September 2014 Income Report: $343.55

bsincomeseptlogoI’ve been blogging for a little over a year now, and I decided the time was right to start monetizing bottlesoup.com. As I began the process, it was important to me that my readers didn’t feel bombarded by advertisements and sponsored posts. I wanted my audience to feel like they were still receiving the same great, snarky content. In short, I wanted the advertising to be minimal and effective.
In July 2014, I began researching which advertising networks I wanted to use and signed up accordingly (Linqia is my new favorite). Registering and getting approved for different advertising venues can be a long process, so if you plan to start monetizing your blog expect a waiting list before you can truly begin earning money on your blog.
I am very lucky to be a part of the Inspired Bloggers Network, and although I am not a Christian blogger by any means (let’s face it, I’m a closet Atheist who would really rather not get into a religious debate with anyone) I was welcomed into their group with open arms. These ladies and gentlemen are serious, professional bloggers and I love all the advice I’ve received from being a part of their clique. Around the time I was really starting to monetize my blog, Tabitha Day Philen of MeetPenny.com and founder of the Inspired Bloggers Network (IBN), graciously began a Monetize 45 blogger boot camp for all those involved with the IBN. I eagerly read each email and was truly humbled by the experience. I still have a lot to learn about blogging, but here’s what I really took away from Monetize 45:

• You can reasonably expect 10% income growth per month, and you should make that your goal.
• Income is contingent on page views, and page views are contingent on quality, consistent content and diligent marketing
• You can do everything right and still only make $0.03 a month
As disheartening as the last bullet point sounds, I am one of those incredibly stubborn “the rules don’t apply to me” types, and I took it upon myself to just go for it.
July & August were rough. I didn’t have any real guidance from Monetize 45 yet, and I was just sort of winging it. In July, I earned $90.28 from a combination of referral credits, free products, sponsored posts, and cash. August proved more challenging, and I actually made less than I did in July (a mere $70.43, most of which was referral credits from Diapers.com). I felt pretty beat, but I kept reading other blogger’s stories and given my steadily growing traffic, I was determined not to fail.
I’m glad I didn’t give up, because October is proving to be a more profitable month than July and August already. But, this post is about September, and I’m happy to report that in September I hit it out of the ballpark earning $343.55 from my blogging skills alone. Here’s how I did it:

  • Influenster
    • I joined Influenster over the summer, but I didn’t receive my first VoxBox until September. It was from Victoria’s Secret and valued at over $115. Do I count this as income? Absolutely! I needed a new bra and more yoga pants, anyway. If you want to join Influenster, just as me for an invite.
  • Diapers.com
    • I earned $10 in referral credits from diapers.com, and I can use that on any one of their websites. So far, I’ve earned $180 in referral credits and I’ve used it to purchase formula, toys, stroller parts, and even coffee. This is probably my favorite referral credit program as it’s incredibly easy to use and very reader friendly (your code gives first time users a 20% discount off their entire purchase, mine is CASS1062, if you need anything ;) ).
  • SheSpeaks
    • $26 in Aveda products. I use Aveda hair care products, so this was an awesome blogger bonus for me.
  • Google Adsense
    • $3.67 in advertising revenue. This was my first month really using Adsense, so I’m happy with that. Plus, October is already looking a lot better!
  • Freelance Writing
    • $188.88. You might be asking, “What does freelancing have to do with blogging. In short, my expertise as a blogger is what provides me with the opportunity to freelance.

This brings my grand total to $343.55 earned in September 2014.

I hope this post is helpful to other new bloggers who are starting the monetization process. If you’re a blogger with some tips & tricks, I’d love to hear from you! Look for October 2014’s report next month :)

Le Creuset + $100 Walmart Gift Card Thanksgiving Giveaway!

I’m very excited to offer my readers our first giveaway ever! I’ve partnered with the Inspired Bloggers Network to give you a chance to win a Le Creuset Dutch Oven or a KitchenAid Mixer, two great prizes each valued at over $500. All you have to do is follow the instructions below to enter. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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During this season of Thanksgiving, the Inspired Bloggers Network is full of gratitude for our readers. Without the faithful support of those who follow us on our blogs and social media, we would be unable to do what we love. So, thank you!

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Inspired Thanksgiving Giveaway Bundle #1

1 – Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven, Cherry

1 – $100 Walmart Gift Card

To enter both giveaways, please complete the Rafflecopter information below and then click on over to enter for a chance to win Bundle #2: KitchenAid Stand Mixer and $100 Walmart Gift Card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Must be 18 or older to enter. US only. Giveaway is open from October 19, 2014 through November 2, 2014 11:59 PM PST. Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond or forfeit the prize to another winner. Prizes will be shipped directly from the vendor to the winner no later than one week after the winner’s verification.

salmoncakespin

Salmon Cakes with Mixed Sweet Peppers and a Lemon Dill Creme Fraiche

salmoncakespinWant something elegant, easy, delicious, and healthy? Is that too good to be true?

Make a Salmon Cake!

I know what you’re thinking…salmon cakes? Isn’t it only supposed to be crab cakes?

No.

Any delicious fish belongs in crushed cracker meal mixed with a lightly beaten egg. And what’s the best part about this recipe? If you know how to make this cake, you can substitute any seafood you want. You learn one cake, you learn them all–you could probably make ten different renditions of this and still be considered some chef savant.

Make it fancy and add lobster. Go frugal and add tilapia, flounder, or tuna. The possibilities are endless. As long as it’s a fresh and flaky fish, it will work for this recipe. I promise.

This could be placed over a bed of peppery arugula as an appetizer, you can eat it as a meal with soup, or you can make it a sandwich. I think it’s great as a light lunch or a dinner appetizer.

Salmon Cakes with Mixed Sweet Peppers and a Lemon Dill Creme Fraiche Recipe:

salmoncakes

Cast of Characters:

1/2 pound fresh salmon
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups small-diced celery (4 stalks)
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay
1 sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (I live Olive Oil based ones)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

Showtime:

1.) Sauté peppers and parsley in olive oil and butter for fifteen minutes. Sprinkle Old Bay, Lea & Perrin’s (Worchestershire sauce), salt, and pepper on vegetables. Remove and let cool after softened.

2.) Meanwhile, roast salmon for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in a toaster oven or regular oven with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Flake with a fork when cooled.  In other words, use the fork to pull the salmon apart in short, upward motions. If you’re feeling lazy, you can also stick the salmon in the microwave for about four minutes (assuming slightly thawed)–it’s being mixed up, so you could very well skip the roasting part. Your choice!

3.) Stick flaked salmon in refrigerator.

4.) Meanwhile, mush up one sleeve (about one cup) of Ritz crackers to a pulsed bread crumb. Lightly beat two eggs into breadcrumbs. Also, put in mayo and Dijon mustard.

5.) When vegetables and salmon are cooled, mix in with aforementioned mixture. Then using an ice cream scooper, round off cakes onto a plate. Chill cakes for at least a half an hour to keep consistency.

6.) After chilling, put olive oil (only a few tablespoons, but be sure the whole pan is coated with oil–do not deep fry) and heat at medium. If desired, grab cakes and round off with hands and flatten. If it feels very soft, it’s okay–they’ll come out moist and will remain together as they cook!

7.) When oil is ready, place cakes in oil.  Flip once after three to four minutes, and drain them on a paper towel. You can use a work to flip them, however, be sure to creep underneath to make sure you’re cooking them only to a nice, golden brown.

8.) Place on a bed of peppery arugula. Stare and admire their beauty.

Lemon Dill Creme Fraiche

For the sauce, mix half a cup of sour cream or Creme Fraiche and two to three tablespoons of fresh dill.  Honestly, it’s okay if you don’t have Creme Fraiche–it’s a less sour, thicker, fattier French version of sour cream. Squeeze a quarter of a lemon, and add two tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Salt and pepper to taste.  It tastes a little slightly acidic alone, so make sure as you are tasting it that you are trying it with the salmon cake. Put light dollop onto Salmon Cake. Presentation is key!

crockpotshrimpfradiavolo

Crock Pot Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Angel Hair Pasta

Since all but one burner is broken on my stovetop, I’ve been getting creative with my crockpot. When I planned to make Shrimp Fra Diavolo, my first thought was, “Seafood in the crock pot? Shrimp in the crock pot?!” I thought it was impossible.

I thought wrong.

With just 5 ingredients and 2 hours, you can make this delicious, spicy Italian seafood pasta dish in your crockpot. The best part: only one pot to clean from cooking.

 

Crockpot Shrimp Fra Diavolo

This spicy Italian seafood pasta dish can be made with one-pot clean up in your crockpot.

        Crockpot Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound frozen de-tailed, deveined shrimp
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta, dry
  • 1.5 jars tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder

Instructions:

    Line bottom of crockpot with sauce, add half of the crushed red pepper flakes and garlic. Next, add angel hair pasta layered with more sauce, then frozen shrimp, the rest of the crushed red pepper flakes and garlic, and the rest of the sauce.

Serves 6

Preparation time:

5 min

Total time:

2 hours, 5 minutes

24 Tips For Making Your Home Smarter and More Efficient

24waystoreduce

With a toddler and baby #2 on the way, we’re looking to move out of our cozy 1 bedroom apartment soon. House hunting has brought its own unique set of stresses and questions, but it has also been very educational. There are so many things I’ve learned about making your house more efficient and functional, and I decided to share my newfound knowledge with you today. And, before I forget, a HUGE thanks to Direct Energy for sponsoring today’s post.

1. Upgrade your lighting to energy efficient bulbs

2. Install Smart Power strips

3. Replace old appliances

4. Reduce water heater temperature (from 140 to 120 and save 15% a year on utility bills)

5. Change your furnace filter every three months

unplug

6. Unplug electronics when not in use (saves over $100/year!)

7. Properly seal and insulate your home

8. Invest in a Nest Learning Thermostat/Direct Energy Smart Thermostat. The Nest Learning Thermostat is probably my favorite new energy efficient tool. You can set the Nest to your comfort level and adjust as needed. Eventually, the Nest learns from you, which is super cool, and makes keeping your home comfortable so easy! Direct Energy is giving away a Nest Learning Thermostat ($249 value) – it doesn’t hurt to try and apply!

9. See if your energy company offers rebates for energy efficient upgrades

10. Install dual pane windows

11. Reduce the sun’s impact on your heating and cooling bill by adding a reflective film to windows

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12. Use ceiling fans for better air circulation

13. Buy solar powered outdoor lighting

14. Switch to low-flow shower heads, faucets, and toilets

15. Securely insulate any unfinished areas of the house such as the attic, garage, and basement

16. Add smartphone controlled outlets to your home to make sure small appliances and lights are shut off when away from the house

17. Keep curtains closed and invest in blackout or insulating window treatments

18. Grill outside in the summer months instead of fighting your AC with a hot oven

19. Check air ducts for leaks

20. Close off unused rooms such as guest rooms or infrequently used libraries

21. Block unused vents with magnetic vent covers

22. Plant trees or place landscaping outside where the sun hits your home the hardest in order to reduce energy output

23. Install a smart sprinkler system that uses the weather report from your smart phone to adjust the watering needs of your foliage

24. Use automated pet feeders to dispense precisely measured food and water to pets (convenient and efficient!)

 

In the spirit of creating a more energy efficient, smart home, Direct Energy is hosting a sweepstakes where 5 lucky winners will have the chance to win Nest Learning Thermostats (a $249 value)!

To enter the sweepstakes, visit the campaign landing page and simply fill out the entry form. How easy is that?

The giveaway will take place from Wednesday, October 1st to Wednesday, October 22nd. Winners will be selected in Mid-November.

butternutsquashrisottopin

Romantic Fall Butternut Squash Risotto

butternutsquashrisottopinI don’t know what it is about risotto, which is an Italian rice…

Risotto literally means rice, but it is so much more than that!

It’s rich, creamy, and thick–it’s flavorful and hearty.

And somehow, without a lick of heavy cream or flour to thicken it.

The thing about Risotto is, you need patience and a day where you have nothing else better to do. Save this for a romantic occasion, or maybe just a lifeless rainy day. If you don’t mind standing by the stove for an hour, then by all means, do it during the week. Just make sure you check your planner and have no other obligations for a solid 2 hours.

Why is it so delicious? It requires every bit of effort on your part. You remember how your mom told you her secret to cooking was love? Well, love requires dedication, and making any risotto is a prime example of putting one’s heart into cooking. The reason it is so thick and rich is because the process of making risotto allows for the rice’s natural properties of starch slowly releasing. That is the key to risotto; don’t rush it! The actually process of stirring isn’t difficult; it’s the patience one needs to make it.

To be honest, I didn’t want to post this recipe at first because most of you are busy and probably feel like something like a “gourmet” rice isn’t worth the effort, but believe me–it screams fall and comfort and is worth the effort! I will certainly post other risotto recipes that do not have butternut squash, but since I just made it, here’s the first of the many varieties of risotto. Here’s how to do it…

Romantic Butternut Squash Risotto

Cast of Characters:

1 small butternut squash

1 small yellow onion (optional)

6-8 cups of chicken stock

3 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil

2 cups of risotto rice (carnaroli)**DO NOT JUST USE ANY RICE!

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 bunch of chopped parsley

castofcharactersrisotto

Only Italian’s finest ingredients…

 

Directions:

1.) Cut the stem end of the squash with a really well sharpened, serrated knife.

cutthestem

Yes, I have a watermelon knife. Don’t judge me.

2.) After cutting the stem, use a vegetable peeler (or a good knife–just don’t cut yourself) and remove the skin.

3.) After removing the skin, slice the butternut squash lengthwise. **WARNING–THE SQUASH IS TOUGH TO CUT! BE CAREFUL!**

4.) Scoop out the seeds and pulp.

squashseeds

Scoop the seeds and pulp, please!

If you’re not really into butternut squash like I am, you can use only half and get a result like this…

lighterrisotto

Here’s the lighter risotto; equally delicious, just less butternutty.

But if you want the rich blend of butternut squash as opposed to peppered chucks, dice up both halves. Dice the desired amount of squash into 1/2 inch cubes. **During this time, you should also dice up the onion, if desired. I made it once without the onion and it tasted fine, but I think squash and sauteed onions go so well! Throw garlic if you have it–why not?

6.) After dicing, pour your 6-8 cups (I say make 8–it’s better to have more in case it thickens too quickly) of chicken stock into a sauce pan and keep to a simmer at a medium heat. Be careful not to have it too hot–it will evaporate into nothing!

bothcookingrisottostock

Aren’t they a cute couple?

7.) While the stock is heating up, fry your onions in the three tablespoons of butter or olive oil on medium high heat. In about three minutes, throw a 1/8th of a cup of water to make the onions smelt into a caramelized, yummy state. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking.

garliconionssauteed

You don’t need garlic, but really, when can you NOT use garlic in savory Italian dinner?

8.) When the onion is well caramelized, throw in the diced butternut squash and spread out evenly. Feel free to throw more olive oil and butter–why not? Stir occasionally until golden brown.

9.) In about 5-8 minutes, throw another 1/4 cup of water and watch the butternut squash sizzle in glory…mmm! The squash should be tender in about 10-15 minutes.

sizzingsquash

Help! I’m melting!

10.) As you are tossing occasionally, use a potato masher or the side of a wooden spoon to mash up the butternut squash. Leave it in whole chunks if you only used half, or if you used the full squash, mush it to a paste.

11.) Once your squash is mushed up and tender, it’s time for the pain in the butt part–the risotto. At this point, you stir in your two cups of risotto and crack your pepper and throw down your salt (DO NOT COOK THE RISOTTO PREVIOUSLY–IT WILL COOK IN HERE!)

It looks sesame-y and weird--but it's just the beginning. I posted this so you don't feel like you messed up! :)

It looks sesame-y and weird–but it’s just the beginning. I posted this so you don’t feel like you messed up! :)

Okay I am going to stop with the numbers for a second–READ carefully and EXECUTE patiently…

You are only allowed to add one to two ladles of stock at a time. If you pour too much at once, you will stop the cooking and have undercooked rice and mucky soup. Gross.

cooked squash and stock

All mushed up and ready to thicken into the rice…

Stir the rice consistently and slowly pour in one to two ladles of stock at a time. I say add every 30 seconds roughly–you will get a knack for it. Once you see the rice is absorbing the liquid, slowly add more and stir. Don’t walk away. Don’t call your friends. You are a slave to the stove for another half hour or so, sorry.

12.) About halfway through, add some more crackin’ pepper and slammin’ salt. Keep stirring–you can do it, tiger! At this point, you have about another 15-20 minutes, sorry boss. Stir and ladle, stir and ladle. You’ll see progress, though. It’s looking so rich and decadent–you just can’t wait, but you absolutely have to!

Tip: Make sure your pan is wide and that you are spreading out the rice so there’s one even layer; otherwise, you will have some al dente pieces, some overcooked, and some mush. Don’t be lazy! Do it right!

13.) In about 15 minutes, taste for doneness. It should be al-dente, or “to the tooth.” Not hard, not soft–just right.

Tip: You know it’s done when you can drag a wooden spoon and there’s a line made in the pan.

Once you are done, add some more salt and pepper. The chicken stock should provide plenty of flavor, but depending on your stock, you’ll probably need a tad more. Mix in your Parmesan cheese…mmm. It’s going to be gooey and awesome. Then chop up some fresh parsley. My recommendation? Just peel off the tops because the stems can be bitter. Peel off the tops and do a rough chop, and bam (sorry Emeril)! You are finished. Phew.

Go get ‘em tiger.

Eat it out of the pan for all I care--you earned it!

Eat it out of the pan for all I care–you earned it!

 

pumpkinspicelattepin

The Pumpkin Phenomena–Pumpkin Spice Lattes

 

It’s ubiquitous.

It’s obnoxious.

It’s Pumpkin Season.

I think we’ve all seen these memes and other status updates that shows us how much profit is to be made in fall…

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Now as much as I would love to criticize you all for jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon…

I would be a hypocrite; I am totally obsessed too. I love fall for the cute, comfy sweaters, scrunchy boots, decorative scarves, but most of all….

falloutfit1

I love it for all the drink and food inspiration. What better time of year to start making those homemade delicacies? It’s about classic comfort foods. But does it have to be “the same ol’ thing?” Absolutely not! In the comments section feel free to let me know what you would be interested in learning how to make that is fall oriented. I am thinking about loads of different pastas, side dishes, and soups through butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, apples, and other lovely fruits and vegetables!

For my next few posts, I’ll be presenting a few twists to your familiar favorites. But to warm you guys up, today I will give you my Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe that I’ve been using to start up my crisp, fall mornings.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

pumpkinspicelatte

Cast of Characters (for two large servings):

4 tablespoons of sugar

2 1/2-3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree, Libby’s (you could even put more depending on your LOVE of pumpkin!)

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon of ginger

2 1/4 cups of milk

1/2 cup of espresso (or strong coffee if you do not have espresso!)

copious amounts of whipped cream

Directions: Get a small sauce pan, turn on the stove to medium, and put in sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger into the sauce pan. Slowly pour 2 1/4 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of espresso. Whisk thoroughly for at least 8-10 minutes.  Make sure you do not let it boil over! Serve hot with copious amounts of whipped cream and sprinkled nutmeg on top!

Tip: Try to use clear mason jar glasses for the coffeehouse effect.

Tune in tomorrow for Butternut Squash Risotto–yum!

Peace for the love of fall,

Blasia Modawar

 

 

Stovetop Pumpkin Spice Latte

Delicious and crave-worthly PSL; it’s like autumn in a mug!

         PSL
Ingredients:

  • 4 T sugar
  • 2.5 T pumpkin puree
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup espresso (or strong coffee)

Instructions:

    Get a small sauce pan, turn on the stove to medium, and put in sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger into the sauce pan. Slowly pour 2 1/4 cups of milk and 1/2 cup of espresso. Whisk thoroughly for at least 8-10 minutes. Make sure you do not let it boil over! Serve hot with copious amounts of whipped cream and sprinkled nutmeg on top!

Serves 2

Preparation time:

10min

Total time:

20min


8.2/10 from
200 users.

How to Eat & Drink at Starbucks For Free

StarbuckspinStarbucks: home of the unsubstantiated “$5 cup of coffee”. Although many people complain about how expensive Starbucks is, the facts are 1) it’s really not and 2) it’s really delicious. Anyway, it wouldn’t matter if Starbucks did sell a regular coffee for $5, because I’m about to tell you how to get almost anything on the menu completely free. Yeah, you want to read this article.

So, how do you get to eat and drink at Starbucks cafes for free? The equation is relatively simple: coupons + grocery store + Starbucks reward card = free Starbucks.

This week, starting Sept. 14, 2014, Target is running a sale on Starbucks coffee: buy 3 Starbucks coffee products, get a free $5 Target gift card. At Target, a bag of Starbucks coffee retails for $6.99/each. If you subtract the value of the Target gift card, that makes each bag $5.33. Wait, you’re saying, that’s not free! No, it’s not. Not yet.

In order to make the most out of your Target deal, you can use Starbucks coupons on top of the $5 gift card promo. Coupons.com is offering $2 off Starbucks coffee coupons when you buy 2 packages. This brings the cost of coffee down to $4.33/bag. Buy 6 bags of coffee, get $10 in gift cards and $6 in coupon savings. You can buy enough Starbucks and earn enough Target gift cards to make buying the coffee with the coupons and the deal completely free, or you can buy other gift card promo products and use your gift cards to buy the coffee. Either way, this will make your Starbucks grocery store coffee free.

So, how does this translate to free food & drinks at Starbucks locations?

Well, first, you need to get a Starbucks rewards card. How do you do that? Simple. Sign up here. In fact, if you sign up, you’ll get a free Starbucks drink when you purchase 2 packages of Starbucks coffee in the grocery store (which you’re already doing). And then you’ll be eligible to earn free food & drinks every 12 stars earned (1 star per purchase). But wait, there’s more: this week, Starbucks is offering its reward card members a very special promo:

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This means instead of getting 1 star for every Starbucks grocery store purchase, you’ll earn 2.5 (as long as you buy in increments of 2). So, if you buy 6 packages of Starbucks coffee at Target, you’ll “spend” $25.98. You’ll also get $10 in Target gift cards, bringing your cost down to $15.98. But, you’ve already earned a free Starbucks drink just buy signing up for a rewards card. You can get any size, any kind handcrafted Starbucks beverage for free. Order a Venti (20oz) or a Trenta (iced only, 31oz), go crazy with extra shots of espresso, syrups, and other add ons, and get yourself a $8 latte or frappuccino. This brings your “cost” down to $7.98. And, now that you’ve bought 6 packages of coffee with 2.5 times the rewards, you’ve earned 15 rewards Stars, which means you’ve brought your total cost to -$0.02. You could also use your reward to purchase any food or beverage, and you’ll earn a free food or drink for every 12 Stars. Tip: don’t order large, expensive drinks to earn your 12 Stars; get a regular hot or iced coffee or tea, and spend less than $2. Take advantage of other reward options and perks Starbucks gives card holders, like 50% off food or 50% off espresso to get your rewards. Order what you like, do every transaction separately, and even out the cost by using your free rewards to your advantage. Most of all, enjoy your Free Starbucks experience! :)

Victoria’s Secret Sports Collection? Yes, Please!

This is a sponsored blog post. Influenster provided me with complimentary Victoria’s Secret products to test and review as part of a contest.

I received my first VoxBox from Influenster today and SURPRISE! it was filled with amazing stuff from Victoria’s Secret’s Sports collection. The Incredible by Victoria’s Secret sports bra and Knockout crop pants are both comfortable and stylish. Although I don’t think VS exactly had a pregnant mom in mind when it sent me a VoxBox, I am so very glad that I was selected. The Incredible by Victoria’s Secret Sports Bra definitely lives up to its name. It is the most comfortable bra I’ve ever worn during pregnancy, bar none. I am in love. The Knockout crop pants are also fabulous for chasing around my very active toddler.

#VSSportsBra #VoxBox

#VSSportsBra #VoxBox

What I really, really love about the Incredible by VS Sports Bra is that unlike a traditional sports bra, this one includes a clasp, similar to regular bras, so you can make it as tight or as loose as the size allows. This means that instead of throwing away this bra after a few workouts because of an ill-fitting strap, the Incredible by VS will actually last! It’s great for high intensity workouts, and the wick-away fabric keeps you cool and comfortable.

In my opinion, VS’s sports bras, pants, and other items are absolutely worth the money. I can’t wait to add to my collection. I’ve used lots of other big name brands in the past, but I’ve never instantly fallen in love with a sports bra the way I did with the Incredible by VS Sports Bra. Amaze-balls!

britaxpinterest

How to Choose The Best Baby Products For a Growing Family

When it comes to registering for a shower and purchasing baby goods, first-time parents are often overwhelmed by the amount of things they need and the selection of products. If you’ve never had a baby, how do you know what you’ll need (or how much of it you should buy)? The answer depends on finances and family planning. In my case, I knew we were planning to have more children in the near future, and although I tried desperately to choose the best products that would hold up from first baby to last baby, I didn’t know what I was doing. I ended up exchanging things, buying different products, and agonizing over purchases long after our first baby was born. In this post, I’m going to share what I’ve learned along with some sage advice from other moms. This article will help you choose the best baby gear for a growing family.

1. Picking The Right Stroller

To Travel-System or Not To Travel-System

For my firstborn, I registered for a travel system stroller. At the time, it seemed like a great idea: a stroller that easily accommodated the infant carseat so shopping trips were click and go.


Britax 2014 B-Agile and B-Safe Travel System, Black

What I Didn’t Know

What I didn’t know about travel systems are that the carseats are usually great, but the stroller often leaves much to be desired. In my case, the Britax B-Agile was actually a fantastic stroller, but it didn’t suit my needs as a new mom with a very large baby and another on the way. I didn’t know that my son would outgrow the infant carseat so quickly, and at 5 months old I didn’t feel that he was big enough to be sitting in a forward-facing stroller. (He didn’t either, as he screamed every time my husband or I went out of his view to push the stroller.) I began thinking about investing in a new stroller that could accommodate two small children, and I found the Britax B-Ready. It fulfilled all of my wants and needs in a stroller: easy click and go for an infant seat, parent-facing toddler seat, and the ability to accommodate two babies (or toddlers!) at once. I wondered why I hadn’t bought this stroller in the first place, but then I realized like many other FTMs I was overwhelmed by the stroller selection and thought a stroller + carseat sounded like a fantastic deal. Instead, I ended up buying two strollers, and, later, a convertible carseat. (We’ll get to that, later.)


Britax B-Ready Stroller, Red

 

2. How to Find the Perfect and Safe Crib

And One That Won’t Break the Bank, Too!

I fell in love with a crib at Buy Buy Baby. Unfortunately, Clark was a Hurricane Sandy baby, and my dream crib was sold out and on backorder for months. So, with just a few weeks until my due date, I needed to find a new crib.


Stokke Sleepi Crib, Walnut Brown

What I Didn’t Know
What I didn’t know about infant cribs is that just because a crib is expensive doesn’t mean the quality or safety is any better than a much more affordable crib. The unavailability of my chosen crib forced me to look for a safe, cheap alternative while awaiting my other order. I discovered that Ikea’s cribs have very high safety ratings, and all of the Ikea crib options are under $150. I picked an Ikea Malm crib that went with our bedroom set, and I loved it – so much so that I never ended up buying that fancy, luxury crib. The best part? It easily lowered and then converted to a toddler bed, so I will get years of use out of my inexpensive crib purchase. Win-win.

3. Infant Carseat vs. Convertible Carseat

Which One Is Right For You

This question is confusing for first-time parents and been-there-done-that parents alike. Do you buy two carseats in a short period of time, or do you buy one that’s supposed to work into toddler-age. Is there a “right” answer?


Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Total Black

What I Didn’t Know
The carseat debate is a tough one. If you’re extremely frugal and know you won’t have 2 under two years old, you might be tempted to buy the convertible carseat and use it right away. However, some hospitals will not accept a convertible carseat as a proper infant carseat. This is because some hospitals require you to bring the carseat into the hospital and strap the newborn into the seat in the presence of a nurse or doctor. Aside from this, one of the benefits of an infant carseat is, in fact, the ability to remove the seat and take the baby with you. You can easily clip the seat into a stroller or carry the baby inside during cold weather. Another advantage is that if your baby is sleeping, you can bring the seat inside or in the store without disturbing nap time. Although it’s never a good idea to keep an infant in a carseat for an extended period of time, an extra 5-10 minutes for you to put groceries away or run a quick errand is enough for most parents to feel temporarily rejuvenated.


Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat, Black

4. Nursery Bedding

A Reminder That Infant Safety Comes First

Lots of first-time parents go crazy over finding the perfect crib bedding set for their baby’s nursery. There are so many different styles to choose from, but safe sleeping practices must take priority over the cute factor.


GEENNY Boutique Crib Bedding Set, Beautiful Black White Flower and Dot, 13 Piece

What I Didn’t Know
Cute nursery bedding sets are, for the most part, a huge waste of money. Crib bumpers, at least the ones that aren’t mesh and are included in crib bedding sets, are not safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that crib bumpers contribute to SIDs risk. Aside from the crib bumpers, infants are not supposed to use any blankets; the only source of warmth should come from pajamas and sleeping sacks/securely wrapped swaddling blankets.


BreathableBaby Breathable Mesh Crib Liner, White

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