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Our final task this week is to add some dash and pow and pizazz to our sidebars. While I prefer to avoid anything overly busy, gauche or loud, I have added some tweaks to my home page these past few days:

  • Retitled each section (or widget) in the sidebar
  • Added an image widget using a whimsical photo to indicate the end of the sidebar menu
  • Inserted the ‘blogs I follow’ widget in grid display

Assignment: Blogging 101: Spruce Up Your Sidebar

Yesterday we were tasked with posting comments on a few select blogs that we had not ever commented on before. Today, we step things up a notch by publishing a follow up post to elaborate further on either one of those original posts or our response to it.

To that end, I’ve selected The Wild Pomegranate. (What a great name for a blog!). In her post entitled Call of the Wild, Grace writes of her struggles as a single parent. Her hardships are something I was able to relate to. Pregnant and married at eighteen to my first real boyfriend, our ‘wedded bliss’ lasted only two years. Jim didn’t stick around very long after that and while ordered to pay child support, only did so for the first year following our divorce.

Money was always tight. I remember a line from the Dolly Parton movie Best Little Whorehouse in Texas where Dolly spoke of the joys of always carrying a fifty dollar bill in her purse. I could only dream of such a thing. I was fortunate to still have $5 on me come payday or any money left in my checking account, for that matter. Always broke, often overdrawn, downtrodden, alone, depressed and envious of the lifestyle and ‘good life’ that I saw everyone else in my world enjoying – my friends, sisters and co-workers – I often threw caution to the wind and indulged in new clothes, shoes, partying and fun. It was a vicious cycle. Lines of credit extended at favorite shopping haunts and Visa and Master Card were definitely NOT my friends as I increasingly (and repeatedly) maxed them out. Debt begets depression which begets debt and so on and so forth. It is an ugly and gut-churning feeling, lying in bed at night wondering if the check you wrote to pay the light bill will bounce – again – or to open your mailbox to find multiple overdraft statements, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

I finally was able to break free when I decided to quit my job to go to college. Turns out I was smarter than my previous poor judgment and choices would indicate. I did quite well in school. Student loans, grants and numerous scholarships enabled me to finish first my AA degree at a local community college and then my bachelor of science degree at Iowa State University. At first, I only planned to pursue a drafting degree. Early on, however, I realized this wasn’t a good fit for me but math and programming (surprise, surprise – I avoided math courses of any kind in high school) were subjects in which I was quite proficient.

Quitting my job to go to college was the best decision I’ve ever made. Many struggles and hardships led to this choice and because of these and other difficulties I endured in my twenties and early thirties, I have a great appreciation for what I have – and where I am – today.

Assignment: Blogging 101: Be Inspired by the Neighbors

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For today’s assignment, we were encouraged to post a comment on at least four blogs we’ve never commented on before. I’m going to cut corners, however, and focus on just three. Discovering new blogs and bloggers is something I look forward to: finding amazing new writing and incredible photography is something I greatly enjoy and has the potential of introducing one to wonderful new friends. Our Readers open many new doors!

On The Wild Pomegranate, Grace wrote of her struggles as a single mother and her desire to live the lifestyle of her more affluent friends and provide the same kind of things and activities for her children that other ‘stay-at-home’ mothers, in my opinion, sometimes take for granted. Much of what she wrote resonated with me because I was a single mom, struggling to make ends meet, until my son started college. I yearned to live as many of my friends did: the clothes, the shoes, going out and having fun. But doing these things created more problems than they were worth. I was in debt much of the time and worried constantly how I was going to make it all work out. Her post reminded me of that time of my life and I very much understood the angst that propelled her writing.

I was all smiles reading a post on Midwestern Kitchen. Julie works in a nursing home and while taking down the Christmas decorations, she decided to leave one of the trees in place and covered it in red lights and ribbon. As the residents came in for breakfast that morning, she dimmed the lights and played romantic music in the background. She promised the residents more to come as Valentines Day approaches. What a thoughtful, lovely gesture!

Some really great food photography tips can be found on a blog that streamed across my Reader feed called The Pinay Va. Food isn’t something I normally think to photograph (other than to capture meals on some of our vacations!) but the ideas and tips are sure to stoke my creative ‘juices’. I tried making ciabatta bread a few years ago (it turned out great!) and I took photos of the process from start to finish. The pictures weren’t too bad but I’m anxious to give it another try, armed with April’s fantastic recommendations.

Assignment: Blogging 101: Be a Good Neighbor

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Today’s assignment actually answered one of the customization questions I’ve been puzzling over as of late.

Background: I purchased the Promenade theme several months ago and was happy with the look. The top of my home page displayed a banner with a selected photo squarely in the middle. Two weeks ago, my blog started to display with the photo blown up to huge proportions. No more banner — it was all photo. So much photo, in fact, that you had to scroll down to get to the content of my home page: the posts, sidebar menu items, etc.

One of my blogging buddies suggested I navigate to the Appearance / Header menu item in my Dashboard but no such animal existed. Turns out, as I learned via the information in this assignment, only certain themes support making modifications to the header. Apparently, Promenade is not one of those themes.

I did post a question to the WordPress forum regarding the change in size of my header photo and was told that the developers had recently made a change to the theme. Aha! I knew something must have happened since I had made no customization changes whatsoever. Now, however, I’m told to just use a thumbnail size of the photo I wish to use.

Can someone explain how I go about doing this? I know how to insert a thumbnail (or other) size photo into a post since the interface clearly gives you the option to do so. But to take an existing photo and change to thumbnail or any other size? Not a clue. Fellow Bloggers: Can someone help me out here? Disclaimer: I did insert a smaller-dimensioned photo into my header, for the time being, that was already in my Media library but it isn’t the one I want to use and besides, knowing how to convert to larger (or smaller) sized photos might be useful later on.

Oh!  And I also added an Image widget toward the bottom of the home page.  All kinds of fun stuff going on here!

Keep on bloggin’ everyone!

Assignment: Blogging 101: Keep Personalizing

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Today’s assignment urges us to create or tweak our blog’s About page since this is where many new visitors to one’s blog are most likely to turn to. We, as readers, want to get a quick snapshot as to what a blogger is all about, what makes them tick and what might be in store for us should we decide to explore further.

And so, here it is.

Everything You Might Ever Have Wanted to Know About Me (But Were Afraid to Ask)

We were also asked to adapt our About page to a Widget. I’ve opted, instead, to assign shiny new titles to existing sections on my home page. Feel free to poke around and check out some of the changes I’ve made. These Widget thingys are kind of new to me so I had fun with this!

Assignment: Blogging 101: Make Your ‘About’ Page Irresistible

Since I became a member of the WordPress community of bloggers in June 2014, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with a variety of themes.  A few that have graced the contours of my blog over time have included: Sorbet, Fictive and some that apparently are no longer available.  Or rather, I should say, I don’t recognize any other themes that I’ve played with among the vast number of themes that are currently available, either gratis or for purchase.

A few months back I bought the Promenade theme, and after playing around a bit with the background colors, I finally landed on the current warm, coral tone to which I’m so often drawn. While I may continue to tweak things, I’m happy with the results.

Until now. Until this assignment! There are so many other interesting, quirky, wonderful themes – more than I remember. So many more to choose from. Sigh. For now, though, I’ll stay with what I have. Perhaps sometime later, after I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth, I’ll switch to another theme.

It’s kind of like decorating your home. It’s where you live, where you spend much of your time. It makes sense – to me anyway – to feel comfy and warm and to feel, well, at home when you’re working on (and playing with!) your blog.

So.  Have fun with it.  Start decorating!

Assignment: Blogging 101: Love Your Theme