“Landscape sketched from memory, heavens and land entwine / Rapidly the scene is set, exquisitely divine. / Pine trees reaching tall and proud, like statues standing still. / There is no wind to speak of, more an icy winter chill.”
— Suzanne Bates
I began this blog post as a summary of the month, like I usually do. But three or four sentences in, my post was quickly spiraling into an assessment of my blog. And then a fond look back on my year of blogging. Then I found myself revisiting how blogging went for all of 2016. Then I realized I was completely off-topic. And so now here we are.
I feel like that happened a lot this month. I’d have something on my mind, and it would float away from me. Words wouldn’t be spoken, or I would remember what I wanted to say two or three hours later. I’d have intentions to do something, and somehow that thing would never materialize. I would mentally create a list, and completely forget about those things for days. It was kind of frustrating. It was kind of fun. It was pretty much December 2017 for me.
Maybe this year wore me out? I don’t think so. But I do think that my mommy-brain has gone into hyper-drive. My focus is kind of all over the place, but my heart feels really settled. It feels completely focused. Mostly on my life. Especially on my family. This month was one of my favorites.
This is how I basically spent my month:
Celebrate my baby’s baptism. She was baptized at the beginning of this month. SO happy for her. <3
Make 4 new recipes. Rigatoni, crab pot pie, and Instant Pot salmon and tilapia. (<-Christmas gift!!!)
Continue to toddler-proof the house. TOUGHER than it sounds…she keeps finding things I need to hide.
Play some Christmas music on the piano. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was my favorite.
Read “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens. I looked at a Dickens-inspired statue. Does that count?
Bake Christmas cookies. We baked and decorated sugar cookies…one of my favorite Christmas traditions!
Finish my two knitting projects. I finished the stocking but not the turban. Still working on it…
Mail out Christmas cards! The photo was a Christmas miracle, but we got them all sent out. haha
Wrap presents. I might have had to wrap a few on Christmas Eve. But we did it!
Spend my very favorite holiday with my very favorite people. Some of my favorite 2017 memories!
But I can’t really cheer myself on for doing 9/10 of my to-do list items. Like I mentioned earlier, I specifically gave myself the easiest, lightest to-do list in the history of to-do lists. I don’t think I should have even called this a to-do list. Although, maybe it’s good that I thought of it that way. Because it’s so easy to think everything we have to do is all the unfun things, and we forget how trulynecessary the fun ones really are. At least I struggle with that. Anyway, this month, I’m thrilled that I did almost my entire list, because they were fun things that I really wanted to do. And January will come with more adulting than the last four months combined, so I was blest with the chance to take time off and smell the snow. flowers. the spanish moss. the Christmas tree? Moving on…
I don’t feel like I’m ready to say goodbye to 2017, or even just December 2017. So I will save that for my end-of-the-year post. But I guess for now I will just enjoy my last few days of December 2017, and will see you in my yearly round-up. Thanks for stopping by!
“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet” – Robert Browning
Today marks one year exactly since I clicked “publish” for the first time. What a year it has been! Even though I would like to say something cliche, about how I never thought I’d end up where I am now…the truth is, this is exactly where I hoped to be! And I’d like to say that I thought this blogging journey was impossible (well, some days definitely felt like it), but the truth is, I knew becoming a blogger was completely possible. I just needed to pour some passion, commitment, and love into this little corner. I also said many prayers while sorting through the mechanics of design, if we are being completely honest here! haha My husband’s support is the clincher on what made this all possible, or anything really.
I contemplated what I could do to celebrate this hallmark blogiversary post. I thought about doing a 7-day streak of posts, in honor of my first 30 days of blogging, which were 30 consecutive posts. But that was really really tough and I never intend to streak-post again. haha So instead I think it would be better for me to make this post a “gloat and goals” post. I would like to celebrate the journey this blog has taken over the year, and also set out some goals for the future year.
Just as a disclaimer, I get pretty in-detail about my thought-process behind the blog. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to go raw here, but I decided for the sake of brutal honesty, the more transparent I am the better. Besides, how will I be able to chart my progress next year if I am vague about what went on this past year?
The First Half of 2016
I will just get this small (slightly embarrassing) detail out of the way and say you can read my first post ever here. To recap on that post, I tried to start a blog in January of 2015…but I jumped in way to over my head. I purchased a domain before I even had heard of the word SEO. I didn’t understand that in order to have a domain you had to have a website host, or even a writing platform like WordPress or Joomla. And I certainly had never touched coding in my life. Like I said, way over my head. So after about a month of trying, I cancelled my domain subscription and service. It was just to much for me, and I decided to write a novel instead. Which I did, and I have no regrets over that decision.
However, the blogging bug never died. And in December of the same year, I decided to give blogging a try again. This time though, I wanted to ease myself into by starting with a free blog. Where the emphasis was on content and not on design. Where I wasn’t spending over $100 on a hobby that made me pull my hair out. And where the blog was practically ready-to-go upon sign-up, with minimal room for customization (read: error). I wanted to test myself to see if I really liked blogging for what it was–as simple relationship of write and read. Well, turns out I loved it. I blogged pretty consistently, about two posts per week, and really enjoyed it. I joined a very welcoming community of free-bloggers and we supported each other’s fledgling efforts. It was a good time.
The Second Half of 2016
But now May comes along and I realize that this blogging thing is very enjoyable and easy. Granted, it was a free blog with little customization. But it was just enough to dip my toes in the water and tell me that this was something I definitely wanted. I purchased a domain (the same one I had bought back in January of 2015!) and began the lonnnnng (traumatizing) process of transferring content from one blog to the next. It’s a little too fresh in my mind, in a painful way, to recount all the steps, but I will just say one thing: Jetpack is my friend. And the website host of choice does matter, a lot. I became extremely familiar with the customer service line of my hosting company, and let me tell you–the customer service is a deal breaker for which host to choose. Luckily, mine are really good!
Life in my new blog was wonderful in many ways, once I got the kinks out! You can read my first “new” blog post here (and it’s only slightly less embarrassing than my first post ever). I started to develop a new personality for it as time went on. In the past, I had tried to focus on beauty-related topics because that is what drew readership for me in the free-blog community. Most of my free-blog friends were beauty bloggers. It just seemed a good fit for me. When I moved to a new blog, I tried to add in some fashion posts as well. And I began to dabble in Army-related posts. Well–that is when I struck gold. I finally found a topic that I could ramble about for HOURS without running out of steam (or mascara). The best part is, it created a niche for my blog to sink into, and began drawing a consistent readership.
Where my Blog Currently Stands
Right now, my blog is still comes across as a hodgepodge of topics. I wish it was more streamlined, but I didn’t discover my niche until a month or two ago. But, I’m okay with that because for the first time ever, I have consistent readership. To be real, it isn’t a high number of hits daily. But it is the daily part that matters so much to me. Before, I would only get hits on my blog the days that I published, because the new posts would trickle into my reader’s news feeds and they would click on my latest post. Now, however, I have daily readership of my archived posts–meaning visitors come to read something that I published previously. I’m not getting hits because my content happened to pop up on their newsfeed. I’m finally getting readers who are seeking out the information in my posts.
What I Learned this Year
I learned (the hard way) that my hopes of a lifestyle blog weren’t going to be able to come true automatically. I had to have “information” worth seeking before I could draw an audience to want to read about my life. Nobody wants to read about a random stranger’s military life! I found that real and helpful information draws up an audience. So I plan to use real, informative posts to gather an audience and help me get to know what they are looking for. Hopefully along the way, they will get to know me too. And that will eventually open a doorway for the “lifestyle” blog that I would ultimately like to have. And, as previously mentioned, I learned that some “information” is easier to provide than others. Basically, I ran out of ideas and energy when it came to blogging about beauty and fashion. The photos and creativity aspects of it were draining. But when it comes to anything Army-related, I can’t stop talking about it! Apparently that is what a niche is…and thus my blog theme was born.
What I Hope for Next Year
In a year’s time, I would like to triple my daily readership numbers. But even more than that, I would like to have consistent readers who are repeat readers. It is 100% amazing to have a consistent number of hits everyday. But it would be even better if those were readers who were gaining a consistent amount of information from me monthly. I want my blog to be a place they could regularly return to receive (and share) information, and get to know me better. Social media has helped me gain the daily hits, but over the next year I would like to collect repeat readers.
Another change I would like to see take place (though it slowly is coming into effect) is better niching. As I said, I recently found my niche. Subsequently, I still have straggling posts here and there that deal with non-military topics. While I don’t plant to be extremely regimented about my blog content, it’s really important to me in the early stages of my blog to have a cohesive corner dedicated to what makes my blog special (AKA its niche)! I think now that I have finally found my niche, I would like for my blog to mirror that over the course of the next year. This is not to say I won’t add new agendas to my blog (in fact, I already have ideas for one major project), but I would like to add those in slowly, and in an organized manner. I think time will tell when and how I should introduce topics. Hopefully! haha
Lastly, I would like to re-design my blog. Right now, I use a free template, but I would like to purchase one and design my own blog face. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the free templates available–in fact some of them are absolutely stunning! But since I self-host now, I would like to take advantage of that freedom and design my blog’s visual aspects. There are some personal touches I would like to do that just aren’t possible with this free template. I think redesigning my blog could be a lot of fun, and could help me in all the niche-defining that I was talking about.
My Blogiversary Statement of 2016
This was an incredible year of blogging. I can’t thank each and every reader enough for spending even half-a-second of their busy days reading my content. Your time and support are crucial to this blog! I also have a great appreciation for my free-blog community. That community really gave me the encouragement I needed to get comfortable and confident with blogging. Most importantly, I want to give a special shout-out to my family for helping me do what I love, in big and small matters. It is the reason I can finally do this. I really am happy to be actually blogging now, after so many years of daydreaming about it. I hope to make you proud! In conclusion, I feel so blest to have been blogging for a full year. I hope to blog for many years to come! Though this is probably doesn’t make sense–dear little blog, thank you for being you! Happy one-year birthday! This blogiversary is a milestone for both of us for sure, and I look forward to all the creative years of the future. Merry Christmas!
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato
I simply cannot believe I’m writing my 100th post. But I am!
To take a trip down memory lane, I started this blog in the winter of 2015, after an attempt in the beginning of 2015. I had high hopes that this blog would provide me with a writing platform (of course!) and an ability to use my voice. That’s exactly what it gave me…but oh so, so, so much more.
It challenged me to conquer things I otherwise would never attempt– Google AdSense, I’m looking at you! Through it, I was forced to stretch my imagination and mindset (read: post when I had no idea what to say). It encouraged me to practice patience and attention-to-detail. I began taking photography more seriously, though my abilities hardly improved. 😀 My writing voice developed in a way I didn’t originally plan. To create content, I had to combine creativity, research, and practical application to my work. It’s all been part of the process, and a process that I truly like.
It’s funny how goals shift; as consequences reshape those goals into something new and better. For me, there is one shining thing that has motivated my blog from the beginning. So far, there has been one thing that has carried my blog through almost one full year. I have high hopes it will remain the one thing that propels my blog into future glory. That thing is love.
I started blogging out of love of writing. My posts are all about things I love. I look forward to creating and developing a blog I love. Love has been central to my blog–whether the content or the process–and even in the concept itself. I named my blog after the heart, because it’s the center of love. And I want this blog to center on things I love, on people I love, on love itself.
Hopefully you will be able to see that what I’m posting about is something I love. And hopefully you can tell that I loved writing those posts. I don’t always plan to write about serious things, as I’ll still be doing Ipsy glam bag unboxings and the like! But that’s because I love the little things in life. However, in my intention to focus on love, I want to create more content that centers on what I love most: my Army family. In many ways, I think that will harmonize with focusing on the little things in life–after all, being a family is about experiencing life and it’s little treasures together.
So for my 100th blog post, I simply want to re-center my blog, my focus, and my passion on love. In the end, it will be what propels my blog, as it does every other aspect of my life! I can only have success here if I love as I go along. And that’s what I plan to do. I hope that in the next 100 blog posts to come, my blog is focused on, centered around, and built with love. I would love that. <3
You may have seen (probably not) in my earlier posts that, once upon a time, I had a failed attempt at blogging. I don’t mind mentioning it because every day of blogging has been a step in learning for me, and I can’t pretend that it’s easy. SEO, CSS, HTML, and all the rest just doesn’t come naturally to me. I love writing. With pencil and paper.
In January of 2015 I bought a domain. And after a month of trying to blog, I had to give up. I half-blame it on the fact that I was newly pregnant and so everything was tough for me (except the pregnancy, oddly enough). But I also blame it on the fact that I went from pencil and paper to self-hosting a website with upkeep costs (on an HP that was intent upon crashing every 4 minutes <–mostly true). In December of the same year–11 months later–I tried again. But this time, I did it right.
I started a “free” blog, one that was not self-hosted, on WordPress.com. You can still visit it here. It was so so so so so much easier the second time around for three reasons:
Free blogs give less control and hence there was less for me to do
There was less pressure because it was free
I wasn’t as confused because I “knew” what a control panel looked like (and what to expect)
And I liked blogging on my free website. But after about 5 months I was ready to try blogging on a self-hosted one again. I wanted my blog to really be my own. And so I purchased a domain, signed up with WordPress, and the rest is what you are reading right now! (Thanks for that!)
Since my journey of blogging, one of my favorite aspects of the back-end of things has been (and always will be) the plug-ins. If you aren’t a blogger, then think of plug-ins as apps that help your blog run smoothly. If you are a blogger, you’ll understand why the three following plug-ins are my favorites of the moment.
Plug-in #1: Yoast SEO
This one is helpful because it appraises my posts AS I’m writing them. It checks for two things: the SEO quality of my posts, and the readability of my posts. The plug-in gives green, orange, and red lights to me, depending on how I’m doing. It also gives me an explanation for WHY I’m getting the light that I’m getting. For instance, I tend to write in the passive voice, but that is not considered as “readable” as the present tense. I’ll get an orange light at the foot of my page, with an explanation that I have been using 16.7% passive, which exceeds the maximum recommendation of 10%. Or my SEO will be off. For instance, I will establish a certain word as my “keyword” to boost my SEO for the post, but the plug-in will give me a red light if the keyword only appears once in my post.
In other words, this plug-in really forces me to be a better blogger. It helps me construct my articles better, and pushes me to ensure that I am getting good SEO for each one. Even though the plug-in can’t prevent me from publishing an article with low readability and bad SEO, it’s pretty much impossible to do when I have the ability to monitor both those factors as I type!
Plug-in #2: Jetpack by WordPress.com
This was my LIFE SAVING plug-in when I made the switch from my free blog to my self-hosted blog. It single-handedly transferred all my followers from the free blog to my current one. That was NOT an easy task. And I didn’t think anything could do that. But it can, and still does, when I need it to! It has so many functions that can be turned off and on, and the ease of use is incredible. I recommend it for any blogger, but especially for those who want to bring things over from one blog to another.
Plug-in #3: Wordfence Security
My blog security. This plug-in monitors and blocks everything from bots to crawlers to hackers. They send security updates and notifications to my email too. I don’t want to breach my security by saying everything that it does–but I’ll just tell you this: it gives my blog complete protection and gives me an awareness of any malicious activity that threatens my blog. This plug-in is an absolute MUST HAVE. There is a free version and a premium, and either are completely effective and necessary.
That’s a wrap for my three favorite plug-ins. I use a lot of plug-ins, but it really wasn’t hard to narrow down the list. These three are ones that I use more than any others, and for good reason. If you haven’t added a plug-in to your blog in a while, I would highly encourage you to do so. There is always some plug-in out there to make your life easier. And if you don’t have Yoast SEO, Jetpack, or Wordfence, those are my top three recommendations! Leave a comment below if you have a favorite plug-in. I would love to know so I can get it!
I am doing something different here. Generally, you won’t see too many “administrative” posts from me. I’m not sure why. Administration is like a hobby to me. haha But I usually tend to post “full-sided” posts which have a theme and maybe photos and aren’t just a compilation of my ramblings. Though there is definitely rambling in those posts.
Anyway, I felt compelled to write a little bit about where I’ve been, since this has been the longest I’ve gone between posts since I first started my blog. Consider this a catch-up and blog-reveal all bundled up into one administrative package. *squeals*
For starters, I moved my blog. You may remember this from my last post, but…WE MOVED. My old blog was the same name, JJheartBlog, but it was at wordpress.com, not a self-hosted domain. You can visit it here to share a loving good-bye tear with me. And I still nostalgically love it. (Can you be nostalgic about something that is only one-month gone?…I digress. But yes, I am). I loved that blog. It taught me (almost) everything I know about blogging. I will miss it. But I never intended to keep it longer than half a year. It was supposed to be my fledgling blog that slowly taught me how the blogging world went, so that one day I could grow up and own a domain for myself and become a real-life blogger. It did, and I have. (Well, I have purchased a domain…the real-life blogger thing is a work-in-progress).
Moving blog content from one spot to another is easier said then done. Moving emotional content from one spot to another is never easy. At all. But I finally did it! It took me a good, solid two weeks to move, set-up, prep, and launch. But everything is finally in place. My new blog is up and running and here to stay.
So I really hope that you are here to stay too! Pour yourself a cup of coffee and visit me from time to time. I love visiting my visitor’s blogs too. Let me know you stopped by and I’ll find you back. And if you’re not a blogger yourself, let me know if you’d be interested in a series where I explain how I got started and learned (read: AM LEARNING) to blog.
Okay, that’s everything. Admin out. See you next post!
A topic launch? It’s already 4 days into 2016! Blog posts have been written, days have passed…it’s not time for a launch.
Unless you’re a phlegmatic procrastinator like me. 🙂
In which case, a launch 4 days-in is totally normal. It’s just how we do. It’s pretty effective too. It’s healthy! Well, maybe that’s taking it too far.
This isn’t an “official launch” because none of my other posts didn’t count. It’s because its’ the launch of a bunch of topic dreams that I have had in mind. Let me explain.
Basically I have so many categories to add to my blog…and so many posts to file under them. I have a list of posts that I want to materialize onto my blog. Even more, I have a vision of what I want my blog to look like.
I can’t give away allllllll my secrets, because then you wouldn’t have anything to be surprised by. But I want you to have something to look forward to, so at least I can give you a sneak peek, right? To be on the safe side, I’ll just give a rough sketch of what you can expect in January.
I’m planning to post a three-part topic on haircuts, hairdressers, and the like. It’s not so much a “how-to” as much as a “my-experience” kind of post. I’m also planning a few beauty reviews as well as one or two baby product reviews. I also have a secret recipe to share…but it’s not an ordinary recipe, it’s a beauty secret recipe! There might be a few more topics coming up…but maybe I’ll let those ones be a surprise!
Is there anything else you want to see on my blog this month?