Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

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!

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

Circle With Disney: The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

Monday, November 30th, 2015

Protect Your Kids

Sometimes it is difficult to share here and keep a sense of privacy  around certain issues that we have in our family. We have been dealing with a personal struggle with our kids and creating a good balance of online time and offline time with them. Our biggest struggle though has been protecting them from the internet and potentially harmful content as well as monitoring the amount of time they are spending on their devices.

There are a few things that I became aware of over the past couple of years about my loss of control as a parent.

One was that one of my children was getting up in the middle of the night to play online games while we were sleeping because we were monitoring the amount of technology hours they were allowed online. We found out that this child had been getting up at 3 in the morning every day, slipping on their uniform, playing Minecraft until I needed to wake them up, and then pretending to read in their room, absolutely wowing me that I did not have to pull them out of bed. Of course, the routine started to slip when they became an absolute disaster at school and emotional mess when they came home. We checked our internet logs to discover what was happening and realized it had been a routine for quite awhile before we realized they had been doing it.

The second was that one of our children left open their Google searches on our computer and a peek at their open search history yielded a serious discussion we needed to have about sex and the potential that their search could yield pornography or put them at risk of child predators. We should have had the talk sooner- it felt like a parenting fail to see what they were looking for.

The third were some unsavory jokes at our dinner table that apparently had been found on YouTube skits. 

Clearly, we had lost our control.

The Only Cyber Deal a Parent Needs

We started locking down the internet in as many ways as possible. No one could get on during certain hours, their Kindles had every parental restriction we could set, and we blocked any potential sites that we could that might pop up in their searches. We became police monitors of their behavior as best as we could, but still situations arose where we felt we lost control. My husband did hours and hours of research on what we could do to make this better, but we couldn’t find anything that fit our family’s needs. These blockers for our kids created blockers for me all day trying to do my job and I didn’t know how to reset the blockers my husband enabled. Potential monitoring systems would not work with our router so this is the crappy “block you from everything,”  solution that we had come up with for now.

Until THIS.  It’s called Circle. The company reached out to me to help spread the word about their service for the holidays. Honestly, I almost cried when I watched the video because this is what we needed.  THIS is what our family has been waiting for. THIS is the answer to our issues and I am so excited to show it to you today. I am over the moon excited that we are implementing this system in our home to help protect our kids and I can’t encourage you enough to consider the same system especially if you are having these struggles too.

I received a beta unit this week and would love to walk you through it. Even though I am a blogger, I can admit that I am not very tech savvy.  Watch the video to see how easy it was to set up for our family!

Every family needs this in their home.

Don’t believe me? Here is another video clip of it in action! 

Best part…

It’s only $99 FLAT (meaning no monthly fees!!)

Are you tired of letting the Internet dictate what your family is exposed to? Not Anymore! With Circle, you are the boss!

Here are 4 Awesome things you can EASILY do with Circle:

1. Set appropriate filters for EACH DEVICE. Use the pre-designed ones or customize your own.

iOS Screen 4

2. Track where your family is spending their time online. iOS Screen 3

3. Give your devices a BED TIME! iOS Screen 2

4. PAUSE the internet! Yes. you. can. iOS Screen 1

If you are still not convinced, read what these Circle customers are saying about it:

“As the father of four kids from elementary through college age, I am not exaggerating when I say Circle is EXACTLY the device I have been looking for to control the internet in my house. Circle truly is peace of mind in a little white box.” – Wayne Stocks

“Circle has literally changed our lives and how our family spends time on the internet. My worries of what my children could be exposed to online has changed overnight by the use of Circle. I can pause the internet anytime making getting chores or homework done much easier these days.” -Terra Nyce

“Circle makes it easy for me to protect my kids online, monitor usage across all our home’s devices, and create conversations with the entire family. It’s rare that something is simple and effective, but Circle is both.” — Michael Lukaszewski

We are so excited to finally have control again. Get control of the Internet and give your family this gift of Circle on Cyber Monday.

*This post contains an affiliate link, but I only promote things I believe will add value to your life.

Last Minute Thanksgiving Tablescape Ideas

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Last Minute Thanksgiving Tablescape Ideas from MomAdvice.com I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is tomorrow! I am hosting both sides of our family and as a hostess, I know the struggles of decorating AND getting the feast on the table. Today I wanted to show you a few easy last minute ideas for decorating your Thanksgiving table that don’t cost a lot and can be pulled together rather quickly for the holiday.

Head on over to the Goodwill Tips blog where I show off these easy to execute ideas for your holiday table today!

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

  Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Tyson Foods, Inc. All opinions are entirely my own. 

I don’t think any holiday meal is complete without a good stuffing. Being gluten-free can be a challenge around the holidays, trying to recreate those comforting holiday dishes, but without the gluten. Today I wanted to show you a delicious Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Stuffing that you can make for the holidays with a few delicious ingredients at Walmart that you will never guess is gluten-free and so affordable to make too!

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

The star of today’s ingredient line-up is definitely this Wright® Bacon! I love that this thick bacon is naturally hickory smoked which adds a rich depth to your stuffing. This grocery staple can be found in the refrigerated section of Walmart.

Rounding out our ingredient list are sweet apples, savory celery, onions, Great Value Brand chicken broth, a gluten free-cornbread mix, fresh thyme, fresh sage, and just a pinch of cayenne pepper to add a kick to this dish. I love that these ingredients are all available at one store, even my gluten-free cornbread mix, leaving me more time for making those family holiday memories!

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

Confession time! I was really nervous about creating this dish for you. This was actually my first time baking any gluten-free bread so I was really nervous about the texture of this bread, but even more nervous that the bread wouldn’t stand up to cubing. I am so happy to say that it actually cubed up and toasted beautifully in my oven for this dish.  I would recommend baking it the day before and cubing it the next day to help it keep its shape and prevent any crumbling. In 15-18 minutes you have your base for a beautiful bowl of stuffing.

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

Great stuffing is all about the layering of flavors and this one has them all. From the sweetness of the apples to the savory of the celery and onions to the deliciously salty and chewy bacon to the kick of spices from the cayenne, each bite is like a little holiday symphony in your mouth.

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

I would definitely say that this dish takes my holidays from good to great. You can find this and so many other great recipes over at the Joy to the Meal site to help inspire you in the kitchen. I hope you can experience a few #joy2themeal dishes at your table and I hope this recipe helps you to be brave and tackle your own gluten-free stuffing for the holidays!

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

Bacon, Apple, & Cornbread Gluten-Free Stuffing
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
It's hard to believe that this stuffing is gluten-free thanks to the richness of the bacon & cornbread. I hope you love this dish as much as our family does this holiday season!
Ingredients
  • 1 package of prepared Gluten-Free Cornbread Mix (12 ounces), prepared one day prior
  • 10 oz Wright® Brand Bacon, chopped, ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of thyme, removed from stem and chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons of sage, leaves removed and chopped finely
  • 1 cup Great Value Brand Chicken Broth
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cube your prepared gluten-free cornbread and spread on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until cubes are lightly toasted. Reduce the heat on your oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Fry bacon until crisp, remove with a slotted spoon to a plate layered in paper towels. Drain the fat from your pan, reserving three tablespoons to sauté your veggies.
  4. To the pan, add your onion and celery and sauté these until golden about 6-8 minutes. Add apples, thyme, sage, and cayenne pepper. Cook until apples soften, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Toss cooked apples & veggies in a large bowl with cornbread cubes, broth and cooked bacon. Mix well.
  6. Bake at 375° in a buttered dish covered with foil for 40 minutes, remove foil and bake until top turns golden, about 15 minutes more.

 

 

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The MomAdvice Hangout- Join Me!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

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Just popping in quickly before the holidays to let you know that I set up a private Facebook group called the MomAdvice Hangout to gab with you all on Facebook.  It’s not a place of promotion, unless I happen to have something useful from the site to share, but just a spot to ask questions and get to know one another. I have missed the commenting on the blog a lot and totally get how busy everyone is. I am feeling that too SO MUCH. I thought we could give the group a trial run and see how things go!

I’d love for you to join me over there and chat with you!

Happiest of holidays! xo

How We Successfully Raised $6,000 in Two Weeks for Burkina Faso

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

One of the most important and proud moments of my life happened almost 2 years ago when you all helped us give $8,000 total to provide clean water wells for Burkina Faso by donating $6,000 in just 2 weeks. You all blew us away!! I then shared this post on how to successfully raise funds for YOUR favorite charities. How fitting to end our November M Challenge focus on giving by republishing our story – if you’ve raised money for a charity using any of these tips, let me know in the comments!

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

I could not be prouder of my friends and readers than I am today. Today we were able to give $6,000 in raised funds to our Wells of Hope campaign for Burkina Faso and pitched in another $2,000 raising our total to an incredible $8,000 to build wells. This gift gives up to 4,000 men, women, & children access to clean water.

How did we do it? I am baffled myself! When we initially pitched the idea to the ministry team at our church that we wanted to do this, I had no clue if we would ever be able to pull it off. I am no Momastery, in traffic or in size of influence, but I did believe that my passion for this project could be contagious, if seen in front of the right eyes.

If you are trying to raise funds for a passion project of your own, I want to share with you the strategies I used for this campaign. I believe that there is enough love and money to go around to fund these projects, but it is finding ways to make that voice heard that is essential for funding.

Start With a Clear Plan & Goals

I am a big believer in getting everything on paper and when I came to the team with my big dreams of birthday wishes I didn’t speak vaguely of what I believed I could do. Let me be clear though, saying it out loud is hard. I did not want to let a single person down.  At the same time, knowing that I was trying to commit to a goal, offered motivation for me to really pull through for Burkina Faso. We shared that our family was financially committed to one well and we hoped to raise enough funds for at least two more wells.

I shared every avenue I was willing to tap into, how we could gather our funds, what I would need from the team to get people to connect to our cause, and what would be happening each day in that first week on our site.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Get People Curious About What You Are Doing

I began posting teasers that we were up to something a couple of weeks in advance of launching our project. We wanted to get people excited that something big was going to be happening and that we would be calling on them to be a part of it.  You can do this even if you don’t have a blog or website, but just through your social media channels.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

State Your Needs Clearly So People Know Who They Are Helping

People need to know what they are funding and what organizations they are helping. In a case like ours where there are numerous organizations involved, I tried to clearly state exactly who the partners in this project were, facts about the community & people that would be impacted, and what a donation would mean to this cause.

Saying that we need clean water for people in Africa would not be as impactful as, “One out of three children will probably die before they ever reach the age of ten. The deaths are mostly due to a lack of fresh water. The women of Burkina Faso often walk several miles to a dirty stream or stagnant pool, just to fill a bowl with water.”

Children dying before they are ten?

Women walking for miles to find a water source?

It is awful, but truthful information that calls upon people to help in a very visual way.

 

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Find an Avenue for Easy Collection

I have been a longtime fan of Pure Charity and knew that I wanted to use this site to spread the message of what we needed. I cannot recommend their site enough for what they can bring to your passion projects.

I could go on and on about why I love them so much, but it all boils down to people being able to connect with your cause, see their money grow, and know how many they have impacted. You can take a peek at my campaign to see how this looked.  I can’t tell you how many people went back in and donated a little more after their first donation to the project, just see the money bar go up a little more. After each donation is given, through Pure Charity, the person is told exactly how many lives their donation impacts. Even if you were only about to offer $10, you knew that you had impacted five people that day once your funds were submitted.

This method of collection was easy and you can connect your organization right to the funds.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Donations Are Great- Whether Big or Small

Unless the organization’s collection form states that you need to have a minimum donation, show people small and approachable ways of donating. Anything over $1 was considered a donation on Pure Charity so I tried to think of things that were a little over $1 that people could “give up” to give a child clean water. A Redbox flick, a Starbucks coffee, a ticket to the latest movie, or a quick stop for a burrito is money that could be spent to give clean water to Burkina Faso.

It worked so well that people were donating after they went through the drive-thru or they gave up their weekly latte run or pizza night for my cause.

The point of this was to prove that you don’t have to be a millionaire to give. Every donation was important to me. Every. Dollar.

Connect Your Cause With Your Social Media Channels

If you are active on social media, use it to your advantage and ask your friends to spread the word. My two biggest audiences on social media are Facebook & Instagram.

Here’s a fun fact, I absolutely despise video or hearing myself on video or anything to do with video. That being said, some people like pictures, some people like videos, and some people just like to read a status. I tried to utilize every avenue from the beginning. An intro video connected you to our cause, I did a couple of thank you videos to thank people as we met goals, and we shared lots of pictures. If you want to make quick banners or collages for your cause, PicMonkey is great for your websites and if you are looking to add text to your phone images, I love Rhonna Designs app.

Thank Everyone for Everything Often

Each time we received a donation, I thanked them, whether publicly or privately. I was so grateful to everyone who gave, whether it was a dollar or a hundred dollars. The fact that they connected with my cause and helped meant the world to me.

Anytime I have ever donated to someone and received a thank you, it acted as double validation for what I did. With 121 contributors to our campaign, I tried not to overlook a single person and sent an email or message to them as soon as I could to say thank you.

After all, if we didn’t have these AMAZING friends we could never be sharing our success story with you today. My friends ROCK!

Don’t Stop Once You Reach Your Goal

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.Our goal was to raise enough funds for three wells. In the end, the money kept trickling in and bit by bit we were inching closer to our fourth well. If we would have given up when we reached our goal, we would have never known we could have achieved an additional well.

I’m not done with Burkina Faso though. The water of funds will continue to trickle as I knit my way to another well this year. I am working on my first round of wares for an Etsy shop to give all the profit to Burkina Faso.

If you have a talent for something and a burning desire like this amazing young lady that shared her story with our readers, you can continue raising funds in whatever little ways and pockets of time you have in your day.

How to Successfully Raise Funds for Your Favorite Charities from MomAdvice.com.

Whatever your project, I pray that God blesses you abundantly in it. I also thank each of you for helping us reach and surpass our goal of giving clean water to the people of Burkina Faso. Thanks to your donations, we will have water for up to 4,000 people. What an incredible gift you have given us and these people.

Thank you for celebrating the site’s tenth anniversary with us in such a grand and beautiful way! It solidifies my belief that this is just what God wants me to be doing with my life.

xoxo,

Amy

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