You know those “life purpose” exercises when they ask you to name the one thing you could spend hours and hours doing and completely lose track of time? That thing where if the walls were falling all around you, you’d hardly notice because you were so focused?

For me, that’s messing around with the design of this blog.

I am not a coder. So not a coder. But I’ve found a few tools that make it super fun and relatively easy to punch up your WordPress theme.

Tip: Proceed with caution.

Editing your theme’s CSS file is best done with the safety net of a real, live coder. (Thanks for always bailing me out, John!)

My 5 favorite tools for pretending I’m a web designer

1) WhatFont

Typography is a true art. For those of us who have no idea what we’re doing, there’s WhatFont.

WhatFont lives in your Google Chrome toolbar. When you see a stunning display of type on a site and want to know what fonts it uses, you simply click the WhatFont icon and mouse over the type. Presto magic. It even tells you the font size, line height, and color. Awesome tool.

Tip: Don’t use this tool to rip off your favorite blog’s font combinations.

Instead, use WhatFont to help you develop your font knowledge and build a collection of your own favorites to experiment with.

2) colorPicker

Similar to WhatFont, colorPicker offers up the colors used on websites. You can also change colors on a site to see how they look before committing them to CSS, and collect colors to build yourself a lovely little pallet.

3) Firefox’s Web Developer Tools

See a cool feature on someone’s site and wonder how they made it?

You can either view the page source and comb through HTML, or in Firefox, select Tools > Web Developer > Inspector. Then mouse over the element you’re so in love with and see if you can find hints about it.

Here’s an example. See the lovely display of Instagram shots on P.S. – I Made This‘s sidebar?

Screenshot 2014-01-10 15.53.41

 

A quick look with Inspector says something about “snapwidget.” So I Googled snapwidget and guess what? The secret to her sidebar magic is revealed.

I went ahead and added my own SnapWidget to this site after making a few changes (I center aligned the images and beefed up the space between the images).

Tip: Don’t go crazy with widgets and tools. You’ll look like a jerk.

4) Pinterest

Oh how I love the people who sit around and design social spec guidelines, free font icon sets like the ones I use on my site, and other beautiful tools for taking matters into your own hands. Here’s my board on web tools. I look forward to adding to it.

5) And one final tool I haven’t used much yet but plan to in 2014: Codecademy

Learn to code for free. Yeah baby.

Last year was one of the hardest years of my life. But it came with so many gifts.

My twin pregnancy was the biggest physical challenge of my life.

The unexpected gift: As it turns out, my body is stronger than I ever imagined. So much stronger than my mind.

I carried my twins to 36 weeks gestation. They weighed six pounds each. And both of them came home from the hospital with us five days after they were born.

Bonus: My mom felt so bad for me she spent months at our house last year. This woman has three children and two step-children. Nothing phases her.

not afraid

I spent all of 2013 either pregnant with twins or with newborn twins.

Which meant my brain was worthless.

My short term memory? Obliterated.

I couldn’t even remember my newborn son’s name in the hospital when the nurses asked me. On multiple occasions.

atlas not his name

The unexpected gift: It forced me to release the goals I set up for my business and ignore the dirty kitchen floor while I spent most afternoons unconscious in my bed.

Note to pregnant twin moms: I promise you it’s easier to have newborns than it is to be pregnant with twins. You are experiencing the worst right this minute. It will get better. Especially after the first four weeks, which are so brutal you won’t remember them anyway.

I feel like my preschoolers were cheated out of a whole year with me.

The unexpected gift: Even though I spent every afternoon in bed, they probably saw a lot more of me than they did when I was working. And just like when I was a working mom, when I showed up for dinnertime, bath time and bedtime, I was all there. Even if I couldn’t get my belly to fit on my son’s bottom bunk for storytime.

Also, I think they’re handling it all okay.

happy boys

We were crazy stressed in the financial arena.

Providing for a family of six, plus our beloved 22-year-old au pair, is no small responsibility for my husband. When we go food shopping, we buy four loaves of bread at at time. Every trip to the grocery runs at least $300, even when we’re trying to be careful.

A trip to the pediatrician to get the twins’ ears checked for infections runs $70. We have one child in preschool, which costs more than my first year at Florida State. Even buying socks for all these kids is expensive!

The unexpected gift: We are blown away by the kindness of our friends and neighbors. We are constantly on the receiving end of bags of clothing and toys, even for our older kids. And even better is the feeling of passing these gifts on to other families when we our children no longer need them.

Another unexpected gift is that I’m dipping my toe back into work this year. Which means I get to hang out here.

EATagency hq

I’m sure I could go on, but I’m ready to MOVE ON.

Here’s to 2014. Let’s do it.

Every time I have a drink with my good friend over at Sara Bakes Cakes, I start harassing her about how she doesn’t blog enough. She’s not even halfway through her Porkslap and I’m already rattling off all the “quick! easy!” ways she could keep her blog alive.

I realize we can’t all be Sheri, but look at Nina! If she can do it….!

Ahem.

I posted here a whopping 13 times last year. (13 times in 2013! At least I was symmetrical.)

But the crazy part is how much I think about this blog.

I write at least 5 posts a week. I keep lists of them. I write snappy ledes. I find the perfect image.

In. My. Head.

So here’s what we decided:¬†For the month of January, we will write one post each week.

Why we bother

Even though I am a book coach, I actually do not believe everyone in the world needs to be read. Including myself.

But I’ve come to realize that it’s personally important to me to keep this blog going.

It’s how I connect with myself and other people who are on the same path as me. I’ve found so much hope and inspiration and laughter from other bloggers, and this is my small way to join the conversation.

So there you go. Every week in the month of January I will be sitting down and picking from my long list of blog ideas on Springpad. And presumably Sara will be doing the same. And at the end of the month we can assess and see how that pace felt, and if we want to continue.

Who else is in?

xo

P.S. Happy New Year from the twins!

merry christmas from the twins

homework in pajamas

Here’s a tip for making your fall and winter evening routine more sane:

Bathe the bigger kids before dinner.

Here’s why:

The after dinner hour is one of the craziest times of day — kids are tired, babies seem to nurse constantly, dad gets home and everyone wants to climb all over him, parents are hungry, and there’s tons of basic household stuff to get done in the evening. Getting baths done before dinner takes one big thing off your list.

Older kids don’t get very dirty during dinner (we have a 5 year old and almost 4 year old)

Our kindergartener prefers to do homework after dinner. Having him in his pj’s already means we can take more time with homework, look through his school papers from the day, and turn homework time into quality time together. (Like the photo above, which my husband took before coming into the house one night.)

Having kids in pj’s sends the signal that the day is winding down.

It’s cold and dark. PJ’s are warm and comfy.

Having your older kids in pj’s for dinner means they have more time for quiet play, books, or free time before bed. (While you make lunches, clean up from dinner, and take care of younger kids who need more hands on attention.)

It also means more quality time with working parent(s) who tend to come home right in the thick of nighttime to-do’s.

It results in a much calmer evening routine.

So that’s what’s working for us right now.

What’s your tip for making the evening madness more sane?