Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

It’s the 3 Little Things SUPER EDITION

Friday, August 29th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

Oh, I hope you did read that title! It brings me back to the Sweet Valley Twins books and getting that Super Edition book that you knew was going to be so much better and longer than the regular editions. That is exactly what starts this week on our 3 Little Things.

I am trying to figure out a way to blend my fashion capsule challenge with the rest of the blog and decided that I can’t manage a whole separate series and try to build a following to that. Since you guys already love this section so much, the three little things just got more awesome. I am going to include my usual 3 things that make me happy and am now adding 3 outfits that I wore and 3 things you loved this week on the site from our top searches.  Consider this the super editions from here on out! Life got so full with my activities and kids and running and running and running. I still want to inspire you and take you on my journey towards a more minimalistic wardrobe so this is a great way to blend my two loves together.

3 Things That Make Me Happy

aerie bralette

aerie bralette

The Yoga Pants Of The Bra World

Padded, without wires or hooks, and can comfortably be worn to bed or under clothes.  It is the yoga pants of the bra world and it is called the bralette. Behold the awesome from aerie.  It’s my new favorite thing! Be sure to sign up for their email list or check here for coupons because you rarely have to buy anything not on sale at this store. If that doesn’t make you happy, then you are crazy.

savings-catcher

Savings Catcher

I promise I am not being paid to say this,  it’s just something that is saving me some money and time this month. I am madly in love with the new Walmart Savings Catcher app. I shop there a lot for my projects for my clients because I can grab my groceries and craft supplies in one place. If you download the Walmart app, they now have a Savings Catcher tool on that app that you can use for price matching.  What I do is I scan the barcode on my receipt when I get home. They then compare the prices of all of the stores and give you back the difference on an ecard if they find someone with a lower price.  I signed up a couple of weeks ago, entered one receipt, and I already have $2.46 accumulated.  I have gotten a few friends to sign up and they have already accumulated a few bucks too. Pretty great stuff!

Free-Family-Management-Binder-Printables-3

My Home Management Binder

I am so thrilled after months of chattering with my assistant and recruiting our designer and contributor to design a home management system and coordinating the distribution of these files with my husband that these printables are finally out in the world. I am so thankful to Money Saving Mom for sharing this freebie with her readers. We were baffled when the sign-ups suddenly stopped on our brand new newsletter. It turns out that if you have more than 2,000 people sign up, you have to start a paid plan on Mail Chimp.

First world problems, I tell you.

All I can say is, “WOW!”

My hopes of getting a couple of hundred subscribers has been surpassed.  Thank you all for signing up for our newsletter and I am so happy that we got to share these home management binder printables with you after a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make these. I finally feel like I can breathe now that we have mailed them to you.

I am truly using these printables and can’t believe the paper pile-up with school just starting that has already happened. I’m proud that I am a little more organized than the years before and I am loving that I didn’t have to buy a planner this year. I have already started inputting my work trips in it and got a ton in it for my husband so he knows when/where/what to do with our children.  Each year it feels like so much more and I’m hoping this helps me stay cool and collected this year.

Fall-Fashion-Capsule-Wardrobe-4

3 Things I Wore

Did you see I started a fashion capsule wardrobe challenge? I’m so thrilled so many of you are joining in so I have some accountability partners. If you are looking for inspiration I have spent far too much time making a Pinterest Fashion Capsule Board to inspire you into embracing a simpler wardrobe. You really must take a peek.

This week started with a bang. I went to a bridal shower, hopped in the car with my sister-in-law, jetted to Starbucks, spilled Starbucks all over my skirt (a signature piece, I might add!), tried to spot clean it, ended up washing it on delicate, took the skirt out and it was…

thisbig

Yup, dry clean only. I spent all day fluffing and separating the fabric and shaping it back into its former glory. I wore it to church the next day and felt like a slip was dragging behind me. I looked and sure enough the whole underlayer was hanging out an inch. I called my mother-in-law and declared a fashion emergency and she GRACIOUSLY let me bring my tiny skirt over to her house and hemmed it for me.

First lesson learned: check care label information before making minimalist wardrobe purchases.

Here are 3 looks I am *trying* this week.

tank + pleated skirt + chevron necklace

Pleated Bird Skirt (owned- Stitch Fix)/Seamless Tank in Burgundy (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Chevron Necklace (owned- Charming Charlie)

Holy heavens! It was a heat wave and I did not put shorts in my minimalist wardrobe. I did, however, give camis a free pass so this long tank (hidden discreetly under my bird skirt) worked perfectly. I should have probably counted this one as a piece because it is long, but I’m not going back on my decision to include it now that it is ninety degrees out.

bow shirt + mint belt + lounge pants

Ann Taylor Loft Pink Print Collared Shirt (purchased second hand on Twice)/Mossimo Black Lounge Pants (purchased- Target)/ Mint Belt (owned- Target)/Bangles (purchased- Forever 21)

tank + statement necklace + leopard print belt + jeans + black heels

Seamless Tank in Burgundy (owned- Flourish Boutique)/Leopard Print Belt (owned- Target)/Black Pumps (owned- Payless Shoes)/Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)/ Statement Necklace (owned- Groopdealz)

That last outfit isn’t my normal attire, but it turns out we got a sitter for the night so I am heading out for a sushi date with my hubby! I bet that makes my happy list for next week. We haven’t had a date night in ages and I can’t wait to steal that guy all to myself.

I struggled this week..I would say hobbled along in my fashion challenge.  Breaking the habit of changing a few times a day because I think I am hosting an award show, REALLY thinking about accessories, and taking better care of my pieces are all shedding some light on some of my behaviors and habits.

This is going to make me a better person even if I did feel a little Amish the first day because I have never had to work so hard accessorizing to make my clothes stand out.

I am a loud person.  I am a loud patterned person. I am the one with the jazz hands screaming, “LOOK AT ME!”

Just a tiny identity crisis this week. Ahem.

These were my favorite looks because I put some jazz hands on them, but I got dressed EVERY DAY and made it count. So I am really proud of that.

3 Things YOU Loved This Week (you, lover of MomAdvice things, you!)

Here are our top 3 posts this week!

Easy Lunchbox Solutions

A New Way to Teach Your Child How to Tie Their Shoes

14 Free Home Management Printables

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

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

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

 

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

I’m so excited to be putting together my first fashion capsule wardrobe this year.  Ever since I was a kid, I have been intrigued by fashion capsule projects. When I think of them I think of the popular Donna Karan line with seven easy pieces that inspired so many women to embrace a capsule wardrobe.  Who couldn’t be inspired by the simplicity of those pieces and how many outfits you could create from them?

I was not blessed with a big wardrobe budget when I was young, but I had big dreams of making the most of key pieces even then. I remember reading a piece in Glamour Magazine on the school bus that shared the essential pieces every girl should own which included a black blazer, a white shirt, a good pair of jeans, black slacks, and booties. My money for starting my fall wardrobe budget for high school was very small though so I remember investing in these pieces that I found for no more than $10-15 each at the cheapest store in town. What resulted was a really bad school picture in a poorly fitted shirt that only got washed once and became a wrinkly awful misshapen mess that I never could wear again.

The intentions were there, but the budget was not.

As I admitted, I am very passionate about fashion, but have no claims to fame in the fashion blogging world. I decided to embrace a fashion capsule challenge of my own and see if it makes an impact both on how much I am buying and how much I can create from what I already own. I am not doing a ten piece challenge because that does not fit with the area I live in (multiple seasons in the course of three months- you have to love the Midwest!) or with my personal style.  I love that with a fashion capsule you have the freedom to make it what you need in your life.

If you are already a fashion minimalist, you can be unimpressed with me.

I openly admit that I have a closet that is bulging over into other areas of our home and needs to be tailored down. I have so much- I can do better.  For me, this is a true challenge, but one that I hope will help me a lot to learn to embrace a less-is-more philosophy in one area that I need improving in.

What Is a Capsule Wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing which is designed using only interchangeable items, in order to maximise the number of outfits which can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be “key” or “staple” items in coordinating colours.

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

This project was inspired by the Unfancy fashion capsule challenge, but I am making a few of my own rules for my own personal challenge.

37 Piece Wardrobe- The wardrobe can have 37 pieces  in it. This wardrobe does not include pajamas, workout gear, undergarments, or camisoles (something that is a necessity for me).  The capsule is made from items I already own, some purchased to be workhorses in my wardrobe (since I fail in this department greatly), and purchased second hand at Goodwill or through Twice. All of the items I am not wearing and still love are being tucked in storage for the next fashion capsule.  I have created a Fashion Capsule Pinterest Board to help inspire me with the pieces I am using.

No Shoe Shopping- I am not including my shoes for this challenge, but I am challenging myself to not buy any more shoes and use what I already have.

One Steal Per Month- Things and events come up and I am allowing myself one steal per month from items that I already own. I may find I don’t need this, but I think it might help with the shopping bug.

No Shopping For Clothing- I will wear the clothes I have selected and not shop for three months and only shop two weeks prior to the next capsule for items for the next season if needed. This is going to require a lot of discipline for me and I am planning to unsubscribe to shopping newsletters and avoid the shops as much as possible.

Reassess & Evaluate The Next Capsule- Maybe I will find I don’t need 37 pieces. Maybe I will find that a steal is unnecessary. Maybe I will find that I like my capsule so much that I won’t need a new one. I promise to reevaluate this in three months.

Hopefully This Will Inspire You- Like I said, if you are rocking the minimalist life, this challenge may seem silly. If you aren’t or if you are and want to find new ways to use your pieces, I am hoping to share those ideas with you. I have no time to do a daily document, but I am happy to share once in awhile some fun ways I am wearing my 37 pieces. Please see my disclaimer above because I do not claim to be a fashion blogger. Take the ideas at your own risk!

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

Let’s take a peek at the wardrobe! Here are the items that I have for my Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule. The ones that have not been pictured are currently in alterations and have an asterisk next to them!

1.  a’reve lace shirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)

2.  Polka Dotted Peplum Top (owned- Francesca’s)

3. H&M Black & White Striped Top (owned- Goodwill)

4. Gap Black Blazer (owned- Gap)

5. Fleetwood Mac T-Shirt (owned- Luxe Wagon)

6.  Old Navy Vintage V-Neck T-Shirt in Black (Old Navy)

7. Old Navy Vintage V-Neck T-Shirt in White (Old Navy)

8. Faux Leather Jacket (purchased- Marshall’s)

9. Mossimo Short Sleeve Coral Shirt (purchased- Target)

10. Seamless Perfection Long Sleeve Tunic Dress in Black (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

11.  Ann Taylor Loft Pink Print Collared Shirt (purchased second hand on Twice)

12.  Not Afraid of the Dark Denim Jacket (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

13.   Don’t Pull Me Down Mustard Sweater (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

14.  Free People White Cowl Neck Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)

15.  Forest Fairy Cardigan (owned- Flourish Boutique)

16.  Black Crochet Sweater (owned- Flourish Boutique)

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

 

17.  Long Sleeve Seamless Layering Piece in Gray  (owned- Flourish Boutique)

18.  Old Navy Vintage V-Neck T-Shirt in Gray (Old Navy)

19. Old Navy Plaid Flannel Shirt (owned- Old Navy)

20.  White House Black Market Blue Striped Collared Top (purchased second hand on Twice)

21.  J. Crew Teal Silk Blend Skirt (purchased second hand on Twice)

22. Pleated Bird Skirt (owned- Stitch Fix)

23.  Anthropologie Gray Print Dress (purchased second hand on Twice)

24.  Little Black Dress (owned- Flourish Boutique)

25. Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans (owned- Old Navy)

26. Chambray Shirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)

27.  Black Pleated Maxi Skirt (owned- Flourish Boutique)

28.  Seven Skinny Jeans (owned- Flourish Boutique)

29.  Mossimo Black Track Pants (purchased- Target)

30.  Blue Colored Skinny Jeans (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

31.  The Essential Leggings in Black (owned- Flourish Boutique)

32. Old Navy Rock Star Skinny Jeans in Black (owned- Old Navy)

33. Converse White Collared Shirt (purchased- Target)

*34. The Must-Have Maxi in Burgundy (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

*35.  Down With Damask Tunic (similar & owned- Flourish Boutique)

*36. Gap Black Skirt (purchased second hand on Twice)

*37. Mustard Peplum Dress (purchased- Flourish Boutique)

 

Coupons That Might Help If You Are Making a Capsule Too

Current Coupons for Old Navy (I am a big fan of their jeans and basic t-shirts)

Current Coupons for Target (their wardrobe is on the smart minimalist side this season- yay!)

Current Coupons for Gap (blazers, chambray shirts, collared shirts, jeans- oh my!)

Get $10 for your first Twice purchase (this is my favorite online consignment resource)

Use web code WEB25 for 25% off your purchase at Flourish Boutique (this is our site sponsor and where I get the majority of my clothing). You can also catch a sale daily on the Flourish Boutique Facebook Page)

Stitch Fix can be a fun resource for shopping for smart basic wardrobe pieces if a stylist might benefit you!

Fall 2014 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

Thank you to my hubby for photographing my entire wardrobe for this challenge. I am really excited to share this adventure with you! I won’t be daily documenting, but you can find me on Instagram sharing ideas and we will have some ideas for layering and utilizing these basic items in the upcoming months. I promise though to fully commit to this and I know this will be very good for me this year.

Would you like to do a challenge with me? Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know if you want to join in on the fun or if you are doing a similar challenge of your own!

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

 

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Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business)

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

Today I am so excited to share with you some easy tips to improve your phone photos. Phone photography has been a fun hobby of mine ever since I got my iPhone. There is so much that you can do with your phone photos to capture the beauty and moments in your life on-the-go. I wanted to share with you a list of my favorite apps, some easy tips for taking better images, and show you how to grow your business with phone photography and Instagram. Our food photography article has been one of our most popular articles on our site so I thought I would apply the same in-depth info to this one and focus on phone photography. The SAME PRINCIPLES that I share in that food photography post apply here so please read it even if you aren’t a food photographer.

I do own this iPhone so some of these apps may not apply for your device, but many do so I am sharing only what I have found to be worth the money or worth the time using.

MomAdvice on Instagram

Before we get started, I would love for you to follow me on Instagram. You can find me over here: MomAdvice on Instagram!  I really, really want to connect with you and this is one of the most personal ways I have found to connect with my readers. As you can see, my profile name is easy to remember- “momadvice.” I really want to be your friend!

Let’s go ahead and go through a few frequently asked questions about phone photography! 

Afterlight

What App Do You Use the Most For Photo Editing?

This question should be, “What App Do You Use the Most THIS WEEK for editing? Honestly, I am always open to trying new apps and I am constantly looking for new ways to manipulate my photos into a work of art. I would say that the app though that I have been relying the most on this year is an app called, Afterlight. This app only costs $.99 and is what I use most frequently for taking phone photos.

There are a couple of reason I really like this app. One, it offers really great and easy to use tools for making tweaks to your photo. Basically, everything I am now doing in Lightroom with my digital images, I am able to do through my phone. I use it to add in color, to increase brightness, to crop images, to add contrast, and to adjust exposure. The toolbar is very user-friendly so you can make gradual or dramatic tweaks.

I find this app to be killer in the black-and-white image category. Every picture I take with it and transfer into black-and-white is absolutely fantastic. I am also a fan of their Dreamy effect (which adds pretty pink tones to your photos) and their Brightfire effect for a burst of brightness.

Let me show what a typical photo editing session looks like for me.

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

You never want your flash on, if at all possible, so for most of my images, I am doing my best to bring the brightness and color back into my images.  You will look at the bottom of your toolbar and the second icon with the lines is where you click to begin making your adjustments.  Click on each icon to get familiar with what tweaks are offered. If at any time you get nervous and want to start over, the first icon that looks like a circle…that takes you right back to where you started. Phew!

The tweaks I am making are not large (as you can see in the slider scale above), but they add a little pop to the image.  I usually am bumping up Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, Saturation, and then many times I am cropping the image to cut out anything that might have gotten in the shot (in this case the corner of my dress) that I don’t want in there.  You can also adjust your white balance using the temperature dial if you are not in ideally lighting (another feature I rely upon). You can add filters if you want,  but for the most part I prefer my images unfiltered or just very slightly filtered. The slider scale is your best friend and know that whatever filter you add, it will be on full blast. Typically, you want to slide that way down to get a natural image with a little bit of tone in it.

before-after

As you can see, this is not a dramatic difference, but it definitely showcases the power of small tweaks to your photos. This should only take a few moments to achieve and the more beautiful the photos…the more followers to gain and share with!

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

What Other Apps Do You Recommend?

The apps I am listing are the ones that I use and have had the most success with. I actually have a lot of apps that I am not going to mention because they aren’t worth your time or money. Here are the ones that are frequently used by me and what I use them for!

Fuzel

 

Fuzel (FREE)

I apologize that my screenshot is showing the old Fuzel icon- I think I have two versions on my phone.  I use this one for collaging a group of photos because I think it offers the most flexibility with framing and it’s very easy to use. If we go to the blueberry patch, for example, and I have sixteen photos of my kids picking berries, it’s best to select a few and use a collage app of these photos in one photo for your followers.  It has cute borders and multiple framing options. It also offers a few text options for captions which can be handy too. I don’t do a ton of text on my photos, but I love that you can add caption on this app.

The best part is that they now offered animated slide shows where you can add music from your phone or use one of their pieces of music to animate your photos using your collaged photos. How fun is that?

saugatuck_review_3

PicTapGo ($1.99)

I love, love, love PicTapGo for editing, but I love it even more because you can share a full-frame image in Instagram using this app. If you have a beautiful story to tell and don’t want to crop it down to the standard Instagram size, once you are done utilizing all the fun editing tools on it, just click GO and you can instagram your image full size or float the image for a landscape portrait. I’m telling you, it is a fantastic thing to know when you have taken too close of an image or you need all of the image to add to the drama of your photo.

This one has great filters on it too and utilizes terminology that makes editing simple. Instead of Exposure, for example, it says, “Lights On.” Instead of a temperature dial, it says “Warm It Up,” or “Cool It Down.” Seriously, this couldn’t be more user-friendly.

It has great black-and-white options and I’m a big fan of their “Air” filter.

Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business) from MomAdvice.com.

Camera+ ($1.99)

This app can do a lot, but I need to be honest with you, I really use this app only for one thing. It’s the self-timer feature. If  you are at home by yourself and want to be in a shot (couple shots with your spouse, fashion pictures, or in-action foodie shots, etc…) this app has a self-timer option on it that you can set for 15 seconds to jump and pose into a shot without needing an extra set of hands to shoot it. I balance it on countertops, we have shot from the dashboard of my car with my purse holding it up, and every other kind of weird shooting scenario.

This shot I am sharing here was actually taken using the self-timer. I had my phone on the ground, flipped my phone upside down, and shot it from there.  The quality of the image will be better if you don’t shoot it with the front camera (what you might be using for selfies)  so do your best to figure it out like someone else is shooting it, fire the self-timer off once you get your placement, and shoot it the other direction.

That selfie camera usually has around 1.2 megapixels versus 8 megapixels from the rear camera. That’s a big difference in what you can achieve with photo quality, especially if you want to print something.

The timer is available through the icon next to your center shooting button.  It also has a stabilizer (perfect for shaky hands like me) and you can shoot it in burst modes if you need to fire off a lot of shots.

Rhonna Designs ($1.99)

If you like to add text to your photos, catchy phrases, or doodles… I have the app for you. This app is my go-to app  because the fonts are beautiful and you can do so much with it. For my blogging friends, you can use this to create beautiful banners for your blogs! You know our, “It’s the 3 Little Things,” feature? That banner was made all with the Rhonna Designs app.

I find that my scrapbooking friends are big fans of this app. You could spend all day on it and never get tired of it. Bundles of seasonal additions are also offered so once you get tired with what is provided in the app, you can build upon it.

Flipagram (FREE)

If you don’t want to collage your photos and just want to set them to a slideshow with music, I adore Flipagram. I actually have utilized this one in sharing on my blog too. This video I had created out of images for a project for Walmart.  The challenge was a fun winter activity and we decided finding a pen pal would be a great one. The supplies were purchased from the store and then we shared all about our experience doing that.  This was a great way to put all of that together into a fun concept for our readers and IG followers without it being spammy.

If you don’t have the songs stored on your phone, sometimes you can get the thirty second preview for free (which is usually an option) or you can purchase the song for your project.

This app also has an adorable Photo Booth option and Stop Motion option that you could play around with!

Snapseed

Snapseed (FREE)

I learned about this app while I was at the SNAP! Conference and was so impressed at what you can do with it. If I am being honest though, I really use it for the HDR Scape for taking landscape photos that really bring out the clouds and sky particularly with sunrises, sunsets, and on stormy days.  Touch the image and go back and forth to increase or decrease filter strength.

There are a lot of advanced tools on this one that I haven’t really delved into except for the practice session at the conference that can add even lighting to your photos. It was really cool, but I will be honest and say it isn’t really something I have used regularly!

Picfx ($1.99)

I recommend this one simply for light leaks and bokeh. They have a few fun filters, but I wouldn’t say this is my go-to filter spot. If you want a rocking heart bokeh though, this is the app for you. They have simply the sweetest bokeh effects and the light leaks are more natural and fun to play with then some of the other apps.

Now I am going to share two apps that are for my bizness people that I love!

Latergramme (FREE)

Do you want to schedule your photos like everything else in your social media life? It is actually possible. Download this app and set up your contest, photo, or whatever you need to do  in your Instagram feed. Set the day and time that you would like it to air. When it is time to post your photo, it will send a notification on your homescreen of your phone. Open it and then submit to have your photo go live.  It helps so much when you have a contest to have it all ready to go.

TagsForLikes

I am not a big hashtag fan because I am not always sure that this is the best way to grow an audience. That being said, hashtags can be a great way to get more likes to your images and potentially more followers. This app provides popular tags for popular categories. I tested it with a cup of coffee with their default tags  yesterday and got twenty new followers from the provided tags.

My one caveat with this is that if you tag vegan, for example, and your next picture is a delicious pulled pork sandwich, you are likely going to lose your vegan follower. I wouldn’t say it is the most consistent tool for growth, but you can create your own custom tags in the app to attract who you want to pull into your feed.

For consistent growth of an IG following, I have found to share beautiful images, not to overshare too many images (2-3 per day is typically my maximum), interacting with others and commenting on photos, and not spamming my readers with only blog promotion is a great way to begin building a great following.

 

Now please, please, follow me- I’d love some new friends! xo

*This post contains affiliate links- I only link to what I love!

 

Talk to me! What’s your best phone photography tip? Feel free to leave a link to your Instagram profile so I can find you!

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Family Travel: Exploring Columbus, Ohio

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

 

Exploring Columbus, Ohio

Our family just returned from a trip to Columbus, Ohio and we are so excited to share about our family trip with you. We were hosted by TourismOhio to learn more about the fun options for things to do, see, and eat in Columbus, Ohio. They then acted as our own personal concierge and created an amazing itinerary based upon our family’s interests and tastes. We were so thankful for this opportunity to explore Ohio in a really unique way that made us truly feel like locals.

Since they so graciously created an itinerary for us, we want to share with you what we did each day while we were there and what our family thought about it. Thanks to this thoughtful itinerary, we were able to pack a lot into our days and everything was within minutes of each other, making it easy to go from one attraction to another.  Today’s post will be our honest impressions of the experience with two kids who are 8 and (almost!) 12 years-old.

Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory
Franklin Park Conservatory

Our first stop on our trip was to visit the Franklin Park Conservatory to check out the butterfly garden. We loved being able to see the display of the butterflies as they grow in the windows in front of the butterfly garden. Once you step inside it is impossible not to be in awe of the hundreds of butterflies that flit and flutter around the gardens. There were so many different varieties of butterflies that we could have stayed there all day just looking at the butterflies. Our goal was to hold still enough that a butterfly might land on us. Hitchhiking is discouraged so they have a mirror where you can check to make sure you haven’t picked up a butterfly hitchhiker on your way out.

We spent so long gazing at the butterflies that we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to walk through the gardens, but there is just so much to do there that I would definitely give yourself at least two hours to really enjoy the magic of the butterflies and the gardens. The gardens are breathtaking and there is plenty to look at both indoors and outdoors.

One of our favorite things at the Franklin Park Conservatory though was the Blue Butterflies: Migration Across America exhibit that is being displayed on May 17–September 21. The Indiana-based artist Tasha Lewis transformed the Cardinal Health Gallery with 4,000 cyanotype butterflies printed on cotton fabric. These butterflies have been installed in public spaces across the country and you can view the photography of where these butterflies have been captured on photos all over the world.

The Topiary Park
The Topiary Park
The Topiary Park

After that, we hopped into the car to head over to The Topiary Park to become a part of a topiary painting. The Topiary Park is a seven-acre park in downtown Columbus, Ohio. It’s big claim to fame is  its topiary interpretation of Georges Seurat’s famous Post-Impressionist painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte. Visitors come from around the world to enjoy the unique experience of walking into and through a work of art. The admission on this is free and is a fun place to walk around, take a few pictures, or lounge on the lush grass. You can grab a handout in front of the painting and gaze at it from a park bench. There are lots of hills to roll down, as my kids discovered, and you can sit by the pond and watch the ducks swim by. It’s quite peaceful and a sweet escape from the hustle & bustle of the city.

Milestone 229

Our final stop of the day was dinner at Milestone 229 with the family. This was our most expensive dinner out, but I would say the most delicious and offered a beautiful view of the city that was worth the extra expense. Reservations are strongly encouraged and, due to restaurant size, you definitely want to get right in a seat and enjoy the view.  I would also recommend the $6 valet parking that they offer so that you do not need to worry about finding a spot to park on the busy streets. It was worth the $6 especially since we didn’t know our way around.

The menu was unique, the service was excellent, and the kid’s portions on the food were generous. I ate gluten-free for the entire vacation, which was difficult at times, but the one thing that I did indulge in a bit of was the Pig-Nic appetizer that we all agreed was the best thing we had ever eaten. It was a crispy pork belly served with pickled peaches, house made hot sauce and savory honey appetizer that blew me away with the depth of flavor.  Tweason’ale  was the gluten-free beer on tap and they even had an extensive gluten-free menu.  Our waiter was knowledgeable and offered loads of advice on things not to miss around the city.

We left clutching stuffed bellies and headed out back for what my children deemed, “the world’s best water park ever.” Smarter travelers would have brought the kids in their swimsuits and towels for this, but the kids really thought this was a blast because we told them that they could get soaking wet in their clothes and we would dry off when we got back to the hotel.

The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile
The Scioto Mile

Located in the heart of downtown Columbus, the Scioto Mile is an urban oasis comprised of more than 145 acres of lush parkland. Stretching along the riverfront from the vibrant Arena District to the natural beauty of the Whittier Peninsula, the Scioto Mile reconnects downtown to the Scioto River through an integrated system of parks, boulevards, bikeways and pedestrian paths.

It offered a stunning 15,000 square-foot interactive fountain that my kids played in until well past bedtime. Sadly, we did not get a chance to check out the country’s largest free outdoor climbing wall and the world’s most authentic replica of the Santa Maria because I could not persuade my children from this fountain.

My husband and I loved watching the kids run through the fountain and I loved that this was a free way to spend our evening. I would recommend dressing your children brightly though because it is very easy to lose sight of them since it is so large.

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

The next day we spent the entire day exploring the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium. Be sure to pack your walking shoes because this zoo is BIG. We had tickets to also head to the Zoombezi Bay, but we did not get through all that we wanted to see at the zoo, even though we were there for seven hours!  There are so many animals to see that it was a treat for my two animal-lovers. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 575 species from around the globe!  As if that wasn’t enough, they also have a new Heart of Africa exhibit that spans over 43-acres with 150 animals!  In this new exhibit you can come face-to-face with giraffes and feed them a snack, get up-close with lions as you board a grounded airplane, take a camel ride, watch the fastest land animal reach top speeds at the cheetah run, and take in the views of the savanna while the animals gather around the watering hole.

We were in animal-heaven and loved getting a chance to see all of these beautiful animals while we there. To cut down on expenses, we brought in our own snacks and drinks (no straws please!) which helped us keep moving through the different exhibits more quickly. The day we went was humid and hot at almost ninety degrees. Despite the heat, we found spots to take shelter from the sun and had a great visit while we were there. We highly recommend making the zoo & aquarium top on your Columbus priority list. We can see why it is one of the best in the US.

Ray Ray's Hog Pit
Ray Ray's Hog Pit

After such a full day at the zoo, we were feeling unmotivated to head back out for dinner. In lieu of the formalities, we decided to seek out a food truck treasure in Columbus and grab some barbecue for dinner. Have you heard of Ray Ray’s Hog Pit? Well, if you don’t know, now you know. Seriously, the world’s best barbecue and tucked away behind Ace of Cups off of High St. We felt like we were truly locals when we found this truck for our dinner. It’s one of the highest rated barbecue joints in Columbus and offered just the right amount of sweetness, smokiness, and spice. The brisket was killer as was the pulled pork (minus my bun). The sides though almost rivaled the meat with a spicy collard green and some of the best baked beans I have ever eaten.

We recommend picking it up and taking it to go to enjoy at a fun park or at your hotel to get in a swim if you are bringing the kids. If you are going for a date, you can enjoy a drink or two on the adjacent patio with an interesting crowd and, I have no doubt, you would have a few stories to share.

Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art

Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus Museum of Art
The next day was one of my favorite days of our trip because we got to explore the Columbus Museum of Art. In many art museums we have visited, the museum is not geared towards children or making a visit a family experience. This was, by far, one of the most amazing art museums that you could enjoy with your entire family. Each room had some type of interactive section for kids to jot down what they thought about an exhibit, materials for them to create with, or puzzles of the art itself.  In addition to that, they had a Wonder Room where kids could create and play interactively with art. Whether it was creating their own shadow box display, gathering and creating a nest from various textiles and ribbons, or playing dress up, this area geared towards children could have kept my children busy and happy for hours.

I loved that bags were provided to encourage you to create and take your projects home with you.

For us, the art was a little slice of heaven. Although they offered beautiful pieces from famous artists like Monet, I fell in love with many of the more eclectic and unknown-to-me artists that represent such diversity and technique. My husband and I both agreed that this was one of our favorite things that we did and the kids had just as much fun as us.  I would add this to your travel agenda if you are exploring Columbus.

The Book Loft of German Village

The Book Loft of German Village

The Book Loft of German Village

Our next stop quickly become another family favorite situated in German Village. The Book Loft of German Village is one of the nation’s largest independent book stores and is located at 631 South Third Street in Columbus, Ohio, just a few blocks South of the state capitol building. The pre-Civil War era buildings that once were general stores, a saloon and a nickelodeon cinema, now are home to 32 rooms of Bargain Books.

The books are offered a discounted rate, while the truly discounted reside just outside of the book loft.  Be sure to have a way to get in touch with one another and divide and conquer this maze of a bookstore. Narrow hallways wind into different genres of books, making it easy to fall in love and get lost in this winding 32-room bookstore.

We left the store with big stacks of books that made our bookworm hearts very happy. Once we were done browsing the bookstore, we made our way over to the North Market which was just a short drive away to experience another Columbus treasure.

North Market of Columbus, Ohio

North Market of Columbus, Ohio

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

No less than a million locals encouraged us to make sure that we find a way to make Jeni’s Ice Cream a visit priority. We decided to head to the North Market so each of us could indulge in whatever types of foods we were in the mood for and we could finish our visit with a scoop of ice cream.

Established in 1876, the North Market is Columbus’ only remaining true public market. More than 30 merchants vend a wide variety of fresh, local, authentic food. Offerings include organic produce, grass-fed beef, pork, lamb and goat, pastured poultry, sustainably raised seafood, locally roasted coffee, baked goods, cheeses, flowers and other artisan food items. The Market also provides an international selection of freshly prepared foods, authentic ethnic specialties, distinctive gifts and personable service from its merchant owner operators.

The market was very busy and the crowds were bustling, but we managed to find a table upstairs to enjoy our food. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, as suggested, was a Columbus highlight for us. We sampled the Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Savannah Buttermint, the Buckeye State, Salty Caramel, the Milkiest Chocolate in the World, and Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate…just to name a few.

You know, to tell you all about it. For work. Hard day. Etc.

Every flavor was divine and we all thought we picked the best one. Basically, you can’t go wrong.

COSI

COSI

COSI

COSI

Our next stop was to the COSI , Columbus, Ohio’s dynamic Center of Science and Industry. The COSI was opened in 1964 at Memorial Hall in downtown Columbus, COSI moved in 1999 to a new 320,000-square-foot home designed by internationally-renowned architect Arata Isozaki, creating one of the largest modern-built science centers in the United States.

As a “center of science,” rather than a standalone science center, COSI has established embedded partnerships that enrich the guests’ experiences, including WOSU@COSI, the only working television station in a science center; the Ohio State University (OSU) Labs in Life, working research laboratories created through a partnership with The Ohio State University and staffed by OSU researchers; Battelle’s STEM Innovation Network, in partnership with one of the world’s leading research institutions; the Columbus Historical Society; and the STEM-based Metro High School, among others.

The kids had a blast exploring the COSI and getting to experience lifting a Honda (and they do say HONDA not car- well played, Honda!) visiting the ocean wing with all of the fun waterworks, as well as touring  around the Progress wing, and watching people ride on the high wire unicycle.

There was lots to see and do here, but you should note that we found that with some of the more exciting things on the floors, like the wind tunnel, actually were coin-operated and were additional charges. The movies and other exhibits also were extra on top of the general admission.

If your kids do want to ride the unicycle, note that they cannot be in sandals, which meant that we couldn’t partake that day.  To ride the high wire unicycle, you need closed-toe shoes (sorry, no sandals, high heels, or Crocs), weigh under 250 pounds, and have at least a 25-inch inseam. To avoid disappointment, remember the High Wire Unicycle closes a half-hour before COSI does, and to accommodate guests fairly, the line may close earlier.

All important things that we did not know before we headed over.

The Columbus Crew

Our final evening we had tickets to watch the Columbus Crew play. So…I have never been to a soccer game with more enthusiastic fans than Columbus. You guys take it to another level! Unfortunately, due to weather and circumstances beyond their control, the game was canceled the night we attended. We were so bummed, but had quite the stories to tell about the visit, the fans, and the monsoon that we drove into and out of to attend.

The next day we had hoped to make it over to the Easton Town Center, but since it did not open until noon, we decided to head on back to good ol’ Indiana and make plans to shop another day…perhaps, without the kids.

Hilton Garden Inn

I would also like to say that our accommodations were perfection at the Hilton Garden Inn. Sleep number adjustable beds, a Keurig for coffee, a fridge for drinks and snacks, a fantastic made-to-order breakfast available, and huge coffee carafes and fruit-infused water by the entrance so we always had a drink. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable offering suggestions for a gluten-free pizza joint we could order from and making sure we were comfortable and cared for at all times. The pool was just the right size and a hot tub was just what I wanted to sink into at the end of the day.

The best memories though are the ones that I can’t always capture- curling up with the family watching Food Network together in the evenings and belly-laughing, the pure unadulterated joy of wonder as my kids discovered new things, my husband’s face and jaw-dropping when he saw the art at the museum, the sunset we caught while the kids splashed in the water park, and the squeals of delight over who had the best ice cream (in case you were wondering, it was mine!).

We left with full hearts, bellies, and a whole lot of beautiful memories.

Thank you, Columbus, for your hospitality!

Love this travel piece? Be sure to check out our Family Travel section for more ideas for places to visit! So, Columbus, what did we miss? Feel free to share your favorite Columbus, Ohio travel suggestions here!

Our family received lodging, food, and event tickets in exchange for our honest thoughts and opinions on Columbus sponsored by TourismOhio.  All opinions expressed are our own and we received no additional compensation.

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The New Flourish Boutique

Friday, April 4th, 2014

The New Flourish Boutique

We are so excited to share that our amazing site sponsor, Flourish Boutique, has relocated into a beautiful and more spacious home. Emily & I were invited to the Grand Opening event this Thursday evening and had the best time browsing all of the beautiful items that they have in their new place.

If you haven’t had the chance to check it out, you will be in for a treat.  Not only does the store carry an expanded line of clothing and jewelry, they have now added shoes, beautiful handbags, bath/beauty products, and fun gifts for everyone in your life (babies, kids, furry friends, and even bridal fun!)

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

As you can see, they rolled out the red carpet for us to show you around. The new location is right next to the new Gigi’s Cupcakes on 310 West Cleveland Road in Granger.

I don’t know what you are waiting for… let’s head on in!

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

It was hard to take very many pictures to really show you everything because there were so many Flourish friends shopping that night. We had the best time browsing all of the items in the store. Of course, our eyes always go to the jewels whenever we are out and about.  Pictured here is just half of the store, if you can believe it, and an amazing little Clearance section is tucked in the back of the store.

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

The New Flourish Boutique

The evening included a fashion show. If you know us, you know we love fashion. Everywhere we turned, we saw something we loved.  Flourish Boutique has a ton of new merchandise that you can order or find in their store. MomAdvice readers can get 25% off any of their regular priced merchandise using the code WEB25!

Pretty in Pleats Maxi (Flourish Boutique)

Pretty in Pleats Maxi (Flourish Boutique)

Pretty in Pleats Maxi (Flourish Boutique)

Pretty in Pleats Maxi (Flourish Boutique)

Mystree Jacket (Flourish Boutique)

Mystree Jacket (Flourish Boutique)

Scarf (Flourish Boutique)

Here are some of my FAVORITE finds that I scored last night. This Pretty In Pleats skirt in white & black are my new favorite summer item! I am barely over five feet, and a maxi like this is a DREAM COME TRUE for me. I love that the lining is also an appropriate length and adds to the breeziness of this skirt. Did I mention the belt is included? Swoon! Be sure to check out the What’s New link to see all the updates (as I am sure some of these I have pictured haven’t made it on the site yet!) You can always cash in on our coupon code- woohoo!

We feel so blessed to have this partnership with Flourish Boutique and are so thankful for their continued support and sponsorship over the years! It has been a dream come true that they sponsor and support my little business- thank you, Flourish!

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It’s The 3 Little Things

Friday, March 14th, 2014

3_little_things

I thought I would start a new feature here called, “It’s The Three Little Things,” that I could share (or you could share!) three things that you are loving this week. Not everything seems to fit in a category anymore so I thought it would be fun a few highlights of things that are making me happy here.

BB Creme Garnier BB Cream

 

I had never heard of BB Creme before, but the last conference I went to CVS Minute Clinic (another thing I absolutely love) had a booth set up and offered to mail me a package of their favorite drugstore items to try. In the bag were two BB Cremes, an invention that I had never heard of. And the rest, as they say, is history. I will never go back to foundation again.

Not to sound too informercially, but this creme has transformed my skin and complexion. It contains a moisturizer, a light sunblock, a foundation, and has brightening agents in it. It’s almost like an airbrush tool for your face.

If your hairdresser messages you AFTER you get home from getting your hair done to ask what you are using on your skin, you know it’s good. It also helps that this saves me a few steps in my morning routine. The best part is, it only costs around $12!

Seamless Perfection Top

Seamless Perfection Top

 

It’s still cold in Indiana, but I am dying to wear some of my Spring clothes (see my tank top post I created in our current Indiana blizzard). I picked up one of these seamless tops and I honestly wear it almost every single day. It’s not bulky under my Spring pieces and it feels like I am wearing a pajama shirt, but looks great with everything. Since I wear it almost daily, it is washed frequently and it looks just like the day I bought it.

I am planning to wear this one a lot with my maxi skirts and under my sleeveless spring dresses until the weather finally warms up around here! ($37.50, but you can use code WEB25 for 25% off your order to make it $30!)

 UGG Boots

UGG Inserts

UGG Boot Inserts

 

I have never owned a pair of UGG boots, but when I found a pair at Goodwill for a mere $4.50, I couldn’t resist bringing them home with me. They had seen better days though and I thought I would look up how to clean them and make them look fresh again. Not only do they sell great cleaning kits (which I used to clean all my boots this Winter), but they have plushy new inserts that you can slip inside your boots and make them feel like brand new again for only $15.

With that little investment, I feel like I got a new pair of fancy boots and I still only paid $20 for them! Such a happy steal this winter. And after getting these, I see what the fuss is all about. My feet are so warm now!

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

What’s making you happy this week?

 

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

Although the snow continues to fall here, I am starting to get the urge to spruce up my wardrobe for Spring. Today I wanted to showcase 5 fun ways to wear a $3.94 tank top with items you probably already have in your closet.

I am partnering with Walmart on today’s project to help spread the word about their $3.94 Faded Glory Ribbed Cotton Tanks that you can find in a variety of colors and prints at their store. Truth be told, I buy a huge stack of these every single year and each year, I think they improve a little bit more!

The one thing that I love about this year’s tank is that it actually covers your bra straps so you don’t have to wear a strapless bra with this one or have to layer anything underneath. It’s an improvement from year’s past where two tanks were necessary for coverage. I think you will be pleased with the cut, length, and fabric weight on these too.

Here are 5 fun ways to wear this year’s tanks!

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

Novelty prints are still really hot this year so I wanted to pick up a couple of printed tanks to wear with my wardrobe basics. This heart print looks so cute with a boyfriend blazer, jeans, ballet flats, and a pretty necklace.

This would also be cute with a blazer, chambray shirt, or a favorite cardigan for layering until those warmer temperatures come along.

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

Here is an example of that same novelty print, but dressed up! I grabbed my skinny red patent belt to cinch the waist and then paired it with a cotton skirt and my favorite red wedges. I love looks like this because you look very polished, but it is essentially as comfortable as wearing your pajamas!

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

In the summer month’s I LIVE in maxi skirts and tank tops.There really is nothing more comfortable.

Here is another $3.94 tank top in a sunshine yellow that I have paired with my favorite maxi skirt and bubble necklace from our awesome site sponsor. When I have a shirt that doesn’t have any pattern to it, I really rely on fun accessories to add details to my neckline. One necklace can change the entire look of a basic tank.

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

Truth be told, most of my tank tops get devoted towards my workouts at the gym! This tank can be paired with your favorite yoga pants and layered or worn alone with a sports bra for your workouts. Workout gear can be really expensive so I rely on this budget-friendly wardrobe staple for my yoga classes. Sweating ain’t no thang when you only pay $3.94 for a top!

5 Ways to Wear a $3.94 Tank Top

In the summer months, I am usually in my favorite capris and tanks while running around after my kids at the local park. Even this look paired with a chunky necklace, a contrasting patterned bangle, and a pair of wedges can look pulled together for a day running around with the kids.

I hope these ideas inspire you to make these tanks a summer staple in your wardrobe too!

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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Our Best Disney Tips

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Disney Tips

Our family is currently having the time of our lives at Disney World for the Social Media Moms Conference and I was reminded of our family’s first experience visiting the Magic Kingdom and what we learned during that trip.

Are the tips I shared then still helpful? You bet! In fact, coming into this trip armed with the “insider” tips we learned during our first visit has made this one a lot smoother, even though it’s a bit different because I’m also attending a conference.

MA_Disney_collage

So I thought I’d take a moment to share again how we planned for Disney and what we learned (for further information on each tip, be sure to read the original post), and give you the opportunity to add any of your tips or tricks you’ve learned in visiting Disney World in the comments!

1. Advance Preparation Tips

  • Financially: start saving and looking for deals as soon as you start thinking about your trip.
  • Safety: print out current photos to carry of each child, bring a sharpie to write cell phone numbers with, and assign buddies.
  • Meals: plan for snacks and drinks before heading to the park.
  • Souvenirs: buy them at a local Disney store or the party store and pack them with you!
  • Navigation: load all needed GPS info beforehand.

2. Ride Tips

  • Make a family plan: list the rides everyone wants to go on by importance.
  • Visit rides with longest wait times first.
  • Use FASTPASS to get through longer lines faster.
  • Add the Wait Time App to your mobile phone to check ride wait times.

3. Photograph Tips

  • Capture your children’s view – not only of them seeing things, but how they see it (get down to their level).
  • Capture the moment – as many of the hilarious ride moments as you can!
  • Take pictures on the go, too – in the car and at the hotel – using both phone and regular cameras.
  • Remember a family photo: scope out someone who can take a picture of your family in front of something you like.
  • Capture the nighttime magic – do a bit of research in advance to know your camera settings so you can get some good memory shots of the fantastic light displays.

Now it’s your turn – what can you share with us about the best way to experience Disney?

 

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What Do You Do All Day? The Real Story Behind My Niche Blog!

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

One of the biggest questions that I get asked is, “What exactly is your job?” It is one of those things that people are often curious about, and admittedly are confused about,  since my job is so difficult to explain. Today I wanted to offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it is like to run a niche blog.

I have been blogging for 9 1/2 years now which makes me a dinosaur in this business! The blog that you see today is very different than the blog I started out with. The site has grown a lot over the years and many  of you have been through all of its growing pains. For those of you that have been following our journey, I wanted to share with you what my business has evolved into.

What is a Typical Day Like For You?

I am a busy mom of two kiddos so my day-to-life is probably a lot like yours. I handle the day-to-day routines and schedules of my kids. I take my kids to their extra curricular activities, I volunteer weekly at my kid’s school helping with kids that are struggling with reading, we go to worship once a week, and I do my best to workout at the gym three days a week.

Every pocket of time that I have beyond that though is spent working on projects for one of the many freelance clients I write for. I am either shopping for my clients, creating tutorials for craft/diy/food, photographing projects, or writing for them. Since many of my clients are running on magazine calendar deadlines, you will often find me shopping for Easter supplies in the dead of winter or working on Christmas crafts in the Fall.

Even my free time is often accounted for because I share it with you. I try to read four books a month for our reviews and you will rarely find me sitting still when I am watching television because I am usually working on a craft project at the same time for the blog.

Much like you, I am sure, I am pretty beat at the end of the day! By the time the kids go to bed, I am ready for bed myself. I usually head to bed pretty early so I can start the whole routine again!

Who Works With You?

I think one of the things that people have found most surprising about our site is that I was the only writer & contributor on my site for over nine years alone. My husband did all of the coding and design of our site and I managed all the content.

When our site experienced a lot of growth from Pinterest, I realized that there was no way that I could manage all of this on my own. My email inbox had over 50,000 unopened emails, my taxes and paperwork for my business were a mess, and I had been treating my work like a hobby rather than a business.

This last month I hired a virtual assistant to help  me with some of the things my readers had come to expect here, but didn’t really showcase my personality- the weekly freebie list, our weekly notebook, and our giveaway link list. She got my inbox down to zero within two months and I finally felt like I could breathe a little bit. She is, in one word, amazing, and has brought back a quality of life that I felt like I had been lacking.

We also hired an accountant to handle our taxes this year, something that had burdened us greatly over the years, and I also started using FreshBooks (affiliate) to help me keep track of my accounting better (a recommendation made by my amazing friend over at Dine & Dish). Invoicing, following up on payments with clients, and paperwork for them takes up a good portion of my day so any people/products I can use to make my day go smoother really helps me.

embroidery thread egg for Kenmore

 

Why Do You Work For So Many Brands?

I write a lot of content for brands because, frankly, it helps pay the bills. I write professionally for five to six clients monthly and those projects help our family financially, but much of the earnings go towards keeping my site up and running.

When our site was smaller, we had an inexpensive web host and I was able to do everything on my own. Our site grew by 100,000 users this year alone, which is incredible and awesome, but our web host couldn’t handle the traffic! It was time to invest in the business and move to Liquid Web (affiliate), who can handle anything we throw at them. We currently spend about a thousand dollars a month to pay for web hosting, photography props/equipment, our accountant, and my assistant. Many of my projects that I write for just go towards keeping the business afloat and paying my self-employment taxes.

No, I Was Asking How Much You Make?

Yup, I get asked that all the time although I have NEVER asked anyone what their salary is. It is such a weird job that people are always dying to know how much you make. I make a full-time income thanks to the companies I work for as a content writer/creator, ambassador, and spokesperson for. If I was living on our ad revenue alone, we could pay for our web host and maybe a bill or two. In all honesty though,  my income fluctuates a lot because it depends on what jobs come through for me for the year. This past year all my time was devoted towards my book which was a rewarding experience, but also prevented me from taking on a lot of paying jobs.

How Do You Do It All?

I don’t think I do more than many of the other working parents that I know, but people constantly ask me this. I think the main reason is because when people do these types of projects around their house they aren’t pointing a bunch of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram traffic over to it like,

“LOOK AT ME! I MAKE THINGS! LOOK HOW AWESOME I AM!”

Here is an example of a typical month of projects  for my clients.

I knitted a scarf for a new yarn line that Walmart was carrying.

I painted vases with my kids for Kenmore.

I took my kids over to the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit at Brookfield Zoo to write a review for a local magazine I write for.

I gathered up ideas for things to do with old books for Goodwill.

I made homemade laundry detergent for Walmart.

I made a cookbook with my kids for Kenmore (post coming soon!)

I made whole wheat toasted tarts with Walmart.

There are several other projects, but this gives you an idea of what I am up to. If I look at it as a whole, I am completely overwhelmed. On any given week I could have anywhere between two to four projects for clients. Since I do all of  the shopping, crafting/cooking and then my own writing & photography for these projects, each project is very time-consuming.

I also am maintaining the writing that I do here on  my blog like sharing yummy recipes for pecan-crusted chicken fingers, whipping up Peep-tinis, & sharing all those fun book reviews and making sure we have plenty of content for the rest of the week. All of that, and I haven’t even touched on the social media side of things which is just as consuming now that my readers can connect with me through every available social media channel!

Usually the most surprising amount of time I spend is on the shopping and the staging for photos. I will get a brilliant idea for a client and then get to the store and find out that the items I need aren’t sold there or that I have to completely rethink a project. What’s worse is if I spend a whole day on a recipe and it flops.

Although it appears I take every opportunity given to me, I take about half or less of the projects offered. If you look at the projects above, you might be surprised they were even for companies because they are just the types of projects I would want to share with you anyway. Since the companies supply a budget for supplies, it helps to offset some of the costs to crank out this many projects monthly.

Time management is a tricky terrain with a juggle like this. I have learned that is better to tackle a few recipes in one day and then edit & write the content the other days. Many days it looks like a bomb exploded in my house because I am in some stage of creation for someone. It doesn’t make my Type-A heart very happy, but it is one of those things that comes with the job. I try to look at it the way I see my kids LEGO’s all over the floor or all their art supplies out, I am just proud they are creative and they are making something. I want to always be surrounded by creativity.

Basically, I take it all day by day.

How Does Your Job Impact Your Family Life?

I am so thankful for my job because it usually has a positive impact on our family life. My kids and I see these projects as opportunities to spend time together and the recipes that I create in our kitchen are enjoyed by all at our family dinners. How many people get to craft all day long and call it work? Not many! It almost sounds too good to be true sometimes.

I have gotten to travel to places that I thought I would only read about in books, I got to fulfill a life goal to write a book, my kids have gotten to go to places we couldn’t have afforded, and I’ve met a lot of truly amazing men & women who blog that my life would have never crossed paths with.

rainbow_cake_in_a_jar

Let me be honest though, there are positive and negative aspects about my work. For example, since our holiday content is written months in advance, I am usually not sitting around making rainbow cakes with my kids on St. Patrick’s Day or being a super creative parent like I want to be. By the time the holidays roll around, they are usually lucky if I dye their milk green because we have already done those projects together ages ago and I am on to the next holiday.

Traveling can be hard especially when my jobs end up interfering with family events. One year I had to travel on my daughter’s birthday and I cried a lot over that. It didn’t matter that I had thrown three parties for her, I was not there on the actual day. Inevitably, some kid gets sick or they have a fancy holiday show and I am off promoting the latest product for a company or have a speaking engagement for my work that has been planned months in advance. I am thankful for Skype on days like those so that I can see their faces and feel like I am there. I am sure every working parent feels that way sometimes.

Operating at a frantic pace each week can also have negative impacts on me and my health. I was two years overdue for a lot of routine check-ups for myself this year, my stomach issues have increased, and there are times where I feel completely overwhelmed or just don’t want to do all of this. It is hard to escape your work when it is always there!

We are not celebrities by any stretch of the imagination, but our family does not have an anonymous life. Some of us thrive better than others with this and there are days where we miss that.

There are times where I want to be political or snarky, but I worry how that might reflect to my readers so it definitely censors me in my social media life.I am sure this is a good thing in the long run.

All in all, the positives have outweighed the negatives though. If it starts to turn the other direction, we will have to make a decision to continue or not as a family. We operate under the, “All for one, one for all,” family motto. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have a question for me? Feel free to ask it!

 

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Dinosaurs Alive! Exhibit at Brookfield Zoo

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Ever since my son was small he has been obsessed with dinosaurs. He did not speak for the first two years of his life and when he did decide to talk, his first words were about two of his favorite dinosaurs-  pachycephalosaurus and coelophysis. I had thought he would outgrow dinosaurs, but last summer his love for them was sparked again and I found him pouring over his encyclopedias and watching documentaries about them.

That is why we were so excited when Brookfield Zoo contacted us about a sneak peek media day to explore the Dinosaurs Alive!  exhibit that opened on April 6th.

What is Dinosaurs Alive!?

Dinosaurs Alive! will run through October 27th and takes zoogoers down a winding trail of animatronic dinosaurs that make a variety of sounds and movements. There are 24 dinosaurs in all and each offer interactive displays that give you the chance to move them by pressing buttons and well-thought information. Our kids got a kick out of the fun facts in creative tabloid-magazine displays with shocking facts like, “I didn’t even know I was laying eggs,” that parents will truly get a chuckle out of while enjoying the exhibit with their children.

The new indoor display of Feathers and Fossils highlights the most recent findings that include scientific discoveries demonstrating how birds evolved from dinosaurs. The room literally roars as you walk in, and hear all of the dinosaurs chiming in together as they move around in this display.

Kids can be like real paleontologists and dig in a Dino Dig area where they can brush off  fossil displays in the back of the Feathers and Fossils exhibit. Our kids absolutely loved this hands-on element of the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit.

Is This Just for Boys? Heck no!

If you think this exhibit was just for the boys, you would be wrong. My daughter loved this one just as much as her brother and we had a hard time pulling them out of this exhibit to explore other areas of the zoo. She loved the Dino Dig area, making the dinosaurs move, and the interactive displays and information that made this exhibit so charming.

Since he is such a big dinosaur lover, Ethan is going to share with you about the new Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. He truly enjoyed talking to the knowledgeable employees and many offered him a job at the zoo to volunteer at the exhibit as he spouted off his facts. Sadly, the zoo is a 2 1/2 hour drive for us or I think he would have began working there that day.

Dinosaurs Alive! at Broofield Zoo Review by Ethan (Age 10)

Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit was a place that was a fantastic dinosaur-filled adventure that seemed like it was already done, but it was actually still in the making. I’ll give it 4 stars. only a few mistakes, but I could hardly see most of them. It still was astonishing, though!

Pricing

Dinosaurs Alive! is $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors over 65 in addition to regular zoo general admission of $15 for adults and $10.50 for children and seniors over 65. Children 2 and under are free. Beginning in April, discounted-combo general zoo admission and Dinosaurs Alive! tickets will be available for purchase at participating Dominick’s stores. Zoo members can take advantage of half-price admission to Dinosaurs Alive! Or guests can now pay for a day and come back for the year with the Zooper Fun Pass. For the same price as a one-day all-inclusive ticket, the Zooper Fun Pass offers admission to Dinosaurs Alive! and to each of Brookfield Zoo’s six other special attractions. And with the Zooper Fun Pass, guests can also come back to visit again and again throughout 2013. For more information, visit this page.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Brookfield Zoo for such a fun excursion over our Spring Break. We brought our best friends and they represent three different age groups and they all equally loved this interactive display. We spent almost two hours in this area alone, making it truly worth the price of admittance, especially with the fun new dino facts they each came away with. When asked what their favorite part of the day was at the zoo, they all said the Dino Alive! exhibit!
We can’t wait to come back and see it all again!

Our family received free admittance in exchange for our thoughts and opinions on the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. All opinions expressed are our own and we received no additional compensation.

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