There's nothing better than coming home to packages, especially packages you didn't order or expect. What makes it best is when it's not even your birthday! This is just what happened to me today when I came home and found two large boxes on my front porch awaiting my arrival. Since I've started blogging, I've gotten all kinds of wonderful surprises in the mail - snail and Internet. Some surprises came from other bloggers and some came from readers, and some even came from stalkers!! The thoughtfulness and generosity that goes into these gifts always truly amazes me.
Today's bounty: two packages left on the front porch
I've always written here that when I started blogging, I had no idea what I was in for. I thought I would write a few short stories and maybe have my friends and family read the blog, if I was even that lucky. Well, I've been very, very lucky. My readership has grown and for that I am immensely grateful to you, the Reader. I've met so many people along the way - through emails and in person and I've made so many friends both in real life and in virtual life. Now, after writing Cote de Texas for some time, I feel an intense responsibility to my blog, to get my stories out to you, to write what you want to read and to make your valuable time spent here with me worthwhile. I have learned that truly, the most rewarding part of blogging, the thing I never realized would even be important, is the friendships I have made. While the act of blogging is a solitary sport, something you do by yourself - somehow, it becomes this great community of people: the other bloggers I commiserate with on a consistent basis, the people who faithfully leave interesting comments, the people who privately email me, the lurkers who read anonymously whom I never will really know, and the ones who stop by my house (!) - the "stalkers." So, thank you to all of you - each and every one of you. It's been a great ride because of you. This is a tribute to you, the reader, the fruits of the labor. This is, in short, an introduction to the community of people who make up Cote de Texas:
Valorie's package, along with her new business card designed by PVE.
Opening up the first of the two packages I got today, it comes from Valorie Hart or aka Visual Vamp. Valorie lives and writes her blog in New Orleans where she runs a bed and breakfast for tango dancers and visitors to the Crescent City. She is also an interior designer, an event planner, and an author -- you name it, she's done it. Today, she sent me a copy of her book, Gotta Tango, along with a DVD. Thanks Valorie, I can't wait to read it and watch the DVD and maybe even coax Ben into trying out the Tango, though I sincerely doubt that will happen! The vision!
World Famous Tango Couple: Valorie and her husband, Alberto Paz. The book is available, here.
The second package today is from one of three woman who are affectionately called "The Stalkers." Two of the stalkers live in Houston, the third lives in North Carolina. The three woman are avid, or should I say rabid readers of Cote de Texas. One morning, some time ago, when I was, oh so gorgeous in my glasses, frizzy hair and sweat pants (the blogger uniform), the two Houston stalkers rang my door bell. They started bowing down to me as if I was a queen - it was hysterical. The third stalker from N.C. was there in spirit on the cell phone. The three of them had first met online on the Tracy Porter web site and became fast friends. Next, they discovered my blog and became readers. When I wrote that I had stalked the Wheat's house, they decided to do the same thing to me. It was all in great fun. After their stalking moment, we decided to meet up for lunch, where I was properly dressed for the occasion and looking slightly better than when they had surprised me that morning. After that lunch, we became friends. The four of us like to email each other about decor and life and politics and religion, things like that. One stalker, Cindy, is in the middle of building a new house and likes to get ideas on finishes for her new home, including carpet, furniture and lighting fixtures (lanterns!!) Dianne from N.C. is remodeling her master bedroom right now and has questions about fabric and upholstered headboards.
And then there is Virginia. the third stalker, poor V! Her house was insanely damaged during Ike. Trees fell on her roof and came through the ceiling and water poured through the holes and in general, she was left with one huge mess. The four of us have spent the past few weeks helping her redecorate her hurricane damaged house via emails and digital pictures. The first big decision for us was a new paint color for Virginia's family room. Now we're rearranging her furniture and accessories. It's not an easy task doing that over the web, but we're trying. The emails have been furiously flying back and forth and I suppose Virginia felt a need to thank me for my help. Virginia - you shouldn't have! It's been a blast helping you! So, here's the other package today, from Virginia: The Toddy or "how to get brewed coffee when you don't have electricity." I'm sure you will remember that the one thing I missed most during the dark days of Ike was no brewed coffee!! Thank you SO much Virginia - I can't wait for the next hurricane to try it out. Just kidding. I'll try it out this Sunday.
The Toddy: Virginia's solution for coffee when there's no electricity!
While her gift shows what a sweet and thoughtful person Virginia is, something else really explains it better: She is adopting a five year old poodle who was abandoned in Galveston during Ike! How great is that? If, by chance you, too, are interested in adopting a homeless pet from Hurricane Ike, email me and I'll get you in touch with the proper people, via Virginia.
Virginia, one of the three "Stalkers" with her new adopted dog, abandoned during Ike. This was taken during her interview process. Aw, soooooo cute!
The Stalkers helping Virginia get her house back in order via emails. Here are the paint samples we had to choose from for her family room. These samples were all nixed in favor of a Pratt and Lambert I recommended - always the big mouthed interior designer!
During the remodeling: Virginia's beautiful green desk in the family room with the new paint color. I suggested she move the green urns from the mantel to the top of the desk to give it more height in the high ceiling room. Don't they look great there? Sooo pretty. The next choice for the Stalkers is the new carpet. I've got one in mind for Virginia to use - a two toned, white on gold trellis patterned flat weave. We'll see if everyone agrees on that one!
The second Stalker is Cindy. She's in the middle of building a new home and sent us all pictures of it's progress. Cindy has ordered two gorgeous lanterns, custom made from Bevolo in New Orleans for her kitchen. They are going to be such a focal point - can't wait to see them!
An inspiration picture for Cindy's kitchen - her two lanterns will be over her island, just like this. Lanterns are traditionally outdoor fixtures, but lately they have become the hottest thing for indoor applications.
Dianne, from North Carolina, is the third Stalker.
She is currently remodeling her master bedroom and just ordered a wonderful, curvy, upholstered headboard in a creamy linen fabric. Of course, we are all keeping up with every choice she makes. This picture is what Dianne has copied her headboard from - I love it!
Dianne sent me this picture of her beautiful front yard with it's large, winding, brick-trimmed flowerbeds. I'm so envious! I live on a small, town lot and would love to have room for landscaping like this!
Other emails and surprises have come my way from readers and bloggers. For instance, last week, Anne Harwell, aka Annechovie, the artist and blogger sent me this magnet - what a wonderful surprise! Thanks Anne! She said this reminded her of me because my motto (and my mom Betty Rae's too) is "I don't do clothes, I do houses." So true. I would rather shop for my house than my body any day of the week. What about you -if you read design blogs, you are probably the same exact way.
Emails, I get emails! One of the most fun parts of blogging is the emails. Every day I get pictures from readers who ask advice or just want to share their life with me. I love it! I get a chance to glimpse into your life and your home. Sometimes, an email leads to another and another and another and before you know it, there's a new friendship built. This picture is from one such reader who has become a great friend via email. He is a notorious commenter, with a biting wit, never afraid to speak his true mind -- all done behind the veil of anonymity. Only I know who he is in real life! He is a gifted artist, an unbelievable faux painter, and an interior designer. He needs to write his own blog! This is his wonderful house. Built before the turn of the century, it is in upstate New York. Just look at that gorgeous balcony - they don't build houses like this anymore !!!!!
This is a reader who's become a real-life friend (until I found out I was OLDER than her mother!!!!). She's a young interior designer in Lafayette that I once featured in the blog. Here, she sent me this darling picture of herself all dressed up for her first day on a new job. She's going to kill me for this!! But I think she looks fabulous. She's trying to wink in the picture, ala Sarah Palin. If you need to hire a designer in Louisiana, be sure to give her a call. Email me for her number. And to read her feature on Cote de Texas, go here.
This reader sent me this gorgeous painting of her yard. She had hired an artist to paint the same scene in all four seasons - here is spring. Isn't that a great idea? I love getting emails from readers like this who share their home with me. It makes it all so much more interesting and makes the readers come alive to me.
It's great fun meeting other bloggers and readers in real life. Here is Patricia Gray of the Patricia Gray, Inc Blog. She is a brilliantly talented, award winning interior designer from Vancouver. We met up in Dallas this year for market and are planning our second trip, hopefully to New Orleans! Can you guess which store we just hit up? ha!
One day, I came home to a wonderful Kenneth Turner candle left on my porch from a reader in Houston. How sweet can one be? And Kenneth Turner too - my favorite candle! Since then, she's become a client. She's remodeling two bathrooms right now, and this is the custom sink going in her powder room. Totally French, totally gorgeous. We just picked out the sconces for the powder room at Festoni, my new favorite To The Trade showroom in Houston.
Maryam from Morocco and the writer of My Marrakesh sent me this beautiful silver dish from the souk as a thank you for helping her with a project. It was great fun - reread the adventure here. Recently, Maryam traveled to Rwanda and has written a heartfelt and horrifying account of her time there. The series is not to be missed and I urge you to read it, if you haven't already.
This reader sent me gorgeous pictures from her home because she felt we had the same aesthetic. We do! Here is a picture from a birthday party given in her honor. The hosts went to her house and took her favorite accessories to decorate the party with - what a great idea! Here - an array of design books, blue and white transferware, Santos and roses decorate the main table. Isn't this beautiful? You should see her house - it is gorgeous!
This blogger (who shall remain anonymous for now!) sent me pictures of her house and hopefully, I'm going to help her get it published! Fingers crossed!!! This is just a hint of her interiors to whet your appetite until then. I love this vignette, with its crusty, antique console, mirror, cloche, silver, and coral.
The first reader I ever met "in real life" lives in the valley of Texas and we met up while I was vacationing on South Padre Island. It turned out she was a friend of my best friend, also from the valley, so the three us went to dinner and had a great time. We were going to meet up again this summer, but unfortunately, Hurricane Dolly changed our plans! See you next summer!!
At one point, I was going to go into the online business with another blogger and my good friend, Pigtown-Design, graciously offered to come up with a logo! I absolutely loved this, but unfortunately the business never got off the ground. Thanks Meg anyway! It amazed me how swiftly she was able to design this absolutely perfect logo, something I think she would like to for others!
One of the most popular things I ever blogged about was the Wheat's house in Houston. You readers absolutely loved her home and later, we even got a glimpse of her beach house (which miraculously survived Ike!) Sally was a reader of my blog who just happened to live across the street from my sister-in-law's sister (got that?) She graciously allowed me to take pictures inside her house for you. I dubbed the event - "Stalking the Wheats." Psst: I am going to have big news to share with you about the Wheats soon! Reread the article here.
This reader from the East Coast contacted me to redesign her house, via emails. We worked on it together for a while until she decided she wanted to be a designer herself. She now has more clients than I do! Here is her living room one Saturday night after I had her move all her furniture around the room to check out the scale. Designing online is not easy!!! Besides interior design in common, we share fathers who were both in the grocery business which was fodder for endless conversation.
This reader came from Decorno after I commented there about her design questions. She has a lovely home, filled with English antiques and accessories. She was looking for advice on ceiling fixtures and paint colors for a bookcase. I love the English Country Manor style she is going for. Isn't that telephone a charming accessory?
After my post on Cote de Texas' Top Ten Designer: Lynn von Kersting, this reader emailed me tons of scanned photos from shoots I didn't have. I hate to scan, so I really appreciated the effort it took this reader to do it. It really makes me feel like I am reaching the readers when I get emails like this from you who want to participate in the topic!
This photo came from a reader who told me we had a lot in common, aesthetically. And boy, was she ever right! We share a love of the exact same things design wise, which is a huge compliment to me judging from how beautiful her house is. This reader is involved in design and really knows her stuff. She should be writing her own blog. We are planning to meet up soon! So beautiful!!!!
Remember my Starbucks route drive-bys of West University houses? The owner of a real estate company in Houston, Roger Martin Properties, contacted me and asked if she could run a contest in her newsletter using these houses. The first person to identify where all the houses were located would win a few prizes. But first I had to go back and get all the addresses - a few even I had a hard time finding again! There was a winner and we are going to have a little awards ceremony - as soon as Ike is totally forgotten.
This is just a hint of a living room from a reader who sent me pictures of her house. It is just gorgeous! I love her dark painted walls and her mix of fabrics and that ladder in the corner is so charming. The exterior of her home is absolutely stunning, too!
This reader emailed me for paint advice and sent me a picture of her skirted console table and the ingenious way she made the conference table taller! I loved this email AND her dining room!
Ron Van Empel from The Netherlands became a close friend after I showcased his company, The Empel Collection. He makes gorgeous custom lamps and lighting fixtures and is an interior designer. Here are his hand drawn plans for a bedroom in a house he is renovating for a client in Houston! Isn't this bedroom going to be beautiful? He has promised me I'll be able to show you the pictures after the job is completed. I can not wait!!! Ron is also adding on to his shop in The Netherlands and is always emailing me pictures of the progress. I had great fun figuring out the floor plans to his office space one weekend - aided by the hundreds of pictures he sent me! Ron is one class-act and I can't wait to meet him in person this Christmas.
This reader was so kind to send me pictures from the Southern Living showcase house. What I loved about it the most is Wisteria provided a lot of the furniture and accessories and it was a great chance to see their items in a different light. The house was beautiful and I thank this reader so much for taking the time to send these to me.
The artist Harrison Howard has become another great email buddy after we struck up a conversation about his art. We write each other notoriously long, labored emails about everything from our children, to art, politics, and work. Above is one of Harrison's paintings. I recently bought 4 from his collection myself. To see more, be sure to visit his web site here.
For my birthday, Patricia from PVE drew this painting for moi. It is amazing all the details she put in it - my dog, my books, my zebra pillows! The armadillo!!! A few weeks later she sent me note cards with this watercolor on the front. Patricia is one of the most gracious and selfless design bloggers out there. Thanks PVE!
This reader emailed me pictures of her house - looking for advice on wall colors and rugs, etc. Actually, I thought her place looked pretty good as it is.
This blogger, Things that Inspire, has been a constant source of information on Atlanta designers, shops, and whatever else we are both into at the moment. Somewhere along the way, we became great friends! This is a cropped picture she posted on her blog from her living room. I love the series of eggs with identical gold frames hanging between gold silk drapes. So beautiful!
This reader is a fabulous interior designer. Here she shared a picture of her pergola with me. I love those chairs. She has sent me pictures from client installations and pictures of her own home. She has wonderful taste in furniture and fabrics and she especially loves Robert Kime, a girl after my own heart!!
This is the living room of another email blogging friend whose friendship started with an advice question. She has her own blog, Peeking Thru the Sunflowers and really didn't need any help from me, as you can see from her house in the country which was once an old schoolhouse!!! It's all white slips, red silk and toile with seagrass, sconces, chandeliers, and mirrors - everything I love! Every time she moves a chair or a table (which is quite often) she will send me a picture as she knows I love to see her progress.
Cote de Texas reunited me with someone I was once kind of related to! She just happens to live in this gloriously beautiful house in Fredericksburg, Texas. She is a collector of just about everything out there and her house is so amazing. She writes her blog from the hill country here.
This English blogger once sent me the most delicious smelling bars of soaps in the world!! Hey, W: I'm out of them now, hint, hint! His blog, The House of Beauty and Culture, is so intellectually stimulating that half the time I have to email him and ask for clarifications. He is so patient with my stupidity. I have learned so much from him about classical interior design, antiques, and well, just beauty & culture, and you will too when you visit his blog. He sells antiques besides doing interior design. The photo above was from a booth of his a few years back. I can spot a few things I would love to own myself, starting with those gorgeous chairs!
I once posted on libraries and a few readers sent me pictures of glorious libraries around the world. Now, this is a library! I love when readers send me pictures of things I should have used. If only I would get the pictures beforehand. Maybe I should announce what I am going to blog about first and then let people send in pictures. That would make my job much easier.
Twice now, my friend from Italy and now San Diego has sent me a stack of the best French magazines in the world!!!! Now, THAT's a friend! She recently bought her first house in the United States after spending several years in Italy with her family. They are in the process of remodeling and she is doing a wonderful job - it's amazing what a coat of paint and refinished hardwood floors will do to a room.
I recently asked my readers to help raise money for DonorsChoose.org - a charity that lets you pick the project you want to donate to. The recipients are classrooms from low socioeconomic neighborhoods. I picked a project that was one of the more expensive ones, thinking it would take a long time to raise the money. I was stunned when Cote de Texas readers completely funded the project within just a few days. I think the head of the program for bloggers in Houston was surprised too. Everyone was overwhelmingly generous and I thank each and every one of you for your donations. Since the project was funded, I get to donate to a new classroom with the matching funds - so in all, Cote de Texas and its readers will be funding two classrooms. Congratulations and thank you all again!!!!
There are so many other bloggers out there who have helped to contribute to Cote de Texas along the way. There are two bloggers in particular who have been there from the beginning to help me, guide me and encourage me - my two blogging mentors from Atlanta: Courtney of Style Court and Jennifer from The Peak of Chic. They have always scanned and loaned me images whenever I've asked (and I've asked a lot!) and without any hesitation at all, thanks y'all. There are the bloggers whom I turn to for endless advice, laughs, and help with my insecurities: Jackie Blue Home (Type A-writer and all-time funny lady), Katie-Did (interior designer with a wonderful house of her own), Linda Merrill (my Something's Gotta Give partner in crime!), Liberty Post Editor (she's been there from the start), Mrs. Culater (who loves Country English Manor design as much as I do and she even lived in one of her own!!), The Material Girls (two darling young IDs), Kriss from Alkemie (world traveler and ID), Mrs. Blandings (with the prettiest house ever!), the two Interior Design bloggers from Northeast Florida: Urban Grace (too talented for words) and Simply Seleta (too beautiful for words) and my newest email buds, Renee Finberg (writing the most interesting blog around) and the young, uber-talented Artie, from Color Outside the Lines.
And then there is this crazy person, none other than Megan Arquette of Beach Bungalow 8, a source of endless late night laughs, although since she has married, she's been too busy at night now! :( I know when she sees this, she will crack up laughing, like I am now!!! Thanks Megan for all the great times and I love those wreaths hanging in your garoffice - like the stepladder too.
ok, Megan is really quite beautiful - as this picture taken at her beach wedding this year shows.
And finally, last year Houston House and Home featured my house on their cover (to read the article go here!!) It was such a exciting time, going into stores and seeing my dogs on the cover, what a thrill !!! Aren't my babies adorable? You know, of course, they match the decor! The funny thing about this picture is we couldn't get both of them to sit still together, so we took one picture with one dog and another picture with the other one (The Springer, Georgie, was the problem dog!) and the photographer somehow spliced the two photographs together. In the end, I offered to mail out copies of the magazine to anyone out of town who couldn't get it. The response was overwhelming! I can't even begin to tell you how many magazines my friend Lisa and I mailed out (well, mostly Lisa did the mailing!) In truth, I have only one person to thank for all of that recognition. The popular blogger, Melissa from The Inspired Room, wrote about the magazine and everyone from her blog came to visit mine. Most of her many readers have since stayed around and I have Melissa to thank for the success of Cote de Texas! She's always there for advice and a friendly ear when I need one. She's quite an inspiration and probably the nicest person on the design blogosphere! Thanks Melissa for everything.
I truly hope I didn't leave anyone out!!!!! If I did, I apologize and let me know - by email!!