blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: August 2015

August 29, 2015

Organized Bags at every size and price

After mentioning my ideal school/hospital bag in my post about back-to-school shopping, a lot of you wanted more recommendations for bags that were a little smaller (or larger) and could fit various budgets. So today I whipped up a quick guide for some of my favorite organized bags, which size I think is best for what, and an easy solution for organizing any bag! 



Small bags:  Small crossbody-style bags are perfect for days you are only carrying what you need for a certain event. Maybe you're only in the hospital for the morning and just need a small notebook, your stethoscope, cell phone and other essentials. These size bags are perfect for when you don't need to carry your entire day with you.  From left to right (least expensive to most expensive) are this bag by Target, this Dooney and Bourke classic, and this gorgeous bag by Tumi

Medium bags:  I think my idea of medium is probably a little bigger than some people's, but these medium bags are perfect for carrying around most of what you'll need for an entire day at work or school - your laptop, planner, lunch, and other essentials. Their size isn't overwhelming but they can pack pretty much everything you need. This is usually my go-to everyday bag. From left to right (least expensive to most expensive) are this bag by Fisher Price (yes, now we're getting into the diaper bags, but trust me these are fabulous for organizing!), this bag by Skip Hop, and this bag by Marc by Marc Jacobs

Large bags:  Now we're getting into the really large bags - typically designed for weekend trips and short travel. But if you're the type of girl who has to carry around everything for multiple different events throughout the day, this will be your bag of choice. These bags not only fit your laptop and lunch and whatever else you need for the day, but you can also throw in your change of clothes and sneakers for the gym where you're headed straight after work. Or you're sneaking away to get a couple hours of work done but later will be on mom-duty running errands with baby for the rest of the day and need to carry both mom and baby necessities. Whatever is it that is packing up your day, these size bags will allow you to carry everything you need with you. From left to right (least expensive to most expensive) are this bag by Skip Hop, this cult-classic by MZ Wallace, and this bag (my med school favorite) by Lo & Sons (happens to be 20% off now)!

Already have a bag you love but it could use a little more organizing? Try buying a bag insert that essentially adds extra pockets to your bag! This one gets awesome reviews- it fits most tote-style bags, comes in bright colors, and is a great solution at around $20! An insert like this can really make any bag an organized carry-all! 

August 26, 2015

At home gel manicure

As you guys know, I'm a huge fan of gel manicures, but they really are pretty pricey and now that I'm working most of the time just getting to the nail salon can be a struggle. I posted not too long ago about a few of my favorite at home beauty products, and I have to give a huuuuge shot out to my readers Los and Darianne who both recommended the Gelous nail polish for at home manicures. Let me tell you how I use it (and what else I use it with) and how it has changed the game for my at home manicures! 


  1. File and shape nails, wash and dry. 
  2. Apply base coat of Gelous polish.
  3. Apply coat of nail color polish.
  4. Apply another coat of Gelous polish.
  5. Apply 2nd coat of nail color polish.
  6. Apply one last coat of Gelous polish.
  7. Top with Seche Vite polish.
As I type that out it sounds like a lot, but I barely give any drying time in between coats (just the time it takes me to finish both hands). With the Seche Vite as a top coat my nails really are dry to touch within a couple of minutes and completely dry (like I can go to sleep and not wake up to destroyed nails) within a half an hour. The best part is that with this routine my nail polish really does last at least 2 weeks (through all of our hospital hand-sanitizing and washing) without chipping at all. Usually after a week I'll add a fresh coat of Seche Vite to get the shine back, but that's about it! I don't think I'll ever have to go back to real gel manicures now that I've figured out this routine, yay for saving money and still having nice looking nails! 

PS- I'm wearing Essie Case Study in the photo above! One of my favorite nude/grey/olive shades that's unfortunately no longer available :(

August 24, 2015

Lake House Escape

As promised in my anniversary post, I'm sharing a couple of shots from our weekend trip to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. We rented out a house right on the water with enough room for all of us (my parents and sister, and even the dog, came along) and we had the best trip!


We spent lots of time just hanging around the dock fishing, making s'mores, lounging in the hammock, and even enjoying a dip in the lake (if it was up to Liv we would have spent all day everyday in the lake)! But the weather was nice enough that I could spend the mornings and evenings essentially living in this cozy sweater and boyfriend shorts combo (and if necessary cuddling up in our Mexican blanket that I bring on all of our trips), and then in the afternoon throwing on a bikini (mine is from here) and bathing suit for Liv (hers is from here) and getting in the water! 


On Sunday morning we explored the gorgeous Skaneateles Village and visited the famous Skaneateles Bakery! Ok it's probably not famous but it should be because everything was out of this world and I almost wanted to wait in the long line again just to order more food! It was a weekend full of memories and I'm so thankful my parents were able to enjoy it with us too. I know they loved it which meant so much to me! And I have to give a huge thank you to my co-intern (not that he reads the blog, but he deserves the acknowledgement anyway!) who covered my night shift on Friday night so we could make the 6 hour road trip Friday afternoon once I finished my Thursday night shift! Now I'm back to the shift of the living again (days)! Hooray!

August 23, 2015

One Year Wedding Anniversary

We just got back from an amazing weekend getaway to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York for our one year wedding anniversary! I'll post more about the weekend later (or check out my Instagram for a few shots), but today I wanted to share some photos from the wedding (I don't think I ever actually did a wedding post)!

As many of you know we planned a DIY wedding with a pretty tight budget and I picked the venue one month before our wedding date! You can read more about the planning and vendors in this article from the Boston Globe that made the front page of their magazine earlier this year! 

Many of you asked about what we wore for the wedding - my dress was actually from David's Bridal (and $700, although now it's on sale for $450)! My shoes were a bit of a splurge (for me at least), but they were so perfect! My bridesmaid dresses were convertible maxi gowns that were each less than $100! And N's suit was purchased from J. Crew, I love him in that suit! Liv's dress we got off of Amazon and she looked so precious in it! 

Without further ado, here are a ton of wedding photos! Love looking back at them. So happy I chose Greg as my photographer (I flew him out from California, which was cheaper than hiring a similar-style artist based here in Boston)! We saved money wherever we could! 


Thank you all for your sweet anniversary wishes, here's to celebrating a hundred more <3.

August 21, 2015

Back to (Med) School Shopping

As back to school season approaches (or maybe we're already in it? I've lost track now that I'm out of it), I always get a little nostalgic about back to school shopping. It was always my favorite time of the year - the inner organizer-junkie inside of me loved buying notebooks and pens and markers and planners, and the clothes was always fun too! For those of you who are heading into medical school (congratulations!!) I've drawn up a little list of necessities (and some not-so-necessities) for starting the year off right! These certainly can work for any school or work environment as well, not just medicine!


For starters - what to wear. I like to keep it simple, so decided to show you how to easily mix and match the same top for class, clinic, or the wards. Easy t-shirts like this one can be dressed up with a skirt or down with jeans and really work for any occasion! I will of course make the disclaimer that you should always make sure that you know the dress code in your school and hospital. For us at HMS you could wear anything you wanted to class, so a casual pair of distressed jeans like these were just fine, but at some schools this may not pass. The same goes for the hospital, at most of the hospitals I've worked at wearing a t-shirt with scrub bottoms is completely acceptable (and the norm on the medicine floor), especially with your white coat thrown on top. In the ORs this is a big no-no though (only scrub top and scrub bottom allowed), and in some places if you're not on long call or overnight scrubs are not allowed at all (and you're expected to dress more like you would for clinic). I hope this makes sense! 

I picked out some fun flats for class and clinic (black and tan are pretty much the only two colors you need), and for the hospital I've converted to the Dansko tribe. Especially now that I'm spending even more time on my feet these really do make a huge difference (as do compression socks)! 

One of the most important things you'll buy this year? Your school bag. I figured out well before Liv (back in college actually) that diaper bags were the best bag for school. They could fit a ton, had loads of pockets, and most have double shoulder straps (all necessities for my bag). This one is perfect and really similar to the one I still use in the hospital now - it's polyester so now and then I can wipe it clean with a disinfecting wipe and not worry about damaging it, has pockets everywhere, and even a cross body strap. You can toss the changing pad if you want, but I always use it as a cheap laptop sleeve/protector! 

A watch isn't a necessity in the age of the all-mighty cell phone, but there will be many times when checking your phone just isn't appropriate, even if it is just for the time. This one is pretty much my all time favorite. 

And finally the stethoscope. I went a little extra for my stethoscope and got a gold one, but I love it and I can actually pick up murmurs with it. I made sure to get one of the ones that was best-reviewed. Check with your med school class before buying as lots of classes will do a group purchase to get a group discount. Sometimes this discount can be pretty significant, but other times you can find better deals online (like this one on Amazon) - just do the comparison for yourself to be sure! Some schools will tell you you have to buy an otoscope and ophthalmoscope and blood pressure cuff, etc. etc. You don't. I repeat, you do not. You can if you want to, but most clinics and hospital rooms will have these readily available in patient rooms. No need to spend the hundreds of dollars for them. (And again, like most of the advice I give, obviously check with your own institution. Some schools are more strict than others and may actually require you to purchase them. At ours it was "highly recommended" and I fell for the trap)!


And for the fun part of shopping (seriously I could spend all day in the stationary section) - the stuff that's going to keep you organized! For starters, a good planner. I got lucky a couple of weeks ago at Target and found a Day Designer that is perfect (and much cheaper - and slimmer - than the original Day Designer)! Unfortunately it's not available online anymore, but check in store and maybe you'll get lucky! Design wise, this Kate Spade planner comes really close! I've professed my love for these Russell and Hazel mini-binders before, they also make awesome planners if you buy the calendar pages, or just note keepers (made more beautiful by their colorful mini-tabs)! I also love their to-do list sticky notes. Extras like colorful pens for color-coded notes and washi tape for labeling things on your calendar or in your notes make studying fun (and can also lead to distraction, hahaha, so balance it ladies)! I threw in the push pins just for fun. Probably the biggest investment you might make is a laptop. Check with your school's financial aid office, many offer a loan specifically for buying a new computer that is separate from any of your other loans. N and I both used this to buy our laptops (I have a MacBook Air that was perfect to bring back and forth to class and still perfect now)! 

More than what you buy at the start of medical school is what you remember. And if you remember anything, remember this - the start of medical school is fun and terrifying and feels impossible all at the same time, but you deserve to be exactly where you are. It's hard not to compare yourself to all of your likely amazing classmates, but know that you are good enough. The admissions committee didn't screw up in letting you in and they will not be sending you a letter in a month saying they made a mistake. You worked your butt off to get to where you are now. There's a lot more hard work to come, but you can (and you will) do it.

August 19, 2015

A Day in the Life: Night Float

5:00pm: My alarm clock goes off, but I didn't really need it to, my sleep during the day is always light and on and off! So I hop right out of bed to go surprise Liv who's out in the living room playing with Grammie. We cuddle for a while on the couch and catch up on her day.

5:30: Decide I'm making rice and beans with chicken for dinner (Liv's favorite), so hop into the kitchen and get that started. Liv comes with me in her booster chair (that we have on one of our bar stools) and does some coloring with markers at the island (more like plays the game of drop the markers and make mommy pick them up).

6:15: Dinner is done and the weather outside is perfect, so I turn on our back patio lights for a little ambiance and Liv and I eat dinner out back. N is admitting patients today so he likely won't be home until 8 or 9pm, we definitely aren't waiting for him to eat!

7:00: Bath time for Liv!

7:20: Get Liv into her PJs and then cuddle up on the couch and turn on her constantly-requested all-time favorite movie (The Book of Life). She asks for Manolo and Joaquin every. single. night. And I can't lie, I love the movie too. I'd watch it every night with her if I could.

7:50: Time for me to hop into the shower and get ready. I throw on a comfy tee and my (maternity) scrubs and Danskos and make sure I pack up enough snacks for the night. I make sure I have my trusted fleece and mini survival bag with all my other nighttime/early morning necessities (tums for the heartburn that will come in the middle of the night, toothbrush for the morning, and all the other extra in case I feel like making the effort to feel a little more human at the end of a long shift)!



8:30: I get my hugs and kisses from Liv and leave her with Grammie and hop in the car to drive to the hospital. Thankfully it's only a 15 minute drive!

8:45: Get to the hospital, pick up a small iced coffee before the coffee shop closes at 9, and get my spot situated in our resident workroom. I make sure I've got all my necessities to start the night - ID, pager, a blank piece of paper I fold in half the long way (this will become my "task list" for the night) and my favorite pen. And gum. I am constantly chewing gum as it's the only thing that keeps me from being nauseated all night.

9:00: Time to get sign out. All hospitals and services work differently, but for our medical service, there are multiple different teams taking care of medical patients (about 5 total, plus the CCU - the cardiac unit). On any given night there will be one team that was "long call," meaning they stay until 9pm to give sign out to me - all of the other teams can usually leave by 4 or 5pm when they sign out to the long call team. So I get sign out from the long call intern on all 45 patients all the teams have been taking care. For some of the patients, it's "NTD" (nothing to do), but for many of the patients there are tasks to do or things that are expected to happen - follow up their midnight sodium, follow up the 2am troponin, follow up the head CT read, or if they desat (their oxygen level drops), do xyz. Of course the task list I get at sign out is always much shorter than what ends up happening over night! Although I get a printed sign out with details on every patient, this is usually at least 10+ pages long. I refer to it when I need to, but I make sure to write any actual tasks to be completed on my task list. While getting sign out my pager has already gone off twice.



9:30: I've gotten sign out, now the night begins. I call back the two pages - one was from phlebotomy who needed me to fix an order for a lab, the other from a nurse with a patient who's family is here and wants to speak with the doctor about an update. I quickly fix the order and then look up the patient whose family wants the update - it's always hard being the night coverage (as we aren't the primary team and don't make most of the decisions in their care), but that's why documentation and good sign out is so important. I read the most recent progress notes from the team and have a good idea of what's going on, so I head up to the floor and see the family.

10:00: While on the floor I touch base with the nurses after seeing that patient and his family. I always find it's easier to be present early and available for whatever they need so that I can get most of it done at once instead of being paged multiple different times about it later. It also makes for better community and teamwork (in my opinion of course) to be proactive instead of reactive. Obviously we can't anticipate everything at the beginning of the night but it is nice to check in and take care of what we can early! I put in some orders for nausea medicine, pain medicine, bowel regimens, the usual.

10:30: Now is a good time to eat a snack - Belvita crackers and a cup of peanut butter with lots of water are one of my favorites.

10:40: Glad I decided to snack then, the resident just got paged about a new admission we have coming from the ED. It's a young woman not much older than me with type 1 diabetes coming in with DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). For night float, the resident sees all the new admissions and writes the notes, but the intern (me) puts in all of the orders and admits them to the floor, and then takes care of anything else that needs to happen with them afterwards (while the resident goes off to see the next admission).

10:50: I get paged about a patient whose oxygen just dropped into the 80's and hasn't come up with 2L oxygen. I let the resident know to page me when he's done seeing our new, and I'll get the orders in asap, but for now I have to rush up to the floor. The patient has been sitting in the hallway most of the night so the nurses could monitor him since he keeps trying to get out of bed (he's a little delirious at baseline). I listen to his lungs and he definitely has crackles bilaterally, I don't remember them telling me that at sign out so I'm assuming it's new. I have the nurses increase his oxygen to 4L, which doesn't do much, so we switch from nasal cannula to face mask. His blood pressure has been on the higher side and with what sounds like fluid on his lungs I don't hesitate to give him some lasix. I also get an ABG (arterial blood gas) and order for a stat chest x-ray. But he still didn't look good and he was still in the 80's. I had the nurse page my resident, as well as the respiratory team. They gave him a nebulizer treatment that didn't help much and my resident arrived soon after. Our ABG had already returned and didn't look good. We called a rapid response on the patient and the ICU team came to the floor as well, and we ended up transferring him out. Once I make sure he's gotten over to ICU alright and I've got all of his orders in I write up an event note documenting all that occurred.

12:00: I get a page from the nurse that the new admit arrived to the floor so I go ahead and put in her orders.

12:30-4: I'll spare you all the details, but we can just say that throughout the night we got another 4 admissions that required order entry, pages about labs, etc. that keeps us busy until things finally started settling down around 4. I eat some oatmeal to settle down my stomach and then lay my head down at my workstation.

Me getting a quick "escape" to the bathroom on a particularly hectic night // Some of my nightly "task lists," basically tons of checkboxes! Writing has been blurred to protect my patients.
5:40: I'm awoken to the sound of my pager and am actually amazed that I got a break for that long and actually slept a bit. I call the number back - it's phlebotomy letting me know that a patient refused their AM labs. Since I'm up I scroll through my task list and make sure nothing got left unchecked. I begin updating sign out with all of the events of the night. I make a quick trip to the bathroom to splash my face and brush my teeth.

6:00: My pager goes off again. This time a patient's blood sugar was 400. The nurse covered it with the sliding scale insulin as per protocol, but they still have to "notify MD." I still sometimes think it's funny when I read the note later that says "MD notified, or MD made aware," knowing it was me. It still feels weird to be the MD.

6:30: I print out admission notes for all of the new patients we had overnight and follow up their labs while I eat some greek yogurt with blueberries and granola. And water. Lots and lots of water. (Which also means lots and lots of peeing that I've left out of this diary of my night, but I pee whenever I can lol)! Eventually I even check my email, but I usually only have time to read the emails, without responding, a horrible habit that I need to break out of!

6:50: The first of the five interns that are on today arrives. I sit down with him and update him on what his patients did overnight and about the new patient that's coming to his team. As the rest of the interns stroll in they come and sit at the table one at a time and get sign out from me.

7:45am: Finally done! I turn off my pager and get to my car, turn on the radio and head home.

8:00: Home sweet home. Liv is just waking up so I quickly change out of my scrubs and get into shorts and a tank. I eat breakfast with her (more like a night snack for me) and we later cuddle up on the couch, her still sleepy from just waking up and me still sleepy from never sleeping at all!

8:40: Grammie is up and has had her coffee and mommy officially calls it a night. I head into my room, set my alarm, put my earplugs in and eye mask on and pass out.

12:00: It's like clockwork - I always wake up around noon, so I hang out with Liv if she's still home and take out meat from the freezer for unthawing if I've already thought of what I want to make for dinner later. I retreat back to the bedroom for a couple more hours of sleep that is always a bit more fragmented than the first chunk I get in the morning.

5:00pm: My alarm clock goes off, time to get ready for another night!

Hope you guys enjoyed this post! I've since done night float at another hospital (the state/prison hospital I just worked at for the last month) and now in the ICU, where the schedules are all a little different (at the state hospital I had to be there for 6pm and left around 8am, in the ICU I come in for 9pm but stay until after morning attending rounds, which can sometimes not be until 10am or later). It all varies! But hopefully this gave you a little taste of what night float is like! 

Shop any of the linked items in the post above or find some of there here as well!



August 16, 2015

Stokke Scoot Review


If you've followed the blog since the beginning of Liv, you'll know that we're not huge stroller people in this household. Blame it on the horrible Boston winter and not having a car, having to use public transportation, living in a tiny space that required getting up two flights of stairs (and the list can go on), strollers have never really been that convenient for us. We're sort of die-hard baby-wearers. Seriously. If you don't believe me read my babywearing carrier comparison post. But since moving into a bigger place, having a car available, and now having a toddler, it was time to find a good stroller.

So far we've had two favorite strollers that are complete opposites - our cheap-ish umbrella stroller (First Years Jet) and our heavy-duty convertible Britax B-Ready. I loved the B-Ready (and may still use it when the second baby comes since it can be converted to a double), but it was just way too bulky for city life. Right now it's at my parents house and perfect for long walks there. I ended up using our First Years Jet much more when we needed a stroller; it was lightweight, didn't take up the whole sidewalk when we walked, and still had some of the "nicer" features that don't come with all umbrella strollers. But at the end of the day it's still an umbrella stroller, the underseat storage is pretty skimpy, it doesn't recline much, and the wheels get locked in the wrong direction now and then. We basically couldn't find a happy medium. And then came the Stokke Scoot.


I won't lie, I've been drooling over the Stokke Scoot for a while, and if I had known about it before buying our other strollers I probably would have bit the bullet and spent the money for this one the first time. But already having two strollers, I never could have convinced myself to spend the money on another one. But when the folks at Stokke asked if I wanted to review it, you better believe I jumped at the chance (obviously wanted to disclose that to you guys beforehand)!

We've now been all around town (the stroller coming along in the car trunk, on the train, and even on a ferry) testing out the stroller for the last couple of months and it's safe to say this is the one. Read below for a list of pros and cons (and lots of photos)!


Pros:
  • Small/compact, but oh so smooth - I can squeeze through the normal size subway entrance (not the handicapped one) and fit onto tight elevators with this baby, and the wheels never lock up on me or cause any problem. It's a great size for city-living.
  • Storage - the underseat storage fits a ton. Like, our blanket for sitting at the park, a towel, bags from shopping, etc. 
  • Easy reclining - there are three different positions for reclining in this stroller, and it's as easy as unclipping two clips right at the back of the stroller. It's really easy and if Liv falls asleep in the stroller I can easily recline it without waking her up. 
  • Multiple positions - I love that this stroller can face towards me or out towards the rest of the world. And switching it is convenient (there are side indicators that are green to show you it's secure).
  • Seat height - The seat in this stroller is high enough that we've used it as a high chair a few times already (mostly if we're eating at an outside stable). Really convenient. 
  • Rain cover - I had some trouble finding the right rain cover for our other strollers, I really appreciated that this stroller comes with its own. And it covers everything! On days when we might have rain we always keep it packed away below just in case!


Cons:
  • Folding/Unfolding - I think this was my biggest pet peeve for at least a month into owning this thing. I just couldn't do it. I'd read the manual and end up having to have N do it later. Finally one day I had him show me and it turns out although I was sliding the right button, I wasn't actually sliding it and then pushing down (I didn't realize it even pushed down that far)! Now that I know how to actually do it, it's no longer a problem, but reading around online I can tell I'm not the only one who didn't get in on the first try. 
  • No cup holder - I feel a little spoiled writing this as a con, but for a pretty expensive stroller, a cupholder would have made it perfect. At some point I'm sure we'll buy one and it will be a non-issue, but it would have been nice! 


Outfit details: Top (Nordstrom), Jeans (Target last season, but these are almost identical), Hat (Janessa Leone), Watch (Daniel Wellington / if buying on DW's website, use code LAURALACQUER for 15% off!), Sandals (Target version of these Birks)

Stroller: Stokke Scoot, v2, in Aqua Blue, c/o Stokke

Or shop the post below!



August 5, 2015

Off the Shoulder


A fun top I had to buy (it was $9!) and wore for a relaxing date night a couple weekends ago! N and I went to our new usual spot, which for now I will be incredibly selfish and keep a secret because I love that we never have to make reservations and can always get a table outside and people watch! Aaaand they have the best clam chowder ever. 


This is what I wear to stuff my face with bowls of clam chowder. Minus the heels. The heels lasted all 4 minutes of us taking pictures and then I switched into flat sandals - I never understand how pregnant ladies wear heels.  Plus part of the reason I love our secret spot is that after there are tons of outdoor shops and places to stroll around and continue our conversation after dinner and hold hands and just feel like we're soaking up our oh-so-sacred us time! Heels have no place for clam chowder-stuffed pregnant lady romantic walks. 


This last week and the current one have been a little tough - N was on nights last week while I was on days, and now we've flipped and I'm on nights this week while he's back on days! So we basically go days without seeing each other because we're just on opposite schedules. Thankfully we both still get plenty of Liv time though, and we keep in touch throughout the day, and as with all of this, it's just temporary! 


I will be posting a medicine update on the blog soon, but so far after getting through this first month of residency I've already had a ton of "firsts" - my first time being called "Doc" (most often with a thick Boston accent), my first real code that I was a big part of (and we brought him back! although in what state is hard to say still), my first time pronouncing a patient dead and sharing the news with family, it's certainly been quite the initiation month. And I love medicine. I know we've been told that we'll get burned out this year, and I can see how, with all the menial tasks of order writing and documentation that take up so much of our days and nights. But when I actually get to spend time with patients I'm still reminded how much I love this field, reminded that I chose the right thing. And with that deep introspection we'll finish up with a picture of my feet and outfit details (insert laughing emoji here)!


Outfit details: Top (Asos, on sale for less than $10)! // Jeans (old, almost identical here) // Sandals (Aldo)



August 3, 2015

How to Start a (Successful) Blog



Just the other day it hit me - my blog just had its 4 year birthday last week! I thought now would be as good a time as any to talk about starting and maintaining a successful blog! It's something I get asked all the time and honestly something I feel is still a "I-don't-know-anything-about-this-topic" matter. Half of the time I feel like I know nothing about blogging, but when you all ask me questions about blogging or I'm talking with friends or family about it I've realized I do have a few things to share that may be valuable to some of you. Or maybe not. But we'll go ahead anyway! I'll share this as more of a "how I started my blog" post with some tips thrown in since I really am no expert.


Know your purpose
I'd say first and foremost, know why you want to start a blog. If it's to make money, I'd highly recommend pursuing a different hobby, as making money through a blog really does take a huge time (and money) investment. Unless of course you already have a high quality DSLR camera, laptop, photographer, affiliate marketer, and large community of followers, etc. (which most of us don't for quite some time). So, other than the unrealistic expectation of making money quickly, you still want to start a blog? Figure out why. Is it because you love to cook and want to share recipes? Is it because you've overcome some obstacle and want to share your story with others who may be going through the same right now? Is it because you love fashion or DIY projects? Whatever it is, try and get a good grasp on it, as this will also help not only focus your posts in the beginning but will also help identify your blogging community. 

Find a platform that works for you
I run my blog using Blogger (hence the .blogspot bit at the end of my web address). I did purchase the actual domain name for my website (alittlebitoflacquer.com) but have yet to transfer things over. I thought it was a necessary part of having a successful blog, but it turns out it's really not. So I haven't really gotten around to it yet. I decided on Blogger mostly because there were no upfront costs, it was relatively easy to figure out how to create posts, and at the time when I started, there was a great community using Blogger. I still think it's a great platform and will likely continue using it because I don't really have time to switch to something else, but one platform that's gaining a lot of traction lately and really makes beautiful websites is Squarespace. I love Elle's blog for her tips on Squarespace, I've certainly toyed with the idea of switching over thanks to her! Wordpress is the other huge name when it comes to creating your own blog, and most big time bloggers will swear by it. It has a ton of power and plug ins for everything you could imagine (basically allowing you to truly design your blog the way you want it) - but for me it was just too overwhelming. Some people like Tumblr, but Tumblr "blogs" are a whole different breed of blog (more like microblog) - essentially all photo based, and not necessarily the type of blog I'm talking about in this post. I think honestly if I were starting a blog now I would go with Squarespace (it didn't exist when I started).

Invest in a clean web design and good photos
As far as my actual web design, I've always purchased pre-made templates from etsy shops (here and here are some favorites - the shop that made my current blog design is unfortunately now closed). Although I didn't want to spend too much money upfront on something that was just a hobby, templates can be super inexpensive and really change the entire feel of your blog. As the blog has evolved I've moved to cleaner and cleaner designs which I love. Other things to look for when purchasing a template? I like a floating header - when you scroll down on my blog the menu at the top comes down with it. Make sure they also include customized social media buttons (most do now) and instructions for installation. For my first couple of templates I had the designer I purchased them from install them for me, for my most recent one I chose one that I could install myself (with awesome instructions of course) that allowed me to customize my menu and other things using a bit of html. As you get more comfortable with blogging and a few pieces of html here and there you'll really appreciate being able to tweak things on your own as you need to!

Photos are a huge part of blogging, and learning some good photography and developing an eye for good photos will help you develop a strong following! About a year and a half into blogging I finally asked for a DSLR for Christmas and was so happy to be able to step my photo game up (I use this camera). Regardless of your camera, try taking nice, crisp pictures with natural lighting (always the best). Many bloggers use Photoshop for editing which has tons of functions and capabilities, eventually I'd love to learn how to use it, but for the last 4 years I've used Picasa which is a free download and allows for simple edits and creating collages (like the one I created here). 

Find your voice
Ok, so you've signed up for a blog and even installed a gorgeous new blog design. Now what do you actually post? In the beginning, it will depend on the purpose of your blog. For me, I started with fashion, interior design, and recipes (overall lifestyle blog). Write posts as if you've got a huge audience reading even if you don't. Once you start building a community (see below) and getting feedback from them and your stats, you'll start to learn what people like and how they find your blog most useful. With this blog, although I still categorize it as a lifestyle blog and still include fashion and recipes, it now includes much more "med school" than I ever thought it would, and that's because of you all and this amazing community! I have found that my blog can be most helpful when I include bits of me enjoying my life but more importantly when I show that I'm doing this while pursuing the rigorous training involved in becoming a physician, and helping those of you who want to pursue something similar along the way. This blog has become something much more powerful that I ever imagined and I have you all to thank for helping me find my voice. 

Build a community
One of the best parts of blogging (and why most of us start in the first place) is to connect with people who have similar interests or are going through similar life experiences. Whatever it may be, I can almost guarantee that you will find a community on the internet! Sometimes this can be a bad thing (ie internet trolls), but for the most part finding a community online is amazing! So how do you find it? Search online for blogs that interest you - chances are if you started a blog you may already be following a few - comment on those blogs! And please, don't just write "great post" or "come check out my blog," write something that actually means something, that shows the blogger your piece really resonated with them! It doesn't hurt to include your website at the bottom so they can find you, but just make sure to leave a genuine comment! Do this for as many blogs as you like, as often as you like, and soon you'll find people commenting on your blog as well. Many blogs also host link ups, which is another great way to get to know other bloggers - some for fashion, food, DIY ideas, you name it! Once you find the interaction that appeals to you the most stick with it! Earlier in the life of my blog I did a lot of commenting on blogs, but now finding other bloggers through Instagram is actually easier for me, just find what works for you!

Pay attention to your stats
Early on, you likely won't have much to look at as far as stats. I remember looking at my stats page on Blogspot and seeing I had 12 page views and then remembering I was probably 10 of them. And my mom was probably the other 2. But then I'd start getting page views from Virginia or New York, and get so so excited! Once the excitement wears off a bit, start paying attention to what your viewers are doing on your website, and what brings them there. I certainly got more visits when I participated in link ups on other blogs, but this didn't always gain me new followers. I started realizing that my most popular posts were life/advice posts, so although I didn't initially plan on it, I started including more of those posts on the blog. Instagram is currently my biggest traffic source (other than Google), so I make sure to keep that social media outlet most up-to-date. Pinterest is another huge traffic generator, but because it's all image based, it will only bring traffic if you have quality images! Another reason to try your best to start taking good photographs.

Listen to your readers
Along the same lines, when you start getting followers and comments from readers, listen to them! Hopefully you will see them as a community and not as a "following," and treat them as such! This doesn't mean you have to write each post based on what they say (there are still plenty of things I've been asked that have never made it to the blog!) but it does mean to pay attention to what they're curious about. If you're a budget fashion blogger and people are always asking how you find your deals, it'd probably make a great post! If you're a mom blogger and a couple of other bloggers have asked how you're coping with transitioning from a crib to a bed, it'd probably help out a few (a ton) of other mamas too! Although blogging isn't necessarily like running a store, I like to think of it this way - if you're offering apples and oranges for sale, and people are buying all of the apples, you'd offer more apples, right? And if you had something similar to apples you might start offering that too and seeing what people thought, maybe they'd be interested in that too! Ok probably a horribly analogy, but hopefully you get my point! 

Try to post regularly
Early on, this is easy, but as life gets hectic and things get busy it's all too easy to stop posting all together and let your blog shrivel up and turn to dust. This is the fate of most blogs. I definitely cannot preach the gospel of a regular posting schedule, because I don't follow one, but I can say that's it's a really great idea. I think 1-2 posts a week is perfect for someone just starting out. If you have more ideas, that's great, write them up! But then save them as drafts for later, it's always nice to have a stockpile of posts for times when you are too busy to take photos or come up with something to write. At the moment I try to hold myself accountable for 2-3 posts a month, which is definitely less than when I started, but it's a good balance for now! It also depends on what you're posting - a daily outfit post might take 10-15 minutes to throw together, a collage of gift ideas might take 1-2 hours, and a longer post like this one might take a few days to put together! So keep that in mind as well when you're thinking about how regularly you want to post.

Enjoy it
I think this goes without saying, but make sure to enjoy it. Once you've found your voice and your niche in blogging it really is a wonderful hobby. When it stops feeling fun or you no longer feel like sharing online, think about why, and what you can change if anything, but if it's time to hang up the blogging hat it may just be time to hang up the blogging hat! There's nothing wrong with that either.

I hope if you're interested in starting a blog this post may have helped you a bit! Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below!  

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