2018: The year in review

Happy new year, blog friends. As 2018 winds to a close, I’m taking a look back on some of my blog highlights from the past year.

This is probably going to be a pretty short post because the blog was collecting cobwebs for much of the year whilst I was busy doing real-life stuff: school, work, remodeling our bathroom, planning for our son’s wedding in June, etc.

My son and daughter-in-law with my two grandkitties

Here’s a picture of my son and daughter-in-law and my two new grandkitties. Aren’t they just the most adorable couple? The humans are kinda cute, too.

Anyhoo, in between all the schooling and working and wedding planning and such, I squeezed in a little time for the blog. The biggest thing I did was update my site and move it to WordPress over the summer. Even though it didn’t result in any new content, setting up the new site and re-formatting all the old posts was a huge time suck.

Then right after I finished the update, I took a class in digital design and learned the right way to build a website. Next time I attempt an undertaking like this, I should probably take the class first, before I blindly plow ahead and try to figure things out on the fly.

My favorite posts

As for posts in 2018, my personal favorites were …

White chalk-painted wicker wreath with newspaper chicks and flowers

… my newspaper chicks wreath, which I wrote about in April.

Black and white chalk-painted address sign by Wisconsin Magpie

… the home address sign that I painted in March.

Turkey assemblage made from metal and aluminum kitchenware and garden trowel feet

… the two turkeybots I created (with a little help from my husband) before Thanksgiving, including one I made from a bundt pan and a vintage juicer

Turkey bot assemblage made of thrift-store junk

… and one I made from an old funnel, apple slicer and coffee basket.

bathroom with white wood walls, subway-tiled shower stall and red accents

I was also kind of partial to the posts I wrote about our new, improved downstairs bathroom.

Your favorite post

Hands-down my readers’ favorite post of 2018 was the one about my woven rope wreath.

Sisal rope woven wreath

Technically, the post was published in December of 2017, but I’m counting it among this year’s offerings because it was literally my most-viewed post every single day in 2018.

Photos from that post have been shared thousands of times on Pinterest, and based almost entirely on that one wreath, Pinterest has become by far my biggest referrer (where most of my blog traffic comes from).

Screen shot of wisconsinmagpie.com Pinterest pins showing pictures of woven sisal rope wreath

I’ve had a few posts that have captured a bigger-than-average audience before, but this one blew them all away — and has actually made it fun to read my blog analytics.

Every time I notice a bump in pageviews, I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and investigate. Usually what I discover is that that my rope wreath post got shared by a bigger blog or website. In the last couple weeks, for example, the post was shared by a Canadian lumberyard, an Arizona blogger and a digital design magazine, and I’ve been getting referral traffic from all three. (And if any of those publishers are reading this now, thank you!)

I’ve also gotten a ton of emails from random people asking questions about the wreath. Apparently my directions lacked a few key details, like how much rope it took, what size of rope I used and how big my wreath frame was. For the record, the answers are 50-ish feet, 1/4-inch and 12 inches, and, for the millionth time, here’s a link to the rope I used.

Next time, I’ll try to give better directions up front, although I don’t mind getting questions. Up ’til now, this blog has mostly been a one-way communication tool, and I have to say it’s nice to hear from actual readers, even if they’re taking me to task for giving half-baked instructions.

In other fun/frightening news

In other blog-related news, I made my first-ever IGTV video this year. It didn’t exactly break the internet with the number of views, but it was fun/frightening to try something new.

I’m not sure how serious I am about getting into IGTV, as filming myself is waaay outside of my comfort zone, as you can probably tell by my not-quite-Oscar-worthy on-camera performance. But as somebody who was a print newspaper designer for too many years, the fear of getting left behind (again) is a strong motivator to adapt to new media.

makeshift studio set up in the basement with lights, tripod and table

For Christmas this year, my newlywed son, who is also a filmmaker, set up a little photo/video studio for me in my basement. It’s very simple, but it’s got lights in all the right places and an actual tripod for my phone/camera to sit on, so my signature move of shooting with one wobbly hand whilst I attempt to demonstrate something with my slightly-less-wobbly other hand may be a thing of the past.

New year, new goals

As for the year ahead, I look forward to lots of collecting, crafting and creating and hopefully a few more videos (with fewer wobbles in them).

In a perfect world, I’d resolve to create a post a week or some such specific number — because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all the marketing classes I’ve been taking lately it’s that goals should be SMART (Significant, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-based). But, the reality is, I blog for fun, not profit, so I sneak in blogging time when I can, and committing to a specific number of posts per week or per month is just not going to happen. Some days I have free time. Some days I don’t.

I do really love having a home on the interwebs, though, so I’m definitely going to keep at it as time allows.

If you want to see what’s next, follow me on social media or sign up to get my posts emailed to you. And if you’ve got any questions or comments, leave them below. I really do love to hear from readers, especially when they’re not yelling at me for screwing something up.

2016 | Favorite projects and posts

Because all the other bloggers are doing it, I felt that I, too, should offer a Year in Review for Wisconsin Magpie … So here it is.
Best of 2016 Blog Posts
Let me start by saying, I don’t have a whole lotta posts to choose from when compiling my “Best Of” list because I fell off the blogging bandwagon for a while.
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
Thankfully, my husband and I took a couple of vacations that helped me get back on track. I love writing posts about our travels. They’re basically a digital scrapbook for me, but hopefully a few other people find them entertaining or informative, too.
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
Personally, I love to read other people’s travel blogs, especially if they’re writing about some place we’ve gone to before or are thinking about going to in the future. (The best part of the travel blog is that if you get bored, you can just close your browser window and walk away, unlike in the old days when you’d have to sit through your Uncle Frank’s entire slide slow, and just when you thought you were free, he’d pull out another carousel of Grand Canyon pictures.)
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
Anyhoo, if anybody is still with me, in March we went to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Then in September we went to Mackinac Island.You can click on the links if you want to read the posts. Or not.
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
In addition to my travel posts, I did some fun project posts. One of my favorites was my Ohio Star Quilt Square Chair.

Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
I love the chair, but when I shared the post on Hometalk, most of the comments were about the table I had it sitting next to. Some of the commenters said the table should be my next project; others said the table was stunning as is in all its weathered, chippy glory. For the record, I am in the “stunning as is” camp.
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
Another favorite project post was the one about my Twine-wrapped Dog and Cat
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
… mostly because they were thrift store rescues. (Cue the Sarah McLachlan ballad here.) I am a sucker for a good thrift store rescue.
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
In October I made this Halloween sign
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts

… and in November I made my little Turkey Robot (from a vegetable steamer and various other metal parts). The Turkey Robot is my all-time No. 1 most-viewed and most-pinned post.

Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
If I die tomorrow, I’m pretty sure my obit will read, “Lisa Cestkowski, inventor of the Turkey Robot, died at her home today, surrounded by her beloved cats, Calvin and Hobbes, who are also the two prime suspects in her murder and stand to inherit her entire fortune, which, unbeknownst to them, consists wholly of knickknacks, geegaws and broken thrift store ‘finds’ that, much to her husband’s chagrin, she had stockpiled in the couple’s basement with intentions to make over into ‘something fabulous.'” Or something like that.
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts
My post about my collection of Secondhand Stars also got a lot of page views and comments. (And by “a lot” I mean 285 and 8, respectively.) (Quit judging me.)Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts

I ended the year blogging about this little Train Case Makeover

Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts

… which garnered (even by my standards) very few page views. (In part, I think the low page views were due to the fact that I forgot to put links to it on social media, so I’m including it in this post, in hopes that at least somebody sees it.)
Wisconsin Magpie Best of 2016 Blog Posts

My last post of the year (except for the one you’re reading now) was about a shirt that I stenciled for a university that doesn’t exist.

Best of 2016 blog posts
So there you have it. Thanks for following along. And please, share links to any posts you love/like/are not totally repulsed by. It is great for my ego when I go to my analytics page and see that someone other than my mother has been reading my blog.


Blundering into the blog world

After years of procrastination and false starts, I finally (and very tremulously) pushed the “publish” button on Blogger for the first time on Jan. 1.

Six months and 38 posts later, blogging is still an unfolding mystery to me, but I have learned a lot. Mainly I’ve learned what not to do.

In the interest of full disclosure, here are my top five blogging don’ts:

1. Don’t be afraid. For years, I kept a very low profile online for a variety of reasons. Mostly because I was afraid to put myself out there and say something stupid, which would cause people to laugh at me, which would lead to my stupidity going viral, which would result in my boss seeing the questionable post, which would mean I would get fired, which would cause me to be disbarred (even though I am not now, nor have I ever been, a practicing attorney), which would get me blacklisted from every job at every company in North America, which would result in me not being able to pay my bills, which would lead to me losing my home.

I had built up this complex Rube Goldberg Machine of Doom in my head that was hard to get past. But gradually I’ve learned to put my fear in perspective. I’m writing about newspaper chickens and thrift store makeovers, after all, not sharing government secrets and atomic bomb recipes. My posts might be stupid, but (at least so far) they have not led to disbarment, unemployment or homelessness.

2. Don’t blog while sleepy. Regardless of how badly I want to get a post finished before bedtime, if I’m nodding off at the keyboard, I have to call it a night.

If I try to push through, mistakes are made (whoops: 2,015 minus 1,848 does not equal 158), I write things I regret (and end up deleting the next morning, and no, I’m not going to re-mention them here) and on at least one occasion I accidentally pushed the “publish” button when I meant to push the “save” button. Those two buttons do quite different things. Why Blogger puts them right next to each other is a serious design flaw, in my humble opinion.

3. Don’t write posts that require me to do math. Sure, one subtraction error I can pass off as a “but-I-was-tired” mistake. More than that, people might start to notice a pattern.

Math has always been a problem for me. Even in the 8th grade school spelling bee, when I was one of the final 10 kids left standing and was so close to moving on to the regional bee I could taste it, what was the word I went out on? Mathematics. Seriously, it’s spelled with an “e” in the middle. It’s pronounced “math-a-matics.” Why on earth would you put an “e” in there instead of an “a”? Just another reason to hate math in my book.

4. Don’t worry about what people who know me in “real life” think about my blog. Or my hoarding tendencies. Or my “pathetic attempts at humor.” Or my penchant for writing in sentence fragments.
I like what I like. If you don’t like it, don’t read my blog. And if you’re going to hate-read my blog, that says more about your pettiness than my peccadilloes.

As a wise woman once said, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” And, yes, I just called Taylor Swift a “wise woman.” Deal with it.

5. Don’t get hung up on statistics. My blog is my hobby. I have no advertisers or sponsors, and I make no money on it. I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m more than OK with that. Being ad-free and sponsor-free means I am beholden to no one. I can write what I want when I want. And I like being one of the “little guys,” a David amongst the Goliaths.

But still. I find myself checking Blogger’s statistics occasionally. Sometimes even obsessively. And I can’t help getting a bit of a thrill over a slight bump in the numbers and trying to figure out why. (Did I write the perfect SEO headline? Was I featured on one of the bigger blogs I had linked to? Was my post just that good, that the world suddenly decided to beat a path to my blog’s door?)

The reality is, when I have a spike (300 pageviews in one day!!!), usually at least half of the visits are from bots. And I’m guessing none of them are checking out my site for my how-to’s or my half-baked humor.

So that’s what I’ve learned about blogging in six months. I could write volumes about what I don’t know yet. And someday I probably will. But it’s getting late and I’m getting sleepy, so I’m going to call this post done before I write something I regret.

**This post was updated the morning after it was originally posted to correctly identify music superstar Taylor Swift. The original post erroneously referred to her to as Taylor Smith. My apologies to Ms. Swift. I’m sure her reputation will recover. I wish I could say the same about my own.