Sunday, March 1, 2015

#BodyPositive February Roundup!

"Because gender and beauty are not defined by hair." @theinlandlyon

#BodyPositive February Roundup!

You may remember last month's #BodyPositive roundup from Instagram, and this month I found some new favorites to add to my February folders! Why have I featured these photos here? I found them to be moving the idea of body positivity along with forward momentum, and I love hearing from people about their personal journey with self-image. I'm also including one of my own photos hash-tagged #BodyPositive! Check them out above and below! Also check out all of my #BodyPositive albums on!
"I won't let anybody tell me how i should look or how they'd prefer me to look. I am comfortable in my skin and will continue to be..." @lynsimplymade

"Pounded out 3 super sets of push-ups and planks to Failure, and some HIIT cardio to finish off my workout tonight!"  @thelovelyaphrodite
 "#effyourbeautystandards #allbodiesaregoodbodies #everybodyisagoodbody #nobodyshamecampaign #bodypositive #bodylove@wastingthyme

"Amazing new sensations all over my body from yesterday's push up challenge.#strongissexy...#bodypositive" @colecochick

"#toproll #armwrassle #gunshow #bodypositive" @Channystar 

"National eating disorder awarness week : since the age of 10 I've struggled with an #eatingdisorder . From not eating - binging - being sick. I hated myself for a very long time. When weight wouldnt come off I turned to using drugs. I've been nearly every size imaginable. However, I learned to love myself, appreciate life and celebrate who I am. Life is too precious to live & die by your scale. For anyone out there who is struggling : it's never too late to get help, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. We are beautiful creatures of all shapes & sizes. No one should ever feel ashamed of themselves because of a number. #bodypositive" @velouria.doll

Monday, February 16, 2015

Announcing Our Wedding Venue: Watermark 920!

Announcing Our Wedding Venue: 
Watermark 920!

The decision has honestly been under wraps since a few days after the engagement, which was such a whirlwind of excitement for us! Watermark 920 is a homebase for me--somewhere I've enjoyed being a part of so many events (Like the Thrift Trick Fashion Show and the annual Lumber Baron's Ball)--and it also is swanky, industrial and a million miles away from the Pinterest-y shabby chic barn weddings that seem to have all but consumed the wedding industry over the last few years.


It also happens to be that the President, Sarah Sass, and General Manager, Laurel Sass, are two of the coolest chicks ever.

All personal preference aside, Watermark 920 has been rocking events on the Lakeshore like nobody's business. Their sophisticated, customizable space is perfect for so many applications, and the team is absolutely amazing. My first consultation with Laurel and Sarah made me realize what an serious breath of relief it is to have support from professionals when you are planning a wedding.

Everyone knows how thrifty I am--and always will be. The interesting aspect to going "DIY" mad when you put together your own wedding from the ground up is how much you can actually end up spending on odds and ends--from linens to chair rentals. Anyone with a fairly decent sized guest list can attest to this fact.

For this reason (and for matters of mental health), I can't even begin to say how thrilled I am to work with the awesome staff of Watermark, and to relinquish some control over our special day. I know I'm passing the torch to very capable (and professional) hands.

I thought it would be great to hear from Watermark 920 on a few topics--from how they got started, to where they are headed.

Watermark 920 Interview

with Sarah Sass 

President of Watermark 920 and

recipient of Grand Rapid's Business Journal's "40 under 40" Award 2011

and Laurel Sass
General Manager of Watermark 920 and
member of the Muskegon Lakeshore and Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce 


Q. How did Watermark 920 come about?

Sarah: The space that houses Watermark 920 is a former loading dock for the Shaw Walker Furniture Factory. When we built the Watermark lofts, our original thought was that this space would have a commercial or retail use. We kept getting asked if we had meeting and event space available and realized that there was a huge need in the community for another event center and the vision for 920 came about.
We wanted to create a space that was wide-open and had a neutral palette so every color would look good in the center. We also didn’t want our brides to feel like they had to cover the chairs so we invested in gorgeous, black Chiavari chairs. We wanted to create and felt that Muskegon needed a space where the only limitations were our clients’ imaginations and 920 was born!

Q. You’ve hosted a big variety of events in the past—did your vision for Watermark always contain a lot of diversity?

Sarah: When we first started 920 we honestly weren’t sure what to expect and there wasn’t  really anything locally to compare 920 to. Our vision was just of say a busy center, but what became even more apparent was that we all loved events and everything about them from concept to completion.
Because we have such a diverse team behind the Watermark we had a group of people bringing ideas and contacts to the table. We were having so much fun with the space that we decided to create an event and promotions arm of our company to promote and produce events both on and off-site. What started as just a way for us to have some fun has turned in to a very viable part of our company and a huge component of our success. We started by producing in – house concerts and now we even design and create events for private and public companies and individuals, from weddings to fundraisers. But I think that is where the diversity comes from. We like to show off our space and show how it can be used. I also feel that because it is so minimalistic, modern and wide open that you can make the atmosphere feel like a huge party or very intimate. I think all of these factors have created the diverse nature of what you see happening in the space.

Q. You’re a female-fronted business, which is totally awesome. How has that impacted the trajectory of Watermark? Have you encountered any roadblocks as female entrepreneurs?

Sarah: We are actually all family and friends around here which has created more of a unique dynamic, I think. Both Laurel and I come from a background that has small, family-owned businesses so we have been a part of that entrepreneurial spirit and I think that has shown us how to work hard and I think the fact that we are family and friends around here gives Watermark a genuine feel. I guess personally, I have never felt like just because we are women Watermark is successful but more because we are good human beings and we care about what we do that other people care and support us too.
We are also all born and raised Muskegonites. We love our hometown and feel like being from here comes with some responsibility like giving back. I think the relationships we all have with each other more than our business being female-fronted has had more of an impact. There is one thing we know about the community here and it’s that we have to support it and I think that has impacted our trajectory the most.
 I personally haven’t ever encountered any roadblocks based on my gender but I started working in my field at 19 – and have had a few problems in my career because of my age more than anything. But that is a whole other topic of discussion!

Q. What is your favorite aspect of hosting weddings and receptions? Can you tell me about a few events that have stood out from the rest in a good way, and why?

Sarah: We love everything about weddings! In the past few years since we have been hosting them we have become complete and total linen junkies. We have unhealthy obsessions with the Pantone Colors of the year and the shabby chic trend was a lot of fun.  I guess my favorite part is that planning events really is fun and each one is as unique as each bride is.
I think for me what stands out most are all of the clever little ideas we see from candy tables to guest books. Just when we think we have seen it all a bride will pop up with the coolest little centerpiece and we will all be in awe.  The weddings that stood out for me are the ones where the guests and the hosts all are having a good time. I like seeing people have a good time and I don’t think you have to have the fanciest wedding, the most expensive or the most unique to achieve that.  When planning your wedding put some thought in to your guests and what they will be doing all night. 

Laurel: I love being able to work with all kinds of people and the overwhelming gratitude from brides, mother-of-brides, wedding guests, etc. It gives you a special sense of enjoyment that I could make their day a little bit more special. 

Q. What is your least favorite aspect of hosting weddings? Is there anything that you wish your clients wouldn’t do, or any golden nuggets that you wish they knew before they started planning a wedding at a venue like Watermark?

Sarah: For me, I think I don’t have a least favorite aspect so much as I think sometimes that guests and brides forget the reason why everyone is celebrating. There is nothing worse than a Bridezilla or a rude guest who spends the entire evening on their phone or iPad and not engaged in what is happening. Also, overindulgence has a way of wrecking things too and I have seen both wedding couples and guests ruin a beautiful night.
If I were planning a wedding I would absolutely hire an event planner. A professional planner can do as little or as much as you want them to do. Don’t put the burden of setting up all of your decorations and linens off on your friends and family…as well as the tear down. Ask your venue about their policies and what services they offer. One of the things we see all of the time is bride’s trying to save money in all of the wrong ways. For example, asking about our linen prices, then buying directly from a company online because it is cheaper. Included in our pricing we will press and set all of your linens as well as tear them down and they are guaranteed to look good. We see brides all of the time that buy online and then spend all day trying to press their linens and by the time they get them on the table there is no time to set up the rest of the event….and then what do you do with 30 – 72” linens after the event?
Event Managers – we do this all the time, we know what works. We have better resources we can do it faster and create a hassle – free event for you. We can also suggest ways to maximize your budget and have the biggest impact. 

Laurel: I wish more brides would let us do their decorating! The events that we have pulled the décor together for look phenomenal and really doesn’t cost a fortune like most people assume. The stress of setting up on their big day is taken care of; I wish more people would understand that. 

Q. What do you suggest as a timeline for recently engaged couples in terms of booking an event at Watermark?

Sarah: I don’t think a year is unusual but we have pulled them off in a couple of weeks before too! Many venues book out a year in advance – we are already booking in to 2016!

Q. What’s next for Watermark 920?

Sarah:  The sky is the limit and the only way is up! 

Thanks so much to Sarah and Laurel for taking the time to answer my questions. I can't wait to share more wedding details with you in blogs to come!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015



It’s true. I am.

I know, you’re hung up on the word “fat”—it stings. And then, maybe secondarily, you’re snagged on the idea of me being athletic because I really am fat. In our society, so many other adjectives get a free pass, but the word “fat”…it hangs in the air like puff of smoke, threatening the atmosphere with cancer. That’s a topic for an entire essay, much like an incredible piece written by LesleyKinzel of XOJane entitled “FAT: Usingthe Other F Word”. It’s a fabulous read. “Fatness, we’re told, is an aberration, not a permanent state of being,” Lesley asserts. Touché.

Rest assured, though, by using this descriptor, I am NOT tearing myself down. I may get frustrated with my body sometimes, but I’m not going to fear that word any more, as long as it isn’t used with malice. If you are reading, know this: I love my body, and I’m proud of it. I might get frustrated with it from time to time, but that isn’t going to stop me from being present in my own life, and enjoying what I deserve: I am an athletic fat girl.

Face it, fat is just an adjective. So, if “that word” bothers you, than let me put it another way: I am an athletic girl who wears a size 12. I am a fit girl who jiggles. I am an active girl who has tummy rolls, and thigh chub.


What do I mean by active? I mean that I work out. A lot. Around six days per week, I perform cardiovascular activity like intense circuit training, stairstepping, running and the like. I have a nice home gym (including an Olympic weight bench), and I’m a runner. On the weekends I run 5ks for fun, and though I’m certainly not “The Flash”, running over three miles really isn’t anything for me. I know I should push myself more--and harder--but I happen to be a busy lady, and a mom…and I have a to-do list. My fiancé regularly accuses me of “overdoing it” and begs me to relax on the couch…something I’m not good at, in the least.

I’m also a superbly healthy eater and I love to cook. My diet is comprised of whole foods and I work with an amazing dietitian. I watch my portions and even though know that hard numbers can be triggering (and everyone’s needs are different), I’ll throw it out there for the people who may be critically wondering: my intake is around 1400 calories or less per day. (I’ve played with eating more, but I tend to gain even more weight).

pretty food I made pretty food I made pretty food I made

When I was younger (and lazier), I didn’t have such healthy habits—in fact, I had an emotional eating disorder, and I still remain aware of that part of myself. In my twenties, I revolutionized and overhauled my perspective on health and self-care, and made permanent changes. That lifestyle has now become a habit for close to a decade. Since then, I’ve been pretty mystified with my weight. Angry, confused…yes. All of those emotions. I’ve cursed my body and wondered why, with the same amount of work and effort (if not more), I didn’t look like other athletic and health-conscious people I knew. I spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office trying to figure it out, and I’m embarking on a third round of hypothyroid testing as we speak. My mother has been diagnosed and medicated for hypothyroidism for many years. My aunts on both sides of the family, as well as my grandmother, have also suffered from the condition. I feel that an answer may be on the horizon, but for now, all I have is a question mark.

Over the years, as I have struggled with the unknown, there was always someone on the sidelines waiting to tell me that it was “definitely the diet pop” (my one and only vice, in moderation) keeping me fat—or, perhaps, that I should focus more on the weight training aspect of my fitness routine. So, I tried changing those things as well, and nothing happened. My body remained the same. I became even more stoic in my food tracking. The “calories in/calories out” adage did not seem to apply to me (and by all accounts I would be a size six by now if it did).

Why am I telling you this? It’s not to impress anyone or to whine (okay, maybe it is to whine, a little). Still, I’m not expecting to impress anyone because, let’s face the music: when I’m walking down the street, it’s unlikely that many people would think of me as an athletic person. Our society is so wrapped up in six-pack abs and perfection that we can’t envision health coming in any other sort of package. Yet, it does. Health and radiance do come in many different packages.

There is an incredible amount of pressure on us as we navigate through society. It is this sort of reality that makes me feel empowered by a shopping cart full of healthy food at the grocery store, and mortified when one of my boys at home request donuts or chocolate milk. I don’t want to deprive them of the occasional treat, but I hate buying those items, because I imagine that someone is looking in to my cart and saying, “AH, that’s the reason you wear XL yoga pants.” Yes, people are that sort of judgemental. I know it’s true, and I’ve done it, myself.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post

Even at my doctor’s appointments—food and exercise log in hand—I feel pressured to give my “speech” about not understanding why my body is STILL overweight. “It’s okay, you don’t have to convince me,” a sweet nurse recently told me at an appointment. “You can’t fake test results. You have the labwork and resting heart rate of an athlete.”

OH! Belly fat! When are you going to get the memo?

As you can imagine, it’s hard enough to be a bit of an anomaly. It’s taken me a very long time to accept the vessel I’m in, but it turns out that my acceptance isn’t the only part of things, contrary to popular belief.

“Who cares what other people think?” well-intentioned people have said to me, thousands of times. Seriously? EVERYONE! Everyone cares what people think. As a human, you don’t live in a vacuum, and we all know it. Let’s drop the façade. My goodness, we are a socially constructed human culture. And we all want to be accepted and seen for who we truly are. Does a lawyer want to wear a clown suit every day to work? Hell no, a lawyer wants to be seen as a lawyer.

An athlete wants to be seen as an athlete.


On the left: the picture that I carefully posed in to flatter myself...on the right, a less than flattering shot taken a few moments later with my girlfriend LaVange, who PLACED in the race for her age bracket for the Ludington Lakestride 2014, by the friggin' way.

I know there are others out there, like me, putting in that work. They might feel frustrated, and misrepresented. Worse yet, when a healthy girl (who happens to be fat) has a hard time establishing her identity in society, she is told it is her fault, and that she is exclusively responsible for her sense of self. “Just love yourself.”

I’m all about consciousness. Truly, I am. And while it may be up to you to love yourself first, before anyone else can (and every other cliché bit of self-help advice out there that is actually true), what other people think matters, too. You deserve to be validated by others for who you are, what you do, and how hard you work for it.

You have the right to be present in your own life. And you deserve to be recognized and seen. I hope for all human beings everywhere that a higher level of perception will bring us to a point where we can validate each other based on our actions, and not our thigh gaps. I have a lot of faith we will get there, because the climate is already changing, and the weather feels great. It sounds cheesy, but it makes me feel hopeful. I know there is peace in embracing and celebrating the authentic self.

As far as athletes go, I’m not telling you that I’m an elite performer, the strongest girl I know, or even a minuscule threat to the other runners on race day, because I’m not. I probably never will be (though I have fun dreaming about it).

But I AM fit. And I’m fat. And that’s okay.

Check out this amazing video,  from “This Girl Can”. 
This is my anthem. This is my jam.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#BodyPositive January Roundup!

I enjoy using Instagram for a multitude of reasons and one of them is to share the progress I have made in the last few years in loving myself, and my body. At least a few times I month, I use the hashtag "#BodyPositive" and I find myself exploring other users who have done the same.

A few weeks ago I decided that the images and thoughts I come across from other users (women, in particular) who are sharing body positive messages deserve special attention in my blog! I've decided to start a monthly mashup of #BodyPositive images from Instagram, and those images will also be organized in to an album for the month on my account.

I hope you are as inspired by it as I am. <3

See the whole #BodyPositive album for January 2015 here, or keep reading below to see all the images and captions (including my own)! 

Please note that I have obtained permission from all Instagram users to highlight their photos in this post, and quote them. I do not claim the rights to any of these photos. Clicking on any image will direct you to that user.



"Before I start please excuse the pajamas. This is my body. My fat. I'm sick of feeling so ugly because of it and this year, I'm not going to hate myself, I'm going to love myself. The fat on my body doesn't define who I am. I'm beautiful and so much better than the people who shoot me down because of my body. This is a huge step for me,showing my stomach but it's the way forward. I'm Helen and I'm 'fat' #fat #plussize #curves #strong #bodypositive."



"There is a saying that a girl without freckles is like a night without stars ... so my face must be a galaxy! #stonerthoughts #freckledfaces #bodypositive #theyusetohatethem #nowtheychasethem."



"Workin' on these calves, son. My goal is to run faster and crush bad guys with my legs. #bodypositive."


"My hangover isn't so bad when I think about how cute my outfit was last night. #BodyPositive."


"love yo selves ✌️ #bodypositive."


'"To love yourself as you are is a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself. for now. And now is all that we have. And love is who we are." - Anne Lamott #BodyPositive.'

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Party In Your Parka 2015: Event Coverage


Lots of ice skaters were out on the maintained ice trails Saturday afternoon!

Party in Your Parka 2015 was a total blast this year!

There was a great turn out, and we really enjoyed walking around, drinking local beer and wine, and partaking in all of the wintery goodness that was all around, from ice-skating to snowman building!

The artisan tent was a nice break from the cold (though the weather was great and generally mild for a Michigan January!), and we had fun tasting gourmet jerky and checking out local handmade products, like the incredible beard conditioner we picked up from Wilder Beard Company. It smells EXACTLY like a mellow, vanilla-cherry pipe tobacco, and it feels amazing on the skin...I can't tell you how much I love the smell of this product! It's amazing. ;)


One of the tastiest aspects of the Winter Sports Complex...the yummy soft pretzels!


The Luge!






All in all, it was a great time, and I'm totally looking forward to next year! 
See you then!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#PartyInYourParka2015 With a Thrifted Hat!


 #PartyInYourParka2015 With a Thrifted Hat!

Check out the awesome vintage hat I thrifted for $2 at Muskegon Rescue Mission Thrift! You can easily go out and find yourself the crowing glory to any cold weather ensemble with an awesome secondhand hat. So many places I've been lately have everything from fur hats to knit collections that are just a few dollars and perfectly full of life!

This fur number was just asking to get paired with buffalo plaid and it's definitely what I'm rocking at Party In Your Parka this year! I'll be heading out to the festivities on Saturday during the day to enjoy some hot chocolate and FREE fun winter activities with the fam. Will you be there? 


Don't forget to hashtag your selfies and fashionable snow gear shots on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with:

^^^Check out what's going on anytime by bookmarking/clicking on the link above!

I'll be scoping out the situation online all weekend and posting a roundup blog, and I'd love to include your images! =)


Monday, January 12, 2015

Sub-Zero Scarf Fashion: Party in your Parka 2015! 

Image courtesy of

Sub-Zero Scarf Fashion: 
Party in your Parka 2015!

Let's get down to business. You aren't going to want to miss Party in Your Parka 2015. Not only is it an outdoor winter wonderland at Muskegon Sports Complex where the event is held, but you get to celebrate the birthday of this beautiful state of Michigan in style, with tons of outdoor activities (family friendly during the day) as well as hang out in a heated tent, with local vendors and delicious microbrew. DID I MENTION IT'S FREE??? I can't wait!
Every year that I help out as the official stylist of the event, I always think: how can you look fashionable in sub-zero weather? (Often here in Michigan during January that is what we've got going on with wind chill involved). You really don't want to skimp on personal warmth or safety for fashion (unless you're Kim Kardashian or something). Of course, having a stylish winter wardrobe (namely, an awesome coat!) is important, but I think the true answer lies in ACCESSORIES.

Let's look at some different (and super fashionable) ways to wear your winter knits!

Image courtesy of
    Over-the-Head-Infinity Loop 
    You'll need an infinity (or tied together) scarf for this look. Simply use one end as a hood and wrap the other section around your neck. (Work backwards on this one...neck first, then twist the scarf, then put head through).

Image courtesy of ThreeBirdNest
    Infinity Loop with Added Flair
    As mentioned above, the infinity scarf can be a solid loop scarf, or one you've tied together yourself in to a circle and doubled. But what about this added flair? I LOVE the idea of tying off one side with a simple bow or ribbon. So cute. Also think about adding a brooch!

Image courtesy of
    Extra Chunky Pretzel Knots
    I love the standard pretzel knotted scarf but this takes it to the next level! Great texture and you can get the whole tutorial on how to achieve this look here:

Image courtesy of Ebay
    Embellish a scarf by adding jewelry to it! This sliding ring was made to fit over a smaller or pashmina scarf, but how can you achieve this look with a thicker scarf? How about trying bracelets or necklaces...Hmm. I'm intrigued!


Image courtesy of
    Twist it Up
    It's easy to achieve this look through a simple series of twists; check out the easy directions here at Fit Fab Fun!

What else can you come up with?

Don't forget to check out my Winter Coat Style pins on Pinterest, and my Five Best Cold Weather Beauty Tips from last year!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Upcycled Cloth Napkins From a Dress Shirt and a New Series: "Resolve to Repurpose!"

 Upcycled Cloth Napkins From a Dress Shirt
and a New Series: "Resolve to Repurpose!"

I'm always mixed on New Year's resolutions.
On one hand...goals are good, mmmkay?
But on the other, expectations are the devil.

This year, I've opted to continue the healthy self-care I've had in place for a long time, but that doesn't mean I don't have goals. In fact, I thought 2015 would be a great year to even further increase the ways I can up-cycle used and vintage things in to a new series called "Resolve to Repurpose!" 

There are many ways to do this without cluttering your home with toilet paper tubes and old coffee cans, and most importantly, you can do it with thrifted, gifted or free items!

So, without further ado, I present my first craft project of the new year: up-cycled cloth napkins! This project was so much fun and yielded a very useful product. If you have a few old dress shirts laying around then you won't need a thing--otherwise, you could easily pick up a large shirt at a thrift store like Hope's Outlet for around $2. Read the instructions below! 



Gather up your materials! You'll need:

-At least one large or extra large dress shirt 
(I went with plaid because I love it, but any dress shirt will work nicely!) Each dress shirt of this size will yield about 6 napkins using the measurements I've provided and that is without using the sleeves, which I saved for a future project. ;)


-Measuring Tape


-Sewing machine with zig-zag stitch setting (optional)



Using a soft tape measure, I marked off 11x11 squares wherever I could fit them in! (You could easily do slightly smaller or larger, but I was also leaving a small amount of room for a 1/2" hem on each side). 
I was able to cut two squares from each side of the shirt in front, and a grid of four squares on the back. 

The next step is optional...
read on to find out why!



IF you are particular and precise, you would carefully press the edges of your napkins to make a 1/2 inch zigzag hem on all sides before sewing.  

IF you are a un-apologetically lazy seamstress like I am, then you get on your sewing machine and start the party! 

IF you don't have a sewing machine at all or simply don't want to mess with that aspect of things--good news! You can gently pull out vertical threads and skip this step altogether to create a pretty fringe border. If that's the case, carefully rip out the vertical thread on each side of your napkins with a seam ripper or needle until you see the fringe border you want, in the thickness you like. This is a little time consuming but does work nicely!

Then, get an ice tea and sit back and appreciate what a domestic, up-cycling goddess (or god) you are!

If you're thinking that these would make an excellent right you are! Trust me, I'm keeping this project on my radar for next year's handmade Christmas giving, because who wouldn't want an adorable setof up-cycled plaid napkins? You could even get fancy and monogram them. More on that next season... ;) 

The next step is to enjoy your super cute cloth napkins and relish in the fact that you are helping to reduce consumption of paper products! Cloth napkins feel so much more fancy and they happen to look exceedingly adorable, as well. 


Follow me on Instagram or explore the hashtag, #ResolveToRepurpose2015. 

What can you re-purpose today?

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