Looking Back at 2014: The Year In Review

Girl in Rain By Big Oak Tree

Crazy how quickly 2014 has gone by! It’s been an amazing year both personally and professionally and I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings. Having this blog is a really special way for me to look back at the year and see all that I have accomplished and what y’alls favorite posts were. Before I move forward I wanted to take a look back and bring you with me on the journey that was 2014.

 

Things I’m Proud of & Excited About

 

Your Favorite Posts from 2014

So you guys didn’t actually vote on the top posts of the year, but I did a little digging into my Google Analytics and discovered the most popular posts of 2014. Take a look back at your favorites below.

Best Design Related Posts

Best Business and Blogging Posts

Best Food & Drink Posts

Best DIYs and Printables

 

If you want a look back in even more detail, check out my That’s A Wrap posts that I wrote at the end of each month! For the next month posting will be a little on the lighter side – I really want to reflect on 2014 before I jump right into content for 2015. In the meantime, please let me know what you’d like to see more of in 2015 and THANKS A MILLION for reading and all of your support this year!

Photo of me by Hannah Hudson Photography

Blue and Silver Snowflake Christmas Decor

Hey friends, I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday season! My mom makes an amazing brunch each year for Christmas day and she always outdoes herself with the food and the decor. This year she did a gorgeous blue and silver theme. She cooked quiche, ham & egg cups, Grand Marnier French toast, mushroom/potato/chorizo fry-up, French onion soup,  berries with creme anglaise, peach and blueberry clafouti and cracked pepper & brown sugar bacon (y’all, this bacon was legit)! My dad smoked a turkey on the BBQ pit and for drinks we had fresh squeezed orange juice from my dads orange tree and blackberry thyme sparklers. It was all unbelievable and such a great day spent with family, I don’t want Christmas to be over!

Blue Silver Christmas Presents Blue Silver Christmas Table Setting Blue Snowflake Christmas Tree PresentsBlue Glassware Bar CartBlue Silver Snowflake Christmas Tree Presents   Christmas Mantle Silver Deer Blue Silver Snowflake Christmas TreeChristmas Table Setting Fraiser Fur Blue Silver Christmas Ornaments Fraiser Fur Christmas Mantle LaMarca Prosecco Chrismas Snowflake Christmas Tree

La Marca sent me a bottle of their prosecco and I just had to bring it to my mom since it matched the decor perfectly! I’m going to take the next week off to enjoy time with family in town but you’ll be able to find me on Instagram in the meantime.

A 9 Step Guide To SEO

At the end of every year, I really try to evaluate my business, this blog and my website to see what improvements I can make. This year, SEO is something I want to improve so today I have a special guest post and infographic from Jeanette at Create The Bridge. Remember that each person will have to find the right balance for them, your focus should always be your readers and then SEO. Take it away Jeanette!

Any website or blog owner must understand that if you are doing SEO (search engine optimization) the right way, it is not instant and there’s actually no guarantee. But if you do it wrong, you may get quicker results, but your blog will look spammy while attempting to maneuver the search engine traffic.

To make an optimized blog, focus on the main category or theme of your blog. The topic you promote will, to a massive scale, dictate your ranking. There are high competitions when it comes to SEO for say “real estate” or “weight loss”. Focusing on your geographical location in addition (for example, “real estate in Fort Lauderdale, Florida”) can really help. This is only one part of creating an optimized blog for search engines, check out the infographic to see how you can do more.

9-Step Guide to Creating an Optimized Blog for Search Engines

Let’s wrap this up with a little overview shall we…

Your blog post should be long, containing at least 2,000 words. According to Serpiq, the longer the content, the higher you rank. Your title tag makes all the difference. If the right keywords are missing from the title tag, how will your targeted audience find you? Second to the title, the content in your blog is KING. You should write quality content and post often using long-tail keywords. Research shows that 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. Simply put: it’s all about the images. Having a powerful social media strategy and having a presence on all major social media sites will also affect, positively, your search engine rankings. Pay attention to design. A well-structured site is a crucial element when it comes to building a SEO friendly website. The design of a website is important because it affects how quickly visitors can find what they are looking for. Last, but definitely not least, your blog must not contain misspelled words or grammar errors!

A Beautiful Holiday Mess & Clean Up

This story on holiday crafting and clean up has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser but all opinions and experiences are mine alone. #EurekaPower #CollectiveBias

Gold Glitter, Ribbon, Bows and Craft Supplies

Who else seems to have a house covered in glitter, Christmas tree needles, tinsel and confetti after the holidays?? Then throw in some DIY, whew, so pretty, but so messy! We got our tree up last week and finished decorating it yesterday. I decided I wanted to get my craft on and make my own tags from a bunch of craft supplies that have been laying around. I busted out hole punches, glue, string, glitter and all kinds of stuff!

Christmas Wrapping Items Under the Tree

I love DIYs and crafting but then when it comes time to clean that epic mess… womp, wooomp. It’s usually such a pain, but this time it wasn’t bad at all with some help from my new Eureka vacuum! This thing is a vacuuming master. I have a feeling that all of my crafty friends are going to want one of these bad boys! Quick, add it to your Christmas wish list!

Vacuuming up Gold Glitter

Clean up from decorating the tree and wrapping presents was super quick and painless which means more time spent to appreciate our pretty tree!

DIY Tags and Presents Under Christmas Tree

So this Eureka is known for it’s SuctionSeal (plates that raise and lower against the surface maintaining suction and seal without scattering debris). It also uses Air Speed technology (a wide tube of air with minimal bends and twists that allows air to move freely across a shorter and more direct path). It’s originally priced at $148.88 but is currently on Rollback for $129 at Walmart (where I got mine)! It’s all the way on the right in the photo below! Learn more and check it out in action!

Vacuum Aisle at Walmart

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.

A White Thanksgiving

If you follow me on Instagram you already know that I went to Maine again this Thanksgiving. It was a White Thanksgiving in more ways than one. It was Zander’s family, The White’s and it was super snowy! (I’m just realizing this, but next Thanksgiving I’ll officially be a White too since we are getting married in October, whoa!) The snow was actually so heavy that it caused the power to go out for two days while we were there! Luckily the house is set up with a generator because I guess it happens a lot. Although we had some power from that, we had to be careful and couldn’t run too many things at one time. We attempted to cook a few things in a makeshift oven over the fire but luckily the normal oven didn’t fail us, we somehow managed a perfect Thanksgiving dinner, even on generator power. We did turn it off at night and curled up to sleep by the fire to stay warm! Of course we had to take advantage of the snow as it was falling, then came right back in the stay warm!

Snowy Maine Woodpile
Snowy Maine Banks and Sailboat
Snowy Tree Maine
Family Maine Home Covered in Snow
Sun shinning through snowy trees in Maine
Snowy Maine Outhouse
Sheepscot River Banks Covered in Snow
Playing in Maine Snow
baking biscuits over the fire
Sun Setting Over Sheepscot River Banks Covered in Snow
Snowy Maine Dock Light
Snowy Maine Dock and Sailboat
Snowy Tree in Maine

P.S. I tag all photos on Instagram from Zander’s Grandma’s house with #GramsHouseMaine and have tons of Maine posts if you want to check them out!

That’s A Wrap: November

Lot’s of great stuff happened in the studio, on the blog and around the web in November with a nice little break for Thanksgiving which I spent in Maine, those photos are coming to the blog later this week!

Ciera-Design-Blog-Posts-NOV

 

On The Blog & In The Studio

P.S. My Gold Animal Toppers DIY kit is coming to an end, so grab one while you can!

 

Elsewhere

 

Sponsor the Ciera Design Blog

Nexa Rust Font by Fontfabric

I love a good, thick, script font, don’t you? What’s even better is that Nexa Rust from Fontfabric Type Foundry is SO versatile and has SO many variations. It’s multifaceted font system consisting of sub-families of sans, slab, script, handmade AND extras. Each of these sub-families contains a number of font weights which have a characteristic warm, rough look. Nexa Rust is a rough version of the already popular Nexa and Nexa Slab families with added new matching Nexa Script and Nexa Handmade fonts. Along with all of this, you will also discover added groups of extras which could serve as a foundation or add that extra “cherry on the top” to your designs.

Nexa Rust Font by Fontfabric

Some other current font favorites are Adorn (a modern and sometimes quirky script perfect for invitations) and Harman (includes seven fonts and their inline forms that have different styles from each other but at the same time compatible when used together).

 

 

My Favorite Gift Ideas for the Hostess

I find that right after Thanksgiving the holiday party invites start rolling in, so I decided to tackle the host/hostess gift guide first this year. If you’ve ever hosted a dinner or party of any kind, you know how much work it takes. Here are a few good gift ideas to let the host know that you appreciate their efforts!

Favorite Gifts for the Hostess

salt and pepper grinder setboxes gold ornamentcaptain wood server | paz treesjoya composition no. 1 white soap | measuring spoons | golden triangle pillowchick candleholderbud vases

All of these items are available from CB2 along with tons of other amazing gift ideas! Is there anything you’d like to receive as a party host/hostess? See all of my gift guides here!

DIY Marshmallow S’more Pops

DIY Smore Pops Recipe

I’m always looking for easy, yummy, and festive party treats when the holidays roll around and s’more pops are just that! While regular s’mores are delicious, they are quite messy, so these are a perfect individual serving alternative!

Recipe

Marshmallows
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Graham cracker crumbs (or make your own)
Lollipop sticks (you can find them at some kitchen or craft stores)
Wax Paper
Styrofoam

insert the lollipop sticks into the marshmallows

Steps

1) First insert the lollipop sticks into the marshmallows. Make sure not to go all the way through or the marshmallow will fall off into the chocolate when dipping.

melting chocolate on the stove

2) Melt your chocolate  – either in a microwave or a double boiler (a makeshift one in my case). Have your graham cracker crumbs in a bowl nearby.

Festive S'more Pops

3) Gently dip each marshmallow into the chocolate and rotate until all sides are covered then dip directly into the graham cracker crumbs while the chocolate is still wet. 

Ciera-Design-Smore-Pop-Recipe-4

4) Place on wax paper, or stick into your styrofoam, to let cool and dry. I placed my piece of styrofoam directly into the decorative box I was using to display them in, and covered it with crinkled paper to be more presentable.

Ciera-Design-Smore-Pop-Recipe-5

These s’more pops were a huge hit at the party I brought them to and I’ll definite be making them for future holiday events! If you’re hosting a holiday party, know that you don’t need to spend your entire paycheck on entertaining everyone. Try to incorporate lots of finger foods. Fun appetizers and easy desserts like this one usually do the trick. If you want to give everyone small parting gifts or stocking stuffers, check out Pinterest for neat DIY ideas for the season. Shutterfly has general photo gifts and an actual holiday section for things like personalized gift tags and Christmas cards. Or visit Etsy to check out holiday cards designed by yours truly!

Ciera Design Holiday Cards + Black Friday Sales

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful day with family and friends! I’m up in Maine for the week and while I’m skipping out on the Black Friday madness I wanted to share some special deals with y’all! The Ciera Design 2014 holiday collection is now up in my Etsy shop and I’m offering my lovely readers 30% off through cyber monday with code “CYBER14″! Also get 50% off my ebook, The Meetup Guide!

Holiday Card Prep

 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

  • AMAZONSpecial lightning deals updated every 10 minutes at Amazon.com (11/26-11/28)
  • BLURB: 20% off print book orders with code: CYBER20
  • CREATIVE MARKET: 20% off of everything!
  • CRICUT$5 Off Orders $50+ with code: CRICUTBF5
  • EXPRESS: 50% off of everything.
  • FOSSIL: $25 off of $150, $50 off of $200, plus free shipping and returns on all orders
  • FREE PEOPLEFree shipping on all orders
  • GAP: Take 50% off sitewide at the Gap with code BLKFRIDAY
  • HONEST: 25% off sitewide
  • J.CREW: Take 30% off select full-price styles and additional 40% off sale + free shipping, no minimum, with code HOLIDAY (11/26-11/30).
  • KATE SPADE SATURDAY: Take 30% off sitewide + free shipping with code DEALME (11/26-11/30).
  • LORD & TAYLOR: Take an extra 20% off everything + 25% off jewelry with code THANKS (11/25-11/30).
  • MADEWELL: Take 25% off site wide with code GIFTON (11/25-11/30).
  • MODCLOTH: 50% off hundred of new arrivals (11/26-11/30).
  • MINTED25% off your order (excludes holiday cards)20% off your holiday card order of $150+ or 15% off your holiday card order of $100+
  • MY FONTS: Tons of fonts on sale up to 90% off
  • NINE WEST: 20% off of purchase of $125 or more
  • POPPIN: $10 off $85 with the code POPHOLIDAY1085 and $25 off $100 with the code POPHOLIDAY25
  • RUCHE: Take 30% off sitewide with code BLKFRDY (11/27-11/28). Take 30% off full-priced items – plus, an extra 50% off will automatically be applied at check out with code BLKFRDY (12/1-12/2).
  • SHOES.COM: Black Friday sale, 30% off of all sale items with the code BLACK
  • SHOPBOP: Tiered promotion:15% off $250, 20% off $500, 25% off $1000 with code GOBIG14 (11/26-12/1)
  • SKILL SHARE: 40% off an entire year with discount code BLACK14
  • TARGET: Women’s Boots BOGO 50% off and hundreds of deals site wide (11/27-12/1)
  • TINYPRINTS: 30% off any order using the code BLACKFRIDAY plus an extra 10% off using the code 1128DEAL at checkout
  • URBAN OUTFITTERS: Take an additional 25% off all sale online and an additional 50% off all sale in-stores (11/28)
  • WARBY PARKERbuying glasses is a cinch with the FREE Home-Try-On program, 5 Days, 5 Pairs, 100% FREE!
  • WEST ELM: Take up to 25% off with code SUPERSALE (11/26-12/1)
  • WP ENGINEsign up for an annual plan and get 4 months of free hosting with code “CyberHosting14″ when signing up.

I hope this list saves you all a little time and money this weekend! I’m trying to keep this list as up to date as possible, but I can’t gaurantee any of these deals. xoxo