Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Blogging Through the Years: Favorite Moments of 2014

So the blog that was supposed to be for the sole purpose of being an online journal of our family's small business evolved into something that was more for just me. Blogging became my me time. (Whoa. Me time. What is that, right?) It became a passion and a joy. It became a part of who I am as a person. 

We started our Etsy shop partly because our family had fallen on some difficult times. We had always been crafty as a family, and people had always liked our handmade gifts. Starting our small business together was a way for us to do something together for a purpose and have fun while doing it. But it was because of our Etsy shop that I learned so much more about the online world. Sure, I knew how to use the Internet and navigate my way around a computer. But html? Wow (still learning). SEO. Oh wow (always learning). Social media? Don't get me started (now I'm a little bit of an addict)!

It's crazy to think how one thing can inevitably lead to another!
If you missed the first two installments of My Blogging Through the Years, please take a look at 2010 - 2011 and 2012 - 2013.




2014

So let's take a look at some of my favorite moments of the year 2014. 

I started the year of 2014 with no resolutions, no goals. Only hopes for a better year. 

I made a conscious effort to live a healthier life, and I started the new year with new products - organic, toxic-free & just plain awesome. I also participated in a fitness challenge in September, but I didn't even have time to blog about it.

I still (and will always) keep sharing our Etsy adventures with you. Lots of the time, I'll share new items here on the blog first (maybe twitter or Instagram updates too, because those are my two favorites as far as social media goes). But I always share our milestones here, and we often celebrate with giveaways here on the blog. 



In January I began co-hosting a new kind of blog linky party, the G+ Growing Circles Hop. While it's declined in participation, it's still a big winner, because it's a huge traffic-booster. If you ever want to party with us, it's every Thursday (starting back up again next week). In September, I also began co-hosting the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop as a permanent thing too. And I've loved these two hops as much as ever!


GASP! I got a phone! I will always have my landline, but I officially went mobile in 2014. The entire time I've had this blog I haven't had a phone. I just didn't need one. Wasn't necessary. I had no idea how to use a smartphone. The last phone I had was in no way smart at all. It was just a phone (but, yes, everyone - I knew how to text.). Apps? What are those? Well, I got schooled. And I got apps. Now, I think I have more apps than my daughter. lol



And you know the California Drought is the real deal when you haven't seen rain in so long that you forget what it sounds like, and all you do is constantly think about more ways to conserve water. When there's so much sunshine in the middle of January that you just go outside and play with sidewalk chalk, you just gotta blog about it.



As Baby Girl grew and her personality started really making an entrance (with a spotlight, of course). She wanted to do photo shoots like her big sis. She's such a girly girl, a little diva in her own right. This product review was supposed to be done by Big Sis, but the little sister won the battle and was the star of the published post.

My daughter got a spotlight of her own when she shared her Promposal with a video (and he said yes). Becoming somewhat of a self-proclaimed beauty guru, she also shared some beauty looks and favorite products too. There's also that time when she got purple ombre hair.



My oldest son won Third Place at the school Science Fair! The previous year he had ribboned with an honorable mention, so this Third Place was pretty awesome.

We lost our Internet connection via conventional DSL wiring and had to go the WiFi route, all while we said goodbye to cable TV. Living a simpler life is sometimes better anyway. We painted the inside of our house (most of it, anyway)

Then I got a little personal sharing some deep thoughts and feelings about dark days and hard times. I embraced the Lifestyle Blogger Niche, even though sometimes it does still get to me that I feel like I don't belong anywhere. I'm not afraid to stand on my own, and I never have been, even if it gets lonely where I'm standing. Sometimes you just have to remember that you're enough

In 2014 I realized even more so the power of social media when I found out that one of my pins was repinned over 2300 times (and it wasn't a blog post, but a favorite Etsy item of mine). That's a big number for little ole me. 



Was the year a better one like I had hoped for back in January? No, not at all.

I admittedly suffered from a slight burnout at multiple times during the year, because 2014 really hadn't been one of my personal bests by far. At times I had to turn my focus on things besides Etsy and the blog to just clear my mind. Many events that I had planned on blogging about just never made it to the publishing stage. I can think of at least three already. But maybe some day I'll revisit and post about them. They're so worth it. I did, however, take an extreme liking to Instagram and love microblogging there. =0)

I also needed to do something else, something out of the ordinary. So I joined WeHeartIt and redesigned my tumblr page. And sometimes (when I was lucky enough) I would visit some of my favorite bloggers to catch up on some blog reading. I didn't get to do that as much in 2014, for blogs or otherwise. I don't even think I read any book at all. That's kind of sad for me to think about, now that I am thinking about it.

Ending this year, though, is done with much gratitude. Struggles make us stronger. And I've been learning my strength and just how strong I can be. I have a feeling I'll be doing it more too, as we start 2015, because this is the year that my oldest graduates high school. Let's not go there just yet. I already had to wish her a Happy 18th Birthday. I don't want to think about graduation yet. In fact, I'd like to stop time for a little bit. That would be nice.

What was one of your favorite moments of 2014?




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My Blogging Through the Years: 2012 - 2013

I looked back at 2010 and 2011 and saw the leaps and bounds that occurred in just less than one year. Now let's see what happened with my blog and me during the next two years, 2012 and 2013. More growth, more learning, more fun.




2012

I started the year continuing the Words for my Wednesday series, beginning to add pretty photos as well, many times a flower from the yard (I really like flowers).


Playing with Photography

This also gave me a reason to work diligently on my photography skills (er - if you could call them that) and editing capabilities, anyway. I began doing Etsy shop features as Friday Features (more Buy & Try product reviews, along with Fab Finds for Friday - only, going more in depth with the Etsy shops and their owners). 
My girls' matching shoes.

I blogged 1-3 times per week, which was just enough for me. I usually did a quick post to keep readers informed of daily happenings, like my girls and their matching shoes and shades. Of course, there are always the holiday preparations to blog about too, like this Valentine's Day bit or the Leprechaun Trap for St. Patty's Day my kids worked so hard on. I even did my own spin on another current event, sharing my thoughts. 

We started a massive fundraising campaign for my daughter to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine (NYLF, now called Envision). I shared the great news with readers about her partial scholarship and the big surprise we got for her trip.

Our Etsy shop reached a milestone with its 300th sale, and we took a moment to reflect with great appreciation for how much we had grown as shop owners. 

With help from blog readers, I celebrated Earth Day, Mother's Day (here and here), Father's Day, the last days of kindergarten and our keepsakes, and even Back-to-School time with pencil pouches and backpacks. I accepted submissions from readers, and I shared them here on the blog. 
I began to recognize my blog as a place where I could ask for advice.


Because, as bloggers - no matter what type of blogger - we are part of a community. Being part of such a community, I started to learn that I could use my words and influence to be a part of something for social good in support of good causes, like the day of silence for Sandy Hook.

I hosted our first ever sponsored giveaway (that was a really big deal!) in September. As the year came to a close, I made it a bi-weekly thing. I had always loved promoting other Etsians, and these giveaways combined with shop features were a great way for me to do that. So the last few months of the year, I also started blogging a bit more (4-5 times per week).



I shared our family adventures about visiting the CA State Fair, our first ever visit to Lake Tahoe, and the awesome Giant Pumpkin Festival (which was so giant, it has a Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). The mommy blogging continued, as it was Potty Training Time for the little one. And as my oldest daughter started getting more into beauty and fashion, I showcased that here on the blog as well. 


I may have shared just a few of our favorite recipes throughout the year! 
There was the ever-so-yummy Blueberry Zucchini Bread. My daughter took a cooking class at the university over her summer break, so we shared the Lemon Muffin Recipe (LOVE these! It was the greatest take away from the class, besides her A+ grade.). Minty Holiday Cookies are yummy, even if it's not a holiday. Oh, and our favorite way to enjoy vanilla milkshakes

I ended the year with a collaborative Blog Hop, co-hosting with a fellow Etsy seller & blogger, creating Meet & Greet


2013

Another new year began. I welcomed 2013 still keeping Words for my Wednesday alive and kicking. The Meet & Greet Blog Hop continued to thrive. I kept up with Etsy Shop Features and bi-weekly giveaways and slowly started to monetize with blog sponsors (like this one) for the sidebar ads using Passionfruit. Oh, and I got a new and much nicer point-and-shoot camera


I had a ton of fun playing with my new camera.

Publishing a post almost daily, I talked about the blog commenting system and being a No-Reply Blogger, joined the 2013 Blogger Pay It Forward Challenge, and I played around (once again) with my photography skills (or lack thereof) and explored the use of watermarks as I explored my camera settings. More than ever, my appreciation for photography grew. There's so much to learn still too (and just imagine when I'm eventually able to get my dream DSLR!).


You know you're a blogger when you want to take pictures of absolutely everything,
and then you want to blog about it.

I also had my very first guest bloggerI created a blogger community on Google+ called Blog It Up. I also learned that my Blog Post Titles matter, so I started switching up how I wrote my titles for recurring things like giveaways and features.



As far as family and mommy blogging goes, I shared my daughter's ombre hair and frustrating times as a parent, as a mom. I had disappointing days, and sometimes I just blogged about it to vent, if nothing else. 
And - wow - do you know how hard it is to find G Rated movies? The mother in me also came out when flu season hit and I had three sick kids at home. 


I started making my own graphics in 2013!

I realized that I really liked blogging about topics like skincare, hair care and beauty/fashion. Plus, I found it was a great way to spend time with my oldest daughter - brainstorming on what I could blog about and what she could possibly model! She helped me blog about some current events in pop culture too, like inspiring this Boy Band Tribute. Or, when we were wondering if Samsung is better than Apple, for the smartphone war - we asked readers to weigh in. 

But I did continue to give shop updates, offering certain specials and sales solely on the blog, and sometimes for charity fundraising efforts (like this one for the natural disaster relief in Oklahoma) and other social good. Because of this type of marketing effort, we even raised funds for specific events, like the time we were able to donate to the Red Cross and announce it in a very special Words for my Wednesday post. All because of our awesome readers and shop supporters! We can't thank you enough. Every day.


This photo was even published in the NEA quarterly newsletter!

In 2013 we celebrated Eczema Awareness Month with the National Eczema Association (NEA) and vowed to make this an annual thing (on or off the blog). We shared some of our favorite natural remedies and other natural stuff we've tried HERE

It seems like the blogging is always amplified with extra events in the last quarter of the year. At least, that's how it happens for me. I used the month of November as a month of gratitude and shared some bloggers that inspire me. As I had become more involved with social media during the year, we participated in Small Business Saturday and joined the movement. 

Wait a minute!!! We can't let the year just pass us by without a recipe or two...No worries, there were a few shared.



It seemed to have been a Year of the Cookies, because we shared the super yummy Toasty Oatmeal Cookies, our re-make of Red Velvet Cookies, and then there were the Super-Soft Pumpkin Pie Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies
Sometimes I just shared treats with you too, like our Halloween treats or the Birthday Sweets for the girls. 

My biggest blogging roadblock for 2013 was trying to monetize the blog with sidebar ads. I jumped in and literally sank to the bottom of whatever swimming pool I was trying to swim in with fish way bigger that wanted to swallow me alive. I had started with Passionfruit Ads, and then they started charging for their services (and I was in no way ready to pay a monthly fee yet). So I just kind of gave up on that.

One of my biggest blogging achievements was working with my camera, a homemade light box, photo-editing (as well as making simple graphics - yay!), and finding fun things to photograph all the time. A bug in the yard? Sure! Why not? Oh! I can't forget...I bought my own domain name too. That's a biggie! =0)

Then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, 2013 was a goner. Just. Like. That.

What would you say has been one of your biggest roadblocks or achievements?

And just like that, today is New Year's Eve. I don't know where the time goes, but I sure hope you'll visit later so you can see my favorite blogging moments of this year! I'll be publishing the 2014 installment later tonight, because tomorrow is all about taking a break. 




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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Last Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop of 2014

From all of us at the
Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop
team...
Happy New Year!
Thank you for ringing in the New Year with us!
Welcome to the final
Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop of 2014!

When we last partied together,  you shared 421 awesome posts with us. The most viewed was hugely popular with 23 views.  It was Diane's slow cooker green bean casserole! She has found a way to free up space in our ovens by preparing this delicious dish in a slow cooker, instead! Diane is a GENIUS! Now, everybody, go to her post and pin this so you have the recipe for your next big dinner party. 
Most Viewed
#slowcooker #greenbeans #sidedishes
Slow Cooker Cheesy Green Bean Casserole from Recipes For Our Daily Bread
I know these are about to be a new favorite of mine!

Very Popular
You LOVED These Too...
30 Food Bloggers With Mouth Watering Photos from Savings Sarah

Those cream cheese sugar cookies totally made my list of recipes to try!

 Love this party?

 Simple Guidelines: 
  • Please follow our host and co-hosts in as many ways possible (social media links below) 
  • PLEASE TWEET THIS PARTY !!!!  We want everyone to know about it!
  • Add as many of your family-friendly posts as you would like, no giveaways please.
  • Visit three or more others. Let them know you've been there!
  • When you are PINNING, remember to do it from the original post. ♥
  • If you are new, be sure to let us know in the comments so that we can follow you back. ♥
  • Thanks for joining us!
Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop on Ducks 'n a Row

Follow our hosts a little bit every week --soon you will have them all!

Sinea of Ducks 'n a Row  (host)

Carrie of A Mother’s Shadow

CD of CD's Country Living

Diane of Recipes For Our Daily Bread

Elie from Chocolates and Crockpots

Libby and Rachel of Two Keck Girls

Janine from Confessions Of  A Mommyaholic  

Kim of 2JustByou

Lynn from Turnips 2 Tangerines

Alexis of Mom2MyCrazy2

Nicole and Susan of Flavors By Four














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Make it Green 2015: Cloth Diapers for Babies {Owl Be Green GIVEAWAY}

Eco-friendly products are among my favorite things. I must admit, however, I never tried cloth diapers for any of my babies. In hindsight, cloth diapering would have been the way to go to save a lot of money. And it wouldn't have been that hard to do, especially being a stay at home mom. 

My diapering days are long gone now that my youngest turned four years old and has been potty trained for well over a year now. But if you're interested in or already use cloth diapers for your babes, this giveaway is definitely for you! Teaming up again with Latched On Mom for Make it Green in 2015, read below to find out more.


Welcome back to Make it Green in 2015! During the next following weeks, follow Latched On Mom to learn a variety of ways to easily make more healthy and ecologically friendly choices for the New Year! Read reviews of products that will help your family and enter some great giveaways! 

Did you know that just one baby using a minimum of 6 disposable diapers a day equals well over 2100 soiled diapers per year being put in a landfill?  With the average child being between 2-3 years of age before potty-trained, you can expect to put over 5600 disposable diapers in the trash.  

"An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year."- from Wikipedia

These trashed diapers contain a Super Absorbent Polymer (source) which is a plastic; Dioxins (source) - a carcinogenic chemical; along with bleach, dye, fragrances and adhesives. These are all additives, and there's even more (source)!

Using cloth diapers reduces this costly waste, environmentally and for your wallet.  Plus, cloth diapers are a much healthier alternative for your baby's sensitive skin!

Owl Be Green is giving away one cloth diaper cover plus one insert as part of Make it Green in 2015!  
Just fill out the form below to enter the giveaway. 
Giveaway will run from 12/28/14-1/12/14. Open to US only. 
Must be 18 years of age or older.  Void where prohibited. Winner will be announced on this post, as well as emailed (so make sure to log into the form with the email address you use). You will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be drawn.
AI2 Cloth Diaper Cover & Insert from Owl Be Green

Disclosure: LatchedOnMom did not receive payment for the review which was given. All opinions are that of author of Latched On Mom. Latched On Mom and other participating bloggers have no affiliation with the company, unless otherwise stated. Participating bloggers did not receive compensation to promote this giveaway, and the giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media platform. Prize fulfillment is the sponsor's responsibility.






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Monday, December 29, 2014

Trinkets by Dana Giveaway WINNER

Now that I'm getting over all of the holiday hype here at home, I'm finally ready to announce our Trinkets by Dana Giveaway winners! Are you ready???
Remember, there are two winners for these two awesome prize packages, so let's find out who those lucky winners are!


(the first one)

And since we have two winners...

It always brings a smile to my face when the random winner is a familiar name. For this awesome giveaway, I'm so happy to announce that both of the winners are names that I recognize:
1) for completing multiple daily entries (maybe for more than just this giveaway, but still - I've seen both of these winners repeatedly throughout these past few weeks!).
2) for being established blog followers and fans on social media.
3) Stephanie has actually won other giveaways here at 2justByou as well. Lucky girl!

BIG thanks goes out to  our awesome sponsor for this event, Trinkets by Dana. Stay connected with Dana, because she often holds her own giveaways too!

Visit her here:
etsy shop  //  blog  //  facebook

----------------------------------------------------
For curiosity's sake, in your opinion, do you like small giveaways (where there's one item to win)???
Or do you prefer the big, group giveaways (hosted by many bloggers, but with lots of prizes to be won)???





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My Blogging Through the Years: 2010 - 2011

It's so crazy to think that these are the last days of the year already. When I take a look back at my blogging history, it's amazing for me to see how much I've changed as a blogger. How much I've learned. How much I've grown.


With a new year just days away, I thought it would be fun to look back at the past and share some of my favorite moments. My blogging through the years.

When I started blogging, I literally had NO clue what I was doing. I opened up our little Etsy shop (not even fully knowing what I was doing there), and I had read somewhere that a blog was a good thing to have, so I signed up to start one. 

2010

I sort of cringe at the thought that I had first chosen a completely black background with bright colored font. I mean, EW. How could I have done that?!? Besides being incredibly difficult to read, it's just not so pleasing to the eye - at all. Ever. Wow. I amaze myself with the silly choices I first made.

And photos! I didn't even really add photos to my posts during that first year. Seriously. I can go through that whole first year and only find a handful of photos included in my posts. I've come a long way.

I learned a lot about photography when starting out, and I'm still learning to this day.

Back then, the blog was much more of an online journal to chronicle our adventure with Etsy and our small family business. It was full of posts that included shop updates (like this) and new products (like this). The year included our first blog giveaway and then there were our completely unconventional giveaway types, because lots of the time, we like to be different (those were so much fun!). While I did blog once in awhile about family adventures, it was mostly a blog focusing on the Etsy business and catered to readers that were mainly Etsy members.

Making these chocolate jack-o-lanterns was so much fun.
I miss selling our chocolates sometimes.

And then, in October of that year, our computer crashed, leaving us mostly without our main tool to conduct business - or any other thing we wanted to do online, like blogging. I remember that I was able to get online sporadically. Whatever I wanted to do, it always had to be done fast. The computer was super slow, and it could always freeze at any given moment. Basically, we put Etsy on hold, along with everything that went with it - including the blog.

It was also just a busy time, because I was pregnant with Baby Girl (who was born at the end of the year). 

2011

By the end of the year 2011, I had branched out in terms of blogging and social media, all in the name of promoting our business. 

Our computer time was still ultra limited with our dinosaur of a machine. I was still determined to make the best of it. I started promoting other Etsy shops a bit more with my Fab Finds for Friday series. Because, as I started (or at least, attempted) to spend more time on Etsy, I started finding more and more fabulous finds from the handmade community that I genuinely loved and wanted to share. I also curated my first Etsy treasury collection and started participating in Treasury Tuesdays with Aquariann. I even did my first ever product review, and I'm proud that it was for an Etsy shop (it was a Buy & Try, but still a product review).

I learned how to create hyperlinks and started learning about SEO and the importance of tagging using keywords - for both here on the blog, and on Etsy. 

I branched out with blog topics and began blogging about current events in our lives, other than the Etsy biz. The first subject matter - finance. I had a post where I threw a fit about big banks and their outrageous fees. Then I shared what I had learned about 529 college savings plans and how to save money at the pump & improve gas mileage.

I think it was our first year planting sunflower seeds in 2011.
I remember sharing the very last sunflower of the season in this post.

This is also the year that I began the Words for my Wednesday series of posts (my absolute favorite), with my first WFMW post being in mid-April. But just as I had started to get into a routine with my blogging, our dino of a computer literally bit the dust! We were completely offline from April until June. Almost two months. Two whole months!

We got a brand new computer in June, and with that, I jumped full-on into the world of social media: I joined twitter and facebook. I must admit that I ultimately made the jump and created accounts with the two social media giants due to an Etsy team that I had joined for promoting our Etsy shop, Promo Frenzy Team. The team focuses on using social media as promotional tools for our online businesses, and it taught me a lot. Plus, I made some great friends there. (Full disclosure: I am no longer a member of that team. I was only a member for a few months, but they were great months full of learning new things. I will always be grateful to the team for giving me the push I had needed to get into social media, when I had been too scared to do it on my own.)

Our first official blog profile image.

My daughter learned a little bit about graphic design from a summer course and started making our blog and shop graphics. So together, we gave the blog a makeover (goodbye black background and colored font!). 

I think this may have been my first ever recipe shared: Pistachio Pudding.

I also started Mommy Blogging. It was Baby Girl's first year (as we all know, that means a year full of firsts), and my youngest son started kindergarten. But blogging about the two youngest meant I had to include the others too. 
Oh hey, I might have even shared a recipe

And so it began...The Lifestyle Blog. My little corner of the blogosphere where I blog a little bit about everything. Because, why not? I had finally found a niche for my blog and me, because branching out and blogging about more than just our Etsy adventure allowed me to just be me. And I like that. 

I started visiting other blogs more and more, becoming just a little more familiar with blog-land and the people in it. I even won a few blogger awards, as shown in the top image (I couldn't find the time to play the chain games most of the time, though). I made some great virtual blog friends and found favorite blogs to read (some that are HUGE today, so it's like growing up with them, in a way). 

And there you have it. That's the grand wrap up of my first two years of blogging. I hope you'll stay tuned for the rest of my blast from the past, because up next will be years 2012 and 2013. I'd love for you to join me.

Later today, I'll be announcing the two lucky winners for the Trinkets by Dana Giveaway too.

What's one thing that you've learned as a blogger?






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