Growing (champ)Pains

Photo Credit: Noah Berg Photography 

We all have our wild moments, some more than others. Some a lot more than others. I was somewhere in the middle leaning towards the “lot more than others” end of the spectrum. I’ve been like that since I was two. Just a little bit of a bad girl. Loving, but bad and then good once I got in trouble, and then bad again. Bad can be good if you have a heart of gold, which I do…sometimes.

They say children who misbehave often become successful later in life; my future was bright. When I was eighteen, Paris Hilton and Juicy Couture emerged on the scene, highlighting a life of glamour, excess, and leisure and it was then that I knew what I was meant to do in life, I wanted to be an heiress. What can I say? I was ambitious.

At twenty three and a half my dad stopped paying my rent, and he took away my credit card, and I very, very quickly realized that my income didn’t quite match my lifestyle, by a lot. My self centered mindset actually blamed my parents for providing me a wonderful childhood, to then to rip it all away from me?? How dare them! My life was nothing more than a tease! I finally understood what guys meant by the term blue balls. My parents blue balled me in life?!

I was frustrated and felt totally betrayed, and because of my immaturity, couldn’t see that my dad (it was really my mom) was thinking bigger picture and long term benefits, while my picture didn’t surpass the next music festival I was attending. Clearly, they wanted me on the streets.

I struggled for a few months (years), and by struggle I mean I was shopping at Nordstrom BP instead of Anthropology and went to happy hour three times per week instead of four, but struggle is relative, and deciding between rent and a handbag although obvious, were very difficult decisions for a young lady of twenty four.

And then I moved from a total perk, penny paying job, to another total perk, but better paying job, and I worked hard, I remained focused, I took myself and my work seriously, and before I knew it, I had my very first savings account, and my own money to travel, and making decisions around whether to spend my money on rent OR a handbag weren’t decisions I made, because when you have to choose between housing and a bag, you probably shouldn’t be paying for either…unless it’s a Celine Phantom and maybe then I would choose the handbag, but actually I wouldn’t and so my dreams of a boyfriend gifting it to me still play on at night (brett, click right here to buy this bag).

There are things I wish I had known, such as the importance of “rainy day” savings and an early start on a 401(k), but for the most part, what I learned and how I grew to respect and balance money came from having it, and then not having it, and then figuring out how to have it and hold onto it. Don’t let this post fool you, I’m still a twenty three year old, irresponsible, over living my means girl at heart, I just make more (not all) financial related decisions with my brain instead of my heart. Guys? Well I still haven’t mastered the art of those decisions just yet.

-Yours in Self Growth and Handbags







Rustic + Refined

forrest wedding
Erin Jean Photography

They say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. For the past two years I’ve been thinking, contemplating, and questioning what it is exactly that I’m supposed to be doing, here on Earth. Fifteen years ago I’d have told you that I would be married with children by thirty, but here I sit, almost thirty one, and I’m not thinking about that wedding date and I’m not wondering why I don’t have children. In fact, I still don’t feel like I’m even ready to be a woman of that stature. It all seems so…grown up and although grown up, I’m just not there today. Perhaps it’s because I’m supposed to be doing something different. Maybe I’m supposed to be building something of my own before I settle in and spend the rest of my life with someone and have babies that will take over my focus, concern, and my world, and my heart. If I could have children at forty, that’d be ideal. But then again, I’m starting to realize there are probably more forty year old women out there who are thinking…if I could only have children at fifty, that’d be ideal.

Being this thirty year old, almost thirty one, (ohhh myyy goshhhhh), lady that I am, a lady without even a dog or a plant, I’ve decided to spend my extra time working selfishly towards…none other than me, myself, and I. Two years ago I registered a company that I wasn’t completely certain I wanted to launch, but after thoughtful consideration of my purpose, my goals, and who I want to be, I’ve decided to go for it. I’ve decided in my thirtieth year on this Earth to gather all of the experience I’ve gained on the windy path that I’ve taken and pour every last bit of it into something of my very own. Rustic + Refined Events is a full service wedding and event planning company and I’m beyond excited to further launch myself into the creative community of Denver.

You can find information on Rustic + Refined Events and our services below:



Wish me sunny days and happy brides!

-Brittany xo




It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Cocktails

Noah Berg Photography

Thanksgiving was months ago (or so it feels) and Christmas 2015 is now Christmas past. I’m back in Colorado, but the celebrating hasn’t stopped because it’s still the holiday season and parties are in full effect, as are happy hours with friends, and because my company closes each year, Christmas Eve through the New Year (#blessed), girlfriend lunches, inclusive of wine, are in full force. Once again, I’m a lady of leisure and taking full advantage of this extended time off. And by full advantage, I mean I’m sleeping in late, working out late, and going to bed late (yeah right). My work calendar is off and my social, on. I hope each of you get to enjoy the tail end of the holiday season because we all know the reason for the season is eating, drinking, having the right to go shopping in the middle of the day.

PSA-This dress. I bought it a year and a half ago and wear it all the time. It’s super slouchy and comfortable, perfect for pairing with a vest or wrap. It’s exactly what you need for a long work day, full of back to back meetings at uncomfortable conference tables, a gluttonous holiday, or sneaky comfort while on a Friday night dinner date (pass the bread!). Get it while you can. {link below}

Noah Berg Photography
Vest: Kristen Blake (Similar Here) Dress: Bobeau Boots: Nordstrom






Manofatto Instagram

There is one week until Christmas. Does that make you feel:

A. Happy! I LOVE Christmas!

B. Afraid, confused, royally behind on everything, like you fail at life and probably shouldn’t show up. 

If you answered A-you’re probably a perfect person and we don’t have much in common, and you don’t need me, so goodbye.  If you answered B-hi, we’ll be close friends…proceed.

If you’re anything like me, you might be waiting until the last minute to buy your gifts because you’re avoiding spending money (you went overboard on blowouts and Lululemon again), but you’ll end up spending it last minute, so it really doesn’t matter. You also may be like me in the sense that you truly dislike the mall and shopping, when forced, and therefore avoid going, especially after Thanksgiving, and so you’ll end up circling the parking lot for 90 minutes on Christmas eve and giving bitch face to every reindeer antler headband wearing salesperson and tantrum throwing child you encounter. Ew, was that just me? I think it was. But really, why do I do this to myself? Being the organized, habitually punctual, and generally pulled together person that I am, I have no clue where this stems from, but it’s real and today, panic sets in.

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewing a local business owner at a hotel downtown while a holiday market was taking place. I decided to peruse the vendor tables, feeling a little less than impressed by most of what I saw until I hit the very last table. I struck up a conversation with the owner, discussed her business, told her I’d love to feature her on my blog, exchanged cards, and we set up a date…with wine. We were going to be great friends, I knew it.

Katelyn Stalowy (30) was born in New York, has lived in California, Italy, and presently Denver, but considers the Chicago suburbs home. She spent years working in corporate event travel and towards the end, felt a constant pull and desire to do something on her own; something creative and something for which she felt passion. What was it? Late one night over the holidays while sitting around a table with her sister, cousins, and best friends, Manofatto was born.

Manofatto is a shorthand way to say handmade in Italian. She learned it first in Ruvo di Puglia, Italy, from her great Aunt Antonietta, her idol. Aunt Antonietta is a classic Italian woman-making everything by hand in her tiny apartment, including wine, bread, sauce, and pasta and is the inspiration behind Katelyn’s business.

Katelyn’s love of products and her husband’s talent with woodwork (he builds the beautiful boxes..and is a firefighter-go Katelyn) come together to create one of a kind, beautiful and personal gift boxes.  If there is one profession I wish I were in, it would be this. Katelyn has a dream job, getting to thoughtfully sample and select American made products and items to customize these boxes by theme and occasion. A few of the themes that are most popular:

  • House Warming
  • Baby Showers
  • Birthdays
  • Engagements

Currently, there are over 25 themes and as she continues to receive custom requests, her list expands.

Katelyn dropped off three boxes on Monday morning, so I could have a photographer take some photos and if it weren’t for the fact that we had our interview scheduled that evening, at my  house, I wouldn’t have given them back (I should have never given her my address). Katelyn and I sat down over a glass of wine and spoke about our love for calligraphy, floral arrangements, community, products, branding…oh and Manofatto.

VBC: So Katelyn, where are you currently creating your boxes?

KS: The boxes are made by my husband in the wood-shop and the boxes, themselves, curated inside our shop.

VBC: Where do you sell your products?

KS: The majority of our business is online , 75%, and the other 25% comes from holiday and local markets in Colorado.

VBC: Do you have any new concepts or themes on the forefront?

KS: YES! I didn’t think we would do this, but I am THRILLED to be moving in this direction. We just did a ten year vow renewal. The box was was sent to 25 people and inside was the invitation, local chocolate, and organic lavender. We are currently working on kid boxes where we paint our box with chalkboard paint and put crayons, chalk, puzzles, candy, and lots of other small gift items inside. They’re a big hit.

VBC: Can your boxes be customized?

KS: Yes, I just did an engagement box and I got custom stationary, a custom bride planner, and added more bridal items. We can customize any box to anyone’s preferences such as a particular wine, product, anything.

VBC: What is a short term goal for Manofatto?

KS: To survive and thrive into year one. We took the leap, gave it a shot, and I want to see how we end up in our first year.

VBC: What is a long term goal for Manofatto?

KS: To have a sustainable business and continue enjoying what we do.

VBC: What has been the most challenging thing about being a small business owner?

KS: Juggling every single aspect of owning a business. From running social media, to fulfilling orders, buying products, to setting up meetings, finances etc. There are a million things to do every day and you have to find a way to make it all happen.

VBC: Being a small business owner, what has been the most rewarding?

KS: When you work for a big corporation, your impact gets lost in the shuffle and when I get positive feedback or I deliver a box to someone and they shed happy tears, I feel truly touched by what my brand has accomplished.

VBC: What is your mission?

KS: My main thought behind it all is to put the heart and thought back into gift giving. It is so easy to go on Amazon and buy a thoughtless and easy gift. I like to showcase American made brands and handmade products, that really means something.

VBC: What has your experience been as a small business owner in the Denver community?

KS: With the connections I’ve made through Denver Flea and the Denver Makers Convergences, I feel it is a really good support system. It feels like there are so many small business owners here and everyone is extremely supportive and not competitive. I make a lot of connections through the small business world through the products I buy. They come to my house to deliver items, I go to their homes to pick up items, it’s great.

VBC: What advice would you offer those just starting out with their new business or who desire to work for themselves?

KS: Take the leap. New business owners are going to work really hard, you will have to juggle a lot of things, but there is so much satisfaction in it. A good friend of mine recently told me, “Know your price and show pride in your work”.

VBC: What do you want people to know about Manofatto?

KS: The main thing that sets us apart is every single box is made from hand. Our boxes are made, stained, and sanded in Denver, Colorado and each is personally curated by the owner, me.  I truly appreciate every order, whether it’s $75 or $250. I appreciate making every single box and appreciate the fact that people are putting their trust in me and the support of small business. It really means the world.

A couple of other things to know about Manofatto:

  • They offer beetle kill boxes for a premium fee. The wood is sourced from a farm in Castlerock, Colorado.
  • You can add a floral arrangement to each order (local only)
  • They make complimentary home deliveries in the Denver area
  • Follow them on Instagram,you won’t regret it.

Are you feeling any better about your lack of Christmas gift  ideas? If not, here are a few ideas from me to you:

Best Friend. Female Boss (Hello, promo!). Teacher. Mother In Law. 

Jackie Cooper Photography

Boyfriend. Brother-in-law. Neighbor who hangs things for you.  

Jackie Cooper Photography

Mommy to-be (I have nothing to share)

Jackie Cooper Photography




So, place your orders now (Katelyn is busy, as are you) and thank me later. Keep Manofatto in mind for all of your gift giving needs, not just for the approaching holiday, but throughout the year. These boxes are fun to gift, will introduce you and your loved ones to great American products that you’ve probably never heard of, and support small businesses in Denver and around the country.

God bless the USA and God bless pumpkin pie.