Why I Got Rid of All My Notebooks

decluttering as a writer

I've been receiving notebooks as gifts for as long as I can remember. Well, as long as I was telling people I wanted to be a writer. Notebooks are easy gifts: they can be beautiful, they can be practical, and it's an easy writing accessory that everyone understands. 

As someone who has kept a journal my entire life, these notebook gifts have been a blessing, honestly. I've rarely had to buy my own journals, especially if someone goes above-and-beyond and gives me a Moleskine for Christmas. However, it also has meant that I've always had a surplus of notebooks. 

In fact, this surplus started to get really embarrassing when I was pregnant. I unearthed a box of blank notebooks while getting organized and cleaning out Forrest's room. I had a stack of empty notebooks on my desk, on the bookshelf in my office, in a drawer under my desk... I had notebooks. I had notebooks upon notebooks. I had more notebooks than I would ever use in my life. Why? Because I cannot hand write fiction, or poetry, or anything. The only thing I use notebooks for is journaling. And a girl can only journal so much. 

It was time to bite the bullet. I always wanted to be the kind of person who could quietly sit with a notebook and write a story. At least get out the bare bones of it. I like journaling by hand and I like taking notes; I like writing out my grocery lists and to do lists. But trying to describe something, to actually write, by hand is a huge challenge for me. I know myself well enough now to know that it's just never going to happen. That's fine! 

So I had to get rid of all those notebooks. 

Some of them were beautiful, and expensive. Some of them I had bought myself, sure that the "right notebook" would spur my creativity. Some were cheap ones I'd bought in the last days of School Supply sales. Some were gifts. Some were party favors, or I received free from work. 

They all went. Into a box, that went to Goodwill, that hopefully sold them to someone who needed them, who can actually write in a notebook. It felt weird to let go of them, to let go of the idea of the kind of person I thought I could try to be. 

5 Tips to Make Working from Home Easier

working from home with toddler

It's easy to think that working from home will be, well, easy. You're in the comfort of your own home. You can stay in your pajamas. You can eat a real breakfast, drink as much coffee as you want, lounge in bed as you look at spreadsheets. 

Reality sets in promptly the first time you try to work from home. At least for me. The moment I started working from home a lot (when I was pregnant with Forrest, primarily), it's like everything in my house became way more... distracting. I worked from home an average of 2 or 3 days a week when I was pregnant, thanks in part to exhaustion, preeclampsia, and morning sickness. There were days where it felt like I could not focus and, of course, days where I got everything I needed done completed so I could wallow in bed and try not to throw up again. 

I don't work from home anymore. Why? Well, working from home with a toddler is near impossible. (If you somehow achieve this, I need your secrets.) I do work from home if Forrest is at my mom's or daycare, like when I was sick in March. 

If you're thinking of starting to take some work from home days, these tips are for you. 

1. Have a "I'm working" spot. 

And I don't mean the desk where you normally charge your computer. I've always been a person who has a desk where I spend most of my evenings, but I know this is becoming less and less common. However, when I'm working from home, I clear another space in my house--usually the kitchen table--to be my "office." Having a clearly designated space, as if I was actually in my work office, helps me to stay focused. 

2. Use the same background noise that you use at work. 

If you listen to music, or podcasts, at work, do that at home too. When I first started working from home, I tried to use my "at home" background noise--the TV--and found it way too distracting. If I listen to music or a podcast, it's like my brain assumes I really am at work and I stay more focused. 

3. Use that familiar study tip: take 10 minute breaks every 30 minutes. 

Honestly, I do this at work (in the office) too. Every 30 minutes, stand up, stretch, walk around for 10 minutes. Then get back to work. Your brain will feel remarkably refreshed and you'll be better able to focus. 

4. If you can, turn off the Wifi. 

If you have the kind of job where you don't need a 24/7 connection to the internet, turn off your Wifi when you're really getting into a task. I often do this when I'm trying to write and getting distracted by Twitter notifications and everything the internet has to offer. 

5. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. 

Hey, if you try to work from home (to reduce commute costs or because you're sick), and it's just not working--hey, that's ok. It's not for everybody! Don't try to keep forcing it if you are aware that you aren't getting everything done or achieving the goals you want. It's possible that getting out of the house might help--working from a coffee shop or bookstore might work better for you. Or, maybe you're just an office kind of person. 

Just a Little Spring-to-Summer Outfit Inspiration

spring to summer outfit inspiration

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably noticed I had a small blogging crisis the other night. I've been struggling to feel motivated regarding my blog lately... and then I start to panic about what I'm doing, whether what I'm doing opens me up to criticism I'm not sure I can handle, and if what I'm doing is safe for my son. I don't talk about Forrest very much anymore and I'm very careful about the photos I post about him now, especially on Instagram and Twitter. But opening yourself up can be challenging. I love blogging and it is very hard for me to separate my life as I know it from my blog... because blogging is so much a part of my identity. 

I guess what I'm saying is: thank you for the messages I received, the notes of love for my blog. It really helps me feel like what I'm doing has some kind of purpose (even if it is just bringing a small piece of joy to other people) and I feel more comfortable with what I've shared so far. 

Anyway, whenever I'm feeling a little down about my blog, I try to go to some of my "easier" post ideas. I wanted to share some of the pretty Polyvore sets I've been liking for that spring-to-summer transition. If you follow me Instagram, you know I've been working out a lot and eating healthy. I have finally (FINALLY!) after nearly 5 years of struggling started to lose weight; I think I just found the right balance and motivation. So I'm excited for summer, obviously. 

Here are a few outfits to get you inspired too. 

1. Neutral

I'm feeling extremely covetous of that little lace top, but for now, it's outside of my current confidence zone. That being said, the blush-tan neutral is a great way to transition a winter wardrobe to spring and then to summer--and these items are particularly work appropriate. 

2. That floral

Spring

Spring by duma-duma featuring a sun hat

If you know me, you know I love a floral--and I'm particularly loving the lush, vivid florals we are seeing lately! The bold print of this shirt dress would be perfect for the office (with some leggings or tights, of course) topped with a blazer; and then you could also wear it to the 4 million weddings and graduation parties we are all attending in the next few months. 

3. Day-glo

I'm normally NOT a neon fan, but when I saw this set, I actually looked at this dress and seriously considered buying it. It is gorgeous, right? I love a Peter Pan collar and I love a floral, but this dress is unlike any I've ever really seen. Combined with some funky sunglasses, it's another great graduation party option--just remember to slather on the sunscreen because in an outfit at bright as this, you're gonna need some sun protection. 

4. Striped Preppy Classics

Again, not confident enough to high-waisted short shorts at this point in my life, but I'm really loving the bomber jacket and letterman jacket trend. This one is particularly cute (and comfy looking). Paired with a striped top and jeans, it would be perfect for a casual weekend day or even a more casual workplace. Plus, you'll stay warm in the air conditioning that I know is torturing most women in office buildings right now. 

5. For vacation

I'm actually looking for a dress like this for my vacation this summer. I love blush pink, but it does wash me out a bit. However, I also love the off-the-shoulder look (I know) and this dresses silhouette is particularly flattering. Paired with a strappy sandal and a little bag, it's perfect for a fancy dinner at home or on vacation. 


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5 Easy Non-Food Items for Easter Baskets

non food items for easter baskets

Easter is one of those holidays that is just very easy to love, but loving it can feel a bit... odd. Especially if you, like me, are not Catholic. I just really enjoy Easter baskets: my mom always went all out for our Easter baskets. I distinctly remember a few Pokemon themed baskets one year! 

I wanted to share a few ideas for easy, non-food items for your Easter Baskets--whether it's for your kids, your husband, your friends, whoever. I try to avoid giving candy as a gift because, to me, it's just a temptation! Here are a few ideas. 

1. Books

One of my favorite gifts to get Forrest is books! We picked out the book Thumper's Furry Friends together, and he has another surprise book for Easter morning. To me, there is nothing like a new book. One year, Danny got me A Wrinkle In Time for Easter. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received! This book is on my list for Easter this year.

2. Lip balm

Right now, I'm loving Vaseline Lip Therapy with Aloe. They have a limited edition Easter tin available at Target through Easter and it is so cute! However, the best part is that with the purchase of any Vaseline product, they provide skincare products to those in need. That's a win-win! 

3. Wet'n'Wild Liquid Catsuit

If you haven't tried this liquid lipstick yet, drop everything and get to a drug store! If you have a friend, a daughter, or a mom who loves to rock a strong, matte lip, Liquid Catsuit is puuuurrfect. (I'm sorry, that was a terrible pun.) It comes in a ton of colors. I personally own Rebel Rose and Berry Recognize. Both last all day without a single reapplication. Yes, even through eating and drinking, talking, touching my mouth, working out... For $4.99 a piece, they're the best gift. (Oh and Wal-Greens is having a buy one, get one deal, so you can snag one for yourself too!) 

4. Gift cards

Ok, I swear I put this on every list I make, but gift cards are the best gifts. Period, end of story. Whether they're for the grocery store or your favorite restaurant, they are endlessly adaptable to the person. My favorites are Starbucks gift cards (I can send them straight from my phone!) and Amazon gift cards (because Kindle books). 

5. A make up themed basket

I've been lusting after so many blush, highlight, eyeshadow, and contour palettes lately! There are so many cool affordable ones right now. If you have a friend who loves make up, it's really the way to go. I love this palette from Makeup Revolution and for only $18 (and available at Ulta), it's amazing. Throw in a few brushes, some face masks from Target, a pack of fancy make up wipes, and some lip balm and it's a make up lovers dream! 


Disclaimer: I received samples of the Vaseline Lip Therapy with Aloe in exchange for a post featuring them. However, all praise of said product is my own--it's a great lip balm! For information about my disclosure policy, click here

How to Plan Social Media for Your Blog (Without Going Crazy)

plan social media for blog

Writing and planning social media is, actually, kind of what I do for a living, as a content marketing coordinator. Social media is something I love and am very passionate about. But when it comes to my actual social media channels, I feel a bit like a cat in a sack. I just struggle. Give me a brand or business and I can plan, write, create assets, and schedule like a beast. 

Ask me to schedule a few tweets for my own blog (brand? business? What is this thing I'm doing?) and it's like pulling teeth. 

For a few months, I was very intense about scheduling social media: I posted several scheduled tweets a day, made graphics, wrote posts for Facebook. I got burnt out very fast. I'm not willing to pay for a scheduling software and I hate Hootsuite. Buffer is my favorite social media scheduling site, but if you want to schedule over 10 posts, you need to upgrade to a paid account. 10 posts lasts about 2-3 days on Twitter; for Facebook, that covers an entire week. So for Twitter, I was having to write and schedule every 2 or 3 days. 

Let me just say it: ugh. 

It's a lot of work and I found myself going a bit crazy. Here's what I decided to do instead of drive myself insane. 

1. Focus on just a few social media networks. 

I think Twitter works best as a casual network for me. I get more traffic if I just act like myself, instead of posting scheduled tweets to posts. Also, it's just more fun. The social media networks I put the most energy and planning into are Pinterest and Instagram. That cuts out the stress of posting on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram everyday. I do try to post on Facebook once a week, but rarely do I meet that goal. I get almost no traffic there! 

2. Do what works for you. 

When it comes to Instagram, it can feel a bit like a game. However, I find that I get the best followers & engagement when I'm authentic. To me, that includes: 

  • posting cute, candid stuff in my stories
  • writing longer captions 
  • creating graphics
  • not sticking to any one theme 

I do not like themed Instagrams, as a rule, but I am experimenting with using stock photos recently. Mostly because by the time I remember to take photos, it's 8pm at night and there is no light. That's just what works for me; others don't love it! That's ok. 

3. Don't feel like you have to do what others do. 

This is important: you'll see some things that seem to be working for others, like scheduling the same tweet over... and over... and over day after day. 

That doesn't work for me. Because I get tired and bored and don't have that level of patience, I'll admit it. What works for me are the most passive forms of social media marketing: using images and graphics that are optimized for Pinterest, Instagram, and chatting on Twitter. That's what works for me. Minimal effort, maximum output! 

For Pinterest, I highly recommend group boards; I have three group boards that I pin 5 posts to every day. Alongside my usual daily Pinning, that's all I do. (Oh and make sure to pin your new posts to Pinterest! I always forget. Hashtag-expert, right?)

4. Keep a list of ideas. 

Throughout my day, I'll often have moments of, "this would be a great post!" Or I'll see something that I think would be a pretty photo. I keep a note on my phone where I write those ideas (it's very messy). Some of them I never actually go through with, but some I do. "Planning" for me is more about having a treasure trove of ideas that I can dip into when I know I need to post something of substance. 


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5 Meal Ideas for Picky Toddlers

picky toddler meal ideas

Before Forrest turned 1, he was an excellent eater. He would regularly eat meals of chicken, broccoli, and potatoes, or pasta, or just about anything. He ate protein and vegetables great. 

But a few weeks after he turned 1, everything changed. Like most toddlers, he became increasingly more picky--and any change in his temperament (say, a molar cutting or a cold) made him unwilling to eat just about anything.

As he's gotten older, I've found ways to sneak in everything he needs: fruits & veggies, vitamins, protein, meat, and more. Here are a few meal ideas that I always return to. They're easy, they produce the least amount of waste, and they make it easy to hide things!

1. Quesadillas, Grilled Cheese, or English Muffin Pizza

Forrest will eat carbs and cheese all day, every day. These three foods all fall into this category: carb + cheese + the capability to hide other foods. When I make quesadillas, I will mash black beans (a great source of protein) with some veggie puree and then mix it with cheese; that's the filling of the quesadilla. All he cares about is the cheese, anyway!

For grilled cheese, I layer a little turkey or chicken, as well as an leftover roasted veggies, between layers of cheese. English muffin pizzas are so easy to make and if you mix the pizza sauce with veggie puree, you can easily hide an extra serving of veggies--but all he knows is there is cheese, as usual. 

2. "Snack Lunches" 

This is an infinitely popular toddler lunch that I think every mom has done before: you let your toddler have a variety of their favorite snacks. A lot of Forrest's favorites are "sneaky" healthy things: he really loves the Ella's Kitchen oat bars (the carrot + mango flavor is his favorite), as well as the Nature's Bakery oat bars which has whole wheat and real fruit. One of these bars, plus a banana and some yogurt mixed with a pack of Similac Mix-In, is as well-rounded of a lunch as I'll get sometimes! 

3. Mac & cheese 

You know that carb + cheese equation I posted above? This is the same principal. I like the Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese bowls because I can make a single serving (although Forrest usually only eats about half). I make him a bowl and then add half a packet of vegetable and meat puree. (Yes, I know that sounds great.) But he eats it, loves it, and gets a serving of veggies and meat in! 

4. Green Juice

Having a day where you simply cannot get your toddler to eat anything that isn't in the form of white bread? Been there! Forrest had croup recently and all he wanted to eat was milk. Seriously. I decided to take a chance and bought a bottle of Naked Green Machine juice; I mixed half juice and half water. He drank it up in barely 10 minutes. Hey, it's a serving of fruit and vegetables if nothing else. Smoothies and homemade juices are a great way to get some nutrition in your kiddo who is refusing everything else. 

5. Pancakes

If it is in pancake form, Forrest will (usually) eat it. I make both fruit pancakes AND oatmeal pancakes. Here are my basic recipes: 

Fruit Pancakes

  • 1 banana, mashed 
  • 1 packet of fruit + veggie puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • About 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Vanilla + cinnamon

Mix well and cook like normal pancakes. 

Oatmeal Pancakes

  • 1 serving of oatmeal, cooked
  • 1/2 packet of fruit + veggie puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • About 3-4 tablespoons of flour
  • Vanilla + cinnamon 

Mix well and cook like normal pancakes. 

The possibilities for adding to these recipes are endless. I will often use leftover oatmeal, add a bit of yogurt to up the calories, and try new combinations of fruit and vegetables. Forrest will eat them, covered in peanut butter, every day. 


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The Basics of Giving Credit

can i use photo from pinterest

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram when I noticed something, well, weird. 

One of my favorite bookstagrams had posted a photo of a bath tub. I knew for a fact it wasn't a photo they took. Why? I'd spotted it earlier while scrolling through Tumblr. I went back to Tumblr and found the photo; I remembered it because I'd liked it, to save it to reblog later. I followed the source and ended up at the Instagram of an interior decorator. 

I was torn. What do you do when you find a photo someone has reposted without credit? I went back to the bookstagram and saw that she had put a photo credit for "Pinterest" on the photo. 

Pinterest. Good ol' Pinterest. 

Pinterest, in so many ways, has changed both the blogging world and the Internet as a whole. It changed the way we talk, the way we run and market blogs and businesses. And most importantly, it has muddied the waters of crediting photos. 

It feels so easy for photos to get lost now. To get pulled from Instagram onto Pinterest, to lose the original source, to get added to WeHeartIt, and Tumblr, and then loop back again. Posting and reposting, the source gets lost. When you reverse search the image on Google, it can take a lot of effort to find the original post--and the original credit. 

I always inwardly cringe when I see a photo credited to "Pinterest." Pinterest is where you find a cool photo, or something you want to share. But you need to share the original source--unless you do extensive searching and simply can't. You have to do the work though: you have to try and find that original source. That's on you, as a blogger, an influencer, whatever. You have to do that work. 

Here's the thing: I can think of a lot of times in the past where I've credited photos to "Pinterest." And I hate myself a little bit for it. But I grew up, I learned, I changed. It's pure laziness, that's all it is, as well as ignorance. Maybe people just don't realize they need to source the original photo. Maybe they think saying they got it from "Pinterest" is enough. 

In general, if you find a photo on Pinterest, it has a source. Follow the link. If it doesn't lead anywhere (I have definitely clicked links before and been taking to just the image URL, not a blog post or anything), try reverse searching on Google. You may also be able to find the original Pin on Pinterest by searching for it's exact title and description. (If you notice a pin that doesn't lead to a source, do your part and make sure to report it to Pinterest as well!) 

And here's the kicker: if you cannot find the source, do not use the photo. Being unable to credit it is not an excuse. Don't use it. 

You might wonder about stock photos. Depending on the permissions of stock photos, you do not always need to share the source. Although, if you repost stock photos on Instagram, I think it is most honest to mention the source in your caption. But that's just me. 

So, what happened with that bookstagram? I decided to send the interior decorator the photo had originally come from a private message, where I told her the name of the bookstagram and that she used her photo. In the end, they worked it out privately and, good on the bookstagrammer, she updated the caption. 


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5 Absolutely Affordable Spring Dresses

affordable spring dresses

Is this annoying? When bloggers start posts with things like, "ooof, it's been a hard week"? And it's only... Wednesday? That's how I wanted to start this post. I'm typing up this post, that I've had ready, at 6:45 in the morning, while Forrest sleeps after waking up at 4am. Remember how I had the flu in March? I heavily suspect he now has the flu. (This is where, if we were speaking in person, I would groan loudly and without end.) 

Anyway, at least the little sick man is giving me a chance to type something up, even if it's... a shopping inspiration post. I always have conflicted feelings when posting things like this, because the emphasis on shopping in blogging makes me quite uncomfortable. That being said, however, we all need a little wardrobe update from time-to-time, especially after the long winter days. 

And you know what? Looking at dresses is fun. So here are 5 absolutely affordable (yes, affordable!) spring dresses. 

1. Contemporary Open-Shoulder Dress, Forever 21 - $17.90

affordable dress for spring

We'll start with the most affordable. $17.90 for a t-shirt dress is still a little on the "hmmm" side for me, but it's still less than $20. Also, this dress is super cute and would be appropriate for almost every body type. And hey, if you don't like the sack look, a cute belt would nip it in at the waist. I normally don't like the "cold shoulder" look, but for spring, it's starting to grow on me. For a day look, top with a leather jacket and maybe some leggings, if you're in a colder climate. 

2. Palm and Collected A-Line Dress, ModCloth - $79.99

cute palm spring dress coachella

I can see the look you're giving me right now. "Michelle," you say, "I thought you said affordable." Ok, maybe $79.99 isn't super affordable for some people. For me, it would totally be a splurge. But... look how cute this dress is. It's so cute! It's appropriate for the office AND a party AND you can wear it into summer. And, hear me out, I think you could even take it into Fall. This is a Long Haul Dress because it's got sleeves, a lower hem, a cute print, a practical style... C'mon. $79.99 is a steal if you wear this dress once a week for a year. Also, consider it with a cute pair of kitten heels and a light cardigan at a barbecue. I think I've made my point. 

3. Angie Shirt Dress, Nordstrom Rack - $24.97

spring shirt dress

Look at this cute print! The minute I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for this post: it's cute, it's affordable, and it has SLEEVES. Is anyone else perma-cold in Spring? As the weather gets nicer, it feels like everyone turns on the air conditioning unnecessarily and I end up just as bundled up as during winter! Shirt dresses are universally flattering and I personally love a rolled up sleeve on a dress. With sandals or pumps (or even tights and boots during winter), this is really another long haul dress at a killer price. 

4. Contemporary Floral Print Dress, Forever 21 - $19.53 (Sale)

floral print spring dress cheap

I really, really love the pajama look top of this dress. I think it's casual and interesting. This is another dress that you can definitely make work for every season, but feels especially appropriate for spring--when the weather can still be chilly and wet, but can unexpectedly turn into a beautiful day. Plus, at a little over $19, it's super affordable and the shirt dress style is, again, flattering on every body type. 

5. Bookmaking Brunch Dress in Roses, ModCloth - $69.99

I know, $69.99... but please see #2 above. Also, look how cute this dress is! The a-line skirt, the nipped in waist, the neckline. Perfect for a spring or summer wedding, or with a jacket at work, paired with some white or nude stacked heels. Are you on board? Good, because I'm already on board. I love a vintage rose print and this one is absolutely stunning. 


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