It’s the 3 Little Things: Steak Dinners at Home, Spinning Plates, & Fall Boots for Less

August 15th, 2014

It's the 3 Little Things

I hope everyone is having a great Friday and looking forward to the weekend! We start school next week so we are savoring this last bit of free time before life as we know it ends. You know the routine- living in your car and running your children from activity to activity, homework battles, and trying to keep up with all those papers. I am hoping to offer some solutions for the back-to-school craziness in the next couple of weeks since it is something we have been working on over here and I plan to share some of this year’s solutions with you!

In the meantime, here is what is making me happy this week!

Discounted Naturalizer Boots

Boots That Don’t Break the Bank

Fall is just around the corner and that means boot season is around the corner. I have had the same pair of chocolate colored boots from SEARS that I got for $29.99 for the last six years. On my last trip, the zipper just finally gave out.  I loved these boots so much and remember being in New York and people asking me where I got them and me saying,  “SEARS,”  but kind of trying to pull that French accent that people do with Target. It sounded all kinds of wrong- I don’t know how I can make that name sound fashionable (even though my boots were!).

I decided I could go boot shopping this year and needed a pair of chocolate and black riding boots. Can I just say that boot prices are outrageous? $200 on up to $1K for a pair of boots? Nope. I refuse.  Now that I am an old lady, I rely on Naturalizer for my shoe needs and discovered 6pm.

Have you heard of 6pm before? It’s like the world’s best shoe warehouse and they carry my Naturalizer brand for my wide foot & old lady back issues. Last season’s $200 boots that I wanted so bad (but refuse to pay for) were marked down to $89.99.  That’s still an awful lot for boots for me, but if I can rock my fancy Sears boots for six years, I can surely get that many out of a really good boot. From now on, I’m doing my shoe shopping on that site- I can’t recommend it enough for savings.

I’m pretty excited for my boots being delivered this week and I know I will be having happy feet all Fall long!

Restaurant-Style Steak Recipe

Mastering the Steak

We decided to have a little celebration dinner for the end-of-summer with our kids.  I took my kids the Gucci grocery store in town and asked them what they would like to eat. We settled on steaks and they loved a fun appetizer of mozzarella balls, salami, and kalamata olives that they had on skewers for us to sample while we were shopping. We bought beautiful filet mignons, fresh berries, heavy cream, and baby asparagus to go along with our steaks.

I forget that all of the fancy dinners we eat typically are on date nights and out with my husband. My kids don’t get to enjoy foods like that very often and they were so excited to help prepare it with me and to experience some of the foods that are our special occasion foods.

I’m proud of how far I have come in my cooking abilities, but my proudest moment this summer is finally mastering the technique for a beautiful steak.  It has taken a bit of the fun out of dining out and getting a steak because now that I have it down, I think I do a better job than most of the places we have been to.

We threw Carole King on the record player and ate the best food ever together, as a family, and it was pretty much perfect.

Then we said in fancy voices that we should have Filet Fridays instead of Pizza Fridays.

Then we remembered we have to live on a budget.

And we aren’t that fancy.

 

I wear Sears boots for six years, for goodness sakes.

It was a beautiful thing to share together.

Spinning Plates Documentary

Spinning Plates

I know that last week I shared about our love for the documentary, “Tiny,” on what was making me happy. I am in a bit of a documentary mood in the evenings and we watched Spinning Plates together as a family. As a disclaimer, there were two swear words (which my children pointed out), but overall, I felt this one is very family-friendly and so worth a viewing if you have a Netflix account like we do.

Here is why I think you should watch this one.  This movie is about people who are passionate about food and what sacrifices they make when running a restaurant. It is about the most successful restaurant, a failing restaurant, and the most intriguing community-driven restaurant I have ever seen.  It is heartwarming and beautiful. The passion for food is contagious and discovering the why behind their cooking is a beautiful journey.

I would say this is a good one for fans of Jiro Dreams of Sushi (and if you haven’t seen that yet, you haven’t lived!)

I was teary-eyed a bit through this one, but seeing people’s passion for food makes me so happy. I hope you can catch it if you haven’t already!

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

 

Freebie Friday August 15, 2014

August 15th, 2014

freebie friday Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! We would like to thank Couponing 101 for assisting us with our freebies each week for loads of deals, savings, and freebies!

This week on MomAdvice we have two contributor articles where you’ll find parenting tips and money tips – Mary Carver writes about how to encourage your child’s creativity and Kelly Whalen asks “can debt be good?” You’ll also find my announcement of a fun back to school pinterest party this Sunday where you could win BIG prizes – click here to get the details! On this week’s edition of  It’s the 3 Little Things I’m sharing what’s making me happy and hope you’ll share yours, too!

Our regular feature,  Amy’s Notebook, is of course filled with lots of inspiring DIY, food, decorating and craft ideas, and be sure to check out all the contests you can enter on our weekly round-up of great giveaways!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty
Food & Drink
Entertainment
This Week’s Freebie Events: August 16 - 22
16th - Barnes & Noble: Join Storytime featuring Pete the Cat and the New Guy, 11 am
16th - Lakeshore Learning: Create a Blooming Numbers Garden, 11 am – 3 pm
16th - Michael’s: Make a Locker Picture Frame Out of Duct Tape, 12 – 3 pm
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Amy’s Notebook 08.13.14

August 13th, 2014

Apricot Jam via The Idea Room

Source: The Idea Room

Oh, this apricot jam recipe sounds divine!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting this kitchen reveal.

Loved this piece on first novels and social media.

This DIY fire pit table top is so awesome!

Perfect tips to hang a gallery wall without nails.

Diy movie theater seats via Not Just a Housewife

Source: Not Just a Housewife

DIY backyard movie theater seats- yes, please.

I think we need to make a teepee for our cat, ha!

Chipotle honey bbq ribs- fist pump!

This Outlander viewing party is too cute.

Four words: grilled chicken pesto sliders. You’re welcome.

amys_notebook

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

 

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Back-To-School Pinterest Party

August 12th, 2014

Back to School Party on Pinterest! Get great DIY ideas and a chance to win fun prizes.

It’s school time and I’m excited to be hosting a Back to School Pinterest Party with 12 other talented DIY bloggers this Sunday and YOU’RE INVITED!

 

What is a Pinterest Party?

It’s a fun night of doing one of our favorite things… pinning!! Each party host will be pinning their BEST Back to School Ideas on the DIY Creative Ideas board so you can get great ideas all in one place! There will be crafts, teacher gift ideas, fashion, hair styles, recipes, organization tips, parenting tips, free printables, photography tips, party ideas and more!

You’ll want to be there to repin and save your favorite ideas. The BEST part is, we’ll be giving away some awesome party prizes throughout the night. You won’t want to miss the fun!!!

  • When: Sunday, August 17, 2014
  • Time: 6-7 pm PST, 7-8 pm MST, 8-9 pm CST, 9-10 pm EST (Make sure to show up in the correct time zone!)
  • Prizes: There will be 4 awesome party prizes!

You must follow the directions on the giveaway widget below to RSVP and be entered to win the giveaway prizes.

Back to School Party on Pinterest! Get great DIY ideas and a chance to win fun prizes.

IMPORTANT: You MUST be present to win. We will be announcing winners LIVE on Pinterest.

Joining the Party is Simple…

  1. Click here –> to Follow the DIY Creative Ideas Pinterest Board.
  2. Follow the party hosts on the widget below to RSVP and be entered to win the party prizes.
  3. Show up online at the DIY Creative Ideas Pinterest Board, Sunday, August 17th at the correct time for your time zone.
  4. Repin your favorite DIY ideas, leave comments and have fun!
  5. Be present and watch to see if your name is announced as a winner!
  6. If you win a prize – you must claim your prize in a comment under the announcement pin so we know you are at the party. We’ll give the winners 5 minutes and if nobody claims it, we’ll assume you are not there and will choose another winner.

Looking forward to seeing you at the party! Be sure to invite a friend:-)

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Can Debt be “Good” Debt?

August 12th, 2014

From our money & finance contributor, Kelly Whalen.

Debt is a four letter word for many of us. We don’t want to carry debt. We don’t want to owe money to anyone. We work hard to eliminate debt and keep ourselves from going into debt through careful spending and strategic saving. But is there ever a time when debt is good? Can it help us meet our goals?

Can debt be good debt via MomAdvice.com

Mortgage Debt

While it would be lovely to buy a home outright, for most of us a little mortgage debt is necessary. Mortgage debt can be considered ‘good’ debt since the mortgage interest is tax deductible, mortgages allow you to settle into a home (and community) for a long period of time, and it offers you a stable monthly payment for your housing.

In the boom of the 2000s when mortgages were cheap and houses were expensive everyone was buying a house whether it made financial sense or not. Now the market has stabilized somewhat and in many housing markets it’s a great time to buy. You can find a home for much cheaper than you can rent in the same community. In addition, you may be able to build value by buying a home that has been foreclosed or needs some TLC.

Already own a home? Consider that debt to be a stable ‘rent’ you’re paying each month. You’ll get to live ‘rent’ free once your mortgage is paid off allowing for a lot more flexibility than an actual rental home.

If your home is underwater or you owe near what it’s worth consider your options when it comes to housing. Could you refinance and save on monthly payments? Could you pay it off faster with a shorter term mortgage? Would a short sale make sense for you financially? In some cases it may still be cheaper to stay in your home than move and pay for a rental home.

Education Debt

Americans owe over a trillion dollars in student loan debt, and student loan debt now tops all other forms of debt. While there is a cautionary tale here about not going too deeply into debt for your education, there are times when student loan debt is ‘good’ debt.

Education debt can be a smart financial move if you want to go into certain careers like becoming a doctor or lawyer. Mastering certain skills may require higher eduction as well. In addition some careers or jobs benefit from the networking that happens on a college campus.

Beyond college-aged kids though, there are other reasons you may go back to school as an older student. You may have had a life issue interrupt your schooling at the typical college age, or you may go back to school for a higher degree like a Master’s in Education. In these cases you may get some help from your employer to cover school costs or qualify for different grants and scholarships than younger students.

Earning a degree may be expensive but if it allows you to improve your income and offers you more stability in your career, then the benefit can outweigh the costs.

Car Debt

In most cases automobile loans are ‘bad’ debt, but in some cases a reliable car is a necessity and can help you earn a better income. If your job relies on a car, then having a set of wheels and good insurance is key to maintaining that job. In many suburban areas a lack of public transportation, reasonable transportation options, or safe walking and biking lanes can keep you from commuting to your job via an alternative method (you can read more about saving with these alternative methods of transportation here).

While saving and paying cash for a car is ideal, in some cases taking on car debt instead of spending all your savings may make sense. Just be sure when you’re weighing the cost of a new or newer used car versus something you can buy outright you take into account the maintenance needed or cost to own.

Other Debt

When you’re weighing whether debt is ‘good or ‘bad’ you need to take into account four things:

  1. Is your current debt-to-income ratio less than 35% (at the high end) or 25% (a more conservative balance)?
  2. Will the debt increase your earnings or earning potential?—Earning more can make a big impact on your bottom line.
  3. Is the reason you’re adding debt a need? Or a want?—Can you find a reasonably less expensive alternative?
  4. Are there other options that are less expensive but still provide what you need?—Would a local college give the same experience as an expensive university?

Do you think there is such a thing as good debt and bad debt? What do you consider to be ‘good’ debt?

 

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Apron Full of Giveaways 08.12.14

August 12th, 2014

Mommy and Me Pink Flamingo Aprons via Etsy

Source: Mchughties,  $52.00

 

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child’s Imagination

August 11th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child's Imagination via MomAdvice.com

A couple months ago I posted this on Facebook:

“Annalyn gets so into character when she plays make believe that when she says, in a panic, “Mom! Where’d you put our helium tank?” I actually think, “Hmmm…where DID I put that helium tank?” (Guys, WE DON’T HAVE A HELIUM TANK.)”

Now, believe me when I tell you that I do not take credit for all the amazing characteristics my daughter has. Just like her strong will and curly hair, some things just came with her. And her vivid imagination and flair for the dramatic are two of those things.

[I suppose I could take credit and/or blame for those things, since they certainly came from my gene pool. But it's not like I intentionally passed on those traits anymore than I did my green eyes or seasonal allergies.]

However, I did recognize early on the benefit of encouraging my daughter’s imagination – and one simple trick has helped me more than any other. Ironically, it’s something I can’t do well in any other area of my life, but when it comes to pretend play with my kiddo, I’m all over it.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not always the most FUN person. I’m practical and grounded and realistic. I think fast and I’m able to see what will work and what won’t, and I have a low threshold for the ridiculous. This is exactly what led to a lecture from my manager at the advertising agency I worked at following a brainstorming lunch. That’s another story for another time, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly the best team player during that meeting. (In my defense, though? Their ideas were insane.)

ANYWAY.

My first reaction to silliness is to squash it, but that’s not the kind of mom I want to be to my girls. So as I’ve noticed my oldest daughter’s love of acting and pretend play grow stronger, I’ve worked hard to encourage her (and to be a little more fun). Though I mostly just reminisce about my role as Glinda the Good Witch when remembering my days in high school theater, I also learned a little about improvisational acting back then.

Encourage Imagination: Playing Dress Up via MomAdvice.com

When participating in an improv exercise, you should never deny your fellow actor. This rule is the cornerstone of improv and, while never denying your child wouldn’t exactly be a wise strategy for parenting, going along with my daughter’s pretend play every chance I can has become nearly second nature.

The first rule of improvisational theater (improv) is to say, “Yes, and…” Accepting the premise one actor offers (the “yes”) and then building on it (the “and”) is the best way a scene develops. This Mad Lib-ish strategy can lead to hilarious results – and a lot of fun for your children. For example:

Child:  We’re going to the circus today.
Mom: Great! Do you think we’ll see some elephants there?
Child: Of course we will. I’m the elephant trainer.
Mom: That’s right. That’s why we have elephants living in our back yard.
Child: Yes, and when it rains they sleep in my bed.
Mom: Sure they do – and they always leave peanut shells on your pillow!

See how much fun that is? And, at least at my house, a pretty drastic break from the norm! So even though fun and silly and pretend don’t come to me naturally, I’m learning to take that old theater lesson and put it into practice at home.

That means that these days, when my daughter runs into the house, jabbering about the fairies she found in the big tree in the back yard? I “yes, and” her. I ask her how many fairies she found and what they’re named and what color their dresses are. And, of course, I ask her if they can fly. And when we’re driving in the car, and she leans up toward the front seat and says, “Mom! Hand me the tools, please,” well, it usually only takes me a couple seconds to switch [mental] gears, realize she’s pretending, and pass the wrench and hammer to the back seat.

I’m pretty sure she’s not actually building a roller coaster back there.

How do you encourage your child’s imagination and creativity?

 

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Take Better Phone Photos (And Grow Your Business)

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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It’s The Three Little Things: Tiny Homes, Messy Buns, & the Best School Uniforms

August 8th, 2014

3_little_things

Happy Friday, friends!  I had a whirlwind of a trip in Austin with Savings.com (where I ate my fair share of BBQ and even line danced)  and am leaving again, if you can believe it, for a quick trip to the Better Homes & Gardens headquarters for their BHG Style Showcase to learn about their beautiful line-up of products they are going to be carrying this year. I will be sharing those finds with you all this upcoming year as a BHG Live Better Blogger which I am so excited about.  You may recall, that I participated in a cook-off with Better Homes & Gardens. You will be happy to know that the pots that they gifted me are still being used by my dear buddy, Ed, which still makes my heart happy.

Continuing with our happiness theme…

Tiny-A-Story-About-Living-Small

Small Space Living Inspiration

I caught this documentary Tiny on Netflix this past week and it was absolute perfection. I have talked before about our commitment to stay in our home despite the pressure to go bigger around us.  I was so proud of our tiny shed renovation and how we made it into a livable and functional space for our family. We continue to try to improve upon our existing space and not take on more than what we really need.  I have to say that regardless of the size of the home you live in, there is so much to learn in this documentary about loving what you have and whittling away at what you don’t need in your life.

There is no preachy tone in this and very little talk about global footprints, but this documentary is more about giving up the constant maintenance of your home and embracing a smaller space. You get to follow a man with no construction background for a year while he works on building his own tiny house and hear the testimonials of others who have embraced really small spaces. When I say small spaces, I am talking SMALL spaces.

This one is family friendly and one of the best documentaries I have seen this year!  If you are looking for more ideas for a Docu-Pizza Night with your family (that’s what we call it!), head over to my Reality Bites Pinterest board for some fun suggestions!

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Mastering a Messy Bun Updo

I have been growing my hair out simply because it seems easier at this stage in my life. I would also like to say that if you want to do anything cool with your hair at all and replicate the stuff you see on Pinterest, you gotta grow it out.  Now that I finally have some length, I have been Kate, from The Small Things, new #1 fan because she has the best hair tutorials in the world.  The second picture is blurry (hold it STEADY, 8 year-old child, geesh!)  and her Double Bun Tutorial is my new favorite updo. And when I say new favorite updo, I mean I haven’t wore my hair in any kind of updo since prom which was last year…so it has been a year since the last time…it feels like ages though.

The double bun technique is seriously genius for people who don’t have enough length to get all their hair up in one bun. You have to watch her tutorial and then head to her blog and just suck in all the hair goodness. For this updo, I swung by CVS and snagged some bobby pins and clear elastics. I like that she doesn’t make things complicated or perfect (a skill I am working on).

If you like the dress, you must follow Whoorl’s Closet Tumblr. I am kind of a Sarah James groupie so be sure to follow her beautiful blog too.  I snagged this Mossimo dream of a dress for a mere $20. I liked it so much, I bought one in Coral & Black too. I really wowed my hubby with these dresses and the new hair. I get to feel like Sarah James for a day- it’s quite grand!

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Uniforms that Don’t Wrinkle or Pill

Ugh! Talking about preparing for back-to-school does not make me happy, but we are in that mode right now. My mother-in-law purchased uniform skirts for my daughter for a holiday gift and these Docker skirts are seriously the best thing since gluten-free bread. These uniform skirts don’t wrinkle, they don’t pill, they always look amazing, and they are practically dry when you pull them out of the washer.  This year we skipped our yearly Old Navy run and just headed over to Sears and bought all Docker uniforms this year. The jumpers are made from the same material too although I haven’t washed the pants yet, but they look promising. Did I mention they are running a half-off sale? It made it the same price (or less) than the Old Navy prices!  You can utilize this code: DOCKERS9  (which I did not and now I’m upset!) for $10 of a $75 purchase and free shipping.

I have lots more making me happy this week- it’s one of those weeks where my cup is running over with goodness and gratefulness. I hope your cup overfloweth too!

 

*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 makes you happy this week? Feel free to share in our link up below and link back to this post to participate or share in our comments below!

Share 3 things that are making you happy today!

 

Amy’s Notebook 08.06.14

August 6th, 2014

Peach Iced Tea Popsicles via Paper N Stitch

Source: Paper & Stitch

 

Peach iced tea popsicles- yes.

I’m in love with this outdoor painted rug.

This NPR junkie is excited about this streaming option.

13 tips for getting more reading done.

Madly in love with this nursery.

Green beans with warmed feta? Yes please!

Reading Embroidery Hoop Art via Thirty Handmade Days

Source: Thirty Handmade Days

 

Time to learn embroidery.

Love these popsicles turned into cakes with these candle printables for summer birthdays.

A short PSA: using caution and care with essential oils

Mini meatball minestrone salad- um, where’s my fork?

Rethinking my refrigerator purchase after this article.

30 of the best parents in literature.

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

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