Monday, November 26, 2012

Starting a blog: tips and hints

I Love You Blogs and Coffee Print (ESPRESSO) (8X10)
I got an email the other day asking for any tips and hints regarding starting a blog and after writing quite a lot back I thought there might be more of you out there that are thinking of starting your own blog- maybe a 2013 plan?  So here are some ideas and tips for you..

1. Getting started- I signed up to Blogger when I started my blog because most of the blogs I was reading were a 'blogspot' blog. I found it really easy to set up and add all the 'gadgets' down the side of my blog and can't think of any times where I've had a major problem with it i.e: publishing issues or layout issues. Other popular blog platforms are Wordpress and Typepad. Check out Little Minx to see a wordpress blog and Tiny Happy to see a Typepad blog.  Think about a name for your blog and check that it is available on your chosen blogging platform as well as on Facebook/twitter/gmail account etc (I  changed my name after a few months which wasn't ideal!)

2. Think about why you want to start a blog-  are you someone who has lots of cool ideas (could be craft, cooking, eco living, 'fun with pre-schoolers' ideas etc) or sees lots of cool things online you want to share? Maybe you want to use your blog to connect with other like minded people (blogging is GREAT for this!) Is it the beginning of a new path for you (e.g: maybe you are wanting to switch to a creative career or study like starting art school so you're starting an art blog to refine your style and share inspiration) or will your blog be a place to share things you sell or are planning to sell (Felt.co.nz or Etsy.com are two websites where you can sell your homemade creations but it's always good to have a blog for people to find out about you and your products.

3. Join in the blogging community by...
-reading, following and commenting on blogs you love
-if you're a kiwi mum join in with Kiwi Mummy Blogs
-linking to favourite blogs or specific blog posts in your own blog posts eg: if you make something inspired by someone else's blog post always link back to the original blog post. (If you make something inspired by a pin on pinterest it's nice to make the effort to find where the pin came from and link back to that blog post rather than the pin- just a bit of pin/blogging etiquette ;)
-join in swaps- I love blog swaps and have joined in quite a few over the years. My favourite is the Kiwi Christmas Ornament Swap hosted by 'Sew Funky' each year.  Some swaps are just one off's so keep your eyes out for swaps on the blogs you read - there's usually a button (a bloggy name for a picture down the side of a blog) linking to the swap.
-Join in 'Linky's or 'Meme's'- these are another bloggy word for themed blog posts with space underneath for other bloggers to add a link to their blog and are a great way to get people to find your blog and find other blogs too. Over the years I have joined in with these linky's...

My Creative Space- share your creations on a Thursday over at Village Voices in Kidspot -here is the latest one for you to check out. To join in you just copy and paste the URL of your blog post to the linky list.  This is really popular and a fab way to find other blogs and share your own crafty projects.
Things I'm Loving- Meghan from MnM's runs this one now (it was started by Kristy of Paisley Jade) -  you write a blog post of some things you are loving and share the URL on Meghann's blog every Friday- here is the latest one
Wardrobe Wednesday- a fun way to share what you're wearing on a Wednesday originally started by Clare of Greenvalley Crafts- it's a fun way to make a bit of an effort with your outfit that day- lots more info on Miriam's blog here if you'd like to read more or join up
Flea Market Finds- Loads of bloggers love sharing their latest flea market/ op shop/ vintage finds on Sophie's blog each week - check it out here

4. Get connected with Social Media
-get a Facebook page for your blog- this is such a great way to link to your blog posts especially for people that read your blog but aren't bloggers themselves. Check out my mousehouse facebook page here for the sorts of things I share on my page. 
-join pinterest- a great way to connect with other bloggers and get ideas for your own blog! (Here's my pinterest page http://pinterest.com/megsmousehouse)
-join Twitter (I've joined but don't actually use it much at all but others love it for the connections and the chat!)

5. Other tips/hints
-host a giveaway- after a few months of blogging you may want to host a giveaway- this is a great way to attract readers to your blog (it is also a lot of fun gathering up what you want to giveaway!) Joining in with the twice yearly Sew Mama Sew giveaway always brings lots of readers to your blog and is a great way to find new blogs as well!
-take great photo's- I am obsessive with my photo's and take heaps before getting the right one! And even though it's hard when you have kids to take good photo's in the daytime I'd recommend trying to over night time photo's as the light and the flash is not that flattering to your lovely creations!
-write a tutorial for a crafty project you have come up with- these are always popular- you can check out some of mine here
-I'm not going to say anything about exactly how to write a blog, how much to share and what to share as it's each to their own really- some people share a lot about their family life and photo's of their children, others share only crafty projects, some share only things they have found on the net or on pinterest so it's just up to you to decide how and what you want to share!
-make up a great header for your blog- the picture/title at the top- you could just take a photo, use text or use picmonkey to create one
-remember don't be put off by all the blogs out there- everyone has something different/unique to share and it's all about connecting with others as much as becoming a popular blog. I like this quote for inspiration...

If you have any more ideas regarding linky's to join in with, blogging tips and hints, other social media to use or anything else would love to hear of them!

Megan x

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Christmas advent bunting

Well I've finally finished it..my pocket advent bunting all ready for Christmas! If you follow my mousehouse page on Facebook you'll have seen a few pics already of the process, and some details of where I got the numbers and fabric but I'll share again on here for any of you that haven't seen my FB posts.
I got the idea to make advent bunting after seeing this gorgeous bunting on pinterest made by the very clever Jooles of Sew Sweet Violet. I'd already bought the screenprinted numbers over a year ago from Maze and Vale  (which you just cut out and applique on to your chosen fabric) but I was still thinking of how I was going to make the calendar- there are a lot of great ideas out there! Once I saw the pocket bunting idea though I knew it would be a great project as I love bunting and it wouldn't take too long to make compared to some of the beautiful but more time consuming pocket quilt style advent calendars I've seen.
For the white fabric I used 'cotton duck' in off white- I love this fabric and used it for the christmas stockings I made a few years ago (here and here) as well- it's quite a heavy fabric, has a linen look and also looks quite 'vintagy' so works really well for lots of projects. (I buy it from Bernina here in Tauranga- I think it is about $14 a metre). For the back of the pockets I used fabrics from the Riley Blake 'Santa's Workshop' collection- I bought them from Bernina and Sew Pretty  plus the aqua spot fabric from Spotlight. You can also find the range on Etsy. I used bias binding to join all the pockets together. I'm really happy with how it's turned out, especially the colours of all the fabrics together- it looks Christmassy but still bright and fun as well which suits our summer Christmas here in NZ.
I think I'm going to do something similar to what Vanessa wrote on my Facebook page about her advent calendar last year...she put notes in each pocket with things like "tomorrow we can bake gingerbread cookies" or "we will go and see the Christmas lights tomorrow night" or "you can stay up an hour later tonight to watch a Santa DVD" and then put a chocolate Santa or a candy cane every third day or so. Lots of great idea thanks Vanessa- I like the idea of mixing activities with treats! Here are some more ideas below…

I also loved Claire's idea on my FB page- she put notes in some of her advent pockets saying things like "Look in the washing basket" or she wrote clues to put in the pockets and they had to guess where she hid the treats!

Here is my list of Christmassy things I would like to do most years (time and energy willing!!) They are in no particular order and I doubt I'll get them all done but it'll be good to have a list here for ideas...

1. Unwrap some new summer PJ's- one year I might actually make these but for now I'll be buying them
2. Read a Christmas story (every year I want to buy a new Christmas book for each kiddo- this year I bought Mog's Christmas for Amelie, The Lighthouse Keeper's Christmas for Jack (both $11 on Fishpond with free delivery FYI) and Dora's Starry Christmas  for Stella my little Dora fan :)
3. Go to the Christmas tree farm and pick out a Christmas tree www.christmastreefarm.co.nz
4. Hang the Christmas wreath and stockings and other decorations around the house
5. Decorate the Christmas tree
6. In one pocket I'll put 3 Christmas decorations with a note to hang them on the tree (I like the idea of making or buying a special Christmas decoration each year so they'll have a nice little collection by the time they have their own tree's!)

7. Go berry picking- list of places in NZ here...http://good.net.nz/blog/rebekah-white/pick-your-own
8. Write a letter to Santa
9. Watch Santa's message on http://www.portablenorthpole.com/home  
10. Make/write Christmas cards
11. Do some Christmas baking (gingerbread, shortbread...lots of ideas on pinterest)
12. Do some Christmas drawing and crafting ( a few years ago I made a little craft kit with stickers, red and green card, crayons and some other bits and pieces from Dollar value so will try and do this again for Amelie and Stella). 
There are also lots of christmas activity books like this one from Book Depository or FishPond so I might get one of them ...
Christmas Pocket Doodling and Colouring Book
or I'll find some Christmas colouring in pages and other simple kids craft ideas online  (like this one I made a few years ago with Stella http://domesticblissnz.blogspot.co.nz/2010/12/diy-kids-art-for-christmas.html
13. Take a parcel of food to the local Foodbank and donate some old toys to an Op Shop
14. Go for a drive to see the Christmas lights-luckily there were quite a few houses that got into it last year in our neighbourhood! 
15. Decorate a gingerbread house- I like the look of this one from Ezibuy as I can't imagine ever making my own gingerbread pieces!
16. Go to a Carols by Candlight performance (I think Te Puna Quarry here in Tauranga had one last year but the kids were a bit young..maybe this year we will give it a go)
17. Go to a Christmas church service that tells the Christmas story so the kids learn something about the meaning/history behind Christmas
18. Watch a Christmas movie (hoping to get a Muppets Christmas movie like 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' this year to watch among others like The Polar Express, How the Grinch stole Christmas, Santa Claus, A Charlie Brown Christmas...if you have a favourite Christmas movie would love to hear! More ideas here
19. Buy some Christmas lilies.
20. Make up a lolly jar of red/ green/ christmas themed lollies.
21. Make a christmas pillowcase with pocket
22. Have a kids christmas morning tea or lunch
23. Have Christmas drinks and nibbles (Christmas eve if here)
24. Have an adults 'end of year' dinner out
25. Elf on the Shelf- buy this year
26. Buy a new candle for the mantelpiece- christmassy scent...
27. Make some reindeer food using oats and glitter + carrots- put out letter, cookies and milk for Santa (jingle bells, chewed up carrot, note from Santa next morning)
28 New toothbrushes
29. Get a new christmas outfit and take a photo underneath the Christmas tree (christmas cards)
30. Decorate the dollshouse for Christmas
31. Go to a Santa parade

Phew this has turned into a very big blog post, no wonder its taken me about a week to finish it! If you want any more advent ideas if you are wanting to make your own one check out my Christmas pinterest board or search Etsy to buy a handmade one- there are thousands of beautiful ones on there!

And a big thanks to Jooles of Sew Sweet Violet for the fab idea to make advent pocket bunting- check out her store as she makes some really lovely things. 

Please share any photo's of your DIY advent calendar or ideas on my Facebook page- would love to see them!

Megan x

PS: The winner of the edible ink pen from my Muppets blog post is comment number 4- CC of Sevendog blog. Please email me your address to megan (at) mouse house dot co dot nz and I'll send the pen out to you :)

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