Friday, January 31, 2014

H54F

Yesterday was actually my Friday, I had to take today off for an appointment. The weeks seem to be flying by lately. Hopefully after I'm done at the doctor's in the morning I can get out and snap the photos I need to submit for my class this weekend. Here is a quick recap of our week. 

1. Sunday I submitted my photography assignment for last week and I was so excited to see that my professor featured my pairing on the main page out of everything that my classmates and I submitted. I really like how it turned out. The assignment was to shoot a series of pairs (two photos that are tied together somehow). We also have to shoot our photos in full manual mode so I ended up pretty happy with all of the photos I submitted. 

 2. This week Amelia and I spent a lot of time cleaning her room and reorganizing it. I love the size of her room... it's huge, but the girl has a crazy amount of stuff and it wasn't very functional for her. When she wanted to play ponies she would have to dig in all of her bins to find them all. We solved this problem completely. I have some decor I want to hang on the walls and then I will give you all a tour of the coolest room ever! Oh and apparently a tutu is part of our cleaning uniform.

 3. I've been so busy lately that it's a huge worry for me that I'm somehow depriving Amelia of her Mommy time. I'm trying my best to balance the daycare, blog, Etsy shops, photography class and a new project I've been working on. Finding fun things for her to do while I have to work on stuff and then making our one on one time really special has been a priority for me!

4. I seriously have the best husband ever! He truly is amazing. He makes dinner way more than I do which allows me to have time to focus on other things. He made ricotta, spinach, tomato and basil stuffed chicken breasts this week. Delicious!

5. Amelia and I made this Valentine art to hang in our living room. Click HERE for the full post. 

Things I'm looking forward to this weekend...
*Shooting my photos for class. I'm taking Amelia with me so I'm going to arm her with a point and shoot so she can join in on the photo snappin' fun. This week's assignment is Cityscapes and Landscapes. Hopefully the weather cooperates. This rain sucks for photos. 
*Amelia is taking an ice hockey lesson on Saturday. I can't wait to see how she does. My sister bought her the lesson to see if she likes it. Just picture it... a tiny little almost 5yo on ice skates. Holy Cuteness!
*A birthday celebration outing. We are going out to celebrate my cousin Deana's husband Derek. I can't wait to hang out with them. 
*Working on the DIY decor for Amelia's birthday party. I have exciting news regarding her party and I can't wait to share more on that with you all. 

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Valentine Craft

Amelia and I love crafting. I'm pretty sure everyone knows this. I love thinking up projects that are really hands on for her. Our crafting time is so special to me and I love all of the giggles we have and the memories we create. I have been trying to come up with a piece of art that we could display in our living room during the month of February. I finally came up with this project and it is exactly what I was looking for.


Supplies:
canvas (any size you want will do)
pink paint
red paint
sponge paint brush

I had Amelia paint the entire canvas pink and then we let it sit and dry for a day. To create the hearts we dipped her finger in the red paint and set it down twice for each heart. This craft project was so much fun. I love how each heart is a little different from one another, all based on how she put her finger down. I will definitely cherish this piece of art for many many years. 





She was proud to hang her artwork up on the wall
 photo mintcoralsignature_zpsef9bf100.png

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

8 Tips on Using Pinterest to grow

Almost all of us are guilty of it. We sit down at the computer, type in www.Pinterest.com and before we know it we've lost a good four hours of our day. Our dream houses are lavishly decorated, the weddings we are planning will be magazine worthy, our meals are all of a sudden high end restaurant amazing, our wardrobe will basically be that of a model and the kids we have, or are planning to have will ultimately grow up in the cutest nurseries, wearing the most adorable clothes and creating the cutest crafts ever! We are pinners. It's what we do.

Pinterest is not only a great resource to turn to when you need a ideas, but also an amazing tool to use if you are trying to grow a business or a blog. Everyone is on Pinterest... okay, well maybe not everyone, but almost everyone. The benefits of using Pinterest are beyond amazing. I should mention that this post is my experience and opinion on using Pinterest as a tool and others might feel differently, but I'm hoping this will help someone else. 

I, like most Pinterest users, started out only thinking of searching and pinning things that already existed. I didn't think 'hey... maybe my blog content is pin worthy'. But then one day it clicked 'I make good food and cute little crafts... not to mention my daughter has style for days... I could be famous on Pinterest'. I decided to upload a pin from my blog and before I knew it, I was getting more and more views. This happened for a few months and then December hit, the month where I went from about 300 views per day to 1500+ views per day. Now I don't always have numbers that high, but I do attribute that growth Pinterest, and perhaps a tiny little elf on the shelf that visits us. So here are a few of my tips to help you utilize the amazing tool that is Pinterest.


1. Take good photos. Now I know this is sort of a given since pictures are the first thing we see on Pinterest, but I've come across some pretty poorly shot photos that have, in fact, deterred me from clicking on the pin. You need something that will draw someone in; whether that be a photo or a button explaining what the pin is. If I search 'chocolate chip cookie recipe' I'm definitely going to click on the pin that looks most appealing. Now I'm not saying that you have to use some sort of fancy camera and set up a little photo shoot for every cookie you make... a camera phone can work well too. Just remember to utilize good lighting and set the photo up to make the image appealing. If you are creating a button without an image, try to make it colorful and straight forward. Here are two examples of items I've pinned from my blog and have gotten great results from. PicMonkey is a free online tool that is great for editing images if you don't have a Photoshop program. Heck, I have Photoshop and still use PicMonkey for things like this. It's fast and easy.


2. Organizing your own boards. Organizing your own Pinterest boards can help in gaining followers. The first row of boards is what people look at when they view your Pinterest. Make sure your blog/business board is on this row. Also include the most popular boards you have in this row. The first row of boards is more important than one would think. Also, instead of having a general board titled 'Recipes', try breaking it down a little so that you entice people who might have a specific thing they are looking for. 'Crock Pot Meals' 'Paleo Recipes' 'Fast Dinner Ideas' are good examples. Make sure you pin things to the appropriate location. 

3. Don't saturate your followers boards by ONLY pinning your own stuff. Variety is the spice of life. You should be pinning all sorts of things you like, not just focusing on your own pins. There is actually a Pinterest etiquette that I've seen several times, the 80/20 rule. 80% of your pins should be from other sources and 20% should make up your content. You may have a foodie blog and want to share all of your recipes all of the time, but you can gain more followers if you pin other things too. After all, you might have someone who likes your 'Home Decor' board so they start following... and then they notice your recipes, click over to your blog, fall in love with it and BAM, new blog follower. I have actually stopped following people because they pin 50 or more things from their blog at one time (all similar content). Now that's not to say that if you make a recipe and have 3 great pics you shouldn't pin them all... that is something that has worked for me. I'm just saying don't be that person who overly overwhelms people with the same thing. Take those 3 photos and pin them over the course of a day or week.

4. Repin your stuff. There is no shame in pinning something from your blog or shop, and then repinning it a few months later. You might have gained new followers since the first pinning who didn't get a chance to see it. Repinning your items from time to time is a great thing to do. Don't repin your items every couple of days though... that just gets annoying.

5. Utilize the seasons and holidays. You can really gain a lot of views by pinning things that are seasonal or holiday related. My advice on this is to pin holiday things a couple of months before the holiday occurs. You don't want to be pinning Christmas crafts on Christmas Eve. Usually people like to create things prior to give as gifts or use as decor around the home. Example: if you have good 'game day' recipes for finger foods and such, pinning that a couple of weeks prior to Super Bowl Sunday will get you repins and views as opposed to pinning it after. Now I'm not saying that people don't pin Halloween Costumes, Christmas crafts, gift ideas and such year 'round, because they do. I've just noticed that I get the greatest response when I pin a couple of months prior to, and then repin a couple of weeks prior to the holiday. Same thing goes for seasons. Get those BBQ tips ready and start pinning toward the end of Spring. Seasonal and Holiday pinning works wonders for my blog views! 

6. Use text on your pics or buttons. This is very important! I really recommend adding a little text to an image you plan on pinning. Now, this doesn't work for every type of pin. I don't think adding a text box to an outfit pin will help it at all. Recipes, DIY, tutorials, craft projects etc. are all good pictures to add text to. The description you add when you pin something doesn't always stay there, some people change it so adding a little text will tell someone that you are doing a tutorial or that it's a recipe. Also, adding watermarks to some of your images is a great idea. I have had people take my photos and put them on their own sites, which frustrates the heck out of me! Here are some examples of adding text to a pin photo. One tip for this tip though... don't go overboard with this. You don't need a title on every photo that you plan on pinning, maybe just the first photo in the post. 

7. Have a blog or business specific board. This is something I'm not always great at doing, but it is a great tool. When you go to pin an item for the first time from your blog or business, pin it to a board that is specific for your content only. I have a board titled "From Ashley to Awesome" which is my blog title. I not only want an easy place to go to for all of my personal pins, but a place to send people who follow my blog. Then, when you go to repin a few months later you can pin it to a content specific board. It's still showing up in your follower's feed both times, but it prevents you from pinning the same thing more than once to the same board. You could also swap this method and first pin to the content board and then to your blog/business board after that. 

8. Follow Others. The more people you follow, the more content you have in your feed. Now I'm not saying go crazy and follow everyone and their brother, but following people who have boards that interest you is a great thing. After all, a lot of our creativity and ideas stem from something or someone else and we just put our own twist on it. You don't know what could inspire you if you don't follow anyone. 

I could go on for days, okay well maybe not days, but I'm sure I could come up with a few more tips. In an effort to keep this from being a novel I will stop it at my top 8 tips. I know this post was wordy, but I'm hoping this helps someone out there. Please add any tips to the comments section so my readers can gain even more advice. 

 photo mintcoralsignature_zpsef9bf100.png

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Fur Hat, Airplanes and a Cute Cow

Well this has been one hell of a busy weekend! Seriously, I am so happy that I get to take this photography class online through the college, but the fact that I can only work on my assignments and take my photos on the weekends really makes me a cranky B who runs around like a chicken with it's head cut off. So after two days of busin' butt on it, assignments are turned in and a quiz is complete... and now I'm having a date with a big ol' bowl of chocolate ice cream while I watch the Grammy's. 

Mark worked all weekend so I wanted to do something fun with my girl. One of the fondest memories I have as a little girl with my Grandpa was going to watch the airplanes take off from the airport. Grandpa would drive us up there and we would park on the side of the road. It was so much fun and such a great memory to have. Well, since then people are not allowed to park there and watch them, but thankfully it doesn't cost much at all to use the short term parking garage. I decided that Amelia and I needed to watch the airplanes this weekend. I didn't even realize until after we were at the airport that Saturday was January 25th; my days get all mixed up and I rarely know the date, but that would have been my Grandpa's 85th birthday. What a great date with my girl and a wonderful way to remember my Grandpa. We woke up early, bundled up, hit the Starbuck's drive through and headed out on our adventure to the roof top. I set up a blanket on the hood of my car and she got so excited as each one took off; watching them all the way until they went out of sight. 




After we left the airport we stopped by to visit my Grandma. It was nice to spend a couple of hours with her. Then we headed to Molalla to hang with my sisters. I also needed to take photos for my class so we drove around town doing that too. We also went out to dinner and lounged around Grace's watching tv until we were all beyond exhausted and headed home. 
I just loved this little guy. He came running to the fence when I walked over with my camera. Friendly Fella
Amelia and I did sleep in a little this morning, but once Mark got home I had to head out and snap more photos so I didn't get much family time today. I will definitely have to spoil my girl with Mommy time tomorrow night.

Well, that was my eventful weekend for ya. I LOVED spending Saturday morning with Amelia. When you are on the roof top level of the parking garage the airplanes are so massive as they take off. Best $3 spent!!! 

Friday, January 24, 2014

H54F

I'm so happy the weekend is almost here. I have spent most of this week with a killer migraine, and when it's not a migraine it's a raging headache. I basically wanted to rip my head off of my body this week and throw it away. I'm exhausted and in desperate need of some good sleep. This week was good aside from that though. I'm hoping to get most of my homework read today during nap time so that I can get my assignment and quiz done and submitted tomorrow morning. We'll see if that happens. So, enough of that crap. Here's a recap of our week.

1. I didn't have any littles on Wednesday so Erica, Amelia and I went to Slappy Cakes. It's this cute Portland restaurant that does breakfast... and you get to make your own pancakes. Amelia was thrilled since pancakes are one of the few breakfast items she actually loves. You choose your batter, fillings and toppings and just make it right there at your table. So cute! Amelia had buttermilk pancakes with chocolate chips and topped them with maple syrup and whipped cream. Being our first time there we weren't worried about healthy pancakes obviously! haha. I had chicken fried steak that was amazing and my sister had a classic breakfast thingy. Overall awesome place and we will definitely be going back.

2. If you missed it earlier in the week, this DIY heart garland hit the blog. You can find the tutorial by clicking HERE

3. Amelia made me a card and wrote this, along with 'Mama' all by herself without asking anyone for help on how to spell things. Oh how I love her to pieces. 

4. These two are so darn cute! They snuggle on my lap almost every night. Mark and I don't know why he loves her so much. That poor cat gets drug around, chased constantly and laid on all the time... yet he still runs to snuggle her every time she sits down. They are perfect for one another. 

5. If you missed last night's recipe post... check it out. This chicken was SO good. I'm not even joking. Check it out HERE.

So... that's what we've been up to this week. Hopefully we keep this sunny weather... even if the wind is a bit chilly. Have a good weekend! 
post signature

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Smoked Gouda & Bacon Stuffed Chicken Recipe

Mark and I have been in a rut with dinner lately. We almost always have chicken for dinner so as you can guess... chicken eventually gets boring. We haven't grocery shopped much lately so I scrounged around our fridge, threw some ingredients together and ended up with an awesome dinner. I thought I'd share it with you all. 


Ingredients (makes 2 servings)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 slices of Smoked Gouda
3-4 slices of bacon
minced garlic
herb mixture (oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram)
salt

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes

First cut the chicken breasts and pound them out. I don't have a meat tenderizer so I used a rolling pin and just hit the meat with it until it was the thickness I wanted. 

Cut up the bacon into small pieces and fry it up. Set aside.

Cut or tear the slices of cheese in half and place half a slice on each side of the chicken breasts. Top the cheese with some of the bacon pieces. I divided my bacon into thirds, used one third to stuff each chicken breast and saved the rest to top them. 

Fold over the chicken breasts and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Top the chicken with an herb mixture of your liking. I ground up rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram and kosher salt together for our chicken, but you could use whatever spices you like. Add a little bit of minced garlic and the remaining bacon over the herb mixture. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. 


I paired our chicken with lemon garlic asparagus and cooked carrots. It was really delicious.
Instagram dinner photo
Enjoy!

post signature

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dazzling by Ashley GIVEAWAY

Hello Lovelies. If you don't know already, I have a fairly new Etsy shop called Dazzling by Ashley. I will be adding several new items over the next two weeks so I thought it would be the perfect time to do a giveaway. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


post signature

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DIY Heart Garland Tutorial

I really love all of the paper garlands that are floating around Etsy and Pinterest. I have found a lot of circular garland, but I really wanted something that I could hang in my house for the month of February. The one thing that I really love about our rental house is that the front door has glass. I like hanging seasonal decorations up that will greet our guests as they walk up to the door. This DIY heart garland is adorable! Love it! 


Supplies:
red glitter cardstock
heart paper punch (or Cricut with a heart cartridge)
glue (I recommend using a hot glue gun)
fishing line

First you will want to cut out all of your hearts. I plan on using the garland in my front door and each row of garland I made has 12 hearts (24 total for each garland front and back). I ran the hearts through my Xyron sticker machine, put the fishing line on the center of the hearts and spaced them apart randomly. My suggestion would be to use a hot glue gun. The Xyron maching works wonderfully with lighter weight paper, but didn't hold the thick glitter cardstock together well. Other than that, this garland was incredibly easy to make and looks absolutely adorable hanging in our door. 



post signature

Bookfest in Bed with Amelia

Amelia LOVES books. We try to read as often as possible before bed but lately we have been too tired and getting to bed too late. Last night I unplugged at 8 o'clock and her and I spent over an hour snuggled in my bed reading books. So, I thought I'd share a few of our favorites that often make our reading list for Bookfest in Bed.
An Amelia Bedelia Celebration - For those of you who grew up reading Amelia Bedelia, this book is great. It has four stories in one and they are all quite funny. I actually call my Amelia 'Amelia Bedelia' from time to time so she thinks it's hilarious that there are books with an Amelia in them. I thought the jokes might be too old for my four year old, but she actually gets most of them... and if she doesn't it's a good reason to pause and explain it to her. This book finds its way into our rotation from time to time and we always have a good laugh. 
Sleepy Squirrel - This book was my favorite when I was little. Sleepy Squirrel is a super cute story about the bedtime routine of a squirrel named 'Little Maple'. Amelia and I read this almost every night and thankfully I kept my copy because tracking this book down is nearly impossible (you can buy it used on Amazon for $35-$115)
I Love You Mommy - This book is another that we read regularly, and actually I'm the only one who reads this one to her... it's our special book. This book is really cute. It's about a little bear who wants to head out on adventures, but because he doesn't listen to his mommy things don't go as he had planned. The end melts my heart and I just love love love to read this one to her. 
Where's Spot - This book has a super special place in my heart because it was the first book that Amelia read to me. Yep, that girl can read this entire thing to me and I just love it. It's a cute book with little flaps you can lift to try and find Spot. We have a couple of other Spot books but we haven't read those yet. 
Snowflakes - This book is seriously the most gorgeous book EVER! I saw it in Barnes & Noble around Christmastime and my mom got it for Amelia as a gift. It is so awesome! The detail in the snowflake pop ups is incredible. I can't say enough about this book. I actually don't even let Amelia look at this book alone because it is so intricate and I don't want it getting ruined at all. I recommend this to anyone who loves snowflakes and/or pop-up books. 
Cookie's Week - Amelia loves this funny book about a naughty cat that gets into all sorts of trouble. I'm pretty sure she would love any book with a cat in it, but this one really makes her laugh.
What are some of your favorite children's books? 
post signature