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A Look Back at 2012

Brandon lost his job while I was out of town for Alt Summit last year. We were nervous and worried, and it threw our family dynamic out of whack. After several months, we decided that Brandon would become a stay-at-home dad, and I would try to support the family through my blog and other writing opportunities.

Throwing myself into the blog, full-force, brought about amazing things, but it was scary too. I was the sole breadwinner — realizing a dream of mine to support the family — but I had plenty of fears and doubts. I questioned my past academic failures and non-traditional career path. I was afraid, but I forged ahead. Now, as I look back on the year, all seems right and we’re in a good place.

I worked hard on the business aspect of my life, but I also actively sought opportunities to cross off a few of my Lovely Life List items. I put aside my fear of water and took the Chicago architecture tour by boat. I’ve never considered myself to be athletic, but I did the Color Run 5K. I helped break a world record on roller skates with some of my roller derby ladies. I learned that maybe I don’t have such a black thumb after all. I gave a keynote speech (and visited Canada). I met and interviewed Martha Stewart.

Next up on the list to cross off? Sequins. Watch out, 2013.

This past year, I also experimented with something new for the blog: working with a contributor. I had watched as other blogs have grown (sometimes rapidly) by adding more content and expanding from just the original author’s voice, and I thought it would be a good model to follow. I had been wanting to bring more craft content to the blog (like my handpainted clothespin dolls or my colorblock Christmas trees), and I felt like it was a good time to bring on a contributor to share more of these types of posts.

Andrea Howe was a fantastic addition, bringing us posts like this neon table setting and tutorials like how to make a statement necklace (which has been pinned over 27,000 times to date!). I love Andrea and was grateful to have such a wonderful experience with a contributor, but ultimately I decided that I felt best keeping this space 100% my own. I may be missing out on potential growth by not being able to produce more than one post per day right now, but it feels like the right decision.

Playing with Daddy

And of course, throughout all of the professional and personal highs and lows, I decorated my house and doted on my kids. As Eleanor and August continue to grow into their own little persons, I feel myself becoming more protective of their individuality. Their stories are theirs to share one day, when and if they choose to do so. They aren’t gone from my blog and I’m sure I’ll always share my life with them here to some extent, but I want to respect their privacy too.

Pink Christmas Tree

I’m still working on my house to-do list, but I’ve already changed out my coffee table, painted my vintage nesting tables, made progress on the bathroom, and switched up the dining room. My home office was featured in a magazine, and my home was photographed for a Christmas magazine issue to come out next year. I also went to New York and did three apartment makeovers in three days, which was amazing and exhausting.

I think that last phrase sums up all of 2012 for me quite nicely. Amazing and exhausting. Here’s to what’s next.

Pink Christmas Tree with Pailettes

Young House Love

The Day John and Sherry Showed Up at My House

John Petersik of Young House Love taking photos of Making it Lovely's house

I’ve ‘known’ John and Sherry Petersik of Young House Love since 2007. We started our blogs around the same time and we’ve chatted plenty of times via email over the years, but we had never met before. When I read that they were going to be in Chicago for their book tour, I sent them an email hoping to find a little time to meet up. Sherry wrote back and said that they were down for one of their infamous house crashes, and so we set a date.

Do you know how weird it is to meet someone you’ve known for five years by them coming to your house? I mean, it was awesome, but it was also a little surreal to see John and Sherry walking up to my front door.

Sherry Petersik (Young House Love) and Nicole Balch (Making it Lovely)

They came in, we all hugged, and then they house crashed. Brandon and August were home the whole time, and John and Sherry met Eleanor for a few minutes too after Brandon picked her up from preschool. Clara was back at home with her grandma, but we all agreed that she and Eleanor would have been toddler besties.

I drove John and Sherry to their hotel when they were done taking photos of the house, and on the way I tried to point out interesting things around Chicago. “There’s the Sears/Willis Tower, over there is the Trump Tower” and so on. And of course I blurted out “here’s where R. Kelly shot Trapped in the Closet!” I’m not sure if they were into that (but man, “En Vogue… with a new lead singer” had me and Brandon cracking up in the latest installment). Later that night, Sherry and I realized that we (professional bloggers that we are) forgot to take a picture of “Young House Love and Making it Lovely” together with a decent camera. We made sure to get one with the three of us the next day, but of course I only had my phone with me. Behold!

Sherry Petersik, Nicole Balch, and John Petersik  (Young House Love and Making it Lovely)
(Pics or it didn’t happen.)

See all those people behind us there? The line for them at their book signing was crazy long, with people wrapped around the store and waiting out in the rain. It was a dedicated (and really sweet) group of people. I’ve worked and attended a lot of book readings, but this was a particularly good one. A few people in the crowd even recognized me and had me sign my page in the book (I contributed project #199), which felt really cool.

Young House Love Book Signing at West Elm

John and Sherry are now New York Times best selling authors for their book, Young House Love, and I couldn’t be happier for them. (Congrats, guys, and thanks again for coming over.)

The Bing it On Report

I’ve been participating in a challenge with several other bloggers, in partnership with Alt Summit. It has been a week of searching with Bing instead of Google, and today it’s time for the report. Did you try it out too? I use my browser’s built-in search bar and I installed Bing’s plugin for this challenge, so switching for the week was easy.

So, what was different? Well, I didn’t notice much of a difference a lot of the time. Sometimes I liked it, sometimes I was frustrated, and most of the time I felt pretty neutral about the whole thing. There were lots of little differences that you only notice because of the novelty of having them or the strange feeling of missing something. For instance, I like autofill. Bing does it to a lesser extent, but only on its homepage. You know what I mean; like when you start typing “why” and it gives you a drop-down of queries and suddenly you want to know, yes, “why are manhole covers round?” I missed the serendipity. My productivity improved without the internet rabbit hole though, so there’s that.

I did like the social media integration a lot. I also liked Bing for travel because of its Price Predictor (buy those tickets now, or wait for a drop in price?). Shopping searches were a toss-up, but image search goes to Google. I find Google’s reverse image search is pretty indispensable as a blogger.

Switching was an interesting experiment. I think I’ll probably switch between Bing and Google moving forward, depending on what I need. I figure it’s good to shake up old habits from time to time, right?

This post is brought to you by Alt Summit and their partner Bing. I’m taking the Bing It On challenge this week.

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