lifestyle

30 Day Challenge for Bloggers

Hi all,

I can’t believe a full month has gone by so fast, but this officially marks the end of my 30 day blogging challenge!

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty hard to keep up with posting every day at times.

April has been an insane month at work, which is why some of my posts didn’t go live until late at night during the week!

But I stuck to it, I’m proud of myself, and I learned a lot along the way.

For those of you who are interested in doing your own 30 day blogging challenge, I’ve listed out all 30 post topics below.

To create my list of prompts, I found a few different blogging challenge lists online and chose the posts that seemed most interesting to me.

I sort of Frankensteined them all together and then added some of my own to complete the list. Here it is:

  1. The meaning behind my blog name
  2. Whats in my purse
  3. My best and worst traits
  4. My top picks of Spring shoes (or whatever season is at hand)
  5. My favorite online shopping sites
  6. My favorite tea flavors (or coffee, or any drink, really!)
  7. A post about blogging
  8. How I increased the amount of books I read in a year
  9. Whats in my carry-on
  10. 10 random songs from my music library
  11. Zodiac sign and whether it matches my personality
  12. My favorite quotes (I did my favorite feel-good quotes, because it’s too hard to pick favorite quotes in general)
  13. My favorite comfort foods (I added recipe links, as well)
  14. Who I’d have dinner with alive or dead
  15. 10 things about me
  16. My top picks of leopard print (or any trend of your choice)
  17. My top travel destinations
  18. My favorite products for curly/wavy hair
  19. My favorite blogs
  20. Easter outfit inspiration (replace with any relevant holiday)
  21. My daily skincare routine
  22. Work desk essentials
  23. A recipe (I did butter chicken)
  24. Spring reading list (replace with any relevant season)
  25. TV shows to binge watch
  26. My favorite song (I wrote about the message behind Taylor Swift’s new song, ME!)
  27. Tips for saving money
  28. My week in workouts
  29. My most used phone apps
  30. Reflection on the 30 day challenge (this post)

I like this list because it covers a lot of different things—I got personal with a few and discovered things about myself, I covered beauty with my hair and skincare routines, fashion was of course included with outfit inspiration throughout, and then a threw in a few other recipe and work-related posts to round it out.

I hope you enjoyed reading these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them; I think my favorite ones were the zodiac sign analysis, 10 things about me, and who Id have dinner with, because these really forced me to take a look at myself and get personal with you guys.

Thanks so much for taking this journey with me, and even though I might not continue posting every day for the next month, I’ve still got a lot of fun content planned for future posts. ❤ 🙂

lifestyle

My Most Used Phone Apps

Hey everyone,

Today I want to talk about my most used phone applications, including the ones that I use most for blogging as well as in my personal life.

I do try to limit my screen time, but like most other people today, I am on my phone a lot.

The cool thing is, there are so many apps that help with productivity and tracking progress, and that’s what most of my frequently used apps help me with.

Here’s a list of my go-tos and what I love about them.

Notes – The notes app is standard on iPhones and I’m sure there’s an equivalent on other phones, as well.

As a writer, I use the Notes app to take down random ideas or inspiration all the time.

I use Siri to create notes while I’m driving so i won’t lose a good thought, and I even write some blog posts on here while on the go and then transfer them to my laptop to add into WordPress when I’m ready to finalize and post.

This app is free and easy to use, and is continuously getting more advanced, which I think is pretty cool for a standard phone app.

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Instagram – As much as I complain about social media, I do love Instagram.

I like being able to see little snippets of people’s lives and am always surprised by the photography skills of some of my friends and acquaintances.

I like Instagram better than other social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. I feel lien people just use those to complain or be nasty to others these days, and it’s a little easier to ignore that stuff on Instagram.

I also just like posting and browsing pictures of outfits and other lifestyle inspiration that people I follow post.

I definitely have not had as much time as usual for Instagram lately, but I do enjoy using it for both blogging and personal purposes.

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Goodreads – Those of you who read regularly are probably familiar with this app, but if you aren’t then you should definitely check it out! 

Goodreads is an awesome community, reading tracker, and review system for readers all rolled into one.

It allows you to rate books you read and see ratings from others if you’re considering a book.

It allows you to keep lists (i.e., shelves) of your read, to be read, and currently reading titles and has challenges that you can set for yourself; Goodreads is what I used to track my 50 book reading challenge last year.

Another cool thing about Goodreads is that a lot of authors get involved with it, so I’ll occasionally get emails about virtual Q&A sessions with my favorite writers or other updates directly from them.

Image result for nike+ run club app icon

Nike+ Run Club – I’ve been using this app for almost 10 years and, although it has changed a lot over time, it’s still my favorite run tracking app.

I find it super easy to use, plus it has all of my running data (and all of my PRs) from throughout the years.

My favorite feature on the app is that your friends can send you “cheers” in real time when you go on a run and you literally hear cheering cut into your headphones at random times throughout your workout.

It’s so fun and motivating.

Image result for shoptagr app icon

Shoptagr – I recommended this in a previous post about saving money while shopping, and I still think it’s such a great app to have.

I hate paying full price for things, so if I see something I really like I save it on the app (super easy to do once you download it) and I get notifications about it from then on!

The app notifies you if something is low in stock/out of stock, back in stock, and on sale.

I just got some great new shoes this weekend because the app notified me that they finally went on sale; I may have had to wait a couple of weeks, but I got the exact pair of shoes I wanted without having to pay full price for them.

Ebates – This is another app I wrote about in my save while shopping post, and have buzzed to my family and friends about for a couple of years now.

Ebates is an app that you use to shop, or a browser extension you can add, that track what you buy and gives you cash back on purchases from qualifying stores.

It’s a free and easy way to get additional discounts on things you want to buy!

Those shoes I mentioned buying this weekend? I got them for 30% off from Macy’s thanks to Shoptagr notifying me that there was a sale, and then got an additional 10% cash back from Ebates.

All of that discount came just from downloading a couple of apps on my phone…so awesome.

PicMonkey – So, I prefer to keep it as real as possible whenever possible, but sometimes you have to do a little photo editing for your blog.

My editing app of choice is PicMonkey, which I found by reading through a few lists of the best apps for bloggers.

It was an app that I had to buy in the app store; the only one on this list that requires payment, but it wasn’t expensive and it’s been useful to me since starting this blog.

The app is great for adjusting lighting, color, and adding some cool filters or effects

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Pinterest – I can’t even count the number of amazing tips I have found on Pinterest, especially while planning my wedding.

Between my husband and I building a house, me being a Matron of Honor for my sister, and me constantly needing creative stimulation for my job, Pinterest has been a bottomless well of information and inspiration for me.

I can get caught up and spend hours poring through all of the great posts and pins, but my favorite thing about Pinterest is that I’m not just killing time on it, I’m actually finding things that will help me with what’s going on in my life.

There are a bunch more apps that I use regularly, but I think seven is a good amount to highlight for now.

All of these help me be productive in some way, and I’m happy to know that a lot of the time I spend on my phone is used to get things done.

It’s so important to relax and be able to do things that you enjoy, but it’s also important to spend the necessary time on your responsibilities.

It’s all about balance, and I’m glad that my cell phone and the apps that I use every day help me find a balance between work and play. ❤ 🙂

fitness, lifestyle

My Week in Workouts

Hey everyone,

Only three more posts in my 30 day blogging challenge!

Today I want to focus on weekly workouts.

It’s hard to stick to working out regularly, especially when you’re really busy.

Fitness is important to me, so I’ve found easy ways to ensure I’m working out different parts of my body, at least a little bit, each week.

Here’s a summary of my week in workouts.

I’m primarily a runner, so most of my workouts are focused on making sure my body is healthy enough to run long distance.

I try to change it up and do things that are effective, but not too time consuming.

Monday: Morning yoga. This one is hard to stick to, because I’m usually super tired on Monday mornings. Every time I do get up and get some yoga in, though, I’m so happy I did. I like to do some quick videos, and one of my favorites is Yoga with Adrienne. She has so many videos to choose from, focusing on all different muscle groups or objectives. I always feel relaxed and ready to take on the week after some morning yoga.

Tuesday: Morning abs. I do a few YouTube videos in bed after I first wake up. Doing things the lazy way kind of tricks my body into thinking I’m still relaxing, while I’m actually strengthening and toning my muscles. A few of my favorite YouTubers for workouts are Pamela RF and Rebecca Louise. Both of these women have short videos (10, 20, or 30 minutes) that totally blast your abs. The 10 minute six pack workout by Pamela RF is a killer, and only takes 10 minutes to do!

Wednesday: Arms. I use free weights at night while watching TV. This is another one I tend to slack on, but when I stop doing it I definitely notice a difference in the way my arms look. I have very little upper body strength, so all I need for this is a 5lb dumbbell. I’ve collected arm workouts from magazines over the years, so I follow those exercises, but you can also find plenty of great ideas on Pinterest.

Thursday: Abs (again!) and some back. Abs are really important for running because  they help with speed and with overall form. When I’m slacking on abs, not only is it harder for me to run faster but I also start to feel pain in my hips and other areas. Same thing with my back; if I don’t strengthen those muscles, my performance suffers and then I’m left with pain afterwards. It’s crazy how all of the muscles work together and depend on one another; I used to think running just required strong legs, but in order to be good at it you really do need to focus on full-body fitness.

Friday: Squats/lunges/whatever other leg and butt exercises I can think of while I’m getting ready in the morning. I’ll do squats while brushing my teeth, lunge to my closet to pick out my clothes and then back after getting dressed, and do calf raises while I’m flossing. It sounds silly, but working these moves into my morning routine is an efficient way of slowly increasing the strength of important muscle areas.

Saturday/Sunday: Long run day and rest day. Depending on my fitness level and where I’m at with training, I do try to run multiple times per week. However, right now I’m taking it easy and the only race I have planned is a 5k, so I’ve been running on the weekends only. I wake up early and do anywhere between 3-5 miles (again, this number drastically increases when I’m working towards a larger goal or longer race). If I run on Saturday, then Sunday becomes my rest day, and vice versa. This week I ran on Sunday because I had to get up early yesterday to look at some cabinets for our future kitchen. My weekly run is by far my favorite workout, and I’m excited to work back up to running 3-4 times a week.

I also do ankle exercises 2-3 times per week because I’ve had a lot of issues with weak ankles.

I was a ballet dancer for 17 years and after I stopped dancing my ankles got very weak and I was constantly getting injuries.

I don’t really count this as a workout, more like maintenance, but it’s just as important because if I don’t take care of my problem areas, they can keep me from being able to workout hard altogether.

Another thing I do sporadically is get on the stationary bike at work.

This year, my office put in a few stationary bike desks, and I’m so excited to have that as an option.

When I’m not stuck in meetings or running around, I’ll sit on the bike for 30-60 minutes and get a workout in WHILE I’m doing stuff for work.

It’s so convenient and another easy way to fit some activity into my bust schedule.

As I mentioned, my workouts tend to change as my training goals change.

I’m planning to do at least another half marathon this year (maybe another full marathon, too), so I’ll do another future post with my more intense training schedule when I’m back to that.

Until then, I’ll stick to my lazy morning workouts. 🙂 ❤

lifestyle, tips

Tips for Saving Money Each Month

Hi all,

I can’t believe I almost missed today’s post with just a few days left in my blogging challenge!

But I made it in time, and I’m here to share some money saving hacks with you.

These are little things you can do each month to help you save here and there, and eventually you small monthly savings will add up over time.

All of these things don’t require much effort and are therefore easy to start or implement into your current monthly routine.

Let’s jump right in!

Set up a monthly budget. If you don’t have one already, you should absolutely create a budget ASAP. You can use online resources like Mint or do it on your own. Creating a budget doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just list out all of the expenses you know you have each month, then list out any luxuries that you splurge on regularly. Subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly income, and you’ll get an idea of how much money you have left over. If you notice that you don’t have much left over each month, you may want to consider spending less on luxuries or cutting some out altogether.

Contribute to a savings account. If you don’t already have a separate bank account just for savings, the first thing you need to do is create one. This is an extra account that is not meant to be used or even touched for a long period of time. Once you have the account, make sure you are contributing to it every month (or every 2 weeks, if you can swing it). I have a set transfer from my checking account to my savings account, occurring twice monthly. As my expenses and my salary change, I change this amount, but I do make sure it is always happening bi-monthly. I’ve managed to save up a nice chunk over the last year or so, and because my transfer isn’t a huge amount and it happens automatically, I hardly even notice the money coming out.

Bring your lunch. If you work full time, you may have fallen into the pattern of going out or buying lunch every day. Not only does this get expensive, it also probably isn’t the most healthy option. Since I started working full time 6 years ago, I have always made and/or brought my lunches to work, and it blows my mind to hear others talk about how much money they spend in a week on food. I light to eat multiple light meals throughout the day and then a big dinner at night, so I bring things like granola bars, fruit, rice cakes, protein shakes, cheese, raw vegetables, and nuts with me to work with me. Meal prepping is another great option; my sister makes all of her lunches for the week on Sunday, and she packs things like salad, guac and hummus with pita and vegetables, cooked vegetables, grilled chicken, baked sweet potatoes, you name it! When you’re buying and making your own food, you’ll likely save money AND you’ll know exactly what’s going into your food.

Don’t pay full price for things. Okay, so this isn’t always an option, but when you can manage it you’ll probably save yourself from spending a lot of extra money. Let’s talk shopping, for example. I have a post about apps you can use to save money while shopping, and one of them helps you to track items that you want to buy. It notifies you when they go on sale, so you can wait before buying something to see if the price goes down. I recently did this with a new pair of Steve Madden slides I’ve been wanting. They caught my eye weeks ago but I made myself wait to see if they would go on sale, and they did this weekend! I ordered them today at 30% off (plus 10% cash back!) and saved big! That money I would’ve spent by paying full price can now be saved for something else in the future. I know it can be hard to be patient living in this instantly gratifying world that we do, but forcing yourself to shop a little smarter (and not instantly buy every pretty thing you see) is a good exercise that I think a lot of us could benefit from.

Those are my quick hacks for saving a little bit each month.

Whether you want to have more spending money, are saving up for a house, or anything in between, I believe that these small efforts can pay you big dividends if you stick to them.

Feel free to share any additional tips you have for saving, or shopping smarter!

You guys know by now that I love a good shopping score. 🙂 ❤

lifestyle

The Important Relationship Lesson in Taylor Swift’s New Song, ME!

Happy Friday, all!

For those who don’t know, Taylor Swift released a new single and accompanying video at midnight, and the song is super fun!

While a lot of fans are analyzing every second of the video, looking for the countless Easter eggs Taylor confirmed are indeed in there, one of the most important things to take away from the song isn’t hidden at all.

Both the song and the video portray a couple getting into a fight and then resolving it together; the song and video are also both super bubbly, colorful, and playful.

The lyrics allude to shortcomings on each side (for example, Taylor sings, “I know I never think before I jump…I know that I went psycho on the phone…and trouble’s gonna follow where I go”) but also the individuality of each half of the couple.

The chorus proudly boasts “I’m the only one of me, baby that’s the fun of me…You’re the only one of you, baby that’s the fun of you” and I think that is the overarching message of the song.

In any relationship, the most important thing is that both people are fully accepted for, and stay true to, who they are as individuals.

I believe that relationships and love should be about celebrating the other person, because it’s everything they are that leads us to fall in love with them.

I think the song speaks to this, along with the reminder that even when we are mad at our lover, they are still the wonderful person that we admire and want to spend our time with.

The bridge of the song includes a popular saying about how there’s no I in team, but the word me technically is in the word team.

I think this ties back to something Taylor wrote in her 30 Lessons article for Elle magazine about how important it is to remember that you and your significant other are in this together.

Even when you’re fighting, or annoyed with them, or hurt by them, never forget that you are both on the same team.

I believe that one key to making a relationship work is knowing how to handle conflict, because there won’t ever be a relationship where no conflict exists.

The song ME! gives us some beautiful advice on how to handle conflict the right way with our loved ones – remember that it is our job to love them, and that even though parts of them are imperfect, it’s the imperfections that make up who they are, and that allow them to love us in the way that only they can.

I think it’s a lovely song and lovely message, and I’m really not just saying that because I’m a Taylor Swift fan!

What are your thoughts on the song/video? Or on resolving conflict in relationships in general?

I think there are many different ways to handle things and to be successful in relationships, and I’m always happy to hear guidance from others.

If you have something to share, leave it in the comments below!

lifestyle

TV Shows to Binge on Netflix, Hulu, HBO and CBS All Access

Happy almost-Friday, everyone.

It’s been such an exhausting week, I’m happy to be home (anxiously awaiting the release of the new Taylor Swift song, ME!) (!!!) and binging one of my favorite TV shows.

I always see friends and family members on social media asking for the next great TV show they should binge-watch, so I figured I’d share some of my current favorites with you.

Since there are so many different streaming services, I picked four of the most popular ones to provide recommendations on.

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On Netflix:

British Bake Off: If you haven’t watched this delightful baking competition yet, you have to! The challenges and creations are super cool, the characters are quirky and lovable, and the judges are iconic. I’ve already devoured every episode on Netflix, but hope they have more soon!

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On Hulu:

This is Us: I’m a sucker for a drama, and after hearing how amazing this one was over and over, I finally gave in and started it. I’ve teared up or cried at pretty much all 19 episodes I’ve seen so far, but it’s well worth the tears. The characters and their relationships are so real. Plus, I’ve always been a huge fan of Mandy Moore so I love that she’s a lead role.

Younger:
I was skeptical of this show at first, but I’m also a fan of Hilary Duff so I decided to give it a chance. Not only did I rapidly become obsessed, but every time I mentioned the show to one of my friends I discovered that they were crazy about the show, too. Apparently I was a little late to the Younger party, but I’m glad I finally caught up. I definitely recommend it to anyone, especially writers

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On HBO:

Game of Thrones:
Obviously. I’m not even going to go into much detail because you likely either already watch the show, or are set on not watching it. While I’ll admit the first two episodes of Season 8 have fallen a little flat for me, I’m expecting a big finish and am certainly going to watch up until the end. You should totally (read all the books and then) watch it.

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On CBS All Access:

Big Brother: I started watching this show about 10 years ago with my parents, and I find it so interesting to watch other people’s strategies on how to outsmart one another. My husband and I started watching the series from the beginning and there are some amazing seasons and really interesting people throughout. They also have pretty cool physical competitions once in a while, so it’s not all drama and deception. If you watch, you might want to skip Season 1. They still had a lot of kinks to work out at that point and Season 2 is drastically better.

The Million Dollar Mile:
This is a new show on CBS, so I’ve only seen a couple of episodes. I was interested in this show as soon as I saw the commercial explaining the concept of the game. I love athletic competitions, I love seeing the amazing things people can accomplish, and I love some good suspense. This show has plenty of those three things, and is just plain exciting to watch. I’m hoping the competitors get even better as the show goes on.

Those are the main shows I’m watching right now. Some past favorites that I’ve watched all the way through are One Tree Hill (favorite ever) on Hulu, The Jinx on HBO, and Jane the Virgin on Netflix.

Eventually I am going to need more shows to watch, so comment with your favorite series to binge in the comments below!

books

Spring Reading List

Happy Hump Day!

The weather is so perfect today and I feel like Spring has finally arrived in New Jersey.

If I’m being honest, I’ve been slacking when it comes to reading this year; I’ve been so busy with work, house planning, and Matron of Honor Duties, but I need to get back into reading on a regular basis.

To help motivate me, I’m giving myself a Spring reading list.

These are all books that I currently own and have been meaning to read for a while, so now I can push myself to finally get to them!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I actually just started this book and already like it a lot. I’d never heard of it until the Netflix movie came out, but it’s well-written and interesting so far. Once I finish it, I’m definitely going to check out the TV adaptation, as well as some of the other books by this author.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

Stephen King is my all-time favorite author, so I try to fit in at least one of his books every year. He wrote this one with his son, which makes me even more excited to read it. There’s also a rumor that this is being developed into a TV series, so I want to read it now and be ready to watch the show once it comes out.

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

I haven’t looked into what this book is about, but judging by the sinister-looking cover I think I’m going to like it. I read a book called Pretty Girls by this same author a few years ago, and I loved it, so I’m hoping to enjoy this one just as much.

The Enchanted Hour by Megan Cox Gurden

My husband’s aunt was nice enough to get me a signed copy of this book when she went to the author’s reading a few months ago. I’ve never read anything by this author or about this particular topic before, which makes it extra exciting! I’m interested to find out more about the benefits of reading aloud and potential ways to stay focused while reading.

Small great Things by Jodi Picoult

I used to read a LOT of Jodi Picoult around the time that My Sister’s Keeper came out, but then took a break because I felt like a lot of the story lines in her books were the same. Last year, I started reading her again and was reminded of how much I enjoy her writing. I got Small Great Things as a Christmas gift last year, and I can’t wait to dive into the story!

Comment below to let me know what’s on your current list of books to read, or ones that you think I should add to my future lists!

My goal is to get through all of these before the Summer starts, but once I’m finished with this list I’ll surely be making another one.

I’m hoping that having this list will help me keep myself accountable and make sure I’m taking the time to read (when I have the time, that is).

It’s always a challenge to be able to do the things we love, but it’s so rewarding when we’re able to successfully make the time.

That’s my goal with these next few books, and I promise to share some details about them and how they are as I’m reading.

❤ 🙂