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2012 WordCount Blogathon "I did it!" badgeAlthough I love vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, it didn’t feel right to end the month-long WordCount Blogathon challenge without a post that sums up the experience – and the benefits – that come with blogging every day. (A big thank you to Michelle Rafter from WordCount and Jan Udlock from Imperfect Mom for organizing another successful and fun challenge!)

Other than the Blogathon, the other blogging challenge I’ve heard of is the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April, but I’m sure there are many others out there. If you’re on the fence about joining a challenge, here are four reasons to participate (and benefits that come with participation) to sway you:

1. The chance your posts will be picked up by other media. I’m extremely grateful to The Baltimore Sun, which featured two of my posts – “How to make an herb planter box” and “Presentation’s role in the school lunch battle” – on their home page this month. This brought in new readers, increased my stats, and just plain made my day.

Continue Reading “4 reasons to join a blogging challenge”

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A Homemade Life by Molly WizenbergYesterday I wrote my first “fan mail” letter to a famous food blogger: Molly Wizenberg of Orangette.

I do not often write “fan mail.” In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done so in the past. My letters have gone to an eclectic list of people, including a game show host, a child star, and a writer.

My first letter went to Bob Barker, former host of The Price is Right. I watched that show all the time as a kid, especially over the summers when my brother and I sometimes stayed at my grandparents’  house. Dziadzi, my grandfather, always watched it, so I started watching with him. Over time I got increasingly annoyed that the contestants had to be at least 18. So I wrote Bob Barker a letter suggesting he start a similar game show for kids. A few weeks later I received two black-and-white photographs in return, one of Barker and one of “Barker’s Beauties,” the three women who showcased the show’s prizes.

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Individuality

Photo courtesy Flickr user jonmatthew photography

The Blogathon’s second theme day asks us to reflect on what we’ve learned as bloggers. If we were to start blogging today, what would we do differently?

There is one thing above all others that I would change: I would pull a Lindsey Buckingham and go my own way.

There is a lot of blogging advice out there. Some of it is contradictory, like the number of times you should post a week. Some successful bloggers recommend posting three times a week, while other just as successful bloggers say to post once a week. 

Some of the advice is standard. Stick to your topic. Post on the same days of the week every week. Organize your thoughts into easily readable lists.

Some of it is organizational. Write and schedule your posts ahead of time. Keep an editorial calendar. Regularly host guest bloggers or submit your own guest blogging posts to other sites.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the advice, especially when most, if not all of it, is very good advice. But here’s the question: What advice works best for you and your goals, and what advice can you ignore?  

Continue Reading “If I started blogging today…(Blogathon Theme Day #2)

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The Giant Clapper board @ Avenue of Stars

Photo courtesy antwerpenR on FlickR

Last week Michelle Rafter, founder of the WordCount Blogathon and a writer for the website SecondAct, which is geared towards those over 40, asked Blogathoners to write about their “second acts”: risks they’ve taken, changes they’ve made, or revelations that have come to them in the second half of their lives.

To me there is nothing more inspiring than a good reinvention story. I love Eat Pray Love. I often pick up Po Bronson’s What Should I Do With My Life?, a collection of stories about people who are finding their professional purpose, even though I’ve read the book several times now. I write profiles more than any other type of article because I like to hear people’s stories.

So even though Michelle will be linking to a few of the Blogathon posts on SecondAct.com, I can’t resist directing you to a few of them here.

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McDonald's #HappyUT

Photo courtesy isthisREALLYmylife? on Flickr

McDonald’s is trying to change the way consumers think about its food, according to a recent article in The New York Times Magazine. Franchisees are renovating their stores, and the company’s marketing and social media teams are circulating stories about the farmers who supply their food and recruiting “Mom bloggers” to help build their brand.

Back in the 80s though, McDonald’s didn’t seem to need help improving its image, at least in my preschool and elementary school eyes. I ate many Chicken McNuggets, plain hamburgers with ketchup, and plastic cups of airy soft serve ice cream with thick hot fudge or buttery caramel sauce.

I even won a McDonald’s t-shirt after calling into a local radio show and singing the restaurant’s theme song. (Which I still remember today: Big Mac, McDLT, a quarter pounder with some cheese, filet o’fish, a hamburger, a cheeseburger, a Happy Meal, McNuggets, tasty golden French fries regular or larger sizes…)

Continue Reading “McDonald’s memories and the power of childhood foods”

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American Pie by Pascale Le DraoulecWriter Pascale Le Draoulec chose pie. On a road trip from California to her new home in New York, she stopped in Nevada, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut among other states to learn how each region treats its pie, then wrote about her journey in American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America’s Back Roads.

Along the way, she eats many slices of pie: shoofly pie made with dense molasses, lemon meringue pie, butterscotch pie, apple-blueberry pie, buttermilk pie, coconut cream pie, cherry pie, apricot cream pie, chocolate pie, huckleberry peach pie, sour cream raisin pie, raspberry pear pie, banana cream pie, rhubarb custard pie, pumpkin-apple pie, Belgian prune pie.

It got me thinking: if I wanted to study how different regions cook the same dish, what would I choose?

I decided there isn’t one dish that I love enough to eat over and over again in dozens of states. So I would choose regional desserts. Whatever dessert a state is known for, that’s what I would want to eat on my cross country drive. Kenny would pick burgers.

What about you: On a cross country road trip, what dish would you want to eat in every state to learn more about American food culture?

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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn “I want to try to understand what could motivate people to cook more often,” writer Kathleen Flinn tells her husband in her memoir, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. “I want to give people different cooking lessons and see which of the things they learn might stick with them.”

Flinn does just that after finding a group of 9 women, all of varying ages and from a range of economic backgrounds, who want to learn more about cooking. The students lack confidence in the kitchen, but Flinn thinks that a few basic hands-on cooking lessons could change their eating habits, save them money and time, and help them feel more comfortable – and even have fun – making food.

The cooking lessons in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School are basic – cutting up a whole chicken, baking bread, scrambling eggs – but I still enjoyed being reminded of what I already know (I really could make my own salad dressing more…) and learning new skills too (So that’s how you cook without a recipe…).

Here are four lessons I took from Flinn’s book that could help you gain more confidence in the kitchen too.

Continue Reading “4 ways to gain confidence in the kitchen from Kathleen Flinn’s The Kitchen Counter Cooking School”

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