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Happy Friday!!! It’s been so long since I’ve done a “Five Things Friday” post, so let’s remedy that.

1. I’ve been working at home since Wednesday, and will continue through next Tuesday.  As a teacher, I never get to work from home, so this has been a unique experience.  I have worked from home before, while I had a summer job, but it’s somehow different this time.  I enjoy the fact that I can get up at 6:45 and be ready to work by 7:30 (I’m never ready that quickly on a normal day, since I have to shower, dress, and commute).  I also love that I can “take a break” and go workout in the morning.   The hardest part of working from home is the balance.  It’s very easy to get lost online doing things other than working, but it’s also very easy to work well past the normal work hours.  I’m not sure I’d do well with it on a regular basis, though.  I need the distinction between work and home that comes with going in to work, even though I hate having to wake up so early.  Most of all, I miss the human interaction that comes with teaching.  But, it’s definitely been a great way to begin the new year, because I’ve gotten workouts in every day, and I’m starting habits that will last all winter (and year, but let’s start with one thing at a time).

2. I joined and started using Instagram.  I’m still getting used to it, and have only posted one photo (my dinner last night), but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it quickly and start posting tons of photos.  If you’d like to follow me, I’m bellablogger.  Leave me any tips and tricks for getting the most out of Instagram in the comments.

220px-Silver_Linings_Playbook_Poster 3. While I was really disappointed that Ben Affleck wasn’t nominated for an Oscar as best director for Argo, I am thrilled that Silver Linings Playbook has been.  I loved that movie, and I think both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence showed strong acting chops in the movie.  If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it.   On the Oscars note, I love that I’ve seen so many of the nominated films this year.  Have you seen any of them?  Which one was your favorite?

4.  Tomorrow I’m going to my first Zumba class in months, and I’m really excited!  My plantar fasciitis has gotten much better, and I’m hoping it lasts through the class.  To continue my buddy workouts, I’m going with my friend Ani, which will make it even more fun.  Plus, I can’t wait to wear my Zumba shoes!

5. Goal #8 for my 13 in 13 is to keep up with my Google Reader/blogs I read.  I’ve done fantastic on it this week, and I’m proud to say that I’ve commented on nearly every post I’ve read. To me, commenting is as important as reading them, because that way I’m offering the blogger my support, encouragement, or advice.  I’d much rather read fewer blogs but comment on most of them than the reverse.  I know how much I appreciate it when people leave me comments (thanks, guys!), and I hope my comments mean as much when I write them.

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I have one addition to the Friday 5, and since it’s been so long since I’ve done one, I think it’s ok to sneak in a 6th.

Yesterday, this arrived in the mail:

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Meghann @ LifeAfterSleeve (aka ScaleWarfare) sent me this card, and it completely made my day.  Not only is Thoreau one of my favorite philosophers/writers, but that quote is also one of my favorites.  It fits everything that’s going on with my life right now so perfectly, too.  Does this girl know me, or what?  Thanks so much, Meghann, that card absolutely made my day, and it’s got a prominent place on my fridge to remind me of my dreams, and of our friendship.

On a side note, Meghann sent me the card as one of her 52 in 2013.  The basic ideas is to write down 52 ideas of things to do, some easy, some more challenging, and put them on different slips of paper and in some sort of container.  Then, each week, she pulls out one of the sheets and completes that week’s task.  I absolutely adore this idea, and I may do it next year.  As it is, I may join in on some of her challenges this year.

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Beach custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more - ImageChef.comThat’s right! This is my 900th post.

I can’t believe I’ve written that many posts in a little under 3 years.  Then again, I am verbose, so it shouldn’t be too surprising.

Over the course of that time, I’ve written about my triumphs, my tribulations, my victories, and my letdowns.  Through it all, you guys have been there: offering support, calling me on my excuses, cheering me on, and giving me tons of inspiration.  If you’re new to the blog, or you just want to reminisce, you might want to check out a few of the most popular blog posts over these last few years:

Home page 67,140 views
Skechers Shape-Ups Review 33,814 views
Gotta share: Jillian Michaels’ Podcast 29,320 views
QVC & Biggest Loser – 2 obessions coming together 28,404 views
Stop the roller coaster 10,421 views
I’m becoming “one of them” 9,722 views
Pasta, and Sushi, and Appetizers – OH MY! 9,032 views
Bella Begins 4,843 views
Bella’s Stats 4,611 views
Zumba! 4,381 views
The wind in my hair, the sun on my face… 2,598 views
My 1-Year Smoke-Freedom!! 2,555 views
Bella Cooks! 2532 views

That’s a lot of views!!  Thank you!!!

To celebrate my 900th post and to reward my lovely readers, I thought I’d do a giveaway.  There are lots of ways to enter to win.  You can use each method once, and each one will count as a separate entry into the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post.
  2. Leave a comment on any post this week (Posts dated August 21 – August 26th only).
  3. Write a post mentioning this giveaway on your blog.
  4. Follow me on Twitter, and then say tweet me a little hello.
  5. Subscribe to this blog.

I want to make this a fairly quick giveaway, so the deadline to enter is Friday, August 26th at 11pm, Pacific Time.  I’ll use a randomizer to choose the winning entry and write a quick post on Saturday morning.

The prize?  A $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com or Apple iTunes.  Winner’s choice.

Good luck!!!

BTW – I’m making this post “sticky,” so be sure to check out my other blog posts, below.

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This morning when I checked my email around 10am, I couldn’t believe the number of people who had subscribed to my blog.  The notifications kept coming in, which is really unusual.  Those of you who are my regular readers know that I don’t really write this blog with the hopes of getting thousands of page views (I’ve gotten over 2500 today!!! Crazy!!!); I write it for me, and for the small, close group of like-minded bloggers whom I consider friends.  Of course, I’m always happy to get new readers and to meet new people.  But I was flabbergasted by the number of new comments and subscriptions.  What was going on?

As it turns out, farther down my inbox, there was a message from WordPress letting me know that my post about being smoke free for one year got Freshly Pressed.  What is that?  I have to admit that I didn’t know, either.  It turns out that WordPress selects certain blogs each week to be highlighted and put on the main page of WordPress.com.  The requirements are:

Getting promoted to Freshly Pressed is a major traffic win because WordPress.com receives a high volume of page views. And, we have a feedset up so people can subscribe to Freshly Pressed. Why do we do all this? It’s our way of saying we like you. We really like you.

So, by now you might be wondering how to get featured. It’s all about the content. Let’s look at five guidelines that will increase your chances of landing on the homepage:

1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.

Each post that makes it to Freshly Pressed contains original content created by the WordPress user. Bad stuff includes (but isn’t limited to) plagiarism, hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images that belong to someone else, spam or content that is primarily advertorial in nature.

2. Include images or other visuals.

Although not every topic can be illustrated, we believe most blog posts can and should have a visual element. We like original images (meaning, your own) but if not, be sure you properly credit the original source. Video rocks, too. You may get a request from us to add an image before you are promoted to Freshly Pressed — the faster you can respond, the more likely we’ll put your post on the homepage.

3. Add tags.

We find new posts by surfing the tag pages. If you don’t use tags, we can’t find you and how sad would that be? Also, don’t use tags that are too obscure (“beauty tips from the ancient world”) but rather more common tags (“beauty,” “history”).

4. Cap off your post with a compelling headline.

Your headline needs to stand out. Avoid swear words, excessive punctuation or vague statements. We love a clever headline, and that’s often the reason we click on your article in the first place.

Examples:
Good headline: I Won the Lottery And You Didn’t!
Bad headline: U Loserz, i WON!!!!!11!

5. Aim for typo-free content.

We know, we’re human, too — errors happen. We recommend using our Proofreading feature before you hit “publish.” If you’ve got a few typos but we really like your post, we may ask you to fix them. In most cases, we’ll put your post on Freshly Pressed after you’ve made the changes.

So, that’s it! Once you’ve been promoted, you’ll receive an email from us, and you’ll also notice your page views and comments increasing. Enjoy the ride! You deserve it!

I am so thrilled, I can’t even tell you!  After blogging for years, this is the first time anything this cool has happened.

The best part was the number of people who took the time to write comments and congratulate me.  So many of them said that I was an inspiration, or that my tips helped them, or that they liked my positive attitude.  Talk about making a girl feel good!  How nice is that?!

I must be living right because this makes two days in a row where I have been getting recognition, and it feels great.  Sure, the spotlight is nice, but just the fact that someone at WordPress read my blog post and thought it was good enough to be included in the Freshly Pressed blogs is such a compliment.

Thanks for letting me gush a bit, guys.  I’ll be back to my normal blogging tomorrow, I promise.  🙂

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket  Happy Tuesday, Everyone!

I realized recently that I have not been getting the page views or the comments on this blog as I used to.  And I had to take a hard look at myself as a blogger and figure out why that might be.

Of course, maybe I’m writing about things that people aren’t interested in.  Ok, I can accept that, except I haven’t really changed the content of the blog in the last 3 years, and if anything, I’ve become a more frequent poster.  But I do think there are some changes I could make in my writing – maybe a few less details so that the posts aren’t so long sometimes.

I think the bigger reason for decreased traffic, though, is the fact that I haven’t been spending much time reading YOUR blogs.  I got busy with school, then I got Sofi, but all of that is just an excuse, because I love reading what you guys are writing about and I can find an hour in my day (which is much less encumbered now that it’s summer) to catch up on what’s going on in your worlds.  Because Blogging 101 is just like the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Ok, so if I’d like more people to comment and support me, then I need to be a supportive commenter too.  Makes sense, and it’s an easy fix.  Plus I get so much out of reading your blogs, so it’s a huge benefit  to me, too.

So, beginning today, I’m committing to spend at least an hour each day reading through the blogs on my blog roll.  On Tuesdays, when we have the Healthy You Challenged Update, I’m going to read my blogroll + the people that check in on Scale Junkie’s site.

In other news, the scale is steadily moving down, which puts a huge smile on my face.  Not only that, but I’m truly enjoying what I’m eating, and I love that SBD allows me to be creative in the kitchen, too.  Win Win Win.  Today I’m going to lunch with a friend, and I am not worried in the least that I’ll be able to find something that can fit into Phase 1.  So in terms of dieting, life is great. And although it’s probably a bit too early to give myself a pat on the back, I can say that so far this week, exercise is going well too.

Today is Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year.  It’s supposed to get close to 100 degrees again today, so I’m looking forward to those extra hours of daylight once the sun isn’t as intense to get a bit of gardening maintenance and other outdoor things done.  Last night I ate dinner outside, which was lovely.  What are you going to do to mark the longest day of the year?

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