Marriage Mondays: Rachael & BJ Barham

Ben, my husband and Lucky Luxe co-owner, lived in North Carolina for several years of his growing up while his dad was in graduate school at Duke and went to high school there in a tiny town called Reidsville. I always heard the stories of his old friends there, about playing basketball and senior day mud fights, and more often than not, stories about his buddy BJ Barham would come up, too. He was the token high school friend with a garage band everyone loved. In college, Ben would receive the occasional message on facebook inviting him to one of BJ’s Mississippi shows on American Aquarium‘s national tour routes, and he would brag to people, “My buddy’s band is gonna make it, y’all. They’re gonna be huge.” One day I was scrolling through my newsfeed and saw a video someone had posted of a live American Aquarium show, and I had to get my jaw up off the floor. I’d never heard them before, and loved the way it felt like all the best things about alt-country and 90s alt-rock were in their music. I became a big fan, and Ben said, “I told you so.” We finally met after college at one of their shows in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and again at Ben’s 10 year high school reunion where we also met BJ’s adorable (then) girlfriend, now wife, Rachael, whose incredible collection of vibrant, beautifully done tattoos belie her sweet and quiet spirit.

Nowadays, Mr. and Mrs. Barham and their French bulldog, Bueller, share a beautiful home in Raleigh, North Carolina when he isn’t on the road with American Aquarium. His band shares a publicist with Bruce Springsteen, rubs elbows with Ryan Adams and Dwight Yoakam, and is getting big love from Rolling Stone Magazine and CMT, so, it sounds like they’ve arrived. Today I’m proud to share our interview with the brand-newlyweds who know a thing or two about making a long-distance marriage work.


Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

Tell me about how you met and how you felt about each other that first day. What eventually happened that made you each believe you would get married some day?

Rachael: Our love story does not start off with a once upon a time! I met BJ in Jacksonville FL (where I was living). I was actually on a first date with someone else, and the band that was opening up the show were friends of mine. I was actually headed out after their set, but a coworker told me I should stay for the next guy because she thought I would really like him. BJ started singing those sad songs of his and I started talking, at which point he immediately yelled at me from stage. A little embarrassed, I shut up. After the show, I made my way to my friends to say goodbye, and BJ just so happened to be right next to them. I told him the show was great and asked him where he was from (I liked his deep southern accent). As soon as he mentioned he was from North Carolina I pushed my then-roommate in front of him, and said “her too” and left. As luck would have it, we all ended up at the same bar later that night, but we never spoke. The next morning the old Facebook worked its magic and I had a friend request from you-know-who. Now here is where our versions will differ about who wrote who, and how this whole thing got started (he started it!). But, because our relationship slightly overlapped with previous ones I am going to skip some details and just say this—something that started off very casual became serious quickly (so quickly, neither one of us really noticed for a while). We spent every day, all day texting, telling each other things you would never tell someone you were trying to impress or date, because we didn’t think it was going to ever get that far. Then, poof —before I knew what hit me, I was in love. In just 7 months here was this person who knew everything about me, and never once judged me. Again, fast-forwarding past a few messy details, decisions were made and that was that. I had, against some pretty terrible odds, found the person everyone hopes to find. The person that just gets them, that makes them whole. I never felt incomplete before BJ, boyfriends came and went without ever really phasing me. At the risk of sounding even more cheesy than I already have, BJ was a piece of me I never realized was missing – but now I hope to never know a day without him.

BJ: I met Rae at a show in Jacksonville,FL (where she is from) while I was on an acoustic tour in 2011. She was on a date with someone else and really didn’t seem to have any interest in me. She talked throughout the show and I called her out from stage and asked her to be please be quiet because other people actually wanted to see the show. I think I embarrassed her. I tried talking to her after the show but she kept insisting that I talk to her friends instead so I took that as an “I’m not really into you” kinda vibe. The next morning I woke up and checked Facebook and she had written “good show” on my wall. That led to me sending a friend request, which then led to me sending a message, which then led to me asking for her number. We texted night and day for about 2 or 3 weeks and then we decided to see each other. After our first date (a taco place in Athens,GA) I knew that she was the one for me. She is the female version of me. From the things we find funny to the sordid stories of past relationships, we are the same person. We spent months getting to know each others deepest and darkest secrets and neither of us ran away. I had finally met someone that didn’t judge my past. This was the “love” and “acceptance” that should only have a place in a cheesy romantic comedy, but it was right in front of me. We dated for a year, then she moved to Raleigh, then after two years of seeing the best/worst of each other, I asked her to be my wife, and she said “yes.” Not the most conventional road to ever after, but I’ll take it.


 Tell me the things that mattered most to you about your wedding day.

Rachael: Of course I wanted everything to look nice, and go smoothly, but our families were meeting for the first time, so I was most concerned with everyone feeling comfortable. Also, 95% of our family and friends were coming from out of town, I felt like needed to play host as well as bride which made me a little (a lot) cranky at times, but at the end of it, the most special part of the day, aside from marrying my favorite human on the planet, was that my mother and father were both there to walk me down the aisle. My dad has been ill the majority of my life, and my mother is the glue that holds my family together and to have the two of them by my side on that day was just perfect.  

BJ: I think I may be the only groom in the history of groom-dom that cared more about the wedding than the bride. Rachael just wanted to elope at the courthouse but I was pretty insistent that we have a proper wedding. All I cared about was my friends and family being there to watch me commit my life to this woman. Our story is not believable. When I tell other people how we got together they laugh and think I’m joking. I wanted them to see how real this was. How a woman changed every view I had on relationships in the matter of a few months. The most important thing to me was keeping it low key. We paid for the wedding ourselves, 100% out of pocket, so we didn’t want it to be this extravagant event. Good food, open bar, friends and family. That’s what we set out to do and I feel like we nailed it.

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Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

Planning a wedding can be stressful. It’s expensive. Your feelings all become so elevated about the event, and before you realize it’s happened, your relationship and the actual marriage can get put on the back burner almost like a reward for getting through the enormous party. How can a wedding become less about planning a party and more about the new family that’s beginning?

Rachael: I may not be the best person to ask— or maybe I am. Unlike most relationships, BJ was the one that wanted the traditional (I use that loosely) wedding. If I had my way, we would have taken all the money spent on food, and cake, and everything else and spent a month in Costa Rica instead of a week. However, I am glad we did have a wedding day instead of just running to the courthouse, mostly because our parents probably would have killed us. Don’t lose sight of why you’re really doing this. Your family and friends are not there to eat fancy food or listen to a popular band. They are there to be blinded by your love for the day. Money is one of the major reasons couples fight, so there is no point in putting yourself in debt for a party you will hardly remember. In my opinion spend your money on a great photographer, they will make even the dirtiest rock and roll club look magical (see my wedding photos). Weddings are special, but ultimately they are still just a party. During the planning process just keep reminding yourself, the little stuff does not matter. No one but you really cares about your tablescapes or floral decorations. You didn’t need the perfect lighting or flower crown to fall in love, you certainly don’t need them to say “I do.” Just relax, some things are probably going to go wrong, and that’s okay. As long as you and your partner are there to say those very special words in front of the people you care most for, that’s it. The wedding will be a success.

 BJ: You have to understand that at the end of the day, it’s just a big party. It’s not going to go perfectly. There will be surprises and glitches, but its about something so much bigger than that. Its you and your partner, committing the rest of your lives to each other, in front of the people that matter the most. If you keep that in mind, it makes trimming the fat a lot easier. We started off with a 200+ person guest list and narrowed it down to 75. We only invited the people that we knew would make it a priority to be there. Every single person we invited came to the wedding. They didn’t come for the over the top ice sculptures or a 5 star chef cooking a limited menu. They came to eat BBQ, listen to a rock n roll band, and watch two people they care about become one. When you realize that is what you are planning, it becomes a lot easier.

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Rachael and BJ’s custom Lucky Luxe wedding invitations

IMG_1437 Photo by Miguel Emmanuelli

How do you each envision your marriage 10 years from now?

Rachael: Well in 10 years BJ will be 41 and I will be less than 6 months away from turning 40, so I assume I will be having a slight nervous breakdown. Aside from the mass quantities of wrinkle cream I’m already thinking about buying just writing this—I’d like to think the Barham Farm will be in full swing. We are in the beginning stages of looking for our first home now (which we’ve named the Barham Farm), so by 2025 BJ should be touring less and home more, our daughter (fingers crossed) will be 7ish, and that should be really fun! We are still a few months away from our first wedding anniversary so 10 years holds so many possibilities, I am sure we will have had our ups and downs, but there is no doubt we will grow stronger from them. Marriage takes work. It is not easy to make a lifelong commitment to always put someone else before yourself. I look forward to the challenge. The last few years with BJ have taught me a great deal about myself, and I’ve grown so much. He is truly the best man I have ever met and he doesn’t make a single decision without considering our best interest as a family. So I can only hope that a photo of us 10 years from now would show: two strong individuals still very much in love, a healthy and happy child, and maybe just a couple of French bulldogs, goats, and chickens!

 BJ: A lot has changed since we got married. The band has seen its first bit of national success. I’ve been sober for over a year (8/31) and me and Rae are starting the process of buying our first home. 10 years from now I hope she still looks at me the way I look at her. I’ve never met anyone in my entire life that exudes the things that woman does. She does it for me. The worst day in the world can be cancelled out with a 2-minute chat on Facetime. I hope that never changes. Kids are definitely in the equation. 2 is my ideal number. I can’t wait to be a dad. I know a lot of guys fear that step but I am ready to welcome it for sure. So, 10 years from now… Home. Kids. Happy. If I can have all three, then I’m the luckiest dude on the planet.


What advice would you each give to a newlywed?

Rachael: Don’t forget how much you love each other and why you got married in the first place. “Marriage is a humbling experience. It is part skill, part luck, elbow grease and blind determination. It isn’t always pretty.” I think that quote by Michele Weiner-Davis sums it up better than I ever could. After the honeymoon it’s time to face reality, each person has lived their whole life as an individual and now you’re a team. Remember you are not always going to see eye to eye on everything, so try to look at things from your partner’s point of view. No one is easy to live with all of the time, so just close your eyes and remember how you felt when you said “I do.”  

BJ: Everyday gets better and better. You notice things about your wife that you never even thought about before. Everyday I fall more and more in love with this woman. She is the strongest, smartest, most independent person I have ever met and she teaches me so much about myself everyday. Appreciate your mate. Never make them feel inferior. You are equals and in this for the long haul. Don’t go to bed angry with each other. Never stop trying to impress her. Tell her you love her every chance you get.

Thank you so much, friends. I hope you readers will check out American Aquarium’s tour dates and see them live the next time they’re in your neck of the woods. You’ll love them!

Keep up with Rachael here: instagram

Keep up with BJ here: website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube

Life by Design: Kristen Ley

Today’s guest interview comes from Kristen Ley, the talented and incredibly hardworking founder and owner of Thimblepress®—a letterpress stationery and gift studio just a couple hours north of Lucky Luxe in Jackson, Mississippi. You’ll probably recognize her Push-Pop Confetti that has swept the world in celebrations of all kinds, or the vibrant, upbeat aesthetic that spans her entire product line. Kristen has become one of the great bouncing boards, friends, and mentors of my work life and I’m excited to share some of her thoughts with y’all today. Welcome, friend!



Our senior designer, Sauce, says that when you’re an artist or designer professionally, “every choice is a design choice.” Do you see that in your personal life outside of your work?

I do, but I think it is so engrained in me that I don’t even realize it until I have made a decision, picked something out or made a comment. To me, design is in everything. Now that doesn’t mean that it is always great, but that is just the stuff I stay away from! Seriously though, every single thing in this world has a grand design first and foremost created by God. Even the food we eat has been designed by a chef at a restaurant or a food brand at a grocery store.

What would your best day be like?

My best day… Oh, that is hard. I have never been one to even have favorites. I just claimed my first favorite a few years ago with my favorite number. I love options, choices and variety. If I had to dream a large dream, I would be able to pack up my entire Thimblepress® studio, all of our team members, all of the pets, and Family Matters Steve Erkel or Star Trek style transport our offices to a private island. The island would have Fun-Dip powder sand beaches with trees that grew fruit popsicles and homemade beef jerky. Ha ha! Honestly, I love every day at work… even the challenging days that make me want to bang my head on the desk. It is rare that you get to do what you love every single day, and I feel honored God has allowed me to do this!


Do you make an effort to design your routine and your life around the things and moments that give you joy?

I try to do that. My routine is a routine of non-routine activities. I have a routine of being here in Jackson, Mississippi and working, but every day at Thimblepress® is different and I do tend to do the things that I want to work on the most, first in the day. I know some business people say do what you don’t want to do first and work your way out to the best, but I would rather just have dessert first! The joys in my life are very simple despite my large requests for a candy island with beef jerky trees. I find joy in the fact that I can call my own schedule, bring my dogs to work, create things that make people happy and celebrate the small moments. Those are some small but HUGE joys in my life.

How does your home reflect your life, your history, and your design choices?

My current home is actually at my work. I have a 2,200 square foot studio on the bottom level and a 2,200 square foot studio apartment on the second level. The second level contains my office, our photo studio, Bekah’s office, and our meeting area for Thimblepress® in the front and my apartment area in the back. I am very sentimental. I love the stories of furniture, blankets, knick-knacks, and art in my home. Everything has a story, and I love that. I really try to only keep things around if they make me happy. I used to hold on to everything, but when I held on to everything, the things I really love got lost amongst the mess of the stuff I really didn’t love. Now, my home is filled with only things that make me happy. I love vintage mid-century modern mixed with touches of folk art style, bright color and happy green plants. A lot of what I just described is very much reflected into the products we create at Thimblepress®.


Every person is a little weird in some way or another, and those weird things are important parts of what give us our personalities. For instance, I collect books with white spines and sleep with my baby blanket, and those objects feel significant to me and to my story. Tell me about a weird thing that’s essential to you.

Oh gosh, well, if you didn’t read the questions above, then I will go ahead and tell you… I am a little whacky—and I own it. It makes who I am, and truly makes living an honest life easier. I have been collecting tacky thimbles from every new place I visit since I was a kid. I have some beautiful thimbles from friends, but most of them are tacky gas station thimbles… And I LOVE them. I also love my animals more than some people may love their children. I act like I can take them everywhere with me, and often call in advance to the location I am wanting to visit and explain that my dogs are more like “human dogs.” Doing that always yields a small chuckle and a resounding “no,” but I have a lot of fun with it.


Who was one of the first pop or movie celebrities that you admired?

That would have to be Andrew Keegan. I was a huge Tiger Beat reader when I was in the 5th grade. Our group of friends all decided that we were going to like one of the main guys. You know, there was Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, Andrew Keegan, Rider Strong, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Jonathan Jackson, James Van Der Beek, Ben Savage, Joshua Jackson, and Jared Leto…And I ended up with Andrew Keegan.

How did you answer “What do you want to be when you grow up” when you were in grade school? I have, crazy enough, always said “artist.” I dressed up as an artist when I was five years old for my kindergarten career day. Isn’t that crazy!? I wore an apron and little French beret, and held a palette and paint brush in my hand. 

Thank you so much, Kristen!

You can keep up with Kristen here: website, twitter, instagram, facebook, pinterest

Marriage Mondays: Emily & Bryan Ley

Today’s Marriage Monday interview comes from a business-lady whom I’ve long admired. Emily Ley‘s planners, stationery and gifts are all over my social media feeds, and rightly so with thousands of fans of her beautifully functional products all over the world.


I feel a kinship with Emily that might come from our geographical common ground, but I think the sunshiny, positive designs she creates are a big part of that too. To see her work is to know her joyful spirit, and I’m so excited to share she and her husband Bryan’s words of advice and experience with marriage.

Tell me about how you met and how you felt about each other that first day. What eventually happened that made you each believe you would get married some day?

Emily: When I was sixteen, I got my very first job as a hostess at a restaurant in Pensacola. On my first day, I met a super cute, frat boy who drove a red Jeep. I remember thinking he was so funny with a really quick wit. I liked that because he kept me on my toes! I was dating someone else at the time (got engaged, actually) and so was he. Nothing came of it until we were both single a few years later and a mutual friend arranged an impromptu little meet up at a local spot. I remember being so excited putting makeup on and getting ready to leave to meet up with him. For the years that we were acquaintances, I always referred to him as “Bryan Ley,” never just Bryan. And he’d always been “that guy” that I’d always kept my eye on. Somehow the stars aligned and the rest is history.

Bryan: I remember Emily starting at Darryl as a hostess where I had been bar tending my way through college. She was younger than I was and — at that time — 3 years is a big difference. Our actual connection came eight years later when the wife of a college buddy (who happened to know Emily very well) set up the meeting knowing we already knew each other. Long story short…we stayed up and talked the whole night about everything and anything. That began a long-distance relationship. I just remember feeling lucky. She was everything I was looking for. Our relationship moved pretty quick, but I knew I couldn’t let her out of my sights. She was the one.
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Tell me the things that mattered most to you about your wedding day.

Emily: We wanted our wedding to feel like a party (without the pomp and circumstance that can sometimes accompany a large wedding). We wanted a big celebration of a big kind of love in our favorite place with our favorite people. It had a jazzy feel, New Orleans-style. Our colors were black, white, ivory and gold with splashes of fuchsia and green brought in with our flowers. Flowers didn’t matter much to me, but they were actually a highlight of our day. Our reception included a crawfish boil, hot beignets and cafe au lait at midnight. It was joyful, vibrant and full. I’d do it all over again the same way we did it in a heartbeat.

Bryan: I just wanted her to say yes so we could hurry up and get to Jamaica. It was more important for me to know that she was having the day she had always dreamed of more than anything  We both really enjoyed getting friends and family together to celebrate.

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Planning a wedding can be stressful. It’s expensive. Your feelings all become so elevated about the event, and before you realize it’s happened, your relationship and the actual marriage can get put on the back burner almost like a reward for getting through the enormous party. How can a wedding become less about planning a party and more about the new family that’s beginning?

Emily: You know… when I think back on this season of life, I’m so grateful that we knew immediately that the other was “the one.” We didn’t waste any time. We dated long distance for eight months, were engaged for eight months and then married in October, 2008. It was the perfect pace. I kept envisioning us telling our story to our children one day and knew the story I wanted to tell – that our wedding was full of love, full of joy and a memory that EVERYONE cherished – not just me (the bride!) and not just us (the couple!) We didn’t take two hours to take family portraits between the ceremony and reception. We didn’t have a long, drawn out seated dinner. Instead, we made purposeful decisions around the celebration we wanted it to be. THAT is who our family is. We also wove really special details in throughout the day. My favorite special detail was my gift to Bryan. During our time at the restaurant we met at, he would give me the silly toys kids accidentally left on his tables. One of them was an Ernie car (from Sesame Street). He laughed in his flirty way and told me it was a gift for me. I told him he was crazy and pretended to lose it. I actually saved it and gave it to him wrapped in a note before the ceremony. We still have it. 

Bryan: Emily, up until our engagement, had been planning and organizing events on a pretty large scale as part of her career. The stress and heightened emotions only exist because this one day is one of the most important days of your entire life. My best advice would be to hire a wedding planner and take lots of photos.


How are you involved in each other’s career goals?

Emily: Very. I can honestly say I more than likely would have never started my business without his love, support and encouragement. Bryan works for a large commercial insurance agency in Florida and love his job as well. We’re lucky to have careers we both love.

Bryan: This is a big part of our marriage. Our lives away from work are a big part of our day and who we are. Specific to Emily’s company, I find myself living vicariously through Emily. I think the life of an entrepreneur is one to be admired. I enjoy the part I play as her cheerleader.

What advice would you each give to a newlywed?

Emily: Easy. Marry your best friend. 

Bryan: Enjoy your time together. Do things. Take trips. See the world. In the very near future you will have a 4 year old and newborn twins…and you won’t have time for any of those things!

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Thank you so much, Emily and Bryan! We’ll see you sweet readers here next week for another Marriage Monday interview!

You can keep up with Emily Ley here: Website, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Life by Design : Grove Street Press

While wedding invitations are our bread and butter, that’s not the only work our hearts are married to. As our careers keep evolving, Ben and I find ourselves doing more home and furniture design, which inevitably makes me think of the way we live and how design inspires every aspect of that, too. We wake up every morning with the (oftentimes harrowing) flexibility of self-employment, which affords us the opportunity to design our days and moments together. Every single day I am thankful for that. For me and Ben, having breakfast together, having dinners each night with our friends and family on our porches and then taking a long walk around our neighborhood are the things that give our days structure and joy and we don’t sacrifice them if possible. So, for our newest interview series, Life by Design, I’ve been sitting down with other creatives like us to learn more about how to live a gracious life filled to the brim with the people and moments and things that we love, even if we can never know what each day will bring.

We’re starting this series with Kate Wyman and Anna Boyer, first cousins who own and operate Grove Street Press, their charming letterpress shop on a cobblestoned street in the Warehouse District in New Orleans. Their instagram account is filled with magical vignettes of New Orleans, their pup, Mildred, their beautiful letterpress work and studio, and their preppy-chic style that makes your heart long for a trip down south. As my southern sisters in paper world, I’m excited to make them our first Life by Design guests. Welcome, ladies!

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Our senior designer, Sauce, says that when you’re an artist or designer professionally, “every choice is a design choice.” Do you see that in your personal life outside of your work?

Absolutely!  The cultivation of an artful life is very intentional, but it shouldn’t be forced. It’s hard to trust the authenticity of someone’s taste if it’s not also reflected in a curated home, a purposeful wardrobe, or even thoughtful vocabulary in manners.  It’s all organic, or part of a piece.  Our card designs and choices therein give a glimpse into the people we are. What is often forgotten, though, is that editing is a huge part of design, as it is in writing.  An author wouldn’t send an article for publication without careful editing; so too with other creative endeavors.  Editing helps refine and define choices both in and outside of work.  The choice one makes to edit out elements (e.g. only choosing the single best photograph of your vacation day to post to Instagram, not all 30) often matter more in keeping tastes pure than what is kept.  We edit the decor of our shop and the posts to our Instagram feed, with the hope that people will be drawn into our world and want to participate in our joy by sending one of our cards.  We’re hoping to design and share joie de vivre with our choices!

What would your best day be like?

We believe that every single day should, on a micro scale, have some part of all the things that we want from life— family, friends, prayer, work, study and leisure. Some days are more balanced than others, and some days not all of these things happen, but it’s a goal.  We also regularly talk about how the best days are simple, leisurely, beverage-based days, with small pleasures.  The ideal day would combine all of this:  Coffee on the porch in the morning with home magazines; a walk in Audubon Park with Mildred; heading to the shop to run a new print we’ve been working on for a long time (the first crisp letterpress print of a design we’ve only seen digitally never gets old!);   a light lunch out with iced tea and family that, on some lucky days, might extend into an afternoon coffee while strolling the boutiques on Magazine Street;  a return to the shop to package orders with an Old Fashioned to-go (thats a thing in nola!) ; and finally, an al fresco dinner at home with friends with wine and good chats.  Come to think of it, our best day may need to be longer than 24 hours…

Do you make an effort to design your routine and your life around the things and moments that give you joy? 

Our effort is less focused on seeking out the joy, and more focused on realizing that joy is a choice, and opting to choose / infuse joy even into small things:  errands or tasks around the shop.  Of course, we try to surround ourselves with joyful things — our collections, friends, etc (all of those varied design choices!) —  and intersperse levity into the day — teaching Mildred tricks, taking a break to arrange an Instagram, etc — but we also believe that true joy comes from within, and consciously try ourselves to be moments of joy for the people that come into our shop.



Who was one of the first pop or movie celebrities that you admired?

Princess Diana — both in her personality and her style! 

Every person is a little weird in some way or another, and those weird things are important parts of what give us our personalities. For instance, I collect books with white spines and sleep with my baby blanket, and those objects feel significant to me and to my story. Tell me about a weird thing thats essential to you.

Both of us never leave the house without a stack of bangles on, no matter if we’re wearing shorts or going to a cocktail party.

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We rarely wear necklaces, and rarely wear just a single bracelet — always a stack!  We even briefly considered running a blog called ‘Wrist Watch,’  where we’d take street fashion – type photos of people’s arm parties.  We often spend as much time deciding which bracelets we’ll wear for a photograph as we do an outfit! We also have a nickname for everyone.  It may be a Southern thing, but our family was a nicknaming family, and we’ve continued the tradition.  I can’t remember the last time our mothers called either of us by our given names.  After a few meetings with new folks, we also have a hard time calling someone by their proper name.  

Thank you so much, Kate and Anna! We’ll see you sweet readers here next week for another Life by Design interview!

You can keep up with Grove Street Press here: Website, Facebook, and Pinterest