Make Your Own Flat Lay Backgrounds for Less than $5 | How-to

When you scroll through instagram, are you tired of seeing all of those stark white backgrounds for flat lays?  Me neither, as they look so clean, and a good white background really makes things pop.  But, sometimes photos can use a little more pop of color.  This weekend, I figured out two ways to make a flat lay backdrop for under $5.  Of course, these can also be propped up to use as a background as well.

Flat Lay Backdrop #1.

DIY Flat Lay Back Drop
What you’ll need:
  • Poster board- .97 cents from Target 
  • Drawer liner- $3 from the Dollar Spot at Target
  • Scissors or X-acto knife
  • Credit Card or Starbucks Card
The theory behind this is super easy.  The execution may take some practice.  I made three back drops this way, and truthfully, they all have good and bad spots.  That may or may not be noticed in pictures.
Starting at one corner of the poster board, carefully unroll the backing of the drawer liner and press firmly to the poster board. 
Use a credit card (I used my trusty Starbucks card!) to eliminate any bubbles as you go.  The hardest part about this is getting the liner started.
Once you get to the end of the board, use the X-acto knife or a pair of scissors to cut the paper.  The $3 rolls from Target should have enough left over to finish covering the last four inches or so of the poster board.  I learned some patterns are a little harder than others to match up and keep even.  For instance, a herringbone patter was nearly impossible for me to line up, while the polka dots were definitely the easiest.
DIY Flat Lay Back Drop
Now, flip that .97 cent poster board over for…

Flat Lay Backdrop #2

DIY Flat Lay Back Drop with Wrapping Paper
What you’ll need:
  • Poster board (if you didn’t flip it over) 
  • Pretty wrapping paper –  $1.50 from Michaels
  • Modpodge – $1 from the Dollar Spot at Target
  • Sponge or paint brush
  • Scissors or X-acto knife
Again, super easy theory, and the execution was actually much easier than the contact paper.
Smear some Modpodge glue onto the poster board, and spread it out with a paint brush or sponge.  Work in sections because it dries quickly!
Lay the wrapping paper evenly onto the board and smooth out.  You’re probably going to have a lot of wrinkling unless you get super thick paper.  I learned that having a print that is a little more “busy” should mask the wrinkling.
Once the paper is attached to the poster board, slather another couple layers of Modpodge on top.  It’ll look white and streaky, but dries clear.  This is an especially important step if you had to cut another piece of paper and apply- the glue on top will seal it.
DIY Flat Lay Back Drop with Wrapping Paper
If you notice with each of these options, I decided to use prints that only used two colors.  I think anything more of that (especially with a more wild pattern!) would distract too much from the items you’re displaying.
For under $10, you can get TWO different flat lay backdrops!  Some day, I’ll actually take some [other] photos actually using them!
Linking with Biana!

Moving Checklist pt 2: Changing your Address


A couple weeks Almost a month ago, I shared with ya’ll my moving checklist.  Once we got moved in, I drew up another list that is still currently set on my desk, waiting to be completed.  The what to change your address on checklist.

I cannot state enough: once you know your future address and have a moving date, go to USPS.com and pay the $2-$3 to set up mail forwarding.  It was super quick and easy, and I got a a ton of coupons out of it.  Which we’ve also established, is one of my favorite things.  This will give you a little bit of time to get addresses changed, and forward anything on (for a year) that you may forget about.

Somethings, it’s very easy to remember to change your address on- the things you use every day.  Accounts that I could access online were the first to get updated, like credit cards and our joint checking.  My personal checking and savings accounts were a little trickier since I go through a local bank back in Maine, but that was done with a simple phone call.

Insurances.  Home owners’ should already be on the new address, since that’s the house that’s being insured!  However, it took me a while to remember to change it on the auto insurance- be aware that your rates may changed based on the new location of your vehicle!

Loans.  Same with the home loan as the insurance- it should already have the correct address.  However, since I went with the bank that provided the best rate for my auto loan, I only use it for my loan.  I made sure to change the address on that right away, as I had forgotten to when we moved previously.  They wound up sending important notices to my old address after the mail forwarding expired, which led to issues later on to clear up.  I also hadn’t changed my name until this issue, which was double the fun!!  As I’m typing this up, I’m realizing that I also need to change the address on my student loan.  Probably necessary, but since I get all of my correspondence online anyway, I’ll probably put if of a while longer.  Procrastination anyone?

State documents.  Be sure to check with your local DMV as soon as possible, especially if you’re moving states!  Each one has their own rules.  Florida’s is to have your new license / registration changed within 10 days of moving.  Oh, and pay $25.  I believe that if you have a concealed carry permit, that changes at the same time since it’s linked (kind of) to your drivers license.  The voter’s registration may have to be updated separately, which can be done in person or online (in Florida).

Blog stuff!  Seriously ya’ll, a lot of these I changed right away.  But only after Influenster sent me a product to try out to my old address (that was never forwarded on to me, even after checking with the local post office).  Side note- I emailed Influenster to let them know, and didn’t “check in.”  Never heard ANYTHING back from them.  I also had a book sent up there that was never forwarded, but was able to get the electronic version.  Remember also to change your domain registration information.  I’m not entirely sure how to do this, which means that I haven’t done it yet.  Since I have a private registration, I think I need to go through whois.com!

The two things that I did forget to change my address on, even after the fiasco with the book and product, was Adsense and Amazon Affiliates.  I never even thought to change those, until I got a notification from Google asking me to verify my address (the old one) with a pin number that they had sent to me.  Thankfully, that DID get forwarded, so I was able to update.  After that, I went a head and updated Amazon as well.

What else can you think of to change addresses on?  I know I’m missing stuff since I repeatedly get mail with the little yellow stamp on them from USPS.  However I feel like all the “big” stuff covered!

As with the last checklist, I created a printable checklist that you can download and fill out to help you guys in your moving process!

How to Track Product Costs

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You may have noticed lately that I’ve been posting a lot of book reviews, as well as some other product reviews.  First off, sorry, not sorry for the book reviews- I love to read, and love free books even more.  On the other stuff (some of which is coming), they’re things I look at purchasing, but have a (slight) fear of change.  Face products?  I need to use them- but don’t want to spend a ton of money trying out all kinds of different things.  Enter the product review.  For these things, I want to use the product for at least two weeks, sometimes longer depending on how often you’re supposed to use it.

Anyway, that’s out of the way.  Scott and I met when we were both working at H&R Block. Obviously we are both very conscious of anything we (I) get that could be taxable, or a write off, at the end of the year.  Nowadays, I just give my tax information to him and he sends everything down to a CPA to deal with.  Eventually that could include the free books and other products.

Below is the spreadsheet that I have created.  It breaks down what I receive by month, the list/cover price of the item, and the sale/ Amazon price.  I keep a running tally of both over to the side.  I created it on Google Sheets, which is very similar to Excel, and it saves it to my Google Drive account to access anywhere.  Plus it saves automatically.

I don’t really have an issue showing ya’ll the price of things I get for the blog- in all reality, if you wanted, you could find this out on your own, so why not throw it out there?  The color coding is so I can quickly see where I got the product from (which is also what the initials in the parenthesis show).

Why keep track of the list price vs. the Amazon price?  Amazon is my “Fair Market Value” measurement source. If you’re anything like me, you don’t pay full price for anything- since Amazon is… Amazon it’s pretty good indicator for market price.  I’m not going to tell you that you have to use one over the other for tax purposes, or that one is better than the other- that depends on your individual situation.  I’m telling you to record it, and hand it off to someone who knows what they’re doing- the more information readily available the better!

Theoretically, if/when I start offering sponsors and posts, I would make a new spreadsheet/tab for that.  Then, I would have a third combining all of the information, and a “monthly earnings” and “YTD” line for Google Adsense and Amazon Affiliate revenue.

What are your record-keeping tips and tricks?

Linking with  Beautiful Things, Home of Malones, Kristin’s kNook

#Blogtober Day 6: 10 Things I Told Myself when I Started Blogging

Oh dear!  I’m breaking, like the cardinal rule of blogging!  This post is extremely long!  I am still a very new blogger, and haven’t quite found my niche yet.  A lot of the thoughts I had when I first started contemplating a blog are still some I have now.  Here they are in no particular order:

1)  “I have time for it”– When I made my first post less than a year ago, it was after much deliberation and consideration.  I had decided I had enough material to blog about.  That I had such a fun life, I would continue to have material.  And then I signed up for classes in the spring.  And the holidays rolled around.  And classes started.  And then I had no time.  Plus, I wasn’t fully aware of how absolutely horrid our internet connection is on the plantation.  Around May-June this year, I decided to make a little time for blogging, and not worry about any of the other parts about it- just try to post on a regular basis.

2)  “I’m going to blog about decorating my huge-ass house, even though up until last year we had never owned a dining room table!”–  When I first started this blog, I had an inkling that I would like to make it a DIY/home decor blog.  But there are hundreds of thousands of those out there.  I was in a phase that I was doing a lot of projects for the house.  We were going to estate auctions and having a good time buying old and sometimes run-down furniture for next to nothing.  I would then spend 3- or 4 times what we paid on supplies to make it pretty.  It was still a good deal, since we knew that new furniture would be 10- to 15- times greater than the supplies and “canvas.”  But, winter came and the estate auctions close to home stopped.  Classes (again- they got in the way of SO MUCH) started.  At some point I decided that we need to paint the house.  This has yet to happen.  Then, about the time we spent close to $300 on a 5×8 rug from IKEA (that our little princess decided to …chew every damn corner on), I realized that it would be kind of hard to only post about DIY things when we both don’t necessarily see the value in some things.  I still like to play with furniture.   We still like going to auctions.  I still want my house to be pretty.  But, we also want and need a lot of other things, so the decorating is coming very very slowly.  Which would make for a very boring blog-life.

3)  “These are the things I have to do to make the blog successful…”–  When contemplating the Bear Den Plantation’s inception, I did a lot of research through other blogs.  What I need to do to make it work, how often I need to post,  times to pin a link to Pinterest, blah blah blah.  In reality, I will eventually have to follow some of those rules.  But right now,  I think it’s important to just enjoy what I’m writing about.  Yeah the post might be long and wordy.  (This is a prime example! I’m only on point 3!!) I think with time, my posts will get shorter and more concise.  But the first couple of posts I did, I literally let them sit for a week plus, going back and editing them, taking out “useless” information.  I harped so much on one or two posts, that I didn’t have time or energy to formulate new ones.  Even after publishing, I’d go back and edit and edit and edit.  So neurotic sometimes!

4)“I’ll have plenty of things to blog about!”– Similar to point 2, but on a grander scale.  The reality is my life is pretty boring.  My friends remind me of this when they call once in a blue moon to fill me in on all the juicy topics of their sordid love lives.  They ask what’s going on with me.  The answer?  Dogs, husband, oh I planted a new crop!  Sometimes I think that I should blog about their live; it’d be far more interesting.  But I’m happy with my boring little life.  My husband and I play together all weekend long, whether we’re hiking, sitting at the house, or just out driving around.  We enjoy each other’s company and we’re homebodies.  This makes it a little challenging for topics to blog about- which is why you see a lot of “Explore Florida” posts.

5)“People will just come to my blog and read it and love it and comment and I’ll get thousands of views a month!!!”- No.  I knew there would be work involved.  I just didn’t realize how much!  I have to MAKE myself comment on other blogs, and it’s not because I don’t enjoy reading them.  I just am not that social, even in real life (see number 4).  At some point it would be great to monetize.  I just recently got accepted into the Adsense program, and now I am in constant fear that Google will revoke it due to lack of traffic.  I revert back to all the other points.  Write.  Read.  COMMENT dammit. Everything else will fall into place.

6)  “I can TOTALLY take good pictures for the blog!”-  She said as she armed herself with her iPhone 5s and use only that for the first 7 months or so of this thing.  Sure, it’s fine for tumblr.  The Life of Rylee started out as a site to keep the bears’ extended family up-to-date on them and us.  We don’t live near any family, and the dogs (especially Rylee when she was little) was such a cute little spitfire.  I wasn’t concerned about the quality of pictures I’d post.  In fact, I would just post every single one that was on my phone.  Because I was too lazy busy A.D.D. to go through and pick the best one(s).  Now, I have a real camera (I HIGHLY recommend the Samsung NX2000 by the way) even though it’s not a DSLR.  It fits my needs, my pictures and my editing capability have improved.  But I still feel that about 90% of my pictures on here suck in comparison to others I see. Which brings me to…

7)  “I won’t compare myself to other bloggers!”– For the most part I don’t.  I think I don’t as much as some, because I don’t spend that much time on my blog.  I need to spend more.  I try to spend more.  But because it is not a business to me at this point, and again, because I’m just trying to focus on posting on a regular basis.  I also don’t spend a lot of time on other people’s blogs.  I read them quickly, but as I said before I suck at commenting.  I’ll read a blog on my phone while Scott’s driving.  Or when I sit down with the iPad to do something else, but get sidetracked.  As such when I take the time to get caught up on all of the things on Bloglovin’ I find myself comparing photography skills, layouts, and the shear amount of comments some bloggers have compared to me.

8)  “It won’t take anything to learn that program…”- Instead of program, insert: Lightroom; Picmonkey; GIMP; blogger.  And then when you get to Blogger, there’s a whole subset of things to learn, like html so you’re not bound to just the confines of what Google thinks you need.  I can honestly say I know these programs not even close to as good as I should.  It takes me a lot of minutes to edit a few pictures in Lightroom.  Picmonkey is a little easier since it’s web-based.  I can do like 3 things in GIMP.  I was so excited a couple weeks ago when I figured out how to add the html to my sidebar to get the pretty social media buttons.  Which then spurred a whole makeover, that for right now, I’m content with.

9)  “I’ll be able to handle negative comments.”- That has yet to happen, but we’ll see how well it’ll go over (I have a feeling it’ll be akin to a lead balloon) when it does.

10)  “Our crappy Century Link connection will be fine for blogging, even though we can’t stream On Demand or Pandora.”-  This is the absolute worst thing about where we live.  DirectTV is okay.  Century Link (the only thing that’s available to us at this point) sucks a huge…. you can fill in the blank.  Along with the new camera, came nice, crispy pictures, some a lot of megabytes.  Last night Scott was trying to play Call of Duty online (something that was never attempted until Saturday morning) while I was trying to flip through Rylee’s Tumblr.  It didn’t work out which results in a cranky man-child.  It can take me 10 minutes to upload a picture to the blog.  Which results in my “saving” a post until I have enough patience to upload and insert the pictures.  Not to mention how annoying it is when I’m looking at other websites/blogs/Pinterest and NOTHING WILL LOAD!  I kept my computer running last night, to finish syncing the 20 pictures I had left in my Google Drive file.  It wasn’t finished this morning.

Helene in Between Blogtober

So there you have the 10 of the 343,252,545,786 things that (have) go(ne) through my head about  blogging!  Anyone else experience such a colorful mix of nonsense?!?