Reflecting on 2011

December 30, 2011
Here we are again - the end of another year. They say time goes by faster and faster the older you get and lemme tell ya, I believe it! How can 2011 already be coming to an end? It's been one hell of a year, filled with lots of ups and downs. Truth be told, it's been one of the harder ones for me. I feel like I've learned a lot about myself this past year and have really changed what my goals and aspirations are. For once I am saying that although there have been many great experiences, I am not sad to say goodbye to 2011. But every year I like to take a look back and this year is no different. You can take a look at my previous end-of-the year recaps too if you like: 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

One year ago today, I was on a plane headed to Haiti for the second time. I can't believe I have been lucky enough to experience something like that twice in such a short time span. It was an extreme eye-opening experience and I can honestly say I am still processing it now. I still struggle with the fact that you can't help everyone. When you realize how many people out there who are worse off than you, it feels overwhelming. The sad part is, that I have yet to really do anything with what I have to help the people I can. While in Haiti, I welcomed 2011 and spent the first five days of it, on the side of a mountain in the small village of Prosper, with the most joyful people I have ever met. At the end of the month, I welcomed a niece, Isabella. There is something so special about being an aunt and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

In February, I celebrated the 2nd birthday of Paisley Card Co. It's hard to believe that almost three years ago I started this little adventure while still in college as a hobby and way to earn some extra cash. I am ready to really take control of my business and see where it goes. I know 2012 is going to be a good year for both of us.

The month of March brought my 25th birthday. I can't believe that I'm a quarter of a century old (and only for a few more months!). I mean really, that's halfway through my twenties. This next year I'll be on the other side - ya know, the one that's closer to 30!!

In April, I woke up super early to watch the wedding of the year century. Thank you sweet Kate for showing brides everywhere that lace and sleeves really are the way to do it and their are other options than strapless!!

In May, I resigned from my paralegal job which turned out to be more of a blessing than I had even anticipated. I also had the honor of hosting a baby shower for one of my best friends, Jenny. I can't believe her baby boy is already 4 months old and I haven't even formally met him yet! Skype will just have to do for now!

June was a super exciting and game changing month. On the first, I packed up my belongings and my sweet little pup and headed back (after 19 years) to Nashville (Mount Juliet), Tennessee. It's been a great 7 months so far and a huge learning experience. I've learned more about myself these past months than I have in years. My aunt and I launched an event planning company, The Southern Bees. We are already beginning preparations for the 2012 wedding season and I am so excited to see where this journey takes us. I was able to attend the CMA festival for the first time - and in style I might add. I will never turn down an opportunity to have a private suite. It was so much fun.

By August, I was ready to make a few changes to how I blog and decided that instead of trying to follow all of the tips for a successful blog, I would just stay true to myself and do things how I wanted. I'm so glad that I did because it simplified things and made blogging for business purposes just as fun as blogging for myself.

I'm a list maker so in September I decided to give myself 6 months to complete a list of 26 tasks before my 26th birthday. Some are serious and some silly but I find it's easier to follow through with things when you write them down (and share them publicly). Only 3 months left to complete everything! Can I do it? :) The Southern Bees also competed in an Ultimate Host challenge, and although we did not win, we put together a great fall tablescape inspiration.

October, always a fun month, lived up to it's expectations. I watched scary movies, painted pumpkins, and went on a mini vaca to Florida. In November, I got super ambitious and thought I could come up with 465 different things I was thankful for and while I didn't quite get to that I did take time to reflect on my blessings. I saw Wicked downtown and it was fabulous. I loved every minute of the show. Everyone was so talented! I traveled to Ohio to see my good friends Haley and Brock and celebrate their daughter, Avery's 1st birthday. It was such a special time and I'm so happy I was able to be there! I enjoyed decorating my humble apartment for Christmas and am sad that it's all already down (but super proud I got it down before New Years!).

December has practically been a blur! Lots of decorating, packing, traveling, etc. but all have been so much fun. I had so much fun designing 12 days of Christmas freebies, they ended on the December 12th - which just happened to be the 2nd anniversary of this blog, Road Called Life and more importantly the birth of my newest niece, Evelyn Joy. I traveled back to back weekends (to Gatlinburg, TN for the Creekmur Christmas, Ohio for the Morrison Christmas) to celebrate with family and had a wonderful, crazy-busy time.

I ended last year's recap post with this sentence, but I feel that it has even more meaning to me now. Dream big - and always remember - It will never happen if you never try. I have so many big dreams. So many things I want to do, to accomplish, places to go - I constantly am daydreaming about the future, but I struggle with having the confidence to believe I can achieve everything I want. Well, this year I am through with that and I know I will succeed. Maybe not at first, but eventually - but if I don't try it will never happen. So that is my word for 2012 - Confidence. I'll be back on New Years Day to share more about that and the goals I have for the new year - for myself and my business.

I hope you all have had a wonderful year - and if not - tomorrow is always a new day and a fresh start. We're here for such a short time - enjoy it, enjoy each other, and most importantly do something big with your life.

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2011
I hope everyone is having a wonderful time with loved ones! Christmas celebrations started for me last weekend and have been wonderful! I have another Christmas this evening and had a little time to get on the computer so I thought I would share the Christmas cards I sent out for Paisley Card Co. (If you follow my Instagram feed, follow me on Twitter, or are a fan on Facebook than you have already seen these!) I haven't been on the computer much lately, but I have been working on some new things for the shop (which I can't wait to share with you!) and have been setting my yearly goals for next year - personal + business! Which of course I will share with you next week along with my yearly recap! Enjoy your families + time off from work!

Merry Christmas, Y'all!


12 Days of Christmas | Happy Birthday RCL!

December 12, 2011
Well here we are! Day 12! I hope you have enjoyed these little freebies I have put together! They were lots of fun to design and I hope they make your Christmas just that more beautiful! :) For the last freebie I have these Kraft gift tags - shipping tags + scalloped circles! I included the circle for you to use as a guide for hole punching! Use some bakers twine or ribbon to attach these to your holiday packages! :)

And! Because today happens to be my 2nd blog birthday here is a Road Called Life print. You can read a little more here, why I named my blog Road Called Life. I feel like I was just celebrating my first year and I can't believe I wrote my first post two years ago. (I had a separate blog for Paisley Card Co. and combined those with RCL posts, so that's why my archives date back to 2009). I have actually had this blog for longer than 2 years but 2 years ago today I erased all of my previous posts and decided to start fresh! And I haven't stopped yet! I love it! It's something I love to do and I do it for myself and whether or not a single person ever reads it! But thank you to those who do! :) So Happy Birthday to me and RCL! Can't wait to see where this next year takes us! :)

The download contains both the blue and the black print and are sized to 5 x 7!

Enjoy! Downloads will start immediately! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Christmas Eve Fun

December 11, 2011
Today's free download is all about Christmas Eve activities. If you have little ones and plan on feeding the reindeer and leaving cookies for Santa, then this freebie is for you! :) Use these printables to attach to your reindeer food and to leave out for Santa to see! Then, use the final note card to replace the cookies with on Christmas morning so your little ones get a thank you from Santa himself! :)

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for my final downloadable freebie! And for a little Road Called Life birthday celebration! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Merry + Bright Christmas Cards

December 10, 2011
Here is another free Christmas card.
It's a favorite in my Etsy shop so I thought I would offer it to you guys! :)

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Retro Christmas Part 2

December 9, 2011
As promised, I'm back today with part 2 of the Retro Christmas freebie! Today I have designed a Christmas card to go with the tags and stickers from yesterday. I think the stickers would be great to use to close your envelopes that have these babies inside! :)

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

Oh, and check out this super awesome Christmas card. Even though, as you know, I'm a huge fan of snail mail and sending out actual Christmas cards - this is pretty awesome.

Jingle Bells - Christmas Video Greeting 2011 from Jared Foster on Vimeo.

12 Days of Christmas | Retro Christmas Part 1

December 8, 2011
Today's freebie is part one of two. Today I'm giving away Retro Christmas Gift Tags and Stickers!
You'll have to come back tomorrow to see part 2 of the Retro Christmas freebies!

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

Word to the Wise | Twitter Twips

I have been using Twitter for a few years now (2009) and although I would most definitely not call myself an expert, I would, however, say that I understand what makes a Tweeter an interesting and fun person to follow! I also understand the networking benefits Twitter has to offer and started tweeting from both my personal and business accounts back in February. I only wish I would have started my business account when I started my personal account (back in early 2009) - hindsight is 20/20, right? :)

So again, I'm not an expert but these are my "twips" I've come up with, after observing how people tweet, for creating an enjoyable and successful Twittersphere!

01. Tweet with purpose. It's super easy to tweet every thought that comes to mind but be sure not to bombard your followers with invaluable information, such as every move your cat makes. Chances are the majority of the people who follow you aren't following you for that. A hyper-active tweeter tweets about 15-20 times per day (including retweets and links). It's best to pick a topic - your job industry, a hobby, your blog topic area - and tweet about issues relating to that topic. Be an expert in your field whatever it is and make following you a valuable experience for your viewers.

02. Do NOT set up an auto direct message that will get sent out to new followers. Twitter is supposed to be a place to build relationships and sending out a generic message seems a little robotic to me. I never reply to those automated messages because I know they didn't take their time to create that message specifically for me. It's insincere. I always try to engage a new follower. Usually it's just a simple, "Hey! Thanks for following!" And if I've checked out their website/blog and see something I like I will comment on that as well. You never know when a new friendship or business relationship could bloom and I'd hate to miss out on an opportunity like that because I was too lazy to send a non-automated reply!

03. Do not count your followers. This is so absolutely annoying. The fact that you notice your follow count (as in, you have your current number memorized) seems a bit desperate. Sure, we all like to be heard but focusing on the number of your followers instead of your content is probably reason numero uno why you aren't gaining  followers.

04. Do not tweet about your follow count going up or down. If you're tweeting about the fact that you lost a few followers and you're bummed it just shows that you are paying a bit too much attention to that number and no one cares that you went from 1,289 to 1,280 in 2 days. It probably had something to do with you talking about your follow count or your cat.

05. Do not ReTweet a reply. I'm sure you have all seen this or are guilty of it yourself. I know I am and quite frankly, didn't even think about it until I saw this tweet from Scott Stratten: " I don't understand why some people reply by retweeting the original tweet and adding their answer at the start." He even posted a video, "Why You Shouldn't ReTweet a Reply on Twitter" to explain it a bit further. But the jist of it is, when you are replying to someone's tweet and you put your answer in front of it (i.e. @MichaelBuble I love you too! "RT @StephCreekmur I love @MichaelBuble.") it breaks up the conversation thread. Twitter already does a nice job of keeping your tweets in context and any of your followers can see your tweet conversation if they click the arrow the right. If you reply to a Tweet by re-tweeting the original and adding your answer at the start the only piece of the conversation your followers will be able to see is that tweet alone. I hope that all makes sense - but if not, be sure to check out the video above.

06. Do not sync your Twitter and Facebook accounts. I have both a Facebook and Twitter account for Paisley Card Co. but I use them very differently because they are two different services. They are two distinct networks with two distinct sets of etiquette and norms. You may think linking your Twitter account to your Facebook sounds like a good since you probably Tweet more than you update Facebook, but believe me your Facebook fans will not be impressed with your hash tags and @ mentions. They don't make sense in the world of Facebook. Twitter is also a much less formal atmosphere and a loosely connected network. Twitter is set up to update with short thoughts, comments, quotes, information, etc. very frequently and within 140 characters. Can you imagine how annoying your newsfeed would be if people updated their Facebook status as frequently as they did their Twitter? I actually am friends with a couple of those and they have made it to my "hide" list because it is not enjoyable.

07. Be nice. Say thank you when people re-tweet your stuff, promote your business, or even when they give you a #FF shout out (Follow Friday). Be sure to respond to all of the mentions you receive to continue the conversation someone has started with you!

08. Don't make fun of people. Going a little further with the "be nice" rule - try not to alienate followers or potential followers by making fun of a group of people, activity, clothing, etc. I mainly suggest this for those tweeting as the face for their business. If you are tweeting from a personal account than you can be a little bit more free with your tweets. But those of us who use Twitter as a form of social media marketing you do not want to send the wrong message to past, current, or potential clients.

09. Share the wealth. Promote others as much as you promote yourself (if not more). If you see something you enjoyed, chances are your followers will too. Retweet, share links, Comment on other people's blogs and participate in Twitter conversations. Try and remember that it's not all about you and while Twitter is a great resource for promoting your biz/blog/website, you will be much more enjoyable to follow if you create a community and not an "All About Me" dialogue.

10. Be a real person. Followers like to see tweets of value, @ mentions, and links to interesting content throughout your timeline. Make your Twitter an interactive community and a place to share new ideas by connecting with like-minded people. I realize that sometimes it makes sense to schedule ahead tweets (if you are going to be in a meeting/out of town and really need to share content at a certain time) but Twitter is supposed to be a real-time communication and if someone is constantly scheduling ahead their tweets it makes their timeline feel less genuine and authentic. I have un-followed many a people that don't tweet in real time because it just seems less engaging.

So there you have it! That's just a list of things I have been working on for a few months. Each time I saw something that I found to be uninteresting or untweetworthy I would right down why. Chances are if I find it to be un-enjoyable, others will too. Have a good rest of your Thursday! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Monogram Stickers

December 7, 2011
Today's freebie is for Monogram stickers. I think these would be great to enclose your holiday cards or to add to your gift tags. This download only includes the letters you see below because I seriously did not want to go through the entire alphabet. BUT if you would like to download these and your last initial is not one of the 4 you see below, just leave a comment with the letter you wish to have and I will gladly make a download up for you! :)

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Red Gingham Wrapping

I had a request for some wrapping paper in the gingham pattern I used to line these envelopes so here you go! Since everyone will probably be printing from their home computers the size of your standard computer paper (8.5 x 11) so this can be used for wrapping smaller gifts. If you have a request for a larger size of paper that can be done as well just leave me a comment with the dimensions you want!

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Chevron Christmas Cards

December 5, 2011
Today's freebie is a square Chevron Christmas Card coming in red, blue, or green! The download will include all three colors so you can choose which to print for your holiday cards! And of course - if you'd like a more personalized Christmas card (photo or non-photo) check out the Etsy shop or shoot me an email! :)

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Red Gingham Recipe Cards

December 4, 2011
Whoops! It's again, a little late for a post but I almost forgot today's freebies! I really should have planned the weekend's freebies ahead and scheduled the posts so I didn't have to worry about them, but hindsight is 20/20, right? :) Anyway! Today I have a Red Gingham Recipe Card for you! Can you tell that I love gingham? :) The download comes with (2) 5 x 7 blank recipe cards per 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Just print on cardstock and cut down to size. It's the perfect recipe card to take to your office cookie swap or to give to a friend!

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Red + Green Stickers

December 3, 2011
Hey everybody!  I know it's a little late in the day evening but here is today's free download! Better late than never, right? :) Today I just have some red and green stickers for you! (They are pictured here a little larger than they will be when printed). I think these would be super cute to close your Christmas card envelopes with or to attach to a jar/box of Christmas goodies (cookies, candy, hot chocolate, etc.) to give away. Print on full sheet sticker paper or print on cardstock and attach with baker's twine.

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Dear Santa Stationery

December 2, 2011
Well, I'm back with another, er two more free downloads! First up - Dear Santa Stationery for all those little ones who will be writing out their Christmas wishes and mailing them to the North Pole! Stationery size is 8.5 x 11 and is ready to print right from your home computer. And for you super ambitious parents - check out this Santa Stationery from Design Editor. I can just imagine their little faces lighting up when they receive a piece of mail from the North Pole!

And just for fun, here is another set of Christmas gift tags. They are the same as yesterday's download but with some blue added in. This is the color scheme I am going with this year from decor to holiday wrapping. I'm not sure what prompted this a few weeks back, but it prompted everyone else too. This color scheme is everywhere - but I love it because it's beautiful and has a vintage feel. So, go ahead and add these to your gift tags from yesterday! They will coordinate with those nicely as well!

Downloads will begin immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another free download! :)

12 Days of Christmas | Red + White Gift Tags

December 1, 2011
Ok. Obviously I have to say it... I can't believe it's December! I feel like just yesterday I was freaking out over the fact that the last month of 2010 was upon us and now, here we are entering the last month of 2011! That's insane! Alright, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get to the good stuff! Today being the 1st day of December, I thought it would be the perfect time to start my 12 Days of Christmas. It also turns out that December 12th in my Blogiversary, the 2nd to be exact, so it works out perfectly to be the last day of the 12 Days of Christmas! Now don't get too excited, I aint Oprah. There will be no giving away of my favorite things. Sorry, dears. There will however be some downloadable freebies. Such as gift tags, recipe cards, prints, etc. You'll have to show up each day to see just what exactly will be given away and hopefully, each day will get better and better! First up? These red + white gift tags. There are 4 different tags (PDF will have 8 total tags on it) that can be printed either on a nice cardstock and attached with some baker's twine or printed on a full sheet sticker and attached to your packages that way.

Download will start immediately! Enjoy! And see you back here tomorrow for another downloadable freebie! :)