Sister Style: Travel Pals

CG0B2255 smCG0B2255 smCG0B2255 smOver the weekend we traveled to Charleston, South Carolina to celebrate Emma's birthday and also have some good old fashioned sister time. For us, spending hours on a plane or in a car together inevitably ends with us coming up with lots of new ideas for A Beautiful Mess. We'll dream about blog post series, product designs (been talking about future Happy Mail card designs among other things), and big dreams that may or may not come to fruition, but hey, dare to dream!

Emma's Wearing: top/received in a clothing exchanged (brand is American Eagle), skirt/H&M, tights/Target, shoes c/o ModCloth (brand is BC Footwear), and sunnies/ShopSosie

CG0B2205 smCG0B2205 smElsie's Wearing: Dress/Vintage (found at Katy K), Sunnies/ASOS, Purse/Madewell (on sale now!), Shoes c/o Swedish Hasbeens. *When I travel I try to only pack two pairs of shoes. Usually a pair of Hasbeens or other comfy heels and a pair of cute flats (this time Converse). 

CG0B2227 smCG0B2227 smI've been trying to take more photos with my Instax Mini. It's a tiny instant camera that takes credit card size photos. This is my second one. I think I got my first one about six years ago! I found this really cute case to keep it in. I'll try to share some of my favorite Instax photos with you soon. :) 

CG0B2233 smThanks for reading! xx. Elsie + Emma 

Credits// Author and photography: Emma Chapman and Elsie Larson. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

Comments - 39
Pin it!

7 Free Tools for Tracking Blog Post Performance

Blogging Tips via abeautifulmess.comHey, there. Trey here, again. Given that so many of you have some kind of website or blog yourself, I figured I’d share some of the tools I’ve come across for keeping up with individual posts' performances. It’s incredibly useful information if you’re considering starting or building a sponsorship program or if you're just looking to grow your blog and want to see which posts perform the best. But it’s also just kind of fun to see the numbers—if you're into, like, counting and stuff.

For those of you working for or running a small business, you've probably noticed there is no shortage of figuring it out as you go. Actually, I think that’s probably true of any size company. I always think a company’s infrastructure must be so advanced and thorough, until I start working there. It’s actually kind of relieving to realize, “Oh, you’re all just doing your best here too? Cool, I can do that.”

The point is, when E+E wanted me to reshape and rebuild their sponsorship program, the first thing I needed was numbers, but the structure in place was pretty limited. They already had Google Analytics, which I’ll talk a little about below, but it wasn’t giving them a clear view of individual post pageviews, and tracking clicks felt incredibly tedious. 

The only view of social activity we had was BlogLovin likes and checking the live feed of pins coming from our site. And to be clear, that pin feed doesn’t tell us how many pins or anything, so we were just guessing based on how dense it would get with one post or another. 

So I researched (googled) and researched (more googling + a few clueless emails) for anything I could find that would help us keep track more accurately. Here are some of my favorite free tools:

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARES

Anymore, without some sort of social media activity around your post, it’s unlikely it’ll see much long-term attention. So here are some tools to keep an eye on:

Pin Count: We’re very much a Pinterest blog, so this is an especially important number for us. If you drop your link into this tool, it’ll tell you how many pins (including repins) your post got. This was the first social counting tool we found.

ShareTally: This is my current favorite tool, as it aggregates and totals all the shares (including Pinterest) from 21 social networks and gives you a top-level view of the activity on each network. If you drag their “Tally it!” button into your toolbar, you can just click it, and it will run the query on whichever page you’re currently on.

SharedCount: Like ShareTally, it aggregates shares across multiple social networks, though it only tracks 6 vs. 21. But to be fair, it tracks the 6 most used. The one benefit this tool has over ShareTally is its API. So you can add a share counter on your blog using data this site pulls, BUT they charge for that functionality.

AddThis: Unlike the rest, this won’t simply let you input a link and output social totals for you. It’s a tool you can add to your site to track your social activity. We use AddThis for the social counters you see at the bottom of each post. It has some pretty narrow free options that make it possible to add a share total to the bottom of your posts. The catch is that you have to use their designs, unless you’ve got someone very code savvy. And the most useful tools they offer require that you purchase a pro package.

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)TRACKING INDIVIDUAL POST PAGEVIEWS

If you’ve got any kind of site, chances are your backend has some sort of built-in tool to track total pageviews for your site, maybe a little more. And hopefully you’ve installed Google Analytics (super free and super awesome) to dive even deeper. But the catch with most popular blog formats (no jumps) is that you can’t really get an accurate count of pageviews for an individual post. While Google Analytics will let you see how many pageviews a specific URL is getting, readers can see your post a few ways: homepage, page 2/page 3/etc., and the individual URL itself. And there’s no easy way to add all that together, UNLESS you use a tracking pixel.

WebBeak: From my searching, this is the only tool I’d recommend, because everything else I found was either miserably complicated or charging way too much. And for its base functionality, WebBeak is completely free (they have more in-depth reporting for a small fee). So here’s how it works:

    1. You click “Create Tracker” and go through the prompts until it gives you your tracking pixel link, which is just an image link, but that image is only a 1x1 transparent pixel.
(link looks like: http://webbeak.com/ppe289pl)
    2. You just need a little html here to code it as an image:
<img src="http://WEBBEAK LINK HERE" alt="track" />
    3. Then, drop that code into the bottom of your post in the HTML view.
    4. Once your post is published, every time that 1x1 pixel loads, it counts one view. So ultimately, every time your post loads, it starts counting—giving you pageviews for your individual posts. You can track those results by dropping your WebBeak link into the "Track Results" section of the site.

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)TRACKING LINKS

If you’re working with sponsors at all, they always want to know how many clicks they’ve gotten from working with you. There are a lot of ways you can pull this off, and Google Analytics has a built-in system for it, but it can get a little complicated if all you’re looking for is the total number of clicks. The easiest way to get that information in my opinion is using the link shortening services:

goo.gl: This is Google’s link shortener, and it’s what we use any time we need a tracking link in a pinch. It tells you exactly how many clicks the link got and where in the world the clicks are coming from.

bitly: You’ve no doubt heard of bitly, as their links are everywhere. They also happen to have a pretty robust amount of data on the links you create, a little more socially in depth than goo.gl. Which you use really just depends on how much information you need.

Hmm...

Welp, that was a whole lot of words next to each other. Sorry to anyone with absolutely no interest in blog metrics who I just bored into a coma, so here's an old picture from my phone, because lol. 

Track blog post performance! (click through for more information)Anyway, those are some of our go-to free tools for tracking our blog posts. Like I said, even if you aren't necessarily looking to start an ad program or anything, it's still fun to see how those numbers play out. I get into more specifics about starting a sponsorship program (pricing, etc.) in our Blog Life course if you're more interested in that side of it.

Of course, if you've got any questions about the tools above, let me know, and I'll try to answer to the best of my understanding. -Trey

Credits // Author and Pug Photography: Trey George, Other Photography: Elsie Larson

Comments - 64
Pin it!

DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial)      Ever since I started playing around with DIY stamping techniques last year, I have to admit that I've been a little obsessed (so far I've also made these bracelets and necklaces). There are so many different ways to use the stamping materials, and I really like this version that uses long stamping blanks mounted to leather bracelets. They are pretty fast to make, and you can customize them a lot by using different colors of leather and stamping whatever phrase or hashtag you want on different ones. Yay for choices!

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
-scraps of medium weight leather (real or faux)
-metal bar stamping blanks
-snaps and snap setter (line 20 size)

-1/16" hollow rivets 
-1/16" hole piercing and setting tools (this tool is great and does both)
-fabric scissors or metal ruler and rotary cutter
-metal letter punch set

Optional:
-jewelers block (I recommend one as it gives you a cleaner stamp when under your metal)
-Sharpie marker and rubbing alcohol (to darken the letters)

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial) First you'll want to cut your leather into strips that are at least 1.5 cm wide and as long as you need to go around your wrist (cut each with extra length and trim later for safety). You can also buy flat leather cord the same width and use that if you want a leather with finished edges. After making a few of these, I would definitely suggest getting a leather that is at least a medium stiffness rather than the really soft pliable leather. The rivets that hold the metal bar in place don't stay as well when the leather is really soft, and they can pull out much more easily than if the leather is a bit stiffer. 

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial) Use your 1/16" hole piercing tool to punch two holes where you want your snaps to be installed at each end. Put the corresponding snap pieces through the holes (make sure the correct sides will face each other when installed so they snap together), and use the line 20 snap setter and a hammer to hammer the separate snap sets together (this is a good tutorial for setting snaps). 

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial) Tape your metal stamping blank onto your jeweler's block or hard surface and use your stamp set to create your word or phrase on the blank (you can read more detailed stamping tips in this intro to stamping post). Since the brass blanks are a bit softer than the other blanks I've stamped, I noticed that I didn't have to hit the stamp quite as hard as I have for other blanks, and if I did hit it too hard, the blank would end up curving a bit in the middle. If this happens, you can try to bend it back in place, or just go with it since the curve isn't that severe. Fill in the letters with a Sharpie marker and then give it a wipe with a cloth soaked with rubbing alcohol if you want to darken the lines of the letters. 

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial) Use your piercing tool to punch two holes in your metal bar at either end for the rivets. Line up your bar in the middle of your leather strap, and punch corresponding holes in the leather beneath the holes in your bar (they also make hand punches like this one you can use to punch both holes). Once the holes are punched, insert a rivet with the closed flat side on top, and use the setting side of the piercing and setting tool to close the rivet and secure the bar to the leather. Repeat on both sides of the bar, and your bracelet is ready to wear! If you feel the metal bar sits too flat on your curved wrist, you can easily bend the bar with your fingers to mimic the curve. 

Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial)         Love these! DIY Stamped Bar Leather Bracelet (click through for tutorial)        Once you have some of those basic stamping tools, there are so many different ways you can use them, so I highly recommend stocking up on some of the basics. These bracelets make great gifts and you can make some studded leather bracelets or phrase bracelets to stack them with as well. Hope you decide to get into the world of stamping, it's so fun! xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography by: Laura Gummerman and Elsie Larson. Photos edited using Stella from the Signature Collection

Comments - 42
Pin it!

Coconut and Toffee Bars

Coconut and Toffee Bars (via abeautifulmess.com)The very first time I can remember ever showing any interest in cooking/baking was when I was around 14 or 15 years old. I got obsessed with making M&M cookie bars based on a recipe from the side of the flour bag (don't remember the brand... probably Best Choice or something). 

I probably made that recipe 3-4 times over the course of a few months. I think what happened is I was in the mood for cookies but didn't really have a recipe, so I used the one on the flour bag. They turned out awesome, so I baked the same recipe again a week or so later. That batch didn't turn out as well. And then I became obsessed with figuring out why. I mean, I used the same recipe. How could it turn out so different every time?! It was infuriating. 

Coconut and Toffee Bars (via abeautifulmess.com)  I never did really uncover what I was doing differently back then. My love of eating cookies outweighed my knowledge of the scientific method, I would venture to guess. So... no real discoveries were made but lots of cookies got eaten. (I have a feeling it had to do with how long I blended the butter and sugar or how accurate I was being when measuring out my dry ingredients—but I'll never know for sure.)

At any rate, these bars remind me of that. Not because they are infuriating. Oh no. The main similarity is they are derived from a recipe that can be found on the product packaging. If you have ever had "Magic Cookie Bars" before, then you will likely love these, as they are quite similar. 

Condensed milk magic bar recipeCoconut and Toffee Bars, makes one dozen.
Recipe adapted from Eagle Brand's Magic Cookie Bars

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 a 14 oz can (so, 7 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 chopped Askinosie ABM CollaBARation Bar (dark chocolate + toasted coconut)*
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup toffee chips
big sprinkle of sea salt (optional)

Cover the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter and press into the bottom of the pan. Pour on the sweetened condensed milk. Top with the chopped chocolate bar, coconut and toffee chips. Then sprinkle on the sea salt if using. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. 

*You can use 3 oz dark chocolate chips instead of the Askinosie chocolate bar if you just can't find it anywhere. But try—because it's good!

Coconut and Toffee Bars (via abeautifulmess.com) Allow to cool before removing from the pan. Keep in mind that these are meant to be ooey-gooey. But, if you find they are too ooey, just pop the baked bars in the freezer for a few minutes to firm them up a little. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Comments - 29
Pin it!

The Shop

Check out our Photoshop Actions, E-Courses and new product line!