We are huge fans of Camilla’s blog Family Chic, where she writes about everything from the coolest crafts to easy decor upgrades,so when she got in touch with us, we were so excited to get to interview her here. She’s the mother of two daughers Grace, 12, and Jane, 8.
Give us a little background on yourself and how you came to it. How much did becoming a parent shape what you do?
I’m a stay-at-home mother of two who loves all things creative. I get a big kick out of coming up with fun, easy ways to make family life stylish and stimulating, and I write about it on my blog, Family Chic. I started my career in advertising, but when my first daughter was born, I left that job and never looked back. I don’t have any formal training in decorating or design—I’ve just always enjoyed experimenting with my creativity. My friends and family encouraged me to submit my decorating and craft ideas to magazines, or to write a book. I liked the idea, but never followed through. Finally, my husband suggested I start blogging, and in 2008 I launched the blog. He got the template set up and I started capturing my ideas to share with others.
Being a mother has definitely made my creativity blossom. I strive to make our home life special and stimulating for my family—it’s what’s behind most of the ideas found on Family Chic.
Did you grow up with crafty parents? Where did this inspiration come from?!
My parents were both very creative. My mother could do anything: cook, sew, paint, refinish furniture, knit, garden—I really learned a lot from being around her. My dad worked in computer sales, but in his spare time he was a prolific oil painter and a musician. I am one of six kids, and each of us has a strong creative streak. I think it’s because creativity was really celebrated in our family. To this day, I love to see what others create—whether it’s a painting, a song, a meal or even just putting together a great outfit. It’s like getting a glimpse into that person’s mind and heart. Sadly, both my parents are gone now. My mom passed away 5 years ago and my dad last December. I really miss them, but I feel connected to them through my work—like a part of them lives on through my creativity. I am very grateful to have been raised in such an artistic home. My parents set the bar pretty high—I just hope to pass on as much I can to my kids.
Where do you live? We live in Evanston, Illinois, a wonderful town just north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. I grew up in NJ but moved to Chicago in 1986 to attend DePaul University. Afterward, I got a job in advertising, married my husband David and we started our family here. The Midwest is my home now – but I’m still a Jersey girl at heart.
Do you work in a home office, and if you do, how do you deal with working from home (while parenting)?
I love working from home. I have a tiny office I created in a nook in between our living room and kitchen. It’s a great little spot, but for most of my projects I need more space, so I spread out on our dining room table. I do most of my work while the kids are at school, so it’s not difficult for me to juggle parenting and working. And on those occasions when the girls are home while I’m working – they are great at giving me space or helping me out.
What would you say is your “mom uniform”? My go-to outfit is usually a pair of AG skinny jeans with a fun, bohemian-style top and my white converse hi-tops or white suede oxford flats. I also love leggings with a tunic and an old pair of cowboy boots.
Do you cook much–if you don’t, what are your ways around not cooking, and if you do, what are your go-tos? I cook, but I like to keep it simple—all-in-one dishes like chili, stew, lasagna or chicken salad. I’m on an omelet kick right now. Breakfast, lunch or dinner—I add sautéed vegetables and cheese and it’s a complete meal that my kids always devour. Another quick, healthy option is fish. I’ll make a simple salmon with roasted vegetables and white rice. Of course when I’m in a time crunch, we have our favorite Chinese restaurant down the street. They can whip up the world’s best curry chicken in about 10 minutes flat – and there’s never any complaints.
What’s your weeknight family dinner routine? We try to have homework done and off the table by dinnertime. We usually wait for my husband who comes home from work about 6:00-6:30 so we can all eat together. I get the kids involved by giving them tasks, like setting the table, taking drink orders or making the salad – they like to have a hand in everything.
Any easy entertaining upgrade ideas you can share with us?
Instead of serving bottled water at a dinner party, I like to dress up tap water by bringing it to the table in chilled vintage wine bottles. It makes for a lovely presentation and guests always comment on how special it feels. You can reuse any good-looking wine bottle – just soak off the label and clean the inside with a bottlebrush and hot soapy water. Once clean, fill bottles with tap water, stop with a cork and stick in the fridge to chill.
How do you celebrate your daughters’ birthdays? We like to have our kids’ birthday parties at home. Last year my older daughter had six friends for a sleepover. She’s not a huge fan of cake, so we served pizza and ice cream. They watched a few movies and camped out on the living room floor in sleeping bags. It’s a simple way to celebrate—and the kids really love it. For my younger daughter we did a “sleep under.” It’s basically the same thing, but it ends at 8:30. I enlisted my older daughter and one of her friends to run the show—limbo, freeze dance, Simon Says—and the little ones couldn’t have been more excited.
Best kid purchase/bang for your buck? The winters in Chicago can be bitter cold, so I like to get my kids the warmest coats I can find. The problem is my kids hate coats that are overstuffed. They complain it makes them look “too puffy.” My solution–the Aconcagua jacket from The North Face. It’s super warm, comes in great colors and patterns and is more fitted than most other down coats. We get two seasons use out of each jacket before the girls outgrow them, so at just under $100.00, it’s a great deal for us. They wear well, clean easily and I never have to fight with my kids about wearing their coats.
Any rules about TV/screens? I definitely don’t like electronics at the dinner table or while we are out in public. Beyond that, I like to make sure we’re keeping an even balance. At this point, the kids are pretty good—they know when to walk away and move on to something else; they’re not excessive with TV or the computer.
What’s a typical weekend like? Our weekends are pretty low key – we just like to hang out and enjoy each other’s company. At the moment, we’re really into ice skating. We go to the local rink every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoon – it’s a fun way to keep the family active and spend quality time together.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off and nags at you? Cleaning our basement. I have big plans, but never quite get it done.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine? These cold winters in Chicago can really dry out your skin – I can’t live without Clinique’s Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief — it keeps my skin moist, but it’s not heavy.
Best family trip? Last spring we went to Washington D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg – it was the best. We love museums and historical sites – we came away with such an education.
What websites inspire you and for which parts of your life? Preferred social media is….? A few months ago I read an article in the New York Times about a blog called Brain Pickings. I checked it out and I have been addicted ever since. If you’re looking for fascinating reads – it is the best. On the social media side, my favorite site has to be Pinterest. I write a blog, but when it gets down to it I’m a visual artist. Pinterest is great place for me to find inspiration and an easy place for others to share my ideas. The site drives a lot of traffic to Family Chic, and I can see which of my ideas are generating the most interest.
What is the most pinned/popular craft you have had to date?
My stemware snow globes are a huge favorite on Pinterest—I am really touched that people like them so much. They are inexpensive, easy to make and fun to give as a gift.
Do you see this as a business you want to grow—and how do you do that?
Several years ago, I came across a quote from Deepak Chopra that said, “Do what you love and the money will come.” That idea really clicked with me. My first goal has always been to do what I love and to share it with others and then to be open to all that comes as a result. Because of Family Chic, I have been asked to contribute to major magazines, other design blogs and TV. These things never would have come my way if I hadn’t started putting myself and my ideas out into the world.
Do you set goals for yourself regarding its growth?
I think setting goals is important. They help focus your energy and keep you moving forward. Along with blogging on Family Chic, I’d love to get regular work contributing creative family living ideas to magazines or newspapers and I’m currently looking for a literary agent to help get a publisher for my book, Family Chic.
Do you go to any of the blog conventions/meetups?
It’s an area I’d like to spend more time on. To be honest, I may think a bit too much about creativity at the expense of things like link building and search engine optimization—but I understand the importance of making connections and being exposed to new ideas. There are a ton of great bloggers out there that I could learn a lot from.
Any small business advice–like what is something you wish someone had told you when you started your business? And what is something you just can’t live without (could be a techie thing…) Work hard every day (even if no one seems to be paying attention), stay true to your vision and be patient. I love my MacBook Pro and my Cannon Rebel T3 – I couldn’t blog without them.
Any personal/parenting “a-ha” tips? Try to always be prepared and go with the flow.
You feel your best when? When I’m with my husband and daughters and everyone is happy and healthy, I feel incredibly grateful.
Guiltiest pleasure? I am embarrassed to say that I am addicted to all of those terrible reality shows and that I really do like Cheetos.
Proudest moment in parenting? I can’t believe I have such wonderful children – I am always proud.
Best parenting advice you ever got? My daughter’s teacher once said, “Don’t be afraid to let your kids fail – they learn when they get it right and they learn when they get it wrong” – it’s a great lesson for kids, and great advice for life.
Images of above crafts are from the following links on Family Chic: