An Uncomplicated Life Blog: October 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Favorites October 30th Edition

Five favorite moments of the week, favorite products and favorite links!

Now that I've cut my posting schedule down to three times a week, I have so many fun things I have time for! Whoohoo! This week was a much needed breath of fresh air. So much so that I decided to take it back to the old school Friday Favorites, just so I could share all the greatness.

Hopefully, you're one of those people who like to hear about positive things going on in others' lives. If not, this post is probably bumming you out. In which case, I'd recommend a change of your schedule to get your mind back right!

1) Dessange Paris sent me some PERFECT hair care products. One is a clarifying clay hair mask and the other is an oil balancing shampoo. They must have known I've hit the "oily" stage of pregnancy because my hair is producing oil on overdrive these days! I tried the shampoo and could actually go two days without a wash again. I'm saving the mask for when I get even oilier - after Otto's birth. Anyone else turn into an oil bucket the last few weeks of pregnancy? Just me? Yuck.

Friday favorites - Dessange clay shampoo and mask for oily hair. Amazing clarifying shampoo!

2) I grabbed lunch with a friend I haven't seen in months. I literally haven't had a spare second for a lunch date or a play date in over two months. That's just sad! Clearly, I sign I needed to cut back and I'm so glad I did. I missed her baby shower while we were in Cape Cod, and she's expecting a little girl any day now! We went to a Mediterranean buffet because hello: two very pregnant women + Greek food + buffet = duh.

3) I'm wrapping up the #FallForSYBL Instagram Challenge. Participating in a challenge was a great way for me to get a subject to photograph everyday as I work to improve my photography and Instagram aesthetic. While October is wrapping up, the good new is they just announced a November challenge in case you want to do something similar!

4) The weather is fall like for Texas and that means outdoor play dates. Henry looooooves playing at parks, and he's learning how to go up steps entirely on his own and slide down slides. It's so much fun to watch him learn new skills!

5) I found the time to start Otto's monogram for above his crib. Henry has one, and since they'll be sharing the nursery, Otto obvi needs one too. I wasn't sure I'd have time to get this done, but I've made some time! I'm trying to get it to match Henry's... And of course I hand-mixed the paint colors so an exact match is wishful thinking.

Friday favorites: Favorite #DIY. Making a wall hanging monogram for a baby's nursery

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, April and H54F!

Did anyone else have a fun week taking advantage of the fall weather - where ever you might be? Is everyone ready for some trick or treating or Halloween parties this weekend? I can't wait to see all your pics on social media! Now that I'm not forced to be on it promoting, I actually really enjoy surfing the social media interwebs and connecting with you all! And by "connecting", I really mean stalking and liking your content :) Enjoy your weekend as much as I hope you enjoyed these Friday Favorites - moments, products and links!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What I Wish I Had Known About Blog Monetization

It's one of the most awesome and scariest things about blogging: Monetization. On the one hand, you start to get paid (and paid well, I might add) to do the thing you love - blog. On the other, you worry about what your readers will think when they start to see regular disclosures saying, "I was paid for this post, but all opinions are my own..." I've monetized this blog. It's now my small business. But there are some things I wish I had known before I took that plunge!

Secret facts about monetizing your blog you NEED to know!

First, you HAVE to disclose your sponsored content and affiliate links. I've seen quite a few bloggers not do this, or do it "creatively." Outside of being illegal, you're being a huge jerk to your readers. They think you genuinely like and are endorsing something but all the while you're just trying to make a buck. I've actually stopped reading blogs that don't properly disclose paid content, because if they can't be honest about that, there's a whole host of things they're not honest about. I don't have time to read that garbage! You need a brief disclosure on the actual page of the post, and a more thorough disclosure (with more details and definitions) that can be easily found somewhere on your blog. Mine is here.

Yes,actual- post-page-disclosures might instantly turn some people off. Yes, some people will avoid your affiliate links, even if they want to purchase the product. That's how it goes. Some people just don't like monetized blogs. Oh well. You can mitigate distaste in readers' mouth by limiting your sponsored content. Some of my old favorite bloggers turned "to the dark side" by posting majority sponsored content. And even the posts that aren't fully paid for by XYZ sponsor are littered with affiliate links at best, and at worst? It's a full out post dedicated to projectile vomiting every affiliate link they can on their readers. I get puked on enough by babies. I don't need "blogger make-a-buck-puke" too.

Second, once you start working with brand-blog connectors (I work with Collective Bias, Linquia, Influence Central, One2One, and Sverve), you get contractual obligations to produce content. That means that no matter how tired you are, you HAVE to blog. You have to edit images. It doesn't matter if you're having a bad day or your child is sick or your got in a car wreck. You also have to use your social media channels to promote your posts. That means getting creative so that the sponsored content fits your style, personality and aesthetic in all your channels! Posting and promoting on time is holding up your end of the bargain; theirs is paying you.

This sponsor required an Instagram syndication, which is the hardest of all channels to cross promote in - unless you're a fashion blogger. Applying the same filter and photo editing techniques help the photo blend with your feed as opposed to stick out as obvious sponsored content!

Speaking of paying, if you work outside of legitimate brand-blog connectors, you have to chase your money down! When I work with the aforementioned folks, I get paid within 30 days by the payment method I have on file, and all my tax information is housed with them too. Easy! But when I work with Joe Schmo who emailed me about "an opportunity", there has not been one instance yet of independent sponsors paying me easily and on time. NOT ONE. I have to chase (and by that I mean email 10+ times and threaten to remove posts) them for over a month to get paid. This isn't unique to me; every blogging friend I know has experienced the same.

On the plus side, those independent sponsored posts tend to pay more, and you can negotiate your price. So if you're a strong negotiator, you're going to come out way ahead! You also can set your own terms about what you'll include in the post and how you'll promote it, which works in your favor, too. But you'll be chasing that payment for weeks on end. Blogger beware.

Blog monetization isn't all bad, however. The tide is really turning with how these posts are written, and that's having a fantastic impact on page views for you as a blogger. What do I mean? The classic "product review" is dead. No longer do we as bloggers ramble on about a product and it's benefits in order to get paid. Why? I think too many bloggers didn't know how to accurately describe a product or an experience. I can't tell you how many times I've read, "I'm obsessed with this lip color. It's going to be on major repeat all season." Um, ok. Great. That doesn't tell me anything. In fact, Googleing it would give me more info...

Key advice on how to monetize your blog successfully

 No, now sponsors want us to story tell. They've learned their lesson with product reviews. What does story telling mean? As a blogger, it's YOUR job to figure out how to tell the story with the product in it. For example, I had this post last week about Henry's birth. Barring the disclosure at the outset (legal requirement bloggers, legal requirement!) and the product picture at the end, I doubt you'd have even known Kleenex paid me (handsomely) to write that post. I shared a personal story, and wrapped in how a product fit into that experience. That's story telling sponsored content. Kleenex and Collective Bias LOVED it, and honestly, I had fun writing it! It got huge page views (still is, in fact), and that makes me and Kleenex happy campers.

Blog monetization has it's perks. You know, like the money! And the direction it's headed is a great one that readers are interested in reading, unlike the old-school product review that made your page views drop. But there are some things I wish I had known about blog monetization before I took the plunge. Your workload increases dramatically, and you become contractually obligated to produce great content - including photos. You have legal requirements and tax implications. Perhaps worst of all is chasing those dang sponsors who go MIA when it's time to cut you a check! But it's still worth it in the end. My blog is now my business and I'm an entrepreneur. Something I never imagined I'd be!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blog update!

A heads up for y'all, I'm changing up my posting schedule! I've been doing M, T, W, F for most of 2015, but I'm dropping it down to just M, W, F. I did that after Henry was born, and had planned to do it after Otto arrived too, but here's some truth: I'm getting burned out on blogging. And a burned out preggo blogger is no bueno.

It's like the more you know, and the more tools you have to promote your posts, the more exhausting it becomes. I have a list of 15 blog posts I wanted to get done pre-Otto to have a "bank" of content to pull from on those inevitable days when I've been up all night and don't have it in me to create something. I've gotten exactly 3 done.

I'm spending all my time just keeping up with my current editorial calendar. I'm super pregnant. I'm tired. I *know* I need to work ahead, but by Tuesday I'm nearly completely done with the internet. Lies! Not nearly. Completely. Like, done done. So I'm going to give myself a little grace and drop my posts to 3 times a week to save my pregnant sanity. Holler if you hear me on that, fellow bloggers!

In fact, I stepped {almost} completely away from social media this weekend and already feel like a million bucks! Sometimes this stuff is just so draining - keeping up with notifications, "like counting" and so on. I should know this. I've been here before.

Ahhh well. Pregnancy brain?

Time to get some more things done for this baby that's set to arrive soon! He probably needs more than just the four pairs of winter pajamas I've bought him... And haven't even washed yet, right?

Catch you cats back here on Wednesday with some freshyfresh content.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Prenatal Yoga Modifications

I know I got a few of you with Wednesday's post and Instagram pic of a freshly delivered baby! Nope, still super pregnant over here. Emphasis on the word SUPER. The good news is that I'm still getting five workouts in a week at nearly eight months pregnant! With that said, I'm taking just about every modification in my yoga and barre classes. I realized that not all women know what modifications are available to take, so I'm outlining some of the most common prenatal yoga (or barre!) modifications for you below.

Side note: this aren't just for preggos! If you're nursing an injury or just getting into yoga, these are fantastic options for you, too.

5 Common Prenatal Yoga Modifications

1) Twisted chair
All twists get challenging as soon as you start to "show" in your pregnancy. They're also difficult for people with lower back pain or spine fusions, and can also be challenging if you're new to yoga and aren't used to moving your spine in this fashion. Don't worry, you'll get there newbies! But in the meantime, leave your back straight and lessen the twist by only moving from your spine with your arms outstretched. You'll still feel the "rinsing" of your spine, but you won't over do it. If you're pregnant, no pressure is applied on the baby this way. If you're not, your spine will only let you twist as far as it will move so your risk of injury is reduced.

2) Chatturanga
Chatturanga is hard! Possibly, one of the most challenging yoga poses. It requires immense arm, back and core strength. So for those who are carrying a few extra pregnancy pounds, doing this pose from your knees is a great alternative! It's also good for EVERYONE during your warm up so you don't over strain yourself and hurt your back. Simply put your knees down before bending your arms into your sides for the push up. This reduces the weight your triceps need to carry and makes the pose accessible to more levels of fitness.

3) Boat pose
In traditional boat pose, your legs are together and if your core is super strong, they're fully extended with your arms reaching forward. With a belly in the way, I separate my legs to the sides of my baby. Because I have so much baby there (who has inconveniently relocated where my ab muscles are!) I also use my arms to hold on to the backs of my knees for support. If you don't have a strong core, keep your legs together with your knees bent and feet flexed. If you need more support, use your arms like I am in this photo until you develop your core strength enough to hold your legs with only your abs.

If you're a bendy preggo (aka, flexible) this is also a fun deviation from boat pose. Grab on to your big toes and stretch your legs up! Your feet are "supposed" to be together in this variation, but because of my baby bump, they're separated. Stretch on, mamas!
4) Seated twist
Perhaps you're looking at this and wondering what's modified about it. Truth be told, I JUST figured this modification out! Typically, when doing a seated twist, you twist INTO your bent leg and use your opposite arm as leverage to take you further into the twist. I'm going the other way, because my bent knee would get in the way of my bump. This enables me to get a great twist (it feels so good on sore lower pregnant backs!) but allows enough room for baby to hang out safely and not get squished by my quad. Win-win.

5) Side plank
Planks are all about the core. And balance. Two things pregnant women have very little of! So instead of balancing on two fully extended legs and the sides of my flexed feet, I put my lower leg down for core strength support. If I want more from the pose, I can lift my extended leg up (keeping the foot flexed - there are no pointed toes in yoga! Dancers, I'm looking at you...) When I keep my leg down like I have pictured above, extending my top arm overhead creates a great stretch in the side body.

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, April and H54F!

The further you progress into your pregnancy, the more you'll need to adapt your yoga poses to fit your growing bump. These prenatal yoga modifications are also great for those who are coming back from an injury (or have a nagging chronic injury) and for all the yoga newbies who just want to get familiar with the poses before they go all out. What ever camp you fall into, these prenatal yoga modifications will help you have a successful, lifelong yoga practice!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not All Tears Are Sad Tears

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

I remember the day Henry was born. I was NOT supposed to be having a baby that early, although secretly I wanted him out so badly. The day started like any other; I spent the early morning blogging and then headed to a mid-morning barre class.

In barre, I felt contractions. By this point, I had been contracting for over six weeks - not just Braxton Hicks either! But these made me lose my breath, and at one point I actually sat down in class. I chalked it up to being 36 weeks pregnant and huge and generally breathless. I was wrong.

There are reasons to cry happy tears too! #KleenexCares #CollectiveBias #ad

I continued on with the day. I also continued on with contractions, although like I said - I was used to them. I was also used to pain, because Henry had dislocated a few of my ribs and I had just had an external cephalic version (read about that experience here) - in fact, I still was covered in bruises on both sides from that experience. So painful contractions? Meh. Whatevs.

I spent the afternoon of Friday, May 16 running errands. Baby-prep and personal-prep errands. But I just didn't feel right! I was walking slower and in pain and was so sweaty! I mean, it was mid-May in Texas, so granted it was 95 out, but this was absurd. So I cut my errand running short and returned home. Nine month pregnant women need to use the restroom often, so I went. And discovered my maternity shorts were all wet.

Little did I know I would find myself here in a few short hours!

"Jeez, did I pee myself?!" I thought. No, I KNOW I didn't... Was it sweat? I had just gotten home and had black leather in my car... Pair that with the weather and that amount of perspiration wouldn't be strange for a pregnant woman. But something felt off. So I called my mom, who was an infertility nurse for some 20 years. I mean, I *should* have called my OB, but no. I called my mom. Why? Because I don't care how old you are, you NEVER stop needing your mom!

"Paige, call your OB!" My mom instructed me. So I did. And she told me to come in to labor and delivery, stat! See, I had only known this OB for about a week. Prior to meeting her, I had spent my pregnancy with midwives at a birth center. I became high risk, and after my external version failed, I was officially handed off to a M.D. My midwives tried, but it was just too dangerous for me to deliver at a birth center. So instead of having a natural birth, I was now heading in to Labor and Delivery at a hospital I had never been to to deliver my breech son a month early via c section.

Hubs was about to find out he'd be spending the evening in scrubs!

I called my husband, who by the grace of God was in town and not a flight or two away from Dallas. He was on a conference call when I beeped in, but switched over to take my call. I never call him - I'm a text only kinda gal. So a call from a nine month pregnant wife? Yeah. You answer that!

"Hey babe, how far are you from home right now?" I asked. "About 20 minutes. I'm on a conference call. What do you need? Want me to pick up dinner?" he replied. It's sweet that he just thought I was bugging him about dinner and still left his call to talk to me, isn't it? Ha! "Um, no, you need to hurry home. I've been in labor all day and now my water broke. We need to go to the hospital!"

Because this birth was such a drastic last minute change of plans, my husband didn't have anything packed. Since we knew this would be an emergency c section, we'd be at the hospital for about four days. I didn't even have anything packed for a four day stay - what you need at a birth center is far more simple! After I got off the phone with him, I sat on the edge of our bed and let it sink in. This was IT! It was TIME! I had no idea what to expect, I didn't even know where this hospital was (we used our GPS to find it, in fact) but I was so thrilled to no longer be pregnant and SO ready to meet my son.

First time meeting Henry

I had a calm moment of happy tears. Perhaps it was the proverbial "calm before the storm" of racing off to the hospital to face the unknown. I think I went through about half a box of Kleenex as I cried happy tears. Tears of being thankful I lived in an era that had the medical technology to safely deliver my son. Tears of gratitude that these were the final few hours of what was a painful, traumatic and problem-filled pregnancy. Tears of hope that everything would go well. And mostly, tears of excitement!

About five hours later, I was looking at my sweet Henry and hearing the premie team they had ready for him laugh as he peed all over everyone. Despite the early arrival, Henry came out perfectly and ready to join the world - he needed no NICU time and latched right on and started eating like a champ, from hour one. He just wanted to join the real world party early!

Kleenex brand tissue is easy to find at Walgreens!

Have you ever needed a Kleenex for happy tears? I'm already stocking up on them at Walgreens to prepare for Otto's birth in a few weeks! Best yet, I have a coupon for you for to use on any box of Kleenex brand tissues to prepare you for your next happy tear moment.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Decorating for Halloween

No secrets here; I'm a huge fan of Halloween. I have always been this way. Not so much in the "I like themed parties and costumes" way that my sorority sisters loved in college. Nope. In the more bizrre, "I like tall tales and ghost stories" kind of way. So - spoiler alert! - I enjoy decorating for Halloween.

Growing up in the early 90's, I remember thinking Tales From The Crypt was the coolest show ever and religiously read Goosebumps books. Anyone else watch that or read the series? Please tell me I wasn't completely alone there... Here's something even more embarrassing: My sister and I would decorate our rooms for Halloween, and then have a "Halloween Fair" where we'd do crafts and have games and prizes. We wouldn't invite anyone to this fair besides our family pet. Who was an obese cat who would sit on the bed and watch us with judging eyes. Yes, it was just us! A Halloween Fair for two.

Gosh, I hope Henry and Otto do weird, fun stuff like that too.

Festive front door wreath
 Now that I'm an adult in my 30's and have figured out some key things in life, I just let my love for Halloween show with pride. I haven't gotten any "cooler" or more like my sorority sisters; I love the spooky decorations, the gory decorations and the glittery, vampy decorations, and the cutesey fall-themed decorations. I love it all, a big mismatched collection spewed all over the house.

Anyone else clean up glitter for weeks after the holidays?!
I love to watch horror films. I love to plan what costumes our dogs will wear as we go trick or treating with Henry. I even dressed Otis up well before I was dating my husband, and way before we had children to take trick or treating! He's a champ about getting dressed up. Must be used to my weirdness, just like our old fat family cat growing up.

Festive fall fireplace mantel
 My sweet mother-in-law has even yielded to my love of Halloween and sends Henry care packages with treats, Halloween jammies and cards. I'm sure she does this because I get a kick out of it; Henry is too young to care! Although I will say that he thoroughly enjoyed himself at the pop-up Halloween costume store, and was thrilled to pick out his costume (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle - I wanted him to be a vampire since I'm going as a witch, but he wouldn't put that green costume down, so turtle is was!)

I decorate the inside of my house and the outside. I hope the kids coming up to our home enjoy the lights and sounds! I enjoy looking at all the fun items inside my house, whether it be the lit up haunted house or the sparkly pumpkins in the dining room. Do you decorate for Halloween?

Monday, October 19, 2015

How Birthday Celebrations In Your 30's Differ From Your 20's

When you're in your 20's, and likely still if you're in your 30's and don't have children, the thing to do for a birthday is gather up your friends and go out. Go out to dinner, go out to bars, perhaps go out dancing. I remember those days! Now my friends, the best thing that can happen to a girl is ALONE time. No toddler eating most of my lunch, nobody else's needs to come before my own, take as long as I want without the fear of an impending meltdown - quality alone time. This is how I celebrated turning 31.

The actual bouquet hubs got me - looks like a stock photo huh? Nope!

Henry went to preschool in the morning so I hit up a yoga class. I chatted with friends afterwards for as long as I wanted without needing to get back to the child care center before my appointment ran out. I blogged a bit. And hubby, who was working from home, made me breakfast upon my return.

I don't even look pregnant here! Top: Lululemon // Leggings: Pea in the Pod
Then in the afternoon, I headed over to Hiatus Spa. I got a prenatal massage, a facial, and a manicure/pedicure. The whole afternoon, not a diaper was changed nor a cry was heard! So relaxing. If you live in Dallas, check them out over in Park Cities. It's the third time I've been and I have yet to be disappointed!

Waiting parlor at Hiatus Spa

After five hours (!!!) at the spa, I raced home to try to make it before Henry's bedtime. I was late, but I walked in to all my boys standing by a lit cake with balloons and flowers and they sang me "Happy Birthday"! Well... The dogs wagged their tails for a handout, Henry kept darting his eyes between the flames and me and saying, "Mommy!" and hubs held down the tune solo.

So I promptly ate a huge piece of cake for dinner - yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I got the mix for hubs to make because he's... Errr... Not a chef. But he did great with the cake mix! We then relaxed on the couch and I fell asleep watching a movie so that I could get up the next morning with little man at 6am while hubby went to present at a conference. Why do toddlers think it's cool to wake up that early on a weekend, and why do companies think it's cool to host a conference on a Saturday? Toddlers and companies are jerks, y'all.

I can remember birthday's when getting huge groups of friends together to "go out" was just what you did. If you spent the day alone or not going out, you felt like a "loser" of sorts. It's so different when you're in your 30's! I want nothing to do with "going out." Do you know how tired that would make me? I'd need a nanny for the night out and the whole day after. That's insanity. No, I'll take my calmed down birthdays and leave the crazy nights out for you youngun's in your 20's!

Friday, October 16, 2015

5 Great Things About Being In Your 30's

It's my birthday! Today. October 16. I'm 31. I have to say that last year it was a bit rough to leave those elusive 20's behind and join the big girls club, but it's been jaw dropping what a difference joining this decade makes! If you're coming up on your dirty 30's, or simply dislike getting older, fear not! I've got 5 great things about being in your 30's for your Friday reading pleasure.

1) Friendships change for the better. Yes, some people will leave your life. Let them. After you get to be a certain age, those people don't matter. They weren't meant to be in your life anyway. And the friends that do stick around? Your friendship with them will be THAT much better!

2) Your "Give a F" garden stops growing. I can honestly say that I give zero you-know-whats about what people think of me. Zero. You like me? Let's hang out! You don't? Don't let the door hit you on the way out! When I was in my 20's I felt the constant need for approval from others. I sought it out and was let down if I didn't get it. Now that I'm older, I've found approval and acceptance within my self. It is SO freeing! And I have so much more mental space to be who I truly am.

3) You learn that you get the most by giving. When I was in my 20's, if you didn't like what I was doing or what was on my agenda, I had no qualms about peacing out on you. Which was fun, because I did exactly what I wanted to do (hello, moving across the country 3 times in 5 years!) and was a selfish mess, which is what you should be in your 20's. But as you get older, you realize that's not the most fulfilling way to live. You advance to a place where you find JOY in giving to others, which is a double-whammy of awesome: you make them happy and you're happy too!

While I'm talking mostly about giving time, patience and grace to your loved ones, presents never hurt, right?! In the spirit of giving AND my birthday, you definitely need to check out this amazing Tarte palette and Sephora giveaway I have running on Instagram through Sunday! #shamelessplug
It's my birthday week! To celebrate, I'm giving YOU the chance to win the holiday Tarte palette and a $50 gift card to #sephora! I've partnered with 9 other bloggers for this just-in-time for the holiday season birthday giveaway, so the loop is short and entering is easy! To enter, simply: 1. Follow me and like this photo 2. Tag someone who loves Sephora ❤️ 3. Go to @coffee_mascara profile, follow her and like her photo. Continue until the loop is complete and you are back here! Easy peasy. The giveaway closes on October 18th at 9 PM PST. *This is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 13+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram's term of use. Good luck my pretties! Happy birthday to me, and by that I mean YOU! πŸ’„πŸŽ‰πŸŽ
A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on

4) You develop your own sense of style. I read WAY to many fashion magazines when I was in my 20's, which resulted in my always trying to "be" someone else - someone far more trendy than I care to be! (Also, see number 2 about needing others' approval and no longer giving F's...) Now that I'm in my 30's, I've developed my own sense of style that's all about classic clean lines and quality pieces. I know what looks good on me AND what I'm comfortable in, and that shows in my confidence as I wear my personal style out and about.
A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on
5) You know yourself better. I've spent over three decades hanging out with me. By now, I know what I like and what I don't. And I'm totally, completely ok with NOT doing the things I don't like, even if all my friends are doing it. For example, Indian food makes my stomach turn. So if there was a girls night at an Indian joint, I'd have no problem saying, "Catch ya next time girls!" When you're older, there is no such thing as FOMO ("fear of missing out" for those who don't speak millennial talk - I know my husband just read that and though "WTF?" so that definition is for his Gen X self. Love you honey!) In fact, that's the first time I've ever used that dumb word, and it will be my last. Man, am I glad I'm too old for that nonsense!

Linking up with Amanda, Karli, April and H54F to share in the Friday Favorites goodness!

See, not everything about getting older is a bad thing. Some things are actually quite fun, and others are completely freeing of the judgement and need to fit in that you felt in your teens and 20's. The best part is, these are only 5 great things about being in your 30's - there are many, many more!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wednesday Currently: Feeling Grateful

I haven't done one of these posts in months! I know, you've seen a lot of sponsored content and social media/blogging tips posts around here lately. Let's pause with the tips and tricks and money and get back to what makes a blog fun: talking about life! Currently, I'm feeling pretty grateful.

Last week I had a prenatal appointment to check a whole host of pregnancy issues: I had my gestational diabetes test, an ultrasound to check to see if this baby was going to be breech just like Henry was, a cervix check to see if I was headed down the preterm labor path AGAIN, and the basic weight/blood pressure/etc that they always do.

Focusing on what matters and what you have instead of what you're disappointed about

First off, let's just have a little conversation here. I do NOT understand why women complain so loudly about their gestational diabetes test. Here's what happens: you have to eat a reasonable, protein only breakfast, then not eat for an hour before you drink a special drink they give you. You chug a drink that tastes like extra sweet Powerade. Then a half hour later, they do a quick blood draw. That's it. That's all. But you'd think women were dying when they talk about taking this stupid test!

Maybe I lack sympathy because I had situations go down with Henry that were life threatening to him. Those are the things that are really worth complaining about. Those are the hard things. Chugging a drink and getting pricked with a needle? Not even on my radar as a struggle, problem or concern. It is, however, blaring loud and clear on my "first world problems radar."

I digress... Gratefulness! So I don't have GD, which wasn't a shocker since Otto is sizing exactly at gestational age. But get this: Henry had to come with me since hubs was out of town and it wasn't a preschool day. This little 17 month old sat quietly and watched me get my blood work done! Then he played while we waited for my ultrasound. Then he sat at my feet while I had my ultrasound and clapped his hands at his brother!! Then he ate a snack while my OB checked me out. And then, he fell asleep in the car on the way home and still took a two hour nap. WHAT TODDLER ACTS LIKE THAT? That, friends, is repayment for a hard, difficult, nasty pregnancy with him. I'm sure of it. The appointment took almost two hours, and he was literally perfect the entire time. A toddler. Acting perfect. In public. I cannot even.

Selfie from the morning of the appointment:

If that wasn't awesome enough, and it totally was, Otto is HEAD DOWN! This is entirely unremarkable to most reading this, even to those who've had children/are pregnant. But he was breech up until now. My OB wasn't sure if some medical conditions I have were causing my babies to be breech and told me at the last appointment to mentally prepare for another c section.. I know that anything can still happen, including a c section, but y'all - I've never had a head down baby! My VBAC isn't off the table! Things might go maybe kinda sorta the way I want them to, and if I can get only 5% of what I hope for in Otto's birth I will be a happy, ecstatic woman.

The good news continued: Despite the contractions I've been having, there is not immediate concern for preterm labor -  my cervix is still closed! Again, I'm sure you're like, "Great Paige... Most are at 29 weeks!" or you're all "TMI, dude" over there. But see, I had time-able contractions with Henry right as I entered my third trimester, and for a while there it was looking like he was going to come SUPER early. He stayed put for until 36 weeks, thankfully. But we don't need to worry about a super-premie with Otto! I might even make it to full term. Y'all, if I can have a full term baby, I will do cartwheels into the delivery room. I'll have hubs periscope it if you don't believe me. Promises, promises.

Now do you see why I can't stand people who complain about a friggin gestational diabetes test? That's just the shallow end of the Olympic-sized pool of pregnancy issues I had with Henry, and feared with this pregnancy. So please, next time you want to complain about drinking a lemon-lime sugar water drink, remember that there are women out there with real problems, who would take that drink with all the needle pricks and 100 more if they could just have a pregnancy go well. I'm one of them.

And so far, things are looking GREAT, and currently, I'm feeling so, so grateful for that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Slow-cooker Oktoberfest German Lentil Stew

German food seems to be hit or miss with people. Being a strong German mutt (German/Czech/Swedish to be exact) from the upper Midwest who grew up eating home-cooked, authentic German food, I fall into the LOVE camp. I mean, heck y'all, I've named my children Henry and Otto; of course I love German food! It'd be a crime NOT to at that rate. In the spirit of Oktoberfest, I'm sharing one of my favorite recipes with you: Slow-cooker German lentil stew. *Affiliate link used.

Great, simple #Oktoberfest recipe made in a slow cooker! #Crockpot

Slow cooker Oktoberfest German Lentil Stew
- 1 bag uncooked lentils
- 1 smoked kielbasa sausage
- 1 large sweet onion
- 2 carrot stalks, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 32oz container chicken stock, divided
- 1 German beer
- 2C water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1t oregano
- 1T salt
- 1t freshly ground black pepper

Cut the sausage into bite sized pieces and brown in a skillet on high heat until the meat develops a dark brown color. Turn Crockpot/show cooker (don't have one? Click here) onto medium; add sausage and pan drippings to the slow cooker.

Chop onion and add it plus the carrots and canned tomatoes to the slow cooker. Sort and rinse the lentils and add them to the sausage and veggies. Pour the beer in; add 1C chicken stock, water and add the seasonings. 

Cook on medium heat in your Crockpot for 8 hours. Stir occasionally, and check the fluid level of the lentils. Depending on your altitude, climate and desire for a thicker/thinner stew, add more chicken stock when necessary.

This meal is great as is, but it's even better with a great crusty loaf of rye bread smothered in unsalted butter. If you're really going for the German experience, and why wouldn't you, pair it with a German lager. This meal is perfect throughout the fall and winter seasons. And so easy when all you have to do is throw this Oktoberfest German lentil stew into your slow cooker!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Maternity Style

Ways to use maternity and non-maternity clothing to dress your baby bump this fall

I'm coming up on the home stretch of pregnancy! Which is exciting, but it also is the toughest (nevermind that "first trimester is the hardest!" junk, the third is). It's when you get really big, it's hard to breathe, it's hard to move, and you go to your closet to get dressed and next to nothing fits you. So, you know, there's that emotional challenge in addition to the physical challenges! Alas, I've developed a staple, go-to look for my fall maternity style. *Affiliate links used*

And clearly, plaid had to be involved. Don't worry though, I left the pumpkin spice out of this post! No PSLs here, and it's not because I'm not drinking caffeine... I digress. This look is super simple and uses maternity and non-maternity clothes so that you can easily dress your baby bump this fall.

Ways to be stylish this fall while pregnant! Use a mix of maternity and nonmaternity clothes to dress your baby bump this fall #fallmaternitystyle #maternitystyle #maternityfashion #fallfashion

This shirt is actually non-maternity and I found it at Target. I actually bought a clothing article from Target that fits and isn't terrible quality! Hallelujah, the heavens sang and the sky is filled with sunlight! Never thought that would happen. Watch out though, I haven't washed it yet. It could fall apart on the spin cycle... Here's some non-Target plaid options that are actually less expensive and just as cute!

The tank is a basic white maternity tank. Whether you're expecting or not, all women need basic tanks for cardigans, button-ups and under see-through shirts! Get one (or more!) in white, black and nude for starters.

Distressed Joe's Jeans and booties

The fabulous jeans are Joe's Jeans (similar available here) and are worth every penny. I wish I had them in non-maternity too, because they're my favorite jeans, hands down. I get compliments on them everywhere I go! I know they're a splurge item, but I think investing in at least one (probably two if you're a regular jean wearer) GOOD, high quality, high end maternity jeans is totally worth it. They'll fit you and look great your whole pregnancy. And future pregnancies, if that's the stage of life you're in! This pair is also extremely similar to the ones I have pictured, and are slightly less expensive.

The booties are Franco Sarto (shop similar here) and are the most comfortable pair of shoes I own, hands down. As in, Ugg boot level comfort! I like how the wedge dresses it up a bit, but keeps it easy to walk in (hello, uneven weight distribution and easy falls!) The sand color enables them to go with everything! Just cuff up those jeans and you're set.

Fall maternity fashion! Incorporating nonmaternity and maternity looks to dress your bump this fall #fallfashion #maternitystyle #maternityfashion

Do you have a look you're loving for fall? Plaids are clearly everywhere, have been for years now, and I STILL love it. I was so happy to find this one and be able to wear it over my bump - and I'll be able to wear it after, too! Use these tips and links for your fall maternity style, and dress your baby bump in comfort and ease.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Favorites: Setting S.M.A.R.T Goals

I'm breaking the rules a little bit with this post. Usually, Friday posts come in lists/groups of 5 so that I can link up with all the other great bloggers out there. Well, I'm giving y'all a "freebie" this week, because this is in fact going to have six things on it. Here it is October 9th already, and I wanted to go over the goals I set last month and set this months! So this Friday Favorites post is dedicated to setting S.M.A.R.T goals.

How to set SMART goals for your #blog or #business
First up! A review and tell-all about September. Here were my three S.M.A.R.T. goals for last month:

1) Reach 1,000 followers on Pinterest.
CHECK! Not only did I reach that goal by September 21, I exceeded it by 35 followers. I wrote this post last week about how I started to rock my Pinterest so you could have all the steps listed out and do them yourself, if you so choose.

2) Optimize AdSense.
Semi-CHECK! I shared with you all a great resource for blocking the lowest paying advertisers so that your price per click immediately jumps up. And I've read a lot about how ad placement and the keywords in your post can affect your ads. The issue is my BlogHer contract. As you can see to the left, I'm a BlogHer Publisher, which puts crazy limitations on where other ads can be placed. So I can't "optimize" in one of the key ways of AdSense (ad placement). I'm a bit fed up with BlogHer to be honest: I've had to chase them down for payments, I'm "supposed" to get publishing/syndication/sponsored post content opportunities from them as a Publisher, and NONE of that has happened.Yet? It's been exactly one year.

3) Get my Young Living Essential Oils distributor info on the blog.
CHECK! I have an ad directly to my YL page on my sidebar ------>
And I worked with my site designer to add a tab at the top of my page too ^^^

And now, for this month. I went to my first blog conference in September and learned some things that shaped the direction I want to go for the remaining quarter of 2015. Q4 starts this month, so here's my October S.M.A.R.T goals:

1) Improve the photography on my Instagram account.
Last quarter I focused on my Pinterest, and this quarter I'm focusing on my Instagram. That starts with putting up better photos! People don't want to follow bad content, nor do they want to follow strictly "marketing heavy" crap, so I'm doing some learnin' on my photography! I already made these photography backdrops, and will continue reading up on lighting, composition, etc etc. I'm participating in the #FallForSYBL challenge to give me a subject everyday to photograph, and hope to hone in on dem skillz.
2) Make 4 evergreen blog posts for my "blogging maternity leave."
Blogging with a newborn is HARD. And I wasn't even good at it when I had Henry! So I'm trying to do an extra post per week so that I have some stored content to post when I just don't have it in me to create something.

3) Pitch 4 brands for a collaboration.
I got some great ideas at Blog Elevated! From being in marketing for over a decade, I know that brands plan out 3-6 months in advance, so I want to pitch a few I'm super excited to potentially work with now to get a contract in the new year. Working with companies like Collective Bias and Linquia is awesome, but you have limited options of what brands you get to work with. I want to expand that horizon, so it's pitchin' time!

Linking up with other Friday Favorites gals: Amanda, Karli, April and H54F!

That's what I'm working on this month! You'll see that S.M.A.R.T goals are very specific and measurable - there's an object, an amount and a deadline. Improving my IG photography is a bit subjective, but I've listed out specific areas of improvement, and I know that future IG goals will be more measurable - it's just getting the "quality" in place first that is a bit challenging. Do you set S.M.A.R.T goals? Either for your blog, your life or perhaps your career? Tell me about them!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

7th Month Bumpdate

Hey y'all, this baby is coming out soon! This is my fourth bumpdate and seventh month, and I've officially entered the "oh crap, I'm going to have a newborn in the house again" phase! I teeter on the edge of excitement about that, and complete fear at the work and lack of sleep that a newborn involves. Because for real... It's WORK. Alas, nothing can be done but to face it head on so let's jump right into my 7th month bumpdate, where I'll pretend you care about my pregnancy deets!

I'll make it entertaining, promise. Pinky swear.

What it's REALLY like to be 7 months #pregnant

Mood: Surprisingly calm. If you read this post about an "incident" that happened to me recently, you might be as shocked as I that I didn't go completely nuts on this woman. But I didn't. Although I think I nearly gave myself preeclampsia just thinking about all the things I wish I had said to her! Oh well, it all turned out for the best: I stayed out of jail and she stayed out of the hospital.

Craving: Just aversions. If you pin pictures of raw meat, I WILL vomit.

Weight & Workouts: I'm seven months, 28+ weeks, third trimester official and only up 12 pounds! Can I get an amen?! That's quite a bit below the low end of normal, but Otto is measuring perfectly for gestational age. I'm actually less than I was with Henry too, and I was trying to figure out why, since I'm eating and working out the same... And DUH! It's because I don't sit in an office for this pregnancy - I'm literally on my feet chasing/carrying a 30lbs toddler all. day. long. My child does NOT sit still. So that's why the pounds haven't packed on! And why I'm drop dead tired by 6pm. Also going to yoga, barre and walking 5x/wk, although at this point I'm taking every modification possible. Planks on my knees for me, thanks.

Maternity clothes: Did y'all see these jeans I got?! I had HOPED I would find something like them, although it's nearly impossible to find an inseam I can actually roll - especially in always-too-short maternity jeans. Joe's Jeans and Pea in the Pod to the rescue! Again. Always. (It's listed as a 28" inseam, but that's cuffed twice. I uncuffed it once and it hits about 2" above my ankle. My inseam to the floor is 36" for reference.) If you're tall and pregnant, just go there, price tag be danged. I'm not even trying anywhere else anymore, and Pea in the Pod isn't paying me to say that. #wishtheywould #hinthint
Gender: I'm still the queen of this castle! Otto William Stewart is his name.

Excited for: #basicgirl alert, but FALL! Please please please cool down, Dallas. It's funny, right at the magical 28 week mark with both Henry and this baby, it's like a light switch goes off: It's insta-pregnancy discomfort. I'm big, it's hard to move, it's hard to breathe, and I'm exponentially more tired. Like, immediately at 28 weeks, it's strange. Anyway, so if it would just go ahead and cool down, that would be ONE thing that makes my life easier, better, and less grumpy.

That's all for this 7th month bumpdate, friends! The finish line is near. Hopefully not too near; I don't need another preterm baby. Crossing my fingers (and my legs... If only that would work though, right?!) that this baby stays in until he's full term. So far, so good.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rescue Dog To The Rescue!

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

Do you have a shelter dog in your life? PEDIGREE® will donate a bowl of food to a dog in need during the month of October! #PedigreeGives #CollectiveBias #ad
My husband had already adopted Baxter when we started dating. He volunteered at a local shelter to walk the dogs while he was in college, and walked Baxter one day (then known as "Bubbles" - the name the shelter gave him.) My husband loved him instantly since he was different than all the large labs he was used to walking, and ended up adopting him.

When I entered the picture, I could see how much these two loved and depended on each other. Baxter follows my husband around incessantly! He sits by the window, waiting for him to come home from business trips. He knows the sound of his car when it drives by, and races to the backdoor for him to enter at the end of the day.

Baxter the rescue mutt
Me, on the other hand? It took me a while to fall in love with Baxter. As a shelter dog, he had some attachment issues and that drove me nuts. I had my own dog, Otis, whom I gotten as a puppy and trained and socialized. I was used to a dog behaving the way I had trained him to!

A few months after moving in together, I sat Baxter down for a chat. There was a thunderstorm, and he was refusing to go to the bathroom outside, making me late for work. "Alright Baxter, we gotta figure something out buddy! We have to live together. But I don't coddle you like daddy does. I have rules. I have expectations. So let's figure this out so we can play together!"

All Baxter needed was some consistent discipline and encouragement, and he was a new dog! See, with hubs travel schedule, the poor dog never really had a consistent caregiver. Sure, hubs was around on weekends, but that was a playmate for Baxter - there was never the same person around to consistently set the same expectations day in and day out. But Baxter is a smart dog! After only about a month of having to enforce rules, this dog caught on. He's no puppy either: he's 14 years old and was adapting to my way of training him, smart boy! He went to the bathroom outside in storms and he played well with others. His barking reduced. He was a new dog!

Good dogs get PEDIGREE® treat rewards!
After three years together, this 25 pound mutt is my right hand man while my husband travels. If there's a bug in the house, I just call Baxter and he rushes in to the rescue and kills it immediately. Seriously, I just say, "BUG!" and he hunts it down and takes care of the problem. If I'm having a long day with Henry, I get him a ball and Henry and he play fetch, giving me a solid half hour of rest. No need to clean up after a huge baby mess, either! If Henry has thrown his food around, I just call the dogs in and they take care of the cleaning for me.

PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX® are great for your dogs teeth! #LaterShelter #ad

I reward this sweet boy with PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX® doggie treats. He LOVES them, and they work to keep his teeth clean and freshen his breath. Because I now have two awesome dogs, it's so easy for me to head to Sam's Club and pick up a big box - we need a lot of treats for all the good doggie behavior around here! Speaking of, Sam's Club also offers a 55lb bag of PEDIGREE® brand dry dog food that's great for your pet! Both are easy to find in the Pet Care aisle of Sam's Club, as are tons of other PEDIGREE® products.

PEDIGREE® is available at Sam's Club #PedigreeGives #ad

Do you have a dog you love like I love Baxter? You can upload a photo of him or her to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #LaterShelter for a chance to be featured on! Then PEDIGREE® will donate a bowl of food for every upload to a shelter dog in need in the month of October! How great is that? Let's see some of those cute doggie pics! You can also check out PEDIGREE® social hub here.