An Uncomplicated Life Blog: September 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

DIY Photography Backdrop

Something that has become painfully clear over the last few weeks was that I really REALLY need to work on my photography skills if I'm going to become a more successful blogger. Photography for blog images, Pinterest pins and Instagram shots is just as, if not more important than, being a good writer! It's how we promote our posts and our brand. An easy way to improve photography is to invest in a backdrop. Seeing as those are hundreds of dollars (or more!) I decided to create my own DIY photography backdrop.

Let me tell you, I'm no DIYer. I'd much prefer to go out and purchase the item, already done and shiny and new! But the price tag - nay, sticker shock - of a backdrop from a photography store led me to get creative. If you're like me and not a DIY gal or guy, fear not! This was so, so easy, even you can do it.

What you'll need:
- Foam boards
- 1 yard of fabric per foam board (if using a 30x20 board; more fabric if using a larger one)
- pair of scissors
- normal sized stapler

First, I purchased three foam boards. I went with a 30x20in size, and wouldn't recommend going smaller, although larger is fine. Then I headed to a fabric store. I wanted to keep the boards fairly neutral so they don't dominate my shots, but with something interesting in the fabric to provide contrast for whatever I was filming. I went with two grey tweed-like boards and one white with a circular pattern.

Colors and patterns I chose for my DIY photography backdrop
I chose to do two grey boards so that if I'm photographing something that needs to be stood up (or a vertical shot), I can prop the other board up behind it and continue the backdrop color and feel. This way, the attention stays on the product or object, and not a messy counter top or other "noise" in the background!

Ok, back to DIYing business:

STEP ONE: staple one edge of fabric evenly over the foam board. I started with the long, horizontal side, and stapled about every 2-3 inches to securely fasten the fabric to the foam board.

DIY photography backdrop: Step One

STEP TWO: pull the fabric on the opposite side taught, but not so tight you create "pulling lines" in the fabric. You can turn the board over and look at the front as you pull to ensure you're not pulling too tightly. Then, staple the opposite side into the foam board. I like to pull the from middle first, then work my way out to the edges to ensure my pattern was even on my board.

DIY photography backdrop: Step Two

STEP THREE: Next, the shorter sides. I had too much fabric, so before I began to secure the fabric to the board, I cut it down to a more manageable length - exactly like you would do when you wrap a present!

DIY photography backdrop: Step Three

Once it's trimmed down, pull taught just like you did for the long sides, starting in the middle and working your way out to the corners for an even pull of the fabric. For the edges, fold them like you were wrapping a present, bending the corners in. Secure with staples.

DIY photography backdrop: Step Three

Repeat until all corners are secured, then follow up with staples every three inches or so to ensure the fabric is secured to the foam board. Repeat all these steps until you're done with all your boards.

Boom. Pretty easy, if you ask me! I'm pretty excited to get to using these. They're super easy to store on the side of my desk, or I could even lay them flat in my crafting closet. Next time I need to style a blog or Instagram photo, I'll just use one (or two) of these for a crisp, clean background. No more counter tops, carpet, or quickly clearing junk out of my shots! Have you tried a DIY photography backdrop to improve your photography?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

To The Woman Who Publicly Shamed My Mothering Skills

You read that title right. This past weekend, I was publicly shamed by a woman for my "dangerous" mothering skills.

Allow me to explain:

Hubs had been gone the entire previous week. Whenever he's gone for more than a day or two, we have a bit of a "transition" period with Henry, as he's old enough to know daddy is gone and he does not like it. We had plans to go to the Rahr & Sons Brewery Oktoberfest/5k event. Hubs was going to run, and I was going to hang with H. Being seven months pregnant, I'm not running much! Well, that morning was the first time Henry had seen daddy in five days, and it was the dreaded "transition" time... Aka, toddler tantrum hell.

We got to the event and H was out of control. He didn't want to be in the stroller and he didn't want to be out of it; he didn't want daddy to carry him and he didn't want me to carry him and he certainly didn't want to be on the ground and heck no was he walking anywhere. He didn't want a bottle of water but man oh man, he didn't want you to take it away from him either! It was, without a doubt, the worst tantrum I've ever seen my normally calm and well behaved child throw.

I told hubs to just head off to the start line; sometimes Henry calms down when it's just him and me again. I thought returning him to that familiar situation might help. So hubs left. I let Henry SCREAM at my feet for several minutes (we were outside and a band was playing so we weren't disturbing anyone who wasn't immediately near us. And trust me, people walked away! Quickly, too.) Henry was not calming down, despite my best efforts. Then he started to crawl away, banging his head into the cement purposely as he went. Just a complete hot mess of a toddler.

"Ok!" I thought. "Ignoring is doing nothing - I need to take away all his stimulus until he's under control again. This child is completely out of it and will hurt himself!" So I grabbed him to pick him up, and he lunged this 30 pound body nearly out of my arms. I squeezed him into me, and gave him a whop on his butt to get his attention. Then I looked him in the eyes and said, "No sir. That is ENOUGH. You need to calm down and get yourself under control!" I strapped him into his stroller, tightening his shoulder harness so he couldn't squirm out. I pulled the over-sized sunscreen down and faced the stroller into a wall so he couldn't see anything - you know, taking away all stimulus. I handed him a bottle so that he could self-soothe himself calm.

It worked within 30 seconds. He stopped kicking and screaming and crying and drank some water while he chilled out.

I had just taken a my first breath of non-tantrum, peace-filled-air when a woman came about 10 feet away from me. "You know, that is NOT how you handle a baby. You are a DANGEROUS mother," she spat at me, practically shaking with rage. Then she turned on her heels and ran away. Literally, ran away.

My jaw dropped the nearly 6 feet to the ground. I was flabbergasted. I was aghast. Never am I rendered speechless, but this woman managed to take the wind right out of my sails. I could not believe that someone would watch me, then {poorly} deliver her unwanted, unwarranted opinion on my mothering skills!

Was this woman serious?! 

Here's what, friends and readers: Toddlers are HARD. Parenting a toddler is even more hard. But parents know their own children. I know that, most times, ignoring H's fits gets him to calm down the second he realizes I'm not paying attention to him. In this instance, he was so out of control, I knew he had to be corrected and then have some alone time to settle himself. I knew this, I did what I saw fit, and it worked almost immediately.

This woman doesn't know me. She doesn't know Henry. I'm guessing by her rude, judgmental comments that she doesn't have children. Why? Because no mother, IN HER RIGHT MIND, would say something so disgraceful to another mother who had just managed her tantrum toddler. Not a single mother would do that, regardless of whether or not that woman felt the mother handled the situation well. Heck, I see mom's all the time do things I would never do with Henry. You know what I do? I move on. Because I'm not her and that's not my child. She doesn't need my stares and she certainly doesn't need my judgment.

What this woman did didn't make the situation any better. In fact, she kicked another woman when she was down. I was clearly by myself with an out of control child, trying to manage him, a stroller, a diaper bag, an over-sized purse, a cup of coffee, and my husbands belongings all at 7 months pregnant in a huge crowd. And she felt like her opinion was so important, she had to come and belittle me not but a few moments after I had regained control of the situation.

I'm going to go out on a limb and give some advice to everyone, but especially to those who don't have children: if a parent is correcting a behavioral issue with their child, it is NOT OK FOR YOU TO COMMENT. Your opinion simply doesn't matter. There's attachment parenting and there's free-reign parenting, there's spanking, there's co-sleeping, there's women who breastfeed in public and there's women who breastfeed 6 year olds, and there's parents who don't believe in saying "no" to their children. Your opinion on all of this simply doesn't matter if it's not the relationship between you and your own child. Yes, it really is that simple.

To the woman who publicly shamed my mothering skills, congratulations. You completely ruined not only the event for me, you ruined my day. You could have sent some positive energy my way with a "hang in there mama!" But no, you decided to stick it to a pregnant mom while she was struggling. You felt the need to make her feel more embarrassed than she already did with her terribly behaved toddler. You not only thought you were important and self righteous enough to correct my parenting style, you had the gall to shame me. Well, shame on you! I saw you sitting at a table drinking a beer by yourself an hour after you yelled at me like I was your own child. I wasn't surprised you were alone. Who wants someone like you to be their friend? I also thought about confronting you. But I only needed my son to see one example of a poor excuse for a woman that day. There is something deeply wrong with those who thrive off making others feel less than, and I hope you get the therapy you need. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

What you REALLY Need On Your Baby Registry

Every first time mom is overwhelmed when she heads to a retail location to start her registry. I know I was! There's just sooooo much crap out there, and everyone is telling you (in very opinionated tones) what to get or not get. I would have paid someone to create my registry for me! I had no idea what I was doing. As an experienced mom, these are the things you will REALLY need when your newborn joins you.

From an experienced mom, what you really need to register for when having a baby! #babyregistry #baby

Of course, there's the obvious things like a car seat, stroller and breast pump, should you decide to nurse. A crib, sheets, diapers and clothing are also pretty obvious, I hope. So I left those "no brainer" things off this short list. *Affiliate links used*

Fisher-Price Cradle 'N Swing We got this when Henry was about four months old, and BOY do I wish I had had it since birth! Some women swear by bouncers and some swear by swings. This swing rotates for side to side or front to back, has a mobile, and plays music. Oh, and it also plugs into the wall, so there's no "Oh crap, we're out of batteries!" moment. As far as I'm concerned, this is far superior to an infant bouncer because it does so much. And did I mention you don't need batteries?!
This contraption allows you to take a shower and cook a meal after your newborn arrives!

Aden + Anais Swaddle Blankets These blankets are AMAZING. They're soft. They're washable. If your newborn likes to be swaddled, it's easy to craft a "burrito wrap." If your newborn is like Henry and hates a swaddle with the passion of a thousand suns, you can lightly wrap them in it to keep them warm. You can lay it on a public changing table to provide some cushion for your baby. You can wipe up spit up. You can wipe your own nose with them. There is no end for the uses of these blankets. We easily have 40 of them, and I might get more for Otto... just in case.
You'll use these muslin blankets for EVERYTHING.

Aden + Anais Burpy Bibs Speaking of "wiping things up", you NEED these. Let's just say that some bibs let the flow of spit up... Flow. Everywhere, especially where you don't want it. These catch it. They're absorbent. When your baby is a newborn it can function as a burp cloth that fits perfectly over your shoulder and when they start to explore foods, there's a snap that you use to attach it around their neck. I'll be getting more of these too, before Otto's arrival!

These bibs actually adsorb and "catch" spit up. You only need to get covered in that stuff once to learn to use these!

Graco Pack 'n Play Playard with Napper and Changer Whether or not you're going to breastfeed your baby, you'll want them in the same room as you for the first few months. They wake up multiple times a night and need to be fed and changed, and if you have it all in your room, it makes your very tired life so much easier. This has an infant sleeper (so the baby is closer to bed-height!) and a changing attachment, so it's like a 3 for 1! We just one of these gems for Otto. Bonus: when they're older you can pack in in your car and bring it to a friends house so kiddo can nap (they can nap in a car seat when they're a newborn). You get a well rested baby AND some adult time!

Multi purpose bassinet with attachments makes night time feedings and the newborn stage much easier.

Little Remedies Infants and Children Gas Relief Drops and Little Remedies Gripe Water
Oh my, do I WISH I had known to put these on my registry! These two items here were a lifesaver. Henry had bad gas, as most newborns do, and would scream in pain with it. The gas drops helped ease that and the gripe water, which has ginger and fennel in it, which helps calm your infant. Of all the things on this list, make sure these are in your house by the time the baby arrives!
Life. Savers.
Honestly, that's it. You don't need so much of the stuff that's marketed to new parents! Sure, there are some things that are "nice to have", like a baby carrier, but you know what? I never got into baby-wearing with Henry. Our carriers might get used with Otto... If I can figure them out. Tummy time mats (put down one of those muslin blankets!), breast feeding pillows (use a normal pillow!), and fancy nursing lights, sounds machines, etc. are all discretionary or outright unneeded!

Creating a baby registry is overwhelming! There's so much stuff out there. As a new, soon-to-be parent, you have no idea what you'll need, much less what's helpful! I tried to stick to what I would need in my registry for my first baby. Now that I'm an experienced mom, I can assure you that this is a great short list on what you'll really need on your baby registry.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites September 25 Edition

Ahhhh, my first weekend at home or without house guests since mid-August! I'm SO looking forward to just relaxing and spending a quiet weekend at home after all our travel, guests and blog conferences. I was going to write something conference-related, but I'm tired of that so I'm betting you are too. Alas, here are some of my favorite things and experiences that happened the week of September 25:

1) Baby style! I cannot for the life of me find Christmas jammies in a 3T and a newborn size that are the same print. Grrr! However, in one of the multiple attempts I've made, I found these gems at Target. Yes, I just said I found cute clothes at Target. That's a first for me. Maybe I'm slowly coming around to TargetStyle... Maybe.

Oh, it sounds insanely early to be worrying about Christmas jammies? You clearly don't live in Dallas. The psychos here do all their shopping months in advance. If I waited until, say, November to make this purchase, I'd be left with a few mismatched socks and a small pile of wrinkled and stained returned items. I'm not a fan of this aspect of Dallas, lest you couldn't tell. 

2) Workouts! I'm allllllllmost in my third trimester, and I'm still working out 5-6 days a week. I feel great in barre and yoga classes, in fact. It's kept my weight gain nice and low, my energy up, and my arms nice and strong for carrying a 30 pound toddler through parking lots! I make him walk everywhere else now. Mama too big fo dat.

3) The master bath is getting close to done! Vanities and cabinets go in today and counter top slabs will be cut a week after that. My custom designed (by yours truly!) river stone shower is done and my soaker tub is installed. The finish line is near!

Bathroom remodel: custom designed river stone shower #bathroom #design
What's left open will be glass - yet to be installed, of course. That shower head was installed at the 8ft mark. This bathroom is built for tall people, and my tall heart is singing in joy!
 4) So much love! I received so much positive feedback from this post, it honestly made my entire month of September! Some of the emails I've gotten this week are the kindest I've ever got in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

5) The photgraphy improvements are real! You read here about how I'm attempting to up my Instagram game. One of the biggest parts of that is improving my photography and the way I style photos. I have a house with great light, but desperately needed better backgrounds for close-up shots. I'm working on a DIY back drop that I'll be sharing next week!

Post coming next week!
Want to read other Friday Favorites posts? Linking up with Amanda, Karli, April and H54F! What were some of your favorites for the week of September 25?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Social Media Hacks

Here's the deal: this has got to be a quick overview post on some social media hacks I picked up over the months and were reinforced at my conference. Why? It's 1:38pm on Tuesday and I'm running out of nap time to get this baby hammered out! Going to Blog Elevated has me all kinds of behind. But I'm not one to leave you high and dry on a Hump Day, so I'mma give you some quick social media hacks and blogging tips while it's still fresh in my mind!

Quick and easy ways to boost and increase your social media presence

Pinterest and AdSense
I hit my 1k mark on Pinterest! This was one of my 3 September SMART goals, but to be honest, I've been hustling Pinterest hard since the beginning of June. Another Sept. goal was getting my Young Living oils up on the blog, and while I'm still working with my designer finishing that, you can find a link to my oils website on my sidebar! ----> Now I get to spend the rest of the month improving my AdSense game. I read this post on blocking low-paying advertisers, and without doing anything else, my revenue is already up 20% this month.

The Sassy Tweetress gave us some awesome social media hacks and outlined how everything really works for us at Blog Elevated. She made some great points about twitter: that it's the "high school cafeteria" or the conversation center of all the social media channels. while that sounds catty, you still need to be and represent your true brand! Think of it this way before you press "tweet" - what value are you adding to the conversation?

I went to a session entirely on Instagram at Blog Elevated, and BOY, do I have work to do to get it up to par! I want to turn that info into a future blog post but I have so many pages of notes, I'm going to have to do some major thinking and condensing for you. This post has some great tips on expanding your IG reach. Outside of that, a really big takeaway was to follow inspirational accounts and other "A-list-ers" so that you're inspired to improve your own feed simply by scrolling through your general feed. I'm currently on the hunt for great accounts to follow!

I hope these quick social media hacks help you! I plan on doing a bit more in-depth for my fellow bloggers, as well as return to some of my normal content next week so that my non-blogger readers aren't twirling their thumbs in boredom :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Avoiding Blogger Burnout

I was at Blog Elevated this past weekend, and the conference wrapped up with how to avoid burning yourself out as a blogger. Some of the things mentioned were common sense and good ideas in theory but difficult to implement, and some were more eye opening. I'll cover all of them in case my "ah-ha!" moments are different than yours in avoiding blogger burnout.

Ways to stay engaged with your blog when you're at your wits end

Blogging is competitive. It's personal. Usually, it's something we do in addition to our full-time jobs or responsibilities. Others view it as a hobby while we view it as our brand and our business. It is so easy to take on too much and end up stressed out or pushing deadlines than it is to simply enjoy blogging as a passion! Here are some tips to keep you grounded and intentional as you blog, build your brand and network your space:

Set your priorities and give yourself grace. Yes, this blog is my small business that I run and my personal brand I'm building... But I'm a SAHM first. My priority is my son (soon to be two sons!) and while I find myself getting frustrated that I can't implement everything that I want to when I think of it or when it's best strategically for my business, HE is my priority. Figure out what your top three priorities are in your life as a whole - family, work, relationships, blogging, motherhood, caregiver, etc. Figure out your top three and keep it to three!

Write your priorities down and put them in a place you see them often. When you find yourself getting frantic about all that you have to do, look at that short list and ask yourself, "Is all of that taken care of today?" If it is, then you did a job well done! We cannot be all things to all people and be the best in our craft and offer the best to our families and friends.

Be intentional. I loved this one because I really have to be intentional as a SAHM who gets nap time and after bedtime to really work on this blog. Set goals every month and keep track of them. Set your daily to do list to drive those goals. If you're looking to monetize, figure out what brands you want to work with, research who they want to work with, and set your to-do's to meet their objectives. Don't have 15 tabs open, jumping from task to task! Look at your to-do list and accomplish each one, line by line. Stay focused. Focus and intention is the BEST way to actually achieve both your daily tasks and ultimately, your monthly and yearly goals!

I would also note that it's important to not set too many monthly goals, or have too many items on your daily to-do list. I set my first monthly goals just this month, and kept it to three! On my daily to-do list, I try to keep it to 3-5 items. This way you're not staying up all night, and you're able to do those things WELL instead of rushed and half-a$$ed. I've seen some bloggers set 10-15 monthly goals and that's just too many. Can you get one of those things done every other day? Probably not. Set yourself up for success, not failure. Limit your monthly goals!

Stop comparing yourself and your blog to others. As you can see from my above tips, I've really honed in on setting priorities and being intentional with my goals and objectives to that I don't have burnout from attempting to do too much. But this area is my weakness. I'm competitive by nature. I'm analytical and strategic by nature. So I love to look at others' blogs and compare and crunch number data and have internal competitions with their blogs and mine.

Now, a little competitive spirit is great! It's motivating. But if it's too much, it's debilitating. I'd say several times a year my extreme competitiveness puts me in debilitating mode. I see what others are doing and discourage myself. I think, "Ughhhh, I don't have time to hire a photographer and style a shoot! If I did, _____ (fill in desired brand) would probably love to work with me, but I'm stuck toddler chasing all day!" or "Yeah, if I had time like ______(fill in the blogger) to edit my DSLR photos, then I'd get 500 Instagram followers this week too! But my child decided to scream the second I opened my editing software... Must be nice to be child-free/have a nanny like ______ (fill in the blogger)!" Then not only am I unhappy with my blog, I'm also left upset that I'm a SAHM.

Comparing your blog or your brand to others isn't helpful to anyone - not yourself, not your blog, not your family and certainly not your friends who are likely left listening to you complain! Comparison deflates you and your brand. Why do that to yourself?! A big takeaway from my conference was that I need to take that energy I spend comparing and overly-competing, and focus it on DOING. Why sit and compare when I can be doing things to improve my space and take it to where I want it to go?!

Main points made in avoiding blogger burnout at the 2015 Blog Elevated conference

Bloggers are busy. Most of us have full time work/responsibilities, family, friends, and other obligations competing for our time. It's easy to get burned out as a blogger, because having a blog is another set of things to add to your to-do list! But you can avoid blogger burnout if you follow these tips!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Chicco NaturalFit Bottles and a GIVEAWAY!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Chicco. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation. #ChiccoNaturalFit

I'm expecting my second baby right at the busiest time of year: Christmas. While our holiday season this year will be slowed down by our lack of travel, we're still expecting lots of guests and the normal business that the holidays bring. As such, I'm super thankful when companies make things easier for expectant new moms, which is exactly what Chicco does with its NaturalFit bottles!

What bottles and nipples you use with your newborn matters! Try a wide base and soft silicone for easier breast to bottle transitioning. #ChiccoNaturalFit

I mentioned here that I'm excited to breastfeed Otto. While some moms exclusively breastfeed at the breast, I enjoy incorporating bottles as soon as the "nipple confusion" phase is over and we've established a good latch. Bottles make life more enjoyable! Why? Because daddy can take some pumped milk and have a turn at a midnight feeding, or mommy can enjoy more than a glass of wine if she wants. For me, bottles help restore a sense of normalcy after the baby arrives!

But bottles can also be tricky. Not every baby will take to every bottle. Moms who also nurse, like myself, need to be careful about what kind of nipples they give their infant so that he or she continues to latch onto the breast as well as take a bottle.

Chicco NaturalFit bottles are available at Babies R Us

Chicco Natural fit bottles make transitioning between the breast and bottle easier. They provide a wide nipple base, which keeps your infant wide-mouthed and able to latch to the breast or bottle nipple. They're "slow flow" so that the suckling motion mimics the breast. This means that your baby won't become "breast lazy" and only take a bottle because the flow is faster. He or she will have to work the same to get his or her milk regardless of the feeding method! Read more about their bottles on their website.

Chicco NaturalFit bottles promote easy transitioning between breast and bottle for moms who want to nurse and bottle feed

I'm excited to try the tilted nipples on these bottles with Otto. With Henry, who took the traditional straight-on nipple, he would suckle it so fast the bottle/nipple struggled to vent properly! The nipple would collapse on itself and I'd have to pull the bottle from his mouth to let air back in. The angle of these nipples will help to vent the bottle so that Otto can keep chowin'! It also promotes proper, healthy neck positioning during bottle feedings. The best part is if you or baby isn't satisfied with your bottles, you can return them for a refund! I don't know another company who stands behind their bottles with that promise.

Infant slow flow nipple promotes ventilation and proper neck positioning for bottle feeding, and the wide base and soft silicone promote an easy transition between breast and bottle!

Preparing for the arrival of a little one is a hectic time, and when that arrival is during the busy holiday season it makes it even more crazy! I'm so glad to have learned about Chicco NaturalFit bottles and can't wait to see how Otto takes to them

Want to win one of 18 Chicco prize packages?! Enter below and make sure to check out Chicco's Facebook page. The sweepstakes runs through September 30, so enter now! Influence Central will randomly select 18 winners from all tiered program entries and will handle fulfillment of the winning prizes. Chicco Natural Fit Contest!

Friday, September 18, 2015

5 Necessities For Attending A Blog Conference

Tonight I'll be at the kick off party for my first blog conference! When I was full-time in the marketing and fundraising world, going to conferences was my favorite part. I LOVE continuing education and learning new information about my craft and hello - as en extreme extrovert I'm happy to network all night long! While this is my first blog conference, this is about the 50th conference overall I've attended, so I'm sharing my 5 necessities for attending a blog conference based off my 11 years of professional experience.

These necessities will help you successfully market yourself, your blog, and your brand as well as better prepare you to get everything you can out of the conference!

1) Your fashion sense. Seems silly, but if this were a post for marketing professionals I'd say the same thing (but alter it to say wear a full business suit). Dress for the job you want! Your look is the first thing people notice about you. If you're well groomed and dressed in an outfit that represents your blog, you're presenting your brand well. People will want to connect with you, and sponsors will take note of you. You don't need business professional wear for a blog conference, but keep it upscale and classy and representative of who you are!

Outfit planning for Blog Elevated conference - have your personality and brand shine through!

2) Your laptop. And a power cord. Blogging is tech-based, so come prepared with the tools you need to do on-site work or implement new HTML codes. Can you image getting the code for a widget or plug in that could drastically improve your site, and have to write it down because you didn't bring your laptop?! Yeah. No.

3) Business cards. Sound old school? Perhaps, but it shows that you're serious about your blog and your brand, and it gives people (and potential sponsors!) a take-away with your information on it so they can easily look you up after the conference. Make sure to have your logo and/or head shot on your card - preferably both! - because people remember faces and images much more than names and this will help them connect you to your contact information.

Business cards are an affordable way to market your blog and show sponors you're serious about your brand!

4) An open mind. Sounds dumb, but here's the truth: There were sessions on the agenda for Blog Elevated that I immediately thought didn't apply to me or wouldn't be helpful. Jaelan (my conference buddy!) and I decided to split up to attend as much of the conference as possible, which means I'll be attending one of the sessions I immediately dismissed. In other conferences, the same thing has happened and boy, was I glad I was "forced" into the session! Sometimes what we don't *think* we need to hear is EXACTLY what we're missing.

5)  Your planner and a notebook. Keeping it old school here, but just in case you can't find a plug in or there isn't room/a table for your laptop, have a notebook with for notes. Your planner is essential to schedule new ideas/posts you want to implement or schedule further networking dates with other attendees. You'll meet a ton of people and have a ton of information thrown at you, and these items will help you keep track of and manage it all! Don't forget some pens, too.

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, April and H54F - check them out for other Friday Favorites lists!

If you can bring these 5 necessities with you to a blog conference, you'll be in good shape to get the most out of it and market your blog and brand successfully!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Travel Massachusetts: Cape Cod

We had our babymoon last weekend out on Cape Cod! It was a great time, filled with great food, great shopping, beautiful sights and perhaps most importantly {to parents} SLEEP! Y'all know how I feel about travel recap posts, so I thought I'd break out some thoughts I have on traveling to Cape Cod, MA instead.

Traveling Cape Cod off the coast of Massachuetts #domestictravel

If you're looking for beautiful scenery, Cape Cod is it! From lighthouses to quintessential cedar plank homes, this place is gorgeous. I had forgotten pretty little towns exist because I live in one of the ugliest cities in America Dallas.

Highland Light House, Cape Cod, MA
Highland Light House, Cape Cod, MA

Providence Town is full of gay couples, fabulous shopping, little dogs, great food and babies in strollers. Do you know what I LOVE? Gay couples, little dogs, GREAT shopping/food and babies. I mean, it doesn't get better than that combo, does it?! We cleaned up getting souvenirs for everyone in this town at the end of the Cape. I could have spent the entire weekend in this town!

Boat harbor right outside Providence Town, Cape Cod, MA
Harbor outside of Providence Town, Cape Cod, MA

After I wrote this post on the driving situation in Dallas, I was "warned" that Boston was worse. Well friends, I'm here to tell you, fear not if driving in Boston! Sure, there were some aggressive drivers. But they had SKILL. In Dallas, they're aggressive, minus the skill and in an over-sized 3 ton truck that can (and will) kill you to boot. Yup, Dallas still reigns as city with the worst drivers!

If you go out to eat and a lobster roll is on the menu, do yourself a solid and order it. Even if that's what you've had to eat the last three meals straight. I nearly OD'd on lobster. Baby Otto-in-utereo was like, dang mom, that's enough lobster.

Lobster roll and New England clam chowder in Providence Town, Cape Cod, MA
Lobster roll with a side of New England clam chowda (no R's are pronounced in Massachusetts)

And then I mixed it up with a bagel, and I remembered why people think bagels are delicious. New Englanders and bagels FTW y'all! I almost wish I could get this in Texas, but I'd seriously weigh an additional 20 pounds so I suppose it's cool that I have to go to the east coast for bagels this scrumptious.

The best thing I ate on my babymoon: everything bagel with eggs, cheese and avocado 

While talking about all the delicious food, you know what WASN'T delicious? Dunkin Donuts coffee. We were on our way back to Boston and stopped several times trying to find a decent cup of joe (every place wanted to add the cream and sugar for me - word of the wise: DO NOT TOUCH A PREGNANT WOMAN'S COFFEE I WILL DO IT MYSELF I ONLY GET ONE PER DAY AND IT HAS TO BE PERFECT). I finally thought, "DD's are everywhere! Let's stop and see if I can get a good cup there!" So hubs pulled over. And it was the worst thing I've ever tasted. Go ahead and skip that Massachusetts staple friends. Just drive on by and don't look back.

Everything about Dunkin Donuts was a let down. Don't do it guys, don't do it.

Finally, who knows how to spell Massachusetts off the top of their head?! I had to look it up before writing this post! Pregnancy brain? Dumb blonde moment?  Or average struggling-to-spell American?!

If you ever get the chance to spend some time out on Cape Cod, know that it's absolutely beautiful! All of Massachusetts was, in fact, including the friendly drivers of Boston. Thanks for the lovely trip, cool weather and awesome sights, Massachusetts!

Monday, September 14, 2015

4 Myths of All Natural Toothpaste

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #NaturalGoodness #CollectiveBias

Everyone has jumped on the "all-natural" train these days. But what does that really mean? Can a company label a product as "natural" and still have potentially harmful chemicals in it? You know from my posts about non-toxic cleaners and essential oils that I'm all about reducing the hazards in my home and food, so I'm exploring all natural toothpaste and oral health!

Tom's of Maine all natural toothpaste #NaturalGoodness #ad #CollectiveBias

I've been on a bender of sorts to eliminate harmful chemicals and toxic cleaners and products from my home. As a parent, I don't want that stuff around my children or family. As a pregnant woman, I don't want that stuff affecting my fetus. As a pet owner, I don't want my dogs getting into that junk and harming themselves!

Many times when we hear all natural, we think these myths: 
a) it doesn't work
b) it tastes like garbage
c) it's expensive
d) I have to go out of my way to find it

Guys, none of that is the case here! I was able to find Tom's of Maine® toothpaste at my nearest Walmart store and didn't even spend $5!

That clears up the convenience and expense myths. They have tons of options to choose from, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a whitening version. As an avid coffee drinker, I snatched that up immediately! In the same aisle, there's a children's version. Henry has 16 teeth and we're just starting to introduce him to teeth brushing. He loves strawberry flavored anything, so I grabbed this version for him.

Tom's of Maine is both easy to find and affordable!
Let's talk about how the product works. Both products are approved by the ADA (American Dental Association), so they meet or exceed national standards for oral health. Tom's of Maine® is made right here in the USA (in Maine, no less!) and do not contain artificial colors, flavors, fragrances, preservatives, animal ingredients or animal testing. Want to learn more about their products, what's in them and how they're made? Check them out! They also make things like deodorant, bar soap and mouthwash.

And finally, taste. I'll be honest, I was concerned about this one. My sister has used this brand for years, and back when we lived together, I would "borrow" (why do we say borrow - I wasn't going to give it back after I used it!) some of hers when I would run out of my conventional brand. I remember thinking it tasted weird.

Fast forward five years to a more holistic health focused Paige, and I thought it tasted GREAT! It clearly lacks the sugar that all conventional brands pack into their toothpastes (yes; you're brushing your teeth with a sugar-loaded product when you use conventional brands) but it tasted fresh and left my mouth feeling clean! I was impressed, and I honestly love this toothpaste.

But what would Henry think of an all natural strawberry children's toothpaste?! Well friends, he loved it too! He isn't two yet, so we don't use an actual brush. Instead, I put a very small amount on my finger and brushed his teeth and gums with a rubbing motion. He licked his lips, looked at me and said, "Mmmm!" (I'm not kidding. That's what he does when he likes a new flavor - I'm going to try to capture it and put it on Instagram, it's so cute!)

All natural products, including Tom's of Maine®, can get a bad rep as being inconvenient, expensive, tasteless and ineffective. But all of those myths don't apply to these toothpastes! All natural products are so important if you're focused on expelling harmful products from your home. Not sure you want to take the plunge and try it? Walmart is having an in-store demo on Tom's of Maine toothpaste on September 19! If you find yourself shopping this weekend, stop by and check it out to learn more about the product and an all-natural lifestyle AND get coupons for their products!

Friday, September 11, 2015

5 Technology Problems Solved By Refurbished Products

Broken screens. Lack of storage space for the latest software update. Devices that went through a cycle in the wash. We've all been there! It's so disappointing to realize that you (or your child or even pet!) ruined our expensive technology and hand-held devices. Here are 5 technology problems solved by refurbished products!

Refurbished smartphones and iPads are certified and covered under a warranty - not to mention a fraction of the cost of new! #BuySmarter

The biggest bummer about your smashed, broken, water-logged or out-right lost device is the cost to you to replace it. You get no discounts (why does Apple never go on sale?!) and odds are, your service provider did away with "2 year upgrades" long ago. If you think you're stuck paying full price to replace it, you haven't checked out Gazelle!

Gazelle is a website where you can upgrade or purchase refurbished cell phones and Apple products. They thoroughly inspect and certify all devices, and cover it with a 30 day warranty. These aren't the old phones nobody wants anymore either, you can find the latest android and iPhones on their site! It's a win for parents, clumsy folks and even the most responsible of us who just had a bad day or made a mistake.

Check out these common 5 Technology Problems that are Solved by Refurbished Products:

1) Your child destroys your iPhone. Did your phone go swimming in the toilet? Perhaps it was tossed across the room and landed in the fireplace. Better yet, it might have wanted to "taste your coffee" by taking a dunk in your coffee cup! Children have a way with technology. Sometimes they inspire us with how much they know at a young age, sometimes it tears us apart with how careless they are with such expensive items. With Gazelle, you don't need to replace your iPhone with a brand new, full priced one. You can purchase it off their website knowing that it's backed with a warranty, and pay a fraction of the cost that you would at service provider or retail location.

2) Your child destroys your iPad. I see more and more children proficient in using iPads, and it's even becoming a common learning tool in the classroom. Which is excellent for teaching kids how to integrate technology into their everyday lives, and bad news for your poor iPad! Perhaps it was used a little hard and the screen cracked so badly you can't use it. Don't buy a new one at full price! Look into refurbished iPads, and save the difference in cost!

If your iPad looks like this, look into a refurbished one before buying new (again)!

3) YOU destroy your Apple device. This might be worse than your child destroying your phone/iPad/etc because you have nobody to blame but yourself. You can only be mad and disappointed at you! Grrrrr! I can't tell you how many friends I've seen hold up their cracked beyond repair iPhone screens and cry about how they have to buy a new phone. No worries. Instead of biting the bullet and heading to your service provider, Gazelle has you covered with certified refurbished Apple products AND cell phone repair (maybe that screen can be replaced!)

4) You lose your cell phone. Perhaps you had a real late night last weekend and left your phone at the bar. Maybe your phone grew legs and walked off somewhere between the office, your commute and dinner. Anyway you slice it, your phone is GONE and you don't want to fork out another couple hundred dollars to a full GRAND to go to your service provider and get another one. It's all good, because Gazelle even has a section on their website of affordable cell phones if you're operating on a tight budget!

5) Your child is "the only one in school without a phone!" You have no idea how thrilled I am that my son is still too young to whine about this. But I feel for you parents with older children who aren't so lucky! Where do these parents get the funds to buy their children the latest smart phone, right? Especially if they're replacing the lost or broken phones of their children in addition to their own! Yikes. Gazelle has your back though. They also have phones specific to the needs of kids on their site, and are fully refurbished, certified and covered under Gazelle's warranty!

Technology is great until it stops working! I hope you don't face these 5 technology problems, but if you do, solve them with a refurbished product over forking out the dough for a new one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How Back To School Time Effects Blog Traffic and What To Do About It

Over the past three or so weeks, everyone has returned to school, be it sending your children off to grade school, you yourself have returned to college or you're simply entering the busy months at work. When there's a big change in the schedule, the internet gets magically more quiet. I get that. But over these weeks, my blog numbers have TANKED. Back to school time has had big effects on my blog traffic!

Low blog or website traffic and what to do about it!

Anyone else with me on this seemingly lonely island?

This summer was an explosion of growth for this blog. Both in terms of social media followers, daily/monthly page views and a massive jump start in income generation from this blog. I started to feel like I had "made it" as a blogger! I was thriving off the positive energy, building business relationships, signing up for my first big-time official blog conference, kicking ass, taking names and making moves.

And then the "back to school effect" hit. On Monday, Aug 24 I opened my laptop (coming off a record setting Friday page view day) to the lowest numbers I had seen in months. I desperately texted my closest blogging friends. "Hey, are y'alls numbers down too?!" "Yes!" They reassured me. "It's because the people are going back to school and everyone is getting adjusted to their new lives."

Cool, I thought. It will bounce back next week then!

It did... a little. But then the next wave of back-to-schoolers hit. The following Monday I opened my laptop again to the saddest, lowest traffic numbers I had seen - worse than Aug. 24! Labor Day was coming up and I knew numbers would stay low. Following that, the final wave of colleges would return to school. I decided to hunker down and ride out this back to school time traffic effect and implement some strategies to save my Type A brain from going crazy!

It's really easy to get upset. You wonder if it's your content, you wonder if it's your photos, you wonder if you've run out of relatable posts to share. After many discussions with other, more "seasoned" bloggers I can assure you (as they assured me) that it's not! It's just the negative effects of back to school time! These same bloggers talked me off the ledge coached me that we'd be back to normal by the end of September, when people have adjusted to their new schedules.

Low blog or website traffic periods and what to do about it!

So what do we do during this relatively depressing time as bloggers, website owners and entrepreneurs?! Here's how I've decided to spend the few weeks until a sense of normalcy is replaced, so that I don't obsess too much about my traffic:

ONE - FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE. Did you get a comment that really made your day? Did you see growth in a particular social media channel? Did you find a new blogging group to belong to? Good things ARE happening, so focus on those when people are too busy to send traffic to your blog. Even if they're "little wins" it's worth noting and appreciating. Even if it's just one thing, take note of something positive that happened every single day.

TWO - USE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH. Many, many bloggers I usually read aren't even posting consistently right now, since they too have back to school effects on their OWN blogs to worry about! So I've taken a lot of time to do some outside reading. Specifically, I wanted to learn about creating a newsletter and about optimizing Google AdSense. When traffic is slow, use your time to investigate new methods of improving your site! Because web-based businesses and blogs are technology-based, there are always improvements you could make to keep up with or be an early adapter of.

THREE - SET SMART GOALS AND TAKE CHARGE. I did this last Friday, but it was all inspired by my terrible traffic numbers and wanting to do something to feel productive and like I was growing as a blogger and entrepreneur. Sharing them with your readers also holds you accountable to them! I wrote them on a post-it and put them where I can see them every day. I've already made great progress towards them and am excited to set new goals in October - even after my blog traffic (hopefully) returns.

Back to school time really does do a number on your blog or website traffic, and not in a good way! It's challenging to stay motivated and keep producing great content on your regular posting schedule. But consistency in blogging is essential, and these tips for what to do during the back to school low traffic times can help you through it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day!

Hey guys! Taking a little time off over here to enjoy Labor Day with the family. I hope you're doing the same and have some fun things planned! See you back here on Wednesday with some fresh, new content.

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!
Image source

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Favorites September 4 Edition

Ahhhhh, welcome September! It's still 100++ here and doesn't remotely feel like fall, but it should be down into the upper 80's before October hits, so fall will come eventually. Eventually... Right? It has to at some point - right?! I digress with the weather. Let's get right into those Friday Favorites for September 4, shall we?

1) Bloggers talk all the time about their goals, but I've never set any and mentioned them here - either personal or blog-wise. I decided to hit some milestones this September so I can continue to grow and learn new bloggy things! Here they are, so I'm held accountable for them:

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, results-focused and time-bound. Perfect for taking your blog to the next level!
  • Reach 1k followers on Pinterest
  • Optimize my AdSense account. Last month I made a whopping $3.89 with it - I KNOW it can do better, because my BlogHer and click-links do far, far better! (Any tips here are welcome)
  • Get my Young Living essential oils distributor/order info added to the sidebar of my blog and publish my first informative post
2) It's finally September, so we can finally start to watch horror movies on Friday nights (I know, we're crazy with the social life right?) I LOVE scary movies. Love them. Countdown is on to when I decorate the house for fall/Halloween. Is that the most basic thing I've written on this blog? Perhaps.

3) I'm now 6 months pregnant and stuck sleeping on my side. I'm NOT a side sleeper. I am decidedly a back sleeper. So this transition is tough - with Henry, I would wake up with intense shoulder and ear cartilage pain. When we moved, we bought a fancy Tempurpedic mattress, and the sales guy threw in some pillows for us. This Tempurpedic pillow is saving my pregnant life! It's amazing. No earaches. No shoulder pain. Pregnancy pillows are for the birds y'all, get yourself a Tempurpedic pillow when you're pregnant!

Amazing pregnancy Tempurpedic pillow

4) Facebook algorithms have changed again, y'all! This is definitely not a "favorite" for me this week, but if I can prevent any of you from making the same mistake, it will be worth it. If you're a member of blogging groups, beware of how many links you "like" from one post. I was doing a reciprocation thread, and was on my third day of spreading it out to avoid "Facebook jail" (you know, when they strip your ability to "like" fan pages). I STILL got hit and got my privileges taken away for 30 days! Facebook thinks I'm a robot. Jerks. They've adjusted things so that if all your likes come from one URL (for example, a follow-all thread) it will take note no matter how much you spread it out. It happened to 10 other blogging friends this week too! So bloggers and promoters of other blogs/content, beware.

Makes it a real good time to focus on Pinterest instead though, doesn't it?! Are you following me yet? Let's be friends! I follow back :)

5) I've started my education courses on Young Living essential oils! I can't wait to share with y'all how to use them, blend them, wear them, diffuse them and clean with them for better health. I'll turn y'all into some crunchy hippies yet! Or, you'll sit there and laugh at me. Whatevs. If you give them a try I know you'll be a convert, too!

What's everyone up to this weekend? I hope there are fun things in store for you! We go on our babymoon to Cape Cod next weekend and I'm SO excited to get away with hubs for a bit (and leave the toddler, home and contractor management to our folks who are coming to stay with us. Thanks mom!)

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, April and H54F!