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#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (101)

YAY! I’m back for part two (the final part, in case you were wondering… haha!) of my #StitchFixVacay recap! If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

Day two was a JAM PACKED day… we got up early, had breakfast, and headed to South San Francisco to visit the “Hizzy” – aka: the Stitch Fix Warehouse! We got introduced to Justin, who is AWESOME, and he is sort of the “main honcho” in the hizzy and he started off our tour.

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The hizzy is HUGE, y’all. It’s the size of a large Costco. And there are just rows upon rows upon rows of clothing! AHHH!! It’s like a dream. :)#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (2)

Justin was SO cool… and he has been with Stitch Fix from the beginning, so he is so passionate about the company. (He also just had a little baby girl and she is adorable!) He just sort of gave us the run down on the every day process that goes on in the hizzy. I can’t say specific numbers, but they get a VERY LARGE shipment in EVERY MORNING with new product. Like, in the thousands of boxes. It’s crazy! He said that compared to what they did three years ago… and even last year at this time… it’s just astonishing! The company is growing so fast.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (3) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (4)

All of us with Hege (far left), Thomas (second from left), and Justin.
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Are they not just so fabulous? It’s almost absurd how fabulous they are! #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (6)

A meta picture… a picture of me taking a picture…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (7)

And this is the picture I took of our photographer! hahah!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (8)

Justin took us over to the first part of “quality control.” Each and EVERY piece that is brought into the hizzy is opened up, examined to make sure it doesn’t have any flaws or any noticeable damages, and then it is placed on hangers according to size and then it goes on to the next stage of inventory processing.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (9)

This is for real, guys… every single person that works at the hizzy clearly LOVES what they do. They just have such a genuine presence about them. They wear awesome clothes, listen to fun music all day, joke around, and work their butts off. It’s really awesome to watch.
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This was the “accessory” area where they tag and bag jewelry and accessories.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (12) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (13) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (14) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (15)

This is an area of the hizzy that I honestly forgot the name of, BUT, these guys check inventory and start the process of printing off the “Stitch Fix labels” that you see on the clothing. They are a HILARIOUS group… they have all these Mean Girls pictures and quotes on the wall… and on Wednesdays… they SERIOUSLY wear pink.

How awesome is that?#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (16) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (17)

Me and Martin… I LOVE this guy! He’s hilarious!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (18)You guys, I totally requested this herringbone vest in my next fix… it’s GORGEOUS.
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These guys peel labels and put them on tags all day long… and they do it with a smile! Seriously. They are awesome. And they are all in a band together. How cool is that? In fact, a TON of the hizzy employees are musicians. They all refer each other to work there and it’s so cool how so many of them are friends outside of work, too. #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (21)

This is the jewelry area. Every piece of jewelry Stitch Fix has in stock is in these containers!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (22)#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (41)

Then we met Thomas and he walked us through the process of actually finding the items and packing a fix. This was SUCH a fun part to learn and do.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (23) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (24)

This is Thomas showing us the ropes and packing an “example” fix for us. #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (25)

The rows are all sorted by size, style, etc. At first I couldn’t understand the numbering system, but once I packed a fix, I totally got it. The numbers all correspond to a particular size, etc. and the clothes are labeled accordingly.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (26)

Then, Thomas put us to the test and we got to pack a fix. The goal is to get all the items for the fix in under four minutes. That is some serious pressure… this is clearly my “determined” face.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (27)

Found my items! Once you get your item, you scan it into the computer and the system tells you which to grab next. It’s really cool!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (28)

Some of the items are Stitch Fix exclusives.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (29) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (30) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (31)

Next we go over to the packing area… and this is where they make the fixes look awesome.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (32) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (33)Thomas showing us how to pack the fix…
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Erin packing her fix…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (35)

Me packing my fix…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (36)

I even signed my name… I hope the person’s fix that I packed finds me!! HAHA! :) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (37)

All of us with our fixes packed and ready to send off.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (38)

This guy prints off the shipping labels…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (39)and then this guy tapes the boxes and puts them on pallets to get ready to ship out that day… I can’t say how many fixes they ship out a day, but it’s A LOT.
#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (40) They have mandatory breaks built in to the day… from 10:30-10:40am they have a break and they all go over to the snack area… this group was jamming and I joined them and they did an improv song for me. It was awesome!! Seriously, the people that work at the hizzy are the hizzy. See what I did there?
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Me and Thomas!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (44)

Kilee, Natalia, Jill, Me, Jen, Veronika, and Erin#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (45) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (46)

Then we had lunch and then headed off to get ready for our PHOTOSHOOT! I was so nervous and so excited. We headed to the Dry Bar for blowouts… me, Veronika, and Natalia were up first…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (47)

Jill getting dolled up#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (48)

Jen (left) getting ready…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (49) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (50)

This was my before and after!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (51)

Me with my Dry Bar stylist… (sadly mine actually fell out pretty quickly. :( My hair doesn’t hold anything!)#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (52)

Then we headed to the HQ for our photoshoot! It was just for fun, and SO MUCH FUN IT WAS.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (53)

Looking at our pictures…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (54)

How gorgeous is Natalia? MODEL STATUS, y’all!!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (55)

Veronika looking beautiful!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (56)

Erin, you are SO PHOTOGENIC!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (57) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (58)

Jill is gorgeous!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (59)

And then there’s me… I felt so out of place, but I tried to have fun with it!!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (60) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (61) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (62)

I LOVE this picture of Jen!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (63)

Kilee is so photogenic!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (64) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (65) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (66) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (67)

BAHAHA best photobomb ever!!!!!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (68)

Being a creeper… hahahahaaha!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (69) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (70) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (71) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (72) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (73) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (74)

Having way too much fun with it…#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (75) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (76) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (77) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (78) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (79)

Best picture of me ever? Probably… not.#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (80) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (81) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (82)

LOVE THIS of Natalia!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (83) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (84)

Erin and Jen are adorable!!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (85) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (86) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (87)

Stitch Fix employees!!!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (88) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (89) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (90) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (91)#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (97) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (92) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (93) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (94)

You guys, I had the best time with these women! Seriously. I can’t even emphasize enough how awesome they are, how kind they are, how hilarious they are, and just how ridiculously smart they are. I loved that I left this trip with new friends!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (95) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (96)

SO FUN!!
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HAHAHAHAHAH I can’t stop laughing at my face in this one!#StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (99) #StitchFixVacay Part Two: The Hizzy & Photo Shoot (100)

Overall, you guys, I can’t even put into words how amazing the trip was. I didn’t know it was possible for me to love Stitch Fix more… but I do. They really, truly, and very clearly care about their customers, the quality of their products, and the company. They love what they do! They all come to work with a smile on their face – it’s awesome to see.

Sure, they’re a young company and young companies always have growing pains so of course they’re not perfect. But they really are working to make things better in all the areas that they might need to improve.

After really seeing the “behind the scenes” of it all, I can tell you that they are for real. They’re great people who want to make their clients happy!

Give Sitch Fix a try!

What questions do you have? What would you like to know about Stitch Fix? Do you have any feedback for the company?

*Disclosure: My trip to San Francisco (flight, lodging, and food) was paid for by Stitch Fix. I was not given any additional monetary compensation for the trip. I’m not being paid to write this post. I genuinely LOVE Stitch Fix and the company (as you can tell because I write and talk about them all the time), and this post is 100% my own. Thank you SO much for reading this blog… if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to do awesome stuff like this and for your readership, I am TRULY so unbelievably grateful.

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San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014

YAY! It’s the moment I know a lot of you have been waiting for… the first of my #StitchFixVacay recap posts! :) HUZZAH!

If you follow me on Instagram or social media, you know that I had the unbelievable, CRAZY pleasure to go out to San Francisco a few weeks ago to attend a #StitchFixVacay. When Stitch Fix emailed me inviting me out there, I actually, legit thought I was being punked. I forwarded the email to my husband and I was like, “Ummm, can you tell me where the catch is?

I’ve been writing about Stitch Fix for over six months now and I have been obsessed with the company since day one. No way in heck did I ever even think they knew who I was other than the fact that I probably annoy them on social media because I talk about them all the time. Well, turns out they DO know who I am and so they invited me along with six other amazing bloggers out to San Francisco to tour their headquarters and their warehouse and all that jazz. I knew it would be hard leaving Lilly and John for the week (oh how I missed them like crazy!!), but I knew that it was a chance of a lifetime.

I decided to break up my recap into two posts because this post is ALREADY going to be insanely picture heavy and long… so I thought breaking it up into a part one and part two would be the best.

I want to say first off that I have YOU guys to thank for this opportunity. It’s because you guys read this blog and because you guys have started to love Stitch Fix as much as I do… and I can’t even BEGIN to tell y’all how much I love you and how much I appreciate you. Seriously. This was the first time that I’ve EVER been able to do ANYTHING like this, and it was the chance of a lifetime. I was SO humbled and so thankful and so grateful to be able to go. So, I know I can’t even begin to use enough words to thank you… but THANK YOU.

Now, let’s get to the recap!

I have family and friends out in San Francisco and I’ve never been out there before, so I actually decided to fly in a day early to get some time with them and see some more of the city! I flew in on Monday afternoon and my Aunt Kathleen picked me up from the airport and was my tour guide for the day. She was AWESOME!

First stop? To see the beautiful Golden Gate bridge. It really is stunning in person!

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BEAUTIFUL. That’s the bay on it’s way out to the ocean…San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (4)

Then we headed to find the Mrs. Doubtfire house!! Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my all time favorite movies, so I was so excited to find it. I knew the address by heart… 2640 Steiner Street! Haha!San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (5) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (6)

Since Robin Williams passed, the house has actually become somewhat of a memorial to his life. People have written all over the rocks and sidewalk out in front of the house.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (7) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (8) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (9) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (10)

Then we went to find the Full House, house! Contrary to popular belief, the “Painted Ladies” that you see in the opening sequence of Full House is not ACTUALLY the Full House house… the Full House house was at 1709 Broderick and that was the house they would show close-ups of when they would show the Tanner’s house. This house has since been painted… it used to be white with a red door.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (11)

BUT, it wouldn’t be a trip to San Francisco without going to see the infamous Painted Ladies.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (12)

Me and my Aunt Kathleen. San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (13)

Then we headed to Pier 39 to see the SEA LIONS. I LOVE THEM!!! They’re so cute!San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (14)

Alcatraz in the distance!San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (15) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (16)

Then, that night I went and stayed with my sorority sister, Amber. It was SO cool to see her and catch up. We went out that night to one of her favorite spots and then went back to her house and crashed. I’d had a LONG day of travel and I was still very much on east coast time.

The next morning we walked to Amber’s favorite brunch spot, The Butler and the Chef.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (17)

Y’all. I can’t even begin to tell you how unbelievably delicious this was. Like, my mouth has been watering for it ever since I left. SO. GOOD.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (18)

Me and Amber.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (19)

Then we went just walking around… we went over by the marina and AT&T park where the Giants play.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (20)

The bay bridgeSan Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (21)

We walked over to the Ferry building… what a cool place!San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (22)

Then she took me by the Mozilla / Firefox HQ because they have an AWESOME quatrefoil door!!! #PHIMUFORLIFE.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (23)

Then, I left Amber and headed to check in at the place where I’d be staying for the actual vacay. The only other person who was there was Jen from Jen Loves Kev, so we decided to go exploring… and boy was it an adventure! I will spare you most of the details as it’s a rather long story… but Jen and I decided to head across the bridge over to Sausalito to check it out and have some dinner. So, we grabbed an Uber car and headed over there…

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Sausalito is BEAUTIFUL. I really thought I was in Italy or something. It’s an GORGEOUS little town!San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (25)

Well, LONG story short.. after not being able to find an Uber to take us BACK over the bridge, we found a random taxi and he was all kinds of crazy and we just said, “Well just drop us off on this side of the bridge and we’ll walk back.” 

Well… the Golden Gate Bridge is long. REALLY long. Like over two miles long… and we’d already done a lot of walking. But, we started walking anyway. At first we were really enjoying it… Jen and I were just chatting and getting to know each other. Then, we kept noticing that bikers were whizzing by us YELLING at us… like, giving us the dirtiest looks and saying not nice things…San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (26)

The view from the bridge walking across… isn’t is STUNNING?San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (27) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (28)

Well, we come to find out that the cab driver dropped us off on the WRONG SIDE OF THE BRIDGE. We were on the BIKE side. So bikers were REALLY mad. Well, what were we going to do at this point? CROSS? I don’t think so… so needless to say, we hurried.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (29)Then the bridge patrol arrested me.

Just kidding. He was super nice and drove us the rest of the way… oh Manuel. :)
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So, after that we headed back to the house to crash and meet the other girls.

This is the house we were staying in…San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (31)That night we just waited for everyone else to arrive and we just sat outside and sipped drinks and chatted. It was GREAT getting to know everyone!
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The next morning we got up and got ready to head to the Stitch Fix Headquarters. …This is only a few of us… everyone else was still inside… haha :)San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (33)

The Stitch Fix HQ is a dream! Such a cool, open space (no cubicles) with clothes for days hanging around.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (34) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (35) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (36) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (37) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (38)

(left to right: me, Erin from Living in Yellow, Natalia from Ma Nouvelle Mode, Kilee from One Little Momma, and Jen from Jen Loves Kev)

One of the most awesome things about the HQ is they have a SNACK ROOM with snacks (AND DIET COKE) galore!!

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The jewelry samples… here they have at least one of every piece they have in stock.

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The sample closet where they have AT LEAST one of every item they have in stock… this room is INSANE.

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Then we met with Margaret and Alexandra, lead stylists for Stitch Fix. They are amazing! They took pieces that we have trouble styling and suggested ways to wear them. It was REALLY fun!

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That was my zebra print top on the left. I got that top MONTHS ago but haven’t been able to figure out a way to wear it that I like… I love the ideas they gave me! (Natalia on the right)

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Then we met with some lead Stitch Fix buyers to learn about what trends are big this fall and to see how they go about picking items for Stitch Fix to carry. It was REALLY cool to see how it all works. Stitch Fix works very much like other retailers in that they work with vendors to get product, but Stitch Fix is also working with certain vendors to design exclusive pieces for them. How cool!

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Some of my FAVORITE pieces!!

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I found my shirt!

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That’s Cotille in the middle… she is one of the fabulous marketing wizzes at SF and she is AMAZING. I love her. So much. (These next few photos below were taken by the SF photographer. All other images are mine and were taken by me.)

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The whole gang with the buyers. :)

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Me, Jill, and Erin.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (51)

Then we headed to the nearby park for lunch.

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They had the most adorable picnic lunch set up for us!

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All of us after lunch (from left to right: Jen, Erin, Me, Jill, Kilee, Veronika, and Natalia)

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Then we spent the rest of the day being tourists and seeing more of the BEAUTIFUL city. Seriously, I am in love with San Francisco. It’s gorgeous.

We headed to Coit Tower. The view was stunning!

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Jen, Erin, Me, Jill, Kilee, Veronika, and Natalia San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (56)

Obligatory tourist photo

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Then we headed to Lombard Street, the curviest street… ever!!

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All of us!! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love these women… they became GREAT friends over the course of this trip!

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Then we headed to the Palace of the Fine Arts which is literally breathtaking. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

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Kilee, Me, NataliaSan Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (62) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (63) Then some more views of the bridge. It doesn’t get old!
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We headed to the flower gardens and there was this man playing a trumpet underneath the bridge… it was beautiful.San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (67) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (68) San Francisco and the #StitchFixVacay - September 2014 (69)

Then that night we got dressed up and headed to dinner… a MEXICAN RESTAURANT which y’all know I loved. The food was AMAZING. So delicious.

(From left to right: me, Natalia, Jen, Erin, Kilee, Jill, Veronika)

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PHEW! And that’s the recap of my first three days in SF. Tomorrow’s post will be just a recap of the last day and the photoshoot (which was THE MOST FUN EVER). I can’t wait to share it! Thank you guys again SO much for reading!

Now, I want to know: have you ever been to San Francisco? What was your favorite part? Have you tried Stitch Fix yet?

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*Disclosure: My trip to San Francisco (flight, lodging, and food) was paid for by Stitch Fix. I was not given any additional monetary compensation for the trip. I’m not being paid to write this post. I genuinely LOVE Stitch Fix and the company (as you can tell because I write and talk about them all the time), and this post is 100% my own. Thank you SO much for reading this blog… if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to do awesome stuff like this and for your readership, I am TRULY so unbelievably grateful.

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View More: http://em-grey.pass.us/august-2014-fashion-bloggers-day-out-molly-high-resolution

Top: Lilly Pulitzer | Cardigan: J.Crew Factory | Jeans: Stitch Fix | Bracelet: Esterlane c/o | Earrings: House of Polynesia c/o | Necklace: 9th and Elm c/o | Clutch: Stitch Fix | Shoes: TOMS

Photography by Em Grey Photography

I often have this oddly strange inner battle with what outfits to share on this blog of mine. Sometimes I think that the simple outfits are the ones I should forgo sharing and just stick to the “creative” outfits (or something)… but then so many of you tell me that the simple outfits or the most casual outfits are your favorite.

I realize that this particular outfit is of course nothing groundbreaking, style-icon-esque, or anything that’s going to make the pages of Elle or InStyle… but it is one of those outfits that is always a classic, always works, always looks good, and you can go to whenever you’re feeling “blech” – ya know?

It’s the outfit formula at it’s best.

I’ve worn this particular top on the blog before and it is still one of my favorite tops… ever. SO glad I snatched it up when I did.

What about you? Do you have any particular outfits that are your go-to or just make you feel put together even when you don’t feel like being put together? ‘Naw mean?

#SBMFallStyleChallenge October 2014

If you are on Instagram, I would LOVE for you to join me for a Fall Style Challenge! I’ve heard from so many of you that you’re looking for REAL, tangible style inspiration… and what better way to get real, tangible style inspiration than from each other?!

SO, I’ve created the #SBMFallStyleChallenge on Instagram! It starts THIS WEDNESDAY, October 1st! Just look at each day’s “inspiration” word and create an outfit that day based upon that particular “challenge” – then, share a photo of you on Instagram (these will ONLY count on Instagram) in your outfit of the day inspired by that day’s style inspiration! I will be posting mine each day as well and I’m hoping to get inspired and create some new looks and dig out old pieces from the closet along with you!

Follow me on Instagram, share your photos using the hashtag #SBMFallStyleChallenge, and each week throughout the month of October, I will feature someone and pick a winner and they will win a $50 e-gift card to a place of their choosing! HUZZAH!!

So, get ready! The first day is Wednesday and the inspiration is “plaid”! Also, feel free to share this graphic on your Instagram and get your friends and family in on the fun!

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730x100letitshineWelcome to Let it Shine! Welcome to the new, revamped Funday Monday! After two years, we decided to rename our link up to something we felt was a better fit. Welcome to Let it Shine! Why the name? Because, we want this link up to be just that…..your chance to let it shine! We will be sharing our favorites each week here, and on social media!

a few of our favsfall

/ Layering for Fall / Leather Midi Skirt / Camping /

Another place we will be showcasing our favs? The Let It Shine Pinterest Board! let it shine hashtag_edited-1 Linking up to Let it Shine? Don’t forget to link back to our blogs or share our button, thanks y’all!



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Moving UP in my Fitness Journey (3)

This is my story about my own personal journey with fitness and where I am today. Like, right this moment.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with “fitness” for pretty much the majority of my life. I was never super athletic, I’ve always been a slow runner, I’ve never been able to do a pull up, and I could never climb that STUPID ROPE in gym class in middle school. That’s why my sport was always golf. Yes, it requires a bit of athleticism, but I didn’t have to run, lift weights, or race anyone in anything. It was just me, the club, and the ball.

I’ve also struggled with body-image issues for the majority of my life. Okay, all of my life. I honestly can’t ever remember a time where I have ever liked the way I looked physically. Ever. And it’s so funny how much your perspective changes with time because now when I look back at pictures of myself in middle school or high school or even college, I think, “OH MY GOSH I WAS SO TINY.” But at the time, I thought I looked like a beached whale.

college_Molly_silly

This is me in college. All class.

However, even though I’ve certainly expanded as I’ve gotten older, I have become much more comfortable in my own skin and less concerned with the scale and more concerned with how I feel.

I’ve talked about this time and time again on this blog, but I know that I will never be a size 2 or a size 4. It’s just not going to happen. My body isn’t built that way. I have a broad frame and bigger build and no matter how much I diet and exercise, I will not be a small size.

before the Shamrock N' Run 5K in Feb. 2011

before the Shamrock N’ Run 5K in Feb. 2011

When I was at the PEAK of my health back in my running days, I was running 20-ish miles a week, training for 10-milers, 5ks, and a half marathon… and I was still a size 10. I was in the shape of my life, but I still couldn’t slim my waistline. It was then that I really realized that every body is truly built differently and no two people are going to look the same… physically… no matter how hard each person works out. Every body is going to respond to diet and exercise differently.

And that’s what really got me thinking differently about how I approached my own health and fitness. And I started to get into a really great routine and I started to lose some weight, I was in shape, feeling good, and I felt confident.

Then I got pregnant with our first child.

I was SO EXCITED and we were so happy, but if I’m being totally honest with you, pregnancy did not look good on me. There are some women who wear pregnancy SO WELL. They’re glowing and beautiful and radiant and they only gain weight in their belly and the shekinah glory is beaming down upon them at all times.

I am not one of those women.

gym-41-weeks

Me at the gym at 41 weeks pregnant. That’s a lot of momma right there…

I was sick all the time, I had so much swelling, I was constantly hungry but didn’t want to eat anything, I couldn’t sleep, nothing fit me… it was a never ending battle. And then I just started gaining weight and I kept gaining and nothing I could do was helping. I was trying to watch what I ate, I started working out for an hour a day 5-7 days a week (I worked out all the way up until the night I went into labor… at 42 weeks pregnant), but I kept gaining. Then I had a tough labor and rough recovery and it took me forever to get moving again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom so much. It’s the best. But, I had just felt AWFUL about the way I look ever since Lilly was born. Lilly's Birth Story (52)

And I’m finally at that breaking point where something has got to change. I’ve been really laissez-faire about it all and I have not been as mindful as I should be. I haven’t been as regimented with working out as I want to and I haven’t been really watching what I eat. Now, I do cook at home 90% of the time and I try to make healthy meals for our family, but my portion control is so way off because I’m hungry ALL THE TIME. Between nursing (I’m still nursing 4x a day) and chasing after Lilly, I’m always hungry.

Anyway. That brings me to today. I’ve been spending the last few months really working on getting my life organized and my priorities straight and I’m in that mode of, “I’ll try anything once to see if it works!” (within reason, obviously).

I’ve been shopping for healthier food and meal planning a month at a time. I’m getting myself on a regular routine of going to the gym (much easier now that Lilly doesn’t hate the gym nursery), and I’m beginning to track my meals again with a meal tracking app.

From the recommendation of a few friends, I had “get a fitness band” on my list of things to do.  My friend Amber uses one and has been using a Jawbone UP band for years and loves it… For reference, in short, a Jawbone is one of those wrist bands you wear that tracks your steps, sleep, and you can log goals / activity / workouts, etc. and you can even link it to other apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It.
Moving UP in my Fitness Journey (1)
Well, in a moment of serendipity, or something… I was given the opportunity to partner with Jawbone to test out and use the UP24 band for myself. This honestly could not have come at a more perfect time. Right as I’m trying to actively make steps (no pun intended) towards getting into better shape and feeling better about myself, this opportunity came along. So, I am REALLY excited to be trying it out and integrate it into my daily routine and fitness plan.
I’ve already set a few goals in the first week that I’ve been using it. My goal is eight hours of sleep a night (tough, but I’m trying!) and walk at least 7,000 steps a day. The recommended number of steps a day for someone of my age, height, weight, etc. is 10,000, but I know that number is going to be tough for me at first since I work from home. However, I am TRYING to get it so that number is eventually the norm for me. But, I wanted to start small with achievable goals that I could celebrate. I’ve also linked the UP24 app to my “My Fitness Pal” app which is tracking my exercise and meals.
Moving UP in my Fitness Journey (2)
I’ve only been using the band for a week, so I can’t say for sure that it’s a “life changer” or “game changer” or that I’ve lost 45 pounds using the UP24 band(!!)… but I can tell you that so far it’s at least made me extremely aware of my movement. I’m hyper-aware now of how often I’m stagnant at my desk or if I park a little farther away at the store I can take more steps, etc. I also like tracking my sleep and getting an idea of how I’m sleeping at night.
I know that this is going to be a process and it’s not going to happen overnight, but I’ve finally felt that switch go off inside me that has given me the swift kick in the rear that I need to quit complaining and start actually making changes in my personal health and fitness.
So, there you have it. That’s where I am. 
What about you? Have you used a fitness band before? What about the Jawbone UP24? What changes are you making in your own life to get healthier?
*This post has been done in collaboration with Jawbone UP24. Everything I wrote is 100% my own, from the heart, totally honest, and is really, truly where I am right now. I’m excited to partner with a company that can not only help support this blog and my family, but also (hopefully) get me in better shape!

 

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Six Ways to Take Your (Blog) Photography to the Next Level (4)

We live in a seriously visual world. Everything is about the visuals. Whether it’s in marketing, advertising, in print, or online… Great design, bold and bright colors, clear and crisp images are what can really make someone. And that is TOTALLY true for blogs!

When someone comes to your blog for the first time, they are going to gather a first impression within about two seconds. If your design is to busy, to confusing, or just downright unattractive… your reader is going to be turned off. Same goes for your images. If your pictures are blurry, grainy, poorly composed, muted, too big, or too small… a reader is going to be turned off and they’ll likely “X” out of your blog maybe to never return.

So, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks for making sure you have GREAT images for your blog. A lot of these tips could really be applied to ANYONE who loves to take pictures, BUT many of these tips are geared a little more specifically for fashion or style bloggers – and honestly, the same rules can be applied to food, DIY / crafting, and home decor bloggers, etc.

Since I take 90% of my own blog photos and I even take blog photos (and regular photos, too!! :) for other fabulous folks, I thought I’d share some examples along with the tips. I’m certainly NO expert whatsoever, but these are some things I have learned along the way.

Six Ways to Take Your (Blog) Photography to the Next Level

1. FIND GOOD LIGHT.Six Ways to Take Your (Blog) Photography to the Next Level (2)

Lighting can seriously make or break your images. If you own a DSLR camera OR an iPhone, lighting can make all the difference between an “okay” image and a “great” image! Use natural light and avoid artificial light like the plague. Be sure to take your pictures outside (especially if you’re a style blogger…) or at least by a large window. If you have to shoot inside, turn off all the lights in the room. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but by turning off all the lights in the room and allowing natural light to be your only source, you’ll get rid of that awful orange haze that is case by artificial lamps.

If you’re outside, avoid “DIRECT” sunlight and find an area where the light is diffused. I love this picture of Crystal (above) – primarily because I love how warm and glowy the light is around her. She was under a tree but in front of sidewalk which acted as a natural light reflector.

2. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD COMPOSITION.

Six Ways to Take Your (Blog) Photography to the Next Level (3)

Again, even if you are using a DSLR camera or an iPhone, make sure your composition of each image is on point. Don’t try to get “artsy” with your images. Crooked angles aren’t flattering. A picture where the camera is looking “up” at the person isn’t flattering (hello, double chin!). A picture where the camera is looking “down” at the person isn’t flattering (hello, Stewie!). Make sure the camera is looking straight on to the person and play with different subject composition. Use the rule of thirds to keep the subject on the left or right third of the image. Or, place the subject dead center. Play with negative space if you want to by having the subject be very small towards the bottom of the image and leave room above the subject.

I can’t fully pinpoint what it is, but I LOVE this detail picture I took of my awesome friend Brooke. It’s just such fun composition and shows off part of the outfit in an interesting way.

3. GET THE DETAILS.

Six Ways to Take Your (Blog) Photography to the Next Level (1)

If you’re doing a style post, you need AT LEAST three main images to really capture the look and feel of your outfit. I would also recommend that most, if not ALL of your style post images should be vertical images. 1) A full-body shot that clearly shows the outfit. 2) A “half-body” image. This image catches a close up of either your body waist up or waist down… depending on which part of the look you’re really trying to highlight. 3) A detail. Zoom in on the jewelry, a bag, shoes, or any intricate detailing on the clothes. Obviously you can take more than three photos for a style post, but those three are the most important in order to really get across what you’re trying to share about that particular look.

This is an outfit that I photographed for Amy last winter and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. I love the lighting, the details, the coloring, and the overall feel.

4. DON’T GO OVERBOARD WITH IMAGES.

One (Lilly's 12 month update!) (11)

For a style post, I’d say 8-10 images is a GRACIOUS plenty. Unless each image REALLY depicts a different feeling or aspect of the look, I would share no more than that for a post. If it’s a DIY / crafting or even a lifestyle post, you have more wiggle room with how many images you share… because frankly it may take 15-20 or even 30 images to accurately convey what you’re trying to convey.

I would also say that involves NOT over-editing your images. Don’t just slap on a bunch of filters because you think it looks cool… try and edit your images to have a look and feel that is natural.

5. INVEST IN QUALITY EQUIPMENT.

Natural Beauty | Summertime Makeup Tutorial #WalgreensBeauty #spon #CollectiveBias (23)

Yes, you CAN get by with just using and iPhone to take pictures for your blog, BUT, that will only get you so far. The sooner you can start saving your pennies and the sooner you can invest in a DSLR camera with at least one good lens, the better. If you’re not a photography buff, that’s okay! Get a basic entry level camera like a Canon Rebel or even a used NikonD40. Then, invest in a good lens like a 35mm or 50mm fixed lens. The lens is REALLY what is going to make the images what you want them to be.

For reference, I shoot with a Nikon D7000 and a 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.4 lenses.

6. LEARN TO SHOOT IN MANUAL.

PHOTOGRAPHY | Kate, Amelia, Alice, & Amy - UNC Senior Portraits (12)

Once you have invested in that DSLR, do NOT and I repeat, DO NOT stick that camera on “auto” mode and expect it to work its magic. You are basically wasting your money if you take a nice DSLR camera and only shoot in auto. When you shoot in manual mode, you have the control of your exposure to give you that soft, light, almost blown out look, OR you have the ability to create darker images like a silhouette in front of a sunset. By controlling the light in your images through the adjustments of your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, you won’t have to rely on harsh on-camera flash. The days of that awful red-eye are history!

Now, what tips / tricks do YOU have? Happy picture taking!

This post is also part of the #WeDo Photography series hosted by Amy from The Charming and Annie from The Ranting Latina. You can check out all the #WeDo Photography posts on their blogs and as a thank you, we’re giving away $25 in PayPal cash. Money money money! :)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen Maxi Skirt, Eyelet Peplum Top from Gap, Green "A Beautiful Mess" bag by Kelly Moore Bags (1)

Eyelet Peplum Top: Gap (similar) | Beale Maxi Skirt in Sea and Be Seen: Lilly Pulitzer | Camera / Laptop / Diaper Bag: Kelly Moore A Beautiful Mess Bag | Necklace: Target (similar)

Photo by Em Grey Photography

I realize that reading blogs can often be deceiving. Most bloggers (I don’t say all, because I don’t want to over generalize), but MOST bloggers tend to only hit “publish” on the pretty parts of our lives. We share the good, the pretty, and the prettiest. We share the successes, we share the polished finishes, and we share the highlights. We tend to shy away from sharing the struggles, the ugly, the awkward, and the downright embarrassing.

And for the most part, I think that’s okay. In my opinion, it’s all about balance. More of one thing and not enough of the other can often lead to readers (and the blogger, too!) feeling totally disenfranchised or even delusional. I never want to be the kind of person that blurs my reality, if that makes any sense.

Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen Maxi Skirt, Eyelet Peplum Top from Gap, Green "A Beautiful Mess" bag by Kelly Moore Bags (2) Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen Maxi Skirt, Eyelet Peplum Top from Gap, Green "A Beautiful Mess" bag by Kelly Moore Bags (3) Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen Maxi Skirt, Eyelet Peplum Top from Gap, Green "A Beautiful Mess" bag by Kelly Moore Bags (4) Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen Maxi Skirt, Eyelet Peplum Top from Gap, Green "A Beautiful Mess" bag by Kelly Moore Bags (5) Lilly Pulitzer Sea and Be Seen Maxi Skirt, Eyelet Peplum Top from Gap, Green "A Beautiful Mess" bag by Kelly Moore Bags (6)

While I totally am the kind of person that generally sees the glass half full and whathaveyou, there are certainly days where I’m just downright sad, frustrated, and feeling totally empty. One of the things that I’ve loved so much about having this blog as an outlet for me over the past eight years is that I’ve been able to word-vomit the heck out of whatever I’m going through at a particular time and moment.

I constantly get questions and comments from people saying things like, “You just look like you have it all together! How do you do it?” “How do you manage to look so put together all the time?” And my immediate reaction is usually one of joke-cracking and self-deprication. That’s my go-to. But it’s gotten me thinking about where I am currently, how I’m taking care of myself or if I’m even being true and honest with myself.

The fact of the matter is: I am truly, madly, and oh-so-seriously so happy right now. I love my life, I really do. It’s taken me a LONG, LONG time to get here, but I’m in a great place right now. I can’t fully pinpoint what has brought me to this place in life, but I really believe it has to do with where I am in my spiritual journey. If you’re not a Christian or not a believer PLEASE don’t immediately click out of this screen when I say that… that is NOT my intention to alienate you in any way or make you feel like I’m setting myself apart, because I promise you, that is not the case at. all.

The fact of the matter is it has been just about four years since I really surrendered my life over to Christ and when I think about my life before and I think about my life after – it’s pretty much night and day. Before, I kept trying to do things my own way on my own time with my own agenda. And that is a really terrible, miserable way to live.

Once I said, “Okay, FINE God, I’ll try things you’re way for a minute… BUT JUST FOR A MINUTE…” it’s amazing how quickly I was blown away.

My life is nowhere near perfect. Not even close. I often go days without showering, my sleep is erratic, I’m unhappy with my physical health, I’m out of shape, and I constantly feel like I don’t measure up to X, Y, or Z. But the truth is, I’m oddly okay with it. I know it won’t be like this forever and I’m actively working to make improvements in the areas of my life that I’m not satisfied… but deep down inside, I feel so peaceful and confident in my relationship with Jesus and my relationship with my husband that all worry, fear, and anxiety about the “next steps” just seems to disappear.

All this to say that you don’t have to be ashamed of your mess either. We’re all a mess, truthfully. And if someone says they’re not a mess, that probably means they are an even bigger mess than you. So that’ll make you feel better. Right? Right. …Okay, probably not. You get the point though.

Also, I am fully aware that all of this post has pretty much NOTHING to do with the outfit. So, I’ll quickly address it… this is me holding on to the LAST LITTLE BIT of warmth and summer (even though it IS officially fall). Oh, and a few months ago I finally splurged and got myself a Kelly Moore camera bag and I decided on the A Beautiful Mess bag because it’s a camera bag + diaper bag (it came with a changing pad!!) + laptop bag all-in-one. It literally fits ALL THE THINGS. Plus, the kelly green color is kinda my fave.

SO there you have it. A big ol’ pile of word vomit about my current state of emotional affairs.

How do you like ‘dem apples?

Now, spill your guts to me. Tell me something that’s on your mind. It can be totally random. I don’t even ‘curr what it is. 

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Seahorse App | Photo sharing review #Cleverhorse #cgc #spon (1)


I think by now you guys know how much I love taking pictures.

I truly believe there is no such thing as “too many” pictures.  I love capturing memories from the biggest to the seemingly most mundane… it’s all a memory to me and I want to make sure I’ve captured it. However, I’ve noticed over the last few years that I’ve been super slack about actually being intentional about how I share and preserve those memories.

Sure, you can take a gajillion (yes, that is the technical term) pictures… but if you don’t actually do anything to preserve them, then they’re just a bunch of files taking up space on your harddrive.

I’ve been taking the time to pick my favorite photos each month and file them away to print, put in a picture book, share with friends and family, or even share on the blog. So, with that in mind, I’m always looking for the next new thing or next new way to share photos. I remember when Instagram came out and I remember thinking, “Sure, I’ll sign up for this thing… but yeah… there’s no way this app is ever going to go anywhere.” And here I am, totally putting my foot in my mouth. Haha!

Anyway, I learned about a brand new app called Seahorse and was asked to review it! I LOVED the concept and knew it was right up my alley, so I was pumped to try it and share my thoughts with y’all.

Seahorse App | Photo sharing review #Cleverhorse #cgc #spon (3)

Basically, Seahorse is a photo sharing app where you create “Scenes,” upload pictures to each “Scene,” and then you can add friends and family to a particular “Scene” and they can add photos, too. You can also “like” and “comment” on photos within each scene and you can even share photos within the scene to social media, through email, or download photos to your phone.

It’s sort of that solution to the problem of: you and some friends go on a trip together… you each take different photos on your phone or cameras and then you want some way to get the photos to your friends after the fact. So you have to go and download the photos to your computer, upload them to some file sharing service, and so on and so forth. It’s never really an easy process.

Seahorse makes it SUPER, crazy easy for you to share your pictures! I LOVE it.

I downloaded the app, (which is available on iOS (Apple) devices or on Android), set up my profile, and started creating my “scenes.”

I started with pictures from when we went to the beach last month.Seahorse App | Photo sharing review #Cleverhorse #cgc #spon (4)

It was really easy to create scenes… I just uploaded photos directly from my phone. But you can also upload photos to the app from Facebook, Flickr, your computer, etc. Seahorse App | Photo sharing review #Cleverhorse #cgc #spon (5)

I started off by creating three scenes, one for our beach vacation, one for photos of Lilly, and one for my iPhone photos from my trip to San Francisco last week. Seahorse App | Photo sharing review #Cleverhorse #cgc #spon (6)

Then it’s just a matter of adding friends to each scene. I’ll add my family and SF friends to the San Francisco scene, family members to the scene with pictures of Lilly, and my husband to the beach vacation scene. That way we can all upload and share our pictures in the same scene.

You can add friends using the little icon in the lower right corner (the little head icon)… and if they don’t have the app, you can send your friends an invite. Right now I just have my husband as my only “friend” on the app so far… and I don’t have screen shots of that because it has his email address visible… but you get the point. :) Seahorse App | Photo sharing review #Cleverhorse #cgc #spon (7)

The app is SUPER easy-to-use, has a lot of functions I’m sure I haven’t even realized it has yet, and I love that you can add and collaborate and share photos along the way. Plus, you don’t have to add one friend to ALL your scenes… each friend is only added to the scenes you want your friend added to. If that makes sense.

Right now, my biggest beef with the appif you can even call it that, is that there’s not really an easier way to find “friends” to share the app with. I would love a way to be able to see Facebook friends or Twitter friends or something like that… right now it’s all based on contacts in your phone or if you have the person’s email address.

The app is really the most fun when you have other friends to share the scenes with. However, in the meantime, it’s GREAT for storing photos, organizing photos, uploading photos, etc.

I also would love to see the functionality in the future to order prints or something like that from the app… that would be SWEET.

Now, the app is *FREE* on the iTunes store… there IS a premium version, but it is only $9.99 a year. I used the FREE version. AND, there’s BONUS… if you use the code “CLEVERHORSE” you can get 5GB extra of storage! The code expires October, 31st, 2014.
Here’s how to download the app and redeem the code:
  • Download the app on iTunes or Android
  • Tap the icon on the top left corner to access your account settings
  • Tap “Redeem”
  • Tap “Write code” and enter CLEVERHORSE
  • Tap “Go” on your keyboard

That’s it! 5GB extra! HUZZAH!!

I really look forward to playing around with the app some more and using it on upcoming trips and whatnot.

What about you? Have you tried the Seahorse app? Any other cool apps I should check out?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Red jeans from Stitch Fix, Daisy floral kimono from Stitch Fix, black and white striped tee (1)

Renee C “Jennifer Daisy Print Kimono”: Stitch Fix (similar!) | Striped Top: Limited (love this one) | Red Kensie Kaleigh Ankle Biter Skinny Jeans: Stitch Fix | Street Level “Jamie Geometric Print Foldover Clutch”: Stitch Fix (similar) | Booties: Old (similar) | Bar Necklace: 9th and Elm c/o | Wrap Bracelet: Esterlane c/o

Photos by Em Grey Photography

The other day someone asked, “Is the colored denim trend on its way out?” To which I replied, “Great gracious! I HOPE NOT!!” I don’t think so at all. I realize that 98% of fashion and trends are totally determined by what the retailers sell and, well, opinions… but to me, colored denim is a trend that isn’t even really a trend to me anymore – I think it’s here to stay. Feel free to correct me on this in 2-5 years when colored denim is a fashion has-been.

I LOVE colored denim. So. Much. It’s such an easy way to make an outfit instantly more interesting. Sure, this outfit would be fine with the daisy kimono and striped top (oh HAY print mixing!) and regular blue denim… but with the red jeans? So much more fun.

Red jeans from Stitch Fix, Daisy floral kimono from Stitch Fix, black and white striped tee (2) Red jeans from Stitch Fix, Daisy floral kimono from Stitch Fix, black and white striped tee (3) Red jeans from Stitch Fix, Daisy floral kimono from Stitch Fix, black and white striped tee (4) Red jeans from Stitch Fix, Daisy floral kimono from Stitch Fix, black and white striped tee (5)

When I was thinking about what I would consider a “fall must-have” – fun, dark colored denim immediately came to mind. Now is the time of year you can play up the reds, the greens, the burgundy colors, the plums. Have fun with it! Play around with mixing and matching. There are SO many options out there!

What about you? Do you love the colored denim trend? Are you a red denim fan? What colors do you want to try this fall? What’s on your fall must-have list?

730x100letitshineWelcome to Let it Shine!   Welcome to the new, revamped Funday Monday! After two years, we decided to rename our link up to something we felt was a better fit.  Welcome to Let it Shine! Why the name? Because, we want this link up to be just that…..your chance to let it shine! We will be sharing our favorites each week here, and on social media! The biggest change? Monthly Inspirations!  Each month we will share some fun post ideas, one for each week.    Do you HAVE to follow the inspirations to link up? Absolutely not!  If you’d like to be considered for a feature, those will be picked from the inspirations…..check out the September lineup!    september inspirations

Last week, we talked about statement pieces……

a few of our favsstatement/ Easy / Work Wear / Cobalt and Camo /

Another place we will be showcasing our favs? The Let It Shine Pinterest Board! We will also be posting ideas for the weekly themes….so be sure you’re following!     let it shine hashtag_edited-1   Linking up to Let it Shine? Don’t forget to link back to our blogs or share our button, thanks y’all!


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RECIPE: Easy Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I’m excited to share another recipe from the menu that we had for Lilly’s birthday party! Mac and cheese is one of Lilly’s FAVORITE foods (if not her absolute favorite food) and so we KNEW we had to have some at her party.

I had wanted to try a mac and cheese recipe in the crock pot, because I knew it would be best for keeping it warm and fresh during the party. I looked around online, in cookbooks, and Pinterest and found this recipe and knew it sounded delicious so I decided to adapt it a little and give it a try!

There is pretty much nothing even remotely healthy about it… but it is delicious. So, heed that warning. :)

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

RECIPE: Easy Crock Pot Mac and Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A delicious recipe for crock pot mac and cheese.
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8-10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 box uncooked pasta shells
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2½ cup grated mixed cheese (I used the "fiesta" blend)
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 (10.75 oz) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup Organic fat free milk
  • ½ tsp black pepper
Instructions
  1. Spray your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Boil the pasta shells in water for six minutes and then drain. You want the shells to be soft, but not fully cooked.
  3. Mix butter and cheese over medium heat in a saucepan. Add in the cheese and stir until it is all melted.
  4. In your crock pot, combine the cheese mixture, greek yogurt, soup, salt, milk, and pepper. Add drained pasta. Stir it all together really well.
  5. Cook in crock pot for 2 to 2½ hours on low, stirring occasionally.
  6. Enjoy!

What about you? Are you a mac and cheese fan? Will you try this? Got any recipes I need to try?

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The Biggest Tip for Planning for Retirement in Your 20s and 30s

If this is your first time here, Molly’s Money is a regular series I write on this blog that includes ALL things personal finance – debt management, budgeting, home buying, savings, investment, etc. I am NOT a financial advisor, but I am married to one! These are just things that I have learned over the years as I struggled with my own personal finances and ultimately, became debt free in 2012. Got a question about money that you want answered? Leave it in the comments below or email me!

When I graduated college, I felt completely unprepared for the real world… financially. While college prepared me for a lot of things, finances in the “real world” just wasn’t one of them. I didn’t really know what a 401(k) was, I didn’t know how to really figure out what a good “benefits” package at my job was, I didn’t know about investing, and I certainly didn’t know about the importance of planning for retirement (or how to even going about it).

Now eight years out of college, I know so much more now and there are so many things that I WISH I knew eight years ago. Would have saved me a lot of headache in the long run. But, you live and learn! Literally.

Anyway. My husband happens to be a financial advisor and one of the main things he does is work with people on planning for retirement… so, I was talking with him about this topic the other day and I asked him about the people that he meets with and works with and helps… I asked, “What do THOSE people (people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s) wish they had known in their 20s and 30s about planning for retirement? “

SO, I thought it might be really helpful to y’all to share some of what he told me! I formatted this post in more of a “Q&A” kinda setup, so I hope this is helpful!

1. What’s the best way to start planning for retirement when you’re in your 20s and 30s?

At this stage of your life, you don’t need a very complicated strategy. You just need to save and invest.

Here’s a quick example of the power of saving during this period of your life:

Let’s suppose that you invested $5000/year from age 22-27, your first five years after college AND NEVER INVESTED ANOTHER PENNY.  That’s a total of $25,000 invested.  Let’s also suppose that you invested in some mutual funds that averaged a 7% annual return over the course of your lifetime (that would be a very achievable return over a long period like that).  At age 65, your $25,000 will have turned into $326,000.(!!!)

retirementexample1

Now, let’s suppose that you wait 30 years until age 52 and then say to yourself, “Oops, I should probably save some money for retirement.”  And then you do the exact same thing, investing $5000/year for five years (ages 52-57), with a 7% average return.  Now, at age 65, your $25,000 will have turned into $42,000.

retirementexample2

Sort of a difference, huh?  That’s the power of investing early in life and taking advantage of all of those decades of compounding growth.

Now, you might be saying, “There’s no way I can save $5,000 a year right out of college! All of my money is tied up in food and shelter.” I understand.  I couldn’t save that much either at that stage of my life. You might also be saying, “I don’t really even know what a mutual fund is.”  That’s ok, because that’s not really the point here.  My point is simply that any money that you can invest at a young age in any sort of vehicle that has some decent growth potential can make a huge difference for you over the course of your life.

2. My job offers a 401(k).  What am I supposed to do with that?

First, let’s explain (briefly) what a 401(k) is… A 401(k) is simply a vehicle that allows you to invest on a regular basis (through deductions from your paycheck) with pre-tax dollars.  Using a 401(k) can be a “painless” way to save because the money is coming out of your paycheck, which means you never really miss it.  You didn’t bring the money home and then write a check to some investment company.  You just never brought the money home in the first place and probably didn’t give it a second thought.  So, that makes it easy.

Another great advantage comes into play if your company is matching your contributions.  Let’s say that your company will match 100% of what you contribute to the 401(k).  If you saved $100 each paycheck, they’d put in another $100 for you.  That means that you’ve DOUBLED your money immediately.  Trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing else you can invest in that will immediately double your money for you.  So if your company is matching what you invest, it’s borderline insane to not take advantage of it.  That’s just free money you’re leaving on the table.

Not all companies are going to match you dollar-for-dollar, but even if they match 25% or 50% of what you invest, that’s still free money that you don’t want to pass up.

Some companies don’t match anything at all.  If that’s the case, there’s a good chance that you’d be better off to do your investing on your own in a different account, but you have to take a look in the mirror first.  Ask yourself if you’ll have the discipline to actively invest the money on your own when it’s not being done for you as a payroll deduction.  If you have a hard time envisioning yourself having that discipline, then I’d recommend just using the 401(k) and taking advantage of that “painlessness” we talked about earlier.

How do I save and invest on my own (if my company doesn’t offer a 401(k) or I’d like to save money in addition to my account at work)?

You could go about it several different ways.  You could always talk to a financial advisor about getting an account set up, but if you’re just getting started, there’s really no need for you to have an account that you’re paying someone to manage.  For the first few years, your goal should just be to start saving and building up your account.  Once you’ve grown to a certain size, then it will make more sense to have someone managing it for you.

There are several companies you could use.  E*Trade or Scottrade are good do-it-yourself options.  Fidelity or Vanguard would work too. You can just set up an account, transfer money from your checking account, and start picking things to invest in. You can do it with basically no guidance, or you can ask for some basic advice from the folks at these companies.  Now, any advice that they give you is going to be biased, because they’ll be trying to direct you to mutual funds or other products that will help them get paid, but if you were planning to invest all of your money in diseased livestock, and they instead pointed you toward some basic index mutual funds, it’s probably a good thing that you had some guidance.

You could also do all of this at your bank.  Almost all banks have folks there who can help you set up an account and start some basic investing.  I can’t promise that the quality of the investment advice will always be outstanding, but if you’re just getting started, their guidance will be adequate.

So there you have it… a 36,000 foot view on planning for retirement in your 20s and 30s…

The biggest point of all of this is: SAVE AND INVEST EARLY IN LIFE. No, but for real. Seriously. Save and invest early in life. It makes a MASSIVE difference.

I’ll definitely be writing another post soon that delves a little deeper into the different between a 401(k), a traditional IRA, a ROTH IRA, etc. But, in the meantime, you can check out this post that I wrote that gives you some idea.

What about you? Learn anything new? Anything you hadn’t thought of before? Do you have any tips that you would add?

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View More: http://em-grey.pass.us/august-2014-fashion-bloggers-day-out-molly-high-resolution

Collective Concepts Jayde Layered Floral Knit Tank: Stitch Fix (similar) | Mint Jeans: Target (similar) | Shoes: Hotter.com | Bag: Stitch Fix (exact here) | Earrings: House of Polynesia c/o (Use code “MOLLY15″ for 15% off your order!)| Bar Necklace: 9th and Elm c/o

Photos by the awesome and so sweet Em Grey Photography

I can’t believe we are mere days away from the official end of summer. I’m not going to be all “Ohhh my how the time has flown! Where did the summer go?” But seriously. WHERE IN SAM HILL DID THE SUMMER GO? My gracious.

Anywho.

Ever since I got this layered tank in my July fix, it has been one of my absolute favorite tops to wear this summer. It’s so light and airy and flowy and comfortable and it’s easy to nurse in (#keepingitreal) and I can wear it with jeans (of many colors!) and I can wear it with shorts and I can wear it with a maxi skirt and I just love it. I will stop gushing, but I will also say that I definitely plan to take this tank into the fall as well… it’s one that will be really easy to just throw a denim jacket or a cardigan over and boom… you have fall attire.

Let’s talk about these earrings.

The oh-so-fantastic Kathleen from House of Polynesia sent me two GORRRRGEOUS pairs of earrings from her shop and I love them. She makes the most beautiful jewelry. I wish I was talented with something like jewelry making or some craft… I always have a little bit of envy for people who have a knack for something like that. (Use code “MOLLY15″ for 15% off your order!!”

Anyway, while I am, quite honestly, not prone to wearing dangly earrings ALL the time (mainly because Lilly will RIP THEM OUT), I do LOVE to wear them on occasion… to a special event, on a date night, or just when I’m out by myself and I want to feel a little dressed up.

There’s just something about wearing a gorgeous pair of hoops or statement earrings that makes me feel all fancy like. Am I the only one?

Also, I will totally own up to the fact that you can see the remnants in my ears of when I had a bajillion piercings. It is weird for me to think that there was a time in my life when I had 10 piercings. TEN. I had eight in my ears (four on each side), my nose pierced, and my belly button pierced. It was a youthful phase that I am clearly out of.

The nose ring lasted all of about eight months my sophomore year of college until it fell out one night in my sleep. It hurt so bad to get it done the first time that I refused to get it done again. The belly button ring I got for my 15th birthday (my mom took me! WHAT?! It’s true. haha!) and I took it out I think four or five years ago. Basically right around the time I stopped wearing two piece bathing suits.

Now I just wear two earrings in two holes in my ears.

Was this too much information for you? Probably. Oh well, I started rambling and went on a somewhat related tangent and divulged a weird fact about me.

Please do not judge me.

MOVING ON.

Also, this photo below, I strangely like it while I also think it looks like I’m about to hit on a shrub or something… like, “Hey there shrub! How YOU doin’?

I’m all over the place today, aren’t I?
ANYWAY! Back to the subject at hand. The FABULOUS Kathleen is giving TWO pairs of earrings away (YOUR CHOICE!!) to one of my lucky readers. So, be sure to enter below and be sure to check out her shop… her jewelry is absolutely gorgeous.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (1)


I mentioned earlier in the summer that one of my main goals has been to start working on and investing in a GOOD skin care routine for myself. I’m not getting any younger and while, yes, I have definitely been blessed with youthful skin (thank you genetics!), that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be taking good care of my skin NOW to prevent problems later.

I have felt like my skin has been feeling tired, dry (but also oily), dull, and just lifeless. I am getting breakouts more than ever, age spots, dark circles, and I just feel like I’ve been needing to make a change in my routine and start INVESTING in my skin. I mean, my skin IS the largest organ on my body. RIGHT? Right.

Anyway. I am definitely not an expert in the arena of skin care and while I don’t feel like I’ve found the “holy grail” end-all be-all of skin care routines, I have discovered some products over the last few months that I’ve integrated into my daily regimen that I am really enjoying and I have felt like are beginning to make a difference.

I also will say that I realize that this is a bit of a hodge podge of products, but that is because I’m still very much in a “trial” phase and I’m seeing what works for me and what doesn’t.

BEAUTY | An All Day Makeup Look with Neutrogena (13)

A little about my skin (and my skin “history”):

I thought it might be helpful to tell you a little bit about my skin type and the history of my skin so that it might help those of you who may have a similar skin type put what I’m saying into perspective…

As I mentioned earlier, I have been extremely blessed with “youthful” skin. My mom’s side of the family all had very youthful skin and my mom, even up until the day she passed, always had gorgeous skin and she always looked WAY younger than her actual age. So, I’ve always looked way younger than I am and I’ve never really struggled with my skin.

I never really had many issues with acne growing up. I had a few breakouts here and there during that “time” of the month, but overall, I never had major, major issues.

I am SUPER allergic to Benzoil Peroxide – the active ingredient found in many acne medications. I learned this the hard way in fifth grade. I remember getting some acne medication from Rite Aid, taking it home, putting it on a zit and ALL over my face, going to school and an hour later I looked like Will Smith in Hitch. It was NOT a good look. So, needless to say, I have always avoided products with BP in it.

My skin has never been too oily and never been too dry, it’s definitely more “combo” than anything else.

I am really fair skinned (stating the obvious) and skin cancer runs really rampant in my family… so I am really REALLY conscious about wearing something with SPF in it… even in the dead of winter.

The Current State of my Skin:

So, that brings me to today. Since getting pregnant and having Lilly, the hormones have really changed my skin a lot. I feel like it’s aged more in the past year than it had in the 28 years prior.

My dark circles have gotten out. of. control. My freckles are darkening (and not in a cute way) and I’m beginning to develop some age spots. I also have noticed that my skin breaks out more than usual and I’m getting wrinkles where I didn’t have them previously and I also have weird times where my skin is both dry AND oily. I don’t know how that is possible. But it is.

My Current Skin Care Routine

Arbonne RE9 Advanced Smoothing Facial Cleanser – used in the morning and/or in the shower

My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (2)

One of my dear friends here in the area, Elise, is an Arbonne consultant. I actually tried my first Arbonne product back in the winter when John got me something from them for my stocking. I loved it right away. I had been on the hunt for a good, “age-fighting” cleanser and Elise recommended this to me back in the spring and I’ve been using it ever since. I LOVE it. A little goes a long way (I am barely halfway through the first bottle that I got back in May), and it gives a good clean lather without being super soapy.

It’s also not heavily scented, which I like. It’s just straight forward and I feel like it really gets my skin feeling clean.

Garnier Clean Purifying Foam Cleanser – used to remove makeup

My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (7)

I’ve been using this Garnier Clean cleanser for almost a year now and I love it for removing the last bit of makeup at night before bed. After using makeup remover and/or face wipes, I use this cleanser last right before bed. It has a really light feeling and my face just feels… clean after using it. You know what I mean? I realize I’m over simplifying it, but you get what I’m saying.

Clinique Acne Spot Healing Gel – used as needed

My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (4)

I have been using the exact same acne spot treatment for close to 15 years. The Clinique acne spot treatment is seriously MAGIC. It’s $17 for a tiny little bottle, but it takes me a good year to use the whole thing up. It zaps zits OVERNIGHT. It has salicylic acid instead of benzoil peroxide, but seriously… this stuff is magic. MAGIC. MAGIC.

Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum – used twice a day, every day

My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (6)

I got sent a sample of the Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum last month and I’ve been using it twice daily since I got it. I am always a little bit skeptical about products like this because they seem to be more on the “gimicky” side. But I have to say, I have DEFINITELY seen a difference in my skin. My skin tone has appeared MUCH more even, less blotchy, and I’ve seen a significant decrease in my dark circles and age spots.

I’ve had to use foundation less and less lately, and in a lot of ways, I think I attribute it to the use of this stuff. I think only time will tell on whether or not I’ll keep using it for the long haul, but for now, I am LOVING this stuff.

Arbonne RE9 Advanced Corrective Eye Cream / Moisturizer – used twice a day, every day

My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (5)

I’ve been using another Arbonne product per the recommendation of my friend, Elise, in conjunction with the Arbonne cleanser. I was using another Arbonne under eye cream previously, and I honestly wasn’t blown away by it. Sure, it kept me moisturized, but I wasn’t seeing improvement in my under eye circles and wrinkles.

Elise recommended this particular line to me and I’ve been using it since May and I’m hooked. This stuff is the bomb. It’s another one where a little goes a long way (I barely use half a pump for both eyes) and I really feel like I’ve begun to see a difference in my skin using this stuff. I will definitely repurchase when I run out.

SOBO Ultra Age Repairing Cream / Moisturizer – used twice a day, every day

My Quest for a Great Skin Care Routine (3)

I was also sent a sample of the SOBO Ultra Age Repairing Cream with Resveratrol earlier this month and have been using it twice a day, seven days a week for the last two weeks. I was using another moisturizer previously, but it wasn’t one that blew me away. I had heard great things about the SOBO line so I was excited to try this one out. (By the way, you can use the code “TRYSOBO” for 25% off your purchase!)

So far I really like it. It is a little “heavy,” in that it needs a good 15-20 minutes to seep into your skin after applying. But, my skin has felt really soft and moisturized. If you have oily skin, I’m not sure how you’d do with this, but for my combo skin, it does great.

I can’t speak to it’s “age fighting” power quite yet as I’ve only been using it for two weeks, but as a daily moisturizer, so far I am really impressed.

So that’s it for now. That’s what I’m using… I feel like I’m making progress in my skincare routine, but I’m also not locked into one yet. It’s all trial and error at this point… BUT, I do like what I’m experiencing so far.

What about you? What’s your skincare routine look like? What products have you been using that you can recommend?

 

 

 

*thank you to BrandBacker and SOBO for sending me a sample of the SOBO Skin Care moisturizer! Also thank you to Murad for sending me a sample of the Age Spot and Lightening Serum as well! All other products were purchased by me and all opinions are totally honest and my own. Other than samples, no other compensation was provided. I wouldn’t be writing about these things if I didn’t truly love them!

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