Everyday Reading - Fun Modern Motherhood with a Practical Spin

March 31, 2015

Baby Wrap Rhapsodizing (and a Giveaway)

The best baby wrap on the market. If you have a newborn, you need this!

I am something of a baby gear minimalist (although you would maybe disagree if you saw the number of strollers we own).

There are very few things I would pay actual money for. 

In fact, for this baby, I bought only my three baby essentials: 
  • new sound machine. We blew out one of ours in Europe on the high-voltage plugs there and we haven't been able to find our other one since we got back to North Carolina)
  • A swaddle blanket. We have ten million swaddle blankets after three babies, but seriously the Swaddle Designs receiving blankets are ten times better than anything else. We used one for Ella and then Ani and it still looks fantastic, but Ani was not inclined to give it up when the new baby arrived, so we bought a new one for Star. I never use any other swaddling blankets (I also really liked the Aden + Anais ones too, and might buy some when it starts getting hot this summer, although our old one sprouted some giant holes shortly after Ani was born, so I don't think they have the staying power of the Swaddle Design ones. 
  • Pacifiers. We're looking like we're three for three with paci-loving babies. And I'm super grateful. 
Anyway, all of this is to say I wasn't very convinced that there was a baby carrier or wrap that I'd be really impressed with, much less be willing to pay my own money for. I only used our baby carrier twice with Ella (such is the luxury of being the oldest child), but I used a baby wrap a LOT with Ani, mainly any time I had to shopping with two children. 

But both carriers absolutely killed my neck and back. Within a few minutes of wearing either, I'd start to feel it in my back and neck, and by the time I was done at the grocery store (or approximately 25 minutes), I'd be dying.

And then I tried out the Nesting Days one and not only did Star fall asleep within minutes and stay happily snoozing for several hours, but I didn't have any associated pain at all. It was basically like a miracle.

The best baby wrap on the market. If you have a newborn, you need this!

(In case you think I just maybe developed some better back and neck strength, I used my old wrap a few weeks ago when I had forgotten to grab the Nesting Days one from my room and only had the old one tucked in the bottom of my diaper bag. We stopped by Old Navy and almost immediately I could feel my back and neck start to complain).  

It also doesn't require gobs of practice to figure out how to wrap it. You just step into it, pull the first strap over your shoulder, tuck your baby in, and then pull the second shoulder strap on. No tying, no adjusting, and no constant worry that my baby was going to fall out or that I'd tied it wrong or too loosely, etc.

The best baby wrap on the market. If you have a newborn, you need this!

You buy it in your size - mine is a small - it's also designed so you can wear it without a shirt underneath so you can do skin-to-skin and even nurse with your baby in it. The lower part can flip up over your baby, but if you're wearing it as a shirt, it just stays down to cover your stomach. I think it's pretty brilliant.

We've had two parties here in the last few weeks (a Pi Day party and a Minute to Win It party) and I stuck Star in the Nesting Days carrier before everyone came and she slept through both entire parties (and also, people didn't try to touch her, which I love). And I kept forgetting I was wearing her, because I didn't have any pain (also, I even did a few Minute to Win It games while wearing her and managed not to lose those rounds. Just. . . you know. . . mentioning).

I seriously seriously love this carrier. I never leave home without it. It's definitely earned a spot on my list of baby gear I really truly love.

They recommend you order before your due date, because everything is produced locally in small batches, and since they are growing incredibly fast,  inventory moves very quickly (how cute is this polka-dotted one?). You can get 20% off any carrier with the code EVERYDAY.

OR! You can win one. Just enter via the Rafflecopter widget and cross your fingers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The best baby wrap on the market. If you have a newborn, you need this!

March 30, 2015

How to Make Money On Your Blog: So You Want to Be a Contributor

Looking to be a contributor? Here's some great tips for snagging a gig!

I get asked a lot about how I make money on my blog. One answer is sponsored posts (I wrote a whole post about those last year). One of the other biggest sources of revenue for me is contributing to other blogs and sites.

I currently write for Disney Baby, Mom.me, Cardstore, Brightly, Conde Nast, and Modern Parents Messy Kids. I also used to write for Spoonful and GoodLife Eats.

I actually spoke at Alt Summit last summer on a panel about being a contributor, so some of this is a recap from that.

Probably what you want to know most is "how do you GET a gig as a contributor?"

I started getting serious about looking for contributor gigs when Bart started applying to MBA programs. I had two blog friends who wrote for Babble and I asked both of them to recommend me when a spot opened. I didn't get that spot, but they emailed me instead to tell me about the launch of Disney Baby and to ask me to join the team.

And once you have a foot in the door as a contributor somewhere, it's much easier to get another gig, as editors and contributors move around a lot and will know who you are when they are looking for more writers (the editor who asked me to join Brightly used to work for Disney Baby. The editor at Conde Nast was at Babble. I met the woman who runs the Cardstore blog when I spoke at Alt and she attended that panel. I joined Mom.me when several of the other Disney Baby writers who wrote there mentioned they were looking for writers. You get the idea).

So. Here are some tips for getting a job.
  1. Let people know you want to be a contributor.  You'd be amazed at how high the turnover at lots of sites is (since I started at Disney Baby in the summer of 2012, there is only one other of the original 18 writers still there besides me) and when they are looking for new writers, they usually ask the current group for suggestions. I have a couple of people I know of that are interested in contributor jobs and so I send along openings to them when I see them or suggest their names to the editors (if you'd like me to let you know about openings, I'd be more than happy to pass info along to you when I see things!).  
  2. Email and ask. A lot of the big sites that hire tons of writers might not know who you are, but could be interested in you if you put yourself out there. I got my gig at Spoonful (RIP) because I emailed the editor and asked to join the team. 
  3. Figure out what you'd like to write about. Do you want to write about parenting? Food? Movies? Start following people in those spaces and see where THEY contribute. Chances are, those places will be hiring.  
  4. Ask to contribute on a trial basis. I did a guest post for Modern Parents Messy Kids and then when it was successful, she asked me to come on as a contributor. 
  5. Your blog is your resume. It's the first thing they are going to look at when you apply. If your layout is lousy or your pictures are dark, small, and blurry (here are some pointers about how to make your photos sharper and look better on your blog). Even if the gig you're applying to doesn't require any photography, they won't take you seriously if your blog looks lousy. The truth is, with blogging, you don't really get any down days. If you put up a terrible photo or bad post, invariably that's the day they'll look at your blog and think, "Nope, not hiring you." 
  6. When they ask your rate, go higher than you think you should. And then add another 50%. I probably would make about $5 a post if it weren't for Bart who is always like, "ASK FOR MORE MONEY." The worst they can say is no. And it lets them know you take yourself seriously and value the work you do. Especially because your content lives on their site and continues to drive traffic (especially if it's the kind of thing that does well on Pinterest) for years, they're getting a lot of benefit from your writing. Don't sell yourself short. 
A few tips once you do get a job:
  1. Do what you're supposed to do and you'll be the top 5%. It's amazing how little you sometimes have to do to be a big performer. Write the number of posts you're supposed to on time, and I promise, you'll instantly be one of the best people they work with. 
  2. If you're going to contribute to more than one place, write about different topics if you can. I feel like it's not too hard for me to come up with content because I write different kinds of stuff for each place. I do DIY projects at Cardstore, baby product posts at Disney Baby (although originally it was more parenting essays), parenting essays at Mom.me, and book lists at Brightly. None of them really cut into what I do on my own blog, and I'm not scrambling to think of 30 different posts about newborns every month. And on days when I don't want to write about books, I can work on a DIY project or vice versa. 
  3. If the pay isn't great, look for other possible perks. The pay isn't usually great on smaller personal blogs, as opposed to big corporate blogs, but they'll usually be more willing to help you out in other ways. They might pass along sponsored post opportunities they can't take or let you pin your stuff to their Pinterest boards with big followings or automatically share all your blog posts from your own blog on their Facebook or Twitter or Google+ pages. 
  4. Ask for a raise every year (or every six months). If you're performing on a high level, ask for a raise. Point out the traffic you're bringing in, how you're always submitting things on time, how your blog is growing and you need to make more to justify spending time producing content elsewhere, etc. Chances are good they'll say yes. 
  5. If something starts being a poor fit, walk away. I'm terrible at this because I hate to say no to money, but if things stop being worth your while or just bogs you down, it's okay to quit. When Spoonful shut down, I couldn't believe what a huge weight off of me that was. Since Bart was in school and my income is our only income, I never would have quit, but when I didn't have to do it anymore, I was amazed at how much stress that one gig was causing me. And when I was able to replace the income from that with much easier, more interesting, and more lucrative posts elsewhere, I realized it was okay to walk away from some money. And they can always find someone to replace you - there are lots of bloggers out there. No one's site is going to crash and burn because you decide to spend your energy elsewhere. 
Any other questions? I'm happy to try and answer them (and if you have other blogging topics you'd like to hear about, let me know!).

March 27, 2015

6 Recipes I'd Recommend

I don't feel particularly RAVENOUS from nursing, but I do feel like I'm more in love with food than ever. 

When my mom was here and then when friends brought meals over, I was making tons of treats since I didn't have to worry about making real food. It was glorious and also made me grateful for the crazy amount of calories I was burning via nursing. 

It was a struggle to not make every last item on this list a dessert, but . . . I persevered. Every one of these is 110% worth making. 

Six terrific recipes, ranging from desserts to main dishes to breakfast

1. Crockpot French Dip Sandwiches: I'm pretty sure Bart thought he'd died and gone to heaven when I made these. They were super easy and so good. Gotta make these again soon. 

2. Caramel Banana Upside-Down CakeI hosted a little birthday lunch for a dear friend this week and this was one of the cakes I made. I was nervous about it coming out of the pan and that I'd overcooked or undercooked the caramel (caramel is so tricky for me), but it was perfect. Impressive looking (always a bonus) and amazing with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

3. Almond Joy Cookies: I went on a mega sugar spree a couple of weeks ago (I'm trying to dial it back now) and made these after lunch one day. Ella got huge eyes and said, "You're making cookies in the DAY?!" Proof that I'm not a very fun mom. 

4. Chili Cheese Polenta Bowls: This was one of the last dinners I made before Star was born and it was so ridiculously good. I think everyone has a certain type of food they particularly like (pasta, Mexican, sandwiches, etc) - for me, it's a bowl of any type. Let me pile a bunch of stuff in a bowl, and I'll be a happy camper. Next time I make this, I'm doubling the chili, freezing the extra, and then having it ready for a second dinner later. 

5. Seven Layer Magic Bar CookiesAfter the Almond Joy cookies, I couldn't stop myself from making another batch of cookies. And holy. cow. these were amazing. I could have eaten them all myself. Graham cracker chunks, butterscotch chips, coconut . . . the whole nine yards. Cookies (and ice cream) are my very very favorite treats. 

6. Granola: I just started making this again and we are all going crazy over it. The first time I made it a couple of weeks ago, I had to cut the girls off after they'd each eaten four bowls of it with yogurt for lunch. And usually Bart eats about 15 handfuls before I've even gotten it off the pan and in to a Tupperware. This is seriously good granola. 


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