Chic Tip: Discover Happiness with a Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journal on faux fur footstool with pen and DIY gold bangleI’ve found that the right attitude is truly half of a chic life.

But sometimes, even if life isn’t getting us down and we aren’t depresssed per se, we can get into a rut of wake up, go to work, go through the motions, come home, go to sleep, and do it all the next day…without even feeling present in our own lives. We can feel complacent and bored; tired and irritable; or just flat-out burnt-out.

To feel that you are indeed RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE living a chic life, full of abundance, comfort, and happiness, requires a massive shift in focus. But it can be a very tiny change in what you think, to start a cascading ripple that emanates out to all other areas in life. So often we focus on minutiae: what hasn’t been done, what lacks in organization, never-ending home repair projects, the tediousness of daily life. In order to rediscover the minutiae that bring happiness, sometimes it is as simple as writing it down.

How to Start a Gratitude JournalGratitude Journal on faux fur footstool with pen and DIY gold bangle, open to quote pages

To Start Small:

Write one thing you are grateful for down in your place of choice before going to bed.

What makes you smile, what are you glad to have? What couldn’t you do without? How is your life blessed? Focus on each one as you write it, truly feeling thankfulness as you write it. Write it on paper, spell it out with scrapbooking stickers, leave a note on the mirror in lipstick. Any way to permanently record something that you are aware of that makes your existence better in some way.

To Reiterate:

Write down ONE. Just ONE. One thing, little or big – from that you’re grateful to have a roof over your head to you’re grateful for your best friend to your grateful that it’s tangerine season because you love snacking on those little suckers. Challenge yourself to write something different each day (doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering)

And then…:

At the end of a week, re-read everything you’ve written and feel it wash over you like a wave.


Upgrade your journaling habit to include what you will do to show this gratitude to the person/thing referenced when you note it down at the end of the day, as a To Do for tomorrow. Feel it tonight, create some action tomorrow. Whether it’s calling your Mom to tell her you love her, slipping a note under your neighbor’s door, complimenting a coworker, texting an old friend out of the blue. Write…then show. And watch how these actions create bigger ripples of positivity and happiness in your life – and the lives of others.

You have abundance. You have many things. You have many friends. You are living a full life.

This lovely Gratitude Journal was given to me by my friend, Lex Casciato (also known as the musician Little Warrior, who put together a lot of cool curated Spotify playlists for this site awhile ago). I am filling it daily with my gratitude – and my first entry was all about my bestie and how talented and thoughtful she is!

Here are a couple of my favorite Gratitude Journals:

5 Recommended Gratitude Journals by Chic Steals

1  /  2  /  3  /  4  /  5  (aff. links)

And there is even an app for that! TheGratitudeApp

Do you keep a Gratitude Journal? Has it helped your outlook or mood at all?

Gratitude Journal on faux fur footstool



P.S. The gold bangle in the top 2 photos is my DIY Free People Wrapped Quartz Bangle – click for the tutorial!

How to Take Headshot Portrait Photos that Reflect Your Blog’s Brand


Portrait photography is definitely not my strong suit, and it’s even harder when YOU are taking a photo of YOU. It’s so much easier to work with someone who knows what they’re doing and can make you relaxed enough to take a great fun photo for your blog headshot.

carlyjcais_2012headshotI’ve had the same sidebar headshot for 3 years (above, taken by Dave Lim) simply because I liked how I looked in the photo. I’ve also had another photo on my About Me page (if you recall, that particular photo was pretty horrible) for about 5 years. I’ve been going through a brand audit of Chic Steals and felt that my head shots didn’t really reflect my blog topic and focus. They needed to be lighter, brighter, closer – and more depicting chic, creative, crafty living instead of just my head in front of a forest.desktopcomposite_aboutpage headshot_behinddiamondSo after playing with a couple different ideas, I settled on a photo of me in my home office in front of a wall that I decorated with gold washi tape in a triangle pattern. (Similar to what I did with my DIY Geometric Bathroom Makeover wall here.) I chose on a white-and-gold palette since I felt that was in line with my blog branding. carly-j-cais-headshot-with-diamondI did make a little sparkly gold prop as the silhouette of the diamond in my logo, and utilize the DIY paper glitter diamond paperweight I made in this post here. carly-j-cais-at-deskFor the overhead and sitting at the desk laptop shots, I styled the desk with my DIY Gold Succulents in Geometric Origami planters, the origami diamond paperweights, and a variety of crafty materials to touch on the “making” theme of my blog. The only piece of jewelry I wore was the DIY Free People Wrapped Quartz Bangle that has been really popular online since I shared it.

My good friend Josh of Joshua Johnston Photography took my photos, and though we shot in the late afternoon and the light was fading inside, his lighting techniques were still able to bring out all the little details and make everything white and bright. In all it took an hour and a half, and the finished photos were awesome – and, I felt, much more fitting with the look and feel of my blog.

So are you experiencing some difficulty with deciding on the perfect headshots for your blog or website? Here are 8 steps to get portrait photos you’ll love:

pinterest-how-to-take-head-shots-that-reflect-blog-brandHow to Take Headshot Portrait Photos for Your Blog That Reflect Your Brand

1) Spend some time looking at your blog. Are there colors or elements that you could incorporate into a shoot? Do you feature the same items over and over again? What “goes together” and what doesn’t? (like using a forest background for a crafty blog…which doesn’t make any sense)

2) How can you accomplish what you want in the least cluttered, most direct way? What would make sense as a background? Can you make it, fake it, or is there a place you know that would be perfect for the locale?

3) How about props? Would they be more specific and tie a photo of you into what you write about better? Reiterate your branding or logo somehow?

4) Sketch some ideas out on paper, having in your head a firm idea of the colors and layout of the elements. Where do you want your head to appear? Should you be looking at your content to draw people’s eyes to it? Looking at the reader to connect with them? Looking away so that you’re an object of admiration and having fun by yourself? What are you trying to sell with your head shot?

5) Allow enough time to be able to properly style out your photos and capture them in the best light. Do you need to shoot during the Golden Hour? How long will it take you for hair and makeup? How about styling your props?

6) Choose a lens that has the least amount of distortion for the face: ideally, 85mm. If not, 50mm will also do quite well and create that soft blurred background. Use a tripod if you can, especially in low light situations!


7) Unless you’re used to modeling (or modeling by yourself!), shoot with someone you know well and who you’re comfortable with, preferably someone who makes you laugh. That way your smiles will be genuine and your eyes light up in your photos, which is difficult to fake. You’ll also have someone to interact with which can come out in the final images, creating more of a connection with the viewer. Don’t be discouraged if you have to take a ton of photos to get any you like. Some the framing might be right, but you have a hair out of place. Some your expression might be weird. Keep them all and look at them later.

8) Go through the photos on a large screen, ideally after some time has passed. That way you can apply a fresh eye and be more objective with the ones you choose. Choose ones that you like a lot then compare them against one another. If you like them, your readers will too. Post-process, upload, and announce your new pictures!

Thanks, Josh – I couldn’t have done it without you! Check out his website for prints of cool landscape and nature photography – especially Oregon waterfalls!joshua-johnston-photography

Joshua Johnston Photography

Do you have any tips for good blog headshot photos? Please share in the comments!


I actually helped Josh build the website and optimize it for SEO, learning the Smugmug platform [aff. link] in the process. I’d highly recommend it if you’re a photographer looking for a no-hassle way to sell your prints and photos as digital downloads – since they take care of all the order processing and fulfillment for you!

7 Ways to Make Your Wardrobe Look Waaay More Expensive Than it Actually Is

7-ways-to-make-your-wardrobe-look-more-expensiveI’m a budget-shopper, you’re a budget shopper. But no one wants to actually look like they’re wearing a $4.99 blazer, no? They key to looking well-dressed is making sure you’re choosing excellent items for their value, that you can spice up with a bit of budget-friendly DIY prowess. Here are 7 ways you can look like a million bucks on a budget (even if you only spent $20!): (more…)

How Do You Maintain Your Life While Facing Stress? 5 Ways to Deal When It Seems You Just Can’t

photo source

It’s the age-old question, even more relevant today when so many of us are engaged in multiple, simultaneous projects.

I worked a 54-hour week last week at work.  We had a shoot at the studio, which went into a second day.  Many other things also happened in my life right around the same time (kind of like how November 5, 1955 was the date the whole universe hinged on in the Back to the Future movies…Dec 6-9 for me was that same critical hinge-worthy time period).  Last week was the most physically and mentally grueling week for me ever.  (You may have noticed I posted one photo on my blog of me smiling on the set…and then nothing for 3 days.)

When I’m under a lot of stress in one part of my life…I have to pull back on the other parts.  Put the blog posting on hold, forget about that face mask, pile stuff into my corner of the office and leave it there.  Stop answering email for a couple days.  Stop paying attention to what I’m eating and just eat when I’m hungry.  Put the workout routine on hold.  It’s as if I just don’t have the head-space to deal with anything else except what’s going on in front of me, stressing me out.  And many things fall by the wayside during that time.

If you’re anything like me, this might be how you deal as well.  Here are some tips for keeping up with the things that do matter to you (even if they seem like added stresses whilst in the thick of things):

photo source

1. Make a List

Figure out everything that’s still on your plate besides what’s stressing you out, and designate it either:

  • Keep Up With It
  • Put It On Hold
  • Drop It Completely

Seeing your task list written out like that, and giving yourself permission to do away with to-do’s (or even just delay them), can add some calm in a world of chaos.

photo source

2. Pull Back on Your Commitments

For your “Keep Up With It” tasks, further break them down into tasks that you can keep up with in only a minimalistic sense.  If you have to be making daily dinners for your family, can you just heat up TV dinners or work with pre-cooked ingredients or dishes that take only 5 minutes?  Can you plan out your week of dinners to make it easier?  Can you post a single photo on your blog of a “wishlist item” instead of an entire post?  Now is the time to pare down and to become a total slacker.  What can you get away with by doing the bare minimum?

photo source

3. Talk or Hang Out With Someone Not Involved in What’s Stressing You Out

Your friends and family can often be a great source of help, even by just being around someone who isn’t caught up in the madness.  Even if you’re just dishing about Kate Middleton’s latest outfit or your friend’s last horrible date, chatter that isn’t focused on your issue can help free up your mind from its mental hamster wheel.  Even just 10 minutes can make a huge difference.  Laugh, cry, shout, give advice…get caught up with what’s going on in someone else’s life for a few moments, to take a step back from what’s going on in your.

photo source

4. FORCE Yourself to Make Some Me Time

It doesn’t have to be a huge amount; just whatever time you can afford to spend on yourself.  A nice bath.  An episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.  A chapter in a good book.  A face mask (which I didn’t even have the presence of mind to do last week *ahem*)  Even 10 minutes of exercise – a quick stroll a couple times around the block – is actually doable and will do wonders to improve your mood.

image source

5. And, if nothing else, a deep, deep breath and some EFT

I’ve been using a 7-breaths technique to gain calm (breathe in for a 7-count, breathe out for a 7-count, seven times).  Repeat as necessary.  However, I’ve recently discovered EFT and have been absolutely amazed at the results.  It works by stimulating nerve receptors in the skin by tapping them (the same as with acupuncture), thus creating an interrupt in the body’s creation of negative emotions (which are, in actuality, just chemicals released by the brain and other organs, flooding the body and affecting heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc. negatively).  Just try it and see.  Even try it with a completely negative attitude, convinced it won’t do a darn thing for you.  You may be surprised.  (Read more about EFT here and here if you’re interested.)

Edited (12/31) to Add:

6. Ask for Help from the Important People in Your Life

Sometimes it’s really, really hard to admit to your friends/parents/significant others/kids that you really can’t do it all.  Asking for help sometimes feels akin to admitting that your not superwoman/superman…but sometimes you just have to ask or else go utterly crazy.  And the people who really care about you, whether they are friends or family or co-workers or the person you’re dating, will probably be okay with doing something to help you out.  Hub can make dinner one night – it’s not going to kill him.  Maybe instead of you sending a holiday card to your parents’ friend maybe they could just write a greeting from you into their yearly card.  Maybe a friend could drop your Goodwill donation off instead of you doing it.  Etcetera.  It definitely takes a village, and if you’re at your wits’ end don’t be ashamed in asking for little favors from the people in your life!  (But conversely, be prepared to return the favors at another time. 😉

How do you cope with major stress in your life?  I’d love to hear your tricks for staying sane amidst utter insanity!

Stay chic~