Product Review | Stella & Dot A Stellar Time

So, many moons and mood swings ago, I used to sell jewelry. It was after my Pampered Chef phase, but before my “let’s go to college YET AGAIN” phase. I started it as a side business to assist in paying for various extra costs for our wedding, and ultimately ended up spending more on the product, supplies, and presentation, than I ever made back. Lesson learned: I do not have the home show/ frugal money sense or personality to work in an atmosphere like that. I loved the social aspect of the business though, with the flexible schedule and opportunity to meet and make connections with ladies all across western Pennsylvania.

Fast forward to 2017, and I’m perusing the Facebook stream of positive vibes, after discovering the “I don’t want to see posts like this” filter button that was so discretely hidden from me for who knows how long, when I happened across a post from a high school classmate. Kayla was that naturally beautiful person, who went from crazy athletic to crazy mature beyond her years, like overnight. She was always about 3 steps ahead of the rest of us in life, and I always admired her sense of focus and drive. She and her husband knew what they wanted out of life, and they went for it, all the while, being fashionably and photogenically picturesque pursuing their version of the “great American dream.” So, I might be getting a little mellow dramatic here, but I just want to paint a picture of how I envision Kayla and her life with her high school sweetheart and two beautiful children.

One of the absolute greatest benefits to Facebook is the ability to find connections with people you may have always known, but never necessarily fell into the same social circles. Or, if you had interconnecting friends in high school, may not have really thought much beyond who you spent your day in and day out with. Back in our high school era cell phones were a new trend and very few had them. Those that did, certainly didn’t use them to connect with friends while in the same building with them. We were much less interconnected in each others lives, but can now use that to our advantage, rediscovering each other and watching all of our children growing up. The ability to find and reconnect with people you’ve always known but may not have taken the time or had the opportunity to develop friendships with these people, is the peak of social media. Finding others who are also in the throws of parenthood, saying goodbye to the “good ole’ days” of a social life, and finding that motherhood bond with others is priceless.

Getting back to Kayla and her beautiful family; while scrolling through my newsfeed, I noticed an announcement she was making about starting a new business. Instantly feeling the nostalgia of taking on a new venture (and having recently dove head first into blogging) I couldn’t help but jump on board and immediately volunteer to host a party. I had no idea what the brand of jewelry was that she was selling, but simply knew, she was excited and starting a new chapter in her life, and I wanted to help and share in that new adventure. So after a few delayed social media messaging sessions, we had a date, a time, and a theme. “Girls Night In” was going to be straight Mimosa’s and Cupcakes. Seriously, does a girl need anything more than cupcakes, mimosas, and jewelry on a Friday night? NO. NO WE DO NOT.

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Prior to the party, Kayla set me up with an online account and continued to promote her line through her classy style and impressive photography skills using her Instagram account, which I strongly recommend each of you find and explore her new adventure. She arrived at my house the day of the event with at least an hour to set up. While she was putting together he beautiful display we were able to catch up about the past few years of life, and while we were able to creep on each other through social media, there were so many aspects of our lives completely missed. It was really intriguing to just pick each other’s brains about life for an hour or two before everyone arrived.

Her displays were so elegant, and the jewelry… WOW, the jewelry was definitely worth every penny. I was totally impressed and admitted almost immediately how this jewelry blew the line I used to sell out of the park. The line is newer to our area, and I believe everyone who was able to stop by was also impressed by the quality of the jewelry. This is not your typical cheap costume jewelry. Kayla was wearing a beautiful necklace she had owned for several years and it looked brand new.

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Once closing out the party it was a matter of days before my free and fifty percent off items arrived. The packaging was so classy and professional. I have to admit, I saved the boxes! The care and quality in the packaging was incredibly impressive.

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The materials were such high quality and the options were ENDLESS, that I seriously changed my mind about 5 different times trying to figure out what to order. (Kayla will vouch for this…!)

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This leather wrap bracelet is definitely my favorite and has just enough gold on it to go with just about any outfit. I wear it daily with two very special bracelets that are near and dear to my heart. (Yes… yes, I do have friendship bracelets with some of my bests, and I never take them off. My husband makes fun of me for this at every opportunity possible.)

The next item up on my list of great bracelet finds is this pretty little white and gold number.

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This one paired up really well with the first bracelet I opened, and I do wear them quite often together, but I try to not wear the white as often with the harsh reality of two toddlers running around like maniacs.

The third and final bracelet on my list of Stella and Dot must-haves is this silver and cool minty blue bracelet.

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How can you not LOVE a piece of jewelry that says, “hello gorgeous” before you even meet it?!

I love all of these new pieces of jewelry and did a serious re-evaluation of my former jewelry purchases, weaning out the cheaper and slightly over-bedazzled styles of my meal attempt at selling jewelry.

At this point, I feel very safe in saying I will be making several more purchase from Kayla’s Stella and Dot website, which you can access HERE, and strongly recommend having her over for a fabulous girls night in of your own! Isn’t this what we new Moms, experienced Moms, young Moms, older Moms, and soon-to-be Moms do? We collaborate, and we support each other. So trust me when I say, investing in this product will not leave you disappointed.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2017

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This week I have really been focusing on gift giving. I know it’s a random time of year to choose gift giving as a topic of interest, but there is something about Spring that is so new and fresh and makes me want to put winter blues behind me and brighten some one’s day. It could also be that my husband and two very good friends have birthdays right at the beginning of Spring, or even the fact that Easter is coming just around the corner. Regardless of whatever inspired this mood of gifting, I wanted to share some of my top Mother’s Day Gift Ideas with my 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide.

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Every product includes a description of why you will love it along with an image and link to the product itself. Spoil your mother, or better yet, share this with your husband… and enjoy the spoiling yourself!

  1. Echo Dot

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Ok… so at first I wasn’t sure about the whole talking to a piece of technology in your home; however, there are countless times that I have my hands full with the girls and my husband is off doing whatever… and a little assistance would be nice! Our three year old likes to try to change channels and mess with the dvd player while I am cooking. How nice would it be to say, “Hey Alexa, play Frozen, for the girls.” Or even, “Hey Alexa, what is the next step in this recipe?” How many of you mothers use Pinterest as your recipe book? I do! I am constantly flipping through my phone, leaving flour or who knows what else on the touch screen of my phone while trying to cook.

2. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

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This classic novel, is a picturesque story of the occasional struggles between mother – daughter relationships, and the secrets children sometimes are unaware of when it comes to their parents. Kristin Hannah’s attention to detail and build up in this heart warming novel will leave any mother in tears of joy by the end.

3. Keurig 2.0 K200 Series

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I am a coffee junkie! My husband and I recently purchase a more elaborate coffee system, but inevitably returned to our classic Keurig. It is so simple and convenient! I registered for a Keurig 5 1/2 years ago before we were married and my teaching friends purchased it for us as a shower gift. I still have that system. Keurig products are such great quality products. There is something about feminine colored appliances that really appeal to me. I love this K200 in Oasis. Keurig also offers a K250 in Sandy Pearl

4. Gold Flatware by Threshold

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I confess, I have been eyeing this set of flatware up for months. I am in love with the gold finish and the price! You just can’t beat a good value that looks and feels like quality. If anyone happens to speak with my husband, this would be an excellent addition to our home…!

5. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

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My Kitchen Aid is my appliance better half. My husband bought me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for my first mother’s day and I use it constantly. It literally fell out of the hatch of my vehicle on a trip to my sisters this past Christmas, bounced across her driveway, and miraculously still works. There was a moment I thought I might be losing my poor baby appliance, but it was a trooper and pulled through! If that doesn’t sales pitch you on the quality of this machine, I don’t know what will. This is the specific model I use and love. I would recommend ordering an additional bowl, for busy baking days. While this item is on the higher end of the shopping budget, it certainly will let the Mother in your life know how much she is appreciated! Besides, who doesn’t love a little extra motivation to have baked good around more often?!

6. Porcelain Classic White Dinnerware Set

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LOVE my white dish set from Target. These dishes are high quality and affordable. You can purchase them as a set or individual pieces, which I also love. I was treated to a nice set of these clean white dishes last year for Mother’s day. The thing I love the most about a white dish set, is the timeless feel. You can switch in different accent plates, compliment with seasonal colors, and never get sick of it. While patterns and colors may be trendy a times, white plates will never go out of style. When I am investing in an item for my kitchen, I want it to last. These plates are exactly that.

7. Decorative Dry Erase Boards

Help Mom stay organized and stylish at an affordable price at a mere $9.99 with this Marble Dry Erase Board or this Navy Blue and Copper Chalk Board. These are so cute and would look great in an office, kitchen, or entry way! I have the Marble one in my Updated Home Office (post coming soon!).

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8. Classic Wooden Tray

These beautiful, yet simple, wooden trays remind me of a fun Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tradition we had in our home growing up. Each year on Mother’s day my dad and I (or my sister and I when she still lived at home) would get up and make breakfast for our Mom and take her a tray of breakfast in bed. As a kid it felt SO FUN to eat  breakfast in a bed! We did the same on Father’s day serving my Dad breakfast in bed as well. So when I stumbled across this Acacia Bed Tray and Espresso Benito Breakfast Tray I just had to share this fun tradition from my childhood. Even surprising Mom with the tray, breakfast, and some fresh flowers would surely start any Mother’s Day off perfectly.

9. A Shopping Trip!

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Plan a day and prepare in advance by surprising her with a scheduled date, child care arranged, and a budget for a shopping spree. Target now offers both credit cards and debit cards. If my husband ever said to me, “Here honey, I took care of scheduling a sitter for this day, and I have this awesomely full Target gift card (or credit card) spend the day enjoying yourself!” I might just have a heart attack and never even make it to the store. Some of my close friends who have experienced my shopping trips to Target will vouch for how dangerous it would be to send me unsupervised into a Target store with a credit card. But trust me, it has happened…

10.  Affordable Floral Necklace

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When it comes to jewelry you will really need to feel your way through this. I like jewelry that is inexpensive, as the more trendy styles come and go; however, I have my select timeless pieces with more sentimental value. (See the next item if you’re looking in this direction) This necklace lays beautifully when paired with a simple shirt and jeans but can also dress up an outfit for an evening out with the husband. I find myself following the ever spinning circle of “silver” or “gold” falling more heavily on gold at the moment, but like that the crystal look balances out the gold if you’re still unsure about jumping back into gold jewelry.

11. Personalized Jewelry by Unmistakably Mine

  1. As I have mentioned in my previous post, UnmistakablyMine | Personalized and Affordable, this is my ultimate go-to shop on Etsy for personalized and sentimental gifts for those that I love.  You cannot go wrong on Mother’s day when shopping with Lori and her quality products from personalized necklaces for a mother, to bracelets for a friend, and  even the Pet Mommy out there will find items to cherish on her website.

12.  Reversible Tote

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Show me a Mother, and I’ll show you a multi-tasker. This bag is perfect for the Mom on the go. It’s inexpensive and REVERSIBLE! Plus if you click the link above, it comes in 8 color options. I have one in the black and tan reversible option, prior to this little gem of a pattern being released. I love the spring feel this pattern has, and the strength of the bag has my stamp of approval. I’ve carried multiple laptops in mine at once, along with items for my kids.

13. Terracotta Planters – Personalized

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Plants and planters seem to go hand in hand with Mother’s Day. Perhaps it’s that Kindergarten-Style brainwashing we receive when we place our hand prints on Terracotta planters at 6 years old.  Then followed by the act of planting the pot with basil or some other random herb and take our creations home to our mothers, hearts beaming, anxious for her approval. Today I am presenting you with an updated, modern approach to that childhood gift. Hello Smith and Hawkins:

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I love the small Terracotta Planters new, empty, and full of gardening tools or seed packets, or planted with a favorite flowering plant or frequently used herb.

14. Cake Stands – Not Just for Cakes Anymore

From white, to milk glass, to crystal, and even metallic, cake stands are one of the trendiest purchases of late. I have two currently, but would love to continue to grow this collection.  A simple White Cake Stand is always a classic starting point. Galvanized Metal Cake Stands add that rustic charm so heavily inspired by Chip and Joanna Gaines. And the third cute stand listed above is a sweet little Gold Cake Stand with pretty little details that would be a compliment to just about any cake or cupcake presentation.

But cake stands don’t have to remain in the kitchen. I’ve noticed some very cute presentations from jewelry trays on a vanity, to accent pieces on a mantle. The possibilities are endless. So get creative!

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Well there you have it. 14 ideas to inspire some unique, yet thoughtful gifts for the mother in your life. Celebrate her and all that she does for her family. If you are the mother, just forward this helpful little link on over to your husband and leave the rest up to him!

Cheers!

  • Whitney

G-PA Survival Kit plus Free Printables

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Working in the Special Education department with a group of people who chose this profession to help struggling students day in and day out, gave me the opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented individuals. During my first few years teaching full time, I met six amazing people in my department who all played a part shaping me into the teacher I am today through their wisdom, guidance, personal life experiences, and sense of humor. I will never forget my first day of work. It was July in 2012 and I was all of 48 hours into a state of newly post-wedding bliss and blur. This lady called me on the phone to invite me to a scheduling work day. I couldn’t remember her name, but she told me that we would be meeting at the high school at 9:00 that upcoming Thursday to build our master schedule. So I thought to myself… my first work day, is the week of my honeymoon. Awesome.

And so I went to work on that Thursday in July, nervous to enter the room and face my first REAL job, with REAL co-workers. I met 6 individuals that day who would make up my learning support co-workers. The first face I saw was a younger man, I guessed late 30’s at the time, and I recognized him from my interview team. He re-introduced himself as we walked down the dimly lit and intensely 70’s styled hallways. It smelled of cleaners and humidity and we walked to the “conference room” which felt more like a utility closet, the same one that happened to be my interview room. It felt much less intimidating with the warm welcome my soon-to-be mentor provided. The next to arrive was the voice from the phone. She was tall, looked young, but had the respect from others as though she had taught for quite a while. She was kind, and introduced herself as Holly again, only this time I made an effort to remember. She brought with her a white haired and incredibly tan man. Apparently they carpooled at times. I predicted when I went out to the parking lot there would be a convertible car he would get into. I was right.

The next two to arrive were both younger and neither spoke a word, but sat quietly nodding and agreeing with all decisions made during the scheduling. The last to arrive was super pleasant, immediately shook my hand and brought an undeniable heart-warming presence in to the room. I remember how comfortable he made everyone feel. His name was Dave, and every time I would walk into his classroom he still had that effect. He took a seat at a computer in the corner to type the schedule as we built it. This task would eventually become my job in future years.

The next two hours passed with discussion and thought process too abstract for my inexperienced mind. I listened as they spoke of classes and course requirements that were so foreign to my high school requirements I simply continued to follow them and watch as my schedule was built. Once a skeleton of a master schedule was set up we were to hand schedule the students on our caseload. Still floating in that blur of post-marital bliss I was focused on getting home to figure this puzzle of scheduling out in the comfort of my own home, away from the hovering and experienced eyes surrounding me.

This memory has been floating around in the back of my mind as I hit the ending point in my count down to a career shift. The voice on the phone turned out to be the kindest woman I have ever had the privilege of working with. She has been a motivator on those rough days to always stay positive and remember everything we do is for the kids. She is so wise and keeps everyone on task at whatever meetings we hold, and has the sweetest voice. She also forces me to work-out on our non-school-related dates… We really need to work on this aspect of our relationship! I know she will forever hold a place in my life. I’ve spoken countless times about my mentor and his heavy presence in my life. The super tan gentleman who arrived with the lady from the phone call ended up being an undervalued and phenomenal presence in our students lives. He is greatly missed by both students and fellow teachers.

And the kind soul who went above and beyond, to introduce himself and show me to my classroom ended up also falling into the irreplaceable friends category. He has inspired me to fight for what is right. His first piece of wisdom shared with me during my first year was, “Your wealth with always be in your time…” as a 25 year old, it held little value, but I appreciated that it would grow over time. As my little family grew one child at a time, I truly began to understand the weight behind his wisdom. He will forever be an additional mentor, role model and inspiration in his crazy unconventional ways. The time we spent joking, along with the stories we have shared will forever hold a place in my heart.

The fifth person who developed a strong influence in my life didn’t come in to play until my third year teaching when our middle school and high school combined to become a Junior-Senior High School. She was also one of those treasures that a district develops anxiety at the thought of losing. Her job is so intense and requires such a highly qualified personality to be successful in and she does it. Just like that, she is focused, and dedicated, and meticulous, and I just love her. I was so sad at the thought of leaving her along with my handful of close friends I have developed over my time working there. But I was comforted in the fact that she would understand. She is that all-balancing mother first, teacher, escort to her children, coordinator of family schedules, reminder of to-do lists, and supportive friend. She would get it. So when I was making this incredibly difficult decision, I found myself confiding in her, weighing the pros and cons, because she is the type of mother want to get the chance to be. She is involved and her kids will always come first to her.

Which leaves me with just one last critical person in my department who truly shaped me into the teacher I am today. My boss. Luckily, I feel fairly safe in writing this, knowing he’ll never read it, so I will be frank, I knew the moment I walked out of my interview, I wanted, correction, I needed to get this job. Some unidentifiable force was pulling me to this district, and I truly believe a higher power was at play drawing me in to these people, these life long friends, hard working and dedicated people. Each person described above holding a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, each so readily available to share with me, whenever I needed them. These people became a family to me. Kind, devoted, and at times a little crazy, but family. That unspoken love was tested just a year ago when a family member was sick. So we pulled together, prayed for a miracle, and were blessed with just that: A Miracle.

Now that we have survived the emotional roller coaster of my sentiments, I present you with the most recent creation my work family and I put together. Our boss recently became a G-Pa for the first time ever. He and his wife have the most perfect little man to spend the rest of their lives celebrating and watching him grow. We wanted to help celebrate this little bundle, but in a very “our department” fashion.

Let me introduce to you, The G-Pa Survival Kit:

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After spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME over-thinking this gift, we developed a list of essential items to survive the first month of G-Pa life. The kit included:

 

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The list held as many hunting reference as we could come up with, along with some universal diaper changing jokes. Hunting is critical in our Western Pennsylvania life style. We then passed little size 1 diapers around to all who contributed giving each participant a moment to write funny little messages for our boss while he was on “Poop Doody.” The supplies were all found locally minus some specialty details, which I will provide links to the products in this post towards the end.

It is this positive environment for little comical jokes, that sets our department apart from most. We know every statement typed into an IEP is legally binding, and that every word spoken during an IEP meeting is critical. So perhaps it is the weight and importance behind these tasks that drives us to find the humor and enjoyment in these small moments.

The gift was so enjoyable to give, watching each item bring out a new level of laughter. Seeing the sweet little man in his tiny Muck boots all but sent me over the edge ready for another little peanut in our house!

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The items we included started with Rubber Gloves, Safety Goggles, Metal Tongs, Disposable Face Masks, Zip Lock Bags (written on with Sharpie “Caution – Hazardous Materials”), Camouflaged Pacifiers (baby silencer), Camouflaged Bibs, Toy Rattle (Baby Rattler Call), Diaper Supplies: Diapers, Wipes, Butt Paste (because it has the best name…!), Daniel Boone Baby Coon Skin Cap (this was the clincher gift…!), My First Muck Boots,  and of course some iron-on personalized baby body suit designs. We even included a turkey call as Baby’s first turkey call; however our boss claimed it as his own.

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Turkey Call

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I have seriously tossed around the idea of opening up an Etsy shop offering personalized printable gift ideas, but for now I will stick with simple, free ideas you can download and share. Please do not hesitate to use and share with me your gift giving stories. I can only hope it brings you as much joy as it has our little “family.”

Cheers!

  • Whitney

GPA Item Labels

GPA Labels

GPA List Printable

 

 

Unmistakably Mine | Personalized and Affordable

Everyone is all too familiar with the endless supply of creativity found on Etsy, along with the countless opportunities Etsy has provided to independent crafters across the globe. Sometimes shopping in such a massive environment can be overwhelming. If you haven’t dabbled in the art of Etsy shopping, I can assure you that you are missing out on some of the most unique crafts, home decor, and gifts available. The task of narrowing down the shops can be daunting. To ease the unnerves that tend to come with purchasing from a strange shop online, I love talking to friends and discovering their favorite shops. About two years ago, a friend gave me a gift certificate to a shop she loved as a gift during a sprinkle held in honor of our second little bundle. What she didn’t realize at the time was she was inevitably sealing the deal for every future sentimental gift I would purchase from that point on.

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Lori Parcels of UnmistakablyMine on Etsy has perfected the art of simple, timeless, and elegant. She is a crafter who produces custom jewelry that leaves friends connected forever, New-Mom hearts melted, and loved ones feeling so cherished by the gifts she creates. Her hand-stamped jewelry is elegant down to the packaging and Polishing cloth included with every purchase.

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When I first purchased my necklace from UnmistakablyMine, about a year and a half ago, Lori was wonderful to deal with. I messaged her regarding the gift certificate I was given and she responded back within a matter of hours. She explained my text options, finish options, and was so efficient that I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to share the experience.

My most recent order I received, included a series of 3 necklaces, one being a very late gift to my life long best friend after the birth of her second child. For this gift I chose a dainty and simple gold necklace with her children’s initials on it.

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I love the simple packaging and the jewelry is incomparable! The necklace I received using my gift certificate has each of my children’s names hand stamped neatly on the discs along with the birth date for each child. I have yet to even use the polishing cloth, but love this extra touch. It really ads to the vibes that Lori provides a quality product and she wants her work to withstand the test of time.

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The variety of products just continues to grow on UnmistakablyMine and brings frequent purchasers like myself, continuing to return for new, creative gift ideas. To date, I have purchased 10 gifts for friends and family from Lori, and I can guarantee that she will remain one of my top go-to’s for personal and affordable gift ideas.

Lori definitely makes the cut for this year’s 2017 Mother’s Day Gift Guide coming soon to Shimmering Twig.

Whenever you are in the market for a product that is high in quality but affordable, check out UnmistakablyMine and tell Lori that Whitney sent you.

Cheers!

  • Whitney