Chef Trainee Gerry Roland presents at the Cordon Bleu

Elleword - My nephew Gerry is studying the culinary arts at the Cordon Bleu in Dallas, TX

My nephew, Gerry, is studying to become a chef.

A year or so ago, my nephew moved in with my twin sister and her husband to pursue the next step in his formal education. Thus far, the Cordon Bleu has exposed him to several regional dishes, sauces and desserts. Gerry sometimes brings these meals home for my sister and brother-in-love to try but he’s usually tied up with his job at a restaurant near their townhouse. Every semester, Gerry and his fellow chefs in training put on a sample show where they share the dishes they’ve been working on with the public. I wasn’t able to attend one of these demonstrations in the past (day job woes). Gerry invited me to come and enjoy some yummy foods that he and other budding cuisiniers had prepared a few weeks after I left the corporate world. Naturally I accepted!

Aside from the fact that there’d be free food, I wanted to take a look around. I hadn’t been to a culinary school before and after watching Julie & Julia 100 times, I was excited to see a real chef’s kitchen. When the day came, I got wrapped up in a writing assignment. Thankfully my sister (Gerry’s mom) Youlanda checked in with me via text to find out if I was still coming. Realizing that I didn’t have adequate time to put on a decent outfit, I settled for a pair of jeans, the neon pink t-shirt I was already wearing and my thrifted purple Nike zip up jacket. I crossed my fingers, hoping that I wouldn’t be the only casually dressed attendee as I kissed Brandon and ran out the door.

Eating at the Cordon Bleu School in Dallas

After driving (and sweating since our AC is out) for half an hour, I came upon a retail complex. The three suites on the end housed the Cordon Bleu of Dallas. I dabbed my face and neck and started towards the door. Youlanda came out to meet me. She was this brightly colored aztec print dress that we’d found on our latest shopping trip at Thrift City. Mom was waiting inside, also decked out in bright spring attire. Now I really felt underdressed! The lobby area was packed with guests of all ages. Though there was no food in sight, the aromas from the other room wafted in and made my stomach growl. An older gentleman dressed in a white culinary uniform came out to greet the group. The chef, who turned out to be one of the instructors, informed us that the students had all been working very hard on these dishes and were challenged to create their own recipes. Then he lead us around the corner into a modest dining hall full of eager student chefs stationed at covered dishes along the walls.

The instructor sat the guests at round tables covered by white and royal blue table clothes. In the center of the table were flowers, a bread basket, fancy butter and Mother’s Day themed menus. The three of us sat near the beverage area next to a friendly man whom we later learned supplied fresh produce to businesses and was married to one of the chefs in training. Feeling like one of those moms at elementary school plays, I hopped up and took a picture of Gerry at his food station. He looked so pristine in his uniform! Shortly after, everyone got up and started loading their plates with food. The students served us, sharing the details of their chosen dish and how to best enjoy it. There were savory foods like turkey pot pie, pot stickers, ceviche, milk bread, mussels and roast duck (Gerry’s main course). I had never eaten duck before so that was the first thing I tried. It was so delicious that I got seconds! For dessert we had poached pears. Once everyone was served, Gerry came to join us at our table. Gerry informed us that he’d planned on serving mochi dessert but it hadn’t turned out the way he planned and was left in the freezer. We raved at how good everything tasted and that we were sure he’d be able to succeed the next time he tried making the Japanese dessert.

After lunch, Gerry gave us a tour of the facility. After turning several corners and passing a group of large preparation areas, we walked into the large kitchen where Gerry and his classmates learned how to make traditional foods while experimenting with their own dishes. I’d never seen so many pots and utensils in one room. Just beneath one of the counters stood four large containers of flour, each a different kind, used for specific purposes. The shelves on the wall held enough seasonings to last a few years if stored in my cabinets at home. All of the appliances and table tops were stainless steel and brimming with cooking supplies.

There is a display case in the hallway honoring the late Chef Jean Lafont. Having been born in France and later moving to the U.S., Chef Lafont was known for his great ability to teach aspiring chefs and help them find employment after graduation. People called him the Diamond of Dallas Fine Dining.

Elleword - We had a great time at the Cordon Bleu in Dallas, TX!

Overall, we had an awesome time. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for his next presentation. I’ve been inspired to cook a bit more creatively at home and add some variety to our menu. I’ll let you know what I come up with! When was the last time you cooked and what was the occasion? Let me know in the comments.

Have courage,

Elle | Elleword  | Tweets  |  InstaElle

Changing Lanes: I’m not that kind of artist

I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation about my career lately. I know what I went to school for, but is that really what I want to do for the next 30 or so years? I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was five years old, that much hasn’t changed. But the type of art that I’m choosing to pursue has. I spent 5 years of college and 3 years afterwards working towards becoming a graphic designer. I thought, how cool is that, you can create art with a computer for other people’s businesses and such. But the more experience I gained in the field, the more I began to wonder if it was the right option for me.


Graphic designers have to make things solely based on what someone else wants. I could come up with a great design for someone but it doesn’t stay that way because the person wants to add a bunch of text and images that take it from visually pleasing to something that looks like the spam postcards you get in the mail. You can try to convince the client that the extras are bad for business, but most of them don’t understand or care. They think it’s Burger King so they should be able to get whatever they want. This frustrates me because my name ends up being associated with that crap. I want more control over my work. This is the top reason that ultimately inspired me to go for fine arts.

Fine artist have more freedom and influence on the finished product. People value their work as it stands. I think the projects are more inspiring and entertaining as well. I would love to illustrate children’s books, movies and graphic novels. Of course that would mean making sure the client likes what I make, but I’d still be able to be true to my personal style. Most of my illustrations will be done in Adobe software. Besides that, I plan to keep photographing people. I’m starting a Youtube channel and Patreon page as a means to bring in more funds as well. I feel really excited about taking this leap of faith and that it’s going to yield great results. I can’t wait to get on here and say “I quit my day job!”.

Have courage,

Starting from the bottom. . . Again

You know that moment when you think you have pretty decent skills in one area, only to be shown that you aren’t as skilled as you thought? Well friends, that is where I found myself last night.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m working with my brother to update my design portfolio. It has been a few years since I held a graphic design staff position so I suppose it is normal for me to be rusty. The sucky part is that I’ve gotten weaker in the area of composition and how to prioritize information. Jr asked me to do a couple of mock designs and a mood board as my first project. After reviewing my work over the phone, out of my three concepts, he said that one had a bit of promise but it still lacked in major areas. My mood board tanked too. Sheesh, I’m starting from the bottom again!

He sent me some articles to look over and asked me to re-create the mood board. My mind feels shocked and fried all at the same time. To think that my skills have sunk this far. . . That proves that if you don’t make it a point to keep up with design trends over time, you’ll get left in the dust. Two years is like 14 in the creative sector. I’ve been working wherever I can just to bring home a paycheck since 2012. Sadly, none of those jobs involved Photoshop. My brother mentioned that I should have tried honing in on my skills while I didn’t have an industry job. I know he’s right but I still got irked. It’s hard to create something without an actual design brief or someone to give you feedback on the work. When you have a day job serving coffee to snobs and borderline depressed about your life, it’s a-whole-nother ballgame.

After college, I couldn’t understand how I could do so well in school and not find work anywhere in my field. Because of my degree, it was also difficult to find minimum wage work because I was overqualified. I was unemployed for six months before finally finding a few retail/fast food/stipend jobs. The longer I worked at these places and dealt with the clientele that comes along with them, them more hopeless I felt. One night during a conversation about work with my husband I went from laughing to crying uncontrollably. I felt like a failure. The little checks that I brought home couldn’t pay any bills. People talked to me like I was an idiot all day and I was doomed to spend my 30 minute lunch breaks in a cramped inventory space. I couldn’t take it any longer. I prayed a lot during this time and my husband agreed to move us elsewhere so I could have better opportunities in the Dallas metroplex.

Being in Texas gave me courage. It took nine more months of being a barista before I landed the interview for the company that I currently work for but it was worth it. I wasn’t able to get the design job I applied for but they hired me on as a support team member. Now that I’m back in the field, I really want to get back to making art. My current position is not about creating, its about maintaining and managing. I manage the content, apply design treatments to content based on what’s already there, delete it, but I don’t create anything.

As all artists, I’ve grown restless of not creating for hire. Once I get my skills back up to par, I plan to apply for as many design spots as I can. Aside from designing again, I also want to make more income. I’m a married woman and two years away from 30 (though I look 16 most days). Needless to say, I have some goals and loans that require funds, more than I currently make. I won’t reveal my salary, but let’s just say, I can’t live on it and pay all of my bills without my husband’s income. I still feel like I haven’t reached the goal of feeling like I have much to give our family financially. However I’m grateful that one of my paychecks can now cover our rent and not just a week’s worth of groceries.

It would have been easy to get bent out of shape after having my work evaluated but the truth is that I have been much worse situations. I may not have the needed skills now, but one skill that I never let get dull is my ability to learn. I am going to put time aside to work on whatever my brother sends me, read the articles, takes notes, and fail again and again. If you stick with something long enough and work hard, progress is only a matter of time. If there is something you want to do or become in life. always remember that we all begin at the starting line, not three feet away from the finish line tape. You’re not going to be as good as you want to be in the beginning so don’t even trip. Don’t look around to see who is ahead of you. You are running in a one-woman (or man) race so focus on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s ok to fall, to feel bad or angry. It’s not ok to quit. You don’t always have to know where you are going. You just need to have the courage to take the next step.

Have courage,

Closing a Door

Sometimes you keep pushing on a project, thinking “If I just find the right element, this will work”. But after trying everything you can, lack of motivation or resources, you either go with what you have or start over. I’ve chosen the latter.

I’m starting over with my entrepreneurial endeavors. I’ve worked under the name Our House as a photographer for about four years now. I’ve learned a lot, gained much and had a few setbacks. The biggest thing that stands out to me is that I want to do more than photography. I love to draw, to illustrate, to write, to read. I don’t want to be limited to one art form. Our House was branded as a photography biz to the point where many people only ask about photos these days. Nothing wrong with that. I’m just ready for more options, for creative freedom.

This time around, my husband and I are going to open a new brand dedicated to several creative services, products and projects. We’ve started the ground work recently and plan to get the ball rolling asap! I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Have the courage to take the next step!

Fall and All

Fall is here, fall is here. It’s a wonderful time of year, baby!

I would include some awesome image, but my camera is in the shop (cue the violins). I’ve been away for awhile, mostly working and being inspired to create a plan for my business. This is probably the biggest leap of faith that I’ve decided to pursue since picking up my camera and shooting my first wedding four years ago. I will share my plans with you soon, once I’ve started putting things into action. Right now, I have to finish creating my presentation and prepping information. In other words, I may have to take up working late for a few weeks at home. Meanwhile, I’ve been learning how to use my graphic design skills to assist my team at work. I mainly assist with customer requests but the better I get at editing websites, the more I get to focus on those tasks instead of talking on the phone. I have learned so much about people on this job like, how to stay calm when dealing with a pushy person, or what words to use when reassuring someone or how to steer people away from bad decisions. I feel like this is gold, priceless skill that I am improving and can apply to my passion, OHDP. 

Hair Update
It’s been a full year since I first cut my hair to 1.5 inches. I still haven’t figured out the perfect care routine but I think I’m getting closer. My hair seems to be doing pretty well, though I have done my share of accidental damage. At this point, my goal is low manipulation and keeping it moisturized. I’m working on my video for youtube to show you the progress I’ve made, if you like that sort of thing.

Speaking of youtube (and social media), I’ve been going back and forth in my mind about what I really want to write or talk about. There are so many trendy subjects that I’ve seen online, but most of them aren’t things that I’m passionate about enough to speak on all of the time. So I did some meditating on it and realized that the things that I’m most passionate about revolve around marriage, photography and business. So I’ve decided to shift the main focus of my blog and videos to focus primarily on those things. I hope that by reading about my journey to entrepreneurship will inspire others to take a leap of faith towards their dreams. So far, I’ve been researching local creative professionals in order to reach out to them later and maybe create a network of information and support. I hope to be able to teach people about the things that work for me in terms of technique, customer service, finances and organization.

“You don’t always have to know where you are going. You just have to have the courage to take the next step.”


Working From Home Aspirations

I was thinking of ideas for items that I could offer during the times when photography sessions have slowed down. As I was listing ideas and reserving library books on the topic, I suddenly felt excited at the idea of working for myself full-time as a graphic designer and photographer. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to be a working stay at home wife (SAHW)? I’m not planning on doing this in preparation to become a stay at home mom. While stay at home mothers have my respect, my husband and I have so much going on in our lives and taking care of our dog Justice is enough responsibility.

I’m talking about working as an artist on my own terms. Of course, I can’t just up and quit my job, we have debts to pay off; I don’t want to put that kind of pressure and stress on our marriage. We’ve already started coming up with a plan to make this transition happen in the next four years. In the meantime, I’ve started making a list of benefits that could come from making this transition.

1) More time to dedicate to writing and learning new design techniques.
When you work full-time on a day job, it’s hard (if possible at times) to improve your craft because you still have to make dinner, edit 200 images, workout, clean up, and hopefully spend some time with your spouse. Being able to do this during the day will free up my nights for fun and relaxation. When Brandon and I get off from work, I want us to be able to enjoy our time together without cutting that time short because I have to get back on my iMac for three hours.

2) No more weekend errands.
We have to turn down a lot of invites on weekends because we usually have to use that time to catch up on tasks we couldn’t do during the week because of schedule conflicts. I’m looking forward to is being able to handle errands like grocery shopping, taking Justice to the vet, and laundry during the week. With these things out of the way, when the weekend hits, we will have more time to do things we actually enjoy like reading, shopping, and spending time together with friends. We could take more romantic weekend day trips!

3) Enhanced quality time with my family and husband.
I look forward to being able to spend our evenings doing something fun or relaxing together without house work or Photoshop competing for our attention. Justice (woof) spends most of the day by himself in our apartment. While he is safe there, that’s a long time to have to hold your bowels without relief. Working at home means he’d have less accidents indoors and get more exercise and socialization. When our family comes to visit, I want to be able to spend time with them, not leave them to entertain themselves while both Brandon and I are at work for 8 or 9 hours. I’d love to be able to show them around town, arrange a fun activity, or just catch up on how everyone is doing. This may sound ‘domestic’ coming from me, but the idea of making my visiting family members breakfast makes me smile.

4) Open availability to travel.
I can’t tell you how many graduations, reunions and family milestones we have missed because of me not being able to take off from work. We have yet to meet two of our nieces in person since they were born. It’s a lot easier to coordinate time off for Brandon’s job because he has a large number of paid time off days at his disposal. I have 5 days, one of them being reserved for moving into our new apartment next month. There’s no way we can go home for Christmas and Thanksgiving without making them stressful turnaround trips. You know the type. You drive 12 hours to get there, spend one day in town and then drive 12 hours back. At this rate, we can just forget about taking a vacation.

As you can see, both of us will be working to support our household financially. But we’d rather do that while having more energy and time to enjoy our lives and marriage at the same time.

— Elle

May Update

Last time I wrote, I talked about my first collaborative photo shoot fail. Well, since then I have bounced back and been coordinating a second attempt shoot. It’s happening this Saturday! I’m working with plus size models, and two accessory designers. I must admit, I’m still a bit nervous. Last time I was cancelled on at the last minute but the people I’m coordinating with are very good about updating me. The best part is that my husband is going to be assisting me on the shoot.

I’ve been revising my company brand and some great things are happening as a result. We are taking the next 12 months to totally redefine the company and set things in motion for a reboot! Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. Yes, there will be some times when things don’t go to plan. Yes, we are still going through with it! We are not going to let this dream go to waste, we are not giving up.

I just finished creating a big topic list for my YouTube channel. With better organization and planning, I’m going to start posting videos on the regular basis. How regular? Well, I want to start by posting twice a month and build from there. I’ve learned from experience that it’s best to start some things simply and then add on as time passes.

Meanwhile, I have been sticking with my 365 Artistic Days and 52 Weeks  photography projects for 2014. I missed two days so far but this has been a great ride so far! I’ve learned something new each time I set my camera up. It’s been a real challenge because I don’t want all of my images to look the same. It’s also been theraputic, since every image comes with a written entry about my day or thoughts. It’s like a photo diary. You guys should try it, if not for a year, try it for a month, a week, three days. You may find that you like it!

Don’t give up!

What’s Worth Keeping

So I’ve been evaluating my social networks connected to my business and creative account, I haven’t quite gotten my routine together as far as planning posts ahead of time, but I’ve been paying attention to the networks that have gotten replies or views. I might ditch one of them, it doesn’t seem to get any action and may not be worth keeping. But that’s ok. Sometimes you gotta let go of the things that aren’t working and find out what works.

The same goes for people. Over time, as you start to grow into that person you are meant to be, you may start to notice that some of your friends, family or the members of groups that you are in may not be willing to add their faith to yours when you purposely decide to go for your dreams. Don’t let this stop or deter you. If you keep walking in faith, believing in that dream, sure, the people in your life may not support you but keep on going. If you walk long enough, you’ll run into people who will walk beside you. Work hard enough, and you may hear the sound of someone tracing your footsteps.

Someone is going to step out on faith because of your willingness to run towards your vision for your life. Someone is going to come out of their shell. Someone is going to try something new. Someone’s going to move out of state, start a business, make a friend or fall in love. So if you lose some friends or supporters, let them go and keep moving forward. Your dreams are worth keeping. And the ones who will stick by you, encourage you and add value to your life know you are worth keeping.


New Start, New State

We are almost three years in since my Life After Undergrad journey began. There’s been many challenges since then, including having to put my laborador/boxer mix, Laila Ali, up for adoption. But in one week, everything is about to change. That’s right, Brandon and I are hitting the road for a new start in a new state.

We’ve been saving money for a new start since October while living the ‘grid life’ but originally, that new start was simply a new local apartment. But after several conversations, prayers and research, we realized that we had the chance to do something bigger than we thought. We both agreed that we needed to be in a place where the both of us would prosper in our careers. Entertainment options are very important to us, I mean, come on. We’re a childless couple in our 20’s for goodness sake.

Of course we realize that every city has its own pros and cons that are more ideal for some people rather than others. After all, Dallas is known for its traffic jams and high theft areas in certain parts of town. Like any city, there are places that you shouldn’t go at night or during the day for that matter. The weather, terrain and wildlife are more factors to consider when you are moving to a new place. Neither Brandon or I have lived in Texas, let alone Dallas so this is going to be quite the adventure. We are going to have to start from scratch as far as making friends and networking. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

When you move to a new place, you have the advantage of the unknown. Noone knows anything about your accomplishments, failures or embarrassing moments. With every encounter, you get to re-invent yourself into anything you want to be without preconceptions getting in your way. If you were overly involved in organizations or social groups before, moving allows you to push everything off of your obligation list and re-discover yourself. Take some time to remember what its like to be a face in the crowd instead of behind the curtain. The things you had to sacrifice before (time with your family, taking care of your health, re-modeling your personal style or simply being able to do nothing at all after work hours) become yours for the taking. And before you jump into a busy routine again, contemplate why you were a part of so many things; was it because you genuinely enjoyed it or something else?  Time is the most precious thing we have and it should be spent on things that take you in the direction you want to go. You are allowed to say no when it comes to your life.

Perhaps like me, you’ve developed the habit of putting out Grade A work but only getting Grade F compensation. Sure, you might have thought this strategy was a good way to get your name out but think again. Your name will be out there but all of your new and potential clients are going to expect to get the same thing; executive results for minimum wage. Yes, I said executive. You are the champion of your business and deserve to be compensated accordingly.In a new place you can re-evaluate your worth and rebrand your business. It’s ok if the bargain hunter crowd passes on hiring you, your product is NOT a bargain item. It’s valuable, you are valuable and can choose the type of person you want to work with, not for, WITH.  This is not a ‘I need you more than you need me’ setup. You have something they want and vice versa. Remember, diamonds aren’t cheap, yet, everybody wants one.


TheArtistic Chic