April 27, 2015

DIY Blogging | Backing up your Blog

Fall For DIY Backing up your blog

One week on from the day we’ll refer to from now on as disaster day we’re back up and (almost) fully functional again. It seems like several weeks have gone by in the past seven days. A true roller coaster of emotions going from panic, stress, tears, hope, elation and then hours and hours of boredom which have elongated the most tumultuous week of my blogging career. I honestly do not wish this on my worst enemy let alone my blogging friends so I’m going to share with you my previous backing up techniques (which have saved the day this week) as well as a few more comprehensive backups which would have made the whole process much easier. Some of this is a little technical and WordPress self-hosted specific but I’ve included a lot of other tips to make sure worst case scenario, you’ll never completely lose everything and best, you’ll be back up in the click of a few buttons.

1. Write a draft.

I started using Evernote as an easy way to make notes, write drafts and fine tune posts from my computer, phone or iPad whenever inspiration struck or I had 5 minutes to spare on a bus or in a queue. It’s great for that purpose, but it’s also a great place to store each post just in case the very worst happens and all your other backups are lost for some reason. I particularly like the organisation of Evernote. It makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for and store away what you don’t need anymore. I keep Evernote open on a separate desktop on my MacBook so it’s also a great way to write without being distracted by Facebook notifications popping up or a stream of Tweets that need to be clicked on. As well as increasing my productivity it also helps me backup. Win, win.

2. There’s no such thing as too many backups.

Re-writing posts would definitely be a difficult task but add that to having to take the photos again and it’s almost not worth the effort. The images on this blog are arguably the most important aspect of the site and losing them would basically mean years of work lost so I already take a lot of care to back these up in several places. I have my external hard drive that houses everything. I also zip up the files and save them to Dropbox. I really want to find a third place to keep them all, especially after the events of the last week. I guess the third would be the blog backup which leads us on to the next tip.

3. Let’s get technical.

If the events of the last week have taught me anything it’s that I am not a web developer. I understand enough to keep me online (most of the time) but that’s probably more dangerous than knowing nothing at all. I really love learning about this side of my blog but if I’m going to try to learn more I need a good backup system in place if anything goes wrong. Most of this info is pretty specific to WordPress self-hosted blogs but don’t worry Blogger/Typepad guys. I’ve got something in here for you as well.

From what I can tell there are two areas of your site you will need to back up. The database and the actual content files. If you were going to do this yourself read this help document for more info. If this all seems like getting your head around actual rocket science then you and me are on the same page and we need to find an easier way. First check in with your host. They may provide an automatic backup system. I’ve heard of a lot of near disaster moments. When all seems lost an amazing host provider has swooped in at the last-minute, waved a magic back up wand and all was restored. My host does provide a backup system, but it’s manual and before last week I had not even thought about using it! In fact, I don’t think I’d even noticed it which seems a little unbelievable now. I’m kicking myself for that. If you know how to access your cpanel look and see if you have this option. If you can’t see it then it’s worth sending a quick email to your host support to ask about it. Even if you hired someone to create your blog or website shoot them a quick message. It shouldn’t take them long to find out and chances are they will already know the answer.

If you’re on Blogger or Typepad you can back up directly from your dashboard. Here is a tutorial for Blogger users and also one for my Typepad friends as well. Read, follow instructions and go back up right now!

So, I’ve now backed up my site using my web host panel and I believe (I will be checking) it’s a full backup. This has already given more peace of mind, but there are still a number of problems with this system. Most importantly I’ll need to remember to backup regularly and any posts published in between will be ‘lost’ (nothing gets lost for real now!) if the site went down. Life would just be so much easier if someone or something else could just keep updating the backup each time we updated our blogs. Well people, we’re in luck. There are several plugin options that do just this.

I had been using BackUpWordpress but I was struggling with a problem with my cron(?!?) and it wasn't backing up regularly. Luckily I did have a recent backup from this I used to reinstall most of the site when it went down but I really want something much more comprehensive and reliable (and works with my cron?).

After researching each of the backup plugins, the one I’m most inclined to use is Vaultpress. It’s been personally recommended by Cyd from The Sweetest Occasion and updates every day. You pay monthly for the plugin but at $5 or about £3 for the basic option it's not going to break the bank!

Backing up was something I knew I should do and I would get around to eventually. In reality, it takes a maximum of an hour to set up your backup system which seems like time well spent in comparison to hundreds more correcting one big mistake!

4. One last tip

Finally, if the worst does happen and you have lost the text from your posts you can use Google's cache to find, copy and repost what you’ve lost. Just find the specific page URL and paste it into this Cached Pages Search. It's a real life time machine that will take you back to the post in the past giving you the opportunity to repost, save or copy as you wish. Actual Internet magic!

 

April 23, 2015

DIY Blogging | Social Scheduling

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I’m always trying to think of useful ideas for the DIY blogging segment over here on Fall For DIY. It’s sometimes difficult to write about blogging subjects in a different way from how it’s already been done and still be full of beneficial information to the reader. That’s why I love it when you ask me questions. It really helps me to look at my processes thoroughly and honestly. I try to find a way to explain what I do in a way that could genuinely be useful for anyone looking to start or already blogging. Or even if you're promoting a product or service online. We’re all working in the same area and whether you choose to take in all of my advice or just mull over one aspect of it, sometimes it's helpful to get a different opinion or listen to an alternative way of thinking.

So I was pleased when Alina from Now On DIY sent me over a Facebook message to ask me about scheduling. How, as a fellow GMT time zone blogger (Alina is from Iceland! How cool is that… no pun intended), I decide how to schedule my posts for a world-wide audience. It really got me thinking because it’s not often that I actually do think about it. Some of my scheduling is so automatic now it comes as second nature and then on the opposite side of the scale some is just non-existent because I forget to do it so often! It was great to get a little jolt to remind myself of what I’m already doing and how I can improve upon the systems I currently have in place.

With that in mind I've decided to write a little bit about the scheduling processes I’m already using for each social network. I thought I’d take a two-pronged approach. Firstly look at how I’m currently scheduling my blog posts to access what is working and what is not working so much. Then additionally discussing what I want to be doing in the future to give myself a motivation boost and see if I can get your opinion or advice if you’re doing something similar and how it's working for you.

Facebook

Currently:

At the moment I share my blog posts once, immediately after I’ve published. I use the Facebook scheduler to check my post before sharing so I can review whether the image is showing full width with the description below. This showcases the post at it’s best and I can see if I’ve used the right image after the crop.

Plan:

To schedule the post with an alternative image and excerpt for a few days later at a different time.

Now that Facebook take so much control over when they show your posts and to who it matters a lot less when you post and more that the post is interesting. A well received post can still be seen days later by your followers at any time they are using Facebook. Perhaps scheduling your post at a time you know many of your followers are online might help to boost the initial response. I’ve not tested this but you can find out when the highest amount of your followers regularly use Facebook in your insights.

Twitter

Currently:

Ahh, Twitter. The one that gets left behind. I love chatting on Twitter but always forget to schedule posts on there, which is crazy because it should be the place I’m scheduling the most. Tweets come and go in a flash and if you want things to be seen by many you have to overcome that fear of repeating yourself over and over. It’s an art getting the message through in new and interesting ways. I once read that you shouldn’t share the same thing more than five times, but I think that depends on how creative you can be with it.

I currently have an automatic Tweet with the basic post details that goes out once I’ve published the post. This can be a little dull though and not very inspiring to click on. I also have my Instagram posts set to share on Twitter via IFTTT but without a direct link people have to work much harder to find the post.

Plan:

I love sharing images on Twitter. It’s such a text heavy place that an occasional image post really stands out, but the problem is that you can’t schedule images in your Tweets. I don’t want to publish the post with an automatic text Tweet, then an Instagram image and then another image based post all to go out at the same time. Overkill! So perhaps I should set a reminder to go back the next day, post another image Tweet and then schedule a couple more for a week/month later covering different time zones. I’m not sure if this is excessive or thorough though?

Instagram

Currently:

I was having a wonderful time on Instagram until recently. I felt I had finally found the ideal strategy that worked well and gave me time to both share my pictures/life and engage with all my lovely Instagram friends as well. I was posting three times a day which meant that I was hopefully reaching my followers all over the world at least once a day and I could also spend a little time seeing what they were getting up to at the same time! Then I threw a spanner in the works by starting my second Instagram account for We Make Collective. I love that Instagram is the only active social media account I will have for the collective (for now at least). To me Instagram really portrays what We Make is about - sharing and connecting your work and ideas - but having two accounts has thrown me off-balance and I need to work on finding my feet again.

Plan:

I want to post three times a day for each account but really my days are not interesting enough for all that content! So I’m going to set up a few shots that I can use as introduction to an idea or thought I’m having once a day. I was really enjoying posting more thoughtful comments on FFD Instagram before WMC Instagram came along. I want to get back to that!

I also want to start doing a series of mini interviews with makers on We Make Collective Instagram. Three images and three questions to post throughout the day. If you’re interested in being featured send me a quick message onInstagram and message you the details. I’m really excited about this idea! It’s been so awesome seeing your #wemakecollective posts and sharing them with a new audience.

Pinterest

Currently:

I’ve wrote about my Pinterest strategy here before so I’ll be brief (this post is getting long!) I Pin my favourite image once I’ve published the post and then schedule a second image with Ahology. Ahology picks the best time to schedule the Pin based on your content so I usually let it work its magic and post whenever it deems fit.

Plan:

I currently leave it at that but I think it would be useful to revisit old content, especially on the run up to holiday specific posts and re-Pin/schedule them again. Do any of you have a different Pinterest strategy when it comes to Pinning older content? I’d love to hear your ideas and processes!

I’d actually love to hear your opinions on any of these ideas. These ways of sharing have mostly evolved naturally rather than forcing myself into someone else schedule. I’ve tried it that way before and I just couldn’t keep up most of the time. If it feels natural I think it’s easier repeat regularly. That said I’m always open to trying new things and seeing if they fit. Give me what you've got!

April 22, 2015

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack

It’s not often that I buy new furniture. This DIY ladder shelf hack is by far the newest piece I own. My home is full of second-hand finds sometimes purchased from charity shops and sometimes rescued from skips. Some of my favourite furniture has literally been about to be torn apart when I got my hands on it (imagine me running through car parks screaming stop at some stunned looking skip men!) The great thing about these items is how easy it is to update and customise them. I never think twice about painting, sanding and even sawing through them in the name of DIY. But when it comes to a new item of furniture I’m always a little more cautious. It’s so shiny and perfect that it just feels wrong change them. So when Homebase asked me to hack a piece of their furniture I was at a loss.

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack

My local Homebase is a 10 minute (on a slow day) walk from my house. I shop in there perhaps 2/3 times a week for the blog so I was more than happy to partner up for a project. The thing is in all the time I spend in there I very rarely shop for new furniture. When I actually started looking through their online product range for this project I was struggling to come up with an idea that would really improve something that was already so well designed.

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack

Then I remembered my insane self adhesive, contact paper collection! I have enough of this stuff to cover the entire contents of my flat and one of the things I like the most about it is how easy it is to apply and to remove once you feel like a change. It’s the perfect material for updating your furniture to work with current trends without being left with outdated pieces in a years time. And guess where I got all my paper from… Homebase of course! (They had a sale once and each roll was £1… it was a great day!)

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack

So a found this black marble contact paper (I’ve since discovered they sell a shiny, shiny gold roll… I might be updating this sooner than I thought!) and decided to hack this fantastic ladder shelf from the Habitat range.

Materials:

Ladder Bookcase | Contact Paper | Measuring Tape | Pencil | Ruler | Scissors | Squeegee

Instructions

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack tutorial

Measure out the shelves length and width and jot down the results. Draw out these measurements onto the back of the self adhesive paper. It usually comes with a handy grid that helps to get it exact.

Pull back a small amount of the backing paper at one edge and press down onto the edge of the shelf lining up the corner as precisely as you can. With a squeegee in one hand pull back the backing paper and smooth over the top at the same time. This is by far the best method I've ever used for sealing down contact paper. No air bubbles or kinks at all! If you do find you're getting some just peel back the paper and smooth over again until you're happy.

Fall For DIY Marbled Ladder Shelf

Do the same with each shelf and carefully cut off any excess with a craft knife.

Fall For DIY | Ladder Shelf Hack

At first I thought that the marble looked too dark but after dressing the shelf it actually reflects the light up towards the items on the shelf creating a lovely bright feel.

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April 20, 2015

DIY Coffee and Coconut Soap Sticks

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I made these coffee and coconut marbled soap sticks after I had the most fun making my Semi Precious Stone Soaps. There's such huge potential for shape and colour and flavour and decoration when you're making soap. I'm just starting to scratch the surface!

For this project I wanted to explore using natural ingredients to not only make the soap look and smell fantastic but that would be kind and beneficial to your skin as well. The soap bases I've used an Argan Oil soap mixed with freshly ground coffee for the darker marbling. Argan oil is amazing at fighting acne and blemishes. Mixed with the coffee it will exfoliate all the dry skin cells and bacteria away for fresh clean skin. If you're like me and need a moisture boost most days that's where the white soap comes in. It's made up from a mixture of Triple Butters (Shea, mango and cocoa butters) soap base combined with coconut milk for the ultimate moisturising suitable for even the most sensitive of skin.

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I love this combination because not only does the coffee give me a well needed morning pick me up (before the real stuff can kick in) but I can also use it for some relaxing vibes during an evening soak as well! AND IT'S MARBLED!!! Total win.

Fall-For-DIY-Coffee-and-Coconut-Marbled-Soap-Sticks-Materials

You will need

Argan Oil Soap Base | Triple Butters Soap Base | Ground Coffee | Coconut Oil | Black Food Colouring | Glass Measuring Jug | Milk Carton | Chop Stick

Argan-Oil-Coffee-and-triple-butter-coconut-milk-soap

Instructions

Mix 500g of triple butter soap with a quarter of a can of coconut milk in the measuring jug and heat in the microwave until it's melted. Depending on the size of the jug you might need to melt a little then add more when there's room.

Once it's all melted stir and pour into a milk carton with one of the sides cut off (cover the spout hole with a piece that you've cut off). I've used a milk carton (mostly because I've seen other soap makers do it... but also) because it's smooth and non stick and you can just cut it open and throw it out after you have used it.

While the white soap sets get started on the black soap. Grind your coffee and mix a couple of tablespoons with 200g of Argan Oil soap. Add few drops of black food colouring to create a bigger contrast between the main colours a mix well.

By now the white soap will be starting to get a film.  This is good. Begin to pour the black soap along one side of the box. Take the chop stick (or stirrer of some kind) and begin to swirl the soap. To make variations in the sticks leave some white soap un-swirled. Take care not to over mix and blend the soaps together. Now just leave for a few hours until it's set and solid all the way through.

Cut open the box and slice into sticks.

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This is definitely my favourite part. Cutting open the soap to see what patterns and colours are inside. Every single one is different!

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I've stored my sticks in a lock seal jar ready for guests to take a fresh stick whenever they like and left a couple of bars for me. I'll be getting my day off to a coffee fuelled start on the outside as well as the inside from now on!

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•••This is a sponsored post. All words and opinions are my own.