Weekend Snapshots 09

Happy Leap Day!!!  This extra day of the year and this edition of Weekend Snapshots is brought to you by Jack and his new toy chainsaw.  We had quite a weekend visiting my Mom and I am super tired out from our trip and drive back today (which is why I'm so late getting this post done).  We always try to pack in as much fun as possible on our trips and come home happy and exhausted.  As always, this link-up is hosted by me and Ariana, so make sure to add your posts to the link-up so we can share the love!

This weekend started with our drive to Shreveport on Thursday.  As luck would have it, the alternator on my truck went out about halfway there and we broke down on the side of the road.  After many phone calls and different ideas, I finally called a tow company (Billy Ross Towing and Repair in Nacogodoches, TX - who I would highly recommend) to come help.  I assumed I'd have to be towed to a repair shop, get a hotel room to stay overnight, wait the next day to get my truck fixed, and then finally be on my way, but instead, Billy was able to fix my alternator and send me on my way that same evening!!!  By the time we made it to my Mom's Jack was talking about the tow truck and having to get our "autor-nater" fixed.  He made sure his "lawn motor" was in tip top shape once we got there.

Friday, I got some bloggy work done and Jack decided that the best place to be was inside my shirt and we became the two headed Mommy-Jack monster.  We played with some dinosaurs and zombies and then Jack helped with some work in the shop out back.  He finally took a nap, then set up his "Hanny Manny Pair Lhop" (Handy Manny Repair Shop) out back.

Saturday was more Mommy-Jack monster time before going to visit my Mom at the bookstore and running some errands.  I made sure to get in a run at sunset along the riverfront.  I can tell I'm getting better at running - this is the longest distance I've run in Shreveport (other than actual organized 5Ks) and my times are getting really consistent.  My goal is to consistently run 5Ks under 40 minutes this year.  If I push myself just a tiny bit harder I'll be in that range easily.

Sunday, Jack and Mimi made some volcanoes before we went to ToysRUs and bought too many toys.  My mom loves to spoil Jack and that's exactly what a Mimi should do!  After seeing last weekend's snapshots, Mom decided that Jack needed his own chainsaw.  We spent most of the rest of the afternoon being dismembered and put back together.  Of course, we had to watch the Oscars, but I didn't get any pics of that.  I'm super happy Leo finally won - he's such a great actor and had such a wonderful speech.

What did you do this weekend?  Did you watch the Oscars?  What did you think of the winners?  Did you happen to break down by the side of the road, too?  Be sure to link up with us and tell us all about it!!!


Sunday Confessions 09

The United States of Becky

I confess:  I microwaved something in a plastic Tupperware container the other day.  I try really hard not to and I gripe at Dennis for doing the same thing, but I was having a bad case of the lazies and I don't cares.  I immediately worried that I'd get cancer while I wolfed down my leftovers, though.

I confess:  I really need to figure out a way I can make some substantial extra money like right now.  My massage business is slowly slowly slowly building steam, but the mortgage and bills still need to be paid.  I still love Jamberry, but online parties take a little more focus and effort than I have to spare right now and I don't really have anyone in Houston to host a home party right now.  I think next month I'm going to give Jamberry a bit more focus and see if I can strike a good balance.  I also have a collection of clothes and miscellaneous items I plan to sell, but I don't know if I want to use eBay, Etsy, or another online sales platform.  Either way, it's long past time I get off my butt and set up a store.

I confess:  I finally used the weight machines at the gym this week!!!  Dennis was off work and went to the Y with me twice!  We did arms the first day and legs the next.  Now that I know where the specific machines are located I feel much more confident using them alone.  It's funny, using the weight machines is kinda like riding a bike - you never really forget how.

How I Plan to Loose 50 Pounds in 2016

Ten years ago, I worked for an attorney and lived in New Jersey to work on a huge case we had there.  It was amazing to be a part of such a huge operation (and OMG, I LOVE NEW JERSEY!!!), but the days were long, the work was intense, I was away from home, and I gained A LOT of weight.  After months of sitting at a desk for 12+ hours 6 days a week and stress eating my way through it all, I was tipping the scales at a number I never thought I'd reach and I was totally uncomfortable with.  After I moved back to Houston, I decided to do something about it and managed to loose most of that extra weight.  But ever since then, I've yo-yo'd up and down and up and down and up with my weight.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.  I'm sure you can relate.

The last six months of 2015, I stress ate my way through opening my own business (can you tell I have a horrible relationship with food?).  Once again, I'm tipping the scales at a number I hoped to never see again (and only got up to when I was pregnant - WTF).  So now it's time to do something about it.  Again.  Because that shit is not okay.  I plan to loose 50 pounds by the end of 2016 - that's a little less than one pound per week (starting back at the beginning of January).  Boom!  Manageable goal!

How I'm Going to Loose 50 Pounds in 2016

Track Calories

I have a bad relationship with food.  I stress eat.  I eat when I'm happy.  I eat when I'm sad.  I eat to celebrate.  I eat when I'm bored.  I eat when it's meal time.  All that eating adds up to a lot more calories than I need on any given day.  My number one issue to tackle is to learn to only consume the number of calories I need in a day (and to be emotionally okay with that - but that's another issue entirely).  There are lots of ways to track calories and the one I use is the MyFitnessPal app.  There are plenty of free calorie/exercise tracking apps out there, MFP is just the one I decided to use (and I'm not affiliated with them).  I downloaded the free app to my phone, plugged in my starting weight (178), my base activity level, and how many pounds I'd like to loose in each week.  MyFitnessPal determined how many calories I need to have each day to loose (on average) one pound a week.  All I have to do is log what I eat at each meal and the app keeps track of how many calories I've had and how many remain for the day.  There are a lot of features (even in the free version of the app) and I usually have success when using MFP.  You can follow me on the app here.  


Weight loss really comes down to calories in versus calories out.  The best way to burn calories is through exercise (duh).  I'm making sure to workout at least three times a week.  I've been running (off and on) for years, and at the beginning of January, Dennis and I joined the YMCA, so I have plenty of options to make sure I exercise at least three times a week.  I just need to make sure I place exercise near or at the top of my priority list.  I'm not going to reach my goal by diet changes alone.

Take it Slow

As much as I'd like to loose all this extra weight as fast as possible, I know that slow and steady wins the race over the long term.  Quick weight loss isn't achieved easily or through sustainable means - extreme dieting and overexercising will give you results, but those results won't be long lasting (and they're not good for you).  Who can live off of rice cakes and air indefinitely?  No one, that's who.  Taking things slowly will allow me to form and (hopefully) keep better habits when it comes to nutrition and exercise.  I also realize that there will be plateaus in my weight loss and taking things slow reduces the urgency to see a particular number at a particular time.

Have a Support Network

Having a group of people to celebrate your accomplishments with and to help pick you up when you have a setback is an essential part of any goal you want to accomplish.  I belong to a handful of Facebook groups geared toward health and weight loss.  We cheer each other on, hold each other accountable, and pump each other up.  It's hard to skip a workout or binge on your diet when you're holding yourself accountable to a group of people.  I'm much more likely to let myself down than a group of people.

I know that loosing fifty pounds this year seems like a huge goal, but if it take it little bit by little bit, I know I'll reach that goal (or at least get close enough to be proud).  Changing my relationship with food is going to be my biggest challenge and one that scares me (mental note - just say no to junk food!).  Have you ever had a sizable weight loss goal?  Did you reach it?  What worked (or didn't) for you?

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Weekend Snapshots 08

Happy Monday!  Welcome to the 8th edition of the Weekend Snapshots link-up with Ariana of 3TwentySix!  This week's snapshots is brought to you by Jack striking an epic pose with the bird house he made with Mimi.  What were we up to this weekend?  Well, Dennis was on his overnight shift and while I usually go visit my Mom to get out of the house so Den can sleep during the day, I decided to delay my trip by a week so I could attend the amazing class on Instagram photography that Ariana was teaching on Saturday.  So totally worth it!!!

Saturday's class was held at the Thinking Girl's Boutique here in Houston.  It's a great space for workshops and has some totally adorable clothes, accessories, and goodies for sale (if I had all of the money, I would've bought all of the things).  Ariana's class was fun, laid back, and super informative.  I met some new people and a couple of ladies I'm friends with on FB but haven't actually met in person (social media, yo).  Plus, it's been like two freaking years since I've seen Ariana in person - even though we both live in Houston. That just goes to show how crazy big Houston is.

One of the new ladies I met was Sharon from The Bitchy Business Briefs, she was totally awesome and she bought this super cool fruit tray from Yumis Decorations that had the Instagram app icon carved onto the side of a watermelon.  Not only was the fruit tray beautiful, but it was also delicious - they shouldn't have put it so close to me - I couldn't keep my hands off it!

Jack spent the afternoon with Mimi so I could take my class and they made a birdhouse out of cardboard.  It was a beautiful afternoon when I went to pick him up, so we spent some time playing hide and seek (which Jack calls the Counting Game, lol).  He ran around so much that he totally passed out in the car on the way home - then stayed asleep when I carried him inside.  He only woke up to eat then went back to bed.  Maybe he should run around like a maniac more often!

When we got home on, there were two boxes waiting for us from my Mom.  She sent us a ton of goodies for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter!  The funniest thing in the package was a heart shaped box of beef jerky with Sasquatch on the front and lined with fur for Dennis.  When I was reaching into the big box she sent, my first thought was, "Did she send me a Donald Trump toupee?!"

Sunday, Mimi took us to the mall to get Jack some new shoes.  We parked by Sears and Jack was super interested in the lawn mower display as we walked through the store.  Then he found a Jack sized chainsaw in the clearance section and tried to convince me that he needed it, "It make me happy, Mommy.  Peeeeeease?"  Sorry, kiddo, you're not quite ready for that kind of power.  I really should've taken some pics of Jack trying on shoes because he strutted around with each pair on, but I didn't. #fail  He came away from the shopping trip with three new pairs of shoes, though.  THREE!!!

After Jack went to bed, I tried my hand at some staged photography of his new shoes.  I don't think I did too bad for a first try.  If I don't practice I won't learn and I already have some ideas for how to make these staged stock type photos better.

There you have it!  We had a great weekend - how was yours?  We'd love to see your posts, so make sure to link up with us - the link-up is open until Friday night!  And if you want the link-up to appear in your post, you can grab the code here!


Sunday (okay, early Monday Morning) Confessions 08

The United States of Becky

I confess:  I really want to be friends with our neighbors across the street.  They moved in not quite a year ago and I immediately liked them.  A young couple with a daughter just a couple of months younger than Jack and now a newborn boy.  But I'm not sure how to go about making friends with them without ending up being an annoying/weird neighbor.  So I make sure to try extra hard every time we happen to see each other outside and make things really awkward.  That should work, right?

I confess:  Even though I've been using weight machines to exercise since I was in middle school, I feel really intimidated by the weights at the Y for some reason.  There's nothing new or different about the weights there, so I don't know what my problem is.  We've been members for 6 weeks now, I've gone at least twice a week since we joined, and yet I can't 'muster up the courage to use the machines.  WTF, Jessica, get over it and lift some weights already.

I confess:  I don't know what else to confess this week.

A Blogger's Most Important Tool: The Email List

I've heard it for years now (and you probably have, too):  the most important social tool for a blogger - besides their actual blog - is an email list.  Social media algorithms change all the time without warning and it's not uncommon to see your number one driver of traffic completely dry up practically overnight.  Learning new tricks to making social media work for you and keeping up with all the changes can be exhausting, and recovering from a tank in referrals takes time.  You can't keep social media sites from changing their formulas for what they show users, but you can make sure you establish a direct line to your readers with an email list.

So Why Is An Email List So Important?

I've been blogging for years now and not until recently have I even considered the importance of growing an email list.  Even when other bloggers and educators were starting to talk about how you need to grow your email list I always thought, Why?  What would I even do with a bunch of emails from my readers?  What would I send them?  Blog posts?  Aren't they already here and reading my posts?  I'm already on social media - can't readers find my stuff there?  And then it finally dawned on me.  An email list is the simplest way to ensure your content finds its way to your readers.  Tweets are gone in seconds, Facebook and Pinterest want you to pay for your readers to see your content, Instagram isn't known for it's click through rate, and Google+ is well, Google+.  Here are just some of the reasons I think an email list is absolutely vital for bloggers no matter how big or small the blog.

1.  Email is consistent.

Social media platforms come and go, but email remains a consistent form of communication.  Who remembers MySpace?  Friendster?  AOL chatrooms?  HelloCotton?  Google+?  What if you were relying solely on those platforms to provide your latest content to your readers?  If Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram suddenly shut down for whatever reason how would you reach your audience?  Email.  Email isn't going anywhere.

2.  You're in control.

Social media is vital to the growth of your blog, but the problem is that you don't have any control over how your content is actually being shared to, or hidden from, your audience.  You don't own any of the amazing social media sites where you share your content (wouldn't it be nice if you did, lol), so they can change things at any time and you have absolutely no control over what changes are made.  But you do have control over your email list, so if a new algorithm change tanks your site's numbers, it's not as big a deal.  You still have an email list full of faithful readers ready to read your content.

3.  It builds your tribe.

An email list can transform a casual reader into a dedicated fan of your site.  Your email list is full of people who trust you and want to hear what you have to say.  After all, they wouldn't have signed up for your list if they didn't want to hear from you.  Providing meaningful content in your emails builds a community.  An email list builds your target audience (aka, your tribe), and fosters deeper relationships with your readers.  These are the same readers that are going to be enthusiastic to read your content and excited to share it with others.

Are you convinced yet?  If you don't already have an email list, you should absolutely start one, today.  It doesn't matter how big or how small your blog is - if you plan to grow your audience (even if you never want to monetize) and want your audience to be invested in what you write (and keep coming back for more), you need to engage them on a deeper level than social media provides.  Don't wait!  I wish I had started my list years ago!  Do you have an email list?  Are you planning on starting one?

Let's Stay in Touch!

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Weekend Snapshots 07

This edition of Weekend Snapshots is brought to you by Jack rocking some serious air guitar skills at the playground on Sunday.  In fact this entire Weekend Snapshot post is brought to you by Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!!  Because I didn't take a single picture on Saturday (gasp!).  Dennis was off work and I opened my work schedule up and ended up working all day on Saturday - or rather I had 4 clients scheduled and 2 no-showed on me so I was too grumpy to take any pictures once I was done working (and nothing noteworthy happened on Saturday anyway).

Sunday was Valentine's Day and I told Dennis I wanted to eat sushi and ride the train at Hermann Park.  We slept in late, lazed around the house, and finally got our butts moving mid-afternoon.  Our first stop was HEB for some sushi to take to the park.  HEB has this slot machine thing for kids and Jack is obsessed with it.  You get HEBucks from the cashier, then use the bucks to play the machine.  You win points and once you've collected enough points, you can redeem them for a prize (Jack was an instant winner of some bubbles the night before).  I know he doesn't understand the collect points part, but he's super excited every time the machine prints out his point sticker.  I'm'a have to keep this kid away from Vegas #itsnotaproblemicanstopatanytime

After our sushi run, we drove around Hermann Park, but the crowds were cray-cray and I wasn't willing to troll for a parking space and then beat my way through throngs of Valentine's Day people just to ride the train, so we went to the park near our house instead.  Hermann Park is 445 acres, our park is maybe 1-1.5 acres (but hardly anyone was there!  Win!).  Jack went straight for the playground and I had to tear into the sushi - I'd been craving it all week long.  I highly recommend the San Antonio roll from HEB!

Later Jack wanted to watch some older kids play basketball (and had to play some air guitar) and then we tried to teach Jack how to play hide and seek.  He kept peeking, though, the dirty little cheater.  We'd all take turns being It and hiding behind the trees.  Lots of laughter was involved.  Once we tired ourselves out at the park, we went home and did some chores (fun, I know). It was a very low key weekend.

At home, Jack kept pretending this box was his spaceship and that he was sleeping on the roof of his spaceship.  Then he stole my phone and tried to take pictures of me petting Monster.  He's quite the photographer - I should really do a post of nothing but his pictures someday.  Once Jack finally went to bed, Den and I stayed up way too late binge watching season 3 of The Walking Dead - side note:  if you binge watch a show about the zombie apocalypse, you *might* end up having zombie nightmares for several nights after.

How was your Valentine's Weekend?  Make sure to link-up with me and Ariana so we can see your snapshots, too!


Sunday Confessions 07

The United States of Becky

I confess:  When I met Dennis I had a boyfriend.  A boyfriend of over a year.  A boyfriend of over a year who lived with me.  And when Dennis asked me out on the first day we met, I accepted his invitation for a date without a second thought because I had totally forgotten that I had a boyfriend.  Later that day, it dawned on me that I was going to have to find something to do with said boyfriend to actually go out on my date, then realized that that's not how things work, so I had to sheepishly go back over to Dennis and say, "So, you're probably going to think I'm pretty dumb, but I kinda forgot I have a boyfriend..."

I confess:  Six weeks later, I was breaking up with that boyfriend and six weeks after that I moved to Houston to live with Dennis.  Then it only took us 10 more years to get married.  We wanted to make sure we liked each other before we made it official.

I confess:  I met Dennis when I was only 20 years old (he was 32!) and it was love at first sight.  I knew I was going to marry him before we even had our first kiss.  I've practically been with Dennis my entire adult life.  He was smart enough to let me be an immature 20-something instead of expecting me to be like a settled 30-something (even though it drove him crazy at times).  I literally would not be the person I am today without his support and encouragement.  And that's about as mushy as I'm able to be.

Disney Collection by Jamberry

I'm so excited to share with you the new Disney Collection by Jamberry!  Disney (yes, that Disney!!!) has collaborated with Jamberry to bring you this amazing new collection of nail wraps featuring Disney Minnie Mouse, Disney Princess Aurora, and Disney Princess Ariel!  The new Disney Collection by Jamberry includes 21 new wrap designs and is available now!!!  I can barely contain my excitement!!!  Here are some of my favorites from the collection, but you can see the Disney Collection by Jamberry in it's entirety here!  I don't think I need to say much more about this collection - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!!!  Which wraps are your favorite?






14 Amazing Valentine's Day Date Ideas

valentine's day, date ideas, amazing date ideas, fun date ideas, unique date ideas, cheap date ideas

I used to really hate Valentine's Day.  Before I met Dennis I was always single (and even got dumped on Valentine's Day once) on Valentine's Day and pined for that perfect romantic day.  I always thought I wanted the typically cliche day full of flowers, chocolates, sappy card, a teddy bear, jewelry, and a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant.  All that sounds great (and I'm not knocking it), but I've never had that "perfect" Valentine's Day and a few years ago I realized that that's not really the Valentine's Day I want anyway.  Once I got over the idea that I needed to have all those stereotypical things to have a good Valentine's Day, I actually started to enjoy the holiday (for the first time ever).

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and if you're trying to come up with some fun, low-key things to do, I put together a list of 14 amazing Valentine's Day date ideas.  These are dates that would be perfect for any couple, no matter how long they've been together.  I think these date ideas are a lot more fun than the typical candle light dinner options most people think of when trying to plan Valentine's Day.  Plus, if you go on one of these dates, you're pretty much guaranteed moments of laughter and silliness which is way more fun than the serious romance of a candle light dinner.

14 Amazing Valentine's Day Date Ideas

  1. Karaoke.  I've been singing karaoke since I was 13 (and not very well, mind you, but with passion and heart) and I can't think of a single time that I didn't enjoy myself.  There's always an adrenaline rush when you get on stage and it doesn't' matter how skilled of a singer you are.  Belt out some love songs, cheer each other on, and giggle - lots of giggling.
  2. Bowling.  It doesn't matter how good or how bad you are at bowling, it's always fun.  There's usually fun music playing and some bowling alleys even have disco or black-light bowling for more of a dance club feel.  It's loud enough to be exciting (but you don't have to yell to be heard), and it gets you up and moving.  Plus, bowling offers plenty of opportunities to either celebrate a great frame or laugh at yourself for throwing a gutter ball.
  3. Photo Scavenger Hunt.  Take the day to do a little urban (or suburban) exploring.  Come up with a list of things to photograph (graffiti art, someone wearing a blue hat, birds, a taxi), take your smartphones and click some photos.  Try to get as creative as you can (with both the list and the pictures).  Later, print out your favorite photos and hang them in your house or create a photo book from the day!
  4. Go to a Drive-In Movie.  Drive-in movie theatres are making a comeback and are a fun (and romantic) way to see a movie.  Most drive-in theatres offer a double (or even triple) feature for the price of one admission, have better food choices, and some even have playground equipment.  To find a drive-in theatre near you, check out this directory of drive-ins.  Don't have a drive in near you?  Turn your living room into a drive-in.  Put pillows and blankets on the floor, snack on movie food, and enjoy the show!
  5. Putt-Putt.  Another great activity that you don't have to be good at to enjoy.  I also can't think of a single time I've played putt-putt and not had at least one belly laugh.  A little friendly competition can be exciting (take bets on who wins each round - or who looses the worst), and there are now indoor places, so if the weather is bad you can still play.
  6. Drink Wine and Paint.  Have you been to one of those get drunk and paint classes?  They're cropping up all over the place and are so much fun!  You don't need to have any artistic skills to end the night with a painting that's probably good enough to hang in your house.  Most places have date night options where each person paints half of a painting on their canvas and then the canvases can be hung together to make one larger piece of art.
  7. Browse a Bookstore.  This date has the potential to be completely free (who am I kidding - I can't go into a bookstore without spending money).  Go to your local bookstore and browse the aisles.  Find a book you think your honey would like and vice versa.  Take turns reading passages from cheesy romance novels and try not to laugh.
  8. Tour a Brewery.  I'm not much for beer (yuck), but I know I'd enjoy a brewery tour.  With so many micro-breweries cropping up out there, there's probably one not far from you.  Most will offer tours with a sample at the end.  
  9. Go to an Arcade.  I miss the days when a mall would have a movie theatre and and arcade.  I've never been good at video games, but I still hung out at the arcade when crawling the mall as a teenager.  I never pass up an opportunity to go to one of those arcade fun centers and always have a great time!  Bonus if you can collect enough tickets to win a prize!
  10. Go Hiking.  Get out and explore some nature.  Bring a picnic lunch and don't forget your camera.  Make up silly names for all the plants and animals you see for a good laugh.
  11. Go on a Day (or Evening) Cruise.  Most of us live somewhere near water.  Chances are you can find a local day or evening cruise on a nearby river or lake.  Some might even offer dinner or drinks!
  12. Explore a Flea Market.  You never know what quirky things you'll come across at a flea market.  Spend the day trying to find the weirdest thing at the market.  You can also set a small budget and try to find something for only $10 that you'll love.
  13. Backyard Camping.  Pitch a tent in your backyard and pretend that you're camping.  Cook out on your grill and don't forget to make s'mores.  Tell ghost stories and look at the stars.
  14. Test Drive Cars.  Even if you're not in the market for a new car, it can be fun to do to different dealerships and test drive what they have to offer.  Try out a sports car or a fancy luxury car - you don't have to limit yourself to what's practical or in your budget.
No matter what you decide to do on Valentine's Day, the important thing is to have fun.  Hopefully this list gives you some inspiration on how you spend your day.  What are some of your most fun date ideas?  What's your most memorable Valentine's Day?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!!

Weekend Snapshots 06

This edition of Weekend Snapshots is brought to you by crazy bike riding Jack.  We had a fun weekend full of friends, Mardi Gras, and the Super Bowl (not that I care about anything other than the commercials and halftime show).  As always, I'm linking up with Ariana (and you should, too!), plus if you want that nifty linky widget to show up on your Weekend Snapshots post, grab the code here!

Saturday I picked up a little work at a day spa not far from our house.  One of my good friends is the spa director there and when they're short a therapist I'll try to fill in to earn a little extra cash.  Dennis and Jack dropped me off and had an adventure at Home Depot, then came back for me so we could high tail it down to Galveston to catch the Knights of Momus Mardi Gras Parade.  We didn't want to have to search for parking, so we brought the bikes and parked blocks away from the parade route.  Jack kept making silly faces when I was trying to take pictures - that kid is such a ham!

The parade route had just enough people there.  I can't stand huge crowds, but don't like a scarce parade route, either.  There were enough spectators there to have a fun and festive vibe without being suffocating.  One of the houses was blasting music and people were dancing in the streets.  Everyone was having a great time and were nice and friendly.  We walked the streets a little before deciding on a spot to watch the parade.  Jack didn't want to be front and center, but that's okay because you stand less chance of getting squished and can actually catch beads more easily.  It didn't take long for Jack to figure out how to hold up his hands and wave for beads.  This wasn't his first Mardi Gras parade, but it was the first one where he kinda knew what was going on.  He had so much fun!

The theme of the parade was superheros.  I usually try to get a picture of every float, but have finally learned my lesson.  The pictures turn out blurry and I have more fun when I'm not worried about taking pics and focus on catching beads.  Of course, I had to get a pic of the Batman float, cause Batman is my favorite!

Sunday, Dennis went to play Dungeons &; Dragons {affiliate}, so Jack and I met up with friends for lunch.  I didn't get any pics because Jack was being a handful and there was as much toddler wrangling as eating.  That evening, we all went to a friend's house for a Super Bowl party.  Now, I couldn't care less about sportsball (and don't ask me who was playing), but it's always nice to enjoy a good party.  There were other kids there and Jack actually spent most of the time there hanging with the kids instead of glued to me.  Which was surprising.  And of course, he made friends with Sprocket the dog, too.  I was totally disappointed in the commercials and the halftime show, but was having too much fun at the party to care.


Sunday Confessions 06

The United States of Becky

I confess:  I'm nervous to take new male massage therapy clients, especially when they call and have to have an appointment rightthisveryminute.  It's been a long time since I've had a creepy client (but that's because I was at the same reputable place for 5 years).  I'd almost rather not take any new male clients at all than risk seeing even one table-humper.  And yes, it's as awful and creepy as that sounds.

I confess:  I'm a little let down by all my former regular clients.  When I decided to take the plunge and "go rogue" to open my own place, I told all of my regulars and they all encouraged me and made it seem like they were going to follow me to my new place of business, but now it's 8 months later and all I'm hearing are crickets.  Part of what made me strike out on my own is the impression I got from most of them that I would continue to have them as clients, and, therefore, have a steady stream of income.

I confess:  I'm an amazing massage therapist, but I have no idea how to get new clients.  I've tried a few things but they don't seem to be working.  If I continue without seeing new clients (and retaining them as regulars) my business is going to fail.  I love being a massage therapist, but the thought of having to find a place to work and essentially being the low man on the totem pole and having a shit schedule not only scares me, but makes me really angry.

Jamberry's February 2016 Sister's Style and Hostess Exclusives

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Jamberry just released this month's Sister's Style Exclusive wrap and it is such a fun and funky design.  Pattern Envy is a mixed chevron design in a matte finish that pairs well with Iced or Koi Pond wraps or the Long Weekend lacquer.  This design is only available for the month of February, so if you can't live without, order it today.  As always, Jamberry wraps are Buy 3, Get 1 FREE*, so you take advantage of these super cute mix and match wrap pairings.

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Take a walk on the wild side with this month's Sisters' Style, 'Pattern Envy'. Featuring a unique patterned chevron, in shades of teal and green, this matte-finish nail wrap packs plenty of personality! Pair 'Pattern Envy' with any of our St. Patrick’s Day designs for a festive, pinch-proof mani or pair with a floral print, lacquer or gel for a look that’s fun and flirty.

Jamberry also has an exclusive Hostess wrap for each month and I am absolutely in love with February's design.  The only way you can get a Hostess Exclusive Wrap is to host a party!  Not in Houston?  Not to worry!  I offer online parties that are a ton of fun (and you don't even have to clean your house).  This month's Hostess Exclusive makes a great mixed mani with the Rose-Colored Glasses and Serenity Stripe wraps and the Fresh Tru-Shine Gel Enamel.  I'm not usually much of a pastel kinda girl, but I'm loving this month's Hostess Exclusive design (and it matches my hair, so there's that, lol!)

jamberry, february 2016, hostess exclusive, nail art, nail wraps

Who says pastels have to be sweet?! This energetic print packs plenty of punch. Feel the love with this spunky, off beat design. Featuring soft pastels and a tie dye design, this wrap is for the bold at heart!

What do you think of this month's exclusive designs?  Are they a must have or a dud for you?  Do you like the mixed mani pairings or would you pick something different?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

If you're curious about Jamberry and want to try before you buy, email me at reinventingjess [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll send a sample your way!

*B3G1 excludes premium wraps, lacquers, and TruShine Gel System

Day in the Life, February 1, 2016

Three years.  I have now been doing my monthly Day in the Life posts for three years.  This post actually kicks off the beginning of my fourth year doing this and I am so thankful I have this collection of pictures to look back on.  I started documenting my days like this when Jack was only three and a half months old.  He was brand new and so tiny!  And now I'm crying  (who's cutting onions in here, anyway?).

February 1st, 2016 was about as typical a day as I've been having lately.  It was a "work" day even though I didn't have any clients (sad face).  Even though I didn't have any clients, I did manage to get some bloggy stuff done and a few things around the house.  And, OMG, I can't believe how big Jack is.  I call him baby as a term of endearment and half the time he says, "Jack no baby.  Jack big boy now."  Break my heart, kid, break my heart.

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

7 am
coffee, always coffee

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8 am
working on Weekend Snapshots

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9 am
Jack's awake and asked for Mickey Mouse {affiliate}

10 am
working on the day's to-do list

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11 am
headed for Mimi's (aka Grandma's)

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

12 pm
playing in Mimi's backyard

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1 pm
fast lunch - looks just like the picture, right?

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

2 pm
my productivity manager, Spot

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

3 pm
folding laundry

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4 pm
lazy cats won't earn their keep

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

5 pm
getting in a late run because hot

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

6 pm
finished 5K with Zombies! Run app

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

7 pm
finished cleaning kitchen so I can dirty it right back up with dinner prep

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

8 pm
honey mustard chicken

A photo posted by Jessica Brogan (@actorjess) on

9 pm
Jack's new favorite toy, a laser level {affiliate}

After that it was bath time, then bed time.  I was in bed right at 10 (exciting, I know!), but didn't get a picture.  Some nights Den and I have been staying up late watching The Walking Dead and other nights we've actually been getting some sleep.  Sleep has been nice.  We stay up too late several nights in a row, then we crash early for a night or two and start the whole thing over again.  It's a life well lived.

January 2016 Blog Traffic (and Income) Report

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I just completed my fifth year of blogging (wow - has it really been that long?!!?) and up until now, I haven't truly, and I mean truly, taken things seriously.  I've made promises to myself and have wanted to actually make money blogging, but I am finally (finally) applying all the things I've learned over the years and doing the simple things to be successful.  Partly to hold myself accountable and partly to inspire any bloggers out there wanting to start or grow their blogs, I'm going to start sharing my monthly blog traffic and income reports.

January was a fantastic month for The Reinvention of Jessica.  I wrote 19 new posts, the second most in the history of the blog (only topped by the Blog Every Day in May project I participated in in 2013 when I wrote 27 new posts), and had the highest traffic since I started.  Also, check this out, it's the first time I've actually made money since starting the blog.  What-what!!  Now, onto the nitty-gritty.

December 2015

First, I want to show you December 2015's traffic.  Get ready to laugh.  I only wrote 3 posts that month and did absolutely no social media promotion whatsoever.  The second half of 2015 had been difficult for me and my blog numbers, while never very stellar, had completely tanked.  I only had 272 page views (shameful!) from 178 users over 194 sessions.  85.6% of my traffic was from new users and 14.4% from returning users and I had a bounce rate of 80.93% (the lower the bounce rate, the better).  Pretty much what you'd expect when you've neglected your blog for months.

January 2016

Now for January.  In January I had 1,142 page views, an increase of 870 from December.  This traffic came from 476 users over 673 sessions with a bounce rate of 75.19%.  Now, I know that's small potatoes compared to even moderately sized blogs, but it's still a huge increase in page views (320% increase to be exact - since we're talking numbers and all).  I realize this type of growth is to be expected when you've gone from doing nothing to actually doing something and doing it in a calculated way and is realistically unsustainable unless something goes viral.  I'm definitely interested to see what February brings me.

What I Did Differently

What did I do differently this month?  For starters, I used an editorial calendar (check out this one - it's amazing {affiliate}) for the first time ever and made sure to post consistently.  My goal was to write 20 new posts and I just about nailed it.  I want to refine the topics I write about and to make sure I don't post too many of the same topics in a row and the calendar definitely helped me have a visual reference for what I was posting and when.  I also updated my blog design and have been working to make my posts more SEO friendly.  I put my focus on my Facebook page, which is my biggest social media referrer, and Instagram, which is the most fun social media platform for me to use.  I also started hosting a weekly link-up with Ariana, and I participated in several blogging and social media promotion Facebook groups.

What Did I Earn?

Over the years, I've gotten free products to use and review on the blog as well as tickets to events.  But this past month, I actually got paid (real money, yo!) for the very first time ever.  Ever!!!  To say I was excited is an understatement.  Earning money blogging has to start somewhere, right?  Anyway, this month I earned $75.  This certainly isn't enough to quit my day job (wait, I already did that), but it's a start and everything has to start somewhere.  Honestly, having the chance to blog for money fell into my lap thanks to a local blogging group I'm a member of and not from advertising or affiliate links in my posts, so there's still a lot of room for improvement.

Plans for February

This month I'm going to keep up with my consistent posting and editorial calendar for starters.  If there's nothing new for readers to read they aren't going to come to your site (duh).  I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing on my Facebook page (and hope their new algorithm doesn't tank things).  I'm going to be smarter with my Instagram use and try to increase my followers there, plus I'm going to focus on cleaning up my Pinterest boards because Pinterest is the number one referrer of traffic for most bloggers.  I'm also going to put more energy into the blogging and social promotions Facebook groups I'm part of and make sure to comment on a lot of blogs and participate in link-ups.

I know these numbers aren't as impressive as other bloggers, but everyone starts somewhere and January has been the first month that I've really applied the lessons I've been learning over the years.  When I first started blogging, I thought traffic would come naturally and organically (and some does), but to be truly successful with blogging and to build a following, you really have to get out there and promote yourself and your blog (which is why there are so many Facebook groups dedicated to just that).  I used to think it was disingenuous, but if you don't put yourself out there, the chances of someone finding you are pretty dismal.  Just look at the numbers - just a tiny bit of self-promoting and I increased my page views by 320%!

What have you been doing for your blog lately?  Have you stumbled on anything that has been working wildly for you?  I'd love to hear your success stories - tell me in the comments!!!

Katy Home and Garden Show

This weekend, I got to go to the Katy Home and Garden Show and interview HGTV and DIY Network personality, Matt Muenster (from Bath Crashers and Ellen's Design Challenge).  I took Dennis, Jack, and my MIL (Mimi) with me to enjoy the show and we had a good time.  We really love going to shows and expos and this one did not disappoint (and this is a sponsored post in case you didn't know - but all opinions are my own!).  Dennis has been hoping to either replace the crappy single pane windows in our house or get some kind of UV coating applied to reduce our electric bill in the summer and found a couple of really nice contractors (that weren't pushy or salesy) to get bids from and Jack had more candy from the vendors than would fit in his belly.


Weekend Snapshots 05

Happy February, everyone!!!  We made it through the first month of 2016 - woooooooo!  We had a great end of the month this past weekend with a home and garden show, family lunch, and a random food and beer festival we stumbled on.  This edition of Weekend Snapshots is brought to you by the swingset at the park next to Saint Arnold Brewery here in Houston (and the fact that I can't be anywhere near a swingset and not swing).  Don't forget to link-up with me and Ariana this week (and if you want our nifty link-up widget to show up on your post, you can get the code here)

On Saturday, Dennis, Jack, my MIL (aka Mimi), and I headed out to the Katy Home and Garden Show.  Matt Meunster from Bathroom Crashers was a special guest speaker - we listened to his presentation and had fun looking at all the exhibitor booths.  Of course, Jack had the most fun playing outside by the food trucks.  He also got a brand new fireman's hat from the Katy FD (we now have enough fireman's hats for the whole family, lol).

Sunday was a relaxed day.  We spent the morning in our pajamas and made pancakes (I was too hungry to remember to get a pic of the food - ha!) and Jack kept climbing onto the back of the couch to pretend he was a cat.  That late morning/early afternoon, we got ready to pick up Mimi to go visit two of her brothers and some extended family members for lunch.  Dennis put a temporary tattoo on Jack and it seemed to bring out his inner rock star because he gave us an impromptu concert from the top of the car when we got to Mimi's.

Lunch was amazing and if I keep eating like that I'm not going to lose any weight.  But who am I to say no to tacos and tamales?  Especially when they're homemade!  After lunch, Dennis, Jack, and I took a nice walk around the block.  The neighbor's dog saw Jack and was like, "Hey, Tiny Human, I like you, let's be friends," and walked the block with us.  When we got back to the house, the other neighbor's cat made friends with Jack, too.  I swear, he's the animal whisperer.

On our way home, we took a wrong turn and ended up stumbling on some beer and food festival outside of Saint Arnold Brewery.  We didn't have anything else to do so we decided to investigate.  Things were just closing down as we got there, but there was a small park next door, so we played for a while.  Dennis and Jack dug in the gravel and any time I'm near swings, you know that's where you'll find me.

We did a little urban exploring and found this really cool mural on the side of the city impound lot.  I guess if you're having to get your car out of lockdown at least there's some neat art to look at - softens the blow, maybe?  We were also able to get really close to a couple of freight trains that went by.  I love trains and was probably more excited than Jack at being so close.

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