Updating your RVing or Camping Blog…

Many of you won’t even notice the change, unless you happened to visit during the ten minutes I was making changes, but this blog has a new look! As soon as I explain that, we’ll get back to the cell phone issue.

Picking the right WordPress theme is important!

This blog was my first experience with using WordPress, and I made some beginner mistakes with it… namely, not researching the proper theme. I discovered too late that the theme “Twenty Ten” puts four columns of widgets in the footer, which is why the Frugal Shunpikers Guides and my contact information and disclaimers were all crowded to the left at the bottom, which looked really dumb. I should have used the “Twenty Eleven” theme, as it has one footer column at the bottom, and if you scroll down, the information there is all nicely centered now.

On the other hand, that theme only wants to put the sidebar on posts, not pages. I wanted more control over that, so I found a plug-in called “Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions” which gives more flexibility in that regard. Now, if you click on any of the pages within the black menu bar below the header above, the same sidebar will show that is on this page, which makes the overall looks of the blog more consistent.

With over 20,000 plug-ins available, this format has the most choices of any blog platform on the planet, and that doesn’t even count the developers out there who are constantly tweaking the code and creating even more new plug-ins! It’s fantastic!

Changing WordPress themes…

However, there are some things that you need to be careful of when changing themes. First of all, the header image was smaller (less tall) on the older theme. Fortunately, I had created the composite image on OpenOffice’s presentation program, Impress (same as PowerPoint), so I could go back and make the images higher and wider. It’s important to try to maintain “aspect ratio” so things don’t look too distorted.

After resizing, I grouped the images into one, and then exported the image as a .jpg file. For whatever reason I had some border lines showing, so I then uploaded it to PicResize.com and cropped just enough of the edges to get a nice clean image. I made sure my original image was slightly larger than what I needed for my header. PicResize will not “enlarge” images, as that reduces quality. Then I told it it to export the image at the exact 1000 x 288 pixels needed for the header, and saved the finished product back to my computer, ready to import into the WordPress theme in the exact size that I needed.

By the way, for more image editing tips, and other useful information, see my Azgrand.com site, where I am furnishing free beginner web marketing training within the posts of that blog. If you like what you see you can subscribe to new post notifications or use the RSS feed to be notified.

I knew that in order to switch themes I had to first export the old files to my computer, and then import them into the new theme, but I wasn’t sure what all that covers. To be safe, I also exported all the subscriber list, just to make sure I didn’t lose it, but later found that wasn’t necessary. All of my plug-ins transferred to the new theme with no problems, including my subscriber list. Only the header image did not import, which was fine with me, as it would have been too small, anyway. All I had to do was change my header image to the new, larger one, and I was back in business in less than ten minutes!

Then I installed the “Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions” plug-in (not available for the old Twenty Ten theme), and got my sidebars back to what I wanted. The last step was to add some deeper color to the background. That’s about as easy as it gets, folks!

What to watch for in WordPress theme selection…

In choosing any kind of site, and doing the layout work, never get in a rush. Plan how you want it to look, from header size and style to how many columns on the page, plus the layout of widget areas. You can always change colors, graphics, and make other adjustments to how it operates, but the theme is what does the main layout. If it isn’t right, all the plug-ins in the world won’t help you!

WordPress has tens of thousands of themes available, both in free versions as well as some specialized packages that are paid versions. Sometimes choosing a theme can be a daunting task, given so many choices. That’s probably why the vast majority of people stick with the basic stuff from the first page offered. With so much flexibility in design and colors, even the same theme can look drastically different. I am currently using the Twenty Eleven theme for three of my sites… this one, Toolsorter.com, and Azgrand.com, and only the layout remains the same. But don’t be afraid to choose themes that are away from the initial offerings. It’s your site… make it look the way YOU want it to by choosing the right theme.

For many of you with Rving or camping blogs, who may want a lot of pictures on your blog, you might watch for themes that have galleries built in, or themes that were designed for photographers to display their current work. Don’t stick to “basic” themes just because that is what is typically presented to you. It will be much more difficult to try to modify a theme to your expectations than to pick out the right one to begin with. It’s easy to learn new themes, or even upgrade to better ones, but always start with one that will work best for YOUR application.

Back to the cell phone problem…

I have learned from personal experience that special orders usually take longer, even from Walmart. The micro-SD card that I ordered last week, and was “hoping” would arrive by Tuesday apparently has not. You will find that with most stores, they get deliveries on certain days, and with our store, that is usually Tuesday… at least for these types of things. With groceries it may be different. They are good about sending out an email when the order has arrived, but I have received nothing so far, other than an email saying that it had been shipped from the warehouse. So all I can do is wait. Hopefully it will be here by the 31st.

Please keep that in mind when you order online specials from Walmart… the prices are great, but allow a couple of weeks for them to get to the store. If you have them shipped to your home or business, the wait time is much less. Also remember, just because “Walmart.com” has it, doesn’t mean your local store has it. Your order may be shipped from the supplier or from across the country, so please be patient. The savings are worth it!

Meanwhile I have found the phone that I want from Trac-Fone, and have that plugged into the budget for this next week. It will also be ordered online, so I want to make sure I have it, and can get the number switched over by the time my current Verizon contract expires on 8/21. The new phone, although not a “perfect” choice, will suffice for now, and the price and features are suitable.

I was hoping for a nice wide screen with one of those “slide-open” cases exposing a full Qwerty keyboard, but the only one they show is more money than I need to spend on it ($90!).  So what I chose is more of a  “Blackberry-style”. It still has the full keyboard, camera, hands free capability and web access, and even comes with a 4-gig micro-SD card and double minutes for life… just no cover.

That’s OK. I can buy a suitable protective case for it at Walmart (if it doesn’t come with one or I don’t like what they provide), and it will be fine. For $30, rather than the $400+ I have been used to spending in the past, it will do. And even with buying my first allotment of minutes, won’t cost as much as one month of Verizon service!

Cutting the budget… drastically!

Also, I have been checking my past minutes on my Verizon bill and I have only been using about 1/10th of the 450 minutes on my current plan (but still paying full price for it!), so I can get by with even less minutes than Sharon (who uses hers to talk to her sister occasionally). As a result, my overall monthly cost will drop from about $50 a month to even less than her $14.33 per month average!  That’s more money for traveling, folks! And the time is getting closer and closer!

It’s little strategic moves like this that make a difference! We’re also rewriting our mortgage to drop better than two points off the interest, and lower our monthly obligation by roughly $40, so it all adds up. Of course, we plan to keep up the higher payments that we are currently paying, just to get the house paid off earlier, but still, knowing that we can get by with less if we “have” to, during months when income may be slower, is a stress reliever no matter how you look at it!

So (provided the card arrives on this coming Tuesday) my next post should have some pictures in it, and I should be able to keep up with adding pictures from now on. I know that most of you expect pictures, and I have to apologize for being lax on that issue. I promise to do better! It just takes so much time! And this isn’t the only site I have!

So until then, thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.