Book Review: The Language Of Flowers.

The passing of another month (wait, already?) means yet another finished book to talk about – this time, New York Times Bestseller The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. If you remember from this post earlier in the month, I would one day like to work with flowers and because of that, I jump at every opportunity to surround myself with the flora.  So when I saw Camille Styles mention the book on her blog, I was pretty positive that I would be making it my September read (and look how well that actually worked out).

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers chronicles the story of Victoria Jones, a girl who was abandoned by her birth mother and spent the first 18 years of her life jumping from foster home to foster home until she became of age and had to become responsible for herself. The book switches between the story of Victoria as a young girl trying to make a home with Elizabeth, one of her foster mothers, and Victoria as an 18-year-old girl struggling to survive on her own.

Throughout the book, the reader learns about the language of flowers, which was apparently used back in the Victorian era as a way that men and women communicated to each other during courtship (I knew that some flowers had meaning, but I had no idea there was an entire language – awesome). Victoria was introduced to the language of flowers when living with Elizabeth (she owned a vineyard, but also had a passion for flowers). As an adult, Victoria called on the language to help her find herself a job, make a career, and eventually develop a relationship (coincidentally with Elizabeth’s estranged nephew, Grant). As the book progresses, we see more and more of Victoria’s childhood and adulthood coming together, and despite being two very separate points in her life, the book manages to merge each of Victoria’s stories perfectly into one until we find ourselves with a pretty encompassing and complete life story.

I’ve been lucky in my monthly book selections in that I’ve yet to choose a read that I didn’t like – The Language of Flowers is no exception. I found myself excited to dive into the pages each night, ready to dig deeper into Victoria’s troubled past…so much so that (against my better judgment) I had some later than preferred nights because I just had to find out what happened next (that need to connect the dots of Victoria’s life really screwed with my sleep schedule for a week). Anyway, it’s a great book. I loved that Diffenbaugh found a way to seamlessly integrate this really antiquated language into modern day situations, and allowed flowers to be the focus of the book without taking away from the actual story (did that sentence even make sense?). PLUS, the author even included a flower dictionary in the back of the book so that we could learn the language of flowers for ourselves – although, I was a little sad to find out that the hydrangea (my favorite flower) signifies dispassion.

But overall, it’s a great book. So enjoyable, in fact, that it has been passed around my office, pages dog-eared over and over again. A definite must read for anyone looking to be lost in story that is real, yet slightly romanticized.

Have you read The Language of Flowers? What did you think? Also, while I’ve got October’s book decided, I’m currently taking suggestions for my November and December reads, so if you have any good books, please share!



Citygram Magazine – Bringing Austin To Life Through New, Digital Eyes.

Every once in a while, you come across something that is so clever, so well done, and so inspiring that you immediately think “Why has that not been done sooner?” and follow that though quickly with, “How can I get involved with that?” For me, that something is Citygram Magazine, a new Austin-focused, iPad-based magazine that has stolen my heart.

I first heard of Citygram through one of my blogging inspirations, Tolly Moseley (if you haven’t checked out her blog, you should definitely do that), and have been hooked ever since. Tolly is one of the many talented contributors to Citygram, and when she first mentioned that she was working on the project, I knew that if her passion and skill for writing were any indication of the kind of quality to be expected in the magazine, then it would be great. And you know what? Great doesn’t even begin to describe it. Citygram is one of those publications that instantly draws you in and keeps you coming back for more. Not only is the content well-written and exactly the kind of stuff I want to read about Austin, but the digital aspect of the magazine is truly unique. Between you and me? This is the kind of magazine I would love to write for, and it’s become something of a personal mission to one day see my name amongst the rest of the fabulous Citygram talent (shhh – that’s our little secret, readers).

Paul Qui, Citygram Magazine

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Chris Perez, another inspiring Austinite (I’m forcing him to become my writing mentor) and the brilliant mind behind Citygram, to learn a little more about his inspiration for creating the magazine and what it’s all about:

For The Love Of [FTLO]: How did you come up with the idea to create Citygram?

Chris Perez [CP]: Before coming up with the idea that would eventually be Citygram, I was in a place where I was comparing the practicality of a full-time corporate job (electrical engineer at IBM) and the opportunity my creative outlets in photography / writing offered.

The Citygram idea is what eventually pulled me away from one and into the other. When you’re trying to make a career change I think it’s always valuable to think about all the skills you can layer to make yourself unique; so I was in the middle of thinking how I could monetize my photography and design experience, beyond just clients, while browsing through a magazine and that’s kind of when it all hit me.

I realized that I could probably not only make a magazine with the great people I already knew, but leveraging my background in technology I could make a magazine unlike anything currently out there.

FTLO: What separates it from other tablet mags?

CP: First and foremost is that Citygram is a digital-only publication – there is no print counterpart. Most tablet magazines are an afterthought to a print publication, they focus primarily on making a replica of the printed page. Most of the time this is done by simply converting physical page layouts into a series of PDF’s. Other than being digital and mobile, the PDF magazine apps offer no additional functionality or utility, and they are basically as static as a printed page.

With Citygram we’re really trying to push the envelope for what a digital magazine can be. Being unchained from print gives us a lot of flexibility to think of new concepts and editorials that simply could not be replicated in traditional media. We’re trying to improve the overall magazine experience by leveraging all the built-in functionality in your tablet or smartphone device with each and every article to connect you to a story, a place, or the author.

Which brings us into the other big difference with Citygram (not just with tablet magazines but with most magazines in general). Citygram is a very personality-focused magazine. We want you to get to know our authors and look forward to their exclusive stories and content. Our contributors are truly great, multi-talented and inspiring individuals that care about their craft. We want you to meet them, trust them, and let them guide you to the best in our city.

FTLO: Why the Austin focus?

CP: Austin is what we all know best, and its the thread that really connects us to one another. As contributors we all have a passion and enthusiasm for the city – its arts, its culture, its compassion. Our readers respond to that same emotion.

FTLO: Why did you pick each of the contributors? What makes them unique?

CP: There would be no Citygram if I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet nearly all of the contributors first. These really are the very people who inspired me to leave my full-time job and entertain the idea of turning my creative outlets into a career – which is precisely what each of them had done. I would meet them and they would introduce themselves as writers, artists, photographers, and that really resonated with me. Collectively, through their lifestyle, they helped me see there wasn’t as much value in money as there was in fulfilling that part of oneself that leads you to create something.

I could go through each and every one of them one-by-one. But for brevity, I’ll just say that each of them has a unique perspective, voice, and area of expertise. Joanna Wilkinson for fashion, Sarah Stacey for design, Tolly for arts & culture, etc. They all have great taste and a true talent for what they do, and that’s why I feel they are the perfect group of folks to build a magazine around. They continually inspire our city just as it inspires them.

FTLO: How do you decide what articles will be included in each issue?

CP: A few of us get together and come up with a theme for each issue. We wanted to stray from the standard ‘music’ or ‘fashion’ issues and try to do something a little more adaptable. So each issue we think of a one-word verb that aligns with that season or month. I’ll then assign some articles to writers, or accept some of their pitches based on what that word means to them, or how it applies to their field. “Compose” in the realm of design, means something different than “compose” in the realm of food, etc. It’s all very collaborative and I want each of them to tell the story they want to tell within our framework.

As editor I try to make sure each issue gives insight into all lifestyle sectors – food, culture, art, music, design, etc. – so that there is something for everyone.

FTLO: What are you hoping is the next step for Citygram?

CP: The plan is to really make Citygram be more than a magazine, and a part of your weekend routine. I want it to be your destination for what events are going on around town, and to be a place that connects you to what to see, eat, drink, or do each weekend. We’ve built a lot of that utility already in with our weekly Events spotlight and CityPics which are in the magazine now.

The next step is to do more of that…and then beyond that making Citygram something that is not just for the people of Austin but a part of other cities that we feel have a strong intersection with tech and arts & culture.

Falling In Love With Fall Fashion.

While the start of college football season typically marks the beginning of fall for me (despite temperatures still threatening to surpass 100 degrees), fall doesn’t officially come around until the Autumn Equinox…which was yesterday.  That means that fall has finally arrived people, and it makes me so, so happy.  Now I know that Texas doesn’t have a stereotypical fall with changing leaves and drastically cooler temperatures, but we do get a pseudo-fall where the weather ventures into the low 60s. You better believe that the minute my thermostat drops below 75 (and it got dangerously close this weekend), I’m preparing the adorable fall outfits that I’ll be lucky if I can wear for more than three weeks.
And because I know that all the rest of you Austinites (and if we’re being honest, probably 85% of the rest of the female population) are also scoping out new pieces for your fall wardrobe, I thought now was the perfect opportunity to share some of my fall wishlist items. Check out my board below, and let me know what items you’re coveting for the coming season.
Fall Fashion Finds
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