An Uncomplicated Life Blog: 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Otto's Birth Story Trial Run

The morning of December 1 I was woken up by contractions. Actually, that's a lie, I was woken up by having to pee for the fifth time in three hours, then noticed the contractions. They came every 2-3 minutes for an hour. So I woke up hubs and said, "I think this is it!!" Except, it was not it. It was just a hilarious trial run to the hospital to have little Otto.



But y'all need to hear this, because it's GOOD. Yes this is a long post. It's like a chapter book instead of a picture book. But the story is good and I think you'll be entertained if you can hang and read it out with me! Let's wind back to 2:30am on December 1:

I wake up to pee for the 3,498th time that night. Come back to bed and cause an earthquake get situated on my right side. And I notice my whole abdomen is seizing up and somewhat painful. "Hmmm, contraction! Whatever. Knock that off, I'm tired and want to sleep more." But then shortly after the first one, before I was able to drift off into a peaceful slumber odd-pregnancy-dream-laden-mess I've been accepting as sleep for the past few months, another one came. And another. And more.

Hubs jumps out of bed. I didn't wake him, he did it on his own. He grabs the baby monitor with a camera on Henry and checks on him. This stupid contraption is bright enough to guide planes in on a landing strip, and our whole room becomes illuminated. "Do you think it's cold in here? Henry is sitting up! I think he's cold" he says to me. "No; I'm 9 months pregnant and having a hot flash. If you're worried about him, go give him another blanket!" and I roll over, annoyed and contracting.

I decide, hey, maybe I should time these things. Maybe these aren't more practice contractions - I was 1cm dilated at my last prenatal appointment which, because of Thanksgiving, was over two weeks ago, and I wasn't going in to be seen/checked again until December 7. So I pull the iPhone closer and start keeping tabs on these things. Hubs didn't give Henry another blanket, he just laid back down and fidgeted before he started snoring softly. I'm convinced he was actually sleep walking and not fully awake and with the program.

The contractions didn't slow, but didn't pick up either. Just every 2-3 minutes. For an hour. "Crap! It might be time. Lemme Google when you're supposed to go in..." You know, because I had Henry early and via emergency c-section, I didn't know these things! Most online sources said to go in when they were every 5 minutes for one hour straight, lasting a minute or more. Ok, I thought, time to wake people up!

Hubs was NOT impressed. When I got out of bed, he asked me what I was doing. "Um... putting on clothes to go to the hospital?" I replied. "What?!" he asked. Oh lord, I thought, he's still sleepwalking and I'm going to kill this man before we even leave the house... I just looked at him and said very clearly, "I'm having the baby now." To which he replied, "But I don't want to have the baby right now..." and I had to walk away before I decked him.

I head into my closet. I swear, the contractions took any and all limited brain power I had in the middle of the night, shat on it, and put it back in my head. I stood there for a solid 5 minutes, wondering what people wear to the hospital. I looked for some yoga pants but couldn't find any I liked. So I gave up and started to pick out what JEWELRY I was going to wear. I mean, what?! Then I realized I was still naked and actually getting cold in our home I keep at 67 overnight to ward off hot flashes...

So what do I grab to wear? My pre-pregnancy, decidedly non-maternity size 26 skinny jeans. Y'all, I couldn't get those over my big toe if I wanted to at this point, but that's what I thought I should "wear into labor and delivery." C'mon Paige. Luckily, I realized how dumb I was before I even attempted to put them on (and therefore start to cry because no 9 month preggo is a skinny jean size 26) and put them back for a pair of leggings, tank, cardigan and Uggs.

Hubs got my mom up, and she came to see how things were going. She told hubs to call either the hospital or my OB to see what they or she would want us to do about going in (FINALLY, someone with a brain to offer good advice!) Hubs asked me for the phone number. "I don't know the hospital's phone number or my doctor's after-hours number! Google it!" What does he do? He goes off in search of a packet they give you when you have your first prenatal appointment. Who knows where that is or how long that would take him vs. pulling up Safari on his phone and making a quick search of it; no, he wanted a paper-source number.

Like it was 1946 and we needed a yellow pages to find this information or something. 

But hey, that was cool, because I was busy trying to pick out what jewelry and non-maternity designer jeans to wear to labor and delivery.  We each were our own brand of stupid.

Not this time, little Otto... I had to wait over two more weeks to finally meet you!

Finally, my mom gave up on him and called the hospital herself. They said to check with my OB. I called my OB, and she said I should come in to get checked since I have a history of early labor and a previous c section. We load up the car, and as we kiss my mom goodbye at around 4am, hubs still says, "I just don't want him to come right now!" Get it together, buddy, you don't get to chose!

We get on the freeway. I ask hubs if he knows where he's going. He casually says (you know, like most men do when they have NO IDEA where they're going but don't ask for directions either) "Um, what's the exit I should take again?" So there I am, contracting and navigating for my dear husband. I get him to the hospital campus, but don't know exactly where labor and delivery is. He decides the most prudent route to take with a wife in labor is to just drive around until he sees it.

This is one of the biggest hospitals in the fourth largest city in America folks. The hospital is... Oh, I don't know... NOT SMALL.

After a full circle of the property, I tell him to pull over and GOOGLE IT. My answer for everything while in labor, I guess. See, the thing is people (and by people I mean my family) always ask me the questions and come to me for answers; I was smart enough to know I was too dumb to know anything and therefore should delegate to Google.

Hubs searches for the address, and we take off in what we think is the right direction. Except... The building is under construction. "It's the same building we were at last time, right?" he asks. "Yes, it's where we had Henry. That doesn't even look familiar!" I reply. "Well, this is the address it's giving me so let's park and find a way in."

NO. I knew it wasn't right. They have VIP parking for women in labor, and it was brand new when we were there last May, so it wouldn't be under construction. I pull out my phone and search it. I got a way different address. "THIS is where we need to go babe!" He still thinks his idea is a good one, and that we should park and walk to the address he found. It was all I could do to keep from ejecting him from my car and driving to the address I had found myself...

So obvi, we go to the address I found and it was it.

We park and hubs tries to get me to go in a door I knew wasn't labor and delivery. "See that sign? That says LABOR AND DELIVERY. That's where we want to go!" and I walk off and leave him in the street, miffed that he was still being so hardheaded and stupid at 4:30am. I thought, "I don't normally want to kill him, so I must be in labor..."

We go in and they give us our own room right away. The bonus about a middle-of-the-night-labor scare is no triage! It's straight to your own room. I had a lovely nurse who asked me 1,283,947 questions. Then the resident came in and checked me. She told me my stats, and said she was going to call my OB. By this point, I'm noticing my contractions aren't 2-3 mins apart anymore. She comes back with the news I expected: I'd be much more comfortable at home, because I could end up being there for a good while, and would likely face interventions that weren't necessary because of it.

No baby this time! In fact, I wasn't even in real labor. Early labor yes; but not active labor. I had to wait 18 more days to meet Otto. His REAL birth story is forthcoming!

Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year's Resolutions 2016

What New Year's resolutions do you have planned for 2016?

I find that there are two kind of people in the world: the "I love setting resolutions every January!" kind and the "that's so dumb, why are you setting yourself up to fail" kind. I'm more towards the love them kind, but I like my resolutions served with a big side of reality. It's dumb to say *this is the year* you're going to master chef techniques when you currently burn microwave popcorn or go from couch potato to Boston marathon runner. But New Year's resolutions as manageable goals? Heck yes, I'm down!

We already know that I love publicly setting SMART goals for this blog, keeping you informed of what I'm up to behind the scenes and holding myself accountable for growing this space as a creative business venture for myself. Here's a blend of both professional/blog and personal "resolutions" I have for 2016!


Run my first road race since 2013. The last race I ran was the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon in September 2013 when I was pregnant with Henry but didn't yet know it. I PR'd. And then promptly stopped road race running... And, pretty much stopped all running. Two back to back pregnancies will do that to you! But I'd like to get back into it again this year. It'd be great to run just a 5k before it gets too hot, so I'm thinking this race will be a great {re}introduction to road racing!

Diversify where my blog traffic comes from. When I wrote this post, I had no idea my "traffic bubble" had just popped. Here I was, sitting at nearly 200k page views a month and I thought, "FINALLY! I've made it as a blogger!" But all that traffic was coming from Stumble Upon. It wasn't just one post - all my posts, all summer, exploded on SU. I'm at least smart enough to know that one post going viral on a promotion site doesn't equal blog fame! But I thought the traffic would last - and it did, for about three months. Then it died off. When I realized it was a "bubble" I knew I had to diversify where my blog traffic comes from so that I can consistently get the page views I want (need?) to grow my brand. So I focused on growing Pinterest. And learned some social media hacks. I want to continue driving referring site diversification through this year!

Figure out this whole "mom of two" thing. Whoohoo, I've got a newborn and a toddler! I'm not sure it gets harder than that. Oh wait, I work from home without a nanny... Indeed it does! I want to give myself the time I need to spend with my boys, adjust to this new season in motherhood. Hopefully, without going cray cray.

Are you a New Year's Resolutions kinda person, or do you think they're strange? Tell me what yours are if you're into them, and why they're weird if you're not. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas Holiday Break!

Merry Christmas to all my readers celebrating the season! Happy Holidays to all that don't! I'm taking the week to celebrate with my family. Enjoy your time with your loved ones, spiked eggnog, lights, and late night visits from Santa Claus.

Peace and love to you! I'll see you back here on Monday (Dec. 28) for some fresh content before we jump into the new year!

Image source

Monday, December 21, 2015

Blogger Christmas Gift Swap

I read about the blogger Christmas Gift Swap over at Jasmine's blog (she is an AMAZING beauty blogger, btw. Her looks are always beautiful!) I had never done anything like it before and thought it would be a fun way to get involved with some other bloggers over the Christmas holiday and spread some cheer.

I was right. It was fun! And so simple to participate! I just filled out a google doc form, was paired with a blogger, sent her a few emails about her likes/dislikes and went shopping. Then I packaged it all up and mailed it to her, and she did the same for me.


There were a few hiccups... Like, the Dallas post office was a friggin nightmare the day I was supposed to mail my blogger's things to her. The line was out the door and when I got in, they were out of the size of box I needed AND bubble wrap. So I did the best I could with a few bubbles a stranger was kind enough to give me and a Target bag I blew some air into. Of course I decided to mail her a monogrammed teacup that was highly breakable with several items to roll around in said box to smash it. I was so relived when I got word her things arrived safely! Note to self: Next year, but shipping packaging at Target instead of relying on the shoddy post office...

Mistle from Sweet Tea and Hydrangeas went above and beyond with my package! Two packs of hot cocoa, two nail polishes in colors I adore, a lip treatment, my favorite lip balm, lip gloss, Starbucks and spa gift cards (!), and the best mascara I've ever tried to date. She was so thoughtful and so giving! It was a blast to get her package, and it put a serious smile on my face.

Beauty and lifestyle items from the Blogger Christmas Gift Swap

If you've ever considered participating in some sort of blogger swap, I highly recommend it! It's a fun way to connect with other bloggers and get introduced to some new products. It's also fun to see how people interpret you from a questionnaire and from your blog! Mistle did a FANTASTIC job "reading" me, and Jasmine did a wonderful job coordinating this blogger Christmas gift swap! I'm already excited for next year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Currently December 16 Edition

It's been a long time since I've written a life update post, and I'm not at ALL doing what I thought I'd be doing or where I'd thought I'd be for mid-December. Like, not at all! So here's the quick gist of what's going on over at my place in east Dallas:

- I'm still pregnant. At 34 weeks they *thought* they saw some growth issues with Otto that would have resulted in a 36-37 week delivery. I went to a {very expensive, out of network} specialist a few days later to confirm that, and she basically said, "Yeah, I'm not sure what they were seeing, but your baby boy is textbook perfect and very healthy! He's sizing great." I followed up with my OB who did her own ultrasound (instead of the tech) and she said the same thing: "He's looking great!" So no inductions. And unlike his brother, he's pretty happy in here, so despite contractions and dilation, no baby. Yet. Still. Why. Get out. Now.

A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on

- Today is Henry's Christmas pageant at school! He's a sheep. Can you even?! Hahaha! I can't wait. If there's a silver lining of still being pregnant, it's that I get to watch Henry attempt to be still and play a sheep at the birth of Jesus. This is going to be hysterical! And totally adorable. $50 says he takes a Shepard's staff and throws hay.

- Remember when I wrote these birth predictions? So the early part isn't true, and I'm also changing what I said about heartburn and hair color. I'm now operating at heartburn level one million and am eating Tums like it's my job. Perhaps another blond baby like Henry will eventually join us, because that child damn near killed me with heartburn and came out as bald/blond/peachfuzzy as they come!

- I JUST started my Christmas shopping. Like, *just* as in, I'm going to do it in a minute, right after I finish this post. Any other late shoppers out there? It's me EVERY year. Who are these people who get it done by Black Friday? What are their secrets?!

Ok, I need to end this post here. Because if I don't skip out and actually do this Christmas shopping NOW, hubs wont have anything and I'll be a terrible wife. Henry is too young to know or care, and honestly, he thinks the wrapping paper is the best part anyway, so I'll still be a rockstar mom to him regardless. I have a great post coming up Friday that you wont want to miss! I'm off for consumerism hell, tootles. 




Monday, December 14, 2015

A Helpful Gaget For Newborns

This machine assists in making frequent newborn feedings easy!

Fact: I'm not a gadget person. I don't get into technology and don't get amazed by the latest thing that will "revolutionize" something. My husband is! You should see our remote control for the TV. Heck, you should see our TV... It's a miracle I can even turn it on. Anyway, Gerber® found out I was having a new baby and sent me a BabyNes®. For the first time in 31 years, I got excited over a gadget that will be SO helpful for the tough newborn phase with Otto!

If you or someone you know is having a new baby soon, check this awesome & helpful baby gadget out! Gerber® BabyNes®

Here's the quick synopsis of how the BabyNes® gadget/machine works: You get formula cups with nutrition designed for the age of your infant. You put it in the BabyNes. Press on. And in under 60 seconds, you have a warm bottle of formula ready to go, in the perfect serving size for your baby's age. Sound kinda like a Keurig for babies? Yeah, same simple-to-use concept with the added benefit of targeted nutrition for your kiddo!

Y'all know from this story that I breastfed Henry for three months and then transitioned to formula. I also plan on breastfeeding Otto for at least the same amount of time, if not longer. It's nearly 2016, and we all know that Breast Is Best, even formula companies like Gerber®! I'm a breastfeeding advocate and feel confident partnering with companies like Gerber because they support breastfeeding women. And bottle feeding women. And mom's in general, no judgement from them anyway you go about feeding your baby! That's the message I support.

Gerber® BabyNes® nutrition system
As an experienced mom, here's the thing you absolutely cannot plan for with an infant: The effects of sleep deprivation. It is NO JOKE. You also can't control if you'll have a big eater and constant nurser, like I had with Henry. He wanted to nurse every two hours, around the clock! That meant I was getting about one hour of sleep at a time, and a total of about four hours per night. That's not a sustainable plan, my friends, and why formula can be a Godsend to moms - even those of us who have no latch or supply issues! It's clearly a saving grace for moms who, for whatever reason, cannot nurse at all.

Formula for the BabyNes®
Now that I know what sleep deprivation can feel like, I have a pretty solid plan for breastfeeding my second son, and the BabyNes® fits into it PERFECTLY. Of course, babies have a tendency to have their own plans so I realize this might go straight out the window. Regardless, my current plan is to breast feed Otto during the day, then give him a good last feed before I go to sleep. If he's an eater like Henry, hubs and I will switch on and off between me getting up and feeding him and hubs getting up and giving him a bottle from the BabyNes®. If he's a good sleeper and only wants to eat once or twice at night, hubs and I will trade off nights of who's on "baby feeding duty."

After we got our BabyNes® and saw how friggin' cool it is and easy to use, we decided to keep it in our master bath so that we have easy access to it during the night. That sounds gross, but chill out - our master bath is about 350 square feet (that's an entire apartment in NYC!) and the toilet is in it's own room, so I'm not worried about bacteria splashing up and infecting Otto's bottles any more than bacteria would get into them from the kitchen sink. Having it steps from our bed and Otto's bassinet will make our lives so much easier - and let us return to sleeping that much faster!


Having a newborn is exhausting work. Your life revolves around diaper changes and feedings. But the BabyNes® makes it easier, even if you're planning to breastfeed like I am! Having daddy be able to take one feeding per night off my hands makes me feel more confident already about breastfeeding my second baby. The prospect of having a bottle ready for Otto in under 60 seconds is mind-blowing to this experienced mama. Instead of dreading the newborn phase, I find myself prepared to tackle the challenges, and excited to use this helpful gadget for our newborn!

Friday, December 11, 2015

5 Common Grammar Mistakes To Stop Making Immediately

Correct 5 common grammar errors with these easy rules!


Hey look, I get it. English and grammar isn't everyone's strong point. Maybe you snoozed in class, maybe there are too many rules to remember, or maybe there are too many exceptions to the rules to remember! When I was learning French, I remember distinctly hating all those dang exceptions after I memorized verb conjugations, so I totally get it. But if you're employed and writing emails on behalf of your employer, if you're a blogger writing on the internet, or if you still hand write letters, we need to talk about 5 grammar mistakes to stop making IMMEDIATELY.


Forgive me if I appear snarky. I'm very pregnant. And very tired of having to re-read sentences because the grammar is so bad, I can't tell what you're actually trying to say. Here are the biggest mistakes I'm seeing, and how to fix them:

1) When to use "me" and when to use "I"
This is the biggest offender by far! So many times, people think they're writing correctly by saying, "My sister and I" or "My husband and I." But many, many times, the I is incorrect. It should be "me." How do you know when to use I and when to use me? Simple. Take the other subject out of the sentence. Does it make more sense to have I there, or me? Here's an example:

"We were hoping for a call back today, but nobody has spoken to my mother or I." To determine is this sentence is gramatticaly correct, take "my mother" out of it. You're left with "We were hoping for a call back today, but nobody has spoken to I." Does that make sense? No. You'd use me here. The sentence should read, "We were hoping for a call back today, but nobody has spoken to my mother or me."

When in doubt, take the other subject out, and you can figure it out! I should trademark that. Copyright of Paige, right there.

2) The difference between "your" and "you're"
This is probably the second biggest offender I see on blogs. Which is surprising, because it's not a complicated grammar rule to follow. In fact, was doing some blog pinning and came across a pin talking about what to do "now that your done with college." I thought, for real?! Is that supposed to be a joke?! Are you sure you even graduated college...? Ok, I'm getting too snarky. Pregnancy hormones, y'all. Regardless, check out the difference in meaning:

YOUR: Possessive adjective. Signifies ownership. Your car, your house, your children, it's all yours. It's describing something (adjective) that is yours (possessive).
YOU'RE: Contraction of a pronoun and a verb. It means "you are." You're coming with me, right? It signifies that the pronoun (you) is utilizing the verb "to be" (which conjugated for you is "are").

Here's a tip on how to always implement it correctly: When using you(re)(r) take the r or the re off and insert "are." If the addition of "are" makes sense, you want the contraction "you're." Example: "When we leave, should we take you're car or mine?" Is that sentence correct? Let's see. By taking the re off you're, we're left with: "Should we take you are car or mine?" NOPE. You'd want to use your in this case. For the college education pin I mentioned above: "What to do now that your done with college" would read "What do now that you are done with college." Make sense? YES! So the blogger really meant to use the contraction here, not the possessive adjective. I'm hoping she really learned that in college grade school and it was just a typo.

3) Where to put a period mark when using quotations
Here's one I learned the hard way! I remember it well. It was 2009 and I was submitting chapters of my Master's thesis to my committee chair for editing. I myself didn't know if the period should be inside or outside the quotation marks, but my best guess was out. WRONG. My chair was so annoyed with me, she refused to correct any more of my work until I corrected all my quotations (and in a thesis, you're quoting a ton of sources!) by placing them inside the quotation marks.

In MLA, Chicago and AP (Alternative Press) styles, which are the standard for media writing, the period ALWAYS goes inside the quotation mark. You don't have "floating periods." <--- case in point. Nothing should ever look like "this". <---floating period.

4) The use of the word "irregardless"
This one is really simple. There are no rules with this word. Why? BECAUSE IT IS NOT A WORD. Regardless is a word (I used it in number two intentionally to demonstrate meaning) but irregardless? Double negative. Not a real word, despite it's use in American speech. Don't believe me? Look it up (oh hey, I did it for you!) You start to use this word in your writing and you may as well use gooblygunk instead. Actually, that may be a word. Irregardless is not.

5)The use of the word "alot"
This one is also super simple. ALOT IS NOT A WORD. It's a lot. Two words. They're separated. With a space. In fact, spell check is angry with me just for writing that, so I'm not sure why I see it so often, but I do. I get that spell check doesn't catch everything, especially grammar, but dang! Run a spell check over your post or your email before you hit publish or send, and you'll look a whole lot smarter.


I hope that was helpful for a grammar brush up, or maybe even a learning opportunity if it's been a while since you've reviewed English grammar rules! Heck, you could even be flipping me the bird for my grammar-police-snarky commentary throughout this post, I don't care. As long as these 5 common grammar mistakes are stopped immediately and your communication is more clear because of it, it's a win-win in my book!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Blog Year-End Review

Conducting a year-end review for your blog to increase page views and business for the upcoming year


There's two kinds of bloggers, I've found: Hobby bloggers who do this purely for fun or for family. They don't post terribly consistently, don't usually attend blog conferences and rarely know the first thing about SEO. Then there's the professional bloggers, who look at their blogs like a business. They research, learn, and attend conferences; solicit brands and change things when they don't work. I fall into the latter camp, and view this blog like my business. So, just like in the working world, I'm conducting a year end performance review, and thought I'd share it so that any other professional bloggers can do the same with their blogs and brands!



Conducting a Blog A Year-End Review 

Year-end reviews always go over successes and goals met, highlight a few really great/bright spots in the year, discuss areas for growth and set a plan to address those areas moving forward. That either sounds really dry to you or gets you really interested! Likely, if you're a professional blogger and have an entrepreneurial side, it gets you excited. Either way, I'll keep it brief. The longest year-end review I had to write was nearly 70 pages and had an indices (fact!), and aint nobody got time for dat.

I started writing these posts because to be honest, reading other bloggers goal and income/traffic reports are what's responsible for my blog's success. I started this blog with no idea what I was doing or how to grow it. I only knew that I loved writing and creating, and hoped one day I would be good enough to earn some money with it. I learned through posts like this WHAT was possible and HOW to do it. 
An Uncomplicated Life Blog: Year-End Review
Successes: 
  • Monetized. I successfully started bringing in consistent income through this blog. I wrote this post on how I did it and some mistakes I made, but overall I feel really good about it. I went from averaging about $50/mo in early 2015 to $250 by the spring, and well over $1,000/mo by the end of the year.
  • Learned and implemented SEO basics. I look back on what I used to title posts, and while they were clever and funny, they didn't reveal anything about the actual post. AKA, they weren't searchable, didn't use keywords and therefore, people couldn't find my content. I read up on SEO and attended two blog conferences, and Google is now in my top 5 referring sites.
  • Site traffic more than quadrupled. At the beginning of the year, I was getting about 10K page views a month. Over the summer, I had an explosive 3 months with Stumble Upon and got up to 200K page views a month. I've settled into a constantly increasing but normalized growth pattern, and now average about 50k page views a month. Not as glorious as my summer traffic, but I'll take consistent growth!
  • I learned how to use Pinterest to drive traffic. All the way up until May 2015, I thought, "lifestyle bloggers don't need Pinterest! We talk about life, how does that translate to a pinnable pin?!" SMACKS FOREHEAD. In May, I got over myself and realized that I indeed needed Pinterest. I took three solid months and focused exclusively on this channel. I read every Pinterest article I could find, took my followers from about 280 to over 1,400, started creating pinnable images in my posts and now Pinterest is always in the top 3 traffic drivers to my site. If you're interested in doing the same for your blog, read this.

Highlights:
  • Getting my first real check was pretty awesome! I had done posts for product in 2014, but actually getting money to write and do what I love was AMAZING.
  • I was featured via One2One Network.
  • This post was my most viewed in 2015, and I'm so so so thrilled at the supportive response I got from it! It's true, I was paid for it, but it goes to show that when you tell your personal story about utilizing a product, people connect with both you and the brand - and that makes both you and the brand some very happy campers!
  • My sponsor chose to pay to promote this post for me on their social media channels. They have nearly 5 million followers! I got the traffic boost and they got the promoted message. Another example of a blog-brand collaboration win-win. Because of their promotion on my post, it was my second most viewed post of 2015.

Improvements needed:
  • Instagram. Photography doesn't come naturally to me. I have to think about images and plan and edit them. Basically, images are the most work behind all blog posts for me. Instagram is like it's own driving force of images and your blog's brand. You can't hyperlink in it (yet?! I hope that changes in 2016) so it's not a traffic driver to your blog - it's simply it's own thing that can make you money, support your brand, or ultimately end up hurting your brand if it's not done well. I think my account is decent. I want it to be GREAT. And running a GREAT Instagram account is nearly as much work (to me) as running this blog.
  • Diversification. The bulk of my blog's income comes from two sources. I need to diversify that if I ever want to make full-time level money blogging. Late in 2015 I added affiliate links but I need to learn how to implement these well/effectively. I was also just accepted to two more brand-blogger connection agencies - SITS Girls (iSway) and Pollinate Media Group. I need to continue diversifying who pays me to really round out a solid income stream in 2016.
  • Fashion posts. I started doing more fashion-focused posts at the end of 2015 - mostly on Instagram. And I was overwhelmed with the response! Pea in the Pod, Mothers In Protest, Warby Parker, and countless others all reached out and said, "We want to work with you!" As a non-fashionista, I'm shocked. And flattered! I need to determine if this is something I want to focus just my Instagram on (see first bullet above) or if having a regular series is blog-worthy. 
  • Photography. Ahhh, photography. See bullet one. But apply it to my blog, too. Add in the fact my host is Blogger, and it changes your images up (read: lowers the quality) despite the best editing. I *think* I've figured out how to get my images the same size (no, it's not as simple as sizing them the same pixels, not on Blogger!) and I've really worked to improve them (see my point about Pinterest) but when I see great blogs with great shots, I realize how far I have yet to go.

Plan for improvements:  
  • Take a photography course. Thank goodness I live in a massive city, with ample access to both community colleges and photography stores and centers. The Dallas Photography Center offers a ton of classes - day long, weekend long, or multiple week stuff. I want to take one of those to work on improving both my blog and Instagram images.
  • Utilize the different income streams I have access to. I'm now a member of seven blog-brand connectors, and just added an 8th. Being a member is the first step, but doesn't translate into income unless I utilize those resources! I want to make it a point to interact with these people and the brands they represent frequently to increase and diversify my income. 
  • Start DOING. A lot of blogging is planning and preparing. You see it in editorial calendars, and in blog groups of Facebook that have endless questions from potential bloggers doing their research before they actually start DOING. Heck, when I go to blog conferences, I usually meet at least a handful of attendees who haven't even launched a blog yet! They're "busy planning and getting ideas" for their potential, future blog. WHAT? Seriously? Having a plan is cool, but you need to start acting on it! Case in point, my ambivalence about fashion. I can plan, read up on, scheme and strategize for months on that... But who the heck knows what will actually happen until I start DOING it? My best advice for other bloggers is to get moving and start doing, so I'm going to take a page from my own book (like that pun?!) and just start doing things to see what works and what's successful there. 

That's the breakdown! It's really interesting to think back on this year and give it a thorough, comprehensive review. This process has helped me plan well into 2016 and has given me tons of ideas and concepts to work on moving forward. If you're looking to take your hobby blog to the next level or already are a professional level blogger, use this year end review template to conduct your own review to advance your brand and your blog in the coming new year!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bringing Home A Second Baby

 Preparing to bring home a baby, from an experienced mom's perspective


We are in the final, final, final stretch of pregnancy before we bring little Otto home! A second baby is so much easier to prepare for than the first. I feel like I have somewhat of a clue this time around - what to buy, what NOT to buy, and in my case - because I'm having my second boy 19 months after my first - what to pull out of storage and wash! It's been really fun preparing to bring baby 2 home.

Bringing home a baby soon? An experienced mom shares what you'll REALLY need to have ready for your little bundle of joy!

We've pulled the infant car seat out of storage and washed it. It's so surreal re-adjusting all the straps back down to the smallest sizes! We re-inserted the infant holder into the baby swing. The swing has been out in the nursery this whole time. Henry took no interest in it (since he's long outgrown it!) but as soon as I started to get it ready, that kid wants to put his stuffed animals in there and watch them swing! Hopefully, he just watches his brother swing too, and doesn't try any "big brother" moves on him... Wishful thinking?

This time around, we got a fully loaded Pack n' Play for our room. Newborns wake often, and it's easiest to keep them in your room with you for easy feeding and changing. With Henry, we just had a tiny bassinet and put a changing pad on a book case. It was a pain the the rump! So we smartened up with baby 2 and got a fancy pants "system."

Bringing home a new baby soon? Invest in a fully loaded Pack n Play to make midnight feedings and changes easier!

This thing is amazing! It has a removable bassinet, a sleeper that vibrates, plays music and makes white noise sounds, a changing table that can be folded down for storage (where I'm keeping burp cloths and muslin's - new moms, you'll want TONS of these on hand and at the ready!) with a LIGHT and diaper wipe storage container and diaper holder. It's like the fully loaded BMW of bassinets, y'all!

I'm most excited about the changing table and storage. With Henry, we had the diapers and muslin's out and visible in our master bedroom and it just made the whole house feel consumed by "baby." But with this, I can easily store my Huggies wipes and Huggies Little Snugglers diapers. They're easy to access quickly, but hidden away from eyesight. Perfect!

Have your changing table stocked and ready for when you bring your newborn home! Nobody wants to go on midnight diaper runs.

Speaking of, the only thing newborns really need is their mama (if breastfeeding), bottles (if not breastfeeding), blankets and diapers. Seriously, clothes aren't even mandatory! Now, I've pulled out some of Henry's old things and purchased a few new outfits, but I kept those at a minimum because you're changing them so often! Yes, newborns poop poop a lot. Which is why it's a good idea to stock pile newborn and size one diapers! Huggies are available in-bulk and on the cheap at Sam's Club, so I made sure to stop in there and get some! Ahhhhh, having two under two and in diapers. It's not cheap folks, and being able to buy diapers wholesale at a discount is pretty much the greatest thing.

The car seat is ready in the back of my car, the swing is ready, the nursery is set, our bassinet station is set up and we're well stocked with muslin's, burp cloths, wipes and Huggies Little Snugglers! That's just about everything I'll need to bring home baby 2. The rest is just fluff and excess.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Improving Your Personal Time

Personal time is rare for anyone, but there ARE ways to sneak in a quick moment just for you!


When was the last time you had a minute just for you? To think? To eat in peace? To be mindful and present? Quality "me time" is so rare these days, no matter what you do for a living. Whether you're a SAHM, a work at home mom, a work outside the home mom or not a mom at all, modern life is demanding and takes us away from simple moments in life! I thought I'd share how I like to improve my personal time, rare as it is, in hopes that you can squeeze in some quality "you time" this holiday season too!



Here's what I do to be a happy, healthy person - despite little to no "me time" and added stress of the holiday season:

1) Get moving. Spend some time on a yoga mat, go for a walk, go for a run, or hit up a fitness class. Getting yourself moving produces serotonin in your brain and makes you SO much happier. Oddly enough, it boosts your energy too! Just 20-30 minutes a day is all you need to feel the benefits of movement.

2) Don't eat garbage. "You are what you eat, so don't be cheap, fast or fake." Ever heard that? One of my favorite sayings. But in our world, we often NEED fast if we're going to eat at all. I'm a huge fan of these protein bars! I can throw them in my bag and eat on the run, and know that I'm not eating my weight in fat grams or ten times my weight in sodium! Even better, you can click here for a coupon to try them at a discount!



3) Play YOUR favorite tunes in the car. I don't usually get "drive alone" time anymore - I've always got little passenger(s) with me. Driving used to be my de-stresser time, and when I started to stay home I nearly went cray cray. So I decided that, as the driver, adult and therefore decision-maker, I would continue to play what I wanted to hear while we drove to help relax me. Now Henry is all about dem jams, and more times then not, I see him with his hands up in the back seat, having just as good a time as me!

4) Make snacking healthy and communal. Henry still eats some "toddler food" but mostly, he wants whatever I'm eating. He's still too young for nuts (no allergies - just not enough molars to grind them down. FYI, toddlers shouldn't have nuts until over 2! Nut butters are totally cool provided there are no allergies) so I found my favorite brand of protein bars in an oatmeal chocolate flavor. When he gets super fussy the hunger hits, I break out one of these for us to share. I love that it's full of protein! Getting a toddler to eat protein after they've discovered carbs is no easy task, amirite mamas?!



5) Let go of guilt. If you need a minute, you need a minute! Don't feel bad about taking some time for yourself. We all need mental health breaks to relax, meditate, be present and remember how grateful we are for what we have. If you repeatedly don't take these moments for you, you'll be grumpy and agitated. Slow down, calm down, and focus for YOU, even if only for a few minutes each day.

Improving your personal time is so important, especially over busy holiday schedules! Remember that it only takes a few minutes a day, a little planning and the benefits of having some "you time" are enormous!

Hey fellow bloggers, want an easy way to earn money to tell your stories? Sign up with Linquia and start earning by telling your story!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Leftover Turkey Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Looking for new flavors and a creative way to use up the dark meat from your holiday turkey?


Thanksgiving has come and gone and the next wave of holidays are quickly approaching! Basically, it's turkey season. And turkey season means leftovers. Lots of them too, if your family is like mine. While I love stuffing, and leftover-inspired sandwiches and soups, here's the deal: I can only eat so much butter-induced, sage-flavored, overly-rich food before I want to brush my teeth and not eat for a straight week! I also never know what to do with all the dark meat that gets picked over. This year, I did a massive "flavor change" and mixed things up with a big pot of gumbo. And let me please tell you, this will be a new tradition!

A great, healthy and tasty way to use up holiday turkey, especially the unpopular dark meat!


Any of you who cook regularly can understand me on this one: I think I'm a good cook, but it always tastes better when someone (mom, I'm looking at you!) makes it. So I rarely ever impress myself with my cooking - it's just good to really good. But y'all. Y'ALL. I straight up impressed myself with this pot of gumbo! Even as the cook, I wanted to lick my bowl clean!



Leftover Turkey Andouille Sausage Gumbo

- 1 package andouille sausage
- 1 C leftover turkey (I used all dark meat)
- 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 bell peppers (I used orange and red; green is classic but hubs hates green bell peppers)
- 1 medium onion
- 32oz vegetable stock
- 1/2 C flour
- 1/2 C olive oil
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 2t thyme
- 2T Worcestershire sauce
- 2 C uncooked rice (white or brown, we used brown)
- Salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste

Dice up the onion and bell peppers into medium bite-sized pieces. In about 2T of olive oil, saute in a large dutch oven style pan. When they've just turned soft, remove from pan and set aside. Slice the sausage into bite sized pieces. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, and brown the sausage on medium-high heat.


Once the sausage is browned (you'll want a nice, deep color on it) add the flour to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the leftover turkey. Pour about a half cup of the vegetable stock to the pan to "de-glaze" it (aka, get all the flour and sausage bits off the bottom of the pan with the liquid and stirring) and then add the remainder of the stock. Add the diced tomatoes, sauteed veggies, bay leaves, thyme and Worcestershire sauce. 

I love eating all these colors after a monochromatic holiday meal!
Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for an hour, uncovered and stirring occasionally. In a sauce pan, cook the rice. PRO TIP: If you want your rice to turn out fluffy and not sticky, use half the amount of water called for by the directions on the package. It took me over 30 years to figure that out! (Also works for fluffy quinoa - use half the water called for, always!) Taste the gumbo and season with salt and pepper to taste. I found that with the sausage, turkey and veggie stock, very little salt was needed!


Serve in a bowl, with the gumbo going in first, then spoon in a large spoonful of rice. Add hot sauce to taste. I paired mine with a Louisiana cane sugar root beer (LOVE being neighbors with Louisiana and having their products readily available in my Texas grocery stores!) and found that the sugar went really well with the spicy, savory gumbo. Enjoy some Leftover Turkey Andouille Sausage Gumbo!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Winter Maternity Style

Cute maternity fashion and style ideas for winter pregnancies


Ahh, winter season is upon us. And I'm STILL pregnant. And oddly, I know so many others who are expecting as well! They say that you notice things more when it happens to you, so it would make sense that I'd notice other pregnant women more, but I'll be danged if it doesn't seem like every blogger and a good chunk of my friends are expecting and due between Feb-May of next year. So ladies, this post is for you! A cute maternity look you can rock all winter long.

Winter maternity style. How to look cute pregnant this winter by layering fabrics to stay warm and fashionable in maternity clothes

We don't really get "winter" here in Dallas. We usually get one ice or snow(ish) storm a year and maybe two weeks of weather where the high's are in the 30 degree range. Other than that, it's how my Minnesota self would define "fall" weather. After putting in the better part of a quarter century in the most miserably cold place in the world (besides Canada), winters in Texas are absolutely amazeballs.

Sperry duck boots are perfect for Southern winters - keep your feet dry and warm!

You know what we do get, though? Rain. Lots of it. So these Sperry duck boots are great because unlike Hunter boots they're lightly lined to keep your toes warm in the cold, but just like Hunter boots the bottom is all rubber so you'll stay good and dry!

How to layer fabrics for winter maternity fashion and style


Another winter phenomenon here is rapidly changing temperatures. In the morning it can easily be in the 30's, so a down vest is perfect for warmth! But by 11am, it could already have climbed into the 50's, so a long sleeved shirt with an infinity scarf is what you need. Sometimes it will even be 70, so I'd ditch the scarf in that case, too!

Layers keep you the perfect temerature all winter long. Long sleeved tee shirt, down vest, wool infinity scarf

Basically, winter fashion in the South is all about layering and being prepared for rain. The mornings require a good amount of warmth, while the afternoons could even be "balmy"! This winter maternity look is perfect for that level of unpredictability with jeans, long sleeved tee shirt, a down vest, duck boots and a scarf. Put it all on in the morning and take most of it off before lunch - or not!

Layers for winter maternity fashion and style


Want to shop this post? Check it out:




Maternity style can be hard, especially during the winter months when you can't wear a maxi or a skirt! These items fit well and hold their shape, are layer-able for ever changing weather and look great whether you're a part of this baby boom or not!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Anti-Black Friday & Saving For Your Child's Future Instead

I was going to take the day and hide from America's display of ultimate consumerism, but Voya reached out to me to ask if I, as a former financial advisor, would talk about children and savings. The irony of my ability to post about this insanely important topic on such a huge spending day wasn't lost on me, so I jumped at the opportunity! While I won't sit here on some high horse and tell you to skip Black Friday all together, I will tell you why saving for your child's future is important!


Hubs and I might be what you call a financial "power couple." We both have our securities licenses, therefore passing the "bar exam" of the financial services industry, and since hubs is still employed in this area, he has his insurance licenses in all 50 states. We don't carry debt outside of the mortgage we have on our two homes. Hubs might have more licenses, but I had nearly a perfect credit score by the age of 25. I remember buying a car when I relocated back to Minneapolis for a job, and the salesman looked at me in awe and said, "I've never seen someone so young have a score that great before. That car is all yours!"

Am I bragging there? I sure am. Absolutely. Because being financially responsible IS something to brag about. It's rare. And the education and discipline it takes begins with teaching your children how to manage money and save. You as the parent need to lead by example.


Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to pump away into a savings account for their child, and the good news is THAT'S OK! You don't need that much money (but if you have it, I recommend saving it over spending it...) Can you start with small increments? Absolutely! The key to building a great savings account is actually starting it, and contributing to it regularly. Even if it's just $20 per paycheck, putting that away will add up over time. And odds are, you won't miss that $20, but your child will benefit from 18 years of you putting that away every week!

Ok, so we know that starting the savings process is key. We know that the amount being saved is less important that the consistency of adding it to a savings account. But what else can be done to build a great financial future for your child(ren)?

Ask your friends and families to make contributions to that (or other) savings accounts as gifts to your kids instead of spending money on toys and games! Last year for Christmas, we had both our folks make financial contributions to Henry's account instead of asking more toys he doesn't need, and frankly - he doesn't even want. Now both sets of grandparents contribute to that account and simply mail him a book or small care package over dropping tons of cash on toys that will be worthless and meaningless to Henry in a matter of months or years.


We aren't alone in that strategy, and if you implement it, you won't be either! Did you know that over 33% of parents reported in a Google Consumer Survey that they would prefer monetary gifts for their child over anything else? Consider that the next time you go to a child's birthday party!

And check this amazing opportunity out: If your child was born on Oct. 19, 2015, all you need to do is go to Voya and enroll your child for a $500 mutual fund. They're giving all babies born on that day a jump start in their savings by just giving away the money! Now I'm not sure why they didn't pick Oct. 16 (my birthday) since it's an awesome day, but I'll never shun a financial institution for helping families get more financially secure, so I'll deal with them selecting the 19th at random. Registration is open until Dec 18, 2015, so hurry and get it done!

Look, if you've already enjoyed a good spending splurge on your Black Friday, don't feel bad. Spending sparks the economy and that's important! Just don't forget to save for your child's future, too. Voya makes it easy for you, and they're also giving away $500 in mutual funds to all babies born on Oct. 19 of this year, so be sure to enroll or pass that info along to anyone who has a child born on that day. You're responsible for teaching your child good financial habits, and that starts with modeling great financial responsibility and demonstrating the ability to save.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're either off work already, or sitting at a desk in your office reading this because you're the only one holding down the work fort, doing a little blog reading and online shopping until you can safely leave the office extra early. Yup, I've been that employee! In fact, I used to never take the day before Thanksgiving off because it was so awesome to be at the office. Can we say two hour lunch?!

Is this what the first Thanksgiving looked like? Doubtful, but its a pretty image regardless! Image source

My sister and her fiance are in town, we're baptizing Henry tomorrow at the Thanksgiving service, and then we'll cook up all the traditional Thanksgiving eats. I really only care about the stuffing/dressing. Y'all know the difference between the two? Stuffing is what's cooked inside the turkey; dressing is what's baked in it's own pan. Other than that, it's the same! I plan on eating nothing but stuffing and gravy, all day tomorrow. Hope Otto likes carbs, fat and salt, because it's coming to him in the biggest way!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May your day be full of friends and family, early morning parades, perfectly cooked turkey's and multiple flavors of pie. Enjoy your families and Black Friday, if that's your kinda thing. It's certainly not mine. But shop on, shoppers. Shop on.

Monday, November 23, 2015

9th Month Bumpdate

It's the LAST bumpdate! Holy cow. I'm technically one week away from the 9th month, but I never go to 40 weeks, and I got some information last week that confirmed we will be having this baby SOON {details below}! I'm so ready to get this little baby out. All the way up until about 34ish weeks I kept thinking to myself, "Oh no! I'm getting close and I'm not ready to be done yet - I want to stay pregnant!" And then sometime in my 34th week a light switch went off and I thought, "Yeah. Now. Now is good. I'm done."

All about the final month of pregnancy, and a look back at all nine months of the baby making process

Thankfully, my body is bizarrely connected with my mind, and "being done" will indeed be the case in the next week or two. Wait, what?! You read that right. Read on for the details!

Want to catch up on the previous months? Here's my pregnancy with Otto, month by month:
Announcement
4th month
5th month
6th month
7th month
8th month

Mood: This isn't exactly a mood, but I have been insanely tired. I'm talking anemic-level tired, for those of you who have been anemic before. I go to bed at 9 and sleep until 6:30 and if I didn't have a toddler to chase after, I be taking a two hour nap at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and I'd be resting/sitting on the couch immediately after dinner. As it would turn out, I have a toddler who makes that impossible. Better luck next time. Oh wait! Nope. Not how that works either. If you're on your first pregnancy, soak up all your ability to actually rest, 'cuz you ain't never gonna get that again!

Craving: It's officially official: Pregnancy cravings are a bunch of bunk. It's emotional/hormonal eating... So if you don't eat/crave weird things on your period or just generally in life, you won't while you're pregnant either. Nine months of two pregnancies and not one single craving. Oh well!

Weight &Workouts: The workouts slowed to just 3-4 a week - see below in updates for why! Walking causes MAJOR, timable contractions and yoga and barre put MAJOR pressure on my cervix. So at the 34 week mark, I toned all the workouts way, way down just so I'd make it to 36 weeks! At 35 weeks, I'm up just shy of 20 pounds. That's a huge jump from last month but I got reprimanded from my OB about it, so I went on an eating mission to find extra weight. And I was successful, my friends. All in all, looks like I'll be up 22-23 pounds with this babe. I'm quite pleased with that!


Updates: I had my last growth scan at 34 weeks. Otto has a massive head (so does Henry - tall and brainy, just like their mama!) but his abdomen was sizing small. There were already calcium deposits growing on my placenta, which means that's it's aging. My doctor looked at that and said we'd likely be inducing at 36 or 37 weeks! (No definitive date yet because I'm seeing a specialist to confirm dates this week, after this post publishes.) He was still thriving, but she doesn't want him to get to the point where he isn't, so an early induction for me it is... That is, IF I don't go into labor on my own. I was also 1.5cm dilated, 60% effaced and his head is fully engaged in the birth canal (LAWD HAVE MERCY, have I been feeling that pressure, too!) so I might just go on my own. I'm contracting regularly, and it really picks up steam after I workout. And thus, why I slowed the workouts down.

Predictions: 
  • I think this baby will come sometime in his 36th week (that's NEXT WEEK, just FYI), just like Henry did (H was 36 weeks, 4 days). I have a OB appt on Dec 7, and I'm not convinced I'll make it to that - I think it will happen before, just based on pressure and the strength of contractions I'm already having. 
  • I think he'll weigh just about what Henry did (H was 5 pounds, 12oz - not shabby for a 36 weeker!) because at my 34 week scan he was sizing about 4.5 pounds. 
  • But unlike Henry, I think Otto will come out with a head full of dark hair, just like his daddy! I had HORRIFIC heartburn with Henry - I'm talking vomiting your stomach acid multiple times a day, every single day level heartburn - and I've had all of about 10 Tums with Otto. So I think he'll be my dark boy, simply because he's the opposite of my blond boy. 
We'll see if any of my predictions are right! I'm ready to meet this little guy. And for some Christmas cocktails. That's a wrap on 9 months of bumpdates! Watch for the flood of newborn baby pics on social media in the next week or two. Ahhhhh!!

Friday, November 20, 2015

When Bloggers Give Bad Advice

Honesty moment: I'm terrified to write this post. I do not mean to offend any of my fellow bloggers, or upset them, or berate them in any way. But there's a current trend in blogging that bloggers are using to get higher traffic (no shame there, we all want higher traffic!) and more pins on Pinterest and it's to the detriment of blog READERS: Tips posts, how-to's, and advice columns. I'm reading so many of these that are genuinely bad, bad advice and I need to call attention to it.

Tips, how-to's and advice posts are EVERYWHERE, and bloggers have jumped on the trend to increase page views. But what if what they have to say is bad advice, outright wrong, or worse yet - illegal?

Before I jump in, I want to clarify that I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. I don't live some dream life where I have everything figured out. I think I've even written one or two tips posts myself, although honestly that's it because I despise them. I'm much more into story telling, and telling my own truth, and if you relate to that then lets hang out and talk and be friends! And if not, move on to another blog post, it's all good.

That said... Tips and "how-to" posts. Oh bloggers. Please stop. Please? We know people have PhD's in "google" now and head there first for information. You write these posts because it up's your search rank and people pin the heck out of "How to Improve Your Marriage in 8 Simple Steps." That increases your page views and makes you feel more successful, and perhaps even lands you a few more lucrative sponsored posts. But the reality is, you're not a therapist. You're not a counselor. You're not a Pastor/Priest/Rabbi/etc. and odds are very good that you're still in your 20's and trying to figure out the direction of your own life. Bottom line: You're in no position to write these kinds of posts.

I'm not talking about the tips posts on how to get the perfect holiday pout, or 6 new ways to have fun during girls night out, nor even "how to blog" posts where bloggers share how they've achieved results in something. Those posts are harmless, fun to read and can even boost your own blog with someone else's knowledge! I'm talking about the stuff that can really impact someone's life.

Like the breastfeeding post I read (I was interested in some tips as someone who is about to start breastfeeding again) that belittled formula and mom's who used it and could be summed up as one judgmental rant against moms who "bailed out" of breastfeeding, for whatever reason, and how *that blogger* deserved praise because she just stuck it out. Literally, her advice was "it's so hard but so worth it." Well, thanks for nothing but judging people, blogger. You really contributed to the tips for breastfeeding success club. I'm so much wiser because of your words. Cough *sarcasm* cough.

Or the post I read providing educational tips for youngsters that ended up being a sponsored post for a grammar/spellcheck company (no disclosures to tell that it was a sponsored post either, which you know is a huge no-no!) The bottom line of her advice? Just let the teachers handle education, then hire this company to proofread your child's college application essays and other important high school work. No. I'm not joking.

Those are easy to snicker at because they're clearly bad advice. But some of it isn't so easy to decipher.

There are countless posts on marriage advice, how to interact more/better/deeper with your spouse, what to expect in the first year of marriage, how to best move in together, how to handle the birth of your first child... And on and on. Some of these are just plain BAD posts with BAD tips, and some are fine but guess what? Because it worked for you and your marriage doesn't mean it should be branded as "10 ways to have a more meaningful marriage." If it worked for you, that's great, but that doesn't mean that will work for anyone else, or that you're the marriage expert, or that you're now in the position to help others find meaning in their marriage. All it means is that it worked for you. That's it. You're not an overnight marriage counselor, and while I'd love to read your post as a story on how YOU found meaning in YOUR marriage, it's irresponsible to come across as some sort of expert who's in the position to dole out advice to people who are desperately searching google for legitimate help.

There, I said it. Those posts are irresponsible to write and put out in the public sphere of the internet.

Before you get too bent out of shape, I'm certainly NOT saying that you can't share with your readers your struggles and what has worked for you! Those posts make you relateable and likable as a person. Let me use my own work to illustrate the difference I'm talking about. I wrote this post on how I get my toddler to bed every night by 7pm. It's written as a narrative but outlines what I do each night that results in zero bedtime struggles. The title is how I get my toddler to bed every night by 7pm, not "8 tips for a better sleeping toddler", nor "3 steps to have your toddler sleeping every night." I have no idea if what works for me will work for you. One child doesn't make me a sleep expert, nor will two, nor 10 (NOT having ten kids, just saying!) I simply shared my story, and if you find some helpful hints in it, I certainly hope they work for you too!



Another example: This post on how I struggled with breastfeeding and incorporated formula, which resulted in everyone in the house getting more sleep and generally being happier. The title is happy baby, happy mama: my formula for happiness. Not, "How to get more sleep with an infant" nor " 5 tricks to get your baby to sleep through the night." Again, I don't know if it will work for you, I'm certainly no baby sleep expert! Not only that, it's actually illegal to recommend topping a breast fed baby's feeding off with formula so that they sleep longer. Yes, there are actual laws that govern advice columns (because so much of it on the web isn't from a legitimate source!) If you're throwing tips/advice out there for kids, mental health, adult health or even fitness, you'd better be aware of them. Which again, is why it's better to simply share YOUR story and what worked for you and leave the actual advice giving to the professionals.

Look bloggers, I get it. We all want more sponsorships and we want clicks and page views. You want it and I want it. But I'd really encourage you to think about the implications of your tips posts before you hit publish next time. You don't know who's reading your post, and odds are really good you're not actually an expert (and may even be giving bad or illegal advice!) in education, or marriage, or breastfeeding or a host of other topics. I'd love to see us leave the advice to the professionals and focus more on sharing our stories. Because at the end of the day, that's all we have. Our stories. Bloggers are simply people with stories to share, not experts with advice to give.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Christmas Cookie That Actually Tastes Good

Make the holiday calories worth it with this Christmas cookie recipe that tastes great!


I'm not a sweets person. And while I find Christmas cookies usually beautiful, I'm often left thinking this after I've indulged: "So that was really pretty but it didn't really taste that great and now my mouth is coated in butter and sugar and my hips have an extra 150 calories on them. Fan-friggin-tastic." My MIL sent me my husbands (who I should note does indeed have a sweet tooth!) favorite cookie recipe, so I decided, hey! What about if I turned it into a Christmas cookie so that we have some around the house that actually taste good?

Christmas cookies always look beautiful, but many don't taste as good as they look! This is a Christmas cookie recipe your whole family will love

Winner winner, Christmas cookie dinner! I turned these traditional "Monster Cookies" into Christmas cookies, and they're festively delicious.

Monster Christmas Cookies
- 4.5C quick oats
- 1C packed brown sugar
- 1C refined sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2C butter
- 1.5C smooth peanut butter
- 2T baking powder
- 1T vanilla extract
- 1/2t salt (cut this down to 1/4 teaspoon if your peanut butter is already salted - mine wasn't)
- 1/2C chocolate chips
- 1/2C M&M candy pieces
- decorative sugar crystals, if desired


In a large mixing bowl, blend together the peanut butter, eggs and butter. Add in the refined and brown sugar, baking powder and salt and beat well. If you have a Kitchen Aid, this will be easy for you! I didn't so I used good old fashioned elbow grease and worked up a sweat mixing it. Fold in the chocolate chips and candy pieces. Try not to eat all the dough.

Mmmm, cookie dough!
Take about two tablespoons of dough and roll into balls in your hand. Place on a nonstick cookie sheet. These cookies don't spread, so you can load them up on the sheet! Then use the flat bottom of a glass to smush the cookies out to your desired thickness. A thicker cookie will be chewier; a thinner one crispier. Sprinkle with decorative sugar crystals and bake for about 12 minutes (give or take, depending on humidity and elevation. Check cookies at the 9 minute mark to see how they're progressing and how much more time they'll need!)


Once they're just firm to touch and golden on the bottom, remove from oven and immediately use a spatula to place them on baking racks to cool. Wait until fully cooled to remove and store in an airtight container. I'd tell you to wait until they're cool to eat them too, to prevent them from falling apart in your hands, but who am I kidding? You think I waited? Nope. Dive in friends.

Christmas cookies can look beautiful, but many don't taste as good as they look! This is a Christmas cookie recipe that your whole family will love making and eating

Serve them up with a glass of milk for Santa, a dry white wine for dinner party guests, or leave them out for snacking whenever! Enjoy these Christmas cookies that actually taste good.