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Happy Thursday!

Here is a random piece of content for you, because I genuinely wanted to share this with y'all. I was featured on the new podcast Offbeat Grad by Samantha Tetrault.

Samantha is a fantastic blogger and SEO/B2B freelance writer that I "met" online over the past few years. We are in the same blogger network (InfluenceHer Collective) that I belong to for this blog, The Happy Arkansan. She has a seriously great website (Samanthability) that offers all sorts of excellent advice to young adult women.

She reached out to me a few weeks back when I was dealing with a few behind the scenes things (storms and storms and not having a steady internet connection.) As soon as I figured everything out, I hit Samantha up, and we scheduled an interview time.

In this podcast we chatted about:

  • How I got started as a blogger and freelancer.
  • Using Upwork and actually gaining some success from it.
  • The reason that lawyers need freelancers to create blog posts.
  • Why you should be a likable human being in the workforce.

and so much more! I may also say "for sure" a lot in this episode as a nervous tick/filler. I don't even say "for sure" a lot in real life.

I am embbeding the Stitcher link, but you can also find the Offbeat Grad podcast (and this episode) on Apple Podcasts and Google Play Music!

You should seriously look into following Samantha's Offbeat Grad Podcast; I have been adoring listening to all the episodes thus far.

I know that this was a bit of a niche topic for a "post," but I wanted to share this excellent interview with y'all. Samantha is doing amazing things and making blogging and freelancing more accessible career paths. More than anything, she is normalizing the art of going off the beaten path after college. You DON'T have to get a 9-5 job and have your soul eaten away piece by piece. You also DON'T have to go to graduate school just because you are unsure of what to do next.

I hope that this podcast episode inspires you all and that you check out what Samantha is doing to help the blogging and freelancing world.

Thanks again to Samantha for reaching out, and giving me a good out for content this week lol!

Lastly, not so pro-tip: do it anyway. I have been doing so many things lately even though they are scary and out of my comfort zone. This interview was one of those things. Combat your comfort zone, and make something awesome in the process. On the other hand, you don't have to be a hero all the time! It's okay to take it slow and be in your comfort zone sometimes.

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Note: Listen, I can't stop you from reading this if you are under 21, but, let me tell you, drinking is only cool for 21+ and it's only to be done in limited doses. Don't be that person who drinks and drives or drinks a bit too much alcohol. Also, I wasn't sent this box for review, I paid for it on my own. K, thanks. Let's get into this review, shall we?

Ya girl loves wine. I am a champion of $6-$10 dollar bottles, and sometimes my wine sets in the fridge for a bit too long. But, I decided to try a wine box, because treat yo self, amirite? So, I wanted to try this magical box called Bright Cellars because it looked amazing and I had a half off coupon.

Related Reading: I Tried Freshly For Two Weeks: This Is My Honest Review

Bright Cellars Subscription Process

Bright Cellars is different from other wine subscription services. First, you take this interesting 7 question quiz. This gets to know you a bit and asks for some of your wine preferences.

Once you are done with your quiz, you get some wine suggestions. You can then swap things out as you wish after reading more about them, or just let them pick what they wish. I personally didn't adjust my list, because I wanted to see what they would pick for me based on my quiz answers. I did tell them that I loved white wine the most though!

Each wine they suggest is given a score (which they call Bright Points) based on how much they think you will like the wine based on your quiz answers.

Bright Cellars Pricing

Bright Cellars is $60 a month plus $8 in shipping for a total of $68. For $68 you get 4 bottles of wine delivered to your door step. That makes each bottle around $15 no matter which bottles you end up getting. 




Bright Cellars Delivery

When it comes to getting Bright Cellars, you have to be very careful. I had a few issues with FedEx myself as I got my Bright Cellars delivery.

I got my delivery the week of Memorial Day. It was originally supposed to be delivered on Thursday, but it didn't actually end up getting to me on Thursday. Apparently the delivery driver said I wasn't available even though he didn't honk and I was in the living room waiting all afternoon for him. I was in the living room at the time he said he dropped by.

Then It was on the truck for delivery on Friday. It ended up getting to me that day as the delivery driver actually tried to get it to me and even pulled into my driveway, unlike the other driver.

All this to say, it's really important that you get to the delivery ASAP. FedEx (and I am sure UPS too) will attempt delivery 3 times before they leave it at their facility for an extra 5 days. After that, it will be sent back to Bright Cellars and I am sure you will have to pay some sort of fee to get it resent.

So, you need to make sure that someone is at your house or office that's 21+ with an ID available to sign for the package. K?

The Wines

So, here are the various wines that came in my box. I tried each of these wines with my mom and dad so that you would have a few different reviews of each wine. Yum!

Crypsis Zinfandel-Montepulciano

Year: 2016

Origin: California

How They Describe It: A rich, powerful blend of California Zinfandel and Montepulciano, this wine is characterized by ripe, jammy fruit flavors like raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry alongside earthier notes of spicy black pepper and dried leaves. The perfect pairing for your next grill-out, this wine pairs best with dishes that are equally bold.

Bright Points: 90

My Families Review: This was the first wine we tried. I wanted to get it out of the way seeing as it was the only red in this selection of wines. Here's the short story: it was okay.

Long story: it was definitely not a wine that I would have gravitated to. It was what I would call a meat and potatoes wine. We cooked out the day we had this wine so it was an interesting combination to go with that, but I definitely wouldn't have picked this up for myself. I feel the pepper was a bit overpowering as that's most of what I could taste personally, and I could also taste a bit of the blackberry. I feel that the raspberry and strawberry flavors were lost in this wine.

I also felt this wine would be the kind you drink when you have a cigar in one hand, sitting in a Man Cave with a plush robe on. Oddly specific thoughts, I know, but that's just the vibe I got from this wine.

My mom didn't like this wine at all. She said it reminded of her some random cheap wine, which I have never personally tasted, but by her dislike of the wine I am sure it wasn't a good thing.

My dad agreed with a lot of my points about the wine being more a meat and potatoes wine.

Overall, it was an easy sip for the most part, but I will likely just give the rest of this one to my dad and call it a day.



Circa 33 Moscato

Year: 2017

Origin: California

How They Describe It: A classic example of a California Moscato, this wine is sweet and fruity. Ripe fruit aromas of mango, peach, and pear are complemented by perfumy notes of orange blossom and honey. The sweetness found in this wine lends it to pair perfectly with spicy foods.

Bright Points: 93

My Families Review: This was a very easy wine to drink. It was so yummy and you could actually taste the fruit in this wine. I am a white wine lover in general, though, so it's easy to see why I would love this moscato.

It's great for sipping or for gulping (if you want!)

Both my parents thought that this wine was very great. This was the second wine we tried and we all preferred it, obviously, over the meat and potatoes red wine we drank. We thought this wine was definitely more in line with the type of wine we'd gravitate towards as a family (we gravitate towards fruity and sweeter wine.)



White Willow Verdelho

Year: 2017

Origin: Riverina, Australia

How They Describe It: With a lighter body and elevated acidity, this Australian Verdelho is great for sipping on its own, or pairing with lighter courses. Notes of tropical pineapple and juicy cantaloupe are balanced by lifted aromas of starfruit and lime zest. Try pairing with spicy chorizo tostadas or tortilla chips with tropical salsa.

Bright Points: 92

My Families Review: Gonna be straight with you, this was disgusting. I tried this with my family, and they can attest to how much I didn't like this wine. At the end I literally had to plug my nose to get it down.

Here's why: it reminded me of a Lime-A-Rita, yep the lime beer made by Anheuser-Busch, which I also cannot stand. The lime zest in this wine was SO overpowering that I could not taste any of the other flavors this wine was supposed to have like pineapple and cantaloupe. I was really looking forward to this wine, too!

If you are a fan of lime, you will love this wine, if you aren't, you will hate this this wine.



Life In the Woods Walden White blend

Year: 2017

Origin: California

How They Describe It: With a touch of tropical sweetness and crisp, balanced acidity, this California white blend is characteristically ripe and juicy. Bright, lifted citrus notes accompany soft florals like jasmine and orange blossom for a round texture and medium body. This wine is perfect for brunch, pairing exquisitely with fruit salad, spicy chilaquiles, or goat cheese stuffed French toast.

Bright Points: 95

My Families Review: I tried this one on my own, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It wasn't the worst one I tasted, but it wasn't the best one either. I was really expecting this one to knock it out of the park based on the fact that it had the highest Bright Points rating.

Overall, I was just disappointed with this one. It was easy to go down and this citrus didn't completely take over, but I feel like they got my view of wine completely wrong with this one. It's a white wine, which I loved, but it's not the favorite one I drank for this review.



Conclusion

Okay, as an Arbor Mist bitch, Bright Cellars was probably not the wine subscription for me.

This is not the kind of wine to drink if you like your wine so sweet it's like juice, which is honestly the kind of wine drinker I am.

I did like the experience of getting curated wine sent to my door. I don't drink a ton, so getting all of this wine sent to my door was an experience to say the least.

Overall, here are my rankings:

  1. Circa 33 Moscato
  2. Life In the Woods Walden White blend
  3. Crypsis Zinfandel-Montepulciano
  4. White Willow Verdelho

These are the rankings that I have come up with, but I honestly still don't think that these are the wines I will turn to after a hard day's work.

I hope that you loved today's honest review of Bright Cellars. Please, do not use this as a deterrent from giving the brand at least one try. I am sure that Bright Cellars will work for some people, but it was just not my glass of moscato.

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Woot woot! It's time for another edition of The Happy Life Updates, and man, has this been a crazy few weeks. I wanted to publish an edition of this in May, but that just didn't happen. I have so much to fill you in on during these next few minutes.

Storms On Storms

Okay, so, let's get right to it. I have been gone from The Happy Arkansan because I haven't had WiFi in my house since May 20th! I FINALLY got WiFi back to my house yesterday evening, and you best believe I have been lapping up every minute of WiFi ever since then.

So, long story short. We had a small storm on Sunday night, May 20th (technically the 21st), that knocked out our WiFi. We called our internet service provider about this and they promised they'd have a tech out on that Tuesday. Since we called them on Monday, we assumed they meant the next day. Turns out they meant the Tuesday after Memorial Day. We were thinking of switching service providers, so we called the other provider who could get out sooner. Turns out, they couldn't service our house even though they said they could (crazy, right???) So, I spent a ton of hours trying to get our previous service back.

This is were it went from crazy to insane.

They couldn't find our address in the system. Mind you, we have lived at the same address, getting bills from them, for 9+ years! They had to physically put our address into the system and this took days.

Then something the next level up from insane happened.

Tornado-esque Storms

On Saturday June 2nd, something happened.

Now, they say it wasn't a tornado, but I have never seen a not-tornado cause so much damage across a wide area in so little time. Either way, 100 MPH winds came barreling through my city and left thousands of people to pick up the pieces over the next few days.

My house was blessed in the storm, but I tell you, this was one of the most scary experiences I have ever had.

Arkansas is pretty prone to tornados (or tornado-esque things) this time of year. We often get watches and warnings but they are not always pointed at our area of the city.

This storm, though, knocked out so much in the city. My power company alone had to replace 80-100 (and possibly more) power lines due to storm damage.

We didn't get power back at our home until Wednesday afternoon (June 6th) and many people had a worse time.

I am going to share a few videos taken by local news stations so you can see more of the damage if you'd like.

From WREG News Channel 3

I can't seem to embed this one correctly, but WMC Action News 5 also has a video you can watch by clicking this link.

Cool Projects

I have a couple of cool projects that I will be excited to announce once they get closer to today and are set in stone.

I can tell you that I was featured in a post on NerdWallet recently which was pretty freaking cool. This got reposted to a ton of cool places including AP and USA Today. So, I am basically famous, but not really, I am not famous at all. Click the button below to check out this awesome post!

Thank so much to Claire Tsosie for reaching out to interview me for this post.

Save Money By Thinking Like A College Student Upcoming Posts

I have so much coming up on the blog in the next few weeks. Here are just a few things you can expect:

  • Bright Cellars wine subscription review (did they really match me well, you will find out soon!) PS: The wine in this picture was not a Bright Cellars wine, and it actually wasn't that great at all lol.
  • Erin Condren post all about how to get your life together as an incoming college student.
  • Personal campus safety post. This is a follow up to the post I did about how to secure your dorm or apartment. It's going to be geared toward safety tips that will help you when you are out and about on campus.
  • Recruitment content. I want to put up at least 1-2 pieces about sorority recruitment soon. Maybe a piece about being an introvert during sorority recruitment and being a woman of color in a Panhellenic sorority? Let me know what you want to hear about!
  • I would also love to share some pieces soon about alternative things to do after graduation. I have been listening to Samantha's (from Samanthability) Offbeat Grad podcast recently and it's given me some interest in writing about this on The Happy Arkansan. Would you like to hear more about my journey? I write about it some on Amanda Cross Co., but that's my freelance website, and I don't think everyone wants to check that out.

These are just some of my ideas. Feel free to shoot me an email via my contact page if you ever have any ideas you want to run by me for content on The Happy Arkansan. I LOVE answering audience questions. I used to do it a lot more when this blog was hosted on Tumblr (yep, it was hosted there at one point) and I miss answering your questions.

Vacation: Coming Soon

Ya girl is going on vacation soon and I am SO excited about this. I am going to the ATL, y'all. I have so much planned for this trip.

My family has already picked up our CityPasses which means we are going to hit all the awesome spots like the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN Center, the World of Coca-Cola, the Center for Civil & Human Rights, and even the College Football Hall of Fame. We are only going to be in town for a few days, but we have a lot planned for this vacation.

Do you know of any restaurants we have to hit up while we are in Atlanta? I would absolutely L-O-V-E your recommendations.

catching Up

Last, but not least, I am just going to have a ton of catching up to do for the rest of the month. The storms and being without WiFi for so long has really pushed me back further than I imagined.

I am going to spend the next few weeks before vacation trying to publish as much content across my two blogs as possible and of course, writing all the content for clients in my freelance business. If you or someone you know is looking for a freelance writer in the digital marketing, higher education, or human resources space––hit me up! Check out my contact page on Amanda Cross Co. so I can easily separate writing inquiries.

Thanks for reading today's The Happy Life Updates! I hope you feel up to date!

Amanda Cross

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Note: This post contains referral links.

I am a girl that loves to eat. Recently on the blog, I shared my review of the service Dinnerly with you, and I absolutely love it as a meal kit. It’s so inexpensive, and you get a lot of food in each box.

For this post, I wanted to circle back to a box I had tried in the past but decided to stop using halfway through a week. This post is not sponsored by Freshly in any way, mainly because I have had my qualms with the box in the past and I didn’t even want to try to reach out to see if the company would send over a few boxes.

In 2016, I tried Freshly, and I couldn’t get over one meal in particular. You can probably guess that I won’t be featuring that meal in today’s post. It was their Roasted Turkey with Quinoa Stuffing meal. I HATED IT. I was so excited to try it because I remember getting the box a few weeks before Thanksgiving break in graduate school. I wanted to get a head start on eating Thanksgiving foods. It was a severe disappointment for me.

Well, after hearing about Freshly a lot over the past few years, I decided to let it redeem itself.

I decided to try the meals again to see if I would like or love them. I needed a bit of a break from my normal lunch foods of ramen, burritos, sandwiches, or random concoctions I whipped together in the kitchen (I created a taco bowl once with roasted black beans, tortilla strips, chicken, and barbecue sauce that was fiyah!) I eat great for dinner, I swear, but my lunch leaves something to be desired y’all.

So, without further ado...let’s get to chatting about Freshly.

Freshly Pricing

Okay, gonna be honest, Freshly isn’t cheap.

Freshly is a weekly thing, and there are a couple of meal plan options for the box:

  • Four Meals A Week: $49.99 (or 12.50 per meal)
  • Six Meals A Week: $59.99 (or $9.99 per meal)
  • Nine Meals A Week: $89.99 (or $9.99 per meal)
  • Twelve Meals A Week: $107.99 (or $8.99 per meal)

Every option is pretty pricey, to be honest, but they all come with free shipping, which I am sure takes up a good bulk of what you pay. They sent both boxes FedEx Home Delivery after all. No joking around with shipping each box, y’all!

I do wish the four meals a week plan was more cost effective per meal as it seems to be dramatically different from the 6, 9, and 12 meals a week plan. If I was going to do this on a regular basis, I would more than likely love the 4 meals a week plan if it was more cost-effective.

You can get $40 off Freshly if you use my referral link. With this link you will get $20 off your first week and $20 off your second week of the six meals a week plan.

Freshly Packaging

One thing I must congratulation Freshly on is the packing of their meals. They did an excellent job making sure everything got to me quickly while being cool. My meals were shipped from Texas and everything was cool when it got to me around 3 PM on both the first and second weeks of trying the service.

Each package is shipped in a box with a makeshift cooler inside. Inside the coolers are your meals separated by about three ice packs. Your food will not get hot here. Even though I picked mine up from outside right away, I am sure it wouldn’t have been so bad if they waited outside a bit. I hate Arkansas summers, though, so I wasn’t taking any chances!

What Makes Freshly Different From Other Meal Kits

Okay, there are a ton of meal kits out there, but why should you consider getting Freshly?

Freshly meals are individually packaged just for you. Plus, you can literally just pop them in the microwave for 3 minutes (on average, always check the packaging for detailed times) and they will be done. How much of a time saver is that when you have a lot to do?

I think these meals will be great for anyone who works from home, like me. But to be honest, they would also be great for anyone who works throughout the day and gets tired of cooking or having the same old thing. You could easily pop these in the microwave at your job and have a delicious dish in no time.

There are no loose ingredients to store or things to cook. It’s just a healthy microwave meal.

You can choose a day of the week you want each meal delivered when you pick your meal plan. I wouldn’t encourage you to pick Friday if you want them throughout the week unless you want to put a lot of meals in the freezer. The dates you need to consume them by make it almost impossible to keep them in the fridge and eat them throughout the week. You can always freeze them–this adds to cooking time though!



The Meals

But you didn’t come here to hear me babble on about all that. Let’s chat about the Freshly meals I picked up to try for this post.

Week One

On week one, I threw in a few meals that I had before on my previous foray with Freshly. So, some of the meals were surprising, but I had two of them previously: the chicken parm and the chili. Here are my reviews of all the things I ate on week one.

Shrimp & Andouille Paella

This was the first Freshly meal I tried this time and I actually loved this one. I was pleasantly surprised just how big the shrimp were and how many of them there were. Of course, there was way more andouille sausage in the package (but that was to be expected.) Some of the vegetables were a bit crisp for my liking (but then again, I like things to be so soft they basically melt away.) Overall, there was lots of spice and flavor. It was a great dish to start off this two week trial of Freshly!

Sicilian-Style Chicken Parm With Broccoli

This is one of the meals I had tried before in the past and liked well enough. The broccoli in this dish was rather bland. It was just broccoli. I don’t think they advertise it as having seasoning on it, but it would have been nice if they’d put more thought to it than just slapping some broccoli in the dish to make it more filling.

Penne Bolognese

I liked this dish well enough. There was plenty of meat and the penne was well cooked. It was a very filling dish as well which was nice. It was one of the biggest dishes calorie wise that I had tried in this batch. It definitely wasn’t my favorite dish, but it was good nonetheless.

Turkey Meatballs with Spicy Arrabbiata & Veggie Noodles

I wouldn't give this dish a perfect score, but it was pretty close. I loved the turkey meatballs! They were delish and they were nice sized meatballs too. I am a little iffy on the veggie noodles though because they were definitely not a replacement for regular pasta noodles (I can never take veggie noodles as a replacement though, no matter how much people say they can be.)

Three-Bean Ancho Turkey Chili With Cheese

This was my favorite dish of these six week one meals. I had tried this meal before and I loved it even more this time than I did the first time. If you ever try Freshly, this dish is a must get in my opinion. It's filling and extra yummy. It would have been even more perfect on a cold day.

Cauliflower Sausage & Peppers

I love anything with cauliflower (cauliflower and broccoli are my favorite vegetables) so I was excited to try this dish. The cauliflower rice in this dish was pretty great (cauliflower rice is something I can get behind, it's not exactly rice, but it's still pretty tasty) and the sausage and peppers were great as well. This dish is only 370 calories, but it is still pretty filling without weighing you down throughout the day.

Week Two

Week 2 was a bit different for me because I hadn't eaten any of these dishes before. I tested the waters with a few dishes I had in the past on week one so I know that at least some of the dishes would be tasty.

BBQ Pulled Pork with Squash Cakes & Carrots

This meal was legitimately impressive. I ate this meal first, thinking it would be a throw away meal, and it was not at all.

The carrots were a bit tougher than I would like because I warmed it up, filmed it, and decided to throw it back in the microwave for another 20 seconds, but they were still yummy, especially when I ate them with the BBQ pulled pork. The pulled pork was also fantastic. I was a little wary that they'd mess it up, but this stuff was great.

But, the showstopper in my opinion were the squash cakes. Who says that about squash cakes, right? I do. These were amaze and I am pretty sure also had some pieces of bacon in them. I can't get over this meal y'all!

Lastly, this meal was hella filling. It's only 360 calories so I wasn't expecting to be so full after the meal, but seriously, I was full when I got done eating everything. I could eat this meal at least 3 more times.

Cod Cakes with Spicy Chipotle Sauce & Succotash

I was actually very surprised by how good this dish was too. The "cakes" were coming in hot during this week of food. I ate this after a very busy day making sure my niece and nephew didn't tornado through the house. I even had a bit of wine with this dinner because I was settling in after a v. stressful day.

Everything about this was yummy and there was so much food in this dish. I was in love with the succotash and the roasted potatoes that came with this dish were perfect.

Bruschetta Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Veggies

This meal was nothing to write home about, but it was still quite yummy. I don't remember a ton about this dish, but it included potatoes so that's always a plus in my book!

Chicken Fajita with Mexican Street Corn

This was another chicken dish that was just good. I didn't really love the Mexican street corn, because it was chewy in a strange way due to how they prepared it. The fajita chicken was good, although it probably would have been better if I had some tortillas at the house to pair it with.

Baked Penne Marinara with Italian Sausage

The baked penne marinara was cool. It was interesting because it was one of the only pasta dishes that cooked in a weird bowl inside compartment. Overall, though, it was a good dish with plenty of Italian sausage inside.

Chicken Tikka Masala with Vegetable Biryani

I was a little skeptical of how I would like this dish because I had never had chicken tikka masala before, but I ended up really loving this dish. The vegetables weren't really up my alley but as soon as I combined them with the chicken tikka masala, all was right in the world and they were yummy again.

Conclusion

So there you have it, my full review of Freshly! I am so excited that you stuck with me during this process. I hope that you got something out of this as you decide on whether you want to try Freshly for a few weeks or not. I think that it's worth a couple week's investigation into the dishes at least.

Want to save $40 on Freshly ($20 off your first two orders)? Use my referral link to save money.

My top three favorite dishes from this experience were:

  • Three-Bean Ancho Turkey Chili With Cheese (you can get it without cheese btw.)
  • BBQ Pulled Pork With Squash Cakes & Carrots
  • Cod Cakes With Spicy Chipotle Sauce & Succotash

I am so glad you took this journey with me, and I hope that you decide to check out Freshly.

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Are you ready to take your Instagram photos and flatlays to the next level? Today on The Happy Arkansan I am going to go through some of my favorite Instagram shots and show you props you can add that will make your photos pop. Whether you are doing a photo shoot with yourself in frame or a flatlay, I got you covered with props (that you probably have laying around) that will make your photos stand out.

A White Rug

I absolutely love my white rug! I got it off Amazon and it has made a lot of appearances on my Instagram feed over the years even if you didn't actually see it. I use it as a backdrop to do various flatlays and pictures. Here it is at the bottom of my Instagram picture where I am showing off a few products i picked up from ELF Cosmetics.

I also used lace from a table cloth in this shot which can add a lot of texture to any image you post on Instagram. #ForTheGram

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Jan 25, 2018 at 9:20am PST

Balloons

Not gonna lie, balloons are extremely finicky to use on a photoshoot—especially when it's windy out. I was constantly afraid that my balloons would fly away in this Valentine's Day shoot, but they made for gorgeous pictures. You can use balloons like this or equally gorgeous confetti balloons. For your birthday, you can even pose with number balloons. They may be hard to keep up with during a photo shoot, but your pictures will turn out gorgeous as ever!

Related Reading: A Love Letter To My Readers

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Feb 11, 2018 at 12:07pm PST

Contact Paper

Contact paper is life, y'all. You see the brown background that kinda looks like hardwood floors? Well, I don't have any hardwood floors this color around my house. I picked up some hardwood contact paper from Amazon and attached it to a piece of cardboard. It makes the perfect backdrop for my photos if I crop it correctly.

I also have some marble contact paper that I used to make a similar prop. It makes the perfect fake marble countertop for pictures.

Related Reading: Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken Tacos

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Jan 27, 2018 at 6:29pm PST


Mugs & Glasses

Mugs and glasses add an extra element to any cute Instagram photo. They are amazing because you can get them to match your personality. I have taken pictures with water bottles, wine glasses, mugs, cups, and so much more. They add something extra to any shot, especially flatlays!

Get a similar mug to the one I have here (it's made by the same artist, just a different color!)

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Mar 26, 2017 at 12:36pm PDT

Tassels & Pom Poms

Tassels and pom poms had a little something extra to all your Instagram images. You can easily pick up tassels from a store like Hobby Lobby (mine came on a string, as you'll see, later I did take them off the string and they were cool in photos.) One of my old roommates used to have some pom poms so I would pose with them every once and a while. I am sure you can find these online somewhere though (or find a friend who already has them!)

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Sep 20, 2016 at 3:53pm PDT

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Apr 4, 2016 at 1:27pm PDT

Jewelry

Jewelry can make such a statement on Instagram. Whether you are wearing the jewelry or using it for a flatlay, showing off your beautiful jewelry is a must! I love wearing my Metal Marvels jewelry at the moment. Did you know you can save 15% off at Metal Marvels with my code THA15? I also love getting jewelry from an online store called Purple Peridot.

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Jan 25, 2018 at 4:50pm PST

Books & Magazines

I love adding books and magazines to fill out flatlays or just to show off what I am reading at the moment. You are likely reading anyway, so you might as well dig through your bookshelf to find some books and magazines with interesting covers on them (especially if you actually recommend the books!)

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Aug 21, 2017 at 9:18am PDT

Flowers

Flowers are one of the most amazing props you can purchase. They are actually cheaper than you might imagine. The flowers I am holding below were just $10 and I used them in a blog post that I ended up loving. Plus, after I shot with them, I put them in a vase and they ended up bringing me joy for at least another week. You can also use fake flowers, but real flowers will obviously look more realistic.

Related Reading: How To Be Fearlessly Single In Your Twenties

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Feb 2, 2018 at 9:39am PST

Makeup

Makeup is a fun addition to a flatlay, or you can focus on one piece of makeup as the purpose of your picture. You can also use makeup "in motion" and put it on while being filmed making for a cute Instagram shot. 

Related Reading: Makeup Monday: My First Impressions Of Colourpop Cosmetics

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Dec 13, 2016 at 10:12am PST

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on May 3, 2018 at 3:37pm PDT

Office Supplies

Office supplies are my jam! Give me a cute desk plate, a fun mouse pad, or a gold stapler and I am a happy camper. Office inspiration is probably one of my favorite things took look at, as weird as that sounds. Office supplies will round out any flatlay and make your Instagram followers wonder where you got that. I love going to places like Hobby Lobby, Target, TJ Maxx, and other places to find cute office decor pieces.

A post shared by Amanda Cross | Millennial Blog (@thehappyarkansan) on Oct 11, 2016 at 10:45am PDT

Conclusion

I hope that these photos and ideas gave you some inspiration on how to make your next Instagram image pop. It can be hard to have fun with Instagram sometimes, but I am learning to love the platform again!

What props will you be buying? Which props do you already have?
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Happy Thursday y'all,

Over the last year I have transitioned away from school and into my own as a freelance writer. I am still getting my business off the ground, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to write.

Writing has been both a creative outlet for me and a job for the last little bit, so I wanted to share some tips on balancing your creative passions as both an outlet and a career choice.

Related Reading: 12 Tips To Help You Get Out Of Any Slump And Back In Creative Alignment

1. Be Thankful

Most people won't be able to do what you are doing.

For many, they go in everyday to clock into a job that they absolutely hate.

You get to say that your job is something you are passionate about and that is more than what most people get to say. 

Start a gratitude journal so that you can remember all the things that you have to be thankful for in the current state of your creative life.

You were able to profit from your passion, after all.

2. Set The Mood

You may want to create some distinctions between your creative and professional life.

Create a routine that you do to end your work day and focus on your creative work day.

For example you may:

  • Use different computers to note when you are working on your job or your creative outlet
  • Create different playlists for work and creative time
  • Work in different spaces as you work on different parts of your creative and professional life
  • Cleanse the air of certain energy when you get ready to work on a different side of your professional/creative life
  • Use a certain candle or scent to denote when you are working on your job or creative outlet

However you choose to set the mood, taking the time to do so will help you get focused on the task at hand.





3. Work Smarter, Not Harder

This one truly applies to your professional life.

When you are able to minimize the amount of energy you dispense at work (without minimizing your production) you can spend more energy pursuing your personal creative endeavors.

So, when you are at work, be at work. Get rid of distractions and focus on the tasks at hand. I love using the pomodoro technique, setting my phone to do not disturb, and even using a site blocker like Freedom to get in work beast mode.

Do whatever makes you most productive so you can stop slacking and get in the zone.

4. Don't Stop Creating Things Off The Clock

When you are creatively drained it's easy to put your personal projects on the back burner. This how you let your creative pursuits die a slow death. Don't do that.

Instead, take it slow, ease back into your creative outlet.

If you write all day, give yourself just ten more minutes of writing as a creative outlet.

Yes, it may feel extra-draining at first, but you will thank me later.

The same with any creative outlet you have whether it's reading, painting, singing, dancing, etc. claim some of your time doing these activities each day to yourself.

Do it for you, even if you can only do it for 10 minutes.





5. Find Other Creatives To Work With

Sometimes you just need a little accountability.

Spending a few hours a week working with local creatives or even checking in with creatives on a Facebook group will hold you accountable.

Your creative buddy will help you focus on creating at least a little bit for fun each week. This will keep your creative side ready to rock and roll.

6. Relax + Don't Take Things So Seriously

It may seem counterproductive to tell you not to take your job seriously, but I am just being honest with you.

Some people take things way too seriously and it sucks the fun out of everything they are doing.

Yes, you should take your job seriously, but you have to stop somewhere. Don't let your job stress you out unnecessarily or make you associate something you love with something you hate.

I have seen how stress can take something I love, crumble it up, and make it something I despise. Don't let stress from work or stress from trying to be creative make you hate both your career and creative outlet.






7. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone Creatively

If you are struggling with your outlet, it may be time to get out of your comfort zone a bit in terms of creativity.

Try something new. For example:

  • If you write nonfiction blog posts, try getting creative and writing fiction short stories
  • If you like painting pictures of food, try your hand at portraits
  • If you like singing pop songs, try your hand at country

Anything that will shake things up and get you out of your comfort zone is a thumbs up in my opinion.

8. Find Something Else That Relaxes You

Last, but not least, you may have to find another outlet to get your creative juices flowing while you spend more time creating for work. That's okay!

Find something else that stimulates your mind whether that's painting, music, reading, or some other random hobby.

It's okay to be multi-passionate, and you never know how important the talents you are developing right now will be later on.

Hopefully you can balance your passion as both a career and a creative outlet, but if you can't know there is no shame in picking up something new.





About Today's Look

Today I am styling this amaze dress from JustFab called the Ruffle Off Shoulder Dress. This particular color gave me total Beyonce vibes, but it also comes in a pink and green color. This dress comes in sizes XS through 3XL and it seriously looks amazing on all body types.

I ended up pairing the shoes with a pair of Lorica Heeled Mules from JustFab, although I don't think you could see the shoes in any shot because of the grass we shot this look in.

To finish off the look I added a few of my favorite Metal Marvels bangles. Did you know I have a coupon code that saves you 15% off any Metal Marvels purchase? If you use the code THA15 you can save and I will get a commission from your order. I truly appreciate you supporting the businesses that support me.

Conclusion

Being creative is spectacular, especially when you get to be creative for a living. I hope that today's article has given you some food for thought if you are lucky enough to do what you love for a living.

What's your best advice for being a creative full-time?
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Some companies are notorious for being difficult to work with. After you have a bad experience, it can be difficult to actually get a resolution that you can work with. Today's blog is going to be all about getting the refunds that companies promise you, but often don't actually want to give out.

The Incident That Sparked This Blog Post

Last week I ordered flowers for my mother for Mother's Day with my sister at From You Flowers. We picked their A Fine Day For Mom bouquet, and when it arrived, it looked nothing like what we paid for, as you can see by the tweet I sent on Twitter.

When you order it versus when it arrives. @FromYouFlowers I feel like your florist didn’t follow the picture at all and just shoved some leftover flowers in my mommas Mother’s Day gift. Wtf?! This is premium? pic.twitter.com/N8zAShnm3l

— Amanda Cross (@happyarkansan) May 13, 2018

I already had a number of issues with From Your Flowers, and we had issues in the past with them when we got a Valentine's Day candy basket from them once (the local florist messed up yet again and gave her far less candy than what we paid for.)

Calling them wasn't helpful, so I @'d them. #sorrynotsorry

They tweeted me to DM them with the order number, which I did. They gave me a 100% refund on the order.

Later when I checked out their Facebook page, someone commented that the best their customer service had offered them was a 40% discount. To which I commented, they offer a 100% customer service satisfaction guarantee, don't let them lowball you. Somehow that comment thread ended up deleted...

It's not in a companies best interest for everyone to know about their customer satisfaction guarantees, even though they have it. SO, today's blog is going to help you stand up for yourself in this modern, information age. 

Know Your Rights (And The Language To Convey Your Rights)

Before you make a decision to call and get a refund, know the rights the company says you have. Understand their refund policy and how they describe it. Use that language on the calls or emails with them so you can be sure that you are getting the money you deserve. Don't step down until they give you the resolution you deserve according to their policy.

Did you know if your products are late on Amazon Prime, you can get a free month of Amazon Prime? Most people don't know this, you can literally get a free month of Prime every time a Prime order takes longer than two days! That can save you so much money, so don't hesitate to use that to your advantage. You can learn more about their shipping guarantees here.

Did you also know that Amazon has an A-Z Guarantee that gives you money back up to $2,500 if you have a negative shipping or purchasing experience with a third party seller or while using Amazon Pay on another site? It's true! Click here to learn more about that guarantee.

Using their language back at them is important, otherwise it's easy for them to slip around you and decide not to give your money back. So. check out their policies and make sure that you are letting them know that you know what you are entitled to.

Avoid The Phone

My momma is a genius at getting her money back over the phone. Me, not so much.

I can hear someone telling me something I know is bullshit, but I either get to flustered to make coherent sense, or I am just not great at conveying my displeasure over the phone. In a lot of ways, I am too nice on the phone. I will give up right before I know I can make a break through.

So, I don't use the phone to call companies, and I don't think that most millennials should. We aren't exactly the pinnacle of having an actual conversation, so we should use that to our advantage.

Stop trying to make customer service phone calls happen, they aren't going to happen. Instead...

Create A Paper Trail Using Emails & Chats

I LOVE LOVE LOVE when companies offer email and chat customer service. I know that I can always create a paper trail and know exactly what's going on at any minute. It also gives me some time to collect myself and give out the perfect response each time.

Most customer service chats allow you to send yourself a copy of the transcript after the conversation ends, make sure that you turn that feature on.

Use the language we talked about earlier to get the refunds you deserve. Study the language they use and mimic it in your own way when you chat with them. Don't be so robotic, digest the information in your own way so that the customer service rep knows you understand what you are entitled to in the situation.

Use A Social Media Site That You Control

If you decide to go the social media route, use a social media site that you can control. Companies are notorious for deleting Facebook comments. Instead of a Facebook comment, leave a review if they have those available on their Facebook page.

All in all, a site like Twitter would be a great site to go to because you can @ the company and they can't delete your comment. They can report it as spam, but that likely won't happen.

Be sure to include the appropriate accounts. Some sites have two Twitter accounts, one for general social media usage and one for support. If I find both usernames, I like to include them both.

Usually you will get a reply that's pretty copy/pasted, but you can DM them for a more unique to you response after they tell you to direct message them.

Once you get you intended resolution, you can decide to delete the tweet. I do, depending on the website. For From You Flowers, I decided to keep the tweet up because what I got was so dramatically different from what I paid for. I wanted other potential customers to continue to see my post on Twitter.

Follow-Up

No matter how you got customer service attention, you need to follow up with whatever they happened to say your resolution was.

Let the company rest a few days after you chat with a customer service agent, then make sure that whatever resolution you agreed upon actually happened. Check your bank statements and be sure that you got the money back. Check the company website to make sure that you got that free credit.

In general, just be on top of it.

It's easy to say, "yes, you have earned your discount, here you go," and not follow through on any promises. You need to be ready to remind the customer service department and check up on promised updates.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. My definitive guide to actually getting the discounts and refunds you deserve. Company policies are there for a reason. Don't let companies run over you and treat you with disrespect. Stand up for yourself by knowing your rights and the proper channels to take to get to those results. Don't be a an asshat, but don't let companies walk over you either. Be rational, use facts, and you will be good to go!

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Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GladeFineFragranceMist #CollectiveBias

Keeping your apartment fresh can be a hassle. When you are a student or a young adult who has a million things to do every day, keeping your apartment in tip top condition can fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Today on The Happy Arkansan I am going to walk through some stuff that you can do to keep your apartment smelling and looking good so when you come home you can relax instead of worry.

1. Create A Cleaning Schedule

First things first, create a cleaning schedule for yourself. Put it somewhere that you will check often like your fridge or right above your desk. Create a simple schedule of things that need to be done weekly and do a little bit every single day. Don’t overload yourself! It’s hard to go from not cleaning often to doing it all at once.

When you have your cleaning to-do list created, strive to check off one or two things each day. Do a task while you are listening to a podcast or while you are waiting for your hair to dry after a shower. Find those little pockets of unused time where you can multitask to clean up a little.

Depend On Your Roommates

If you have a roommate, they can probably help you out a lot with this. For the common areas like the kitchen, living room, and bathroom (if you share one) come up with a shared cleaning schedule. Hold each other accountable for cleaning up those common areas. Or you could use it as a bonding experience and work with each other once a week to clean those areas if you feel close enough to them!

Don’t Let Things Pile Up

Doing anything be it laundry or dishes is so much better when you only have to do a little bit of it. No one likes to be knee deep in cleaning activities! So, do things a little at a time instead. Do a little laundry every week instead of waiting until you have three loads of laundry to do, wash a couple of dishes after every meal instead of waiting until you can’t see your sink anymore, etc. While cleaning isn’t always fun, it’s a lot more fun when you don’t have to do it all!

This is easier said than done, I realize, this is where your cleaning schedule really comes in handy. If you have a cleaning schedule that you follow to a T it will become a lot easier to stop things from piling up on you!



2. Use Glade® Atmosphere Collection™ Fine Fragrance Mist Products

I recently learned about this amazing new product from the makers of the Glade® brand and I knew I had to showcase it on the blog. When I lived in an apartment I could never have candles and I love them to create a lasting scent. These Glade® Atmosphere Collection™ Fine Fragrance Mist are everything you need to create a beautifully smelling home and they are cost-effective and are conveniently!

The No. 1 Enraptured™ scent is bright and light for your home that will whisk you away. This fine fragrance has notes of jasmine, cedar wood, apples, and rose petals that invites you to linger in your home a little while longer. 

The No. 2 Bright™ fragrance is my second favorite scent from this collection and it’s such a beautiful and light scent. A touch of sweet pea and pear notes dance across the room when you spray this fine fragrance mist. If you have a playful personality, I feel that this scent would be your go-to scent!

The No. 3 Free™ mist is definitely my favorite scent of all four scents available in this collection. I am a sucker for anything with hints of coconut and am instantly transported to a tropical paradise when I spray this fine fragrance mist. No. 3 Free™ scent has notes of white pineapple, citrus, and beachside florals that will match your beachy and breezy personality.

I feel that the No. 4 Tempted™ scent has notes of warm spices, freesia, and golden amber as well as cedarwood, brown sugar, and patchouli. It is a wonderful scent to go with any warm personality. I feel this scent would work wonders in a beautiful library or a den.

Setting The Mood

What I love about this fragrance collection is that they each stand out on their own and create a unique mood for you and your friends/family to enjoy. You can get a scent that matches your personality &/or atmosphere of your apartment. This will help you create the best fresh and/or cozy apartment on the block!

4. Have A Space For All Your Items

One of the easiest ways to have a messy room is to have things that don’t have a place. If you don’t have a space for them, it’s easy to toss things anywhere. So, when you add things to your room, create a space for those products. Don’t just shove them somewhere. Give them an actual home. Even if you have to grab that item and assign it a space in your brain, you have to do what you have to do!

Get Items That Function As Storage & Something Else

Your apartment is likely tiny so your items need to pull double duty! Get some items that have multiple functions--storage doesn’t even have to be one of the functions. Your functions can be storage and seating (an ottoman) or maybe decoration and organization (pretty gold wire baskets). When you have these items that pull double duty, you can have less items while also having cute and practical items around.

Go As Paperless As Possible

Paper causes clutter and clutter causes your room to look like a mess. Often we get a lot of clutter from the mail that we get. So here are some things that will help:

  • Go for paperless billing whenever possible: You can pay so many bills online now so there is really no need for paper bills anymore if the company you are paying allows it. It may be more difficult because you don’t have any reminders coming to you anymore, but paying bills has become easier to do online.
  • Don’t Bring Spam Mail In The House: If you know you won’t use that credit card application or those coupon mailers, don’t even let them enter the house. Recycle or throw them away right away.
  • Recycle: Go through your house or apartment frequently to clean things up to recycle. You may want to get a bin or a bag that you put all your recyclable material in so that you can take it to a recycling center at the end of the week or month. Keep your recyclables contained to one space in your apartment, don’t just put them anywhere and say, “I’ll recycle that at the end of the month.”


Thanks again to the makers of the Glade® brand for sponsoring today’s post. I am genuinely in love with their new Atmosphere Collection™ Fine Fragrance Mist. I knew that I wanted to show them to y’all because they are cost-effective and the scents are so distinct. Check them out at your local Walmart!

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A few weeks ago I was dealing with a major creative slump, y'all! I was trying to get myself together after a death in my family and dealing with all the freelance work I was fortunate enough to do, and The Happy Arkansan honestly fell by the wayside. It took a while for me to feel comfortable getting back into regularly scheduled blog events.

I have been posting regularly for the past few weeks, even though I recently decided only to promise two posts a week. I have been feeling more inspired lately, and I wanted to share some ways to get realigned after you have fallen into a slump.

Related Reading: How To Chase Your Creative Dreams With Diet Coke®

1. Pray About It

Sometimes you just gotta spend some time with God (however you choose to address Him/Her.)

I know that praying isn't for everyone, but it helps me to spend some time praying and thinking about my next move.

Often we worry so much about things, but that doesn't help in the long haul. Work hard, pray, and then let it go.

Pray about it and wait for a response.

When God answers, don't ask for a different answer. Often we get a million signs pointing us in one direction, but we still choose to defy it.

If you are gonna pray about it, don't fight about it later.

2. Journal

Another thing I love to do when I am in a slump is journal.

I am not all woo-woo, but I do believe what you put out there, you get back.

With that being said, don't forget to journal about the positive things happening in your life.

At the end of the day, I am all about putting out more positive energy than you do negative energy. You can journal about your problems, but don't forget to journal about your not problems.

3. Get Outside

A few weeks ago I started sitting outside in the afternoon.

I am usually one to spend all day cooped up inside, but a few times a week I like to spend about an hour and just sit outside in a lawn chair close to sunset.

Part of the time I just sit with my own thoughts and sing songs to myself.

The other part of that time I take my laptop outside, and I write.

Sometimes when you are getting out of a slump, you just need to do whatever you do in a different location.

That might be outside, that might be in a coffee shop, that might be in a different country, etc. 

Changing up your scenery does wonders for your realignment.

It may not be the most permanent solution, of course, but some new scenery never hurt anyone.

4. Take Your Time

Life is dandy when the stars all align, and you can walk confidently in your purpose, but sometimes that takes time.

You can't force yourself back into alignment, so don't be afraid to take your time.

Now, this doesn't mean that you sit around, do nothing, and mope around all day.

Quite the opposite.

It means you take your time while doing.

All these activities can be done over time.

Don't rush or try to force alignment. You will know when you are properly aligned.

Do something to get you closer to that alignment every day, and give those activities time to work.

5. Think About The Bigger Picture

So often, we are out of alignment with our purpose because we get stuck in the day to day grind.

You need to give yourself some inspiration.

Create a mood board or poster board with your why on it.

Then you can make sure that at least some of the activities you do every day get you to that why.

Also, think about your activities in a different way.

Yes, babysitting in and of itself might not get you closer to your why. BUT: babysitting leads to income that you can save that will allow you to feel comfortable pursuing your why later on.

So, those small tasks that you find yourself doing may not be directly related to your purpose and passion, but they will make walking in your purpose that much easier.

6. Seek Some Guidance

Sometimes, you just need some help.

Whether that's hiring someone to coach you, listening to a podcast, crying to your sister, or anything in between––that's up to you.

We cannot go through this world alone.

It's okay to lean on and get help from others.

Humans are social creatures, and God made us this way for a reason.

So, instead of holding all your thoughts in and suffering through this time alone, reach out to other people who are here to help you.

See that counselor, hire that coach, reach out to friends online and in person.

7. Read Motivational Books

No, I am not talking about the sappy motivational books.

I am talking about the ones that will make you feel like a total badass.

The ones that will tell you the truth instead of sugarcoating it and giving you awful advice.

Get an Audible subscription and listen to some audiobooks. Or simply take some time to read a chapter a night.

I really enjoyed "The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck" by Mark Manson and "You're A Badass" by Jen Sincero.

8. Start Before You Get Aligned

As I talked about in the Take Your Time section, I want you to take the time, but I want you to do so actively.

Sometimes you just need to dive head first into your work.

Even when the ground is shaky.

Even when you aren't sure what your next move should be.

Even when taking the next step feels like it might actually make you vomit.

Sometimes you just need to do something that will take your life to the next level.

Take it from Nike and Just Do It!

9. Rethink What Aligned Means To You

We often get so caught up in what aligned means to other people that we don't think about what aligned means to us.

Maybe you are aligned, just not the cookie cutter definition of what aligned usually looks like.

This doesn't mean that you can't work to better yourself or work to focus your life.

It does mean that you may want to reconsider where you got your definition of aligned from.

Determine if this definition is serving or hurting you.

10. Refocus On What's Important

It's so easy to get out of whack with what's actually important in your life.

Think back to your bigger picture, then look at what you are currently spending your time on.

If those don't align, get back to the basics.

For me, this required that I scale back the promised blogs on The Happy Arkansan and my other site Amanda Cross Co. I wanted to offer both audiences the best of me, and I couldn't do that while posting 5 times a week.

Look at your personal commitments. What fat could you trim? Likely, quite a bit of random responsibilities you have gathered over the years.

11. Support Yourself

You gotta support yourself because no one else is gonna support you like you.

This means:

  • Updating your sleeping routine
  • Eating right on a daily basis
  • Getting a bit of outside and/or exercise time in
  • Investing in your mental health

These are things I am working on the most as I try to make sure that I am more aligned and in tune with myself.

Don't be afraid to take all aspects of yourself more seriously.

12. Get Your Space Together

It's the perfect time for a little spring cleaning.

I have been slowly cleaning the random spaces in my life. I gotta lot to do because I am a messy person by nature.

Mess clogs up your natural alignment, though, as much as I think most creatives would hate to admit it.

Don't be afraid to throw some stuff away so you can get back in alignment!

Conclusion

A slump (creative or otherwise) is never fun, but you don't have to wallow in it.

I hope that today's article helped you think of slumps differently.

You don't have to be helpless when a slump heads in your direction!

Have you ever experienced a slump? How did you get out of it?
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Happy Saturday lovelies!

I know that I said I would likely only be posting on Tuesday/Thursday for the foreseeable future, but I love surprising y'all with some interesting post ideas. So many people are graduating high school and college this week, so I figured I would give you a gift guide for any incoming freshman you know who will be living in dorms.

I want to do other gift guides throughout the summer so you can give your friends and family the perfect going away gift!

I have seven themes listed below. Feel free to buy them as sets, or just get individual pieces. I am sharing a ton of ideas below, and I hope you like these. Let me know in the comments below which idea is your favorite!

*This post contains affiliate links, y'all!

1. The Laundry Starter Kit

Hear me out. Laundry is expensive AF, and not all dorms have free laundry. I was so fortunate my freshman year that my dorm didn't make us pay for laundry, but your incoming freshman may not be as lucky. Seeing as how NO ONE has cash on them, get them a:

  • Jar full of quarters
  • Tide Pods (or another laundry detergent)
  • Dryer sheets
  • Laundry basket with handles
  • Tide To Go Pen (because sometimes, you just need some easy stain removal, y'all)

You can get as creative as you want with this starter kit. Just make sure that you are wary of the space that college students have in their dorm room. Don't go too overboard!

Here is some inspiration for the Laundry Starter Kit Set:

2. The Drown Out The Dorm Life Set

What I learned while living in the dorms: dorm life is loud AF and a tad bit smelly. I decided to create this set so your incoming freshman can drown out dorm life and act as though they are living at home, even if they aren't. In this set you should get them a:

  • Pair of headphones
  • Sleeping mask
  • White noise machine
  • Small dehumidifier
  • Fan
  • Essential oil diffuser
  • Essential oil starter kit

All in all, you just want to make dorm living as comfortable for them as possible through the use of items that make them feel at home.

Here is some inspiration for the Drown Out The Dorm Life Set:

3. The I need Coffee, Or I'll Die Set

Coffee on any college campus is expensive. Most college campuses have Starbucks or some other large coffee chains and daily visits can add up. When I was in college/graduate school, I always went to Starbucks or Einstein Bros Bagels for my coffee fix, and I don't even want to look at what a bill for all that would look like! Here are some ideas to help your college student out. Get them a:

  • Keurig K15 Brewer
  • Good set of starter K-Cups
  • Reusable KCup Pod
  • Cute coffee mug (or six)
  • Creamer/sugar set

This set will help them drink more coffee at home. They may still go out for those specialty coffees they can't brew in their dorm. Overall, though, they will be happy with what they can save when they don't have to go to Starbucks for everything.

Here is some inspiration for the I Need Coffee Or I'll Die Set:

4. The Dorm Room Makeover Set

My favorite part of the dorm room process was deciding what to bring to decorate it. If the incoming freshman in your life is really picky, you may want to skip this set and just them a gift card to a place like Pottery Barn. If they are less picky, you know their style, or at least their color palette you could consider getting them stuff like:

  • Wall Tapestries
  • Canvas Paintings
  • Throw Pillows
  • Curtains
  • Posters
  • Loctite Fun-Tak Mounting Putty (sounds boring, hella helpful for adding decor to dorm walls without damage)
  • String Lights
  • Felt Letter Board

All these excellent decor pieces combined will give them a Tumblr/Pinterest dorm room for sure! Make sure everything matches, though!

Here is some inspiration for the Dorm Room Makeover Set:

5. The Get Your Academic Shit together Set

Your incoming freshman will likely spend a ton of time burning the midnight oil at their desk. Get them some items to help them make their desk feel more comfortable and easy to use such as a:

  • Laptop cooling pad
  • Desk organizers
  • Notebooks
  • Pencils, pens, markers, etc
  • Planner (We love Erin Condren in these happy parts)
  • Seat cushions
  • Ergonomic keyboards/mouse pads

Your incoming freshman will likely already have a desk and chair on campus, but they might not be the most comfortable. Purchase some extra goodies to help them feel better while studying.

Here is some inspiration for the Get Your Academic Shit Together Set:

6. The I Don't Want To Use the Dorm Bathroom Set

Dorm bathrooms are kinda icky AF. Your incoming freshman needs to be prepared for dorm life, and I hope that this set of products will help them be prepared for the shared dorm bathroom life. It's really not that bad, I promise, as long as your dorm-dwelling freshman has some essentials like a:

  • Bathrobe
  • Shower caddy
  • Dorm shoes aka flip flops aka flippity flops (You can likely get these cheaper at Old Navy or Walmart, but adding some links to Amazon in case you want to get them there.)
  • Soap/Body Wash
  • Shaving supplies
  • Towel Set

Dorm bathroom life is so much better when you have the supplies to survive it. If your freshman doesn't share a bathroom with an entire floor, make sure they have some bathroom cleaning supplies. They don't want to be the suitemate who never cleans up!

Here is some inspiration for the I Don't Want To Use The Dorm Bathroom set:

7. The What Is Cooking And How Do I Do It Set

Sometimes you won't feel like going to the cafeteria or going out to eat. For the times your incoming freshmen just wants to stay in, get them a few items to keep around their dorm for easy cooking such as a:

  • Mini-fridge (if they can, rent this from campus or share this cost with their roommate)
  • Tupperware set
  • Set of cookware (if they have room for it, otherwise, get individual pieces like a skillet and a pot)
  • Plastic dish set (don't think these are automatically microwave safe, not all plastic dishes are!)
  • Metal cutlery (don't go plastic on cutlery)
  • Kitchen utensils

To finish out this set add some ramen noodles, pasta, mug cakes (did you know Duncan Hines sells mug cake mix?!), and other goodies for the perfect gift set. You could also add a gift card to Walmart or another grocery store as well.

Here is some inspiration for the What Is Cooking And How Do I Do It set:

Conclusion

Dorm life can be fun again with all the products I showed you today! These gifts may not make your incoming freshman squeal like money or a new car, BUT they are super practical.

One of the best gifts I ever received when I was headed to college was a laundry basket and a bunch of supplies I could use in my dorm! At the time when I was getting gifts I was most excited about the monetary ones, but over time I realized I needed all the stuff I got in that basket.

You should strive to get your incoming freshman gifts that keep on giving. A lot of those gifts I got my freshman year followed me all throughout college. So, choose gifts wisely and make them practical, y'all.

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