A few months ago, I spent some time doing volunteer work in Kenya through the volunteer agency International Volunteer HQ. I stayed with a Kenyan family and volunteered at an orphanage, Internally Displaced Persons camps, and with the Masai (warrior tribes in Kenya). It was an extremely moving experience. Read more.

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    A Note to New Bloggers

    Filed under :blogging, IFBC, Tips
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    Thinking about starting a blog?  Allow me, a new blogger myself, to impart a few words of wisdom I’ve learned in the 2.5 months of my blogging career.

    1.  This blogging thing is hard.

    There’s a lot of work involved in building a blog!  The learning curve is steep, and you have to become an expert at everything at once:  writing posts and updating frequently; photography; networking; developing content; website design (yes, even if you’re using a template- it ain’t as easy as it looks!); not to mention all the “prep” work involved in creating a post- developing recipes or other content, cooking, taking pics of everything, etc.  If you posses mad computer or photography skills, you’re way ahead.  Otherwise, take it from me, set aside much more time and energy than you thought you’d need.  That being said, it is a labour of love, and there’s nothing quite like typing in your url and seeing YOUR blog, YOUR posts, YOUR content, YOUR pics, and the comments resulting from YOUR networking and the friendships YOU’RE nurturing.  I assume it gets easier as time goes on and you get the hang of some of these things.

    2.  Learn from the best.

    When I decided I wanted to write a food blog, I reached out to other bloggers (who I found through google- starting from scratch here).  One wise blogger (Mardi of eat.live.travel.write.) swore by the New Media course from Writers.com.  Instructors Amanda and Mike are true gems and made the transition into blogging much easier for someone with limited blogging-related skills to begin with.  I was thrilled to have the chance to meet them when in Seattle.

    Amanda Castleman and Mike Keran

    Amanda and Mike from Writers.com

    Remember, you can always ask for help.  I hired a programmer to help me with my initial design as technology and I don’t mix well.  Yet.

    3.  Examine your motives.

    WHY do you want to write a blog?  Are you trying to segueway into a new, exciting foodie career?  Do you need an outlet for your cooking obsession before your head explodes?  You don’t have to share this with anyone, but be brutally honest with yourself.  I wanted to meet like-minded people, so in my case, when things take a little longer, that’s ok.  But for those of you looking to leap into the professional culinary world, beware- you need a LOT of patience.  It takes a lot of time and energy, and you need to post quality content regularly, develop tasty, original recipes, perfect your photography skills, and network widely.  This is all important- as we learned from the Pitch to Publish panel at IFBC, potential publishers are looking for bloggers who can do it all.  It can take a long time to develop all these skills and meet the right contacts.

    4.  Network, network, network.

    Read other food blogs.  Not only are there some awesome blogs out there, but through leaving comments and “meeting” other bloggers, traffic will increase on your blog as they return the favour.  Sign up for twitter- a lot of conversation happens there.  Attend conferences and events such as IFBC or Camp Blogaway if you can, and have printed blog business cards at the ready to distribute.  Join on-line clubs and actively participate- the Daring Kitchen or Kitchen Boot Camp are good places to start.

    5.  Connect with major programs and websites.

    Foodbuzz runs a Featured Publisher program which links you with a community of bloggers and interesting opportunities.  Foodgawker and Tastespotting, among others, will publish your high-quality food photos and drive traffic to your site through them.  Food Blog Forum and similar sites put you in touch with a network of bloggers where you can learn all manner of tips and tricks and post questions in the various forums. 

    6.  When you have a moment to breath, remember that you’re doing this because you love it, and enjoy every minute (ok, at least most of them!)

    Of course, there are all kinds of other tips and tricks that you’ll learn along the way, but hopefully this will help you begin.

    Tip- No More Tears when Cutting Onions!

    Filed under :onions, Tips
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    Freeze an onion for 10- 15 minutes before cutting it to help prevent tears!

    Tip: save over-whipped cream

    Filed under :Tips
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    Here’s a great tip I read in the July 2010 edition of BBC’s Good Food magazine:

    If you accidentally over-whip cream, simply stir in a little cold milk to bring it back to a softly whipped state!