hiatus or finally starting the year

If you are any kind of observant person, you would have noticed that I have been on a bit of a hiatus so far this year. The reason is not nearly as exciting as it usually is with these kinds of things; no, I haven’t been working really hard because I got a book deal or a segment on the Food Network or anything, I’ve just been busy and everything has fallen by the wayside.

Arriving back from overseas has kind of put a stop to all my creativity and I am experiencing a real lack of inspiration; I don’t have any trips planned and I can’t speak all day pottering about in the kitchen as I would like.

But as we enter into the fifth month (!) of the year, I think it’s high time that I get my A into G and get back to it all. I’m sure I made some promises about ongoing challenges I had issued myself last year, I can’t really remember them but here’s to hoping they come back to me.

But in the meantime, I have some planning to get to, some failures to rethink and a very large stack of cooking books to get reading!

 

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new year, new me

Quite frankly, I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, think that it is important to take some time to both reflect and look ahead – why it must happen at the end of one year, I am not really sure.

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But I am not here to critique people’s life choices, I am here to put down in written form some of my musings for the year to come. Similar to much of the work that we laid out in Blogging 201, I have been tossing about some ideas of how and where I will take this blog in 2016.

It has been rather difficult to evenly distribute between all that I have wished to; Travel, Food and Life in general. Not that I have ever really struggled to find something to write about but I have noticed that the general content focus has varied significantly from time to time.

Travel
Now that I am in one stationary spot for the foreseeable future, I find it really hard to write about travel. At this stage there isn’t a lot more I can do apart from writing in retrospect, which I guess I can make do with but I feel like there is something slightly untruthful about it. Rose-tinted glasses some may say.

Food
I will always have a focus on Southern European cuisine, even though I’m no longer based there. It’s my automatic go-to and what I enjoy researching. Even so, I find myself branching out a bit; I do love Middle Eastern cooking and I have noticed that more and more international and fusion dishes are making their way onto the blog. I guess it all depends on what I have time to make.

Life
This is something I am a little stumped with; how much of one’s life should be incorporated into one’s blog? It is talked about at length in Will Write for Food but I can’t decide where I sit. I think that’s be I think as long as it fits with the blog’s concept, then it’s fine with me.

Writing 201
I have enrolled in another writing course for February of 2016 to work on finding, and expanding what my story really is. If anyone wants to join me in this, let me know; here’s the link.

The January Cure
I have also signed for another month long task – this one is aimed a little bit at Life Admin and decluttering the home before the year gets into full swing. It’s called the January Cure and it’s a collaboration between Apartment Therapy and the kitchn. I’ll post updates as I go, but once again, please feel free to join me!

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As 2016 swings into action, there’s how I see it going, or at least beginning, for me. But we don’t know what we don’t know, we know where we are going to start (for me it’s lying in the sun!) but where we will end, is all part of the fun!

 

 

what i ate for christmas

Now that Christmas is done and dusted, we can all get back to blogging.  But first,  I need to get back into the habit of knowing what day of the week it is.

So before I do anything that strenuous, and before I got into any such detail of my Christmas creations, I will leave you with a little teasing taster of what’s to come..

Breakfast begun with champagne and toast; I know that you’re thinking toast doesn’t really constitute a fanciful meal. It does when the array includes walnut and date conserve, confit duck, gorgonzola, roasted tomatoes and honeyed ricotta.

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The afternoon meal included a lemon-crusted lamb rack beside a bundle of home-grown new potatoes. These were accompanied by a fresh, zingy salsa verde and pungent olive tapenade. Rounding out the meal with a salad of roast butternut, crunchy spiced almonds and creamy homemade feta and button mushrooms stuffed with blue cheese. Safe to say, we were all in dire need of a nap afterwards.

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The day ended with chocolate-coated strawberries, salted caramel chocolate tart and muffin puddings. All while sipping fresh, minty limoncello cocktails.

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All in all, a fun, relaxed day in the sun, lying by the pool and gorging ourselves on chocolates… all without anyone throwing a plate or any other object at another family member… this year.

blogging201: update

The whirlwind that was Blogging201 ended (over) a month ago. In and out in a flash, we all did a bunch of soul-searching and blog-building, and made a lot of promises to the blogisphere that we may or may not have kept – I know I did!

To acknowledge what I have done, and what I said I was going to do, I have gone through the posts I published to assess the progress I have made.

Twitter:
After unfollowing all the people I didn’t actually care for, and following a few food related favourites, I made a pact with myself to post at least one tweet a day. I started off with the commitment and discipline of every New Year’s Resolution ever made, and I have stayed relatively strong in my challenge, I may miss the occasional day or three but I have definitely improved. And also, Nigella tweeted me. Win!

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Blogging events:
I really wanted to get involved in a monthly group blogging chain, but the one that I found that I loved the sound of, seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. I added it to the list of tags I follow, but none of the posts that follow seem to be on the right track. I might have to work on this one!

Branding:
In an attempt to continue my path towards world domination, I decided a logo was a great next step in forming my brand. We are halfway there on this and it doesn’t seem to be moving along at great speed. This could be because the designer is my little brother, and I’m not paying him to do it. My own fault really.

Blogging contributors:
A great way of adding an extra dash of perspective to any blog, I was (and still am!) really keen to write posts for other people’s blogs and to feature others on mine. I did a post on balancing a desire to travel on In Between Moderation – it was so interesting to look at an idea with someone else’s point of view in mind.

I know these things take time, but I think it is important to keep our long term goals at the forefront of our thoughts. Otherwise we just put them on the backburner and eventually they just fizzle out.

Guest post :To wonderlust or to homemake

Through the activities we were assigned during Blogging 201 last month, one of the goals I idenitified to further by blogging was to expand my network of fellow bloggers, one way of doing that was through guest blogging posts.
Here is a post that I wrote which has just been published on In Between Modernation, check out Melissa’s blog, read my post and let me know what you think.

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Dylan Nicholson runs a beautiful blog called baguettes and boarding passes. There he writes about traveling and eating his way through France. I thought his perspective on maintaining balance while traveling abroud would be very interesting. I am so happy he agree to share his thoughts in the guest post. be sure to check out his blog and have a momentary jaunt to France with him

International. Intrepid. Explorer. These are three words most of us want people to use when they describe us; that really cool and well-traveled guy who has an inexhaustible knowledge on all things exotic and wild. Often it is the end-product that we want to be, without the steps in between – the working to become.

Why is this?

It takes time, it takes money, it can be a lonely path, a stressful one, and above all, a scary one. We have to really consider…

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wanted: blogging buddy

Like the task from the other day, today’s task is about growing your blogging network. On day 7 we focused on widening our horizons on who reads our blogs and today we are looking at growing that network in regards to who we are writing with, rather than writing for. Which brings me back to what I’m looking for: a blogging buddy.

I think it is important to have a network of people following your blog who know you in real life, seeing a friend and being told that they loved that post you did on chocolate, or the quote you posted was really funny, is thrilling. As much as I love the blogging community, nothing beats a little face-to-face interaction! I also find it so helpful to have friends who are contributing to the blogging world at the same time as you; being able to talk about things that you are planning on writing about and when your next post is coming out is a really great motivator.

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And then there is taking it to the next level; a blog contributor. Deciding to have someone writing on your blog, on your baby, is a big step, albeit a relatively easy one in comparison to the tasks that come next. How do you decide what kind of blogger you want to feature? How do you find them? How do you build up the courage to ask them? Memories of shy 12-year old you, too shy to ask someone out, so getting your friend to do it for you flood back. Oh, the adolescent agony and uncertainty!

What should you look for in a blog contributor? It is obvious that you need to choose someone who shares some vague common interests with you; after all, you want your readers to want to read it. But they have to be different enough to make it interesting, or what is the point of their contribution – you could have just written it yourself?

I have been pondering all morning about variations of things I like to talk about that I think my followers would still enjoy in hope of creating the draft of my idea blog contributor.

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Travel
Slightly budgeted and slightly off the beaten track à either extreme; really budgeted and off the radar, or something unimaginably luxurious!

Food
European, Middle Eastern, chocolate, experimenting on classics à Asian, South American, Health-focused or a variation on any of the current food fads

Culture
I don’t often post about culture as a whole, while I do try and integrate aspects of it into other things I do, I don’t find it particularly easy to write about on its own, I would love to include someone who has some great things to say about it!

I suppose looking for a blogging buddy isn’t going to be the worst job in the world; I can spend hour upon hour browsing interesting topics and claim its ‘research’!

blogisphere unite!

We are almost on the home straight of Blogging 201 and I am running out of witty titles for my posts. Regardless, the topic for Day 7 is blogger challenges, events and conferences, something that I didn’t even know existed.

The challenge part of this post is to dare yourself to establish our own blogger challenge; essentially setting a group of bloggers with an ongoing task in a theme as broad or specific of your choosing. No mean feat, huh? I think that they could write an entire two week course on establishing a blogging challenge, getting it off the ground, getting people interested in it and keeping the momentum going. Maybe then I would have the courage to set one up, but in the meantime I think I will just join someone else’s.

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I suppose in a way we all run our own little blog challenges a bit, we categorise every one of our posts, even though most of them are rather broad topics; Food, Travel, Healthy Living, some of the themes I add to on the regular are a little bit more specific; I have Fun with Fruit where I experiment with ways to use different fruits in different ways, or Chippie Tuesday where I made chips in different methods and posting them on, you guessed it, Tuesdays.

After trawling through a list of different challenge groups, some pretty vague and some far too specific for me, I have discovered the Flavor of the Month page – subject: food (), timeframe: monthly () and a good following (). Bring on the first Friday of August to get the month’s theme!

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Okay, Dylan, hold your horses; upon checking out the founder’s page, she is doing a 50 day computer-less challenge which means that the next flavoured month could even be September.

Silver lining; that gives me time to brainstorm and set up my own challenge!

What cool challenges has everyone else discovered?

cleaning out my (twitter) closet

Who knew that a social media cull would be this tenuous? And why am I having such anxiety about unfollowing complete strangers, that I know don’t know I even follow them and that I know I don’t really care what they have to say?

Week two of Blogging 201 begins with a challenge to delve into a social media platform to expand your blog and online voice. I dabbled in thinking about this in week one, but now is no longer the time for thinking, it is the time for doing. As a person who liked to plan, and likes to procrastinate, I often find myself taking the ‘all or nothing’ approach – I think about things that are really good to do, but if I don’t go in all guns blazing, my good intentions kind of fizzle.

So today I have decided I am going to do a complete overhaul of my Twitter account. I think I have justified to myself that my personal Twitter is sufficient (if anyone disagrees with me, please speak up!), but I am going to rework, reword and refollow ONLY the pages I think are of utmost importance.

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People I struggled to unfollow – basically every celebrity there ever was.it was hard, even though I don’t particularly have an interest in what any of the Kardashians are currently thinking. I first got twitter at high school, so a lot of the people I followed were people that interested me at high school, or that I knew from there and have since lost contact with. It was hard at first, but I had soon whittled my way down to just 60 tweeters.

Like I said before, I started using Twitter in high school, and haven’t used it much since, so my knowledge base it a little bit lacking; does Twitter use hashtags? How does something start trending? What is the actual aim?

To increase my knowledge in a way that isn’t just reading about it, I have decided to set myself a challenge; at least one tweet every day until Twitter stops being a thing, it will probably usually be food related, but that is not a strict criteria, it could just be a thought.

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The last step was to choose who I actually want to follow, luckily the suggestion menu is now made entirely of foodies. Ruth Reichl was an obvious addition as I am currently her biggest fan but I want to veer away from the big famous names and magazine pages. Who are your favourite people to follow? Do you think I would like your tweets? If you are into food, travel or are extremely funny, leave me your Twitter name in the comments and I will check it out!

pass the cheesecake

Note: This post actually has nothing to do with cheesecake. Although, click here to read about a cheesecake I made once.

It does have to do with other delicious things though, today’s blogging201 task is entitled ‘Give ‘Em What They Want’; which in most cases, is cheesecake, in all other cases, it is delectably written, and inspiring blog posts.

The idea of planning what you are going to do for the next month fills some people with dread, it fills me with glee. Even though I see myself as a rather spontaneous person for the most part, I am a little bit of an organisational nutter. My hobbies include organising my to-do lists and collecting post-it notes. Note to self: get more hobbies.

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By analysing the stats and insights into your blog, you can work out the best day and time to post things, I was a little surprised with mine. My blog gets viewed more times on Sundays than any other day of the week; not surprising as that is usually the day people have to relax and do ‘admin tasks’ – which usually means waste time on the internet. But most of my views come at 9am, maybe this is because that is a time of day when people are able to browse the web, because it is not when I ever post things – I prefer mid-afternoon or evening.

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Looking at the data on Stats is also going to help in planning what I post in the next month; what posts are most viewed? What terms are most searched? What do the people want to read? My most viewed post is from when I was nominated for the Liebster Award… well I can’t write another post on that, unless someone wants to give me an Oscar or any other award? My second most viewed post is Christmas chocolate puddings – I am sure I can come up with something chocolate related to talk about in the next month. My most commonly searched terms are ‘buttermilk’ and ‘Marie Antoinette’, which is convenient, because I have been planning on writing a post about my trip to Versailles and this shows me it is kind of a must!

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Some other things that are in the woodworks include: limoncello, poached pears, and an attempt at making my own sourdough bread.

blogging a brand

‘Day Two: Audit your Brand’. Wow, they really jump straight into it don’t they?! Every blog is selling something, even blog’s whose main focus isn’t getting a book deal or gathering a cult following are selling something; they are selling a ticket to step into the someone or something’s ‘a-day-in-the-life-of’ or ‘world of me’, and that takes some work.

Like I said in my post yesterday; consistency is key. Everything needs to make sense in the place it is put; titles, taglines, images. I like to think that the visual concept of my blog sums up the brand of me rather well, my cover image coincides with what I blog about, my tagline explains what the reader is about to get themselves into, and far too much time and effort went into choosing my blog name than anyone would ever imagine.

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I googled it, ‘what should I call my blog?’, like I thought the internet would actually spit out an answer that I would genuinely find useful. While it didn’t answer my questions directly, it did help. Alliteration, two words of two themes, a punny take on your name. While I was not overtly concerned with writing about French food, I was moving to France (and would need a boarding pass to get on the plane), and what is more French than a baguette? Name sorted.

There is so much more to a blog’s identity than blog itself, nowadays we are all linking and hyperlinking, we post on one platform and it shows up on three more and I am not too sure how far to link everything I do. I have linked my WordPress account with my Twitter and my Instagram feed appears on my sidebar, but these accounts are both my personal ones. Most of what I post on Instagram is very similar to what I post on my blog, travel photos (old and new) and things that I eat and make, I seldom post on Twitter these days bar the occasional thought – should I create an Instagram account for my blog, or is the idea of using my personal account to bring my blogging thoughts and daily life into the same realm the way to go? Is there going to be a demand for it? I usually post a photo that appears in a blog post when I publish it or, or after I have made it as a little taster of things to come.

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I think this task may be a bit more than a day’s work, all of this thinking is making me hungry.