A Blog Story, Part I

blush and pink roses

I started writing vmac+cheese in the summer of 2008, when I needed a creative outlet to share stories about my life as a recent culinary grad, and my adventures in food. 

This line has been on my About page for a really, really long time. Even when the whole background of this blog was black and all the text was orange (it was a free WordPress template. No judgement!). I’ve left it on my About page for the entire existence of this blog because it’s the truth: my blog began in a time when I was freelance food writing and temping several jobs to make ends (barely) meet. I had just finished a 15 month long culinary degree program after 4 years of university, and kind of had no idea what was going to happen with my career.

vmac+cheese was not my first blog. There was the college Xanga and Live Journal blogs; the blog I started while in culinary school to talk about all the things we were learning (you think my essays on this blog are long…); and then the OG vmac+cheese, which was technically on Blogger for a couple posts before I migrated it to WordPress (and installed that awesome all black template). Though I was writing pieces for the San Francisco Chronicle‘s food section, I wanted more. I wanted a place to tell my own stories, not the stories of other chefs or singular ingredients. The first post I ever wrote on vmac+cheese was actually written on the job while temping at a PR agency’s front reception desk. It was a short missive about — surprise! — how I could never work in PR (hilariously, I would be doing just that about a year later). I sat on the post for several hours, then published it late at night. The post’s title was, appropriately, Late Night. In case you needed evidence that all bloggers have to start somewhere.  Read the full post +

This month's quote: "All we can do is the best we can do."

Career Chat: Joanna Reynolds Design

career chat with joanna reynolds

j crew x sugar paper

I’m pretty stoked to share today’s Career Chat (formerly known as: Style to Inspire) interview with you guys! Whether or not you know her name, I guarantee you know her work: designer Joanna Reynolds is one of the contributing creative forces behind many of Sugar Paper’s beautiful cards, prints and collaborations with mega brands like Goop and J.Crew. I’ve known Joanna for some time — we went to college together! — but funnily enough, have only recently re-connected with her when our worlds sort of collided. I was thrilled to learn about what other ventures she has going on besides working as a freelancer for Sugar Paper (see: new textiles collection, and a growing costume design business). Today, I wanted to get the scoop on what it’s like to manage so many different types of creative ventures, and of course, how she got into the lettering and illustration business to begin with. Enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in lettering and type development? Did you always think your career would go in that specific direction?

Lettering is something I started doing relatively recently; I studied fine art at USC and developed my illustration skills while studying fashion design at FIDM. My mom is an artist and one of those people who can make absolutely anything, so my childhood included an amazing mix of art history lessons, fine art, and every craft project you can think of. I’ve always known that I wanted to work in a creative field, I just wasn’t sure which.

About two years into working at Sugar Paper as the Custom + Production Manager (a job I got because of my art/craft background) an order came through for a stationery set with a bespoke monogram. We didn’t have a specific illustrator lined up for the work, so I asked the principal designer, Erika Finney, if I could have a go at it. She didn’t hesitate for a second in saying yes, which I will be forever grateful for – that monogram was the start of more lettering opportunities with the company, and having the support of Erika and the company’s two founders, Chelsea Shukov and Jamie Grobecker, gave me the confidence to eventually take the leap and become a designer full-time.


What are your favorite types of projects to work on at Sugar Paper?

Every project that I do with Sugar Paper is different – the inspiration is always something fresh, the end use is often varied, and the development process is a great, creative back and forth that often inspires other new projects. I get to mess around with chalk and paint, play with calligraphy, and build more traditional style lettering with carefully measured lines and curves. One of my favorite things about working with the girls on the Sugar Paper collaborations with Goop and J.Crew was that we did 4 or 5 completely different styles of lettering for the various products. I really love the variety of work that I get to do, as projects never feel old or boring.

So are you still working with Sugar Paper now? I feel like I’m still seeing that gorgeous lettering of yours pop up in new products!

Read the full post +

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Talking Shop: 6 Tools to Help You Manage Your Inbox

resouces to help you manage your email and inbox

Ok, so I’ll cop to it. I totally ran a shorter version of this post yesterday over on The Well. But I’ll also cop to something else: two nights ago I lay awake worrying about emails I hadn’t responded to yet. And when it came to the personal emails — the ones that needed to be sent to important people in my life who I dearly love — it also left me feeling like a bad friend.  I realized that I really, really needed to integrate a few of the resources below into my email routine. Even though I wrote this post specifically for a blog about blogging, the reality is that many of us — bloggers or not — get overwhelmed with email (and email responding fatigue), so I wanted to share these tools here in case anyone in the vmac community could use them! 

I get a lot of email. There’s business email, personal email, and then total junk email — and then variations of each within those categories, of course. I used to be a total nut when it came to having an Inbox count of zero. Now? I can’t even remember the last time that happened. I like to describe email as Sisyphean…it’s a never ending task and struggle. The good news is, technology is awesome, and nowadays there are SO MANY tools to help you keep up with things. I’m just the slowpoke who didn’t know about such tools until recently.

Step one in the email battle? Use things like Gmail’s canned responses (I’ve mentioned it before, but Meg has a great tutorial on that here). Step two? Letting go of the need to reply to every single email I receive…and using the delete button judiciously (yes, I said it!). And then, there are other tools, like the ones below. I’m totally installing Boomerang and Taskforce ASAP!  Have you tried any of these tools out? I hope these are helpful for you guys!


What it is: SaneBox determines the importance of each email based on your past behavior within your Inbox.  It will move messages you care less about out of your Inbox and into a separate folder. Then, it summarizes them for you in a digest. In addition to a one-click unsubscribe feature, you can also set up reminders to respond to emails you’ve received, or follow up with people you sent emails to. There’s also a nifty “snooze†feature so you can ignore emails that don’t need an immediate response. And, I love that SaneBox allows you to seamlessly move any email attachments to Dropbox!

Recommended if: Your email is really, really out of control, but you rely on it for literally every aspect of your personal and business life (ahem, me).

Cost: $7-$36 depending on the plan you choose; for most of us, the lowest plan would probably be fine.   Read the full post +