Category: blogging

What I’ve been up to

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Hello dear blog readers! Goodness, four months without a post? Tsk tsk.

I’ve started and stopped this post dozens of times throughout the last few months. Not because I don’t know what to say — there’s plenty of things to catch you guys up on! — but I always got distracted or was tired of looking at another screen after my work day. But here I am parked at Panera with a friend who has her own work to catch up on, so I thought it would be a good time to finally update this blog. :) So I’m just going to type away all that I’m thinking and then hit Publish.

Let’s get going shall we?

Well, for starters, I’m pregnant! If you follow me on social media you probably know this already, but we are expecting a baby girl in April. I am so excited I cannot even handle it. Every time I feel the flutters in my belly (which lately has been often) I am full of thanksgiving and praise. What a miracle life is!

After our miscarriage in the spring, a few friends asked whether I was willing to try again so soon after such a traumatic experience, but my feelings were the opposite — all I wanted was to be pregnant again. Not to replace the baby we lost, but because I just wanted to be a mom so badly.

We found out about this little April miracle on August 7th, which we realized later is the anniversary of the day we got engaged.

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4 weeks pregnant, the day after we found out hiking the Eno River trail in Durham

I have had so much peace about this pregnancy, which is truly a gift from the Lord. From the very beginning I have had a strong sense that I am going to get to meet this baby. A few weeks after we found out I had a little scare, very similar to the series of events that occurred in my first pregnancy, so we scheduled an appointment to see the baby earlier than expected. We were delighted to see the baby was developing well and had a strong heart beat.

J and I were convinced we were having a boy from the beginning, but thought it would be fun to have a gender reveal party with our two families to find out for sure. We had our 18-week anatomy scan appointment on a Friday, the week before Thanksgiving, and told the ultrasound tech to write down the gender in an envelope we brought. My sisters and their husbands came to down that night (spent the evening decorating this box) and then the next morning my parents and J’s family came over. J went to Party City and gave them the envelope, and picked up the box filled with either pink or blue balloons.

I have never in all my life been so surprised to see those pink balloons. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

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I thought it was a boy for so long it took about a week or so for it to really sink in that we are having a girl. A daughter! I have always wanted to have a girl, so it feels too good to be true.

Overall this pregnancy has been very smooth, and for that I am thankful. I had some nausea and lethargy in the early weeks, but otherwise I’ve been feeling great. Aside from crying at a Barbie commercial a few days after finding out we were having a girl (ha), I’ve been pretty even-keel emotionally, which has been nice as well. :) I still have four months to go, of course, so I’m sure it’ll get more uncomfortable, but overall it has been a very great pregnancy and for that I’m thankful.

There may be a few of you who find all of this hard to read. I will admit, it feels a little unfair to be pregnant twice in one year. I know of so many wonderful women who have been trying to get pregnant and are still longing and waiting, and I just want you to know, I get it. It’s so hard. Waiting and longing for something and each month being disappointing totally sucks.

Hmm what else is new?

I turned 30 years old in September and went to the mountains with some dear friends to celebrate. I thought that turning 30 would be this really big epic life event, but it’s really just an age isn’t it? Getting older is not as scary as it used to be, and I am so excited about this next decade. We joined a new small group this semester, which we have come to love. My work continues to go well. Leia continues to be a doll of a dog. We spent a week with my family at the beach. We went to visit some friends in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago. And I can’t believe we’re about to celebrate Christmas and New Years in the next few weeks.

Thank you to all who continue to read this and have sent me messages in the last few months. What’s the future of this blog, you ask? I’m not sure, and that’s okay with me. This blog has evolved so much in the last few years and I’ve thought about shutting it down a few times, since I enjoy putting most of my energy into offline friends or updating Instagram, but I can never seem to quit it. I love writing in here and even if it’s four months between posts, I plan to keep it up.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Here’s to a great 2016!

31 Decisions I’m Glad I Made

What up readers! Long time no write!

This year I’m jumping on the blogging bandwagon and participating in The Nester’s 31 Day Writing Challenge. Get excited people! I will be writing on a regular basis again!

I participated in the challenge two years ago and really enjoyed it. It was hard, but stretched my brain and creativity to write within specific timeline and topic, and I need that structure and challenge in my life again this year. (Read more about my series two years ago: 31 Days to Financial Freedom.)

This year, my topic is 31 Decisions I’m Glad I Made.

31 Decisions I'm Glad I Made

Gulp. We’ll see at the end of the month if starting this writing challenge and choosing this topic is a decision I’m glad I made or not.

I literally came up with this idea a few hours ago (so this is a very impulse decision), but I have been thinking about this topic a lot. I just finished reading The Best Yes, and this quote really resonated with me:

The decisions you make today matter. Every decision points your life in the direction you are about to travel. No decision is an isolated choice. It’s a chain of events. If you choose wisely, your future will reflect that. But if you don’t choose wisely, the decisions you make now will take you to places you don’t want to be later.

Wow, no pressure, right?!

I thought it would be beneficial to spend this month sharing some of the decisions in my life that I am happy I made — whether it was a good decision by saying yes, or saying no, or just choosing to put forth effort and work hard at something.

I have no idea if anyone will find this interesting (besides my mom who is my forever cheerleader in anything I do), but just maybe this series will be helpful if you find yourself paralyzed when making decisions.

A few things to preface before starting this series:

In case you start to think sometime throughout this month that I’m a decision-making rockstar (ha ha ha ha), then I have a list of friends and family I’d like to give your number to. They can tell you very embarrassing stories of what lengths I go to overanalyze and make a decision. I text friends pictures of hats before I buy one. I send them detailed pro/con lists. I drive myself (and probably them) absolutely crazy trying to make a decision. That’s kind of why I want to write this series — confirm to myself that I can, and have, made good decisions to help with future decisions.

I also want to point out that while I’m going to focus on the good decisions I’ve made, I have also made some really stupid ones as well. I actually thought about naming it 31 Dumb Decisions I’ve Made but thought that would be kind of down and not very encouraging. So we will try to focus on the good.

Last point — what may have been a good decision for my life, may not always apply to yours. I think it’s really easy to see people who say, “I quit my job and started my own design shop and it was the best decision of my life!” and then think I should do the same. What may be a good decision for me (like getting a dog, spoiler alert), may not mean the best decision for you.

Here are a few things you can expect from this blog for the next 31 days:

  • A post every day by yours truly about a decision I have made.
  • A photo of the shoes I am wearing that day. I know, SO random. But a blog post without a picture is kind of boring, but I don’t have all the time in the world to create a really awesome graphic unique for each post, so I’ve decided to include with each 31 post a photo of my shoes. That will make these 31 days less stressful for me. Plus, if you really like shoes, there’s a reason to come back each day. :)
  • A few other non-31 day related posts sprinkled in between the posts. Like October goals, September (and maybe August) highlights, and finally get around to updating on my dining room wainscoting project.

So there’s the plan for this month! Who’s excited? :)

If you want to see all of the posts from this series, the links will all be added to this page.

DogVacay + A Night on the Town

I am no blog superstar by any means, but occasionally I am approached by advertisers to check out their products or pay me in exchange for a post on the site. As you can tell from the lack of sponsored posts on this site, I normally reject them. I’m not against sponsored posts per say, just am very selective about the companies I endorse and never ever want to come across as writing something just for a buck. If it isn’t something I naturally wouldn’t write about anyways, I politely decline.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from the folks at DogVacay asking whether I would be interested in using their service for my dog for free and a gift card towards a night on the town, in exchange for a blog post. They even included a picture of Leia found from my blog in their email:

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Presh. Advertisers, if you want to get the attention of a publisher, find an adorable picture of their dog and they’ll be 10x more likely to pay attention to your message.

DogVacay reminds me a little of Airbnb, except for your pet. Instead of sending your dog to a boarding place, you can send your pup to stay at someone’s house. A little home away from home. Plus they include free pet insurance, 24/7 customer support and (my fave) a daily photo update so parents know what’s going on while they are away from their pet.

I love this concept, and it’s certainly something I could see ourselves using for the next time we go out of town. So I decided why not! Let’s have a fun evening downtown and see what this service is all about.

I searched the listings and found Shelly, who lives fairly close to my house, and contacted her whether she was free to watch Leia Saturday to Sunday. We met up at a dog park to make sure Leia and her pup got along (they did), and I made the reservation online. Easy peasy.

Saturday afternoon we dropped Leia off for her Dog Vacay date, then hit the town!

As much as J and I love to travel, we’re kind of boring cheapskates when it comes to where we live. We tend to stay in the five-mile radius of our house and stick to our same old restaurants and same old routine. And normally when we do anything fun for an evening, we always have to rush to be back to feed and take Leia out, so it was good to know she was in good hands while we were out.

We parked our car at the Red hat Amphitheater and explored downtown Raleigh.

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We walked around downtown for a bit, stopping into a few antique shops and boutiques. We first went into Father and Son’s Antiques, which is a four-story shop filled with vintage indy treasures.

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^This chair felt very Emily Henderson to me. 

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I liked this shirt from Deco shop. North Carolina residents, are you a tomato or vinegar bbq fan? :)

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After walking around for a bit, we ate dinner at Cafe Luna, a charming Italian restaurant near Moore Square. I am in the middle of the Whole 30 challenge, and it was reeeeeeally hard to stick to the diet when all I wanted bread and wine and pasta! But I was on day 18, and determined not to cheat, no matter how tempting. I ordered red snapper with grilled vegetables, and it was delicious.

IMG_1942IMG_1941Sorry for the blurry photo … I always hate being “that girl” that is taking photos of her food in a nice restaurant. ;) 

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Meanwhile, I got some sweet pictures from Shelly! They went to the dog park and she said she was having a good time and behaving herself. :) It was so nice to get an update!

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After dinner we walked back to the Red Hat Amphitheater for the Ray LaMontagne concert. This was my first time at the amphitheater, and it’s a really nice venue with the Raleigh skyline behind you.

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The show was great! For a concert in July it was certainly warm, but not nearly as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. The whole time J and I were like Why do we never do stuff like this?! So add “do something new in Raleigh/Durham” to every monthly goal for the rest of the year. ;)

We got home late, and then picked up Leia Sunday morning. She evidently had a great time because she literally slept all Sunday afternoon:

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It was so nice to go out for an evening and explore downtown Raleigh, all the while knowing Leia was in good hands.

If you’re a dog owner and need a place for your pet, use the promo code PRETTYPENNY for $10 off the next time you use DogVacay.com.

Also! A lot of readers have asked me about how to make a little extra cash if you’re trying to pay off debt or looking to make a little extra income, so if you are a dog lover, you could sign up to be a host. Sounds like a really easy way to make some money doing what you love. :)

Dog owners — what do you normally do with your pup when you are out of town? Friends or boarders? 

PS – Disclosure: If you couldn’t tell from my first paragraph, this was a sponsored post by DogVacay, but all opinions were mine. :) 

On Blogging, Boston & Fridays

Oy! How is it Friday already and this is my first post? I didn’t mean to take a blogging break on here, but I guess I needed one. To be honest, I am in a bit of a blogging rut lately. I go through spurts where I love blogging and have dozens of posts I can’t wait to write and get on here… and other times, not so much.

I’m blaming this break on the weather. Since I work full time, I have to write these blog posts either before work, after work or on the weekends. And lately the last thing I want to do is get behind a computer screen any more than I have to. Spring is too short, and I want to experience as much as I can before it turns to hot, humid summer.

This week I have been sad for Boston. And angry. There are a lot of things to fear when you run a marathon–the trek, the pain, the mental strain–but fearing for your life should not be one of them. And crossing the finish line after hours of running is such a sense of joy and relief and accomplishment! I hate that was taken from some people. Supporters and volunteers are so vital and precious to the race. When I approached the finish line at the Charleston Marathon my sisters, husband, parents, friends, and hard-working volunteers were there, cheering and supporting me. This week there was a friend, parent, husband, sister, volunteer that was injured or killed, and that makes me sad.

Growing up, I liked to view God only as loving, full of grace and goodness. Stories about God’s wrath and judgment scared me. But as I have gotten older and learned more about the evil in this world and the character of God, justice has become one of my favorite qualities. God is not only compassionate, loving, and gracious, but equally just and righteous, demanding payment for all evil in this world. It isn’t scary any more, but comforting to know that all of the wrong in this world will one day be made right.

On a lighter note, it’s Friday and the weekend is upon us! Sometimes I marvel at how sweet Fridays are. They come once a week, consistently every seven days, but each time there is a happy energy in the air that fun and rest are coming. I enjoy working and love staying busy, but each time Friday rolls around I realize how powerfully sweet a break from our routine can be. And how happy that it comes once a week!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happier at Home Review | No Commitment Blogger Book Club #3

Happy Fool’s Day! In March we read Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin in the No Commitment Blogger Book Club (<–that’s a mouthful. Maybe I’ll shorten the name to just Book Club?). My thoughts and review below.

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What was the book about?
Gretchen’s search for happiness continues. Modeled after her first book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen embarks on a nine-month search for happiness in her home.

Did you enjoy the book? Why? Why not?Happier at Home
Time for honesty? I didn’t like the book. I wanted to, and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but at the end of the day, not so much. This sounds so cynical, but it felt like she wrote this book just to make money. She (or her publisher) saw the success of The Happiness Project and wanted to jump on the bandwagon with another best seller.

I enjoyed The Happiness Project, probably because it actually gave some good guidance on finding daily happiness. It challenged me to look at my life and ask myself — what do I really like to do? What truly makes me happy? Am I doing this because it’s popular or because I like it? Her second book, however, just seemed to have random thoughts she didn’t have time to put in her first book.

I think my problem is that I took the title “Happier at Home” literally. I thought it meant finding happiness at home — the place I find solace and rest from the world. I was looking for more practical advice, like If you want to be happier at home, figure out your decorating style: Here is what my decorating style is! Or, If you want to be happier at home, try gardening: Here’s what I learned in gardening! Or, If you want to be happier at home, organize your pantry: Here is how I organized mine!

Instead, the book was basically a journal of all Gretchen’s first world problems. And granted, these are also things I complain about too (time management, cluttered house, etc.), but something about seeing them written in a book set me off edge.

I’ll give you a few examples.

One, the titles of the chapters. Let’s take December’s “Interior Design” chapter. She spent the whole time talking about how she needed to fast from sugar and avoid “happiness leaches.” I suppose it’s her inward “interior design” but the whole time I was expecting her to talk about decorating! My second pet peeve is when she would capitalize her happiness theories like she discovered something truly awesome — Seven Splendid Truths! Or Shrine for Scent! It just seemed a little too much. (This annoyed me in her first book.)

She had a whole chapter on facing her fears, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except her fear was learning to drive. Now. I know there are a lot of people who are afraid of driving or prefer not to, but for most of the population we have no choice. It felt like a really limited example that only a handful of readers could relate to. But I get it, she was trying to be true to herself.

And while we’re at it, one of the things I took away from her first book was Be Gretchen — to figure out what she liked and didn’t like, and be true to who she was. In this book, though, I felt like she used that mantra as an excuse to get out of things.

Lastly, the thing that resonated with me the most was how exhausting it felt constantly striving for happiness. I think it’s good to be conscious about what you like, don’t like, and what goals you want to set for yourself to get you out of your comfort zone (I write about that on here all the time), but the way she craved it seemed a little unhealthy. She obviously didn’t find the happiness she was looking for in the first book, and clearly won’t find it in this search either. Because here’s the thing, there’s no true happiness this side of heaven. Sure there are fleeting moments of happiness, but this fallen earth is filled with sin, death, sorrow, tears and broken hearts. And that’s the whole point of God sending Jesus to die for us — so that in him we can have that happy ending and one day be reunited with the things our heart long for the most: peace, joy, love and everlasting contentment.

There is something much more precious than happiness that we can have this side of heaven — JOY. Happiness is dependent on circumstances, but joy is transcendent and even in the midst of bad circumstances you delight in the hope of a new world where all tears will be wiped and there will be no death. I didn’t mean for this review to get all spiritual, but that’s really what I was thinking as I read every page of this book. :)

Would you recommend this book?
No, I wouldn’t. I do recommend The Happiness Project though!

What’s your favorite quote from the book?
Alright, not all of this book was devoid of goodness, here are a few of the quotes I enjoyed and challenged me:

“While some more passive forms of leisure, such as watching TV or surfing the Internet, are fun in the short term, over time, they don’t offer nearly the same happiness as more challenging activities.”

“As I turned the key and pushed open the front door, as I crossed the threshold, I thought how breathtaking, how fleeting, how precious was my ordinary day Now is now. Here is my treasure.”

Have you read this book and want to participate? Write a review in your blog and post it back here, or comment below and tell me what you thought.

Next up: April’s Book is MWF Seeking BFF by Bertsche, Rachel. The review will be posted on May 6th.
*My original intention was to alternate fiction and non-fiction and I don’t know why I thought this book was fiction! We’ll have non-fiction three months in a row.  Sorry about that!

January: Bossypants
February: What Alice Forgot

Growing the Good: Would you like to partner with me?

After a lot of thought, I have decided to add sponsorships to My Pretty Pennies. If every unit is purchased each month, the income generated will total $210 a month.

Y’all. I’d love to have $210 more a month. I could put that towards our savings! I could buy more clothes! We could eat out more! We could move into a house sooner!

But a strange thing has happened: every time I start to write a post announcing my sponsorships, something in me hesitates. A little voice inside me says, Wait. Not just yet. The more I hesitated, the more I realized I don’t want just anyone to sponsor this blog. I want friends, partners to be on the sidebar over there. I want shops and sites that I love and support to be showcased to my readers.

And when I think about it, I am making $200 more a month than I did last year. More than $200, in fact, with my job change. But I’ve forgotten the joy of getting that extra amount in my paycheck. Can I not be content with the money we have now, without wanting more? Am I too consumed with the treasures on this earth, than to be content with what I have?

Yet, I’m still going to offer sponsorships.

But instead of pocketing that cash, it will be given away. Anyone who wants to sponsor here will essentially be donating their money to charity (without the benefits of a tax break, of course).

As for where this will be given away, that will vary by month based on the needs. Some months it may help formal non-profit organizations, others may go towards local efforts, and some may just help bloggers (I trust) who are adopting and need help bringing their baby home.

Would you like to partner with me?

There are three different units priced at $30, $20 or $10 a month. You will be donating to a good cause, plus gaining exposure to a large audience of devoted readers. Visit this sponsorships page to learn more about the units available and the readers behind this blog.

I am so, so excited about this opportunity and look forward to see what good comes out of this partnership!

Proverbs 3-27

PS – Please note, I have NO problem with bloggers who offer sponsorships on their site and make money on it! I understand everyone is different and don’t want this to come across as judging those who do offer sponsorships. :)

PPS – In case you are wondering, I will continue to have digital banner ads on the sidebar running and will occasionally accept affiliate or sponsored posts. The proceeds from this will go into growing the blog.

PPPS – Also, if you don’t have a blog, shop or site, but want to donate, contact me for more info. :)

PPPPS – I am using the phrase “Growing the Good” from Melissa at Dear Baby, since it best represents my purpose.

PPPPPS – How many post scripts can you have at once? I think I’ve broken that grammar rule… tehe.

How to Move Google Reader Subscriptions to BlogLovin’

Yesterday the world received some very sad news: Google Reader is going away. I know. Sad face. I’ve been using Google Reader since I first started following blogs back in 2008. I love the way that it’s attached to my gmail. I love the interface and the way I have everything organized. I love that it’s one of the first sites I pull up every morning when I enter this fabulous World Wide Web.

Despite my undying love for Google Reader, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better system out there. But like any change, it will take some getting used to. I did a little research to see what my next reader should be, and discovered there are some pretty neat sites out there! My favorite was Feedly, since it had the prettiest design, but since it needed a plugin on your browser, I decided to merge all of my blogs to BlogLovin‘. HelloCotton was the next runner up.

Merging your subscriptions isn’t too hard, but it does take a few steps. I’m not the most tech-savvy, so if I can figure it out, so can you my friend. Here is a step-by-step process on how to merge your Google reader subscriptions to BlogLovin’ complete with screenshots. If you are using another feed service, you’ll need to follow the first four steps.

Let’s get started!

Merging Google Reader to Bloglovin

UPDATE: Since writing this post, Bloglovin has made the step even easier!

1. Go to Settings (screenshot is on Step #5)
2. Scroll to the bottom and click on Import Blogs (Step #6)
3. Click “Import blogs.” Boom! It will all transfer.

Just disregard the rest of this post. :)

Step 1: In your Google Reader, click the icon on the top right. In the dropdown menu, click “Reader settings.”

Step 1

Step 2: Click “Import/Export” and click “Download your data through Takeout” at the bottom.

Step 2

Step 3: Go to Choose Services and Reader should automatically be downloading. If it’s not, click Google Reader. It will start to download. Once you are done, click Create Archive at the bottom.

Step 3

Step 4: Once you click “Create Archive” it will automatically take you to the third tab named “Downloads.” It may take a while to download all of the file, but for me it just took a minute or two.

Step 4

Step 5: Once it is finished downloading, save the file. It should save as a zip file (this step technically isn’t pictured.) After that, go to BlogLovin’ and open your account (or create it. It’s easy if you have a Facebook account). Once you’re in BlogLovin, click on the heart that says “Account” and click on “Settings.”

Step 5

Step 6: Scroll to the very bottom of the Settings page until you see “Other.” Click on “Import blogs.”

Step 6

Step 7: Find your downloaded zip file that you saved from Step 5 (it will most likely be in your Downloads folder). Open the zip file and find the file that has .xml at the end. Click on the file and click “Choose.”

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Step 8: It will take a minute or two for the file to upload. It didn’t work the first time, but eventually I saw the message that all my blogs had been imported. (I think I need to clean out my reader! I am following so many…:)

Step 8

Step 9: Rejoice because all of your blogs are now on the Bloglovin homepage! And then go through and reorganize all of your blogs into groups.

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Step 10: Follow My Pretty Pennies in your new Reader. :) Bloglovin’ / HelloCotton / RSS Feed

Have a wonderful Friday everyone! What RSS reader do you follow? Are you as sad as I am about Google Reader? :(