Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Today's Musing: Why I Choose to do What Makes Me Happy (even if I make less)

This blog makes me slightly uncomfortable to write because there are definite moments I think back to my "before life" and shake my head.

Did I really walk out on my career to work from home?

What happens if my husband blames me for leaving a steady job (and paycheck)? I can't let him and my family down...

There are moments in the middle of the night where these questions linger in the back of my head. And I'm here, I'm still here and I'm really trying to make this blog a personal one, an honest one, where I can write down my fears and be okay with it.

I also wonder if there are any other people out there, in the same boat, making those same decisions and being okay with it.

And for those that may not be familiar with my story, I would love to share some insights along with a few key thoughts that went into making that big decision a few years ago.

I hope this helps.

1. I was good at my work, but I didn't love it: For close to ten years, I had been working in program development/fundraising in the non profit sector. I loved what the work was about and the team that I worked with. Somewhere down the road though, late at night, I found my mind wandering...my thoughts would linger on weddings. Funny, right? But when I was little and at the book store, one of my favorite things was just rummaging through wedding magazines. It's amazing when you look back on all of it.

Makes you just realize the awe of it all--how maybe our path has been decided long before we even realized it.

So, are you there right now?

2. Could you do this "new thing" every day? No, really. everyday. When you take the leap to do what you love, you are going rogue. You are doing this on your own with little to no help. Can you do this everyday? Close your eyes. If you feel like this may be something you may get bored with over time, it may a sign that you should give this more thought.

3. Assess the risk: I hear a lot of "feel good" workshops these days and sometimes they make me cringe.

Take the plunge! 

Do what makes me happy!! 

It's a dangerous slope and those phrases make cringe. It doesn't give respect to how massive making a big career jump is. Assess your risk. What will you be risking when you take the plunge out of your career? Will it be that you may not be able to go out as much? Or are there much bigger items at stake (house payment, bills, kids, etc.). Look at the big big picture. Know what you are getting into before taking the plunge.

One of the biggest moments in my life (of course, besides having kids) was that moment right before I resigned. That moment when I breathed in. I closed my eyes and took it all in. I let the tears fall. I knew what I was letting go. Easier lifestyle, steady income, benefits...but I also knew what I was gaining....more time with my husband, my boys.

I always knew my life would be interesting. Maybe not full of riches, but I knew. I knew it would be an adventure.

I hope this helps and if you are going through any of these same thoughts or have been in this same boat, would love to hear from you!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today's Musing: Handling Sibling Relationships

Sometime ago I turned to my husband and said,

"I'm not even sure my children like each other."

I have three boys (one stepson who went off college this year). My boys are ages 3, 7 and 8. Each one of my spicy boys have their own unique, personality and I'll be honest, I'll sometimes look at one of those shows (the Duggars or some other multiple family) and think,

"how the h*ll do they do it?"

But we are not the Duggars. We are a bit more crazy.

And after what has felt like a large period where my husband and I were breaking up fights more and more, we finally feel like we can breathe a little. Like I can sit down on the couch with my boys and get through a show without,

I don't want to watch this!

Spencer is bothering me!

Carson kicked me!

Preston won't be quiet! I can't even hear!

It wasn't that I sprinkled magical fairy dust on my kids at night or I prayed away their bad moods, bad attitudes away (although, trust me, I do pray a lot about this), but I've slowly learned to embrace each one of my boys, for who they are, And that my friends, is a lot harder than it seems.

So low and behold, I've finally wrapped my head around life concepts (I really hate using the word "tips"), which are constantly changing, as my boys grow, but by truly living out these concepts, they have truly changed our relationship with our children and have also, in return, allowed my husband and I to connect with each one of our boys, in our own way.

1. Don't let go of the small stuff. I found that I was consistently letting go of the small stuff. A bad word here. A small argument there. Hitting. I would give a quick reprimand and let it go. My reasoning was that they would be able to solve the problem themselves, between each other. But within minutes, the something small would escalate into something much bigger. So now my boys know we have a zero tolerance policy in the areas of hitting, bad words, or other bad behaviors. And it was definitely an adjustment. And it's not easy at first. Especially when it's a quick argument here, or a bad word mumbled under their breath, but when they see that there are consequences even for the smallest things, it does gradually start to shift.

2.  We all need our space. There is a block of time--after school--before dinner, where things can get very hairy. The boys are overtired from school, sometimes hungry and dreading homework. I know this is the time the fighting will usually begin. So when my kids come home from school, they get their "me time." It's the time I separate them, put them in different parts of the house. And writing that looks funny, but it isn't that big of deal. Carson likes to play in our front yard, Spencer enjoys winding down to some after school cartoons, and Preston will typically be around me, just playing. I found this 30 minute wind down is really helpful to simply decompress from a full day of school.

3. Each child is different, so should their consequences be. As a parent, I'm sure we can all attest to the idea that each child is different. Gradually I've found that punishing them in the same way just does not work. I can send Spencer to his room and he's miserable yet if I were to do the same thing for Carson, he shrugs his shoulders and "hangs out in his room." Learn what makes your child tick.

4. Find a common denominator. My kids love soccer. It's in their blood. And they love to play not just on the weekends, but everyday. They run around outside, sweat it out and yes, they do still fight out there, but it gets quickly squash. As important as their "me time," is, I also think it's important to find an activity they can all enjoy together. And it doesn't have to a be sport. My kids also enjoy a group bath and snuggling up to a good movie.

Keep it simple.

5. Sometimes it is okay to let go of the small stuff. Putting my kids to bed can be a big pain in the ass. Sorry there is no other way to put it. But then a moment happens. That moment when I get out of bed fuming, ready to bark at the boys, and threaten how many things I'm going to take away from them the next day because I still hear noises.

And then I put my head to the door and I hear it.

No fighting. 


Talking silly stuff. 

How sneaky. 

And then I realize, maybe it is okay. It's okay, to let go of the stuff you know is binding them.

The stuff you know they'll remember when they are older...you can even close your eyes and if you concentrate hard enough, you can hear them say...

"Do you remember when we used to drive Mom and Dad crazy with our late night bed-tents?!!"

 Have a good Wednesday friends! And if you have any experiences you would like to share, please...would love to hear them!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today's Musing: Monday Morning Business Corner (Business Burnout)

Good afternoon everyone! Hope all of you had a great weekend! I guess today's post isn't really a "Monday Morning Business Corner," more like a an evening edition...but I guess that will have to work for today. It is Monday, after all.

So today I wanted to touch base on an area I sometimes struggle with, or at least always have to make a conscience effort to work on, which is keeping the passion, or momentum and avoiding the burnout.

I can always say, "I love what I do, and I never feel like I have to work a day in my life," but really, that would not be true. As business owners, it's only natural, over time to have those feelings go up and down at certain times.

So what does burnout feel like? Well, for me, it's just feeling unusually tired working on projects that would usually get me excited, happy. Working on design mock ups, reaching out to potential clients, networking. I found myself having to work up the energy to complete even the simplest of projects.

And it scared me.

I can't be feeling like this!! I LOVE to keep busy. I LOVE my work.

I took a deep breath at some point and decided I needed to mix things up a bit and make some adjustments in my life. I hate to call these tips, as much as useful things I've learned along the way...

1. Timing your Burnout: When do the feelings seem to creep up? Is there a certain time of year? For me, I find, those feelings creep up when during the slower/off season. Instead of maximizing on the extra, down time, I find myself missing the "busy."

Now that I'm aware of this, I take the slower season in much better stride and come up with definite, monthly goals (directly related to work) that I have to tackle.

I aim to create goals that I wasn't able to accomplish during the busier times (i.e. update project deadlines, cleaning up my inventory, reconnecting with network partners, creating updated blog content, reaching out to potential clients, etc.).

I even make it a point to work on something that is on my "career wish list." This is a big one, but I truly, love being on television and giving viewers great entertaining ideas. Is it crazy to think I can make a career out of it? Sure, maybe. But who cares? I'm working at it and again, it's something to work on during my slower times.

2. Rest: I know. Rest. 

Business owners can't rest. What are you thinking?

But it's true. During the times I felt the most burned out, I realized that lacking rest was a huge component in all of this. And that can be anything--tackling home projects you've had on the back burner for months, spending time with friends, catching up on all those books you've been meaning to read but haven't, going on a vacation....

Today, my hair stylist asked me, "So what do you have planned the rest of the day?"
Me: "Um...really...I don't have any plans the rest of the day."

For somebody that works that works crazy hours during the busy time, that feels very awkward to say, but I truly believe that we are way too programmed to not listen to what our body, our spirit is telling us at times.

So those are my few lessons learned!

Would love to hear about what you do when you find yourself in a work-funk.

Me. After haircut. See--don't I look well rested, now? ;)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Today's Musing: How I Let Instagram Control my Life

Hello everyone! Hope all of you are having a great week! Today, feeling the need to release a little, get something off my heart (that has been there for some time). Feeling a bit embarrassed about sharing this, but here it goes.

A few years ago, I stumbled across Instagram and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I posted without thinking, mixing my feed up with business and family images. I was able to follow women and business I had long time admired, I connected with my peers from a local level and even family.

Over time though, I noticed a shift. I went from checking Instagram once in awhile, to all the time. I noticed my pictures started changing as well. It went from posting images without too much thought to over thinking them constantly. And taking so many images before posting the "perfect" one, with the best filter, of course.

I've also noticed a growing resentment of those that have such a better feed than me.

How is her outfit so perfect? So annoying.
Like she really opens her Bible everyday? Yeah, right.
Yes, that green, unrecognizable shake you are slurping down looks DELICIOUS!
Is it just me or is every photo of her children staged perfectly. GAH.

Crazy, right? I've gone from following those I have admired, to rolling my eyes and feeling like I want to punch them in the face. Yikes, there I said it.

It doesn't feel real anymore. I don't feel real anymore. I feel like a fraud. I feel embarrassed. And it feels incredibly lonely.

I even caught myself closing my eyes, and thinking about the days when there wasn't Instagram, Facebook around. I wondered how I kept in touch with my friends.

Oh, yeah. That's right. I picked up the phone and called them. When did that feel like a lot of work to me???

So today after my impatient toddler yelled at me, "Mooommyyy! Get off your phone!"

I decided maybe it was time.

Nope, not going cold turkey (that may require one of those fancy rehab places) but I am going to ease up on how much I get on.

Maybe it's time to focus less on the image, and just me. No filter, no hashtag, no likes, no followers, no unfollowers. Just me. The boys. My family.

I will let you know how it goes. Not even sure what to expect but I'm thinking it can't be a bad thing, right?

And don't get me wrong. Instagram can be (and is) an amazing vehicle for businesses, but I just haven't figured out the balance it making it work in a way that feels authentic. Is that even possible? Not sure.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this one, friends.

And because this post is a bit heavy, I'm posting a taken (on the first take, filter-less image).

Me and Preston. He's giving that look because he's used to me taking a million pictures until we get the perfect one.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Today's Musing: Monday Morning Business Corner

Happy Monday everyone! Hope all of you had a great weekend! My weekend was a bit crazy, prepping for a Daytime Morning show segment, covering Springtime celebrations. It's amazing the amount of prep that goes into doing a five minute segment! But to be honest, it's one the moments that I'm the happiest. Oddly enough, being on television feels very comfortable to me--I would do it more if I can. 

Me. In my happy place. Thanks to Daytime Morning Show (NBC). 

But not to get off topic, I was going through some old blog posts (like back in the day, when I started my work) and I stumbled across a blog most I did covering "Marketing." It makes me smile to look at my thoughts back then and where my mindset was. 

Today, I'm reposting the post along with a few updated thoughts I have regarding start ups and putting your heart out there. 

If you have any other tips, please feel free to share in the comments section! Would love to hear from you! 

Research...Research....Research (FREE): This is a big, okay huge, one for me. I knew from the moment I decided to become a business owner, that I wasn't going to rush the process. As much as I wanted "the now," I was going to take my time. This led me to the big question, of "how the heck do I get myself out there?" I spent hours scouring different businesses in the industry: florists, photographers, planners, wedding blogs, event designers, venues, etc. High-end, low-end, I wanted to soak it all in. I made a spreadsheet with every site I had been to, along with all of their contact information. I also got in touch with NACE, a great organization (along with a few others) that seemed to cater to the businesses I had been researching.

2. Your Visual Brand ($50+): I did spend some time on this, even it wasn't pretty at first. And if you can invest in this step, I say go for it.I purchased my domain through Go Daddy and got going through Fat Cow, and had a friend help me with a template (my current site) which had basic functionality, to upload my content and my photos. I designed my current logo using Microsoft Publisher and clip art (if you can believe that). Using my logo, I also created my business cards ($50.00 to $250.00). In the beginning, yes it can be hard, but I told myself that it was more important to get out there and when I could elevate and afford the look of my product, I would. 

3. The Big Plunge, Making Contact ($150.00 to $200.00): I knew off the bat that whatever came out of my hands had to beautiful. At this point, I had done less than a handful of dessert tables with some "okay" pictures but I had to make it work. I went to Staples and got white, glossy laminated folders, clear labels and photo paper. On one side of the folder, I made a personalized letter (not dear Vendor, Dear XX Events) and on the other side, I did a one page collage of the work, along with a mini-bag of jelly beans. I took my Excel spreadsheet of contacts and just went at it. Was this time consuming? Yes! Halfway through, did I want to give up? Um, yes, but then I figured if I stopped then I probably wasn't built to be a business owner in the first place. 

4. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up (FREE): Two weeks after my mailers went out, I went back to my list and followed up with EVERY one of my conatcts via email. And it just wasn't any email. Every email was extremely personalized. After my "research phase" I would regularly visit my contacts websites so it was easy for me to say "Hello Amanda, my name is Natalie from Chic Sweets. Hopefully by now you've recieved a packet of information. Can I just say, that I love your latest blog entry from the wedding you did at XXX. Fantastic!....." Or something along those lines. And you know what? I was getting responses back! Once they responded, I went onto the next (scary) step which was scheduling meetings. 

5. Face to Face Follow Ups ($20 to $25): Again, kind of nervewracking if you've done anything like this before, but as I mentioned before, I was determined to make things happen. Although there were a few that did not have the time to meet, for the most part I was able to catch up with quite a few. Before I went into each meeting, I always had a plan/agenda in mind:

  • Introduce YOU: Be honest. Be yourself. Be Authentic. I made a point from the very beginning to put it out there. I was new; still working full time; still trying to make connections; still working on my (weak) portfolio. And you know what? As humbling as it was to be so honest, there wasn't a vendor I spoke with that couldn't relate at some level, which in return always made for good conversation and more importantly, great advice and further connections. 
  • Get to know the VENDOR: Not everything can be about you, right? Just like a job interview, I went into each meeting, knowing as much as I could about that vendor. Visited their website, their blog, facebook page, other vendors they had worked with in the past. At times if I felt nervous or that there was a lull in the conversation, I would go back to what I knew about the vendor and take it from there.
  • Marketing Materials: Although I was working full time, I didn't want to spend a fortune on creating materials for each visit, so I kept it somewhat simple. Since I'm a "sweets girl" I created a small favor package full of sweets, with not my logo but THEIR  logo on the package. I just assumed that I was one of many "newbies" reaching out to these industry vendors on a weekly basis, so why not give them something that was personlized for them? Great response from this AND many times the vendor would go back (after our meeting) take a picture of what I had created for them and post it on facebook or twitter....with something along the lines of "chic sweets visited us today! Yummy sweets" Again, just another small tool that created a buzz.

6. Get Honest with Yourself. Passion Does Matter: This is a tough one. It's important that you get down into the personal reasons of why you want to start your business. Sometimes it's a culmination of reasons, but in those pots of reasons there needs to be an underlying passion and love for your work. You'll find that passion will slow down, grow, slow down again, but's always there, that craving to always do what you love. At the end of each year, I take time off to let off steam, write thoughts down, see where I am in with my business. 

Are we growing? What worked this year? Where did I fail? What lessons have I learned? What didn't I enjoy doing? Am I happy? 

As business owners, those questions may sometimes be painful to answer but it's so important to always face it. 

I hope these few tips are helpful and hopefully I can continue to touch base on different areas more frequently! And please if you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to share. Would love to hear from different business owners and their approaches! 

Have a great week friends! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Today's Musing: My Love for Baking and Limoncello Mini Cakes

Morning everyone!!! Can I get an AMEN for Friday??? 

I hope everyone had a great Easter/Holiday weekend. We hung out, just us, no extended family which is a bit odd for us–we are always surrounded by lots of loved ones, but this time around, I have to say it was nice to be just us. Going to church…delicious brunch and then spending time watching movies and being lazy. Yup. Pretty much a perfect Sunday in my book.


So for this post, wanted to try to keep up something different by including dessert recipes that we love. Baking is something I truly enjoy to do and if I can bring myself to do a quick and delicious dessert that I can share with others, nothing makes me more happy. 

This post is also up on our Chic Sweets blog. I'm really trying to not have a lot of cross-over since this blog feels like a journal of sorts and something I want to keep close to my heart and an truly an outlet, for myself where I can cover a lot different topics that I love (family, life, fashion, baking, work...). 


Limoncello Mini Cakes (or Cupcakes) with Limoncello Glaze

These are absolutely delicious and there is nothing I love more than making an adult-inspired dessert. Sorry kiddos.

Serves: 12 (or 24 if you are making cupcakes)                

Prep Time: 25-30 minutes          
Cook Time: 15 minutes


2  cups All Purpose Flour (unbleached)
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Sticks of (unsalted butter), Softened
Lemon Zest from 1 Lemon (1 Tbsp. at least)
5 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed Lemon juice
1/2 cup of Limoncello
2 cups of granulated sugar

For the glaze

1 cup of powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons of Limoncello


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat your mini bundts pan or cupcake pan with baking spray, or of course, flour and butter work just as well.
2. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
3. Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest for a 5 to 8 minutes, until smooth and light. Stop every now and then to scrape the bowl/paddle attachment.
4. Slowly add one egg at a time, again, stopping periodically to scrape the bowl (I have my mixer at medium speed during this time).
5.  Drop the mixer down to low (unless you want to be covered in a white powdered mess) and add in the flour mixer slowly. I add the flour mixture in three additions (add, scrape bowl, add, scrape bowl), until the entire mixture is well incorporated.
6. Add the Limoncello and lemon juice. Blend again.
7. Bake the mini-bundt or cupcake pans anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. I find especially, for the mini-bundt cake pans, they really due tend to cook quickly.

For the glaze: Warm the Limoncello in the microwave and then slowly whisk the powdered sugar in. This part is really to your liking–the more powdered sugar you put in, the thicker it will be. Feel free to adjust according to your taste.

1. Mini bundt cake pans can be found readily at Walmart, Target and even Michaels. Would love hear what other recipes you all of done with them. I’m a little hooked on how adorable they came out.
2. Kid friendly alternative: If you feel inspired to turn this into a kid-friendly lemon cake, just omit the lemoncello and replace with 1 cup of milk (I use 2 percent). For a topping, sprinkle powdered sugar.  
3. I have a bottle of Limoncello sitting in my refrigerator…hmmm…any creative ideas or other recipes I should try? As you can see I’m on a big lemon kick over here! Would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Today's Musing: Great Books for Kids

Growing up reading books was my haven, the secret place where I could enter another world and I loved every moment of it. I vividly remember my mom giving me a hard time when she would check up on me late at night and found me secretly reading under the covers.

I don't say it enough but I have my mom to thank for my love of reading, and of books. From an early age, I can still close my eyes and find myself and the many libraries we used to spend hours at. And she never said "no" when I had a big stack of books ready to check out. She would just smile (along with her stack of People magazines) and together, we would wander off into our little worlds.

So now that I'm doing the mom-thing, books are equally as important to me. And that has been a different experience. I don't remember groaning or rolling my eyes when I mentioned hanging out at Barnes N Noble, or complaining when it was time for our nightly reading time...so...yes...it's different. I'm not giving up, though. And since I'm determined to make this whole book-lovin' thing happen, I thought I would share some of my favorites and a few tips I've learned along the way.

And please, if you have any books you would like to suggest I add to our growing selection, I welcome you to share in the comments section!

Spencer (age 8): Spencer is a very unique soul. And I'll be sure to share with you the ins and outs of this spicy kid some other way too long post. But in the meantime, below are a selection of his favorite reads. He's in second grade and for him reading is one of those things that he loves when he's found a gem of a book but if he's not feeling it, it's like pulling teeth. Knowing that, though, I choose to pick my battles.

Carson (age 6): Carson is my loving middle child and he's just at the point when things are finally starting to click. Reading for each child comes at different times and it's been really great to see his eyes open and his comfort level ease up a bit.

And my two favorite picks (for today): 

And a few tips I've learned along the book-reading way:

1. Every child is different: How many times have you heard that? But with reading, it is. Every child, every level. And I'm a big advocate in embracing where they are at and finding what works for them. My oldest recently finished a book that was perhaps a bit too challenging for him. It frustrated him, he complained along the way but he finished it. Was I happy for him? Of course. But I then went and found a book that better suited where he was at, and he was happy. Lesson learned.

2. Reading at Night: Every night we dedicate some time to reading. I like to keep it to 20-30 minutes at the most. And I'm going to be really honest here. Not that long ago, there would be a whole lot of complaining until I thought, "If I'm making my kids read, shouldn't they see me reading as well?" So at night, we turn of the television, no phones, and we sit down on the couch and all read. My husband will take my little one in the room if he's too distracting but sometimes he even sits down with us and looks at pictures. This really changed everything AND big bonus for me...now I get to read more! And my kids hardly complain as much because they see that I'm reading as well.

3. Give them a break: Yes, having them read is important, but just as important is that they get to listen and hear your voice. To relax a little bit and close their eyes. So after they read, I'll usually pick a classic picture book (nothing too intense) and they get their blankets and I read to them. They LOVE this time. And it's also fun for me to pick a book I think they'll enjoy.

So on that note, I'm still learning and would love to hear any tips or book picks! Down the road I'll share a few of my own favorite reads and get into how we organize our growing book collection!