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Your Epic Christmas Planning Guide + A Free Workbook

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/your-epic-christmas-planning-guide-free.html

I know it's Thanksgiving week, but that means that Christmas is right around the corner. If you haven't already started planning your holiday, you better get started because it will be here before you know it. This will be our first Christmas in our new home and I am so excited to start decorating it. Instead of shopping on Black Friday, I will be pulling out all of our Christmas decorations and decorating our home. And probably make some of the pretty diy decor that you can find in the workbook.

Click to Tweet: "An EPIC Christmas planning guide + free workbook via @abbybarstow. Plan food, gifts, & more!"

This post is broken up into four sections:
  • Menu Planning
  • Prepping Guide
  • Decorating
  • Gifting
Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas isn't necessarily celebrated around food, I usually set up a sort of "grazing" buffet for people to eat on Christmas Day. And I think for Christmas Eve we are getting Chinese take-out, at least that's what we did last year. My favorite part of the Christmas festivities is decorating, I am so excited to decorate our new home for the holidays and to host our family on Christmas Day. And to see William being all adorable opening Christmas presents.

There's still a lot of planning if you're hosting any bit of Christmas, even if you're not making a full meal, so I've created this beautiful and epic guide to help you out.

If you find this post or the EPIC workbook helpful in any way, share a photo of your Christmas meal or decorations or festivities or your workbook notes using #littlecitychristmas.


Section 1: Menu Planning
Since I love menu planning, I love planning holiday meals. I'll be making brunch on Christmas day and then having yummy food and a hot chocolate bar out for the rest of the day. Not sure what to include in your Christmas Dinner or Christmas Day Brunch? I've got you covered.

Christmas Dinner
Really, you can make whatever you would like for your family's meal but here's a list of what is typically included in the meal. In the workbook, I have more details as well as links to recipes.

+ The Main Dish - typically roast chicken or turkey, ham, or beef tenderloin
+ Potatoes
+ Salad
+ Green Beans
+ Dinner Rolls
+ Cheesecake
+ Egg Nog

Christmas Brunch
My mom always made a french toast casserole for breakfast on Christmas Day, so it's still one of my favorite items to make for Christmas Brunch.

+ Coffee and Hot Chocolate
+ Quiche or Egg Casserole
+ Cinnamon Rolls
+ French Toast Casserole

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/your-epic-christmas-planning-guide-free.html

Section 2: Prepping Guide
Prepping for Christmas involves more than just prepping food. Plan ahead of time and you can have Christmas gifts bought and made and wrapped ahead of time so that you can just sit back and relax on Christmas Day. You can also prep cinnamon rolls or quiche ahead of time. And Christmas cookies. They can be frozen months and months ahead of time!

Prep List
Here's a list of everything that you can prep ahead of time, both food and non-food.

+ In November plan out Christmas gifts and start saving money and picking items up at pre-holiday sales. Start making handmade gifts as soon as you have them planned and supplies are gathered.
+ Make extra creamy mashed potatoes ahead of time and freeze in a larger freezer bag.
+ Pie crusts or cheesecakes can be made and frozen ahead of time.
+ Prepare the dinner rolls and freeze the unbaked dough (go through all of the recipe steps and stop before baking).
+ Cinnamon rolls can be frozen unbaked, you will just need to thaw them and allow them to rise before baking. You can also freeze them baked but not iced, just heat them up in the oven before icing.
+ Freeze french toast casserole by covering the pan of unbaked but full prepped casserole with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking.
+ Quiche can be completely cooked and then frozen, wrap in plastic and then aluminum foil.

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/your-epic-christmas-planning-guide-free.html

Section 3: Decorating
There is nothing like putting on some Christmas music (get an exclusive Christmas Spotify playlist in the workbook) and decorating the Christmas Tree and hanging stockings. I always loved pulling out ornaments one at a time with my mom and remembering the memories behind them before putting them on the tree. Now that I have my own home, I force Seth and William (kind of) to do the same.

Outside Decorating

Please, oh, please, do not be that neighbor with multicolored flashing lights that shine into your neighbor's home. Let's be classy, people. Unless you use your home as a Christmas lights tour destination, keep the flashing to a serious minimum if at all. Completely wrapping smaller trees always looks beautiful and be sure to also wrap your lamp post and/or mailbox. 

Create a beautiful and inviting front porch/step with a beautiful Christmas wreath, some greenery, and lights. Add some more unconventional colors, like bright green and pink and gold with some matte and some glitter colors. The fun colors and textures keep things inviting but fun. 

For More...
...check out my Pinterest board "outside Christmas decorating."

Inside Decorating

The Tree
Before adding your personal Christmas ornaments, fill the tree with Christmas ball ornaments. Mix the textures, some shiny, some matte, and some glittery. I personally have a set of bright colored ball ornaments and I love them. Be sure to place the ball ornaments into the center of the tree, by the trunk. This makes the tree look fuller. Keep lighter ornaments towards the top of the tree and the heavier at the bottom, where branches are typically thicker. 

Place the tree somewhere where it won't be completely in the way and in a spot where you still have room to place gifts under it. I love when you can see Christmas trees from the street so we will be putting ours by one of our front windows.

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, don't forget about the mantel. Drape a real or fake evergreen garland and be sure to add some color within it with fake holly berries, mini ornaments in an array of colors, or even with some fake snow or some glitter. Vary the heights of the decor as well to create some interest. I love those cone style decor Christmas trees which you can make or find in all kinds of different colors and patterns.

Give your furniture a Christmas update with Christmas-y throw pillows (like this one or this one) or throw blankets (like this).

The Table
I found this post on 10 Farmhouse Style Christmas Tablescapes and I am in love. I usually like a more eclectic approach to decorating, mixing modern with vintage, but I really love a few of those designs. Make or find a simple Christmas-y table runner (I know Target has some good options) and go crazy. Or go simple and put some tea lights in mason jars and wrap some greenery around the jars.

A complete guide to help you plan everything from Christmas dinner to what gifts you're giving. PLUS a free workbook with all of the lists and worksheets you need to make your Christmas EPIC http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/your-epic-christmas-planning-guide-free.html

Section 4: Gifting

Gifting Organization
Keep yourself organized by making a list of everyone who you would like to get a Christmas gift and then keep track of when the item has been bought and when it has been wrapped. In the workbook, I included a link to a handy Google Docs sheet for you to use for yourself.

Gift Ideas
It can be hard to narrow down ideas for what to get people. In the workbook, I've given you about a dozen gift ideas, some DIY and some not, but all are gifts that anyone would love to receive. If you still can't figure out what to get someone, consider getting a gift in someone's name that will go to help someone in another country. In the past, I've gotten a friend a dozen chickens that a family can use for food and to make money. My friend doesn't have to take care of the chickens, but she knows that that gift will help that family for years to come. In the past, I have given gifts from World Vision.  Here are some of my favorite gift ideas from World Vision:

+ Three ducks for $21
+ Share of a pig for $25

Don't forget to share a photo of your Christmas festivities and workbook using #littlecitychristmas

Inspirers | Hallie Darphin

This is part of my Inspirers series, interviews with women who are inspiring and rocking what they are doing! For more information on the series, click here. Be sure to add Little City Adventures to your Bloglovin' feed so you don't miss any of the Inspirers interviews.

Hallie is another awesome boss whom I met through the Being Boss Facebook group. When I heard of her company, Dot Products, I knew that I had to interview her: I love companies like hers! I hope you find her business story as inspirational and helpful as I do! Be sure to head on over to Dot to purchase some supplies that help others!

Q1: Tell us a little bit about your blog/brand/business.

My business, Dot Products, is a school supply company that funds education in Congo, Tanzania, and Mexico. With every product we sell, we fund half a day of school. Our goal is to provide opportunities for American students to positively change lives with their simple decisions and purchasing power. It’s in our name, actually. “Dot” stands for “Do One Thing” and it’s the idea that a person can make small decisions that have big, global, lasting impact.

Click To Tweet: "An interview from the founder of @dotforschools, a company that funds education in 3 countries. Via @abbybarstow."

Q2: What inspired you to start Dot Products?

In 2011, I took a semester off of college to live and work at a children’s home and school outside of Kampala, Uganda. While I was there, I met a young man named Disan. Though Disan was in sixth  grade, he was struggling to learn his multiplication tables (a third grade skill in America and Uganda). Through our conversations, I learned that Disan had been in and out of school often over the years, as his attendance depended on his parents’ ability to pay for basics like school supplies, tuition and other fees. In Uganda and many developing countries, there are fees associated with school and if you don’t have the resources to pay, you can’t attend. Disan had been attending our school (where he was sponsored through the organization) for six months and already he had started dreaming of a brighter future than the cycle he would have been stuck in. I came home after those three months determined to make a difference in the lives of students like Disan all over the world, and Dot Products was born. Our goal is to equip American students to make decisions that help other students around the world and eventually break the cycle of poverty in many of the most destitute countries. Clearly, it’s not a small or easy task and we won’t do it on our own, but it’s a worthwhile one that I’m so thankful to be called to (even on the hardest days!).

Q3: What can we find when we visit your blog?

During their time with Dot, our interns run the blog. They’re responsible for producing fun and quality content for our high school and college-aged readers (as well as for our young mom friends!). There (and throughout the entire website) you’ll find information on our sweet kiddos around the world, practical tips on how you can make small decisions that have big impact, as well as updated on the latest Dot information, whether that be new products or partnerships or future trips where you can come and meet our students!

Q4: What is the design process like for your products?

We work with really great American companies and designers, as well as a fantastic Haitian team, to produce the highest quality and most appealing school supplies on the market. I wanted our designs on the original Dot Line to be clean, classic, and customizable, accentuating the recycled materials that make up all our products except our journals. We worked with local Mississippi designers to design the product line you see on the website today!

Q5: Where are your products made? What is the manufacturing process and how did you set it up?

Because we work with different manufacturers, it looks different in each case. Our Haiti partnership is probably our most exciting adventure yet. In May, I had the opportunity to visit But God Ministries in Galette Chambon, Haiti. We’ve partnered with a man named Nathan there whose goal is to start a sew school to teach and employ local women. Currently, Nathan sews our Haitian Pencil Cases in the sewing factory where he works. All of the pieces of each bag are able to be sourced in Haiti (a big deal for us and the Haitian economy). We sat down with him when I was in Haiti and brainstormed on what these bags could look like. We ended up settling on the exterior being the rice bags that Haitians use to carry food. Haitian schools, in the area where we work, wear different colored gingham for their uniforms, so the inside is lined with gingham that matches the different schools that we will work with in the future.

Q6: On your website you detail your business plan and vision. Can you outline it briefly for my readers? How are you doing with your goals currently? Do you find it helpful that you have made a vision so far into the future?

Of course! Long-term, we see Dot being an integral part of breaking the cycle of poverty for the students and organizations we work with around the world. We really hope to help families rise above poverty by empowering students with the education they need to become the wise leaders their countries desperately need (America too!). We also hope to empower American students with free cash flows to see their money as buying power to change the world.

We have a pretty specific long-term vision plan for the future (that is also constantly shaping and changing. I probably need to update the website a little!) I had the opportunity to work for an incredible non-profit organization before Dot and it gave me the opportunity to see the importance of planning ahead. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!” We have big goals, so we need a big plan to make sure those happen. I am a big picture person. (Plus, I’m only 23!) Details can get overwhelming, but when I can look at the plan and make decisions based on whether or not a choice aligns with the plan, it’s easier to know which opportunities to take and which ones to pass on!

Q7: How many employees do you have in your company?

Currently, I’m the only full-time employee. We have an incredible team of local college student interns and volunteers throughout the year, and then we provide contract work for Nathan, our artisan from Haiti, through But God Ministries.

Q8: What type of business is Dot Products? A for-profit charity? A non-profit? Something else?

We are a social enterprise, set up in the form of an LLC. We chose to be a for-profit business because we believe sustainability is key for longterm health of the company and the health of the countries/organizations we work with. That’s also why we chose to provide education funding instead of using the One-For-One model and giving school supplies to our partners.

Q9: What does your normal workday look like?

I’m still kind of figuring that out for myself! My office is one of my very favorite spaces. It’s in a new co-working/ministry space of sorts in downtown Jackson, MS. One of my new best friends works for a non-profit in the office next door and we spend a lot of time brainstorming about projects and vision for both of our organizations. I typically get to the office around 8:45, check email and work on any projects for the day. Interns come in and out throughout the day and I’m working with them on their different projects, social media, and our partnerships. We’ve worked to make our space one that people can stop by as they wish, so we’ll have visitors throughout the day. I’ll have meetings with people about upcoming events and future partnerships and projects. When we’re about to launch a new product, I spend a good bit of time brainstorming on design and talking with different people about what that will look like. We also do custom journals for companies and organizations that need bulk promotional materials. (We just finished a project with Google.[!!]) When we have a project like that going on, I’m in pretty constant communication with our printer, designers, and the organizations we’re working with.

Q10: What are you currently working on? Any fun new projects you can tell us about?

We just ended our first real back-to-school season, so we’re doing a lot of evaluating and processing and developing of what the future of Dot Products will look like. The project that I’m probably most excited about is a our first Dot Partner Trip that we’ll be inviting the Dot Community on! We’ll be taking a group to Haiti next summer to work with educators in schools there and working on telling the story of Nathan and our sewing group in the country. We’re so excited to be opening up the invitation to educators, college students and creatives (photographers, writers, and videographers) to enable people to see where they can use their God-given skills to give-back around the world. Keep checking social media for more information!

For more from Hallie and Dot Products, follow them on social media:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Twitter

Recipe | Crockpot Cozy Cider

One of my favorite fall drinks is apple cider. Hot or cold. With caramel or with cinnamon. With rum or without rum (but mostly with, am I right?!) Especially when it's cold outside, cozying up with a warm cup of hot apple cider is just perfect.

I've decided to kick the normal hot apple cider up a notch by adding orange juice, cranberries, fresh ginger, and more yumminess.

Throw everything in a crockpot and forget about it for a couple of hours while you prepare the rest of your holiday festivities. As soon as your guests arrive, serve them a mug full and they will immediately feel right at home. It's one of those drinks that warms you all the way down to your toes. Even though I hate snow, I can't wait to make a batch of this on the first snow day.

Crockpot Cozy Cider
Yields: 16-20 servings

1 gallon apple cider
10 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 - 2 cups orange juice
2 Tbsp whole cloves
heaping 1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger
1 apple, cut into rounds or wedges
1/2 - 3/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 Tbsp apple pie spice, or to taste

1. Place all of the ingredients into a crockpot. Cook on low for four hours or until hot all the way through, stir a few times every hour or so. Keep the crockpot on the "warm" setting to serve.

2. Optionally, you can use a small fine mesh strainer to strain out the cloves, cinnamon sticks, etc.

3. To serve: Top with cranberries, cinnamon sticks, cinnamon, and/or apple pie spice. Place an orange or apple slice on the rim.

5 Ways to Make Your Husband Feel Loved During the Day

5 ways to make your husband feel loved during the day -- especially while he's at work. From sweet to saucy to helpful, these 5 things are sure to make him feel loved! http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/5-ways-to-make-your-husband-feel-loved.html

1. Leave him a note in his lunch
My mom used to leave my brother and I notes in our lunch box when we were in elementary school, telling us she loved us and encouraged us if we had a big test or friend problems. This idea totally translates into marriage. Your note can be as simple as "I love you" or you could write a long love letter. No matter what, your husband will feel loved. One of my favorite things to do is write a cheesy and cute pick-up line and put it in his lunch. Something like:

If you were a vegetable you would be a cute-cumber.
If you were a booger, I'd pick you first.
If kisses were snowflakes, I'd send you a blizzard.
You're so sweet you're giving me cavities.
Me without you is like a nerd without braces, a shoe without laces, and asentencewithoutspaces.
Want to know what's on the menu tonight? Me-n-u.
Can I borrow a kiss? I promise I'll give it back.
You are so sweet you could put Hershey's out of business.

2. Send him a flirty text
Ladies, we need to flirt more with our husbands. If you were still dating, what would you text him? Text him that now. Go! Do it! It can be sweet or a little saucy and if you're really daring, there's nothing wrong with sending your hubby a teasing little photo (as long as you know that no one else has access to his phone and I suggest being tasteful about it because phones are connected to the internet). Just send him something that will make him work a little faster and get home a little sooner.

3. Surprise him for lunch
If your husband has a regular lunch hour, slip on a cute little dress and do up your hair and makeup and surprise him with his favorite lunch! Be sure to subtly ask if he has his normal lunch that day, you don't want to get there only for him to be stuck in a meeting for an hour, or longer.

4. Have dinner ready when he gets home
If you create a routine of always having dinner ready for him when he gets home from a long day at work, it will take one more thing off of his mind while he's at work. It sounds simple but it really will make a huge difference in his day.

5. Get up early 
Wake up earlier than you normally do and pack his lunch, make him breakfast, and take care of the kids so he can have a break before a stressful day at work. 

What do you do to make your husband feel loved even when he's at work?

*photo by Kent Mast

Coming Soon: Moms' Night Out

An epic night out for moms is coming to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in February! Sign up to be notified when tickets go on sale and receive an exclusive discount! http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/coming-soon-moms-night-out.html

Over the last year or so I've really been thinking about where I want to go with Little City Adventures. One of the main ideas on my heart for my brand has been to connect face to face with other moms (even though I'm 100% an introvert) and I've had ideas floating around in my head for awhile now for how to do this and always came up with excuses for why I should wait or why I shouldn't do it at all. 

No more excuses. I've booked a venue and sent out emails, the first Little City Adventures event is happening! I already have a handful of sponsors on board, donating swag bag gifts or raffle prizes (Weleda, Babyganics, and Mary Kay to name a few)

Moms' Night Out is going to be a beautiful and epic night for moms to just relax and get to know women in similar life stages. I AM SO EXCITED. And like I said, I am a serious introvert, with an anxiety disorder that gets worse in social situations, but God has me all chill and excited for this because I know that this is something He has planned for me to do; to reach out and connect with other mamas. 

So What Will The Evening Include?
I am still working out details and I'm meeting with the venue/caterer on Wednesday morning to talk about the menu, but basically, here's how the night will look:

        - a delicious plated dinner
        - a fun craft for you to make and then take home
        - a photo booth/photo area
        - raffle prizes
        - EPIC swag bags
        - and a dessert buffet

I don't want to reveal too much information yet, but the venue is in Downtown Lancaster, PA and it's a really cool, unique space with a trendy cafe vibe. I am probably most excited for the swag bags, they will be full of so much fun stuff, some sample sizes and some full sized, but all are from companies that I believe moms and women, in general, will love! I will not include items in the swag bags unless they fit with my vibe and if I think that you will actually enjoy using the products.

What Will It Cost? Do I Need To Get Tickets Ahead of Time?
After I have the menu planned, I will be able to sit down and work out the exact cost per person and then the ticket price. But I can promise you that it will not be more than $100. I'm hoping I'll be able to price them around $75, but that is subject to change since I have yet to plan the menu. 

You will need to purchase the tickets ahead of time and if you sign up for email updates, you will be the first to know when tickets go on sale AND you will receive a special discounted price. There will be a limited number of tickets available so you don't want to miss out on this amazing event. If more people wish to buy tickets than there are available, I will have a wait list in case someone cannot make it at the last minute.

What About Non-Moms?
I've already been asked this question when I was gaging interest and getting advice from fellow entrepreneurs. I don't want to exclude anyone, but my brand is focused towards women, with wives and moms being the majority of that group. Obviously I am not going to turn you away if I find out that you don't have kids, you are more than welcome to come, but know that I am marketing the event towards moms and the gifts and craft will mainly consist of items that moms would appreciate (BTW, not all of the products in the swag bag/raffle are "baby" products, there's stuff for every area of a mom's life (like the Mary Kay products my friend Cindy donated, they are perfect for relaxing)). Basically, all women are welcome but the event is geared mainly towards mamas.

Sign Up For Updates
Sign up to receive email updates about the event (like when I get new sponsors or nail down the florist, etc.) and behind the scene peeks AND be notified when tickets go on sale (and receive a special discount, exclusive to the email list subscribers). Signing up for the list does not mean that you are committing to buying tickets, it just means that you're cool and want more info on this nifty event.

Moms' Night Out Email List Button

I cannot wait to share more details when tickets go on sale. Seriously you guys, it's going to be EPIC.

P.S. Are you an artist, small business owner, big business owner? Interested in sponsoring this event? Send me an email to littlecityadventures@gmail.com and I'll send you more information about becoming a sponsor (or donating items for the swag bags or raffle prizes).

P.P.S. If the button above is not working, click here to join the email list.

Blog Tour

Check out www.littlecityadventures.com's brand new design http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/blog-tour_11.html

Welcome to the shiny and new, MIND BLOWING Little City Adventures. I am in love with the new site design and branding, don't you just love it?! It's girly and fresh and clean and just pretty.

I found the theme on Creative Market and completely changed it (with some help from my coding expert friends Morgan and Sadaf) to make it totally unique and beautiful.

As far as content goes, you won't see a huge shift, I am just going to be more intentional about what I post. My goal with Little City Adventures is to help women grow the happy and healthy homes that God desires for them. There will be more posts on marriage and faith (mostly starting in the New Year) and home decor.

Check out www.littlecityadventures.com's brand new design http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/blog-tour_11.html

Check out www.littlecityadventures.com's brand new design http://www.littlecityadventures.com/2015/11/blog-tour_11.html

I have done tons of reading and research and contemplating and I have verses to keep in mind when not only coming up with content for the blog but also for living my life.

A few of my go-to verses (especially when it comes to brainstorming content ideas for my brand) include:

"Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." Titus 2:4-5
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4-5 
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own... Corinthians 6:19 

Is there anything in those topics that you would like to learn more about in the topics I've mentioned?

Inspirers | Angela Elliot Wingard

This is part of my Inspirers series, interviews with women who are inspiring and rocking what they are doing! For more information on the series, click here. Be sure to add Little City Adventures to your Bloglovin' feed so you don't miss any of the Inspirers interviews.

I "met" Angela through the Being Boss Facebook Group (this is a great group if you are a creative entrepreneur) and I am so glad we connected! She is a fantastic photographer and great graphic designer, she has worked with some amazing brands and has some great insight for those of you interested in photography and design. At the time of this interview, Angela had just relaunched her amazing site, so be sure to head over and give her some love!

Q1: Tell us a little bit about your blog/brand/business.

I'm a Graphic Designer and Photographer based in Atlanta. I do everything from branding and website to wedding photography and invitations. Since 2007, I have been lucky to design for many companies such as Cocoa-Cola, Sunoco, Rukket Sports, Body Design Personal Training, Amanda Adams and her AA Bikini Body Program, and non-profits like Jeffrey Fashion Cares, She is Safe, and Ink 4 Pink. Being a pretty diverse photographer, I've shot everything from weddings in Mexico to fitness shoots for Oxygen Magazine. My work has been featured in publications and digital mediums such as Oxygen Magazine, Fitness X Magazine, BodyBuilding.com, BLU Magazine, Daily Candy, Creative Loafing Atlanta, INK Atlanta, and PRICK Magazine to name a few.

I've been balancing a full-time job and a side freelance business for about 5 years. I always get tons of questions about it and have decided to start sharing my knowledge of spinning lots of plates at the same time with those eager to learn more. My ultimate goal is to help fellow female entrepreneurs launch their dream businesses. I'd also LOVE to host workshops and teach creatives about business strategy and execution.

Q2: What can we find when we visit your blog?

Well, I actually just completely redid my website and (gulp) started my blog from complete scratch. I felt like I had strayed so far from what I wanted it to be that I started completely over. But what you will find is a mixture of my work, my processes, my tools, and tips for fellow entrepreneurs on everything from pricing,  productivity tips, and marketing strategies, as well as links to other posts that are helpful to my readers. We’re all just trying to carve out a little piece of the pie for ourselves and I think there’s plenty of knowledge and experience to go around. The creative community has become so much more transparent (and supportive) in the past 3-4 years. If I could have gone somewhere 8 years ago to see someone else’s battles and struggles in doing it all, it would have been so helpful. I want my blog to be a part of that movement and share my past 8 years of experience of working a full-time job and building a successful side hustle business. The good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Q3: Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on recently?

My rebrand and website re-launch. I’ve probably redone my website almost 3x behind the scenes in the past several years. I kept changing my mind of what I wanted. Then last week after about 6 months of dedicated work, I released it and got some overwhelming love about it. It's my baby at the moment and I couldn’t be prouder. And now I’m enjoying updating all my collateral, workbooks, and paper products to reflect the new brand.  

Q4: Where do you find design and photography inspiration? 

I have my hero's in both professions and am obsessed with their content and tips. Jasmine Star is my idol in every way for photography. I feel like we would just be besties. My work is different than hers in regards to framing and lighting. But something about her photos and writing just snaps me out of a funk and get me inspired. And I’m OBSESSED with the Being Boss Podcast. It has literally changed my entire outlook on my life and my business and has brought me back to my roots in design theory. But honestly, inspiration is everywhere in your daily life if you pay attention. 

An interview with photographer and graphic designer Angela Elliot! This is a MUST READ for anyone in the photography or design fields and for creative entrepreneurs in general!

Q5: What does your normal workday look like?

Because I have a pretty demanding full-time job and several retainer clients on my side hustle, I have to prioritize my day pretty efficiently. For the past several years, I started my day by checking my emails on my phone. It's pretty much the worst possible way to start your day and I always felt pressured and overwhelmed before I had even had my coffee! So I made it a point this summer to walk my dog every morning before I started my day. I grab my coffee, listen to the Being Boss Podcast or some music, and walk my pup for 20 minutes. It has literally changed the way I approach my day now. I’m relaxed and have some time to mentally think of my to-do list before having to sit at my computer. 

From there, I usually work a full day then hit the gym. Most people ask how I can motivate myself to go to the gym (I’m kind of a gym rat) after work but honestly after sitting at a computer all day, my body NEEDS to move around and sweat a little. Then I usually make dinner, do some freelance work, watch something on DVR then rinse and repeat!

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An interview with photographer and graphic designer Angela Elliot! This is a MUST READ for anyone in the photography or design fields and for creative entrepreneurs in general!

Q6: How do you balance married life amongst a busy schedule?

Work life balance is hard enough, but really balancing all of it is tough! Social life, self-care, work, “dream” work and your relationship….you just have to prioritize. We try to do a date night once a week. A date night can be getting dressed up and going out to a restaurant and a movie or ordering pizza and renting a movie. But we try to have one night a week that's just ours. Especially because we don’t have kids yet, we really try to appreciate and be in the moment of our time together. My husband and I both travel quite a bit for work, so not seeing each other all week makes us really want to enjoy our weekends together and prioritize date night. 

Q7: What is your education background and how does it (or how doesn't it) play into your career today?

I have a BFA in Graphic Communications and a double minor in Marketing and Art History. Minoring in Marketing was something a few of my classmates and I did just for the hell of it because we thought it would be valuable to have as graphic designers. It was something that had never been done before at our university, but the Dean of the Art Program saw the value in it and they created a special minor for Art Majors to learn a bit more about business, which is pretty awesome. 

You certainly don’t have to have a college degree to be successful at being a creative entrepreneur or artist…but it certainly helps. Not only do you spend extensive time learning theory and why people do the things they do in the various mediums, but you also learn collaboration and working with timelines. The most valuable thing you’ll get out of it though is surviving through Critiques. Anyone who’s been through art school can tell you how painful Critique was in college. But it's absolutely vital. You have to be able to take constructive criticism. You have to be able to give constructive criticism. And you have to be able to decipher what's garbage and what's actually constructive….all while not taking it so personally that it ruins your day/week/life. It's really hard to hear your beautiful piece of work being ripped to shreds, but if you’re doing commissioned work, you’ll develop a thicker skin for it and be that much more able to handle the real world. 

Q8: What tips do you have for photographers looking to up their game by starting their own business?

1 - Start shooting everything and everyone. Literally. Start playing with your camera and learn everything you can about it. Read the manual. Learn to operate it with your eyes closed and how to shoot in different environments. All that practice will eventually start to lay out what you like to shoot most. For me, it was people and animals with a photo-journalistic approach. I get inquiries for weddings where the bride wants a super posey, high fashion sort of look. And that is just not my style so I send them to friends of mine who are better suited for what they’re wanting. I learned through practicing that I liked capturing moments you didn’t realize happened. That's why I like Fitness and Sports especially. And for weddings and portraits, it's the laughter and emotion that's captured. You can’t bring that out in a posed photograph. 

2 - Don’t go and buy a studio’s worth of expensive equipment right off the bat. There're so many places to rent online now, cheaper than they were 5-6 years ago. You can rent a $3,000 lens for like $30. I’ve known so many budding photographers who feel like they need to “look the part” and own all this fancy gear when they first start off. I mean if you can afford it, more power to you. But certainly don’t go into a ton of debt over it. Renting starts to let you see what you like and don’t like. Once you fall in love with certain lenses/bodies, THEN go purchase it. I bought a fisheye lens in college because I “thought” I would use it all the time for scenic and landscape photos. I think I used it once before I sold it. #whatadummy

An interview with photographer and graphic designer Angela Elliot! This is a MUST READ for anyone in the photography or design fields and for creative entrepreneurs in general!

Q9: What tips do you have for designers/photographers/etc who want to pitch their services to bigger brands?

A bigger brand/company can be beneficial in a lot of ways (hello bigger budgets). But just make sure you’re ready from a bandwidth and personal perspective to handle it before you take it on. 
  • Don’t let your other “smaller” clients fall by the wayside because you get consumed with working on that super-famous brand. 
  • Sometimes a larger company means more resources on a project - the more people to hold you accountable day today and follow up with. It could also mean collaborating with others on a project that you would normally lead and execute yourself. So I would just make sure you understand the requirements of a project fully so you’re not blindsided on a project after it starts on something that's really important to you (like owning a project from A-Z). 
  • DO NOT fall for the “free exposure” bit either. I know you’re thinking, “it's such a big brand, think of what it could do for my resume!” Yeah…they know that too. So decide up front what you are and are not willing to do just to have this brand on your resume. I vote for the get paid route for you, but that just me. Because I promise you, anyone who’s heard the “we’ll give you great exposure” line would probably tell you it wasn’t worth the headache in the end. 

Q10: What are you currently working on? Any fun new projects you can tell us about? 

For Design - I’m working with two amazing ladies who have started a marketing and communications agency with a focus on the movie industry in LA and I’m loving their branding we’re doing and the direction we’re headed. They have such an amazing resume between the two of them and I love their vision of breaking off from the big dogs in Hollywood to start their own business (#GirlPower). 
For Photography - I’m about to shoot my first Trash The Dress session next month and am so excited about it. The bride and groom are such good sports and I think we’ll have a lot of fun. My husband and I shot their wedding this summer but with that Georgia heat, we decided to push their trash the dress to the fall when it was cooler weather. 

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