Because Plan B is Cheaper Than a Baby

Kitty Baby

So the other night I took a Plan B pill for the first time in six years.

Wait, let’s back up. I’m on the birth control pill and am pretty darn good at taking that every morning with my tea. I totally get that the pill is not for everyone, but it works really well with my body. I don’t have many side effects, and it actually makes that-time-of-the-month a bit more pleasant. Not all of the birth control pills I’ve taken work this well for me, but two out of three did and I’d say that’s a pretty good average.

Typically, I don’t get that nervous if I forget to take it for a day. It’s not all that unusual, especially on weekends, but I’ve done the research and know that that doesn’t increase the likelihood of an unplanned pregnancy much at all. I try to not let that happen, but I’m not a wreck if it does. Over Thanksgiving weekend, though, with my schedule totally out the window, I got extra sloppy and was pretty darn late twice taking the pill. I realized that late at night, and right after I took them I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling thinking, “I really don’t want a kid right now.”

Honestly, it really pisses me off when family members or friends make cracks about me wanting kids. I DON’T FUCKING WANT A KID. Just because my boyfriend and I have been together for almost six years and I have two animals does not mean I want a naked, screaming baby.

Mostly I just think kids are okay. My half brother was born when I was 11 years old, so I have a pretty good idea of how much is involved. I’m sure it’s magical or whatever when it’s your own baby, but I don’t have any illusions of how expensive, time consuming, and exhausting it is. And honestly, it’s a lot of responsibility. When you have a kid, your own wants and needs take a backseat to your baby’s and I’m so not ready to do that. I might never be ready to do that.

Anyways, I’m staring at the ceiling thinking about how I really don’t want a kid, but also how the likelihood of me actually getting pregnant is probably, most likely pretty small. My birth control pill has never failed me before, despite the occasional mess-ups. Plan B is really kind of expensive (what’s with that anyways?) and it can have some icky side effects. But on the other hand, I’m terrified of missing that time of the month, taking a test, and then needing to make some really big decisions.

I’m not going to get too deep into my moral and political views here, but to put it bluntly, I’m pro-choice. I don’t believe life starts at conception, so within reason, I don’t think abortions are abominable. I think most of the people making decisions about women’s rights over their bodies are a lot of old, white men, and that really pisses me off (especially when they’re all “pro family” but then caught driving their daughter across state lines to have an abortion).

But even though I believe in a woman’s right to choose, it’s not a choice I would make lightly at all. My boyfriend’s feelings would need to be taken into account, and since he was also an “oops child” and loves kids, he’d probably be pretty pro-baby. And I think he would make a really great dad, whether we’d be able to stay together for the next 18 years or not. But I’m not ready to move in with my mom or his mom and give up my career and my home and my friends. That’s a whole lot of sacrifice, because I love my life like it is right now and we both have too much ahead of us.

So that’s why I woke up the next morning, put some pants on, and drove to the pharmacy to buy a Plan B pill. Most likely, I didn’t need it. There are a lot of other things I would have loved to buy with that $40. But it’s a whole lot cheaper than a baby.

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Cherry Jam Spread

Cherry Jam 1 Cherry Jam 3Cherry Jam 2

Canning is basically what cured my last serious depression. It was a point in my life where I wasn’t feeling very creatively inspired and found my job to be seriously under-stimulating. I saw a canning book at a little boutique and picked it up on a whim, but before I knew it I was completely engrossed. Much like baking, it required some creativity, but it was mostly about following a strict process. It was time consuming, rewarding, and just challenging enough to give me some purpose at a period of time in my life where I didn’t have much of a direction.

At that point, I was trying everything from pickles to preserved fruit, but mostly it was jams. Outside of sanitizing and preparing the jars, making jam is actually an incredibly easy process. Off the top of my head, I know I’ve tried strawberry, blueberry, kiwi, and peach, but this was actually my first attempt at a cherry jam. Bing cherries are looking pretty gorgeous this time of the year, and I have to say when you add five cups of sugar (yes, jam has a LOT of sugar) they taste an awful lot like maraschino cherries. I bet this would be pretty delicious used in a dessert like thumb print cookies.

Cherry Jam Spread

Ingredients

  • Approximately 3 pounds of cherries
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 box of fruit pectin
  • 5 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract

Instructions

  1. Wash six eight-ounce canning jars and tops completely with soap and water. Put the jars into a large pot and cover completely with water until there's two inches of water above them. Tuck the circular rims around the jars until they're also fully emerged. Bring to a boil and boil for ten minutes, then remove and drain the jars completely of water. Put on the counter to wait for jam to finish cooking.
  2. Sanitize the flat tops of the jars by putting them into the hot water for a few minutes, then carefully removing to place on the counter and wait for jam to finish cooking.
  3. Remove stems and cherry pits. Put cherries into a food processor or blender and chop until mostly ground. Measure exactly four cups into a large pot and add 1/4 of a cup fresh lemon juice
  4. Stir fruit pectin in with the cherry mixture and turn heat on to high. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a full rolling boil, then stir in sugar and almond extract. Continuing to stir, bring the mixture back to a full rolling boil again and then let it boil for exactly a minute. Remove the pot from heat and skim off any foam that may be on top of the mixture.
  5. Ladle the cherry mixture immediately into the clean jars until it reaches 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the top of the jars and the rims with a hot, wet towel to remove any jam that may have splattered. Cover jars with the two piece lids and gently close with the tips of your fingers, but don't screw bands tightly.
  6. Put closed jars back into the large pot of hot water, making sure that the water covers the jars by at least one inch. Turn heat onto medium and let water come to a full boil. Boil jars for ten minutes, then turn heat off and let the water cool back down to a tepid temperature.
  7. Remove jars from pot and place on a counter where they can sit for 24 hours. After a few hours, check to make sure the tops of the jars have decompressed and don't pop when pushed. Any jars that pop should be immediately put in the fridge and eaten soon. Jars that remain sealed after 24 hours should have their lights screwed tightly and will remain good on the shelf for up to a year.
http://oddlylovely.com/cherry-jam-spread/

*Recipe from Sure.Jell Kraft recipes. Fills six 8-ounce jars.

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5 Non-Obvious Things Every Blog Needs

Blog Desk

Okay, so even if you just started blogging you probably know you need some basics, like an About Page where you talk about yourself and a navigation menu where people can locate different parts of your blog. But once you’ve got that setup, where do you go from there?

In order to catch the eye of potential readers and make your content more shareable, here’s a couple of basic components to kick your content up a notch.

1. A custom domain URL

I know you may not want to hear it, but it’s a fact – your blog will be taken more seriously if you have a custom URL. A .blogspot or wordpress.com domain tells viewers that you just aren’t that serious about blogging and don’t find it’s worth the couple of dollars or hour worth of time to set up a unique address. If we feel like you can’t take your blog seriously, we won’t be inclined to take it seriously either.

2. A popular posts section

Not all of our posts can be incredible all the time, but a popular posts section allows your most attractive content to float to the top and catch the eye of potential readers who land on your site. You can either put your popular posts in your side bar with a widget (I use the Genesis Featured posts widget that comes installed with the framework) or you can dedicate an entire tab on your menu to a page exclusively of your best posts. You could also include your popular posts as part of your About Page, but I’d recommend that as last resort (or a supplemental option).

3. External links that automatically open new windows

So on the one hand you’re going to want to link to external sites sometimes to rep your favorite bloggers, show off cool websites, etc. But you don’t want to lose those readers completely when you send them elsewhere to see something. Always download a plugin that automatically opens a new window when a viewer clicks on an external link, so your blog stays open in the first tab for them to easily return to. (I use this plugin for WordPress.)

4. Social buttons for sharing posts

It’s always worthwhile to make sharing your content as easy as possible. While many viewers have a “Pin It” button and other social share options installed on their browser, by setting up social share buttons, you are gently reminding readers to post about your content. I recommend installing a general plugin that shows a variety of social platform buttons like Facebook and Twitter (I use this one), as well as a plugin specifically to put a Pinterest “hover” button over your images (I use this jQuery plugin).

5. An SEO optimization plugin

I work in social media marketing and I know almost virtually nothing about SEO. There, I said it. It’s a major gap in my education and one that I know is a hinderance both in my profession and in my blogging career. I suspect many of you are the same, and while educating ourselves is always a good idea, in the meantime there’s some fantastic plugins that can help us optimize our posts for better SEO with some simple fill-in-the-blank steps. (I use WordPress SEO by Yoast.)

Pssst… you can read more of my blogging tips here!

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Creative Office Work Attire

Creative Work Outfit 3Creative Work Outfit 5Creative Work Outfit 7Creative Work Outfit 4Creative Work Outfit 6Creative Work Outfit 1Let me say up front that this is not typically how I dress for work. I’m lucky enough to live in the Bay Area and work in social media marketing, which means for the most part I can get away with blue jeans, a printed tee, and TOMs shoes. We are very, very casual here, and honestly I love it.

That being said, when we meet with clients, something a little bit more professional (that makes me look less like the 25 year old I am) is called for. Although I might not wear these heels since I totter around like a horse on stilts, a pencil skirt from Express and a button-up from JCrew pretty much always fit the bill. Accessories are an opportunity to add in color and personality in order to show the client, why yes, I do in fact work in a creative field and am a little bit on the wild-side (but not so wild that I’ll accidentally post about #gettingslizzard on your Twitter account a la Red Cross).

How do you dress for work?

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5 Activity Presents That Are Way Better Than More Stuff

In theory I love the idea of picking out the perfect gift for someone, but in practice it’s really challenging. Books are one of my main go-to choices, because I can usually think of the perfect one for an individual (or, you know, just give them all David Sedaris books because everyone enjoys him). Outside of that though, I start to get frustrated because really, who needs more crap in their lives? I worry that I’m spending $20 on a present that’s just got to sit in a box for six months and then be taken to Goodwill. What a waste.

That’s why I love giving what I call “activity presents.” Instead of giving people more junk, I try and think of a really thoughtful activity that they would enjoy and that we could possibly do together. That way they don’t have more stuff sitting around the house, we get out and do something they love, and it comes with the fantastic bonus of some bonding time. It doesn’t hurt that activity gifts can make an excellent last minute gift that you can pick up on-the-fly, too!

Five Activity Presents

Here’s some activity presents that way way better than more stuff:

1. Tickets to a Show, Concert, or Sports Event

A few years ago, Cirque du Soleil came to San Francisco and I picked my boyfriend up tickets for his birthday. I had been to fair amount of Cirque shows as a kid and knew how incredible breathtaking they could be, but my boyfriend had never seen one before. I was absolutely giddy to show him such a magical part of my childhood, and we had such a great time that a year later he got me tickets for Christmas! Now going to Cirque du Soleil is one of our holiday traditions.

2. Sign-up for a Class

Maybe your dad has always been interested in learning how to scuba dive or your best friend exclaimed how much she’d like to learn how to make jewelry. Bonding over creating art or learning how to rock climb is a really fun way to connect with someone and grow together. I definitely recommend checking out Groupon for deals, and maybe consider making them a fancy “IOU” card so you can pick a date together that works with both your schedules.

3. Gift Certificate to a Restaurant

This is one of my favorites for relatives who seem to already have everything. Either pick up a gift certificate to their favorite nice restaurant or one that you know they’d love but haven’t tried yet. Then commit to making the time to go out with them, even if it involves a bit of a commute to spend time together. I’ve given my grandparents restaurant gift certificates for years, which is really more the gift of us spending time together than anything else (plus, I get to pay them back for the many dinners they’ve treated me to!).

4. Massage, Pedicure, or a Spa Day

Pedicures and massages are the kind of treats I love, but almost never splurge on for myself. When you give someone a “treat yourself!” present they get to indulge and spoil themselves without having to feel guilty about wasting $50. This doesn’t just apply for women, either – since my boyfriend has major back and neck pain. last Christmas I gave the BF a gift certificate for a massage and an hour long pass to a private hot tub.

5. Wine or Beer Tasting

We all have someone in our lives who totally geeks out on fancy beer or wines. Maybe you’ve heard them mention wistfully about wanting to take a day trip to a local brewery or winery. Put together an adventure that you guys can do together where you hit up a local place you haven’t visited yet to try their selection. Don’t forget about scheduling in a meal as well and plan how you’ll get home safely!

Have you ever given a loved one an “activity present?”

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Oddly Lovely Reader Survey Results!

Oddly Lovely Reader Survey ResultsSo two weeks ago I reached out asking you guys to please participate in a short reader survey. I wanted to get to know you all a little better and also find out what was your favorite (and least favorite) content, which would help influence Oddly Lovely going forwards. 109 of you answered in ten days, which was far more than I was anticipating, so thank you so much!

Now, onto the results:

Survey 1

I was not at all surprised to find out that most of you are 19 to 29 and that you are almost entirely female. I’m betting the three men who bothered to answer all know me in real life, haha.

Survey 2I was a little surprised that only 19 of you were in the UK, since it feels like so many of my blogger friends live there. I also tossed in the question about if you knew me in real life, because I was curious how skewed this survey would be by your personal relationship with me. Since only 14 of my friends and family answered, I suspect it wasn’t altered too much, hehe.

Survey 3

What I was delightfully surprised about was how many of you have been readers for a few months to a couple of weeks! Apparently people find it worthwhile to keep coming back to my little blog, which I take as a fantastic compliment and a sign I’m doing something right. I wasn’t super surprised how many of you are bloggers.

Survey 4

Now on to the questions I was most excited about. I thought it was very interesting that DIY projects were so popular, since I don’t do them a whole lot (frankly, they’re hard to come up with and time consuming). I was also blown away how many of you were interested in personal stories – who know you found me to be very interesting! I was a little surprised blogging tips wasn’t more popular, since those seem to be some of my most commented-on posts lately.

Honestly, I was definitely a little bummed that you guys so disliked my posts on spirituality and paganism, especially considering I only did one post. Who knew it was so hated! I definitely wallowed in sadness for a few hours after finding that out. On the one hand, I totally get that people don’t usually read blogs to hear about people’s religious and spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, it’s tough to hear that something so close to my heart is so disliked. I’ve processed it some and moved on, but I guess it’s a good thing I don’t plan on talking much about anyways.

Also, what’s with all the dislike of technology and app posts? That felt so random to me, haha.

Survey 5

Once again, I’m completely blown away by how interested you guys are in my personal stories and life events! Generally I prefer blogs that aren’t exclusively about a person’s life, but instead include recipes, tips, recommendations, etc. My life is really pretty boring, but I guess I’ll need to start racking my mind about what you guys might be interested in hearing about!

Also, thank you to the many, many people who said they loved all my content. That felt pretty darn good!

Survey 6No big surprises here either. Most of you keep up with Oddly Lovely via Bloglovin, with a dash of Twitter and Facebook. Most of you were interested in 3-4 posts a week. Usually I’m somewhere right around four now, so that feels right on target.

Survey 7Since I’ve been participating in a few giveaways over the last couple of months, it was really important to me to get feedback on how you all felt about that, since I really didn’t want to be driving you crazy if you hated them. I was relieved that only 3 of you said you think they’re annoying, while the rest of you were pretty spread out between apathy and one to four a month. Although I’ve had a few in the last couple of weeks, mostly it’ll probably be closer to one or two a month going forward.

Now, onto some of the comments. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to write a word of encouragement or give some feedback. The comments pretty much stand on their own, but I’ll be responding to a few of them below (mostly the ones with feedback).

Rockstar Comments

“Love your blog! I’m mostly a lurker, never really been into commenting. But I would I’ve to take this time to tell you how much I have been enjoying your little slice of the internet since I found your blog a couple months ago :) And I love reading about the life of a fellow Bay Area lover!”

“I love your photos! And even though I’m not big into fashion, you have such a catchy, unique style!”

“Keep up the good work! I always look forward to reading your blog!”

 “I love your personality, I can read it through your posts. I can understand what you’re talking about and I love it!” 

“Love the design of the blog a lot!” - FYI, Erin from Two Thirds Hazel designed my blog. She was very affordable and a delight to work with. I can’t recommend her enough if you’re interested in a new design!

“I think you’re doing an amazing job with your blog, I do love everything! Hope to see more vlogs though, it’s always interesting!”

“I’m a newbie and have been following for only a couple of weeks, but I love your blog! Very diverse and well written content. Thanks for sharing!”

Helpful Feedback

“I love most everything abut this blog! I would recommend using less of the blue tint (temperature??) on some of your food photos, only because bluish/purplish colors tend to not be that appetizing. But I also understand if the color filter on your photos are meant to correspond with your main blog colors! Other than that, I love your design, your posts, and the way you inject your own voice into everything!” – Haha, so I definitely prefer a “cool” coloring to my photos, food photos included. I totally see your point about blue colors making food look less appetizing, though, so I’ll keep that in mind going forwards.

“I would love to find more blogging info… I am trying to set up a blog for myself but not getting much help from anyone…” - After my last two posts with blogging tips were so successful (7 Reasons I Stop Reading Your Blog and How to Get More Blog Readers), I’ll definitely be doing blog tips a few times a week. Stay on the lookout for those!

“About giveaways. How about a different amount like every other month? Also how does one know who the winners are. Maybe a quick follow up post about who won something. Otherwise it’s great fun and I love following and reading.” – I promise the giveaways will be something new every month! Sometimes cash, sometimes a gift card, and always a different amount. As for the winners, I’m not always in charge of hosting the giveaway, so announcing the winner is not always in my control. Plus, I don’t want to do an entire post just announcing the winner! Sometimes the winner is announced on the Rafflecopter widget, so you can always look there when the giveaway is over. Otherwise, if you’d like to know, please shoot me an email and I’ll find out who the winner is for you!

“This wasn’t an option but for giveaways maybe 1-2x a year.” – Totally hear where you’re coming from! I get that giveaways are not for everyone. I promise to always make an effort to make the posts slightly interesting with something like a wishlist.

“I’m okay with the fashion posts, but I’d prefer fewer pictures in those posts – like one or two of the best ones, rather than several. I love your personal stories… I find personal stories help us relate to you… feel close to you cuz hearts go out to you….” - Hmm, I was surprised by this feedback since I don’t feel I include very many pictures in my fashion posts, certainly never more than eight. I’ll definitely make an effort to be more selective in my photos going forward, however. Glad to know how much you (and everyone else it seems!) loves personal stories. I’ll absolutely be including more of them in the future.

My Big Takeaway from This Survey

My biggest takeaway by far is how much you guys love personal stories. Who knew those were so popular! As I mentioned above, my life is pretty boring – work, TV, walking the dog, reading, a bit of cooking, and hanging out with friends. I also want to be sensitive about extending my boyfriend, friends, and family their privacy – I felt comfortable sharing that post about my ex because that was ten years ago, but it’s harder for me to share current life dramas that involve people who are still important to me. I mean, heck, that recent post about relationships not needing to last forever caused about 10 people in my life to ask if Reg and I were breaking up! Even that was too much drama for me., haha That being said, I’ll definitely try and incorporate more personal posts. They are fun to write!

My Question for You

Now, as I wrap this process up, I have one last question for you guys: what do you want to see here? Be specific! Do you want tips on how to market your blog on Facebook? Stories about my relationship or childhood? What about my top 10 favorite movies of all time? Do you have any questions for me about my life in general? I’m totally open and here and want to know.

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