Blogging

Random Thoughts

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Good morning! It’s rainy, dreary and all around blech here in Philly – what a great day to go back to work after a long weekend. It’s too much of a meh day to make connected, coherent paragraphs, so here are my random, jumbled shares for this bleakish a.m.:

  • PenPals and Swapping.  When we moved to the suburbs, I felt incredibly disconnected – from my normal routines, from my friends, and I also lost a bit of my independence.  I don’t drive, I’m a terrible driver, but in the city, not only is there no need for a car, a car is a pain in the ass because there’s just no parking.  In the ‘burbs, it’s all about the car.  So, in attempt to reach out to the far off world, because that’s how I felt, a bit, trapped in my large suburban house, I started penpaling and swapping.  For the most part, I was swapping through Swap-bot and through a couple of ATC swap groups.  The ATC swap groups became all about the drama, so see ya.  I got bored of Swap-bot, and then there was Facebook – and the Pocket Letter craze.  I made a half a dozen pocket letters, never wanted to make another one, and I was off the swapping.  Penpaling was a bit more complicated.  I had joined the League of Extraordinary PenPals, and I was writing to ten or so people.  I was keeping up, doing just fine, for probably a year, and then my father died.  Strangely, I didn’t really have trouble writing letter after letter telling the whole saga again and again, but after I wrote them all – that was it.  I couldn’t write another letter.  And, it didn’t help that I had lost my Wendori (my faux Traveler’s Notebook that I had made myself, and had my pen pal log as well as all of my addresses and stamps).  And I just stopped.  I figured if I ever got a letter saying, hey, what happened to you?  I’d figure out the next step then – but I never did.  I was writing to people who also had too many pen pals, and I guess I wasn’t missed.  And, then I dropped out of the League altogether, because not only was I not an extraordinary penpal, but at that point, I couldn’t stand looking at the Facebook page – here, I was navigating the No Dad waters, and people were posting stuff like, “can you help me through this difficult time, I lost my favorite pen” or “send good thoughts my way, my third cousin twice removed is having surgery tomorrow.”  I just didn’t really have any patience, or generosity towards anyone who suffered merely from this thing called life.  Anyway, with the return of Project Life, and the hauling out of all of my papercrafting supplies, the swapping bug has bit again – this time with something called a Flip Book.  So, while I’m not wholeheartedly committing to penpaling again, I am dipping my teeny toe into the Swap-bot waters.  I’ve signed up for two swaps, and I’m not signing up for any more until they’re out in the mail.  I’ve joined a few swapping Facebook groups, but I’m not signing up for anything until those two swaps are out the door.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

  • Beautiful.  For my Valentine’s Day present, Joe got us tickets to see Beautiful, the show based on Carole King’s early career.  Strangely, after seeing the show, which was toe tapping and superfun (although – huge note to lady sitting behind me – no one came here to listen to you sing.  You leave the show singing, you don’t sit in the show singing), I was not intrigued by Carole King, but rather with her cad of a husband, Gerry Goffin.  I knew that King’s writing partner was her husband, but before the show I never really thought about who wrote what, and it never occurred to me that she didn’t write any of the lyrics, but was solely a composer, at least in those early years of collaboration.  So, I started to think about how could a guy write all of those lyrics, written primarily in a woman’s voice, like Natural Woman and Will You Still Love Me.  And then I started to think, are they really in a woman’s voice, or are they more of a unisex voice, filled with all of the humanity, introspection and insecurities that I normally, but wrongly always attribute solely women.  Or, was Goffin just an excellent fiction writer, capable of writing these tiny one act plays from a woman’s perspective, because he knew the song would be going to the Shirelles or Aretha Franklin, or their babysitter, Little Eva? In any event, it was a great show, and if it comes to a town near you, see it!

 

  • Project Life.  This past weekend was my niece’s bat mitzvah.   When it came time to fill my pockets,  I only had a handful of photos.  How strange!  I’m so used to being the photographer at life events, it’s weird to be at the mercy of someone else providing photos, as I now have to wait for my niece’s photographer to finish up with his proofs, and for my sister-in-law to post the good ones on Facebook.  I feel really awkward and conspicuous at functions with my DSLR, which leads me to question what the future is for my DSLR.  We have a tripped planned to England in June, and I know I’m going to take it, but I’m secretly dreaming of a super expensive, lightweight mirrorless Fuji or Sony or Olympus.  Ah, one can dream.  In any event, while waiting, I did have a few photos on my iphone, and there were some photos already on Facebook, so I made an insert with Ali Edward’s 6 x1 12 Layered Templates, and my nieces’ speech and my brother’s toast.  You want to see it?  So do I – but my mother liked it so much she took it, and now I’m waiting for another copy to arrive from Persnickety prints.  So, I’ll show you when it gets here!

 

  • Batman v. Superman.  Of course we had to see this opening weekend.  So Ben Affleck was a totally lame Batman.  Rather than being dark and mysterious, he was just glum and constipated.  And, the ending of this movie was just downright bleak, and a soul suck.  This movie was below zero fun.  At least the commemorative popcorn bucket is pretty cool, but that’s about it.

 

  • Happy Planners.  I want one.  I don’t need one.  What else is new?  I can’t even tell you why I want one.  I’m happy with my Traveler’s Notebook setup, and I don’t want to carry around anything bigger.  I don’t like the vertical layout of the Happy Planner, I like the horizontal layout of an Erin Condren.  But, I like the ARC system dics!  I like the idea of being able to remove pages, and adding pages.  I have seen people “Arc” their Erin Condren planners – uncoiling the binding, cutting off the leftover fringe, and repunching with an Arc punch.  But, that seems like a big risk for a lot of money – these planners are pricey!  I don’t even want to decorate it – I don’t get all of those planner layouts.  I don’t really get planning to plan.  But, I feel like I want something bigger to not plan my week, but to record my daily events to help me out with Project Life.  I guess I want to use it like a diary, with minimalistic entries, to jot my stories down as a placeholder for the eventual Project Life pocket.   I do carry around a notebook with morning pages in my Traveler’s Notebook, but when I do remember to write morning pages, I don’t write daily memories, I write things like this blog post – random thoughts.   There’s a Michael’s coupon today for 40% off one item, and there’s a free shipping offer for four hours, between 4-8 today, so today might be the day.  Or not – because I haven’t totally justified it yet.

 

  • State prisons.  Tomorrow, I have to see a client at SCI Graterford, and I started to mull over what my favorite state prison is, and then I stopped myself.  I really shouldn’t have a favorite state prison.  But, if I did – it wouldn’t be Graterford, uch.

And those are my random Monday morning think abouts!  Hope you have more interesting things going on!

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Yearly Make-Over

Every year, I do a little blog makeover, and every year, I think that this new container is going to miraculously make me a better, more consistent blogger.

Every year, I’m wrong.  But, the blog feels fresher, and remains an ever patiently waiting home for my stories.

January and February were honestly pretty crappy around here – Joe was still in recovery mode from his broken foot, on the first year anniversary of my father’s death – almost to the hour – my brother was in a car accident, breaking both of his legs, and there was work upheaval that made going to work every day not fun.  So between trips to physical therapy and the orthopedist (with Joe), visits to the hospital and then nursing home (with my brother), and playing office politics, I was happy to spend my free time knitting, making a bit of art, and catching up with Project Life, and even the idea of blogging was pretty much a drag.  But, now, Joe has been cleared to go back to work in full capacity, my brother is home and on the mend, and work has returned to the normal, crazy place it’s been for the last 20 years of my career.  So, now it’s time to blog.

I’ll probably redo the header, but all I really did was switch wordpress themes – maybe that’s all you need to do sometimes to get out of rut – switch themes in every sense.  While I loved the last theme, it really was hard to read, and I couldn’t get the text color right without upgrading to the pro theme, and until I become a pro blogger, I certainly don’t need a pro theme.  So, I saw this theme, Button, on someone else’s blog today, and I liked the featured photos, and the bright orange colors, and inspired, I thought – time to blog!

And, since I had no idea when I woke up this morning that I was going to visit ye ol’ blog, I didn’t have any photos prepared for a real post, so I thought I’d start the year, er March, off with a gratuitous cute dog photo as my first featured photo.

So, happy belated New Year to all, and perhaps more tomorrow!

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Ten on Tuesday, or a Few Of My Favorite Things

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In an effort to keep to some semblance of a blogging schedule, I thought I’d do some regular features.  Most bloggers publish their link love on Friday, but I think Tuesday’s a good, slow day for some linkage time sink.

So, here’s what I’m loving today:

This trailer.  “Chewie, we’re home!” Chills. So excited.

This interview.  Can you believe she’s 84????  Very inspiring and thought provoking.

This product.  $9.99/mo Photographer’s Bundle here I come.

This yarn.  So squishy.  So beautiful.

This book.   There is nothing little about this book.  The writing IS SO GOOD.

This Design Site.  Thanks for the pretty!

This Free Embroidery Project.  Better get out my thimble!

This finale.  We dug coal together.  Enough said.

This class.  I love Judy Wise, and I’m going to take this class.  Soon.

This app.  Grunge is gone, but I’m ok with that.  My go to Photo Editor, along with Pic-Tap-Go.

Let me know what you’re loving today – a little enabling never hurt anyone!

Well,  maybe it did, but you know what I mean.

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Blogging the Ugly

A Playful Day

Today’s theme over at A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge is “ugly.”  Hurrah!  Hurrah for the ugly!  I really mean it.

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Let’s face it. Life isn’t always pretty. And when you weigh pretty v. ugly on a daily basis, you probably get something in between. Life looks a little less Monet and a little more messy Pollock.  And that’s ok.  But, we live in an age of beautiful Pins, lovely photography/lifestyle blogs, and self-help guru cheerleaders. But, it doesn’t have to be hard to love your blog even if it’s not going to end up on someone’s Life Beautiful Pinterest board.

In one of my favorite episodes of Sex and the City, Charlotte, newly divorced but still optimistic, goes to a self-help seminar about finding love, etc.  She’s attending a group session, and she interrupts the motivational speaker, and says, ‘you know, I’ve done all of those things.”  And the motivators response is, “well, you’re not trying hard enough.”  And Charlotte responds, no no, really I am trying hard enough.

I rememer thinking, Bravo Charlotte.  Some things are just hard and can’t be solved with a seven step process.  Those pretty pins of beautiful kitchens, lovely gardens, dreamy beach vistas – not only are they not daily reality, if you don’t take a Charlotte attitude, they can make you feel your life is a little less than everyone else’s around you.

But, here’s the tricky thing – if you want to maintain a blog audience, blogging the ugly is a really difficult thing to do.  Your blog can’t be every day of Debbie Downer, that it is the stuff of a diary.  And, even if you think of your blog as an online diary, that word “online” should make you pause before you treat your blog like your private diary that sits by your bedside – some things really should remain private in this digital age.

So, what’s the balance then, between Ridiculously Unrealistic Blog Beyond Beautiful and Debbie Downer’s Blog of Horrors.

The answer is authenticity.

Whatever you write should be authentic.  If you’re honest, I think readers will appreciate it.  Whenever you write a sentence that gives you some doubt, just hit the backspace button, and it’s gone.  Revealing yourself, and giving your audience a glimpse into that dark hemisphere of yours may produce results that are indeed ugly.  But, that’s life, and that’s who we are, and it makes us human.

And, in an effort to be more authentic, I may finally take Susannah Conway’s online workshop, Blogging from the Heart.  I say “may” only because the class start date is May 4, and I’m saving my pennies for Maryland Sheep & Wool the first weekend in May, so my finances may not allow for it, but we’ll see.  I really want to, and I don’t really need any yarn.

Right, I don’t “need” any yarn.

We all know how “authentic” that was.  Buying yarn is “so” about “need.”  Right.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I will totally be buying yarn.

Thanks for stopping by!

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The Three R’s of Blog Rehab

So, as promised yesterday (and part of my recommitment to the ol’ blog is trying to live up to promises!), here’s a look at my blog rehab process, or my blog makeover, blogover, if you will.  I’ve broken it down into three R’s (my woeful attempt at being clickbate-able – it’s the last time, I promise) – Rethink, Refresh, Revise.

The Rethinking process.  For me, it really started with, do I really still want to do it?  As I mentioned in the last post, I started this iteration of my blogging life to escape the Squarespace pricetag.  In truth,  when I folded up the Squarespace site, I was pretty much done with blogging.  Even as I was typing it’s a new blog, it’s a new day,  trying to pysch myself up for some serious better blogging, I knew that I wasn’t really into it.  In reality, I was just using this blog as a container for nearly 10 years worth of unbacked up (I know, loud loud gasp), internet content.

So, what has changed?  First, my father died.  No matter how old a person gets, I think, it takes a really brave person to really put themselves out there in a way that a parent might not “get.”  My father browsed the Internet, kept up with me on Facebook, but had never managed to stumble on my blog.  What if he did?  I just think he had higher hopes for me and my writing.  I was supposed to write the great American novel, not a craft blog littered with not so good art.  It wasn’t just a matter of disappointing him, I just didn’t want to find myself in a position of having to explain myself – about anything – about spending money on yarn (I remember when a cup of coffe cost a nickel, was one of my father’s favorite mantras), or painting faces in my art journal, or even having an art journal.  Strange, I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone, except my parents, and since my mother thinks her email lives on her computer, and her computer alone, I have no fear of her stumbling onto my internet pasture.

Of course my father is missed, but now that he’s not in my hypothetical audience, it’s very freeing.  I was about to write “kind of” freeing, but it’s truly freeing.  And now, I can just write for myself, and whoever else wants to visit, and take part in a crafty conversation, free of any judgment that I care about. And, to that end, I added the sharing icons at the bottom of each post – I’m out there people!

And that’s the thing, I would like to have my blog be more of a conversation, with interaction, that community I talked about in the last post.   But how to do that?  Others draw an audience to their blogs with tutorials.  I make a lot of things, and much of what I’ve learned, I’ve learned from blogs and youtube.  But, personally, I’ve never been much of a teacher.  I think that once I’ve mastered a technique, I probably could do a tutorial, but why?  I’d rather send people the way of the original teacher, not reteach the wheel.  I know, in first grade classes, there are millions of teachers teaching kids how to read, and no one would ever say thats redundant.  It’s not stealing, or whatever, to teach someone how to make the perfect yarnover, or the difference between a M1R and M1L just because someone else has taught it before, or to do a sewing tutorial on how to how to box your corners in a tote bag.  But, it just seems silly to do a whole schpiel when I can just link to my teacher or guru or whatever.

So, if I’m not going to post tutorials, and I’m not going to make clickbate titles (’cause this is the last of that silliness), how I am going to do that?  I’m still thinking on that one, but I think just the thinking about it process, and the desire to do it, is enough to say, ok, I’m going to keep this blog going, and try to find that elusive audience.  I’ve even had a mind to podcast again, but we’ll see about that.  So, in keeping with the three R’s, I’d like to have another set of three’s – three things I’m going to do to be better, but for right now, I’m just going to try to be consistent, and to visit and comment on other likeminded blogs.  Put myself out there, in writing and friendship, and we’ll see what comes.

The decision to continue blogging made, it was time to refresh the old blog, and make it seem new again.  Luckily, WordPress makes it pretty easy to switch themes, install plugins and if you know a teeny tiny bit of CSS, make some tweaky changes.

So I knew I wanted the theme to be simple, yet contemporary.  And, I wanted it to be pretty.  If my blog really is my internet  pasture, I want it to be a lush green pasture, not a grazed over cow pasture.  So, off to Pinterest, and searching for pretty blogs.  I immediately found Angie Makes, and voila, she offered a free template, Mary Kate, that was just perfect for my needs.
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Just a little downloading, then a little uploading, and voila, a blog is reborn! Now, time to customize.  Thankfully, the header is fully customizable – it is such a pain to insert new padding code in a theme that requires you to go into the style sheet to change the header.  The sidebar, unlike the premium version, is a little bare, but with a few plugins and widgets its all good.  The Mary Kate pre-pimped out theme is called Canvas, and if you go into the plugin directory, there are a few (although not all – to make the theme full customizable with the full array of Canvas plugins, and bells and whistles you have to buy the premium theme, which if you can afford it would be a great thing because it’s awesome) WP Canvas specific plugins – WP-Canvas Widgets (which is a Pinterest Widget, an About Me Widget, and a static photo), WP-Shortcodes (which gives you so many things I don’t know how to use, but for my purposes, gave me the customizable Social Media Icons, in both sharing in the post, and in the sidebar), and WP-Gallery, which is a straightforward Gallery plugin (there’s a video overview of the plugin here).  And, all that was left was adding some pretty elements.  Right now, I’m using some free watercolor elements from Angie Makes.  This weekend, I think I’m going to buy this awesome bundle from The Hungry Jpeg, and do a few more things, like create a signature for my posts, and maybe add a few more pretties here and there.  For the brushstroke fonts alone, the bundle is worth it.

Anyway, if you read the above paragraph and are asking yourself what’s a theme, what’s a plugin, what’s a widget?  how do I insert those pretty watercolor graphics? you’re going to have to insert an “r”-less step in between rethinking and refreshing, and do a little learning about how your chosen platform functions, and at the end of that process, decide if you’re on the right platform, and go from there.

Onward, to the last R, Revise.  In this case, I revised both the content itself, and how the content is presented.  First, I began the revision of my About Me page.  I never really thought of the About Me page as being all that important, but as I found myself clicking on others’ pages to find out more about them, I realized, huh, maybe people are clicking on mine to find out about me.  And, if they did, they would certainly be blowing a lot of dust off of old content – I had originally just cut and pasted the About sections from my previous blogs into a mishmash of a profile.  But, some of the photos that were only saved to the Squarespace server didn’t transfer, and many of the old links were broken.  So, all of that’s fixed.  Now, I think I have to rewrite it rewrite it to reflect more of who am I now, rather than a collection of old about me’s strung together.

After revamping the About Me section, I added a few Gallery Pages to my header menu.  The first is an Online Class Review section.  I made this to clean up my sidebar.  I used to have these buttons running down the side of the blog, but now, they’re all neat and tidy in a Gallery, and if you click on them, a little blurb about the class will come up.  And, the other tab is a Gallery of scrapbooking pages – I make take that down, since I’m not really doing that anymore, but we’ll see.  I still have visions of restarting my Project Life, but one thing at a time.  And, I have one more Gallery page coming – of my knits, crochet things, and sewn things – a fiber page, I guess, or maybe needlework.  That’s a project for this weekend perhaps.

And, that’s where I am.  If you have any questions about how I did any of the above- feel free to ask – I’ve also added a contact page!

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A Recommitment Ceremony – I {Heart} My Blog

A Playful Day

A another blog challenge, another . . . failure?  Honestly, I’ve never successfully completed a blog challenge.  For the most part, thirty days of this, thirty days of that – has always amounted to two weeks of this,  a few days of that.  But, this challenge is different – this creative challenge isn’t an “I will commit to do “x” for “y” amount of time,”  rather this challenge is “I will commit (or recommit) to my blog, and I will explore essential, creative notions while doing so.”

I’m down with that.

The first week of the challenge, which I already missed had a theme of Community.  The second week, this week, contemplates Beginnings.  So, I’m going to reflect on both of these recommitment-y issues in one mashup of a post.

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I started blogging ten years ago at Knit and the City.   Back then, I went to knitting circle with my buds every Wednesday night, and everyone had knitting blogs.  I  thought, huh, if they can do that, I can do that.  If they can hit “Get Blog” on Blogger, so can I.  So, my fellow knitters and I were each other’s community – both at the store, and in blogland.  And, since it was before Ravelry, I discovered other like-minded knitting blogs that were connected through blog rings – a now defunct Blogger widget that you put in the sidebar, and if you joined the ring, you could click through the circle of blogs in the ring – as old fashioned as the rotary phone, I guess.  And then came Ravelry.  Blogging about knitting started to feel redundant – I shared my knitting projects with a gigantic knitting community on Ravelry, what need for a blog, thought I?  Maybe I should podcast!

And that’s when Knitty D and the City was born.  Knitty D and I would get together sporadically and record a podcast about our yarn sluttish ways, what we were working on, and general glee about knitting.  But, as the podcast grew, it started to feel like work, and both Knitty D and I already had jobs, difficult jobs at that, and the podcast died a very quiet death.

But, I had moved Knitty D and the City to WordPress, and I started getting the itch to move the blog.  And that’s when the photography bug bit, and I started to get involved with creative photography challenges around blog land.  So, I decided to pack up my Blogger blog, and I started Lemontines, a photography blog.  Unfortunately, shortly after I named my blog after my sweet little Boston Terrier, Lemon, I learned that Lemontines in the Urban Dictionary was slang for shit stains in your pants.  And, needless to say, I had a bad taste in my mouth for my blog after learning that.

So, I moved again, to Squarespace, and called it Tea With Lemon Photography, with the idea that maybe I’d actually start a photography business, and the blog would eventually become part of business website.  Nope, didn’t happen.  And, I started to do all kinds of crafty things, and it wasn’t even a photography blog anymore – and it cost a lot of money.

And, by that point, I had lost my community – the knitters, the hobby photographers.  I had moved, and changed my content so many times that there wasn’t anyone left.  So, it was time to start over again, here.Beginnings.  Start anew.

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That’s what I thought at least.  But, I never really committed over here.  I blogged occasionally, but I really moved here to stop paying the Squarespace fee, and I didn’t want to take all of my content off the web.

But, now, drumroll.  I’m ready to recommit to finding an online community, and to maintaining this blog in a more loving fashion.  It’s my spot in the world after all.  I should keep it pretty.

And, to that end, I’ve given the blog a complete makeover!   I installed a new theme courtesy of Angie Makes

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The screenshot of the theme in her ad is a free theme, Mary Kate, that she generously has for download on her site, which is the theme I’m running now.  There’s also a premium version, which looks awesome, but for now, in the beginning of this renewed relationship, I’ll go with the freebie.  Along with the theme, her site has a fantastic support section for her premium themes, with detailed videos, gifs and helpful hints to tweak and customize each theme.  While the support is really for the premium themes, I used so much of it to make little customizations to this site, including installing some plugins, and setting up a few that came with the free theme.  Also, she has a section of free graphics, including the watercolored graphics that I’ve sprinkled throughout the site.  So, if anyone else is looking to do a spring makeover on their blog, this would be a great place to start.

Tomorrow, I’ll go into a little detail about the changes I made, and how I made them, since I think I’ll still be futzing around with it tonight.  So, if you’ve stopped by from the challenge, thanks for popping in!  I hope this really is a new beginning of consistently blogging about the things I love (it goes without saying I love hubs, but he only makes guest appearances here) – knitting, crocheting, quilting, sewing, papercrafting and whatever else happens to be floating my boat that day.

Onward anew!