Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Justice

      It's my pleasure to announce my final February guest here in the Kitchen, Rachel from Totally Ovar It. I'd say my final social media post but I just got a late request so...  Anyway, I've been wracking my brain trying to introduce her post, to do it justice, and I'm having a hard time.

     We all blog for different reasons, about different things. We put it out there and hope someone is reading. My own bit of the blogshere is not what I would call an overly personal one. Quite frankly, I am a very private person, not willing to put my heart out there and have it open to scrutiny. I'm constantly amazed by people who have the courage to do that.

     Reading people's accounts of abuse, illness, loss etc and how it affects them or how they have moved on is inspirational. The community has a vibrant and supportive network that spans the globe, shining a light into life's darker corners. You are not alone. There is hope. I understand.

     Unfortunately, not all of our online experiences are good ones. I already did my rant about an experience I had on a forum. Unpleasant but not a big deal. I've not had a really negative response to my blog or had to deal with haters. With any luck, I never will. Not all of us are so fortunate. Today, Rachel is sharing her encounter with the darker side of blogging.

The Underbelly of the Blogosphere

I find there is truly helpful information on becoming a successful blogger everywhere.

My biggest piece of advice: Don't piss off the Homecoming Queen of Twitter.

Sadly, I am extremely cynical. I am also not super interested in growing my "brand" or give a shit about what people think. I blog for me and if you read it, that kind of fascinates me as to why.

But I cared oh so much, one year ago

When my blog was novel and the bloggers I met loved me and I was in the Homecoming Queen's court.

And then I sent an email to said Queen because I was hurt by her actions towards me and everything turned.

The HQ decided I was no longer worthy of her attention and, in fact, decided I was no longer worthy to contact her either. I was blocked from her Twitter and Facebook accounts, with no explanation.

I desperately tried to reach out to her many, many times. To talk about why my feelings were so hurt by her actions. To do anything to re-establish our friendship. All to no avail. I am dead to her. 

Not only did she turn on me, she reported my Twitter account as harassing and got it shut down. She blocked my email address from her site and got a number of her followers (many of whom I was silly enough to think they were my friends) to "unfollow" me and block me from their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

All of this without even saying "Boo" to me.  I do not enjoy conflict, but I always want to resolve it. 

But I also thank her for this as it was the best thing she could have done for me.

She made me rethink why I blog. So much so that I quit blogging for over 4 months. And when I restarted I did it on my terms.

In fact, I'm glad she got my old handle 'totallyovarit' banned. Because that's NOT how I want to be known. I am so much more than my blog. I am a real person with literally life or death problems. Not someone who is interested in tweeting my day away.

She also showed me who she does not have influence over. Ironically they are people I met through her, yet they have stuck by me through everything I have gone through. They are my champions. And I love them as they are my family too.

I blog for me, plain and simple.

I blog because I am painfully honest about my past and want other abused women to know they are not alone.

I am not out there trying to grow my audience or get a book deal (yet).

I refuse to get caught up in the bullshit of "I'll comment on your blog if you comment on mine" and "I'll follow you if you follow me." No. I will comment when something resonates. It doesn't matter if I'm the first and only comment or the fiftieth one.

I wear my heart on my sleeve because I want anyone who reads my blog and thus decides to become my friend in this virtual world, to know exactly what s/he is in for.

I will never again be duped by the false friendship of another, more popular blogger. As I have first hand experience that while she is a talented writer, she is a shallow, mean, vindictive woman. For bloggers like her I have little patience.


http://www.totallyovarit.com/

     There are a couple of reasons why this particular post hits home. I was reading another blog and she was also dealing with negative responses. Her words " you can't take this safe place away from me" stayed with  me for days after.

     I think we forget sometimes, there is a real person behind each post. We are a step removed from actual person to person contact. Sometimes that is a great thing. We have time to think, process then respond. Other times we forget the power of a keystroke. We forget the person behind the post. Just like IRL feelings get hurt, actions have consequences, even those keystrokes.

     Thank you Rachel for sharing this. Yes, there may be haters out there, but they can only take away our voice if we let them. In trying to break us down, they only make us stronger. That's divine justice.



    

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happiness is...

     The prompt for this week's coffee chat, where's your happy place? What brings you joy? Ya gotta love that cousin of mine, always picking the light topic, what is beauty, what is happiness. Easy ones, let me just fire off a quick post about that.

      What is my happy place?? Hmmm, should this be that hard to think of. Happy place, happy place, happy place. I've got nothing. Light bulb goes on, inspiration strikes, a slow smile spreads across my face. My happy place isn't external at all. It's in my head.

     Sure there are places that seem to make it easier, or people who inspire it but happiness starts inside. It's a state of mind. No one can give it to you, you have to find it yourself. My happy place is just where ever I happen to be.

    What brings me joy? Waking up every morning. Okay not exactly, getting out of bed is the biggest trauma of my day, but it is a new day. Sure maybe off to the same crappy job, dealing with the same stuff everyone else deals with but also full of new challenges, new triumphs, new opportunities. And a lot of coffee, hell there may even be some cookies left.

     Happiness or joy is in the details. A job well done, an unexpected smile, a seat on the subway, the extra nine minutes my snooze button grants me each and every morning. As much as life can throw you curves, you can almost always find something, anything that gives you pause. A beautiful flower, a good book, a full moon, the smell of fresh baked cookies. Anything that makes you smile. Anything that reminds you, it isn't all bad after all. This to shall pass.

      Being angry, mean or resentful takes a lot of work. You have to constantly replay what ever induced the feeling and I find it exhausting. How many times are we left feeling angry but don't remember why? How often are we the cause? Caught up in a situation, crashing ahead with blinders on. Take a moment, get some perspective, there are always choices. Sometimes they're all unpleasant ones but they're there. Our lives are what we make of them. I choose to laugh.

     My favourite places to pause, reflect and appreciate? Anywhere outside. A walk along the beach (yes even the ones here in Toronto), a quiet trail ride with my Mom, working outside in my garden. All give me a profound sense of peace and contentment. Escaping into a good book, watching a good movie or increasingly a good blog post all take me away from what ever might be bothering me. Help restore some sense of balance.

    
     In the grand scheme of things people always ask do you see the glass as half empty or half full? I see it as time for another drink. Now I'm jonesing for cookies (wonder why?) and I know just which ones to bake. That makes me happy.

     Don't forget to swing by Rory's and see what everyone else has to say about getting happy.






Monday, February 27, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Nostalgia

     This week, Rachel from Totally Ovar It came up with our topic, list the top ten pros/ cons of attending your class reunion. That's a tough one, so I'm going to concentrate on high school.

     I didn't hate school but I didn't love it either. I was never involved in extra curricular activities. I was a farm kid, there were always chores. I loved learning but was not a huge fan of actual school so I missed a lot of classes. Independent study if you will.

     It has been almost 30 years since I graduated. I went to school with a lot of family, aunts, uncles and cousins. The people who were important to me, I've kept in touch with. I have never nor do I have any desire to go to a class reunion. Let's try that list.

Pros

1 The music. A night of late 70's and early 80's tunes would be a blast.
2 There would be dancing. Probably as bad as in actual high school but that would be fun too.
3 The clothes and hair, provided people came in theme.
4 The bar. Now that we're all adults no more sneaking out to the parking lot.
5 Seeing everyone again. Seeing how life treated the jocks, the cheerleaders, the brains, the geeks, the townies and the farm kids. You know the cliques are all still there just waiting to embrace us.

Cons

1 There really is only one, seeing everyone again.

      As much as I'm curious to see how life treated everyone, I'm not so sure I want the full reality tour. I left the area not too long after graduation. In my mind, we are all still those fresh faced teenagers, full of hope and promise. I don't want to see who got fat or bald, who life beat down, who broke up, who hooked up. I don't want anyone bursting my bubble. I don't want to be looking for missing faces. That amazing girl who thought I was the coolest for lending her my Get the Knack album is still alive and well in my memory. I'm still indestructible and so are they.

     Nostalgia can be a great thing, reality can be a sucky slap in the face. I prefer my class experiences to remain where they are, in the past, in my memories.

     So on that vaguely depressing note, throw on a Smith's album for old times sake and go over to Stasha's and see what everyone else came up with. Hopefully a little cheerier than mine.


     One more little bit of shameless self promotion. The lovely and talented Rachel who picked this week's topic will be my final Social Media February guest. Drop by Wednesday to see what she has to say. I've already had a chance to read her post and I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.





Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Lady of Listicles

     That's right, It's Friday again. Not just any Friday either, Friday the 24th of February which according to the schedule means another guest here in the Kitchen. Today, I'm pleased to announce, none other than the Lady of Listicles herself, Stasha from The good life.

     That's right, the woman who has single handedly changed how I feel about Mondays. She'll be telling us about hosting a link up. Sit back, grab a slice of pie and enjoy.



10 reasons hosting a link up is good for you:

1. You will be famous.

2. You will have people bringing their stories to you, neatly arranged on your blog for you to read and marvel.

3. You will kill at least 7 hours reading them and otherwise engaging with your guests.

4. You will meet many new bloggers with little effort on your part.

5. You will be famous.

6. You will have a commitment other then your marriage and dental appointment.

7. You will join an elite group of sevenhundrednintythreethousandfivehudredandtwelwe other link ups.

8. You will forever be known by your linky name. So try not to choose something sounding like testicles.

9. You will be asked to guest post.

10. You will be given pie in exchange for your guest post. As it is clearly evident, Monday Listicles is the best thing since sliced bread. Or Cherry Pie Paul is sending me.

     There you have it. In her own incomparable style, the benefits of  linking up. I can't tell you how much fun I've had playing along.

     On a slightly more serious note, if you are looking to increase your presence in the blogsphere, link ups and blog hops are a great way to introduce yourself. Find one (or two or three) and give it a try. It has provided me with the opportunity to meet many other bloggers that I would not necessarily have met otherwise. We may lead very different lives but it's funny how much we share.

     In the spirit of this post, I'm linking up with Jennifer over at Just Jennifer for TGIF, Get Your Happy On. It seems fitting, seeing it was at her urging, I first gave Monday Listicles a try. That's right Stasha, blame her, it's all her fault.

     
     Thanks again Stasha, you're welcome in my kitchen any time. Not only will there be pie, for you, I'll clean.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The #411 on Twitter

     Today is a whole new bunch of awesome here in the Kitchen. That's right, Jennifer from Just Jennifer is here sharing her insights on the Twitter. She has the distiction of having a double post here, kinda.

     Way back when I was trying to sort through all of the boosting my presense via social media on my own I ran across this, How to Whore and/or Pimp Your Blog. Read it, you'll understand the how and why I ended up a follower of Jennifer's and why I think she's just a whole bunch of awesome in so many different ways. Okay, enough sloppin' sugar, on to the post.

The #411 on Twitter

Once upon a time there was a girl who did not tweet. She knew of the land of Twitter, but she did not know of its wonders. She had visited once, long ago, but had very little recollection. Later, after she started blogging, she realized she hadn’t given it a chance. So the girl gathered her courage and made her way back. Back to the place she didn’t even know she had been missing.

Twitter. To tweet. It sounds like a very silly thing, doesn’t it? And I suppose it is. I mean, it’s random messages sent out to the webiverse in 140 characters or less, streaming by at a rather good clip.

But that’s the beauty of it. You have only 140 characters so you want to make the most of them. This makes tweeps (twitter peeps) choose their words wisely and well. Tweets are very often funny, witty and pack a punch. You find yourself wanting to jump on Twitter to find a convo to butt in to, to find something funny and make you laugh.

Once you’ve connected with some tweeps, they will be right there when you need cheering up. When you have a question, ask Twitter. Nine times out of 10, someone who knows the answer will see your tweet and reply, usually in under 5 minutes.  Also, Twitter has become an excellent breaking news source.

Twitter has huge benefits for bloggers. Sometimes I think it was invented just for us. You write a post and you hope some people will come and read it and leave comments, right? Tweet it. People see your new post in their timeline, click the link and there it is. They read. They comment. If they really liked it, they’ll RT (retweet) your post, and then more people will see and click, and so on. Also, I’ve come away from a twitter session with fun fodder to blog about more than once.

Twitter is the best social networking site for a reason. There are an infinite number of connections that can be made. The world is listening to twitter and your reach is limitless! I kid you not. T-Mobile, Food Network and The Ricki Lake Show, among others, are following me. What I think that says is that even little ole me has a voice and is perhaps influential in some way.

Let me say this clearly so there is no question. If you are a blogger who wants readers, to connect, to spread your wings, you need to be on twitter. It’s that simple.

Now, I’m not saying you have to spend all day, every day staring at your timeline, searching for tweeps to follow and wracking your brain to come up with clever things to tweet. But it’s great to have a twitter account and use it. That’s all I’m saying.

So this is what you do:
Go to www.twitter.com and set up an account. It’s OK (Paul), I promise it won’t hurt!
If you’re a blogger, you want your username (or “handle”) to be either your actual name, or some variation of your blog name. (My handle is JenAnnHall, which is almost my full name. I have my name set as “Just Jennifer“ for my blog.) If you decide later you don’t like your handle, it is changeable.
Upload a good picture for your avatar. Again, it can be your face, or maybe your blog button. However, I will say that a face makes you more personable.
For continuity, choose or upload a profile background that in some way matches your blog.
Do go through and pick and choose which kinds of notifications you want via email. You probably don’t want every @ mention, but you do want to be notified of Direct Messages (DM) or you might miss them.
Once you’re all set up, get a follow me button for your blog and start seeking out people you’d like to follow!

Using Twitter:
At first your timeline probably won’t move very fast, but as you choose to follow more and more people, it will.
If you start to miss more than you’d like, you can set up lists and group tweeps together. You can easily search for particular subjects being tweeted about, usually with a hashtag.
What is a hashtag? A #hashtag is a #subject or a #sidecomment or a phrase that connects a series of tweets, such as #wineparty or #Grammys.
When you want to talk directly to a particular tweep, you “mention” them with @ and their handle, such as @JenAnnHall, or simply reply to one of their tweets.
Twitter has an extensive help center to answer all your questions!

Dos & Don’ts:
DON’T just be a stalker. Twitter users like interaction!
DO respond to mentions and say thanks for RTs.
DON’T spam people via DM with information they didn’t ask for.
DO tweet more than just your post links. Let people get to know you better.
DON’T retweet everything you see.
DO be yourself and use common sense and good manners.

Alright, I think my job here is done. You should be completely ready to take the plunge into the Twitterverse!

Oh yeah, have FUN!

      I can't add anything to that. Really, I can't. I haven't taken the plunge yet despite her very comprehensive post. I just figured out how to make a badge show up inside a post not just on my side bar. There's only so much technical sh*t I can handle at a time.

     Jennifer, it has been a blast having you hang out @TheOssingtonKitchen. I can't thank you enough. (Still workin' on my handle LOL, I really will take the plunge, soon, I swear)

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'd Rather Be...

     The Family Day edition of Listicles with Stasha. This week, Wendy from Twisted Domestic Goddess picked the topic, ten things you'd rather do than clean the house. She's been on vacation and dreading returning to the mess of the "frat house". I think we might be living  slightly parallel lives.


     I am no one's idea of a good housekeeper, sorry Mom. My house is regularly, embarrassingly messy. The Christmas decorations are still up in the living room and nobody's buying it as a Winterlude theme. Four kids to clean up after, other people's kids, and quite frankly, I don't do maid very well. Household chores are exactly that, chores. If I liked doing them then they wouldn't be hardships, they'd be hobbies. 

     Instead of cleaning the house, I'd rather be...

1 Watching The English PatZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
2 Public speaking
3 Writing a fan letter to Mel Gibson, Kim Kardasian or Chris Brown.
4 Doing a relationship quiz.
5 In a job interview,
6 Reading a Jackie Collins novel.
7 Writing an exam.
8 Manscaping
9 Having a price check done while buying condoms. (or tampons, yes I've been that friend) Ya gotta love drugstore intercoms. 
10 Having a prostate exam.

     Yep, that's how much I like cleaning the house. I admit, I like the sense of accomplishment of having everything all spic and span. It just never lasts. I suppose there are always those plastic slip covers. Maybe drop cloths.

     In no what related news, very excited about tomorrow's guest post. Sorry, no spoilers, you'll have to drop by Tuesday and see the extreme awesomeness yourself.

     In very related news, our lovely and gracious hostess with mostest will be a guest here on Friday. In honour of that, I finally figured out how to have her Listicles badge show up inside my post. I know, I'm all appreciative like that LOL.

     Enough of the shameless self promotion. Drop by Stasha's and see what we'll all be doing instead of cleaning our houses.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Playin' Around

     Hurray, I'm finally all caught up with all things blog related. Well almost, kinda, okay who am I kidding?
I've been tagged not once but twice in the last couple of weeks, my cousin Rorybore and the lovely Greta (or was it Hansa???) Anyway, I love a good game of tag, better yet Kick the Can, even better still, Kick the Can at night in the dark with the fireflies going all around, but I digress.

    First up Rory's questions

1 Describe yourself in 7 words.
Loyal, fair, clever, loner, curious, clumsy and of course utterly, devastatingly, handsome. (in the dark, with both eyes tightly shut, with a good cloud cover blanking out the moon and stars)

2 What keeps me up at night?
The pitter patter of little and not so little feet. My room aka the cave is directly under the kitchen sink. I can not begin to count the number of times I've been woken up by the midnight "I needed a drink of water" run.

3 Who would I like to be?
When I grow up? Still working on that one but I like being me so....

4 What am I wearing right now?
The orange board shorts I swim in. Don't judge it's laundry day and comfortable and I'm the only one up right now, lazy bas$$$ds.

5 What scares me?
Besides spiders? Probably public speaking or illness. Reaching a point of not being able to take care of myself scares the bejeezus out of me.

6 The best and worst of blogging?
The best, the connections you make. Getting a glimpse into others lives that you would never have met IRL.
The worst, never enough time, or in my case, technical prowess.

7 The last website I visited?
I'm not going to list blogs sites, there are too many and I have three up right now, but actual websites, YouTube for that spider commercial.

8 The one thing I would change about myself?
I'm gonna go superficial on this one and say my teeth. I didn't inherit the Craig mega watt smile, I got the Fisher full head of hair. God divides but I wish I had both.

9 Slankets, yes or no?
No, I'm always warm unless I'm sick, then I'm in bed.

10 Tell us something about the person who tagged you?
My cousin, hmmm what to share? Here's something I haven't shared about her. When we were little, my other cousin Sherry and I were baby sitting her. As a treat, we got to order pizza, big deal for us. When it arrived, she burst into tears and wouldn't eat it. Why, it was from SquareBoys so it wasn't round. She wouldn't believe us that it was indeed pizza, she thought we were playing a trick on her. Stubborn, Mule headed, Strong willed even as a child, she knew what was what and what she wanted. No substitutes allowed. LOL

     Now for Greta's questions.

1. What kids' show do you detest, and which one do you secretly watch when your kids aren't around?
The Teletubbies kind of freak me out. I've had the pleasure of meeting the Wiggles and Sharon, Lois and Bram, some of the rudest, most miserable customers ever so not fond of them either.
Darkwing Duck or the Thundercats-love both cartoon series

2.  If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Shorts and a t-shirt. Although dressing up is fun once and a while, I hate wearing a lot of clothes and prefer to go bare foot.

3. If you could start over completely with a brand new Facebook account and ditch the one you have, would you have the same number of friends, fewer friends, or more friends?
That's a tough one just because of who is actually on my Facebook page, I'm gonna go with more, huge family, friends who have scattered to the four corners of the world, you know the drill.

4. If you could retire tomorrow (or if all of your kids were in school), what would you do with your days?
Travel, garden, cook, write, research my family history how much space do I have to list things?

5. What toy from your childhood do you secretly wish you could still play with?
My Mechanno set, I loved building things and sorry, Lego just isn't the same.

6. What is your favorite movie of all time?
This is a tough one, favourite of all time????
Sunset Boulevard with Gloria Swanson, Brilliant
Gilda, with Rita Hayworth, there's a reason they called her the love goddess
Breakfast at Tiffany's, who can compare to Audrey Hepburn
The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, the first movie to give me nightmares

7. If you could spend a week with any celebrity and couldn't leave his/her side the whole time, who would you want to spend it with?
This would be torture for me, a solid week tied to anyone.
For enjoyment, P!nk, David Guetta, Richard Butler, David Bowie (and I get a bonus with Iman) or Britney Spears, (just to watch the crazy)
For different enjoyment, Gordon Ramsey so I could smack him every time he's a dick.

8. What is the first thing you would say to that celebrity?
Why are you always such a dick?

9. Do you have any major regrets in your life?
Major regrets, hmmm. Hard to say, without the mistakes we make we never grow into the people we are. Sure I've made lots of mistakes, lots and lots and lots but I'm going to have to go with no on this one although I reserve the right to change my mind at some later date.

10. If you could choose any (other) profession, what would it be?
Food critic, I'd be huge but imagine getting paid to eat. Bliss

11. What song do you crank up the loudest in your car and sing along to?
Right now, Raise your glass by P!nk, Sexy and I know It by LMFAO or What the Hell by Avril Lavigne. I never said I had taste.

     Phew, that was harder than I thought. So now I'm supposed to think of 11 questions and tag 11 others.

The questions:
1 Famous or respected? Why?
2 Who's your hero? (can be real or fictional)
3 If you won an obscene amount of money in the lottery what would you do with it?
4 Least endearing quality?
5 If you had to give up one of your senses what would you sacrifice, taste, touch, sight, hearing or smell?
6 Biggest time waster?
7 Books or e-readers? Why?
8 Most hated household chore?
9 What instantly gets your back up/annoys you?
10 What is hardest for you to forgive?
11 What is the one thing that always makes you smile/lifts your spirits?
     So now for the tags. It seems everyone on the interweb has been tagged lately so if your reading this, TAG, You're it.(If you want) Have a great weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2012

TGIF

     Praise the Lord and pass the tequila, it's Friday again. Time to link up over at Just Jennifer and share some random happy to end the work week.


Where to start, cuz there's a bunch this week?

1 It's a long weekend thanks to Family Day here in Canada on Monday.

2 I've had some great guests in the Kitchen this week, here and here and more coming too. The Social Media February has been my best idea so far.

3 I now feel completely justified in my fear of spiders. It could happen and it explains why my house looks like it does.
http://youtu.be/uA1K4KG4_WM

4 I'm getting all caught up on lots of things so this weekend I'm taking some advice and I'm just going to take it out and play with it. Not really my comfort zone but that's what everyone has been saying so... I'm taking my new camera out for a spin. I got a great new little DSLR for Christmas and am finally going to get to test it out. Hopefully pictures to follow, after I get the huge fingerprint smudge off the lens, the first thing I did trying to get it out of the box. Maybe there won't be pictures???

     Three days of bliss, nothing on the agenda more strenuous than beer, blogging and playing with my new toys. If only every weekend was like this.

     What's got your happy on this Friday?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Introvert's Guide to Blogging

     I'm honoured to welcome Sweaty from Do Sweat the Small Stuff into the Kitchen today. I love her blog/writing and am thrilled she consented to do a guest post for me. Without further ado, drum roll please, here's Sweaty.



An Introvert’s Guide to Blogging
If you’re an introvert like me, using social media to enhance your blog can be more than a little daunting.  All of a sudden, it’s like high school again, and most likely you’d feel like the new kid who had transferred in the middle of a semester, complete with volcanic pimples and shiny braces.  
While I’m far from being a social media expert, I do know a few things from my days of being a blogger.  Below are the most basic, but essential tips that could help you fit in without having to reinvent yourself into someone you’re not.
1) Read, comment, and reply.
Blogging, first and foremost, is about sharing.  It’s a give-and-take thing.  If you want people to read your blog, then read others’.  Leave sincere and thoughtful comments that showed you have paid attention to what they’ve written.  Every one wants to feel validated; for bloggers, nothing could be more rewarding than a comment that acknowledges his or her post’s relevance.
The same goes to the comments left on your post.  Remember that those people have spent their precious time reading what you wrote instead of a million other things they could be doing at the time.  Show them that you appreciate what they’ve done by replying to each of their comments.
2) Set up a Twitter account and Facebook page for your blog.
Believe me, you need at least those two.  Why?  Because it’s the easiest way to communicate and advertise your blog to others.  Unless you’re a celebrity, chances are people don’t know you exist.  Twitter and Facebook provide a way to make yourself known.  And no, you don’t need to be tweeting or posting a new status every minute for these two forms of social media to be effective.  Remember, the most important thing is to make others aware of your existence.  At the very least, tweet your latest post at regular intervals throughout the day, and post it on your FB page right after you publish it.
3) When you find blogs you like, follow AND visit them regularly.  
What I mean by ‘follow’ is: follow them through Google Friend Connect (if available), subscribe to their RSS feed or via email, add their Twitter accounts, and ‘Like’ their FB pages.  
I personally use Google Reader to organize my subscriptions, and Hootsuite for all the tweets I follow.  Without these tools, it could be quite difficult to stay updated.
I really don’t recommend following just any blog for the sake of quantity.  You’d just end up crowding your inbox and Reader list, and soon enough, confuse and overwhelm yourself.
Next, visit the blogs you’ve followed on a regular basis.  It’s important to let them know that you are in it for the long run, not just a once-in-a lifetime occurrence.  Especially with established blogs with a high number of followers, you would need to visit them at least a few times if you want them to notice you.  There is no short-cut to building meaningful connections when it comes to friendship.  If you want loyal followers, then you must be loyal to them too.
.
4) Join Blog Hops or Writing Prompts linkys. 
Joining a Blog Hop is a good and easy way to make your blog presence known and for you to get to know other bloggers.  You just click on the links submitted by the other bloggers and you’d instantly be transported to his/her blog.  The same goes for you.
Writing Prompts are more specific, but I personally like them because they tend to be more selective.  You’re more likely to meet bloggers who have the same interests as you there than through Blog Hops.
5) Don’t bite more than you can chew/be yourself.
It’s normal to want tons of followers, to be popular and well-liked.  Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.  Besides, how you define success for your blog is relative.  I know many prided themselves on the number of their followers (me included--boy, was I obsessed with the numbers!).  However, if you’re in it for the long run, you’ll find that what matters most is the connection/friendship you build with others.  Believe me, the last thing you’d want is to have hundreds of followers and still feel ‘lonely’ at the end of the day.
You must be honest and reasonable with yourself when it comes to setting up goals for your blog.  Just because it works for some doesn’t mean it will work on everyone.  What’s right for me might not be right for you.  Don’t feel like you need to post x amount of times per week just because so and so does it.  
Take into consideration the life you have ‘outside’ of blogging, your work commitments, your relationships with your spouse/partner and children (if you have any), and your sanity.  Establish a schedule that you are comfortable with and can stick to in the long run.  I’ve seen many bloggers who over commit themselves in the beginning and ended up quitting because they got burnt out .  
There are an endless amount of resources on blogging out there that you can tap into.  I really encourage you to make full use of them.  By no means the five tips I highlighted above could encompass all there is to know about blogging, but they’ve served me well in the one year that I’ve been blogging.  Hopefully you’ll benefit from them too.
You can find Sweaty:
And as a contributing writer at Just Be Enough

     I couldn't agree more. Thank you Sweaty for sharing your wisdom with us. As a small aside, #4, I can't tell you how much my readership has changed since I started doing Monday Listicles with Stasha and Rorybore's Coffee Chat on Tuesdays. Sweaty knows what she's talking about.

     Want to add your two cents? By all means, email me and have your say. Your post could be the next here in the Kitchen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Link by Link

     Last week things got a little interrupted but I'm kinda back on track with my Social Media February. Today it's my pleasure to introduce the latest member of my family to hit the interweb, Wendy Hillier. I can use her real name because that's the name of her site.

     Wendy is a real estate agent extraordinaire. She also uses LinkedIn. When I was planning the social media thing I spoke to her, yes spoke over the phone, about why Linked In. What did it offer other formats didn't? Here is what she had to say.

Why Linkedin!

     Well, the younger generation (I’m not that old) uses all kinds of social media to stay in touch these days. Facebook is a big party where you have friends to talk to, show pictures to on a more social platform.  

       Linkedin is a great way to stay in touch with professionals in my field of business.  Mortgage lenders, home inspectors, tradesmen as well as other Realtors who are dealing with all kinds of issues that are part of buying and selling houses. They  are posting articles related to real estate.  I usually receive notification about the articles and can read more about it when I have time or can comment on the issue and learn more…kind of like an in classroom course if you will. 

     I am happy to say that I don’t spend a lot of time on Linkedin mainly because I still like the face to face way of doing business.  Everything in balance!

     Short and to the point. I had no idea LinkedIn was more of a professional networking service or that people regularly posted or pointed out articles related to their respective fields. Professional networking is a nightmare for me, anything to make it easier is a blessing.

     I gotta say the more I am hearing, reading about all of the different platforms I am intrigued. Everything is designed for a purpose. Having every one talk about them, likes dislikes, uses, gives me a better understanding of each rather than being lost in that overwhelming cloud "social media". Thanks Wendy.

     Be sure to stop by Wendy's new site and show her some love. If your looking for real estate, she's never too busy for your referrals. LOL

     Tomorrow, Sweaty from Do Sweat the Small Stuff will be sharing her perspective on getting all social so be sure to stop by for that.

     Want to have your say? Email me and you could be the next guest in my Kitchen. Although anything is welcome, I'm curious to hear what you have to say about Digg, StumbledUpon or Pinterest. Y'all come back now, y'hear.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beauty, eh?

    I hope you're all basking in the love of your significant other. The topic today over at Rorybore's Coffee Chat is beauty. How appropriate for this day devoted to love.

    
     What is Beauty? There are thousands of pages devoted to it, studies trying to understand it and a million cliches surrounding it.  We are obsessed with it, but do we understand it?

     I've done my due diligence this week and have been all over reading about the subject. It's kind of incredible so much time and effort has gone into trying to answer the question of beauty. Are we hard wired? Is there a universal standard? Does it change? How do we perceive it?

     To try and cut down what will probably be a long post anyway, I'm going to stick with Rory's theme, personal beauty. It occupies kind of a unique place in the pantheon any way.

     Most studies agree, beauty is average. In visual cuing, we look for symmetry in faces. The most attractive face is a composite of many faces with no outstanding features. It is easiest for us see, process and recognize. Explains that baby study.

     Strangely we don't see symmetry in any other form as more or less appealing. In studies, symmetrical buildings were not seen as any more appealing that their less symmetrical counterparts. In landscaping, plantings are done in odd mumbers. In home decor, perfect symmetry is perceived as cold and univiting. No real surprise, there is no real universal standard. Beauty is very subjective.

     Most studies are done on quick visual tests of strangers. Extended further, rating, getting to know the subjects, then rating again, the ratings change. How we feel about the person affects how we see them. No real surprise there.

     Why all the fuss? It is a bazillion dollar industry. It drives fashion, cosmetics and advertising to name just a few. So who decides what is beautiful? Most people would say the media. We are innundating with images every day. I'm not sure I'd agree with that.    

     There is really only one reason I don't. Media in all of its forms, is giving us a reflection of what we ask for. Let's face it, if that star doesn't bring in the audience, no movie, no contract, no fame. If that supermodel doesn't move product, if we're not buying what they're selling, see ya,. If that face on the cover doesn't sell the magazine, next. It may be simplistic but I don't see the media creating anything. They give us what we want, our vanities, fantasies, dreams or fears reflected back. They do it well because there is a lot of money at stake.

     We send out very mixed messages. To our girls, we say you are beautiful, strong, what you look like doesn't matter. How many television shows or magazines feature the smart, braces wearing girl who can calculate Pi to 100 decimels without a calculator. No, we have, Toddlers in Tiaras. A whole generation has been convinced body hair is "unsightly". Think your father ever worried about "manscaping"? Afraid of getting older? We can fix that. We buy into it, all of it. We end up setting the standards with what we'll watch, what we'll buy.

    We also know it is complete fiction, we have for decades. Behind every movie, magazine cover or television ad, there are teams of stylists for hair, make up and clothes, photographers making sure the angles and lighting are the most flattering, then the editors erasing every flaw with software programs, culling hundreds of images to find, the one. It is complete make believe. We make the associations, they sell it to us.

     Now for some eye candy.


Don't get it


Don't get it


Sorry Rory, don't get it ROFL


Get it


Get it
     
Get it

Completely don't get it

Don't get it


Get it


Get it

Completely get it


Quintessential I get it

     A small sampling of the faces that appeal to me or ones I just don't get why all the fuss. I don't think any are ugly, just don't understand how/why they stand out. As you can see, we all have our own ideas about what is beautiful.

     Beauty is ever changing and eternal. Some things are beautiful because they are fleeting, like youth. Ultimately, beauty is where you find it, in the eye of the beholder. Take a look, it's all around you.

     I wouldn't be a good Canadian without paying tribute to Bob and Doug, " Beauty, eh." Now I'm off to get a beer.  Happy Valentine's Day every one.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love, the other four letter word

     This week it's the Love edition of Listicles. Stasha provided this prompt, timely too. Last week was passion and of course Valentine's Day is tomorrow. Time to wax poetic about love and my beloved.



     Uh, maybe not. Seeing as how I have spent as many V-Days in the dog house or not speaking as relaxing over a nice dinner or bottle of wine, I'm not really qualified.

     Life has taught me, love is always saying you're sorry even if you don't know or remember what you are sorry for. That famous book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, mine would simply be called, Your head is in Uranus. Instead, here are a couple of tips to help avoid a domestic cage match.

     The first is here. Hard to work up or sustain an anger with this on the table. Nothing more to add there.

     Now for the really, really important part, my guide to domestic bliss via finally knowing how to load the dishwasher properly avoiding all of the associated angst it creates.

Not the most politically correct, but you get the idea

     Why does this create angst? (because knowing is half the battle) Money, that's right, the root of all evil.
Every time you run the dishwasher it costs in time, energy, detergent and breakage. For the busy, green or money conscious, an improperly loaded dishwasher is a hotbed of argument topics. Let's just learn how to avoid all that shall we.

     How does my dishwasher work? Well I'm glad you asked, let me explain.

big box with two rotating sprayer arms
heating coil in the bottom


three separate compartments for detergent/rinsing agent

     Your objective then is to get the maximum amount of dishes clean, using the minimum amount of energy, water and detergents causing no damage or breakage to what you put inside. Sounds simple right? Then why do I find my good knives in the dishwasher even though I've told you a thousand times they don't go in there I just spent a small fortune getting them sharpened causing me to look like this and if you ruin them, I swear to God there will be a reckoning ?


 I know, mad MS Paint skills right
It just gets better

Wrong

Wrong

and again, Wrong

1 Pre rinse. I know all those detergent ads say no, they lie. Your dishwasher is not a garborator. Olive pits, gobs of food or napkins will really not dissolve and be flushed away. You can in fact, clog the hoses and that is a very expensive plumber's bill in the making.

2 Load back to front. Keep it organized from the beginning. You're less likely to end up with wasted space.

3 Try and keep dishes of similar sizes and shapes together, not like the first photo. You want to get a good even spray of water so if you nest the dishes they don't come clean.

4 THE GOOD KNIVES DON'T GO IN THE DISHWASHER. Not everything can go in the dishwasher. Sad but true, some things need to be handled with care.

5 Separate your cutlery. It washes better. Heads up and handles down. Again better water exposure so it washes better. Points of the knives to the back, spoons up front. Less blood, always good.

6 Dishes don't go in cross wise. That bends the tines and makes me mad.

7 The heating element is in the bottom so soft plastic can melt or distort. It goes in the top rack or better yet, hand wash.

8 Do put soap in both detergent compartments. The machine is designed for a double wash cycle, use it. Nothing is more annoying than re washing an entire load because you tried to save a few cents on detergent. Rinsing agents are optional. None have ever worked for me but.... Strangely, plain old white vinegar is pretty effective.


Isn't that better?

Look at all that room.
All is right with my world once more.

     For what ever reason, dishes figure prominently in a lot of kitchen arguments. Loading them, running the dishwasher or emptying it, all topics that have created a lot of grief in the Kitchen over the years.

     What would make me happy this Valentine's Day? I'd love to come home to a clean house, with the dishes done. It's the little things.

     Maybe not totally on track with Stasha's Love prompt  (that just sounds funny some how) but avoiding a fight is half the battle. You're welcome.

     Don't forget to swing by and see what everyone has to say on love, I'm pretty confident they know more than me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For the love of Chocolate

     It's been a while. Pretty hectic here in the Kitchen but finally some calm, okay calm-ish, uh less manic?? Anyway, in honour of the approaching love fest on Tuesday, a recipe sure to satisfy all your sweet cravings, Chocolate Pecan Caramel Cheesecake. I know, I can hear you salivating. All that deliciousness wrapped up in one little, fairly easy recipe.

     This is the easiest cheesecake recipe I have, thanks aunt Barb. Rorybore's mom, aunt Rita won a baking award with this little gem. On to the recipe.

Chocolate Pecan Caramel Cheesecake

Ingredients
2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
14 oz of caramel
5 oz evaporated milk
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate pieces, melted

Directions
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare 9 inch spring form pan, cooking spray, floured or parchment paper.

Combine wafer crumbs and melted butter, mixing well.
Press mixture into the bottom and a little up the sides of the spring form pan.
Bake for 10 minutes in pre heated oven.
Remove and set aside.
Combine caramel and evaporated milk in double boiler and heat, stirring occasionally until caramel is melted.
Pour over crust.
Top with pecans.
Combine cream cheese, vanilla and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well in between until they are well incorporated.
Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave.
Add slowly to cream cheese mixture and mix until well combined.
Pour over pecan layer.
Bake in pre heated oven for 45 minutes.
Crack oven door and let cool 1/2 hour to help prevent cracking. (not a big deal)
Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake before removing side.
Serve garnished with whipped cream, more toasted pecans and Maraschino cherries if desired.

Tips and Hints
Here in Canada, it is care-a-mel, not car-mil and pee-can not pi-con. Just sayin'
Melt the caramel while the crust is baking and melt the chocolate while the cream cheese mixture is mixing. Just makes everything faster.
Plain graham wafer crumbs work instead of the vanilla wafer crumbs.
Do toast the pecans, brings out the flavour.
Cheesecake benefits from moist heat. Bake with a pan of water in the bottom of the oven.
Use the best chocolate you can afford or bear to part with.
Needs no garnish but what isn't better with a little whipped cream, and it is V-Day, right. It won't go to waste.
If you have the recipe, you could make this with a short crust instead of a crumb crust. One day I'll get around to posting mine.
Cake is done when edges are firm but the centre still jiggles a little.
Peanuts, pistachios or almonds would be awesome subs for the pecans.

     There it is, an award winning recipe sure to please. I have one cooling in my kitchen even as I type this. Pictures to follow if I can pull myself from my plate. Still time to get the ingredients and whip one up for your beloved for your Valentine's Day celebrations. Enjoy.



Monday, February 6, 2012

Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll

     That's right, Par-tay. This week's Listicle topic, What are your passions? Jackie over at Not Wifezilla provided the prompt in memory of a good friend.

     What are my passions? I always sort of equate passion with something like Mother Theresa helping the poor in Calcutta or Doctors Without Borders. I'm not really that kind of person, all fired up about any one thing in particular. I tend to be more moderate, not really in the extreme. That''s why the cheeky title.

     After a little thought, I remembered the movie, Auntie Mame. (The original Rosalind Russell vehicle although I did like Lucille Ball's remake it was funny to see Bea Aurthur before Maude and The Golden Girls) There is a line in the movie, Life is a banquet and most poor slobs are starving. That really does kind of sum up how I feel about life in general.



1 Life. I want to live my life. Whether that means going on the largest roller coaster I can find or trying something new and falling flat on my face, I try to push myself a little to go out and explore all that life has to offer. I try and not let fear, convention or doubt hold me back.

2 Tolerance. Few things get my back up faster than intolerance. I have never understood how what someone else believes is any kind of threat to what I feel to be true or vice versa. The world is a big place with room enough for all of us.

3 Art. Any kind, music, dance, sculpture, theatre, movies, literature. I'm constantly amazed looking at the world through the eyes of the artist.

4 Literacy and Education My main interest is in adult learning. I can't imagine trying to get though life unable to read but about a third of Canadians read below a 5th grade level.

5 Family From tracing my roots to getting to know the many scattered relatives better, family is right up there for me.

     Those are the big ones, the rest are things I enjoy, I'm not sure if they'd really qualify as passions.

6 Cooking. I love everything about cooking except the dishes.

7 Skiing I've skied since I was little and few things compare to that rush you get careening down the slopes.

8 Riding Another thing I've done since childhood.Communing with nature on a leisurely trail ride to galloping through the "sallies" playing tag.

9 Gardening It must be the farmer in me, I love to try and grow things. They usually end up on the table so it's a win win for me.

10 Writing Everything from the traditional pen and paper to blogging. Getting the ideas outside my head and being able to examine them helps keep me sane.

     Maybe that title wasn't so cheeky after all. Rock n Roll is maybe a little too specific. Drugs, caffeine and alcohol count right? Most of the others make me violently ill, no idea why I had such a bad reputation as a teen. As for the sex, well I am a Scorpio. Enough said.

11 Properly loading the dishwasher. Just throwing in a bonus one here. There really is only one way to properly load the dishes. My life's work will be complete when I have passed on that little bit of wisdom.

     Drop by Stasha's to see what else made the list. What gets your blood pumping?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I'll be there...

      It has been a bit rough in the Kitchen for the last few of weeks. I spent Friday attending a funeral. The gentleman would have been my father in law if I were in fact married. There have been hospital visits, some hard decisions for the family and then waiting for "the call". It's been pretty sombre around here.

     Of course, the passing of a loved one is on my mind. It's not something we are very comfortable talking about but I wanted to get a few things out, some questions, some musings.

     Why do we find it so hard to express sorrow or grief? This one was no different from any other funeral I have ever attended. People really hate to cry, like it is some sort of weakness. I'm not a "good" cryer. I'm the loud sobbing, can't breathe, messy sort.

     As I was offering up a shoulder, or giving a much needed hug for comfort, I kept being struck by that vaguely embarrassed look we all get. You know the one I mean, that "sorry you had to see me like this" one. I've worn it myself. There is nothing wrong with an expression of grief. I kept thinking of that old saying "a burden shared is a burden eased".

     It really was a lovely service. Not because of the church or the funeral home, but because of the man who's passing we were there to honour. His grand children's names were written on ribbons, a grand daughter sang Hallelujah, there were a few tears in my eyes after that, and the service was packed with people.

     Why were they there? Because he was a good guy. Devoted to his wife and family, loved to sing and dance, respected and liked by co workers and employees. He loved his life and that touched every one around him.

     We talk of legacies or achievements, building an empire, winning that coveted prize, having that fortune or house on the hill. In the end, that room full of people were there because he was a loving man, not because of fame or fortune. I can't think of anything better than to be remembered for a life well lived.

     I never had a chance to get to know him. My part in all of this has been support. That's hard too. I'm going to make a very broad stereotype here, guys are not always great with this. I have no idea why but women seem better able to just be there, rather than having a task.

     Although I consider myself to be a good listener, when this all started I completely missed the mark. When we talked about him being in the hospital, I immediately switched into problem solving mode. That is normally my role, gather the information, plan how to move forward.

    Details were sketchy and often contradictory and I found myself getting a little frustrated. How was a decision to be made? So I kept asking questions, until I realized, I wasn't helping at all. I was making a bad situation worse. This was not a problem solving time, this was a listen, nod and just be there when you're ready to talk time. I wasn't making any of these decisions, I didn't need to know and I was pushing for something that wasn't ready to be thought about let alone discussed. I even stopped the constant, "Are you okay ?", "How are you feeling?" Why is it so hard to just be there?

     We all cope in out own way, on our own terms and in our own time. When you're ready, if you need me, when you need me, I'll be there.