Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

How To Make a Dream Catcher (GIVEAWAY- Star Darlings Book Sets)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

I am so very excited to share with you an incredible new book series from Disney that just recently launched, perfect for girls in the age ranges of 8-12 years old.  Star Darlings  focuses on answering the question of where wishes come from, and features a diverse array of star-charmed girls who encourage and help others to fulfill their heartfelt wishes. Each Star Darling has her own wish that she pursues with the help of her faithful friends.

These shared journeys and experiences provide exceptionally positive examples to inspire tweens to follow their dreams and helps to  harness the power of their individuality, highlighting the power of making positive choices, and shows that they can make anything possible.

Star Darlings Book Review

Star Darlings A Wisher's Guide to Starland

These books are rich with themes of friendship, confidence, leadership, and teamwork, the Star Darlings as they are known, go on many magical adventures together. Determined to succeed in spite of their youthful inexperience, the girls show courage and ingenuity—plus a whole lot of humor—as they guide Wishers to discover happiness and fulfillment.  You can learn lots more about the Star Darlings series on their webpage and find fun activities, music, and videos to watch about these inspiring girls!

My daughter is an advanced reader at ten and found these books to be fun AND challenging. Within record time she had finished the first book and could not wait to start diving into the next ones.  If you have a tween girl, these have been a great step towards reading more advanced books! She really loved them and also told me that she has already found something in each character that feels a little like her.

Since the new Star Darlings series is all about the power of wishes, we wanted to share with you a few of our dreams and wishes for this year and show you a fun way to capture those by crafting a DIY dream catcher together. Not only that, but we would love to share with you the chance to win these books for a special young lady in your life so be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this post to participate in the giveaway!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Supplies Needed:

Glue Gun & Glue Sticks

Embroidery Hoop (we detached the inner hoop for our project)

Fabric Scraps or squares

Hemp Cord (available in the jewelry supplies section of your craft store)

Feathers (any amount/color- we used 3)

Colorful embroidery thread

Scissors

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How to Make a Dreamcatcher

1. Begin by cutting a small cut on the longest side of your fabric piece and then begin ripping it down until you have a nice even piece.  Holding it in place at the top, begin wrapping the fabric around and round the hoop. When you come to the end, add a dab of hot glue to secure it and then repeat the process until you have covered the entire hoop. Once you get to the end, finish again with a dab of hot glue.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

(source)

2. The most challenging part is, of course, creating the webbing inside the dreamcatcher.  Here are lots of examples that you can see on Pinterest. Depending on your child’s age and craft level you can make this very easy, like we are showing here, or more difficult!

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

Measure approximately five feet of hemp and start with a knot at the top of your dreamcatcher. Then begin creating loops, twisting and looping until you get to the beginning again. Then begin the next loop of webbing by going between those circles to create the next round of loops. You can then keep repeating this pattern, as the circle begins to get smaller and smaller.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

3. Have your child tear strips of fabric to tie to the bottom of the dream catcher. We chose two colors and alternated them in our dream catcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

4. Finish with decorative details like feathers or beads to complete the look. We used a little embroidery thread to secure these to our dreamcatcher.

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

When I asked Emily what her big wishes and dreams were for this year, they were all focused on our big jump to middle school next year. Starting at a new school is a big challenge and I can tell that this has been on her mind a lot as she asks her brother many questions about the school and how her day will look there. She said that her big dream is for middle school to be full of good stuff. Doing this craft together gave us time to really talk about that and focus on catching all the good things in life and focusing on the positivities of new friends and new experiences at a new school.

With our busy schedules these days, crafting together has gotten pushed off and I loved making time to create with her this week. This was an easy one hour project that really gave us some time to bond and talk about our wishes for the upcoming year.

Star Darlings

Star Darlings Book Review

In honor of this new series I am giving away a Star Darlings prize pack. One (1) winner will receive:

  • A Wisher’s Guide to Starland
  • Sage and the Journey to Wishworld
  • Libby and the Class Election
  • Leona’s Unlucky Mission
  • Scarlet Discovers True Strength
  • Vega and the Fashion Disaster

This giveaway open to US addresses only and prizing and samples will be provided by Disney Press.  Please check out the widget below for more details on this contest! Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How To Make a Dream Catcher from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Disney Press. Thank you for supporting the companies that support this site! 

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Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Tracking PixelGluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored by Lingham’s Hot Sauce. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site! 

Sloppy Joes are nothing fancy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them. When my husband and I were in high school, we would hit a local deli each week where he would enjoy a good old-fashioned sloppy joe sandwich and I would indulge in a flaky spinach & feta croissant as a special treat. When you have been with your partner as long as I have, almost every memory, every dish, and every life moment is laced with each other. I always think of those lunches when I make this dish for him, these high school moments that later shaped my life and family.

We have held steady and true to this classic sandwich over the years, but this week I’m partnering up with Lingham’s Hot Sauce and thought it would be fun to switch up this classic comfort food in their honor. My husband, a lover of traditions when it comes to the classics, was not too sure about my Sloppy Buffalo Joes idea, but after one bite of these delicious sandwiches, we all agreed that this was just as good as the classic version and a fun gourmet twist on a cafeteria staple.

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

Lingham’s Hot Sauces were new to me, but have actually been around since 1908! They come in a variety of flavors from garlic to ginger and they offer an extra hot variety for those of you that like your hot sauce with an extra kick. Their original hot sauce is absolutely divine and the closest I have tasted to homemade from the supermarket. It has a complex flavor on the tongue that at first tastes sweet and then the heat travels through, just like an experience that you get with a good glass of wine.

The sauce is thick and requires a good shake before you use it since they don’t use any bulking agents, something the brand really is proud of. The best part for this gluten-free gal is not only is it gluten free is that it is 100% all natural, verified non GMO, Halal and Kosher…

Oh, and did I mention you can find it at Walmart stores nationwide? Yay!

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

Sloppy Buffalo Joes are a healthier take on a big plate of buffalo wings as we get back to more balanced eating in the new year. This sloppy joe mixture consists all white ground chicken meat, garlic, diced onions, diced celery, and diced carrots. Next is a spicy sauce layer with our Lingham’s Hot Sauce (feel free to go Extra Hot on this one!), tomato sauce, chicken broth, and a worcestershire sauce finish. Once this cooks down together, it has that perfect balance of sweet and spicy, just like the hot sauce we added and I love that there is a healthy serving of veggies in these for my kids!

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes from MomAdvice.com

The thing that really brings this whole thing together on this sandwich are those finishing touches. Blue Cheese crumbles are sprinkled on top and the addition of a toasty bun completes this deliciously sloppy joe treat. The creaminess of that blue cheese really adds balance to the spicy sauce on this.

I usually avoid the gluten-free buns, but have discovered that a gluten-free bun slathered with a tiny bit of butter and then toasted on a hot cast iron skillet improves the flavor of these 100% for me.  Of course, you could also serve this delicious filling stuffed in a sweet potato or over a big pile of brown rice.

The true test if a dish is a success is if the leftovers are eaten in our house. Not only did our whole family love this, but they begged to eat those leftovers the next day. This one is going into our regular meal rotation and I have a feeling if you try it, it will go into yours too. What a fun spin on an old classic!

Be sure to pick up some Lingham’s Hot Sauce to add that perfect balance of sweet and spicy to your dishes!

Gluten-Free Sloppy Buffalo Joes
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 servings
 
Take classic sloppy joes up a notch with this spicy buffalo flavoring and creamy blue cheese finish. It's sure to be a new family favorite!
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped or grated
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼-1/3 cup Lingham's Hot Sauce (Original or Extra Hot- we used a ¼ cup in our house)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 8 gluten-free buns, split and toasted
  • 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 large dill pickles, chopped (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the meat and break it up with wooden spoon, then cook for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add in the carrots, celery, onions and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then cook for 7-8 minutes more.
  3. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, tomato sauce and stock. Pour into the pan and stir to combine. Simmer until the mixture comes together, five minutes or so.
  4. Pile the sloppy Buffalo filling onto the toasted buns and top with blue cheese and chopped pickles.

 Adapted from Rachael Ray

This post is sponsored by Lingham’s Hot Sauce. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this site! 

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Transitioning Your Holiday Decor

Monday, January 11th, 2016

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

Now that the holidays are behind us, it is the natural time for many to declutter and organize their spaces . I am partnering up with the BHG Live Better Network to show you some tips for transitioning your holiday decor and adding some organization to a hutch or any open shelving unit in your home.

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Here is what my hutch looked like before I added some thoughtful winter touches. I got this hutch  from a thrift store many, many years ago for less than $100, painted it black, and spray painted the handles all on the same day I got it. It was my first DIY, before that was even a thing here, and I loved this piece because it gave me confidence to try painting furniture.

I often think of repainting it in a fresh color or doing something with the backs of those shelves, but for now it serves its most important purpose as extra storage in our home. My kitchen is smaller and I was always struggling with space to prepare our meals on my counters. Relocating our microwave, coffeepot, coffee cups, and fruit bowl help keep my counters clear and made this piece a true workhorse in my kitchen.

As far as decorating goes?

I never have!

That said, these long months after the holidays can feel a little barren with decor and I wanted to make this a little more decorative while still making the most of storage.

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

I got some little houses and trees from the holiday section of our local Walmart store and added these for decoration, got a beautiful fruit basket (available in stores only) to allow the oranges to bring more color to this set-up,  got plate stands (over by the photo frames) to display my Better Homes & Gardens metallic plates, and added a decorative wood top jar to house my homemade cocoa mix nestled next to a jar of snowy white marshmallows.

The side of our coffeepot got a sprinkle of family photos with a little washi tape. I later discovered this side is also magnetic so now my daily to-do list hangs there too!

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

Transitioning Your Holiday Decor from MomAdvice.com

 

These affordable and simple additions will help me power through these winter months and then I will tuck them away to be used again next year. Mini trees and houses are perfect for adding a sprinkle of beauty to any bookcase or shelf.  Be sure to check out all the great organization and storage solutions that Better Homes & Gardens offers at Walmart as you ready your home for another winter season!

 

Live-Better-Network-Badge

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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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

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.

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

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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Celebrating St. Nicholas Day (Giveaway with Shoe Carnival)

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

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How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Momadvice.com

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

I am so excited to be partnering with Shoe Carnival again for the holidays. This month I will be sharing some of our family’s favorite holiday traditions with you, some gorgeous shoe options for outfitting your entire family, and some refreshing new ideas for personalizing gift cards for this holiday season. We will also be offering gift cards to share at the end of each of these posts to treat yourself or someone you love to a beautiful new pair of shoes!

To kick things off, I wanted to show you a fun idea to bookmark for next year. This year our family started a new tradition to celebrate St Nicholas Day which is observed in the states on December 6th.  Have you heard of St Nicholas Day? It is actually something I heard about recently from my friends and I thought it would be a sweet tradition this year to share with my kids.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Momadvice.com

 

What Is St. Nicholas Day?

St. Nicholas Day is a popular holiday for children, especially children in many parts of Europe, because it is another day of sharing gifts. What kid doesn’t love that?  In fact, in some European countries, St. Nicholas is celebrated with not only gift-giving, but it is so special that it is celebrated through parades and festivals too.

This holiday celebrating him is derived from Nicholas of Myra who officiated as a bishop in 4th century Greece. During his lifetime he was known, in particular, for his gift-giving. They say that he slipped coins in other people’s shoes, which accounts for many of today’s Christmas traditions that involve leaving gifts in shoes or boots today.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Momadvice.com

The Simplest of Treats

The presents need not be grand, but are simple gestures that build up that sweet anticipation for Christmas. Gifts like chocolates, chocolate coins, nuts, cookies, small trinket gifts, apples and oranges are just a few sweet treats that are perfect for tucking in your shoes on December 5th.

When I think of things to tuck in our shoes it reminds me of the cozy nights I spent reading with my daughter about how Christmas was celebrated in the Little House in the Big Woods. As Laura described her thrill over a peppermint stick and a small cake made with real sugar, I remember my daughter’s wide eyes that these small offerings were the only presents they received for their Christmas. Can you imagine anything that small feeling magical for our kids today? It’s that nostalgia of sweet treats that is so perfectly captured through this tradition and why I wanted to share it with my two. Less electronics and more magic, I say!

We are displaying our treats in two beautiful shoe options from Shoe Carnival. In Indiana, it is all about cozy footwear and these are two great selections that I found for the holiday season that would be great options to wrap under your Christmas tree this year.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Momadvice.com

The first option is the Tommy Hilfiger Charlie Duck Boots that I found for my son. We have outgrown the days of little kid’s boots after an enormous growth spurt this year and now my son & husband can share shoes.  Duck Boots have become my new obsession because they can be worn in the Fall, Winter, & Spring making them a really great option for keeping your feet warm & dry for several seasons unlike boots that are just dedicated to snow. I consider them to be a wise investment!  I have a pair for myself and my daughter has a beautiful pair too. They are stylish and practical which is why I am recommending this option this Winter.

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Momadvice.com

The second pair is actually one that we featured here this summer for myself and fell in love with.  I discovered that they make Lil’ Bobs for kids with the same supportive memory foam sole that I love for my own feet. It’s like walking on a cloud and I wish everyone could feel that way! This trendy Bobs Pure Flex gives a nod to our pink obsession with the stripe detail on the sole, but reflects her big girl status in the print. If my daughter is anything like me, these will be doubling for slippers because they are so darn comfortable. You just can’t go wrong with this option and the modern prints available are beautiful and on trend.

I am so excited to share with you that this weekend is the Friends and Family Weekend which means that everything will be 30% off all weekend long so definitely take advantage of these discounts on top of their affordable pricing! Yay!

How to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Momadvice.com

I hope that this tradition inspires you for next Christmas season and I hope these shoe options help you when selecting shoes for your kids!

Today I am giving away two $50 gift cards to two lucky families for a holiday shopping day at Shoe CarnivalFollow the instructions below in our Rafflecopter widget to enter.  Good luck and Happy 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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DIY Trophy Wine Topper

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

DIY Trophy Wine Toppers from MomAdvice.com

DIY Trophy Wine Toppers from MomAdvice.com

DIY Trophy Wine Toppers from MomAdvice.com

DIY Trophy Wine Toppers from MomAdvice.com

Oh, you know I love a good hostess gift for the holidays! I am so excited to show off my DIY Wine Trophy Toppers I created for this gift-giving season. Our amazing designer, MJ from pars caeli, created these adorable free printable gift tags to customize your gift for the holidays. This is a 5-minute craft that is sure to get a good laugh from your favorite hostess and it couldn’t be easier.

While you are crafting these up, be sure to print out the trophy wife one for me- ha!

Head on over to the Kenmore blog to grab your free printable today- a holiday gift from us just for you!!

xo