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4.15.2014

A Simple Spring Table at Home

One of my very favorite things to do is style a pretty table. For my shoots (the most recent of which is on 100 Layer Cake today), I always try to put a lot of thought and personality into my tables, from the linens to the flatware to the centerpieces and china. It's so much fun to play around with different patterns and colors and textures, to create something pretty and unexpected. There are times when I just bring out whatever I have at home on hand, and create something in our little apartment. And though it's a little gloomy outside today, I thought I'd bring a little sunshine into our home. 
I think sunflowers are the perfect flower to bring home. They're fairly easy to find, very simple to arrange, and brighten up a space. Nearly everything on this table I bought from Target or Pier 1 or Homegoods, and those little bowls were an amazing find at Cost Plus for only $3 each! How wonderful is that?

4.14.2014

Three Ways I Make My House a Home

I guess the title of this post should really be "Three Ways I Make My Teeny Tiny Apartment a Home" but eh - semantics. I wrote a post a few months ago on Four Secrets to My Happy Marriage, and I wanted to expand on that idea with my home. The thought behind it is that what I do is what I do, and I want to share it, even if it isn't right for you. 

Creating my home has always been one of my number one priorities, other than nurturing my marriage. My home needs to be a place for us to feel safe and comfortable, a place that we want to come home to. It's a place that we entertain in, and where our friends can come for good food and good company. I don't think it would matter if we lived in a little apartment or a massive mansion - adding that personal element will always be important to me, and I think these things will be carried with me throughout my journey as a homemaker. So, here are a few ways that I make my house a home. 
1 // FIND BEAUTY IN THE IMPERFECTION. Robert and I don't have children (not for lack of trying), but we do have children come over to our home every once in a while. Though I have put a lot of thought and intention into the decor of our home, it's meant to be lived in. Children are welcome to come over with their sticky fingers and juice boxes and have free reign. It's that idea that things don't need to be perfect to be beautiful. Nothing is sterile here, because we actually live here. We spill things and things get messy and I would never be upset if a friend's child came over and broke something, even if it was important to me. That would be ridiculous. Children are children and we are people, and my priority is to ensure that everyone feel comfortable here, not like their flailing around in a china shop. Not cool. 

2 // MAKE MEANING. I have nothing against people that curate items for their home because they look nice or go with the aesthetic. Making a space beautiful is an essential part of creating a comfortable home. I do believe in using things are meaningful to you and your family, however. It's just about integrating these pieces in a way that fits with everything else. I don't believe in buying artwork or photos for decor; I just use what my family already has. I want it to feel like my family is present here, even if they live much farther away. And I have to say - I do get disappointed when I see home tours and there doesn't seem to be an ounce of personality or intimacy in the space. To each their own, but I wouldn't want to live somewhere so perfectly styled but void of personal touches. 

3 // IT'S ABOUT THE DETAILS. I have a tendency to collect knick-knacks, but I always buy them with the intention to use them. Think, paper straws, little dishes that are always filled with candy, a drink station right on the kitchen counter (coffee or tea or chai are always readily available in our home) and plenty of blankets and pillows on the couch to stay comfy. I think people notice when you put thought into the details in your home, and goodness knows that Robert and I prefer to keep it that way. It suppose it goes back to that first point - our home is lived in, and we want to make living fun and meaningful and memorable. 

So, there it is. Three ways I make my house a home. I know they aren't too significant, but I've put a lot of thought and effort and even research into how to make my home the sanctuary I've always wanted it to be. I know I'll learn so much in the next few years, and for the rest of my life, really, but this is what I value and live like now.

4.10.2014

What I'm Reading :: Beautiful Bastard

Just a note...this is actually the second time I'm writing this post. I got through ALL the way to the end before Blogger decided to delete it all and autosave. I threw a little tantrum, did some retail therapy (I wasn't having the best day in the first place) and now I'm back. 

I am not ashamed to admit that I've read and reread all three books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. I know there are still women out there who keep their Christian Grey fantasies a secret, but I will tell you right now that I'm counting down to Valentine's Day next year. 

Now, enter the Beautiful Bastard series. To be honest, it took me a while to actually want to read the book because of the name, but I quickly got over it once I realized how addicting the story is. 
About Beautiful Bastard...

An ambitious intern. A perfectionist executive. And a whole lot of name calling.

Whip-smart, hardworking, and on her way to an MBA, Chloe Mills has only one problem: her boss, Bennett Ryan. He's exacting, blunt, inconsiderate--and completely irresistible. A Beautiful Bastard. 

Bennett has returned to Chicago from France to take a vital role in his family's massive media business. He never expected that the assistant who'd been helping him from abroad was the gorgeous, innocently provocative--completely infuriating--creature he now has to see every day. Despite the rumors, he's never been one for a workplace hookup. But Chloe's so tempting he's willing to bend the rules--or outright smash them--if it means he can have her. All over the office.

As their appetites for one another increase to a breaking point, Bennett and Chloe must decide exactly what they're willing to lose in order to win each other.

There are three main books in the Beautiful series and a handful of smaller novellas with lots of lemons and fluff, not that I'm complaining. The first book, Beautiful Bastard, isn't actually my favorite of the three - that would be the third, Beautiful Player. The second, Beautiful Stranger, is probably the most...devious, as much as I hate that word. Each book focuses on a different couple, all of whom are friends and whose worlds intertwine. Each one is steamy, absolutely hilarious, and so sweet in the most unexpected of ways. 

Probably one of the things I love most about these books are the characters. A big problem I have with contemporary fiction, including Fifty Shades of Grey, is how everyone feels the need to suppress the female characters. Every time I start reading a book and it's revealed that the main characters are a virgin and a bad boy, I have to take a step away and think about whether or not I actually want to read it. This series most definitely breaks that mold. You have really strong female characters who are sexually confident, successful, smart, and do not let a man dominate her (unless it's in the bedroom). It's refreshing, really. 

I'm also a sucker for series that weave multiple story lines in one universe, which might be why I love this series so much. Another example of this would be the Rosemary Beach series by Abbi Glines, which I absolutely adore. That one is more sexy young adult, and I could totally see it being made into a teenage drama a la OC or Dawson's Creek. It's fantastic. 

I've read a few other books lately, including Play in the Stage Dive series. I did a little review of Lick last year, which was the first book in the series, and I have to say that I liked Play just as much! This series also has different characters and stories incorporated into the one Stage Dive universe, but with a rock star twist. These books are hilarious and wonderful in every way possible, and I cannot wait for the next to come out!

I would also recommend LoveLines, which was completely adorable, and the Unidentified Redhead, though I'm only on the second book in that series. As of today, I'm happy to report that I'm actually ahead of my reading schedule, and have read twenty-one books toward my goal of seventy-five for the year!

Note that this post includes affiliate links, which means that I may make a commission from any purchases made via these links. You can read more about my blog's policies here. As a small business owner and self-employed blogger, I always appreciate your support and consideration!

4.08.2014

Ask Me Anything v.1

A few weeks ago I let you all know that I'm going to start an Ask Me Anything series, and a few people sent in questions, mainly about wedding planning and blogging. Since I addressed the former in a fairly lengthy post a couple weeks ago, I thought maybe I would talk about blogging today! I do have a series called On Blogging, but I figured this would be a little bit of a different format. 

My very first question was sent to me by Sarah from 702 Park Project. She asked...
My question is how, as a new blogger, should I generate traffic to my blog? I use social media, and try to comment on other blogs regularly, but I was just wondering if you had any other ideas to throw out.
I think, for me, one of the most important qualities when blogging and interacting with other bloggers is sincerity. I think that commenting on other blogs is great, but it should never be used as a tool just to get traffic back to your own blog. That being said, if you expect other people to read your blog, you should probably take time out to read other blogs too, but never feel guilty because you can't read all the blogs in the world. There are a lot out there, and you can't expect everyone to read yours either. Instead, find ones that you really do love, leave genuine comments, and people will realize what a real and kind person you are. Maybe it's me being idealist, but that's my favorite way of networking in the blogging community.

I'm a firm believer in sponsoring other, not necessarily bigger, blogs as well. There are button swaps and giveaways that you can participate in, and I really think that it's just a matter of finding what works for you and your blog. As someone who does make a little money from her blog, I have to say, don't feel weird about giving a blogger money if you really like their work. We've spent years on our blogs and I think most of us love promoting other people and discovering new up and coming blogs. Definitely evaluate why you would want to sponsor a particular blog - does it match your values? Would your blog attract a similar readership?

But beyond all of that, the number one most important thing when trying to build your readership is CONTENT. Makes sense, right? You'd be surprised. But it's always going to come back to content. Do you have something valuable to say? It doesn't matter if it's about your life or your house or tutorials or recipes or whatever, YOU have to value the content of your blog in order for others to value it too. Is your content compelling? Do you have photos to back up your writing? Does your voice come through, and do readers have a reason to come back? If you put out good, valuable, interesting content, people will notice. I promise.

Okay, so that's that! My very first Ask Me Anything post! If you have a question, about anything of course, feel free to email me or leave a comment with your question and I'll be sure to answer it in an upcoming post.