Love

#WelcomeToThePalace

Proposal

“Will you marry me?” Sammy asked with a smile so wide I could see his back teeth. There was no nervousness in him, no indication that it was coming. Just good conversation turned down-on-one-knee. Instantly I was leaning down, grabbing him by the face and planting my M.A.C. Red lips all over his.

You think about the day you’ll find your person, they day you’ll get engaged, the day you’ll get married. You don’t have the slightest idea it’ll be THIS MUCH FUN! That it’ll feel THIS special.

December 11, 2014 was just another Thursday. I threw on black pants and heels that morning and headed to the salon for a ten hour day. We had dinner plans that night that I almost kind of dreaded because frankly I couldn’t wait to get home, throw my hair up in a messy bun, wash my face, and costume change into some Lulu. But we had a commitment, and I wouldn’t bail on my girl.

Lindsey is a creative lover of life whose passion projects from behind the lens. She is a food and lifestyle photographer, but most importantly one of the most amazing people in my life. The week prior, Lindsey asked Sammy and I if we would be a part of one of her restaurant shoots. She said she just needed shots of our hands eating dessert at the end of a Bavette’s dinner. Bavette’s is my favorite restaurant, so of course we were excited to help out.

Sammy met me at the salon and we walked over to dinner together. When we arrived, our favorite hightop in the back corner was reserved. Complete with two glasses of Malbec.

Lindsey came to our table within minutes and explained that we could order whatever we wanted for dinner, and she only needed to shoot the dessert portion. She said she had to go back to the kitchen to shoot some entrees, and that she’d be back once our dessert came out.

Nothing was out of the norm to me. I didn’t question the authenticity of the situation at ALL. Linds and I are always working on projects together, this was no big deal.

Dinner was fantastic. Conversation even better. Simple, normal, “How was your day?” and “Did you see who the Nats traded?”.

After dinner, two tooprettytoeat desserts came out. Followed by Lindsey, ready for the shoot. She arranged the spoons and our hands and took some ariel shots of the food. Signature @eatprayphoto shots.

“Ok guys I’m gonna have you stand in front of the table for a couple shots.”

That was weird, I expected only our hands to be in the shots, but I shook it off.

“Just talk amongst each other.”

I turned to Sammy and said, “Ok, lets pretend like we’re talking.” And he started talking…

“Can’t wait for our trip tomorrow! It’ll be so fun to see your family and let loose for the weekend. But I wouldn’t feel right about going without asking you something first…”

I felt like I stepped into a sauna. Instantly hot all over. I knew.

AND BOOM. Down on one knee. “Will you marry me?”

The restaurant burst into applaud and strangers were recording the moment. I wish I’d have asked them to send it to me! Bavette’s gifted us champagne and I’m pretty sure I drank it in one gulp!

Needless to say there was no dessert shoot, Sammy asked Lindsey to document our proposal at my favorite restaurant. I still can’t believe I had no idea.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there and call our families! I only had one bite of dessert, grabbed my coat and we headed home.

Sammy secretly recorded me calling our families in the taxi home. Watching the video I realize what an absolute spaz I was that night!

We walked into our apartment and I saw balloons and gold rose petals. Then a LOT of champagne, and a huge banner that said #WelcomeToThePalace.

Then two by two, starting with my sister and her boyfriend, some of our closest friends started pouring out of our bedroom. I was still in shock from the proposal, and all I could do was cry to see our friends gathered together to celebrate this new adventure.

Bavette's
Whiskey Gelato
Bavette's Bar and Bouf
Proposal
Proposal
Emerald Cut
Proposal
Proposal
Selfie
Surprise Party
Surprise Party
Guitar

Thank you to everyone who was involved in such a magical night, and to Sammy Palace, for making me feel like the most special girl in the whole entire world.

Love, AJ

26.

Your Stylist AJ I turned 26 last week. Happy New Year to me!

I really wanted to take the time to document the key memories of 25, as well as set some New Year's Resolutions for 26.

25 taught me that the plans you make when you're 15, or even 20, don't count at all. That the ideas of being a young mother, like your own, and having two kids by 26, are just ideas. That your path is ever-changing and life shouldn't be such an over-analyzed plan.

25 was physically brutal. I gained 35 pounds. 25 was an entire year of my life without wearing jeans even one time, because none of them fit.

25 was full of 80 hour weeks that put strain on my knees causing me to wake up in tears. 25 flew by because I worked too much, and didn't make time for myself. My health got pushed to the back burner. I just did what I needed to do to get through each long day, whether that was "hold it" instead of taking a bathroom break, or scarf down a carby sandwich bc I only had two minutes to eat during a shampoo.

25 was full of proud moments, as Sammy made it to the big leagues, I made it into the top ten beauty bloggers in the eyes of Allure magazine, and I booked TWICE as many weddings as I did when I was 24.

25 was a year of goodbyes to toxic friendships, and open doors to new, healthy and fulfilling ones.

25 was full of honesty, and family growth.

25 was when I found meditation, and it changed my life.

25 included getting braces on, and getting braces off.

25 put life into perspective to be honest. I learned so many lessons that I am eager to implement into 26. This time of reflection is necessary, and I'm not embarrassed about 25, or even gaining 35 pounds. I'm instead motivated and ready for my new year. Ready for change.

26 is sobrandnew. It scares and excites me.

26 will be about reading and writing more.

26 has been full of sweat, vegetables, steak, organization and too much champagne so far.

26 will be normal, 40 hour work weeks. With breaks.

26 is dedicated to finding and maintaing balance.

26 is dedicated to my health and fitness more than my business.

26 will be full of the most beautiful brides that are crazy in love.

26 will be a time for my relationship with Sammy to become even stronger, for us to spend more time together, for the distance to become smaller.

26 is up to me, and I'm up for the challenge.

XO AJ

 

THAT moment.

Andrew&Rachel_1076 See that moment? You can even feel it can't you? THAT'S the moment I live for. The very second my bride sees her hair on the most important day of her life, and loves it.

Today I am feeling extremely grateful for the love I'm continuously surrounded by. Thank you to all of my brides, for making me the luckiest girl in the world. You are all so stinkin' special to me.

I love you. AJ

Photo of the lovely Rachel captured by Stoffer Photography

Adios February

Sometimes life runs according to plan, and sometimes is doesn't at all. My February was full of surprises. FEB RECAP:

Travel hair I drove down to Florida with Sammy for Spring Training. Hard to believe it's Spring Training when Chicago is getting lambasted with snow right now.

Union Hotel

We stopped in Nashville along the way for a night of live music and authentic BBQ. We stayed at the Union Hotel which I HIGHLY recommend.

FLA

Florida was magic. I ate at my same favorite restaurant like four times in a matter of days.

vegas

I was back in Chicago for less than a week, but worked two full work weeks in that time. Then, it was off to Vegas for the Project & Magic apparel shows for Bonnie & Clyde. We wrote some fresh new lines, attended seminars, and even had a second to dip our toes in the pool. All good "I miss Sammy" distractions.

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While I was out west Kina took some photos of me in the desert! We had too much fun hiking in heels and singing Sara Bareilles as the sun set. Love that girl.

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As soon as I got back I spent two days revving up the courage to apply for the Allure Magazine Beauty Blogger competition. Part of the submission asks for a video, so I finally worked up the courage to post a video tutorial after two years of terrifying anticipation.

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The NEXT day I got a call from Goody. They had just seen my video and were interested in shooting tutorials with me in NYC for the weekend. So I refilled my suitcase for the third time in three weeks and headed to the airport with my gorgeous and talented friend Lindsey for the weekend. Friday was a long day of consulting and test shooting, and then yesterday during the awards we recreated looks we saw the celebs rocking and released them right away. You can view them all HERE.

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As soon as I was done, I learned my flight for this morning was actually cancelled. I've spent a combined four hours on hold and still won't be getting into Chicago before 9pm. So, I'll make the best of it with amazing coffee and even more amazing spoons. (Photo by #EATPRAYPHOTO)

THINGS I LEARNED THIS MONTH:

Ask and you shall receive.

Put yourself out there, you have nothing to lose. Really.

Friendship is weird. In a good way.

NYC has the best latte I've ever had. If you visit check out Happy Bones.

The camera adds ten pounds but I clearly have more than that to lose. Back on the paleo grind effective immediately, but more importantly, excited to get serious about working out. I'm craving that healthy routine and feeling really good and light. Who wants to go to yoga and Flywheel with me this week?

I appreciate Chicago.

My family is pretty awesome. They acted like I was actually a celebrity instead of just mimicking celeb hair.

I'm continuously blown away by Sammy. I have learned so much about life and hard work from that man. So proud of him.

How was your February? Cheers to March!

XO AJ

The Evolution of Friendship

The Evolution of Friendship I talk a lot about beauty, but today I care less about what's on the outside, because what's on the inside is a helluva lot more important.

No one prepared me for the fact that most of the time women grow in and out of friendships, or that losing your best friend feels a lot like divorce. Who gets to keep the kids mutual friends?!

I've never been the kind of girl who had a posse of girlfriends beside her. I've always had my couple of close friends and everyone else was an acquaintance. I didn't think I needed anyone else, my best friend was basically my family, and I knew I'd have her in my life forever. I was so wrong.

As an adult woman, in a totally healthy exciting relationship with my guy, I still feel heartbreak over the female friendships that have faded throughout my life.

Recently I started feeling super down about humanity and girls being total brats in general, but then an amazing shift occurred. It's like what I went through, was a sort of layer shedding, so that I could start fresh with quality people who genuinely care, have common interests, and are as selfless as I find myself.

When Sammy left for Spring Training, my phone was off the hook with "acquaintances" offering to host girl's night in or put a dinner date on the calendar. I have one friend who's New Year Resolution was to schedule active dates instead of dinner dates- genius. I had a client bring me flowers for Valentine's Day, and another baking me treats, both knowing Sammy and I wouldn't be together. I'm super sick, and a new friend showed up at my apartment this morning with a bunch of "get well" supplies. Another friend dropped everything to come over and film a video tutorial for me, something I've been putting off for two years.

I'm blown away by humanity. Some people suck, but just when you think you have it all figured out, you usually learn you don't at all. Life is such a constant lesson. We're always changing and evolving, and friendships will too.

Always be kind. Always treat people the way you would like to be treated. Be the kind of friend you want to have. Be willing to let friendships go that don't provide you with compassion and love, but work on the ones that do. 

XO AJ

Photo of my sweet mom and I, because she's stuck with me ; )

The Best Advice I've Ever Gotten

Emilia Jane Photography If you know me, you know I take on a lot. I work double work weeks and have my hands in a lot of hot pots!

I work full time at Thomas West, work weddings on the weekends, blog in between, buy apparel for Bonnie & Clyde, and date long distance. I give 100% of my time and attention to my career, because I want to.

I started getting some grief from clients about being too booked and chatted about it here, but it's only gotten worse. And by that I mean better! I have a 4-5 week waiting list, which means I'm doing something right, but clients can sometimes be frustrated that I'm not available.

So when I want to travel, to do something for me, or my relationship, I feel beyond guilty. I feel like maybe I shouldn't be posting pictures of a sandy beach when I know clients are waiting to get their color touched up. In my mind, I work double time to be able to do those things, but I fear that clients following on Instagram or the blog won't understand both sides.

I wasn't going to come down to Spring Training with Sammy this year. This will be our fifth baseball season together, and I almost didn't take the 22 hour road trip down with him. I thought it might look bad.

Until one friend gave me the best advice I've ever gotten.

You must invest in yourself and your relationship as much as you do your business. 

Duh. Why didn't I think of that? I'm so thankful for that advice. An important reminder I really needed to hear.

So here I am. Blogging from Florida while Sammy's at the field. We have two more days together until weeks will pass with only the phone and iChat to feel connected. And then, in about five weeks, I'll probably be traveling again. Only this time, I won't feel guilty. I work my butt off to be able to travel. I'm 25, madly in love, LOVE what I do, and love to be stimulated by variety and adventure. It's healthy, and I have balance.

My career will always be my focus. It's what I live for. That being said, my personal life deserves just as much dedication and attention. Yours does too.

XO AJ

photo by Emilia Jane Photography

 

January on Paper

It is already January 13th. Sammy leaves for Spring Training on February 2nd. You do the math. This time of year is so confusing. I am thrilled that it's a new year, with business on the agenda, but I'm also sad that Sammy is about to leave, but I'm also so excited to road trip to Florida with him. Basically my brain is tired. It's so bittersweet.

I'm trying to jam so much into the next three weeks with my love. Early mornings making breakfast together, and late nights at our favorite restaurants. Guitar lessons and rom coms. Him making me laugh until I cry and and also crying that he's leaving.

Meanwhile I have lots of lady dates with some amazing women on the calendar, three weddings this month, and full books at the salon!

So January, which is typically the slowest month of the year for my industry, is anything but!

I leave you with this Trevor Hall song, which has become my anthem for our relationship, and my love for Sammy.

XO AJ

Rombello!

Sammy and I are still completely blown away by our Rombello experience. It was absolutely necessary that I unplug from the world for four whole days. The music was incredible, we were in great company, and we got a taste of some nicer weather! If you're a music lover like us, we highly recommend checking out Sixthman music cruises!

belloWe danced. So much. // We were in awe of the performances and small intimate venues!

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We spent the trip hanging out with our favorite musicians. Getting to know them personally and snap some pics made the trip for me!

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Having a couple you love enough to travel with is pretty amazing.

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I did yoga with some of my favorite artists. On stage. Like a boss.

musicI obviously had the time of my life.

loveWith the love of my life!

I had some anxiety at first about taking off a day at the salon and turning down weddings to take this trip. I have no regrets. As cliche as it is, life is too short, and I deserve time for me, and my relationship. Whatever you're doing with your life, I hope that you take out your calendar and look at the dates you could reward yourself with a break. It's important. Mandatory even.

XO AJ

ROMBELLO

I've never unplugged, and for the next 5 days, I will be unreachable. I'm not sure if the feeling I have is excitement or anxiety.

Sammy and I are about to leave for ROMBELLO! The trip we booked so many months ago, is finally here. Rombello is a music festival, on a cruise, traveling to the Bahamas and back to Miami. We couldn't be more excited, and I couldn't have packed more than I did.

I've worked tons of extra hours leading up to this, and now, I leave you to go drink slushy beverages with little umbrellas on the beach, I hope you can forgive me.

I'll be instagramming waytoomuch until I loose complete service, but will blog tons of deets and photos next week!

Chat soon!

XO AJ

PS. I'm only missing one day at the salon so please don't be too mad at me. PSS. If you need a spray tan I now swear by Benefit. Holy crap!

Lately's Lessons

xtensions Sammy showed up at our apartment Saturday and totally surprised me so I went four days of forgetting I have a blog, or that anyone besides Sam Palace exists. My bad. Now I'm playing total catch-up and have to move over to my inbox, but first must share some of the lessons I've been learning lately...

Keep a clean house. We're adults, you never know when someone might pop on over, a friend is locked out and needs to crash with you, or your long distance boyfriend surprises you!

Lonely isn't a dirty word. Loneliness is forced upon us and sometimes it sucks, but it makes company so much sweeter.

Wash your face EVERY night. No matter how tired you are. My sheets are sad.

Look cute even on your day off. It's your time to feel awesome, and you won't have an awesome day if you don't feel great.

Dry shampoo is underrated. Shampooing and styling is hours spent you'll never get back.

Extensions, (done right), are also underrated. I do extensions on so many girls and I'm still always shocked by how magical they are. What are you waiting for?

Flower yourself. I've been buying flowers for myself every week of 2013, and it's money well spent.

Flower someone else. Just because.

Listen. No one wants to hear about you as much as they want to talk about themselves. Let them.

SAVE money. So when you find your dream kitchen table and couch in the same week you can get them. Wait, that's not exactly saving then...

XO AJ

One Day at a Time

tooth  

By now you know Sammy and I are in a long distance relationship. What many of you don't know is why..

Sammy is a professional baseball player in the minor leagues with the Washington Nationals organization. Sucha mouthful. 

When we met, I knew NOTHING about baseball. I didn't know the difference between a ball and a strike, I assumed the Washington Nationals were in Washington state, and when Sammy said he was a catcher, I pictured him in the outfield trying to catch the balls guys hit. Told you, I knew NOTHING about baseball.

Sammy played guitar, and that was cool enough to me, the baseball thing didn't get much of my attention... until he left.

We lived in the same area and dated for only two months before the long distance life kicked in. I came to Chicago, and Sammy headed to Florida. He's lived all over the country the past four years, and we live together in the offseason, for four short months out of the year. As awful as it sounds, we make it work, and it's pretty freaking awesome.

During baseball season, I travel to see him, and he's never been able to come home and see me during those 8 months he's away. This year, we had a flight booked for him to come home this week for three days. I've probably never been more excited for anything. He's never experienced Chicago in the summer, he hasn't even been to our new apartment yet, (we moved March 1st- he left for Spring Training February 1), and three days of no baseball sounds like a dream for this girl.

Days before his trip, I was finishing up our apartment, hanging gallery walls, buying new towels and stocking the fridge. I was out for margaritas with some girlfriends when I got a rough phone call, "I have to tell you the hardest thing I've had to tell you yet..."

Now, baseball life isn't easy. The minor leagues aren't exactly glamorous. We've been through a LOT. So those words, mean business, and I immediately feared the worst.

Sammy explained he'd have to play for another team within the organization temporarily, as they were making lots of moves, and he wouldn't be able to come home. As brutal as that is, it could be worse, way worse, so we tried to find the silver linings.

We're really great at keeping each other positive, and are both super determined people. Sammy embraced the opportunity the best he could, and I was proud of his determination.

Two days later I got a crazy phone call. Sammy's team, the Syracuse Chiefs, Triple-A Affiliate for the Nationals, collected money to fly me out to instead go see Sammy. Humanity sometimes leaves me speechless.

So that's why I didn't blog the last couple days. I was busy being serenaded, laying at the pool, going on donut dates and being the proudest girl at the ball park. I got to watch as Sammy offensively went 2-4, with 3 RBIs and called a game in which Pedro Encarnacion went 6 innings only giving up 2 hits and 1 run while recording 8 k's and 0 walks!

Thank you to the Chiefs, for giving us a few days together, they go a LONG way, and mean so much.

XO AJ

 

Girls Weekend

1 View More: http://emiliajane.pass.us/aj-girls23View More: http://emiliajane.pass.us/aj-girls

Thursday night, my mom pulled up outside my apartment for a girls weekend. I hopped in the front seat of the Jeep to help her find a parking spot, wrapped my arms around her giggling hellos, and before I could even face the road again, my little sister popped up from the floor of the back seat to surprise me! I screamed. Loud. More than a couple times.

The three of us, have NEVER had a girls weekend. The past four days, were absolutely perfect.

I did their hair at Thomas West, followed by some drinks with a view at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, followed by dinner at Little Market... and that was just day one. The weekend was full of gorgeous weather, lots of shopping, rooftop lunching, runs in the park and girl talk.

My mom is a beautiful and strong woman that I wish I could be around every day, and my sister makes me so proud and has become my most trusted friend. Saying goodbye to such a big part of you is never easy, but I am so absolutely grateful to have such a wonderful family.

Thank you Emilia for taking pictures of the three of us being together. The memories are strong, but these photos we'll have forever.

XO AJ

Mom's wearing: Kenneth Cole earrings (no longer available) Bonnie & Clyde dress (available here Friday)

I'm wearing: Bonnie & Clyde necklace (available here Friday) Banana Republic tank Banana Republic skirt

Kayla's wearing: Banana Republic tank (similar) Banana Republic pants

Love is everything.

zzoloAs I type this, my suitcase is at the door, I'm in those perfect yoga pants I mentioned yesterday, I'm drinking David's Tea, and I have butterflies Pterodactyls in my stomach.

I'm headed to Columbus, to see the love of my life. By 5:00 EST today, I'll be whole again.

Being in a long distance relationship isn't always easy, but neither is living in the same place or under the same roof as the one you love.

Many question how I trust Sammy, or how we maintain the excitement, communication... normality. How do YOU? Near or far, relationships are work. It's about finding that person who is worth it to you. And more importantly, you're just as worth it to them.

It's not always glamorous being in a long distance relationship, but lemme tell you, for me it's a HELL of a lot better than settling for someone in my zip code. Sure I could date someone in Chicago... but they're not Sam Palace, therefore, I am not interested.

It's hard to really put the memories into text, but before Sammy, I thought I understood love and commitment. I thought I knew security and what it meant to share a life with someone. In a sense, I really did. I was in a long relationship, five yeaaaars long. I didn't realize until being in a healthy relationship, how UNhealty that nasty one really was. Believe me when I say... I was a product of some stupid verbal abuse. I was foolish! We had a joint bank account, (judge me, you should!). We moved across the country together more than a couple times. We had something that could have been the real thing. I hoped for it. I worked for it. BUT HEAR ME! It wasn't IT. This isn't easy to document. I'm absolutely embarrassed. BUT. There are more of the "old me" out there. You MIGHT be reading this! And IF you are... IF you're in that... IF you know a girlfriend who is... you have the power to end it.

There is such a thing as that IT! IT is REAL. I am in IT. I know I am young, I know I have so much to learn, and I know that there is that chance that I am wrong. I am not naive to the world and today. But I am undoubtably with the most amazing match for me.

Life is so stinkin' short. We are only given one shot you guys. We aim to get married one time...

I'm so thankful for being with such a remarkable human being. The guy I can't help but fantasize about being the perfect dad. The boy with the most beautiful family. The soul that my family accepts and appreciates. The one who cherishes ME.

Long distance isn't always glamourous. But it isn't about distance at all. It's about loving and being IN LOVE with YOUR PERSON.

You have the power to be picky. To really want nothing less than your dream man...

DO. NOT. SETTLE.

If you do... you've just decided that at some point, you'll start over. Let's end that. Lets wait it OUT. Lets be patient for THE ONE.

Love LOVE. It's so magnificent. LOVE IS JUST EVERYTHING. It's not something to downplay. Or need to  justify. It IS PURE, but flawed, and deserves to be reciprocated.

XO AJ

Growing STRONGER

A In the beginning of relationships, it takes time getting comfy. You don't know if he'll like your taste in music and he doesn't know if you're truly THIS awesome or just on your best behavior.

Then things shift a bit, you both get comfortable, maybe even too much so. But it's a beautiful place of security, an unspoken understanding that you have a companion. You're SHARING your LIFE.

I give up my preferred side of the bed four months a year, and then before I can even get sick of him, he's gone again. Missing someone is one heck of a strong feeling. I try to remind myself that patience is passion, tamed. Sammy's lifestyle playing baseball has really become our lifestyle. We're constantly checking flights and I'm always reworking my scheduled clients, (you're all SO understanding and I'm forever grateful). I know it's hard to imagine a relationship like that working and being incredible, but it IS.

When he leaves I usually struggle and mope a bit. Actually I mope severely. This year, I've been ok. I'm at peace with our situation, and it surely helps that baseball season and wedding season are the same season.

I'm in a new relationship with old Chicago. We flirt and go on dates and get giddy bragging to our friends. We're in lust, and though we do miss our Sammy, we're going to be just fine.

XO AJ