Category Archives: Appearance

A blogger on holiday

Being connected

In my last post I did mention that I was going to be on holiday and that I did not expect to be able to publish more than one post per week. At least I was realistic as that is how it turns out to be. Even one post per week seems to be hard. One of the reasons being lack of internet service although that is not the main reason.

As the blogger in the family we decided to only take my laptop as it is a necessary tool for writing and publishing posts. My kids were horrified with the prospects of having reduced access to a computer for 5 weeks. However the persistent look on their faces indicated that they were already visualising using my laptop. So it turns out that the main reason for my lack of blogging is that the computer is being used by others. When ‘my time’ finally has come it either is 2 am, I am too tired, the computer is flat or the adaptor is in use for a mobile phone.

As a result my last post dates from July 12th and today it is already July 18th. I really feel like a blogger on holiday and usually when you are on holiday you don’t have to work. Still I feel a little apprehensive to let it go. I suppose it is a bit like having your own business. It is harder to leave that behind.

Getting inspired……….

The thing I have been doing is getting more inspiration for the design of my ‘gourmet and style’ blog. I have been taking heaps of pictures that I can pass on to my designer to give her a better idea of what I have in mind. Her proposals so far were very professional and attractive but not what I have in mind. Too much glossy magazine style. What I am after is a touch more natural and organic. It appears it is hard to get such feelings or moods across.

It has been a tricky journey so far and I am still not sure whether I should just start with a hosted blog or a self-hosted design that is not entirely to my satisfaction. The ‘blogging opinions’ regarding that vary. I like to quote Jung as he kind of hits the nail on the head:

‘Perfection is for the Gods’.

He reckons that it is not about perfection but you should try to be as good as you can. At the moment that is what I am trying to achieve and I will remain persistent a little longer in getting it right. Not perfect just a bit more right!

After all my blog will be like ‘my office’. I want it to be a place where I like to go and love to be. As simple as that. What remains now is to go a couple of floors lower to be able to connect to the internet and publish this post.

Salut et à la prochaine!

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Designing my blog

I have met twice with my web designer and during the second meeting I realised – and so did she- that she may not be able to achieve what I have in mind. I am confident about her technical skills to build my blog but I was less certain about her skill regarding its appearance. I think she did have the same feeling.

A long time ago I studied Graphic Design at Art School in the Netherlands. This is before the computer era and doing graphic design was ‘slightly’ different than it is now. Creating a flyer or brochure was done with the so-called ‘collage’ method. You had to type, write, draw and cut every part of your design and consequently stick them on a piece of paper until you had a satisfying composition.

I told my web designer about this old fashioned method. Instead of laughing it off she thought it might help me to do just that with my ideas regarding the looks of my blog. I thought about that for a while but dismissed this option. Cause – lack of time. Instead I headed to the lady who has designed some stuff for me in the past. We met over a coffee, brainstormed and discussed my blog and the look on her face was telling me that she was on the way to create something cool.

She created an eye catching logo for a business I started some time ago. The business is called ‘Easy Done Services’ and my blog will take on part of that name as well – EasyDone Gourmet and Style.  With a couple of changes we will be able to use the logo for my blog. We also talked about some cool images for the side bar and the header of the blog. I can’t wait to see what she will come up with. So far she has never disappointed me and I am not surprised as she is very talented. She just did the graphics for a website of a major company in Australia.

Once she has created the ‘looks’ of my blog, it can hopefully be build. My aim is to have it up and running by July 2012. At the beginning of July I will be travelling to Europe for 5 weeks and it would be great if I could start blogging while I am there. After all the blog is about gourmet and style and what could be better than starting to discuss these topics from a French, Spanish and Belgium perspective? These countries offer so much when it comes to gastronomy and design, and there will be so much to write about.

Blogexercise may change slightly change as I will write EasyDone Gourmet & Style from a different platform. I suppose that change will be a whole new world in itself and I certainly will have a whole array of new topics to write or ‘rant’ about.  Think of domain, self-hosting, setting up the blog, in sum being much more technically challenged than with WordPress.com as my platform.

Challenging? Sure, but also inspiring, motivating, exciting and hopefully above all fun!

When is selling acceptable?

Offcourse there is a fine line between creating awareness for a certain service or product and hard sell. I have not really figured out what I find appropriate myself.

When you post something on your blog it is out there for everyone to read. In principle anyone can comment on what I write, express their opinion and I suppose flog their wares. One could even debate that – when I am publishing the message, I may need some help regarding the topic I am writing about.

That is where the crucial point is to my opinion. I am not inquiring to get advice – I am only elaborating about something on my own blog. Maybe it is the nature of the game. After all when I am watching a film on TV I am not asking for dozens of ad breaks and yet I get them presented on a platter, over and over again. It doesn’t stop me from watching the film. Although I hate the ads and will very likely utilise the breaks to get a drink or have a toilet stop.

Another one is going to the cinema where you are the target of its sponsors. The other day I discovered that you even get bombarded with messages enticing you to come to the cinema – while you are already sitting there waiting to watch a film. Now that is what I call wasting resources! What about promoting refreshments after the program has started? Do they really want people to get up, go and buy popcorn and disturb fellow film lovers?  I don’t get that!

Advertising and blogging

For some they go together and for many others it may raise their hairs. The general consensus seems to be that bloggers need to take care not to alienate followers by suddenly adding ads to their blogs. It is recommended starting with advertising if that is what you have in mind. You can debate this and as the blogger you could have the attitude – you lose some, you gain some! After all when your blog is popular, it would be silly not to benefit from sponsors and AdSense.

I am planning to use various types of advertising on my blog in the making ‘EasyDone Gourmet & Style’. I am not making a secret of that as my aim is to make it a source of income. But as the type of person I am, I want to make sure that the blog looks attractive even with ads. That is one of the reasons that I start a blog with my own domain and hosting. You have more control over what the end product looks like.

At the time being I am consulting a techie to build my blog and a designer to make it look nice because I can’t do that myself. It is an investment as one has to do when starting a business. I find it very important that I have input where the ads are being placed and even what they look like. I certainly don’t want flashing ads and pop-up boxes which are hard to close. My blog is partly about style and that includes the advertising. It all needs to be attractive – it’s the whole package!

The preparation process may take a bit more time than I intended to but when the blog finally looks the way I want it, it will be out there. And I will have a beautiful, stylish office to go every day!

Me – a writer!

The other day I had lunch with a friend who mentioned that I had really got into this ‘blogging thing’. It felt good to know that she noticed. Then she said something that made my day. She told me that my English was really good – she even looked to be impressed. She seemed surprised that my writing English was of a high standard.  I suppose my speaking English must be of a lesser standard!

You have to know that I am not a native English speaker. I am from the Netherlands and only started to speak English fulltime in my twenties when I left Holland to live in London. I speak English fluently but I do have an accent – over time less than when I first went to live abroad. I very likely have picked up some Aussie slang, a bit of London jargon and before that Swiss German influences may have tainted my way of speaking, so who knows what it sounds like…..

But – when I write, nobody knows, as I have the time to think about whatever I am going to write. I do take my time to review, re-read and rephrase my articles. I actually spend a lot of time on getting it right. Certainly after I took the effort to blog about grammar in one of my earlier posts I make sure I use it correctly. I prefer to genuinely ‘walk the talk’- at least I try!

When I read other blogs I usually can pick up when the writer is not from an English speaking background. Most people write in English but the way they express themselves gives away that they may not be native English speakers. This also counts for comments I get on my blog. Some are unfortunately so cryptic that I can’t post them as I honestly do not understand what they mean. Sometimes I don’t even know whether they are genuine or whether they are attempts to ridicule.

Same letters – different pronunciation!

Hopefully I am not insulting anybody but this is the way it is. I have developed a rather thick skin when it comes to languages as on many occasions I get to hear that people do not understand what I say. It has to do with the way we, Dutch people pronounce certain letters. We apparently have an issue with the ‘a’s and the‘s’s. My name is also a good example – Marijke. I know it’s not an easy name for Anglophiles. In general people are thrown by the ‘ij’ but I pronounce it the way English people tend to pronounce it and not the Dutch way. So what I don’t understand is why half of the people seem to hear that I say Veronica when I answer the phone! It must be me but it does make me frown.

To be honest I have given up on being annoyed a long time ago. Actually the whole thing justifies me pronouncing names wrongly as well. Not that hard in a country where it is possible to have 20 nationalities in one gathering!

So hearing the other day that I surprised one of my friends with my writing ability makes me smile and gives me confidence. It confirms my choice to ‘indulge’ in writing about things that matter to me and publish it for anyone to read. It’s a wonderful feeling and it shows me I am on the right path.

A belated Happy Easter to all who read and enjoy what I write!

Food for Thought!

A friend came over the other night and she told me that she followed my blog, ‘blogexercise’. She said she also followed a blog that diarises the life of one of her friends. She kind of wondered why my blog was not like that. My response was that her friend wrote an online diary of whatever subject came in her mind and elaborated on that – with pictures and all.  A different type of blog than ‘blogexercise’ is.

My blog is more of an educational nature. It is a project, in first instance for me, to explore the world of blogging and for others who find the subject interesting and like to learn. Her next question was why I did not post pictures because that made the other blog so attractive. Good question I suppose and it made me think for a while. I am a keen photographer and seem to take pictures daily. But what kind of pictures can I take that reflect the content of my posts about blogging? I will get the creative juices flowing and see if I can come up with a couple.

Pictures on a blog look indeed nice. A picture says a thousand words. Maybe we could make a lot of mundane topics a lot more interesting by adding pictures. Just imagine law and economy books… I can imagine little drawings or cartoons added to the posts but I can’t draw very well. I know there are enough resources where I could find such things. I am not sure if I want to go that way. I wouldn’t mind finding someone who could draw and make a range of little drawings for me.

No internet! Shock! Horror!

At the moment however I can’t do much. I am finding myself in the in-imaginable state of not having internet. A bizarre thought and I would have not believed ‘ever’ to think of that as a problem. The situation is that we are changing service providers, things went ‘wrong’ with the result that we are finding ourselves in that above mentioned state. We have purchased a number of dongles but they seem to go fast especially with children who think that Face book and down loading ‘stuff’ is absolute essential to their wellbeing.

I have only had the absolute necessary web exposure and the consequence is that my number of posts is down. I have written 8 posts in March, just under two per week. I suppose still not that bad as the internet has been down since the beginning of the month! My friend mentioned another blog she follows and the last post of that writer was the 16th of February. That is indeed a ‘break’ and who knows for what reason. Having no internet sounds a feeble excuse but it has been a major frustration for all of us.

Today is the lucky day that we are going to be connected!  Between 7 and 12 we are expecting a technician. Hooray…. but so were we last Saturday – we waited until 4 to find out that due to an emergency elsewhere we were put forward to the next available day – today! The hopes are high as this is the 4th attempt of this particular provider to connect us. Why are we with them, you may ask…..

If we are lucky today we will have cable connection, fast and reliable. I hope it will be worth it. It would be very welcome as I just received news that my next blog is almost ready to go life. For the newcomers amongst you – Blogexercise is my practice blog on a hosted platform, to learn and to research the world of blogging and I am not done yet!

My new blog Easydone Gourmet and Style is the result of many passions in my life. It will be self hosted on WordPress –  full of yummy food, good wines, attractive homes and lush gardens with gorgeous pictures, easy to follow recipes and inspiring ‘how-to-do’s’. All done by myself by the way!

So if you are inspired and curious, follow my steps!

My blog has a total makeover

Well after my last post things have changed indeed. I was talking about changing my header and I had a go at this but I ended up going a different avenue altogether. The perfectionist in me won’t allow me to put something online that isn’t 100% to my liking and I started playing with other templates instead.

Choosing a new theme

There are 171 different templates available in WordPress. Spoilt for choice one could say. And you can browse them in various ways. Simple from a-z, the most popular or latest themes or the Premium section – the ones that come with a cost.

The advantage of browsing for a new theme when your blog is already up and running is that you can see how your blog will appear in a particular template. I can remember going through the templates before my blog was published. I found it hard to imagine which one would look the best and would reflect me, my topic and my writing style the most. As “Twenty Eleven’ has a style that is appealing to me I could imagine my blog looking attractive with that theme.

The advantage of having a ‘life’ blog already

With a ‘life’ blog however you can see how your blog will appear and this was very helpful. After I selected several templates I came across ‘Mystique’ and I loved it. The default colours and lay-out for this theme are the ones you see in my blog. I did try however every possible combination of colours and lay-out but came back to the ones I saw when I changed to Mystique. You can do this by going into ‘Theme Options’ and selecting from the colours and lay-out options on offer. Your blog will then appear in the format of your choice.

I even opened two versions of WordPress so I could see both themes –Twenty Eleven’ and ‘Mystique – next to each other. Although I had liked Twenty Eleven initially I found ‘Mystique’ more professional and classy. I can still adapt the header but the colour scheme of “Mystique’ is interesting enough and for the moment I like to leave it as it is. Furthermore I do like to add the occasional picture in the future.

There is a ‘Premium’ section of templates available and in order to use them you have to pay a small fee. Before making a decision though it is possible to see your blog in those templates as well. All over a nice feature and worthwhile having a look at once you feel more comfortable and daring.


Time to make some changes

When I started my blog with WordPress I sifted through all the different templates and choose eventually the ‘Twenty Eleven Theme’ – the one I am using now. It is fresh and modern. WordPress itself calls it contemporary, elegant and simple.

I have been using it since the end of November and understand that it is possible to customise the theme more to my liking and to fit the purpose. I realised this week that the header contains a number of pictures that are rotated constantly. Nice pictures but totally random. They have got nothing to do with the topic of my blog.

I have decided to create my own personalised header with images that reflect the content of ‘blogexercise’. This may not be such a simple task as I can think of many aspects that represent blogging. I will try to pin down what it means for me, set a scene and get going with my camera. Probably not that easy either, but it will be good fun!

Creating a header that makes sense

Challenging on the technical front? Maybe not for some of you but it will be for me. But with an IT professional as husband and a computer savvy daughter I should be alright. First I have to decide on the actual image I like to be displayed in the header.

I had a quick look online and there are many pictures, cartoons etc that have to do with blogging. Immediately there is the issue of copyright when choosing something that is online. If you find something online that you like to use, it is good practice to check if you are allowed to and to credit the source after having been granted permission. Also check out my post ‘Your or Theirs’.

I am more attracted to having a go at creating something myself. I can take the pictures but apparently it can only be uploaded in a certain format – it needs to be 1000 x 288 pixels. My daughter assured me that she can organise that although it looks as if WordPress can also fix that for you during the uploading process. Additionally there are other websites that can take on this role for you. Just Google ‘header of a blog’ and you can take your pick!

I am starting to get got some ideas for the pictures and will leave this post for what it is and retain my creative juices for setting the scene for my new header image.

Looking forward to it!