Personal Handmade Gift Ideas For Any Occasion

It seems like every other week there is a new birthday, anniversary, or holiday to prepare for, and I know how stressful that can be. Although I love any reason to celebrate anything, it can be so hard shopping for people. I have always had a hard time thinking of gifts to buy people, so I would either take a shot in the dark, or skip it altogether.

Luckily, with growing my homemade business, Dakota Dust Designs in the last year, I have a whole new outlook on these events. I now see them as a chance to get creative and give someone a present that is personalized to their likes and interests. Even better, I think giving homemade presents is the best, because of the time and love that goes into everything I make.

If you are a sewer or crafter like me, you maybe already feel the same way. If you feel stuck in a rut, I have compiled a simple list of the homemade gifts I have given in the past year for various occasions.


Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links/banners. If you chose to purchase something using my link, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Christmas

This Christmas I was all about the blankets. They’re easy enough to make, practical, and who doesn’t love getting cozy blankets in the middle of Winter? I designed a unique kind of blanket that is made with soft minky on one side, and cozy sweater material on the other. Let me tell you, everyone who got one has been raving about it since. These are perfect throw blankets to cuddle under.

Take a look:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personalized Presents

When I got my new sewing machine last year, I decided to get a Singer Futura XL400, because it doubled as an embroidery machine. I was nervous because the reviews said it was hard to learn, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had it up and running right away. That embroidery machine was a game changer, because I can now use any font (with an additional program) and any design I can find to personalize any gift. Here are a couple that I did for Christmas:


 

Valentines Day

My boyfriend and I usually don’t really do anything for Valentine’s Day; it’s only 3 days away from our son’s birthday, so we are too busy planning for his party and whatnot. This year, however, I decided that I had to make him something. His favorite thing to do when he’s not working is to lay on the couch under a blanket watching his favorite show. I figured there was no better gift for him than a double minky blanket that proclaimed my love for him. In hindsight, I should have made it bigger, and I should have realized it would not be as good as his Minnesota Gophers blanket ;) At least my son and I love it. Take a look:

 

Engagements

Not even two months ago, I got a text that one of my good friends and her long time boyfriend got engaged. I immediately wanted to send them something to congratulate them, so of course I started to think about what I could hand-make for them. I decided to go the tried-and-true route, and make them a blanket, but I wanted it to be as personalized as possible. Luckily I found the perfect fabric in a knot pattern to symbolize them “Tying the Knot.” Incidentally, this friend of mine is a horse lover who also ropes and all that jazz, so the rope print and hide back fit her so perfectly. It was one of my favorite gifts to send, and I think it fit the occasion great. See the blanket below:

 

Baptisms

Not too long ago, we got a new baby niece. She got baptized, and I couldn’t think of what to make her. I had already made her baby blankets, so I thought that was off the table. I wanted to give her something handmade, though, and clothes aren’t really baptism-gift material (in my opinion), so I went for a blanket- shocker! I went for a full-crib size blanket, and I found the perfect material for it. This blanket was double minky, and the front had the most perfect Bible verse on it along with beautiful flowers. This blanket turned out to be one of my favorites, and a perfect baptism gift. Check it out:

 

Themed Gifts

Some holidays, like St. Patty’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, and Valentines day, themed gifts are cool. My favorite themed items to make are leggings with matching headbands. Here are some of my past (and present) themed items that could be great baby gifts:

Baby Shower / Welcoming Gifts

Most, if not almost all of my orders are for babies or toddlers. Honestly, my favorite thing is to make stuff for little ones because its all so dang cute. Every time I finish a tiny headband or little pair of adorable leggings, my heart grows about two sizes and wishes I had a little baby of my own. There are so many different things I make for babies, and they all make for great baby shower or welcoming gifts in my opinion. I have done many different variations of bundles and packages, and I even have a baby bundle product that I offer, because I think it’s a great gift! Here are some of my favorite baby gifts:

Booties:

Baby Blankets:

Crib Blankets:

 

Bandana Bibs:

 

Leggings with Headbands/Hats:

Carseat Ponchos:

 

It’s ok if you don’t know how to make some of these things- learning can be simple! It just takes practice and lots of tutorials. If you aren’t a sewer, you can always hire it out (wink, wink). Check out my Facebook page, Dakota Dust Designs to hire me, or shop on my page!

 

 

Craftsy

Feeling Tempted to Cheat on Your Diet? Read This First!

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something that I have recommended, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for the support!

Dear future me.. you are feeling weak. The cookies on the counter seem to be calling your name, and no one is around to witness your failure. It would be so easy to just go over there and inhale one before you get a fair chance to talk yourself out of it. I am here to help you.

Anyone else feel like you are fighting a battle in your head when your motivation seems to waiver, and cheating on your diet seems like a good idea? Now, I usually hate to use the word “diet,” because I’m making a lifestyle change.. blah, blah, blah. Lets call it what it is- a diet. By definition the word “diet” means the kinds of foods that a person, animal, or community habitually eats, so no matter what you eat, it is your diet.

When you are on a weight loss mission like I am (pretty much constantly, my whole life it feels like), you have to watch your food intake and caloric deficit so that you can shed the pounds. Even though the end result is everything you have ever imagined- whether it’s a rock hard six pack, or simply fitting into your old jeans, it is still very difficult to have the discipline needed all the time.

Cheating on your diet would be so easy, and no one has to know, but you would have to live with that choice. Before you even think of opening that cookie jar or chip bag, read this entire article. If you still feel like cheating when it’s done, well that’s on you. Don’t say I didn’t try.

Thinking of Cheating on Your Diet? Read These 10 Tips First!

-This exercise helps me avoid post-binge depression quite often. Just imagine that you just got done eating whatever it is you were craving. Feeling guilty? Was it worth it? Was that 5 minutes of happiness scarfing down a couple hundred empty calories of garbage worth hating yourself the rest of the day? Didn’t think so.

-Find out just how much fat/sugar/calories are in that “small” treat you want to have. Enter it into My Fitness Pal and prepare to be shocked. It might seem harmless, but junk food is usually packed with calories and sugar, enough to throw off your whole day’s work.

-Reward yourself for resisting. I know the first thought when you hear “Reward Yourself,” is food. There are so many other ways to reward yourself. Let yourself relax and take a bath, get your nails done, buy yourself something you have had your eyes on for a while. It’s time that we stop treating ourselves like dogs and using food as a reward all the time.

-“Nothing Tastes as Good as Skinny Feels.” Ok, I have some serious beef with this quote, but in a way it makes a good point. That donut may be heavenly, but I guarantee you will feel about a thousand times better when you reach your fitness goals, and get to be confident in your shorts this summer.

-Count how many weeks you have until Summer. Seriously, it’s right around the corner, and we’re finally in the home stretch. This is your last chance to buckle down and get into shape before swimsuit season, and any time you cheat, you will just set yourself back.

-Cheating on your diet is a slippery slope. If you allow yourself this one indulgence, you are more likely to scrap the whole day, and it will be even harder to get back on track. If you are like me, it will likely turn into a binge where you eat everything in sight, and we all know why that’s no good.

-Find your motivation. Whatever you do to stay motivated, do it right now. For me, I like to go on Instagram and catch up on my favorite fitness pages. Seeing others staying strong in their journeys will help you find the inspiration to turn down the junk food.

-Find out the reasoning behind your temptation. Are you actually hungry? Are you bored? Have you been having a rough day, and feel like you “deserve” to treat yourself? Digging deeper and finding out what is causing you to feel this way is important. If you are truly hungry, get a healthy snack, stat! Have a rice cake with peanut butter and banana slices, or a (healthy) protein bar, or some veggies! If you are bored, stop! Find something to do. If nothing else, workout! If you are feeling emotionally drained or exhausted, find a better outlet. Start a journal or talk to a friend. Finding better ways to release your stress is very important in this journey.

-Get a hobby! Keeping yourself busy will help keep food off of your mind. Personally, I like to sew and write, and I keep myself busy constantly, which usually helps keep me out of the kitchen. Not only will this help curb your temptations, but it will improve your mood and help you find more of a “purpose” in your day to day activities.

-If you do end up caving, and feel like you HAVE to cheat, do it wisely. Don’t waste your cheat on something that will be consumed in 5 minutes that packs in an extra 500 calories. Try to find something that has a good balance, without too much of the bad stuff. Since I am a bread lover, my weak moments usually consist of some sort of sandwich on whole grain bread. That always fills the void, without all the guilt involved.

It can be so exhausting being in a constant war within your own head when you are feeling tempted, believe me, I know. I also know that the war will be even worse after you cheat, because you will be overcome with guilt and self-loathing. It’s important to acknowledge those emotions and overcome them, because they can easily lead to an unhealthy eating disorder. Find the perfect balance for your body and your goals, without overdoing it. If you cheat too much you will stay in one place, kissing your goals goodbye. However, if you are too strict on yourself you may be depriving your body of food and nutrients that it needs. Make sure you are giving your body plenty of healthy nourishment.

What helps you overcome temptation? Share in the comments!

My Favorite Weight Loss Gear on Amazon


*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I may make a commission if you purchase something at one of the links below. This contains all of my own opinions, and I only recommend products I truly believe in. 


I’m sure that when I first discovered amazon, sparks flew. As a busy human in general, there’s hardly enough time to do all the shopping that I need to on a day to day basis, even for essentials. Luckily, you can get literally anything on Amazon. I now use it for birthdays, Christmas, Valentines Day, and literally any other occasion, to save myself a trip up town.

when I embarked on my weight loss journey, which resulted in the loss of over 100 pounds, I found that Amazon was a huge tool in my success. There were tons of things I wanted, but always found them to be too expensive at my local stores. Luckily Amazon has great things at even better prices, so I found many things to help me lose weight without breaking the bank.

  • Meal Prep Containers:  Prepping my meals has contributed so much to my success in losing over 100 pounds. By setting aside an hour or two every Sunday to cook up a bunch of food, I saved myself tons of time and slip ups during the week, making it so easy to stay on track. These containers are deep, have 2 compartments, are dishwasher AND microwave safe, and are well made! You can’t find a set of 7 for a cheaper price, either, at least I haven’t been able to.
  • Kitchen Food Scale: When I learned how to portion my food right, that is when I learned all about eating to fuel my body. My whole life I didn’t think I was eating too much, yet I had no clue how many calories I was actually consuming. Measuring my food out now helps me so much. Food like meat, however, you can’t necessarily “measure,” so that is what I primarily use my scale for. Take the guesswork out of portioning your meat at an amazing price of $13.99
  •   Quest Bars: I first discovered Quest Bars at my local GNC, but they were almost $3 a bar there, which is hard to justify buying. I loved them so much, though, that I kept buying them at that price. Luckily I found them on Amazon, and I buy them by the box every few weeks. You can get them for about $2 a bar on Amazon, which is not a bad price! I love these bars because they are high in protein, low in net carbs, and they have less than 1 g of sugar, which is hard to find in a delicious bar! My favorite is Double Chocolate Chunk- I microwave my bars for about 22 seconds before I eat them, and they are so amazing. This box of 12 goes for about $24.99 on Amazon.
  • Fixate: For anyone that has followed my story, you probably know that I have found a lot of success using the 21 Day Fix. I still loosely follow the nutrition plan, and this cook book helps so much. This book is packed with delicious, unique, and healthy recipes, to give you a little variety in your diet. This is an awesome way to get used to cooking lighter recipes, by making healthy swaps with traditional recipes like Mac N’ Cheese, for example. You can get it on Amazon for only $26.90.
  • Food Journals: Food journals like this one are amazing, because they help keep you on track. If you religiously jot down your food intake for the day, you are less likely to cheat and sneak in bad food. Also, it can be helpful if you hit a plateau, to look back on your food to see if there are hidden calories or fat in there somewhere that can be eliminated. This awesome food journal is on Amazon for only $6.99.
  • Body Weight ScaleIn order to track your progress, you really need a good bathroom scale. You should weigh yourself once a week to see if your diet and workout plan is working for you. Scales can get expensive, but there are tons of decently priced scales on Amazon with excellent reviews, like this one for $22.94.  You don’t need anything fancy, but if you want one with extra bells and whistles, you can get a nice “Smart” scale for only $32.00, that syncs with your phone, and will tell you your body fat percentage.

  • Running BeltIf you’re a wanna-be-runner like me, you probably do a lot more walking than running. That’s ok, we still need somewhere to put our things, right? Before I got the belt, I would always wear a sweater or jacket every time I went out, which isn’t always practical in the summer. This lovely belt for only $7.97 can hold it all for you.

  • Yoga Mats: No matter what kind of workout you are doing, a good yoga mat always comes in handy. I bought myself the pine tree Aurorae 5 mm yoga mat long ago, and I will never go back to any other brand. These mats are high quality, and you can tell from the second you open it. There are so many cute patterns, and for only $40 that’s a great deal.

 

That’s pretty much all of my essentials that I have ordered from Amazon during my weight loss journey, that I would purchase again. It’s all trial and error, and you may not like the same things that I do. For those of you who don’t live in an area with tons of health stores close to you, this can be a life saver, without taking a huge dent out of the check book.

Am I missing anything? What is your favorite weight loss products on Amazon, anything that was absolutely vital to your diet and workout lifestyle? Let me know in the comments!

2 Year Old Fall Photo Shoot

I have a confession to make. In the first 2 years of my son’s life, I have never had professional pictures taken of him. I know, I know.. I’m an awful mother. I totally don’t have my shit together, and that’s obvious. Hell, most moms I know have their newborn pictures planned months in advance to announce their bundle o’ joy’s arrival to this earth. Not me.

I know my iPhone pictures don’t hold a candle to good photographers’ shots, but it’s better than nothing, right? When there’s just so much to do day in and day out, scheduling pictures is on the bottom of my priority list.

Luckily, my mom has an awesome camera, and an even better eye. My mom takes the best pictures I have ever seen, and I hope to one day take pictures even half as good as hers. I’m lucky that we can pack up our cameras and take my son to a place with good backgrounds and take pictures of him as he plays. We have gotten some amazing photos in from doing just that. Fall is the best season of all for pictures, and here is some proof.

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The first photo shoot was when my son was technically 1 year and 8 months old, so not yet 2. These were taken exactly one year ago during the annual “potato day” at my hometown. We grabbed my son, went outside and explored the backyard, letting him play with sticks and rhubarb while we sat around taking pictures, probably looking like weirdos to any passer-byes.

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The next pictures were all taken this year, around town here in ND. We took my son to the park and, once again, lurked behind him taking pictures. My mom got some funny ones of me in there, but that’s OK, I’m hardly in any pictures with my family. Any mom can relate to that, I’m sure.

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Well, there are my personal favorites from our Fall shoots of my son. I like doing it this way because they are real, cheap(!), and I get to have fun with my boy while we are doing it. It doesn’t hurt that my mom is awesomely amazing at it, so they basically look like professional photos.

PS- whoever can tell which photos are mine, and not my moms, wins a gold star. LOL

How To Survive The Holidays When You Are Trying To Lose Weight


Weight loss is hard- period. Do you know what’s even harder? Trying to lose weight anywhere between the period of October through January. February too. You have Halloween (the holiday of candy), Thanksgiving (the holiday of feasting), Christmas (an entire season of cookies and peanut brittle), and New Years (the holiday to drink). So, how do you stick to a healthy diet during these times, while allowing yourself to partake in some of the festivities?

Balance

It may be cliche, but it’s true: everything in moderation. You have to find a healthy balance between discipline and letting loose in order to live a life you enjoy. Let yourself have Thanksgiving dinner, and don’t starve yourself over Christmas either. As long as you have some sort of healthy balance, you will be just fine. It is very easy to fall off the wagon for the entire season, so be careful (I know, because it happened to me last year!). Just because it’s Thanksgiving and you know you will be throwing your diet out the window later doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat healthy the rest of the day. Keep in mind that buffet-type meals are usually the highest in calories, so try to fill up on plenty of veggies too.

Back Away From Your Children’s Candy

As much as I love the thought of binge eating Reese’s and Skittles, my trick or treating days are long over. Sure, my son gets more candy than I will ever allow him to eat, but that doesn’t mean that someone has to eat it. Where I’m from, many places take candy donations, and put them to good use. Feel better about yourself by giving away your kid’s rejected candy and avoid that post-binge depression that is inevitable.

Find Healthier Ways To Make Traditional Snacks

In this day and age, there is a healthier way to make anything and everything. Unless you live under a rock, you have Google and Pinterest at your disposal, so make the most of it! Simple swaps like using almond milk instead of dairy, honey or stevia instead of sugar, and coconut oil instead of butter or oil can make a world of a difference. Create a new (lower calorie) way to make your favorite Christmas cookies or Thanksgiving side dishes.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

This tip is applicable to everyday life, as well. You likely have no idea how many calories are in some of your favorite drinks, I’m willing to bet. Hot cocoa may seem like a harmless guilty pleasure on a cold night, but just one mug has almost 200 calories, and about 25 grams of sugar, and that’s not including the whipped cream or marshmallows! Ditch the eggnog, hot chocolate, and apple cider this year. Don’t waste your calories on your drinks, especially when there is such good food around to take its place. Opt for healthier beverages instead.

Don’t Get Carried Away At Meals

Every holiday meal used to be the same to me- I’d get my food and drink, eat, then go back up for more and repeat. I’d wait a good fifteen minutes and then I’d go back up and grab little handfuls here and there to snack on. It seemed harmless, but I was probably consuming way more calories than I needed too. When you are at meals served like a buffet, making smart decisions can make a huge difference. Eating more turkey, less potatoes and gravy, more veggies, and less stuffing is a simple way to be smart about it. Don’t feel like skipping pumpkin pie? Eat around the crust and that alone will save you tons of calories. Remember to eat slow and drink plenty of water with your meal, so that you are less likely to go back for seconds and over-stuff yourself.

I know it seems wrong to include the words “diet” and “holidays” in the same sentence, but your goals don’t accomplish themselves. Don’t forget what you have worked so hard for the rest of the year. Don’t obsess over it, either, because that is even more unhealthy. Having a healthy relationship with food is necessary to live a healthy lifestyle. Don’t kill yourself over that extra slice of pie, just brush yourself off and work it off in the gym!

Mini M&M Chocolate Chunk Monster Cookies

One thing I have always loved to do is make cookies. Even when I am on one of my “health kicks,” like my boyfriend likes to call it, I still like baking cookies. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment I inflict on myself, but hey, my family likes it (and I may sneak a bite here and there).

A long-time favorite cookie of mine has always been Monster Cookies. With the peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&M’s, and oats, there really isn’t anything else you could ask for in a perfect cookie. Since I know that my family will eat them up in no time, I love making these. Nothing grinds my gears more than baking something delicious, and watching it sit on the counter until it dries up and has to get thrown away. Such a waste.

So anyways, I always like to add my own little “twists” to classic recipes, whether it be leaving out an ingredient, or adding some in. For these, I just like to use mini M&M’s and chocolate chunks instead of the standard M&M’s and chocolate chips. I also add in peanut butter chips because my two boys at home seem to love them. Other than that, everything is pretty normal and they taste just like the amazing monster cookies everyone knows (and loves).

Here’s the recipe- It made about 2.5 dozen cookies for me.

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Monster Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of chunky peanut butter (or creamy, your choice)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp of vanilla
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of oats (I used old fashioned)
  • 1 cup of Mini M&M’s
  • 1 cup of chocolate chunks
  • 1 cup of peanut butter chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together your softened butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Beat until it’s creamy.
  3. Add in your egg and vanilla.
  4. In a different bowl, add in your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix evenly.
  5. Slowly mix your dry ingredients in with your wet ingredients, and mix thoroughly.
  6. Stir in your M&M’s, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips. Fold them in until mixed evenly throughout.
  7. Form into 1 1/2 inch balls onto cookie sheets and bake for 11-12 minutes, or until slightly golden. Make sure not to bake them for too long, or they will get hard.
  8. Let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to aluminum foil or rack.
  9. Enjoy!

 

How I Make $3000 A Month Working From Home

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Rest assured that I would only promote products & services that I have used myself and completely believe in.

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I debated posting this, because it requires vulnerability, which is terrifying. Income is a touchy subject, and I have never been one to disclose how much I make. I decided I needed to share with the world how I have completely turned my life around, by spending only a few hours each night (if that) working from home. I used to find these kind of articles inspiring, and they gave me hope that one day I could do the same. I’m glad to say that now I can.

One day I came across Gina Horkey, a freelance writer who shared her income, and it blew me away. I couldn’t believe that someone could actually make that much money by writing. I mean, I have been writing as long as I can remember, and it was something I have been very passionate about, but I didn’t know you could make money from it. It seemed almost unreal, or too good to be true.

I started dabbling in freelance writing here and there for a while, but it didn’t seem worth it only to make $0.03 per word, like most places were paying. It is very easy to get burnt out when you are writing about topics that don’t excite you, for next to nothing. I didn’t get how others could be making so much, when it was hard to find great paying gigs. Then, I took Gina’s freelance writing course, and so much has changed since then.

I was so scared when I bought the course. That would make it my very first investment towards my freelance business, but I wanted to learn from her so badly. I flew through the course as fast as I could, and I was surprised by how much useful information there was. Not only that, but it was information that I could use right away, so I hit the ground running.

I scoured job boards, and sent off as many pitches as I could right away. I didn’t think I had much of a chance at landing any of these writing gigs, but I tried anyways. You never know unless you try, right? Well, to my surprise, quite a few of the did actually respond to my pitch. I didn’t land every single one, and there were some I never heard from again. The most important part, however, is that I did get some of them. Despite my deepest insecurities and negative voices telling me I’d never get a paid job, I got quite a few of them.

After taking the course, I got higher paying jobs. I learned to know my worth and stick to my guns. I didn’t take jobs that didn’t pay well. I learned the value of the industry, and the value of my work. I was scared at first that this would limit the amount of jobs I would get, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

That was in May, and it has been 4 months now. So much has changed in 4 months, for the better. My freelance writing business has allowed me to bring in a minimum of $3000 extra a month, on average. The best part is that I feel like there is still so much room to grow and improve, to bring in even more of an income. I have no college degree, or formal training at what I do, I am simply good at it. We all have our talents, and writing has always been one of mine. I feel very blessed that I am able to do what I am passionate about every day, to help support my family.

What would you be able to do with an extra $3000 a month? For me, it meant I would be able to pay off debt, help my boyfriend with some big bills each month, and it even helped me buy my new car. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can definitely help buy peace of mind when it doesn’t seem like you can keep your head above water.

This may not work for everyone, and some people might find greater success. Not everyone is good at, or even likes to write, and that is OK. The point of this story is to inspire you to explore your talents. What is it that you are good at, and like to do? Is this something you would like to do everyday of your life?

Do you think freelance writing is for you? Do you have knowledge in one or more areas that you could contribute to the world? Give it a try! One of my favorite parts about freelance writing is there are little-to-no costs. I paid absolutely no money to get started, and I didn’t make any investments until I had already started making a small amount of income. Right now, I have $0 expenses as well (aside from my websites, which cost about $20 a month).

With almost no expenses, that means I get to keep 100% of my earnings. Ok, I shouldn’t have said that, because I have to set aside around 20-30% for taxes. Since I am self-employed, I have to make sure I have enough to pay in on taxes at the beginning of the year, so that I don’t face big penalties later on. This kind of stinks, but it is what it is.

One day I may be able to do this full time, you never know. When you work as a freelance writer there is never a “guarantee” or stability that comes with a “normal” job. I love the doors that it can open, and the people I get to work with. I never know who is going to email me, or what they are going to want me to do for them, but there is never a dull moment.

Stay tuned for my next post where I will go over the steps to starting your freelance career, and what you may or may not need to get it up and running.

Do you have any questions you would like me to answer in my next post? Leave them in the comments and I promise I will get to them!

 

 

 

Aurorae Sling Yoga Backpack Review & Giveaway!

Disclaimer: I received product free of charge from Aurorae in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are 100% my own, and I would never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy myself. This post may include affiliate links.

Summer is winding down and the new school year is right around the corner- literally. I start classes again next week, and I am NOWHERE near ready. Things have been pretty crazy around here the past few months, and there is no end in sight. Between working, chasing my 2 year old around, getting our basement finished, and trying to find time to write, overwhelmed is an understatement. It’s ok though, because every now and then I get to do something crazy fun like I am today.

It’s a big day for my sweet little blog, because I am holding my very first GIVEAWAY!! My blog has been around for less than two years, and I am very happy with where it is now. I do wish to write more often, because I have put it on the back burner for a while. Today I am so excited, because I get to share my most current obession: Aurorae.

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Aurorae was kind enough to send me this amazing sling yoga backpack, in exchange for an honest review. I pride myself in only accepting things that are a good fit for me and my readers, and this was perfect. I am always on the hunt for a perfect “gym” bag, but backpacks make me feel like a high school student again, and I have yet to find a cute duffle bag I can fit my yoga mat into.

My first impression with Aurorae is how personable they were. They were quick with communication and shipping, which is HUGE to me. I am always skeptical of pretty much anything unfamiliar to me, which can be a downfall. I try to hope for the best, but I can hear my inner voice telling me to expect the worst. When the package came, I didn’t know what to expect. I opened it, and the first thing I noticed was the quality. The material was thick and felt like it was durable.

Next, I noticed all of the compartments. Let me fill you in on a little secret about me: I love compartments. Zippers, flaps, pouches- it doesn’t matter, I want them. I like to feel organized, and when I have separate places to put everything, that helps. To be exact, this bag has 3 zipper compartments (including the large, main compartment), 1 mesh yoga mat sling with two buckles to secure it in, one mesh water bottle holder, and one mesh cell phone holder on the strap. I have an iPhone 6, and it fit in the pocket perfectly. Anything larger that that, and it might not fit.

For the past 3 years (give or take), I have been obsessed with cross-body bags. Every single purse I have owned has been a cross-body. I like them because you sling them over your shoulder, and they stay on without a problem. This has the same concept, since there is only one strap that you “sling” over your back. My son took an interest to it, too, and insisted on wearing it around the house all night.

This bag is perfect for what it is made for- grabbing your yoga mat & going to the park, gym, or wherever your little heart desires. You won’t be able to fit anything large in it- like a laptop, because of the shape. You don’t HAVE to bring your yoga mat, either. The pouch that holds your mat folds up and buckles to the side of the bag, so it looks perfectly normal without the mat (see below).

DSCN0618

I was so in love with the bag as soon as I got it, that I hopped on Amazon and ordered one of their yoga mats that second. I just got the mat today, and I’m even more obsessed. They have so many different colors and designs, and I went with the wooded pine option. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the middle of the woods, but I am obsessed with trees for some reason. If something has trees on it, I want it. This mat spoke to me, and I can’t wait to put it to good use. I unrolled it, and of course the first thing you have to do is step on it, and see how it feels. I was surprised, because it cost less than the cheapest one I could find at Target, yet it felt so much thicker and cushier. My knockoff brand from Target was chincy and fell apart right away, which is no bueno. I love this one from Aurorae so much, that I want one in each design.

wooded pine yoga mat

GIVEAWAY TIME

giveaway

So, like I mentioned above, this is my first giveaway, so bear with me. This is uncharted waters, so it may get a little messy. There are going to be multiple ways to get entered into the giveaway, so you can enter more than once. It will almost be completely on social media, so you can pick and choose how you enter the contest. Here are the details:

FACEBOOK:

Like my page, Writing on a Whim – This will give you one entry (If you already liked my page, unlike it and like it again so I get the notification, lol)

Share my post about the giveaway that I will be posting tomorrow morning on my page – This will give you another entry

Like & comment on my post about the entry – If you do both, you will get two more entries

INSTAGRAM

Follow me @gabrielles_losing_it – If you already follow me, see above and repeat what you did on Facebook – This will give you one entry

Repost my giveaway post (also going live in the morning on 8/18) using the hashtag #gabrielleslosingitgiveaway – That will earn you one entry

MY LIFE ON A WHIM

Lastly, earn one entry by commenting on this post! Tell me what you would do with your bag, or something like that :)

In ONE WEEK I will be scouring each and every one of your entries, adding them into a big database, and a winner will be chosen at random. The more entries you have, the higher your chances are at winning. Hopefully that isn’t too confusing, it is getting pretty late and my mind is almost asleep.

Questions, comments? Leave it below! Remember, comments earn you entries, so go for it! Thanks for reading!

 

Reasons Why You Might Not Be Losing Weight

One of the most frustrating things when you are trying to lose weight is when you see the scale remain dormant. You watch what you eat and bust your butt every day, only to see the same number week after week. I’ve been there, I know how discouraging it can be, and it makes you just want to quit it all and go back to your old ways.

If you are being honest with yourself and know that you are truly giving it your all, there might be another reason why you are not losing any weight. You might be eating all wrong for your body, gaining muscle, or you may even have an underlying medical condition. There are many possibilities that would explain why you are hitting a plateau, and each one can be overcome. You just have to narrow it down to a reason, solve the issue, and keep pushing on.

You Might Be Eating Too Many Calories

This is the first possibility you need to address. Are you eating too much, maybe? Weight loss comes down to a simple science: you need to have a calorie deficit. This means you have to burn more calories than you consume. If you lead a fairly sedentary life, you may not be burning as many calories as you are eating.

It’s true that not all calories are treated equal, but in a way they are. It doesn’t matter if you are eating 2,000 calories of healthy food, but only burning 1500 calories a day, you are not going to lose any weight. One simple way to determine if you are eating too many calories is to keep a food journal. Write down what you eat every day, or download any free food tracking apps and after a few days you will know your answer.

You Might Be Eating Too Few Calories

On the other end of the spectrum, you might not be eating enough calories. It might surprise you, but if you eat too few calories you might not lose any weight; in fact, you might even gain weight. This is because your body will essentially go into “starvation mode,” and store whatever food you do eat. You want to make sure that you are eating enough calories to sustain your body- this is necessary for your health as well as losing weight.

It is easy to determine if you are eating enough calories or not. All you have to do is track your food, just like you did to see if you were eating too many calories. You should never eat less than 1200 calories a day if you are a female, and 1800 if you are a male. If you are eating close to that amount or less, that is probably why you are hitting a plateau.

You Might Be Gaining Muscle

This is a very common illusion with the scale when you are working out consistently. You are hitting it hard at the gym every day, your nutrition is on point, but the scale is not moving- why? Well, you are doing so great that you are gaining muscle. Everyone has heard that muscle weighs more than fat, and it’s true! Ok, muscle doesn’t technically “weigh” more than fat, one pound is one pound, but muscle is denser.

This is one of the main reasons you should not rely on the scale. When you are gaining muscle you are still losing fat, but the scale does not reflect those changes. You should instead take your measurements each week, and that will tell you the true changes in your body.

You Might Have an Underlying Medical Condition

Believe it or not, but there may be a medical reason you are not losing weight. There are a number of conditions that can prevent weight loss, or even make you gain weight. Without a diagnosis, there is no real way to tell. Your best bet is to have your doctor run some tests and determine whether or not you have a medical condition that is preventing you from losing weight.

One of the most common conditions that hinders weight loss is hypothyroidism. This basically means you have an underactive thyroid, and your metabolism isn’t working as well as it should be. Once your doctor confirms that you have hypothyroidism, you can come up with a plan to treat it and lose weight. It’s not impossible to lose weight with hypothyroidism, it’s just a little more complicated than normal. There are many different food plans and supplements out there that can help you lose the pounds.

You Might Not Be Drinking Enough Water

Water is the most important thing for your body aside from Oxygen, hands down. Your body needs water to survive, and there are a number of different ailments you can experience if you don’t drink enough water. When you are not getting enough water, your body will hold on to any water that it has, to try and avoid dehydration. This water retention prevents weight loss, and you may even see the scale go up. It is important to drink water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. How much is enough water? The rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide it by two, and drink that many ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be drinking 80 ounces of water every day.

There are so many different reasons why you might not be losing weight, and it might be a combination of a few. You need to make sure you are not eating too many calories, but also that you are eating enough calories. You may want to have your doctor check you for any underlying conditions that may be causing you to gain weight, and as always, make sure you are drinking enough water.

Firmoo Glasses- an Honest Review

***Disclaimer: Affiliate links have been used in this post. If you make a purchase I may or may not receive a commission for referring you. I was gifted these glasses for free in return of my honest review. I believe in transparency, and I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t like myself.

 

I haven’t been wearing glasses very long. In fact, I only wear glasses about 50% of each day. It started about a year ago when I was getting constant headaches every day after an hour or two at work. I noticed I was needing to squint my eyes every time I was looking at the computer, because it was very blurry.

I finally bit the bullet and took a trip to the eye doctor (for the first time in my adult life).

My new Doctor concluded that one of my eyes was slightly near sighted, and the other eye was slightly far sighted. It  was not enough to need glasses all the time, but he told me my eyes were straining hard when I was working on the computer or reading, so that was likely the cause of my headaches.

I left the eye doctor with a new pair of glasses on the way, and when I saw the price tag I cringed a little. Thank God for vision insurance, because I definitely would not be able to pay for them out of pocket. I cherish my glasses, so much that I keep them at work so I don’t lose them. That’s fine and dandy, but when I am at home writing, I am running into the same problem again.

Then Firmoo came along.

About a month ago, I was contacted by a company I have never heard of, Firmoo. They wanted to gift me a pair of glasses in order for an honest review. When I said honest, I mean honest. I’m not the kind of person who would sell my soul for free things.

I agreed, and went through the ordering process. I was amazed by all of the different options! When I saw the price tag on these, I realized that I would have bought them even if I wasn’t getting them for free. Most glasses on their website range from $20-$50 from what I could see.

The customer service reps were great, emailing me throughout the whole process and making sure I was satisfied. Make sure that you have your prescription handy, because you will have to enter that if you are ordering a pair of prescription glasses. If you are wanting a pair but you don’t need prescription glasses, don’t worry! They have non-prescription glasses too, and they are so cute.

About 2 weeks later I got my glasses in the mail, in the cutest case! It was a hard, sturdy case with a design that looked like a map on it. The glasses looked exactly how they did on the website, so it was a good first impression. I tried them on and they fit perfectly! I was really happy with how they fit and looked.

Firmoo Glasses Case

I think I am slightly obsessed with the case they came in

They are a lot flimsier than my expensive pair, but that is to be expected. You get what you pay for. These glasses are perfect for when I am working on my computer at home, and that is exactly what I am going to be using them for! I don’t know what it is about glasses, but they make me feel like my creative juices are really flowing, and I seem to get so much more work done!

If I had one complaint, it would be that they are kind of hard to clean with anything aside from the cloth that comes with the glasses. That seems to be a common complaint. If you use the cloth they clean fine but you can’t use your shirt, for example, it will just smear. Another blogger here thinks it may because of the special coatings on the glasses, like the anti scratch coatings.

Firmoo Glasses

Awkward Glasses Selfie 

All in all, I am very happy with these glasses. The shipping took around 2 weeks, so don’t expect to get them right away. I think they are perfect for the price you pay. Thumbs up from this girl.

Firmoo Family

Me trying to get work done with a toddler- impossible

If you want a pair, go to this link and use this coupon code: 94153628ba

This special offer is for my readers: The first 5 people to use this code get their glasses for free– all you have to do is pay for shipping. This offer is good through May 27th, and like I said, it is only for the first 5 people to claim the offer.

Let me know what you think!