I’m Christine Castro Hughes, a designer, writer, and mother of two darling children. I also run a graphic design studio out of my charming, crooked craftsman house. Brunch is my blog. More »
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the darling guide to gift guides

I think I might love giving gifts more than receiving them. There's just something about finding the perfect thing for that particular person and presenting it in a pretty package. It makes me happy. Sometimes, I do need a little help with the search, and I'm so grateful for all the gift guides out there. Thanks to them, I've gotten a head start on my Christmas shopping.

Here's a list of gift guides by friends and favorites. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

Anthology Magazine // A special online issue of one of my favorite print mags filled with holiday gifts and home inspiration

A Subtle Revelry // A magazine devoted to "holiday merrymaking," which includes a product guide along with tons of DIYs

Brooklyn Bride // Not just for brides or grooms, this guide has a sweet selection of gift ideas

Creature Comforts // My friend Ez's lovely and perfectly curated guide that includes over 325 ideas

Design Conundrum // A gift guide that shines a light on art, one of my favorite gifts to give and receive

Design for Mankind // Erin's picks just scream creativity and personality (kind of like her)

Design*Sponge // Guides to ornaments, wrap, presents, and even a "no buy" gift guide

Dooce // Some of Heather's favorite things that you might like, too

Justina's Global Gift Guide // A selection of beautiful and unique gifts from around the world

Miel // A few ideas for writers and readers

Miss Moss // Beautiful gift guides arranged by color (the author is based in South Africa, so most of the products are not stateside, but it's still so nice to look at)

New York Times // Gifts under $25, under $250 or for the traveler

Note to Self // Sarah's gift guides reflect her classic and refined style

100 Layer Cake // Pretty guides for Her + Him

Say Yes to Hoboken // Favorites under $25 and ideas for kiddos compiled by Liz, who also happens to be a former Darling client (Also check out her fantastic Say Yes to a Handmade Holiday series)

To & From Magazine // 142 pages of gift guides curated by lots and lots of stylish bloggers



When my mom turned 37, she stopped aging. For the few birthdays following, I'd ask her how old she was and she'd tell me "37." My big brother who was no doubt fed up with my naivete finally sat me down one year and explained that it couldn't possibly be true. Mom wasn't 37 anymore.

Now I'm the one turning 37, and I kind of see where my mom was going with it.

This birthday is a special one, though. Not only do I get to celebrate my unbelievable life and good fortune, but I get to enjoy a feast and my family too. 

So happy birthday to me, and happy Thanksgiving to you. Let's go count our blessings and eat some pie.

Photo of me on my 6th or 7th birthday


project peek : true north

When I started Darling Studio, I didn't have a plan. I had a few freelance jobs under my belt and I'd saved a nest egg good for 3 months of living. I figured I would try out this "working for myself" thing for that long and if it didn't pan out, no sweat. I'd look for another job. If it did go well, of course, then...awesome! 

Here I am 7 years later, and I am so lucky to still be own my own. I made up a lot as I went along. I stumbled a bit, climbed a few hills, and found many bumps on the road. And, looking back, I could have used some guidance, especially on the business end of things.

I could have used a resource like True North, a new venture founded by Shannon Etnyre. True North, a "creative business incubator" aims to be the left brain to a creative's right. The site, in development now, will feature all the tools and resources you need to start your creative business—and a community to cheer you on as you do.

I've been working with Shannon since day one—first coming up with the True North moniker, then giving it a visual identity to call its own. Above is the branding I created. I'm working on the website design now.

While I am busy making things look good, Shannon's hustling to get funding to build a website with all the bells and whistles. Check out her indiegogo campaign and, if you feel inspired, make a contribution. The right brains of the world will thank you.

I am available for branding services. If you need help with business naming, logo design, or consulting, please get in touch.

Images from the True North promo video by Epipheo Studios


3 2 1 blast off

It's been over 3 months since Henry turned 3, but I wanted to show off the simple accordion birthday card I made for him. The countdown is huge in our household—we count down the minutes until dinner, bath time,  bed time, and more—so I used it as the basis for the card.

Instead of slipping it inside an envelope I taped the card to the box for a fun pop-up effect. Henry can't read yet, but he knew that the card read "3, 2, 1, blast off!" And for a kid more interested in the presents than the cards, the fact that he even bothered to read it at all felt like a major win.


simple virtues

Sometimes, I look at all the little people in my life—my kids, their friends, the children we meet every day—and I imagine who will be the next president, the next Picasso, or the next Einstein. I wonder what amazing things they are going to accomplish. They could write the next Pulitzer prize winning novel, receive the Nobel peace prize, or save someone's life. The possibilities are endless.

I think it's important to do good things when we can and to teach our children that we can, and do, make a difference.

That's why I'm smitten with designer and illustrator Erin Jang's print of Simple Virtues that she created to benefit cancer research. Not only are the sentiments wonderful, but the execution is perfect. (Of course, everything she creates pretty much is!) And the cause is one near and dear to my heart.

Read more about Erin's mission here. Watch the sweet accompanying animation. Or check out her beautiful work.

Photo by Erin Jang