Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why You Need a Blogging Community!

This is a completely impromptu post, but after a big bloggy mess yesterday, I decided to talk about why community is so important when you are a blogger.

While the girls ate their breakfast yesterday, I sat down to check my email and go through my Blog Roll for a couple of quick reads. As usual, I deleted a bunch of random messages and clicked over to my blog to see which blogs on my Blog Roll had new posts. I was met with a huge, giant, and completely unpleasant surprise! 

A giant, pop-up warning blared in my face, and to make matters worse, I wasn't the only one seeing it. Several blogging friends and readers sent me emails and FB messages letting me know they couldn't view my blog because of the pop-up message.

I took a calm sip of my coffee and decided to check in on the matter later in the week. Uh huh. Yeah right. No, I completely freaked out. As fast as my little fingers could type, I high-tailed it over to a FB networking group for bloggers that I'm a part of. I asked for some feedback there and bloggers were quick to offer to take a look at the site for me and offer me some advice.

As I sat, worried that maybe my blog would blow up, and no readers or sponsors would ever want to click over again to my site, I remembered that my friend Gina from The Shabby Creek Cottage experienced something similar awhile back. 

I figured that Gina would be way too busy to get back to me since she runs a very successful blog and Etsy Shop. But I took a long-shot and sent her a desperate email to see if she might have some advice for me. Lucky for me, Gina happened to be checking her email and saw mine come through. After talking me down from the ledge, she directed me to a post she wrote about what to do if your blog has a malware warning pop up. I confirmed with the Blogger Help Forum, but basically the pop-up had nothing to do with my blog. I had linked to another site that had been hacked, and so Google flagged me too. It took some work, but I was able to get everything cleared up by deleting all the links to that site.

The moral of the story is...if you don't have a community of blogger friends, you need to find one or form one!

There's truth to the old "strength in numbers" quote. If you don't know the answers, chances are good that someone else will. It's nice to have a network of bloggers who are quick to offer support in different ways. Bloggers know how it feels to spend hours working on a project, photographing it, editing photos, writing a post, and then publishing and marketing that post. Receiving feedback, whether it's through comments, Pins, emails, ReTweets, or Facebook shares is makes you want to keep up the good work. Last but not least, I have personally learned that community can lead to opportunities, whether it's through guest posts, blog swaps, campaigns, or even job offers!

So, now that you want to be part of a community, how do you find one?

Community won't come and find you. Writing posts 5 days a week won't help. Linking up to 64 blog parties every day won't help. Tweeting your own link every hour won't help. You have to reach out and do some work to make connections. The easiest way is to comment on other blogs. I wrote a whole blog series devoted to the importance of commenting on other blogs. You may have to click around some, but eventually you'll find your own groove and establish some relationships with other like-minded bloggers. 

I'm not sure what I would have done yesterday if I didn't have a great group of blog ladies to bounce ideas off of. I probably would have just posted in the Blogger Help Forum and yelled at the screen until someone eventually came by to answer me. That sweet Gina would take the time to personally address my dilemma speaks volumes for the type of person she is. The "Ginas" are the people you want to befriend when you are blog surfing...talented, professional, and friendly...but above all, kind.

So...this was not exactly what I had planned on posting this week, but I felt like it was important for other bloggers to read. Some of you may experience problems with those awful pop-ups and need a fix, and some of you might be new to blogging and need some direction. 

Do you have a network of blogging friends to interact with?

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Girls' Night Out Idea: Swap Night!

Swap Night was one of the easiest events that my friend Christy and I have planned this year for our MOPS group. There are all kinds of swaps you can organize: Clothes, Accessories, Kids' Toys, Craft Supplies, etc. We chose to put together a swap for recipes and had a separate room set up for magazines and books.

As I mentioned in my recent post for How to Host a Chick Flick Night at Home, getting your invites out early enough is crucial for giving friends time to plan. If your guest list is small, you could print up some cute little invitation cards to fit the theme of your swap (maybe a purse for accessories, a cute dress, or even a make a bookmark for a book swap). If you're inviting a large number of people, Evite is a great option...especially because people forget to check their Facebook messages or don't have the email option set up. 

Be sure you are very clear about the swap part. I'd hate for a friend to show up and feel out of place because she didn't know about the swap!

Christy hosted this one, and we opted to set up the food on the kitchen island, as we had a small group this time. Drinks went on the counter, and we used her spacious living room to eat and chat. Her husband thoughtfully turned the TV to the all-music channel for was actually a great conversation starter!

We put a little spin on our recipe swap and had a competition! We gave each dish a "place card" with the recipe title on it and let the moms vote on their favorite dish. The winner took home a gift bag with a cookbook, kitchen hand towels, fun spatulas, and Valentine-themed sprinkles.

I didn't win, but I shared an amazing chocolate chip cookie pie recipe that I found online. I added a few "wow" ingredients...hope to share it here soon!

You could limit recipes to desserts or appetizers (or both), but we decided that any dish would be fine, provided it was homemade and not a bag of Doritos.

Planned activities and classes are fun, but Christy and I have learned after a year of planning events that most of the moms really just want a chance to relax and TALK. So we did plenty of that...over plates of delicious food. My meal was mostly desserts, but that's okay. Right? Right?!

We recommend having guests email their recipes before the event. Christy planned on typing up a recipe booklet for each attendee as a "thank you" favor!

Let's not forget the other fun part of the night...the book/magazine swap. I know I'm not the only girl out there with piles of old magazines. I dug through mine and hauled a few bags with me, along with a couple of paperbacks. We set up the "book shop" in Christy's sun room, doing our best to separate magazines and books by genre. For the lone copies of National Geographic and Smithsonian, we set up a "Smart People" section. {wink}

There are lots of ways to organizing the "shopping" portion of the evening. If you have a small group like we did that night, you can let it be a free-for-all and let the moms just take what they want. For a larger group, I'd suggest picking numbers and taking turns choosing an item. Moms who bring a book can choose another book or a magazine. Moms who brought a magazine can choose another magazine for the first round. For the second round, open it up to any item, or just let people choose what they want without taking turns.

I got a new copy of SHAPE magazine, a novel, and an old Good Housekeeping cookbook!

As much as I love the events where we get together and go shopping or come up with a themed party, casual nights where we just enjoy good conversation are just as fun!

Have you ever hosted a swap night?

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (and Printable Recipe)

I've tested out a few new meal ideas this winter, and today's recipe for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup was a hit with my family. I loved how easy it was to throw together in a pot, and the leftovers made for great lunches the rest of the week. Keep reading for the online recipe and a free printable recipe!

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
adapted from


4 cups chicken (chopped and cooked)
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
2 boxes of chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
8 ounces egg noodles

(Note: The recipe originally called for bullion, but the store didn't have any bullion (??!), so I opted for two boxes of chicken broth. I also hate chopping onions, so I just added onion flakes)


1. Saute the onion and celery in butter in a large stock pot.
2. Add the cooked chicken with the carrots, marjoram, pepper, carrots, parsley, bay leaf, and 1 box of chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add the noodles. If you used a large bag of noodles (my store only had the large bag), add more broth to make up for the extra noodles. Simmer 10 to 12 more minutes.

Tastes great served with a side of crusty French bread!

Here's a free printable recipe!
Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe Serenity Now Blog

I included extras so you can pass them along to friends. Enjoy!

Linking to Home Stories A to ZTasty TuesdayPositively Splendid

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

More Highlighted Links--Share Your Best Post!

Good morning, friends! If you're here to link up to Weekend Bloggy Reading, it's open for new links until 10 pm (ET) tonight. Please share your best post of the week with us...crafts, recipes, home decor, book reviews--all kinds of posts are welcome. And don't forget to stop by the Cutting Edge Stencils Giveaway!

I like to Feature bloggers who not only have great projects, but who also take the time to  link back to me within their post(s). I add many of these Features to my Pinterest page as well as Facebook, so there's some extra incentive to add a link back to this party.

Here are a few links from Weekend Bloggy Reading that caught my eye!

*Pinterest users, please Pin from the original sources listed below so that each blogger gets credit for his/her own work!*

~Big Boy Room Reveal via Mrs. B's Hive

~10 Ways to Freshen Your Home for Spring via Flair for Home

~How to Clean Makeup Brushes via Double the Decor

~Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins via The Kitchen is My Playground

~Sunny Entryway via Harbour Breeze

~How to Install a Light Fixture via Sand and Sisal

~Minnie Mouse Birthday Party via Uncommon

~Garlic Biscuit Bites via Ramblings from the Sunshine State

~Time Management via The Scott's Crib

~Chore Boards via Cottage in the Oaks

*It's BOTB Day over at Centsational Girl! Run, walk, or click over now to see what Kate and I rounded up for this week's installment of The Best of the Blogosphere.*

Did I feature you here today? If the answer is "yes," feel free to grab this button for your sidebar!
Featured At Serenity Now

How are you spending today? Enjoy your Sunday! 

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Highlighted Weekend Links-- Share Your Best Post!

Happy Saturday! Are you enjoying your weekend? Please pop in to link up YOUR best post of the week at my Weekend Bloggy Reading party. And don't forget to enter the Cutting Edge Stencils Giveaway.

All kinds of posts are welcome here: We have recipes, home remedies, room makeovers, crafts, fashion advice, book reviews, and more! The code for the button is near the end of this post.

There are a lot of fabulous posts this weekend...I have more to share tomorrow! If you haven't yet, please be sure to visit some of the other links from the party and say a quick howdy to those who have taken the time to visit you. I'd also really appreciate it if you'd take the time to add a direct link back to me within your post(s)...I like to return the favor by Featuring the bloggers who follow through with good blogging etiquette!

Keep reading to see just a few of the posts that caught my eye so far.

***PLEASE, If you are a Pinterest user, Pin from the original source so that each blogger gets credit for his/her work.***

~West Elm-Inspired Pendant Light via Just So Lovely

~Boy's Closet Nook via Visual Meringue

~Barbecue Chicken Pizza via Itsy Bitsy Paper

~10 Minute Flower Pins via The Frugal Homemaker

~Booze Buffet via House TalkN (please invite me next time)

~How to Coupon and Keep Your Sanity via Living Laughing and Loving

~Rake Scarf Holder via Living. On. Purpose

Okay...I'm out of time for today, but I'll have a whole new list of links to share for tomorrow!

So, what did you have up your sleeve this week? Come by and share it with us here! Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers' work too. Here's the button in case you'd rather use that than a text link back.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

I'm working at commenting as well as balancing my family and fun time this weekend...thanks for your patience! More Features coming tomorrow!

If I've featured you, feel free to snag this button for your blog:
Featured At Serenity Now

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Friday, February 24, 2012

::Weekend Bloggy Reading:: Link Up!

Welcome to Weekend Bloggy Reading. I hope you'll link up your best post of the week today, and maybe leave me some comment love! Please be sure to read my guidelines before you add a link! I also have a fantastic Cutting Edge Stencils (wall stencil) Giveaway going on! (Joining this party and adding a link back to me within your post earns you an extra entry!)

All kinds of posts are welcome--recipes, crafts, funny stories, home decor, etc.; but please do not link to Etsy shops, businesses, items for sale, etc. (I have a Sponsors section, if you'd like to Advertise with me.)

Here are a few of my faves from this week:

sources listed below

~Master Bathroom Makeover via 320 Sycamore

~DIY Camera Bag via My Serendipitous Life

~Secret Ingredient to a Great Blog via Miss Mustard Seed (Brilliant advice!)

~Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie via My Blessed Life

~The Lazy Gal's Guide to Seasonal Wreaths via the handmade home

~Modern Pet Crate Coffee Table via (think my kids would go in there?) {wink}

~And Me? This week featured:

Time to link up your best post of the week!

  • Link back to me within your post. I will not feature your link if you don't link back to me.*
  • No items for sale, shops, etc. and please don't link up the same post week after week. 
  • Remember this party is for your best post of the week. Don't link up 10 posts...that's really not in the spirit of this party.
  • Please visit some of the other links--that's how a good blog party works--participation!
*A text link-back (ex- Linking to Serenity Now) is fantastic, but here's the button code if you'd prefer to use that rather than a text link-back:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

Party is open until 10 pm (ET) on Sunday night.

What are you up to this weekend?

I hope to be back tomorrow with some highlights from Weekend Bloggy Reading!

(This Code is for blogs that I featured today!):
Featured At Serenity Now

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cutting Edge Stencil Giveaway ($50 value!)

I've been so excited for today's Giveaway from Cutting Edge Stencils! One lucky winner will receive his or her choice of any one reusable wall stencil, up to a $50 value! Keep reading to learn a little more about stenciling and to get details for the Giveaway entry.

If you read Home/DIY blogs, you know by now that a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to update a room. Wallpaper is also making a huge comeback, but it can be pricey and very very time-consuming to to apply. The best way to merge the idea of a freshly painted room with patterned walls is with stencils!

The idea of stenciling may conjure up bad memories of 1980s sponge painting, pastel geese, and awful faux finishes, but I have good news. Stencils have come a long way, and Cutting Edge Stencils has a site full of updated, modern patterns that will not only fit your style...but will also fit your budget!

I love that the site shows examples of the stencils "in action," rather than just showing us the pattern.

Here are just a few of my favorites:



-Kids' Room and Nursery Stencils

The neatest part about Cutting Edge Stencils is that they provide plenty of how-tos...they even have a YouTube Channel stocked with stenciling tutorials! Here's a great beginner video if you're considering stenciling one of your own walls:

Want to win your choice of a Cutting Edge Stencil, valued up to $50?* 

Here's how you can enter (Please leave a separate comment for each entry)
1. Visit the Cutting Edge Stencils shop and leave me a comment here with the name of your favorite stencil pattern
-For Extra Entries-
2. "Like" Cutting Edge Stencils on Facebook.
3. Follow Serenity Now on Google Friend Connect/GFC (so your cute face shows up in that box on my sidebar!) or let me know if you already do.
4. Facebook this Giveaway with a link to this post.
5. Tweet this Giveaway: Cutting Edge Stencil #Giveaway via @SerenityNowGirl! Win a stencil of your choice! @CEStencils
6. Join my Weekend Bloggy Reading link party this weekend, and include a link back to me within your post (only posts with link-backs will be eligible to win). 

*Giveaway will be open until 10 pm ET on Sunday, February 26, 2012. Open to U.S. Residents only. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Cutting Edge Stencils provided me with a stencil to review.  Opinions are, as always, my own.

I hope you'll come back tomorrow to link up YOUR best post of the week to Weekend Bloggy Reading. Recipes, crafts, home decor, book reviews, funny stories, you name it. Come prepared to showcase your blog and find some great weekend reads.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

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