Holiday Event at Madewell!

Remember the event I got to host at Madewell last summer?! Well....it was so fun we're doing it again! It's always slightly terrifying when you get asked to host these things because there's the fleeting chance NOBODY shows up to your party BUT I love them so much it's worth the discomfort of the unknown. Party details belooooooooooow! 

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Here's that pretty truck again! Matt and I keep saying we need to start an Instagram account of all the amazing old vehicles you see around PDX. And in case you were curious....I'm wearing a Madewell Northfield Mockneck sweater + Cali Demi Boot jeans

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So here's your official invite! 

Come hang with me at the BRIDGEPORT Madewell on Sunday, December 17 from 2-4 pm! 
Sips + sweets + special IN STORE DISCOUNTS to treat yourself this holiday season! It's sweater season, y'all!
So bring a friend (or 5!) and come hang!
Husbands + babies + significant others welcome!

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Ending with an outtake. Out take?! How do you even spell that?! Hope to see you there, Portland buddies!!! Now back to our full week of Christmas parties galore. THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR!

PS. Photos by my sweet man. <3

Alice + Whittles & Our New House!

You guys! We got a house! A real live 2 bedroom totally Portland style cottage house in our favorite neighborhood! Ok, so we're just renting BUT finding an affordable rental home in a PDX neighborhood you love is like winning the grownup olympics, yafeelme?! We got all moved in last weekend and we're in L O V E.
Plus, have I mentioned it's across the street from my favorite taco + margs shop?! Hallelujah! 

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Now, let's talk about something else super Portland. RAINBOOTS! I never imagined the amount of gear needed when moving to this city. Solid rain gear is a must to endure the 7+ months of gloom and rainclouds. I first came across Alice + Whittles rainboots when I saw them on my sweet friend, Kathryn, and knew I had to have them.
LOOK AT THOSE SOLES! I can't handle it. I cannot. 

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Not only are they gorgeous but also ethically made! Alice + Whittles is a lifestyle brand, it favours transparency, ethical manufacturing practices and worker empowerment as a means of creating long-lasting, positive change. Y'all KNOW I love a brand who helps make the world a better place. Horana, Sri Lanka is where the story of the boots began. They have a long-term relationship with a trusted, family-run factory that provides fair pay, safe work conditions, and support to their community. They take responsibility for their complete supply chain, all the way back to its raw materials. They use natural rubber from farms that are certified and audited by the Fair Rubber Association. I've been wearing these babies non-stop for about three weeks and they have my complete vote! 

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Good news if you're eyeing these boots! TODAY is the last day to take advantage of their Cyber Monday sale! 70% off of select styles! This GORGEOUS red pair is only $48!! Sale ends tonight so run, run, run! 

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Sidenote....this truck is parked just around the corner from our house and you better believe it's going to be showing up in a looooot of posts. Instagrammers DREAM come true around here.

(And if you're the owner, I swear I wasn't even touching it....just barely leaning, like my body never grazed it type of lean so we're all good.)

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The Internet can be a pretty magical place, especially when it connects you with amazing companies with hearts of pure gold. I've really loved getting to know the crew behind Alice + Whittles and it's an honor to tromp through the rain in these gorgeous boots while representing this company. They're good people. And I have a thing for good people. 

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There are TONS of styles and colors. Check them out and save while you still can! Time is running ooooooout!!
(Lol, but how funny are the super dramatic Black Friday/Cyber Monday ads?! But like for real you should hurry though because time is actually ticking.) 

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Hope you had a glorious holiday weekend. I'm thankful for so many beautiful things in my life. Especially my precious husband who always says yes when I drag him outside to take my photos while prancing through leaves and waterfalls and neighborhoods. I've got one swell fella. 

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Don't forget to check out Alice + Whittles! You'll love them. Cross my heart. 

Photos by the sexy husband of my dreams, Matthew William. 
Boots gifted by Alice + Whittles but all opinions are my own. 

Elevate Your Wardrobe + Sseko Designs!

It's FALL!! Ohmuhgoodness, the most wonderful time of the year. Maybe it's the vanilla latte I just consumed with jack-o-lantern latte art or the trees showing off in a major way but I'm feeling that autumn goodness real good. Judge if you will but Matt even took me on a date to Trader Joe's where I was able to fill the cart with every pumpkin flavored item my little fall pumping heart could handle. B L I S S! 

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Portland is one sexy city during this season. I've been traveling to the PNW for the last 10 years during October and the charm never wears off. People are loveliest when they're bundled head to toe in cozy scarves, jackets, hats, etc. I'm sure of it. So maybe it's about to rain for 8 months straight? WHO CARES BECAUSE I JUST HAD JACK-O-LANTERN LATTE ART!?

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While we're on the subject of fall fashion, let's chat about elevating your wardrobe when you're in a raincoat 97% of the time. Sseko Designs has designed a gorgeous fall line that's perfect for layering over sweaters. I'm wearing the Brass Tassel Necklace and can I get an amen for that fringe?! Blaaaaaargh, cutest! (And ethically made!!!) Turtle neck and jeans are blaw no more. Pop on some brass tassel-y goodness and I'm out the door ready for happy hour.
(I talk about happy hours a lot around here. It's like my thing.)

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Every purchase you make with Sseko helps women, like my Sole Sister Shakira, have a brighter future! Read Shakira's story here! Have you thought about joining the Sseko team?! By becoming part of the Sseko Fellows tribe, you can earn an income while sharing the Sseko story and selling gorgeous products to your community ALL while earning your Sole Sister an additional scholarship for University. Some seriously good karma about to come your way.

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Peace, love + all those fall feels. I hope you're snuggling in for an autumn straight out of Stars Hollow.

All photos taken in SE Portland by my boo thang, Abby Tohline. 

You're Invited! Come hang at Madewell!

I've been hearing Madewell buzz for quite some time but never fully dove in. I've owned a couple of Madewell items which I purchased from a thriftstore but had formed this mental block thinking their clothes weren't really for me. Ok ok ok, now I publicly apologize for that thought! They're SO great! 

Which is why I was thrilled when Madewell reached out and asked me to host an event at their Bridgeport location. And the best part is that YOU are invited! So come hang out this Sunday, April 30th from 2-4 pm! Sips, snacks + 20% off discount if you spend $125 or more! Excited to meet new folks and mingle with my buddies. Bring your friends, lovers, babies, whoever! Should be super fun! 

And don't forget....Bridgeport. I'll make the short drive worth it by repaying you in hugs. 

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Wearing: jeans, sweater, shoes, bandana

Photos by: Abby Tohline

Sseko Designs + Sseko Fellows Spotlight!

It's no secret that I LOVE  Sseko Designs. I received an invitation to hang out at their Portland offices about a year ago and instantly fell in love with the gorgeous products plus the story behind Sseko. And, might I say, this crew is a total blast to hang out with! Laughs on laughs whenever I spend time with them. I'm never letting them go. 

Sseko Designs is a fashion brand based in Uganda. Through the sale of beautiful handbags, accessories and leather sandals, they create opportunity and community for women globally. They believe that every woman has a dream. When she has the opportunity to pursue those dreams, we are collectively walking towards a brighter, more just and beautiful world.

Their spring line is INSANE! Gorgeous tans + pinks + golds. Here are a few of my absolute favorite pieces! Did a backyard photoshoot with Abby Tohline, obviously. And yes we do have matching sandals. #bff? And yes, my backyard really does look like this. The most heavenly magnolia tree you ever did see is right outside our window. 

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Links to gorgeous Sseko products featured:
sandals, necklace, dusty rose clutch, caramel cosmetics bag

Sseko creates stunning goods with an innovative business model that enables women in Uganda to attend university and pursue their dreams. Sseko products are sold by Sseko Fellows (like my sweet friend @ssekofellowmish!), who are a bright and bold community of dreamers and doers, who are using their passion and smarts to send women in Uganda to college and earn an income to pursue their own dreams.

Michelle has been a good friend of mine for 10+ years! We knew each other in Texas and now her and her beautiful family live in Portland! She's girl bossing big time with the Fellows program and I wanted to share a bit of her story in case any of you might be interested in joining this amazing company + making some cash on the side! 

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Hey, Mish! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi y'all, I'm a mama, graphic designer, wifey from Portland, Oregon (originally from Texas - that's right).  I'm also a Sseko Fellow, and I am basically crazy about Sseko Designs and their mission. 

You're a Sseko Fellow! So...what does that mean?
A Sseko fellow is a representative for Sseko Designs. Sseko's mission is to help bright, young women in Uganda go to college. There's a 9 month gap to save money in between high school and college. The problem is there is not a lot of opportunity for girls to get a job and save money during that time. Sseko provides sustainable, fair-wage employment to these women so they can pursue their wildest dreams. Sseko sells beautiful, ethically-made and sourced leather bags and sandals!

Why did you become a Sseko fellow?
I became a fellow because I loved Sseko's product and mission and needed to make some extra money for my sweet family.

Can you tell me more about your Sole Sister, Shakira, and what that means? 
Shakira loves art and design, and she hopes to visit Switzerland one day. She likes horror films and spicy flavored snacks. She says with every challenge comes opportunity! I love being connected to another woman across the globe. We are all connected, and this is a direct way I can make an impact from Oregon!

Fave Sseko product? And fave from the new spring line?
My favorite Sseko product is the crossover sandal. So comfy and minimalist and sophisticated! My favorite spring product is the Adventuress backpack. It's beautiful and holds all the things!

Why are you passionate about Sseko Designs?
I LOVE their heart for women in Uganda, and women everywhere. They are a company committed to people and making the world a bit better one Sseko graduate at a time. It's just so rewarding to work for a company of this caliber.

Any advice for someone that's thinking of becoming a Fellow?
Don't hesitate! Just try it out! Worst case, it's not for you. I gave myself 3 months to see if I could do it or not, and I ended up being more passionate and excited about it than before.

What's the commitment level?
You can be as committed to it as you want. You can have a party every week or once a month. You set your own schedule and your own goals. It's great being your own boss and having freedom over your schedule/time! If you have a good community, then it's easier to jump in and make things happen. Friends have been my biggest cheerleaders, and I love seeing them strut their Sseko style all over Portland. Feel free to reach out to me with questions, mdavis@ilivetocreate.com

What has been the most rewarding part about being a Sseko Fellow? 
Connection is the most rewarding thing. Being connected to women with big hearts (other Sseko fellows and customers) is a huge plus. I love connecting with women here that have a passion for ethical shopping and for women!

See? This sweet lady is an angel! Thanks, Mish!
Interested in becoming a Sseko Fellow? Find more information here
To purchase some beautiful (and ethically made) Sseko goodies of your own, shop here!

Be sure to check out my Instagram this week because I'm hosting a fun Sseko giveaway! 
One final shoutout to Abby Tohline for the gorgeous photos!! Hire her! :)
Bye bye for now! 

Bryr Clogs + Portland Spring!

I do believe the winter is finally over! We survived!! Portland seasons seem to change overnight. You go to sleep on a typical rainy winter evening and wake up to pure springtime glory! The magnolia in our backyard is blooming ANY minute. I keep peeking to make sure she doesn't blossom while I'm looking away. It's that intense around here. And when springtime comes? Ditch those insulated rainboots and slip on some springtime inspired clogs. I'm CRAZY about my beautiful Bryr's

Bryr Studio is a collection of BEAUTIFUL hand-made clogs inspired by the West Coast lifestyle. Based out of their workshop in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco, every pair of Bryr clogs are hand-made by Isobel and her small team. Dedicated to the simple idea that the best products are made with the best materials, Bryr clogs are constructed using the strongest and most supple American leathers, and traditional European solid wood bases. I'm wearing the prettiest Emma crossover in Blush and they go with everything! Plus, I'm obsessed with this color just like everyone else in the world right now. It's that good! 

Feeling pretty PNW these days. A raincoat for every season, driving a Subaru, perfect pair of clogs. Check! We've been living here a tad over a year and Portland feels more and more like home. Matt is made for this city and he's thriving on a whole new level. So proud of my sweet man! And now that we have survived our first official winter we're sold on being around longterm! Ahhh!! 

Springtime, you're a life giving season. We'll take all the sunshine, pleeeeeeeease! Be sure to check out Bryr Clogs to see even more beautiful styles!

And a huge thank you to my gal Abby Tohline for these gorgeous photos. She's just the best! 

Let's Have a Brunch Party!

Shouldn't brunch be a national holiday by now!? There's not a better way to spend the morning with some of your best girls than over fruit covered waffles, mimosas & donuts. Tis the season of party throwing & social gatherings, so let's chat about all things brunchy! Recently, some friends & I had a chance to throw an intimate brunch party & of course Abby beautifully documented the morning. Plus, she also did the cooking! 

What exactly do you need to throw a fabulous brunch gathering? It's a lot easier than you think! First, find the perfect location! If you're like me, you don't have a home large enough to host any type of function larger than four people. But don't let that stop you! Many apartments have public spaces (like this one) that can be rented for a small fee. You'd be surprised at the resources available in your own neighborhood if you just ask around. 

Second, make it beautiful! It's worth the time & effort it will take to beautify your space. And your friends are totally worth it, right?! Most of the home decor used in our brunch party can be found at The Circular, a gorgeous online shop full of beautifully curated items. The gals who own The Circular scour the globe & their backyards for goods they love. Items that are as functional as they are aesthetic, & versatile as they are authentic: The everydays, the new classics, the favorites. 

And can we talk about the GORGEOUS greenery for a second?! Our sweet friend, Bailey, from Forest and Field put together this garland as our centerpiece, as well as the place setting decoration & florals. Looking for somebody who has major skill with floral design? Bailey is your girl. Plus, she did the flowers for my wedding so I'm mega partial. 

Next step? My most FAVORITE part! The guest list! Is it ok to invite people who don't know each other? Absolutely! For some of the ladies here, it was their first time to meet one another & we had a total blast! I think it helped that we were all involved in some type of creative business so the conversation was easy & also inspiring. I love gathering around a table with souls who will leave me feeling refreshed & give me life. We all do! And sometimes you can be the bridge to help create lasting friendships. It's such a sweet thing to watch unfold. 

Last but certainly not least, the menu! Do any of your guests have food allergies? I like to keep brunches EpiPen free. Once you've got that info, start putting together the goodness. Abby made delicious gluten free waffles with fruit & whipped cream, we had mini donuts from Pip's & berries with yogurt! Plus, mimosas! You don't have to spend a fortune on food & you also don't need to have a huge variety of options. Sweet, simple & tasty so you can spend your time hanging with your people. And an easy cleanup? Sold. 

A super special thank you to The Circular, who so thoughtfully sponsored this post. Make sure you stop by their shop while you're Christmas shopping! They have something for everyone! Another thank you to Abby Tohline for these gorgeous photos & those insanely good waffles. Hire her, people. Just do it. And the florals? Bailey, you're one talented soul. You can hire her, too. Find out more here.

Happy brunching, friends! And feel free to send an invite this way while you're making that guest list. ;) 

Shaggy Rugs + A Giveaway!

We're unabashedly carpet people. We just are. The comfort and coziness of it can't be beat. But, I'll admit, wall to wall carpet isn't the sexiest decorating choice. When we moved into our Portland apartment, we were thankful our place had brand new carpet but also slightly bummed that it was so dark. Give us all the natural brightness, please. 

After thinking about it a while (just a couple of slow processors over here), we decided to give a light colored rug a try! Would it be weird over carpet? Maaaaaybe, but it was worth a shot. I had seen Rugs USA all over the interwebs and reached out about working together. They're wonderful!! Plus, they have gorgeous, affordable styles for any home situation. We picked out this lovely fella and waited in anticipation. 

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It arrived SUPER fast and in great packing condition. There was no weird smell (uhh, yes I worry about those things) and the packaging was clean! All we had to do was cut it open and unroll! Easy as can be. 

But THIS was the real moment of truth. Would it be too light? Would it be soft enough?! Matt is particularly choosy about his comfort level, you guys. If it's not soft enough to nap on? It won't pass Arbo inspection. If it sheds everywhere? No thanks. If you can't vacuum often? We don't want it. BUT THIS LOVELY RUG PASSED WITH FLYING COLORS! Arbo approved. 

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We are so happy with how it it looks! And feels! And brightens up the room! A few things to note when decorating with rugs over carpet:

1) Measure, measure, measure. Make sure your furniture has enough room to fit on top of the rug without feeling cramped. 

2) Play around with textures and patterns! Mix wool, silks, shag, all the things! And don't be afraid to bring multiple different patterns into one space. I don't think I can count the amount of shapes we have in this room but they make us super happy. Plus, bold patterns make the room look larger! Don't ask me how. It's magic. 

3) The shaggier the rug, the more you'll have to clean it For now, it's just Matt and I in our cozy little space. No babies. No animals. Just lots of friends who pass by and crash on our couch. (Our living room also doubles as the guest room.) We have a pretty good handle on the neat and tidy so lighter color with lots of shag wasn't a huge issue for us. We'll keep you updated on that part. ;) 

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Ahhh, a cozy rug just in time for fall. We'll be cuddled up here well into the winter. Also, the amazing crew at Rugs USA is offering a $200 credit for one of YOU!! Check out the giveaway happening on my Instagram for a chance to get your own comfy rug. And thanks again, Rugs USA!! You guys sure know how to make somebody happy. Now what other space can I cover in gorgeous rugs?! Bedroom, dining room, bathroom?! So many options. So little time. 

Happy fall, everyone!! 
xo!

-Photos by Matt Arbo (my handsome fella!)
-Wearing the most comfortable, army green jumper in the world from Grass Stains Boutique

Albion Fit

I'm in a season of life where dressing for the day needs to be cute enough to go out in public but practical enough to hop on and off a motorcycle, grab last minute happy hour with friends or be ready to hike through a waterfall all within a moment's notice. Not quite the easiest task but probably the most fun way to handle our day to day. Thankfully, I discovered Albion Fit and problem solved. Beautiful and comfortable looks that will pass the Oregon lifestyle test. Motorcycle riding, jogging, brunching, waterfall hiking and work meeting approved. 

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I asked my handsome fella to snap a few photos in our little home. This black + white flag is seriously the best backdrop a gal could wish for. I'm wearing Albion's Love Racer tank in black and it's ridiculously comfie. Perfect for lounging, yoga or hiking! Find it here
PS. I'll worry about my roots later, yall. Natural ombre is so 2016, right?! 

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Now let's move on to the leggings. Are you kidding me with this print?! They're even more gorgeous in person. These are the Antigua Extended Legging and you can find them here. Not that it matters (ok, it totally matters) but I get compliments every.single.time I wear them out. Every time, you guys. I could live in these leggings forever.

The lovely + talented Abby Tohline helped me capture these beauties. She's good with a camera, right?! We all need an Abby in our life. Just like we all need a good pair of leggings. 

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Thanks again to the lovelies at Albion Fit! You gals are the coolest. 

Photo cred:
Matt Arbo
Abby Tohline

Sseko Designs

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One of my favorite things about Instagram has been the ability to partner with companies who are doing really incredible things. Companies that are making a difference by helping people meet needs and giving them a chance to have a better, safer life. Sseko Designs approached me a few months ago and asked me to share their story. The more I've learned about this company and their products, the more I've totally fallen in love with their mission. Sseko Designs is a fashion brand based in Uganda. They create the most beautiful leather bags, shoes and sandals. One of the coolest parts of every Sseko purchase is that they come with a handwritten tag telling you the name of the woman who made your product. In a world where most things are mass produced, it's a thoughtful touch knowing your item has a story of it's own and a name to go with that story. Check out this video to learn more about the Sseko company. 

Sseko began as a way to generate income for talented young women to continue on to university. And it is working! Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursuing her college degree or has graduated from university and is on her way to making our world a more beautiful place. With every purchase you make from Sseko, you're helping a woman in East Africa fulfill her dreams! And you're getting GORGEOUS ethically made products! You guys! It really is the perfect situation! I know what you're thinking! 'Ok, stop talking and tell me how to shop all the pretty things, Laura!' Ok, ok, ok! I'm currently wearing these crossover slides and the caramel saddle tote (sadly, it's sold out).
Use the code 'lovelaura' online and get 15% off! Offer good until August 15!
But that's not all... 

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I also get the privilege to share Juliet's story with you! Juliet is one of the beautiful women currently in the university program. When Juliet didn't think she would have enough money to finish her last two years of secondary school, she knew she had to do something. Juliet found out about the scholarship opportunity at Sseko's partner school, Cornerstone Leadership Academy. She went to the interviews without telling anyone at home, and earned the scholarship completely on her own. Outside of being totally driven, she is super down to earth and friendly. I've loved getting to know more about Juliet through the glimpses into her spunky personality you can see in her videos and photos. She loves Taylor Swift (heck yes!) and Rhianna. Check out Juliet's videos here to see more of her story! And know that with every purchase, you're helping send Juliet to university!

Photos by my love, Matthew Arbo

Mr. & Mrs.

I'm feeling extra sentimental this week. Matt has been salmon fishing in Alaska for almost five weeks now and comes home Friday! I CANNOT WAIT! This man of mine is all I've ever dreamed of...and so much more.

About two months ago, the most darling photographer (Moriah Sutton) happened to be visiting Portland and asked if she could shoot a home portrait session with Matt and I. At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to. Our place wasn't perfectly decorated it the way we wanted quite yet, these sessions are typically pretty intimate which made me second guess and I'm a little awkward in front of the camera. (For real.) But after thinking through, I realized how deeply I love celebrating marriage with Matt and that's not something I want to tame. Plus, our home is such a special place that having someone professionally photograph us in our space is a gift to treasure once we're old, wrinkly and still super cuddly. So yes, we cuddle and kiss and play and laugh a lot here and I want to celebrate all the tiny moments that make up our life together. The seemingly mundane and the exciting. 

See more of Moriah's work here. She is truly wonderful and made this day such a fun and memorable one for both of us. There were so many other photos I didn't share but will treasure them forever. 

I'm so proud to be married to this man. I'm so thankful he's mine. I'm so blown away by the deep joy two people can experience in a marriage. Praying we continue to experience the Lord's goodness while we walk through life together. 

See you in four days, babe. I'm so excited I can barely contain it.

Home Sweet Home

We've been in our Portland apartment since March and are beyond happy with our cozy little space. This feels like our first real home together, ya know? After living with so many people over the past year (all remarkable experiences, I should add) we were ready for a space to call home. Before moving, we basically sold or gave away most of what we owned so it's taken quite some time to save up and find pieces we love, little by little. We've still got a bit more to do but I'm perfectly content nestled here with my sweetheart, Thai delivery and Netflix. 

Also, let me take a moment to brag about the amazing crew from Soleil Clean! They were awesome enough to welcome us to the neighborhood with a home detail and it was incredible! Family owned, Portland locals, planet friendly cleaning solutions AND they do the dirty stuff! They scrubbed our bathroom sparkly, the inside of our oven (it's not a self cleaning oven so...ick!), left the subway tile gorgeous AND left us flowers and the sweetest note! Our place is usually pretty clean (neat freaks + minimalists live here!) BUT it's not anything compared to the way Harmony and her crew left it. Matt and I walked around in awe, admiring how beautiful everything looked. If you're in the Portland and surrounding areas, I highly recommend contacting them and treating yourself to a clean. It feels ahhhhhh-mazing. I'm still giddy about it. We waited to take our home photos until after they did their magic. 

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We've already had lots of visitors with more on the way! Our neighborhood is especially dreamy and I don't think we ever want to leave SE Portland. We are SO very spoiled! All that we need (friends, our church, restaurants, coffee, groceries, food carts, parks) is a walk or bike ride away, which is not only fun but sometimes necessary when sharing a car. It helps me feel like I can have moments away for coffee shop dates or a run through the park while working from home. Keeps those stir crazy feelings at bay. We're so happy, happy, happy. And you're welcome to visit any time.

Another special thank you to our sweet friends at Soleil Clean! Book those guys! And give them a hug from the Arbo's. 

::photos by my love, Matthew Arbo
::candle, moon calendar, black hat, record player decor all from the beautiful Moorea Seal shop

 

That PNW life

After a few months on the road, we've finally settled into our new home. Portland is everything we hoped it would be + so much more. We planned this beautiful roadtrip to get here and spent time at Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, Smith Rock National park among other gorgeous places from Tulsa to Portland. The trip was incredible but our souls are happy to be home. WE HAVE A HOME! Ok, we almost have a home. The house hunt continues but the Lord has brought us this far so we are expecting Him to continue working it all out for us. The housing market is INSANE. It's a cat fight out there, you guys. However, we're surrounded by amazing people and there's been no shortage in dinner and coffee invitations. People in Portland are literally the NICEST people in the world. We're both blown away daily by the kindness of friends and strangers. Life here is good. (But, you know, not thaaaaaat good so don't think about moving here or anything.) Matt has had several job interviews and so far everybody loves him. He's had a couple of job offers so we're currently praying through those but thankful for God's provision. Every potential job offer has come through connections we've had through good friends. Invest in people. It's meaningful in all areas. I'm working from home (or whatever coffee shop has the best wifi and doesn't get annoyed at a tiny blonde squatter) and still with Lily Jade and The Influence Network. I'm working a full 40 hour work load at this point and I'm so grateful for the flexibility and stability these positions offer. Plus, they're seriously amazing companies! Triple that amazing. 

We explore a lot. A lot more than usual, I'd say. Evening bike rides through neighborhoods, walks to local coffee shops, Oregon coast trips on a lazy Saturday afternoon, hikes through the gorge with free time during the week. It's a dream. And Matt has got his camera out to capture pretty moments. I'm so thankful for my guy. I'm thankful for Portland. I'm thankful that this is our home and I don't think I ever want to leave. Here are some photos from a last minute trip to the coast. So much goodness here. 

All photos taken/edited by Matt Arbo
 

New England Holiday

We spent the Christmas holiday with Matt's family in New Hampshire and as you can see, it was gorgeous. His mom and dad run a house of prayer called The Sanctuary and we had the sweetest time getting to spend a month living with them before headed back on the road. We watched movies by the fire, played in the snow, prayed together and enjoyed the peacefulness of the season. It really was the perfect way to end 2015. 

Matt and I left New Hampshire yesterday (in our new truck!!) and have started another trek across the country. However, this time we actually have an ending destination! We'll be driving through and stopping in Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico and California on the way to our new home in Portland, OR! I can't believe it! After 8.5 years of trying to move to the northwest it is finally happening. New jobs, new vehicles, new beginnings. I love 2016 already. 

Photos by Matthew Arbo
(the most handsome photographer I know)

Beach Days

The beaches of Tulum are way up there on the dreamy scale. We happened to be visiting during high seaweed season but it only took a few moments to scope out spots clear of those pesky ocean plants. Hopping over seaweed piles to enter the warm ocean waters happened to be our biggest struggle all week. I'll call that a win. The first day we snuck onto a private resort beach (ehhh....no thanks). The next day we explored the coast on our trusty scooter and stumbled upon the most perfect beach paradise ever - shady cabanas, clear water, non packed and free! We spent the rest of our days laying in the sand until the sun went down. And when it did?! That's when the real magic happened. 

We've collected so many other photos to share from Ecuador, Mexico and our current travels. I'll admit, we've fallen a bit behind lately. We've been spending the last week in our beloved Tulsa, OK visiting friends, eating at our favorite places and packing, selling and giving away our things. Want to know a true marriage tester? Purging your stuff. We're both learning to be patient with each other and I'm so thankful my husband is one of the most neat and tidy minimalists in the universe. And his packing skills? Unrivaled. He wins all the awards. 

We're on the road until February when we move into our new place. So excited I can barely stand it! We're saying bye to Oklahoma tomorrow (sniff, sniff) and driving 12 hours to Columbus, OH. We've got a car full of Trader Joe's holiday cookies to keep us hyped and sugared up. Living out of our car isn't so bad, really. 

(all photos taken by Matthew Arbo, my sweetheart)

Ruins of Tulum

The last couple of weeks have been a blur of motion, family, friends, hello's, goodbye's & travel. We left Ecuador a few weeks ago & then spent a week long vacation in Tulum, Mexico. Tulum is a DREAM!! It was the perfect stop for us to spend a week alone together. We stayed in a gorgeous airbnb, rented a scooter to get us from our apartment to the beach as quickly as possible, went to bed early, ate the most amazing food & cuddled a lot. One evening, we visited the ruins which are part of what makes Tulum so famous. They were GORGEOUS!! My sweet man documented our trip to the ruins & now we're sharing it with you guys! We love Tulum & have several photos to share over the next few weeks. 

We're currently in the beginning of a two month holiday road trip which will take us through Houston, Nacogdoches, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Ft Worth, Tulsa, Indianapolis, Buffalo & more on our way to New Hampshire for Christmas! We're crashing couches from here to the great north. And it's been a blast. 

Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito

Because we only had four months living in South America, we spent as much free time as possible exploring the country. Downtown Quito is FULL Of beautiful people and places. It's hard to miss the grandness of the Basilica. It's massive and gorgeous and slightly haunting. This church is UNREAL! The construction started in the late 1800's and it still remains unfinished today. Local legend says that when the Basilica is completed, the end of the world will come. How crazy is that!? Located in downtown Quito, this is a must see if you're ever in the area. $2 can get you a (slightly sketchy) hike to the top and a view well worth the small entrance fee. Just a warning....leave the heels at home. I stashed my trustee Nike's in my backpack for the climb. Well worth it. 

We climbed all the way to the top and just stared out at this city we've fallen in love with. So much beauty. So much pain. I can't help but think of beautiful Paris when exploring gorgeous old buildings like this one. What is happening with the world, you guys? My prayers and thoughts are with all those hurting today in that beautiful city of lights. Quito and Paris will always be special to me in so many ways. Thankful to have had the chance to spend time in both lovely places. 

Today is our last day in Quito. Our bags are packed (that was comical...how did we end up with so much stuff?!), we've said most of our goodbyes and gotten emotional over leaving this place. We have loved every second of being here and will be back to visit as often as we can. Quito, you changed me. 

Before heading back to the states, we've scheduled a mini vacation with just the two of us! This is the first time since getting married that we've been away and all alone. I'm so excited! We're spending a week in Tulum, Mexico for some aloooooooone time and relaxation. Meow! I've been working part time with an amazing company (The Influence Network) and have also worked a few Instagram gigs since being here which has allowed us to save for a little getaway before returning to the states. I can't wait! If you've ever been, let us know all the things to eat and do. We'll be back in America on November 23 then the holidays begin! So many good things to look forward to in the midst of a sad goodbye. 

Quito....you beautiful babe. Thank you for changing us.

Arbos out! 

(photos by Matthew Arbo)

Why We Moved To Ecuador

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Why Ecuador? Last June, Matt and I were searching for a change. We wanted to use the first year of our marriage to give back to the world and serve others together. So after a few months thinking and praying we decided to leave jobs that we loved, get rid of tons of stuff, raise support and move to Quito, Ecuador to volunteer with GO International for four months. Best decision ever! The couple that started GO, Greg and Christa Baca, are the types of people we all want to be like when we grow up. They've devoted their lives to serving the poor and forgotten in several countries across the world and moved their ministry headquarters to Quito a few years ago. Basically, these are the people you want in your inner circle. Creative, passionate, caring and willing to push you towards a better version of yourself. A huge draw towards moving to Ecuador was being mentored and taught by the Baca's. We love you guys. Forever and ever and ever. And if you're looking for a place to donate financially or even for a place to serve internationally PLEASE check GO International out. In our opinion, you won't find a more worthy crew.

We are currently nearing the end of our time here in Quito and although the future still looks a bit unclear for us, this was the best decision we could have made within our first year of marriage. Last July, we moved in to a large home and have had over fourteen different housemates since being here. The showers are cold-ish, the washing machine always stops working mid-cycle, dog barks and car alarms are a daily (hourly) part of the neighborhood soundtrack but this home has changed our lives. Living in such close community with like minded people who want to make this city a better place (and who like to dance) has been incredible. Never for a moment did we doubt this move. It would be impossible to share all the stories from Ecuador in one single blog post but we wanted to include a few snapshots of our time here. If we're ever in the same area and you would like to have coffee (or donuts) we'd love to share more about what went on during our time living in South America. It's been a beautiful, humbling, life changing, hard and joyous ride. 

And now...the photos!
Our first week here, we were given the opportunity to visit an AIDS orphanage. Most of the children don't even know they're sick. The parents of the little ones most likely died from the disease and some of the kids were born sick and some not. We played soccer, loved on puppies, helped make their lunch and hugged a lot of adorable kiddos. We were greeted by a little girl holding a water hose and the only way to enter was to run directly into the spray. Kids are kids, ya know? And this day we all had a blast. 

GO is one of those not so typical organizations that's constantly bringing creativity to a new level. We helped put together art exhibitions, called campaigns, in the some of the most popular areas of Quito. We went to the party districts, the touristy areas and anywhere with high foot traffic to try and start deeper conversations with people walking by. I love that Greg and Christa are always thinking of ways to engage people by getting to know them on a deeper level. And the crazy thing? It works. 

We've also been part of this beautiful church plant called ONE Uio. Greg and Christa helped start the gathering as a safe place for people of all backgrounds and beliefs to join together and learn about the love of God, especially His unending grace towards us. Questions are encouraged. Doubts are welcome. Life change happens. Every Tuesday, we meet together in a bar called House Of Rock to worship and hear about Jesus. We've made some of our closest friends at ONE and Matt even got a chance to speak one night. It was amazing and you can check it out here, if you want. (Proud wife moment!) We've seen God change people's lives. We've seen healings, witnessed miracles, worshipped in a language we don't understand, felt the Holy Spirit, broken bread with friends while sharing in their heartbreaks. It's been one of the most beautiful, moving churches I've ever been a part of. 

Ecuador is home to some of the most amazing people and a lot of them come from extremely hard times. A large part of the population is well below the poverty line. We've witnessed street children trying to sell us candy in dangerous neighborhoods at 1 am with no parents in sight. We've seen prostitutes in the party districts because it's a legal trade here. We've seen people snorting cocaine in club bathrooms. And we've experienced injustice and poverty at a level I didn't know could exist. I honestly don't think we can go back to 'normal' American life now that our eyes have been opened to the darkness in the world. Loving people makes you feel alive. It's the most beautiful natural high one can experience. I want to hold people in my arms instead of just donating my money towards a cause (but don't get me wrong, donating money is totally crucial and we'll continue to do so). We want to invite people into our home for a meal instead of just taking a photo of them to post on Facebook. My heart has grown three sizes bigger thanks to the people of Ecuador, the loveliest souls who shared their lives with us over these several months. 

There are a number of different organization that GO partners with and one of my absolute favorites is Pan de Vida. Pan de Vida operates fully on donations from folks like you and me. They serve over 500 meals a week to some of the poorest families in Quito. The most heartbreaking part is over 65% of the people coming for meals are under the age of 7. These kids slay me. One of the best parts of my weeks were letting them play with my hair (they think it's candy), sit in my lap and teach me Spanish. Matt volunteered weekly in the kitchen cooking and serving meals while I got to play with the kiddos. My heart. I can't handle it. I cry every time I think of these precious faces that wait in line for hours to be fed a hot, healthy meal. Pan de Vida has a hard time purchasing enough food for all the people that need to be fed. Just last night, over 300 people came out and we turned 80 away because there weren't enough funds for food. This can't be the normal. If you would like to donate to help out this amazing place they would LOVE it. Click here to make it happen and change a families life. 

There were a number of different experiences we've had where cameras weren't allowed. Our first week here, we were able to help throw a dinner party for over 90 sex workers in Quito. We rented out one of the fanciest restaurants downtown and completely decorated the building, filling it with fresh flowers and photo backdrops. We invited the ladies to come have a sit down dinner while we served them and taught them to make flower crowns and told them how valuable they are to the Lord. How beautiful He thinks they are and how they were created for a purpose. The night ended with a dance party and every lady present went home with $30 so they didn't miss any earnings from taking the night off. Although we weren't allowed to take photos, the night will remain in our memory forever. 

Every week we visit a juvenile prison and spend an hour with 20 of the boys in the long term offender group. These fellas have completely stolen our hearts! We play games, talk to them about life and try to remind them that they're not forgotten and have a grand plan for their life, even though they've experienced hardships. Many of these boys are in prison because they were stealing to try and take care of their families. Some have committed darker crimes but we don't talk about their past, instead pray over them and try to fill their hearts with joy and positive messages. Some of these young men come from extremely hard circumstances and may (hopefully not) end up back on the streets doing illegal activity once they're free from the juvenile prison. Our heart is that they see how they can become men of integrity and earn honest wages for themselves and their families. Again, photos are never allowed but just imagine the craziest South American dance party with 20 young men and a crew of Americans. Yes, we dance a lot. 

We also partnered with a ministry called Dunamis, a day program for young girls rescued from sex and labor trafficking. We got to spend a few days working with the girls and helped them learn english, make tagua jewelry and even took some of the girls to the zoo. A lot of them had never been to a zoo before so it was precious to see them running around trying to complete the zoo animal scavenger hunt. These beautiful ladies are all under seventeen and some even have children born into rough situations. The organization is currently raising money to build a safe house (it'll be the ONLY one in Ecuador) where the girls can spend the night and be hidden away from people trying to hurt them. Please consider checking out the website and donating towards the cause. These are the most beautiful, affectionate, sweet girls and they've experienced more horror in their little lives than most of us have even seen in movies. I don't want to share their stories here but know they're rescued from complete darkness and being brought into the light of Christ. I love, love, love this organization.

We knew in our hearts we had to come here and thanks to SO many friends, family members and even strangers we were able to raise $9,000 in six weeks. It was unbelievable and we THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts. We hugged orphans and fed the hungry and shared the hope of Jesus with ladies in prostitution because of your generous hearts.

For me, I needed to find the heart of Christ again. Moving here helped me reconnect with the heart of God, the heart for the poor and forgotten. My spirit has been awakened and I feel an even greater burden for the voiceless and those in the cycle of poverty. We aren't sure what our next steps are but we do know that our lives will forever be centered on bringing love, light and hope to those who have lost it. We love you forever, Ecuador. Thank you for loving us so well and for allowing us the great privilege to love your people. Nothing but tears of joy and fond memories for every single soul we've encountered. 

Again, there are so many stories I left off for sake of time but if you'd like to reconnect with us once we're back in the states let us know. We could talk for hours about the goodness of God and the beautiful people here. Plus, I have a lot of fall drinks to catch up on. Lastly, love people where you're at. You don't have to move to a different country to serve the poor. Let's live our lives to bring honor to those who have lost their hope. I can't think of anything worth pouring our time and money into than sharing the Gospel with people. And in a way where they become family to us. Nobody wants to be a project. Everybody wants love. 

For indeed, grace is the key to it all. It is not our lavish good deeds that procure salvation, but God’s lavish love and mercy. That is why the poor are as acceptable before God as the rich. It is the generosity of God, the freeness of his salvation, that lays the foundation for the society of justice for all. Even in the seemingly boring rules and regulations of tabernacle rituals, we see that God cares about the poor, that his laws make provision for the disadvantaged. God’s concern for justice permeated every part of Israel’s life. It should also permeate our lives.
— Tim Keller

(photos by Matthew Arbo, Steve Little and Nick Livingston)

Exploring Teleferico (on horseback & stuff)

Matt has this gift for planning the best surprises! Neither of us are 'stuff' people so special outings are our couple love language. Is couple love language even a thing? Consider it a thing now. I can't compete when it comes to putting together day long dates full of beautiful moments BUT I'm taking notes. One day, Matthew. One day. 

If you're ever in Quito, Ecuador then we both highly recommend spending a morning at Teleferico. Only $8.50 for a gondola ride & a morning hiking above the clouds. The city is MAGNIFICENT from 13,500 feet. Plus, you can rent horses to explore the mountainside for 30-60 minutes. We've gone twice & both times I end up with the friskiest horse on the mountain. Thanks, mom & dad, for those early years of horse riding experience or I would have jumped off at the first annoyed side kick. All that to say, it was one of the top five experiences of my life. Matt grabbed a few shots while galavanting around. Husbands are so good to have around. 

Ecuador...You Beautiful Thing

We've been living in Ecuador for four months now & our lives have been changed & wrecked all at the same time. Uprooting your entire life five months after getting married can seem a bit insane but for us it has made our bond even stronger. Together we've laughed, cried, prayed, argued, made up, served others, helped nurture each other's passions, climbed mountains, been super sick (you don't want to know), cuddled orphans, laughed alongside the sweetest girls rescued from sex trafficking, fed the hungry, dreamed together, experienced God's healing, danced in a boy's prison, danced all night in downtown Quito, worshiped in a language we don't always understand, shared lots of awkward moments & have fallen even more in love. 

Life is good. 

(photo by Carly Wells)