My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

I hope all of my United States friends had a great Thanksgiving! I always take the time around this holiday to reflect on what I’m grateful for, and this year I’m happy to say I am thankful for a lot. It’s easy for me to get caught up in what I’m not happy with in my life, and what I wish was different. Writing this blog post has been a great exercise to remind myself of everything I am grateful for. I would encourage you all to write a gratitude list of your own after you read mine! 

  1. I’m thankful for my family, who supports me, inspires me, and loves me unconditionally. My family is so important to me. I know the holidays can be a stressful time for some people who may not get along well with their family, so I’m feeling grateful to have a family I genuinely love spending time with. 
  2. I’m thankful for my friends, both old and new, who I have shared so many fun memories with this year. My friends inspire me to get out of my comfort zone, open up and talk about my feelings, and just live life to the fullest. I have made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and kept existing friendships thriving this year. Friendships really are one of the most beautiful parts of life. 
  3. I’m thankful for a job that gives me opportunities and luxuries that not everyone has. This year I was able to travel to Costa Rica, Seattle, Laguna Beach, and Orlando. I moved into a house and am able to save my money and feel financially stable. No job is perfect, but there is a lot for me to be thankful for with this one.
  4. I’m thankful for my body. I went to a yoga class this morning for the first time in a while, and was reminded that my body is so strong and gives me so much. It’s easy to get wrapped up in how our body looks, but I was reminded this morning that how we feel is so much more important. 
  5. I’m thankful for my mind. I’ve worked hard over the past couple of years to maintain a healthy mind through therapy. Though mental health is always a work in progress, I feel lucky to be feeling relatively healthy in my mind and soul. 
  6. I’m thankful for the city I call home. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and I feel so lucky to still live here now. Every week there are new events going on, from live concerts, to pop ups like the FOMO Factory, to art installations like the Waller Creek Show
  7. I’m thankful for music. I started teaching myself to play the keyboard this year, and have gotten back into singing as well. Music has always been an important part of my life, and I’m happy I’ve found a way to keep up my passion.
  8. I’m grateful for travel. As I mentioned above, I was able to travel quite a bit this year. I’m so grateful for all of the memories, life lessons, and new friendships that have formed from my trips. I can’t wait to travel even more in 2019!
  9. I’m grateful for myself.  I am often my own harshest critic, but deep down I love myself and am so proud of everything I have accomplished, and the person I have become. I’ve heard people say you should be your own best friend, and this year I have really made that happen.
  10. I’m grateful for this blog, and for each and every person who takes the time to read what I write. A little cheesy, I know, but it’s true! I started this blog on a whim almost five years ago, and I am constantly grateful to have an outlet for my creativity, and people who care about what I have to say. 

What’s on your gratitude list this year? Leave a comment and let me know! 

Blogger Interview: Cami Fannin

Blogger Interview: Cami Fannin

It’s been a while since my last blogger interview, but this one was definitely worth the wait! I’m excited to introduce you all to Cami Fannin of Cami Like a Tank Top. Cami and I actually met in our sorority in college, and we also both majored in Strategic Communication. I was always impressed by how kind (skip to her answer for question 10 if you don’t believe me) and smart Cami was, and I’ve enjoyed following her blog and Instagram account over the past year.

I was excited to hear her perspective on things, because I find all of her content to be extremely inspirational! I think you all will agree when you read this interview. Cami talks honestly about how she manages to stay true to herself and create genuine content, and has great advice for anyone starting out in the blogging world.

So without further adieu, let’s dive into the interview!

  1. To start things off, can you share one “fun fact” most people don’t know about you?

I’m awful at fun facts – can that be it? HAHA! I think a lot of people are surprised to learn that I was once trained in flying trapeze and wanted to join the circus for a while! I’ve also never broken a bone, except for my right pinky toe twice.

  1. I’d love to hear the origin story of Cami Like A Tank Top. What inspired you to start a blog and second Instagram? Did you have a specific goal in mind? Did you have any fears going into it?

I’ve always been a creative writer and stylist in a sense. I used to want to become a fashion magazine editor or fashion buyer, so I played around with many different blogs over my lifetime. I actually recently found my very first blog I wrote with my friend in middle school, so if you want a good laugh check it out here: http://couturecrazed.blogspot.com/.

I stopped blogging my senior year of college because I just didn’t have the time or direction to turn it into something of worth. A few months later, I was graduating college, getting engaged, turning 21, moving to a new city, and starting my first full time job all at the same time. I couldn’t find articles on the advice I needed, like how to make new friends in a city and how to negotiate your salary. I saw there was a gap between college bloggers and “adult” bloggers who cooked 3 course meals and wore designer clothing. I decided to launch Cami Like a Tank Top last year to provide conversations on how to adult, which incompasess topics on style (focused on affordable items from Target and H&M), wellness, adulting, relationships and more!

In terms of goals, I try not to get too caught up in the “I want to hit X amount of followers” or “collaborate with X brand” type goals. My goal is to just have a creative outlet and foster a community. I want my blog to be like a friend – providing some fun anecdotes and real advice.

I had a million fears! I still do. I actually kept my blog a secret and didn’t tell anyone I knew personally about it for about 6 months because I was embarrassed people were going to judge me or criticize me. I don’t have the largest following (but I do have the best, they are all so amazing!) so I thought people would think I’m stupid for trying something like this and not succeeding quickly. Luckily I’ve found that the blogging community is insanely supportive of everyone regardless of your following, content, etc. We all want each other to succeed in whatever our goals are.

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  1. One of the things I struggle with most is finding time to blog and focus on Instagram, on top of a full time job. Not only do you have a full time job, but you’re also planning a wedding! Do you have any tips for managing your time and staying motivated?

Oh my gosh, if I did then all my problems would be solved! Honestly that has been my biggest struggle. I get very overwhelmed but I just take it day-by-day. I’m sure I could dedicate more time to my blog if I didn’t have a full-time job or a wedding, but my blog was never supposed to be more than a hobby for me. I’m so thankful for what it has become, but I always remind myself at the end of the day, it’s just Instagram. I can control how much time I put into it and I may be a “smaller account” because of that, but life is so so so much more than that app for me right now.

That didn’t really answer your question so for time management I recommend making a schedule and planning out content well in advance. I normally have 1-2 shoot days a month where I just cram in different outfits and shoots to have content for the next few weeks. I also try to write on the weekends or 1-2 nights of the week after work. I also have a schedule for when I post certain series and I have sale trackers to help me plan out sale alert posts. It’s all about being prepared.

Motivation is a different story. I’m actually going through a bit of a re-brand because I found myself constantly uninspired and unmotivated. I thought about deleting my blog, but I realized I just needed to pivot what I was blogging about and I feel so much more inspired. I would suggest taking time away if you are unmotivated and really think about what content you are producing and why. If you can’t answer that, you’re probably forcing whatever you’re doing and if you force it too much, it will cause you unnecessary stress and lower your content quality.

  1. A lot of people struggle with comparing themselves to others, and worrying about not being good enough, especially when we spend so much time on social media. What’s your advice for staying positive and self-confident?

Hi, this is me right now! I think the best thing to remember is that everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through this. It’s hard to see someone’s post or following and not compare it to yours. I just try to remember that what you are seeing is most likely a highly-styled photo that was taken by a photographer and then edited – it’s gorgeous and well-thought out but it’s not representative of real life. It’s a highlight – a carefully crafted highlight. Nothing wrong with that on its own but you can’t compare that photo to what you see in the mirror. Be yourself and just have fun. In particular for social media, if it stops being fun, take a break and/or unfollow that person. I promise you it is the best thing you can do for yourself.

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  1. I’m a huge proponent of women supporting women, and working to lift each other up. Who are some of your idols in the blogging and Instagram community, and why?

There are so many are you kidding me?! I love the entire Instagram community. If I had to choose, I love Lauren of Lake Shore Lady, Kate of Classy and Kate, Wesley of Have a Wesley Day and Katie of Katie’s Bliss. These ladies have so much fun putting together their content and you can see that genuine passion in their photos. I love how they engage with everyone, and even before I started blogging, these ladies would reply to my emails and comments and really cared about the community they were fostering. I definitely look up to them. I also love Lucie Fink because her content is just inspiring in the deepest sense. She reminds me that it is important to constantly learn new things and open up your creativity every day.

  1. What is one piece of advice you’d give someone who wants to start their blogging/Instagram journey?

Really really realllllyyy evaluate why you are doing it, what your goals are and how you plan to get there. I wish I had thought more about this because I probably would’ve saved myself lots of stress. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “Instagram game” and to think you want to be like X when that’s not you. That’s a lesson I’m going through right now. I got so caught up with followers and engagement and collaborations that I really lost my voice. I was posting content that was not genuine to myself and I was basically forcing it to be like every other top blog out there. Now that I’m creating content that is genuine to who I am outside of the blog, I’m having much more fun. I had to remind myself that for me personally, this is supposed to be a fun hobby, not a job.

Blogging takes hard work. It sounds silly at first, but it is hard work and it’s frustrating and there’s a lot of judgement from the outside world. You have to have thick skin and be ready to overcome all of those challenges and more.

Sorry if that’s a little harsh, but I wish someone was as honest with me starting out. With that said, if you really want to do this, go for it! Blogging is such a fun thing to learn and create. When starting one, I also recommend reaching out to people you admire on the platform. I DM’d a lot of amazing women who are now my blogging friends. You never know what could happen.

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  1. What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My fiancé, my family & friends (because friends are basically my family) & a healthy body that loves green juice (I just drank that so it’s top of mind right now!).

  1. We originally met back in college, in our sorority. What is one piece of advice you would give to College Cami?

YES, BOOM BOOM (ADPi’s will understand). I would tell College Cami to stop planning, and just enjoy. I spent all of college preparing for post-college life. I got an internship my freshman year and always had a side job or internship after that. I once had 5 jobs, on top of school. I was obsessed with my future career. Once I met Jake I just focused on graduating and moving in with him and our future relationship. I barely enjoyed senior year because of that. Very rarely in school did I ever just stop and realize where I was at the moment. I didn’t go out very often or do crazy adventures. I was so obsessed with the next step and treated college just as a stepping stone to my future. I would recommend to anyone to just enjoy where you are. Focus on your career, yes, but adult life hits you fast so enjoy being young and irresponsible for a little while.

  1. What accomplishment are you most proud of, and what is something you still hope to accomplish in your lifetime?

That’s tough but I would say that I most proud of the career I’ve built, and I hope to continue building it. I’ve always wanted to be a C-suite exec or entrepreneur so we will see what happens!

As for blogging, I’m proud of where I am right now and the content I have coming up. I remember feeling so happy when I was accepted into RewardStyle (Like to Know It) and called my mom crying that I was “a real blogger now!” because that’s what I thought it took to be a “real blogger” (spolier alert, that isn’t)! 10K Instagram followers would be my next goal because I think the swipe-up feature is fun.

I’m also proud to have run my first 5K this summer after saying I was going to do it for 5+ years!

  1. I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could have one super power, what would you choose, and why?

As a funny response, I would say the power to conjure up cookies at any moment. In a more serious sense, I wish I had the power to take away someone’s emotional pain. Like if a girl was crying over a boy, I wish I could hand her a teddy bear and Ben & Jerry’s to make her feel better. Or be able to give super hugs that just heals someone’s heart when they get one.

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I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Cami! You can find her on Instagram @camilikeatanktop and at her blog www.camilikeatanktop.com.

I’d love to get to know you all better. Pick your favorite question from this interview and add your answer in the comments below!

My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

As I mentioned in my 2017 Reflection post, I accomplished a lot last year. But in true perfectionist fashion, I am determined to accomplish even more this year. I’ve never been one for setting strict resolutions, but I do like to set goals for myself to have an idea of what I’m working towards. So here are some of the things I would love to do in 2018….

Write the first draft of my book

Perhaps my most hefty goal, I would love to get started and hopefully write a first draft of a book. I’ve had the idea for it for years now, and have written parts of it on and off for a while now, but I want 2018 to be the year I actually take it seriously. I don’t want to give too many details about it yet, but I will definitely keep you all posted on my progress!

Travel to at least 3 new places

Like I mentioned in my 2017 Reflections, I was lucky to be able to travel quite a bit last year. However, it only made me want to travel even more this year! There are a few places in Texas I still haven’t visited, along with a few other states and countries that are on my wish list. Honorable mentions go to San Francisco, New Orleans, and anywhere in South America. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to make it to at least three new places!

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In Crested Butte Colorado during my vacation in July

Find a workout routine

Working out and I have a strained relationship. I tend to go through periods of time where I exercise on a regular basis, and then periods where I don’t so much as go on a walk. I’m hoping to make 2018 the year I finally get consistent. I haven’t decided on a specific schedule yet, but I just want to get on a routine that I feel comfortable with. As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, exercise makes me feel happier as a whole. Happy body, happy mind!

Find a blogging/YouTube routine

Like exercise, I tend to go through slumps in my blogging and, more recently, my YouTube channel. I guess everyone experiences that with resolutions to a certain extent, but I would like to get into a routine with uploading YouTube videos consistently, and writing new blog posts consistently. Again, I haven’t decided on the schedule, but I would just like to stay consistent and have a goal to work towards every week/month.

Try new restaurants in Austin

Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Austin, I sometimes feel woefully ignorant to where the best restaurants are in the city. I always enjoy exploring new places (hence the travel resolution above), so why not explore within my own city? This year I’m hoping to discover some new favorite places to eat. And I will definitely capture them on this blog!

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At Elizabeth Street Cafe for my birthday last year

Learn an instrument

Last but certainly not least, possibly the most fun and exciting resolution I have is to pick up an instrument! I played piano and violin in grade school, and I was in choir in high school. I’ve always loved music, and the past couple of years I have had the urge to start playing an instrument and/or singing again. My dad recently got a ukulele, and I’ve been thinking about getting one myself! Either that or a cheap keyboard to learn how to play piano again. Like my other resolutions, I will keep you all posted on what I decide.

 

I’m pleased to say I’m feeling very optimistic about the coming year. I know I said this last year, but I am determined to make 2018 MY YEAR! What are some of your 2018 resolutions? And what are your tips for sticking to them all year round? Let me know in the comments!

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2017 Reflection: A Year Of Change

2017 Reflection: A Year Of Change

2017 tested my resilience. It was a year full of life changes which made me question what I thought I already knew about love, family, happiness, and life in general. It was tough, but I was tougher. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone more times than I can remember, and it all paid off in the long run.

In 2017 I accomplished a lot with my blog. I started an interview series, and got to talk with so many inspiring women, including one of my favorite Bachelorettes, Kaitlyn Bristowe. This past year also gave me the opportunity to organize my own Blogging Meetup Group, which lead to me meeting a lot of other bloggers in the Austin area. Perhaps the biggest step outside of my comfort zone, and a personal victory for me, came when I started my own YouTube channel. Though I haven’t posted a new video in a while, it’s something I’m looking forward to continuing this year.

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Me with Shawn Boothe, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Erin Oprea. Trying not to fan girl too hard! 

2017 also brought a lot more travel than 2016, with trips to Las Vegas and Crested Butte, two places I’d never been before, along with smaller adventures to Fort Worth and Fredericksberg. In 2018 I hope to travel to at least three new places. I don’t have anything planned yet, but judging from everything I accomplished in 2017, I’m sure I can make it a reality.

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After climbing to the top of Mount Crested Butte. Look at that view! 

As I mentioned above, 2017 really tested my resilience. A lot happened over the course of  about four months, including quitting my job before I had a new one lined up, letting someone back into my heart only to say goodbye for a second time, and adjusting to a new family structure I didn’t choose or want. I had to come to terms with the fact that change is inevitable, and the only way to survive in life is to move forward and stay grateful for what you still have.

Here I am at the start of 2018, and I couldn’t be happier with my new job; I’ve truly let go of my past relationship; and I’ve come to feel at peace with the new family dynamic. I’m really proud of myself for staying strong and remaining (relatively) optimistic throughout all of the hardships I faced this year. I’m so happy to be entering a new year with amazing friends and family by my side, and a renewed determination to make this the best year yet.

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What was your biggest accomplishment in 2017? What about your biggest hardship? I’d love to hear about your year in the comments below!

 

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

I just got back from an amazing road trip to Crested Butte, Colorado with a quick stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico! I’d been to Santa Fe once when I was younger, so I was looking forward returning. I’d never been to Crested Butte before, but my parents and my sister had and they told me how beautiful it was. I’m excited to share some of the photos I took, and talk about the adventures I had, which included zip lining, white water rafting, horseback riding, and a few long hikes.

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We started our journey by driving to Santa Fe on Friday, July 21st. We stayed overnight at a family friend’s house, then spent Saturday exploring the farmer’s market, which was a lot of fun. We got to try “healthy” donuts, and look around at all of the fruits, veggies, and other products being sold. I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to window shop!

 

 

 

After the farmer’s market we headed to our next stop on the trip, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. Ojo Caliente has a bunch of awesome natural mineral hot springs, as well as a pool and a mud bath. We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning enjoying the springs, going on walks, and eating at the delicious restaurant, the Artesian.  

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Sunday afternoon we made the drive up to our main destination: Crested Butte, Colorado. On my first day there I went on a long walk on the hike and bike trail, and not only got to take in the wonderful view, but also learned some fun facts about the town. Crested Butte and the surrounding area was originally home to the Ute Indians, and later became a coal mining town. Today, it’s more known for skiing and other outdoor activities like zip lining and horseback riding (both of which I did later in the week).

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The rest of the week was quite eventful and adventure-filled. Like I mentioned above, I went zip lining and horseback riding. But I also went white water rafting, which was my personal favorite activity! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures from zip lining or rafting (it’s a little difficult to take a selfie whilst zipping through the mountains and avoiding rocks in a swift river).

But I did get this photo on my awesome horse, whose name was Cobra! He was pretty old and slow, but I was okay with that since I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was young. Cobra also didn’t like any horses riding behind him, so I had to ride in the back of the group.

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The final part of the vacation I wanted to mention was when we hiked to the top of Mount Crested Butte. The hike was quite strenuous, partly because of the high altitude which made it difficult to catch your breath. It was also a unique climb because the terrain changed quite a bit throughout the hike. Parts were like a normal hiking trail, but towards the end, it got super rocky and you had to use your hands to balance and climb to the top. Needless to say, my legs were quite sore for the next couple of days. But it was definitely worth it to see the exquisite view at the top!

 

 

 

Overall it was my ideal vacation – a good blend of adventures and relaxation. If you ever find yourself in Colorado, I would highly recommend checking out this town! And if you’ve never been to Santa Fe, I would 10/10 recommend that city as well.

Have you ever been to either of these places? Where are you headed on your next vacation? Let me know in the comments!

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Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

Blogger Interview: Julie Cao

I had the pleasure of interviewing another travel blogger, who has a unique perspective on travel as an expat in Canada, a freelance travel writer and full-time travel blogger. Check out her travel blog and get to know her in my interview below.

When and why did you decide to become a travel blogger?

I initially set up my blog five years ago to provide a journal for myself of living in Hawaii, and to show readers the reality of living in paradise. I wrote a post on the things I learned after living in Hawaii, and readers and my friends in Hawaii told me they loved my post and could totally relate to what I wrote about.  This inspired me to share more of my island life.

In the About Me section of your blog, you say: For me, living abroad is the best way to get to know a country. What do you think you learn from living abroad that a tourist cant learn during shorter travel? 

Living abroad has given me an extended period of time to explore my host city and country, and get to know some aspects of a place other travelers are not aware of. For example, after living in Hawaii for a few years, I realized it was not all paradise. It also has many negative sides – too expensive to live, very limited job opportunities, island fever, and has the second worst traffic in the USA (behind Los Angeles). One cannot notice these parts by just going there on vacation. 

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Youre a full-time travel blogger and freelance travel writer. How did you transition your passion for writing into your full-time job?

I did not think much, I just decided to do it full-time because it would be the best to combine my profession with my passion for travel and sharing stories. When I just started out, I had no experience in travel writing. I joined the MatadorU travel writing program to hone my writing skills and get myself exposed to the travel journalism industry. There are support groups, valuable resources and work opportunities in the program that helped me transition as well.

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being a part of the supportive travel blogging community. I have met many bloggers and we have been very supportive of each other. You know the feeling when you get to know someone and totally understand what you are doing?

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I still want to finish the MatadorU travel writing program. I signed up for the course three years ago and I am still only halfway through it. It is a huge commitment and it’s easy to get distracted, but I am determined to finish this course so I can step up my career.

What has been your favorite place youve visited, and where do you still want to visit? 

Alaska. It is the best place to visit in the USA if you love natural beauty. I have been to Alaska five times and I still want to return. 

I also wish to visit Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world with 300 days Aurora Borealis every year and only 3,000 residents. 

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What is the biggest lesson travel blogging has taught you?

Always be kind and generous. The world is very small and the travel blogging community is no exception. Everyone loves working with those who are nice and easy to work with. 

What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

Having the opportunity to live abroad and travel around the world. I have seen poverty and people struggle with daily life and it makes me feel privileged to live the life I want in a developed country and be able to travel.

Who are some of the women (both in your personal life and famous people) who inspire you the most and why?

Julia Dimon, co-host of Word Travel, gave me the idea for travel writing in the first place. Her travel show revealed that it is possible to travel around the world full-time. She is quirky and practical, and you can tell she is very intuitive and smart.

I am also grateful to have met my travel blogger friend, Emily Luxton, when I just started out. We collaborated with each other and she invited me to her Facebook group where I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other travel bloggers. She offered me valuable advice on blogging and encouraged me to work with tourism boards when my blog was just five months old. Thanks to her, I was then offered a self-organized press trip to Winnipeg early this year despite my blog being so new.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a travel blog?

Focus on creating high-quality content, and try not to look at the numbers and your blog statistics. I used to obsess over social media, blog statistics and comment pods, but I found it very time-consuming and can only get me so far. If you offer something readers really need and write from your heart, followers will come and ask for more.

What is one thing most people dont know about you? 

I do not like most sweet foods and desserts, but chocolate and ice-cream are exceptions.

 

Make sure to follow Julie on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to follow along with her exciting travels.

 

Blogger Interview: Stacey Lane

Blogger Interview: Stacey Lane

I’m back with another interview, this time with a fellow Austin local who I actually got to meet with in person! Meet Stacey Lane, a card maker, blogger and YouTuber with dreams of taking her business full-time.

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Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, what did you do in school, how did you get into card making?

I grew up in Northern Vermont, but I’ve lived all over the United States. We just moved to Austin from the Seattle area and are loving all the sunshine so far!

It took me a long time to decide what I wanted to do in college. I landed on graphic and web design, since I’d had an interest in that when I was younger. Some time after I graduated with a 2 year degree, I took a job with Microsoft and worked on the X-Box One console for a year. It was pretty rad.

I got into card making right around the time my contract with Microsoft was coming to a close. At the time, Microsoft required their contractors to take a 100 day unpaid leave of absence. I needed something to do to occupy my time, so I decided one day that I just wanted to make my own Christmas cards. The rest was history.

Tell me about Stampin’ Up and how you got involved as a demonstrator.

Stampin’ Up is brilliant. Before I found Stampin’ Up, my shopping trips would be tedious because I’d always try to find paper that matched a ribbon I liked. And then I wanted some sort of accessory to match that. And, of course, it had to match my ink. Colors are very hard to match! One of my favorite things about Stampin’ Up is that everything matches. It’s taken the stress out of designing, which is wonderful.

I knew that I needed a way to get a break on the costs because craft supplies add up quickly. Enter the demonstrator opportunity. Demonstrators never pay full price for their crafting supplies! I really found success when I started to blog my creations. Before I knew it, I wasn’t spending any money on my craft supplies anymore!

My hobby now pays for itself entirely, which is amazing, and even earns me some extra cash on the side. When the time is right, I plan to take my business full time.

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When and why did you decide to start your own blog and YouTube channel?

I started my blog a couple of months after I joined Stampin’ Up. I decided I needed my blog for a couple of reasons. First, and most importantly, I wanted to grow my email list. As a business owner, your email list is the most important asset you have.

The second reason I started my blog was to document all the cool stuff I was making. I wanted a place I could come back to for inspiration and say “yeah, I remember when I made that card! What a great layout! Maybe I should recreate that card with some new products.”

My YouTube channel was birthed from my love of video production. In high school, I took multiple video classes and always wanted to do something with it. My love for crafting gave me something that I could teach, and now that’s part of how I use my YouTube channel.

In a nutshell, why should someone read your blog or watch your YouTube videos?

I make videos and blog to encourage and educate others about how easy it can be to get into card making and scrapbooking. So many times people are intimidated because they believe you need to be really artistic to make something beautiful. But it’s not true! What makes something beautiful is the thought that was put into it. When I make things, I make them from the heart and I teach you to make them from the heart. And that’s what my blog and YouTube channel is all about.

I also offer classes in the Hutto/Pflugerville area for those of you who want to get your hands inky!

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far?

Great questions! A couple of things come to mind. First, I’m proud to have been chosen as a display stamper for Stampin’ Up’s semi-annual demonstrator-only event called OnStage. It’s a high honor and one that not many people get to do and I’m so blessed to have been chosen twice in the last year.

Another thing I’ve accomplished this year is that I held a seminar on how to blog. I turned my love of WordPress into an opportunity to teach non-technical people how to begin blogging as well as how to develop a content and marketing plan. It was a humbling experience but also taught me a lot about who I am. I’m currently developing a curriculum for my website to help teach people how easy it is to begin blogging!

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What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I have recently applied to the Artisan Design Team, which is similar to a display stamper, except it’s a heavier commitment. Artisan Design Team members are sent a free box of products every month and agree to blog about those products. It’s a 12 month commitment and I’ve wanted to apply for years and never had the courage to do it until this year!

Another goal that I want to accomplish is to earn an Incentive Trip, which is an all expenses paid vacation. I have friends across the US that have earned this trip multiple times and I’m so very close to being able to earn it for myself.

But my ultimate goal would be to leave my day job and work my business full time.

Growing up, were you always artistic? What were some of your hobbies in high school and college?

I think, in a way, I was. I remember doing all sorts of crafts as a youngster. I did cross stitch, latch hook rugs, glass etching. I remember one year my mother and I made decorative oil infused bottles for everyone we knew.

My biggest hobby in high school was web design. I created websites for my favorite bands. I created a website that had all my friends names on it (of course, that one never made it live because I knew better than to put personal info on the Internet).

In college, I discovered scrapbooking. That’s where my love of paper crafting began. But, being a college student, I didn’t have the funds to really sustain my hobby for long. Fun fact: I remember thinking that rubber stamps were awesome, but some of them were like $20 each! I thought to myself “well there’s one hobby I’ll never get into.” Never say never….

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What are some of the things you are most grateful for in your life right now?

There are so many! For starters, my husband. This man has sacrificed his career to raise our children and I’m so grateful that he has taken the time to do that. We are first time home owners and I’m also grateful for that. Owning your own home is an experience everyone should go through. It’s so liberating!

I’m also grateful for Stampin’ Up. I have met so many wonderful people through Stampin’ Up, and forged many friendships with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. I’m so grateful for each and every one of them!

Before I started this crazy adventure, I really struggled with self doubt. My upline, Jennifer, kept telling me that I had a talent and could turn my love of paper crafting into a business. For months, I totally didn’t believe her. And then, all of a sudden, I realized that she was right! She believed in me before I believed in myself. I’ve learned so much from her.

Where and who do you draw inspiration from?

My favorite sources of inspiration are the ones that make me feel like I can take on the world. A few months ago, I subscribed to The Middle Finger Project, and the emails that Ash sends are incredibly amazing. They really make you think about who you are and who you can become by shifting the way you think of yourself.

I also draw my inspiration from YouTube and Pinterest, just like a lot of crafty people! Sometimes I’ll just put YouTube on and leave it for hours. It’ll inevitably end up on something like clay modeling, which is really neat, and I’ll be glued to my screen soaking up all sorts of information about a craft that I don’t really know how to do.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

Start with WordPress, but not the free version. Purchase hosting and set up your blog on your own. My top recommendation for WordPress hosting is WP Engine, located right here in Austin. You really get what you pay for. And, for the sake of transparency, I do work for WP Engine…

My second piece of advice is to immediately start building your email list. Create an email editorial calendar and send emails at least weekly to your customer base. You may think they don’t want to hear from you that frequently, but here’s the thing: they sign up for your emails for a reason!

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I can remember things really easily, especially numbers. For example, I remember both my current and very first credit card number from over 15 years ago. All 16 digits, the security code and expiration dates… and I can rattle them off in a moments notice.

But it’s not only numbers! I can recite all 50 states in alphabetic order, starting with Alabama and ending with Wyoming. And, speaking of alphabet, I can say the alphabet backwards in 4 seconds. Because why the heck not?

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I hope you enjoyed this interview with Stacey! Be sure to check out her blog and YouTube channel, and if you are a fellow Texan, sign up for a class or two. You never know, you could become the next Stampin’ Up demonstrator! You can also find Stacey on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

Table Talk Tuesday With Jenny (Glam TravelGram)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Jenny from the awesome travel blog Glam TravelGram over Skype. Jenny is such a sincere person, and her passion for travel and writing really inspired me to put even more work into my blog. I know you all will get just as much out of reading her responses to my questions, as I did with talking to her.

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Why did you decide to start a travel blog?

I have a passion for travel, and it’s something I get to do a lot in my career [as a conference planner]. Throughout my career I’ve seen the beauty of travel, and with this passion I wanted to do more. I was always posting on social media and writing memoirs about my experiences. I found myself almost over-posting on social media, but my friends liked it, and they were always asking me for advice.

One night I was talking to my brother on the phone, and I said I had been thinking of starting a blog for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I should start it because there are so many travel bloggers out there, and I didn’t know if I could succeed. He said he thought I had the talent for it, and I should try it and just see how it goes. That same night, I started my blog!

I like what you said under ‘Why I Travel’ in the About section of your blog: “Every time I leave my home, I come back to it a different and better version of myself.” What exactly is it about traveling that you think makes you a better version of yourself?

I’ve met people from all walks of life, and seen people who live in much harsher environments than myself. Seeing people from different religions and customs has really widened my scope of knowledge about the world we live in, and makes me realize how blessed I am in my own life. After seeing so many people from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, I realized we aren’t so different. We all speak the same language of love. We all want to be loved and we all want to love. The world is so connected.

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What is the biggest lesson traveling has taught you?

Being present, in the moment, and really seeing what’s in front of you. I wasted a lot of time taking photos and being on my phone while I was traveling, and now I’m trying to focus on seeing things with my own two eyes, and actually recording those memories in my head so I have stories to tell instead of just photos to show. 

What are you most proud of that you have accomplished so far with your blog?

I’m proud that I got to learn some of the technical aspects of blogging. I like to go behind the scenes and make sure that I’m tuned into my website as a whole, to make sure it is running properly, and that it’s aesthetically pleasing to my readers. I want to know the ins and outs of everything.

But what makes me most proud is that I’ve been able to really explore my creativity and my writing skills. One of the articles I wrote recently on the Mojave Dessert, I would call my masterpiece, because I put a lot of thought into that. I hope to continue writing like that and really exploring the kinds of things I can do with my writing.

What are you still hoping to accomplish?

I’d like to grow a steady readership, which I think is the most difficult part in blogging; building a loyal audience. My blog is still only 3 months old, so I’m just hoping I can keep a steady readership from here on out. To gain followers I’ve been doing what I did from the beginning, which is promoting on social media. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are my main portals, and they’ve all been doing fairly well, Instagram being at the top.

It sounds like you have a lot going on in your life from your career to your blog to your extensive traveling schedule. How do you balance everything in your life? 

Having the support of my husband has helped a lot. He is constantly reminding me what’s most important in life, and helping me prioritize. I’m also a very organized person. I plan out my days and set goals for myself which helps me accomplish everything. But I wouldn’t be able to do all of this without the support of my husband. He understands and supports me. So no matter what, I make time for him because he is my priority.

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Who are you most inspired by in your life, and why?

My main inspiration is my mom. She’s Super Woman and I don’t know how she gets everything done. I look to her and I think “okay, I want to be like that.” So she definitely inspires me in a lot of ways.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a blog?

My biggest piece of advice is to not give up. After about a year, a lot of people decide to stop blogging. So I say, push through it. Get through that year. Keep going no matter what. One of the biggest lessons blogging has taught me is to have patience.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I’m a hardcore perfectionist, from the way that I dress to the way that I write. It takes me ten times longer than most people to do things because it’s never perfect, and I want to produce excellent things. My dad taught me growing up that you have to always be striving to be better than you were yesterday. And those have become the words I live by. I can’t even help it, it’s in my blood! A lot of people don’t know that about me, but I guess now they’re going to know…


Don’t worry, Jenny, your perfectionist secret is safe with us! 🙂

I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Please take a moment to check out Jenny’s awesome travel blog and social media accounts (linked below), and as always please get in touch with me if you’d like to be featured on my interview series!

My email if you’d like to collaborate: shelly@shellyray.com

Table Talk Tuesday With Jessica Short

Table Talk Tuesday With Jessica Short

Another Tuesday, another Table Talk. My next guest is someone who I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with over the past few weeks, and after hearing her answers to the following questions, I realized we have even more in common than I thought! Help me give a warm, virtual welcome to Jess.

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Do you remember the moment you decided to start blogging? What made you take the plunge?

I’ve had three blogs so this is a hard question to answer! My first blog was really more of a journal in high school. My second one was a travel blog when I studied abroad for a semester in London. But I consider Short & Sweet my first “real” blog!

A little backstory for why I started my blog: I got married in January of 2016, and officially moved from my home in Oregon to where my husband and I went to school in California. Many of my best friends were still in Oregon and my husband was still a student, so I felt really lonely. I realized I needed to find something other than Netflix to fill my time, but didn’t really have any hobbies because for the past year or so I was wedding planning, getting ready to graduate, job searching, and then working two jobs, so I didn’t have time for it. I really enjoy processing through writing, so I thought doing a blog would be great, but I had no idea what to blog about. My husband and another friend gave me the idea of doing a blog about trying out different things every month, and I thought that was a great idea since most blogs have only one niche. I launched my blog in June 2016 after lots of prep, and it has been such a great thing to keep me busy!

Can you give me the elevator pitch for why someone should read your blog?

The Short & Sweet blog is different from any other blog! It is an experiment, a journey if you will, of rediscovering interests and adventuring into new ones. It is about making time purposeful, being adventurous, and having fun! Each month, I choose a new hobby/activity/skill to learn and blog about my experience. It could be a new passion or I could never want to do it again, but this is the time of life to try new things!

I love what you say in your About page on your blog: “I want to prove you can do something fun and meaningful with your time, even if you don’t have much of it.” I think a lot of us, myself included, can sometimes feel as if we don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. What’s your advice for making time for the fun and meaningful things in life?

That is a real struggle I have every day! Two things that have helped me make time for fun things are 1) Make an action plan! Even if it’s just one day or afternoon a month, put it on your calendar and plan something fun to do, either by yourself or with friends. And protect that time! Don’t let other things get in the way. 2) Once you make that plan, tell people who can keep you accountable, who will remind you to take a day off or to spend time on yourself even though it may feel counterproductive. I read a great quote the other day: “I’m learning that to rest is to not be weak.” Don’t feel guilty for spending time on doing things you love – see it as an opportunity to be rejuvenated so you can be the best you you can be!

What is your number one goal for your blog?

I want to show people that they can make time to try new things and that their time is valuable – it shouldn’t be wasted on watching TV all day or doing things that don’t have meaning! (Although I will admit, I’m a huge Netflix fan!)

A lot of 20-somethings battle with feelings of self-doubt and questioning if they are good enough, especially after graduating college and during the job hunt process. How have you managed to stay positive and not be too hard on yourself?

I really struggled with staying positive during the job search after college – it’s rough! I had this idea in my mind that I had to find my dream job right after college and if it was anything else I would be settling (even though I had no idea what my dream job even was). But once I realized that everyone has to start somewhere and that I wasn’t chained to a job for forever if I didn’t love it, that really helped. We have our whole lives to work, so it’s not the end of the world if we don’t find the perfect job right away!

If you had a life motto, what would it be? (Besides “Taylor Swift has just as many hours in her day as you do”, which I also loved on your About page. 🙂

Thank you! I love Tswizzle 🙂 I think my life motto would be Choose joy! I tend to be a little bit of a pessimist, and sometimes the way I feel about things can really shape my attitude. I have two “choose joy” signs – one at home and one at work – to remind me that I can choose something else. I can’t control what happens in my life, but I can control the way I respond to things.

What three things are at the top of your gratitude list right now?

My husband – he is spending hours every day studying for his MCAT exam to get into med school, but he still makes our relationship a priority and serves me so well.

My church – I have such a great community through my weekly community group and in serving in the high school ministry; every time I’m with them I feel refreshed!

My job – I feel really blessed to have not only a full time job, but a job I truly enjoy, coworkers that are friends, and a company that I can get behind.

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Who is your biggest “girl crush” in terms of female entrepreneurs, celebrities, or any other woman you look up to, and why?

I have a huge girl crush on Shauna Niequist – she is an AMAZING blogger, author, and speaker. I just got her new book, Present Over Perfect, and it is really shaping the way I view myself and how I want to spend my time and energy. I would HIGHLY recommend her book! Also I love Blake Lively, she is just the cutest.

Your blog is all about rediscovering interests and finding new ones. I’m curious what your main hobbies and interests were as a child, and how they have changed as you’ve grown up?

I had SO many different interests as a kid! I was always really into art and crafty things, and I even went to an art school in junior high. I also did theater and musicals from a young age through high school. I did ballet for 7 years and then transitioned to cheerleading in high school, and I have always been a big reader. But I would say one of my huge passions ever since I was a kid was singing – I was always in choir and in high school I led worship at my church. I wanted to be the lead singer of a band for a really long time, but I ended up doing Communications instead. I still love singing, and I am definitely one of those people who will belt it out along with the radio in the car 🙂 Although I don’t do all of those hobbies anymore, I enjoy seeing other people do them and participating in them when I can!

I have to throw a fun one in here to wrap this up. If you could be any animal, which  animal would you want to be?

This is always a hard one for me – I would probably either be a horse because they are so majestic and free, or a golden retriever because they are so loyal and cuddly!

 

Thanks to Jess for being a great interviewee, and thank you to all of you for continuing to read my blog! As always, feel free to email me or reach out on social media if you’d like to be featured on a Table Talk Tuesday. And be sure to follow Jess on her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

It’s Okay To Say ‘No’

It’s Okay To Say ‘No’

The past few months I’ve been practicing saying ‘yes’ to more things in life. From opportunities like attending CitySTRONG and organizing a Meetup group, to friends asking me to go to a concert with them, saying ‘yes’ has lead to a lot more fulfillment in my social life. I could definitely write an entire blog post about this, so let me know in the comments if you’d like to read that! But for today’s post, I am actually going to focus on the idea of saying ‘no’, which can be just as important as saying ‘yes’.

This morning my friends invited me to go to the greenbelt to hike and swim with them. Normally, I would have said “heck yes!” I love going to the greenbelt, and it is finally starting to be nice and sunny here in Austin. However, this morning I chose to say ‘no’. It’s been a really busy, social weekend for me, and I just felt like I needed a day to myself to get some work done (like write this blog post), do my laundry, and relax. I’m someone who loves being around people most of the time, but I also need alone time to recharge and decompress. If I don’t get this time to myself, I tend to get burnt out and feel overwhelmed.

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Photo I took at the greenbelt. Who WOULDN’T want to hike here?

Knowing this about myself, and knowing it is Sunday and therefore my last chance to get a solid amount of free time before the work week starts back up, I told my friends I would have to take a raincheck. This was actually pretty difficult for me, even though it may sound like a tiny decision in the grand scheme of things. Like I said, I’ve been doing a great job of saying ‘yes’ lately, and in some ways this ‘no’ felt like a step in the wrong direction.

However, I realized the policy of saying ‘yes’ should only be taken as far as is healthy for your mind and body. What I mean by that is, if saying ‘yes’ will add more stress, exhaustion or discomfort to your life in any way, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do it. For me, I knew I wanted to take today to be productive but also get some relaxing in, and that I wanted to do this alone since I had been around people all weekend. While going to the greenbelt would not cause me any serious harm in any way, it would make me more tired and prevent me from getting my desired me-time. So I said no. Simple as that!

So here I am writing this blog post at one of my favorite coffee shops, drinking a frappe and eating a brownie, and feeling content as could be. Sure, I still have a bit of FOMO after seeing my friend’s Snapchats at the greenbelt, but I know I made the right decision for me and my needs today.

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Blogging and treating myself to some deliciousness at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters

What do you all think of the concept of saying ‘yes’ to more in life, and how to decide to say ‘no’ when you need to? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!