Cupcakes and Sunshine: January 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

so you want to start blogging?

So you want to start Blogging?!

I think one of the questions I get asked most is how do you start a blog? I started blogging my sophomore year of college a couple of years back. After reading (hundreds) of blogs throughout high school and college, I felt inspired to creatively share ideas on an online platform myself. I read a lot of blogs that made me just feel inspired! And I wanted to do that too! I started screenshotting my favorite things about my favorite blogs to save in a folder. My favorite blogs consisted of bright, high-quality photos, exciting and colorful content, and lifestyle tips. I saved these screenshots and then created my blog with inspiration from these favorites.



Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words and some people say reading allows you to travel to new worlds you've never been before. I LOVE reading blogs and seeing how different people live their lives each day because it involves both pictures and stories. You get to travel to new places, meet new people and experience the world without even leaving your computer screen when you read blogs. If you have ever wanted to blog, I say stop what you are doing and START RIGHT NOW. Because each person is different and lives a different life and has different passions and sharing them via a blog means that more people get to learn more about YOU and your talents and passions. And that's exciting.



First things first:

1. Just START. I know, I know. This seems like a really silly obvious first step. But I'm serious. Just starting is the hardest part. (homework and housework is the same way. JUST START IT.) If you want to begin blogging, simply say..."at 5pm today, I am going to START blogging." and begin. First, find a blog platform. I personally use Blogger to host my blog, but Wordpress and Squarespace are other platforms. They are super easy to use and have a lot of fun backgrounds and layouts.


2. Become familiar with html: UGH. HTML is a pain in my boo-tay to be honest. A lot of people like it, I personally do not. HTML is the computer language that makes your blog pretty and allows you to have lots of plug-ins and functions for users/blog readers.  It consists of lots of numbers and letters and symbols. I even took a few classes on html throughout college, which have helped me so much. But I am just not passionate about html. I like creating blog content, and not the blog part itself. This is where you either bribe people with cupcakes to help you with html and creating your blog, or you pay someone who has expertise in the area. I have done both.


3. Have NO FEAR: 
So now you have a blog and you are a bit familiar with html. The next step is to start producing blog content. This is my favorite part. But also a very scary and vulnerable part. This is where you share what you are passionate about through words and pictures. I used to (and still at times...) fear that people would think I was weird for sharing what I love. I love food. I love traveling. I love coffee. I love Jesus. I love recipes. I love countries. I love cultures. I love people. I love colors. I love mornings. I love being productive. I love passionate people doing what they love to do passionately. But life is too short to live in fear of sharing yourself and your heart.

This is blog advice and life advice: DO NOT THINK ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE GOING TO THINK. Just be YOU. If people think you are weird because you shared a picture of your breakfast via social media, then that is their problem. If you love bacon and eggs and want to share your bacon and eggs on Instagram because you love bacon and eggs then BY GOLLY share it!! I believe that most people like seeing what other people are passionate about. (& if not, then maybe they are just jealous that they aren't secure enough to share what they love. #true) Have NO FEAR when it comes to sharing what you are passionate about. This is a big one, friends.


4. Just Google it. 
Google, Pinterest, Facebook, other blogs.... they all hold a wealth of knowledge on how to get started and stay motivated. If you have a question about starting a blog, blog content, html, bringing in more blog traffic, SEO, photography, anything. JUST GOOGLE IT. It's free. I am joyously overwhelmed by all the knowledge and creativity I've found on the internet. It's a great resource. 

5. Share, share, share. Share your content via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email. The more places you share, the more people are able to read what you have created. Ask your friends to share. Bloggers love when you share and like what they've created. Share others' content. We live in a digital world and have knowledge at our fingertips via a simple Google search and Retweet. If you like what you see, share it! Someone else might like it too! Use hashtags. Hashtags allow you to connect with people with similar interests and searches. Share, share, share and never stop learning.

6. ASK QUESTIONS
Don't be afraid to ask people questions. There are many people who know a lot about html. There are many people who know about travel recommendations and the best restaurants in certain areas. There are many bloggers who have been places you have never been before and have expertise in those areas. I have sent many emails to friends, professors, and bloggers who have helped me lots along the way. The worst thing someone say is "no, I can't help your right now." (which is rare) and that's not even a bad worst thing. Ask questions! 



7. INVEST IN A GOOD CAMERA

Cameras are expensive. And when I wanted to start blogging, I knew I wanted to have beautiful high-quality pictures, but I had no money for a camera. I started entering contests. Lots of them. Baking contests, Amazon giftcard contests, and giveaways. And I started working at about the same time. I wanted a fancy camera so I worked for it. And haven't regretted that purchase once. Successful blogs usually have great quality pictures. This is the camera I use and love.  


7. Keep Working On it:  
There is always something you can change, work on, or add when it comes to blogging. and this is why I think I love it so much! I LOVE goals and change and new-ness. I would love to continue adding travel (!!!LOTS!!!) to my blog, more exciting content, videos, better photography, more do-it-yourself projects! All these ideas make me SO excited and I can't wait to add them and work on it more this next year!!

Have any tips, advice, questions!? Please feel free to reach out and let me know! I'm not an expert blogger (in any means!!), but I'm just doing what I love! (and Googling the rest) Would love to hear from you! Happy Saturday, friends!

Friday, January 29, 2016

friday favorites


SO incredibly thankful it is the weekend, friends. It's been a crazy, busy week. But today is Friday. And it's time for some FRIDAY FAVORITES!


1. Mama's Boy breakfasts with my small group. Praise hands emoji for this one. and praise hands emoji for Bennie and the Jets on repeat in my car until class began. perfect morning.

2. Fitness at Five. Conveniently open 24 hours AND located right next door to Jitt Joe's.

3. The Office: I know, I know. How have I not seen The Office? I don't know. But I started it this week and so it had to be added to the Friday favorites list.


4. Puppy visitors: One of my roommates' pups is staying with us this week. And I want her to stay forever. I have puppy fever to the max. Don't let me walk by Petsmart on adoption day. Or the animal shelter. It's been a tough week and I just may walk out with all the puppies and puppy cuddles.

5. THIS deep sea mud mask.



I read lots of reviews on Amazon, decided to order it, and it has been so great. makes your skin so soft and smooth. Friday fave, for sure.


(Zoey agrees too)

6. the fact that there's only a 100 day count down to GRADUATION. HOW?! How did this happen!? Time slow down!

7. Just the weekend in general. Is it too early to be looking forward to next weekend already?

Happy Friday and happy weekend, friends! Hope it's full of all your favorites!


Thursday, January 28, 2016

my favorite almond butter cookies


Sharing one of my very favorite cookie recipes today because it's FRIDAY EVE! which means tomorrow's FRIDAY! Which means it is the WEEKEND! Which obviously means today is a day to celebrate and YOU are deserving of cookies today. As you know, I've been doing Whole30 and have absolutely LOVED it. I would 100% say I'm a new person because for the first time in the past couple of years my stomach has not been hurting and this is a big, big deal after seeing many doctors and not finding a solution. Until now. Whole30 has been some kind of solution. So whatever "allergen" I've taken out while doing Whole30, I need to figure out once it is all over because I am a new person.


This cookie recipe is somewhat-Whole30. Actually, it is paleo. But because of the coconut palm sugar and dark chocolate pieces, it wouldn't be considered 100% Whole30. But it is still a better cookie choice and these cookies taste INCREDIBLE! They are rich and cake-y and would go great with coffee or cocoa.


First off, melt one cup of almond butter and mix in coconut palm sugar, coconut,  cocoa powder, and 1/2 banana. Mix until incorporated. Add one egg and baking soda.

Any almond butter will do, but Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter is simply THE best. and I recommend it for sure.


Next, chop a (high quality) dark chocolate bar into pieces and add to cookie dough:


And spoon dough onto a cookie sheet.


Sprinkle the tops with extra coconut and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.



Let cool. And maybe have one or two because today IS Friday eve.

Ingredients: 
1 cup of Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
1/2 banana
1 Tbs. cocoa powder
1 egg 
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup dried coconut
1 Tbs ground flax seed
1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix all ingredients, chop chocolate bar, add to dough.
3. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Sprinkle with coconut. Bake for 10 minutes at 350.
4. Let cool, enjoy!



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

sometimes adulting is not for the weak


Hello friends! Happy, happy whatever day of the week it is! The days have been very busy lately, and to tell you the truth, I don't even know what today is. I'll pick up my phone and check on that in just a sec.  :)

I'm checking in to give you a little report about life lately and to say hi!

And first of all, I would just like to say.... adulting has been very difficult lately.
Most of the time, I would say that adulting is pretty great. I like cooking. I like cleaning. I like doing laundry. I like getting up early and getting things done. I like getting in the car and doing what I want to do when I want to. I like running errands. and sending mail. And making sure I'm paying bills on time. And setting up appointments. and adulting.

But adulting has been so hard lately! I'm just tired. So tired. Tired of adulting. And I've been putting off setting up appointments for getting blood work done (ew) and the dentist (ew) and a flu shot (ew) because I just don't know if I can adult those things right now. I've been in a rut. And all I want to do when I get home from classes and work is NOT adult. and not make appointments and decisions about life. and not multitask my way through life. You know?

But then there are things to be done- like more school projects, and studying, and checking email, and responding to 3459340 unopened text messages (sorry, friends). and THEN you have to decide what to have for dinner. and the adult thing to do would be to eat something healthy so you have lots of energy to adult after dinner. but I just want bowls of ice-cream. and mac&cheese. And I just want to pause from adulting. and not have to make another decision for days.

You feeling me?


So tonight, if you need me...I'm wearing mixmatched socks. and not doing laundry. and not working. and not cooking. and not checking email. Sometimes, adulting is not for the weak. and tonight, I'm simply not doing it. I'm taking a pause from adulting.  I'll resume adulting responsibilities tomorrow, but for now, I'm taking a break.

hoping you are having a happy whatever day it is, friends!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Favorites Whole30 Snacks and Healthy Finds


STILL loving Whole30. It's been almost three weeks now and I have felt better than ever! Now I see what all the buzz is about this healthy eating stuff :) Today I'm sharing some of my very favorite healthy snacks and finds!


RxBars: Love these! With just a few ingredients, these bars have nothing crazy in them and they taste divine. I have one for breakfast most mornings, alongside a cup of coffee (or two.) I order them through Amazon and they come right to my front door. I think the chocolate coconut may be my favorite, but the blueberry one is great too!



Talking about my front door, my Thrive Market box of fun surprises arrived and I was ecstatic. If you remember me mentioning last week, Thrive Market sends healthy, delicious snacks to your door and gives a box of healthy foods and meals to those in need for every purchase. I'll go ahead and unbox all of my Thrive faves for ya:

1. Justin's Almond Butter: The organic cane sugar makes it not Whole30 approved, but whatever. It's almond butter! And it just may be my favorite. ever.



2. Paleo wraps: I haven't tried these yet, but they are made of coconut. And I LOVE coconut. I'll keep you updated about 'em when I try 'em.

3. TRAIL MIX: Trail mix is by-far my favorite snack category ever. It's the perfect combo of salty and sweet and this one is the.bomb.dot.com.

4. Mrs. Meyer's Lavender Dryer Sheets: YOU GUUUUUUUUUYS. I love Mrs. Meyer's so so much. I purchased the lavender handsoap a few months back, and I've already restocked it twice. When I saw that Mrs. Meyer's makes dryer sheets in the same scent, I put them in my Thrive basket faster than you can say "laundry day." I also have put them in the back pockets of my car seats, my sock drawer, and my closet. Obsessed.

5. Simple Mills Chocolate Chip Cookies: These aren't Whole30 approved, but they are a healthier option! I ordered them for post-Whole30. And I can't wait to try them! Simple Mills sent me their Banana Muffin mix a few weeks ago and I LOVE them, so I know these cookies will not disappoint!



Still on my Thrive wishlist:
  • Alba Botanica Green Tea Oil Free Moisturizer 
  • Pure 7 Dark Chocolates
  • Dandies Vanilla Marshmallows
  • Mavuno Dried Jackfruit (wth *what the heck* is a jackfruit? I'll find out!) 
  • Organic Basil Marinara
  • Epic bars

And back to my favorite snacks:

LaraBars: Keylime is my favorite. Followed closely by Cherry Pie and Cashew Cookie.



All the fruit. Pineapple. Apples. Grapes. Bananas.

Smoothies.

Coconut Chips are incredible. (WOW, I really don't think I can get enough coconut?! beachy, tropical weather must be on my mind)  You can get these at Trader Joe's.

Sweet potatoes: I'll roast them over the weekend and snack on them throughout the week. So easy!

Avocado pudding: the first week was tough without chocolate, but now that I've made this pudding, my life is forever changed. also, I don't like the word "pudding." So I'm going to have to find another name for it. 

Roasted veggies.
Any of your favorite healthy snacks I'm missing? 

I hope you are having a fabulous Friday! Stay warm! (I would say run out and grab the eggs and bread, but if you are Whole30-ing, run out and grab the LaraBars and chicken and zucchini!) Happy weekend, friends!




Monday, January 18, 2016

Whole Lotta Love for Whole30


I've been doing Whole30 for just over two weeks now and I'm absolutely loving it y'all. I don't think I ever want to go back. A couple of work friends and I started it just so we would have some guidance on eating whole, healthy foods. It's really simple: whole fruits, whole vegetables, whole meats/proteins. In all honesty, I have had constant stomach aches for the past few years and for the first time in months, I do not!!! So it has truly been life changing! The first 7 days were tough, but after pushing through the sugar/chocolate cravings, I don't even think about sweets anymore. (this is a miracle in itself.)


I meal plan each Saturday and meal prep/chop/cook each Sunday for the week ahead. And this has been a complete life saver during the busy school/work weeks. I get most of my recipes from Pinterest and keep an ongoing list in a Google Doc. with my meal plan for the week and a grocery list below it. & then I just pull up the grocery list when I'm grocery shopping. I also snack. all. the. time. So I always have homemade trailmix, apples and almond butter, and tons of fruit on hand.


If I go out to dinner or breakfast with friends, I simply just order the best choice- a veggie omelette or grilled chicken and a healthy side. No stress.

http://go.thrv.me/aff_c?offer_id=6&aff_id=6903

I have also ordered many things online through Thrive Market. Thrive Market is an INCREDIBLE online market with all healthy choices delivered right to your door. Y'ALL. It's great. Not only do they have wonderful prices and great savings, but you can also donate your savings to a family in need. And for every membership purchased through Thrive Market, a family in need is given a free membership for healthy food delivered to their door too. It's where I buy my favorite tea, almond butter, snacks, baking mixes, and so much more.


I'll be sharing some of my favorite snacks and meals soon so stay tuned! Hope you are having a marvelous Monday! 


Friday, January 15, 2016

Warm & Cozy Friday Favorites


Happy, happy Friday friends!! I still can't wrap my head around the fact that it is the final semester of my last year as a Dawg. And I just can't believe it. I also can't believe that it is my first time in the past couple of years of having Friday classes. & I'm not sure how I'm going to handle it just yet. A lot of getting used to. and a lot of coffee. :)

However, I kicked off the morning with a meeting at Mama's Boy, so I think that is the best way to start a Friday. And then quickly realized that I forgot my umbrella. (& it is pouring. oops) So as I wait for my last class of the day, I figured I'd throw together a warm and cozy list of favorites because I will be getting warm and cozy as soon as I get back home!


1. Heated blankets: Y'all, you NEED one of these in your life. I really don't know how I lived most of my life without one. I only press the snooze button 110293925849 times now that I have one. The warm and coziest.

2. Condor Chocolates: If you haven't made your way to Condor Chocolates in Athens, Georgia, I suggest you need to add it to your to-do list asap.



Not only do they offer handmade truffles and Ecuadorian chocolates, but they have the real deal hot chocolate. frothy and chocolatey and rich. Heated blanket+gourmet hot chocolate?! I don't think it can get any better.


3. Christmas candles. I'm still burning them. Christmas all year long. or at least until the spring.



4. Simply Tuesday: Just started this book after finishing Restless (<<----SO SO GOOD)and it has been a great read so far.  Emily P. Freeman shares how God has called us to have purpose right where we are...even on the smallest and simplest of Tuesdays.

5. GroupLink and CollegeLink: If you are in the Athens area, these awesome events are coming up next week at Athens Church. If you are looking to get connected into a small group, Jan. 24th and Jan. 31st are the days for you! I've spent many warm and cozy nights talking about Jesus and life with my wonderful small group. You don't want to miss this!!

6. Cozy jammies. all the jams. all day. everyday. and slippers. cozy (narwhale) slippers too. 



Hope you are staying warm and cozy on this Friday, friends!


Monday, January 11, 2016

Coffee Date: New Year's Resolutions



I've been trying to figure out how long I can continue to add "Happy New Year" to the beginning of texts, bottom of emails, and end of phone conversations.  Do you know when the New Year cut-off is? is it all of January? let's go with that. The New Year itself is one of my favorite holiday time periods because I am completely and utterly inspired by new challenges, goals, and fresh starts. I'm very goal-oriented and resolutions and 2016 vision casting set my heart on fire. LET'S DO BIG THINGS AND LIVE AUTHENTICALLY AND INTENTIONALLY AND LOVE OTHERS AND MAKE 2016 THE BEST YET, you know?

Last year, I had lots of resolutions. I wanted to learn calligraphy and read lots of books and make my bed each day and send more letters and make new recipes...which are all great things. And I had a long list of them. But then school and life got in the way and made these attempts at everyday joys not enjoyable. And I really didn't check any of these off my list. I felt they were small efforts to be intentional, but they were not truly fulfilling.  I was making small efforts in attempt to accomplish a big-picture goal, but I wasn't fully seeing the big picture. This year, my goal is to put more effort into seeing the big picture.

This year, I want to be passionate about loving authentically, saying yes, and living health(fully).

1. Loving Authentically: I haven't blogged in a long time. I think this has been the longest I've gone without blogging in the past few years. I want to live and love authentically this year. I don't want to share posts just to share posts, but to share with purpose and intention. I want to fill my house with friends and family and real conversations. I want to meet new faces and go new places. I want to seek wisdom and continuously fill my tank with truth, advice from great leaders, and positivity so that I can continuously share truth, advice, and positivity.

2. Saying Yes: I know there is a right time to say yes and a right time to say no. Last year, I read The Best Yes and it was wonderful. (you should read it if you haven't) But this year, I want to say yes. Say yes to new adventures, to spontaneous trips, to meeting new people, to new experiences. Last year, I felt my goals were crippled by fear. Fear of failure, fear of not being enough, fear of not saving enough, having no trust in God's plan for my future. This year I am saying yes.


To say YES to the passions God has pressed upon my heart. I want to put action into my goals. On New Year's Eve, I said YES to riding rollercoasters. I have never done this (crazy, right!?) and loved. them. all. (SPACE MTN I LOVE YOU) My entire life, I have just walked in the coaster lines and then waved bye to everyone as they jumped on the rides and then I'd meet them on the otherside. (one time I even had to stand in a "chicken circle" as I waved to all my fearless friends riding Tower of Terror. but this is another story for another time)

Usually, I'd say I'm pretty adventurous. I just had never ridden rollercoasters. and because I hadn't ever done it, I didn't feel like I was missing out. But when I did say YES, I LOVED IT. And now I feel like I have missed out my entire life. I don't want to live life skipping the scary, because on the other side of fear could be your purpose, passion, and love of rollercoasters.



This year, I am saying YES. And facing life fearlessly. Cheers to that. And Disney swirl cones. And Space Mountain.

3. Living Health(FULLY): I read a quote the other day that said "Eat healthy because you love your body, not because you hate it." And it stuck with me. A few friends and I kicked off the new year doing Whole30- eating whole foods for 30 days. And it has been wonderful. If I've had a rough day, I'll run home and head straight to the chocolate covered pretzels, M&Ms, or ice-cream. Whole30 has made me realize that 1. I am/was addicted to sugar 2. Sweets are no cure for boredom or rough days 3. Eating health(fully) means loving yourself and feeling AWESOME because you do. Eat simple, healthy whole foods, walk more, stress less. It's easy stuff.


So bring it on 2016! (even though we are already halfway through the first month) LET'S DO BIG THINGS AND LIVE AUTHENTICALLY AND INTENTIONALLY AND LOVE OTHERS AND MAKE 2016 THE BEST YET. And oh! Happy New Year, friends! :)

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