this blog baby is 10 years old!

10 year blogiversary

Ten years ago, this blog was born! It seems like only yesterday that rljart was turning 5!

My early posts are unendingly embarrassing and were never exactly meant for public consumption, but it is still exciting to realize that I have been keeping this website going for a full decade. When I first started, I wanted this to be something of a lifestyle/fashion blog, but it mostly ended up being a vehicle for my Christmas list. Only my friends and family read those early posts, which is basically still true today. But now I try hard to only post things that I truly feel comfortable with being public. I also try to stay more positive.

Many of the images from the early posts were lost in a previous upgrade of the site, but a couple of them survived, like the ones from 2003 seen above. It is fun to re-visit all of the old holiday posts and to remember what it was like when Travis and I were first married. Ah, memories!

Why do I keep blogging? I still sometimes find myself visiting the dream of making money with this blog — publishing ads, writing sponsored posts, reviewing products — but the reality is that Swap-bot has always been more interesting, fun, and profitable. So I focus the bulk of my time and energy there. This blog is just for fun. I love it as my digital scrapbook and a record of my life. No one else is going to write my life’s story, so why not do it myself?!


Just for fun… here are some of the previous headers I’ve used on this site:


i heart blogshop

Do you want to start using Photoshop? Do you use Photoshop, but wish you knew more about it? Do you totally know Photoshop and use it every day, but need some motivation to actually put effort into making your websites look great?

I would answer yes to the third question. I was trained as a graphic designer and I have been using Photoshop nearly everyday of my life for the past 15 years. I’ve been blogging since 2003 and working on Swap-bot since 2005. But my websites are still lacking design-wise. I never set aside the time to really work on the style and photos and graphics… because it is hard work! So, I signed up for Blogshop to hopefully give myself a design and style kick in the pants.

Blogshop is a traveling Photoshop class for bloggers taught by Bri Emery and Angela Kohler. I love Bri’s design blog and had seen so many great things (beautiful Instagram photos!) about Blogshop online that I was curious about the class. When I saw it was being hosted in NY this summer, I thought I should try it out. Supposedly, I bought the second-to-last slot!

The class is not cheap. At all. It is $772 for two-days of instruction and lunch. Plus, you MUST own a Mac laptop, a Wacom drawing tablet and the newest version of Photoshop. That is a steep monetary barrier for the class, but it is obviously not a major deterrent because nearly every session is sold out.

I own Photoshop CS5, so I signed up for the free trail of the new Photoshop Creative Cloud for the class. I want to stay up-to-date with Photoshop, so I am glad that I forced myself to try it. It felt very comfortable, but I am still suspicious of the new Creative Cloud subscription model. The only major differences in PS CC that we explored in class were the new Tilt-Shift and Iris Blur filters. Otherwise, I felt like I could use CS5 for everything we learned.

So what did we learn? A good amount! Mood boards, animated Gifs, photo retouching, keyboard shortcuts, and more. (The photos in this blog post are some of the things we worked on in class.) I will admit that Blogshop probably wasn’t geared toward me. I use Photoshop a lot and can accomplish a lot of what they taught already… but Photoshop is such a complicated and intricate program, that there is always something new to learn! I learned a few new shortcuts (why have I not been using COMMAND + J to duplicate layers this whole time??) and really enjoyed the photo retouching segment taught by Angela. I feel way more comfortable using the Liquify filter to adjust my photos now.

Other major positives:

  • Goodie bags! One of the major perks of Blogshop are the cute goodie bags. We received beautiful bkr glass water bottles and Baggu bags filled with fun and lovely items, like earrings from Upper Metal Class, Tattly tattoos, dish towels from Artsy Modern, little Wind & Willow bowls, and more!
  • The other attendees were completely gorgeous and totally stylish. I felt out of their league. No joke, I was sitting next to a professional model (in Isabel Marant sneakers, no less) the first day of class. She was totally awesome, btw. There were women (and one man) of all ages, but many/most were younger than me. It was sort of surprising? exciting? cool? to hear women ten years younger than me talk about lifestyle blogging as a legit career option without any irony or embarrassment. They have grown up reading popular, big-name blogs and have clear examples of success to follow. It will be interesting to see how the industry changes and grows.
  • Bri is an awesome designer with impeccable taste and Angela is an amazingly talented and professional photographer. She took portraits of all of us to use on our websites (see mine below). That is hugely generous!

blogshop portrait of rachel johnson by Angela Kohler

My main criticism: We were not allowed internet access! Gah! I run an online business that I must monitor every single day. Since I am fairly familiar with Photoshop, I was hoping I could still put in a bit of work on Swap-bot while attending the all-day class. Nope. Plus, it would have been helpful to be able to access my Flickr photos to use for some of our in-class exercises. I understand that they want us focused, but if I had known in advance that there would not be internet access it would have been a deal-breaker for me. Dramatic, but true. Especially since the instructors DID have internet access and were updating their Pinterest accounts while teaching. Grrr.

Conclusions? Blogshop is a good class. Especially for beginner Photoshop users who want to improve their lifestyle or design blogs. I’m glad I attended because it has motivated me to really try to re-design this blog and work harder on the Swap-bot blog. BUT I am not sure if I will ever totally be a part of the whole “lifestyle blog” world. It is a ton of work and it is all about creating that perfectly polished outward expression of design and style. I am just too messy and lazy to be a pro design maven. BUT BUT! I DO have major, marketable, valuable skills that I have been honing for over a decade. I shouldn’t forget that. Design knowledge and Photoshop, social media, and blogging skills are not something to dismiss. I plan (hope!) to continue to improve my skills and improve my websites… we’ll see where it takes me!

You can follow Blogshop on Twitter and Instagram to learn more about upcoming classes.

iPhone app: vine

They’ve been telling us that video is the next big thing on the web for a decade… and obviously it IS a major part of the online world. (YouTube was the third most visited site in 2012.) But I am still skeptical. I hate the long load times, the 30 second ads you have to watch before getting to your content, and the long length of the videos. My time online is spent so frantically — always something to do, always new links to click — that I rarely take the time to watch video.

So… what am I doing using the video app, Vine??

Vine is a free, cute, little iPhone app that allows you to take tiny, 6-second videos and share them online. It’s format and usability is similar to Instagram, so it is easy to dive right in. A few of my favorite bloggers have been buzzing about the Twitter-owned app since it was officially released last week, so I had to give it a try!

So far, I think I’ve made seven vines, but my favorites are:

Vine Positives: It is free! No ads! (yet.) I LOVE the short format. Six-second videos are just my style! The app is easy to figure out and use. The videos are easy to browse on your phone — they load and play immediately — and give a fun glimpse into the lives of your favorite bloggers and Twitter-ers. Many users have already mastered the stop-action format and have posted some amazing stuff.

Vine Negatives: Well… porn. Boo. Porn was the first thing I saw on Vine when I downloaded the app on Monday. A porn video was accidentally tagged as an “Editor’s Choice” and showed up in everyone’s feed. It caused a bunch of controversy and even got the app dropped from Apple’s featured apps section. But the issue has now been fixed and I have not seen any porn since, so no big deal. One serious complaint: I don’t know how to tell you to follow my Vine feed… I think you must search by my Twitter handle (@rljart) or by my full name (Rachel Lamble Johnson). I wish I could give you a straight link to my Vine profile.

Have you tried Vine? What do you think? Please link to your Vine videos in the comments!


I almost can’t believe it, but over 100,000 swaps have been hosted on Swap-bot! Travis and I have been running the site for almost six years and we have over 40,000 members. It is a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a little bit of craziness, but I am very happy to be managing the ‘bot as my full-time job.

To celebrate the big milestone, I am hosting a special 100,000th Swap. It is a really easy swap that everyone can join — you simply send one piece of Swap-bot-themed postal mail to your one partner. It can be a postcard, a letter, an ATC, an inchie, anything! The only strict requirement is that your item go through the postal mail and that it has some sort of Swap-bot decoration on it. Come join us and celebrate Swap-bot!

In other business news:

— Jessica and I launched our first Ace Expert Interview today on Ace Department. It is a discussion with Certified Health & Nutrition Counselor, Andrea Moss of about transitioning to a healthier lifestyle for fall. She gives some easy and practical tips.

— I am feeling energized to post more often one this personal blog (Rachel & the city/ I want to do shorter daily posts that can act as a record of what I am working on and enjoying. I am also excited because I was recently invited to be a part of my friend Crissy’s new blog round up. I am happy to be a part of a community of female bloggers. It may mean a bit more traffic, but really this blog is not about traffic… it’s more about meeting people online and having an outlet to share a bit about my life.


The Lamble family is hip to the times. We’ve all all got ourselves cool, new Google+ accounts and tonight we tried the “hangout” feature in honor of my twin brothers’ birthday. (Happy birthday, Adam & Aaron!) Sadly, Google video chat doesn’t work on the iPad, so not everyone could join in, but it was pretty fun just the same.

If you are on +, add me to your circles!

fashion & craft

I have a double-header day today! Right now I am thrilled to be at the Lucky Fashion and Beauty Blogging Conference. (In the photo above is Brandon Holley, editor of Lucky Magazine, Kerry Diamond from Lancome, Mallory Andrews from Bergdorf Goodman, and David Duplantis from Coach.) I am not technically a 100% fashion blogger, but I would like to bring more focus to this blog and I love fashion and beauty… We’ll see how today goes. If you want to “attend” the conference, too, check out the live stream here.

In the afternoon, I am headed to Etsy for the Etsy Success SYmposium. Swap-bot (i.e. me) is hosting an in-person swap at the end of the day with the attendees. I am excited to meet all of the Etsy sellers! (You can also watch the Success Symposium live on the web here.)

eye candy

Above is a screen shot of my profile on It is a new visual bookmarking site that I just started using last week. It is very well designed and many of the blogging cool kids use it, so there are plenty of lovely things being “pinned” all the time. I’ve created a few “boards” (i.e. categories) and have been slowly adding images that catch my eye.

Previous to Pinterest, I was using to bookmark my favorite images. Imgfave is a fine site, but I think I am going to transition completely over to Pinterest… It allows for more options and is just more user-friendly and pretty. I also use my tumblr blog, to post quick items that are either on my wishlist or that I think are interesting. I am definitely going to continue posting to it (hopefully daily) with “high interest” items that don’t quite fit on my main blog (, while using Pinterest for things that I just find visually inspiring.

Speaking of visual inspiration, one of my current favorite websites is Artessen. It is an aggregator of the top visual and design blogs and there is always tons of beautiful photography to be found just by visiting the home page. It actually kind of makes me sick with jealousy every time I visit (every day), but I keep going back hoping that some of the beauty and awesome design will rub off!

What sites do you use to keep track of your favorite images? There are so many cool blogging platforms and bookmarking sites that it is hard to stay on top of the best methods… How do you organize all of your different online presences?


loving… The Hairpin – A recently launched “ladies website.” It is basically a general-interest blog that links to everything from politics to beauty articles and provides clever and lol-funny commentary. It is a tiny bit snarky and a little obscene, but I can’t get enough of it!

watching & reading… The Walking Dead – I read the first three trade paperbacks of the comics and I am pretty pumped about the tv series. The first few episodes had me worried (some lame dialog, heavy-hitting lessons in humanity), but this Sunday’s episode was pretty awesome with the zombie attack at the end. I’m a fan.

thinking… about my maternal grandparents. I watched 1952’s Room For One More over the weekend and it reminded me of them. It was made before my mom was born, and all of the 1950s style — the clothing, the way of talking, the large families and stay-at-home moms in dresses — made me think of my mother’s family growing up. Cary Grant is skinny, and tall, and dark like my grandfather was, and Betsy Drake plays the caring mother of five (my grandmother had six). It is funny how much style and society can change in a little over 50 years…

worrying over… whether to just go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) without any prep, or to re-read the books and/or re-watch the movies again before hand. I feel like I’ve been away from it for too long…

September Blogging Special

In an attempt to improve my personal blog and try to increase my blogging enthusiasm, I signed up for’s September Blogging Special. It is a month-long “eClass” that includes daily emails with blogging tips and prompts. I may not be able to do all of the blogging prompts, but I am going to try to do many of them – starting today!

Today’s Challenge: Get out of your blog reading rut! Crissy challenged us to visit our three favorite blogs and then visit three totally new-to-us blogs that are outside of our comfort zone.

three of my favorite blogs

First, 3 of my favorite blogs:

ljcfyi – a daily blog with lots of photos

[i]LoveLife– an artist’s blog on creativity

Oh joy! – a premier design blog

three new blogs

Now, 3 new (and cool) blogs:

100 Layer Cake – This is a very popular blog about weddings. I got married seven years ago, so I don’t really read wedding blogs, but this one is so beautiful! Lots of design and party inspiration.

This Girl is Losing It – A weight loss and running blog (found via). The author has had a lot of success (lost 38 lbs!) and is training to run a 5k, which is very interesting to me right now as I train for a marathon!

Conversion Rater – So this is actually my friend, Pat’s, blog, but it is a bit outside my comfort zone. It is a tech blog with a focus on online advertising and internet startups and Pat really knows his stuff!


So, I didn’t move outside of my comfort zone too far, but I have added these three new blogs to my reader and hope to gain a fresh perspective by expanding my blog circle. What are a few other new-to-me blogs I should check out?

My favorite links from BlogHer

I know, I know… you are most likely sick of hearing about the lady blogging conference. I apologize for being so single-minded lately, but I feel like I need to write down all of the good info I picked up at BlogHer before it slips out of my mind and is lost forever! Wow. That sounds dramatic! I better get to it.

Today, I have a list of all my favorite new websites that I learned about over the weekend. Hopefully, you will like some of them as well…

Crafty Blogs & Sites:

  • Handmade Detroit – If you are in Michigan, this site is for you. And even if you’re not, the blog has lots of great crafty content.
  • Tonya Staab – This and That – Tonya was on the Etsy blogging panel with me and she is fantastic. Her blog covers just about everything – including cupcakes!
  • DIY Buiness Association – A new blog and organization from Amy Schroeder, Founder of Venus Zine and
  • Teen Angster – The personal blog of Allison, one of the authors of the amazing Etsy blog.
  • The Creative Empire – You already know about Tara Gentile from ScoutieGirl and Megan Auman from Crafting an MBA because I link to their great sites all of the time. The Creative Empire is their new project – a community built to help web entrepreneurs.
  • The Honey Pie Tree – A hand-crafted toy designer’s blog.
  • The Studio Creations – A very pretty art blog by Thais, a Brazilian living in NY.
  • Louise Gale – An artist who hosts the The Creative Color Challenge.
  • Kipiboo – A blog of art and inspiration from a Brooklyn artist.
  • Design Mom – Gabrielle is one of the founders of Kirtsy, a designer, and a mom of six.

Other Blogs:

Other Cool Websites:

  • Indie Biz Chicks – I’ve already linked to this site a couple times, but Crissy’s website is an excellent resource for small business owners.
  • Reware Vintage – a vintage clothing shop and blog.
  • Food on the Table – A meal planning tool. Amanda, the rep, was super-sweet!
  • Cake Lab – The most beautiful and delicious mini cupcakes. I had them at Etsy.
  • Girlfriend Circles – A community that matches up online friends for real world get togethers.
  • Graph Jam – A funny graph builder.

Whew! That is a long list of websites… and the thing is, I am sure I left off some good ones. Please add more of your favorite links from the conference (or just in general) in the comments…