May 29, 2017

One Good Thing

In today's world, being negative seems to come easy. It's so easy to complain about what's happening on the news and in other parts of the world, about the bills that are piling up, about the commute to and from work and even about work itself.

Negative events, negative conversations, negative actions and negative thoughts stick with us well beyond the positive. 

While plentiful, talking about the good things is never as simple. The positives are quick to dismiss and quick to forget.

The key is making the positive events stick. 

One Good Thing - A Daily Gratitude Challenge

My husband and I have recently adopted a new daily activity that we like to call One Good Thing. It's a simple daily exercise that goes a little something like this...

Each day, usually after we get both get home from work, put Morley to bed or are off to bed ourselves, we both ask each other to do one simple thing - "Tell me one good thing about your day."

Not a disappointment. Not a rant. Not something negative. Something good. A compliment. A win. A success. Something worth celebrating.

One Good Thing - A Daily Gratitude Challenge

Some days, I have to dig really deep to pull one good thing out of my day. But then some days, sharing one good thing is easy and often snowballs into one good thing after another.

Some days both of our good things revolve around the same topic. But then some days, they're vastly different.

Some days that one good thing may be small, like checking an item off the to-do list. But then some days, it may be bigger, like celebrating one of Morley's accomplishments.  

One Good Thing - A Daily Gratitude Challenge

Sure, our days still involve the occasional rant. We wouldn't be human if they didn't. But adopting this activity has shown us that we can cut through that negative air and let the positive shine through. 

Whether big or small, even on the worst day imaginable, it is still possible to find something positive to celebrate. 

I challenge you to adopt this daily activity, be it with your partner, your coworkers, your friends, your parents or even your children. 

Stop and smell the tulips once in a while. It may surprise you. 

Share your positives on social with the #OneGoodThing hashtag. I'd love to see them!

Now its your turn, tell me one good thing about YOUR day. 


May 26, 2017

Family Meals & Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe

With warmer weather comes more and more time spent outdoors. For my family, that means firing up the grill and eating outside on the patio. Good food, good drinks and good company make this girl one happy mama.

Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe

When my husband, daughter and I have the chance to sneak away for a long weekend at my parents' house, the weekend usually involves a big family dinner with my parents, grandma, brother and sister-in-law. On the menu? Mussels. Always mussels.

I know, mussels are not a traditional BBQ menu item. Although they can be cooked on the grill, we prefer to prepare them indoor on the stove top. 

We have our go-to mussel recipe, but once in a while, we like to switch it up. Like this with this recipe for Coconut Curry Mussels

Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe

Coconut Curry Mussels

Serves: 8 people, as appetizer

  • 2 lbs. fresh mussels 
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp yellow curry powder
  • french bread, sliced
  • optional: fresh basil, chopped for garnish

  1. Clean mussels thoroughly and remove all beards (the brown wispy bits hanging out of the shells) by scrubbing. Discard any dead mussels (ones that are open or with broken shells).
  2. Once cleaned, set mussels aside in a bowl of ice.
  3. In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the can of diced tomatoes and stir to combine with the onions and garlic. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the can of coconut milk and stir to combine. 
  6. Add the mussels and cover. Cook for eight to ten minutes. Shake pan every few minutes to move mussels around.
  7. Pour mussels and sauce into bowl and garnish with a small amount of chopped fresh basil (optional). 
  8. Serve with a loaf of sliced french bread to sop up the sauce.
Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe
Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe
Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe

In honour of not sharing a recipe in a few months (ahem, five to be exact), I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to inspire others to enjoy family time outdoors with some good food, and maybe even this delicious seafood feast.

How do you enjoy family time? What are you go-to family meals? I'd love to hear!


May 15, 2017

The Best Mommy Blogger Hashtags

Love 'em or hate 'em, as a blogger and social influencer, hashtags are extremely important. Whether you're a lifestyle blogger, fashion and beauty blogger, mommy blogger or any niche in between, hashtags play an important role in growing your online community and influence.

The Best Mommy Blogger Hashtags for Growing Your Instagram

Many people have reservations about the use of hashtags, often thinking they look spammy, tacky or even desperate. But in fact, as a social influencer, hashtags are the best way to reach people within your target audience and those that may not otherwise see and interact with your content, including brands.

This can't be more true for Instagram.

The Best Mommy Blogger Hashtags for Growing Your Instagram

Instagram is my favourite social media platform. I love taking photos and sharing those photos for others to see. It has quickly become an important tool for taking To & Fro to the next level and working with brands to monetizing my content. 

On the flip side, I also love looking at others’ photos. One way that I do this is through the use of hashtags. I will search a hashtag and oftentimes get lost looking at the categorized content within.

I recently hit 5,000 followers on Instagram and can contribute the majority of that following to the use of hashtags and engaging with others. (Don't forget to enter the celebratory giveaway.) 

With hitting this milestone, I thought it would be great to share my hashtag insight, tips and tricks with others looking to grow their community, engagement and brand. And, as someone who fits into the “mommy blogger” niche, I’m sharing the best, and also my favourite, hashtags to use. PLUS a free template to copy, paste and save for your future photos!

The Best Mommy Blogger Hashtags for Growing Your Instagram

What are hashtags and why should I use them?

Incorporating hashtags into every single one of your Instagram posts enables people that don't already follow you to see, and perhaps like, your photos. If they really like what they see, they might even go on to follow you. Remember, in order to utilize hashtags successfully and for others to see your content, your account MUST be public!

When brands are looking for influencers to work with, the number of followers you have isn't always the most important. Nowadays, brands care about engagement. How many people interact and engage with your content, in the form of likes and comments? The use of relevant hashtags will help boost your engagement.

If you have great content, some of the more popular hashtags may even re-gram (i.e. re-share) your photo, which would obviously help your engagement.

How many can I use?

Instagram allows you to use a maximum of 30 hashtags, so you might as well take advantage and use them all to maximize engagement. Remember, this number is inclusive of ALL hashtags, including those within the caption.

Don't use the same 30 hashtags each post! Doing so will not help your engagement because you'll be reaching the exact same audience each time, rather than branching out.

Where do I place them?

In the comments. Always in the comments. Sure you can throw a few in your caption (i.e. if you are working with a brand and must disclose using #ad and the relevant campaign hashtags), but the majority should reside in the first comment of your post. 

Placing the hashtags in the first comment box means they will be hidden when more people comment on your image, making it look cleaner. It also means that they will not show if you share the image on other social channels, such as Facebook or Twitter.

How do I add them?

Have a "go to" list of hashtags ready and waiting in the notes section of your computer or phone. All it takes is a copy, paste and send. Once you have pasted them in the comments, you can make a few tweaks and add a few more relevant to the photo. 

Remember, once you hit send on that comment, unlike with the photo caption, edits cannot be made. If you make an error, you will need to delete and restart.

Are you a mommy blogger? See below for a list of the best hashtags for mommy bloggers (and a few of my favourites).

When should I post them?

Right away! As in immediately after you hit publish on the photo. With the new Instagram algorithm, hashtags are linked to when the photo was posted, not to when the comment was posted. Therefore if you post the hashtags an hour after the photo, there’s a chance the photo could already be buried, and the hashtags won’t necessarily work in your favour.

Should I use those with a lot of photos, or few photos?

You want a mix of popular and new hashtags. Certainly people will be searching the popular hashtags, however, it will be easier for your content to get buried with those that have a large number of photos. New hashtags with fewer photos will still help with engagement.

The key is finding hashtags that fit your photo which are used by a big enough set of people, but small enough that your photo stays near the top of the recent posts for as long as possible.

Which ones are best for me?

There are so many different hashtags out there. Which ones are best for you, and the goal of growing your community, is really up to you. Ultimately, the decision depends on the subject of your photo. Choose wisely and think about which hashtags will give you the best exposure for your photo. Two great questions to ask yourself when deciding which hashtags to use - What is the subject of your photo? Who is the audience you want to reach?

It may take a bit of trial and error to find out which ones are best for you and your content, but once you dial in, I can assure you, you will see nothing but growth.

The Best Mommy Blogger Hashtags to Grow Your Instagram

For the mommy blogger niche, the number of relevant hashtags is endless. Need a little help to get started? Below is a list of the most popular mommy blogger hashtags, as well as some of my favourites. Copy and paste this list into the notes section of your computer or phone. Add or subtract hashtags relevant to the photo subject, and watch your engagement grow. 

Top 30 Instagram Hashtags for Mommy Bloggers


Bottom line - hashtags are important. If you don't use them, the only people that will see your content will be your followers, and maybe your mom. 

Check out To & Fro's Instagram to see how I effectively utilize hashtags to increase engagement and influence. 

What are your favourite hashtags? Any tips or tricks? I'd love to hear!

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

May 4, 2017

Spring is in the Air: Recipes, Activities & More!

The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the sun is shining (on most days). Spring is officially in the air! 

This season, spring into something new with this amazing collection of 50+ spring-themed posts from the outstanding community members at Social Fabric. Discover new recipes, crafts, outdoor activities and more! 

Spring is in the Air: Recipes, Activities & More!


Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake - Mostly Homemade Mom
Slice of Spring Cake - A Sweet Potato pie
Mousse and Cookie Jars - Herbivore Cucina
Easy Flower Basket Birthday Cake - Savoring The Good


Rhubarb Iced Tea Recipe - Savoring The Good
The Carrot Clementine Pineapple Punch - Adriana's Best Recipes
Strawberry Chia Agua Fresca - Adriana's Best Recipes
Triple Berry Mimosas - Certified Pastry Aficionado
Cherry Rum Punch - Mom on the Side
Strawberry Rhubarb Infused Vodka Recipe - Savoring The Good
Simply Healthy Blackberry Lemonade Smoothie - The House of Healthy
Cool Off With These 4 Drink Recipes - Lily The Wandering Gypsy
Meadow Tea – PA Dutch Iced Mint Tea - Crafty Cooking Mama

Rhubarb Iced Tea Recipe


Blackberry Lime Napoleon Recipe - Kitchen Concoctions
Cinco de Mayo Bar Cart - Happy Family Blog
A Kumquat Papaya Gooseberry Salad - Adriana's Best Recipes
Rustic Ham, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart - The Chef Next Door
Ham, Brie and Apple Sliders - Savoring The Good
2 Ingredient Strawberry Ice Cream Bread - Sweet Sensations
Copycat Starbucks Mini Lemon Loaves - Moore or Less Cooking
Puff Pastry Baskets with Creamy Lemon Filling - Hostess At Heart
Pan-Poached Tilapia with Lemon Caper Sauce - The Every Kitchen
Banana Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping - A Sprinkle of Joy
Spring Vegetable Pizza - Culinary Ginger
Watermelon Arugula Salad - Just is a Four Letter Word



DIY Unicorn Kinetic Sand - MamaPlusOne
Pipe Cleaner Flowers - Inspiring Momma
DIY Temporary Easter Tattoos - Revel and Glitter
Spring Crafts For Kids Thumbprint Art Painted Flower Pots - Mom Always Finds Out
Paper Plate Bird - It Happens in a Blink
Hanging Flower Vases - Bullock's Buzz
DIY "Let Love Bloom" Seed Bomb Wedding Favors - A Bride On A Budget
DIY Paper Pinwheels - Ava's Alphabet
DIY Natural Bleach Alternative - The Lady Prefers 2 Save
Mother’s Day Scrapbook for a Special Aunt - Our Potluck Family
Butterfly Footprint Tea Towel Mother’s Day Craft - Beyond Mommying
DIY Dog Crate Organizer - Diana Rambles


Backyard Burger Party - Creative Designs by Toni


Printable Spring Scavenger Hunt - Wondermom Wannabe
How to Spend Quality Time with Your Pups this Spring  - A Paper Arrow
50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities - To & Fro


Monogrammed Tulip Wreath with Burlap Bow - Curly Crafty Mom
Brunch centerpiece with free spring printable download - Our Mini Family
Upcycled Vintage Coffee Pot Planters - Ginger Casa
DIY Floral Spring Wreath- wife in progress
DIY Butterfly Wreath - Gina Michele
Painted Terra Cotta Pots for Succulents - The Real Girl's Realm
Rustic Burlap and Hydrangea Wreath - Little Mama Jama
A Pink & Green Floral Spring Tablescape - Charleston Crafted
How to Get Your Patio Ready for Spring - A Cowboy's Life
Welcome Spring printable - Keeping Life Sane
Spring Printable - Try it - Like it
Unending Love Amazing Grace’ printable art - Neat House. Sweet Home™


DIY Orange Blossom Bath Bombs - Southern Mom Loves
Spring Sandals Under $100 - Styled by Becca
Colorful Striped Dress for Spring - A Sequin Love Affair

DIY Bath Bombs


How to Plant a Beautiful Planter For Your Porch, Patio, Garden - Ever After in the Woods
How to Grow Your Own Cotton - Little Sprouts Learning

Spring Planting Tips


Printable Family Spring Bucket List - The Dating Divas
25 Ways to Have a Spring Refresh - Tamara (Like) Camera
50 Tips & Ideas for Spring Photography - The Dating Divas
Stop the Clutter: 101 Things You Can Get Rid of Today - Neat House. Sweet Home™
Track Your Way to Save Money, Pay off Debt, and Stay Hydrated - Where My Soul Belongs
7 Ways to Spring Forward And Find Motivation This Month - The MamaZone

What are your favourite spring activities? I'd love to hear!


May 2, 2017

Thoughts on My First Blog Conference & Investing in Myself

Two weekends ago, I woke up nice and early (you know, instead of sleeping in until 6:30am) to attend my very first blog conference.

I've been thinking about attending a blog conference for a while now, but could never pull the trigger. First of all, they are a bit of investment and oftentimes cost a few hundred dollars. Second, I just never thought I was good enough. I never thought To & Fro could hang with the "big boys".

When I saw that BConnected 2017 would be held downtown Toronto, I knew it was my shot to step out from behind my computer, push myself out of my comfort zone, connect with others and, most importantly, invest in myself.  

 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017

I must admit, attending BConnected came at the perfect timing for both myself and To & Fro. Being on maternity leave the past year, I poured every single second (of nap time) into my personal web space, growing my community, engaging, building connections and monetizing more than I ever had before.

But, not long after returning to work, family priorities began to take over. I know this is to be expected, and I am happy that I had my priorities in order, but I also couldn't help but feel a bit guilty. I had invested so much time and effort into To & Fro over the previous 11 months, and as less and less of my time was being dedicated to keeping up with all of the hard work I had put in, there were times that I seriously considered shutting this space down.

 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017
 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017

The weekend-long conference was filled with listening to social media experts, networking with brands and connecting bloggers that I have only ever talked to online. 

Aside form meeting many new bloggers, I also had the chance to meet Linda from A Labour of Life, Sonya from House of Kerrs and Cyn and her daughter Sam from Creative Cynchronicity and Gagen Girls, all whom I have only ever connected with via social. 

And that's what BConnected was all about. Connecting with others. 

 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017

Take Home Messages from my First Blogger Conference

1. Consistency is your best friend when it comes to monetizing. Have a schedule and stick to you. You readers will learn what to expect.

2. Understand who your audience is. Is your majority audience 25-34 year old females? Mine is. That means when I curate content, I speak to that demographic.

3. Forsake perfection. Don't compare yourself to others. You are your own individual self. The blogging world is not about competition, but about supporting one another. 

4. True influence is not about awareness, but about action. If someone reads your post that's great. But, if someone acts on your post, even better. You have true influence. 

5. Engagement is the thing that really matters. Don't stress over your likes. Brands want to see how you are engaging with your audience.

6. You are a trusted voice to many. Simple. 

 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017

It is take home message #6 that really stuck with me after leaving the conference on Sunday. As a blogger, you are a trusted voice to many. People come to your webpage for stories, advice, activities, recipes and much, much more. You are the expert. 

 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017

In the end, I'm glad I didn't retire this little space of mine. Turns out, attending BConnected was the fuel I needed to keep going. Walking through those doors last weekend was one of the best investments I could have made for both myself and To & Fro. I left feeling energized, inspired, connected and armed with the tools I need to take To & Fro to the next level. Even in a room full of social media superstars, it turns out, I am good enough. My unique, trusted voice is more than good enough. 

 BConnected Conference Toronto 2017
All photos taken by Mostafa Photography.

A big THANK YOU to all of the organizers, sponsors, brands and bloggers who made BConnected such a success and an amazing weekend. I am sad that it will be the last conference of this name, but am excited for the relationships and connections I made and for the future of To & Fro.

And of course, I can't end this post without thanking my wonderful husband and inlaws for putting their weekend aside to watch baby girl while I stepped out of my comfort zone and invested in myself.

Have you ever attended a conference? How do you invest in yourself? I'd love to hear!

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