Sweet Thymes His and Hers Proposal Checklist

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Monique Smaby of local Etsy shop Sweet Thymes to learn about her business.  Her shop is an awesome collection of custom, vintage themed rustic wedding and event decor.  To celebrate the beginning of engagement season, we asked Monique to share their engagement collection and some proposal tips.  Check it out and don't forget to talk to our event planners for help with your engagement party! 

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For Him:

Check this list off and you will be ready to pop the question with style.

  • Ask her parents for permission
  • Pick out a ring 
  • Get a ring box
  • Pick a meaningful place to propose
  • Hang a "Marry Me" burlap or vintage glitter sign
  • Gather your thoughts and practice
  • Find a friend to capture the moment with keepsake pictures

Time to get down on one knee!

For Her:

You said yes!  Celebrate at your engagement party with these unique and quirky decor items to create the beginning of forever.

Time to pop champagne to celebrate with friends and family!

Easy Holiday Decor

We hope you all survived Thanksgiving. So, now that the dust has settled (a little), it’s time for a debrief. Here are some ideas we tested out that you might want to work into your next big event. Easy and fun: doesn’t get much better than that!

Easy Holiday Decor Flowers in Vase
Butcher paper wrapped table

No-Fuss Flowers

 This idea came out of boredom. Tired of seeing the same traditional arrangement on the dinner table, we mixed it up a bit. The best part? No flower arranging skills required!


  1. Pick up whatever flowers you love.  Pull from your yard, an aging bunch you have already, but your favorites.
  2. Layer the flowers in a clear vase. Think of it like a flower trifle.

Butcher Paper Placemat
Butcher Paper Placemat Flower
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Fun + Functional Table 

This idea is perfect for anyone who has kids, a creative heart, or who wants to minimize cleanup.

  1. Line your table with brown paper. Remember to tape it down on the ends and sides of the table to prevent it from moving around on your guests.
  2. If you’re having a sit-down dinner, block off faux placemats with tape. We used washi tape which is available in the scrapbooking sections of many stores.
  3. Lay out plenty of markers and let your guests unleash their inner child! (Note: Don’t forget to do a test to make sure the markers don’t bleed through.)

Top 3 Thanksgiving Apps

The big day is right around the corner! If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your Thanksgiving to-do list, check out these helpful apps. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Best of Thanksgiving Apps

1. KitchenPad: Focus on the cooking instead of the logistics. This app keeps track of all your timers in one place. Choose your oven and stovetop layout, and then label the food, and program the time.  That’s it!


2. CHOW (Thanksgiving Dinner Edition): Think of this app as your mother standing over your shoulder, except without all the nagging. Choose your own combination of nine Thanksgiving favorites, and you’ll get a timeline for the week that takes you all the way up to dinner!


3. 4 Day Throw Away: This app answers all those food safety questions that come when hunger hits and leftovers abound. Choose the food in question and then you’ll know whether or not you can eat free from inhibition.

More (Fun) Holiday To-Dos in the District

‘Tis the season! Don’t miss out on all the fun things to do in the District this holiday season. Here’s our first installment of our guide to all things festive! 

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National Christmas Tree

The lighting ceremony is on December 6th at 4:30 pm. This year’s performers include Train, Janelle Monae, pianist Arturo Sandoval, and Latin musician Prince Royce.  If you can’t make it in person watch it live online or tune in to PBS.  The lights are on from dusk to 11pm everyday. Don’t forget to take a picture with the tree from your home state on the “Pathway of Peace!”

Ice Skating

Choose from many different rinks. Grab some hot chocolate to warm up after!

The Nutcracker

Get dressed up in your holiday finest and catch a show at the Warner Theatre!  The shows goes on from December 6th to December 29th.

ZooLights at the National Zoo

Over 500,000 environmentally friendly lights in an already amazing place! Admission is free.  Every night from November 29th to January 1st (closed December 24th, 25th and 31st

5 Holiday To-Dos

The holidays are right around the corner. Take a look at this (fun) to-do list to make sure your holidays are full of happiness and cheer! 

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1.    Take candid photos

The holidays provide time for all of us to reconnect with our family and friends. Have your camera at hand so your ready to capture that belly laugh, silly face, or tender moment. These photos will be the ones you’ll come back to year after year. Go a step further and give the best ones as gifts!


2.    Play a game with your whole crew

Leave the dishes soaking in the sink, and crowd around the coffee table with your family and friends. Let your inner child bask in the silliness that ensues.


3.    Divvy up the leftovers

Don’t hog all the delicious goodness for yourself. Have the materials to make up leftover care packages for all your guests to take home. Your guests will be happy, and you’ll have a less to feel guilty about at the gym.


4.    Don’t sweat the small stuff

No one will remember that all the china didn’t match, or that the napkins were different colors. They will remember the people and the fun they had. So, if things don’t turn out according to plan, just laugh it off! Own the flaws. You’ll save your nerves, and your guests will feel totally at ease.


5.    Don’t overbook

You might want do everything, but that doesn’t mean you should. Make sure you schedule some time to relax and enjoy your family, friends, and time off. 

If you find yourself needing some professional help, don’t hesitate to contact one of our skilled Fortique professionals!

Design Basics

 Whether it’s a flyer, a room, or a Thanksgiving table there are a few design principles to know to ensure a good design.  Keep these elements in mind to ensure a successful result on your next design adventure.

1.    Purpose

Before you start your design, it’s important to clearly define your purpose. Why are you making this design? What is the goal? Answering these questions early on will make all the decisions that follow much easier.

2.    Composition

Simply stated, composition is how the elements of your design are organized or presented. A good composition  keeps elements balanced within the space given.

3.    Color Palate

After you know what elements are going to be involved in your project,  and approximately where they’ll go, it’s important to consider what colors will work best for you, and for your overall aesthetic. If you’re unsure of where to begin it’s helpful to do some research. When in doubt it’s always easy to stay with neutrals, and swap accent colors in and out as you desire.

4.    Accents

Think of accents as the jewelry of your design. They should provide the design with a little extra punch, but shouldn’t be too distracting or overwhelming.  Choose things that you like, but also match your purpose.


Design color palettes

5.    Finishing Touches

Once you’ve reached the end of the process, it’s important to take a break. A little bit of distance will give you a fresh perspective, and allow you to edit any unnecessary elements out of your design, or add things in that are missing.


Don’t forget! When in doubt, the creative professionals at Fortique are always there to help you out in whatever design adventure you undertake. Happy designing!

Holiday Decorating with Olios Design

Interior design expert and Fortique provider Katie Moore from Olios Design offers her advice on holiday decorating.

Katie scoured her favorite stores to bring you her top 10 chic and glamorous home décor items that are amazingly priced to give your space a definite luxe-boost this holiday season. Whether you choose one item or a handful, you are sure to have one stylin’ space for the holidays!

1. Bar Cart

Bar Carts are definitely a trend setter right now. They look great in pretty much any space and are totally functional. If your kitchen is anything like mine, only 2 people max can be in the space at any given time (and even that is pushing it). Decorating with a bar cart not only provides additional storage, but also you suddenly have a mobile beverage station! Target $69.99

2. Mercury Glass

You can never go wrong with mercury glass bottles or vases and you can pretty much find them anywhere- craft store, antique shop, garage sale…did I saw anywhere? I like to decorate with a variety of shapes and sizes. West Elm $12-$39

3. Mirrors

There is something about a collage of mirrors that speaks to me. Mirrors help make a space look larger without over cluttering it. To add a little fall or winter glow, spray white window paint on the mirror for a little ‘snow’ affect. Mercana  $95

4. Serving Tray

This serving tray will be the perfect compliment to your bar cart. When entertaining it makes a perfect space to hold more beverages and snacks but for your everyday holiday décor use, try holly berry, greenery, and candle holders. You can even use it as your dining table centerpiece. Z Gallerie $99.95

5. Door Décor

Nothing says a warm welcome than hanging a wreath from your front door. This season, try something nature inspired- branches, pine cones, and berries. Dress it up with your favorite ribbon or spray glitter for the holidays. Or better yet- paint your door to bring out the holiday cheer! Crate and Barrel $89.95


Olios Design Holiday Decor Guide

 6. Lamp Shades

You can create a brand new holiday look to your space just by switching out the lamp shade to your existing fixtures. Yup, its that easy! Lamps Plus $39.99

7. Table Linens

Table runners help protect your furniture from hot dishware or beverage spills while also adding some sophistication to the space. Opt for something that is easily washable and can be used past the holiday season. Pottery Barn $89

8. Custom pillows

Pillows are the hottest, easiest, and least expensive accessory to customize especially when it comes to the holidays. This season, try for a custom pillow. Get creative- it could be a monogram, holiday phrase, or holiday color scheme. Whatever the case- have fun this year decorating with pillows! Umba $32

9. Rugs

The entrance of your home is the perfect place to decorate for the holidays. Try switching out your front entry rug for a holiday-themed rug. Red Barn Mercantile $74

10. Olios Design Gift Certificate

Let’s face it, we all love decorating for the holidays but some of us have more time and creativity than others. If you want your space to look smashing but cannot find the time, energy, or creative nudge to do so, why not hire a professional? Olios Design Gift Certificate any value available

If you are looking for even more ways to style your home or office space for the holidays, don’t hesitate to contact Katie today!

FORTIQUE + Mischo Beauty

Mischo Beauty product photography by Fortique member Laura Fruchterman

Mischo Beauty Nail Polish

To celebrate today's launch of Mischo Beauty, we caught up with founder Kitiya to hear about her beauty secrets, business tips, and, of course, her new nail polish line! 

F: Stephanie and I had a great time meeting you (and getting our nails done) at your Eileen Fisher Shop Local event. As a local entrepreneur what challenges have you faced launching your luxury nail polish line?

M: The biggest challenge has been creating a toxin-free formula. It was very important to me to have a nail polish that wasn’t harmful to me or my child. To create the perfect formula that was void of all of those harmful ingredients, chip-resistant and the perfect color proved to be difficult, but we pushed through and I’m very proud of the results.

F: Fortique loves supporting local creative talent. As a local creative, how can our readers support you? Where can they find your products?

M: All the support I’ve gained on the upcoming launch Mischo Beauty has been very humbling, and I am very thankful. The more support the better! The nail lacquer will be available for purchase at www.shopmischobeauty.com on November 1.

F: Your nail polish is 5 free. What advantage does this provide consumers?

M: 5-free means that the nail lacquer formulation contains no formaldehyde, no formaldehyde resin, no DBP, no toluene and no camphor.  These are all harmful toxins responsible for causing birth defects, reproductive issues and cancer.  Toxins such as these should be nowhere near your nails.

F: What comes after nail polish? Any other ventures you’d like to pursue?

M: While the current focus is on the nail lacquer collection, I also plan to unveil a color cosmetics collection next Fall.

F: For those times our wallets are a little light…Do you have any favorite drug store beauty finds?

M: Absolutely!  I love skin cleansers by Cetaphil because they seem to work with every skin type.  I’m also fond of facial moisturizers by Olay. For sunscreen, you can never go wrong with Neutrogena products.

F: For those times we want to splurge… What are your go-to beauty buys?

M: The Clarisonic skincare brush will change your life. I’m also a huge fan and advocate of professional facials.  Not only are facials relaxing and pampering, but they are crucial to maintaining the health of your skin. Facials improve and revive your skin. You should definitely consider incorporating facials into your beauty regimen.

F: What is the biggest beauty mistake women make?

M: Going to bed with makeup on. Maintaining clean skin is half the battle to achieving healthy skin.  It’s so important to cleanse your skin before bed because your skin cells repair themselves the most while your body is at rest.  You don’t want makeup, dirt and oil to impede this process.


F: Are there any local products/services you love?

M: Yes! My go-to in DC for hair services is Taylor & York Salon. The Emerald Door is the best for nails!

F: From your bio, it seems like you’ve done it all. How do you balance a packed schedule?

M: It isn’t easy, but prioritizing is important and keeping a daily to-do list is a must for me.

F: As a successful woman in business, what advice can you offer anyone looking to make their dreams realities?

M: The first step is to make a commitment!  Then take action and stay focused and hang on tight for the roller coaster to come. It’s important to keep pushing through during the good and tough times.

F: What has been the coolest thing you’ve done as a beauty guru?

M: It would have to be following my dreams and launching the nail lacquer collection!

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F: Any tips for translating Fall 2013 runways trends into everyday life? 

M: Runway trends are always fun, but not always the most realistic. I like to take colors of the season and wear those on my nails, or adapt a look from the beauty looks. Right now a dark red lip is in, and I’m loving it!

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Update Your Home for Fall

It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are falling, Starbucks brought the pumpkin spice latte out of the vault, and decorations have taken over a significant portion of every store. As the days get shorter and colder, getting back home is more of a priority, however if your living room is still more summer chic than fall fabulous you may want to make a few changes. Don’t worry though, Terri from Décor Dose took some time to offer a few tips on how to make home base a little more cozy and comfortable for the months ahead.


Red Oriental Rug
Blue and Pink Ikat Pillow
Blue Lamp

“A simple switch of these everyday items for your living room, bedroom, or office will have you looking fresh in no time. Here are my three easy spruce-up tips that won’t break the bank…” -Terri


1.  A new, dynamic lamp (This one is from Décor Dose.)

2.  A bold and brilliant new set of pillows (This one is from Décor Dose.)

3.  A fabulous new rug (This one is from One Kings Lane.)

Should you find yourself needing more décor assistance, Décor Dose is available to help you navigate your next creative venture.  Check out their portfolio, and contact them today!

Fortique Workshop #1: SEO w/ McLean Robbins

Fortique was happy to host our first workshop on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on Monday evening at Studio DBI in Old Town Alexandria. Our speaker, McLean Robbins, a seasoned content strategist and web communications professional who concentrates on developing innovative content strategies for companies worldwide, shared her wisdom on website visibility and all things digital. Fortique providers and community members alike soaked up all the advice McLean had to offer. Here are a few highlights from her talk!


  • Have a plan. Your online presence should be calculated and consistent. Your tone, content genre, and posting schedule should be easy to for your audience to follow. 
  •  Share the wealth. For every post about your own business remember to comment/like/share with others. This will help strengthen your network and improve your visibility. 
  • When in doubt, fill it out. When creating blog content, be sure to keep your tags organized and thoughtful. Remember to use the same tags in your URL, post title, and images. Avoid cutesy titles. Stick with labels that directly relate to your content.
  • Self-evaluate.  Be sure to consistently check your analytics. This will help you recognize trends and adjust your strategy to eliminate what isn’t working. 
  •  Research. Keep tabs on your competition. Are they doing anything different? What are they doing that makes them more or less successful?
  •  Quality not quantity. Just because there are limitless social media platforms to choose from doesn’t mean they are all good for you and your business. Evaluate what each one can offer, and how/if it fits into 
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About McLean…Besides being a content strategist and web communications guru, McLean has extensive experience in producing high-visibility web content and designing effective social media campaigns that help build brand and personal visibility for brands including Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons and the Travel Channel. She currently teaches SEO Writing for MediaBistro. Based in Washington, DC, McLean is also a luxury lifestyle writer for The Washingtonian, Forbes Travel Guide, Robb Report, and AOL. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism from Georgetown University and an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University.


FORTIQUE + Britt Ryan

Fortique photographer Bonnie Sen showed off her fashion photography skills at a photo shoot of select looks from designer Britt Ryan’s Fall III collection.

Britt Ryan Lime Green Dress

Fortique loves the fashion that Boston-based designer Britt Elridge has brought to D.C. Her new store, Britt Ryan, is tucked along Wisconsin Ave in Georgetown, where the designer herself works. She makes all the patterns that adorn her printed pieces. The wool used in her collections brings with it the sophistication of the Paris Chanel mill where it originates. All her clothes, however, are manufactured domestically in New York, so don’t be afraid to shop without inhibition.

The Britt Ryan aesthetic is characterized by classic fit with just the right amount of playfulness. The designs seem to be largely for the 20-50 demographic, and her structured wool pieces and more relaxed silk pieces can add spice to any wardrobe. Her clothes are ideal for transitioning from day to night; a quick accessory change is all that’s needed. Shoppers can be confident that they’ll be sporting a one-of-a-kind look, too. There’s no need to fear a “who wore it better?” match-up, since Britt makes sure to keep her clothes limited to small boutiques.



Here are a few looks we tried out from her Fall III collection. Fortique photographer Bonnie Sen captured our Britt Ryan morning modeling session, while Britt Ryan store manager Laney Hylton styled the shoot. We know she’d love to style you too! Visit the Britt Ryan store and see for yourself!

Britt Ryan Spring 2013

Fall Trend Alert: Natural Eye Shadow

We are so excited about this trend for Fall, because it's so effortless and gorgeous.  One of our leading Washington DC makeup artists Alison Harper from Alison Harper & Co breaks down the eye shadow look for this season - neutral and natural.


Along with wine and velvet colored lips a fall 2013 trend is neutral shadows with a hint of shimmer. Gone are the days of the smokey eyes and softened, charcoal, smudged liner. This season is all about the comeback of clean, fresh and flawless. The most popular look these days; Light peach or pink cheeks, clean neutral eye shadow and dramatic lashes. As seen on the preppy-chic Tommy Hilfiger 2013 runway show. To get that classic, clean look check out Clinique’s eye shadow quad, Teddy Bear. I am always a fan of NARS Hungry Heart Blush Duo too. Perfect for that fresh neutral face.

Natural Eye Shadow Trend Alert

Alison is known for and has been nationally published countless times for her team's stunning wedding makeup.  Connect with her here to discuss your makeup needs.

- Steph, Alison, & The Fortique Team

Curated Finds: Summer to Fall

It's official...summer's wrapping up.  We have the month of September to get comfortable with the idea and to transition our wardrobe, homes, and lifestyle.  Darin, one of our top Washington DC graphic designers, is embracing this transition period with these fabulous finds.  Check out her picks and enjoy!


It's finally here! That sometimes hot and sometimes cool transition to Fall. Over the years, Fall has become my favorite season. There are no mosquitos and it's perfect weather to sit outside in a long sleeve shirt and read a book or...blog!

As a Graphic Designer, I am drawn to aesthetically pleasing pieces that aren't too matchy-matchy, but perfectly compliment one another. I tend to make purchases based on the label design or packaging, which doesn't always lead to a good product, but definitely makes for fun DIY projects with leftover bottles and boxes. 

Whether you want to add a little Fall flare to your home, work space or wardrobe, here are a few of my favorite Summer to Fall finds!

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A. 19FIFTYTHREE Durable Tote Bag designed by Darin Michelle (me). This is an everyday tote that is durable and stylish. I can fit so much in it or just the basics. Perfect for the beach or the coffee sop. www.19FIFTYTHREE.com

B. Kajs Jewelry by Karin Karlsson. Scandinavian jewelry inspired by nature. I can never get enough of my Kajs rings. My next buy will be the bracelets. These silver pieces are great throughout the year with any outfit. www.kajsjewelry.com

C. Vans for J.Crew. I love these shoes. I'm from Annapolis, which is a boat town so this style never gets old. It's perfect for a casual stroll or adding a little color to your outfit while out on the town with your friends. 

D. Sweet Petula Soaps. Great soap, great design. Perfect for the home. Keep the wrappers and frame them like I did in my bathroom; makes for great and affordable art. www.etsy.com/shop/sweetpetula

E. Hendrick's Gin. This has become my favorite gin and makes a perfect cocktail for both summer and fall. What's my favorite? Gin, tonic and mint with lime! Yum!

F. Flowered Doc Martens. If you're not ready to make the full transition into boot season, try out these awesome flowered boots by Doc Marten. You get the best of both Summer and Fall with these great floral designs. www.drmartens.com

G. Stockholm Cushion by Ikea. This pillow is not only pleasing to the eye, but comfy and currently fits very well into my living room. It's a great design item for any room and is simple enough to match with almost any layout. www.ikea.com

H. Leather Jacket & White Tee. You can't go wrong with a good leather jacket and a white t-shirt. It's simple and classic; it will never go out of style! I was able to score a great leather jacket at a clothing swap and a great white t-shirt is easy to come by. My favorite simple tees can be found at Alternative Apparel.


If you love Darin's aesthetic as much as we do, be sure to check out her design work for your next graphic design project!  Have a great week everyone, and we'll talk to you again on Friday!

- Steph, Darin, & The Fortique Team

Fall Trend Alert: The Burgundy Lip

Burgundy seems to be everywhere as we gear up for Fall, and we're excited to share with you some super simple dos and don'ts for rocking a burgundy lip this season.  Here is Washington DC makeup artist Aleah Rae Dorsey with her take on the burgundy lip:


Burgeoning and bold, BURGUNDY has burst on the beauty scene as a force to be reckoned with this Fall.  On everything from lashes to lips (and even fingertips) it begs to differ from the soft pastels of summers past with a sense of controlled abandon thats anything but "cute".  Just what the doctor ordered --- BURGUNDY serves up a dose of seduction strong enough to usher in the brand new season, and smart enough to wipe the taste of summers sugary sweetness right out of our mouths.  (I'm slightly pastel-ed out.  Can you tell? ) If you are as ready to pucker up 90s style as I am, follow these two tips and take the grunge plunge today!

  1. Skip the shine. --- This season's BURGUNDY lip is semi matte and super saturated.  Apply it straight from the tube and blot.  Then, repeat for a look that's soft but intense.
  2. KISS. --- When donning a BURGUNDY lip remember to KISS (keep it simple sweetie) the rest of your makeup! No heavy contouring or smoked out eyes.  Clean semi matte skin and lots of mascara are the perfect compliment to a statement lip.
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Be sure to touch base with Aleah for makeup tutorials, photo shoot makeup, event makeup, and more.  Have a wonderful Friday and Labor Day weekend!

- Steph, Aleah, & The Fortique Team

How To Personalize Your Wedding...Affordably

We love being inspired by fun and innovative ideas when it comes to wedding planning, but how do you draw inspiration from others and keep a level of personalization in your wedding details?  Style Me Pretty-featured wedding planner Tyler Flood has creative ideas to help you keep your personality in the elements of your wedding:  


How will your personality and style shine through on your wedding day? No matter the venue or budget, your wedding can be a unique reflection of you that will leave long-lasting memories!  Here are a few simple, yet creative ways to leave your fingerprint on your special day.

The Guest Book

Your guest book is a great opportunity to incorporate your passions, hobbies, and history. Do you and your fiancé love to travel?  Have your guests inscribe their messages on a globe or a vintage map of your favorite city.  Play an instrument or share a passion for music?  Substitute a traditional guest book for a guitar or vinyl records which can later be framed and displayed.   Looking for something more interactive? Puzzles, fingerprint ink art, and photo books containing your engagement photos can add fun and personalization.

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Whether DIY or professionally designed, custom signage adds a fun and decorative touch.  Display your favorite quotes and destinations, food and drink menus, details and other directions to guide your guests through your celebration.

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Escort Cards/Table Signs

Kick off your reception with a unique first impression – creative escort cards and table numbers!

Love cooking or gardening?  Herbs and terracotta pots make a beautiful alternative to traditional escort cards and table signs.  Pair childhood photos of you and your fiancé at each age with corresponding table numbers for a truly personal touch.  For wine lovers, collect corks from your favorite bottles and pair with custom printed labels to mark your tables.  Are you a big reader or planning to use vintage books for décor?  Incorporate a typewriter or antique card catalog into your escort card display.