Fall is one of my favorite seasons to decorate for. I love all the warm colors and textures that are popular during this season. I decided to start bringing decor into my entryway first, since it’s the first impression of the house. I layered a couple of garlands, put up a feather wall hanging, and added a few festive pillows. (Don’t forget the pumpkins!) I love the way it turned out, simple yet beautiful. What is your favorite season to decorate for?
Charlotte Vinciguerra is the owner and founder of the new online shop for kids, Merci Bisous. Having moved to New York from Paris less than a year ago, Charlotte recognized a void in the children’s market for fine French goods. Yearning for the attention to detail that she found in items created by French designers and inspired by her own pregnancy, Charlotte created Merci Bisous. She hopes to provide a special and inspired shopping experience for consumers seeking out beautiful pieces for their children.
Charlotte, we would love to know a little more about your journey from Paris to New York. What brought you to the States?
My husband and I arrived in New York on September 4th of last year. We were living in Paris and Mathieu was hired by an advertising company (DDB on Madison Ave). We both left our jobs, packed our belongings and ventured to New York! It was so exciting to move to the USA, especially to New York! The energy in this city is great.
What inspired you to launch Merci Bisous?
My future baby. When I found out I was expecting, I was a little frustrated about the fact that I could not find the brands I had always loved and wished to buy for my baby. It gave me the idea to bring them here, and to share them with all the moms. I really want to bring the best experience to my customers: an easy-to-use website, fast shipping, cute packaging with special little details, and a weekly newsletter with DIY and activity ideas for parents and kids. I would like to share and create a lifestyle around my selections, instead of selling random articles in an impersonal context.
How would you describe French style? Are there any common themes or characteristics in the goods and clothing offered on the Merci Bisous website?
What I like the most about French style is refinement, it is really a common theme in my choices. Every item is created by French designers who are usually women, and I especially like the beautiful material and exceptional quality. Last but not least, I pay attention to sweet details like a cute button on a top or a delicate embroidery.
Are there any items that you feel are basic essentials to a baby’s wardrobe?
Definitely! Petit Bateau’s basics are definitely one of them. These simple cotton onesies are so practical, I just cannot do without! Also, since babies outgrow clothing so quickly, Petite Lucette’s reversible pants are very smart as you have two styles in one. New styles are introduced every season, and I usually fall in love with them! Finally, I would mention Breaking the Wool’s hand knitted socks and blankets, which are perfect for keeping babies cozy and warm.
Merci Bisous carries some pretty adorable decor items! Have you started decorating the nursery yet? Will you be incorporating any of the pieces offered through your shop?
We are moving in a bigger place soon, but I have already planned the cutest bedroom. For the walls, I will use the Forest Wall Border by Mimi’Lou; and Rose in April’s Babou Shelves in aruba blue to display his books. The Alice stool (also by Rose in April) in the same aruba blue is a perfect match and will allow me to place a cute lamp. Additionally, I chose the Louis Pompom Storage Basket to hold the soft toys (Leopold by Moulin Roty is my favorite!). I also envision lots of cozy little spaces in the room filled with cushions.
The Merci Bisous site also features a lifestyle and DIY component. What sorts of projects or articles will we find?
You can find DIY and activity ideas on the Blog part of the website or receive the newsletter on every second Tuesday. For example, this week, I show how to make a beautiful flower crown. The principle is that you can make these DIY’s with the kids. I also write about entertainment ideas for the entire family. For the moment, it is especially located in NYC. Then, there is the social networks (Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest) where I post inspirational pictures.
My parents moved to the US while my mother was pregnant with me, so growing up I always felt like I had one foot in each culture. My friends and their families were American, but my home was filled with Cuban customs. We spoke Spanish, ate Cuban meals, and celebrated holidays in a traditionally Cuban ways. How do you plan to keep French customs present in your son’s life? Are there any special meals or folk tales that you are excited to share with him?
I think that growing up in a foreign country is a great opportunity. My son will have a chance to learn two languages easily and the two cultures will probably open his mind. Just like your family, we will keep on speaking French at home and spend most of the holidays in Paris and South of France (where I was born). I started to buy him French books and rhymes and I will be happy to tell him stories that I was told when I was a child. Concerning meals, I’ll do my best to maintain a balanced diet for him. In USA, kids love mac & cheese. In France, we have an equivalent of that: coquillettes jambon (pasta shells with ham and butter). I still love it!
Are there any special places in NYC that remind you of Paris?
New York is different from Paris in so many ways. I feel very good in NYC, but I love spending time in a French bookstore called Albertine on the 5th Ave. Also, my husband and I made a lot of French friends here, mostly from Paris. When we spend time together, it recreates the Parisian atmosphere, I appreciate it a lot!
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Motherhood is the source of inspiration for so many women in this industry. Do you have any advice for other mothers that want to pursue a new venture?
It’s true that pregnancy and children really boost our creativity. I wanted to make the most of this energy by creating a company that is completely compatible with the birth of my baby. I know that this is going to be a lot of work! But, strangely, I feel fairly peaceful about that. Dear expecting mothers, if you have a good idea and if you feel good about it, then trust yourself and go ahead! It’s so rewarding despite the difficulties. And don’t forget to be kind to yourself!
I have been long time friends with my gal pal Heidi Powell for over a decade. The masses love her for her “realness” even though she is a celebrity, and I can attest that she is in fact, as real as they come; also as genuine as ever. She transforms the lives of others while being a busy mom to four kiddos, and works along side her celebrity trainer husband, Chris Powell. So how does she keep it all together? What are her favorite workout outfits to wear? How does she remain so real and beautiful and balanced? I sat down with her and asked her all the gritty questions that we are all dying to know. You can also check out her new book, Extreme Transformation: Lifelong Weight Loss in 21 Days for amazing health and weight loss tips from the dynamic duo known as Chris and Heidi!
Hey Pretty Mama: Meet Heidi Powell.
1). You and Chris are obviously known as trainers with huge hearts that genuinely care about the lives of those you are transforming. How does being a great mom to four kids work into that daily cultivating of others roads to transformation?
Believe it or not, I give all credit to my success in the transformation world to the fact that I am a mama, and I have been from the beginning. When I met Chris, his approach was very scientific. It was all about calories in and calories out. His, and really “our”, approach changed dramatically once we teamed up, and parenthood was brought into the mix. I started helping out on season 1 of Extreme Weight Loss, and we had 8 very different personalities to work with at once. It very quickly became less about science, and more about spirituality and emotional balance.
Motherhood, as you know, is not science…and if you think it is, you are in for a rude awakening! Motherhood is about that emotional balance, and about connecting spiritually with yourself as well as with your kids. I had 2 kids when I met Chris, both with very different personalities. I already had experience with and knew the importance of creating boundaries, following through with discipline, having structure, and more importantly, loving unconditionally. So it only seemed natural to me to introduce Chris to the world of parenting, in a way, to create more of a unique and “whole” approach to transformation.
Fast forward 7 years, and Chris and I have 2 more kiddos together, 4 total. Parenting together has molded the way in which we work with every single person we come into contact with now. As well, having the opportunity to work with individuals from every walk of life on EWL (some with some pretty tragic circumstances) has only made me hold my littles closer at night, and appreciate every little thing about them.
2). Women look up to you as a role model for many reasons. What is the one thing you hope to accomplish to inspire others? Business related (go working moms everywhere!) and also family related?
More than anything, I hope to accomplish ONE thing that crosses over for me into both personal and business work: I hope to inspire women everywhere and show them that YOU CAN make a difference in this world OUTSIDE of your home at the same time you are making a difference inside of your home. You CAN be the example for your kids of how to treat others, how to love unconditionally, how to give selflessly, and how to live a healthy lifestyle. I feel like too many moms these days live with ‘mommy guilt’, and are too scared to accomplish their own dreams outside of the home out of fear of neglecting their in home responsibilities. I want all moms to know that not only is there a way to accomplish both (fulfillment in the home, and for YOU personally), but it’s necessary. Happy home only happens when Mom is happy! There is nothing wonderful about a home lead by an unfulfilled, sad, and depressed mommy. Moms MUST take care of themselves and their needs FIRST…and it is only after that, that they can take care of themselves.
3). What is your go to outfit when you aren’t in gym clothes or at a photo shoot?
Ha! Miss fashionista here…not. Now this totally depends on my mood and my to dos. If I am going out to run errands or to a meeting, I am super casual with skinny jeans (gotta make my buns look perky!) and a cute tank. From there, I can make it dressier if needed with heels and jewelry, or I can dress it down with my Havianas. I DO love dressing up every now and then…and when I do, I am a SUCKER for a Leger bandage dress, heels, and cute shoes. I like things that hug my curves, accentuate my buns that I work hard to grow, and make me feel like a woman. Now if I have nowhere to be, you will most definitely find me wearing my Reebok lounge pants with a tank…barefoot. Always barefoot.
4). What is the best advice you wish to share bout life, or motherhood, or balancing the two as seamlessly as you do?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone other than yourself! It’s way too easy to see other moms on Instagram seeming doing it all better than you think you are doing yourself. You’ve got to remember that comparing yourself as a mom or a person to someone on Instagram is like comparing your reality to someone’s highlight reel. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. We are all human, we all have struggles…some are just better at hiding them than others. Cut yourself some slack and know that you are doing everything as well as you can! You are perfectly imperfect…and good enough JUST AS YOU ARE!!!
5). I have known you for years, and I love that I have seen so many different phases in your life. You seem to always adapt to the present and still maintain such a positive outlook daily, despite being busy or stressed. What is your recipe for that amazing smile and cheerful personality that we all have come to love about you?
Ahh…this makes me a little emotional to read. Thank you!!! Gosh, I don’t even know what to attribute it to. I will say that I am naturally a realist…I let Chris do the dreaming, I will be the one to bring him back down to reality really quickly. So maybe it has something to do with the fact that I never expect things to be perfect. Ever. I live by the motto: Expect the worst, hope and work my buns off for the best. Sounds CRAZY, I am sure…but I really think that because of this I rarely have unmet expectations, neither have I ever encountered a situation that I didn’t KNOW I could change simply by adjusting my attitude. I have realized and fully accepted that there are many things in life I can’t control… I will try like heck to control as many things as possible (#controlfreak), but for those things out of my control, I CAN control my attitude toward them. Plus…gosh, I just feel so dang blessed in my life and always have. Yes, I have encountered hardship in MANY ways…but at the same time, why focus on those things when I have so many other beautiful things I can focus on that can make me smile?
6). Can you share your favorite items that you use when you workout that you can’t live without?
Slingshot resistance bands – I don’t work with this company at all, I am just in love with their bands I recently stumbled upon. They make EVERY workout a glute burner. I love them. They help build and engage the medial glute…the part of your buns that helps create the nice heart shape.
Weight belt – I don’t do a workout without one. While many use these for core stability and support when lifting heavy weight, I use mine – cinched tightly – as a reminder/cue to engage my core and vacuum (aka. Draw in from my belly button).
Squat Sponge – Hip thrusts seem to be a staple in my lower body workouts these days, and I legit would cry without my squat sponge!!!! It makes the weight of the bar bearable on my hip bones! Love it.
7). You are supermom when it comes to involving your kids with the business side of things. You and Chris both seem to be mindful about sharing your love for helping others get healthy, as much as you do having your kids experience it along side you. How has the positive ambiance impacted their love for keeping their bodies healthy and also reaping the benefits of seeing your job help others?
Without a shadow of a doubt, the kiddos do follow our example. We have learned that the more we push a healthy lifestyle on them, the less they want to listen! Leading by example has been key for them. They see what we do ourselves and what we do for others, and naturally they want to follow. It’s pretty cool to see Marley and her friends creating circuits for themselves in our garage with out ANY encouragement from us…just the example they’ve seen. Hands down though, one of my favorite things as of recent was bringing Matix to a workout we did with 16 people we are helping along the journey. The entire time, Matix was right by their side…coaching, encouraging, and participating to help them accomplish a victory. SO cool!!!!
At what age did you start creating?
My dad was an artist, so creativity and art were always a part of my childhood. I was drawing from the time I was old enough to hold a pencil, and constantly making things with my hands, including quilts and crafts. I’ve always been happiest when I’m making something beautiful. Art was always encouraged by my parents, so it continued to be a big part of my life through high school, into college and beyond.
Tell us what “Art” means to you.
Art is such a loose term. I think we immediately think “painting” when we hear the word art, but so much in this world falls into the art category. Art to me is bringing your inner self out of yourself by creating something from nothing. It’s not being afraid to try new things and make yourself vulnerable by visually expressing yourself. There is no right way to create and there are so many avenues to creating beauty.
What is your medium of choice?
For my illustration work, I work primarily in watercolor. I love the subtle paint textures that are created when the water and paint mix. For my fine art work, I use oil paint. It is what I was trained in and still, every time I start an oil painting, it makes me feel at home. The smell and the shine and the bold colors that can be created with oils are heavenly to me.
Has motherhood altered your creative process? If so, how?
Oh, it definitely has. It wasn’t until I became a mom that I really focused on being an illustrator. I went to school for illustration, but before I had Remy, I mainly focused on my fine art and graphic design work. Oils seemed tricky to have around with a baby crawling through my studio and putting things in her mouth and graphic design just didn’t make me happy, probably because I was mostly working digitally and I missed painting. So, at first, illustration was a solution to a problem: working in the company of a child without a lot of set up or clean up and without the toxic and hazardous materials that go along with painting with oils. I made a switch to watercolors and started to develop a stronger and more distinct illustrative style, which was completely different than my fine art style. And I have fallen in love with illustration. Being a mother and reading all of the beautiful picture books that are available and learning more and more about my illustrator heroes has changed my career path. Well, truthfully, being a mother has changed my entire life. I feel the need to express myself as a mother through my art. It’s who I am now and it’s hard to remember who i was before she joined me. So much of my inspiration for my work comes from my daily life with my daughter. I make mental notes all day about aspects of our life together that affect me in beautiful ways. It’s such a pleasure to do what I love and have it connect with being a mother so well.
Do you involve your child(ren) in your process, or is it a personal experience?
I mainly work while my daughter is sleeping or at preschool, but I love when we can draw and paint together. Creating is such a sacred thing to me and being able to share that with her is such a pleasure. And she actually loves to create things as well! It has surprised me how much that has meant to me so far. It feels like an invisible rope that connects the two of us and I hope to be able to collaborate with her more in the future as she gets older.
What do you do when you encounter a creative block?
Something that has worked miracles for me is just painting when I have absolutely zero motivation. It seems like once I get going on something, my eyes are eventually opened up and ideas start to flow. Sometimes I create ugly, terrible things, but they lead me to new and better ideas that would have never come had I given up at the beginning. Deadlines are also very helpful. If you have one night to create something, then there’s just no room for procrastination. It has to be done, and I’m usually pleasantly surprised with the result. It has taught me to be brave with my work, to trust myself and my abilities.
Is there a particular artist that inspires you?
There definitely isn’t just one. I grew up diving into art history and some of my favorites will always be John Singer Sergeant, John Waterhouse, Mary Cassatt, Gustav Klimt, and Toulousse Lautrec. But going to school in illustration really opened my eyes to some amazing illustrators including Alphonse Mucha, Lizbeth Zwerger, N.C. Wyeth, Beatrix Potter, and the list goes on. Some of my favorite current artists include Oliver Jeffers, Jon Klassen, Richard Schmid, and my mentor, Jeffrey Hein.
If you could say something to creative mothers that are struggling, what would you say?
I am far from perfect at balancing my creative career with my role as a mother, but my advice would be to not put it off. It seems so difficult to do your creative work, while still being an involved mom, but it’s possible. Even if it’s small, do something creative every day. There will never be an easy time to start painting or sewing or sculpting or whatever you love to do, so find a way to integrate it into your life now. The rewards come in unexpected ways. I’m able to share my love of art and making with my daughter and it’s a lovely and special part of our lives that wouldn’t be there if I pushed it aside until later. Also, if it’s in you, let it come out. I know that I’d be letting myself down if I didn’t do something with the gift and drive to be creative that I was born with. It’s in me. And if it’s in you, let it out. It will make your life happier and a happier you equals a happier mother for your children.
I feel like my life as a mother is like the Alanis Morset’s song, “Ironic.” The words in my head are a little different though. Something more akin to “your kid just pooped, when your already late”, or the “Benny Hill” theme song plays in my head when I’m chasing my girls around the house, car or wherever. Motherhood is ironic at times and it is hard work. In fact, it is the hardest job I have ever had. There are challenges, there are trials to overcome, and sometimes it can be discouraging. Motherhood is also beautiful, fulfilling, rewarding, and brings such joy to my life. It can even be a lot of fun! But motherhood is so much more than those few words. It is an experience beyond incredible. I am so grateful that I have been able to be a mother and I wouldn’t change anything about my experiences. The journey has been exciting, tiring, and full of joy in the few years I have been a mother. It has also been full of surprises. Lots of surprises. Being a mother is life changing, but the surprises that have come with my experiences have changed me far more than I could even imagine.
I am the oldest of three girls and my mom is incredible. The older I get and with the more children I have, the more I ask her, “How did you do it!?” She was hardworking, funny, stylish and she was “the cool mom”. She was a great cook and a pioneer aerobic instructor back in the early 80’s. She also worked as a dental assistant, did PTA, was a girl scout leader, a cheerleading coach, volunteered when needed, and would even work at our favorite clothing store so that we could get discounts. Despite life’s ups, downs, and “surprises”, we truly had a blessed childhood. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am to the two of them and for all that they did. The reality I have come to understand with age, is that my mother worked three jobs to keep up with everything she couldn’t bear to take away from us. It even meant selling things she enjoyed, like a leather coat or jewelry, to help pay for the things we kids enjoyed. The sacrifices that she made brings tears to my eyes. She is a strong woman, and I feel I owe so much more than just love and gratitude to her. Her strength and great example is helping me through my motherhood experiences now. With a soon to be four year old, a just turned two year old, and another on the way, I find myself already involved with PTA, volunteering, dance and gymnastics classes, and more on top of my own life aspirations as an artist, advocate for differently-abled individuals, photographer, business woman,blogger, and pet mom. How can I do this all? Like my mom, I can’t say no to things. I might complain about a full plate, but really, I want to do it all while trying to be the best mom I can in the process. I’d be fine with the “World’s Okay-est Mom” title. Hopefully I will go out in the end knowing that I had always tried my best at being a mother and became a better person from being one.
In 2011, I married my best friend, Scott. Truly friends before we were romantic, we dated for 4 (or more?) years before we were married. I think we both feel like it was just meant to be. A month after we were married, we learned we were expecting our first child. SURPRISE! I remember thinking that I wasn’t ready for motherhood in the least, but ultimately, we were thrilled. We were even more thrilled to find out that we were having a little girl. I had a wonderful, healthy pregnancy! After two days of false labor and 16 hours of active labor, we were surprised with an unplanned C-section. The whole experience was a bit of a blur. But eventually, Eva was here! She was just so beautiful. We thought she was perfect and we instantly fell in love. Looking at our first born, we knew that Eva was going to be special. Little did we know how special she really was.
On the second of being in the hospital, we learned that there was a possibility that Eva could have a genetic disorder known as Trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome (DS). We had normal ultrasounds and negative pre-natal screenings for DS; we just couldn’t believe the news. Eva later was transferred to the NICU to be treated for some complications, which as new parents, we didn’t think much of. The night we found out in the hospital that Eva could have DS, we had mixed feelings, mostly of sadness and doubt. Those feelings were quickly replaced with, “how are we so blessed?” and “how did we get so lucky?”. Now don’t get me wrong, every child is a special blessing, but we both kind of felt that we would actually be disappointed to be told she did not have DS, because we might not get to enjoy the experiences that come with a special needs child. Feeling at peace with knowing our Eva could possibly have DS, it was finally confirmed when she was 4 weeks old. We were surprised again to find out that Eva had a congenital heart defect and would need open heart surgery at six months old. The whole time was difficult, exhausting, and was probably the hardest experience for Scott and I. Because of our unique circumstances, none of our friends or family had gone through anything like this, so we were going into this on our own. This experience was so different than what either of our parents had, even though they were incredibly supportive, how could they truly understand what we were going through? After her surgery there were complications that kept us at the hospital longer than anticipated, but on Thanksgiving 2012, we went home with a healthy, happy baby girl. She has brought such joy and happiness to our lives and she continues to surprise us with such great and amazing things. We are just so grateful to be her parents and I am so grateful that I was chosen to be her mother.
Around Eva’s first birthday, we found out we were expecting again. Although we weren’t completely shocked, we weren’t exactly planning on our little girl, Elsie. Much like Eva, we felt Elsie was meant to be with us, despite the surprise. We are convinced Elsie was born to be Eva’s best friend and support. They are two peas in a pod. Two crazy peas in a pod, sometimes. Elsie is overly curious, quirky, quick to learn, funny and is a giant ball of energy. It is that energy, though, that usually gives our, sometimes, shy Eva a little more confidence every day. Together they get into a lot of trouble, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have just recently felt like I was finally finding balance in my life with two. This past January, I found out that we were expecting again. Surprise again! Without getting into detail, let’s just say that I was beyond shocked. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled that I was pregnant, and that I was going to be a mother to another little human. I digested the news and to our excitement, we found out we were having a little boy. I don’t know what it will be like with three, I don’t know what is to come, and I don’t know how I will do everything. Like everyone else, I don’t have it figured out. I do expect there to be great joy, tears, dirty dishes, less showering than I would like, laundry piled high and drive-through dinners. I will have another beautiful face to look at though, and with that there will be more happiness, more sacrifice and more stories to tell. I love being a mother and I will do my best, no matter what challenges or surprises I may face. The greatest joys in my life have ended up being the best surprises in my life, my children.
Mother’s Day is this Sunday, and though I love getting a bouquet of fresh flowers from my boys I also love to be surprised with a gift made with love or one that lets me pamper myself. This year, on your way to the florist you might want to consider also stopping by your mom’s favorite hair or nail salon and get her a gift certificate for a special treatment and place it in a handmade card, or you can download and overnight these goodies for mom. These instant downloadable and printable poster and coupons thank her for being a special mom and give her a few chances to spoil herself. Mom can also spoil herself with a sugar-based body exfoliant that hydrates skin, a silky body oil whose name says J’adore or a bag full of luxurious beauty products. Pack it all into a slouchy printed pouch with a fun tassel, and you will brighten Mother’s Day! Enjoy & Happy Mother’s Day to all Mumkins and Expecting Mumkins!
As a way to celebrate motherhood, Samantha Hahn; a mother of two and a very sensible artist based in Brooklyn, most known for her signature watercolors, she captured a stunning collection of hand-lettered quotes and ethereal illustrations to create her book: Mother is a story.
This book is really close to my heart, not just because it is precious and captures the profound journey of motherhood in such a magical way, but also because I had the honor of having one of my pictures turned into watercolor and printed on its page.
“It takes someone brave to be a mother, someone strong to raise a child, and someone special to love someone more than herself.”
Happy Mother´s day to all of you brave, strong and special women!
Credits // Book: A Mother is a Story: A Celebration to Motherhood by Samantha Hahn | Romper: Repose-Ams | Dress: Mango
Guest post by Emily Byron.
We are welcoming the spring season with mommy and me outdoor strolls, bold geometric patterns and some monochrome love with pops of color.
Clothing & Accessories//Mainio, Ragged Priest, Jeepers Peepers, Somedaysoon, Akid, Mini Edit