March 18, 2015

10 Tips for Growing Your Blog

One of the topics I get asked the most about is blogging. So, today I thought I would share 10 of the tips that have helped me grow this blog over the past 3 years. I started this blog in January 2012, having absolutely no idea what I was doing (imagine an amoeba with a laptop), and since then it's grown to getting nearly 2 million pageviews each month, way beyond my wildest expectations.












So, here are some of the things that have helped me the most during my 3 year journey. I hope you'll find something in this post that helps you along your own path! Enjoy!


1. You don't need to be an expert to start a blog.




Taking that first step into the unknown is the most difficult. You're probably going to feel really overwhelmed and discouraged, especially if you start comparing yourself to blogs who've been around for awhile. So, let me make things easier on you. Your blog isn't going to be all that great at first, and that's okay. My blog was terrible when I first started. My photography was awful, my writing was obnoxious, and my projects and decor left a lot to be desired. But, the thing about being good at something is that you never start out that way. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of mistakes, and slowly over time you will begin to improve at whatever it is you're trying to do. The key is to make sure this is something you're passionate about. If you are passionate about being a blogger, then you'll have the stamina and work ethic to push through all of the walls that you'll inevitably face as you're figuring out your new skill set.


2. Create your own content.
The #1 best way to grow your blog is to create your own content. In my experience, your own quality content will do much better things for your blog then recycled content ever will. Creating your own content will be a lot more work than rounding up a bunch of content from your peers, but it will be SO worth the extra effort. And don't worry if your unique content isn't all that great at first...that's the way it's supposed to be.
You've got to do the work to get better at it.


3. Quality over quantity.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that it doesn't really matter how many posts you write. What matters is the quality of the posts you do write. In my experience, I've found that one really great post will get you way more traffic (and loyal, engaged readers) than fifty average posts ever will.




I've only written about 200 posts over the course of 3 years. Mostly because it takes me a lot of time and energy to put together one really great post that I know my readers will enjoy. There are some bloggers that have the ability to write great posts 7 days a week. And that's amazing. But if you find that that's not a reality for you, don't be discouraged. Just focus on writing the best content you can, and over time your blog WILL grow.


4. Optimize your photography.
A great photo or graphic can help grow your blog like nothing else can. I spend a huge chunk of time taking pictures, experimenting with composition, and editing/making graphics for each post. Having a great graphic for a post is incredibly instrumental for bringing traffic to your blog.
Here are a few tips on optimizing the images on your blog:


  • If you're not familiar with Photoshop, you can use Picmonkey to edit your photos and add eye-catching graphics. That's what I've used since I started blogging. I also use Ipiccy on occasion, but I prefer Picmonkey because of the ability to add text overlays. I also usually crop, adjust the brightness, and sharpen my images.


I'll be the first to admit that I should probably sharpen my skill set and learn to use Photoshop, but I think it's helpful to know that you can not only get by, but be successful without being an expert at everything. Progress over perfection.





  • Make sure that the file name of your picture contains key phrases. For example name your picture 'bloggingtips.jpg' rather than 'DSC1045.jpg' (the name your computer will automatically give your image...like a jerk). This will help people find your blog posts when searching Google and Pinterest.


  • Fill in the description of your image on your blog. It should be a keyword rich explanation of the photo you've posted. On Blogger all you have to do is right click on the image, click 'Properties' and type your description in the 'title text' box. That way, when people pin from your site, your description will be readily available for them to use.


  • A note on equipment: I blogged for nearly 2 years before I was able to afford a DSLR camera. Before that time, I made do with a $75 Sony Cybershot.  My pictures were terrible, but it was the best I could do at the time, and in the end it didn't really matter...it was okay to start out with crappy equipment. Eventually, I was able to upgrade to a DSLR. I currently use a Nikon D3100 with either the kit lens or my 50mm. Still nothing fancy, but way better than what I started with. Then, I spent some time learning to use it. I'm far from being great, but I've come a long way in just a year's time. Something that helped me tremendously was taking the Photography 101 & 102 course from Shoot Fly Shoot. I'm not an affiliate. I just think it's great.


Again, I'm average at best, but photos do make a difference. Here's a photo of the dining room from the first year of my blog back when I was using my evil trusty Cybershot. The photo was lopsided, blurry, and definitely taken with a flash.




And here's a photo taken in the last year using my DSLR...crisp, bright, and taken on manual settings. Obviously, the dining room itself is an improvement, but I'd like to think my photography skills are slightly less horrendous. :)




5. Use Pinterest.
Pinterest is the most effective form of social media when it comes to increasing your traffic and growing your readership. More than half of all my traffic comes from there.




Here are some tips to help you make the most of Pinterest.


  • Develop your own following on Pinterest by pinning interesting images. Pay attention to the organization of your own boards, and make them pretty. Make sure you have a board dedicated to your own blog, and put it right up front where it's easy to find. Take the time to write your own descriptions of each pin. You can check my boards out here.
  • Join Pinterest group boards and pin your content to drive traffic to your posts. Once your blog grows to a certain point, you'll find that you won't need to do this as much, but in the beginning, it can really help drive traffic and grow your blog.
  • Pin during peak times of the day to optimize repins. I get the best results on weekdays between 8-10pm and on Saturday and Sunday morning between 8-10am.


6. Optimize old content.
In the age of Pinterest, you never know how someone is going to find your blog. The first thing they see might be a post you did three years ago. So, take the time to go back to all of your old posts and see if there's any way you can improve them. I go back and look at my old posts about once or twice a year, and each time I find so much stuff that I can improve upon. Don't let all that old content go to waste.
Here are just a few of the ways you can improve old content:


  • Improve your photos and graphics if necessary. This may mean re-editing the original photos or taking entirely new photos. It just depends on the situation/project. My first 40 or so posts never had a graphic, just unedited pictures taken straight out of my camera. I always save all of my original photos on dropbox, so I was able to go back, edit them, add text overlays when needed, and re-insert them into my posts. Doing this ended up driving a lot of traffic to all of those old posts that never got any traffic when they were first published.


  • Insert links to other relevant posts within your blog. This can help direct readers to other posts they might enjoy.


  • Include your social media buttons and email signup in the bottom of each post. Make it as easy as possible for your readers to find and connect with you, using the method of their choice.


  • Re-name your old pictures using targeted keywords. This really helps with SEO, and allows Google to be able to find your pictures as well as your posts. (And while you're at it, make sure you're using keywords in your post title, too. This is important for both Pinterest and Google.)


7. Focus on what matters.




I say no to a lot of things. Because I know that if I say yes to every opportunity that comes my way, I won't have the time or energy to do the work that makes my blog successful.


I've opted out of hosting link parties, doing tons of sponsored content, and publishing roundups of other people's content because it takes me away from creating the content that I feel is most valuable to the long term growth of my blog.


Every blog is different, and different things will work for different blogs. I spent about a year floundering about, trying out ALL the things and figuring out what worked for me. The key is that when you do figure out what works for your blog, focus on that, and don't get distracted by everything else.


8. Be yourself.




Being yourself is the most important thing you can do for the success of your blog. You'll have your strengths, and you'll have your weaknesses, and in the end you'll discover that it won't really matter, as long as you're being true to yourself.
I started out only being able to be my true self in snippets of tiny italicized text.
You'll eventually find your groove. :)


9. Don't be afraid to share your mistakes.




I think there is a tremendous amount of value in sharing your mistakes on your blog. It's absolutely terrifying sometimes, because you feel like everyone is going to judge you, and that's a feeling we'd all like to avoid. But, here's a little secret: People are going to judge you either way. But, I've found that being a normal, imperfect human makes you more relatable and makes your blog that much more fun to read.
So, it's okay to share the real stuff alongside the pretty stuff. You don't have to live inside of a magazine to be a successful blogger.


10. Stick with it.




There will be hard times. Your energy and creativity will ebb and flow. This has happened to me at least 10 times over the course of three years, and it always passes. As many of you know, I'm going through one of those phases now, as I'm a little over 6 months pregnant, and feeling like a sloth who just wants to nap and eat and cry all the time. But, I don't stress about it because I know that this too shall pass. I think the key is to just do the best you can at any given moment, and keep on keepin' on. What's meant to be will always find a way.


That's all for today, ya'll! Thanks so much for being here!




 

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63 comments:

  1. So very happy to hear from you!!! Love the information about starting a blog and how to be successful at it. You are a lovely lady and an inspiration to us all!!

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  2. This is soo encouraging, I started a blog a year ago and there are times I get discouraged with the lack of viewers and I'm constantly wondering how I can improve my site. I'll definately be trying some of these. Fyi- your blog is awesome!

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    1. Thanks so much Jolie! And don't give up! My blog was probably read by 3 people during my entire first year! :)

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  3. Thank you for your great tips Virginia! I find your posts informative. Your "voice" also makes your posts very fun to read. ;) I look forward to getting your new post notices.

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  4. Good info! How do you label your photos with SEO keywords? Are you talking about the file name (.jpg) or the description of the image? I need to work on my SEO stuff.

    I hope you are feeling well and getting any rest you need. It is a lot of work making a baby. ;)

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    1. I do both! Every little bit helps! xo

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  5. Thanks for sharing your blogging tips! Your down to earth-ness /honesty and success are super inspiring to me!

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    1. Thank you, Tamara! That means so much!

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  6. Thanks so much for sharing this information. I have been collecting blog data for a while trying to talk my insecure self into starting a blog. You feel like a real life friend talking to me! Realistic and honest. Thanks again.

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  7. I've read countless blogging tips posts but I have to say your's is truly a breath of fresh air! Not to mention how gentle and encouraging you are really helps a girl(or guy) get back on her feet and keep on keeping on. Thank you so much! This post is exactly what I needed to hear right now. XOXO

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    1. Awww...Amy, that nearly made me cry! Thank you.

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  8. How right you are with your take on blogging. It is so important just to be yourself because blogging is not a competition.

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    1. So very true! I like to say that I'm only competing with myself. If I've grown and improved over time, then I'm exactly where I need to be! :)

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  9. Virginia, I LOVE this post. My first year bloggiversary this Saturday, and I can relate to nearly all of what you wrote here. I have a full time job and an etsy business, and a couple of times over the past year I've thought seriously about giving up the blog. I can get so consumed with reviewing stats and making improvements on the blog on the backend that it takes the fun out of it, and I have to make myself remember why I started it in the first place and how, when it's working well, it's SO much fun! They wouldn't be called growing pains if growth was supposed to feel good all the time, right? Cheers!

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    1. Congrats on your first year anniversary, Sarah! Definitely stick with it if it's something you are passionate about...that first year is really difficult and you should be proud of yourself for pushing through!! Things will eventually fall into place as you continue to perfect and learn your craft! xo

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  10. What a great post! One of the most honest and sincere. Great information for a newish blogger like myself!!

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  11. Great tips Virginia. I always appreciate what established bloggers recommend for us newbies. I just started in January, so Im still getting a grasp on everything.

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    1. Congrats on starting, Stephanie! I'll never forget those first few months when I started my blog...it was SO exciting and also SO overwhelming! Just think though...every little step you take is a necessary part of the journey! :)

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  12. Brilliant post, really useful. I am just starting out in the blogging world and will definitely use the tips you have suggested.

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  13. these were great! so happy i read this xx
    lovejoystyles.com

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  14. Thank you very much for sharing these tips ~ that was very generous of you!
    Look after yourself, kind and clever Virginia! : )
    Looking forward to baby pics one day before too long!

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  15. Great post...wonderful details for a new or older blogger. Thanks. Congrats on the little one....can't wait!

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  16. Thanks so much for this post! I started my blog about two years ago, but just as a casual hobby. It's only been recently that I've decided to really take it seriously, and sometimes I feel like I did myself more harm than good starting out before I was really ready. Now I've got two years and nearly 100 posts worth of content that need to be refreshed and improved upon. Having unique, quality content is so much easier said then done, but it is one of the areas I'm focusing on now. Thanks so much for the insider advice! Hope you are feeling well, can't wait to see more bump pics :)

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    1. Those two years of old content can be a HUGE blessing if you take the time to improve them. It can seem really overwhelming if you think about all 200...so set little goals...like optimizing 2 posts a week. I always reminded myself that it was like having a bunch of new posts that no one ever saw, just waiting on me to publish them! :)

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  17. Thank you so very much for this, Virginia! As someone trying to grow my blog and figure out what it's all about, and the rhythm of what I'm working on and if it's worth it, your insight is invaluable. Thank you, thank you.

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  18. Love these tips SO much! "Quality over Quantity" really resonates with me. I pressure myself to post just to post, and the quality probably suffers for that reason.

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  19. This was super informative, thank you! I've had my blog for several years now, but I always get discouraged and abandon it. At this point it might be a good idea to start fresh, but we'll see. I had no idea, though, that the actual file names of your photos matter. It makes sense because they are in the code, but that never crossed my mind!

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  20. Thank you so much for your tips on blogging. You really come across as a super nice person who is trying to help her follow blogger. I'm going to use some of your tips when I start my blog.

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  21. I just loved this post. It was about blogging, of course, but I found it to be about much more than that. It seemed like a good way to look at any meaningful goal or effort you're undertaking in life. Thank you for such a great blog and thoughtful posts!!

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  22. I just started my blog two months ago. It is so great to hear from someone that has been doing it for so long and has gained such great success along the way. I love following your instagram and reading your blog. This is such a helpful post!! Thanks so much for sharing what you have learned!!

    Sonal | GreatNinja.com

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  23. This comes at the best time. I just started my blog a week ago! I feel like I'm constantly watching to see if my views are going up and comparing with people who are new but have much more traffic than me. I know I have to build it up and I just have to be patient. Thanks for the encouragement! I have enjoyed reading your blog for a couple years.

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  24. Thank you for this post. I'm new to blogging, and I often get discouraged or lazy and not post anything for few weeks. I'm expecting like you, so most times lately, hormonal imbalance takes a lot out of me. You're such an inspiration, Virginia! Aloha!

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  25. I loved this blog post! You gave advice that I just don't read when it comes to successful blogging. I gained so much knowledge from this entire post. The 2nd and 3rd tips stood out to me because it seems like the biggest thing to do on a blog is round up a bunch of other bloggers work and show it off. I create my own content, so I don't have consistent posts, but what I do blog about is my own work and creations. Plus family comes first, so I am not always creating things just to have something to blog about. I also make YouTube videos, so my blog goes hand in hand with my videos. I pinned this post so that I can reference all of these tips now and in the future! Thanks again, Shelly

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  26. But I love your style so thank you for all the good stuff, and the words (by you), and the pics (by you). I love every new post from you. I am always surprised when I see a peak on my own blog statistics........ mine is about books, bed and breakfast, and general musings, but I love yours.!!!

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  27. Wow what a great post. So inspirational and informative. I just started blogging at the end of January, and it can be so overwhelming trying to keep up with everything. I am learning to stay true to myself, which you mentioned. I enjoy writing and giving advice, and I just want to get better at it, in hopes other people will enjoy what I have to say. I am finally learning the world of pinterest, thanks for the advice on how to use it properly. I am definitely going back to spice my boards up and make them look more appealing. I struggle with pictures because I have a crap camera, but like you I am making the best of what I have by editing. Congratulations on your pregnancy!! How exciting!! Love your blog!

    XOXO
    Alethea
    http://thepowerofthepretty.blogspot.com/

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  28. Brilliant post, thank you for some great tips. Absolutely loved the images especially the last one about growing out your bangs lol :)

    Alisha x
    http://alishaxa.blogspot.co.uk

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  29. Like others above, I really enjoyed the realness of your post. Thanks for sharing and encouraging other bloggers!

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  30. Hello from a fellow Tennessean! Like many others here, I've started a new blog so this couldn't have came at a better time! Thank you for sharing. You've got such wonderful tips. And I hope your pregnancy is going good. Can't wait to see the nursery updates.

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  31. Hey Virginia! I've recently started my blog and heard everyone say that if I started doing two blogs a week, I would be gaining traffic on my page. I really felt it was taking away my creativity for me so your tip, 'quality over quantity' really hit it home. Thank you so very much for this wonderful tip.
    www.newgirlinlahore.wordpress.com

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  32. So, so thankful for this great post!! Thank you for sharing informative tips. For me, this will be so helpful at this time. After blogging since 2009, I've now reached a point where I want to do some really significant changes. Even as a well known blogger in Norway, I need inspiration to find my way from here.
    You are such an inspiration to me, and I just want to let you know that even knowing most of the good and bad in this "blog world", I find your skills and "know how" so valueable! Thank you for that!
    Love from Anette Willemine
    http:/ / anettewillemine.blogspot.com

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  33. These are amazing! I make do with my camera too. I have an old Sony cybershot as well which I had since 2009. I have basic Photoshop skills but Picmonkey has been a huge help during days when I couldn't figure out how to touch up a poorly lit photo. Haha. I have only been blogging for 2 years and it has been such a huge treat. Thanks for all of these tips Virginia! They're both informative and wonderfully inspirational!

    www.annescribblesanddoodles.blogspot.com

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  34. Some of these are great for life in general. I feel so much better about having to turn down a project for a friend because I'm not in the field anymore and I want (NEED) to move on to bigger and better things. You've also given me the courage to revive my blog or start a new one. I have quit a few times! Thank you for sharing!

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  35. Thanks So much for this post! I am new to blogging, and really value these tips! Pinning to read it again and again.

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  36. Even thought I'm a HUGE fan of you and your blog, I almost didn't read this post. I assumed that it was the same 10 blogging tips that I'd read a thousand times. But it's not, it's real, and honest and really great advice. Thanks for sharing!!

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  37. Thank you so much for this post! I'm in a bit of a slump with my blog right now and I even had thoughts of shutting it down but now I think I will try again and I will try to find my own style just like you said :3

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  38. Thank you so much for the wisdom and words of encouragement. I'm just starting my blog, so your post came at the perfect time. I'll keep it in mind when the goin' gets tough! Great blog!
    Ann at onecherrytreelane.com

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  39. Thank you so much for this post! I just recently decided to start blogging and I haven't even written one post yet but this is great advice. I love all of your posts. I've learned a lot from your blog!

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  40. I was browsing the Yahoo! articles page and an article about things you should know before painting your kitchen cabinets. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I see that they mention you! Love your blog! So sorry about your sweet kitty and congratulations on pregnancy! Children are so wonderful.

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  41. Great post! Thanks for sharing! As I'm a new blogger, this post is totally cool and useful for me! xoxo

    Anita

    http://www.siammpatragirl.com

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  42. I've been blogging for about 2 years and some of your points rang so true with me - it's really reassuring to read quality over quantity as I know I'm never going to be one of those people who can come up with a post every day. Thanks so much for sharing your tips, think I need to check out a new camera :)

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  43. Thanks so much for this post, as a new blogger it's seriously helpful to know that someone as successful as you seemed to start off as clueless as I am! I'm just wondering how you managed to get onto the group boards on pinterest? I've tried to contact a few of them and haven't heard anything back. Any tips? I'd be so greatful!
    Linda

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  44. Like many of the comments, thank you for this post! There are very helpful tips.

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  45. Hello, I'm new to the blogsphere and am having a problem getting people to read my blog. I share my blogs link with them but there's no change, the most views I have are probabaly 5 and that's in a good day. Am also using a Sony Cybershot camera and am content with it.
    Thank you for the informaive post slow is the way, I wont give up on my blog.
    Cheers.

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  46. Thank you for this very helpful article! I started my blog about a month ago and I am feeling so many of the emotions you describe here. I just want it to happen right away and I know it takes time- so thank you for calming me down. One question, I am not sure how to join group boards on Pinterest, can you offer any suggestions? My blog is about crafting easy to make cocktails at home http://thirstygals.com/ and I have found a few boards and pinners to follow, but I'm not sure where to find the right group boards. Thanks in advance for any advice!

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  47. Thanks for your lovely post, Virginia! It made my day :)

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Thanks so much for leaving a comment!! I do the hammer dance every time I read one.

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