Friday, September 23, 2011

Gospel Of Blogging - According To Amber

Can I start today's post by saying - HAPPY FRIDAY!!! Whew...I feel like I've been waiting on this day all week. I'm very much looking forward to relaxing and watching football this weekend. I also have plans (fingers crossed) to clean my mess of a house - but we shall see how much success I have.

As promised, I thought I would share a few more tips that I have found useful in my experience as a blogger. Again, these are my personal opinions and I am sure many bloggers would disagree - this isn't the Gospel of Blogging - just the Gospel of Blogging According to Amber.

Choose pictures carefully.
I think this is a sensitive subject. Some bloggers post 10+ pictures a day. Other bloggers rarely post pictures at all. I try to land somewhere in the middle. If I am writing a post about a particular event, I will include a few pictures of the event. If I am writing a post about a product that I love, I will include a picture of the product and possibly a link to the product. However, there are many days that I do not include pictures at all. It's important to keep your readers engaged visually and to keep your blog appealing to the eye - so fun pictures & cute artwork are definitely a positive. I believe it's better to use your own pictures rather than "borrowed" pictures from other sites. When I stumble across a blog that is 80% motivational pictures from WeHeartIt or nothing but fashion shots from Vogue, Elle, etc., I move on. I need more content than that. Like I said yesterday, most people want to see your real life - not what you wish your life was.

Shake things up a bit.
Try to write varied posts each week. Product reviews are great. Sharing recipes - awesome. Tips on budgeting and couponing are extremely helpful. Hysterical stories about mishaps as a newlywed, new mommy or career woman are always a plus. But writing about the same thing every day can make you and your blog somewhat predictable and people may be less likely to visit you every day. There are a few blogs that I love for fashion do's & don'ts, recipes & budgeting tips. But I only visit them when I want advice on fashion, food & budgeting - because I know that is all that I will find.

Take advantage of social media.
Twitter people! Twitter - Twitter - Twitter! Many women who blog - also tweet. And we tweet to each other - all day long. :) Developing those friendships outside of the blogland creates a true interest in your life among your readers. Sharing links to your blog on Twitter and Facebook is also a great way to draw new people to your blog. I've also found that many bloggers will actually share a link to your blog on their Twitter page - which draws their own followers to your blog. I'm telling you - if you want to get the word about your little old blog - then tweet it.

Be a considerate member of the blogging community.
This is a pet peeve of mine. If you want others to read and comment on your blog - then do the same. I know that life gets busy - hello I took a 6 month sabbatical! But make time to keep up with other bloggers. If you see that new readers are visiting your blog and leaving comments, be courteous and do the same to them. I am not saying that you have to visit every single person who comes to your blog. That's not possible. I'm also not saying that have to follow everyone who follows your blog. I'm just saying that if you see a blogger visiting your site time after time and genuinely enjoying what you have to say - then at least make the effort to do the same. If you visit their blog and truly don't like what you see - no harm no foul. You certainly don't have to love everyone - but you can at least try.

Live your life.
This is probably the biggest struggle I have as a blogger. Balance. I swear to you I could spend hours a day blogging. I could visit 100+ blogs a day and leave comments. And when I do spend a great deal of time visiting other blogs and commenting on other blogs - that is when I see the most traffic to my blog. It's like a drug. I love sharing with other bloggers and I want them to share with me. But I work full time. I have a husband who would like to eat dinner with me every night. I go to church and help out with our youth group. It's difficult to devote hours upon hours to blogging. This is the main reason that I took a 6 month break recently - I just became too wrapped up in blogging. I felt guilty if I couldn't comment on every one's blog. I felt bad if I didn't respond to the 50+ emails I got a day. So I just quit blogging completely. That obviously wasn't the answer. The answer is balance. If you need to take a day or two off to focus on things at home or work - do it. You will be missed. If you can't respond to every email or visit all your favorite blogs each day - it's okay. Catch up when you can. Most active bloggers share the same time restrictions that you have and they will understand. Like I said - it's all about being a considerate member of this community.

Okay - I think I have shared enough for now. I hope this helps to all of you who are trying to get your blog up and running. Thanks for following along with me. And if you're thinking about joining Twitter - feel free to find me HERE.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Write About What You Know

During my blogging vacation which may or may not have been induced by a quarter life crisis, I received many emails from new readers and new bloggers asking for tips and suggestions regarding creating a successful blog. First I would like to apologize for not responding to many of you. I really do believe in sharing insights and helping other bloggers and it was incredibly rude of me not to return emails to those of you who asked for my help. With that being said, I figured it might be time to do my first ever post about creating a successful blog.

I have seen countless posts regarding the do's and don'ts of blogging. Everyone has their own opinions and the truth is - you ultimately have to find what works for you and your audience. But if there is one thing that I have learned to be of the absolute highest importance it would be this.....

Write about what you know.

When I first started blogging I wanted to be this super chic, fabulous, classy blogger. I wanted to write about fashion, grand adventures and ultra hot topics. In essence, I wanted to be a modern day Carrie Bradshaw. I wrote for posts for months and months with very little success and gained very few followers. I was so frustrated until I realized something very important. My knowledge of fashion is limited. Although I love to travel, my time and budget restrictions don't exactly allow for the grand adventures I want to write about. Most importantly - I am nothing like Carrie Bradshaw!

So I began writing posts about what I know. Essentially, I began blogging about my life as a newlywed. I wrote about my adventures learning to cook and taking care of my mischievous puppies. I wrote about my struggles with my weight and trying to development a positive body image. I wrote about the every day moments of my life: funny, sad, exciting, boring - all of it. And it worked. Suddenly people were commenting on my stories. People wanted to hear more and they began to follow.

The truth is - people can tell when you are being fake. Most bloggers are bombarded with fake every day - fake TV, fake celebrities, fake hair, fake friends, fake romance. Fake. Fake. Fake. People want to read real, true writing.

There is *nothing* more annoying to me than a blogger who always writes about rainbows and sunshine. The last thing I want to do is read a blog where everything is perfect every single day. If you have time to make the bed every morning, cook breakfast, lunch and dinner and keep a perfectly clean house all while looking fabulous, getting in a workout every day and having sex 5+ times a week with your smoking hot husband who brings you flowers every night - then I really don't like you. Chances are you are lying, and if you aren't lying then you are rude for making the rest of us real people feel bad about ourselves.

My life is messy. Being married is work. Creating a successful career is stressful. Balancing friendships and relationships can be complicated. Dinners get burned, pantyhose get torn and sometimes you fall down and bust your butt in front of everyone in your office. Such is life.

So my suggestion to those of you who are creating a blog or trying to revamp your blog is really quite simple. Ask yourself, "Who am I?" Take a long hard look at your life and determine what you should write about it. If you truly are a fashionista who knows all things trendy and fabulous - then write about fabulous trends. If you are a young mother struggling through dirty diapers and sleepless nights, write about the joys of your experience as a new mom. If you are in college dating tons of guys and living it up - write about those crazy nights on the road to becoming an adult. Whatever stage of life you are in - write about it. Write the good, the bad and the ugly.

Because people can identify with truth. If you can get readers to relate to you, then you will get them to come back time and time again. You will be surprised at the true friendships you will develop with bloggers across the world as you share real pieces of yourself with this community. It really is easy.....just be yourself!

Tomorrow I will share a few more obvious, cosmetic tips that I have found useful for those of you who have asked specifics. But I really do believe the key to any successful blog is finding your voice and personality as a writer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fight Gone Bad

So even though I am a useless Crossfitter these days (thanks a lot stupid knee) - my husband is still going strong. This past weekend, Steven along with 16,000 Crossfit athletes across the country participated in the annual Fight Gone Bad competition to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project. Over $1M was raised for the foundation.

Although I was bummed not to be able to participate, it was such a blast watching Steven and many members of Crossfit Charlotte kill it for such a good cause.

There is something super hot about watching a man sweat......

Warmed up and ready to go.

Great form on the push press.

Elbows high for the Sumo Deadlift Highpull.

Steven and I have finally convinced one of our closest friends Jim to join Crossfit and after just one week of WODs - Jim participated in Fight Gone Bad and killed it!  Great job buddy!

Jim laid out after giving it his all - and me enjoying a pumpkin spice beer.  Something wrong with this picture??  :)

Congrats to all the Crossfit athletes who competed and raised money for this amazing charity.  Just another one of the many reasons that being a Crossfitter is about so much more than just throwing down at the box each day.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To Baby Or Not To Baby

Is it just me, or is everybody pregnant these days? Maybe it's just my neck of the woods - all my friends and family. But I kid you not, I counted and fifteen of my friends and family are pregnant. I'm not talking about people that I sort of know. I'm talking about people I actually keep in touch with and know personally. I feel as though every time I turn around another friend is announcing her pregnancy.

And with my recent "comeback" I have been shocked at the number of tweets & emails I have received inquiring if I was pregnant.  Apparently many of you thought I took a little vacay from blogging due to an unannounced pregnancy.  Well I hate to disappoint you ladies - but this is not the case!

Steven and I have been married for over three years now. We were the first of all of our friends to get married. When we were engaged my girlfriends joked with my that I would start "popping out babies" immediately. I swore to all of them that I might have been the first to get married - but I would be one of the last to get pregnant. Turns out that is true. Most of my friends who are pregnant got married after me and they have beat me to it.

As you can imagine, this has lead my over analytical, type A, freak-out-about-everything self right into a tail spin. Over the past two months figuring out every detail of my soon-to-be pregnancy was of utmost important. I found myself googling words like Egg White Cervical Mucus & figuring out what an OPK was. I determined what month I want the baby to be born and calculated what month that meant I should conceive. And then came the horribly troubling thoughts - what if we have difficulty conceiving? What if my biological clock really is ticking and I wait too long and miss my opportunity to have a baby? What if I've waited too long and I am no longer able to get pregnant.

Why did I torture myself with all this panic & worry? I have no idea!

Before I found out everyone else was getting pregnant I didn't feel any deep urge to get pregnant. Of course I want a family someday, and I've known for about a year now that "someday" is quickly approaching - but I haven't been quite ready to start trying.

But suddenly I saw babies everywhere, and I wanted a baby.

A few weeks ago after discovering another pregnancy via Facebook I burst into the living room and screamed at Steven, "OMG. SoandSo is pregnant!! EVERYONE is pregnant but me!" Steven calmly replied, "Sweetie - do you really want a baby? Is that what you are ready for? Cause if so we can have a baby." I was on the verge of tears when I replied, "I don't think so. But you know me - I just don't want to be left out." To which Steven immediately burst into hysterical laughter and said, "There she is - my crazy wife!"

Which of course - I am crazy - but that's another topic entirely.

So I've decided to put the baby topic to rest for a few months. With recent job changes and other unnamed events, it seems like we could use a few more months to catch our breath and get a few things in order. I'm not saying this means we are going to start trying soon or that we are putting baby making on hold. I'm just taking a moment to realize that starting a family shouldn't be this stressful.

I'm so blessed to have the life that I do. I have loved being a newlywed with my husband. I really cherish the years we have had together - just the two of us. I hear so many women in their 40's with kids who say they wish they had waited a few more years and really enjoyed time alone with their husbands before starting a family. I don't want to look back on life and feel like I rushed into anything.

So for the time being, I'm focusing on loving my husband. Enjoying these moments because I am starting to realize that at some point in the near future we won't have the freedom and flexibility that we have now. I'm telling the control freak in my head to take it easy and allowing the carefree Amber (yes - she does exist - even if she rarely makes an appearance) to drive for a little while.

And until I have a baby of my own, I can always love on these cuties.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Finally Here!!!!

I cannot begin to tell you how long I have waited for this day. The past two months of boring, weekday summer nights have lead me to this day. This night. The night that Prime Time television premiers the Fall TV Lineup!!!!

Can you hear the choir of angels? Can I get an Amen or Hallelujah?

I'm kind of ashamed to admit this - but I spent my lunch break last Thursday mapping out our evening TV schedule. We recently switched from DirectTv to Time Warner Cable which means that we lost all the programming on our DVR and it will need to be reset. So I spent an hour visiting NBC, ABC, Fox & CBS online to see what their fall line-up looked like and mapped out our DVR schedule. Don't judge me......

I'm not going to tell you all the shows I will be watching, because it would be a little embarrassing. But I figure, I wake up at 5:00 a.m. every morning and get my workout in before work. I work from 8-5 and have an hour long commute home. If I want to relax in front of the TV Monday-Thursday evening for a couple hours, that's my perrogative. Plus you know me, Little Miss Frugal loves some free entertainment!

I will however share a few of my favorites and a few new shows that I have high hopes for:

Grey's Anatomy

Hands down all time favorite show. I can't believe Meredith gets fired - I'm sure that won't last long because what would the hospital drama be without Meredith??

Please, please, please can they just get together??? Will Beckett remember that Castle said the L word??
Modern Family
ABC Comedy Wednesday is my favorite night of the week largely in part to this fabulous show! Congrats on all the Emmy wins last night!

Criminal Minds

JJ is back! :)

I'm also adding a few new shows to the mix:

New Girl
I love Zooey Deschanel and this new show looks hilarious.

Have you seen the promo where she says, "I don't get why guys have to wear jerseys while watching a football game. It's not like they are on the team. That would be like me dressing up as a hooker to watch SVU." Bahahaha.....

Is anyone else as excited about their shows coming back on as I am? Feel free to share your favorite shows!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Love It When My Passions Collide

So as many of my long term readers know - I'm what you might call frugal. Some might even say a penny pincher. My husband likes to call it plain cheap. Whatever way you spin it - I love saving money!

When Steven and I decided to start following Zone, I immediately thought of the cost of eating healthy. I worried that we would not be able to stay within our allotted monthly budget for groceries if our entire diet consisted of lean meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and dairy products. I had a preconceived notion that eating healthy was expensive.

I'm glad to say - I've been pleasantly surprised to find out that notion was wrong!

It has been rather easy to find cost effective healthy lunch and dinner options; however, I found myself spending majority of our grocery budget on balanced snacks.

I love Greek yogurt. It's packed with protein and offers a conservative amount of carbs. One cup around 3pm each afternoon is enough to hold me over until dinner every night. I'm especially in love with the Key Lime flavor. I swear, if I close my eyes, it's almost as if I'm eating real key lime pie. And who doesn't like to snack on key lime pie??

One tiny problem with Greek yogurt is it can be quite expensive. The average single yogurt pack runs about $1.25. Add that up over a week and you've spent $6.25 just on afternoon snacks!

Thankfully my mother turned me onto couponing. Our local grocer, Harris Teeter, doubles coupons up to $.99. About every six weeks they will triple coupons up to $.99. So I save my Greek yogurt coupons until a special comes along and when it does - I stock up on healthy snacks at a steal.

Harris Teeter is running the triple coupon special this week and they have Yoplait Greek yogurt on sale 10/$10. I had 5 coupons of "Buy 2 Get $.50 Off". I purchased 10 yogurts for $10 on the VIC special. I had 5 coupons for $.50 off which was a total of $2.50 in savings. Triple that savings and I save $7.50 in coupons! I purchased $12.50 worth of yogurt for $2.50!!! I paid $.25 a piece when the yogurt was normally $1.25 each!!!

Call me crazy - but knowing that I saved 80% makes this key lime yogurt cup taste that much better!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm Back!

It's official ladies - after many not so subtle hints from many of my followers, friends and even my husband - I've decided to come back to blogging.

For the first time in a long time I'm started to feel like myself again - and let me tell you, it's a good feeling. Now that my schedule has slowed down slightly and I've been able to catch my breath, I have the itch to get back to blogging!

I've experienced a bit of a whirlwind the past six months though. I'll spare you the drama and give you the high lights:

-Knee injury has completely derailed Crossfit efforts. After 5 months of a vicious cycle of rehab for a week then working out for a week, I've finally committed to staying off my knee and rehabbing it properly. I'm two weeks in and not seeing much improvement - but I trust that within another 4-6 weeks I will see signs of improvement and be able to return to Crossfit.

- Remember that big girl job that I was so excited about in April? Turned out to be a BIG fail. Out of respect for my friends who still work there, I won't go into any particular details. Simply put - it was not for me. After four months, I made the difficult decision to explore other career opportunities and the Lord quickly blessed me with a new path.

-I've been at my new job three weeks now and already I feel a huge weight has been lifted. The schedule is much more reasonable and I truly see opportunity for long term growth and happiness. Thank-you Lord!

-I'm finally a blonde again!!!! After 8 long and difficult months, my hair has regained it's sparkle. Although, not without a lot of damage. Lesson learned - I will never go dark again - ever.

That about sums it up. Thank-you SO much to all of you who have checked in on me over the past six months. It makes me feel so great to know that my absence has not gone unnoticed and that there are people out there (even if you are technically strangers!) who care for me and my while being.

I'm done with the pouting and poor me stories. I can't wait to jump back on the wagon and see what everyone has been up to!

Young, Fabulous, Newlywed

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