This is the third year that I have done a reflective blog spotlighting personal highlights of a year that has just come to pass. Before starting this I went and googled whether I can now officially call it a “tradition.” Discussion boards varied referencing biblical definitions to how many times it takes to make a habit (21 times if you were wondering). Some even digressed into debates on flag burning and the BBC. None were helpful. Therefore I made my own standard. If an activity or event is seen as giving enough value, meaning and comfort to its participants that they chose to repeat it on a regular, predictable interval, it can be considered a tradition. And that is exactly what this exercise in reflection has become for me – my tradition to recognize and celebrate a year that has undoubtedly changed me (lets hope for the better!).
The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, noted, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” This is my attempt to understand…and then move forward:
Since living in Paris, I have created another tradition – going to visit my beloved City of Light on an annual basis. And due to the nature of my business this visit has warped into a month long European excursion to explore new countries and cities in my quest to curate the best handmade accessories our planet has to offer.
Using Paris as my “base camp,” I started 2015 with jaunts to Rome and Sicily in Italy (it is impossible to go to Europe and not go to Italy) and then headed to Manchester, England, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Istanbul,Turkey.
Me in my natural habitat…well, at least when I am in Paris.
My dear friend, Andrea, and me – she made my time in Rome so so so special….like her!
Ortigia in Syracusa, Sicily. Fantastico!
My time in Europe continued to be the highlight during this month famous for a romantic holiday that seems to persist no matter how many years in a row I don’t celebrate it.
Me in front of this little known Manchester, England soccer stadium.
And continuing the sports theme while in the UK…
My spot to watch Superbowl XLIX at The Three Sisters Pub in Edinburgh, Scotland.
While I can’t say I am the most avid football fan, I was willing to brave the frigid temperatures and the early AM hours to cheer for my hometown team for a second year in this coveted bowl game. The Scots may have looked at me sideways for drinking wine with nachos, but I was able to convert the one standing next to me, Kris, from being a Patriots fan to a Seahawks fan. In fact I did such a good job that he noted on the walk home that he was much more upset by the Seahawks loss than I was.
The Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
My European visit winded down with a 48 hour trip to Istanbul. Between having my travel companion journey across an ocean just to experience this city with me, meals at some of the most interesting restaurants in town and private tours of the city’s iconic landmarks, this short trip was one of the most memorable in my lifetime.
It was back to work in March, and the spoils from my European sojourn were featured in many of Seattle’s best magazines (i.e. Seattle Met’s Must-Haves and the Spring Fashion Editorial as well as in 425 Magazine’s It List). I also got my new UW interns up and running. However, the highlight this month for me was waking up the morning of March 10 to 1 Euro equating to 1.07 USD – a 12 year low. Santa Claus does exist and in March!
This brilliant photo of a curated Turkish Jewelry Treasure by designer, Hüseyin Sagtan, was done by my intern, Mackenzie. I miss her.
My first product and “scale” photo shoot with my new product photographer, Jesse, happened in April. His experience at Amazon and Nordstrom has definitely upgraded my shop’s aesthetic, and as a new entrepreneur it was a nice lesson to learn that I don’t have to do everything. Although clearly, per the below pic, I haven’t quite yet learned to stop modeling the pieces. Baby steps, everyone. Baby steps.
A behind the scenes shot.
Jesse does do a fine job of capturing the glory of each global piece ..and me.
It turned out that May was an important sales month. Behind November and December, May exceeded all others. And while most of the month I was running between trunk shows at events, pop-up shops at wineries and picking and packing online orders, the stand-out happening was hosting my parents for Memorial weekend.
At Maggiano’s in downtown Bellevue.
Although it was none of our birthdays, we had privately joked that it was mine only because we were feeling left out of all the b-day celebrations around us. Our stealth server overheard and surprised us with a dessert topped with a lit candle. We did feel a little guilty for our jesting, but not one of us corrected her when she served up our free chocolate cake. The above group selfie ensued as record of our “living on the edge” moment.
We all have our heroes, and I got to meet one of mine during the month of June. Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to have visited every country in the world…all 198…and he did it by the time he turned 32 (he is a mere 37 today). I admiringly call him “the most interesting man in the world,” and after meeting him at a BBQ joint in Lynnwood, WA my fondness grew even stronger. It was clear he was a genuine person who not only had passion for his work, but also for getting to know the people he meets along the way. I was happy to be one of them. Our friendship persists today!
Lee is the one with the NY Yankees cap on! Kinda cute, no?
Lee was also gracious enough to participate in my business’ Summer Travel Series. Each week this summer we spotlighted a different country and featured country-specific content including Q&A’s with savvy travelers who have visited, content from natives who shared their favorite local spots, destination-specific outfit guides, travel tips, food recommendations and more. It was SUPER COOL, and Lee did an interview about his time in Sri Lanka. It still gets me giddy that he participated! However, if I may be a little girly for a moment, not as giddy as his response to my inquiry about whether or not he had found the angel playing the bagpipe during his last visit to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, “No, Jen. I didn’t find you anywhere.” *swoon*
Another notable June event was that a dream I didn’t even know I had came true! I learned that my intern, Mackenzie, was not only on the cover of Seattle Bride Magazine, but inside she was wearing pieces from my shop!! (so did another model…but it was sooooo special to see Mackenzie in them!) The issue hit the news stands July 1st. The imagery and styling was incredible, and one would have thought I was getting married by the number of issues I had floating around the house.
The major event of any July is that I turn a year older. As traumatizing as July 24 tends to be for me (I do have a flare for the dramatic), I love to go to my hometown of Hamilton, Montana to celebrate it with my parents. Like many years before, hot dogs, potato salad, s’mores and Dom Perignon were all part of the celebratory meal held next to an open fire in my parent’s back yard.
Dad and I toasting the aging process!
My mom got me the “It’s My Birthday!” sash.
July also found me in this great American city for 2 nights. I was flown here to be part of a reality dating show called “First Dates.” Yes, you read that right. In fact it was a little known mini-dream of mine to be on a dating show, and NBC and Ellen Degeneres gave me that chance this summer. I am told the show will air in February 2016. Be sure to watch how I comport myself on my first date with a gentleman the producers thought was perfect for me. Did I find love? Uh, let’s just say you don’t necessarily need to stand too long on all those pins and needles.
August was a huge month…HUUGGEE (<-get the 2015 reference from the campaign trail). Not only did I venture into Mexico and Guatemala for the month, but I became an aunt for a 2nd time!
Meet Violeta Avila!
My new niece, Violeta Avila, was born on August 13, and here she is shown in the loving hands of her adorable big sis, Juliana! So proud of both of them!
While my sister was home making sure the Fallows bloodline persisted, I was out globetrotting. During this month I did blog about my time in Mexico and the first half of my time in Guatemala, but then I dialed the blogging back to zero while I was in Antiqua and Tikal. *sigh* Therefore below I highlight a notable moment in each of these splendid places:
Me learning how to make chocolate from scratch at the Choco Museo in Antiqua, Guatemala.
Not only did I make it, I drank it how the Mayans and the Spanish use to AND ate it like the Europeans and Americans do! Ask me anything about the history of chocolate because now I am an expert thanks to my enthusiastic guide, Pablo, at the Choco Museo.
View from the top of Templo IV in Parque Nacional Tikal.
This was the sunset as seen from Templo IV, the tallest pyramid in the ancient Mayan empire of Tikal in Guatemala. Boa constrictors, tarantulas, toucans, monkeys, and ant eater-like creatures were all my neighbors during my stay within the park at The Jungle Lodge. My first night the howler monkeys created such an ominous screeching sound that I woke up with quite a fright. The guttural noise completely surrounded me. Had I lived in different times I am sure I would have thought the sound meant the end of the world was upon us…it was indeed that horrible. Ahhhhh, makes me want to go back!
The debut of my first physical retail display took place this month. To match the aesthetic of my friend’s wine bar, Vino Bella in Issaquah, WA, I commissioned two shadow boxes be made from the ends of a wine barrel. They turned out magnificent and now perfectly display my shop’s pretty global pieces for all of Claude’s wine-loving patrons to enjoy. It has been a grand success in its first few months. One might even make the conclusion that drinking and shopping go hand in hand!
Beauty, Form and Function!
Not only did I get a new car this month, but I was able to break it in with a 500 mile drive back to my parent’s house in Montana to meet my new niece, Violeta!
This was one of my favorite pictures from the weekend. Violeta was pleased as punch to pose prettily on my lap in her new little dress from Guatemala while her sister, Juliana, was less impressed with the idea. The bit of blur is all we could catch of big sis as she most decidedly she was not taking part in this photo opp…
As a note, I really dislike the word “busy.” I try not to use it as I think it is overused and often exploited as an excuse. But in the case of my 2015 November, I was indeed b-u-s-y! I don’t remember stopping and I barely remember sleeping. It was a glorious and productive month from both a business and personal perspective. And the best part was that these two segments of my life merged harmoniously this month during a short business inspired getaway to southern California for two nights.
My room with a view at the Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach. A nice respite from the clamor of retail life during the holiday season…if only for a night.
Another November highlight was this year’s Wine, Women and Shoes gala to benefit Olive Crest. It was held at the Sheraton in downtown Seattle. Over 350 well-heeled women turned out to shop, sip, nibble on bits, bid on silent and live action items, be charmed by our “Shoe Guys,” and support the children of Olive Crest. The event raised $231,000 for abused kids in the Seattle/Eastside area. Last year, in its inaugural year, I worked to find sponsors and procure items for this sensational gala. This year I took on a leadership role as the chair of the Marketplace Committee. Next year, they asked me to Chair the entire event!!!!!!! *gulp*
A tradition much older than this blog and much more cherished is my annual trip home for Christmas. Unlike most years, my best friend was not home to bring me to the local breweries and catch me up on hometown gossip. She, her kids and her mom went to Disneyland as a way to break-up their holiday tradition in the shadow of the death of her dad that passed the day after Christmas one year ago. I missed her tremendously, but I did get to see her and the kids before coming back home to Bellevue.
While traditions do provide comfort and create a foundation, I understand the fluidity of life does require us at times to forsake them or modify them so that they can grow along side of us. That being said, I do hope all of us are back in Hamilton for the holidays in 2016. After all, it is tradition.
Me behind a vintage Hamilton saloon bar now made into a delightful new wine bar! Très chic!
Home for the holidays in Hamilton, Montana!
Tah Dah! There they are…my 12 beautiful months of 2015! And as full, vibrant and rich as 2015 was, something inside me says that 2016 will be one of the finest ever. BUT we shall see. And if I am indeed correct, it will all be chronicled right here. After all, this is tradition.
And to continue the theme of tradition, I leave you again this year with the same quote as I have the past three years. It remains my wish for all of us:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – (attributed to) Mark Twain
Now go! All the blessings and best wishes for an amazing 2016!
from One Girl’s Adventures http://ift.tt/1StUEJe