Author Archive

See You in 2016

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Happy Holidays!

We hope you have a wonderful, wonderful holiday season! I am planning to take a much-needed break to rest, read, and love on my people. We are so thankful for your continued love and support of this site and our family.  In January, we will be celebrating 12 years of this funny made-up job and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Sending all of our love as you celebrate all the things! xoxo

Dora Band-Aids for a Hurting World

Monday, December 21st, 2015

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When my daughter was small, I remember that each and every hurt required some type of medical treatment. We had a constant rotation of ice packs and tiny bandages, often for nonexistent wounds. It was as though the act of putting that Dora Band-Aid on her superficially scraped up knee was enough to close the floodgates of tears and make the world right again. She needed me to see her hurt, to echo how awful it was to be hurt, and then to show my efforts to repair it.

Last week I discovered that a family I had been working with, through a volunteer opportunity I am involved with, had fallen on some particularly hard times and had been living without things that I would consider basic human needs.  The gas in the home had been shut off, the stove was not in working order, medical needs couldn’t be addressed through their insurance, and there was not even a washer to care for their family’s clothing.

When you have a platform like this to work from, you can often make swift work and can create fast resolutions to problems, simply because of the large circle that comes with this type of job. In a matter of 24 hours, I found I could meet all of these basic needs for this family between our family’s resources and many, many generous givers that I reached out to who helped me close the gap through material and financial donations. If there is one thing I feel proud of, it is is the company I keep.

As I shared those gifts with this family this weekend  I had a flashback of being that mom sharing a Dora Band-Aid again- I was so unequipped. This wound was so beyond the reach of the tiny offering that I had.  I could see so very clearly that there were many other needs that were there and I knew that the gift I offered, while appreciated, was just a small bandage on a problem bigger than I could fill. 

I left my humble bandage for this wound, I echoed the hurt, and I hugged those people and gave what I could.

Those bandages though, those are mine to give out and sometimes I have a whole box at my disposal and sometimes I just have a couple to share that I can sprinkle around. This box is mine to do with what I choose, and yet,  I was surprised at some of the commentary that came from what others said about those bandages.

“Did they deserve them?”

“Were they working?”

“Why had they fallen on hard times in the first place?”

“So many people working the system….”

You have probably heard a few of these before, am I right?

Here’s the thing.

My family?

We worked the system. 

My husband lost his job for a year and we became part of the system that people refer to with that shake of their head.  We found ourselves unable to make ends meet, unable to find employment, and the seeker of any government gift that we could qualify for. My husband and I went without health insurance (a gamble that kept me up every night), we placed our son on a healthcare plan funded by the state, and we eagerly waited for those unemployment checks so we could do things like get groceries and pay our mortgage.

What helped us get through those times were those tiny bandages that so many giving and kind people shared with us. They knew they couldn’t heal the gaping wound we had…it would have been impossible!  Yet, they were happy to share the smaller bandages that made each of those dreary days in my life better.

They brought us meals, they watched our baby, they gave us gift cards to have nights out, they even bought a pizza for the volunteers who later had to move us out of our very own home that we could no longer afford.

I could not even have purchased that pizza for them as a thank you.

Our debt situation?

Well, we needed a full-body cast at that point, not a tiny bandage.

But those bandages made such a difference and I still reflect on the generosity of the people that got us through such a depressing time in my life. 

And now, I’m the lucky one who has a box of tiny bandages to help those in need.

The bandages are often the smallest gifts, but not only are they my gifts to give, but it is their gift to do what they need to do with it. I don’t worry about if that bandage is going to someone working hard enough or if they are deserving of my tiny bandages.

I know God will figure all of that out.

He has a way of sorting things out for me. 

I only hope that other people are sprinkling them in some of the same spots that I am so we can close the gap on those hurts in the world together. When cobbled together, incredible things happen like the small Christmas miracle I got to witness this weekend as we met these basic needs for a family I love.

As we close out another year here at MomAdvice, I hope you will find a way to share your gifts with others, whether they are big or small. Just as I did with my daughter,  I am acknowledging these hurts in the world today, I echo your hurts because I think about them too and pray for resolutions, and I share a tiny bandage with those of you who are hurting.

I am also hoping you are one of the lucky ones holding a box and you won’t forget to share a few Dora Band-Aids of your own, even if the wounds seem too big for such small offerings.

They all matter.

And so do you.

xoxo

November/December 2015 Must-Reads

Monday, December 21st, 2015

November/December 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

It’s time to wrap up another year of reading on MomAdvice. I hope you didn’t miss my annual wrap-up of the best reads for 2015. What an incredible year of reading it was this year. I want to thank so many of you for your encouragement on how much you appreciate these lists when making your book selections and how these have helped motivate you to really dig in and read again. Reading is a cause that is near and dear to my heart!

With the holidays in full swing, I combined my November and December reading since I wasn’t able to tackle as many books as I had hoped!  I am looking forward to a little R&R with my kids while they are on break and I’m hoping to come back refreshed and with many more great book selections for you to dive into!

In the meantime, I started a small  MomAdvice Hangout Facebook group and we will be running a monthly MomAdvice Book Club discussion there. If you want to join in, be sure to pick up The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende for our January chat!  Each month we will have a new hostess who will be able to introduce to you a new book to read and discuss. If you are interested in joining in the fun, be sure to send me a request. We are keeping the group private for now so people can really chat and get to know one another!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

I selected this creepy read to indulge in over the Halloween weekend since none of the typical Halloween horror films were grabbing me this year. I must say that this book did not disappoint and I would, in particular, recommend this one for Hitchcock fans!

Malerman succeeds in writing a perfectly gripping and creepy psychological page-turner. With the creatures lurking, a woman and her two children try to flee to safety blindfolded along a river. If they see what is lurking, they die a horrific death inflicting pain upon themselves to stop seeing the horrors of what they have seen. Interweaving past (pre-creatures) and present (a post-creature world), you go along on a horrific ride as Malorie tries to save herself and her children blindfolded, never knowing what is lurking around every turn.

I loved it and I think you will too especially if you love classic Stephen King or if you enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did. Do yourself a favor and read this one so we can talk about it!

Josh will be joining us next month for our Sundays With Writers series! I can’t wait to hear more about how he came up with this unique concept for a storyline!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

I am slowly working my way through the GoodReads Choice Awards nominations list and Secrets of a Charmed Life was nominated for the Historical Fiction category.

There is so much to love in this story about two sisters who are separated from one another in such a sad way and how they are transformed by this experience and the war. Set in 1940’s England, the book focuses on the bombings that happened in London, following the story of Emma Downtree who ends up losing everything in the bombs including her inability to find her sister after a series of bombs occurs in the building where their apartment resides. This inevitably changes Emma’s entire life path leading her to a different career path, to find love, and uncovering some deep family secrets along the way.

The story does alternate with the past and the current day, but in a really readable way.  Sometimes those present day stories can take away from the story, but this really moved things along in a beautiful way.  The only part that lagged a bit was the ending with the letters, for me.

I am recommending this one for fans of The Nightingale, The Orphan Train,  All the Light I Cannot See.

4 Out of 5 Stars

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I have been dying to read Brooklyn ever since I saw the preview for the film. Wouldn’t you know that our theater did not have it and then they only had it at weird times so I never got to see it. I’m heartbroken why good films like this don’t stick around and get played more around this area. What the hay, Michiana? You see, I always make a deal with myself to read the book first so I can feel the true disappointment in films…kidding…sort of.

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. When she falls in love, she receives some devastating news that sends her back home again where she must make painful choices about her future.

This was such an achingly beautiful coming of age story that perfectly captures the struggles of growing up and leaving your childhood home and family. The real challenge lies in moving away and then finding yourself back at home again and finding your placement in the world again when you are all that your mother has left. Do you stay or do you go?

A beautiful read, particularly on audiobook thanks to the gorgeous accents, for a great escape. I recommend this one for fans of The Book of Unknown Americans, Everything I Never Told YouAmericanah

4 Out of 5 Stars

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

I know you are like, ALRIGHT, YOU LOVED IT. WE GET IT! Yes, this one made my top ten list for just a great guilty pleasure escape this year. That said, I read it over the month of December so I had to include it today in our monthly round-up!

I was completely enchanted by The Royal We, a fictional tale of an American getting swept off her feet by a real Prince.

Perhaps, that sounds a little cheesy, but it is anything BUT cheesy.Instead of focusing on the fairy tale romance aspect of the story, Heather & Jessica really dive into what it would take for someone to transition from college student into a Princess and the very real dilemma of losing her privacy, what strains that might put on her friendships, and what her family might go through as she takes on a celebrity status that she had never desired.

It’s funny, heartwarming, and really beautifully executed from a really smart family lineage to what training might be involved to be a part of the Royal family.

It read like a guilty pleasure read that still had lots of depth and soul. I laughed, cried, and was disappointed that I had to close the final pages when I was done. I just didn’t want it to end and I am convinced there is more of a story to tell.

Be sure to catch my interview with the authors for more juicy royal chatter and to hear what’s happening with the film process for this one!

4 Out of 5 Stars

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

Once again, I tackled another read from that GoodReads nomination list and Trail of Broken Wings was another nominee for Best Fiction that I wanted to read.

Domestic abuse is fully brought to light in this account of one family and the man who abused them. As he lays in a coma, each of the sisters and the wife replay the events that happened through their traumatic years and the reader uncovers the dark secrets that they each have carried. 

This one delved a lot into the Indian culture and the traditional roles of women in their culture, many of which I was not aware of! It would make for a compelling book club discussion and did not shy away from some of the demons people battle when they have been abused.

The book had a great twist at the end that really added some depth to one of the character’s storylines. Raw and honest, it would be impossible to read and not feel a new awareness and sadness for those abused.

 4 Out of 5 Stars

November/December 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

Read With Me This Year:

January 2015 Must-Reads

February 2015 Must-Reads

March 2015 Must-Reads

April 2015 Must-Reads

May 2015 Must-Reads

June 2015 Must-Reads

July 2015 Must-Reads

August 2015 Must-Reads

September 2015 Must-Reads

October 2015 Must-Reads

My Top Ten Books of 2015

November/December 2015 Must-Reads from MomAdvice.com

What should I be adding to my library bag?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below! Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though.

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It’s the 3 Little Things: A Lifetime of Gift Wrap, Faux Leather Midi, & Glorious Holds

Friday, December 18th, 2015

A Charlie Brown Christmas Record

Yawn!  We made it through another week and I am giving myself a nice slow clap this morning as we crawl our way to the finish of another busy week. Today I am savoring my last day alone before the holiday break with the kids and finishing up the last of the details as we celebrate our first family Christmas tomorrow.

We had several gatherings with friends this week to celebrate the holiday season and each of them remind me how lucky I am to have my village of people and I am thankful for the new friends we have met along the way.

Bell Ringing

We have been trying to spread a lot of Christmas cheer in our neck of the woods. We volunteered with Clay Church to be bell ringers this year as a family and I plan to make this an annual tradition.  I think my heart grew just witnessing my kids and their genuine love for people and enthusiasm as each coin was dropped into that bucket during their shift.

Teacher Gifts

I usually share our gifts with you each year for all the helpers in our life! This year I did knitted cozies again and just added felt flower pins to this simple knit for each of our teachers and bus drivers (I left out that felt flower detail for our male bus driver & postal worker) on insulated coffee mugs. For our awesome bus drivers I did Fast Lane Tea (hahaha!) with mugs and then I wrapped up two Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in small boxes for them.

For the office staff at school I shared some of my slow cooker pumpkin spiced candles.

For our principal, I knitted a red pair of cabled ear warmers.

For the staff, I did a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts and attached our holiday card with some washi tape to leave in the lounge.

Our teachers received the same tea & knitted cozies set with a donation towards their iPad drive. It was fun to make deliveries this week!

Let’s move on to this week’s jam-packed happy list!

Leather Midi

Leather Midi

A Budget-Friendly Faux Leather Midi

I am still in a freeze with purchasing for my capsule wardrobe, but I needed to make a wardrobe investment for a holiday party we attended. A faux leather midi has been on my wish list for my wardrobe and I figured I could get away with making the purchase for the holiday festivities, but I didn’t want to spend a lot. I found this faux leather skirt and it is PERFECTION for a mere $22.90. If you look at the model, you will see that it hits a six foot woman at her knees. I am 5’1″ so it hits at the perfect midi length for me. Jealous, six foot woman? I bet you are!

This white mini dress was a little short for my age, but works perfectly as a tunic or under a flaring a-line layer like I have here. I love tunics for their multi-purpose wardrobe uses! The bib necklace was from last year at Flourish Boutique. My favorite nude comfy heels finish the look. Did I mention I tried a new top-bun twist too? Even a hair novice like me could figure that one out! Overall, I felt confident this year with my choices for the festivities and that faux leather midi is going to find itself in my winter capsule this year!

gift-wrap

The BEST Wrapping Paper Investment

“Brown paper packages tied up with string…”  I love the simplicity of brown paper packages and how you can customize them with ribbon, twine, washi tape, and stamps. The possibilities are endless. When I spied this ENORMOUS roll of kraft paper (800 feet to be exact!), I just knew this would be a smart gift wrap investment. It’s the perfect width, perfect weight, and costs a mere $21.76.  I now have gift wrap for every occasion as well as for future craft projects with my kiddos for approximately a decade.

Library Holds

Clark, Your Holds Are In

Library shopping carts can get out of hand quick! I had to laugh and snap a pic when my sister & I had a library date yesterday at the excessive amount of checking out someone did. I mean, geesh. Are you really going to read all of that, Clark?

I certainly am going to try! You can peek at my stack on IG.

The day my holds come in is always the happiest of days!

*this post may contain affiliate links- I only recommend what I love though. Check out past editions of  It’s the 3 Little Things

Now it’s your turn! What’s making you happy this week?

 

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

*This post is sponsored by Shoe Carnival.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

I’ve really enjoyed sharing some new holiday gift-giving strategies and traditions that are important to our family with you. Today I wanted to talk about a gift that I really struggle with… the gift card.

While practical in so many ways, I have found it difficult to make gift cards feel personal. I want people to always know that when I give them a gift card, it isn’t because I don’t care about them to shop, but only that I want them to treat themselves to something they really love.

I can tell you that I don’t know a single girlfriend, sister, or mother that would object to a shoe gift card. I may not know their shoe sizes to always shop for them personally, but I know that if I give them a gift card for shoes that they would be more than thrilled to peruse the shoe aisles for the perfect gift. Bonus points if that gift card accompanied a gift card to their favorite coffee shop so they could sip while browsing.

Today I wanted to share with you 3 ways I have created to make a gift card to Shoe Carnival more personal and make it truly stand out!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

(Shoes: Nicole Carleigh in Black)

Create a Snow Globe Jar

If you put anything in a jar, I think it instantly amplifies its level of awesomeness on any gift. Jars are very inexpensive gifts to give and this little snowy-filled scene only took a couple of minutes to pull together and requires zero craft skills.

Simply add a little faux snow on the bottom with whatever you might have in your craft supplies or purchase those delicious rolls of snow they have out with all of the snow villages this time of year. Place a little snow on the bottom, add an inexpensive ornament, and finish with a bottle brush tree. TADA!

With just a few moments you have created something really cute for their mantle out of items that they can use for their own holiday decorating or food storage. Best of all, tucked underneath that blanket of white is a gift card to do a little shoe shopping!

WINNING!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

 

Knit a Gift Card-igan

As you know, I am a knitter, so I always find fun ways to use my hobby for the holidays. This year, I stumbled upon this amazing little pattern for a Gift Card-igan and knitted this out of a little scrap yarn I had left over from another project. It is a perfectly gratifying project since it is so small in size and the pattern is easy enough to execute while watching holiday movies on the couch.

Whatever your craft skill set is, consider using it to create a unique gift card holder of your own. Sewing, embroidery, decoupage, crochet… there are so many fun ways to incorporate your own crafting skills to make a gift card holder that is unique and special. It adds that personal touch to any gift you give and showcases your talents in such a fun way!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

 

(Shoes: Crocs Cap Toe Rhinestone)

Add Our Free Holiday Sparkle

I’m all about the holiday sparkle from attire to the gifts I give. These Crocs Cap Toe Rhinestone shoes add that holiday touch I love with their shiny cap toes and rhinestone embellishment. Did I mention how comfy these are? They are the perfect shoe for any gathering because you can be on your feet for days without any discomfort! I found the same holds true for the Nicole Carleigh Boots I got, thanks to their low and wider heel.

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

Of course, sparkle can also be added to your gift and I wanted to share this fun printable that our designer, MJ from pars caeli, created just for you to add that personal touch to your gift card this year!

(scroll to the bottom for this freebie!)

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

 

Shoe Carnival happens to be running a Give 1, Gift 1 Gift Card promotion this week which is perfect timing with our gathering of packaging ideas. If you purchase a $50 gift card, you can receive a $10 bonus reward card that can be redeemed from 12/26-1/16, in-store only.

Be sure to cash in on this incredible promo and I hope you can use a few of our ideas for your gift-giving needs this year!

3 Unique Ways to Package Gift Cards  (GIVEAWAY With Shoe Carnival)

FREEBIES Galore:

FREE Colorful Cute Shoes Fund Envelope

FREE B&W Cute Shoe Funds Envelope

 

Today I am giving away two $50 gift cards to two winners to add a little holiday sparkle from Shoe Carnival for those upcoming holiday festivities!  Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter.  Good luck and happiest of holidays!

 

*This post is sponsored by Shoe Carnival.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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How We Grew Our Site By 4 Million More Page Views This Year

Friday, December 18th, 2015

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

MomAdvice is celebrating her 12th birthday this year. For those of you following along all these years, I can’t thank you enough for your support. It’s this time of the year where I reflect back on my hits and misses with my business in 2015. After going through our traffic numbers from the past two years, we realized we had experienced a growth of 4 million page views since 2014. Our growth has been holding steady around the same figures overall for years now, so this type of growth was very exciting.  This year I really buckled down and got serious about strategy for our business and I believe the growth is a reflection of that.  

Let’s face it, I’m a dinosaur in this business. Young women are joining my field all the time and I struggle with the trying new things because of the reality of my time constraints coupled with the laziness of doing what already works. That said, there were many new things we tried and I’d love to share them with you, if it might help your business in 2016.  My biggest piece of advice is just try one new thing out a month and really look at your numbers. If you are finding it isn’t helping you grow, don’t be afraid to try something else.

Let’s go through the hits that drove the hits (wink, wink!)

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Drove Pinterest Traffic To The Most Popular Posts

As a lifestyle blogger, Pinterest is my biggest driver of traffic to the site.  If you look at your web stats (through Google Analytics or your web host), you can grab a clear picture of what and why people are visiting you from their search terms to the amount of traffic each post is driving.  In the past, I was really focused on the new content I was creating and pinning that, but those weren’t driving the traffic as much. Although that’s important too, my top ten posts are more important for my traffic.

Once I figured out my top ten posts, I promoted these regularly and I utilized Ahalogy to schedule these pins for optimum times when people would be on Pinterest. 

I’ve been a lazy blogger about affiliate revenue, but I started taking that avenue more seriously for building passive revenue to these top ten posts too.  This diy blanket scarf post now offers fabric options that readers can peek at which generates a small amount of revenue that can pay for things like web hosting, my newsletter, or my editorial assistant.

Driving traffic to these posts only required tweaks on existing content (new headers, adding affiliate links, and pointing people back in their direction), and did not require me to create new content.  It helped me get through times when my creative wells had run dry.

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Paired My Passions With an Interview Series

I think any blog can benefit from some type of interview series. Design Mom & Cup of Jo are two great examples of sites that pair thoughtful editorials with a great balance of interview content. I am a big fan of the Living With Kids series and the Beauty Uniform series always yields fun beauty tips and tricks.

Most of all, I appreciate the fact that doing an interview series relieves my shoulders of some of the content creation, although it isn’t without work.

My passion is for books and writers so I created our Sundays With Writers series to interview authors about their books and to share those with our fellow bookworms. They are very popular with our audience and I have a natural place for affiliate links for books that helps support the site financially.

To continue building upon that concept of making the most of every interview, I asked each author about their favorite book of all-time and compiled these recommendations into a single post that is updated weekly for our bookworm readers. This post is also a top post on our site because my readers are always looking for new book recommendations.

The success in this as a traffic driver though has really relied upon my own ability to create unique interview questions. Many of these have taken an hour or more of research to gather nuggets of information about the author and their books to try and create content that is both unique and compelling. This time-investment pays off because the authors and their publishing houses are happy to push traffic my way to help with book sales. These new readers may or may not stick around to find out more, but a seed has been planted that we are a good resource for book recommendations and for the stories behind the stories.

All in all, I feel like this one was a big win and traffic driver this year!

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Worked On Getting the Balance Back

In 2014, I was really focused on financial recovery which sounds kind of funny, but writing a book in 2013 meant that my site really suffered and we took a financial hit. I just couldn’t keep those two balls in the air. 2014 was our most profitable year and, I admit, the least balanced year on the site because I took too many sponsored jobs. This year, I increased my rates and took fewer jobs. Overall, it was a better balance for the site and for me personally.

I worked on more personal posts that were more community-building or that I thought our readers might find interesting. Our 3 little things (something anyone can replicate) is a weekly happy list that shares everything from what we are watching on Netflix to comfortable lingerie.  These posts are a regular reader favorite and are a place where I can inject more of myself in them. I finally felt confident enough to let you tour my home and that seemed to be a big hit this year too.  We also talked (with my son’s permission) about his ADD diagnosis and how we work with him to succeed at school.

My struggle always is building that intimacy while keeping our privacy. As a protective parent and as a person who lives in a small town, I choose to keep the site as personal as I can with a clear line drawn in the sand about the boundaries for personal content. I grappled a lot with sharing the ADD journey, for example, but the outpouring of emails we received after that led me to believe that this personal series was important to share about, simply to let parents know they are not alone.

We joined a new ad network that has increased our revenue considerably, giving me the ability to write more personal pieces and not having to rely so much on sponsored content to pay our bills. That said, sponsored content is still how I earn the majority of my revenue and is necessary to sustain the site. I am very proud of the content I create (you can see my work here although many posts were duplicates this year for our m challenge series) and I try to always only select jobs that add value to my reader’s life.  It means I turn a lot away and that is okay.  An increased rate though allows me to be more selective and also do a better job for my clients because their products can really shine.

I think restoring balance restored our community and contributed to our higher traffic numbers. 

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

We Got Serious About Our Newsletter

And when I say WE I mean Jami. Jami blogs over at An Oregon Cottage and she works very hard behind the scenes here at MomAdvice. I am an ideas person while she actually executes half the things I think about, but would have never followed through on.  We hired a designer to design a simple template and got serious about newsletter building by offering free printables periodically that would drive newsletter subscribers.  We keep it clean, personal, & useful each week with all of the happenings in one spot.

I never know how social platforms will change. Facebook, a top driver, no longer drives as much for us without putting in considerable funds & effort. This newsletter helps deliver consistent readers who really love the site back to the new offerings. Moving forward, we will continue the consistency (meaning Jami will continue being consistent and I will be dreaming of other ideas) and we will continue develop offerings that make this newsletter useful to you.

How to Increase Your Page Views from MomAdvice.com

I Diversified & I Did Good Stuff With That Money

Dinosaurs have a hard time changing their old ways, but I tried new things this year. I sold an e-book, I taught a course on creativity, I guest spotted on podcasts, I taught myself iVideo, I finally applied to some affiliate programs for things I was already talking about, and I sold my first product through Hazel & Ruby.  All of these projects, in turn, drive unique traffic to the site and some generated profit that we weren’t expecting this year.

All of these funds earned from diversifying the revenue went to charity. We were able to supply courses and materials for women at a local women’s shelter, we supported a non-profit doing great things for cancer patients & their families, we assisted with gift-giving for kids in need, we provided a large donation of gifts of warmth for a men’s shelter, we supplied items needed for a local food pantry & shelter, and we took care of a family in our community that had fallen on hard times. 

I continue to look for ways to diversify the income to benefit those in need. It’s money we never expected and we know all that good stuff will come back to us. My next focus is on building an Etsy shop with 100% profit to Burkina Faso for wells. It’s a dream of mine to give the gift of clean water to many more there.

That Was Great, But I Can Do Better

The misses? Tons! I know I can always do better. Sometimes I wonder if this is what I should be doing. I have dreams of developing something (still stewing on that!)  for those in need, but when I do it, I want to do it very seriously.  For now, I’m just using this as a vehicle for creativity, connections, and causes.

2016 will be all about continuing to work smarter and not harder. My first goal is to produce an ebook on our journey towards minimizing. I have much to say about our journey. I also have a big dream to publish a cookbook/memoir that I think would sell really well. The concept feels concrete, it’s the doing that is the hard part for me.  January will be about making these things come to life and continuing to be open to the possibility of new projects and new ways to diversify.

how-to-increase-your-page-views

Have questions? Ask me and I promise to try to be as honest as possible! Have tips for growth? I need ‘em!

Christmas At Mom Advice: Traditions, Decor & Food

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Christmas at Mom Advice-Traditions Decor and Food

With the Christmas season in full swing I thought it would be fun to bring you an all-in-one resource of our best holiday ideas to help with your celebrations! I gathered any family traditions posts I could find, including ideas to make the holidays meaningful for your family, tips for baking with your kids, how to keep your marriage at the top of your list, entertaining ideas, and more.

Then I pulled our Christmas decor projects together along with our little holiday home tour. If you like simple DIY decor, these are for you! Lastly, you can find all our recipes that would be perfect at the holidays for giving as gifts, using for entertaining, or just enjoying with your family.

These are all things I use again and again to help make the holidays special and meaningful, but not crazy, and I hope you will be able to pull something from this list, too!

Holiday Traditions

Celebrating St. Nicholas Day

Celebrating St. Nicholas Day

Favorite Holiday Traditions (+Peppermint Cocoa recipe!)

Top 10 Christmas Ideas for the Family

10 Ways to Make the Holidays Meaningful for Your Kids

Tips for Baking with Kids

Family Traditions to Celebrate the Holidays in Meaningful Ways

Tips to Put Marriage at the Top of Your Holiday List

Holiday Entertaining Made Easy & Budget-Friendly

Christmas Decor

Christmas home tour at Mom Advice

A Little Home Tour

DIY Holiday Yarn Trees

DIY Holiday Mantel Ideas

Washi Tape Christmas Tree Wall Card Display

How to make a Yarn Pom Pom Wreath

How to Make a Pom Pom Wreath

DIY Yarn Pom Pom & Ornament Garland

Easy Burlap Wreath Tutorial

Food for Giving & Enjoying

Christmas Tree cinnamon Rolls

Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls

Galette Des Rois Kings Cake

Gluten Free Cranberry Orange Morning Buns

Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Peppermint Frosting

No-Bake Peppermint Cheesecakes in a Jar

DIY Peppermint Mocha

Homemade Peppermint Mocha

Homemade Gingerbread Latte

Light Cranberry Bar Recipe for the Holidays

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars

Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Gingerbread Biscotti

Microwave Peanut Brittle

Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle

Sugar & Spice Nut Mix

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

2-Ingredient Cranberry Pancake Syrup

Baked Donut Recipes

Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream

I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for your holiday season! I wish you the merriest Christmas of all!!

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Blind Date Book Club Exchange

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Blind Date Book Exchange from MomAdvice.com

As a minimalist, I really love to give and get gifts that I really would love and use which can be difficult when it comes to holiday exchanges. We all, I am sure, have went home with a White Elephant gift we really did not love or spent good money on exchanges where we have felt a little disappointed in what we received in exchange. It’s tricky to not look like a Scrooge when you want to opt out to save money.

Last month though, I got a little inspiration for an idea to host a book exchange for my fellow bookworms. I visited Asheville for a conference and saw my first Blind Date Book display in person at the book shop. After snapping a photo for Instagram, I started thinking what a fun idea it would be to have a Blind Book Book Exchange for the holidays with my book club. What would an evening look like where we all brought blind dates to share?

Last night we had our exchange and it was, honestly, one of the best exchanges I have been a part of.  Perhaps, a bit nerdy, I loved going home with a great book AND a whole slew of ideas for books I’d love to check out at the library. 

Blind Date Book Exchange from MomAdvice.com

What Are Blind Date Books?

If you haven’t seen a display before, they are books that are wrapped in paper and then they have words written on them that describe what the book is about. Displays can be found at many bookstores and I have even heard that libraries do this too.  You can illustrate the paper or just write words about what makes the book special. I love this Pinterest board that shows so many ideas for a fun blind date book display. As you can see, there are many interpretations.

As someone who truly judges books by their covers, this gives you a chance to think differently, perhaps, about a book you might not have picked up before. Since it is a blind date, you are taking a bit of a risk that the money you invest may or may not pay off so you want to choose wisely.

I purchased a book at the bookstore and it sounded just like something I would love.

Guess what? It was something I already loved very much. I loved it so much that it made our top ten books of 2015.

I was happy to pass it on to someone else and, honestly, if I loved it enough to put it on my top ten, I would have been happy to own it too.

Blind Date Book Exchange from MomAdvice.com

How Do You Do a Blind Date Book Exchange?

Of course, since I have never heard that anyone has done this before, I made up my very own rules. That means, if these rules don’t work for you, feel free to make your own! It’s your blind date, friends!

Tell Everyone to Bring a Book Wrapped In Paper- I encouraged everyone to bring a book that was special to them or that they would want to read themselves. You could pass down a book that you already owned and loved or purchase a book for the exchange. Have everyone wrap their books and then write their own descriptions about them. I have found that reviews on the backs of books offer a plethora of beautiful words to use.

Draw Numbers- Write down numbers equal to the amount of people participating and have everyone draw a number.

Select Your Books- Give people time to browse the descriptions before the exchange and then start going in order of the numbers drawn. Beginning with the person who has drawn #1,  have them select their book, read the description on the outside, and then open it.

Steal Away- Just like those White Elephant exchanges, the next person in line can steal the opened book, if they are wanting to read it, or they can draw from the book pile. We allowed two steals per book to keep it fun while still moving along.

Go Home With a New Book, But Keep The Exchange Going Strong- What a treat to go home with a new read! The best part is, if your book club meets regularly, you can bring the book back to the next book club meeting and share it again with your book club members. It creates a little lending library for your group with just a small investment.  I can’t take credit for that idea though, it was thought up by my fellow book club member, Kate! Smart girl!

What Book Did I Give?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

GAVE: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

DESCRIPTION: Worldview Changer, America’s Mandela, A Voice to the Voiceless, Thrilling, Heroic Endeavors, Compelling, Hope for Humanity, Inspiration for Change

Nonfiction can be intimidating to fiction lovers so I wanted to share this one because it read like a legal thriller and completely changed my view on people in the prison system. I couldn’t put it down and I wanted someone to read it so I could talk about the injustice of so many.

What Did I Go Home With?

Looking for Alaska by John Green

GOT: Looking for Alaska by John Green

I am really excited to dig into this- have you read it? I’ve heard such good things. I think this is the only John Green book I haven’t read yet!

Blind Date Book Exchange

This was the best exchange I’ve ever been part of  and it’s not because I invented it.

Or maybe it is.

Who is to say?

Regardless, I hope it inspires you for a fun night with your own book clubs. We look forward to making this one an annual tradition and it made for a really fun evening talking about all of our favorite books. I look forward to cozying up with my book over the winter break and I don’t even have to return it back to the library- winning!

Want to be part of a book club? Join me over here for our first online book club happening in January. We are reading this one as our first selection and I am so excited!

Have you ever taken a blind date with a book? Tell me about it!

This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend what I love, I promise!

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Amy’s Notebook 12.16.15

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Breakfast Casseroles via The Kitchn

Source: The Kitchn

20 crowd-pleasing breakfast casseroles – perfect for Christmas morning!

What a great guide for families that ski & snowboard!

Here’s a tool for building a personalized (capsule) wardrobe.

How cool is this thumbprint technology for music lovers?

A smart gift guide for men.

Teach your Minecraft lovers how to code- so cool!

Chicken Nacho Pizza? HEAVEN!

Low-maintenance art projects with kids- bookmarking for our holiday break.

Reading Nook via The Makerista

Source: The Makerista

Reading nook inspiration!

Up your meatball sub game.

Queen Elizabeth II sent a personal response to the man who has faithfully sent her Christmas cards for over fifty years- this touched my heart!

Harry Potter fans- don’t miss this interview with the illustrator of the new illustrated series.

The best & worst price-matching policies for holiday shoppers.

24 videos that inspired us to do something good in 2015

15 tips for surviving a long flight.

One compelling reason to simplify your wardrobe.

I hope you enjoyed our notebook, a collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, thrifty ways to spruce up your home, and thoughtful reads. Nothing brings me more joy than to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

 

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

Tracking PixelMy Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

*This post is sponsored by Shoe Carnival.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

I hope you didn’t miss my post last week about our family’s first celebration of St. Nicholas Day. We had the best time adding this new tradition to our family rituals and hope you can bookmark it for next year for your family too!

Today I wanted to share with you a few of our family’s favorite holiday traditions. We really try to focus on simple blessings in our home and moments with our kids, rather than a lot under our tree. It’s a focus that has served our family well and it frees up funds to do more giving to those in need which is a big priority for us.

I’d love to share with you a few ways we have found to do this!

The 4 Gift Rule

The 4 Gift Rule

Years ago, I ran across a gifting strategy that has worked really well for our family over the years. As you know, last year our family went the Choose Your Own Adventure route with our kids and we had an incredible vacation to Florida. Due to my husband’s new role at work, it has become difficult to get away this year and so we are defaulting to a timeless tradition of 4 gifts that keep our gifts thoughtful and keep the excess at bay. Have you heard of the 4 Gift Rule? It’s so simple and easy!

In our family we do:

WANT

NEED

WEAR

READ

My husband and I do these gifts for each other as well and the tradition has really served us well over the years. Everyone gets one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one book to read. It simplifies purchasing for each other and we all end up with really great gifts that actually get used every year.

Open One Gift Early

Of all the categories, the wear category is my favorite because it is the one gift that my kids get to open early before all their other gifts. In that gift is typically a pair of festive pajamas that they get to slip on to see the holiday lights through a local neighborhood known for their tradition of incredible lighting in our town (that also happens to give back to our community).

We usually head to Steak & Shake for Peppermint Shakes and take in the beauty of the holidays in our jammies and bundled up in cozy blankets. Why icy cold shakes became the tradition, who knows? It is that cold and warm contrast that the kids love though so we have been doing this for many years for them as a holiday treat.

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

Have a Family Day in the Snow

Our family loves to play in the snow together and we make it a point to hit our favorite sledding hill at least once a year! When they put up a caution and sled at your own risk sign on our favorite hill, we felt like we were snow warriors or something!

If you haven’t checked out Shoe Carnival’s winter boot selection yet, you are in for a treat. Warm boots are a must-have item in Indiana and, thanks to my children’s enormous growth spurts each year, one of those items we purchase each year.

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

Welcome, to the boot show!  I picked out four great shoe options for our family that I think you will love. First, for girls I have the Capelli New York Kids Storm Duck Boots as a winter must-have. As I have said before, I have discovered Duck Boots are a really practical option for Midwest weather because it can protect you from the snow and rainy season very fashionably.

For the less snowy days (or for our friends enjoying warmer climates this winter) we recommend the Mia Lauren in Cognac Smooth for a great kid’s boot option to stay fashionably warm and that should go with everything in your closet.  I only wish it came in my size!

For my son, Tommy Hilfiger Charlie Duck Boots were the best option for all of the crazy weather conditions here.  We aren’t a very brand-focused family so I really just looked at all the options at the store and felt the insides for warmth, good stitching, and a well-crafted shoe. I can truly say that these are boots that will last him forever. Should he outgrow them, he can hand them down to his Dad to wear (how crazy is that?).  For tweens and teens, this is the boot option I would recommend!

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

The third option is for me, the fashionable Northside Bishop. The lower portion is water resistant while the top is decked out in faux fur and a Nordic-inspired trim.  It also has a Nor-Foam insulation to protect my feet against the cold. Once again, these boots are fashionable AND practical.

Do you remember the boots that we had when we were kids? They often weren’t that warm and they definitely weren’t stylish. How lucky are we to have such beautiful options and at such affordable pricing.

Lucky for you it is the Perfect 10 season! You can get $10 off for every $50 spent, upward of $40 off of 200! That is one great deal to take advantage of as you stock up on your winter necessities.

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

My Favorite Holiday Traditions (Peppermint Cocoa Recipe & GIVEAWAY)

This year I wanted to make the occasion even more magical so after our annual day of sledding we are finishing the evening with this rich Peppermint Cocoa to warm up by the fire. I created this delicious treat for my kids and would love to share it with you today to inspire you to spend a day in the snow with your kids!

Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
A delicious peppermint hot cocoa recipe perfect for sharing while viewing those holiday lights as a family.
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 quart milk
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips (3 ounces)
  • 7 peppermint sticks; 3 crushed (1/4 cup), 4 left whole
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Place cocoa in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk until cocoa has dissolved. Add chocolate chips and crushed peppermint; simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and peppermint have melted, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Add salt. Ladle into mugs; serve each with a peppermint stick.

Today I am giving away two $50 gift cards to two lucky families to find some warm and stylish boots for the holiday season from Shoe Carnival so you can tackle those crazy sled hills too!  Follow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter.  Good luck and happiest of holidays!

*This post is sponsored by Shoe Carnival.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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