Simplicity: Ashley Brooke

AshleyBrookeHi friends! I am Ashley Brooke, Owner and Creative Director of Ashley Brooke Designs, a Sunshine State Lifestyle Brand on a mission to make every day just a bit more fancy! We design desk accessories and gifts for the girl who likes a good cup of coffee with a side of sass. When I am not in the midst of deadlines, press checks, blog posts, and photoshoots, you can find me traveling with my sweet husband and fluffy sidekick! Life over here at ABD is full to the brim with adventure, just the way I like it.

How do you take care of yourself so that you’re physically and mentally prepared to be your best self for others? 

I try my best to set myself up for success every night before leaving my office: I make sure to clear off my desk, write down the next day’s to-do lists, schedule blog posts, and lay out my journal and Bible. Before bed, I lay out my gym clothes, shoes, hair tie, water bottle, morning snack, and prep the coffee pot! That way I know the first few hours of my day are ready and I can roll out of bed, head to the gym, and when I come home I’ll have my coffee and start tackling the day. It’s funny how a “win” like that first thing in the morning can really set the tone for your entire work day. But, to be honest, I can’t take credit for this genius idea; my parents made my sister and I do this when we were little, packing our little lunches, cleaning up our rooms, getting our backpacks ready and sitting by the door, deciding what we were going to have for breakfast (Cereal? Get out that bowl and spoon!), and picking out our clothes. After dinner each night, my mom would set the timer on the oven for 15 minutes and say, “Alright girls, time to set up for success!” It’s become a habit that I can’t seem to shake!

What is one tradition or routine that’s really important to you? And why? 

Dinner! I know that sounds funny, but dinner is my favorite and the most important to me. Every night when my husband comes home from work, we eat dinner together and talk about our day–the good, bad, and the ugly. It’s our time to really get the latest “news” in each other’s worlds. It is by far my favorite part of the day. We don’t make that big of a fuss about it. Sometimes the table is set all fancy and sometimes we sit on the couch facing each other with plates in our laps. It’s the best. We both had nightly family dinners growing up, so that’s a tradition I hope we never break. Nothing fills my love tank like dinner.

Your PICK SIX: What six things can you absolutely not live without? 

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1. My iPhone: It holds my Bible app, my notes, my calendars, work, and communication to my favorite people. My phone is the keeper of all the things. I should really stop dropping it so much.

2. Whirley Popcorn Maker: This thing is the best. I make popcorn just about every single day, and the whirley pop makes it so easy! Just add a little coconut oil, kernels, and crushed sea salt and I am in snack heaven!

3. Kenra Blow Dry Spray: This, I realize, sounds ridiculous, but honestly it WORKS!! I pinky promise my hair dries so. much. faster. And really, if there is anything in the world that I want to cut in half, it would be my blow dry time.

4. Gel Manicures: Again with the silly unnecessary necessities, but nothing makes me feel more put together than nicely manicured fingers! I have recently started going to a wonderful salon where I have my very own nail tech who knows me and gets that I am always on the go. I can be in and out under an hour with a fresh manicure and still be able to get my keys out of my handbag and move on to the next thing. Whoever invented gel manicures is a genius I tell ya!

5. Amazon Prime: What in the world did we do before Amazon Prime? Need socks? An umbrella? Batteries? Dog food? Don’t worry, you can have that by Wednesday at noon thank-you-very-much.

6. Audible: I have had a subscription to audible for years now, and I am never ever giving it up. I don’t have tons of time to read, and when I do finally sit down to read, I end up falling asleep– the struggle is real. Years ago, to combat the fear of never picking up a book again, I downloaded Audible and haven’t looked back. I listen to about one book every 1-2 weeks. It’s awesome! Everything from Jesus books, to silly beach reads, to business books, I listen to them when I am editing photos, doing the dishes, diving to and from our warehouse, and out for a run! If you haven’t tried Audible I would highly recommend it.

Follow along with Ashley: 

Instagram and Facebook: @ashleybrookedesigns

Twitter/Pinterest/Snapchat: @abdesigns

Website: www.ashleybrookedesigns.com 

 

 

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Simple recipes: Darn Good Chocolate Cake

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It’s no secret. I’m not the best cook. I’m trying a lot lately though. I like baking more than cooking (especially if its easy and yummy and makes my fam happy!) Here’s a last minute, EASY, not-super-messy, not-a-ton-of-dishes recipe for the fourth if you’re looking for a quick dessert to bring to a party or to enjoy while watching the fireworks tonight! Recipe came to me from my mama. And its seriously the moistest (is that a word?), gooiest, yummiest cake ever. Last chocolate cake recipe you’ll ever need. You’re welcome!! ; ) 

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Darn Good Chocolate Cake
Serves 8
delicious, easy, quick slice-and-enjoy cake
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 box devil's food cake
  2. 1 package chocolate instant pudding (small)
  3. 4 eggs
  4. 1 cup sour cream
  5. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1/2 cup warm water
  7. 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Mix everything, except chocolate chips for about 3 minutes. I mix on low / medium in my KitchenAid.
  2. Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Pour mixture into a greased bundt pan.
  4. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
  5. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Pop out, dust with powdered sugar (optional) and enjoy!
Emily Ley http://emilyley.com/blog/

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Free Printable: Overwhelmed Cheat Sheet

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Download and print for yourself! A cheat sheet – where to begin when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Available in our Free Printable Library (along with 40+ other awesome free printables!)

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EL for A Little Lady Shop Headbands

When I first found out that I was pregnant with two babies, I never imagined that I would get to be a mama to a sweet baby girl. I was certain the doctor would tell me there were two little boys in there, and I was totally ready to rock the whole mom-of-all-boys thing! When we found out that we were, in fact, having a little lady, I squealed, cried, nearly fell off the table and scared my husband half to death. It wasn’t long before I was dreaming of bows, ruffles and all things girly. As they say, “the bigger the bow, the better the mama…” I digress… :)

Dressing Caroline up in sweet, girly outfits with big, beautiful bows has been so much fun for this new girl-mama.

IMG_4763Needless to say, this spring, when A Little Lady Shop asked me to collaborate with them to create a collection of bows for baby girls. I quickly agreed! Caroline’s very first bows were purchased from A Little Lady Shop, and she even wore some of them in her newborn photos, so this was SUCH an exciting and special partnership for me. I designed the fabric and selected the style of the bows, and Marie at A Little Lady Shop did an incredible job making my vision come to life! Not only is each bow handmade, but they’re also really soft and gentle enough for even the most sensitive newborn heads. I couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out! One of the bows even features our signature “EL” pineapple pattern! Here’s a little peek into our process and idea bouncing below.

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These bows are now available for purchase on A Little Lady Shop’s website! To celebrate, we’re giving away a set of all four EL for ALLS headbands PLUS one of our SOLD OUT EL Baby Books! Enter below!

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Quick and easy makeup

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fashionista and I don’t know a ton about makeup, but I know what I like. :) I’ve found a few simple, basic makeup favorites that are pretty tried and true for me. I try and put on makeup every day (doesn’t always happen) because it makes me feel a little more put together and ready for whatever the day throws at me (read: people I run into at the grocery store, surprise work meetings, etc).

I’m super fair and I have a hard time loving lipstick colors, so here’s what I go for: thick, dark upper lid eyeliner, nude (bare?) lip, bright / girly blush and thick lashes. (Seriously, I would wear fake lashes every day if I could.. I LOVE the look).

So CoverGirl sent me these two awesome pieces to try (not everyday you see “CoverGirl” in your inbox, so that was a surprise!) and I really, really love them:  their new Super Sizer mascara (very black) and their Intensify Me precision eyeliner. These two fit my love for a bolder eye than lip and I really love them. The eyeliner isn’t your standard “crayon” type (there’s got to be a more fancy word for that) – it’s a liquid that goes on with a stiff brush (that feels like a crayon… are you with me?) The mascara has a thin wand and goes on thick. I love.

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My friend Kate (from The Small Things blog) sent me some awesome lipstick from Anthro the other day when she saw my sad Insta post about how I can’t do lipstick… and she hit the nail on the head! It’s gorgeous!! It’s peony by Albeit – the perfect pinky – nude color. (wearing it here!)

My favorite piece of makeup is my MAC Bare Study paint pot (it’s an eyelid primer). I wear neutral shadows (also from MAC) and it keeps them on and doesn’t allow them to get oily / crease. All in all, it takes me about 5-10 minutes to throw a decent amount of makeup on in the morning. (Also, run and go to Banana… these drapey tees are my FAVORITE EVER. I have them in every color. Watch carefully and you’ll catch them 40% off on sale!!)

FAVORITES

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Simplicity: Holly Gardner

Simplicity-Series-with-Holly-GardnerHi, I’m Holly! I live in Panama City Beach, FL with my husband, Chris, and my two kids, Charlotte (7) and James (almost 2). My background is in engineering, but when my first husband passed away I took that time to change career paths, transitioning from a hobbyist to a full-time professional photographer. That was six years ago, and life has continued to change radically, forcing me to roll with the punches! I remarried a wonderful man, Chris, and in 2013 we had a son that was born with life-threatening food allergies. We both have full-time jobs, but we felt the calling to create and share products that we believe can greatly improve the lives of food allergy families. The company, Safe & Happy Family, launched in December 2014.

How do you take care of yourself so that you’re physically and mentally prepared to be your best self for others?
I believe in the power of long walks, sunshine, and giggles, so I try to combine those things as much as possible. My favorite thing to do is sit outside and lay in the hammock. I’ve also started meditating regularly and try my best to wake up before the sun so I can knock out some of my to-do list before anyone stirs.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/gardnerlivein

In your house, how do the mundane parts of life get done?
I use to-do lists for everything, and it makes me feel great when I can see I’ve accomplished a lot. Also, we like to have family “cleaning parties” where we crank up the music and all spend 10 minutes cleaning.

What is one tradition or routine that’s really important to you? And why?
Eating meals together. It doesn’t matter how tired, cranky, or stressed we are, we make it a priority to always sit down and have at least one meal together as a family. We give thanks to God for our food, talk about what we’re eating and what we’ve been up, and share stories about the day.

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Your PICK SIX: What 6 products can you absolutely not live without?

1. Camera: Clearly, this is going to be important to me because I’m a photographer. But the real reason I am so passionate about photography is because after my first husband passed away I was left with very few images of him with my daughter. I swore to never let that happen again!

2. Patagonia Sweatshirts: I’m obsessed with Patagonia products not only because they’re very high quality, but because they company has a strong mission that is woven throughout everything they do. They may not be the cheapest, but they are the best. I have a collection Patagonia outerwear that I wear any time the temperature drops below 70. (Yes, I’m a Florida girl!) My favorite is my soft grey one – it’s light, breathable, and super cute!

3. Pony Tail Holders: My hair has gotten pretty long and I like to curl it when I want to be all cutesy. But honestly, I wear it up 99% of the time because I’d rather not be bothered.

4. Food Allergy Binder: This organizer was created out of necessity when our son was first diagnosed with food allergies. We were completely overwhelmed with paperwork and couldn’t keep all of the details straight. I created an organizer to help, and refined it over a year and a half. This past year I got a designer on-board (http://www.angie-webb.com/) to turn my prototype into a reality. This is something that we keep on the counter and use every day. Without it, we’d be lost!

5. Flip-Flops: Like every Florida girl, I love flip-flops. However, I do not like what spending hours at a time in them does to my body. The only flip-flops I’ve found that don’t cause pain are by Vionic. I can wear them all day and not end up with blisters or throbbing knees.

6. Fitbit: This is something that I never would have expected I’d grow so attached to. I purchased it to help me get back into shape, which has been incredibly challenging since having my second kid. Not only does it help me track how sedentary I am (sitting in front of a computer all day isn’t good for anyone!) but it also tracks my sleep patterns. Charting my sleep (and lack thereof) has really helped me view my health more holistically. Also key for me is the capability for caller ID on the watch. I’m constantly misplacing my phone or have it turned down, so I find it particularly helpful when I’m at weddings because I can make sure I don’t miss any important calls.

Anything else you think our readers would love to know? 

I consider myself an advocate for food allergy education. There are so many myths and misconceptions out there, as well as confusion between intolerances and allergies and people unnecessarily restricting their diets or their children’s diets without an accurate diagnosis. If you think you or your child has a food allergy, please go to a board-certified allergist and visit the website of the non-profit FARE.

http://www.foodallergy.org

When dealing with those less informed, remember to act with patience and grace. If you know someone with diagnosed food allergies, ask them what you can do to keep them safe. Take it a step further by dedicating a hunk of time to watching this video:

https://vimeo.com/73910827

Any additional tips or systems that help you keep it all together?
I work with a lot of people remotely, and I rely heavily upon Basecamp. I tried it out several years ago and didn’t find it helpful, but now I can’t live without it. It’s seriously changed the way I do business!

Follow along with Holly: 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/safehappyfamily

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hollygardnerphotography

Blog: http://www.safehappyfamily.com

Website: http://www.hollygardner.com/

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5 Tips for Packing A Great Travel Bag + A Giveaway!

Today we are so excited to share a collaboration that we’ve been working on with Hayden Reis! We designed a tote bag and wristlet that are now available for pre-order on their website. We adore Hayden Reis bags for family outings and road trips and couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out! Stay tuned for the official release on July 1st!

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Hayden Reis

Whether it’s for work or play, these bags are perfect for just about anything you have planned for this summer– beach trips, car rides, office hauls, pool days, picnics, and more! They’re made of premium sailcloth, so not only are they water resistant, but they are extremely durable and easy to clean (you can even spray them down with a hose!). Emily recently took this bag on a road trip with three littles in tow. We’re are excited to share our top five tips with you to help simplify the process of packing the perfect road trip bag! If you have older kids or are taking an adults only trip, you can alter these tips to fit your specific needs.

Tip #1: Don’t overpack!

Overpacking is a far too common mistake that’s made when packing for a road trip. Our advice? If it’s something you can easily go a day in the car without, pack it in your suitcase or leave it at home! The items that we absolutely won’t leave on a long road trip without are: baby formula, diapers, wipes, pacifiers, snacks, small toys, plastic bags, a blanket, burp cloths, and, of course, outfit changes for the little ones.

Tip #2: Have a designated place for each item. 

Don’t just throw things in a bag! When packing our Hayden Reis bag, we put large items (a roll of paper towels or a container of baby formula) in the main section of the bag and keep the pockets reserved for smaller items, such as pacifiers, snacks, and burp cloths.

Tip #3: Roll burp cloths and stand them up in an interior pocket. 

This way it’s not only easy to see how many you have left, but it also makes them extremely easy to spot and grab one quickly in a pinch! All of our mama readers know that when you need a burp cloth, you need it right away. :)

Tip #4: Pack small prizes or activities to help entertain older children at rest stops. 

Giving your older children something fun to do while you feed babies, change diapers, or fill up on gas will help to eliminate meltdowns and get you back on the road as quick as possible!

Tip #5: Put little items in a small, clear bag. 

Before you throw pacifiers or your mascara into your bag, first place them in a small, clear bag (i.e: a ziploc) to put inside an interior pocket. They won’t end up scattered all over your bag, and you’ll be able to quickly identify what’s in each one.

And for one last piece of exciting news today…our friends at Hayden Reis have offered to give one lucky reader their very own EL for Hayden Reis tote bag from this collaboration! Enter to win below, and we will select one person to win on June 25th at 12:00pm! Or, you can pre-order yours here! Happy packing! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS: We’re always looking for great brands to partner with to bring a little more joy and simplicity to our readers! Have an idea? Send us a note at hello@emilyley.com! Check out more of our favorite brands at #ELFavorites

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A season for everything

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Do you ever feel like your life suddenly looks a lot different than it did yesterday?

With a move, two babies, a preschooler, a quickly-growing business and everything else under the sun going on, life has been BUSY lately. Let’s talk about balance for a minute. That elusive WORD. BALANCE. We all want it, but does it really exist? Here are my thoughts… balance is like riding a bike. In order to stay on the bike, you’re shifting your weight from left to right. You never just FIND balance and stay there. It’s a constant shift. Sometimes all your weight is more to one side than the other. And the next curve you take you shift your weight to the other side. Good news is, unless you hit a rock, you’re probably still upright.

And that’s life. Especially over here these days. Some days I have to throw my attention more to work and sometimes I have to turn it more to my family. Sick kiddo? Throw my “weight” to that side and shut the computer off. Big launch day? Be unendingly grateful that we have an amazing nanny for the twins and school for B, grab a big cup of coffee and buckle down. Some days I’m able to give my all to everything that needs me. And some days, mama needs a big glass of wine and a pedicure… am I right? Or a nap zzzzzzzzz… I digress. :)

Lately I’ve found that the season I’m in my family requires my undivided attention one day and business needs me more than usual the next. Over the past year and a half I’ve had to take countless days / weeks / months away from work to pour myself into my family. And that’s the beautiful, hard, exhausting, incredible season I’m in. This verse has been ringing in my heart lately – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3 / NIV). That whole passage is just beautiful. Here’s a little bit I was reading this morning:

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 / NIV)

Just a little encouragement to embrace the season of life you’re in. It will always change and ebb and flow and the true success of life is knowing when to shift this way… and when to shift that way…

xo,

Em

PS: In case you’re wondering if God hears your prayers… the top photo is from one year ago today.

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Download The Simplified Planner APP!

blogimage-01The day is finally here!! When we released the very first version of The Simplified Planner back in 2011, we dreamed of meeting women right where they are – with busy lives and tons of responsibilities pulling at their hearts and time. We wanted to put a tool in their hands to help them manage their need-tos allowing for more space for their want-tos. The first step was creating and releasing The Simplified Planner (paper version!) As many of you, who’ve been cheering us on from the beginning, know — we’ve tweaked and improved the Simplified Planner year after year (and continue to do so) to get it just right. The second step was to create an inclusive, inspiring, encouraging community for women — and this is an area we are continuing to grow in (we have some big plans coming soon for the blog and our social media communities!). The third step was to create an electronic on-the-go version of the Simplified Planner so that we can serve women who a) preferred to manage their lives electronically or b) wanted a companion “on-the-go” tool to go along with their paper SP. Building the app straight from our hearts — for women who deeply desire to live their lives on purpose — was an enormous adventure. We had no idea how much work that adventure would actually entail and are so grateful to our developers for leading us through the process. We are SO excited to release the app today and can’t wait for you to check it out! We’re continually updating the app — tweaking things and adding features to make it an even greater tool.

The Simplified Planner App features the same five key components you’ll find in the paper Simplified Planner: calendar, to do, notes and dinner — as well as a daily summary page to give you a fresh start and a little inspiration every day. (PS: You can purchase really cute color-themes to personalize the app for your own personal style! It’s almost like choosing your Simplified Planner cover!! We’re adding more color-themes all the time, so check back often!)

It’s our sincerest hope that the Simplified Planner App serves as a tool to help you add more joy and simplicity into your busy lives. Visit the app website here and download YOUR Simplified Planner App HERE! :)

Thank you for cheering us on as we continue this adventure!

xo,

Emily

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SIMPLICITY : Jessica Muroff

Simplicity_Muroff-01Hi, I’m Jessica! I’m a woman who wears several hats, like so many of us. I’m a mom, wife, nonprofit CEO, friend, sister, daughter, mentor, board member, giver and doer. I live in Tampa, Florida and I love our community! I’m proud that my career gives me the opportunity to create positive change in our community. This is a strong part of who I am and the imprint I want to leave in this world. I lead a terrific nonprofit called Frameworks of Tampa Bay and we build the social and emotional skills of youth. I have two daughters, Danica and Alexandra, ages 9 and 7. I also have two furry babies, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

How do you take care of yourself so that you’re physically and mentally prepared to be your best self for others?

I make it a priority to plan time to take care of myself. If I don’t put this as one of my priorities, I can’t do all that I do to support my family, my friends, my team, and my community. There are a few things that I do:

I exercise. I dedicate time to fitness; it is something that is important to me and the best outlet for relieving stress. My favorite workouts are pilates and boxing.

I meditate. I do this at least five times per week. It is important to clear the mental clutter. It takes discipline, but it is well worth the effort.

I write. I love to write, if I’m not writing for my organization, I’m blogging at BePresentProject.com

I create. I love to cook, bake, craft, and use my creative side as often as I can. This is a great stress relief for me.

I love. I love as much as I can each and every day. I work hard to show and give my love. Doing this makes me whole.

In your house, how do the mundane parts of life get done?

With love, fun and music. Always.

I am a bit addicted to cleaning and organizing. I’m busy thinking big picture and focusing on the future success of my nonprofit organization every day, the mundane parts of my life are one of my favorite ways to unwind.

What is one tradition or routine that’s really important to you? And why?

Each and every night my family sits together around our dinner table for good food and conversation. We always start by asking the question, “What are you grateful for?” It is my favorite tradition that instills happiness, hopefulness, and perspective in my family.

Another one of my favorite traditions is Sunday Night Dinner. I’ve been enjoying Sunday dinners with my sister and her family for more than six years now. This time spent with family (and cousins having so much fun together!!) is the best part of my week.

Your PICK SIX: What 6 products can you absolutely not live without?
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1. Evernote – When I don’t have time to read articles, or if I need to jot a quick note, I use Evernote.

2. Notebooks – I love to write notes in meetings and I keep a notebook completely dedicated to my daily priorities.

3. Note cards/personal stationery – I write hundreds of handwritten notes each and every year. I love having a great supply of stationery and note cards. I buy these everywhere!  I love shopping at Papyrus and Target.

4. Small purses – I’m on the go a lot and I don’t really like carrying large bags. I just need enough for my keys, phone, lip gloss, and business cards. My favorite is my GiGi New York’s All In One Bag.

5. Pink Kitchen Aid Mixer – I really love to bake. I try to challenge myself often and this is one of my favorite creative outlets. (I have a hot pink kitchen aid mixer…I LOVE pink!!)

6. Magic Grip Hair Pins Magic Grip Hair Pins– I have long hair (my girls do, too!) and I enjoy wearing it many different ways. These pins are the best for putting my hair up in so many different ways and keeping it in place!

Anything else you think our readers would love to know? Any additional tips or systems that help you keep it all together?

Being present – This is my commitment in life. I am abundantly blessed and I want to enjoy each and every moment, even the challenging moments. I try my best to be present so that I can make each day a story worth telling. This means putting away my phone when I’m with loved ones or in important meetings. Disconnecting for longer periods of time just to give my brain a break from social media and email.

 

Follow along with Jessica:

Instagram – @jessmuroff

Twitter – @bepresentmom

The Simplicity Series features busy gals, in different stages of life, making what matters happen and tips and tricks they’ve found to be helpful. Simplicity is about building margin into your life and spending time on and with that which fuels your heart. While we love to share products and services that help us day to day, but simplicity is about HEART and intentionally choosing the thing that matters most (your TREASURE) more than anything money can buy. We wear many hats and we know you do too, so we’d love to hear your thoughts as well! For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34

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