December 30, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 16

Guess what?  We’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaccck!  Did you miss us?  We missed you!  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  Mostly, though, we hope you are ready to get your party on!
Welcome to the sixteenth week of the blog hop!  As always, a BIG THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMELY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read, and it keeps getting better each week!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

December 16, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 15

Welcome to the fifteenth week of the blog hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMELY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read and it keeps getting better each week!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

A Yum in my Tum Chocolate Cream Cheese Cupcake Recipe!

Apparently, my website is turning into a regular food blog!  What can I say; I’ve been enjoying baking and food photography quite a bit.  Don’t worry, I don’t plan on making the switch to a food blog; I enjoy writing about an assortment of topics too much to make a switch.  Besides, I don’t always have the time to cook something new every day.  I don’t know how these food bloggers do it (God bless ‘em)!  Although, with the holidays quickly approaching, I thought what better time than now to start baking!

December 13, 2013

Parenting like the Parisians - a contributor post

I've written about French parents before. So it's not too much of a secret when I tell you that I am a Cuban American parent who j'adores French parenting (whew)! That's a whole lot of culture in that one sentence. Maybe that's because in the world of parenting, my style seems to fit in with that of Parisian parents.
 
Let me explain...
 
My ideas of being a mom, when I had my first bébé, didn't seem to fit what I had always seen. It didn’t seem very American. Much of what I knew about parenting in the states included sacrifice and identity loss. Many conversations I heard revolved around how much of yourself you had to give up, when you have kids, in order to be a good parent. I spent all of my 20's being focused on me. When I got pregnant, I believed this changed.  To completely focus on another would happen naturally when I gave birth. Like I would deliver a baby, a placenta, and a complete selfless attitude in one push. That didn't happen. Rats. By these standards, I was not a good parent.
 

December 11, 2013

Felt Pinwheel Flower Tutorial (great for the holidays)!

If you guys remember my free customizable photo gift tags post, I made a promise that a felt pinwheel flower tutorial would follow.  These pinwheel flowers not only make fabulous gift embellishments, but ornaments as well!  They are easy to make and fun to decorate.  The supplies needed are few, and the end result is one you and the family are sure to love!  So, let me get right to it then.

December 9, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 14

Welcome to the fourteenth week of the blog hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMELY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read and it keeps getting better each week!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

Free Customizable Photo Gift Tags for the Holidays!

I’m going to share a little quirk about myself.  Now, I’m trusting that after you hear what I’m about to say, you don’t think I should be committed or something.  Okay, so here it goes.

There is something about a beautifully wrapped gift that puts me in an immediate trance.  The world around me could be in shambles, but I would have no idea if you just plopped me down in front of some beautiful presents like a little kid.  Scary, I know.  In fact, I’ve thought about wrapping empty boxes and decorating them with some lavish embellishments just to put around the house and use as holiday décor.  I’m still not sure why I haven’t done it yet.  Of course, there is still time!

Anyhow, this year, I was inspired by the many beautiful gift embellishments that I have been seeing online.  And in the process of crafting my very own embellishments, I thought why not design some photo gift tags to accompany them!  Especially considering that this blog of mine has been way overdue for some freebies!

December 4, 2013

Locate an email for a noreply-comment with G+!

Before I go into how to locate an email address for that <noreply-comment@blogger.com>, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND LEAVING YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN ANY COMMENTS YOU LEAVE ON BLOG POSTS.  Not sure if you are a no-reply blogger?  If you are using Blogger/Blogspot, then assume you are.  Even if you’ve previously updated your profile settings to show your email address, which would correct your no-reply status, Blogger reverts you back to no-reply within days of your update.  And without your knowledge.  Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but, reverting your entire profile back to Blogger from Google+ will not resolve the issue either (see screen shot below).  I know; frustrating right?

December 2, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 13

Welcome to the thirteenth week of the blog hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMELY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read and it keeps getting better each week!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

November 30, 2013

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

All I have to say is “Martha Stewart has nothing on me!”  I’ve got the baking bug, if there is such a thing.  And not only baking, but crafting as well!  I have some great crafts, freebies, and more recipes to share with you  over the next few weeks so be sure to check in with me.

I actually made this Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake last month.  Yep, you guessed it, another Taste of Home recipe from their special collectors edition!  I was hoping to share it before Thanksgiving, but never had the chance to draft the post.  Of course, it still comes to you at a great time before Christmas and all.  Not only is it a wonderful dessert to serve up for the holidays, but a crowd pleaser as well!  Isn’t it pretty?  I almost didn’t want to slice into it. 

November 28, 2013

Co-hosting That Friday Blog Hop and a Sponsor Spotlight!

Nothing like getting right back into the swing of things after an awesome Thanksgiving!  My belly might be filled with turkey and I may be fighting the Tryptophan with all of my might (trying not to fall face first on my keyboard), but I’m still SUPER excited to be co-hosting this blog hop with the lovely Rebecca, Tiffany, and Chrissy this week!  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are ready, with bellies full as well, to party with us!

November 27, 2013

Working long hours could cost you your health

First, a little about me…

Before Alivia came along, I worked as a Quality Assurance Representative for IBM. It was a challenging position for me since it was out of my field of expertise.  Of course, I would never turn down an opportunity to learn something new and acquire different skills than what had been on my resume for the past 10 years.  It was particularly a no-brainer for me moving into the position as it was something I most certainly had interest in.  I had no doubt, I would grow to, not only love it but, be great at it as well!

November 25, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop (Week 12) & $175 Giveaway!

Not here for the giveaway?  No problem.  Don’t feel bad in scrolling right past this to The PINcentive Blog Hop to get your party on!

For those interested in FREE prizes; it’s your lucky day!   Our giveaway is still up, running, and just waiting for you to enter for a chance to win $100 in PayPal cash, a $75 Amazon Gift Card, and free ad space on Cropped Stories!  Only it closes in less than 4 days, so  don’t delay!  And if you wanted to, feel free tell your friends!  I’m just sayin’! 

So have at it, and GOOD LUCK!

November 21, 2013

10 Tips to Grow a Non-Picky Eater

Hello readers of Cropped Stories! I'm Alicia and I blog over at A Sweet Fragrance. My family and I are American-born but live as expats over in SE Asia. I blog about our life overseas, recipes I attempt to make while substituting lots of ingredients, projects I do around the house, "tot school" lessons I teach to my toddler, and lessons I learn through parenting and walking with the Lord. I hope you'll stop by my blog for a visit!

Is there anything quite more frustrating than a child who doesn't want to eat anything you put in front of him? Not even a nibble! I know of this frustration very well. Not only am I (unintentionally) raising a picky eater, I grew up being a very selective eater myself. Unfortunately, I can't blame my child's eating habits on genetics. Whether I want to admit to it or not, I'm the one who has created these picky tendencies of his.

November 19, 2013

The Best Frosted Banana Bar Recipe

Okay, I know I’m guilty of saying this before, but this recipe is to die for!  Not only are these banana bars delicious on their own, but the frosting, which I could eat by itself that’s how yummy it is, is seriously AMAZING!  It’s better than any frosting I’ve ever tasted.  And that’s including the very expensive birthday cake we purchased for Alivia’s 3rd birthday this past August which was also extremely delicious and, did I mention, from a very renowned bakery?

Yes, it’s another Taste of Home recipe, but this time from an old June/July 2000 copy thanks to my mom.  She raved about these bars while digging it out from her bin full of archived recipes.  Sure enough, it was tagged with a blue post-it note.  When I opened the magazine and saw the image, that was it; I was sold! 

November 18, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop (Week 11) & $175 GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to, YES, another a special week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  Our giveaway is still LIVE so if you haven’t entered for your chance to win $100 in PayPal cash, a $75 Amazon Gift Card, and free ad space on Cropped Stories, then here’s your chance!  With the holidays quickly approaching, I’m guessing you’ll be able to find something to spend the money on.  So have at it, and GOOD LUCK!

The Anatomy of a Great Post Comment (a list of do & don’t tips)

Have you ever considered the content of a comment you leave on a blog post?  Even if you’re a veteran in the blog-0-sphere, there’s no harm in mulling over the message you’d like to convey.  And if you are a newbie, even more so!  Not only should the message you’d like to convey be considered, but HOW-TO convey it as well.  Enticing the author to reply back is essential if your intention when leaving a comment is to establish a relationship. If it blossoms into something more, then, hey, that’s just a bonus!  Feel free to give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate your new friendship, follower, and/or reader!

November 11, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop (Week 10) & GIVEAWAY!

WELCOME to another special week of The PINcentive Blog HopDid I mention Our giveaway is open for the ENTIRE MONTH of November?  Oh, and our pot is pretty sweet!  So, before we get to the blog hop, feel free to enter for a chance to win $100 in PayPal cash, a $75 Amazon Gift Card, and FREE Ad space for 30 days on Cropped Stories!

November 7, 2013

8 Hidden Blogging Mistakes

If you have been blogging for a while, you are probably aware of the basic rules of the game, like using good images, posting regularly, and promoting content on social media. However, there are often little things we overlook as bloggers that can make a big difference to both the stats and audience engagement. I have compiled this list of hidden mistakes bloggers make based on my own observations, as I make it a point to visit at least a couple of new blogs every week. Some may never have crossed your minds, and others you may not have considered of much relevance. Either way, these tips require little effort and will only bring positive results!
 
1. Not customizing your Tweet button
If you want to keep track of who has been sharing your posts on Twitter, it is important to have your twitter handle (or username) in that tweet. Usually, when your readers click on the 'Tweet' button, they will be directed to publish a tweet which has your post title and link. Sometimes, it will have the Twitter handle of the share service provider such as @sharethis or @wordpressdotcom. The problem with this is that you are none the wiser when a post of yours has been shared on Twitter, unless you have access to stats. Even then it's hard to pin every single tweet down. By adding your own handle, you will be immediately notified of the mention, allowing you to re-tweet or thank the user if you wish. In order to add your handle, simply check the support pages of your sharing service. To my knowledge, all of them allow you to customize your tweet buttons. It's a simple thing that can help you gauge your content’’s popularity on Twitter!
 

November 6, 2013

Easy peasy cookie cupcakes!

About 2 months ago, I made a promise to myself I would start cooking more often.  Initially, I had intended to make more dinners.  I never imagined, in a million years, I would have the time or courage to start baking as well!  Over the past few weeks, I've baked a number of yummy desserts including Banana Coconut Muffins, Peppermint Biscotti with Chocolate Drizzle, Coffee Cake Cheesecake (post still to come) and, most recently, Cookie Cupcakes! 

November 4, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop (Week 9) & GIVEAWAY!

WELCOME to a special week of The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 9!  Not only do I have a blog hop for you today, but also a giveaway with some serious prizes!  Prizes that will allow you to either shop ‘till you drop, pay some bills, host a HUGE party, purchase some Christmas gifts, all while promoting your website right here on Cropped Stories!  So, before we get to the blog hop, feel free to enter my November Sponsor Giveaway for a chance to win $100 in PayPal cash, a $75 Amazon Gift Card, and FREE Ad space on my website for 30 days!

November 3, 2013

Keeping Connections Strong when Distance is Far

Hello readers of Cropped Stories! I'm Alicia and I blog over at A Sweet Fragrance. My family and I are American-born but live as expats over in SE Asia. I blog about our life overseas, recipes I attempt to make while substituting lots of ingredients, projects I do around the house, "tot school" lessons I teach to my toddler, and lessons I learn through parenting and walking with the Lord. I hope you'll stop by my blog for a visit!

October 31, 2013

Crafty Christmas Cash Giveaway!

It's giveaway time! I'm joining Katherines Corner and Art by Karena, BeBetsy, Deliciously Inspired, My Turn for Us, Mamas Little Treasures, Ruby For Women, Practically Functional and Sew Crafty Angel to bring you this wonderful Crafty Christmas Cash Giveaway. We all got together to make this giveaway extra special. ♥

Peppermint Biscotti with Chocolate Drizzle

Last weekend I picked up a special collector’s edition of Taste of Home magazine in BJ’s and was immediately sold!  It didn’t matter if they were offering 20% off.  I would have paid double as long as I didn’t have to put it down.  The food images had my mouth watering and I was inspired to bake for myself the family that very evening! 

I flipped through the entire magazine and tagged my favorites.  Everything from Cranberry Rugalach, Blueberry Banana Bread, and Cheesy Sun Crisps to Apricot Coconut Bars and Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake (which I also made)!  After skimming each recipe, I settled on Peppermint Biscotti.  The hubby and I are big fans of mint anything, so it was the perfect choice.

October 29, 2013

Tips for parenting two children under two!

In the last few weeks of my second pregnancy, I remember thinking one constant thought. When this kid comes out, I'm going to have two kids under the age of two running around on this earth. And the idea of that immediately wall-slammed me to this thought: I wonder if there's a way to keep this second one in my belly a bit longer, at least until he's on solids.
 
Unfortunately, our ObGyn said this was not "advisable."
 
So, when he came out a week shy of forty, husband and I hit the ground running with our pre-planned ideas of how to parent two children under two while trying not to go Cuckoo Clock bonkers in the process.

October 28, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 8

WELCOME to the eighth week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMLY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read and it keeps getting better each week!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

October 27, 2013

Our $100 “just because” giveaway!

Do you know what I like to do? I like to give away things for no reason at all, just because I feel like it!  I don’t need a blogiversary, holiday, birthday, or even 1000 social media followers to celebrate!  My readers , yeah YOU, are reason enough to make me want to celebrate and give something special away!  Sort of a “thank you” for all the times you’ve read my posts, left comments, shared my content, provided me with blogger opportunities, supported my ideas, sponsored me, contributed to my website, but, most importantly, were there when I needed a friend!

With that said, a group of us decided to contribute some of our hard earned money to fund this monthly giveaway so we could present the eGIFT CARD by American Express to all of you today! 

October 23, 2013

Photography Exposure Tips: Understanding Shutter Speed

Hello, again, to the wonderful Cropped Stories readers.  This is Jen from West Street Story, and I am back today with additional photography tips for you.  If you remember my previous post, Photography Exposure Tips, I discussed ISO, one of the three settings you should consider for achieving proper exposure in your photographs, otherwise known as the photographic triangle. 

Today, however, I will be providing you information on shutter speed.

October 21, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 7

WELCOME to the seventh week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMLY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read and it keeps getting better each week!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

October 20, 2013

Tips for coping with depression while exploring treatment

I knew I wanted to write a post on depression, but had no idea where to begin.  I must have opened and closed my laptop several times before finding the words.  

Sometimes I write unsure of where I want my post to go.  What's the point?  Of my blog post, I mean.  Do I have one?  While the answer to that last question is yes, I usually struggle with making only one point and not 50 million.  Each sentence opens up new doors and, easily tempted, I usually find myself walking through them.  When I do, I find my post going in a million different directions making my topic no longer clear to my readers.

With that said, I am going to focus on coping with depression without the use of medication.

October 17, 2013

TGIF Link Party!

Welcome to the TGIF Link Party at Living Better Together and I Want Crazy!

This week we have an amazing Black Friday Giveaway opportunity available to bloggers and Etsy shop owners. If you want to learn how you can be a part of it and what's involved click here.

October 16, 2013

A tutorial for Studio Design: a free photo design app

Hey everyone, I'm Alicia and I blog over at A Sweet Fragrance. My family and I are American-born but live as expats over in SE Asia. I blog about our life overseas, recipes I attempt to make while substituting lots of ingredients, projects I do around the house, "tot school" lessons I teach to my toddler, and lessons I learn through parenting and walking with the Lord. I believe it's always a good time for coffee and I blame and also thank my husband for turning me into the coffee snob I am today.
 

Beauty Tips and Tricks; I’m sharing it all!

I was getting ready last weekend to go to a birthday party and realized that my routine consisted of various beauty tips and tricks that I’ve acquired over the years.  Some are my own, while others were picked up from beauty school or from participating in pageants when I was younger.  And before Alivia came along I was an avid Cosmopolitan, Vogue, InStyle, and Mademoiselle reader so you can imagine the tips, trends, and tricks I’ve learned from these magazines alone!  I used to clip and keep them in a beauty binder to reference them later.  Particularly the cosmetic images that I used as inspiration to apply my own makeup.  And although this is a bit different than the usual topics I blog about, I thought I’d share my beauty tips and tricks with all of you! 

October 14, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 6

Welcome to a SPECIAL week of The PINcentive Blog Hop! For those of you that have been linking up weekly know there was no blog hop last week due to a much needed bloggy break. Sort of a bummer, I know.

Well, we’re ready to make it up to you! As promised, we’ll be choosing 4 winners this week (instead of 3)! One of which I, Cropped Stories, will provide with sidebar exposure for 30 days!  The space is a whoppin’ 240 x 340 and is valued at $20!  This, of course, will be in addition to being featured, having your content pinned a minimum of 31 times, co-hosting our next hop, and priority seating!

October 1, 2013

Photography Exposure Tips: Understanding ISO

Hello Cropped Stories readers!  I am so excited to be here as a guest contributor.  Keep an eye out for my posts here on Cropped Stories as I will be providing tips as a non-professional photographer trying to achieve professional looking photographs.

Today’s post is all about ISO.  While I was in Hawaii, one of the tours I did was a photography expedition.  I found a local photographer that offered these personal, one-on-one tours.  I went into it thinking he was just going to take me around the island, and we would capture some pretty pictures.  However, I gained SO MUCH more than just a few tropical photographs.  He taught me things about my camera and photography that brought my picture taking skills to a whole new level.  I will benefit from what I learned for the rest of my life!

And guess what?  I am going to share some of the things that I learned with you!

September 30, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 5

PLEASE NOTE: The PINcentive Blog Hop week 6 will resume on October 15th!  Mark your calendar; you don’t want to miss out!  We’ll be choosing 4 winners, one of which will receive a special surprise in addition to being featured, having their content pinned a minimum of 31 times, co-hosting our next hop, and priority seating!

September 27, 2013

Pumpkin apple pecan waffles!

A CONTRIBUTOR POST TITLE BAR RED
 
Living in the Dominican Republic has many summertime perks. We don't do summertime sadness here because, well, it's always summer. You can go to the beach in the middle of January and not freeze your patoots off. It's a nice change for this January baby to be able to plan a birthday that will not be cancelled due to the looming and fast approaching winter snowstorm of the century. Buuuuut, with an eternal summer comes an extinct autumn. I've got that autumn-time sadness. So because the Dominican Republic won't give me fall, I've got to go get her. This past weekend, for our family breakfasts, I decided to make pumpkin apple pecan waffles. We purchased a waffle maker from another abroad teacher moving to Bangladesh, so I was super thrilled to use our new to us waffle maker for my fall recipe.

September 25, 2013

Co-hosting, sponsoring, and guest blogging; oh my!

If you’ve been tuning in daily, you know the blogger opportunities keep on coming!  Today I have an additional 2 for you! 

I’m currently looking for cohosts and sponsors for a giveaway I’d like to run once a month.  The minimum prize being a $100 virtual gift card! 

BLOGGER OPPORTUNITIES co-host a giveaway guest blog VIA CROPPED STORIES

CO-HOST OR SPONSOR MY MONTHLY GIVEAWAY

Why a virtual gift card? 
Being that they are electronic, they can be emailed to the recipient and retrieved almost instantly! They can also be used for online and over the phone purchases anywhere VISA or American Express is accepted within the U.S.!  Also, with virtual gift cards, funds do not expire and there are no hidden inactivity or other post-purchase fees. 

September 24, 2013

10 Tips for Surviving a Hospital Stay

It dawned on me, sitting across from my husband, that I had an excellent medical resource right at my fingertips. I think my eyes were bulging out of my head in shock that it had taken me this long to ask him to post for me.  I was certain he would have some very valuable information for my readers considering his credentials.  He has a  bachelor’s degree in nursing and is currently hitting the books to acquire his master’s in nursing informatics.  Did I mention he is also a certified registered nurse in infusion therapy, was a previous IV peripherally inserted central catheter specialist, and most currently is the manager for IV therapy and infusion services for two reputable hospitals?  Can you tell I’m a little proud?

So, what could he write about that would appeal to my readers?  Just when I thought it was going to be a long night of brainstorming, my husband, Bob, suggested tips for surviving a hospital stay. 

September 23, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 4

WELCOME to the fourth week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMLY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

THE PINCENTIVE BLOG HOP; HOW DOES IT WORK?

Each week, 3 winners will be chosen by our cohosts.  As a winner, you will be featured and, your content will be pinned a minimum of 31 times by my Pinterest Incentive Program (PIP) team members below.  Additionally your content will be pinned by the following week’s blog hop participants!  That’s right; blog hop participants will be required to pin the winner’s content.  The number of link ups we have will determine the total number of times your content gets pinned so, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SPREAD THE WORD!  It will only benefit you in the long run!  Also, as a winner, you’ll have the opportunity to co-host our next Blog Hop and choose our winners!  Blog hop code will be provided to all Co-hosts on Monday morning.  This will give everyone ample time to draft their post and, if necessary, troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

September 19, 2013

HUGE Blogger Opportunity

If you frequent my website, you are probably familiar with The PINcentive Blog Hop and how it works!  If not, here is a brief description so you can familiarize yourself with it:

Our blog hop runs on a weekly basis (every Tuesday).  Each week, 3 winners are chosen by our cohosts.  Winners get their content featured and pinned a minimum of 31 times by my Pinterest Incentive Program (PIP) team members. 

That’s right, I have a team of 30 people doing some serious pinning for me! Or I did.  Unfortunately, we’ve hit a tiny bump in the road and I am currently looking to replace a handful of members.  With that said, I’d like to extend this opportunity to all of YOU!

September 17, 2013

Easy Banana Coconut Mini Muffins and Giveaway!

I don’t know what it is about me, but I could never pass up a banana muffin, bread, cake, etc.  Banana anything really!  With my mom always making banana bread growing up, I was sort of doomed from the start.  I guess the banana and I were meant to be!  And the apple, or should I say banana, didn’t fall far from the tree as it pertains to my little one, Aliva.  Like her mama, she loves bananas as well!  She must have gobbled up 2 banana coconut mini muffins in a matter of 10 minutes!  Just to give you an idea, it takes her a good 45 minutes, or so, to eat lunch.

September 16, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 3

WELCOME to the third week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  I think a big THANK YOU is in order to everyone that has been linking up.  More so for making it EXTREMLY difficult for our co-hosts to choose winners each week and providing us with such great recipes, crafts, tips, parenting advice, tutorials, (you name it)!  Your content has truly been a pleasure to read!

If this is your first time linking up; WELCOME!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank! 

THE PINCENTIVE BLOG HOP; HOW DOES IT WORK?

Each week, 3 winners will be chosen by our cohosts.  As a winner, you will be featured and, your content will be pinned a minimum of 31 times by my Pinterest Incentive Program (PIP) team members below.  Additionally your content will be pinned by the following week’s blog hop participants!  That’s right; blog hop participants will be required to pin the winner’s content.  The number of link ups we have will determine the total number of times your content gets pinned so, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SPREAD THE WORD!  It will only benefit you in the long run!  Also, as a winner, you’ll have the opportunity to co-host our next Blog Hop and choose our winners!  Blog hop code will be provided to all Co-hosts on Monday morning.  This will give everyone ample time to draft their post and, if necessary, troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

September 13, 2013

Parenting with Parents

I have an excellent blog recommendation for you today.  Parenting with Parents is a blog dedicated to the many adventures that occur while raising 3 children under the age of 6 in a house with your in-laws.  It is also about recovering and living with depression.  You can find everything on this website from hilarious family stories and product reviews to tips on keeping a very full house running smoothly.  What I love most about Parenting with Parents is Andrea’s Giveaways for a cause which I’ve co-hosted in the past.  Entrants are required to visit the cause of the week in hopes to spread awareness! 

September 12, 2013

The many uses of the Origami box - make one yourself!

If you’re a regular over here at Cropped Stories, I bet you read my post title and are thinking this is random.  Yes, it is unlike the usual topics I cover over here, but I felt the need to share something creative and artsy with you today!  With that said, I have a little secret to tell you… 

I like to dabble in the creative world of Origami.  In fact, I published a post in August of last year, Getting my craft on, showing off some of my work.  I was so excited with my creations that I had to share them with my readers!  And being that it was my first attempt at the craft, I was  especially proud of myself!  I was surprised how addicting it was and have been doing it sporadically throughout the year.  When I first started, I was addicted to making pinwheels and flowers.  They were the perfect party décor for my toddler’s 2nd birthday!

September 11, 2013

Establishing a Writing Style for your Blog

Ever notice the differences in writing from one blog author to another?  Are they informal, creative, literal, dramatized, structured, outside the standard method of documentation otherwise known as APA format?  

As an author, have you asked yourself what writing style is suitable for blogging and appeals to readers most?  It’s a great question to ponder especially if you haven’t established your own personal style of writing yet.

September 9, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 2

WELCOME to the second week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank!  With that said, I look forward to partying with you on  a weekly basis! 

THE PINCENTIVE BLOG HOP; HOW DOES IT WORK?

Each week, 3 winners will be chosen by our cohosts.  As a winner, you will be featured and, your content will be pinned a minimum of 31 times by my Pinterest Incentive Program (PIP) team members below.  Additionally your content will be pinned by the following week’s blog hop participants!  That’s right; blog hop participants will be required to pin the winner’s content.  The number of link ups we have will determine the total number of times your content gets pinned so, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SPREAD THE WORD!  It will only benefit you in the long run!  Also, as a winner, you’ll have the opportunity to co-host our next Blog Hop and choose our winners!  Blog hop code will be provided to all Co-hosts on Sunday evening.  This will give everyone ample time to draft their post and, if necessary, troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

Adding and Customizing the Pin It Hover Button

In case you aren’t familiar with the Pin It Hover Button, it is a Pinterest icon that appears when you hover over an image on a website allowing you to click on it and pin.  Why is it fantastic?  Well, for one thing, it’s very convenient for your visitors.  It prevents them from having to go directly to Pinterest and click on the add a pin option and past the URL of the content they want to pin.  Secondly, it’s customizable which means you can create the icon yourself to keep it consistent with the design of your website.  Are you sold yet?

September 4, 2013

Looking for Blog Help or Design Services?

What can I say about Janine?  Do you know Janine, the woman behind J9 Designs?  If you are not familiar with her work, I highly recommend checking out her design services.  She provides services for everything including troubleshooting, blog design, migration, transfers, and in case that weren’t enough, she even offers blog support.  Her prices are very competitive, and her dedication to her clients is impeccable!  Don’t take my word for it though; just read some of her testimonials!  You can also find great blogging and design tips and tutorials on her website like her most current post, NoFollow Links-Wordpress Widget That Rock.  So, what do you think?  Would you like to get to know her better?

September 2, 2013

The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 1 (it’s finally here)!!!

WELCOME to the first week of The PINcentive Blog Hop!  I am extremely excited to provide this link up for you today and the opportunity for you to increase your traffic, followers, and improve your page rank!  With that said, I look forward to partying with you on  a weekly basis! 

THE PINCENTIVE BLOG HOP; HOW DOES IT WORK?

Each week, 3 winners will be chosen by our co-hosts.  As a winner, you will be featured, and your content will be pinned a minimum of 31 times by my Pinterest Incentive Program team members below.  Additionally your content will be pinned by the following week’s blog hop participants!  That’s right; blog hop participants will be required to pin the winner’s content.  The number of link ups we have will determine the total number of times your content gets pinned so PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SPREAD THE WORD!  It will only benefit you in the long run!  Also, as a winner, you’ll have the opportunity to co-host our next Blog Hop and choose our winners!  Blog hop code will be provided to all Co-hosts on Sunday evening.  This will give everyone ample time to draft their post and, if necessary, troubleshoot any problems that may arise.

September 1, 2013

Enter our Giveaway for a chance to win $500!

Yep, you read the post title right!  We sure are giving away $500 to one LUCKY winner!  And all because of the one year BLOGIVERSARY of A Peek into my Paradise!  It has been 1 year since Cathy’s first blog post went live!  How exciting is that?!  I’m just so excited to be a part of the celebration! 

So, I’ve got a pretty serious question for you.  Now I could think of a million things I would buy with $500, but what I really want to know is:

WHAT WOULD YOU BUY WITH $500?

August 29, 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

So guess what?  I was nominated for another award!  How freakin’ excited am I?!  This time, Tarana from Sand in my Toes (don’t you just love her blog name) nominated me and I am beyond honored!  It’s such an amazing feeling to know that someone thought of you, and that little ol’ blog of yours, especially when you least expected it!  And to be nominated for being versatile, is especially wonderful!  Makes me happy, for once, not to have limited myself to blogging about one topic like maybe I made the right decision about branching out!  So thank you Tarana for recognizing me!

August 28, 2013

A Pasta Recipe for your Picky Eater(s)!

Do you have a picky eater in the house?  If so, I’m assuming they are somewhere between the ages of 3 and 8?  I have a 3 year old and she has been quite picky in the past to say the least.  Just when I thought I was understanding her taste, it would change drastically.  First she was interested in tasty foods with lots of spices, then it was bland foods like a piece of white wonder bread or plain chicken.  Today, I am happy to report she is more open minded and will eat a variety of foods with only a little coaxing!  If you can believe it, I’ve been feeding her foods like cereal, scrambled eggs, or French toast for breakfast, salami and bread or chicken nuggets for lunch, and pork tenderloin, lamb chops (her favorite), steak, chicken cutlets, sweet potatoes, broccoli, corn on the cob, or spaghetti for dinner. 

For those of you that are still dealing with a picky eater, more importantly one that would prefer more bland than tasty foods, I’d recommend my linguini dish.  Of course, it doesn’t have to be made with linguini.  Any pasta would do.  It’s a simple recipe with only few ingredients. 

August 26, 2013

Katherine’s Corner

I’ve got a great blog site recommendation for you today! For those that aren’t familiar with Katherine over at Katherines Corner, trust me you need to check her out!  If you didn’t you’d be missing out on some wonderful and yummy recipes, fun photographs, giveaways, product reviews, and life stories!  Katherine also shares blogging tips and has a weekly blog hop on Thursdays called FAVORITE THINGS!  Additionally, as if that weren’t enough, Katherine also offers custom blog design services

August 25, 2013

17 Fall Fashion Finds!

I have something a little different for you today!  I thought I'd switch it up a bit and share some of my Fall Fashion Finds!  If you are familiar with my blog you’d know I've published posts in the past providing you with children's clothing and shoe recommendations, but never a post on women's attire, accessories, shoes, etc.  What a drag right?  Go ahead, you can say it!  I don't get offended easily.  Promise. 

I'm a HUGE Fall lover.  It's my favorite season!  I love the foliage, crisp air, smell of burning wood, apple picking, and curling up on the sofa with a mug full of hot chocolate and whipped cream.  Mostly, though, I love Fall apparel and the look and feel of layers!  I would be lost without warm and comfy oversized sweaters, a pair of knee high boots, legwarmers, newsboy hats, and the wrapping of beautifully patterned thin knit scarf around my neck.  And the colors!  Don’t even get me started on all the beautiful colors of Fall!  Colors like rich plum, cranberry, sienna, cream, taupe, burnt orange, bright green, and deep yellows are some of my favorites to wear! 

August 22, 2013

Want to contribute to Cropped Stories? (oh, and enter a GIVEAWAY)?

It’s a new day.  It’s an EXCITING day!  Why you ask?  Well because today I’ve decided it would be fun to have interested parties contribute content to Cropped Stories!  Why contribute?  Well let’s see…

In addition to getting to work with me (by the way, I’ve been told I’m extremely fun to work with) and building a new friendship, how about free exposure for your website?  Interested to know how much exposure?  No worries, I would want to know too!  Check out my blog stats currently updated specifically for this post:

August 21, 2013

Princess party decor!

Last weekend we had a party for Alivia’s 3rd birthday!  I still can’t believe my baby turned 3!  It seems like yesterday I was holding an infant in my arms mesmerized by my doe eyed girl looking curiously back at me!  I remember her blinking slowly until they became fewer and far between and the next thing I knew she had drifted off to asleep.  I didn’t think anything could top those moments of mother daughter bonding as I held her close to my chest and watched her for hours.  It was then I realized I was truly happy!

Yet each day she continues to amaze me. And although I try to prepare myself for the milestones, accomplishments, efforts, silliness, passion, curiosity, and everything else she has grown to be in the last 3 years, I realize it’s an impossible and unrealistic task.  And I’m okay with that.  In fact, I’ve come to love the spontaneity of it all!

August 20, 2013

We can all benefit from eye exercises; especially our children!

Maybe you guys have been following my Intermittent Exotropia journey with Alivia, maybe you haven’t.  Regardless, though, did you know eye exercises are extremely beneficial even for children that don’t have an eye condition?  Even if your child has pretty good vision (meaning they don’t require glasses) there is always room for improvement.  Eye exercises, in addition to improving vision, can also improve hand-eye coordination, inattentiveness, and depth perception!

August 19, 2013

2 Giveaways; 1 Post!!!!

Now I’m sure crazier things have happened, but certainly not better than this:
 

2 GIVEAWAYS; 1 POST = 2 CHANCES TO WIN


That’s right!  That means not 1, but 2 chances to win something amazing including a $200 Amazon Gift Card and a box of 6 Woolzies (see below for more details)!  How amazing is that?
 
Speaking of giveaways: need an extra $100?  In case you missed it, don’t forget to check out my current giveaway for your chance to win a $100 Virtual VISA Gift Card!  You still have time but, I’d hurry, it ends on the 2oth (yeah, that’s tomorrow)!

August 14, 2013

Stay connected with these must have apps!

When a blogger goes on vacation, their smartphone gets some serious use! While Cropped Stories is away, I volunteered to guest post for her. I, too, was away on vacation. I blog over at Krystal’s Kitsch, and I am happy to share some iPhone apps for those well-connected bloggers.

We hit up a beautiful beach on the Atlantic coast of Florida, and enjoyed the very HOT weather! Bloggers love to share photos, document their trips, and stay connected to their readers. I have compiled a list of must have Blogger iPhone Apps for those writers on the go!

August 13, 2013

Our “just because” $100 Giveaway!

It’s a Tuesday and something about today is special but I can’t remember what!  I know it was supposed to be a Tuesday unlike any other, but I can’t remember why.  It’s weird.  You know that feeling I’m talking about?  Like you had something important to say, but you can’t remember what.  It’s really rather frustrating.  I just know I’m forgetting something….  Wait, I think it’s coming back to me.  It’s on the tip of my tongue I swear!

August 12, 2013

Cheesy Chicken and Rice!

Hey everyone! Hope your weekend was fantastic!  I’ve got some wonderful Guest Bloggers lined up for you this week and:

HUGE GIVEAWAY TITLE GRAPHIC

So don’t forget to come back for your chance to win $100!

Julia is a busy mom of twins, a wife, and an accountant. In her "spare" time, she scrapbooks, makes cards, designs jewelry, and sneaks naps. She blogs about life, scrapbooking, card making, blogging, crafts, recipes, reviews, giveaways, social good, and anything else that makes her laugh. A Global Team of 200 moms and a Shot@LIfe Champion, she has written for US Aid, Feed the Future, Sverve, and other websites. You can join her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest.    

August 9, 2013

MIA? Maybe a little.

If you’re a dedicated reader of Cropped Stories,  I’m sure you’ve noticed the amount of times I’ve been posting has been getting fewer and fewer.  Don’t worry I may be “Missing” (so to speak), but definitely not “In Action” in that  I’ve been working behind the scenes over here on a very BIG project for all of my lovely readers!  As promised per my ADVERTISE page, a short term goal of mine was to roll out a Blog Hop by the end of Summer!  If you missed my BIG Blog Hop announcement, feel free to catch up (just click on the button below).  Trust me, you will NOT want to miss out!  My Blog Hop comes with a HUGE incentive for participating including the opportunity to get your content pinned a minimum of 31 times, drive more traffic to your website, and increase your page views and rank with the added benefit of meeting new people and making some friends! 

August 6, 2013

Watch out blogosphere; there’s a new Blog Hop in town!

Have you heard the buzz?  NO?  Well then, it just so happens that you’ve come to the right place to hear the news! 

There’s going to be a new BLOG HOP in town!  That’s right!  And not just any ol’ Blog Hop, but one with a HUGE incentive for participating.  What’s the incentive you ask?  Great question.  How about the opportunity to drive more traffic to your website, gain new followers, and increase your page rank and views?  All this and the additional benefit of meeting new people and making some friends!  You may be asking yourself “is she for real”?  I’m happy to say “YES I AM”!  I’m also extremely excited to introduce The PINcentive Blog Hop!

August 5, 2013

Your kids will burn up with these HOT Back to School supplies

I feel like a ridiculously premature Fall clothing line in a one of your local retailers (you know the ones that had their Fall clothing line available at the beginning of the Summer)?  Now I walk into stores and there’s limited Summer apparel but boat loads of clothing I can’t even wear yet unless I’d like to sweat my hiney off in a pair of corduroy pants and a thin knit sweater!  It’s sort of a pet peeve of mine.  And now here I am publishing this post on back to school supplies and we are barely into August.  I’ve just become my worst nightmare!

HOT BACK TO SCHOOL SUPPLIES

Nah, I’m just kidding.  I’m well aware of the benefits of being proactive (since I am myself) and feeling the satisfaction of crossing off an item on your to do list.  For those out there with school age kids that haven’t shopped for back to school supplies yet, I hope you’ll find this post helpful!  You’ll find my list of items are affordable, fun, trendy and, like my post title describes them, HOT! 

August 1, 2013

LeapFrog Learning Activities by MEGA Brands

I have a wonderful Pre-K educational product recommendation for you today!  I received a LeapFrog Product Kit by Mega Brands in the mail several days ago and I was very impressed with the learning assortment they provided.  The activities were both fun and educational at the same time.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one that thought so.  Alivia, my 3 year old, has been asking to use it everyday!  I don’t think “obsessed” is too dramatic of a word when referring to her persistence to use the products on a daily basis!  In fact, her enthusiasm for learning is more than I could ever imagine!  She especially loves the activities like the Colors, Shapes & Numbers Book and the Dry Erase Practice Board that require the use of dry erase crayons and a marker!  The dry erase writing utensils easily wipe clean from just about any surface including your child; a SUPER bonus!

July 30, 2013

The Grab a Friend Blog Hop!

Hey there!  So glad you stopped by and I hope you’ll link up to our Grab a Friend Blog Hop!  Before you do, though, let me fill you in on some things that have been going on over here! If you like jewelry you may want to check out, Tarnished Royalty: Jewelry to Cherish!  Ann hand crafts one of kind statement pieces that you really must check out! 
Additionally, if you haven’t entered my July Sponsor Giveaway for a chance to win some amazing prizes including FREE ad space, design services, and a gift card, there is still time to enter!  And if you haven’t linked up to The Happy Aloha Friday Blog Hop, feel free to check that out as well!  So much to do; so little time! 
And just in case that’s not enough for you, I thought I’d remind you of my fabulous 30% off promotion on any size ad spot on Cropped Stories when you use the code CELEBRATING (in all CAPS) at checkout!  Feel free to visit my ADVERTISE page for more information! 

July 29, 2013

Tarnished Royalty: Jewelry to Cherish

If you like jewelry (or perhaps are a jewelry addict like myself),  I have a special treat for you today!  I don’t know about you, but I can’t go anywhere without jewelry and when it comes to choosing a piece, I’m all about making a statement!  If you like unique pieces that make a statement, I have a feeling you are going to love the one of kind hand crafted pieces that Ann over at Tarnished Royalty designs herself from bits of old hardware, lace, broken jewelry, and other found objects.  Ann loves to reclaim weathered objects and transform them into original pieces of art.  Each and every product that Ann designs has a little part of her and lots of love poured into it!   

If you missed my previous introductory post on Ann, feel free to catch up HERE.  She is one of my July sponsors!  Even more important, she just happens to be one of my first sponsors ever so I’m extremely excited to be sharing some additional tidbits about Ann with you today!

July 26, 2013

The Happy Aloha Friday Blog Hop is Live!

First and foremost, HAPPY FRIDAY! 

Before I can let you go off and party, have you entered my July Sponsor Giveaway?  It just went live yesterday!  I’d hate for you to miss out on the chance to win some amazing prizes such as FREE ad space, gift cards, and more! 

And if you like to win free stuff (who doesn’t right), you can also head over to Aree with Umbrella where I’m offering a FREE medium size ad spot on my website!

Interested in advertising on Cropped Stories, feel free to check out my ADVERTISE page for details.  I hope you’ll take advantage and use the 30% of promo code CELEBRATING (in all CAPS)!  It’s good for any size ad space!

If you missed my previous posts from the past several days, here’s a little recap of what I’ve been blogging about over here:

- Vacationing in Cape Cod, MA (includes a FREE photography checklist printable)
- 7 Educational Mobile Applications for Kids
- Blog tools you should definitely consider

July 24, 2013

Do you miss them being babies & my July sponsor giveaway!

When Alivia was born, I asked my sister who has two children (one was 15 at the time and other was 13) if she missed them being babies.  She answered without hesitance “no”.  In disbelief I asked “really”?  I was both surprised and enlightened by her answer!  After briefly explaining the things she was enjoying about my niece and nephew’s current ages, she went on to say that she thought of childhood as a temporary place for the child to become their true selves, the adult person they always had been just hadn’t grown into yet.  I had to think about it for a few minutes to really grasp the concept, but I was intrigued by the idea.  Could it possibly be true? 

July 23, 2013

7 Educational Mobile Applications for Kids

Since it’s been rainy lately, Alivia and I have been forced to spend time indoors.  So today, while I was on my computer, I gave Alivia her Nexus to play with.  It wasn’t long before I dropped what I was doing to join her.  In no time at all, we were engulfed in some educational and fun applications!   It was then it dawned on me that I haven’t written a post on mobile applications for quite some time.  What a shame too because I had quite a few to recommend!  With that said, I have 7 of them to share with you today!

Vacationing in Cape Cod, MA

It’s nice to be home from vacation but only for dependable and fast internet access so I am able to do what I love: BLOG.  Otherwise, I rather be basking in the sun under a clear blue sky with nothing to worry about other than sun protection.  Alivia and I had such a wonderful 3 day vacation in West Yarmouth.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather.  And unlike previous years, the ocean was exceptionally warm and inviting.  Even better than warm ocean water and sunshine was Alivia accomplishing some HUGE milestones!  After struggling with her for 2 Summers, I finally got her to walk on the sand!  It took some serious persistence and a thick skin when she began to melt down, but I stayed strong and was relieved to have it pay off!  Of course, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get her to do it  with bare feet so I came prepared with water shoes.  And when her shoes filled up with sand, I was pleasantly surprised it only took a little distraction and some mild coaxing to keep her from obsessing over it.  In no time at all my baby was playing in the sand comfortably!  She even, for the first time, played in the ocean water (something else I had been struggling with getting her to do)!  It was amazing watching her enjoy activities that once had her running for dry land, a shower, or my arms.  And if that’s not enough, on the very last day of our vacation, my sister handed her a water bottle and she drank out of it like a PRO!   What?!  It was as if the milestones kept being thrown at my baby but she continued to hit them right out of the park!  I was so proud of her!

July 19, 2013

The Happy Aloha Friday Blog Hop & Giveaway!

Today I’m writing to you from Cape Cod, MA.  I’m outside on a picnic table looking out onto the gorgeous ocean!  Alivia and my sister are playing frisbee to my right.  There are some gorgeous sailboats to my left that I’ve been trying hard not to hijack.  The seagulls are flying over head and the breeze is just what the doctor ordered! Have I painted you a picture or what? I could go on forever about my fabulous 3 day vacation but there will be plenty of time next week for me to fill you in and share some great pictures.  With that said, what I really want to know is: Are you guys ready?  It’s that time again.  Time to P A R T A Y and, this week, enter your chance to WIN some amazing things! 

Before I leave you to the party, however, this is just a reminder there is still time to sign up for the Pinterest Incentive Program!  Spots are going fast and I only have room for a few more people!  I hope you’ll consider joining us!

July 18, 2013

Blog tools you should definitely consider

I know in blogging, taking programs, applications, widgets, etc. for granted is easy to do.  I know with me, my main focus is getting the task at hand completed.  Whether it be wrapping up a post, running an analytical report, rolling out a blog hop, setting up ad spots, creating a giveaway, updating my blog design, etc., the most important thing is to get it done in a timely fashion ‘cause, let’s face it, there’s always more to do!  Today, I’d like to take a step back, take a breather, and remember the tools I currently use that help me tremendously with the various aspects of blogging.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that these tools are what makes it all come together; what makes me be able to present to you Cropped Stories!

Just when I think I don’t have a topic to blog about, it hits me like a ton of bricks.  Just because I know of the existence of these blogging tools doesn’t mean everyone does.  And why shouldn’t you know about them?  If it’s going to make your life easier, than I’m going to share them with you!

July 17, 2013

A sponsor spotlight and the dog days of Summer giveaway!

I have some exciting things for you today including a sponsor spotlight and giveaway!  First, I’ve got a serious question for you.  Have you guys met Ann and LaShawn?  If not, here’s your chance to meet two lovely ladies who just happen to be my July sponsors!  And not just any sponsors, but my first ever!  That’s right!  With the publish of this post, Ad space finally available, Ann and LaShawn were quick to jump on board and I couldn’t have been more thrilled!  These two ladies really put a smile on my face and helped me to achieve a HUGE blog milestone!  So for that, I am extremely grateful!  Now, before I go getting all emotional on you, I’m going to stop right here and start with the introductions already.

July 16, 2013

And the blogger award goes to…

Yes, you guessed it, ME!  I’m so excited an honored to have been nominated by the lovely Lanaya over Raising Reagan for this Blogger Award!  Apparently, there are a couple of rules once you’ve been awarded including: you must display the award button on your website, state 7 things about yourself, and nominate 15 bloggers and include links back to them!  Easy enough right?  I thought so until it was time for me to nominate people.  I wish I could have nominated just about everyone.  There are too many great bloggers out there that deserve this award!

July 15, 2013

The Pinterest Incentive Program: a HUGE Opportunity for Bloggers!

Are you guys ready for this?  I’ve been working on this idea for over a couple weeks now.  And from doing research online, I have yet to find a similar program in place which makes it a HUGE opportunity for those that choose to participate!  I am calling it The Pinterest Incentive Program.  If you are interested in driving more traffic to your blog and improving your page rank, I recommend reading on.

THE PINTEREST INCENTIVE PROGRAM

Figuring out how I would present it was the most challenging part.  I wanted to make certain I was describing it the best I could without losing my audience to confusion, redundancy, and excessiveness.  In other words, I didn’t want to leave you face down on your keyboard dizzy from information overload.  So from a bunch of chicken scratch (isn’t that where all the good ideas stem from), I picked and pulled the key points of my idea and compiled it in the form of a flyer which you can review below.  If it’s easier, you can also download an 8.5 x 11 copy to print. 

July 11, 2013

The Happy Aloha Friday Blog Hop is LIVE!

Hey there! So glad you stopped by and I hope you’ll link up and party with us!  Before you do, I’d like you to know I’m now offering Button Swaps on my Advertise page!  This means you can advertise with me for free in exchange for putting my ad on your website as well.  I call it my Scratching Backs Ad!  If you are interested, I currently have 8 small ad spots available (120 x 120 px wide).  All you have to do is click the buy now button under Scratching Backs: Button Swap (Small) and enter the promo code FREEBIE (in all CAPS) to receive 100% off!  If you need a button designed, look no further, I’d be more than happy to help you with that as well!  I have training in graphic design and am experienced in Photoshop.

Speaking of graphic design, I wanted to give a little shout out to Areeba over at Areeba’s Designs for creating my lovely customized pin it hover button.  I couldn’t be happier and the code was super easy to install.  Thanks Areeba!

Additionally, on Monday I’ll be posting a HUGE opportunity for the first 33 bloggers that choose to participate in a program I created.  If I were you, I’d stop by to check it out.  I have a fabulous incentive for joining!  Trust me, you won’t want to miss this!

A Lovely Blog Hop; Come Party with Us!

Welcome to A Lovely Blog Hop, where each Thursday we have the grand opportunity to meet and connect with lovely new bloggers, such as myself! Now you have something to do and somewhere to go on Thursdays!
Enjoy!
 

July 10, 2013

J9 Designs and My Eclectic Loft (have you met Janine and Nancy)?

When I published my post, Ad space finally available, I was beside myself with how quickly these two gals took advantage of my promotion and made a purchase!  I was so excited to have my very first Sponsors!  It has been such a huge milestone for this little ol’ blog o’ mine and I have a feeling it will be  a tough one to top!  Of course, that will not keep me from trying.  I see great things in the near future for Cropped Stories so I hope you’ll stay tuned!  In the meantime, I’m relishing in my most current accomplishments and am especially excited today for you to meet my featured Sponsors!

July 8, 2013

Dayz of Summer Photography Checklist (will you take the challenge)?

Yesterday as I was riding in the car with my hubby we drove past a couple of farms.  I was practically kicking myself for not having my camera with me to catch the cows grazing and the horses galloping.   I don’t know what it is about the Summer months that makes me want to pick up my camera and take pictures of, well, almost everything.  With my country music playing in the background and the air from the window blowing through my hair, I thought what better time to start compiling a list of the things I’d like to capture on camera this Summer.  While some things I wanted to take pictures of came incredibly easy to me (like a hammock, horses, a canoe, the lake, etc.), I had to put in some effort to remember the small but wonderful things about Summer that are often taken for granted.  Stuff like iced coffee, fruit salad, a grilled hot dog, the ice cream truck, a tire swing, etc.  Once I started thinking smaller, it was hard to stop.  The ideas kept coming and I realized that my once modest checklist was quickly becoming endless.  Isn’t Summer the best?

July 5, 2013

Happy Aloha Friday Blog Hop!

Happy Aloha Friday!
Hosts!
Hey there people and a very Happy Aloha Friday to you all! Welcome to the most hoppingest of all hops - The Aloha Friday Hop :)
Co-Hosts
We have a great team for July - I know you're going to love them! Just don't forget to head down to the linky to click and follow them when you link up your own lovely blogs :) Our hosts and co-hosts links are always the first you will see, so it's easy for you to click and follow.Aloha Hoapili

Grab a button and link up below! If you'd like a different sized button click here. 

 
Don't worry if you already have Jean's lovely Aloha buttons on your blogs - switch if you'd like to. Or choose one of Jean's buttons here.
 
The rules are the same as before and are posted below. The Aloha Hop is one of the most hoppingest hops of the week, attracting over 400 linkups on the regular. Let's keep that blogging tradition going people!
 
If you'd like to host future Aloha Hops with us then please get in touch at our swanky new email address alohahop@gmail.com. I believe we're all set for August with lots of lovely co-hosts but feel free to get in touch about September onwards.
The rules
If you'd like to spread the love even more, why not tweet and twitter all about it? Just click the pic below :)
Tweet this Hop
Here's the extra special addition to our lovely hop. It's an oh-so-easy opportunity for you lovely participants of the Aloha Friday Blog hop to get some exposure to your blogs!!  What do  you have to do to enter?  Just link up to the Aloha Friday Blog Hop Below!! It's that easy!!  No extra forms or hassle, just link up!  Each week we will pick a linker to featured at random and invite you all to say...
Aloha Hoapili
Grab a button if you were featured this week! 
Aloha Hoapili translates as Hello Close Friend. So, without further ado let me introduce you to this week's featured friend ...
Nancy blogs all about nutrition, families and life in general. Want a little taste of her blog? Check out these posts to find out what you've been missing:
Wordless about NutritionCooler Totes, and Chinese New Year.
 
Now let's start hoppin'! Click on the links in the linky to visit some lovely bloggers and make new friends. Oh, and don't forget to link up yourselves!
Aloha and have a great day people!






If you missed my previous post, Ad space finally available, feel free to check it!  There’s still time left to snag a spot!  Just don’t forget to use the promotion code CELEBRATING (in all CAPS) to receive 30% off!  For more information you can visit my Advertise page!

AD SPACE PROMOTION CODE
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July 3, 2013

Ad space finally available!

It’s official, Ad space on Cropped Stories is finally available!  And I’m super EXCITED to be able to offer them to you today!  I have a total of 13 spots available!  Since I’m so happy, I felt the need to do a little celebrating.  With that said, I’m running a 30% off promotion when you use the word CELEBRATING (in all CAPS) to the first 13 people who purchase ad space!  So go ahead and take advantage!  For more information, feel free to check out my Advertise page.

July 2, 2013

Easy to make Candied Teriyaki Chicken Wings!

Do you guys like chicken wings?  I sure hope so because I’ve got the best chicken wing recipe for you today!  And although it’s a cavity waiting to happen (you’ll see why), on the flip side it’s easy, quick, and finger lickin’ good!  These wings have always been a BIG hit at any event!  The trick, of course, is to cook them long enough so that the meat falls off the bone.  My hand written recipe is titled “Mom’s Chicken Wings” so I’m assuming it is in fact my moms, but I swear the first time I tried these was at my brother’s house when his ex wife made them years and years ago.  I actually mentioned this to my mom and it seemed like she wasn’t sure herself that’s why I don’t feel bad telling you all.  Of course, whatever the case may be, one thing I know for sure is that they are in a word “AWESOME”!  Oh, and addicting too!  Definitely addicting!

If you can believe it, we’ve gone through the years calling them “Mom’s Chicken Wings” but if you ask me, that doesn’t really describe them very well!  So today I name them!

June 30, 2013

Classic Pizzelles (a recipe you’re sure to love)!

In case you are unfamiliar with the name, they are Italian waffle cookies you make with a Pizzelle baker and they are absolutely delicious!  They can be made with either anise, vanilla, and even cocoa.  Our family prefers vanilla and there’s no one better at making them than my mom!  As I’m drafting this post, I’m asking my mom for tips.  Without hesitance, she answers “be sure to use Land O Lakes margarine”!  Other margarines apparently don’t measure up and the cookies will not come out nearly as good.  Another tip is to make sure the margarine is cooled before adding it to the mixture (as I’m typing this, my mom is saying “make sure you bold the word cooled under the directions”)!  Okay mom, will do!  I’ll even put it in CAPS just for you!  I got to make mom happy otherwise I won’t get any cookies.

June 27, 2013

Free 4th of July Storyboard/Collage Template (holds 12 photos)

Are you guys getting ready for the 4th of July?  Or should I say getting the camera ready?  I don’t know about you but I’m the type of person that can’t let a holiday pass without snapping some pictures (even if they are only taken with my phone camera)!  And since holidays make such perfect photo opportunities; you’ll definitely find me behind the lens!  There are so many amazing moments to capture.  Whether they be of family and friends you haven’t seen in awhile, your Aunts homemade ice cream, patriotic tablescapes you’ve strategically designed, water activities like sprinklers/pools/slip-n-slides, little ones running around in diapers and bare feet, a volleyball or badminton tournament, a hula hoop competition, etc.; you’re sure to catch some great expressions like smiles, laughs, giggles, maybe even happy tears?  Have I painted a pretty enough picture?  No?  Let me fast forward to the evening then.  How about glow sticks, sparklers, cracker snaps, and FIREWORKS?  Sharing some champagne with your significant other under a glowing sky?  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!  I’m getting myself all fired up for the holiday (pun intended)! 

June 26, 2013

What are your children doing to drive you nuts?

For those of us that have children, we all know that motherhood can be amazing!  It can be rewarding, fun, satisfying, fulfilling, blah, blah, blah!  Now let’s visit the flip side and discuss the things children do that challenge us and test our patience on a daily basis.  You know, the things that make you want to blow your brains out!

I know after reading that last sentence, something immediately popped into your head.  Something your child does that makes you want to pull out your hair and at the very least just annoys the fu@# out of you!  Am I right?

June 24, 2013

Inspiring Blog Headers II!

That’s right, they’re BAAAAACCCKKKKK! 

Incase you missed my first post, Inspiring Blog Headers, feel free to check it out!  I wouldn’t want you to miss out on such an inspiring post!

INSPIRING BLOG HEADERS II

If you are a regular visitor, you might notice something different about my page.  That’s right, I redesigned it!  With all the inspiration online, I couldn’t help myself!  One of my favorite things to do, other than reading posts of course, is to check out blog designs!  Let’s face it, your design and layout is an important aspect of blogging.  It falls right under content.  If you are among the bloggers that provide awesome content (which many of you do) and also have a rockin’ blog design, than BRAVO!  Of course, for a person like me that has an extreme obsession with design, I can get a little distracted by your beautiful blog header, unique social media icons, brilliantly designed navigation toolbar, and perfectly coordinating blog button while trying to read your fabulous post.  Don’t worry I always manage to read them in their entirety, it just takes me longer!  If this sounds familiar, I’m afraid you are a design obsessed geek too!  If you are, I’m loving it!  I’d hate to be alone!

June 20, 2013

Get Festive with this 4th of July Decor!

With Independence Day being right around the corner it got me thinking about how I wish I was going to be home to host it this year!  Instead, the hubby and I have a wedding to attend on the 4th.  Of course that wasn’t going to stop me from browsing online for patriotic decor!  No way!  I have too much fun doing it every year!  That’s just another great thing about having a blog!  The browsing, ogling, bookmarking, and pinning certainly wouldn’t go to waste when I have all of you to share my favorite party decor ideas with – so thank you!

June 18, 2013

Organizing your Computer Blog Files

Whether you are new to the blogosphere or a veteran, organizing your computer files is an essential part of the blogging process. Naming conventions for your folders and files are particularly important if you want to be able to find your documents quickly, easily, and with little to no effort. Today I'm going to share some examples of good computer file organization.  By the end of this post you will have the tools necessary to put your very own filing system in place.  

June 14, 2013

My Summer Bucket List & 10 Outdoor Activities for Kids

The weather this week hasn’t been that great.  It’s been a little disappointing especially for my little one.  Since we’ve been spoiling her with daily outings since our vacation in Florida (3 weeks ago) she has now come to expect it (you know, going out I mean).    When we don’t, she walks around the house moping, whining, and asking repeatedly to be held.  She’s been extra needy and even a little cranky.  Lucky me!  I’ve been going a little crazy over here!  Don’t get me wrong, I feel for her and completely understand but, Mama just needs a break already!  Is it Friday yet?  Oh wait, it is!  Thank heavens!

June 13, 2013

The Candid Photograph

What’s the difference between an okay photograph and one that makes you want to keep looking at it for hours? 

In my experience, I’d have to say camera settings, proper exposure, focus, and perspective.  To me, the least important contributing factor is the subject.  When you can make even the most mundane look exciting, fresh, and appealing than you my friend have just crossed over from being a so so photographer to an exceptional one! 

June 10, 2013

Does your child respect their things?

Are you teaching your kids to respect their things?  I think it’s an important lesson to teach and one they should most definitely learn.  What got me to thinking about this topic?  Good question.  I was recently having  a conversation with another mom who happened to mention having to buy a new kindle for their tot.  When I asked why (assuming there was something wrong with the product), she shocked me with her answer.  She went on to say that her little one had thrown and stepped on it multiple times, brushing the statement off casually as if that’s what toddlers do.  My immediate thought was “really”?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Am I on candid camera?  Where are the video cameras at?

June 7, 2013

Are images/graphics in blog posts that important?

When it comes to posts, what kind of images and/or graphics do you find most appealing?  What makes you want to share a post across your social networks?  Take a minute to think about it. For me, not only does the topic have to interest me but the images and/or graphics have to grab my attention!  There are many things that contribute to a great image/graphic including: subject, size, proportions, the inclusion of text (when appropriate), exposure, clarity, perspective, vibrance, and color palette.  I try to keep all of these things in mind when drafting my own posts.  Writing comes naturally to me and while photographs and graphic design may too, they still take me longer to prepare and finalize.  It's definitely worth it but let me tell you why.

June 6, 2013

Simple and Inexpensive Toys are Sometimes the Best Kind!

Some of the best toys are the ones that happen to be simple, the least inexpensive, and keep my little one entertained for hours.  Do you find this to be true?  

It seems like I'm always concerned with purchasing educational, highly rated and recommended, or consumer reviewed toys when it comes to my toddler.  And although a lot of these purchases end up being smart purchases in that my little one plays with them often, there are some that just sit in the toy box collecting dust leaving me questioning why. What's more is that most of the time these toys are among the most expensive purchases and I can't help to think  - what a waste.

June 4, 2013

Our Vacation in St. Petersburg, FL

Being that I just returned from my blog break, I am doing a lot of catching up.  Trying to sort through my emails has been such a time consuming task that I haven't been able to think about topics to blog about.  To me, it's not all that important anyway.  I much rather maintain my social relationships by responding to emails, visiting blogs, and returning the love with follow backs!  With that said, if you emailed me and still haven't received a response, you should expect to see something soon!

May 31, 2013

Spot the Differences (a fun game for Friday)

I guess this game has become a weekly thing!  Since I keep receiving such positive comments I thought why not.  Nothing better than ending your long, hard, and tedious week with a fun game right?  Honestly I’m not sure if it’s more fun for you or me.  Aside from the fun I have making the changes to these images in Photoshop (it makes me feel so clever and a little bit sneaky), my favorite part is receiving your comments letting me know how many differences you find!  Even more, though, I just love that you guys are playing along!  It really makes my week so THANK YOU!

May 30, 2013

Preserving the Memories

Hey there!  Glad to see you’re back!  I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s Guest Blogger, Barbara, and her Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream post!  Well guess what?  Yep, I have another Guest Blogger for you today!  You can usually find her blogging over at The Sassy One!  Hillary is a wife and mom to an angel and two princesses!  She loves craft related things like scrapbooking, card making, and knitting!  Since photography is a hobby of mine, I was immediately drawn to the amazing images in her posts!  And being that it is a guilty pleasure of Hillary’s, I thought no one better to blog about it than her!  Makes sense right?  So, here it is.  Have fun ooohing and aaahing!
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