Breathe Again

I have no idea what to say right now. 

It's up on Amazon, that's it.

I'll have thoughts about the process, about how I could have gone over that book over and over and over again, but I can't. It's taken me five years to get to this point, and I need to just put it out in the universe. I need to let myself breathe again.
You can buy my first novel, Breathe Again, on Amazon.

Also, thank you.


Ladylike :: On Accepting Compliments

I read this post recently, and it really got me thinking. It wasn't long ago that I was an insecure teenager (well, maybe it was a decade ago, but it still feels like yesterday). I was one of those girls who responded to a compliment with a complaint, usually about my hair or about how fat I felt that day. I guess it's just part of being a woman, or maybe just a young woman. I like to think that I've grown out of that tendency, but I guess it's not always true?
Photography :: Alyssa Armstrong

In reality, it's so easy to just say thank you. But how often do we really do it? I try, I really do, but there are still so many things about myself that I am self-conscious about. Sometimes the insecurities just outshine any semblance of confidence that I may have, which is absolutely terrible. It doesn't matter if someone compliments my hair; it doesn't necessarily change how I feel about my nose. Or my skin. Or my [insert body part here]. 

There's something so graceful about just accepting a compliment, no strings attached, don't you think? I do find myself saying thank you when someone pays me a compliment these days, and rarely do I comment in a negative way about myself. I know it's an unattractive response to the person paying me the compliment, so why can't I just accept it on my own, without it bringing me down even more than I already am? I may not always voice my insecurities out loud, but they are definitely there, screaming at me inside my head. 

I suppose accepting compliments with a polite thank you is enough, for now. But someday I hope that we all just love ourselves enough to truly believe it when someone says something kind to us. Because I know that it's true for you, so it should be true for me too.


A Pretty Minted Giveaway

It's no secret that Minted is one of my very favorite places to get wedding stationery. I recommend the site to almost all of my clients, mainly because of their amazing selection of pre-designed invitation suites. Not only do they have some seriously gorgeous cards and stationery, but they are affordable too. It's a win-win!

So when they contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a giveaway, I agreed right away! I asked Emily and Amy if they wanted to work with me on this one too, and we realized that it would be a great project for us to all work on together for our studio, Love, Inc. We haven't really announced it yet, so consider this our unofficial soft launch! We all collaborated on these fun little photos, so enjoy. And be sure to head over to Minted to enter to win a $300 credit for your wedding stationery!
Photography :: Anna Delores Photography

Enter to win here!


Now + Then

I don't often do these fun little posts, but I was tagged by Laicie recently and thought why not. I did just turn 27, after all, so it's kind of fun to reflect a bit on how much I've changed in the past ten years. Also, who else thinks it's CRAZY that 2004 was ten. freaking. years. ago.

I know. 

I picked 2004 because that's when I met my husband. Since we're celebrating our ten-year anniversary this year, I figured it would be interesting to see how things changed. How I've changed. 
I guess you could say that I've regressed in some ways? I mean, I do love me some One Direction (though I still listen to Incubus more often than not). And then just look at the first one, and you'll realize how little I've changed, in some ways. Looking back, I realize how much I cared about what other people thought of me, while I couldn't really care less anymore. I suppose that's just one of the awesome parts of growing up.

I don't think I'm going to tag anyone in this post, but let me know if you feel like sharing your own Now + Then post! I'd love to see it. 


A Sad Birthday Wishlist + a Winner

It's my birthday. Well, if you're reading this on Thursday, February 20, it's my birthday. I always feel so awkward telling people that it's my birthday, because I don't want people to think I'm fishing for...anything. I tend to keep pretty quiet about it, so consider this one of my only birthday posts. Ever. And it's a pathetic one at that. 

Robert asked me what I wanted for my birthday last week. You know what I said? A file cabinet.

I honestly, truly couldn't think of anything else other than that really cute pink file cabinet from CB2. He laughed at me, and then told me no. I suppose you know you're an adult when...

And now for the winner for this past weekend's Saturday giveaway! CONGRATULATIONS to Kristin from Hello Lovely! Email me your info my dear so I can get you your gift card ASAP.


Four Secrets to Our Happy Marriage

Though Valentine's Day was last week, it's still the month of love, right? And in the spirit of love, I really want to share a few thoughts on marriage. I'm not one of those people who thinks my marriage is absolutely perfect and I need to share it with the world, but I do think that sometimes I focus too much on weddings and not on what comes after (which makes sense, you know, since I'm a wedding planner). That being said, here are a five secrets to our happy marriage.

1 // ALARM CLOCKS. Our marriage is just like any other, and there are ups and there are downs. At the beginning of last year, we had one of those downs. Like, really down there, and it was kind of a wake up call for us. You see, our lives, just like yours, are overrun with technology. We both have iPhones, and then there are the computers and iPads and televisions that overrun our apartment. It got to a point where we were checking our phones in bed before we even said good morning to each other. One day we realized how absolutely terrible that was, and our phones (including our alarms) were banned from the bedroom immediately. We headed to Target and bought some really old-school analog alarm clocks, one for either side of the bed, and the rest is history. Sure, I'll work from bed if he isn't home, and sometimes we'll go grab our phones later in the morning when the other has left for the day, but there are no phones in the room while we are in there together. If there is any moment in which I can say our marriage took a major turn for the better, this is it. 

2 // ALONE TIME. I'm an introvert. Robert doesn't like labels, so he won't ever commit to being either an introvert or extrovert, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am one thousand percent an introvert. Most of my friends know that sometimes I just need my alone time, especially if I spend an entire day with them. I'm usually completely quiet on the way home from an adventure somewhere, just because I need to regain my energy. And the same goes for my marriage. Robert learned a long time ago that sometimes I just need to be left alone, and vice versa. I think that there's a pressure in marriage to spend every waking, available minute together, but that's not always healthy. There are times when Robert will go lock himself in the office and I'll hang out on the couch, or he'll go to Starbucks and I'll go to happy hour by myself. Taking the time to nurture ourselves in this way is absolutely essential to our healthy marriage.

3 // DATE NIGHT. Though we need our alone time, we also need time together. Exclusively. I'm not talking about just going to a movie and holding hands; date nights, for us, can happen at home too. It's a time when we get to focus on each completely, without the distraction of the TV or our phones. Usually we'll just go grab a drink or dinner together, and spend a good hour just talking about everything from our day to our biggest secrets and dreams. Our relationship is built on these moments, which remind us why we're in this thing together. It's a really amazing, and humbling, experience to know that you have the full attention (and love) of another person.

4 // MUTUAL RESPONSIBILITY. Though Robert is venturing into the land of cooking, I've made dinner for us pretty much four to five nights a week for the past seven years. It's not that I feel like it's my wifely duty really, I just like taking care of my husband. That being said, he knows that the day he comes home from school or work and expects dinner to be on the table, I'm done. There will be a major strike on my part. You see, we have a pretty distinct division of labor in our home (I cook, he washes the dishes; I clean the toilet, he takes out the trash), but there's also a mutual responsibility there. Neither one of us expects the other to do these things, and neither one of us feels resentful or upset if the other doesn't get their job done. Robert is really good at taking the trash out when it needs to be taken out, but I'll do it too if I need to. Same goes for dishes or whatever other chore needs to be done in any given day. I think our main goal is to just not feel resentful or upset if the house is dirty or there are no groceries in the fridge; we take care of our home mutually because we love each other and we love our home. Very few, if any, of our arguments are about dirty dishes or smelly trash, which I'm very, very thankful for. If I've learned anything in my ten years with my husband, it's to pick my battles, and fighting over a messy house is not a battle I want to have.

So, that's it. Four secrets to our happy marriage. They are our only secrets, and they may not even be the best, but they are four things we do consistently to make sure that our marriage is healthy and happy. What are your favorite secrets to your happy marriage?


My Charming Manifesto

A few years ago, when I just getting started on this whole blogging adventure, I decided to write a manifesto of sorts, or a mission statement, if you will. This wasn't a mission for my blog, really, but more of a mission for my life. 

I decided to revisit that manifesto recently. It's kind of crazy to come back to something, especially something like a goal or manifesto, and evaluate how well you've really done at sticking to it. Goodness knows I don't live like this every day, but I realized how important it is for me to share things like this with the world. I guess it gives better insight into my life and the person that I want to be. 

I put it up on my About page, but I wanted to share it here too. Hopefully it'll keep me a little more accountable!
Have you ever written a personal mission or manifesto? If so, I'd love to read it!


A Little Saturday Giveaway

Happy Valentine's Day friends! I don't know what you all are up to, but I'm more than a little excited for my Valentine's Day feast that Robert makes for us. I even made some hot pink funfetti cupcakes for the occasion, and I have a feeling we'll be opening a bottle of something delicious. We have these fun traditions that we've come up with in the years that we've been together, and Valentine's Day is one of them. We didn't get to spend the holiday together for three years in college (I was traveling for Model United Nations) and last year he had to work (I went to Hooters with the bestie instead). In the years in between, however, we never really liked going out and having to compete with all the other couples in the world. This way we can eat and drink in the privacy of our own home, and maybe even finish off that bottle of wine. 

Anyway, I wanted to stop by to say HAPPY WEEKEND and to do a little giveaway. Giving back to all of you is so important to me, which is why I like doing little things like this when I can. You know, to say thanks for being such awesome readers and supporters!

Since it's the weekend, I figured a little Saturday shopping is in order, don't you think?
So, interested in entering to win $25 to Kate Spade Saturday? Just leave a comment below with what you'd buy if you won, and that's it! Doing this one a little informally, so there won't be a Rafflecopter giveaway. It'll also be a shorter giveaway, and I'll be picking a winner on Monday. 

If you feel like it, you are more than welcome to hop on over to my new Facebook page for Joelle Charming and "like" it! If you do, definitely leave another comment letting me know you did. Same goes for Twitter and Instagram, and if you feel tweeting anything out, that'll count too. Good luck!

Oh, and one more thing! I am accepting advertisers again, and I'm running a special on sidebar advertising. Just enter "VALENTINE" at checkout for 14% off any sidebar ad spot. Thanks friends!

Note that Kate Spade Saturday is in no way endorsing this giveaway, and the gift card is coming from my own pocket. This post does include affiliate links, however, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


A Charming Business :: Realizing Your Value

I started my wedding planning and design business, A Charming Occasion, in the fall of 2011. Sometimes it feels like I just began this crazy adventure, and sometimes it feels like I've been working at it forever. Regardless of how long I've been doing it, however, I can tell you that I'm always learning. Always. 

Owning your own business isn't easy, I don't care what people tell you. It may come more naturally to some than others, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. And I was hoping, if you don't mind, that I could start sharing some of the things that I've learned and realized along the way.
This is something that I constantly struggle with, even now, and I have a feeling that a lot of creative business owners will say the same. I think that it's entirely too common, in any industry, to question the value of your work.

I'm constantly doubting myself, wondering if my clients actually need me, or if my work really is good enough. There has to be someone out there who provides a better client experience and charges less than I do, right? Why would anyone book me when there are so many incredible wedding planners and designers in general? And not only that, but is what I do really that important? I get people trying to talk me down in price or negotiate my contract all the time, reasoning that a family member or friend can do what I do. It's hard not to believe them sometimes. 

All these things contribute to this deflated sense of self-importance, and it's really easy to get caught up in all of the doubts that like to creep in from time to time. I'm sure every single argument against the value of my work has some semblance of validity. But if I truly believed that what other people say is true, then why am I doing what I'm doing?

The thing is, not everyone may see the value of your work. That's just life. But owning a business requires passion, and having passion requires believing in yourself, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you. Because how can you expect other people to value your work, and hire you, if you don't value yourself?


Signature Style :: Blush + Bows

Robert and I have lived in Ventura for almost four years now, and I can probably count the number of times we've actually been to the beach. It's kind of sad, actually. When I was thinking of a location for photos with the incredible Brooke of Project Poiema, however, I thought that maybe we should try the pier. I am so glad we did.

It took a foggy morning for me to realize just how beautiful it is here, and how lucky we are to live here. It was so peaceful, just watching the surfers and the fisherman and the older couples holding hands and walking down the pier. I know I've said it before, but I really, really love it in Ventura. 
Coat :: Banana Republic via Buffalo Exchange // Tights :: Forever 21 // Shorts :: Old Navy // Shoes :: H&M // Ring :: Kate Spade // Purse :: Kate Spade // Earrings :: Francesca's // Bow :: Icing

Thank you SO MUCH to Brooke from Project Poeima for these incredible pictures! I can't wait to do it again already!

Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!


Life, Lately

I feel like I haven't been sharing a whole lot of person stuff on the blog lately. I guess it's just hard to find that balance between what should be shared, and what doesn't need to be shared. There are some people who live their entire lives online, documenting and sharing every single aspect, but I never really wanted to become one of those people. 

I think there is a balance, though. I won't be posting selfies in the shower anytime soon (yes, I saw that recently), but I do want to share more insight into my day to day life. I think that's the best part of Instagram, you know? Even if I don't share everything on my blog, you get to see a glimpse of my life when I post photos. But it's hard to write so much with your iPhone, so I don't always put a lot of description. Thus, here I am. 
Robert's grandmother passed away on Wednesday. It's been rough for him, even though he wasn't technically related to her by blood, but she was his only grandmother. At Christmas and other holidays we always celebrated with his parents (his mom and stepdad), his brother, and his grandparents (his stepdad's parents). It's only been a few days since she passed, but her absence is already weighing so heavily on all of our hearts. She was the one who spoiled our dog, who always made a point to tell Robert and I how much she loved us (and my freckles) and who clipped things from the newspaper that she knew would interest us. She would save all of the Wedding Celebrations articles for me, writing my name at the top of the clipping. I'm going to miss that. So much. 

Though her health deteriorated rapidly, we were able to spend a lot of time with his family in the past few weeks. There isn't much good that comes out of something like this, but I can't help but feel like it's brought us all together, closer, as a family. 

We've been going through the motions since we found out she was sick at the end of December. January was the start of booking season, and it didn't disappoint. I signed three weddings last month, and brought on a new intern. I've spent a lot of time with my vendor friends, goal setting and road-tripping it to networking events in LA. I'm so thankful for those amazing ladies. 

My anxiety has really improved recently, which is kind of surprising. I'm finding myself enjoying home more and more, without the weight of anything hanging over my head. Robert and I are finding that balance of work and marriage more and more every day, which I'm really thankful for. Working for yourself (which we both technically do) blurs the divide between work and life, but we've been good at communicating, letting each other know when work is taking over a little too much. It lets us enjoy dinner together, without the distraction of school or work, while still getting stuff done when we need to. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but I guess I'm just trying to say I feel content right now. It's a good feeling. 

Anyway, I hope you all have a great weekend, filled with family and friends and exciting adventures. If you could, I would so appreciate it if you could keep us in your thoughts and prayers; we'll be heading down to Orange County to spend time with our family, which is so needed right now.


A Dress Decision

I need your help friends. You see, I have an event that I'm going to next month that warrants a new dress, but I'm having a hard time deciding. I've scoured Rent the Runway and Polyvore, but I'm just stuck on these two. Of course they have to be Anthropologie...
I know they're completely different styles, which might be why I'm having such a hard type deciding. The event is in the evening, but it isn't necessarily fancy enough for cocktail attire. There will be a lot of discerning people there, and as much as I don't want to admit that I'm intimidated, I am.

So, what'll it be? Option ONE or Option TWO?

Whatever I chose, you'll know. Believe me.


A Charming Lady's Whiskey Primer

I'm not really a whiskey person. At least not yet. The thing is, when I first started drinking, I pretty much stuck to blending strawberry margaritas, sweet white wine, and cosmos. Put any of those in front of my and I'll struggle to suck it down. Give me a dry red or beer any day; that's much more my style now. 

My husband is a serious whiskey fan. He'll drink it on the rocks or just on its own, as a manhattan or old fashioned, or maybe with a little water or bitters. I'll taste it every once in a while, but the taste is still pretty strong for me. I figured, however, that if I eventually acquired a taste for what I drink now, liking whiskey is only a matter of time. 

Even though I don't drink much whiskey these days (the exception is a good whiskey sour - so delicious!), I still know quite a bit. Robert is a hobby mixologist, and loves learning about liquors and alcohol, which means that I've absorbed a few tidbits of knowledge here and there too. 
Whiskey Basics
A whisky (Scotch or Canadian) or whiskey (American or Irish) is a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash. Each country of original has its own regulations regarding the production of whiskey, and there are a variety of sub-categories of whiskies, including bourbon and rye. 

Whiskey technically has only three ingredients: water, grain, and yeast. Once the whiskey has been fermented and distilled, it is aged for an average minimum of three years in oak barrels. Without the aging in barrels, whiskey is essentially just moonshine (no thanks!).

So, that's all great! But what about how to actually drink it. There are a few different ways, but there isn't really a wrong way to drink whiskey (just don't ask a whiskey snob). 

First things first! DON'T SNIFF WHISKEY like you sniff wine with your nose in the glass. Keep it further away from your face when you smell it, or it'll burn the capillaries in your nose.

You can DRINK WHISKEY STRAIGHT in a glass, with or without an ice cube. If you like it cold, go right ahead. Or, if you like it at room temperature, that's just fine too. TRY IT WITH A TEASPOON OF WATER to soften it, though you may want to drink Jack without the water. Whiskies at eighty proof have had water added already, so it may detract from the taste if you add more. 

There are quite a few cocktails made from whiskey, though a purist would tell you that Scotch shouldn't be used in any mixed drinks. If you aren't too sure about drinking whiskey straight just yet, try a mint julep (made with bourbon) or a manhattan (with rye). There's always a Jack and Coke, or if you're feeling especially adventurous, ask your bartender for a sazerac.

Traditional Old Fashioned
1 maraschino cherries
2 slices of orange
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash of angostura bitters
Teaspoon water
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey

Lightly press an orange peel in a chilled rocks glass and add sugar, bitters, and water. Remove the orange rind and add the whiskey and ice; stir. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange slice.

Sources :: Primer Magazine // The Kitchn // Chow // Buzzfeed


What I'm Reading :: Vain

You know, I was so excited when I finished my book goal last year that I impulsively decided to up the number of books on my list to seventy-five this year. Seriously? What was I thinking. 

I love reading, I truly do, but I think I overestimated the amount of time I would actually have to read this year. I need to get my ass into gear if I want to reach this goal, because it's February and I've only read three books. On the bright side, I'm attempting to strive for quality over quantity this year, so maybe I should just give up already? There are quite a few sequels and other books that I'm looking forward to coming out this year, however, so I have a feeling those will make up a chunk of my goal.

Anyway, I did happen to finish a great book recently, and I'm looking forward to continuing the series of seven, though there's only one more book out so far.
About Vain...

If you’re looking for a story about a good, humble girl, who’s been hurt by someone she thought she could trust, only to find out she’s not as vulnerable as she thought she was and discovers an empowering side of herself that falls in love with the guy who helps her find that self, blah, blah, blah...then you’re gonna’ hate my story.

Because mine is not the story you read every time you bend back the cover of the latest trend novel. It’s not the “I can do anything, now that I’ve found you/I’m misunderstood but one day you’ll find me irresistible because of it” tale. Why? Because, if I was being honest with you, I’m a complete witch. There’s nothing redeeming about me. I’m a friend using, drug abusing, sex addict from Los Angeles. I’m every girlfriend’s worst nightmare and every boy’s fantasy.

I’m Sophie Price...And this is the story about how I went from the world’s most envied girl to the girl no one wanted around and why I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

It's nice to read a book with substance sometimes, one that doesn't follow a shallow formula (like I tend to stick to). It does have a love story (I rarely read a book without one), but it has a little more depth to it. I did have two issues with this book, however, both of which I was able to overlook so that I could actually enjoy it.

One was the writing style, though I didn't find it nearly as distracting as other books I've read. It's really important to develop a character's voice, especially when writing in the first person. As someone actually from Southern California, I can tell you right now that nobody here talks like Sophie. It's like the author is attempting to make her sound sophisticated, but it just sounds weird. 

The next issue I had with the book isn't meant to offend anyone, I promise. And really, it's a personal preference more than anything. I get, completely, that it's next to impossible to write a book that deviates from your own personal morals. I do, really. And I guess the whole point of the Seven Deadly series is to rehabilitate a character that has sinned. I just find it a little distracting when the message is overtly Christian, though that isn't to say it's a bad thing at all. Like I said, just a personal preference. The moral lesson in the story is important, for sure, but that doesn't necessarily means that it needed to extend beyond Sophie's vain behavior to, well, her sexual relationship with her love interest. 

To put it bluntly, it was pretty obvious that the two main characters waited to have sex until they were married for a reason. Though, to each their own. Hell, Bella and Edward did it, much to the annoyance of all us Twilight fans out there who really wanted something hot and heavy going on between them (though it didn't even happen on their honeymoon, for shame). I guess I can't get too frustrated with this book, not when I have other books to keep my interest in that department...

Regardless, the book was good. The story was enthralling and the characters really did have some serious chemistry. I liked the main character, in a way, and had a vested interest in her own development. To me, that's the formula for an overall-good-book. 

Okay friends, as always, I need some new recommendations! I do have quite a few books in my queue, but I also have seventy-five books to get through this year. I need something new, something that'll keep my attention. Thoughts?


Monday's Mantra

And then it was Monday once again. We actually got our first full weekend without any obligations in quite a while, and I can't lie. It was really nice. Lots of writing and working on random projects and maybe even some shopping. Definitely needed, and definitely appreciated. 

As always, I hope that you all have a wonderful week! Here's a little something to keep you inspired throughout these next few days.