Boost Your Blog // Three Things Bloggers Don't Have To Do

Often in these sorts of blog posts I tell you things you can do or things you should do to have a successful blog.  However, today I wanted to do something different.  I want to share with you three things you don't have to do as a blogger.  Why don't you have to do these?  Well, first off you're only human and you're probably only one person.  Secondly, not every tip works for every blogger.  Let's just jump right in so you can grasp what I'm saying:
Blogging Tips
You don't have to use every social media outlet
This is a big one and the reason I was writing this post.  There are tons of articles out there that will tell you tips to be successful on twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Tumblr, and on the next big social media thing.  While it's fun to keep up with trends - think about what life was like before Instagram! - you don't have to be active on every platform.  If you stretch yourself too thin you're not giving quality content on all of your profiles.  Focus on the few that work for you.  For me it used to be Twitter...but not I'm all over Instagram.  I love Instagram because I can seem to be active on all my platforms - Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr - while only being active on one.  It's not the same as posting different content on each platform but it works for me.

You don't have to fit in
You don't have to be a niche blogger, you can blog about what you like and what you care about in your own voice and your own way.  You don't have to stick to your original blog plan either.  As you change, your blog should change.  If you update your about me section to reflect your interests, then guess what?  Your blog is suddenly about your interests!  It may seem weird to incorporate something new into your blog posts but bring posts in gradually until you find a rhythm in your own work.  It's fun to change and do something new!

You don't have to follow the rules
Don't want to blog everyday? Don't.  Don't want to offer freebies? Don't.  It's your blog, you do you!  You don't have to link your blog to your Twitter to automatically post.  You don't have to have a $400 blog design.  You don't have to be perfect.  The only two rules you have to follow are (1) properly credit your images & (2) be yourself.  The best way to be a good blogger is to create a space you'd like to be in.  Write the content you'd like to read because odds are there's someone out there looking for what you have to say.  That is the reason I started blogging...I felt like I couldn't find the things I was looking for and I felt I had something to say about it! 

So there you go - three things you don't have to do as a blogger!  I know when you're searching for blogging tips it often seems like you'll never reach perfection because there's always one more thing (or a zillion more things!) you could be doing to be better.  However, we've got to remember we are the authors here....if we don't want to do something...who's to say we should??  Success is a relative term and we should be happy at every stage of our journeys.  Hope this little post helped you relax and realize you do this for you!

What are things you would say bloggers don't have to do?  How did you find your blogging balance?

xoxo, Moe


How I Refocused my Cleaning List + Freebie

A while ago I published this post on how to make your perfect cleaning list after I felt I'd found the perfect way to clean my house.  I pretty much broke it down by section per day of the week.  Monday was the living room and office area, tuesday was the bathrooms upstairs & downstairs, Wednesday was kitchen and dining area, and Thursday was the bedrooms upstairs and downstairs.  Friday wasn't anything and the weekend was for laundry.  I also tried to tidy the bathrooms, tidy the kitchen (dishes, counters etc) and put away one item when I left a room.  However, we've recently started the remodel upstairs and with everything all jumbled up I feel like instead of cleaning I am just putting shit from one room into another room.
Because there are things not residing in their homes and everything is all jumbled up, I was just getting stressed out so I was not cleaning the house.  Honestly - my friends and my family will think I'm insane for saying this because I'm such a messy person - I was enjoying keeping the house clean.  I think I've said this before but I will say it again the thing that has made me less messy is having a place for everything.  And that has become even more evident by squishing a lot of shit into a small space during our remodel.  When everything has a place, thats where it goes (duh) but when I had a just a room with room mates or just a dorm in college, I was trying to stuff tooooooooo much into a small space.  So, enough blabbering - here is the way I refocused my cleaning schedule.

I made a list

In my filofax I just made a list of the things that needed to be done.  When I was doing the previous schedule - which I think I'll go back to after the remodel - it was pretty generic.  I knew that on Monday I would dust, tidy, vacuum the living room and the dust and swiffer the office floor.  But because things ended up being piled in places the didn't belong I got in the mind set of it's just going to be cluttered any way so I didn't do anything about it.  And then shit got even more cluttered.
On this list was a literal breakdown of everything so I could cross it off.  Not just do laundry but also fold laundry because it would just sit in the baskets fresh out of the dryer.  The biggest thing for me with lists is crossing things off.  If I break down things to the extreme I can then see exactly what is important and then I can group things and get them done.  It's helped me so far, I think.  Things aren't perfect but I'm getting something done.  Something is better than nothing.
I wanted to share with you a new insert that I'm using in my filofax to help me out with this.  I made a week on one page insert with a list column as well.  I like week on one page inserts because I don't have too, too much I need to write out so the sizing is perfect for me.  I also found that in my weekly spreads I will have multiple list pad inserts, sticky notes, etc and I really wanted to tame the bulk in my planner.  I realized that I was wasting a lot of the page by using weekly inserts with a full width box for each day.  

So go ahead and click here if you want to download this freebie!  It prints 8.5 x 5.5 inches so trim your pages before you run them through your printer.  Remember this freebie is free for personal use but go ahead and share this blog post with your friends!

xoxo, Moe


Three Inspiring Blog Planning Notebooks

Blog planning is something that I find so fun to do.  The one reason why I love it is because it is so fluid.  Depending on the attitude you have towards your blog, you can plan away and stick to the plan or plan away and then move things around.  I'm more fluid in my planning because I know there is a thing called life that I have to live (bummer, right? Just kidding!) and sometimes things get thrown out the window.  I like to plan out the month with what I'd like to do and then if it happens great....if I live my life and something else happens, that's great too!  So here are three inspiring blog notebooks I found while searching Pinterest for some blogging inspiration.
This crazy old post from the blog A Beautiful Mess is super inspiring!

Why I Like It:
I love the creative fluidity of this notebook.  It's totally customizable because of the rings - you can move pages here and there.  This also adds to the fluidity for me.  I love the sticky note idea to sketch out an idea and move it around the notebook in the various stages of planning.  You can also color code your notes making it ever more organized.  I also l
the hand written tabs.  This takes creativity to another level.  I think in your planning you do have to be creative as well...that is where you can draw some inspiration when you're feeling uninspired.

This daily planner from Turquoise Home from her post on being an efficient blogger.

Why I Like It:
When I was unemployed a looong time ago I was working all day on my blog and my various shops.  If you're a blogger thinking of taking the plunge into full time blogging an hourly breakdown of your day can really keep you accountable.  This split page design has the hourly breakdown on the left and a to-do list on the right.  I found that the hardest part about not having a boss was having no one to be accountable to.  It was the realization that I had to be the one to set the schedule and then I also had to be the one to fulfill it.  I also like the to-do list because I often forgot to focus on social media so adding this as an important check mark means you're going to focus on it every day.

This amazing planner in a Moleskine from Andrea.  I first saw the photo above on her instagram account.  You can read about here blog planner here.

Why I Like It:
If you head over to her blog and read her post on her planner you'll get a lot more info that just this picture.  I like this blog planner because it is a place for all things blog.  She created an index so she'd be able to find everything that she puts in this notebook.  She also has the photo sizes for her photos at a quick glance at the front of the notebook.  Doing this means you'll always have your blog style guide at your finger tips.  You could also throw in any hex codes for colors and a list of fonts and standards for your blog planning.  I also like that she has a monthly calendar.  I plan my posts much like she does - map out the reoccurring posts for the month so you have a place to start.  On the opposite page is sort of like the bullet journal system (a concept I really want to get into!) with the dates and posts she's working on.  The black & white lover in me really finds inspiration in the simplicity and organization of this planner.

I am thinking of moving my blog planner out of my Filofax even though I really do love having all my planning all in one place.  I may just add some graph paper so I can do set up like Andrea's.  I've already started something like that for my YouTube channel planning.  I just love planning!

If you want to see more of my blog planning process you can read these posts: My Blog Planner (an old post from 2012!), My 2014 Blog Planner (my first ring binder type of planner), Functional Ways to Use Project Life Cards in your Planner, My Blogging Kit 2.0.

How do you blog?  Do you plan with pen and paper or just go with the flow?

xoxo, Moe


Winter Skin Care for Oily, yet Dry Skin

I've run into this problem where my skin is crazy.  During the winter my skin freaks out.  It is both oily & dry at the same time.  How is that possible??  Whatever bizarre parallel universe I've landed in, I've found a way to cope with it.  Here are my five favorites this winter:
Witch Hazel toner
This is great, natural alternative for a toner all year round but I love it for the winter because it doesn't strip my skin of moisture.  It evens out the PH of my skin and as a plus refined pores.  I do think this is a great toner for evening skin texture and clearing out your pores.

Seaweed Mattifying Day Cream from the Body Shop
I got a sample set of this line from the Body Shop from TJ Maxx for $10!  It was something I was dying to try but always passed over.  Now I know I'm going to pick more up!  This day cream is a nice gel formula that adds a little bit of moisture but also gives a matte finish.  The biggest thing I've encountered in this oily yet dry skin of mine is that if I don't hydrate it, it's just going to hate me more!
Nourish Organic Moisturizing Cream Face Cleanser
This is a sample I received in an ipsy bag and have really fallen in love.  The cream formula of the cleanser doesn't give me a squeaky-clean, tight feeling to my skin but rather cleanses while moisturizing.  It doesn't feel greasy at the end of it all and it really does cleanse off all the things I need it to cleanse!  I also have an eye creme from this brand and, so far, I'm sold on it.

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing lotion
A moisturizer is something I've struggled to find for a long time.  I get so nervous to put any old moisturizer on my face for fear of it being too thick, too greasy, or likely to clog my pores.  This moisturizer does the job with out making my skin oily....If you have oily skin hopefully you'll know what I mean - its like the product doesn't get absorbed and then you get oily, and it's just a mess.  I also steer clear of luminous moisturizers for this reason.  However, this Aveeno lotion moisturizes the right amount and the ingredients don't clog my pore or irritate my skin.  I lay it on thick at night to pack on the moisture but use only a small pearl size amount in the morning.
Urban Decay De-slick Make Up Setting Spray
This is another year round thing for me too.  It doesn't hurt to lock in your make up all day long with a few sprays of this.  This one is my Holy Grail but you could use the NYX Matte Finish Setting Spray from the drug store as well.  This adds just a final touch to the make up I have for the day to ensure I don't get too glowy during the day.  It can also act as a make up refresher during the day and I keep a travel bottle in my purse.

Realizing that my skin goes crazy this time of year I'm glad I was able to try some new things to keep my skin hydrated, yet matte!  Who knows what my skin will do when I head back to Virginia next week.

How do you treat your skin in the winter?  Any other products you love?

xoxo, Moe


Three Colorful and Functional Ways to Customize Your Planner

I have been in love with my Raspberry Saffiano Filofax, as you probably know if you've been sticking around with me for a while.  Planning, for me, is something that is practical.  I don't do a lot of stickers, I don't do a lot of decorating....I do a lot of functional stuff in my planner.  I scrapbook in my Project Life albums.  I love black and white and don't like too much clutter in my planner.  I designed my own inserts because I knew what I wanted and I couldn't find it in inserts I found online.  However, I do like to see a little color and be inspired by my planner....after all it is where I keep all my creative lists and blog plans, so it has to inspire me.
Today I want to share with you three ways you can be creative, yet functional in your planner.

Washi Tape
You don't have to go overboard when it comes to washi tape.  I don't decorate, for the most part, my weekly pages.  I write in the things I need.  But washi tape is great for me when marking things on my monthly calendar.  I can mark when I will be home, when there are birthdays, when bills are due, what goals I will accomplish, etc.  I use it as a big highlighter rather than as a decoration.  It adds color and function.  However, if I do have something special - like my two days off this week!! - I mark them with washi tape too.

Project Life or Pocket Scrapbook Cards
I've mentioned how I use these types of cards in my planner before (peep this post) but I wanted to offer it up again and show you two ways to insert them into your planner.  I love using the 4x6 cards as inspiration in my planner.  Some of them have really inspiring quotes on them so seeing that in your weekly spread can really motivate you.  So I usually punch those and insert them right into my planner since I don't tend to use 4x6 cards in my Project Life spreads.  If you do like to use your 4x6 cards you can either do the tip below or find free scrapbook cards and print them on card stock, then punch.  That way you're not wasting your good scrapbook cards!
The smaller 3x4 cards I love to use in my Project Life albums so I don't want to directly punch into the cards.  I often write down my list then slip it into my album for the month - sometimes it's favorites, sometimes it's a wishlist, etc.  Just something to document what is actually going through my mind in that month/week.  So I take some page flags, snip them in half, punch the flag part, and put the sticky end on the back of the card.  Now I haven't ruined the card and the flags are removable!

Colorful List Pads
I loooove going to the Dollar Spot in Target and scooping up their list pads.  I also find some at places like TJ Maxx & Marshalls.  These add a bit of color to the black and white look that I love but also serve a function.  I like to make running lists and I always make a Sunday list to do things before I start the week.  So colorful lists pads add a bit of inspiration and color.  This neon pink & kraft paper one I got from TJ Maxx.

So there you have it, three easy ways to customize your planner with out sacrificing function.  The biggest thing I've realized since falling down the rabbit hole of planner stuff is that the only way it will work is if you use it.  If you're not into stickers, decorating, or having multiple planners...that's great, because you don't have to be! The only way a planner will work is if it is a reflection of you so don't be intimidated by the other planners you see.  You can draw inspiration from them but you don't have to do something that's not a reflection of you.  It took me a while to realize that, though I like to take pictures and share my planner on instagram, I'm not planning for anyone else....I'm planning for me.

How do you keep your planner functional?  Are you a decorator, or do you like just a little bit of color?

xoxo, Moe


Beauty Review // Physicians Formula Matte Eyeshadow Quads

I have a whole crap ton of products I want to review here on the blog but I feel like I keep putting them off.  Today I want to share with you some matte eyeshadows from the drugstore from Physicians Formula.  I've had these for a while and have been meaning to do this review since probably like July!  Let's just get into the review!
Classic Nudes, Canyon Classics, Quartz Quartet
From the Website
A silky smooth formula that is easy to blend and safe for sensitive eyes/contact lens wearers.  Hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, dermatologist approved.
claims taken from the Physicians Formula website here.

First Impression & Application
The packaging on these is different than any other packaging at the drugstore.  It's rather simple but I don't consider it sleek.  The four pans come in a gray, hard plastic compact with a see through top and small sponge applicator.
These shadows apply easily and aren't powdery.  They blend smoothly and they are quite pigmented.  I used a flat shader brush to apply the shadows to my eyelid and they built up and applied nicely.  Additionally using a fluffy brush doesn't kick up a lot of powder in the pan and you are able to blend out the shadows easily.  They don't seem to all blend into one muddied shade, either.

Wear Time
I find over the course of the day, if you have a good primer, these eyeshadows will last all day.  I didn't find that these creased or wore off over the day.  Sometimes matte shadows from the drug store don't start off very pigmented so then through the day they tend to fade away.  I didn't notice this happening with these shadows.
Classic Nudes, Canyon Classics, Quartz Quartet
Overall Impressions & Recommendations
Overall I would say that these are a great drugstore shadow collection to have.  I initially picked up Classic Nudes because the orange-brown shade reminded me of the Salted Caramel shade in my Too Faced Chocolate Bar palette.  I do think that if you're going to pick up one of these shadow quads I would recommend Classic Nudes because it has three matte blending shades that would allow you to combine this palette with a lot of the shimmery palettes that come from the drugstore.  However, if you're a fan of all matte eye looks picking up these three quads would probably benefit you a lot as you can get different effects with the different shades. You can find Physicians Formula at CVS often for BOGO 50% off they also are known for printing so-many-odd-dollars off your Physicians Formula purchase.  However, Target does a BOGO free on Physicians Formula stuff during middle-ish of Summer so that would be a great time to pick these up!

I looooove these eyeshadows and think they are a great formulation from the drugstore...it isn't often that you find highly pigmented matte eyeshadows from the drugstore.  If you want a quick comparison  of quality - the matte shades in the Maybelline the Nudes palette are subpar compared to these matte quads.  You are getting, in my opinion, at least double the color pay off from the Physicians Formula quads.  

What are your favorite drugstore eyeshadows?  Any mattes you could recommend?

xoxo, Moe


Make it Monday // DIY Mixed Metal Pennant Necklace

I haven't had a Make it Monday on the blog in forever it feels like!! Today I want to share with you a super easy DIY that is inspired by a necklace I saw somewhere online.  I can't remember exactly where I saw it, but when I saw it I instantly thought I can do that!  Let's get started:
Supplies - needle nose pliers, wire cutters, assorted metal jewelry head pins or pin with a loop (15 to be exact), assorted metal jump rings (8 to be exact), thin metal jewelry chain, clasp (I used a lobster clasp), assorted tube bead and accent beads.
I used a lot of my current jewelry making stash to make this necklace so I didn't have any of the head pins with loops.  Instead, I used my wire cutters to snip off the flat end of the head pin and made my own loop.  Start by doing this if you need to, you'll need 15 of these pins.
Next, start beading.  I just used some purple tube beads and copper accent beads to create different patterns.  Once you've finished one pin, make another loop at the end so the beads don't fall off.  Repeat for all your pins.
Now, make a triangle with three of the beaded pins by opening the loop on one pin and joining it to the other.  Once you get three in a line, open the loop on the last pin and flip the first pin on to that loop.  Close the loop and you should have a triangle.  This is a bit tricky so work carefully and be patient.  Repeat until you have 5 triangles.
Lay the triangles out side by side so the top points match.  Open a jump ring and attache the first two pennants together. Open another jump ring and attach the second triangle to the first triangle.  Continue until they are all connected by their top two points. 
Put a jump ring at each end of your pennant chain to attach your thinner chain.  I measured ____ inches for each side, attached the chain to the jump rings then added the clasp with two more jump rings.
Now the necklace is done! I love the dainty look of this necklace and it would make the perfect gift for a friend or a sister.  I had so much fun seeing this idea come to life and can't wait to wear this out.  I think it would also be fun to wear to a little holiday party...of course you can wear it year round as well!

xoxo, Moe


December 2014 Four Simple Goals

I am so very happy that I've kept up with this little project here on the blog this year.  I also plan on bringing it onto next year as well.  Shortly, well probably in January, I'm going to outline my goals for the year.  I know I do it every year and every year I forget and life moves on....but I really think that this Four Simple Goals project has kept me on track for completing goals.  I think my planner has really helped with that as well.  I can see what I'm doing and keep track of it.  Anyway, on to December's goals:

Finalize the planner inserts for the shop - That's right, I'm thinking of opening my design shop up again with planner printables and journal cards.  I have a few things designed right now but I need to finalize the designs.  I plan on listing everything in January after I'm home from visiting my family.  Right now I want to focus on finalizing the designs, sizes, packages, and prices.

Get a massage - Last year Zach got me a gift card for a massage and I've been hoarding it....for a year!  So, for my birthday, I'm going to use it to get a massage!  Now just to call and make the appointment.

Start Vlogging - I know there is such a thing as vlogmas...so maybe I will participate by doing a weekly vlog video on Sundays.  Way back in college when I got my first little flip cam, I really wanted to start vlogging...but I felt weird.  Now I just really want to try.  YouTube is fun!

Focus on App reviews - There are soooo many apps I want to review for you all but then I just put them off.  I really just need to type them out and get to them!  I am going to make a list of the apps I want to review and then just do it!  That's what my planner is for right??

There you have it...my four goals for December.  Yay!

What will you accomplish this month?

xoxo, Moe


December 2014 Journaling Cards

I am so excited that December is finally here.  I've put up the Christmas tree and am thinking about putting up lights outside this year but I probably won't get around to it....because I am lazy!  I have all of Zach's presents done and we just have to get some things for Zach's parents/brothers and I have to see what to bring home for my family.  I don know that I'm bringing home a whole bunch of make up to show my sister & mom.  I have somethings that I think they will like and want to see if the actually do like it because then I will feel awesome for recommending it.
Anyway, here are December's Journaling cards!  I went for a lighter color scheme rather than the standard bright green and red...it's a vintage, shabby chic Christmas.  As always I made these with the amazing online photo editor and design machine PicMonkey.  You can read all of my PicMonkey tutorials here and sign up for their Royal feature here.  I hope that the links work this time...every month I feel like I have a zillion problems!  Download the PDF here.

Remember to play nice, these cards are free for personal use and feel free to share the blog post with your friends!

xoxo, Moe


Beauty Review // ELF HD Mattifying Cream Foundation Review

In case you haven't heard there is a pretty cool brand out there called Eyes Lips Face.  In case you haven't heard they are pretty affordable, too.  In case you haven't heard I've reviewed a few Elf products already:  Personal Blend Mineral Foundation, Acne Fighting Foundation, Baked Eyeshadows.  I also have an Elf Get Ready With Me video on my channel here.  Today I have another foundation review from their line - the HD Mattifying Cream Foundation
From the Website
High-definition, oil-free, lightweight. For normal to oily skin types.  Cream to powder formula minimized lines and leaves a natural, long lasting, matte finish.
claims taken from the website here.
Porcelain on the left, Sand on the right

First Impression & Application
This foundation comes in 6 shades and even though there are few shades the range does go very deep.  Usually (I'm thinking Rimmel 25 Hour Foundation here) there are a bunch of midrange shades - none too light, none too dark.  However, I think that this shade range is a nice representative of the differences in skin tone.  The packaging is black with white writing and I think it's very sleek.  The product does come with a nice size mirror and sponge.  
I applied this foundation different ways.  I first tried out this foundation probably a year ago when I first got it...but I didn't quite like it.  I threw it in my November Makeup Basket to try again to get a better feel for it.  So I tried a few different ways to apply it - a brush, my fingers, and a sponge.  I found the best coverage I got was from using my Real Techniques Miracle Complexion sponge.  I loved the way this foundation applied.  It truly has a matte finish, the coverage is amazing and it blends so beautifully with the sponge.  Because of the texture and blendability, I felt I put my foundation on in an instant.  It was just so easy to apply.  My skin tone was even and my flaws were covered.  I would consider this a medium to full coverage foundation.
Wear Time
Here's were we start to get a little bit sad.  I thought that because the foundation blended on so smooth and had wonderful coverage, that it would be long lasting like the claims on the website.  However I only got a solid 4-5ish hours wear out of this.  I have oily skin (like I try to mention in these reviews!) and I felt it separating and pooling in my pores.  I like my foundation to last at least through my work day of 8hrs but really I need it to last 10+ hrs.  This just did not make the cut which really, really saddened me.
Porcelain on the left, Sand on the right

Overall Impression & Recommendations
This foundation has amazing coverage, an a matte finish.  I would say that if you were just going to get some pictures taken for a few hours or even if you needed a cheap foundation to look good for maybe filming a YouTube video - that way you don't have to use your nice foundation - I would recommend this.  If you can pick it up during one of their 50% off sales that will bring the price down to $3.  Overall I do like this foundation and feel it definitely has a use.  I wouldn't wear this foundation in any long lasting capacity but if you're going out for a few hours, need pictures taken, or the like, this is a great foundation.  I sort of feel like you have to be Cinderella here and get home before the clock chimes 4 hours from application....otherwise you risk looking crazy.  I will probably continue to use this foundation for filming since it's so fast to apply.

Have you tried this foundation?  How did you like it?
xoxo, Moe


Revisiting November 2014 Four Simple Goals

What's up guys?? Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I had a few posts I wanted to get up last week but it just didn't happen....and I'm ok with that.  I have been wanting to post more & more & more & more but sometimes I just feel like the posts I have aren't ready yet or that I've said way too much and need to edit them down.  But anyway, let's just get into November 2014 goals:

Complete a No Spend & follow my Budget - I think I did it.  I did cave one day and spend about $10-$12 at CVS during their beauty clearance.  Soooooo.....I wasn't too bad, especially because I got a Physicians Formula foundation for $0.62!  Yeah!  I also did follow my budget because I didn't overspend but I do need to figure out more on how much gas I use.  I though that I'd fill up once a week for about $35-ish bucks but with travel and just running around I think I filled up more than 4 times this month.  I don't quite know how to budget that but I think I did rather well in November! 

Add at least 2 new designs in the Zazzle shop - This did not happen.  I tried but I just felt so dang overwhelmed with the options that Zazzle offers.  I didn't know what to make...I just wasn't feeling inspired.  I know this is something I need to focus on in the new year I just don't know what to focus on.

Clean up the blog tags - I sat down to do this and I realized that there are soooooo many tags on my blog that are unrelated and so many tags where I have multiple of things that are similar.  I think this is going to be a bigger goal next year because I have a lot of posts and they need to be categorized better.  I need to think on this more!

Cook 3 more meals - This did happen...yay!! The first meal was I made delicious fried chicken fingers.  So. Stinking. Good!  The second meal wasn't a total success but it was a stepping stone to keep trying - I made some pasta sauce myself.  It was ok, but I know I can make it better.  The third meal was Chili.  The first time I made chili, it was meh.  This time it was pretty great.  So I have at least two recipes under my belt that I can make and adapt.

November was an ok month.  I wouldn't say it was my best month, but hey it's coming up to the holidays so I need some time to relax!! 

How was your November?  Did you get anything accomplished?

xoxo, Moe


Uncommon Goods Holiday Gift Guide // Personalized Gifts

I can't believe we are another week closer to the holidays!  Honestly I am counting down the days until I can see my family.  Unfortunately I won't be spending Christmas day with my family but I will be traveling down from Indiana to Virginia.  I've already booked my flight and I've already thought about packing!  Is that too soon?
I've been thinking a lot about gifts this year and how sometimes we just find something that is sort of meh to give to our loved ones.  Sometimes it's too stressful to find an meaningful gift that is so perfect for someone that we may just settle for mediocre.  That got me thinking about what kind of gifts I could give that would tell a story.  How can I share with my loved one that I care about them through story telling?  That is when the idea of personalized gifts hit me!  Today I want to introduce you to a site that has an amazing selection of items that are perfect for anyone in your life.  From this selection here of gifts for him, to something for her right here, you're bound to find the perfect something that just suits them so well.  What site am I talking about?  Uncommon Goods!

Uncommon Goods approached me to review a product just in time for the holidays.  While looking through their assortment of quirky and mostly handmade items I cam up on the perfect gift that would tell the story of us....and it's an amazing one.  I chose these State Love Glasses personalized with our initials, date we met, and the state Michigan (for Zach) & Virginia (for me).  When I saw these I knew they would be perfect to surprise Zach with.  It was such an ordeal and a big part of our young lives meeting and then moving 800 miles north to start a life together.  This personalize gift just spoke to me in a way nothing else had in a long, long while.
First off, let me introduce you to Uncommon Goods.  In case you haven't heard of the site Uncommon Goods - let me fill you in.  Uncommon Goods is a privately-owned retailer headquartered in Brooklyn, New York that features unique designs and hand crafted gifts.  They are a company that stands for designers by holding a high respect for the creative individual.  Uncommon Goods is a company that gives back to it's workers and contributes to the community.  I highly encourage you to check out this page of their website where it is outlined how the privately own company contributes to various charities such as RAINN, American Forests, and Women for Women International.
Now onto these State Love Glasses that are so impressive!
I chose these glasses not only because they could be personalized with something so close to us but also because I wanted to see the quality of the etching.  Sometimes, when you get an etched glass, the etching seems to sit on top of the glass and not look like the glass is, in fact, etched.  I wanted to talk about this first - over the packaging and anything else - because when I opened the box I uttered a wow.  The quality of these glasses would impress anyone who receives this gift.  The etching also stands up to hand washing.  The site recommends not to place this in the dishwasher and in order to make any etched glass wear last, you really should wash by hand.

Since many of the items sold on the Uncommon Goods site are handmade I feel a connection to the designer behind these.  On the listing page here I learned the history behind the designer who imagined this product and then in the actual packaging the story was printed again.  As a lover of stories and a person who is intrigued by how we are all connected, this feature touched a personal spot for me.  I love that I was able to bring a unique piece of practical art into my home.  The quality ensures they will stand the test of time and I can't wait to keep them on display for others to hear the artist story as we share our own.
These arrived in a box filled with peanuts, wrapped in bubble wrap, and securely wrapped in brown paper.  When I felt the weight of the box, I thought that it might not be packaged well because it was so light but I was totally wrong.  Whenever I am anticipating a personalized item like this I get a bit nervous that something will be damaged.  However the packaging and care that went into packing up this item really ensures that you will get your item in pristine condition.

A personalized gift is a great way to go to show someone you truly care.  There are a ton of unique an personalized gifts in the Uncommon Goods gift guides here that are sure to make the best impression with your loved ones this holiday season.

What kind of personalized gift speaks to you?  Have you considered how story telling could be incorporated in a gift for your loved ones?

xoxo, Moe

**This item was sent to me for review from Uncommon Goods.  The opinions expressed above are my own.  All information about the company Uncommon Goods can be found on their website here.


Boost Your Blog // My Blogging Kit 2.0

About two-ish years ago I did a post on creating a blogging kit if you were moving, traveling, or just somewhere that you weren't used to.  I created this kit to keep me sane in my transition period from moving up to Michigan.  Which, let's talk about how young I was 2 years ago for a minute.  I stumbled up on some of the emails between Zach & I while we were apart (read about our long distance thing here).  Oh my gosh we were so, so, so young!  Some days, when I find things like that, I wonder why I felt so confident in my decision to move up here - I was so young what made me so positive this was going to work out?  Don't get me wrong, this has been the best thing but it could have gone so bad.  We've grown a lot together and it's so weird to look back on how young we were.  You sure don't know time has passed until you turn around and look at it.  Jeeze.  Anyway, that's not what this post is about.  This post is about my blogging kit 2.0.
Now, I don't travel with Zach at all any more (sad face!) and for the most part our travels involve going to different SCA events and during that time I'm not really connected to technology because we're usually camping.  But currently I'm in the state of a remodel and in order to gain control over my surroundings I thought I'd assemble my blogging kit just to give me some control.  I think I am more than slightly Type A when it comes to some things!  So here is the Blogging Kit 2.0 :

iPad & ClamCase
Something that has become super convenient for me is my ClamCase for my iPad.  It turns my iPad into a mini laptop which is perfect for on the go blogging!  This is great if we're making a little weekend stop to Zach's parents or a small weekend trip I can still get some work done.  It would be even more helpful if I had a 3G plan but wireless is just fine for most things.  (Read about blogging from an iPad here.)

Filofax Planner
This takes the places of my blog planner and blog idea notebook.  This planner is filled with everything from plans for my daily life, blog plans, contacts, to do lists, and other planning things.  I feel like this is the big girl version of the planner I used to have.  I've sort of updated how I plan for the blog but it still follows the same principle.  Also this planner holds my sticky notes and pens so I don't have to bring another case with me.  If you want to see an easy an affordable DIY binder planner check out this video on my YouTube channel.  I also posted a current planner tour here.

Camera/iPhone + Mophie Case
I hardly pull out my DSLR anymore.  I'm still fighting with it so I've just been using my phone.  I currently have the iPhone 5s, and upgrade from the iPhone 4 I had in the previous Blogging Kit post.  With the 5s comes a better camera so I can really have blog worthy photos.  I'm hardly ever worried about my phone dying because I have a Mophie case that has one full charge as a back up.  So I can take really great photos and not worry about lugging around a camera or a camera dying on me.

App Arsenal
I talked before about the ways you can blog from you iPad and there really are tons of apps out there to help you along (currently I'm liking using the actual Blogger app).  But the other thing I worry about is the fact that I have the lowest memory option for my iPhone so I need to back up my photos incase I need to delete.  My whole blogging app arsenal includes Blogger, Blogsy, Google Drive, Afterlight, Phonto, and PicFrame.  All of these give me everything I need (nearly) to compose a post.

In the last blogging kit post I talked about storage for some bits and bobs you may collect from events, travels, etc.  Because my Filofax (the Saffiano in Rasperry) has quite a few pockets and inserts I can slip anything I need to keep in the various places in my planner.  There's really no need to have any extra baggage.  All my sticky note are on various flyleafs in my filofax, washi tape is around an old gift card and my pen is in the pen loop.  If I do need highlighters, I do have a separate pencil case in my purse.

So that is my big girl Blogging Kit 2.0!  I love that everything fits in a space no bigger than my iPad.  I guess the kit grew but I think it also got more efficient now that I have a whole app arsenal to create pretty sophisitcated blog posts on the go.

How do you blog on the go or when you're in a state of transition? Are you a control freak when it comes to spending time in unfamilliar territory?

xoxo, Moe


Trend Tuesday // My Favorite Teas

I've been drinking tea a lot lately.  It's been a night time ritual for me to brew a cup through my Keurig and I've added tea storage to our little coffee nook!  I thought I would share some of my favorites today because I'm thinking of repurchasing some samples I've had and it seems Amazon has the best prices for everything.  Currently I'm loving Jasmine tea and find myself drinking two cups a night!  But here are the rest of my faves:

Yamamotoyama Jasmine Tea (cheap but it's the one I've been going to!) // Red Rose Lemon Chiffon Tea (if you love light, lemon flavors...this is so yummy!) // Tazo Well Being Rest tea //  Harney & Sons Caribe flavored green & black teas (I got a sample of this and fell in love!)

Do you have a fondness for tea?  What is your go to relaxation method?

xoxo, Moe


Make it Monday // Create the Perfect Black & White Photo

My everyday camera is my iPhone.  This means that a lot of editing gets done on the go with various apps.  (You can find more iPhoneography tips here.)  Sometimes, because I'm on the go and trying to capture the moment, the image quality isn't the best.  The image may not be composed well, there may be a blurry part, or I might have used the front camera.  Whenever there is an image that captures the moment but it might not be the best reflection of my photography skills, I make it black and white.  That instantly saves the image!  Here is are four apps you can use to create the perfect black & white images
9 times out of 10 you're posting a photo instantly to Instagram, right?  Well Instagram has two great black & white filters that you can amp up with some of the in-app editing you can now do.  Did you know that?  If you click the little wrench icon you can do some basic edits like brightness, contrast, highlights, and shadows.  Those four edits are the ones I use nearly every time I post on the app.  But when you're using a black & white filter, these edits can make your photos pop.  You want enough contrast to show all the details but you don't want the white blown out - these tips are for all apps we're going to be using in this post!  Any way, the two black & white filters are Willow & Ink Well.  Ink Well has a sharper contrast that tends to give you that true black & white crispness and Willow gives you an old Hollywood look with a softer feel and less contrast.
Here you can see that Willow looks lower contrast and has a different tint to it and Ink Well is high contrast and more true to black & white.  When I have a portrait image or an image that is less busy, that I want to be black & white I tend to use Willow.  For a busy photo where you need the high contrast to show all the details I tend to use Ink Well.   I don't like to use these filters straight from the app, I like to edit them using the wrench feature and the brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows  sliders to make sure all the details pop.  Where the blacks are black & the whites aren't blown out. 
You can see (click to enlarge the image if you wish) the edits are subtle but in the end, the last photo, you can see the details inside the cup as well.  It's not as dark as the filter straight out of the app.  Also the whites are also a bit brighter.
Here are some things you want to avoid when making your photos black and white - the brightness in the image on the left is too much here, there are few true blacks.  The contrast in the middle image is too much, there are few details especially in the cup.  The last image on the right is blown out all around because there is too little contrast and too much brightness.  There are no true blacks, too little contrast between the details (like the stripes on the blanket), and the whites are very blown out.
So here is the final image.  The edits are subtle but believe me the whites are whiter and more details are there.  Instagram is a great go-to editing app because you're gonna be sharing your photos anyway and you don't have to open multiple apps to get a good black and white image.

VSCO cam has a bunch of filters and it's a bit simpler to create the perfect black & white image because of that.  However, it is also much easier to find the correct preset you love and edit from there.  I have nearly all of the filters in VSCO cam from various in app purchases and VSCO cam is pretty much like photoshop actions for your phone.  The possibilities are endless.
You can see above (click to enlarge!) that these are 5 black & white options.  Each has it's own little twist - a little more contrast or a little less, a matte look, brighter whites, etc.  Sometimes you'll need to play around with a filter to find the best one for you.  You can also correct your image first then convert it to black and white.
I just did a little bit of edits before I converted to black and white.  This isn't my favorite way to edit when working with black and white photos but if you know you're going to need to bump up contrast, etc you can get a corrected photo, convert to b&w, and the make any other minor adjustments to bring your black & white photo up a notch.  That is what I did using VSCO cam.
After I did my edits above, I chose my filter.  I then realized that the details in the cup were hidden because of the shadow so I tried to bring those details out.  The X1 filter also gives a matte look to the image and here the whites aren't as bright as the could be.
I hope you're getting the idea here but another app to play with for black & white is Afterlight.  There are a zillion (not really) filters to begin with but the black & white filters in the app are fun to play with.  You can find them under the Original option.  (You can also read my full Afterlight app review here.)
Here are the three filters in action.  I applied these filters over the unedited photo.  Are you sick of looking at this black & white mug yet?  Well Afterlight has something else to offer that the other apps don't!
An option Afterlight has that these other apps do not is the option to save a fusion - or your own, personalized actions.  So say you want to apply the exact same black & white (or any other combination of edits) to another photo, you can create a fusion, name it, and select it later to apply to another image!  Cool right?

Snapseed is an older app, if I'm not mistaken, and it is the first photo app I remember really loving because of the controls.  Another part of this post is that you may find that you like the controls in certain apps over others even though the end result is sort of the same.
Snapseed has six edits for black and white with different brightness, contrast, and grain settings.  The other apps do not have an auto grain setting.
You edit the images by swiping up or down to select brightness, contrast, and grain then swipe left or right to raise or lower the selection.  You can go back and forth between the edits as well to make sure you have the settings the way you like.
You can see the grain does something different for your photos.  I don't prefer the grain, however it is an option and has a lot of control in the app.

So these four apps are great for editing black & white photos!  Sorry for the picture heavy post but I wanted to share every option for you in these apps.  I hope you'll find one to download and play with!

How do you make your photos black & white?  Any other apps to try?

xoxo, Moe

ps.  I used Picmonkey to create the app collaged.  The collage feature is totally free but if you'd like to check out the Royale (premium features) for a day, click this link!  You can also sign up for a yearly or monthly subscription to the Royale feature here!