How Do You Celebrate The Bright Side of Life?

Eating Mango Frozen Fruit Bar

As you can probably tell by my travel adventures this summer, I’m attempting to be a little more spontaneous and embrace the bright side of life. Traveling to Europe for a few weeks, maybe a few months (still unsure, ah spontaneity) was not an easy decision for me since I’m a frugal spender and a planner. But I had an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up so I’m doing what makes me happy, spending time outside, traveling and treating myself, even if it’s something small like a frozen fruit bar on a hot day!

I’m not letting work dictate my life, although I am working part-time while I travel but I’m really trying to embrace the adventures by breaking routines and taking in my surroundings. Before leaving for Spain I tried these amazing mango fruit bars from Fruttare (so yummy and perfect on a hot New Orleans day) and during my travels I have been indulging in local sweets like chocolate and churros and gelato! How do you celebrate the bright side of life?

Mango Frozen Fruit Bars

Mango Frozen Fruit Bar

Ciera With Mango Frozen Fruit Bar

Fruttare Mango Frozen Fruit Bar

Holding Mango Frozen Fruit Bar

Mango Frozen Fruit Bars on Board

Fruttare Frozen Fruit Bars are made with real fruit and refreshing juice and are available at retailers nationwide.

Photos by Kaylynn Marie Photography.

Thank you for supporting this blog by allowing me to post occasional sponsored content. All sponsored posts feature products or services that I truly feel would be of interest to you. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Chocolate and Churros

I can’t believe that the first city of my trip is already wrapped up. On Wednesday we headed from Madrid to Barcelona! I’ll be sharing Madrid photos soon but couldn’t wait to post these from a charming chocolate and churros place called Chocolatería San Ginés that was near our apartment. I’m trying to really embrace my time in Europe and not be on social media too much but you can follow along with my photos on Instagram under #cierasadventures or the group tag we are using is #sprancing!

Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros
Chocolatería San Ginés: Chocolate and Churros

On Speaking at Alt Summit

On Speaking at Alt Summit 3

When I was at Alt last January I remember saying that I would NEVER be able to speak in public, and definitely not at a conference like Alt, with so many other bloggers and creatives that I look up to. I’m much more comfortable talking to people one-on-one and I get incredibly anxious in large groups of people, especially when I’m front and center. I’m an introvert so attending events like Alt are already out of my comfort zone, let alone speaking at one.

On Speaking at Alt Summit 1

When Mariah suggested that we pitch a panel idea together with Melissa, PJ and Tan, for some reason I said yes, secretly hoping we didn’t get picked, but to my surprise, they loved our topic idea and here we are, a year and a half after saying “I would NEVER”, I did it, I spoke on a panel at Alt Summit!

On Speaking at Alt Summit 7

It was the scariest thing I have ever done, but because of that, one of the most rewarding. I believe that if you are not pushing yourself or doing scary things then you are not going to grow as a person or grow professionally. One of my favorite quotes from Alt this year was from Emily McDowell “fear is an asshole and a liar” and I’m so glad I didn’t give in to my fear! I mean, I got to speak at the same conference as Martha Stewart!

On Speaking at Alt Summit 2

Our room was packed and it was awesome to see everyone so engaged and to hear how much people appreciated the content and hard work we put into making our panel special.

On Speaking at Alt Summit 6

On Speaking at Alt Summit 5

On Speaking at Alt Summit 4

On Speaking at Alt Summit 8

On Speaking at Alt Summit 9

I am so thankful for the opportunity. If you missed it, you can see the recap of what I spoke about, Growing Your Blog by Positioning Yourself as an Expert.

Photos by Justin Hackworth or Brooke Dennis for Alt Summit.

Summer Succulents – Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper Freebies

During the summer it’s easy to get distracted with fun in the sun but sometimes that’s okay! Just a little time in your own backyard can be so refreshing. This is a photo that I took in my parents’ yard last summer, it’s seriously an oasis back there, my dad has such a green thumb, unlike me. I hope y’all enjoy this new design and some time away from the screen.

Summer Succulents Desktop Freebie

This design is now available for free as a desktop, ipad and iphone wallpaper over on the Whimseybox blog! Hope you enjoy and if you use any of my desktop designs, I’d love to see photos, just tag me on Instagram or send me an email!

Summer Succulents

Growing Your Blog By Positioning Yourself As An Expert

Just two weeks ago me and these lovely ladies got up in front of the Alt Summit crowd and chatted about growing a small blog.
Alt SLC Summer Thursday Morning

If you came to our panel at Alt Summit, here is our slide show as promised! And if you were not there, or need a refresher, here is an overview on what I spoke about, growing a small blog by positioning yourself as an expert! You can download the worksheet we handed out, and then work while you read this post.

Growing A Small Blog

I’m sure y’all have all heard the advice to blog about what you know and love – it’s usually the first piece of advice you’ll get for blogging and I don’t think anyone will deny that as a great starting point. But I want to take it a little further by talking about positioning yourself as an expert. One of the main ways I’ve grown my blog is by sharing tips from my experiences in graphic design, social media and running my own small business.

I use the term “expert” loosely, because obviously I don’t know everything about these topics, but I am passionate about them and I do have a degree in graphic design and have been working in the industry for eight years. So I probably know more than the person opening Photoshop for the first time or who just signed up for Twitter last week.

So basically, you don’t have to wait for somebody to call you an expert in order to give expert advice.

Give Expert Advice

I’m always getting questions through email, on social media, and even from friends and family, whenever there is something design related they know they can come to me. And I’m sure the same happens to y’all from time to time. Maybe people are always asking you about how you put your outfit together or asking for your recipe when you cook for them. That’s people showing that they value what you know and trust your opinions.

So if you find that people are consistently asking you a about the same topics, it’s likely they would become a reader of your blog if that’s what you focused on. As your name starts to get associated with a specific field, then your network will start to grow.

Ok, let’s move onto a strategy for coming up with content:
First you have to figure out the types of problems that your readers are having in your field. So, using the worksheet in the download, jot down a few things that you enjoy doing and that people always ask you about. What do you know that can benefit other people?

What Do You Know That Can Benefit Others

So for example, I’d be writing down that people ask me about the fonts I use and other design related questions and how I made the switch from working at an agency to full-time freelance. Remember – no problem is too big or small to write down.

Then, once you know the challenges your readers are having, you can come up with a plan to turn those problems around into solutions.

Growing Your Blog Content Strategy

Here is an example of how I determined my readers problems and then solved them by writing an additional post that I didn’t originally intend to:

When the Facebook layout was updated two years ago to the timeline it was a pretty major change. It was much more design oriented with the large cover photo and app tabs. If you remember, they even allowed users to preview their changes before they had to commit for good so that everyone could ease into the new design. I decided to jump right and update the few different pages that I manage. As I was designing the cover images and doing the updates, I anticipated that my readers may want to hear some ideas on how to keep their pages consistent with their blog or business branding, so I wrote a blog post Design Tips for your Facebook page.

I ended up getting tons of questions beyond the design aspect of people wanting to know how to actually install the apps I was using. So every time I got a question, I was stopping in my tracks and individually responding to them all with detailed instructions in an email.

As much as I’d love to be able to answer every question one-on-one like this I realized it just wasn’t realistic or a productive way to work. So I decided to write another post with step-by-step instructions for installing the apps which has ended up being one of my most popular posts. Turning reader questions into blog posts is now one of the ways I build my editorial calendar.

If you find people still have questions after you write about it, you can take it further and create a blog post series or even teach a course or write an e-book focused on digging deeper into certain topics. That’s actually something I recently did, I wrote a guide on planning a local event series because I needed to go more in-depth than a blog post would allow. And this helps even more to position yourself in your field.

Now I know some people are new to their field, so if you are just getting started, you can write about things that you are interested in learning more about, classes you are taking or things you are teaching yourself along the way. You can have this learning experience with your readers.

Have A Learning Experience With Your Readers

But you never want to risk losing credibility. So if you’re not quite certain of something, just let it be know that you are experimenting and figuring it out as you go, because you don’t ever want to put incorrect information out there – you don’t ever want to lose your readers trust.

Do Not Lose Your Readers Trust

Now I’m going to give you guys a few formats and examples that I find work well for showcasing your expertise:

- how-to posts or videos
• Merricks Art
• Pugly Pixel

- provide valuable resources
• I’ve shared resources like My Favorite WordPress Plugins
• I love to share my favorite fonts

- curated posts
 theme thursday from Oh, What Love
• round ups like products used to create on-the-go on The Fresh Exchange

- featuring others
this is a great way to show support and recognize others doing a good job in your field

- lists
these are really easy for your readers to share, especially on Twitter
• ByRegina
• Elembee

When you’re able to solve a problem for someone, they feel like you’ve given them insider tips & tricks and in turn form a stronger bond which makes them more likely to come back for more because people appreciate free advice.

People Appreciate Free Advice

But don’t feel the need to do it all or try to imitate somebody else. Don’t post what you think people want to hear if it’s not something you truly enjoy writing about.

I don’t really know anything about fashion but do share style posts from time-to-time, because it’s fun for me, but that is not how I have grown trust from readers and my readership over the past four years. It’s been by positioning myself as an expert. It’s not easy and it won’t be an overnight success but as Stan Smith Says, people need experts.

People need experts. They have value because they have done the research, legwork, and training that we can’t do on our own.  Not only that, we rely on experts to see further down the road than we can.  We cherish their insight and lean on their wisdom.  Having an expert means that you can shortcut the process and achieve your goals quicker.” – Stan Smith

So now, looking back at what you wrote earlier, write down a few topics that you could write about that will help to position yourself as an expert.

Because before you look to other blogs for things like guest posts, advertising or giveaways you need to get your own blog in a good place. Consider what you do really well and what you love and start sharing that compelling, informative and unique content.

Share Unique Content

Download the full slide show here and then head over to Mariah, PJ, Melissa and Tan’s blogs to read all about their parts of the panel!

PJ Feinstein – Growing a small Blog through Self Promotion and Networking

Mariah Danielsen – Growing a small Blog through Guest Posting on Other Blogs

Melissa Bahen – Growing a Small Blog through Collaboration

Tan Rutley – Growing a Small Blog through Social Media Collaborations and Giveaways

Do you have questions or tips of your own? I’ll answer them in the comments!

first photo was taken by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit • slides by me

What I Wore // Snowball Season

Summer time in New Orleans also means snowball season, woo hoo! As soon as the heat hits, so do the cravings! Snow cones got nothin’ on a snowball y’all! Unlike sno cones, the ice making up a snowball is shaved very finely resulting in an incredibly soft ice. My favorite snowball spot is Plum Street, it’s a small shed-type store that’s right in my neighborhood. They serve their snowballs in Chinese take-out boxes with a plastic bag on the bottom to catch any syrup or melted overflow. I usually keep it simple with cherry but when I mix it up I like dreamsicle or add condensed milk!

Ciera wearing olive shorts, yellow top and brown leather bag

Plum Street Snowballs New Orleans Doors

Ciera eating snow ball

coral nails + jewel necklace + snoball

Ciera Sipping Snow Ball

Plum Street Snowballs New Orleans Menu and Syrups

coral nails + yellow top + jewel necklace + snoball

photos of me by Hannah Colclazier from last summer / photos of Plum Street by Jasmine Holzenthal / ring c/o Dixi

Shop Similar

That’s A Wrap: June + My Life Lately

June has been full of emotions for me, I’ve been excited, exhausted, nervous, ecstatic, sad, relieved, lonely and surprised, in no particular order.

Alt SLC Summer Thursday Night

Speaking at Alt Summit was very nerve-wracking for me, I promise, I’ll expand on my experience in a post soon. And then maybe the biggest news since I started this blog, I got engaged to my boyfriend of eight years! He had to leave the day after to travel for work for 5 months, so that’s a bummer but I’m super excited and of course, started a Pinterest board immediately (well, a few, I can’t lie to y’all)!

Alt SLC Summer Thursday Night

And remember my Vacation Dreaming post? Well, my dreams are coming true! While I didn’t win a vacation, my travel plans did work out, so next week I’ll be heading to Spain then France (whoa, mini freak out) to work from abroad for three weeks! I’m so thankful that I can pack up my computer and work from anywhere. It’s going to be challenging but I can’t wait for the adventure!

Alt SLC Summer Thursday Night

Plus lot’s of great stuff happened on the blog and around the web:

- Hosted two Made In Mind events, an Etsy craft party and a Letterpress Workshop
– Opened pre-sales for The Meetup Guide – only a few days left of pre-sale pricing!
– I guest posted on Design Sponge on How To Hold a Networking Event
– The lovely Kory wrote a review on The Meetup Guide, you can read it here.
– Backyard Tin Can Fence Garden
Summertime Freebies
DIY Gold Toy Animal Globes
The Business Cards of Alt Summit 2014
– Remember Greco Design Company from May? Well Lori has been up to a lot this month too! Her blog is full of awesome backyard DIYs so go check it out!

Alt SLC Summer Thursday Night

 All photos from the Alt Garden party by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit.

The Business Cards of Alt Summit 2014

Hi y’all, I’m back from Alt Summit! I know I said I was going to take a blog break while I take in all the information but I couldn’t wait to share some of my favorite business cards from the awesome bloggers and brands I met while in Salt Lake City. I have linked to all of their sites at the bottom so click around for some awesome new people to follow, I still have some exploring to do myself! I’ll also pop back in soon to tell you all about the panel I spoke on, Growing A Small Blog!

Alt Summit Business Card InspirationAlt Summit Summer 2014 Business Card PartyAlt Summit Summer 2014 Business Cards Black White GoldAlt Summit Summer 2014 Business Cards - Oh What Love StudiosAlt Summit Summer 2014 Business Cards LetterpressAlt Summit Summer 2014 Business Cards - The Collaboreat

Everyday ReadingPaper Bandit Press / A Girl Named PJ / Demi + Olive / Christina Williams / Love Grows Design / Simply Sadie Jane / Peter Loves Jane / Fresh & Happy / Carlsbad Cravings / Oh, What Love / See Jane Blog / And We Play / The CollaboreatHudson and Emily / Candice Stringham / AVE Styles / Spitfiregirl / The Nectar Collective / Lynn Byrne /  Celine Navarro / Annie ReevesSquirrelly Minds / Delineate Your Dwelling / A Thousand ThreadsCourtney Khail / Janna Wilson / Capella Kincheloe / Design Improvised / Red Poppy Photo / The Glamorous Housewife / Hollyhocks & Honeybees / Wendy Walker Cushing / Collectively / Fry Sauce & Grits / Marigold Haske / A Ruffled Life / Antisparkle / if we met and I missed you here, please let me know!

P.S. If you went to Alt and are missing out on all the fun, like I am, why not start a smaller scale gathering in your city! I’ve compiled all the lessons I learned when starting The Made In Mind Social into a new e-book — The Meetup Guide: How to Create, Plan and Host A Local Event Series. It’s now on pre-sale with a super discount! If you want to start your own local event, this e-book will guide you through the whole process, start to finish.

Off to Alt!

Off To Alt Summit

So I’m off to Salt Lake City for my second Alt Summit today! And incase you missed the memo, this year I’m speaking on a panel! You can check out all of my posts from when I went in 2013 here and keep up with me on Instagram and Twitter! If you’ll be there, keep an eye out for me and please do say hi. This photo is from the plane when I went last January.

Once I’m back, I’ll be on a bit of a blogging break while I let information overload settle in and catch up on work, but I’m sure I won’t be able to stay away long!

P.S. I launched pre-sales on my new ebook: The Meetup Guide: How to Create, Plan, and Host Your Own Local Event Series. Grab it now while it’s over 50% off!

P.P.S I got engaged to my boyfriend of eight years on Saturday!