Friday, January 29, 2016

Keeping My Resolutions

Going along with the fun giveaway I am hosting this week (click here to enter!), I thought it would be fun to share some of the items that I'm loving and that I have on my wishlist to keep my own 2016 resolutions on track.  My goals all pretty much have to do with improving and feeling better about myself, and you can see my full post of resolutions here.

Clockwise from the top:

Eat healthier: I cannot wait to get this KitchenAid Spiralizer.  I've been looking for a spiralizer for a long time, and now that there's an attachment for the KitchenAid, I know this is the one I want.  In addition to carbs, one of my biggest weaknesses is snacking.  I love me a good mid-afternoon or late night snack.  I found Graze subscription box, which is only $12 for 8 healthy snacks.  I cannot wait to try it!

Run. Run. Run: I've worn Nike Dual Fusion sneakers for at least 5 years, and I have the Run 2 model in pink and black right now.  I love these sneakers: they fit my feet so well and last forever.  I'm thinking my next pair will be those gray and lavender Run 3s.  Inside those shoes, I'm all about compression socks.  I have about 10 pairs of these Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Socks.  If you don't like these heavier socks, they have tons of other lighter models, too. As for clothes, I'm a sports bra junkie.  VS Sport has come out with some fantastic styles in the last few months, and I love them all: LightweightAngel, and Incredible.

Wear makeup everyday: Somehow I've actually accomplished this so far this year.  These three products are always on my face, in addition to the occasional eyeliner or lip gloss: Maybelline Instant Age Rewind, Covergirl Instant Cheekbones, and Maybelline's The Rocket.

Better blog photography: So far, I am loving my Canon - EF 50 mm prime lens.  It's been so much fun to play around with, and understanding aperture, shutter speed, and film speed is so much easier without the added variable of zoom.  Next, I'm trying to decide between the Canon - EF 35 mm prime lens or the far less expensive Canon - EF-S 24 mm prime lens.  For my T1i, these are virtually the same lens because of the 1.6 crop factor of EF-S lenses, but if I ever purchased a full-frame 5D or 6D, the 24 mm would not be compatible.  After that, it's about finding an image stabilizing zoom lens to replace mine that came from an old film Canon and was pre-image stabilization.

Listen more: I can't exactly say what physical things are helping me listen better, but Mike and I are doing this whole photography thing together, so we have been working on communication as we learn there!
  • How are you doing with your resolutions this year?
  • What's helping you stay on track?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pinterest Tips for Bloggers

Good morning, friends!  I have a fun post to share with you today all about my most loved and most hated social media channel: Pinterest.  I don't know about you, but my relationship with Pinterest definitely ebbs and flows: some days I love pinning outfit after outfit, dessert after dessert, and other days I realize I haven't logged in for weeks.  I used to love "old Pinterest" where who you followed was what you'd see (and in the order they pinned it), but now with Promoted Pins, Pinterest has become so much less organic that it's become harder to get your pins "noticed" (without paying for it).  That's where we need to help each other; we need to share tips and get our little blogs' pins more viewed!  Before I continue any further, I fully acknowledge that I am not the most educated Pinterest user or the Pinterest user with the most followers, but I have found that the five tips below work for me, and I simply want to share them with all of you in hopes of gaining some success, as well.
1. Create boards by season and rearrange them frequently.  I used to have a single board for holidays and outfit inspiration, but now, I separate them so that followers looking for something specific can find it more easily.  Always move the most seasonally relevant boards up to the top, too!
2. Get holiday or seasonal content out there early.  Pinterest users are not looking for Valentine's Day inspiration on February 13th; they're looking for it right after Christmas ends.  Make sure you're posting holiday content at least a month before said holiday on your blog and sharing it on Pinterest then.  Even if you have a generic board that has something related to a pertinent holiday, change the cover of that board so that viewers will see it.  For example, on my "Blog it" board, I am currently featuring my "Tax Tips For Bloggers" post since tax time will soon be on the horizon!

3. Use frequently searched words to boost your descriptions.  Just posted something awesome on your blog and can't wait to share it on your Pinterest page?  Search a generic title idea, like I did for "hand scrub" below, and see what other words and phrases users are searching for.  I went from calling this pin "Pumpkin Spice Latte Hand Scrub" to those detailed descriptions below to get more search views.
4. Join group boards.  This is a fun way to find new people to follow who share the same interests as you as well as gain new followers yourself.  PinGroupie is a great resource, and usually if you comment on a group board and ask to be added, the admins will happily add you.

5. If it fits on more than one board, then pin it more than once.  Like I said before, Pinterest is far less organic than it used to be.  If you posted the same photo to two or three boards within 5 minutes, your followers would see those photos back to back.  Now, it can be hours or days before that pin appears to them, so why not double or triple your chance of being seen by adding a pin to more than one board.  I added the pin below to my fall holidays and DIY boards and created different descriptions to be seen on more pages and in more searches.
There you have it.  Like I said, this is what has worked for me, and I hope it works for you.  Here's my Pinterest page if you'd like to check it out - I'd appreciate it!  Good luck "going viral!"

  • Do you use Pinterest?
  • Do you have any suggestions for your fellow bloggers?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Resolutions Essentials Giveaway

Good morning, everyone!  I've teamed up with a bunch of my favorite bloggers for a giveaway to keep your New Year's Resolutions on track.  It's been a whole month since the new year started, and I don't know about you, but I'm starting to slip a little: Valentine's (and Easter) candy is everywhere and it's so cold (yeah, I'll take any excuse I can get not to work out).  We've put together a few fun items to keep you excited about staying healthy in 2016: a FitBit charge and some accessories from ban.do.  Enter below through the rafflecopter widget, and good luck!
Borrowed Heaven ||| To Travel & Beyond ||| Christina Lea Loves ||| Martinis & Bikinis
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 25, 2016

Weekend Snapshot

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope y'all had a great weekend. I apologize for not having much for you today. I'll leave you with a few photos of foodventures from the weekend. Make sure you check back tomorrow for an exciting collaboration!
 PS - Panthers to the Super Bowl!!! #KeepPounding

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tax Tips for Bloggers

Well, it's really the new year.  The holidays are over and hopefully we're all past the point of changing 5s to 6s every time we try and write 2016.  I've loved seeing everyone's blogging goals and resolutions this year.  Last year, one of my new year's resolutions was to grow my blog.  I wanted to create better content, start working with brands, and improve my photography.  Creativity and sharing (as well as bringing in a little extra income) were the fun parts.  Now that it's a new year, it's time to start thinking about the tax ramifications of my new business: my blog.  Luckily, my husband is an independent contractor in the software development world, so we've been able to learn about all this tax stuff together.  While I am, by no means, a tax expert or professional, here are five tips that have helped me understand the world of blogging in the eyes of the IRS.
1. Open a separate bank account: Especially for collectives and sponsored posts that pay via direct deposit, this is so helpful.  I keep all of my money earned and spent for Borrowed Heaven in one place, making it easier to track later.

2. Report all income, no matter how small:  Some people think that unless you received a 1099-MISC (a statement of payments to an individual from a company), you do not need to report that income on your taxes.  Typically 1099s are only sent when payments are more than $600, but all income must be reported, no matter the amount.

3. Don't forget to count that "free stuff:" As much as we hate to hear it, anything received with an expectation of something in return needs to be reported as income.  Conference swag, products received to review, giveaway prizes, and any trips you are "given" so you can share your experiences on social media should be monetized and listed as income.

4. Make estimated tax payments: Running your own business, you might need to make payments throughout the year due April 15, July 15, October 15, and January 15 to the IRS.  These payments comprise: both halves of the payroll tax (employer and employee taxes for Social Security and Medicare) and federal income tax.  You're probably used to working at a job where these are taken out of your paycheck before you receive the money (so you never see it), but since you are the employer and employee, you need to take the money out yourself.  The only cases when you do not need to make estimated tax payments are if you did not owe last year or if you expect to earn under $1000 total for your business the year.  Obviously, if you fall into one of those two categories and decide not to make the estimated payments throughout the year, you still need to declare all your income on your tax return at the end of the year and pay then, or you may face penalties.  I like making the estimated tax payments so I don't have to worry about setting aside money all year (and potentially spending it).

5. Deduct your expenses: As bloggers, we have a lot things we can deduct.  Most of us work out of our homes and pay for way more than we think to help grow our blogs.  Ideas for deductions include...
  • Website expenses: domain hosting, web page design, search engine optimization services
  • Advertising: sidebar ads, participation in giveaways, business cards
  • Blogger education: webinars, podcasts, books, one-on-one counseling with other bloggers or PR professionals
  • Travel expenses: airfare or mileage (in 2016, this is 54 cents per mile) to conferences and events, class costs, hotels, food while on business trips
  • Membership dues: Charleston Blog Society for me!
  • Supplies: pens, calendars, post-its, white marble contact paper (you know you bought some last year), photo shoot props, even that Erin Condren planner!
  • Electronics: external hard drive, SD cards, anti-virus software, camera lenses, computer repairs, telephone bill (your personal portion if in a family plan), internet bill (approximate how much of your total internet time is spent blogging), public internet fees (on airplanes or in cafes) 
  • Post office or safe deposit box fees
  • Home office square footage: 9% of our apartment is our home office so 9% of our rent, renter's insurance, and utilities are deductible
There you have it!  Please remember to always consult your accountant or tax advisor with questions before filing your taxes this year.  Do you have any other suggestions that have helped to make your blogger taxes easier?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mexican Street Corn Nachos

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #GameDayGlory #CollectiveBias
I think it's fair to say that we're pretty obsessed with football at this house.  However, I fully acknowledge that I have plenty of friends who join us for viewing not for the actual football but for the food.  And you know what?  I'm totally fine with that!  Game day food preparation is all about having something for everyone: something salty, something sweet, and something to wash it all down.
For the "salty" snack, I've been all about Mexican food lately.  One of my all-time favorites is Mexican Street Corn, but I've put a fun new spin on it perfect for any party!
Ingredients:
- 12 oz package of frozen corn
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 clove chopped garlic
- 1 cup Mexican cheese
- 1 bag TOSTITOS® Original Party Size
- 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
- cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 lime cut into wedges
Directions:
1. In a cast iron skillet, heat the vegetable oil on high.  Add the frozen corn and sear until it's browned at least on one side.
2. Move the corn from the skillet into a bowl and add mayonnaise and chili powder.
3. In a small saucepan, bring the milk, cornstarch, and garlic to a boil.
4. Once boiling, turn off the heat and add in Mexican cheese, stirring until it melts.
5. Line a large platter with one half of a bag of TOSTITOS® Original chips (Save the other half for chips and salsa!).
6. Top the chips with cheese sauce, corn mixture, queso fresco, cilantro, cayenne powder (use chili powder if cayenne is too much spice), and a few squeezes of lime juice!
Now for the "sweet:" I like to offer my guests options, so Skittles® and SNICKERS® are poured onto my favorite serving platter.  Finally, Diet Pepsi™ is added to the party table and we're ready for kickoff!
Looking for even more ways to celebrate playoffs and the Big Game?  Check out tons of fantastic recipes here.  Then, shop for all your ingredients at Walmart!
Or you can enter the #gamedayglorysweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 Walmart egift card or Xbox One.
Game Day Glory Sweepstakes
There you have it!  What's your favorite game day snack?  I'm always looking for new recipes!
Linking up for all of my favorite Tuesday food link-ups (Two Cup TuesdayTry A New Recipe TuesdayDelicious Dish Tuesday, and Tasty Tuesdays)!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lately

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!  I hope everyone takes a few moments to remember the achievements and importance of this amazing leader today.
I'm lucky enough to have the day off, and I look forward to spending it outside on the golf course.  Here's what else has been happening in this neck of the woods recently...

Celebrating - The Panthers won this weekend and are onto the NFC Championship next weekend - helloooo to another glorious Sunday spent on the couch!
Training - Oh boy, only 33 days until the Princess Half Marathon.  I'm not where I want to be, but I have been loving all of the motivation in the form of timehop posts recently from my first couple runDisney races (Walt Disney Half and Tinker Bell Half)!

Scheming - Mike's 30th birthday is in less than 2 months.  It's a big one, so I thought I'd start planning nice and early.  I've had some fun with party themes in the past (pirates, St. Patrick's Day), but this one is going to top them all!

Eating - Gillian invited me over for a delicious healthy dinner last Thursday - so good!  I need to cook salmon more often.  Last week was also Restaurant Week in Charleston, but instead of the typical 3 courses for $30-40 somewhere, we opted for 2 courses of takeout (from 2 different places) for $30: pizza from DeSano and the Ultimate Coconut Cake from Peninsula Grill I've been dying to try forever - it definitely lived up to the hype!
and Drinking - One of my employee's birthdays was last week, so you know Taco Boy was a must (and margaritas)!

Reading - My most recent Blogging for Books read was The Whole Coconut, and to be honest, this was the first book I've reviewed that actually disappointed me.  I know that the explantation described "dairy-free, vegan-free recipes," but I was still hoping to find a few delicious desserts and coconut-flavored entrees.  Unfortunately, many of the recipes were not intended to come out being coconut-flavored but simply used coconut products like coconut vinegar, coconut aminos, coconut meat, and coconut flour.  On the bright side, all of the photos throughout the cookbook were beautiful, and I bet many of the recipes would taste delicious.  However, I have to be honest that I have not yet made anything from this book because each of the ingredient lists were extensive and definitely expensive.  If you enjoy natural and alternative cooking, this book is for you, but if you are a lover of all things coconut-flavored, I would keep looking.

Collaborating - I've partnered with a few of my favorite bloggers as well as a couple fantastic Etsy shops for some exciting posts in the coming weeks that I cannot wait to share!

Joining in - I just signed up to participate in this fun Valentine's Day swap!  I always love ways to meet new bloggers.

Praying - Lastly, if you are one for quiet thoughts or prayers or anything like that, please say one for an adorable little boy from my hometown.  Dorian's story has taken over social media after his last wish to be famous in China brought people together all over the world.  You can follow along with his courageous cancer battle through his Facebook page here.  This weekend, 3,000 people from my tiny town joined together on the beach to show that they're #D-Strong.

Linking up with Biana for Weekending!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Winter in Rhode Island

I love my hometown.  It's a quaint little stretch of beach right on the Rhode Island shoreline.  While summers in the ocean were my favorite, I also always loved when the tourists packed up and it was just us "townies" in the winter.  Mike and I never forget to stop by my boarded-up town beach when we make trips back to the Northeast around the holidays.  This year, the sun was shining and the weather was perfect - almost 60 degrees!  
Unfortunately, my favorite mini golf course is now just sand (thanks to Hurricane Sandy), but it'll only be a few more months until the snack shack and my favorite ice cream window are back open for summer 2016.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

German Chocolate Cake

Every once in a while, Mike finds a recipe online and needs to make it.  No objections ever from this wife!  That's why we work out right? So we can eat an entire cake!  This German Chocolate Cake from Betty Crocker was the best I've ever had!
Fun fact: somehow we forgot to register for regular round cake pans, so every time we bake a cake, we use these hand-me-down hexagonal pans from Mike's mom.  Gives the cake character, right?!
 Well, Mike nailed this one.  I swear, we didn't eat the whole thing - Erika can vouch for us!  There is honestly nothing I would do differently than Betty, but we did leave out the pecans and double up the coconut since Mike isn't a big fan of pecans.

  • Have you tried any new recipes lately?
  • What's your favorite cake?

Monday, January 11, 2016

CHS Eats: Burwell's Stone Fire Grill

Happy Monday, everyone!  I hope y'all had a fantastic weekend.  While ours was nice and low-key with time spent on the golf course and at home with football and the slow-cooker on, we did have some excitement to start the weekend when we joined up with some fantastic Yelp friends on Friday afternoon for a happy hour that turned into a happy night.
This was our second time drinking and dining at Burwell's.  Last spring, our local Charleston Culinary distillery tour ended at Burwell's, where we tried a delicious cocktail made with a few of the rums we sampled.  I love places that feature local ingredients and couldn't wait to go back!  

Whether you live or are visiting Charleston, Burwell's in the perfect location for a drink or full meal.  Located across the street from the east end of the Historic Charleston City Market, it's an easy walk from much of the peninsula, plus there is free parking right next door.

The restaurant is a huge space with 15+ person seating at the bar, different rooms and levels for dining, a rooftop bar, and my favorite spot (where we sat) the table right outside the wine room!
Of course, the first thing us Yelpers did when we arrived was "check-in."  To our surprise, every "check-in" gave us a free glass of house wine, so I was happy to sip on that while I looked at the rest of the happy hour menu.  Throughout the night, we tried the Spring Fever, Berry Bubbly, and my personal favorite, the Blueberry Mint Smash, all at reduced happy hour prices.  You can check out all of the drinks and ingredients here.  Happy hour takes place from 5:00-7:00 each evening.
We sampled a few of the happy hour food deals, too: $5 prime burger, delicious squash soup, parmesan fries, and deviled eggs.  The chefs were also kind enough to bring to our table an oyster tower and beef tartare - thank you, Burwell's!
While we did not have one this time, I highly suggest the "On The Rocks" appetizer we tried the first time we were there.  A 700 degree salted searing stone is brought to your table with raw filet tips and their 3 signature whiskey peppercorn, bernaise, and steak sauces.  You add the meat to the rock and cook each small piece to your own preference - so fun!  You know it's a good restaurant when they can convince you to cook your own food.
Last but not least, you know we had to finish the night with desserts.  Burwell's is one of the few restaurants in town with their own trained pastry chef.  Between us and another couple, we ordered the Charleston S'mores (benne wafers, peanut butter mousse, and homemade marshmallows) and a cocoa puffs brownie.
We all had a fantastic night, and I cannot wait to go back to Burwell's soon and to try more specialities like their giant crab cake or peach upside down cake!

 
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