Today is Friday, September 22, 2017. Over the past couple hours I have taken 4 pregnancy tests. They're all positive! I have felt an unsettling amount of emotions since finding out. Like... Elated. Nervous. Surprised. Amazed. Astonished. Shocked. Excited.
One thing that sold me on my Instant Pot was the ability to easily make yogurt at home. It's super simple, and only take two products (milk and a starter yogurt). The process takes a whole day, but you really only need a couple hours to prep the milk before incubating it for 8-10 additional hours. Now, I can make a gallon of yogurt just how I like it for less than $2! So, in this post I'll walk you through picking the right Instant Pot to make yogurt, and how to make it.
Getting the Right Instant Pot
The pressure cooker I have is the 7-in-1 Instant Pot in the 6 quart size (yes, that's an affiliate link. Don't be scared. It just means I get commission if you buy something after clicking that link :) ). This is the lowest-priced Instant Pot version you can get that has the yogurt feature. They do have one that is less expensive, the 6-in-1 version, but it does not have the yogurt making feature.
Safety Note: There is definitely a learning curve to cooking in an electronic pressure cooker, and you need tofollow the instructions to ensure you use it correctly. I mean it is a pressure cooker... Improper use could lead to an explosion. Now don't get me wrong, these are very safe when used correctly, and it has a lot of mechanisms to make it safe. BUT! Please, please, please, if you buy one, follow the manufacturer's instructions!
Instructions on How to Make Yogurt in Your Instant Pot
What you'll need:
Instant Pot with yogurt setting (I have this one << and yes that is an affiliate link :) )
1 gallon of whole milk
4 tablespoons of yogurt with live and active cultures
To start, pour the entire gallon of milk into your Instant Pot, and put the lid on. You don't have to worry about the release valve, because the lid does not need to be sealed to make yogurt.
Next, press the "Yogurt" button followed by the "Adjust" button. It should say "boil" on the front of your Instant Pot. Leave it alone until it beeps, which takes around 30-60 minutes.
After the Instant Pot completes the boiling process and beeps, check the temperature of your milk. It should be between 180° and 185°F. If it hasn't reached that temperature with the boiling mode, don't worry. Just use the "Saute" mode on your Instant Pot and stir it regularly until it reaches a temperature between 180° and 185°F.
Once you're milk is between 180° and 185°F you need to take it out of your Instant Pot and let it cool down. You need it to be at or below 115°F. If you're not in a rush, you can just take it out, and place it on the counter. If you're like me, and don't want to wait, you can place it in an ice bath. I've seen people put them in deep baking pans full of ice, but I prefer to fill my sink up with cold water and a bunch of ice cubes.
When it's at or below 115°F take it out of the ice bath, dry off the outside of the pot, and place it back into your instant pot.
At this point you need to add your starter yogurt. If this is the first time you're making yogurt in your Instant Pot, you'll have to buy yogurt from the store that contains live and active cultures. I used the Chobani plain, non-fat Greek yogurt. However, once you've made yogurt in your Instant Pot, you can use some of your previous batch as your starter yogurt for the new one.
Measure out 4 tablespoons of your starter yogurt and whisk it into your milk for a minute or two. Then, place the top back onto your Instant Pot (you do not need to seal it), and press the "Yogurt" button so it shows 8:00 on the front. This number is how long it's set to incubate. I personally don't like very tart yogurt, so I leave it at an 8 hour incubation time. However, if you would like more tart yogurt adjust this setting to 10 hours using the "+" button. Then, leave it be until the incubation period is finished.
Voila! You've got yogurt! Now once the incubation period is done, I typically place it in the fridge for a little while to cool. However, you can take it straight from the Instant Pot and use a cheesecloth to strain out the whey (this will make it greek yogurt which is tarter), leave it as is and place it into your storage containers, and/or eat it.
I love making my own yogurt, because I don't like it to be overly tart. Plus, my husband and I can add what we want into ours. I like mine with chunky strawberry compote, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and granola. My husband uses a nut/granola mixture, honey or agave to sweeten it, along with chia seeds. We also add it to smoothies! You can find my all-time favorite smoothie recipe on the blog here. How do you like to eat your homemade yogurt?
Okay, so it's not quite an office as it is the corner of one of our spare rooms, but I'm very proud of this little corner. It's so nice having a place for all the miscellaneous things I use for my website. I even have extra storage for paperwork, which is oddly satisfying while also uncomfortable. It's amazing what having a little corner to yourself can do. I absolutely love it!
Don't forget to check out the reset of the photos below!
Struggling to keep track of your daily schedule? If you're like me, you feel so much better writing your schedule and to-do list down on paper than in your phone or on your computer. Whenever I feel really stressed, the first thing I do is start writing down everything swirling around in my mind. To help me out, I decided to create some simple planner pages to keep my days in order. Now they're available on my website for download.
Click the links below to download these easy-to-use PDF worksheets that print on standard letter-sized paper today!
Using social media to market your business seems like a no-brainer. It’s free, easy to set up, and it seems like anyone can figure out how to use it. So why do businesses struggle to get followers and engagement on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc? A lot of them don’t have a strategy in place to get the most out of their platforms, and to stay on task. Below are a few reasons why I’m a firm believer that every business needs a social media strategy.
Provides a Roadmap
Creating a social media strategy gives you time to think about what you want your social media presence say about your business. A social media strategy helps you decide on your tone of voice, graphic look, posting schedule, key words, hashtags, and much more. Then you know what your content should be, and it becomes easier to determine what to and what not to post.
Sets Expectations For Followers
People will follow accounts they believe provide some kind of benefit including aesthetically pleasing, educational, helpful, inspirational or aspirational. When people who are new to your profile, they tend to peruse your recent posts to see if it’s something relevant to them. If your posts are all over the place, someone may hesitate to or all together forgo hitting the follow button. However, if you are constantly providing content they like, then they are more likely to follow you. Because of this, it is key to understand your target market and build a strategy around them.
Keeps Your Posting Consistent
One key component to any great social media plan is a posting schedule for your content. You need to pick broad categories, and determine how frequently you will post each one. Maybe every Monday you post something motivational, Tuesdays you post a new blog post, Wednesdays you host a webinar or live video, Thursdays you share your sales, and so on.
Luckily it is very easy to schedule social media posts, which also makes fitting social media posting into a busy schedule a little bit easier. You can schedule posts days, weeks, or months in advance. However, scheduling posts doesn’t mean you should avoid checking the pages you manage. You still need to include your audience in the conversation and promptly reply to any questions, comments or concerns raised on your pages.
Helps You Find Your Audience
You need to engage with your audience on social media. This means that in your social media strategy, you should be outlining those who make up your target audience. These are the people who share the same values as your business. By defining and connecting with these people, you will have a more effortless and genuine connection with them. In the long run, these are the people you want following your business on social media. They will provide you will valuable feedback, be excited about the new things you offer, as well as be more willing to like, comment, and share you posts.
Need help creating your social media strategy? Contact me today!
Understanding how to get your blog or website to show up in search engine results can be very overwhelming at first. It can be difficult to decide where to even start. So on today's post I'm sharing some SEO tips and tricks that have helped my blog.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which in a nutshell means that your site is search engine friendly. In broader terms, this means that the code for and content on your site is fashioned in a manner that makes it easy for search engines to understand what each page is about. This is extremely important if you're trying to increase your organic search traffic, because search engines are looking for sites that ensure it's providing relevant results for each search.
Write About Content People Are Searching
Now I'm not saying never write about what you enjoy. BUT! You should make sure to write content that people are searching for that's within your blog's genre. Because, let's be honest here, if your content isn't about what people search for, then you're not going to get any organic search engine traffic. For example, my product review posts get more organic search traffic then anything else. Now those types of posts make up a small portion of my blog's content. Because I'm very selective about the products I review on here, I only write about products I love or was honestly curious about myself before I even got it. However, because I know this helps my blog's overall SEO, I keep an eye out for products I personally would search for more information about to review on my blog.
Choose Titles That Work Well as Search Results
This is key! When you write the titles for blog posts and webpages, you need to make sure it's something your reader would click on in their search. For example, I picked the title for this post, because someone who is trying to learn more about SEO would be likely to click on it. I wouldn't want to name it "Search Tips" because that name is too vague for someone who's quickly skimming through search results to think, "That post seems relevant, and they must know what they're talking about. I should read that one." So make sure you choose your titles wisely if you're trying to improve SEO.
Now you're probably wondering, "How often should I post?" Sadly there is no perfect answer for this one, because it depends on your site. For example, if you're posting about news, you'll need to update your site on an hourly basis, while I can get away with only posting new content a couple times a week. However the more stale your site becomes, the more likely it is that it will dip in the search rankings. So, try to set a schedule you can maintain, so you have some new content on your site regularly. Even if that schedule is only once or twice a month.
Give Your Photos Descriptions (and use Alt Text)
When you look at a photo of flowers, you know it's flowers. However, when search engines see a photo of flowers, they only see the information in the code. So, you need to tell it what's in the image. This is when adding photo descriptions is important to increasing the odds of your photos and website coming up in search results. Wordpress also gives you the opportunity to add Alternative Text to your image that can also help search engines better understand what's in your photos. This is the perfect place to add keywords that might be searched related to your post's topic.
Use Google WebMaster Tools
This is an extremely helpful tool when you're trying to improve your SEO. The one feature I use most is Fetch as Google to have it Request Indexing. This is one way for you to tell Google that your site is there, and it has content to crawl and read. You can chose to have it fetch your site as mobile or desktop, and you can even give it a specific URL on your site to fetch. Once you click the "Fetch" or "Fetch and Render" button, it will give you the option to select a "Request Indexing" button for the new fetch. After click on the "Request Indexing" button, you can chose for it to crawl only that URL or that URL and all direct links (I typically do the latter). This process can take a few days to complete, but once it's done it will also give you a report of any errors it found on your site. Some of these errors are minor that you don't need to fix, while some are major and need to be fixed before Google will trust your site enough to use it in search results.
Also!!! Make sure you add every version of your site to this tool. This includes http and https, with and without www., and all sub-domains you have. This will help better direct Google to your site. Plus, it will help you understand what is being pulled up in organic searches, and any errors that occurred when your site was crawled.
Give it time!
Last, bust certainly not least: SEO doesn't just magically work overnight. It takes weeks, even months, to really take full effect. So, do not get discouraged if you're not getting the organic search results you were hoping for right away. Just keep implementing these tips and tricks, and eventually you should see results.
Want to start a blog?
Read my post “How to Start a Blog” here!
Starting to budget your finances can be really difficult at first. You probably have no idea where to start. Plus, what works for someone else, might not work for you. Totally understandable. Hopefully one (or all) of these tips and tricks that helped us, will be helpful to you!
Create Better Spending Habits
No matter how awesome your budget is, if you don't have good spending and saving habits, you'll be setting yourself up for failure. Don't worry I've got you covered! Check out the post where I share my 5 Steps to Creating Better Spending Habitsfirst. Don't worry. I'll wait... Done? Oh, not yet... Okay, now you're finished? Cool beans! Now, let's move on to the next budgeting tip.
Don't Be Afraid to Use Technology
I probably sound like a broken record, because I mentioned the Mint app by Intuit in the post about creating better spending habits. BUT! This free app is extremely helpful when it comes to tracking your monthly expenses and spending habits. It's extremely simple to set up, and it does the nitty-gritty work for you! One thing I really enjoy about this app is that you're able to make a budget, and it tells you when your close to or going over what you have allotted for that expense. It really takes the monotonous nature of doing your budget away, and is extremely helpful for someone just starting the budgeting process.
Write It Down
Now it's time to get down and dirty. I highly recommend you write down everything you spend your money as individual line item. You can use a notebook, excel file, the Mint app, my pre-made printouts ;) . Whatever makes you happy, as long as it's written out so you can visually see where your money is going.
I also like to color-code mine into three groups: Living Expenses, Financial Security, and Fun Money. Based on my research, many financial experts recommend your total monthly income fit within the following general guidelines:
Living Expenses (40-60%): Whatever you're spending on your month-to-month expenses goes into this account. I include items like house payment, gas, electricity, water, groceries, our 2 car payments (since we use them to get to work), phone bills, internet, TV, insurance, taxes, etc.
Financial Security (20-40%): This is the income you're putting toward paying off debt like credit cards and student loans, as well as into your savings account/emergency funds, or toward your retirement.
Fun Money (10-30%): Just like it sounds, this is the money you spend on entertainment like dinner and a movie, cocktails with friends, vacations or trips home to see family.
For our budget, we are running pretty heavy on the Financial Security side right now. We spend about 55% of our income on living expenses, 35% on financial security, and an itty bitty 10% is our fun money. And I know some people are probably thinking, how can you put 35% of your monthly income toward financial security. Honestly, I would have been asking myself the same question a couple years ago. But, something we have been very good about the past two or three years is when one of us gets a raise, we do the best we can to keep our lifestyle the same. If we do increase our income and decide to add more expenses, we do it one at a time to ensure we don't get into a financial hardship later.
Determine What Your Bare Essentials Cost
I recommend everyone does this, but especially those who need to reign in their "Living Expenses" category to get it within the 40-60% range. This will definitely take you a couple hours, and you'll need a pencil, paper, calculator, and a glass of wine (or whatever your drink of choice is). You need to look at all of your essential bills for the month, and determine what is the least amount of money you will need to live on. What I consider essential bills are whatever you need to survive - housing, electricity, heat, water, food, costs for a car to get to and from work - not items that are there more for entertainment - TV, internet, going out to eat, etc. For example, you need to determine how much gas you would need to and from work, as well as 1 trip to the store per week. For me, in my current SUV it's $25 per week.
You'll also need to find out what the bare minimum you need for groceries per week. I know I can feed my husband and I on $25 a week, if needed. We don't eat anything fancy and we get sick of eating the same thing all the time. However, it's the bare minimum we need to get us by until our next paycheck. When we're tight on our budget, we're eating mainly Tuna Noodle Casserole, Baked Ziti, or Chicken Fried Rice, as well as drinking water from the tap for the majority of our meals. Not gonna lie... It sucks... BUT! I know if we ever find ourselves in a tight financial situation, I know I can cut costs instead of overspend. And that is the true meaning behind this exercise.
Make Separate Savings Accounts (and give them a name!)
If you are able to create a budget, and have money set aside to save, you'll definitely want to do this! This is something that I recently learned about, and it really changed the game on how I view my savings. I'm not sure if all banks do this, or just my credit union, but I'd recommend you check it out. What I was able to do was create separate Secondary Savings accounts that had no fees and no minimum or maximum limits. The best part is I was able name them whatever I wanted.
Now, in addition to my primary savings account, I have an Emergency Funds account, a Home account for renovations and updates, and a Kids account. You might be thinking, "Hayley, I didn't think you had kids..." Well, I don't. And, no, this is not how I'm telling my family we're expecting either. We made this account and put a very small amount of money into it ($25), and will continue to put small amounts of money($5-$25) into it every week or two. Everyone knows kids are not cheap. So, the sooner we start saving for those little rascals, the better off we'll be when we do start having them.
So, don't think you can't start saving for something that might be a ways down the road. It doesn't hurt to save money, as long as your not putting yourself into more debt to do so.
Happy Budgeting :)
Starting a new blog can be a daunting task, especially when you think about how many blogs are out there. It has even been hard for me to continue or even start blogging again, but my love of it means I always return. Because of this, I've learned a lot over the years, and I wanted to share it with you.
1. Always remember that there is only one you!
I think this is the thing that always gets me excited about blogging. On the flip side, forgetting this is what discourages me the most. Blogging is a way to share your story, whether it be through recipes, style tips, parenting advice, workout tips, or even literally telling about what's happening in your life.
You shouldn't start a blog to be like someone else. It makes it too easy to give up because you don't have what they do. There will always be someone out there who has more money, better equipment, or more time to make their blog better than yours.
It's easier to find inspiration when reading other blogs, if you always remember that there's only one person who can tell your story, your way.
2. Decide what you will be writing about
Pay attention to what blogs interest you. This also means bloggers you follow on social media, especially Pinterest and Instagram. Bloggers use these sites as a way to capture their audience's attention and get them to read their content. Maybe you follow a lot of fashion bloggers on Instagram, you might follow food bloggers on Pinterest, or you could read more posts by mom who share their parenting advice that you Google search.
Knowing what content draws your attention, might help you narrow down your blog subjects. It's very hard to blog about something consistently that doesn't keep your attention. So, picking subjects that you enjoy reading about is extremely important. You also need to build your blog subject list, and find a way to bring them under one umbrella. Keep in mind that your interests might grow and change. So pay attention to that throughout your blogging career, and consider evolving your blog throughout the years.
3. Pick a name
This can be one of the hardest parts of starting a blog. You want to make sure your blog's name fits with the subject(s) you have decided to cover, but there are two camps on how to name your blog:
Choose a name that clearly defines what your blog covers
Choose a name that allows you the ability to change your blog topics as your interests change
You can probably tell by the name of my blog that I went with option number two. I write about what interests me, and what's happening in my life. So, I was somewhat narcissistic and named my blog after myself. However, that name gives me the opportunity to write about my interest even when they evolve and my life changes.
4. Get your domain
Now that you have a name, it's time to see if it's available as a domain. Honestly, you may need to come up with a few different names before you can find one with an available domain.
If you are going to be a hobbiest blogger, I would recommend starting your blog with Wordpress.com. It's an awesome site and gives you a lot of options for free. With this site however, your free domain will end with .wordpress.com (for example thehayleyfiser.wordpress.com).
However, if you are looking to make money off of your blog and monetize your site, there are two options I would recommend using. First is Squarespace, which is what I’m currnetly using for my blog. It’s super easy to set up and relativly inexpensive. It’s the perfect option for someone who doesn’t have experience with coding a website. They make it super easy to purcahse and host a domain through them with some of the pricing packages they offer.
The second option is for someone who knows website coding and wants more control over the way the blog looks and functions. For those people, I would highly recommend using Bluehost (yes, that is an affiliate link :) ) to purchase your domain and host a Wordpress.org site (this is what I did for my website before I starting using it for my consulting business and it was just a blog). You can use their Domain Name Checker below to see if the name you want to use is available.
If your domain is available, head on over to Bluehost and purchase your domain. They also make it super easy to install Wordpress.org, and they'll host your site. So once you buy your domain, you can immediately start your blog on a trusted blogging site. They make it super easy, and have professionals available via phone and chat if you have any questions or run into issues when setting your site up. I ran into a ton of issues migrating from a Wordpress.com to Wordpress.org site, and their chat representatives where extremely helpful.
5. Design your site
You officially have a blog! Now it's time to make it shine. There are a ton of different templates and themes to choose from for Squarespace and Wordpress, and they are super easy to put your own stamp on. I am currently using the Squarespace’s Bedford template. Back when I had my site on Wordpress, I paid for the theme Holly & Weave by pipdig and loved the way it looked and functioned.
Have your blog set up?
Read my “Beginner's Guide to Improving SEO” here!
This post contains affiliate links for Bluehost, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of the product links, I’ll receive compensation. Let's be serious, mama needs a new pair of shoes :)