Tag Archives: featured post

Featured Post: 6 Widgets + Plugins You Need for Your Blog

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Making the switch to a self-hosted blog is a big step– but one of the best perks is all the freedom to add in widgets and plugins to help increase the effectiveness of your site + boost its usability. Bianca from Elle B Styles is sharing her top 6 list of plugins + widgets you need; head on over and check ’em out!

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6 Widgets + Plugins You Need for Your Blog

Featured Post: How to Stay Focused + Increase Your Productivity

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Who doesn’t want a productivity boost? As bloggers, we could all use more hours in the day. TBC member Kimberly from Sensible Stylista is giving us 10 ways squeeze more focus + productivity out of our day.
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1.  Compose a detailed to-do list.

Jot down everything you need to accomplish, but make sure you’re being realistic. If it’s a Monday, include weekly goals as well. Star the most pressing tasks and assign them accordingly. I’m most alert from 7 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4-10 p.m., so I practice piano and study then. I fade around 2:00 and am lethargic until 4:00 so I work on “easier” things during that time- while sipping on tea, of course. Obviously, everyone’s different so it’s important to keep track of your mental state throughout the day. Rate your focus on a scale of 1-5 for every hour to figure out when you’re most productive- do this diligently for a week, and you’ll be good to go.

2.  Form keystone habits.

In essence, these habits create positive ripple effects, which lead to the development of other good habits. For example, exercising daily keeps you focused, motivates you to eat clean, helps with stress management, and does wonders for your self-esteem. Other personal favorites include waking up early, organizing/cleaning, reading, and meditating. If you’d like to learn more, make sure you pick up Charles Duhigg’s book, “The Power of Habit.” It’s seriously one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read.

3.  Time your breaks.

It’s far too easy to lose track and get sucked into the black hole that is Netflix or YouTube. A 3-minute video or 30-minute show can easily turn into a 4-hour binge sesh, so do yourself a favor and set an alarm. Also, while we’re on the topic of breaks, let’s talk a bit about what you should do to rest your mind. As much as I love trash TV, I’ve discovered that indulging during the day does a number on my brain- it makes me feel lazy and unmotivated. I do, however, reward myself with an episode of my favorite show at the end of the day- if I finish everything, of course. Otherwise, I prefer to take a brisk walk outside with my puppy or catch up with a friend to stay alert.
Check out tips 4-10 over on Sensible Stylista!

Featured Post: What It’s Actually Like Being a Blogger

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No matter what kind of blog you run, there are certain things all bloggers understand that your non-blogger pals just don’t understand. Rebecca from Sunny Rebecca is sharing What It Is Actually Like to be a Blogger.
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Being a blogger means you’re willing to stand outside in the middle of winter in a dress, or wear fall sweaters and boots when it’s sweltering out– all for the tiniest hope of a decent picture. It means you force your friends and family to wait before indulging in a meal so you can instagram it for the foodies who follow you. Being a blogger is something that has definitely given me joy and if I’m completely honest, more of a life purpose.

The thing about blogging is that we’re led to believe that bloggers are perfect. Before I started my own blog, I would read blogs and think the blogger had an incredible life by always wearing the nicest outfits and going to interesting places. Now I know that’s not true. We only show the best parts of our lives or even stage things to make a picture look better and more presentable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown everything off my desk to snap a quick picture and then dumped it all in a pile on the floor. The pile doesn’t make it into the Instagram photo, but the mess is still there. Bloggers make it look easy and effortless, but in reality, that’s not true. There’s a whole part of blogging that usually isn’t shown on the blog and today I want to share that. This is what it’s actually like being a blogger.

As a blogger, you have to be willing to put in quite a bit of time. That means making trade-offs. Instead of going out with my friends, I sometimes decline and decide to stay in so I can get my post up on time. It means I have to mass produce posts when I’m going away or have a busy week ahead. For example, this week I have commitments that will keep me busy from 7am to 8pm every day. The time flies by and I end up being lost in all the things I need to do, so I have to schedule posts ahead of time if I don’t want the blog to go dark.

That brings me to my next point: being a blogger also means you have to prioritize. Schoolwork always comes first for me, but then when you bring your social life, family, free time, extracurriculars, and blogging into the mix, you have to figure out what is most important to you. I think this is probably one of the most important things about being a blogger– you have to stay balanced. Have you ever seen those triangles where one point says sleep, another says school, and the last one says social life, and it tells you that you can only pick two? It’s like that, but in reality, there’s more than three things you have to juggle in your life, even if you’re not a blogger. You have to figure out what your priorities are in order to get anything done.

Being active on social media is a big part of blogging. Yes, we’re all shameless self-promoters, but hey– what works, works. Although the social media activity of a blogger consists of raving over red Starbucks cups, cute stationery, and a ton of blog promo, there’s a community of its own among the to-do lists and sale excitement. The blogging community is something absolutely incredible. I’ve met so many amazing bloggers that just get it. They’re people I can relate with and connect with. Being a blogger may mean you’re obsessive with your social media and promoting your posts, but along with that is also meeting new people and branching out.

There’s also a huge learning curve for being a blogger. I find I’m always learning new things. Maybe it’s about SEOs or Google Analytics or MailChimp, but I’m finding out new things to help me grow my brand. Lately I’ve been watching webinars and looking into mini-courses for creating a successful blog. I’m looking for new information that can help me reach my fullest potential.

Explaining to someone what you do and why you do it can sometimes be awkward and nerve-wracking. It took me over a year to tell my friends about my blog. I used to block people that go to my school on my blog’s social media so they wouldn’t find it. But over time, I realized I shouldn’t care. When I told my friends about it, they told me it was something really cool and not something to be ashamed of. One friend told me she wasn’t that surprised because she felt like I was the kind of person who would have a blog. And eventually, I realized it shouldn’t matter if people I know find my blog. This is something I should be proud of and unapologetic about. Being a blogger means having the confidence to put yourself out there.

Although being a blogger can be stressful at times, it’s worth it. Yes, it may be totally tedious to run back and forth from behind the camera to in front of it perfecting a shot, or spending way too much time trying to get a great backdrop. But it brings a whole new type of joy when someone comments on a post telling you they enjoyed it, because it means you’re creating content that people love. (Bonus: you love it, too!) You’re blogging because you love it, even though it’s sometimes hard. And you know what they say: nothing worth having comes easy. So you do it. You snap a million pictures of your latte art and make everyone groan when you say, “Wait, one more picture!” Being a blogger means you do what you love, no matter how difficult it is or what anyone thinks about it, because it’s worth it in the end.

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Rebecca blogs at Sunny Rebecca and is a member of The Blogger Collective.

Featured Post: Why You Should be Using Trello for Your Blog

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Have you heard of Trello? If not, we’ve got good news for you! Lauren of The Arizona Prepster is sharing with us why you should be using Trello on your blog.

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In my Five Apps Every Blogger Should Have post, I mentioned the website/app Trello and so many of my readers were interested in it. I figured I would share with y’all how amazing it is and how I use Trello! I use Trello for both my blog editorial calendar and for school, but today we’re covering how it applies to my blog.

I should explain Trello first. Trello uses lists and cards to keep you organized. You create lists and then every individual item you are working on is its own card (or in this case, each post you’re working on = its own card).

Your lists and cards live in boards, and you can have multiple boards with many lists and cards. Within your board, you can even view the calendar (if you add due dates to your cards) to help keep you on track .

Here is my editorial board:

My post ideas, Ebook ideas, etc., are the lists, while the posts are cards. The colors on the cards are labels. You can create these labels to mean anything and use them to help you organize any way you want. For example, my labels are published, date assigned, in-progress, scheduled, in-house post, guest post, and newsletter content.
Cards are where the real magic happens. This is where you put all of the information for a post.
Here’s my card for this post:
Look at all of the information and things to check off. Like I said, this is where the magic happens! You can add members, labels, a checklist, a due date, and even attachments to your cards. You make these cards work for you!
The calendar feature is very helpful. It shows the cards on the calendar, so instead of viewing it in list form, you can see where everything is in relation to a specific week, month, etc. (Note: this is only useful if you add a due date to your card.)
Here’s what my calendar looks like:

I really love the calendar feature. It lays everything out nicely, plus you can move the cards on the calendar and it changes the due date in the card itself.

Quick note: one feature on the card is “members.” This is where you can add other users and collaborate on cards (posts). I don’t use this feature on my board, but Hope does on The Young Hopeful‘s board so we know all about our upcoming posts. This keeps us updated, as we get notified when anything having to do with our card changes.

Trello is so easy to navigate and helps keep you organized– it’s a great blogging tool!

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Curious about editorial calendars? We’ve got a few Blogger U’s with your name on it: 101 and 201.

Thanks so much, Lauren! We love staying organized!

Featured Post: Down Under

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Ever think about traveling Down Under? Lucky for you we have a fabulous feature post from Megan of Jet Set Brunette all about her trip to Australia!

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The Shaffer fam is down under! Talk about about a long flight…(woof). Below is what we did day-by-day.

Day 1: Sydney, Australia 

Day 2: At sea

Day 3: At sea

Day 4: Picton, New Zealand

Picton was one of my favorite cities in New Zealand. It was the only city on the south island that we visited. I wish we would have done a kayaking exclusion because Picton had the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Picton is most known for the wine…some of you may have had Malborough wine. So naturally we had do some tastings. We also checked out the local beaches and hiked to Bob’s Bay which was a really beautiful exclusive beach.
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that water though 

Day 5: Wellington, New Zealand 

Wellington was a lot of people’s favorite city…not mine, but it was still pretty unique. The city reminded me of San Francisco with many hills, cable cars, and Victorian homes. This day my family did the Lord of the Rings excursion. We went to Mount Victoria and saw where part of the movie was filmed then toured Weta Workshop. We saw how the costumes and props were made for movies they produced including The Hobbit, Avatar, District 9, and many more. My favorite part was all the behind the scenes facts from the Lord of the Rings movie.

Day 6: Napier, New Zealand

Napier was a bit more country side than I expected, but it was still really pretty. We took a taxi up to Mission Estates Winery & Silky Oak Chocolate factory (two of my fav things). Although, my dad made us chug our wine since our taxi meter was running. Mission Estates winery reminded me of a southern plantation. I was already getting ideas for one of my friends to get married there.

Day 7:  Tauranga, New Zealand

In Tauranga we did the Rotorua thermal outing and blue baths tea excursion. This was a long bus ride, but we got to see all the kiwi farms. We first had some tea and scones then ventured on to the largest natural geyser in the southern hemisphere at Maori village.

Day 8: Auckland, New Zealand 

Hands down. Favorite city. What was there not to love? The weather, the shopping, the millions of yachts, the clean air, oh, and the bungee jumping. I was on a mission to find the AJ Hackett Bungee place. I did some researching beforehand and after about a 5-mile hike I found it. I convinced my brother to jump with me from the Auckland bridge (Chris was not a happy camper and left the scene). Bungee jumping was on my bucket list so why not do it in the beautiful New Zealand?! My friend Leah bungee jumped in Queenstown on the south island so it really inspired me to do it. It whole process took about 1.5 hours. We got our gear then climbed to the top which by the way gives a beautiful view of the city and harbor. The heaviest guys went first so I watched my brother go before me so I knew I could do it. The loud music was encouraging too! Right before I went he asked if i wanted to get dunked. SO worth it.
All in all, New Zealand is one of the prettiest countries I’ve ever seen. Had I not gone bungee jumping I think Picton may have been my next favorite city. There is so much to explore though you can’t go wrong. I’ve heard renting a car a exploring New Zealand is the best way to see it. So maybe next time…
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Don’t mind my hair lol

Day 9: At sea

Day 10: At sea 

Day 11: At sea

Note: The Tasman Sea is pretty rough. We had up to 15-foot waves the first few nights so I recommend if you have the slightest bit of motion sickness to bring some Dramamine or other medicine. I didn’t get sick, but my mom did…

About the Cruise

Royal Caribbean – Explorer of the Seas. This cruise brought back some memories for me because we were on this same ship 13 years ago departing from Miami in the Caribbean when it was a new ship. There is a ton to do for all ages. The “at sea” days were mostly spent working on in the gym, ice skating, rock climbing (which is way easier to do now versus when I was 10) and laying out at the adult pool. There were movies and shows at night. Ninety-six percent of the ship was from Australia so we met a ton of really nice people. I would recommend taking a Royal Caribbean cruise because they are super organized and affordable. They leave an itinerary on your bed of everything going on the next day on the boat. Tips for the port the next day, weather and recommend attire. We had two formal nights (which you don’t have to attend if you don’t want to). In addition, You can pay extra to do the shore excursions or just explore the port on your own. I found that its almost better and cheaper to just explore the port on your own.
Things I loved: All you can eat, amount to do on the ship, the cute towels in the shapes of animals left by our awesome steward Antonio.
Things I hated: Children running around all the time, everywhere. The price for alcohol and Coke packages. I personally don’t drink that much pop, but for some people I know this is hard thing to give up on your vacation. It costs $22/day just for the Coca-Cola cup to get unlimited pop from the machines. That would be $242 just for our cruise. Worth it? In my opinion, no. Next, there are multiple alcohol packages. You can get the select package for $42/day, premium for $57/day, or ultimate for $67/day. If I were on spring break with my friends, I’m sure I would do the premium package. Since I was with family, I wasn’t trying to get white girl wasted. Of course, we had some wine at dinner, but not enough to get my money’s worth on the select alcohol package. That doesn’t include wine off the boat obviously. For me, I would rather try local restaurants and wineries off the boat so for this vacation, so I think it was smart we didn’t get a beverage package.
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Antonio left us cute little animals every night

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Day 12: Sydney, Australia 

Luckily, we had nicer weather on the way back. The first day it was raining, so we couldn’t explore much of Sydney. I would suggest coming here during Australia/New Zealand’s summer which is right now (January). It’s currently 75 degrees and sunny with a perfect breeze. Sydney harbor was filled with entertainers and shops. We went to The Bakers Oven Cafe which is located in “The Rocks.” I had the best calamari of my life. After that we got gelato on the harbor at Gelatissimo. I would recommend both. We walked around the Palace Garden and Sydney Opera house. If we had more time, I would have liked to go to Bondi Beach.
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Looks like an amazing trip! Sign us up!  Thanks so much to Megan for this great post!

Featured Post: Make a Rented Space Feel Like Home

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Today we’ve got an awesome post all about making a rented space feel like home from Larissa of We Heart Beauty.

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Did anyone else play “The Sims” religiously while growing up? I mean, maybe not religiously, but didn’t we all spend hours on end building our fake families and trying to avoid burglars and googling cheats? Kaching, anyone?

Playing “The Sims” literally shaped the way I see certain situations. When I witness two friends getting into a quarrel, I imagine the red minus signs above their heads. When I’m fighting with my best friends I see the “relationships” tab and how the permanent relationship is still 100% green, but our current relationship is red and in the negatives.

Specifically, I’m always much more able to understand why a room feels lifeless or lonely and exactly how it affects my brain. That “room” bar (or “environment” bar if you played Sims 4 and beyond) is always on my mind. So while my Sim couldn’t live without fish tanks and French doors, my actual self is a little bit different. It can be challenging to personalize a rented space, but it is totally doable. Here are all the ways I love making my apartment a home.

All the Candles

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What is it about candles that just make everything better? Sure, air pollution is a thing– but candles are sooooooo a thing. The dim lighting and fragrance of a candle provide immediate warmth (literally and figuratively) to a boring apartment and make it feel like home. When we first moved, I made sure to have at least two candles burning at all times when we were home. Even when we were sleeping on an air mattress, candles seemed to give us a false sense of home and security.

My personal favorites are: anything from Target, all the scents from PaddyWax (see similar), and this fun Malin + Goetz scent. But seriously, I’ve been known to stay in the candle aisle in Target for over 45 minutes. This Bella Fresh candle is only $15.49 and lasts forever. Candles, you guys. They are the answer.

Meaningful Decor

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I half grew up in Hawaii, and I have very fond memories of my childhood there. So while photos of family and friends are scattered throughout the apartment, I also love when our wall art is meaningful as well. I do my best to find prints of places or things we have in common: a city map of a real place we like to visit (like the Adirondacks) or a city map of a place we like to pretend to visit (like Westeros).

I love the different art we get on Etsy. Instead of being teenagers with movie posters taped to walls, I invest in Etsy art that give shoutouts to our favorite childhood movies: Peter PanJurassic Park, and Cinderella. I used to try and source cheap art at Target, but Etsy is a great resource for reasonably-priced unique printed art. It adds character to the space without costing a fortune, and it allows us to personalize our walls without it looking like we’re 16.

This is my personal favorite way to make add personality to a rental; the entire apartment doesn’t feel like a scrap book, but rather a sophisticated place with meaningful art and trinkets that bring us joy.

Living and Breathing Things

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They say you should have plants and herbs around an urban apartment to breathe life into your space. Well, we’ll do you one better.

Our cat, Phoenix, is as living and breathing as it gets. And his rule is no other living things are to be in the apartment. Whenever I try to get him fancy cat grass, he knocks it over. He immediately eats any flowers meant for display. So generally we keep the plants to a minimum and let him be the king. Flowers can’t cuddle you, anyway.

Color

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This one seems like a given, but I notice so many of my friends are against painting their walls. I find it to be the most important step in making a rented place feel like home. If your landlord allows it, paint right away!

The rentals I’ve dealt with either have an awful yellow/white or a fluorescent hospital white upon move in. Painting over that in a different neutral color, or even finding a warmer/less insane shade of white makes a world of difference. And yes, there are about 20 different shades of white in the paint aisle!

I’m also a huge fan of painting neutral colors everywhere. Our living room is gray. Our bathrooms are a lighter shade of gray. We have accent wall in our bedroom in a dark blue color. It’s along the window, so the dark hue is evened out during the daytime when our room is filled with sunshine.

These are very simple things, but after having rented in NYC for 7 years, I know they make a huge difference. Making a rented space feel like home is not easy, especially when you’re still living on an Ikea-via-Craigslist budget. But the small upgrades are worth it. You know how I know I’m a grown up? I no longer want my apartment to look like an Ikea catalog. That was my ideal for me in my early 20s. But now I realize it’s about personalizing the space and finding unique and memorable items that bring us joy.

We’re not lucky enough to be home owners yet, and when we are I’m sure it will be an amazing adventure. But for now we’re enjoying our condo: painted walls, candles, and all.

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Larissa is the blogger behind We Heart Beauty and is a member of The Blogger Collective.

Featured Post: The Third Piece Rule

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Jessica from My Cubicle Chic is giving us a little primer today on the third piece rule.

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“Didn’t I just wear this last week?” With the confines of dressing professionally and appropriately, it’s not a walk in a park to always look polished and presentable, while showing creativity in your outfit at the same time. I try to solve the problem by sticking with basic neutrals that could go with everything else I own, so I don’t have to brainstorm in the morning as I get ready. Still, a slight problem still exists: I end up creating really similar outfits or just gravitating toward the same outfit over and over again. There are 5 work days a week is about 260 work days a year. Who has that much time to create 260 different looks?!
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This is where the Third Piece Rule comes in handy. The Third Rule Piece is a wardrobe trick where you elevate your ensemble by adding a “third piece” to your outfit. The third piece could be a statement necklace (or any bold accessory), or a piece of outerwear like a vest or a blazer. (Read more about the rule here.)

In the pics above, I am using a statement necklace and jacket to add instant glam to this otherwise lackluster office outfit.