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Let’s Have a Coffee Date

December 30, 2015
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It’s 9 pm on a Tuesday night and I’m sitting in a very quiet salon, under the blowdryer, having my hair done. Usually I’m not one to enjoy being out and about on a weeknight relatively late (yes, 9 pm on a weeknight is late, thankyouverymuch) but tonight it feels pretty darn nice to savor a little peace and quiet.

I’m not sure I have a cohesive post in my head right now, so I thought I would share a little bit of this and that, perhaps the same way I might talk if we were having a real life coffee date?

If we were sitting at my new favorite little local coffee shop in our small town, I would probably tell you about our home renovation and how difficult it’s been living in the basement. It seems more than a little silly and spoiled to complain about living in a basement while we are renovating our home, a luxury. But being a work-at-home mom means my home is my office, too, and living in a basement most of the time is a real zap on creativity and energy. And I’m super sick of lugging laundry all over the place while our washer and dryer is out of commission.

I’ve been praying a lot for real, honest and meaningful friendships in Iowa. There were things I wish I had done differently in Minneapolis – relationships I wish we had fostered more and others I wish I had spent less time on, and I hope not to make those same mistakes here. I’m really not great at small talk – I say the most awkward things sometimes! But I feel encouraged by some of the relationships that have already started to develop here and I’m hoping that they continue to grow over time. New towns and new lives take lots and lots of time before things start to feel comfortable.

When Ainsley turned 9 months old we suddenly started getting asked questions about when we were going to have another baby. Really? I still refer to myself as a “new mom” for crying out loud. There are days when I tell Joe we should have 5 kids and days when I think 1 is just great. I hope, someday, to land somewhere in between. But the truth is, my struggle to stay pregnant and Ainsley’s medical scare during the first couple months of life really scared me silly.

I’ve been growing my hair out for almost two years. It’s finally gotten to the pre-determined length that I decided would be legitimately “long” hair and yet it feels like it needs to be 2 or 3 inches longer. I write about this because I’m realizing that enough is never enough, you know? Jesus is the only thing that is ever enough, and I’m constantly realizing that I need to point my needy, hungry, broken heart back to him. Long hair will never be long enough, skinny and fit will never be skinny or fit enough. The list goes on and on.

The only workouts I manage these days are 30 minute Beachbody workouts on my laptop during nap time or before Ainsley wakes up. They’re enough to keep me fit and feeling good, but I do miss long runs and good sweat sessions at the gym. Hoping that 2016 ushers in more of those type of workouts and a few races, too.

Having a baby has gotten significantly easier. The other night Joe and I put Ainsley to bed. We gave her a bottle, read her a book and said a prayer over her after brushing her teeth. Then we laid her down in her crib, shut the door and that was that. She went to sleep for 10 straight hours, ate a bottle, and then slept 2 more. If you would have told me that it would be this like this when Ainsley was a couple months old I wouldn’t have believed it myself. All those hours of rocking and bouncing and going back into her room time after time? Exhausting and completely overwhelming. I knew that it was a passing phase but I don’t think I really believed it.

I might also mention that lately I’m struggling with social media and my phone. It’s my job to connect and share and create content online – through my blog and recipes and the company I work for – and at the same time I feel so conflicted about my relationship with social media. Like, maybe it’s unhealthy? I’m looking for a way to better create boundaries around it without throwing it all away. If you have tips or things that have been good for you and your family, I would love to hear them!

And for now, that’s it. If you’ve made it this far, kudos to you! Looking forward to connecting and sharing and chatting more in the year to come.

Madison

Uncategorized

The “It” List for Babies and New Moms

December 29, 2015

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Lately, as I’m reflecting on Ainsley’s first year of life, I’ve been thinking about the items I wish I would have registered for and the items that would have been welcome during those first few months of Ainsley’s life. You see, there are the items that mom’s register for and the items that later on they wish they had registered for.

I pulled together a list of the items that fit that bill for me in hopes that it would help you be a fantastic gift giver next time someone you love has a baby!

1. Zutano Booties 
The most frustrating part of dressing a baby? Finding shoes that stay on their feet! A friend of mine recommended these, saying they were easy to put on and hard for babies to get off their feet. We purchased some right away! They come in all sorts of fun colors and patterns.

2. Felt Bows 
I ended up buying a LOT of headbands, bows and girly items for Ainsley once she was born, but I wish I would have gotten some as gifts! These little felt bows from A Little Lady Shop are just the sweetest thing and they come in so many pretty colors. Added bonus? Buying from a small boutique adds an extra special touch.

3. Monogramed Bibs and Burp Cloths
This is a luxury take on a necessary item. We had friends send us a bunch of pretty monogramed bibs and burp cloths after Ainsley was born, and it feels so special when we use them, and a little fancy. I wouldn’t have spent the money on it myself, which makes it even more wonderful to receive something like this.

4. The Emily Ley Baby BookGuys, this book is just so beautiful and special and worth every penny. It would make a lovely gift for an expecting mom that they would cherish forever. I was gifted one and it’s perfect for non-crafters like myself who still want to create beautiful, personalized memories for their children.

5. A Really Special Outfit
This can be from anywhere you please, but my Aunt kindly splurged on a few really nice outfits for Ainsley and it was such a tender and generous gift. New parents are frequently buying a lot of items for baby and probably going a little cheaper on the clothing (think Carters, Old Navy, etc.) but having a few truly beautiful keepsake items that can stand the test of time and be passed down from generation to generation is a thoughtful gift!

6. Owlet Baby Monitor
I haven’t personally tried this product, but I can promise you with our next baby I will be buying one. It’s a new product that slips onto baby’s foot like a sock and monitors their oxygen levels, alerting you if they drop and something is wrong with your little one. I can tell you that having this peace of mind during Ainsley’s first few months of life would have been so wonderful. Plus, the foot/sock design seems like a great way to actually keep the monitor on without having it fall off at every diaper change.

7. Diapers (in large sizes!)
We got a lot of diapers in newborn, 1 and 2 sizes, but we ended up buying a lot of the larger sizes down the road. Think ahead and give the gift of large diapers! :)

8. Tiny Tags Necklace
I was gifted one of these last Christmas with Ainsley’s name on it and I wear it all the time. I loved it so much that I gave my sister-in-law one with her kiddo’s initials as well. It’s a thoughtful gift that any new mom would be thrilled to be gifted.

9. A Blue Apron Subscription
Those first few weeks, take-out and freezer meals are always SO appreciated, but eventually it’s nice to get back to cooking healthy, home-cooked meals. However, the grocery shopping and meal planning with a newborn can feel pretty overwhelming, even for someone who loves to cook. Blue Apron is a recipe and meal delivery service that brings you pre-measured ingredients and recipes straight to your door so you can cook the meal yourself without the planning, prepping or any hassle. Joe and I are trying it next week for the first time!

10. Nice Comfy Clothes for Mom
Sometimes mom gets overlooked in all the excitement surrounding baby, and chances are moms are hesitant to buy clothes for their ever-changing post-baby body. But there is nothing more confidence boosting and encouraging than having a nice pair of workout or lounge clothes, even if they only fit for a short time. My favorite brand these days is Athleta.

Food & Recipes

Easy White Chicken Enchiladas

December 28, 2015
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Now that the holidays are over, I’m really, really looking forward to getting into a bit more of a routine once again. You too? While I love the go-go-go of the holidays and all the time spent with friends and family, there is something really nice about the rhythm of everyday that makes my world go round. Joe’s, too, I think. We’re routine people through and through because we’ve found that when we don’t have a routine, things fall through the cracks and we’re left feeling run down and weary.

So, here we are, enjoying the last bit of laziness that can only be found in the few days between Christmas and New Year’s, slowly getting back into making meals, and planning for the week, grocery shopping and going to the gym. It’s nice.

You know what’s also really nice? Being featured on BettyCrocker.com this week! Enchiladas are a family-favorite meal because they’re easy to make, they taste great and they freeze and re-heat pretty darn well. If you’re looking for my absolute favorite (for real!) recipe for Easy White Chicken Enchiladas, head on over to Betty for the recipe.

Madison

Family

Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2015
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An early Merry Christmas to you, friends! Today I wanted to share a few of our holiday photos that were taken earlier this fall. It’s amazing to me how quickly Ainsley changes. She looks so different now than she did when these photos were taken less than two months ago! Tis the life of a baby, right?

There are a lot of reflective, mushy and very true things to say about 2015. It was SUCH a big year for our family. New (old) town, new jobs for both of us, living closer to family and taking on a home renovation, and most importantly taking on the roles of mom and dad. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to capture with words what this year has meant to us and what we’ve learned in the last year. Some lessons have been taught through our fair share of trials while others have been unbelievably sweet.

Thank you for reading, for following along with our family and for encouraging me this year with your words of wisdom about life and motherhood. It’s been a joy and a blessing to me to be able to do life with you – even if it’s through the computer screen rather than over a cup of coffee. My sincerest hope for you this Christmas is that you feel the light and love of Christ this holiday season and take time to reflect on the gift that we have in the Savior that came to this earth for us.

Madison

Food & Recipes, Family

How to *authentically* monetize your blog

December 21, 2015
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Monetizing your blog. Chances are if you have a blog, you’ve either thought about ways to make money on your site or you’re currently pursuing ways to make money. From the start I’ve been in favor of making money on my site; writing a blog and producing quality content is time consuming and sometimes expensive (especially when you’re developing recipes of posting photos of outfits, etc.) so it seems sensible to mitigate those expenses when possible.

Just because you make money on your blog doesn’t mean you need to “sell out” and promote services and products you don’t believe in. There are plenty of ways to authentically make money on your site while still staying true to yourself and your audience.

Here are a few of my favorite ways! I’m not a blogging expert, nor do I make a full-time living on my site, so take what I share with a grain of salt. Perhaps you’re further down the blogging road than I am. If so, please share your own tips below. If you’re somewhere in the new to intermediate blogging stages, then these tips are for you!

1. Advertising Networks
This was the first way I started making money on E&C way back in 2010. I joined a now-defunct advertising network and starting hosting ads on my site. My traffic was close to nothing, but over time I started to make enough money to buy a few extra groceries for recipe development and offset some of the hosting costs on my site.

Google Ads is one of the easiest advertising points of entry since they don’t have many prerequisites for putting ads on your site. A couple years ago I applied and started working with BlogHer, which has a little more of an application process for the blogs and sites they accept. Foodie Blogroll is another food-focused advertising network. In recent years banner ads have become less lucrative and don’t pay nearly what they once did. However, many networks that once were exclusive now let you have more than one ad network in rotation, making up for some of the loss in revenue. Generally, ads that are placed higher up on the page generate more revenue than those that are tucked down in the sidebar where fewer people will see them.

If you have more time on your hands and want to carefully curate the companies who host ads on your site you could also pursue your own advertisers. It will take a little more time and energy, but you’ll maintain complete control over the companies that host ads on your site.

2. Amazon Associates
This is my favorite revenue generator because it works naturally into the content I’m already creating. As you know, I like to do a lot of product recommendations and round-ups of products that we’re loving and using. I LOVE when other bloggers do this, too, because I frequently find new baby products from my friend Kelsey’s Blog (go check her out!) and always appreciate the personal recommendations.

Amazon Associates allows you to sign up for an account and post custom links to products on Amazon. So, if I’m going to mention a formula or baby product or hair product that I love and buy on Amazon (we buy a lot of things on Amazon these days #smalltownlife) then I use my custom link. If someone purchases the product from my link, I’ll get a small referral bonus from Amazon. It’s not a lot of money, but little bits add up!

3. Working Directly With Brands
Do you have a brand that you genuinely love? Then reach out directly to the brand about collaborating together! A few years ago I got really into Vega protein powder after finding it at Whole Foods. I was such a big fan that I reached out to the company directly asking if they ever worked with bloggers. The conversation started there and we’ve continued to work together on and off for a couple years now. Many times brands are very receptive to bloggers reaching out. Plus, I find it more authentic when I love a product and initiate the conversation rather than the other way around. If I’m already loving and buying it myself, why not share that with blog readers?

A tip when contacting brands: Keep it concise! Short, sweet and specific are good words to live by. Brands are busy and don’t have a lot of time to read through long e-mails. Have a specific idea of how you want to work together and clearly lay out the benefits to the brand by explaining your blog’s core demographic, pageviews, unique visitors and social reach. Side note: You do not need to have a fancy media kit to do this!

4. Join a Content Marketing Network
In the last year or so, I joined a couple content marketing networks, including Pollinate Media. Other companies include Silkworm Social, Linquia, Federated Media, the list could go on and on. These agencies work with brands who are looking for custom content for campaigns. They usually send out opportunities that you can apply for, meaning you get to pick and choose what campaigns and brands to work with that are a natural fit for your lifestyle and blog. Some of these companies also run Twitter, Facebook and Instagram campaigns.

5. Play to Your Strengths
If you have a specialized skill set, maximize it! I’m a recipe developer by trade, so I’ve worked with brands to develop recipes that are promoted both on my site and on their sites. If you’re a great photographer, reach out to up and coming companies to talk about ways that you can provide high quality photos and promotion on your site in exchange for payment and product. Maybe you’re a home designer by trade. Working with a brand that fits into that niche with custom content on your site is a great way to use your specialized skill set while making money on your blog. There are a lot of voices on the web these days and having some credentials really helps give your voice authenticity when working with companies and brands.

6. Network Marketing
If you find a product or service that you love and you have an established online following, working with a network marketing company is a great way to bring the two together. About a year ago, a friend introduced me to Beautycounter, a line of safe and effective skincare and makeup products that are free of toxic chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. Not only are the products good for you, but they work SO well. Since I was already buying the products myself, I decided to start selling Beautycounter as a consultant. I get a consultant discount on the products I already know and love, and I get to share my love of BC with blog readers and friends. It’s a win-win. I’m guessing I’ll never sell BC full-time, but it’s a great way to make a little extra money each month to put toward savings goals we have as a family.

If you’re interested in Beautycounter or becoming a Beautycounter consultant, let me know! I would love to chat more about the products and company. (madisonjanemayberry@gmail.com) That said, there are a lot of other great companies out there that use the network marketing structure. Finding one that is authentic to you is key to making it both fun for you and authentic for your readers!

Madison

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