Holiday Gift Guide for Bloggers

Holiday Gift Guide for BloggersAre you wondering what to get the blogger in your life? Here is my top ten list of practical gifts that any blogger would appreciate.

Stock Images

Unless you are a photographer or food blogger, one thing bloggers almost universally struggle with getting great images without completely breaking the bank. A subscription to a photo service is a great way to help your blogger step up their blogging game. Try out Deposit Photos, iStockPhoto, and Shutterstock to get started.

Photoshop Elements

Of course sometimes we need to make adjustments to our photos or add text overlays. Maybe your blogger is a budding photographer. Photoshop Elements is just the right amount of photo editing software to get started, and at $99 is just the right price.

PicMonkey Subscription

In my opinion, even better than Photoshop is PicMonkey. This online editing tool makes photo editing, and producing graphics of all kinds a cinch. And, at $33 a year, it’s a much cheaper alternative.

A Year of Web Hosting

All I have to say is my hosting is expiring this month, and if someone wanted to pay for it, I would jump for joy!

Upgrades to Pro Accounts and Private Forums

One thing I know I hate spending money on is upgrading to pro accounts and private forums. They are just little expenses that seem to add up to large expenses. Perhaps your blogger has an account to their favorite web service or private forum that they would like upgraded to pro for enhanced features and materials? Maybe they would like to listen to ad-free Pandora. There are tons of subscription services bloggers use, so be sure to ask your blogger about their favorites.

Access to Their Favorite Conference

This one can get a little tricky because conferences are so costly. Fortunately there a few things you can do to help your blogger get conference ready. From purchasing passes to airfare and hotel accommodations. Points work too! Do you have some frequent flyer miles or hotel points burning a hole in your pocket? Donate them!

Electronics and Technology

This category covers the complete budget range. Think jump drives, headphones, iPods, eReaders and iPads, cameras, printers, etc. If you want to give a larger item but can’t afford it, a gift card toward the purchase is a great option.

Snacks and Beverages

I hear a lot of bloggers talking about their favorite beverages. Many of us work long nights or early mornings, and are balancing our families and meeting their needs first. A gift basket of their favorite snacks and beverages would be a most welcome gift, I am sure. I personally love gift baskets because I love themes and the possibilities are endless. Relaxation baskets could include wine, cheese, and chocolate or tea, healthy soup mixes, and whole grain crackers. Late night and early morning workers might various coffees, teas, or hot cocoa. You get the idea.

Books, eCourses, or Consulting Sessions

How many of us wouldn’t want to better our blogging or product/service with some courses, books, or consulting sessions? I know I would. Of course one thing to remember is you can provide the service, but not the time. A great (and free) ad-on might be some babysitting, cooking, or cleaning to ease the load and really give the opportunity for your favorite blogger to learn and grow.

Web Design Services

Lets face it, getting a custom website or blog can be pricey. Is your blogger ready for a new design? Check to see if they have a designer in mind, and whether or not they offer gift certificates. Even if they don’t officially offer them, they might be willing to.

What is on your list this year?

Social Media Has Blurred the Lines Between Personal and Professional

social media gearsIt is no secret that I have been essentially unable to keep up with both a personal and professional blog. I just don’t feel like I have a lot to say on The Laine List. My readers are losing interest, because I am too.

I think about the work I have done to create my brand. I’ve never been totally comfortable with having two online identities, but I wanted to establish trust and credibility in my work. Along the line, though, between cross-posting on blogging networks, and increased presence in social media, the boundary between the personal and professional has become elastic, and it seems unnecessary. Joining Pinterest and Instagram has been the tipping point for me. Everything I do, and everything I like is already out there. Anyone can find out whatever they want to about me.

From a professional standpoint, I want to focus more on creating my personal brand.

From a personal standpoint, I just want to be me. I want people to know *me.*

Another factor here, which when I began blogging, I didn’t think would be an issue, is I finally feel like I know how I want to focus my writing. Or, in bloggy terms, what my niche is. Of course I will continue to write about WordPress, social media, etc. The personal component I would like to add is working at home, and making it work. This is something that I think about and do every day, and I know there are others, readers of the EGD blog included, who are interested in learning about how to make it work for them. So, the personal meets the professional.

I do also want to talk about my Roller Derby adventures, and I think is another area where the personal can meet the professional. I discuss personal strength and confidence when I write those posts, and how is that not business related?

I anticipate wanting to write some of the more deeply personal posts at some point. I think those posts will be posted on blogging networks, but honestly at this point, I’m not sure I have it in me to write the deeply personal anytime soon.

I will not shut down The Laine List. It will remain, and the posts will remain, and maybe I will want to write something deeply personal and post it here. I will always have the option of coming back.

This idea is in its infancy, and this is really kind of a brain dump. I’m not ready to take this risk yet, but I’m seriously considering it.

What do you think? Is this a risk worth taking?


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Guest Post at The Wordslinger: Musings of a Six-Year Old

Hey ya’ll! I’m happy to announce I am guest posting for my fellow blogger Jim at The Wordslinger today. Please go check out my post, “Musings of a Six-Year-Old” and don’t forget to check out Jim’s blog. I know you will find him as funny as I do! Plus, his wife just had their THIRD child, so please go show some love!

The Versatile Blogger Birthday Dinner Party!

Versatile Blogger Award

I have literally been writing this post since the beginning of January, when I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by MJ Monaghan. Link There are rules to awarding the Versatile Blogger award, but I’m going to break them. I really wanted to tie in a “who would you have for a party” kind of post with the Versatile Blogger post. These are hard decisions, and that coupled with the fact that I am constantly finding new blogs to read is why this has taken me so long. But, now that we are two weeks away from my birthday, I think I’ve finally got it covered.

Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. Maybe someday if I’m awarded another blogging award, I will be able to bring you more!

Beth from 5 Kids is a Lot of Kids:

She totally gets kids, and when she complains about them, if you can even call it that it is totally eandearing and/or funny. She truly loves her kids. But I’m sorry Beth, this is an adult party. I’m sure you need a break, which is why I want you to come and chillax! And you will have no guilt!

Michelle from Buttered Toast Rocks:

Michelle is totally awesome. She loves her life and her family and you can tell. She has the sweetest stories to tell about her high school sweetheart, who happens to be her husband. Michelle, I would love for you to join the party and share with us your secrets to a successful love and marriage!

Robin from Sunbonnet Smart, on BlogHer:

Robin is kickin’ it Old Skool by living simply and eating locally and organically. But you know that Old Skool is the New Skool, and she has a lot to offer those of us wanting to adapt this lifestyle. Oh, and she can weave a story like nobody’s business. LINK Robin we have a lot of strange and wonderful connections, so be there or be square!

KarenLynn on BlogHer:

Karen straight up writes about her life. She is honest and strong, and thankful for her beautiful family – husband, kids, and most especially her grandkids. LINK Her writing is easy to read because it’s like having a conversation with her. Which is why, Karen, I want you at this party, so we can chat for reals! And don’t forget your camera!

Melissa from This n That:

Melissa is wonderfully original, weird, and totally crazy. Her posts are always amazing, and she is an amazing and thoughtful person. She thinks she’s not a writer, but she totally is, and I’m doing my part in convincing her of it. Aside from hearting you, Melissa, I’m counting on you coming and protecting us from any kind of vampirezombiepocolypse that could (will) occur.

Desi from the Valentine Four:

I don’t even know how this woman does it except she is totally amazing, and possibly has super hero powers. She has kids, takes care of other kids, tutors, and is working on her Masters degree. And she is STILL able to not only put two words together, but she is also able to write well thought-out and beautiful posts on a regular basis. Desi, you have to come because I so totally admire you, pure and simple.

MJ from MJ Monaghan:

MJ awarded me with this award, but that is now why I’m nominating him. MJ’s writing is straight up funny and straight up real. He is clever and honest about life, and thankful for his readers and friends. MJ I really think you are going to be the life of the party. But please do not wear a Rod Stewart-esqe bikini.

Melanie from Is this the Middle:

Melanie is a good girl gone bad! Well, at least a little! She sees life and writes about it, which I think is amazing – I can’t say that about myself, or many people for that matter. Melanie very funny, thoughtful and thought provoking, and cares a lot about her readers. Melanie, I want you to come to my party and get a little crazy! And please wear that leather mini!

Jeanine from Rosie Dreams:

Jeanine is a really amazing human being. She claims to not be a natural with children, but you would never know. She is kind and creative, and dedicated to her family, living simply, and preserving the environment. Jeanine, I would love you at my party so I can get to know you better! Also, don’t forget your skates!

Virginia, Home Reared Chef, on BlogHer:

What can I say about Virginia? She is totally amazing. Thoughtful, gracious, and truly thankful for all the good life has given her. But that’s what happens when you are amazing and life gives you bad – you can handle it with grace, and pick up and move on. Virginia also blogs for the San Jose Food Examiner. How awesome is that!? Virginia, please come to my party! We’ll have Prime Rib, and you don’t even have to cook it!

Jane from Jane in her Infinant Wisdom:

Jane’s blog title says it all – she really is full of wisdom. She writes about her life, her friends, and her family, which are all pretty much one in the same. Jane is very funny and has a wonderful way of picking up the extraordinary in every ordinary day. Jane, I would be honored to have you at my party – we can drink lots of wine and talk about podcasting! LINK

Darcy from Belle of the Carnival:

Darcy is one tricky lady. At first she will have you convinced that she is full of purity and goodness (and she is) but she’s also pretty bad ass! Check out her posts about porn faces and stripper moves. Don’t worry, they aren’t X-rated! Darcy is thoughtful and creative, and always a truly enjoyable read. Darcy, when you come to my party, make sure to wear your leather pants!

George from Rough and Rede:

Don’t let the name fool you, George is one of the kindest gentlemen you will ever get to know. And he is so worth getting to know. He is one of the only male bloggers on BlogHer, and he fits right in. I credit that to him being a hard working family man. George understands men and women alike, and writes amazing stories about life, love, and happiness. George, join the party so the West Coast can finally meet the East Coast!

Jim from the Wordslinger:

I just met Jim recently in the Facebook group, We Blog..A Blogging Community. So I don’t know a LOT about him, as I have just started reading. What I do know is Jim is one of the only “daddy bloggers” out there. He is really reaching out and finding his place. And I’m so glad he is. He is a funny (REALLY FUNNY), insightful, and loving dad and husband. Jim, come yuck it up at my party, and don’t forget the chicken suit!

I have been honored to read these blogs and get to know these writers. So go check them out and spread the love!

Who do you want at YOUR birthday party?

Wormholes or black holes – who knows, who cares, it’s Sunday

This week’s stream of consciousness prompt from All.Things.Fadra is “How did you spend your Sunday mornings growing up? What are some of your favorite memories?” This is what I came up with.
All week I’ve been thinking about writing this post about how I have been out of the loop re-building all my sites, but now I’m back to the land of the living. I kept thinking that I was stuck in a worm hole, but then I was thinking, no, I’m stuck in a black hole. Who knows, who cares. Well, actually my husband knows and cares and he just tried to explain them to me. I asked, so I really just set myself up for hearing a lot that I don’t really care about. Too many words, honey. Too many words.
Speaking of words, I haven’t really written any since January 13th. I’ve written down some ideas, but that’s about it. I feel rusty, ya’lls! And I’m so disappointed in myself for not yet bestowing the Versatile Blogger award onto some very worthy bloggers. Plus I have a lot of ideas! I really need to step my writing up.
I got busy. I wanted a new blog look (do you like it? I love it!). I needed to re-vamp my business blog, my portfolio, and my website. They are still not all done, but they are getting there and I learned the in’s and out’s of customizing the Twenty Eleven theme for WordPress. I also learned about the best plugins for WordPress, and how to customize them. Yes, you can customize plugins!
This is what happens when I get busy with my own projects. I get lost in them. I have had the hardest time designing my own sites, and I get lost in a deep deep dark dark whole.
Wow, that was a lot of rambling. Maybe I’m not quite as out of that deep deep dark dark hole. Yet.
In other news, I’m getting my derby skates today!!! So psyched. Also, I have a baby jumping on me and people talking to me. Maybe I should have written this in the bathroom.
Last but not least, I was able to use the word AWESOMESAUCE several times in the last couple of weeks. Guess what that makes me! AWESOMEBALLZ!!! (That was for you, Kristen Daukas (insert fist pump here!)
This is what I like to do on Sunday mornings. Drink coffee, read blogs, and write.

I am so proud of my mom!!

Living, Loving, Cooking

Today I want to dedicate my blog post to my mom, who today became a BLOGGER!! I am so proud of her for taking the plunge. You see, she is the real writer in this family. For reals. (hahaha, she would never say that!) But seriously, she taught me everything I know. She has never stopped seeking out happiness. She has never let life get the best of her (for too long anyway!). She is a writing instructor, a certified cake decorator, a culinary student, writer, wife, mother, grandmother (sorry for calling you out mom!), sister, and great friend, in no particular order. I don’t know how she finds the time.

I’m so glad that she’s writing again, and doin’ it out loud! I love you mom – happy blogging!!

So go check her out her inaugural post ya’ll! And make sure to go back for more, because she has a lot of amazing stories to tell!

What NaBloPoMo taught me and where I go from here

October began my journey with personal blogging, but I have blogged professionally for a company called QuinStreet on and off for about two years. In the last year I have been blogging on my own professional blog site, Elaine Griffin Designs. Although I have admittedly been neglecting that blog in favor of other avenues of networking in the last several months.

I thought this would be a great time to compile a very down and dirty starting point how to list that I plan to share with new clients that are interested in learning how to blog. I know I have a lot to learn about blogging, though, and would love to have feedback about what I should add to the list!

I also thought it might be a good idea, as we near the end of NaBloPoMo, to outline my personal and professional blogging goals. I really don’t want to lose steam with the writing, so having a plan to put in action, and one that I’m putting out there for the world to see, seems like a great idea. Hold me to it, ya’ll! Make me accountable!

Down and dirty rules:

It’s okay if you don’t have a niche. Just be yourself. The rest will follow.

Write every day. It doesn’t matter exactly what you write, just make it real. That’s what endures people to you.

Follow other bloggers and comment genuinely. It matters!

Don’t get caught up in stats and whether people are following you and commenting. I made that mistake for about five minutes, and then promptly let it go. It’s not the point of blogging and shouldn’t be. Just be yourself and the rest will follow.

When following for professional purposes, you MUST follow and comment on blogs that are relevant to your industry. Follow others if you want to, but don’t do it to drive traffic to your blog. That’s called spam and no one likes it.

Keep it timely and up to date! This is true for any blogging, but especially true for professional blogging. This is something that I have had a hard time with.

Keep your blog fresh. You should be blogging at least once a week, preferably more. This keeps the search engines AND your readers interested in you. Don’t get stale!

My blogging goals post November NaBloPoMo:

To still write every day, but switch up the personal and professional blogging. Some days I might do both, but I need to keep both blogs fresh every week.

Start building a professional blogging presence by following and commenting on relevant industry blogs.

Find at least one new blog every week that I LOVE to read, and then give a monthly shout to the new blogs I’ve found and I love.

This seems like a short list, but I don’t want to get in over my head! Reading and commenting on blogs (not to mention writing them) is very time consuming. I think this is good for now and I can adjust later.

Do you have any down and dirty blogging tips to share? How do you plan to move your blogging forward?

I’m not that kind of blogger

Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt is: Has anything traumatic ever happened to you? Describe the scenes surrounding a particular event. I’ve been kicking it around all morning.

I mean, I usually post really early and it is now almost noon and I’m just about done. I just could not decide what to write. Do I go with the trauma theme or do I skip it? Well, I’ll skip it because my trauma is not solely my own and I’m not going to dig into someone else’s wounds. Not today.

Okay, so, what to write about. Do I address the subject or write about how I want to make an infinity scarf? I decided to at least address the subject of trauma. TRAUMA. What is it? It’s what happens when you live your life. What makes mine anything anyone would want to read about? My trauma is generic and boring. People die suddenly. They lose houses. They lose babies. They lose half of their reproductive system. Life goes on.

Ultimately this has made me think about blogging and what kind of blogger I want to be. I read these really emotional posts and I think – holy shit, that person just bared their soul in the most beautiful way, and with millions of people. I want to be that kind of writer. If  I’m even capable of being that great of a writer.

But you know, it’s really not about that. My writing is fine. Not outstanding, not horrible, but it’s me. People seem to enjoy it, and I don’t feel the need to analyze my trauma. It happened. I lived.

I’m just not that kind of blogger, and I don’t think I ever will be.

What writing means to me

I am not a writer, but I do write.

When I was a teenager I used to write angsty poems about boys. I also wrote said boys intense love letters that I would never send. I wrote in journals at this point. Journals I still have. Journals I hide. I still feel embarrassed to let anyone read them. I guess it’s because somewhere inside of me I am still that chubby girl who feels the sting from loving and never being loved in return. So when I was a teenager my favorite part about writing was having a place to put these feelings of sadness, loneliness, and rejection.

When I was first in college I wrote many an essay on feminism and women’s lives. Believe it or not, at age 19 I knew all about what it was like to be a woman. Sometimes I discovered a little something about myself, but self-reflection was not really my goal. I was too busy with the important work of being a young feminist and making my mark on feminism. I didn’t realize I had to know myself in order to be a good feminist. As I worked toward my bachelor’s degree at Ithaca College, my focus had switched from feminism in general to the broader reach of sociology. I wrote a lot of heady work about the connection between race, class, and gender oppression. I became interested in politics, and I really thought I could change the world. At this point I wrote of course because I had to. But my writing really made me feel powerful. To be studying these concepts and being able to effectively break them down to people who knew nothing about them made me thirst for more. I wanted to go to grad school and write and talk about race, class, and gender oppression forever. I wanted to be a writer.

And then I didn’t get into the grad school I wanted to go to, and I kind of gave up hope. And then I got married. And then I got pregnant with a surprise baby. And then all I wanted to do was be home with my surprise baby. So now, somewhere between five and ten years post-college, I have done a lot of things that do not include writing. I brought two beautiful babies into the world. I have crafted countless amounts of baby clothes, tutu’s, and greeting cards. I have schooled myself in graphic and web design and marketing so I can have a career that is satisfying and that will allow me to stay at home. I was fortunate to land a job as a freelance researcher and blogger, which got me back into writing. It was boring and I don’t do the blogging part anymore. But just getting back into writing every day gave the confidence I needed to blog for myself. I thought I wanted to rediscover myself as a witty, self-effacing mommy blogger. And I still kind of do, but after doing some writing and reflecting on my life I have realized that I don’t really know myself at all. Life has happened, and I’ve lived through it without giving it much thought. Writing for me now means a lot more because I have the confidence to discover who I am and share it with the world. Writing now is about having a conversation with myself and with my readers. It is about storytelling; telling the gory details about what it is like to be a wife and a mother, and still hold myself and everyone else together. Writing is about connection; being part of a support system and a cheerleader for other women. Writing for me now is about self-discovery.

I am a writer, because I write.