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.

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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!

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.

blogging 201: will blog for food

Welcome to Blogging 201!

‘Hot of the Press: July in Blogging U.” the post read, I scrolled past it, then I unscrolled back to it, even though unscrolling isn’t something you can grammatically do. I signed up on a whim, what have I got to lose? And thus, I begin. Blogging 201: Branding and Growth, pushing us to really define what our blogs are about, and more importantly, how we are going to get them out there, which funnily enough coincides with my next chapter in my ‘Will Write for Food’ challenge.

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Blogging 201: What do you want to accomplish? Will Write for Food: How will you expand your knowledge?

Three goals for each, be specific, because writing it down means its real, it means that you’ll do it.

  1. I want to increase the number of views I get by at least 50% by the end of the year, ideally more and ideally sooner. But slow and steady wins the race.
  2. I want to post regularly; consistency is key. At the moment I try and post about three times a week, it is a hard task; the planning, cooking and writing is time consuming but getting into a routine makes it that little bit easier.
  3. I want to find more blogs that I want to follow, that is the point of WordPress isn’t it? What is the point in writing if we aren’t also here to read? I think the blogisphere is a great community to get involved with and if anything, I would like to see the number of comments my posts get increase, and in turn, comment on more posts by other people.

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But saying and doing are very different things, and I think it is gaining new knowledge over a snazzy looking blog that is going to draw the crowds in. (in saying that, I am working on getting a logo done)

So how will I increase my knowledge so people care about the things I have to say?

  1. READ – as someone who only discovered cooking recently, I don’t really have a wealth of knowledge on many of the basic elements of cooking. To remedy this, I have decided to read Nigella Lawson’s “How to Eat” in its entirety. 526 pages on elementary cooking form the very basic to the somewhat skilful, and more importantly – how to enjoy eating it all. 526 pages, no pictures, wish me luck.
  2. COOKING CLASS – I have a mortal fear of not being in control in the kitchen, which is why I don’t think I would do well on Masterchef. I have never taken a cooking class, I don’t follow recipes well and like to ‘augment’ them as I go, so I think a cooking class could be a little too reminiscent of home economics at school – where I often had flour fights, and often forgot to turn the oven on. But maybe I’ll learn something, do I might give it a go.
  3. DINNER PARTY – Very seldom do I cook for other people on a grand scale – maybe just one or two people. In order to expand my knowledge, I think it is important to not just learn by doing, but also learn by watching and eating! I want to form a little dinner party group – not only as a way of being social, but also to learn new recipes, ideas and cooking styles at the same time.

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So, that’s Blogging 201 Post 1 done and dusted, stay tuned for more over the next two weeks!

the new pavlova?

Like I said a couple of posts ago, I have recently been playing around with the concept of macarons. Not deconstructing the famed French macaron per say, I am not at all a fan of deconstructed food to say the least! But just adding little subtle touches to a dish which are reminiscent of them. And that is how I came up with my idea of this meringue cake. Since making it, several people have mentioned that they have seen or read articles talking about similar things. In which I was devastated to hear as I feel like my dreams of becoming the next disputed creator; like the inventor credited with creating the Pavlova in homage to ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

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But I digress…

Before I tried this out I was not entirely sure it was going to work. So much so that I waited until there was no one else in the house so I could throw away the ruins if it failed without anyone finding out. But I also told myself it was good to document it, and share it with the world/blogisphere in either case. Because failing is not a bad thing.

Again, digressing.

Start off my making a standard cake batter, I used a half recipe as I didn’t want to go wasting a whole bunch of precious butter and sugar on something that didn’t work. I also thought that it made sense to half the recipe as the cake was one of two components.

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Cream 50grams of butter with 100grams of sugar. Add two egg yolks. I did this in place of using one whole egg, as I was going to need egg whites for the meringue and hate having leftover egg yolks unless I am planning on making carbonara for dinner. Mix in 100grams of flour, a tablespoon of cocoa and 50grams of ground almonds. The almonds add that texture and flavour that is so reminiscent of a chewy macaron.

Add 50mls of milk or cream and mix until combined.

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In a separate bowl, whisk 2 egg whites with 85grams of sugar, a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla. Add the sugar spoonful at a time, just coz.

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One of the main reasons I was sure this was going to fail is due to the whole concept of a meringue. You want it to be light and airy and fluffy, and to achieve this you want to mix it as little as possible. But how do you combine a meringue mixture with cake batter without mixing it? I will tell you…

Firstly, pour the cake batter into a greased cake tin, add the meringue on top and gently fold them together until barely combined. Top with fresh cherries if possible, although I used canned boysenberries and that worked well too. Bake at 160°C for 35minutes.

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If possible, leave the tin in the oven after you have turned it off so the meringue doesn’t crack, but if you can’t wait to eat it, then that is a-ok with me!

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Crisp and crunchy on the top, soft and comforting in the middle, with candied fruit rippling through. This experiment is definitely a winner!

So the moral of the story is: be bold, never be afraid to try new things in the kitchen because they could end up great. And even if they do fail, at least you will have the bowl to lick clean afterwards!

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