Been a chill weekend for me thus far. If you follow me on Snap (@midwestlovefest), you know I basically just read magazines and had a low key dinner with friends last night. And even though I was productive yesterday, today I want to step it up a level, but…t’will be hard when it’s supposed to get in the 60s here in Chicago. Whatever you’re doing though, go out and enjoy your last April weekend!
Remind me to download this before my next travel situation…well, once it comes out. (via Swiss Miss)
In North Carolina with some friends, heading home tomorrow. Sleepy AF and totally out of the Internet loop. Both a good and bad thing. Good to have a break for me. Bad because the links here aren’t my A-game, and I’m fully admitting that. Enjoy!
Obsessed with the Novogratz when they had their show on E! (I even purchased their book because I was so obsessed with their eclectic style), and now they’re back in a mini web series for People! They’re making over a castle. Definitely worth a watch.
OMG. I did it. I was late on a Link Love post. It was bound to happen (or has it already?). I don’t know. I’m losing my mind. I’ve road tripped all over creation the past week, and I’m not done. Not that I’m complaining, just think I left my mind back in the hills of West Virginia somewhere. Oh, and my dishwasher cut me. And I lost my FitBit this morning. So there’s all that. Which basically means, you can’t hate me for being so terrible at this spring blogging thing! Sorry guys.
Headed to North Carolina for a few days this week (and next week) to road trip it with one of my besties, which makes for an eventful start to April, and I’m not mad about it. Hope you all have a great week too!
Why do my eyes look so small? Hell if I know. And I promise I’m not skowling in this pic. Resting bitch face maybe? Or I was just super tired…hence the coffee.
Alright. So. NEW SERIES! Get excited!
I feel like I keep having the same convo over and over again with blogging newbies or ladies interesting in starting a blog.
Honestly, why does anyone start a blog?
For me it was to serve as one voice for the modern midwesterner–fight back against all the people who talk shit on the midwest. It frustrated me to hear people talking about us being backwards, cheese-obsessed hicks (though, of course I love my grilled cheese), when I know how many interesting, healthy-cooking, ceramic-making, good-food-baking, doing-cool-shit folks are rockin’ it out here.
Which is why I want to show you how to properly establish your own WordPress blog (if you don’t already know how to). And not just a “buy a URL, try it on WordPress” type post. I mean a legit step-by-step info post. That’s why I’m starting this little “Creative U” series–to share all the digital knowledge and know-how I’ve learned over the past few years during my freelance and personal projects. Hopefully it can help you start a business or blog, or just learn a few new creative skills.
Hope you enjoy! And if you have any questions or need anything answered, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll try to get back to you boo.
create a unique name
If you already have a name or run a business, you can skip this step. If not, don’t take naming your biz or blog lightly. This will be your calling card. I’ve had 2 other blogs before midwest love fest and learned how quickly you can outgrow a blog name. Of course midwest love fest isn’t a prescriptive name (which is kind of how I wanted it to be, since the midwest lifestyle is just that–a lifestyle, which is how I wanted this blog to be), but if you know the precise subjects you want to cover, try to come up with a unique, yet semi-straightforward way to explain that to any new visitors.
For example, if you’re a plant enthusiast who also likes baking and that’s what your content will mainly feature, you could try pipingandpeonies.com. Alterations or rhyming names are always especially memorable. Just make sure to check if your URL is available first, and avoid any names that will kill your search results (anything that starts with “GOO” …is probably not going to be best, as Google kind of owns the combo of those 3 letters) or are similar to any other already-established blogs.
purchase your name
If you’re running a hobby blog and don’t necessarily plan on making it a business, this may not be necessary. But if you’re running a business or want to run your blog as a business in the future, make sure to secure your name legally.
While I’m writing this post specifically for setting up a WordPress-based theme, I’ll go ahead and mention the alternatives: Blogger, WIX and Squarespace.
I’ll mention Blogger because it’s technically an option, but I don’t know anyone who’s on Blogger who hasn’t transferred over to WordPress. Blogger is a Google-based application, and while it’s great if you’re starting a diary-like blog, if you’re running a blog you want people to see, Blogger isn’t so good. It provides limited customizations and outdated UX (user design).
WIX is a step up from Blogger, but was still considered one of the early, easy blogging options. That said, I now consider it a tad outdated. Though they’ve made recent improvements (Wix’s themes look a lot cleaner and more professional), visitors to WIX sites can always tell they’re WIX sites because of the recognizably clunky design. And if your visitors can name the platform you’re using to host your blog, it detracts from the blog itself.
Squarespace has beautiful advertising and beautiful UX. Plus, I love what they stand for–clean, creative and professional-looking websites that anyone–from those with no experience to web experts–can set up. Squarespace and WIX are similar in that way: they’re very plug and play.
If I had to choose between WIX and Squarespace, I would choose Squarespace because WIX (IMO) is still too behind the times. However, Squarespace is pretty damn expensive. Frustratingly, the easiest way to set up a site on Squarespace is to purchase the URL through Squarespace. And the only way to host the site is through Squarespace. This is great for some people because it’s very simple and a total “all in one” service, but if you want the ability to buy and host your site however or wherever you want, you’re SOL. Additionally, Squarespace only offers a certain number of templates to choose from and the templates are not very flexible. So if you ever wanted to go in and add something down the line–good luck.
Alright, now that I’ve at least addressed WordPress’ competitors, I’m going to be blunt: I’m very passionate about using WordPress and this is why: they offer thousands upon thousands of design options + flexible editing (if you ever grow your blog and want a professional designer to step in, you can easily do that) + flexible hosting (since you can either host through WordPress or another domain service like A Small Orange). IMO, this makes WordPress the best option for anyone who wants a clean look, with the flexibility to grow and change everything from the look to the hosting service (ps obvii WordPress doesn’t pay me to say this, I just really believe in the “product”…thoughhh I wish they’d pay me for all the times I talk them up!).
set up hosting
If you’re going ahead with WordPress, you’re going to want to choose a bomb.com hosting service. I’ve used two different hosting services between six different blogs, and personally recommend A Small Orange. My perception is that it’s a bit of an indie hosting service, or at least that’s how the company makes me feel. They’re available at nearly all hours of the day and have personally helped me set up WordPress on the backend of my blog. Because, yes, even I still get quite confused when it comes to all that cloud/server business. Plus, their options are relatively cheap (keep an eye out around the holidays, when they’ll be more likely to throw around sales and discounts), my hosting runs smoothly (much smoother than previous hosting services), they have clean UX and they run tons of great sales throughout the year.
installing wordpress on your server
Okay, now that you’re hosting on A Small Orange, let’s get crackin’ on the install front.
Now the fun begins! I’m kind of a theme whore. Swear, I change up my theme like once a year. There are just so many options to choose from, it’s hard to commit to one.
That said, I’ve searched HIGH and freakin’ low for good quality themes, and here are a few of my favorite places to check out if you’re in the market:
Theme Forest : this is a big one. If you want a variety of themes, an easy/reliable payment process (and a variety of prices), check out Theme Forest.
Creative Market : this is another major site to check out. Both Theme Forest and Creative Market source themes and graphics from different designers and developers, which means both are worth a look-see.
Studiopress : Super sleek options are available on this site, which basically means I’m obsessed with it. This might’ve been where I also found Foodie, which is the best theme I’ve found for sharing, collecting and organizing recipes (HIGHLY recommend for food bloggers–it was the last theme I used, before getting antsy and updating to this one).
Etsy : Yes, Etsy is another great resource for finding WordPress themes. The only downside I’ve found is that the development isn’t as sturdy, which means that the themes aren’t always as flexible or don’t work as smoothly as themes from more established sites.
Once you’ve chosen and purchased a theme, the developer will provide you with instructions and support to help you install it. However, speaking in general terms, you will download the theme to your computer. Then, go to your WordPress dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Install Theme and upload. From there, you can experiment with “customization” to get a few colors and such changed.
I know that’s a TON of information, but I swear that’s the nittiest, grittiest part. It’s all … smooth-ish sailing from there on out, ha. In my next post I’ll dive into the WordPress Plugins I recommend you download first, and a bit of the HTML + CSS coding you can easily do on your own to better customize your sidebar.
Per usz, let me know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comments below.
Just want to take a second to mention I lost my childhood dog last week. He had been with my family for 14 years–I crafted an argument for why we should have a dog and paid $100 toward him, thus making him “my dog,” though he lived with my parents–and have been a bit heartbroken ever since. To be honest, I feel a bit emotionally off-kilter, so…heads up.
That said, it’s time to dive into a new week with new challenges and new blog posts. And even though it’s nearing the very end of March, I wanted to still do a tech roundup because I’ve def. been on that podcast game this month. Enjoy!
My New Roots: Downloaded this from the Starbucks app and DAMN DANIEL, I like it. Also, another great reason to download the Starbucks app–they always have such great freebies. Anyway, I’m loving this app thus far. Healthy recipes you can follow, save and then automatically get an entire grocery list for. Which is such a smart idea because lbh, writing/planning out grocery lists is usually half the battle. (5/5)
muiscal.ly: This is supposedly the “next big thing” aka the next big social media platform. No surprise since my fave (Instagram) recently change their algorithm. Any who, I have yet to figure it out. Seems a lot of kiddos are running the platform, but kind of makes it more interesting to play around with. (4/5…but really, jury’s still out)
Hound: Siri’s been pissing me off lately, so I was super excited to find out Hound existed. It operates like Siri, but a million times better and more accurate. Still some glitches, but, for the most part, if you’re into voice-operated messages, directions etc., download this. (4/5)
The Skinny Confidential Podcast: Lauryn’s one of my favorite bloggers. She’s interesting, raw and, lbh, gorgeous. So I was pretty excited to find out she and her boo came out with a new podcast. That said, I’m slightly let down by the content. I love their cute banter, but wish you didn’t have to pull nuggests of info from their discussion and there more concrete takeaways. That said, there are definitely quite a few biz and blog tips that make it worth a listen. (4/5)
Khloe: UGH, don’t hate me. I downloaded Khloe Kardashian’s app. Somehow I justified it because a monthly subscription is literally cheaper than my cup of tea at Starbucks. I’m not 100% sure if it’s worth it…okay really, it’s probably not worth it. But every now and then you need that juicy celeb stuff, right? (3/5)
The #AskGaryVee Show: Bloggers and biz owners, give this a listen. Gary’s a bit of a wildcard and very blunt, but he has a million tips, tricks and insights that make anything of his worth reading/watching/listening to. (4.5/5)
Just your weekly reminder that good people are still out there.
If anyone secretly follows Kylie K. on Snapchat, you’ve probably seen her bestie Jordan roaming around. Well, Jordan’s interview with Reinery29 is pretty damn good. Didn’t even know she was a #BossBabe.
My dad introduced me to this extremely popular song, and have to say I’m a bit obsessed.
In all honesty..I wanted to write something else. I wanted to post one of several posts I have formulating in the background–images lying around my phone or camera, posts that are half-written…you get the deal. It’s something I’ve mentioned on here quite a bit. The “was going to write a post” thing. I feel like I’m always making excuses why I’m too busy to post, or that’s how it’s felt this past year.
I’ll be honest, this past year has been riddled with difficulties, adjustments, triumphs and losses. And for someone who already suffers from anxiety or stress-related issues, this is not the best situation.
Essentially, I was all set to come home from work tonight. Sit down and crank out a few awesome posts that I’ve been cooking and share them with you–consistently. I was going to get back on track with consistent posting, dammit! I have some interviews with incredible creatives I’ve had the honor of chatting with months ago, a few DIY projects and a couple recipes. I was and am so excited just talking about them!
But then I came home and I had trouble breathing…I felt winded just sitting on the couch. I’ve also been suffering from nausea because my stomach issues started flaring last night, so much so that I barely slept. When I woke up at 2:30–so nauseous that it literally woke me up–I couldn’t even throw up (my last resort when my nausea gets so bad it interferes with my sleep) because my GERD was so bad.
This is all to say I was low on sleep, dealing with family issues, nauseous, stressed, pissed off at myself for not getting sleep and thus having to skip another workout, all the while Kero is ringing the bells at the door–trying to let me know he wanted to go play, even though he injured his paw at the park yesterday, and…all of a sudden… it hit me. I felt too exhausted to move.
This isn’t a post for you to feel bad for me, for me to make excuses or for anyone to worry about me. This is a post to be honest. I love this blog. I love the creative projects I pile upon myself, or the ones that swirl in my head. But sometimes, coupled with all the other things going on, it’s not as easy as “make time for it because you love it” or want to run a “successful blog” (whatever that means, anyway). In fact, it’s that sort of mentality that gives me anxiety…makes me feel bad that I didn’t make time for blogging because, well, all the successful bloggers make time for their blogs, why can’t I!? I mean, if I’m not making time now, I guess I’ll never be successful…right?
God, the damaging self-talk we do to ourselves, huh?
So, I guess I did end up blogging tonight. But it was later than I planned, less edited than I planned and an entirely different topic than what I planned. But it’s here, and it’s what’s really going on with me, and in my life. Not a pretty DIY. More like a messy work in progress.
Basically, no matter where you are, what you’re doing, I hope you are cozy and at peace. And if you’re not, just know that you’re not alone. We’re all just lost and stressed and happy and excited and making moves and feeling stagnant. But in the end, it will all work out. Trust that.
But P.S. If you’re ever truly alone, feel free to reach out to me via insta / snap (@midwestlovefest) / twitter or here because gurl, I get it. I’m there, and here.
SO, I know I mention blogging and freelancing a lot on this here blog (I’d link out to my portfolio, but honestly I’m not too proud of it right now…it needs to be totally overhauled. But I’m sure if you Googled me you could find it). Well, along with copywriting (my 9-to-5 job), I also write for a few different blogs now! Kind of an exciting new development, so I wanted to share with you a few of my fave posts, plus all the social media shenanigans I’m on right now (in case you’re new to the blog). Just a little catch up of sorts..