Perfectionism: Overcoming the Artist’s Hurdle

When you are looking for a creative escape, have you ever stopped before you start because you fear the end result won’t be the perfect picture you’ve painted in your mind? This all-or-nothing attitude of perfectionism can lead to analysis paralysis – where you overanalyze a situation to the point that you are unable to move forward on a decision. This is when perfectionism becomes a problem – when perfectionism gets in the way of performance.

Personally, I fall into this unhealthy loop too often. I’ll feel a wad of emotions and the need to untangle it through creativity, but I’ll talk myself out of it for fear of not attaining perfection. That’s a sure way to fail before even trying. Perfectionism is a flaw.

To push past this mental block, I decided to talk to artists – people who seem to know how to embrace the process instead of focusing JUST on the end result. I was honored to hear from three artists – all with different creative mediums and all in different walks of life. I hope reading their answers (and seeing their work) inspires you to knock down perfectionism’s barriers and create.

MCH Artwork

Morgan with MCH Artwork is a drip artist. She starts on an easel with brush and acrylic paint and then moves the canvas to the ground where the magic happens! She drips latex paint from a pallet knife above the canvas and then details and outlines the drips to bring all the layers together into one beautiful work.

  1. Do you strive to be perfect in your art?

I strive to be proud of what I’ve created. Sometimes that means I just appreciate the process, and then tweak the results until I’m pleased. Other times it just flows and comes together effortlessly. Both are part of creating. Perfection isn’t my goal. But quality control is a thing – I’ve started over many times on a fresh canvas when I’ve overworked a piece to try to “get it right”. It’s okay to admit when it just isn’t going to work.

2. What do you do when you make mistakes in your artwork?

For commissions, particularly any that are in the portrait realm, I worry that it won’t convey the essence of the moment or personality because it’s usually just from a reference photograph that I’m working from. And my eyes see it the way my eyes see it – I can’t change that. I like to please clients, which is good. But I can overthink when working on something so personal for them.

3. Why did you choose your particular artistic medium and what inspires you to create?

I’ve always been an artist. I loved sketching when I was younger and had it as an outlet when I got married and as I stayed at home with my three boys. After losing my first husband to suicide in 2010, the need to create and process sorrow and loss was huge. I had been repainting old furniture and had extra house paint, so decided to see what would happen if I dripped some on a canvas – and now I can’t look at something without wondering how I could drip it!

4. How does it feel when you create?

Creating is part of what makes me feel purposeful. It’s the one place I can go and totally lose track of time. It’s when I feel used by my Creator the most – that I’m using the gift he gave little ol’ me to show His love and care for others. It’s the best.

5. What kind of atmosphere or space do you do your best work in?

Distractions are awful for me, which is a challenge with a houseful of children! I’m blessed to have a studio connected to my house and, for the most part, it stays sacred for mama’s escape!

6. Is there an artist in everyone? If so, what does it take to find it?

Absolutely!!! I think an artist is someone who connects others and that can be done in so many areas of life. There is an art to all we do. I think it’s not a matter of finding it but just an acknowledgement of it already being there within us.

I think an artist is someone who connects others and that can be done in so many areas of life.

Morgan, MCH Artwork

Follow MCH Artwork on Instagram and check out her website – now including an online shop!

Still Elm

Lisa at Still Elm is a fiber dye artist. She dyes wool strands and suspends them from wood to create two-dimensional textured artwork. 

  1. Do you strive to be perfect in your art? 

The idea of perfection is tricky. I’ve always struggled with attempting to achieve perfectionism and I’ve really tried to loosen my grip on that through fiber dyeing. Sometimes it keeps us too restrained and prevents us from exploring, which in turn leads to us learning. Of course, I want to be happy with the end result but I try to remain open to what that will look like. 

2. What do you do when you make mistakes in your artwork? 

I try to take a step back to gain a bit of perspective on the piece. I usually put the project on hold until the next day, come back to it with a pair of fresh eyes, and readjust my expectations. Sometimes my entire initial concept needs to shift and sometimes my favorite results stem from those initial ‘mistakes’. There are also times there is no recovering, haha, and you take it as a learned lesson. I’m still such a beginner, so I’ve had to reframe mistakes as learning opportunities a lot! 

Sometimes my favorite results stem from those initial ‘mistakes’.

Lisa with Still Elm

3. Why did you choose your particular artistic medium and what inspires you to create?

My background is in interior design and that really came into play when starting out. My wife and I were getting settled as first-time homeowners and I knew I wanted a piece of art to hang in our living room, but I wanted something with texture….so I began experimenting! Some of my biggest inspirations are nature, how color palettes interact with one another, and well-designed interiors.

4. How does it feel when you create? 

It feels freeing and acts as a kind of escape for me. All of my overactive thinking sort of comes to a halt and I’m able to pour my full attention into what I’m creating. 

5. What kind of atmosphere or space do you do your best work in? 

I have to have music playing….usually stuff I’ve heard before that I can really zone out to and sing along with. When the weather cooperates, I love when I can work outside and have my pieces dry in the fresh air. It works out well for any potential mess too!

6. Is there an artist in everyone? If so, what does it take to find it?

I think so, even when they don’t resonate with the words creative or artistic. I think it’s usually a matter of finding a medium you are interested in by trying new things and giving yourself the grace (and time) to play around.

Be sure to check out Still Elm on Instagram and her Etsy shop.

Ana Treasure Box

Ana is a silk artist from the south of France. She makes one-of-a-kind handpainted silk scarves.

Ana says she creates her scarves in a variety of styles, so that everyone can find what they are looking for. This also helps her create scarves that reflect the mood and character of those who wear them. They all have one thing in common: vibrant colors!

  1. Do you strive to be perfect in your art? 

I am creating luxury items and that is why I always use high quality materials: natural fabrics and professional dyes that are resistant to washing and fading. This ensures that my work will please the customer for many years. I would like to be perfect, and when I make a small mistake or a small imperfection, this drives me nuts. However, I know that I’ll probably be the only one noticing it.

2. What do you do when you make mistakes in your artwork? 

It depends on what kind of mistake it is. If it is something that I really don’t like, I will probably repurpose it. For example, if it is a scarf, I will make twilly out of it or scrunchies. But if it is something small, most of the time, I will leave it as it is. In the case of a custom order, I would communicate it to the customer to see what they think about it.

3. Why did you choose your particular artistic medium and what inspires you to create?

After trying many forms of art, I fell in love with silk painting which became my “true art passion.”

Once, a friend of mine invited me to attend a workshop that she thought was going to be on watercolour. It actually turned out to be silk painting. I was fascinated by it and decided to continue. The more I learned about it, the more my passion grew. I have since attended several masterclasses and I love experimenting with different techniques.

A lot of my inspiration comes through travel. I love discovering new places. Every time I go somewhere new, my head is filled with ideas on what to create next.

4. How does it feel when you create? 

I totally immerse myself in the process and I feel like time does not exist.

5. What kind of atmosphere or space do you do your best work in? 

I like to work at home in a comfortable environment so I can just focus on creating and nothing else. Sometimes when I paint, I will also listen to music to create a specific ambiance.

6. Is there an artist in everyone? If so, what does it take to find it?

Everybody can be an artist but you need to learn how to appreciate your surroundings – the beauty in everything from the small details to the big panorama. You just need to understand what you enjoy in what is around you. Once you know how to do this, you can share it with other people.

I love my scarf that I called “Greetings from Valensole.” I painted it after we had a trip with my husband to the lavender fields in Valensole area. This place is so magical and smells amazing, especially during summer days when the flowers bloom and you can see the beautiful blue sky. I wanted to immortalize this charming spirit on a scarf, so you can have a piece of Provence with you all year round.

You can follow Ana Treasure Box on Facebook, Instagram and her Etsy shop.

Getting through Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety isn’t as well known as postpartum depression. I actually didn’t know about it until I was pregnant. According to Postpartum Support International, “approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety.”

In this post, I’m getting a little more vulnerable as I tell you my journey through postpartum anxiety. This is not medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. I’m hoping by sharing my story that you can find someone to identify with if you think you may have postpartum anxiety and that you can find courage to seek help.

Realizing I Had Anxiety

In early 2019, I started therapy. I attributed my anxiety in large part to my job in a high-stress industry where I felt like I had to drop what I was doing and always be available at a moment’s call. I had been trying to find a new gig for a while but job hunting wasn’t going in my favor. I felt defeated and stuck, but I needed help learning to deal with my situation.

Right away, my therapist could tell how much anxiety consumed me. I would worry about potentially getting a call from work, my mother going on a trip or a doctor check-up. I’d constantly think about the future and plan out conversations in my head before they happened.

It was pleasing to have a third party listen to me and it seemed my therapist could easily point me in the right direction. Soon after starting therapy, I got a new job and the stress lessened but did not disappear.

When I got pregnant later that year, the anxiety dialed back up. I took seven pregnancy tests before my initial appointment. I was constantly worried I would lose my daughter, even into the third trimester, despite having a healthy pregnancy. My therapist warned me that I could experience postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety after birth.

Anxiety after Giving Birth

You know that beautiful moment moms talk about when their baby is first put on their chest? My beautiful moment came when I heard my daughter’s loud cries as she took her first breaths of air. I looked over at her being weighed and measured by the nurse, her daddy awestruck at this sweet little screaming girl and my eyes filled with tears. She was finally here. I could hold her in my arms. Her cries weren’t a bother.

Although her cries weren’t anxiety inducing, in the weeks that followed, worry set in. I became worried if she was eating enough, getting enough tummy time, taking long-enough naps. Did she have thrush, reflux, lactose sensitivity (we had a bit of feeding trouble for a bit)? Was I doing enough as a mom?

Having an Anxiety Attack

As my maternity leave came to a close, the anxiety increased. Cora, who was eight-weeks-old at the time, would be going to day care. It was one my husband and I had previously vetted and loved, but now, my mind only thought of it as a place filled with germs. I was TERRIFIED of her first sickness and knew it would come soon. In the days leading up to her first day, I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up and stare at the clock for an hour or two of intrusive thoughts.

Eventually, though, the day arrived. I took her to day care, feeling weird about passing my child over to a stranger and expecting them to know what to do with her. She had all these quirks I wanted to explain. This day is hard for lots of mamas.

I felt empty and sick when I got back home and prepared for work. My knees were weak, legs shaky and standing seemed impossible. My gut churned with nausea and worry. My vision blurred. My heart raced. My mind flooded with news stories of the “double-barrel flu season” and RSV that was “three times higher” that year.

How would I get my child, just two-months-old, through this? Could I call on my family who lived 4.5 hours away for help? Was I being dramatic? What if I didn’t notice signs of trouble quickly enough?

Mind you, the sickness had not even happened yet (though her first cold did come in about a week). This was an anxiety attack. Luckily, I knew what was happening after hearing of loved ones feeling similar and sudden senses of dread.

At some point, I was able to take myself through the motions of getting ready for work and faked a smile the rest of the day. Other work mamas understood the pain and that was comforting. I called the day care three times that day to check in on her.

In the months that followed, I watched the day care’s app like a hawk to check when they fed her, how much she ate (She drank two ounces less. Is she feeling ill?), how long she slept (Was it too short or too long of a nap?) and how many dirty diapers she had and I charted it all in a notebook that I kept since she was born. She was about 5-months-old before I decided to let go of the notebook.

Starting Medication for Anxiety

Like I mentioned before, I knew I had anxiety before pregnancy but had started to feel like I was gaining control of it. However, with the flood of hormones after birth, the anxiety was too intense to handle any longer. I felt crazy with worry.

Eventually, I took the plunge and asked for help. I was prescribed a low dose of a non-addictive antidepressant that also helped with anxiety and was safe for breastfeeding. (Very important to work with a doctor to find the right medication and dosage.) It took a couple of weeks to kick in.

During that couple of weeks, the fight or flight response battled it out in my body. Anxiety would want to make my heart race, but my head would tell me, “Nah, we don’t have to worry about that.” It was a strange sensation, but I was happy to see the medicine was starting to work.

To be honest, I was scared to be on medication because I was ashamed. Even though I preached to people who felt anxiety or depression that there was absolutely nothing wrong with getting medicine to help with mental issues, in my mind, I thought I would catch myself before I got to that point.

After being on medication for a year now, I am glad I did it. It’s not something I will be on forever, but it helped me realize I don’t have to worry so much and am capable of making the space around me calmer. I see now how important it was for me to get help to reach this point.

There have been setbacks. It’s not like I will never feel anxiety again, but the anxiety I feel every now and then is much more controllable. I know life goes on just fine when I don’t worry so much and all the things I worry about don’t necessarily come to fruition.

Continuing My Journey of Self Care

In 2021, I am continuing my journey of self care. 2020 was spent clearing the clutter from my home and from my mind (can’t be the only one who did this, right?). This year, I’ve mapped out goals through a vision board, plan to take on new hobbies and plan to return to some hobbies that helped me release pent up energy in the past. Some activities that brought relief for me in the past include fitness, reading, yoga and spending time in nature.

You Are Not Alone

Mamas, if you are feeling postpartum anxiety, I empathize with you. I hope sharing my story shows that you are not alone in how you feel, you are not crazy for how you feel, and you are nothing less when you ask for help. By seeking help – whether that is by reaching out to your community of friends and family, by talking to a therapist, by starting medication, by reading a self-help book, by releasing your stress in a hobby – you are showing your strength.

You are showing those close to you how important it is to love yourself and not let your life rot in worry. You are becoming the best version of yourself, which is only accomplished by first taking care of yourself.

A poet whose work I’ve recently fallen in love with. Her writing perfectly captures parenthood and the emotions that stir with it.

Below are some resources on postpartum anxiety and a couple of Facebook groups dedicated to moms if you want to build your community of support.

Resources

Postpartum Support International

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Facebook Groups

Jess Hover & Friends

Mom Check 7

If you have any other resources you think would be helpful, please leave them in the comments below. ❤ Thanks for listening.

Creating a Couple’s Vision Board

I am walking into 2021 with a focus. 2020 was a huge balancing act for us all and most of us are leaving it likely feeling worn out and spread thin. Personally, it’s been a year where all I can honestly look back and say is, “I tried.”

That being said, I have a few themes for myself for the new year: wellness, intention and connection. As a gentle and inspirational reminder of these themes, I spent time with my husband creating a couple’s vision board so we could look over everything we wanted to accomplish in 2021.

How a Couple’s Vision Board Works and Vision Board Benefits

A vision board is a collage of pictures, quotes and affirmations that resonate with you and that are used to motivate and inspire you to hit your personal goals. After 2020, I feel like we could all use some of this positive energy.

Working on this project together with my husband allowed us to reflect on our lives as they are separately, together and as a family and to talk about goals we have for each area of our lives. Hearing each other’s goals got us on the same page and allowed us to think of opportunities we can give each other to pursue our goals – giving him a break on the weekends to play guitar, writing out workout plans together, etc.

I will admit, he did think the project was going to be corny but he enjoyed doing it in the end. 🙂 It was a fun and crafty New Year’s Eve project.

For this vision board, we used a seven-spoke wellness wheel. The seven-spoke wheel focused on areas of life we wanted to truly work on: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical, social, environmental and financial. There are also eight-spoke wellness wheels and six-spoke wellness wheels if you are interested in those instead.

Vision Board Reflection Questions

Here are a few reflection questions that got us started on choosing topics for our vision board.

  • What brings happiness and peace to your life?
  • Which areas of your life need more attention?
  • What accomplishments would you like to achieve by the end of the year?
  • Which actions will move your life forward in a healthier direction?

Vision Board Materials

Your vision board materials will depend on where you want your vision board to exist. Is your vision board your desktop background or phone background? Is it a poster in your room or a collage on your refrigerator?

If you want your vision board to be digital, I would suggest using Canva (which you can use for free), choosing a phone background, desktop background or poster template and having fun searching for free stock photos, picking different elements, placing text wherever you want it to go and uploading your own photos to add to the mix.

We decided to go with the old-school method of cutting out photos and pasting them on thick paper. We decided to hang our vision board on our refrigerator where we would both see it each day.

The materials we used were:

  • Inspirational photos and/or quotes found online, in magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • Printer paper if you are printing photos
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Gluestick

We spent our New Year’s Eve cutting out photos and pasting together our vision board collage on our sunroom floor while we watched Netflix.

Vision Board Photo Examples

You want to be sure your images and quotes embody your goals and inspire you or trigger a response when you see them. If you are looking for vision board photos online, I’ve created a Pinterest board where I placed some examples that personally resonated with me.

I also created some graphics on Canva that you can feel free to use!

Hello, 2021!

As we close the book on 2020, I want to highlight the parts of the year I was grateful for that I would not have experienced otherwise. I got to be an eye-witness to most all of my daughter’s firsts during year one of her life – smiling, rolling over, army crawling, big girl crawling, words, walking. I’m thankful for the extra time I was able to spend with her and my husband. That was truly the best part of the year.

To those reading this, I hope 2021 shines brighter for you. I hope you get the break you deserve, the love and connection you crave, and hit the achievements you wish to accomplish. Maybe spend your first couple of hours of the new year making a vision board with us and you’ll know at the end of 2021 that you envisioned what you wanted, you went for it, you fought for it and you made it.

Children’s Books with Positive Messages about Diversity, Emotions and Purpose

Children’s books are a wonderful way to introduce young minds to positive messages you want them to carry through their lives.

I haven’t met a baby who didn’t love books, especially my little girl. When Cora began to crawl, she would go over to our bookcase and pull all of her books off of her shelf multiple times a day. Though it created a mess, I smiled seeing her look through each book, pointing and jabbering as she flipped the pages.

Baby reading her books
With at least four former librarians in her family, Cora gets her love of books honestly.

We have books of all kinds on her shelf, but we definitely wanted a selection of stories focused on positive messages, like diversity, emotions, culture, kindness and how to be a friend.

Here’s a collection of some of our favorite children’s books. These are not just for babies – these books have messages that will resonate with young children as well.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. As a participate in the Amazon Associate Program, I may earn from qualifying purchases connected with these links. However, all opinions of these products are honest and my own.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened is a favorite children’s book of mine. It focuses on a little boy and the emotions he feels when his block castle comes tumbling down. Through the rabbit’s character, we learn that sometimes being a good friend doesn’t mean solving your friend’s problem – it means listening to them and letting them feel all of their emotions.

The Rabbit Listened is an endearing story. I think it’s great for toddlers, who often have big emotions they don’t yet understand. Feeling and learning these emotions is part of growing up.

Think Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Think Big, Little One shows inspirational women of different backgrounds who influenced culture, science, technology and more. With messages like, “Discover New Things,” “Color Outside the Lines,” and “Shine a Light on Your Culture,” this book encourages young readers to be brave, bold and true to themselves. Vashti Harrison has several books on Amazon and we are excited to pick up more in the future.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

The Big Umbrella is a sweet, welcoming story. The big umbrella grows and grows to have room for all kinds of characters and creatures of every shape and size – it doesn’t discriminate. There’s always room for one more under the big umbrella.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I Am Enough is a great story for showing our connection to all things. It finds similarities in its characters and the nature around them – the moon, the trees, the wind – but it also celebrates the beauty of differences – from talents, to cultures, to opinions.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Be Kind is a book that shows how a small act of kindness and practicing empathy can have a major impact on the world. It reminds me of something my mother told me when I was having a hard time, “To have a friend you must first be a friend.”

You Matter by Christian Robinson

You Matter shows how everything in the universe that is or was, no matter how big or how small, has a purpose. From the ants to the sun, from people near and people far, everything around us is connected and has meaning.

Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz

This sweet book follows children around the world as they celebrate International Peace Day. It shows little readers diverse people, places and cultures through its illustrations and introduces them to other languages as they learn how to say “peace” around the world (this definitely appeals to my husband Seth, the linguist in the family). It also has a beautiful message of how the people all around the world want the same things – to learn, to explore, to feel safe, to share time with loved ones and to have peace.

If you pick up any of these books for your kid, I hope you enjoy them as much as we have! What are some children’s books in your collection that you love? Maybe some with messages that resonate with you?

If you would like to see more posts on motherhood, click here.

Financial Budgeting: An Essential for a Less Stressful Life

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. The opinions expressed in this blog post are simply from my experience of what has worked for my family. They are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Before you make any decisions for you or your family, first speak with your financial advisor.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. As a participate in the Amazon Associate Program, I may earn from qualifying purchases connected with these links. However, all opinions of these products are honest and my own.

Part of taking care of yourself is finding ways to eliminate stress from your life. Money is definitely a pain point for some people, but it does NOT have to be. My husband and I began budgeting shortly after we got married and have never looked back. Knowing that money can be a point of contention in some marriages, taking control of our finances and being fiscally responsible was incredibly important to us.

There are a few misconceptions to budgeting that many people need to unlearn. The most important and prominent one that needs to be unlearned is that budgeting is a punishment.

Yes, there may be times when there isn’t room in your monthly budget for an excessive purchase, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save for it the next month. Budgeting is actually a life hack. Budgeting allows you to live comfortably instead of paycheck to paycheck, save for those big ticket items that bring joy to your life and help prepare you for life’s unwelcome surprises – a traffic ticket, an emergency hospital visit, a broken home appliance, a car repair.

Benefits of budgeting

It is never too late or too early to start budgeting. Budgeting is for young adults, budgeting is for people living without a fixed income, budgeting is for people who are retired – it doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in, you can start reaping the benefits of budgeting NOW.

When budgeting, you first need to understand where your money goes each month. For us, we spent an exorbitant amount on ordering take out – even with a fridge full of groceries. If we kept this habit, we would not only fly through our restaurant budget, but we would also be wasting our grocery budget on food that goes bad before it’s eaten.

After finding out where your money is usually spent, you can identify the categories where you need to put your money. Groceries, mortgage payment, gasoline, electricity, car maintenance, home maintenance, restaurants, streaming services, phone bill. Then, you can decide where you want to cut your spending, where you should actually increase your budget and how much money you can save each month. For us, we decided to each have a manageable restaurant budget, put a little extra money toward groceries and put the remaining money into savings.

Choosing a budgeting method

It’s important to find the best budgeting method for YOU. There are two main ways of budgeting. There’s active budgeting and passive budgeting. For us, active budgeting is the most helpful method.

With active budgeting, you are tracking your dollars in the moment. This may sound petty, but it helps us make better choices because it keeps us on top of our spending as opposed to following behind it. For an active budgeting method, you can use a spreadsheet, envelopes, or of course, there’s always an app.

When passive budgeting, you are tracking what you spend in hindsight. This is like balancing a checkbook at the end of the month. There are apps that focus on this method as well. While it is better than doing nothing at all, this isn’t the budgeting method that worked best for us.

Our favorite budgeting apps

Personally, our family uses two budgeting apps – Y.N.A.B. (You Need A Budget) and Mint. Apps may not be for everyone, but these apps, especially Y.N.A.B., have been with us throughout our entire marriage. Y.N.A.B. is our go-to for active budgeting and Mint can be used for passive budgeting.

We use Y.N.A.B. to track every dollar we spend. Literally every dollar. This took about a week for me to get used to and I’ve been doing it now for 7+ years.

Here’s how budgeting goes for us. Before the month starts, we allocate money to each of our categories. We chose and labeled these categories ourselves and can have as many as we need. Some of our categories include groceries, utilities, mortgage, car payment, day care, home maintenance, car maintenance, car insurance, restaurants, etc. We also set aside a little money for fun each month. Once we have allocated money for these categories, we put the rest into savings.

If we have money left over in one of our categories as the month comes to a close, that money goes into the “to be budgeted” pile to be allocated accordingly for the next month. Using Y.N.A.B. and this budgeting method has allowed us to save enough money to be at least a month ahead of all of our expenses.

For example, all the money we will spend in January was earned in December. No paycheck to paycheck life – we can roll with the punches. When an emergency happens, we take comfort in the fact that the money we have to spend is coming from last month.

If you would like to learn more about Y.N.A.B., there is a Y.N.A.B. book about the app that explains the philosophy behind active budgeting and how to use the app itself. There is also a Kindle version.

Y.N.A.B. has yearly and monthly subscriptions. Even though there is a cost associated with the app, we have found that we save way more and benefit from using it. However, it is free for college students. If you would like to sign up, you can use my referral link – we both get a free month!

Instead of using Mint for passive budgeting, we actually like Mint’s feature of housing all of our accounts in one spot. It allows us to look at our whole net worth at one time. It is also an easy spot to view all of our transactions so we can ensure we haven’t fallen victim to credit or debit card fraud. We usually compare all of our transactions in Y.N.A.B. with those in Mint to rule out any fraud.

Mint brings together your checking account, savings accounts, credit cards, mortgage, car loan and more on one platform. It automatically categorizes your purchases, but there are times you may have to go and recategorize a purchase if Mint doesn’t quite get it right. However, if you prefer looking at your budget at the end of the month to see how you did, Mint might be a good option.

Realistic pathways to saving

A huge part of budgeting’s purpose is to be on top of your spending so that you can set aside money to save. Ideally, you should set aside enough savings for a comfortable emergency fund consisting of six months of expenses, which is different than six months of income. Budgeting allows you to identify how much money you usually spend each month. Saving six months of this usual monthly spend should be a big priority because you want to have enough liquid cash in case of an emergency. After this, you can put your extra income aside for vacations, investments, etc., but that is a post for another day.

The point is before putting all of your extra income into a fun category, pay your future self first. Do this so you can take the heat of life’s unexpected expenses with ease.

Setting aside 30% of each paycheck is a typical goal. If you can’t do that, any money saved is better than none. What we actually started with was the 52-week savings plan. We set aside $1 the first week, $2 the second week and so on until we saved $52 the last week of the year. This gave us $1,378 after one year – our first year married, first year out of college and first year with a fulltime job and taking full responsibility of all of our expenses. It’s a good start.

Conclusion

Budgeting gives you control over your life as there is no confusion where your money is spent. Budgeting can keep you from scrambling for a rent payment because you have already set aside money to pay for rent. Budgeting allows you to realistically save for vacations, down payments and emergencies.

If you spend more than you earn, you will never come out ahead. Retiring comfortably, giving your kids nice items, not worrying about credit card debt are all potential benefits of budgeting. Budgeting is a good way to keep control of yourself, to feel in control of your life and to feel like you can manage your stress.

Once you get into budgeting, you might be motivated to find other ways to save! If you’ve found other options, drop them in the comments!

Sustainable Holiday Gift Guide

2020 definitely had us all inside our homes more. As I was spending more time at home, I realized how much stuff we had that was never used and how many one-use items we had to keep buying.

So, in an effort to live more sustainably, I wanted to put items on my holiday wishlist this year that could be reused again and again. Here are just a few that I’ve already purchased or that I have on my list! Most of these products are under $30, are easy switches to make and can actually save money long term.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. As a participate in the Amazon Associate Program, I may earn from qualifying purchases connected with these links. However, all opinions of these products are honest and my own.

Cloth Napkins – Cloth napkins are on my wishlist this year. I use so many paper towels that I really want to give them a try and see how they hold up to the MANY messes I clean up daily – mainly from my toddler’s highchair. 🙂

Reusable Facial Rounds – I LOVE this product. These reusable facial rounds are very gentle and soft on my skin. I use them to remove makeup and also just to dry my face after washing it. It comes with a little bag that you can keep the rounds in when washing them. And I don’t have to buy more cotton rounds!

Reusable Baking Cups – We don’t own this exact brand, but we have had our reusable baking cups for almost 7 years and still use them. I bake a ton of muffins for breakfast, so the reusable baking cups are nice to have around.

Glass Food Containers – These glass storage containers stack neatly to take up little room in my kitchen cabinets and have already lasted so much longer than the plastic food storage containers that I used to buy.

Beeswax Wraps – This is on my wishlist this year! I’m a little bit nervous on how the beeswax wraps will hold up, but I am excited to give them a try. The product says they can be washed with cool water and soap and reused again and again to wrap food and keep it fresh.

Silicone Baking Mat – A friend recommended these and there was no going back. They are easy to use, easy to clean and you don’t have to use cooking sprays or parchment paper. We have the two-pack, but this three-pack comes with different sizes.

Reusable Coffee Filter – Our reusable coffee filter is another product we have had for years and have never had to go back to one-use coffee filters. It is easy to clean and convenient to always have a coffee filter on hand. Companies also make reusable K-cups if that works better for you.

Loose Tea Infuser – I’ve recently made the switch to a loose tea infuser and there’s something so nice about having more control over my morning cup of tea. So long disposable tea packets!

I am definitely just beginning on my journey to becoming more eco-friendly. Even implementing just a few eco-friendly options in life can make a difference.

If you have any eco-friendly products that you support, please let me know! I would love to hear from you and discover more sustainable options for everyday items that we use.

My First Year with Baby Must-Haves

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. As a participate in the Amazon Associate Program, I may earn from qualifying purchases connected with these links. However, all opinions of these products are honest and my own.

I remember feeling fairly confident going into motherhood though I was told soon before my daughter’s birth that nothing can truly prepare you for the challenges of parenthood – you just have to experience it. While the parenting book I read did give me some idea of what I was doing, this was accurate – I mostly learned as I went. It was stressful at times during the first year, but along the way, I found a few items that my baby and I loved. Maybe they can help you and provide some comfort on your parenting journey!

  1. Baby Dove Tip to Toe Body Wash Sensitive Moisure and Baby Dove Face and Body Lotion Rich Moisture

When my daughter was a couple of months old, patches of eczema started showing up on her limbs and torso. After doing some research and reading tons of reviews, I decided to try these Dove products that I saw many moms raving about. I used Dove products when I was younger because of my sensitive skin, so I figured it might be more gentle on my baby. We use these a couple of times a week and my daughter’s eczema has decreased dramatically. I’ve since heard of several other eczema products that mamas swear by but these provided a quick fix for us!

2. Silicone Bibs

Starting solids is an exciting time, but it is also an extremely messy time. When Cora started finger foods, I would watch again and again as she practiced her pincer grasp, went to put a piece of food in her mouth and then dropped it before it got there. While we were using normal bibs when feeding her pureed foods, I bought a couple of silicone bibs to try because I liked the idea of having a little pouch to catch fallen food. It worked! Now when Cora has eaten all the food on her tray, those sticky fingers grab pieces of food that fell in her pouch (instead of falling on and staining her clothes). I also appreciate how easy these are to clean!

3. Silicone Fruit Teethers

The silicone fruit teethers aren’t a necessity, but they were a favorite in our household! I found as we were transitioning from pureed foods to finger foods, these helped her get more texture out of fruits that she couldn’t easily pick up and chew yet, but could smush around in one of these teethers! With these, she was still able to get some mango, peaches, etc. in her diet while getting used to eating foods with more texture.

4. Sleep and Plays

With how much Cora hated to change clothes and how wiggly she was from the get go (coupled with my fatigue), I really didn’t have much energy to put her in anything but sleep and plays for the first month or two. Zippered sleep and plays kept her warm, provided easy transitions when changing diapers or going into naps and came with cute designs!

5. Hatch Sound Machine

We LOVE our Hatch sound machine. It also acts as a night light and time-to-rise, but we only use it for the sounds and lights. I love how you can customize your favorite sound and light pairings to find something that soothes your little one best. We like to use the rain sounds at night and the waves for naps!

6. Portable White Noise Maker

If you want to visit a friend, go for a walk, or go on a car ride and you know your baby will need a nap somewhere in there, this portable white noise maker can help make them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar place. When Cora was still sleeping in our room, we put the Hatch by her bassinet and used the portable white noise maker for naps in her crib.

7. Blackout Curtains

So many articles will tell you to make your baby’s room as dark as possible to limit any distractions that might keep them awake at night or during naptime. These work so well – better than the blackout curtains I bought from a department store for our room.

8. NoseFrida

This is not a glamorous topic, but at some point, your baby might catch a cold. The usual nasal aspirators were difficult for me to use. Even with as a gross of a concept as this is, the NoseFrida worked so well for us. Even the pharmacist said she loved it for her grandkids over the bulb syringe.

9. Stroller Fan

It stays hot in the South for a looonnngg time. This stroller fan brings relief on our trail walks and on car rides!

10. Halo Swaddle and Sleep Sack

A local pediatrian recommended the Halo Swaddle for us during our first visit. At almost a year old, Cora still uses Halo products but is now in the sleep sack. It’s like a wearable blanket. With the Halo swaddle, we liked that it was designed in a way that you didn’t have to buy another product when transitioning your baby to arms-free sleep.

11. The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies

This is a bonus item! The days are long but the months are short, and pretty soon, your baby burrito will be an always-wiggling, never-sitting-down, picking-up-every-crumb toddler who will want to explore everything. And you know what? It’s an exciting time as a parent. You’ll still be tired but you’ll be watching your toddler’s personality bloom as they experience so many firsts.

The Montessori Toddler taught me the benefits of letting my child lead. It reminded me that when we let a child try and try again, get messy and explore the world around them on their own terms (with the limit’s of their safety and the safety of others), instead of rushing them through the process, they can actually learn to be more independent. I believe that mindset can help strip away any perceived frustrations of parenting a toddler. I’m excited to try out the suggestions in this book as my little girl grows into toddlerhood.

Every mama has her own tried-and-true products that she loves. What were yours? If you are a mama-to-be (congratulations!), what is on your registry that you are excited to try?

1st Year With Baby: Things You Need to Know that Aren’t Talked About

My first year as a mom was full of learning experiences. I read baby books and thought I had a good grasp of what to expect, preparing my husband and I as best as I could. But, the old adage remains true: You won’t know until you experience it. Here are some things I learned THE HARD WAY. I’d like to save you the trouble.

Where Woman Wanders Founder Photo
  1. Every baby is different, but mine would often refuse to take the bottle for various reasons. As a new mom, it took me a long time to figure out why. Here is what I learned with feeding that will hopefully help you if your good eater suddenly refuses to feed.
    • When our daughter was 3-weeks-old, she suddenly stopped wanting to feed – from the bottle or from me. When bottlefeeding, I would see that she took an ounce and would immediately pull off, cry and arch her back. We were worried that it was reflux, but our pediatrician didn’t seem that concerned. After a couple of weeks of this, I finally called the nurse’s line and received helpful advice. We switched to a sensitive baby formula and I cut dairy out of my diet while breastfeeding because my baby was lactose sensitive.
    • When you become a parent, you will soon learn that these tiny humans have PREFERENCES. Keep all of the baby bottles you received from friends and family at your baby shower, because the standard baby bottle might not suit your baby. You might end up with a graveyard of bottles as you work to determine what your baby likes the most (at least I did), but it will be worth it. My daughter actually preferred these Nuk bottles until I stopped breastfeeding and she decided it was time for Dr. Brown’s bottles at 5 months.
    • If your baby all of the sudden stops finishing a full bottle after a couple of months or downs a few ounces and pulls off and on the bottle, you might need to choose a faster nipple flow. My daughter would usually transition to a higher flow about every 3 months. However, some babies are content with keeping a slow flow for many months.
    • Your baby will likely eat less when they are sick. To get the calories in them, offer smaller, more frequent feeds. If your baby has recently had a cold, seemed to recover and then gives you trouble with the bottle again, you might want your doctor to check for an ear infection. Helping a baby through an illness can be incredibly stressful, especially if you are a parent who fretted over your baby’s weight gain like I did. If you EVER feel concerned, call your doctor. You will not be a bother, you will not sound silly. They are there to help.
  2. As soon as you are home with your baby, get some noise going. Get your baby used to sleeping while you are drying clothes, washing dishes, or having a conversation in the background. This was golden advice from my mom. Our baby could sleep through sounds of lawnmowers, cats knocking glasses off shelves, tornado siren drills, construction in the neighborhood – you name it. While you’re at it, get a sound machine. We loved our Hatch, which acts as a sound machine, night light and time-to-rise.
  3. Something I’ll try with future babies down the road – sleep training from the time they are newborns. Sleep training from early on will be helpful during those oh-so-real sleep regressions.
  4. I received golden advice from a friend when it comes to diaper rashes. When your baby has a diaper rash, you’ll often be recommended to leave them diaperless as long as possible to get air on the rash and dry it out. That’s great advice, but where do you put your bottomless baby in the meantime? When your babe isn’t old enough to move around the house, buy puppy pads and stick your baby on it. It’s easier to clean up accidents as you give the rash time to dry and heal.
  5. I can’t stress this one enough. When help is offered, take the time for yourself. As a new mom, I tried to do as much as I possibly could during those first weeks when my mom and mother-in-law were here to help. They both said they could have helped more, but I was determined to do it all – already feeling the mom guilt if I took what I considered was too much time for myself. But, having an hour to myself in the morning to shower, have breakfast and get ready felt SO good. I also wish I would have taken more naps. You can never have enough naps.

These are just some lessons I learned in my first year as a mom. Every baby is different, but maybe this will spark an idea for you when you experience a rough patch. What is some advice you’ve recieved that you actually found helpful? Did you learn any lessons the hard way with your baby?

At-Home Date Night Ideas During a Pandemic

My little family has been spending much of our time at home as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. With a baby and an ongoing pandemic, there isn’t much time for my husband and I to get out for a date. To be honest, it’s not something we are quite comfortable with yet. So, when we want to switch up our routine after putting our daughter to sleep for the night, we’ve gotten creative with our at-home dates! It’s good to take a break from binge-watching YouTube or the normal streaming services to spend quality time with each other. Let me know if you’ve done any of these yourself!

Take personality tests. One night, we buckled down for an hour to take all the go-to personality tests. We had fun answering and discussing questions as we discovered our love language with the 5 Love Languages quiz, our Enneagram type and took the Myers Briggs test (this one was painfully accurate for me). It was fun learning about each other through these quizzes. For reference, my love language is Words of Affirmation, my Enneagram type is a 2 and 3 and I’m an INFJ-T. We also spent some time on Buzzfeed finding out which Disney princess we were, but we won’t go there. 😀

Make a new food together. I am a dessert connisseure while my husband would rather eat a second helping of dinner. Despite this fact, we tackled our first ever chocolate mousse together! Though we did most of the recipe while our baby was awake (not about to turn on the mixer as she sleeps), we each enjoyed a bowl full topped with tiny chocolate chips after she went to sleep.

Start a fire. There’s something so mesmerizing about a fire. We put some logs in the fire pit and spent a couple of hours chatting as we watched the flames turn to embers, baby monitor closeby. This has been a favorite pastime for us when camping, spending late nights with friends and, now, for when our daughter goes to sleep. 

Do a blindfolded taste test. This night was hilarious! Each round, one of us would fill a plate with five random condiments or foods in our kitchen and spoonfeed the other one, who was blindfolded. It was so funny watching the blindfolded person’s reaction as they got a spoonful of ranch or a piece of pickled okra, stifling laughs as we waited on the person to guess what they ate. It was funny when we mentioned this to our family and some of them responded, “Nah, fam, I have trust issues.” Who else feels the same? We also did a blindfolded chain pizza taste test one day with a friend. You’d be disappointed in my accuracy.

Watch some of the classics. Not sure why, but there were so many popular movies I didn’t see when I was growing up. Since we’ve been together, Seth has taken it upon himself to introduce me to these films. Recently, we watched The Godfather, The Godfather II, Pans Labyrinth and Airplane. If there’s a movie or series your significant other hasn’t seen (ESPECIALLY if it is Star Wars), take this time at home to sit back and watch it together and discuss how they feel about it afterward. I think Seth delights in seeing how I respond to these classics.

Have you gotten creative with your date nights? Share in the comments! We could all use a switch-up in our day-to-day pandemic life.