Staying Inspired: What I’m Reading & Listening To This Summer

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This summer, it seems like everyone has a lot going on; busy jobs, vacation plans, trying to get in shape, dropping the kids off at camp, and so on it goes. I've accomplished a few goals in the midst of everything; launching an Etsy shop, creating a habit of waking up earlier to get work done in the AM, and being a lot more physically active. Which is great... and has been pretty rough. I had a few weeks of feeling exhausted all the time. Summer is the busy time of year for my day job and trying to add all these new things at once hit me like a freight train.

I needed to get energized to power through it all, so I began seeking out podcasts or music that left me feeling refreshed and upbeat, and I played them whenever I was taking a walk or commuting home from work. I went on Amazon and ordered a few books focused on creativity and inspiration, and I read a bit every night before bed. These small things helped me sail through the toughest parts of some days, so I wanted to share them with you in case you're in the same boat... or in case you're just looking for something new! Below are the things I'm listening to, reading, and doing to stay afloat.



I've really embraced podcasts this summer; they are just the perfect way to make a 15 minute drive feeling like it was both relaxing and productive. Here are a few I've been downloading this summer:

Ted Radio Hour, an NPR podcast (my favorite episodes are The Source of Creativity, Success, A Better You, and What Is Original?)

Awesome with Alison (Alison Faulkner on Instagram is also one of my favorite things)

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Sincerely, X, also an NPR podcast (this is an odd one, but the stories are so compelling)

In other listening-related news, at the beginning of summer I put together a playlist specifically of songs that helped shift my mood. I was going for calming, happy and meaningful music. Songs from your childhood or that help you recall a time in your life that you were kicking ass will probably do the trick for you, but if I might offer a few suggestions from my own playlist:

America by Simon & Garfunkel (and all the other Simon & Garfunkel songs too, of course)

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by The Beatles (and yes, all the other Beatles songs too, of course)

The Weight by The Band

Nobody Compares 2 U by Prince

The Wind by Cat Stevens

Don't Stop Believin' by Journey

Also, apparently science figured out the most relaxing songs. These don't really do anything for me, but if it works for you, let me know in the comments!


I ordered three new books this summer specifically to motivate myself, and they are:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (I highly recommend this one)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

In the end, the books that make my feel the most uplifted every time are the books that originally taught me to love to read. They are comforting yet demonstrate strength and determination. I always turn to Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant among others. (You can also check out a longer list of my favorite books.)

Change It Up

One of my mantras this summer was to "start being that person". Meaning, if I wish I was the type of person who wakes up an extra hour early to get stuff done, then I need to be that person. If I'm feeling envious of other people who always seem to be outside and getting daily exercise, well... I can be that person too. So, I took the proverbial bull by the horns and set my alarm earlier, started wearing a Fitbit, and after a few challenging weeks I'm feeling proud of myself and enjoying that extra cup of coffee while I meet my goals in the early morning hours. 

All that is to say, maybe consider switching up your routine? A few things to try include:

Change into more comfortable clothes as soon as you get home from work. For me, this helps to shed the stress of the day and change my mindset. The opposite can also be true; instead of staying in sweats all day Saturday, changing into some real clothes can make me more likely to get out of the house or tackle some tasks I've been putting off (and I don't just say this because I'm usually showered and in PJs by 7pm... Apparently, a lot of British people are too.)

Change how and when you work on specific tasks. You've probably read about how really successful people don't check their email first thing in the morning. I think you need to learn what works for you, since that's who you're accountable to. I've learned that I am much more productive when I focus on a task in a large block of time. I can create a "theme" for the day, and if I stick with it I feel like I can conquer the world. When I jump from task to unrelated task, I take more breaks between them and lose my train of thought.

Get out of town. When I used to live in a city, we would sometimes drive hours outside of it to go to strange little small towns (once, we visited Appleton, Wisconsin and went to a tiny Harry Houdini museum in their town hall.) It was just to get away from the concrete and noise, and gain some perspective. I still enjoy how even driving an hour away just to get coffee somewhere you've never gone before can make me feel.

Or, maybe don't change it up? Eating the same thing everyday has been the habit of many artists and writers; it eliminates a distraction and focuses your energy on what you need to accomplish. It's the same reason Steve Jobs wore the same clothes most of the time. (Check out a Slate article on eating the same things here, and one on Steve Jobs outfit choice here). Personally, I haven't found a food or clothing item I could commit to this fiercely, but I'm on the lookout.


What are you reading, listening to, and changing up to stay inspired this summer?

- Dani


Photo in main blog post image by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

Watercolor Video Series: Leafs & Foliage

Recently, I've enjoyed focusing on watercolor painting, especially floral paintings. Eventually,  I realized I was defaulting to painting the same "roses with a bunch of green leaves", though. While that's pretty, it didn't feel particularly exciting or challenging... So, I decided to challenge myself to two weeks of something different! Specifically, practicing a new leaf or flower every day - and along the way I learned how to make quick videos, how to edit them in iMovie, and how to share them on Instagram and YouTube! That's a lot of new skills packed into a short amount of time.

Sharing these on Instagram was really, truly fun and exciting. I loved getting to interact with those who commented or asked questions, and it was something all new for me. However, as a more permanent place to house and share these videos, I thought I'd post a small collection of them at a time here, along with any particular tips and supply notes that might be helpful.

Watercolor video series focusing on leaves & foliage, from

For the first set, I focused on leaves & foliage. They may not be the star of most paintings, but they can add depth, color, and influence the composition. Let's get started! (To read about what supplies I used, just scroll down to the end of the post).

Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair fern is fun to paint, because I enjoy the variation between all of those little leaves hanging off the center stem. The trick is using a small round brush and creating the leaves by holding the brush horizontal and flat against the paper. Adding a little bit of darker green or more yellow occasionally creates the actual variation in the leaves. The stem is this little, crooked, charcoal-colored line that adds contrast at the end.


Silver Dollar Eucalyptus

This is a favorite of mine! The leaves have this silvery-blue tinge, making them a little opaque and flat-looking, and the stems add some richness with the darker brown. Adding the stems last, while the leaves are still wet, lets just a little bit of it creep into the blue-green. Don't forget the little notch at the top of each leaf, that adds some character!


Rose Leaves

I wanted to practice rose leaves, simply because they're... well, practical. When you paint a lot of roses, rose leaves just make sense. Creating the serrated edge can be tricky, without the leaves ending up too big or an odd shape. Eventually I got the hang of making a smaller oval, and then dragging some paint up along the sides to create the little points. There is a huge variety of rose leaves, so it's one to experiment with!


Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba leaves had a big moment in apparel and textile design a few years ago. At first, I didn't quite get it, but after studying them a little more closely I can see the appeal of their unique shape. Drawing out the edges with the brush first, then adding the thinner, fluttery sides worked the best to capture that feeling. Leaving a few little highlights where the white of the paper shows through adds some shine.


Hosta Leaf

Man, these were hard to get the hang of at first, and now I can't stop painting them! If you google hosta leaf,  you see there are so many varieties and colors! Some have a lot of contrast, and some have surprising color combos. I've been painting these by creating the outline with my brush using the lighter color (in this example, a yellow-green), then filling it in by pulling the brush from the middle to the edges, letting thin slices of white paper show through. After I had the shape I wanted, I punched in some of the darker color (a more blue-green) from the middle to the edges. Make sure not to make it too perfect! 

Watercolor Supplies

Let's talk details! All of these paintings were created using the follow paints, papers, and brushes:


This series has been so much more beneficial for me that I imagined it would be. The support from others has been priceless - I've received so many sweet comments, words of support, and have discovered so many new faces and inspiring people through these connections. Thank you to every single person who has engaged with me and my work!

Are there any botanical or flower studies you most enjoy painting? Do you practice them on their own, or as part of a larger composition?

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Design Around Vintage Pink Tile

The 1950s gave us a lot of good things: credit cards, Hula Hoops, and pink tile bathrooms! I struggle with those first two. Pink tile bathrooms though, have their own special charm! It seems like everyone is either working around, tearing out, or fighting to save their pink tile bathrooms. I don't actually have one... I wish! Our bathrooms came distinctly more boring than that. Pink bathrooms are all over the internet (did you know there is even a and I just can't resist throwing my own hat in the ring.

My inspiration is cheerful, bright, and whimsical - picture a sunset at the beach! Most of the pink tiled bathrooms I could find on the internet leaned more bold and glamorous, which looks amazing - but I don't think it's the only option when working with this classic tile!

Designing around vintage pink tile to create a bright, cheerful, whimsical space! danielle and co.

Style Board Elements

  1. "find a sunnier place" print by Emily Jeffords
  2. "spring winds" print by Emily Jeffords
  3. Bell White Flush Mount Lamp, CB2
  4. Alto Sconce, Cedar & Moss
  5. Metal Framed Wall Mirror, West Elm
  6. Spring Mint by Benjamin Moore
  7. Bunny Gray by Benjamin Moore
  8. Whale Shower Curtain, West Elm
  9. Devonshire bath and shower faucet set, Kohler
  10. Parkay Hamper, CB2
  11. Fieldcrest Luxury Egyptian Cotton Bath Towels, Target
  12. Devonshire towel ring, Kohler
  13. Avanity Brooks Double Sink Vanity, Lamps Plus
  14. Wooden Whale Nail Brush, CB2
  15. Zigzag Bath Mat, West Elm
  16. Waterscape Scented Candles, West Elm
  17. Dottingham Black Robe Hook, Lowes
  18. Vintage pink tile (usually comes with the bathroom, but our local architectural salvage place, Significant Elements, often has some in stock!)

The Cedar & Moss sconces are a big splurge, but they are just oh so lovely! If anyone knows of an affordable-look-alike, please let me know! The prints by Emily Jeffords are perfect. She has original paintings for sale too, but the price of the prints is very attainable. I've followed Emily Jefford's work for awhile now, and admire it very much. The shower curtain with little whales was just too hard to resist. :)

Check out a few inspiring rooms!

Designing around vintage pink tile to create a bright, cheerful, whimsical space! danielle and co.
Designing around vintage pink tile to create a bright, cheerful, whimsical space! danielle and co.
Designing around vintage pink tile to create a bright, cheerful, whimsical space! danielle and co.


My favorite moments in the inspiration photos above are the lovely browns against the pink of the tiles; that simple, clean-lined vanity in the second photo, and the geometric floor tiles in the third. The pink adds this lovely soft glow to the whole space.

Have you ever lived with a vintage pink tile bathroom? If you had one, would you work with it or break out the sledgehammer?