Changing Over to Mac from a PC Laptop

set your sights on technology

I Changed From A PC Laptop To Mac

Making the Switch from Desktop PC to Mac Pro Laptop

Why Start with a PC?

It was once thought that Microsoft products were best for businesses. Perhaps that is still the opinion of many today. It was the reasoning behind the purchase of our first computer.

Years and years ago when first wanting to use a computer, I desired a Mac computer. But as fate would have it, my husband bought  our first computer for his business. On the advice of one of those computer professionals who set up businesses with a computer and a manual of unintelligible instructions on “what to do” we became the owners of a Desktop PC.

I say “we”, when it was my husband’s business machine. However, we all (me, my husband, and my kids) learned to use the PC, Windows, and various types of computer software on that rather prehistoric computer with dial-up internet connection.

Five Years Later

starting with Macbook

Fast forward about five years and my husband stayed locked into the elementary levels of computer usage (whichmay or may not consist of banging on the keyboard repeatedly in frustration), I journeyed my way to a fair amount of computer literacy, and my sons- well, they are computer professionals today, well respected in their field.

Apple Products, Re-introduced

It was those sons who started using Mac laptops as their main computer of choice, and then several years ago with not a little trepidation, I started using Apple products which were completely unfamiliar territory for me. I did not have an iPod, I did not have an iPhone, I did not collect any money, and I did not pass “Go”. I simply went to an Apple store and bought my Macbook Pro.

And anyone who uses the computer a lot, without having any natural facility for it, knows that that takes a lot of courage. Or foolhardiness. Or both.

Anyway, it appears that I had plenty of both, and a couple years ago I bought my long desired Mac Laptop.

Here is my story of how that’s worked out for me.

Photo of a Macbook,Apple Macbook Pro MJLT2LL/A 15-inch Laptop (2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 Processor, 16GB RAM, 512 GB Hard Drive, Mac OS X) (2015 version)

Macbook Pro –

I decided on the Macbook Pro version of an Apple computer because more than portability I wanted the requisite hardware to run graphic software (which I have not yet purchased for my Mac). But I was thinking ahead, you see.

Now that tablets have taken the technological world by storm, I’m glad I have this for my main computer work, and later I also bought an iPad for traveling.

IPad vs. Pro

On that topic, would I still start out with a fullsize Macbook Pro versus a tablet?

Yes. It depends on your needs. If you need the power to run programs and will essentially replace using a desktop, then a fullsize laptop is the right choice. If you need computing on the go that is easy to carry, then an iPad is more practical. Or like me, you might find both is the right answer.

Are you ready to make the change?

I am glad I made the change from PC’s since I do like this laptop better than the Toshiba Satellite I had as my laptop before. Apple has a better interface and is easier to use in many ways. It is a little challenging to change what you have become used to with a PC.

I still don’t know how to locate things on the inside of the MAC system, but I haven’t needed to (troubleshoot) as much as I did with the PC.

Adding and deleting software is simple. Many cool utilities, Synced with iPhone ( I own one now)

Several Years Later With My Mac Pro – Would I choose it again?

lady at the desk

The Pros Of A Pro

  • I would. No question, I would choose the newest version of my Mac Pro 17 inch laptop. I like the size for working on at home. It works without glitches, and I have gotten the knack of a Mac, so that now I prefer it.
  • I still use my PC desktop, but not as often.
  • The battery life is not as long as I might have hoped, and I usually keep the laptop connected to its cord, but it is longer than anything I was used to with the old Toshiba.
  • The screen and graphics are clear and beautiful.
  • I love the usability of Apple apps and feel. The design of a MAC is outstanding, and that is important when you spend lots of time on a computer. Mostly I prefer the software of the MAC, its utilities, etc.

There was quite a learning curve for me. I don’t think that would be an issue if I hadn’t used PC’s for so long. I had to relearn how to do things I wanted to do.

Overall, it is a good choice and I am happy to have made the switch, even though I can’t say I am fanatical about Apple products, but are most people nowadays?

The Longevity Of PC Laptops Vs Apple

My husband and youngest son were sold on the Acer Tablet, after my husbands friend, an electrical engineer raved on about it. I still have sort of an elitist bias against Acer, I guess, but I’m trying to stay open minded about it. Maybe that will be my next electronic expenditure.

Five years down the pike, I still have my Mac and although it has signs of needing a new battery, it works well for my needs.

The PCs? They had to be replaced.

Reasons To Switch, Mac Or PC?

Still thinking about a PC?

We’ve used Dells, HPs, Acers, and Toshibas in this family. Of the PC brands the Toshiba has been the best in my experience. It was a hand me down from one of my computer professional sons. Lasting through lots of use, it served well and was trouble free until it died the death that all computers seem to come to eventually- but not until lots of years of service had been put in.

Get A Protector, Like The Speck Case

An investment that made me happy.

It was my daughters idea. I had bought her a Mac Pro computer for her new working life after she graduated from college. It was her graduation present from me. She wanted a protective cover in pink and I went ahead a sprung for mine in black.

Of course, that was before I started designing some of the customizable electronic products over at Zazzle. At some point I will buy one for myself from there that I customize… to replace the plain black. But I am very happy with its practicality and worry-free way it keeps the case looking like new. It has a nice feel to it, too.

Find many cases for all sorts of electronics on Zazzle (including your laptop!)

update: Zazzle now offers only sleeves for laptops and only up to 15″. They no longer have Speck brand cases.

Get Some Protection

I was very happy with my Speck case, it lasted in good condition for many years. It became slightly scuffed over time, but overall retained its good looks and more importantly, protected the finish of my laptop.

Mac Accessories – Car travel
Something I use a lot: a car jack adapter for my Mac.

Migrate Your Data From PC To Mac

Things I like about Apple Products

not me
No, not me in the photo

Nothing really new for me to say except to add my opinion to the many. The primary thing I like about Apple, including the Macbook Pro, is that they are designed well. The features fit well, work well, and everything is solid and nicely made. Those things are increasingly important to me, and I think that is what made the Apple company. I hope they keep that aesthetic even though Steve Jobs is not around to helm the company ship.

I like that I can sync together the products, although I don’t understand it very well. but I do know that when I take pictures with my iPhone I can hook it right up and easily transfer everything to my computer. Done and done.

I am thinking of getting an iPad for taking with me when I travel … although my husband is a strong voice for the Acer product ( the money factor weighs heavily for him). I really like my iPhone, after resisting the change form my very old, very basic Nokia for so long. I like the idea that I can use the Sync feature.

So all this means that I made the switch to Mac in more ways than just the laptop, and looking forward to working more efficiently in the future.

Are You A Dummie? – Never fear- we all start out that way. Numerous times.

MacBook Pro Portable Genius
MacBook Pro Portable Genius

Find out about Macbook Pro Portable Genius

 

Comparisons for Gaming

Summary, Two More Years Down The Road

I use my Mac Pro laptop almost all the time, but in the interim I also replaced my old Dell desktop with another HP “All in One”. Many people are no longer using the larger laptops, but rigging up their other portable devices to do everything a laptop does. I can understand that, since it is cumbersome to lug a laptop around when traveling.

The desktop still is useful for the heavy duty work of a full graphics program like Photoshop, etc. And it is better to sit up straight at the desk than slouch around on the couch when doing long periods of computer work.

When comparing the two, PC and Mac, neither wins out definitively. PC still has more of the programs that I find important , while the Mac still remains more secure from problems like viruses. It is easier to use, especially given the difficulty of the newer Windows OS.

I also like the idea of touchscreens; but again, switching over to new habits has proven to be a hassle, when it was supposed to have been more effective.

I think the best way to decide which machine is best is to know which one fits your work style and software best. And today everyone needs some sort of portable device, but phones are incredibly powerful, an innovation not foreseen (by me, anyway) several years ago when I first purchased my Mac laptop.

Buy the power and memory you need to accomplish your end results for work or gaming.

I went For a Mac the Second Time Around

After giving me almost ten years of service, my Mac Pro laptop was exhibiting problems. There was a choice of refurbishing with a new battery or buying a replacement. I decided to buy a replacement.

The Macbook Pro 2017 is much lighter and very sleek. It no longer has a CD slot and the charger has changed. I’ve been very happy with it and it works very powerfully even with big Adobe graphics programs.

I personally am very, very happy with Apple’s design and quality. My daughter decided she was ready to switch, however. She chose a PC laptop and switched from an iPhone to another kind. She seems equally happy with her choice.

I do believe that the best choice remains in the arena of what works best for you in terms of software and what you use your machine for. For me, blogging and Adobe software makes Apple the ideal choice.

Use a wireless printer

I use a wireless printer so that I can easily print from my desktop and my laptop. My kids can print from their laptops! It makes life easy.
Fujitsu PA03656-B005 Image Scanner ScanSnap iX500computer things

Fujitsu PA03656-B005 Image Scanner ScanSnap iX500

With a wireless, you can print from your laptop, which is a real convenience.

Hardware equipment that goes both ways:

I am not happy when a printer or scanner can only be used by one type of machine, are you? Look for those which can be used by as many of your machines as possible.

The Artist Gift List, For Budding Creatives And Experienced Alike

Delightful Gifts for Artists

Pastels, brushes, and other art supplies
Pastels, brushes, markers… so much to choose from!

Maybe you are like me, or maybe this sounds like someone on your gift list :

One of the hardest things for me to come through on has been the promise I made to myself a number of years ago:

I determined I would once again create art.

Instead, it seems that all my time is spent writing, or cleaning house, or doing a hundred other things. I love writing about gardening, writing about art, writing about computer related things… but there is something about sitting down with some fresh art supplies and creating something with that media that is calming, restoring, and satisfying.

For a few years I have been collecting art supplies.

Here are is a collection of those I most want, if I don’t already have them.

Watch my additions, soon I will write about what I want to do with the paints, pencils, papers, etc.

This might be the ultimate procrastinator’s tale…. however, let this lens function as my wish list for art supplies, as well as my record of whether I actually follow through on the dream.

artistic sheep

Perhaps you have helpful hints that will motivate and inspire me to stop only writing about it and actually create a brick and mortar oeuvre. Just note them in the comments, and all of us artist wannabees will be grateful.

(Oh yes, included in this post are examples of inspiring art that is fun to look at, AND a number of informative videos.)

For presents, either birthday or Christmas, art supplies might be the perfect choice. Artistic people seem to constantly need resupplying.

Top Choices?

  • paper
  • sketching supplies
  • water soluble supplies
  • pans and palettes
Know your artist: that is the best bet for choosing presents well.

Little Rembrandts

Children benefit from all the things that encourage them to be creative. Basics are welcome. School supply lists can give you ideas, too.

Artist Paper – that stands up to water

childlike art

For watercolor or pen and inks, a paper that is strong enough to handle the water and hold its surface texture.

Pen Techniques and Supply Suggestions

Know Your Papers

Sketch pads are usually made for dry utensils like pencil or charcoal, but the intended use is listed on the description that is found on the front. when giving a gift for an artist, and you aren’t sure which is their favorite medium, use one that is suitable for a broad range.
Delta Wirebound Sketchbook 7x7
Stillman & Birn Delta Wirebound Sketchbook, Heavyweight 180lb, Ivory White, 25 Sheets, 7×7

Gorgeous heavyweight paper. archival quality multi-media paper. This is top of my own personal wishlist.

Your Talent

If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible. Don’t hoard it. Don’t dole it out like a miser. Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke. – Brendan Francis

pen and ink
Pen nib photo by Charlotte L

Pen And Ink

Pen and ink was my forte in drawing. Working with it, alone and with watercolors, was the way I best expressed the art that resided in my mind. Later in life, encouraging my children to learn calligraphy meant giving up ownership to my pens. And while I do not regret that, since some of my girls developed real skills in calligraphic writing, I now find a desire for the high quality pens and inks that give the best results.

So guess what supplies are now high on my list? Yes, quill pens and inks.

I Love To Draw With Pen and Ink

I let my children have all my pens…. now, what about me?

Supplies For Pen And Ink Artists

  • Winsor and Newton India ink
  • Speedball Standard Point Dip Pen and Nibs
  • Faber-Castell Pitt Artist’s Pens
  • Strathmore Bristol Vellum Paper Pad

Pens and Watercolor Wash

watercolor art

What’s On The Artist Gift List?

This is the short list for gifts that I would be personally happy to receive, make your own for you or someone you know.

An adult Artist who loves watercolors and pen and ink. Also draws sketches with pencils.

  • Paper for pencil, also for watercolor work.
  • Derwent pencil set
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Winsor & Newton or Rembrandt watercolors

Art Gifts For Children

If I were buying a selection of child art supplies I would start out with a large sketchpad of drawing paper, a beginners set of pencils, including a gum eraser. Then I would add a small set of watercolors with some extra brushes (you always need more than one brush!), and a set of good markers.

Did you know that Mary Engelbreit started out with just markers to make her wonderful drawings? And look where she ended up- an Empire and a Career.

An Artist Easel

Dream of an easel
I like desk easels the best, but any easel helps to hold the paper and paints while working.

Royal & Langnickel 150-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

All media easel set

Delightful start to getting ready to draw or paint, and easel keeps you art ready to work on, and provides the perfect space to keep your utensils handy.

Use It Or Lose It Is The Rule For Your Talents

If you (or giftee) are just starting out, be sure to check out the tutorial videos and the lists here. Slowly build your stock of supplies, but try to give free rein to your creativity.

There are times we waste by not using our paints. Let yourself liberally use the paint and papers, the pencils, the inks… don’t let them sit and languish.

For Those Who Paint

Each medium has its own set of techniques , brushes, and painting supplies. Which artist are you buying a gift for this year?

In Watercolor

  • Brushes, sable watercolor brushes or synthetic
  • Pan or tube paints
  • Palette or mixing pan
  • Watercolor paper pad

Traditional Oils

  • Titanium white, ivory black, cadmium red, permanent alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow light and cadmium yellow paints
  • Palette and palette knife
  • Turpentine or mineral spirits
  • linseed oil
  • canvas

Easy Acrylics

  • paper or canvas
  • paints in same colors as oils
  • acrylic brushes
  • palette and palette knife

Adult Coloring Books are Still Popular

A whole new world of Adult coloring books has opened up and colored pencils as well as crayons are used to give hours of peaceful meditative coloring.

Caran D'ache - Supracolor Watercolor Pencils - Set of 120

Caran D’Ache Color Pencil Set – Supracolor II Watercolor Pencil Set of 120 Assorted Colors

Yes, I want the WHOLE set of these fine watercolor pencils. I want to be able to take my watercolors wherever I go, and this will be perfect.

These work wonderfully for the new adult coloring books that are now available everywhere. Consider gifting someone with one of these pencil sets and a beautiful, intricately drawn coloring book.

Try Your Hand At Coloring

Here’s the how- to if you ever wondered why someone would love to sit and color.

Gift Ideas for Artists – Get your gift-giving creative juices flowing

There are many gifts that will make your artist happy! That is one of the things that makes this so much fun. It is easy to shop for artists when you don’t know what styles they prefer because you are supplying them with something they always need, will actually use, and they can create their own style.

When someone has been practiced in their craft, it does make sense to give quality supplies. You wouldn’t believe what a difference a well made paper or pigment produces in a finished piece.

Art Papers are always welcome

There are many types of papers for artists, but a basic sketchbook is always welcome. A good quality paper that will take a number of media is probably the best choice.

There are differing weights, whether they are suitable for wet medium (like watercolors), and differing component materials ( cotton, wood pulp, etc).

Luckily, most list on the cover or label which medium they are useful for, eliminating guesswork.

The art of painting
The art of painting

Strathmore Spiral Toned Sketch Book 5.5"X8.5"-Gray 50 Sheets
Strathmore (412-105 400 Series Toned Gray Sketch Pad, 5.5″x8.5″, 50 Sheets

Please, please, I wish for this gray toned paper sketchbook by Strathmore. It will be the perfect paper for pro look sketches that pop from the page. Super inspirational for an artist.

Save and Display Your Child’s Art

Display case is such a cool gift idea
Display case is such a cool gift idea

My daughter-in-law uses this for displaying my grandchild’s masterpieces. It is a beautiful frame- such a great idea!

Children’s Gifts, And Those for Moms

Giving children art supplies of some sort is almost always welcome. Level of interest makes the sorting out of whether we get coloring books, markers and crayons, or oil paints, brushes, and canvas.

For moms- ways to organize and display the resulting art sparks many ideas for appropriate presents.

  • a wall-hung case
  • a metal wire with clips (I saw this idea at Ikea)
  • decorative magnets strong enough to hold artwork onto frig or magnetic board

Brushes and Pens

If you know that the artist on your gift list paints in a certain medium or loves to create pen and ink drawings (Zentangle, anyone?), then gifting a great set of brushes or new pen nibs or inks is a very thoughtful thing to give.

Good quality is always appreciated, and to be considered much more than quantity. In other words, one bottle of excellent quality ink is better chosen than five bottles of less expensive, and thus less dependable inks.

This is why it pays ot now a little about the person. Young artists who are beginning to experiment might be the exception to this rule.

Why?

Beginners should feel free to use the supplies and not worry about mistakes. That is why pads of paper are always welcome, too. Plenty of room to practice and perfect their art. This is th ecase in which a gift of less expensive quality, but greater quantities are welcome.

Paint Brush Set Acrylic Xpassion 10pcs Professional Paint Brushes Artist for Watercolor Oil Acrylic PaintingPaint Brush Set Acrylic Xpassion 10pcs Professional Paint Brushes Artist for Watercolor Oil Acrylic Painting

Which Brush for Acrylics?

This video will explain it all for you. Very helpful if you are faced with an array of choices and aren’t sure which to choose.

Are You an Artist? – What do you use?

What is your medium of choice?

  • pen and ink
  • watercolors
  • acrylic paints
  • oil paints
  • clay sculpture
  • graphic computer art
  • pencil sketching
  • oil pastels
  • charcoal
  • markers
  • collage findings

Another gift idea besides the art supplies would be lessons, either with a teacher or online. So many courses are available that are fun and easy. My son loved taking a class with others that resulted in an easy to accomplish oil painting to take home. Look for these which are often offered locally.

My Daughter Uses Mine, The Wacom Drawing Tablet


 

This is the way I create most of my art- with graphics software and a graphic tablet. The Wacom pen tablet is on your graphics artist wishlist, believe me!

Computer Graphics

Not all artists use hardcopy paper. Increasingly there are very fine pictures produced with software graphics.

When it is time to invest in something like a pen tablet, it may be out of budget for a young artists, particularly if they are trying to improve the quality of their chosen software. Buying Adobe Photoshop or other Creative programs leaves little room for the peripherals.

That is why this may be one of the best choices, if you know they have it on their wishlist. Wacom makes several types according to the output desired. Art, Photo, Comic?

Artist Drawing Board – When it is fun to go back to the drawing board!

Studio Designs 10050 Futura Craft Station, Silver/Blue Glass

Wow, someone is so lucky and going to be so happy this year when they go back to the drawing board. Especially a sleek high style one like this.

I have a cheap drawing board, but this is the one I really want. It is a beautiful piece of furniture that really WORKS for an artist.

How Many of You Are Like Me?

drawing

Do you have talents you let go dormant?

 

  • I have talents, but I don’t have time
  • I have talents, but don’t have supplies and tools (or instruments)
  • I am unsure if I have talents
  • I secretly believe I have a talent, but I am afraid I will fail
  • I have been pursuing and developing my talents
  • I’ll think about this another day

 

Wherever you are on the spectrum, think about going into the coming year armed with all the supplies you need to accomplish your artistic dreams. Or help make that happen for the artist on your list.

If I were buying a gift for an artist that primarily created in pen and ink, watercolor, or colored pencils, I would choose a large kit.

A younger artist still experimenting with what they like, or someone who primarily works in sculpture, collage, or oil painting, would probably appreciate a smaller kit. Just see whether they liked the medium before investing lots of money in it.

An Ingenious Paint Accessory, the Masterson Sta-Wet Palette

I want one now. I have canvases, I have acrylics. I used to paint with tempera and watercolors, and occasionally oil paints, but have never actually used acrylic paints very much. I think it would suit me best to work with them… and I love the description of the palette.
My own method for keeping paints usable is to cover them with Saran wrap, but this is far superior for the purpose!


Sta-Wet Palette Keeps Paints Fresh For Days With Airtight Lid.

Pressed Flowers Can Make Pictures

I’ve always admired Penny Black’s pressed flower art, so I could start making my own supplies for that, couldn’t I?
Unusual maybe, but if an artist likes to use mixed media, and often incorporates natural elements into their work, a flower press, along with an inspirational book of ideas could be an inspiring and welcome gift.

pressed flower art
Pressed flower art

Penny Black’s the Book of Cards and Collages

Art supplies are not only pens and pencils, or paints, brushes, and papers, they might also be such things as pressed flowers or found objects. Creating collage is one pursuit that many have found relaxing and expressive.

When I read Penny Black’s book on pressed flower pictures, it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of using such materials in creating art. Simpler uses make wonderful crafts for cards, too. Bits and bobs of buttons and lace are well known to scrapbookers for the way a collage can be created with the most ordinary of throwaway objects. We just have to use our imagination!

The first virtue of a painting is that it be a feast for the eyes. -Eugene Delacroix

Merch News and My T-Shirt Designs

My Newest Design

I recently added a dog breed design that is made for the holidays, with its wreath and Christmas colors. It is a fun watercolor style that highlights fans of the Vizsla dog breed.

The “Faith” tshirt remains live because it made one sale. This is the criteria for designs to have longevity on Amazon Merch. 

Details About Merch

we are limiting the number of t-shirts a content creator can make based on tiers of designs.

The Merch by Amazon team will be hand-selecting content creators who have sold the same amount of t-shirts as the number of the tier they are in. For example – to move up from the 10 tier, a content creator will need to sell at least 10 shirts from those they have created to move up to the 25 tier.

Admission to these tiers are based not only on sales, but the quality of the products being sold by the content creator as well.

Tier levels include:
10
25
100
500
Pro (by invitation)

Learning Curve

I have to confess that Merch haas a big learning curve when it comes to creating on the site. Now that many changes have been made to the system, it is frustrating to have a short timeline to sell designs and then have them removed.

If a design does not sell, it is removed. It cannot be automatically renewed, and there is a limit to the number of designs that can be uploaded each day.

Rules For Merch Designs

Read about the content guidelines, here

These are not unreasonable restrictions, but quite different from other sites like Zazzle or Redbubble, etc.

Comparing Merch with Other Similar Sites

I have worked on Zazzle since 2011, and that site had a similar slow start for me. It produces regular, if not large, pocket money now. I expect that Redbubble and Merch are similar. From others comments some of them have greater success on Redbubble and all who comment on their stores say that each one differs and it is helpful to diversify.

I will report on the comparisons in a more definitive way in about a year. I think that is enough time to observe sales and see the trend.

What are your experiences? Do you like one site better than another for making sales? Which one is best for your designs and style?

Which Themes Will Best Build Your WordPress Blog?

A Theme Is Expected To Make Your Content Look Good

First Steps In Blogging: Choosing Your Theme

I have been blogging ever since 2004, and for the greater portion of that time I have used WordPress for the platform (although I have also used others including Blogger). I’m one of those experimenters who is always changing things around, so I have used countless theme templates for my blogs.

I know it can get confusing sorting through the thousands of template choices, which seem to do a hundred different things, so I thought new bloggers, or people thinking of setting up their own blogs might benefit from some of my experience.

WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE:

  • A quick rundown on what it takes to start blogging, and then a look at some of the types and choices of themes that will help you forge your online presence.
  • Start with a simple theme that best serves your site’s purpose. Or go with a professional theme that gives lots of support through forums, etc. Once you are used to the way a designer structures the themes, especially if there is an underlying framework (like Genesis), you will find your way around it and get it to function for you through familiarizing your self with the way that particular theme works.
  • This won’t tell you that any particular designer is the best, but just to give you, the new blogger, a beginners guide to sorting through a huge playing field of theme designs.

5 Blogging Decisions

Top 5 Website Decisions

  1. Choose your platform
  2. Choose your theme
  3. Choose plugins
  4. Write content and decide frequency of posting
  5. When and how to monetize your site

These are the most important decisions to make when you begin a blog.

Beginner’s Guide For A Headstart

WordPress Websites: Beginner's Guide to Easily Building a Website & Customizing It With Themes and Plugins (Writing Skills Book 4)
WordPress Websites: Beginner’s Guide to Easily Building a Website & Customizing It With Themes and Plugins (Writing Skills Book 4)
Once you have your site up and running, will they come? They will if you get smart about the use of social media and the art of gaining readers.

Choose The WordPress Theme For The Purpose Of Your Site

Because WordPress is one of the most popular platforms, it has been extended through themes and plugins for all sorts of special uses. Some themes have special plugins incorporated right inside to make things wonderfully flexible and useful.

It used to be that each theme had its plugins for common features like slideshows, etc.

The prevailing wisdom is to allow those features to be handled by plugins as they are commonly used: separately.

News, Food, Photos? Ecommerce?

  • Most of the professional lines of WordPress theme designers have a whole slew of specialized themes all ready for you to create the exact type of site you want.
  • Photo blogs need to highlight their great pictures. Art blogs are similar. Portfolio highlights which have images instead of text for entries or large images with minimal text serve these sites well.
  • News site and how-to sites are well served with magazine style themes.
  • For most blogs a typical 2 column style with either a left or right hand sidebar is the classic theme choice.

WordPress blogs are so versatile that they can look like almost anything and function for many purposes from ecommerce to community sites (with the addition of buddypress or bbpress). The more complex the use requirements the more likely the theme will be highly complex and probably professional, costing a fee.

Those themes are a far cry from the early ones that had just a small number of templates.

What Is A Template?

The structures inside the theme which create posts, pages, contact pages, 404 pages, archives, etc.

 

How To Install A WordPress Theme In Your Site

Your Blogging Experience

Free Or Professional Themes For WordPress?

In blogging, one of the first things you will decide is the platform. This is the general software that supports your blogging site. WordPress is one of the most popular today, and can be both self-hosted (you pay for your hosting and run your blog on the server space of your hosting plan) or free, through WordPress.com.

Other platform examples:

  • Blogger
  • Typepad
  • Tumblr
  • Drupal

But since you have made the choice for WordPress, the next big decision is how you want your site to look and act, and that “frontend” experience is dictated by your “theme”.

Themes can be both simple and extremely complex, they can be free or professional (themes that you buy) also known as “Premium themes”. When I first blogged, I used only free themes. I now need more features and I have purchased professional themes.

Once you decide on WordPress, the fun just begins

At first it might seem there is little difference between free themes and pro, especially if you can find a free theme with support, with a community centered around troubleshooting and guiding newbies. There are even free themes with complex features, and a great look. But generally, a pro theme will have a higher level of design expertise, good code, and be kept up to date in compliance with the many upgrades that WordPress has engineered in recent years. In the case of the “Hybrid core” themes: the themes are free, but the support forums and articles require a paid membership.

I found many years ago that keeping up with the complexity of code, features that I wanted, and time to design were just too much for me as an individual blogger. I broke down and purchased a Pro theme membership.

Membership- what’s that?

OK. In professional themes there are often two ways to go:

Buy a single theme for a set amount of money OR buy a membership to a design company you like and have access to many themes and the support of experts. The choices are yours (choices, choices!).

Always Changing

The internet, and thus the type of writing and the look of websites, is always changing. The one thing that impacts wp theme choice today is the transition of web users to mobile phones. No longer is the desktop the primary way we access the web. This has resulted in another choice that we ought to be making:

CHOOSE A RESPONSIVE THEME FOR YOUR BLOG.

A responsive theme is one that looks good in a variety of size screens, and adjusts well to mobile users.

Most web designers are creating their frameworks and themes to be responsive now, but if you have made a previous decision, check to be sure your present one has “responsive” features.

My Own Challenges

I write lots of content and the field I blog in is crowded, and getting more crowded every day, so I need something that will stand out. One of the biggest problems for me has been the pagespeed, or time necessary to load a page on your computer screen. The template is going to impact these challenges.

CHILD THEMES ARE RECOMMENDED

The updates for WordPress result in the need for the templates to update, as well. When that happens many of the customizations are lost. Some themes have an interface which helps to preserve your changes either through use of an area to add your css or to add a “child theme”. I like it when the designer adds easy customizations to the backend or admin are of the theme.

Tips To Help You Choose The Right Theme

  1. Make a List. Do you want a blog, a gallery of photos or art? Need a portfolio for clients or e-commerce possibilities? What do you want people to do on your site?
  2. Check how much support is given for the theme. Is there support from creator or forum? How satisfied are the users of the theme? Take note of these things and add it to your decision.
  3. Check structure and flexibility of the theme. Does it have the type of pages you need? Are the style and your content a good fit?

About The Major WP Theme Players

Who Are They? What Are Their Benefits?

Some of these well known designer companies started with free themes. I used them in the past. This is not a definitive list, just some comments about the ones I know enough about to have opinions about their themes. The first two are theme platforms (theme structures that support many different styles).

Divi Is ET’s Cadillac Theme

Divi is their premier theme.
Divi is their premier theme.

Elegant Themes

This is the one I ended up paying for, probably because I am kind of artsy in my predilection for theme looks, and Elegant themes has one of the most artful, and just plain pretty, looks to their themes.

Elegant Themes, by Nick Roach, are a bit complex, but made easier with the back end epanel that automates most decisions of style and action. Support is so-so, but I don’t have other experience to compare it with. The entire line of many themes- all sorts of styles and basic purpose (they have a dynamite portfolio page) themes to choose from.

I have some affiliate links, if you decide to buy their themes and want to possibly support me in some small way. Note: I became an affiliate after I liked their themes, and am not advocating because I am an affiliate.

It seems like many of the best free themes went professional, and some of theme have limited free versions available. “Platform” Pagelines is one of those, look for others.

Platforms are the software that run the blog. WordPress is a platform for blogging. “Framework” is the basic structures under the “parent themes”, underneath those are the”child themes”. The platform runs all the functions and bells and whistles in the background, the theme or the framework has the basic and not so basic features that creates the look and use of the site. A parent theme is alone or under the child theme, which “sits on top” and is called for creating the specific look of the theme- the colors, graphics, and typography, as well as special templates. It can completely change the way the parent theme is experienced by visitors.

Not all themes are built apart from special frameworks, but many of the pro theme are, and the looks are usually the result of child themes. Look for Thesis and Genesis family themes to have this type of setup.

Best Theme? Review And Advice

What Are The Big Changes In Themes?

  1. Mobile friendly has gone from a suggestion to mandatory. This is driven by the shift of users from desktops to their phones for most internet use.
  2. Design plainly favors a “flat look” that is directly related to its good looks on a phone screen.
  3. Functions increasingly move from inside the theme to a separate plugin.
  4. Style ranges, but a light modern look reigns. Alternatively, handcrafted, like watercolor elements has grown in popularity.
  5. Clean interface and fast loading becomes ever more important for a professional site.

Thesis Theme by DIYThemes

Thesis is used by some of the most successful bloggers, but so is Genesis. It has a more open look.

At first this was the premier theme platform that all the serious bloggers wanted, Genesis has since caught up.

I used the designer’s, Chris Pearson, famous ‘Cutline’ theme for quite awhile on one of my blogs. His design technique is clean and he was known for his beautiful typography. The Thesis theme has a distinctive clear grid that supports all sorts of features. I have not purchased it. Some love this theme, others found it complex to work with (word on the street of bloggers I “follow”.)

Personally, I would consider working with it just because of its nice open feel.

Genesis Theme

I used Brian Gardner’s themes before he started “Studiopress” and loved them. If I had been ready to buy a theme at that time, I would have stayed with and bought what turned into the “Genesis” theme. I am still considering it, although I hate to switch from themes I am familiar with ( learning curve when starting to use a new type of theme).

Genesis themes have a distinctive blocky look that is eye-catching and easy to navigate. They can be highly customized (in my experience). They are very well supported.

What are the assets and liabilities of these choices?

Free Pro
Costs nothing Costs a fee
unlimited styles,some great,some poor pro styling
sometimes supported, usually by fans usually supported, by experts
often has built-in links to theme creator links can be deleted

What Was I Using?

Past tense because I bought a premium set of themes that did not live up to the promises. Caveat emptor.

I bought MySiteMyWay for myself, I liked them so well. Unfortunately they didn’t keep up with updating and I had to count it a loss.

Both Elegant Themes and Studiopress have proved reliable.

I also purchased and used Elegant Themes, and Studiopress, which I had used in the past.
Each one has a learning curve to use, but they also provide forums and support.

Presently, I use Elegant Themes on almost all my sites, but still experiment with the latest free WP theme that comes shipped with the software.

Become A WordPress Ninja

I WISH I HAD A GUIDE IN THE EARLY YEARS OF STARTING A WORDPRESS BLOG

There is no reason for a steep learning curve with all the great learning resources available today. A book will condense all the important steps so you can start the important part: writing all your great content.

WordPress Is The Top Choice, So Learn To Use It

WordPress Domination - Beginner to NINJA in 7 Days: In Just Seven Days, You Can Go From WordPress Zero To WordPress Hero
WordPress Domination – Beginner to NINJA in 7 Days: In Just Seven Days, You Can Go From WordPress Zero To WordPress Hero

Don’t let your WordPress blog just sit there, learn how to develop it into a powerful online presence. Even if you are starting from zero knowledge, a guidebook like this can take you quickly through all the steps.

 Buy Now

WordPress to Blogger?

Usually it is the other way around, but if the easy route is desired, Blogger is easier to learn.

Switch From Blogger To WordPress

Success Isn’t A Secret

WordPress Revealed: How to Build a Website, Get Visitors and Make Money (Even For Beginners) (Volume 1)
WordPress Revealed: How to Build a Website, Get Visitors and Make Money (Even For Beginners) (Volume 1)

The big three for many people starting a WordPress blog: builb a good site, get readers to come and stay, make some income.

 Buy Now

Get To Know Your Theme

Go to the forums or get some initial support to know what your theme can do for your site. It will save you lots of time and otherwise you may not use all the features.

Which is best? Do you have a theme you love?

WordPress Themes, Pro or No?

Which side of the fence are you on?

Quick Summary Of What’s Happening Now On Social Sharing Platforms

monet garden

I came across a video that was posted to Facebook, but from the style of it seems like it might have been filmed on Periscope (that was my guess from the numerous “shoutouts” to viewers).

Anyway, it is a quick and easy way to assess whether the time you are spending on your fav social media platform is helping your online goals or not.

BTW, I came across Britt Seva through watching a James Wedmore video. He is the youtube guru who is branching out into business entrepreneurial training.

The Video

 

Understanding the difference between FB, IG, YouTube, Periscope and Snapchat as a hairstylist and where to spend your time

Posted by Britt Seva-Social Media & Marketing Strategist For Hairstylists on Friday, August 5, 2016

She talks fast, so be ready to pick up the tidbits of tips that you need.

I spent some time on Periscope, but dropped it after awhile… in fact I completely re-calibrated what I wanted to do with video and haven’t made any new ones since last year. I cocooned so I could emerge as a better creator.

In the meantime I invested time in tutorials and bought some new equipment.

One tip that I had read elsewhere,but that she underlined quite well is that you should spend time where your readers and target audience spend their time. It underlines that I should use instagram far, far more than I do and update what I’m doing on youtube.

Which social media efforts does this video address for you?

A Monet Moment

Monet Springtime

A restful intermission from the busyness of life, a time to eliminate stress by viewing the beautiful, blended colors of one of the most beloved painters to come from the Impressionist movement. 

Respite in the Garden of Giverny

There is something restful, but at the same time alive with the color and feeling of a summer’s day in many of these paintings. Perhaps because so many of them were of gardens, flowers, and the beauty of such sunny blue skies, and so this lens is dedicated to taking a few moments to stop and peer into the paintings of Claude Monet while listening to background sounds and thinking a bit about his painting and life.

Enjoy yourself here, pour yourself a glass of lemonade or a cup of tea and think light and cheerful thoughts as inspired by the colors and brushstrokes of Impressionism at its most blithe.

Monet's garden at Vétheuil
Monet’s garden at Vétheuil

The Allure Of His Art

The Inspiration for the Monet Moment

I wanted to take a tour of this Master’s paintings because I think they produce a serenity in the viewer. A moment’s respite while looking at his paintings produces a visual calming, similar to the way some sounds and music de-stress us.

For me, I think it is partially in his palette, the way this painter layered his colors, partly in the technique of the brushstrokes that create the dreamy effect, and partly because of the subject matter that the overall feeling is one of quiet and repose. Of course, I have my favorites, but almost any of his works have a peaceful appeal.

If I would pick my own personal favorites they would center within the water garden. I like the water lily paintings especially, perhaps for the same reason I like macro floral photographs. The larger than life look into the forms of the petals creates an almost abstract arrangement. The blues and greens predominate, and it is well known that those cool hues are restful and calming in effect.

It isn’t that I don’t like sharp edges or bright colors, I do! In a jarring modern age when the mind is so overwhelmed with so much stimulation, I find it necessary to tone things down and relax with these soothing paintings. I put the lens together in the hope that it has that effect for you, my visitor, too.

A Garden Is Art

Nowhere is that more evident than in this place in Giverny, So much of the masterstrokes were rooted inside this particular place, although there are certainly many other venues that Claude Monet made famous with his works. In celebration of his garden I have taken a look at the flowers that made up the subject matter of the garden at Giverny.

Of Special Interest To Gardeners

monet garden

Planting Plans and Color Harmonies

Book cover
Book cover

The Magic of Monet’s Garden: His Planting Plans and Color Harmonies

For anyone who loves cottage gardens, this famous artist/gardener’s plans will be a priceless inspiration.

“Gardening was something I learned in my youth. I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers” – Claude Monet

 

  • Flowers of Giverny, Flowers that Monet Grew
    Monet’s Giverny is one of the most famous cottage gardens filled with scenes created by the Master. Here are his flowers, so you can make your own masterpiece garden.

Passion – Coffee Table Book for those with a passion

Monet's Passion
Monet’s Passion

Monet’s Passion: Ideas, Inspiration, and Insights from the Painter’s Gardens

A gorgeous art book for those who love gardens and love Monet. Lasting inspirations from photos alive with the beautiful colors and design genius of a master- both on canvas and in the garden.

Why He Planted His Famous Garden

“Monet started to create his flower-filled garden when he moved to Giverny in 1883, refining it over 43 years. He originally planted flowers so that he could pick bunches to have something to paint indoors on rainy days.”-The Guardian

The Much Painted Water Garden

The water garden, and the famous blue-green Japanese style bridge are among the most famous scenes in the artist’s garden. He painted them numerous times and they are among the most loved of his scenes. The colors are always restful and dreamy.

There are many other colors that appear in his paintings of his gardens, of course, and Monet planted his garden specifically for certain harmonies and to provide inspiration for his art.

The Japanese Bridge Over His Famous Waterlily Pond

monet japanese bridge

En Plein Air

means “in the open air”. Outdoor painting was favored by French Impressionist painters.

Book cover
Book cover

Monet’s Garden: Through the Seasons at Giverny

Seasonal borders in one of the world’s famous gardens. This is a book to pore over in winter and create spring and summer plans for your own flower color combinations.

Dreams of Color Made Visible On Canvas

The dreamy quality of a painting

One of the reasons we find for Monet’s venerable popularity rests in the dreamy and restful feeling he gives his paintings, but with such inner movement so that the viewer is never bored. Much like the beautiful quality of dreams, both those of a daydream on a summer day or the dreamlike state of a drowsy evening.

The blurred effect coupled with the subject matter, and the harmonious colors create calm. Contrast that with some of his fellow Impressionists, like Cézanne or Renoir.

Through His Eyes

Failing Vision

“The Artist’s Garden at Argenteuil”

The Effects Of His Eyesight

Many famous artists suffered from eyesight problems, Monet’s were well-known. By analyzing the depictions of the scenes and the tints of the colors, modern scientists can diagnose some of the issues of his poor eyesight and how that affected the way he painted.

Livescience.com discusses the effect of his sight loss on his painting:

During his lifetime it was known he suffered from cataracts.

As cataracts develop details fade out and shapes blur, white yellows, greens become yellow-green and reds are perceived as oranges. Blues and purples become replaced by reds and yellows.

Monet, for whose work fine variations in color were a hallmark, often expressed his frustration to friends and family as his vision failed between 1912 and 1922.

“He wrote letters to friends, how colors were getting dull, and it was hard to tell them apart, and how he had to label tubes of paint,” Marmor said. “He was very vocal about how his failing eyesight was affecting him.”

Argenteuil

Argenteuil
Claude Monet (Dusk in Venice) Art Poster Print – 24×36 Art Poster Print by Claude Monet, 36×24

An example of how the artists failing eye sight changed the tonal effects of his paintings.

Giverny

Garden at Giverny

 

When the artist was at his height creatively and where his happiness fairly saturates his canvases.

Dusk in Venice
Monet felt Venice was a city “too beautiful to be painted”

Dreamlike Color

monetHis fuzzy view of the world gives his paintings the dreamlike quality and results in a calming melange of color for the viewer.

As for the the opinion of the researcher into the results of this sight loss:

“I think it does not say that the paintings are good or bad or answer to the question as to how much they were trying to change their style,” Marmor said. “But I think it points out very dramatically some physical limitations that they had, which both limited their ability to paint, to put paint on canvas directly, but also to interpret what they were putting on a canvas-they couldn’t really judge what they were seeing.”

 

Inspiring Other Artists

He can inspire you just as these artists were inspired

Monet was not the only one to paint his garden- his living artistry in creating a garden inspired other painters, as well.

book coverMonet’s Garden

If you are in love with Monet’s Garden, yet another source for inspiration and reflection on his plantings and paintings

monet spring
‘Giverny Garden’ c.1890 Philip Leslie Hale – American Impressionist Painter – 1865 – 1931

Summer, Giverny
Summer, Giverny’ 1910 Clark was an American Painter – 1876 – 1949

He was an artist who inspired his generation and those following it to look at nature a whole new way, paint in “plein air”, and, unwittingly perhaps, turn a handicap like poor eyesight into an artistic asset.

Morning on the Seine, Near Giverny, 1896

morning on the seine

These Colors In Your Home

home colors
Monet’s Colors In Your Home

Taking interior decor colors from one of your favorite paintings is like the reverse of finding paintings to match the room. With many of the color picker apps available, this is a cinch to accomplish.

One of my favorite sites for creating a color board from favorite pictures is Colourlovers.com.

From creating some color boards, whether online or off, the design for a room’s color coordination is a step away. A very important component of your interiors is completed.

Waterlily Paintings

waterlilies
Water Lilies of the Orangerie as Giverny

Morning on the Seine near Giverny

m-seine

I believe one of my favorites is “Morning On The Seine”, perhaps because of the way the picture is divided between the blues and greens in a way that almost looks like fractals or the way a kaleidoscope breaks colors.

The Boat at Giverny (Or) the Norwegians, the Three Daughters of Mme. Hoschede

The Boat at Giverny

Home Decor Color Schemes

 

m-home2

The Palette

At the beginning of his career Monet used dark colors, but from 1860 on, Monet shunned dark colors and worked from a palette of pure and pale hues.

If you look carefully, what appears black is almost never really black. It might be purple or a mix of colors, but not ivory black.

He said of this:

“As for the colors I use, what’s so interesting about that ? I don’t think one could paint better or more brightly with another palette. The most important thing is to know how to use the colors. Their choice is a matter of habit. In short, I use white lead, cadmium yellow, vermilion, madder, cobalt blue, chrome green. That’s all.”

The Real Monet – Painting his famous waterlilies

Meadow in Giverny

Do you have a favorite Monet painting?

 

Blogging Resources and Advice

Starting Your Blog

In updating my Blog Resource Page, all the information written moved here. It is still current and helpful, but things I recommend and why need revision. This post has more explanation of the why and wherefore for using certain choices than I think is best for a no-frills resource list.

If you are new to blogging, sort through the following advice for timesavers and tips.

Free Themes

I recommend the default WordPress themes to start out with, unless you are sure you know what you want. There are free child themes available for them. Between the choices that all have the name “Twentysomething” ( series starting with ten, you should be able to find a theme that suits your blogging needs.

History of the default themes

The Swift theme was one that I used on this site for awhile and warmed up to it.

Update I had to change the Swift theme to the PageLines since the hackers kept getting into the Swift theme, which shows that security is a big deal in choosing a theme.

I have always liked the typography of PageLines, though I did miss the bright colors of Swift. Plus, I don’t think there should be a free theme that only gets updated to work well, forcing you to buy the premium version. That is something to watch out for, although it is much less likely to happen now. Not a problem with the bigger theme developers who have a reputation to stake.

I did a test-drive of the default free themes on this site before deciding to use Divi.

 

Paid Themes

I use Elegant themes (Divi) in my garden sites, and one of the earlier ones on TrueGrit, a religion blog.

I switched from experimenting with their new themes to using mainly their pride production: the Divi theme.
It has pros and cons. Although as time goes on the improvements are wiping out the negative opinions.

Pros

Divi is highly customizable and can do about anything you want it to.

It is responsive (extremely important, now).

Easy to work with.

Cons

The main thing I don’t like is one of the things I also do like: the pagebuilder.

The pagebuilder uses shortcode components that helps you build a page the way you want it. Making landing pages, etc is simple. But if you change from the Divi to another theme like the WordPress default, all the pages which you built show only the shortcode blocks .

This is highly inconvenient, to be locked into one theme.

Solution?

A plugin that helps to sort out the shortcodes coding on the site, or changes made by the ET developers to make all of the shortcode reside within a plugin that remains no matter what theme is chosen.

 

Looking For A Theme

  • Find features you need.
  • Pleasing layout and typography for readability.
  • Responsiveness now tops the list of needed features.
  • Support might be important for you, and regular updating certainly will be.

Now Using Fourteen Sixteen Theme

 

Further Update: WordPress made the good looking magazine theme for 2014 and I switched to it.  I am very happy with so many of its features that I imagine staying with it for quite awhile.

Further, Further Update: I kept updating until the twentysixteen theme. It doesn’t have the customizing plugins, nor is it easy to change the look. I love it for its functionality, though.

It is a good beginning theme. However I will say that for a complex site like my Garden site, the Divi pro theme from Elegant Themes is better suited to what I ask from WordPress.

  1. It supports a large number of post formats
  2. Good looking with cool feature image looks
  3. Showcases content well
  4. Safe and well updated
  5. Plugins made to provide extended control

Plugins

  • Color plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Fourteen extended plugin for the fourteen theme
  • Editorial Calendar is truly useful for anyone. I just started using one for my garden site and wished I had discovered it years ago.
  • SEO is super important and I like Yoast’s plugin the best.
  • There are several good social sharing helps, right now I use Shareaholic, which includes related posts.  I used  YARPP for years, and that worked well,  too -especially with new improvements it has now.
  • Akismet to deal with Spam. Bruteprotect to deter hackers. These are in the Jetpack. Yes, I use it.

There is controversy about the Jetpack, but I used enough of its features to make it worthwhile. It disturbs me to know that some feel it bloats and greatly increases loadtime for the site.

I switched back to YARPP after Shareaholic made changes that I really didn’t like. I no longer recommend it and deleted the plugin from all my sites.

I wrote about some of my favorite plugins, here.

Disclosure: I use affiliate links for some of the resources. This in no way influences the opinions I post. Everything written is transparent and based on my experience.

Gift Ideas For Art Therapy

People everywhere have discovered the relaxation and therapeutic value of coloring. Adult coloring books are even on sale at the checkout of my grocery stores! I think it is a great idea, but I also think we should take this love of coloring one step further:

Allow our own creative vision loose!

Not instead of using the coloring books, but along with them.

One type of coloring book
One type of coloring book

Beautiful Creatures: A Grayscale Adult Coloring Book of Animals

What does the use of a coloring book encourage?

I think it helps us feel inspired by another’s vision. The beauty of a talented artist frees us from worry that we won’t make something “artistic enough”. We aren’t held back by that fear. A coloring book is for our own creativity what training wheels are for a young bicyclist. It allows us to build confidence in our own abilities and strengthens the muscle coordination.

Using another artists picture does that for us, too. That is why children love their coloring books and paint by number sets.

But I am venturing the opinion that we ought to allow ourselves some freedom to be creative in our own right as well.

Copying For Practice, Not For Sale

We can start with copying ideas, there is nothing wrong with that when working on our own art therapy, but at some point we ought to take a chance on our own vision and style. To copy is an age old way to learn technique, but is never meant to pass off as one’s own.

Now get your supplies, spend some time in your coloring books, make a similar design of your own, and finally set your self free with your markers, pencils and blank sheets of paper.

Are you ready?

A Gift List For Coloring

    •  High quality colored pencils

 

  • Reliable pencil sharpener

 

Some Pretty Books To Get Started

Don’t forget to have a sketch book on hand for when you feel like freehand drawing.

Notes

Using a coloring book and pencils makes art easy and attainable. It sidesteps the worry that we will not be a “good artist”.

“Mindful art”  has been shown to reduce stress and provide a sense of comfort. (1)

Why does it work?

  • It helps switch off an overactive brain and center the mind’s focus.
  • It was observed that the repetition  of coloring creates changes in heart rate and in brainwaves.
  • Activates the creative side of the brain.
  • Ritual that helps you unwind from the daily grind.

What Medium Should You Use?

It really depends on what you like, but I would start with pencils because they are so easy to use and blend. Pastels, markers, and pens,are other possibilities. Paints are also something you could try, along with good old crayons. If you have any doubts about how to color- since it may have been a few years since you attempted to try your hand at art, go ahead and view some how to videos on Youtube. I was surprised at the number of them that either showed tips and tricks ( like how to color leaves) or just recored someone coloring..

Don’t forget to do the drawing yourself, though!

Domain Name Specifics

You will find lots of advice telling you to buy a domain name, but where and how to do that?

Picking Your Name Is Easy

  • Generally, shorter is better -without hyphens-
  • Remember to make it easy to remember, no matter what the length. Numbers aren’t a good idea.
  • Be careful of copyright and don’t borrow someone else’s name for your site.
  • There are many TLDs (top level domain extensions). It is still best to get a (dot)com ending since it is easy to remember.

Buy From Registrars

Going to a domain name registrar or buying through your webhosting company (many hosting companies sell domain names) are two ways to get a domain name.

My daughter bought hers from “Namecheap.com”, and then purchased her hosting with another company. When I started out at Netfirms, I bought my domain name through them.

Wherever you register your domain name, there is one thing you might keep in mind: privacy. If you would like to keep your personal information private, some do provide that service with the purchase, but more likely it is an add-on service. Check.

You are also likely to see offers that are deeply discounted, even free. If you look at the fine print, it is usually only for the first year; renewing the domain is at the usual going price.

Time periods of one year, two, three, etc are available. If you know this is a business or blog you want for a long period of time, it would be economical and less troublesome to sign up for a longer amount of time. It is normally less expensive.

I have renewed my most important domains for ten years. Those I wasn’t sure I would develop into a site or business were for one to two years at a time.

There will be some variation for fees depending on the company you go with- investigate.

Is the dashboard user friendly and the company reputable for support, etc? You will likely have to do a few things to point your domain to your web hosting.

After my initial purchases at Netfirms (which later put all their domain name business in Tucows hands), I had purchased a couple names from GoDaddy.

GoDaddy is one of the most popular, but I found it confusing to manage. It is somewhat better today, but I still like Netfirms/Tucows better, and privacy features were included in the cost.

 
It has been recommended to buy and manage the domain name separately from your hosting. I have never had problems, but I do follow that advice.
 

 

Discovering Kentucky Craftsmen At The Artisan Center of Berea

Tucked away on Berea Exit 77 off the Interstate Highway 75 is a gem of a travel center, a place of respite and art. Perfect for Christmas gift shopping when looking for the unique.

Art Is A Lifestyle

Washroom Flowers
Washroom flowers show off artisan pottery

Washroom flowers show off artisan pottery

Rest Stop Or Gallery Hop?

When I first stopped at the Kentucky Artisan Center I was on my way to Cleveland, Tennessee, where my daughter was attending Lee College. I was delighted by the well landscaped building, and generous parking spaces with the air of an art gallery that is geared towards giving a sense of Kentucky’s hospitality.

Everything about the place shows the attention to excellence that craftsmen give to their creations, and it makes a welcoming stop for travelers. Everything has a handcrafted feel, including the stone walkways and outdoor patio. The story of Berea’s famed handcrafts and the early native inhabitants are displayed through the entry, starting in the parking lot.

Within the spacious building are two parts, one dedicated to a gallery hop of Kentucky artisan offerings, while the other holds a cafe with plenty of seating, and the best, cleanest restrooms in the nation. They even have seasonal flower arrangements that give the atmosphere of a hospitable inn.

Homespun Crafts Make Great Gifts

homespun crafts and fabric goods
There are all sorts of baskets, fabric arts, wooden wares that make unique gifts.

There are all sorts of baskets, fabric arts, wooden wares that make unique gifts.

Arts And Crafts Displays

Handmade pottery
Shelves of pottery are just one of the attractions

The Gallery of Arts And Crafts

My favorite part of the stop is to stretch my legs walking through the gallery of art, and looking at tastefully displayed crafts on shelves within the shopping part of the Artisan Center. I have purchased unique gifts for the family on my trips to Atlanta, and treasures for myself. From beautifully crafted wood items to oil paintings, finely carved and painted gourd art, horsehair pottery, handthrown pottery, prints, photography, glass art, there is a well curated array of the types of crafts that the artists of Berea can produce.

From inexpensive to fine art that is worth every penny,with each trip I attempt to buy something that catches my eye. I have some fine handmade baskets, pottery mugs, and several paintings that adorn my own home, all thanks to my stops at this place. I love it, and it is actually one of the highlights of my trips. In fact, one of these days I wish to travel just to Berea to further explore their art community, but in the meantime, this stop by the side of the road has provided a peek into a rich and varied legacy of the Appalachian culture.

Things to know

cafe
gallery
restrooms
open 9:30am – 3:30 pm
open 9am – 6pm
open only during center hours
serves Kentucky cuisine
showcases Kentucky products
clean and modern
lunch specials
special exhibits
handicap access

Open during the hours shown, daily | closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

Have You Been There?

Have you visited this Artisan Center?

  • There are some walkways and trails, although I haven’t had opportunity to follow them.
  • There are selections of music CDs available, books, food items, all Kentucky based in flavor and inspiration.
  • A friendly information desk attendant greets you as you enter the main door.

Christmas Time Trips

Holiday tree ornaments
Christmas Goodies -along the way

Christmas Goodies -along the way

Berea Has An Artful History

Berea,Kentucky began its existence as an Abolitionist town from rural beginnings. As time progressed and laws in Kentucky dashed the original hopes of an integrated society, the town became known mainly for its college and its lumber industry. Then began an interest, in the wake of the Arts and Crafts Movement, in reviving the culture and traditions of Appalachia. Although some of the highest ambitions of the visionaries of Berea were not realized, it did become a hub of the American Crafts Revival.

Applecreek ACD100 Dulcimer

 

 

As An Artist

A collage of The Artisan Center displays.
A collage of The Artisan Center displays. Sampling the many remarkable gifts available for sale.

I not only enjoy viewing and buying art by other artists, I learn by seeing the wares that are displayed. What kinds of frames are the best for a painting? What do gourd art methods look like up close? What interesting ways do artists combine materials to produce something useful?

Whenever we visit gallery exhibits it tells us something, and this gem of a display refreshes my spirit . It tells me that art is alive and present in our daily lives. The surprise of fresh flower arrangements that adorn a clean bathroom is as much art as the big oil painting on the wall with spotlights. That teaches me something, and speaks volumes to the way our lives are enriched.

 

When roadwork was done in the area, the name of the address changed, but the center is still located in the same place it always was. Once listed as a location on Walnut Meadow Road, its road is now known as Artisan Way.

Useful Information

Look For Exit 77, off of Route 75

Gallery of arts and crafts, including handmade jewelry, with a cafe and well kept restrooms. Be sure to have some money and space set aside for gifts

Road Name Has Changed

A selfie of the author

I love the clean restrooms, don’t you?
© 2016 Ilona Erwin

The Blog Peripherals

What I’ve Learned from 1 Year of Blogging

A new blogger reflects on what it takes to make a go of blogging on her one year anniversary.

It’s not that the writing takes up all your time, it’s all the little things you do in the background. Time spent building your website, replying to emails, researching future posts, being active on social media. It all adds up!

Become A Garden Writer

writing for your blog

Improve or Begin to Write About Your Garden Experience

The world of garden writing is a varied one. Most of us think of it as pure nonfictional writing that covers the how-to of gardening, making a garden, and growing plants, but the best garden writing incorporates more, and there are pockets of garden writing that soar with inspirational prose and are hybridized with spiritual and motivational writing.

Write What You Know

  • …And write what you love, but that is not all.
  • Spelling is important.
  • Punctuation is important.
  • Work on improving your writing skills, consistently.
  • I want to write things for which my only explanation for writing is not, “I needed the money.”

Improve Your Writing Skills – Keep writing inspiration and tips handy

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov.

Poetic and rhetorical devices to enhance your writing. Work on improving the beauty and magic of your words.

Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love

Get to the gist of your goal to become a garden writer. Covering such topics as the “how-to” article and giving guidance on writing well, the will help you interest your reader and organize your outlines. The all important story telling gets a chapter, along with the nuts and bolts you will need for your blog or book.

Different Styles

…of writing are good to know and practice.

Garden Writing is Technical Writing

Though it may be primarily dressed in another form

In a sense all garden writing is technical writing. When the subject includes so much of science, such as horticulture and botany, a certain amount of precision and accuracy is needed. It is necessary to both identify the plants properly and to discuss the matter of designing and growing a garden well.

Even in a romantic fictional piece of garden-focused writing, it is important to get plant nomenclature and description correct for the reader to fully appreciate the thought and emotion being conveyed. To use some wordplay, it roots the imagination into the the fertile, substantive source of the writing.

How will the transport of the scent of lilacs be truly understood if the writing isn’t clear about the context of place, and the nature of the plant? Lilacs, for instance, are known to survive for a long time, surviving the ruin of a house or the disappearance of the other original signs of human habitation. The scent is a musky, heady sweet fragrance, and the shrub was once planted in almost every dooryard of old farmhouses. It is a plant that connects generations, and their memories of their own old homesteads…sometimes miles from where the family would finally settle. Understanding a plants persistence or ephemeral nature, its scent or unpleasant smell, where one might have happened upon it, or who was likely to grow it may make a world of difference in how to incorporate the response to a characteristic, the gardens, and the plantings into a story.

How-To Writing

In writing “how-to” information the technical aspects are easy to see. For success on the part of the reader, they need all the accurate information necessary to accomplish their desired task. Use expert information, and if anecdotal information is included, please label that so the reader can take that point into consideration in their own set of conditions.

Plants have many romantic common names, and there are enough duplicates which refer to very different plants to create some confusion, so the use of Latin names ( as frustrating as that can sometimes be…see the case of the aster or the autumn clematis…)

More Reading

Why Latin?

Be Accurate

  • Check your facts.
  • Check plant names.
  • Make it a rule to use Latin plant names, whenever possible.
  • Record up to date information on hardiness, etc.

How to Write About Gardening: Get a Camera, Open a Blog, Start Writing

writing rules

Most garden writing is “how-to” essay writing. It is largely non-fiction, although some of the best writers do use a story telling style as they describe their activities or what impressions nature makes on their lives. The format of “How to Grow” or “5 Tips to…” “10 Plants…” etc. also work well.

Try to visualize your audience. Is it a new gardener, or someone who is experienced and wants something new?

I personally do not like highly hyped garden writing, which is common in the genre. Not everything is easy, beautiful, or must-have in gardening. In fact, gardening is a highly individual occupation, with a range of tastes in what is considered ideal both in in style and method. Hype sells more, but restraint and valuable information educates leading to the success of the reader and the future cultivation of the hobby.

Anyone can have a beautiful garden that functions well for their family with all the planning helps and online tutorials that are available. I really believe that. It only requires taking the time to watch some videos and read some articles before you are ready to face the challenges and choices of making a garden.

Now, mind you, I;m not saying it is easy… or even simple, but it is easy and simple to start. And those first steps are supported with expert advice that is as close as your iPhone or PC to support you along the way.

The great thing about nature is that it wants to grow and thrive. So you are bound to have a number of successes. Failures are just learning opportunities, anyway. Write about both your successes and your failures; they both make interesting reading material.

Keep It Conversational

Writing in a conversationally is a style that mimics the way we communicate verbally. Almost all my online writing is done in this manner, which means I play fast and loose with numerous ellipses, sentence fragments, and such devices.

Common Writing Tips To Review – Do you have these skills under your belt?

 

“Read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

  1. Be clear, and edit, edit, edit.
  2. Avoid cliches.
  3. Use, but don’t overuse, adjectives and adverbs.
  4. Try to use as many of the five senses as possible.
  5. Research and validate your facts.

Who’s Who in Garden Writing – A sampling of those authors I like, and why

Gertrude Jekyll, famous garden author
Gertrude Jekyll, famous garden author

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Helen Van Pelt Wilson

You may not be familiar with her name, as she was an American garden writer more popular in the past generation, but Helen Van Pelt Wilson was a writer whose warmth and love of garden plants sparked enthusiasm for creating gardens and growing things for many, including me. I recently purchased two of her out-of-print books through Amazon, so I could have copies on my bookshelf, since I had borrowed the library’s copies so many times.

His writing is clear, fascinating, and expert. John Brookes tackles the difficult task of covering a wide range of topic and does so with seeming ease. I love his books, filled with the best of illustrations to inspire and informative in the way only an excellent teacher can match. I own many of his books, and would gladly own them all.

Penelope Hobhouse

I love English Garden Writers in general, but Penelope Hobhouse has been the one to mark my sense of garden color and fired up my imagination more than any other. She, too, tackles very broad garden subjects, but it is her intimate garden experiences which I love to hear about and the illustrations of her matchless garden plant combinations which inform my own gardening.

Tracy Disabato-Aust

This is a garden writer from my own native Ohio. That is not why she is one of the best garden book authors, though. She creates garden books which are practical, inspiring, and ultimately the best for American gardeners. She manages to provide expert information that almost any gardener in the USA can use. That is a tall order for so vast and varied a country, but perhaps that accomplishment is due to her great design sense and the fact that she concentrates on the plants. You learn much about gardening by reading her books and they point to straight to the garden to put the head knowledge into experience. She is my favorite contemporary author, at this time.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll is an example of how a garden writer may be an arbiter of taste and change the landscape of how we make our gardens. Influenced herself by William Robinson, her writing grew from her landscape design prowess and reputation. She is still influential today and her ideas are the foundation of creating perennial borders and monochromatic gardens. Her most famous books have reappeared in reprints that are revised for plants name accuracy ( since many of the names have changed over the years) and with colored illustrations.

 

 

Penelope Hobhouse – Expert and Enjoyable Garden Writer

Penelope Hobhouse is an example of fine garden writing at its best, from her expertise on plants to her accurate and enjoyable prose.


In Search of Paradise: Great Gardens of the World

Start your own collection of her fine tomes.Her expert guidance through some of the great gardens makes for an excellent tour.

Garden Writing

 

Ilona’s Garden is a Website…. and my garden

I write about what I know – a key to better writing

Some websites are impersonal things. They are a company or about a product, or general information or lots and lots of information and writers. That is great- sometimes it is just what you need and want. But sometimes someone has decided to share a bit of their life and the wisdom garnered from their own experiences. That is what my garden website consists of, in Ilona’s Garden. Come visit with me and read about the plants I love or what I know about garden design. Or you can visit the blog on my new domain: Ilona’s Garden Journal for conversation and whatever is going on in the garden and during the season….

 

If you would like to know more about gardening my website holds the keys of my experience of many years in my central Ohio yard. It is always growing! I like to blog, play around with trying new stuff, garden (of course).

Designing for Zazzle and Cafepress are two new avenues I’m taking. Mainly on Zazzle, to help supplement income for online costs and to use my graphics and photos in an alternative way.

Little Known Secret About Garden Information Online

writing secrets
writing secrets

Maybe it is better known than I think, but the web is flooded by poor or just plain wrong garden information. It is true… and garden writers, in the confines of their hangouts sometimes will bemoan the fact. It isn’t a matter of a gateway, or a degree, or anything like that. It is a matter of experience with plants and gardens.

I noticed this when I was first writing my beginning pages on Geocities. There were garden websites that were getting quite popular, even though their creators knew little about gardening…. they were quite good at marketing and at making community. That is an expertise in itself, but it doesn’t help people garden successfully, except when they share their own hard won advice. And that is the secret sauce: real gardeners who like to talk “over the fence” about what is working for them and the basic how-to science and art of making a garden ( things like propagating plants, and building soil….etc,etc.).

Right now, there are a flood of garden writers coming online and making blogs from mainline media, like magazines and newspapers. It raises the quality of the writing, and sometimes of the information, but it also seems to bring the system of inbred networking and impersonal disconnect from that industry. That is just my opinion, you may think differently, but I still hold out for the individual voice of the everyday gardener who will tell you the truth when something won’t work for you. Or is just as glad at a small vegetable patch as at a magazine ready potager layout. Because it is all just as good, when it comes to people loving their little plot or -if they have it- spacious stretch of landscape, whatever makes it yours. Size doesn’t matter; well, it kind of does, but not in the way we think (mostly in how much work is involved).

Anyway, I want you to know why I keep laboring on creating a website for gardeners. I have LOTS of information and links going out to other great sources . It isn’t always easy to find my sites in the flood of new websites and blogs! But that is OK, once you find it I hope you will bookmark and then offer your suggestions on how it can be better for you. I invite you to do that by commenting on this lens, or joining the Ilona’s Garden Facebook page, which has discussion and comment opportunities and you can upload pictures of your own gardens,etc. That is an idea! I love other people’s gardens.

The marketing and writing lesson which I could away from the Squidoo community and others that count in creating truly helpful information is “to focus in”. That was something that was starting to get obvious as early as a couple years into writing about gardening. It is a huge topic when all the variables are factored in: climate,soil, plants,environments, animals,even fashions…. So my focus is not just Ohio, but on the groundfloor of “Central Ohio”. And from there everyone who has similar circumstances or similar needs for plants can benefit.

The little known secret for everyone is to find quality sources for your garden information. Sometimes hooking in with someone who gives you leads and links. That is why I started The Garden Librarian, too – to wade through the many garden books and find the best.

A comprehensive guide to garden writing.
The Penguin Book of Garden Writing

The Modern Writing Tool – A Mac Pro Computer

I switched to the Mac when I had to replace my laptop. There is so much going for the design and capability of this tool that you will be happy you made the decision to buy it.

A Place To Write – A Beautiful Inspiration To Write Daily

Can you imagine yourself sitting at a lovely writing desk, before a large window looking out into a blooming garden? can you picture yourself inspired to write all about the effects of the garden on your life, on your thoughts, and how you created the gardens with love? Can you convey the emotion of your heart when you peer into the face of your favorite flower? If you are not a garden writer yet, you may have all the makings of one. Give it a try.

a pleasant place to write
a pleasant place to write

Let Grammar Girl Help You – Improve your writing

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips)

Everyone can use some help on their grammar, and good grammar is a must in good writing.

Blog Well – No matter what your topic niche may be

ConcreteLoop.com Presents: Angel’s Laws of Blogging: What You Need to Know if You Want to Have a Successful and Profitable Blog

 

Better Writing Links

 

  • 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer
    A couple of weeks ago we asked our readers to share their writing tips. The response was far beyond the initial expectations, and the quality of the tips included was amazing. Thanks for everyone who contributed. Now, without further delay…
  • 9 Expert Tips For Better Writing
    One of the things I like best about social media is the way it helps me discover talented writers. They remind me a lot of distance athletes with their…

About Niche, Evergreen, And Seasonal Writing

It is all old news now: blogging is /and has been/ changing.

If you are new to creating a blog and writing online, maybe these terms are new to you. Or maybe you are like me, and never really “got it”, needing to bone up on these pillars of blog success and learn some new “tricks” at the same time.

With the tsunami of internet blogs comes a necessity to keep your head above water just to get an average number of readers. But fear not, there is still opportunity and with good old grit and determination online writers can still craft a following while pursuing their dream of creating a body of work.

First Some Definition

What is a niche?

It is a specialized subject area. Preferably your niche is narrowed down to the point where you have appeal to a loyal tribe of people who share your interest.

The alternative is to have a broader area of interest, but create a prolific amount of articles which have good authority.

My own example is that my sites mainly revolved around the topic of gardening. Since that was such a broad topic, I further reduced the scope to  Central Ohio Gardening , with an emphasis on home landscaping design.

Even there, I am finding that I must greatly increase the output of articles to improve my online standing.

The point of having a niche topic is to build authority and gain readership by reducing your competition for keywords and interest. It is a combination of catering to Google for search engine results and catering to those who wish to find authoritative information on their favorite subject.

What are some other popular niches?

laptop lady

DIY Home Decor
DIY Crafts
DIY Interior decorating
Selling Homemade Items
Self-sustaining lifestyle
Grow your own food
Use alternative energy
Preserving Foods
Simpler Living
Green living
Organizational Skills
Lifehacks

Actually, these are all highly saturated topics now, but by studying “long tail keywordsA long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that contains two to three words” you can successfully choose a good niche topic for your blogging.

I have seen advice consisting of writing on a certain long tail keyword for a few key posts, and then branch out to adding posts on other related keywords for your chosen subject matter. I tend to write as the muse hits me, but this tip strikes me as a more organized and targeted approach. Even though my blogs are established, I think that is good advice to round out my own content.

What Is An Evergreen Post?

scotch pine evergreen
As may be surmised, no matter what the season year, in and year out, something that attracts reader’s interest  is called “evergreen content”.

Posts that have no expiration because they hold long term interest.

What type of topics might qualify for this type of article?

    • Instructional “How To” Tutorials
    • Product Reviews
    • Top Tips
    • Lists

What do people love to read about? Food, romance, money, weight loss, their pets …you know, the usual. It’s the usual because we are perennially interested in these topics as humans.

And that… is Evergreen.

Seasonal Writing

The seasons give rise to traditions in food, holidays, activities, and many other types of subjects that perennially pop up and create interest in our writing.

Here is a list of common topic examples by month:



January: 

  • dieting
  • depression
  • taxes
  • money, budgeting, earning extra income
  • New Year’s resolutions
  • weather
  • baking, recipes

February:

  • Valentine’s Day
  • football
  • income tax, spring,
  • Chinese New Year
  • love, romance, dating.

March:

  • Daylight savings time
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Spring
  • Easter, Palm Sunday, Passover
  • diet, exercise

April:

  • April Fools Day
  • fashion, shoes
  • Crocus, Tulips
  • spring birds
  • relationships



May:

  • Spring break
  • Mother’s Day
  • spring flowers
  • babies, children
  • gardening
  • travel
  • graduation, prom,
  • summer employment
  • weddings

June:

  • Weddings, graduation
  • summer, summer break
  • children, games
  • travel
  • outdoor activities
  • Father’s Day
  • summer employment

July:

  • Fourth of July
  • cameras
  • Independence Day
  • Warm weather foods (barbecue, ice cream, salads).

August:

  • summer activities
  • back to school
  • computers
  • college, dorm
  • students



September:

  • Labor day
  • Clothing
  • Canning
  • Fruit
  • Health
  • Harvest

October:

  • Crafts
  • Autumn
  • Halloween costumes
  • Baking
  • Fashions for fall and winter

November:

  • Remembrance Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Turkey, holiday recipes
  • Gifts
  • Baking
  • Black Friday

December:

  • Christmas, holidays
  •  Ornaments, Christmas trees
  • Winter, cold, ice, snow, snowflakes
  • Winter sports


Writing Schedule
To take advantage of seasonal searches, write your articles 3 months in advance of the expected interest dates.

Generally Speaking

Building a solid base of evergreen content within a niche is a good way to start out with your blogging. It is also a great way to view where an established blog might flesh out their appeal.

If you are interested at all in making income from your writing, I’d say these concerns should rise to the top of your writing “to-do” list. You are much more likely to hit your target when focused, then using hit or miss style of building your blog.

Myself? When free to experiment with writing topics, as in my time on Squidoo, I found that evergreen content and creating a niche were best combined for success in drawing readers and earning money.

Today, one of the fastest ways to get these articles seen and grow in traffic has been through the use of Pinterest. Utilizing social media is the next step, after writing a foundation of solid content.