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The Made Thing

We share our thoughts

We discuss about multiple topics

BLOGGING

Writing for a living was certainly a life goal but I thought it would happen much, much later in life.

Balancing Work and Family Life if You’re Working from Home
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Emotional Intelligence
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TOPICS

We love to discuss about topics those means to our life.

TMT REVIEWS

TIPS & IDEAS

LIFESTYLE

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Thomas A. Edison

"Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

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Holiday Gift Wrapping with Snowflakes

If you’re looking for a fun and unique way to wrap your gifts this season, look no further than the paper snowflake and some ribbon. Using our secret message snowflake tutorial, you can add a whole lot of meaning to your gifts this season and make something really beautiful. This holiday gift wrapping idea is a cute and original way to show your love and appreciation for friends and family. 

To use this idea, first select a word you’d like to use in your snowflake. You can use the name of the person, like I did here with my own name, or say something else. Use the secret message snowflake tutorial and cut out a beautiful snowflake fro your wrapping. You can flatten it out by putting a book on top of it for a few days. If your snowflake just won’t sit flat, you can tape it down too.

Using a box or a wrapped gift in solid colors, put your snowflake on top of the box. This wrapping works best with easily wrapped shapes, like cylinders and boxes. I used a regular box for this example but you can get creative and use any kind of package you’d like!

Gift Wrapping

Take your flattened snowflake and place it on top of the package and secure with some ribbon and your gift is set to give. You can include a note to explain the secret message in your snowflake or see if your friend figures it out on their own.

This is a great way to give something beautiful, even if you stink at making bows like I do.

A Wardrobe Revision: First Steps

Although I’m not a fashion blogger, I do love fashion. A little-known fact is that I almost went to fashion design school at RISD instead of attending College in Florida. Although my career path took a much different turn to professional blogger, I’m still interested in making a statement with my clothing. Of course, if you know me this is rarely the case. I’m usually wearing the same t-shirts, sweaters, scarves, and jeans. Turns out that’s actually not an exaggeration.

When we moved to Conway around six months ago, I put all of my clothing into their new homes and turned the hangers backward. Now that I’ve gone through three seasons of clothing, I can tell what I haven’t worn in some time. Almost all of my clothes are still on hangers turned backward. Turns out, I wear the same six or seven items over and over again. We’re not even talking outfits here—just pieces of clothing! I wear 3 pairs of jeans, a handful of shirts, and two sweaters. And I wear them over and over again.

Why is this? Trying on a favorite pair of jeans I haven’t worn since last year was a rude awakening. “Woah, girl. What is going on here?!” While I’m making moves to change my eating habits and incorporate exercise into my life again, the truth is that I need to rehaul my whole wardrobe. Most of what I own doesn’t fit my lifestyle or how I see myself today. But how do I start?

How To Revamp Your Wardrobe

Step One: Learning What You Like and What Works

I love girly basics. Brightly colored simple pieces attract my attention. I adore dresses, heels, and pearls—the ultra-feminine. If you take a look at my ever-popular Pinterest board of fashion, you can see a definite trend. Blair Waldorf’s costuming was and is my fashion jam. I’m a professional adult right now and see myself as someone to be reckoned with—my clothes aren’t conveying that statement. In fact, I probably look like a little bit of a schmuck.

Part of the problem is that when I think of myself and my body, I don’t think of what I really look like. I’m curvy but, for whatever reason, my brain is stuck on the bone-thin girl I was in high school. A lot of things in my closet, from years ago, fit a body two or three bodies ago and just don’t work for my shape anymore. When I do buy new things, I often picture someone else’s body wearing them instead of mine. Not good for finding the right things!

What works for me? Nipped waists, very minimal amount of embellishments, and long lines to make me look taller and more balanced. Read more A Day in an Online Business Owner’s Life

Step Two: Assess Your Closet

So now that I know what I’m shooting for, I can take an analytic eye to my current clothing. By looking at my clothing from a perspective of what looks good on me, I can get a better grip on my wardrobe. Things should fit my figure and meet the quality standards I set for myself. I’m a hardworking, go-getting young woman and my clothing should reflect that. Clothing that doesn’t say that is going bye-bye.

Step Three: Start Planning

Of course, I can’t buy everything in the world. I need to budget and get more use out of what’s left in my wardrobe, which takes a bit of planning. I need to take stock of what I have, what outfits I need, and what is missing. In the planning stage, I need to think about my actual life and routines and what will work—not just some idea of what my life should be like.

I’ll check back in and let you know how I’m doing after completing these first steps!

You may also like The nine dresses that you should never peel off when doing wardrobe cleaning

Have you rehauled your own wardrobe? What did you find the most challenging?

A Day in an Online Business Owner’s Life

Every once in awhile someone asks me how I manage my time. Frankly, I don’t think I’m in a position to laud my system—I’m such a perfectionist that I always think “Um, I mess up my time management constantly! Why do you want to know what I stink at?” This is especially true when it comes to doing the task I think I should for marketing my own blogs. But I guess that I look like I’m pretty well put together most of the time. At least that’s what I hope!

I run a successful online business with a large number of clients, a personal blog, and still find the time to participate in lots of volunteer and hobby groups.

My Organizational Tools

You might be a bit puzzled to think that I’m a tremendously tech-savvy person but that I still use paper calendars and notepads. The thing is, I love seeing everything laid out in one place where I can easily flip back and forth. I’ve found digital calendar apps and organizers so tedious to use that I just don’t use them.

I manage a lot of appointments and meetings between all the activities I do as well as running a business. It’s a lot to manage and I’ve never really found an easy way to do it all.

I use Google Drive to manage my files for clients but recently it’s been tremendously unreliable (like erasing and not syncing data!). I’ve used Zoho and Blue Camroo before and hated both of them. Other solutions don’t offer the all-in-one life approach I’m looking for either. I’m lazy, I don’t like using twelve apps to do one thing!

Right now, I’m using the following:

A wall calendar with color-coded posts and meetings with a checkmark system for when that item is completed. Occasionally, I’ll use some sticky notes to remember things that don’t fit into my calendar for the future.

A notebook where I jot down my hourly schedule for the day and tasks that I need to do.

Of course, all this will change when I hire someone else to work with me. And it’s very quickly getting to that point! (I’ll be searching for qualified part-time team members in the future so watch if you’re interested.)

My Daily Routine

During my day, keeping a strict schedule is really important. If I don’t, I’m not making money. I have certain income goals I have to make every single day to survive so scheduling out my time to hour increments is vital.

Most days, I’m up between 5:30 and 6:00 and work on things for this blog as well as my business’ blog until my boyfriend wakes up. We eat breakfast and go for a walk in our neighborhood and that floats depending on what time he wakes up in the morning. Read More Must have fitness apps for 2018

Three days a week, I work out for 20-40 minutes after a walk and shower after and two days a week I do yoga in the evenings instead and shower immediately after our walk. (I’m on a mission to stop being such a desk-lazy person and lose the twenty pounds I gained since college. I do video workouts because I have the world’s shortest attention span for things I don’t like. See a trend here? I once read a profile of how executives view their time and I fit every single trait!)

I work on the client’s projects and needs until lunch and then stop to eat with my boyfriend and talk about what we’re each working on or do some professional development. In the afternoon, I schedule meetings or continue working for clients.

Those two days a week I do yoga, I stop around 4:45 and hustle over to my gym but most days I work until 6. During work time, I listen to opera, classical or sometimes pop music with headphones most of the time. If I don’t, I tend to lose focus. But it’s all about knowing how to rein yourself in, right?

Then it’s off to making dinner and spending time doing non-work things away from the computer for the evening. We’ll play cards, Scrabble, or watch our favorite shows to relax. Sometimes we go for a second walk or go to the park if it’s nice.

We’re usually in bed by around 9 and listen to Selected Shorts or the New Yorker Fiction podcast. I usually fall asleep within the first five minutes of the story and couldn’t tell you the next day what the heck it was about. Subconscious osmosis? I hope so.

In there, I also do monthly and weekly group meetings for things like Geek Breakfast, the Faulkner County Democratic Party, and similar things. Some nights we have events to attend in the mix and other days I might have meetings during the day for non-work things. Keeping an hourly schedule really helps manage this.

How do you manage your time? What tools do you use?

Make Bad Art Party Idea

I took painting lessons from a crazy old hippie artist all through high school. I haven’t painted in years though. It’s probably because I focus too much on what I can’t do with my skills rather than what I can do. But there’s a new idea that might just want I need to get started again or to help you try painting while having fun with friends.

One of the things I loved the most in my art classes was what Mr. Phaneuf called Friday paintings. To save money on paints, we’d put plastic wrap on our acrylic paints. But on Fridays, we’d go crazy and use up all the paint on our palettes. It never lasted through the weekend and would be a glop of hard paint if we didn’t.

In those Friday moments, our “internal editors” shut off and it was pretty soothing to just smash the colors on whatever was handy.

I’m borrowing Steve Ewing’s terms here for that thing that holds so many of us back from creating. We’re so focused on perfection that we erase what we make to the point where it doesn’t exist anymore.

Last week, I spoke with Steve about his new book, Make Bad Art, and why us would-be artists get hung up on internal editors. We had a great discussion about abstract art versus still lifes and how to turn editors off. Steve and his co-author Robin Varni have found a way to turn off those editors and have fun with friends all at the same time. It’s called a Bad Art Party.

What is a Bad Art Party?

When you declare that all you’re going to make is bad art, you let go of certain expectations for success and perfection—those very same that hold you back from even trying. In the end, you might find that what you create is actually pretty dang good. So don’t let the name mislead you!

The idea is to get a group of friends together, choose a theme, and give each person a canvas and a bunch of art supplies. Set everything up and give folks some time at a canvas and then it’s time to switch! Everyone contributes to every canvas so you don’t really know what you’ll end up with when you’re done. It could be really terrible or really beautiful!

Steve said one thing when we discussed his book that’s been really sticking with me.

We get better by making mistakes and we shouldn’t be afraid of it.

Now that’s something to get you thinking, right?

How to Throw a Bad Art Party

I thought it was a pretty easy concept to grasp—and one to execute. But after speaking with Steve about the book and the Art Party process, it’s a bit more complex than it seems. So that’s why Steve got Robin on board with the project.

Robin is a trained artist and guided Steve through the aspects of the book most of us need a lot of help on too—like what kinds of supplies we’ll need. Art can get pretty complex when it comes to creating lasting quality paintings you can put up on your walls!

Inside the Bad Art Book, there’s great explanations on what you’ll need and what kinds of options to look for, as well as the lingo you can take to the art store with you so you get the right stuff.

There’s also all kinds of ideas inside the book for tasty menu items. No one wants to have a bunch of starving artists on their hands, after all.

 

Orange Chocolate Macarons

There’s a certain point in your life where you just buy the things you want instead of waiting for the end of the year—and that means your family has no idea what to get you. So mine ends up getting my lots of chocolate, including a chocolate orange or two. You know the kind you smash open inside of the foil and it separates into slices?

I love the taste of those oranges and they’re really addicting. So what if we took that flavor and put it in a delicate macaron?

A Little History of the “French” Macaron

French Macarons

One thing I miss the most about home is Italian almond cookies, called amaretti. They’re not the sandwich variety you find with French macarons but are made using a lot of the same processes with whipping egg whites but are often rolled in other nuts, like pine nuts (called pignoli) or almond slices. I’ve even enjoyed green ones topped with pistachios. They’re from Saronno just north of Milan.

French macarons of the sandwich variety are really only found in the Paris region but there are hundreds of variations on the theme throughout the country. It’s possible that macarons came to France with the arrival of Catherine de Medici’s Italian pastry chef in the middle of the 16th century.

In France, you’ll find the Nancy Macaron, developed by two nuns to fit their strict no-meat diets, which more closely resembles the Amaretti di Saronno. But in Amiens, you’ll find Macarons d’Amiens, which look more like tall discs of the same kind of batter. In Basque country, they brown up the edges of their macarons distinctively.

So why are Parisian macarons so popular right now? Well, frankly, all the different kinds of macarons of taste the same. But Parisian macarons are usually brightly colored and filled with any number of flavors, offering more variation and adaptability. They catch the imagination in a way a standard one-number kind of cookie cannot.

Parisian macarons have those glossy tops, little bubbly feet, and usually come stacked in a tall, thin box tied with a bow. It’s a feast for all the senses. They are really photogenic too. Try to make a brick of almond paste look tasty and you’ll catch my drift.

The thing is these “French” macarons are just one kind and labeling them for the whole country of France is kind of silly. As someone who lived there for a year, I can say the French are fiercely proud of their regional diversity and regional variations. They also get ticked off when we label Parisian only things for the whole country. We’re doing them a huge disservice by making Parisian macarons the stand-in for all French macarons.

Frustrations of Homemade Parisian Macarons — and why feet don’t really matter

But in the end, if you’re making them at home, you’re bound to mess them up at least once. If not every single time. Your tops might crack and your bottoms might not get those signature feet that make up the trendiest of macarons. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter.

Homemade Macarons

There’s a long and proud history of macarons of all kinds of shapes and textures. In the end, they all taste relatively the same with only minor differences. The sweet tang of almond, the wetness as the cookie falls on your tongue, and the stick to your teeth gumminess make for great macarons, no matter the style.

I’ll admit to being disappointed when these macarons didn’t come out perfectly. I made them to wow, after all, and wow they did not on the plate. But pop one of these puppies in your mouth and it draws you instantly to that thwack of a chocolate orange. That’s plenty enough to convince that they’re still amazing.

(And if they stick together, just call them snowmen. It’s Christmas, after all. So these are snowmen. And it wasn’t accidental. So there.)

Orange Chocolate Macarons

If you’re on the search for perfect Parisian style, the trick is to wait till you can touch the top and it’s dry and to sift well. It’s so humid in Arkansas right now, I let them sit for almost two hours without them drying out, which lead to cracking without feet.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart. There are hundreds of various proportions out there on the internet but I assure you this one does work! You’ll make about 130 of these to form about 65 cookies. I have made some adjustments, like a lower oven temp here.

Easy French Macaron Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal or finely ground blanched almonds
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 4 large egg whites 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 
  1. Combine almond meal and confectioner’s sugar and sift over a large bowl. Sifting takes out the big chunks that could disrupt the tiny bubbles you want in the egg white mixture.
  2. Beat whites until they start to froth and add sugar and almond extract slowly. Beat until they’re shiny peaks but are still wet. It shouldn’t look dry! In a stand mixer, this takes about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Fold the eggs into the flour. It’s important to do it this way because it can fully deflate the tiny air bubbles you want in the mixture. Mix vigorously but don’t smoosh. Pipe onto a parchment lined sheets in 1-inch circles. Slam down the trays a few times to make sure there aren’t any big bubbles.
  4. Let dry until tops are firm and dry. You should be able to touch them without making a finger imprint. Bake at 300 for about 16 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool on wire racks, fill and sandwich!
  5. Let them sit as long as you can stand, ideally two days. Yes, really. The filling sinks into the cookie and makes it even better at the two-day mark. You’ll just have to trust me on this and resist. If you can. 

Orange Chocolate Buttercream

This recipe is reduced to fit the amount you’ll need for this recipe, with a little bit left over.

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 cups minus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  1. Cream the butter, add extract and let combine well.
  2. Add the cocoa and sugar slowly. Let combine fully.
  3. Add milk.
  4. You’re ready to pipe and fill the sandwiches! (see above)

You may also like 10 Recipes of very tender and delicious cookies

Have you had other varieties of macarons other than the Parisian kind? What’s your favorite?

Must have fitness apps for 2018

One of my big goals in 2018 is to be healthier and fitter. Sitting in front of a computer all day hasn’t helped much. All of this is especially true now that I own my own business. I could stand to lose between 10 and 12 pounds over the next few months. And being the technology hound I am, I’ve turned to a handful of fitness apps to help me along the way!

My Favorite 2018 Fitness & Health Apps

I spend a good deal of time working out and focusing on my health every day. Probably between 2-3 hours between focusing on what I’m putting in my mouth to working out with good form. Here’s what I use to get it done.

FitStar Personal Trainer & Yoga Apps

Fitness apps

FitStar has been around for some time now but just released a Yoga based app about a month ago. The idea is that the apps adjust moves to your abilities and goals to make workouts surrounding what you’re aiming for. FitStar’s Yoga app is a bit more difficult to use than the Personal Trainer simply because you’re not always looking at the screen and there aren’t always enough verbal cues.

Pros:

  • You don’t have to think about your workouts—just do them and follow along with the prompts from the trainers with someone on the screen doing it alongside with you.
  • You can tell the apps if something is too hard for you and it’ll make adjustments in the future to build you up to those moves. I can’t do a pushup to save my life and forget headstands so the apps are focusing on modified pushups and beginner poses to get me towards headstands.
  • There are Freestyle sessions that you can do anytime, even if you run out of weekly sessions.
  • You can use it on just about any device because it’s also a web app. No need for Apple products, my friends.
  • Both apps sync with MyFitnessPal for workouts and calorie counts.

Cons:

  • The Yoga app can be a bit buggy sometimes and tell you to move from pose to pose when you’re actually meant to be still in a pose.
  • Sometimes the Yoga app says nothing when you’re supposed to start a new pose.
  • Freestyle sessions have no modifications for you individually so they can be pretty difficult.
  • While the Personal Trainer app is mostly bodyweight, there are a few exercises that require equipment I don’t have, like something to step up on.
  • Occasionally the apps get stuck loading moves for a session. I’ve had to uninstall it and reinstall it twice to solve the problem. Not really conducive to those who aren’t highly motivated to work out!
  • Doesn’t replace my yoga classes—but hey, that’s a real person.

Blogilates fitness apps

Fitness apps

This is the newest app to my fitness arsenal. Cassey Ho is a ridiculously chipper person and if you’re not into teenaged girl stuff, you might want to skip this one. We’re talking like workout videos about like Top 40 songs and like talking about things like a thigh gap.

Pros:

  • If you’ve ever wanted a super happy workout buddy who talks through moves, Cassey is your gal.
  • The workouts are deceivingly simple but really do work out your muscles. You’ll feel it later.
  • Easily access all of the Blogilates YouTube videos through the app by category or focus area.
  • Join in the forum to get motivation from other POPsters (Casey’s brand word for her loyal) with an Instagram like platform.

Cons:

  • Cassey and the forum gals can get pretty annoying pretty quickly. Most of her fans are teenagers, after all, and she definitely can grate on you when you’re frustrated.
  • There’s a lot of negativity in the forums from a lot of young girls. Many of them talk about having eating disorders, how horrible they look (when they’re actually quite skinny), and other body image problems. There isn’t any cattishness that I’ve seen so far but I’m sure it’s there.
  • You can get everything, include the paid calendars, on her website and Youtube Channel. Sure, it’s nice to have it in one place but you don’t need it.
  • No calorie counts, syncing, or anything. Just a little checkbox with a cutesy comment when you complete a calendar activity.

MyFitnessPal fitness apps

Fitness apps

I’ve tried both LoseIt! and MyFitnessPal. They’re pretty much identical except that the calorie counts and allowances differ pretty significantly. MyFitnessPal gives me a much lower amount of daily calories for the same weight loss goal as LoseIt! Strange, right? So why MyFitnessPal? My friends are on it. You can find me as TheMadeThing, of course.

Pros:

  • Easily track things that are hard to track, like recipes. You can import recipes from blogs and websites and it calculates your calories out based on the ingredients. (It can’t do homemade cheese or other recipes where there are waste products like whey, but hey, nothing’s perfect!)
  • You can interact with friends for extra motivation and check-ins for goals.
  • It has reminders that alert you if you forget to add in meals.
  • Syncs with different devices and apps, including HealthKit for Apple fans.
  • The handy scanner makes it easy to add things with a barcode.
  • You can track more than just weight and add in measurements to give you an extra morale boost when the going gets tough.

Cons:

  • Calories burned is pretty arbitrary for different activities. It’s all about the algorithm! But sometimes it seems a bit farfetched.
  • There are no reminders to do exercise, just adding in meals.
  • Sometimes the recipe importer can’t handle blog formatting things correctly and you get whacky stuff. It also randomly assigns products for ingredients instead of the ones you use often. You have to go through and choose alternates.
  • You can’t make changes to the nutrition aspects (like low-sodium diet or higher protein needs) so it’s useless if you have any dietary restrictions that change those bits.
  • You can’t track other nutrition macros, like amounts of Omega-3s and 6s.

Gymboss fitness apps

fitness app

The digital version of a Gymboss interval timer, it’s pretty simple to use and set up intervals for HIIT and Tabata workouts.

Pros:

  • Simple. Like, really, really simple.
  • It’s loud.
  • It does intervals and has a stopwatch. Fancy.
  • You can name intervals so you don’t have remembered what you’re supposed to be doing.

Cons:

  • Ugly as heck. You can change the timer icons to other colors and icons to keep your intervals easier to manage but it’s still pretty 1980’s gym looking combined with very early iPhone design.
  • You can’t duplicate multiple intervals at once. You also can’t have it repeat a series and move on to another series and repeat that one.

Instant Heart Rate fitness apps

Fitness app

It’s a heart rate monitor for your phone. It uses the light and the camera on your fingertip.

Pros:

  • It seems to be pretty reliable when I tested it against a medical finger monitor.
  • It saves your results for a few measurements in the past even in the free app.
  • The monthly subscription (I think?) comes with access to exercise plans.
  • There’s a paid StandUp Test that tells you how strong your heart is.

Cons:

  • The prices for the app and in-app purchases aren’t really quite clear. It might be monthly. It might be a one time fee. I’m still not sure! I have no idea what the StandUp Test costs. iTunes in-app purchase information is the only place I can find that information so that’s not super helpful.
  • There’s a constant barrage of “upgrade!” if you’re using the free version just to monitor your heart rate

Calm fitness apps

Fitness apps

A meditation and the calming app made to help you find your center in life. I’ve been a longtime user of this app and love the most recent changes to the app. I use this app for meditation to center myself when I’m stressed and also to focus while I’m working in timed intervals without distractions.

Pros:

  • There’s a ton of different backgrounds, ranging from simple rain sounds to weird yogi things that I kind of dig.
  • There’s a free program to help you get started on a path towards calmness.
  • There are programs you can purchase for around $10 a year that help you go through steps to focus your mediation.
  • You can use the timer and set a stop sound to bring you back into the world.

Cons:

  • Sometimes it can be buggy and get stuck or crash between changing scenes.
  • It can drain your battery if you’re not careful to shut the app or turn the screen off if you’re not staring at it.
  • The wake-up noises can be pretty dang loud and there’s no way to change the volume at the end of the timer. If you turn up the sound to create a wall of noise to end distractions, it can be a seriously rude awakening when the timer is up.
  • People have been reporting all kinds of other issues with the app since the update.

You may also like What is your style of Yoga? The 5 Most Popular

Tell me, what’s your favorite fitness and health apps?

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