Friday my blog turns one! But wait, there’s more.

Let’s celebrate!

Friday, my blog turns one, and it’s time to celebrate!! Follow along, because at the end of this post I’m going to let you in a little secret that has to do with my celebration.

I have been thinking about what a one year post should be say for a while now. Should it be serious? Or funny? Just to warn you, I sometimes have a warped sense of humor – yes, unfortunately it’s true. Should the post be festive? Or low-key? Long, or short? Showcase all of the goodies I’ve made? Or, should I create something entirely new and exciting?

The more I thought about it, the more I felt as if I had cornered myself into writing something like a commencement speech at a high school graduation ceremony. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where you share words of inspiration, promote enthusiasm, urge everyone to follow their dreams, and remind your peers they are about to embark on a wonderful journey. That didn’t fit, as most of you have already embarked on the journey of blogging.

My mind was digesting all of my ideas when it suddenly hit me like a lead balloon. I would share 20 things I’ve learned about food blogging over the last year. So, without further adieu, here they are in no particular order.

1. Foodies are passionate. But, so are people who raise chickens (right Molly?)

2. It’s the post that you don’t expect to get much traffic that sends your numbers to the moon.

3. The post you write that you think is super awesome, probably isn’t.

4. Your spouse is your biggest fan. Thank you! X0X0

5. Friends come and go at your blog, just like they do in the real world.

6. There are cliques in the foodie world. That’s life.

7. It takes a long time to learn Twitter lingo. By the way what is  #FF?

8. Not all advertisers will deliver what they promise. They know who they are.

9. If you bake something and it doesn’t turn out, it’s not the end of the world, it’s just the end of your next post.

10. When an editor of a well-known food magazine follows you on Twitter, it’s a HUGE compliment. When they tell you they were drawn in by your photo‘s, it’s even BIGGER.

11. You will grow as a baker/cook, writer and photographer.

12. You probably will never be as successful as Julia and/or Juliet but if you happen to hit it big – enjoy the ride! I’m still waiting for the ride…

13. If you bake/cook , blog, and sample frequently, you will gain weight. This I know…

14. Family and friends will love you for all the desserts you share – right down to the last bite.

15. Your oven/stove, camera, and computer are tools of the trade. Pray none of them break, because if they do, it will throw you off your game.

16. Blogging takes a lot of your time. Maybe, too much of your time.

17. You will get writers block, go into a funk, or become bored. It’s only temporary.

18. You will make friends from all over the world that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

19. Without question, the BEST baking supply company in the world is KING ARTHUR FLOUR.

20. Food bloggers have the best giveaways.

Maybe these 20 things aren’t a one size fits all, but I’m sure you will relate to something on the list. Blogging has been a great adventure for me. When I started I was anxious, and felt as if I had walked out onto the edge of a diving board for the first time. I wondered should I turn around and retreat, or take the plunge. I took the plunge, and I’m sure glad I did.

With all that said, now comes the very best part. On Friday, I am having one heck of an awesome giveaway to celebrate. I promise you that you won’t want to miss it. And yes, there are clues in this post.

This could be a clue

Is it interesting enough?

Today I read an interesting  post written by the author of Food Woolf.  I stumbled across this blog on Twitter.  I’m glad I did.  The post is titled Are you Fascinating“.   The author touches upon the importance of our contributions as bloggers, and the importance of what we have to say, and how we say it.  Her opinion differs with that of (as she describes her) a well-respected food blogger that she heard speak at a recent food blogging conference.  This piece is definitely worth the read.  

I actually had began to wonder if  what I write is interesting enough.  Have you ever wondered this?  Maybe it’s because I feel a bit vulnerable without my camera to help tell  my stories.  Maybe it has nothing to do with the  camera. 

Truthfully, looking back,  this feeling started when I decided to cut back on my baking which resulted in less baking posts.  After all, my blog is a food blog.  People follow it for that reason.  It attracts like-minded people.   Offering a healthy post with a cup of sugar-free Jell-O isn’t quite the same.  I get that.  I’d much rather read a post that offers a great recipe and pictures of a piece of homemade apple pie too. 

Maybe part of  my recent worries come from seeing  some of my fellow bloggers progressing, moving full steam ahead.  Many are receiving  great opportunities to promote their blogs while mine sits stalled.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am very happy for them.  But – seeing their success  makes me question my future as a blogger. 

Part of me  is also battling that dreaded – shhhh – writers block.  I can lay a post out in my head, and the minute I sit down to actually write it, everything (as they say) goes to hell in a handbasket.  I think that comes from my urge to chatter about things that may not interest my readers at all.  Knowing this, I struggle.  Do I write for myself?  Or, do I write for the sake of others?  It’s not easy sharing yourself with people you don’t know.  It requires self-confidence,  trust,  and a bit of courage (as you all know). 

I’ve written at other places too.  Example, at Helium.com .  There, my pieces  ranged from fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  Each article written at Helium is rated by peers.   Some of my writings at Helium were more complex, some  more personal, some offered my knowledge, or opinions about certain subjects, and some were  just for fun.   Some articles required research, like the writing contest I entered about the campaign finance system.  My articles on Helium helped me grow as a writer,  just as writing for my blog does.

I suppose that I should just relax and take some of Food Woolf’s advise “Don’t believe the voices that tell you that what you do isn’t special.”   The mere fact that I enjoy writing, and I do it often, is probably what is most important.  I have some very loyal readers who I truly appreciate, and I consider each of them excellent bloggers. I’m thankful I’m in such good company. 

The perks of blogging, a lucky girl…

Since I started blogging I’ve been a lucky girl.  I have acquired samples of delicious Ghirardelli Chocolates, got a free loaf of Nature’s Pride Bread, was welcomed at the 2010 Finger Lakes Cork and Fork event, received Palm Leaf plates from Marxfoods.com,  and the flour giant, King Arthur, sent me their cake flour, whole-white flour, and their Secret Ingredient gift pack to try. Not bad for a beginner.  But wait!  That’s  not all.

I am also fortunate enough to have won three great prizes in giveaways during my (less than one year) of blogging.  Two of the prizes I won were from one of my favorite bloggers – Lindsey at Gingerbread Bagels.  Lindsey is a bit like me in the sense that she loves to bake.  Her posts are generally about sweets, and lots of them.  Her personality matches the confections she makes – sweet.  I refer to her as my lucky penny.  Before Lindsey, the only thing I won was a football from a  Snickers candy bar sweepstakes.  I entered to win a Jeep, and got a Snickers Nerf football instead.   Oh well, never look a gift horse in the mouth…

The first prize I won from Gingerbread Bagels was a beautiful jar of Marrionberry Fruit Spread from Oregon Growers & Shippers which I’m saving for a special occasion.  The jar of jam is so pretty it brightens my day every time I see it.

The second prize I won from Gingerbread Bagels was a variety gift pack of Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, and a Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook written by Kathleen King.  As luck would have it this package just arrived today.  I can’t wait to scour the cookbook while dunking the cookies in a piping hot, fresh cup of coffee.

Speaking of Gingerbread Bagels, she currently has a contest going on.  Her prize this time?  Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark Cookies.  Be sure to check out her site and enter the contest.  I promise I won’t enter this one!

The other prize I won this year?  The Earthbound Cookbook  written by Myra Goodman.  The giveaway was offered by Greg at Sippitysup.  Greg has the knack of really making you feel like you’ve won big time.  He actually video taped his drawing.  When my name was drawn I might have  jumped up and down like a Price is Right game show contestant.  Here is Sippitysup’s video clip announcing the winner – thank God no one was video tapping me as my name was drawn.  I love the cookbook which is packed full of (250 to be exact) recipes and tips on eating green and protecting our planet.   As a person who recently started raising chickens for some fresh eggs I found myself particularly drawn to pages 376 & 377 which explains the terms used relating to eggs – very informative.

Last month when King Arthur Flour sent me some of their products to try I was on cloud nine, and  I was especially eager to try the secret ingredient collection and the cake flour I received.  The secret ingredient collection is a gift pack that includes some of the companies best-selling ingredients.   Double-Dutch cocoa, espresso powder, Fiori di Sicilia flavoring, Vietnamese cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla – all packaged in an eye-catching 8 ” square USA  pan.

This pan is awesome.  It’s commercial grade and constructed of heavy gauge aluminium steel (65% recycled steel).  The sides and bottom are fluted giving it some character in the appearance department,  and  adding strength and facilitated air circulation for even baking.  The pan is coated with a clear, non-stick environmentally friendly silicone that helps ensure your baked goods will release from the pan more easily.  The best thing about his pan?  It’s made in the USA.

I’ve used some of the ingredients in several of my recent baking creations and I can’t say enough good things about the quality of King Arthur.  Their cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon are so fragrant  that I have a hard time closing them once I open them.  Not only do these all smell aromatic, they contribute a quality robust flavor to every treat.

Since King Arthur was kind enough to share some of their products with me I decided to create a recipe using their products to share with you.

This recipe is for a dark, delicious chocolate cake.  I ‘ve named it Double Dark Espresso Cake.  For best results bake one day ahead of needing the cake.  This allows the flavors to saturate the cake overnight.

The ingredients you’ll need:

2 c. sugar

2 eggs (room temperature)

1/2 c. butter (softened)

1 c. hot black coffee

1 c. sour milk

3/4 c. King Arthur Double-Dutch cocoa

1/2 tsp. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

1/2 tsp. King Arthur espresso powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 c. King Arthur unbleached cake flour blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl with a mixer mix sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until creamy.   Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture.  Then add the milk and coffee.  Mix completely.

I used the 8″ USA pan and a 6″ round cake pan.  Bake until toothpick comes clean.  The size of the pan you use will determine your baking time.   Frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.  I really like the dark chocolate flavor produced from using the cocoa, expresso powder and coffee.

This post should be construed as a big thank you for all the wonderful things I’ve received, and all the connections and friendships I’ve made while blogging.  When I started blogging I never imagined I’d be this fortunate.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

What’s the attraction?

I have a confession to make – you’ve probably seen this picture before.  I’ve been blogging for six months and have come to the conclusion that just when you think you’ve got a good handle on the sport of blogging, you suddenly realize there is so much more to learn.

I’ve learned  a few things along the way.  I’ve learned there is always a better photograph to be taken, more concise words to be written, many computer (tech) skills yet to be learned or improved upon, better ways to market yourself and your blog, there are more friends to be made, and sometimes you just can’t understand, or explain what makes a post  a real hit.

In the time I have been blogging, this has been my most popular post yet.  In one day alone, 1705 visitors read  Welcome the fall with Mini Apple Pies .  The traffic to this post is never-ending.  I’ve tried to reason it out, and quite frankly, I just can’t.  In my opinion, I  have written better posts, taken better photo’s.  Why this one?

That my friends, is the question of the day.  I’m open for some discussion on this topic.  By all means, please chime in.

Reminder… If you haven’t checked out my 3rd Project Food Blog Challenge and voted, please go here.   Your vote counts!  Voting ends on Thursday, October 7th, at 6PM Pacific Time.