Blogging In The Beginning

I get SO many questions about how I started blogging and what steps someone needs to take to start a blog, so I figured, “lightbulb!” Why not just write a blog post on it? Ik, I’m genius, no need to remind me. But feel free to anyway 🙂

The Planning:

I started The Laughing Blonde because I felt like I needed some sort of creative outlet. There are a few bloggers that I had been following on Instagram before, and it seemed so cool to me to get to travel and have new experiences and get paid to do it! I’ve always had a creative side to me, and I found it difficult to stay excited about my day job as a media planner, which is less creative and more strategic. There was just one night in late January when I got a little burst of energy and decided to actually go for it! I spent about two hours trying to come up with a name, which seemed impossible because literally every single one I came up with was taken already. Do you know how infuriating it is to come up with a genius name for your blog, only to see that some asshole has already claimed it and hasn’t posted a photo since 2013? UGHH. So once I finally found a name that was available both on Instagram and as a website domain, I was ready to go. To be clear, I had ZERO experience designing a blog. The last time I “designed” a website was when I was 12 and a psycho about customizing my MySpace page. Side note- remember when we all thought we were little mini Mark Zuckerbergs (before he was even a thing) because we would figure out how to slightly alter our profile codes on MySpace and made them look really badass? SAME. So anyway, here I am at 24 years old, feeling like an 82 year old who can’t figure out how to turn her cell phone on AKA feeling VERY FREAKING LOST. I picked a super basic layout and wrote my first post, and then published my photo on Instagram. It was truly about as bare bones as you can get. From other people that I’ve talked to, I’ve heard that people stress for MONTHS over perfecting their SEO strategy, or write like, 20 pieces of content before they even make their site public. For me, I just wanted to get something published so that I wasn’t putting so much pressure for perfection on myself. To be clear, I don’t feel like there’s one perfect way to do any of this – I just didn’t want to give myself an excuse to prolong it anymore!

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Followers:

Ahh, follower count. One of the biggest stress-inducing things in the blogger world. Gaining followers, especially in the beginning, is tough because you really have no content (so what are people following you for?) and because it’s unlikely that people are going to want to follow an Instagram page that only has 2 posts and 37 followers – there’s strength in numbers, and at the beginning it’s the struggle bus all the way. The key is to get support from the people you know first. At first I wanted to keep the blog separate from my personal life, which is why I have both two Instagram accounts – one is personal, one is strictly for the blog. I was slightly embarrassed that I had even started a blog, and didn’t feel like I wanted to be judged by my friends, colleagues or even old peers from high school for what I was writing about – especially because I knew there would be times when I would post things that were really personal and sensitive to me. I mean, if you’ve been reading my stuff for the last 6 months then you probably already know what kinds of things I’m talking about. I’m pretty deep sometimes- who knew!? But as I started writing more and more content, I realized that my close friends were going to see it anyway, and honestly, wtf do I care what the guy I had a crush on in 9th grade thought of me anymore? I mean TBH yeah I care a little bit – EW BYE – but not enough to keep me from proudly posting my content. Don’t like it? Don’t look!

So I built a base of followers around the people who knew me and would be at least minutely interested in hearing what I had to say. From there, I did the ~controversial~ move of the classic follow/unfollow. Depending on who you ask, this is either the best or worst way to get Instagram followers. I guarantee you that every single person reading this knows what I’m talking about – it’s the random follow you get from an account you’ve never heard of and you’re like, huh? How did they even find me? Let me tell you: they found you from going to an Instagram account that they like and following the accounts that follow that page. It’s truly a numbers game at first. And it’s a pain in the butt as well, because you can only follow like, 150 a day before Instagram blocks you. So building up your audience is NOT easy, and it takes time. I’ve also found that I need to be better about letting go of the people who unfollow me. It’s nothing personal, they’re just trying to keep their follower:following ratio on point, and for one reason or another The Laughing Blonde didn’t make the cut. It happens.

What I do NOT recommend is buying followers. It’s clear as day when a follower is bought, because they’re have little to no content on their page, have 7 followers and be following 52, 985 people. Don’t waste your money, babe.

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Content:

I’ll keep it simple with this one: Post content that you actually enjoy writing about. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to write a piece when the enjoyment isn’t behind it. It’s all about writing what you know. Hands down, the content that performs the best for me is always the stuff where I’m being really vulnerable and honest about who I am and what I’m going through. Yes, I also like writing about cool restaurants to check out and what makeup I wear, but if you look back at my stuff, you’ll notice that I’ve cut back on those kinds of pieces recently because people don’t care about them as much. They’re reading your blog because they care about YOU. If they wanted recommendations for dinner, they’d just go to Yelp.

Another thing I’ve learned is that writing in my own voice is what allows my readers relate to me so much. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have texted me saying how hard they’re laughing because they can picture me saying the words out loud to them – that’s such a huge compliment! I try to keep it as real as I possibly can – that means sharing my accomplishments, as well as my failures. You’d be surprised how supportive someone you don’t even know can be! Click here for my favorite post to date!

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Photos:

I get photos from all over the place. A lot of times I re-post things I love from other bloggers. Sometimes I use content I’ve shot myself, and other times I work with local photographers who are looking to build up their portfolios. I’m not a Rockafeller over and here and (sadly) I don’t come from oil money either. You don’t need to work with hardcore professionals to get the shots you need. Two of my favorite people I’ve worked with are 1: my friend Kira who works at Travel + Leisure and helped me out massively for my first shoot and 2: my new friend Kelsey (@styledinthestreet) who reached out to me on Instagram to set something up and was AMAZING! I highly recommend working with her if you’re in the area and get the chance. It’s all about making sure you feel totally comfortable with the person you’re working with, otherwise you probably won’t get the shots you want.

I’ve also realized that I get the most engagement when I utilize the My Story feature on Instagram – so many of my followers send me DMs after I’ve posted something, and it’s awesome to know that they’re following along and feel like they’re getting to know me!

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Do you have any tips + tricks to share with me? I’m still so new at this myself, I would love to hear what works for you guys! Post a comment or send me a message 🙂 xo, AJ

Oh, the Places They’ll Go!

Damnnn Laughing Blonde, back at it again with the gift guides! It’s that time again, guys – time to be broke. Honestly, it’s like everyone conspired together to try and make me as poor as possible. Can someone please explain why Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Wedding Szn and Graduation Szn all fall within the same 4 months? It’s rude af. All these people out there getting married and getting degrees and I’m over here like, yeah sure, no prob, here’s $100 I was planning to frivolously spend on like, my electricity bill but nah fam, you take it and get yourself a nice panini maker, it’s all good. It’s summer in NYC, so what would I possibly need electricity for? Air conditioning? All set, thanks!

My little sister is graduating from high school next month and you know what she’s getting from me? A freaking trip to Nashville. Wanna know what my own MOTHER got me for my high school graduation? Absolutely nothing. She didn’t even wanna go because in her words, “there’s really nothing special about graduating high school. You showed up to a school for 4 years and participated just enough for them to pass you on to the next phase of life. You literally didn’t have a choice to not go.” It sounds harsh, but when I think about it, I literally did the bare minimum in high school so she’s like, not wrong. She was kinda bitchy about it, for sure, but not wrong. My sister on the other hand, she’s a low-key genius. All AP classes, #4 in her class, already has a year of college credits under her belt and she’s gotten a full academic ride to the school she’ll be attending in the fall, so I figured I’d throw her a bone, ya know? Reward the little Einstein by agreeing to sneak her into a bar and then hand her the Advil and Gatorade the next morning as she suffers from her first hangover.

Anyway, grad season is upon us, and it’s time to look for gifts that speak to the soul. After all, I’m out here tryna’ break glass ceilings, not bank accounts. Before you check out the gift guide gallery below, take a look at some of the deals + steals I have for you!

Framebridge

The 411: Framebridge is a company that frames your art, but doesn’t require you to liquidate all of your assets to do so. Reasonably priced + very high-quality. Either upload your own photo, or send in what you want to have framed (they can even do shadow boxes)! And they’re quick- it only takes about a week from order to delivery.

The Deal: Use the code “laughingblonde15” to get 15% off of your first purchase!

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pretty/creative by aes

The 411: pretty/creative by aesis an Etsy shop based out of NYC, but ships all over the country! 100% custom totes, makeup bags, travel cases + stainless steel waterbottles, all right at your fingertips, and the pricepoint is fab – $20!

The Deal: We’re giving y’all a giveaway! Any purchase made between now and 6/15 will automatically enter you into a giveaway – the winner will be able to select one item from the shop, as well as receive a $50 Visa gift card! Use the code “LBGRAD” at check-out, and you’re automatically entered! And PS- any purchase you make using that code will give you a 15% discount at check out!

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Where to Buy:

Almost Adulting – Amazon, $13

Meal in a Mug – Amazon, $17

Bachelor Quote Pencils – Etsy, $17.95

Mindy Project Quote Pencils- Etsy, $19.95

I Just Graduated.. Now What? – Urban Outfitters, $20

Bartending Glass Set – Amazon, $20

Y’all Pennant – Etsy, $25

Meryl Streep Pillow – Etsy, $25

Wearsafe – Amazon, $30

Verrier Handcrafted Print – $35

Instagram Framing – Framebridge, $39

Portable PingPong Set – Uncommon Goods, $40

Custom Passport Holder – Etsy, $49

Diana Camera – Uncommon Goods, $49

Custom Gift Krate (Women’s) – Lemon Krate, $50

Six-Pack Bike Bag – Amazon, $60

Custom Gift Krate (Men’s) – Lemon Krate, $98

Polaroid Camera – Amazon, $97

Mini Plus Brewing System – Keurig, $100

Beats Solo Wireless Headphones – Amazon, $229

What’s in my bag?

Are you a clutch type of lady, or more of a tote bag girl? In lamens terms, are you cool with getting around town with just your headphones, wallet, sunnies and a single lipgloss, or do you prefer to also have 50+ extra items, ya know, “just in case”?

Personally, I fall somewhere in between. My bags are usually on the larger side, but a full on tote is often slightly overwhelming and frankly, encourages the poor hoarding behavior that I’m trying to avoid. But this girl likes to be prepared – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cleaned out my bag and then the next day, been in desperate need of whatever it is I decided I would literally never use. Because Murphy’s Law works like that.

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Jokes aside, carrying an over-stuffed, heavy bag can actually damage your health (don’t worry, I talk about that more below). Being a woman for 24.5 years on this earth will teach you a lot, and I’m ready to bless you all with my purse wisdom. It’s not a perfect science (yet), but here’s what’s in my bag:

The Essentials:

Whether your bag fits in one hand or practically doubles as a duffle, every girl must have the absolute bare essentials. If I’m using a really small cross-body, I use a phone case that allows me to put 2 credit cards and an ID into the back of it so that I can leave the wallet at home. I’ll stick a $20 in my bag, my keys and breath mints and I’m good to go. You never know when your bank will turn against you. Say you’re on a health kick and haven’t gone within 100 yards of a pizza place in the last 3 months (LOL unless you live in NYC, bc that’s impossible). You go out with the girls and then decide you’re craving a buffchick pie, so you throw your Chase card down (#payday). Your bank is all, “that’s not Jessica, she would never cheat on her diet!!! Identity Theft!!” Well then. #1) RUDE. #2) Thank God you brought that $20, amiright? Yes, I am. Also, hand sanitizer. Just do it. You never know who was hanging on to the subway pole before you. Ignorance is bliss, but hand sanitizer saves lives.

Here’s some never before seen footage of me and my friends:

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The Beauty Bag

Since I usually carry a medium-size bag, I also put a small makeup bag in there tokeep things organized. Absolutely nothing is more annoying than when I’m looking for something in there and I feel like freaking Mary Poppins pulling out 14 different items first (including a kitchen spoon during a meeting a few months back, that was a really nice surprise).marry poppins

Any of the beauty-related things I have in my bag go in here. I usually carry around at least 2 different lip shades, because you never know if you’ll be in a pink mood or a ~nude~ one. My two current favorites are Maybeline’s Vivid Matte Liquid in either Grey Envy or Twisted Tuplip (only $6.99 at Target), or my Lipsense kit. Speaking of, if you’ve never tried Lipsense but you’re super tired of catching yourself in the mirror at 3pm and seeing that 83% of your lip color is gone, you might want to try this. There’s like, 20+ colors and it seriously lasts you the WHOLE day! You need to be careful about re-applying the gloss every few hours so your lips don’t dry out but other than that, I’m convinced it’s worth the investment. My friend Mandy is a distributor, and you can contact her on Insta at @everbelipsbymandy.

At any given time, my hair can be a real nightmare to deal with (as you may have read in several of my earlier posts). It tangles easily, it gets in the way during Zumba and it sometimes betrays me by looking greasy on same day washes!! That’s why I always carry around 3 hair essentials: My Milk & Sass Macaron hair brush, Milk & Sass Sugar Twists and a mini bottle of Batiste dry shampoo. The brush + hair ties are designed to protect my hair from breakage, and the dry shampoo clears up any oily spots on demand. #MajorKey. The Macaron brush also has a mirror on the cap, so I’ve been able to remove the compact mirror I used to keep in my bag and swap in this lil cutie. Kills 2 birds with 1 stone, and I have one less thing to schlep around with me.

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The final beauty bits are crucial, especially as the weather starts to get warmer out. In just a few short months, we’ll all be trying to mask the sweat stains that formed while we were waiting 12 minutes for the delayed Q train to arrive. Fun Fact about New Yorkers- most of us suffer through subway commutes that force us to stand on top of each other while waiting in underground stations that are 20 degrees hotter than the already-blazing summer temps raging above ground. LOL summer is fun. As a wise lady (probably) once said, you can’t force yourself to not sweat, but you can def make sure you don’t stink from it! Ta-da! I give you the mini Marc Jacobs Daisy Sorbet perfume. It’s so cute and smells amazing. I got mine for $20 at CVS, and I get compliments on it all the time. If Daisy Sorbet isn’t for you, there’s tons of other options. Most major perfume brands sell mini versions of their scents, so check out Ulta or Duane Reade or Sephora.

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When I Feel Like Being Extra

Generally speaking, if I know I’m going some place where I won’t be in total control of my surroundings, I’m extra af. I’m a notorious over-packer, but it’s simply because I don’t want to be in a position later on where I wanna kick myself for not bringing the thing I KNEW I should’ve brought. Don’t believe me? Here’s what I dumped out of my tote the last time I went somewhere for longer than 12 hours:

  • Water bottle / snacks (obv)
  • Extra phone battery
  • Extra underwear (TMI, IK)
  • Dairy pills (I’m lactose intolerant)
  • 2 books for the subway
  • Extra contact lenses
  • Eye drops

The list goes on, but I don’t think I need to bore you with the details….


The Bottom Line

Over-packing and constantly carrying heavy bags on your shoulders could end up doing permanent damage to your body. Carrying a heavy bag on one side of your body consistently could lead to muscle spasms and pain in your neck/shoulders/lower back. Even if you’re consciously leveling it out as you walk, you could be doing even more damage! It can cause pain in your hips and oblique muscles on the side you carry your bag on, and neck strain on the opposite side caused by your body trying to level out your shoulders.

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Here’s what you can do to save your poor body:

  • Use a backpack (I know, I LOLd too, but there are some pretty cute leather ones out there – try TJMAXX or the outlets!)
  • Switch shoulders
  • Use a second bag (one purse for your essentials, a second tote for your workout clothes) – this helps distribute the weight more evenly
  • Avoid wearing heels when you’re carrying a heavy bag, because heels alter your gait which emphasizes the issues you’re already having.

 

xo, AJ

My Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift Guide 

How is May here already?! I swear – I blinked at some point in January and the next thing I know, it’s Jack Rogers weather. No complaints from me! May brings two major life stresses- bathing suit season and Mother’s Day. Both of these things give me nightmares, tbh. I love my mom, but shopping for her is near impossible. The woman has everything she wants, and is on a first name basis with our UPS and Fed-Ex delivery people, mostly thanks to Amazon Prime. Even worse? I have a wonderful step-mom, so this holiday is twice as hard- two women who deserve the world, and who have completely different tastes. What’s a near-broke 20-something year old girl-woman to do?

This year, I’ve really done my research. Check out my Mother’s Day 2017 Gift Guide for every type of mom!


For the mom who cherishes family photos

Framebridge was my go-to for this Mother’s Day – I’m truly impressed by the quality of the photos + frames for the price. I ordered 2 Instagram Minis – 1 for each mom – and they were only $39 each! There’s a pretty large selection of frames, and they’re all so beautiful! Weather your mom would prefer a single photo or a gallery wall, she’ll be hanging this one on the wall as soon as possible. The frames I ordered were the Laurel and the Camden but like I said, there’s a ton more to choose from.

Framebridge is actually giving my readers a discount to celebrate their mamas! 15% off when you use code laughingblonde15 at checkout 🙂




Framebridge Instagram Mini – $39

For the mom who loves something pretty (and thoughtful!)

As soon as I saw the Lemon Krate curated boxes, I fell in love. I first saw them featured on Lauren Conrad’s The Little Market Instagram feed a few months ago, and immediatley began following them. Their Instagram is full of amazing gifts that have me legit finding any excuse I can to give one to someone I know! My two favorites for this Mother’s Day feature Little Market candles, Elderflower + Rose lemonade, pink macaroons, cocktail kits for a long flight, lotions, etc. I seriously can’t wait to give this to my mama, I know she’s going to love it! Part of magic of these Krates are how beautifully they’re packaged. I’ve actually spoken to Lisa, one of the founders of LK, who says, “Our goal for this was to offer pre-curated Krates for all types and ages of mamas! We always match a nice paper with the Krate so that from box to product, they are having fun and enjoying opening!” Because the Krates are custom, pricing can range from $50-$200 – and they make Krates for tons of other things besides Mother’s Day, so they’re really willing to work with your budget to get you what you’re looking for.

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Lemon Krate: $50-$200    Instagram:@lemonkrategifts

For the mom who deserves a new piece of jewelry

How perfect is this handwriting bracelet!! Sadly, I didn’t even know these existed until last week when my best friend ordered the manly version for her boyfriend and sent me the link. I immediately became obsessed and had to have one made for not only my mom, but for me as well! For $31, I’ll always have a little piece of my mama with me.

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IMEsilver Etsy Shop – $31

For the mom who loves a good sassy phone case.. or wall art!

I fell in love with Verrier Handcrafted a few years ago when I discovered them at Chelsea Markets. I’ve had my fabulous wall-art displayed in my living room for almost 2 years now, and never have someone in my apartment for longer than 10 minute without them complimenting it. I showed my mom and within 2 weeks, she’d ordered at least 8 prints for herself! Her most recent purchase was the “Swear On My Chanel” phone case – too cute for words!

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Verrier Handcrafted $35 – $100

For the mom who loves a delicious smelling candle

I consider myself a candle connoisseur, and I just so happened to have found my new favorite candle at the Anthropology that opened up in my office building earlier this month. My go-to scents would be the Panjore Lychee and Goji Toracco Orange. Made in the USA and have 100 hours of continuous burn time? Go get yours asap!

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Voluspa Cut Glass Jar Candle – $26

For the mom who loves to host

Crate&Barrel has this insanely cute Ice Mold/ Wine Bottle Chiller that will look fab on every table for girls night. And tbh, this is probably the only thing I can afford at Crate that my mom would like, so it’s hard to pass up..

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Crate&Barrel Wine Bottle Chiller -$39

For the sentimental mom

A book filled with all the things you love about your mom. Cue the tears, and make sure you bring a pack of tissues with you for when she opens this emotional terrorist of a present …

Francesca’s What I Love About Mom Book – $18

 

For the mom who’s in the market for new skin care

Fresh-scented and affordable, the perfect combo. The Body Wash Infused Buffers last for 30+ uses and are fantastic for exfoliation and boosting circulation. The body lotion is enriched with Vitamin E, Macadamia Oil, Shea Butter and tons of other ingredients that will leave your mama’s skin smooth and hydrated. Not only are they great for you and your mom, but they’re vegan friendly and cruelty-free, so they’re helping all of our furry friends as well!

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Spongelle’s Bulgarian Rose Box Duo Set – $45

 

BootayBag: The Ultimate Subscription

Lately I’ve been looking into different ways to interact with my community and give back to the world, even if it’s by doing something small. There’s so many worthy causes, that I sometimes get overwhelmed by where to turn. I know, I know, #FirstWorldProbs, right?

I kept seeing BootayBag posts allll over the place on Instagram. Literally, in any given insta sesh, I’d come across at least 5 posts with a photo that included cute undies and the “Hey Babe” bag. V cute. Not gonna lie, that’s initially what caught my eye. So I clicked on someone’s bio link to learn more about it, and ended up really liking what I saw.

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For $12 a month (+ free shipping!) you get two new parents of underwear- you choose the style – sent to you. That’s actually the same as Victoria’s Secret but without the annoying salespeople and Angel posters where you see Adriana and Gigi silently judging you! Anyways, for the $12, you get 2 pair of cute undies, and you end up giving back!

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Per their website: “BootayBag is a philanthropic based company through our subscribers support! Whenever someone posts a picture with the hashtag #undermatters on social media, BootayBag donates $1 to the Melanoma Foundation! We want to raise awareness that everyone has their own battle, but that does not mean you have to fight alone!”

So there it is ladies- look good + feel good. What could be better? Click here to order your first pair now! BootayBag Subscription – don’t forget to post a selfie and hashtag #undermatters !

Do you have any other services that you use that also give back? Let me know! I’d love to check them out and possibly feature them 🙂

xo, AJ

The Best Cardio Playlist You’ll Ever Download

Happy Monday! This post will be short, sweet and too the point because uhm, it’s Monday, and I know you need all the time you can get to answer the emails you ignored Friday when you left the office and little earlier than you should’ve… I won’t tell.

One thing you should know about me is that when I commit, I commit. Therefore, I have gifted you with a freaking fabulous cardio workout playlist that will get you movin’ and groovin’ those weekend brunch calories right off! I’m no slacker, and I have a self-proclaimed fantastic taste in music (despite what my mother thinks). This 60-song list is packed with upbeat popular classics, with a few throwbacks to the middle-school days, and a few throw-WAY-backs to your mom’s middle school days.

Pro tip: Even if you don’t think you’ll make it to the gym today, throw this playlist on anyway. If your third cup of coffee just isn’t cutting it, these songs will get you feeling energized and ready to take on the day!

Starbucks Purple Drink 💜

You guys have heard about it before – the evasive Starbucks “secret menu”. You see all these crazy Instagram photos but don’t know how to order what you’re drooling over. Fear no more! I give you the Purple Drink recipe:

Iced passion tango tea with no water (sub soy milk, vanilla syrup and blackberries)


Enjoy!

xo, AJ