Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Signature Style: 7 Years in the Making

Thinking back to my younger teen and tween years, my style was influenced by music and dance. I would strive to be relevant with what was popular at the time, but I loved alternative music, specifically punk, and dancing was a hobby that I took very seriously. These two worlds, diverse within themselves, were opposite in terms of style. I'm pleased with the end result.

The year I started college was when I became a professional dancer within sports entertainment. My sense of style improved, thanks to the influence of my peers and coaches, and I learned what looked good on me; however, 7 years and 2 children later, I have developed a style that I think is my best yet. I’m not perfect, but I can dress my body correctly for its shape and size, and I’m much more conscientious of where my clothing comes from. I’m willing to dig at any thrift store to find the perfect staple piece at a bargain price, and I’m willing to spend money if it’s the right thing to do.

Before I go into my wardrobe, let’s talk about the other stuff.

Signature Piece Number One: Bangs

My high school class reunion was three months ago. When reminiscing with an old friend, she said, “I was just talking about your bangs!” I laughed and said we shouldn’t talk about it. Two months later, I decided to cut my bangs. Bangs are a part of my signature style, but I agree that I made some heinous mistakes when I rocked them in 2001. (Well, some wouldn’t say these were mistakes, they were just a different style. I know several people who wear them very short--think pinup girl--and they work, but that’s not me right now.)

I like to style my bangs now very little heat and effort. A quick blow dry is important, and keeping up with trimming is essential. I enjoy an effortless side swept look, but my favorite is when I wear them as full in front. I’m glad I cut bangs again--they’re a classic necessity for anyone who can give them the attention they need.

A few tips from me, a non-professional who has had bangs her whole life, are...

  • Always cut them dry and straightened, if possible.
  • Use your eyebrows as a guide to determine how far from right and left to cut.
  • At first, cut them longer than you think you want. You can always trim more, but time is the only thing that will fix bangs cut too short.

If you like bangs, or classic style, check out Violet Grey. It seems to me that two of her favorite style icons are Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. Her way of trimming bangs is a little unusual compared to the professional way of doing things, but check out her video.I love it. (If you want a more recommended approach to cutting bangs, check out this video: https://youtu.be/zPdLdsCz40c )

Signature Piece Number Two: Cat Eyes

Nine months ago I started experimenting with the cat eye. Like my bangs, they’re a classic look. The rest of my makeup is very minimal with tinted moisturizer, translucent powder, subtle eye shadow, and a touch of blush or bronzer on my cheeks. I complete the look with a matte lip during the day for work, but if I’m going out at night (which is admittedly not often) I make the cat eye bolder and put on lipstick of a deep red shade.

Here's a tutorial on how to perfect the cat eye.

Signature Piece Number Three: Scarves

I have a ridiculous amount of scarves. I recently donated some, and it didn’t make a dent. I love scarves. They add class and comfort to every outfit.

The Glue of my Signature Style: My Wardrobe

More than two years ago I tossed around the idea of minimalism and a capsule wardrobe. I have come a long way, I’m proud to say that the majority of my closet is secondhand, and I love the way everything looks on me. Success.

I don’t know how many articles of clothing I have. I heard it helps some people to keep a certain number of clothes, but I don’t want to restrict myself because I think my closet is easy to manage as it is. When I do bring in more inventory, I check to see if there’s anything I have been neglecting. If so, I donate it.

My main colors for fall and winter are black, white, navy, and red. I have a little bit of pink--that’s a new development. I generally don’t like pink. The majority of these colors are interchangeable with each other, so I rarely run out of combinations to wear. I don’t enjoy animal print, or words on my clothing--I’m not Lorelai Gilmore; I like plain tops and low-key patterns, such as horizontal white stripes, maybe a touch of argyle, or small polka dots. (I don’t think I own any argyle, but now I want something with it.)

Most of my pants are plain black, and I have one pair of navy. I don't own white pants, but they're on my wish list. I have three pair of jeans; two are denim blue jeans, one is skinny and the other is high-rise and flared. The black jeans of mine are skinny. Since I cannot wear denim to work, only having three options hasn’t been an issue for me.

Skirts and dresses are important to me. I love wearing them, and I want more options for fall and winter!

For shoes, I mostly wear flats, although I own a few pair of heels, and I love boots. My shoes are either brown/cream-colored or black. I usually wear flats to work but have been attempting heels recently. The added height assists my confidence in any situation.  

Below are some pictures of my favorite outfits.

shoes, pants, top, and scarf are secondhand. all black, minus the scarf. 

shoes (Prada), pants, top, and sweater are secondhand. this is one of my favorite blouses. it's pink!

sweater is from Target, circa 2008; dress is Forever21, and the belt belonged on a dress purchased in Texas at a dance conference. boots and leggings are secondhand. the pearls were my grandma's.

the wedges were a new purchase from Kohl's, but the rest of the outfit is secondhand. the striped top is my favorite at the moment.

A signature style is something that evolves and builds over time. Right now, I like the direction I'm headed. I don't put much money into my look, but I put in a lot of thought and effort. That's what it takes.

Until next time,

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I’ve Lost 21+ lbs Within 5 Months: Here’s What I'm Doing

I decided I was sick of not feeling well, so I did something about it. After getting the help and support I needed to be successful, I started my real fitness and postpartum recovery in February of 2017, right after my youngest daughter’s first birthday.

I’ve Lost 21+ lbs Within 5 Months
Here’s What I'm Doing

FEBRUARY: This was the month that I started eating healthier. My portion sizes were huge in comparison to what they were in the past. I subscribed to an organic meal delivery service where the portion sizes were much smaller. The first couple meals I ate had me worried because I was so hungry afterwards, but I was able to get used to food very quickly. Although I only stayed with this company for a couple months, it was enough to get my family and me cooking and eating less for dinner. This had a snowball effect, and I cut out my habit of going out to eat for lunch, grabbing sweets at the gas station, and drinking soda. All-in-all, I lost 8 lbs within three weeks during the month of February, and it was all because of food. I should also mention that I started saving $80+ per month, and minor abdominal pains that I had been experiencing for the past year slowly went away throughout the month.

I celebrated my February birthday with friends at the rock climbing gym. This was the exact week I started eating healthier.

MARCH: I started hot yoga again in March. A friend invited me, and this is the only yoga studio in my town that offers hot yoga. This new hot yoga studio is not the same as Bikram. I used to diligently practice Bikram roughly 5 years ago, but I worked in a factory for a summer, and it was during that time that I lost my consistent Bikram practice. Yoga has improved my balance, posture, flexibility, muscle tone, and general attitude towards life. I can’t believe I ever stopped this important ritual, but I’m happy to be back on track. I now attend classes twice per week. In March, I lost 4-5 lbs.

My March progress photo.

(It took me several years to convince my husband to try yoga. This year he started competing in mountain biking, and he’s using yoga for cross-training. Of course, he wonders why he didn’t start sooner!)

APRIL: I started to really feel the results of my healthier habits in April, and I made some future travel plans. I maintained my workout schedule, and I brought a team together to play summer volleyball with me. It was a great month! By maintaining my healthy habits, I lost 3-5 lbs.

MAY: May is one of my favorite months of the year. In March I tend to find hope--there’s light at the end of the tunnel because winter is almost over--but May is special. It’s warmer, sunnier, and summer is just around the corner.

This summer I decided to visit a good friend. She’s temporarily living in California, so she and a group of her closest friends (who are also old friends of mine) provided me with great hospitality. I traveled alone for a long weekend trip, and I’m happy to have gone. I gracefully conquered my fear of heights, and I pushed myself to travel solo and be as self-sufficient as possible because I have horrible travel anxiety. They took me rock climbing, and I saw the ocean. In May, I lost 3-5 lbs.

I started feeling great in May.

Wheeler Gorge, California

I like to flex my arm muscles, and I realize in the future I should consider more diverse poses!

JUNE: Last month I added to my fitness schedule, continued eating healthier while reducing the amount of alcohol I drink, and I started going to a personal trainer. My volleyball league began, as well, so my fitness schedule since June has been as follows...
  • Yoga Sunday and Tuesday
  • Volleyball Wednesday
  • Weights and plyometrics Thursday
  • Cardio and plyometrics on Saturday
  • Exercise or rest on Mondays and Fridays. (Usually, we have social events on Fridays and I’m exhausted on Mondays.)

The month of June, I lost 5-8 lbs.


July is when I hit my pre-pregnancy weight, but most importantly I am much stronger and healthier than I was before.

I've been more active on my Instagram account, and I’ve been posting some photos of my progress. That being said, I think it’s important to show other women that postpartum recovery lasts far beyond what many Americans believe. It takes time to heal, motivation to start working hard, and an amazing amount of support and willpower to simply take care of oneself again. It’s not easy, so I hope to maintain this momentum while encouraging a few other women--especially mothers--along the way.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Cooking, Lavender, and Lifestyle

For the past year (yes, it has been almost one whole year!) I have been writing in my journal, drafting short stories, and writing a children’s book; however, I don’t have the same amount of time to write. Nevertheless, I’m able to be organized at work and in my home. I’ve taken more steps at minimalism, although it seems I keep accumulating things. (I digress, I think that’s what happens as we get older. Our children accumulate things, our partners accumulate things, people in our family give things to us of meaning or of use, and it piles up in our homes.)

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time going through our items and donating what we don’t need, and I’ve taken an interest in small-space living, decor, organizing, and cooking!


I have maintained my capsule wardrobe. It has been nearly two years since I adopted a capsule wardrobe. I remember I made the decision a few weeks before my husband and I went to New York, and we were able to pack all our belongings in a carry-on for the entire week. This way of thinking has transformed the way I dress, eat, and spend money. In the past two years I have spent less than $100 on my clothing, plus roughly $100 on running shoes. The majority of my exercise clothing is secondhand, and 90% of my daily wear is second-hand. I own two pair of jeans--one green and one blue--and I have an array of dresses, leggings, and designer shoes (secondhand) that I wear on a regular basis. I don’t count the amount of items I have; I just know that what I do have is manageable, in good shape, and looks good on me.

My interest in style has made me more aware of our space, and it has also given me a better appreciation for living in a small space. Sometimes it's difficult to be content in a small home when others have much larger homes, but when I think of the benefits of having a small space (less to clean, less to buy, less to maintain) I am thankful for what I have.

Here's our kitchen space. We spend a lot of our time here! The kitty coffee mug was a souvenir from Rome, and the gorgeous jade plant was a gift from back when Audrey was born. Everything else was purchased or given to us secondhand.

I have been diffusing lavender at night, and it has been amazing. I use it every night when I go to bed, and I believe it helps with my quality of sleep. My home is slowly transforming into the tranquil space I’ve wanted it to be for years. In the future, I'll be adding more plants to my home and experimenting with different oils.

My husband and I have been cooking. We cook a lot, as in every night, and we sit down to eat dinner as a family. This was my one request once my first daughter, Audrey, was born. I wanted to be a family that sat down to eat together. We’re very tech-savvy and worldly, so this is important to me because I believe in the good that can come from a home-cooked meal. It’s important physically, emotionally, and I’ll go as far as to say cooking can be a spiritual experience. Believe me, I need a lot of help from God to cook.

We have perfected several recipes recently, which I’ll share in future posts.

For the past year I have been working on a children’s book. I work on it at my own pace, without pressure from anyone, and it’s for fun, but I’d like to publish someday. One of my goals since childhood has been to write a book, and when I was in college a professor of mine--whom I fully respect--mentioned to our class that we shouldn't publish a book until we’re at least in our thirties. I don’t remember what the context was surrounding this theory, but I took it as law, and I’d like to publish my first book to the world at age 30. That gives me two (or more) years to complete this project, and I think I can do it. I’m not sure if I’ll go through a publisher. I think I’ll tackle the project solo and publish via Amazon. I have a little bit of time to prepare.

I have been working on my friendships. It’s easy to forget that friendships take time to make and maintain. Sometimes I have to drink an extra cup of coffee to meet up with old friends, new friends, and college friends every couple weeks. It keeps me young and in touch, and it’s refreshing to be around people who don’t need something from you. ← That’s sad, but true. With working full-time and having a 50-mile commute, this can be so hard, but it’s so worth it.

I went indoor rock climbing with my friends from college for my 28th birthday!

This was my first year fully committing to a New Year’s Resolution, and it’s actually working. I have officially lost 10 pounds of baby weight since January 15th, and as of this morning I have 10 pounds to go. My progress has been slow, but steady, and I’m pleased with it. While many blogs and Pinterest boards might suggest women should gain and lose baby weight within 9 months, it actually takes the average woman more than one year to recover from childbirth. That’s totally normal.


I’ll be writing when I have time, but I’ve made it a priority to write more for others. I enjoy publishing short articles like the one you’re reading above, so in the future you can look forward to some recipes, healthy living tips, parenting and career updates, and more. Ciao!


Follow me on Instagram @OwlsandLavender

Allow me to share some of my lifestyle inspiration! These bloggers and documentaries have helped piece together my personal style and interests.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Reading List: Part 2

A while ago I published a reading list, and it has gained popularity. In fact, it remains to be one of my top posts! Today's entry is an update to my reading list in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday and National Read Across America Day.

My husband and I spend the majority of our free time reading. This isn't too different from the past, but I like to think our interests have matured beyond whatever it was we used to read. My goal in celebrating the new year was to read more fiction novels. Aside from this blog and my personal journal, I actually spend a great deal of time writing fiction--usually for preteen girls. All characters in books are inspired by people; my nonfiction reading isn't in vain, but I think reading fiction will improve my creative writing skills.

The first book I read this year was "The Art of Racing in The Rain" which happens to be the only fiction novel I have read thus far. (Oh well. I like what I like!) I'm sure I'll find some other great fiction novels soon. If you have any suggestions for me, please write them in the comments below this post.

Book #1: "Pen on Fire" by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Book #2: "The Jewishness of Jesus" by Rabbi Evan Moffic
Book #3: "Survivor Moms" by Mickey Sperlich (MA, CPM)
Book #4: "Clean Food Diet" by Jonathan Vine

I am just starting books 1 and 2. I've nearly completed books 3 and 4.

Pen on Fire
This is a book that's great for my lifestyle because it's about how to write as a busy woman. What I like about it is that I'll read a page or two and suddenly be inspired to write, so while I'm not making much progress it's obviously doing its job of motivating a woman to write who has very little time to spare. 

The Jewishness of Jesus
Written by a Rabbi, this book tells Christians everything they need to know about the Jewishness of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It's a great book for anyone, but especially Christians wanting to get to know more about Jesus by learning more about Judaism and how it shaped the Son of God. 

The writer, Rabbi Evan Moffic, will be speaking about this book at Plymouth UCC in Milwaukee, WI in just a couple months. I hope to attend.

Survivor Moms
As a birth worker, I find this book to be an irreplaceable addition to my collection of doula, breastfeeding, and parenting books. It's an emotionally difficult book for me to read, so I have to put it down often. Female survivors of sexual abuse share their own stories of how trauma has resurfaced emotionally and affected them while giving birth or parenting.

Clean Food Diet
I'm not too impressed by this book so far. The writer doesn't cite sources often, so the researcher in me finds that detail difficult to read past. My family and I are taking steps to eat consciously and healthy, but I might take something useful from this book once I'm done.

What My Husband Is Reading

My husband is currently reading the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov. If you're a sci-fi fan, check out his work. Click HERE to be directed to Asimov's Goodreads page. 

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com

We have both been listening to podcasts and audio books, but my husband listens more than me. I spend more time with access to my Kindle and paperbacks, but he spends more time commuting for work. His favorite podcast is Hello Internet, and mine is This American Life.

What My 2 year-old is Reading

If you look at our living room bookshelf, you'll notice that it's filled with children's books! Our oldest daughter Audrey loves to read, but even with a vast selection of books at her fingertips she always chooses the same book to read for roughly one month straight. This is mostly due to her age, but both her parents are creatures of habit as well, I'll admit.

Audrey's favorite book so far this month is "That's Not My Bunny" by Fiona Watt. When she does choose another book, she picks "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown.

What are You Reading?

What are you reading? What are your favorite podcasts, and why? Please share in the comments below.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Annie's Birth Story!

An Unmedicated Hospital Birth Story


It was February 3rd, 2016, the day before my expected due date. I woke up that morning feeling different. After having 12 hours of consistent practice contractions the week prior, I was hesitant to believe what I was feeling could be early signs of labor, but I was able to believe that giving birth was in my near future. I trusted my gut. That morning I informed my employer that I would be coming in late to work since I didn’t feel well. I took my time getting ready and went into work.

When I was at work, I started getting contractions that were consistently 20 minutes apart but distinctly different from those I was feeling the week before. They started in my hips, wrapped around to my lower abdomen, and sent a soft but shooting sensation down the side of both my legs. There was no doubt in my mind that something positive was happening, but I’m well aware that early labor is a process that can take several days or weeks, depending on the mother. Even so, I trusted my instincts, wrapped up any last-minute business at work, and left for home a little early.

This was my second birth. One of the things I so badly wanted for my first birth was a natural, unmedicated birthing experience for my baby and for me; and although I consider my first birth to have been a good experience, the cards did not fall in place for an unmedicated birth. With all the research I have done to this point, and with what I have witnessed as a birth doula, it was my intention for both births to have as few unnecessary interventions as possible. That can be easier said than done when planning a hospital birth as I had. My plan for this birth was simply to stay home longer--until I felt like it was time to leave for the hospital--and I hoped I could wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting for one minute at a time. The truth is that every woman experiences labor differently, so the 5-1-1 rule professionals tell women to go by is a general guideline. I knew in my heart and mind that a hands-off labor and delivery is what’s usually best for a positive birthing experience with a healthy mother and her baby, so that’s what I was seeking--it’s what I felt was best for my baby and for me.

First & Second Stage of Labor:

I left work early that day and immediately went into the shower to slow down my contractions and freshen-up. I had my parents pick up my daughter at about 5:00 in the evening. My husband and I made dinner, ate early, and I went to bed at about 7:00 p.m. I was awoken with contractions at 9:30 p.m. and they stayed consistent at 15 minutes apart from that time until about 3:00 a.m. the next morning (February 4th) when they were roughly 10 minutes apart. Partial sleep was my saving grace during this time; I was able to drift off to sleep after each surge, and each time I ignored the fact that I just had a contraction. I continued that pattern until 5:00 a.m. when I couldn’t ignore them anymore, and I woke up my husband at 5:30 a.m. and gave my doula a heads-up.

I labored for a lot of the time in the bathroom and in our living room. Most of my laboring was actually done alone and by choice, but I knew when I needed support from my birthing team. With my labor partners (being my husband and doula) I listened to classical music on Pandora, and I used my favorite doula tool, doTERRA Deep Blue rub (which works like Icy Hot), on my stomach and lower back. I labored in the restroom for a long time as well, but I was also sure to stay hydrated and eat throughout the morning. (Being properly hydrated and having something light in your stomach are two really important things when you labor! You need to be hydrated and have enough energy to run a marathon.)

I asked for my doula when contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but I felt like I could easily keep laboring at the house. A part of me was fearful that we would arrive at the hospital and the staff would say, “You’re only at 3 or 4 centimeters,” which I knew would make me feel defeated. I wanted to go in once I saw classic signs of transition or simply needed something more for pain relief. Thankfully, my goal was to trust the process of birth. This may sound cliche, but my only fear was fear itself. (Fear or a sense of insecurity can often stall labor.)

We labored at home with our doula for just under two hours when my husband said, “I’m not rushing you, but your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart, so we might want to think about when we’re going into the hospital.” I was thinking the same thing right before he said something, so his instincts validated mine, and I decided I would make a decision about how I felt after a few more contractions.

We went into the living room, and my birth partners helped me through a few more contractions. I started to shake slightly, I suddenly felt nauseous, and I entertained the thought of pushing. My contractions were also coming at about 2 minutes apart. The time was 9:05 a.m. on my due date, February 4th, 2016. I told my birth partners it was time to leave for the hospital, and I got into the car for the bumpiest and most uncomfortable ride of my life. We arrived at 9:15 a.m.

My husband called the OB triage to tell them we were on our way. They informed us we needed to go to the clinic to be checked first, but upon hearing my labor cries in the car the triage nurse immediately changed her mind and had us come to the hospital directly. That was a very good decision, because if she hadn’t, we would’ve had our baby in the clinic’s lobby.   

Transition & Birth:

I was quickly taken to our room, checked, and the birthing process began shortly after. I was 9.5 cm dilated when they checked. Sadly, my midwife was on vacation and her backup midwife wasn’t able to get there in time, but thankfully I had a very kind OB who attended my birth. I was able to have my most important requests on my birth plan granted. I was offered an epidural but declined, and therefore an IV wasn’t necessary.

Annie Eloise was born at 10:00 a.m. on her due date, February 4th, within a few contractions and after roughly 9 minutes of pushing. She weighed 8 lbs 12 oz and was 20 inches long. Although it would have been nice if the hospital had more time to prepare for my arrival, this was a very empowering birthing experience for me because I was able to trust my body. The hospital staff kept their word in allowing me to have immediate skin-to-skin with my daughter, also. She didn’t leave my chest for the first two hours of her life outside the womb, and I had a very minimal amount of interventions--perhaps the bare-minimum in a hospital setting. Oh yes, and the first thing I said when I gave birth to my first daughter, Audrey, was something about her ears looking good for piercing. The first thing I said after the birth of this daughter, Annie, was “Shit.” #sorrynotsorry

I am very thankful to my birth partners and to the hospital staff for helping me have the hands-off experience I was hoping for, which I believed to best for the health of my daughter and me. I’m excited to share my story with other women and continue empowering women as a birth doula--once I’m done cuddling my newborn for several months, of course.

Daddy and sisters bonding.

Helpful Links:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How We're Preparing Our Toddler for Big Sisterhood!

At 36 weeks pregnant, the arrival of our baby is just around the corner. She (the baby) isn't expected to be here for another four weeks, but considering the normal range for babies to make their arrival is between 37 and 42 weeks, and this pregnancy has been so different from the previous (as all pregnancies and childbirth experiences are different) I'm ready for whatever comes my way, within reason.

My husband and I have been preparing our 2 year-old for what will likely be a difficult transition. We've been talking about the baby with her, and she even helped pick out the baby's name. We were torn between two names and we asked her which one she liked better. She told us, and that's the name we chose! The name is our little secret, and so far--as far as I know--she hasn't told a soul. (What a fun way to choose a baby name, and what an awesome story to share with her in the future.)

You know you're a birth worker when your two year-old daughter insists on watching YouTube videos of home water births. Whenever she wants to watch something, it's between Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and "Baby in the water! Baby in the water!" as she says. For several months I have been browsing the internet for videos and pictures of birth and taking care of babies, and my daughter has been diligently taking care of the babies she has at home.

This week my daughter and I brought up the bedside co-sleeper for the baby. It needed some cleaning, and the sheets had to be washed, so I had her help me wipe down the crib and set it up. We wheeled it next to the bed, and she practiced putting her babies in there while we talked about what the bed was used for and who was going to go in it!

Most recently, I decided to get some gifts for my toddler to congratulate her on becoming a big sister, and the plan is to give these to her when she comes to meet us after the birth. Since Christmas was so fun this year, we know that she understands gift-giving, and she will understand why she's getting the gifts. We bought her a Daniel Tiger plush--since she loves that show so much that she tried bringing her toy trolley to bed--and a Daniel Tiger older sibling book called "Big Brother Daniel". Did I mention her favorite show is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood? Yep, in case you couldn't tell.

I'm not sure if our tactics for introducing baby to our toddler will work in the way that we expect, but as adults we often underestimate the power of little ones to comprehend what's going on in our world. I don't want to assume that she won't remember this and doesn't understand that she's becoming a big sister. In fact, I think it would be very traumatic to bring a little baby home without any explanation or preparation, so that's why I think that--even if she does have a hard time with the new sibling transition--our efforts will never be in vain. She understands she's going to be a big sister, and it's just a matter of time before her little sister will be here to change her life.