This Week's Gems

Friday, May 29, 2015

This little blouse makes me excited for summer!...

The prettiest bracelet...

I'm totally swooning over this logo - stunner!...

Indeed :)...

Wow! What a gorgeous take on a bar necklace...

Giant letter balloons are the best!...

What a beautiful glasses case...

Radish temporary tattoo? Yes, please!...

Sassy vegan charm bracelet...

My new favourite tea towel...

Ah, I could live in this shirt all summer long - so pretty! (Also, don't forget that you can get it on a 20% discount if you use this code at checkout: Gems20)..

Stacking rings are always a good idea...

Totally loving this stationery box, you?...

The coolest little studs...

Yes to all!...

Happy Friday, loves! What caught your eye this week? Any great finds or buys?

P.S: Plus, tons more gems!

Food for Thought: Tessa's gluten-free story

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tessa's journey to a gluten-free life wasn't easy. She encountered numerous hurdles along the way: she grew up with severe migraines and later on was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis - but after cutting gluten from her diet, she became happier, healthier and stronger than ever! Here is her amazing story...

- A few words about who you are, what you do, where you live and what you are passionate about. 

Hi, I'm Tessa and I currently live in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. I spent my college years in New Orleans, Louisiana where I studied music (I'm a violinist) and then lived in New York City while I got my masters in counseling psychology. I lived and worked in NYC for several years before my husband and I decided to move back to the Midwest. I now work as a school counselor with high school students and, as a former swimmer, have been fortunate to coach swimming as well. My background as a counselor has caused me to be passionate about self-care. How we eat, sleep, work, and interact with others can make such a difference to our quality of life.

- When, why and how did you start your gluten-free journey? Was there a medical reason behind it? 

It sounds a little funny, but my gluten-free journey started almost on a whim. Since I was 14 years old, I had been suffering from severe migraines. Many times, my migraine episodes would result in 12+ hours of nausea and vomiting, landing me in the emergency room for the pain and dehydration. I spent high school, college, and my 20's trying everything from acupuncture, chiropractic visits, to massage and a slew of pain medications. In 2012, a friend of mine that also suffered from migraines mentioned he had read that gluten can be the cause of migraines in some people and had eliminated it from his diet and found success. Besides the frequency of my migraines, the fear that they could strike at any time was sometimes paralyzing for me. I decided to give it a go and the migraines eventually disappeared. In the summer of 2014 I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, and at the time my doctor was shocked that I hadn't been hospitalized yet. In researching for more information on Hashimoto's, I found that many people eliminated gluten and other foods to combat the symptoms and attain optimal health. I believe that I didn't notice my symptoms as quickly as I would have due to my existing gluten-free diet.


- What are the foods you must avoid? How do you substitute them? 

On a gluten-free diet, the foods I must avoid are anything with wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. The beauty of having to substitute for wheat or white flour is that there are so many different types of gluten-free flours, such as rice, sorghum, millet, amaranth, coconut, corn or nut flours. Each of these flours lends a different texture and flavor, and combining one or more adds a depth to your food or baked goods that you wouldn't normally get with regular flour. As much as I love sweets, I frequently crave salty. Finding a substitute for crackers was the biggest change for me, but there are some great simple rice crackers out there that satisfy my need for something crunchy and salty.

- Did the dietary swap change any aspects of your life: your energy level, your well-being, shopping for food, going out for dinners, cooking at home...

Eliminating gluten certainly changed the way I planned meals and forced me to be more assertive in asking questions about the menu when ordering out at restaurants. Where before I could go to the grocery store and basically wing it, after the switch I had to pre-plan my shopping trips. In the beginning, that certainly helped grocery shopping not feel so overwhelming. In addition to being migraine free for over two years now, I observed pretty quickly that my energy was up, and overall, I get through the day more easily, with a noticeably clearer head.

- How does your life differ nowadays from before?

I have always been a healthy eater. Growing up I swam competitively and that got me interested in how food fuels you. I kind of geek out about reading up on what specific foods do for you and why. I could read about that stuff for hours. Going gluten-free has certainly forced me, though, to make even healthier choices. Processed food is a thing of the past and I am much more attune to eating seasonally.

- What‘s your daily/weekly go-to meal plan: breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner. Food basics that you swear by? 

As a creature of habit, my breakfast and lunches stay pretty much the same from day to day. My go-to breakfast is usually coconut yogurt and fruit and lunch consists mainly of roasted veggies and organic chicken sausage or leftover homemade soup. Dinner is usually a mix of meat and veggies, occasionally with rice or other gluten-free cooked grains. Usually about once a week, on the evenings when we're short on energy or time, my husband and I make loaded veggie nachos with fresh guacamole. It's cheap, easy, and so good. Being prepared with the right snacks is a biggie I learned the hard way, so you can almost always find some kind of nuts and/or fruit in my purse at anytime.

- Your blog is full of scrumptious treats. Do you have a go-to dessert that you could eat over and over again?

There is a recipe on the blog for grain-free chocolate chip cookies that I make all the time. I found the original recipe thanks to the blog, Gluten-Free Fix, and it was the very first homemade gluten-free sweet I had tried. It was so good it caused me to dive into baking other gluten-free treats. Most recently though, my German chocolate cookie bars are ones I could have every week!

- And any other aspects of your journey you’d like to share with us...

The one thing I think that makes a huge difference in making a dietary shift like this is the support of your family and friends. Once my family and friends (and even co-workers!) had a better understanding of what I could eat and what I needed to avoid, plus the positive impact it was making in my life, it became that much easier to partake in gatherings and dinners out.

Thank you so much Tessa for sharing your story! xo

P.S: Also, Drea's vegan storyAshley's holistic lifestyle story and Deniz's fructose free story.
P.P.S: Plus, my thoughts on food.

(All photos by/via Tessa)

Easy Summer Looped Ponytail


My hair is a tricky rascal - some mornings it looks effortlessly great, while sometimes it really doesn't want to co-operate with me. So recently I've been loving this easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy looped ponytail that takes literally 2 minutes to create and it looks sassier and more put together than a simple bun, especially if you are on your way to work or a meeting.

Here is the how-to: Simply pull your hair together at the nape of your neck and wrap an elastic around it creating a looped bun with the excess hair peeking out. Next, pull about 1/3 of looped hair out to wrap around the elastic and secure it with a bobby pin. Ta-dah!

P.S: Also, this brilliant trick to summer ponytail perfection.
P.P.S: Plus, tons more hair goodness.

(via La La Lovely. Photos and how to by Blair Badge)

Natural Act

Wednesday, May 27, 2015







You’ve probably already seen bits and bobs of this amazing collage series circulating on the net, but I couldn’t resist sharing it in its full glory. Merve Özaslan brilliantly explores the relationship between nature and humanity by connecting cities and suburban scenes with portals to the natural world. Thought-provoking and stunning at the same time, don't you think?

P.S: Looking at art :)
P.P.S: Street style meets art and the moody art of cycling.

(via Design Crush)

Summer Statement Bags: Thumbs up or down?






Are you brave enough to wear a bold or funky bag with your jeans and tee this summer? I recently read that quirky handbags are the best summer buy and the easiest way to jazz up your favourite everyday uniform. Personally, I love the idea of sporting simple white flowy dresses with a bold colored bag like yellow or green. You?

Which one tickles your fancy?

P.S: Plus, pale lips for spring and those sassy shoes :)
P.P.S: Remember this paper bag with a twist?

(Photos by/via Pink PeoniesSong of StyleMerrick's ArtClassy in the CityCarolines ModePretty StuffCoriumiMeet Me on the StreetsLovely Pepa)

Timeout




Giggle, if you own a dog or a cat you’re probably familiar with the sad cone look, right? My Buffer had a fair share of cone time ever since he got sick. So when I spotted this series by Ty Foster, I actually felt relieved knowing that my Buffer is not the only pet in the world that utterly despises the cone and tries to get out of it as soon as he possibly can. Cheers to our beloved pets and their little timeout cones:)

P.S: Aww...gorgeous often overlooked dogs.
P.P.S: Cycling with dogs?

(via Fubiz)

Parenthood is about love, not genetics: Hannah's story

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

And to end this amazing series, today I'd love to share our 7th adoption journey. It's a heartfelt, beautiful and truly touching story of Hannah, her husband Aaron and their 16-month-old (and oh-so adorable) twins Cason and Grace...

Hi there! My name is Hannah Bunker and I run a little corner of the internet at Hannah Bunker with a blog called Everything Sunny Always. I write about my creative projects and my heartfelt and humorous outlook on the nutty, hard, and blessed events that happen in my life. I’ve written about our battle through infertility, our journey to adoption, and now our life as an adoptive, transracial family of boy/girl twins. My marriage counselor husband and I live in Houston - the most humid city on the planet (that’s only slightly dramatic) - and in addition to being a wife, mom, and writer, I’m a production manager for a local photographer. Translation: I’m creative and a computer nerd.

We’re often asked about our adoption story and how we became a family of four and I’m always excited to talk about our journey because it was an astounding series of events that still has me wondering, “Did that really happen?!".

Not Enough Eggs in the Carton

There’s this part of me that hates to talk about how infertility led us to adoption because that always makes it sound like adoption was our second choice. It wasn’t. It was always the first option, we just had to go through what we did with infertility to get there. We always said that we would adopt some day, but of course like most people who say that, we planned on having bio children first then adopt. But adoption became the top tier of our hearts and we realized that this was how we wanted our family to come together.

It was year three of baby making and no babies were being made. We had spent enough time at the fertility doctor, that we added them to our Christmas card list. Surgeries, tests, shots, inseminations…the whole gamut. Until one day Ms. M.D. said, “Your egg count is low. Your best chance to conceive is with IVF.”

My gut took a swift kick. I was only in my mid-twenties and there weren’t enough eggs in the carton already? All I could see were dollar signs and dreaded daily hormone injections. And my husband and I both had enough of me turning into The Hulk at the drop of a pin. But we wanted to give it a try. However, we didn’t want to go into mountainous amounts of debt. So we tried for an entire year to get into several IVF study wait lists so the cost would be diminished, but we had no luck. However, in that year of waiting we realized that we just didn’t feel like that IVF was for our family at that time. And we felt that we should grow our family through adoption.

Choosing to Adopt

Christmas 2012 we officially decided that we would adopt. We shared the news with our families on Christmas Day and they were emotional and ecstatic! Just as excited as if we had told them that we were pregnant which meant so much to us. In early 2013 we took an 8 week-long adoption education class with a local pregnancy center because before we even took steps to begin the process, we wanted to know all of our options and everything about how the process worked. From that class, we decided that we would either foster-to-adopt or go through a private agency for a domestic infant adoption. For all of 2013 we weighed between the emotional risk of going the foster-to-adopt route and the giant 5-figure cost of going through an agency. I didn’t know if my heart could withstand a foster situation at that point in my life, but we were also scared of the cost if we were to apply with an agency.

Choosing What Type of Adoption 

With an entire year of praying and thinking and then praying even more, we decided that the cost shouldn’t stand in our way and we decided to begin looking at adoption agencies to pursue a domestic newborn adoption.

We kept this decision to ourselves as we started brainstorming fundraising ideas. That same week, we went out to dinner with some friends of ours. After dinner they said “We feel like we should give you some money to help with your adoption costs” and they handed us a check for fourteen thousand dollars.

Mind. Blown.

Finding an Agency

Fourteen thousand dollars meant that we could actually start filing paperwork with an agency! So we found an agency that was a perfect fit for us and in late October 2013 we turned in our application while we continued to fundraise the rest through t-shirt campaigns, auctions, and raffles. By early December we were pre-approved and we had our home study scheduled to begin in January of 2014. The timeline looked like we would be approved and on a list of waiting parents by February 2014.

Then mid-December 2013 our social worker called us. She had just received a call from the birthparents of a set of twins who were looking to place their children into a loving home. She immediately thought of us since we were open to multiples and two hours before she was meeting with the birth parents, she called us to see if we were interested. “Are you serious?! ABSOLUTELY!” I quickly wrote our Dear Birthmother letter and she presented us to the birthparents.

While we waited for them to decide whether or not they wanted to meet with us, we fast tracked our home study to have it ready so we could be prepared for the twins to be placed with us should they choose us to parent. The home study that usually takes a month, we completed in 24 hours!

The day after Christmas 2014 we sat down with the birth parents. This is what we get asked about most when we talk to groups and panels about our adoption story. Everyone is always curious about meeting and talking with the birth parents. And we always tell the truth…it’s awkward. And it’s a little scary. For everyone…the adoptive parents and the birth parents. There’s so much weight to such a meeting while still trying to keep it casual. Casualty and weight are antonymous. You want to play it cool and understand how hard of a decision they are having to make while letting them know I. WILL. LOVE. YOUR. CHILD. FIERCELY. In all caps. You want a baby so bad, but we have to understand that they are facing such loss. And that’s so hard.

Sitting there face to face with the birth parents, my heart ached for them but was excited for us. I was trying to put up walls in case these weren’t meant to be our kids, but the truth is that we already loved these kids with every ounce of our hearts. And that love spilled over into their birth parents. And I confessed that. I confessed how much I loved these kids already even if they chose someone else. And I told them how much I loved them. How my heart just swelled for them. I felt like I took a chance putting my heart out, exposed for them to see my feelings about them and their babies, but I had to tell them how I felt. Playing it cool or not…all I could feel was love.

We left the meeting with a good impression. They asked for time to make their decision. We respected that. I allowed myself to get excited and look at cribs. While at Ikea after our meeting, our social worker called.

“Keep Monday afternoon open to sign the paperwork and bring the babies home.”

I cried. We had three days to prepare to bring our twins home. People poured into our home with presents and clothes, diapers, wipes, food, formula, gear…everything you could think of. We had everything we needed.

On December 30, 2013 we brought our twins, Cason and Grace, home at three weeks old.

A Year Later 

Our kiddos are now 16 months months and it has been a blast watching them grow! Being a mom is the funnest, coolest, and hardest job I’ve ever had. A lot of people are curious about our life with twins; If it’s hard, what our routine is, and how we manage. The initial shock of having twins wasn’t too hard on me since I have twin sisters who are eight years younger than me. So I was well acquainted with life with twins from a very young age. The best way I know how to describe our life with two kiddos is that it’s a well-oiled machine. We’re very routine, methodical, and my husband, Aaron, and I are very much a team. We don’t have traditional 9-5 jobs, I work from home, and the kids are home with us so there’s a lot of communication and tag teaming between us when it comes to living in the day-to-day.

I think becoming a parent through any route with 9 months or 3 days to prepare, there’s still no way to figure out what to do until you do it. It’s on-the-job training. For four years I wanted to be a mom and I finally had everything I wanted!

And it was hard. Not that I expected it to be easy, I just didn’t expect to grieve my former go-anywhere-anytime-you-want type of life. And I felt extremely guilty for feeling loss - because these kiddos were depending on me and because my arms were finally filled when so many women out there still ached for a baby. But truthfully, it just takes time to adjust to the new normal. With one baby or two, 9 months of prep or one…it changes your life and getting used to that change takes some time even when you have the two best kids in the world like I have. (Side-note: I’m biased). Figuring out the new season of life once the kiddos came home was a big adjustment, but one I’m so blessed to be able to make.

Now, we spend our days feeling blessed that, after a long journey to create a family, we’re now a family of four.

Thank you Hannah for sharing your beautiful story! 

P.S: Fancy more? Here are all the amazing adoption stories from this series. Enjoy!

(Photos by Athena Rochelle, Adam Nyholt, Londyn Layne Photography and Karen Jacot)
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