Things I Learned on my Summer Vacation…

autism and play momnivores-dilemma.com

Tongue in cheek of course. It’s that proverbial crap back to school essay.  This summer has been a challenge.  I decided it was best to stop writing for a bit.  To see if I missed it. Sometimes you need to step away from what you love to really appreciate it.

autism and play momnivores-dilemma.com

It’s this space that I love.  The quiet glow of the screen.  The looking back at who I was and this journey nearly five years deep.

A place where I’ve shared the heart on my sleeve.  Tears.  Fears.  You name it.

This space has never been about page views and sponsored posts and the like.

I suck at social media.  And regularly blogging.

But, I received an email the other day that tugged at my heart strings about the message of this here site, and realized OH SHIT! It’s been awhile hasn’t it?

So, hello again.

I’m going to be changing course here, as blogs and life often do.

All creative projects will be at ink and sky.com.  There will be some.  I’m making it my homework for myself, because without the creation of stuff I become one nasty person.

This fall, I’m homeschooling my youngest, so I will be sharing some of that journey here.  I will still be posting recipes and talking about health, because that’s what I do best.  Of course, still Mr. Moose and the autism journey.

So, this summer, I learned…to kick the bucket list. There’s no cutesy things like in years past, because well, I’m tired.

Look what an overachiever I was last year.  Too much of the Pinterest.

Chicago summer bucket list 2013

This year one thing was on my list: RELAX.  Stay home, in the yard, chasing butterflies. I lie.  I don’t know HOW to relax.  I really don’t. I’m always doing, doing, doing.  Of course stressing about the homeschool while trying to be a good mom while working from home, and the where is all of this going.

I’ve just put my faith in God, and He will show me the way.

Nicolette

 

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Changes and New Directions…

Hello, dear readers.

It’s been a few years since I started this here site, and over the course of those years, I’ve learned a lot about the interwebs and blogging.  It’s been an incredible experience sharing our journey with you.  I know my words and stories have helped countless families dealing with autism and gluten-free, and by no means, is this a Dear John letter.

 

This was the picture that started it all.  Monkey, age 6 months.  Now he’s 4.  My God. This website has had, in my opinion, too many directions.  I started just about autism, and then feel in love with craft blogs, and then ADHDed in too many directions…

So, in short, I’ve started a new blog to house all my creative projects.  Slowly, I’ll be moving my favorites over to the new site, and leaving the early posts in these archives.  The menu bar now showcases the new areas this blog will cover exclusively.

Momnivore’s Dilemma will continue to share autism, health, nutrition, gluten-free recipes, and special needs parenting type posts, while my new site will house all the crafts, DIY projects, and creative pursuits.

Basically, what I should have done from the start.

Yes, 2 kids and 3 blogs…I’m a bit insane, but the busier I am, the more productive I am.  The Classroom Creative is truly my job, while my personal blogs, although they do bring in some money, are more for the fun of it.

So, if you’ve enjoyed any of my DIY and creative projects over the years, stay tuned.  I actually designed the next site ON MY OWN. I got really brazen over the weekend, and bought a new dot com and installed a wordpress theme.  Believe you me, it was MUCH easier to start fresh at wordpress than it was to transfer this site from blogger to wordpress!

Stay tuned for more later this week.

I’ll give you a hit about the name.  It’s two words.  6 letters and one character total.  I love it.   It encompasses the feet on the ground head in the clouds dichotomy of me…  Reveal to come shortly…

So, as the years bring about change…so do the blogs of our lives.

My best,

Nicolette

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Haters Gonna Hate: On Martha Stewart & Bloggers

Martha Stewart and Bloggers

So, the blogging world just got slapped in the face by the venerable Martha Stewart.  To quote her from the Bloomberg Interview:

“Who are these bloggers? They’re not trained editors at Vogue magazine. I mean, there are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. So bloggers create kind of a, um, popularity. But they are not the experts, and we have to understand that.”

I may not be the editor of Vogue Magazine, nor honestly, would I want to be.

Bloggers do matter.  They are relevant.

Without special needs mommy bloggers, I would have felt completely alone when Moose was diagnosed with autism.  Without gluten-free bloggers, I would have spent more money, time, and energy learning how to bake and cook without wheat than is necessary.  Without health and real food bloggers, I would have never opened my eyes as wide in regard to our food system.

Martha Stewart and Bloggers

What really grates me is that Martha actually has a “network” of bloggers known as Martha’s Circle- a carefully curated selection of DIY blogs that she profits from via pageviews.  I’m sure it’s not a huge portion of her millions, but pouring salt and vinegar into the relationships that grow readers, traffic, and in her view, consumers of products leaves a bitter taste.

Blogs are growing in numbers each year.  Pinterest was born on the back of blogs.  Blogs do matter.

Frankly, any google search you type in will most likely land you on a blog of that topic.

Blogs matter because we are in the here and now.  Our sites are updated 24/7, unlike the dinosaur publications of paper. Unlike paper publications, we create community and a dialogue.

We are the mothers, creators, teachers, bakers, dreamers, and doers. We make do on a real world budget, not the unrealistic budgets of Vogue magazine.

We interact with our readers.   We respond.

 

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31 Days of Project Graveyard

Last year, I committed to writing for Nester’s 31 days.  By mid-month, I was exhausted about writing about Halloween. Writing 31 days straight about anything, is well, a lot.  Especially, now given my new early bird status and this work-from-home gig. Frankly, I’ve neglected this blog, as I have been up to my eyes over at The Classroom Creative.

This year, I’m going to broaden my topic to kickstart what is high-blogging season for me…with Project Graveyard.

project graveyard

It’s all those nagging little things you hope to do, that never make the top of the to-do list.  It’s all the drafts I have sitting in my blog.  It’s unfinished business around the house.  It’s all those baby books I’ve never gotten around to.

The concept came from a studio I used to take classes at about a decade ago.  The owner would host open-ended night where you would bring alone unfinished projects.

So, this month, marks the start of my 34th year.  Today, actually, I’m 34.

What better way to mark the start of a new phase, than to complete something small each day.  Something small that nags you…those little energy vampires.

Tomorrow, I’ll share a simple Halloween craft that I started two years ago for my front lawn.

Never got around to it, until today.

 

See you then,

Nicolette

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3 year old + bubbles + MacBook Pro={an early holiday}

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Hello all-


I took some quiet to reflect on recent events, and just when I was about to post: Monkey dumped bubbles on my MacBook.  Not good.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s replaceable.  Despite a long time out and a laptop sitting in a sensory bin of rice leftover from Moose’s EI days, things aren’t looking good.

So, all things bloggy are put on hold until Santa magically brings me a G to replace said computer.  There will be no Creative Juice until the week of Jan. 7th.  Here’s a blurry pic of Monkey, in his innocent non-Hulk computer smashing days, at a mere 4 months in 2009.  Working on our ancient desktop is the pits.

 

Perhaps, it was time to unplug a wee bit early anyway.  The boys are out of school early, and it’s time to just be, and not “do”.

I wish you all a Happy Holiday.  And rest.  And peace.

I’ll be back as soon.  So much is going on here.  I can’t wait to share.

My best,

Nicolette

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Switching from Blogger to WordPress- The Why & How

moving-from-blogger-to-wordpress

Last month, I bought myself a birthday present.  I switched from the Google monster of Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress.

For the past year, I knew if I wanted to take my blogging to the next level, I had to move.  If you are a hobby blogger, fine.  Stay put.  Blogger is like that ex-boyfriend in high school whom you kind of liked.  Dating was comfortable. He was okay-looking.  You had fun together, but you knew the relationship wasn’t forever.

WordPress is the guy you want to marry.  Have his babies.  Grow old with.

If you have any ambition to align your professional goals with your blogging, then, it’s time to dump Google’s Blogger platform.

Sure, Blogger’s template is easy to use.  You can customize it and make it look pretty with some basic knowledge.

There is one massive problem with Blogger: you do not own your content. I repeat.  Your content belongs to Google.

No lie.  It’s buried deep in the agreement you had when you signed up for your blogspot.  The urban legends of blogs being deleted for no reason also scared me as well.

When I switched to WordPress, I had almost 450 posts {although nearly 100 of those were link parties}.  Still, that was a lot of writing that I poured my soul into, only to have Google truly own it.

Rather than monkeying around with the transfer myself, I took a recommendation from another Chicago blogger friend of mine Linda at It All Started With Paint: and used Kristi from Linauer Designs to transfer my blog and make a few design tweaks.

All for the low, low price of $250, plus hosting {which ran me around $70 for the year}.  I had other designers quote me in the thousands, but I didn’t want a total design overhaul.  Frankly, I like the way my blog looks: the minimalistic design. I wanted the writing and photos to take center stage  .

Kristi cleaned up my header image, gave me some custom social media buttons, and installed sidebar titles.

The whole process took a few days.  I was a bit high maintenance, asking for tweaks and such.  Kristi was intuitive and fast.  My blog was only out of commission for a day and a half when we switched nameservers {from Google to Host Gator}.

I kick myself for waiting so long.

The only glitch was some formatting in older posts.  Google is rather code-heavy, and the Genesis theme for WordPress doesn’t use as much code.  So, I had to add spacing in some old popular posts like my makeup magnetic board.   A weekend home alone and a bottle of wine made the process painless.

Now, I own my words.  My images.

In short, dear blogger friends, consider this:

1.) On Google’s Blogger, they own all your posts.  In this case, there truly is no such thing as a free lunch.

2.) The SEO in WordPress, the Genesis theme specifically, is unparalleled.  I can’t believe how much my traffic has improved through the search engines since I moved to WordPress.

3.) I repeat.  The SEO in Wordpres blows Blogger away.  Which, I know doesn’t make sense, after all, Google owns Blogger.  Wouldn’t they want to promote their own first?  Apparently, not.

If you want to take your blog seriously, then forgo all the extra crap you toss in your cart at Target, don’t go out for dinner or eat out for a month, and magically, you will have the funds to transfer.

My fairy blogmother, Kristi from Lineaur Designs comes not only highly recommended from me, but from a host of other blogger I’m sure you all read.  She’s affordable in a market of people charging a mortgage payment to do so.

If you are considering the move, don’t wait.  Breaking up with Blogger isn’t hard to do, when you have a rebound guy who is way better looking and smarter.

Off to kiss WordPress ,

Nicolette

 

 

 

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Creative Blog Business Card Ideas

creative-handmade-blog-business-cards-ideas


 

 

I collect blog and creative business cards much like I did Garbage Pail Kids in the late 80s.  On Pinterest, I recently made a board dedicated to creative and handmade business cards.

Unlike their stuffy corporate counterparts, blogland and creative businesses takes themselves far less seriously.

There were a few cards from the SITS girls conference this weekend that I hope can inspire some ideas for your own business cards-whether you are an etsy shoppe owner, crafter, writer, artist, blogger, etc.

Use humor on your business cards:

The back of Anne from Not a Supermom‘s cards made me laugh out loud. After spending some time on Anne’s blog, her wit extends far beyond the business card.

 Hillary from Because My Life is Fascinating, obviously doesn’t take herself so seriously.

 Go handmade with business cards:

Here’s my other site The Classroom Creative‘s handmade take on the moo card.  We made it  on texture-lunchbag type paper.  We thought the stickers added a fun touch, given that we are teaching site, so it fit.

 

Good things come in small packages {including your local blogger}.

Here’s my card for momnivore’s dilemma.  It’s meant to convey a walk-a-day-in-my-shoes idea. The Converse shoes were from an old header that I used in my Real Mother of Autism series. Incorporating my tagline “create, parent, nourish” underneath the blog name gives you an inkling of what I write about.

Rethink size and shape to stand out:

I love the rounded edge on Anna’s card from My Life and Kids.

Doubled-sided business cards make use of wasted space:

Take note on Linda from It All Started with Paints business card with her blog on the front, and etsy shoppe Drop Cloth Designs on the back.  Plus, her design is streamlined from her website.  Memorable, and smart.

Party on the front:

Business in the back:

Incorporate logos:

Here are my logos for both sites.  The one for this site I designed with a typewriter vector.

Tip: Searching ‘vectors” is what real graphic designers do, clipart is far cheesier.   The apple logo from The Classroom Creative was designed by Renee Deming of Studio Bold.  She has an incredible eye.

 

If you have any business cards you like to share, link them in the comments below, and I will share them on pinterest!

Be on the lookout for much more in the blog business card realm, because Karen {from the classroom creative} and I will be heading to BlogHer ’13 in our lovely downtown here in Chicago this coming July!

Thanks for reading,

Nicolette

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Blog Conference Tips: From Bloggy Boot Camp-Chicago

new to blog conferences, tips for blog conference

This past weekend, my business partner Karen from The Classroom Creative and I spent the weekend at the Bloggy Bootcamp in downtown Chicago. Now, I’ve been to two SITS conferences {and I am not new to the conference circuit by any means, because as a teacher, you live at them}.

I’m officially addicted.

If you can’t pony up the couple of hundred dollars for the ticket, start search public payphones and vending machines for change starting now.  Blog conferences are that worth it.

Why?

Unadulterated time away from the grind of home.  Where there’s laundry to be folded.  Kids to be shipped off to school.  Husbands to please.  {A wink to  SITS founder Tiffany Romero on that one}

Time and headspace to take off the hats of wife, mother, and full-time what-ever-else-you-may-be.

Time to just be a blogger.  A writer.  Ultimately, YOU before the stuff of life happened.  Time to just dream and focus on your goals.

I will share my biggest takeaways, but gaining insight into SEO, brands, and social media is necessary to understanding this digital realm.  Especially when your degree in advertising is from when a little company named google just started.  The game has changed, and continuing education is incredibly important for staying relevant.

Tips for Blog Conference Newbies:

1.) Brings tons of blog business cards.  Yes, you need them.  Don’t forget them.  Tomorrow, stop by for a deeper look at the blog business card world.  Word of advice?  Don’t finish them at lunch on the way BEFORE the conference.

 

Cough, Karen, Cough. {That’s my business partner for The Classroom Creative}.  I love them, though.  The cards were darling and handmade.  The paper had a texture of a lunch bag, but thicker.  Perfect for a teaching website. Despite their 11th hour delivery during a much-needed quiet lunch. But we both have kids and crazy schedules, so sometimes, our best work is at the last minute.

Here’s my half-eaten salad from Prasino.  Any restaurant that has my beloved kombucha on the menu is golden.

 This place had killer natural  lighting in there too for an iPhone! {note to self: have lunch alone and bring future etsy shoppe things to photograph}.  We are just weeks away from a big girl camera, people.  It’s about to get serious up in these parts.

2.) First impressions.  Like it or not, we are in a visual world. Take the time to choose outfits that are both stylish and comfortable.  Make sure you don’t have muffin tops spilling over, or bra straps showing. Spanx for the 30+ crowd loves you back. Look professional, but stylish.  Remember, you are meeting with brands at the conference as well!

This is former sorority girl in me, thinking of a blog conference like Rush.  Because, it kinda is.  But it’s not your social status, it’s your writing at stake.

What to Wear at a Blog Conference:

*A gorgeous statement necklace{like Anna had on from My Life and Kids}would be a conversation starter. She was kind enough to send a picture of the one I adored…

*Same with a bold sweater or dress.  I’m by no means a fashion blogger {though I play one sometimes with my WIWW posts}, but this conference forced me to visit my mecca, Forever 39 for my coveted polka-dot sweater.

When your child’s “therpay” bills exceed your mortgage, you make do with the discount chains.  But you can still look hot.

The first day of the conference, I wore these beauties. I’m going to lie to you and tell you they are the Michael Kors booties.  Let’s just pretend.

The second day I wore my signature sparkle flats, because as a Chicagoan, I know the secret hiding places downtown to park for very cheap, unlike the $55 they wanted at the hotel.  That’s like 10 sweaters at Forever 39.  The flats were necessary because our cheap parking spot required a scenic walk. At barely 5 feet tall, wasn’t loving it.  I missed my heels.

Heels are powerful.  Plus, you are on your behind relaxing at conference tables most of the day, so heels aren’t an issue.  Tip: get the ones with the platform in the front.  It’s like walking on flats. True story.

Command your presence.  Work it, baby.  Own it.

3.) Wilt your inner wallflower.  Even if you are more comfortable behind the scenes, conferences are a place to “win friends and influence people”.  I remember my dad having this book on the shelf back in the day:

My thoughts: I’m naturally an extrovert, despite my love of writing and quiet. But a few ideas:

  • Stay positive.  We have enough Debbie Downers in our worlds.
  • Ask questions of those who you meet {after all bloggers LOVE to talk about themselves}.
  • Be memorable. Share stories to make your small talk real.  Make them laugh.
  • Stay away from religion, race, and politics.
  • Exchanging vivid birth stories is totally okay with the mommy blogger circuit. As are potty training and diapering horror stories, breast pumping and milk issues, and risque innuendos about husbands.  I had some great laughs on those topics at the conference.

4.) Don’t kiss and run.  After the conference, comment on the blogs of the women you met.  Hit them up on twitter, facebook, google+, what have you.  Blogging is about connection, as much as it’s about expression.  If we were in blogging just to express ourselves, we may as well bust out the 7th grade journal we kept, and pen our thoughts in there.

Hillary from Because my Life is Fascinating {left},

Anna from My Life and Kids {center}

and me, the shorty on the {right}

Reason #104 to not use as iPhone in crap lighting.  I love both of these women though, so I wanted to share their blogs with you!

5.) Bring treats.  Jamie from Toys in the Dryer tweeted that she had a power cord to charge our laptops.  Midway through the day, my MacBook was exhausted. I will love Jamie forever for that.  That was the ultimate treat.

Bring food and candy to share with your tablemates. The hours are long, and snacking is necessary.  I brought a bag of allergy-friend, and dye-free treats from Yummy Earth, because I wanted to make sure I was including all the vegan and GF bloggers I knew were there.  Next, conference, I’m bringing a cooler.

You think I’m kidding?  I’ll be baking and bringing a sweet table.  It’s the Italian in me.  Food and good conversation is really all you need for a great time.

Stay tuned for my takeaways, business cards post, and bloggy conference edition of WIWW {what I wore Wednesday for those of you new to it}.

BlogHer is here in Chicago in 2013.  Looks like my credit card will cry a little tomorrow, as ticket prices double November 7th.

See you back tomorrow for blog business card ideas,

Nicolette

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Tips and Ideas for Good Blog Design

First, before the tips, let’s look at two blogs who have very different landing pages and headers, but who really think of their audience first.
Before we get started here’s a glossary of terms for those of you who are totally new.
  • Above the Fold: The first 768 pixels of your site.  The landing page your readers see WITHOUT having to scroll down.  Also known as “prime real estate”.
  • Header: Your actual logo/blog name.
  • Navigation bars:  Utility navigation bars have site logistics {contact, advertising, about, etc}.  Content navigation is the bread and potatoes of the site; a blogger’s categories well-organized.

1.) Header & Logo design: made’s design is simple. It doesn’t take up a ton of pixels. It pops against the rest of the minimal design.  The gradiation of purple really stands out. 
2.) Easy search bar embedded in the header area.  User-friendly and in a memorable spot.
3.) Again, social media bar embedded in the header.
4.) Her navigation bar is a great mix of content and utility.
5.) Her use of white space is really easy on the eyes.
1.) Photo of the Blogger: I love seeing who I am reading.  I think this increases the connection with your audience.  I love how Ashley is actually sitting on her navigation bar.  Whimsical.  Unexpected. Fun.  Her header really matches the content and feel of her site.

2.) Search bar above the fold:  I love that this is embedded in the design.
3.) Social Media Navigation Bar Above the Fold: Make it easy for readers to connect with you!
4.) Utility navigation vs. Content navigation:   Ashley, unlike Dana from Made, has two different navigation bars.  Ashely’s utility navigation is the logistics of the LMM’s site: the about, contact, advertising, press, FAQs, etsy, etc.  Content navigation, like Ashley’s, does a great job of organizing her posts across different categories. This is crucial for blogs that span multiple niches like Ashley’s.
For wordpress users, multiple navigation bars is easy as it is built into many themes.  For those of us on blogger, we are limited without using a designer or having extensive knowledge of CSS, so group your navigation wisely like the first blog, made.

Here are the take aways from studying Little Miss Momma and made.

1.) Have a photo of yourself above the fold.  Your readers want to see WHO you are.
2.) Place a search bar, so readers can dig around your site.
3.) Use navigation bars to easily organize your content, contact information, and social media.
4.) White space is your friend.

With my site, I have incorporated the above tips without hiring a designer.  I recently included more white space, redesigned my header, and hopefully, will have social media buttons embedded in my header soon.

With blog designers charging in the $1000s, I think a Good Will Hunting approach can suit most of us as our sites grow.

Hope these ideas help!
Nicolette

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when my blog grows up…

she will get knocked up by a wild idea

an idea that will make every teacher, therapist, daycare provider, mother, father, homeschooling parent, and educator slap their foreheads and mutter to themselves, “why didn’t i think of that?”

here’s the ultrasound picture:

doesn’t she look just like me?

this site’s due date is april 2012.
i am planning on a natural birth.
no drugs.
with my partner in crime, Karen,

sure i’ve invested a good chunk of money that i don’t have.
but this idea is like nothing else out there on the interwebs.

and you’ve gotta believe in the power
of the idea.

this new site will blow you all away who work {or have} children of your own.

so that’s idea #1.

that type-a teacher in me must always have many a plan going,
so I also hope this blog in the next five to ten years:

1.) allows me to run a successful etsy shoppe:

2.) which will hopefully lead me to have my very own booth at the

Renegade Craft Fair
2.5) and maybe, just maybe with enough elbow grease and brow sweat, this little blog that could, will keep growing and find more meaningful sponsors who are pure awesome, like my newest sponsor, raising dieter.  
blogs, brands, and etsy shoppe that align with my sensibilities.
2.6) which could also lend itself to paying writing gigs across the interwebs…
2.7) which could land me a publisher for a book or two:

3.) and those endeavors will bankroll the big dream I have.  and I already bought the dot.org.

what’s the big dream?

a nonprofit to help families with autism finance the crazy expensive therapies, home programs, toys, supplements, and alternative diets/doctors.

here’s my sketch of the logo for that:

4.) and then maybe, that non-profit will catch the attention of a sugar mama or daddy, and we can build centers to house therapeutic play, nutritional education, and support for families who have children with developmental disabilities.

i told you that autism changed my life’s goals.  i wasn’t bluffing on that account.

i recently read that by 2020, 1 in 10 children will have autism.
1 in 10.
that number boogles me.

and i think of all the new parents who will have to sacrifice and struggle because insurance companies do not finance the help our kids with ASD really need.

i want to be a changing force in that.

5.) and finally, and most importantly: this blog is meant to share our journey.  of finding health.  of helping moose.

which, i share: to teach you what i’ve learned.  to inspire you to be better.  to make you think twice about the food, medicine, health.  and also, to make you laugh. to push you to use your hands and make something.  to get back in the kitchen and out of the drive thru.

if not, then I would keep this all in a private journal.

in the end. it’s the human element.  the connection.  that i’ve found in blogging.
i written stories and poetry for years,
but this space
is my refuge.

and my space to heal my moose.

he’s the very reason the blog exists in the first place.  {if you look at my ancient archives from february 2010, you will see what I mean}

i hope as this blog grows, we watch my son progress, heal, and return to the little man he was, before he became very, very sick.

and each day
is looking up.


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