Everyday Inspirations


~ food ~

Today is my 25th birthday. Some people I know have been sad to hit this mile mark--maybe something about being halfway through their twenties? Or that you're a quarter century old? Me? I embrace it. 25 is still pretty young in my book. The first half of this decade has been good to me so far, so now I move on to the more mature but still exciting second half. Plus I can rent a car with no extra fees. Bonus, right?

For the last several years it has been my birthday tradition to take photos up the canyon. The result? I've discovered that October 21 is truly the ultimate fall day. Whether there is blasting sunshine that makes the trees turn florescent shades of red, orange and yellow or mountain fog that dusts the trees with snow, every time I've had good luck. With that in mind, I felt like on my birthday my hubby and I should make something that exudes fall, and for me that's pumpkin bread. It has all the autumn essentials--pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. This recipe I even use apple sauce instead of oil which gives it some extra flavor of fall.

Now I have no problem with canned pumpkin, but there are two things I love about buying fresh pumpkin. First, there's something about having it fresh that just makes it feel more special--more authentic. It tastes better and fresher. Second, until you're ready to eat them, they make a cute decoration on your kitchen counter. I've had two little pumpkins adding fall charm to my house for the last week just waiting to be made into something delicious. These babies did NOT disappoint. This pumpkin bread is to die for (it's okay for me to eat an entire load since it's my birthday right?)

To go along with my recipe, I've included a few photos of my fall excursion up the canyon. You can view the full post with more images on my photography blog here.

Pumpkin bread

~ Pumpkin Bread ~

1 small pumpkin, softened (or one can)
4 eggs
1 cup apple sauce
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

To soften pumpkin, cut into quarters and microwave on high for 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop pumpkin into a bowl and puree. Mix pumpkin, eggs, apple sauce, water and sugar until smooth. Add in flour, baking soda and all spices and mix until fully blended. Pour into a greased baking 9x5" loaf pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

~ a better you ~

Learn to love what you have, not what you don't.

Competition is a natural part of being human. Like many things, it's something most of us either love or hate. There are people who were born to compete. Others would rather hold a tarantula.

While competition can be healthy (not to mention a great way to prove your dedication and drive), it can also be a source of unnecessary stress. Most of us unconsciously hold mental competitions all day long. Who's the fastest car on the road this morning? Who has the best hair today? Who got the most recognition for that project? Who has better plans for this weekend?

The constant need to win can be exhausting. It forces us to constantly push ourselves to the extreme -- and not in the good way that helps you finish a marathon or a master's degree. It's that extreme of being too harsh on ourselves -- too focused on things we don't do perfectly, rather than on things we do well.

I'll admit it. There have most definitely been times I've wanted to say or do something first, just because I was having a mental competition with a loved one. I've also been on the outside, watching friends try to "beat" someone else. It can be over something silly (I mean, really, why do we care whose hair looks best?), but it can also be over something big, like a job, house, or opportunity. Isn't it the pits when insecurities prevent you from feeling genuinely happy for someone?

Luckily, we can overcome unhealthy competition.

I have a talented, smart, beautiful friend who has indirectly taught me a lesson about competition. This friend is fabulous. She has a great job, gorgeous house, beautiful life. But not once have I ever heard her deny the opportunity to mentor a friend or share the secrets to her success. Her self-confidence has taken away any need to compete with others. She doesn't need to hoard information in the hope of becoming happy. She already is happy. Best of all, she wants everyone around her to be, too. So how do you get the same thing?

Determine what you really want from life. I know what it's like to not know what you want. When that happens, it's easy to just grab at every little thing that comes at you in the hope that something will feel right. Doesn't work, though. In fact, you get even more stressed out by trying to do everything. Take the time right now to determine what your top three goals, needs, or wants are at this time. Then let go of everything else you really don't care about.

Share good news. Let's say you've been asked to volunteer your time for a local organization. You're only semi-interested, but you do it anyway because you don't want to miss out on an opportunity. Or worse, you don't want someone else to have it... even a friend who would really enjoy the experience. Result? Stress from unhealthy (imagined) competition. Now imagine telling your friend about the opportunity. You gave it up, but doesn't it feel good to help someone else reach for his dreams? (Bonus: karma loves when you help out others.)

Call out competitive thoughts... and competitive people. Easier said than done, but start to train yourself to stop bad thoughts in their tracks. When you catch yourself thinking, "I could do that better than her!", immediately order a stop in your head, then redirect your thoughts toward something positive. And don't be afraid to say something to people who are competing with you. Try, "Just so you know, I think it's really awesome that you're doing so well. I hope you know I'm sending you good thoughts."

Ask for help. If you're really aching to learn a particular skill or to try something new, ask a friend with experience. Everyone loves to help out others and she'll be flattered that you look up to her.
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~ home ~

Dara & Co. Blanket
This is my new Dara & Co. adult throw I bought for a steal from BabySteals.com--yes they have stuff for mamas too (or in my case non-mamas who still like to snuggle). With goosebump minky on one side and buttery soft plush on the other, this blanket is positively DELICIOUS to wrap yourself in. If any of you have felt these you know how incredible they are. The chocolate color goes great with my couch and living room decor too. As soon as I bought it I told my husband this was MY blanket, but Daisy already seems to have claimed it for herself. No no baby--that's for mama. 

~ fashion ~


They're flirty, sweet, and fun. They work when I'm dressed up and dressed down. I bought them in college for under $20 and still wear them at least once a week.

I love that some of my favorite things are super simple and versatile. Like a classic LBD, these earrings are here to stay. They're perfect for me.

Tell us about your favorite accessory.
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~ how to ~

seo tips
This is how everyone takes notes at #bwe10
I just got back from Blog World Expo and I am gushing with new exciting information! I have a feeling we'll have some fun changes around here! It's still taking time to process it all, but I thought I'd share some common themes on how to make your blog better. Here are my top five tips for my fellow bloggers based on advice from all the amazing, inspiring presenters at Blog World. These are somewhat intuitive, but it never hurts to be reminded.
networking at blog world
Making connections at #bwe10
Content is key. Make sure your posts are well-written and interesting. Quality should be valued over quantity. 

Make good connections. Find other blogs like yours and rather than seeing them as the competition, make friends! The more connections you have will help spread your message further. Plus, they will inspire you in new ways. Ash and I are always looking for more friends at EI, so be sure to drop us a line or tweet us @365inspirations, @amfairbanks or @ashbunk

Optimize for search engines. People are more likely to find you if you're optimized...which we already knew but there are so many ways you should implement SEO. Keywords, categories, making your page accessible to people with disabilities, podcasts, videos, image tags, metatags, the list goes on. Do your research and figure out how you can be found.

Make your page delicious. Good to read content is a must, but good to look at is too! Compelling photos and images often determines whether or not people read a story. 

You need to be everywhere. Don't always use the same methods of sharing. Share on Facebook and Twitter but don't forget about all the other places people can connect with you. Podcasts, YouTube videos, Google Connect, BlogFrog, and through linking posts to name a few.

How will you make your blog better? We'd love to hear what you love and what you think we can do better at Everyday Inspirations! Be sure to leave us a comment.

Enjoy the opening keynote from Blog World. Hilarious and tons of great tips.

~ small inspiration ~


This was my first week at a new job, so last week was all about closing up projects at my old position. One of my sweet former coworkers, Diane, left me this beautiful bamboo plant as a good-luck gift. I misted up a bit looking at it, touched by the kind actions and words of the women and men with whom I've spent the last three years.
I'm very excited for a new challenge and look foward to the changes it will bring to my life. Here we go!


~ our world ~

Welcome to Las Vegas baby! Right now Sin City is the center of the blogosphere--this week is the Blog World Expo ( #bwe10), THE conference for bloggers and social media experts. Here you get constant real-time commentary on the speakers, breakout sessions and presenters through Twitter.
The opening pre-party at Liquid in Aria
Blog world pre-party
Megan and I with the Las Vegas ladies
Blog World opening keynote Friday
During the keynote this morning the room was having a fiery conversation about a comment one of the presenters made about her strategy of finding "under-30s" for social media expertise and it was addressed in the session as a result. No one is afraid of speaking up here and there is constant documenting of pretty much every moment. The theme of the weekend is, as @unmarketing tweeted, "What happens in Vegas stays on Twitter." 
Border Grill Las Vegas
Sorry for the crappy quality with my phone
I also got to enjoy lunch with a fun group of tweeps. My friend Megan (@meganhoskins) from Mountain America Credit Union, Austrailian beauty blogger Kimberly (@plasticdiaries), Kendall (@KendallA) social media gal for the Ellen Degeneres Show, Chris (@lesinski) who works for Revision3, Morgan (@lvsocialmedia) social media specialist for Las Vegas based Langdon Flynn Communications, Emma (@emcardenas) social media specialist for Colocation America, and Jennifer (@freeandflawed) community manager for @writeonglass
World's largest cup of coffee
The world's largest cuppa joe. Serious craziness here!
Mommy blogger tweetup
Mommy blogger tweet-up in the Sony Lounge. Some seriously cool ladies here.
I was happy to meet Kimberley Blaine, therapist and host of MommytoMommy.tv, a new online show for moms. It features tips, fun and fun topics about parenting and mommyhood. Moms can submit their own videos and be a part of the show too!
The fun just keeps coming as day two of the Blog World Expo ends and the opening night party begins. One more day of fun and excitement for me! So much to learn and so many fun tweeps to meet. Follow my tweets of the conference at @amfairbanks.

~ food ~


I was the kind of kid who decided early on that I didn't really like meatloaf. I don't know why... I think I didn't like the word "meat" next to the word "loaf" (but loaf of bread -- totally fine). I would eat it when it was given to me, but man, I didn't want it.

Luckily, picky kids grow up.

I had been craving the dish for quite a few weeks now, so Dan and I decided to make it for Sunday dinner. I chose Ina's recipe and I'm glad I did. It was very similar to what my mom used to make -- the smell of the Worcestshire sauce and sauteeing onions was perfect. Plus, Ina is so very Julia Child in her cooking (meaning she focuses on making sure ingredients added to the meat are used to enhance the essential, basic taste, not overpower it).

By the way, any recipe that includes this many onions is A-OK in my book:
I love serving meatloaf on a bed of delicious, homestyle garlic mashed potatoes, so here is my recipe. Mashed potatoes are really easy, so I apologize for the detailed instructions. Most of you are probably experts at stuff like this. But in case you aren't, here you go. Sometimes there are things you just never get around to learning how to do. For me, that's pretty much anything having to do with sewing.

Ash's Garlic Mashed Potatoes


~ a better you ~

Adopt a dog month
October is adopt a dog month. Whether you've been looking for an exercise buddy or a companion for you and your family, now is a great time to welcome a pet into your home. Adding Daisy to our family is one of the best decisions we have made and she makes me smile everyday. There are so many furry faces looking for a good home and you could help give a pup the happy lifestyle he or she deserves.

~Let me pause for one moment as I clean up all the cotton Daisy just tore out her toy. ~
exercise walking the dog
Here are a few reasons why dogs make you a better you:
  • They are your constant companion. Dogs are loyal, sweet and always there by your side. Daisy and I snuggle, play and exercise everyday together.
  • They get you active, outdoors and exploring the world. Our four-legged friends need exercise and often it is easier to make yourself get out in the world when it's for a being dependent on you. Great (and super cute) excuse to get/stay in shape right?
  • They have been shown to make you live longer. Research has shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure and cholesterol and have fewer ailments and serious medical problems (even more so than cat owners). 
  • They are family friendly. If you have kids or may someday, a dog is good training for parenthood and a wonderful companion for kids. 
  • They make you communicate better. Dogs speak a very basic language so you learn to be clearer with verbal and non-verbal communication.

sleeping puppy
Ah, just another day of napping
While writing this post I have stopped to take away Daisy's ruined toy, let her out, and refilled her water dish. Dogs are cute, but they take a lot of work too. Too many dogs are given up each year because their owners don't have enough time or money to take care of them. While adopting a dog is wonderful, make sure you are ready to provide the resources it will take to be a responsible pet owner. We waited over a year to get the Daisy because we wanted to be totally ready to be good parents for her. After the long wait and a lot of research we found the perfect puppy for us!

Think you're ready to give a dog a home? Pedigree has a wonderful dog finder. Click here to find a pup near you!


~ home ~


My grandmother is one of the most generous people I know. She's also one of the world's greatest shoppers. This is how I've ended up with these silky, amazing sheets. I have no idea where she got them but I do know they are awesome. I sleep sooo well now and look foward to snuggling up in them each night with a book before bed. Who knew sheets could make such a difference?

Grandma also gave me some flannel sheets. While I can wait for the snow to fall, I'm definitely excited to snuggle up in those come winter...
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