It’s all about you | My Interview with Mama Rules

I mean, can you guys believe that it's almost Thanksgiving!  How on earth can we make time slow the eff down!?  No seriously, I need a minute to catch up life.  I've been so busy, it just feels like everything is non-stop these days.  So ya, here it is almost a month after I took these pics but I felt like they needed to be shared so, in true Kanye form, I'm real happy for you Fall, and imma let you finish, but we all know Christmas is coming and I'm so ready.

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I've been meaning to do a little Q+A post about myself and I've also been meaning to post these pumpkin patch pics, so better late than never right?  So, the blog I've been meaning to write has been hard for me to figure out.  I want to talk about things like, who I am, how I got where I am physically and mentally after becoming a mom, where I've lived and worked  and other fun things but I just can't ever figure out where to start and what to include.  I've been known to be a typical Aquarian mama and tell really long stories, or share a little too much so editing is not my strong suit.  

So, when Mama rules reached out and told me they wanted to include me in their blog series called, It's all about You, I was like, "Yes, that's a perfect way to start this!"  Mama Rules is a super hip UK based muslin company.  They've got the best prints and they are launching in the US!  When the owner, Stacy, emailed me and told me she was about to have her first baby in January, I was so excited for her to share a little Capricorn babe like my dude.  But when she told me more about their stylish and inspirational platform they are creating for mamas I was hooked! They have a similar view on mama life and they believe you don't have to compromise your style just because you're a mom, and I couldn't agree more!

They asked a few women (including yours truly) to complete a light-hearted quick fire Interview.   Here are some of my favorite outtakes from that interview. 

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IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU...  My Interview with Mama Rules

My favorite evening out, look:

Tight Jeans (to suck in all the giggly parts), booties and a flowy top.  (gotta hide that mama pooch, ya know?)  I always accessorize so that can dress up any outfit to make it more evening look.

My favorite staying in look:

I could literally live in sweatpants, every day all day.  I own over 50 pairs of sweats (even before I was a mom) so you could say I'm a real comfy junkie.

Tired mama style tip:

Truth, my style since becoming a mom is all about the hats, sunglasses and dry shampoo!  Gotta hide the sleepy eyes and wrinkles with sunglasses and the 5-day dirty hair with a hat. I also always wear mascara, for some reason it makes me look more awake, even if it's the only makeup I put on. 

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Palm print or florals?

I've never been a girly girl, I don't even think I own anything pink.  So, I've gotta go with the Palm print. It just seems more fitting since I'm a boy mom but if I had a girl, I would for sure be easily persuaded to fill that nursery with oversize floral everythang. 

Flamingos or pineapples?

Easy. Pineapples. You can't put Flamingos in a cocktail, right?  

Vibrant fun colors or cool monochrome?

 I'm for sure the monochrome kinda girl.  My entire closet is white, brown, gray, black and tan.

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Parenting rule you’ve thrown out the window

No technology.  The only way we are able to eat out is to give the dude the iphone.  Pick your battles, right?

Last time you had a full night's sleep (over 7 hours):

(all the mamas who had a hard time with sleep, go ahead and skip this one).  My guy has been sleeping through the night since he was 2 months old.  He is the best little sleeper ever.  Now, that doesn't mean I sleep.  I'm usually up late scrolling my 52k photos, Instagram or pinning.  This mom's brain doesn't turn off.

The first thing you do once the kids hit the hay:

What we all do, pour that glass of wine. 

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If motherhood were a cocktail it would be called:

A hangover that's worth it. (BTW, I didn't read the next question before writing that answer...)

Has a hangover since having a child ever been worth it?

Nope.  Pretty sure that's not possible.

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The favorite thing your kid/s says:

He's 22 months and he just started to ask me to cuddle.   It's the best when he grabs our favorite blanket, and runs over to me and says "cuddle mommy."

24hrs without the kid/s, what’s your plan?

Go to the most non-kid friendly restaurant, eat and drink way too much, binge watch something and fall asleep too early.  Sleep in until at least 9 am...if my body will let me.

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What do you wish you’d been told about motherhood beforehand?

To travel more, to go out more, to do more.  As a first-time mom, I was scared to do anything.  I can't go eat, cause I would miss a nap or his bedtime.  Flying on a plane with a baby seemed so scary!  But. the truth is, it only gets harder to do things as they get older.  

Three words to describe yourself: 

 Honest, Caring, Driven (I wish I was more creative with these answers)

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Exciting upcoming plans:

 In short, the best thing that's happening currently for my family is that we have plans to move back to Southern California to the beach where I spent my whole life.  3 years ago we moved to Northern California and the transition has been so tough for me.  I can't wait to raise my little one where I grew up near the ocean. 

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Would you put on makeup to go and buy makeup wipes?

 That's basically asking if I wear makeup to go to Target.  And that answer is no, it's always no.  

Most embarrassing motherhood moment:

Ran to Trader Joes to grab one onion.  Finn was about 3 months old, I didn't grab the diaper bag cause I was only going to one quick thing.  He wasn't even big enough to ride in the cart yet so I had to hold him.  As I got in line, the college student who was ringing us up, just started laughing at me, because he had poop running out of his diaper and all over my shirt. Needless to say, I never leave home without the diaper bag now.

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Why do Mama’s Rule?

It's hard to explain but the moment you become a mother its sort of like the person you were before that is gone.  Nothing is the same, in so many goods ways, and some I don't quite understand. But, I know I wouldn't be the person I was meant to be unless I was a mom.  As a mom, I am more confident, more aware, more patient, more secure, and more content than I have ever been in my life.  Somedays are harder than others, some days test all your patience.  But for us mamas, we've got this.  Every single thing, no matter how challenging or hard, we will find a way to make it happen.  I didn't know just how strong I was until I became a mom.  

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Thank you so much to Stacy Ullenes for including me in this, I'm so honored to be in the company of these other stylish and inspirational mamas.  If you wanna read some more interviews from the coolest mamas, here's the link to the series.  Mama Rules Blog

How I got a Better night sleep | a Honest mattress review

How I got a better night sleep | Honest review of Tomorrow Sleep Mattress

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Most people know how a good night sleep can change your life and although our daily health relies on it, people now days are consistently not getting enough sleep; including me.

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[I received a Tomorrow Sleep hybrid mattress in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed here are my own.]  #ad #sponsored

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To be honest, I've never gotten much sleep.  I'm always staying up way past a normal person bedtime, and I tend to be more of a night owl than a morning person.  But, my husband, on the other hand, he's that guy.  You know, the one who neeeedddss his beauty rest.  He needs at least 9hrs of good sleep or he's a cranky bear.  Ever since I've known him, he's been a morning person.  Always bright-eyed and ready for the day, before everyone else.  Even after a late night out, he's the guy whos going to grab coffee for everyone.  Not this girl.  I like to sleep in as late as possible.  I mean, I love that about him but that doesn't mean I want that.  I'm definitely staying in most mornings all snug under my 3 comforters in a cozy bed as long as I can.  

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3 years ago we upgraded our mattress, and neither of us has slept well since.  We spent $2800 and 4 hours shopping for the perfect mattress, we waited days for it to be delivered, watched as 3 men came to deliver and assemble it, only to call the store back 2 weeks later and have them swap it out for another one.   It was a battle to get them to exchange it so when we still didn't like the replacement, we knew we were just stuck with it.  Stuck with poor restless nights, and stuck feeling stiffness and agitated in the morning.  3 years later, we've had enough.  We knew it was time to do something about our sleep and it started with finding a new, better mattress.

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As an influencer, I thought let me reach out to my other blogger friends and see if they have a suggestion for a new mattress.  I was seeing all these ship in-a-box, direct-to-consumer mattress companies.  Casper, Tuft&Needle, Lucid and more.  I was skeptical about spending over $1000 on a mattress that was out of a box.  I mean how can something that was smooshed in an airtight space come our and still be that fluffy and comfy mattress I was excepting it to be?   I asked a lot of my GF's and they told me it was easy and painless but nobody really said, I LOVE my new mattress, I'm sleeping so much better!  So I still wasn't convinced.    

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Then, Tomorrow Sleep reached out and promised me a better night sleep.  They are a branch of Simmons Serta, with a pretty large and experienced company behind them.  The husband of course quickly did some research and saw that they conducted decades of research to create a comprehensive system specifically intended to enable a more restful nights sleep.  I was just excited I didn't have to go back to the mattress store and do that whole process all over again.  So I had that going for me. 
Hassle free, I get fast and it's guaranteed to help me sleep better?  I'm in.

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Research says it takes 30 days to break a bad habit.  So, I wanted to take some time before I gave you guys my honest review of the mattress.  We took these last 30 days to challenge ourselves to get more sleep, not just with our new mattress, but with new sheets, and with a few other steps into our nighttime routine.  Here's my honest opinion about our Tomorrow Sleep Mattress.

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Let me say it really clearly, 
Since I've had my Tomorrow Sleep mattress, 
I've slept better!   And that is the entire point of this.  I can go on and on about the pro's and maybe one or two cons (like it's a little "louder" than a normal mattress) but the point is how do I sleep on it and both my husband and I are sleeping better.  We actually woke up numerous days after we first slept on it and looked and each other and said, "Man, I slept so good last night!"

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So if you want to know if I would suggest this mattress to you:
Yes.  My answer is yes, a thousand times over.  Get this mattress and you will sleep better.  Here are a few reasons why:

The first thing I noticed about the mattress was that it was firm, like not like the sinking feeling you get from those old memory foam mattresses but firmer like it's supporting you.  Your body almost molds to the mattress.

Then I noticed that it's thinner, like way thinner than a normal mattress.  I kept thinking it was going to expand more, but eventually, it settled into its full form, and I kinda liked that it was a little lower to the ground.  It made the room feel a little bigger, but still had lots of space to starfish if I wanted to.

Being a side sleeper, I learned that I needed a mattress like this because it cradles my body and adapts to my positions in a way we side sleepers need.  We need some firmness with a little give and this mattress provides just that.

Let's talk about temperature.  I'm cold, he's hot.  Always.  One thing we could never agree on is our sheets, I want them soft, but not hot.  Have you ever gone to bed in nice cool sheets and midway through your sleep, you wake up sweating?  Me too!  One thing I was concerned about was how hot this hybrid- coil thing was going to be.  It's not!  One of the main selling points that got me on this mattress is that they combine temperature-regulating memory foam with a gently stabilizing coil system, which gives you the perfect mix of cool comfort and support each night.

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I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to a new mattress, and if you think you don't need a new one, just try and remember what year it was when you got the one you're sleeping on.  If it was more than 7 years ago, it's time people.  Get a new one!  Tomorrow Sleep was just voted #1 hybrid mattress by Men's Health and in my opinion, I'm getting a far better night rest now than I've ever had.
 

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Because I love you all so much, I asked Tomorrow Sleep to partner with me to giveaway a mattress to one lucky follower of mine.  The winner has been chosen, and I can't wait for you to also have a better nights rest too.  Holly Dixon, @mylifeasholly1, you are the winner!  Please email me to claim your prize.

It's ok if you didn't win, I've also got a special code for $100 off any purchase over $500.  Use this link and code 'PERFECT100' to get your own mattress today.  The code is good until the end of the year, so maybe put this on your Christmas List!

Balancing Motherhood + Blogging | #TheMomBlogCollective Week 4

Balancing Motherhood + Blogging || #Themomblogcollective Week 4

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If you're new here, here's the scoop. Once a month, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

If this is your first time checking out the series, and you'd like to get caught up from the beginning, here ya go:

Top 5 Tips when starting a blog or Instagram | Week #1

 How to create your brand + build an online community | Week #2

Photography tips for a Cohesive Instagram feed | Week #3

(I just want to apologize in advance for the lackluster of this week.  I was on vacay with these lovely blogger friends in Palm Springs and needless to say, it was hard to focus on writing a blog when I was meeting some of my favorite mama influencers IRL for the first time. Feel free to check out #momsdopalms, for a full photo journal of our adventures.


Now, you've made it to this week!  How to Balance Motherhood + Blogging | Week #4

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One of the most asked questions I get when I meet a fellow mama and tell them I'm a blogger is, how on earth do you find the time to do it all?  I usually laugh because I feel like I don't actually have that part figured out yet.  This weeks topic is sort of ironic because the last few weeks, many of us who are part of #TheMomBlogCollective have been so overwhelmed with regular mom life that we ended up having to skip or postpone this series a few times.   The truth is, sometimes, the balance just doesn't happen as expected, so be patient with yourself and try to not put too much pressure on sticking to a perfect schedule.

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I've been an Instagram influencer for about 2 years now and blogging for about 6 months and I still feel like I'm still searching for the secret to balancing my time.  Of course one day I hope I can call this influencer gig my full-time job, but for now, it's just a little side hustle when I'm not busy with that #momlife.  

My real full-time job is a mom and a wife so I have lots of duties I am responsible for on the daily.  I don't have a nanny, a housekeeper, or someone showers and eats for me, so ya know, my daily task list is pretty long. A lot of the time I am single parenting because my hubs travel a ton for work, so finding time to post on Instagram or write a blog is a challenge on most days.   

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I've struggled with the mom guilt when Finn is watching hours of YouTube or Disney movies 875 times in a row. I've gone days without eating a thing until 3 pm, skipped numerous workouts (like all of them) and I've definitely forgotten to call back a girlfriend a time or two (prob three) because I'm busy working on my Instagram or blogging.  And seriously, trying to write some witty and compelling caption for my daily Instagram post while a sink full of dishes is staring me in the face is challenging to say the least.

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I used to try and post twice a day at least 5 times a week, but that was just too much time away from my daily responsibilities.  Last month, I adjusted my posting schedule, because it was too much pressure to be that consistently witty and keep my images in my feed consistent that many times in a week.  Now, I only post 1 time a day (either before 9 am or after 5 pm) and if my week is crazy, I don't have a problem skipping a day or two.  

 I write and edited photos when I can, and most of the time it means I'm probably ignoring something else I should be doing.  Ya know, like laundry, a playdate or even a shower.  What's kinda funny is, I'm actually typing this on my iPhone as my husband drives us to lunch.  If you really want to be a blogger and find the balance, you've got to make the time, however, and whenever you can.  If that means getting up early, or staying up late or writing for a few minutes at a time throughout the day, it's up to you to find what works for your schedule.

Here are 7 ways I try to keep it all together while balancing Motherhood + Blogging :
1. Get up earlier than everyone else  
2. Find the beauty in the chaos  
3. Make time for me
4. Plan out my days  (please read #5 alongside this one)
5. Be adjustable
6. Be honest with your client, friends, husband and yourself
7. Take advantage of the time after bedtime

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1. Get up earlier than everyone else.  

Having a little 'me' time before I get bombarded with the responsibilities of my day, really has helped me keep my Zen and tackle tasks with less stress.  Just being able to brush my teeth without a toddler pulling at my shirt, helps me feel like I've completed something for that day.  On the days I actually am able to shower, get dressed and put makeup on before he wakes up, those are the best days.  They don't always happen, but when they do I feel like a real person and not just mom who lives in sweatpants who always has that dry-shampooed bedhead and a toddler attached to her leg. It's true for me when they say, If I look like my best self, I feel like my best, and I then can be my best self.  (That's probably not the right quote but you know what I mean).

2. Find beauty in the chaos

You heard me, chaos means memories to me, it means things are happening that are sometimes messy, but that doesn't mean bad.  So, it's ok if you have dishes in the sink, a floor covered in cheerios and toys, and a laundry pile that has been looking at you for days.  It's ok if that blog post you promised the company would go live Tuesday if it doesn't actually get posted on Wednesday, life will go on.  If everyone is fed, clothed and happy, you're doing just fine.  

3. Make time for me (I struggle with this one a lot still)

Here's the thing, if the captain of the ship didn't sleep for 3 days, only ate crackers and string cheese and had no human contact besides a 1-year sing along to Moana, do you think he would be fit to lead his castmates into the sea and lead his team into rough waters?  No way, the ship would probably sink because the leader would be too exhausted to actually lead them.  You are the leader of the house and you are leading your children by your example.  Make sure you are on the top of that list of priorities.  Take what you need, when you need it.  I need a daily dose of reality TV paired with chocolate covered almonds and a glass of wine.  That's what makes my love tank full.  You decide what works for you, and make sure you don't skip what you need to care for everyone else.  That means, yes you have permission to sit on the couch midday if you need to regroup or recharge.  Ignore prepping dinner, taking out the trash and skip a post one day if you need to.  You do things for YOU girl, cause when you do, everyone benefits from it.  

4. Plan out your days.  (please read #5 alongside this one)

Make a weekly plan of things.  Not daily.  Cause we all know we can end up having "one of those days"  and if you only plan one day, it will ruin your whole week.  So, I like to plan my week, I like variety so I don't always have the same plan on each of my days of the week.  I do have a general idea of things that go something like this. 
7-8am: Me time (which does usually includes an Instagram post)  It's so much easier for me to posting before Finn wakes up, because after 8 am- it's 100% his time.
8-10am: Morning routine with Finn, diaper changes, teeth brushing, breakfast, teepee play time, etc.
10am-11am varies depending on the day.  Somedays we go for walk, some days we watch a movie, and some days we run errands (Target, duh).
We usually have a snack/lunch before naptime which is between 11 or 12.
11:30am-2pm-ish: Finn's nap time.  This is my time to catch up on emails, collaboration opportunities, plan content for the next few days, edit photos, etc.  I also need to find time to eat myself in here, so somedays, that gets skipped.  
2-4pm: This time is fully dependent on the type of day Finn is having.  He sometimes prefers individual play time, so I am able to do the dishes, clean the house, or fold the laundry while he builds a train, reads his books, plays with his cars.  And some days, it's all "I wanna hold you, mama,"  all day long. Those days are hard because I just can't get anything done with him on my lap.
4-6pm:  errands, dinner prep, or playdates
6-7pm: dinner, bath, bedtime
7-9pm: Wife duties, dinner, dishes, tv with hubs
9 pm---- ME TIME!  This is actually when I do my best work.  I plan my post for the next morning, or I write my blogs.  When everyone else is in bed.  Thankfully, Jason goes to bed at 9 pm every night he is home, so I am able to stay up and focus on my blogger responsibilities uninterrupted. 

5. Be adjustable

Things won't always go as planned, actually, most of my days never go as I planned, but I had to learn to live with the chaos and embrace it really. Some days are easy, some are not, but that's why it's great that success isn't measured in a day.  I like to think of it like a toddler's food plan.  If they get all they need in a week's worth of meals, one bad day of donuts, snacks and skipping all veggies are ok. As long as it's balanced out with the other days of the week.  If by the end of the week, you've hit all the food groups; that one day doesn't matter.  Apply that same rule to your mom, wife, and influencer duties and if at the end of the week you've fit them all in, you can consider that week a success.

6. Be honest with your client, friends, husband and yourself

Most of the time we want to hide our insecurities and just hope everything looks "perfect" when some days it's just not.  I found that when I was honest about what was happening in my chaotic life, it made me much more relatable.  I tell brands, "Sorry if I'm a little scattered, Finn has been super sick and took  1 hr nap instead of 3 hrs so, I'm a little behind on things and I may need to push the post a day or two.  Hope that's ok."  I tell my friends, "Guys, Finn just rubbed sunscreen all over the dog, can I call you back?"  I also let me husband know, "Today was tough, I need you to take over dinner and bath routines tonight. Would you mind helping?"  If you are transparent with everyone, trust me, they will usually understand and be empathetic.

7. Take advantage of the time after bedtime

Oh, you so know what I mean, right?  The moment you put the baby down for bed and you do your happy dance because you have whole 2-3 hours (depending on your bedtime) to get things done.  Or some nights, to actually just do nothing at all.  Some nights I like to shower, meal prep, load the dishwasher and straighten all the toys before I go to bed so I can start the morning without those on my list.  Because the more I get done at night, the better I feel in the morning.  Also, I try and make at least one night about my husband.  Just time for me and him.  Whether that's a glass of wine on the patio talking about our memories and our future, or if it's just cuddled on the couch binge-watching our fav shows in silence; I try for one night of uninterrupted husband and wife time. 

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As we all know, just being a stay at home mom comes with a full set of responsibilities, and then to add in wifey duties, friendships, taking care of my own body, etc fitting it all in can seem like an impossible task.  Then if you are an influencer, and you add in the blogging obligations and somehow try to also find the time to take pictures, edit them, write captions, and blog is stressful.  That in itself could literally be its own full-time job and it is for some of you.  Somehow, I try and cram all of those roles into my daily routine. Somedays it works, and some it doesn't.  I just try and remember, this is all for fun and it's ok if it isn't perfect. 

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes for those imperfectly balanced days that you need a reminder:

"If something is important enough to you, you will find a way; and if not, you'll find an excuse."

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Here's a link to all the other beautiful, genuine and inspiring mamas in the #TheMomBlogCollective:

britthavens.com | @britthavens

thelovedesignedlife.com | @thelovedesignedlife

koleimpressions.com | @steph__pollock

hellobabybrown.com | @hellobabybrown

mrsseacannon.com | @mrsseacannon

cultivatemotherhood.com | @cultivatemotherhood

www.ashleynoel.life | @_ashley_noel_

our guests this week:

henaandcompany.com | @henaandco

momwifefoodie.com | @momwifefoodie

amandapahls.com | @amandapahls

 

All photos in this post were sponsored by someone I am happy to have in my community of creatives.  Amelia Protiva is wonderful and amazing and just got her doula certification and is based in Silicon Valley.  If you are expecting or if you just want some gorgeous family photos, you must reach out to this beautiful and creative soul.  

A family trip to the Museum of Ice Cream | San Francisco

Today I'm blogging all about that one time I found myself in a pretty spectacular museum that’s 100% kid friendly.  We spoke to the Co-founder who told us he built the museum with the hopes to inspire children to love art in a magical way.  The Museum of Ice Cream lives up to all hype and more.  I'll share my tips on how I scored tickets, what to bring (and not bring), my favorite rooms, and how long it takes to fully explore everything behind those pink walls.  Also dumping a large amount of super fun and frame-worthy photos so, enjoy friends!

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Two things:
One, my favorite color is white.
Two, Vanilla ice cream is the most popular ice cream flavor, which happens to also be my favorite.  My grandpa taught me young, the best way to eat it is smothered with maple syrup.  Don’t knock it until you try it, it’s delicious.

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Being from LA I still have a ton of friends down in that area, and last year my feed was full of yellow banana swings, pink cotton candy walls, and pictures of smiling friends in a blue pool filled with rainbow sprinkles. So, of course, I needed to see this for myself.  I planned to go next time I was down in southern cal and then found out they were sold out through forever.  Yup.  Forever.

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When I found out they were building one in San Francisco, I quickly made this my lifelong quest to get the golden ticket to the modern day Willy Wonka Factory.  I got on the email list, I stole (well, borrowed) my husbands platinum Amex and I set my alarm for the pre-sale date.  They offer the first tickets to Amex holders only, and then to the general public after two days. Basically you get an email the day before letting you know the tickets for Amex holders will be available at 9am on X date.  I set my alarm, called the number at 9:02 am, sat on hold for a few minutes only to hear a recording telling me they were sold out and to call AMEX directly.  While on hold I went online and I was able to book them that way.  So skip the call and just be ready to book online the moment tickets go on sale.

It wasn't an easy task, but I got two tickets on a Thursday in September.  Now, the SF location is sold out until Feb of 2018. But you can get on the email list to see where their next location is happening.  I think they have one in NYC that sold out 30,000 tickets in 5 days!  When you buy your tickets just be ready, I wasn't at all prepared.  You have to list the names of who's attending ON THE TICKET, so know who you’re going with and know their schedule.  You also have to pick a specific time on a specific day AT THE TIME of purchase.   Lots of good time slots get taken first, so have a few dates that work for everyone prepared.  If your dying to attend TMOIC you must be flexible with your dates and times.  Like most things everyone is dying to see, it isn’t easy to get into.

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We went on a Thursday at 2 pm.  The building was inconspicuous until you saw the bright pink banner and pink velvet robe directing a line of people to the glass door with the bright pink wall behind it. We didn't wait in line long, just until a small family showed up behind us.  They take you in, in groups, every 10-15 minutes or so.  You move from small room to small room, and you can stay in each room as long as you want, you just can't go backward.  They told us it would take about 45min to an hour depending on how fast or slow we go through each space.

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At the first stop, we are greeted by what I will call a very seasoned Disneyland employee on steroids.  The brightest, most cheerful humans I've ever come in contact with. She shouted at us, "Before you enter, you must think of a team name!"  Now, for the record had I known I was was going to be traveling with the group I got in line next to, I probably would have planned this better. [take note- whoever your grouped with at the entry, is who you’ll be with for your entire experience and all your pictures]. Don't get me wrong, our group was great, but it consisted of an 80 year who was coming to the museum alone, she definitely didn't expect this type of museum experience, I guarantee that! And a small family of 3.  Two brothers, a sister and one of their small children.  She must have been 8 or 9 and they were in their 40s.  White washed jeans (not the fashion-y kind) and t-shirts they've probably had since high school.  The little girl shouted, "Sour gummy bears!"  The lady jumped with joy and said, "I love that on my ice cream, it's the perfect topping and team name.  You all may now enter the museum of ice cream!"  Jason looked at me with a concerned look on his face.  He isn't the biggest fan of crowded places or loud people; nor is he a fan of Ice Cream.  (He's that guy who eats the rainbow sherbet) but he loves me, so in we went.

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I was running a little late and couldn't find parking.  As I noted you are scheduled for a specific time on your tickets and they will give 15 grace period but after that, you won't get in.  So, I quickly grabbed my camera in one hand and my phone in the other.  I knew I didn't want my massive diaper bag/purse in all my pictures so I left it in the car.  Big mistake!  Everytime I wanted to snap a picture I had to put my camera or phone and sunglasses on the floor.  If I were you, I would just bring a small bag that you can throw all your small necessities in. Jason carried Finn, we didn't take a stroller and I am not even sure if they would have allowed one.  If you have a walking toddler, plan on leaving the stroller in the car, and chasing him around the entire time. [but, that’s kind of the point, right]?

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We started in the first hallway, it wasn't even a room.  It was actually one of my favorite places we stopped in because we were the only people in there.  Because they filter you in every 15 minutes or so, it gives the group ahead of your time to take pics, explore, etc before the next group comes in.   But don't go too slow or what happened to us, will happen to you.

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I won't talk too much about the rooms because each museum is different and images should give you a glimpse into the goodness the museum has to offer. The first actually room we went into was an interactive room.  They had a carnival-like game of ring toss set up.  I was busy taking pictures that almost missed my hot husband hit 5 in the row while holding a wiggly toddler. Man, did I score the jackpot with this guy!  Just wait until we take him to the fair and walk away with 85 oversized stuffed animals and 3 basketballs.

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We moved from room to room, snapped a few pictures and each space took us about 3-4min.  I started out using my camera but honestly using my iPhone was easier and the lighting was great! Now, fast forward to the 5 room.  It was this one, with the white walls and the letter magnets.  It should have held about 7 people at a time and then all the sudden, we were surrounded my about 100 GoPro executives.  The owner decided to host a massive all company event that same day at the same time.  I wouldn't say they were the most polite group of people.  They basically took over every single room until we got to the sprinkle room.  It was hard to take pictures, it was hard to grab Finn as he weaved in and out of people's legs and was off in a flash.  But the good news, he couldn't go far and there was a ton of people watching him.

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When we got to the top of the stairs after about 45min, Jason looked at me with a face of concern and said, "We're only at the bathrooms?  This is only the halfway point!"  Remember somewhere up there I said it was supposed to take 45 min total. Well ya, we hadn't even gotten to the sprinkle pool yet!
When you get to the top of the stairs you hit a wall and another velvet rope.  We finally made it to the sprinkle pool, of course with 67 of my closest GoPro buddies.  They let them go as a group for about 10 minutes as we tried to entertain our 21month old toddler.  As we stood with a crowd of people, a younger looking man who was dressed quite nicely said, "it will be just a minute folks, does anyone have any questions for me? I am (insert name here) the co-founder of TMOIC.  I totally have no idea what he said because I was dying of heat while trying to wrestle Finn in my arms.  Until Jason said, I have a question, "How did you come up with the idea for this?"  I was like who are you talking to? And then saw the cameras and realized he was being filmed for some sort of documentary or something.  He went on to talk about how he wanted a place for children to explore and learn and touch and feel art. I'm sure it was profoundly better said then that, but I was too busy thinking about what part of the pool I was going to 'swim' into.

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Finally, after what felt like an hour, we were in! It was time for the sprinkle pool! They make you remove your shoes and valuables and then you can jump right in! Don't worry, the sprinkles aren't real but they are small and they do stick to you! I found sprinkles for days after that trip!

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We rounded the next corner and at that point, we both were kinda done.  It took us almost 2hrs to get through it all and I think that would have been much faster had the other events not been happening on the same day.   All in all, 100% worth it.  And Finn had the best time!  Let's just say, if the Museum of Ice Cream sold season passes, we would definitely be holding one.

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The Most Instagramable Palm Springs Girls Trip ever! | #momsdopalms

First off if you've only come here for the instagramable hot spots in PS, scroll down.  I've included my top 5 Instagram worthy places in Palm Springs (with locations) for you at the end of this post. 

Totally oversharing my girls trip to Palm Springs with 9 bloggers in the most epic Air BNB.  This will give you all the vacation envy and maybe even inspire you to book your own girls trip!  I talk about all the hot spots, places to eat, and I even share my top 5 most instagram worthy places in PS.

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Growing up in Manhattan Beach meant warm nights, long summers and living in my bathing suit.  I'm a salty hair, sandy toes and sunburned skin type of girl!  I've been to Palm Springs too many times to count.  Because PS was only a two-hour drive from home it became my go-to staycation spot.  My typical agenda when I visit is to stay at my hotel and lay by the pool as much as possible.  I normally stay at the Parker, and if you've ever been, you know there is no reason to ever leave the hotel, it insane. But this time, of all the times I've ever been was one of my most memorable times ever.  I went to test out my Big Brother skills and planned a vacation with 8 other women I'd never met.  I'm already starting my audition reel for the 2018 season. Jk.

We all decide to make time for US, and we somehow found a way to book a 4-day trip without our kids.  Say what? How did we do that?  Well, you basically book a flight, ask your husband to watch the kids and you just go. It's that easy.

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We stayed in the cutest Air BNB with 8 influencers and the most adorable little 6 month old ever.  I'd never met these women IRL but the moment I walked in the door, I felt like I was vacationing with my besties. I've been in a comment pod on Instagram with these women for over year (for those who don't know what a comment pod is, don't worry... it's basically a group text with people you don't know).   So, I guess I kinda knew them going into it, as much as you can know someone through a daily group text, I guess.

Paige's details on her blog The Love Designed Life My outfit deets:  Hat: Inlakesh Hand woven hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Top: Anthropologie (similar)| Shoes: Loeffler Randall lace up flats (similar) 

Paige's details on her blog The Love Designed Life

My outfit deets:  Hat: Inlakesh Hand woven hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Top: Anthropologie (similar)| Shoes: Loeffler Randall lace up flats (similar) 

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This blogging world can sometimes be isolating because you're sharing your innermost self with people behind a screen.  Meeting these beautiful women IRL was necessary after we've exchanged 100's of texts with each other.  So what did I do with 8 of my closest social media friends on a Wednesday in Palm Springs? Here it goes.

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We stayed at @thewkndhouse in the heart of Palm Springs and this just may replace my typical hotel stay from now on.  It was so, so good for so many reasons. Number 1- it's super close to downtown. Number 2- the rooms were perfection.  And Number 3- just the right size with the most perfect Instagramable walls.  We are all bloggers so, duh.

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We ate tacos (pretty much every day we were there) , we drank rosé (you guessed it, every single day), and we took lots and lots of pictures.  We went on this trip with no plans, other than couch hangs & pool time with no kids, visiting a few instgrammable hot spots and late night chats about balancing motherhood and blogging.  And honestly, that's pretty much all we did.

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I got the best room. Shhhh! Don't tell the anyone else.  If you decide to go, just plan get there early and snag the flamingo room for yourself! That wall, and It's closest to the potty (bathroom for you non-parents reading this, lol) and the kitchen for those late night snack runs!

The master suite has pretty much the most perfect wallpaper ever.   Pineapples are legit they STAND TALL WEAR A CROWN   and they are SWEET ON THE INSIDE

The master suite has pretty much the most perfect wallpaper ever.  

Pineapples are legit they

STAND TALL

WEAR A CROWN  

and they are

SWEET ON THE INSIDE

And of course the other rooms make you wanna go wallpaper your entire house too.

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The front and back of the house also come with even more instgrammable moments. There's a ping-pong table, cornhole and pool floats.  We took advantage of only one of those fun things; I'll let you figure out where we spent most of our time. 👇🏻

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Hat: GigiPip Eve Nora felt brim hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Suit: Kortni Jeane Swing too + Rouched bottoms 

Hat: GigiPip Eve Nora felt brim hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Suit: Kortni Jeane Swing too + Rouched bottoms 

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If you know me, you know I'm that girl who's always jumping in the pool.  I've been known to take a few people with me and at times, I may push a few people in fully clothed for fun.  I even jumped in the pool at our hotel after my own wedding still in my wedding dress. [true story]   I thought it would be fun after this photo shoot to actually get a few pics of us jumping in the pool.  I didn't have any takers and it took some convincing but I got these two knuckleheads to agree to jump in with me ('so I thought...)

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We all held hands, and we all agreed to jump on the count of three. I think it's safe to say, the joke was on me.  I guess that's payback for all the times I did this to other people. #karmasabitch. Yes, that splash is mine.  And yes, those two girls don't know how to count to three.

Oh I will be getting you two back @_ashley_noel_ and @helloerinv.  I know where you live. 

Oh I will be getting you two back @_ashley_noel_ and @helloerinv.  I know where you live. 

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Of course we needed to really spend some QT together at the house so we did a grocery store run and decided to only eat out a couple times.  We got fruits, bread, eggs and stuff for Taco Tuesday, ya know... the important stuff. We spent a lot of time at the house because it was so great and we loved getting to know each other.

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We spent 3 nights curled up and snuggled together on the couch catching up on Bachelor in Paradise and one night we had a game night which included a real hysterical game of heads up and an even more hysterical game of the PG version of cards against humanity.  This is when I had to face the reality of being the oldest girl there when I referenced Coming to America [bark like a dog, a big dog] and nobody knew what I was talking about. (insert laughing & rolling eye emoji here).

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Meet Ollie, hands down the easiest and cutest baby ever.  Because of my crazy baby fever, having Ollie with us was really helpful for those 'I'm missing my kids' moments.  I know we all really tried to take our mom hats off and make time fully for ourselves but I think we all enjoyed having this little nugget with us while we were away. From our own babies.  If you want more Ollie, go visit @annehilldesign.  She's the best and she lives in Alaska so you'll probably get a few moose of grizzly bear pics too!

Meet Ollie, hands down the easiest and cutest baby ever.  Because of my crazy baby fever, having Ollie with us was really helpful for those 'I'm missing my kids' moments.  I know we all really tried to take our mom hats off and make time fully for ourselves but I think we all enjoyed having this little nugget with us while we were away. From our own babies.  If you want more Ollie, go visit @annehilldesign.  She's the best and she lives in Alaska so you'll probably get a few moose of grizzly bear pics too!

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We had to visit the two coolest hotels in Palm Springs so we had brunch at the Parker, and spend more time taking photos than we did enjoying our $17 mimosas. The Parker is where I had my bachelorette party, where I've spent numerous "first dates" with my husband and if I ever ran away from life, that's where you can find me.

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This might be my all time favorite IRL blogger mama I've met.  She really should be a stand up comedian, the most hilarious mama I know.  Meet @helloerinv

This might be my all time favorite IRL blogger mama I've met.  She really should be a stand up comedian, the most hilarious mama I know.  Meet @helloerinv

This girl right here traveled all the way from Canada to be with us, at 31 weeks prego, on a red eye..If that doesn't make you love her, I don't know what will!  Meet my favorite Canadian @britthavens.

This girl right here traveled all the way from Canada to be with us, at 31 weeks prego, on a red eye..If that doesn't make you love her, I don't know what will!  Meet my favorite Canadian @britthavens.

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Hat: GigiPip Eve floppy hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Michelle Jonas | Shoes: Joie leather sandals | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold | Bracelet: Gorjana Howlite calming bracelet

Hat: GigiPip Eve floppy hat | Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Michelle Jonas | Shoes: Joie leather sandals | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold | Bracelet: Gorjana Howlite calming bracelet

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We had dinner at The Saguaro and to be honest we went on a Wednesday and when we pulled into the parking lot we thought it might be closed.  Needless to say, mid week in Palm Springs is less than lively.  But, on a positive note, it was happy hour all day!! So we got thee best tacos ever for $2 a piece! There was 9 of us and the bill wasn't even $100! So that was a huge score!  We were bad bloggers and didn't get any pictures at this dinner,  but we made up for it the next day when we visited the cactus garden and of course that famous pink door. #thatpinkdoor.

Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes: Christian Louboutin espadrilles wedges | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold

Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes: Christian Louboutin espadrilles wedges | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold

The Moorten Botanical Gardens are a perfect girls trip adventure.  It's $5 to enter and this place is insane you guys.  It took about 5 minutes to walk through the whole thing, and about 20 minutes to get some plant-lovers dream photos.  The picture above is inside the cactarium, and it was beyond gorgeous and hot!  It was about 108 degrees outside that day and it felt like 120 degrees inside the green house.  But, it was soooo worth it for a photo like this one.

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My friend in real life for over 3 years now, and one of my favorite mamas around Paige @thelovedesignedlife.  Her blog is insane, please check it out. The Love Designed Life 

My friend in real life for over 3 years now, and one of my favorite mamas around Paige @thelovedesignedlife.  Her blog is insane, please check it out. The Love Designed Life 

So I hear that you aren't a real blogger in Palm Springs until you get a picture in front of That Pink Door.  Kidding, but we seriously had to make a trip there to snap a couple fun pics.  There was a group of young German girls and a car of Asian tourists waiting their turn for pictures too (on a random Thursday afternoon) and if it weren't for the other eager groups of people, we may have passed the door.  It's in a residential area and yes, someone really lives there!  We had Ollie with us, and the sun was blazing hot, so we didn't stay long, but it doesn't take long to become a real life blogger when you stand in front of this cute pink door. [mom, I've made it!]

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Oh hey cuties! Paige @thelovedesignedlife Courtney @courtneynicoleramsey + Britt @britthavens

Oh hey cuties! Paige @thelovedesignedlife Courtney @courtneynicoleramsey + Britt @britthavens

Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes: Christian Louboutin espadrilles wedges | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold

Sunnies: Diff eyewear Astro in Matte black | Dress: Amuse Society | Shoes: Christian Louboutin espadrilles wedges | Necklace: House of Harlow gold locket | Watch: Daniel Wellington Classic Petite Rose gold

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In short, or long... life happens only once and you need to make the most of it.  Motherhood can be challenging, isolating and one of the biggest life reflecting times on who you are as person.  But, finding time to be that person that you were before babies, really is important.  I'm not sure these mamas know just how much those 4 days in Palm Springs refreshed me and those memories will stay with me, thank you for the laughs and fun times ladies! Let's do it again next year!

We put this trip together all on our own to meet each other in real life but some fabulous brands helped all our vacation house and pool dreams come true.  Thank you to our sponsors:

The Weekend House  

Kortni Jeane Swimwear

Diff Eyewear

Gigi Pip Hats

Big Mouth Pool Floats

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5 most instragram worthy spots in Palm Springs:

1. The Wknd House. Scroll through this post and you'll see why.  If the front yard, the backyard, the pool and the wallpaper are enough, the living room and family room will bring all your bright, colorful, mid century dreams come true.  The best thing about my #1 spot is that you don't even have to leave the house to get the perfect shot. @thewkndhouse

2. That Pink Door.  Yes, it's someone's house, and yes there are always random people parked in front ready to capture that instagram worthy moment in front of that pink door.  The door has its own instagram account if you believe me. @thatpinkdoor

3. Cactus Garden.  It's actually the newest blogger go-to spot and it's fairly close to that pink door.  The Moorten Botanical Garden Showplace is a must go to place even if you don't wanna take an instagram worthy picture.  It's pretty small and it cost $5 to get in, but I will be visiting this place on all my upcoming Palm Springs trips! | Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium 

4. The Parker. If you've been to this swanky hotel, you know about the lemonade stand, the cutest yellow pool, and of course the oversized chese game on the gorgeous grounds of the hotel, that is if you make it past the lobby.  From the massive white brick wall showering the giant signature orange doors when you arrive, to the drugs sign and the hanging wicker chairs in the first glimpse of the hotel, this place is perfection.  This hotel is a bloggers playground.  If you've never been, you must go, this place screams, I'm super cool. The Parker Palm Springs 

5.  The Saguaro.  Admittedly, I've only been here for the tacos.   But if bright, bold, fun colors are you thing, than the Saguaro is totally going to be your jam.  Those purple and pink doors have filled my IG feed numerous summers so, if your looking for a pop of color and a good time, head straight to this hotel. The Saguaro Palm Springs

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There are some affiliate links in this post, but all opinions expressed are my own.

Photography Tips for a Cohesive feed || #Themomblogcollective Week 3

Welcome to the third installment of The Mom Blog Collective: Tips for better photography. If you're new here, here's the scoop. Every other week, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

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So, I seriously feel like I'm the furthest person who's qualified for this weeks installment of #Themomblogcollective because I generally hide behind my lack of professional looking photos with my lengthy yet genuine and honest, raw, heartfelt captions.  Yes, I do stick to a color pallet and I try and use the same few core filters in each of my images but I'm not a professional by any means. I feel like in order to get professional looking feed, you need to be a professional...right? Nope.  Either hire a professional who actually knows what they are doing or marry someone and convince them to quit their day job, learn photography and follow you around all day. Haha right? And if that doesn't work for you...  Here are a few tips that may help you fake it like I do.   I'll be sharing a few tips, talking about what camera I use, and giving all the details on what apps I use.

Top Three Tips:


1. Make sure your images are straight


I always make sure my photos are straight. People tend to like photos that are symmetrical.   My husband hates it because when I ask someone to take our photos because I always direct them to take them straight on.    "Can you please stand over there and please don't cut me feet off, thanks!" Maybe it's just me but I like things to be straight vs a weird angle or from the side of a scene. 

 

2. Add some negative space


Before you push the trigger, take three steps back.  Give your audience a little glimpse into the scene you are in.  It's easier for people to see the emotion behind the photograph if they actually see the scenery instead of just your face.  It's so typical that you hand your friend the camera and say can you take a picture of me and they get in real close to just capture your face.  Right?  Trust me on this, .take three steps back!  This way you get an idea of what's actually happening around you and allows the subject of the photo, which is usually you or your kids to be the main focus without being distracted by being too close.   So when I take my pictures I tend to make sure that I have some sort of sky or ceiling or some sort of space above my head and that you can definitely see my shoes or the sidewalk or something below me.  Here's my go to- make sure you get my shoes, even if I'm not wearing any because it helps leave some space.

 

3. Lighting is key

The time and space that you take your pictures in can be make all the difference.  The best time to shoot is the "magic hour"  which i think you've all heard before.  Right after the sun sets when the suns rays aren't to bright to cause a glare.  Also the best place to take a photo is out of the direct sunlight.  Try taking your photos in shade but still outside in the light. When you position yourself try and get the light towards you vs behind you.

BONUS TIP:

Take numerous pics at the same time


True story, my cell phone currently has 53,000+ photos in my camera roll.  The best way to get a good snap is to take lots of pictures!  I know that sounds simple but the truth is for me, I probably take at least 100 photos of the same scene to get the perfect shot.  Some people are effortless, but for me, I need lots of options.   One way I keep my feed cohesive is to post photos from the same photo shoot on the same day with the same lighting periodically throughout my feed.  

 

Besides what I use to take my photos, two of my most asked questions are, what do you use to take your photos?  & what apps do you use to edit your photos and plan your posts?

What do you use to take most of your photos?

I have a mixture of iPhone and I recently got the Sony a6000 with a 1.8/50mm lens.  It has built in wifi so I can transfer my images even when I'm not connected to the internet.  It's super fast and easy.  The camera itself comes with amazing features, that makes it easier to just shoot and post, however, I did spend some time watching You tube videos about the camera.  If I do adjust the settings, I mostly adjust the background defocus and the brightness. It's easier to let the camera do the work and edit the images to fit my feed later. 

 

What apps do you use for your editing?

My favorite apps for editing are Color Story &  VSCO.  I've downloaded so many photo editing apps but these two are by far my favorite.  Easy to use, and they have the best pre set filters ready for you.  Color Story has the flashes of delight bundle that is really all you need.  My favorites are Carrie & Valerie.  I sometimes add some brightness and a little fade depending on what the lighting was like in my original photo.  For VSCO, I use the basic package, A6 filter and then use tons of exposure and a little brightness.  Download those apps, and play with some of the filters to find your own aesthetic.  

If there is anything to take away from me this week, it's more about the stories I tell through my images and my captions, to hopefully turn all your followers into real life friends.
As my girl @helloerinV once said, "You take the picture and you just post it."  It's sometimes as simple as that.


Here are this weeks contributors: 

mrsseacannon.com | @mrsseacannon

britthavens.com | @britthavens

koleimpressions.com | @steph__pollock

cultivatemotherhood.com | @cultivatemotherhood

www.ashleynoel.life | @_ashley_noel_

hellobabybrown.com | @hellobabybrown

darlingnightingale.com | @darlingnightingale

www.a-blessed-nest.com | @blessednestblog

thelovedesignedlife.com | @thelovedesignedlife

GUESTS: 

http://www.helloerin.com | @helloerinv
http://www.hopefeathersphotography.com | @hopefeathers
http://www.psimfromthemidwest.com | @hollynbaron


 

How to Establish Your Brand and Build Your Online Community | #Themomblogcollective Week 2

Welcome to the second installment of The Mom Blog Collective: How to Build and Online Community and Define Your Brand. If you're new here, here's the scoop. Every other week, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you'll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!

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This weeks topic is: How to Establish Your Brand and Build Your Online Community

Those two things go hand and hand in my opinion.  In order to grow an authentic community of followers, you need to have a true brand all your own.  You need to establish what your brand is, and make sure that you continue to create a curated feed with your brand image in mind with every single post.  I believe most people follow me for a specific reason; either they love my photography style or aesthetic, they have a common connection with me like where I live or kids the same age, or when they read my posts I say something that resonates with them on a deeper level and inspires them in some way.  If I can connect with someone through my feed in one of those ways, I will gain them not only as a follower, but hopefully I'll engage with them enough and they will eventually join my community of followers who interact daily with me and possibly even meet IRL one day... (IRL=in real life).

Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't think I'm an expert on this topic by any means.  We've all been there, where it just feels like it takes a small miracle to get someone to click that 'follow' button or even just double click your picture, right?  I struggle daily watching that little number go up and down. I gain a few followers and then I lose just as many each day.  So, in this week, I'll be talking mostly about how I use my brand image to get my followers to stay with me, double tap my images, how I encourage comments, and eventually how I get them to join my community.

Here are my 6 key steps to start building your brand + community now!

Step 1: Create 5 key words to describe your brand image

Step 2: Get your colors and photography style consistent

Step 3: Define your core topics

Step 4: Plan out your posting schedule

Step 5: Ask followers to join your community

Step 6: Engage using specific hashtags

 

 -You can't be everything to everyone-

 

Step 1: Create 3-5 key words to describe the feeling you want for your feed.  What vibes, emotions, impressions do you want to leave with someone when they visit your page? Do you want your feed to emulate romantic, classic, bold, colorful, soft, whimsical, minimal, adventurous, playful, moody, or humorous?

In my opinion, the first step to creating your brand should be to figure out who are you really speaking to.  For me, I needed to create my own brand identity that would speak directly to my ideal follower.  I wanted my feed to be a true visual representation of myself through an authentic voice and consistent images so I could reach my true people.  Some words that describe my brand are authentic, bright, beachy, mom-friendly and organic, how would you describe yours?

 

 

-Create a clear identity through your photos-

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Step 2:  Get your colors and photography style consistent.  When someone sees a picture of yours, they should clearly know it's your photo either by the style or the colors or both.  Based on the recommendation from @jennakutcher, and her Instagram Lab Course, I created a brand mood board/color theme.  It included my top 5 branding words and my top 5 colors of my feed, which helped me focus on my true brand image.  Canva is this awesome app you can use to get your "colors" by using a screen shot of your feed.   Here's mine:

When I take photos or edit photos, I try and stick to these 5 colors.

You can try it for your own feed here.  Just take a screen shot of your Instagram feed and it will pull out your top 5 colors for you.

(Our next post in this series is all about photography and editing your photos, so don't worry...more details on this to come!)

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CANVA COLOR PALETTE GENERATOR

 -Have a focused approach-

Step 3: Define your categories:  I talked a little about this in my last post.  The more you can narrow your focus, the easier it will be for someone to connect with you. I try and define my brand into 5 categories and concentrate my posts around those topics. Family + Marriage, Motherhood, WAHM Life, Beauty + Fashion, Home Decor.  This helps me be consistent and authentic in each and every post and differentiate myself from other bloggers out there.  Using your top categories you defined above, try to create a diverse but defined feed that flows and touches on each topic throughout the week.  Maybe Mondays are WAHM life, and then Tuesdays you try and post about home decor, etc.  This way, you always have something to talk about, and you aren't trying to come up with a witty caption every time you have a great image to post.  It gives you and your feed a more defined focus, which will, in turn, help people to connect with you and keep coming back for more each week because they know what to expect.

-Establish your top posting schedule-

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Step 4: Define posting schedule and best times to post. 

You need to ask yourself how often you are willing to spend time on Instagram and how often you really have the time to create a post that will speak to your followers, create hashtags that flow with that photo and make time to engage with your followers who comment.   It's important to make a plan and stick to it so that your followers see you consistently.  Is it once a week?  Once a day? 3x a day?  What does it take to grow your community....that's entirely up to you!  

I recently switched over to a business account and found out that the majority of my followers are actually from Southern Cal and most of them are most active on Tuesday- Saturday.  These insights can help you determine a posting schedule that will create the most engagement on your photos.  If you find that most of your followers are in a different time zone, you should adjust your posting time to fit when they are most active.

For me, I started with once a day, about 4x a week.  Now I try and post before 9 am or after 6 pm 5x a week.  I generally take off the weekends because I have found my better engagement times are during the week.  If you don't want to switch to a business account, there are lots of other sites to view your analytics.  Once of the most popular is

- Include a call to action-

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Step 5:  Think of your call to actions like a personal invite into your community.   Occasionally include a call to action; double tap if you love tacos as much as me, comment with your favorite place to buy children's clothes, click the link in my bio to see my tips on how to meal prep, etc.   The goal is to get people to engage on your posts.  People may not feel compelled to comment unless you ask them to, and they may not even respond to your question when you do, but you want them to get engaged any way you can.  Trust me it works.  One of my most engaged posts I ever had was about a postpartum struggle I was experiencing after my first baby.  It was a hard & honest post for me to write, but I was vulnerable and I asked for help or ideas from my followers on how to fix it.  So many people commented that they struggled with the same thing and how they dealt with the issue.  You can read about that here if you want more details, but trust me having a call to action will help your engagement and lead to more true followers.

Remember, your followers want to see you!  Not only in your real genuine voice but images of you!  That creates a connection better than any other.  I bet you if you scroll through your feed, you'll see your most liked photos are not the most perfect flat lay, or the most beautiful sunset, but they are ones you are in, and ones you have written a heart felt or authentic caption about yourself.  Try and do that at least once a week and I promise you, your have a community faster than you know it.

 -Engage using specific hashtags-

Step 6:  One of the best ways to find a new audience is through hashtags.  Using your categories above, search for your niche hashtags and include them in every post.  

I have my hashtags grouped into my categories and saved in my planning app.  (I use Planoly but there are a ton of planning apps out there).  You are allowed 30 hashtags a post, and I use every single one.  If you have a photo that gets great engagement you may end up in the top 9 photos of that hashtag and you will be seen by tons of new faces.  My goal is to get my post in at least 3 of my hashtags top 9 photos to gain followers in my specific niche.  Out of the 30 I am allowed, I'd say 10 are always the same, and then for the rest, I switch it up and use some hashtags that have TONS of posts on them and some that have under 2 thousand posts on them.  I use some that are more specific to my location or subject matter and then some that are broader or used more often.  There is some chatter about using hashtags in your caption or in your comments, and getting "shadow-banned" but I haven't noticed enough of a difference in either to comment on that.  I think we will end up having a more detailed week on this subject where I can expand more on the hashtag subject, but if you have specific questions, please feel free to comment here or on my IG.

-Time + patience are key- 

I leave you with this, you can spend all your time creating the perfect brand and image but if you don't spend time engaging with others, you will not be successful in building a community.  People want to know they are seen and heard, and not just another like on your images.  In between all the curating, planning, and writing you need to include time in your day to reach out to both current and potential followers and comment and like on their pages as well. Respond to your comments on your posts, and search your niche hashtags and engage consistently.  I know that takes TIME, and TIME is the key word here. In order to grow organically, you need to have patience and show yourself some grace if it isn't happening as fast as you'd like.  Remember in order to grow organically, you need to engage, and you'll see a return from your hard work.  That engagement takes time and patience.
In June of 2016, I had 916 followers, today I have over 8 thousand.  I found that as I posted more authentic and vulnerable posts and the more I engaged with my followers and potential followers, the more my community was growing. 

Each month we feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. While we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and gain a little insight from each one. 

 

Here are this weeks contributors: 

mrsseacannon.com | @mrsseacannon

britthavens.com | @britthavens

koleimpressions.com | @steph__pollock

cultivatemotherhood.com | @cultivatemotherhood

www.ashleynoel.life | @_ashley_noel_

hellobabybrown.com | @hellobabybrown

darlingnightingale.com | @darlingnightingale

www.a-blessed-nest.com | @blessednestblog

thelovedesignedlife.com | @thelovedesignedlife

GUESTS: 

kristlesclarity.com | @hereyeswereolivegreen

@amylouhawthorne

If you have a topic you'd love to get an answer to in our series, search the hashtag #TheMomBlogCollective on Instagram and comment on any one of our photos under that hashtag to let us know! You can also leave comments on our blog posts.

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Top 5 Tips when Starting a Blog or Instagram Account | #TheMomBlogCollective WEEK 1

I'm so excited to share a new series I am starting here on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective. Twice a month, I've teamed up with 10 other influencers and we will be sharing a blog post on the same topic -- related to blogging, instagram, working with brands, making money, photography, motherhood and more. More than almost anything else, each of us get asked how we started blogging, what tips we have for someone looking to start, how to work with companies for sponsored posts and more, so those questions are the starting point for our series. 

Each month we will feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. My favorite part is that while we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and then figure out what works best for you. And if you have a topic you'd love to get an answer to in our series, search the hashtag #TheMomBlogCollective on Instagram and comment on any one of our photos under that hashtag to let us know! You can also leave comments on our blog posts.

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A little about me.  

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After I left my crazy busy, 80hr a week, 15 year career in fashion and moved to the Bay Area of Northern California I needed to find something to do with my time.  I had no job, I was new to the area so I had no community of friends and I was newly married with a husband who traveled a ton. When I would talk to my friends about my life changes, and my transition from sales manager power house to unemployed house wife and my future goals of having babies and doing yoga daily, they would listen intently and they would all say, "you should start a blog!"  

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I didn't have the first clue about how to be a blogger and it scared the crap outta me to start something new when there was already so many other influencers out there doing it in such a successful way.  I mean, do people really want to hear my story?  Speaking truthfully, I wasn't quite sure what my actual story was even going to be focused on but, I knew I had a story to tell.  I wanted to share my passion for newly married life, fashion, trying for babies, life changes from leaving my career and just life in general so, that's when I started my Instagram acct just for insta-blogging.   Now, I feel like I need to admit that I'm still kinda lost when it comes to SEO, affiliate links and everything else involved with the actual blog part of social media but, I do know I've learned a tremendous amount in the past 2 years of being an Instagram influencer.  


So, besides the typical first steps that you may already know about being an influencer like choosing your account name, or finding the perfect photo filter, or choosing between square space of Wordpress for your domain, here are my top 5 tips when starting a blog or Instagram account (but really it's just what I follow when I think about my own personal Instagram process and I hope it helps you)!

1. Progress over Perfection.


Here's the truth, when I first started my Instagram, my posts sometimes would take me up to an hour to write.  I constantly found myself being too wordy, and then not knowing how to edit.  What do people really want to hear, or not hear?  And then the images, are they the right color or brightness?  Does it fit in my aesthetic? Is my picture good enough to make people stop scrolling?  When I first started, this was my problem, constantly over thinking everything! I would find myself not posting for days because I was waiting for the perfect post, or the perfect time, or the perfect image.  If it wasn't perfect enough to post, I wouldn't post anything.  But, I quickly found out that progress is better than perfection.  The more your engaging and sharing your heart, the more followers will find you.  If you want to start a blog or become an influencer, just start now.  What are you waiting for?   I promise someone out there needs to hear your story because they can relate in some way.  If you are true to yourself, and you share images that make you happy, I am sure it will make others happy too.  Just start somewhere, don't think too hard about it and just begin.  

2. Be Authentic.   


It is all too easy to get caught in the comparison game when scrolling aimlessly through influencers feeds and blogs.  It's important to always be yourself and not try and be what you think people want you to be.  There are so many gorgeously curated feeds out there with mamas who have the perfect top knot, clean kitchens, with fresh flowers cut on the table and the cutest baby in tow...but honestly, that's not always real life.  One thing that I know helped me grow is to stop following people that I compare myself to or made me feel less than. Believe it or not, when you are scrolling through other peoples feeds, these images are making a huge impression on you.  Those images you stop and double top or screen shot can start to have an effect on your own content.  It can start to affect what you post or don't post, they can affect your confidence in your own creativity and it can even affect the way you are feeling about your life.  As they say, Comparison is the thief of joy and I believe that is true in this process.  If you try to stay focused on your own creative journey and be authentic in that journey, it will bring you joy and success.

3.  Know who you are.


Finding your own voice and your own vision and staying true to that is super important for growth.  Staying focused on your brand and image with every single post has a huge effect on your success.  My number one thing is to make sure you are sharing your full self, but also try not to be everything to everyone.  If I asked your closest friends to describe you in 5 words what would they say? What part of you do you really want to share?  Your fashion style, your foodie outings, your mama tips, etc.  Instead of sharing every single thing you like, which makes it hard for people to connect with you, focus on a couple things and really expand on those topics.  When people come to my page, I want them first to see that I'm a mom, second, I'm a wife, third I'm a sweatpant loving momtrepreneur who works from home and is struggling to balance work/home/parenting life. I try and use those few things as anchors in each of my posts.  If my posts don't talk about one of those things, then I am missing sharing my real brand image and finding my true community.  I find people connect with other people for a specific reason; whether it's because they love their home style, or they are vegan, or because they are working from home moms, etc... So let your account reflect a few things about you so people can really find something to relate to on your page. Finding your niche is going to be an ongoing process but the idea is to post images, ideas, and stories that resonate with your true community, and if you can do that, you are totally winning.

4.  Be ready for change.  

In order to monetize your Instagram feed, it's important to keep up with these constant changes.  What worked for me when I first started has changed so much with each day, week, and month.  As this little app evolves, and algorithms change, you have to be ready for that.  You need to make sure you find time to keep up with the changes and always be on the lookout for how you can evolve and do things better.  It's a never ending battle to keep growing despite the ever changing process of it all. I remember when I first hit that 1k, and then 5k, and now I'm stuck at 8k and it's killing me. But honestly, I'm sure once I hit 10k, I'll just want more.  And with that comes hard work and new ideas of how to make it all happen.  I use my community to stay up to date with things and we are constantly sharing other techy blog posts that keep us informed of changes on Facebook or Instagram.  There are tons of influencers out there who are willing to share their knowledge, you just need to take the time to research it.
 

5. Join a community of creatives like you.

When I first started this journey, one of my main goals was so to find a community of like minded people and love them hard.  Ya know, like find your tribe and you will thrive thing?  Having a community of other momtrepreneurs, or creatives I can bounce ideas off of or share a win with is exciting and necessary for my continued success in this influencer journey.  Yes, I have my friends and my husband I can talk to about it but, it's not the same.  Don't get me wrong, Jason loves a good celebratory dance session when I get a check in the mail for a collab, but does he really love hearing how my photo just got 500 likes for the first time ever, or how this huge brand just reposted my photo, probably not.  I know he supports me, but does he really get it?  I've met some amazing friends through this journey and we chat daily.  I have to say, these conversations can mean the difference of me feeling completely lost at sea or confident in my ability to do this.


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I'm gonna end it with this.  HAVE FUN!!  Don't take things too seriously and try and have a good time.  If posting in your feed becomes a stressful part of your day, take a break, and I promise your true followers will be there when you get back.

Please leave me comments below or questions so I know I'm not just only talking to my computer screen. 

 

You can find all the other blog posts linked below:

A Blessed Nest | @blessednestblog

Ashley Noel | @_ashley_noel_

Britt Havens | @britthavens

Cultivate Motherhood | @cultivatemotherhood

Kole Impressions Blog | @steph__pollock

Hello Baby Brown | @hellobabybrown

Mrs Seacannon | @mrsseacannon

The Love Designed Life | @thelovedesignedlife

 

All photos in this post were sponsored by someone I am happy to have in my community of creatives.  Amelia Protiva is wonderful and amazing and just got her doula certification and is based in Silicon Valley.  If you are expecting or if you just want some gorgeous family photos, you must reach out to this beautiful and creative soul.  

8 stylish ways to kid proof your home

I wouldn't say that Jason and I necessarily have the same decorating aesthetic, so our home is the kitchen sink of styles.  Modern bohemian, eclectic, mid-century, call it whatever you like, but one thing is for sure, this living room is where most of our family time is spent.  And since this is where we make most of our memories, the last thing I wanted was to make it so fancy or clean that Finn felt like he couldn't touch anything. At the same time, I tried to avoid the living room that was taken over by toys and turned playroom look.  I think we've done a pretty good job making sure it is equally our space and Finns and I think it still manages to have a sense of cohesiveness, charm, and coziness all at the same time.

[disclaimer: Thank you to Lorena Canal for sending us this rug in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all views expressed here are my own.] 

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Here's what I thought about when decorating our favorite room in the house:

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Stick to a color palette, and play with textures.  One thing that I love when decorating any room is to make it more about texture, and less about color.  Matchy-matchy has never been my jam.  I've never been a fan of the couch with 2-4 matching pillows on each side.  I like to mix a few of my favorite things in the same colors with a different texture that mesh well together.  My living room happens to be white and black with pops of natural, in the form of wood or greenery.  I do splash in some pops of brighter colors here and there but mainly try and keep true to black, white, tans or browns, and green.

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When looking for toys for Finn, I try and stay in the same color palette or find things that have the same accent colors as the rest of the room.  This way they don't stand out when scattered across the room.    One thing that works well is to curate a stack of kids books in the same color palette.  That way the books become part of the decor vs an eye sore. 

 

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Less is more. A home should feel lived in and not perfectly clean.  But with that being said, it shouldn't feel like you have 6 kids when you only have one.  Try and keep the toys in the living room to a minimum.  A few balls, a handful of books, and 1-2 toys.  I like to rotate his toys every couple of weeks and only keep a few favorites in the living room. Periodically, I'll go through a purge and donate some and I'll swap out the others for some toys in his room and retire some from the living room to his bedroom.

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Create a defined space for him.  We don't have a play pen or baby gates, Finn has access to the whole living room.  The way we are able to achieve this without him getting hurt or drawing all over the furniture is to create smaller spaces within our space that are JUST for him. We use rugs, his gathre mat, and this tee pee to make the living room feel like a play area, but still like an adults live here.  He's able to play independently while I fold laundry, send an email, or just enjoy my coffee.  All in the same space. He loves reading his books in the morning in his tee pee and in the afternoons, I usually put down our Gathre mat with some crayons or toys on it and Finn knows that's his space to play.  

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Rugs can make a space feel more like home.  Am I right?  I love hardwoods but I love the coziness a rug brings to a large space.  Nothing beats cuddling up on a cushy rug with some pillows and a fluffy blanket for family movie night or stepping barefoot on a soft cushy rug first thing in the morning.  But with a toddler, let's be real...things happen (Photo evidence attached).  Finding a bright white or cream rug that fit my aesthetic was purely a dream until I found Lorena Canal's machine washable rugs.  You heard me, they make rugs you fit into my own at home washer and dryer- GENIUS! Skip the stress and work of spot cleaning or the million dollar rug cleaning bill and stay home while you clean your rug! Finn can eat, play or just relax on the floor with his favorite snack without a worry from this mama because I know I can fix any stain with a quick stop to our laundry room.  Plus it doesn't hurt that they come in so many prints and solids, so you can add design to your living room,  no matter your style.  These rugs are the overachievers of home accessories and my favorite elements of my home.   We fell in love with the style of the Berber Beige and I linked it for you here.

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I have a basket problem. (and maybe a Target problem too)  I'll admit it, I can't pass up a good basket.  We use them in all of our rooms, they have tons of uses; laundry hampers, blanket holders, pillow keepers, and toy wranglers.  The baskets can not only help keep things in their place and help your room feel more organized and clean, but they can also bring some style to your space.  Stop hiding things in drawers + closets, and go grab yourself some baskets!

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Utilize all the rooms unused space.  Using your wall for organization clears up the clutter on the floors.  I found this awesome wall basket with hooks at target and it's hanging right by our front door and it's perfect.  It helps get Finn involved with daily tasks and when I tell him it's time to go somewhere, he goes to the basket, grabs his shoes, and hat and is ready to go!

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Distract, distract, distract.  This is a tactic I often use when Finn is getting into something he is not supposed to.  I'm sure that most parents know this "hey look over here!" tactic all too well.  I purposely put things on the fireplace ledge to deter Finn from grabbing the fireplace screen.  If the screen was the only thing on the ledge, you know that would be exactly what those little hands would go straight for.  All the items on the ledge are kid friendly and if he gets into the poof or the pillows, it's all safe for him to play with.  

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Lastly, IMHO, you can never have enough blankets pillows and throws.  Since my toddler is so mobile, I find myself either chasing him or trying to stop him in his tracks by getting on his level.  We spend a ton of time, actually most of our time, on the floor.  That's where a soft rug, these pillows and lots of blankets come in handy cause somersaults aren't that fun on hardwood floors, trust me.

Sources and links are below.

Lorena Canal : Washable Rug Berber Beige
Caco & kai : Mexican Blanket/indigo pillows 
Fireplace accessories: Similar pillows from Targethere, here and here
T-nees T-pees: All natural Tee pee
Gathre Playmat:   Medium mat in Blanc midi
Toys:  Bla Bla kids knit dolls + Melissa & Doug wooden car toys
Target: Links for fireplace basket click here.  Links for hanging wall basket here.  Links for play area basket here.

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Ultimate gift guide for Her

Whether you are shopping for the host, the yoga enthusiast, the traveler, or the fashion guru this list works for everyone.  Everything in my top 15 is approved by yours truly and I could say I am one or all of those types of girls up there. This list is for every woman in your life: friend, mom, wife, sister, co-worker or yourself; these products are my happy place.  I've rounded up my favorite items for you to celebrate this Hallmark Holiday in style.  My top picks for the Ultimate Valentines Day gift Guide for her.

How many times have you been in your office, cubicle or work space on Valentine's Day and you squirm with every door open because it's a steady stream of flower arrangement after flower arrangement? And none of them have your name on them. Well, not this year...

Close your eyes and imagine this...  {well, I guess you'll need them open to keep reading. Lol}

You come home from a long workday (or a stressful trip to target in my case) and your husband or your man greets you at the door and says, "Don't worry about a thing, I've got everything under control."  Before he heads off to the kitchen to continue whipping up a home-cooked meal, he says, let's start here.  He opens the bathroom door and you see he's run you a warm bubble bath. {ok, this isn't 50 shades ladies, so don't go there...} Before he leaves he hands you a stack of the cutest bracelets, and says... put your hair in that top knot, hop in, relax and enjoy a good book.  {At this point, he's clearly outdone himself and if you aren't already married, you'll be ready to skip the ring and elope just to keep this man! ....ok, maybe not skip the ring part}  When you get out of the bubble bath you realize there's the most deliciously soft Turkish bath towel just waiting for you to wrap yourself in.  Now the part that's for both of you to enjoy {men, if I've lost you before this...don't worry....this part will make you happy} He says, I got you something to more comfortable to slip into while you open your other gifts. Sounds kinda amazing right? Well send this post to your main squeeze so they can take notes.  And if you haven't found that special someone yet, it's ok, Galentines Day is a real thing.  Invite a girlfriend over, have fun drinking wine and cooking a delicious meal together and each of you can gift the other with something from my must have list and that will be just as perfect.

*I have received some of the items below for review, but the opinions expressed are my own. #occperfsp #sp #sponsored

Now for the list.  This is the holy grail of gifts lists, I swear if you get any of these, you'll be virtually cheersing me with a glass of wine or cocktail.  These are things are my love language. Oh and some of them wanted to celebrate with you so they are offering a special discount code for you to use for a limited time.  So don't wait, take advantage of these sweet deals.

1.  BoxFox - perfectly pre-curated gift box
2. Herbivore Botanicals - Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist
3. Chez Moi - a book with style with home decor inspiration & more
4. Nashelle personalized oversized heart pendant Use code PerfectLoves20 for 20% off
5. Diptyque Paris- limited edition Rosa Mundi votive- candle
6. Ray-Ban double bridge aviator sunnies - iconic eyewear frames
7.  Eberjey Encajes Teddy - luxurious designer sleepwear
8. Hello Fresh food delivery- - fresh meal delivery Use code HeidiJo30 for $30 off your first box!
9.  Bela Bracelets - hair tie bracelets
10. BloomThat - same day flower delivery service
11.  Mullein & Sparrow Pink Himalayan Bath salts
12.  Daniel Wellington Limited Edition Somerset Watch Use code PERFECT15 for 15% off

13.  Sunday Dry Goods James-Turkish towel

14. MAST Brothers Smoke chocolate bars
15. Life Proper messenger bag Use code PERFECTLOVES20 for 20% until the 14th

1. BoxFox - curated gift boxes full of all the right things that make life easy for the lazy gifter.  Guys, if you don't wanna think about buying a bunch of things or heading out to the mall and running from store to store, this is your answer. They have boxes already put together or you can edit and build your own.  I use Box Fox for my girlfriends, moms, babysitters, everyone. They've done the work to find the best products to fill the boxes and they style it in a way Every Girl will love.   These boxes are Instagram post worthy for sure. $35-$120 Right now they are offering FREE SHIPPING ON YOUR FIRST BOX.

2. Herbivore Botanicals - Rose Hibiscus Hydrating Face Mist.  These beauty products are hands down my fav.  All natural, and cruelty-free.  The make products that not only smells delicious,  it makes you feel amazing as well.  A must have in my purse at all times is their Rose hibiscus, coconut water hydrating face mist.  Ladies, this is created with pure plant actives and will give your skin a boost of moisture-enhancing and youth boosting hibiscus flower when you need it.  I use it to set my makeup, after a long plane ride, or right before bed.  It helps all skin types and doesn't make your face greasy or oily.  Plus the packaging is so gorg, it's good enough to leave out on the counter.  Am I right? $32 

3. Chez Moi - Books with style.  Ok, this may not be for everyone but I'm currently obsessed with making my home feel like home. This colorful book is filled with vibrant images and sketches full of inspiration to make your home a sanctuary away from the stresses of life.  Sarah Lavoine gave us 192 beautiful pages full of advice on everything from fashion to beauty and cooking all for the bargain price of $25. 

4. Nashelle personalized oversized heart pendant - not only is this my favorite piece of jewelry I own because it is the epitome of my style, but they are huge advocates about giving back.  They donate to numerous charities but the biggest thing they do is donate a plate of food for every single piece of jewelry sold through Feeding America.  So feel good about shopping because you're helping feed someone with each purchase.  My heart is engraved with J+H but their signature engraving is simply LOVE. Depending on the metal choice you can get this one of a kind piece for $38 or $105 for gold filled. (Mine is gold filled and I wear it at least 6 days a week.  Splurge for the good stuff, you'll thank me later.) 
USE CODE "PerfectLoves20" for 20% off your purchase through Valentines Day.

5. Diptyque Paris- limited edition Rosa Mundi votive- If this print looks familiar it's because it's the famous Domino paper by Antoinette Poisson and as if this wasn't enough to display this gorgeous candle in your home, it's paired with a limited edition fragrance by my favorite perfume maker, Dyptique.  Trust me on this one, it's worth it.  Smells bring back memories and this is a smell you want to remember. $68 

6. Ray-Ban double bridge aviator sunnies- The iconic Ray-Bans have stood the test of time, and aviators are always in style but these black and gold frames hit all the right latest trend marks.  Not too round, not too square, not too big and not too small, these will look good on all face shapes.  I know glasses are hard to buy for someone but these make it easy to win because they are super versatile. $175 

7. Eberjey Encajes Teddy - let's get personal for one hot second okay? I live for sweatpants, fluffy blankets and anything that I can get generally super cozy in. I've been wearing Cosabella panties since circa 2001, but the moment I found Eberjey my life changed.  For reals guys, this brand is full of the coziest, softest, airy fabrics your skin has ever felt. I own numerous panty sets from them but when I got married someone got me an eberjey teddy and I gladly threw my sweatpants to the side to experience the luxury of this pajama.  This teddy is an all in one, sexy, soft, luxurious, flattering and easy to wear pajama.  You'll look good, feel good and your man will love it also. I give you permission to buy this one for yourself.  Go ahead.  You deserve it. $97 

8. Hello Fresh food delivery- ok, this mom in stuff ain't easy...am I right? Where does the time go? Sometimes I look at the clock and it's 3 pm, my hair is in half falling top knot (not on fleek), I haven't showered, I'm still in my sweats, and I realize I have nothing to cook for dinner.  Hello Fresh to the rescue!  I wish I would have thought of this sooner! Life changing.  Fresh, healthy meals delivered to your door, with picture instructions that even your man can handle.  When we started this delivery service, the husband and I made a deal that one day a week he would be in charge of the cooking.  He obviously chooses the Hello Fresh delivery day as his night to cook every time! 
Use code HeidiJo30 for $30 off your first box.  

9. Bela Bracelets- "Wherever my hair ties go, I hope they're happy."   No, but seriously, why can't I ever find a hair tie when I need one?  Even though it's a necessity to have my hair up these days as a mom, I refuse to wear that elastic band on my wrist.  Avoid the dent in your arm and the eye sore by using these beauties.  Bela bracelets are dainty and stylish and they hide that band you so desperately need to have close by.  $25 

10. BloomThat -Flower delivery.  Seriously, who doesn't love fresh blooms? Bloom That delivers SAME DAY, just like Uber for flowers.  (limited SF area) or next day for the rest of the US.  Ashton Kutcher and Joe Montana invested in Bloom that because it's just that good.  The blooms are unique and on trend and their customer service is insane.  If you're sending flowers this year, use Bloom That, seriously. Oh, and ladies, they have some really cool succulent arrangements that your man would love, cause I believe men love surprise deliveries too! $32 and up
Ok, they don't really offer discounts but guess what- got you a hookup...ONE DAY ONLY until Feb 7th you get 15% off!

Use code PERFECTLOVES15  15% off your order

11. Mullein & Sparrow Pink Himalayan Bath salts- Bubble baths and bubbly are necessary to soothe the mind and body.  And with the right bath salts, like these, you'll slip into pure relaxation.  These Himalayan salts are made with all natural ingredients and the purest crystals that will replenish nutrients into the body, remove toxins, and aid in the relief of muscles, nerves, and joints. Ok...brb, gotta go start my own warm bath. $42 

12. Daniel Wellington Limited Edition Somerset Watch- Some words to describe a Daniel Wellington watch might start somewhere like perfection, end with timeless, and have minimalist and refined in between.  I bought my first DW almost 3 years ago and I still love it today. It's lightweight, easy to wear and literally takes my accessories game up a step.  The 36mm face size is big enough to stand out but it sits close to your wrist so it's also subtle.  They have tons of band choices and different metal choices, but this limited edition rose gold and navy has everything that speaks directly to my personal style. $199 

Use code PERFECT15 for 15% off

13. Sunday Dry Goods James-Turkish towel - I'm seriously obsessed with soft, and cozy things.  A warm pile of soft laundry and some carbs, and I'm in heaven.  Sunday Dry Goods literally has made all my dreams come true with this oversize super plush, deliciously soft bamboo towel.  The unique weave in this one makes it highly absorbant and the coziest ever.  If towels aren't your jam, they also have scarves, blankets, throws and yes,  pretty much everything they make is worth freaking out over.  $64`

13. Sunday Dry Goods James-Turkish towel - I'm seriously obsessed with soft, and cozy things.  A warm pile of soft laundry and some carbs, and I'm in heaven.  Sunday Dry Goods literally has made all my dreams come true with this oversize super plush, deliciously soft bamboo towel.  The unique weave in this one makes it highly absorbant and the coziest ever.  If towels aren't your jam, they also have scarves, blankets, throws and yes,  pretty much everything they make is worth freaking out over. 
$64`

14. MAST Brothers Smoke chocolate bar - Ok, Valentines Day isn't Valentines Day without chocolate.  If you go through the month of February without some form of chocolate in your life, you aren't fully living.  My husband has never had a sweet tooth (I know, it's annoying) but these MAST Brothers Chocolates are the way to anyone's heart, including his. Meet Smoke, this flavor features smoked coffee beans.  Yes, coffee and chocolate made out in a hipster eatery and had a baby with this one.  These $10 beautifully packaged bars are taking chocolate to a whole new place it has never been.  And if the taste is measured by its beauty alone, these bars would be pretty damn good.  Some of my other favorite flavors include Lavender, Lemongrass, Thyme, Olive Oil and Sea Salt...say what? Yum. $10 

14. MAST Brothers Smoke chocolate bar - Ok, Valentines Day isn't Valentines Day without chocolate.  If you go through the month of February without some form of chocolate in your life, you aren't fully living.  My husband has never had a sweet tooth (I know, it's annoying) but these MAST Brothers Chocolates are the way to anyone's heart, including his. Meet Smoke, this flavor features smoked coffee beans.  Yes, coffee and chocolate made out in a hipster eatery and had a baby with this one.  These $10 beautifully packaged bars are taking chocolate to a whole new place it has never been.  And if the taste is measured by its beauty alone, these bars would be pretty damn good.  Some of my other favorite flavors include Lavender, Lemongrass, Thyme, Olive Oil and Sea Salt...say what? Yum. $10 

15. Life Proper Messenger Bag - A woman's handbag is like her best friend, she never goes anywhere without it.  It's the most important accesory and a necessity for her daily life.  Finding the right bag can be hard.  But look no more.  This bag is it ladies.  I swear.  It's size is perfect.  It's highly functional and you can wear it with the cross body attachment for those on-the-go casual days or you can go for the bitchy-im cooler than you look and use the smaller hands to rest it in your elbow crack with your arm raised like your doing some curls, but your not. (what is that look anyway?)  They are designed using premium leather from ethically sourced houses, which creates a smooth leather finish and gives you all the feels of that new car smell.  You want this one.  I just know you do.  $270

Use code PERFECTLOVES20 for 20% until the 14th.

Diaper Bag Essentials any husband can understand.

What's in my diaper bag?  Some of my favorite things I never leave home without!  Every morning my routine includes, stocking up diaper essentials, food gear and snacks, and of course my own goodies.  My husband is always ready to leave long before I am because he doesn't do this task, ever.  So, I'm actually writing this post specifically for one person in my life, him.  He literally would have no idea what to put in the bag if I didn't put this list together.  I re-stock the bag every morning with all the essentials.   And every morning he asks me, "Do we really need all this stuff?" Yes, hubs, we REALLY need all this stuff. 

And packing is a breeze, thanks to my huge diaper bag, and my Totesavvy organizer.  Everything has a specific pocket it fits in and it literally is more organized than any bag I've ever owned & of course it has way more stuff in it than ever before.

I'm headed on a weekend away for a girls trip soon and leaving the Mr.man with the husband & I want to make sure Jason doesn't find himself at Trader Joes with a blow out diaper and no set of extra clothes, diapers or wipes.  Below I break it down for him pocket by pocket and category by category.

The Vessel: 

Obviously the most important part.   Of course, before the baby came I used my designer bags to carry my own stuff. And this bag was always full.  It's called the never full by LV, but they've never met a new mom like me who needs all newest, hottest gadgets and baby gear I could find.  Being in fashion I have always loved my designer bags and didn't want to exchange them out for "mom bag" so I used this one.  Before I found the Totesavvy it literally was a bottomless pit.  It didn't have compartments or pockets to actually organize all the stuff so it was just all piled high in there and overflowing all the time.  Using my Totesavvy is a dream and I have no idea how I carried this all before.

i'm in love with this top from @oliviajames_womensapparel and I think she has a few left and its under $50!!

i'm in love with this top from @oliviajames_womensapparel and I think she has a few left and its under $50!!

This organizer has so much space and it has enough pockets for everything to be organized by category.  Which I love, I'm one of those people who's a highlighter hoarder and I color codes my calendars, so you can imagine how happy this makes me. 

Totesavvy organizer by @lifeinplay. 

Totesavvy organizer by @lifeinplay. 

Pockets for everything from diaper changing gear, toys, snacks, and swaddles.   

Pockets for everything from diaper changing gear, toys, snacks, and swaddles.   

Diaper duty: 

⚫️ diapers

⚫️ wipes  

⚫️ powder and cream

⚫️ changing pad cover + swaddle

I always bring at least 3 diapers because you just never know, and there is nothing worse than not having diapers when you need them.  I also bring the rash cream just in case, although we haven't really needed to use it.  And we use baby powder at night because Finn sleeps 12 hours straight, and it helps absurd some of the moisture.  And since we've been exploring more beach days, the baby powder also comes in real handy for removing sand from the hard to reach crevasses.  Those rolls always end up hidden sand and if you sprinkle some powder on and wipe away, it makes it super easy and soft for babies skin.

I  also like to bring our favorite bamboo swaddle by @xovebaby.  It softer than any other swaddle I've found and it's actually bigger in size than most, so it's more like a blanket than a swaddle.  It's a dream.   Plus they are an absolutely amazing company who gives back.  For every swaddle purchase, they donate to a child in need.  

Eats:

⚫️  Swell bottle with filtered water- keeps the water warm for 24hrs! .... Seriously.

⚫️  formula dispenser

⚫️  bottles

⚫️  aiden + anes bamboo bib

⚫️ ola' baby teething spoon

⚫️ plum organics just Veggie puréed packets

⚫️ dried apples

Jason and I try and eat out at least once a week, like a mini date night.  And everyone says, once Finn is mobile it becomes super hard to go to a restaurant with babies.  So we try and take full advantage now before he's crawling.  But, that doesn't mean it easy right now.  Finn has wanted solid foods since he was 5 months.  Whatever we are having he wants.  We are in love with our Ola baby teething spoon! He can hold it and feed himself easily.  Plus it keeps him occupied even without food on the spoon because it doubles as a teether! This child of mine has two teeth on the bottom and currently working on the top two so our okay spoon is a must.  It also saves that valuable space in the diaper bag because it's two items in one!

Finn still gets 5 bottles a day so we always bring enough formula for 3 bottles, just in case we stay out longer or get stuck in traffic! Which happens often here in Northern California.  This swell bottle is literally a lifesaver when the Freeway comes to a dead stop, Finn starts screaming and we need a bottle asap.  He likes his bottles warm, so any bottle of water just won't do.  This bottle keeps the liquids hot (or cold) for 24hrs! Like not kidding...a whole day and it's still hot! I know this is a post about diaper bag essentials but, the big version of this bottle can also hold an entire bottle of wine. 😉 Just sayin...

We also bring snacks! The truth is, he still gets all those calories from his milk, and doesn't need any solids but, to help his pallet form, we try and give him some of our whatever we are eating. However, sometimes when I'm eating something like spicy tacos (I'm obsessed with Mexican food) it's too hot for him and we need things to keep him occupied while we eat.  Dried apples are amazing! He can suck on them for a long time which allows us time to gobble down our own meals without him trying to steal some bites.  And if we run out of formula, and he isn't into apples that day, I do bring the purée packs just in case.  He can hold the packet himself and can suck the purée out no problem, but he does get accidentally squeeze at the same time which means a bib is a must have item in our bag! I love the washable bibs from Aden + Anes, they aren't too small, easily fold up and they wash extremely well.

pheeww, that was a long one and no not all that fits in one pocket, but it was the food category so I lumped it all together.  

Extras: 

⚫️  change of clothes

⚫️  Grom squad hat

⚫️  sunnies

⚫️  sockies

Ok, so all of this is obviously explanatory, right?  So I'll take this opportunity to tell you guys a little story.  The husband is a last minute procrastinator about dinner decisions, and it's so annoying. He never tells me ahead of time what he is in the mood for, for dinner and never have all the ingredients.  The other night, I was frustrated and ran out of the house to run to trader joes to grab on onion because I was missing that ingredient due to my husband waiting until the 11th hour to tell me what he wanted.  I was in a rush so I just grabbed Finn out of the car seat, and carried him in my arms along with my wallet, and keys and the onion.  It was around 5:30pm, which is rush hour at TJs, so the lines were long.  As I stood 6 people deep in line I smelled Finn.  I knew it was happening, but not to what extent. I didn't have the diaper bag, I only had Finn.  As I finally approached the check out stand, the 20 something young guy behind the register just looked at me, and busted out with laughter,  no really.  Like laughter that makes you cry.  I couldn't help myself and started laughing as well.  It was all I could do as I stood there, covered in Finn's poop.  No seriously, covered.  Of course, I had my phone and snapped a pic for my husband,  images and text below.  Enjoy!   I hope this post helps you avoid this and many other things that could happen if your diaper bag isn't properly packed.   What's actually in my own bag and my favorite toys to bring along will be in the next blog.  Stay tuned!

 

Note the side of my shirt Finn is not on, that also has poop on it.  My arm got tired on one side, so I kept switching sides, and it was everywhere.

Note the side of my shirt Finn is not on, that also has poop on it.  My arm got tired on one side, so I kept switching sides, and it was everywhere.

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