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Toddler/Motherhood

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Toddler/Motherhood

Borrow Jewelry Before You Buy? Why Yes, Sign Me Up! (Plus Coupon Code!)

How many times have you purchased a piece of jewelry or accessory online only to not be completely happy with it when it arrives? Or spent a little bit more than you wanted for a piece and ended up only wearing the jewelry once or twice leaving you feeling like you wasted money?

Well allow me to introduce you to my latest obsession and something that will fix both of those problems! I'm going to enlighten you with the genius program that is called ROCKSBOX.



Rocksbox is a jewelry subscription service that lends you three pieces of jewelry at a time from top designers (like Kendra Scott and House of Harlow) that you wear and borrow as long as you like. If you fall completely in love with the jewelry, you can purchase the pieces you want at a discounted price and send back whatever you don't want. And the really cool part is that you can exchange your box as many times in a month as you want! For only $19 a month (no matter how many times you exchange), you can try out tons of cool jewelry and decide if its "you" before committing to a purchase. Rocksbox will also give you $10 credit each month that you can apply toward the purchase of jewelry if you end up wanting to own the piece.

Before I go too far, let me tell you that you can try out one month of Rocksbox for FREE just by entering the following code at checkout:

lindsaytolarxoxo




When you first sign up for Rocksbox, you can create a wishlist of items you would like to receive. You are then assigned a stylist who will look through your wishlist and profile to curate a box specifically for you. I was sent a Jill Michael layered chain bracelet, a Kendra Scott delicate necklace and some Perry Street glam earrings. I actually added the Perry Street glam earrings to my wishlist when I first signed up, but I ended up not liking them as much. I honestly thought they would be a bit bigger and more dramatic. They are still pretty, just not what I was looking for.

I loved the Jill Michael layered chain bracelet because I thought it looked just like me and would easily pair with other pieces I already own. I wore it several times, but later decided that I already had a few other pieces that resembled it, so I decided to send the bracelet back.

Finally, I was not really a fan of the delicate Kendra Scott necklace when I first opened my box. I thought it was pretty, but I'm more of a statement necklace girl and wasn't too sure about it. However, after a few days I decided to give it a try and actually ended up LOVING it. This necklace is unlike anything I currently own and I actually liked how I was given the option of experimenting with jewelry before I made a commitment. This delicate necklace could be worn on its own for a dressed down look and it also paired really nicely with other necklaces for a more layered look.

If you are familiar with Rent the Runway and Stichfix, I would say this is a mixture of both of those companies but specifically for jewlery/accessories. My favorite aspect of Rocksbox is that you get to try something out and if you like it you can buy it; if you don't like it send it back! And since you get a month free by using the code lindsaytolarxoxo at checkout, why wouldn't you at least try it? And shipping is included (both ways)! So at least check it out!

Rocksbox is great if you have a big event coming up, because you can borrow some new jewelry and maybe even glam up your look and if you end up not wanting to wear the piece again, just return it!

rocksbox_bracelet
rocksbox_earrings
rocksbox_delicate_necklace
rocksbox_layered_necklace

If you have any questions, Rocksbox has a really great FAQ page full of information. 
2

High Five For Friday


After the tragic events that occurred this week, it is more important than ever for me to find the goodness in my simple weeks. What a week it has been!

1.) I received my first box from Rocksbox and I love it!!!! I know I've teased you with it before and next week I will give you full details on Rocksbox. To get your first month free, enter code lindsaytolarxoxo at checkout!

2.) K is a worship leader in training! After church on Sunday, she wanted to sing with the microphone and gave us all a great rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

3.) I found this quote on instagram and think it is brilliant and so true!
"You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful - or where you always wanted to be. You will be grateful that things didn't work out the way you once wanted them to."

4.) K and her sweet friend, Emmy, get to hang out a lot together because Tolar and Emmy's parents play on our church softball team. The girls do everything together at the softball games and it is adorable to watch.

5.) Have you tried Larabars before? I just discovered them and I am in love. They are a healthy, clean bar that satisfies me when I'm hungry. Yum-o!



I'm linking up with Bright on a Budget, September Farm and Meet @ the Barre.
4

Trying To Make Sense...

Yesterday an incredibly tragic act of violence happened to a news station in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia. I assume most of you have heard about it, but to sum it up really quickly, a disgruntled ex-employee of WDBJ7 (local CBS affiliate) shot and killed a reporter and photo journalist on live tv. LIVE TV. He also wounded another woman who was being interviewed by the reporter.

Shock.

Shock is the word that I felt after yesterday's events. How could something like this happen? Again? Why did this type of event keep happening? Why is there so much hate in the world?

I found myself thinking about my daughter and the world in which she might grow up. All too often I have wished we lived in a different time, when things were simpler and people loved each other more. When fatal shootings didn't become a monthly thing that you heard about on the news.

Hurting people hurt people. It is a sad sentence, but oh so true. Yesterday's events show me that this world needs love. This world needs prayer. This world needs Jesus. We have removed God from our lives, He isn't allowed in the places where He is needed most. Evil is getting the upper hand and it is time that we do something about it.

Let's love each other better. Let's love each other more. We are all human, we ALL make mistakes. People need grace and they need love. God's love. Let's go out and just love the heck out of people.

You never know what someone is going through. That person who just cut you off on the interstate? They might have just received some tragic news themselves and are trying like crazy to get off the road and get to their loved ones...you just don't know. That person needs love, not a bad reaction, no matter what they are going through. Trust me, I'm the first one to admit that I am quick to react sometimes; I know it is hard, but instead of rushing to condemn or call someone a name, we should simply stop and pray for them. Because they clearly need it.

I don't have answers to a lot of things. I have no clue why the events of yesterday had to happen.
But here is what I do know:
I refuse to allow my daughter to live in fear, wondering what type of world she will inherit. I WILL raise my daughter to be a light for this world. I WILL continue to raise her to love others, to care for others, to pray for others. I WILL teach her that the way to handle a disagreement is not with violence, but by simply praying for the person who caused you pain. I WILL teach her that bad things do happen, but our God is bigger than all of that.

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (New Living Translation)


5

My Party's On Instagram



Sometimes life gets a little busy and I don't always have time to crank out blog posts for Monday through Friday. I'm sure you noticed that some this summer when I had several days off. As K grows and it seems that days pass by in an instant, I'm really trying to be present in life. It is important for me to spend as much time with my family and friends as I can. So I might take some time off from the blog occasionally. But rest assured, I won't go far. In fact, I will always keep the party alive on Instagram. Why don't you come play and join me on instagram?



If I don't have time for a blog post, I will definitely have a couple minutes to post a fun snapshot from our day. I take pictures every single day and love that instagram lets me remember everything.

Here's what I've been up to over on instagram:
-sharing a yummy protein shake recipe
-giving the people what they want and sharing a ton of Baby K photos
-talking about my new obsession with Rocksbox (don't worry, info coming soon - use code lindsaytolarxoxo to get your first month FREE)
-showcasing K's beautiful hair
-remembering good times
-having FUN!






2

Caring for Your Jewelry

Accessories and jewelry, my forte.

My jewelry collection over the years has grown rather large and instead of letting everything form a big heap of a mess, I like to keep everything neat and organized. Awhile ago I blogged about how I organize everything in an unconventional, yet pretty way. Today I'd like to share how I keep everything clean and looking its best.

Here are my tips on how to take care of your jewelry.

-Store it. When everything has its place, it is easier for you to find what you need at a glance.
I hang my statement necklaces on a fingertip towel holder, display my statement bracelets on a cake stand and then store my more delicate pieces in a jewelry stacker inside my dresser.


-Keep everything dry. Don't allow liquids to come into contact with your jewelry. By following the storage tip, you can save your jewelry from accidentally getting spilled on. Also, take all of your jewelry off before you shower or swim. Keeping everything dry will keep your jewels sparkling like they are supposed to. And you won't have to worry about losing anything either.

-Clean your jewels. A microfiber cloth works really well on virtually everything. You can wipe away dirt and grime. I bought a two-cloth cleaning system; one cloth cleans and one cloth polishes. I also use liquid jewelry cleaner for my precious pieces. Regularly cleaning your jewelry will keep everything looking new - just don't overdo it. (Tip: don't clean your jewelry in the bathroom because you might accidentally drop something down the sink!)

-Put your jewelry on last. If you are like me and wear makeup, perfume or hairspray (I wear a lot of hairspray) you should always leave your jewelry off until you are finished. Particles from your makeup can make your jewelry dirty and the perfume or hairspray might cause discoloration. Get ready first, then put on your jewelry. For me, its the last thing I do before I leave the house.

-Use a travel bag. Instead of just throwing my jewelry and accessories in plastic bag, I like to use a divided jewelry organizer for my things when I travel. This helps keep my delicate necklaces from getting tangled and also keeps me organized: the earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces are all grouped together so I can easily find them. It makes unpacking a breeze too!

travel_bag_for_jewelry




0

High Five For Friday


We had a great week with some great successes! Here's the top moments:

1.) It was my Aunt's birthday this week so K and I went to pick up a balloon to take to her work. While picking up the birthday balloon, K made a new Minion friend.

2.) I am in love with the awesome toddler feeding sets from Re-Play. Thanks to the good people at Re-Play, I get to give away a set to one of you...click here to see the original post and to enter the giveaway. 

3.) My sweet friend Tammy (she blogs over at blithe, a blog - check her out) introduced me to the app PicTapGo and it has completely changed my instagram game.

4.) Wednesday was 79 cent slushie day at Sonic, so you better believe we headed over there to get some. Sometimes you just gotta live a little and indulge.

5.) Last weekend we potty trained K using the 3-day method and it was a HUGE success. To celebrate we took K out for ice cream, but she decided that apple slices were the better treat for her! (I plan to blog about our potty training experience once we have a few more days under our belt - stay tuned!)



I'm linking up this post with September Farm, Bright on a Budget and Meet @ the Barre.
3

Taking Care of your Grandparents and Loved Ones

Grandparents. For most people, their grandparents mean the world to them. Grandparents start out as caregivers, become amusing people who offer a retreat from your own parents/life and then later they hold a special place in your heart that no one can replace. I had such special relationships with all four of my grandparents and consider my life so much better because they were a part of it. The memories that I shared and created with my grandparents fill me with so many warm fuzzies - I would have done anything for them. I hope there are many other people out there who feel the same way about their grandparents.

Both of my grandmothers outlived their husbands and during their later years in life, they needed around-the-clock care. For the most part, that care fell to my uncle, my aunt and both of my incredible parents. Because of his experience caring for his own parents, I am so proud of my Dad for joining the Board of the Pulaski Adult Day Service & Fall Prevention Center.

The Pulaski Adult Day Service & Fall Prevention Center is exactly what it sounds like: a daycare for adults. They don't just specialize in elderly day care, they also have care available for any adult, age 18 and older, who might have mental or physical disabilities and cannot be left alone. As part of the adult day care, they will offer:
-Therapeutic programs and activities
-Health monitoring and medication management, all by health care professionals
-Nutritious meals, socialization, exercise and activities
-Education and support programs for family caregivers

They also plan to offer Fall Prevention training where they assess any problem areas in a client's house, provide bone densitometer scans and offer classes, activities and programs to reduce the risk of falls.

Put yourself in a situation that numerous people face in today's world. Your elderly parent can no longer stay by themselves, yet you are unable to uproot your career to provide around-the-clock care. And in-home care is too expensive for your budget. Enter the Pulaski Adult Day Service. Their services are more economical, fitting into a tighter budget, and still provide the quality care that your family member will need - giving you peace of mind. Not to mention, your family member will be around other people, getting the interaction that they need instead of sitting at home like a vegetable.

This center is set to open in Pulaski County, Viriginia in the Spring of 2016. As a nonprofit organization, they are currently raising the funds to open the center and to be able to provide the excellent care that so many people in our community need. If you feel so compelled, click this link to learn how you can donate to the cause.


I certainly hope more centers like this open up nationwide. This is something that I know could serve the population as a whole and offer peace and stability to so many.




1

Favorite Children's Clothing

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Carter’s. I received a complimentary gift card to facilitate my review and thank me for my participation. All opinions are completely my own.


Back_To_School_Carters


Last fall, I went out to lunch with my girlfriend Debbie and we naturally started chatting about our children. Debbie asked me what clothing brand was my favorite for K. My answer? CARTER'S! And I most definitely still feel this way almost one year later. Their clothing is so colorful and cute!

I've loved Carter's clothing for children since before K was even born. I often found myself shopping there when I was looking for a baby shower gift or in the mood to spoil my nephew. The patterns and designs that they offer are so adorable, I just couldn't pass anything up. Print a cute little animal on the bottom of some pants and throw in some bright colors and you have found the perfect recipe to get me to purchase your baby clothing. With so many versatile pieces and great construction of the clothing, Carter's will continue to be our favorite store for clothes even as K gets older.

To prepare for the upcoming fall (and back-to-school) season, K and I made a stop at Carter's to pick up some new clothes. I love the start of a new season because that means that we get to shop for new, fun clothes. Normally, my mom and I will go shopping and pick out things that we like. This time, I took K along and asked her to help - I want to give her a chance to wear clothes that she likes.

Besides cute clothing, Carter's understands the need for a coordinated closet. They offer so many pieces of clothing that can be paired/matched with numerous other pieces - both for babies and kids. This fall, they have quite the selection of leggings, tunics and tops that all mix and match. In fact, I couldn't help myself and purchased just about every pair of leggings they had. With a great deal going on (2 or more leggings for $6 each - through August 31) plus great colors and patterns, of course I had to buy a lot! And K LOVED the leggings with the polka dots. I'm training her right, she already knows that you can never go wrong with polka dots.

Besides the great clothing they offer, I love that Carter's really takes care of their customers. They offer a play area for the little ones so Mom and Dad can do their shopping and there was even an activity center by the register. K is normally a pretty good shopper, but if there is something that can keep her occupied while I'm checking out that definitely makes us both happier. And now, Carter's offers clothing up to size 8 and shoes up to 3y, which means that we will be shopping at Carter's for a long time!


Take some cues from Carter's fashion and create Mommy and Me outfits this fall! Here are my tips:

-Mix patterns. Floral and polka dots are a great combo for pattern mixing.
-Wear bright colors.
-Dress down an outfit by wearing tennis shoes with a cute, casual dress.
-Don't be afraid to add some army green/camo print to your wardrobe.
-Remember the golden rule: two plains and a fancy!

Carters_dress
Carters_pink_shirt
Carters_Super_Awesome
Carters_collage
Carters_store



Use this awesome coupon to shop online now or to get a great deal of savings in the store!
Carters_coupon


I'm linking up this post with The Pleated Poppy and Going the Distance.
8

My Travel Bucket List


Traveling is such an incredible past time and something I have been fortunate enough to experience a lot in my life time (thank you for allowing me to go to Europe when I was 15, Mom and Dad). I love all of the sights, sounds, tastes and opportunities you get to experience by traveling. Tolar and I really enjoying traveling together (thank goodness) and definitely hope to pick up our traveling again very soon.

Since we've been together we have taken a Bahamian cruise, honeymooned in Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice), celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary in Hawaii, traveled to Vegas with Tolar's family, celebrated Halloween in Boston (and Salem!), took K on her first trip to Disney World and visited Philadelphia, NYC and Seattle. And of course some other states have been thrown in there along the way. Tolar has even crossed a fun item off his bucket list and has visited all 50 states - which he achieved by the time he was 30! 

As we enter the second and final year of what I like to call our "transition" season, I find myself daydreaming about things we will be able to do again after this season. And travel tops the list! So I put together a list of places I would like to visit in my lifetime. These are in no particular order, just places that I find fascinating/would like to one day visit.

1.) Greece
2.) Scotland
3.) San Francisco
4.) New Orleans
5.) Australia
6.) Alaska (Tolar has been twice since we've been married - I really want to go)
7.) Mexico
8.) Take another cruise to anywhere!
9.) Amsterdam
10.) Chicago (even though Tolar's family lives in Southern Illinois, I have never made it to Chicago)
11.) Thailand
12.) Morocco
13.) Niagara Falls
14.) Maine


3

Re-Play: Colorful and Fun Feeding Sets for Children (+ A Giveaway)

I received complimentary feeding sets from Re-Play to facilitate my review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Children can be picky eaters, yes? That is something that I have heard over and over and over. Luckily, K is a pretty good eater and does eat a variety of foods. However, in an attempt to encourage her to remain a good eater, I've always tried to make meal time fun. The easiest way for me to do that is to offer dinnerware/feeding sets with fun colors and shapes.

Recently, I discovered Re-Play; which are feeding sets that come in a variety of colors and are hands-down the most durable set of children's dishes I've ever used. The colors are bright and vibrant and really appeal to toddlers. A really cool thing about Re-Play is that the products are made from recycled milk jugs, so I feel really good about using them.

When searching for the perfect plate for K to use, I have always gravitated toward divided plates. Before she could really talk, we worked on sign language. Having a divided plate worked nicely with that, because if K wanted "more" of a particular food then she could point to the slot on her plate that contained what she wanted. And I know that a lot of children (and some adults) don't like their food to touch so divided plates are the perfect solution.

Re-Play has quite the collection of products: divided plates, utensils, cups, bowls and snack stacks. All of these products come in bright colors, allowing your toddler to get excited about meal time. We love to give K the option to pick her color before we eat. This gives her a sense of being independent and in control.

Besides the bright colors and extreme durability (they just WON'T break!!!), there are so many other reasons why I love Re-Play products:
-the divided plates are stackable
-dishwasher safe
-tested for safety to meet FDA strict purity standards
-no-spill cups
-extremely affordable
-easy to find (you can purchase them on the Re-Play website, on Amazon or at Wal-Mart, Kroger and Whole Foods)
-utensils fit easily into tiny hands
-K gets really excited about meal time when she sees me pulling out her Re-Play feeding sets
-there is a giveaway below (scroll down)




*********************************
GIVEAWAY!!!!
Because the people at Re-Play are so amazing, they are giving YOU a chance to win your very own feeding set. Each feeding set includes a divided plate, no-spill cup and a pair of utensils (fork and spoon). So you can see for yourself just how awesome these products are. 

To enter, all you have to do is use the Rafflecopter below and follow Re-Play on some social media channels. You can enter with just one entry or all of them - the choice is yours!




a Rafflecopter giveaway
2

High Five For Friday

Happy Friday everyone! We are starting to potty train Baby K today, so let me tell you I definitely want to concentrate on the good moments I just had in the last week. I'm anxious, yet excited about how this potty training thing will go.

Jumping into it, here are the fun moments from the past week.


1.) My youngest cousin got married and we had a great time at his wedding down in Atlanta. It was so great to see family and spend the night laughing together.

2.) While in Atlanta we took Baby K to the World of Coca Cola. She wasn't interested in much that they had to offer, only two things - bubbles and the Polar Bear. And she was so excited to meet the Polar Bear!

3.) At my cousin's wedding, K danced all. night. long. She didn't want to do anything but dance; the offer of cake didn't even help her to leave the dance floor. I was super happy to learn that she loved to dance so much.

4.) Earlier this week I posted A Beginner's Guide to Increasing Your Instagram Following and I received some terrific feedback from people. I'm pretty proud of the post and everything I have done to grow my following since February - check it out here if you missed it!.

5.) Isn't this the sweet picture of friends? K and her friend Emmy shared a cute moment under the umbrella earlier this week. I love that K is starting to develop friendships!



I'm linking up this post with Bright on a Budget, September Farm and Meet @ the Barre.
3

The Day Designer

Day_Designer


I am a planner, through and through. I schedule everything and I'm basically the opposite of what society says my age group should be. I hardly ever do anything on the fly; I typically have my days and weeks mapped out well in advance. (Although since moving to Dublin, we have enjoyed a slower pace of life, allowing us to be more spontaneous and not so scheduled.)

When I used to work full time, I kept my Outlook calendar updated constantly and synced it with my iphone. If something wasn't in my calendar it didn't exist (and yes, I even once scheduled spontaneous time in my calendar - which resulted in my getting engaged!!!!). However, since I no longer work full time, I don't have the luxury of Outlook anymore (yep, good ol' gmail for me!). I discovered The Day Designer by Whitney English last summer and loved it all year long - I purchased the August-July edition. So when my planner came to an end in July, I didn't hesitate to buy another one.

There are so many reasons why I love The Day Designer, and the biggest reason is because it keeps me so organized! I love that there are pages for each day as well as a month at a glance. I use the day pages the most because each day is broken down by hour, this allows me to map out how I want my day to look. I tend to put my to-do list in my daily calendar, just to make sure I actually allot time to accomplish each task. And yes, I schedule my workouts and daily cleaning activity!

The Day Designer has so much space where I can keep track of everything: what we are having for dinner that night, what my blog post for the day will be, my to-do list and notes. In the notes section, I like to write down extra information that I may need that day (i.e. a phone number or address for a location we are heading, a twitter handle or hashtag if I'm participating in a twitter party, anything!). I also love that on the Saturday/Sunday pages there is a portion at the bottom where you can see all of the days for the next week, this is where I like to actually plan out what meals we will have each night.

In addition to the incredible organization that The Day Designer provides, I love that there is an inspirational quote on every page. The positivity keeps me going on days when I have a lot on my plate. There is also a section to record a daily gratitude - I never used this section in my planner last year, but I think I will this year. It will be fun to look back later and see what instances made me happy - kind of like a gratitude journal.

I know there are a lot of other planners out there, but The Day Designer has served me well, so I didn't feel a need to try any others. And thank goodness the company shipped me a new one when the USPS failed to deliver my first one to me. Those first eight days of August were kind of miserable without my lifelife planner. But I've recovered and I am happily mapping out our lives! :)

Day_Designer_Planner
Day_Designer_Daily
Day_Designer_stripes
Day_Designer_Month




1

Clean Eating Recipe: Salmon Pasta

Salmon_Pasta


Clean Eating is something I first started following back in February when my sister invited me to join her in a week-long clean eating challenge. I don't follow a strictly clean eating diet, I still allow myself to have fun, but Tolar and I are really trying to add as many clean eating recipes to our menu as we can.

And today I'm so happy to share one of our favorites. This Salmon Pasta dish is not only healthy and delicious, but it is also VERY easy to make. With my jam packed life, having an easy dish to serve for dinner is very important.

Salmon Pasta

Ingredients:

9 oz whole wheat pasta
Olive Oil
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 bunch asparagus
10 oz cooked Salmon (you can use fresh Salmon from the store and bake it at home, but for a really easy and quick dinner I use Salmon pouches)
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Directions:
-In a large pot, boil the pasta according to package directions. Drain water in colander and set aside.
-While the pasta is boiling, chop up the asparagus and steam for 15 minutes.
-Dice the onion and green pepper and saute in the large pot with olive oil (I use about 2 TB).

-Once the veggies are soft, pour the pasta back into the pot.
-Add steamed asparagus and salmon. Stir.

-Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes depending on your likes. 
-Serve and enjoy.
Serves 6

clean_eating_salmon
clean_eating_salmon_pasta
salmon_pasta_clean_eating


2

A Beginner's Guide To Increasing Your Instagram Following

Instagram...my absolute favorite of all of the social media sites available.

I've always been drawn to pictures, even when scrolling through my facebook feed, so when instagram hit the market I was ALL about it. Except that I just used it as a simple social media account and didn't even think about running my instagram like a business. However, my instagram account is an extension of this blog so I realized back around February that I should be running my instagram account like a business. And in that time I have doubled my instagram following!

I am by no means an expert, I'm just sharing the best tips that have worked for me.
So I present to you...A Beginner's Guide To Increasing Your Instagram Following.



1.) Take good pictures and edit them.
It sounds simple and like common sense, but I didn't really pay attention to the composition of my pictures all that much. I would snap something and post it and wound up having my feed look like a mess. Then I started paying attention to the instagram feeds that I really enjoyed and realized that they all had a cohesive feel to them. So I started practicing my camera skills with my phone and worked on getting the best picture possible.
And now I edit every single photo I post. Sometimes I don't do a lot, but every picture does get edited a bit and all of my photos now have the same filter applied - to give my feed its very own cohesive feel. I LOVE the app Afterlight to edit all of my photos. It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but once I played around with it, I found what filters and editing tools I like to use.

Basically, you want to create a feed that people will enjoy scrolling through and grainy/bad lighting/funny colored photos are not that appealing.

2.) Use Hashtags. #duh
I have loved hashtags for awhile, even before instagram, but I always preferred the "ironic" (read: ironic only to me) hashtags over actual ones. Big mistake. Creating a fun/ironic hashtag every time I posted a picture wasn't doing much for me. Yeah, it would be fun to be silly, but people are not searching instagram for #thankgoodnesssheisntallergic and #bringonthebreadandherbmix. Nope, people are searching for hashtags that apply to their life.
Here are some popular hashtags that get used a lot that I can easily apply to my own photos:
#love
#life
#toddlers
#momlife

I started using actual hashtags and have gotten several new followers every. single. day. I recommend that you search in instagram for hashtags that apply to your life and see how popular they are. And then start using them. It is very rare for me to post a pic without a hashtag.

3.) Interact.
Yeah, the affirmation that comes with running an instagram account is great, but it doesn't do much for relationship building if all you do is read your comments and view your likes. Instead, why don't you actually interact with people. I always comment back to the people who leave me comments. And when I see the same people liking my photos all the time, I will visit their feeds and show them some love. In fact, I've discovered several feeds that I now love because they started liking my photos first. Take it a step further, instead of just liking photos, leave a good comment on photos that you really like. And I don't mean that you should comment "great pic" instead say why you like the photo so much. Trust me, the user you are complimenting will really enjoy reading your honesty.

4.) Post regularly and pay attention to when you are posting.
I try to post at least three times a day when I know people are active: first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and around 8 p.m. (when kids are in bed and parents can now have time for themselves). Check out iconosquare and you can actually view which days and times give you the most interaction with your followers. (click on statistics, then optimization to see the best days and times)

5.) Consistently take photos and plan.
It was very hard for me to get out of the mindset of "instagram means instant/what's happening right now." Now that I use instagram as a business, the majority of my photos that I post were not taken and immediately uploaded (some still are). Instead I take photos of everything and I mean everything. Then I keep a folder on my phone titled "upcoming instas" and will scroll through there and find a photo that fits the mood or sentiment I want to get across.

6.) Tag businesses in your photos.
Are you working with a company/brand and helping to promote their product? Did you just buy something that you really love? Well tag that company! I purchased a hat from Ollie Marie Boutique and just happened to be wearing it in a photo that I posted to my account. The description I was using with the photo had nothing to do with Ollie Marie Boutique, but I still tagged Ollie Marie Boutique in the photo in case people wondered where I bought the hat. Well Ollie Marie Boutique loved the photo so much that they reposted the pic to their feed AND tagged me in it - which brought me new followers.


So there you have it, these are the tips that have worked the best for me. My following grows everyday because I pay attention to what I post.

Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Or have any questions about the above? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments and I will be sure to respond.

Oh and go follow me on instagram! (But no judging my feed by the photos before February!)


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Up In The Gym, Working On My Fitness

We all know that the best way to lose weight and get fit is to work out and watch what you eat. I have personally found that to be what DOES work for me. Although I have struggled to get the body I want ever since I had Baby K. I've had the best of intentions and tried a lot of things and about six weeks ago I realized what would really help me...

...encouragement and accountability.



Six weeks ago I was at my in-laws, squeezing myself into a bathing suit everyday and absolutely hated the way I looked. And then I realized, with the exception of 2008 (when I was basically starving myself, so I was still miserable), I have always hated my appearance. Why on earth am I allowing myself to be "ok" with hating the way I look? I've talked on here before about how I want to teach my daughter to love her body and to teach her a healthy lifestyle and I've tried my hardest to do that. And I think I have finally found something that I really want to stick with.

I discovered Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guides (BBG) on instagram and I am hooked! Basically the guides are designed for women to workout at home and use their own body for weighted exercises. Instead of just doing cardio, BBG focuses on strength training and cardio with a healthy/clean diet. But the guides alone really are not what has done it for me - I've done a lot of these exercises before and didn't see much change and therefore I wouldn't stick with the program. What has really made me enjoy the program and stick with it is the community! I'm now six weeks in (one free week of workouts plus 5 weeks of the guides) and don't see myself stopping.

I encourage you to check out the following hashtags on instagram to find motivation:
#bbg
#bbggirls
#kaylasarmy
#bbgcommunity
#deathbykayla
#bbgprogress

There are a TON of women on instagram who follow the guides and encourage each other daily. I really loved that there were pictures of real women, women who looked like me when they started and then transformed their bodies. The community of BBG is incredible and has kept me motivated, encouraged and even held me accountable. I actually look forward to my workout because I cannot wait for what my after photo will look like. I've started to see some changes and that is definitely keeping me excited about the program.

The one thing I really want you to take away from this post today is to find community in whatever workout you do. I truly believe that has been the biggest difference for me this time around. I've tried other workouts and even talked about them on here, but I never really stuck with them. This community is what changed that for me. So find your community, find the people that you want to surround yourself with and start encouraging each other. That will take your workouts to a whole 'nother level.


(In addition to completing the guides, I'm also starting a plank challenge with some of my friends TODAY. We are all going to hold each other accountable and at the end of 30 days be able to hold a plank for 5 minutes. I'm nervous about that, but excited to try it.)

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High Five For Friday



What a whirlwind week this has been! Hey Friday!
Here are the top moments from our week:

1.) Lots of tea parties were had this week. And we invited the "super hero" cow from Chick Fil A to join us. (K thinks the cow is a super hero since he has a "cape")

2.) I threw a music themed baby shower for my dear friend Jessi. It was so much fun and I was very pleased with how everything came together. My friends, Andrea and Liann who helped put the shower together, completely wowed me with their party planning skills!

3.) I loved the table decor for my cousin's rehearsal dinner and I cannot wait until the wedding tonight to see everything else!

4.) This pic of the three of us was taken at my cousin's rehearsal dinner. I'd say this pic pretty much sums up our life at the present moment. :)

5.) For our small group on Sunday, we went swimming and had pizza - the perfect night. K ate 2 1/2 pieces all by herself! That's my girl.







I'm linking up this post with Style Elixir, Bright on a Budget, Meet @ the Barre and September Farm.
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One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

It's a puzzle to me that two things can seem so similar, but in actuality they are completely different. And it is quite funny to me that I actually prefer one thing over another that seems so similar. Please tell me I'm not alone.

one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other


Let me give you some examples (and random facts about myself) to explain:

- I LOVE tomatoes, tomato sauce and especially ketchup. My roommate in college used to tell me that I basically drink ketchup because I love it so much. But I cannot stand tomato soup.

- Cucumbers are delicious to me! I could eat them everyday. But offer me a pickle and I go running in the other direction! And funny thing, Tolar LOVES pickles, but hates cucumbers. I guess we are a perfect match. :)

- I really love gold accents; i.e. my new blog design, gold foil stationery, gold lettering on tshirts. But I really don't like gold jewelry. I'm a white gold and sterling silver kind of girl.
(side note: I'm thinking of updating my blog design just a bit to stay true to my name, but I really like the gold)

-Rustic home decor most often catches my attention, if it has burlap then I love it! However, I definitely consider myself a city girl.

- Hearing people chew is one of my pet peeves; it's silly I know. I really can't stand to hear anyone chew, now even myself...except for Baby K. It is the cutest thing to watch and listen to her chew.


Please tell me I'm not the only one!



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Print Your Photos with Minted's Custom Art

minted_photos

It is no secret, I ADORE photos. And I especially love professional photos and think it is important to hire someone to document exciting times during your life.

But here is my problem...I invest in having a professional photographer take our photos, I share them on facebook and on my blog and then I'm done. I don't print and frame our photos as often as I would like (even though I have the grandest of intentions) - with the exception of our wedding photos, I printed the heck out of those!

My dear friend Heather is a VERY talented photographer. Years ago she took some photos for Tolar and I because I wanted a good photo for our Christmas card. Well I am embarrassed to admit that the ONLY photo that ever got printed from the incredible photo session we had with her (click here to see them!) was the photo that made our Christmas card. Until now...

Minted came to my rescue. Did you know that Minted has so much more than just stationery and Christmas cards? They also have custom art prints which are BEAUTIFUL. There are so many prints to choose from and you can customize them all with photos of you and your family.

I instantly fell in love with the XOXO / Hugs and Kisses art print. I use XOXO as my signature on virtually everything, so I felt like this art was made for me. Also, when I started selecting photos for the print, I LOVED how the photo on the bottom "O" fit so perfectly with the curve in my back.

The XOXO is a unique way to showcase four different photos instead of just using the same, boring 5x7 rectangle frame. And because of the unique display, this piece is definitely a conversation stater. :) I decided that my poor desk needed a little dressing up, so I placed this piece there - maybe it will give me some inspiration too. I previously purchased this incredible Heart Snapshot Mix from Minted and really love it too. I plan to eventually hang both of these prints together on the wall above my desk.

I selected the 11x11 size for both of the prints that I have, but there are so many more size options. The flexibility of the size options makes it fun to plan a gallery wall. And speaking of gallery walls, all of the custom art prints would fit nicely into any gallery wall. There are so many options: from collages, to state prints, to single prints with a little flair of design, there is definitely something for every taste.

One final thing, the quality of the prints is on point. Everything is printed on museum quality paper, so you know that you treasured photos will stand the test of time.


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