Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

9 Sep 2013

Reader Survey

We are back from vacation and back at work on the new house.  The laminate is done and our carpet is going in next week! I also think I am close to being done painting - hallelujah! So exciting. After 4 weeks of working away, the house is finally starting to feel like it's ours.  Good thing since our furniture is moving in on Saturday....

Here's a little sneak peek of the family room.  We took the saw to those Ikea Expedit shelves on the weekend and are working on turning them into benches.

Ikea expedit shelves

Since this feels like a time of change and new beginnings (and since fall is in the air), after a year and a half of publishing A Swell Place to Dwell, I am officially launching my very first reader survey.  It has been interesting to watch the statistics on this blog and I am always so surprised to see what people respond to.  Posts that I think are going to be popular, are often duds and other posts get tons of comments when I don't expect it. 

I'll be honest, I love a post that generates discussion through the comments.  Comments make me feel that I am not alone once I hit that 'publish' button, and they also allow me to interact with you - my readers, who I love to no end.  But, I also know that there are many of you who read and don't comment, and that's fine too.  This is the chance for everyone's voices to be heard.

So, I'd really, really, really appreciate it if you'd take a few minutes to answer my very official (as in I created it on my own using a free website.....) survey.  It will let me know what I am doing right and what might need some improvement.  All answers are completely anonymous, so please don't be afraid to speak your mind.  I genuinely want your 100% honest opinions.

Click Here!!

(if by chance the link isn't working for you, please copy and paste this into your browser:

I'll be back later this week with a little glimpse into our kitchen and some new/old lights.

2 Mar 2013

1 Year Blogiversary

Holy Moly, I made it a whole year!  I seriously had no idea when I sat down to write my first post a year ago that I would end up here.  Honestly, I didn't know if I would have enough to say for even 10 blog posts, and here I am at post #155.  Apparently I had a lot on my mind!

Delving into this world of blogging has been such a crazy, cool, terrifying, humbling, all consuming, self-reflecting, rewarding experience.  It's hard to sum it all up really.  This has been one of the most challenging things that I have done....challenging in a good way.

I'll be honest.  I have inwardly struggled with the blog.  What I didn't expect when I started this journey is how much I would start comparing myself to others.  Of course we always compare, but blogging seems to amplify it all.  Is my blog design good enough?  Are my pictures bright enough? Am I posting enough?  Am I being too honest?  Not honest enough?  Should I show pictures of my family? Who's going to care about this?  How did they make their project look so much nicer than mine?  How can she have 4000 followers and I have 4?

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

It's hard.  Really hard to not get caught up in it all.  It's hard to find your own voice in a sea of blogs.  Or to find your own originality in a Pinterest world.  It's hard to stay true, and to believe that what you are doing is good enough.

It took me a good 8 or 9 months to finally just toss it all out the window and just ignore everyone else and do what I want here.  After all, this is my own little slice of the cyber world, so I can do what I want.  And if you are a blogger, I know you have heard it again and again, but it's true....when you just let it go and be yourself...the traffic comes.

No, it won't come quickly (which was hard for me to deal with since I have zippo for patience), but over time, you will develop an audience, and it will be an audience that truly cares what you are writing about.  An audience that takes the time to not only comment, but comment with integrity.

Ya, I totally check my stats every day, and get a little excited every time I see a spike, or I get a new Facebook fan, or someone actually talks to me on Twitter, but I think I am slowly (verrrrrry slowly) starting to care less about that stuff.  The less I care about it, the less I feel the weight of it all and I can just write when I feel like writing - not because I've only posted once and I need to get fresh content posted in fear of losing my whole audience.

I thought when I started this blog that I had a blog obsession, well whoa nelly.....that obsession exploded.  I discovered Google Reader and now I don't even want to admit how many blogs I read on a daily basis.  I check out all the regular blogs I read every morning over coffee....and I love it.   There are such amazing women (and maybe an odd man??) out there who are so inspiring and make me push myself harder each day.  They are encouraging, they challenge me, they make me want to grow.  There's also a huge number of hilarious bloggers out there who can make me laugh even on a bad day, which is a gift in itself.

Blogging really is a community.  Aside from all of the comparison that I mentioned above, there is also a huge amount of support.  You really just have to reach out and get it.  It took me a while to get over myself and realize that it's ok to ask for help.  It's ok to email someone and ask what they think or ask for a suggestion.  Most bloggers answer my questions (even the big guys).  Other bloggers know what it takes and what a huge sea of crazy waves blogging can be and that sometimes you just need a life raft (even if it's a little yellow dingy) to hang on to.

Would we have completed as many things in our house over the course of this year without this blog? Probably not.  The blog makes me want to finish things.  I want to finish so that I can show you (even if it was just 3 of you reading at one point).   Mr. Swell has heard one too many times that I want to get a project done so that I can post about it and then link it up.  I get so excited that I can't wait to talk to you all about it.

So, since this is an anniversary and all, I thought it might be fun to share some stats.  I promise there will be very little math involved.
  • As of this month, my average monthly page views is right around 12,000.  There are a lot of people out there who don't want to reveal their page views, but I'm all for it.  It's not about the number of followers, subscribers, etc. - to me it's about pageviews (and I'm proud of them!). Those are the people who are visiting my site and actually reading.  Just to give you a bit of perspective.  In June my average was 3,000. Thanks to some success on Pinterest and Craftgawker, as well as some features by other bloggers, my pageviews have increased quite a bit just over the past 3 months.  Also, just as a side note....if you read my posts in your email or in a reader such as Google Reader, it doesn't count as a page view.  In order to count as a page view (and therefore count towards my stats) you do need to click through to the main site.  Just in case you are inclined to help me increase page views.  Just sayin'. :)  
  • 89% of visitors are from the United States.
  • My most popular post of all time is How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets.  (I can thank Pinterest for that one!).  Next in line is our farmhouse table and our living room reveal (although the Emerald Dresser is only a couple hundred page views behind the living room). 
  • People end up here from some very random searches on Google! Some of the best ones have been: animals swearing, hiding behind a curtain, crazy woman with a dog, demon witch, her dirty little heart.  Dirty little heart? Huh? Seriously....someone typed those search terms into Google and ended up clicking through to here.  Makes me laugh.
  • Outside of Google, my top referrers are Craftgawker and then Pinterest.  (The Line a Day Journal took off on Craftgawker, which is almost the sole reason for it being top referrer).
Lastly, thank you to each and every one of you who keep reading.  I know some of you lurk in the background, staying quiet but reading each and every word, and I so appreciate it.  Others of you comment your little hearts out and I love seeing your comments pop up in my email because I know they will be heartfelt and genuine.  So thank you for continuing to show me the love whether you have been here through all 150+ posts or this is the first post of mine that you are reading.

I think the next 365 days are going to be interesting for our little family and will hopefully provide lots of scenarios for new challenges and new content.

In case you are wondering why there are random cake photos throughout this post...well, it's because I made myself a cake to celebrate of course!  I've made this recipe a few times now and it's quickly becoming my favorite.  The cake recipe is here and the icing is here.

Also, be sure to come back on Tuesday because in celebration of turning 1, I have a fantastic giveaway lined up.  It's a good one.  It's definitely one that I'd like to win!

I'll leave this open ended.  If there are any questions that you'd like to ask, I'd be happy to answer them.  You can leave a comment or shoot me an email.  If you are a new blogger who would just like to chat or are curious about stats, blogging tips, etc don't hesitate to ask.  Any other stats that you want to know?  I'm an open book!  (on all things blogging anyway...)

31 Jan 2013

A New Look

It's here! This blog has a brand new look.  If you are reading in a reader or via email just click on through to see the big changes.

I did like my old template, but something about it just never felt right.  There was just something off.  I was longing for a cleaner, crisper look that I wasn't getting with the old design.  So, I took it upon myself to design a whole new look.

For some crazy reason (mostly because I am cheap), I took on the whole redesign by myself.  I am sure if you count the man hours that I spent coding, the design would have costs thousands of dollars, but not counting labour costs the whole new design was F-R-E-E.  And you know I love free!

Mr. Google became my new best friend as I leaned more about html coding than I ever thought I would need to know in my life.   It really is amazing what you can kind find on the internet!  Every time I ran into an issue I just typed my question into Google and boom, I could usually find an answer with just a few clicks.   I started with my old template, looked up where every image was hidden in the code and then made my adjustments from there.

Let me give you the grand tour....

The first big change is the width of the post area.  I widened it by almsot 200 pixels, so now I can make my pictures bigger.  Honestly, that was the one thing that promted this whole change - I couldn't modify the old design to accomodate wider images.

Obviously the header is new.  I don't have Photoshop, so I taught myself how to us Pixlr.  Once I got used to Pixlr I was totally addicted.  It's amazing what you can do with that program for free.  In case you are interested, the font is Mari & David, which you can download for free here.

The menu bar at the top has one new addition - the About Me page.

I've been hesitant to have an about me page.  Writing about yourself is hard!  Last month though I participated in the "What I Like About Your Blog" link up at Inspire Me Heather and the feedback I received was that readers wanted to know more about me.  So... reluctantly I wrote all about me/us.

The Projects page is still there, but it's been completely updated.  I was using the inLinkz Link Manager for my gallery before, but then they started charging for the links.  It was only a few dollars a month, but I figured I could save myself that few dollars by coding it myself.   At one point I think my computer was tired of having F bombs yelled at her.  Poor girl!  The Project Gallery was by far the most frustrating and time consuming part of the redesign.  Coding tables in html took a bit of learning.  I am happy with how it turned out I just need to try and keep it updated.

There are amazingly talented graphic designers out there who offer a lot of their clip art for free.  If you are thinking of tackling your own blog design, I highly recommend checking out Pinterest for free digital scrapbook images.  The roses (that are my new post dividers), the polaroid frames and the date circle all came from Persnickety Prints.  I just downloaded the clip art and then played around with it in Pixlr until I had what I wanted.  Pugly Pixel is also a great site for cool free clip art (it's where the flower in my 13 Things series is from).

If you're into this sort of thing I do have a Pinterest board titled Blog Stuff, where I keep these types of resources.  The code to add the Pinterest hover button, how to make a grab button,  and the social media icons I used are there as well.  You're welcome to follow along :)

So there you have it! That's basically all I know about the world of blog design.  I am so happy with the way things turned out though - this design feels so much more me than the old one.

I have tested the layout in a few web browsers, but please do tell me if you see something funky going on so that I can fix it.  I also have a question for you like the mobile sites that Blogger makes? I personally hate them as I like to see the design of the full site.  I still prefer to see the full blog on my phone or iPad instead of the abbreviated mobile version.  I was tempted to disable the mobile site,  but didn't want to do so if you guys like having it.  Any preference?

Would you be interested in a Pixlr tutorial, or how to make your own header?  I could try and wrangle my disjointed coding thoughts together to make a tutorial if you'd be interested.

Have a great weekend!  Chat with ya next week.

18 Nov 2012

Click Click

Since I started this blog 9 months ago (holy moly, has it been 9 months???), one of my biggest frustrations has been the photography.  Prior to blogging, I honestly didn't put too much thought into photos.  I took them (randomly and not very consistently), and then sometimes printed them.  Done.  I never stopped mid project to take step by step photos, or even really cared about the lighting or the composition.  Once I started sharing projects though, I started to get really perturbed that I put so much into a project and the photos just weren't doing it justice.  I also never thought we lived in a total cave until I tried to start taking decent photos of our rooms.  Yes, apparently we live in a super dark house, where decent pictures are nearly impossible.

I was using a Canon Powershot until a couple of months ago.  It was a mid-level point and shoot, and while it did take great pictures outside, it just didn't do well inside without a flash.  I do still intend to use this camera every once and a while, when I want more than my phone but don't have the room (or extra hands) to carry around the DSLR.

Since I started blogging, I have tried really hard to not spend much money on the blog.  I make pennies (if I am lucky) from this blog, so to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the beginning just didn't make sense.  I love doing it as a hobby, but it's not a good hobby if it starts costing me money.  But, with that said, the one thing that I did think would make a huge difference around here were some better pictures.  The camera I had just wasn't cutting it.  I also justified that a new camera was more than a blog purchase.  After I finished Fin's Year 1 photo book, I took a look at it and just wished that we had nicer, brighter photos of her. So, I took the plunge.

I did my research on DSLR cameras and decided that I would start with something entry level.  I read a lot between the difference between Canon and Nikon, but to be honest it was all sort of greek to me. Then one day while Fin and I were reading flyers (she LOVES 'reading' flyers), I saw that Wal-mart was having a huge anniversary sale.  The Nikon D3000 was $100 off, making it just under $300.  Considering the same model is going on Amazon for around $450, $300 was my kind of price!  I went the next day and picked one up (after going to 3 Wal-marts...apparently other people wanted one too!).   The only thing that the D3000 doesn't have, that I did sort of want, is the ability to shoot video.  I figured that I have an iPad and an iPhone that can shoot video though, so that's good enough for now.  It did come as a kit with the 18-55mm lens.

Before I even took the camera out of the box, I decided that I wanted to learn it the right way.  I wanted to learn how to shoot in manual mode before I even had the chance to get used to automatic mode.  That way I wouldn't be tempted to give up learning and just fall back on auto.

I signed up the Photography 101 course through Shoot Fly Shoot (while they were having a 30% off sale - yay!) and watched all of the videos over the weekend.  The course was awesome.  I highly recommend it if you are wanting to stop using auto mode.  It wasn't greek, which made me happy.

Shoot Fly Shoot

I can't say that it's been all rainbows and gum drops.  I am really loving all of the learning and the cool things that I can do with the new Nikon, but I do get quite frustrated sometimes when I still can't get the lighting how I want, or I miss something funny that Fin is doing because I am too slow with the settings (or maybe she's too fast - that girl never stops!).  But, I can say that I am so much happier with the quality of the photos for the blog.  I still have so far to go, but at least now I have the equipment that can help me get there (and once I get a tripod and a 50mm lens I'll really have the equipment ).

Want a little example?  Photographing the dip dyed stool I made in the summer was a big challenge for me.  The gold dipped legs kept blending with the carpet, and the room was so dark that everything looked grainy.  I thought it might be fun to do a little comparison show and tell.  Here's almost the same shot with the old camera and the new camera (forgive me that I didn't haul out the knick knacks to style the chair again).

Here's the picture that I took with my point and shoot.

And here's the new camera on auto.

And the new camera on manual mode.

And the last picture edited.

Pretty big difference, right?  I am tempted to re-photograph rooms that I've already shown you and switch out the pictures, but that would be a little too anal, so I will resist.

I also should note that I do edit almost every photo that gets posted here.  I've tried a few editing programs over the past few months, including PicMonkey, Pixlr, Picnic (when it existed) and Picasa.  The easiest program that I find to use though (and the most convenient) is the editor that's built in iPhoto.  It allows me to adjust levels and colours, but isn't too complicated.  I also export my photos out of iPhoto so that they batch watermark, instead of me having to watermark each one individually (like in PicMonkey).  A version of Photoshop is on my wishlist for the future, but right now I am sticking to just learning the camera and not getting too involved in editing (my Mom brain can only handle one thing at a time).

I'll leave you with my favourite picture of Fin that I've captured with the new camera.  It truly captures her. She is contstantly exploring and gets so excited with the small things (like the paint peeling off the deck).  A good reminder to all of us to still get excited about the small things.

26 Oct 2012

Pinterest + Dinner = New Recipes in the Rotation

I've mentioned here before that we struggle with dinners.  Honestly, I can say that I find it to be the most challenging part of the day.  I almost dread it.  But, I refuse to just give up and eat out all the time.  First, we don't have the money to eat restaurant food for days on end, and second, I get tired of eating 'healthy' fast food (i.e. Subway).  So, we've set out on a mission to try and eat real dinners (not eggs or oatmeal) for dinner at least 4 nights a week (Mon-Thurs).  That means that we have to be org-org-organized.

Pinterest has become my new best friend in Project: Dinner Organization.  If you follow me on Pinterest, you'll see me pinning recipe after recipe.  Many of them are crock pot recipes, and others are ones that I can either do super quick or that I can have all ready and freeze ahead of time.  Pinterest can be a bit of hit and miss though.  We've tried many recipes that are total flops, or are just so-so...nothing to write home about, or to blog about for that matter.  But then there are others that are total winners.  Some of the Pinterest recipes are super delicious and have made it into our regular rotation.


Through all of our trial and error, I have kept a board on Pinterest entitled Recipes We Have Tried and Love.  Since we love them, I thought I'd share the board with case you also find dinner on week nights next to impossible.  I don't just post anything on the board, I can assure you that we have actually made and eaten the recipe.  I also add my little notes to the pin with any changes that we have made or modifications that could make it healthier, etc.  And since it's my blog, I guess it's ok to play favourites.....the Singapore Street Noodles and the Cauliflower Chocolate Cake are our current faves.

Do you have a pin board with your favourite recipes?  Leave me your link in the comments, as I'd love to follow you and find new recipes.  It's just a lot of recipe love around here today.

On a totally unrelated side note, I wanted to just make a couple of quick comments about advertising.  You may have noticed that over the past few weeks I have integrated some advertising onto the blog.  I struggled with the decision to start adding ads to the blog, as I want to maintain the integrity of my posts.  But, blogging isn't entirely free, and although the costs are small, they are still there (domain name, blog design, etc).  I love writing and sharing, but if I can recoup some of my out of pocket costs, I will.  And to be honest, having a few extra dollars doesn't hurt :)

I only show display ads that I think fit with what I have going on around here.  They are stores that I enjoy, and that you may too.  The little section on the right hand side titled "Swell Goods I am Loving Right Now" contains affiliate links.  If you click on one of the items from this blog and then purchase it, the store sends me a small percentage of your purchase.  It's like a little bonus for me scoping out cool things.  You may also see sponsored posts every once and a while.  These are posts that I have been paid to write on behalf of a company.  The words are all mine, and I only write about things that I believe in or use myself.  I've passed up quite a few sponsored posts that I just don't think are the right fit (like white bread and car insurance....).  I know most of you won't care too much about any of this, but it's important for me to be honest with you.  I often get question on how you can make money blogging, so hopefully this will answer some of them.  And just to prove that blogging isn't a good way to get rich, I have made a total of $19.84 since I started blogging almost 9 months ago.  I think I'll use it to buy lotto tickets.

Have a great weekend!  Any big plans?  We have Halloween craziness this weekend.  Can't wait!

12 Sep 2012

Change of Pace

Since I started this little blog I've had people I know (and some I don't know) comment that they don't know how I do it all.  How I complete so many projects so quickly.  How I find time to blog. How I find time to scour thrift shops.  It always makes me roll my eyes and sort of half laugh.  There isn't anything further from the truth.  I don't do it all.  I have tons of support.  Other things suffer sometimes when we are in the middle of projects.  Our house tends to be somewhat tidy but is nowhere near clean.  Heck, the other day I dusted our leather living room chair with a throw cushion because it was the closest thing I could find.  I stress on finishing things when I should just relax and enjoy a night in front of the TV with my husband.  

I promised to not be one of those people who puts on a show on my blog and that makes other people feel bad that they can't keep up.  That's so not me.  If I am being completely honest, lately things have been adding up and I'm feeling the pressure.  Mr. Swell has been busy at night with his own things (that I 100% support), my day job (the one that actually pays the bills) is getting into a busy time, and Fin often runs me off my feet.  If it's a day that Mr. Swell has other commitments, I sometimes work all day, come home and make dinner, bathe Fin, put her to bed, battle with her for an hour before she sleeps and then finally have a few minutes to breathe.  Please don't get me wrong, my life is fantastic.  I by no means have it very hard. I have no idea how single parents do it.  The point though, is that all I have energy to do is collapse on the couch for a couple of hours and crawl into bed. 

If you know me in real life, you know that I am a total Type A.  I am anal.  I like things a certain way and have a hard time letting go of control.  I like routines and schedules.  I (and I alone) put pressure on myself.  Blogging is no exception. I started this blog and then dove in full force.  I researched, I read how people became successful, I learned HTML, I read that you have to have great content, post regularly, etc, etc.  I figured that if I am going to do this, I am going to do it right.  And so far I think I've managed to do a fairly decent job.  I've truly enjoyed it.  I love having an outlet to share with you all of my trials and tribulations and to connect with others across the world.  

The thing is though.....I can't keep up this pace.  I have to be honest with myself.  I want to blog about what I love, what I am proud of, and what we do manage to accomplish around here.   I don't want to post filler content just because I haven't posted 3 times that week.   The truth is that the projects around our house are winding down a bit.  We still have tons to do and I still have a lot to share, but the winter is always a bit challenging around here to get things done.  Hauling furniture in and out of the garage through the snow is really not very exciting.  I also want to spend lots of time with Fin and Mr. Swell, and not compromise our time together because I feel that I have to get a project done so that I can post about it by a certain date.  I don't want to worry any more about my blog stats, when I should start running ads, who featured my project, have I updated twitter, etc, etc.  Although it's sometimes really hard for me, I am going to try and go with the flow.  Let go of some control and see what happens. 

So, to make a long story long, what I am trying to say is that my pace around here is going to change a bit.  I am not going anywhere, I just may not be here as regularly.  I am going to try really hard to post when I want to and not when I feel that I have to.  I am sure sometimes that might be multiple times a week, and other times it might be silent for a week, but when you do see new content you will know that I am writing it because I want to, and not because I feel that I have to.

And lastly, thank you for reading and for all of your support over the past months.  All I do is blab about what we do around here and surprisingly, people read it.  I so appreciate you taking the time to read and to comment.  


22 Jun 2012

Blog Housekeeping

I've been doing a little housekeeping around these parts over the past couple of days.  

Check out the new Projects page.

Even with my very limited HTML coding skills I managed to finally figure out how to add thumbnails for each project (I am still smiling about it!).  I've even added a new Home Improvement category to show all of the recent projects we've been conquering (painting a door, tiling, etc) that didn't seem to have a place on the old page.  I'll try my darndest to keep the page updated for you.  Hopefully it will be easier than searching through the archives if you are wanting to reference a particular post.

If you are another blogger and are interested in the details on how I did it, please drop me a line and I will be happy to share. 

While we are here maybe you can indulge me in a little self promotion??? Did you know that a Swell Place to Dwell is on Facebook and Twitter?  If you click on the little buttons to the right it will connect you right to the pages.

I post updates and pictures on Facebook and Twitter that I haven't had a chance to blog about yet.  I also post links to each of the posts on the day that they are published (come on....I know you wouldn't ever want to miss a post....).

If you do 'like' A Swell Place to Dwell on Facebook and you want to receive updates in your news feed please make sure to check the 'Show in News Feed' option.  Facebook has recently made changes and for some reason updates won't appear in your news feed unless you chose the option.  Once you 'like' the page, then hover your mouse over the 'like' button and a menu will drop down where you can select 'Show in News Feed'

And lastly, did you know that you can subscribe to receive posts via email?  Enter your email address, confirm the subscription and voila - A Swell Place to Dwell will hit your inbox whenever I publish.  Please rest assured, your email address is secure and spam won't make it's way to you through the subscription.

I'll leave you with this picture that I posted on Facebook earlier this week.  This is how our garage is looking these days.  So. Sick. Of. White. Paint.  

Catch a glimpse of the kitchen island? It's getting an overhaul.  I'll have it ready to share with you next week.

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