Monday, June 30, 2014

On Blogging and Running

About a month ago, Lindsay Ostrom of Pinch of Yum was a guest on The Lively Show. I enjoy reading food blogs, but hadn't heard of Pinch of Yum until then. In addition to sharing delicious recipes with gorgeous photography, Pinch of Yum shares their monthly income reports. Their first income report was for August 2011 and the blog made $21.97. In May 2014, Pinch of Yum had net income of over $23,000! Suffice it to say, I've read more of their income reports (and related tips) than recipes ;)

What does this have to do with running? In January 2014's report, Bjork (Lindsay's husband and behind the scenes guy of Pinch of Yum) shared the following mindset for growing a blog:

Be a cross country star, not a tennis star. I love tennis. It was my favorite sport in high school. But I always had a ton of respect for the cross country guys and girls. Not only because of their crazy ability to run long distances, but because of the mindset they had in regards to their performance. With tennis, if you beat your opponent you consider the day a success. With cross country, if you beat your own previous record you consider the day a success. Your journey of growing your blog will be much more fulfilling if you aim to outperform yourself as opposed to other blogs.
Amen, brother!

Like blogging, I took a bit of an extended maternity leave from running. Sure, I ran a 10K this past October, but I wasn't running consistently. About three months before Monica's birthday, John's sister talked me into running a half marathon. I pulled up a Hal Higdon training plan, dusted off my running shoes, and got to work. The day before Monica's birthday, I ran my first half marathon in over three years. Was is pretty? Not exactly. But I went out there and finished.

Likewise, this past spring, I felt ready to get back into blogging on a more consistent basis. The analogy isn't perfect, but here are a few more thoughts about why blogging is like running:

You have to start somewhere. Whether it's sitting down to write or starting to run after some time off, the hardest part is starting. For running, the hardest part is getting out the door. But once you get going and see your progress and improvement, the momentum encourages you to keep going.

For example, the first recipe (and second blog post!) I shared on Fiscally Chic was for Raspberry Champagne Cupcakes. My photo wasn't fantastic, but it got the job done:

September 2010 - Raspberry Champagne Cupcakes
More recently, I shared a recipe for Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes. This picture isn't perfect, but it's exponentially better than the first:

June 2014 - Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes

Over the past 4 years, I've had more opportunities to bake cupcakes, photograph cupcakes, and blog about said cupcakes. That's not to say there haven't been a few hiccups along the way. While the following cupcakes tasted great, the photographs were less than stellar (don't laugh too much):
February 2011 - Banana Split Cupcakes
Ugh...I know. In blogging and running, you might have a few setbacks, like writer's block or a knee injury. You can either let it get you down or use it as a learning experience and moment of growth.
In addition to having more experience, my blogging and running has improved (or become a little easier) as I've obtained the correct tools. For blogging, that would be getting a better camera (and knowing how to use it). For baking cupcakes, that includes finally buying a pastry bag and piping tips. For running, it's having a proper pair of running shoes, iPhone armband, and our BOB jogging stroller.
Finally, sometimes I need to adjust my expectations and benchmarks of running and blogging. Going back to Bjork's point, "with cross country, if you beat your own previous record you consider the day a success." With my first post-baby half marathon, I couldn't compare that performance to my previous personal record. This time around, I didn't have as much time to train. As with blogging, there are only so many hours in the day and I think it'll be a good week if I post once or twice. That sure beats my current track record of posting once or twice a month!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Toolbox Essentials for the New Homeowner

It's summertime, which means DIY projects and household improvements are filling people's weekend "to do" lists. The summer is also a prime time to buy a new house, which means you need to be prepared for repairs. If you're in either of these camps, you'll enjoy today's post sponsored by Gotstock.

What’s in Your Toolbox?
Whether you live in an apartment, condo, or house, you should have a few basic tools on hand to tackle simple household repairs. This isn’t about being an HGTV DIY expert; it’s just about being reasonably self-sufficient.

Think about whether you would be able to deal with an emergency. If you don’t have to the tools to do this; you need to make a trip to the hardware store. This applies to both the ladies and gentlemen. 

What is the Best way to Acquire Tools?
There are ready-equipped tool kits on the market which give you access to a variety of different sizes and types of tools. The problem is that the majority are not cheap, and you may not need all of the items in the kit.

The best time to buy the very basic tools is when you first start running your own home. Then as you go on, you can acquire, rent, or borrow extra materials as jobs require them. So what are the essentials?

These tools are probably the most essential of the essentials. Whether it’s changing an outlet or putting together furniture; a screwdriver always comes in handy. It's useful to have a selection of screwdrivers for different sizes and types of screws (i.e. flathead vs. Phillips head). A really small screwdriver is also helpful to tighten a loose screw on a pair of glasses or sunglasses; check out Gotstock for more on this.

Claw Hammer
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a hammer, you just need one that will do the job. This is pretty essential for a lot of basic household DIY tasks such as hanging a picture frame. A claw hammer also allows you to remove nails to take down furnishings in your home.

Wrench Set
Again, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money on wrenches, but make sure that they can withstand a fair amount of pressure. You don’t want to leave a bolt unscathed and bend the wrench instead.

Cordless Drill
If you're going to put shelves or curtain rods up, you're going to need a few holes and anchors in the wall. A cordless drill is the best way of doing this. Being cordless reduces the risk of tripping, but you still have to be really careful that you use it correctly.

You hope you never have to do it, but unblocking a toilet is easy with a plunger. Tie a plastic bag tightly over the end and plunge with vigor; the toilet will be unblocked in no time.

Yes, it is a bit big to fit in a toolbox, but it is an essential item for completing a lot of jobs in the home. Something as simple as putting a shade on a light, is a lot easier and safer when done off a stable ladder instead of a chair.

Other helpful tools include a measuring tape, level, box cutter, pliers, and safety glasses.

Be Careful with Storage
Storing tools safely is common sense, but sometimes people are in a hurry and items get left around the home. If this happens, a child might pick up a tool and do damage to the house, or worse to themselves. Ladders are also very important to be aware of. Never store them where there is a significant chance that they can be knocked and toppled over.

A tool box or tool chest is ideal for storing tools, but at the very least, you need to make sure that they are protected and dry. This will ensure that you have a useful set of tools to use for many years.
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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Raspberry Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes

On June 8, Monica turned one! She started walking the day before she turned 11 months old, so turning one sealed the deal of her becoming a toddler (sniff).
While I had a secret Pinterest board filled with birthday party ideas, I didn't go over the top crafting elaborate decorations. I ran a half marathon the day before her birthday, so we decided to keep things simple. We catered Buona Beef, served food on pink plates with pink silverware, bought a canopy for the backyard which we decorated with pink paper lanterns, and had several coolers of chilled beverages. 

One thing I didn't want to skimp on was the dessert. I had pinned several mini layer cakes as inspiration, but ultimately decided to bake cupcakes. Since the loose party theme was pink, the cupcakes had to be pink. In addition to baking exactly what I Monica wanted, I could avoid hard to pronounce food additives and artificial food colors.
Monica has been enjoying berries lately, so I decided to bake vanilla cupcakes with raspberry buttercream (strawberry being a close runner up). These weren't organic by any stretch, but I felt a little better knowing exactly what was in the cupcakes.

In addition to Monica's current love of raspberries, these cupcakes were inspired by The Cup's Raspberry Beret cupcakes. I don't think I ever had this flavor, but The Cup can do no wrong, in my opinion. Monica's birthday cupcakes are also reminiscent of the first recipe I shared on this blog, raspberry champagne cupcakes. Obviously there wasn't champagne in these cupcakes.

This may be one of my favorite pictures of Monica eating her birthday cupcake. Yes, there are other pictures of us singing to her and her enjoying her cupcake, but I love the expression on her face in this photo. It's like she's thinking, "Oh no! Cupcake down!"

One last minute (and extremely playful) detail I loved from the party was using one of Monica's bath toys as a paperweight. I just grabbed the purple walrus and it just went perfectly with the pink napkins. The napkins and walrus might still be sitting on the buffet.

Raspberry Vanilla Cupcakes
Vanilla cupcakes adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Raspberry buttercream adapted from Eat Live Run (where she shared strawberry buttercream)

Vanilla Cupcakes
Yield: 12 cupcakes (I tripled the recipe, which made 45)

1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1/4 cup yogurt (The original recipe called for vanilla greek yogurt. I used strawberry greek yogurt since that's what we had.)
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350*. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Melt butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave. Transfer this to the bowl of your mixer. Using the paddle attachment, stir in sugar (the mixture will be gritty). Add in the egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined.
Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the frosting.

Raspberry Buttercream
Note: I was able to frost all 45 cupcakes using one batch of this recipe

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (1 pound)
1/2 cup pureed raspberries (about 1 cup whole raspberries, optional: strain out the seeds for a smoother frosting)
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 cups powdered sugar (from two 1-lb boxes or one 2-lb bag)

Beat the butter using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer until creamy.

Add in the pureed raspberries.

Slowly add the powdered sugar, about one cup at a time.

Finally, add the lemon juice and sea salt. Continue beating until very light and fluffy.

Pipe* or spread frosting on each cupcake. Enjoy!

*I bought the Bake it Pretty Best-Ever Cupcake Icing Kit (5 jumbo pastry tips and 1 pastry bag) just for these cupcakes and it was fantastic! You can currently save 10% off your order using coupon code "BALLOONS".
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Wedding Looks

Hi, friends! Wedding season is upon us! While we only have one wedding on our calendar thus far, I was having so much fun creating a wedding guest outfit that I put together three for you! Since I absolutely love using Rent the Runway* (I rented dresses for the last two weddings we attended), each dress and some of the accessories are available through RTR.
Earrings, Clutch, and Dress via Rent the Runway, Wedges
The first outfit was inspired by my sister-in-law. She rented this very dress for a black tie wedding and looked gorgeous. While the wedding we'll be attending isn't this formal, it's fun to dream and hopefully inspire you.
Necklace and Dress via Rent the Runway, Clutch, Pumps
I'd say that this dress and ensemble is a little closer to what I'll actually wear to our friends' wedding. It's less formal than the pink dress, but still dressed up. I also love the colors and pattern of the dress. And that peek of pink on the pumps? Such a fun surprise!

Necklace and Dress via Rent the Runway, Clutch, Wedges
Finally, here's what I might wear if we were invited to an outdoor wedding. A bit more casual, but the necklace dresses things up. And the wedges will ensure that I don't sink into the ground while walking.
What will you be wearing to a summer wedding?
*No, this isn't a sponsored post, I just really like RTR. If you also have a wedding on the calendar and are looking for a lovely dress at a lovely price, you can sign up through my Rent the Runway referral link, and we'll both get $20 off our next orders. Muchas gracias!
for more wedding lovelies, visit {long distance loving}

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

To Friends of Young Kids

Monica's first birthday is this Sunday. Where has the time gone??? I didn't become a mom one year ago. Or even one year and nine months ago. The process of becoming a parent started over two years ago. Two years ago yesterday, I lost my first pregnancy. I was 6 weeks pregnant. While we're extremely blessed and grateful that we have Monica; other couples are struggling with infertility and/or waiting to become parents through adoption for much longer than two years.
My friend Marie doesn't have a blog, but wrote a letter that she wanted to share with parents of young kids. Some of you might relate to Marie, so I've given her this blog post as a way to share a little of her story.

Dear Friends of Young Kids,

Happy Mother's Day! Mothers are a precious gift from God and you show such grace being mothers. Here is my thank you note to you.

Thank you for taking me Easter outfit shopping at the newest children’s resale boutique. I enjoyed being out with you, shopping, and looking at cute kids clothes. I may not have my own kids to buy clothes for, but I enjoy looking at frilly pink dresses and enjoyed helping your almost-screaming almost-two year old try on clothes.

Thank you for inviting us out for beignets and coffee. Though it may not be the easiest to take a 5 month old to a coffee shop, we had a nice time sitting outside with you and laughed when your husband changed your daughter on the bench in the coffee shop. I dream of one day taking my daughters out for coffee with friends.

Thank you for calling me to tell me you are pregnant. I love to hear your voice and celebrate with you. Though we have yet to have the opportunity to make such joyful phone calls to friends, thank you for telling me in person, so I don’t cry seeing someone else announce it on Facebook.

Thank you for posting your good news on Facebook. I planned five years ago what we would post and how fun it would be. Most days it is so joyful when you post online your good news. Forgive me if I cry when I see you good news; it is not that we are not soo happy for you, it is that we want that same blessing in our lives as you have in yours.

Thank you for inviting me to your baby showers. I love shopping and planning showers gifts and celebrating God’s gift of new life. I hope you understand how sometimes, I just can’t come. It's not that I don’t want to, but my heart is too heavy and too hurt at times to celebrate.

Thanks for giving me time to grieve my own loss and celebrate with you. Thank you for sharing your losses and struggles with me. I understand where you are coming from and I will pray with you, cry with you, and celebrate with you when you have good news to share.

Thank you for helping me to know your children, telling me what they enjoy and what clothes they wear and how fun they are. I really love your children and love that they know me.

Thank you for asking how we are doing. Thank you for caring sensitive and understanding. Really, I am no different than you are. Some days, I am calm, collected, hopeful. Some days I am a wild mess, with dirty laundry and a messy house. We both love kids, we both have busy lives and thank you for being my friend.


Thank you, Marie. My friend Stephanie is going through a similar chapter right now and blogs at Blessed to Be. She shares about their journey to parenthood. If you are struggling with infertility and/or in the process of adopting, you can find comfort in reading her blog. She also has a lovely blog link-up called "Little Happies" where she shares little moments of happiness while waiting for the next big thing to happen.
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