quatrefoil necklaces with cwr logo1

Many of you who know me well, might have found yourselves asking, “what’s up with the quatrefoil?” in reference to both my floral quatrefoil logo and the little quatrefoil necklace(s) I wear all the time. (I have quatrefoil bedding as well, in case you were curious).

Well, I’m glad you asked. The answer is a long one and is deeply tied into my creative story.

The quatrefoil symbol has been around quite a long time, most traditionally used in ancient church architecture. It is thought to have originated in ancient textile design. Some people think it means luck, like a 4-leaf clover, some say it is a version of the Greek cross and represents the four gospels in the Bible. It really could represent anything in fours – the four seasons, the four cardinal directions on a compass, the four elements, etc. I love the history in all of that, but for me the meaning is a little more complicated.

If I had to give you the shortest answer, I would say that, to me, it means that no matter the season, or the direction I would like to go, God has a plan for my life. I also really love the historical context, that it is tied to my art background, and that it is a version of a flower (I grew up in the country). I also just think it is a really pretty symbol.

Here is the longer story: (warning: lots of text and no pictures)

It’s no secret, if you’ve been around here for a while, that my college years were a rough time for me in many ways. I had health issues and was often sick (undiagnosed Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and gluten intolerance), had extremely low energy (undiagnosed thyroid issues and general lack of sleep), missed my once close-knit family (that was beginning to fall apart), missed the country, and in general having a home and a place that felt settled and safe. Along with that, I struggled with figuring out what to do with my life, what to study, and what path to take to the career I wanted (along with the general stress of tough college courses and a heavy workload).

I’ve always been a creative person and I’ve loved art since I was really little. I would paint with watercolors at my Grandmother’s kitchen table for hours as a pre-schooler. In elementary school, my mom taught me to sew and embroider, knit and crochet. In middle school, I became interested in photography and digital design in Photoshop (it wasn’t until college that I learned Adobe InDesign or Illustrator). In high school, I was on the Publications team creating layout and ads for the yearbook, involved in designing and sewing costumes for school plays and musicals, and organized my school’s Fashion Show every year. But my small town background made me naive to the creative careers possible for me. I thought that the only way to work in the world of art was to be a painter or a photographer– selling your work on the street, at festivals, or online.

So when it came time to go to college, I began majoring in English, with the intention of becoming a teacher, just like my grandparents both were, and just like the majority of people I’d known in my life up to that point. While I enjoyed the way that my English classes made me think, analyze, and find deeper meaning, I didn’t feel like English nor teaching English were my true passions.

It wasn’t until part of the way through my freshman year of college that I heard the term “graphic designer.” I was on a field trip with my TIDES class (a required Tulane course in your choice of subject area to orient you to the unique culture of New Orleans). The TIDES course that I had chosen was called “Design It Yourself NOLA” and we spent our time learning about New Orleans architecture, graffiti culture, Katrina and the geography and history of the city, touring green-build houses, visiting a warehouse of Mardi Gras parade floats and learning how they were made, beading Mardi Gras Indian costumes, and going to Creole Creamery to learn how their ice cream was made. But the most influential stop, to me, was the day we toured a local art gallery and print/publications house. We met with a graphic designer who showed us the digital page layouts for a book she was designing about how to navigate a major city disaster like Katrina. I was amazed. Something that combined my love of art and English into one marketable and needed skill? Sign me up!

I went home and immediately started researching graphic designers. Why hadn’t I ever heard this word before or thought about something like this as a career? I did small graphic design projects for myself already (in Photoshop and Publisher, oy!). The more research I did, the more sure I felt that designing is what I needed to do with my life. The bad part came when I realized that Tulane, the University that I was already attending, didn’t have a graphic design program. I met with my (terrible) guidance counselor (who basically told me I shouldn’t have come to Tulane and should have gone to a trade school). She pointed me towards the art department and they directed me to the printmaking department. But I didn’t want to make books by hand, I wanted to design them digitally.

Through a long string of events, and many stressful nights and long cries, I did sign up for the first class in the string of art courses required for a major — beginning drawing. I was so confused as to what to do with my life, but seeing as I was already in college, I didn’t have a lot of time to figure it out. God was looking down on me though, and blessed me with the most amazing art professor and I was amazed at my progress from beginning to end in Drawing 105. So much so, that I started to wonder if I wasn’t in the right place after all and signed up for the next drawing class, along with a painting class, and an art history class. (and then printmaking, and ceramics, and more painting, and more drawing, etc…)

This story is taking a long time to get to quatrefoils, huh? I told you it was a long story.

I didn’t give up on my graphic design dream. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I did an internship with a small graphic design and printing company in my hometown. There I learned the very basics of Adobe InDesign and I started to begin familiarizing myself with Adobe Illustrator (but didn’t really get proficient at that until after college). I also became familiar with various printing processes — preparing files for print, screen printing, vinyl cutting, etc. I initially thought that I would like to work in the book/magazine publishing industry designing book or magazine layouts, and I was thrilled that this internship was getting me one step closer to that! However, that same summer, while living back at home, reading my mom’s Country Living magazines, I stumbled across an article on Anna Maria Horner and her career in fabric design. It was another lightbulb moment! I had grown up sewing and collecting fabric, I loved painting and art, but I also loved digital design. Did I really want to design book layouts or did I want to design FABRIC! Fabric, of course! This opened a whole new world of possibilities to me (read more about AMH and that article here).

The next semester at school, I took my first art history class (a beginning survey course) and fell in love with the history of art, particularly the design motifs in ancient church architecture. (SPOILER ALERT: THE QUATREFOIL!) On my class notes I would draw quatrefoils and trefoils, gothic arches, and rose windows. I dreamed of using my art skills and budding design skills to become a fabric designer and design patterns inspired by art history.

Fast forward through more school, more English classes, more art classes, more stress, and low energy. The final project for the first painting course I took at Tulane was two combine two objects — one that represented your past and one that represented your future. I could go into further detail about why I chose what I chose, but in the air of brevity, I’ll just tell you that I picked an antique watering can full of impatiens to represent my past and in the background I painted a turquoise and mint quatrefoil pattern to look like fabric to represent my future (you can see and read more about that painting here).

Fast forward even further — past the rest of my English and art classes, past starting my blog and following the blogs of my favorite designers, past my wedding, past opening a web and graphic design business with my husband, past diagnosis of my thyroid and gluten intolerance — to the summer after college graduation. What am I going to do with my life?! What is my next step? Where do I go from here??? With a degree in English and Studio Art (concentration in Painting) and a plethora of self-taught design skills, there were a lot of ways I could take my career. I (obviously) wanted to be a fabric designer (more largely a surface pattern designer), but I didn’t yet know how to make repeatable patterns or where to even start to get into that industry. I looked into going back to school for textile design, even started touring schools, but that was too expensive with my husband already having so many student loans (and I really wasn’t mentally ready to dive into more school just yet). I started to focus on finding a job within my skill-set to help pay the bills while I spent my free time figuring out how to design patterns and studying the industry. I didn’t know what that job would be, but I prayed and asked God to lead me to wherever I was supposed to go next. The end of that summer, I got a call from the Director of Administration at a church in New Orleans that was looking for a Web and Publications Coordinator. He had seen my resume online and said that with my English, art, and graphic design background, I seemed like the perfect candidate. A week or so later, I started working there, without having even applied for the job. Guess what the church logo is? A quatrefoil. I guess the painting about my future was right, even if it wasn’t in fabric.

After I’d worked at the church for a few months, I came across a little quatrefoil necklace on Etsy (pictured above). The quatrefoil charm was the exact same color of turquoise as the quatrefoil fabric I’d painted in that art class painting. Again, well before I knew it, God knew what would be in my future, even if it wasn’t exactly the way I’d envisioned it. I bought that necklace (actually Drew bought it for me for Christmas that year) and I wore it nearly every day until it started to look a little ragged and I replaced it with a little gold version (I also have a pearl one).

Now I know how to design repeatable patterns and I understand a lot more about how the fabric manufacturing industry works. I’m still working towards that fabric design dream. But to me — the little quatrefoil (and my floral quatrefoil logo) serve as a reminder of my story – that all those parts (that I didn’t understand at the time) had a purpose and were leading me where I needed to go. God will provide. I can make plans (four directions) and want them to happen when I want (four seasons), but God is directing my steps and will lead me where he sees my future. He’ll also lead me through tough times and deliver me from distress (Psalm 23).

On a side note, I designed a more floral quatrefoil for my personal logo, as a way to combine the quatrefoil with a flower, a symbol of my country upbringing and love of nature.

I hope this has fully answered all of your questions about my obsession with quatrefoils. :)

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Gratitude

January 13, 2015

This is a blog post that I started writing in January of 2014. I never posted it because it never felt finished or “wrapped up” and sometimes I really struggle with pushing “publish” on topics that are so personal and heartfelt. But these same sentiments have been on my mind a lot over the course of the last year. Chalk it up to my goal this year to make my blog content more in-depth.

Warning: this is a long post. Grab a cup of tea and stay a while.

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Have you heard about the word-of-the-year trend? Instead of making a list of New Year’s goals or resolutions, you simply choose one word to focus on for the year. I’ve never chosen one before, because I always have bigger/longer/list-ier ideas for things I want to accomplish within the year. You can see my list for 2015, here (along with links to past year’s goals). I would look at that list and never be able to narrow things down to just one word, just one idea.

However, over the past year or so, there has been one word that has consistently been on my mind.

Gratitude.

Everyone has heard the word, everyone has something to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my husband, family, job, home, skills, etc. But what has really been on my mind is practicing a heart of gratitude. Not just being thankful for the big, lovely things in your life, but spending each day truly focusing on every little thing you have to be grateful for. Allowing yourself to mentally give those things higher priority over the small, negative little details that can seep into our souls. And being grateful for even the not-so-great life moments. Because we aren’t just made up of lovely, beautiful, happy moments. The not-so-great make us who we are too.

When something bad happens in your day isn’t it so easy to get caught up in it? Let it dictate the rest of your day and control your actions? Let it make you upset/mad/angry. That anger can even seep over into the next day or the next if we let it (or unfortunately for some, can seep into their entire lives making them constantly bitter and angry). It makes us question our overall happiness, our overall blessings.  It is so easy to get caught up in a culture of complaint. We let those negative moments take over our lives, rule our lunch discussions with a friend, control our thoughts and actions, maybe even let them take over our relationships and our marriages. Make us become critical, harsh, and condescending people.

“Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still seeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.”  -Henri Nouwen

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be controlled by every negative thing that happens in my life. Those negative moments can easily overshadow all the wonderful aspects of our lives, if we let them. I want to choose joy. Rejoicing. Gratitude. 

Here is an excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s “Bread for the Journey” that has really stuck with me since I first read it a year or so ago. On the Spiritual Work of Gratitude:

“To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.  Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.”  -Henri Nouwen

Around this time last year, I was invited through work (I work at a church) to go on their annual women’s retreat. The theme of the retreat was “Rejoice!” and its primary focus was on cultivating a heart of gratitude. One of the lectures from the speaker was about “desert blooms” — otherwise known as happy or positive moments/events/outcomes in life during a period that otherwise looks pretty grim or desert-like. We had to complete an exercise where we wrote down all the “deserts” of our lives — all the big, bad moments, the terrible events and losses, the periods of life that seemed so grim that no good could possibly come from them. Then, on the other side of the page, directly across from our deserts, we had to list our “blooms” — the positive outcomes that had come, even in the midst of hurt and sorrow.

I have to say, this exercise was pretty eye-opening for me. I’m young, so I understandably haven’t been through a plethora of deserts, but everyone has their tough moments. A few examples from my life:

1. My college years. As you might know from reading this blog for a while, college was a rough time for me. I was stressed, exhausted, depressed, overworked, lonely, missed my family and missed getting to always be around for various events, struggled with figuring out what I wanted to do and worried about not being able to study what I wanted, and I also had a slew of health problems, just to name a few. After I graduated (and figured out my health issues!) things got much better, but I had still gotten into the habit of reflecting back on my college years as a “rough time” in life. Through my constant labeling of college as “bad” I had begun to overlook the good things that happened during those years. And a lot of good things happened! Drew and I moved to a new place, got to explore and learn the culture and fall in love with New Orleans, we grew immensely in our relationship because we were so isolated from the rest of our families, we got engaged, got married, and moved into our first apartment together. We also started a business, met a lot of new people, learned a lot of really neat things, and we paved the path that is leading us down our lives/careers today. That is just a few of the good things that happened, and already “my college years” aren’t sounding so bad, huh?

2. The death of my Mamaw. This one has always been particularly hard. I was incredibly close to my Mamaw (read more about her, here) and her death came suddenly and unexpectedly. Since I was only 15 when she died, I really struggled with her death. Not only because I missed her, but because I was too young to have thought to ask her about so much of her life and I had lost my chance. Mamaw didn’t drive, so we had so many activities planned for when I turned 16. Me taking her to her beauty-shop appointments, us going on shopping trips together, none of which were ever realized. Her death lingered with me for years (and still does). I miss her and wish that I’d had those moments with her, to drive her around, to talk with her about her life, to ask her for guidance, about marriage, about tough times. But, this exercise in gratitude made me realize something I had never considered before. Her passing before my Papaw gave me the ability to get to know him, where I otherwise might not have. My whole childhood, I would run into Mamaw and Papaw’s house and dart right past Papaw, who would always be sitting in his recliner in the living room, and run straight to the back of the house, where Mamaw would be in her recliner reading or watching TV. I do have memories with Papaw from my childhood, him telling me stories or letting me help him in the garden, but I really never took the time to chat with him and get to know him until Mamaw passed away and I couldn’t just dart past him to get on with my business. My Papaw’s death last Spring really drove that point home. I’m so grateful for those last 8 years I had with Papaw. To chat with him about his life, to listen to his stories.

I can’t say that I’ve become anything close to an expert in appreciating life’s toughest moments. It is certainly a continual process and it takes time. The last year has been (and continues to be) a really rough time for my family. Important family relationships have been severed and a lot of really deep and irrevocable hurt has been caused. I wish I could see the blooms in this desert. They may not come for years. But, I haven’t let this desert cloud my judgement on my whole life like it did in college. I’m able to see that a lot of other really great things are happening for me to rejoice about.

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118:24

What gratitude is not: complaint, greed, desire for more, sorrow, depression, negativity. What it is: trust, thankfulness, rejoicing, choosing happiness despite your situation, appreciation, being happy with what you have rather than what you want.

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” -John Milton

Another practice that has helped me to do this, also started at the women’s retreat, is keeping a gratitude journal. I don’t write in it every day, but when I think of it, at least a few times a month, I end my day by writing down the best moments of the day, or the things I am most grateful for in life right then. Sometimes I’ll make Drew do it with me and we’ll talk for a few minutes about our gratitudes. On bad days, it isn’t always easy to come up with a whole list of things you are grateful for. I often don’t feel like listing anything or taking any more time to reflect on the bad day I’ve had. But those good moments are there if you take the time to look for them (it helps immensely to change your attitude on your day!). I find prayer and simplicity are also helpful practices for gratitude. Choosing happiness (and not letting our emotions or situations define us) is a constant battle.

I love this quote by Sarah Ban Breathnach from her book, Simple Abundance, that I’ve been reading lately. I feel like it perfectly sums up why we need gratitude in our lives to really lead happy, joyful lives.

“There are six threads of abundant living which, when woven together, produce a tapestry of contentment that wraps us in inner peace, well-being, happiness, and a sense of security. First there is gratitude. When we do a mental and spiritual inventory of all that we have, we realize that we are very rich indeed. Gratitude gives way to simplicity–the desire to clear out, pare down, and realize the essentials of what we need to live truly well. Simplicity brings with it order, both internally and externally. A sense of order in our life brings us harmony. Harmony provides us with the inner peace we need to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us each day, and beauty opens us to joy.”  -Sarah Ban Breathnach

Here’s to finding the joy in even the worst days.

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One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to put together the Advent devotional book that the church I work at produces every year. It is a really amazing resource filled with devotions written by members of the congregation. This year, I was asked to write a devotional for one of the days, one that I thought I would also share with you here. It echos a similar holiday sentiment to what I wrote about on this blog four years ago, here.

As a child, Christmas Eve was magical. My sisters and I would spend the day being the honorary “present wrappers” for anyone who needed last-minute gifts wrapped. There would be a fire in the fireplace, Christmas music on the radio, and my mom would be in the kitchen cooking up our favorite spaetzle recipe. Once our bellies were full and all presents were wrapped, we would pile in the car to head up the road to my Mamaw and Papaw’s house, where homemade sweets, warm hugs, and piles of presents my shopping-loving grandmother had carefully chosen were waiting for us. Still to this day I have never met a better shopper than my Mamaw – she had an amazing ability to pick out things you never knew you wanted, but ended up loving and treasuring for years.

When I was fifteen, my Mamaw unexpectedly passed away in her sleep one September night. Since then, Christmases just haven’t been the same. My family has grown up, grown apart, and formed individual families of our own. Christmas has lost a bit of its sparkle. I know the real reason to celebrate is one of joy – the wonderful birth of our Lord and Savior – but no matter what, every Christmas Eve, a tinge of sadness still comes over me, not at the loss of the enchantment that Mamaw’s gifts used to bring, but because it is another Christmas Eve to put childhood memories behind me and move on without my Mamaw.

Prayer: Lord, today we pray for those who are going through tough times during this Christmas season- dealing with the loss of a loved one, changes in family or traditions, or for any other reasons for experiencing grief during this otherwise joyful time. Help us to find the joy and peace that only You can bring. Amen.

Christmas is generally a wonderful and joyous time. But it can also be a time of hurt and heartache. Many are struggling through difficult times during this season. Dealing with health issues, family dramas, financial problems, the loss of a loved one, endless sources of stress and sadness.

But we also have hope. We have the ability to have peace. I ask that this Christmas season, amidst all the hustle and bustle and joy and merry-making, you say a prayer for those who might be struggling for whatever reason. Pray that we all find the joy and peace that only God can bring.

“I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.” -John 14:27

At This Moment

May 26, 2014

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I haven’t blogged here in several weeks, even though I’ve had posts written and ready to publish. I guess sometimes blogging gets emotionally hard–hard to open yourself up and put yourself out there where anyone in the world can read about it.

With it being graduation season, I’ve been constantly reminded that it has been an entire year since I graduated from Tulane. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ll remember that my college days weren’t the most fun. College was an extremely stressful and hectic time in my life. The stress of classes, studying late into the night, not getting enough sleep, worrying about if I’d make the grades to keep my scholarship, worry about making sure I was choosing the right major, taking the right classes, and starting out onto the right career path, combined with the stress of being far away from family, missing out on family events, feeling not settled in a new place, and all the other stresses that go along with that. Drew and I also started a business and got married while in college–both great things, but also ones that can add additional pressure to an already stressful life. Mostly though, college was a sucky time for me because I had a lot of health issues. Extremely low energy, headaches, acne, minor weight gain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (AKA: being sick every time I would ever eat anything!), and a slew of other random symptoms. After finally seeing the doctor several times and also a nutritionist, I found out I had both hypothyroidism and gluten-intolerance. Being able to make adjustments to my life based on those findings helped out tremendously, but it was still a great relief to finally graduate and be done with school.

Now that I’ve been out of school for an entire year, I have to say that being out of school is amazing. This last year has been a really tough year in many ways–the loss of my grandpa, excessive family drama, hurtful relationships, but it has also been pretty incredible too. The slightly-depressed-college-me has made many strides towards a happier self this past year. Working in a great environment with amazing people, furthering my art career, working on home and crafting projects that I didn’t have time for while in school, just being able to come home from work and make dinner then sit and read or crochet or paint or DO ANYTHING BUT HOMEWORK is so completely amazing.

A month or so ago, Drew and I grabbed our camera and tripod and drove a few streets over to take a few photos of ourselves. Why? You might ask, as some of our friends did when we said we had been taking pictures. My reply: I want to remember us at this moment in our lives.

Us with our cheesy, laughing, goofing-around grins and awkward bear hugs. Us on State Street, the street I drive down every day to get to work and back. Us in this beautiful city that we’ve fallen in love with. Us at this awesome time in our lives when we are fresh out of college, working hard together to figure out our finances and pay off Drew’s student debt to live financially free. Us working on DIY decorating projects in our apartment together, figuring out our married lives and enjoying this time of being young newlyweds (Are we still newlyweds? It’s been almost two years!). Working, painting, cooking, creating. Living healthy and gluten-free. Excited about dreams for the future– buying a house and having babies, but being completely content in this moment.

Even the smaller things that make up this photo– my favorite turquoise quatrefoil necklace (a gift from Drew), my favorite leather boots (a Christmas gift from my Dad), the subtle black and white pattern of my shirt, the jewel tones I’m wearing, my favorite jeans and gold watch (I wear so often I have a tan line around it), and my hair in its completely natural state. Mr. Beard and Button-ups over there wearing his “tassel-y shoes” and the watch I got him for Christmas. Those things all make up our style right now too. (Although I can’t believe how hot it has gotten over the last month since we took this picture, it is definitely way too hot for leather boots right now!)

I feel like this photo perfectly captures a little glimpse into this time of our lives. And I want to cherish and remember it.

Yesterday marked the 1 year anniversary of my first blog post here on Icing on the Cake Blog. It was this post, if you are curious to read it.

It seems crazy that a year has already gone by, but then again, it feels like I’ve been blogging forever! I love it! It is such a great digital journal/scrapbook to document life, photos, recipes, projects, and thoughts and feelings on things at certain times in life. Plus it is great that it is so easy to share those things with other people as well.

I started this blog for several reasons. Because I wanted to stay better connected with my family that is so far away from me in New Orleans, because I love to write and document life happenings, and mostly because I wanted to use it as a way to focus on my life outside of my schoolwork. Before I started this blog, I felt that my whole life was consumed by school and I never had time for anything else. I wanted this blog to be a way for me to give a little more to my life and interests and not feel like I was being taken over only by homework.

It has most definitely fulfilled its purpose and become a love of mine all on its own. It has made me think more deeply about little things happening in my life, it has forced me to take more pictures of random things and moments, and it has helped me to focus more on my interests–cooking, decorating, sewing, crafting, design, etc… It has shown me as I’ve changed throughout the past year–from cooking and crafting in Drew’s tiny studio apartment, to cooking/crafting/sewing/decorating in our new and much bigger apartment now. I’ve gotten engaged and started my way through the process of planning my wedding, gotten another year of challenging classes under my belt, and Drew and I have opened our own business since I started this blog. I’ve had good memories and stressful ones, and overall I have changed so much during the last year. It is so great to have this thing that allows me to easily look back over all those moments and memories. I’m looking forward to what the next year holds and all the great things that I’ll be able to look back on next year.

I’ve changed my website address this year from lovecakedesigns to icingonthecakeblog and I’ve also changed and updated its look numerous times. (I really like it a lot now though!) It has come a long way:


In the past year, I’ve had 181 blog posts (average of 3 1/2 posts per week), 243 comments and 434 tags. I’ve also had 6, 813 visits from 80 different countries/territories. A big thank you to all of you that visit and read my blog! :)