Will You Promote That Product?

May 30, 2015

Ainsley Banner

Blogging and sponsored posts and content. Ugh. Does just reading that make your eyes roll or your stomach churn? It’s a tough topic for bloggers, their readers and the companies that want to promote their products. When blogging was first getting started people felt like they were selling out for simply having ads on their site but these days ads are almost a given and sponsored/custom content is where it’s at.

While I’m a blogger, I’m also an avid blog-reader and have a love-hate relationship with sponsored content. When done well (that is, when it seems genuine and is presented in a visually-appealing way) it’s non-offensive and sometimes even encourages me to buy or seek out a product. When done poorly I’m left feeling like the blogger is a “sell-out” and it’s even caused me to stop reading blogs that promote too many products.

But here’s the thing bloggers don’t always want to say: Blogging takes time, money and energy. It’s a hobby and passion, yes, but it can be an incredibly time-consuming hobby. Many times the content that is created on the blogs we all love to read costs a pretty penny to produce. Groceries and kitchen equipment for food posts, clothing and accessories for fashion and lifestyle features, materials for craft projects – you get the picture.

I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times in the past (especially when I was first starting to get offers from companies) when I was quick to promote products that weren’t a good or natural fit for this blog, my lifestyle and my reader’s interests. There have also been times when I’ve been offered a good deal of money to review and promote products that I’ve had to pass on because I just didn’t believe in the product or would never purchase it myself.

Lately I feel there is more sponsored content than ever in the blogosphere, and I’ve been taking a good, hard look at what I will and won’t promote on E&C. As a new mom working outside the home my time is precious. Now seems like a great time to take a hard look at the sponsored content posts I’m willing to accept and those that are simply not worth my time or yours.

I’m not sure I have a really great way to tie this all together or a clear point to what I’m writing other than to be entirely transparent about sponsored content and my motivation behind mentioning a brand or product. I know for certain that I’ll be continuing with my partnership with Lavazza to talk all things coffee this year. I love coffee and I truly love Lavazza’s coffee and the partnership is something I can feel good about. Sometimes friends, like Emily Ley, send me their amazing handiwork (like this baby book) and I can’t help but shout from the rooftops how much I love it. And that amazing hand-made banner on Ainsley’s crib? It’s from a friend of a friend’s Etsy store called Momma Coco Designs and it’s just darling.

Other times I’m incredibly disappointed in products, and I promise I won’t ever share a dishonest review. Case in point? When I was packing for the hospital, Belly Bandit sent me one of their postpartum belly wraps to review. The Belly Bandit is pretty pricey and I was thankful for the opportunity to review it without cost; however, when the time came for me to write a review, I just couldn’t do it. I hated the Belly Bandit; it made a lot of noise when it was worn and had a very obvious and awkward seam and I just didn’t think it was necessary for postpartum recovery. (That is, for a normal vaginal delivery; I’ve heard some c-section mommas say it was great, for what it’s worth.)

So, here’s to transparency, honesty and authenticity in the products we all promote and support on social media. I’ll do my best to curate and evaluate what I talk about, and you’re welcome to keep me honest along the way!



Social Media Accountability

May 27, 2015

Social Media Accountability Post

I’ve been blogging for quite a few years now. When I first started posting recipes to the web from my college dorm room the world of blogging was quite different than it is today. There was no Instagram, blog Facebook pages weren’t a thing, Snapchat didn’t exist and Twitter was still in its early days. Over the years I’ve met a number of bloggers and online “friends” that I’ve followed on social media for years. Some have turned into real-life friends and others have left me incredibly disappointed when I realize they are nothing like the online personas they’ve created.

I get it, I really do. I’m naturally more introverted, and blogging and social media make it easier for me to express and share my true thoughts and opinions, probably more so than I would be inclined to do in “real life.” But there is a difference between being more extroverted online vs. creating an online persona that isn’t reflective of who you truly are.

While I was at dinner with one of my best girlfriends last month I asked her if she felt who I was online was the same person as the one I put out on the internet. She’s the type of friend I trust to tell me the truth and speak honestly into my life, both in good times and bad, and I believe that if I needed a dose of truth serum that she would provide it to me.

Our conversation got me thinking that perhaps if we want to live a life that’s responsible and honest online it might be worthwhile to have a “social media accountability” friend who calls us all out when they notice that we’re not being true to ourselves. I’m not advocating that our social media accounts need to be filled with pictures of dirty dishes, messy houses or depressingly honest Instagram posts. I don’t think anyone really wants to see a steady stream of filth or discouraging messages in their social media on the regular, but I am advocating for honesty and authenticity, whatever that might look like to you.

Lately I’ve been asking myself a simple question before posting: “Would my close friends and family members say this post is genuine to who they know me to be?” If the answer is “no” then I’ve tried hard to edit or eliminate what I’m about to share. Certainly I don’t get it right 100% of the time, but I’m working at it every day.

A couple other “filters” I’ve been putting my posts through:

-What is the purpose of the post I’m about to share? Is it to draw attention to myself or prop/lift myself up in some way? Am I trying to make myself feel better or get compliments?

-Is what I’m sharing genuine and honest? Is this really how I feel, or am I sharing it because I think it will be “share worthy” on the web?

-Would this post or picture be an encouragement to others or would it tear someone down? Would it cause another person to stumble or falter in some way?

What other “filters” do you use when sharing thing online? Is it something you think about or consider before posting?



There is no shame in formula (and other truths about motherhood)

May 20, 2015

View More: by Gina Zeidler

I really don’t mean to stir the pot with the title of this post, but I’ve had so many thoughts flying around in my head as I reflect on the first 12 weeks of motherhood. Those first months are full of self-doubt and questions, especially when your baby doesn’t go “by the book” the way you had planned. Ha! Does any baby? For me, when things with Ainsley weren’t going the way I thought they should go I started to stress out and worry and try to force something that just wasn’t working instead of trusting my momma instinct. Note to other mommas: Always do what’s right for your baby, not another person’s baby or the theoretical newborn in the parenting books you read. That said, here are a few truths I’ve come to in the first three months of motherhood:

1. How you feed your baby doesn’t really matter. 
For the first few days I agonized over the fact that Ainsley wasn’t breastfeeding well. She was hungry and cranky and losing weight and I kept trying to force the issue. I felt SO guilty when I introduced a bottle of breast milk, but she took to the bottle so well that I knew we were doing the right thing for us.

2. There is no shame in feeding your baby formula. 
I have been so blessed to be a part of a new momma group that met during the first few weeks of Ainsley’s life. The moms in that group varied widely in their breast feeding experiences. Some had babies that were allergic to breast milk and required special formula, others had supply issues and supplemented with formula and still others just didn’t want to breast feed long-term and were making the switch to formula before heading back to work.

Personally, I’ve been introducing some formula into Ainsley’s diet for the last couple weeks, and it’s been going great. At first I felt incredibly guilty about the whole thing; my supply was ample and Ainsley was thriving on breast milk, so why wouldn’t I continue? But 11 weeks of exclusively pumping was exhausting and I felt it was better for my mental health to cut back, even if that meant introducing formula. Sure, breast milk is the perfect food for baby in most cases, but formula is pretty good, too.

3. Say “yes” to the paci if you want, when you want. 
Nurses in the hospital might make you scared about nipple confusion and all that jazz, but I’ve had enough momma friends who have recommended giving your little one a paci when you want, even if it’s sooner than the magic 4 to 6 weeks.

4. Find a Facebook group for your parenting style. 
Seriously, I don’t know how our parents did this newborn thing without social media. There are so many great groups on Facebook for almost every parenting style or infant issue you may have questions about. There are groups for exclusively pumping mommas, faith-based groups and the like. I’ve joined a group for moms following BabyWise as well as a few other momma groups. It’s been great to have a supportive place to ask questions and throw around ideas about feeding and schedules and sleep issues.

5. Be prepared to buy and try every sleep contraption on the market. 
In just three months of life, we’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on sleep solutions. When you’re a tired and weary parent, you’re willing to do or pay anything for a couple extra hours of shut-eye. We’ve used a flannel swaddle, Ergo swaddle, Halo Sleep Sack, Miracle Blanket Swaddle Up, Woombie and Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. For us the Halo Sleep Sack and Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit have been the two that have worked the best, but it varies from baby to baby.

6. Don’t expect to get all the things done on maternity leave. 
In fact, expect to get none of the things done on maternity leave. Cuddle your baby, be invested in your little one and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get everything done. Maternity leave is for baby bonding and healing and adjusting to a new normal, not proving you’re some sort of super momma who can bounce back in a second and do a thousand tasks.

7. Take developmental milestones with a grain of salt. 
I remember one morning sitting on the couch and crying to Joe early on because I thought Ainsley might be blind. (Really?!) She wasn’t tracking objects well at the point when one book told me she should be able to track and follow things in front of her face. A week or two later she started tracking well and I felt incredibly silly for overreacting. Babies develop differently and different times and paces. Don’t get too stressed. And if you are worried? Ask your doctor, not the internet.

Mommas, what other words of wisdom would you add to this list?


Quick Brown Rice and Lentil Salad

May 18, 2015

Brown Rice Salad
Friends, let’s be honest: I haven’t exactly been knocking it out of the park in terms of cooking creative, healthy meals since having a baby. We’ve been eating relatively healthy, but it’s been mainly in the form of quick foods like smoothies, protein bars, pre-made salad kits for Joe’s lunches and simple grilled foods. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s hardly gotten my creative juices flowing in the kitchen. That said, even if I had the time to cook more right now, I would probably prefer to spend it cuddling little miss Ainsley instead.

This salad is our new favorite go-to for a quick, healthy dinner and also makes great lunch leftovers, too! It stores well in the fridge for a number of days and tastes amazing when served over a bed of mixed salad greens. Joe loves it just as much as I do, and that’s saying something for a guy who always wants some sort of meat with every meal. It’s made easy thanks to Trader Joe’s and their convenience items like microwavable brown rice, pre-shelled edamame (frozen), and pre-cooked brown lentils. Of course, you could always make these items the old fashioned way if you don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, but when you use the ready-to-go items for preparation this salad can be tossed together in a matter of minutes!

Quick Brown Rice and Lentil Salad
Recipe type: Salad, Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped almonds (I used roasted and salted)
  • ¼ cup roasted pepitas
  • Dressing
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat evenly. Serve room temperature or refrigerate until chilled.



Celebrating Mother’s Day

May 11, 2015

photo (79)
This year I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time on the “other side of the fence” if you will. I’ve spent 27 years celebrating my mother, step mom, grandmothers and aunts who have been like mothers to me, but getting to enjoy this holiday actually being a mom myself felt extra special and had me all sorts of sappy and sentimental.

Although the day has come and gone, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to reflect a little bit on what being a mother has been like these first few months. I’m already finding the first few weeks with a newborn to be hazy in my mind, and I have a feeling that before long these early months will be just a fuzzy memory as well. It makes me sad to see my little peanut growing up so quickly, but as someone who wouldn’t consider the newborn days “my thing” I’m also very thankful that she is getting bigger. My husband and I say every single day that Ainsley is more fun than she was the day before. It really is true that life just keeps on getting better.

But those first few weeks? Man, those weeks were hard. I lacked the perspective to see how fleeting they were, despite the fact that everyone told me they would go quickly. I thought I would be waking up every two or three hours for the rest of my life and that I would never get a solid stretch of sleep, and sometimes I still wonder if my little one will ever sleep the magical “8 hours” in a row. Even now I lack the perspective to understand and realize that the baby stage doesn’t last forever, even though I’ve told myself a thousand times.  But is there anything sweeter than being the one that can silence cries and soothe tears and fussy tummies? Is there anything better than when you feed your baby a bottle and they hold on to your finger with their little clenched fists? Or the adorable way they look when they’re sucking on a paci in their car seat? For some reason that gets me every single time.

Before Ainsley was even conceived, when I was still scared, sad and doubtful that I would ever become a parent, I had a dream. In my dream I saw a sweet baby girl that was all mine to have and to hold. She was chubby, cute and had plenty of dark hair and the sweetest little rosy complexion. I woke that morning and sobbed to Joe when I realized that baby was just a dream because it felt SO real and it hurt to wake from that dream. But that vision stuck with me, and I knew that some day that little baby would come and join our family. In fact, it was the reason I believed Ainsley was a baby girl from the moment I took that pregnancy test, so much so that I started calling her Ainsley five weeks into the pregnancy. I was certain it couldn’t be any other way.

Motherhood has been far more difficult that I ever imagined. I never thought it would be easy, but I was entirely unprepared for the challenges it would bring. There are good days and difficult ones, days when I think I can hardly go on without more sleep than I’m currently surviving on, days when I think I’ve dropped the ball as a mother, moments when I look back and wish I had handled the situation or the crying with a little bit more patience. Sometimes I have to take a moment and re-start my day with a different attitude because, just like my baby, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed with much less perspective than I need to tackle what the day has in store.

But it seems like each really difficult day is followed by a day that is equally wonderful, filled with smiles and coos and new baby developments, when I feel like I’ve really got this mommahood thing down and we’re really hitting our groove. And is there really anything better than going to pick up your baby after a nap only to be greeted with a huge, gummy smile? I don’t think so.

So thank you, Ainsley, for making me a mom and for making this year’s Mother’s Day so sweet. Most days I don’t feel equipped to be a mom, but I certainly feel equipped to be YOUR mom, if that makes any sense. You are my one and only precious baby girl, the child we so longed and prayed for, the one who made all our dreams come true. We love you more than you’ll ever know!



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