A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: October 2012
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29 October 2012

FREE TEXTURES from Amy Renea

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Ready to dive down a rabbit hole of interesting effects on photos?  Get ready for textures!  Today I'm giving you a VERY basic intro to textures, but once you get started, you will find more and more applications for these fun layers.  Ready?  Let's go!
 Have you ever shot a roll of film and double exposed a photo?  You get the roll back from the printer and one (or ALL!) of your photos have 2 photographs layered on top of each other?  Usually it ruins the roll, but once in awhile, you can come up with something fun.  I remember once I ended up with a cheerleading photo with spraying water all behind my back :)  Anyway, photographers can double expose purposely, but it was a lot more difficult with film.  With digital tools, the art of double exposing is much easier and you can simply layer textures onto your photos.

Textures can be urban edgy or classically romantic, simple or detailed, and they are SO easy to use.  Trust me, they really are!! They can take a ho-hum photo and give it more interest, more depth, a little more soul.  See this photo of a marigold?  It is fine...interesting composition, exposed well, sharp and clear, the right dof....but it is just fine.

Add a little bit of texture and that bombastic gold chills out a bit and the background gets a pebbly "textured" look to it.


Take this photo which is pretty gorgeous in its own right.  
You could certainly print it as is, but how about a little romantic texture?

The photo retains the color intensity, but gains an added dimension.

Do you see the subtle texture on this photo? 
It is barely there, but gives the wood a bit more depth and the background and flowers take on an almost watercolor look.
original photo

So you barely feel literate in basic photoshop and feel like this might be too complicated for you to try?  Well, at least attempt it.  
I'm your cheerleader here...YOU.  CAN.  DO. IT!   You might be surprised at how very easy it is!  

To make the texture application easier, download this FREE TEXTURE ACTION from MCP ACTIONS.

Then, you can download these FREE TEXTURES from me below!  

25 October 2012

So you wanna be a forum host. What can the FORUM do for YOU?

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As a blogger, you want to make the FORUM work for YOU.

Here is how:

1: As always, things work best when you are active. If you aren't active in the forum, your readers won't be either. I know it is a canned answer, but get in there are talk! Start asking questions, making polls and go ahead and make a challenge post if you wanna.

2: Not only do you need to be active, but you've got to let your community know it is there. They have no idea that you've added a forum unless you TELL them! I shoot readers to the forum at the end of posts with a comment or question. Check out the example HERE.

Another way to get readers involved is to encourage them with "homework" at the end of your post. If your post encourages a "call to action" at the end, you can direct them to the forum to share THEIR own blog posts -- THEIR comments -- THEIR photos. It is similar to the way you encourage comments, but a forum allows readers to "get lost" in more information and more networking once they are in the forum.

3: Help out the other hosts. I've put a list of the hosts HERE (and will continue to update it). When you are on your own blog, your hits don't count. So if you are going to go in the forum and comment, go on another one of the host's blogs and do your forum work in there. You are giving them hits and building the collective forum at the same time. It is a win for everybody.

4: Link to relevant posts. The forum is a great place to leave links, but only if they make sense. When a person starts to over-promote, it ruins the feel of a forum, but well placed, relevant links to your blog posts are perfect!

5: Tweet questions from the forum and pin polls. When you think you have a good post in the forum, draw people in by tweeting directly from the post. You will see the social media buttons just above the posting box in classic view.

6: Anything you would ask on facebook, ask it in your forum. Facebook is losing traction (for us bloggers!) as they start to monetize. Don't give up facebook, but consider using the forum in a similar manner to facebook to start conversations.

7: Think about keywords in your posts. Google spiders will start picking up on forum posts, so use specific names and proper nouns when speaking on a topic to pick up as many outside hits as possible. Once someone enters the forum on your site from Google, it is almost certain they'll want to see what the rest of the blog is about.

Want the latest updates from the FORUM? Sign up below for the monthly newsletter!

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23 October 2012

I’m smiling because it’s potty time!

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Ok, so maybe I’m not SMILING smiling, because who like potty training {???}, but at least I’ve got smiley FACES now.

smiley faces

Our 2 year old will be 3 this winter, so I am attempting to get the poor guy potty trained so diapers will be a thing of the past in this house.  The first two boys trained in a little under a week right after they turned three.  I think I am pushing things because I am very, very finished with 6 years of diapers.  So let’s get potty trained – RIGHT NOW!!  Of course, that is easier said than done.  Enter the potty time chart.  Cute right?

potty time 2

Of course, ours is looking a TEENY bit more beat up from tiny baby hands putting on stickers, but it is slowly but surely working!  He’s still not making it to the potty every time he needs to “go”, but potty time IS a happy time in our house.  That is a battle WON!

potty chart

See that star on the “20”?  There are stars every ten smileys for a “prize”, so kiddos are not only rewarded with a sticker each time they go, but they have a push towards a goal for the next time.  Get them thinking about stickers in the future and now they are thinking about going POTTY in the future.  More stickers for them – less diapers for me.  SCORE>

potty time

Are you potty training a little guy or gal at home right now?  What has worked/ not worked for you???

Share your opinions – ideas – strategies on the FORUM. (look under the ‘for Parents’ section!)

smiley faces

Want to try the PottyTime Chart?  You can buy your own HERE for $2.99.

Headed to Allume and want to try your own potty time chart?  Just holla at me and I’ll hook you up!

21 October 2012

I support a blogger...LITERALLY.

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Hello I am Amy's husband and I am hacking her blog to say some things about how blogging has affected her.

1. See the video below for a list of ways blogging has changed her into an even more amazing woman. She's always been wonderfully creative and focused, but blogging and being part of the Allume community has given her a great way to develop that.
2. Blogging has given her a good outlet for her emotions. She's not drinking as much and not hitting me as often.
3. She's hot. That doesn't apply to blogging really, but it's true.
4. It's made us very wealthy. She doesn't like me to talk about it, but she made $400,000 last year. She bought me a jet-ski with last month's ad revenue!

xoxo Ace Pin It
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20 October 2012

What is THE FORUM and what does it do for ME?

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You might have noticed a few new buttons pop up along the top of the page over the weekend. No? Look up! Along with redesigned social networking buttons, there are brand new buttons. One is titled {Blog Prompts} and the other THE FORUM.forumGood question!  THE FORUM is a place where you can share your opinions and get feedback.  A place where you can start a discussion, ask questions and get answers.  A place where you can join a community of blog writers and blog readers.  A place where you will find regular blog prompts to get you writing, photo challenges to get you snapping and inspiration in bushels! 
Typical forums are hosted on one website, with that blog or site receiving all of the “hits”.  A community forms, but it is centralized in one spot.  This forum is different because it is one forum found on many different blogs.  What does that mean for you as a blog reader?  You are exposed to more blogs that are similar to blogs you already read and love.  You get to chat with readers of other blogs.  You get to support a whole network of bloggers by chatting on THEIR sites instead of on their facebook pages or other external sites.
You see, facebook has hurt bloggers by “hiding” their pages from subscribers.  Bloggers are having to beg readers to add them to “interest lists” or just plain PAY to have their post reach folks that already “like” their page.  It’s kind of rotten, isn’t it?   So let’s bring it back home and chat ON our blogs!  Let’s just do it together!

who can joinAnybody!  If you are here reading this blog, you can join!  Just jump in the conversation and get talking.  The only rule?  Be nice.  To everybody.
how do iYou can jump in and answer a question or two.  Feel free to start your own topic with a question or comment.  Start a poll.  Be inspired by a blog prompt and share your blog post on the forum.  Complete a photo challenge and share your photos.   Be brave and be vocal!
who can hostOur network of bloggers is focused on home and garden,  including various home crafts such as food, photography, DIY, design and garden.  If you run a blog that focuses on any of these topics and consistently post quality content, we want you to be part of the forum!    If you want to join THE FORUM as a host, you will simply place a piece of code on a page of your blog.  THE FORUM will show up automatically including all the chatter that has come before.  Your job?  Add to the conversation!  Think of your own {Blog Prompts} and [Photo Challenges].  Create topics based on blog posts you have written.  Take a poll of all the forum members, stretching across multiples blog readerships.  Share your links, share other’s links, answer questions, ask questions.  Anything you would do on facebook – do it here. 
benefitYOU get the hits on your site for any readers that visit the forum on your blog.  YOU get hits that were going to facebook. YOU get new readers jumping over from other home and garden bloggers and YOU get love and support from a great blogging community.
So dive in and say Hello!   Don’t be shy!  Check out the various branches of the forum.  Explore a little!  If you decide you would like to be part of the blogger network hosting THE FORUM (It’s free!), just let me (Amy Renea) know!  I will get you a button like the one below (@ YOUR BLOG!) and the code for the FORUM.  I can’t wait for you to join us!
forum button
Want to check out the other hosts?   You can find their forum pages below!
List will be updated periodically.  Let me know if you don’t see your name! 

Want the latest updates from the FORUM? Sign up below for the monthly newsletter!

19 October 2012

How to Start a Blog and Why I Won't be Fed Up

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SO the past 2 weeks we've been talking about being fed up with this whole blogging thing.  You heard my heart on the issue yesterday, but one of the things that struck me as I was writing this series was how much it didn't matter what I decided.  If I stick around, I can continue building a brand.  If I don't, someone else will.

There are always people looking for a job.  There are hundreds of blogs started all around the world seemingly at the speed of light.  If I quit, someone will take my place.   In fact, I was recently contacted by a reader named Michelle and she had this to say:

For a long time now, I have been "trying" to start a blog of my own. The only thing that stands in my way are my own excuses, fears, resistance to try something new, and so on.  I am a wannabe freelance writer, with no outlet to create or display my work. Why? Because I'm scared to get off of my duff and, as they say in the Nike world, "just do it." Maybe it's because I'm afraid I will fail-or perhaps because I try to do it all at once. I'm terrible at focusing on one thing only at a time. This is the reason that I research the Internet, peruse blogs, and make lists at my desk for mere minutes before I go on information overload, and walk away from my laptop having accomplished little to nothing in the time I was there. This is the story of my life. With regard to my ever delayed debut in the blogging world, I would have to say that 90% of the blame lay with me.  I have piles and piles, and PILES of scrap paper and post-its boasting blog and article ideas, but they never really come to fruition. I can't bring myself to fill the blank screen with black letters and punctuation. There is a wall, a crutch, a hurdle yet to be discovered and dealt with, and yes...that is my demon to wrestle with.
…What it all boils down to, I need help getting started. I don't know where to begin. Set aside for a moment, that one would consider the obvious advice to be: "WRITE! Begin by just writing." I know, I know--and I'm dealing with my insecurities...or at least trying to. But I mean literally. Help! Logistically speaking, what do I do first? How do I start a blog? Where do I go? I'm confused by hosts and domains and programs that claim to be an all-in-one. Help me discern the difference between dreamhost/bluehost? What is studiopress and the genesis framework? Another hosting company? Are they separate entities? Does one need the other? Should the SEO be part of whatever I choose?

I am soooooo confused. All I know is that I've figured out what self hosting is, and I know for sure that I want to do that, and I think I want to choose Word Press. I also know what I want my blog to be called. Beyond that, I'm clueless, and fearful that I'll sit stagnant in this never ending field of confusion.

Please help me. I am ready to roll. I just need to know what the first step is.
I want to do this right the first time.

I don't know if I have any talent, if I'll ever be well-known, get paid for doing what used to come so naturally to me, or find a niche, but I do know that I need the framework.  That could very well be what is holding me back. Perhaps subconsciously, I want the blog to exist, before I work on all of the writing...

So as I was thinking of answering the questions, I thought I would ask my bloggy network of friends for their opinions.  This is what these lovely ladies had to say:

Q1 Help! Logistically speaking, what do I do first? How do I start a blog? Where do I go?
Heather of Inspire Me Heather says: “Do you want to try out a free blog like Blogger and have them host your blogspot or do you want to jump in and own a domain with purchased Wordpress and purchased theme and have a designer customize your look (branding).  Also, what do you plan on doing with your blog, what are your goals? Do you want to promote your Etsy shop with it or do you eventually want to quit your day job and become a full time blogger and get paid to do it
Ginger of Ginger Snap Crafts says: ”I would recommend starting out with a free service like blogger before I invested a lot of time and money into a blog that you may or may not enjoy doing. If after 6 months or so you feel that blogging is something you really enjoy doing then I would then think about purchasing your own domain name and/or going with a paid service. I bought my own domain name about 6 months in, and I'm still using blogger as my platform.”
Ashley of Domestic Imperfection says: "I'm torn on how to answer this question. For most people I would recommend starting out on blogger to make sure you love blogging as a hobby and want to make it into something more before you commit to something Like Wordpress, However, this girl sounds like she knows her stuff and IS going to be successful, so starting out on wordpress would save her the headache of a move and save her a second learning curve."
Melissa of The Happier Homemaker says: ” If the goal is to create a large blog I recommend she get a blog planner (I like infarrantly creative's) and plan out posts for at least the first few weeks. Make a schedule and post steadily and regularly. Remember quality over quantity. Take awesome photos and post them as large as your blog width allows. I also recommend playing with a free blog at first to see what you like. SEO I don't think is a huge issue with your blog name. set up social media from the start. I'm sure I'll think of more!”
Janel of Nellie Bellie says: “Know what you have to offer, what you are passionate about, what you can talk about for a long, long time and not run out of subject matter. Because, blogging is a hobby when you start...you have to enjoy it or you will get frustrated.”
Shannon of Fox Hollow Cottage says: “Have zero expectations, that way everything good is a surprise :) I think starting a fb fan page to support the blog is nice too, it's easy to make friends there. Google everything. Learn how to be a good party goer with link backs and thank yous.”

Q2 Should the SEO be part of whatever I choose? Q3 Help me discern the difference between dreamhost/bluehost? What is studiopress and the genesis framework? Another hosting company? Are they separate entities?

Amy Renea: So these two questions kind of go hand in hand for me.  I am not an SEO expert, but I have been able to brand “A Nest for All Seasons” and “Amy Renea” so they pop up first on any search engine when typed in.  I’ve also done fairly well with Google images catching my work and shooting traffic over to my blog.  The only thing I do consciously to help SEO is to title my photos with tag words as well as my name and give my posts good titles that people would search for such as “How to ______” or “10 steps to ___________”, etc. 

In the realm of not being an expert, Wordpress is right there.  I pride myself on having a blog that is a blogger blog, but doesn’t look immediately like a blogger blog.  The framework of my site was from a Designer Blogs template, and I add in all the stuff that makes it “me” like buttons, headers, etc.  All that said, I know nothing about Wordpress and no one has given me an explanation (yet) on why it would do me any good to pay for a host when I am quite happy here on blogger.  The only thing that might be an issue is that by not self-hosting, blogger could “steal” your blog.  All I have to say is back up our blog every once in awhile and if it disappears – well THAT would be the time to switch to wordpress.

Ashley of Domestic Imperfection says: "I don't worry about SEO at all. I know it's important and all, but adding more techie stuff to my plate just doesn't sound like fun and I want blogging to me mostly fun. Wordpress had built in SEO stuff though, so I go ahead and do the stuff that is already right there in front of me, like giving names to photos and whatnot."

Q3 Help me discern the difference between dreamhost/bluehost? What is studiopress and the genesis framework? Another hosting company? Are they separate entities?

Ashley of Domestic Imperfection says: Dreamhost/hostgator/bluehost/liquidweb/serviant are all just different hosting companies, and it's really a matter of personal preference (and budget) which one you use. Studiopress is not a hosting company, it is the company that created the (amazing) genesis framework.

Q4 How do I find the confidence to write the first post? Where do I start?

Ginger of Ginger Snap Crafts says: “Before you decide to start your blog decide what you are passionate about. What kind of blog do you want to have... a craft blog, DIY blog or a recipe blog, etc.? If you chose something you really love & enjoy doing it will give you the confidence & motivation to start. It might be a good idea to write down some things you would like to post about & make a calendar or list so you have a plan & outline to begin with
Virginia of Live Love DIY says: Make sure your #1 reason behind doing it is passion for whatever you are blogging about! Otherwise, 10 months in, 5,098 hours worked, you're gonna get reallllly sick of it and quit! But if you're like me, you'll keep chugging along because you love doing it! :)
Ashley of Domestic Imperfection says: Just do it, there is no other way. I wouldn't say you even need confidence... I started my blog and wrote for three months (granted that was only a few projects) before I told a single soul about it, including my husband.
Jenn of Four Marrs & One Venus says: "I agree on using free blogger to start out. Write how you talk, what you LOVE, don't do something you think your readers will love. Blog for you. Keep it no pressure, blog when YOU want, and yes- set up FB fan page- HUGE!!"


The great news?  Michelle is up and running with her NEW BLOG! 
Let's go support a newbie and say Hello, yeah? 
Visit Michelle at 'Post-its From the Playground' and leave her a comment or two!
fed up
Why is this the last day in my fed up series?  Because someone wants to be you.  …and if you don’t choose to be you – they will. 

So don’t give up.  Just play smarter.  Love ya chicas!

PS - Want to ask more questions about blogging?  photography?  something else?  
Jump over to the FORUM and share your thoughts and queries!

Want to add your rants and raves about blogging? Link them up baby!