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Crookedfinger Art: Sustainable Fashion & Art

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Crookedfinger Art is an expression of my person style and creative impulses. – Kim Cadenhead

Meet Kim! 

Kim Cadenhead is the founder of Crookedfinger Art.  Kim has a unique quirk, two crooked pinky fingers, a result of a genetic glitch.  Her little quirk resulted in the inspiration for her company name, it is an ode to her unique characteristic which she embraces and has allowed her to flourish as an artist with her original artistic style.  Kim is passionate about various medias for art projects.  Her portfolio includes: paintings on canvas, mixed media, handcrafted sustainable products and graphic t-shirt designs.  Kim recently took part in an artist workshop in North Carolina.  The workshop gave Kim an opportunity to grow as an artist and finesse her painting skills.  Her experience there lead to her latest creative endeavor a series of floral paintings on both canvas and repurposed wooden trays— both wonderful works of art for home decor.

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Kim is an artist who is inspired by the environment around her and incorporates the very essence of her surroundings into her paintings, handmade items and mixed media projects.  In my humble option, I view Kim’s most recent floral collection as having a touch of influence from impressionist paintings incorporated with her own modern signature style, blending beautifully together.  Her floral paintings from her 2016 collection are my personal favorites.  Kim sells both original canvas artwork and canvas prints.

Sustainable Fashion and Eco Art

Since moving from Toronto, Canada to the Cayman Islands, Kim has visited local thrift shops to gather materials for her latest sustainable art projects.  It is her aspiration to repurpose materials found locally and transform them in sustainable handcrafted products including: beach tote bags, hand tote bags, messenger bags rugs, pot holders, coasters and even mixed media art pieces.

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It is rather astounding when you take a moment to realize the magnitude of materials available that has the potential to be repurposed and used in a sustainable way.  All of her eco-friendly items are handmade.  Kim’s sustainable art pieces have all been made from magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.  Kim is an artist with an eco-conscious mindset.  Her sustainable fashion and home products prove that recycled and repurposed materials can be transformed into chic sustainable products.

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Support Local

Kim’s artwork and eco-friendly products are available for sale at Art Nest Creative Studio, at Pasadora Place.  You can also visit Kim at Camana Bay’s local Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays.

Stay Connected

Follow Kim on Facebook, click here

Follow Kim on Instagram, click here 

Visit her website, click here 

 

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The Art of Baking From SCRATCH

 

My love for baking comes with my love and appreciation for simple ingredients. I believe that food should be gorgeous to look at and rich in flavour; balancing salty and sweet so the two work in harmony…I started off as a science major, pursuing a degree in structural engineering -but my passion for baking lead me down the path to make it a lifelong career; one I could make my own…from SCRATCH. – Brittanni Seymour

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Brittanni Seymour, is a professional pastry chef.  Her background extends from being a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island to working as head gourmet pastry chef at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.  Her experience has equipped her for the next stage in her career as a local business owner — pastry chef extraordinaire.  Her signature baking style is aesthetically beautiful and delectable desserts.  Brittanni is an inspiration to us all.  She proves that anyone with dedication and passion can achieve their dreams.  At the heart of her journey, Brittanni has proudly built her business from scratch— using the finest “ingredients” dedication, passion, creativity, strong work ethic and integrity.  The name of her company, “Scratch” beautifully embodies her journey of mastering the art of baking from scratch, and  building her company.  Her devotion to be hands on and take great care when creating something with her hands whether it is her assortment of gourmet desserts and transforming them into works of art, to running her company it has served her well.  A testimony that incredible things can be made from the process of learning and creating from scratch.

Treat Yourself 

Scratch” takes cake seriously – every cake and macaron we make is made with the most fresh and the finest ingredients just to be sure you enjoy the best dang cake experience you have ever had. No weird additives or preservatives included. -Brittanni Seymour

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Fellow foodies and dessert connoisseurs get ready to indulge in a real treat.  Brittanni, founder of “Scratch” gourmet desserts offers a delightful selection of desserts with an array of flavors fantastic for birthdays, weddings, events and simply to just enjoy on regular day (everyday is an occasion for doughnuts and cake).  From doughnuts, to cupcakes, to macaroons, to cakes all are made with love, homemade and most importantly from scratch.  The dedication and care Brittanni adheres to when baking results in only the finest of ingredients being used.  When available ingredients are locally sourced.  Her desserts while decadent have a wonderful  sweet and refreshing lightness — they are not overdone with sugar by any means — they are the perfect balance of rich and light.  Great news for those of you who are vegan or have food allergies (gluten and dairy) Brittanni makes incredibly delicious vegan and gluten free doughnuts and other sweet treats.  There is something truly special about desserts made from scratch. Somehow, you can always tell when something is made from scratch, you can just taste it.  Homemade desserts and pastries have a wonderful sweetness about them and the quality is just splendid. You really just can’t beat desserts and pastries made from scratch— they are absolutely the best.

 

Let Them Eat Cake 

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To make a custom order for your next batch of doughnuts, macaroons, cupcakes or a cake for any celebration contact Brittanni.

Brittanni Seymour

Email: bee.seymour@hotmail.com

Tel: 1-345-923-0081

Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!

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Currently craving doughnuts? Click here to view her selection

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Check out her cake and gourmet treat options by clicking here

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Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

SEA OF HOPE follows iconic ocean explorer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry, author and captain Max Kennedy, and their unlikely crew of teenage aquanauts on a year-long quest to secure their future. Deploying science and photography, they hope to inspire the creation of blue parks across an unseen and imperiled American wilderness.

It was an absolute honor to be published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories.  Please visit their website to read my full article Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet.  Sea of Hope is airing 15th January 2017 on National Geographic.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

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Epiphany: How A Family Of Explorers & Conservationists Overcame Their Fears

 

View Epiphany Movie Trailer

A popular definition of epiphany as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is: “A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.  For me, an epiphany is a sublime moment.  It is an awakening, when your thoughts come into focus and there is a moment of clarity.  The opportunity presents itself as an illuminating thought.  A moment of such great revelation can bring forth incredible things.

I have had the privilege to get to know award-winning filmmaker and wildlife cinematographer Michael Maes and his wife Ellen Cuylaerts, an award-winning wildlife photographer.  They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They are inspiring, compassionate, kind, generous, brave and humble people.  I am grateful to know them.  As a family they live intriguing and extraordinary lives as explorers and conservationists.  They explore the world and use their gifts and talents in film and photography to share their passion for conservation with the world.  An underlying message in their documentary Epiphany is the power of film and photography.  I am a firm believer that art whether it is in the form of film, photography, writing or any other genre has the ability to create change and have a positive impact.  The photographs and film both Michael and Ellen share with the world captures stunning encounters with wildlife, marine life and spectacular scenic views of nature.  It serves to remind us this planet is worth fighting for and protecting.  Art has an incredible ability to connect us all on a universal level.

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For Michael and Ellen, film and photography is a means for them to contribute to nature and conservation— a way of giving back.  They use their films and photography to educate, and create awareness about various environmental issues.  A strong image whether captured in a still photograph or a moving picture can evoke emotion, share a powerful message and allow an opportunity for one to be enlightened and enriched.  In particular, a scene in their documentary Epiphany with Whale Sharks captures a collection of beautiful moments spent in the presence of these majestic creatures.  There is utter tranquility within this scene and the Whale Sharks swim gracefully.  The scene showed the majesty of sharks— they are not to be feared but respected.  Other scenes with Oceanic White Tips present the elegant poises and patterns of these sharks as they glide through the water, depicting them beautifully in their natural habitat.  The sharks and divers were able to inhabit the space harmoniously.  It is important to note, the divers still had to remain very vigilant at all times.  Ellen and Michael take great care in the composition of their photography by ensuring they develop a connection with the wildlife during their encounter and allow that to translate in their photography.  By doing so, it creates a powerful image illustrating that there is a story and meaning behind every photograph.  The heart of their photography and film is to remind us all what a privilege it is to live on this beautiful planet and to not take for granted our natural resources, the environment, the ocean and all animals.  There is a great urgency for a united effort and action to happen globally to increase conservation of the environment and protection of all animals.  As advocates for the ocean they are keen to promote awareness of the urgency to protect sharks.  Ellen and Michael use film and photography to promote conservation and help rehabilitate the image of sharks by showing us that sharks are to be respected not feared.  The real fear is a life without sharks.  The reality is if sharks continue to be slaughtered for their fins and their population continues to rapidly decline they will face extinction.  Sharks have been roaming the ocean immensely longer than humans have inhabited the planet.  It would be a great tragedy for sharks to become extinct.  There is no coming back from extinction.

 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch their documentary Epiphany a film that is inspiring and moving.  The film left a profound impact on me.  It is a film that I hold dear to my heart, as it was truly special to watch a film friends of mine had made and with such admirable bravery they shared their story with the world.  I implore others to watch their award-winning documentary which is currently available on iTunes.  The documentary touches on a variety of themes: the power of art and film, conservation of sharks, environmentalism, Autism, the unbreakable bond of a family and finding bravery to overcome fear.  Michael and his family are incredibly courageous to share a vulnerable side of their lives and their journey through life with the world.  Primarily, the narrative of the film tells the journey of Ellen and how she finds the bravery to overcome her fear of the ocean.  It is her kids that leads Ellen back to nature.  It is on this journey, Ellen rediscovers her love for photography which allows her to overcome her fear of the water by swimming with sharks and photographing them.  The film also touches on Michael and their kids Margaux and Max leading extraordinary lives with autism.  A takeaway from their documentary is that there is a need in this world to look past each others differences and accept one another as they are.  We are all uniquely different and that is what adds to our individual beauty.  There is a need for society to stop labelling and creating divides due to differences— being different can be a remarkable gift.  A beautiful message within in the film, is the families unbreakable bond.  The diagnosis of Autism running in their family understandably initially created a feeling of isolation, fear and hardship.  However, together as a family they were able to thrive and live out their passions.  All of them having wonderfully marvelous courageous lives.  As a family they inspire us all to live a life of compassion, kindness and bravery.

 

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The power and healing of nature is beautifully interwoven within the story which unfolds throughout the documentary.  Nature serves as a catalyst to connect the family together, strengthen their bond and open doors for amazing opportunities to share their passion for conservation, film, photography and art.  A beautiful synergy is built between the family as they collectively immerse themselves in exploring nature and the depths of the ocean.  A profound message the documentary presents is that Ellen is able to move past her fear of the ocean and develop a trust within nature.  The ocean serves as a bit of a paradox in Ellen’s life, while on one hand it is the foundation of her fear of water, yet on the other, it serves to inspire her to contribute to conservation, follow her passion of photography and connect deeply with her family.  By having nature as an integral component of their lives, the differences within the family does not create walls to divide them, in fact nature bridges the family together and anchors them.  Moreover, through expeditions exploring nature, it brings forth a bravery within each of them to overcome their own personal fears.  Through their conservation efforts and giving back to nature, each of them were able embrace their individualism and remain true to themselves and their passion for the environment, photography, film and art.

Meet Michael Maes

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Michael Maes is a wildlife filmmaker, specialized in big animals and animal behavior. His portfolio (both underwater and topside) covers the polar regions, temperate waters and the tropics. He has a passionate interest for polar bears and Arctic whales.

His work has been broadcast on various national television like Nat Geo Wild, Outside Television, CBC. It also received recognition at a myriad of international film festivals; reflecting the ability to translate the need for wildlife conservation onto the screen.

In 2015 Michael was inducted as cinematographer in the Ocean Artists Society (http://www.oceanartistssociety.org), an organization uniting artists worldwide to raise awareness and protect the marine environment through art. Michael is also a founding Navigator of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (http://www.reefresearch.org), a leading scientific research centre in the Caribbean focusing on coral reef restoration, research on coral resilience, and ocean education.

More About Michael  

Website michaelmaes.com   (Currently Under Construction)

Check out some of his recent Arctic Work:

 

Q & A with Award-winning Filmmaker Michael Maes

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1. What inspired the documentary and for you to tell this story?

Ellen Cuylaerts; my wife; challenged herself to overcome her fear of water and sharks, culminating her personal growth by feeding those feared sharks. That was the story to which many viewers can relate to.

2. What is the heart of the documentary? Or the core message for audiences to take from watching the film?

Basically Epiphany is a story about all of us. Everyone has his or her fears, everyone faces challenges of life, we can all make decisions to alter our paths.

Epiphany shows the viewer setbacks can be turned into strongholds of life itself.

In short, Epiphany is a story of hope.

3. Did you face any challenges while making this documentary?

Apart from logistical nightmares, the complete lack of privacy for our family during the 18 months of filming was very exigent. Although most of the shootings were at dream locations, we constantly had cameras and microphones pointed at or near us. Especially Ellen as I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for most of the underwater filming and all areal cinematography.

Next would be the communication between the producer (me) and the rest of the crew. Having autism makes it very difficult to communicate my thoughts; up to a point where I even think I “say” something but I actually only “think” it. That has lead to many difficult situations, frustrations and even words. But, ultimately and always thanks to Ellen, we regrouped and were able to finish a gem.

4. What was one key lesson you learned from making this film?

Don’t think what you say but say what you think!

5. Is there a particular scene in the documentary that resonates with you or has the most significant meaning to you?

To me the most emotional scene in the documentary is at the end where Ellen stands strong among tens of sharks circling her and I (you can’t see that of course as I am filming it) am lying flat on the sand at her feet; filming Ellen from that extreme low angle; all the way up to the water surface; sharks everywhere.

That scene grabs me the most as it portrays in images the fact that Ellen conquered her fear, surrounded by sharks yet she is the one who is in charge! There she stands, holding food next to her body, telling the sharks with her body-language to not come in for the food… she… her… your wife… the mother of your two children… surrounded by sharks… I cannot express how powerful that scene is for a filmmaker who’s the husband of the talent…

As a cinematographer that scene also grabs me as it is – excuse-moi the bragging – simply a formidable shot completed by the genius score of music written by the Belgian musician Eric Bettens.

6. What was your favorite filming location?

Honestly? None! They all had their particular challenges and filmic rewards. A favorite moment I could tell you: a close to two hour dive with only Ellen and myself at Tiger Beach. We were down there without bait or chum. We just wanted to have our Zen moment; away from the fuzzy madness of the production. Did we get rewarded for being there: we had three 12 feet tiger sharks and a bunch of lemons and reefies. A mind-blowing peaceful moment! This footage did not end up in the documentary as the sequences were too long and beautiful to cut. Now that Epiphany is released I will review those amazing scenes again.

7. What do you hope this documentary will accomplish? Or what is your goal or hope for this film?

Of course we want to spread awareness on the sad condition sharks are facing globally. But we also want people to think about their own life and take action if they want to. We want Epiphany to bring hope to those whom are trapped in a fixed pattern, caught in a seemingly hopeless situation.

8. What does the film mean to you and your family?

30 months of blood, sweat and tears.

9. Do you believe film and art has the power to help bring positive changes to the environment?

Many of the world’s environmental issues are far out of reach of most people. Pictures and film bring those issues closer to many, though often in the hard “documenting” way – which is good of course.

Bringing the animals and their world to the beholder in all beauty – nature as it is – makes people see the beauty of those animals. This could lessen the fear of the unknown and invoke interest in the animal or its habitat. Every time I get a message from someone I don’t know telling me some work of mine made him or her get interested in that animal or its environment, is a bigger reward to me than a paycheck.

10. Do you find using art and film as a medium allows you to see the impact and changes in the environment differently, than as opposed to just reading about the issues our environment faces?

As I am a person whom thinks in images, I would believe so. However I feel this question should better be answered by an avid and passionate reader.

More Info about Epiphany 

Website            : www.epiphany.movie

Epiphany on iTunes : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/epiphany/id1169290433

Trailer Epiphany                     : https://vimeo.com/156486645

Special Thanks

Special thanks: Photos and video courtesy of Michael Maes and Ellen Cuylaerts

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For The Love Of Animals: Ian Somerhalder Foundation Medical Emergency Grants

 

Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A truly heartwarming initiative was started by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that have heartbreaking stories of being abused, neglected or suffered a traumatic injury.  These animals are deserving and in need of a second chance.  ISF created their Medical Emergency Program to extend compassion to these animals and assist in aiding to their recovery and wellbeing.  ISF launched their Medical Emergency Grant Program on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  A day symbolizing a commitment of love and compassion towards animals— inspiring others to do the same.  Since the inception of this program, they have helped over 1,000 animals including: cats, dogs, turtles, birds, bats, horses, sheep, cows, sea lions, goats, rabbits, and more.  All have benefited from an ISF Medical Emergency Grant— giving them an improved quality of life, resulting in a touching success stories.  These animal rescues are now living happier lives with their new families in their forever homes. The testimony of these animals show, that animals have an incredible resilience no matter how difficult the hardship they faced.  They also remind of us of the incredible bond animals establish with humans, despite the suffering they endured, once they found a new and loving family in a safe environment they continue to express love unconditionally.

Animals have an exquisitely poignant way of teaching us, through demonstration, how to love and be loved. We learn compassion, as well as expand our perception of the infinite connection to the environment around us, from our creature friends–whether they are furry and lick us, or slither and swim. We owe it to these creatures to provide protection, healing and love. That is exactly why I am so proud that the IS Foundation has launched our first grant program — the Emergency Medical Grant for Animals – Ian Somerhalder

ISF provides grants to both the US and Canada and works closely with dedicated teams of amazing rescuers in various parts of the US and Canada who are on the front line every day finding animals in need of a better life and urgent care.  These admirable individuals advocate on the behalf of these animals.  Animals that receive an Emergency Medical Grant have been found either, abused, neglected or have suffered a traumatic injury.  ISF reviews applications and typically makes a decision within a week.  They then have the money sent out the following week to the treating veterinarians and rescuers.  The ISF Medical Emergency Grant criteria and eligibility can be found on the ISF website, Grant Information Page.  “The purpose of this grant is to provide animal victims a second chance by alleviating their rescuers of the financial stress of treatment so they can focus on facilitating the animal’s adoption into a permanent, loving home” ISF works with individuals, animal rescuers, veterinarians and non-profit organizations seeking to rescue and rehabilitate animal victims.  (ISF)

The ISF Medical Emergency Grants Program has done an incredible job of bettering the lives of so many animals.  Animals that have had the opportunity to recover and rehabilitate now have wonderful success stories inspiring us all to help protect and care for animals in need.  ISF has established a network of dedicated animal rescuers (grantees) and built amazing relationships with them over the past 2 years.  Their collaboration and teamwork has created a positive impact.  An added bonus, the ISF have met so many loving animals that have greatly benefited from their program.  In instances when the animal in need and the rescuer are near by, the ISF take the opportunity to meet with the animal and rescuer(s).  The ISF have shared a plethora of wonderful heartwarming success stories of the animals they have help give a second chance to. To read their success stories visit their grant success page.  Their dedication to provide resources to assist in bringing a life changing positive impact on the lives of animals that have deeply suffered, inspires us all to work together to be a voice for animal victims that have endured a painful hardship.

Must Love Animals

Below are a few success stories of the ISF Medical Emergency Grant

Meet Elsa

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Ozzy

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Twinkle Toes

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

To support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and stay up-to-date with their projects follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website 

The Cayman Islands: A Haven for Sharks & Rays

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

The Cayman Islands has built its name and reputation primarily on being a renowned diving destination.  Pioneers in our local diving community over the last few decades contributed to building our diving industry into the premier operation that it is today.  They recognized the exquisite beauty our underwater landscape had to offer and have since then made it accessible for locals and tourists to recreationally experience and explore the beauty that lies below the surface for themselves.  With a desire to showcase our natural resources comes with a commitment to preserve them.  Our duty towards conservation for both land and the ocean is beneficial not just from an environmental perspective but also an economic one.  Our tourism industry is strongly tied to our island’s natural resources.  Ergo, an obvious reason to ensure that our natural resources are protected.  Last year on Earth Day (2015), the Cayman Islands officially became a Sharks and Rays Sanctuary.  The sanctuary expands across all three islands.  This is a positive step towards ecotourism as many tourists are keen to visit places that are committed to conservation.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

“I’m extremely grateful that the Cayman Islands recognized the need to make the islands a shark and ray sanctuary. Not only will their protected status benefit the health of the reefs but it’s also a strong statement towards the tourism industry which is an important source of revenue. By protecting our natural resources the Cayman Islands puts itself in the the market of the informed and eco friendly tourist making the right choice for the future generations.” -Ellen Cuylaerts

Sharks in the Water

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

By virtue of us standing by and not acting to protect coral reefs and marine life that are under threat there is a very likely possibility that corals reefs will continue to become degraded and even destroyed.  The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.  There is an intricate connection between coral reefs and all marine life.  If keystone species such as sharks continue to decrease in population it will have a tremendous impact on the coral reefs and the marine life that depend on the reefs.  A scary thought that should be racing through everyone’s minds is what if I never see a shark in the water again?  Our fear should be driven by the thought of what will happen to our ocean and the ecosystem if shark populations globally continues to spiral down or worse become extinct.  Sharks are a keystone species and are fundamental to maintaining the health and balance of: coral reefs, marine life and the ocean.  Without their presence there could potentially be a devastating collapse within our fragile ecosystem as their role in keeping our “life support” viable is monumental.  Ultimately, we need a healthy ocean as 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from there.  Healthy shark populations means healthy reefs.  Coral reefs support 1/4 of all marine life.  Healthy reefs means a flourishing population of marine life.  This is beneficial for: our ecosystem, recreational divers, snorkelers and for fisherman.  Balance within our ecosystem is key to benefiting the preservation of the planet, as well as a thriving diving industry, tourism industry and fisherman.

We can’t fail to act to protect our ocean and marine life.  The ocean is often referred to as the heart of the planet.  There seems to be a collective assumption that the ocean is indestructible, that no matter the amount of pollution pumped into the ocean it will always reset itself, that there will always be coral reefs and an abundance of fish, sharks and all marine life.  It is as though we cannot fathom the thought that it could all go away one day.  The reality is the ocean like anything else has its limitations.  We cannot keep testing the ocean’s ability to bounce back.  It is evident that the ocean is under an immense amount stress due to climate change and the rapid decrease in the populations of a multitude of marine species.  For instance, sharks and rays are under threat.  Every year, 70 million sharks are killed for their fins (Fin Free).  In comparison it is reported that targeted Manta Ray populations have declined by an estimated 56% to 88% in recent years (Wild Aid).  With this in mind, there is an urgency for countries around the world to declare their waters as a shark and rays sanctuary.  The more protection coverage of the ocean for sharks and rays will by virtue allow for coral reefs, and fish populations to have time to recover and recuperate.  This is beneficial to everyone.

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Specifically to our waters, current research indicated that we have a lower shark population than expected for a healthy reef ecosystem.  This suggests that our waters need an increase in sharks to ensure our coral reefs can remain healthy.  Shark populations recover over a significant period of time and sanctuaries can provide a safe haven for populations to recuperate.  Presently, there are no comparative ray nor shark surveys specific to our region.  It is difficult to state how our population of sharks and rays compares to other islands in the Caribbean.  However, some research conducted by Marine Conservation International (Research Partners of Department of Environment Cayman Islands) suggests that Cayman’s shark numbers are relatively low in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.  Notably, numbers will vary from species to species.  However, our waters have a fair population of sharks and rays. Both species are being threatened across the Caribbean and around the world.  Protecting sharks and rays regionally will benefit not only our territory but also on a global scale as it encourages other countries to designate their waters as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.  It is evident that the protection of sharks and rays needs to be made as a united effort, and the Cayman Islands is doing their part to help in this initiative.  Now that our waters have been designated as a shark and ray sanctuary there is hope that it  will give our shark population a chance to recover.

A Sanctuary for Sharks, Rays & Coral Reefs

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The sanctuary serves as a haven for our sharks and rays. Our sharks and rays are of great significance to our coral reefs and marine environment both ecologically and economically.  Most importantly their protection is needed to ensure their survival —our ecosystem depends on it.

The sanctuary also serves as a means to benefit our island not only from an ecological standpoint but economically.  The protection of sharks and rays has a direct impact on benefiting our tourism industry.  Sharks are a highlight for divers.  Whereas, rays can be seen in a large school at Stingray City located at the sandbar on the eastern side of Grand Cayman.  Protecting our sharks and rays within our region will not only allow for a positive impact on improving the health of our coral reefs but also it will help to maintain our status as a popular diving destination.  Flourishing reefs serve us ecologically but as an added bonus they are attractive diving spots helping our tourism industry and economy.

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Declaring Cayman waters as a sharks and rays sanctuary is a positive step towards ecotourism and beneficial for our islands.  Countries making a shift towards ecotourism demonstrates that we can find a balance between developing the economy of a country but not at the cost of losing their natural resources.  It is possible to use our natural resources and benefit from them and not destroy them —rather there is an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources as they have intrinsic value.  Specific to Caribbean islands our natural resources are everything to our tourism industry which greatly impacts our economy.  For Cayman, we could look at the ocean as the very soul of our island.  Our culture is bound to the ocean and it is imperative that we continue to move forward in protecting our ocean, coral reefs, marine life and natural environment.  Cayman’s transition into ecotourism has helped to establish the Cayman Islands as setting a positive example for other islands in the Caribbean by way of encouraging other islands to consider becoming a sharks and rays sanctuary to increase the coverage of areas that serve as a haven for them.  While, our waters protect a small percentage of sharks and rays in our region, and is making a positive impact, it would be greatly beneficial if other regional countries made their waters a sanctuary.  Alone, we can make a small difference, but together we can make a much stronger impact.  Protecting the coral reefs, marine life, sharks and rays is a global need.  

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

This article was also published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories please click here 

Stoak’d About Pop Art, Fashion & Supporting Local

Kevin Mounsor and Marc Laurenson are two cool dudes who have built a Pop Art inspired: art gallery, clothing line and design company known as Stoak’d Cayman.  Their combined talent has lead to the success of their business including trendy art pieces capturing pop culture in their own signature style as well as fashionable clothing.  The dream team is an inspiration for both aspiring and established artists, demonstrating the power of artistic collaboration and hard work.  Marc Laurenson originally came up with the idea of Stoak’d while living in Australia. Later, he moved to the Cayman Islands and after meeting up with Kevin Mounsor and talking about art and Stoak’d over a couple of drinks they decided to team up to and combine their talent and machines to build their pop art inspired design company.  Since then, they have made their mark on Cayman’s local art scene.

Bamboo Skate Sunglasses

Stoak’d Cayman has added to their fashion collection a line of cool shades that are eco-friendly.  They have combined their passion for fashion with an eco-conscious mindset.  The design is a simple statement piece.  Staying true to their love for pop art, the eco-friendly sunglasses has pops of bright colors. Their line of Skate Sunglasses are made from Bamboo, which is a sustainable resource.  They come in 5 different color lenses and are polarized.  These stylish sunglasses are perfect for island life and also planet friendly.

Q&A with Kevin Mounsor and Marc Laurenson

1.What inspired you both to start Stoak’d designs?

K.M.:  Marc contacted me a couple of years ago when I started a fanpage for ‘Cayman Artists’, we had some drinks and then discussed how he  had started his own called Stoak’d way back when, but never went anywhere with it. So after more drinks we came to an agreement that we had the combined talent and the machines to get this off the ground as a proper design company.  (We miss you Billy Bones).

2. What is the meaning behind the Stoak’d name?

M.L: I was in Australia when I unofficially started Stoakd. I did an art piece for my friend and when she received the piece she was so happy and she said “I’m so stoked!” I used that as my name and I intentionally misspelled Stoakd as I wanted the www.com but sadly right now steve from Oakland has it and I’m hoping one day he wont use it anymore and will let me have www.stoakd.com

* Their website currently is www.stoakdcayman.com

3. How would you describe your style of art? 

K.M.: Think that is one of the best things about the Stoak’d combination, is that we have a few things in common when it comes to the art.  But we also have different styles, My style is how ever the mood takes me, I’m a big fan of the Disney and love my comics but in the end I do like to make it up as i go along. Sometimes we can rub off on each other with Marc’s perfection will show in a piece of mine, but then i’ll do something like flick paint on it and then its finished.

M.L.: My art is iconic pop art. I rarely ever use shading. I keep to block colours. I like my art to be bright and in your face. I like it to stand out and be a conversation piece in any household.

4. What are your influences when designing a new t-shirt design and a canvas piece? 

K.M.: For me, we want to be new and inspirational but sometimes it doesn’t work that way, the t-shirts is just a great way to offer something  to Cayman Residents that they can wear at the beach or out and about. We like to be local but with some commercialization, i guess.  One of our best shirts last year was Darth Vader face With ‘Who Ya Daddy Is’ which people love and recognize, this year’s hit during the Red Sky At Night was the ‘Straight Outta Cayman’ Shirt, so we like to keep it local with a little twist of the bigger world.   The artwork is always a toss up of what is going on with commissioned work vs fun stuff, but either way, as long its my style the customer is buying then i’m all for it.

M.L.: My customer and their wants and needs come first. Lately I haven’t made any art pieces for myself as we have been asked constantly for commissions. When I do my own art pieces for myself, I like to push myself in a direction I haven’t been before to see how well I can complete the piece. If I enjoy it I will do a few more if I didn’t enjoy it I will move onto something else.

5. Which artist(s) inspire you the most?

 K.M.: As I said Im a big fan of the Disney, but I also go to the reverse of that, Frank Miller (creator of Sin City), Bruce Timm ( Creator Of The Batman Animated Series), they as a whole changed the game and the way we see characters especially Bruce Timm, Walt for the way we see animation now, even in the olden days, the lengths he went to.  One Artist that got me into being a bit more random was a  gentlemen Called VOKA, his collection of Spontaneous Realism was unreal in my eyes. Hence why I tried my hand at it to create my piece ‘Charlie’ which is in for the Poinciana Awards this year.

M.L.: The artists that I like the most are: DFACE, Obey, Bustart, Hydro 74 and Butcher Billy.

They are all pop art artists with totally different styles. I practice with my designs to see if I can make an image in their style.

Stoak’d to Shop

The Artwork

Their gallery holds a range of iconic Pop Art and Pop Culture inspired artwork.  Some pieces in their collection are Cayman inspired with their signature pop art style and flare creating unique pieces of artwork.  Click here to shop

Hip Clothing 

Their clothing line has a collection of t-shirts for kids and adults with prints of iconic pop art images, pop culture, comic characters and other cool designs.  Stoak’d Cayman also creates custom designs and prints.  Click here to shop

Support Local

Browse their website to view their gallery of artwork and fashion line.

https://stoakdcayman.com

blue iguana cayman islands

Blue Iguanas: A National Treasure

Photo Credit: Fred Burton

The Blue Iguana is endemic to Grand Cayman.  Currently, there is approximately 1,000 Blue Iguanas in the wild.  The Blue Iguana Recovery Program has been dedicated to the conservation of these beautiful creatures since 1990.  The staff and their team of volunteers do an incredible job protecting the Blue Iguanas and ensuring their conservation.  The recovery program has been successful in increasing the population of the Blue Iguanas so much that they are no longer considered critically endangered and at one time close to extinction. This being said, the “Blue’s” are still an endangered species.  The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is home to one of their sanctuaries and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program.   The recovery program focuses on captive breeding, to later release them into the wild.  Captive breeding has proven to be the most effective way to restore their population and is fundamentally why Blue Iguanas continue to exist today.  Staff members also collect valuable data from research as they study the behaviors and health of the Blue Iguanas.  In addition, Blue Iguanas also call the Salina Reserve home.  It is a 625-acre nature reserve especially protected for the Blue Iguanas.  Typically, the Blue Iguanas are released into the wild and the Salina Reserve once they reach maturity at the age of two.  Finally, the Colliers Wilderness Reserve, another sanctuary for the Blues has a healthy population of Blue Iguanas.

 

Photo Credit: Fred Burton

The Blue Iguanas play an important role in our ecosystem, they are considered to be efficient seed dispersers.  They feed primarily on fruit from native trees and shrubs.  The seeds remain unharmed as they pass through their digestive system allowing them to be primed to germinate as they deposit the seed (in a pile of dung, also a great fertilizer).  The Blue Iguanas while roaming their natural habit trek across large territories which is beneficial as they disperse seeds across the landscape.  As a result, the Blue Iguanas help to maintain a fair amount of many of our islands indigenous trees and shrubs. Often, trees such as mangoes, a favorite of the Blues grow quickly and are fruitful through the help of the Blue Iguanas being efficient seed dispersers.

Threats Faced By The Blue Iguanas

Photo Credit: Fred Burton

Our island’s iconic Blue Iguana currently faces various threats.  A major threat they face is the ever increasing loss of their natural habitat due to overdevelopment.   Therefore, it is key that new development projects take into consideration environmental concerns and strive for a harmonious balance.  Increasing nature reserves and expanding existing sanctuaries would greatly help alleviate this issue.   An added benefit of an increase in nature reserves is it is beneficial for ecotourism.  While loss of habitat is a major threat, on the other hand living in the wild also presents threats towards the Blue Iguanas such as an issue of safety concerns.  Obviously, it is important that Blue Iguanas are released into the wild so they can live in the natural habitat and breed naturally, however their safety is imperative for their survival in the wild.  The Blue Iguanas are prey for unrestrained dogs and feral cats.  Unfortunately, in some instances, dogs and cats have found their way into the Botanic Park and have killed Blue Iguanas.  Incidents have also occurred in the other designated sanctuaries for Blue Iguanas.  Responsible pet ownership would help resolve or significantly reduce this threat against the Blues.  Blue Iguanas also fall victim to being hit by cars when crossing the road (as do green iguanas).  When visitors are leaving the Botanic Park they are asked to survey the area and check underneath their car to ensure no Blue Iguanas are hiding.

Another major issue the Blue Iguanas face in regard to their habitat is potentially having to compete for natural resources, especially food sources with the green iguanas.  At the moment, the green iguanas currently have not over populated the eastern side of the islands, where the major sanctuaries for Blue Iguanas are.  However, a large population of green iguanas potentially could move into the Blue’s territory and it would be very problematic.  The green iguanas are an invasive species (not endemic to the Cayman Islands) and threaten the survival of the Blues by posing the risk of taking over the vast majority of their natural habitat.  The escalated growth of the green iguana population has had a significant impact on the Blue Iguanas.  It has inadvertently contributed to sometimes giving Blue Iguanas a bad rep, as the green iguanas have caused a general dislike towards iguanas due to their menacing presence in the backyards of home owners.  The green iguanas have the ability to completely defoliate trees and shrubs which in the future could be problematic for the Blues when they are seeking food resources.   Moreover, there is a “maybe” possibility, of green iguanas harboring diseases which could be passed onto the Blues.  Whilst, there are no documented cases of this happening, it is still a thought to consider.  Furthermore,  there was an unexpected discovery of a hybrid hatchling in Little Cayman.  Through genetic analysis a female green iguana crossed with a male rock iguana.  Due to this unprecedented occurrence in Little Cayman, it raises concern that there is the potential for a hybrid to spawn from a cross between a green iguana and a Blue Iguana here in Grand Cayman.  Whilst, it may be unlikely of such an incident to occur, there is still a remote possibility.  Should a worse case scenario come into play where there are fertile hybrids between a green iguana and a blue iguana then that could result in the displacement of the endemic Blues by mass hybridization.

How To Help Protect Blue Iguanas

Photo Credit: Fred Burton

“The key is reducing the impacts from the threats that caused their near extinction in the first place.” – Fred Burton

The Blue Iguana Recovery Program has played a pivotal role in restoring the population of Blue Iguanas through their captive breeding program.  Now, a healthy population of Blue Iguanas have been released into the wild and natural reserves (protected areas) there is a strong focus on ensuring their safety in the wild. One of the main ways to help ensure the survival of the Blue Iguanas is to increase sanctuary areas.  The greater the amount of designated protected areas for Blue Iguanas helps to maintain a substantial amount of their natural habitat which is beneficial to both the Blue Iguanas and the environment.  When the Blue Iguanas are released into the wild, and protected sanctuaries it allows them to naturally breed and continue to play their crucial role in the ecosystem.  Overall, nature reserves and sanctuaries are great for ecotourism, as they provide a safe natural habitat for indigenous wildlife.

Resources

Fred Burton

Blue Iguana Recovery Program

Pick up a copy of Fred Burton’s A Little Blue Book, available at the Botanic Park Gift Shop

Eco Chic Cayman

Eco Chic Cayman T-Shirt Giveaway

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs

I am delighted to announce Eco Chic Cayman’s first ever T-shirt giveaway! In honor of  Earth Hour, 25th March 2017, I am giving away an “Earth [Limited Edition]” t-shirt from my 2017 collection.  The t-shirt was designed by Eco Chic Cayman and printed by Stoak’d Cayman.  Huge thanks to the guys at Stoak’d Cayman! Stay tuned for an upcoming feature about the talented guys at Stoak’d Cayman.

About Earth Hour

Earth Hour is celebrating 10 years on 25th March 2017.  Countries from all over the world come together in solidarity, whereby participants of this global event switch off lights for 1 hour (8:30pm-9:30pm local time) to help raise awareness on climate change.  Many participating countries turn off lights of iconic buildings, landmarks and monuments.  To learn more about Earth Hour click here,

To celebrate Earth Hour here in Cayman, The National Trust for the Cayman Islands will be hosting Earth Hour: Picnic in the Dark at 6:00pm at Dart Park, South Sound.  It is an awesome event!  Check out their Facebook page for more details.

How to Win

Check out our T-shirt giveaway featurette made by Lori Speirs. 

 

with love, from one tree hugger to another, xo

We Rise By Lifting Others

Today’s blog post is in celebration of World Women’s Day 2017.  It is all about women coming together to empower one another.  We can accomplish so much together.  One of the best lessons I have learned, is “don’t compete, collaborate”.  There is room for all of us.  That being said, we still need to put in some time and effort into our work.  We can come together as a team, a support system for one another and collaborate.   So many beautiful things can come from collaboration.  I am so very thankful for the wonderful friends I have in my life.  They all have such beautiful souls and are inspiring.  I love watching them be bold and live out their dreams. We have the best time when we all come together to collaborate on projects: creative sessions, photoshoots, filming featurettes, writing content, editorials, sharing blogging tips, and business tips.  We brainstorm together and the inspiration just flows.  We all find ourselves motivated, inspired and empowered.  We all have our own talents and areas of strength and expertise — we all have something to offer and bring to the table.  We can learn so much from one another and sharing from our experiences.  We truly do rise by lifting others up.  We also have this incredible opportunity to create a positive impact in each others lives and make a difference through working as a team.  Sometimes, we think we can accomplish all of our goals and dreams on our own.  Maybe some of us can.  However,  I do believe greater things are accomplished through collaboration and our lives become enriched from the experience.  I am so grateful for the wonderful friends in my life.  I have so much gratitude towards their kindness, generosity and for not only inspiring me to follow my dreams but for also being a support system to help me achieve my aspirations in life.

 Collaborative Team

Photo Credit: Eco Chic Cayman

I would like to extend a huge thank you to my friends Lori and Talya, founders of TWI Hippies.  They have been such an inspiration to me and have helped me so much with some creative projects for my blog.  I have absolute respect for all of their time and hard work they have put into helping me with photoshoots and creating featurettes.  I appreciate that making a 15sec-2min film is not an easy task.  I have a new found appreciation for the art of filmmaking and editing.  Lori, has done such an incredible job making a few creative ideas come into fruition  as mini featurettes.  It was such an amazing experience planning out and working on these featurettes.  I have greatly learned from the opportunity.  So much prep time and hard work is done behind the scenes to make everything come together.  I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of the behind the scenes work and learn from the process of what it takes to make short films.

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs

It has also been a privilege to be invited as a guest writer for their newly established blog TWI Hippies. (They have done an incredible job!  You will love their blog I promise!)  I have also had a blast contributing to their photoshoots as an occasional guest photographer.

I am so excited for the future collaborative projects coming soon!

with love, xoxo

cat with camera

Greater Good: Fundraiser For Rescue Animals

Photo Credit: Eco Chic Cayman

The Cayman Islands Humane Society will be hosting their annual Furball Fundraiser Saturday, 8th April 2017, 6:00pm at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.  This year, the gala is “Hollywood” themed.  Inviting the community to dress up ready for their Red Carpet moment as paparazzi take their photo as they attend this glamorous event.  Tickets are on sale now for $150 each or $1,500 for a table of ten.  Tickets can be purchased at the Cayman Islands Humane Society Shelter’s reception.  The night promises to deliver an atmosphere of a grand Hollywood party, with special guest host, Joseph Avary and music provided by DJ Flex.  All proceeds raised will benefit the animals at the shelter.

For The Love Of Cats & Dogs Adopt

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Photo Credit: Eco Chic Cayman

The Cayman Islands Humane Society is home to over 100 cats and dogs.  These loving animals are all seeking to find their forever home and new family.  Some of the furry residents currently reside at the shelter due to: being found abandoned,  for some their former family moved to another country and due to unforeseen circumstances were unable to take their pet with them, and others have been found neglected or mistreated.  Thankfully, the Humane Society provides a place of refuge and is dedicated to finding these animals a home.  The Humane Society is the only animal shelter on the islands since its inception over 40 years ago.  It is a No-Kill Shelter.  Volunteers running the shelter carryout their mission to rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for hundreds of cats and dogs.  In 2016, 450 rescue animals were saved and two-thirds went to loving homes locally or families in the USA.  The Humane Society has developed partnerships with NO-Kill rescue shelters in New York and Toronto and send rescue cats and dogs to families ready to adopt them.  The Humane Society relies heavily on donations and their annual fundraisers as it costs a whopping CI$600,000 every year (CI$50,000 a month) to run the shelter.  Donations and funds raised from their fundraisers such as the annual Furball, go towards: the wellbeing of the animals, emergency medical care for animals found injured, vaccines, and their spay and neuter program.  A portion of funds will also go towards the building of a new shelter.

5 Ways to Help Rescue Animals at the Shelter

dog

Photo Credit: Cayman Islands Humane Society

1.Adopt or Foster

Looking for a new furry addition to your family?  There are over 100 cats and dogs deserving of a new home and family.  If you are unable to adopt, there is always the option to become a foster parent to a cat or dog in need.  Fostering one of the rescue animals that has undergone surgery or requires special medical attention until they can be paired up with their forever family is a great way to help the animals.  Sometimes, the shelter reaches capacity, and fostering one (or more) of the animals helps give the animals a much needed break.

Visit their website to view the cats and dogs in need of a home, click here 

2. Go Dog Walking Or Visit the Cat Lounge

You can sign up as a volunteer to walk the dogs during weekdays or on the weekends.  You can also play with the cats in their official cat lounge.

3. Read Books

Book lovers, you can contribute to the wellbeing of the animals at the shelter by donating books and purchasing used books from the Book Loft, located above the shelter.  There are so many great books available, and often you can find popular books and relatively new releases.  The Book Loft also sells: board games, cds, and dvds.  Books range from $2-$5.

4. Shop Vintage

Love shopping for vintage clothes? Their Thrift Shop has a collection of clothes, accessories and an assortment of other great finds.

5. Donate 

As a non-profit organization, the Cayman Islands Humane Society depends on generous donations from the public and corporations.   Many donors often choose to sponsor a kennel for either a cat or dog with the option to have a commemorative plaque dedicated in honor of their pets memory.  Another way to donate, is to sponsor the bowl of a cat or dog, you can give as little as $15 a month.  Finally, you can attend fundraisers as a guest or become an official sponsor of the event.

To make an online donation please click here 

Please consider helping the Cayman Islands Humane Society.  The shelter faces many challenges not least the fact that the shelter receives in large numbers of surrendered animals many with medical issues that require a high level of veterinary care.

Upcoming Fundraiser

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Notes: Kiwi and Sparta (cats) are both rescue animals from the Cayman Islands Humane Society.  I adopted them 2 years ago. They are such darlings.

eco blogger on wordpress

Letter from the editor…4 Years Blogging

Hello everyone!

Today, Eco Chic Cayman turns 4.

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey.  I am so very grateful to all my readers.  Thank you to all of my contributors, both photographers and guest writers.  It has been such a pleasure working with you.  I look forward to many more collaborations and thank you for inspiring me.

eco-chic-cayman

Some Lessons Learned Along The Way…

I started this blog when I was still living in Toronto.  I am grateful to this day for my friends encouraging me to start a blog, simply because I loved writing.  It took me a while to decide what I would write about.  I eventually chose to write about something I was passionate about— the environment.  I started blogging because it allowed me to write about topics I was interested in and passionate about.  But, it was more than that. Ultimately, I began this blog with the hope that I could make a difference.  I thought writing about environmental issues and wildlife would allow me to contribute in some way to help raise awareness.  From the start it has been a learning experience, and it continues to be.  I hope I never stop learning.  One of the first major challenges I had was developing my “voice.”  I found over time I developed that, the more I wrote.  I do believe one of the best things you can do for your blog is to be authentic.

I admit, I wished I had put a bit more time and effort into planning out content and developing the vision I had of my blog from the very start.  I just sort of dived into the world of blogging and figured it out as I went along.  Starting out, many days it felt like sink or swim.  I am glad I stuck with it.  I have met so many wonderful people along the way, through writing my articles and following this dream.  This being said, the blog has continued to evolve over the years and will continue to do so.  My hope is that it will continue to grow.  I am happy where it is now, and thankful for the journey.  Now, I am in a place where I am taking more time to plan content, do my best to maintain high quality images, and build a brand so to speak.  Which brings me to another lesson I have learned along the way, quality over quantity.  I wish I could say I posted an article everyday.  I do strive to reach that level or at least close.  But for now, I continue to produce the best content that I can, even if that means posts are sporadic. I think it is far better to have a few quality posts a week than to write a post just for the sake of writing.  Sometimes, life just happens.

Finally, the best lesson I have learned in life and through blogging, is don’t compete, instead collaborate.  Collaboration is such a wonderful thing!  There are so many incredible blogs out there! Many of my favorite blogs inspire and encourage me to continue to keep writing and blogging.  I believe that there is room for all of us.  The beautiful thing about having so many blogs to read from is the diversity in content, writing styles and thoughts.  Everyone has something to contribute and in their own way inspire others.  I am very thankful to have wonderful friends to collaborate with on various projects whether it is writing an article, making a featurette, a photoshoot or even helping them with their blog.  It has been such a humbling experience.  There is so much we can learn from each other, and by sharing our experiences to help others.  Together so much can be accomplished and sometimes things are even better than you could have imagined simply by collaborating with others.

Thank you to everyone who inspires and encourages me.  Special thanks to my readers and to all of you supporting my blog.

with love, xoxo