about sarah, life

My Year in Review: 2016

My Year in Review: 2016 sarah.blog

With 2016 coming to a close, I thought I’d share another recap (like in 2015). It was way easier last time because I blogged so much last year, so at the very least, writing this post was a good reminder that I’d like to document my life more. Good thing I’m starting a Bullet Journal right now. 😉 And I solemnly swear to post here at least 48 times in 2017. (Can you tell I’m watching Harry Potter?) Read on for my monthly recap and a list of the places I visited this year.

Here’s a month-by-month recap of what I was up to (as far as I can remember):

January: I visited Phoenix for a work team meetup, plus spent a few days of roadtripping around the state, including to Sedona and the Grand Canyon, with two teammates.

Cold afternoon at the Grand Canyon.

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February: We kicked off our master bathroom remodel. It got demolished (down to the studs and subfloor!), then slowly put back together. (See the before here.) I also wrote about the anxiety I was surprised to experience during the remodeling. I still owe final after pictures, but here’s a sneak peek. (And I promise to share some photos soon!) I also fell in love with Hamilton this month and then started a team rotation at work that lasted three months and enabled me to learn a ton about WordPress themes.

A real shower!

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March: I worked at my local polling place for the Democratic party during the presidential primary, then I gave a talk about WordPress for the first time. I went to NTC’s WordPress Day in San Jose and spoke about social media and WordPress for nonprofits. (I shared slides and notes from my talk here.) Look! A sketchnote of my talk:


April: We got a new bed (since we ended up also remodeling our bedroom at the same time as the bathroom), and I love, love, love it. (I’ll blog a review of it soon, in case you’re looking for one.) I also wrote about seeing my grandma die seven years ago. And I celebrated my one year work anniversary at Automattic. Late in the month, our Dutch family came to visit (with two little nieces), and we spent a week in Orlando at Disney World.

May: My BFF and her boyfriend visited, and we finished up our new built-in living room bookcases. (The before is pretty awful, so you should click that link and see it.) Here’s a shot of the fireplace and a tiny bit of bookcase from right now in December:

🎄 Merry Christmas! 🎄

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June: I got Hulu just so I could keep watching The Mindy Project. Worth every penny. I probably did some other stuff, but who knows. That’s the problem with not blogging as much this year! :/ However, I do know that I watched the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at least twice in 2016, based on tweets.

July: My mom and sister came to visit for a few days. I turned 34 on the 7th! I got a mani/pedi and ate my favorite burger. Sadly that night there was a mass shooting in my city, so I finished my birthday glued to the news waiting for updates. I also went to Long Beach to represent Automattic and WordPress.com at Wonder Women Tech. I made my heart happy by going to see Ghostbusters in the theater. I started physical therapy for a lingering foot and ankle issue, and finished the month visiting my dad.

August: A coworker/friend came to visit (and work from my house for a few days), and then I took a staycation to relax and work on things around the house the next week. I had my first ever all-over skin check at the dermatologist, which had some scary results, and led to several procedures and means I need to watch my skin closely and go back at least every six months (or when I spot something new/weird). I wear sunscreen religiously (and have for many years now), but I grew up in the ’80s and wasn’t always coated in it the way I should’ve been back then.

September: I celebrated seven years of marriage! ❤ I wrote about Veronica Mars and feminism. I spent a week in Whistler in Canada for the annual Automattic Grand Meetup, where I got to see all my coworkers in person and lead a project. While there I gave my flash talk on reasons to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I helped run WordCamp DFW, a local WordPress conference, after months of organizing and planning. I finished the month with ankle surgery to repair an issue in my cartilage that was making my ankle unstable and wasn’t getting better with physical therapy.

My project team at #a8cgm doing jazz hands. Sort of.

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October: This month is mostly a blur of recovering from my ankle surgery. I spent two weeks in bed on major pain pills, including the four days right after surgery when I had an allergic reaction to the first pills I got and had to switch. I live tweeted it using this hashtag: #blahstock. Once I got off the pain meds, I was still pretty limited in movement and energy, so I stayed home and did very little the whole month. Luckily I’m married to a great guy who took fantastic care of me and I’m a champion binge-watcher. I watched all of Zoo and The Last Ship this month. I was in a weird mood. I also watched the newest season of The Fall and I stand by my awkward serial killer crush. (Highly recommend the show!)

November: I wrote a novel in one month for NaNoWriMo and won! It’s a regency romance and I’m editing it now. I survived the presidential election. I went to Barcelona, Spain for a team meetup, and then my best friend and her boyfriend came to visit for Thanksgiving. She mostly came for the day after, which we called Gilmore Girls Friday, and we binged the new episodes on Netflix. We also had a small Paulie Shore marathon (Son in Law and Encino Man), watched Can’t Hardly Wait (a favorite from our teen years) and marathoned every Twlight movie because WHY NOT. 🙂

Thanksgiving dinner is served.

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A view of Barcelona.

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December: I went to Philly for WordCamp US, another WordPress conference I helped organize (and the biggest one in America). I live-tweeted the whole thing, including the State of the Word. My husband was in a car accident (his first ever!) on the way home from work, when a driver who was texting turned directly in front of him. He was okay (just bruised from the seat belt), but the car wasn’t. Post-election I spent a lot of time reading news, feeling anxious, and just plain… not great about things outside of my immediate personal life. :/ We stayed home for Christmas, which made it super relaxing, and had filet mignon and lots of cookies. 😀

Places visited in 2016 (other than Dallas where I live):

  • Arizona, including Phoenix, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon
  • San Jose, California
  • Orlando, Florida for Disney World
  • Long Beach, California
  • Conroe area near Houston, Texas
  • Whistler (near Vancouver) in Canada
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Progress on the Home Remodel in 2016:

  • Living room: finished it up! I’ll post a tour and more photos.
  • Master bathroom remodel. (It’s fantastic. I’ll share a full recap soon.)
  • Master bedroom re-do. New walls, new paint, new bed, new curtains, etc.
  • Hallway update: walls, paint, trim. Just need to finish painting some trim.
  • Dining room: converted the formal living room into a giant dining room. It’s done, minus the one wall we’re going to add a coffee bar (to do during the 2017 kitchen renovation).

Things I Will Blog in 2017:

  • Kitchen remodel
  • House tour
  • Bullet Journal progress
  • Reviews of things around my house
  • Thoughts on books I read (especially non-fiction)
  • The Resistance & post-Obama America
  • Working in tech and working remotely
  • About blogging on BlogBestie.com

Hope to see you around in 2017! 😀


automattic, technology & web

WordPress.com on Instagram

Quote from WordPress.com Instagram

I recently started a side project at work. We had an Instagram account but weren’t using it, so I wrote up a proposal with content ideas and Instagram best practices and… ta-da!

I’m sharing standout WordPress.com content there now, like quotes from pieces on Discover, beautiful photos from blogs, and screenshots of great looking websites. Follow: @wordpressdotcom.

Sidenote: Add this to the list of why I love working at Automattic. It’s a real do-ocracy. If you see something that needs working on and want to be the one to do it, you can go for it and I love that.

blogging, wordpress

The 2015 WordPress.com Year In Review!

660 million posts in 2015! Wow. (This recap is great.)

The WordPress.com Blog

Here’s an incredible fact: together, you published more than 660 million posts on WordPress.com in 2015, and made more than 655 million comments.

View original post 2,011 more words

about sarah, life

My Year in Review: 2015

If I were to describe my 2015 in only three words, I’d go with: happy, progress, and best.

It was a year with way more positives than negatives personally, with the only real hardship coming hearing about bad things happening around the world which tends to wear on my heart. (I think news stories, one month’s extra-strong bout of PMS, and commercials with sad dogs in them were the only things to make me cry in 2015. And I’m a crier, so that means the year was basically fantastic.)

I took a peek through the archives to remember my year, and I must point out that the months before I started this blog (January, February, March) were the most difficult to recall because I didn’t really have any details recorded. Blogging saves memories, y’all.

Here’s a month-by-month recap of what I was up to:

January: I binge watched The Fall and developed an awkward crush on the Jamie Dornan serial killer character (and Gillian Anderson’s Stella a bit too, because OMG she’s so awesome).

February: I made it through the application process with Automattic and was offered a trial to try out for the job that I really, really wanted (and now have!).

March: This month is a blur because I was on trial with Automattic (while working a full-time job as well). I frequently ate dinner at my desk and worked 60 hour weeks. It was exhausting/great, and ultimately TOTALLY WORTH IT.

April: I was hired as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic on the 7th and started on the 27th. LIFE CHANGED. This was the highlight of my year.


May: I had my head down this month focusing on figuring things out as a new HE at Automattic. Starting a new job at a fully remote company means diving into a lot of text-based communication & documentation to figure things out.

June: My BFF visited and I took her to my favorite pizza place, and we tried out a nearby bakery and found out it’s amazing.

July: Went to Portland and ate some delicious food.

August: Cry-read Between the World and Me and started recommending it to white people.

View of Street from a Boat in Ghent, Belgium
View of Street from a Boat in Ghent, Belgium

September: I went to Europe for 2.5 weeks to visit Dutch family (cute! nieces!) and my former/second home (Amsterdam), plus spent some time in Ghent and Rome, too. And I celebrated my sixth wedding anniversary.

October: This was a busy month! I spent an awesome week in Park City, Utah at my first Automattic Grand Meetup, and celebrated six months working full-time as a Happiness Engineer. I also went to Seattle with my BFF for Geek Girl Con, attended An Event Apart in Austin (plus shared session notes), and volunteered at WordCamp DFW.

November: My sister came to Dallas for Thanksgiving and we ate at our new dining table for the very first time. I made a quick trip to Houston for one night and back.

Our newly painted & updated fireplace

December: I visited Philly for the first time and went to WordCamp US, where I volunteered as the official Twitter & Instagram person for the event, and liveblogged Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word. I met my fellow DFW Automatticians for Christmas dinner with our families, and celebrated Christmas at home with filet mignon, video games, and lounging. We also painted our fireplace.

Places visited in 2015 (other than Dallas where I live):

  • Belgium – Ghent
  • Italy – Rome
  • The Netherlands – Amsterdam, Purmerend, Voorschoten, Hoorn
  • United States – Austin, Houston, Park City, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle

2015 Annual Report

Screenshot from wordpress.com 2015 annual report for sarahblackstock.com

If you’re on WordPress.com (or connected to it via the Jetpack plugin) and meet the minimum requirements, you can add “/2015/annual-report/” to the end of your site’s address and see a nicely done report on your blog for the year.

I particularly like this Posting Patterns section, because when I started blogging here in April, I decided to post every single day and the green on every square (day) shows me that I did it! 😀 (The few posts before that are ones I imported over from another blog.)

Posting Patterns from sarahblackstock.com's 2015 annual report from wordpress.com

Pretty nice!

Top 3 Most Popular Posts in 2015

  1. Mullenweg, Y’all – I loved his explanation of why he says y’all and shared a story about why I like it too.
  2. Party Pics – The 10th anniversary party at Automattic’s Grand Meetup had a photo booth, so we might have taken some photos.
  3. My Trial at Automattic in GIFs – These GIFs very closely depict my emotional state during my trial.


I haven’t decided what my blogging goals are for this year quite yet. I think I’ll aim to hit 365 days on my streak, at least, and reassess then to decide if I want to keep going.

As for goals outside of blogging, who knows! I’ll make a list of things I plan to work on throughout the year soon. (If you’re looking to set some reading goals, I’m sharing a reading challenge tomorrow, so swing back by then.)

Enjoy your weekend!

event notes, events, technology & web

Notes from An Event Apart Austin: Jeffrey Zeldman

Jeffrey Zeldman, co-founder of An Event Apart, kicked off An Event Apart Austin (on October 5) with: The Fault, Dear Brutus (or: Career Advice From a Cranky Old Man).

Notes I took/tweeted and some of my favorite live-tweets by others during his presentation follow.

On getting into work on the web:

“I was excited about the web because it was democratic and anyone could do it.” Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

On working with clients: 

His advice on showing a client your site design: “Never talk about the aesthetics. Talk about the business problems you’re solving.” Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

On navigating the workplace:

On how “politics trumps work” at big companies: “Attitude trumps work in most companies. Great work + bad attitude = fired.” Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

Bad attitudes are toxic and good attitudes are essential to good work in big and small companies. Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

Also: first impressions last! He says switch jobs or divisions within a company when you think you should be promoted but haven’t been. Once people see you as a certain thing (like an assistant), they might struggle to re-imagine you as a person with a different (higher up) position. Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

On getting involved in the community:

He recommends going to meetups to hang out with people in similar careers/with similar interests. He says even if you don’t talk the first few times… You will eventually! (Most people don’t open up right away, and that’s okay.) Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

On the importance of blogging:

“Everyone in this room start blogging.” He says it helps you get your ideas out & be more confident in talking about your work and your understanding of things. (I agree & recommend WordPress.com!) Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

Back to fundamentals “Blog like no one’s reading”… “The more I write the more I understand what I think. Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

And one last bit of advice: 

“DIY, people.” @zeldman says don’t wait for someone to hand you your dream job/project. Twitter Bird Icon 16x16

Note: The Twitter bird icons link to the corresponding tweet for each piece. Thanks to @jessfantz & @mor10 for live-tweeting the talk along with me on #aeaaus. 🙂

More notes on other sessions soon. I’ll link them all in a list on this page.

technology & web, wordpress


I hit 100 in my posting streak for this blog yesterday. ONE HUNDRED! 🎉

WordPress.com streak - 100 days!

And is it just me, or do those streak notifications just make you want to post & post & post?

blogging, wordpress

A missing post is ruining my streak!

Somehow I made my original July 10, 2015 post disappear and it’s ruining my streak! (I love getting those notifications each time I publish a post! I’m the exact person those types of incentives work on, because I CAN’T STOP NOW!) My streak was up to 254 for today, except the July 10 post is gone and so now it says 165! 😭

So, I’m adding this post to that date for now to see if it gives me my streak back, and I’ll remember this moment the next time I’m chatting with a WordPress.com user (as part of my job as a Happiness Engineer) and wondering how they managed to get themselves into the mess I’m helping them clear up. It happens! Even to me!

EDITED TO ADD: Right after I hit publish, the streak came back! And it’s actually day 255 of posting in a row! I’M SAVED! 😀

Double Hacking gif

Pro-tip: Try to avoid four hands on one keyboard when you’re blogging. 😉