A New Direction

Long time, no post! I'd apologize for being absent, but in all honesty it was refreshing to take a break and do some behind-the-scenes thinking. A few weeks ago, blogging wasn't fulfilling me in the way that it used to, so I needed to step back and figure out why. A new platform was only part of the solution.

When I first started this blog and had no readership, I wrote to help me discover the kind of life I wanted to lead. It was half-journal, half-commonplace book, and at its heart, it was a lifestyle blog because it was concerned with varied aspects of life. There's no definitive way to characterize "living well," but for me, it involves being kind, humble, honest, and openminded. It has very little to do with external appearances, and much more to do with how you treat others, where you seek inspiration, and what ideas you negotiate. More recently, I took a good look at my blog and realized that not much of it was aligned with what I originally, and still, wanted this space to accomplish. Shouldn't your lifestyle blog cultivate the qualities you believe in? I might be breaking the rules of branding + marketing 101, but my one big philosophy regarding blogging comes down to this: if you don't find your content is aligned with your values, change it. Forget "what sells." A blog is a very filtered way of presenting oneself, but I still want mine to be genuine and substantial. 

Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking pride in appearances. With topics like minimalist wardrobing, I hope to combine my love for aesthetics with a simpler, more sustainable way of life. But I find myself itching to write about things that don't necessarily fit within the boundaries that I've imposed overtime on this blog. Moving forward, I'm drawing some new lines to make sure this space remains, truly, an extension of myself.

Moving Platforms: Blogger to Squarespace

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About a month ago, after about a year of deliberating, I moved my blog from Blogger to Squarespace. I'd heard great things about Squarespace for a while, and after tinkering around with the free trial, I finally decided to go for it. Some of you were interested in knowing more about the move, so today I'm sharing my experience migrating platforms, as well as a few thoughts for those of you thinking about making the switch. 

 

Why Squarespace?

I don't want to bash Blogger, because it works perfectly for some people, but it just wasn't cutting it for me, so I started exploring other options. Squarespace (SS) is a paid platform: the "professional" package, which is their most popular offer, includes unlimited pages and storage space; access to customizable templates; a developer platform to further customize via HTML and CSS; a custom URL; and 24/7 customer support. This costs $16 per month. In comparison to a self-hosted WordPress (WP) site, SS requires less maintenance and tech know-how; WP, however, allows for more complex designs. SS is potentially pricier, but if you'll need to hire someone to design and maintain your WP site, the costs will probably even out. On SS, it's pretty much impossible to break your site, and even if you're not coding-savvy, you won't need someone to help you design/maintain your site. If you run into issues, SS customer support is excellent. I ultimately chose SS because I wanted a clean, minimal site that was easy to manage without much technical upkeep.

 

Moving Platforms and Hosts

After I set up a Squarespace account and a site with a temporary .squarespace.com URL, the process of moving from Blogger to Squarespace involved the following steps:

1. Importing the content (old posts) from my Blogger site to my Squarespace site.
2. Transferring my domain's host from a Blogger/Google Apps "partner" host (GoDaddy, in my case) to Namecheap, so that I could access my domain's full DNS settings. 
3. Mapping my existing domain to my Squarespace site.

I've linked step-by-step instructions for each stage in the process. The entire process took a little over a week, mostly because of the domain re-routing. If you purchase a custom domain through Blogger, Google acts as the "middle-man," meaning that you cannot access your domain's DNS settings through your host's main site. I had trouble accessing my DNS settings through Google Apps, and the unreliability in controlling my own domain was one major factor in my decision to move hosts. 

It's important to note that moving platforms usually isn't seamless: links will get restructured in the process (meaning the old ones no longer work) and the format of old posts might look a little off once they're imported. Expect to go back through the archives and update things manually. Also be aware that links to your blog posts from other places around the internet might not work anymore.

I'm not well-versed in internet magic, so I hired Bobbi from Ready to Blog to make sure the switch happened smoothly. If you're at all nervous about the move, I can't recommend her services enough! That said, it's very realistic to switch to SS yourself, assuming you don't run into any major hitches.

 

Should You Make the Switch?

A rhetorical question, of course, that I can't answer for you. I also can't tell you whether SS or WP is a better choice; both have pros and cons, and it comes down to personal preferences. However, there are a few things I'd recommend considering to help you make your decision.

  • What is the purpose of your blog? What features would be most useful? Try projecting your site a year, or three years, into the future: what are your long-term goals, and how do you anticipate your site evolving overtime?
  • Will you need help making the move and maintaining your site? How much time/energy can you invest in learning how to use a new platform?
  • What is your budget for setting up and maintaining your site? 
  • Will it be okay for your site to be temporarily offline while you make the switch? Will it be okay for links to old posts to get restructured?
  • How long have you considered switching platforms? If you've been wishfully thinking about it for a while, I'd say go for it; the sooner you make the switch, the better.

Once you've thought these things through, do your research. Look at lots of blogs on the platform(s) you're considering, reach out to people, and plan out your template. If you're interested in Squarespace, I'd also recommend taking advantage of their free 14-day trial so you can play with the templates and make sure you like the interface. 

I hope this was helpful to a few of you, and if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

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In the category of breakfasts that verge on desserts, chia seed pudding is one of the healthiest options, if you can get past its slightly odd quality. When I think of chia, I inevitably think of Chia Pets (ch-ch-ch-chia!). But it turns out that, in addition to sprouting verdant faux-fur, the seeds are a good source of fiber, omega-3, calcium, antioxidants, and protein. Ancient Aztecs and Mayans used to eat them for their "magical" energy-boosting properties. Also, because the seeds absorb about ten times their weight in water, they're a perfect thickening agent for a nutrition-packed pudding.

I tried making my first batch of chia seed pudding this weekend, and I was surprised at how simple it was to prepare: just mix together the ingredients and refrigerate overnight. It's difficult to describe the texture -- it bears a faint resemblance to tapioca, with a little more crunch. After a few bites, I was hooked. I followed this Food Network recipe almost exactly, though I'd recommend halving or eliminating the maple syrup at the end; in-season strawberries are sweet enough! 

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

Ingredients

1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons of maple syrup (+ 2 optional teaspoons for strawberries)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 pint strawberries

Instructions

1) Whisk the almond milk, yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and salt in a bowl.
2) Whisk in the chia seeds.
3) Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes.
4) Give the mixture a quick stir and refrigerate overnight.
5) Slice the strawberries. (Optional: stir with 2 teaspoons of maple syrup.)
6) Spoon the pudding into containers and top with the strawberries.

The recipe serves 2-4; from my experience, it made a hearty breakfast for two, with no leftovers to spare. There are plenty of chia seed pudding recipes out there, so experiment away. 

Succulent Planters

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Over the past month or so, I've started a tiny window garden of succulents. I'm smitten with their otherworldly looks and oddly accurate nicknames (e.g. "Donkey's Tail," "Jelly Bean Plant," "Gollum Jade"). After reading this blog I'm inspired to find my inner green thumb and collect a motley of little monsters (because gotta catch 'em all). But, first things first: my succulents are still living in temporary plastic-pot housing, and it's time to plant them in something prettier. I'm still trying to figure out where to find good planters locally, so in the meantime I've turned to the internet and put together a few favorites, all of which are linked below. Of course, one can't go wrong with simple white, terracotta, or even mason jars. Suggestions for other hidden gems are more than welcome.

Also, after a series of snafus technological and otherwise, the blog is back in business! As per your requests, I'm planning to publish a short post on my experience moving platforms (Blogger to Squarespace), so let me know if there's anything specific you'd like to know. 

Clockwise from upper left: Hand-painted Windowsill PotsChevron Hanging PlanterStrung Squares PlanterScalloped Pottery PlanterFelt Cat PlantersPlanter Brick.

Bookmarks

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From my bookmarks folder to you: some of the links that have inspired and enlightened me over the past couple of weeks. There's a quotation by Shelby Foote that sums up exactly how I feel as I compile a list like this: "I can't begin to tell you the things I discovered while I was looking for something else." (Also applicable in grocery stores, travels, searching for my favorite nude lipstick.)

Painter Lily Stockman's blog Big Bang, which I want to read from metaphorical cover to cover.
Faking cultural literacy in the age of social media.
A collection of Sunday routines
Akiko's coconut chia pudding.
David Macaulay on the long process of drafting a book.
For fellow bloggers: the frustrations of monetization and traffic.
Tamsin's review of The Wind Rises, which I've added to my long list of movies to watch.
Coming soon to HBO.
"Holla, you clown!" and other Shakespearean hip-hop lines.
I took the Jungian/Briggs-Myers personality test... I'm INFJ! What's yours?
And, 100 more good reads

Links to share? Send them my way!