Welcome to the new and improved A Well Crafted Party

I’ve been blogging at A Well Crafted Party for nearly five years now and it has gone through its fair share of change as my life changed along with it.

Content over the past few years

This little blog started as a way to share my DIY party ideas and has morphed into a community where I share everything from recipes to updates on how life is with my toddler. It went from a very niche blog to a wide array of topics. Sometimes, the wide array of topics ended up hurting the overall feeling of the site and didn’t allow for readers to get to know me and my blog the way I’d prefer. Sometimes it allowed for content I never thought I’d possibly have the opportunity to share and the blog has benefited from that.

I brought in guest bloggers often… sometimes to the delight of readers and sometimes, not-so-much. My husband even started his own series called “A Well Crafted Man” but soon slowed on his postings.

The blog has had its highs and its lows. There have been times where I’ve had so much content and TIME to share that I was posting nearly a dozen posts a week. There have been weeks of silence on the blog.

Design over the past few years

Very first blog banner for A Well Crafted Party

This was my first attempt at a blog banner in 2010 when my blog began. EEK.

Evolution of Blog Design A Well Crafted Party

Professionally designed blogger blog layout circa 2011

Evolution of Blog Design A Well Crafted Party

After a brief stint in purple on my WordPress site I moved over to my current color scheme. This layout lasted about a year.

A Well Crafted Party Blog Magazine Layout 2014

A Well Crafted Party Blog Design 2013-2015

The design started as a very basic blogger setup with a terrible pixelated header, to professionally designed, to WordPress continuous blog format to a WordPress magazine layout. The logo started out as a crude purple scripted logo all the way to the current clean fonts with elements of blues, greens and yellows.

Mission over the past few years

My mission started as sharing unique party ideas for celebrating life on a budget. It gradually morphed into sharing unique ideas and stories about celebrating life and ways to celebrate moments on a budget. I still feel strongly about both of those missions, I just want to make sure I’m living up to it in my posts.

Life over the past few years

All of these changes almost directly correlate with the changes in my life. When I started I was a part of a married couple with a non-creative job craving a creative outlet as a hobby. I increased my content schedule and updated the blog look as people began to take notice of that little hobby. Then all of the sudden I was pregnant and about to have a son. I stopped throwing as many parties and wanted to start sharing more about life. That is when I made the switch to a lifestyle blog rather than a parties and event blog. When I became a work-at-home mom picking up freelancing jobs I shifted A Well Crafted Party into a career blog, making “career blogger” moves such as moving to WordPress and increasing my content schedule. When I was sharing so much content in a variety of topics I made the move to a magazine style layout. Then I got a full-time, out of the home job that took me away from this little space I had created.

What has changed?

Everything. Well, almost everything.

I tried ( I really, really tried) to keep up with a more consistent and fruitful schedule of posts in the many topics that I like to post about. I tried taking the time to comment on other people’s blogs, keep up with all the social media, reply to every comment on this site. At some point I realized that I just can’t do it all, no matter how much I want to! One area of responsibility would be going really well, and I’d be failing at so many other areas. So… that leads me to my new view of A Well Crafted Party.

A Well Crafted Party’s Mission

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog’s mission. I mean, why in the world am I spending my time and energy brining my ideas to this little side of the internet? Some bloggers make bank on  their work and I support them in that endeavor. However, with my focus on my full-time job, this blog is more of a hobby than a career. It needs to be something that I am passionate about if it is going to continue.

In all of my reflection on what I am truly passionate about and WHY I started the blog to begin with I came up with a simple mission statement that I feel I can get behind in everything I do and which supports my personal goals.

A Well Crafted Party is a blog where I celebrate life. My tagline is ‘Life is a Party—Celebrate!’ because I believe that there is something in every day that is worth celebrating and something within every person that deserves to be celebrated. My mission is to explain, inspire and educate others in celebrating the everyday.

A Well Crafted Party’s Content

Honestly, this is the hardest part for me… I want this blog to be a true reflection of myself, even if it is just the little bits of me and my family that I wish to share. My content will support my blog’s mission. I aim to post three times a week— currently aiming for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday if you are someone who prefers to just check in on posting days rather than following along via a blog reader or social media. I will be posting my usual array of parties, recipes and cocktails. I will also continue to occasionally write about blogging, curvy fashion, non-fussy beauty and family. Though, every post will keep my mission in mind.

Evolution of Blog Design with A Well Crafted Party

Refreshed Blog Design circa 2015

A Well Crafted Party’s New Design

I wanted to bring elements of what I have to celebrate every day to the blog in my refreshed blog design. Macey from Moments by Macey took me and the family out to take the images that I’ve shared in the design. I plan on changing up the photos throughout the seasons, but for now it is exactly what I wanted to share with my new mission. I also went with a cleaner and easier to read logo design. Because I am no longer posting several times throughout the week the magazine layout no longer worked for my blog. I’ve reverted to a more traditional blog layout. As I find time I am making my landing pages even more clean and easy to navigate so it is easy to peruse the many posts that the blog contains. The A Well Crafted Pantry page is already up and working and I couldn’t be happier!

The Future of A Well Crafted Party

Goodness, who knows!? I’m sure it is going to continue to change along with me and my life. I love that I get the opportunity to look back and track my changes through a series of posts and photos. Just like life there are moments of embarrassment and pride. I do hope that I continue to live up to my mission in the future of this blog. I also plan to really strive to be a more consistent blogger. Finally, I have a project up my sleeve that speaks to my mission more than anything I’ve ever done before. I’m so excited to bring share it in March and get the ball rolling on a year long effort!

Thank you for reading A Well Crafted Party. It means a lot to me that you not only stop by these pages, but that you take the time to take it all in. I’d love to know…

What do you think of the new design and mission? What would you like to see more of (or less of) in future posts?

DIY Blog Tour

DIY BLog Tour - Favorite DIY Bloggers // A Well Crafted Party

Last week I was asked to be a part of the DIY Blog Tour! Here’s how it works:

Debi from Adorned From Above was nominated by Kim from Curtain Queen Creates. Then, she featured 3 bloggers, one of which was Jessica from Plucky’s Second Thought who in turn featured ME! (Thanks lady!) I shared my House Guest printables as one of my favorite DIY projects to date.

Now it’s my turn to answer the same four questions and feature 3 bloggers, giving a 2-3 sentence bio on each of them, a link to their blogs and their favorite DIY project.

I was supposed to get this up Monday… but, one or two million things kept getting in my way! Hopefully the bloggers I feature will be able to get a DIY blog tour up and running by next Monday so the tour can keep on going. I’m having fun going through the blogs that have been featured and connecting with awesome projects.

Part of this tour is answering four questions about me.

About DIY Blogger Jenni Bost of A Well Crafted Party

Hello, I’m Jenni…

  1. What are you working on? 
    • Boy, this is a loaded question. If you could see my house right now you’d actually see several (SEVERAL) piles of different projects covering nearly every inch. Part of it is stuff I still need to organize and put up from recent projects including my recent Ryan Gosling themed birthday party and the Portland Bloggers’ Back to Blogging School event. I also have Halloween projects laying about along with a Christmas project I started last week. My computer desktop is even worse off! I’m busy creating some holiday printable sets for you and I couldn’t be happier with how they are turning out! So, mainly I’ll be working on crafting fun parties and getting the posts live.
  2. Why do you write/create what you do?
    • I have a strong NEED to create. It has always been in me and I’ve always had a zillion projects going on at one time. Being able to share the projects is such a joy. My blog serves for many purposes… but, one big purpose is to record all the creations and the other is to share them. I’m glad that I have this space and an audience that enjoys the creations!
  3. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
    • Sometimes I am not sure if it does. I often create something and find out that someone else has already shared something similar. (Take this amazing frozen wine cocktail for example.) I think I also offer a sense of humor to some of my projects and parties. I enjoy getting a giggle while creating. I enjoy even more when I hear someone else enjoy the humor!
  4. How does your writing/creative process work?
    • My creative process only really works (and works well) on a deadline. I can spend weeks working on something and then suddenly be inspired and motivated when I only days to go.

Get to know these awesome bloggers…

Featured DIY Blog Burlap & Babies // A Well Crafted Party

Meet Amanda from BurlapAndBabies.Com

Favorite DIY Post: DIY Gender Reveal Party

About: I’m Amanda and you can find me at my own personal creative outlet, Burlap and Babies! I am a wife of four years to my handy husband, Justin, momma to two furry children, Charlie and Molly, and soon to be mom to a little girl due at the end of November. DIY-ing, organizing, and party planning are my passions while making our house into a home.

Meet DIY Blogger Christine Trevino // A Well Crafted Party

 Meet Christine of ChristineTrevino.com

Favorite DIY Post: Thankful Jar Tutorial & Printables

About: Blogging has been a journey of discovery, unlocking new passions and recovering ones that I’ve forgotten along the way.  Sometimes I talk about my family or my faith.  Sometimes I share stories, or projects, or recipes.  This is my outlet.  My therapy.  My space to be me . . . however I need to be me on any given day.

Meet DIY Blogger Lindsey from MacSuzie // A Well Crafted Party

Meet Lindsey from MacSuzie.com

Favorite DIY Post: DIY Reusable Cup Sleeve

About: At MacSuzie.com, you will find a little bit of everything: cooking/baking, crafts, beauty, home stuff, things for all seasons, family, travel, and a little of the wisdom I pick up along the way. I’d call my style comfortable and homey, with a lot of color. I’m especially inspired by my mom and grandma, and our family’s traditions. I also love things from days gone by (a Buzzfeed quiz aptly placed me in the 50’s), although I’m not exclusively a vintage girl. I love to re-purpose, giving old things a fresh look with a dash of “MacGyver” and a sprinkle of “Suzie Homemaker” thrown in for good measure.

 


What is YOUR favorite DIY blog or project? Comment with a link below!

Snapshots: Portland Bloggers’ Website Has New Look!

Portland Bloggers Website Redesign // A Well Crafted Party

Today I spent literally ALL DAY LONG. Working on getting the Portland Bloggers Website updated and refreshed. The Portland Bloggers’ Master List also got a complete overhaul. Which means… if you are a Portland Blogger and were on the Master List before you need to RE-LIST  your blog. I know… total pain in the tail. But, it will totally be worth it! The new features are seriously going to be so good for bloggers and for visitors to the Portland Bloggers’ website.

If you are a new reader to my blog then you might note that I have a lot of posts on Portland, Oregon. I moved to Oregon from Oklahoma about 7 years ago and have never felt more at home in my life. A few years ago the opportunity came about that I could start planning meet-ups for local bloggers. I took that opportunity and ran with it. The Portland Bloggers’ website and meet-up group is now bigger and better than I could have ever imagined it could be. We’ve got an amazing leadership team of local bloggers volunteering their time to help make each event a success and to keep the website filled with great blogging resources.

Anyways… I didn’t do much of anything “Snapshot” worthy this weekend as I just sat in front of the computer in my pajamas. But, I do think what I got done is pretty noteworthy! If you are a follower from the Portland, Oregon area pop on over to the Portland Bloggers website and check us out!

Not a blogger and/or not in Portland? Well, regular content is coming back tomorrow with a fun recipe!

Free Printable Pitch Minder – For Bloggers!

Free Printable Pitch Minder // A Well Crafted Party

I made this special for my newsletter subscribers! They get it first as a thank you for following along with A Well Crafted Party! Do you want to get to the goodies first too? Then sign up today! You’ll receive a link for a free set of printable blog planner pages AND not-too-often newsletters with free printables EVERYTIME.

Are you signed up and didn’t see the email? Check spam folders and “promotion” filters. Please make sure you add my email address to your address book so you won’t miss another newsletter!


 

This handy little tool is to be used as a supplement to the Free Printable Blog Planner released earlier this year. This is a place for you to track all your pitches that you’ve sent to companies—whether they resulted in sponsorship or not! Click on an image below to download the printable that coordinates best with your chosen blog planner!

Free Printable Pitch Minder // A Well Crafted Party

Free Printable Pitch Minder in Black & White // A Well Crafted Party

 

Free Printable Pitch Minder // A Well Crafted Party

Sunday Snapshots: Blogging Behind the Scenes

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Last week the lovely Macey from Motormouth Studios and Bee from The Spicy Bee joined me and some family to create 8 different cocktails and photograph them for future blog posts . Sometimes it is easy to forget how much work goes behind the scenes in beautiful blog photos.

For this shoot we had a ton of different ingredients and moving light. At one point we had to move the entire table and all of our props to the cul de sac in front of my house so that we had enough light to finish. Of course, it was all a ton of fun as well. It’s work, but it is my favorite kind of work!

Happy Sunday! I hope you all have had a great weekend.

Sunday Snapshots: Portland Bloggers Friends & Family Picnic

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The Portland Bloggers Family Picnic was this past weekend. I got to bring my sister, her husband, and my nephew to meet my blogging buddies. It was fun catching up with friends and getting to know some new bloggers.

I brought my favorite ice cream to the picnic to share. It was so hot out that even the ice didn’t help much! The ice cream melted pretty quickly and made for a tasty impromptu milk shake!

I also brought sunscreen to share… Because, sun safety is important! I brought a new-to-me brand from Coola Suncare that sent me some samples to test out. I love it! It’s the first organic sunscreen that I’ve had work well and smell good at the same time. It’s also the first spray sunscreen that hasn’t felt too oily or sticky. I also heard great things from friends who used it.

All in all it was a great time. How was your weekend?

3 Tips for Better Photos of People

Photography Tips // A Well Crafted Party
In early May the Portland Bloggers hosted our annual Photography Workshop at the amazing studio space of Favery and Elli. This year’s event was taught by three local photographers, Margaret Jacobsen PhotographyLinnea Paulina Photography, and Aubrie LeGault Photography. We are always trying to offer Portland Bloggers opportunities to learn and build on their skills. So, while last year’s event focused on photography basics, this year’s event was much more specialized.
Photography Tips // A Well Crafted Party

Three Tips for Better Photos of People

Margaret Jacobsen from Margaret Jacobsen Photography took part of the attendees outside on the streets of Portland for hands on practice and to share her tips on fashion photography. It was a great opportunity for bloggers wanting to learn more about photographing people and people with products. I learned a lot in such a short time and have seen my photography improve quite a bit. Here are some of the tips I found useful:

1. Be Bossy.

Let your model KNOW what you want from them. This is especially important if you are working with someone who isn’t used to be in front of the camera. The light glaring off of your subject in an unflattering way? Tell them (or show them) to move. Want to see a different pose or expression… tell them!

This tip was difficult for me…. for about ten seconds. I have no problem being bossy—especially after having been given permission! it made all the difference in how I take photos of other people though. I’m a lot more vocal so that I am able to make sure limbs are where I want them in my shot.

Photography Tips // A Well Crafted Party

 

Photography Tips // A Well Crafted Party

Photography Tips // A Well Crafted Party

2. Make your subject a prop for showing off your product.

Now, Margaret made this sound much more eloquent and put together than my little subject line. But, in blogging, we are often taking photos of product whether it be sponsored items, review items, or DIY items that we created. Just taking product photos with a white background can get sort of boring. Use people in your shots to really feature the product in a flattering light. This is especially handy when featuring accessories like the awesome ones we borrowed from Favery.com.

Photography Tips // A Well Crafted Party

3. Practice being a model.

Man, I’m bad at this one. I’m trying to be in front of the camera more… but, it isn’t easy for me unless I am taking 100 selfies and picking through them. Margaret suggested practicing being a model—whether it is in front of the camera or just a mirror. Put yourself in the same situation as your model may be in so that you can feel what they may be feeling, but also to figure out ways that you might have them pose!

More:

Photography Tips: See more photos from the Photography Event and Learn the Tips that the panel of photographers shared at the event.

About the sponsors: Favery set out a variety of jewelry pieces that bloggers were able to use as props while they learned about how to improve their people photography. Elli created small vignettes utilizing their printed products for bloggers to practice their close up photography. Florals are the work of Swoon Floral Design and chairs are from Classic Vintage Rentals.

About the photographers: Linnea Paulina and Aubrie LeGault taught bloggers tips for photographing still life, close-up shots. This session was built for bloggers who often photographed food, DIY projects, or vignettes. Margaret Jacobsen took a group of bloggers outside to work on people photography, learning how to focus on details, step out of their comfort zone, and be more bossy to get the shot that they want.

Bring your blog to the next level with a blogging conference & BlogHer ’14!

This post is a sponsored post opportunity from BlogHer. All opinions are my own. I signed up for this opportunity to bring my readers a great opportunity and to help connect more bloggers!

 

 


 

Kerry Washington is the Key Note speaker for BlogHer'14!
Kerry Washington—a keynote speaker for BlogHer’14!

I’ve been blogging her on A Well Crafted Party for just over 4 years now. I’ve done blogging part-time & full-time. Blogging is now such an integral part of my life now that has provided myself and my family with opportunities that I could have never dreamed of being able to part-take in. But, most of all, it has brought some of the most amazing PEOPLE into my life.

When I started blogging I never thought that it would take me away from my computer and out into the world so often. Moreover, that going out into the world more often would help take my blogging to the next level! It is funny how those things go together, isn’t it?

“Blogging” is one of the main content areas that I provide here on the blog, because… lets face it, often BLOGGERS are some of the best blog READERS. I like to provide the tools and opportunities that have been helpful for me in my blogging journey including Portland-area meet-upsblogging tips, and blogging printables. I’m really excited to be able to also share a little about this year’s BlogHer Conference and a link to some discounted passes, because let’s face it, networking is an important (and fun!) part of the blogging world and BlogHer is one of the best ways to get yourself into a room with a plethora of other bloggers and brands.

****Get your conference passes (with a discount) by clicking on the following link to the BlogHer’14 Eventbrite page.****

More about BlogHer’14:

  • The BlogHer Annual Conference turns 10 years old this year! (What!?!)
  • Dates: July 24-26, 2014
  • Where: San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, CA
  • They’ve got childcare covered. “We are proud to announce Childcare at BlogHer ’14 in San Jose! We have once again partnered with KiddieCorp and are offering childcare for all three days—Thursday, Friday and Saturday—at a subsidized rate of $50 per child, per day. “

BlogHer Keynote Speakers of 2014:

  • Arianna Huffington: Arianna is the chair, president, and editor in chief of the Huffington Post Media Group. BlogHer attendees will get the opportunity to hear Arianna discuss the evolution of her business, social media and of her thinking about wellness.
  • Kerry Washington: Ms. Pope… excuse me, actor and activist Kerry Washinton will be speaking about her causes and work and how the social platform amplifies them both.
  • Tig Notaro: Comedian Tig Notaro will share about her brand of comedy. (If you haven’t seen her… she is hilarious. Her talk is bound to be talked about!)
  • Jenny Lawson: The Bloggess returns to BlogHer again this year to tell a story of BlogHer success.If you haven’t read her blog. Do. It is amazing, real, and oh-so-funny.

Why go to a Blogging Conference?

That line-up alone makes me want to go! But, more than that, there will be bloggers, brands, parties, and many different classes to help with blogging skills! The opportunity to not only hone your skills, but to also have the opportunity to meet the brands and fellow bloggers that can help get your blog to the next level is too good to pass up.

I am not sure if I will be able to attend this year. But, boy oh boy, I am going to try! Meeting other bloggers and building on my blogging skills are important to me. More than that… I love the opportunity to connect other bloggers together. I have a goal to go to a future BlogHer conference, and then someday, a goal to see my name up on that speaker list too!

Have you been to a BlogHer in the past? Tell me about your experience in the Comment Section!

bh_14_anniversary

Blogger Speed Dating: Tips on Networking

I’m not great at meeting people. I love people. I love the idea of meeting people. But, when it comes right down to it meeting people is hard for me. My palms sweat. I forget words. I feel awkward. Then, after it all, I obsess about each and every conversation and how I responded.

When the Social Events Vice President of Portland Bloggers, a local blogging group that I work on, suggested we have a Speed Networking event I definitely broke out in a sweat thinking about participating in an event where I had to talk to EVERYONE. Boy oh boy, was I sure glad I went though! So many amazing bloggers with great goals, hopes, & dreams. I will be working with some of them in the near future and I can’t wait to bring some of the collaborative efforts to the blog.

The event was held in the gorgeous event space at Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery. Cyril’s provided a wonderful menu of meat and cheese platters. We also got to try some of their amazing Pinot Noir. (Read my past review from a dinner at Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery and check out their cheese club if you are in the Portland area and like cheese!)

The cool part about this type of event, a “speed dating” style event, is that I had plenty of practice meeting people. I got the opportunity to work on my “elevator pitch” and figure out just how I wanted to represent my blog in about 90 seconds. Portland Bloggers’ provided a great tool for the bloggers at the event to work out a quick pitch about their blog that they could use at the event. It is now yours to download for free! Use it to craft your own Brand Statement and elevator pitch.

Free Printable Branding Statement Worksheet

Five Tips for Presenting your Brand in a Party Situation

1. Be Prepared. Bring your business cards to parties, meet-ups, the grocery store… you never know when you are going to need them! Need a quick, cute design for your cards? Download this free file and get printed though your favorite business card printer. Moo.com helped to sponsor this event and provided attendees with a discount. I received my Moo cards recently and they were a great quality! I get compliments on them constantly. Business cards are a great prop for talking about your business.

2. Practice talking about your brand. This is going to feel weird…. but, you should practice talking about your brand to a mirror, friend, or loved one. Practice talking about why your brand is different than others. Practice talking about your brands in different ways.

3. Ask Questions.  Yes, you need to talk about YOU when you are presenting your brand. But, if you ONLY talk about you then you and your brand will either be forgotten or thought of negatively. Ask questions about the person with whom you are talking.

4.  Find common ground. While asking questions work on finding a common ground. You blog about fashion and the person you are talking to blogs about their kiddo? Chat about blogging platforms, photo taking, etc. You can find common ground with most bloggers out there… work on it. Give them something useful or interesting to help remember you!

5. Gather Contacts & Reach Out After the Event. While you are working hard on promoting your brand go ahead and keep the business cards you’ve been handed. Write notes on them if necessary. Then email, Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with your new friend!  Well, they aren’t your friend quite yet… but, they could be! They could be a friend, collaborator, promotor, or future business partner.

What are your tips for networking?

Free Printable Blog Planners 2014 Edition

Last year I designed a free blog planner with the input of the amazing Portland Bloggers team. I was excited last January to release a free printable blog planner for bloggers everywhere to utilize in organizing their blogs. Since then I’ve connected with bloggers from all over that use the planner! It has been such an amazing tool for myself in my own blog, but also in connecting bloggers with each other!

In my connections with bloggers that use the planner and with my own use of the planner I found several little edits I wanted to make. I’ve been working on these edits off and on over the year and am super stoked to finally release them! There is now not one, not two, but THREE different styles of printable blog planners with the updated planning pages.

Pages included in all three styles are:

  • Cover (2 NEW Styles!)
  • Weekly Blog Planner
  • Monthly Blog Planner
  • Blog Stats Tracking Sheet
  • Blog Post Brainstorming Sheets
  • Blogger Collaboration Sheets
  • Affiliate Networking Tracking Sheet
  • Blog Project Budgeting sheet (NEW!)
  • Expenses and Income Tracking Sheet
  • Blog Goal Sheet
  • Blog Focus Worksheet (NEW!)
  • Blog Sponsor Tracking Sheet
  • Blog Stylesheet (NEW!)

I just ask that you sign up for my (brand new!) newsletter to receive your free printable with 13 different blog planning pages. You’ll be the among first to know when there are updates for the blog planner!

Check out the three printable sets:

Traditional Style Blog Planner

Black & White Style Blog Planner

Handwritten Font Style Blog Planner

Sign up in the form below to receive an email with a link to your free printables. You should receive the email within the hour!

Fill out this short little form to sign up for our newsletter. We promise not to overload your inbox and to send fresh new printables with each newsletter!

How to Host a Blogger Meet-Up

Guest posting on Plucky's Second Thought: How to Host a Blogger Meet-Up
Stopping in to share that I’m guest posting over on Plucky’s Blogging Tips and Tricks Series! This is an amazing series of blogging tips from 30 bloggers! There is a pretty sweet giveaway too. I’ve written a few tips on how to host a blogger meet-up. There are a ton of tips and tricks for people looking for information other than hosting meet-ups! Check it out and leave a comment or two!

*Featured photo and photo in the above post is by Motormouth Studios and is used with permission

Searching for Balance, Trying to Focus + a Free Printable

Focus

CC image via ihtatho on Flikr

The past few years for me have been back and forth and all over the place when it comes to work and family. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to take time to develop my blog and freelance work to really benefit myself and my family. It wasn’t easy on my husband, son, or finances living the freelance life. I’ve appreciated that I’ve had so much support these few years though– I mean, how many people get the opportunity to really work on their dreams?

Losing Focus…

In September I was offered a full-time position as a Social Media and Marketing Specialist at an amazing company that is really doing good in the community. My freelance work and my blog had finally gotten to a place where it was being profitable and I was getting closer to my goals right before this opportunity presented itself. I knew that in accepting the full time position I would have to really step back in many areas of my life. Basically, I was at a fork in the road and I decided to just battle my way through the obstacles in my path rather than deciding to take one road over the other. A whole jungle of opportunity and challenges in front of me and there I was staring it down with my machete no where in sight.

I am disappointed in the way that I handled the transition from freelance to full-time. I let some people down and I certainly let my blog go in the process. Since September I’ve felt like I am in a constant state of juggling priorities. My health has suffered. My state of mind has suffered. My friendships have suffered.

Finding Balance…

I’m just now at a point where I feel like I am getting a handle on life again. I’m learning to say no (even when I don’t want to) to opportunities that come my way that I don’t have time to do properly. I’m working on focusing and prioritizing. Heck, I’m working on learning how to have a day off!

More than that… I’m teaching myself to blog again! I’m trying to get back to the roots of why I began blogging and what I want to get out of blogging. I’m working on regular postings and clear goals for the year.

In my desire to re-focus and prioritize my blog I thought that perhaps others out there may need to work on their focus a bit. So, I created the below printable for bloggers looking to get back on track for their blogs.

Free Printable Focus Worksheet

Click here to download your free Blog Focus Worksheet Printable

This worksheet coordinates with my Free Blog Planner Printables– check back later this week  soon for new and updated blog planner printable pages!

PNW Blogger Holiday Brunch and Tips for Throwing a Holiday Brunch

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PNW Blogger Brunch

Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the planning and execution of meet-ups for bloggers in the Portland and Pacific Northwest area. I love getting to meet other bloggers, talk shop, and bring bloggers and businesses together. Well, and let’s not forget, I sure do love a party!

The PNW Blogger meet-ups, ran by Chelsey of The Paper Mama, happen every six months or so and are either held in the Portland or the Seattle area. Our most recent meet-up was in Portland at Union Pine. Myself and Heather of Aspen Summit (formerly the blog Just Lovely) helped plan the event and with the help of several awesome volunteers enjoyed a fabulous party with PNW bloggers.

As with all great parties… we had guest activities, great food, tasty beverages, fabulous guests, and super cool favors. Even if you aren’t an area blogger the ideas used in this meet-up are fabulous for any party you may want to throw. Click the above tabs to read my tips for throwing a holiday brunch and to see our easy, holiday brunch menu.

All the gorgeous photos in this post are curtsey of Motormouth Studios.

And, a HUGE thank you to all of the great businesses below that helped to make the PNW Blogger Holiday Brunch such a fun event:

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Holiday Brunch Tips

A Holiday Brunch is one of my favorite types of holiday parties. It can be done in the daytime, so it doesn’t fill up yet another December evening. Bacon is sometimes involved. Daylight makes photos look so much better than a dimly lit room. The list goes on… In helping to plan this party I fell upon a few tips that might help you in planning your next holiday brunch.

Tips for Hosting a Holiday Brunch

 

1. Have a good selection of food and beverages, but keep it simple.

It is easy to go overboard on food and beverage. Keep it simple and don’t stress yourself out over the food and beverage. Just go for good quality and a couple of different selections for guests to choose between. The most important thing about a brunch is having both sweet and savory, hot and cold. Oh, and you can’t forget the coffee! We had delicious Black Rock Coffee served as one of our beverage selections. We had several different items to choose from for brunch, including a bagel bar filled to the brim with Franz Bakery’s New York Gourmet Bagels. Check out the tab above to see our menu for this holiday brunch— it may give you some good ideas for your holiday party. Our bar, sponsored by The 7th Chamber (a video seeding company that works with blogs), simply had the fixings for bloody marys and mimosas. Perfect for a festive brunch! And, you can’t forget dessert… Pinhole Press sponsored the dessert bar with tons of tasty treats all decked out to coordinate with the event.

craft ideas for a holiday party

2. Have a couple of simple activities.

Super detailed and drawn out activities that EVERYONE has to participate in can be overwhelming. But, a few simple and fun activities can provide conversation starters and keep the party moving. At the PNW Blogger event we were fortunate enough to have Lia Griffith crafting along, teaching people the art of making a paper flower, and Fabric Depot teaching people to craft gift tags out of chalkboard fabric. (By the by… did you know there was such a thing as chalkcloth ??? So cool.) We also had a DIY photobooth area (sponsored by Yoked— a site that helps connect bloggers and businesses) set up with props so that attendees could snap some fun pictures of themselves.

Need ideas for crafting projects for your next holiday party? Check out Lia’s tutorial page on her blog for gorgeous (and easy) paper crafts and Fabric Depot’s blog for holiday fabric projects.

party favors

3. Great Favors

I’m a big fan of party favors. I like favors that guests can use and that don’t blow the bank. With big blogging connective events like this… I love it when we can connect awesome companies with bloggers!

The swag bags were great. I can’t wait to do some crafty projects with the wall paper supplied by Graham & Brown, make candies and wrap them up in cute papers from The Land of Nod, and wear my new glasses from Sunglass Warehouse. You’ll be seeing projects and posts featuring some of the items I got in my swag bag throughout the next couple of months. I encourage you to check out the list of great sponsors on the first tab and visit their sites.

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holiday brunch menu

A good brunch should have both sweet and savory, hot and cold. We had very little set up time the morning of the brunch and limited cooking resources. So, we wanted to keep the menu as simple, but varied as possible. And, because we were also serving alcohol, we needed the menu to be fairly substantial as well.

Our Holiday Brunch Menu

Bagel Bar— Franz Bakery donated an amazing selection of bagels and gluten free bread for the PNW bloggers to enjoy. The company recently came out with a new selection of gourmet bagels that the perfect start to a bagel bar. We served Franz Pizza, Tillamook Cheddar, Pumpkin Spice, and French Toast bagels along with wheat gluten free bread.

Our Bagel Fixins:

  • cream cheese
  • jam
  • tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • smoked salmon
  • a variety of cured meats and sliced ham
  • honey

Yogurt, Honey, & Granola

Boiled Eggs

Snack Bars from Kind Snacks & Rawdacious Desserts

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Our dessert bar had donuts (also a Franz Bakery product), cookies, lemonades, and waters. Everything looked so good using the Pinhole Press stickers and cards!

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And, my favorite part…. the bar! For beverages we had bloody marys, mimosas, orange juice, virgin marys, and Black Rock Coffee Bar coffee.

See, a simple menu can still be fun and satisfy at the same time.

(PS. That gorgeous creature holding the bloody mary is the blogger behind The Boho Mama. Photo by Motormouth Studios)

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Holiday Mingle Pt. 2: Tips for Bloggers from PR Pros

Bloggers working with companies

One of the craziest things about this whole blogging thing is getting to a point that your email inbox is filled to the gills with companies wanting to work with you for one thing or another. Blogs are great formats for sharing products and opinions about products/ businesses– and, boy are companies realizing it!

Each blogger must come to a decision about his or her blog and whether they want to work with PR companies and what guidelines they plan to utilize. It is a wild-wild-west out here. There are really no set-in-stone rules yet. Many people who blog are not people with years of experience working with publications. Though, the content they are churning out is worth something and the time that they spend on creating that content should be worth something too. But, deciding the worth is the hard part.

It is also quite difficult balancing the line of being simply a promotional fountain that spews out whatever a company will pay for to being an open, honest review with absolutely no obligation to a company. We aren’t quite journalists, yet we aren’t a particular company’s marketing team either. Unless companies, advertisers, or readers pay a blogger then a blogger is making NO money for work that takes hours and hours to complete. A blogger MUST find a comfortable position for where they stand on these issues for their blog.

These are not only issues that I’ve come across in my blog, but they are issues that every blogger I know has had to deal with at one point or another. Which is why I was thrilled to get the PR perspective at a recent Portland Bloggers meet-up sponsored by Little Green Pickle, the 2013 Holiday Mingle.

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Tips for Bloggers for Working with Companies and PR Representatives:

These tips come from the awesome Public Relations professionals that donated their time and expertise, and got in a room with their competition, to talk about blogging. If you are a blogger (not just those in Portland) and want to get involved working with some really great PR pros then check out their websites and contact them via email. They love that, by the way! The PR Panel consisted of  Carrie Welch of Little Green Pickle, Meaghan Burns of Broussard Communications , Lisa Hill of Lisa Hill PR, Heather Jones of Heather Jones Consulting, and Vicky Hastings of Maxwell PR . (Click on over to their websites and connect with them via email or Twitter TODAY!)

Tip One: Be Ready to Work with Companies

  • Have your blog up to snuff! Doesn’t everyone have that list of to-do items they want to get done for their blog? I know I do… the PR pros said not to wait any longer. Get your site where you’d like it right away.
  • Have an updated media kit ready to go! A simple one page explanation of your site, your site’s demographics, your numbers, and your guidelines will suffice.

Tip Two: Get Your Numbers Up

Many bloggers hate to talk about this side of the blogging world. Numbers matter. That doesn’t mean that small blogs have no shot. But, it does give incentive to work on getting your numbers up.

  • Most PR pros look for at least 10,000 Page Views Monthly– ideally, Unique Page Views
  • Most PR pros aim for at least 1,000 followers/fans for each social media platform

The panel said that it definitely isn’t ALWAYS about the numbers. Having a dedicated following in a niche field is also a great way to get in with working with good companies.

Tip Three: Act Professional

Think of your blog as your store front. You want to keep it looking nice, have the shelves stocked full (content!), and you want to provide great customer service. Interact with companies in a professional manner by answering those emails, sending updates on posts, and presenting your expectations and guidelines from the beginning.

Now, I’m the first to say that this isn’t easy… bloggers are often working more than on just their blog, life can get busy, and email inboxes can get a little bit insane. The thing to take from this though, is that being upfront, honest, and professional will help you in working with companies.

Want More?

For more tips from the PR Panel at the Holiday Mingle check out the post over on the Portland Bloggers blog. To read more about the Holiday Mingle and the awesome companies that were in attendance click on over to my first Holiday Mingle Re-Cap. To check out the websites of the people that helped make the Holiday Mingle happen…. click one of the logos below!

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