October 2017 | Olive and Tate

A Mom Confession with the Graco® SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

How to install the Graco®  SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

This post was sponsored by the Graco® SnugRide SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat. All opinions and experiences are my own and are as a result of utilizing the product in our day to day life. 

Ok, confession time: I've never once in my three years of motherhood installed a car seat. 
Never. Not once.

My husband has always been the car seat installer - if the seats need to be pulled out to be cleaned, swapped into Grandma's car or installed prior to our run to Labor and Delivery, he is the one to handle it. And the reason why is simple:

I am terrified to do it myself.

I don't think I could live with myself if I unintentionally installed a car seat incorrectly and then one of my babies was hurt as a result. Frankly, even typing that made my stomach turn and my heart race. And it seems my fears are justified - a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 49% of infant car seats were incorrectly installed. But, Justin is going to start traveling for work more and I am going to need to be able to install a car seat like the Boss Mom that I am, so it seems that time has come for me to figure this business out.

How to install the Graco®  SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

We've been on the hunt for a second rear facing infant car seat for Georgia to use in my husband's truck and with the Grandparents, so I started the search with "ease of installation" as a major priority. When Graco® reached out to me and asked if I would give the Graco® SnugRide SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat a try, I (nervously) said yes. 

How to install the Graco®  SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

I gave it a go and, honestly, I dominated it. After a little step by step coaching by my husband, I was able to install the car seat, start to finish, correctly and safely, in just a few minutes! Take a peek of me working that install:

Here's what makes the Graco® SnugRide SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat the jam: 

Install is a simple, three-step process that rewards you with the no-doubt-about-it, audible "click" when the infant seat is installed correctly (seriously, scroll down and check out the video of me installing the base in all of my mom glory - you'll hear it!). The system has level indicator on the base that helps ensure installation is correct and is paired with the InRIGHT LATCH to ensure that even the car seat installation newbies, like myself, can get it right. 

I, of course, had my husband supervise my efforts and even he was impressed with how easy it was to install the base using a seat belt with the SnugLock.

How to install the Graco®  SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

Bonus points go to the SilentShade Canopy which opens and closes without making a peep so you won't wake your tiny tyrant and the one handed adjustable handle, which makes getting baby in and out super easy. If I have to be the car seat installer, I need all of the help I can get, even in the sunshade and handle department.

How to install the Graco®  SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

And, in less important news: how cute is that striped pattern?? 
It reminds me of a comfy sweatshirt and I am digging it!

How to install the Graco®  SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat

You can read more about the Graco® SnugRide SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat here

Blogging 201: How to Partner With Other Bloggers (Again!)

One of my most popular posts of all time is a little number I whipped up sharing ways that bloggers can partner up in order to grow, learn and benefit from one another. I filed it under "Blogging 101" because, while it is perfect for everyone, the tips are really aimed at those bloggers just starting out and developing their blogging community. Today, I'm going deeper and sharing ways that more seasoned bloggers can collaborate together - both in person and through our long distance relationships - to create blogger magic. 

Let's get crazy and file this bad boy under "Blogging 201: How To Partner With Other Bloggers (again)"

all photography by Jessi Nichols Photography 

1. Pin It
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Instagram is o.v.e.r. If you want to drive traffic to your blog, you need to hop on over to Pinterest and start pinning, stat. Better yet, you need your friends to hop over to Pinterest and start pinning your content! Because of the algorithm (and whatnot) your content will perform better if others pin it and you pin the work of others. Who understands this better than a fellow blogger? Nobody! Make a board specifically for content sharing and add your blogging besties to it - pin each other's fresh content and the evergreen goodness, you'll see a bump in page views which of course means a bump in ad rev! 

This is the perfect way for long distance friends (which is what most of us are) to support one another - you don't have be local to collaborate!

2. Style It
A styled shoot is the perfect way to build a stockpile of gorgeous images for your channels but it can be a ton of work to create. I happen to love prepping for a styled shoot and love it even more when I'm working with a blogger whose style naturally jives with my own. My sweet friend Lauren of Love Lola Blog is the prime example of the perfect blogging cohort - she is crazy stylish, our brands share similar goals/vibes/niches and we partner really well together (you can see another shoot of ours here). Lauren asked me if I would partner with her in a styled fall picnic shoot and I couldn't say "duh!" fast enough. She set the location and scheduled her photographer, we split the list of things to bring and trusted each other to follow through. The results are unreal - seriously, be prepared to see these photos again and again - and we each scored major content for our own platforms. 

Bonus: we've now had the opportunity to work with each other's photographers for the first time in a comfortable and familiar environment. Why is this important? Well, we got to skip the awkward "how do you like to shoot?" phase of working together and made it straight for the "oh, please make sure I have only one chin" phase from the first click of the shutter. 

We also each had the confidence that our photographers were familiar with the craziness that comes with shooting for a blog and wouldn't forget to grab detail shots, shots framed for Instagram or think we were weird when we gazed off into the distance instead of looking at the camera head on. 

Seriously though, working with a new photographer can make a non-model like myself a little nervous so working with a new photog with your friend who is comfortable and has a great report established in tow is always a relief to me. 

3. Skill Swap
Speaking of my beautiful friend Lauren, let me tell you this about her: she is insanely natural in front of a camera. I have never once seen her take a bad photo and she always knows exactly how to stand or the perfect way to turn her face to capture the best shot. 

I, on the other hand, never know what to do with my hands. If you have a fellow blogger friend who has a skill that you'd love to master, ask her! I asked Lauren to coach me a bit during our shoot and the results were definitely more natural and less, shall we say, panicked looking. 

I would happily set up a skill swap date where she taught me posing (in the privacy of my own home, because that will obviously be a nightmare) and I taught her something off of her blogging must know list. Set a timer for 20 minutes on each skill and you'll be both be pros in under an hour. 

4. Tech Swap
I can't tell you how many times I've reached out to my friends who are masters of certain tech platforms, begging for help. Meg O. is my Pinterest guru, Jonathan knows his way around Photoshop like none other and Katie is the master of Facebook communities. If you have a platform that you want to know, are stuck with a code issue, or can't for the life of you figure out what the "S" in HTTPS stands for, reach out! There is, without a doubt, a tech skill that you've mastered that your friends will be dying to learn. Perfect example: I'm often asked by new members about the Reward Style platform and how to use it from start to finish - it's a program that I've been using for a while, so while I'm no master, I am familiar with the in's and out's - and sometimes, that's all we need to know to help a girl out. 

Now, go forth and collaborate! 

The Perfect Girl's Trip to Charlotte, NC

If you follow me on Insta stories, you know that I clocked out of my mama duties (like, tires squealing at pre-school drop off) last Friday morning and hit the highway for a girl's weekend with my long distance best friend, Megan

Megan and I live across the country from each over and have never planned a trip to see each other that wasn't work related - and on top of that, we always have one, some or all of our babies with us when we get together. While we love our babies something fierce, we needed a weekend to play - drink wine, wear white, carry little purses and never once worry about which car could hold all of the car seats. To top it off, we were celebrating Megan turning 30 and the fact that this was her first ever girl's trip. Ever.

So, no pressure for me when it came to planning our getaway, right? 

I wanted our time together to be easy and as unscheduled as possible so I picked a city that I know and love: Charlotte. Meg was able to hop a direct flight from Houston and was in Charlotte by 11am on Friday morning. Charlotte is about an hour and a half drive for me so we had my vehicle on hand and I was able to show off some of my fave Queen City neighborhoods on our way into town. 

After we cried in the airport arrivals area (seriously, it's been so long since we've seen each other that we've each given birth to a baby - the oldest of which is nine months old!) we made a beeline for salads and french fries at Cafe Monte. I knew Meg would need coffee and carbs to get her through the long travel day and Cafe Monte is one of my favorite stops for a girl's lunch. It doesn't hurt that it's right across the street from South Park Mall...which serves as the perfect way to kill time until hotel check in.

We played in the fitting rooms, ordered more coffee and wandered around, catching up.

 My travel day outfit tunic | denim | loafers |

trying on the Mommy Blogger dress to see if it really is as flattering as they say....

After our retail therapy pit stop we made our way downtown to the Omni. I love staying at the Omni because of the perfect Uptown location but was super excited to see that they are currently renovating. We were lucky enough to stay in a renovated room and it was so, so gorgeous. We left the curtains open the entire trip and I loved falling asleep in the skyline. Coffee and cinnamon rolls arrived each morning and we slept like we did pre-babies. It was Heaven.

Friday night we snagged a charcuterie board at City Smoke, a sleek Southern fare restaurant across the street from the Omni and then made our way to the Dilworth neighborhood for dinner at Foxcroft Wine Co

We Ubered all weekend and almost all of our destinations were within walking distance to our hotel, but I really wanted to try Foxcroft Wine Co and I'm so glad that we did. We adored the outdoor seating and thankfully, it was cool enough that we could sit outside in our Basic fall sweaters. I had the beef sliders and they were unreal - I highly recommend them! After a few glasses of wine, a bowl of truffle fries and dinner, we made our way back to the hotel to hop into PJ's, face masks and pass out to the sound of football by 9pm. 

Saturday was reserved for the spa and we used every second of our time to the fullest. The spa at the Ritz Carlton is one of the best I've ever visited - every single detail was thought of and the service was unreal. If you have a chance to visit, plan to spend as much time there as they'll allow! 

We lounged by the pool, napped in the meditation room, had cocktails in the spa, sat as long as we could in the salt room and took showers in what felt like caves. We each got a facial and each loved the service - I may or may not have almost fallen asleep in the facial room. I blame the champagne.

We only rolled ourselves out of the spa because we had a dinner date that we were really excited about. Our sweet friends Elise and Lindsey met us at 5Church for dinner and drinks and it was the perfect example of blogging friends becoming real life friends. We had reservations at 7:15 and didn't move until someone looked at the time and realized it was 11:30pm! We could have blabbed for hours and I am so grateful that the girls made room for us in their weekend schedules (missed you Hope!). 5Church has a funky, feminine vibe and is a great option for a girl's night or a celebration - there were quite a few big groups celebrating around us so the vibe was so much fun. If you're there as long as we were, the music will change to more of a club vibe, which will make a mama feel both old and cool, considering she is still awake when the music starts bumping.

Sunday was special for Megan because she got to catch up with one of her best friends who lives in the area at Amalie's Uptown for brunch - and it was special for me because I got to sleep in! 

I slept until she came home, which is the longest stretch of sleep I've been able to snag since Georgia was born in June. Meg's flight was slated for 1pm and dropping her off was the absolute worst. The only thing that made her leaving better was knowing we scheduled a work trip for me to visit Houston over the holidays! That's right Houston girls, clear your calendars, I'm coming for you!

I cannot recommend this Charlotte girl's weekend itinerary enough! Flights are easy and can be inexpensive, Uptown is clean and safe, everything is walkable if you want it to be, and every meal we ate was perfection. Let me know if you have any questions about any of the places we visited or other options I considered, I'm happy to answer! 

A Coastal Chic, Clean Farmhouse Guest Room

This post was sponsored by Wal-Mart and contains affiliate links. 
All made up design terms are my own. 

Wanna know a secret? 

I decorate entire rooms and spaces in our homes based on one single design element.I know it sounds kind of crazy but I honestly tend to get stuck on one single element in a space - the rug, the lighting, the art - and once I have that one thing figured out, the rest of the room seems to fall into place in my mind. My last decor obsession was the rug in our living room. Once I decided on the perfect stripe, the rest of the space just seemed to make sense to me. The living room has taken on a Modern Coastal vibe and I think the rest of the house is following along with a Coastal Chic/ Modern Farmhouse blend. I say modern farmhouse because I'm not super into designing with a ton of layers - it kinda makes me feel jittery to have stuff lined up on my kitchen counters - so I'd say we're going with a "cleaner" version of Farmhouse, if that makes sense. And for those of you who are design pros, I beg you not to point out that there is no such thing as Coastal Chic/Modern Farmhouse design style, I totally know that I'm making it up, so just roll with it!

Shop my faves for our home:

Now that the living room is nailed down, I'm moving on to our guest room. Our guest room is actually the room that Justin and I are living in until the Master Suite is complete so I know it will need some major love once we finally move out. Both my parents and my in-laws love to come visit the babes and I can't wait to design a retreat for them - especially since they always give Justin and I a little break when they visit. If anyone deserves to sleep in a pretty space, it's the people who actually want to watch our kids! 

For our guest room, the design item I'm completely stuck on is ticking stripe bedding. I don't know why, but I have to have it. To me, if the bed is made in soft shades of blue and white ticking stripe with a few fun pops of color, the rest of the decor will just fall into place. Both my mom and mother-in-law love color so I'll add in a fun throw pillow just for them (again, anything for the people who want to watch my wild animal babies!). 

I was shopping around for the perfect ticking stripe set and was not pleased with the prices I was finding online. I want bedding that works for our life so anything that needs to be dry cleaned or costs an arm and a leg is a no for us. Thankfully, I found the Pioneer Woman Ticking Stripe set at Wal-Mart and can't wait to get my hands on it. Her bedding line just launched on October 4th so I'm on standby for the duvet set and shams to land on my doorstep. I tossed in the white Ruffle Sheet Set and Pillowcase set and a ticking stripe throw pillow (or two) and can cross the guest room off of my list! I can't wait to pair the bedding with our wrought iron headboard and our jute rug (an item that has lived in multiple spaces in our various homes!) and finally give our parents a space they can feel comfortable in. 

And Mom, sorry about the last time you were in town and had to sleep on the couch - to say that I owe you a gorgeous room to sleep in is an understatement!

Want to Get Paid to Blog? 5 Things To Ask Yourself First

Want to Get Paid to Blog? 5 Things To Ask Yourself First

I have a confession: I am a Blogging Dinosaur.
Believe it or not, I remember when Instagram was new and blogging wasn't a paid gig. And if I really want to date myself, I remember where I was when I officially set up my very first Facebook page....yikes.

Anyway, my point is that I've been around a while and I've seen it all, including the rise of social influencer monetization. Truth be told, I love that there is a wild side of blogging that includes turning your passion into a business. Even better, if monetizing is your goal, it can absolutely be achieved by anyone who works hard to hone their craft. But the key word here is "work" - I'm often asked (often as in, daily, sometimes hourly) how to make money as a blogger, how to work with brands or how many followers an influencer needs to start monetizing. To me, the answers are simple and they may be things you haven't yet considered. 

If you want to monetize your blog, you absolutely can, but here are 5 things you need to think about first:

1. What do you have to offer?
Monetizing your blog is a business venture - a brand or company is hiring you to represent their product. For that partnership to be successful, you each have to bring something to the table. The brand will bring their product and, hopefully, their checkbook and you'll need to be prepared to provide them with something marketable in return. And what might that be? Content, content, content. Do you have it? Are you writing and publishing blog posts regularly? Do you have a post log that reflects that you've put thought, time and effort into your site? If not, I suggest spending a month producing high quality posts that reflect the topics you love to write about. With those posts published and promoted on social channels, you'll build page views (bonus!) and an opportunity for a brand to get to know your work and, ultimately, your value. 

2. Stats are important, but not just the ones you think.
I get it: Instagram is the current king of social media. But Kings fall and Instagram is not the platform it once was. Do you have a following on Facebook, drive traffic to your blog via Pinterest or have a strong Twitter presence? You should say yes to all of those! Focusing on one social platform means that, at any given moment, your followers may no longer be reminded to view your site - and without page views, you simply don't bring anything to the table for a paid partnership. I'll be honest and use myself as an example: I have 16,000 Instagram followers, which to some is a lot, but to many is an mediocre following, but my blog averages 80,000 page views a month per Google Analytics. I bring a lot more to the table than my Instagram following, including a super active Pinterest page and strong Facebook community. By building your communities, engaging, sharing and participating on all social platforms, you'll be upping the ante on what you bring to the partnership table.

3. Photography
Brands want their products to be well represented and that includes visual presentation. Are you taking crisp, bright photos? Are you thinking about how you style a product or incorporate it into your imagery to compliment your post? Think about it this way: every photo you publish in a sponsored post should be one that a brand would want to use on their own social media platforms. That doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be a pro photograph but it does mean that it needs to be well lit, clear and sharp. 

4. What sets you apart? 
What makes your blog stand out from the crowd? Do you write in a sassy tone or speak deeply, from the heart? Do you write from the point of view of a stay at home parent or working parent? Do you have littles, multiples, teens, or a husband who acts like one? Are you a single girl out on the town? Or a newlywed couple living on a budget? Your tone, style and content will drive which brands will be a good fit for your blog so develop it and create a space in the blogging world that is uniquely your own. 

5. Your Following
Ultimately, a brand is paying you to share their product in order to create awareness or drive sales with your people. So, who are your people? Do you even have people? Dig into your analytics and figure out who is reading your blog. Reply to their comments and get to know your readers. Find other bloggers who are in your niche and support them, learn from them and strengthen your community. And though it may seem like it, a following isn't necessarily all about numbers. If you have a dedicated following who believes in your content, then you've hit the jackpot. 

If you have the answers to these 5 questions then I have really good news for you: you've officially built your first pitch! By building a content library, knowing who you are as a influencer, what your style, niche and platform are and who makes up your audience, you have everything you need to present your site to a brand. Now go forth and monetize! 

Do you have more questions on the business of blogging? Check out this post on how to work with fellow bloggers! 

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