champagne & black coffee

A lifestyle and fashion blog offering personal style & beauty tips, inspiration, and glimpses into my everyday life.

There Is No Such Thing As A Working Mom

Earlier this week I was in the produce aisle at our (new!!) local Publix and I had a really impactful conversation with a complete stranger.  It was 9:45 in the morning on a Tuesday and my almost-2 year old son was riding in the cart, talking about a lottttttt of apples.  A woman approached me simply to compliment my son and his big blue eyes but the conversation evolved into some pretty standard small talk.  She made a comment along the lines of “isn’t it so nice to be able to do your weekly shopping during a time where the store is not super crowded”.  I agreed that yes, it’s definitely nice, and that I’m not used to being able to shop during the day because I’m usually at work.  My son just happened to be sick so I was grabbing a few necessities following his doctor’s appointment.  She asks what I do for work, and then responded with “Oh wow it must be so hard to be a working mom.  I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”

JUST a stay at home mom?  It stopped me in my tracks and I think my jaw may have literally hit the floor.  She struck a chord with me so I proceeded to give her an impassioned pep talk about the importance of being a stay at home mom and that she’s not JUST anything… other than selling herself short.  She is a badass rockstar MOM who does some of the toughest, thankless and most rewarding work on the planet.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, a mom who works full time or part time or who works multiple jobs, a single parent, an adoptive mom, a homeschooling mom, or any other type of mom, YOU are a working mom.  Every single way you can possibly slice it, you are a mom who works your tail off to provide for your family.  Whether you’re providing love, care, financial support, emotional support, stability, or any combination of of those things, you are a working mom.  To define a working mom as a mom who holds a paying job of some sort is both careless and irresponsible.  No one ever refers to a man with a job as a Working Dad, do they?  No. They don’t. Ever.

It is my opinion that it is not any more difficult or easier to be a mom who also works versus a stay-at-home mom.  The two are very different but both very hard, and there are challenges and opportunities that are associated with each.  Sure, sometimes it’s hard for me to have a sleepless night and have to get ready and get to work first thing, ready to attack the day.  And it’s hard for me to have to coordinate with my husband when one of us needs to work late, or to juggle our travel schedules because we both require some level of travel for our jobs.  But I can promise you that it’s also hard to be the mom who is spending a long, grueling day with a teething, napless toddler. Or the the mom who misses her previous life in the corporate world, putting her career on hold so she can spend time with her children in their younger years. Or the mom who hasn’t slept well in months but is forced to choose between showering, napping or eating lunch for those few short minutes (or hours, if she’s lucky) while her child naps.  Being a mom of any sort is hard.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and from what I’ve heard, it will only get harder with new sets of challenges as time progresses.

I think I’ve proven myself wrong with my claim that there is no such thing as a working mom.  There are only working moms.  Be proud of yourself and the work you do.  Even when no one sees it or appreciates it or recognizes it.  I see you and I think you are amazing!

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Life Happens.

July 7.   The last time I published a blog post or even logged in to my website.  It wasn’t on purpose and it wasn’t a preference, it just kind of happened that way.  My life and the lives of my friends and family have all been set into hyper-drive lately so certain things got prioritized and de-prioritized.  My lil side project blog received that latter treatment.  And that’s OK.

Guys, life happens. Every day.  And sometimes the really, really bad or the really, truly good gets poured on in abundance and all of the to-dos on the list become overwhelming.  It happened to me and it continues to happen to me and for the good and the bad, I am grateful.  For my mistakes and missteps, I am grateful.  For my positive outcomes, I am grateful.  For the unconditional support of my family and friends, I am grateful.  For the roof over my head, I am grateful.  I have one million and one things to share with the universe about some of life’s recent lessons, personal successes,  and struggles I search for help in trying to resolve.  And I’ll get to them, eventually.

Today I want to share what I want to focus in on and prioritize for my life:

1) Balance.   This sounds a bit contrived and cliche’ but it’s arguably one of the most important things.  Finding that balance between work and life, between happy and humble, between routine and spontaneity. It’s hard.  We all spend our whole lives doing it unsuccessfully most of the time.  And I think I can do a better job of achieving balance if I keep a more consistent eye on how I am managing it.  Be as thoughtful and meticulous with how you are managing your everyday life as you would with a big important project at work or the planning of a big life event.

2) Love.  This is the most overused AND underused concept on the planet.  Think about it.  We, as a society, throw this word around so much that it’s basically becoming meaningless. “I love your hair!”, “I love that show so much”, “I love ice cream!”, “I love that quote!”.  Everyone loves everything all the time.  One definition of love is an intense feeling of deep affection.  INTENSE DEEP AFFECTION.  That is a big freaking deal, people.  So for all of the things and people you really, legitimately love, how often do you tell them?  More importantly, how often and how well do you SHOW them?  For almost everyone the answer here is probably “not enough”.  I am so very guilty of this – assuming people know how I feel about them because it’s how I’ve felt for a long time or because I have told them before.
It’s not enough.  I need to hold myself to the same standards to which I hold other people.  In the past I’ve found myself frustrated with my husband for not being affectionate enough or for not doing as many romantic, for-no-reason things for me as he has before.  Or for something as silly as not giving me enough hugs.  But what have I done for him to show him how much I need him?  Am I any better? (nope) I’m trying to focus in on telling people how important they are to me through action.  Checking in to see how people are doing. Sending a postcard or leaving a note.  Telling people you love them.  Doing something nice for someone despite it potentially being an inconvenience.   Going out of your way to do something helpful for someone with zero expectations of reciprocity. Thinking of others before myself by default more often.  It’s tough.  This one will take work.

3) Simplicity.  Less is more in so many ways.  Less noise, less stuff, fewer plans, less screen time… more REAL connections.  More conversations, more focus, more being in the moment.  Next time you’re in a public place just take a look around.  You’ll see more than 50% of the people in group settings with their eyes and minds glued to their phones.  People take time to schedule dinners with friends and then sit there staring at their phone, spending the majority of their time on social media telling everyone about where they are sitting with their friends while not acknowledging them.  It’s ridiculous.  I do it, too, sometimes.  I want to be intentional with how I spend my time and I want to do a better job of being in that moment, away from all of the distractions we allow to creep in.  I want to disconnect so I can create better connections with people and with the world around me.
(Sidenote:  my friends Lindsey and Lincoln are a HUGE inspiration to me, taking this idea to a whole new level!!)

4) Health.  Plain and simple, make it a priority.   Eat well most of the time and exercise consistently.  Nothing too crazy other than just generally being nice to your body.  Nothing in excess, everything in moderation. I strive for this, although I fail often.

What do you want to change about your own habits?  What have you learned about yourself recently?

What’s For Dinner?

I’ve been working really hard over the last weeks, focusing on nutrition and portion control with a sometimes-focus on exercise.  Like many folks, consistently making the best food choices is a tough feat, especially when you have children or lead a particularly busy/chaotic life.  In addition to being a mom and keeping a fairly aggressive social and work calendar, I also LOVE to eat!  New foods, rich foods, super unhealthy foods… and all of the delicious drinks and wine to go along with it. LOVE IT. I’m here to let you in on a little secret – it IS possible to improve your food choices and your waistline while not giving up everything or completely denying yourself the indulgences we all tend to need sometimes.  Or all of the time. 🙂

I’ve gotten so much better at controlling my portion sizes and choosing fresh foods when possible, and really cutting down on salt and sugar.  Notice I said cutting down, not cutting out!  That’s what it really boils down to when it comes to weight loss and health, isn’t it?  The food!  Exercise is important, but without being consistent with your nutrition you’re fighting an impossible fight.  I want to share with you some of my favorite online resources and personal tips that have made a huge difference in my world when it comes to making better food choices.

1) Structure and organization – this is important for me with absolutely anything in life.  I need a plan and I need to be organized or I am more likely to fail.  When you’re considering a nutritional overhaul, it’s important to find something that is not only realistic, but able to transition into an ongoing lifestyle.  So many “diets” fail in the long term because they are quick fixes instead of life changes.  I like the idea of structure without being overly restrictive.  This was the biggest thing that attracted me to the 21 Day Fix program.  It’s very specific in it’s intent while being very flexible in the details.  I had a clear picture of what types of foods I could eat from each and every food group, and how much of them I should eat in a day (or in a serving size).  I was able to wrap my head around what a REAL portion looks like in addition to making solid ingredient choices.  And the best part – it didn’t require me to completely cut out something delicious like carbs or dairy.

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2) Meal prep days – this has literally changed my life. Seriously.  Taking a few hours on Sunday (or any day really) to plan ahead, cook things in advance, and separate into portions makes the rest of the week so much easier.  I much less likely to opt for takeout or convenience food and am more likely to stick to my plan.  I don’t have to think on the fly because all of the cooking and portioning is already done for me.  My favorite things to pre-portion and/or cook are:  variety of fresh fruit, olive-oil roasted vegetables , grilled or baked chicken, homemade spaghetti sauce, whole wheat pasta noodles, steak tips, salads, roasted or baked sweet potatoes.  The variety in just those few items is limitless if you think about it. I make a bunch of something, use the colored portion containers (or their corresponding measuring cup amounts, pasted below) to measure, and put everything in a bunch of Ziploc containers.  Packing snacks and lunches for work are now a breeze!
21 Day Fix Cheat Sheetportions

3) Flavorful food and simple recipes – the internet is a beautiful thing.  Anything you want to know, just type it into your Google search bar.  Anything!  Try for yourself and search “21 day fix recipes” or “21 day fix desserts” and your screen will be flooded with all sorts of resources from the Beach Body blog to every coach or nutrition person on the planet who has a personal blog.  TONS of great recipes, including sweets and treats!  I do all sorts of searches and like to try at least 1-2 new recipes a week if I can.  I’ve created a Google Doc with links to some of my favorite recipes and recipes I plan to try or adapt.  I made my own version of Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps last night, adapted from this recipe I found online.  I swapped the chicken for turkey, cooked it along with some peppers and onions in some fresh garlic and chili garlic sauce, and I changed the peanut sauce recipe slightly as well.  It was delicious and my friend Kelly and my husband agreed!
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4) Quick and easy go-to meals or snacks – I don’t always have or make the time for a massive meal prep session so having a mental rolodex of foods that are quick and easy on the go take the guesswork out of knowing what to eat. We all pay so much for convenience – literally and physically – so it will help to develop your own convenience foods that are available in your pantry or fridge most of the time.

My go-to snacks are:
– Plain greek yogurt with 1 cup of strawberries/blueberries and some sliced almonds for crunch
– Avocado toast with chia seeds
– Chips and salsa (if I can’t have homemade I like Jack’s salsa, and I really love the No Salt Xochitl tortilla chips)
– Whole almonds or walnuts
– Whole fruit like a banana or apple
– Green smoothie (If I’m near Whole Foods I’ll get their Clean Greens but you can make it with kale, spinach, mango, coconut water, lemon juice + I add blueberries)
– Peanut butter toast

My go-to meals are:
– Baked or grilled chicken with roasted veggies – olive oil, garlic, lemon, spices marinade for chicken and olive oil + black pepper for veggies)
– Lettuce wraps – the possibilities are endless there
– Pasta + red sauce or chicken/veggies or pesto (sometimes I’ll even do a pasta bake with a little bit of ricotta and greek yogurt along with red sauce and/or meat and mozz/parm cheeses)
– Tacos – I like using corn tortillas, but it’s a preference
– Stir fry + brown rice – Just try to make or buy a sauce with low/no sodium

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5) Support – when it comes to eating well or exercising I am SO MUCH more likely to do well when I’m doing it with another person or group, or have the support of my husband.  I’ve done a handful of “challenges” with my friend Eve, and that has been helpful at times, but I think I’m the most successful when I have a friend or two who is doing the same thing along side me and we are talking and messaging every day.  That, along with my husband’s help and general awareness of my goals for when he cooks or when we go out to dinner is crucial.  It really makes ALL of the difference to not only have someone who understands what you’re working towards, but is also rooting for you and helping you succeed by making strides themselves.  When I see someone challenging themselves and making visible changes in their life it makes me think that I can do it, too. It drives me just a little bit harder.  When I’m in a funk but someone is relying on me, I’m more likely to put on my running shoes and get out there!  I haven’t worked out in 2 weeks, but when emailing with my friend Billie this morning we decided to drop everything right that second, put on some clothes and meet at the trail… it’s exactly what I needed to get out of my workout slump and I never would’ve done it on my own! Support is SO important, whether in “real life” or in your virtual reality on social media.
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So many of us struggle with consistency and making better choices.  It’s HARD.  It really is.  It’s never really easy, per se, but it is very doable if you make it a priority.  I think that is the key – make yourself and your health a priority.  Once you do that, the rest is up to you on how you execute it.  For me, every single one of the items above are crucial to my success.  Without a plan, without simplicity, without flexibility and without the support of my friends/family, I probably won’t continue to be successful and to reach my goals.  I know I’ll hit a rough patch and I know I will fail… it’s ok because today is a great day to decide to make a change.  The key is STARTING.  You have to begin.  I’m happy to answer any specific questions anyone has about food, planning, time, or even the 21 Day Fix program in general.  It’s worked well for my lifestyle and I’m happy to advocate for it.

A personal disclaimer:   I want to stress that I am NOT a health and wellness coach, I’m NOT a Beachbody coach, and do not get compensated for saying any of this!!!  But I am a regular person who has found something that works well for a busy lifestyle and a foodie appetite, so I thought I’d share my experience with you.  I like to do a lot of research about a product before I buy it and, even when I do, I want to form a completely objective opinion about it when possible.  I even went so far as to buy off Amazon.com instead of from an independent consultant because I wanted my own experience without all the rah-rah (no offense intended IC’s, I appreciate what you do and love that you are working hard to support your families!)  I know plenty of BB coaches in my realm of friends – in real life and on social media – and am happy to make a referral to one of them if you’re interested, it’s just not exactly the way I began my own personal journey. 🙂

Your July 4th Weekend Wardrobe Is Here!

The long July 4th weekend is fast approaching, but don’t worry because I’ve got you covered! I’ll be heading out of town with 3 girlfriends for a low-key, relaxing getaway. We’ll be inland but our focus is on relaxation, pampering ourselves, and good eats! My personal suitcase will have a mixture of simple, casual classics like my favorite BKE cutoffs and comfortable Soludos flats, but I’ll amp it up for our night on the town with a cute Eight Sixty romper or French Connection bodycon dress.  And of course…swimsuits and coverups!

Whether you’re keeping it low key for a neighborhood cookout, heading out of town, or hitting the town dressed to the nines you can find your perfect patriotic wardrobe staple here. I’ve scoured the internet and hand-picked my favorite mix of trends and classics. Come shop with me!

Click each photo for links to my favorite picks in each category:

Instagram Outfit Roundup

It’s been about a month and a half since I’ve detailed any of my fashion choices here on the blog so I thought I’d do a little outfit roundup of my recent favorites.  I’ve struggled to balance all of the different priorities in my life for the last short while and I think that is reflected in my lack of focus here.  But that’s how life goes sometimes and every once in awhile, something – or a lot of things – has to give. 🙂

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It’s tough to pick a favorite one, but this hippie/boho look probably tops the list.  The perfect combo of comfortable, cute and full of character, these palazzo pants and flowy Aztec top are casual without being frumpy.  Add to that my favorite new accessories from Boho Betty and you’ve got yourself a fairly effortless boho look.  [Bonus for you:  if you use my promo code CHAMPCOFFEE you can get an EXTRA 20% OFF all regular and sale prices!]

Shop my whole outfit here:  Top | Palazzo Pants | Sandals | Bracelets (20% off with code CHAMPCOFFEE)

Similar items:
Top – 6pm.com | Scully
Pants – ABS (73% off) | Adrianna Papell
Sandals – Schutz | Loeffler Randall
Bracelets – BaubleBar | Elizabeth and James | Me to We

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This lemon print dress is a departure from my norm but I LOVE IT!!!  It’s kind of reminiscent of the 50’s and the cut is extremely flattering – fit n flare but there are even extra pleats sewn in to create an even bigger poof.  Just looking at it makes me happy and there’s also a tank, blouse and midi skirt in the same print!  Similar styles linked!

Shop my whole outfit here:  Dress | Clutch | Shoes

Similar items:
Dress – Dolce & Gabbana (65% off)| Lanvin (60% off)
Clutch – Michael Kors | Judith Leiber (20% off with code SUMMER for both)
Shoes – Sole Society | Prada (20% off with code SUMMER)

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Blush and white (and tassels) are a huge trend right now and this is one of my favorite and easiest outfits for summer.  It’s perfect for when you’re in a hurry – and I almost always am! – and need to look put together and comfortable at the same time.  Every single item in the photo below is a bargain and adds up to a total of around $100, including jewelry!!  I featured this bag in one of my earlier Splurge vs Steal posts HERE since it’s a great Chloe’ dupe.  I’ve linked what I can but included similar items as well!

Shop my whole outfit here:  Bag | Peplum Top (30%off)| SkinnyJeans (50%off)

Similar Items:
Bag – Deux Lux (vegan leather and 25%off) | Milly Astor
Peplum – Anthropologie | Nasty Gal
Skinny Jeans – Levi’s (20%off) | Joe’s Jeans (50%off)
Jewelry – Natasha Couture | Trina Turk (70%off) | Liz Claiborne (35%off)
Sandals – VANELi (20%off)| Prada

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I get SOOOO many compliments on this shirt.  Seriously, I can’t leave the house wearing it without someone stopping to ask where I got it or to give a simple compliment.  Great find and an even better price!  [edit:  I think they may be out of stock but I found it at Francesca’s in New Orleans] And these distressed crops are my go-to for just about everything.  I need to look into investing in another pair, but I really want to find some good quality white crops (black ones, too).   Ok, so here are the details – entire outfit under $100.

Shop my whole outfit here:  Top (out of stock)| Crop jeans | Shoes

Similar items:
Top – O’Neill | Moon River (dress)
Crop Jeans – Joe’s Jeans (25%off) | Michael Kors
Shoes – Via Spiga (20%off) | Caslon

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And finally, the outfit that – to me – SCREAMS summertime!!  I love this little crocheted poncho SO much… and what an easy what to make a statement with absolute minimal effort.  I mean, you literally just throw it on over a tanktop and you’re done.   I paired it here with an older pair of French Connection floral jeans I picked up in Vegas a few years back.  Florals and cuffed hems are a huge trend right now so I guess I was ahead of the curve without knowing it at the time. 🙂

Shop my whole outfit here:  Poncho (no longer available) | Shorts | Bracelets (use code CHAMPCOFFEE for 20% off)

Similar Items:
Poncho – Lauren Ralph Lauren (60%off)| Ariat6pm.com (on sale under $35)
Shorts – Levi’s (50%off) | I RAGAZZI DEL ROSSO ($75%off)
Sandals – Sam Edelman | Free People
Bracelets – Bluefly | Aqua
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I hope you’ve enjoyed!  Check my Shop My Instagram Looks page for more style links!

Contrary To Popular Belief…

Wedding Series:  Part 4 of 5

So many people go into the wedding planning phase of their engagement thinking that they have to do certain things a certain way just because it’s the way it’s always been done, or because their parents or friends did it that way.   This post is meant to open up some doors and to help expectations, both of which – in theory – should have the end result of reducing stress and worry!

So… contrary to popular belief:

1) Your wedding isn’t JUST about you.
Yea, I said it.  It’s your wedding day but it isn’t just about you.  Now hear me out — there’s a difference between the day being planned as a celebration of your marriage to your spouse versus the world revolving entirely around you no matter what the cost, financial or emotional.
Think about it… it’s also an opportunity to thank all of the people in your life who helped you become who and what you are today.  It’s a time for family, friends and togetherness.  It’s a time to reflect and show appreciation.  It’s a time to extend grace and to make amends.  Yes, your wedding day is definitely about you and your fiance, but it isn’t JUST about you.  Remember that and also make it apparent.

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2) Your wedding day will not be 100% perfect and it will be OK.
I’m willing to bet that if you interviewed 200 brides, not one of them would be able to truthfully tell you that their wedding day went off without a hitch.  But I’m also willing to bet that they would be able to tell you that everything worked out, and in some cases, the imperfection of sorts created some sort of comic relief or a break in the silence or an ease of tension. Maybe the flower girl refuses to walk down the aisle and ugly-cries for the rest of the ceremony.  Maybe one of the groomsmen forgets his matching shoes.  Maybe a bridesmaid forgets to get her dress hemmed or pressed.  Maybe the caterer is late or the venue is locked when you arrived (happened to me!).  Maybe you don’t love your hair or you makeup and maybe everyone is driving you absolutely bananas with their questions or drama or attempts to help or lack of responsiveness. I PROMISE…it will all work out, one way or another, and your day will be great!
So many brides – and grooms – work so hard to execute this perfect vision and are stressed to the max about the possibility of one little thing going wrong.  I’m not saying anyone is wrong for feeling this way – it’s not wrong, it’s human nature!!  But what I’m here to tell you is that something WILL go wrong… and it will be A-OK! So if it’s possible to go ahead and set that expectation for your day, it may just save you some frustration or worry or stress. Maybe. 🙂

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3) Your engagement period is about more than planning your wedding.
This one is actually harder than it seems, especially if you have a shorter timeline between your engagement and your wedding. Be sure to connect with each other about NOT wedding things!!  Have some carefree fun!Talk about serious things.  Plan date nights. Talk about the future. Relax!
It’s normal to be SO excited after you get engaged and jump right into wedding planning mode… the trick is to find a way to balance the wedding with the rest of your life and not let it entirely consume your every action and thought.  Remember, you’re going to spend THE REST OF YOUR LIFE – theoretically – with your person so you may want to really spend some time making absolute sure this is right for you and that you’re on the same page about the big stuff.  And don’t forget your friends and your job.  Don’t make too much of a habit of rejecting every offer that comes your way because you have XYZ for the wedding going on.  Have some fun and de-stress with your people!! Oh yea! And soak up that last bit of non-married life you can.  It’s not really all the different, but it is to a degree. 🙂

4) All of the investments you make for your wedding don’t have to be “for that day only”  
Think about all of the “stuff” people buy for their wedding… 10s of 100s of vases, mason jars, bubbles, trinkets, serving dishes, lights, all sorts of things depending on your wedding and venue.  What in the world are you going to do with that many vases and where are you going to store them?!?!
This could really go 1 of 3 ways, one being you buy all this stuff for a one-time use and, in a way, “waste” money.  Another way you could think about some of those items is to choose a theme or style that allows you to re-use some of those items in your home, or in someone else’s home after the wedding.  We actually use quite a few of our vases and mason jars decoratively throughout our home and we’ve lent them out to others many times to make sure they get as much use as possible.  And a third option is to consider renting some of those items you may only use the one time.  My best friend recently got married and did this, and in hindsight for me, it was such a good idea.  It never even crossed my mind at the time of my wedding, but for a reasonable fee she was able to rent (and not have to deal with cleanup and storage) some REALLY cute stuff that went perfectly with her wedding theme.
My point is – think about these things in your planning like I should have.  All of those little things add up pretty quickly when you’re talking mass quantity and someone’s gotta pick it up and clean it out the night of the wedding (thanks, family!)

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5) You probably won’t have sex on your wedding night.  
You might.  But you really might not.  If it’s a priority, make it one.  If it’s not, know that going in.  It is a LONG day and a LONG weekend.  There’s exhaustion and alcohol and more alcohol and possible drama (hopefully not) and fill-in-the-blank.  Just make sure your talk this one through with your soon-to-be-spouse and make sure you’re semi on the same page about it.  You don’t want any expectations not being met by either party on day 1! Plus… ummmm honeymoon, hello!

6)  There are no rules when it comes to your wedding day
It’s yours and your husband’s event, you get to make the rules.  If you don’t want to have a cake, don’t.  If you want a bouquet toss but think the whole garter thing is ridiculous, do what you want.  If you want it to be an over-21 event?  Make it happen.  If you want a bridesman or a groomswoman, ask whoever you want to be in your bridal party.  If you want anything under the sun and can afford it on your own, make it happen!
Ok, ok, ok.  I can acknowledge that my particular situation may be more rare and I am thankful.  I had unbelievably helpful and laid back and supportive family members on both sides.  No one was relentlessly overbearing or pushing their own agenda or making crazy demands.  We were lucky and very very thankful.  So I can recognize that some folks may have a harder time – especially when money is involved – managing family expectations, etc.  But the point I’m trying to make, even if you have a controlling mother or a crazy in-law or what have you, be sure to put your foot down where you can and reinforce the idea that this is YOUR wedding, not theirs.  They’ve already had their chance to get married, maybe. 🙂

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Part 1:  6 Unique Wedding DIYs & Cost Saving Tips
Part 2: 6 Wedding Planning Tips That Are Guaranteed To Reduce Stress
Par 3:  6 Pieces of Priceless Wedding Day Advice

Part 5:  OK You’re Married, Now What?

**All photos by Realities Photography

This Summer’s Top 5 One-Piece Swimsuits

One-piece swimsuits.  This is a subject that is very near and dear to my heart…. mostly because I have the WORST time finding a one-piece swimsuit that I like, much less love.  In fact, until the last year or two, it’s been nearly impossible to find many I’d even consider trying on based on style alone.  I’m so happy this type of suit has been trending over the last year or two so the designers out there have really stepped up their game in terms of creativity, flattering print and cut.

I’d venture to say that I’ve tried on over 150 swimsuits in the last few years so I’ve started to really hone in on what will and won’t work for my body type.  I have a curvy but athletic build, I haven’t had a truly toned tummy in many years, 5’5″ in height but a very short torso, and a bit busty up top.  One-piece suits are still my absolute nemesis, but I’ve scoured the internet looking for the perfect suit.  For the purposes of the list, I’ve even upped the ante to include zero black or solid suits… a tough feat!!  Here are my Top 5 picks:

1) Marakesh Express Monokini by Gottex – $188
This is perhaps my favorite of my pics (although my husband thinks there should either be more middle coverage or turn it into a bikini – we agree to disagree).  I love that the back looks like a two piece with a scoop bottom and the front provides ample coverage up top.  To me this seems like the perfect middle ground between a bikini and a one-piece and could be an easy transition for any person trying to edge into the style or “hide” their belly without having to wear a granny swimsuit.  No offense, grannies.

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2) Aerin Rose’s Le Marais Mutli One Piece Bandeau – $172
There’s just something about this one.  I can’t imagine it NOT being flattering.  It’s got tons of color and personality, but the design itself is quite simple and minimal.  I love the black side sections and the keyhole back.  The swimsuits that still dip down close to a bikini level in the back just make it fell less old-maidish (is that a word?!).  I love that this suit can be strapless or give you that extra support with some simple black straps.  I’m REALLY tempted to purchase this one for myself!

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3) Mara Hoffman Fractals Red Knot Front – $253
This one honestly reminds me of my childhood…but more mature, obviously.  The little side circle cut outs and the the knot in front, the black and white + kaleidoscope pattern mixing.  I just kinda dig it.  The back on this one is really cute with that extra tie detail, but I’m a bit hesitant about trying this one out personally because of the bum coverage… but I’d be curious to try it on!

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4) Mara Hoffman Wheatfield Slit Front – $218
This is one of those suits I wish would work for me.  The front slit V’s down a bit too far for me – my boobs would be on aggressive display, ha!  But this pattern is SO cute.  And I love the subtle mix of coverage vs exposure.  If my boobs wouldn’t be obscene in this one I’d totally try this one out!

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5) Venus Maui Vibes One Piece – $66 (on sale from $82)
This black floral pattern is awesome!   Actually, just about everything about this suit is awesome!  The back is like a bikini, the front seems to have an extremely flattering cut the hides and accentuates and just the right place.  Yep, I might have to pick this one up , too!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed!  I scour the internet every year – multiple times – looking for THE suit.  Sometimes at the beginning of a season I’ll order 10 or 12 and send most of them back (because they have to be PERFECT and I have to feel confident wearing them).  I’ve definitely improved as far as knowing what to try and what not to bother with, especially with online ordering.  I feel like these particular suits could look great on a variety of people and shapes and could potentially give you that extra bit of confidence most people are searching for as they get closer and closer to spring and summer.  Leave me a comment or shoot me an email if any of these work or don’t work for you!!

6 Pieces of Priceless Wedding Day Advice

Wedding Series:  Part 3 of 5

We’ve all heard the standard commentary from any bride and groom who just married:  the day flies by / it’s all a blur / you forget to eat / you didn’t get to spend enough time with anyone, including your new spouse! / you’re pulled in a million different directions and have no control over your time / it was the best day but you don’t remember half of it … the list could go on and on.

I heard all of these things, too, and was determined to find a way around some of them – all of them – if possible!  We received some really great tips along the way and came up with some on our own as well, and I’m here to share my absolute best day-of advice I have to offer.

1) Pick 3 different run-of-the-mill moments and “snapshot” them in your mind
Not the big huge moments, not the guaranteed-to-be-photographed moments, but random snapshots in time.  Take 10/30/60 seconds and just look around, take it all in, and specifically remember those points in time.  Someone gave my husband and I this advice and it’s the same advice we give to our friends if they ask.  We each have 3 separate “moments” stored forever in our mind and I love that.  Six moments that would’ve otherwise been lost forever, but we managed to capture them.  It’s super cool.  Trust me and do this one thing if you use nothing else on this list.

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2) Give yourself MUCH more time than you think you need
Schedules and timelines are important – super important! BUT. Once you map out your day-of timeline, add a bit more time to each item on the list. Even if it’s just 5 or 10 more minutes.  If you have a 5:00 wedding and plan to start hair/makeup/etc. at 11, make it 9:30.  If pictures start at 3, move it up 30 minutes.  Your stress-level will really appreciate it.  I know you already have the weight of putting on this perfect event on your shoulders – why give yourself the added stress of having a tight timeline that has little to no wiggle room?  Everything will take longer than you think, you’ll have a problem with something, and you’ll appreciate the extra buffer.  Give yourself the gift of the extra buffer. 🙂

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3) Do as many traditional post-ceremony activities BEFORE the ceremony, where possible
Now, I’m not telling you to change your entire belief system or to go against everything you believe in. That’s not the point.  The point is to get as many pictures taken and as many things done BEFORE the ceremony as possible, that way you’ll have more time to spend with your guests enjoying your day!  Here are a few suggestions that will not work for everyone, but might work for you.

A planned first look –> I loved this idea so much.  We were able to have a private moment that no one else (other than the photographer) was able to experience on our wedding day.  The rest of the day is chaos and being pulled in a million directions, but we were able to spend some time – just us – and experience that first look (and all of the emotions that come with it) privately.  One of my wedding-day fears was always ugly-crying all the way down the aisle.  I honestly think this one helped me to avoid that possibility! P.S. – my husband, and others I know who have chosen this path, claims that this did not take away from any of those feelings and emotions of seeing your bride walking down the aisle toward you.

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Pre-wedding pictures, almost all of them! –>  One benefit of a first look is that you are able to take even more pictures pre-wedding so you don’t spend 2 hours posing after the ceremony.  This one was huge for us.  I think we may have spent 30 -45 minutes max taking pictures after the ceremony and before the reception.  We wanted to hurry up and get to the good stuff and we wanted our wedding party to be able to do the same thing.  We took some of the standard family pics, and some of the two of us outside as the sun was going down, but otherwise everything was handled and everyone was able to get to the party faster!

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4) Instead of having ushers release the rows for the recessional, do it yourself!!
How many brides and grooms you know have claimed to either not have spoken to everyone they needed to or spent all of their time talking and no time eating (or dancing)?  Almost all of them.  I’ve been to weddings where there was a receiving line – and that’s one way to knock this one out, but I really love the alternative we chose.  After you’ve exited the ceremony, walk all the way back down the aisle with your spouse and release your guests row by row yourselves.  This gives every single person at the wedding the opportunity to speak with and hug the bride or groom and it knocks your small talk time down significantly.  Even better, it gives you more time to actually eat and to do all the fun things!  It’s a win-win!

5) EAT!!
Brides are notorious for hardly eating or not eating at their own wedding.  You’ve picked out all this delicious food (and paid for it!), why not make certain you get to enjoy it!?  The two previous items help with this piece of advice, but it really is important.  I may be a bit less polite than some, but I decided that I was absolutely NOT getting up from my dinner table until I had eaten my fill. And I didn’t.  And it was perfect!  I didn’t care if I was interrupted, as long as they didn’t care that I was chewing my food and drinking my champagne while we talked.  I was just certain I did not want to be the person who didn’t eat on her wedding day (and consequently passed out or got hammered drunk because of it) 🙂 Trust me – eat that delicious food!!

6) Hire a day-of coordinator (or entrust a friend or family member to handle it)
This one isn’t in everyone’s budget – and unfortunately it wasn’t in ours – but it is a HUGE difference-maker.  To have one or two people who basically manage your day will take a big load off of the bride and groom.  If it’s a friend or family member, it would ideally be a person who is not already involved in the wedding party.  Having someone manage the event will ensure you keep your schedule, people are where they need to be when they need to be there, and they can handle the sticky situations as well.  We had 2 different aunts who handled decor execution as well as ceremony direction.  I’m certain the whole thing would’ve fallen apart without them!

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Regardless of any of this “advice”, remember that this is yours and your spouse’s day and everyone is there for YOU.  They’re there because they love and support you and, while it likely won’t go off without a hitch, it will be great and it will be memorable!  Just do your best to sneak away with as many of those little memories as possible.

Part 1:  6 Unique Wedding DIYs & Cost Saving Tips
Part 2: 6 Wedding Planning Tips That Are Guaranteed To Reduce Stress
Part 4:  Contrary to Popular Belief…

Part 5:  OK You’re Married, Now What?

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**All photos by Realities Photography

 

Motherhood: Evolution From the Inside Out

Almost a year and a half ago I became a Mom.  It’s changed me in the best of ways – It’s different than I could’ve ever imagined, but it’s everything I’ve ever needed.  Do you find motherhood  to be hard to explain as well?  There’s something so raw and inescapably life-changing about being entirely responsible for another human being.  My husband and I wanted to be parents for a long time and even battled with infertility.  But even when it’s something you want more than anything, nothing can quite prepare you for how it will change you.

Motherhood has helped me to become more than I ever thought I could be.

I love more – and deeper – than I ever thought I could love.
I’ve learned to forgive when I thought forgiveness was something I could not offer.
Giving and serving now come from a place of selflessness instead of selfishness.
I’ve been able to find a peace within, where there was none before.
I’ve extended myself further than I ever thought I could go.
I’ve developed a patience that I was previously lacking.
Gratitude and thankfulness now come from a different, deeper perspective.
My motivation for internal growth has completely changed.
My desire to offer acceptance and understanding has exponentially multiplied.
I’ve found a new appreciation and recognition of the smallest of moments.
I’ve learned to trust myself and my heart.
I now strive to remind myself to extend grace wherever I can.

I think the biggest surprise for me on this journey so far was how naturally all of these things occurred.  It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to fundamentally change as a person, although in a few instances it was.  I just evolved.  Very quickly and very slowly at the same time.   When I look into the future, all I think about is making sure my son knows he is loved and supported and that I am proud to be his mom.  I want him to be able to see me the way that I see my own Mom, and those are some really huge shoes to fill.  I want to be many, many things, but nothing more than to be a gracious and supportive Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms out there!  You are amazing and you are enough!!

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5 Top Spring SPLURGE vs. STEAL Picks

My 5 Top Spring 2016 Splurges and similar finds at a fraction of the cost.

If you’re like me and spend wayyyy too much time browsing every social media site known to man, you’ve probably come across some of the items below a few 100 times or so.   Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE every single one of the splurge items and designer names, but I don’t have an income to support my taste sometimes.  I’ve searched the internet high and low to bring you my 5 current favorite designer style trends and their lower investment cousins.  You’re welcome!

1) SPLURGE:  The Chloe’ “Marcie – Medium” Saddlebag – $1,395
I absolutely adore this bag!  It’s that perfect combination of on-trend and classic.  I couldn’t imagine it not being a bag I’d still want to carry 10 years from now.  But as much as I love it, I can’t think of any scenario where I’d spend almost $1,400 on a bag (or much of anything for that matter!).  Enter my STEAL pick, the Old Navy Tassel Saddle Purse.  Both bags below come in a brown/cognac color, but I really dig the blush color.  In fact, I own this one and have gotten tons of compliments on it each time I carry it!!  If you’re looking for a new spring bag that won’t break your bank account, head on over to the Old Navy link above and scoop up this purse before it’s gone!

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2) SPLURGE:  Aquazzura’s “Wild Thing” Sandal in lipstick red – $795
All fringe all the time!!  We all have at least one item with a hint of fringe, right?  Well, if not… c’mon and join the club!  These red block heel shoes from Aquazzura are calling my name!!  With the combo of a lower block heel, slingback heel, and strappy tassel ankle ties, what’s not to love?  I can’t imagine these shoes NOT being comfortable, and I’m too old to wear super uncomfortable shoes, especially if I’m paying an arm and a leg for them.  But again with that pesky price tag!
My comparable STEAL pick are these Steve Madden Sassey Two-Piece Fringe Sandals. (no, that is not a typo).  The heel height and ankle strap differ slightly, but these shoes are a really similar style option at a price point that is easier to stomach.  I have not tried these guys on (yet) and walked around in them for a bit, but I plan to!

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3) SPLURGE:  Dolce&Gabbana Tie Shoulder Lemon Print Dress – $2,495
I can’t see lemons (or pineapples for that matter) and not think “summertime”.   This D&G dress just oozes summer and I can’t get over it.  The shoulder ties, the perfect flattering cut, and the slight ruffled hem.  It’s just gorgeous!  I would totally wear the heck outta this thing (and some Spanx!) 🙂  But no. Just no on the price tag for me.  I just can’t.  I’m having anxiety just thinking about spending more than my mortgage payment on a dress.
But you guys! Check out my comparable STEAL pick for this one.  New York & Company now carries the adorable Eva Mendes Collection and her Felicity Dress in Lemon Print is just adorable.   I could see myself wearing this dress just about anywhere!  Work, brunch, dinner, church, date night… you name it!  The cut is extremely flattering (and forgiving), it’s modest but sexy, and it has pockets!!  It’s in my shopping cart right now. Literally.  At less than $60, why wouldn’t it be?  (p.s. this site has a very cool Find Your True Fit engine and it’s very impressive!)

Compare Lemon Dress

4) SPLURGE:  Kendra Scott ‘Rayne’ Stone Tassel Pendant Necklace – $80
Kendra Scott everything is all over social media.  I love it.  Very trendy and very cute!  I’ve almost pulled the trigger a number of times on this necklace and a pair of her “Elle” Drop Earrings.  While $80 isn’t over my maximum threshold for an item in general, I just haven’t yet been able to rationalize the spend.  In fact, I love this necklace more than almost all of my recent necklace purchases, but for right now, I’d rather buy 3-4 different necklaces for around the same cost as the one.
My STEAL pick for this one comes from a cute lil’ Etsy shop named thebohemianbuffalo.  There are TONS of Kendra Scott handmade knockoffs out there, but so far, this one is my favorite based on the look and the price point.  I have not purchased from this particular shop (yet), but my husband and I are both Etsy fanatics!  (p.s. If BB&Co made a necklace similar to this one in pink or teal I would buy it in a second!)

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5) SPLURGE: BCBGMAXAZRIA Ellsie Blouse – $138
The off-the-should style has been on my radar (and everyone else’s for that matter) for awhile now.  I’ve been hesitant to make an online purchase to this point because I’m afraid the style will not be flattering with my body type.  I’m a bit larger in the chest area, and while that’s not really my issue, finding a strapless bra that works for me IS.  I really love the striped seer-sucker look of the BCBG blouse and the back is split about halfway down so it’s open and airy.  REALLY cute, and not too crazy expensive.  I think it’s one I’d need to try on in person first, though.
I recently came across my STEAL pick, this similar style from Banana Republic, but I think – no, I know! – I like it better (for me)!  The fit is a bit more tailored and I love the extra ruching/cinch detail at the shoulders contrasted with the flat panel hemline across the collarbone.  The back is more work-appropriate than the BCBG option, but it has an extra button detail all the way down the middle that gives it that extra touch.  Based on the reviews, this off-the-shoulder stays in place better than others on the market and has 10 5-star reviews out of 10.  I think I may be pulling the trigger on this one, even if I can’t find one in-store to try on first!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my Splurge vs Steal roundup, and even more importantly, I hope you may have discovered the next addition to your wardrobe!!

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