Friday, June 23, 2017

How to Be a Great Blogger!



While blogging is a lot of fun, it is rarely easy or "off the cuff". Creating and editing content, getting just the right pictures, planning post days/times, can take literally hours.  There are professional bloggers who actually make money with blogging. Kudos to those people because it is hard work!

When you create a blog, you are inviting the world into your life and into your corner of the internet. Creating such an open door is intimidating and can garner unwanted advice and feedback and you should be prepared to deal with those situations. Not everyone will be nice and polite.

So many times people tell me they want to start a blog and I highly encourage it. The world we live in now requires that we have an online presence for either social or professional reasons. If you want to start a blog or you are at least thinking about it, please do your research. You should also ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who is your reader? 
  2. What is your voice/focus? What makes your voice/focus unique and interesting?
  3. Where is your reader?/Where are you physically located?
  4. Why do you want to start a blog (this is the same as a mission statement or statement of purpose)? Why will people want to read your blog?
  5. How will you reach readers? How will you retain readers?

My first blog "The Life and Times of a Southern Newlywed" was a learning experience for me. The design and formatting was hideous. The title of the blog had an expiration date. Honestly, how long can someone still call themselves a newlywed? I started the blog about six months before I got married and kept it for two years after. So the shelf life for that title was two and a half years. Not good. 

Secondly, "The Life and Times of a Southern Newlywed", all I talked about was myself and I overused the word "perfect" in every.single.post. At the time, we lived in Beaufort, South Carolina and a lady I knew in real life stopped me in town one Saturday and said something to the effect of "I love your blog but the "perfectness" makes me want to barf... Ugh. I can't with your perfect life." Bless her heart, she was just being honest and very forthcoming. It wasn't long after that I shut down, "The Life and Times of a Southern Newlywed" and started fresh. The goal was never to be "perfect" or to brag about what I had/have, etc. I started blogging to share my life and to connect with other like-minded people. 

At the time, I was hurt by her comments and the fact that she said 'barf' so freely, but I needed that feedback to grow and develop into a better blogger, person and friend. 

The launch of "The House of Q's" happened once we relocated to Savannah and the engagement, response and reader retention has tripled!

If you are considering starting a blog, please consider following these guidelines: 


Do be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken. 

Do have fun! Blogging is all about making connections with others! 

Do share events in your town and community especially for non-profits. Find a cause you are passionate about and help a non-profit spread the word. 

Do promote small businesses. Running a business is expensive. Small business owners usually have small marketing/pr budgets and welcome the chance to work with a blogger. 

Do ask a question at the end of your blog post. It engages readers and increases your site traffic.
Do partner with other, more experienced bloggers. They know the way and are willing to show you the map. :)
Don't post about controversial topics. There's enough hatred and arguing on the internet. Your blog should be welcoming and peaceful. This guideline is similar to holiday gatherings; you never discuss religion and politics with friends and family. Everyone has different views and opinions and sharing your own solves nothing and changes no one else's mind. 

Don't brag.   Enough said. No one likes to feel badly about themselves and we all know that comparison is the thief of all joy. 

Don't copy content from another blogger.  First, it's tacky. Second, it's stealing.  

Don't use pictures from other people/companies without a credit. I learned this one the hard way and had to pay $$$ for copyright infringement. 

Don't paint others in a bad light. Believe me, it makes you look worse than the person you are discussing. 



What are your ideas for starting a blog? Have you tried in the past with little or no success? What could you have done differently?  What ideas and strategies do you have for a successful blog? I would love to hear from you!

With warmth and love,




Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ms. Jade's Wedding Shower Recap (Includes Games, Tips and Invitation Ideas!)

This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Man, West Virginia (yes, it's really called Man) to celebrate my niece and her pending nuptials, with our closest friends and family. I've been planning the shower for a few months and am very pleased with how things turned out. The weather was beautiful, the food was delicious and the company was second to none.

Guests invited to the shower received the following three-piece set, seven- 10 days before the shower. In my experience, if you send invitations/announcements any sooner, people tend to forget about the event all together.    

1. The Invitation. This piece measured 6x6 and fit perfectly into the custom square envelopes. (Our last names and my phone number has been shaded out for privacy reasons). I'm in love with that magnolia and tried to use it as much as possible in the invitation suite and at the shower.





2. The Recipe Card. This card measured 4x6 and fit neatly into the 6x6 envelope designed for the invitation. Jade now has a nice collection of treasured recipes to start her own recipe box/binder. 







3. The Enclosure Card. The card measures 3x3 and was attached to the back of the recipe card to give sweet instructions on bringing a cherished family recipe to the shower.









One of the most important traditions at any wedding shower is the creating of the practice/rehearsal bouquet; this is the bouquet that the bride carries at her wedding rehearsal. In the picture below, my niece, Jade is holding her finished practice/rehearsal bouquet. To learn more about this tradition, click here.



I tried to document each step of the shower as I was hosting but that became problematic (as you can imagine). We played several games including Disney Love Songs, match the Famous Romantic Movie Quotes and a few others.



Although I did give nice gifts to the winners of each game, I also made sure everyone in attendance received a small gift. This idea came from Pinterest and was a nice touch. Everyone seemed to love the smell of the oatmeal and verbena soap. 



The table decor was very elegant and simple. Again, magnolias were incorporated where ever possible. 



A quick picture of the gift table as guests were arriving



I could kick myself for not getting a picture of the food tables once everything was displayed. There were so many choices and lovely creations. I did get a picture of the beverage station before the drinks were placed.



My mom and her dear friend, Mary Ruth posed for a picture after the games were finished. I asked how long they have known each other and they both estimated around 55 years. Who says friendships can't last a lifetime? I am Mary Ruth's go-to-girl for travel plans and directions. Anytime she is headed down south, she will text me and ask for tips, ideas and opinions on where to stay. It's a sweet bond that we have. :)



This picture is Jade with the groom's Aunt Rachelle. She is so nice and drove a few hours to attend the shower. I'm glad she was able to make it and I enjoyed getting to know her.



Jade, her bridesmaids (except one who had to work) and her matron of honor (Kellyn, second from left in the black dress). Kellyn is expecting her first baby!  I'm looking forward to seeing the nursery and meeting the baby boy later this year. 



Jade holding little Miss Kathryn. Kathryn is the daughter of a bridesmaid and the sweetest baby! She laughed and smiled the entire time. I've never seen a happier baby! Also, she's wearing Jack Rogers. Raise them right, girls!




I was able to get a picture of the shower cake.  All of the locals know where to get the best cake in town: Nu-Era Bakery.  Nu-Era never disappoints!  I've never had anything from Nu-Era that wasn't delicious. If you are ever in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by and grab a few things for the road! 




Here is a final shot of the gift table after all the guests arrived. Jade was very lucky and was gifted with most of the items on her registries. Need help setting up your own registry? Click here for guidance. 



The next stop on the wedding train is the actual wedding in Siesta Key, Florida in August. Be sure to check out the happy couples wedding webpage hosted by www.theknot.com.

Watch for more wedding updates here on my blog!

With warmth and love,




Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Why Didn't I Think of That?

I'm sure we've all been there; someone on the interwebs designs or makes something that is so functional and useful and you think 'Why didn't I think of that?'

I happened upon a webpage called "I Heart Planners" and be still my heart! Laura, who is the owner of "I Heart Planners" speaks my language and has some of the best organizational tools that I've seen. After clicking through a few pages, I was in total awe of the simplicity and ease of implementing these tools into my own organizing system. When my house, car, closets, office and paperwork are all organized and clean, life makes sense to me. Without a system, I fall apart and cannot function. Anyone else feel this way?

The one area that tends to be messy is my computer desktop. When I saw Laura's design and the ease of putting this design to use immediately, I knew a blog post would follow. Blogging is a wonderful and more personal way of sharing ideas with others. It's different than other social media channels because you make a real connection with people. If you are interested in starting a blog but need some guidance,  Laura also offers a how-to guide to get started with a blog of your own in only 15 minutes. How cool is that?


I have already downloaded this to my desktop and am using it as we speak. My desktop makes sense now! When I look at the design, what comes to mind is 'Why Didn't I Think of That?'

Photo is courtesy and property of Laura with iHeartplanners.com

Here is a snapshot of my desktop now. Everything has a place and is easy to find!



Good job, Laura! Keep up the good work with helping us all to be organized a little more effective in our lives.

With warmth and love,




Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'm Published, Y'all!

Cookbooks excite and intrigue me (Don't judge!). Cookbooks are little pieces of documented history that remind us of days gone by. The history gives us a small glimpse into the lives of women in past generations as well as the progress that we have made. This progress includes not only changes in society and but also to the industrialization of our country. With each new invention during past centuries, cooking, home-keeping and life in general became a little easier. It's interesting to see the ingredients in very old cookbooks because they are so simple and primitive and always come with a good story.

My momaw Myrtle collected church cookbooks when I was a kid but she also had a treasure trove of old recipes memorized. She had nine kids so her hands were full!  It's sad that when she died, hundreds of recipes and family memories went with her.  My own mom would often cook from memory of recipes that were taught to her by a dear grandmother, Annie Lou and a dear great-aunt, Movita.  Annie Lou and Movita, who are both now passed, were story tellers when it came to cooking. Every ingredient, dish, bowl, and turn of the spoon had a story and memory attached.

When I married my husband, my mother-in-law, Linda invested a lot of time and effort into teaching me her favorite (and my husband's) favorite recipes. She made the prettiest little recipe scrapbooks for my husband and his cousins that included treasured family recipes. I will share more details about the scrapbooks and my mother-in-law in an upcoming blog post. She is worth her weight in gold!

I've always collected cookbooks but my favorites are Gooseberry Patch and any southern Junior League publication. Last fall, I decided to take a shot and submit my Million Dollar Spaghetti recipe to Gooseberry Patch. Click here to see my recipe post for Million Dollar Spaghetti. A few months later, I received an email that said my recipe would be included in an upcoming Gooseberry Patch cookbook and I was ecstatic!

This past Saturday, the cookbook came in the mail and it was such a nice surprise. I quickly found my recipe in the index and feverishly turned to the page. Chuck was right beside me when I opened the book and I'm not sure who was more excited. :) 

Here is a sneak peek of my recipe and the Fall Favorites cookbook from Gooseberry Patch. It will be released and available for purchase sometime this summer.  In the meantime, you can purchase other Gooseberry Patch cookbooks by clicking here or by visiting your favorite local retailer. Cracker Barrel always has a good selection available as well.







And there it is! I hope that you will try the recipe or even pick up a copy of the cookbook for yourself or as a gift.

What are your favorite, tried and true recipes? 
I would love for you to share! 


With warmth and love,




Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Easy Berry Trifle Recipe

Happy Friday, everyone! I don't normally write posts on Friday but this recipe is worth sharing just in time for the weekend. This was really easy to make and only took about 20 minutes from start to finish. I will be making this for summer picnics, Memorial Day and Fourth of July. It's so pretty all put together and very festive. This is gorgeous on a buffet table or on your sideboard for summer events and parties.

Here's what you will need: 

2 cups (each)- of your favorite berries (I used strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries)
8 oz- plain greek yogurt
1, 12oz container- Cool Whip
2 packages- instant cheesecake flavored pudding mix (the 3.4 oz boxes)
1- angel food cake (I bought a pre-made cake from the bakery)
4 cups- milk (do not use soy milk)

Directions: 

Mix the pudding and milk according to the instructions on the box and set aside. Wash all of your fruit and trim the leaves from the strawberries. Leave your fruit in a colander for now. 

Take half of the angel food cake and tear into large pieces. Layer in the bottom of your trifle dish. I picked up my dish at Wal-Mart but they are available anywhere kitchen items are sold. You can also use a glass cake stand/cover as a trifle bowl. Flip the stand over and use the cake cover for the bowl. 

Next, use half of the pudding that you have already prepared and layer on top of the angel food cake and then add about 1/2 cup of each type of berry. Once you have arranged the berries, you will add about half of the Cool Whip. You can get as fancy or as basic as you want with arranging your fruit. I made this last night around 10:30 so I wasn't really picky about the placement. 

Repeat the layers once more and then add some of the left over fruit to the top of the trifle.  Pop this in the refrigerator for at least an hour but over night is better. 

Here's the final result: 






Do you have any fun and easy summer recipes to share? I would love to see pictures and read your recipes... 


With warmth and love,


Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!

http://instagram.com/thehouseofqs

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Cleaning Ideas from The House of Q's



Spring is a time of renewal and refreshing. I love the spring and getting out of the house for a simple walk or to do yard work and gardening. Part of this time of renewal is spring cleaning.

I've shared many times that The House of Q's is a townhouse in metro Atlanta with about 1400 sq. feet. You would think that cleaning after two adults and a few fur babies would be a snap but somehow, it gets away from me. I spent all of last Saturday spring cleaning the downstairs of our townhouse. That includes a living room/dining combo, kitchen, Master bedroom and two bathrooms. When I tell you it took me all day, I mean it took me ALL DAY.

Fresh gardenias really make the whole house smell amazingly welcoming and clean! 

About a year ago, I shared a post on how to deep clean your Master bedroom.  I never dreamed that 1800 people would click/read through the post! It's worth sharing again.. Click on the link above or click here to view the post. 


A snapshot of our master bath "after". 

This year, I took a little different route to the chore of spring cleaning. Charts and lists keep me sane so this printable from Glitter Guide was ideal for my needs. Although the chart is a guide to getting you through the process in one day, you can certainly use two or more days to get this finished. To print the chart, you will need to click this link. 



If you prefer a different format or reference, check out this guide from the queen of homemaking, Martha Stewart.  This list gives you photos and recipes for making your own household cleaners. 


And just because I love her sweet face and her show, I have to share spring cleaning tips from Joanna Gaines. Although I'm not a fan of the whole farmhouse trend that is currently sweeping through homes across America, I do love her! It's my  hope that she and Chip are as sincere and goofy as they seem on TV.  Traditional style is more my taste and comfort level.  Here is the link to Joanna's spring cleaning list. 



If you aren't ready for such a large undertaking, you can always use these shortcuts from Southern Living.  Leave it to Southern Living to help us bring everything together and exude southern hospitality. 



How do you spring clean? What are your tried and true tips and tricks? Please share your ideas! 


With warmth and love,


Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!

http://instagram.com/thehouseofqs

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How to Make Money on eBay

eBay is a wonderful thing. It's my go-to for hard to find pieces and the vehicle I prefer to sell items and make some extra cash.

Some people use Facebook Groups to sell items but being in metro ATL, I'm not comfortable with that. Selling on eBay gives me anonymity with my customers. I'm available if they have questions about an item but not within arms reach and for sure not available via Facebook; that gives me the creeps just thinking about it.

I frequent the area thrift shops weekly in search of things to resell but in particular, high-end children's clothing and bedding. Recently, I've started looking for vintage Pyrex but that's a hard item to score.  Here are some tips and picture examples for listing your items on eBay and being successful. These tips have worked for me time-after-time. Before opening your "store" on eBay you will need to sign up for an account which does require a debit/credit card. I also signed up for a PayPal account so my transactions can happen easily without using paper and are simple to trace.

1.  First things first- ask yourself will the item sell and what would you pay for it. I scour the kids clothing area of every thrift store I go in. Southern Mommy's are always looking for the perfect dress or outfit for their little ones and I've had a lot of success from selling primarily kids clothing.

2.   Only buy items in excellent condition. It's OK if items are not brand new but go over the garment/item with a fine tooth comb and make sure you are getting a good deal on a great item. The goal is to make money, not lose money on a bad purchase.

3.  Take clear pictures that show the entire item in one shot. Take at least five to six pictures and pick the best three or four. Also use a white backdrop unless the item you are selling is white.

Here are some numbers for you to crunch: 

Item: Auburn Tigers Dress- Size 24 months
Amount paid for dress: $2.62
Buy-It Now price on eBay- $16.00
eBay fee to list item: $0.00
eBay final value fee: $0.26
PayPal fee: $0.13
Shipping fee to be paid by seller- $2.00
Cost to ship item (always use an envelope and avoid using boxes) $3.15
Total profit: $9.97

$10 may not seem like a lot to profit but I usually have about 15-20 items listed on my eBay account. Those little numbers add up!



4. Tell a story of how the buyer will use the item or how it will make life a little easier for them. Everyone is busy right? We are all looking for shortcuts and ways to save money.

Here is a description for a dress I sold yesterday....


I listed the  size, condition and ways to use the dress in the first line. In the second line I stated how easy it would be to make this an outfit. Lastly, I listed the fine print in normal size font. The last thing you want is a bad review. 

Here is another dress that I posted and sold this week. 

Item: Kelley's Kids Monogrammed Dress- Size 4
Amount paid for dress: $1.50
Buy-It Now price on eBay- $12.00
eBay fee to list item: $0.00
eBay final value fee: $0.26
Paypal fee: $0.16
Shipping fee to be paid by seller- $3.00
Cost to ship item (always use an envelope and avoid using boxes) $3.15
Total profit: $10.40



And this is the description that I wrote:



I always explain how the person can use the item and how it will make his/her life easier.

5. Once you sell the item, ship it immediately and pack it well. After you receive payment for the item, take it to the post office ASAP. Buyers have an opportunity to rate the experience of shopping with you and you want great reviews! PS. you will also have a chance to rate the buyer (fast payment, good communication, etc.).

At first, I thought I would make a few extra dollars here and there by selling on eBay. I was so surprised when I looked at my total for the past six months.. This is the same kind of money I would make working a part-time job and all I had to do is shop! :)


Have you ever tried to sell on eBay? Have more tips to share?Tell me about your experience... 

With warmth and love,


Wendy
CEO- The House of Q’s
Keep in touch!

http://instagram.com/thehouseofqs