!( - )

!( - )

November 28, 2014

My Friday Five: Shop Small!

Well, Happy Thanksgiving! Daniel and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with his family today instead ... and as expected, I'm not doing well at all. Cause the holidays are hard.

But I hear the rest of the world had Thanksgiving yesterday, and that means one thing: today's Black Friday! And thus begins the weekend of deals and online shopping. So I'm here with a quick guide of my five favorite online shops that you should totally take a look at in your Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday shopping!

Flowerleaf || You know this is like the most awesome shop on Etsy, right? Everything Jocelyn makes is gorgeous, and I finally got to do some shopping there for Christmas this year. Unfortunately I can't show you what I got because then the recipient will see it ;) but know that Jocelyn is so nice to work with, and I highly recommend taking a look at her shop!


She also has opened a second shop, Artworks by Flowerleaf, that you should really take a look at. I would love a painting from there!

Regal Cottage || I shared on here a while back about my wonderful experience with this shop, where you can find all kinds of handmade pillows and toys. It's a perfect place to find gifts for the little ones on your list--or hey, get yourself a matryoshka! I would! ;)


BigSis LilSis || I also shared my purchase from this shop a while back--my long-awaited new makeup bag. There are just so many designs here to pick from, I could go crazy picking out favorites!


Retro Revival Boutique || This is a long-time favorite shop of mine, which I now have three pieces from (two of which were Christmas gifts from Daniel :), and so of course I highly recommend this shop. And she is just one of the sweetest, most helpful sellers to work with.


Thimble & Tag || I'd been eyeing this shop for a while and finally got to take advantage of a sale for gift shopping recently. Again, I can't show you what I got since it's a secret for now (and I also may have one item headed my way for Christmas... heehee), but I have to say that Megan totally reached my very high standards--she always replied to my messages right away, was so sweet and helpful, and had my custom order ready in no time. And the packaging is so cute and professional! I really can't wait to shop there again.


Plus, most if not all of these shops are having sales this weekend, so that's even more reason to take a look and support handmade!

And of course, I just had to pass along that I'm having a HUGE Black Friday sale today too!


I've added so many new pieces to the shop recently--plus I maay be having a Small Business Saturday sale tomorrow. So be sure to stop by!

Have a great weekend, and don't forget to support small businesses this year! 

Image Map

November 26, 2014

Wellness Wednesday: The Holidays Are Hard

Guys, the holidays are hard. I know, they're hard for everyone to some extent. But trust me, they are extra hard for those with a chronic illness.

I used to love Christmas. Like most normal people. But over the past couple years, I've realized that I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving and Christmas anymore. A large part of that is simply because they take place in the winter time, which I've already mentioned makes me feel even worse--air conditioning alone causes me pain, so of course the cold temperatures, even if I'm indoors, make my pain worse. So this makes winter, and therefore the holidays, even harder.

But I've also recently realized the now-obvious reason that I'm not a huge fan of the holidays: they're just so hard. Because doing much of anything with a chronic illness is hard. And this is true for anyone with a chronic illness. But for me personally, considering some days showering is my accomplishment and great days are when I do the dishes and make dinner? We have only so many spoons to use. And when it comes to Thanksgiving celebrations, which involve making yourself presentable, driving or riding to the gathering, then being at the gathering for hours ... most spoons are already gone by the time you've done your hair and makeup and gotten dressed. Add to Christmas the whole shopping and wrapping gifts thing, and the decorating that likely won't even happen.

Further, if you have certain food needs, as many with chronic illnesses do, that's an extra burden. You most likely have to make all your own food ahead of time (watch the spoons disappear before the big day's even begun), figure out how to transport it, figure out how to heat what needs heated/find room to refrigerate what needs it once you're there, etc. (Heaven forbid you travel 8 hours away and not be able to transport perishable items. Ahem.) All of these are small things alone, but add them up, and they're just one more additional stress after another weighing on you. And we all know that stress makes anyone feel worse.

And that's just everything leading up to the big day--we're not even to the actual meal yet. When you're sick, just sitting down to eat at a table (which some cannot even do) and the action of constantly raising your fork to your mouth and chewing can be exhausting. I frequently have to take a breather while eating at family gatherings just because sitting upright in a stiff chair and raising my arm that far to my mouth over and over is straining and tiring. Then try to hold any kind of conversation, while also foggy as usual with any number of other issues like stomach pain or dizziness or sensory overload going on, and also juggle the inevitable, often well-intended but sometimes rude inaccurate comments and questions that are sure to come. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

So the answer for those with the chronic illness? Pace yourself the best you can, and don't be afraid to say no. In my few years being sick, I've gained a thicker skin. I still feel guilty for things I can't do (though it's not my fault), and I'm not sure that will ever totally go away. But I used to feel so apologetic about being gluten-free or saying no to things I knew I couldn't do and felt like I had to always explain myself. And also felt like a total weirdo for my food needs. But now that I don't eat gluten, dairy, soy, corn, nuts, nightshades, or refined sugar? I know that's what my body needs--I'm convinced of it by the way I feel when I eat those foods. But most many people don't get it and won't try to because it's so abnormal to them. My needs and my problems are an inconvenience to others, way out of the ordinary, and hard to grasp. But they are part of me now, and my needs are requirements, not preferences, so I ... kind of don't care what others think/say about it anymore. I have to not.

And for those who love someone with a chronic illness? Dear Rebecca at Caravan Sonnet recently shared 15 Ways to Help a Friend With a Chronic Illness During Thanksgiving. Can it get any better than that? These tips are wonderful, and I highly recommend reading them and passing them along.

Plus, Rebecca has also compiled a list of 30 Christmas Present Ideas for Your Chronically Ill Friend. Of course all of these won't apply to absolutely everyone with a chronic illness, just based on their personal situations, but this list is an excellent guide, and just tailor it to what you know about your ill friend (or ask someone who would know). #30 is also very important--just as even Daniel can't know exactly what I'm going through, the same goes for me and what he's going through. The caregivers are even more overlooked than the sick, and they need encouragement too.

So this Thanksgiving and Christmas? I'll be shopping online (which I've already done a lot of), eating lots of this chicken in a modified, easier (but amazing) crockpot version (which I really need to share on here) or this pizza with these or these cookies for dessert (all also in hopes of making everyone jealous of Kacie's "weird" food), not decorating besides our tree--and that only because of Daniel's help--and just trying to breathe.

Image Map

November 25, 2014

MLT VII: 5 {More} Artists You Need to Know About

A few months ago, I shared 5 artists that I think deserve a lot more publicity than they're getting. I'd never thought of myself as someone who loves artists that a lot of people have never heard of, but I'm starting to realize that might just be the case! So for this Music Love Tuesday, I want to share 5 more artists you need to know about (aka nobodies who should be somebodies ;).

Chantilly || This first artist is actually a fellow blogger, which is actually how I found her! And whenever I find a blogger who's also a musician, I gotta listen. And this is one of my top 3 favorites of hers:

Unfortunately my two huge favorites of hers, "Escape" and "What You Do to Me," aren't on Youtube, but you can listen to them (which you should definitely do)--and buy them!--here! Love those two! I think she's slowly working on a new EP, and I can't wait to hear it.

Elka || So, I'd bet a ton of money you've never heard of this artist. ;) I'd even bet I don't personally know anyone who's heard of her--besides from me. Why? Cause she's Russian of course!

I discovered Elka (pronounced "Yolka") a couple years ago while watching Russia's version of X Factor on Youtube (what else?), where she was a judge, and I decided to look her up. Awesomeness. Her music is amazing, and Daniel even likes listening to her too! ;) And no, I don't know what all she's saying unless I look it up, but I do know the gist of my favorites. ;)

Here's one of my favorites of hers (won't let me embed), along with these (translated "Hot Air Balloon" and "Near You"):

Eva Cassidy || I first heard Eva Cassidy when Michelle Kwan skated to "Fields of Gold" back ages ago at the Olympics.(Anyone else remember that?)

I finally looked it up probably a couple years after that and discovered Eva Cassidy and her story. Unfortunately she died of cancer in 1996 when she was 33. I started listening to the rest of her music and found a couple favorites to go along with "Fields of Gold":

Audra McLaughlin || Of course you've heard me ramble about mention Audra before. But in case you missed it, here she is again! Not a clue how she didn't make it farther on The Voice, but I can't wait until she comes out with more music.

My favorite from The Voice:

And a duet she recently released:

Ryn Weaver || And finally, I found this artist through Abigail at Rites of Asylum and holy cow, am I glad she shared this song!

I know I've mentioned it here before, but I just Love, love, love it so much! I cannot believe this song isn't more popular by now, and I cannot believe this artist has only released an EP so far. So much good stuff is yet to come from her!

So, who are some artists you love,
especially ones that aren't shared nearly enough?

Image Map

November 24, 2014


It's time for Grateful Heart Monday again, starting out this special week of Thanksgiving. So this week, I just want to list what I am most grateful for this year.

| A marriage that baffles me by its beautiful existence every day.

| A husband who chose me selflessly and loves me with his caretaking every single day.

| Music to capture life in a form we could never express and to not just get us through the day but add an irreplaceable element to it.

| A new, clean, beautiful apartment to call our home after a year of waiting, and a first home and family to go back to in WV.

| The gift of creativity, without which I would not be me.

| Continuing passions like Katya Valera and the joy the design process brings regardless of sales.

| Newly found passions, like KV Designs, where I can sit down and make a new blog or Etsy banner whenever I take the notion.

| Rediscovered passions and changes to come.

| Decisions reasoned through and made.

| That I know I'm sick, and that I'm not sicker than I am.

| So many more food options now than I was aware of just one year ago.

| Strides made in the effort to remove chemicals from my life.

| A God Who never goes anywhere, no matter how far we go.

Ember Grey: Grateful Heart

I still plan to be back tomorrow and Wednesday, but for now, have a great Thanksgiving week!

Image Map

November 21, 2014

My Friday Five: WV, Nashville, and New Blog Designs

Well, I'm glad it's Friday for an extra reason this week--Daniel and I are both sick, so thankfully he doesn't have to work tomorrow and we can both do nothing and try to get better.


1~ You know we have to start with Nashville, right? Am I the only one who promptly watches a new episode again the following night on Hulu...?

Okay, I didn't yet get to comment on the last, last episode. Why on earth did they skip 2 months between episodes?? We leave off with Gunnar finding out he's a dad, just to pick up 2 months later with it understood that everyone knows about his son now? And Zoey's still around? I feel robbed! SO many things happened in those 2 months that we didn't get to see--huge things that were just resolved quietly without us getting to see any of them!

Meanwhile, I believe this week's episode will go down as a classic. Just the whole situation of it being at the CMAs nearly the whole time made it special and exciting. And the scenes of Scarlett and Deacon watching at home were so funny, so good, and so real. They were awesome. I did find it very odd that Rayna's daughters weren't in it at all--if Micah could go, there's no reason Maddie and Daphne couldn't have, especially since their mother was up for a massive number of awards. And also, smaller detail, I really don't know how Sadie Stone won Best New Artist against Will Lexington if Will was constantly rivaling and sometimes beating Rayna in the charts and there was never a mention of Sadie coming close to any of that. So that felt rather unbelievable.

However, Zoey finally broke up with Gunnar, which was indeed believable and long overdue. And I would bet money that Scarlett's comment about being up on stage feeling lonely was a foreshadowing of a future career with Gunnar. Oh. yeah. :D

And Luke is just a 6-year-old boy who throws a fit when things don't go his way. Yes, writers, we hate him--now make him go away! An apology is not enough to fix what he did--Rayna should have called it all off that night. But she will. Right at the last second, right? Since we see by the next episode, it's Christmas and the wedding is two weeks away. (Which, incidentally, I bet that means there'll be a break in the show until the new year. Why do they do that to us? Is that normal with TV shows? Cause I've never heard of so many breaks.)

2~ Moving on, this video I saw on Facebook just made me all kinds of happy earlier this week. Gosh, I am such a West Virginian. :)

3~ Did you see all the songs I've had on repeat this week? What are you loving lately?


4~ While I'm still adding more and more supplies to that section of Katya Valera, I've also added a few new premade blog designs to my other shop, KV Designs!

A couple of minimalist styles:

See it live here // For sale here

See it live here // For sale here

And a shabby chic look with southern charm:

See it live here // For sale here

5~ And if you're still looking for dessert recipes for the holidays, I highly recommend these cookies/ice cream crumble I shared this week!


Happy weekend!

Image Map

November 19, 2014

Wellness Wednesday: Cinnamon Cookies + Ice Cream Crumble

You may have gathered that I've been on a Chocolate Chip Cookie kick for a while now. I'm by no means tired of them (is that even possible?), but I recently decided I needed to make cinnamon cookies. Cinnamon tastes awesome and is awesome for you, so why not make some cookies with it? However, Pinterest failed me when I went looking for recipes; I did try one but it wasn't awesome. So I decided to just modify the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Of course! If it ain't broke...

As with the Chocolate Chip Cookies, the original recipe is from the Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix box, of course with changes to make it much more allergen-friendly and healthy.

You'll need:
1 1/4 cup flour (I use 1 cup of King Arthur Gluten Free Flour and 1/4 cup Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix as I've found that results in a better texture--not too thick and not too runny.)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 heaping tsp cinnamon (feel free to use less or more based on preference--I recommend this for cookies, less for ice cream topping [see below])
3/4 cup coconut sugar (I use this or this)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup coconut milk (the cold kind in a carton--I use this)

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2) Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
3) In another bowl, mix together the coconut sugar, egg, vanilla, and milk.
4) Combine the ingredients from the two bowls and mix. It is crazy how different this dough looks from the chocolate chip cookie dough, with the only difference being the addition of cinnamon. It's almost grainy--but not in a bad way.
5) Lightly grease a baking sheet (I use olive oil spray). Scoop out the dough with two spoons--one to scoop and one to rake the dough onto the sheet.
6) Bake for 10 minutes. One batch gets me around 12 cookies. (So I like to double it. ;)

These cookies come out with a delightful texture--bordering on crumbly without actually falling apart. And the cinnamon is present but not at all too strong.

I highly recommend microwaving them when they're not fresh anymore.... :D

But this recipe has an extra perk to it. It's just as worthy for the purpose of making an ice cream topping as it is for cookies!

And it belongs in a bowl of this chocolate ice cream and this vanilla ice cream by So Delicious. Aka Chocolate and Vanilla Swirl. ;)

Looks kinda like sawdust, tastes amazing--way too good to be gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and sugar-free. ;)

And now, unlike last year where my dessert was mostly this awesome chocolate, maybe I can show up to Thanksgiving and Christmas armed with not one, not two, but now three kinds of cookies?? :D

I have all kinds of healthy + yummy recipes on
my newly picture-filled recipe page!
Check it out! :)

Image Map

November 18, 2014

Music Love Tuesday VI: On Repeat

Back again for my favorite: Music Love Tuesday! Some new music has appeared since my last music post, incuding Nashville's Christmas album. Have you guys heard it yet? I have to say ... I'm disappointed with it and haven't bought any of the songs. Coming from a show that's known for original songs, wouldn't you think they would have included several such Christmas songs? But there are only a couple on there that aren't your usual, run-into-the ground songs. And having Clare sing "Santa Baby" and Connie sing the "Grinch" song, of all things? Really?? And who wants a duet of "Luke and Rayna" singing, when 98% of fans hate Luke? Sigh.

But! Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio are both working on albums to release next year! AND THIS IS HOW EXCITED THAT MAKES ME!!! !!!!!!!!!  :D :D :D :D!!!

Moving on...

More new music released in the past week or so is Angie Miller's long-awaited EP. This girl turned down a record deal to let her faithful fans help fund her first album through Pledgemusic, which is both gutsy and interesting. (Though I cannot now find where I read that.) I looooved her when she was on American Idol what now feels like ages ago. However, like the Nashville album, I haven't bought any of her songs either... I don't know why; it's not that they're all bad (a couple kinda are though...), they just don't make me have to buy them. Maybe her next album will.

So while a couple of new releases have not won me over, one in particular has!

And they replied! :D The little things...

Anyone remember Pia Toscano back from American Idol season 10 in 2011? She's one of those people that are SO good and so perfect you know they won't win. Know what I mean? America's odd like that. And she made it to 9th place. But now she's formed a duo with Jared Lee called 7EAST and released a single, which I promptly watched. And it was good, though for some reason it didn't feel like a song that would take off. And I also kind of wanted Alex & Sierra to be singing it, as it sounds a lot like them (especially Jared). So I moved on with other things, and then had the urge to listen to it again. Then over and over again. So I bought it. And now I listen to it over and over again. So I say, well done. ;)

And popularly paired with that song on repeat is this song I mentioned in my last MLT post:

Same story with it: it was good. Then I decided I love it. It's all about Audra.

And while I'm listening to that song of hers, I might as well listen to this one too. Which is exactly what I've been doing.

Other songs that have been rotated constantly the past couple weeks are, of course, Taylor Swift's new ones, namely Wildest Dreams, Clean, and Wonderland (which I would include here but can't find on Grooveshark or Youtube).

And! I managed to find a new favorite this past weekend, thanks to Pandora:

I had never heard of Tracy Chapman, and this song got my attention right away. I just knew it was a new song, as it totally sounds like it could be current (reminds me of Passenger, who I don't like, but anyway), however it's from 1995. Crazy!

So! What music have you been loving lately?
Have anything stuck on repeat like me?

Image Map

November 17, 2014

Country Roads Weekend

Well, this weekend we finally had the weekend trip to WV we were planning but that didn't happen a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I started out last week doing worse than usual (still don't know why ... besides the fact that I have a chronic illness, duh. Why does doing worse always surprise me?) Anyway, for that reason, and knowing I would be using all my spoons on getting ready for this past weekend, I decided that Life, KV Style would be quiet for the week.

But I'm back now, with some pictures of course!

I may not be a fan of fall, but even I agree that it can be gorgeous.

Always such a welcome welcome sign.

The view from my window. Always perfect.

And the necklace I whipped up for myself in time for the trip! I had the pieces for weeks now and just got around to it.

And the pretty but cold weather turned nasty for the trip back to NC.

It was horribly, terribly exhausting ... as all trips are ... but wonderful. We did get to go to the mall on Saturday and my bestest friend in the whole wide world got to come too, which was freaking amazing as always, and we met my grandparents for dinner. And I also got to give my daddy his late birthday gift and make him cookies like I was planning weeks ago. :)

So as I type this in bed, where I've been all day, I am grateful that my husband is superman and never ever gets annoyed at me for my body's shortcomings and takes care of me so amazingly. And I am grateful that this trip finally happened and we got to do as much as we did. You can take the girl out of West Virginia, but you can never take West Virginia out of the girl. :)

Ember Grey: Grateful Heart

Image Map