This past month has been a TOTAL blur. And if I had to sum it up in one word, it would be: WORK.

I've made some changes over the past couple of months in my approach to brand work here on the blog. In the past, I've simply accepted whatever came my way and was fine with that. But a couple of months ago, I decided to make a change, get a little more proactive, and I started reaching out to brands on my own that I knew I loved and wanted to work with. You may have noticed– that approach paid off, and I've had lots of work lately with brands that I'm really excited about like Walmart, Blue Bunny, PAM, Wilton, Hershey's, and several others!

Beyond the fact that I'm simply grateful these opportunities to bring in additional income, it's also been invigorating to work on projects that I'm really interested in doing. It's be A LOT of work, and there have definitely been some high pressure days, super late nights, and frustrations with the seemingly endless revising and editing process– but overall I've been doing something I love. And I can't tell you how great it feels to stretch out some of my creativity muscles that I haven't used in a while.

Creating content for a brand is a lot like an episode of Chopped (you guys watch that, right?!). Here's what I mean…

When a brand and I agree to work together, I'm usually given a set of parameters to follow. I can be as creative as I want within those guidelines, but it's very important that I do stay within the guidelines. I usually get an ingredient or set of ingredients, and there are always specifications regarding the volume of the product (ie, it must be the 15 ounce can, or the 6-pack of chocolate bars, etc), and the packaging (sometimes the packaging has promo messaging on it, and I need to be sure I shoot that particular packaging).

Once I have the ingredients, I'm tasked with creating a recipe centered around the brand's product that is creative and unique enough to draw people in, but simple enough to still be approachable. Definitely something that is easier said than done sometimes!

I'm always asked to work within a timeframe, and that can definitely be an added stressor when I'm also trying to maintain my normal pace of publishing recipes in addition to creating branded content.

I'm still trying to catch my breath and figure out how to juggle all of my new projects, but I'm having a LOT of fun. And I hope you're enjoying the recipes that I'm sharing in partnership with these brands! In case you've missed them, some of my most recent projects have included:

I've also been working on a post about Gourmet S'mores, a recipe for Whole Grain Baked Maple Glazed Donuts, and an AMAZING Milk & Cookies Ice Cream Cake. So be on the lookout for all those goodies coming your way in the coming months!

Meanwhile, the mom life continues!

The kids have had a pretty busy month as well. Emma's been riding horses every week, and she starting to see some exciting progress in her ability to gain control of a horse. She dressed up as a baseball player for the school musical. And she's loving these long days to play with friends outside as much as possible before the North Carolina heat and humidity sweeps in and makes us all miserable until October.

We went through a couple of rough weeks with CJ recently, and I was afraid his face would be permanently stuck like this ????????. He wasn't sleeping well, and he certainly wasn't being awake very well either. The whining and the crying reached new heights, and I truly thought I had lost my mind and would never get it back!

Fortunately, whatever was wrong seems to have passed and we have our mostly-happy boy back again! He's discovered the freedom of going to play with friends outside or at their house without me nearby, and he's been pretty deliriously happy over that. I'm grateful that we have a neighborhood situation that allows him to feel like he has a little independence while still affording me a good view of him from the house!


In other big news… my brother graduated from Medical school at UNC! It was such an awesome day, and I'm so glad we got to celebrate this huge milestone with him. This is the sibling who is closest in age to me, so I'll always have a little bit of a soft spot for this obnoxious little brother of mine. I couldn't be prouder of him accomplishing this major life accomplishment! ❤


Also… I did a mud run!


And I think that about sums up our life over the past month! Super crazy, but also super sweet. Mostly ????.

What I'm Loving

At-Home Date Nights

Chris and I have been working through a list of 30 at-home date nights that I put together this month. So far we've played Couples Scattegories, Diet Coke Pong, and Puzzles & Pretzels (you make homemade pretzels together as part of the date).

Puzzles & Pretzels ended up turning into THREE dates total, which we dubbed: Puzzles & Pizza and Puzzles & Popcorn. Our 500 piece Thomas Kincaid puzzle took a lot longer than we expected. And we knew that it wouldn't get finished if we didn't do it during a designated Date Night, so that's how it became a 3-week extended date. As of this past Thursday night, it's now complete and framed!

These have been AWESOME date nights. At the onset, I completely underestimated how much fun we were going to have doing these little activities together. But's seriously been such a game-changer in our week. We both make sure that all of our work for the day gets completed BEFORE dinner. And once the kids are in bed, the entire evening is reserved for Date. We try really hard to set that night aside and make it special.

I think my favorite so far has been Diet Coke Pong. We laughed and laughed while we were playing, and for a couple of hours it was nice to not feel like Mom and Dad!


Modern Country on Apple Radio

I've been letting Chris DJ our date nights and he usually plays this Modern Country station on Apple Radio, because he knows I like it.

Or because he thinks it's funny to watch me jam out to my favorite 1990's-2000's country songs ????. Either way, it's awesome and I'm obsessed.

Plug and Play Weekly Youtube Workout Rotation Playlist on JessicaSmithTV

I've been singing the praises of Jessica Smith TV on youtube for years. She's my absolute FAVORITE fitness YouTuber! She has so many videos that it gets a little overwhelming trying to decided which one to do each day, so I've been using her Plug and Play Weekly Rotation schedule.

I love that her HIIT workouts aren't intimidating, and I really love her Walk-and-Talk series too (which I usually do at the end of a strength training workout just to get in some easy steps).


That's it from me ????.

Have a great week everyone, and I'll see you tomorrow with some more dessert!!