Building a brand

Back in January when I wrote my #bestnine post, it got me thinking, what do my followers like to see? Pictures of Matt and I together, apparently. What do (would) people like to read about on this blog?  More Gabby? Food? Travel? Parenting anecdotes? What is the point of this blog? The main focus? The crux? Uh-oh… existential blog crisis kicking in... what I’m trying to figure out is what would gather a stronger following? Kick up more momentum? Build a readership? I guess I won’t know until I try and that means posting more… about everything until I figure it out.

First and foremost this space is an online portfolio of my work, where I can share my published pieces. It’s an online CV where I can highlight my skills. It’s also a creative space where I can continue writing and telling stories. Maybe what I need is a personal brand, a focus. I don’t think I’m a typical mommy blogger (if there is a typical mommy blogger). I don’t want to focus on the mommy scene. I’m not documenting my total home renovation, I’m not DIY-crafting-handmaking my life. I’m not a foodie. I’m not a beauty addict. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these things and read many blogs based around these very topics. Aspects of all of these topics play into my life and have been written about here, parenting, food, DIY and home decor. I’m just not strongly focused on any particular one. What I am is a storyteller. And I think my life and perspective and endeavors are interesting, if I do say so myself. That’s why it’s called The Heather Chronicles. And right there in my introduction:

Between myself, my rockstar-of-a-husband, two young vivacious girls, a puppy and all of our crazy antics, there’s always a story - I promise. Join me on our adventures at home, abroad and everywhere in between.

There’s always a story and I believe that to be true. I’m a writer, so I want to share them with you.  Hopefully you find them real and most importantly, relatable (trust me, our stuff and our travels should certainly be attainable). Hopefully the posts will make you smile, maybe laugh or even roll your eyes. I think the hook with this blog could be that I do have a chronic illness, and it affects ours lives and those close to us (much to my chagrin), but we just keep rolling. I’d like to have a goal to help myself, those around me and maybe a reader or two who just needs to know they are not alone -- and maybe this space is even just a little bit inspiring.

I truly want to dedicate more time to this space. It doesn’t pay the bills but it keeps me writing and is a creative outlet and you know what? It’s ok if it’s a project just. for. me. Life (and gigs that pay the bills) often get in the way but I owe it to myself to try and bring a vision to life. Crushing goals and achieving dreams and all that. It’s a pretty nice bonus that my hobby, a creative project, a passion, helps move me forward professionally at the same time.  

If you’ve made it this far, thank you! And please, tell me, what do you look for in a blog? Leave a comment and let me know what kind of posts you are interested in and enjoy reading. What will keep bringing you back here? Your feedback is truly appreciated!

Dogs of Instagram

Gabby Fegan, 17 months. “Why are you making me pose for this picture?”

Gabby Fegan, 17 months. “Why are you making me pose for this picture?”

Nacho Cilantro has 102k followers on Instagram. Don’t know who that is? Despite the over 100,000 followers? I’m not surprised. He’s a boxer pup - an extremely handsome gorgeous boxer pup (but aren’t they all?) - that belongs to Jillian Harris, former bachelorette star, host of HGTVs Love it or List it Vancouver edition, and social media darling with a beautifully curated Instagram feed of her beautiful life. I can’t figure it out if I love to hate her or hate to love her… she seems to have chilled out a bit and there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much drama from her feed as there used to be. There have definitely been some group chats with my squad that have been on fire over things she has said or done on her Instagram. I can’t even remember examples of said drama but it was definitely worthy of ½ a day of gossiping at least. Some of her followers judged what she was feeding her son or something, and she fought back, I think. It was good at the time and not memorable so there you have it. The life of an online celebrity.

Anyway. This post is not about Jillian Harris, it’s about her dog. I didn’t know he had an Instagram account of his own, though now that I think about it, I think I’ve seen her “@” the dog’s account before but paid it no attention. The other day though, Jillian posted an introduction to their NEW boxer puppy, Peaches, who also has her own Instagram account, with over 30k followers already! Wtf? She’s absolutely adorable and I’m really jealous. I would love to have another boxer puppy in my life but I will never have another boxer puppy in my life. Promise. More on that in another post.

So seeing all this gets me thinking. I never post photos of my own boxer on Instagram. My last picture of Gabby is from last June. That was seven months ago! Before that was February 2018 and the only other post is from the day we got her! What am I even doing? How am I even a dog lover?  I love Gabby! She’s awesome. She’s the boxer I always wanted. She’s sweet and smart and a part of our family. I don’t even really take that many pictures of her. Matt does, he has some great shots, but they spend a lot of time in the great outdoors together every morning without the kids so he actually has a moment to think of it.

So here I am, envious of all the gorgeous photos of Nacho Cilantro on Instagram and feel like I should be doing better.

I think this is how some of my friends feel about Jillian Harris. Her feed is too much, it’s not “real”, it feels fake and staged and way too much to try and live up to. Her stuff, her travels, her elaborate parties...this glam life she’s presenting as real life. It’s not relatable and unattainable for most of us. Sure, we can scroll her feed and feel inspired but it can also instill a lot of pressure on ourselves to do and be better and for most of us, we just don’t have time (or resources) at this point in our tired, messy lives to even try! It’s for this reason some of my friends won’t follow her feed anymore and that’s ok. If something’s making you feel anything less than good then unfollow that s*#t! But in this case, instead of feeling envious or less than, I am going to feel inspired. I’m going to share the puppy love going on in our house. I’m going to follow Nacho on Instagram and maybe his little sister Peaches. I’m going to like their photos for what they are- cute and funny and some of them make me laugh and some of them make me roll my eyes and most of them make me smile. They give me appreciation for my own dog.

And I kind of want to run a social experiment. How long would it take Gabby to get more followers than me on Instagram? Real true “dog people” are just bonkers for dogs, obviously. Boxer lovers go gaga for boxers, naturally. I bet with the right hashtags, Gabby will hit 500 followers in no time...

A pensive puppy gazing out the window, dreaming of her next romp in the snow.

A pensive puppy gazing out the window, dreaming of her next romp in the snow.

My best 9

I’m late to the party but I’m finally sharing my Instagram best nine collage. I looked it up over the holidays when my feed started to showcase everyone’s top Instagram moments of 2018, but didn’t share it, for some reason or other (my screen time dropped by over 50% over the holidays, according to the iphone activity tracker and for that I am proud! Trying to keep it up but that’s a post for another day).

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This is literally a popularity contest among the photos. Which ones had the most likes? Is it all really just for the likes? If the “best nine” are considered to be the ones with the most likes, then yes, I guess it is. I guess it all depends on what you are using Instagram for. I had 1,570 likes on 49 photos in 2018. Only 49 photos posted to Instagram last year is not very many (in comparison, Matt posted 107). My posting certainly goes through fits & starts.

While my “best nine” doesn’t necessarily translate to the actual “best photos”, or my personal top favourites, it is fun to see what photos prompted the most “likes”. We have:

  • Double trouble #twinsies in the kitchen * Milestone first day of school * Mom & dad go rogue weekend getaway

  • 17th anniversary of our first date selfie, back where it all began at the movies * Our Incredible family halloween costumes * A milestone 5th birthday

  • Now & then photos on the steps of King’s College, 11 years apart to the day * An elusive Mr&Mrs photo on the beach at White Point * All dressed up in Ottawa

Of course, I think it’s a nice collection of photos, I posted each of them to Instagram after all. And they’re all fun or special moments. But it’s not a very fair representation. There are 0 solo pics of the second-born child, and 2 solo pics of the first born (she did however celebrate two pretty big milestones this year). Just 1 picture of the two of them together, 2 family photos, and 4 of just Matt and I, which is hilarious because it’s probably the only 4 photos of just the two of us taken all year, and 3 of my them were taken within a week of each other! We rarely get pictures of just us, so I actually love this result. Is that what my audience likes and wants? More love bird posts? Seriously, my kids are way cuter!

If I were to pick my own top 9 Instagram photos from 2018 it would be these, with actually only 3 new admissions!

  • a pool picture that sums up so many fun summer days, and captures Anna’s zest for life perfectly * A picture from Rosie’s birthday that captures her sweet personality perfectly * A family photo from my birthday which was a super fun day we spent together doing so many of my favourite things!

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In going through my Instagram photos for 2018 and the camera roll on my iphone, there are so many pictures I didn’t post and moments I have not shared! A trip to NYC, road trip to Ottawa, camping adventures, day-to-day life, the list goes on. I enjoy scrolling through my own feed now and then. It’s my own personal, curated photo album. Much better than my mess of a camera roll which currently has, um 27,278 photos on it. Five years of our lives, with so many duplicates and outtakes. I really should clean that up. But yes, it would be nice for my own personal, curated photo album to include many more photos and moments.

And as a so-called lifestyle blogger, I clearly need to step it up. 2019, here I come!

Hot off the (online) press

I have two new assignments published this week. First up, my latest for East Coast Living magazine, a step-by-step DIY fresh winter wreath. I paid a visit to Props Floral Design in the Hydrostone and they walked me through the process of making a wreath. I’m planning to make my own this holiday season and will design it to last all winter. I painted the front door navy blue this summer so I am thinking a silver bow, or going rustic with a burlap bow. I think it would look really nice with our warm white Christmas lights. Learn how to make your own here: DIY Fresh Winter Wreath.

Though the Heavens Fall by Anne Emery is my latest book for review over at Atlantic Books Today. I have reviewed books from this series before, and I do enjoy them. I love reading local and having a connection to the setting. (Fictional) Halifax lawyer Monty Collins and his sidekick Father Brennan Burke sure get themselves involved in a lot adventure. What’s not to love about a good mystery? I learned a lot of history about the conflicts in Ireland through this story along with the help of google to keep up, since I really didn’t know much at all. It’s a deep, complicated and still ongoing issue. I thought Emery handled it well with this book. Given the connection to Ireland through Matt’s side of the family, it was neat to learn more about it, and the fictional story is intriguing too.

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Smelly soup

a recipe for…smelly soup?

a recipe for…smelly soup?

Did you know that turnips stink? Because they do. They smell really bad. Like sweaty gym socks or something. I found this out when I made my last batch of soup. I thought the turnips had gone off when the smell started wafting from the pot of boiling turnips on the stove. A quick check-in with google and I discovered that yup, they smell. Totally normal. On went the stove vent and eventually, the smell faded. I was still nervous. Smelly soup?

Turnips aren’t something I would necessarily seek out from the grocery store on my own but they came in the food box we bought from the school fundraiser, through Nourish NS. I was determined to use up all the produce and needed a new soup for the week. Another quick google search had brought up a cream of turnip-apple soup so I gave it a go. I appreciated the fact that one of the top hits in my search for  “turnip soup recipes” was for Saltscapes magazine (a regional lifestyle publication for Atlantic Canada), so I kept things super local!

CreaM OF TURNIP-APPLE SOUP SMELLS GOOD ONCE IT’S READY

CreaM OF TURNIP-APPLE SOUP SMELLS GOOD ONCE IT’S READY

Despite the smelly turnips, the soup turned out well. It was super easy to make and enjoyed by everyone in the house. If you find yourself with some turnips and want to make something different with them, I recommend this recipe. When I think turnip recipes, I automatically think roasted or mashed alongside a turkey or roast beef dinner, so for me, the turnip soup idea was something totally different.

I made this soup two weeks ago, and at that point decided I was kinda over the soup thing…. Weekly soup, it turns out, is a bit much. A week goes by so quickly and it felt like every time I turned around, it was time to make more soup. Last week went off the rails with strep throat etc., mind you a lot of chicken soup was consumed. Of the Campbell’s variety. Now this week, on this cold and rainy day, I am kind of craving some creamy thai carrot sweet potato soup, courtesy of my Oh She Glows cookbook… it’s a favourite in this house!  

So, whether I slow down on the soup or not, unless I discover something amazing, I will lay off on posting about it, because I think reading about my soup is just as tiring as making it every week! Thanks for hanging in there with me. Four soups later, maybe I inspired you to simmer some up yourself and if not, maybe now you will? I promise it will warm you up. Enjoy!


Turkey noodle soup

Curried carrot, apple and sweet potato

Leek and potato soup with carrots and celery

Cream of Turnip and Apple