my blog story.

My first ever blog design.

[Sorry, I don’t have a screencap to show you.  I wish I would have taken one.  When you start your first blog, keep an image for yourself.]

I couldn’t come up with a clever blog name to save my life.  I eventually decided to call it, Hodgepodge.  It was meant to represent my range of interests.  At the time, I loved human-centered design, photography, art, writing… I couldn’t narrow it down to a few things.

The header photo was from a photograph I took at a Portuguese restaurant near our old house (shown below).  The restaurant had a beautiful blue wall covered with plates.  I loved it.  Tate was only a year old and Thatcher a newborn.

I went to the restaurant with my Sony DSLR, with the sole intention of taking a photo for my blog.  I bought some custard tarts to bring home to Eric, asked the ladies if it was okay if I took a pic, and then scrambled to quickly take a photo before both of the boys were crying.  I still love that picture.

Blog Design. Fall 2015.

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I had just changed my blog’s name to Very Lainie.  It was meant to represent the self exploration I was doing; I was trying to figure out what was Very Lainie – a term that my husband and close friends used to describe anything they knew I would like (books, clothing, etc.)

Under my site name, I had no idea what to write as a tagline so I left it blank.

My menu was out of control; so many random things.  Little snippets of my interests. My main page was made up of a thread of random posts.  I did eventually figure out how to get my picture in the side bar though!  I had no subscribe option (I didn’t know MailChimp existed at the time). And I still love that plate image.

Fall 2017 – Summer 2018.

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I chose a new template and spent hours trying to figure out how to customize it.  I started working on it at 10 o’clock one night.  Rookie! 🙂  I had a total moment of panic when my stuff was instantly all over the place in the new template.  What if someone saw it like this?!? Too funny. No one was even going to my site.

I was trying to decide on photos while building it.  I needed Eric’s help to save the images as high resolution files. I was writing copy as I went.  Not a good idea.

A big difference in the design was the main page image.

The photo was meant to capture all of the things I loved and that were Very Lainie.

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Top left to right: I love to sew and make things (my cutting board, rotary cutter, and scissors).  I’m a tea drinker.  My laptop is always close by (it’s where I do my writing, facilitate online courses, and where I learn).  My sewing machine for fun projects.  A little red ambulance to represent the kids.  My Moleskine notebooks and pen to represent my love of writing.  Tucked behind the notebooks was the last letter my gram wrote to me.  And lastly in the bottom left, a piece of pottery that I learned to throw and glaze myself. Inside, nail polish, just because I love colour.

I took this photo in our backyard.  Once I got the kids into their beds for naptime, I hauled their little white children’s table into the backyard, along with all of my objects.  On this breezy day, I quickly tried to snap pictures before gram’s letter blew away for the millionth time, as I stood up above the table on a ladder.  It turned out pretty well!

With this version, my menu was starting to refine.  Through personal writing and lots of thinking, I finally learned three things that were really important to me: making, writing, and being a mom.  It may seem like an easy thing to list three things, but for me it was really challenging.  It felt like such a win once I figured it out.

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The photos for making and mom life were ones that I had taken at another time on my Instagram account; I decided that they suited the topics and used them.  The typewriter pic was taken with Eric’s help; we set the typewriter down on a piece of Bristol board and I quickly took pictures as Eric held a mechanic’s light from up above.

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I also loved including the Instagram feed.  It gave me that visual piece that I’m always drawn to.

I also had a subscribe option!  This girl figured out MailChimp and started writing her first newsletter.  I called it the Lainie List and sent it out every Friday to two people 🙂 Thank you Kim and Dionne!!!  After reluctantly reaching out to friends who I thought might like the list, I got a few more subscribers. But it still felt like they were just being nice.

The excitement came when complete strangers signed up.  I had created a 2018 Creative Calendar and decided to offer it to those who signed up.  My big newsletter count was up to 45, but slowly dropped over the weeks to a static 34.

I also bought my first domain name:  It was so exciting.  I felt like I owned something and it was an exciting beginning for me.

present. July 2018.

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It is slowly coming along.  I had that same panicky feeling today when I activated the template and the content on my screen scattered in the most random directions.  Breathe, Lainie.  It will be okay.  Nothing is gone.  Just work through the steps to customize it.

This time I was more prepared.  I spent months deciding on my template.  I mocked up my design in a Google doc before hand, with images already selected and saved in high res, ready to go and copy already done.  Quite a change from the last time.  I’m learning 😉

For now, I have a mock logo sitting in the top corner that looks pretty sketchy but it’s a placeholder until the final one is done.  I also didn’t realize that the main image on the page is actually linked to a featured blog post rather than a static page header.  More learning.  It’s good.

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I think I like these three sections but I really wish that the images were square in shape.  I can’t even see Grandpa Johnson’s old bike (on the right).  I also need to figure out how to use Stripe and connect it to my classes & e-courses page. Exciting!!

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I really like this template (Veni on WordPress) for the social side bar (on the right).  I like how clean it looks with the white background and black icons.

For next steps, I do need to add a new profile pic.  I’ve had this one for so long (look how little Charlie is!) I just can’t find a picture of myself that I like…yet (me trying to be positive).

With the layout for the blog posts, it’s supposed to be more of a grid to mimic the look of Pinterest.  I love how it’s more visual, which also means that I need to up my game when it comes to taking better photos.  Time to take some classes through Skillshare.

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And this footer…enormous!  I don’t know how to make it narrower.  But one thing at a time. I know that even in a few months, this page will look different again as I learn and refine things.  Totally a creative endeavour in itself and I love that.

Fall 2018.

Just months after doing all of the work updating my site, I decided to scrap it and start again.  It didn’t feel like me, well at least all of me. 

The new site really focused on writing and stories.  There was nothing there for my creative and making side.  It felt weird for them both not to be together. 

So for my main image, I did a little sketch of all the things that were Very Lainie. The writing side and making side of me.

In my updated version, I used the Creative template (from WordPress) that I had fallen in love with months ago.  It had more of a portfolio feel and would give me a chance to share both my writing and what I was making.  It had the ability to be more visual and I liked that. 

I added a Shop page to my site to share things I had made and had for sale. I added Workshops and Ecourses as a place to promote my upcoming mitten and printmaking workshops. And Books was a new page to house little ebooks that I had written.

Winter 2019.

There are still elements of my old design that I miss.

I loved how visual it was and it felt more organized. I liked the footer better. And I feel like I’m starting to outgrow Very Lainie and need to create something new. I’m not sure yet but it’s starting to come together. I’m excited for what it could be. I have already bought another domain name and I’m just waiting for the whole picture to come together in my head.

Spring 2020.

I’ve wanted to change it for months now, but have held off. The waiting has been good – it’s given me the time and space to let it come together in my head first.

I feel like my projects are starting to come together around central themes. What I care about is becoming clearer (the focus on capturing and learning from our stories). I needed a site to reflect it all.

I had a theme picked out after going through all of them for months. Then when I went to add my images to it, I didn’t like it at all. This theme is a little harder to get used to – not a standard webpage design. But it forces me to be minimalist and get to the point. We’ll see how I do with it.

Blogs evolve – they are never perfect, all planned out, or done.  They are basically a living document that will change as you go along.  They become both a humble reminder of where we started and a way to celebrate how far we’ve come.  I’m excited to see what mine will look like in a year from now.

If you’re someone who has considered blogging but aren’t sure where to start, I hope that in sharing this story with you that that you might feel encouraged to get started.  It’s a lot of fun.

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