Nov. 27, 2020
People + Places
In West Houston, in a nondescript shopping center at the corner of Memorial and Kirkwood, there's a hidden-gem boutique filled with treasures from all over the country called PepperLou Gifts. It's the brainchild of Ellie Cassady, a joyful 19-year old with different abilities, and her mom, Valerie. This holiday season, the duo has a ton of fun, festive events in the works at their store — which is named after the family's two cats — including plenty of holiday discounts and CDC-friendly ways to shop safely.
<p>After moving her interior-design business offices to a new physical location, Valerie realized she had the space to help bring Ellie's dreams to life. "I'd ask Ellie what she wanted to do, and she'd say, 'A gift shop!'" Valerie recalls. "Close to our home was a Hallmark shop, and they had an employee with special needs. He was always so nice to Ellie. She would see him there and I think it just connected, so she would say 'Gift shop'." The supermom took Ellie's dream and turned it into reality. </p><p><br/></p><div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b5bd191d5f5e1c11a662111099d49e09" id="25450"><blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"> </div></div><p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CH8pZVRJRx8/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top"></a></p> </div></blockquote></div><p><br/></p><p>Valerie often says, "If you support us, you're supporting other small businesses," noting that they take great care to stock items from small businesses located all over the country, from Wisconsin to Mississippi. "I think that's the appeal of our store — everyone says it's so unique and they can always find a treasure here."</p><p>As holiday shopping season gets in full swing this week, the Cassady family is ready to help Houstonians spread holiday cheer. PepperLou will celebrate Small Business Saturday with giveaways and an incentive of 20 percent off purchases of $100 or more (and 10 percent off purchases up to $100). This will be the boutique's third holiday season; the duo is planning a come-and-go two-year anniversary celebration on Dec. 5 from 1-3pm. "We will have a silhouette artist in-store who will draw silhouettes of kids and then she puts them on ornaments," says Valerie enthusiastically.</p><p>Speaking of ornaments: There are plenty of fun and funky ones to be found here! There's also the popular oversize inflatable Holiball ornaments, unique Advent calendars, chunky knit blankets, Christmas-scented candles and other great stocking stuffers. One best-selling line is Mirta Tummino. "Beautiful jewelry," says Valerie. "People visit us just for that!" The family takes pride in not only supporting local through who they choose to partner with, but supporting fundraisers in the community as well. "We support local schools and auctions with donations from the store throughout the year." </p><p>In addition to in-person shopping, PepperLou is currently offering curbside pickup, and free delivery on purchases of over $25 within a six-mile radius. Valerie and Ellie will also ship orders nationwide. </p><p>"We wanted to have something for Ellie that she could feel a part of and feel fulfilled," Valerie says. "It's her own, and she works here, and we want to have other children with special needs come help us again once it's safe to do so."</p>
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Nov. 25, 2020
It's the Thanksgiving holiday.
<p>The streets are quiet this morning. The air is crisp and clear.</p><p>The birds are singing — not a symphony as in the springtime when they're coming back to life from a long winter. But taking turns, singing a cappella, which is just as lovely, only a little calmer, a little more subtle. It's a nice soundtrack for contemplating a unique holiday in an even more unique year.</p><p>Surely, not as many people have hit the road for travels. My guess is that, like me, many are opting to stay close to home, avoiding public transportation, avoiding crowds, avoiding the virus attacking our world at a continuing and alarming rate.</p><p>But as Jonathan Adler, a professor of psychology and a 9/11 scholar on victim's life stories and wellbeing, says, "Happiness can be found by constructing a good story and then living your way into it." And I firmly believe that thankfulness is a direct prologue to a happy life.</p><p>For this special week in which our entire country — regardless of race, religion or creed — is celebrating Thanksgiving, I propose we take a moment to focus on thankfulness and happiness.</p><p>I keep an interesting book at my bedside and pick it up here and there before falling asleep. <em>The World Book of Happiness</em>is a book project composed of more than 100 of the world's leading experts in positive psychology, from 50 different countries, addressing what they have learned about happiness. Adler, aforementioned, is one of the American scholars highlighted. He proposes that "the stories we craft about are lives are just that — stories." So it reminds me that I am in control of my own story, my own happiness. I believe it all starts with gratitude and being thankful for what I have, even in the wake of what our world has been telling us throughout 2020.</p><p>If you're working too hard and it's getting you down, be thankful that you have a job at a time when people are losing them due to Covid closures. If you're blue about your Thanksgiving trip having to cancel, be thankful as you are reminded that Houston weather November through May is spectacular. Get out and breathe it in. Go to the Memorial Park Eastern Glades and take a stroll. Do something to appreciate our great city.</p><p>I implore you to just be thankful, even in the minutia. Do as I often do: Pull out a journal and write what you're thankful for, even if it's for something as simple as a wave that you receive from an otherwise unfriendly neighbor. </p><p>I rewrite my story whenever I start feeling unhappy, and I often find that my mood is uplifted instantly. As we have all heard for years, happiness is a journey, not a destination. So during this Thanksgiving journey, I plan to spend as much of my day giving thanks as I can. This will be my own version of a happiness project, starting with this very moment, as I connect with you and ask you to share in this endeavor. </p><p><br/>Let's give thanks together.</p>
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