Earlier this year I shared about Sseko Designs and partnering as a Sseko Sole Sister this year. You can read all about Sseko and what a Sole Sister is in my previous post. I do want to share an update that Bridget (read that previous post) is headed to a top university in Uganda this fall. She will be studying Urban and Regional Planning!

Sseko Designs is a fashion brand based in Uganda that employs local women on the path to pursuing a university education. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is currently pursing a college degree or has already graduated. Bridget was the student I was matched with….Congratulations Bridget!

Well, this post is exciting for you ($100 giveaway) and a reminder for me why I am not a fashion blogger!

When Sseko launched their fall collection they asked if I wanted to share a giveaway with you – of course I did. What I did not think through was the actual process of capturing myself with my favorite Sseko fall item – my Tiko Tote. I am not a fashion blogger. I did send an email at one point letting them know it might not have been the best decision to have me model with my tote.

Crop out my face, show off my bag. If only I could have stuck with this version for all the pictures!

9-16sseko-01I asked my sister to help – she pretended to be awkward because she is very much not awkward. That role belongs to me. There was a lot of laughing happening during the process of trying to capture these! Lesley is in the pink shorts. Chris said we look a lot alike in these…9-16sseko-02We were on a girls’ trip with our mom, so the next day we attempted shot number two. I was playing it casual on some random steps with my coffee when a girl modeling for an actual shoot passed by with her big dog. I was trying so hard not to laugh…drink your coffee Ashley, try to keep it together. I almost asked if I could borrow her dog for my pictures too.9-16sseko-04And then there was the casual walking down the cool street attempt…that I killed because I couldn’t stop laughing at myself. But – hey – my tote is really cute! On a serious note – it is super cute and versatile. I carry it everywhere now.9-16sseko-06Along with the pictures, Sseko asked me a few questions about my personal style. I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl. Actually, I am really a running shorts and t-shirt mom of 5 that never sits down or stops moving. My personal style is just whatever keeps up with me. I think more about which shoes to wear to Crossfit each morning (running shoes or lifters) than I do about what I am going to wear the rest of the day. For me to like a product, it has to be versatile, practical and durable.

I am a fan of simple products that are well made and make me look far more fashionable than I am – hence my Tiko tote!9-16sseko-08As I answered the questions Sseko sent, I knew I wanted a couple pictures of ‘real’ life…me and my tote on a normal day. No posing on trendy streets or near large dogs. I needed my kids. I carry my Sseko bag every day. It holds my planner, pens, a couple books and craft supplies – you never know when you’ll get 5 minutes to work on a weaving. Since it is black and brown – in my book that means it matches everything!

And let’s all take a moment to pause over how huge my kids are getting!9-16sseko-099-16sseko-10

I’m thrilled to highlight Sseko Designs on my blog this year. As I share about Sseko Designs, I am advocating for a specific young woman striving to get an education and an incredible company, but I’m also advocating for more. In sharing about Sseko, I hope it sparks something in someone else regarding how businesses can be for profit and still make a difference in the lives of employees and a community. For profit businesses positively impacting their employees, communities and customers can happen in Uganda and it can happen in Tulsa, OK. As a business owner, it pushes me to consider how I can use my business to benefit those beyond my family.

You can read my interview on the Sseko blog and on Sseko’s Instagram over the next week!

It has been a really long time since I last hosted a giveaway on this blog…I am so happy to get to host one for $100 from Sseko Designs. Click on the logo below to enter the giveaway! (leave me a comment here too because I’d love to know if this giveaway excites you…for my own future reference!)

ssekogiveaway

 

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  • Carrie Campbell - Such a cute bag and way to go Bridget!! :)
    Thanks for the behind the scenes laughs of the not a fashion blog. πŸ˜‰ I always wonder ‘what are they looking at?’ lol. I’m 100% awkward as well, so I would’ve had a similar experience.

  • Becky Wood - Just entered your fun giveaway! Love your photo shoots because that’s exactly how I would be as well, lol! Much more natural posing with my kids!!

  • Kathie Simmons - I just entered. Thank you for the chance. That looks like a great bag! We do all kinds of awkward at our house too. It’s how we roll.

  • Michelle P - Such a great company with a beautiful and inspiring mission. Thanks for the chance to win this generous giveaway. :)

  • Kay Bonikowsky - I entered and stayed a bit and bought some shoes. :) Thanks for introducing me to the company!

  • Suzanne - Just today I was commenting about needing/wanting a bag that would meet all my needs….this is it. Not to prissy, fashionable, versatile and just what I want. You look great in your photo shoot, by the way….

  • Elizabeth Rose - What a great company!! I will for sure spread the word. LOve the bag. I just became a mother to my fifth a couple weeks ago and need a nice big pretty bag for our on the go family!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jill - Thank you for the giveaway! I loved your photo shoot and learning about such an inspiring company.

  • Katrina McQuaw - You look beautiful in every one of those pictures. Awkward is beautiful too! Love your tote, but I’d stock up on some of the many lovely charms. Pretty sure I will anyway actually πŸ˜‰

  • Kathie M. - Thank you for the giveaway…I love it. This is a great post! I love real life more than the posed. πŸ˜€

  • Diana - I love the details behind your “fashion” shoot. I’d be at least as awkward, I’m sure.

  • Jenny - So excited about this giveaway!’

  • Ashley - I love your heart as you support these companies! I would love to win to give it to my mom!

  • Lisa Johnson - Love this company and love their products! So classic and practical! Thanks for the chance to win!

  • Marie - I love that you’ve partnered with this company! They have so many beautiful things & I love that it’s all ethically made & helps women go to school! I think it’s awesome that your picky about who you promote on your blog! Also, I need to learn how you tie your sandals! Super cute!

  • Paulam Jablonski - it’s fun to get presents!

  • Kimberly Oyler - i saw your bag in a picture from camp create on meg’s blog, and i wondered where it was from! super cute!!

  • Amy Rendziak - Love the tote! You look pretty fashionable to me!

  • Debbie C - Your bag is very nice! Also, I feel like your eldest daughter (still Firecracker?) gets a little taller every time I see a new photo of her!

  • Chloe Neuendorf - I bought a pair of Sseko ribbon sandels 4 years ago and they are a constant summer favourite. Having visited Uganada on a a missions trip in 2006 the country has a dear place in my heart and it is awesome to see how they are supporting women for a better future. X

  • RobinC - Lovely giveaway!!

  • Michele Cupp - I adore that bag and I’m so picky, but it’s gorgeous!

  • Mia White - What a darling bag and awesome company! I spy your copy of Shannan Martin’s new book in there, too– so good :)

  • Bre - Love it all! You pulled it off!

  • Jody - Love this! and a wonderful cause! Yes!
    And…where’d you get your cute two toned chucks? so cute!!!!

  • Jenn - I am Uber excited about this giveaway and headed there now to enter. Love this post. You rocked the pictures btw. I understand all of this though. I have a younger sister named Lesley as well and she is way more like your Lesley and me always a bit akward. It works though. And you rocked the styles even if it was difficult. πŸ˜‰

  • Amber Leggio - Thanks for making us aware of this company that turns their profit into good for others.

  • Christine W - I entered! I love Sseko and companies like them who have the utmost respect for their employees and artists.

    On an un-related note, today we had a home study done as part of our process to adopt through China. Ashley, thank you for posting about your experience with this…I have read through your adoption posts at least twice, and some particular ones more than twice! They provide comfort and insight into what’s to come. Obviously, I know every experience is different and don’t expect ours to be exactly the same, but thank you for sharing yours!

  • Shannon - I have been eyeing Sseko products ever since you first shared about them here. Thanks for the chance to win!

  • Ashley Smith - I would love to win this! Thanks for the chance!! What a great blog post too! I too am a homeschooling mom to 4 (3 boys) and I don’t think I’m fashionable either. It’s fun to have a thing or two like a fun tote to feel like it sometimes!

  • Christy - Love this! I’ve been admiring those shoes for a while in your pictures!

  • Allison - I love bags. This one is cute and looks versatile!

  • Dawn Ritchie - Thanks for the giveaway. I love learning about new companies. You totally nailed the photos. πŸ˜‰

Over the years there are only 2 companies I’ve continued to work with long term. Mpix – pictures! DecoArt – paint! Pictures & Paint…my love languages. I’m always excited for the opportunity to collaborate with DecoArt. This DIY is a project highlighting one of my favorite paint lines (chalky finish) and is sponsored by DecoArt.

I looked out the window a few years ago to see a cute little bench with scalloped boards on the curb. Not one to let a good scallop be wasted, I rescued that little bench, but didn’t get it the TLC that it needed over the years. With time and Oklahoma’s wild weather, our little bench was about to crumble if I didn’t do something to intervene. I’m not sure how much longer it will last, but I knew if it had any hope it needed to be sealed with a clear coat or paint. Naturally, I chose paint.

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Oh hey chicken! Thank you for walking by in the most perfect of moments!

Okay, onto what I used to paint the bench…

Supplies:

  • Rejuvenate Chalky Finish
  • Everlasting Chalky Finish
  • Cherish Chalky Finish
  • DuraClear Satin Varnish

You can find these colors at your local Micheals store. Make sure you look in the Stains and Finishes aisle, not the Craft Paint aisle!

9-16decoart-02For the bench I used Cherish (pink/coral), Rejuvenate (yellow) and Everlasting (white). I wanted a lighter shade of coral, so I used a ratio of about 1 part Everlasting, 1/4 Cherish and a just a bit of the Rejuvenate. Once my paint was fairly mixed I started covering the bench. I was interrupted a few boards in and got some help finishing it later. There is not a shortage of willing painters in this house. One of the things I like about the Chalky Finish paint is I don’t have to sand and it can go on thick or thin (just add water to make it thinner). You can find more details and specifics about the paint on the Americana page of the DecoArt website.9-16decoart-03

After the bench was painted, I added 2 coats of the clear varnish. The bench has been outside in the heat, rain and a couple storms for about 3 weeks now. So far, everything is holding up wonderfully. I’ll be honest, if it starts to chip and I end up with a chippy pink bench I won’t be crying any tears!

9-16decoart-059-16decoart-069-16decoart-07As I look at these pictures, I realized my terracotta pot has a big crack. My next project will be finding a new pot for the plumeria tree and painting it. Sidenote: My father-in-law grew that tree from a shoot he got at the Honolulu airport many years ago. It got too big for his house, so he asked me to keep it. I told him it was a death wish for his tree. To the shock of everyone, that tree has lived for several years. It comes inside during the winter.

9-16decoart-09

michealsdecoartI’d love to hear your best curbside salvage finds and if you have any tips for plumerias…let me know in the comments!

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  • Krafty Fix - Good work!Time is often of the essence when looking to salvage something like this – if you leave it too long it will simply become so rotten that it’s unsafe.

  • ber - I have many Plumerias I’ve started from small shoots from friends plants. The big no no, is over-watering. The soft stems/branches can become mushy and die if over-watered. In Florida they go completely dormant (bare) in the winter months. If you accidentally(or purposefully) break off a branch, just stick it in the ground…or pot and you’ll get another….unless you’re me, and it will die a slow death. Love the scalloped bench…I would have arm wrestled you for it, but I’m sure your cross fit training would have given you the win!

  • Amy M - I love the color of the bench! My kids and I like to find goodies on the curb and paint them as well. When you have early swim team practice in the summer, you get first dibs. We have found tables and even a beautiful dollhouse in perfect condition. It’s fun and it’s free!

  • Tessa - Looks great! I am a big fan of “curbside pickups” also! I never heard that term for picking up other people’s trash, but it is much more appealing. :) We currently have a small dresser that I got curbside that I painted a light teal and it is now our TV stand. I also have a huge wicker dresser on our back porch that I painted a deep teal that serves for a buffet for entertaining. I couldn’t believe when I saw it at my next door neighbor’s house and literally dragged the huge thing into my backyard. It was right before my daughter’s 1st birthday party and I was so excited to use it to decorate! I am sure they were probably as thrilled to get rid of it!

  • Karen - We call them frangipanis in Australia! It hasn’t died because your terracotta pot has prevented the roots from staying wet for too long. They love sunshine and dry feet, a bit like you hey? :-)

  • Elizabeth S - LOVE this! I’ve been looking for ideas on how to help/save an adirondack bench that my husband made about 10 years ago (he actually made it to use as the setting when he proposed – gotta save it!) that has been sitting in the weather. This might be the ticket …thank you!

Over the weekend, my friend Rachel Denbow came in town to lead a weaving workshop. Rachel and I met back in college. We’ve stayed connected over the years through blogging and social media, but the last time I saw her was when my eldest daughter was in the hospital nearly 5 years ago. We were there for weeks waiting for a broken femur to heal enough for a cast. Rachel was driving through town and was thoughtful enough to stop by to brighten our day. Needless to say, that was a long time ago and I was ready to see her face to face again!

I was looking back at old posts related to Rachel…this one with her thought bubble chalkboard made me laugh. It also made me want to cut off all my hair. So tempted now!

The weaving workshop was so, so good. Rachel’s gentle nature was encouraging and made me feel like I could create my own incredible woven art. She is headed to Oklahoma City soon, I can’t recommend her workshop highly enough.

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You can find more about the workshops and Rachel on her Blog, Shop and Instgram

Workshop hosted by Prairie Letter Shop & The Merriment Market. Special help from Lesley Zellers.Β  Sponsors included: D.G. Stewart Hard Goods, Sonora Handmade, and Ganxxet.

When Rachel began the workshop, we were all a little concerned about making mistakes. She told us that weaving is a forgiving art, that we could make mistakes and still create something beautiful. I tossed her words around in my head and heart on Saturday and am continuing to do so. Her words were simple, but they struck a deep chord within me regarding my role as a mom and Chris’ role as a dad.

I hope our parenting is like a forgiving art. I want our family to be the same way – a place where making mistakes and creating beauty go hand in hand.

 

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  • Amanda - Yes, now I’m sitting with the idea of parenting as a forgiving art. So much less pressure, so much softer. Thank you!

  • kate - Hi Ashley!
    This is so cool! I have wanted to try weaving for a long time, and this post inspired me to dig in a bit! Thank you!
    Also…your hair is pretty, but as goofy as this sounds, I always thought your shorter hair was adorable on you! Go for it!! :)

  • Christina Chacharon - That is the first time I have really thought you and Leslie look alike!

  • Amy Cornwell - I love all of the colors of the yarn. I’m sure you ladies made gorgeous weavings!