How Not to Go Crazy Redesigning Your Blog

If you get in any group of bloggers together and bring up the topic of layouts and design, chances are you’ll hear a chorus of groans followed by, “I hate changing my blog’s layout!”  As a result, many keep their blog the same for years or pay someone else to design it. That doesn’t have to be the case! I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past 10+ years of creating websites and tinkering with blogs.  It doesn’t have to be a frustrating process, I promise!

Tip 1: Don’t Practice on Your Live Site

Whether your based on Blogspot, WordPress or Tumblr (or some other service), don’t practice on your blog. If you’re just learning, setup a test blog on your platform and play around with possible layouts there. You’ll want to have a place where you can flex your muscles and learn the ropes. Once you’re confident in your skills,  then work on your blog.

Tip 2: Estimate How Much Time You’ll Need

Once you have a grasp of the basics, estimate how much time you’ll need to make the changes. Do you want to make easy edits like the color of your links or are you looking to overhaul your whole layout? The former is a quick fix but the latter can take days. Don’t embark on your edits without having an idea of how long it will take. Once you have that figured out, set aside that time whether it’s after work or on the weekend.

Tip 3: Shut Your Website Down or Use a Remote Site When Editing

This is especially important if you have a fair amount of visitors who might get confused when they see changes happening live. Plus, you want to be able to unveil your site once you’ve put the finishing touches on the design. For those on Blogspot, this might mean making a practice blog and then copying the code or temporarily making your blog password only. On WordPress, I recommend setting up a sandbox site on your local machine where you can see your edits. Here’s a good tutorial on how to do that.

Tip 4: Know When to Go to Bed

The worst thing is feeling cranky and miserable after working on your blog. Web design can be a fun and invigorating experience and the last thing you want to do is drive yourself crazy. If you hit the wall in your web design, walk away from the computer and finish it tomorrow.

Tip 5: Have Fun and Keep an Open Mind

There’s no reason to feel dread when it comes to web design! The way I look at it is every layout I work on is a learning experience. Not only do I come away with new knowledge every time, but I can usually edit faster next time around. Remember everyone is always learning when it comes to design. After all no one was born knowing HTML and CSS. It’s a learning experience that can be incredibly empowering. There’s nothing better than answering, “Me!” when someone asks you who designed your site.

If you have any questions, please let me know! I just redsigned my site after not doing a major overhaul for about seven months and I wanted to share what I learned (again) from the experience. Let me know what you think of my new design!

Ditching My L.L. Bean Backpack

Ditching My L.L. Bean Backpack | ThoseGraces.com

This summer I did something for the very first time: I left my L.L. Bean backpack at home and hit the road. My decision didn’t come lightly. After all, this backpack has traveled literally everywhere with me from high school to Europe to my cross country road trip. Where I went my L.L. Bean backpack followed. Until now.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing a backpack over any other bag. At the end of the day, it really is just a place to throw stuff. And throw stuff I did. Over the course of 12 years, this bag helped me carry around my entire life at times. I  bragged about its age, as if it were a vintage Chanel pocketbook and not what it really was, which was a ratty old backpack. Sure, it wasn’t totally falling apart, but the backpack had definitely seen better days.

There was something interesting about sharing all the cities and places I had taken it over the years. It became a stand in for my own stories. Instead of me flying to Paris, it became my backpack that did the traveling. Though it was interesting that the backpack had been everywhere, but it was even more fascinating that I had been there. I’m not one to share about my travels because it has always felt like bragging to me. Instead it became easier to assign experiences to an inanimate object and not to me.

It’s easy to say the bag is ugly–that wouldn’t be a lie–but ditching my backpack ultimately had very little to do with style. The choice was ultimately about taking ownership over my own experiences and leave my backpack behind. I’ll probably never give away my beloved backpack, because it’s made it this far with me. For now it just has to sit on the shelf and take a break.

We Deserve Summer {Sponsored}

Before I moved to New England, I don’t think I had a distinct summer style because I lived in the South where it was always warm and I didn’t have to switch my wardrobe. However, the more time I spend in New England, the more I appreciate summer clothes. After a long winter, I couldn’t be more relived to slip right back into summer. For me that means slipping back into a classic and simple summer wardrobe filled with stripes and vintage inspired clothing. After four summers in Boston, these two modes are pretty much default for me.

When British-based Joules reached out to me to collaborate*, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity to share my summer style. The clothing at Joules is classic and timeless, making it easy to wear every summer. I’m not really one for trends, so when I buy something, I want it to last for years and not just one season.

My Favorite Summer Looks

Navy Blue and White Stripes by Joules| ThoseGraces.com
Indigo Stripe Dress, Navy Stripe Pencil Skirt, Creme Stripe Knitted Sweater

If it’s one thing I’m absolutely addicted to, it’s stripes in summer. I have striped sweaters, skirts and dresses. For me stripes are so easy to wear because they can be dressed up or dressed down. The only thing I haven’t tried yet is stripes on stripes.

1950s Summer Fashion with Joules| ThoseGraces.com
French Navy Bouquet Bikini, Freya Floral Cornfield Dress, Newmeln Cropped Pants

I’ll be honest, I’ve marathoned Mad Men about three times in the past year. I can’t help it, no matter what I do, I always end up looking like Betty Draper or Joan Harris. If you know how to do it right, the 1950s is such a great look for summer.

Joules carries some amazing pieces including shorts, bathing suits and summer dresses. Let me know which one of my summer pieces you liked the best!

*I’ve decided to go back to doing Sponsored Posts. I’ll write about this decision soon. This post is sponsored by Joules, which means I received compensation to write this post. The post was entirely crafted by me and is 100% my opinion. For more information, please visit my site policies.

Goodbye Android, Hello iPhone

Goodbye Android, Hello iPhone | ThoseGraces.com
Ever since my post about breaking up with my iPhone I always wondered if I was the one who was wrong and not Apple. To date, it’s the only post that’s cost me a freelancing gig, with the hiring party saying, “We saw on your blog that you didn’t like iPhone . . . ” I’ve spent the past year defending my hatred, but I finally give up. I surrender and I’m finally going back to iPhone.

I can’t say I missed it that much, rather that my decision to quit Android (for now) was more of an overnight decision where I realized aspects that seemed cool about Android were bothersome. It’s true, you can customize how Android looks, but mine never looked sleek or cool design-wise. It looked very functional in a boring, practical way. I found myself missing the sleek and simple design of iPhone.

And about the size–a lot of salespeople will pitch that the Android has a larger screen size, and that might be true, but I rarely watch videos on my phone. In the past year, I can count maybe 10 times where I watched a video on my 5″ screen. How many times have I tried to fit this huge phone into the pocket of my skinny jeans? Too many times to count. It was not cute. It will never look cute to have half a phone sticking out of your pocket.

What I actually my phone boiled down to four things: Making calls, sending texts, Instagram and Twitter. You don’t need large screens for any of these tasks. And while we’re talking about Instagram, I consistently got annoyed at how many innovative photo editing apps developed for iPhone only. Annnnnoying!

In short, I missed the coolness of iPhone. There is nothing sexy about Android, it’s purely functional like that old pair of underwear that you just can’t bring yourself to throw out. Many may talk up their processors and speed, but nothing looks as good as an iPhone, at least not to me.

Natural’s Not In It: I’m Back and Blonde

Back and Blonde | Those Graces.com

After a two month hiatus from blogging, I’m back! For awhile life was hard and I couldn’t find much joy in my once beloved hobby, but you know what they say. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, which is exactly what happened so I’m back! And BLONDE! So, so blonde. And I love it!

Let’s jump right in talk about the hair. I needed a major change and highlights weren’t going to cut it. I went to see my colorist and friend Andrae at Mirage Hair Design in Natick. When I got there I was on the fence about going really blonde, so Andrae and I debated back and forth about the merits of being really blonde versus just kind of blonde. Once I sat down in the chair, I told Andrae, “I just want to feel like I’m doing a big change.” He jumped in immediately and said, “Let’s go for it, let’s do all blonde.” I was sold!

Going blonde isn’t the most glamorous process. It takes time and you look silly. Which I guess is probably how I felt the the first time I was blonde, except my friends did it, which definitely was not a salon experience. I can tell you right now that if you want to go from brunette to blonde, do it at a salon unless your best friend is also a colorist. Just trust me on this.

The whole process took about two hours, which seemed short to me. I swear when I was blonde before and I would go for highlights, it took four hours. Needless to say, Andrae is amazing at what he does and I’m sure that’s why the process was quick and painless. No really, it didn’t hurt at all. I even have such a sensitive scalp that I tear up when people brush my hair. This was the fourth or fifth time Andrae did my hair. He’s done everything on me from ombre to brunette to blonde and it always turns out amazing.

I’m glad I took the leap to go back to blonde. I’m under no delusions that it will be easy to maintain, but I’ll tell you what, it sure does look great.

You can (and should!) follow Andrae on Twitter and Instagram. He’s hilarious, genuine and gives great advice along with doing amazing hair.