Month : April 2013

catching up.

photo

I’ve been MIA from blogworld the past several days. Nothing major is going on, we are just staying busy and maybe more so than usual. The stuff we’ve been doing isn’t exactly blog-worthy or exciting to read about, so what results is a bunch of crickets chirping here. 🙂

In short, it’s been a lot of:

  • cleaning out closets
  • taking Spring stuff (house and clothing) to consignment and Goodwill
  • organizing drawers and bookcases around the house
  • cooking healthier meals
  • getting to the gym more regularly
  • catching up with lots of friends
  • putting some time in outside – trimming bushes, sealing the deck, planning to replace a tree we lost over the winter
  • working
  • freelancing
  • rediscovering TV a bit, watching Breaking Bad and Mad Men
  • starting to clean out the garage
  • eating edamame by the bagfull
  • biking to work (Page, not me)
  • finally resuming a quilt project I started almost five years (yep, years!) ago to the day…stay tuned for more on that one!

I do have a list of things I want to get around to blogging sooner than later. In addition to everything going on, I think it’s the suddenly nice (albeit late!) spring weather that has been keeping me from the computer screen. Things may slow down a bit here for a while as I remember just what the sun feels like!

I like to move it, move it.

For the past month or so, Page and I have re-committed to being more active and eating more healthily. I don’t mind the five pound loss I’ve experienced so far, but even more I just FEEL so much better after a couple months of letting the diet slip and not breaking a sweat as often. I have never felt guilty about spending money on anything health-related, so as the seasons have turned a bit, I’ve invested in some new gear – after all, getting to sport a new gym outfit is half the motivation to get me there!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m much move likely to purchase something if I know it’s been tried and recommended by another person firsthand, so I’m more than happy to share why I love these items so much…

workout essentials | life in yellow

Tee: Under Armour  |  Shoes: Nike  |  Socks: Thor-lo
Shoes: Nike  |  Headband: Amazon  |  Sports Bra: C9 by Target  |  Capris: Old Navy

  • I love the striped Nikes (Free Fit 3 model) for classes like BodyJam or Zumba – where there’s more dance involved and you want to be able to actually point/flex your feet and turn on a dime. I would NOT be comfortable running in these; not nearly enough shock absorbency for me. I strongly prefer to do Pilates and yoga barefoot, but I’ve seen a couple people go through class wearing these because of how close to barefoot they feel.
  • The neon orange Nikes (Lunarglide +4) have a lot more support than the Frees, so I like them for cross training stuff like the elliptical or a Body Pump class where I don’t need as much flexibility in the soles. I get lateral side-to-side support that I wouldn’t get from my regular running shoe (my Mizuno Wave Inspire 8s – best running shoe I’ve worn to date!).
  • I’ve spent too many dollars on “non slip” sport headbands – mostly for yoga, where I find myself upside down and my hair in my eyes. Either they’re WAY too tight and I have a headache by the end of my workout, or they still manage to work their way back until they’ve popped off my head. I couldn’t find the exact one I love (it’s a dry-fit material), but I’ve learned that any WIDE headbands work wonders when it comes to staying in place, are SUPER comfortable, and hold just fine to my hair, without all that nonslip gel that pulls and hurts.
  • If I’m going to work out in a t-shirt, I like them to be v-neck because they keep me that much cooler. I love the Under Armour heat gear tees because they’re tissue thin and really soft. This particular one has a huge “She’s a FIGHTER” graphic on the back with the pink ribbon – a portion of the proceeds go to various breast cancer centers and charities.
  • I haven’t been a big Old Navy customer lately, but after trying their active line and specifically their capris, I feel like they’ve really stepped up the construction and quality of these particular garments. The fit is just right, the waist bands don’t roll, and the material wicks sweat like a dream. I honestly feel little difference between these and my Lulus which cost three times as much!
  • I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I spend $15 on running socks, but I do. I have a couple different styles of these Thorlos and reach for them every time. I can honestly say I have never gotten a blister running in these, or even a hot spot. They keep their size and shape after multiple washings (I do put them in the dryer) and they just FIT like I didn’t know a sock could.
  • I was thrilled when Target released this sports bra for those of us with C-cup or larger ladies who want to do anything more than walk and not spend upwards of 50-60 bucks for good support. Plus, I’m not sure what it is, but once you get anything beyond B, and into the “high impact” tags, the variety of colors suddenly narrows to black or white. Boring. The photo online doesn’t do it justice – this steal (at $22!) is neon pink – love it!

party essentials.

One of my recent organization projects has been taking stock of my entertaining stuff, filling in a couple holes, and getting rid of things that aren’t as versatile and not worth the space to store. I’ve learned that my style is to invest in more neutral “nice” pieces and then fill in with the color scheme by way of napkins, flowers, signage, and other little details. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to my 22-year-old self when I was registering for our wedding, and show her the below board and just how simple the needs really are! 🙂 Here are my top must-have, go-to items I can’t live without when it comes to throwing a little soiree:

 

Party Essentials | Life In Yellow

  • Beverage Dispensers – I have two of these and they are a wonderful alternative to pitchers, which always seem to drip and spill. I love the clear hollow pedestals in these – pretty for stuffing with colorful tissue paper or flowers to fit the theme.
  • Versatile, white appetizer plates (and lots of them! I have never regretted buying two dozen of these)
  • Pretty shot glasses for anything from colorful beverage shots to creative appetizers, to bite-size desserts
  • A quality white tablecloth to set the stage
  • A beautiful vase for creating centerpieces

Beverage Dispenser: Amazon  |  Appetizer Plates: Crate & Barrel  |  Shot Glasses: BB&B
Tablecloth: Crate & Barrel  |  Vase: Target

shows we’re loving.

Love a good TV show, and a great one-liner. Playing around with some favorites today….what are YOU all watching? Any recommendations??

BreakingBad

 

greysanatomy

 

madmen

How to Start Blogging: Your Questions PART TWO

how to start blogging | life in yellow

[Yes, I’m a huge dork and trying some more “artistic” (??) shots lately, like the above. Bear with me.]

To keep from getting too lonnnnng yesterday, it made sense to split this list of ten tips into two posts! You can read part one here, and picking up where we left off…

neighbor gifts ingredients

6. Take decent photos.

You don’t have to be Ansel Adams, and you can take them on your iPhone, but TAKE PICTURES! Blogs are very visually-driven. People who “discover” your blog will make up their mind in the first several seconds if they want to stick around and read on. Use photos to engage and break up long blocks of text whenever you can. It’s photos that get pinned on Pinterest as visual bookmarks, and photos that best describe the things you’re talking about. Photos make the content – and you – “real” to readers. No need for a fancy camera or mad Photoshop skills, just make it a goal to take clear (in focus!) photos that illustrate your posts and upload them at a decent size (readers hate thumbnail size pictures!). A final tip? Use horizontal / landscape photos (as opposed to vertical / portrait) whenever possible – they are easier to view on tablets and phones, and smaller computer screens, and people don’t have to scrollllll dowwwwn to see the whole image. Plus, they’re more Pin-friendly.

Note: If you are into the Photoshop thing, you can learn how to watermark your pictures here to further brand yourself and your blog, and protect your photo property.

 

Blog, Inc book

7. Read about blogging. 

This goes along with reading other blogs, but read BOOKS on blogging, as well! One of my recent favorites is Blog, Inc by blogger guru, Joy of Oh, Joy!. Whether you’re blogging just for you, or looking to make your blog into a business, this book is full of wonderful tips and advice from someone who has “made it” in the blogging world.

 

video camera

8. Keep setting goals for yourself.

You can’t learn and implement every single thing you want to do with your blog overnight. I first worked on just keeping a regular schedule of posts. Then I added a facebook page to manage. Then I tried out Twitter. Then I decided to step up my photography skills. Along the way, I worked on the many aspects of creating a visual brand for my blog from the color palette to the logo, so it wasn’t so random. Most recently, I got on the BlogLovin bandwagon and opened an Amazon store. You can’t do it all at once, but make a list of the top few things you want to try out with your blog, then attack them, one at a time. Expand your blog into an Etsy shop. Start a photo contest on Instagram. The possibilities are endless.

My goals for myself and LIY this year include monetizing my blog by offering up ad space (and have been rearranging the design of the site to accommodate this). I also want to start working with video – of house tours, tutorials, and more. Setting goals keeps you moving forward and helps to keep fresh ideas churning.

 

glambamxo guestblogger

9. Consider guest blogging for others, and vice versa. 

Because I don’t claim to be an expert at anything (but have friends who are!) I have asked them to write guest posts for Life In Yellow in my Guest Blogger Series. This has been a great way to generate some monthly content that I wasn’t responsible for writing myself, it brought some fresh ideas to the blog, and it was good publicity for those who contributed. Take a quick flip through your list of contacts – there’s a wealth of people with great skills and information to share in there!

To get your own name and blog out there, offer to write guest posts for other bloggers. Pitch an idea, write the intro paragraph, and offer up some background info on yourself and your site. The worst they can say is no, thanks!

 

hawaii travel

10. Whether it’s opinions or personal information, find the line between keeping it real….and over-sharing.

Keep the drama to a minimum. There’s a “draft” option on your blog dashboard for a reason. Any time I’m considering sharing anything that errs on the more personal side of my life, I type it out candidly, as I’d say it to a friend. Then I save it as a draft and sleep on it. Sometimes I come back, re-read it, and feel totally fine to hit “publish”. Other times, I’m glad I waited, and I take a fresh pass at editing my words. I like to keep things real, and never want to come across as phony, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has read a blog where there is just too much drama, over-sharing, complaining, or just plain inappropriate content. Yes, you have the freedom to say what you like. But keep in mind, if you’re putting “journal” like content out there, it’s in a place that is anything but a lock and key diary environment. Think twice about the opinions you share and how you share them.

As for the people who appear on the blog, be wary of anything that might compromise someone’s privacy or safety. It’s been a weird lesson to learn, but even after not sharing our address or even our town directly, I’ve had well-meaning readers contact me to tell me, “Hey! We live near each other!” or I meet someone in person who’s actually read the blog and recognizes me (even crazier!).  It’s fun to hear this – and I know it’s totally innocent – but it’s a reminder to me that whoa, people are reading what’s out there, many more than I realize or know personally. Be smart. Sharing a last name or an address is not crucial to the story you’re telling. If kids should enter the picture some day, I’m still on the fence about how to share information about them. I’ve even gotten in the habit of sharing the party details in an entertaining post, rather than photos of the guests. In general, you just never know where someone’s comfort level is with being published to a wide audience of strangers.

When it comes to our property, I share just about every detail of the inside of our home from floor plans to detailed photos. So to protect our home, I don’t post anything ahead of time about going out of town. In photos, I blur out the brand of security system we have. I try not to show much of our surrounding neighborhood or landmarks. I don’t write all this to make anyone paranoid – and it’s no fun to read a blog where the author puts up a wall – but I would advise anyone writing a blog – for 2 people or 2,000 – that it never hurts to be more cautious than less.

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So there you have it! I’m sure none of this was earth-shattering, but hopefully it helped get you thinking about the blog you want to start and where to begin! If you have a blog already or are off to start one, share the link in the comments, I’d love to check it out! (And others can see it that way, as well!) Happy blogging! 🙂

How to Start Blogging: Your Questions PART ONE

tips for starting to blog | life in yellowA few of you have asked questions about how to start a blog, what to name it, and what to write about, so I thought I’d take a two-day post to share some of the things I’ve learned (at times, the hard or long way!) since first putting pen to paper (keyboard to screen?) six years ago.

I feel like there are two types of potential bloggers – those who want to start a blog just for them, and friends and family, as a way of record keeping and sharing family happenings. And there are those who have skills/expertise/stories to share with the world and want to reach a broader audience. No matter which of these categories you fall into (or maybe it’s both!) hopefully some of the notes below help get you on your way!

LIY2013fbbanner

1. Pick your topic(s) – and the name will follow. 

I’m not particularly great at any one thing. I like to cook, decorate, photograph, DIY, put together outfits, design logos, etc…but not enough to have a blog centered around any ONE topic and only that. I’d burn out, I’d run out of content, and I’m no expert – just someone who likes to dabble in a little bit of everything. For ME, it made sense that my blog became more of a “lifestyle” blog. Just as the term suggests, it’s a blog about our lives – the home we live in (decorating), the adventures we travel on (trips and anniversary adventures), the work we do (all things graphic and web design), and the projects we tackle (finishing the basement, anyone?).

My blog began as “Everything Yellow” – a name I picked in about four seconds because I loved everything yellow. I know – I’m bowling you over with my creativity. Ha! When I switched to WordPress from Typepad, I used it as an opportunity to update the name. You can read more about the Q’s and A’s of that switch here. At this point, I knew it was becoming about living our lives, joyfully, enthusiastically and completely out loud – many of the things I associate with my favorite color. The name kept floating to the top of my list, and the URL was available. Boom. Done.

To that point – pick a name brief enough that people can remember it to type it into their browser, and one that isn’t taken already by another blogger. Keep it short and sweet. Some of my favorite well-known blogs are “Centsational Girl“, “Young House Love“, and “Eat Drink Pretty“. Several of my friends’ have done creative things with their names/towns in their personal blogs using alliteration. (i.e. “Hanging out in Huxville”, “Daniels Ditties”, “Living Life Langston”, and “Journey with Julia”) – and yes, to protect their privacy, I’ve changed the names, in case you’re trying to look them up – I err on the side of caution when it comes to personal blogs. 🙂

Think first about what you’ll be blogging about, and the name might just present itself. Are you focusing primarily on living with a child with special needs, or as a military wife? Are you anxious to share your skill set with the world as a woodworker, or a pastry chef? Or are you just telling the funny stories that go along with parenting three crazy kiddos and the day in/day out life of your family? Try writing down what it’s about – the main topics, even schedule out a week’s worth of typical posts you might write…and a list of name ideas is sure to follow.

tips for starting to blog

2. A following of readers is great, so is a little pay. But don’t let it be the reason you blog.

I started blogging before I even entirely understood what it was. It was the month after we got married, and I figured it was a great way to post our wedding pictures, with a little commentary, for friends and family, and eventually re-cap our honeymoon adventures. That was it. That was the extent of my whole plan.

Fast forward six years and it’s still crazy to me that anyone besides my closest friends and family members want to read anything I have to say. But thankfully, after several years, I’ve found my stride in what I like to talk about and I’ve made a commitment to do it regularly. It’s all still ultimately for me. I love that people follow and participate with questions and links of their own. But if it all went away tomorrow, I’d still be blogging, because I love keeping a record of our life and reading back through this journal of our life together.

In my mind, blogging for any other reason than this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen blogs that are just there to regurgitate others’ ideas and sell ad space in the process – there’s no life or personality, and the whole site is clearly fake. It’s a turn-off. I’m not saying don’t monetize your blog – I plan to dip into that very arena yet this year – but don’t make the sole plan behind starting a blog to make money. For one, you’ll be very disappointed, because it takes a LONG time to achieve the readership numbers that will even interest potential advertisers, and two, any potential readers will see right through your fiscal motivation, be turned off, and move on.

platforms

3. Pick a platform – and spend a little time getting your geek on.

I began blogging with Typepad, a paid monthly service that allowed me a variety of customized templates. It was great to start with, but I’ve since become a bigger advocate of WordPress and Blogger – both of which offer many templates/services, but for FREE. Both WordPress and Blogger also have a large community of users who are very active in sharing tips/tricks for improving the look and functionality of your blog. Do a quick search on Pinterest for either and you’ll be bombarded with information and tutorials to get you on your way. I personally use WordPress, and my web designer hubby is a huge advocate of it, but I think you can be equally happy with either platform.

Start by simply creating an account with one or the other and put up a post. Then play around with one thing at a time, whether that’s creating an archive of your past posts, filling in an “about me” tab, or a number of other things. Try not to be overwhelmed – these things don’t get created in a day!

 

BlogLovinSubscriptions

4. Read other blogs. And speak up.

There is no better research than to seek out and subscribe to other blogs. Take note of the topics, the photos, and the voices of the writers. Don’t copy – but be inspired. See what they’re doing that resonates with you as a reader, and try the same with your own spin in your own way. Support others in the blogging community by leaving comments that add to the conversation. Plus, commenting is a great way to generate interest in your own name/site and find new followers!

 

5. Building an audience takes some work. 

If you’re expecting to start writing and people magically find you, well, let’s just say that’s a bit overly optimistic. Once you have a few posts, share a link to your blog with Facebook friends, post it on LinkedIn if you feel it’s appropriate, or via your Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts. Add your blog’s URL address to your email signature. As people who already know you follow, people they know may follow as well. You can create a Facebook fan page for your blog to further cultivate a following – it’s a great place to post sneak peeks of upcoming posts to generate interest, or to foster more casual conversation between you and the people who take the time to read your posts. I get a lot of post ideas from the comments and questions people leave on the LIY facebook page!

Make it easy for people to share your content. Most blog platforms have a built-in functionality to add “pin it”, “facebook this”, “tweet this”, and other buttons to the footer of each of your blog posts. Make it as simple as possible for people to post about something of yours they read and spread the word about your site.

Other ways to find readers include pinning some of your content (make sure it’s yours, originally, and don’t OVERDO the pinning) on Pinterest, comment on other blogs with a link to a post of yours on the same topic, and get your blog registered on BlogLovin so others can discover it.

Here’s a fun thing to try: Enter the following URL in your browser, but insert your blog address in place of where it says “lifeinyellow.com”:

http://pinterest.com/source/lifeinyellow.com

…You can see the most recent items other people are pinning from your site!

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Stay tuned! More to come tomorrow 🙂

StoryPeople.

Sharing one of the MANY amazing “stories” from Brian Andreas of StoryPeople, based in good ol’ Iowa.

legacy11x14

This story is up in my office. Everyone should have a print by this artist! 🙂

Monthly Recap: March

Finding the time to stop by a blog daily (even every other day!) can be a challenge. So here’s a recap of March’s most popular posts, to be sure you didn’t miss a beat!

guest blogger Brittany

  • Guest blogger Brittany stopped by with some amazing makeup tips. You all clearly loved them – they got pinned on Pinterest a LOT!
  • And speaking of makeup, I did a review of our first deliveries from Birchbox (Conclusion: we love them!)
  • You all contributed to a reading list for 2013 with your favorite titles.

home-building-dos-and-donts1

  • We shared a list of our home-building experiences and what we’d do again (and differently!)
  • I shared some parts of the living room mini-makeover here and here…just waiting on some temps warm enough to warrant spray painting to finish ‘er up!

custom baby book

  • I posted my list of favorite baby gifts for both babies and their parents-to-be. You all followed up with some great suggestions via comments and emails….I think a 2.0 reader-generated list is in the near future!Set the Table | Easter Brunch
  • Turning my love of “playing house” into a blog series, I’m excited to start blogging tablescape ideas from the everyday to the special occasion, starting with this laid-back Easter brunch table.

Other things that happened this month? They didn’t all make the blog, but I played chauffeur to Page for a couple weeks’ worth of doc and PT appointments, we enjoyed amazing meals from friends and neighbors, I tried some new recipes like baked zucchini chips and cauliflower dunkers, and we both made an effort to clean up our eating act and get back in the gym routine. (You can catch the little “in between post” stories like these by following Life In Yellow on facebook and Instagram!) Happy March!