In our house, we try to use natural remedies first for ailments, before tapping into the more modern treatments that are available to us. It’s not that we shun Western medicine—not at all—it’s just that we’d rather try to figure out something a little more natural before we turn to more drastic measures. And while there are a lot of awesome home remedies out there, there is one that rises above them all in our house—the rice pack.
If you’ve never heard of a rice pack, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A pack. With rice in it. Some folks do rice socks (just fill a clean sock with rice, and sew or tie it shut), but I actually like doing pretty little fabric pouches for my rice.
Why rice? Well, the rice is (a) affordable (b) malleable—meaning you can shape the pack around whatever body part is a-hurtin’ and (c) it holds both heat and cold. You can stash your rice packs in the freezer, and they are cold. Or pop ‘em in the microwave for a few seconds, and—BAM—they’re suddenly transformed into a cozy, warm hot pack. I also, personally, find something really nice about the texture of the rice in fabric, too. It’s soothing (kinda like this scene from Amelie). You might find me just playing with these rice packs sometimes. Maybe.
The rice packs work for an incredible number of ailments. Itchy bug bite? Put a rice pack on it. Sprained your ankle? Rice pack. Migraine? Rice pack. Eyes itchy from allergies? Rice pack. Stubbed your toe? Rice pack. Bee sting? Rice pack (after you put onion on it—there is a chemical in onions that helps slow down the immediate sting). Excruciating back pain during labor? Rice pack (or two).
I made my rice packs into boring rectangles, but you could have some fun with these as make them in fun shapes, which I think would be especially awesome for kids. I’m new to this whole parenthood thing, but I’m assuming there are a lot of childhood boo-boos that could be helped with a star-, dinosaur- or puppy-shaped rice pack. You’d follow the same method listed below, just instead of cutting your pieces into squares or rectangles, cut two shaped pieces.
Alright, let me show you how to make some rice packs. For each rice pack, you’ll need:
First up, take your square of fabric, fold it in half, right-sides together, and iron it flat.
Then, head to your sewing machine, and you want to sew all the way around the open edge, except, you want to start about an inch and a half in from the fold. That gives you a little opening to turn the fabric right-side-out and to funnel in the rice.
Now, because these packs are mushed and squished and used pretty roughly, I like to reinforce the seams. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can zig-zag stitch in the seam allowance. You can use a serger. You can use pinking shears. I ended up using one of the overlock stitches on my machine.
Now, turn the pack inside out.
And press to where it looks all nice and smooth.
Then, place the funnel in the opening, and start pouring in the rice.
Don’t fill these up too terribly tight. Like I said above, you want them to be able to mold around your body—you don’t want them to be so full of rice that they are rigid. I used about two pounds of rice for three rice packs.
Go ahead and fold in the opening, and pin it shut.
Thread a needle with some coordinating thread, and start stitching the seam opening closed. There are a few ways to do this. You could use a ladder stitch (which is what I did). You could also just use your sewing machine to close the entire end with a top-stitch (although, the more full your pack is with rice, the more difficult this will be). Whatever you do, I recommend actually going over it two or three times. This little seam will be the one “weak” spot in the pack. And you really want to reinforce it.
And then that’s it. You’re done!
You could also do scented rice packs by tossing the rice with your favorite smelling essential oil before filling. A warm, lavender-scented pack over the eyes would be a great way to help you get ready for bed. And peppermint oil is a natural headache cure—a cold peppermint-scented pack could really help take the edge off your migraine. A scented rice pack would make an awesome gift or stocking stuffer!
Ready for an obnoxiously long post about the ins-and-outs of my blogging income? Probably not. But here goes anyway…
I’ve pretty much always treated my work here on Back to Her Roots as a hobby. Sure, I have some ads in the sidebar, and I do some sponsored posts here and there, but for the most part, I’ve never really seen my blog as legitimate income source. I did it because I love writing it, I love interacting with you folks, and I really enjoy it as a creative outlet. The extra cash that I make from it basically does little more than cover my expenses and give me a little bit of pocket change for buying canning jars or some fancy new kitchen gadget. Because I never really viewed it much as business, I never really pushed myself to make my blog reach its full potential (both monetarily and content-wise).
And that was fine, before. It’s amazing how much things change when you become a parent. It’s like your life is suddenly bisected into B.P. and A.P. eras (Before Parenthood and After Parenthood).
Before parenthood, I could afford to devote 30+ hours a week to crafting recipes, projects and posts for Back to Her Roots without much recouping of the income. Before parenthood, it was okay that my hobby took up so darn much of my time, because, honestly, what else was I going to do with all that freetime? Before parenthood, I could easily work 70 hours a week between my blog, writing career, and freelance projects, and still have time to head to the gym, play in the garden, watch an episode or two of some TV show after dinner (oh, and actually cook dinner).
After parenthood, I’ve realized that the precious amount of freetime I have is just that—extremely precious. I no longer have the vast freedom with my schedule that I did B.P. I have to be very careful to be efficient with the time I do have. And the honest truth is, BTHR isn’t very efficient. It is a huge timesuck in my life (a timesuck that I love, but a timesuck, nonetheless) but the amount of compensation I receive for the amount of labor I put into it just isn’t realistic anymore. To put it another way: something has to go in my life.
I’ve thought long and hard about what thing would be the thing to go. Obviously, I’m not planning on sacrificing time with my family—that’s a given. And I don’t plan on sacrificing the things I need to do to keep myself healthy (getting a somewhat decent amount of sleep, cooking healthy foods, exercising).
That left me with figuring out a way to not work 70 hours a week, and still be able to put food on the table. I, thankfully, have a lucrative freelance writing and design career, and as much fun as that is, I still find myself wanting to spend my time working on my blog most days. The truth is, I can’t cut out my freelance career (well, I could, but we’d be living in a cardboard box) and I really don’t want to stop writing my blog. What a pickle, right?
That leads me to the point of this post: I’m going to be working hard over the next few months to make BTHR more efficient for me monetarily. I don’t want to give up my blog but the fact of the matter is, if I’m going to devote so much of my time to this blog (time that isn’t spent snuggling with my daughter) then I need it to help us out financially a bit more—and maybe eventually enough that I can back off on my freelance hours and free up a little more time in my life. As much as I’d love to be independently wealthy and be able to just write this blog for the sake of blogging, that just isn’t realistic in my world. My time is valuable, and I’ve been ignoring that for years.
So what’s all this mean? Well, this means that I’m going to be working really hard to make BTHR even better and more engaging for you guys. But I’m also going to be working hard on the back-end to make it more lucrative for me. I’m going to try my darndest to make these changes not interfere with the reading experience (and maybe even enhance the experience in some spots). I’ll be trying lots of different things over the next few months and be asking for your feedback the entire way. And, I think most importantly, I’m going to try to be as transparent about the process as possible—including sharing monthly reports on my income, expenses and readership.
Without you guys, I wouldn’t be making a dime, so it seems only right for me to be clear about what is going on behind the scenes. If you aren’t interested in that, cool, just skip past the post or two each month about blogging income, and I’ll be back with a yummy recipe the next day.
The first thing I want to do in this whole transparency project is share with you a little bit about the revenue I have been generating over the past few months. Blogging income reports have become all the rage in the blogosphere lately, and for good reason. Not only is the transparency really nice for readers, but it’s also incredibly inspiring for other bloggers. It is possible to make a decent living doing this thing that we love (without selling your soul to the highest bidder), and I love being able to see clear evidence of that each month. It used to be so taboo to talk about money and pageviews, but I think the value of transparency outweighs any icky feelings folks might get from talking about the numbers. I plan on writing up a post each month showcasing the financial backend of BTHR.
On a personal note, I think tearing down the curtains and showing what’s going on backstage is incredibly motivating (and, well, terrifying) as a blogger. I’m going to try to work hard to make this blog a good income source for my family, and each month, I’m going to be posting my results for all to see. Thousands of people seeing your monetary successes or failures each month is a pretty good motivator to work hard!
So, let’s talk about what I have been making so far this year:
May 2014—$877.17 <– the last month I have full data for
February 2014—$1,344.17 <– I had a big sponsored post this month
January 2014—$1,923.49 <– a post I wrote went viral on social media this month
These are just gross income numbers, they don’t take into account the money I pay for taxes, hosting, ingredients, props, and a million other little expenses that go into blogging. This income also comes from a variety of sources—not just one ad network. They include multiple ad networks, affiliate programs and sponsored posts. When I share my monthly income report, I’ll go into more detail about both the income sources and the expenses I have.
To some folks, these numbers might sound like a lot, to others, it might sound like nothing. To put this into perspective for myself, I like to think of it as hourly rate. Say I work 25 hours a week on my blog (a conservative estimate). That’s 100 hours a month. So, in May, I was making a whopping $8.77 an hour—that’s less than the minimum wage in some states! Comparatively, I charge at least seven times that amount for my design work. See what I mean about how BTHR just isn’t efficient for me financially? And that’s not even considering that my blog revenue is decreasing each month, even though my readership is increasing. Womp. Womp. Something ain’t right, kids!
Hopefully, when you see my income reports over the next few months, you’ll see those numbers creep up as I work toward my goals (more about that below). I plan on sharing everything I do in a month so you can be on the journey right along with me, and chime in on anything that doesn’t feel “right” to you (although, my goal is to weed out anything shady before it ever comes your way). And, if you write your own blog, maybe some of the things I share can help you make your blog own blog more profitable.
You guys know I’m a big fan of goal-setting, and I think amping up my blog income requires a set of goals, too. I’ll talk about these in more detail in my upcoming monthly income reports, but here’s a general overview of what I’m thinking for the remainder of 2014.
Back when I started blogging, ad sales were the way to make money. You got into a good ad network selling to good advertisers, and you were basically rolling in the dough. Then advertisers got smart and started to realize that readers pretty much just tune out ads on websites anymore (either figuratively or literally through ad blocking software). This means that ad sale revenue just isn’t what it used to be. Even though my blog traffic has grown by 400% over the past three years, my ad revenue has pretty much stayed the same. Crazy, right?
The fact is, while ad sales are a great baseline (and really easy) way to monetize a blog, they are no longer super lucrative. To really make the most out of blogging, you have to diversify your income sources. Not only does that mean diversify your ads themselves, but also think about other products you can offer to make a buck. For the rest of the year, I’d like to focus on diversifying my income portfolio beyond just ad sales and the occasional sponsored post. The more baskets my eggs are in the more apt my blog is to be a sustainable income source for years to come.
I’m the first to admit I’m pretty lax with social media. I could be leveraging my nearly 13,000 social media followers much better. I mostly just use my BTHR social media accounts for personal use, and while that’s fine as a part of a blog’s social media strategy, it is definitely ignoring a large opportunity to gain more readers and create a larger network.
I also need to do a better job of marketing myself and my hard work on social media. I went as far as having WordPress automatically publish my posts to by Twitter and Facebook feeds, but other than that, I do a rotten job of publicizing myself. Which is silly. People that follow me on social media are following me because they want to hear from me!
Writing a traditionally published cookbook is incredibly fun and rewarding (seeing it on the store shelves is way cool), but it isn’t incredibly lucrative. Sure, you get a nice big advance check, but when you spread that out over the hours and hours and hours of work that goes into a book, it just doesn’t end up being very much. I have so many great book ideas that I’d love to try to put into eBooks for purchase. Not only do I get complete control over the content, design and marketing (something you decidedly don’t with traditional publishing), but I also have a sneaking suspicion I might be able to make it a bit more profitable than traditional publishing. Plus, I just think it’ll be flat-out fun!
My blog design needs an overhaul. I did a complete redesign about 18 months ago, and the result worked beautifully for a while, but there have been a lot of technical changes on my blog in the past few months that have started to break down my blog structure. I would really like to move my design over to a more sustainable theme and work on making it clean, crisp and easy-to-navigate. I also want to overhaul a lot of my content pages. I’ve been working on a new navigation system, new pages, and a new recipe index that’ll hopefully make the whole blog a better experience.
You’d be shocked at the number of emails a day I get pitching me stuff for the blog. I turn down a good 99% of the proposals because I just don’t think they are a good fit for me, my blog and my readers. But what I haven’t been good about is pursuing opportunities that I do think will be a good fit. I’d like to spend more time over these next few months cultivating partnerships with companies that I truly believe in—and that might mean cold-calling them. I can’t expect them to always just stumble onto my bog!
Part of the hobby philosophy of my blog is that I’ve pretty much done everything manually and haphazardly. Sure, I schedule posts, and I have a rough editorial calendar, but I think I can do a lot better at streamlining my blogging process to be more efficient. This, in and of itself, won’t bring me more money, but if I can spend less time generating the same quality content, that means my income is much more efficient and more time with my family—which is my whole goal for this project!
Thank you so much for all of your support over the years! I hope you’ll stick with me as I work my way through this new chapter in my blogging career. <3