Year In Review: Highlights From 2018

Greetings! It’s that time again! Every year I like to highlight some of my best moments, favorite outfits, and popular blog posts from the past year. I think this is my favorite post to write, and I hope you enjoy looking back over 2018 with me.

This year has been one of changes. Big ones — especially in my personal life, but also in my business.

Business-wise, I hired an assistant last January. Her name is Amy, and she has been a huge help behind the scenes. She creates most of my graphics, puts together my weekly newsletter, and helps with Instagram and Facebook. She also did a lot of work on my holiday gift guides. Unfortunately she isn’t local to me, so all of our communication is via telephone and text, but it’s working out well so far.

Just so you know, I am always the one writing the blog posts and social copy, responding to comments, and answering emails. It is very important to me to be the one communicating with you all, but it’s been great having some help with graphics and administrative tasks behind the scenes.

More recently, I hired a local assistant to help manage the orders and returns that have become a large part of my business since I shifted my focus to fashion. That has taken a huge load off my shoulders, as having those tasks hanging over my head and cluttering my office was draining and limiting my productivity. Having Kate come in once week to help with that keeps my office more orderly and peaceful, and also leaves me more time to do the things only I can do.

Now that we’re getting comfortable with one another and developing a good system for various tasks, I’m hoping to utilize both of these ladies even more in 2019.

I also switched affiliate networks mid-year this year, and it took some time to get acquainted with a new system and a new company, but I think I’m finally hitting my stride, and I’m glad I made the switch.

On a more personal note, we started off 2018 knowing it would be a big year for our family, but we had no idea how big. We knew our younger daughter would be moving on to middle school and our son would be graduating from high school and going off to college, but at that point we didn’t know if he’d be staying local or going across the state to a large university. We also had no idea that we would discover a new house, fall in love with it, and move in the midst of all the other changes.

Everything worked out well in the end, but not without some growing pains, and I’m definitely hoping 2019 is less eventful.

Before moving on, let’s take a look back at 2018.

Year In Review: Highlights From 2018

JANUARY

January started off with a bang as far as blog traffic goes. For some reason, it was one of my biggest months of the year — in third place after October and November, respectively.

The most popular post I published in January, according to Google Analytics, was A Peek Into My Closet. It’s funny to look back on that one now, especially considering I had no idea I would be leaving that closet behind when I created that post. I guess to be fair, I should share a peek into my new closet. Maybe I’ll do a post like that next month.

My favorite outfit from January was this color block sweater outfit. I actually just found this sweater in the basement in a box of a few things I put away at the very end of the last winter season. I was so excited to discover that I kept it. I’m hoping to revive it with a quick trip to the dry cleaner’s.

FEBRUARY

February’s most popular post was one from the archives that I updated and republished — What To Wear To Disney World. This post is almost always among my top 10 and gets a lot of traffic from both Google and Pinterest.

By the way, if you ever want an easy way to support your favorite bloggers, pin the posts that resonate with you to one of your relevant Pinterest boards. Pinterest is one of the main ways new people find my blog.

Also in February, the Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time ever, and our city was beyond ecstatic. Everywhere I went, people were all smiles and fist bumps. Don’t believe everything you saw on the news. There were only a few looney tunes wrecking havoc; most everyone was happy well-behaved, and it really brought the city and surrounding areas together.

My favorite outfit I posted that month was this blonde moto jacket with jeans and pumps. I absolutely love this look.

MARCH

March brought us 22 Days of Spring Fashion, and my most popular post that month was this black top and ankle cigarette leg jeans. It was a cold month, and shooting spring outfits was downright painful at times, but we made it through.

For some reason, I can’t get excited about too many of my spring outfits, but I’ll say this one was my favorite. I love the contrast of the teal and white.

Also in March, Paul and I took a trip to Nashville to celebrate his birthday, and we also took a bunch of outfit pictures when we were there. The trip was definitely a highlight of the year, but unfortunately we didn’t get a single good picture of the two of us.

APRIL

In April, we spent Easter with my family in Virginia, and we got a half decent family picture in my mom and dad’s backyard. I wish we were better coordinated, but it’s hard to coordinate with picky teenagers! I was just lucky I found something church-appropriate each of them were willing to wear.

Later that month, I hit the road (or the airport) again, and this time it was for a girls trip to Vero Beach. We had a blast, the weather was gorgeous with the exception of a big storm one night, and I was able to relax and enjoy a few days without responsibilities. I hope to do it again soon!

My 15 Ways to Wear White Converse was my most popular post in April.

And I think this outfit was my favorite. So simple, but fresh and put together.

I was also invited to a press event that month, where we met the cast of Hollywood Darlings. That was especially fun for my daughter and her friend, who are Fuller House (and Jodie Sweetin) fans.

April was also the month we found and made an offer on our new house. It was a month of mixed emotions and a lot of ups and downs, but thankfully it ended well.

MAY

On May 2, we listed our old house, and we were under contract within 48 hours.

The weather finally started to warm up, and my Dos and Don’ts For Shorts was my most popular blog post.

My favorite outfit… or at least my favorite photo shoot was this striped maxi dress.

JUNE

June was a tough month for this mama’s heart. My youngest was promoted to middle school, and my oldest graduated high school.

David lost his cap when he threw it so we never got any pictures with him wearing it except for the professional ones.

Meanwhile on the blog, Cyndi and I teamed up again for 21 Days of Summer Fashion. My most popular post was this summer dress from Macy’s.

I’m having a hard time picking a favorite outfit from June. I loved this and this and this.

We closed on our new house at the end of the month, and the girls wasted no time trying out their new pool. David was away at camp and didn’t even see the house until we were fully moved in.

JULY

July was insane. I turned 46, we moved, my son came home from summer camp and saw the new house for the first time, we spent a week at the Jersey shore for a week, and the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale happened right smack dab in the middle of it all.

My most popular post from June was by far and away my Guide to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, with my #NSale Preview in second place, but another post that did extremely well was How to Pair Shoes and Handbags Without Being Matchy. That post went gangbusters on Google, for some reason.

My favorite outfit wasn’t a formal photo shoot, but it was the last picture we took in front of our old house before church one Sunday morning.

By mid-July, we were all moved in to the new house, and at the end of the month, I posted a house tour with some of my design plans. It’s funny to look back at these pictures, now that we’ve done so much. My front door isn’t even the same color now.

Home Tour & Design Plans: I'm basically walking you through the house and sharing my overall plans and ideas, both long-term and short term.

AUGUST

On August 5th, Paul and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary quietly in our new home with nary a picture to prove it, so I’m glad I wrote this post.

The most popular blog post I published that month was How to Wear Ankle Boots, which I wrote several years ago and updated for 2018. I also created this new graphic, which has done really well on Pinterest this year. One of my goals for 2019 is to create more images like this and hope they take off on Pinterest.

My other top posts in August were also older posts that I updated, which is probably because I did so many updates just to get through the month. It was such a busy time for our family, plus fashion blogging in August is always a weird mix of summer and fall content, and no one is really interested in shopping for either.

This denim skirt look is my favorite outfit from the month. It’s a bit of a departure from my usual jeans and sweater outfits, but I still managed to keep some denim in there!

August is also the month we took my son to college and put my daughter on her new schoolbus to the middle school. It was weird taking her first-day-of-school picture in front of the new house, and she was a little nervous to get on a new bus with different kids, but she knew a lot of them, as our new neighborhood is assigned to her old elementary school.

Caroline is doing 10th grade in a cyber charter school — her third year schooling from home. Her first day of school picture is a little bit different. She decided to take a break from dance this year and instead is taking piano and vocal lessons.

SEPTEMBER

Fall fashion was in full effect for September, and Cyndi and I did another Fall Fashion collab. My most popular post from the month was the kick-off post for the series — this scoop neck sweater and bootcut jeans.

I think this yellow rollneck sweater with leopard flats was my favorite post of the month, but I also loved this and this and this. Oh, and this too. What can I say, I love fall fashion!

We continued work on the house and spent a lot of time at band performances and football games, with David in his college marching band and Becca in her middle school marching band.

Also in September, I took a solo trip to Maine to meet up with my mom and visit my grandfather.

OCTOBER

In October, Becca turned 13. We celebrated by taking her and David a Sixers basketball game. Caroline is not a sports fan and opted to sit this one out.

My most popular post in October was the 25 Days of Fall Fashion recap.

I loved a lot of my fall outfits in October — even more than in September. This one was a favorite, and this, and this and this. If I have to pick just one, I guess I’ll go with the fall florals.

NOVEMBER

November was a fun month. We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in Virginia, ran a 5K, had wood floors laid in our family room, started decorating our new house for Christmas, hosted Friendsgiving, celebrated David’s 19th birthday, and I posted quite a few party looks for the blog. My favorite was this gorgeous cocktail dress. I also loved this leopard sweater outfit.

Not surprisingly, November’s most popular post was my Guide to Black Friday Sales, but this post on scarves was a close runner-up.

DECEMBER

While December isn’t over yet, it’s pretty clear my Winter Wardrobe Essentials will be the most popular post this month.

And I’ll name this ruffle cuff sweater dress as my favorite outfit, but I also loved these looks with Ann Taylor and this pink turtleneck with grey jeans and snakeskin booties.

Also in December, Caroline turned 16, and I took her to NYC for her birthday.

And of course we celebrated Christmas.

It was so much fun to decorate our new house for the holidays and spend Christmas Day together as a family.

So to wrap up this epistle . . . 2018 was quite a year with a lot of changes, but everyone seems to be settling into our new normal, and I’m so very thankful!

Looking Ahead to 2019 & State of the Blog Address

I always look forward to a new year, and yet I’m hyper aware of how things can change in the blink of an eye. I certainly hope 2019 holds more good things! It will be hard to top 2018, though.

I have a few trips on the horizon — a Disney vacation with my mom and daughters in March, and a blogging conference in Nashville next November. We’re also hoping to get back up to Maine this summer as a family, especially since we canceled our vacation last summer when we decided to close on our new house during that time. And Paul and I would like to plan another weekend getaway for sometime this spring. That’s becoming an annual trip, and I think it’s important for us to continue to nurture our marriage — especially now that the kids are getting older and starting to live their own lives.

Business-wise, I’m feeling the need to shake things up a bit, but I’m not sure how. I’ve considered starting a JLS Insiders Facebook Group, but I’m not sure I want to run another FB group. As it is, I’m not as active as I’d like to be in the ones I have.

I definitely want to continue doing weekly Facebook Lives because I think that’s a really fun way to connect with you all, but it hasn’t done as much for growing my Facebook Page as I’d hoped. I’m pretty much at an impasse there.

I’d also like to do more with Instagram Stories, but again, there’s only so much time in the day.

It’s really hard to grow social media networks nowadays with the way algorithms are set up, and I can’t seem to post as often as I need to in order to stay in favor with the gods of Facebook and Instagram. The Facebook pages that get the most traction are posting almost every hour, around the clock, and short of hiring that out, I simply do not have the bandwidth for it. I also feel uncomfortable pushing so many products all the time. As it is, I feel like it gets to be a bit much.

Truth be told, I’m struggling with that overall as a fashion blogger. I’m a less is more kinda girl, and I prefer quality to quantity. Constantly promoting new products doesn’t really sit quite right with me, but I’m not sure what to do about that.

I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit weary. Funny, as I read through last year’s Year In Review, I said the exact same thing. Maybe it’s the time of year, and maybe it’s just the nature of the social media beast, but I do wish I could find a healthy balance… if such a thing exists.

The thing is, there is always someone doing more, and it’s natural to feel the pressure to keep up. I also know how fast things change in this space, and if you don’t pivot and evolve, it will leave you behind. I’ve seen it happen to others, so I know I can’t just rely on my good luck and coast.

I should probably take some time off to dive into my analytics, assess what’s working and what’s not, and strategize for the year ahead, but I’m not so good at that. I also could use some major help with SEO, but I’m not sure where to find it. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, and I enjoy creating content and reading and responding to your comments, so I just keep going and hope it will get to whomever it’s meant to get to.

I realize this is probably way more than most of you want to know about the behind-the-scenes of running a blog, but perhaps some of you find it interesting to get a peek behind the curtain of this industry. I also know that some of you have blogs of your own, and I expect you’re feeling some of the same pressure to keep up. I hope it’s reassuring to know that we all have the same struggles.

On a more positive note, I said in last year’s State Of The Blog Address that I wanted to focus on growing my email list in 2018, and I feel like I’ve made some good headway there. My overall subscriber count is lower than it was last year at this time because I had everyone re-opt in during the whole GDPR fiasco, but my open rate is something like 65%, so I feel good knowing that most everyone who is subscribed is engaged and reading along at least some of the time.

All that to say, there’s a lot to work on, and I may be conflicted about some of it, but at the end of the day, I truly love this blog… and yes, even Facebook and Instagram. I know I’m extremely blessed to get to do something I love that helps support our family. As always, I am open to suggestions and even constructive criticism if it’s coming from the right place. I truly value your input.

FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, THANK YOU!

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for your support this year and throughout all the years of this blogging escapade of mine. Your comments, your questions, just for being here and reading to the end — it truly means so much. The support and encouragement you give back is what keeps this blog going, so THANK YOU.

Here’s to a happy and healthy and productive 2019!