champagne & black coffee

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

Category: Everyday (Page 1 of 2)

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!

20160921_092657

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.

avocado toast

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!
choppedthai.finish

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

choppedveggies

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.
runningshoes

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. 🙂

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.

weddingseries4

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. 🙂

weddingseries4.1

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!)

weddingseries.1.1

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. 🙂

weddingseriesparty

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

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.

weddingseries3.5
weddingseries3.99

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. 🙂

weddingseries3.8

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.

weddingseries3.2 weddingseries3.3

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!

weddingseriesdresses

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!

weddingseries3

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?

weddingseries3.6

**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!!

Day 003 - Amos with Mom 2
3 days old

6 Wedding Planning Tips That Are Guaranteed To Reduce Stress

Wedding Series:  Part 2 of 5

Have you ever met a bride-to-be who WASN’T stressed out or wound up about some detail of her wedding?  I haven’t, and I’ve been there, too.  Planning a wedding is hard work and takes a ton of time, energy, and organization.  Why do you think there are a huge segment of people (wedding planners and event designers) who make a living off this stressful… I mean super exciting time in a couple’s life?  Even if you’ve got tons of free time and exceptional organization skills, you’ll come up against some pretty ridiculous frustrations while planning your big day.  I’m here to offer you 6 solid wedding planning tips that made my life much easier and will reduce your stress level, too.

1) Determine your top 3 most important expense-related things associated with your wedding day and discuss them with your husband/wife/partner-to-be.
Have them come up with their 3 most important things as well.  The purpose of this exercise is two-fold:  you want to be on the same page as your partner at a high level and you want to figure out where to prioritize your budget, the budget being key here.  It’s OK to have a ton of things that are important to you but really try to boil it down to 3 items at the very top of your list.  What are the 3 absolute must-haves no matter what.  For example, my husband and I had this discussion and boiled it down to:  a) delicious food b) a top-shelf open bar c) good music so the dance floor is packed the entire night.  Basically, we wanted our wedding to be both fun and memorable, in a good way.

There’s a reason we chose the 3 things we did, and there’s a reason we had the discussion in the first place.  When we first got engaged and started tossing around general ideas about how our event might look, we started thinking back on the best (and worst) things about weddings we’ve attended.  Think back to all the weddings you’ve attended in your recent past – what do you remember??  I’m guessing you’ll remember that the food was underwhelming, especially if it was plated.  You’ll remember whether or not you liked the music and danced a lot/a little/none.  And you’ll remember whether you were kind of bored and looking for the right opportunity to leave versus disappointed when the DJ played the last song because you were having a blast.   Our 3 things might not align with your version, but definitely determine, as a couple, what is most important to you from a cost-perspective.

2) Handle first things first and details later.  
Weddings have become such a commercialized and almost competitive life event that you’ll be flooded with ideas and magazines and unsolicited advice from your friends the second you announce your engagement.  It can be quite overwhelming if you let it.  There are some really great resources out there like this checklist on The Knot to help with juggling all of it and figuring out the best time frame to focus on each, but even that can be extremely overwhelming just to try to read through.  I mean, that checklist starts at 12 months out – what if you end up getting married 6 months after your engagement like we did?

I know it’s hard not to think about every little thing right away, but really try to focus on the big agenda items you have to knock out before the rest can fall into line.  There’s no sense in scheduling florist visits and cake tastings the week after you’re engaged if you haven’t locked down a venue or a date.   Thinking about how many tiers your cake will have or what color the table linens should be before you nail down some of the other big ticket items is a good way to drive yourself straight into stress mode.  It may be a bit premature to start planning your honeymoon or buy wedding rings if you don’t know your target time frame yet.  My personal opinion, especially if you’re having a wedding and/or reception outside of a church is to lock down your venue first.  Venues are so competitive these days, some booking out 1.5 – 2 years+.  We got really lucky with our venue because someone backed out unexpectedly and a spot opened up the day after we called to ask questions.  Without that karma in our favor we may have gotten married a year later than we did due to other circumstances.  Knowing our venue defined our timeline (as did my brother’s deployment), and that made prioritizing next steps much easier.  Big things first, little things last.  Easier said than done.

3) Less is More.
This phrase refers more to the number of different vendors you decide to work with versus decorations and “stuff” (although it is my personal opinion that less is more there, too).  If you’re searching for ways to reduce your workload and stress level, this one is KEY, but it’s also a little tricky.  The more services you can bundle, the better, I say!  An ideal scenario would be if you could find a venue that is more than literally just the space itself.  Wedding venues are extremely trendy right now, so no matter what city you live in or near I’d be willing to bet there are at least a handful that will cover many of the major items.  Chairs, tables, lighting, plates, silverware, table linens and drapery, catering, cocktail tables and couches, alcohol service and bartenders, event coordinator (sometimes).  Imagine if you had to coordinate all of those vendors listed above PLUS the bakery, florist, photographer and/or videographer, DJ/band, stylists and makeup artists… I mean this list could go on and on with other optional niceties.   Lumping all or much of that first list into one vendor or company will make a world of difference and will make those decisions easier on you.  It was important for us to have amazing food so we were lucky to find the venue we wanted that happened to be owned by a catering company.  The catch, though, was that they FORCED you to use them for those services as it was a bundled deal.  I was SO OK with that because the food was delicious when we attended their open house (day of wedding, too!!!).  The other thing that is helpful, if it’s in your budget, is an event coordinator to help with a lot of those planning items along the way.  I didn’t opt for having one, but those I know who have done so recommend it over and again!

4) You cannot please everyone, so instill that idea in your decision-making process from the beginning.
There will be some people who cannot make it to your wedding and will be upset that you didn’t plan around their life.  There will be people who disagree with your wedding format. Or location. Or that there was a prayer. Or that there was not a prayer.  Or on the timing or delivery method of your invitations. Or whether or not they were included in your bridal party or were chosen for a specific role.  Or that they weren’t included in the rehearsal dinner. Or that they weren’t invited to any part of your wedding at all. Your parents or in-laws will likely want to put their foot down on a few items (or all of them!!) and your family members may want to invite their friends in place of some of yours.  Someone will be upset you didn’t communicate the details effectively enough and someone will be upset that children are not invited. Or that children are included. Or that their child wasn’t in the ceremony itself. Or that you only served beer and wine. Or that you had alcohol at your reception at all.  You get my point and this list could go on and on and on… YOU WILL OFFEND PEOPLE.  And that is OK. And the sooner you get to the point where you stop trying to plan around everyone else’s demands, the easier it will be to make decisions.  It is your and your future spouse’s wedding, not theirs.  Remember that. (**as an aside – Mom, family, etc – if you are reading this I am not referring to you 🙂  All of these things did not occur with my wedding, although a very small handful of them did because, like I said, you WILL offend someone.)

You’ll get tons of unsolicited advice (like you’re getting right now!) and you’ll get tons of demands.  You’ll probably need to compromise on a few items to keep the peace, or because it’s the right thing to do.  Just remember that in most cases, you get the final say.  Go with your gut.

5) Delegate where possible.
I’m a Type A control freak sales person.  I understand how hard relinquishing control of anything can be, especially when it comes to something is monumental as your wedding day.  But if you’re able – and I know you are! – delegate some of the responsibility to people who want to help.  I PROMISE that people want to help you.  Many people will even ask you what they can do to help – and they actually mean it!  They’ve either been a bride before and know how daunting it can be, or more likely they are your friend or family member who really wants to be involved if you will let them.  In general, be very specific with your general expectations and what you really want, especially if you change your mind on something.  Just like with your significant other… your family and friends cannot read minds! On the other side of the coin, people will also tread lightly because they do not want to add unwanted stress or put you in an uncomfortable position for any reason.  They assume that because you have not asked for their help that you do not want them involved.  If you are that person, and you have a friend who is getting married, maybe try requesting a specific tedious or time-consuming task to help with.  Your bride friend is not overlooking you, they probably don’t want to feel like they are putting you out either.

Here’s a fun idea – my friend Erika had an “Invitation Stuffing Wine and Whine Party”.  She designed and printed some really awesome and really intricate invitations, but used the assembly portion as an excuse to involve her girlfriends, delegate a tedious task, and have some girl time.  It was such a good idea.  I personally have a HUGE list of things that people did to make my life easier and I am forever grateful to them for stepping up or even downright telling me “this is what I am going to help you with, get over it”.  It was tough giving up some control at times but my stress level thanked me (and them) for it.  Whatever you can do to give up some of your bridal load…DO IT! 🙂

6) Throughout the process, continually remind yourself of the importance behind your wedding day and of the bigger picture.
Your wedding day is a celebration of the starting point of a commitment to another human being.  It’s a public proclamation of your love and support for that person and a time for those you love and who love you to get behind you and celebrate that milestone.  When you find yourself obsessing over some of the small stuff, STOP and remind yourself what the day is really all about.  In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not each centerpiece was perfectly designed and placed in just the right spot.  It doesn’t matter whether a bridesmaid forgot her earrings, or that your bouquet is missing a specific type of flower.  It’s not going to matter if every little thing isn’t absolutely perfect.  You WILL have some days where you’re worked up about something that is small in the big scheme of things, and that’s OK.  Just make sure you don’t spend your entire engagement obsessing over event perfection or losing 10 pounds or you might look back afterwards and realize how much time and effort was lost in cultivating your relationships that matter along the way.  Your wedding day does not define your marriage, but how you plan and work together may potentially give you a glimpse into what parts of your marriage may look like.

My final thought – there are a million and one ways to do just about anything, including weddings.  Just because something worked for me or for one of my friends doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you.  Every situation is different and every wedding is different – thank goodness!!  If any of these tips can fit within your vision, I can promise you that they will help alleviate some of the upcoming stress you’ll be enduring.  I hope this has been helpful in some way and good luck!

Part 1:  6 Unique Wedding DIYs & Cost Saving Tips
Part 3:  6 Pieces of Priceless Wedding Day Advice
Part 4:  Contrary to Popular Belief…

Part 5:  OK You’re Married, Now What?

gfriends
Wedding day, 2012 – some of my best girls from different phases of my life.

Weekly Roundup: What I Wore

This week’s roundup, linked where possible:

ootdwhitecas
Shirt – Target // Jeans – Target // Shoes – Urban Outfitters // Necklace – Target
Here is a similar shirt and here is a similar pair of shoes since they are no longer available.

ootdorangeanthro
Shirt – Anthropologie // Jeans – Loft // Shoes – Rocket Dog (old)

ootdnavylace
Shirt – Loft // Necklace – LeTote  // Shoes – Clarks // Lipstick – NARS Heat Wave
Here is a similar shirt.

ootdgreenshoes
Shoes – Cole Haan // Jeans – Target // Shirt – Nordstrom

ootdanthrodress
Dress – Anthropologie // Shoes – Seychelles (last season)

 

Do You Have Champagne Taste and a Beer Budget?

When it comes to fashion, do you have expensive taste and a broke college student type of fun money budget?  Read on to find out how I spend strategically to bridge the gap!

Who doesn’t like nice things? We all do, right?  But most of us are not incredibly wealthy and usually have 3 options when it comes to style – you can either 1) buy whatever you want but live forever in a ton of debt 2) you can be extremely frugal or 3) you can spend smartly and make the most of what you have within a budget.   I think these 3 options apply no matter how much or how little a person makes, and how much or little they try to save/invest.  Each person’s version of “nice things” varies as well.  I personally have a tough time spending $200 at my absolute high maximum for any 1 item.  Others may think that is outrageous, and others still may have no problem spending thousands on the perfect purse or dress.

I do my best to live by the 3rd smart spending option, sprinkling in some splurges here and there. (probably too many if I’m honest)  Here are my personal tips and secrets to having your cake and eating it, too, when it comes to fashion and style:

Tip #1:
Shop the clearance rack at your favorite higher end stores BUT don’t only shop for your size – buy anything in your size OR larger if it’s something you really like and especially if it’s over 60% off the original price.  Take it to your favorite tailor and have it perfectly fitted to your shape and size.  You’ll still pay significantly less than the original cost of the item + you’ll have something that fits you better than almost anything in your closet.
This is probably my absolute favorite breakthrough idea.  I started doing this a year or so after I started dating my husband.  When we first met he took almost every shirt he had to a tailor, even t-shirts. I really didn’t understand it entirely and I wondered how he could waste so much money on fitting t-shirts.  [Now, before you judge, he’s 6’5″ but very slim, so it was tough for him to find a shirt that was both the right width and the right length.]  Eventually I took his advice and had some of my not-so-perfectly fitting items tailored more closely and I was hooked.  HERE is the outfit I wore today – the shirt from the Anthropologie clearance rack, originally a size XL sized down to probably a Medium, and to my exact proportions.  We spent a total of $41, including the tailor’s fee.

ootdorangeanthro

Tip #2:
Budget.  No, really.  Limit yourself specifically, but be as liberal as you want to be while also accomplishing your savings/investment (and getting out of debt) goals.  My friend Scott has a rule he put in place where he allows himself to spend 10% of his total income on self-improvement, whatever that means to him.  Whatever makes him happier and/or healthier.  10% no questions, and his wife does the same.  I love this rule and am in the process of re-working a budget for myself and my husband and will be implementing a percentage-based idea like this.  Whether it’s $100/mo or $2000/mo you’re willing to set aside for “fun money”, make it a rule and stick to it.  It will hopefully influence smarter buying decisions and less waste.

Tip #3:
Follow a bunch of well-entrenched, experienced bloggers on Instagram and read their blogs, too.  So many of them post great finds and solid sales every single day.  Many of them have partnerships or sponsorships with different brands and supply promo codes for 20/30/40% off.  I really love the LIKEtoKNOW.it app as well.  Outfit details and links will be sent directly to your inbox every time you like an IG pic that states it’s linked to the app.  It’s awesome.  The trick is to not get too carried away and keep #3 in mind while shopping.

Tip #4:
Stock up out of season.  Almost every store and brand has amazing end of season sales with ridiculously slashed prices.  Take advantage and buy up some great items as a very reduced rate.  A lot of times this makes more sense for more timeless, classic pieces (will the tassel and fringe craze still be alive and well in 2018?), but you can really save some serious cash by doing this.  Even better, if you have kids, LOAD UP!!!  I know I do.  My son just transitioned out of 12 mo into 18 mo clothes and he already had a whole closet full of things I bought him before Christmas.  Kids grow out of things so quickly so I almost never pay full price for anything, and I’m almost always planning up to a year out.  He’s already fairly well stocked on 24 mo and 2T sizes for the coming seasons as well!

Tip #5:
Splurge sometimes!  I try to have 2 different rules for myself around this.  The first one is goal-based.  For example, “If I hit my quarterly quota (software sales), I will treat myself with a new ($x value) purse I would never buy otherwise”, or “When I lose 10 lbs, I’m going to reward myself with a new swimsuit from xxx brand”.  Set reasonable goals and reward yourself!  The second type of rule is around classic items that never go out of style or items I will wear a TON.  A really good pair of jeans, for example.  I’m much more likely to spend more money on a quality pair of jeans because I know I will get my money’s worth.  If I wear them once a week at $150, that’s less than $3 a week for a year – cut that in half for every additional year you keep them in rotation or if you wear them more than 1x/wk.

You’ll notice I don’t have big name discount stores or outlets on the list.   Now, I LOVE some TJMaxx and outlet shopping… BUT it’s important to know for sure whether or not you’re actually getting a deal or being tricked into thinking you’re getting an amazing deal.  The thing is, there’s no way to know for certain where the clothing in those stores are made, if they are a part of a licensing agreement with a designer brand, or if they were truly made by that brand and slightly damaged/not perfect.  (The same goes for the churn n’ burn retailers like Forever21 or H&M) Read more HERE about what I mean – it’s quite an interesting read and will definitely make you pay more attention.

I hope you’ve read something you hadn’t thought of before, or that you’re able to take some of these ideas and apply them to your everyday buying habits!

I Am Not Superwoman and Neither Are You

I am not Superwoman and neither are you.

I’ve never claimed to be or even intentionally attempted to be, but I can admit that I sometimes find myself feeling guilty about the unrealistic expectations I set for myself in the deepest areas of my subconscious.  I don’t even mean to do it, and I’m betting you don’t either.  I’m talking about the supposed perfect life here.  It’s sort of human nature to want to be the best at everything – to be the perfect wife/mother/brother/friend/coworker/boss.  You name it.  For the most part we, as human beings, want to be great or at least good.  We want to be happy and we want people to like us.  But the mistake we sometimes make is in thinking that it is actually possible to be all of those people at the same time all of the time, and we somehow tie that to defining our ability to be happy…  Not to mention also raising well-mannered, impeccably dressed, super adorable picture-perfect children and keeping your HGTV-worthy home in perfect working order with not one speck of dirt or food anywhere to be found ever, while maintaining the most ridiculously happy marriage and love life you’ve ever seen that it makes other people want to gag and/or stab you.  Oh yes, and also looking unbelievably cute and camera-ready at any given point of any given day without even requiring a cup of coffee to function.  Seems realistic, right?  Exactly.

messylife

There have been hundreds of blog posts and articles (and probably even books at this point) written about social media fantasyland versus real life and comparing your everyday ordinary life to the impossibly adorable moments captured in time by a professional photographer, or all of the positive highlights hidden within the Facebook status updates of your old middle school classmates.  I have read tons of these posts and totally love the message behind them!  I kind of compare it to the Photoshop vs real life body image debate and I love that one, too.  We all know people in real life (or follow them on social media) who seem to live this picture perfect, always happy, amazing life.   And honestly, much of their life is probably pretty great, but you know what?  So is yours!!  Think about all of the things in your life, big or small, that make it absolutely awesome, or at least pretty good.

On the other side of the coin, I can guarantee you that moments (or even long periods of time) in everyone’s life contain personal struggle, self-doubt, and all sorts of hardships.  I don’t care who you are, you cannot escape that reality.  Forget the big stuff… think about all of the little stuff that piles up and creates unneeded stress and frustration:  endless amounts of laundry, keeping your living space clean, staying employed and paying bills, functioning as an adult in society, keeping pets and children alive and safe (not to mention actually raising them to be decent human beings).  Everyone lives some version of this same reality and, generally speaking, has similar responsibilities on that spectrum.  There is no such thing as perfect, but what you can control is what your definition of perfect looks like and where you choose to prioritize your time.  You get to choose what defines your happiness.

Go ahead and forgive yourself for not being Superwoman or Superman.  Forgive yourself for not being as put together as your neighbor or for not remembering it was costume day at your kid’s school.  Or for not finishing every item on your to-do list this week.  Forgive yourself for not being perfect and for not being everything to everyone and for not making everyone happy 100% of the time.  —–  You’ll get around to the laundry eventually.  No one’s going to know (or care) if you can’t see your carpet for all of the toys littering the floor.  It doesn’t really matter if you skip a shower today or skip out of work a bit early, and trade that time for reading some extra books to your kids.  Your family and relationships will benefit from you prioritizing even more of those little moments over laundry and boring ol’ life maintenance.

When I catch myself comparing my entire real life to the best highlights of my friends’ lives or the picture perfect families on Instagram, I remind myself of what my version of the perfect life looks like.   It’s not really anything like the Photoshopped pictures I sometimes allow to make me feel guilty… I mean there are smiles and cute clothes, yes.  🙂 But the perfect life for me is pretty close to the version I do my best to live out day-to-day.  It’s nothing spectacular by any stretch, but it is full.  I work hard, I still try to play hard.  I spend every moment I can obsessing over the amazement in my sons eyes every time he learns or does something new, and of how cute he is even when he’s screaming.  I take 1 million pictures of randomness every week trying to capture and remember all of the everyday not-so-memorable stuff.  I don’t spend near enough time staying connected to my husband in the midst of our crazy, hectic lives, but I strive to. I am not the best friend and daughter in the world either, but I want to be.  Life is good.  And that is enough.  I am enough.  I am enough and so are you.

I think we should all take 3 steps back and reconsider what “the perfect life” really looks like, and also remember that it will never be legitimately perfect.  Look through your mind’s eye and no one else’s.  I’m willing to bet it’s much different than the aggregate social media fantasy life you sometimes compare yourself to.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén