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!

IMG_0966.JPG

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:


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. 

 

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.

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.  

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.

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!

8F296636-1847-4BF1-846E-40B9C6C7E9BD.JPG

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-

FullSizeRender.jpg

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!)

CANVA COLOR PALETTE GENERATOR

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-

FullSizeRender.jpg

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-

FullSizeRender.jpg

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.

IMG_0766.JPG

TOP 5 TIPS ON STARTING A BLOG & 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.

4557D681-DA41-4BE8-B4F8-D33271331E74.JPG

A little about me.  

26841285-DCB1-49E0-A6E8-39ECAFEDDE3E.JPG

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!"  

8D9A6D2B-FA3D-4F89-B77E-7035D7E44100.JPG

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.


8F296636-1847-4BF1-846E-40B9C6C7E9BD.JPG

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

stylish home.jpg
DSC07224.JPG
DSC06817.JPG

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

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

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.

IMG_0501.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

 

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. 

 

FullSizeRender.jpg

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.

FullSizeRender.jpg
DSC07484.JPG

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.  

DSC07145.JPG
DSC07050.JPG
DSC06899.JPG

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.

DSC06807.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

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!

FullSizeRender.jpg

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!

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

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.  

FullSizeRender.jpg

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.

DSC07198.JPG
DSC06913.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg
DSC06926.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg
DSC07093.JPG
DSC06798.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

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.

image.jpg