Monday, December 29, 2014

To Blog or Not to Blog? Major Construction Needed

As the year comes to an end, I'm beginning to contemplate whether or not this blogging thing is really for me.  I know it sounds bad, but that's honestly how I feel.  I can't seem to get this thing right.  Some would say that there's no right or wrong way to blog, but really...there is.  I am always second guessing myself.  I can't seem to find a vision.  I feel like I don't have the drive I had when I first began.  Right about now, I feel like a little lost lamb. 
I'm in need of some serious direction!

The problem I think I'm having is that I have so much other stuff going on in my life that I don't have time to think.  I thought a 2-week vaca from my full-time job would be the perfect time for me to catch up on posting, but all I've done is gone back and forth on what I should write about.  It really shouldn't be this difficult, so I think I need  to take a little hiatus from blogging for awhile.  When I return to work next week, I will be inundated with parent conferences to get our 8th graders registered for high school.  That process takes up the entire month of January.  With 10-11 conferences scheduled each day, and then working after school with other students in need, my brain and body will thoroughly can I describe it...CRASHED!!  

I'll be too exhausted to do anything other than getting rest for the next day.  Its sad that I'm thinking this way now, but I'm only speaking from  experience.

Maybe sometime during this hiatus, I'll find the inspirational ease to write again.  Hopefully, my mind won't be so clustered and I'll be more relaxed to write.  Most people would probably say I should continue to write to release some stress, but right now this seems to be causing it.  Nothing major of course.  I'm not fully happy with my blog and need the time to put more focus into it. I have a lot to learn about blogging and know that I've made a few mistakes along the way.    I know I shouldn't be so hard on myself since I only began a few months ago.  Ironically, I just sat back and read over this post.  Made corrections and reread.  Let out a long sigh and I'm now feeling a sense of peace. 
So maybe writing can ease my stress; Go figure!

 As you reflect on your year of blogging, I hope each of you feel at peace with your writing and I wish you much success in 2015.  Until sometime in the near future...I'm officially... 

Thank you for your patience!

Have you ever lost your drive towards something you had a passion for?  How did you get your mojo back? What's your source of inspiration?  I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Giveaway Winning Frenzy

I'm always looking for freebies whether its coupons, free samples, and my latest obsession...GIVEAWAYS!!!  The name says it all...someone wanting to GIVE something AWAY. 

Okay, everyone loves a great giveaway, right?  Anything that's free is always a winner.  So, why don't you get out there and give some a try.

 I've entered various types of giveaways recently and I'm starting to find myself becoming addicted to finding them.  I've entered the looping and shop hop frenzy that has been taking place almost daily on Instagram.   Various businesses and/or bloggers get together to offer you a product from each of their individual stores or an all inclusive prize such as a $500 Target gift card, or $250 in PayPal cash.  Some bloggers have gotten together to offer their favorite things, like Mrs. AOK, who is a great lifestyle/foodie/motherhood blogger.    Others have individual giveaways that feature a great prizes as well. As with any contest, there is a deadline to enter and winners are notified within a certain time-frame established by the host.  Here are links to some present and past offers.

Giveaways are a great way of sharing your passion with others as well as building your fan base.  The winners end up with great prizes and the sponsors/host can grow their audience across all social networks.  Its a great way to build your blog's following
; a Win -Win for everyone involved!   Some giveaways are easy to enter.  Many use Rafflecopter which allow various task to be completed within a few clicks.  Task such as visiting the host's Facebook page, following them on Pinterest or Instagram, and Tweeting about the giveaway.  All task add up to entries into the giveaway.  Depending on the number of hosts involved, some giveaways have proven to be quite exhausting. This is true for Rafflecopter and other methods like the looping I mentioned earlier on Instagram.  The only thing I don't like about this method is the number of people participating and having to like all of their pages.  Some can have  20 or more shops participating in the loop.  Doesn't seem too bad right?  Well, now you'll be receiving  pictures on a regular basis from sites you may not normally follow.  

Recently, I have been very lucky and have won a few of the giveaways that I've entered.  I've won a couple of favorite things, and a few individual sponsors.  

It feels good to get notifications like this...

It's been great participating and winning the giveaways.  I wonder what I'll win next?  Until then...gotta get back to entering. 

Have you entered any giveaways lately?  What have you won?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Today we give thanks!

I always look forward to this time of year because I enjoy spending time with my family.  Family is everything to me and I'm blessed to be a part of a wonderfully, large, and loving one.

(For some reason, we could not get all the men together at the same time to take a pic.  Sorry.)

It has become a tradition for us to gather in Charlotte, NC at my cousin's house to partake in food and fellowship and to focus on things we are thankful for. Family comes from near and far and we're always excited to see each other. 

 Our lovely host, Beverly,
 slaves away in the kitchen for hours the night before prepping and preparing her contribution to today's feast.

 Everyone brings one of their signature dishes or something delectable from the store if time wasn't on their side to prepare anything.  Time was not on my side this year, so I brought a red velvet cake, some croissants, and a selection of wine.

Yes, we already started drinking the Mirassou; we couldn't resist!

 My aunt sliced the cake before I could take a pic of it.  :)

My cousin Ramona mulled her own red wine and it was delicious! 

The selection of food included turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, Asian rice, stuffing, veggies of all sorts, and an arrangement of desserts that would make anyone smile.

Looks yummy, right?!?!

And this is only half of the desserts!

My plate

After everyone has stuffed their bellies, we just enjoyed each other's company with fun and laughter.  The men go watch football, of course.  Just my luck, I'm a little under the weather this year and I'm losing my voice, but this doesn't stop me from enjoying the fun.  I'm so thankful to have the family that I have and wish the holidays would never end!

I would love to hear how you spent your Thanksgiving. What are your Thanksgiving traditions and how did you spend yours?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bloggy Boot Camp Atlanta

I have been in a Post-Bloggy Bootcamp coma.  So much so, I began this post a week after the conference, went into complete shock,  and never recovered until now. There was so much to take in, in such  little time. Now don't get me wrong, I loved every single minute of it.

Getting back to work and back to blogging has proven to be a challenge.  This has been a busy time of year for me as a middle school counselor, but yet I feel the need to continue with my blogging.

I had the basic stuff that I needed for a boot camp which included a journal to jot down notes (Yes, I still prefer the regular paper/pencil style of note taking). I also had water and coffee, my tablet, smartphone and charger, chapstick, gum and bag to hold all my goodies.

  Sitting in a room with so many wonderfully, talented people and listening to the SITS girls explained to us all the various ways to earn money from our blog, was very... well...OVERWHELMING!!! I started feeling like I was in the wrong place. I did not feel like I belonged  anywhere in that room until we were asked, " Let me get a show of hands of those of you who have been blogging for a year or less" and "How many people are actually earning money from your blog?"  After that I felt more relieved. There were others in the room just like me.  At least a third were newbies and about half raised their hand to earning money.  The more people that spoke, the more inspired I became, but again it was a lot of information to take in. 

The conference ended with a fabulous cocktail party sponsored by Mirassou Winery and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. David Mirassou himself!!

  I was introduced to their delectable wine when I received a bottle for my birthday.  I began trying all of their flavors  and enjoyed every distinguishing taste. 

 Funny thing is, I learned about the SITS girls through my  research of Mirassou wine.  I would see postings on Google or through various blog links.  When I would look up ideas for Mirassou, many times I would see a connection with the SITS girls or bloggy bootcamp.  This peaked my curiosity and led me to attending this conference!

The five most important things that I took away from Bloggy Boot Camp are listed below and I hope this helps you if you ever attend an event.  

1)  Having the right essentials.  Instantly, I realized the most important tool needed at the conference... Business cards!!! Unfortunately I did not have any, but I will not leave home without them next time.  A great networking tool that I failed to complete. Every time someone pulled out their business card or placed them on the table, I realized all of my missed opportunities. 

2)  The importance of watermarking your pictures. This gives you ownership of your photos.

3) Using social media to link up with various people and to increase your tribe members.  I kept seeing the link ups on Facebook and I did a few here and there, but not as often as I should have. Linking up is how you build your blog, how you grow your fan base, and how you increase your views.

4)  The importance of Twitter.  Using social media is nothing new to me.  I am constantly perusing the posts of Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram and enjoy doing it.   However, Twitter is another story.  I have had a Twitter account for 5 years now, but for some reason...I'm just not that into it.  We seem to have some kind of love/hate relationship that I can't seem to shake, but I'm trying.

5)  Lastly, there was something that I already knew but just needed reassurance on, simply be yourself. Bring yourself into your writing. If you are true to yourself it will show and people will love you for who you are and if they don't... you can't please them all!  

Bloggy Boot Camp Atlanta has supplied me with the tools I need to become a better blogger.  They genuinely help others lend their voice to the world.  The conference was fun and I left with a wealth of knowledge to use to enhance my blog. I had a great time connecting with other bloggers and I'm so looking forward to next year's event!

Have you attended a SITS girls event?  What interesting things did you learn?  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Charleston Mac-Off

I'd been waiting for this day since this time last year.  Its the 5th annual Charleston Mac off! It's that time of year when everybody can socialize and get their mac on! If you are a macaroni and cheese lover, than this is the event for you! All different types of macaroni and cheese selections to choose from. A small entry fee and tickets for food and drinks and you are ready to get mac and cheese wasted!           
                 I don't know why, but I love this pic!

         Here are some pics from this year's event. 

 What began like this...Slowly...  (well not too slowly)           
Grew into this...

 With close to 5000 people in attendance, CisternYard Media hails it is the largest mac and cheese competition in America.  Each creamy, cheesy, yummy selection was worth every delicious bite! Some of my favorites are pictured here.

Now,  this isn't your mama's regular macaroni and cheese. Selections like smoked ham with collard greens, topped off with encrusted pork rinds (my favorite 2 years ago by Graze); buffalo chicken or kimchi, lobster or breaded, or loads and loads of different types of cheeses!  Did I just make your mouth water? 

 With all that cheesy goodness, you have to have something good to wash it all down.  Our friends from the local Firefly distillery were on hand to whip up any combination of drinks you'd like.  If you haven't tried their vodka, you're missing out on a treat.  I was enjoying my drink so much, I totally forgot to take a picture of it.  ;)

Of course, there were other venders available that served their brand of vodka, wine and also non-alcoholic selections.  You definitely would not be disappointed!  

In case you forgot, this is a competition and this year's winners were:  
  • Best Mac & Cheese, People’s Choice: Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House
  • Best Mac & Cheese, Critic’s Choice: Crave Kitchen and Cocktails
  • Best Mac & Cheese, Local Ingredient: Burton’s Grill
  • Best Mac & Cheese, Home Grown Cooks Competition: Charles Miller
           Congratulations to everyone who participated and to the winners!  Until next year...