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9 Investments I made in 2017 that Helped my Blog Grow

livingChloe | Boxwood Ave.2 Comments

I thought I wrote a post like this last year, but it turns out, it was two years ago that I last shared the best investments I made in my blog and business. I know many of you are not bloggers, but those of you that are may find this post helpful. I am a firm believer that we are all in this together, and I hope that you might learn a thing or two from my journey, and that I might learn a thing or two from yours.

Ironstone Collection in beautiful French Cabinet

9 INVESTMENTS I MADE IN 2017 THAT HELPED MY BLOG GROW


All of Brene Brown's Books 

2017 was a year of growth not only for my business, but also for my faith and spirit. I spent countless hours listening to books on tape as I drove back and forth to Reno and Sonoma. I will forever be a fan of Brene Brown, and although her books aren't focused on business, I believe that a healthier you will result in a healthier work life. If I only had $50 to invest in myself or my business this year, it'd be in Brene Brown's books - audio preferably (The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and The Power of Vulnerability are my favorites). I also loved Oprah's new book The Wisdom of Sundays. On deck? The Untethered Soul

A Full Frame Camera 

Many people inquire as to what camera I use. I use a Nikon D750. I can't remember if I got it this year, or last year, but it has definitely changed the way I approach photography. I started off with a crop frame camera, which was a great teacher to me. As I learned more and more about photography, I realized that to really improve, I would need a full frame camera. You might be wondering what the difference is? 

A crop frame camera, or a crop sensor, captures a cropped image (meaning, only part of the image). While a full frame camera captures the entire image. Since the sensor is the most expensive part of a camera, full frame cameras are more expensive; however, they are worth the additional investment. A full frame camera will capture the entire image you see - giving you maximum area whereas a crop frame camera cannot capture the full image because the sensor is smaller. 

For reference: a 35 mm lens on a cropped frame camera will capture about the same area as a 50 mm lens will on a full frame camera. 

A Better Tri-Pod 

While attending The Academy in France, I learned just how important a really good tripod is for capturing beautiful imagery. If you are a blog or business that primarily centers around interiors, food, or still life, a quality tripod will serve you well. The difference between photos taken with a tripod and without a tripod is astonishing.

without tripod (left), with tripod (right) - notice how crisp and clear the right photo is? 

 

Photography Accessories: Light Boxes, Reflector, Tri-Pod

I mentioned this in my 2015 post, but I thought it was worth saying again. I love my light boxes, light reflectors, and wireless shutter release to help assist me when photographing interiors and still life. Although I will say that I am much less reliant on my light boxes now that I am comfortable with my tripod. I find that slowing down my shutter speed while using a tripod produces better photos than a faster shutter speed with faux light. 

Attending a Conference or Workshop 

I loved my time in France with Heather Bullard, and I always love my time in Sonoma at Oh So Inspired. I don't think a conference makes or breaks your year, and honestly, it's not the learning that I find so valuable, it's the networking. I loved connecting with others that are interested in similar things that I am interested in. Search for conferences in your area or start attending a Tuesdays Together in your community! 

Hiring Help 

This year I was fortunate enough to find someone amazing to help assist me with everything behind the scenes. From photographing, bookkeeping, prepping...she does it all. It is not easy to find someone that you can trust, or that has the right aesthetic for your business. However, if you are able to find someone that fits into your little corner of the world, they are worth their weight in gold. Even though it is an expense to have help, think of all of the additional things you can accomplish. For example, Lori helps me create affiliate round up posts which generally generate income. So even though I am paying her to help me, the work she is doing has a direct return. 

JAXXY 

I have paid for JAXXY for two years now, and I have become very reliant on it when generating blog posts with specific keywords. I am not sure if I have made money back from the expense, but it has definitely helped me improve upon SEO on my site. It is so simple for me to check keywords with Jaxxy, and it is so simple to understand. Perhaps there's a cheaper or better option out there, but for the ease of use, I happily pay for the service each year.  Here is a good video showing how to use Jaxxy if you are interested. 

Squarespace Commerce 

If you have a commerce SS website, I recommend upgrading to the commerce plan on Squarespace. I like this feature because it allows for you to contact many abandoned checkout customers to recover sales. I recovered more than enough sales with this feature to cover the cost of the plan, and then some. I also enjoy the additional analytics it offers! 

Professional Email Template & Convertkit 

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to gather a really wonderful group of subscribers. However it wasn't until this year that I decided to start contacting them. I had read time and time again about how important email subscribers are, so I kept a file of them, but I hadn't ever been diligent about sending out emails. I haven't had a return on this investment yet - but I made the jump from MailChimp to Convertkit, and asked Magnolia House Creative to design a beautiful email template for me (which far exceeded my expectations!). I am ready to tackle this goal in 2018 as I move more towards commerce. Convert kit is about the same cost as MailChimp but focuses more on segmenting subscribers so that you know exactly who your all-star customers or readers are. 

I hope that some of these ideas might help you grow your blog and business this year! I would love to know some of your favorite apps or websites that you rely on to keep you organized and productive during the work day. Staying productive and free of distraction is my biggest weakness, I need all the tips


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Handmade Christmas Gift: Stove Top Potpourri

livingChloe | Boxwood Ave.4 Comments

Use simple seasonal ingredients to make this handmade christmas gift; an easy stove top potpourri recipe that packs a serious punch! 

An easy handmade Christmas gift // stovetop potpourri | boxwoodavenue.com

The last time I visited Chateau Sonoma, I left with baskets full of pomegranates and persimmons. And while I was able to use some of them up in syrups and pureés, I still had quite a few left over, so I decided to dehydrate some in my oven to create a colorful homemade potpourri for Christmas gifts. 

I had never dried fruit in my oven before, and honestly just sort of guessed on how to do it - but the results were fantastic. I simply sliced the fruit into uniform pieces, and then placed them on Silpat baking mats in my oven. I set my oven to the lowest setting, and let them dehydrate all day long. Each time I opened the oven I was hit with humidity from the fruit - proving that the magic was happening. After roughly 6 hours, the fruit was dry, and ready to use. I let it cool and then placed it in a container to use later. 

I really, truly love making things. Making my advent calendar this year was one of the highlights of the season, and creating this easy and beautiful gift seconds it. Compiling the fruit and spices into little glass jars with darling little labels was a gift to myself all on its own.

With that said, I made these without actually testing the recipe. I figured - hey, this will work right? I had some left over ingredients after making a few jars, and decided to give it a go. I thought that since the ingredients were dry, they probably wouldn't be as potent as my fresh stove top potpourri recipe. Well, I was very very wrong. 

This recipe is truly fantastic, and just as wonderful as a fresh recipe. I was amazed by the lovely scent that has lasted for days. I let my potpourri sit for a few days before tossing it. By day two it doesn't look as pretty, but it still smells just as nice! 

I cannot wait to give these as gifts. They are toxin free, which is a huge bonus, and they are very inexpensive to make. I plan on pairing them with turkish tea towels and a Christmas note. I hope you enjoy making these for your neighbors and friends! Don't forget to save a batch for yourself! 


Dried Stove Top Potpourri 


Ingredients: 

An easy handmade Christmas gift // stovetop potpourri | boxwoodavenue.com

Supplies: 

To prepare the potpourri: 

Step 1: Slice fruit into uniform pieces. Place sliced fruit and herbs onto a lined baking sheet.

Step 2: Turn your oven to its lowest temperature, and dehydrate the fruit & herbs for 6-8 hours. Make sure the fruit is 100% dry because mold can grow if there is moisture still present. 

Step 3: Remove from the oven, and save until you are ready to assemble the jars. 

To prepare the jars:

Step 1: Print out the free labels, and using a paper trimmer, cut the strips of tags. 

Step 2: Place a varying amount of dried fruit, herbs, cinnamon sticks, and spices into small glass jars until full. 

Step 3: Cut rounds of kraft paper roughly 1" larger in diameter than the glass jars. Use a glue dot to secure the kraft paper to the lids. 

Step 4: Use another glue dot to secure the tag to the kraft paper, and then add twine and other festive accessories to the jars. Enjoy gifting these to neighbors and friends! 


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