You guys know that I’m a Matcha girl. There’s rarely a morning where I don’t start the day with a cup of green goodness. You may be surprised to learn that I like coffee too. . . just good coffee! That’s why I was so excited to stop by the limited time pop-up location of Café Bustelo‘s Coffee Shop here in Houston.
If you’re not familiar with their history, here’s a quick rundown. The Café Bustelo coffee brand was started in the 1920’s in New York City. It’s said to have been popular among the area’s population of Cuban exiles. It became known for it’s unique yellow and red coffee cans, and has a rich espresso-style taste. #SaborLatino
While you can buy Café Bustelo products in stores and online, thankfully those of us in Houston can keep enjoying the pop-up location in the Montrose neighborhood until May 25th. My mom & I stopped by recently and had a good time enjoying a great cup.
I definitely suggest you stop by if you’re in Houston; for a delicious cup of coffee in one of our artsy areas of town. It’s especially nice with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having. If you’re not in Houston, use this link to see where you can buy Café Bustelo in person near you OR to order online. Enjoy!
Filming my podcast at Wicowork in Midtown Houston has been wonderful!
If you haven’t already heard, I’ve upgraded my podcast. The new format is a show that focuses on creative entrepreneurs and professionals. It highlights their journeys and shares valuable lessons they learned along the way, in an effort to encourage and educate the next wave of aspiring creatives. Since I’m a shoe fan, we also spice up the conversation with funny stories about shoes – for a bit of unscripted fun.
The podcast is called Support Creative Soles, and I’d love for you to check it out.
Once my team started booking more guests, we quickly realized that we needed a reliable professional space to film. My producer, Alicia, checked around with some of the local co-working options in town. She found that there were a few national chains that had spaces available. The amenities were impressive; but since the larger chains are typically in super-busy areas like Downtown or The Galleria we were concerned about parking for our guests, the logistics of moving all the recording equipment we’d need and (of course) traffic. After looking into some locally owned options, we found Wicowork. (Read to the end to see our Virtual Tour)
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Our host, @StefaniVara had an awesome time recording our latest episodes at @WiCowork WiCoWork is a Coworking Space and a network of local business and business tools that are committed to the new lifestyle of mobility. Our team and guests had a great experience at the #WorkspaceOfExperiences If you’re in Houston, give them a visit! #SupportCreativeSoles #SCSpodcast #StefaniVara #CreativeCollaboration #WiCowork #HoustonCreatives
We love this space! Wicowork is a graciously renovated historic home in the Midtown area of Houston. Thankfully, that means the convenience of close proximity to Downtown and almost every major highway – without the congestion, traffic and noise. We also love the idea of supporting a homegrown business. Don’t get me wrong, the large scale operations based on either coast with locations in every big city have their advantages. Several of my entrepreneur friends use those spaces and love them. For this podcast, I think being able to support a local business while we feature entrepreneurs in Houston AND all over the country, helps drive our point home. That point being that there are several creative career options out there to pursue.
Here is the tour I went on recently, to virtually share with you guys some of the great features of Wicowork. I highly recommend exploring this option if you are in need of professional creative space. Tell them Stefani sent you!
And don’t forget to listen to the Support Creative Soles podcast on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio or Spotify.
You can also watch the episodes on YouTube.
Right after I got engaged, I felt only excitement. Then it hit me. I need to get “wedding ready“! I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that nothing was how I wanted it. Ever been there? Face, brows, hair, nails, eyebrows and clothes. I needed to step it up and perfect everything for this perfect day.
I immediately started with my skin. I wanted to have flawless, blemish-free skin. First I got a consultation and was told that a regime of twice monthly chemical peels would be good. I tried keeping up with that, but I suffered from an eczema breakout shortly after. Obviously this routine was too harsh for me. I took a step back and decided to get facials (not peels) twice a month instead. I began going to SKN Houston with Tricia Magee. Tricia was great; she recommended products and knew exactly what my skin needed. I got the Diamond facial and my skin loved it. It was such a relief to find a knowledgeable esthetician and a routine that worked for me. I will be headed back to SKN very soon!
Next up were my eyebrows. I found Emily, a Certified Microblading Artist and Texas Cosmetologist, who calls herself the HTXBrowQueen. She was looking for influencers to try microshading and I was all in! I’d read a bit about micorblading and heard a lot of people rave about the results; so I was excited to try it. If you are not familiar with technique, microblading is a semi-permanent alternative to standard eyebrow tattooing. The microshading process, which is what I tried, provides similar results with a handheld tool that does not include a blade. It’s also referred to as “powdered brows”. Emily walked me through a two-step process. First, I went in for an initial shading, and transformation of my brows. I then came back 6 weeks later for a small retouch and shaping. It wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be; not too bad at all. I loved how they looked!
My hair came next. I wanted to get extensions! I heard of a process from a friend called NBR, which is natural beading rows or natural beading. I wanted longer, fuller hair for my everyday looks. I found a salon in Houston called TradeMark Salon that specialized in the process and booked my appointment. I bought the hair for my extensions at Sunny’s Hair. My friend, Dafina Smith, is the owner. She recommended a color and style for me which I loved. I got the extensions put in and at first I was in love with them. The length I wanted was certainly there, but I underestimated how full of a look I really wanted. They lasted for around 8 weeks and after that I was done. For me, it was a bit too much maintenance. Maybe I’ll get more use to it after having them a few more times. I did realize that I didn’t want anything in permanently. So, I went back and had the extensions removed – but I did use the hair I bought to make clip-ins for the wedding.
For my nails, I had big plans. I wanted some bling, true wedding style! I searched on Pinterest for wedding nail inspiration and the results were crazy. Way to much information to process. Blogs were saying to do trails for the exact shape and color, but I just felt that was a bit much. I wanted a look, not a homework assignment. I found a great salon called Mod Nail Bar. I called ahead and let them know these nails were for my wedding and they referred me to an amazing technician who really took the time to figure out, and deliver, the design and color I wanted. I went with a coffin shape, white ombré color, and added silver glitter for the bling touch. I loved them and they lasted all through the honeymoon too!
As far as my clothes, I knew I wanted to have many looks for the wedding, but didn’t want to spend money on outfits that I would only wear once. I decide to try Rent The Runway Unlimited. It was amazing! I loved picking the looks for my engagement party, bachelorette bash and different looks for the wedding. They have a huge selection of cocktail dresses as well as everyday looks. You can order four looks at a time. My only issue was returning and ordering again. You have to return items before you could order more, but it normally took about two days to return and two days to get your order. Typically, I bet that turn around time would be fine but I needed my items quickly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to return and re-order before my honeymoon. I did however, love how you can cancel at anytime or put your account on hold.
All in all, I was happy with all my choices. At the end of the day I realized that not a lot needed fixing. Sometimes we lose ourselves in thinking we have so many imperfections. I think as brides we want everything to be so beautiful, and perfect that we forget what we are doing it all for. My husband would ask me, jokingly, “will I even recognize you at the altar?” After he said that I took a deep breath and decided to rely more on my own natural beauty. It’s okay to be reminded of that on occasion. It’s also okay to live in and enjoy the moment, instead of getting all worked up about it.
I’m happy with how I look in my pictures. I’m even more happy for the lifetime of memories I’ll continue to build as Mrs. Mayberry, picture perfect or not.
A good friend is such a treasure. Especially in the digital days we live in where it’s easy to forget that love is more important than “likes”. For me, having a good friend who is also an entrepreneur – someone you can clap for and who you know will clap for you – is even more valued. That’s why I am over-the-moon excited for my friend, Africa Miranda.
Africa is a go-getter who, like me, does a lot. She is an actress, singer and worked for several beauty brands before starting her own – Beauty By Africa Miranda. Now she can add author to her growing list of titles. Her book Step Up, Step Out, And Shine is a transformational guide to helping people recognize their own power and create the lives they want. Naturally, when Africa launched her book tour I was more than willing to participate as one of the hosts of her Houston event. It was a great night, particularly because the honest insight Africa shares in her book really resonated with the event attendees.
See for yourself! Here’s a quick video recap of the night:
And here are some of my favorite photos:
AND, because I want you to make 2019 your best year, I’m giving away a copy. This book will help you get that winning mindset – just in time to kickstart the new year . I could not be prouder of my friend, or more impressed with her book. To enter, stop by my Instagram profile, spot the post with Africa & I, like, and tag away.
Also, be sure to check out my Support Creative Soles Podcast episode where I interview Africa. We talk about why she wrote the book, friendship, goals, power and more.
I’ve been in a particularly festive mood. For me, celebrating means lots of family time BUT also making time to get back to your own passions. That’s why I am so glad I was able to do what I love – sing – AND end up with something to share with all of you.
My song, “My First Christmas With You“, is out and right now and available for free download. I’m sharing this song as a holiday gift. That’s right . . . on the house. It’s my first time recording a Christmas song. I wanted to do something about love, and celebration. Since my fiance John and I are celebrating our first Christmas as an engaged couple, planning for our soon coming wedding, and starting to create our own traditions . . . this seemed like the perfect time.
This song feels whimsical, and does not take it self too seriously. It’s not perfect, but that’s exactly how I wanted it. It’s kinda like how I feel about this picture (below). The star on our tree is crooked, and my gift wrapping skills obviously suck, but I’m happy with it! The joy on my face is real and that makes everything else okay. Sometimes, we forget to be laid back and let ourselves experience a moment just because it’s not picture perfect. I know this photo will be a good memory for us in the future. I’m also content to know it’s a good feeling for right now. Don’t forget to be present. Especially during this time of year.
It felt great to get back into the studio and record something fun. Out of every creative thing I do, music is still what I love the most. In 2019, I plan of coming back with a Spanish version of my song “I Do It All”. I learned, from the process of recording this Christmas song, that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. People will always have their criticism, but if it’s your vision. . . run with it.
“Entrepreneur” is in my blood. Since it is, I usually have multiple irons in the fire. Currently, in addition to my professional footwear modeling, I speak to crowds encouraging people to seek out a purpose filled life and career, I host a podcast geared toward creative professionals, AND I help my family bottle and sell our own family-recipe salsa.
The salsa business is different from everything else. It’s in the food industry. It’s product based. It’s a family venture. And it has been quite a learning experience. Since I’m all about sharing my lessons as I go along, here are 5 of the things this venture has taught me so far:
- IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO REINVENT YOURSELF – This lesson comes courtesy of my mom. She has taken on selling our salsa like a champ. She is there at the pop-up shops, and markets right by my side . . . selling our salsa with a smile. This is not her first time starting something new and excelling at it. As a divorcée, with kids in college she started a new career working for a major airline. She did not let age or fear hold her back. She is now one of the sweetest & sassiest flight attendants in the skies. Talk about a great example of shero-super power!
- DIRECTION OVER SPEED – Like I mentioned before, this particular endeavor is completely different from anything else I have going on OR anything I’ve done before. There’s been a learning curve, and for me it’s included patience. Of course, I want everything I do to be a huge success (you too, right?). If I am committed to that success I will have to remember that moving in the right direction is more important than moving quickly. It’s not easy, but I believe it will be worth it.
- SHOW UP – When you start small, you are the business. If I don’t feel like being at a holiday market, the people who pass by my table will know it. It can be a challenge to keep showing up, when interaction or sales seem nominal on rainy days. The only way to have the sell-out in the sunshine kind of days is to show up as much as possible. You never know when your one customer of the day will be the one who can make a difference. Treat every potential customer like they matter, because they do, and you’ll get that good energy back eventually. Just keep putting it out there.
- FAMILY = FUEL – One thing that has really helped keep me going, is that this project is part of my family’s legacy. Growing up, our family had a popular restaurant in the small Texas town where I lived. Our salsa was a hit! When we decided to bottle and sell it, long after the restaurant was gone, it just felt like an extension of those old restaurant days. We all pitch in how we can, making great memories along the way. Hopefully, I can build it up enough to have something to pass on to our next generation. When I’m tired, I remember that goal. It helps keep me going.
- ENJOY THE JOURNEY – You know how when you take a long road-trip and end up having such a fun, crazy time on the way to your destination that the car ride is what you remember most vividly when you think of that vacation? I think life can be like that. A destination, goal or dream is a great thing to have. The journey, however, holds some magic of it’s own. Even if it is a business journey, we should be open to fully experiencing it and gaining all we can from the moments on the way to the top.
I hope this post helps encourage or inspire you! If it has also made you hungry for some delicious salsa, than order a jar or two here. You’ll love it.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting one of California’s historic and picturesque locations. My fiance John and I went to the Santa Ynez Valley for the wedding of one of his friends. After flying into Los Angeles, the beautiful drive up the Pacific Coast Highway was relaxing.
Once we arrived for our stay in Solvang, I felt as if we had stepped into an adorable Lifetime movie. Everything was decorated in Fall decor, the pumpkin patch looked like it was straight off of a movie set. Solvang is located in southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley. The city is known for its Danish heritage which is evident in the architectural style and bakeries. Oh, and windmills . . . did I mention windmills? There are charming windmills all throughout the area.
Here are some of the local eateries we enjoyed:
- Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
We were told that this was the home of the best Danishes and sweet breads in Solvang. We were certainly pleased with our choice in treats from Olsen’s.
- Gathering Table
Located in Ballard, which is a city 7 minutes away from Solvang, “Chef Budi Kazali artistically melds Asian and French cuisine” at Gathering Table. We tried as many different plates as we could get our hands on. All while sitting on a white picket-fenced porch, drinking local wine.
- The Bear and Star
We had a delicious brunch here! I had the tasty pulled pork sandwich. The Bear and Star in the name represent the symbols from the California and Texas state flags, respectively. The owners hail from these home states, and the flavors are as big and bold as both of them. This restaurant is in Los Olivos, CA . . . another nearby city in Santa Ynez Valley.
- Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
The wedding took place at a local Solvang winery. The couple said their vows at sunset. It was beautiful ceremony in a gorgeous town. Sometimes, its nice to get off the beaten path and try something new in someplace you’ve never been.
Thankfully, the Solvang area is not currently being impacted by the California wildfires. Besides from possibly having to take a different route, the Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau assures me that Solvang is open for business – ready to accommodate your getaway. Being mindful of the unfortunate loss occurring in other areas of the beautiful state of California, please consider donating to the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund.