Stefani's Blog

Step Up, Step Out, Shine Book Tour Recap + Giveaway

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:

 

 

***GIVEAWAY***

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.

 

Christmas Cheer, New Music’s Here & Living In The Present

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.

Stefani Vara's cover Art for her song, My First Christmas With You

Download “My First Christmas With You” Free

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.

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Be present, Not perfect

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.

Merry Christmas!

 

5 Things I’ve Learned from Selling Salsa with My Mom

“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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Sipping & Strolling Around California’s Santa Ynez Valley

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.

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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:

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    • 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.

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.

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© Courtesy Solvang Conference & Visitors Bureau

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.

 

BTS w/ Thinking Boutique

I love connecting with like-minded super women, who build businesses and communities around supporting others. That’s why I have been so glad to get to know Alicia Elatassi, the owner of Thinking Boutique. Alicia is a former educator who focused on bridging the generational and cultural gaps of the community. Today, she runs Thinking Boutique in West Houston. The boutique not only provides a carefully curated offering of clothing, accessories and gifts; it also offers knowledge, community and connections. Everything from blogging and social media classes to book signings and networking events are regularly hosted in the boutique. They also make it a point to feature products from other women-owned business in-store and online.

Recently I had a great time, being part of a photo shoot for Thinking Boutique.

Here are some snaps from Behind The Scenes. Such a fun time!

Alicia directing me so she can get the look she wants ✔️

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One time for my IG stories 😝

And here are some of the finished products, great shots for sharing. Be sure to swing by Thinking Boutique if you’re in Houston OR visit them online to shop from anywhere. Tell Alicia, I sent you her way.     #SupportWomenBusinessOwners

NYFW 2018 Recap

Fashion, Fun & Friends!

I had a great time in New York for Fashion Week. As a former NYC resident, I look forward to any time I can spend hanging out at some of my old favorite spots in the city. . . especially with some of my favorite people.

This year, I had the pleasure of attending a show of fashion house Ruby Fang. Ruby Fang is an Haute Couture brand founded in Paris in 2012, by Lihua Fang. Read their brand manifesto here to get a feel for their sensibility.

At Ruby Fang, we believe that nothing is more wonderful than a girl who lives her life to the fullest. She creates, thrives, conquers and inspires. She is smartly sexy and exquisitely strong. She dresses up every day, because she sees life as a feast.

The fashion show was exquisite. You can see from the photos below that the Ruby Fang aesthetic for Fashion week was somewhere between ethereal and assassin. When color was used, it was bold colors. Blazers with gowns, open shoulders, and long flowing drapery that created impressive silhouettes ruled the runway.

Some other great stops included #MaybellineHouse and the Cotton’s Delivered Fashion Show from Cotton Inc. All fashions shown on the cotton-centric runway were immediately available on AMAZON after the show.  What a totally interactive way of capturing excitement?

“The runway show was also a first-of-its-kind for Cotton during the iconic weeklong celebration of fashion. Amid the backdrop of fall’s latest styles, Cotton’s Fashion Delivered Runway Show connected today’s trendsetters with versatile cotton looks that they can get now via a “watch now, shop now” runway experience.”

- snippet from official press release
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Runway’s Ready

OF COURSE, my favorite event of the week had much more sentimental value. I got to support my friend, Africa Miranda, at the launch event for her awesome new show. Africa and I have been friends for years. I absolutely love her AND getting to celebrate all of her wins in life and business. You can check out her show via Facebook Watch, here.

It was a fabulous week!

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Yay Friend!!!

 

Up & Running with Support Creative Soles

This new beginning has been a blast! My Support Creative Soles podcast is fully up and running. I’ve had great guests so far, with in depth looks at topics that every creative or entrepreneur can relate to.

In the first episode, Regina Moretto – a photographer, fashion stylist and creative director – sat down with me to talk about Destiny, the law of attraction, the power of collaboration and how old-school sneakers are coming back. Catch our candid convo here, below:

Next, episode two dealt with balancing your life and your entrepreneurial hustle. To tackle this topic, I chatted with guest Lidia Ferrufino – creator and host of Livin’ Latina Live. Lidia is also a fashion blogger, an interior design assistant (which I found out during the show), a wife and a mother to a young son! We talked about how she had to mentally prepare for entrepreneurship after becoming a mother AND how she helped her own mom make the jump to launching her own brand.  This balancing act has become an even more important topic to me recently, since I got ENGAGED between episode one and two. Great to talk with a lady who is working to keep a similar balance.
You can watch that episode, here:

The Support Creative Soles podcast was created to highlight inspiring people in creative fields,  while offering support for aspiring creatives. Since you guys know that I love shoes, we also feature a few shoe stories to help kick-up your innovative journey.

Stay tuned for more episodes which will be available soon! Follow us on Instagram, join our community on Facebook , subscribe via Apple Podcasts, or tune in via iHeart Radio. Let us know who you would like to hear as our next guest.

And keep kicking it, you creative soles.