Saturday, April 30, 2011

Highlighted Weekend Links-- Share Your Best Post!

Happy Saturday! I hope you're enjoying the weekend. Please pop in to link up YOUR best post of the week at my Weekend Bloggy Reading party. Open for new links until Sunday at 10 pm (ET).

All kinds of posts are welcome: 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.

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. That's how a good blog party works--lots of participation. Otherwise we just have a bunch of stagnant links, and that's no fun for anyone!

I'm out of town today attending a family funeral, so I won't be able to highlight any posts until tomorrow. Thank you for understanding! I hope you'll take the time to link up and peruse some of the fun inspiration to be found here.

*Don't forget that there's still plenty of time to enter this week's Giveaway from Nikycole! You can also use the code SERENITYNOW for FREE shipping until Sunday night.

If you join this party and include a link back to me or my party button within your post, you'll get an automatic entry in the Giveaway!

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.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

I'll be working at commenting as well as balancing my family time later this weekend...thanks for your patience!

I'll be back tomorrow with Highlights!

Friday, April 29, 2011

::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!

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

~Melissa's ABC Wall is so fun and funky!

~I really enjoyed Gina's encouraging post on Use What You Have Living

~Katie shared what you Do and Don't Need for Gardening in a guest post at Remodeling this Life

~Madigan made an adorable Pink and White Glass Gem Bib Necklace.

~A formal living room was transformed into a Craft Room over at Beach Brights.

~If you want to learn How to Paint Furniture, Kate's post is a must-read.

~And me? This week featured:

Time to link up your best post of the week (please take the time to include a link-back or my party button and visit some of the other participants!)

Here's the button code if you'd prefer to use that rather than a link-back:
Weekend Bloggy Reading

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

Remember that blog parties work best when bloggers participate, so if you have a chance to visit a few of the other links, you might find a new friend or two!

We're heading off to the other side of Virginia today for a funeral. I'll do my best to feature some posts this weekend and visit around to make some comments, but please be patient with me. I'm not entirely certain I'll have internet access until Sunday.

What are you up to this weekend?

Hope to be back this weekend with some highlights from Weekend Bloggy Reading!

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nikycole :: Giveaway

The arrival of Spring always has me dreaming of fresh ways to accessorize my home and my outfits. One of my new sponsors is offering a Giveaway today that can help you do both!

Nikycole is an Etsy shop that features beautiful, handmade Magnetic Curtain Tie-Backs, and Fabric Flower Accessories for your hair, clothes, or bags.

If you aren't familiar with magnetic tie-backs for curtains, they are a handy thing to have around. Instead of drilling unsightly holes in your walls, you just wrap a tie back around each panel and the magnet holds it in place!
There are two magnets: one attached to the flower and the other at the end of a sheer ribbon. They blend effortlessly in with the girls' curtains pictured above, but they could also be a neat decorative accent!

Veronica opened Nikycole at the end of February and began stocking items in early March. If you take a peek at her shop, which is named after her daughter ("Nikycole" is a nickname), she already has a great variety to choose from! The tie-backs come in all sorts of patterns and colors, and Veronica also does custom orders if you have something specific in mind. She's partial to the burlap, and I have to say that those are pretty cute.

I love that if you change the look of your room and the tie backs don't "go" with the look any more, you can easily repurpose them!

Veronica had that idea in mind when she recently began adding hair accessories to the shop. Clients have their choice of headbands, hair clips, hair bow holders, or brooches.

My personal favorite is the Gray and Pink Paris Headband, which I could see doubling as an adorable brooch with a white tee and jeans!

The wonderful thing about Nikycole is that Veronica knows her customers don't each have the same tastes, which is why she is open to taking custom orders if you'd rather have an alligator clip or brooch instead of a headband.

Some other cute options:

In addition to showcasing her creations at Nikycole, Veronica also blogs at Life in the Thrifty Lane. She shares posts on crafts, recipes, Before and Afters, organizing, and couponing.

This week, Nikycole is hosting a Giveaway for one Serenity Now reader!

You can win a $20 Gift Certificate to the Nikycole shop! Veronica is also generously offering FREE shipping for my readers (domestic US residents) when they use the code SERENITYNOW between now and Sunday.

Here's how you can enter (Please leave a separate comment for each entry):

1. (mandatory to enter) Visit Nikycole and leave me a comment with the name of your favorite item.

For extra entries:
2. Facebook this Giveaway with a link to this post
3. Tweet the Following (copy and paste): Nikycole accessories #Giveaway via @SerenityNowGirl! Enter to win a Gift Certificate!
4. Join my Weekend Bloggy Reading party this weekend and link back to me or include my party button within your post for an automatic entry!

Giveaway open until 10 pm (ET) on Sunday night. (open to US residents only)

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chick Flick Night Out-- "Water for Elephants"

I got so many emails, FB/Twitter/blog comments about my birthday plans to hang out with my Chick Flick Club that I decided to do a little recap.
Not only was I really looking forward to a date with Robert Pattinson seeing Water for Elephants, I was giddy about having an evening on the town. Things have been a little crazy around here, and I hadn't been out of the house without at least one child in tow in a couple of weeks. I love my girls, but trying on Easter dresses while your three year old is attempting to escape the fitting room and expose you to the world can really wear on your nerves.

My friend Christy, my partner in crime for Target playdates and IKEA trips and NYC time, met me at our local Sephora on Saturday for a quick makeover. All we had to do was walk in and ask for help, and we had prime seats in the Beauty Studio! We chose to get eye makeovers, and it was so fun to learn how to recreate a new look.

We met my sister-in-law, SuSu (as my girls call her), for dinner at Panera and then....drum was time for the Chick Flick!!

The new movie theater behind our mall is great--bowling alley, lounge, bar, restaurant, VIP reserved seating, plush seats. It's fantastic! We settled on regular "poor people" seating, popcorn and soda from concessions, and seats right in the middle of the theater before the show started.

I never have very high expectations for films based on books, but I have to say that this take on Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants was fantastic.

The movie stays pretty true to the story, which is told by a present day narrator (Jacob) who reflects on his days working as a circus vet during the Great Depression. The movie skipped or skimmed over some parts I remembered from the novel, but it made sense considering they were condensing the story into feature film length. I just wish they'd shown us a little more of Depression era life, particularly for the more lowly circus workers.

Robert Pattinson completely embodies the character of young Jacob Jankowski...I didn't once think of him as a brooding vampire! He has great chemistry with Reese Witherspoon, who plays Marlena. Their scenes with Rosie the elephant were so touching.

If you haven't read the book, I really recommend it. There are some R rated parts, which I sort of skimmed over when reading, but the story is riveting! The movie brought Gruen's characters to life, and the climax was thrilling, if not quickly resolved. A great choice if you need a night out with the girls!

Here's the trailer, if you haven't seen it yet (if you're in a reader, you'll need to click over):

In case you were wondering, T did get me a cake! It wasn't a cookie cake (sob!), but it was delicious! He and the girls also gave me "deluxe" package from LightScoop, which I was so excited about. As soon as I figure out how to work the settings on my Nikon, I'll give you guys a good, honest review.

Next up on our Chick Flick roster? Something Borrowed and Bridesmaids, which looks so funny I think I'll need tissues.

{Which movies are on your "to-see" list?}

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Commenting 101: Responding to Comments

Welcome to Session #6 in my Commenting 101 series. If you'd like to read from the beginning of the series, please click here.

Today's topic is: Responding to Comments

*Quick disclaimer. Most established blogs have their own way of processing comments. Please remember that this series is geared towards new/small blogs or blogs who are interested in growing their readership. These are just suggestions meant to help, not to overwhelm!*

Hopefully, if you've been reading this series and working on engaging your readers and leaving thoughtful comments, you're beginning to see some growth in your comments section. It is so exciting for any blogger to see feedback on posts. We all love to see those little messages pop up with encouragement, funny stories, and observations.

What do you do with those comments? Do you read them and move on to writing your next blog post?

If you're genuinely interested in forming an involved network of readers, the answer should be "no." As we discussed in Session #5, you can link to a slew of blog parties each day and collect dozens of comments, but if you aren't taking the time to interact with your readers, you'll find yourself with a lot of "one-comment" readers.

Responding to comments can lead to wonderful blogging friendships---the readers you can depend on for moral support, encouragement, and great guest posts when you go out of town! Readers who know you appreciate them are more likely to take a moment or two to let you know what they think of your latest post.

So, what does "Responding to Comments" entail?

When a reader takes the time to comment on a post you have written, you can return the favor, either by emailing thempersonally visiting their blog to leave a comment of your own, or replying in your blog's comment section.

1. Visit the reader's blog and leave a comment
  • New Bloggers: I highly recommend going directly to the commenter's blog and leaving a nice comment of your own. 
  • If your blog daily receives a small amount of comments, it makes sense to foster a sense of community by visiting the folks who offer you feedback. Quid pro quo. Remember, the easiest way to receive comments is to leave them for others!
  • Chances are that if you are excited to see a new comment, so are they.
  • What to say? Read Mary Sue Blogger's most recent post and find something nice to remark on. Even better to follow up with a quick "thanks for the visit to my blog!"
  • Other instances in which leaving a comment is called for--If you've been featured on another blog or have the opportunity to guest post, if you linked to a party and the visitor lets you know he/she is stopping by from that party (don't forget that link parties imply interaction!!), or if you win a Giveaway.
2. Reply via email
  • Assuming that the person who commented on your post has his/her email attached to a Blogger profile, this is the easiest and fastest way to reply to the comments left on your blog.
  • Best when your reader has a very specific question and you feel odd about answering it in a comment on their blog.
  • We'll be addressing this in a later session, but replying to your readers via email is a great way to continue to connect with them when you begin receiving too many comments to respond to with individual blog visits daily.
  • Again, if you don't receive a lot of comments, I really recommend going to the other person's blog instead of just emailing. You'll encourage a better commenting relationship this way! They're going to want to offer you feedback because they know you'll probably do the same for them. 
  • Reserve emailed replies for the busiest of days, or for when your blog has grown too much to make individual visits (more on that another day). 
3. Respond in your own comments section. (Several readers asked me if I think this is an effective way to return comments.)
  • Unless your blog has a special commenting software that automatically emails your reply to the person who left the comment, I don't recommend responding to comments on your own blog. 
  • Most readers do not return to blogs to read follow up comments. 
  • Readers love to know they're appreciated. Most of us would say that we'd prefer a visit and comment on our blogs, but an email is better than no acknowledgment at all.
  • If you want a reply, make it easy for the writer to respond to you! (More on this in a how-to post)
4. Time frame for Returning Comments
  • We'll be addressing scheduling/balancing time later on in this series, but it's a great idea for new bloggers to set aside time each day to reply to their readers.
  • It's best if you are able to respond to comments within a day, two at most. You want to keep your blog's name fresh on your readers' minds. Waiting days to respond doesn't do you any good.
Occasionally, I'll receive an emailed reply from different bloggers who I left comments for days ago. Not only have I completely forgotten what I may have said in my comments, but it seems like a waste of everyone's time at that point. If you're going to respond to your readers, do it in a timely manner.

In short, if your blog is receiving a small amount of comments each day, it should be doable for you to schedule a few minutes to interact with your readers. Making an effort to engage with them on a regular basis can lead to great results.

If you choose to become a "comment collector," the readers who do stop by your blog will eventually become dissatisfied with the one sided conversation they're having with you.

Next week, we'll be addressing ways to fit commenting, networking, and blogging into your schedule. As your blog grows, you will notice a big difference in the time you once had to devote to interacting personally with your readers. I want to chat about that, because I think some new bloggers have unrealistic expectations...of themselves and also perhaps of some of the blogs they read. Also coming up....some technical how-tos, highlights, and resources.

Thanks for sticking with me....until next time!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dollar Tree. Spray Paint. True Love

Spring Break is upon us! It's amazing the differences in what "Spring Break" means now versus college years. Parties, sleeping in until the crack of 11, shopping for myself, heading out whenever I felt like...replaced by Tea Parties, early mornings, buying size 3T, and never leaving the house without two mini water bottles and baggies of gold fish crackers.

So, what's a mom to do for fun on Spring Break?

I bust out the spray paint when I'm bored. If it's not nailed down, it might get spray painted. The kids have to be careful around me when the warm weather arrives, lest they find themselves coated in Krylon's Gum Drop.

I recently purchased three uuuuuugggly metal mini planters from Dollar Tree for my Girls' Craft Night. They looked like this:

Not so much a fan of the dull brown.

I used some Krylon Blue Ocean Breeze left over from my bunny plaque, and some cheapie WM white spray paint and went to work. (For the record and full disclosure, there was a huge difference in coverage and paint quality! I will be purchasing Krylon for important projects from now on.)

I ended up with these:

What I love about containers like these are their versatility! So many ways you can use little metal planters.

Fill some with candy for a teacher, neighbor, or friend:

Use them to hold utensils at a backyard brunch:

Fill 'em with craft supplies for a night of crafty fun with friends:

Other ideas:

  • The obvious- drill a few holes in the bottom and plant a few annuals.
  • Use them to hold lip glosses, make-up brushes, and eye shadows on your vanity
  • Line up some on a child's art center to hold crayons
  • Hold tea packets, Splenda, and Keurig packs at a coffee meeting
Any other ideas?

I'm off to look for something else to spray paint. I'll be back tomorrow with the next Session in my Commenting 101 blogging series. We'll be discussing Replying to Comments!

Linking to Kate's Fair Weather Forum in hopes the weather here stays fair!

Pin It

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More Highlighted Links--And Our Easter Fun

Happy Easter, 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.

I'll share a few pics from our Easter day at the end of the post if you'd like to see what we were up to today!

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

~Embroidery Hoop Art:

~13 Ways to Stay Stressed Out

~Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

~Boxwoods as a Table Centerpiece

~Top 10 Things That Shouldn't Surprise You as a Parent

*Please, if you haven't already, take a few moments to visit a few of the other links from the party if you linked up this weekend. I love hosting, and I love commenting on each post...but it's no fun for anyone if we just have stale links sitting around. Get out there and find some fun reads! {wink}

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

I know this post is late, and the party will close soon...but there were some a I wanted to feature. I'm still making my way around commenting because I spent the day with my family. Computer closed!

This is what our day looked like!

Enjoy the last bit of your weekend, and don't forget to take advantage of the April Silhouette Promo!

Silhouette Electronic Cutting Tool

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Highlighted Weekend Links-- Share Your Best Post!

Happy Saturday! I hope your enjoying your Easter weekend. Please pop in to link up YOUR best post of the week at my Weekend Bloggy Reading party. Open for new links until Sunday at 10 pm (ET).

**Have you seen the awesome Silhouette Promo for April? Hint: it includes rhinestones!**

All kinds of posts are welcome: 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.

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. That's how a good blog party works--lots of participation. Otherwise we just have a bunch of stagnant links, and that's no fun for anyone!

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

~Fruit Loop Easter Egg Treats

~Mini Birthday Party Invites

~On Edifying Words

~Outdoor Entertaining Rack Makeover

~"Workhorse" Apron

~Sheet Music Necklace

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.
Weekend Bloggy Reading

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

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

I'll be back tomorrow with more Highlights!

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