My Favorite Initial Necklace + GIVEAWAY

Cheers to the weekend everyone! I hope you had a pleasant week and are looking forward to something exciting these next two days off from the daily grind.

One of my favorite Etsy shops to purchase customized jewelry from is Bijoux by Desi F. I first found her shop when I was in the market for the popularized initial necklace (as made famous by many celebrities including Katie Holmes). Over the course of the last few years the trend had gone from large statement necklaces to minimalistic and layered and I wanted something a little more simplistic, but personalized. After searching around and not finding exactly what I was looking for, I stumbled upon her store and fell in love with practically everything she sold.

Since then, Desi has been my go-to designer for handcrafted jewelry ever since I discovered her last year. She makes all of her jewelry herself and is always looking for new, delicate, and sophisticated pieces to add to her collection. I always look forward to perusing her store every few months as she’s always adding new designs.
One of my favorite Etsy shops to purchase customized jewelry from is Bijoux by Desi F. I first found her shop when I was in the market for the popularized initial necklace (as made famous by many celebrities including Katie Holmes). Over the course of the last few years the trend had gone from large statement necklaces to minimalistic and layered and I wanted something a little more simplistic, but personalized. After searching around and not finding exactly what I was looking for, I stumbled upon her store and fell in love with practically everything she sold.
Every order is always shipped with a cute gift-like packaging and I just adore Desi and her handwritten notes. It’s always those little qualities in Etsy shop owners that go a long way and keep customers, like me, coming back every time I need a new piece.

 

the replacement

This time around I needed to replace the first initial necklace I had purchased from Desi’s shop. Right before our move from VA out to CA I decided to wear my necklace during the 4-day drive so that I wouldn’t risk it getting lost in the mix. My husband and I were packing our things and as we were loading up the truck and heading out the door, I picked up our 9-week old puppy at the time and the next thing I knew he got ahold of it, the chain snapped, and my heart sank (insert ugly cry here). I couldn’t be mad at my little Murphy, but I was devastated since it had become one of my favorite necklaces. Upon arrival at our new home I was eager to replace my necklace and luckily Desi was there to the rescue with this gorgeous disc necklace.

One of my favorite Etsy shops to purchase customized jewelry from is Bijoux by Desi F. I first found her shop when I was in the market for the popularized initial necklace (as made famous by many celebrities including Katie Holmes). Over the course of the last few years the trend had gone from large statement necklaces to minimalistic and layered and I wanted something a little more simplistic, but personalized. After searching around and not finding exactly what I was looking for, I stumbled upon her store and fell in love with practically everything she sold.
I opted to purchase this bar necklace as well with the initials of my husband and I. I had always wanted to add a little personal touch and include my husband in there - and I can’t tell you how many compliments I receive on this necklace alone! I’ve worn it by itself and have paired it with other minimalistic pieces. It’s just a great all-around accessory.
Along with my initial necklace I opted to purchase this bar necklace as well with the initials of my husband and I. I had always wanted to add a little personal touch and include my husband in there – and I can’t tell you how many compliments I receive on this necklace alone! I’ve worn it by itself and have paired it with other minimalistic pieces. It’s just a great all-around accessory.
These necklaces are made with 14k gold filled disc/bar and chains, which is a great alternative of solid gold. My skin is sensitive to artificial materials and I can always tell because my skin turns green or I develop a minor rash. I can share firsthand that I’ve never had a reaction to any of Desi’s pieces and am always impressed with their quality and durability. She ships within a few days of when you place your order and is always available to chat if you have questions or concerns.

 

Connect with Desi!
etsy     instagram
I am so excited to host this giveaway featuring Desi’s shop where one lucky winner will receive a FREE initial necklace of their choice!
Giveaway will run from 4/18 – 4/26
This giveaway has since ended.
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Grocery Shopping Made Simple

Meal planning, whether you’re single, cooking for two, or your whole family, is extremely important if you want to stay organized and save money from week to week. I do want to start out by mentioning that in no way am I an expert on grocery shopping nor do I claim to have the best practices. However, I am excited to share what works for my husband and I in hopes that you can walk away with some helpful tips that work for your budget and family.

set a budget and stick to it each week.

This should be the first thing that anyone does before heading to the store. Take a glimpse into your finances and see what kind of budget you should set for grocery shopping each week. You should also take into consideration when you’re hosting a dinner or it’s a special occasion because it’s always going to put you over. The other big item that can sneak you over your budget is alcohol so be conscious of those bottles of wine or 6 packs.


pick budget friendly grocery stores.

There are a million and one different grocery stores out there and each one provides something different and will affect your weekly budget differently. My husband and I began shopping at Whole Foods when we first moved in with each other and set a budget of $150 a week. Yeah, right. Although Whole Foods has healthy and organic food items, I find a lot of their products to be overpriced. So, keeping that in mind, we only shop at WF when we need a specific ingredient that we can’t find elsewhere.

Shopping at Trader Joe’s has saved us so much time and money ever since we switched. We have been able to lower our grocery budget to only $100-$120 average a week and it’s been working (that’s an extra $30-$50 a week we save)! Yeah, they might not carry everything but we love working with less and anything we absolutely NEED can be easily found at Target or another grocery store chain.
 What do we buy in bulk at COSTCO?
+ garlic
+ butter
+ meat
+ olive oil
+ flour
+ parmesan cheese blocks
+ paper towels
+ toilet paper
+ makeup remover wipes
+ alcohol (sometimes)

eating healthy is always going to cost you more. (it sucks but it’s true.)

This is the unfortunate side to America’s development of processed and hormone riddled foods over the last decade. This means that consumers today have to be willing to spend more for organic, non-GMO, grass fed meat, and cage free eggs. Do your homework and research grocery stores in your area that provide healthy options for you and your family. This bit of work will save you in the long run. Also consider Farmer’s Markets in your neighborhood! I know we don’t always carry cash anymore, but I love resting easy knowing where my food comes from and I feel good when supporting our local farm community!

create a menu each week.

Meal planning does take time out of your day and can sometimes be tedious. However, the biggest difference we saw in what we saved at the grocery store comes from pre-planning a menu each week. Pinterest is wonderful for getting inspired, Weight Watchers recipes are easy and healthy, and perusing through Bon Appetit and other food magazines are also great inspirations for meals throughout the week. Look up crockpot meals to help with saving time or choose meals with little prep and cook time. You can also check out some of the recipes I’ve shared on the blog here 🙂

write a list. live by the list.

Always make a grocery list based on the needed ingredients from your menu. Try to pick meals that share ingredients so you don’t run into having herbs spoil or not using up all that chicken stock you bought. Each item you have to throw away is dollars and cents going out the window so be aware of what you buy and how much of it you intend to use.

**Never heard of Naked Wines? It’s the best wine service I’ve seen and I’ve been an Angel member for almost a year. For $40/mo you support and invest in CA-based winemakers meanwhile earning a credit towards any shipment of wine. We’ve saved so much money on wine because of Naked Wines and it’s fun getting to taste different varietals or ordering our favorites. The best part is that you receive your wine within 3 days of ordering! Learn more and check out their FAQ page here.
 
have fun with dining out!

I always look forward to those times when either of us can ditch the home kitchen and go out for a nice evening where someone else cooks for you. It’s kind of the best feeling. One way you can actually save money when dining out is happy hour specials. Look up local restaurants or bars in your neighborhood and see what deals they have for happy hour. Typically you can enjoy discounted drinks and the small plates are delicious, perfect for sharing, and best of all: affordable.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful as you plan your meals this week! Be sure to follow this linkup hosted by fellow Peonies: Lori at the Boutelle Family Blog and Ashley over at Grace Mountain Diaries.

 

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Finding Hope After Feeling Lost: My Story of Miscarriage

Miscarriage doesn’t define you as a woman. See how my husband and I found strength and hope through our experience.

When it comes to planning a family one is filled with excitement, maybe a healthy level of nervousness, but most of which, one feels things inside them that they never had felt before. At least, that is what it had been like for my husband and I. Ever since we began dating we’ve always talked about our love of children and that we were both excited by the thought that one day we would bring our very own baby into the world. Maybe two.

Last month we both decided that we weren’t necessarily trying to conceive, but rather we were not preventing it from happening. In doing so we were excited to see if our efforts would produce those magical positive lines on the pregnancy test…but all-the-while remembering to not get our hopes up if it doesn’t happen on the first attempt. However, one morning I decided to take a test after I hadn’t gotten ‘aunt sue’ the previous weekend and it seemed we got it right and ‘pregnant’ appeared on our at-home test. OMG.

In that moment I stood still looking at the test, making sure it was real. I was flooded with emotions that ranged from disbelief, excitement, fear….everything you could possible imagine. My husband was working that morning and my first thought was to call him immediately to tell him the news. However, I knew that the building he works in gets poor reception and frankly it would be a long shot to get through to him right away. After a few failed attempts to get a hold of him he finally calls and I tell him the news. His reaction was priceless. There was this small pause and the only thing he could utter was “really?!”. To hear the excitement in his voice will be something I will remember forever.

The following week we were excited new parents of a tiny being the size of an orange seed, or so the What to Expect app told me. Philip and I were beginning to think into the future of what it would be like to have a baby around the house, planning ahead in terms of the furniture we’d need for the apartment, and coming up with fun ways to tell our parents in the coming weeks. I had the beginnings of cravings….meat and a lot of it. I felt especially tired. All. The. Time. Although I didn’t ‘look’ pregnant, it’s a funny feeling because I believe each woman just knows when her body is different. It’s a weird but enjoyable feeling all around. And setting that first doctors appointment makes it all the more real.

For many days that week my husband had been working mid-shifts, which means he goes into work at midnight and returns home around 8am. It was a Sunday evening and a few hours after going to bed Philip awoke to get ready for work. I noticed I had been experiencing some minor cramping, but nothing to alarm me. After he left my cramps were becoming more intense, almost like when I start my period. I was beginning to feel a bit nervous but tried to remain calm and pray for God to watch over me and our little orange seed.

Another thing you’ll notice when you get pregnant is the need to pee all the time. So, around 3am I got up to use the restroom and what I found terrified me and broke my heart all at the same time. Blood. Not just the ‘normal’ spotting everyone tells you is fine; actual blood. I knew deep down what was happening but it was almost like I didn’t want to believe it. I was miscarrying at 5 weeks.

The worst feeling beyond what was happening was experiencing it alone. With Philip at work I couldn’t process that at that moment the fact that I was losing our first pregnancy. I was filled with guilt because I thought I had one job and I couldn’t do that right. For some reason my body was rejecting something my husband and I looked so much forward to and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. All I could do in that bathroom was pray.

When you miscarry, no matter how far along you are, it isn’t just one event that occurs. It’s made up of a bunch of smaller events that almost makes you relive the previous one, making it feel that much worse. So, not only was my body going through this process, my mind was racing, my emotions were all over the place, and now I had the job of telling my husband….while he was at work. I got him on the phone and all I could do is cry and tell him that I was losing the pregnancy. The heartbreak I could sense over that phone call was even more heartbreaking. You may not know, but pregnancy is an exciting period for both the expectant mother AND the father. To know that this news crushed my husband, and me having to be the one to tell him, shattered me. After having a moment to process what I had told him, he told me to call our doctor and see what we should do next. I did. At 3:30am and the doctor told us to come in when the office opened at 9am. I took off of work to make that appointment and Philip came home right then.

If I didn’t already feel like a failure, sitting in a doctors office filled with pregnant happy women and couples who are making their routine visit didn’t make me feel any better. Here I sat, in sweats and oversized sunglasses to hide my swelling eyes, trying to blend into the walls so no one could see me and the pain I was feeling. I was sitting there, continuing to bleed and lose what would have been our baby, embarrassed and humiliated. Finally it was our turn and the doctor confirmed what we already knew. He sent me to get blood work done and we are to make an appointment for two weeks later and we would reconvene and make a plan to move forward. The rest of the week the cramps continued and I experienced what is like my period. 5 days. 5 days of being reminded of what we lost and what I couldn’t provide for my husband and I.

However, amiss all of this pain, the one thing I didn’t do was try to find blame. I didn’t question “why is this happening to me?!”. I understood that, for a reason beyond myself, this pregnancy didn’t take. It wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do. It was simply that it wasn’t meant to be this first time around.

I learned a lot throughout this process and my faith kept me strong even through the toughest of chapters. I didn’t question God’s plan for us, I didn’t question why He would allow such a horrible thing to happen, and I didn’t distance myself from Him. I kept Him close. From the joy we shared when finding out we were pregnant to sitting, crying, alone in the bathroom. I kept Him close when feeling humiliated in the doctors waiting room and when I had to sit there to get my blood drawn to confirm I had miscarried. I continue to keep Him close and I know He continues to walk with my husband and I as we navigate the next few steps in our walk towards a family.

Through this experience I may have lost our tiny orange seed that would have been our baby, but I’ve gained so much more:
+ this brought my relationship with my husband to a new level of love and compassion
+ my faith and relationship with God is so much stronger
+ learning we can get pregnant and that infertility isn’t an issue
+ we know more than ever that we’re ready for a baby
+ this isn’t going to keep us from trying again
+ I am less fearful of the things I cannot change
+ I am more than a statistic
+ puts the petty nonsense of life into perspective. this experience gives you focus.

I share my story because I am no longer ashamed, humiliated, or otherwise feel like I’ve failed at being a woman. I know our story of starting a family is not over and both my husband and I are eager to begin trying to conceive again. My hopes in sharing my story is that it somehow finds someone who needs to hear it. Someone who may be experiencing, or have experienced, the same pain as thousands of other women.

You are not alone and it will get better although hearing it won’t make you feel better about what happened…yet. You are strong and will pick up the pieces and know that He is with you every step of the way. Share in your praises but also share your pain with Him as he experiences this with you.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

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Today I am Grateful

Today is more than colored eggs, chocolates, and family photos with an oversized, often scary, version of the Easter Bunny.

Today is more than both you or me and the ‘goings-on’ in our lives that often distract us.

Today is about the ultimate sacrifice, and love, that was expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am filled with love and joy today as I celebrate with loved ones and be reminded once again to fill my heart with gratitude.

On this Easter Sunday I am grateful:

+ to know a God so loving
+ of my husband, who will go to Easter service with me
+ of my friends who invited us to service today
+ to know I am deserving of love through Christ
+ to live a healthier and more fulfilling life
+ to have found my purpose

Today I urge you all to think about what fills your heart with gratitude and live it out. I wish you all a Happy Easter (or Passover for all of my Jewish friends!)!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 NIV
Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey

What are your favorite verses on this Easter Sunday?

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