Today I’m taking you behind the scenes of this little space on the Internet by answering some of the most common (and not-so-common) questions that I receive from readers about literally every topic under the sun – from blogging, to marriage, to travel, to home decor and a few personal questions in between!
My favorite blogs to peruse are ones where the blogger writes not to keep up with some sort of self-imposed schedule, or to fulfill a promotional objective, but simply because she cannot not write.
Scott Fitzgerald said it best, “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”
With blogs like those, I adore getting a glimpse of the raw and vulnerable person behind the writing – what they like, what they dislike, how they view the world. So in an effort to be as transparent with you as this forum allows, I’ve combed through the many comments, emails and messages that readers have sent my way over the past three years and hope to answer some of these questions in this very post.
Brace yourself – it’s quite a lengthy article, but I’ve divided the questions by topics in case some are of more interest to you than others.
When and why did you start a blog? I started my blog in late February of 2013 for the same reason that many people take up a new hobby: I needed a creative outlet for my overflowing and ever-shifting thoughts and ideas. At the time, I was a recent college graduate who, upon graduation, immediately transitioned into a corporate marketing job and had just gotten married – a series of rather quick, life-altering events that sparked my desire to explore my self-identity and who I was apart from college, apart from my profession, apart from being a new wife. Although the main focus of the blog quickly changed from fashion to less frivolous topics, my hope all along has been to inspire others to create a life they love, to become the woman they dream of being and to never settle for mediocrity – whether in the wardrobe, home, workplace or personal life.
How do you decide what to blog about? Blogging gives my brain the chance to catch up with the rest of my life. It gives my heart the chance to figure out where it’s at, so more often than not, I tend to blog about the topics that are currently on my mind – whether that’s the bungalow renovation or what it means to be a gentle person.
It does help to keep a running list of possible article ideas, but for better or worse, I refuse to be a slave to some sort of self-imposed schedule. I realize that is not the traditional approach to blogging, especially if your focus is to monetize it, but I have never been very good at following what everyone else is doing, especially if it doesn’t feel authentic to who I am. Going back to one of my favorite quotes about writing, “Write when you have something to say, not when you have to say something.”
What camera do you use to take your photos? I use a Nikon D90, which I bought used from the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, Alabama – (amazing place, by the way!). It has an AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and I also occasionally rely on my iPhone 6S.
How do you manage your time with work, family and blogging? This is quite possibly the most-asked question. Time management is tough and definitely not my strong suit, as I have a tendency to think that I can fit so much more into one day than is humanly possible. For example, it is nearly two o’clock in the morning on a Saturday as I sit on the floor of our living room, typing out the answers to these questions. Not the best example of time management, wouldn’t you agree?
I never want to look back on my life and see it as a collection of schedules, deadlines, meetings, disposable coffee cups and to-do lists, and so I try to take every opportunity to analyze my priorities and whether or not I’m truly spending time on the things (and people) that matter – or if I simply think I am. For example, both my husband and I work in a corporate setting, which oftentimes comes with long hours or working on the weekend. In light of that, I strive to treasure every moment when we happen to be home together. As far as housework and the like, I’ve always been the type to clean as I go, because there is nothing more that I dislike than coming home to a messy house after an exhausting day at work. Having said that, I’ve been known to leave the laundry in the dryer for an entire week and dirty dishes in the sink for nearly as long, because sometimes there’s simply not enough time in the world to do it all, and that’s okay.
What kind of information do I need to include in my media kit? This question inevitably comes up every time I work with a blogger on a custom designed media kit. For starters, include your blog name (duh!), most recent visitor and page view statistics, a short “about me” blurb, social media reach, what sort of topics you typically cover, what kind of collaboration opportunities you offer, any past notable clients or projects and the best way to contact you. I’m planning to publish a detailed post about media kits, so watch this space!
What plugin are you using to show related blog posts? I use a “Related Posts” feature within the Jetpack for WordPress plugin to display related posts at the end of every article.
What are some favorite brands you’ve worked with in the past? From the start I have been very selective in choosing the brands I work with, in order to remain authentic to my brand. Each collaboration pushes and challenges your creative boundaries in new ways – to present information in a fresh, real and engaging way – but some of my absolute favorites have been Wayfair, Hewlett-Packard, Kohler and Lulu*s.
How do you approach a brand about collaborating with you on a post? Before even consider reaching out to a brand, I need to be genuinely interested in their work – and naturally, that means I’ve been following them on social media, buying their products and otherwise engaging with the brand. I want the fit to be a genuine and natural one – not a one-off post about something that doesn’t fit with the overall FOXY OXIE aesthetic. Sure, there are those instances where you try out a product and blog about your experience, but in those cases the brand typically reaches out to you. If I’m pitching an idea to a brand, I already have a clear, planned-out understanding of the creative direction I plan to take on the post. But remember that good content is far more important than collaborations. Your content should dictate your future collaborations – not the other way around.
What’s the best way to gain new followers on Instagram or social media in general? I am quite possibly the worst person to ask this question, because it’s never been my goal to gain followers. Sure, everyone wants their content to be read, but in my opinion followers should only be a by-product of a passion rather than your passion being a means to an end of gaining more followers.
Which social media platform is your favorite? Instagram is by far my favorite – not only for the creative photography but also because through it I’ve been fortunate to connect with so many fascinating, creative and genuine souls – people I would otherwise never cross paths with yet who have had quite an impact on my approach to life.
BRANDING + BUSINESS ADVICE
What sites or other resources would you recommend for designing custom packaging for my small business? Being a designer, of course I’m a little biased when it comes to custom-designed anything – I always recommend working with a professional who not only contributes technical skills to the table, but also has a sound understanding of and experience in how business works. As far as packaging, I highly recommend that every business owner familiarizes themselves with effective packaging design – even if you’re hiring a designer to design it for you.
Where can I print Etsy instant downloads? When clients purchase ready-to-print designs from my Etsy shop, I’m always happy to facilitate the printing process for them – whether that means finding local printing shops in their area or explaining the difference between RGB and CMYK mode – I’m always happy to help. I’ve also recently published an extensive guide to printing digital files, which is a great starting place for anyone that regularly purchases instant downloads from Etsy.
As a freelancer, how can I be more selective in the projects I take on? If you’re referring to projects that pay the bills then I’m afraid the freedom of being selective only comes with time and experience. To not be a slave to your bills is the ultimate freelancing dream, but again, it’s only possible after you’ve put in the “grunt work,” so to speak. With something like blogging, however, it’s much easier to be selective in what type of clients you work with and the collaborations you take on, because very few people are reliant on blogging alone to pay for a mortgage. :)
MARRIAGE + RELATIONSHIPS
How long have you been married? My husband and I got married in November of 2012, so it’s been nearly three and a half years since then. My, how time flies!
What is your idea of a perfect date? I’ve always been wary of dreaming up elaborate romances in my head, simply because we women have a tendency to quickly build up unrealistic expectations. So although I enjoy the occasional over-the-top date, I much prefer a low-key quiet night at home, whether with an old Soviet film or with our records, little else on the agenda other than preparing dinner together or maybe him playing guitar and me humming along – sweet, everyday moments that may not look like much to the outside world, but mean the world to us.
What is the best marriage advice you’ve ever gotten? When we were traveling through Europe, we decided to get some much-needed rest from constant relocation by taking a 13-day cruise through the Mediterranean Sea. There we met an elderly couple who, if I recall correctly, had been on more than 70 cruises together and were married for more than 50 years. Being the naïve, newly-married couple, we asked them for advice on what it takes to keep love strong for so long. “The best marriage advice,” said the elderly gentlemen, “is to never give advice.” Granted, I was shocked at first, because I had mentally prepared my romantic little self to soak in every bit of wisdom this couple was about to impart, but later I realized just how eye-opening that single sentence was. Each couple’s love story is so different – so unique – listening to someone else’s marriage advice would be akin to using a technical manual for an automobile to fix a washing machine – silly, right?
Do you have any honest advice for a newly married woman? In light of what I just said, I only want to share a tidbit of advice that applies to practically any situation, not just marriage. Allow yourself to feel all the feels, as they say. Cherish every first as husband and wife – the first morning waking up together, the first vacation, the first home-cooked breakfast on Saturday morning – even the first fight. Allow yourself room to experience it all – the joy, the confusion, the frustration, the pain, the satisfaction – it’s all part of life. We think in life the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem so we can finally move on to living life how we imagined it, but the truth is, things never truly resolve. They come together, they fall apart, and on and on it continues to eternity. The peace comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Why don’t you ever talk about your husband or show photos of him on social media? Wow, you are quite attentive, aren’t you? Although on second thought, I imagine it doesn’t take a genius to notice that, save for an occasional mention in the text, my husband is nowhere to be found in my blog.
I’m of the belief that certain parts of life lose a little bit of their magic when they are put on display for the world. ;)
Do you have any tips for combining finances with your husband? Yes, let him take the lead and call the shots, and you will be blessed.
How can I be more feminine for my husband? As soon as I can take all of the thoughts swirling around in my head and string them together into words, phrases, sentences, I will write a series of posts on this topic. In the meantime, please feel free to explore “The Art of Being a Lady” series.
Where did you go on your honeymoon? For our honeymoon we went on our very first cruise – to the Western Caribbean, which included stops in Cozumel, Mahogany Bay, Belize and Grand Cayman.
What did you study in college? I studied Business Administration and Communications and received a Bachelor of Arts in both.
Where do you work? I work as a production designer for one of the largest health care providers in the United States.
What kind of music do you listen to? So many to list… My most recent favorite is Olafur Arnalds. I enjoy quite the range of genres: Sergio Ross, Lana del Ray, Banks, Weeknd, … as well as lots of Russian artists, like Zemfira, Bi-2, Splin.
What are your hobbies? I enjoy anything that allows me to be creative, whether that’s writing, re-arranging little corners of our home, experimenting in the kitchen, taking photos, reading. My most recent endeavor is macrame. Remember me telling you about a vintage plant stand I scored for five dollars? I’m working on braiding a macrame hanging planter for it. Stay tuned for a DIY tutorial!
What do you love most about being a woman and femininity? I love that we have the ability to set the emotional tone in our homes and in our relationships. Whether we work outside the home or are stay-at-home mothers, we as women have an innate desire within us to make everything around us beautiful and pleasing, and that is a high and noble calling. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (Proversbs 14:1)
Best book you’ve read recently? I’m currently reading “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst for the third time – that’s how incredible it is. It’s so relevant and eye-opening, I see parts of myself in every page.
What are your favorite ways to relax at home? My favorite way to relax at home is with my husband. Some evenings he’ll be strumming songs on the guitar while I read my favorite book – or the other way around – and it’s the most perfect way to unwind from a hectic, busy day at the office.
Since we first got married, we haven’t had television in our home – which might seem quite strange to some, but it has seriously been one of the best decisions we have ever made. At the moment, we don’t even have Internet at the house, so we are truly forced to occupy whatever “free time” we have with activities such as reading, singing, dancing, cooking together, etc. I realize it’s quite different from the norm, but I highly, highly recommend not buying a TV – even if only for the first few months of marriage!
How do you carve out time for yourself? With a full-time job, family, friends, church, blogging and the occasional freelancing project, it’s extremely difficult, no doubt. I admit I’m nowhere near as “balanced” as I wish to be – in fact, I have a tendency to swing from one extreme to the other, either losing myself completely in a project, or neglecting it all in an effort to spend more time with family and friends. But I stay optimistic, training my brain to be open to discovering the romance in the most mundane, everyday moments.
For example, I have an hour commute to and from work, and lately, instead of wallowing in pity for having to dedicate more than 10 hours a week to such a mundane activity, I use the time to brainstorm blogging ideas, dictating them to Siri as I patiently sit in the traffic. Or I’ll spend the entire hour harmonizing with whatever song happens to be playing on the radio to the point of nearly losing my voice by the time I get home. Again, it’s a matter of shifting perspective; the circumstances themselves do not change, but my attitude towards them does.
What was the last thing that made you laugh or cry? We watched “Room” a few evenings ago, and I can honestly say I haven’t experienced such a range of emotions during a movie in a long, long time. It’s incredibly perspective-shifting, making you realize just how petty your problems are in comparison to things others deal with on a daily basis.
HOME DECOR + BUNGALOW RENOVATION
Why did you decide to purchase an old house to demo and renovate? Funny enough, we had absolutely no plans to buy a house. In fact, my husband and I are very much against the idea of being tied to a mortgage. Long story short, we came across an ad on Craigslist for a beautiful investment property that was being “sold by owner” and thought, “Well, why not?” So there we were, with a 1930 bungalow and nearly seven acres of deep, dark woods, which, might I add, continue to be populated by herds of deer, foxes and wild turkeys even to this day, despite the rather intrusive renovation process.
Do you currently live in the same house that you’re renovating? Oh heavens, no! I must admit that we did consider moving into either of our parents’ houses for the six-to-twelve months that it would require to demo and renovate our 1930 bungalow, but it came down to the fact that I refused to put life on hold while we were renovating – meaning that I wanted to feel comfortable enough to invite friends over, to host dinner parties, and to do whatever I pleased, refusing to be dictated by someone else’s schedules, preferences, etc. for nearly an entire year – and this is coming from someone who has a wonderful relationship with both, my parents and my in-laws. Not only did I not want to burden someone else’s life for an entire year, but I also wanted the freedom to live mine – thus, we decided to rent the cheapest townhome available.
Where did you get all your adorable office stuff? I am assuming that the reader that asked this question was referring to the studio tour. You can also browse the Interior Styling posts, but in the event that you are pressed for time, much of my décor is from Wayfair, Kate Spade, IKEA, TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Craigslist.
What are some budget-friendly ways to make my apartment more glamorous? I’m quite passionate about home décor on a budget, so these types of questions are quite possibly some of my very favorite. When I think of glamour, I imagine large, ornate mirrors, luxurious fabrics, neutral colors and lots of textures. My most favorite way to find any of these is through Craigslist. You can discover some amazing pieces on that site! I am one to check Craigslist almost every day to see if I can score any vintage treasures. Another wonderful option is to go the DIY route. Love gold home décor accessories but not the hefty price tag? Rust-Oleum metallic gold spray paint does wonders to rusty and old pieces. Trust me – I’ve spray-painted practically every surface in our house! I have also tried quite a few different metallic options, and Rust-Oleum is my latest and greatest discovery!
How were you able to afford to travel Europe for such a long time? Travel has been and continues to be a passion for both my husband and I, so as soon as we were engaged, we committed to living on one income for the first six months of our marriage in order to save the rest for traveling. I cannot recall the exact details, but somewhere around the month of March in 2013, about four months after we were married, we began contemplating the very real possibility of taking a trip across Europe. Although our initial plan was to travel for six months – which definitely justified quitting both of our jobs, selling many of our belongings and giving up our apartment lease – the trip was cut short at three months for personal reasons.
But I’ve strayed from the topic at hand. How were we able to afford it? It all comes down to being very intentional about spending and living on only one income for approximately six months. Nothing pains me as much as hearing people say, “I can’t afford to travel.” It is absolutely not true! I’m sure you’ve seen the following quote on Pinterest, but if not: You spend $10 a day eating out. That’s approximately $300 per month. Add in drinks, and you are nearly up to $400. In only four months you can buy a round-trip ticket to just about anywhere in the world. You can afford to travel – you just need to figure out your priorities.
Where are you off to next? Our trips tend to be quite spontaneous – a fact that I both love and hate. We’ve been considering going back to Russia in the late spring or summer, as well as something more tropical in the summertime, but no concrete plans have yet been made – as is usual in our household.
What are the best stops along Highway 1? I have an entire post about this – which you can view here – as well as a special series devoted to each stop, but my absolute favorites are El Matador Beach, Monterrey, Big Sur and San Francisco.
What is at the top of your travel bucket list? To choose only one travel destination is like choosing a favorite page from an entire book; there are simply far too many options pulling at your heartstrings to say that one somehow outweighs the others. I have only been to about 30 countries so far – a teeny-tiny fraction of all that’s out there for us to explore. I dream of visiting every country in the world – all 196 of them – but at the very top of the list is Cuba, Brazil, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iceland, India, Czech Republic, Australia, United Kingdom, Greece, South Africa – oh, clearly I have the hardest time narrowing my list down to a few!