A Millennial’s Thanksgiving List

Every year around Thanksgiving, I try to make a list of the things for which I’m most thankful. (Isn’t that what good citizens are supposed to do?) OF COURSE we’re thankful for all the F’s––family, friends, food, football, yata yata. This year I decided to dig deeper into my gratitude, specifically from the perspective of a Millennial.

So here’s my attempt to cut through the clutter and say what my generation is really thankful for!

1. Netflix

And not just Netflix, but the Netflix account you share with your cousin’s college roommate’s stepfamily (and somehow it’s always available!). Unlimited episodes of Friends and Gilmore Girls, embarrassingly endearing high school rom coms and addicting documentaries. Amazing.

2. The Chick-fil-A One App

*Sigh.* I can hear the angels singing right now. I bet in a decade or two, our kids will be asking, “What’s a drive thru?” and we’ll answer “It was like curbside pickup, but you couldn’t order ahead, and you had to wait in a long line because your food wasn’t ready. Oh! And we had no way to save points and earn free chicken sandwiches.”

(If you’re still living in darkness, CLICK HERE NOW.)

3. Facebook’s Unfollow Button

Don’t pretend like this isn’t an incredible gift to humanity. Now you can still be “friends” with Great-Aunt Pearl, but hourly updates on her pet parakeet and the occasional photo of her inflamed toenail won’t flood your timeline. (And they really will never know. Thanks, Mark!)

4. Facebook Birthdays

Speaking of Facebook, the birthday reminders have become one of the most compelling reasons not to delete your account completely and commit to Instagram full-time. Can you imagine having to actually remember your friends’ birthdays? Or if we’re really honest, your family members’?!

5. Amazon Prime

An excellent counter-argument to any Santa Claus skeptics. If Amazon can provide free two-day shipping on most products ALL year round, Santa can easily deliver Christmas presents in one night. (Maybe Amazon partners with Santa? Could HQ2 be the North Pole? 😮)

6. Avocados

Toast, guac, a t-shirt. You name it, we can avocado-ify it, and it’s wonderful.

7. Portrait Mode

It’s like the “pretty face” Snapchat filter, but it’s REAL. Now if only Apple can figure out how to enhance photos in a way that applies makeup and styles your hair…

8. Credit Cards and Venmo

On multiple occasions, my parents have strongly expressed how they believe I should carry cash at all times. And I do! I have a Johnny Cash C.D. in the glove compartment of my car 😊. (And yes, Mom and Dad, Venmo is “real” money!)

I thought about including yoga pants and emojis, but they felt very 2014 🤷🏻‍. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this fun list, but I also hope you’ll take some time to reflect on the real (substantial!) things that you’re thankful for this season.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! May everyone enjoy plenty of sweet potato casserole with your favorite preferred topping 😉.

Back to School Reads

Well, usually this post would’ve been about “Summer Reads,” but SOMEHOW summer is already gone! The good news is that you don’t have to be laying out by the poolside or relaxing in the mountains to enjoy a good book. Reading is fun, guys! 🤓 Anyway, here are some of my favorite recent reads:

 1. The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide (Jenna Fischer)

If you are any kind of artist or creative soul, if you’ve ever had a big dream and wonder if you could make it a reality, or if you’re a film and TV nerd like me, you will find this book fascinating. Penned by the adorably charming Jenna Fischer, this book is written to actors who want to make it in Hollywood. I technically wouldn’t fit into this narrow audience, but I can’t tell you how much insight and perspective I gained from her stories in regards to being an aspiring author. (Plus, you will get a behind-the-scenes look at The Office!)

 

 2. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile)

Yep, I have officially drunk the Kool-Aid. Thanks to Annie F. Downs and Anne Holman Smith, I finally plunged into the Enneagram world beyond a 3-minute online quiz, and I get it. Personality quizzes have always been fun (American Girl Magazine, middle school email chains with 102 questions about yourself, etc.), but the Enneagram is different. It doesn’t just tell you who you are at your “home base,” but it also tells you who you can be. I’m a 1 wing 2 (whoop whoop!), but that can look differently when I’m stressed, secure, in growth, under pressure, etc.

Of course, this is not the end-all-be-all for solving all of your problems in life. (That’s Jesus!) But, the Enneagram is a great tool to help you learn about yourself, increase self-awareness and learn how to interact with others in your life.

TAKE THE QUIZ

 3. The Secret Keeper (Kate Morton)

So I read this one on our family beach trip and managed to thoroughly annoy my brother by shouting, “No!” “Oh my word!” “WAIT A SECOND!” about every five minutes, give or take. I couldn’t help it!

Let me backup: The Secret Keeper is a historical fiction piece about a woman who had an idyllic childhood in the English countryside. Oh, except for the fact that at age 16, she witnessed her meek, saintly mother stab a man with no explanation. (The mother knows she saw it and never talked about it.) Now an older actress in her 60s, Laurel returns to her hometown to be with her dying mother and realizes she must solve this mystery before it’s too late. With flashbacks to WWII and storytelling from multiple points of view, this thriller will keep you on your toes (and possibly banned from the family beach setup, if you’re too reactive 😉).

 4. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Francis Chan)

Ooooh this one is good. I actually read this book a few years ago, but it’s the kind you keep on the shelf to pull out again and again in various seasons. The concept of the Holy Spirit can sometimes be difficult to grasp, but rather than run away in fear, Chan embraces this member of the Trinity and shows readers what Scripture really says about this powerful, wonderous Person. (Yes, the Holy Spirit is a person, not a thing!)

 5. Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (J.B. West)

Calling all American history buffs! If you want a fascinating peek inside the White House walls from the Roosevelt to Nixon administrations, this book is for you. Written by J.B. West, chief usher of the White House, this New York Times bestseller is somewhat of an American, political version of Downton Abbey that is historical. Here are a few fun facts:

• The White House had food rations like everyone else during WWII.

• Also during WWII, the Army wanted to paint the White House black so that it would be less of a bomb target.

• Jackie Kennedy almost never wore a dress unless she had company or was in public.

• Nixon’s daughter married Eisenhower’s grandson.

I hope you will try one of the books, and if none of them interests you, go find something that does! Because #ReadingRules 🤓

Happy Nashvilleversary to Me!

It’s hard to believe I’ve lived here almost a full year. I took the picture below when visiting Nashville in April of 2017 on a spontaneous day trip. I remember loving this sign, loving the city and hoping with all my heart that I’d live here one day. And now I do!

Recently a friend recently asked me how long it took for me to feel like I had “arrived,” or finally found my place in this new season in life. My response was, “Oh, I’m not there yet. I’m a lot closer than I was when I started, but I definitely have more to go!”

I’ve written out 10 pieces of advice that have helped me navigate moving to a new city and starting a new season in life. Whether you’re starting a new chapter, beginning a job in a different city or looking to build deeper friendships, I hope you’ll relate to my journey and maybe learn a thing or two!

1. Show up alone.

This may sound terrifying to you, and it kind of is. Remember in high school when it was very uncool to go to the bathroom by yourself? You’ve got to do a complete 180 on this mindset! At first, showing up alone is hard. It’s awkward, it’s weird and it’s SO much easier to convince yourself to stay home and watch Netflix. But if you want to find your people and experience great things, you have to push yourself.

2. Do something brave.

Bouncing off of point #1, find something that you enjoy and DO IT. Well, I should really say try it because you don’t have to stick with it if it’s not a fit. I did theatre throughout high school, and I looooved it. I love to tell stories through acting, and as a kid, I always had a knack for performing. (Please don’t ask my mother for home videos.)

In April, I auditioned for Seussical the musical at a local community theatre. It wasn’t the audition that scared me, but the whole trying something new in a place where I had never been and knew no one 😳. I had no idea what this experience would be like, but I tried it. And I LOVED it.

Can you spot me? I’m a Who!

3. When in doubt, Google it out.

Profound advice, am I right? I’ve found Google to be incredibly useful for questions like, “Can you die from the hiccups? (Thank you, Grey’s Anatomy.) Can you blend without a blender?” and so forth.

Google is also a great source for finding community. Look up different churches around you, read about what they believe, if they have a young adult group, and try them out! Search for ways to get involved with a hobby you enjoy (how I found out about Seussical auditions) or places you can volunteer. Theses activities and communities are not going to show up at your doorstep, so do some digging and take the initiative yourself.

4. Accept that real relationships take time.

I really don’t have to explain this, because we all know it to be true. First, you have to find your friends (which takes time), then you have to get to know your friends (which takes time). When we’re eager for community, it’s easy to get impatient over the fact that knowing people on a deep level doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient! Friendships are coming, they just take time.

5. Have fun and explore!

Did I say I love Nashville? It’s a great city to explore! Last month I got last-minute, cheap tickets to see Third Day’s Farewell tour at the Ryman Auditorium on a Monday night, and I did it. Because why not? I went with my roommate/friend (a great combo) and two new friends from church. We had a blast.

(P.S. – Check out their new album, “Revival.” So good!)

Even if you aren’t in a “big city,” there are plenty of ways to explore where you live. Try out a new restaurant, visit an outdoor park or look for a place to enjoy live music. Open your eyes to what’s around you and be adventurous!

6. Know that your people will be your people.

College was an incredibly sweet time for me. So many of my close friends were just a quick walk across campus or late night Sonic run away, and now we’re spread throughout the country. The beautiful thing about post-college life is watching how true friendships transcend place and time. I may not see someone in-person for months, but when we talk on the phone for an hour or two to catch up, it’s like no time has passed.

People understand that life is busy, and it’s important to be present where you physically are, but that doesn’t take anything away from a good friendship. Plus, it makes real, in-person time spent together all the more sweet!

7. Realize you’re not the only one looking for community.

One time at church, I met a girl who said she had just graduated college and started a new job in Nashville. Instead of immediately blurting out “DO YOU WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?” I chatted with her, you know, like a normal person. After some small talk, the conversation turned to finding community. And what do you know, she was looking for friends too!

It’s a relief to know that you’re not the only person looking to make friends. It makes the entire process less intimidating!

8. Make time for a hobby you know you enjoy.

Adulting, plus living in a new city and trying to make friends, can be tiring and time consuming. Make sure you carve out time for a simple pleasure that you know you will enjoy––baking, reading, exercising, playing an instrument, you name it. A small activity can be infinitely refreshing!

Baking funfetti cupcakes is always a fun pastime!

9. Lean in.

Lean in to connections that you already have in place. If your mother’s cousin’s best friend lives in town and wants to invite you over for dinner, take her up on the offer! Or reconnect with a friend from high school who you haven’t seen in the last few years. Chances are, you have more built-in connections than you may realize. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

I love getting to spend time with my aunt, uncle and cousins who live nearby. Isn’t Caroline a sweetheart?!

10. Remember that no one will love you like God.

We all crave community. We want to find people who understand us, care about us and love us for who we are. While it’s important to pursue relationships with people, we’ll always come back around to an important reality: no person can fill the God-shaped hole inside each one of us.

There are times of loneliness and insecurity, and I won’t sugarcoat it as glamorous. But I’ve found that those tough moments are often what bring me back to the Lord, reminding me that true hope and peace only come from Him.

Ellie Holcomb speaks of this in her song “You Love Me Best.” We can search high and low to find unconditional love, when God, the perfect Father, is waiting for us to run back into His arms. Above all, abide in Him!

IT’S NOT EVERY DAY you have an impromptu duet with Kelly Clarkson, singing one of her original songs in perfect harmony, completely on the spot. Soon Kelly is yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” Two chairs down, Adam Levine is smashing his buzzer in protest and yelling, “Nooooo Kelly!”

That’s exactly what happened when 18-year-old Alexa Cappelli made her blind audition debut during NBC’s The Voice. Out of the two judges, Alexa chose Kelly.

Alexa Cappelli sings “I’ve Got the Music in Me”

“Every preteen loves Kelly Clarkson growing up,” Cappelli said. “I love that she doesn’t stick with one genre. She’s done basically everything, and she could teach me a lot through the experience of being a contestant. Adam is very persuasive, but I had to go with my gut.”

Alexa went on to conquer the Battle Rounds and Knockout Rounds, earning a place in the top 24 overall, and top six on the historic, first-ever Team Kelly. Alexa said the process was an incredible experience, and she was struck by how personal her relationship was with the judges.

“I loved the insight of being able to see that these people we look up to in the media and in music — they’re normal people,” Cappelli said. “And they want to hear about us! Kelly was a great example of being such a great, genuine person. She really poured into us and wanted to hear from us and what we loved about music.”

FRIENDSHIPS & FAITH

In addition to vocal sessions and rehearsals, Alexa got to know Kelly and her team through fun activities like bowling and going to Universal Studios theme park. She also built strong friendships that extend outside the show, particularly with her teammate Brynn Cartelli, and Jackie Foster and Britton Buchanan of Team Alicia. (Brynn and Britton are in The Voice finale, airing May 22.)

“Being able to work alongside Brynn and see her motivation at such a young age… she’s got such a drive that is really inspiring.” Alexa added that she, Brynn and Jackie hope to meet up this summer for a girls trip in Boston.

Jackie was Alexa’s roommate, and the two bonded over their love of music and their shared faith in Christ. One of Alexa’s favorite verses throughout her time on the show was Jeremiah 29:11.

“I had a little rock in the bathroom of our hotel with Jeremiah 29:11 on it,” Alexa said. “I left it there when I went home, so now it’s Jackie’s! She wanted me to take it, but I told her it was hers.”

A few days later, Jackie called Alexa and told her she had been reading over the verse, and she knew she’d be at peace with whatever would happen.

“I love that verse, because it’s all right there,” Alexa said. “If I can see anything into what God has planned for me, [I know] it’s a hope and a future.”

Alexa said that staying grounded throughout the ups and downs of the competition was harder than she realized. “The toughest part was the internal struggle, remembering that this was not about me in any way. This was about me sharing my voice, the gift I’ve been given to share. It’s easy to get caught up in the cameras and music, but you have to keep going. I had to remember I wasn’t there for me.”

She found strength through prayer and reading the Bible. “I had to remember that this is just a step in the big journey that God has planned out, uniquely for me, and for music.”

“That moment that I got sent home, I thought, ‘Okay. I really wanted that [win].’ But I also just had to stop and trust that He has something so much bigger… I don’t know what that is, and it will be a crazy journey finding that through Him.”

WHAT’S NEXT

In a few short weeks, Alexa will graduate from Orange County School of the Arts, where she attended despite the 1.5 hour one-way commute. This fall she will study music business at Cal Poly Ponoma, a short thirty minutes from her home.

Alexa is excited to spend more time with her family and friends during this new season. She will also continue to be involved in Steven’s Hope for Children, a non-profit organization run by her parents that helps families of seriously injured children. Additionally, she plans to spend the summer writing and producing new music.

“I think the time to look out for new music would be the fall of this year,” Alexa said. “I’d love to get an EP out, and that’s my vision. So look out for that soon!”

To keep up with Alexa on Instagram and Twitter at @alexacappelli and through her website at alexcappelli.com.

Less Is Best: Counterintuitive Lessons on Control

Last week I had lunch with a new friend at an adorable restaurant in Downtown Franklin called the Mercantile. (It’s the cutest soup, sandwich and salad shop you could imagine, and they always have fresh flowers in blue mason jars sitting on top of each table. Very Joanna Gaines!)

My friend and her family are adopting a baby boy from China, and I couldn’t wait to hear the latest details about their upcoming trip to bring their son home. Their adoption story is filled with such joy, love, prayer and patience. This brave calling also requires accepting a lot of unknowns about the future.

At one point, I asked her, “How do you do it? How do you manage all of these unknowns, especially when they involve people you care about so much?”

She paused, understanding the weight of my question.

“Not knowing just makes me rely on God all the more,” she replied, then added, “and that’s not a bad thing.”

Bam.

What a message! My friend hit the nail on the head in describing a theme that God has been teaching me lately:

Not knowing can be good. Not understanding is okay. Not having control helps us yield our desires to Him, which is actually where they should be in the first place.

I don’t know about you, but the whole “less is more” concept when it comes to control is strongly counterintuitive to me. In my own little ideal world, I would make plans, lay out a strategy and ask God, “Does this sound good to You? Yes? Great!”

But guess what, guys? I am not God. This realization is a human-wide struggle goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve thought they had the right to know as much God.

God knew what was best for them. He loved them. They didn’t need to understand everything to trust that His plan was right and good.

Furthermore, they didn’t deserve to understand everything.

Yielding our rights, expectations and understandings to God is a difficult but beautiful process. It brings us back to where we’re meant to be. The more we let go of ourselves, the more we are able to embrace the Gospel of Christ and live the good life — the best life — that God has prepared for us.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, CSB).

I wish I could say that my bedroom looked like this. (Actually, this isn’t even my bedroom. Thanks, Pottery Barn and Pinterest, for utterly gorgeous and utterly unrealistic home decor inspiration.)

Unfortunately, my bedroom looked this this:

Yikes! I kind of can’t believe I just posted this disaster on the Internet. However, I snapped a picture of this mess because I knew I wanted to write a blog about this lesson that God has been teaching me lately.

You see, I made the conscious choice to leave my room in cluttered chaos before leaving for work because I chose to spend that time with the Lord instead. It was one of those mornings where I simply didn’t have enough time in the day, and one of the following things had to give:

  1. My appearance
  2. A beautiful, organized bedroom
  3. Time with God
  4. Coffee and breakfast

(Okay, we’re going to go ahead and rule out the idea of giving up coffee and breakfast, because those are quite literally the fuel for the rest of the items above.)

So, let’s look at item #1, appearance. I could go to work without wearing makeup or fixing my hair, but honestly, I know that’s not going to happen. Why? Because I care about what other people think of me. And in some sense, rightly so! I am a #yopro (that’s cool lingo for “young professional”), and it’s important that I represent myself and my company well. So showing up to work looking like a pale ghost with Lizzie-McGuire-esque crimped hair is probably not the best idea.

That moves us to item #2, an organized bedroom with all clothing tucked away in its respective drawers and decorative pillows in their proper places. If fixing my appearance is to please other people, then fixing up my bedroom is to please ME. You know that feeling when you walk out your bedroom door, glance back at your Pinterest-perfect bedroom and gently sigh. Ahh, you think. Joanna Gaines would be so proud. That’s a great way to start a workday, and it leaves you feeling good about your life. For a little while.

But, without item #3, somehow the good feelings from your adorable outfit and nice makeup and organized bedroom (and even the coffee and breakfast) don’t last long. I recently read a story in Luke when Jesus went to visit his friends who were sisters named Mary and Martha:

 

Every time I read this story, I think, I am such a Martha. I am a PLANNER. A Walmart-list-maker. A person who loves to make others feel comfortable in my home. What if JESUS–Jesus Himself–came to visit my house? I can guarantee that I’d be frantically running around, making sure He was comfortable, preparing a delicious meal and cleaning up wherever I could. And if I looked over in the living room and saw my brother Andrew sitting on the rug, listening to Jesus, doing nothing to help clean up? Oooh… that would not sit well with me!

But what does Jesus say? “Martha, Martha,”––or put your name in there––”Rachel, Rachel, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.”

The truth is, I am anxious and troubled about many things. And we will ALWAYS be anxious or troubled in some way or another. But only one thing is necessary. Jesus ends the story saying, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” What did Mary choose? She chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teaching.

Oh friends, what a privilege it is to hold the words and teachings of Jesus in the palm of our hands. I know I fall short of spending time as much time with Jesus as I should. In fact, I’m sometimes hesitant to post blogs like this, because I do NOT want to seem like I have it all figured out. I wish I could say that I spent plenty of time with the Lord every day, but in reality, I’m still learning this lesson. And each time I choose to spend time with Him over “things,” I’m reminded again that He is infinitely more precious than a pretty outfit or a pretty room.

What are the many things that are making you anxious and troubled? How can you choose to prioritize time with the Lord this week? Write out small steps of ways to put Jesus first, and see how He blesses your time in His Word.

 

It’s no secret that I love reading and writing about people’s stories. I’ve recently gone through three top-notch autobiographies from some of my favorite people in the entertainment industry. If you like them on-screen or on the radio, don’t hesitate to pick up or download a copy of their book. Enjoy!

The Magnolia Story (Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino)

Aren’t they the cutest? This book rewinds to the beginning of Chip and JoJo’s love story, which is just as sappy-sweet and comical as you would imagine. Both innovators at heart, Chip and Joanna take readers through the ups and downs of how they launched their one-of-a-kind careers, all while beautifully giving credit to God and His sovereign plan for their lives.

One of my favorite parts? The story of how Chip surprised JoJo by spending their extra money on a decrepit houseboat. This disastrous move on Chip’s part is what actually landed them a reality TV pilot.

Talking As Fast As I Can (Lauren Graham)

It sounds impossible, but I propose that you’ll walk away from this book loving Lauren Graham herself even more than the beloved Lorelai Gilmore or Sarah Braverman. Lauren is smart, witty, classy, down-to-earth, clean, funny, and oh so entertaining. You feel like she’s your best friend. (We ARE best friends, right, LG?) You’ll relish Lauren’s hilarious tales about skipping kindergarten, living on a houseboat, working in The Theatah (no thea-teeeer), being single (and why that’s okay), and of course, making Gilmore Girls and Parenthood.

One of my favorite parts? Advice from Old Lady Jackson. Lauren writes,

“Old Lady Jackson is a character I made up when I started catching myself giving advice–initially to Mae and Miles on the Parenthood set–that sounded like it came from your grayhaired grandma who spends her days in a rocking chair knitting your scratchy socks you pretend to love at Christmas. By creating this character, who was obviously very, very, very far away from myself, I hoped to confuse Mae and Miles, among others, into thinking that while I might sometimes seem to offer suggestions that could be considered a tad ‘old-timey,’ they weren’t actually coming from me…”

I think I have a little bit of “Old Lady Jackson” in myself, so this chapter was particularly comical to me. (Again, because Lauren and I are besties. Right?)

When God Doesn’t Fix It (Laura Story with Jennifer Schuchmann)

In contrast to the other two books I mentioned earlier, this autobiography carries a serious tone and many difficult truths. You might recognize the artist Laura Story from her radio hits like “Blessings” and “What a Savior,” but you probably don’t know about her personal hardships.

Laura began an unexpected journey only one year into her marriage, when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. What initially seemed to be a “next surgery will fix it” situation turned into a realization that Laura’s husband would likely have serious memory issues for the rest of his life.

One of my favorite parts? Laura concludes each chapter with a myth and a truth. My favorite is, “MYTH: God can only use my story when there is a happy ending. TRUTH: God can use my story when I trust him in the journey.”

Laura tackles the topic of our “happily ever after” mindset, sharing how she learned to praise God in the midst of grievous trials.

•••

There you have it, friends! As always, I love to hear your thoughts on these books and on YOUR favorite biographies. Happy reading!

 

Friends, I am thrilled to introduce you to the super-talented, yellow-wearing, fun-loving, Erin Robertson! Erin is the WINNER of Project Runway Season 15, and I am honored to have her as my latest “Celeb Sit Down” guest.

Throughout the season, Erin won the hearts of Project Runway’s fans (and judges!) with her bubbly personality and out-of-the-box designs. After speaking with Erin, I can attest to her genuine, upbeat spirit and creative enthusiasm.

One thing that distinguished Erin from the other contestants was her bold use of color and willingness to take risks. I asked Erin if she ever got nervous before facing the judges (Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen).

“I really respect the main three judges. I was never nervous! I love critique and positive feedback,” Erin said, adding that she doesn’t view anything as “negative” feedback. “It never scared me.”

Erin also spoke highly of Project Runway host and mentor Tim Gunn, who encouraged Erin to stay true to her personal style. “I think his role is to test you to make sure you’re being you. Not telling you who you are or who you aren’t, but making comments that make you think. “

More than once, Tim was concerned about Erin finishing her look in time for the runway show. However, Erin said that working under a time crunch is one of her strengths.

“I knew I had a good chance of winning because I know how I work under pressure,” Erin said. “I’m a positive procrastinator, so a lot of times I leave things until the last minute, and then I whip it out!

For Erin, the hardest part of the competition was working in a different environment without the collaborative influence of her friends from home.

“I talk to my friends everyday, and when I work in the studio, I always get their feedback,” Erin said. “I’m very community driven, so I had to create this new community with these people who I’m competing with. But I was really lucky. Honestly, I loved everyone.”

As part of the series finale, Erin and three other contestants presented a 10-piece collection at New York Fashion Week.

“There’s so much that goes on behind the camera,” Erin said. “We woke up at 2 a.m., and they started filming morning reality at 3.” After hours of prepping models and rehearsing the show, the finalists presented their collections and collapsed backstage for a much-needed nap. “We woke back up, and they said they were going to announce the winner. We were all delirious! That’s the funny thing, and no one knows it.”

And that’s when Heidi Klum spoke the words Erin longed to hear: “Erin, you are the winner of Project Runway Season 15!”

Erin spent the evening celebrating with her parents, two best friends and other contestants from the show. She is currently in the process of receiving the Project Runway prize package, which she plans to use to purchase studio space and equipment.

Born and raised in Utah, Erin moved to Boston after high school and worked as a dental assistant before attending Massachusetts College of Art and Design to study fashion and fiber art.

“I did fashion when I was in high school,” Erin said. “I made my own prom dress and whatnot. Then I took a break because I didn’t think I could make money as a fashion designer. I wasn’t raised on the idea that you could go to art school and make money, or even that art school existed.”

In Boston, Erin worked in a dental research lab under Dr. Porsche, the woman who became her mentor. “I ended up assisting her in the lab for two years and doing all of these crazy of experiments,” Erin said. “I think that’s where I learned a lot of craft. I learned tenacity, that if you don’t do something right, you have to do it again. Failure is not an option.”

Erin’s design aesthetic can be described as playful and humorous, and she is a master at the art of unconventional materials. (One of my favorite pieces from the season was Erin’s dress made with meal worms and guitar pics. Amazing!)

“Part of my work is taking something and hiding what it’s original state is. I think [unconventional materials] are a challenge, but I like a challenge…” Erin said. “I find humor in that.”

Known for her signature yellow, Erin says that she has always been a fan of bold colors. “Even when I was a dental assistant, I would wear bubblegum pink scrubs when everyone else would wear black.” She often uses the banana motif, which Erin said was inspired from a cell phone case she got a few years ago.

“Do you still have that case?” I asked.

“I’m talking to you on it right now!” Erin replied.

One of my last questions to Erin was, “If you could be anything other than a fashion designer, what would you be?”

After careful consideration, Erin answered, “I don’t see myself as just a fashion designer. I don’t like to put myself in just one category. I want to be a bunch of stuff. That’s why I say I’m just a human!”

In the future, Erin plans to find a live-work space in Cambridge and continue studying sustainable textiles and innovating fabric development. You can keep up with Erin and her creative endeavors on Instagram at @an_erin, or visit her website, erinrobertsonart.com.

 

“Do you ever wish that we had a perfect Christmas tree?” Mom asked me a few years ago.

“ABSOLUTELY NOT ARE YOU CRAZY I LOVE OUR TREE OUR TREE IS PERFECT NO WAY!” I answered. Or something along those lines.

Let me step back and explain: Our tree is perfect, or at least it is in my eyes. Mom was referring to the kind of tree you see at the center of the mall or on display at Pottery Barn. The kind of tree that has a trendy color scheme, matching ornaments and a cohesive theme.

Our tree is what I call a “hodge podge collage” of everything. Oh, we have the gorgeous glass-blown crystals and the Pottery Barn glittery Santas. But we also have handmade macaroni preschool ornaments and the cheesy snowman that sings when you press the button on his piano.

I love our Christmas tree because each ornament tells a story. Let me share with you some of my favorite hodge podge ornaments and why they mean so much to me. Click through the photo gallery below (arrows on the sides), and read the descriptions underneath!

Arthur and D.W.

Arthur and D.W., my all-time favorites! “Arthur’s Christmas” was one of the books I could recite before I could read. Today when I read it to my cousin Caroline, I love the familiar cadance that easily flows from 20 years of long-term memory. This ornament features siblings Arthur and D.W. in their signature pj’s on the Read’s mint green living room rug. While they’re usually caught up in the latest sibling rivalry, Arthur and D.W. share a sweet moment eating sugar cookies on Christmas Eve.

Macaroni Ornaments

We’re pretty cute, if I do say so myself! I especially love my macaroni ornament because I’m smiling. If you come to my house and look through my early childhood photo albums, you’ll understand why this smile is so rare! I was a fairly serious child, and for some reason, I was hard-pressed to offer a photogenic smile. Andrew, on the other hand, could’ve been an OshKosh B’gosh model. What a cutie!

The Night Before Christmas

The best part about this ornament? It’s a real book! You can read the entire story in size 2.5 Times New Roman font. I always wanted Dad to read the book to us, a request that’s become increasingly more difficult with the passing years. It’s still fun to try!

Lakeside

I have always said that if I had to point to one physical place on the earth that I would call “home,” it would be Lakeside. Here is where I grew up, learned about Jesus and learned what it means to walk through life with Him as Lord. I could probably write a whole book about what Lakeside means to me, but I’ll just say this: I am eternally grateful for this family of faith who has played such a huge role in making me the person I am today. Thank you, Lord!

The Schoolhouse

I LOVE school! And I’m not kidding. In fact, only having one more semester of college is slightly alarming and definitely sad… Will YouTube tutorials be enough to further my education?! Anyway, Mom gave me this ornament the year I started kindergarten, and I love adding it to the tree each year.

Mom and Dad’s First Christmas

Aren’t they adorable? I especially love this ornament because our first house had green shutters just like these. Boy am I thankful for these two!

The Little Pianist

Mom got this ornament when she was a child. Every December, we pull out our Christmas duet book and attempt to clunk through a few holiday tunes. If you come visit us, you might convince us to play “Frosty the Snowman.” Expect to hear Mom’s disclaimer (“We haven’t played this in forever, so we’ll probably mess up!”) and my favorite saying to Mom, “SLOW DOWN!” All jokes aside, we both love the piano. Hopefully this ornament will pass on through the family line!

Baby’s 1st Christmas

Remember when I said I didn’t smile for pictures as a child? Yeah. This started day 1, literally! We always laugh at this photo and joke that I was ready to knock out anyone who got in my way. Don’t mess with Baby Rachel!

Big Ben

I love London. It’s incredible. Go if you haven’t been. It’s amazing. That’s all.

Andrew’s Cross

I’ve saved the best ornament for last: Andrew’s cross. When Andrew was a baby, he began having severe GI issues when he was only a few weeks old. The doctors had never seen a baby like this before, and the issue became very serious. Mom and Dad bought this ornament from the hospital gift shop during December. They wanted a reminder that God was in control, sovereign over the situation and holding little Andrew in His hands. Later, Andrew had gallbladder surgery at 10 weeks old, and he has been healthy ever since. This ornament reminds us of God’s amazing faithfulness and goodness, and we thank Him for giving us Andrew. Only Andrew can put this ornament on the tree!

 

And that, my friends, is why I love my Christmas tree. I wish you and your families a Messy Merry Christmas! Now go make some hodge podge collage memories of your own!


 

It’s no secret that Christmas is my favorite time of the year! Unfortunately, we only have 20 more days where it’s socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music. I’ve put together a playlist entitled “Mix & Match Christmas” with some of my favorite, lesser-known Christmas songs. While these songs may not be top 20 on the radio, they are fantastic and well-deserving of a download! Enjoy!