The Most Beautiful Ring in the World

About three years ago, Kevin and I ventured into Nordstroms to change a watch battery. Even though we had purchased the watch there, Nordstoms does not physically change batteries in their stores so they referred us to a reputable jeweler across the way. Little did we know at the time, Charles Koll would take amazing care of us above and beyond that watch.

As we waited for our battery to be changed at Charles Koll, we were greeted by a friendly staff member with a serving tray. May I offer you a beverage? Being a small mall jewelry store, Kevin and I were taken aback by the question. But then again who are we kidding… we never turn down an adult beverage. What ya got?! Charles Koll offered us wine, beer, whiskey, champagne–Essentially a full bar!

Four craft brews later and feeling obligated to at least pretend as though we were doing more than waiting for a battery change, we found ourselves gazing at Steven Kretchmer tension rings. Kevin was immediately obsessed with the “structural engineering” of the designs and I, well, was just excited to see him excited to look at rings.

Watch battery fixed, I knew that someday Kevin would be back… if not for the architectural craftsmanship, at a minimum for the beer he knew they’d serve him. After all, he is a man.

Flash forward three years and 24 hours before our Whistler trip (where he was planning to propose on our five year anniversary) Kevin goes straight to Charles Koll to purchase the ring he had decided on three years earlier. I want that one. I can just picture him pointing to the case. To his surprise, and to the delight of this story, purchasing a custom ring doesn’t really work that way. He was going to need at least two months and a custom fitting to propose with the ring of our dreams. But you don’t understand, I’m proposing this weekend! That poor Charles Koll employee, bless Claire’s heart. She gave my inexperienced puppy dog a tension loaner (and a few beers) so he’d at a minimum have something to propose with. After all, he is a man.

Our Whistler proposal was one of the most magical moments in my life and even though the ring he proposed with wasn’t actually my ring, I love that we have his silly story to share. Customizing the ring together like we did was also a bonding experience we would have never shared together had he of been more organized and planned. But I know my soon to be hubs isn’t organized and doesn’t plan. That is what makes our engagement story so perfectly us.

Love story aside, I cannot say enough about the quality and care we received from the Charles Koll team and the beauty of our customized Steven Kretchmer. Charles Koll worked with us to make our ring everything we had ever imagined, from the perfect size, materials, flawless stone and even little personalized touches like adding Kevin’s birthstone to the backside of our ring. They did everything right and helped make our engagement perfect. We’ll never cease being brand advocates of these amazing companies… and stopping by for the occasion beer and ring cleaning.

 

The Proposal Ring:

 

The Finished Product and My Obsession:

Kevin’s Birthstone:

 

UX – The Universal Language

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Although my blog posts seem to always revolve around DIYs and whether or not it’s ok to wear black and brown together (and it totally is!) I wanted to change my tune for this particular post and focus on the subject that takes up the large majority of my life: Marketing. I don’t talk about my professional life and expertise a lot on californ-ia but wanted to share some thoughts on a topic I’m quite passionate about and have spent the past 12 years devoted to. Website User Experience. So without further ado, I give you UX – The Universal Language

When poised with the question, “What is the Universal Language?” the hopeless romantic in me would say Love. Period. Drop mike. Regardless of background, native tongue or location in the world, love is the one language that every person on Earth can understand without translation. Love, my marketing friends, is the one true Universal Language.

Or is it?

When tasked the other day to analyze a specific service on a client’s competitor site (which just happened to be in Russian, to which I don’t speak a lick of) I will tell you that although I understood practically nothing on their website, I could easily navigate and find almost all of the information I was searching for.

Mind you, I couldn’t read their introduction or mission statement—but it was clear what kind of company it was. I couldn’t pronounce the services they offered, but their iconography led me to the details I needed. Their imagery was impactful. Navigation clear. So was I able to pick up fluent Russian in a moment’s notice or was it that I had been trained on a different type of language? Perhaps something a little more Universal?

UX, or User Experience, has become the life-blood of website architecture and design. It is the way in which a website user interacts with its products, services and systems and encompasses the ease of use and the site’s overall efficiency. In short, UX is the language we use to understand a website.

Users today expect a specific User Experience and, like learning any language, have spent years developing this proficiency. This self-taught proficiency is what UX professionals spend so much time harnessing, all to create the most efficient and effective pathway to the end goal: conversion. Whether it be the title or placement of a navigation item or the on-state rollover effect on a call-to-action, each and every site element must be strategically determined and placed to provide users with the language they have taught themselves to expect. It is our job as marketers to be fluent in our user’s anticipated actions.

When analyzing a site’s UX, there are a few rules one should try and follow.

Remove the guess work and utilize your metrics

You may think you know what your clients are after, and there is a good chance that you do, but the proof is in the analytical pudding. Use your analytics to understand your audience and their habits and then use that data to everyone’s advantage.

Understand your customer’s journey

Identifying the flow in which a user travels your site, from the first point of entry to either contact or purchase, is essential in establishing an effective UX. Chances are you have multiple audiences accessing your site. Walk through how each of them would ideally navigate your site. Does it make sense for each group? Understanding your user flows will help you determine and remove any obstacles between your viewers and conversion.

Test your site experience and test it some more

Many clients will launch a site, pat their agency partner on the back and then disappear into the mist until the next sexy web design fad comes along. Launching a website and leaving it to chance is a stake in the heart when it comes to UX. Use your analytics, talk to and survey your clients/customers, and always be trying to understand what site elements can be improved upon.

It is clear that UX plays a major part in our everyday lives. It impacts how your customers interact and engage with your brand. It is a predominant factor in lead generation and conversion. So whatever language you find to be universal, I urge you to become fluent in your site’s UX. Much like love, it’s how we communicate with one another.

Our Engagement Story

OK. I realize I haven’t posted anything in awhile. Ad agency life will do that to you. But in order to jumpstart my routine, I wanted to post something worthwhile… We’re engaged!

Every year for our anniversary, Kevin and I run off for a weekend together, typically in the mountains somewhere–our anniversary is in February after all. We try to hit up a ski resort we’ve never been to, with the goal of someday snowboarding all of them. For our five year, we booked a trip to Vancouver and Whistler.

If you haven’t been to Vancouver, I highly recommend it. It’s clean, beautiful, full of breweries and offers so much to do. I attended my first NHL game (Go Canucks!) and the scenic views were breathtaking. Whistler and Nita Lake Lodge were equally magical. We snowboarded, bobsledded, hiked, drank ourselves silly and did all the other things you do on your five year anniversary. ; )

On the last morning of our Whistler adventure, following our morning coffee routine, Kevin and I took to a lake hike behind our lodge with the hopes of capturing some picturesque footage with his drone–he takes the damn thing with him everywhere. Once situated on the opposite end of the lake from the lodge, with his drone strategically following us, Kevin popped his question. Will you adventure with me forever? Between a mass amount of tears and hopping up and down like a caffeinated bunny, I said yes!

On cloud nine, he told me the details of his plotting which, to my surprise, included a six hour drive to see my parents to ask their permission. I think this meant just as much to me as the physical proposal. With my dad’s favorite bottle of whiskey in hand, Kevin proposed to my family. My father, also a caffeinated bouncing bunny, cried yes as well. Kevin had Bob’s blessing.

Fast forward to today, I still haven’t made a single wedding plan. I plan for a living so perhaps this is just one thing I want to bask in for while. I’m honestly just in love with being engaged. One thing Kevin and I do align on is a date. The day we met, our proposal and our someday wedding will all fall on our special date in February. I think it’s romantic and he won’t have to remember another date–a magical combination!

 

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My Eggs Might Be Dying But I am Living

Girl Climbing Mountains

This past year will undoubtedly go down as one of the best years in my life. I lived. I loved. I am experiencing the life I have always hoped I would. But with self joy comes the inevitable need to also defend the accomplishments that I, as a woman, have yet to summit. In particular: I am over 30, I am unmarried and I have no children. With that said, to some, all of my other accomplishments can be damned to hell.

Any single woman over 30 will tell you that at least once in their life someone has directly or discreetly questioned their decision to be in their current situation. They will phrase these comments in such a way that leaves you wondering if you caught some type of disease. You came down with the being single or have a case of the not being pregnant yet. With each passing year into my thirties I am convinced that by the time I reach 35 they will no longer ask questions but simply have me quarantined into a far off ghetto for women with my condition.

These interrogation tactics are not limited to friends and family either. Clients, colleagues and complete strangers will ask you to explain yourself to them. At least once a month I will have someone ask why my boyfriend of five years had not yet proposed to me. By being asked questions like this, you are put into the awkward position of making excuses or inevitably considering the worst ridiculous thoughts. Maybe he doesn’t love me?

For the longest time, I was one of the women that made excuses for herself. We’re saving money. We’re waiting until after the next promotion. We have to wash our hair this weekend. You name the excuse, I’ve probably used it at some point in the last five years as to why I’m not married with a babe on my hip. But what I’ve learned is that excuses don’t help your situation and only bring you down—making you second guess some of the biggest decisions you have made for yourself. Don’t ever second guess yourself. If you’re in your thirties and have built the life you have imagined or are on your way to doing so, remind yourself that you didn’t get there by second guessing yourself and by listening to those with different ambitions.

Now, when anyone questions my rockless left-hand or when we’re planning to start a family I oh so proudly state that I’m simply having my cake and eating it too—a polite middle finger that means, unlike you miss or mister interrogator, I can both adventure now and have a family when I’m ready… and unlike you have the established means to do so…

To quote another strong woman and the reason behind my use of Aveeno and consumption of Smart Water:

“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own “happily ever after” for ourselves.”

Jennifer Aniston is not perfect. She knows it and isn’t afraid to say it. But I admire her ability to stay her path and encourage other women to do so as well. Like Aniston, I have been let down time and time again but keep my chin held high and continue to kill it on the journey there. We’re in this together, Jen. We’ll get there.

Perhaps naïve, but my positive self has me convinced that the eggs I do have left (the dwindling 10% left according to most medical resources) are still there because they have endured and have the strength to fight off my apparent dying uterus. Standing tall and waving their Darwinism banners proudly, my 10% shout “We will not go quietly into the night!” as they wait determined on the front line, being picked off one-by-one as the dooms day of 40 approaches.

Will it be harder for me to conceive children? Maybe. But would it have also been hard for me to bear children at a younger age and have potentially given up all of the experiences and personal growth I have accomplished in the last 10 years? Absolutely. My point being, that there is no right answer and either path chosen could have been the wrong path. The path is yours and yours alone to make.

I will continue to grow whether or not I have something growing inside of me. I want to have children someday, but the keyword there is someday and someday is different for everyone. Someday does not mean 34 and a half on the third day in October. Someday for me means the day I decide that another life and their experience and growth is more important than my own. When the taste of champagne falls second to an apple juice-box and the Inca trail holds less luster than Disneyland, then and only then will someday have occurred. And until that day I ask all of the self-appointed doctors trying to diagnose me with dwindling egg-count to refrain from their prescriptions.

After all, we have the ability to determine our own happily ever afters. Maybe mine just ends a little differently and a little further down the road.

A Beautiful Charcuterie Board on a Budget

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Whether I’m hosting a party for 20 or a party for 2 (hello date night!) wine and appetizers are a key element to any successful get together. There is a reason friends and family gather round the kitchen, and it isn’t just for our warming personalities 😉

Lately, I have become obsessed with charcuterie boards. It covers my need to have food on the table but also creates a stunning centerpiece that can be created on a dime and in a moment’s notice.

First, you will need a cutting board as the foundation for your charcuterie platter. I found a 18×24″ pine cutting board at HomeGoods for less than $25–a steal for a board of that size!

Next, you need the pièce de résistance–the food. Traditionally, charcuterie boards consist of meats, cheeses, breads and fruits. Some of my personal favorites, again trying to stay on a dime:

MEAT
Dry Salami
Prosciutto
Sopressata
Capicola

CHEESE
Brie
Swiss
Chèvre (goat cheese)
Burrata/Fresh Mozzarella
Pepper Jack
Manchego

FRUIT
Seedless Grapes (a combination of both white and red grapes will make for a more colorful board)
Pears
Orange Slices
Stuffed Olives (I use either garlic or blue cheese)
Preserves

CARBS
Crackers
Sliced Baguette

Tip: Trader Joe’s has some of the cheapest above items around. You can put together a full board for under $20. Make sure to keep some handy in the fridge for impromptu gatherings!
Charcuterie Boards for inspiration:

 

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Greek inspired antipasto platter by Half Baked Harvest

 

Winter cheese board with blood orange marmalade by Feasting at Home

Winter cheese board with blood orange marmalade by Feasting at Home

 

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Vegan cheese platter by The Healthy Hour

Morning Routine – Drinking Warm Water with Lemon

Lemon Water

As I’m sure we’re all too aware, it’s wedding season, and whether you’re the bride-to-be, the maid-of-honor or a guest trying to look dynamite in that cute little floral number you purchased last month, we’re all thinking and trying to accomplish the same thing—Must. Fit. In. One-Size-Too-Small. Dress. ARG!

I truly try my hardest not to crash diet. I eat fairly healthy on a regular basis but I’m in no way a tyrant when it comes to my eating habits. Did somebody say donut?

I believe in true foods without preservatives, sticking to the outside aisles of the grocery store and cooking at home as often as I can.

One new addition I’ve added to my morning routine and daily intake is a cup of warm water with lemon. I’ve heard rumblings of it being good for you but when I watched Victoria Hodgkins of She’s a Competitor sip her lemony concoction before her morning routine (she’s got a great routine!) I knew there was something to be said there.

I started looking into it and it wasn’t long before I too was replacing my morning cup of Joe with this simplistic home remedy. Warm water with sliced lemon is recognized for all types of health benefits.

Warm water with lemon…

Detoxifies your body
Jump-starts your immune system
Helps digestion
Works wonders for your skin
Freshens your breath
Promotes Healing
Boosts Energy
Aids in weight loss (ding, ding, ding!)

If you’re wondering why warm water opposed to ice water. It’s simple. Warm water is easier to break down than cold water.

I’m not much for hopping on the bandwagon for health tips or remedies but I will say that I really do like this one and have stuck with it. If you’re wanting to try a subtle change to your daily routine to jump-start your healthy habits, this is a very easy one to start with—and a good one!

Let me know how it goes and if you too feel it working!

 

 

The Horizontal Stripe Movement

Amanda Schremser Green Kate Spade Strip Top


If the past year’s fashion statements have taught us anything, it has taught us to go against the grain. DO what your favorite magazines and fashion blogs have always instructed you NOT to do. There is a new standard in town: Fashion norms are completely irrelevant. A leopard can officially change his stripes.

Brown goes seamlessly with black. White can completely be worn after Labor Day and Crocs… well, let’s not get carried away (sorry, mom!)

I’m all for this topsy-turvy movement but the clear DON’T I’ve been DOING all over the place is horizontal stripes.

Gasp! I know what you’re thinking. Won’t horizontal stripes make my… WHO CARES. Your fabulousness will be the only thing big about you ; )

 

Fashion Stripe 1
Left – Photo Courtesy of Glam Radar
Right -Photo Courtesy of Home Bunch
Black White Stripe Fashion 1
Left – Photo Courtesy of Girl With a Surf Board
Middle -Dress: Shein
Right -Swim: Kate Spade
Kate Spade Green Stripe 1
Left – Dress: Kate Spade. Handbag: Kate Spade
Right – Top: Kate Spade. Handbag: Kate Spade