Alt Summit: Winter 2015

I am still flying high from my first Alt Summit and wanted to recap and share more about my experience with you.

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If you’re unfamiliar, Alt Summit (short for Altitude Summit) is a blogger’s conference held twice a year in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It is a great way to learn more about the blogging world, including helpful tips and techniques, and connect with other bloggers.  Most importantly, Alt Summit is meant to inspire through sharing.

I actually signed up for the 2014 winter Alt Summit, but chickened out at the last minute and ended up canceling my registration.  I don’t regret this action as it just wasn’t the right time for me to go, but I did make it a point to truly consider it for the next year.  I am so happy I decided to go.  The whole time I was at the conference I kept noticing how right it felt in terms of both my personal and public life.  I am on the verge of undertaking some big changes in how I present my content and went into Alt hoping for some guidance, reassurance, and inspiration for this new part of my online journey.  I came out with that much and more!

I’m going to break down this photo-heavy post by day and share the personal pics I snapped on my phone along the way, what classes and panels I attended, and lastly, a summary of my experience and where I stand now, post-Alt.  I hope this helps give you a sense of my Alt experience as a newbie.

Day #1 – January 21, 2015

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I didn’t have to travel far to attend Alt Summit this winter, as I had spent the previous three and a half weeks at our family vacation home about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City.  I drove in on Wednesday afternoon to check into the beautiful Grand America Hotel, the only five star accommodation in the area.  I was stunned by the gorgeous suite I had the pleasure of staying in (especially that lovely deep tub, which I fully enjoyed after a long day of conferencing).  The view of Salt Lake City is spectacular!  Looking down into the courtyard in the evening is another beautiful scene.  I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in this beautiful hotel and was grateful to be on site for easy back and forth throughout the conference.

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After getting settled in my room, I popped downstairs to check into the conference where I was given the schedule, my badge, and a beautiful notebook.  I was fortunate to attend the conference with my friend, Kristina, another YouTuber/blogger, and a couple of her blogger friends.  It was really nice to be at my first conference with some friendly and familiar faces, although now that I’ve been, I know I would have managed just fine on my own.  Everyone I had the pleasure of meeting was very friendly and genuinely interested in swapping cards and sharing stories.  Also, Alt provides ways to get to know other attendees and make connections in advance with closed Facebook groups and Pinterest pages.

After grabbing a bite and discussing our Alt plane, the four of us headed to an early bird session with Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks, a professional photographer and blogger.  Karen’s talk was a great way to kick off the conference, as it presented me with a lot of questions that got me thinking about how I frame my content.  Karen encouraged us to consider our about page, include a mission statement, work on an elevator pitch, and create tag lines for our brands.  These are all things I’ve heard about but haven’t previously invested a lot of time and thought into.  Karen illuminated how focusing on these can allow you to communicate your message better with your audience.

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All attendees were given the opportunity to sign up for small group sponsor dinners held by different brands on Wednesday night.  I had the pleasure of attending Minted‘s dinner at Taqueria 27, a Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake.  Minted put out a beautiful spread with festive decorations and table settings, highlighting their new fabric line with the table linens and totes they provided as gifts.  They also gave each of us a framed print with our logos as a beautiful Alt memento.  It was nice to be able to meet some of the other Alt attendees in a more intimate setting and enjoy a tasty meal together.

Day #2 – January 22, 2015

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I woke up bright and early on Thursday so I could enjoy a leisurely paced morning without the need to rush.  Fortunately, I had taken the time to “curate” my Alt wardrobe before packing so I didn’t have to figure any of that out and could focus on my plan for the day and enjoy a nice breakfast.  Room service breakfast is always one of my favorite parts about being in a hotel.  The Grand’s continental spread did not disappoint!

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This collage is composed of photos I took of Lisa Congdon‘s slides during her keynote.

The first official day of the conference kicked off with an opening keynote by Lisa Congdon, an amazingly talented woman who found her art groove in her thirties and went on to become a successful self-employed working artist with no scholastic training.  Her story is so inspiring!  Listening to her speak about her journey made me realize how similar much of the blogger experience is across the board, even between people from very different backgrounds with drastically different content.  The internet is such an amazing vehicle to share with the world, but it takes hard work, perseverance, dedication, sheer grit, and a whole lot of patience to make an imprint.  There are always going to be obstacles to overcome and people who do not understand or appreciate the very personal efforts that go into sharing online, but that’s all part of the journey.  I think this is well illustrated by a quote Lisa shared from Twitter Co-Founder, Biz Stone: “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”

Lisa provided four lessons that helped her in her journey that I wanted to share with you:

1. Own it and own all of it.
2. Give it everything you have.
3. Let go of the idea that it will all someday be perfect.
4. Be kind. Care. Stay humble.

When you think about it, these are really life lessons that could apply to most anyone in most any situation (if not all).  I felt so honored to be in that room absorbing this advice from such an amazing person.  What an incredibly powerful way to frame the beginning of the conference!

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This is a photo I took of one of Alison Faulkner‘s slides during her session.

After a short break, we headed to a session called “Awesome Tools for Building an Awesome Online Brand” with Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show.  Alison is an incredible lady with such joie de vivre that she brings to everything she does.  Her positive and upbeat energy is contagious and I felt buoyant in her presence.  Alison gave us a lot of useful tips for building your personal brand and why it’s important to invest time and resources into doing so.  This was especially beneficial for me as I’m contemplating how I present my content.  I loved her enthusiasm and honesty, which never faltered during her presentation.

Here are the tools that Alison suggested for building an awesome brand:

1. Define it
2. Consistency
3. Context
4. Know Your Audience
5. Let it go

The context and anecdotes Alison provided drove her point home in a personal and lasting way.  I look forward to following her journey as it unfolds online.

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BabyLit, a publishing company that provides classic literature in baby books, hosted lunch on Thursday, which was marked by cute as a button table decor and a nice buffet.  It was great to take a breather after an intense morning and meet other bloggers in a casual setting.

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After lunch, we sat in on a panel discussing Instagram and how to use it to build your business with Allison Silber of Engaged and Inspired, Pei Ketron of Pei Ketron, Andi Teggart of Piquora, and Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day.  I’ve never really considered my Instagram account as a business building tool before and was interested to hear how these ladies use their accounts in a very dedicated way.  I’ve never been about the numbers personally on any of my social media and other online platforms and am uncertain if I will take all of their advice to heart, but learning how other’s approach these sorts of things is always beneficial.  Sometimes knowing what someone else does and why allows you to examine better what you do and the reasonings behind it and either feel stronger about it or be inspired to make changes, even if they do not reflect the exact advice you were given.  My biggest takeaway from this session was this: “Be someone you would want to follow.”  I think this a great way to frame all online contributions and it is an excellent reminder to stay true and post only what you yourself would want to see.

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On a side note, there were quite a few sponsors at this event which camped out in different lounges with booths and activities.  I didn’t photograph most of these, although I do share them briefly in my coordinating video (see below).  One of my personal favorite sponsors was The Honest Company, which provides “unquestionably safe, eco-friendly, beautiful, convenient, and affordable” household and personal products geared towards families.  I’d heard about this brand before but never used any of their products.  The Honest Company decked out the public restrooms with everything from soaps and room sprays to lotions and candles.  They put out jars of their chapsticks for attendees to take, which was the perfect gift in the dry Salt Lake climate.  I was impressed with their marketing and look forward to trying more of their products in the future.

After the Instagram breakout session, Alt offered even smaller setting choices, including design camps and roundtables.  I was keen on attending the Re-Branding Your Blog roundtable with PJ Feinstein of A Girl Named PJ.  PJ has just completed a major overhaul of her blog and branding and had lots of useful advice to give others considering it as well.  While it’s not as simple as just changing your name and your logo, PJ made it seem very attainable and more importantly, worthwhile if it feels essential to staying true to your message.

I filed so much useful and inspirational information, thoughts, and feelings away by the end of the day that my head was reeling!  I used the break between the last session and dinner to calm and quiet my mind with yoga.

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On Thursday night, Alt threw a Downton Abbey themed party in the Grand Salon of the hotel, which was a stunning affair.  Having never seen the show, I decided to play it safe with a nice looking dress and simple accessories.  I’m certainly no fashionista, but I felt comfortable and put together in what I wore for this party, as well as all of the other events and sessions I attended.  I would be happy to share my outfit choices in a more detailed post if there is any interest in that.  I settled on a gorgeous lace overlay dress from Anthropologie, sparkly Tory Burch flats, and Kate Spade accessories.  I assumed the party would be a cocktail and appetizer kind of deal where you have to stand, which is why I wore flats instead of heels.  It ended up being something in between that and a sit down affair with some tables that were already full by the time we got there.  It was a beautiful event and I very much enjoyed seeing other people’s creativity with their Downton Abbey inspired outfits.

Day #3 – January 23, 2015

I was so wrapped up in the conference on Friday that I completely spaced on taking my own photos.  Fortunately, Alt had two professional photographers who covered the conference and provided access to their photos to all attendees.  All photos that are not originally mine are used with permission and credited below.

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Photos by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit

On Friday morning, we chose to sit in on a session about affiliate links run by Corrine Stokoe of Mint Arrow.  I’ve used affiliate links for a little while now as a means to monetize my content, although I haven’t really put a lot of thought or effort into the why and how.  It was so interesting to listen to Corrine share her tips and tricks, since it’s pretty new to me.  I especially enjoyed her views on affiliate guilt and her analogy of bloggers using affiliate links to servers in a restaurant (I recommend watching my video where I shared this part of her talk).  There’s no reason to feel guilty about earning a small commission when you provide a service that costs buyers absolutely nothing to use.  As Corrine said, “embrace who you are and what you rock at.”

After that session, we learned more about the business side of blogging with lawyer Amanda Schreyer of Prince Lobel.  This class was probably the most informative in terms of practical blogging guidance out of all I attended.  There is so much to learn about how to protect your content and stay within the legal limits according to the law and FTC policies.  I took a lot of notes!  Amanda helped me more seriously consider hiring a lawyer to help make sure that I am protected in sharing what I do online.

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Photos by Justin Hackworth (left) and Brooke Dennis (right) for Alt Summit

The lunch keynote was held by two powerhouse female CEOs: Jess Lee of Polyvore and Susan Petersen of Freshly Picked.  Talk about inspirational!  Hearing their amazing stories of success from small beginnings was definitely a high point of the conference.  Unfortunately, having them speak during lunch turned out to be quite distracting as there was a lot of noise from the food service as well as people talking.  My tip would be to try and sit at a table as close to the speakers as possible to be able to hear better.

The final breakout session of the conference was held after lunch.  We chose to attend a class on monetizing your business with Jessie Artigue of Style and Pepper and Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society.  These ladies had a lot of energy and started off the class with a dance party.  While I felt they spoke well and on point, they focused primarily on sharing how they monetize their style/fashion-related businesses and less on how this can apply to other fields.  I wish they had provided more tips and practical applications for bloggers in general.

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Dallas Clayton, a children’s book author and illustrator of the popular Awesome Book series, gave the closing keynote.  Dallas was incredible.  He went totally off book and flowed through a series of thoughts and ideas he shared outloud with us.  It was such a different way of speaking than any of the other amazing people we heard over the course of the conference and just what was needed in my opinion to bring to light the power of openly sharing creativity.  In particular, I felt like Dallas’s keynote was the perfect bookend and counterpoint to Lisa Congdon’s opening address.  Obviously, this was the Alt organizers intent with providing two extremely creative artists with very different ways of expressing themselves.  Dallas’s words were funny, uplifting, thoughtful, and profound all at the same time.  At the very end he read us a poem about creativity he had just written and it struck such a chord with me.  I can’t wait until he publishes it and shares it with the world!  Some of my takeaways from his keynote include “get out of your comfort zones,” “get lost,” “no rules,” “find your own Spin Doctors,” and “you can change at any point.”  In other words, do what you want and believe in yourself (I’ll come back to this in a moment).  I left the room feeling light as a feather and grinning from ear to ear.  I highly recommend following Dallas on Instagram for daily inspiration.

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The last official event of the conference were the mini parties in the hotel on Friday evening hosted by Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hive, Tiny Prints, and Lindt Chocolates (can you guess which one was my favorite?  I’ll give you a hint, they had chocolate ;) ).  What fun!  The parties were set up round robin style in rooms next to each other with different themes and activities.  It was a great way to wrap up two very intense and jam-packed days and say goodbye to people we met along the way.

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As I mentioned previously, I was fortunate to attend the conference with some familiar faces.  I am so honored I was able to share my first Alt Summit experience with these ladies!  My friend Kristina (to the left of me), from K Werner Design, introduced me to two of her close friends in the crafting blog world.  Kathy (on my right), is an amazing card maker who blogs at The Daily Marker.  Jennifer (next to Kathy), showcases her stamping skills on Jennifer McGuire Ink.  Kristina and Jennifer also offer card making classes through their business, Online Card Classes.  Please check out these amazingly talented women and show them some love!

Check out my vlog-style footage from the conference if you’re interested in seeing more:

My Thoughts

I left Alt Summit with a brain stuffed to the brim with new information from smart people who have been where I am now, a file filled with beautiful business cards from people I met and want to know better, and a heart filled with inspiration from the amazingly talented and creative people who shared their stories.  I cannot emphasize enough just how fulfilling my first Alt Summit and conference experience was.  I have never felt so validated as a blogger sharing with the world online.

I think blogging is still in its beginning stages where it’s not always recognized as not only a valid form of expression but a career path.  I still hesitate to call it a “job” or “work” for the negative reaction I am far too accustomed to receiving when I do.  The truth is that this is how I choose to spend the majority of my time and I invest quite a bit of myself and my resources into it.  When you google the definition of a career, you get this: “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.”  That sounds like a pretty accurate description of what I’ve been doing for the last chunk of my life, so why am I so afraid to own it?

While I had no aspirations of turning my online sharing into a job when I started my first YouTube channel over four and a half years ago, I am delighted by the journey it has taken me on.  Alt allowed me to see myself in the world of bloggers as a real blogger for the first time ever.  I wasn’t consciously aware that this was something I needed, but now that I’ve experienced it, I know I needed it more than anything.  I feel like I’m on the verge of taking my content to the next level.  I still plan on sharing in pretty much the same capacity, but I’ve felt a need for better framework for a long time now, something that flows better with my content.  That framework is my branding, to use the lingo of the blogging world.  I feel now that by taking the leap and investing in rebuilding my framework, my “brand,” that my content will more accurately reflect who I am and what I’m all about.  This is a leap of faith, since changing your branding when you’re already somewhat established can be tricky, but I know now, post-Alt, that I can’t not take that chance.

My main goal has always been to share what I am genuinely interested in sharing.  I wouldn’t be staying true to that goal if I left thing status quo.  Lisa Congdon encouraged “stretching” to expand your limits and discover new things about yourself, Jess Lee and Susan Petersen stressed the power of perseverance and staying true to your vision, and Dallas Clayton emphasized “no rules” and doing what you want.  These incredible people all have this in common: they know who they are, they persevere, and they take chances.

I am ready to really own what I do and what I’m all about.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thanks for sharing in my journey.  Let’s rock this year!

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* I am not affiliated with Altitude Summit.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

2015 Planner Update

Now that we’re settling into the new year I thought it would be the right time for a planner update.  I’m excited to share my current planner setup with you!

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I am still using two planners and just like last year one is an Erin Condren Life Planner and the other is a leather binder style agenda.  I get a lot of questions about why I need two planners and what I use both for.  I will clarify this in the detail of each below.  I don’t think everyone needs multiple planners for optimal time management.  Planners are a very personal thing and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all option, since time management techniques must be tailored to suit an individual’s needs to be effective.  I personally enjoy learning about other people’s use of planners because I am genuinely interested in seeing what other people do and I also gain inspiration for my own methods.  In this post, I am simply sharing what works for me in the hopes that it might inspire or be interesting to some of you.

Erin Condren Life Planner

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I have waxed poetic about all things Erin Condren Designs for well over a year now, ever since I purchased my very first Life Planner in the fall of 2013.  I love the enhancements they’ve added over the past year, especially the interchangeable covers, which is a fun way to customize your planner (plus they’re reusable from year to year).  I use my Erin Condren Life Planner to manage my posting schedule and related tasks.  This hasn’t changed much from my use of it last year.  Once I find a system that works for me, I naturally want to stick to it and feel motivated to use it consistently.  I know it’s time to change up my system when I stop wanting to use it.  This planner continues to serve my needs well.  Let’s take a look inside:

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I use the monthly spreads to schedule my posts and keep track of when I post what where.  As excited as I was about the new repositionable labels that Erin Condren Designs launched with the most current version, I discovered that they only really move around well in humid climates, so I went back to making my own using Avery 5418 labels.  I color coordinate these, allocating two colors, one for blog posts and one for videos, to each of my three main posting categories: organizedlikejen, thebusybeebuzz, and myhousewifelife.  Color coding helps me to visually organize my content and related tasks.  I use a color code scheme in my weekly spread, as well, where I break down the steps I need to take to put up my posts and videos.  I use orange for organizedlikejen, blue for thebusybeebuzz, green for myhousewifelife, and maroon for general tasks.  I make little check boxes since checking things off is helpful to me in my time management process.  I put parentheses around tasks I did not complete that I want to address the next day.  I use the margin note section for general goals and the bottom lined space for specific emails or as brainstorming space.

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There are a couple of accessories I like to use with my Erin Condren Life Planner.  My current favorite pens are the Triplus Fineliner Pens by Staedtler that come in a pack of twenty.  I love the variety of the colors which are vibrant without causing bleedthrough.  The case they come in can be propped up easel style, which is a neat feature as well.  They are easy to hold and write smoothly.  Another accessory I like to use in my Life Planner are cute handmade paper clips.  I use one on the current monthly spread for easy access, since I keep the included snap-in ruler on the current weekly spread.  This way I can easily flip to the month.  My favorite shops on Etsy to buy these cuties are KawaiiPaperie and HowCute4You.

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While I don’t travel with my Erin Condren Life Planner all of the time, I do like to bring it to Utah with me when I visit our family vacation home since I go for such long stretches of time and usually like to keep up with my posting.  I was super excited when Erin Condren Designs launched their new line of Carry-All Clutches.  This neoprene pouch comfortably fits both my 18-month Life Planner and Staedtler pens and keeps my planner safe on the go.  I love that I was able to personalize it as well!

Receive $10 off your first ErinCondren.com purchase by signing up here!

Mulberry Pocket Book

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I have been a fan of binder style planners for years.  I purchased my very first one, a red Day Runner, when I was in high school.  I remember the thrill of picking out my very first real leather Filofax planner as a college student living and working in London one summer.  For the past few years I have used a Filofax A5 Finchley as my personal planner of choice.  I decided last summer to go a different route and sized down to a pocket planner,because I wanted something more portable.  This is a rather large jump in the planner world!  After experimenting with pocket size Kikki.K for a few months, I decided I was committed enough to splurge on this gorgeous Mulberry Pocket Book late last summer.  I have become a huge Mulberry fan ever since I wandered into their shop in San Francisco and purchased the gorgeous Alexa bag in 2012.  Mulberry uses the most beautiful leather I have ever seen and I love their simple and clean design aesthetic.  I believe the price of their items accurately reflects the quality.  That being said, I do not think you have to spend that kind of money to get a beautiful leather pocket agenda.  How much anyone spends on anything is a personal choice.  I will say that I am extremely happy with my agenda and am glad that I bought it.

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I use my pocket agenda as my primary planner where I keep track of my personal calendar and my daily to-do lists.  I am a list maker by nature and have found over the years that making a list for the next day at night before I go to bed helps me keep my worry-wart brain at ease.  I definitely find that I sleep better with this practice!  I don’t find it necessary to strictly adhere to my lists and schedules.  I simply use them as tools to help me feel calm and present in my daily experience.  This method might not work for everyone, but it certainly has changed my life for the better.

Since I jumped to the pocket size, I have been using DIYfish planner inserts.  I can’t begin to express how much I admire this wonderful woman’s ingenious Life Mapping System.  It is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in the planner world!  You can buy many variations of the system on Etsy, which are all downloadable files that you print and cut yourself (I hope to post a tutorial on this soon).  I actually use two different versions of the system, since I prefer the pull-out horizontal monthly spread of the v3s5 option and the daily calendar from the v2.2 option.  Thanks to the binder style planner it is easy to pick and choose to customize my planner the way I like it.

As you can see, I like to color code my personal planner as well, with personal tasks in light blue, travel in dark blue, family things in orange, Don specific things in light green, things we do as a couple in purple, our dog Winnie in pink, and special occasions in red.  I use the time stamped right hand column of the daily pages for scheduled appointments and outings and the left hand column for my to-do list.  I use any extra space for sticky notes where I like to write small lists or reminders that are easy to transfer from page to page or take with me.

One thing to note about the Mulberry pocket agenda is that the rings are quite small and cannot accommodate a lot of inserts.  I keep one month of daily pages in my planner at a time, with two of the previous weeks and the next two weeks ahead.  Every Sunday I take out a week and add in another.  I think I could easily fit an entire year’s weekly calendar in the planner, but since I prefer the daily pages, I keep rotating out my pages.  I put all past pages into my pocket Kikki.K as an archive.

OJ_OLJ_01-20-2015_10The DIYfish v2.2 calendar also comes with two weekly planning page options, one which sticks out a bit so you can see any important tasks or appointments on the side while working on your daily pages.  The other is the normal pocket page size.  I love having a weekly planning option like this for Sunday brainstorming sessions.  I have experimented with both options over the past eight months or so.

Lately I’ve been using the regular size weekly pages since I don’t like to overstuff my planner.  As much as I love the convenience of the pull out horizontal monthly calendar spreads, they are too bulky to keep the whole year in my planner at a time. I am thinking of just using the month-on-two-page calendar so I can comfortably fit the whole year.  If I do so I will most likely go back to using the weekly pages with the bit that sticks out on the side for ease of advance planning.  I love how flexible this system is!

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As for accessories, I have a few tried and true favorites to share.  I recently purchased this laminator so that I could make my own dividers, dashboards, and rulers for my planner.  What fun!  I’m not an expert yet by any means, but I do love my confetti dividers (I purchased the cute double sided paper from Paper Source).  Once I get better at the technique perhaps I can post a tutorial.  In addition to my fun dividers, I made an unpunched dashboard so I could keep a selection of my favorite sticky notes tucked into the front pocket of my planner without the bulk of the entire note pads.  I love the Girl of All Work Sticky Tabs, which are perfectly sized for small notes and reminders in the pocket planner.  The confetti stickies were from the Target Dollar Spot last fall and are unfortunately no longer available.

I also made a clear snap-in page marker by tracing my Kikki.K pocket ruler onto a clear transparency page and punching holes in it.  I added a little washi tape to the top for visibility and hooked on a cute planner charm from another of my favorite Etsy shops, shellybelly4evr.  Right now I have the Frozen inspired one on my ruler and the Mary Poppins Spoonful of Sugar attached to my planner pouch (more on this below).

Additionally, my love affair with OliClips continues.  OliClips are strong magnetic paper clips that lie relatively flat.  I use the small ones in my pocket agenda to clip past daily pages together.  I use the large one to clip past pages in my Moleskine journal.  These are very difficult to find in shops anymore (I originally purchased mine years ago from The Container Store).  I was able to find the ones I currently have on this website.

One last accessory that isn’t pictured here but I show in my coordinating video (below) are the sweet dashboards by MrsBrimbles.  The prints are made from her hand painted designs!  Her shop is definitely worth a visit.

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If you’ve been following my blog or YouTube channel for awhile now you know how I feel about pouches!  Of course, I have a pouch for my pocket planner.  I keep both of my planners open on my desk when I am in my office at home.  When I am bringing it up and down the stairs, however, I keep my Mulberry Pocket Book with my Moleskine journal in a flat style Kate Spade pouch (sadly no longer available) that I’ve had for years.  When I want to pop my planner into my purse I use one of the Orla Kiely for Target pouches that comes in a set of three (available in stores only at the moment).  I like to protect my Mulberry from damage whenever I can and popping it into a little pouch like this is the perfect solution.

If you’d like a more in-depth look into my planners and accessories, check out the video below:

It’s giveaway time!  I am so happy to be able to give back the referral credits I receive from ErinCondren.com to you!  The 2015 Planner Update Giveaway will run until Monday, January 26, 2015 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  TEN winners will receive a $100 gift card to ErinCondren.com as well as the calendar clutch pictured below:

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 You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!

*** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***

Congrats to the winners of the2015 Planner Update Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *What kind of calendar/planner do you use?* out of 3126 entries:

Spiral Bound (1772) 57%
Binder Style (911) 29%
Electronic (260) 8%
Wall Calendar (150) 5%
I don’t use a calendar (33) 1%

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I hope you enjoyed this look at my current planner setup and what’s working for me now.  I’d love to hear about your time management methods and what kind of calendar or planner you use if you care to share!
Happy Planning!

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* Post contains affiliate and referral links. The Erin Condren planner shown was sent to me for consideration.  I used my referral credits to purchase the giveaway prizes.  All other items shown were purchased by me.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

2014 Beauty All Stars

Every January I like to share my Beauty All Stars from the past year, including tried and true makeup that I use and love the most.  In this post I break down my top picks into categories:

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The asterisk(*) denotes repeat annual favorites from last year.

Face Makeup


Eye & Lip Makeup


Makeup Brushes

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Sigma 3DHD Kabuki
Sigma 3DHD Precision
Sigma F25 Tapered Face
Sigma F64 Soft Blend Concealer*
Sigma F35 Tapered Highlighter
Chanel #2 Angled Powder*
It Cosmetics Flawless Blush
It Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Jumbo Powder
Sigma E57 Firm Shader
Sigma E47 Shader Crease
Sigma E38 Diffused Crease
Sigma E30S Pencil*
Sigma E52 Soft Focus Shader*
MAC 208 Small Angled Brow Brush*

Save 10% off your entire purchase of Sigma beauty products by entering the code NY2015 during checkout (good thru January 31, 2014).  Sigma will send you a free gift when you spend $30 or more on your total purchase!

I share my absolute favorite beauty products from 2014 in the video below, focusing on makeup and brushes:

I wanted to give away a few of my favorite makeup items from 2014 to a couple of you!  The 2014 Beauty All Stars Giveaway will run until Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  TWO winners will receive the items pictured below:

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  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!

Congrats to the winners of the 2014 Beauty All Stars Giveaway!

The Poll Results for *Would you like to see my non-makeup 2014 favorites?* out of 2075 entries:

Yes (2052) 99%
No (23) 1%

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Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I’d love to know what some of your 2014 Beauty All Stars were if you care to share.
Here’s to a beautiful year!

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* Post contains affiliate links.  The Sigma brushes shown were sent to me for consideration.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

2015 Goals

Happy New Year!  Every January I like to take some time to continue my goals and aspirations for the new year.  I prefer to think of them as goals as opposed to resolutions, because they are things I want to work on without feeling too pressured or overwhelmed by them.  I also try not to be too specific with my goals, preferring broader ideas to precise objectives.  In this way, I find that my attitude towards my goals is positive and I feel excited about them.  It’s important to me not to “over plan” and leave room for my life to flow in a natural way.

Here is what I have outlined for my 2015 Goals:

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As you can see, I have broken down my goals into 5 main categories: Social Life, Home Life, Healthy Life, Work Life, and Personal Life.  Within these categories, I have outlined several points I’d like to focus on over the next year.  A lot of these have been on my lists in years past because they’re things I like to think about and continue working on from year to year.

I go into more detail about my 2015 Goals in this video:

I would love to hear about some of your 2015 goals if you care to share!  I hope that this year brings you good health and happy memories.  I look forward to sharing with you!

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* This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

December 2014 Favorites

Happy New Year!  It’s hard to believe that December is almost over and tomorrow is the start of a new year.  It’s been a wonderfully festive month and you’ll notice that many of my favorites are holiday themed.  I share some of my favorite things from the past month with you in this post, ranging from accessories and beauty items to multi-media picks and food.

Clothes & Accessories

OJ_TBBB_12-31-2014_07✻ Too Much Fun Dress in Scarlet Birds – I hauled this dress from Modcloth earlier this month, which I picked out because I thought it looked particularly festive and would be a nice option to wear to holiday outings.  It’s also extremely comfortable which is a nice bonus!  I enjoyed wearing it paired with a black cardigan and flats several times over the past few weeks.

✻ Jetsetter Mini Convertible Backpack – Another item from that haul, I’ve had my eye on the Jetsetter bags from Henri Bendel for ages, but the original size is a bit too big for my current needs.  You can imagine my excitement when they introduced the mini!  I’ve enjoyed wearing this bag so much over the past month that I actually brought it out to Utah with me for our winter visit.  I will post a Bag Buzz soon featuring this beauty.

✻ Planners – My planners are a year round favorite for me, but I find them extra useful during the busy holiday season.  I use my Erin Condren Life Planner specifically for my posting schedule and planning blog posts and videos.  My Mulberry Pocket Book is my primary agenda where I keep my daily to-do’s and monthly calendars.  I use the DIYfish Life Mapping System for my inserts.  I will post a detailed update on both planners soon.

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Beauty

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✻ Covergirl Ready Set Gorgeous Foundation – I have a new all-time favorite foundation in my life and this is it!  I decided to try it out a couple of months ago after seeing so many rave reviews and I must agree that it is amazing.  It provides effective medium coverage with a lovely natural finish and has great lasting power.

✻ bareMinerals bareSkin Perfecting Veil – This finishing powder is absolutely lovely!  It offers light coverage with a featherweight finish that is the most natural of all the powders I have tried to date.  I like using my Sigma F25 Tapered Face Brush to apply it.

✻ Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil – My new favorite brow pencil!  The unique wedge shape makes it super easy to fill in the brows without need for precision.  The Soft Brunette shade is the perfect taupey-brown for me.

✻ Make Up For Ever Brow Seal Transparent Eyebrow Gel – I’m always on the lookout for a good gel to help keep my unruly brows in place without being too crunchy.  I really like the unique brush of this one which is longer and angled on one side for easy combing and setting of the brows.

✻ Berry Lips – I received the Smashbox Be Legendary Longwear Lip Lacquer in the pretty Bordeaux shade in my December PopSugar Must Have Box.  At first I thought it was too dark for my preferences, but it’s actually the perfect berry stain shade for me when I just dab a bit on with my finger.  It lives up to its long-wearing promise as well.  Another berry lip favorite for me this past month is the Rouge Dior Baume in Coquette #660.  It’s a bit more of a pinkish berry shade but also very festive.  I like popping a bit of the CO Bigelow Ginger Mentha Lip Shine Shimmer (sadly no longer available) on top of each for a tough of gold sparkle.

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I’ve enjoyed curling my hair more since my most recent haircut.  My favorite tool to use is the Remington T-Studio Ceramic Pearl Curling Wand which is a 1″ tapered style wand.  I like to spritz the Tresemmé Heat Tamer Spray on my hair first to protect it from heat damage.  I wrap large chunks (2″ or so) of hair around the wand for about 6 seconds to curl, brush through once cool, then finish with Oribe Superfine Hairspray for an all day hold.

Home Goods

OJ_TBBB_12-31-2014_04December wouldn’t be complete without my favorite holiday home scent!  I love ‘Tis the Season by Bath & Body Works, which is described as “a festive medley of bright red apples, cinnamon, cloves and deep green pine notes.”  It’s the perfect combination of bright and cheery holiday scents to me!  I love burning the 3-Wick candle in our family room.  It makes the whole first level of our house smell delicious!

Multi-Media

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The Kill Order by James Dashner – I didn’t make enough time to read this past month, but I did manage to finish The Kill Order, a prequel in the Maze Runner series.  It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I am glad I finished it.

✻ Holiday Movies – I did make time to watch some of my favorite Christmastime movies with Don, including my all-time favorite, White Christmas.  It is our tradition to watch this the weekend after Thanksgiving every year.  It really gets me in holiday mood and kicks off the season on such a festive note!  My second favorite holiday movie this year is Arthur Christmas.  My MIL introduced me to this treasure last year and I was instantly hooked.  It is the cutest feel-good animated movie!

✻ Pentatonix – I like to search for new holiday music every year, which is how I was introduced to this amazing acapella group.  I listened to their holiday album, That’s Christmas To Me, on repeat in my car all month long.  They’re actually YouTubers as well, and their channel, PTXOfficial, is definitely worth a look (and a listen!) if you’re in the mood for amazing vocal talent.

Tasty Treats

OJ_TBBB_12-31-2014_06‘Tis the season for cookies!  I love baking any old time but especially for my loved ones during the holidays.  I give most of what I bake away but always keep a tin for me and Don to enjoy as well.  I’ve shared three out of the four recipes I made this year online already, including the Cream Cheese Spritz, Peanut Butter Surprise, and Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I’m still tweaking the Oatmeal Raisin recipe, but it’s close and I hope to share it next year.

If you’d like to hear more about my November favorites, check out this video:

It’s giveaway time! I wanted to share the awesomeness that is Erin Condren products with you.  The December Favorites Giveaway will run until Wednesday, January 7, 2015 at 6 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter. FIVE winners will receive a $200 electronic gift card to ErinCondren.com.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!

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Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I would love to hear about some of your December favorites if you care to share.  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.  Wishing you all the best for the new year!

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* Post contains affiliate links. The Sigma brush shown was sent to me for consideration. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *

What I Got For Christmas (2014)

Merry Christmas!  Every year I receive requests to share what I find wrapped up for me by my sweet husband under the Christmas tree.  I have decided to show my gifts this year.  Please know that in doing so I am in no way trying to brag or show off.  This is simply sharing, nothing more.  I am very grateful for my husband’s generosity and thoughtfulness.  The best gift of all that no material item could ever hold a candle to is his love, and I am blessed by that gift every day of the year.

Here’s a look at what I found under the tree this morning:

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✻ Frends Taylor Tortoise Oil & Slick Bundle – I’ve been eyeing these gorgeous headphones forever.  I love the tortoise package Don picked out for me!

✻ Hoodie-Footie Winter Whimsy Snuggle Fleece – This has to be my most favorite gift of all!  It’s been decades since I’ve had one-piece PJs.  I’m super excited about this cozy and festive set!  Don even had my name monogrammed on them.  Yay!

LUSH Christmas Bathtime Favorites – Every year Don stocks me up with a great big LUSH gift set filled with bath goodies.  I’m all set for winter now!

Jo Malone Travel Candle Collection – I’ve had my eye on the gorgeous Jo Malone candles for ages, but they’re so pricey I’ve never taken the plunge.  I can’t wait to try out this festive gift set!

Swarovski Winnie the Pooh Christmas Ornament – Don and I have a tradition of exchanging ornaments every Christmas.  This year he went above and beyond with this gorgeous crystal Pooh ornament.  It’s too pretty to hang on the tree!  I think I might hang it by my desk instead so I can enjoy it every day.

Parfum Divine de Caudalie – I’ve been obsessed with the Caudalie Divine Oil for the past few months, using it almost every night on my legs and arms before bed.  I can’t get enough of the beautiful scent!  Who knew they had a matching perfume?  It smells just the same and I couldn’t be more excited about my new signature scent.

Breville One-Touch Tea Maker – If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen that I sadly broke the glass kettle of my beloved tea maker last week and was super bummed that they don’t sell that replacement part.  Don was quick to find a replacement for me.  He’s such a sweetheart!

Check out this video where Don & I share what we got in our stockings this year:

 I’d love to know what you got or gave as holidays gifts if you’d care to share.  I hope you enjoyed seeing what Don gave me for Christmas this year.  I love every single item and know I’ll get so much use and joy out of each gift.  Best of all is the gift of the love we share. <3
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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* Post contains affiliate links.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Homemade Eggnog: Holiday Recipe

I wanted to share a treasured holiday recipe from the Ross Family with you today.  My mother-in-law, Suzanne, has been making this tasty holiday beverage since before her son (my husband) was born!  We’re all about homemade eggnog in our family and love to share a cup with some cookies together at Christmastime.  Some like to spike theirs with brandy or rum, but it’s just as amazing without.  Be sure to serve this one well chilled!

Homemade-Eggnog

Check out my video for step by step instructions on how to make this holiday treat:

I’d love to know if you try out this recipe how you like it or if you have an eggnog recipe of your own.  
Feel free to share in the comments.
Wishing all of you a very merry holiday!  Cheers!

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* Recipe adapted from Better Homes & Garden The Treasure of Christmas Crafts and Foods (1980).  Post contains affiliate link.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Subscription Box Round-Up: December 2014

I’m changing things up around here with the new year approaching.  I have posted open box style videos of my monthly subscriptions on my TBBB YouTube channel for a few years and in the past year added a coordinating blog post as well.  I’ve decided to simplify things by cutting out the videos and sharing one post a month featuring my current subscriptions.

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I like the idea of sharing all of my subscriptions in the same post, because you can really see how different each one is.  My current subscriptions include Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have.  Read on to see what came in each box this month:

Julep Maven

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It’s no secret that I love nail polish.  I’ve been a Julep Maven subscriber for a couple of years now and I always look forward to my monthly box from them.  The Julep formula is one of my all time favorites.  The Maven Box costs $24.99 a month, or $19.99 a month with a three-month prepaid subscription.  They ship to the United States and Canada only.  I love that you can select between several different offerings each month or even skip a month if you’re not feeling it.

I received the Bombshell version of the Countdown Collection for December which includes two festive polishes and an Orbital Eyeshadow.  The two polishes in my box are Soleil, a “lustrous rose gold chrome,” and Paula, a “Persian blue with gold microshimmer.”  Both polishes are festive wintry shades with a twist!  The box also came with an Orbital Eyeshadow, which I was able to select the color of ahead.  I picked Airglow, a pretty champagne color.  It’s the perfect year-round party shade for me!

Each Maven box comes with a quote.  This month’s quote is: “No one looks stupid when they’re having fun.” – Amy Poehler

If you’d like to learn more about the Julep Maven program, I recommend checking out their website.  Join now and use code HIFRIEND to receive a four-piece gift free!

Eco Emi Beauty

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The Eco Emi Beauty Box includes four to five deluxe or full sized natural and cruelty-free products ranging from bath and body to beauty and cosmetics.  It costs $22 per month for US customers, which includes shipping.  The box is available internationally at $34 a month.   It’s not clear to me yet if the beauty box revolves around a theme, although the accompanying card’s title, “Holiday Season,” is fitting for this month.

I received four full size products in my December box, including three beauty products and one bath item.  The Whole Seaweed Detox Bath consists of sustainably harvested bladderwrack seaweed, which contains “valuable nutrients, amino acids, and oils that nourish the skin.”  The two cosmetic products included are a natural volumizing mascara by Sante Naturkosmetik and a mineral powder eyeshadow by Cailyn Cosmetics in the color Sable, a pretty blue, with a neat built-in sponge applicator.  The last product is a Hair Butter by Shea Radiance, which is “specifically formulated to soften and smooth thick hair.”  It’s the one product in the box that is something I will probably pass on to somebody else since my hair is so fine and not suited well for this formula.

KnitCrate

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I absolutely love KnitCrate, which is a monthly (or bi-monthly if that seems like a bit too much yarn coming at you) subscription service geared towards knitters.  There are eight different subscription options, which you can see here if you’re interested.  The prices range from $23 to $75 a month depending on which kit you choose and where in the world you live (they do ship internationally).  I subscribe to the Beginner’s KnitCrate, which includes a pattern suitable to that level, enough yarn to complete that project, a couple of bonus items (ranging from soothing to sweet to fun), and promo codes for knitting related products.  It’s basically the most awesome care package a knitter could ever dream of!

The yarn included this month is two hanks of Buffalo Skies DK by Buffalo Wool Co, which is a 50% bison down and 50% superwash merino wool blend.  I had no idea people made yarn from bison!  If you’re curious, the company website shares more about this here.  Apparently, bison down is hypo-allergenic, water-wicking, and easy to care for.  I love the gorgeous burgundy shade.  There are two patterns, including the “I Mean Business” Pocket Scarf and the Bells & Beads Stole, both by Le Tissier.  The fun extra is a super soft Luxury Fur Pom Pom, perfect to pop onto a knit hat.  KnitCrate usually includes a food item, as well, and I’m very happy about the Peppermint Hot Chocolate on a Stick by Ticket Chocolate in this month’s selection.  There’s nothing like sipping on a tasty cup of hot chocolate while knitting during the winter!  As always, KnitCrate subscribers receive promo codes each month.  This month includes discounts on patterns from Leah Oakley and BohoKnitterChic Spins.  They have also provided a coupon code to use at TicketChocolate.com.

Get any 12-month Gift Subscription by December 31, 2014 and use promo code KCG2014 during checkout to receive a KnitCrate Welcome Kit!

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I also subscribe to the 5 Mini Add-Ons package available through KnitCrate.  Each month I  receive five 30-yard mini hanks in hand painted/indie dyed yarns.  It’s a nice way to try out a variety of  hand-dyed yarns from different providers.  I use the mini hanks I receive through this subscription for my Beekeeper’s Quilt.  This month’s selections includes five variegated shades from the Sunrise Fiber Co.  This hand-dyed classic sock yarn is a high-twist 100% superwash merino wool that is incredibly soft to the touch and quite vibrant in color. I love all of the variety I get with this subscription for my ongoing quilt project!

If you’re interested in purchasing the Beekeeper’s Quilt Kit or other items from KnitCrate you can receive 10% off your first KnitCrate purchase (not including monthly or bi monthly subscriptions) by clicking here!

PopSugar Must Have

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This subscription is so much fun!  PopSugar Must Have is a monthly subscription service where you receive a selection of full size and premium beauty, fashion, home, and fitness items for $39.95 per month (this includes shipping and is available in the US only).  The December box theme is inspired by “Cheers, Party Ready, Indulgence, Holiday Treats, Sparkle, & Glamour.”  As usual, there is a nice variety of items in this box ranging from beauty to leisure.

I absolutely love the selection of goodies they included this month!  Everything is festively stylish, even the Vanilla Bean Cupcake Mix from Williams-Sonoma.  What a perfect thing to whip up in a pinch or pop into a hostess gift basket for a holiday party.  The Parcel Tags by Knot & Bow will also come in handy over the next week as I put the final touches on gifts for family and friends.  You should have heard my squeal of delight when I pulled out the simply stunning Sydney Necklace by Sparklepop.  It sparkles like you wouldn’t believe and definitely see myself wearing it to dress up a simple cashmere sweater.  The Platinum Bowl by Canvas Dauville is the perfect place to store jewelry, coins, or even use at parties for small snacks.  I’m excited to try the Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer by Smashbox in Bordeaux.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever tried a lip product by Smashbox.  The deep berry color is very holiday in my books!  My favorite item in the box by far is the gorgeous Speckled Metallic Scarf by SPUN by Subtle Luxury.  It is incredibly soft and I can’t get over how beautiful the gold metallic spots are on light grey.  PopSugar delivered another smashing box, as per usual!

Click here to learn more about the PopSugar Must Have Box. Use code REFER5 to save $5 off your first box!

I like to order the special limited edition boxes that PopSugar offers from time to time.  I share a look at the “for him” and “for her” limited edition holiday boxes in this video:

I picked up an additional For Him and For Her box as a special gift for two of you!  The PopSugar Must Have Holiday Box Giveaway will run until Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 1 PM CT.  The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  One person will win the the PopSugar Must Have Special Edition Holiday Box For Him and another will win thePopSugar Must Have Special Edition Holiday Box For Her.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).   When entering you’ll be able to choose which box you would like to receive in the event that you win.  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

 I hope you enjoyed my new style of sharing my monthly subscriptions!  Feel free to share your thoughts on my round-up post in the comments.  I’d love to know if you receive any monthly subscriptions, too!  Happy Holidays!

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* All products mentioned are part of the Julep Maven, Eco Emi Beauty, KnitCrate, and PopSugar Must Have monthly subscription programs, for which I pay for my own memberships.  Post contains affiliate & referral links.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

The Bag Buzz: Mulberry Mini Cara Delevingne Bag

OJ|TBBB_12-12-2014_01I’ve certainly been on a Mulberry kick lately and I can’t get enough of their gorgeous leather goods.  The wallet I bought last December (sadly no longer available) in New York is so nice that I haven’t switched it out once for another wallet in my collection, something I used to do regularly.  I also own a pocket size Mulberry organizer that makes me smile every time I touch it.  I understand that this all might sound kind of strange if you’re not a leather goods lover like me.  The Mulberry quality is worth the price in my opinion and I thoroughly enjoy every piece that I own.

Meet the newest addition to my Mulberry collection, my Mini Cara Delevingne Bag.  Isn’t she a beauty?  I actually pinned this bag a few months back, and my clever and super sweet husband promptly purchased it for me as an anniversary gift in early September.  He stalks my Pinterest page apparently!  Since then I have stopped pinning bags, because he often buys me what I pin (not that I’m complaining, mind you, I’m just weird about things like that).  I am happy to have this little lady in my collection and she’s definitely unique in design.

OJ_TBBB_12-12-2014_05The design of this bag is what initially drew me in, quickly followed by the gorgeous oxblood color.  It’s cute and boxy, measuring 8.75″ high x by 9.25″ wide x 4.75″ deep with a 2.5″ handle drop.  The bag reminds me of a vintage school satchel.  It can be worn three ways: as a backpack, a shoulder bag, or hand held.  My favorite ways to carry it are backpack style and hand held, so I keep the woven straps with leather details connected in backpack style, although you can configure them in several ways thanks to lobster clips and rings placed around the bag’s exterior.  I was worried at first that the fit wouldn’t be right to hold it square on the back, but it actually wears nicely and is easy to even carry off one shoulder like the cool kids used to do back in school (I was never one of those kids, if you couldn’t have guessed ;) ).

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The bag is constructed from a gorgeous natural vegetable tanned leather that is buttery soft with a nice distinct grain.  The interior of the bag is unlined, featuring a gorgeous suede.  It has a zip pocket on the inside, but not much else in terms of built in organization. There are several details inspired by the bag’s muse, model Cara Delevingne, including a small lion rivet and a heart shaped patch on the interior pocket, as well as a “Made In England” stamp on the bottom exterior (not shown) based on Cara’s tattoos.  I especially like the soft gold hardware, including the postman’s lock closure on the outer flap, and the pretty buckle that keeps the handles together.  The hanging fob with a hidden padlock is a signature part of the popular Bayswater design, which they’ve mimicked with the flap closure here as well.  The Mini Cara Delevingne bag is handmade in the Mulberry factory located in Somerset England.

OJ_TBBB_12-12-2014_03The bag is almost square, which is a nice style from the outside but can present some issues when packing the interior.  Even though it looks like it’s a similar size to the medium bags I’ve been fond of carrying lately, I actually had a bit of trouble fitting everything in until I figured out the right packing method.  Most of my purse must-haves fit into the bottom half of the bag, including my Walking Pharmacy (which I’ve actually pared down a bit since my last post about it), vlogging camera and case, extra cards, mints, and keys. I keep my most accessed items on top, such as my wallet and phone.  The bag is absolutely full with all of these items in it, but not overly stuffed and I do find it easy to access everything.

I will say that the design makes it a bit more time consuming than with another kind of bag to actually get into it.  I like to keep the little buckled strap secure around the handles when I am carrying the bag so they don’t flap around.  To get inside the bag, I must first unbuckle this and then undo the postman’s lock and open the flap.  I don’t mind so much, but I can see how this might be a deal breaker for someone else.

As usual, I am going to share the contents of my purse with you despite the fact that they are the same month after month.  I don’t switch these items up very often.  I may change my bags out fairly frequently, but I like to keep the contents more or less the same.

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1. Orla Kiely Graphite Small Cosmetic Cube – My current Walking Pharmacy, this Target exclusive has great organizational elements built right in. Still available in a different print!
2. iPone 5S with Rifle Paper Co Clear Rosa Case – I can’t tell you how many compliments I have received on this gorgeous clear case!  The print looks hand painted.
3. Mulberry Bow ID Purse (no longer available) – My favorite wallet!  Perfectly sized to carry in smaller bags.
4. Two Pocket Card Holder from ATime4Everything on Etsy – A great way to cut down on bulky card cases!  I stow gift cards, store cards, and business cards in mine.
5. A small tin filled with treats for my pup, Winnie, and poopy bags.
6. Car keys with my favorite Henri Bendel Bow Stripe Key Fob and Swiss Army Knife (this has come in so handy over the years!).
7. My house keys on a keychain sent from a viewer in Malaysia.  Thanks, again, I love it!
8. My vlogging camera, a Sony RX1003 that I keep in an 1154 Lill Studio wristlet case (did this shop close? I can’t find their website anymore).
9. Vinyl Zip Pouch with Coupons – Exact one shown is no longer available but I also like this alternative from The Container Store.
10. Mints! – I’ve been on a mint kick lately.  My two current favorites include the classic tic-tacs and these yummy chocolate mints by Hint Mint (I love the sleek packaging!).

I am on a total backpack kick now, as you can tell if you watched my recent haul video on TBBB.  I’m guessing they’re on trend or at least were recently and that’s why I’ve been seeing them everywhere!  I’m not usually on top of what’s fashionable.  All I know is I love the convenience of a good backpack purse.  I hope you enjoyed this look at my mini Cara Delevingne bag.  I would love to know what bag you’re currently loving and carrying or just lusting after, if you care to share!

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* Post contains affiliate links.  This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

Stocking Stuffers: Holiday Gift Guide 2014

For the last installment of my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, I am sharing some of my Stocking Stuffers picks with you.  This includes items under $20 that are small enough to fit in a stocking.

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1. Bath & Body Works Medium Candle in ’Tis the Season – Medium-sized candles like this are the perfect fit for most stocking toes and are extremely customizable thanks to the plethora of brands and scents available.  I love ’Tis the Season, a festive bright apple scent from Bath & Body Works, and the confetti dotted glass is a festive touch. Suggested Retail: $12.50 or 2 for $20

2. To The Letter Magnet Set – I think this magnet Scrabble game is an awesome stocking stuffer for the word-game enthusiast in your life.  Suggested Retail: $12.99

3. ToddyGear The Wedge Mobile Device Stand – I’ve waxed on about the awesomeness that is ToddyGear device cleaning cloths for years now and I still think they’re awesome stocking stuffers.  I was recently introduced to their wedge, which acts as a mobile device stand and device cleaner.  It’s the perfect place to prop up your mobile device for easy access and visibility. Suggested Retail: $14.99

4. Crumb Catcher Vacuum – When I first saw this little guy at The Container Store Gift Wrap Wonderland I thought it was just a silly novelty item, but then I got to thinking how useful something like this would be for quick and easy crumb management on counters and tables.  It’s cute and practical!  Suggested Retail: $11.99

5. Citrus Zinger Water Bottle – I received one of these in a PopSugar Must Have Box several months ago and instantly fell in love with it.  The ingenious design makes it super easy to enjoy infused water without a lot of fuss.  Suggested Retail: $15.99

6.  The Republic of Tea Stackable Tea Tin – This sampler comes with three delightful holiday flavors, including Dream by the Fire, a spiced rooibos, Comfort and Joy, a festive black tea, and Peppermint Bark, a green rooibos.  Each kind of tea has its own separate compartment in the clever three-tin stack design. Suggested Retail: $13.50

7.  Theo Holiday Chocolate Bars – I think every stocking needs something sweet in it.  You can’t wrong with chocolate!  Theo has four delicious chocolate bars available for the holiday season, including Peppermint Stick dark chocolate, Nutcracker Brittle dark chocolate, Coconut Mint milk chocolate, and Gingerbread Spice milk chocolate.  Yum!  Suggested Retail: $4 each or Set of Four for $16

8. Bath & Body Works Scentportables & Fragrance Refills – These clip style scent diffusers are great for a small space like a closet or a car.  Pair one with a few fragrance refills in a decorative bag for a thoughtful gift or clip it right onto the stocking!  Suggested Retail: $5.50 (holder) and $3.50 (refills) or Buy 3, Get 1 Free/ Buy 4, Get 2 Free

9. Fold & Go Travel Slippers -  A great concept, but are they actually nice?  I bought a pair for myself and tested them out for a few weeks and am happy to report that they are quite nice!  The neoprene design offers more cushioning and insulation than I was expecting.  Plus, the bottoms are rubberized to prevent slipping.  These are my new go-to travel slippers and I think they would make a nice gift for the traveler in your life.  Suggested Retail: $19.99

10.  Umbra Zoola Bunny Ring Holder – Another PopSugar Must Have acquisition, I love my elephant version of this sweet ring holder.  I keep mine by my sink to ensure my rings have a safe spot whenever I take them off to apply lotion without worrying about them accidentally going down the drain.  Suggested Retail: $7.99

11.  Burt’s Bees Endless Shine Trio – This non-sticky, moisturizing formula is one of my all-time favorites for lip gloss.  The tube design makes it easy to apply on the go.  The three shades included offer a nice range of ready to wear options.  Suggested Retail: $9.99

12. Deborah Lippmann Dance Music Nail Lacquer Duet – A sweet set for the polish fiend, this festive duo comes packaged up in a cute zip pouch that matches the fun glitter polish.  Suggested Retail: $19

13. Tarte Sweet Dreams Deluxe Best Seller’s Collection – I’ve become such a fan of Tarte’s Maracuja oil as my new moisturizer of choice over the past few months and this set caught my eye because of its great value.  It also comes with a deluxe size of the Maracuja C-brighter eye treatment and Cheek Stain in Dreamy.  A perfect little package!  Suggested Retail – $19

Check out the video below if you’re interested in a closer look at these products as well as my thoughts on each one:

I am giving away a stocking filled with all of these items to two of you!  The Stocking Stuffers Giveaway will run until Monday, December 15, 2014 at 6 PM CT. The giveaway is open internationally.  All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter.  TWO people will win a stocking filled with the items I shared in this post.  You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways).  I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties.  If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.

I hope you enjoyed this last installment of my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide and that it gave you some ideas or inspiration for gifts for your loved ones this holiday season.  Check out my Little Luxuries Gift Guide for my top picks in the $20-$50 range and Extravagant Splurges for gifts ranging from $50 to $300.  Happy Holidays!

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* Description contains affiliate & referral links.  ToddyGear very kindly sent me the wedge I shared in the coordinating video.  The ones in the giveaway were purchased by me as well as all other giveaway prizes.  All opinions are genuinely my own. *

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