end of summer playlist

Let's be honest. Some days with 3 kids, the only thing getting us through the errand-running, nap-skipping, dinner-making, house-cleaning, laundry-folding, "please give your sister some space for the 1000th time" days are dance parties. There is just something about a good song that gets everyone feeling better in seconds. And watching my girls sing in the car, dance in their pajamas after breakfast or in the tub before bed is one of those scenes that makes the long tiring days all worth it. 

Summer is almost over but we are still jamming to a long list of our favorites. I thought it would be fun to share what we're playing these days incase you and yours need to hit the reset button and bust a move too!

Hope your Wednesday is wonderful! XO


Branding & Establishing Your Online Community | #TheMomBlogCollective WEEK 2

Happy Tuesday!! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! We had a lifestyle session on Friday night and then took a day trip to one of our fav little towns, did some antiquing had a picnic on the river on Saturday. Sunday was a lazy day spent at home, which was just what we needed on a rainy day. We finished the night with big bowls of chicken chili and movies.

 If you missed my post two weeks ago, I shared a bit about a new series I've started on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective; a handful of my favorite bloggers and I have teamed up to write blog posts twice a month, answering all the questions we get most often related to blogging, instagram, photography, collaborations, motherhood and more. You can find the first post in the series here. You can also search the #TheMomBlogCollective on instagram to find all the other posts sharing on these topics twice a month as well!

{Pretty much the perfect capture of our family; Olivia cheering and excited about something, Poppy clapping for herself and Adaline just a little unsure of what she has gotten herself into}

This week is all about establishing your brand and building an online community. Creating a well-known brand and building an engaged community are two keys to creating a successful blog and instagram and really being able to do a lot with both -- such as collaborate with other bloggers & companies, promote products, get paid to blog and more.

In the Week 1 post, I shared my top 5 tips on starting a blog and instagram and one of the tips was all about picking a blog name. That is really where your branding starts: picking a name that gets people's attention and tells your readers + followers what type of content you will be sharing but also that is memorable and has a ring to it. True story: When I was first launching my blog and trying to finalize a name, I knew I wanted the word "nest" in it because it would primarily be revolved around my home and family, especially as a new Mom. My husband is actually the one who came up with "A Blessed Nest" and as soon as he said it out loud, I knew that was it. It's easy to remember and in just three short words, it defines what I share about: my home, family, faith and motherhood. Remember that your blog name is the foundation of your brand; don't be afraid to play around with the wording until you get it just right.

Another important part of establishing your brand is purchasing your domain so your blog URL matches your blog title. Whether you host your blog through Blogger or Wordpress (or another site), if you want to grow your brand you need to own your domain. That just means that your web address is www.Your-Blog-Name.com versus wwww.Blogger.com/YourBlogName or www.Wordpress.com/YourBlogName. It shows professionalism to companies and makes it especially easy for people to find your blog in online searches. You can purchase a domain through many different sites and pay as little as $9.99 per year. 

A third key aspect of branding is paying attention to the overall look of your blog, instagram and/or other social media accounts. The key is consistency across the board -- both in the name (you wouldn't want to name your blog one thing and set up your IG account with a completely different name; they should be similar, such as A Blessed Nest/@blessednestblog OR identical) and in the design. Creating a cohesive look to your blog layout, in your photos, across all your blog posts, etc. is part of staying consistent. If your blog is bright and airy but your photos are dark and underlit, it will seem like they aren't being done by the same person and comes off confusing to those following you.

Personally, I think the most attractive blogs and instagram feeds are bright and white and easy to look at with the right mix of content and photos. We will be sharing more in Week 3 about instagram specifically and creating a cohesive feed as well as our tips for taking great photos, but keep in mind as you establish your blog the overall look of your blog is a reflection of your brand and you want a consistent look and feel in all areas.

Finally, establishing community around your blog is what builds your brand and in turn, your following and your growth organically so your brand becomes more well known. One of the very best parts about blogging has been seeing the community that I've created around A Blessed Nest, both here and on instagram, and connecting with other young moms in similar seasons of life through the process. I love getting emails from readers that were so encouraged by one of my posts, or a DM from a Mom about how they saw this/read that and it has helped them so much or how they always look forward to something specific that I post or share about. Those are the messages that encourage me so much and without a community, they wouldn't exist.

A few ways to establish your online community are...

1. Start following other blogs and instagram feeds you admire or enjoy! You don't need to follow every single one that exists (because really, that would be nearly impossible), but start by following along with those that you love reading and seeing the most. Interact with them by commenting regularly on their blog posts and instagram or "liking" their photos. I have gotten to know some of my closest blogging friends because I was either first following them or they were first following me and we started interacting through comments and a friendship grew from there over mutual interests and similar life seasons.

2. Collaborate with other bloggers. As you get to know bloggers and find ones that have a similar style or niche as yours, work together. Ask if they would like to host a giveaway together, or to do a collaborative blog post (such as our Mom Blog Collective series), or even to just do a Follow Friday on instagram, where you get a group of 5 moms and create a 4-photo collage (using one photo from each of the other 4 feeds but not your own) to post on instagram on a Friday, tagging them and sharing why you love following along with them. I collaborated with so many bloggers throughout my first year of blogging and still do; getting my name, face and brand out there through these collaborations was a big key to my growth.

3. Remember that a community is different than an audience; an audience passively watches (or in this case, reads) whereas a community interacts, shares and participates. You want those who follow you and read your blog to be people that interact with you, share your posts and tell others about your blog so your following grows, right? To have this -- a community that is engaged, interacts and shares -- you need to be sure you are doing the same. Interact with your followers. Comment back. Open and reply to DMs when you can, even if you can't get to all of them. Sometimes I do an instastory and get 50+ DMs in a matter of minutes. Obviously, I don't have the time to reply to every single one (at least not right in that moment) but I open one or two and respond to a question or comment and without fail, I get the same response every time -- "Thank you so much for responding!" or "I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly, thank you!" etc. etc. When you genuinely interact with those who follow you, whether by replying to comments on your blog, instagram, emails or DMs, your followers will recognize that and your community will grow. 

4. Share the content of other bloggers. Just as you would hope others would share your posts, do this for others! I love sharing articles or blog posts that really resonate with me within my blog posts or on my Facebook page. When people post on instagram asking about who you love following, tag your favorites and share why! Remember that as you help others be seen, be heard and grow, you will grow alongside them. You will reap what you sow.

5. Be genuine. Perhaps the most important piece of your branding and building a community is to really just be genuine by being yourself. Remember that blogging, instagram, social media...it's not a competition. We are all just trying to put our best foot forward, connect with each other and create memorable content that encourages, uplifts and inspires. Not everyone will read your blog or follow along or love your posts, and thats okay. I'm not doing what I do for the approval of others; I'm doing what I do because I love to do it! Being genuine in your writing, your posts, your photos and your interactions with your followers is what draws people to you. You can tell pretty quickly whether a blogger is down to earth and genuine or not; staying true to who you are and being real with those who follow along is going to get you far!

You can find all the posts sharing on this week's topic below:

I hope that was all helpful and gives you some new ideas for branding and building community around your blog! Be sure to leave a comment sharing what you'd most like to read about in this series, either here or on instagram! XO


life lately & exciting news

We are almost halfway through August and I am convinced that the more babies I have, the faster time flies. Olivia starts school in about a month, so we have been enjoying all that summer still has to offer. Lots of playgrounds, splash pads, park picnics and evening walks before bedtime; the girls love putting on their jammies and going on a "pajama walk" after dinner. They bring their flashlights along (even though it isn't quite dark out) and love to sing bedtime songs on the ride.

As for us, Dustin is still super busy at his job, putting in 50+ hours a week right now. I hosted a baby shower on Sunday for one of my best friends to celebrate her first baby arriving next month and planning our Fall family calendar is in full swing! Dustin and I are leaders in a marriage group in our church (this will be our third year doing that) and then we host a small couples group in our home once a month with our best friends, so we are excited for the kickoff of that. The two moms groups I am a part of also start up again next month, which is always something I look forward to as Fall approaches.

We have family photos this upcoming weekend and then the State Fair is just two weeks away, which is one of the very best (and most delicious!) parts of summer here! We are hoping to get to the waterpark at least once this month, back to the lake for a weekend visit and then check out a few new parks with friends over the coming weeks. 

In other exciting news, I recently accepted a part time job at our Chiropractic Wellness clinic. Ever since we started going there, I have wanted to work there and be part of the amazing team, especially because I have such a passion for holistic health and pursuing a natural lifestyle and whole-heartedly believe the reason our girls are such great sleepers, so healthy/rarely sick, generally in great moods, great eaters etc. is because they have all been adjusted since birth. 

It is an all-women run, Christ-centered clinic and you guys, aside from being a Mom it is my dream job! My official title is "PR Creative Director" so I will be there every Monday afternoon for team meetings, event planning, event promotion, new product launches and demos, etc. and then I will be working from home as it works with my schedule doing their newsletter, social media and focusing on their online presence. They have been amazing at working with my schedule and accommodating to my needs in having a young family. In every way, I can just see God's favor and plans all over this new opportunity and am so grateful for the new adventure. I love staying home with my girls, but also wanted to do something that was just for me. Something I didn't have to share. But without being away from them more than one afternoon a week, because I would just miss them too much. So it's a great balance of "me time" and getting to pour my gifts and energy in to something I love doing, while being surrounded by women I look up to and can learn from. 

Are you still loving summertime or getting excited for Fall?! We have been doing some pumpkin baking lately and the cool weather that comes and goes in the evenings has been so refreshing, but I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to the lazy days and slow mornings that we enjoy around here while school is out. Lots to look forward to but loving every minute as it is right now!! Happy Wednesday! As always, thanks for reading!! XO


Top 5 Tips on Starting a Blog & Instagram Account | #TheMomBlogCollective Week 1

I'm so excited to share a new series I am starting here on my blog called #TheMomBlogCollective. Twice a month, a group of 10 of us will be sharing a blog post on the same topic -- related to blogging, instagram, working with brands, creating sponsored posts, photography, motherhood and more. More than almost anything else, each of us get asked how we started blogging, what tips we have for someone looking to start, how to work with companies for sponsored posts and more, so those questions are the starting point for our series. 

Each month we will feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. My favorite part is that while we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and then figure out what works best for you. And if you have a topic you'd love to get an answer to in our series, search the hashtag #TheMomBlogCollective on instagram and comment on any one of our photos under that hashtag to let us know! You can also leave comments on our blog posts.

To kick off the series, we'll each be sharing our Top 5 Tips on Starting a Blog and Instagram Account

I began blogging in 2013 very casually, after my first daughter was born and I found myself as a Stay at Home Mom with extra time on my hands during naps. I wanted a way to connect with other moms in similar seasons of life, while also sharing my journey as a new mom and having something to look back on as Olivia grew. I also started an instgram account around that time, though I had very few followers and I basically posted whatever I wanted, bad filters and all. Over time my blog and instagram evolved to become so much more than I imagined they would be, and in 2015 is when I really feel like I got serious with building my brand and following and reaching out to work with companies I believed in and admired. So here are my Top 5 Tips!

1. Just Do It
I get asked most often "how do I start?" and my answer is always the same -- just do it! Even if you have no idea what you're doing, get started. I had no clue what I was doing (and knew nothing about the blogging world) when I began back in 2013. Heck, I barely even read blogs! Almost everything I have accomplished was self-taught, day by day and one piece at a time. I didn't know anything about HTML, SEO, instagram, social media, or what the mom blogging world even involved. I just decided to jump in feet first and go for it. The sooner you start, the better.

2. Pick a Blog Name
Something to continually keep in the back of your mind as you begin blogging is that one of your ultimate goals is to "create a brand" -- this will help you grow, establish relationships with other brands, get paid to blog and more. We will be sharing more on this specific topic in a few weeks, but as you grow, your brand is what you will be known for, which is why picking a blog name that fits with your brand is so important. Choose a name that is easy to remember, has a ring to it, isn't too long, and in just a few words tells your readers what you will be blogging about. For example, A Blessed Nest. It rhymes and is only 3 words long, but it tells you that I will likely be blogging about my home and/or family. Picking a solid, catchy name from the beginning is key.

3. Pick a Hosting Site and Template
Most bloggers either host their blogs on Blogger or Wordpress, both of which have advantages and disadvantages, for example Blogger is free and Wordpress is not. You can select which you would like (google "blogger vs. wordpress" for some more information) and create a blog at your preferred location. You can then buy a pre-made template inexpensively with all the HTML online or from Etsy (unless you are very experienced in it) that you will then input in to your blog's formatting and it will set up your blog to have the exact look you want, including the font, layout, and more, without having to write all the HTML yourself. If you hire a professional web designer you are going to pay much more, but you can find some pretty simple and classy layouts on Etsy for $30 or less. The easier your blog is to navigate, the better. I always lean toward a black and white theme, lots of white space, and easy to read fonts, because it is not only better for my readers but also more professional, something to consider when you begin approaching brands.

4. Start Blogging!
This may seem obvious, but the only way to build a blog and following is to start blogging. Decide what you want to focus your blog on, which should go hand in hand with your blog title, and start. Even if you have no one reading your first few posts, keep writing. I'm pretty sure less than 10 people followed me on instagram when I first began and my photos would get like 3 likes. Ha. Don't let that discourage you if you are starting with no one following along. Remember that ultimately you are doing this for yourself, as a creative outlet, or a way to connect with others, or to document your journey as a Mom. While blogging is a lot of work (and a lot more than I think most people realize), I blog because I love doing it. I've always told myself if I ever get to a point where I no longer love what I'm doing, I will stop. 

5. Put Yourself Out There
This is one of the hardest parts when first starting because it can be scary to share who you are and what you are writing about for fear of being judged or criticized, but creating social media accounts that go along with your blog -- or picking one specific account to focus most on (mine would be instagram) -- is a great way to begin making your blog known, and connecting with other bloggers to collaborate and build a following. Having a go-to social media platform that aligns with your blog (for example, with a similar name or the same name) will be the foundation for building your brand, cross-promoting your blog posts and working with other brands. Influencer-marketing is so huge right now and is primarily done on instagram, so if you are unsure of what social media platform to pursue, that is a great place to start. After you create an instagram account, you can begin by following bloggers you love and whose style you admire. Just by following along with them you will learn tips and tricks along the way. Being active and engaging with those you follow and those who follow you is another way to become better known. Remember that growth for your blog or instagram doesn't happen overnight, but if you continually put forth genuine, authentic content, you will be seen and become known.


summertime essentials & more

Happy Friday! I'm pretty sure my blog thinks I have broken up with it because I don't think 2 weeks between posts has happened since I started blogging in 2014, not even when one of my girls was born!! My time catching up here is totally lacking these days, as we are out and about almost 7 days a week, enjoying the beach or park or backyard, pool party playdates and then spending time as a family in the evenings when Dustin is home from work. I am just trying to soak up every bit of summertim! So if you're still here I appreciate you sticking with me and hope you have been enjoying your summer as much as we have!!

So a few things I want to share today! First of all, even though it's almost August (seriously??), we have about 5 more weeks of summertime here before Olivia starts her 2nd year of preschool in mid-September. So I wanted to share my favorite summer essentials, most (if not all) of which work year-round! 

I also wanted to get feedback from you guys on what posts you'd really like to see as we move toward Fall, both here on my blog, on instagram @blessednestblog and in my instastories. Do you want to see more easy weeknight recipes like I've been posting? More motherhood stuff? Natural lifestyle? More on children's books? Our schedule as a family of 5? Our home? Can you guys please do me a huge favor and leave a comment below with some of the things that are most important to you so I can be sure this space is always filled with what you most enjoy seeing and reading!

And last but not least, I wanted to share a little bit about something that is close to my heart. A local friend of mine, Jen Jacobs, is an incredible Mama to 4 little ones (ranging from 8 months to 5 years) and was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, with a tumor near her brainstem that is inoperable. There is going to be a huge auction held on instagram @forjenjacobs, from August 25-30. There will be so many incredible items to bid on, including a 4Moms Moxi stroller (for those of you who entered my giveaway but didn't win), baby carriers and slings, clothing and accessories from the best of the best baby + kid shops, gift cards donated by so many neat brands, and more! So if you are looking to get a few new items for Fall, baby gear or something for yourself or a gift, you can do so by bidding at the end of August and supporting Jen and her beautiful family because 100% of proceeds go directly to her. You can follow along with the auction page here and updates will be posted on there!!

Top 10 Summertime Essentials

We have 3 mats from Gathre and we love them all. We have one maxi circle, which we primarily use in our backyard (since it's pretty big to haul around) and then we have two midi squares (a floral print and a grid print) and I bring them everywhere. They are the perfect size for me and the girls when we go to the park, beach, on a picnic, etc. All 5 of us can fit on the midi size but if you're looking to really spread out (6-8 people), the maxi is perfect for that, just not quite as portable unless you have an extra big basket in your stroller or an extra set of hands ;)

Our favorite place for finding gorgeous heirloom quality bonnets is Briar Handmade, and the added brim on many of their bonnets is perfect for summertime sunshine. One of my favs for Della is this Rust one, totally gender neutral and such a timeless color. We have so many Briar bonnets that we've had since Olivia was a baby, so it's been fun to pass them down to Poppy and Della as they grow.

Melissa & Doug Sand Toys. The girls could probably spend the entire day playing in the sand, whether at the beach or our favorite local nature center that has a huge area for sand & water play (where we were yesterday on a playdate!). I recently picked up these sand toys and the girls are loving them: seaside nesting sand pailssandbloxsand baking set and sand cookie set

For sand toy storage, I am loving this beach mesh bag, perfect for shaking out the sand and it folds up into itself to save space.

This Wet-Dry Bag is perfect for all our summertime outings; I also love that it's super neutral and totally practical.

I searched high and low for the perfect beach bag that would fit not only suits and multiple beach towels, but a small cooler for mine and the girls' lunches, the girls' water bottles, extra clothes, snacks (of course), beach shoes and more and I settled on this Saltwater Canvas one. I ordered it in June and love it so much; many of my friends have ordered their own after seeing mine. Rather inexpensive, so functional and easy to clean/shake out before leaving the beach.

This lunch box for packing mine and my girls' lunches for a day out and about. My glass containers stack perfectly and there is still room for icepacks. I love that there is a zipper pocket in front, which I store a travel pack of our fav Parasol wipes and extra utensils. Then there is a mesh pocked on one side, where I can put snacks that I don't want to get cold or crushed inside, like pouches, apple chips, crackers etc. Lightweight and just the right amount of space for day trips.

We spend a lot of time in the backyard and the girls are always wanting to sit on our patio chairs but for Poppy they are still a bit too big. I picked up these Melissa and Doug folding lawn chairs for the girls (matching of course, as to avoid any arguments of who sits in which) and even though they are little bright for my taste, the girls LOVE them and I love that they collapse for easy storage, unlike most kid chairs that are stuck the size they are and then need to be stored all winter long. They come in a few styles, just scroll down to the bottom of the linked page to see all the options!

This flower sprinkler

This blow up pool. The sprinkler and pool are two of the girls' favorite purchases all summer. Fun fact: I didn't have an air pump on hand when I was trying to get the pool set up for the girls one morning and Dustin was at work, so I decided to get creative to use my Dyson hair dryer to blow it up and you guys, it was amazing!! I used it on the level 3 power (the highest) and coldest temp setting and in minutes it was set to go. So if you're ever without an air pump, give your hairdryer a try!

Hope you guys are having the best summer and enjoying every minute!! I may not be on my computer or phone as much as I used to but I know I'll never look back on this summer and feel I missed out. I will remember this time as always being right there next to my girls, watching them make memories, getting my hands wet, my feet in the sand and just being present with the three little ones that mean the very most to me. And blogging during nap time ;) I hope you are able to do the same!! Have a wonderful weekend! XO


friday favorites

Happy Friday! It seemed like Monday dragged on with the girls' interesting behavior... (seriously, was there a full moon??) and then the rest of the week  just flew, and I can't believe Friday is already here!! We spent all day at the beach and on a nature walk with friends (11 kids total and 4 of us Moms) and now the girls are napping so I'm catching up on laundry before we dinnertime.

Here are a few Friday favorites to kick off your weekend!

one | Our favorite Briar Handmade bonnets are on sale this weekend for their semiannual sale, so it's the perfect time to stock up. All 3 of our girls have worn these since birth, and they are timeless and heirloom quality, so they are the perfect keepsake to pass down from child to child. There are lots of gender neutral options and the brimmed bonnets are perfect for Summer! To shop their sale, simply visit the website, pick your favorites and checkout, no code needed. All the prices are already reflective of the discounts and domestic shipping is also free.

two | I absolutely love this newly released quilt from Little Unicorn and am 150% sure if I ever had a baby boy, it would be my first purchase for him. I grew up going fishing all the time with my Grandpa and I love the simplicity of the quilt, the serene colors, everything! 

three | Our favorite classic & simple bows for Adaline are from Billy Bibs. They come in a regular and mini size, and Della wears the regular but the mini would be so sweet on newborn babies. We love everything from Billy Bibs, including the gorgeous handmade bibs, but the bow sets are just so darling and make a thoughtful gift for showers and new Mamas. You can save 15% off your total purchase through the end of July using code BLESSEDNEST15 at checkout!

four | Our favorite backyard sprinkler for summertime

five | I picked up these jammies for Olivia and Penelope and these for Della to match earlier this week when Gap had an additional 40% off the sale prices. The sizes are pretty picked over now but they are so cute!! Poppy loves Minnie Mouse, even though she has never watched the cartoon or really seen anything about her. There is also a long sleeve version here for cooler weather ahead this Fall and a matching footed version here and both those you can grab at 40% off since they're not already on sale, using the code NOW at checkout. Always be sure to enter the code PLUS10 at checkout if you're a cardholder to get an extra 10% off every purchase. AND if you're a Silver cardholder, you can select the 3-5 day shipping option for $7, enter the code MYCARD at checkout and it will take the $7 off so you get free shipping, no minimum, on every order.

six | On Mondays in July you can get a free kids meal with the purchase of any burrito/salad or order of tacos at all participating Chipotle restaurants! That is one of our favorite spots for quick, quality Mexican food and being able to get the girls' meals free is just a bonus!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!! XO

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