They Said the Word “Cancer”

Hey everyone. I know I haven’t posted in a while but this story hit close to home…As a mama to my baby girl Rosie, my 1 year old yellow lab, I know how hard something like this can be. What they need is support. Whether that’s by donating or simply sharing this post. My friend Ashley and her boyfriend Brian have this sweet, 6 year old puppy named Bella in need of surgery. Read her story below. There will be a link to the GoFundMe website if you would like to donate. 


Jessica Calkins

Her name is, Bella. She was an owner surrender when I rescued her and she didn’t know much. She was a little out of control to be honest, but we stuck together. At about 74 kisses in I fell in love. She has been there for me every time I’ve been in need and has never wanted anything more than to be there by your side, soaking in your love. She’s everything a dog is supposed to be. It’s impossible to repay her for what she gives.

About 5 months ago a sudden eye infection ravaged her right eye. We’ve been in emergency clinics, veterinarian clinics, and eye specialist clinics, but have only been told that it’s an anomaly. We’ve been on 11 different drops and 6 different pain medications and antibiotics since then. Secondary glaucoma was the result after the infection cleared up and even when the pressure in her eye was high it’s tough to tell if she’s in pain. She just wants to be next to you and give you the softest kisses. She wouldn’t complain even if she could talk.

Yesterday we had another eye specialist appointment to see if her pressure was still low. We’ve had so many I can’t even keep count anymore. We were told that it is now believed that we are dealing with uveal melanoma in her right eye. They want to extract her eye. It’s what I’ve been dreading all along and now I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve already spent thousands and thousands of

dollars on visits and medications and every blood work test imaginable. We’ve been quoted with another high bill and I have to find out how to make it work. All of her blood work tests came back perfect and everything suggests she’s in excellent health except for this horrible eye incident. If you can find it in your heart to help out Bella, please do. We’d forever be in your debt.

She just turned 6 on March 16, and she has so much more life ahead of her. She goes everywhere with me and if you could see the joy she brings to people you’d love her just the same as I. Thank you for reading this. We really appreciate your time.


Love, Bella




Traditionally, there are a few wedding protocols that are associated with planning a wedding. As a bride myself, there are several “rules” that I question throughout the process of planning. There are easy questions and there are questions I feel like I don’t even want to ask out loud. What I have to consistently remind myself of is that this our (Matt and I) big day and though it may seem like it, there aren’t any rules when planning a wedding. Here are some tough questions that I tried to answer 100% honestly.


What is the #1 of wedding etiquette?

Do not make your guest’s wait! Not only is it rude to have your guests waiting for you to walk down the aisle, but it also puts a damper on the entire celebration. It does not matter how great the catering is, how entertaining the DJ is, or how beautiful your decorations are…People will certainly not have fun at your wedding if it isn’t a timely production. Momentum is everything when it comes to celebrating at a wedding. Take advantage that is not only the most important element of your wedding, but that it does not cost a thing!


Single Guests. How do I tell them that they can’t bring a date?

This is your big day and you want to spend it with people that have had a big influence on your life, right? Right! If you have a strict budget, the easiest cuts to make to your guest lists are the people you don’t know. The only time it is acceptable to bring a date, is if they are in a serious relationship.


How do I tell a friend that she is not a bridesmaid?

This is a tough one. Being mindful and compassionate is about all the advice that I can give you. As long as you are honest with them, they should respect your decision.


How do I explain the lack of help to my Maid of Honor?

Choosing a Maid of Honor is an extremely hard decision that every bride has to make. Letting them know that you are happy and confident in your decision, will give them a sense of pride. Also, choosing a Maid of Honor is a two-way street. They have to accept the fact that they are responsible for being your right hand, which requires a lot of time, effort, and patience.


Is it acceptable to ask for cash as a wedding gift?

Personally, I don’t want the three toasters, matching mugs, and set of wine glasses. However, it is tacky to put on the invitation “Cash Gifts Only!” Letting your immediate family, Maid of Honor, and Best Man know your gift requests is your best bet, because guests will ask them for gift ideas.


I have a crazy mother-in-law that is overbearing during the planning of my wedding. How do I confront her?

Fortunately, I do not have this problem. However, I know a lot of brides that have run into this issue and it had put a stitch into the experience of planning their wedding. The important thing is to be respectful, loving, and honest. Letting her know that this is your big day, not hers. Though her opinions and ideas mean a lot to you, you’ve decided to go a different direction in the wedding plans.

Who sits at the bride and groom table?

Whoever you want! This is your big day and you have to remember that there aren’t any rules that you have to follow. Typically, there are three options. 1) Bride and Groom table, where you and your newly married lover share an intimate table. 2) Bride, Groom parents and siblings. 3) Bride, Groom, and Bridal Party.


How do I let people know that there will not be a full meal provided at the reception?

Instead of writing “Ceremony at _:__ time and reception to follow, simply write “Ceremony at _:__ with drinks and h’ordeuvres to follow. Personally, our wedding isn’t formal whatsoever. I didn’t like the idea of a plated dinner. To create a relaxed atmosphere, I wanted to have an extended cocktail hour. (Finger food, carving station, and open bar) Perfect! Like I said, there isn’t a rule book for planning weddings, just suggestions.


Who is invited to the rehearsal dinner?

Anybody you want! For me, I am inviting my family, the bridal party, and out-of-town guests.


These are only a few questions that I could think of. Let me know in the comments below if you can come up with any other questions for me!



Jessica Calkins

Longer, Stronger, Faster-Growing Hair!

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Recently, I have chopped off my hair and by “chopped’ I mean I cut 3-4 inches off (dead ends). To some, that may not be much. However, I have ALWAYS had long hair. If my hair doesn’t hit the middle of my back, I feel naked! I only trust one person with cutting my hair, a family friend that I called my second mother growing up. If I went to a salon to get my hair cut, my palms would sweat and my heart would start racing. It’s safe to say that I have a fear of the chair at a salon. Not my thing. With my wedding quickly approaching…faster than I can keep up with…I want my long curly locks back! I thought I would share my tips on healthy, fast-growing hair.

Typically, your hair will grow ½ an inch every month. For me, my hair can grow up to 1 inch per month as long as I follow this routine. I swear by this…

Drink Water. Water is essential to hair strength and growth! Without it, your hair will become dry. Hydrated hair is happy hair. Your hair will not grow if it is brittle and breaking every time you brush it. Which brings me to my next point…


Comb wet hair, do not brush it. When your hair is wet, your hair is at its weakest point. Therefore, using a wide-tooth comb while hair is wet, will not be as damaging to your hair.


A balanced diet. Eating the necessary foods that is full of proteins, complex carbs, vitamins and minerals is key to growing strong, healthy hair. Your hair is made of proteins, therefore eating foods like salmon, walnuts, oysters, sweet potatoes, spinach, poultry, lentils, and Greek yogurt are building blocks for your hair!


Shampoo is one of the most damaging things to your hair. If you can go 3-4 days without washing your hair with shampoo, then your hair will thank you for it. Shampoo contains chemicals called sulfates, which are also found in your kitchen degreaser. It creates the foamy texture to shampoo. Not washing your hair for 2-3 days can be hard but there a several solutions for managing greasy hair throughout the week. (Don’t run your greasy hands through your hair every second, use dry shampoo, and stage your hair styles throughout the week.) Use can also find no or low sulfate shampoos at any beauty supply store like Ulta.


Use a Heat Protectant. I am guilty of using extreme heat on my hair. My blow dryer, my straighter, curling wand, etc. So if I am going to use these styling tools on my hair, I will put a heat protectant in before I start styling. My favorite product is “It’s a 10.” You can buy it at any local grocery store or pharmacy.


Lastly, take Biotin! Biotin is a vitamin that can be found at your local Whole Foods! It promotes thicker and faster-growing hair…

Hope this helps!


Jessica Calkins



“When all the world appears to be in a tumult, and nature itself is feeling the assault of climate change, the seasons retain their essential rhythm. Yes, fall gives us a premonition of winter, but then, winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.”

Personally, I could not be more excited for the first blooms of the spring season. The shades of gray, bare trees, and dirty snow have left my mind and soul feeling uninspired. However, nature always has its habits of reminding us that there is greener grass to come, literally. Once winter surrenders to the “essential rhythm” of the climate changes, will you? Though we are collectively longing for the warmth of the sun to thaw our frozen bones, for the buds to awaken, and for the colors of spring to stimulate our minds, it is the beauty of the transition from winter to spring that I find most inspiring.

Alike the animals that are slowly awakening from their deep hibernating slumber, so should we. Slowly introduce yourself, as we do every season, to the miracles of the outdoors. Spending 15-30 minutes outside every day will have your body and mind feeling rejuvenated. Appreciate the differences of winter and spring air; how it tastes, how it feels in your lungs. Open your eyes to the miniscule variations in color in the trees, grass, and flowers. Listen to the chatter of animals that have been hiding from the cold, harsh weather and the birds that fly north overhead. Do not waste time waiting for spring to be here, rather witness the change for yourself.

Now that the “holidaze” season has ended for this year, it is time to change our eating habits! Just like the chipmunk that stores his food in his checks for the winter…Benefit from the fresh greens and produce that is sprouting all around you. When your body is aligned with the nature of the universe, your soul will thank you for it.

Witnessing the harmonious flow of life is one of perks of living here on earth. Take advantage of it! If we spend our days inside, waiting for the warmth of spring, we would have missed the most incredible part! The transition. The magic of living.


Jessica Calkins

On My Way Down the Aisle: Centerpieces! Shopping with Daddy & Matt

6 months, 30 days, 11 hours, 5 minutes, and 44 seconds…

In 6 months, 30 days, 11 hours, 5 minutes, and 44 seconds I will become Mrs. Schwartzback! I can’t believe how quickly this year is going by. There is so much planning left to do. Entertainment…cake…decor…invitations…so much on my mind! Last weekend, my Dad and I got to talking about what was left to plan. He offered to take me out to all the local Home Goods in our area to find some cool vases for the centerpieces this week. That’s exactly what we did!

What my vision for my centerpieces is simple yet adds to the bohemian element of my wedding. My table cloths are gray, napkins are white, cutlery is silver, and the glassware is a standard clear glass. I wanted something funky; different shapes, sizes, and colors. One of my favorite things to do as a designer is mix metals. So I chose mercury glass in shades of silver, golds, and rose golds. My Dad, Matt and I went to every single Home Goods within a 20 mile radius and wipe their shelves of everything made of mercury glass! The metallic element against the gray table-cloth will create a funky, yet elegant centerpiece design. As a nature lover myself, I had to add a naturalistic element to my centerpieces. So I plan on either chopping down a tree myself or buying the center cuts of a tree trunk and placing the vases on top!

As for my flowers, I was to keep the palette clean and neutral. Whites, greens, and maybe some blush colored flowers to bring out the Rose Gold Jewels that me and my bridesmaids are wearing, made by Bare and Me. I really love the look of succulents, in the shades of that dusty blue-gray, white peonies, and LOTS of greenery! Let me know what you think of my centerpiece vision in the comments below! I can’t wait to fill you in on the rest of the wedding details as we come closer and closer to my big day! Check out the pictures below!!


Jessica Calkins







On My Way Down the Aisle: My Maid of Honor’s Dress


As I said in my last post, I was very interested in having all my bridesmaids pick their own dresses in a shade of light gray to blue-gray. Each of my bridesmaids would be comfortable in the dress, it would fit their budget, and it adds a bohemian element to my big day! I was so excited to start the adventure of discovering each dress, especially with my Maid of Honor, Mary.

A little about Mary… She and I met in design school about 4 years ago. Though we have only known each other for a short amount of time, I feel like I have known this girl my entire life. We share a lot of the same interests, one of them being design. We both don’t take ourselves seriously, so every time we are together, we cry from laughing so hard. We have our own language. She is the only person I can spend hours upon hours on the sofa watching Mary Kate & Ashley movies, without being judged. She has been there for me through thick and thin. She has one of the kindest hearts and truly cares for the people she loves. I am so lucky to be a part of her life and her of mine.


The only requirements that I had given Mary for her dress was that it had to be a shade of light grey to blue-gray and it had to be floor length. Mary found a few dresses that she liked; a lot had a lace applique on the top with a chiffon skirt. We narrowed our choices to three, but there was clearly a first choice. The consultant told us that she was not sure if this dress could be produced in the color that we wanted. She said that she would call us on Monday to confirm whether or not we could. Crossing our fingers…Mary and I hoped that this dress could be made the way we wanted. On Monday, we found out that the lace applique could not come in the “graphite” color! The dress was perfect for Mary and I could tell that she loved it so much, so did I! So I asked them if we could have the lace applique in ivory and the rest of the dress in the “graphite” chiffon. The bridal consultant called the designer and said it wouldn’t be a problem! YAY!

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Tip: If you are planning a wedding and you want your bridesmaids to pick different styles and colors of dresses, then make sure you ask the vendor to send you a fabric swatch of the materials. This way, you can see what colors blend well with the shades that you’ve already picked. We have 4 more dresses to go…Here is a few pictures from our trip!

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Here is the link to the beautiful Jasmine Dress that Mary chose to wear on me and Matt’s wedding day! Great start, Maryfish. Love you…


Boys- are you thinking about buying your girlfriend, fiancé, or wife some roses and chocolates for Valentine’s Day? Don’t. Roses are over played and just seem like you are falling into the category of people that crack under pressure by this commercial holiday. Instead, get creative in your present to your woman! Here are my favorite options…

Flowers. If you are going to go the flower route take advantage of the “farm-to-table” concept. I don’t mean go to a farm and pick your own flowers. I mean when purchasing flowers, take into consideration where the come from and the ones that are in season, because they will look the best. If you wanted the most beautiful roses that weren’t shipped from across the country, then Valentine’s Day should be rescheduled from February 14th to mid-spring through fall. Also, take into consideration the fragrance of the flowers. After all, this is a sensual holiday.


Candy, Chocolates, and Food. Just like smell, taste is another strong sense that you want to trigger on Valentine’s Day. Instead of buying a heart shaped boxes from Whitman’s, try making something that will impress your significant other. If you really want to impress your significant other, come up with a menu that is comprised of foods that are known for their aphrodisiac qualities! Foods like honey, chocolate, and oysters are associated with sparking reactions of energy, love and passion.


Jewelry. Staying in theme with the “farm-to-table” (farm fresh flowers) and DIY (making a romantic dinner yourself, instead of going out to dinner) purchasing jewels that are handmade are perfect for this kind of holiday. I can’t tell you how much time, heart and soul my mother, Laurie (owner of Bare & Me) puts into each piece that she handcrafts. From her Keepsake Pendants to her Heart and Arrow necklace, your significant other would be lucky to have one of these in her jewelry armoire! (Also, girls! Don’t forget about you mothers, sisters, and friends this year!) They deserve one too! Click the link “SHOP” at the top to view my mom’s collections. You won’t regret it! 😉


I have a challenge for you. Don’t let people tell you that Valentine’s Day is the only day to treat you significant other, mothers, dads, sisters, brothers, and friends to something special. Telling someone constantly that you love them and appreciate them is what makes the feel special. Surprising them with small gifts here and there will have a bigger impact than a diamond on Valentine’s Day. Spread the love! Remind each person in your life that you hold close to your heart, and tell them that you love them…everyday up until Valentine’s Day…through your actions and through your words. Then, once you see how easy that was, continue to do so throughout the entirety of the year! We love you guys!


Jessica Calkins

How To: Personalize Your Desk at Work

I am currently a Designer for an Interior Design firm in DC and have been working here for about a year. Lately, I have been feeling like my desk has become an unorganized mess; quotes and drawings, fabric samples, paint chips, post-it notes, and our client folders everywhere. This morning, I ran to Home Depot to return a switch plate that our client didn’t need and as I was walking to the customer service desk, I saw a stand of succulents. My favorite kind of plants! Before checking out, I convinced myself to buy a mini succulent pot for my desk at work! I have been thinking that I need to personalize my desk for a while now, but I haven’t really motivated myself to do so. There are many days where I am out running errands to running to appointments with clients to my boss, but there are those days where I spend most of my time doing office work and spend all day sitting at my uninviting, unattractive desk. Spending your day at a desk all day, is not the best thing for your psyche…Here are some tips that I will be implementing and I hope you do to!

Organize. This is the most practical step to personalizing your desk. Purchasing containers to hold your pens, folders, office supplies, etc., will not only organize your desk but decorate your desk to your style! Here are some cute ideas for containers for your desk at work…

Add color. Color is going to be the most obvious change to your workspace and will brighten up any day at work. You can add color to the containers or office supplies that you’ve purchased. If you work in a cubicle, then add some colored wallpaper to the walls of the cubicle like in the picture below!

Buy a plant. If you purchase a plant, like a succulent, make sure you get one that doesn’t need a lot of attention. Don’t forget that plants need a light source to stay alive and grow. If your desk is by a window or close to another light source, purchasing a plant is ideal. However, if your not near a sufficient light source, then buying flowers that you leave in water and replace weekly is another option.

Frames and Art. I don’t know about you, but a picture of my puppy, kitty, family, friends, or fiancé on my desk would brighten up any day of mine at work! Maybe you have a child and they drew something for you. Since your refrigerator door is already full of family portraits or something that seems inspired by a little Picasso, save one of those pieces of art for your office!

Check out the photos below for some inspiration!

Jessica Calkins

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On My Way Down the Aisle: Bridesmaids Dresses

Thinking about walking down the aisle to marry my best friend, is quite nerve racking. I’m sure there are a lot of girls out there that feel the same way. Every time I think about each step I will make towards Matt, my eyes start to tear up. When the song that Matt and I chose to walk down the aisle to plays on my Pandora Station at work, my eyes start to tear up. When I think about my Daddy walking me down the aisle arm and arm, my eyes start to tear up. But the one thing that I am excited about is having my best girlfriends stand by me while I make the biggest decision of my life, my bridesmaids.

My bridesmaids Mary, Samantha, Adrienne, Delaney, and Kristin will stand by my side on September 13th this year and I could not feel more blessed to have them a part of my wedding. Something that we are all excited about are the bridesmaid dresses! After choosing my dress, it’s now time for us to shop for them… Bridesmaid dresses should never upstage a bride, but enhance the brides dress and the theme of the wedding. There are different paths you can take when choosing the dresses.

Figure out everyone’s budget for the dress. Nowadays, you can either BUY or RENT a dress. One of my favorite websites for Buying or Renting a dress is! They offer a bunch of styles of dresses in different colors. Because the shop is online, they will send you fabric swatches to make sure that you are satisfied with the color. Perfect! Once you buy or rent the dress, they send you two sizes in case the other does not quite fit! Little Borrowed Dress takes the guess factor out of purchasing a dress online.

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Same dress, same color. This is the traditional bridesmaid dress scenario. The style and the color of the dresses are the same. Usually, the bride will chose the dress and whether you love or hate the dress does not matter! You would wear anything to make your bride happy!


(This obviously isn’t a picture of bridesmaids but flower girls! My sister (Samantha) and I are leading the flower girl line! Thought it was too cute not to put in this post! Still shows the same dress, same color concept!)

Same dress, different color. This is another bridesmaid dress scenario that is a bit of a twist of the traditional same dress, same color. This could either be a hit or a miss. If you are not careful with the colors you chose, there will not be any sense of consistency in your wedding photos. However, if you can pull this off, your wedding photos will be creative and fun! One of my favorite themes for same style with different colors is pastels.


This is a photo from my friend Adrienne’s wedding with her two bridesmaids my sister and I! Different dress, same color! Adorable…

Different dress, different color. This could also be a hit or miss. I was a bridesmaid in my friend Kristin’s wedding and she could not have pulled it off more beautifully! Her colors were a champagne/blush theme. The different shades and styles of dresses created a bohemian/eclectic look. Each bridesmaid felt comfortable in her dress, considering we all got to pick our dresses!


This photo, shot by Kati Rosado, is a PERFECT example of how to accomplish the different dress, different color deal! Well done, Kristin! ❤

I love each of these options for Bridesmaid Dress shopping! My favorite is probably the different styles of dresses with different shades of the color of your wedding…I might steal that from you Kristin ;).


Jessica Calkins


Bringing the outdoors into my home is something that I truly believe breathes life into my space. Here are three of my favorite indoor plants…



I love everything about succulents. The variations of color and textures. They are also very hard to kill. You can plant these in anything…

Fresh herbs…

fresh herbs

Fresh herbs not only look great when you plant them in little pots, but they also taste great in any of your recipes! YUM! Cilantro is my favorite…

Golden Pothos…


The Golden Pothos is a plant that will never die! I love the Golden Pothos for its beautiful long green vines with marbled leaves. Golden Pothos are also known from improving air quality!



Jessica Calkins