How My Blog Design Changed Over 4 Years


I got a new theme again.  This is the 3rd time in 4 years that I’ve updated my WordPress theme.  I like blogging about it every time I design it because my blog is like a journal of my life and I like to keep track of things like this.  Here’s the post for my redesign in 2014 and here’s the post for the redesign in 2013.  You can keep reading, though, because I put all the screenshots from those posts at the bottom!

My last theme was more high maintenance than a Disney Princess and it was always stressing me out.  (The featured image is the wrong size! If it’s off by 2px it looks like crap! WHY does it keep adding random lines to things?!) I got a kick out of going over what my blog designs have looked like through the years and I thought I’d share.



I’m not sure what my logic was behind this design.  Let’s have ink blotches because books! And since that’s kind of grungy and ugly we’ll add a pretty butterfly!  Looks nice doesn’t it?

Loki Side eye Gif

Loki Says no



I got tired of the black and white, so I downloaded every photoshop brush known to man and came up with this thing.

header copy owl 4

This is where my owl came in.  I ADORED him.  He felt like my mascot and I used him for all my social media buttons.  Of all the things to go from my designs, he’s the only thing I miss. :(

The Jane Austen font is ok.  Making this banner took every photoshop and computer skill I possessed.  I had to take a screen shot of my theme and add things on top of it to make it seem like my header went out of the designated header area.  I was rather proud of myself.  But even then I knew I kept adding layers and layers of brushes because I thought it looking good was just one more photoshop layer away….


Books: A true story

I decided to get a new Genesis theme called Streamline because my free theme was very hard to customize the way I wanted to.  You had to know CSS to change anything in my free WordPress theme so I paid $80 and got a new one.  The ironic thing was I had to learn way more CSS than I had planned because it didn’t work out of the box like I wanted to.  But I was determined to get it to look exactly the way I wanted because I spent so much money on it!

I loved the theme but I didn’t even know where to start with a header design. So I hired Ashley from Creative Whim and I LOVED IT.  I kept it the longest of all my blog designs – about 1 1/2 years.


I was tired of the dark background so I was determined to make a header with an all white background so my theme background didn’t have to be black anymore.  I went through many, many bad designs before I made this one.


No really. The others were bad.  Super super bad.


Floating Feathers – This one isn’t terrible.  I love the fonts.  In fact, the pink font ended up being the one that says “Books” in my new banner. But the feathers are just floating there with no purpose and it just looks weird.  Like, did a bird explode?  POOF.


Centered – This one is hard to read and the feather in the background is so covered up that you can’t even really tell its a feather.


Outlined – I’m not sure why I kept trying to get the feather in the background.  You can’t tell it’s a feather and you can’t read the words on top of it without an outline which I didn’t like.


Sucks – This one is titled “Feather Banner Sucks.”  Yeah, I don’t need much more explanation than that.



Here it is! The final design!

swank theme screen shot feb 2015


And here’s the screenshots from my designs in the past. It’s fun to see how blog designs change over time. Hope you enjoyed!

Book vs. Movie: Northanger Abbey


Northerner Abbey 2007If you love Austenland, like I did, then you need to see JJ Field in this 2007 adaption of Northanger Abbey. Yay JJ Field! He plays Henry, one of the only funny Jane Austen heroes, and does it marvelously.  I thought this was a great adaption of Northanger Abbey and it was a lot of fun to watch.

There’s something about watching Jane Austen’s stories come to life that just highlights the sarcasm and wit that she has.  I always like seeing how directors take ideas and themes in books and make them visual.  I really liked the scenes where Catherine’s imagination ran wild.

The movie made John Thorpe seem more obviously devious and I’m not sure I was a fan of him planting the weed of something being wrong with Henry’s mother’s death.  I liked Catherine coming up with that insane theory in the book for no reason whatsoever.

Jane Austen totally info-dumps about Catherine’s childhood and I’m always amazed at how she can pull that off without being boring.  I liked that this movie adaption went into her childhood and showed a few scenes from it.

NorthangerAbbey2007720pBluRayx264-7SinS00363518-17-41There were a few things I missed from the book that weren’t in the movie like Henry telling the story about the chest and the Mrs. Thorpe/Mrs. Allen interactions of talking AT each other instead of TO each other.  They also skipped the dinner where Henry was extra kind to Catherine because he knew he’d hurt her feelings.  I thought that scene was so sweet.  But some things always have to go and I understood why they left those things out.  I also like it when they make intentional changes that ARE different but highlight the same story like when they had her travel at night instead of during the day like in the book because it showed how rude and hurried her leaving was.

The resolution in the movie was very similar to that of the book.  I always feel like Jane Austen’s novels just kind of end.  She always thinks of witty ways to start a book with amazing first sentences.  People always talk about the great first sentences of her novels but no one seems to talk about or even remember the last sentences of her novel.

Overall, this was a great adaption of a delightful Jane Austen novel that I think you should see.

4 Stars

Things On My Mind Right Now: Paper vs. Digital, Zombies, and The Little Things


No More Zombie Jessica

A lot of you were so kind to wish me luck in getting more sleep.  I’m happy to say we bought a new bed and it’s amazing! I lost 3 pounds so far just from getting better sleep because I have definitely not been exercising or anything crazy like that.  I can now see that I was a zombie with my old, crappy bed.  Tired. Food. Energy. Want. Eat. Eat. SUUUUGGGGGAAAAARRR.  I’ve come out of the zombie fog and I no longer eat all stupid day.  Thank you, New Bed.  Zombie Apocalypse averted and my waist line has been saved (as well as humanity I guess).


No one likes a zombie


Paper vs. Digital – I HAVE THE ANSWER

I bought a paper planner.  I bought it mostly because it went viral on kickstarter and it was back ordered like crazy.  Seems counter intuitive but sometimes SO many people wanting something gets you intrigued.  Why do so many people want the thing? I want the thing. Since it is so massively back ordered, the owner has kindly allowed it to be printed completely free.  This is what I’ve been using since the beginning of January while I wait for mine to come in the mail.   Using this planner has taught me something. I think I finally discovered the secret to the paper vs. digital argument when it comes to books/magazines/planners/everything.

The answer is both.


No seriously.  Information was passed around on paper because it was the ONLY option.  Now that there are better ways to send information paper is still around for the things that it is most suited for.  I don’t think digital will ever replace paper all the way because there are some things paper will always do better.  But thank heavens for email.  My gosh what would my house look like if all my emails were physical!?

I was all about digital.  I was an early adopter.  I even had a PDA (it’s a really really old smart phone, but it had no phone.  Or apps.  Ok it was a really really old digital planner.)  I was so excited to finally have a smart phone and I tried out all kinds of planner apps because I was going to super organize my life! But in reality I wrote down lots of stuff with arbitrary due dates so I wouldn’t forget them and before I knew it my to-do list had 30+ things on it daily.  It had that stupid red notification circle with a number in it of all the things I hadn’t done.  And it made me unhappy.  I felt like I never got anything done.  I felt like I was running all over the place last minute because my phone would beep at me and remind me that I had a doctor appointment in 30 minutes.  Wait, 30 minutes! CRAP!


So when I saw the paper planner, I thought about how it would be an improvement on my digital one.  Writing things down makes you remember them and I got to buy pretty new highlighters.  I quickly realized that I couldn’t go 100% paper, either.  I needed to be able to quickly type appointments in my phone and I need my husband to have access to them so he knows mine and the kid’s schedule.  But the thing that the paper planner does so much better is that it makes me sit down and PLAN out my week.  I realized that just typing things in my phone and hoping everything works out is the opposite of organized.

So my perfect world of being organized and stress free is a world that combines my digital and paper planner.  (And I totally think this applies to books.  I’ll get to that in a minute though).  I type everything in my phone and each week I write down all the things in my phone on my planner so I can make plans, solve conflicts, and make sure I have time for everything.  And the process of writing things down helps me remember my appointments!  The other thing I love about my paper planner is that it focuses on the things I HAVE done instead of the things I still need to do.  I highlight things I finish on my planner so all the colors make me feel happy and accomplished.  And then I gladly turned off the stupid notification bubble on my digital planner.

The process of adding to-do list and calendar items to my phone and then transferring them to my paper planner has been awesome.  It also gave me some deep thoughts on the paper vs. digital argument with books.  The answer to that is BOTH.  Paper is so much better for books with pictures and maps and indexes that you like to look through.  My kids also love paper books because they like seeing their physical progress as they read something – especially if it’s long like a chapter book.  But my kindle is so much better for reading while I’m in bed or while I’m traveling.  But paper books rock at being signed.  My kindle is so lame to take to book signings.  I’m going to keep all this in mind from now on when I buy books.  Books that I would have gotten before in mass market I just get on my kindle.  Books that look beautiful and need to be held will have more room on my shelf since there won’t be so many mass market paperbacks on them.

It’s the little things you notice when your husband is gone.  He probably turns of the light for me and puts away my book every night.  I read until I can’t physically keep my eyes open.  This whole week while he was on a business trip, I’ve been waking up to lights on, my phone wedged under my face instead of plugged in and my book sprawled somewhere on my bed with no bookmark!  Waking up like that was quite the jarring experience.  I missed him so much.


Who left the light on? Oh….I did.

Book Reviews

Other Posts

Reading Queue for February


Reading Queue is a monthly meme where you share what books you plan to read for the month.  You can hop to other blogs and see what others are reading and maybe find someone reading the same thing as you! Or you can ask for people to vote on what you should read next if you can’t decide.  Reading Queue is hosted by Book Tasty and Books:  A true story.

This post should have been written two weeks ago.  The truth is these posts have been making me feel guilty.  My reading pace has changed since my baby was born and I haven’t entierly accepted that my reading schedule needs to change, too.  It’s hard for me to face these posts that no longer have 4-6 books on them.  Based on my new reading pace they should have 2-3 books on them.  Which makes these posts feel pointless and depressing.  Why should I make a plan to make sure I only read 2 books?  BUT. Now that I’ve realized that I hope I can look forward to these posts like I used to.  I have been making these posts since 2012.  Having a list of books that I’m going to read helps me a lot because I get decision paralysis when faced with the 500+ books on my Goodreads to-read shelf.  Taking the time a few weeks before the month ends to really ponder what I feel like reading makes me so happy!  And maybe more free time will creep back into my life.  I’m having my husband and kids help more with the chores around the house and I hope it will start paying off with more free time for me soon.  SO!  Here is the very short list of books I would like to read this month (but short is ok:)


Book ClubIn The Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

To Kids: The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

For Review: MS from a friend

DIDN’T READ: The Martian by Andy Weir

I bought the ebook but the library is taking it’s sweet time for it to come in for my friend so I couldn’t have started it if I had wanted to.

FINISHED: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

We had a great book club discussion about this one.  My favorite thing we discussed was the characters and whether we would make the same decisions they did.

DIDN’T READ: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

I think I’m going to have to skip out on audiobooks for now.  I just don’t have time to workout and we clean as a family now.   Those were my two biggest times to get audiobook listening into my schedule.

DIDN’T READ: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Hopefully I’ll get to this one soon.  It’s been on my list for a while now.

STILL READING: Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

My kids seem to like the story and they can follow it.  I still get roped into Captain Underpants and Beast Quest some nights, though. UGH.  But we are making slow and sure progress.

Book Review: The Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo

Book Review: The Witch of Duva by Leigh BardugoThe Witch of Duva by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #0.5
Published: June 5, 2012
43 pages
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Novella, Young Adult
Source: Purchased

The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:

There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls...or so the story goes. But it’s just possible that the danger may be a little bit closer to home. This story is a companion folk tale to Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, Shadow and Bone.
4 Stars

The Short Version

The Witch of Duva is a beautifully written fairy tale that feels close to our own fairy tales but it messes with your expectations by twisting the story around in new ways.  This prequel novella reminded me of Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling.  The Witch of Duva, like Tales of Beedle the Bard, is a fairy tale set in the same world that doesn’t necessarily advance the story but functions to flesh out the world and add a little more magic to it.  I couldn’t find more of a connection between The Witch of Duva and Shadow and Bone other than they are both set in the same world.  I actually prefer this kind of novella to one that tells some back story of a character.  I feel like the fairy tale is something fun that lets me stay in that world a little longer.  When I’ve read novellas that try to continue the narrative, I found myself bored.  This fairy tale was beautiful and engaging and I highly recommend it.

The Jessica Thinks Too Much Version

There were just too many awesome and juicy details that I couldn’t skip discussing them.  I will talk about the details of the book and the foreshadowing that I saw, but I won’t tell how it ends.

The Witch of Duva reminds me of Hansel and Gretel.  Like Hansel and Gretel, there is a witch in the woods that eats girls.  Nadya, the main character, talks about how her mother becomes sick and the only thing that comforts her is sweet cakes from Karina.  I love the theme of food in this fairy tale – especially sweet food – that ties it into our fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel.  One theory of why the girls go missing is that they smell food in the forrest and wander off.

I can see hints now of what happens at the end now that I’m reading it again.  It describes the girls as “full-grown girls near old enough to marry.”  There’s lots of misdirection to Karina since we are seeing the events through Nadya’s eyes and she automatically doesn’t like Karina trying to replace her mother.

Karina sends Nadya into the forrest to find the rabbit traps and Nadya follows the white stones that mark the path that were left by her brother, Havel.  I’m geeking out over all the Hansel and Gretel references!!  Nadya gets lost because the stones get covered in snow.  I like how this changes the Hansel and Gretel version to fit into the Russian-like setting of Ravka.

Hungry, Nadya finds a house that smells like cooking sugar.  The old woman that lives in the house feeds her.  I love how Nadya even mentions that she feels like she’s just being fattened up to be eaten later.  But this is where the twists come in.  The witch’s house becomes a safe place for Nadya instead of the other way around.  The witch helps people and even hides Nadya so rumors don’t start that she kidnaps children.  Haha! Oops too late.

I loved the elements that came from other fairy tales, too.  There was a reference to the Gingerbread Man story.  But again it’s different than I thought it would be.  The witch also asks Nadya all the time what she wants that reminded me a little of the original Beauty and the Beast.

I had a blast reading the fairy tale.  I loved analyzing it and thinking about it and just getting lost in the world.


Why are we so quick to villainize women?

The thing that made me think the most about this story was how easy we are to attach sinister motives to women when their outward actions show mostly kindness.  It only takes one or two harsh things for us to immediately hate a woman when men do much worse things and it often gets looked over.  What do you think?

Content Rating: Medium, for a suggestive scene.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives in Hollywood, where she indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist L.B. Benson. Occasionally, she can be heard singing with her band, Captain Automatic.

Her debut novel, Shadow & Bone (Holt Children’s/ Macmillan), is a New York Times Best Seller and the first book in the Grisha Trilogy. Book 2, Siege and Storm, will be published in 2013. She is represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of New Leaf.