book recommendations: nonfiction and personal development

I'm the type of person that reads multiple books at once. I like to have a fiction book, a personal development book, and a devotional book all in rotation on my nightstand. I often feel like there is too much information in the world, and I want to devour it all at once! I can't choose just one book to read!

I have noticed that my reading has decreased since having my second child. I think the reason is that I have become very protective of my free time, and I don't want to invest myself in a book if it's only going to disappoint me. My favorite way to choose a book is if it's recommended to me by a trusted friend, so I thought I would pay it forward and provide a list of some of my own favorite books. That way, those who want to read more have a place to start when diving into the world of reading. 

I'm breaking up my book recommendations by category, so today I'll be sharing my favorite books for nonfiction, personal development, and building a business.

Better Than Before -  Gretchen Rubin

I just started reading this one, as it finally became available on the Overdrive app on my Nook. However I listen to Gretchen Rubin's podcast Happier every Wednesday, and many of the concepts in Better than Before are discussed on the podcast, too! I love everything I've read by Gretchen Rubin, so I'm excited to dive into her take on habits, a topic which has always fascinated me.

Fiercely You: God, guts, glitter, and glamour for the female entrepreneur  - Gretchen Brocio

This book was sent to me by a dear friend and mentor in my home based business. As a Christian woman and mother trying to create a business in the online space, it's super easy to second guess yourself and feel doubt about what you're creating. I was inspired by the success stories of the women she interviewed in the book! 

How to Blog For Profit Without Selling Your Soul - Ruth Soukup

I asked for this book for Christmas, and was so happy to receive it as a gift for my birthday (which is just a few weeks after Christmas). I've been blogging for years, but just decided to start taking it more seriously. I learn best by reading, so I scoured the internet for books on blogging, and this one received great reviews on Amazon. So far it has been super informative, and I've been working my way sl-ow-ly through it, because I like to apply the advice it gives straight away. It contains so many actionable tips and words of wisdom for those who are looking to turn their blog into a business with integrity. I'm finding the Pinterest advice especially helpful, since every article I read about how to use Pinterest to grow your blog is basically a commercial for Tailwind or Boardbooster. This is not a "how to set up a blog" type of book, but it is geared for someone at the beginning of their journey to monetize their blog. 

Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest - Dan Buettner

This is not a recent read, but a favorite I keep going back to. I bought it on my Nook a few years ago, and became obsessed with it, recommending to all my family and friends. The author researches people who live in Blue Zones - areas around the globe with communities of people who tend to live much longer than the average person - to see which habits and practices contribute to their longevity. It's fascinating to read, because so often we attribute good health to food and exercise, but there is so much more to it! The book also highlights good genes, good habits, community, religion, stress-coping mechanisms, and purpose. It's a good read for anyone overwhelmed by all the health advice out there. 

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea - Bob Burg and John David Mann

I absolutely loved this book from the concept to the execution, and devoured it in one car ride. It advises that the secret to success in business is to focus on giving rather than receiving. It is told in story format, so it's different from the slow, dry, information-packed personal development and business books we're used to! I believe this is a must-read for anyone with a job, but especially entrepreneurs and those in the network marketing industry. 

I love adding to my reading list, so share your favorite personal development or nonfiction books below!

10 things I learned from cleaning my house

A few events transpired lately to cause a dramatic shift in the cleanliness and organization of our home. 

  1. Everyone in our house got sick. And it kept coming back.
  2. My nesting instincts kicked in.
  3. Our landlord came by for an inspection.

I'm a mother of two children ages 3 and 1, with a third on the way, I teach part time, and run this blog and a home-based business, which could all be excuses for why our home is a disaster. In fact, I have been using these circumstances to justify clutter and messes over the past few months. And there certainly were times when it couldn't be helped, such as the first trimester of my pregnancy when it was a rare sighting to see me out of bed.

However, for the most part, the mess, clutter, and disorganization of our home was a result of excess and lack of discipline and routine. 

Over the years, the amount of stuff we owned grew and grew until I reached the breaking point a few weeks ago when I felt suffocated by our possessions. With my third trimester baby bump, it was physically painful to bend over and clean up after the kids, and I felt like all I did was follow them around and clean, with little to no results. Our home still looked cluttered at the end of each day, and it was incredibly defeating. So I did what any hormonal pregnant woman would do - I texted my husband one morning through tears and curse words that I was getting rid of EVERYTHING in our house. Throwing it all away. Starting fresh. Nesting, guys. It's a real thing.

Not to mention, one member of our family or another has been sick since January. Our house needed a good spring cleaning and scrubbing down. When our landlord texted to say he would be stopping by to check the status of our place before renewing the lease, it was the final straw. So we spent an entire Saturday going through every closet, drawer, and bin. We threw away or set aside to donate bags upon bags of clutter that we didn't even know was occupying space in our lives. We ruthlessly culled our children's toys down to the most played-with toys that inspired imaginative play (while they were napping of course). In the spirit of Marie Kondo, I thanked and released a few mementoes from my time abroad in South America. We figured out how to sell our old iPhones, and bid adieu to electronics that no longer worked or had a purpose. We got our carpets cleaned, and scrubbed down every surface, nook, and cranny of our rental home.

The relief and pride my husband and I both felt at the end of our cleaning and organizing spree was palpable. With a little time and a lot of elbow grease, we transformed our home into a haven instead of a source of stress. And while we are by no means done (the garage is our next project to tackle), it feels like the beginning of a new way of living. 

Here are a few things I've learned from decluttering and deep cleaning our home in the past few weeks:

1. Living in a neat, clean environment inspires you to be better in every area of your life.

2. Getting your children involved in the process in paramount. Tell them what you are doing, give them age-appropriate responsibilities, and show them how and where to put away the toys you have kept. They will get excited about keeping a clean home.

3. Most of the clutter we had was a result of not making a decision about something, or being too lazy to take action. The iPhones in my desk drawer were a prime example. We had gotten new phones about a year ago, but didn't know what to do with the old ones. Instead of researching how to handle it right away, I just stashed them away to deal with later. 

4. Almost nothing is as peaceful as a clear surface. Empty counters, floors, and coffee tables are a beautiful thing.

5. I'm a better housekeeper when the clutter is gone. I'm much more inclined to vacuum, dust, or wipe down surfaces when I don't see junk everywhere.

6. A place for everything and everything in it's place. Yes, it's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. it feels really good to know exactly where the scissors go instead of just stuffing them in a junk drawer. 

7. It takes practice. If your current habit is to set something on the counter instead of putting it where it belongs, it will take practice and discipline to change that habit. Don't be discouraged if you find yourself falling back into old habits. Keep working at it!

8. A mindset of abundance and gratitude staves off the desire to bring more into your house. "We have everything we need and more."

9. I need a printed out schedule to do chores. I used the free printable from Clean Mama, and put it on the fridge. Mondays are for wiping down bathrooms, Tuesdays are for dusting, etc. etc.

10. We're trying a new habit. Every night after dinner and before we put the kids to bed, we will do a 10 minute family clean up, vacuum the carpets, and clean the kitchen.  

I wouldn't dare call us minimalist. We still have far more than we need, but I'm learning that it's a journey. It's a shift in perspective from always needing more and feeling frustrated in your surroundings to joy and contentment in the space you're in with the things you have. 

friday favorites #10

Β‘Feliz viernes a todos! We were on spring break this week, which is funny, because this is the only week we have had in northern Florida that actually feels like winter! I truly didn't mind the lower temps, but did feel bad for everyone vacationing from northern climates, as we did not have great beach weather to offer.

This week was a perfect mix of relaxing, productive, and fun. Having Justin's parents in town was so nice, because anytime you can outnumber the kids, things tend to be a lot easier. So while I'm riding the high of a great week off school, let's dive in, shall we?

Friday Favorites

#1. Exploring St. Augustine

One thing I was most excited about when we moved to Florida was our proximity to St. Augustine, America's oldest city. I had visited once as a teenager, and was looking forward to exploring the charming streets that I remembered. It's the perfect spot to bring visitors because you can choose to simply stroll St. George Street and browse the shops there, take tours to learn about the history of this fascinating city, or visit monuments like the Fountain of Youth. 

This time we chose to tour Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. While it was slightly terrifying to have a one-year-old boy running around atop the fort with relatively low walls in some areas, the views were incredible, and reading about the role the Castillo played in our history was fascinating. A must-see if you're ever in St. Augustine!

#2. Prohibition Kitchen + Poutine!

While in St. Augustine, we ducked into a restaurant called Prohibition Kitchen for lunch. All of the food was incredible, but when we saw the poutine on the appetizer menu, we knew we had to give it a try. I had heard my sister and her husband raving about this dish after they visited Montreal, but was very skeptical of the French fry and gravy combo. We were not disappointed, though! Our platter of poutine was polished off in a matter of minutes, and it was the perfect amount for the table to share without getting overly full before our meals came out. 

The atmosphere of the gastropub was another thing we couldn't stop raving about! The repurposed wood and huge booths truly made you feel like you were back in the 1920s. I was also a fan of the high ceilings and super friendly service. This pregnant mama was craving a burger, so I didn't order anything too adventurous (aside from our poutine appetizer!), but you know it's a good burger when I barely touch the fries! 

#3. Pedicures

So the last time I got a pedicure was for my sister-in-law's wedding almost two years ago. I forgot what a relaxing treat it is! Armed with recommendations from some local ladies, my mother-in-law and I snuck away from the husbands and kids for a bit to get pampered. I loved getting to relax and converse with her without getting interrupted by the kids. I chose a cerulean blue for my toes, while my MIL picked a bright pink! Now if only it were warm enough to enjoy our freshly pedicured toes on the beach!

#4. Strawberry Orange Creamsicle Shakes

To counteract some of the rich and delicious food we've been consuming lately with all of our visitors, I've been relying on my favorite superfood shakes for breakfast and sometimes lunch to fight bloating and fill in the gaps of nutrition I might be missing. I usually stick with chocolate, but for some reason an ice cold strawberry shake was calling my name. (Pregnancy cravings, perhaps?) I added a scoop of my orange electrolyte drink mix and blended it with a few frozen strawberries, and I was in heaven! Although, when Pippa saw my beautiful concoction, she ended up drinking half of it. But hey! I'm not opposed to her getting good nutrition, too, so I let her have as much as she wanted.

#5. Justin's 31st Birthday!

That's right, folks! I'm officially married to a 31-year-old today. I'm still super young and in my 20s, so I have a few more months to tease him about being old. We enjoyed his favorite meal while his parents were here - taco salad, and I whipped up a brownie caramel cheesecake for dessert, since cheesecake is his favorite! (I used this recipe). Justin definitely deserves a celebration today. He's such a great dad to our kids, a passionate teacher who loves his job and his students, and a wonderful husband. Happy birthday, babe! 

That's it for this Friday! What's got you smiling this week?

Linking up with Carolina Charm and Hello Happiness for Five on Friday, and Andrea from Momfessionals for Friday Favorites!

33 week pregnancy update

It seems like I was just sitting down to write about the struggles of the first trimester, and now I'm  6 weeks away from meeting our little guy! This pregnancy hasn't always been easy, but with two other kids, a part time teaching job, and running my home based business, it truly has been a whirlwind. 

size of the baby: baby is the size of a pineapple, or a head of celery, and is probably just over 4 pounds. No wonder I'm struggling to carry this belly around!

gender: baby boy!

maternity clothes: basically wearing the same 2-3 dresses every day. I find them to be a lot more comfortable than any sort of waistband. Plus a lot of my maternity shirts don't even cover the bump anymore!

movement: some crazy gymnastics are happening in there, and it is a sight to behold. My belly is taking on strange shapes, and it's been a fun game to guess which body part is poking out. I've been showing Pippa how the baby loves to move about 45 minutes after dinner when I lay down, and she's been loving "playing" with the baby. 

sleep: I've actually been sleeping very well, just waking up a few times a night to go to the bathroom. I've also stocked the bed with tons of extra pillows, which has been helping with the hip pain I tend to feel when I lay down. I sometimes wake up with sharp round ligament pain, but am usually able to fall right back asleep.

prenatal fitness: It's been a weird week for my health. I got the stomach flu twice in the past week, so my normal daily walk didn't happen quite as often. In addition, my family visited last week, and Justin's family is in town this week, so naturally there has been some going out to eat and extra treats involved. Basically I've vacillated between not keeping anything down and indulging in foods I don't normally eat. 

Having said that, the past week not included, I'm very much a creature of habit when it comes to eating. I've been diligent about having 1 or 2 superfood shakes each day to up my protein intake and get extra nutritious calories. I've packed lots of fruits and vegetables for lunches, and consumed lots of water. I also make sure to walk 2 miles each day with the double stroller and the dog. My weight gain has been almost pound for pound the same as my other pregnancies, even though walking has been my only workout this time. Crazy how our bodies know exactly what to do!

Finally, I'm starting to think about postpartum health. Forefront on my mind is the diastasis recti that never quite healed from my second pregnancy, as I didn't realize until too late that I had it. I plan to ask my doctor for a good physical therapist recommendation, and to utilize a belly band after giving birth (like I talked about in this post). I also love that I have a nutrition plan in place for losing the baby weight safely and consistently, even when nursing!

missing: wearing cute clothes. Not waddling. Not grunting every time I stand up. 

craving: not many cravings at this point besides cold water and sometimes fruit. Mostly I'm just trying to find the balance between extreme hunger and painfully full. There is no in between.

symptoms: where oh where to begin? 

First of all, I have been nesting with a vengeance. I don't really remember feeling the urge to clean, purge, and organize with my other two pregnancies, but to give you an idea of where I'm at, I texted Justin last week making a sweeping declaration about throwing out everything in our house. His concern was palpable. Then this past weekend we got rid of about 10 bags of junk and clutter in one afternoon, which left me feeling nauseous and exhausted, but extremely satisfied. 

Another symptom I've been experiencing is intense Braxton Hicks contractions. Basically anytime I'm standing or walking for more than a few minutes my stomach gets rock solid and starts cramping. Usually some water and changing positions helps, so I haven't been too concerned about it. I did have a little scare this past weekend, though, when I got hit with my second round of the stomach bug that's been going around. No matter what I did, the Braxton Hicks wouldn't stop, probably due to dehydration. I was very close to calling the hospital, but the contractions started to subside later that afternoon when I was able to nap and keep some fluids down. Stay in there for a few more weeks, baby! 

Finally, crazy heartburn, aching joints, and the occasional swollen feet have been my normal the past few weeks. Third trimester, I will not miss you when you are done. Not even a little bit. 

looking forward to: a relaxing week and weekend! We're on spring break right now with family visiting, so it's been nice to have the extra help with Pippa and Teddy. I'm hoping to get ahead on school and blog work in the next few days!

best moments: getting to spend time with family! 

That wraps it up! Only six more weeks until our scheduled C-Section (which hasn't actually been scheduled yet, but I have an idea of the time frame. So weird to be able to pick out your child's birthday!) Now excuse me while I go Google "how to handle the transition from 2 to 3 children."

using Instagram for your home based business

When I first started my home based business, one of my biggest concerns was that I didn't know enough people to be successful. To make matters worse, I feared I would ruin the relationships I did have if they became annoyed by what I was "selling." As an introvert who runs from conflict, I wasn't sure I would ever earn enough money to make it worth it. 

My saving grace as an introverted network marketer has been social media. I dove in to trainings, soaked up advice from top leaders, stalked successful people on their social media sites of choice, always looking for the next tip or strategy that would ignite my business. While I am still far from an expert, I have definitely picked up a few things along the way. 

Today I want to dive into my favorite social media platform: Instagram. I have had so much fun connecting with other moms of young children, mom bloggers, and moms who do direct sales, and I have started to see some success from all the time I have dedicated to better understanding the platform and developing my own style and voice. Here are the things I have learned along the way:

General Advice

Be Yourself

In the beginning, I got a little lost by emulating other people I saw as successful. The more I learned, however, the more I realized that true success can only come when people get to know the real you. "Authentic" is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, but what it means to me is that you are slowly unfolding your own story, sharing your own thoughts and opinions, and truly connecting with others through Instagram. If you're "borrowing" other people's words and ideas, your followers are just getting to know a knock-off version of someone else.

Develop A Unique Style

I have always admired my sister Molly's eye for Instagram. The aesthetic of her feed is so tasteful, and I always tease her that she sees the world through the lens of an Instagram square. As lovely as her style is, it's not my style, and I shouldn't try to make it mine. Once I gave myself permission to edit my photos how I like them, I really found my stride. I found I gravitate toward crisp, bright images with a color scheme reminiscent of the beach. Others excel at moody pictures with grey tones, while still others use a florescent color scheme and are killing it! Find what speaks to you, and run with it. If you don't, you'll grow incredibly bored with your pictures and Instagram will become a chore.

Interact - Don't Be A Lurker!

Before I started my health and wellness business from home, I was super arrogant about social media. I didn't post much, and when I did, it was just a few carefully chosen pictures of what was going on in my life. I didn't comment on other people's things, because I wanted to give the impression that I was too good, or too busy to "waste" time on social media. Now I realize that social media is a wonderful gift meant to connect us to other people, but of course, to be used in moderation. It shouldn't replace real human interaction.

Having said that, I love the genuine connections I have made on Instagram when I am brave enough to put myself out there and comment on a stranger's picture, or follow someone simply because I love the content they are putting out there. I love replying when strangers comment on my own posts. I love when a few comments back and forth with another mama on Instagram turns into a friendship! If you show up for other people and support them with genuine comments, questions, and compliments, they will show up for you.

Advice for Using Instagram for your Home Based Business

Find Your Tribe

Use those hashtags, people! They exist for a reason. On what other social media platform are things so perfectly categorized? If you want to find other moms of young children, look up hashtags with the word "toddler." If you want to find other ladies that shop at Target, there's a hashtag for that, too! Where are all the other SAHMs? In a hashtag, of course. Working moms? Hashtag. Use those hashtags to locate and genuinely connect with people you relate to. And remember, the people following your account aren't just a number to add to your stats at the end of the month. They are real people who want the real you. 

On the flip side, make use of hashtags yourself to be found by other people. Describe yourself and your picture with your hashtags, and it won't be long until your number of followers starts to grow. 

Showcase Your Products as a Lifestyle

It's super easy to just take a selfie with whatever product you're trying to sell. However, I personally scroll right past when I see a cheesy picture of someone pointing out a label or brand name. It's not because I don't like that people are trying to sell something - I get it! It just doesn't make me stop and say, "I need that in my life!"

On the other hand, if you can show me the results, what problem you're solving, or an action shot of how the product is used, I am bound to be more intrigued and want to learn more. Be creative with how to work your products into an aesthetically pleasing picture, and create curiosity with your caption.

Don't Spam: Provide Value

Most of us love word of mouth recommendations from our favorite bloggers or other influencers we follow on Instagram, even if we know they are getting compensated for that post. I always see comments like, "What lipstick are you wearing?" "Where did you find those shoes?" "Your rug is gorgeous - where is it from?" "What brand of vitamins do you use?" This is usually because they have already gained trust with their followers by being genuine, showcasing their excellent taste, and recommending their favorite things even when they're not affiliated with that brand in any way. They provide value on a daily or weekly basis by doling out free tips and advice. They let us in and allow us to see many aspects of their life, not just what they are selling.

Mix it up! Think of what makes you unique, and what you're passionate about. Share those things! For me, it's pictures of my family (mostly my kids), healthy snacks but also sometimes donuts, the beach, and general lifestyle photos. My health and wellness business and products are part of my lifestyle, so I thread those in when it works. 

The only exception would be if you've created an account solely dedicated to your product. I have seen this done masterfully only when value is provided in between or with product posts. Recipes, healthy lifestyle tips, workouts, inspiration, etc, would work for a health and wellness business. Makeup tutorials, makeovers, or tips on how to use certain tools or brushes would work if you're a consultant for a makeup company. Some gorgeous essential oil accounts give recipes to diffuse, how to use oils in cleaning products, or how to make your own face scrubs. Provide value, and people will be more interested in what you're selling. 

Invest in Yourself

Let me preface this by saying that I dislike the idea of automation in social media accounts. I resist the idea of outsourcing or automating anything, because I want the people that follow me (and the people I follow) to be built on a real connection or commonality. I don't like the spam bots on Instagram that leave vague comments that don't even apply to the picture you posted. So no, I'm not going to talk about spending money on a service or app that automates these procedures, even though other people have found success with it. That's my own opinion and stance on the matter. To each their own!

What I do believe in is investing in a course to educate yourself on how to find your ideal follower, how to turn Instagram followers into clients, and best practices for posting, captioning, and growing your account. The tips I have posted are fairly basic ones that I have learned over the years from watching, reading free sources, and trial and error. My account really started to grow, though, when I invested in an Instagram course that taught me how to zero in on my client avatar, and work with a purpose when I spend time on Instagram. I don't have time to waste flailing around, or throwing spaghetti at a wall hoping something sticks. I had to learn from an expert, and I had to learn quickly.

The course I took was exactly what I was looking for. It walked me through step-by-step, giving actionable tips, worksheets to fill out, videos to watch, examples to follow, a private Facebook mastermind group where I could ask questions, lifetime access to the information, and tons of extra free courses and resources. If there's anything I dislike, it's paying for information that I already know. I'm a self-motivated lifelong learner, and I believe I can figure most things out on my own. However, I know when someone else has already put in the work and has more experience than I do, it is sometimes smart to invest money in order to shorten the learning curve. As a Spanish teacher, that's what I try to do everyday for my students, so that's what I look for in an online course. Someone with a teacher's heart who wants to see their students succeed, who needs to share what they have learned. 

Here is an affiliate link to the course I took: Infamous to Influential 

"Infamous to Influential walks you through legitimate methods that are proven to cultivate REAL, ENGAGED, and TARGETED Instagram followers that are specific to your industry, niche, and business. But don't think follower growth won't be quick, because it will! You'll be surprised!"

So whatever you're using Instagram for - your blog, your business, or simply to connect with other like-minded people, be sure to do it with integrity. Find your style, voice, and purpose, and people will be drawn to that! And if we're not already connected on Instagram, find me here and say hi!