March 31, 2014

2014 Update

Hello everyone!

I have not blogged in so long and have been meaning to give you an update on what I've been up to and what my plans are for the future of this blog. Please keep reading and provide your feedback in the comments for this post.

So what have I been up to??

Hanging out with this little guy:



And getting ready for this little guy to come!!



Last fall I spent most of my time feeling sick and just trying to get through each day. In December, I was finally feeling better and tried to catch up on housework, get ready for Christmas and get ready for January when it was my turn to teach preschool for my son's co-op.

I must have overestimated how much I could handle because Christmas morning came and I started to feel a sore throat coming on. That sore throat turned into a horrible cough and cold, the kind of cough that makes your whole body ache from coughing so hard. And since I was pregnant, there wasn't much I could take to relieve the symptoms. My cough was so bad that it kept me up for hours every night. I wasn't getting any sleep and so it lasted for weeks and weeks and weeks with no sign of improvement. I went to the doctor but was told it was just a cold.

January came and it was my turn to teach preschool for my son's co-op preschool. (All of the moms teach a month.) All of my energy went into teaching and planning those lessons, all while still pretty sick. It was terribly exhausting but I survived and the kids had a lot of fun, I hope anyway. :)

By February, my cough finally started to calm down and I was finally getting sleep at night. I tried to relax and take care of myself but I also had so much to catch up on. During this time, my husband decided he wanted to go back to school. I totally support him in it and really think it's what he needs. But it means that we will have a major financial setback. So I thought to myself, I can't quit my blog completely. I've got to find a way to keep it going, add some ads, find a way to contribute to our income. That is when I posted my big news of coming back to my blog!!! Woohoo! Right?

But as much as I wanted to come back, I still have so little time for it. I replied to months worth of emails, but haven't gotten back to it since. I can't stay up late like I used to because my pregnant body just can't handle that anymore. And honestly, it is hard to get back into a blog like this. I don't really know where to start. However, here's what I came up with:

My future plans for this blog:

A. I want to continue posting, myself or with guest blogger contributors. I won't be able to post often. But I hope to have a post at least once a month from me and possibly once a week from guest bloggers to help to keep this blog up to date. This means I need 2 things from my readers:
    1. I need your ideas and suggestions. What tutorials do you want to see? What old tutorials do you want me to update? Do you want any more designs? Do you want to see posts about anything other than tutorials and designs?

    2. I need contributors. I was slow to reply to contributors that replied last time but I will ask again. Would you like to make a guest post with a blog design tutorial or other blog related topics? Send me an email to blogdesignsbydani@gmail.com.  Include your tutorial ideas as well as a sample of your writing. Feel free to email me with any questions.

B. To keep this blog going, I need advertisements to help pay my hosting fees. If you would like to advertise your blog or business in my sidebar, please send me an email at blogdesignsbydani@gmail.com. I will email you my current rates. (I will only allow advertisements for companies or blogs that are wholesome and clean as well as relevant to my readers and myself.

C. I would love to be able to help readers that have technical problems when following my tutorials. However, those requests are incredibly time consuming. I have to go through another person's code, try to figure out what they did, what they did wrong, try to fix the problem on my computer and then try to help that person to fix it on their blog. I love helping people with this but I just don't have that kind of time. In the future, if I am able to, I would like to do this, but I may need to charge a fee. Please tell me if this would interest any of you.

D. I need to update this blog. I know it could use some improvement. In terms of usability, what improvements would help you to better navigate this blog? Are there any improvements that would help you to get more out of this blog, besides more tutorials? 

E. Now, I am due in the middle of May and I do not anticipate getting back into things much before then. But once I get into a good routine with my new baby, I will try to work on what I mentioned above.

These are my thoughts for my blog. I hope that you'll leave a comment offering your ideas and suggestions. Thanks for still following me!!

~Dani

November 30, 2013

A Lego Party!

I have decided to branch out on my blog posts. I hope this blog can still mostly be about blog design, but I do much more than blog design on my own time. I love crafts and have many other miscellaneous hobbies. I know I can post more if I share more of these kinds of posts. Many of my readers also have similar interests, so I hope that I can keep enough of you interested. I will be keeping my other tutorials and designs on my blog and will try to post more tutorials as time permits. (I am hoping to get some contributors to help with the design tutorials as well. Email me if you are interested.) I have just renewed my hosting for three more months and if I can figure out some advertising it will be for much longer!

Now, let's talk about this

 Lego Party!



 Have you ever heard of House Party? They haven't asked me to make this post, but it was such a fun party I thought I would anyway. House Party is an organization that coordinates parties sponsored by various companies for you to host at your home. (I'm not sure if this is available outside the US.) When I saw the posting for a Lego Duplo party, I was so excited and signed up right away! My son is 3 and he loves Legos. There is no guarantee that you will get to host a party when you sign up, but we got chosen! As the host, House Party sent us a party pack to share with our friends. The party pack for this was amazing! Several themed Lego sets from Disney Planes and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We gave away a few of these as door prizes as well as stickers, crowns, posters, etc.

I had a lot of fun planning this party and found a few fun crafts and favors to share. Here are a few highlights from our party:

Build Your Own Airplane

I have a ton of popsicle sticks and clothes pins in my stash, so I painted them, modge podged them to give them some shine, and then let the kids at the party choose their favorite colors. The moms glued the pieces together for them with hot glue and screwed in the propeller. (The propellers and clothes pins were pre-drilled.) These were so fun! They were inspired by the blog Happily Ever After as well as many similar pins on Pinterest.

Lego Crayons
 Before
(Can you tell which picture I took with my phone?)

 After

For the gift bags, I made everyone their own Lego crayons. I had a ton of broken crayons so I peeled off the wrappers (which took longer than I had expected) and placed them in a Lego mold. (I ordered the mold from Amazon.) I baked them in the oven at 220 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes or until they were completely melted and then put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. These were so fun and so simple to make. My 3-year old loved helping break up the crayons!

Treat Bags

I had a lot of kids at the party, so I made really simple gift bags. The theme was Pirates and Planes, so I printed some coloring pages from both shows onto cardstock and put in some gold looking treats along with the crayons. These were then put in the treasure box:

Treasure Hunt

To find their treat bags, I made a treasure map and led the kids on a treasure hunt. The map led them to a couple treasures (stickers and posters from the party pack) and then to the treasure box with the treat bags inside.

Decorations
 

I love drawing cartoon characters so I drew some poster-size pics of Jake and Dusty. My son was so excited for Dusty and immediately put it on his bedroom wall after the party.

And of course, there was lots of Lego playing at the party. I think the kid's creations were the best part:
Lego Creations



We had so much fun at our party! Have you thrown any fun parties lately? Any Lego parties?

November 14, 2013

Posts, Contributors, Advertising...

Hello Everyone,

It sure has been a while since I last posted. As I have thought more about this blog, I have been realizing the importance of keeping it going to some degree. I do not have time to post regularly, but I would like to look into having contributors and making my own posts occasionally. I have had a few interested contributors that I will be contacting soon. (I have had a stressful last few months that will hopefully get better soon.) I also am looking into advertising to help me pay my hosting fees. My last donation has lasted for a long time but will be used up at the end of the month. If anyone would like to make another donation to help me pay my hosting fees until I get things running again, it would be greatly appreciated.

I have a few advertising ideas, but for those of you that have advertising on your blog, how do you manage it? I would love to get feedback on how to get good relevant advertising on my blog (other than Google ads).

Lastly, I do not have as much time for blog design but I do enjoy other projects and crafts. Would you be interested in posts other than blog design? For example, I am planning a Lego party for my son. Would anyone be interested in the projects I made for the party? If I make Christmas crafts or other sewing projects, would you be interested in reading about those? I would love to get your feedback!

Thank you to everyone who has still stuck around and supported my blog! I have been overwhelmed by the kind comments so many of you have shared since I stopped posting. Thank you so much!

Dani

July 17, 2013

Interested Contributors

I have been contemplating the idea of adding contributors to my blog so that I can keep it going without overwhelming myself. But I would like to know if there is any interest in this before I pursue it. If you are interested in becoming a contributor to my blog, please leave a comment on this post or email me at blogdesignsbydani[at]gmail[dot]com. Include your name and website in the comment or email.  By becoming a contributor, you would write blog design tutorials or tips for my readers. You would not be compensated but you would be able to advertise in your post(s) for your own personal blog or business. If there is enough interest, I will post again with an application for you to submit.

June 24, 2013

Easy Canvas Prints Giveaway!

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS CLOSED
Congratulations to Susan on your free 8x10 canvas print!
(Susan, you should have received an email with instructions on how to order your print.)




 I may be done posting designs and tutorials, but I can still offer giveaways! I'm excited to share this one with you. Enter below to win a free 8x10 canvas print from Easy Canvas Prints:

photo canvases


a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you have never used Easy Canvas Prints before or never ordered a canvas print, you can read my review (from about 2 years ago) HERE. They were really easy to work with and I still love the print I received. The quality of the print is amazing. I have had several people ask me if my canvas print is a painting. Here is mine:


 So go ahead, enter the giveaway above and win a free 8x10 canvas print of your very own! 

 Giveaway runs from June 24 - July 5, 2013 at midnight.

 GOOD LUCK!



Another site highly suggested by Easy Canvas Prints:

banner maker
banner maker

May 9, 2013

Hosting Renewed!

Many thanks to Kathy for her very generous donation! I will be able to renew my hosting and domain name through the end of the year. So, don't change your backgrounds just yet or if you have, come grab your old one. They will be good through December!

~Dani

March 29, 2013

The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye!

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you've probably heard that I am quitting my blog. I have been contemplating this for months, maybe even a year, and finally have decided that I just don't have time for it. I love writing tutorials and helping people fix up their blogs, but it really sets me back in my family and personal life. I have posted my last tutorial and will no longer be posting designs or tutorials. Also, I will not be doing any more custom designs.

I have considered just leaving my blog as it is but there are a few problems with this. Without doing custom designs, I don't make any money on this blog. No big deal, except that this blog is not free for me. In order for me to offer background and design images for readers to put on their blogs, I have to store the images on the web. To do this costs money, about $10/month in addition to the yearly fee for my domain name (making my blog a .com instead of a .blogspot.com) and another fee to keep my personal info private through my hosting service. I have considered putting advertising on my blog, but I feel like if I am going to ask people to pay me for advertising then I should post regularly on my blog. Because I can't do that, I can't ask.


So, what does this mean for all of you? 

   1. My blog will stay on the web.
All of my tutorials will stay put. They may get outdated, but they will still be here as a resource. If I do not renew my domain name (blogdesignsbydani.com), then you will find my blog at http://blogdesignsbydani.blogspot.com.

   2. What about my backgrounds, headers and template? 
In order for me to make all of my designs accessible to you, I have had to upload them all to a web hosting service, as I mentioned above. I have renewed my hosting service through the beginning of June. So before that, nothing will change. I won't be posting any more designs, but all of my backgrounds, headers and templates will still be available for use through the beginning of June. Now, if enough of you are dying to still use my free designs and you are willing to donate to my blog, I can keep my hosting service. I pay 3 months at a time to get a good discount, so I would need 3 months worth (about $35 for 3 months of service). If that is not the case, then when the 3 months are up, all of my design images will be gone.

If people do donate, I will post updates on whether I have received enough to extend my hosting service as well as dates that the designs are still available.

If I end my hosting service, I will likely cancel my domain name when it expires in September. If that is the case, you will find my blog at http://blogdesignsbydani.blogspot.com. My designs will not be there but my tutorials will still be there.

Update: I received a generous donation to my blog allowing me to keep my hosting through the end of the year (2013). This means that my free designs (backgrounds, headers and templates) will be available through December of 2013. Thank you, thank you to a kind reader!

3. Open Comments
I have been moderating my comments because I really hate spam-like comments. Also, people are more careful about what they post when they know it will be moderated. I honestly haven't deleted any comments other than spam. (Not all spam is caught by Blogger.) But since I won't be reading comments regularly, I will not moderate comments in the future. This means that if someone posts a question and you know the answer, please answer it for me. Also, if anyone posts anything offensive or spam-like, please email me and I will delete it.

4. I will keep my Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest Accounts
I will keep these social networking accounts and I may post now and then if I find interesting things on the web. I am often on Pinterest, so you can definitely find my pins there. :)



A few last words of advice

I am very sad to quit this blog, but when I finally made the decision, I felt so strongly that it was the right thing to do. I want to thank all of you for your support. I have learned so much from this blog in the last few years. Before I go, I would like to offer a few final tips for designing your own blog:

  1. Always back-up your template before making any changes to your blog, even little ones. You never know when you might delete a semi-colon or a bracket by mistake and now your entire blog is a mess. Here is my tutorial on How to Back-up Your Template.

  2. Keep a journal of all the changes you make. Sometimes it takes a while for you to notice that one of your blog modifications is causing a lot of problems. If you don't know what you did or where you found the tutorial, you are going to have a very hard time fixing it. So record specific tutorial links along with a description of the changes you made with it.

  3. Before you alter the HTML/CSS of your blog, try to learn as much as you can so that you know what you are doing. When you post random codes onto your blog and then try to fix them, you may find an even bigger mess than you started with. Learn the basics of HTML and CSS. Creative Bloq has a list of the Top 20 Online Training Resources for anyone interested in learning more about web design. I have used #1 and 10 from that list and recommend those for beginners.

  4.  Keep your blog simple. Too many busy designs distract readers and make it hard to find what they are looking for. Create simple, easy to find navigation and always include contact information. Your navigation can be through Blogger's pages where you can create vertical and horizontal navigation bars or you can create a Drop-Down Navigation Bar. And if nothing else, at least use good labels for your posts that can be accessed through your sidebar.

5. Read the comments section of tutorials. Often readers have the same questions when they do a tutorial and the answers to those questions are often found in the comment section. Also if you, as a reader, know the answer to a question in a comment, don't be afraid to respond. It is hard for a blogger to respond to every question posted. Help each other out, especially now that I won't be responding to comments on this blog in the future.

If you have any other words of advice that you think should be added to the list, post it in the comments section.


Resources
 I know that there are a lot of blogs that are very similar to mine and I want to create a list of links to help you with your blog. If you have any to add to the list, please do so in the comments.

The following blogs offer free or custom designs and/or tutorials. Check them out:

Smitten Blog Designs  Free and Custom templates, Blogger and Wordpress, as well as other free printables
Designer Blogs  Custom and Pre-Made Blog Designs, Blogger and Wordpress
Makin' Cute Blogs  Free Backgrounds and Tutorials
Leelou Blogs  Free and Custom Blog and Social Networking Designs
A Mommy's Blog Design Custom and Pre-Made Blog Designs, Blogger and Wordpress plus a few useful resources for blogging
Hot Bliggity Blog  Free and Custom Blog Designs
The Cutest Blog on the Block  Free and Custom Blog Designs, Blogger and Wordpress
Shabby Blogs  Free Backgrounds and other Extras, Custom Designs, Tutorials
Kevin and Amanda Very diverse blog including Blog Tutorials, Photoshop Tutorials, etc. (see her right side bar for tutorials)


These sites have links to a number of blog designers. I have not been to most of them, but feel free to check it out:
Custom Blog Designers
Simply Blog it Backgrounds (Designers listed in sidebar)
Mama of 3 Munchkins


Thank you all again for following and supporting my blog! I wish you all the best of luck with your blogs!

~Dani

March 26, 2013

Making a Drop-Down Navigation Bar

I have received several comments asking for a tutorial on how to make a drop-down navigation bar like you see on my blog. This will be my last tutorial on this blog!

Now, I have to be honest. I created this tutorial 2-3 years ago and I struggled with it for a long time, trying to get it right. As I went back, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I did in the first place and even ran into some of the same errors as I did the first time. For this navigation bar, I used HTML Dog for the main part of the tutorial and various other help forums to figure out some of the rest. While I can give good explanations for most of the tutorial, there are some parts that I don't completely understand. Also, I am not a professional web designer. Some of my modifications are probably not be the best practices for web design. But for a beginner, they get the job done.

If you don't know anything about HTML/CSS, this tutorial may be difficult for you. I have given some explanations and links that should get you through the tutorial, but if you need to make additional modifications, you may have trouble. Creative Bloq has a list of the Top 20 Online Training Resources for anyone interested in learning more about web design. I have used #1 and 10 from that list and recommend those for beginners.

For this tutorial, I created a new navigation bar, similar to the one on my blog. I am using the Blogger Simple template that was customized in my tutorial on How to Make Your Own Custom Blog Template. You can look at the actual navigation bar on my Practice Blog. Here is a preview:





Want the full tutorial? Keep reading!

March 11, 2013

Signing off soon, but first....

Hello everyone,

I have been contemplating for the LONGEST time what I should do with this blog. I have so little time for it and it is hard for me to spend all of my free time here. I haven't been posting very often but I think I may have to call it quits soon. I meant to post about this and tell everyone what that means in terms of all my free designs. I also wanted to give you a few last pointers on designing your blogs and offer links to other design blogs.

However, I have had a several requests for a tutorial on my drop-down navigation bar. I don't have a lot of time, so if this isn't something that a large audience will read, I may not post it. But, if I can get a lot of comments in favor of this tutorial, I will make this my last tutorial. And then I will offer my goodbyes and my last advice to help you with your blog.

I am so very sorry to have to quit this blog, but my family must come first.  :)

~Dani

February 16, 2013

7 Common Mistakes Link

While perusing Pinterest, I found the following article:


The mistakes aren't necessarily about visual designs as much as they are about how accessible your blog is to your readers. It's a good read. Go check it out!