Today marks the FIRST International Day of the Girl; a day to make a different in the lives of girls and young women as citizens and as powerful voices of change in their families, communities, and their nations. International Day of the Girl is about highlighting, celebrating, discussing, and advancing girls lives and opportunities across the globe. Patricia Sands did a wonderful blog post about the day with links to resources and ways you can show your support.

Patricia Sands' Blog

Last December, the United Nations’ General Assembly officially designated October 11 as the International Day of The Girl. This Thursday, Canada and nations around the world will focus on raising awareness of the particular challenges that girls face and implement plans to take action.

Girls will be recognized as powerful agents of change and as leaders of today and tomorrow, and girl-specific issues will be highlighted.

The Canadian government led the resolution at the UN and over 100 member nations have already pledged their support. Individually we can all show our support in many ways and most easily by spreading the word and getting involved. Let’s face it, we women know how to communicate!

Every girl is someone’s daughter. Let’s make all daughters proud by honouring them and working toward gender equality and girls’ rights everywhere on this planet.

Here are some excellent links for more details on the subject…

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Nicole Basaraba is a wonderful writing and the founder of the Amazing Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (WUVC for short). Her travel blogs and photography is outstanding and I think she’d do a BANG up job at the London Olympics!! She’s got my vote for Samsung Global Blogger…how about yours?

Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City

Since its Wednesday, this would usually be my Writers’ Uni-Verse-City segement day, but I have been up to something special I want to share with you.

Since I finished the first draft of my novel for the Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge, I’ve been working on some diverse projects such as competing to be a Samsung Global Blogger for the 2012 Olympics in London!

Representing Belgium (and Canada too of course), I would be tweeting, blogging and vlogging. That’s right, vlogging during the Olympics this summer to bring you the latest scoop and the most entertaining and funny stories I can dig up in London, which is also celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!

So if you’d like to show your support for me as a Samsung Global Blogger to read/see some amazing stories this summer, please feel free to:

  • click the “thumbs up” support button on my video 
  • re-blog…

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A very important message to spread around the world. The Bully Project is out in select theatres and is a “must see” for all of us. Spread the word. As Patricia so eloquently said “Lets support this important global message. Every person deserves to feel safe!”

Patricia Sands' Blog

WHICH MOVIE WOULD YOU SAY IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR A TEENAGER TO SEE?

THE BULLY PROJECT

THE HUNGER GAMES

Why not make this deal with the moviegoers in your life?  If you go see The Hunger Games you will see The Bully Project too.  If you only choose one movie to see in the near future, make it The Bully Project.

Let’s support this important global message. Every person deserves to feel safe.

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Keeping your blogging mojo alive and burning

The ever fahbulous Jenny Hansen recently wrote a post on how being an introvert or extrovert can affect your blogging. In the post, she talked about a conversation she had with someone in regards to their struggle to keep the passion for blogging alive. The ever pressing question “what do I write about today?!??!” was killing her friend’s blogging mojo.

Ugh! I hear ya girl! It can be tough to keep the blog fires burning. I remember when I started out blogging in August 2010; I came out of the gate swinging. I was all fired up. I was pumped. I was a posting maniac. The ideas were endless. I had enough topics to blog for YEARS!

Not so much. After about 5 months, my blogging excitement waned, my posting schedule became erratic and slack, and my greatest fear started to be realized; I was running out of things to say!

WHAT?!?!? “Natalie ran out of shit to talk about?” I know…I was just as shocked as you. That does not happen to me! I am the type of person you can’t shut up. I was frightened. What was happening? Where was my blog mojo going?

That’s when I asked myself a question that totally changed things:

“When I am with my friends/family (cause that’s when I never run out of stuff to talk about),
what conversations do we have that I enjoy most?

My answer: it’s when I am making people laugh over some latest insanity (entertain) or when we have those deep and introspective conversations (inspire). BAM…That’s when the lightbulb went off.

I realized those were the types of convos I wanted to have here! And to do so, I had to think of my blog and my readers as my BFFs. I stopped worrying about saying the wrong thing, the right thing, too much of this or too much of that. I started to shoot the breeze with my BFF with the goal of either entertaining or inspiring. That’s it.

Now I think of my blog as the place to chat, hang out, and have amazing conversations about the most insane, mundane, tame, lame, and zany stuff. It’s where I come to talk about love, romance, fantastic shoes, amazing food, embarrassing moments, peeing outside, retarded redneck products, new sayings, funny/inspirational videos, writing, etc. WHATEVER!

There’s no pressure. It’s just me and my blog/BFF sitting around the table with a good cup of coffee (or maybe a cold beer) chatting about the stuff we LOVE to chat about! I don’t have to pretend. I don’t have to censor myself (ok, well maybe I don’t swear as much here as I do in real life). And it doesn’t matter what we are talking about, I can guarantee you it’s always interesting. I mean seriously, when have you ever had a boring chat with your BFF?

Sometimes when I discover a great urban word for Wednesday’s post, I’ll run it past hubby and he’ll kind of step back with a “you aren’t actually going to post that on your blog, are you?!?!” a tad surprised. Hell yes!!! My BFF and I have no issue talking about vajazzling, peeing outside, or farting. I mean, there isn’t much that’s taboo around here and that means the topics are endless.

And that dear friends is how I keep my blog mojo going!

How do you keep your blog mojo burning bright? How do you come up with topic ideas? What keeps you from burning out?

More blog deliciousness here:

About me and the superhero formula

I recently watched Clay Collins’ video on how he accidentally created one of blogopshere’s most viral “about me” page. I thought I’d take a crack at re-writing my ultra boring About Me page using Clay’s five steps superhero formula.

Superhero Formula

  1. Establish a common enemy with target market – fight against the enemy for them. You go to battle for them! Specific or idea.
  2. Super power – show it off – how do you make miracles happen for yourself and others.
  3. Purpose – your target market needs to know you are doing things not just for the money but for a larger purpose – and you must be truthful.
  4. Fatal flaw – your kryptonite – it will help target bond with you.
  5. Your original story – explains how you went from ordinary to extraordinary – how did you transform?

My answers:

  1. Common enemy: together, we will fight against boredom and bland colors.
  2. Super power: urban redneck powered by a tacky sense of fashion (who said a cowboy hat with stiletto heels wasn’t hot!?? Is there such thing as too much bedazzling???) and a stellar sense of humor. My secret weapon: hubby.
  3. Purpose: to entertain you, make you smile, make you laugh and bring you joy.
  4. Fatal flaw: procrastination and temper tantrums which can lead to occasional bouts of negativity.
  5. Transformation: Thanks to Kristen Lamb’s blogging to build a brand course, I transformed from a bland blogger using basic colors, a plain header, inconsistent and deadly boring blubbering to a blogger extraordinaire with a flair for color, content and consistency. The 3 Cs baby!

How I put the formula to use.

Natalie Hartford

Natalie Hartford is an urban redneck; a cross-breed of city girl and redneck. She loves high heels, bling, all things pink and sparkly along with ball caps, 4X4ing, camping, and drinkin’ beer. She often mistakes tacky for fahbulous! An avid golfer, don’t let the stylish and colorful outfits with matching clubs fool you; she’ll wrap that driver around a tree in a temper tantrum in 2 point 5 seconds (hello…she nearly got kicked off a golf course for her potty mouth).

By day, she sports dress pants, button downs, and suits putting her bachelor degree in journalism to good use working in public relations. She slings words for fact sheets, press releases, and powerpoints. From chairing meetings, to organizing and emceeing events, she rocks the corporate communications world.

By night and weekend, she used to flail around in cyberspace until she ate from the forbidden fruit and channeled super human blogging powers. Now her blog is a pink pallooza of fun bringing color and comedy to all the lands. Where once lived a bland blogger with inconsistent and deadly boring blabbering now lives a sparkling pink goddess blogger divine battling against the seriousness we all face in life spreading laughter, smiles, and zany word fun all over the blogosphere.

At the same time she sets fire to the page working on her first novel. Torn between chick lit, women`s fiction and paranormal, she`s getting to know characters, drafting scenes, sampling dialogue and plotting to her heart’s content.

She doesn’t do it alone. Her secret weapon, the Robin to her Batman, is hubby. He keeps her calm, neutralizes nap time, and blasts her procrastination. Second time around for both of them, they rock the romance by living and playing large. Best friends forever; you complete me; yin to my yang; K.I.S.S.I.N.G. When they aren`t having “shock and awe” fun sampling Natalie’s urban words in public, they sneak away to their rustic camp hidden deep in the New Brunswick countryside (so deep, there`s no cell reception or Internet). There they spend their days tearing up the trails in their 4X4 Rhino and nights pondering plot possibilities, cuddling and hanging with their trusted side-kick Tess (their beloved Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever). Ahhh…the life!

If you want more of Natalie:

Visit her at: http://nataliehartford.com
Talk to her at: natalie@nataliehartford.com
Follow her on twitter at: @NatalieHartford

What do you think? Did I rock the super hero formula or make a mess of it? Suggestions to improve? What do you think makes a kickin’ About Me page? Know of any fahhhbulous examples that rocked your read? Share the wealth…

More blog deliciousness:

Mastering social media madness

I got a special treat for y’all today. Normally I don’t post on Thursday’s but when the cats away the mice will play.

Elena Aitken is on vacay (hope you are enjoying Elena – don’t worry about us – everything is just fine over here!!!!) and she left a few of her peeps in charge of her blog while she’s gone. I KNOW?!?!? Can you believe that?!?!? Squeeeee!!!

Ok, so it’s called guest posts but I prefer to think of it as “running the show/head honcho/woman in charge/hero”…it’s all the same, right?!?!?

On Tuesday, Jillian Dodd did a fahhhbulous post on showing your significant other the love. Not just on Valentine’s but all days of the year! Love all your amazing tips and tricks Jillian. Hubby will be jotting you a thank you note shortly!

And today, yours truly is running the show with a post on my techniques for mastering the social media beast (so it’s not mastering me)! You won’t want to miss it!

RUSH right over and monopolize the comments section so she knows how much y’all missed her!!

See ya there!

My new muse

As most of you know, I’ve been working towards a revamp of my blog. It’s been fun and frustrating. But…there’s hope! Today I learned about a new tool that really knocked my socks off!! It is uberlicious in potential….eeeekeee….

It all started when I signed up for Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop. As I worked with the incredible #WANA711 group coming up with new content ideas and a posting schedule, I realized that content and consistency were only part of the blog picture for me. I felt I needed a new look to tie it all together; to make sure that visually, when you land on my blog you get a sense of me.

After having surfed and admired a ton of pretty spiffy blogs designs, I developed a serious case of blog envy. This wasn’t surprising for me. I am definitely drawn to colorful, pretty things. For instance, when I took up golf four years ago, I had to have cute, matching gear; a pink bag, pink clubs, and matching pink outfits and shoes (in the right shade of pink, no less). Yes, I even have the cutest pink shot counter. It’s an illness, what can I say?

Even hubby didn’t find it unusual when I started talking about wanting my blog look to match all the new, great content (not to mention my sparkling personality) that I had planned. But…how???

I use www.worpress.com for my blog and the great thing about it (other than it’s free), is that it’s very plug and play. You sign up; pick a template and BAM, your blog up is up and running in minutes. And there is some functionality you can to customize depending on the template such as the header, background, widgets etc.

But with all these great, fabulous designs visions floating in my head, I am finding the template thing kind of limiting. I have surfed and searched through all of them and nothing speaks to me. Nothing stands out. Nothing rocks my world. I mean what I have is ok, it’s nice; but it’s not me.

When I read Carrie Spencer’s post on domain names and WordPress, it became clear to me that to gain the freedom I want, I’ll have to make the move to www.wordpress.org at some point. Although it requires self-hosting, meaning there is a cost, it gives you true design freedom. However, even with the thousands of templates and plugins to choose from, I still feel like I’d still need some CSS or web design knowledge to take my blog design to the Natalie level I envision.

Well then Adobe steps up the plate with a whooper in my inbox this morning and I’ve fallen in love.

They have launched a new technology called Muse (beta form) that enables graphic designers to use familiar, free-form tools that we are used to in InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator to design and publish HTML and CSS websites—all without writing code or being restricted to templates.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

Check out the videos at: http://muse.adobe.com and be prepared to have your socks blown off.

I downloaded the beta version immediately and am super psyched to get started playing around (stay tuned for my feedback in later posts). I mean, I am not graphic design genius but I certainly know my way around Adobe’s three design suites to perhaps pull something together.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t envision having my own blog designed from scratch tomorrow. I still have a lot to learn. I will stick with my plan and buy a premium theme this month to get the “pop” that I want while learning about web design via Muse. But at least now I feel like my web design learning curve may not be quite as steep as I thought. And that’s…uberlicious!

What do you think? Do you have enough graphics background to use this tool to take your design to the next level? Think you’ll try your hand at Adobe’s Muse?

Notice anything new with my blog?

The blog birthday bash revamp has commenced…

Last night I purchased my very own, personalized URL through WordPress. If you look up in the address bar, you’ll see it. I am now http://nataliehartford.com. I am so excited and it was so easy. A couple of clicks and it was done. And the nice thing is that WordPress will automatically redirect anyone coming to my old WordPress URL seamlessly.

It cost me $25 US (and it’ll need to be renewed each year) but to me it’s worth it. It’s a big step towards implementing the things I’ve been learning at Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop.

I have also created a URL-specific email to match (natalie@nataliehartford.com) through WordPress and Google Apps. This was a bit more complicated. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing but I just followed the WordPress step-by-step instructions and voila, it works.

I am so pumped!

Have you considered moving to your own URL? What made you decide to do it or what holds you back from taking that step?

I’ve also been working on a new header for the launch of my new theme/layout. I struggle with this because although I am familiar with graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, design is not my thing at all. I can typically “recreate” a visual but to start from scratch and come up with a concept hurts my brain. But, I did give it a try. I am still not 100% sure but I figure I’ve at least got something for the big blog birthday blowout and I can always change it later if I find it’s not quite “me”. I tried to make it fun, fresh, and fahhhbulous! I can’t wait to show it to y’all!

Sneak peek of my new header

Here’s a little sneak peek of the cartoon-type of image of myself that’s in my new header. Isn’t she uberlicious!?!

I updated my Avatar to match so when I post or add comments to other folks blog, this is the image that will appear to represent me.

What do you think?

Is it good branding to use the same image for the avatar that’s in a header to represent the person? Or do you think real pictures for avatars are better? What do you use and why?

100 posts later…

Ever embark on something not having any idea what you’re doing? Or how it was going to turn out? Ever dove into a project feeling like a fish out of water but dove in any way?

Nearly one year ago, that was blogging for me.

Today’s post marks my one hundredth post (bells and whistles please) and in less than three weeks, this blog will celebrate its first birthday; the first of many I hope. And although I am certainly no blogging expert (yet), I will say I feel way more confident.

I started out with little to no knowledge or experience. I got interested when I started reading fantastic blogs and I felt compelled to join this amazing blogosphere. I started out by taking a 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workshop lead by one of my favorite bloggers, Walker Jones Thornton, who writes two blogs Beyond Words and A Woman’s Page. We were a small group of about a dozen women all starting out and the workshop helped us get our feet wet and set off into the wonderful world of blogging.

A year in review, I can see that my topics have been sort of all over the place. My blogging schedule unpredictable, I’ve tried to post a couple of times a week but it’s been hit and miss (and there was that unplanned April 2011 hiatus).

I thought that over time I’d get a stronger sense of my blogging voice…naturally??? On its own??? I thought it would sort of magically appear and my sense of when and what to post would…just happen? Hmmm…weird how that hasn’t really happened?!?! I mean, I’m definitely improving and becoming more and more comfortable but I am not exactly where I had hoped to be.

Where I’m at now…

So…it’s kind of timely that I find myself, a year later, taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop with a group of more than 40 people. I think it’s a big step towards making my blog come alive with my passion and personality (and consistency).

For the past month, although I’ve only been posting Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve actually been working like a mad woman in the background planning, researching, and designing. In mid-August, to celebrate my blog’s birthday, I will put everything I am learning in Kristen’s class into practice launching a new look, an added log-line, blog themes and a new blogging schedule.

I know it’ll still take me some time to get my new “groove” up and running smoothly but I hope in the end, this will give you, my faithful and loyal readers, a structure and flow that you can count on and enjoy immensely!

What I have learned over this last year is that blogging is a passion for me. I love it. I have a blast writing and connecting with people. It’s been awesome to focus my time and energy in Kristen’s workshop learning new skills and techniques to improve and build on my passion. I am super pumped and excited for the changes and the renewed vigor and inspiration.

I don’t know where this path will lead. I don’t know if my blog will ever have a huge following (where I’ll make a gazillion bucks off advertisements) and you know what, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Finding something I love to do and am passionate about is a gift and right now, that’s enough!

How have you discovered your passion? Stumbled upon it? Called to it by a higher power?

How do you stay true to you?

I am taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging to Build Your Brand workshop and it’s been a great learning experience thus far. We are a little more than half way through and we’ve been soaking up Kristen’s expertise and advice on branding, log-lines, and how to write posts that have a broad, relatable concept and are emotionally charged. At the end of the course we should all have a better sense of how to use our blogs to connect with readers, create a community, and develop ourselves (our name) as a brand.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the workshop has been meeting so many fellow bloggers and writers and creating a community of support. One such blogger Diana Murdock, took all of our lessons thus far and packaged them into a fantastic blog post today: When I Found Myself; I Found My Muse that I just had to share.

In her post, she wrote about how she lost herself for years in the business of life and the needs of others and how she’s rediscovering herself and putting herself first…and writing like mad.

Although I don’t have children of my own, the story resonated with me because like Diana, I struggle with making time for my personal priorities and dreams. I often get overly wrapped up in the busyness of my life whether it is work, friends and family responsibilities, household stuff etc and I put working on my dreams last. Even the pressure to get out and have as much fun as possible during our precious and limited summer days can take over my “dream” time.

It always comes back to the same thing: balance and prioritizing!

For me, blogging helps me stay true to me…Maybe I am not quite ready to sit down and start writing my book but I know deep inside that writing regularly is a priority for me. I love it and it feeds my soul. Blogging gives me that venue to write, to tap into my creativity, to reach out, to express myself and to enjoy the passion and pleasure I get from writing. In this way, blogging helps me stay focused on making time for my dream and keeping it a priority in my life.

How do you stay true to you? How do you find the balance between your life and your passions?

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