the summer after my freshman year in college and Jon and I were so excited to be camp counselors  and even more pumped to share Christ with kids! But at the same time I always doubted I had any sort of influence on my campers because as much as I loved the good news of Jesus Christ, I never had confidence in the way that I shared the Gospel. I’m a rather energetic person (Jon often says that I “wear him out”) so all I knew was to love my campers, support my co-counselors (some of whom are still close friends) stay in the Word and be the goofy person the Lord had made me to be.

{image via Send More Mail}

Only by God’s sheer grace did I have the blessing of receiving the most humbling letter from a camper named Amy just a few weeks ago. What’s interesting is the fact that I haven’t talked to her since being her counselor 7 years ago but we clearly remember each other well. She was free-spirited, fun, and articulate and her mom sent her this magnificently delicious 7 layer dessert that I can still taste in my mouth. In her letter she shared some of the most encouraging words I could ever receive as a Christian woman, words I thought I was never worthy or deserving of. Honestly, I’m still not deserving of the kindness of Amy’s observations, but through her letter I am immediately reminded that God can use us to glorify his Himself even in our weakest or silliest state.

Thank you Lynda for taking the time to make this beautiful flower and mail it to me just because. Thank you Amy for taking the time to write me a letter to encourage me and to share how the Lord has worked in your life. Because of you two, I am encouraged to write to the people who deserve letters just because I think they’re awesome.

While we’re having a heart to heart here, I thought I’d share a few more amazing posts of bloggers honestly sharing accounts of personal struggle. I love when bloggers keep it real. It helps me remember that they’re people with everyday trials and hardships. I need that!


Melanie on Infertility

Brandi on Self Image

Danni on a case of the Mondays

Kim on the reality of blogging and managing a handmade shop

Be encouraged today friends! Encourage someone else in a kind and surprising way today. You may never know how it will positively impact their life! Besides, sometimes we all just need a little pick me up and I’m a huge advocate of genuine compliments because they feel great to give out and awesome to receive! Happy weekend!


If you’re on Pinterest you’ve likely seen several amazing hair tutorials from Christina of Hair Romance. I finally had the time to visit Hair Romance’s site to see what all the commotion was about and talk about a treasure trove of hair tutorials!  Christina is currently doing a series called Hairstyles in 30 days where she photographs thirty different hair styles with a visual tutorial of how to accomplish each look. I didn’t grow up knowing how to french braid plus my hair is really fine and slick, so I have major hair deficiency skills, but with the assistance of Hair Romance, there’s help for those who are clueless in this department like me! As if her site wasn’t already amazing, she’s also releasing an e-book on June 1st with photos and full tutorials and tricks on how to get these looks. Be sure to check out her site today and then again on the first to get the e-book!

I love how these looks can easily be worn on a casual summer day or a romantic evening out. The simple side braid and pony tail is probably my favorite, but I’ve always dreamt of having the right hair to pull off the bottom left photograph with the gobs of volume and oomph! Which hairstyle are you loving?

The Curiosity Shoppe is one of those stores that’s been on my list of places to visit for a few years now. The items sold at The Curiosity Shoppe are quirky, fun, playful and I don’t doubt that the shop located in San Francisco has any less of a personality than its products. How clever are those Know It All Pencils, the old school phone plug-in head set, and the pair of glasses that’s actually a memory stick called “Four Eyes” USB Drive? You could spend quite a bit of time at their lovely shop so be forewarned, it might be a bit of a time sink (but it’s clearly worth it to discover all of its awesomeness).

Luckily, Jon and some friends I are planning a trip out to San Francisco this August so hopefully I’ll have the esteemed privilege of meeting the inspirational couple behind this quirky shop and seeing the eclectic products first hand!

Which item is catching your eye?

Eclectic love is an assortment of my favorite finds on the net. Today I’m loving…

A photo that satisfies all levels of adorability of jewelry maker Amanda Pearl in the latest issue of Matchbook 

Floor to ceiling windows via Southern Accents

The ultimate banana bread by Cookie & Kate

A gorgeous dress, model and series of photos via Kiss the Groom

A new festive business called Geronimo Balloon-Troopers (via Tokketok)

A photo of Paris that’s leaving me with a serious case of wanderlust via All The Mountains

An ice cream engagement shoot by Styled Creative

Perfectly styled shelving from the office of Bash Please featured in Rue Mag

Ruche’s Spring Lookbook (swooning over this bow tie shirt!)

A display of colorful cool drinks beckoning to be sipped on a warm summer day. This image makes me want to have a cocktail picnic. How fun would that be? via The Glitter Guide

What images are striking your fancy around the web?

I am absolutely smitten with downtown McKinney, a suburb about half an hour outside of Dallas. The downtown square  has the ideal set up of antique stores and locally run restaurants that crafters and girlfriends flock to by the dozen.  My cousins Tami and Lisa and I have a tradition where we spend the day together to celebrate each of our birthdays and take photos of our adventure. To celebrate Tami’s 23rd birthday we began the day with a lunch at one of my fave restaurants, Spoons. If you go, I highly recommend you order a warm entrée. Comfort food is best served hot!

Afterwards we hit up a few antiques stores and tried to keep out mouths closed so as not to drool over all the vintage goodies.

Tami is a huge reader and had always wanted a photo in a bookstore. Downtown McKinney was the perfect spot to find a charming bookstore with a black and white tiled floor. Isn’t she adorable?

I quickly identified my favorite store in the entire square – Pantina Green Home and Market. While walking around the square my interests were immediately peaked upon seeing the bold (and brilliant) choice of wallpaper within the shop. Patina Green immediately lured me in and my cousins and I could not have been more thankful to discover such a gem. Patina Green consists of…

{remember the post with the pretty flowers? They’re from here!}

an eating area with the aforementioned wallpaper and

some rustic charmed seating,

a farmer’s market with locally grown fruits and veggies and

an antique shop that will make your heart flutter. In love yet? Well I certainly hoped as much! And I have to say that I met one of the owners of the shop who 1)was sincerely kind and 2)insisted I visit their restroom. Naturally, I obliged.

A tall burlap curtain, stunning settee, sink with vintage fixtures and coin tile floor in a restroom? I nearly camped out there for the evening.

To end the day we proceeded with our cousin tradition which was to take some fun photos of each other to remember the day.

If you’re coming to Dallas anytime in the near future you’ve got to put downtown McKinney on your list of places to visit. You won’t regret it (unless it’s a 100+ degree weather…).

ila Handbags Giveaway Winner

Alright! I know several of you have been waiting with great anticipation for the giveaway winner of the ila Handbags so I won’t keep you waiting any longer! The winner is comment #15….

Hannah from Culture Connoisseur

Hannah, I am so excited for you and I appreciate all your support. Be sure to contact me to let me know you’ve seen your name drawn! And definitely check out her blog for great recipes, photos and travel tips!
A huge thanks goes to Paula and Brian for offering such a generous giveaway and partnering with TEL. They are just as neat as their awesome bags and I hope you’ll all consider supporting them and telling your friends about their handbags! Also, I really appreciated those of you who took the time to let me know how excited you were about the giveaway (and how much you hoped I’d draw your name). The Eclectic Life will not be a big giveaway blog, but I definitely don’t mind giving away products I’m obsessed with, like ila Handbags, on occasion and a product that I think you’ll love just as much as I do. Feel free to let me know if you’d like to see more giveaways in the future!
Happy Monday friends!

As bloggers we’re constantly viewing hundreds (some of us thousands) of inspirational images each week. I won’t lie, viewing some of these images has really created an appetite to host a fun party, cook up a delicious new entrée and attend a well decorated dinner party or wedding. Discovering these images from Jillian Clark’s portfolio certainly hasn’t helped satisfy my cravings either, but each event is more than Pinterest worthy (oh blogger lingo!) so I simply had to share. The first three images at the top are from Iceland. I mean, really…Iceland! Can you imagine attending a wedding in such a naturally gorgeous setting?

Jillian does a great job creating details that seem to compliment the occasion without over styling the event and allowing the awesome backdrops, whether it be a Tuscan outdoor setting or a sun drenched room, to take priority. Dear Jillian, I’m a fan. May I come to one of your event pretty please?

Happy Friday friends! Just a final reminder that the  ila Handbags giveaway ends tonight at 10pm CST! Thanks so much for those of you who have participated and taken the time to visit the ila Handbags site and Facebook page. We’re all so appreciative of your support! Looking forward to announcing the winner on Monday so definitely check back bright and early. 

Loving all the goodies over at The Vintage Parlor! Besides the charming message in a bottle necklace, I would gladly take the wooden surface the owner uses to photograph all these amazing vintage object on (plus some of their mad photo skills, am I right?).

Which item is your fave?

I’m in love with the branding design Ryan Feerer created for the Abilene, Texas boutique Betty & June. I can’t get enough of the brilliant use of typography both in the logo and the wall behind the register. The shop’s paper products (bags, tags and biz cards) are all hand stamped. Did you catch that? Hand stamped! Unbelievable! Ryan mentions that it was time consuming, but it accomplishes the look they’re going for and it couldn’t be more charming. Upon discovering this boutique I immediately begged Jon to take a road trip there. What’s a measly three hour drive when good design is involved?

{via Design Work Life}

Don’t forget about the ila Handbag giveaway. It ends this Friday evening, May 13th (just realized it’s going to be Friday the 13th!). Their handbags are too gorgeous to pass up this opportunity!

Green Wedding Shoes + One Love Photography Once Wed + Jasmine Star
A little sneak peek! + Wed Dress Blog + Forage Bow Tie

The bow tie is one of those accessories I’ve always wanted Jon to like, but he could never really appreciate. Luckily, times have changed and he’s come to understand the beauty of the bow tie. The square photo above with the red bow tie is indeed my goofy husband. I wanted to give a little sneak peek of an awesome photo shoot were involved in and I’m looking forward to sharing more in the near future (shout out Catie!).

More than anything I think I love the nostalgic time that bow times represent. Gotta love that they’re totally making a come back and they’re likely here to stay (I’ll thank Something’s Hiding Here for their significant contribution). I can’t even say I really have a favorite amongst these bow ties pictured above because they each offer a different personality that I love. Maybe I’m partial to the last photo since the model is eating a large soft pretzel and I could totally go for one, oh I don’t know, anytime day or night?

Which bow tie is your favorite? Do you prefer bow ties or ties on men? With a soft pretzel or another comparable carnival treat?

Get excited y’all!! You may recall when I posted on ila Handbags in March to which several of you expressed swoon worthy reactions. Well, I am thrilled to announce that the incredible couple, Paula and Brian Bjerketvedt, behind ila Handbags is doing a giveaway of one of their gorgeous handbags here at The Eclectic Life (I’m refraining from writing 10 more exclamation marks).

I asked Paula and Brian to introduce themselves and share a little bit of how ila Handbags came to be (love their story!). Be sure to read it and look for the giveaway details below!

ila Handbags

When Paula’s friends Faymi and Eric decided Paris would be the spot for
their big day, who knew it would have led to this. Unable to attend,
Paula wanted to give her close friend something special. Some ideas and
time passed, and then one idea seemed to stick. Paula dusted off her
sewing machine and made her first handbag. Requests for two more bags; one
from Famyi’s mother and maid of honor came in, and Paula was hooked.

That was one year ago in 2010. Since then Paula has been refining bag styles,
scouring vintage shops and online flea markets for fabric and brooches and
sewing nonstop.

Currently, ila Handbags are available in two retail locations in
Minneapolis, Minnesota, and have been featured in numerous web sites and
blogs – including 100 Layer Cake, Metro Magazine, Minnesota Bride,
Wisconsin Bride, Arizona Bride, The Eclectic Life and Snippet and Ink.

Paula’s design aesthetic was informed as much by her fashionable
grandmother Ilaverne’s amazing collection of bags, shoes and jewelry as by
her six years as a Senior Visual Manager with retailer Anthropologie.
Paula has a Clothing Design degree from the University of Minnesota.

Paula’s husband Brian, is a senior art director/designer at a Minneapolis
agency and can be found collaborating with Paula on nights and weekends;
working on ila’s web site, product photography, PR and overall branding
and marketing.

{Check out their Orla Kiely wallpaper! Is this couple cool, or what!}

Paula and Brian have been married for 8 years this August and live just outside
Minneapolis, Minnesota with their two boys Simon and Quinn.


Thanks Paula and Brian for sharing a snippet of your story with us! Both your story and your handbags are such amazing inspirations. Does their story encourage you to pursue something you love? Yeah, me too! Alright, let’s go right to the giveaway information!

The winner of this ila Handbag giveaway will pick the handbag of their choice! Yes, you heard me correctly. The winner will also have a three month window after the giveaway to choose their favorite handbag so there’s no rush(a great option considering Paula will be releasing new handbags this summer).

Friday, May 13th 10pm CST

Each of the following options counts as one entry for a max of 3 entries per person (and 3 separate comments!)

1) Visit the ila Handbags site and leave a comment sharing your favorite handbag with us.

2) Leave a comment if you “Like” ila Handbags on Facebook

3) Leave a comment if you “Like” The Eclectic Life on Facebook 

The winner will be announced first thing Monday morning, May 16th. If your name is announced (and I hope it is!) you will need to contact me at to claim your prize, so be sure and check back here that Monday. Thanks again to ila Handbags for their generous giveaway and best of luck to all of you!

This giveaway is absolutely open to international readers!

{all photos by Craig Vandershagen}

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