February 24, 2016


Hey there, gal pal! Thanks for coming to the blog!

I've actually moved to a new home and you can come visit me here - Cristinawashere.com

See you there!



February 22, 2016

What It's Like To Travel With a College Sports Team

In looking at my life lately, I was thinking of what story I could share. Considering I've been traveling every weekend to different cities/states, I thought it would be fun to share more about that. (And it would explain my crazy tweets about me sitting in sketchy IHOPs alone, ha!)

If ya'll didn't know, Cameron plays lacrosse for the school. He played all throughout high school and I absolutely love watching him play. If you haven't ever been to a lacrosse game, try to figure out a way to go! I don't know, stalk the guys on the team or something until they invite you. (Jk, you probably shouldn't do that.)

But yeah, if you like fast-paced sports (i.e. football, basketball, soccer), you'll love it. It's super easy to follow, too. Even after six years of watching, I couldn't name three rules to the game, but I understand enough to cheer when something good happens and throw up my hands at the ref when there's a bad call. 

We've had four away games so far, and I've gone with Cam to all of them. 

I love roadtripping with Cam. We play all the music we like, have long talks, and get to explore new places together. We have gotten to be really good roadtrip partners (compromising on music choices, knowing what roadside food each person likes/dislikes, etc.) since we travel 9 hours to college from our hometown. I feel blessed that we've been to many different states and cities in the past year and a half, and I know 20 years from now, I'll remember the songs we listened to in the car better than the concept of standard deviation or the Spanish-American War. 

The traveling is fun, but there's even more adventure.

Cam has to warm up with his team an hour before each game which leaves me to fend for myself. In Conway, Arkansas, I went out in search of a spot to sit and have some lunch and all I could find was a sad looking IHOP not too far away from where Cam was playing.

The hostess proceeded to sit me at a 6 PERSON TABLE. 

Have you ever been humiliated in the middle of a crowded commercial breakfast joint? It's not fun.

I had a book with me that I was reading for one of my classes, so not only did I look like I had no friends, but I looked like a total bookworm who's favorite hobby was to frequent IHOPs and sit and read with an egg white omelette.

I ate in 10 min, paid the check, and bolted out of there. 

Cam's team lost that game, but the weather was nice and I got 150 pages read out of my book.

For the next two games, we went to Dallas and had a wonderful weekend as we stayed with some family. Once again though, all was well until warm up time.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a huge baby/worry wart. When I go somewhere, whether it be the grocery store or a football game, I have to have all the necessary supplies that I might need: 

Advil in case my head hurts, Tums in case my stomach hurts, a water bottle for when I'm thirsty, a second water bottle in case there's no where to refill the first bottle, flashcards to study for school, books to read for school, a phone charger in case my phone dies, and various snacks for if I get hungry. 

By this game (the second of that weekend in Dallas) I was tired of studying, so my books didn't look all that enticing. Plus, it was a Sunday and everyone was relaxing and taking a day of rest, so I didn't have many blog posts to read or funny tweets to laugh at. Sitting in my car in a random parking lot of UT-Dallas, I was grade-A bored. The worst bit of it was, I had forgotten to fill up my water bottle prior to leaving the house.

The. Horror.

I downloaded the Postmates app and added a water bottle to my cart from a nearby CVS, but was too weirded out to have someone deliver it to me. I mean is it really safe? Doesn't that sound sketchy? Not to mention that while I knew the address of where I was, I had no idea how to let them know which intramural field I was at. So I dropped that idea.

I finally decided that I was just going to suck it up until the game was over, which I did. Luckily, one of the mom's had a big, beautiful cooler full of water bottles and let me have one.  

*Yes. I am super dramatic.*

For the last game, we traveled two hours away to Springfield, Missouri.

It. Was. So. Cold.

I always end up making friends with the other spectators in the stands just because we bond about how cold we are. I sat shivering with two other lacrosse girlfriends and we laughed at how red our noses got and how we couldn't feel our feet. Next time, I'm doubling up on fuzzy socks.

There are definitely a lot of great moments. When Cam scores, (or when anyone scores, really) it's so awesome to see how happy he gets and how pumped the team gets. It's so fun watching someone so in their element and getting to share in that with them.

So, the point to this story? Hmm.. there really isn't one. I just felt like sharing my awkward away-game stories. More to come ya'll, more to come.



February 19, 2016

Recipes for the Busy Girl on a Budget

I just want to make a healthy meal, but I don't want it to take forever. I have to study/go to meetings/sleep/be social and making ahi tuna tacos with a side of quinoa and roasted asparagus just isn't going to fit my schedule. Know what I mean?

Like I mentioned earlier this week, if you buy the cleaner foods at the grocery store, it will cost a lot less than buying anything pre-made or pre-packaged. By "cleaner" I mean stuff straight from the ground, vine, dirt, whatever.

So here's a look at a typical grocery list for me. This isn't everything I get, but these are most of those clean/simple/cheap foods I'm talking about:

Each of these costs me under or around $2. I do get canned beans despite the fact that their sodium level is higher because, well - I'm a college girl on a college girl budget. So I'll buy my 70 cent can of beans, run it under cold water before cooking to get rid of excess salt, and be good to go.

Before we begin, let me preface by saying I stink at remember to take pictures of my food for the blog/my kitchen has *horrible* lighting. If you want to see what some of these look like, add me on snapchat (cristina.snaps). I usually post a lot of pictures of my meals! 

So, I like to put the word "recipes" in quotations because these aren't anything you'll see on Food Network and they don't require any skill whatsoever. Maybe one day I'll write and sell the "College Girl Cookbook" and you'll see me beaming on the cover in an apron. 

So for now, some easy "meals" (there I go with the quotes again) that are cheap, simple, and healthy!

Sweet potato with veggies
Bake your sweet potato at 350 for 40-45 minutes. (Or until soft on the inside.) 
**If you are really in a rush, you can pop it in the microwave for 8 minutes! 
I find that a whole sweet potato is super filling, so I'll just add a side of veggies. You can pick and choose your favorite kind, but I normally go with zucchini. 

Sautéed Zucchini 
I cut my zucchini into disks about a couple centimeters thick. After adding some olive oil to my pan and letting it get warm, I toss them in and just kind of flop them around until they brown. Then I sprinkle the disks with salt and pepper, but any seasoning you like (i.e. lemon pepper, himalayan pink salt) will do.

**Note, if you want to let your meal cook while you study or do some homework, you can put the zucchini on the same pan as the potato that you pop in the oven. Take the zucchini out after 15 min and let the potato cook the full time.

Sweet potato + refried beans quesadillas
Ok, they sound gross, but I promise - if you like sweet potatoes and refried beans, you're gonna like this. I bake my sweet potato and make my beans on the stove and then I put them on a corn tortilla and fold it up just like a quesadilla! You could use any type of tortilla you like, corn tortillas have fewer calories and carbs, but flour or wheat tortillas have more iron and calcium!

Baked potatoes with hummus
I buy hummus every now and then (the Sabra Roasted Red Pepper is my favorite) and it makes a great dip for the baked potato. It may sound a little odd, but since I don't dress my potato up with sour cream, bacon, and all that good stuff, it really adds the flavor I'm craving. 

Homemade Chipotle burrito bowl
So, you could really go all out with this and recreate your burrito bowl at home, but chances are you'll end up spending so much on meat and other toppings that you're better off just going to Chipotle and spending the money. I do a really simple at-home burrito bowl with brown rice, pinto or black beans, and store-bought pico! 

Low-cal Tuna salad Sandwich/Wrap
Not everyone likes tuna, but if you are a mermaid like me, here's my my mom's tuna salad recipe!

3 tuna packets in water
1 in oil
a little bit of mayo just to make it stick 
Pickle or celery for crunch
little bit of pepper

I whip this up and put it on a whole wheat tortilla to make a wrap! I'll eat it with more veggies or some organic blue corn tortilla chips.
Veggie Pasta
I do veggie noodles with organic pasta sauce several times a week. It's nothing fancy either; I get everything at Walmart. When I'm running low on noodles or just feel like being fancy, I follow the steps for the sautéed zucchini recipe, and toss those in as well. 

If you try out any of these recipes, tag me in your pictures (@cristina96x) or snap me at cristina.snaps!



February 17, 2016

I Am So Done

Man, does anyone else feel worn out? 

Yesterday evening, I finally pried myself away from my computer long enough to make a proper dinner. Downstairs, my roommates were burning a Japanese Cherry Blossom candle and I literally started crying.

Wait, Cristina, back up...you cried? Because a candle was lit? Did I miss something?

Let me 'splain: The scent reminds me of my mom because that's her absolute favorite scent from Bath and Body works. When I smell it, I see her getting ready for work in her bathroom. She plugs in her flat iron and turns it on and calls for me or my sister to come help her because she can never do it herself.

And I just cried. I missed my mom so much. I missed being home and having my only worry be what I would eat for dinner or if I would finish my homework in time to watch Full House on cable.

(My roommates are probably reading this right now feeling very weary to ever light the candle again. Don't worry ya'll - I love it!)

So, obviously I'm stressed out. When I'm stressed out, I cry at everything. I cry at cute videos of dogs on Facebook and those "faith in humanity" posts on Twitter. I cry when I can't find a parking space on the level of the parking garage that conveniently leads right out onto the street. I cry when I burn my dinner. You get the point.

I'll be straight up with ya'll. I'm only taking 12 hours this semester. I ended up dropping a class that I didn't really need, and though I was only left with 4 classes, I'm still on track to finish on time since I got ahead this summer. So I was like "Great, I'll get a chill semester and I can really invest time in some other stuff."

I am drowning ya'll.

Each of my classes this semester requires a ridiculous amount of work. Not only should you go to class and cease from blinking so you don't miss any information, but there is tons of reading, various assignments that are due throughout the week, major papers, quizzes, and tests, and all that stuff. "Well, that's school for you, Cristina." Yeah, I know. But this is next level...Swears.

Blogging is a great stress reliever for me. Sitting down and writing out my feelings does wonders for my mental health and keeps the stress zits at bay. However, it is a time consuming hobby/job. I put the "/job" because any blogger that is also a full time student can tell you that they consider it a part time job. There's no minimum wage involved and you don't wear an apron or embellished ball cap, but it takes up every other hour that isn't spent doing school or basic survival needs.

Again, (and I stress) I love it. Wouldn't change a thing. But it's something on my plate. (But let's consider it the mashed potatoes of the plate...although it takes up space, it's the best part!)

I know I'm not the only one who is feeling like they are struggling to tread water here. It seems lately that every time I grab lunch with a friend or text someone to see how their day is going, we are all in the same, sad, stressed out boat. Everyone has obligations and responsibilities that really keep them from being at their best. We all have those weeks where we have three exams or where all we seem to do is homework.

This blog post is starting to sound too pity party for me, so let's change gears. Solution time.

There is a point where you need to say, "I am done for the day." This is something that I've had to work long and hard to master. I am an over-achiever. I constantly tell myself that I am never doing enough. I could study more. I could add more research to that essay. I could read ahead for class. I can go to that meeting that's not mandatory but would look good on my resume. You have to make yourself, stop, relax, and be done at some point each day.
The best way I've found to do this is to do something selfish each day. By "selfish" I mean an uninterrupted time for yourself.

You don't answer your phone. You don't take work emails. You don't open your school books.

You read your favorite book. You go on a walk with your dog. You cook dinner for yourself and play Justin Beiber really loud. You go to Zumba class. Find whatever it is that you can do for you each day and make it happen.

It's best if it's something that really takes your mind off the day. I like my Zumba classes on Mondays and Wednesdays because for a whole hour, I put my phone away in a cubby and just focus on my workout. I'll admit I bring my flashcards or my books with me to read while I'm waiting for class to start, but once the music starts playing, it's me time. By the end of class, I'm a hot, sweaty mess who's relieved some stress and burned a ton of calories.

Find your Zumba, ya'll. Trust me, it's so worth it to take time for yourself.

Also, encourage others around you. Like I said, we are all in the same boat. Even your mom who works two jobs. Even your little sister who has a tough course load at school. Even your grandma who gets lonely sometimes living by herself. Call them, send a card in the mail, let them know you're thinking about them and rooting for them.

You are not defined by your GPA. You are not defined by how many parties you can make it to. You are not defined by whether or not you make it to your bible study group every week. You are not defined by the amount of hours you put in.

Crazy, busy weeks (or semesters) are going to come. Just like rain, just like heartache, just like a new show to binge-watch on Netflix, there is a season for everything. Bottom line is, no matter how stressed you may feel, know that you are doing just fine. Not every day is as productive as you may want it to be, but that's ok. Take time for yourself. Love yourself. Have a Justin Bieber dance party. You'll be ok.



February 15, 2016

How I Budget and Save as a College Student

I like to go out to get tacos. I love grabbing coffee with a friend and chatting for hours. I like to visit the grocery store once a week and stock up on some staples for some easy, healthy meals. And all this costs me.

I really don't spend that much, and I can tell you that openly and honestly, because I sit down and write out my expenses twice a week. There's $2 here and there on a Diet Coke when I'm having a particularly tough work day or there might be a transaction for a lunch special at my favorite Mexican place that only cost me $5.50, but that's pretty much it aside from groceries and gas.

Now, I've never completely been out of money or anything like that, but I do think it's important to budget yourself. Just because you have $600 in your checking account, you still might not want to just keep sliding your card into infinity until you get a sad email letting you know you've overdrawn your account.

I've put together a few tips today that I've adopted throughout the past year and a half or so.

I buy the clean, simple foods at the grocery store
If you follow me on snap (cristina.snaps) you know I'm a huge fan of sweet potatoes and zucchini. The two of these in my shopping cart only cost me around $2 and they make for an easy meal. Adopt a "cleaner" grocery shopping mindset and you'll see a relief to your bank account. (And your pants might fit better, too!) 

I eat out with coupons
So, our bookstore gives away these coupon books at the beginning of every semester. And at the beginning of every semester, Cam and I take home about 10 between the two of us, haha. We use coupons most times we eat out, and we take advantage of student deals and discounts. I can eat lunch for around 4 or 5 dollars or maybe even get free queso somewhere, and that really helps me out financially.

I write down my expenses every Wednesday and Sunday
This way, I keep myself on track. I give myself a certain amount to spend for a two week-period, and I constantly check in. This way, I know how much I can spend for a specific week and that will affect whether or not I allow myself to browse Target or whether I schedule a coffee date or not.

I have a gifts + trips savings account
I also have a regular savings account, but I find that come Christmas time and when there are important birthdays, I want some extra money for shopping for gifts. Cam and I also travel several times in a year and therefore we have to eat out a bit more than usual and/or fill up more on gas. With a special savings account for this, I don't have to dip into my school money when I want to do something fun.

I don't cheat on my budget
If I have $13 to spend in a week, I'm going to make that $13 work! That may mean I eat my meals at home or I put off getting a hair cut until my next budgeting period, but it works for me.

How do you save as a college student? Or if you're out of college, what's one thing you know now that you wish you knew then? Thanks for reading!



February 12, 2016

Style Your Desk (for $30 or less!)

When I was little, I used to decorate my desk with pictures from my Discovery Girl magazines and the stickers I got from the doctor's office. I've always had the mentality that if your desk is going to be a part of your room, you should dress it up and make it a great focal point.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that I take a lot of pictures of my desk. It's not because I think I'm the Joanna Gaines of desk styling, but rather because I spend a lot of time there. I'm a desk person. (Is that a thing?) I am 10x more productive sitting at my desk, Spotify going, and my favorite candle burning.

My desk is also the part of my room that gets the most press. I get questions about where things are from and what not, and though I've touched on it in my room tours both on the blog and on Snapchat (cristina.snaps), I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to teach you how to dress your desk...and for way cheap!

I'm pretty sure I decorated this whole desk for around $30. Let's see how you can, too:

First, pick a color scheme for your desk
If everything matches on your desk, it will automatically look more put together, yeah? My branding colors are pink, gold, and a whole lotta Tiffany blue, so that's what I gravitate towards. Since my desk is white, I can get away with adding in some fun prints. (See: my ban.do agenda)

Grab the basics 
Here's where you will spend the most of your desk decor budget. Basics include desk necessities such as a pencil cup and organizers. I spend the most of my money here because these are the things I will always use. Even if I decide tomorrow that I want the colors of my desk to be cheetah print and navy blue, my basics will still go.

My basics include this Monogram acrylic pencil cup  ($18) and my Target organizer is from a Nate Berkus collection back in 2014. A cheaper (and timeless) option would be an acrylic organizer .($7)

Add some ambiance
I have a candle obsession and it's no secret. For your desk, all you need is one in a subtle, floral scent. Anything too heavy can make you sleepy and leave you wanting to hit play on your Netflix show while you're in the middle of working. Scents like jasmine, gardenia, and lavender work great!

You can find my candle on DW Home for under $15! Sweep the clearance candles at Target if you want something under $10 :)

Give everything "ugly" a place
I really don't mean this to sound harsh. You know when you have something you need at your desk, but it's just not cute looking? Example: I have a pair of bright red scissors. I need them, but they're not cute. Utilize the storage space of your desk or head to Goodwill or Ross for cute bins + baskets.

Books for decoration
I love using books or magazines as decoration. I have my iPad and my handy dandy notebook serving as a pedestal for my pencil cup. You could use colorful magazines, coffee table books, or even just a cute notebook. The trick is to use something you already have, so you don't spend anything. If you just read the latest Cosmo and you love the hot pink cover - use it as decor!

Sticky notes + note pads
Even if you don't use them, get them. I find that buying them keeps me to stay organized though, so you never know - may help you turn over a new leaf. Choose ones with patterns or colors that match your "theme". And as always, look no further than the Target dollar spot.

Bulletin board/Inspiration board
It's no secret that I decorate my bulletin board with magazine cutouts, but recently I've been adding more personal touches. I have a few Christmas cards tacked on there since they happened to match my color scheme, haha. I also add some blogger friends business cards! If it matches and adds to the personality of your desk, go ahead and tack it on - movie ticket stubs, poloraid pictures, you name it! To bring the cost down, use a piece of poster board and secure with washi tape! It'll cost you less than $5 :) 

Prints + frames
I am not crafty, so I deeply admire those who are! I stumbled across Prints279 and fell in love with the foil-lettered prints. They are simple and feminine, which is perfect for an office space. Pieces like these prints add a simple, homey look.

Also, have to brag for a second about the designer/owner. Charmaine is by far the sweetest person I've ever collaborated with! She's a new mommy and she took the time to send me a print to test out. As ya'll know, I admire those who turn their hobbies into small businesses! She is in the UK, but Paypal will convert prices to US dollars.

You can order pre-made prints or design your own on her super-cute website prints279.com. Follow on Instagram for giveaways, too!

Use my code "blogger25" for 25% off your first order! 

Desktop backgrounds
Super easy: just go to Pinterest and search "free desktop wallpaper for download" or something along those lines. Again, try to get it to match the rest of the feel of your office space. I found that this was the best way to automatically make my desk feel more "me". 

I hope this post helped you to move one step closer to your dream desk! If you use any of these tips, go ahead and tag me in your Instagram pics! I'm @cristina96x.



February 10, 2016

Last Minute Valentine's Gifts Under $10

You've either suddenly been invited to a girl's night for Valentine's day or you've been so busy you forgot to get your significant other something. Even if you don't fall into either of these categories, I think you'll want to save these ideas for a rainy day.

Notes of affirmation
Decorate your roomate/boyfriend/best friend's door or mirror in a sticky note heart! On each one, write something you love about them or just something to make them smile. This costs only a couple dollars as pink sticky notes really don't break the bank :) 

Simple snack
Get a box of microwave popcorn and address each packet to a Valentine. I think this one is great for coworkers or classmates because it's easy to make several of these. Simply get some tape or cute ribbon to attach each little card that says, "You make my heart go pop!"

Get the printable here

Valentine's day inspired makeup 
This ones for the girls in your life. Head to the drugstore and scout out some great pink lipstick or nail polish. (You could do red, too if you so wish!) You can wrap in cellophane and tie with cute ribbon for extra presentation points. 

Go traditional 
Flowers and chocolate, ya'll. Flowers and chocolate.

The "girls rule" gift
If you and your bestie have decided "girls rule, boys drool" and you're just going to have a BFF celebration this Valetine's Day - this will be a great gift. Buy a couple February editions of girly magazines (Cosmo, Glamour, etc.) and gift them to her along with...well, a glass of wine! Or a Diet Coke...whichever you happen to have on hand! 

Valentine's Day breakfast
Instead of gifts, do a Valentine's Day breakfast with your boyfriend, sorority big, etc. The donut shops always have cute, Valentine's themed donuts that you guys could much on. Or, you could raid your fridge to see what you can whip up. Let me direct you back to my favorite banana-egg pancakes recipe. 

What are you getting your loved ones for Valentine's Day? How will you celebrate?

This post is part of the #galpallinkup - check out all the other linked posts below!


February 8, 2016

Stand Out on Social Media

I have never received a pitch email that begins, "Hi, found your blog while aimlessly surfing the web."

No. It usually goes a little something like this: "Hi, stumbled across your Instagram page and we think you'd be perfect for..." or "Found your blog through your Instagram and we want you to be a part of..."

Spot the difference? Social media (particularly Instagram) rules the game.

Instagram became popular at my high school when I was a sophomore. Unfortunately, I didn't have a smart phone at the time, so I had to be the "#instagramlessCristina" in my friend's pictures for a year or so. When I finally was gifted the beloved iPhone 5 Christmas 2012, I'm pretty sure the first thing I did was make an Instagram account. (It's a different account than I have now, otherwise you could go creep on my awkward #selfiesunday pics.)

When I started my blog, there was no doubt in my mind that I should use Instagram to endorse it. Though I wasn't an Advertising/PR major yet, I was head over heels with the idea that social media was the world's new favorite medium to broadcast and market. Why shouldn't I be on there promoting my brand?

I've come a long way with this practice of using Instagram to stand out to companies and fellow creatives. (Not bragging, just noting my graduation from overly-filtered photo collages to cleaner images. Haha.)

Just within this past month or so, I've had more opportunities to work with brands and businesses I admire. Now, I don't want this to be written off as a "blogger" post. These aren't just tips for bloggers because gal pal, *anyone* can use these tips. (And should, if they want to stand out, increase traffic, and maybe even get some cool gigs.)

Think about what you like to do and what you like to share: Maybe you're in a sorority and you love taking pictures with your sisters at sporting events and tailgates. Maybe you're really into photography. Maybe you are obsessed with your dog and you Instagram feed looks like it's his, haha. Maybe you really, really love coffee.

(Here comes the nerdy, marketing talk. My dad will be so proud.)

Companies all have goals when it comes to their customer relationships. Ultimately, a company wants to take you from being a new customer to a regular purchaser and finally, an advocate. They want you to represent them. Your post on Instagram about how much you love, for example, Coca Cola packs more punch than theirs. Especially if you are a relatable student, a Youtube star, a blogger, a mother, the student government president, etc. You are their best best and they want a relationship with you.

Long ago companies cared mainly about production. Everyone bought the Ford Model T when it came along because there was no competition - nothing better. Nowadays, due to increased competition and the age of social media, companies can not just focus on what they want but what the customer wants and needs or they'll be extinct.

They need you to be their voice, and the first place they'll look for you is on social media.

(Nerdy talk over.  Thank you for staying with me.)

So, some of you may be sitting here at this point going "great! This is awesome! I have a blog/small business and I want to get noticed!"

But some of you may be like, "ummm...I'm just on Instagram so my friends and I can post pictures and my mom can see what I'm up to." That's cool, too!

It's not all about making money or gaining product. Most bloggers aren't going to sit here and lie that they don't make a profit on Instagram. But *huge disclaimer* I'm not on Instagram for the promotion opportunities. I want to post a picture about my day or what I'm doing to build a relationship with those who follow me. I'd say 90% of the people that follow me, I've never met in person and I most likely don't have their phone number. So I want to reach out to you because I'm a brand and I don't want you as just a regular customer (in this case, a regular reader) I want a relationship with you.

Recently, I've really noticed how much social media plays a part in my daily life, my brand, and my business. I was even looking at an internship application and there was a spot to leave your social media links so the company could see how savvy you were in this social media era.

(use code "cristina96x" to get the Sparkle White Professional Teeth Whitening Kit for only $28!)

So what should you keep in mind if you want to stand out online?

Use hashtags, even if you hate it
I think hashtags are ugly. Especially when you have 40 of them. It doesn't look cute. But yes, I utilize them...and I'm never going back. I've said it before that hashtags are a mating call.

Scenario: you post a picture of your Coke. It's an artsy pic: a sweaty, chilled bottle on a warm day by the lake. Your friends love it and they comment nice things about your artistic eye. You add Coca Cola's hashtag, #makeithappy. Suddenly, people from all over the world who are searching that hashtag are looking at your picture. Maybe they take a second to look at your whole gallery and see that you have amazing photos, so they follow you. Maybe one of your new followers is looking for someone to promote his candy subscription box company. Boom. Connections.

The hashtags on each of my pictures don't just randomly spew from my brain. I often look up hashtags to match the brands I'm wearing in the picture. (Example: for Charlotte Russe use #CharlotteLook.) If you want more info on what hashtags to use, Seashells + Sparkles has a great post for you!

Like and comment ya'll, like and comment
I am the biggest chatterbox on Instagram. (I'm the biggest chatterbox in real life, too.) I love scrolling through my feed and liking pictures that catch my eye. I will often comment on an outfit I love or if someone posts a picture of their cute dog. (All the heart eye emojis.) Most times, these interactions turn into a relationship. It's small at first - maybe we just follow each other, but maybe that person is a company or a blogger that wants to collaborate. Again, not in it for the collaborations, but if that's what comes from double tapping, why not?

Find people, find partners, find relationships
Not only can companies find you on Instagram, but you can find companies. (Obvi.) When I'm sitting down to write a post about, say, room decor and I want to give my readers the best place for them to find gallery wall prints, I'll search on Instagram. By searching hashtags, I'll sometimes stumble across a small business that has prices that suit my audience and an overall aesthetic that I really love. I'll link them on the blog or perhaps even send a direct message to see if I can collaborate with them on the post.

Work on your photography skills
I fought this tip for a while. After all, Instagram is just a place to upload my pictures from my BFF's birthday party or the cute cupcake I just devoured. But, I had to admit, I did want my pictures to look more Pinterest-worthy. You don't need a fancy camera or a photographer. Just take photos in good (preferably natural) lighting and don't over filter.

Post often
The more often you post, the higher your chances are to be featured on the popular pages. No, it's not about "popularity", but it is about exposure. I post almost every day, but that's more so because I'm kind of addicting to Instagram. #thefirststepisadmitting

Follow the brands you like
Not only is this a great way to be kept in the loop about sales and potential giveaways, but companies (especially the smaller ones) will really take notice if you like and occasionally comment. Once again, it's a part of graduation to that advocate level of a brand-customer relationship. You never know, they may want you to help in their next campaign :)

So those are all the social media secrets I have for you at this time! Sorry for the points that I got really nerdy about it all, haha. Let me know what you think in the comments. How do you use social media? What ways do you try to stand out?



February 4, 2016

Everyone Needs Valentine's Day

I didn't think of Valentine's Day as a "couples" holiday until the 3rd grade. My elementary school had an annual roller skating party just a couple weeks before the holiday, and it was pretty much the biggest event of the year. At this point, if a boy thought you were cute, he'd better tell you at the skating party, so you guys could be locked down as boyfriend-girlfriend by Valentine's Day.

Sounds really silly, right? Because it was. And we were 9. But, just go with it.

I remember being furious that the whole boyfriend-girlfriend fad was becoming a thing. I loved Valentine's Day as it was: getting cards for my whole class (bonus points for temporary tattoos) and giving a special candy necklace to my BFF. I remember skating as fast as I could around the rink that night, hoping no one would come and try to get me to "go out" with them.

I realize that while I don't feel the same about Valentine's Day anymore, some people still do. Some of you might wish that this day would just....not.

I hate to be the stereotypical girl who's in a relationship that comes on the internet/social media and goes "it's totally not for just for couples!"...But that's kind of what I'm doing. (I have more than just my two cents to offer so keep reading.)

So how can you celebrate if you're single, in a relationship, away from home, or too busy to really do much?

Like this:

Have a webcam date
Grab your favorite easy meal (or go to Chickfila) and then sit down and FaceTime your loved one. This could be your family back home, your best friend across the state, or your long-distance boyfriend. Maybe even just call someone you don't get to talk to all that much and see how their day is going. They'll feel the love, you'll feel the love, and - wouldn't you know it - you're participating in the holiday without feeling nauseous from all the mushy gushy-ness.

Send a care package 
As we know, I'm a huge advocate of Target and the Target Dollar Spot. Go load up on some goodies, add in their favorite candy and wa-la! You have yourself a Valentine's care package.

Have a girl's night
Pick out some chick flicks, stock up on junk food, and have your girls over for a singles party. Make sure to take a lot of cute Instagram pics so the boys know what they're missing :)

Send a (paperless) card
If you haven't heard of Paperless Post...well, now you have. Just look through these pictures to see how CUTE their Valentine's cards are. It's super simple to send one - you just pick the one you want (They have Kate Spade and Rifle Paper Co.!) and then you customize it with your message and the envelope color.

Enter the email of your loved-one and off it goes to spread the love! Send one to your best friend who's at a different college, your big, your little, your grandma, your favorite aunt...whomever! You can also use them to make some bomb online invites. Think birthdays, grad parties, bridal showers and more!

Do some random acts of kindness
Again, the holiday is about LOVE not having a significant other. Go around your town solo or with some friends performing random acts of kindness. Buy someone's Starbucks drink, give your waitress a bigger tip than normal, leave an uplifting note in a book at Barnes and Noble....get creative!

Put on some jams and bake something sweet
This is a fun date idea if you wanna do something laidback. I know that some couples have just started dating by the time Valentine's Day comes around and you want to celebrate but don't want to do anything too...Valentine's Day-ish. But, this is also great for gal pals that wanna hang out and have fun on the holiday.

I hope you're a Valentine's Day person now! Haha :) Just wanted to make sure that everyone has a good reason to stuff their face with candy.



February 1, 2016

Why You Should Start a Blog/Business Young

I don't know with definite research that it helps your business to start while you're young, but I do know that it helps you as an individual.

When I first started my blog, I knew my way around the computer, I was a quick typer and I had taken one creative writing class. (Oh yeah, and when I was 12 I attempted to write a kid's cookbook. I don't know where I thought my smiley face pancakes were going to get me.)

I had wanted to be a "blogger" for a long time. The thought had occurred to me a couple times over the years as I was the "shopping guru" out of my friends and had an affinity for moving people with words. After a pivotal church mission trip the summer after my graduation, I thought...hey, why not.

I learned a lot from starting a blog...and quickly.

I learned that Instagram was not just for clever captions and selfies at the school pep rally, but that it could open you up to a loyal audience and networking base. I suddenly saw pictures as not just memories fulfilling a space on a feed, but little windows looking out onto a bigger picture - a brand, a product, a lesson, a story.

I learned why social media even matters in the first place. That it's not just a "trend" that all the kids are using, but a community where people are growing and building relationships. Better yet, I learned how to use it. I know a slew of random facts and statistics like when the best time to post a picture is and what hashtags will generate the most traffic. (And I get really geeky about it all...I love it.)

I learned (and am still learning) how to market. I sit down and I don't view a post as "Ok, let me show this product and write about it". No. It's more of "Why does my audience care? What information should they know to help them better understand what I'm presenting? What does my audience need and how can I give it to them all while entertaining them?". It's really fun.

We young business owners and founders of our creativity know a lot before our time. We will be well versed in email etiquette long before we ever sit in a cubicle. We understand how to work with brands, how to say no, and how to create relationships. Heck, we've had conference calls and interviews and some of us aren't even able to legally buy alcohol yet!

That's all great. That's the business-y part of it. Do we have a leg up on that? Maybe. I certainly feel confident going into an interview and talking about my knowledge of SEO and I couldn't have said that two years ago. But, there's more to it...and I think this is the good stuff.

We know how to care for customers (or readers). We know how to deliver what people want while still staying true to ourselves and our brands. We understand this crazy mess of a social media world enough to fight it and let it empower us rather than control us. We are given the opportunity to be more comfortable in front of the camera or maybe even behind the lens. We take constructive criticism, and we turn right around and do something amazing with it. We learn to be proud of something that we, on our own, curated and made possible. And we learn to be really, really thankful for those that helped us get there.

Whew. Man, what even is this post? I bet you guys have had no idea that this whole time I've been building up to introduce you to a brand and founder/entreprenuer that I really admire.

See that's my thing, my blog "tell" if you will. I always want to tell a story or teach a lesson. I want to show you a product that I like, but I want to leave you with something more than a coupon code or a link. I want to make you feel something! I want you to be proud of yourself and what you do - whether you're a blogger, a small-business owner, a college student, a single mother, or just your average big-dreamer.

My friend Alyssa started her own business selling gorgeous pearl jewelry in 2013 when she was a freshman in high school.  Now, she has over 10,000 pearl lovers eyeing her designs on Instagram, several stores selling her creations, and a loyal customer base that just loves to see the latest products hit her etsy store.

I really admire her for seeing a trend and dedicating her time to bringing it to life at a more convenient price for fellow young ladies in high school and college. (There's even jewelry for guys now! What!) She and her reps model her collections and customers get regrammed on her instagram page.

When she asked if I wanted to feature some on the blog for you all, I danced in the grocery store checkout line (ask Cameron). However, I wanted to tell you guys what I really loved about ARL pearls, not just touch on how cute and affordable they are.

This day in age, anyone can create an Instagram account or make a website. It definitely takes a special person to dedicate the time to make their visions come to life, but I truly believe the only thing stopping most of us is fear. Maybe it's fear of being too young or not being good enough, but if you give yourself 10 minutes to push that out of your head, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

If you'd like to sport some ARL pearls, you can go ahead and place an order on the etsy store. Or, check here to see where ARL pearls are sold! To keep up with it all and to receive notice on special sales or giveaways, follow on Twitter and Instagram!

Thanks for letting me talk your ear off today! Comment with any small businesses you love, entrepreneurs you admire, or blogs you can't stop reading. Let's create some inspiration today.