Monday, August 18, 2014

Mountain Movers Monday: 'Together We Bake' is a smart cookie

At a young age I claimed the name "cookie monster." The first person to give me the name was my sister's basketball coach at the time. Not always too interested in her games, I'd go outside and sit on a stoop at her middle school and play board games and eat from a pack of cookies. Very healthy habit. Anyways, my love for chocolate chip cookies never left me, and neither did my excitement for a newly discovered delicious cookie that taste like none other that I've tasted.

So this week my boss brought in some cookies from Together We Bake, a local company here in Alexandria that "empowers women in need of a second chance through job training and personal development." Wooooo, were they good!!!! But better than the cookie was the purpose and people behind them.

What I love about this company is that it is made up of bitter stories (we all have them) that are still in the process of evolving into something sweet. This metaphor is shown in a video posted on the site as shots of a cookie starting as dough and baking to completion are woven throughout the stories told by the women involved. What stood out to me was their transparency with their audience and with one another, and even their honesty with themselves. They spoke about their past involvement with drugs or criminal acts and confidently exclaimed how they were grateful for their opportunity to work and learn through Together We Bake. They're setting new goals for themselves with their past in mind but no longer allowing it to define them. I believe that it is stories like these that we learn the most from. We're not all perfect. We make mistakes. But we're capable of coming up from those low places and learning and discovering our best selves.

It takes a strong individual to willingly share their struggle, to push through, to work to discover what they're capable of. Thank you Together We Bake for what you do. Thank you for sharing your story. And thank you for the delicious cookies that have taken the top spot on my cookie list. You ladies are talented, beautiful cooks and I admire you!

Learn more at

Monday, July 14, 2014

First Show!

I had my first show the first weekend in June at the West End Business Association's 1st Annual Food Truck Rodeo in Alexandria, VA. It was absolutely amazing and such a blessing.

In the shows I've been a part of in the past, I was usually sharing a space with my mom. I had one show last year before starting my business at REVEL in Old Town, Alexandria. That show inspired me to start my business, and the show this year has given me a vision of potential.

I'm so grateful for the support of those that came, and I loved meeting so many different people and talking with them. It was a reminder of how, for me, the art and what is produced isn't the most important part of this, but also the people I'm able to connect with.

So thank you to all that came out. I really appreciate the encouragement and support you gave me, and I'm excited to use your feedback to improve my business.

Updated Zipper Pouches & Clutches

I've recently decided to slow down to refocus myself. I felt that I needed to not busy myself with work and take some me time to read, hang out and spend time with family and friends, exercise, spend some time with God, etc.

I normally fear stillness because in the past that would normally equate laziness, but I'm finding this to be ridiculous and not true. The balance is necessary. But naturally I enjoy doing things so I returned to sewing a couple things recently, trying to develop a refined technique and style in my work.

I designed a new flower pattern and had it printed and paired it with a striped fabric I found at Joann Fabrics. I've always enjoyed the mixing of patterns and the look of quirky boldness.

I was so excited as I worked on this, ensuring that my fabric was cut clean and precise and the stitching was as perfect as possible. My needle kept getting stuck but I was determined to finish. I kept getting frustrated and you know when you add frustration to eagerness — destruction is bound to happen.

I messed up twice nearing the end, fixed my mistakes, start sweating more, and kept going despite the fact that my needle continued to get stuck and it was now crooked. I tried bending it to straighten it and thought I fixed it. But I didnt.

Oh my goodness.

So at some point I heard a loud BANG as the needle struck metal and broke in half.
So I never got to finished that pouch that I was so excited about.

I had a 30 second pouting session just to get it out. But I think I was somewhat humored by my anxiety to finish and my failure of patience. I also always have this feeling like things are bound to happen once, so maybe I was oddly waiting on the day the needle would break. Lesson learned.

So here is the work in progress. Hopefully I'll have it completed — with my new sewing machine needle — in about a week or two.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Pennies from Heaven" Money Jars for Kids

This DIY is more for showing you the materials I used to make these money jars,
as well as the concept and purpose of them. It takes just THREE steps to make them!
Create your own or purchase them at!

- - - - - - - - - - -  HOW TO - - - - - - - - - - -

Materials needed (all came from Paper Source):

- 3 Mason Jars : The ones I have came in a box of 6 for about ($14)
- Printer type lowercase stamps ($15)
- Metal Rim tags (Pack of 25 for $9)
- Ink Pad ($7)
- Twine (500 yards for $8; you don't need this much though :) 

- - - - - - - - - - -  STEPS - - - - - - - - - - -

S T E P   O N E   
Stamp 3 labels with the words "Give," "Save" and "Play" 

S T E P   T W O   
Cut string off of the tags and use the twine you bought instead.
I used two strings for visual aesthetic and pleasure to my eye :)

S T E P   T H R E E   
Loop it around the jar and tie it

- - - - - - - - - - -  THE STORY - - - - - - - - - - -

Most of my friends are becoming parents or, like me, not a parent but at a stage in life where — if we haven't started already — we're realizing its time to begin considering how to manage our money.

aah! I know. It's not the most fun topic ... but it can be!

Of recent I've started paying more attention to messages about money management and thinking about the things I've learned from my parents growing up. (Read more about this here.) I was watching a message by Andy Stanley about financial habits and he summarized it all by these three words: Give, Save and Play.

*ding* Oh my goodness. When I heard this a light bulb went up.

I was thinking, "Everyone needs to hear this," and "I have to do something with this!"
So this is where the idea behind these jars came from.

Can I tell you something? I secretly get really nervous to check my account sometimes! Just being honest. But I recently began facing that fear. I learned through Marie Forleo that we should have a relationship with our money and not fear it. We should check up on our money weekly so we have an understanding of how to go through that week, knowing what we have/don't have to spend for that week. This may be common sense but I have not been living this way! David Ramsey — a super money manager guru who has become famous for it — says that we have to tell our money where to go. Gosh this is so important! He's basically saying that when we get paid, we have to delegate every penny to the bills we know we have to pay, rent, upcoming celebrations we know we'll need gifts for, gas, tithes, savings, charity, groceries, etc. And if there's leftover, we have to know where that money will go, too! (In your savings perhaps or maybe to treat yourself to drinks if you didn't think you had money for that at first!) And if you're in the negative, time to cut from some area where you don't need to be spending as much!

Through my parents actions and words I was shown in big and small ways what I should do with my money. Faith and spirituality was important in my house, so most of my principals came from those found in the bible. I always heard that I should tithe growing up, and that even if I have a penny to give I can give it and God honors that desire of ours to give. I shouldn't look at tithing or giving like, "ooh man, I HAVE to do this?!" but "oooh man, I GET to do this." I have something to give to God or the world that is a gift from Him anyway!!
But my parents often reminded me to tithe. My mom would often ask if someone I knew needed anything. Once I could drive my mom would get me to take a check to pay off a credit card to show me how credit worked. There was one Christmas when I received a bit of money from family and had it sitting in my room. When my mom saw it she was like, "Whaaaat! It's time for a bank account." So she took me to the bank and helped me set up my own account. I think at this time she said I should open a savings as well and helped me get it started by putting a little cash in it.
When I was fifteen I got my first paying job and that summer I saved almost EVERY bit of it and put it into my savings. But I was also in an interesting/weird phase in my life where shopping didn't matter much. So I spent almost no money, my parents were taking care of my basic needs, and I ended up with $1000 in my savings! I'll just admit this is one of my most proud moments.
As I got older I became humbled through the things I learned at church, understanding that the things we have are not our own and we should be willing to sacrifice and give and try not to worry too much because God is taking care of our every need. I also learned that God isn't expecting much from us .. just to honor him in even the smallest of ways and acknowledge Him in the smallest ways, and He will honor that in unimaginably unexpected ways. And I've realized how your perception of life changes when you are able to acknowledge and appreciate these little/big blessings.

I think these jars can help kids (or adults) begin thinking about and learning this basic lesson about what areas to delegate our money to. And also that its not all meant to be spent now or for ourselves, and that we can still treat ourselves and have fun while being smart about money.

You can make these jars any way you'd like! Use a shoe box divided in thirds or three shoe boxes and label each secton/box with the words the words "give," "save" and "play" on tape. Buy jars and put tape labels on them. So many things you can do for cheap. But again, the most important thing is that we teach them now before it is too late.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Business of Giving : Purpose + Passion


I had an epiphany a few years ago and I realized that while I love creating and want people to enjoy it it wasn't enough to drive me. With Ashleigh Corrin I hope to not only be successful but significant, and the best way I understood to do this was by combining my passion with my purpose.

Growing up I noticed the little ways that my mom and dad gave. Whether it was through tithes and offering, donating, or helping a family member or friend, they made it a habit to offer some of what they had to God and others. At the time I didn't realize how these actions would affect my way of thinking about money, my earnings, gifts/talents, dedicating my hands/eyes/feet, etc. But through their fearless faith and humility I saw that the money I make and the gifts that I have aren't to be used for myself or my own glory alone, but for others as well.

When I was sixteen I went on a mission trip to St. Vincent, West Indies, and it was during this time that I realized what my purpose is here on earth. At some point during the trip I was asked by one of our leaders if I knew what my purpose was, and I had no clue how to answer this question or what they meant by it. But upon return after doing some reflection and talking with someone else who had gone on the trip with the group, they expressed that my actions revealed a heart with intent to serve.

I'm always learning what serving can mean and what form of action it can take. I'd consider myself an ambivert, and over the years it has taken more self-reflection and confidence building to act on these things that are on my heart. But I've realized that when I can deal with a situation through an attitude of servitude I am able to look beyond myself and see and better understand the bigger picture.

So since that time when I realized what my purpose was, I figured that I would be happiest in life combining my gifts with my purpose and prayed for opportunities where I could use my art to serve. I can't deny that there are countless opportunities I have missed or did not take advantage of, mostly because of fear. But now that I have taken this step in starting a business, I want to ensure that I give and serve in a way that I have always hoped.


In the initial planning stages of Ashleigh Corrin I had this idea of giving a percentage of earnings to support various organizations and causes. Since receiving my business license, registering my trade name, and launching my site in November, I realized that doing this may be a little more challenging than I had expected. With each sale I feel a mix of elation and fear, wondering if I'll make my "dream sale numbers" and ultimately how I'll be able to fulfill this duty of mine.

So as fear arises, praying and planning comes in.

After having conversations with friends and family I began to accept that things may not play out in the exact way or at the time I expected but as I'm learning more in this current season (of my business) there are ways to make it work.
I've stopped worrying (as much) about what I don't have and focusing more on how to work with what I do have. These few things have helped me breathe a little:  1) If I don't have the monetary means to give at this time, I can give my hands and my time by volunteering; 2) If I only have a penny or $10 to give I should just give it. If this is an important aspect of my business I should start now in whatever way I can to make this a habit and get myself in the right mindset; 3) While planning and hard work will get me far, tending to my relationships with family, friends, myself, new connections and God are equally/more important.

So I just want to be open and share with you my process of figuring this out. I'll also be sharing some of my experiences to highlight some organizations and provide resources in case you're looking for places/ways to serve as well.

And please know that I'm open to any suggestions, ideas, advice, etc. that you may have to offer. Email: :)

- -  Below are a few things I've worked on and places I've volunteered since November - -

DC|GO of DC Metro Church
On the DC|GO site you'll find a Community Event Registration and Volunteer Information Service. You can see a list of their upcoming opportunities here.

Casa Chirilagua 
Mission: "Casa Chirilagua is a community of people 'learning together to love their neighbors as themselves' in a latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, called Chirilagua. We are a Christian faith-based not-for-profit outreach that seeks to develop relationships with families to see the Chirilagua neighborhood transformed by Christ."

In November I signed up for a small event through DC|GO, stuffing envelopes for Casa Chirilagua. There were four middle school girls there from the neighborhood, and 6 of us working with them to stuff hundreds of envelopes. The girls were so sweet and funny, and told me a bit more about the organization and some of the things they do in it. I enjoyed the time of fellowship, and found it humbling and inspiring learning about the lives and experiences of those in this community and how it all got started.

Little Lights Urban Ministries in Washington D.C.
Mission: "To empower under-served youth and families in Washington, DC with the love of Christ. We seek to develop their God-given potential spiritually, socially, and intellectually through academics, life skills, the arts, and discipleship."

From November to mid-December I helped with LLUM's "Reading Heroes" program. I'd go once a week on Tuesdays after work and tutor a young girl for an hour. They have many other programs with descriptions here. The group that came to mentor during these nights was a diverse one, varying in age and ethnicity, but it seemed that most were students/young adults. Everyone was nice and the kids were characters! I loved spending that time with my student. While doing this I realized how easy it is to get caught up in our own lives, and how nice it is to get out and learn about someone else — especially kids. I got to know her and understand her and her world and get outside of my own. And I was just happy to be there to talk, work with her through her assignments and be there to assist her and the others in any way needed.

Photo: joy's hope

Blessing Bags
On Facebook my mom shared this post about these blessing bags to keep in your car to give out when you come across someone on the street that may be in need of a few basic necessities. There's a list at the link of items to possibly put inside of them, but you can use whatever you think would be best.

I used a percentage of my sales from December and put together a few bags for my car. Several items came from the travel-size section at Target and others I was able to buy in bulk — like food items — and split them between each bag I had. I'm not sure if these will come in handy or if I'll just end up giving them to a local shelter, but we'll see. I'm thinking I can continue to add a few more items to the ones that I have since I wasn't able to get as much as I wish I could have from the list. And since it's cold out I'd like to add a few things that'll help keep warm.

- - - - - -  Some motivating verses during this time - - - - - -

Psalm 4:5
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 9:7
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Proverbs 11:24
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want

Deuteronomy 16:17
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Mini Prints from Printstagram

A friend of mine told me about Printstagram ( a site where you can get your instagram photos printed in several formats. I had some cards made using some photos and photos of a few illustrations of mine. 

I'll be selling them at my mom's shop, Sherrie's Stuff, in Warrenton, VA. I'm working out price, but I will use half of what I make from these cards to buy food for the Fauquier Community Food Bank! 

I'll update you on this in a month or so and document my trip to the store and to the food bank. Yay!

Finally taking the leap

I've taken the leap.

I think I made this image back in 2010 or 2011. Around that time a gallery owner who had this print up in his shop asked me, "What's the story behind this 'Alois' print? Everybody loves it." I don't think I had an explanation. I actually created this image after going to church one day and saw a light reflecting on a wall that looked like a bird. I thought it looked neat and decided I was going to go home and draw this bird.

What was a reflection on a wall became an illustration, and then a poem, and then a story. And now I can say that the story told through this illustration is a part of my own. 

This entire summer I've been doing lots of praying, trying to figure out the next best step for me. I was thinking maybe it was finally time to start my own business. But fear and logic had me feeling like maybe I should consider my other options. Like:

1) Pursue web design. I had taken a year of web and interactive design classes thinking it was something I'd pursue next. As great and exciting as this sounded, I felt like I was still on a path of going after everything BUT what I actually wanted to do. Illustrate.

2) Quit my full-time and find a part-time job so that I could spend more time creating. This didn't make much sense to me because I like my current job, I enjoy my coworkers and people that I'm able to help and work with, it doesn't stress me out at all, and I learn a lot of things that help me as a designer/illustrator/entrepreneur.

3) Try and find another job doing illustration. This sounded fine but I felt like I could enter a place where I'm creating things with no purpose. I love art that has heart behind it. And although making something beautiful and sexy and having a happy client can be enough, for me personally its not always as fulfilling as knowing that what you're creating is effecting someones life in small or big, positive ways. (This is something I will continue to pursue in life because I'm still not where I want to be.)

4) Just be a full-time freelance illustrator and designer. Honestly, I'm just not ready. Not yet.

I took a trip to Paris and Barcelona at the end of August. Traveling does something in me. I think exploring new places, seeing how others live, hearing other languages, and the sometimes freedom, sometimes anxiety of getting lost and finding your way is all humbling, encouraging, exciting. I love being tested and forced to step out of my comfort zone. But thats the thing: It's so hard to force ourselves to do something without the help of outside influences. And while overseas I realized that I have to force myself to step out of my comfort zone. And I couldn't wait for other things to happen to see if it would force something to happen in the way that I hoped. I had to take the step I was afraid to take. It was time.
So I decided that when I got back I would ask to cut a few hours so that I could begin to work on my business on the side.

But would they allow it? Would they know that I'm still serious about what I do? Was it an act of selfishness doing something like this? Could I still pay my bills? Was reducing hours enough? Would God desire that I took a bigger leap and have greater faith? Should I let them know about this business I'm hoping to start? Questions and fears still whirred in my mind.

But I had to do it. I had to do SOMETHING. Take one step. Realize that the rest would come. Stop thinking. Start doing. It's ok if its not the right or most perfect step. I'll learn and adapt (if my mind is open to it).

So I'm also the type of person that pays attention to signs. And some people may think I'm crazy, but I truly do believe, as the quote from "The Alchemist" says: When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it."

My Signs:

- At work, I thought that maybe I could use Thursdays and Fridays as "my day." We weren't so busy these days so I figured I could come for half the day and get my personal work done the other half of the day.

- My roommate was about to get married and would soon be moving out of the house. Her rent was $140 dollars less than mine. If I moved into her room I could save on rent with my reduced income. Yes, the room was much smaller, but it was worth the sacrifice. I think we HAVE to make sacrifices to get something we really want and make it work. Short term pain for long term gain. Or long term pain for future gain. However you want to look at it, I had to do it. I believe God desires we make sacrifices if we want to evolve.

- I received 3 new projects within a month from new clients.

- My mom invited me to go to the NY Now trade show. When I saw what some of the vendors were doing I gained a new confidence in myself. She didn't have to invite me, but she did. (Thanks, Mom!)

- I kept hearing from family, friends and acquaintances that they really had faith in what I do.

This is all God. And some would say, "No, it's coincidence." And maybe it is. But to me, they're signs that motivate and encourage me to stick with God and trust in Him.

Determined that I could make things work I decided to just ask. And be completely honest and transparent. And my boss said yes :)

- - - -

I remember lying in bed a few months back while praying and just thinking, when I decided that I was no longer going to pursue my dreams using logic alone. For some reason, logical reasoning by itself brews fear in me, and I knew I'd only continue in circles going after everything but what was on my heart and in the end still feel like something was missing. Heart things can't be pursued by logic. Only by faith (and trust in God).

Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose
for him that will stand. - Proverbs 19:21

I just want to share this to encourage you to:

- Figure out what makes you, or what you do, unique
- Don't be afraid to stand out and look or think differently.
- Find a way to help and serve others through what you do.
- Wait. Meditate.
- Don't allow fear to cripple you. We are the ones that give life to fear.
- There aren't many that take the extra time and effort to get better at something, to be better, to be the best, etc. Take that extra time and effort.
- Trust your gut. Follow your heart. Watch for signs (big and small).
- Acknowledge your blessings. The smallest blessings are your fuel to keep pushing.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. (Romans 12:2 AMP)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved. With God rests my salvation and my glory; He is my Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness, and my refuge is in God!
(Psalm 62:5-7 AMP)

From a message by Charles Stanley: Definition of Waiting: Pausing for further instruction. Waiting is not passive. It is directed instruction. Being still is an act of submission and trust in God. 

Wait Patiently. Trusting Him. Expectingly. Steadfast (staying strong in the storm). Courageously (having no reason to fear). Silently.