5 ways to stay creative

My day job is fairly creative.

The evening job -- writing the blog and running my handmade shop -- is very creative.

But there are days when I feel like I'm in a rut; I feel stuck. And if you are in a creative role at all, or even consider yourself a creative person, you have likely felt this way more than once. Maybe, if you're like me, the creative drought hits at least once a month.

I haven't found the magic solution -- I'll patent it once I do -- however there are a few things that I try to do to keep myself going when my creative spark feels dim.

1. walk away. // You can force and force and force yourself to come up with an idea, but usually the pressure we put on ourselves kills any creative juices we have. If you're stuck on something, walk away from it and do something you enjoy. It can even be something as light as watching TV-- just do something to get your mind on something else.

2. exercise. // I am a huge proponent of exercise because of its effects on mental health. Going for a walk, or a run, or even dancing around your kitchen can make a huge impact on your mood and your creativity. Science says it's true.

3. talk it out. // Find your people-- your friends, your coworkers, even a pet -- who is your listening board. Tell them the problem, tell them all the things that you've considered. Sometimes just even speaking words aloud can help you get to a solution. If you have some people you trust, ask them to help you brainstorm.

4. work on something else creative. // I imagine the creative brain as a muscle and maybe some parts of the muscle are weak in areas-- kind of like when you work out, you should work arms and legs. So if you're stuck on writing, try drawing for a while. If you're stuck on sewing, try cooking. Feeling creative success somewhere else can help you feel like you can be successful in the area you want to be.

and if all else fails...

5. start anyway. // Sometimes I get so crippled by the idea of a starting point. I ask myself, where do I even begin? But if I just start the process anyway, sometimes things will come to me. For example, with writing, it helps to just get words down -- even if they make no sense. Artist? Start painting. Start sewing. Just get yourself to start somewhere without any pressure attached,  even if it's not exactly the direction you want to be in.

what do you do to stay creative?

xo, erika


goat cheese phyllo tarts

I love goat cheese and I really love it sprinkled over the salads I bring to work. So I added it to the grocery list when the husband went to the store.

I didn't specify how much goat cheese to buy, so the husband came back with a 10 oz loaf. I don't want to look at the receipt to know how much 10 oz of goat cheese was, but I did know that it was more than enough that I could get through before it went bad.

Rather than make copious goat cheese salads, I went the opposite direction, and made goat cheese tarts.

First off, I'm someone who always makes their own crust, always. But time is precious, and even more so recently, so to save my sanity, I bought store-bought phyllo crust. Pretty good, and it makes this recipe really easy (yet they look super fancy).

goat cheese phyllo tarts

4 oz of goat cheese
1 egg
2 tbs of honey or maple syrup
1 package of phyllo tarts
toppings-- I used fresh raspberries.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a mixer, blend goat cheese until creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and honey and continue to beat for another minute or two until frothy.

Pour goat cheese mixture into each phyllo tart, filling each one to the brim.

Bake in oven for 10 minutes, or until filling has puffed and is golden in color.

Remove from heat and top with a raspberry, or other topping of your choice.

Feel really accomplished for making something that looks so fancy in about 20 minutes.

xo, erika


a post about polka dots and maybe nothing at all

I haven't done an outfit photo post in awhile. It's not because I've stopped wearing outfits or clothes in general -- (although there is a nudist colony about a half hour north of Seattle... ha) -- but I have a hard time forcing myself to get out the camera and take photos. I still have not mastered the tripod thing and I absolutely feel so awkward taking photos by myself. Apparently I still care a little too much about what people think.

And if I do get good outfit photos, they are care of my friend Sam, and sometimes it's hard to coordinate schedules and good outfits. I know, life is so hard.

With all that said, I'm ploughing through June and waiting for the weather to make up its mind and just be steadily nice. Until then, it's still about my favorite leather jacket and polka dots.

tee: thrifted
jacket: Nordstrom
jeans: Gap
shoes: Toms


friday favorites

some of my favorites from lately-- going clockwise:

>> custom family portraits from yellow heart art. Even if I wasn't friends with Leonora, I would still be over the moon about her custom family prints. No joke, I've ordered three. One for me, and two as gifts. They're adorable and I can't wait to hang mine. 

>> patterns from Sew Caroline. I love when I get to see a small biz lady do really incredible work. Caroline does amazing work and it's been so wonderful to see her grow her pattern making business! I just bought the Out and About dress and I cannot wait to sew it up and rock it all summer long. 

>> Indie Gift Box. There are a lot of subscription boxes out there, but I have a special place in my heart for those that support handmade businesses. Indie Gift Box sends out a box of adorable, handmade goodies each month. I got the box from the month of May and got adorable cards, a cute little Spring print, necklace, ring and decorative candy. All gorgeous and beautifully packaged. And they're generously offering a discount to you guys-- use rougeandwhimsy15 for 15 percent off your first purchase of Indie Gift Box!

>> asparagus salads. I know, this doesn't fit with the small business feed, but did you know you can eat asparagus raw? I got a ton of it in my CSA box and after searching the internet, found some awesome salad recipes -- like this one -- that uses diced asparagus. Highly recommend.

This week has been a rough one-- I got hit with a nasty summer cold but I finally feel like I'm on the mend. What is it about summer colds that are way worse than getting sick in the winter? It's June! I shouldn't be allowed to get sick when it's sunny.

Happy weekend!

xo, erika


what you should be reading this summer

I am an avid reader and while winter is made for curling up with a book under a quilt, summer is made for stretching out with a book on a towel.

I don't know what it is about summer, but I never want to read anything too complicated  -- I want something that sucks me through, that's easy to read -- a true beach read. Here are my suggestions for summer reads for this June.

memoirs: I am a memoir junkie. There's something about reading people's true stories that resonates with me. Here are a few of my faves:

- The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. A heart-wrenching memoir by a journalist that had a less-than-normal upbringing.

- Bossypants by Tina Fey. If you haven't read this laugh-out-loud memoir, do it. Seriously.

- Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall. A story of a relationship between a wealthy man and homeless man that creates beautiful change in both.

- Confessions of a Latter Saint Virgin by Nicole Hardy. I read this without expecting much-- it is fascinating look at Nicole's dealing with her faith, but I walked away from it loving her style of writing. Her skill in telling a story makes me want to write, and that is a gift.

Feel good chicklit: You know what I'm talking about -- the mindless reads that don't involve too much brain power.

- A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. A girl starts a vintage dress shop in England. Despite its premise of running a dress shop, it's more about relationships than anything. Definitely the best kind of good reads. (I also suggest Wolff's other book, "Behaving Badly.")

- Goodnight June by Sarah Jio. The back story of "Good Night Moon." A quick and easy read and set in Seattle, which makes me love it more. (Jio has a number of good, easy reads-- I suggest any of them.)

- Starstruck by Rachel Shukart. A story about Hollywood in the 1930s. Totally an easy, fun read. The only bummer is that it's first in a series, and only two of the books are out!

Moving reads: Sometimes you need a story that hits you right.there.

- Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. Gut-wrenching story about an Asian American orphan at the turn of the century. (I also heard this could be turning into a movie-- so read it now!)

- Saving CeeCee Honeycut by Beth Honeycutt. Upbeat story about relationships between family-- especially women in the family, when a young girl loses her mom to mental illness and moves in with her great-aunt.

- Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. I think this a movie-- out now? --  but this was a moving book about a woman and her son who take in an inmate for the weekend.

These are just a few of my suggestions! I also have quite a list of books to read, but I always love hearing more titles. If you're so inclined, share them in the comments. :)

xo, erika

p.s. if you're looking for book suggestions, I recommend Good Reads! You can find me on there.


my favorite small business tools

When I started my tote and purse Etsy shop it was a little bit on a whim. There was no organization to it -- no rhyme or reason or systems. However, as it has grown, I've had do a bit more of the behind-the-scenes work. None of these things are particularly fun, but they're necessary if I'm going to build my business, and build it right.

As I've gotten more serious about my shop, I've figured out some online tools that have really helped me. I'm still learning what works and doesn't work but I'd love to share a few of my favorites -- and of course, hear if you have some methods that work well for you as well!

Bing: I have to say, when it comes to search, Bing makes it easier. For instance, when you search a recipe, it will display ingredients and directions below each search result -- you don't even have to click in! I do a ton of research and when the results display right away, it makes it easier for me, rather than having to click into each one to see if it's the link I want. And even better, while I'm scouring the web, I can be earning points toward gift cards or even charities with their >Bing rewards program. With all the time I spend trying to find my next fabric line or trying to look up how long I should cook quinoa again, earning rewards while I work is pretty phenomenal. (...currently I'm working toward an Amazon gift card.)

The other thing I love about Bing is their commitment to bloggers and small business. I've been to several events sponsored by Bing, including several free online classes by Altitude Summit. Bing, obviously, is a Microsoft product, which means they are local to Seattle, and they do a great job of supporting many events -- including small business-focused ones -- here in the Northwest.

Evernote: This is a recent addiction. Evernote is an app and web product that allows you to take any and all kinds of notes. Take photos of documents and turn them into PDFs, record a voice memo and organize it all with tag, and sync it across your desktop and phone. I use Evernote constantly to save blog post ideas, take photos of supplies I buy at wholesalers, or to even just snap a photo of the label of a wine I really liked. It's incredible and it keeps my scattered brain a lot more organized.

GoDaddy Bookkeeping: When I started using this product, it was a different company but GoDaddy recently acquired them. It's $10 a month, but I promise it's worth every penny. I use it to categorize expenses and to organize taxes. Small business taxes are no joke, and this product is the only thing that keeps me sane when I'm trying to compile all my information.

Amazon Prime + AmazonSmile: I buy a lot of shipping supplies and other random things on Amazon and paying for shipping can really add up. Amazon Prime is $79 a year, but you get free two-day shipping, which is really incredible. You also get movies and TV streaming, but the two-shipping is what does it for me. Also, if you sign into AmazonSmile, each item you buy will earn money toward the charity of your choice! SoleHope is the current charity I'm supporting.

Small business credit card: When I got serious about my business, I started a full separate bank account and then credit card. I currently have the Capital One Spark Small Business card and earn 2 percent back for every dollar I spend. If I'm going to be spending money, I might as well get some cash back. Having a separate bank account and credit card for my business also makes it easier for me to track things.

Do you have any favorite sites that you use for financial tracking? Or just keeping organized? Small business or not, I'm all ears! :)

This post was sponsored by Bing. Thanks for supporting the companies that keep rouge + whimsy up and running.

I'm required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site and Bing. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of payment, product or experiences.
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veggie and brown rice salad with peanut butter hoisin dressing

Confession. I love peanut butter. I mean, I liked it growing up, but lately it's like I've discovered it anew. Besides eating it on toast, or slathered on bananas, I'm putting it in sauces and dressings at least once weekly. Maybe twice. We are going through jars of peanut butter like most people go through a half-gallon of milk.

My current favorite version of peanut sauce is combined with hoisin, a plum-soy Asian condiment. While you can make this dressing with soy sauce, the hoisin takes the peanut butter to a whole other level. It makes every salad exciting-- even ones with humble ingredients like rice and cabbage.

What's great about this meal is that it can be assembled in 15 minutes if you have precooked rice. Which, I highly suggest you get.

veggie and brown rice salad with peanut-hoisin dressing

2 cups cooked brown rice (cook it a few days ahead and keep in the fridge, or I suggest Trader Joe's precooked brown rice -- all you do is microwave it for 60 seconds.)
2 cups shredded cabbage (I like purple)
2 avocados, diced
1 cup shredded carrots (use a grater, or even buy them preshredded to save extra time)
1 cup kale, leaves torn into bite-size pieces
sesame seeds as garnish (optional)

1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tbs hoisin sauce**
3 tbs water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbs rice vinegar
1/2 tsp siracha sauce (or more to taste, depending on how spicy you want it)

whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth.

toss dressing with veggies and rice.
garnish with sesame seeds.
keeps for 1 to 2 days, covered, in the fridge

**don't have hoisin sauce? use soy sauce and and add 1/2 tbs brown sugar and half the amount the water

Eat up.

xo, erika


remixing a dress as a skirt

Some days I roll out of bed and pull on the a go-to outfit: jeans, flats, a favorite tee. And some days, I decide I need more of a challenge, so I try to put together something new. It's a way for me to have fun and get the most wear out of what's in my closet. One of my recent remasteries (new word right there) was a favorite dress from Anthropologie and a thrifted button-up blouse.

p.s. don't mind the blue tape peeking out on my knee. I'm battling through some tightness in my quad and a physical therapist suggested kinesio tape. I'm not sure if it works, but it definitely makes me look (and feel) more like an athlete than I am.

what i wore:
blouse: thrifted similar
dress: anthropologie (several years old) similar
shoes: BC shoes (several years old) similar in nude
sunglasses: target


strawberry-rhubarb mini pies

I have a enormous rhubarb plant in my yard. The thing grows nearly out of control. It sits on the edge of my driveway and I pretty much ignore it. My mother-in-law gave it to me, and I stuck it in its spot just to stick it somewhere.

Now, a few years later, I have rhubarb and then some, and it's always a weekend activity to try and come up with a way to use it.

this weekend's activity: strawberry-rhubarb mini pies,  just because everything, especially pies, are cuter in miniature size!

crust: (makes crust for 12 mini pies)
1 cup flour
3 to 5 tbs. ice water
1/3 C. chilled butter, diced
1 tsp salt (optional)

In large mixing bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Add shortening and mix with pastry blender till it looks like course crumbs. Add ice water a few tablespoons at a time mixing with a fork till dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl and pull into a ball. Place it in a sandwich bags and refrigerate for at least an hour. (You can refrigerate this longer, but it can get tough if you leave it in there overnight.)

Sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with flour (and have flour on hand.) Roll out 1 bag of dough to about 1/4 of an inch thick slowly and gently. Do not overwork the dough-- it will make it unhappy.

2 cups diced rhubarb stalks
1 cup strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tbs flour
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Mix filling ingredients, set aside.

Once the dough is rolled out, use a measuring cup -- I used the "1 cup" size -- to mark circles. Place each circle in a muffin tin, and carefully spoon two heaping spoonfuls into each tin. Be careful not to overfill!

If you have remaining dough, you can cut little strips to do a lattice work over the pie filling.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden and the filling is bubbling.

Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes, but don't wait until too long to remove your little pies-- hardened rhubarb filling can make them hard to remove!


xo, erika

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