cover pic

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Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogging. Show all posts

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I Bid You Adieu

As our children return to school this week and another summer is about to end, a new season of life is on the horizon for my husband and me.  And I believe this blog has run its course.  I've shared the way our family and farm celebrate the four seasons with you twice, and sometimes thrice.  While each year brings some new activities, recipes, decorations, and events, much of our life follows a rhythm of traditions and rituals that will seem repetitive to others.  These traditions are what my family loves and counts on; they create the fond memories we all have of our life together on our little mountain farm.  But they are bound to be boring to the rest of you.  How many years in a row do you really want to see my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, fall leaves and gourds on my front porch, and Catholic school children in their Land's End uniforms?

But not everything remains the same.  The feeling at our house this summer is different from Augusts past.  It is evident that we are no longer in the same season of life that we were when we moved here.  My children are growing up.  Four of our youngest five are in middle school and high school.  We're about to have three in braces.  One just got his driver's permit.  We're going on college campus tours, and my teens are taking PSAT's.  Our adult children are starting their own families, returning to graduate school, and living abroad.  My husband is finishing an advanced degree and my days are filled with volunteering and coordinating schedules and managing our increasingly busy life.  Less time and energy is devoted to animal husbandry and the gardens.  This summer our only farm products are brown eggs and a few tomatoes every other day.  And when I do have some down time, I am choosing to spend it in other artistic/creative/reflective pursuits.  I cherish our family time more than ever as I see how fleeting these years actually are.  And I find myself wanting to guard our privacy as our adolescent children don't want to see themselves show up in Internet images when their friends and classmates do a google search.  I want to keep their birthdays and our holidays within our home in framed pictures on the bookshelves or in our digital family photo albums.  It's too hard for me to separate the celebrating/decorating/cooking aspects of my life from the personal family moments that intertwine with everything I do.  So I am writing this final post of the Preppy Mountain Farmhouse blog.

I have immensely enjoyed the past 2.33 years of blogging and sharing our life with all of you.  I appreciate all of your follows, likes, and comments.  I want to thank those of you who have subscribed and read my blog regularly, and I am especially grateful to those of you who left comments or included me in your blog roll.  This blog will remain live until the domain name expires next April, but this will be my last day to write.  I'll continue loading some less personal pictures to my Instagram gallery since photography is one of those creative past times I mentioned above. You can find my public page on IG at preppy_mountain_farmhouse. 

So I bid you all a final adieu.  And God bless!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blogging on the Run

It's already that time of the year again.  That super busy time near the end of the school year when the children have their performances, games, recitals, field trips, and shows.  Even though we're not involved in quite as many sports and extra-curricular activities as a lot of other families we know, with five school-aged children, it still means a lot of time away from home.  And lots of time driving.  These final six weeks or so before summer vacation begins are extremely full, and most days on the calendar have no space left to write anything.  

So far we've already had a strings recital:

Our daughter and a friend played and sang "How Far I'll Go" from Moana.  She is our little diva and dreams of being the next Taylor Swift.

And we watched our older daughter attend her first prom this past weekend:

That was bittersweet because I just can't believe she's this old already.  And my husband and I realized it's been three decades since we attended prom---actually, it's been 33 years since we both went to our first proms.  But we didn't go together.  How is it possible that so much time has elapsed already?  Like a blink of an eye.

And this is what we still have left to attend/celebrate over the next five weeks:
  1. Our final child's First Holy Communion
  2. Four birthdays
  3. A band concert
  4. Two showings of a musical
  5. Two art shows
  6. Two choral performances
  7. Four field trips that I know of now
  8. A class yoga party
  9. Two instrumental performances at nursing homes
  10.  EXAMS
These are just the final performances, mind you.  It doesn't include the practices and rehearsals leading up to the days.  Even though I wasn't thrilled with her decision at the time, I'm rather relieved our teen daughter dropped out of track for the season or we'd be having serious overlaps on the schedule.  And our middle school son isn't old enough to compete at the meets for his track team, so that simplifies that.
So why am I telling you all of this?  It's my excuse in advance for not blogging regularly.  I might get little snippets of time to post a bit over the next month or so, but it probably will be sporadic at best.

And if you're like me and most of my friends right now, you probably don't have a lot of free time to sit around on the Internet reading blogs anyway.  But I'll be thinking of you, and we'll meet up again when we can.

Until then, Happy Spring & God Bless.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

BlookUp Will Publish Your Blog or Social Media Posts

Do any of you bloggers have concerns that your blog posts could disappear from the Internet and years of your heart and soul will be deleted along with them?  My blog has been like a new baby to me over the past two years, and I like to know that I have the contents of it in a hard copy sitting in my living room.  Also, in case I ever move on to other creative pursuits, it feels good to know that I still have the hundreds of pages of Preppy Mountain Farmhouse, and they won't be lost if I close my blog.

I went to BlookUp for publishing all of my blog posts, and they made it so easy to do this seemingly daunting task.  It didn't take me much more than an hour to choose the size, which posts I wanted to include (all of them, of course), where I wanted page breaks, and what to include as the cover photo and the bio on the back.  Their home page can be found by clicking here.

Before placing your order, you get the opportunity to preview the entire book online.  Then you can order a softcover printed book or pay only a few dollars for an e-book.  You can even choose to make your book available to the public and by choosing your price, you can sell it to others.  Each volume of my blog was nearly 500 pages (the maximum amount for one book), and it was a bit pricey, so I couldn't imagine anyone other than me purchasing it.  But if you have a smaller book or you choose to only publish certain posts by categories, you might want to place yours up for sale and see what happens.

You can choose any picture for your front and back covers; they don't have to be from within your blog.

At the back of the book they place a Table of Contents with each post title and its page number.  How handy is that?

I was thoroughly pleased with the layout and design and the quality of the printed pictures.

Since my blog is about my family, these two volumes will be the equivalent of two years of family scrapbooks that usually take me weeks to complete, and they end up more expensive than the BlookUp books, without all my commentary.

Shipping is free if your book totals around 100 euros, I think.  My books came by USPS within a week or so.  BlookUp will also print whatever posts you choose from your social media sites, if you're so inclined.  I haven't seen any of those in person, so I can't give my review on them.  But I do give a high recommendation for their blog publishing services.

Have a Wonderful Week of Spring, Everyone!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Beautiful Mess: My Life

Last week while in Michael's, I came across a bin of brightly colored journals with various words embossed on the covers.  As soon as my eyes landed on this one, I knew it was the right journal for me.  A beautiful mess perfectly describes the season of life I am living right now.  It's a different kind of mess from five years ago when we were finishing up our last round of breastfeeding, potty training, and getting children to sleep in their own beds throughout the night.  Back when we were establishing our little farm and helping goats birth babies, butcher our own chickens, and start seedlings for the gardens all throughout the house.  Those were the days when we had five children under the age of eleven, and I was homeschooling all of them.  Life was most definitely messy, but it was a different kind of mess.  I never thought I'd say this, but I actually kind of miss some of those days.

Now the house is void of diapers, potty chairs, and toddler beds.  I typically let the goats and sheep do their own birthing and only intervene when they're in serious distress and no one else is available.  We no longer butcher any animals (hated that part of farming), nor is my husband allowed to fill every sunny windowsill or table with trays of dirt.  My eleven years of being a homeschooling mom have come to an end, and our farmhouse is now full of preteens and teenagers, except when our baby grandson comes for a visit.  I suppose our youngest---who is about to turn eight---isn't officially a preteen yet, but in her mind, she's been an adolescent since she was about three.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers bring their own unique brands of mess to the house, as do the middle-aged parents who reside with those adolescents.  And that is the season we are currently in.

I'm a little more aware of (and annoyed by) the disarray today because we are just finishing up spring break when we are all home together much of the time.  The weather has not cooperated with the break, and even though the younger children did spend some time outdoors, most of the week has been rainy or cold, so we've been inside a lot.  The kitchen sink has filled up quickly with coffee mugs used to create individual "snickerdoodle" treats found on Pinterest by our ninth grade daughter.  The dining room/multi-purpose room table has been covered in papers, pencils, and tape used by our youngest as she makes more artistic creations.  Which, by the way, is most definitely an improvement over the entire walls she used to cover with her "artwork."  The coffee table in our living room held Nerf guns, tablets, headphones, and sketchbooks until I insisted that everyone pick up their stuff last evening before company came.  The boys' bedroom has always been a disaster zone, but this week all I can see are Legos everywhere.  This is because the ten and eleven year-olds are creating an entire Star Wars themed village with various shops such as Darth Vader's Bakery, Jabba's Fitness Center, and Jawas' Junk Shop.  It's quite clever, I think, but it creates a huge mess while they are in the midst of a creative brainstorm like this.  The girls' room is full of shoes, makeup, nail polish, and a homemade Shopkins house as our teen daughter is practicing new hair and cosmetic techniques for the prom, and our seven year-old has used some of her free time to build a structure for her 86 Shopkins.  Even our bedroom---which is supposed to be off-limits to everyone other than the parental unit---contains clean wet clothes hanging on Amish drying racks, clean folded piles of clothes waiting for the owners to put them in their dresser drawers, and a stack of items to be carried up to the attic, plus an additional large bag full of clothing to be taken to Goodwill.  Even the outdoor areas seem to have extra mess this week because it doesn't matter that I am ready to decorate the porches for spring; Mother Nature is making it clear that I am not in charge.  With a foot of snow forecasted here in about 24 hours, the snow shovels, skis, and rock salt are still sitting on or beside the porches for future use.  And our boys are in the process of building some kind of fort on the bank, so there are poles, arrows, rocks, and homemade flags adorning the side of our property making it clear to everyone driving up the lane that children most definitely still live here.

These are just some of the messes that make up my life and home right now.  It's by no means all of the messes.  I do get frustrated...and aggravated...and discouraged by it all far more than I care to admit.  But I also recognize that what all of these messes have in common is Life.  When I was a little girl, my favorite place to go on Sunday afternoons was my grandmother's house.  Her house was far from empty, quiet, and lonely.  Instead, my many aunts, uncles, and cousins congregated there every weekend, and the house was bustling with activity, good country food, noise, and life.  I had the best times of my childhood right there rolling down the grassy banks, playing games of wiffleball in the yard, hiking up through the cow pastures, and hunting for Easter eggs with my numerous rowdy cousins at my side.  My favorite TV show in the seventies was The Waltons, and I imagined myself growing up and living in a big white farmhouse in the mountains full of energetic, beautiful children, swinging or rocking on the expansive covered front porch.  There would always be people around, and there would always be something going on.  And that's pretty much what I finally got.  I just never thought much about the messiness that comes with that big family country life.

I sometimes feel fed up and disgusted with the messes, especially after looking at Pinterest or home magazines on the store shelves.  I want to post my own beautiful house pictures on Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog.  I suppose I could make everyone pitch in and do some serious cleaning up, then stage the house just right, and then kick everyone out of the house for awhile so I could get some great shots to load to Google photos and use on here.  But that wouldn't be our real life.  It's not what's really going on here.  When I am feeling rather discouraged, I remember something my mother-in-law said to me four or five years ago when I was feeling especially low.  It was this time of year, and everything outside was a brown muddy mess.  My husband decided to try a new feed project for the livestock by sprouting buckwheat in trays in our kitchen.  We had an actual week old goat kid in a trough by the coal stove whose mother had rejected her and my husband insisted on saving.  And he had bricks from the barn heating on top of the coal stove to take out to the kidding stall at night to keep other new goat babies warm under the heat lamp.  I sat there on a kitchen chair in front of the stove, taking a turn holding this tiny goat kid wrapped up in a blanket, looking around me at this mess of a house that was now my life.  And I started crying.  I sobbed to my mother-in-law that I'm really not this messy, sloppy, terrible housekeeper.  That I used to live in a beautiful, neat, organized, immaculate home before I got with this son of hers and had all of these kids.  That all of this mess around me was not who I really am.  And she said the kindest, most beautiful thing that anyone could have said to me at that time.  She leaned closer and looked into my eyes and said, "Don't you know that when we come here, we don't see a horrible mess?  We see a family full of love for each other and this wonderful Life."

So in my low moments, when I start to feel angry or bitter at the clutter, the projects, the messes around me, those words of hers reverberate in my mind.  And I choose to see instead a Beautiful Mess that is this Life.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blog Post #200!

As my children are playing outside and preparing to go for a bike ride with their dad on this 70 degree afternoon in February, I just realized that I am about to post for the 200th time.  Coincidentally, post #100 was published last year on Feb. 21, and I commemorated it by sharing my top 5 viewed posts of that first year of blogging.  I thought I would do the same today, except I won't include the "Popular Posts" already featured on the sidebar.  So aside from those, below are the other top 5 posts of the past year, from blog posts 100-199.  If you missed reading them the first time, just click on the link and you can see them now.

I wrote this post last March when I was feeling rather discouraged about my perceived slow growth of this blog.  I had recently installed Google Analytics and was checking my stats and comparing myself to other way more experienced, way more popular bloggers.    I was actually seriously considering throwing in the towel, but I'm so glad I didn't.  I am grateful to all you readers and fellow bloggers who sent me words of encouragement and have continued to faithfully read my posts.  I feel a little embarrassed that I might have sounded rather whiny in that post, and I'm happy to report that I've cut back on comparisons as I go about just "running my race."

Creating delicious meals for my family and friends is one of my favorite things to do, especially if I'm not rushed.  Making fun, quirky snacks that the kids delight in is also a favorite past time of mine.  Some of these ideas came from Pinterest, some from cookbooks, and most were adapted by me based on what I had in the house.  I think the general consensus amongst the littles in our family was that  the yogurt pops were the best.

There are many stories I can tell about the adventures we've had while living in this farmhouse.  The story of the little goat that spent the night with some fraternity brothers is certainly one of the more memorable ones.  We learned a lesson that night about selling livestock, and fortunately, the goat wasn't hurt and the story has a happy ending.

Sometimes I'm really surprised by the views that certain posts get.  This one was my emotional ramblings of the pride I felt watching our daughter run a final cross-country meet of the season.  I witnessed her walking part of that 5K and almost giving up, but then I saw her reach down inside and pull out a surge of energy that propelled her across the finish line to beat her personal record.  And I was flooded with the love and emotions that a mother feels as she watches her child struggle and suffer and nearly quit, but then she overcomes and achieves her goal.  It's nerve-wracking.  It's gut-wrenching.  But it's one of the most satisfying parts of being a parent.

Interestingly enough, while I've been composing this current post, the one I just published last Wednesday jumped into this list.  It's full of items on Amazon that I would love to have in our farmhouse, and that I suspect many of you readers would love to have too.  If you click on the pictures or the blue Amazon links, they'll take you directly to the merchandise for sale.  I wasn't sure how I felt about finally running ads or promoting affiliate links.  Frankly, I was a bit afraid it would drive away some readers.  But here it is finishing out my list of the most popular posts of this past year.  To see the 8 posts that were at the very top of the list, just look on the sidebar of this blog.

In conclusion, thank you all for sticking with me through the past year of another 100 posts.  I truly enjoy blogging, more than I ever dreamed I would.  And I absolutely love seeing the numbers of you viewers from all over the world increasing monthly.  Thanks especially to those of you who take a few minutes to leave a comment here and on social media.  It is a pleasure to get to know each and every one of you.

After showing you the photo at the top of my kiddos outside in shorts this afternoon, I'll close with one I took just 10 days ago.  It's hard to believe these were both taken in the same month.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Unintentional Internet Fast & Merry Christmas

After blogging on Tuesday, we lost phone service and Internet at our house.  After many phone calls, visits from the repairman, two new routers, and hours of trying to get us connected to the Web again, we finally regained Internet service at 1:00 this morning.  It's been a hassle and definitely stressful, especially with a son who is cyber schooled and was in the middle of exams.  Oh, and half of the foods I am making this week for Christmas were found on Pinterest...and I couldn't access the recipes.  Living up here on the mountain, our cell phone service is unstable at best, so even using our Smartphones wasn't an option.  It's amazing how cut off from the rest of the world we feel now when we aren't connected virtually.

But I did begin this week at Mass praying for things to slow things down, quiet my mind, and allow my family to focus on this last week of Advent and what Christmas really means to us.  And I would say my prayer was answered.  As usual, it wasn't necessarily handled the way I would have chosen, but it was certainly effective.

Instead of being plugged into social media, news sites, email and blogger, Netflix and Amazon, Youtube and Minecraft, we found other ways to occupy our time.  Children went sledding and played games.  They painted and were crafty.  They cleaned and tidied up their rooms.  We spent so much more time together interacting with each other---talking, laughing, singing.

We baked cookies and reminisced and danced and watched old videos.  We lived without electronic distractions.  And things did sort of slow down and be still.  The house still bustled with life and noise and messiness at times, but it was different from the buzzing of incoming messages, emails, and updates.  

It was a blessing, actually.  I won't lie and say I wasn't at all stressed out about it, but it was a lesson in how much time we actually spend on electronic devices.  I believed that I greatly limit the time our children spend in front of a screen, but without Wifi, it became clear how much of our days are actually spent logged in throughout the day...myself included.  So it is with mixed feelings of relief and anxiety that here I am this morning on the Internet blogging, checking messages and social media and stats.  I'm glad that I can retrieve my Pinterest recipes so that I can prepare meals this weekend, but I do wish that we had more of a respite from the electronic distractions this time of year.

On that note, I'll leave you until next week, Dear Readers.  May you all Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Honest Thoughts on My First Year of Blogging

Favorite place to blog #1: the front porch swing

     Preppy Mountain Farmhouse is one year old today.  I'm not sure what I thought this blog would be like in a year.  I suppose a part of me was afraid that no one but my husband and children would read it, and I would have chucked it by now.  Another part of me had a wild hope that it would be some overnight sensation and propel me effortlessly into some kind of stardom like Ree Drummond/Pioneer Woman.  I really didn't have a set goal in mind.  I just knew blogging was something I'd been contemplating for several years, and I wanted to give it a shot.  It would be a learning experience, an experiment to see if I could do something slightly technical, and be a new creative outlet for me in my free time.  The reality is that this blog has become a meaningful extension of myself.  A little bit of my soul goes into every post, and that has surprised me.  What else surprised me was how much I cared about its success, and I searched the web for other newbie bloggers to see how they were doing.  Unfortunately, I found very little from the inexperienced bloggers who also struggled daily with fears of failing.  So I dedicate this blog post today to any other bloggers just starting out who desperately want to know if what they're experiencing is normal. Bloggers who might be doubting whether or not they should continue doing so.  Bloggers who are looking at their number of followers or pageviews and feeling embarrassed that theirs are just a tiny fraction compared to the blogs they read and follow.  I'm going to put it all out there and let you know you're not alone.
     When I started this blog, I hadn't read any books or taken any classes on blogging.  I seriously started from scratch, and I learned by trial and error along the way.  I was so proud of myself when I changed some settings or templates on Blogger.  I felt like a pro when I registered my own domain name.  And when my first post was published and was out there in cyberspace, I was ecstatic.  But then I started to read about search engine optimization and showing up in directories and Alexa rankings.  I was somewhat terrified of clicking the wrong thing in my layout for fear that I would set myself up to be hacked or kicked off the google search engines, so I was very, very conservative with everything I did with my blog.  When I learned that I wouldn't even be picked up in the search engines because I needed to change my robots.txt, I obsessed about it for days as I researched to figure out what I needed to do.  And every time I had to paste some third party html/javascript for a new widget, I vacillated between being anxious that it wouldn't work and afraid that I had just plugged something viral and dangerous into my blog and laptop.  I have learned more about websites during this year than all the years of my life combined, but I am still discovering so much that I still don't know, and that is humbling.
     Speaking of humbling, stats are another part of blogging that threw me for a loop.  Suddenly, my mood for the day hinged on what my Blogger stats revealed about my most recent post.  I have spent hours on the Internet trying to find out how many pageviews other new bloggers get in order to see if mine were average.  The first time I hit 85 pageviews in a day, I was on cloud 9.  That is, until I learned that most of them occurred all at once from something called referrer spam.  To me, that sounded terrible and scary, and I had no idea what it was.  Thankfully, I did some research before I ever decided to click on those terrible links on my Blogger referrer page.  Once I understood what they were, I soon discovered that any time I get about 20 or more hits to my blog all at once, it doesn't mean a bunch of people are simultaneously reading my blog---it's spam.  Not something to be feared, but something to be aware of and to keep me humble.  So if you scroll down to the bottom of this page and see over 11,000 pageviews so far, just know that many of them are from bots or spammers, not real people.  When I see that many bloggers get this many actual views every day, I am humbled even more.

Favorite place to blog #2: on my front porch rocker from Cracker Barrel

     This leads me to the biggest problem I think I've dealt with concerning blogging:  being obsessed with my stats and comparing my blog to others.  I waited 8 months to install the free Google Analytics tracking into my blog.  I was afraid what those numbers would reveal since I knew that Blogger's pageviews were inflated.  But I felt like I had to know.  G.A. could show me not just pageviews and countries where traffic was coming from, but also daily users and how many were new or repeat visitors.  It could show me the cities they were from, and how much time they spent on my site, and which posts they were going to.  I found myself comparing the Google Analytics stats with my Blogger stats and even with my Feedburner stats, which really just keep track of my subscribers.  I drove myself crazy trying to make sense of them because they never ever matched up, not even when I took the bots and spam out of the mix.  I so wanted to see my numbers skyrocket from legitimate humans who were interested in my blog.  Instead, it has been a very, very gradual increase.  I have finally stopped caring so much about the numbers and instead focus on the individuals who do spend some time on my blog reading a number of pages each session.  They are people from all over the United States and from all over the world.  I'm even more touched when readers take the time to leave comments on my blog or Facebook page or send me an email.  It is exciting to hear from strangers that aren't reading my blog because they feel obligated to as friends or family, but because they actually enjoy it.  Don't get me wrong, Friends and Family, I love to hear from you too!
     As for comparing myself to others...that one is harder to refrain from doing.  I follow some very successful bloggers who have become famous and some lesser known (but still successful) bloggers.  When I see that one of their posts receives hundreds of comments, gets thousands of views, and is shared all over social media, it's hard not to feel envious.  I question what I'm doing wrong or if I should be doing this at all or do I need to start giving away free stuff or what?  My husband always asks me what difference it makes since it was never my goal to make money from blogging.  I suppose it's just the competitive nature in me that wants to feel that I'm among the best at whatever I'm doing.  When you read Pioneer Woman's story and see how she went from blogging about her recipes to having a TV show, published cookbooks, and now an entire line of dishes and cookware sold at Walmart, you can't help thinking, "Wow.  Why couldn't that happen to me?"  Of course, that kind of fame is rare, but even some of the less known bloggers sell their own books or have their own line of home decor or give presentations at conferences and exhibitions.  That really wasn't my plan when I started out, and quite honestly, I guard our family's privacy too much to allow a film crew into our home, but that diva in me comes out sometimes.  This year of blogging has made me evaluate how much popularity I would or wouldn't care to have.  So far with my little blog, that hasn't been an issue though.
     That brings me to the next shocker with blogging success, and that is the time it takes.  Actual blogging only takes me a couple of hours per post.  If I'm adding some links or some research is necessary beforehand, that might add yet another hour.  Lots of photographs means another hour or so loading them to my laptop and editing each one.  None of that was really a surprise.  It's all the other non-writing/photographing stuff that I didn't expect to be a part of blogging.  First, there's sharing your blog on social media.  When I began blogging, I had absolutely no Internet presence.  That's right.  Zippo.  I wasn't on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or anything.  It occurred to me right away, however, that how was anyone going to know I even have a blog if I didn't promote it somehow.  So I opened a Facebook page.  A month or two later, I had a page on Pinterest.  Finally this February, I joined Instagram.  I think that's it for me for awhile though because it all takes so much time.  It's not enough to just share your blog post to your accounts.  There's all this give and take on social media.  Reading others' comments and posts is necessary, and commenting, liking, and sharing their pins is common courtesy.  But it all takes time.  Additionally, there is this blog community that exists in cyberspace that was unknown to me when I started blogging.  I had only been regularly visiting two blogs when I began.  I now follow about a dozen.  I love reading their posts, and I leave a comment when I can, and I occasionally share their posts or link to them when I write.  But all of that takes considerable amounts of time too.  The networking aspect of blogging is something I know I need to do more of, but I just haven't figured out how to squeeze in more time to do so.  All of this wasn't even on my radar a year ago.

Favorite place to blog #3: patio table above pool

     Finally, I think the biggest surprise for me is how this blog is morphing into something more open, revealing, and imperfect in a way I had certainly not planned in the beginning.  Yes, I wanted to share aspects of mountain farm living, but with a lot more aesthetically pleasing preppy touches thrown in.  I had no intention of showing anything messy or mundane or unsuccessful.  I really thought the blog would push me to do more classic decorating, more landscaping, try new recipes and home projects, and do more entertaining.  I wanted to create a blog that was beautiful, idyllic, and inspiring.  I never dreamed I'd be showing pictures of my cluttered kitchen, messy dining room, mismatched clothed children, or Pinterest flops.  I think I wanted a blog that would make our life into something perfect.  Something out of the pages of Country Living or a Land's End catalog.  Instead, it's becoming this photo journal of our very imperfect, noisy, busy, big family life that is some eclectic mix of homesteading/farming, and enjoying nature every season, lots of recipes, and the ramblings of a middle-aged blogger/substitute teacher/farmer mom.  Every once in awhile there is some DIY project, decorating, entertaining, fashion post thrown in.  I find myself now seeing my surroundings through a different lens.  I carry my phone, tablet, or camera with me all the time.  When I go for a hike or down to the barn or walk through the woods, something catches my eye and I have to photograph it.  Sometimes a photo inspires an entire post or it gets posted to Instagram.  Suddenly the common, simple, natural surroundings that I live in have become new, and beautiful, and something I feel this desire to share with others.  Instead of making this blog be about a perfect life I want to have, it is transforming into an exhibit of the beautiful, imperfect, real life that I already have.  I find myself stopping more often and really taking in the gifts all around me: the full moon rising over the mountain, wildflowers just beginning to bloom, the colors of the fall leaves, my children building forts in the creek.  All of it seems new somehow.
     So that is why two weeks ago, I renewed my domain name for another year.  I'm checking my stats less.  I'm comparing myself to others far less.  I am enjoying myself more.  I think blogging makes me a better person somehow---more creative, more grateful, more reflective.  And that in and of itself, is success.

     Now for those of you bloggers who are like I was, and you just want to see another new blogger's stats for reassurance, here they are.
Blogger says 11,129 total page views for the year.  783 last month.  43 today.
Feedburner still says I only have an average of 14 subscribers; although, there have been a few more than that most days this month.
Google Analytics shows in the past month: 186 pageviews, 147 sessions, 112 users.
Out of Blogger, Bloglovin, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook combined: 98 followers.
Alexa rank: rose up to around 12 million from over 20 million when I started, but a month ago it was shown to not have enough data to rank.  Not sure why.
The countless number of positive comments I've received in various forms have been wonderful, encouraging, invaluable, and have kept me blogging when I almost gave it all up.

     Thank you, Readers, for coming back to Preppy Mountain Farmhouse each week this past year.  I am so grateful for your views, your comments, your likes and your "following" me.  Here's to another great year together.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Taking a Break: The Real Reason

It's spring break for our kiddos, so it seems like a good time for a break from blogging as well.  Plus, it's Lent, so I could use that as an excuse to take a blogging sabbatical too.

But the truth is, I need some time to reflect, pray, and ponder the future of Preppy Mountain Farmhouse as it approaches its one year anniversary late next month.

I have loved blogging.  I actually get excited when I compose a post and hit that publish button sending it into cyberspace for the world to see.

But then I start checking my stats, and I realize that most of the world isn't reading it.  Installing Google Analytics in January to more accurately track traffic to my site has been a harsh eye opener.  While Blogger stats have been showing steady growth in pageviews since I began last April, Google Analytics has revealed that most of that traffic is coming from bots.  For those of you non-bloggers, that means most hits on my blog aren't from real people, but from web crawlers and spammers either indexing my site for search engines (not a bad thing, but not real humans) or trying to get referrals and links back to their own sites.

This has been a devastating blow to my self-confidence as a writer/blogger.  Although I began this blog to learn a new skill, have a creative outlet, and to share parts of our outside-the-norm life up here on the mountain, I also hoped for an increase in readers as well.  What writer doesn't want to hear that his audience is growing?  If no one reads our stuff, we might as well just keep a journal and scrapbook...which I already do.

So I am taking a bit of a break to figure out my next move and decide if I love Preppy Mountain Farmhouse enough to keep pouring my heart and energy into it twice a week for a handful of daily readers or if it's time to move on to another creative venture.

For those of you who are live human readers, I would love, love, love to hear from you.  What do you enjoy about this blog?  What would you like to see more of?  What might be lacking?  Do you continue to come back to be entertained, informed, inspired, or just to see what we're up to?

Feel free to send me an email (address on "Contact Me" page), leave a comment here, or send me a Facebook message.  And while I am on hiatus, I'll probably still be posting pictures on Instagram.  So you can comment there too.

Enjoy the final weeks of winter, Everyone.  We've got temps in the 70s here this week.  I am on my way outside to hike with some little ones and our beagle.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

100th Blog Post!

Today I sit and write post #100 for the Preppy Mountain Farmhouse blog.  I came across the above book Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton when I was at Barnes & Noble one day last month.  How I wish I had read this before I started blogging.  Most of what I learned was through trial and error and researching on the Internet as I encountered problems or tried to understand the tech jargon.  Much of the blogging information I found online was really directed at business owners or people trying to make money in some way from their blog.  For me, I just wanted a creative outlet, a place to write, and a way to share with the world our life on a preppy mountain farm.  Blogging for Writers is geared for people like me and the more serious writers who might be trying to promote their newly published books.  By the time I discovered this book, I had already established my blog and found solutions to most of my issues, but it was reassuring to see I had done most things right.  The one part that really hit home, however, was to avoid giving too much attention to my stats.  I am a person who likes looking at statistics, numbers, demographics, but getting caught up in page views, unique visitors, subscribers, followers, fans, etc. can easily make me obsessed with them.  If my stats look great, I feel good about my blog, but if the page views are down one day, I wonder why people didn't like my last post.  The numbers can easily set the tone for my day.  This Lenten season, I am seriously trying to cut way back on the amount of time I spend looking at statistics or numbers of likes on social media.  It's a hard habit to break.

So to celebrate this milestone of 100 posts, I thought I would share what the Blogger stats reveal were the top 5 viewed posts for Preppy Mountain Farmhouse.  These are the rankings as of this morning.  Each post has a link to it, so if you missed the original, you can easily go right to it and check it out.

Top 5 Viewed Posts

1. Pink Zebra Birthday Bash.  This featured the decorations and food used for our daughter's 13th birthday party last June.  Pink and zebra print were her requests, and these types of items were in abundance at a number of stores.  The Nutella ice cream cake was a super easy creation that was Pinterest-inspired.  The rest of the ideas were thought up by our daughter or myself.  This was such a fun party/sleepover, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

2. My Pinterest-Inspired Successes & Flops.  I've had so much fun with Pinterest over the past year since I first started pinning.  Many things turned out great; some were so-so; and others were complete disasters.  I continue to be inspired by what I find on Pinterest, but I find it a humbling experience as well.  On my personal boards, I have beautiful images of what I would like our house and farm to look like.  These pins motivate me to try harder to create what my heart yearns for, but these pictures can also stress me out when I don't have the time, talent, or money to do or have what I really want.  This is a post I could easily update seasonally since I go to Pinterest quite a bit for new ideas and then adapt them to fit our life and budget.

3. A Primitive Preppy Christmas Farmhouse Tour.  I must admit this is one of my favorite posts too.  I love decorating for Christmas, and I had so many ideas this year to go with this theme.  I did end up spending a little more money than I usually do, mainly for burlap or plaid materials, but I'll use them again other years, I'm sure.  That is, if my family isn't totally tired of rustic preppy.  I actually still have a few winter-related items out and all of my snowmen are still sitting around the house.  I guess I'll give them another week before I move on to spring decorating.

4. Fall Porch Makeover.  I was surprised by the amount of traffic and comments on here and Facebook that this post received.  I really thought people would be bored by our painting and decorating project.  The completion of the porch makeover heralded in fall for me, my second favorite season of the year.  I love the autumn colors.

5. Casual Summer Attire for a Middle-Aged Farm Mom.  OK, this one perplexes me.  I was actually really apprehensive to publish this post, and I almost deleted it because I am definitely no fashion blogger.  When my hubby read it, he said he would never post pictures of himself modeling clothes on the Internet.  Sometimes I wonder if it's still a fluke that this received the fifth highest page views.  Or maybe there are a lot of middle-aged farm moms out there looking for casual outfits?  I don't buy new clothes all that often, so there won't be many of these types of posts, I can assure you.

So that wraps up this 100th post on a gray slushy February morning here in the Alleghenies.  I'll save my thoughts on blogging for when Preppy Mountain Farmhouse hits its one year anniversary, which will be in about two months.  If you want to cast your vote for your favorite blog post, I'd love to hear about it here, in an email, or over on Facebook or Instagram.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lifestyle Blogging Against a Backdrop of World Terror

     I confess that I have struggled to write a post over the past two weeks.  With the ongoing slaughter in Syria and the Middle East, the recent attacks in Paris and Mali, and the serious threats of violence against our nation and others in the western world, I question whether or not I should write about something as trivial as my life.  Is it shallow to devote a few hours a week to describing my family's recent excursions, or the latest event on our farm, or decorating projects for Christmas, or a favorite recipe to share?  Should I take up space on the Internet with my seemingly small blessings and warm thoughts when there are so many atrocities occurring outside our door?  Is it right to display pictures of my family living in happiness and security and comfort when there are other families being ripped apart and running for their lives?  How do I reconcile these two opposite realities?

     What I've come to realize is that blogging has a way of motivating me to turn ideas and dreams into realities.  I believe those realities make our farmhouse a better place for my children and all those we share our lives with.  We are creating memories for the next generation, and I want those memories to be beautiful and full of love, joy, and peace---not war, terror, hatred, and fear.  My blogging actually helps me focus on those things I value most and that I want to fill our lives and our home with.  We are creating an oasis here, and I then chronicle that and share it with all of you through this blog.  I am not shutting my eyes to the horrors going on around us, but I am choosing to not fill our home, our lives, and our minds with it.

     So for now, I continue to blog about our family celebrating life, cooking for friends, enjoying nature, decorating our farmhouse in every season, and being grateful for what blessings God has given us.  But I also pray, fervently, every day for the protection of the innocent, comfort for the suffering, peace to a world filled with turmoil, and wisdom for our world leaders.  And if my blog is meant to be about something greater and more important than our family life in a preppy mountain farmhouse, then I trust my heart will know.

     God bless. and may you all have a safe and special Thanksgiving.