Friday Favorites 8/26

Another week has come and gone and it's flying by! We have a few things planned for the weekend so I'm happy its Friday.

Here are my favorites of the week:

I ran to Walmart for ice cream and ended up shopping and spending $75.  One of my great finds were these boots for Madi.  I'm in love with them.  Only downfall they didn't come in Emily's size.

You can find them online HERE

Last weekend we rode our bikes to Enzo's Table for lunch and a sweet treat.  I had an over the top grilled cheese from Dusty Buns and all of us tried Sno Cafe.  I've been wanting to try them all summer and getting snow cones was on our Summer Fun Bucket List.  I'm so glad we finally got to try them.  They create a New Orleans style "Snoball" and hand-make and mix their own flavors.
The girls shared a Frozen Elsa Berry, Kevin had a 50-50 creamsicle and I had a Piña Colada.  They were totally heavenly!

Getting a review from a happy client is an awesome feeling!  I love working with people and helping them find their dream home.

This week I was a guest contributor on XO Kerry Blog and featured on her IG. 

You can see the post HERE.  Thank you so much Kerry for featuring me!!!

Madi and I had a little bit of time to kill before picking up sissy from school so we spent some time at the park.  Love getting to spend one one one time with my girls.

I was so EXCITED when Ooh La La asked me and my dear friend Rema of Jewelry and Jeans to host a Style Series twice a month at one of their stores.  This last week we looked for Date Night Looks but have fun things in the works like Fall Fashion, Holiday Dresses and more.
Follow along on @iloveoohlala

This was one of the looks I tried on.  The lace crop top and these DL black skinny jeans were to die for.  This was the first time I tried on DL jeans and they fit like a glove.

I also picked up these grey booties.  Booties are one of my favorites for fall so I'm so glad I was able to snag these.

I've tried very weakly in the past to potty train Madi but she wanted nothing to do with it.  All of a sudden I felt like she was showing some interest.  This week she's been doing great.  She doesn't tell me she has to go but if I set her on there she's almost always going pee.  Before when I tried she would scream to get off the pot so this is great progress.  Every time she uses the potty we do a happy dance and she gets to put a sticker on her chart.  At the end of each row she gets a mini M&M.  At the end of the chart she will get a toy.

Jersey Girl, Texan Heart Link Up

Family Celebrations

Emily started TK this year and we wanted to celebrate the big day.  Our big girl loves pizza so there's no better place to get scrumptious pizza and have a family night than Pieology.  Pieology at Park Crossing was so gracious to treat us to a night of celebration.  We each got to customize a pizza to our liking.  Emily picked pepperoni, olive, and mushroom on original crust with red sauce and I got Madi the same.  Kevin got original crust with red sauce topped with pepperoni, sausage, sweet peppers, bacon, Canadian Ham, olives, and mushrooms.
Finally, I got Herb Butter, Alfredo Sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan, Spinach, Mushroom, Chicken, Artichoke Hearts, and Pepperoni.  I tried a Pesto dipping sauce for the first time and I was shocked at how much I loved it!  It took the pizza to another level.  I also tried one of their custom salads.  You have all the same options just without the dough.  I thought this was a perfect option in addition to a pizza or even when you are feeling like something lighter.  To top the night off we had the Chocolate Chip Churro Pizza served warm.  It was the yummiest pizza dessert you can imagine.  I wasn't aware that Pieology offered something to satisfy your sweet tooth but now I know I will be asking for this again and again.

Pieology offers House-Made White, House-Made Whole Wheat, and Gluten- Free Crust.  Next step is selecting a sauce: House Red,  3-Cheese Alfredo, Herb Butter, Olive Oil, Fiery Buffalo, Pesto, or BBQ.  For cheese selections you have the choice of Mozzarella, Ricotta, Parmesan, Feta, Gorgonzola, and some locations offer Daiya Mozzarella.  For meat options, Pieology offers Pepperoni, Sausage, Meatball, Canadian Bacon, All-Natural Bacon, All-Natural Chicken, and Spicy All-Natural Chicken.  The final step is topping it off with any of the following:  Black Olives, Mushrooms, Red Onions, Green Peppers, Artichokes, Garlic, Pineapple, Jalapeños, Corn, Kalamata Olives, Fresh Cilantro, Spinach, Banana Peppers, Fresh Basil, Grape Tomatoes, and Roasted Red Peppers.  For dipping sauces or After Bakes as Pieology likes to call them: Pesto, BBQ Sauce, House Red Sauce, or Fiery Buffalo Sauce.

Emily making her selections.

Not only does Pieology offer a variety of delicious choices but their family roots have a way of coming across.  Every Pieology has an inspiration wall covered with famous quotes.  Pieology also has a strong belief in giving back to the community so they host philanthropy nights where an organization receives a portion of the proceeds sold on a given night.
Pieology came from family and their mission is to give people the freedom to choose.  They want to feed the community, nourish creativity and bring people together.  Their vision is filled with love and purpose and I can truly say I felt that come alive.

I like a restaurant just a bit more when I know that family and community is important!
For your next family night out, lunch with friends, or when you need a delicious take out meal don't forget about Pieology at Park Crossing.  They are sure to make you feel at home and send you away with a full belly and a smile on your face.

Chow down time!

My pizza with After Bakes.

We sure left with big smiles on our faces.

Our dining experience was given in exchange for this review.  As always all opinions expressed are honest and my own.

Kicking Off the School Year

We're in full swing to kicking off the new school year.  Emily started TK which I'm still not sure has sunk in.  Since this is a milestone year we had to commemorate it.  How cute is this shirt?!?!  It reads, "Class of 2030, kicking it off TK Style- Emily"  But boy does it make me feel old and freak me out.  I graduated in 2003 and 2030 sounds soooo far away but I know I'm going to blink and this baby girl will be getting her diploma.  Yikes!

We also couldn't forget to treat her new teacher to something a little special.  I think teachers are some of the hardest workers and they aren't rewarded enough.  Emily got her teacher this tote bag because every teacher has a ton to lug around.

This is Emily's first day of school pic...

She wanted to wear her hair down and in curls for her first day.  It takes me forever and it lasts for about 3 minutes.  But she was so excited for her first day of TK I couldn't resist granting her wish.

Daddy dashed back from work so he could walk his baby girl to her first day of school.

We wanted to celebrate Emily's first day of TK and there is no better way to celebrate than a family night out to eat pizza.  We had the best night out at Pieology; stay tuned for more details.

Emily's Class of 2030 shirt and tote bag for her teacher are from Zoey's Attic a website for all your personalized gift needs.  You will find personalized shirts, bags, drink ware, pillow cases, wall art, baby gifts, aprons, maternity shirts, tooth fairy pillows and much much more.  I spent a very long time browsing their website and I wanted more than a dozen items.   Check out their site and I am sure you will find the perfect gifts and items for your friends, family, and little ones.  Your shopping can be extra fun because you have the chance to win a $35 gift code to use at Zoey's Attic.  Are you feeling lucky?  Check out my Instagram for all the details.

Check out Zoey's Attic HERE
You can find Emily's shirt HERE
You can find the tote bag HERE

Follow Zoey's Attic on their Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram

Zoey's Attic was created at the end of 2006 by founder Erin Delanty.  The birth of her first daughter was the inspiration for the site.  Erin couldn't find unique newborn onesies and she noticed friends couldn't find big brother/ big sister tees so she took her background of graphic design and web developer to start her own line.  Erin continues to draw inspiration from her friends and family and continues to grow her website.

How to Tackle this Blogging Business- Top 10 Tips

This summer I've been asked several times how to blog and I've even met with a few friends to help them get started.  I don't pretend to even be close to an expert on blogging but I thought I would share my tips, tricks, and ideas with all of you because I'm happy to share the little that I do know.  One thing I love about the blogging world is the idea of sharing and collaboration.  I've learned so much from other bloggers and would love to pay it forward.  It's in supporting each other that we all find success.
Some of my best advice is not to get into blogging because you want free stuff or to make money.  That's not how it works exactly.  Companies will see right through you and you won't get very far.
I started blogging as a diary for my first daughter and I soon realized it was a passion of mine and a great creative outlet for me.  It was when a PR rep contacted me as a "lifestyle expert" to be on a local tv segment that got me to start thinking about taking my blogging to another level.  I had no idea people were turning to my blog for advice and ideas until she brought it to my attention.
So be authentic and it will grow organically.

1. Pick a platform to start your blog.  
I use Blogger because it is free and very user friendly.  Now that I'm deeper into blogging and see it as a business I debate converting to Wordpress because it offers more but at this point I've decided to stick with Blogger because, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

2. Pay for a blog template.
There are templates on Blogger but I highly suggest paying the nominal fee to get a professional template.  I also suggest paying for someone to install it.  If you go to Etsy and search Blogger Template you will find hundreds of options.  Be sure to check out the Shop's reviews.

3. Buy a domain address.
You can buy a domain through Blogger or you can also use a site like GoDaddy.  When you buy a domain you drop the in your web address.

4. Pick a Niche.
I am a lifestyle blogger because I love to talk about a little bit of everything.  There are fashion blogs, food blogs, mommy blogs, etc.  You name it, there is a blog for it.  But in the beginning you want to figure out what lane you want to be in and stick with it.  You need to brand yourself and your blog and try to be consistent with it.

5. Photography
I am still working on this but the better the photos the better the traffic to your blog.  People love to see large and professional quality photos.  If possible invest in a DSLR camera to take all your photos.  Also there are hundreds of apps to edit your pics.  Again, this is an area where I have a ton to learn but here are a few of my favorite apps: Layout, iMovie, Photo Editor, and Color Story.  I also lighten my photos in iPhoto on my computer.

6. Content
What is your content?  What do you want to share?  What can you offer readers?
You've picked your niche, now what is your content?  Write about things other people want to hear about.  Share recipes, decorating tips, fashion advice, party planning ideas, etc.

7. Collaborate
Reach out to companies that you want to work with.  I only contact companies where I actually want the product.  I try very hard to keep my blog authentic.  If I'm endorsing a product I want to actually like it so that my readers can trust me.  At this point, companies are contacting me and there are times that I will turn things down because I'm not interested in the product or I don't think it fits within my brand.  
There isn't a secret to reaching out to companies.  I frequently use the Contact Us section of a companies website to send my pitch.  I simply tell them who I am and that I want to collaborate with them.  I also tell them I want a product in exchange for a review post that I share via all my social media channels.  I include my blog address and social media handles.
Eventually you need to create a Media Kit and send that to companies; especially if the company contacts you first.  Blogging takes a ton of work and I spend hours on each post.  Once you have numbers to support it you shouldn't sell yourself short.  There are bloggers who make a living just from their blog.  Full disclosure- that is not me, lol!

8. Host Giveaways
Not only can you ask companies for a product to review but also ask if they will provide an additional item for a giveaway (that they will ship to the winner).  Giveaways encourage people to follow you.  It's also just a lot of fun.

9. Grow Your Social Media
I have focused on Instagram but will eventually get to other platforms like Pinterest and Twitter.
My advice for growing Instagram is engagement.  Use the Explore button on IG and like and comment on other people's photos.  The more you do this the more you will get noticed by others.  The goal is for them to look at your feed in exchange and start following you.  
When you post make sure to use all 30 allowed hashtags.  Google "The most used Hashtags" and use different hashtags depending on the content.  Some for fashion, some for food, some for family, etc.  I split my 30 hashtags into two comments so it appears less spammy.  Once you finish your post, click on your hashtags and engage with people who are using your same hashtags.
Respond to comments on your photos.  Again engagement is key!
There are dozens if not hundreds of apps where you can pay for followers.  I haven't done this because I've wanted to grow my following organically and authentically.  I've heard from dozens of big bloggers that companies want to work with bloggers with good engagement not a ton of followers.  For example, a company may choose to work with someone who has 1000 followers but lots of engagement vs. someone who has 5000 followers and little engagement.  When you pay for followers your engagement tends to be low.  Those followers are fickle and are typically creepy men from another country! I'm not saying this is a bad way to go and it may be something I try in the future, I just want everyone to think about the pros and cons:)
Speaking of fickle followers you will find that every single day people unfollow you.  There are people who follow you only for a day or two in hopes that you will follow them.  If you don't they drop you like a hot potato.  Don't get hung up on this.  It's just part of the game.

I don't let it bother me but when I found this shirt I had to have it!
Another way to grow your social media is through pinning images from your posts to Pinterest.  With every single post pin one or more images to Pinterest.  Vertical and visually appealing images are best for Pinterest.  You also should consider converting to a business Pinterest account.

10. Join Networks
There are an endless number of networks to join.  I don't have a LOT of experience with most of these but here are some that I've signed up for and some that I use regularly.
SocialFabric, Share A Sale, Linqia, Blogher, Popular Pays
You have to be accepted to these networks and they will pay you in exchange for campaigns, posts, or ad placement.
Also join StumbleUpon, add your pages and make sure to stumble other content outside of your own.

What the...

...Heck? Why did you unfollow me???

In the end be you and keep a smile on your face!

I hope my top 10 tips can help and inspire you.  Please feel free to contact me with specific questions; I would love to help you.