Before & After : Island Thyme Branding

Island Thyme has been making botanical skin and body care products for nearly two decades. The DIY spirit has been behind everything Eliza and Chris Morris do—from their very own farm grown ingredients to a studio they built from the ground up. This included their branding and packaging, too.

With a presence at farmer's markets and a loyal following, their branding had served them well. But the Morrises wanted to grow their business even further—beyond farmer's markets and into markets across the country. So it was time for a branding refresh. 
Working with the Aeolidia team, I designed a new logo and branding that still feels like Island Thyme but can easily stand out on shelves alongside other brands. The companion website showcases their products well.

With a hand-drawn and watercolored illustration, we kept the handmade, homegrown spirit, but a new stacked layout and lots of white space gives the logo a more modern feel.  

If you'd like help refreshing your business's branding or creating a new identity, please get in touch. Telling your brand's story would be my pleasure.

Printable Googly Eyed Thank You Notes


I'm a big fan of the thank you note. They can be a pretty daunting task for kids, though, so I try to make it fun for them. This year's design features googly eyes and may be my favorite yet. I drew simple, cartoony boy and girl faces, then let Henry and Maira glue on the eyes and draw little smiles. The messages—or, in Maira's case, stickers and stamps—went on the back. I love how each face has its own personality, don't you?

Henry always writes a note to Santa, too, which is kind of the sweetest thing ever.

MAKE YOUR OWN: I've put together a PDF of the two designs. I've also included an extra blank face, if you want to totally customize the little face with your own hair-do and everything. The possibilities are endless!

Printable Gingerbread Man Cards

As the year winds down, Henry and Maira have been hungry for projects to do after school. With my own pile of Christmas cards to fill out and address, I decided to make them their own customizable gingerbread man cards. I drew the outline of a gingerbread man with a scarf, then printed them, along with a Merry Christmas message, on card stock. The kids drew eyes, mouths, mittens, boots, and other accessories on the gingerbread men before inscribing the cards. They were a hit.

"Look at the Christmas card Mama made me!" Henry said. "She's a graphic designer."

MAKE YOUR OWN: Feel free to download and print them for your own kids. More is merrier.

Secret Love Notes

One of my favorites on my 40 Good Things list is leaving love notes in the world. I type out messages, print and cut them, then keep a handful in my purse. When I'm out and about, I leave them on store shelves, in ATM slots, or tip jars. 

This time of year can be especially stressful or emotional, and spreading this tiny bit of cheer can help lifts people's spirits. Plus: I feel like a ninja when I secretly leave them in unexpected places.

I wanted to share the notes if you'd like to join the fun. Just download the PDF here, print and cut. Or come up with your own. The creativity is half the fun.

From Me to You

My 10 year anniversary as a Darling designer came and went this year, but I've been quietly celebrating my accomplishments for the past 5 months. In honor of my new site and 10 years of business, I am giving away 10 of my favorite things that get me through the day as a creative.

1. Baggu reusable tote - I carry this with me in my purse because you never know when you're going to need an extra shopping bag. It is deceptively roomy, and I always get compliments on it.   

2. Little Flower Sea Salt Caramels - When I was a little girl, my favorite flavor was strawberry. Now it's salted caramel. I'm so sophisticated. These caramels by Little Flower are ridiculously addicting. Little Flower also happens to have two cafés in Pasadena, and they're the perfect spots for a delicious bite or drink with a friend.

3. Big Magic - I actually haven't even read this yet, but Elizabeth Gilbert wrote it so you know it will be, like, crazy good. I got a copy as a birthday present, so if you win, we can trade notes after we read it. I know we'll be totally inspired.

4. Blackwing Pearl Pencil - This is my pencil of choice, especially when sketching something I plan on painting afterward. I pretend it makes me a better artist. 

5. Delfonics Ballpoint Pen - I am usually a rollerball pen kind of girl, but this pen might make me a ballpoint convert. (Spoken like a true pen nerd, no?) I didn't believe the hype until my friend Kristyn convinced me to try it. I love the way it glides on the page, and it's easy on the eyes.

6. Sugar Paper Signature Planner - Leave it to Sugar Paper to convince me to try a paper planner even though I swear by my Google Calendar. They are out of stock on the site, but I snagged one just for you before they sold out. You're welcome.

7. Korres Mango Lip Butter - I have a few favorite lip balm/butter favorites, but this one by Korres is by far the prettiest, and I am a total sucker for packaging. Good thing it works, too.

8. Baggu Leather Coin Pouch - I am one of Baggu's biggest fans. It took restraint to only include two of their products in this giveaway—I own and use way more in my every day. This is the perfect shade of turquoise.

9. Custom Address Rubber Stamp - The preteenager in me will always be smitten with rubber stamps. I had quite the collection when I was 11. Now, I rotate between a few custom address stamps I made for me and my family. It makes paying bills slightly more fun. This one features the silhouettes of me and my family. I'll make one just like it for you or one that features your monogram. 

10. Aesop Resurrection Aromatique Hand Balm - This stuff is magic. It smells like magic. It feels like magic. I am convinced it is magic in a tube.

To enter this giveaway, follow me on instagram @darlingstudio, then tag a friend on the giveaway photo/post and tell me one of YOUR favorite things. Easy peasy. 

The giveaway ends Nov. 30th 11:59pm PST. One winner will be picked at random and announced here. I'll email the winner, too, then send the goodies off to you. 

All of the products in this giveaway were purchased by me for you. One entry per person. U.S. residents only. The winner will have 3 business days to respond to the winner announcement. If the winner doesn't respond in the required time, I'll redraw another winner. Thank you, good luck!

One Potato

For the past several months, I've been working with a dream team to bring One Potato into the world. One Potato is an organic meal delivery service for families, co-founded by powerhouse Catherine McCord of Weelicious, and it is a game changer for busy parents like myself. Each week, you get prepped ingredients and simple recipes that help you serve a yummy dinner in 30 minutes or less. So far, the meals have gotten the seal of approval from my discerning 4- and 6-year-olds and their parents!

I designed their branding, packaging and website. We are fine tuning the site, but you can already sign up for the wait list. Right now it's just available in Los Angeles, but they're hoping to go national with your your help. Support their Indiegogo campaign or sign up here.

Photo by Matt Armendariz for One Potato

40 Good Things

My 40th birthday is this weekend, and to celebrate I'm doing something good. 40 good things, actually.

I've made a list of 40 things that can bring joy to myself and the people around me, and I'm going to try to do them all before year's end. These things might be tiny tasks or they may involve a grand plan. They may take 30 seconds or span a whole weekend. They may involve a stranger, a friend, a family member or myself (because I deserve a little kindness, too!). One thing's for sure, though: They are gonna be good.

40 Good Things

Give someone else a present
Pay 5 strangers compliments
Leave 10 lucky pennies on the pavement
Leave 15 comments on social media
Send 20 postcards to friends

Leave 25 love notes in the world
Write in my journal for 30 minutes
Give $35 to a charity
Take a 40 minute nap
Do every good thing that presents itself that day

Write a letter to someone you admire
Bake cookies for a neighbor
Cook Rama's favorite dinner
Spend one hour of uninterrupted Henry time
Spend one hour of uninterrupted Maira time

Let Rama sleep in
Make a mixed CD and give it away
Let the person behind me cut in front of me at checkout
Take my mom out to lunch
Treat myself to a massage

Help a new mom
Ask a stranger how his/her day is going
Offer a Mac tutoring session to Mom & Dad
Donate things I don't need to Good Will
Give spare change to the next person who asks for it (if no one does, put it in our travel piggy bank)

Buy coffee for the person behind me in line
Bring treats to the kids’ teachers
Make lunch for Rama (put a love note in it)
Write a thank you note to a former teacher
Feed someone who could really use a meal

Forgive someone
Apologize to someone
Make someone laugh
Reach out to a friend who may be struggling
Send a random friend flowers

Tip someone generously
Give Rama a back rub (don't time it)
Go one day without complaining
Go one day without gossiping
Call a family member just to say "Hi"


Care to join me? Follow along here or on Instagram, where I'll post about it from time to time. I'll use the hashtag #40goodthings.

P is for Party

I was pretty giddy the weeks leading up to Henry's 1st birthday. Beyond the obvious occasion of celebrating one year of his marvelous existence, I was excited to throw a good party. I knew that Henry wouldn't remember the day at all, but I wanted a celebration for me and Rama and our family, too. A celebration that said, "We did it! We were parents for one whole year and we did an awesome job!" A celebration that also said, "Thanks for being part of our son's life!"

Inspired by this party and using my current favorite palette of red & aqua, I went to town planning an alphabet and flash-card themed bash. To keep things simple, we opted for a menu of pizza, salads, snacks and cakes (yes, plural). Then, I designed a few pretty touches to make it special, starting with the above invitations. Rama illustrated our son's adorable mug for the cards. He is king of portraits and can capture anyone's likeness.

Since most of our guests were adults and babies, our party favors were something people of all ages could enjoy. I baked lemon cookies, put a few in glassine bags adorned with "C is for Cookie" labels and sealed them with some Japanese masking tape.

I am a sucker for gift wrapping. I scored this aqua wrapping paper for 99 cents at Party City. I made the "H is for happy" tag and found the red ribbon in my stash.

I made a birthday banner and tacked it to a nearby tree. In addition to the party favors, we provided bubbles and sidewalk chalk for the young and young at heart.

Our cake was the best, lightest, fluffiest mango cake from Red Ribbon, a Filipino bakery. It has become a family tradition that my parents bring it to our shindigs. Note the imprint from the birthday boy's little hand and the robot topper gifted from our friends at Giant Robot. Too cute.

I also hired our friend Emilyn Chin to bake some mini cupcakes. Her talents fill the void of the late, great Leda's Bakery that was my favorite in LA until they closed early last year. The cupcakes are white cake filled with lemon curd and topped with buttercream frosting, and yes, they are as yummy as they are pretty.

Henry wasn't sure about all the fuss at first, but I think it's safe to say he did end up having a blast.

It was a hot, hot day, but as the sun set, we were blessed with some shade and a little breeze.

We did it!

Lastly, I crafted "lucky duck" thank you notes to match. The little duck illustration is by me. The last cupcake was eaten by me, too!

Photo of our family and cake-covered Henry and me by Stacy de la Rosa. All other photos by yours truly.