Wellness Blog

Nashville Date Night on a Budget

Mark and I love a good date night out once a week, but that can get expensive! We’ve learned a few tricks over the years on how to spend quality time together out of the house without breaking the bank.

First up, Mark is super awesome at looking up free events on Nashville Guru. You can even find happy hour specials for each day of the week here. I personally love using this website to help us find fun, new things to do around town all year long. We have our “old faithful” spots we know we’ll for sure enjoy, but it’s exciting to change it up a bit! It can be a gamble to try a new spot, but it can payoff.

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Speaking of “old faithful,” this month we ate at one of our all-time favorite burger joints in Nashville, Burger Up East. Not only is it way less crowded than the 12 South location, but they also offer free 1-hour parking in the lot behind the building. Who doesn’t love free parking in this city? A nice coincidence this particular evening, we found out we made it just in time for the end of happy hour. For $29 total we each got 2 mini burgers, 1 cocktail, and shared a trio of their yummy fries and dipping sauces. Our two favorite burgers are the Bison and Woodstock. If you’re feeling extra hungry grab an order of their chicken wings, onion ring tower, or kale salad (my personal fave). The wait staff is always super friendly and accommodating too. Burger Up East never disappoints!

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Our next stop was free “jazz” at the rooftop bar Rare Bird of Noelle Hotel. This is where our night racked up a bit more than normal. Although the entertainment and entry was free, parking downtown is a nightmare so we ended up paying $15 to park in the garage next door. Not to mention our 2 drinks were just as much as our total bill at Burger Up. And I put “jazz” in quotations because it was actually a DJ playing jazz music which had we read more closely on Nashville Guru then we wouldn’t have been disappointed that there wasn’t live music. That was our bad. Whoops!

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BUT I will say that the drinks were delicious and the views were stunning. The hotel itself is gorgeous and we definitely enjoyed relaxing in the downstairs lounge waiting to go up to the rooftop. I could’ve sat on that leather couch and stared at the architecture for days.

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When it comes down to the nitty gritty of going a little over budget, it wasn’t a big deal. We enjoyed delicious quality food, beautiful views, experienced something new, and most of all spent time together. You can see that on our smiling faces.

And to make this particular date more budget friendly you could drive around longer to find free parking, skip the drinks, and just enjoy the view. Whatever floats your boat!

We know that when next week’s date night rolls around we’ll have to be a little creative and do something cheaper. That challenge keeps us on our toes and is equally exciting. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Date Night on a Budget.

Now it’s your turn! Tell us your favorite date night places in the comments!

My Biggest Breakthrough as a Stepmom

I didn’t realize how much pride and insecurity I still had about being a stepmom until recently.

You see Sam has an incredible mom, Allison. Their bond is so special and runs very deep. My husband, Mark and Sam have such a sweet father-son relationship as well. They have so much in common– music, playing instruments, height– and I’ve always felt on the outside. No one intentionally makes me feel this way… it just comes with the territory of someone coming in to a pre-existing family unit.

God has been peeling back the layers of my heart and getting down to the root of my feelings and frustrations. Showing me that I haven’t really been all that frustrated. I’ve been insecure with myself.

Thoughts like: “He will never love you like he loves them,” “You’re definitely not enough,” and “You have to compete to earn his heart” were a constant track replaying in my head and heart.

I get emotional typing all this out because it makes me so sad that I actually believed any of those lies and sometimes they still creep back in. But, God has been speaking truth to me all along. I just wasn’t willing to humble myself long enough to hear it. My striving mentality kept telling me I had to earn Sam’s love and acceptance. My pride was not only with Sam, but also with Mark and Allison. I believed I was in competition with them and all the other parents in the world doing it better than me.

In reality, all God (and everyone else) ever want me to be is myself. My true self. The person and mom God has called me to be. Kind, correcting, loving, patient, and compassionate.

His truths that I can now hear so clearly are: “You are enough,” “You love him in your own way everyday and you’re already accepted by me,” and “I love you and so does Sam.”

It’s been a hard to truth all around in my life to accept that I am enough with all of my imperfections. What I’ve known in my head all along, but had a hard time believing in my heart is that those imperfections are what make me who I am. They allow me to lean into God even more than I could if I were perfect. I am now free of thinking I have something to prove. I’m free to walk my own journey and believe once and for all that I’m enough.

I still get insecure from time to time, but am more quick to turn my thoughts to truth. A sweet moment happened this weekend when Allison asked if Sam and I wanted to attend a Mother-Son dance at the YMCA as she worked the event. Everything in me wanted to chicken out and make up an excuse not to go. I mustered up the courage to ask Sam to go and after a few awkward messages back and forth he said yes. I told Allison that next day that I was thankful she gave me the opportunity to be brave. To be bold asking Sam to go with me, but also facing the same room where I knew their bond would be on full display and my inadequacies could bubble up.

It was slightly awkward for me, but was also a beautiful thing to experience. To dance, laugh, and make memories together was something I’ll never forget or take for granted. Allison’s invite and these pictures tangibly reminded me there’s room for all of us and we each play an important role in his life.

So my biggest breakthrough yet of this entire stepmom/co-parenting thing?? Allowing God to soften my heart and open me up to believe his truth. To push aside the lies and stop focusing on others or where there may have been a lack and shift focus on my own heart-work. I’m thankful each day for the grace of God working in me and for the grace of our family as I continue to grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. No matter your title, you are seen and loved more than you can ever know.

A Stepmom’s Heart

My third Mother’s Day as a stepmom has officially come and gone. This holiday always brings certain feelings to the surface that I don’t love facing.

Being a stepmom is a great honor and because of healthy co-parenting relationships in our family, I’m able to have influence in Sam’s life. Not every family is so lucky. There is another side, though, that I’m afraid to talk about sometimes because it exposes insecurity and I absolutely hate feeling weak. However, I’m human and I do have feelings and lately I’ve been trying to live and share from a place of freedom instead of fear. So here we go…

4 years ago when my husband and I began dating, I knew from the very start that dating a guy with a 9-year old boy would have its challenges and things would for sure never be boring! I myself grew up with a stepdad and so I felt more prepared than normal for this type of family dynamic. I thought to myself, “No worries! I got this!”

Fast forward to marriage and becoming a family…

In a more traditional setting where you get to grow into parenting starting with your child in the womb, step-parenting is more like someone pushing you off the diving board into the deep end. You saw it coming, but you still get startled when you land in the water.  There are times that feel refreshing because you had a special bonding moment or you had a breakthrough in the relationship. Other times can feel like you need someone to throw a giant life raft your way because you’re drowning in frustration, inadequecy, or emotions that you don’t know how to process.

For me, my biggest struggles are feeling like I’m not good enough and that I’m not valuable in his life. I will make special note that these are my own feelings and Sam is not at fault by any means. These struggles and feelings just come with the territory. And even though it’s been a few years, Sam and I still have much more trust that needs to be built. I know our relationship will always be different than with his other parents. As time goes on and we grow closer, I know the feelings of doubt and insecurity will fade. Until then, I know these feelings will continue to bubble up.

Here’s what I have to remind myself…

Sam has had 13 years knowing his two parents and their love for him. They each have their unique connections and relationships with him. Not to mention they all love music and are super talented in that area. Even his stepdad is a music professor! They all have so much to talk about and bond over. I’m over here like… how was school today?? And the other generic questions that can quickly run out. I try my hardest to learn about the things he loves and bring them up, but there’s just always that feeling of lack. That I’m just not good enough or fun enough. Not to mention, Sam has a pretty amazing mom already and they are super close. I try not to compare and just be me, but it’s so hard not to. I know he will never love me the way he loves her. And he shouldn’t, but I often wonder if we will have our own inside jokes and when awkward silence won’t be so awkward anymore. If he will ever trust me enough to come to me with a problem or a hurt he’s facing.

I know one day we will have a stronger and closer relationship, but for now this is our journey and it’s a good one. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a stepmom it’s that I have to be patient with myself, Sam, and the other parents as we journey together. There’s an endless amount of grace I have to give myself and him. I sure as heck didn’t know how to express my feelings as a teenager to my stepdad, so I can’t expect Sam to know either. It was terribly uncomfortable for me and so I know he’s going through his own feelings and how to process them.

I have to take things one day at a time and focus on the times we do connect, like when we go to a movie together and eat dinner just the two of us; when he asks me questions about cooking; when I embarrass him at the pool or in front of his friends; when we teach him about the 80’s. All those moments will add up and feel so rewarding when he comes home to visit from college one day and we’re able to remember those times and laugh.

I may not have birthed him, but I hope he knows just how much I do love him as my own. That he is the best kid anyone could’ve gotten and he’s growing up to be a kind, courageous, and compassionate young man.



To all you stepparents out there… keep pushing through those hard feelings and love the way you would want to be loved. Cut yourself some slack and trust that you’re doing the best you can. You are appreciated and loved.

Photos by Anjeanette Illustration

Step Into Summer!

Summer is right around the corner and no matter where you live, summer means more time enjoying the outdoors and being in the heat. Whether you’re hitting up the pool, parks, or even a family beach trip these tips are going to be your BFFs! Here are some of my favorite ways to stay hydrated, cool, and keep my skin moisturized!


Let’s be honest… water is boring, but it’s so vital to keep healthy on a daily basis. Some studies show dehydration can impair mood and brain function. Nobody wants to be cranky, right? The recommended daily amount is 64 ounces. That may sound like a lot (because it kind of is), but when you break it down it’s 8 glasses, 8 ounces each. Not too bad!

18423769_10100165647983398_2937542817498401268_nI like to jazz up my water with Lemon Essential Oil to ensure I’m drinking enough throughout the entire day. Especially after sweating in the sun or a fun outdoor activity like kayaking!

I’ll drink a 12 ounce glass of water with 1 drop of Lemon first thing in the morning to start the day off right and then incorporate different oils like Grapefruit, Tangerine, and even Peppermint to change things up!

*Only use glass or stainless steel when drinking essential oils in your beverage.

Lemon oil has a bright and uplifting taste and some studies show it can support detoxifying actions in the body. Double win!

Keeping Cool

Moving on to our summer afternoon… We’re lounging by the pool sipping on our Lemon water. It’s about noon and that sun is blazing! I found this awesome cooling mist recipe on Pinterest. I’m so excited to use it when I’m relaxing poolside!

18275248_10104516248334102_293844842250722960_n + 1 small glass spray bottle
+ 2 tablespoons witch hazel
+ 2 tablespoons distilled water
+ 8 drops Young Living Peppermint Essential Oil

Combine all ingredients into the glass spray bottle, shake, and spray on the back of the neck when you’re feeling overheated.

I can’t wait for you to feel cool and refreshed! Also, don’t forget to apply sunblock every 2 hours.

After Sun Moisturizer

So you’ve been out in the sun all day relaxing or playing in the water. Now it’s time to take that post-sun cold shower. You get out, dry off, and look in the mirror to find your skin is looking and feeling red hot! Lavender (soothes skin irritation and smells AH-mazing), Frankincense (can reduce inflammation and slow aging signs), coconut oil (moisturizes), and aloe vera (soothes skin) are the perfect combo to cool off your skin and give it the moisture and repair it so desperately needs.

It would be terrible to get to the end of summer with dry, leathery skin!

18301170_10104516204681582_1185904399819475901_n+ 1 medium glass spray bottle
+ Half cup aloe vera gel (try to find organic aloe vera gel at your local health store)
+ 2 tablespoons organic fractionated coconut oil
+ 10 drops Young Living Lavender Essential Oil
+ 5 drops Young Living Frankincense Essential Oil



+ Combine all ingredients into the spray bottle
+ Shake, spray on, and rub into your entire body
*You can also add 1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E oil for extra moisturizing and antioxidant support

Now I’m officially ready for summer!

How about you?

Let me know your favorite summer activities in the comments!

A Vision and a Dream


It’s always been a dream of mine to be a business owner. After college, I took the conventional routes and pursued my dreams only as side hobbies and worked your typical 40-50-hour work weeks to accomplish someone else’s goals. I listened to what the world said was “success” and these are all the things you’re supposed to do after graduating. I believed dreams were meant to stay in your head and never become reality. I was blinded and mostly afraid of dreaming too big.

What God has shown me this past year is that’s quite the opposite. He wants more for me. He wants more for us.

Now dreams aren’t these pretty little boxes tied up with sparkly ribbons and delivered on your doorstep. Dreams take hard work and commitment. It means pushing through the hard feelings of doubt and fear. Dreams take risking everything and believing the outcome will be worth every tear or sweat poured out.

In the past 2 months, I’ve fully committed myself to pursuing Young Living Essential Oils and photography as my businesses. I’ve worked very hard, but I can positively say with lots of love and peace. It’s been a nice change of pace for my body and soul compared to all that I’ve done in the past. Every lesson, job, and experience has brought me to this point and I’m so thankful. It’s been such a freeing and refining process!

2M7A5073With this dream comes hope for right now and hope for our future. With this dream, I’m confident our family vision will come more and more to life. That because of flexibility and being a healthier version of myself, I can give my best to God and my family. We’ll be able to spend more time together, have more adventure, and give more generously to those in need.

I have a lot more to learn and grow, but I’m excited and God has been with me every step so far. I’m consistently assured He’ll continue to guide me as I stay in tune and receive His help. He gets all the glory at the end of the day. This part of the journey takes supernatural trust and I have to ask for it frequently, if not multiple times a day.

This business means more to me than just income, but freedom for our family financially, with time, and freedom from what the world says is “normal.” We can shed off the guilt or shame that comes with pursuing our dreams and trust that this is where God has been leading us the entire time.

Our vision as a family is to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle and give generously. A huge part of living this out is placing  God first! We want a life filled making memories and lots of adventure! We’ve always invested in each other by taking family trips and spending quality time together. We always want to give more too, but sometimes have just enough to pay our bills and get the necessities taken care of. We believe this season is going to be a breakthrough for those two parts of our vision to grow!

Thank you for listening to my heart and supporting our vision as a family and my dream of sharing my gifts and wellness with everyone I meet! Your prayers, well wishes, encouragement, and even financial support through purchasing services and products are truly such gifts to us.

2M7A5165-EditA special thank you to my husband Mark for believing in me and encouraging me when I second guess myself. And thank you to my generous friends Brad Smith and Mailynne Calvin and my ever so amazing sister Achara Tarfa for making this part of the dream become a reality! My dream beyond this dream is that everyone would be able to experience the same freedom in their lives!

Please browse around the entire site and enjoy all the photos and information!

Independent Photographer & Illustrator - Anjeanette Illustration

Photos by Anjeanette Illustration