How I Built My BEST Year ever!

The first morning of 2017, I wrote a blog about chasing down fear and designing my best life. You can read about my decision to live powerfully and creatively HERE in my blog titled, "Go Ahead, Write Your Story." That decision created room to not only pursue my novel, but it also made room for me to create The Vignette Box–two of them!

 The Vignette Box

The Vignette Box

 The Vignette Box Christmas Edition

The Vignette Box Christmas Edition

I had no idea that writing that blog would lead to me starting my own business, The Vignette Box By, Sweet Shady Lane. The goal of the box was to inspire others to find their own inner designer with a starter kit meant to touch, move and ignite a belief that you too could design your own story through design. 

The box is filled with treasures, to give or receive, that create the perfect vignette for a side table, mantle or shelf. I made sure that each box is filled with items that I would personally purchase, and that each item worked seamlessly together or could be separated and placed with other items in your home. 

How did she do that? Well, I already had started a design instagram @sweetshadylane (another Go ahead, Write Your Story, I've Got Your Back kind of moment) and found the courage to create The Vignette Box. 

Honestly, I had to go back to my own advice many times–reading my own words about living powerfully and creatively helped keep me in pursuit of following through (there were many moments where I literally said, what am I doing?) However, my own doubts and fears led me to believe (even more) that the language we use is powerful! I could have quit right when doubt crept in, thrown in the towel and believed all the lies that fear shouts in my ear, but somehow my instagram grew, I curated, designed and sold two successful vignette boxes (I still cannot believe this!) and I hired an editor for my novel. Even saying this out loud gives me goosebumps!

That success did not come easy. In fact, every night, (EVERY NIGHT) I went to sleep wondering if anyone would actually buy my box and I'd wake every morning in utter disbelief–as a notification of a new sale was in my inbox..."A new order for Sweet Shady Lane."I'd sit, sleepy eyed, staring down my computer screen like it was a liar.

Similarly, every time I sit to write my novel, I have to put my boxing gloves on because I know the routine..."Here we go again, she thinks she can write." It's exhausting, sometimes debilitating, but worth the fight if you can push past fear and doubt and see success (whatever that looks like for you.) For me, success is typing the first sentence, showing up when I don't think I have anything to say, taking a picture of a vignette and sharing it with my followers and just knowing that at the end of everyday, I stayed true to living powerfully and creatively, even if I had to do some fighting along the way. 

2017 has taught me a lot. I've learned about handling and shipping, I've been able to know  my tax guy personally (his name is Cory), how to start retail accounts, learn how to use squarespace (I have my amazing daughter, Emmie to thank for that), and how to curate something that I believe is special and unique. 

If I've learned anything in 2017, it's this...Anytime you are working in truth and trusting your gut...You will succeed!

So, what's in store for 2018? You'll find me at ModernWell (my new writing haven) A women-centered creative community driven by wellness and possibility. I'll be finishing my novel (notice how I didn't say, "I hope to be finishing my novel.) If you're in the Twin Cities...come check it out! 

I'm also thrilled to be currently working on an a la carte vignette design experience, in which you decide what items you love and would work well with your already purchased treasures. There will be choices with different price points so that people who love Sweet Shady Lane can own a piece that's just right for them!

Here's to living powerfully and creatively! Wishing you the BEST in 2018. 

Xo, Heather

Why I Edit My Christmas Decorations!

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This preserved boxwood garland was an end of season purchase from Ballard Design. At the time, I didn't want to buy anything Christmas related (as I had just taken it all down and put it far far away,) but I couldn't pass up this classic garland at 60% off! One of the BEST decisions I've made! The gold balls are a HomeGoods find! The lovely pillows are from Gray Home and the plaid is the same as the one used in The Vignette Box! I had to have it!!

Every year, I cannot wait to get out all of my decorations and then I lug them up from the basement and have a mini breakdown that nothing is going to work. Good times! Truth is, once the dusty plastic bins take over my main floor, I panic! I feel like I'm embarking on a country Christmas adventure. Anybody else ever feel like that? Thankfully, and I truly mean–THANKFULLY– every little item new or old after a few hours, seems to take shape and find the perfect home.

The staircase is one of my favorite places to decorate. I love, LOVE the "Sound Of Music" vibe that garland on a sweeping staircase induces. So much that it makes me hum, "these are a few of my favorite things" all the day long. The bows, the balls–the swooping boxwood garland. It all just makes me so happy. 

My decorations are a lot of yesterday and  a little bit of today. Each Christmas, I tend to edit what stays, goes and gets put in the "special box" because some items are just too precious to part with, but not quite what I'm feeling in the moment. A lot of people (and I admire you all,) use the same decorations in the same spot–so every year there is no breakdown like the one I encounter while standing in my living room surrounded by said dusty bins that are overflowing with red (a color I'm not usually drawn to.)  My husband knows me well enough to go find something else to do, while I tinker around, one wreath and santa at a time. Bless his heart. 

So here's how this year went...

I started with the tree. It's fake! WHAT?? You did a fake tree? Yes! I did. Partly because I had to (we had a photo shoot for The Vignette Box Christmas Edition in November and trees weren't available) and secretly, because I've always wanted one. This one is so freaking fabulous that my kids don't even know it's not real. Thank you Balsam Hill for building such a lovely tree and making it so easy to set up. You saved me and my husband from a bickering session in the tree lot while a nice young cub scout holds a very heavy tree in the freezing cold. 

 

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I mean look at it! Isn't it wonderful? 

After the tree was (easily) set up, I moved to the mantle. I took down my art and made a clear space to decorate. Panic set in–like it always does. How will I make this work?  But I took a breath and moved forward. I started with these three preserved boxwood wreaths. Funny thing–every year I say, I am not going to clutter up the place with Christmas. Keep it clean and simple, I tell myself. And I think I did it this year!

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I loved the simple wreaths against the wood, but decided the mantle needed a little more punch. Both work, but one made me happier. So I added my blue and white ginger jars to jazz it up. I love the new look. Still simple, nothing new, just things I owned used in a new way. Win Win!

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What I'm loving this year is everything seems new, because I did edit what I wanted to showcase. I didn't just use it because I always do. Nope, this year I made a conscious decision to keep things simple– but cheery, classic and comforting. 

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The front entry is such a fun place to be playful. This shot is from The Vignette Box photo shoot and I love how the Ralph Lauren plaid framed Christmas greeting adds a touch of classic and the black and gold frame is a standout. The mini preserved boxwoods that come in each box can be hung with the accompanied ribbon or place the yummy candle inside. 

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The nook. It's so cozy. This is another shot from The Vignette Box photo shoot where we showcase some of the treasures inside the box and share how they can make any room special. 

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I just want to say this out loud...At the end of this season, I am committed to organizing my Christmas decorations like Nate Berkus does. I even bought a label maker! Maybe next year, I won't  have to pull everything out!! Truth corner, in years past, after Christmas was over and the old "real" tree was dead, I couldn't wait to get rid of Christmas in my house. So, I'd end up just shoving everything back in the unorganized bins and deal with them all "next year." Well, not this year my friends! Not happening! Nate Berkus...You have my word!!

Cleary, I'm obsessed with making my house special for the Holidays, but really, I am deeply humbled to be able to decorate with a passion that my kids and family so appreciate. So "these are a few of my favorite things," will continue to be hummed through the rooms of Sweet Shady Lane while I tinker and play and make everything just right for the ones that I love dearly. 

Merry Christmas Everyone! Xo Heather 

The Vignette Box Christmas Edition makes the perfect gift for yourself or a friend. It can be a starter vignette or an addition to a vignette you have already created. It's wonderful and currently available for a limited time. Use code JOLLY10 to receive 10% off. YAY!!!! 

 

Some photos by the amazing Ashley Sullivan and some by little ol' me. 

Subscribe to BLOG and follow along on instagram @sweetshadylane

 

The Vignette Box

I've always loved design. Seriously, since I was nine years old, I would rearrange, tinker and make my room just right. When I was done redecorating my room, I'd move onto the living room-turning picture frames, angling chairs and give my mom advice on where the sofa should sit. How she put up with me-I do not know?

The Vignette Box is another expression of my love for home and the stories and creativity  that is available when you set just the right treasure on your end table, shelf, front entry piece or nightstand. The possibilities are endless. 

Each limited edition Vignette Box is filled with carefully curated treasures that I personally picked out just for you! Each box includes:

*one-of-a-kind mini landscape art by, Abbey Holden Studio

*custom bamboo easel

*"One Man's Folly" coffee table book filled with images of Furlow Gatgewood's magnificent dwellings

*cream cache pot

*beautiful preserved boxwood

*sweet brass antique figurine

The Vignette box is special, unique and made just for you! It makes a fabulous gift for a new couple, homeowner or your very best friend. I promise...You'll love it!

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Place the treasures together or separate them however you choose. Stack other books on top of "One Man's Folly," frame the art for more dimension, place just the cache pot and brass figurine together on a shelf or side table.

The fun part is anything goes! And the possibilities are endless. YAY!!

I believe that creating a home is much like telling a story and my hope is that your own inner designer springs to life and you begin to play and have fun with your vignette and create more vignettes in other areas of your home.

What will your story be? I cannot wait to see! 

Xo, Heather

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                   The Vignette Box is SOLD OUT. THANK YOU!!

                  The Vignette Box is SOLD OUT. THANK YOU!!

 

While The Vignette Box is currently sold out, I do have some treasures (art and brass figurines) still available if you're interested. Please reach out-Heatherstrommen@mac.com They'd be wonderful gifts or add them to your current vignettes. 

What Justin Bieber And I Have In Common

 
                                                           

                                                          

 

It sounds crazy, I know. But Justin Bieber and I have a lot in common. For one, he's the reason I went to the Hillsong Conference in Australia. Can you believe it?  I was already a big fan of Hillsong United's music and a few years ago,  Justin showed images of the conference on his instagram (the power of social media.) I was like, if Justin Bieber can go, why can't I? So I planned a trip, packed up my family and flew across the world to Sydney Australia. The conference was 4 beautiful days of soaking up the word of God and singing with a heart on fire. You should go! Really!!!

When we arrived, rumor had spread that Justin was in Sydney and I was like, of course he is!! He's going to the conference. Day 1, he walks right by me, day 2, I see him two times and he sits about 4 rows behind me. Day 3, I ride an elevator with him. I RIDE AN ELEVATOR WITH JUSTIN BIEBER!!! By day 4, a familiarity had taken over and I was so used to his little face that it barely excited me. It was like, oh it's just Justin again. 

Some back story. Last year, Justin was in Minnesota for his Purpose tour and he went to my church, River Valley on a Sunday. While he was there, my pastor's mother, Isabel prayed for him. Like hands on him-pray for him.  Isabel continued to pray for him and she even wrote him a letter. The letter read, "God has put it on my heart to continue to pray for you. If you need prayer here is my number (I mean how cute?) and remember that at the end of the day, God doesn't call you Justin Bieber. He just calls you, Justin." Well, that's the short version, but you get the point. It was darling. 

Back to day 3 and the elevator. The doors open and I am with my daughter, Ruby, my son's girlfriend, Starr and my pastor's wife, Becca. Becca has the letter in her purse, just in case she sees him. Amazingly, the night before the elevator ride, Becca prayed, "Lord, if  I am meant to give this letter to Justin, please create an opportunity." And boy did He ever.

The elevator doors open and in walks Justin freaking Bieber. I have no idea how, but I/we kept our cool and then Becca remembered the letter in her purse! She quickly asked (elevator rides are short) if he remembered Isabel from Minnesota praying for him and he said, "yes!"  Becca said, "she has continued to pray for you." And he said, "I really need it." And then like magic, Becca pulls out an envelope with his name written on it..."And she wrote you this letter!!!!" Justin now holding the letter says, "thank you" and exits the elevator. 

The door closes and  like twelve year-old girls—we all jump and scream and hug. It was glorious. So glorious that we forgot that we too were supposed to get off on his floor! LOL

During the worship part of the morning, we saw Justin waving the open letter in the air as he sang in praise. I stood in awe at how God uses people to get His work completed. He created an opportunity and completed His plan. 

So, what do I have in common with Justin—besides that we both have a heart for the Lord? 

 Purpose Tour 2016. Instagram: I love 3 Js. Jesus, Jay and Justin in that order. 

Purpose Tour 2016. Instagram: I love 3 Js. Jesus, Jay and Justin in that order. 

When I got home from Australia, I decided to finally trust the whisper that I should quit my job teaching yoga and focus on finishing my book and new business. And just as soon as I did, I read that Justin had canceled the rest of his tour. Reporters claiming it was, "because of Christ." I had seen his concert that summer he came to my church, and  I can honestly say, he wasn't into it anymore. It felt like he was just going through the motions, void of any joy or passion. 

Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but I have to say that I witnessed something at that conference in that young man that created an upheaval in his heart. Justin and I both heard God at the conference and we both decided that it was high time we started listening. 

When God wants a work done in us...He always completes it. It just may take a lot of patience, listening and trusting His plan. So, Justin is now without a tour and I am no longer an active yoga instructor. 

Thank you Justin for having the courage to worship with 25,000 people, to listen to God and for hanging in that elevator when 4 crazy women were trying to not freak out. And thank you God, for endlessly pursuing our hearts and desiring our best. 

XO ~Heather

 

I Did It!!

You guys...I DID IT!

I set a challenge—I blogged every day for thirty-one days! It was exciting, challenging, joyful, hard, creative and sometimes exhausting.

I think what I loved most about this challenge was looking for things throughout my day that were creative; be it an instagram picture, an inspiring quote or a thought or idea that sparked creativity. I was constantly searching for inspiration and felt alive and fulfilled in a new and wonderful way. 

One of my favorite books, "The Artist Way" is filled with beautiful nuggets of truth and inspiration. Like this one, "Every time you don't follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness." Boy, have I felt this over and over again. By not pursuing my passion, I am left feeling empty, like something is missing—like really missing. 

I used to think that in order to write a blog—it had to be about this or that, that it had to have strict perimeters and rules, (and this would stop me in my tracks) but what I learned was that having an experience, whether it's design focused, heart focused or simply a picture I love, I am feeding the source in myself that brings me to life and that whatever brought me to life, was worthy of writing about, even if it didn't fit in a pretty picture of what I thought my blogging should look like. 

This daily blog challenge filled me to the brim (actually over the brim) with energy and purpose. By being creative and honoring God's gift in me, I received a life giving gift myself, that has ultimately been my biggest reward. I won't hem and haw any more about whether my blog idea is good enough to send out into the world. If it's true and real, then it's good enough. Always. 

 "Inside you there's an artist you don't know about...Say yes quickly, if you know, if you've known it from before the beginning of the universe." ~Jalai Ud-Din Rumi 

I said YES! And I'll continue to say YES, because in order for me to live the life that God dreamt for me, I have to dream just as big, if not bigger. Just like there is no wrong question to be asked, there is no wrong creative pursuit. All lead to an AMEN...A YES to the heart. 

"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on." ~Louis L'Amour

Turn the faucet on. Write, paint, sing, dance. Let it all flow out. You won't regret it. 

xo ~Heather