Give Your Favorite Bloggers Some Love

So I mentioned last week that I was going through a bit of a blogging slump. It really is minor and nothing to worry about – I’m not shutting down Oddly Lovely any time soon! In fact, I really enjoyed photographing my chia seed pudding and writing about living a magical life right after I posted that, so I’m hopeful that I’m on the road to recovery.

But I also want to say that awesome support from blogging friends and readers makes an enormous impact when you’re asking yourself if blogging is worth it. With a few exceptions, most bloggers don’t get paid to blog. We might accept a freebie here or there, but it doesn’t equal the hours and hours it takes every week to write, photograph, Photoshop, tweet, respond, and share. We do it because we love it, because we find it rewarding and fulfilling and inspiring.

Support Favorite Bloggers

Over and over again, you hear bloggers claim it’s not about the numbers. And while in an ideal world it shouldn’t be, it’s hard to get over the fact that you want other people to care about your little blog project. If we’re going to spend 20 hours a week working on a blog, it’s really helpful to know other people are reading and enjoying the posts. If we just wanted to write, we would have a journal. Since we’re blogging, we want to know we have at least something resembling an audience (even if it’s a small but loyal one made up of blogger friends – I’m looking at you awesome people!).

That’s why I encourage you to show your favorite bloggers that you care. Help them feel like investing in this project and community is worth their time. This week I received a really much needed boost from you guys, from Kerri featuring me as her Saturday Spotlight to Olya sharing my post about Reg leaving for South America to five of you sharing my magical life post on Twitter. When you support your favorite blogs, it has a real, big impact on the blogger and can mean the difference between them staying dedicated to this very time-consuming project or not – never forget there’s a living person behind that screen whose heart soars from a kind word!

So I implore you, take a few minutes today to comment on a blog you follow but don’t often engage with. Respond to a tweet about a blog post you really loved, just to say you really loved it. Name drop your favorite blogs often. Follow them on social. Nurture your community just as much as you build your own blog. The real value in blogging always winds up being the relationships we build with each other.

1. Comment

This one may seem like an oh-duh, but it’s importance should not be underestimated. At least for me, I often gauge how successful a post was by how many comments it gets (My plan B post = very successful. Jam and almond thumbprint cookies = not so much). Sure, of course long, very thoughtful comments mean a whole lot more than a “follow back?” comment, but even just two sentences with your own insights/experience on the topic being discussed shows the blogger you read it and cared! I attempt to comment on every blog post that I read. I’m not always successful, but I at least try.

2. Share their posts on Twitter

Sharing is caring! Twitter is a great way to give your favorite bloggers some love, especially since it’s a best practice to be sharing content other than your own. It just takes five seconds to schedule out a tweet or one second to retweet one of theirs, so it’s a small favor that can make a big difference to that posts’ exposure and that bloggers opinion about its success! Favoriting and responding and just reaching out to say “hi” are also completely acceptable ways to show blog love!

3. Heart their posts on Bloglovin’

Of course, following your favorite bloggers on Bloglovin’ is an awesome way to support them. But if you want to show them a post really rocked, give it a little heart. It only takes a second and requires minimal effort from you. This is a great option if you don’t have time to comment or share.

4. Give them a shoutout in your blog posts

Not only does a shoutout get the blog you love a little more exposure and help them build their audience, it just shows them that you really, really enjoyed their post! Whether it’s a weekly round-up of your favorite posts or a list of bloggers you adore, trust me when I say it makes their day.

How do you show your favorite bloggers you’re totally crazy about them? What ways do your readers show you they care?

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10 Best Dog Products for a Happy and Healthy Pup

You guys already know I spend way too much time thinking, talking, walking, playing, and dreaming about my dog. I also have a fair amount of disposable income, which means we’ve tried a whole lot of different dog products over the years. Here are the very best ones I recommend to everyone I know.Best Dog Products1. Chuckit! Launchers

Perfect for dogs who love to play fetch, the Chuckit is designed to pick up the ball hands-free (no more muddy, slobbery hands) and then throw it 3 times as far as you can with your arm. The Chuckit balls are also designed to not ruin the enamel on your dog’s pearly whites, unlike normal tennis balls which can be harmful after years of use.

2. Gulpy Jr. Water Dispenser

From trips to the beach to hikes in the mountains, it’s important to keep your running pup hydrated as they run laps around you. Instead of pouring water into your hand to let your dog lap it up, just flip down the drinking tray and squirt water inside.

3. Prozyme Powder for Pets

Designed for pups on a dry food diet, this supplement has all the vitamins that they would get from eating raw. Prozyme helps dogs with general digestion, but it can also help pets who experience excessive shedding, gas, skin problems, weight issues, lack of energy, and stool eating.

4. SENSE-ible No Pull Dog Harness

Unlike the typical “sled dog” harnesses that attach in back, the SENSE-ible harness attaches in front and gives better directional cues to your dog while reducing pulling. I discussed this game-changing harness in my What’s In My Bag video, but all it took was one walk to turn my pup from a pulling nightmare to a well-mannered leash dog.

5. Walky Dog Bicycle Exerciser Leash

Juggling a leash while controlling a bike is dangerous, but the Walky Dog Bicycle Exerciser Leash allows you to connect your dog to the seat post, which is safer for both of you. I loved this product so much, I actually did an entire blog post about it.

6. Mountainsmith Dog Pack

If even a long hike only needs to semi-tire your dog, filling this pack full of water bottles will change everything. It’s a comfortable fit for your pup and doesn’t shift when they run, plus it allows them to carry their own water, leash, and any other necessities.

7. Petsafe Busy Buddy Tug-a-Jug Meal Dispensing Dog Toy

Treat toys turn meal time into play time, providing extra stimulation and slows down how quickly your dog consumes food. You can use it for fetch or tug-o-war, or just fill it up with their dinner and let them go to work. (Psst, get more tips on mentally challenging your dog.)

8. Skyline Puffy Dog Vest

Although it’s not exactly been a chilly winter here in California, this puffy dog vest is perfect for sissy dogs like mine who tremble in a bit of cold. It’s water repellant with velcro enclosures, reflective piping, and a reversible option so you can switch colors.

9. Beef Bully Sticks

Incredibly easy for your pup to digest, bully sticks have no additives, colors, chemicals, or preservatives. They are safe for puppies and also help remove tarter buildup on teeth. Really the healthiest option if you’re looking for a “bone” for them to chew on.

10. Kong Genius Dog Toys

Another great food toy option, the Kong Genius toys snap together so you can fill them with kibble and create complex puzzles for your pup. They’re great for combating boredom or separation anxiety – I often fill Ru’s up just before I leave, effective distracting her during my departure.

Bonus: Natural Balance Dog Food Rolls

Training your dog is incredibly important, and the food you use can dramatically change the effectiveness of a training session. Natural Balance Dog Food Rolls are actually a meal-time food, not a treat, so your dog can safely chow down on lots of it, but it’s still stinky and dogs go gaga over it.

What’s a dog product that you (and your pup) love?

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7 Ways to Live a More Magical Life

For me, being pagan does not just mean naked dances under the fool moon (although it can – I’m not judging!). I’m a terrible witch and far prefer to spend my time watching Netflix than casting spells. Instead, I strive to bring magic into the every day, living in a conscious way that makes me a better person and connects me to the divine – plants and people, philosophy and creativity, earth, wind, water, fire. There isn’t a single way to lead a more magical life, this is just the way that I strive to do so.

Magical Life

Use symbols wisely. Decorate your home with colors that make you feel energized. Hang a crystal in your car. Get a tattoo that reminds you of a positive lesson or experience. Put trinkets from loved ones on your desk. Buy t-shirts with inspiring sayings. Drink your morning tea out of a happy mug. Make your computer background a forest. Consider the impact of your words. Write often. Keep your promises.

Don’t forget to breathe. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Start your Saturday with yoga. Take ten minutes every morning for meditation. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. When you’re angry or sad or just tired, take a deep breath. Rest your head on someone else’s chest and match your breathing to theirs. Use essential oils. On a cold day, stop to watch the exhalation of warm air leave your mouth. Never forget that it is required. Take too little of it, breathe too shallowly, and your spirit will suffer.

Your body is a temple – decorate it. Wear jewelry that reminds you of a special moment or a special person or just makes you feel special. Dye your hair purple or chop it off. Use fancy lotion. Exercise often, but don’t ever feel anything except proud of your breasts or your stomach or your arms. Dress the way that you want to feel. Never let someone else dictate the way you look. Try a top you’d swear you’d never wear. Try a cat eye. Try a bold red lip. Wear heels that make you feel like a sex goddess. Wear bangles that make music when you walk.

Create a safe and sacred space. Keep your kitchen clean. Surround yourself with pets and flowers. Drink wine and make art for the walls. Always have music playing. Fill it with people who make you a better person. Don’t allow negativity to cross the threshold. Burn incense and light candles and smudge sage. Keep the curtains open. Touch every object in the house and only keep the ones that lift your spirits. Sleep with lavender under your pillow. Always have a full bookshelf.

Get sunlight (or moonlight) and fresh air every day. Drive with your windows down. Sit outside and read a book. Walk to the coffee shop or the grocery store or a friend’s house. Have a picnic in the park. Fully appreciate the way your hair whips around you on a windy day. Lie in the grass and close your eyes and think about how every little plant is alive just like you are. Stop to appreciate a full moon. Buy fresh vegetables at the farmer’s market. In the summer go camping and in the winter walk in the rain. Climb a tree. Grow an herb garden.

Live positivity. Give someone a compliment. Make eye contact. Send a text just to say you’re thinking of them. Stop and close your eyes – say a quick thank you for your blessings. Recycle, compost, and turn off the lights. Treat a loved one to dinner. Trade your friends a massage. Put money in an expired meter. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Laugh often. Good karma comes back. Whatever you do will be returned three times as strong.

Incorporate magic into every day activities. Sweep your floor and visualize brushing out the negative energy. Bake cookies to feed loved ones and imbue them with positive vibes. Christen a new home with a potted plant. Wash off the day with a bubble bath. Don’t let others jealousy or insecurities or anger ever affect your spirit. Use herb lore to select your tea. Use color magic to pick your nail polish shade. Use tarot cards to help you better understand yourself. Eat consciously.

How do you strive to lead a more magical life?

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Chia Seed Pudding

Chia Seed Pudding 1

Chia Seed Pudding 2

Chia seeds are these funny little things, almost like poppy seeds when they’re in the bag, but if you leave them to soak in a liquid for a few hours, they puff up and have the texture of tiny tapioca balls. They’re incredibly good for you, full of omega-3s and fiber and loads of vitamins, and although I’ve always enjoyed them in my store-bought kombucha, I’ve never cooked with them before.

Then, last week I tried chia seed pudding for the first time at the coffee shop across the street from my office. They had run out of my typical oatmeal, so they offered granola with chia seed pudding instead. I took one bite and was instantly hooked. Fortunately for my budget, chia seed pudding is also incredibly easy to make – just combine the ingredients and wait for 4 hours!

In some ways, it’s a little bit like yogurt, but neither Reg or I particularly like yogurt and we both loved this. It’s also like a healthy tapioca pudding, sweetened with just a little bit of maple syrup. I’ll happily eat it straight out of the bowl, but it’s also brilliant over granola or sprinkled with nuts and fruit (I used raw, sliced almonds and pomegranate seeds here). Little tip: chia seeds are also delicious in smoothies!

Have you ever tried these quirky seeds before?

Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the almond milk, Greek yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt.
  2. Once completely blended, whisk in the chia seeds, then let it stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Mix the pudding one more time in case the chia seeds have settled.
  4. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.
  5. You can either eat it plain, mix it with granola, or add nuts and fresh fruit. The possibilities are endless!
http://oddlylovely.com/chia-seed-pudding/

*Note: this is quite a large recipe and will feed one person a medium sized bowl for an entire workweek. You could also cut the recipe in half if you wanted a smaller batch. Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.

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How to Beat a Blogging Slump

Blogging Slump

I don’t know if you guys can tell or not, but I’m in a bit of a blogging slump.

Oddly Lovely started out being a blog about little joys – recipes, outfits, etc. I almost never wrote personal posts. Then, I started to share a few stories from my life, and they were fabulously well-received. In my reader survey last fall, everyone said they wanted to hear more about my life. So my blog has moved more in that direction, from my thoughts on work friendships to my opinions on gun control.

But these posts are emotionally exhausting to share, and I’m starting to feel they’re only successful about half the time. I feel like the average number of comments on my posts has gone down. Plus, I’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to create and photograph recipes on the weekend, and with Reg being gone for a few months, I’ll no longer be able to do outfit posts for a while.

So what is this space? What defines Oddly Lovely now? Who is actually reading this blog and what kind of posts do they want to see?

Like I said, I’m in a bit of a slump. But I posted about this on Twitter yesterday, and received some great advice and pep talks, and now I’m trying to be a bit more proactive about how I can rediscover joy in blogging and what I want this space to be. Here’s what I’m trying:

1.  Read blogs you find to be inspiring

My blogging slump isn’t a result of competition, and if yours is, maybe it’s best to take a break from reading other blogs. For me, reading blogs that are doing interesting and exciting things truly inspires me! I randomly ran across this post from Gala Darling about 5 Easy Ways to Make Your Bedroom a Magical Hideaway. It was a beautiful post, fun to read, and on a topic that I totally related to. Obviously I’m not going to copy her exact post, but seeing how amazing her blog is gives me ideas about new directions to take my own blog.

2. Create a Twitter list of your favorite bloggers

I started blogging for the creative outlet, and I stayed for the people. Kerri of Crumbs in the Bed, Kathryn of Through the Thicket, Jenn of Hello Rigby, Johanna of Our Joyful Home, Victoria of Treelined Avenue… the list goes on and on. I wouldn’t want to stop blogging, because then I would likely loose my connection with these incredible women. So today I updated my Twitter list of Awesome Online People, which is my go-to place when I need a work pick-me-up. I can see what’s on their minds, what they’re reading, what they’re sharing, and stay connected even better to my fabulous blogging community.

3. Review what you’ve posted and think about what has worked and what hasn’t

To be honest, I don’t have a content calendar. I don’t post completely willy nilly, and I try to be conscientious about sharing a diverse mix, but often times I’ll write about something random and post in within a couple of days. As a result, I’ve never paid especially close attention to what has been well-received and what I really enjoy talking about. I know you guys love blogging tips, so maybe I should keep sharing those? And maybe I’ll scale back the controversial topics a bit, since writing something for the sake of just taking a position (like my post on gun control) is less interesting to me? You get the idea – review and assess.

4. Think critically about what you can do more of on your blog that will excite you

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve lately been moving away from recipes and outfits and posting more personal stories. I think part of my dissatisfaction with my blog has to do with the fact that I’m using less beautiful, original photography. I want to step up my photography game again, take more time to take beautiful photos on the weekends, and stop using imagery for the sake of using imagery. Fortunately the time changes next month, which will make it much easier to photograph on weekdays! Perhaps I should also step up my Instagram game up in an effort to further this goal.

Have you ever been in a blogging slump before? What advice do you have for me?

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The Least That I Can Do

Traveling

In just a few days, my boyfriend Reg is leaving for South America. He’s quitting his job and going for at least two months but possibly longer. One of our good friends has been living down in Argentina and working as a raft guide, and Reg and two of our other good friends are headed down there to explore at least Peru and Argentina and Chile, as well as possibly Brazil, with little more than backpacks and guidebooks and a list of ideas.

And I’m not going with them. Why? There’s a whole host of reasons. First of all, I love my job and the time isn’t right yet to quit and go exploring (not to mention I can’t bail on my animals). Second, it’s definitely got that “boys trip” kind of a vibe, and although Reg invites me along on every group activity, I try and be conscientious of letting him have that time with guy friends. Third, I just don’t have the travel bug.

You know the type. They’re always planning their next international adventure and every job is about saving up for traveling. Those periods of exploring foreign countries help them grow and define themselves in real, important ways. Seeing new places and getting away from home refreshes them and helps them feel excited about life again in a way that working a 9-5 just can’t.

Reg is one of those people. His last big trip was right when we started dating, when he went down to Central America for a few months, and in many ways it was the catalyst for our relationship even having a chance (you can read a bit more about that in this post). He went down to Costa Rica feeling lost and pushing me away, and he came back and was the best boyfriend ever.

Travel

So when people ask me how I feel about Reg going, I say, “I’m frickin’ thrilled!” and I totally, 100% mean it. Not that our relationship is struggling or Reg is feeling lost – on the contrary, we’re doing really well. But we’ve been in a relationship for six years, and I think there’s something valuable about getting space. I hope that a little bit of distance will put things back into perspective and make us appreciate each other even more. Not to mention, Reg has worked his ass off at his first big kid job for the last year and a half. If he doesn’t take a break now, he’s going to burn out in a year and need to leave then anyways.

In addition to the fact that I’m really good at entertaining myself and am not that afraid of having more alone time for a couple of months, I think the other big factor that works in our favor is I totally trust him. You’d think that trust would be a given in relationships as long as ours, but it seems like it’s not. Yet Reg and I have had a lot of practice – he’s gone to Burning Man without me for a few years and regularly goes to parties and clubs while I stay at home. We’ve never been that couple that needs to do everything together. Plus Reg is pretty much the definition of “good guy with a golden heart.”

I’m sure I’ll be lonely. I’m sure there will be many weekends when I just don’t have enough activities to fill up my time. But my mom has already fantastic about making herself available to hang out, and I hope my friends will do the same. I have my animals and my coworkers, and of course I have you guys who read this blog and who tweet me to check in and who offer me reassurance when I pour my heart out.

And part of loving someone is supporting them, even when their plans don’t involve you. In some ways, I feel like my relationship with Reg already holds him back from moving to new places or trying new things. And I don’t want him to look back at his life at 50 and regret not having experienced more. So it’s really the least I can do to support him on this.

Have you ever made concessions in your relationship to support your partner?

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