29 July 2015

Love and Hate

On Monday, my girl Stephanie from Wife Mommy Me talked a little bit about the things she loves and hates in life. As a result, she tagged a few of her blog friends to join in on the fun, one of them being yours truly. I always enjoy posts like these because you get to learn a little bit about the person behind the blog and so many times, I feel like I’m writing about a lot of heavy issues so it’s nice to lighten things up every now and again.



ONE // Clean bed sheets hot and fresh from the dryer. Is there anything better than sliding into bed on a set of warm, clean bed sheets? I don’t think so.

TWO // Christmas. Let me put it this way: this year when it came time to take down our tree, it made me so sad that I decided to leave ours up year round. I also play Christmas music when I’m working or cleaning and I further admit that you may see me pinning Christmas related things on Pinterest. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, y’all.

THREE // My relationship with Christ. In an older post from this year, I talked a little bit about religion and what we believe, and while my views may not resonate with most people, for me it works. I believe in Christ and the divine plan for all mankind. Many times throughout the day, I talk and commune with the Lord and share my concerns, my joys, my wants and my needs with Him. I listen quietly for His answers. Sometimes they come right away, other times they do not but regardless, I feel His spirit with me always. My personal and private relationship with my Heavenly Father is an important aspect of my life even though from the outward appearance, may not seem so.

My belief is simply this: I don’t think sitting in a building on a weekly basis makes anyone more Christian or holier than the person who chooses not to attend a worship service, and while reading the scriptures gives us an outline and foundation to guide our lives and choices, I believe that the actions and works of a person shows what they truly believe far more than reading pages in a book. Christ lived his life as a teacher but more so, put into action what He believed by living His life as an example to others through His works, deeds and interactions with His fellow man.

And this is the main principle I hope to instill in our daughter – that faith without works is dead.


FOUR // Tacos. Never, ever in the history of all food given to mankind was none better than the taco. Y’all know that scene in Forest Gump where he goes on and on about the different ways to prepare shrimp? Yep, that’s me with a taco. Chicken tacos, spicy shrimp tacos, street tacos, veggie tacos, pork tacos…


FIVE // The Tennessee Volunteers and All Things Tennessee. I was born in Nashville, lived in Chattanooga for a time and my alma mater is Middle Tennessee State University. Our family have been HUGE Vols fans since God was a child. Growing up, my grandparents’ home was orange with white trim, they had a white and orange checkerboard mailbox, a camper named Smokey to travel to all the home games in and both of their cars were white with an orange stripe decal down the side. I remember curling up in the floor and watching the Vols play with my PaPa when I was young. Like, really young. I think watching the Vols play for him was the closest thing to heaven. Now in my home, we yell “GO BIG ORANGE,” sing Rocky Top and yep, I normally get a little misty-eyed at the beginning of each home game during the running of the T.


SIX // Fall, Winter and Snow. Simply put, I don’t get down with summer, sweat, bugs and heat. No thank you. Give me a cozy sweater, a hot pumpkin spice latte, boots, a cute scarf and some snow fall any day of the week.


SEVEN // Paper Planners, Paper Books…Paper. Yes, I’m aware that we’re in the year 2015. I’m also aware that there are a gazillion electronic devices to help reduce the use of paper, but here’s the thing – some things should never cease to exist in paper. I get why people love their iPads, Kindles, blah blah blah but for me, holding and reading a paper book is the best feeling in the world. I love to snuggle up under a blanket or in bed with a great paper book and a glass of wine. To me, it’s just not the same feeling holding a cold machine in my hand (and yes, I’ve tried.) I love to see floor to ceiling bookshelves stuffed with paper books and as much as I’ve tried, I just can’t keep an electronic calendar. I love to have my old school paper book planner where I can take notes, plan and keep important documents in front of me.


EIGHT // My Family. They are crazy, unpredictable, annoying, fun, nosy and so much more but you know what? They are mine. Always have been and always will be. No matter who comes and goes in my life, they will always stay. They have always been there for me during my most trying times in life when no one else was and for them and their undying support, I am eternally grateful.


NINE // Going Out for Breakfast on Sunday Morning. Truthfully, I love breakfast food anytime of the day but there is something so soothing and relaxing about spending a morning out with a giant plate of pancakes, a full cup of coffee and the ones you love all around you. It’s even better when you just take the time to sit back and talk and fellowship.


TEN // Cooking. Confession: there was a time when I had zero clue what I was doing in the kitchen. I specifically remember the first time I tried to make spaghetti sauce from scratch. Long story short, I added so much garlic to the sauce that not even the dog would eat it. Nowadays, I throw down in the kitchen and have become quite an amazing cook. Getting in the kitchen, chopping, dicing, stirring and meal planning for me and my family is very therapeutic for me and brings a wonderful feeling of calm and peace into my day. I’ve really grown to love it.





ONE // When People Blow Their Nose at the Dinner Table. Ew, just ew. I know there are certain instances where it can’t be helped but really, get your ass up and leave the table.


TWO // Smoking. Want to wreck your body and temp the big “C” word? Go for it, just don’t bring that nasty habit around me or my child. NO.


THREE // All Things Alabama. If you’re confused by this, refer back up to number five in the “Love” set and you’ll know why.


FOUR // Mess, Disorganization and Clutter. True story: you can always tell I’m irritated by my surroundings if my left eye starts twitching. I have to have order and cleanliness otherwise, I look like I’m winking at everyone.


FIVE // Over Cooked Meat. There is only one way a fillet should ever be cooked: RARE. There is nothing worse than being served a nasty plate of shoe leather.


SIX // Tardiness. I mean, really. How hard is it to plan ahead accordingly??!! Okay, we all get stuck in the occasional traffic jam or something happens at home with the kids to prevent us from getting out of the door on time but if you’re habitually late or make it a point for your motto to be, “Better late than never” and I’m always sitting around wasting my time (which is just as valuable) then we can’t be friends. #sorrynotsorry


SEVEN // Poor Hygiene. If you’re a grown ass adult, then it’s very simple: brush your damn teeth. Bathe. Put on some type of deodorant. Clean out your damn ears once in a blue moon. Clip your toe nails so that it doesn’t look like you’re sporting two sets of eagle talons on your feet. Brush your hair instead of it looking like a bird perched on your head and made a nest. Regardless of what the Peanuts cartoon will tell you, one wants to hang with a pig pen.


Eight // Talking on the Phone. My parents will get a kick out of this one because growing up, my ears were permanently glued to the house phone. Nowadays? I can’t stand to talk on the phone, save, unless it’s a dear friend or relative that I’m talking to. I really dig snail mail and texting but talking on the phone? I’d rather scoop my eyes out with a spoon. #IKnowImWeird


NINE // Sunshine. It’s glaring and gives me a headache. Truly, my most favorite days are the ones where it’s overcast and cloudy – not raining. Just grey skies and cool breezes. Again, I realize how weird this sounds.


TEN // Math. I know enough to balance my checkbook and that’s about it. Math and I have always had a tenuous relationship. True story: I was so bad at Geometry, my father begged my 9th grade Geometry teacher to pass me so that he (my dad) wouldn’t have to suffer through another semester of helping me. I kid you not. My dad literally had a parent/teacher conference to beg my teacher to pass me. Fortunately, my teacher had mercy on me and passed me but needless to say, math and I have always been on bad terms.


So how about you? What are some things you love and hate?

24 July 2015

Letters to Madeline: Happy 4th Birthday!



Dearest Madeline:

Here we are on your fourth Birthday. Can you explain to me how this happened?! When I close my eyes and think of you, most times I still see you as my little, precious baby…



But you’re not.

You have grown into a beautiful, tenacious, curious, funny and wickedly smart preschooler.


At four years old, you are a healthy, happy, super active, curious, observant, wide open, hysterically funny girl. You are wickedly smart {More so than your parents and most people to which your father and I are scared to death. Ay yi yi...} and you constantly amaze us with your quick wit. You have more sass and attitude than your little body can hold and the same qualities that drive us insane - your stubbornness, your defiance, and your passion are the very same things that will take you far in life. Your father and I are so very proud of you, my love. You are a headstrong little lady...I have a feeling this will be a challenge for your dad and I as you get older. It's okay, my Chickie. We'll get through the bumps together.

You have a few loves in your life, mostly food, bubbles, donuts and your best friend, our sheltie Henry. From the day we brought you home from the hospital, you and Henry have been BFF's. You play together and watch movies together but what really grabs at my heartstrings is how he sleeps with you in your room at night. You guys are so cute to watch together. You also love to watch movies with your favorites being Frozen, Monster's University and Toy Story. Your favorite shows to watch on TV are Curious George, Paw Patrol and Team Umi Zoomi. A big first for you this year was going to your very first movie in the theatre. Daddy and me took you to see Minions and you loved every second of it...especially the copious amounts of candy and popcorn.






At four, you have so many things in your life that you love and enjoy: playing kitchen, doing anything outdoors, tennis, baseball, swimming and anything having to do with the water and you LOVE airplanes. It's amazing to sit back and watch you play with your toys as you come up with stories and scenarios that usually, make absolutely no sense to your dad and me but hey - you're happy and that's all that matters. 

You are bossy, silly, and talkative like your mom yet observant, reserved, and particular like your daddy. You can be quick to explode but also oh so fast to dish out the snuggles, kisses and lovies. Even at the age of four, you have an amazing ability to sense the need for compassion and kindness as you are always quick to help clean up your messes, say "bless you" after sneezes and will rub our heads and ask "You okay mommy?" God, how that melts me. Literally overnight, you turned into a little adult talking in full sentences, asking questions, being able to discern situations and you’re always the first to scold daddy and I when we say bad words.




At four, you are truly the light of all our lives. You are completely and utterly adored by your grandparents and everyone you meet is instantly a friend. You have brought so much joy and happiness to so many people and in so many ways, you have made our family complete. You are the light of Poppy's life, the twinkle in Grandma's eye and the debate is still going strong between your Aunt Ashley and Aunt Jordan as to who the favorite aunt is. It's safe to say that you have us all smitten.

At four, you are imperfectly perfect my little Chickie. I gave you life but it is you who saved mine. Thank you for being my inspiration and motivation to be the best woman and mommy I can be. Thank you for showing me how to love your daddy in a whole new way I never thought possible. Thank you for showing me so many more lessons about myself than I've taught you up to this point. Your daddy and I are so proud of you and the little person you're becoming. You will always have our love, our support, and most importantly - our hearts. Thank you for being, well, you. Stay awesome, my love and continue to kick ass. Always, kick ass.

Happy Birthday and love forever and always,

Mommy and daddy




14 July 2015

Is This How This SAHM Thing Works?

Allow me to get straight to the point: I have absolutely NO CLUE as to what I'm doing as a SAHM. While it is still completely daunting to me at this point, I have to also admit that secretly, I'm enjoying it. This season of my life isn't intended to be permanent. I will eventually be going back to work (Someone hire me, Puh-lease!) but for now, I'm embracing the unknown and adjusting to this new role. However, it hasn't been without its frustrations...

I've had a job since I was 15. I've worked every year of my life since so when you go from working 9 - 5 for some 20+ years to staying at home with your child, it is an odd transition and I'm learning that it takes time to adjust. I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no freaking clue as to what I'm doing. Going from a life of knowing where I had to be at every second of the day and following someone else's schedule to having no required schedule, no one to answer to and no commitments has been difficult. Like seriously - WTF do I do with myself and Maddy ALL. DAY. LONG???


I've been scouring Google to get some answers to this question. I've googled everything from "Stay at home mom schedules" to "how to keep a preschooler entertained" and honestly, it has been totally useless because every mother is doing it differently. And why wouldn't they? Every family and every child is different so it only stands to reason that there is no clear and concise answer to this question of "how do I fill my days?" But what I have learned in a very short amount of time is this: there is no right or wrong answer. Apparently, that's the beauty of being a SAHM mom - to have the flexibility to do with your days as you see fit. More importantly, I'm learning that this is a special time I'll have with Chickie that I may or may not ever have again and for that reason alone, I cherish it.



At this point, I can't say that I'll ever be comfortable with being a full-time SAHM - I just don't think that's the kind of woman I am... it's not me and I wouldn't be staying true to me if I were to say, or do, otherwise. I enjoy work. I enjoy professional challenges and rewards. I enjoy knowing I can have the best of both worlds and NOT feel guilty for it. More so, I enjoy being an example to my daughter in a world that is hard for women that she can see me having a career and a family and that it's okay, so I can't say that I'll always be a SAHM. But what I do feel comfortable saying is that for now, I'm embracing this new challenge and time in my life and enjoying it for what it's worth. It's not easy but Maddy and I are figuring it out together along the way and life is good - even on the challenging days. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such an amazing daughter to share my life with and look forward to this time we will spend together. 


Especially during nap time. 



If you're a SAHM I'd really love to hear from you on how you fill your days and schedule your time. Any and all input, advice and suggestions are welcome! 

06 July 2015

Why I Don't Pin Your Content (And How You Can Change That)

For bloggers and business owners, Pinterest is a potential plethora of traffic, growth in readership, potential customers and endless exposure. It’s easy to become mesmerized by the shiny, pretty packages it contains and become complacent about the things you pin and how you use Pinterest in correlation with your blog or business…

But you really shouldn’t.

As a marketing professional, I see four common {but huge} no-no’s that happen all too frequently, especially with bloggers so today, I’m going to share my industry expertise to help you avoid these common pitfalls of Pinterest.

Why I Don't Pin Your Content And How You Can Change That



Problem One :: Your Pin Graphics and Pictures Suck.

You may have the best advice for getting your baby to sleep through the night. You may have the best idea for how to refinish grandma’s old bookshelf and you may very well have all the answers on how to get through potty training without pulling your hair out but no one on Pinterest will ever get to your site to read your material or re-pin your content. 

Why?

Because the Pinterest graphic for your material sucks or in a lot of cases, is completely non-existent.

The fix: The reality in using Pinterest is that it’s a visual medium. The sheer existence of Pinterest relies on pictures and graphics. Your potential users are drawn to pretty, well-designed pins for content and in most cases like myself as a blog/business owner, I will absolutely not share or re-pin content that doesn’t look clean or professional.

Why?

Because what I pin is a reflection on my brand and business. Everything I do with regards to Shiraz In My Sippy Cup sends a message to my followers, but more importantly, potential customers and business partners. So while you may have kick ass content, most people on Pinterest won’t ever have the chance to read it because they won’t click through your crappy graphics to get to your site.

Any blog or business should have a monthly budget allotted for post graphics and here’s the good news – you don’t have to invest a ton of money into software products to get pin-worthy posts. What’s my secret? For about 99.9% of my Pinterest graphics, I use Canva.com. The best part? The majority of my use is FREE. Canva is a robust graphics program that allows anyone with any level of graphics knowledge, the ability to easily and effectively create professional, pin-worthy posts. The program has pre-made Pinterest templates that you can customize to your liking and if there is a charge, the fee is usually only $1. In a month, I may spend $5 or less for all of my posts and in my opinion, $5 is worth it. I would drop that on something useless in a month so why wouldn’t I invest it into my business?


Problem Two :: You Don’t Make It Easy to Share Your Content

So there I am, reading your post, and I LOVE it. You’ve got me hook, line and sinker. The only problem? 

Nowhere on your site do you give me the ability to pin your post. I hover over your pictures hoping the “Pin Me” graphic pops up but alas, no dice. I look on your sidebar and at the bottom of your post for your social media sharing icons but, nope. You don’t have those installed either. What’s the deal?

The fix: The inability for me to easily and conveniently share content is a huge pet peeve of mine in the blogging world. I’m completely dumbfounded that so many bloggers still don’t understand this one simple concept in sharing content: Your readers want simplicity. 

We don’t want to have to copy and paste and pull up links and basically sign a mortgage through the Pinterest website to simply share your content. You can fix this very easily by visiting Shareaholic.com and installing your own social media sharing icons for your site. The whole process from installation to completion took me around five minutes and the gains to my blog have been invaluable as the app also includes stats and analytics. My readers can easily select the Pinterest icon to share my posts and of course, I always have a pin-worthy picture to accompany my post.

Boom. Done.


Problem Three :: You Love To Go on Pinning-Sprees

I have literally seen certain users pin 50 – 100 images in a five minute period; everything from food, to sports, to silly pictures, to well…crap. Nothing will tune me out more than spam and yes, when you’re pinning like your life depends on it, I call that pin spamming. It’s overwhelming but more, it’s downright annoying.

The fix: Set aside a few specific times per day to pin and during those times, be focused on what you want your content to be. Remember, what you choose to pin is a direct reflection of your brand. Try to be specific in your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you know that you and the hubs are getting ready to do a huge kitchen overhaul, consider setting up a private board.

Pinterest came up with this nifty little idea a couple of years ago and it really doesn’t get used to its full potential. These private boards are an excellent way of pinning a ton of stuff without clogging up your fellow pinners’ stream.


Problem Four :: Your Pins Don’t Go to Permalinks or Are Broken Links

So I’ve found your incredibly well-designed Pinterest graphic and you’ve pulled me in with an interesting title. I take the bait excited to read what you’ve got and click on your pin to only find that you’ve either deleted the page on your site that it’s associated with or the link doesn’t work. Annoying!!

The fix: It’s a good idea to do some maintenance on your Pinterest boards from time to time. If you delete a blog post, make sure you take down the pin on Pinterest so that it doesn’t keep getting re-pinned. Before you pin content to your own boards, click through the pin to make sure it works and that the information is correct or better, something you would want your business or blog associated with. Many times I’ve found that links don’t work or that I don’t really agree with the author’s viewpoint in their post.

Bottom line, if you’ve got the time to cruise Pinterest, take the extra couple of minutes to check and make sure the pin works because if all I’m getting from you are constant issues, I’m out.


So there you have it. My professional advice on how to avoid the top four common user mistakes I find most on Pinterest. What issues do you run into that drive you crazy?

03 July 2015

The Best of the Week



ONE :: Insta-Life Lately

Since our move to Pittsburgh, I’ve been quieter than usual on all my social media feeds but now that we’re moved into our new home, I’m slowly but surely getting my blog/social media groove back. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that we’ve had some pretty funny and sweet moments captured lately…

{When you have to break out Chris Pratt at the park}

{Spending all day in your Frozen bathing suit...}

{That daddy/daughter love, tho...}

{Taking a break from packing with a chick flick}


TWO :: The Blog Life

On the blog this week, I talked about my struggles going from being a full time working mom to being home with Chickie 24/7 and while I know this arrangement is only temporary, it has still been very challenging. I received a lot of amazing and supportive feedback from this post: When Being a Mom Makes You Feel Mean – 6 Ways to Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself…And Your Child.

If you’ve ever made such a huge transition in your life or currently struggling with some not so nice feelings towards motherhood, give this post a read. You will find encouragement and support.

Also, speaking of support…

I want to take a moment to thank a few of my fellow bloggers for helping me to keep this little space of mine running while we were in the process of moving. I really could not have kept this blog going without their help so THANK YOU amazing blog friends! Please take a moment to check out these guest posts and show these ladies some love:



THREE :: New Places, New Spaces

When we found out we were moving, it gave us a chance to do some major cleaning out of old items, junk and things we really weren’t using anymore or didn’t want or need. One of those things was our old kitchen table. It was a HUGE monstrocity of furniture but more so, it was way heavy to have to load and unload and it was so beaten up and old so to the curbside it went. As soon as we arrived in Pittsburgh, we went shopping for a new set and found this gorgeous high top table and chairs…



I LOVE it and am now ready to hit up Home Goods or IKEA for new centerpiece decorations.


FOUR :: Jurassic World

Michael and I were able to sneak in this movie before we left Georgia and I loved it. Honestly, I was hesitant to pay good money to see it because, hello, sequels usually suck but it was awesome. The plot, storyline, graphics and action were all that and a bag of chips. If you’re considering a movie date night with your lovie, go see this movie! #thankmelater


FIVE :: It’s {Almost} Football Time in Tennessee!

The only great thing about July, aside from it being Chickie’s birthday month, is the fact that we’re one month closer to college football season! This week, the Vols revealed their 2015 unis from Nike and they are so, so dope. Wearing these unis will only make our wins that much sweeter. Top 3 ranking in the SEC along with a top 5 national recruiting class is no joke, y’all. I’m excited for this season!! GO VOLS!!




So how about you? How was your week?

01 July 2015

Currently...

Shiraz In My Sippy Cup : Currently in July...


It’s July and I’m currently…


Reading...  Lots and lots of job descriptions. The majority of my days are spent reading through endless amounts of employment sites, LinkedIn, cover letters and everything job related. It’s exhausting and I will be happy when someone just hires me already.


Loving… Our new home. We left a house in Georgia that we absolutely LOVED so I was worried that I might not feel the same way about our new digs or have a hard time adjusting but I have to admit, I love our house. As soon as we have it completely unpacked and decorated, I’ll be sharing lots of pictures.


Wearing…  More fall clothes than summer. The weather since we arrived in Pittsburgh has been amazing although, it has felt more like fall than summer. I’m not complaining one bit! I’ll take a cool breeze over boob sweat any day.


Eating… Not gonna lie: currently, I have my face affixed to the side of a Pillsbury Creamy Supreme vanilla frosting can and I make no apologies. #straightgangsta


Watching… A lot of HGTV. Hi, my name is Courtney and I’m a House Hunters addict. I admit that I totally love looking into other peoples’ homes {in a non-creeper kind of way} and looking at floor plans and getting decorating ideas. It’s also pretty funny to watch all these couples who don’t agree on shit try to find and buy a home.


Making… Chickie’s baby room into a big girl room! Chickie got upgraded to big girl status during this move by getting her big girl bed so now mommy is chomping at the bit to make her room into something spectacular. Needless to say, the fact that IKEA and Super Target being close to our home could either be considered a blessing or the devil in disguise. We shall see…


Excited About… Exploring our new city! Pittsburgh is an amazing place to raise a family and there is so much to do here: zoos, aquariums, an amazing and robust restaurant scene, concerts, sports – I can’t wait to dive in and experience it all. I’m also excited about the fact that my girl Stephanie from Wife Mommy Me is now only 4 hours away from us so I foresee a ton of shenanigans in my future.


Looking Forward To… Celebrating Chickie’s birthday this month! I’ll be “that mom” for a hot second and whip out the stereotypical “I can’t believe my baby is going to be 4 this month!” But really, I can’t. If I think about her birthdays in 4 year increments, there are only 3 sets of 4 left until she is 16. SIXTEEN. #mindblown These first four years have already flown by so fast so I know it will be here in the blink of an eye.


Thinking About… Christmas. As of today, it’s only 5 months away! Granted, I listen to Christmas music all year long but there is something so special about the holiday season that you only get to experience once a year and I’m so ready to be in that place.


Feeling… Unsettled. While we have a good majority of our home unpacked, the guest room still has boxes in it and we’re all still trying to find our “new normal.” I’ll be happier once we get settled into our routine and have a firm grasp on how to get around our neighborhood and Pittsburgh. I know this will come with time and there is an adjustment period but waiting has never been my strong suit.


What’s currently going on in your world? I’d love to know!