high five for friday

1. my sister and i had a very successful cyber monday sale at elisabeth ashlie. we love our customers!
2. the tree is up and decorated! and the garland is almost always slightly moved every time i take a closer look at it. i blame those two furry guys that live with me.
3. my relationship is finally facebook official...which obviously means that it's serious. but, really. i have a boyfriend for the first time in years. i kinda like it.
4. milo & otis are almost always within arms reach of me. i think they like me. or being pet constantly. maybe both.
5. i showed my Duke love all day on wednesday and it paid off with a huge win against ohio state!

how was your week? link up below and tell me about it!

a few of my favorite things

top: zara / leggings: gap / necklace: madewell / boots: target

i realized after i took these photos that i'm wearing all of my favorite things in my wardrobe right now. also, i've rediscovered the color black. for years, i would shy away from wearing anything black. i think it was a combination of the fact that it usually shows every little speck of lint (and being a cat owner, you better believe i'm almost always covered in cat hair) and i felt like it was harsh on my skin. i don't know if it's the darker hair or just a plain old change of heart, but i find myself reaching for black more often than not when picking out something to wear. odd, i tell you.

note: after reading yesterday's post, you should not be surprised by where all of these items are from. eh. 


i'm obviously no stranger to shopping. in fact, i kinda like doing it. i also realized that i tend to shop at certain stores for certain things. i'm going to go ahead and blame my organizationed, type A personality and the fact that i'm apparently afraid of variety.
left to right: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
1 / 2 / 3
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

see what i mean? oh well, it works for me. and it makes shopping a whole lot easier because i can usually depend on these stores to deliver. 

other slightly less dependable and/or too-expensive-to-buy-a-lot-there favorites: urban outfitters, anthropologie, von maur, marshall's, j crew 

GIVEAWAY // crave jewels

is that necklace beautiful, or what? today's giveaway comes from i crave jewels. one lucky winner will get a necklace just like it! use the giveaway tool below to enter to win!

use code LAUREN10 to receive 10% off + always free shipping

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make-up talk

i've had some readers ask about the make-up products that i use on a daily basis, so i thought i'd share with you! i swear by MAC foundation and covergirl mascara. and, being that i'm a mark. rep, it kinda makes sense that i use a lot of their products too. you can shop mark. products here

and these photos were taken when i still had blonde hair! but, you get the picture.

GIVEAWAY // head to toe chic

today's giveaway comes from angela of head to toe chic.

she's giving one lucky reader this fabulous Loft necklace:

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high five for friday

1. mildly obsessed with my new madewell lace top.
2. a perfect view on an early morning flight home.
3. bacon + apple sauce. too good.
4. reminded of what i'm thankful for.
5. milo likes to take naps in piles of clothes.

how was your week? link up below and tell me about it!

give thanks.

is anyone else totally weirded out that it's already thanksgiving? i mean, really, the holiday season is now halfway over. whaaaaat? i'm looking forward to eating lots of good food and spending time with people that i tend to kind of like, although i do really wish that my sister and bro-in-law were here with us. they're with my bro-in-law's family...something about keeping it fair and sharing the holidays between the two families. shenanigans, i tell you.

i'm thankful for a lot of things, but these in particular, today:
- god's grace and provision. and the fact that he knows exactly what i need and when i need it. always.
- white chocolate mocha's from starbucks. yep, went there.
- family. friends. my roommate. and a special dude.
- my cats...although i feel like this one should go without saying.
- the fact that i'm graduating in just a few short months!
- new opportunities.
- gap's skinny jeans. because i wear them almost daily.
- netflix.
...and this list could go on for days.

no matter what, i'm thankful for this life that i have been given. for the experiences that i've had and the memories that make up a life. i hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, and happy thanksgiving.

oh, and i'm thankful for you, the one reading this right now. for allowing me to do something that i really, really love.

blog scoop: getting a blog design

in my opinion, one of the essential elements of a blog (or any website) is the design of it. it should be aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, and reflective of the writer(s). much like personal appearance, the design of your blog can give your reader an inside peek into who you are and what you like. 

think about it: store websites like anthropologie and j crew reflect their brand beautifully. j crew's website design is classic, even down to the colors, or lack thereof. while on the other hand, anthro's is a bit more whimsical and intriguing, but still easy to navigate. although different, they each allow the customer to have an online shopping experience similar to one they have in-stores. 

much like that, your blog design should reflect you. if you love the color green, include it somewhere in your design. if you have a thing for glitter, show off some glitter. shoot, if you love cats, have a cat somewhere (that just gave me a great idea...) but, no matter what, make sure that your design is true to who you are and what you write about, because it's the first thing that people will notice when they go to your website.

my blog design has changed hands a couple times since blogging. my first official design was done by a graphic artist i found on etsy, and looked like this:

i loved this one, but eventually wanted a change and something that was a bit more me. i worked with michele, of diesel & juice and she gave me a beautiful custom design that i was mildly obsessed with. but, as with everything else, i was eventually ready for a change and wanted to try my hand at doing my own design. thanks to photoshop elements, many hours, many google searches, and a few other helpful bloggers, my current design was put together. it's not perfect, but it's perfect for me. and the best part is that i can change any elements about it whenever i want/need to, which was why it was so important to me to do it myself. and it saved a couple bucks, too. 

so, you say "that's great, but i don't have photoshop and i don't know the first thing about HTML code or any design elements". i hear ya, trust me. for those of you that have learned HTML code, i salute you. i know enough to navigate a simple design, but definitely don't know it like the pros do.

here's a few resources for you if you're looking to get a blog design:
- the cutest blog on the block: free blogger templates and blog elements
- etsy: there are tons of graphic designers and pre-made templates
- royal daughter designs: amanda is currently advertising with me and makes beautiful blog designs/elements
- yours truly designs: chelsea is another advertiser that makes beautiful designs
- google. no, seriously. i can't tell you how many times i googled things like "how do i make my own header in blogger", "how do i move the date header", "how do i add custom tabs", "how do i keep asking so many questions"...oh, wait. not that last one.
- your blogger template. there's a lot you can do without even loading a design. go to "template", "customize", and manipulate any of the elements. you can change colors, fonts, width, layout, date, etc. if you're afraid to do it on your own blog, create a "test" blog and mess around with it on there until you find something you want on your blog.

if you know of any other resources or designers, please leave a comment so that others can know about it, too :)

holiday gift guide

don't know what to get for your sister or best friend this holiday season? here's a couple of ideas:

1. dotted gloves, madewell, $35
2. locked in studs, kate spade, $48
3. 'get it done' notepad, anthropologie, $10
4. printed makeup pouch, j. crew, $25
5. iPhone backup battery, j. crew, $39.50
6. woodpecker candle holder, target, $14.99
7. hedgehog measuring cups, anthropologie, $36
8. Q&A a day book, anthropologie, $16.99
9. voluspa candle, nordstrom, $16

touch of serendipity giveaway

today's giveaway comes from the lovely Ragan of touch of serendipity.
seriously how cute is she?!

she's giving away this beautiful handmade bracelet to one lucky winner!

all you have to do is follow her blog and/or like her page on facebook! simple enough, right?
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yellow heart art giveaway

today's giveaway comes from the lovely yellow heart art. if you haven't seen Leonora's work before, go check it out! i love preeeeeety much everything. and she's also pretty hilarious, so you should follow her on twitter or something. here's what she's giving away to one lucky reader:

three 4x6 cardstock prints:

AND a pre-made logo design from her shop here.

fine print: total value of giveaway: $85, US residents only please :) people can also use code "GRAYDESKFREE" for free shipping on US orders, expires Nov. 25th 2012

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high five for friday

1. my sister is skilled at many things. knowing the lyrics to songs is not one of them.
2. cats.
3. made PW's sugar cookies earlier this week. so good.
4. wore my favorite scarf (from world market) and cat necklace.
5. otis likes to accompany me while i do my morning quiet time. obviously, i love it. also, i'm going through Beth Moore's "Mercy Triumphs" bible study and i'm really enjoying it. so, if you're in the market, you should check it out.

my mom gets in town today for a long weekend!

how was your week? link up below and tell me about it.

homemade chili

it's chili season, folks. do you hear that? those tiny cheers from frito's and cornbread mixes all across the land that finally get to serve their god-given purpose. or at least, their most important purpi (plural for purpose? or is that purposes?). either way, they're happy and i'm happy, so it's a win-win.

chili is probably one of the easiest things to make, if i had to guess. you can substitute the beef for turkey or whatever else floats your chili-in-a-frito boat. (i just LOL'd at myself...that's never a good sign.)

here's the recipe i use:

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
dash pepper
16 oz (2 cups) can stewed tomatoes
8 oz (1 cup) can tomato sauce
16 oz can kidney beans, partially drained [or another bean that you prefer, just not jelly beans]

in large skillet, brown ground beef, onion and celery; drain excess fat. stir in remaining ingredients except beans. simmer covered for 30-45 minutes until flavors are blended. stir in beans, heat through.

makes 6 servings. which, if you live in my apartment, will probably be eaten in 2 days. good luck.

p.s. i just had an intervention with myself and will no longer allow myself to write after consuming too much sugar cookie dough. i get a little out of hand. apologies all around.

ivy lane accessories giveaway

today's giveaway comes from the lovely ivy lane accessories. if you haven't been to Gina's shop before, check it out. she makes some of the cutest earrings ever, really. two lucky winners will get to choose two of their favorite pairs of earrings! doesn't get much better than that.

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fall is back

jeans: Gap // long sleeve: J Crew (similar) // sweater: Loft (similar) // shoes: Minnetonka (similar)

so, depending on where you live, you've maybe experienced a bit of the indian summer that we've been having here in north carolina. yesterday, it got up to about 75. which is kind of hard to complain about because it was beautiful but i'm definitely ready to pull out my long sleeves and sweaters for good. today, it's supposed to be a brisk 55 (yes, i realize that i'm soft now, seeing as it snowed in the midwest yesterday. sue me. actually, don't. i can't afford it.).

either way, i'm happy for the cooler weather and that thanksgiving is just a little over a week away! which is crazy. can i get an amen?

DC via my iPhone

kate and i got back from DC last night. we had so much fun exploring the city and walking around. we saw the "sights", including the white house, washington monument, and the smithsonian museum of natural history. we walked around georgetown (which we loved) and ate more food than either of us thought possible. on sunday, we headed over to old town alexandria (in virginia) to walk around and do a little boutique shopping. we instantly fell in love with the quaint downtown area and i'm pretty convinced i could live there. it was so beautiful.

among the exploring, we had our share of funny moments. like when we got a little confused on the metro and ended pretty deep into maryland. or when i asked kate if she had any "earballs" (um...what?). or when we were stranded at the metro station waiting for our hotel shuttle to come pick us up and we started line dancing and singing a song that both of us no longer remember.

overall, it was another successful sister trip. i'm pretty happy to have a sister i like hanging out with on the regular. and one that likes cupcakes just as much as i do.

high five for friday

1. turns out, my sister has been doing my hair for a long time. like, since perms were cool. (or were they never cool and i just thought they were?)
2. tiny spades. i couldn't resist.
3. made my grandpa's homemade chili the other day. i forgot how much i love it. so, i'll obviously be making it too much this winter.
4. some of the girls from the madewell event that my sis and i hosted the other night. it was so fun! full post about it to come next week!
5. i like to call this the snore pile. also, the cutest thing i've ever seen.

kate and i are headed to DC today for the weekend! if you have any last minute suggestions of things we need to see, let me know! {or tweet me: @lauren_fmgd}

how was your week? link up below and tell me about it!

i need your help!

my sister and i are headed to DC tomorrow for a little girl's weekend. neither of us have ever been before and we're really looking forward to exploring the city. but, before that fun can happen, i have to pack. and i hate packing. like, a lot. mostly because i always over-pack because i don't know what kind of mood i'm going to be in and what i'm going to wear. and, i don't know about you, but i'm pretty sure clothes change during travel and look/fit different every single time. 

so, i need your help! which outfits do you like? 

side note: that giraffe print skirt is bananas (another side note: i'm actively trying to add that word to my regular vocabulary). i picked it up from madewell yesterday and pretty much want to wear it every day. and i'm pretty sure it was made for my body...it fits like a glove. i have a feeling this is just the beginning of a slightly unhealthy relationship with an article of clothing. 

blog scoop: getting sponsors

so, you've started your blog and feel like you're ready to start accepting sponsors but have no idea where to begin. if i had to guess, i'd say about 97% of bloggers with advertisers have been exactly where you are right now. so, don't worry, you're not alone. 

when i started my blog, i was in a unique position because my sister was just in the beginning phases of blowing up on pinterest. she would refer to me and link to my blog, which directed a lot of traffic to it. my page views were crazy for a beginner blogger but i knew that i had to have interesting content if i wanted to sustain the little thing and keep people around. once i grew a little more, i put out a "call for sponsors", if you will, and had some people respond! i was so excited! 

i think my first ad rate was $10/month, but it's increased significantly since then. here's a few tips i have for you:

- if you think you're ready to start accepting sponsors, you probably are. there's not a specific number of followers or page views that says "you're ready". you just kind of feel it. 

- before you let people know that you're accepting sponsors, draft a post or e-mail that let's people know why they should advertise on your blog. provide some numbers and some value-added information -- what will they get out of advertising on your site, besides traffic to their own site. will you feature each new sponsor? will you give them shout-outs on twitter/facebook, etc.?

- a great way to start advertising is to "swap" with other bloggers that have a similar following to you. find them through weekly link-ups (insert shameless promo for my High Five for Friday posts here) or through other bloggers that you follow. once you find some that you think could work, send them an e-mail and see if they'd swap buttons with you, which is where you put each other's butttons/ads on your sidebar and advertise for each other. it's a great way to gain some street cred (wait...is that a thing in the blog world?) with other bloggers and to possibly get some people that are willing to pay for advertising! 

- you don't need to have sponsors on your blog. it's not a requirement. only do it if you're interested in it. and you also don't need to get paid. if you don't like that, don't do it. it's 100% up to the blogger because, well, it's your blog. do what you want to do and how you want to do it. 

- once you think you're ready to accept paying sponsors, create a media sheet that outlines your total page views, followers on social media, rss subscribers, etc. for me, if i was going to pay someone to have my ad on their website, i would want to know what to expect to get from it. numbers can help with that.

if you're interested in using an ad management website, i recommend passionfruit ads. i started using it about a month ago and love it! it makes life so much easier! 

the crossover

pants: Gap // white top: Lucky Brand  // chambray: J Crew (similar) // booties: Kohl's

i bought these pants at gap the other day and a little part of me died. i've been pretty outspoken about my loathing of jeggings since the day i heard about them.

wait...they're jeans that are like leggings but they have pockets and a zipper like jeans but they look like leggings? why not just wear jeans? or leggings? and do you really have to call them jeggings?! 

i think you get the picture. i specifically remember telling my mom that she wasn't allowed to wear them...mostly because of the name and partly because i thought they were weird. well, here we are months later and i'm wearing jeggings. that tiny part of me that died just rolled over in it's grave. i can also pretty much guarantee that i'll get a reaction of "oh, now jeggings are okay to wear. what about when i wanted to buy them before and you wouldn't let me? i see how it is" from my mom.

here's to happily riding on the jeggings train and not looking back. and to hot chocolate, because it just makes everything better.

stella & dot giveaway

i don't know about you, but i love the jewelry from stella & dot. i mean, love. it's feminine, versatile, and perfect for just about any occasion. i particularly love these rose gold pyramid studs:

do you love them, too? well, it's your lucky day! one lucky winner will win a pair of these earrings and a $20 gift certificate to Kristen's e-boutique. use the giveaway tool below to enter!

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high five for friday

1. got into the halloween spirit by carving pumpkins with my roommate and sister.
2. pretty things, i like 'em.
3. tiny kittens! eeeeeeep. i wish the boys were still that small.
4. still loving my ombré hair and getting used to being a brunette.
5. sister and i at the duke game last night!

how has your week been? link up below and tell me about it!

currently loving

mint & peach

Equipment blouse / Lace shirt / 7 For All Mankind skinny jeans / Short shorts / Teardrop necklace / Kate Spade jewelry / Janis By Janis Savitt stud earrings / Pieces circle scarve, $17 / Eos nivea lip care, $16

i dont' know about you guys, but i kind of love this color combination. i'm a sucker for pastels, especially mint. and that lace top? are you kidding? i'm in love.

also, if you love that teardrop necklace, my girl carrie of caroline g sells them HERE and she's offering a facebook deal on her fan page HERE.