Finally, a Graduate!

Two weeks after the course, I decided to revisit my Blogging 201 notes and check if I’ve actually completed all of my requirements to claim I finally graduated. Offhand, I can already say that I’ve done so much better this time than how I fared with Blogging 101. I had a much stronger commitment. From flunking 101 to acing 201, I think I deserve a pat on the back (patting myself now), for I took 201 at a time nearer my first CPA exam, so that’s a real, major challenge (and yes, still very much employed full-time, working my ass off especially during month-ends). The good thing about 201 is it ran only for two weeks. So here’s a quick review of the course’s assignments for the first week and the corresponding links to my notes.

1. Setting Goals – Aim High, Hit High

2. Auditing Your Brand – A Closer Look at Those Lemons

3. Getting Read All Over – So How Do I Look?

4. Giving ‘Em What They Want, I – Chasing Numbers, Catching Love

5. Driving Traffic to Your Archives – My Passion is Equal to the Task

For ease of reference, I’ve compiled all of these notes under one category conveniently sitting on my sidebar: My BloggingU Notes. See, I’ve completed all of them with flying colours! But then moving on to the second week’s task is where I had some problems. I felt like the bigger tasks were all lumped into this heavier final week of the course. I should have done each of them on the day they were given out, which was what I promised myself when I wrote down my goals. But I decided to break that self-imposed rule, in favour of quality. I did choose to take my time. So here’s an update of week 2’s assignments:

6. Digging Into Social Networks – This I’ve done. I decided that for a life blog; Facebook, Instagram and Twitter would be the most fitting platforms.

6.1 Instagram: I checked my Instagram account and found it may be in tune and interesting enough for the blog. I need this especially for sharing photos in keeping with the “A Migrant’s Journey” category. I found I’ve already been posting photos documenting the things I’m experiencing in Sydney so I did not need to create a separate account. Occasionally, I also post photos reflecting God, Love and Career which are all aligned with the blog’s theme. Plus, I have one username for both WP and Instagram, so it was pretty easy to link the two accounts.

6.2 Twitter: I used to have a Twitter account which was under the username @sassycare, as in my WP and Instagram. However, i deleted it years ago. I thought I was not the popular type, enough to have people following what I have to say. I felt it was more for celebrities or at least like-minded people who have things to say that are worth being talked about in talk shows or news programs. My lack of confidence was a deterrent for me to continue on my twitter life. But years after, Flavored Lemons happened and I have a whole new reason to tweet. After all, I have thoughts I deem worthy to publish in a blog, so maybe Twitter can accommodate me this time? I have really few followers at the moment but that doesn’t bother me. My goal is to spread the word about articles I write and to reach people, who are always destined to be my audience but just haven’t found their way to the site yet. So after twenty thousand years of deleting @sassycare from tweetworld, I finally created the account @flavoredlemons and just like that, I found myself on Twitter again.

6.3 Facebook: I created a page for Flavored Lemons. It’s quick and easy to manage. I did inform my friends about it, they are all probably placing me into their “friendship over” zone because I asked them to check out a personal blog page. How uncool can I be? But I just wanted them to know I’m into something–writing articles about my life from which they probably can pick some lessons from. I wish they realise that for most of my posts their situations and stories are the inspiration behind. I always imagine my audience to be my friends. I just wish they one day they’ll appreciate my writing–especially those articles i wrote with them in mind.

7. Making the Most of Events – I’ve checked out available community events in WordPress and found this one which particularly caught my interest: Blacklight Candelabra. They post writing challenges once a week, every Monday. I participated on two of them so far and enjoyed the experience so much. I wrote my first poem and three haikus for the two challenges and am so looking forward to what future challenges may unleash from the creative corners of my mind.

8. Creating an Online Hub – This one took the most time to finish. I finally can say that after two weeks, the blog is now a hub to a network of social media accounts I mentioned in assignment #6. I have now a Social Media section on my sidebar, right below the menu. Simply click the icons to like or follow Flavored Lemons.

9. Buddying Up – I have a really exciting project that is in response to this assignment. I still don’t have it at the moment but already started working on it. Hopefully, I can tell you about it in a week’s time.

10. Giving ‘Em What They Want, II – Taking feedback from readers to another level, I found this one really worth a try. It wasn’t so hard at all. I have just recently added the “Get in touch with us” corner on the sidebar, and I really do hope to get in touch with all of you on a more personal level using this feature.

So there! All assignments in (almost, with only one as work-in-progress). After taking Blogging 201, I could say I am now happier with my blog, the direction it is going and how the brand has been built so far. I am sure it will still evolve and continuously grow as my blogging life continues. I hope you’ll all stick around and grow with me.

Thank you for being so supportive to Flavored Lemons from the start to this point; special mention to my Blogging 201 classmates who have likewise successfully completed the course, congratulations to us! Here’s to more juicing and squeezing out of the best things life has to offer.

Cheers!

Featured photo is taken from masahble.com

Haiku 03

Pitch-black night sky cries,
lights of heaven hide from sight
hyenas laughing.

 

 

 

 

I’m getting addicted to writing haikus, been doing this since last night. I tried it first for Blacklight Candelabra’s writing challenge for the week and I just can’t get over it. Should be limiting myself to three for now, or else I won’t be able to write anything else for the next days, apart from haikus.

 

 

Featured Photo from www.listofimages.com

My Passion is Equal to the Task

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Silver Screen.”

I promised to keep up doing Blogging 201 assignments on the day or on the weekend after that week. However, up until this morning, I was not able to turn in Friday’s assignment. It was asking me to make the most of my archive. I guess in a way, I’ve done that somehow by linking my most viewed post to my last post, which was in response to Thursday’s task. I can’t be satisfied with that, though. I had to do it even if it means, it’s 3am now and I’m still writing.

As of this moment, I’ve finished creating my “Best of” page. I entitled it “Featured Flavors” and you should now be able to see it on the sidebar (or on the menu if you’re on mobile view). What I did was to enumerate my favorite posts per category and per post, I’ve written down a short description so you may easily choose which one you’d like to read first. I will be updating this list every quarter (perfect time to start this since Flavored Lemons is now 3 months old). I’ve linked it to my about page and you may also check it through this link here.

Meanwhile, as I am accountable to all of you who read about my blogging goals, I’d like to apologize for turning in my assignment late and for still being behind by two days’ worth of tasks. I feel I owe you an explanation. You see, my other priorities kept me away from doing what I promised. When I’m in blogging world, I feel like leaving the real world behind. But then Earth keeps on spinning and reality catches up with me no matter how hard I try to escape it. While I made promises for my blogging goals, I have daily reading goals, too. I’ve already mentioned I’m currently working on getting the CPA Australia qualification and my first exam is fast approaching. By now, I should already be going through a second-round of reading the book but I’m barely halfway done finishing all chapters for the first round. I have three weeks’ worth of delays according to my self-imposed study calendar. So I thought, I’ll try and catch up on that. Though the heart is inclined towards writing, the mind is obliged towards reading and the latter rules when it comes to prioritization. As my husband pointed out, I have made a financial investment on that exam, paid the fees and gone through all those assessments to qualify to take it so I can’t really afford to fail. Much more if it’s because of blogging. He will turn into a monster and eat me whole, together with this laptop, if that happens.

As you can see, I’m trying my best to still sneak this post into my tight-as-a-Beyonce-concert schedule. I’ve tried drafting what I’ll be writing over my lunch break at the office and then finalizing by tonight, after reading two chapters of the CPA book. How is that? Is that challenging or not? Whatever, I’d say my passion is equal to the task*.

However, I’m afraid my energy isn’t. And I should go catch up with my sleeping hours now, it’s 3:40 am. Oh, and please pray I don’t get late for my “exciting” day job later. I have a big meeting today!

*I watched the movie The Prestige again the other day (yes, while reading) and remembered liking this Hugh Jackman line. Though it’s not my favorite movie, I feel the line is apt to my current circumstances and thought to respond to last Monday’s The Daily Post prompt with it.

Chasing Numbers, Catching Love

I checked my stats. I wasn’t particularly fond of it due to: first, my lack of familiarity on how to use it and second, my lack of interest—which is the result of trying to save myself from being either discouraged or motivated by something outside of myself. I want my motivation to come from inside so it will always be sustainable. As I wrote about in the post “To Blog or Not to Blog”, I want to blog for myself first and let everything else follow. That may sound selfish but think about it, can what I write be of any interest or help to others if I, myself, was only pressured towards writing it? If I was too focused on external factors, will I not become uncomfortable writing about the madness of my own thoughts? Will I not be lead towards putting others’ own ideas and society’s impression first? Nothing is totally wrong with that. It’s just that…the brand, this blog may grow but something will else will die—the deranged poet, the visionary, the writer will die. Michael Cunninghum warned about that in his novel, “The Hours“:

“Oh, pride, pride. I was so wrong. It defeated me. It simply proved insurmountable. There was so much, oh, far too much for me. I mean, there’s the weather, there’s the water and the land, there are the animals, and the buildings, and the past and the future, there’s space, there’s history. There’s this thread or something caught between my teeth, there’s the old woman across the way, did you notice she switched the donkey and the squirrel on her windowsill? And, of course, there’s time. And place. And there’s you, Mrs. D. I wanted to tell part of the story of part of you. Oh, I’d love to have done that.”

“Richard. You wrote a whole book.”

“But everything’s left out of it, almost everything. And then I just stuck on a shock ending. Oh, now, I’m not looking for sympathy, really. We want so much, don’t we?”

-Richard & Mrs. D, The Hours, Michael Cunningham, 1998

But wait, I got a little derailed. I was about to tell you about my Blogging 201 assignment. So I checked my stats but refused to “analyze”. Goodness, this class just asked me to audit (what used to be my day-job) for the last two days, and now I’m being asked to analyze (what my current day-job is purely made of)! I thought when I’m in blog world that I can escape from them for a while but look at how unforgivingly clingy they can be. (There I am diverting again from that assignment! Focus, focus, focus!)

Whatever I say, I still needed to do the assignment. So here are three good-to-know facts I’ve gathered from my stats page:

1. The highest viewed post ever was “How Much Does Mr Right Really Cost?“. It was viewed even more than the Home Page. More surprisingly, it has also garnered the highest number of shares. It’s funny because I shared this post in Facebook to comply to one of those Blogging 101 assignments and it barely had 10 likes and only 1 share–which last time I checked had only 4 likes and no shares. But there was a good count of viewers that my blog stats registered that day. They clicked on that post, read it and shared it. My, my.. what does this tell me? We are a society filled with people who are, try-as-we-may-to-deny-it, suckers for LOVE and happy endings. The assignment says “Give ‘Em What They Want“, well then… Hold on tight, ’cause I’ll give more love!

2. The blog has gained some traffic from my Instagram account. I haven’t linked it to my blog but I have the address displayed on my instagram profile. Wow, that just means social media links really help. I should be working seriously on this for the next few days.

3. Views, follows and comments peaked when I started using tags and categories. Well, this isn’t surprising at all but yes, I wasted a great deal of time writing and publishing under the default “uncategorized” category and NO tags.

Okay, item #3 made me seem really funny so you can laugh but hey, before you judge me, I was intending to concentrate on writing during my first blogging days and had little interest to know whether I got applauded for it. I said that not out of hypocrisy but out of insecurity. I wanted to be more confident before I let my thoughts out into the world for their scrutiny. Not that I am confident about my confidence level now, I still struggle. The difference is, now I try to keep to myself this thought: Handsome stats shouldn’t be the goal, it should only be the bonus that comes with reaching the goal.

But then again, it won’t really hurt to visit that stat page once in a while. If only to fine-tune those plans already drafted inside our heads.

Featured Photo is taken from www.wallzical.com

So How Do I Look?

To be honest, I wasn’t so sure how to go about today’s assignment. Once again, I’m being asked to place Flavored Lemons under a magnifying glass, to try to look for flaws and potential improvements, this time, towards making it mobile-friendly. When I read the assignment during lunch break, I thought this should not be much of a problem because I have a responsive theme. The Twenty Fifteen theme description boasts of how it emphasizes content and prides itself on its adaptability. I personally think the theme does a very good job fulfilling its promise and am thus far satisfied with it.

That polylingual pattern of perfection shown in the typography is matched by the responsive design of Twenty Fifteen. It looks great on devices of all sizes, from desktop to mobile and everything in between. The theme adapts to any screen without sacrificing usability or design integrity.

I thought I’d finish this task pretty easily but as I started digging through the blog’s features, I came across this interesting post written specifically about my theme: One Theme, Three Ways: Customizing Twenty Fifteen. I thought yesterday that I was being minimalist with this blog, but when I saw those three featured blogs using the same theme, I became obsessed with the idea of deleting widgets from my sidebar. But hey, I later thought doing so would lose a big part of the blog personality I’ve been trying to build since my 101 days. So I ended up deleting only one section—the one that explains about the tagline. I’m happy I did that. The choice for tagline is explained in the about page anyway so that sidebar item was, decidedly irrelevant.

But first things first, as promised I’ll stick to doing the assignments for 201. So here’s a blow by blow report on my findings regarding how my blog looks from the different digital vantage points.

1. I remember viewing my blog using a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and a cellphone for the Blogging 101 assignment “Love your blog” but to be sure, I repeated the exercise. One striking difference is that the text looks a little more cramped and the posts seem longer as the screen gets smaller, but that should be fine (and this should be obvious anyway).

2. A major difference particular to my theme is how the header positioning changes with the gadget used. So as not to sacrifice readability of content in narrower screens, the header appears on top in lieu of a sidebar containing the blog name and a portion of the header image on tablets and mobile phones. The image is automatically cropped to fit into a default header space. I noticed that for my blog, the only thing being left visible is the color, which is fine as the signature yellow is what shows as a background of the blog name. Interestingly, the tablet view accommodates the tagline but a mobile phone doesn’t.

Desktop and Laptop View
Desktop View
Mobile Phone
Mobile View

3. The sidebar widgets become hidden behind a menu icon for both tablet and mobile phone view. Once it’s clicked. it occupies the whole screen and shows what’s originally pinned to the sidebar. However, the header image still retains its cropped appearance.

On-click sidebar on mobile view
On-click sidebar on mobile view

I do not feel a strong call to action from these findings as of now. I have one minor learning though, it would be much easier to read content if the text is justified, especially when using the mobile view. So I’ll try doing that from this post forward.

What actually took my time more was checking out other blogs that use the same theme as I do and then using them as benchmarks to improve how my blog looks in whatever platform. On top of deleting a widget from my sidebar, here are other changes I’ve made today:

1. I noticed my blog’s the only one I’ve seen without those share buttons appearing at the bottom of posts and pages so I’ve finally added them in.

2. I personalized the email messages sent to someone who just signed up to follow my blog or a post. Before this assignment, I haven’t even realized that thing existed!

3. I shortened widget titles that works for desktop but looks over the top on mobile view. By the same logic, I learned to keep in mind that increasing indentations in posts can also alter the look of the whole body of text in the mobile version.

4. I wish I could say I was able to add the social media widget on my sidebar, but I can’t. I’ve been trying to find out how to do it for hours but arrrggh, I was unsuccessful! Can anybody help me please? (Sorry, I’m still locked out of Blogging 201’s The Commons so I’m shouting out from here.)*

Overall, though the assignment seemed simple, it turned out to be really helpful. It made me rethink of the importance of a blog theme—how its best features and limitations can help or burden a blog’s readers especially. As a bonus, I also got to compare myself with other bloggers who, like me, have the same minimalist aim for their blogs. I gained a more accurate view of my blog’s own reflection through that.

That’s it for today. It’s getting really late and I should head to bed. Is there anything else I missed? Your further scrutiny would be much appreciated, so feel free to throw them in.

*A very dispensable part of this post which, owing to the amount of effort wasted, has been retained.

Featured Photo is taken from imgkid.com.

A Closer Look at Those Lemons

Did I just read the word audit in today’s Blogging 201 assignment? Of course, I know how to do that. I’ve been an auditor for quite some time and have global certifications to prove my qualification. One thing I haven’t done though was to audit my own work. I guess that will fall into self-assessment more than auditing. Regardless of the term though, it’s quite hard to criticize one’s own work. You either become too critical that you lose your confidence or become too proud to see what’s wrong or lacking. So striking a balance between the two is what I’ll try to do for this assignment.

During an audit, the starting point is always the objective of whatever it is being audited. Every audit area will be based on that, how much it helps or endangers the achievement of that objective. So that’s what I’ll try to do with my own blog.

1. Header Image: Choosing this photo just shows how conservative I am with the blog’s design. It runs on one color–yellow and it resonates the second word in the blog’s name in a very straightforward manner. It can easily be associated with the brand. Notice how I made use of a slice of lemon instead of a whole? Well, aside from aesthetics, it’s also because a lemon slice shows the inside of the lemon and its intricate details, it’s also where the taste comes from. It’s consistent with the blog’s objective as stated in the about page, “(Life’s) flavors and what I make of them are what I’d like to share in this blog, hoping to also encourage you to appreciate the different flavors of lemons that life throws your way.” The image also shows a drop of juice about to fall from that slice which represents something I also said, “My own life is a product of constant squeezing and crushing and juicing of lemons…”

I’m quite happy about it. It’s a simple, almost translucent image that represents what the blog is about. So, I’m keeping it!

2. Background Color: None. I would like to be consistent with the minimalist approach to my blog design so I’m also maintaining this for now.

3. The Tagline: While it might seem incoherent with the blog name, it is aligned with the blog’s theme. I also think placing that widget on the sidebar to explain what it means helps give perspective to a newly visiting reader. I wonder if they’d think the same way about it too, though.

4. The Theme & Layout: I like that my theme highlights the contents of the blog. I also like that everything one needs to see appears all in one place, one side of the page in particular. Again, I am definitely minimalist. And so is the blog.

5. Widget Titles: This is something I just added today in the process of doing the assignment. I “personalized” the names of each section of my blog and made them in sync with all the rest of the elements. The only thing I’m having trouble with is changing the message or call to action for leaving comments. My theme does not seem to allow customizing that one.

6. Menu/Categories: As I’ve clearly set-out in my goals, the categories are essential to building my blog’s image and more importantly, the contents. It shows right underneath the blog title so it practically tells the reader right away what the blog is about at a glance, literally. Seeing this section would send the message right away that the blog is a life blog in particular.

7. Social Media Links: It is recommended that I do this. But, I realized that as of the moment, it’s not part of my blogging strategy to go into this route. I would like to focus on purely blogging (WordPress) first and then see later on whether the need for Social Media accounts can be justified.

8. My Gravatar: This echoes my blog’s look. With a few words and a simple (almost monochromatic) photo, it’s also very minimalist. I’m afraid that my self description may not be too comprehensive when it comes to linking it with the blog’s objectives. But I guess I’m keeping it at that for now until I find the inspiration to describe myself in a few words and in a way that’s more connected with the blog’s theme. Truth be told, I find it a difficult task describing myself. I’d rather focus on something else.

9. My Username and Nickname: I personally think this audit area is of very low risk to really ponder on. “Low risk” in audit means it can only have very little impact to achieving the blog’s objectives. But if anyone disagrees with me, please voice out your opinion in the comments section. I’d be glad to be corrected of this opinion. So you’d like to know why it’s “sassycare”? I’ve used it as a username for most of my other social media accounts. And it helps keep me anonymous. And years back, I actually researched about it (yes, believe me). It means lively, bold and full of spirit. Care is my nickname in real life. If that relates to the blog as whole, ummm.. I’ll let you judge!

10. Links, links, link: I know I should be putting up my blogroll really soon. Showing what kind of blogs I follow would reveal a lot about my own blog as well. That’s an action plan for me right there. This would be a personal weekend assignment for me.

So that’s it. I may not have made a very good unbiased audit of the blog. But to my defense, it’s really hard. I was an auditor, not a self-assessor! Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved with branding since my Blogging101 days. I may have focused too much on this area when I was doing that course and I’m thankful it came in pretty handy for today’s assignment.

If you agree with me or think otherwise, won’t you let me know through a comment, please? I’d appreciate it.

I wish sweet-tasting lemons come your way today! Cheers!

 

Featured Photo was taken from www.fotolia.com

Aim High, Hit High!

Ironically following my post about how I flunked Blogging101, here I am, alive and hopeful for the next course. This is my first post for Blogging201, and it’s just quite right to start it off with goal-setting. There are reasons I wasn’t happy with my performance as a 101 student, so that seems like a pretty good starting point. I want to be successful by the end of 201. But first let me spell out what failure and success are for me:

Failure Factor 1: I didn’t keep up with the assignments in Blogging 101. Like most bloggers, I don’t do blogging as a full-time career (how I just wish!). I have a day job and on top of that, I’m studying for my first scheduled CPA exam early in March, so where was I seriously expecting that blogging time to come from, right? So I did fail in this area. I wasn’t regularly checking the Daily Post until all those homeworks piled up to the point that I got overwhelmed trying to find out where to start catching up.

Key Success Factor 1: Determination: Finding time to check the assignments and turning them in on time

Goal #1: I am seriously finishing 100% of Blogging201 assignments within the same week they got posted. They come in daily, so that means I am posting daily* for the whole duration of the course, which will only help me build the habit of regularly publishing a post. A habit I would like to bring with me even way after the end of the course. So what if it’s just virtually impossible for me to post on a certain day? Well, the goal is to turn the assignment up on the same week it got posted. So the “most late” I could be is 6 days. Yes, this should work.

 *Wednesdays will be an exception since I have Bible Study Group on those days, I will have to catch-up on the weekend.

 

Failure Factor 2: I didn’t have a solid editorial plan. It was only in the latter part of Blogging 101 that I came to decide on what my blog will be about. If there’s one thing I did right in that course, that’s finally coming up with my four main blog categories: Career, Love, God and A Migrant’s Journey. The failing point is that I only randomly publish posts about anything and then think about in which category the post would fall into later. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that. But I guess, that approach made my posts a little too random.

Key Success Factor 2: Discipline: Guiding my own thoughts towards appreciating all the areas of life that matters in accordance to their rightful weight of importance

Goal #2: I am going to publish a minimum number of posts per week/month for each of my blog categories.  The key is to be intentional. If I want to be serious towards pursuing my blog’s vision and my brand‘s promise, I should be consistent. I wrote in the life’s about page that Flavored Lemons is about walking my life as I pursue fulfillment in these four aspects so it should only follow that my readers get that. I am easily tempted to write more about one and less of another so that should be remedied. Setting when to publish something for each category exactly should do the trick. Keeping up with a schedule would also help me balance my thoughts and feel consistently well-balanced. The schedule should be as follows:

Career & Aspirations – min. 2 per month
Love & Relationships – min. 3 per month
God & Meaning – min. 5 per month AND at least 1 every week
A Migrant’s Journey – at least once weekly

 

Failure Factor 3: They kept on saying no blog is an island, but I didn’t take that one too seriously. In Blogging 101, I concentrated on publishing posts. I got comfortable with writing and forgot about the other equally important part of blogging–building community. I have given my neighbor bloggers less than the attention they deserve. I guess, I did not participate actively enough. But then again… Hey, I didn’t even have the time to finish my own assignments!

Key Success Factor 3: Proactive Cooperation: Seeking inspiration from others with the intention of building a community of happy bloggers

Goal #3: I will allot at least 2 hours a week reading other people’s blogs, leaving comments to at least 3 posts I genuinely find engaging.  Visiting my reader more frequently would be key to achieving this goal. My blog is a life blog. That being said, a lot of other people’s blogs may very easily have themes that coincide with mine. This would also train me sort out stuff and identify those I love and am interested in. I had a head-start on this goal today and that made me realize there is so much more to learn from others, and each of their thoughts can only make one’s writing better. Broadening perspective, especially for a life-blogger, is particularly important.

 

So there, my 3 goals for the blog. To be honest, it was tempting to also set a goal on reaching a number of followers. But then again I thought: that’s one part of blogging I have little direct control over, so this one should be a silent goal. I decided on focusing on the controllable ones in the hopes that these will indirectly lead to reaching that, too.

 

Featured Photo shows Harry Potter’s Professor McGonagall, taken from harrypotter.wikia.com