Happy National Hot Chocolate Day, friends! Did you know this was a thing? I must admit that I didn’t until last week, but it’s absolutely something that I can get excited about. I loooooooove hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day!
When my family goes skiing, one of my happiest spots is fireside, sipping a hot chocolate after a day on the slopes with my bigs or making snowmen with my littles. It just feels so cozy – and delicious! Since I’m on a quest to bring simple, happy moments to the every day, I’ve started having hot chocolate at home more often and it’s such a fun treat. In fact, we set up a hot chocolate bar in my house every winter now and it makes the experience even more fun for my boys.
In my mind, all you need is a delicious hot chocolate recipe and a mug that feels comfy in your hands and makes you smile. If you can add fun toppings and a cozy fire and blanket, all the better! Since not all hot chocolate is created equal, I wanted to share a few of my favorite recipes with you all – and some links to our FAVORITE toppings that make the hot chocolate station extra fun. Hope you enjoy them!
If you’re looking for a gourmet hot chocolate recipe and have the time to pull out ingredients and make it right, this is one of our favorite recipes over at Annie’s Eats. It’s decadent, delicious and is a major treat! Also fabulous if you’re entertaining and want to wow your guests!
However, as a mom of four boys who owns her own business, I’m typically pressed for time, especially in the kitchen. I want to create special memories more often, even when pressed for time and I want it to taste like I spent time on it. (Sorry, but I can’t stand the taste of your average hot chocolate mix from the grocery store!) For our “everyday” hot chocolate recipe, our go-to favorite is this one from I Am Baker. It is rich, velvety and delicious – and only really requires four quick and easy ingredients – milk, sugar, vanilla extract and a good quality cocoa (this is key!) That alone makes a delicious cup of hot cocoa, but if you have the time to include the fifth ingredient in the recipe – miniature marshmallows – and let them cook into the hot cocoa, you will definitely be rewarded for your patience! It. Is. Delish! Highly recommend.
My boys also love the little spoons that you can stir into hot milk and make your own hot cocoa – it’s just easy + fun! We also LOVE putting whipped cream on top of our hot chocolate. There’s something extra delish about the cool + hot together. We typically keep a can of whipped cream in our fridge. It’s a quick, easy add to hot chocolate and my kids also love a dab of it atop strawberries as a dessert after dinner. And sometimes we add it to our favorite waffles on the weekends with a few chocolate chips for a special treat. When we have time, we use this crazy whipped cream contraption, which we LOVE. It’s expensive, yes, but it’s great for whipped sauces and soups and such as well. Of course, if you won’t use it enough to justify it, there are lots of less expensive options!
I hope that helps you get started on making some sweet memories with your family with some tasty hot chocolate on a dreary winter’s day – or a hot chocolate “bar” for a fun Friday night treat or to last throughout the season. Any way you do it, I hope that it brings you a little extra joy!
On Wednesday, Bering’s Hardware hosted our Boxwood Breakfast Group for a little holiday fun. They set up several beautiful tablescapes for us and showcased some fabulous gift ideas and we had a wonderful time! I’ve been shopping at Bering’s for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, my daddy would take me there on Saturday mornings to pick up fresh lumber for his latest woodworking projects. We would drive up to the Westheimer location and I could smell the fresh cut wood before we even got out of the car. We would usually pick up tamales from the Texas Tamale Company, which back then was an outdoor push cart filled with homemade ones that was only there on Saturday mornings and sold out fast. Over the years, Bering’s has changed a little bit, but the overall feel of walking into your neighborhood corner store filled with friendly, helpful people remains the same. They no longer carry lumber, but they do still sell hardware and if you’re in need of some, there is simply no other store where the workers know more about their products or the processes to install them. Seriously. I’ve never been steered wrong by someone who works at Bering’s when I’m in need of something for a crazy home project. Of course, they also carry beautiful home decor and gift items and one of my favorite things is that it’s a one-stop shop. You could literally do every bit of your holiday gift list shopping there if you wanted to. (Although, obviously, you’d need to supplement with some sparkly jewelry from me – Ha!)
When our girls group arrived at Bering’s on Wednesday morning, we were created by Jo’s Mini Mobile Bar (which is actually a vintage Italian Piaggo Ape on wheels!) This thing is adorable and featured a mimosa bar. The perfect start to the morning event!
You can rent this little bit of preciousness for parties or weddings, too. How cute is that?
I think it’s just about one of the cutest things ever and obviously, it made the mimosa taste even better!
Upon entering the store, our eyes were met with a feast of beauty that got me super excited for the upcoming holiday season. I’ll admit that I’ve been heads-down in making inventory, doing trunk shows and knocking things off of my to do list and I sort of missed November entirely. But, Thanksgiving will be here soon and I got way more excited about that fact after seeing their tablescape ideas. Nothing like a few new pieces to refresh your vision of your home at the holidays!
And these beautiful linen napkins with grey embroidery. Gorgeous!
LOVE this wine glass, the cute feather coffee mug by Juliska (love the shape!), the white pumpkin candles and these velvet, brocade and feather pumpkins! They’re so unique and I think I need them to add in to my velvet pumpkin collection. So, basically I wanted one of each on this lovely table!
And this little guy!! Too cute for words!
The Christmas tables were equally inspiring and now I’m ready for Christmas immediately! Loved everything on this beauty!
Truly, everywhere you look in Bering’s home section is a little vignette of perfectly curated beauty.
This elegant setting features china from Bernardaud, which I didn’t know before I saw this. Loving it! It’s simple, clean and elegant, which is exactly what you’d expect out of France, oui?
I always love Arte Italica pieces – have loved that brand forever and these Christmas tree plates are no exception.
LOVE the felt mistletoe ornament on the plate. Too cute!
Then, of course, there was the insanely elegant table set with Herend, which makes the china that I selected when we were married. I went with Golden Edge and have never regretted it for one moment! I mix it with fancier salad and dinner plates for various holidays and it has worked so well for us. We get versatility, without too many plates to store!
This table was filled with fun games for the whole family, not one of which I had ever seen before. And that is high praise! If you want fun game ideas that are also beautiful, this is the spot for you. I will definitely be back here to knock some things off of my Christmas gift shopping list!
Next time you’re in Bering’s, don’t forget to stop by the refrigerator with the Lemond Kitchen items in it. It’s a local Houston spot with amazing Crawfish Etoufee, Gumbo and Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce that you won’t want to miss. Your taste buds will thank you and you won’t have to do any dishes for it!
So, clearly I have a deep love for Bering’s. I hope that you enjoyed this little feast for the eyes. Do you shop at Bering’s and love it as much as I do? If so, tell me your favorite things there down in the comments below, because I would love to check them out!
Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend and it has the potential to be beautiful… or to be an utter disaster. If I’m being honest, this post has been percolating in my head for weeks. I have so very much I want to say on this topic, but I couldn’t quite formulate it into words. So, I waited a while to gain clarity and then waited a while longer in an attempt to gain more around what I wanted to say. I’m still not sure it’s all together, but if I wait any longer, the opportunity will have passed me by. So, while it might not be perfect, I’m going to put it out there, because Mother’s Day is headed towards us like a freight train. And make no mistake, this freight train is loaded with emotion.
I’d like to start by saying that if Mother’s Day is painful for you, you are seen and loved during this time. Maybe you’re not a mom by your own choice or maybe you’ve struggled with infertility for years. Maybe your own mother is no longer living or maybe she is, but your relationship with her is strained and is a source of deep pain. Maybe you’re adopted and never knew your birth mother and the feelings are just complex. Maybe you’ve lost a child and the pain is more than most of us can even imagine in our worst nightmares. Whatever the reason, if this holiday is hard for you, you are not alone. I am holding space for you, however you feel. I don’t have words to heal, but I do know a God who has brought me great healing surrounding the death of my father when I was a young girl. He has the same grace and healing for you. He walks through the valleys of difficulty right alongside you and He longs for you to know His heart of love for you.
If you’re a mother of grown children at this time, I hope that you still get to celebrate in some way amidst the quarantine. I hope you feel like you are deeply loved and I hope that you are getting to rest and relax and remember this weekend. I cannot even fathom where you are, if I’m being honest. I’m simultaneously jealous of your “me time” and terrified of the time when my chicks have all left the nest. But that’s a whole different blog post.
Today, I’m really writing to the mamas who are in the thick of it. A few weeks ago, I saw a meme that said something to the effect of – You just know the quarantine will still be going on over Mother’s Day and then will be lifted just in time for Father’s Day. I laughed to myself because that sounds just about typical, doesn’t it? We moms are used to being fairly unappreciated on the whole. We give and give of ourselves to our children and family and it often feels like no one sees us. Like we all that we do is taken completely for granted, and often times it is. I’m hopeful that one day when my children are older, they will appreciate what I have given to them, both in time and resources, but mostly in love. But that day feels a LONG way off when I’m consoling them for yet another superficial boo-boo or breaking up yet another fight or changing yet another stinky diaper. And that’s under normal circumstances.
In this current world scenario, moms are being asked to pick up SO MANY additional plates and keep them spinning. I know that there are dads who are also doing more at home, but for the most part, the moms are bearing a huge portion of the burden of this quarantine time at home, even if the men don’t agree. (In fact, the New York Times has an interesting article about that here.) In the past two months, we have moved beyond exhaustion to absolute depletion. I, for one, feel like I have absolutely nothing left to offer anyone, much less myself, at the end of almost every day and if I’m being honest, I don’t feel all that much better in the morning after a good night’s sleep. This is such a bittersweet time. It’s so precious to have this much time at home with our children and to be rid of the “calendar pollution” as a wise friend of mine called it recently. It’s wonderful to be together as a family and to be learning more and more about our children as we steep in this hot water together. But, it’s also draining and we are being stretched in almost unimaginable ways.
Moms are stand-in teachers, which has completely changed the dynamic of our relationship with our kids. We’ve been “task masters” around the house for years, but those tasks are generally ones of our own creation. But now, we are being asked to execute the orders of our schools and teachers and to do things they way they want them done and to rally our children and get them on board to do the work. And then to help them in doing it if they struggle at all. For many of us, that is easier said than done. And if you have multiple children, it’s all the harder. It’s enough to make you lost your ever-loving mind. Let me pause here and say, please know that I mean NO disrespect to our schools or teachers. I’m beyond grateful for both of them. Saying that being a mom in charge of virtual learning in our houses is hard should take absolutely nothing away from how hard our teachers are also working. This is not a binary situation – it can be hard for all involved. We’re ALL building a bridge as we walk across it, so to speak, and that is always challenging and requires that we give one another enormous amounts of grace.
We’re also being asked to be one-woman I.T. departments. Oh, the number of apps to download, the passwords to remember, the broken links, the printing and scanning and emailing and troubleshooting and that’s to say nothing of keeping the electronic devices charged all the time! (This has helped me with that some.) Some of us are teaching our young children how to use a laptop or an iPad for the first time. (Don’t get me started on how we’ve been told to keep them away from electronics for so many years and are now being forced to give them a crash-course in using them while they do so 7 hours a day.) We are figuring out how to get simultaneous FaceTime calls going on different devices when your kids aren’t old enough to have their own phone. There are Zoom calls to keep a schedule of and due dates to remember and school/art/science/preschool supplies that are required.
At the same time, over on the home front, obtaining groceries and toiletries and cleaning products has become a monumental task of gargantuan proportions. Going to the store can be a nightmare of empty shelves, limitations on the number of people on one aisle and face masks that make you feel like you’re suffocating. And planning ahead for delivery (if you can even get it) is another difficulty and finding what you need with all of the items out of stock and the purchasing limitations (my family of six can eat a dozen eggs in a day, thank you very much) feels like a game of high-level strategy sometimes. Many of us had become quite reliant on Amazon’s Prime delivery service that comes in two days. That has vanished for most items as they try and prioritize essentials. It takes longer and requires more mental capacity than ever before to execute many small tasks. And if you’re also doing it for a loved one who is elderly and confined to their home? Just one more thing on the tower of tasks. We are figuring out how to make our kids feel special on their birthdays in this stay-at-home and away from friends and family time. We are trying to come up with creative ways to celebrate our spouse’s birthday and our anniversaries and loved ones’ special days from afar. Some of us are working from home, others are trying to keep small businesses afloat, trying to figure out how to avoid furloughing employees or at least keeping health insurance for them. Some of us are working outside of the home or our husbands are, because we (or they) are considered essential workers and that’s another set of challenges during this time.
All the while, our own emotions churn within us. We are fearful for our children, our parents and ourselves. For our collective health, both physical and mental, during this time. We are drying the tears of our children when they are sad and cannot even explain why. Their structure has been yanked from beneath them and it is starting to show up in fits and tantrums or tears that cannot even be explained. And the moms are the ones trying their best to protect this sweet time of childhood for them and not let it show that the world actually does feel like it is falling apart right now. We create a safe space for our families within the four walls of our home and it takes insane amounts of energy and determination.
That brings me to Mother’s Day. If I’m honest, Mother’s Day is always a bit of a struggle for me. Most moms that I know want to celebrate with the day their children, but we also desperately want some alone time. We yearn for quiet and solace and space. We want time to get a massage, a pedicure or just read a book uninterrupted, dare I say with a warm latte in hand. (We are quite used to drinking coffee cold.) We want someone to serve us a meal that we don’t have to cook or clean up after and we long for rest. Yet, we are pulled to be “Mom” even on our own day. It is a 24/7 job, after all. We still need to be up and dressed well for church or brunch or maybe even to host a meal for family in our own homes. Our children still need us on Sunday, so we summon the energy to slap a smile on our weary faces and to praise our littles for their handmade art projects and to celebrate our own moms if we are blessed enough to have them with us. There is a tension in this day. . .and that’s on a normal Mother’s Day.
On this particular Mother’s Day, in the midst of Covid-19, we enter the weekend weary to the bone, unsure of where to get more energy to carry on. We have laid down our desire for the Mother’s Day celebrations at school with our little ones and the sweet memories that those create. We have laid down our hopes of travel plans for the Summer and we are wondering just what we will do with our children over the next few months if the swimming pools and museums and zoos remain closed and now that day camps and classes are being cancelled. We are in need of being recharging more than ever before. Which is why I think this day has more pressure on it than in prior years. I don’t have a perfect answer to our collective problem, but these are my thoughts…
Take a moment to stop and think about what you need right now. Do you need to be left alone for an afternoon or a day to read or sleep or binge watch TV? Do you need some time with your best girlfriend talking on the phone or FaceTiming with a coffee or a glass of wine in hand or do you need to have a cocktail hour with a friend sitting 6 feet apart on her front porch? Do you need to not cook any meals for a day or a weekend and not clean up after them either? Do you need a ridiculous amount of fresh flowers – some for every room? Alone time for a bubble bath? Do you need a little retail therapy online, be it a big budget or a tiny one, just to grab a few things that bring you a dose of happy? Maybe it’s to snag your favorite candle to make your home smell sweeter or to help you relax or some cute and comfortable new leisure wear for all of these days at home. Maybe it’s a gorgeous pair of earrings that make you feel beautiful each morning even when you don’t take the time to wash your hair or put on makeup. Maybe it’s a cozy new throw to snuggle up under on your favorite chair with your favorite book. Or a new coffee mug to make your mornings just a bit brighter. Maybe it’s a purse you’ve been wanting forever or a new pair of running shoes or a cute + comfy pair of shorts for the upcoming warm days in the backyard with your kids. Whatever it is, take the time to notice what your heart really wants and then set your mind to getting it. This likely requires some communication with your spouse or kids, but I would encourage you to let them know what you need and make a plan for getting it. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that waiting for them to figure out what you need or to come up with a plan for you leads to unmet expectations and frustration on the part of everyone involved. A very wise friend in San Francisco told me that a few years ago and while I resisted her idea a bit at first, I realized that she was right.
During this time of staying at home, I have developed a new appreciation for the simple things – time with my family, time spent outside in nature, caring less about what I look like and more about being present in the moment. I’ve been reminded of how important family dinners are and how much fun it is to have a cleared calendar and just enjoy the simple things – slowing down, listening to your children laugh, reading, baking, riding a bike, being creative, just dreaming. You get the idea. I don’t feel like I’ve had a lot of extra time to do those things, but I’ve gotten enough of a glimpse of them that I know I need more of them in my life. Because of that, I’m convinced that this slower Mother’s Day weekend could be really, really beautiful.
If the reality of this weekend of Mother’s Day doesn’t come close to what you hoped it would be, know that you are still loved. You’re doing a great job, mama. If no one else is telling you, let me be the one to say it – Well done. It may feel like no one is noticing all that you do, but God is. He sees you where you are and He smiles upon watching you with your children. He is touched by the very details of your situation, whatever they are. He has chosen YOU to be their mother and He has chosen THEM for you. You are the very best mother for them in the world, even if you question it sometimes deep in the recesses of your heart where no one can hear.
Husbands, this is the time to love on your wife in extravagant ways. She needs you right now. If she is struggling, she needs you to reach down into the pit of exhaustion (and sometimes despair) that we all fall into every now and then and help her out of it. Don’t skimp on Mother’s Day this year. I know that it requires more planning, but such is the state of the world we live in. It’s not an excuse to do nothing. Buy her a gift (or a few!) if you are able. And for that, I would encourage you to shop small and/or local if you can. Small businesses need our support at times like these. Buy her flowers. Grab a card for her or write her a love note on a nice piece of stationery. If you’re struggling in this economy, there is plenty you can do for free. Give her some alone time, protected from the constant needs of the children, if just for a while. Give her some extra time to sleep or just to veg out in front of the television, uninterrupted. Make (or buy) her favorite meal. Bring her a latte in bed. Force her to take some time for herself, be that a bubble bath, a long run, a spa day at home or some time in the garden. Let her know how grateful you are that she pours everything she has into her children constantly. Tell her what makes you proud of her and how she is sowing seeds now that will reap a great harvest later, because sometimes she forgets that. Tell her that she is a good mother, because she doubts that on a daily basis. Love on your wife and I promise that it will pay dividends for your whole family.
And, of course, if you want to spoil her with jewelry, give me a call. I absolutely love helping with that! (And gift cards for handmade jewelry from your favorite designer are always a great last-minute option!)
**Disclaimer: This post contains a handful of affiliate links through Amazon’s Affiliate Program, which means that if you click on a link and end up buying something, I make a very small commission, at no cost to you.
I adore the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and each time I go, I’m inspired in different ways for my jewelry designs. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the special exhibits there, its that I shouldn’t wait until the last minute to go see them. By that point, the word has gotten out and the lines are insane as procrastinators (like me) realize they’re about to miss something really cool and everyone flocks to see it. It’s happened to me several times and I always think I’ve learned my lesson.
This time, I had a pretty good excuse. I was having a baby when the exhibit first came out and I wasn’t comfortable taking a newborn to a place with so many people. But, as the deadline approached, I realized I had better jump on it before the actual closing weekend or I was going to be sorry! So, today, my husband got off of work a little early and we loaded up the kiddos and headed to the museum to see the Big Bambú exhibit, “This Thing Called Life”. And boy, was it worth it! Our kids had an absolute blast at this interactive exhibit and I’m so glad that we took them.
The exhibit consists of over 3,000 poles of bamboo tied together. The bamboo forms a swirling bridge pathway from the 2nd floor of the gallery down to the ground level. The artists, Mike and Doug Starn, are twin brothers and their work is truly incredible in scale. This installation is the first one that is completely indoors, interacting with the museum itself. Thankfully, I had heard from some friends that there were guidelines for who could visit and I checked out the museum’s website for the details on restrictions. Pregnant women, babies and kids under 6 aren’t allowed to climb on the 2nd story of the structure. Also, you have to wear closed shoes with rubber soles. (I wore my current favorites from M.Gemi seen below!) You can check out the full list of guidelines here. We took all of our children our youngest two who aren’t old enough for the upper-level pathway still really enjoyed the ground level part of the exhibit. Hubs and I took turns taking the oldest two on the pathway while the other stayed at ground level navigating the bamboo sticks below.
If you’re near Houston, I highly recommend you check out this exhibit before it leaves on September 3rd. It’s really cool and is not to be missed! If you’re not near Houston or can’t make it, visit the artists’ website here. Their work is sure to amaze you!
For a preview of the Houston exhibit, check out our photos below!
I’ll be honest, since this is my fourth baby, I slacked a bit on the preparations. Partly, it was because I was overwhelmed managing three boys under seven years old while I had preeclampsia (and all of the OB appointments that entailed!) It was also partly because I know that babies don’t really need nearly as much as I thought they did with my first child. And, I’ll admit that a part of it was that I’ve forgotten what they actually do need since it has been four years since I brought home a newborn. Hello, mom brain!
And so, I found myself ordering diapers from the hospital before we headed home. (Thank you, Amazon Prime!) And when we brought our little man home, I wanted to give him a bath and realized that I hadn’t bought any baby shampoo or body wash. Oops! Honestly, I was too tired and overwhelmed to bathe him, anyway, so I just made a mental note to order some soon.
And then, I got a special delivery from my sweet friend Estela Cockrell who started Switch2Pure. You may remember me telling you about her back in December after I was invited to a blogger event at her beautiful home. (If you missed that post, take a moment to hop over and check out the lovely photos. I’ll wait.) I fell in love with several of her products and have been using them faithfully ever since (and yes, most of them have lasted the past 6 months and I still haven’t run out – amazing!) Estela is a darling Houston girl with a passion for sharing well-curated, safe + pure products with people and making it easy (and beautiful!) to shop them. So, when she sent me a box of her favorite safe + pure products for our newborn baby, I was over the moon excited! Here’s the scoop on what she sent, with a link to each product on her website for you to read all about it. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to try all of these, but I will tonight with our next baby bath and promise to share my thoughts with you soon!
What a sweet friend, right?! I look forward to using all of these and sharing with you which ones are my favorites. They smell just divine! What are your favorite toxin-free baby products? Tell me in the comments below – this mama wants/needs to know!
Rest. Recharge. Refresh. These are words that frankly don’t come easy to me. My personality is a highly-driven, results-oriented, task-list-focused “doer” type. In many ways, those are positive traits, but they definitely come at a high cost – exhaustion, overwhelm and burn out. I’m well aware of those costs, but I typically push through them without stopping to give it much thought. I just do what needs to be done. Which is why, when a close friend tossed out the idea of taking a sabbatical, I was honestly a bit perplexed.
To me, a sabbatical is something that a college professor takes for a semester while they travel to another country or do research. Is a mom of three kids (almost four) who owns her own jewelry business allowed to take a sabbatical? What would that even look like?
For context, just about a week before our first child was born, a pair of my earrings were featured in InStyle magazine. What a dream, right? I couldn’t have been more excited about the feature…or more uneasy about the timing! Sure enough, orders started rolling in just as I was breezing past my due date with no end in sight to my pregnancy. I was huge, uncomfortable and filling orders as I waited. A week past my due date, I was induced and after a difficult labor, my OB informed me that an emergency c-section was our only option for having a healthy baby and mama. I felt a bit like things were spinning out of control. Not much was going according to plan. What would have been a 48-hour stay became 5 days in the hospital and in my hormonal and emotional (and narcotic-induced?) brand new mom state, I couldn’t let go of the fact that I had bunch of orders from my InStyle feature to fill. These people saw my earrings in one of the hottest magazines in the country. How unprofessional would my business look to delay in sending them out just because I’d had a baby? Looking back, it almost seems comical, but it wasn’t at the time. So, I sent my husband home for raw materials, supplies and our portable printer and y’all, I legit sat in my hospital bed the day after an emergency c-section that followed 30 hours of labor and made earrings, printed shipping labels, boxed them up and had my husband walk them to the post office. I mean, seriously. The nurses were BAFFLED by me and looking back on it, I’m a little baffled at myself, too. What I would give to sit myself down that day and have a long, hard talk about priorities.
For the next year and a half, I worked anytime our son slept – especially late night. I got very little sleep, but I pushed through. Our next child was born just 20 months later and this time, I promised my husband that I would not make jewelry from the hospital bed again. A promise is a promise, but… At the time, some friends of ours had a young daughter who was battling cancer and I wanted to help. So, I made a necklace in her honor and sold them online, with 100% of the proceeds going to her treatments. My only ask was that the fundraiser be done by my due date in August. You can guess what happened next. The timing of the fundraiser ended up being promoted widely, going viral in August and again, just before baby #2 was due, the orders started flowing in…a lot of them. I kept my word and didn’t fill a single order from the hospital, but this time I worked my tail off filling hundreds and hundreds of orders once I got home from the hospital with a newborn. I have vivid memories of being in the dining room of our little San Francisco Victorian with my mom and husband by my side, boxing up orders. A small improvement, but let’s be honest…still crazy town.
Our third child was born 20 months after that, just after we had moved back to Houston and frankly, that’s all a massive blur. I barely remember what it was like having three kids aged three and under, but I can tell you that my jewelry business didn’t stop. I can remember being pregnant and throwing up at jewelry shows (more times than I can count on all of my fingers and toes!) and also nursing my children in my jewelry booths as people shopped. I answered emails while nursing a baby and started making jewelry the moment I got the kids down to sleep. It was all quite a whirlwind!
And now, our fourth little blessing is due in just a few weeks and for the past couple of months since my friend suggested the word sabbatical to me, I’ve been mulling over what that would look like. After a LOT of thought and prayer, we have decided that is just what our family needs right now. I’ve had my own business designing and making jewelry for 18 years as of this month. That feels like a LONG time and part of me cannot believe it when I say it out loud. My business has had many iterations over those years and I’ve worked very hard to be everything to everyone in the process. I know logically that’s impossible and that it is a recipe for disaster, but sometimes it is hard to avoid when you’re creating art, a process so very close to the heart. For many years, I’ve wanted to take a step back and consider how best to move forward, but there’s always something else to be done and my task-led personality is all too happy to dive in and bust it out.
One of the things that my friend asked me that stopped me in my tracks was. . . What do you want this time (of having a baby) to look like? How do you want it to be different from the last three times? Let’s dream a little bit about what it could look like for you. WOW. Her words resonated deeply as I realized that I’ve never taken the time to do anything like that in my life. And when I thought about it, I realized that the church that this friend and I attended together when we lived in San Francisco, incorporated that into the very fiber of the church. The idea of Sabbath is so important to that church, that every several years, each member of the staff is encouraged to take a paid leave to regroup, recharge, reconnect with their families and plan for the future. What a gift! And if they were modeling that, why was I resisting it?
So, here we are. I’m counting down the days until baby Cuatro joins us and am taking a little leave of absence from the jewelry business until at least the Fall. Since I’m a one-woman show right now, that’s hard for me to do, and it basically means shutting down the business for a bit, but I think my family needs it, I know I need it and I think that, in the end, it will even be good for my business in the long run. I’m going to take this time to rest up, to connect with our newborn when he or she arrives, to enjoy my precious family and to dream and brainstorm for the future of Andrea Montgomery Designs. I’ll likely re-enter the space a little bit slowly and then, when ready, I’ll be back at it, Lord-willing.
Thank you for supporting me for these past eighteen years, friends. Thanks for supporting me in both easy and hard times over those years and for continuing to do so both during this break and in the future of my business. I am grateful for you so much more than you know, for allowing me to work hard at doing what I love.
Also, if a time of rest is something that resonates with you in your own life, whatever that may look like for you, I would encourage you to give it some real thought and to pursue a time of recharging. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in needing that today. If you’ve taken a sabbatical or a break from work in the past and have words of wisdom to offer, I’m all ears! Please do help a mama out and share in the comments below. . .
…We are having a baby – that cute little bean in the photo above!! Honestly, I really didn’t mean for it to be a secret. That’s the funny thing about it all. It just sort of happened. And the longer it went that I hadn’t shared the news, the bigger of a deal it seemed. In the end I think what I’ve learned is that our society is seriously reliant on social media for information and connection. I mean, I think we all know that, but some days, it really feels like if it didn’t happen on social media, it didn’t happen at all. And I have very mixed feelings about that, but we’ll circle back to that in a minute. Recently, a couple of dear friends that I actually see quite often told me that they had no idea I was pregnant. And then a few people asked me why I hadn’t posted anything on Facebook or Instagram about the baby on the way and truth be told, I don’t have a great reason. But, then the question kept rumbling around in my head and I realized that it was really the combination of a lot of small reasons and one really big one that I’ve been wrestling with lately.
So, the fun news is that I’m pregnant with our fourth child! We couldn’t be more excited. We prayed for this child for quite some time and God is so gracious to bless us with this baby, our little caboose! Looking back, I think our time of waiting for this baby is partly what shaped my caution in telling people that we are expecting. The Lord did quite a work on my heart during that time – probably more than words can adequately describe in a blog post. Suffice it to say, my heart has been changed in many ways. Just one of those ways is my increased tenderness for those who struggle with infertility, delayed fertility, miscarriage and the loss of a child. That’s not to say I wasn’t sympathetic before, because those have always been struggles very close to my heart, but this is different in that, at the same time, I was also struggling with the role of social media in my own life.
In the past year, I’ve had more than one friend close to me who lost a baby past 20 weeks. I don’t even have words for losses like that or for miscarriages at any stage, for that matter. What I do know is that life is so, so precious and we are called to be sensitive to the struggles of those around us. I’m still working through what that looks like in many ways. I also have dear friends who have been struggling to get pregnant for the first time for many, many, many years. And I didn’t really feel like I could talk about our own waiting with people, for fear of sounding like I was trying to compare grief or struggles, which was certainly not my intent and also because we have already been blessed with three healthy, beautiful boys. Nonetheless, God allowed this waiting time in our lives to be a part of our story and has faithfully used it to shape us to be more like Him. He sees our struggles and meets us where we are in those and I am learning to do that better as well.
All of that is to say that somehow, when the time came to announce our news, I just couldn’t bring myself to write the post. I kept looking for my reason for posting and I didn’t find it for quite a while. I told our family the news first and then dear friends, since it’s awfully hard to hide the constant throwing up that I have for the first 6 months or so of my pregnancies! I certainly wasn’t hiding it from anyone on purpose, but something kept me from actively posting about it on Instagram or Facebook. Meanwhile, I’m watching plenty of other friends announce their pregnancies and post every day about their joys about being pregnant and every detail about their plans for the baby and many of those friends were due after me. And there was a pang in my heart at each one I read as I thought of my friends who were still struggling with various difficulties surrounding children and what they must feel reading these posts. Getting pregnant, staying pregnant, having safe birthing experiences, adjusting to newborns, raising children responsibly, struggling with health issues in our children and ultimately letting them go off into the world – it’s all hard. And the pangs of empathy just weren’t going away. So, for maybe the first time in my life, I stayed quiet. And still. And did nothing.
Since I couldn’t figure out how to announce it and still honor those in difficult places on their own walks, and since I couldn’t clearly define my “why” for posting about it, I just chose not to announce it at all on social media. And, honestly, there was something liberating about it! I had long since been struggling with the use of social media in my life. I love so much about Instagram and Facebook, namely staying connected to friends and family who are far away, learning from the unique perspectives of others and reading articles that friends think are important enough to share, especially since I am not a big consumer of news media in general. Not to mention the memes, funny videos and ensuing laughter. I have a lot of love for these platforms and find myself spending time on them maybe a bit too often. They are fun and pretty and offer a bit of an escape from what can feel like a life full of mundane tasks at times. However, there are struggles with each platform that cannot be denied. Study after study has shown that people are less content and even more depressed after using them for an extended period of time. We all know that these platforms are a highlight reel of people’s lives and yet, scrolling through those picture perfect feeds understandably still leads to discontent in our own lives. And I’ve been convicted about my own role in adding to that discontent for some time now, because I think it’s incredibly dangerous and is the opposite of what we are called to do. And so, for a few years now, each time I post, I’ve been asking myself, both in my personal and professional posts – what is my intention in posting this? I don’t want to be the person who just shamelessly self promotes and in doing so, leads others to feel discontent in their own lives. That’s not helpful. We all know people who do that constantly and while their feeds can be fun to look at for a while, in the end, the effect on our hearts isn’t what I hope my followers feel when looking at mine.
I’ll take this moment to quickly add that the fact that I have a jewelry business complicates my desire to be intentional with my posting. Social media platforms are a wonderful way to share my designs with the world and I am so, so grateful for that opportunity. However, I do feel strongly that we, as social media consumers, need some healthy boundaries where social media is concerned and I want to honor those myself when posting as a designer as well. So many people are making LOTS of money convincing people to buy things on these platforms. More often than not, this is the result of people with great tips and ideas sharing those with their faithful readers and friends. And I love that! I’ve learned about fabulous products and services and free downloads from some of my favorite Instagrammers, bloggers and Pinterest-posting friends and they are, more often than not, the first place I look when I need a recommendation for something! I have dear friends who are bloggers and I value the opinions they share greatly and love the items they post about. I’ve found some of my favorite shoes, beauty products and clothing that way and it is awesome! After all, who better to get recommendations from than your friends? However, with some others, the basis of their promotions can be contributing to the discontent we all feel at times by seeing such beautiful photos of picture perfect lives being led by the people who own XYZ (insert product for purchase here.) That’s the game of advertising and always has been, but the lines have been blurred since social media was invented and blogging became an incredibly high paying career in and of itself for a few people on the platforms. That’s partially why the Federal Trade Commission has stepped in and created guidelines requiring bloggers to more clearly disclose when they are being paid to promote something, but that’s another discussion for another day.
So, for me, I chose to celebrate within our own little family and with my close friends with whom we are walking through life. And truthfully, with the insane busyness of life with three boys aged seven years and under, I didn’t have all that much time to think or worry about it. School, carpools, homework, making lunches, sports schedules and life in general consumes most of my days and that’s before my jewelry business kicks in! Add in the sheer exhaustion and constant throwing up of my pregnancy days, and I feel like I have been dropping balls right and left for months now. And I’m slowly learning to be more okay with that.
Fast forward a little bit and more and even more friends were surprised when my belly finally REALLY popped out recently or when they heard from other friends – and then I felt sort of bad, even though all of them were totally understanding! And I realized that I have friends far and wide from so many different times and areas of life and social media is just a really efficient way to tell people what is going on in your life. And people want to know and celebrate with you. So, here we are.
We’re having a baby…and soon! Our precious 4th baby is due in just over a month now. Before you ask, we’ve chosen to be surprised on gender and it has been so much fun! Since we had our first three babies in three years, this is my first pregnancy when my older kids are really understanding what is happening and that has been really fun and sweet to watch as well. We are so grateful for the crazy journey of parenthood and can’t wait to share more about our new addition with you. So, why am I sharing now? In part it is because I have some other related big news to share very soon, but I’m going to save that for another post. This one is already way too long and If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you for that.
Have a thought about all that I’ve shared here? Share it with me in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!
It’s just flat COLD across most of Texas and Houston is no exception this time! Schools and most businesses are closed today and it is looking like they may be tomorrow, too. A little snow and a LOT of ice (for this neck of the woods, anyway) are blanketing our city and temps aren’t supposed to get above freezing for a few days. This is officially the first time it has snowed in Houston this many times in one winter season since 1973, which is more than my lifetime! That seems a little crazy to me, but it has definitely been a colder winter here than I can remember in a long time. And last winter was so warm!
As for our little family, we are hunkering down at home and staying fireside with cozy blankets and lots of hot chocolate! Thankfully, I stocked up on groceries and marshmallows in anticipation of the storm (Shout out to Instacart, for bringing it right to me late last night – I am not sure how I would survive without them!) so we are all ready for the laid-back family time at home. Hubs still has to go to work (per the usual) but the kiddos and I are cozied up at home, where I’m doing a little work and they’re doing a LOT of playing. Yay for the new toys from Christmas that are keeping them entertained! Our studio is closed until further notice this week when things warm up.
In case you’re getting a little stir crazy like we are, I’ve gathered a few of my favorite snow-day-related things from the internet for your enjoyment. Hopefully it will get a few laughs on this COLD day!
The first is this HILARIOUS Snow Day Bingo card from Houstonia Magazine that they posted on their Instagram feed. Several of them made me laugh out loud! This one definitely deserves a look – I’m pretty sure I scored bingo right away and am awfully close to a blackout card!
After a few snide comments on Facebook and Instagram from my friends in the North about how we Texans are handling this wintry mix, I found this one to be HYSTERICAL! It’s true, ice days really throw us for a loop down here, since we don’t have the salting equipment that they do up North and most people have very little experience driving on ice. That, and we take our football pretty seriously down here. . . This bit of hilarity is from It’s a Southern Thing on their Facebook page and I love it!
So, what are y’all doing to stay sane on these ice days? I need all the tips I can get as it’s about to be an “add to cart” kind of day over here and it’s looking like our long MLK Day weekend is turning into a 5 day break!
I was recently invited to a fun blogger breakfast event at the gorgeous Tanglewood area home of Estela Cockrell, founder of Switch2Pure. It was so much fun catching up with other Houston blogger friends over delicious and healthy bites and tasty drinks in her house, which was beautifully decorated for the holidays – be sure to scroll through for photos of it, along with some of our favorite bloggers.We also got to preview some of her favorite items from her new website, Switch2Pure, which is well-curated website with the best clean and organic products.
Estela started our time together telling us all about why she started this company. She and her children have battled various auto-immune issues for a long time and for a while, she was dealing with mysterious symptoms due to food allergies, immune disorders and Lyme disease, without really knowing what was causing them. Once she started doing more research, however, and figured out exactly what was causing them, she vowed to take a closer look at the products that she and her family were using every day. And she didn’t like what she found. She found complicated labels that made it hard to differentiate the good from the bad ingredients and she found “crunchy” healthy products that didn’t do what they promised. So, she decided to curate her own website of products that are safe, pure, clean, natural and nontoxic, yet effective and luxurious. Gotta love a woman who makes helping others simplify safe products her mission!
After the talk and delicious gluten and dairy free treats, we got to head into her work area and sample some products. I was amazed at how luxurious they are for “safe” products. Estela pointed out to us which ones are her very favorites and I snagged a few things to bring home and try out. Here’s what I started with, along with a brief review of (and link to) each product…
Kaia Naturals Charcoal Deodorant – The idea of endocrine disruptors from the store shelf deodorants being placed so close to my lymph chains in my underarms every single day was enough to make me decide to make the switch immediately. So far, I’ve liked it. The brand tells you to expect a detox period when quitting regular antiperspirant, but so far, I haven’t noticed that. I think it comes a bit later on, though.
InVitamin Charcoal Toothpaste – Same goes for what I put into my mouth. I definitely don’t want harmful toxins here! While the idea of black toothpaste makes me a little uneasy, Estela assured me that the lightly minted taste is good and that it also whitens teeth – bonus! So far, I’ve really liked it. It’s far less sudsy than normal toothpaste, but I don’t mind that at all. Just rinse any that you spit into the sink immediately and the black color comes off the porcelain super easily.
Rare Elements Pure Natural Shampoo Hydrating Hair Bathe Shampoo – This one smells amazing and Estela promises that it does wonders for your hair. Yay for that! I’m super picky about what shampoos I use. I don’t like the ones from the grocery store that leave a wax buildup on your hair. I feel like I can also use less amounts of the more expensive ones, so it ends up being about the same amount of money investment-wise. So far, I LOVE this one and use only a dime-sized amount each time. And, I feel like it allows me to not have to wash my hair every single day. Yay for that!
Rare Elements Essentials Daily Vegan Natural Masque Conditioner – There was a “lite” conditioner option as well, but I like a good mask-like conditioner, since I only put it on the ends of my hair (the ponytail area) which tends to get a little dry or get split ends between hair cuts. I like this one a lot so far. I put it on and wait about 3-5 minutes before rinsing it out. Like the other Rare Elements products, it smells amazing and lasts a really long time!
Rare Elements Marula Cocktail Leave in Conditioner – I’m LOVING this one so far. It smells amazing (like the shampoo) and leaves my hair feeling so soft and hydrated. I only use two sprays per day and then come it through, to keep my hair from being oily.
Kaia Juicy Bamboo Facial Cleansing Cloth – Estela told me that these are perfect for after you leave the gym, but have to go somewhere else before going home to shower and I agree. They are refreshing and smell great and are a good quick refresh after a sweaty lifting session at the gym. And heaven-knows I’m rarely headed home to shower after I work out, as much as I’d like to be. A mom’s life is rarely boring!
Source Vital Free Micellar Water Cleanser – Estela swears by using this a “precleanser” before cleaning your face and so far, I have loved going the same thing. I feel like it gets my face extra clean, removing makeup and then washing my face for cleanliness. It has essential oils in it and leaves my face feeling clean, but not “stripped.”
Honey Belle Organic Facial Soap – In all honesty, of all of the products I purchased, this is the only one that I might not rebuy. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t LOVE it like I loved the others. On all of the other products, I am hooked! On this one, it’s good, but not something I’m obsessed with. I think maybe my skin is getting a bit drier as it gets older and I prefer something more hydrating for me. It does foam beautifully and smells great, however. I currently keep it in my shower, rather than using it every morning and night and it’s great for that! I love that it’s a clean and safe product, though, because your skin is definitely your largest organ, so its important not to put toxins on it!
After hearing Estela’s story, I was inspired that the switch to pure ingredients in the beauty, cleaning and food items we use every day really is getting easier every day, especially with websites like Switch2Pure. And the payoff is worth the investment of time to seek them out. In the case of the items at Switch2Pure, I was amazed by how low the prices on most items were. Usually, I feel like there is a pretty steep markup for “clean” items, but not here. There are well-priced items that are still organic and toxin-free.
Below are a few more photos from the party. It was such a fun event and I was so grateful to be included! Girl-time is such a rare treat these days and learning about safe products that I love at the same time made it all the more fun! Have you tried any of the products above or are you obsessed with any clean, non-toxic products that I should know about? Let me know in the comments below! I love sharing knowledge!
As I sit here typing this, I am listening to the rain fall. I used to love snuggling up during a good ol’ Texas thunderstorm and I loved sleeping in one even more. It was actually something I missed during the time we lived in San Francisco. Strangely, it doesn’t really storm there. I only saw lightning and heard thunder two times in the five years that we lived there and it always struck me as rather odd. I actually missed it during our time there, as crazy as that feels to type now, in the midst of Harvey. It has been raining for four days now and has been raining without stopping for even a second for at least 24 hours straight. I’d love to tell you exactly how many hours, but I can’t, because I’m not even sure what day it is. Somehow, they are all meshing together in my head and I have lost all sense of time. It’s a strange feeling and I’m beginning to realize that cabin fever is a very real phenomenon. When you’re stranded on a makeshift island surrounded by water and unable to escape except by boat or helicopter for days on end, it really does alter your mind a bit. And we are among the more fortunate in this storm, of that I am very well aware.
The photo above was the view from our front porch yesterday. The floodwaters have filled the park across the street, with its hills and valleys that create a bit of a bowl that is 15-20 feet or so down. The street, which is probably 4-5 feet below our house is also flooded and impassable. You can see by the street sign shown how high it is. It is flooded in both directions as far as the eye can see. The nearest cross street is also underwater. And the water is in our yard and slowly moving up the driveway (which has a pretty steep hill to it) and closer to our home. My son’s baby swing in the front yard is halfway under water, so I’m guessing there’s about 2-3 feet of water in our yard. A family of ducks just swam by me the now lake that covers our front yard.
For four days now, I’ve been absorbing and processing. Absorbing information, photos, videos and the very personal stories of people close to me who are in dire distress. It’s an awful lot to take in. I’ve had so many thoughts I wanted to share, but neither the energy or the time to do so. It has taken all I have to keep life within these walls of our house as normal as humanly possible for my children. At the beginning of this ordeal, when Harvey was forming in the Gulf, I was checking the weather nonstop. It may have been a throwback to my energy trading days, when tracking hurricanes and their effects on production in the Gulf was a part of my job. Or it may have had something to do with the fact that though I have weathered Hurricane Alisha, Tropical Storm Allison, Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike, I have never weathered a hurricane as a mother. Now, with three boys who are dependent on us for survival, the game has changed dramatically. Regardless, I was glued to the weather. I quickly fell in love with Space City Weather, which offers information without the sensationalism. In the beginning, I didn’t realize how crucial that would be to maintaining my sanity. I left the news channels on for a while, as they had tornado alerts and other important information, but I couldn’t leave them on for long because of my children. When some desperate woman who had been rescued by boat started screaming about all the little children who were going to die in their homes and our three year old repeated those words and asked me why with a terrified expression, I turned the television off. Images and words on TV are powerful and my boys are so young that they cannot separate fact from drama. Please don’t get me wrong, I think the news people in Houston have done and are doing an excellent job and I am grateful for their selfless coverage of this unprecedented disaster, but my own heart aches deeply at watching the images and hearing the stories, so I cannot imagine what the little minds in my house are thinking as they try and process it all.
By now, however, I rarely even look at the weather. I’m simply exhausted by it all. Severe weather alerts have gone off on my phone around every 5-15 minutes 24 hours a day for the past 4 days. Flash flood warning, tornado warning, tropical storm warning, tropical cyclone warning. I get it. We’re all in great danger here. I just can’t even process them anymore. When the tornado sirens went off, we hunkered down in an interior hallway or in our basement. It’s a confusing thing when the authorities tell you to get upstairs because of flash flooding, but also to get to the lowest level because of a tornado. And when your kids are finally sleeping peacefully, do you wake them up to move from one to the other when the sirens go off? It’s a tough call, especially when you’re tired. When we were taking cover, my children were crying in fear. And I read one of my very favorite books to them, The Jesus Storybook Bible. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s a refreshing read of the stories we know and love that brings fresh tears to my eyes almost every time I read it to my children. It’s a powerful translation, even for adults. We read the story of Jesus calming the storm and talked about how we do not need to fear, because even in difficult times like these, God is still in control. Once it was over, my kids were “playing tornado” and hiding under the dining room table. I remember reading an article on child psychology about how this is how they process trauma in a healthy way, by acting it out again and again, so I let them do it and even joined in some. It was a bit of humbling experience.
We are just fine. We are safe and dry and our house has not taken in water other than some roof and ceiling leaks. We have food and plenty of water. We have electricity and we are all together. Though we are stranded here, we are absolutely fine and beyond grateful. God is merciful and through all of this horror, the loss of life is so much smaller in number than one might expect. For that, we are grateful.
More to come as I continue to process and reflect. There is much to share and there is much to be done in relief and recovery efforts. But for now, I will focus on our family. Keeping us fed and the house and dishes relatively clean, coordinating efforts of help for friends via the internet and Facebook and connecting people as we are so thankful that we have electricity. Until we are able to leave our home, we will do what we can to help, we will support and minister to one another in this time of crisis and we will pray. We will pray for the rain to stop, the storm to dissipate, the winds to die down and for peace for the people of our great city. And when we are able, we will act. We will join others in relief efforts, band together as a community and get our community put back together. We will be stronger and our perspective will be very different. May all of this experience change us for the better, starting with me.