One Night…At SoFabCon…80’s Night Got Out of Control!

SoFabCon was not all fun and games. There was a lot of running around, snow, and amazing educational sessions. But one night at band camp SoFabCon, it was nothing but playing around. Amy, Mallery, and I had planned for 80’s bowling night since the moment we heard the announcement. Someone said neon lights and it was on!
This post is going to be much more of a photo bomb than a post because although I’ll caption them, the photos speak for themselves. After our sessions on Saturday, we ran to our room to get “ready” for this night.
Size does matter! Don’t let anyone lie to you.
And of course there was prom posing.

But here’s where it got awkward because that’s what we do!

Yes, this was going well!

Until the #awkwardstretch fell apart.

And I was violated. It’s all fun and games until someone gets violated. It’s OK though. Summer and I will make beautiful babies together. With her figure and my coloration, we can’t go wrong!

Stop laughing Jillian!

At that point, there was no other option but to head to the bowling alley. We met up with the creator of the nesticles and proved once again that size does matter. It was a good night!

“Some nesticles are held for charity,
And some for fancy dress.
But when they’re held for pleasure
They’re the nesticles that I like best.
My nesticles are always bouncing,
To the left and to the right.
It’s my belief that my big nesticles
Should be held every night.”

One Day…At SoFabCon…I Learned How to Code My Way Out of a Wet Paper Bag

Taking Over the World with WordPress and HTML
by Jay Thornton and Chris Whittle
Disclosure: I have not been compensated for this post. I am writing this to share my experiences from SoFabCon 2013 in hopes that someone might learn something and so that I don’t forget a thing! As always, all opinions are my own so if I get anything wrong, it’s all my fault!
It was once said, in a public forum, lovingly of course, by some bunny that I couldn’t HTML my way out of a wet paper bag. This might or might not be true. OK, so it’s totally true. “Code” to me is like Algrebra. 

A + B = AB. You know, those things I work out every morning in hopes that they will once be as cut as they were pre 4 c-section 8+ pound babies ago? A + B cannot equal 5, or 6, or infinity. Numbers are numbers, letters are letters, words are words. 

I write. It’s really all I know how to do. I might not be good at it, but this is what I do and there is no place in my world for “code”. I write words. Not 

or 

. None of that belongs in my world. Or does it?

Apparently it does. Apparently I should learn it. Apparently expressing that it’s all Greek to me is not acceptable in the blogging world. And so, when I heard that Jay and Whittle, the original monkeys, were going to teach a session on this elusive beast, this HTML monster, I knew I had to sit in. I mean, they said I could take over the world. Now that DOES fit into my world just fine.

So, yea, that’s me. Sitting front and center with the half pink hair. I’m a good student like that (besides that put me in optimal heckling position and that’s pretty important in my world too). I was ready to learn. Mind clear, pen and paper in hand, let’s get this thing started!

Jay Thornton, VP of Technology for Collective Bias opened with the “basics”. He explained that HTML, or the building blocks, controlled things on my blog like the headers, footers, and sidebars. And CSS (don’t ask me what that stands for, I have no clue) makes it all look right with position, color, font, and size. You know, the pretty stuff.

Common CSS changes include:

  • Background colors and images
  • Fonts – Use Google Webfonts for 5000+ free fonts
  • Content area widths (I can’t express enough how important this is to the appearance of your blog. 1″ thick blog post widths are not pretty people!).
  • Plug ins and widget styling
  • Use Global CSS by Joddit (Confession: I have “so confused” next to my notes on this part!) to make changes. We’ll have to ask for clarification on this part later.

As they often do, this was a tag team effort between the dynamic duo. Chris Whittle, Director of Technology at Collective Bias, stepped up to the plate next. Don’t let him fool you, he is rarely serious although he does know his “stuff”. 

Key Points:

  • Chrome Webmaster Tools: 
    • Use to inspect an element and make a change. Hey, I can do that! 
    • The cool part of this is, you can change stuff, but unless you hit save, it won’t stick. Meaning, I can experiment all I want without messing up everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve. 
  • Keep WordPress up to date for security. Remember: Plugins are your weak points.
There was much more said that I don’t understand. Heck, I don’t understand half of what I wrote above but I’m willing to work on it. Hopefully I got my notes right. I’m sure Whittle will correct me if not. 

They opened it up for questions and answers at this point. Guess who the first one to open their mouth was? Yup…ME! You see, I’m on Blogger. I told Whittle this not so long ago on a Google chat about other business and he admitted to losing a little bit of respect for me (he was kidding…kind of). I know that Blogger isn’t as stable and I know I need to make the switch to WordPress. Remember at the beginning? They said I could take over the world! I’m on this! So how do I go about that?
  • Don’t be scared (my biggest hurdle!)
  • Back up your current site. 
  • Export, import, then move your domain.
  • PAY FOR HOSTING! They recommend:
So, am I ready to take over the world with WordPress and HTML? No, but I’m not nearly as afraid of it as I was before. I learned that I can make changes that won’t stick unless I hit the save button. I actually know what some of the acronyms and codes mean now. Things that start with < and end with > don’t frighten me nearly as much. And I’m ready to take the WordPress plunge now that I kind of/sort of know how to do it. I at least know where to start and that’s further along than I was when I hit the ground in Arkansas!

I probably could have used a 10 hour one-on-one course from these two but this was a great one-hour session and I’m glad I sat in. I’m pretty sure I’m dangerous enough now to code my way out of a wet paper bag anyway!

One Day…At SoFabCon…I Learned I Could Take Amazing Photos Because Rachel Said So!

I’ve been playing this conference off as all fun and games, but we really did come to learn. And learn we did (said in my best Yoda voice). The first session that really struck my fancy was “Through the Lens of a Photographer: Photography for the Digital Age” taught by none other than the infamous Rachel Rockwell of Bubbly Nature Creations. I say infamous because in the blogging world, that is exactly what she is. We admire her, we adore her, we want to hate her for her enormous talent both in the kitchen and behind the lens, but in the end, admiration wins out and we all absolutely love her. And she’s just as nice as she is talented. 

I take decent photos right? Why would I want to listen to this young women? What could she possibly teach me? I know how to use my camera in auto mode just fine. Well, let me show you some of her work before we get started.
Irish Cream Ice Cream Cupcakes: Photo compliments of Rachel with permission.
Double Tomato Bruschetta: Photo compliments of Rachel with permission.
Pop Rocks Mallow Pops: Photo compliments of Rachel with permission.
OK, so yea, that’s why! She’s the master of photography, staging, lighting, and everything else that I aspire to be. She wanted to talk. I needed to listen. And lucky you…I’m here to share her secrets with you!

But really this lovely young woman has no secrets. She shares daily and I’m like a sponge. Let me explain in advance though, I have not been able to put her advice in to practice since I’ve been home. I had my notes on paper and all of her vast knowledge in my head, and I came home ready to put it all to use. But alas, American Airlines had other plans for me. 
My camera is literally in pieces so I’ve been unable to try out what I learned . What I’m putting forth here is just her word. I wanted to add my “ah-ha” moments to it, but at this point, that’s not possible. So in a nutshell, and in layman’s terms, here’s what I learned. 

Watch your shadows and light sources.
  • Use simple white foam board behind objects for indirect light.
  • Hold white foam board under a person’s face for soft light. 
  • Set up a tabletop in a window for natural lighting and use it for everything.
  • If you have to use a flash, use one that goes up 90% to avoid full-on flash.
Watch your angles when shooting:
  • Take straight on photos only when they make sense (cupcakes, plates of food, etc.).
  • Use slight above angles for things like soup and beverages so that you can actually see what’s in the bowl or cup.
  • Overhead angles are nice when you want to get the full picture.
  • Avoid taking photos too close or you’ll miss the big picture. 
  • Avoid taking photos too far away and not filling the frame.
  • Experiment. It’s the only way you’ll ever figure out what works for you.
The Rule of Thirds:
  • Imagine a tic tac toe board (my words, not hers). Divide your photo, your lens, into 9 parts like that. 
  • Put your focal point in the + signs of the board and the camera will do the rest! If you want to focus on someone’s eyes in a photo, make sure the + signs are on their eyes and shoot. 
  • Apparently this is a biggie! Don’t ever skip this step. You can stage all you want, your lighting can be perfect, but if you don’t follow the rule of thirds, your photo will just not be amazing.

Find your style and stick with it:
  • There are many styles of photography. You need to find yours and own it!
  • Make your style match your blog, your lifestyle, and your personality. 
  • Are you a minimalist, a light and bright, dark and subtle, dramatic, journalistic, lifestyle? The list goes on and on. 
  • I’ve decided I’m a combination of light and bright meets lifestyle. I need to keep my photos fun but include my kids as much as possible. That’s what works for me and Rachel confirmed my suspicions. 
Photo Editing Tools:
  • Photo Shop Elements is great for beginners.
  • Pixlr.com is free and simple to use.
  • PicMonkey.com is another free and simple to use editing tool.
  • Watch your whites: When editing and adjusting color, pay close attention to your whites. They will guide you to easy and proper photo editing that doesn’t look fake. 
  • Yes, add text, but don’t let it take over your photo. Good rule of thumb: No more than 10% of your photo should have text on it. 
  • Resize photos to the correct size for your blog before saving them, and before loading them to your post to avoid slow site resolution.
  • Watermarks are fine, but do not let them take over your photo. Be discreet.
Photos and social sharing:
  • Vertical photos get more hits on Pinterest.
  • Horizontal photos do much better on Facebook and Google+. 
Technical Stuff I don’t understand:
  • Aperture: The lower the number, the bigger the diaphragm which helps with lighting. Two or lower is best. 
  • There’s a whole bunch more on settings, but basically, read your manual and get out of auto mode. You aren’t doing your camera or yourself any justice by hiding behind the easy button. 
“Don’t be afraid to be wrong!” ~ Stewart Cox

This is where Stewart Cox stepped up to the plate to add some additional words of wisdom. That statement above? That applies in photography, and in  life! You’ll never achieve greatness if you’re always focusing on what you might do wrong. Take chances! Make mistakes. How will you ever know your own potential if you fail to even try? Stewart feels that lighting is most important. Master that, and the rest will come.

General Food Photography Tips from Rachel:
  • Use white plates for food photography for contrast. It’s the easiest way to make your food stand out.
  • Use craft paper for backgrounds. It’s cheap, simple, and an easy way to highlight your food without a lot of fuss. 
  • Arrange things in odds for focus. OK, this one is hard for OCD me. Evens are good. You have one thing here…one on the other side. Evens make sense (in my head) but her point is well taken. See her photos above. If you have 3 cupcakes, there will be a peak to focus on and your photography will pop. 
And there’s that. I’ve gotten good at that!

That’s pretty much what I learned at band camp SoFabCon that day. I can’t wait to get my camera issue resolved so that I have a camera to test all of these theories out with on my own. I’ll read my manual this time. Pinky swear. Rachel seems to think that’s important and after seeing her photos and listening to her speak, I guess I better put more stock in that!

Be sure to stop back by. I have some SEO words of wisdom and potty jokes coming to you soon. Dan Morris taught me both and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

In the meantime, I’d love to see some of your photography and hear your tips and tricks. I could use all the help I can get!