Birthday Bling

Tomorrow is my birthday!!! I picked up a few new pieces of jewelry from my favorite Chicago Jewelry Designer Nakamol! She has a store on Michigan Avenue. You can also find her online on Facebook. Accessories have always been one of my favorite things to wear. Here are my new pieces:

This necklace is reversible:

I couldn’t decide between yellow gold and rose gold, so I got both: 

I love statement necklaces and unique jewelry. I recently donated 15 – 20 pieces to a local women’s shelter, so it was time to add more pieces to my collection.

I’ll have a special birthday blog tomorrow. 

The Quest for the Perfect Carry-On

I do a lot of travel and have yet to find the perfect carry-on bag! Here are the bags that I’ve tried so far:


Longchamp ‘Le Pliage Neo Large’ Tote

Retailer: Nordstrom


(1) Beautiful Color

(2) Durable External Material

(3) Versatility – Can be dressed up or down .


(1) Straps are too short (bag often slips off shoulder during travel)

(2) Shape prevents the bag from standing up

(3) Difficult to get to things at the bottom.

Lo & Sons – The O.G.

Retailer: Lo & Sons Website


(1) The bag holds a lot, but still maintains its sleek look.

(2) Nice long shoulder strap.

(3) Padded laptop compartment, keeps machine safe and separate.


(1) Started having zipper trouble pretty early on.

(2) Heigh of bag doesn’t allow it to slip easily under seats on the airplane.

(3) Longer should strap isn’t comfortable.


Coach Turnlock Tote in Crossgrain Leather

Retailer: Coach and Macy’s


(1) Zippered bag. Many of the totes in this style have a button closure. The zipper totally sold me, as I like to have security AND in case the bag falls, I don’t want my stuff falling all over the place.

(2) Perfect everyday bag that pairs well with in both business and casual settings.

(3) Shoulder length allows you to throw the bag on your shoulder and go.


(1) Coach bags in light colors stain easily.

(2) Shoulder straps have some of the seams ripping. Coach usually repairs bags free of charge, but the life-cycle of my Coach bags usually last much longer.

(3) No feet!


I just picked up the Eagle Creek Emerson Carry-All (above) today and it will be joining me on an upcoming trip to Abu Dhabi. I’ll share my review upon my return!

The Quest for the Perfect Carry-on continues! I know the perfect bag is out there!

Tips To Better Manage Your Time…


I use both a paper planner (Kate Spade Wellesley, that I purchased on Amazon) and a digital calendar (Google Calendar).

On Instagram there is an entire community where we share photos, tips, etc. I’m a huge Scrapbooker, and Planning (with a paper planner) is just like that because there are stickers, accessories and all kinds of adorably cute things to get to accentuate the planner.

So here are the first two days of the challenge:

Day 1 – My Planner Selfie


Day 2 – My System

FullSizeRender 2

My system includes my Kate Spade Wellesley, my colored ink pens (more about that later), and my Sticker Binder. I’ll share more about that later.

This is the time of the year to reflect and to plan, so if you’re in that process here are some resources to help you!

I’ll be participating in #PlanWithMeChallengeDecember all month, so you can follow me on Instagram @blkgrlunmasked, as well as check back here for more explanation!

Tools To Set Your Goals:

This is also the time of year that I start pulling things for my Vision Board. Learn how to do your own here:

This was how I spent the last month of the year, last year! May have to copy & paste some of that into my calendar/to-do list:


15 Years of Beyonce… and Counting!


I’ll never forget watching BET and seeing a group of teenage girls singing, “You be saying no, no, no, no… when it’s really yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.” At the time I was 14 years old and had just started high school. My estrogen was high, my energy was high and I could identify with the four girls who reminded me of myself. They reminded me of my cousins as we created our own dance routines and learned all of the words to their music – on tapes… (smile)


I’ve been a fan of Beyonce since I was 14 years old, so tonight I’m celebrating a 15 year fan-ship. I feel like I grew up with Beyonce and her songs have been the soundtrack of my life.

Dangerously In Love dropped my freshman year of college and “Crazy in Love” was my theme song as I had a new boyfriend and loved doing the “Uh oh” dance lol. It also captured my feeling of independence and control after all I was officially “grown.”

B Day dropped in 2006, the year I graduated from college. “Upgrade You” was my song of choice because I had my degree! I was confident and I knew that I was an asset to everyone I interacted with including my ex-husband who I was helping get through college.

Bow Down

I am Sasha Fierce in 2008. “Diva” was definitely my favorite song on that album because I was hustling. I transitioned from working at a great school into working for the best school not only in the city but the country (Michelle Obama was just one of the famous alums), and I even made up my own alter-ego. D. Nikki 🙂 “Halo” would also describe the new guy in my life the following year and “If I Were a Boy” and “Irreplaceable” became  my favorite songs as I said goodbye to a bad relationship and marriage in 2008.


I’ll never forget the moment Bey told the world she was pregnant in 2011 with “Love on Top” because I was pregnant too (R.I.P. to Biko, my baby girl who passed away when I was 5 months pregnant). I used to listen to “I Was Here” on repeat during my recovery after my loss and “Love on Top” still makes me remember the joyful 5 month connection I developed with my little girl inside my womb. During that time I also learned that she had a miscarriage which made me feel even more connected to the artist because that is a life altering experience. Blue Ivy is her miracle baby or as we call it in the fertility world “rainbow baby.” Her ray of sunshine after the storm of loss.

Bey Preg

This morning I downloaded Beyonce, an album that didn’t need any marketing and that wasn’t announced because, well, it didn’t have to be. Why spend (waste) money on a marketing budget, when you’ve built a media/entertainment empire? It also goes to show the power of branding and of people, because this album is about to obliterate whoever is sitting in that #1 spot. Beyonce’s music has always been released at pivotal moments in my life and this current album is no exception.


King Bey, as she called herself one day inspires us to work hard. She pushes her body to its limits and she gives her performances everything she has. Seeing Beyonce is an experience… She still maintains some of the mystery and magic of her persona by not revealing everything about her personal life. She is very careful about what she releases and she’s not a camera-whore. She’s gracious and classy. She takes risks – I appreciated her support of then candidate Barack Obama and I love to see her pics of her vacays – jetskiing, bungee jumping, touring the pyramids. She reminds me to not only work hard but to play hard.


I love seeing her connection with Jay! They are great business partners and they obviously inspire each other. I love how they collaborate on most of their projects and I love that they are continuing to grow and expand their empire.

So tonight is celebration of life of the last 15 years! I’m going with one of my best friends and we are going to scream the lyrics, dance and completely let loose. So world, I need you to “bring the beat in…” Make way for the Queen!!!

Memorial Day… An Office Update

Happy Memorial Day! Thank you for taking a break from the barbecue to catch up with me! I’m actually spending the day scrapbooking.

Before I get into today’s topic, I have a 90s R & B/Hip Hop playlist to die for: My playlist includes “Don’t Walk Away” by Jade, “Hey Lover” by LL Cool J, “Candy Rain” by Soul For Real. My playlist has a total of 278 tracks and all you have to do is follow me on Spotify and subscribe to the list. It’s all free! Leave Pandora, iTunes & the other music players alone! Trust me, you won’t be sorry!

This past weekend I did some much needed organizing in my office. Here are the pics:


Caption: I’m still planning to find a new home for completed albums. I finally got the bottom two shelves in order. Everything has its own place!


 Caption: I still love my gallery wall. Next to the cabinet I have some stackable open storage. That is currently being used for my alphabet stickers and the basket on top has adhesive. Eventually it will ALL be uniform. 


Caption: This is my little technology table. I keep my printer, cameo & Xyron sticker maker on top. The inside of the cabinets still need some TLC. 


Caption: I made a little extra room on my desk to have a larger work area. Under my desk I keep my most frequently used Project boxes. 

Image Caption: Next to my desk is my vintage green file cabinet (found on Craigslist!). The side of it is magnetic so I can put inspirational & pretty things right next to me. 


Caption: My Srapbook friend made these cute magnets for me. We truly are “scrap sisters.” 


Caption: Last but not least is my Inspiration Board. I plan to update it at least once every 6 months. I would like to make collages of some sort out of the things that I take down that I really like, and then I will frame & hang the collages. 

I’m still in desperate need of some curtains, an IKEA Raskog Cart, and a cute area rug since I spend so much of my playtime on the floor. I hope you enjoy your memorial day!

Modesty is Beautiful


I had the opportunity to see Imaan Ali at a fashion show recently and fell in love with her style. She’s a beautiful Muslim woman who started Hijablog in 2008.


So many times, women think that they have to show a lot of skin to be attractive and appealing and Imaan reminds us that we can still be stylish. I love the way Imaan wraps her hair, and she layers clothing in a creative way.



I also love the way that she shops at affordable clothing stores like H & M and Forever 21. I’m really going to channel Imaan next year during the Fall & Winter when Chicago gets blistering cold and layers are absolutely necessary. Her looks also work for my job where as a High School Teacher it is both professional and necessary to air on the side of caution and dress a bit conservative. Conservative does not have to mean boring or stale. Try a little mystery next time you get dressed.

Beautiful Flowers for the Season

Last summer I delved into gardening a little bit. I created a beautiful end of summer/fall collection: At the beginning of the summer I started with two little containers on the porch Last summer was our first year in the house and I didn’t want to do too much so I kept it pretty simple.


I went with a friend to three plant nurseries this past weekend. The first place we went was called Gethsemane Garden Center . They had everything from annuals (plants that only last a year/season) to perennials (plants that come back year after year), to shrubs. I also fell in love with the options they had for containers.


The second place we went where I purchases most of plants was called Orchids by Hausermann. Not only did they have a huge orchid garden, but they also had a hefty collection of plants and flowers at excellent prices. Here are some of the orchids:





This place had about two football fields of orchids in every color, shape, variety and stage of growth!

Most of the flats were $15.99 a piece. A flat is a tray full of the same variety of flowers. Then they had a great deal for annuals where if you bought 12, you got them at $3.99 per flower instead of $4.99 per flower. Both rates were the best out of the 3 nurseries we went to.

Here are the flowers I went with:


These border the bushes in the front of my house.


These are the flowers I bought for the two containers on my porch. The old ones were dead and never came back and I decided I’d plant annuals since annuals are known for their color versus perennials which come back every year.

Here is the finished product:



Here is the container on my porch:


And of course I couldn’t leave “The Orchid House” without any orchids so I bought two white ones for the dining room table. Both containers were also purchases at Hausermann’s:


Playing in the dirt feels so good. It takes me back to my little girl days of being outside making mud pies and getting an extra layer of skin made out of dirt. Nature was created to heal our spirits by the creator.

dirty hands

Shady Plants…

Now that I’ve planted my tulips and hyacinths that one of my coworkers gave me:


I’m ready to start focusing on the walkway:


Last summer, the plants that I had were not shade resistant. I also waited until the Fall to do anything about the area. The two containers were a nice late summer touch. This year after doing a bit of research and talking to the experienced gardeners I know I’ve decided to go with the following plants which are shade resistant:


Hostas are lovely plants that come in a variety of green and green with light or white trim. I think I’m going to go with the bright green variety. They are also perennials so they will come back every year.


Purple palace is a great border plant. I think I will plant this up against the fence.



Right in front of the Hostas, I’m planning to plant some impatiens. Since these will last through summer & fall, I’d like to go with either orange, pink or purple.

I will keep you updated on my gardening & landscaping. Last summer I pretty much only planted in 2 containers on the front entryway. This summer I’m going to have a wider variety of plants both in the ground and in containers.