I believe in William Morris’ words: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I am happiest when surrounded by beauty.

Right this minute, my brother is traveling the world, capturing photos of exotic creatures and glorious landscapes. Not I. Oh, I love to travel. And, sure, I love the outdoors—skies, sunshine, fields, flowers, mountains, oceans, and what not. Even more, though, I love people—and I love what their minds, hands, and passions can create. If I had more talent, I might be an artist. Instead, I’m a collector (and giver) of artist’s work. Useful? I love it. Beautiful? I love it. Useful AND beautiful? I love it most of all.

Lucky me, I’ve traveled—across America, across the tropics, across parts of Europe. From the time I was small until forever, one of my favorite traveling pastimes is visiting local shops. Not Target. Not Walmart. Never, ever a mall.* I love small, charming shops filled with beautiful things—especially beautiful things made by local artists and artisans. You know, the things you can’t get everywhere.  Things that tell a story, things that are special, things that reveal a gift, things that are new, things that are useful or beautiful or, preferably, both.