Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Engagement Ring

It's hard to believe that it's already been 9 years this May that my husband proposed while we were in Paris (you can read about our engagement story here). It was a beautiful day, such a memorable trip together and I have to say he did a fantastic job of designing a custom ring that he surprised me with based upon a photo he had seen of my dream ring months prior.

Having just attended a wedding this past weekend for a dear friend and learning of other loved ones who recently became engaged and of course moving into wedding season, I've been thinking about the excitement of this special time. If you're a traditional kind of woman, you probably prefer to have your husband-to-be shop for a ring on his own but if you're not, you may prefer to choose that exquisite piece of jewelry with him that will adorn your left ring finger for eternity. Either way, it's important to know what you want and like so you can provide some hints and/or suggestions to make the process easier for him.

Every woman is unique and it's important to consider a few more factors beyond budget and the 4 C's (color, cut, clarity and carat weight) when deciding upon the right ring for you. I'm a huge fan of customization, especially when it comes to the one piece of jewelry you will wear every single day for the rest of your life. A custom ring may sound like a really expensive option but it doesn't have to be. Instead of choosing a finished product, you control the exact size of center stone choosing it separately, overall band color and style as well as the intricate little design details that truly make it special and unlike any other. Your ring design should embody who you are as a woman.

I recently discovered Anjolee Jewelry and love the versatility they offer in creating custom one-of-a-kind pieces. Everything from bracelets, earrings and engagements rings to necklaces (like their riviera diamond necklace) which is awesome for creating custom gifts. They even have a mobile app to customize your favorite designs! Below I'm sharing some points to consider as one chooses the ring of their dreams along with some of my favorite classic styles too.

1. Know Your Style- A classy woman has developed her own sense of style, she knows what she likes and what she doesn't and isn't swayed by what's trending. If you are a lover of decades gone by, chances are a modern bezel set single stone ring in a plain polished band isn't going to cut it for you. You might prefer a vintage or antique style ring which is more intricate in nature. Likewise, if you prefer s more clean lined approach in your home's interior design and wardrobe, you would probably be most happy with a solitaire in an elevated prong setting. One of the best ways to determine your style is start a secret Pinterest folder or even a regular file folder filled with wedding magazine clippings of rings you most like.

Don't try to over think it, just keep anything that you gravitate towards. Later you can look through them and determine how they all relate and specifically what stands out the most to you-maybe it's an elevated setting, a solitaire surrounded by several smaller stones in a halo effect, perhaps it's the design on the band portion itself. Whatever it is that grabs you, focus on honing in on the exact look you most prefer.

2. Mind Your Metals- Just because rose gold or platinum is all the rage at a particular moment in time when you are becoming more serious in your relationship, or your best friend recently became engaged and is donning a yellow gold ring does not mean you must incorporate that into your engagement ring design. Focus on the long term, this is a piece of jewelry unlike a bracelet or necklace that you will not just wear on occasion, but daily, so it must be something that stands the test of time. Try different types of gold and metals on your hand to determine which best matches your skin tone. Some try to choose based on what they most wear (silver vs. gold), however mixed metals and a less matchy-matchy approach is how most wear jewelry these days so try not to let that weigh so heavily on your decision.

It goes without saying that if you never wear anything in a yellow gold tone, then it's probably best to go with something like white gold or platinum that has a more neutral appearance. If you opt for a silver, white gold or platinum, it actually tends to make the stone appear larger in the setting if the center stone is a diamond or clear stone, it just reflects more brilliantly than in a colored metal so this is a great option for a smaller budget to maximize the size of the stone.

3. Be Practical- Of course getting engaged is a romantic time that sweeps you off your feet but there is still an element of practicality that needs to be considered. When it comes to choosing a stone and setting, one important thing to consider is your profession and hobbies. Think about what you spend most of your time doing daily. If you're working with your hands as a teacher, care giver or are involved in a lot of sports (particularly high impact) and always want to be able to wear your ring, you may prefer to choose a setting that is lower or doesn't have a prong setting so that it does not catch on clothing, scratch skin, etc. A simple solitaire in a prong setting actually cleans up easily for those who love to garden, bake/cook in the kitchen or work in an art studio vs. one with a lot of tiny accent stones.

As much as I love my own ring, the elevation of the setting is one thing I hadn't considered. It's beautiful but I've accidentally scratched myself, my husband as well as my daughter and pulled loops on sweaters as well as caught it on other things because of how high it sits up and its princess cut shape. As a result, I find myself only wearing it when I leave the house, at home it sits in my jewelry box. For anyone who is a chef, works with small children, works around delicate clothing/fabrics, is a physical therapist, doctor or anyone examining people or objects, one suggestion is to test out a style by wearing fashion rings that mimic your desired design into your workplace or during your daily routine to see how it measures up. You might be surprised at how practical or impractical it actually is.

4. The Right Fit- A massive bauble of a ring on dainty little fingers can look a bit overwhelming and not properly proportioned. On the contrary, a very thin band and delicate ring on a thicker hand can appear to be lost whereas a larger setting can help create a more slender looking finger. When it comes to the diamond itself, obviously this can be a bit awkward as it depends on the man's overall budget, a larger rock equals a larger price point, but it doesn't have to be that way. By simply opting for a larger setting and thicker band for example, you can save on the cost of the most expensive portion which is the center stone itself. Even if a ring is being custom ordered online, you can always go into a jewelry store and try on various sizes and styles to see what your perfect fit is whether it's 1/2 a carat or 2 carats, a slim eternity style band. split shank or a simple solid wider plain metal band without any additional stones.

Diamonds aren't the only options, these days other transparent yet colored stones are gaining popularity such as Morganite. Speaking of ring size, you'll want to know what your wedding ring finger size is as it may differ from the ring size you normally buy for your right hand (mine is 1/2 a size smaller than my right ring finger). If your man doesn't know your ring size he can borrow one of your existing rings or guess but it may involve re-sizing the ring after the proposal and not all ring designs adapt well to re-sizing, especially if it's a jump in size from say a 7 to a 5 or vice versa. It may feel unromantic to have that conversation so you can always share those details with your best friend and hopefully he'll think to consult with her or you can leave your favorite well fitting rings out in plain view.

5. Center Stones Take Center Stage- There are so many beautiful options available from the classic and ever-popular round solitaire, to cushion cut, princess cut, oval, asscher cut, radiant, emerald and more. Remember that various cuts of stones reflect light differently. Beyond the carat size, clarity and overall color, it's the stone that will give you the sparkle and the shape has a big influence on how it shines. Classic round solitaires are known for being one of the most sparkly and light reflective compared with cushion cut or princess for example. I've found my princess cut catches the light in stores with overhead fluorescent lighting in a stunning way and in the sunlight it twinkles too whereas a friend who has a larger cushion cut diamond has mentioned that she doesn't experience the same sparkle in the sunshine, she does get an amazing fire by candlelight though.

When it comes to engagement ring styles, there are some that are just so classic and timeless, that you really can't go wrong if you've searched and searched and still find yourself confused and undecided. There are numerous ways to tweak a classic and traditional design to make it all your own. Below are some of my favorite classy, beautiful designs from the Anjolee website. My own custom engagement ring most closely resembles the princess cut with split shank in the bottom left hand corner along with the side view of pave diamonds and center stone setting of the upper right hand corner ring which has a modern yet antique feel.

If you're already engaged or married, what shape and style is included in your perfect ring?

Thanks for reading!


This post is brought to you by Anjolee-The Art of Jewelry All thoughts and opinions written are my own.

*image credits: (1) , (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8)-all rings from Anjolee website.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

How to Love Yourself

I believe that in life, before anyone else can truly love us unconditionally, we must first love who we are and be comfortable in our own skin. Often times, women in particular, have a habit of looking for someone to love them to fill that void in their life of the love that they don't have for themselves. Perhaps they're seeking validation because of the lack of love, respect or time they received from their father growing up, parents that displayed disappointment when certain levels of achievement were not met or perhaps after having been physically, mentally or emotionally abused by a former mate at some point in time.

There are a multiplicity of reasons why we may not feel self-love which go far deeper than what I've referenced above, it's different for each individual. Without the ability to love ourselves though, we often lack confidence which in turn affects an array of areas in our life, we are also more liable to withhold the kind of love we truly want to give others as well. While I'm not a Psychologist by any means, I have learned certain lessons along the way in this journey called life so I'd like to share them.

There are times I'm really hard on myself as a partner, mother, daughter, sister, friend, business owner, and just in general as a human being. One thing I've come to realize over the years though, is that no matter how much I beat myself up about something I've said or done (or didn't say or do), it never changes the past and only makes me feel worse in the present moment. It's in those instances that we can either really spiral out of control with our thoughts and regrets or get a grip and figure out how to move forward as an imperfect person. For me, I find great peace in prayer, meditation and the quiet that comes from listening for and waiting on the Lord to speak to me. I ask God to forgive my past ways and helping me to improve in the future and become the person that both I and He want me to be. When we don't feel love for ourselves in the moment, it can be hard to just snap out of it and all of a sudden feel wonderful, warm fuzzy thoughts but here are a few tips I wanted to share and I hope you'll find them useful.

As the quote above suggests, many of us may be lucky enough to have a significant other who does truly love us unconditionally, however there is no greater project in this lifetime than for us to work on ourselves. This is just one reason why comparison is so pointless, often we get caught up in looking at others' faults as a means of distraction from our own when they are not our point of reference. The goal should be to constantly improve over time. If we think of who we are as a house, building from the foundation upwards, it takes time and hard work to prepare the concrete, lay bricks and get the structure just right. What good is a home that looks gorgeous on the exterior (one that many are in awe of) if the very foundation is crumbling and the home is so poorly built that in a short period of time it's ready to implode? We must accept the fact that becoming who we truly dream of being takes time. We need not only love the finished product (which honestly never really arrives, because we are always a work in progress), but we must be gentle with ourselves especially during times of transition and rebuilding. Anything made of quality workmanship is carefully crafted over time and we as human beings are really no different.

1. Accept your Imperfections- One of the greatest paths to inner peace is to let go of trying to attain perfection. Recognize that everyone has faults and has made mistakes as well as had moments they regret, feel they fell short in or aren't proud of. When we realize this truth, we can set ourselves free from the prison of perfection choosing to instead learn from our past. We can inspire others the most by showing them how we deal with our own imperfections and challenges we're faced with rather than living a life that looks like a glossy magazine or something out of a movie 24/7, it's just not attainable and sets us up for a lifetime of frustration and false hopes. If you struggle with comparing your life to others, I strongly recommend taking a break from social media (Facebook and Instagram in particular), it's a breeding ground for feelings of envy and comparing your life to your friend's and even complete strangers!

2. Focus on Your Strengths-The quickest way to switch gears and take yourself from a negative, down-and-out vibe to something that brings a smile to your face, is to focus on what you're really good at, considering all of your previous accomplishments-big and small. Over time others may have told you that you're naturally gifted in a particular area such as instructing others, that you're an articulate writer, a patient parent, a loving wife and then there are the things that you yourself realize about who you are that others may not see or know about. Perhaps you're proud for having finished a half-marathon (whether it was 6 days ago or 6 years ago, don't worry about feeling like you're living in the past, it's essential to reflect on what you excel in). It's also important to give ourselves a little lift in the physical appearance department as it pertains to your assets. Whether it's pretty eyes, glossy hair, sculpted arms, shapely calves, clear skin or a beautiful smile, we need to focus on our best assets and play them up whenever possible. We don't need to look like a swimsuit model to feel good in our own skin. Even they have cellulite, bad hair days, skin breakouts, puffy bloated tummy days, after all they're still human even if they're airbrushed and photo-shopped on magazine covers nearly 100% of the time. If you're struggling to even recognize what your strengths or assets are, ask a trusted friend. Let them know you're struggling to pinpoint what they are and ask them to tell you what they feel are things you are particularly great at.

3. Remember Who Your Creator Is- We were created in God's image and He is love so not loving who we are would in fact be rejecting who we are, but Him as well. You may not have thought about it that way, but He made us perfect, it is us that allows media, others and negative thoughts to creep in and make us feel less than. One great remedy for learning to love who we are more is to study what God says about us and who He says we were created to be in His word and reflect on that. When we do, we realize just how much love He has for us-it's liberating, it's reassuring and it's a big hug when we need it the most. Beginning each day in bed reading the bible for 10 mins is a great way to live, it allows us to become centered before we go out into the chaotic world we live in that often makes us feel as though we aren't enough in our numerous roles.

4. Exercise in Front of a Mirror- Sweating and moving our body is key to feeling better not just because it has the ability to shed pounds but because we feel stronger, more capable, more flexible and have greater endurance compared to when we don't exercise, it should be a part of our daily routine even if for just 30 minutes. For someone who may have poor body self image, this idea may seem counter-intuitive to work out and focus on their reflection but no matter what stage in the game you're at when it comes to staying in shape, there is a sense of accomplishment and pride in your new found strength. Doing bicep curls in front of a mirror allows you to see the targeted muscle group you're working and over the weeks and months, progress is easily seen and felt as the need for heavier weight and repetitions of each set increases. Getting to the gym (or to the track, into the pool, etc.) is usually the hardest part, if you can find accountability through working out with a friend this will help you get started. Over time, exercising won't be enough, when time is spent burning calories and changing the shape of one's body, there is a natural inclination to eat cleaner and make healthy eating choices a priority, all of these things point to loving one's self and treating our bodies as the temple that it truly is.

5. Learn to Forgive Yourself- Sometimes it's not that we don't love ourselves, it's that we can't see beyond our past mistakes. The past will weight you down like a backpack full of rocks if you let it. While nobody likes poking at an open wound, I highly encourage you to take each area of your past that brings you pain and dig deeper, writing each one down. Look for the meaning, look for how an experience caused you to grow, focus on what knowledge you gained or are still in the process of learning. Sometimes it's not always so obvious, talking with a trusted counselor or friend may help you uncover what's been holding you back from living the life you've dreamed of and loving yourself completely.

It's also imperative to spend time with others who value us, love us and speak lovingly to us. When we love who we are, we won't tolerate being disrespected nor treated in a poor fashion which means we will only invite others into our life who bring positive energy and love into it. At the end of the day, others can enhance our life and bring us joy but the most important relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves.

Here are some book recommendations that you might find helpful as you work towards loving yourself in a greater way. Just click on any of the book images below to learn more or grab a copy. *Update: I'm currently enjoying several books by Gabrielle Bernstein. I'm currently reading her newest release Judgement Detox and believe it's a book every person on this planet should be reading!

Have you ever struggled with feeling like you weren't enough or lacked self-love? What techniques did you use to get back on track?

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Thanks for Reading!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Classy Fashion Favorites for April

It's always so much fun to share my favorite fashion pieces for the month with you. Sometimes, before I know it, the month is nearly over and I realize that I forgot to share them! That has been the case both this month and last however all the pieces I've selected are suitable for the upcoming months. For May it's my goal to get my favorites out for this warmer weather within the next week.  I get so many requests for fashion-specific posts and posting a gallery is a great way for me to link directly to pieces that I know you'll love too. It's my hope that it makes your shopping (or at least your browsing and narrowing down process) a bit easier as you target new seasonal items for your wardrobe. I love dresses all year, they're easy breezy. I also love nude heels and the tassel trend (that I've always gravitated towards) which is clear in my accessory choices.

Below are current sales happening right now just in time for Mother's Day! It's a great time to save some money while shopping for mom or maybe do a little dress shopping for yourself as you head to brunch on Sunday.

  • ANN TAYLOR: 60% off sale styles w/ code: EXTRA60.
  • BANANA REPUBLIC: 35% off your purchase + free 2 day shipping w/ code: LOVE
  • GAP: Spring sale up to 75% off!
  • J.CREW Save 30% off spring sale styles w/ code YAYMAY
  • LOFT: Save 40% off dresses, skirts and accessories. 
  • LORD & TAYLOR: 20% off regular priced + sale items w/ code: STYLE

I'd love to hear which classics and trends you're loving for spring!

Let's Socialize!

Thanks for stopping by!


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