Blog Notes: Are you creating or curating content?

January 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Channeling-Contessa-Blog

I have to tell you- I’ve been looking forward to writing the next edition of Blog Notes since my last post. My mind is brimming with ideas for this series and the most challenging part has been narrowing down what I want to talk about every other week. There are quite literally a million things I want to cover. But my goal is to focus on the basics for the first few weeks, and closely cover the core elements needed to make a blog a success. First and foremost (after setting aside the time, of course)? Ensuring you’re creating, not just curating, content.

I am by no means the first to say this, but content, when it comes to a blog, is truly king. The first step in creating a blog that’s destined to grow is to ensure you’re consistently creating original content. That means you’re either producing your own copy and photographs, or pulling together inspiration you find online in a truly innovative way. Over the years, I’ve found that the solution for ensuring CC continually reflects content that is unique to me is not vested in one single tactic, but multiple. Here are my go to methods:

Use Your Voice Have you ever noticed how the best recipe, outfit, design, DIY (you name it) posts start with a story? The blogger starts off talking about something that initially may feel completely unrelated to the title or pictures in the post? In doing so they’re employing their voice- and the post becomes more about their personal story rather than the dish or clothing item they’re talking about. In each post you write, think how about how you can be using your true voice and bringing your personal experiences to life.

Editorial Calendar I’m also not the first to emphasize the importance of an editorial calendar, but one method I found really made a difference when it came to fleshing out post topics weeks in advance, was working slightly backwards. Instead of sitting down with your calendar and trying to simultaneously come up with post content while assigning dates- start with a brainstorming session. Grab and pen and paper and just starting writing, jotting down every idea for a post that comes to mind. Even if you’re not sure if the topic could be a full blown post- write it down anyway. Once you’ve got a list of 20+ items, start to review and group. Do any of the posts fit together, could any form a series? Which ones are going to take the most time and therefore require some planning? Are any topics time sensitive- i.e. do they relate to holidays or specific seasons? Once you’ve organized the list, then begin assigning dates and backing out your blog calendar. For a more detailed tutorial on how to set up an editorial calendar for you blog, I highly recommend this post from Lisa at Elembee.

Quality over Quantity There’s this idea that in order to create a successful blog, you need to be blogging 5+ days a week. So not true. Yes, I do that here, and many other bloggers do it- but I both have help in the form of contributors, and can devote a bit more time to my blog since it’s part of my business. Quality is of the utmost importance, so if that means you can only produce two or three posts per week- go with that. Keep a consistent posting schedule and work to continually promote that content, rather than pushing out content that is sub par.

Get Offline And stop reading so many blogs… except for this one! No but really, this last tip might be the most important. If you’re constantly browsing online, always looking to other blogs for inspiration, it’s incredibly challenging (I think) to come up with your own content. My best ideas always occur when I’m walking around the city, in the shower, reading a magazine or news article, or doing something that is entirely unrelated to blogging. I read lots of blogs, so clearly I’m not saying to erase that time from your life, but do make sure you’re consistently delegating time away from the computer to stir up inspiration of your own. I can’t recommend this practice enough.

Woo- a novel once again! I think that’s about it on my end, but I’d love to hear- any tips you have on keeping your content original? And please tell me I’m not the only one who gets their best ideas in the shower!

Almond Joy “Cookies”

January 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Channeling-Contessa-Almond-Joy-Cookies-3

January has added up to lots of running around. Full days at my desk have become a rarity, and most of the week I’m running from meeting to meeting with little down time in between. That means I’m mostly eating on the go, and as someone who needs both a morning and afternoon snack, it’s necessary that I always have snacks in my bag. Trail mix and raw almonds were starting to get pretty old so when I saw these Peanut Butter Bites from Sprouted Kitchen I knew they’d be perfect to quel my AM and PM hunger pangs. When Sara (of SP) suggested a version including dark chocolate, my mind immediately went to almond butter and coconut to create an almond joy-esque “cookie.”  I’m not only always hungry around 3 pm, but consistently craving something sweet (please tell me who isn’t..?), and the dates and dark chocolate provide just enough not so terrible sugar to meet that craving without sending me crashing about 30 minutes later. Add in lasting fat and protein from the almond butter and flax seed (not to mention a dose of Omega 3s) and these little guys kind of can’t be beat!

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Almond Joy “Cookies” inspired by Sprouted Kitchen
Makes about 20 cookies

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 T ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
  • heaping 1/2 cup almond butter (plus more if needed)
  • two pinches of salt (if your pb isn’t salted)
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • pinch of salt

In a food processor, pulse the almonds until a coarse meal forms. Add the cinnamon, dates, almond butter, chocolate, flax seed, coconut, and salt. Note- my food processor had a tough time processing the dates, so if you’re experiencing the same thing- be sure to cut them up as finely as you can before adding them to the mixture. Pulse everything together until they are generally uniform in color and texture. The mixture should stick together when pressed between your fingers. If it seems dry, add another tablespoon of almond butter.

Roll dough into scant tablespoon size balls. Press them down with a fork to make a cross hatch. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and keep chilled in the fridge.

Weekend Wishes

January 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Weekend wishes

Make : a DIY citrus wreath (I love ideas for making a home festive outside of the holidays, and citrus will always win me over)

Eat : Victoria’s Chile Con Queso (I don’t have much experience with this food, but apparently it’s traditionally made with Velveeta. Needless to say, this version is not- it’s just filled with (real) cheesy deliciousness. Perfect for the upcoming Superbowl, no?)

Hunt Down : this H&M dress (The word on Pinterest is that it is indeed being sold at H&M, but actually finding it may prove to be a bit of a challenge.)

Life Lately

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

channeling-contessa-ricotta-pancakes

I’m tempted to stick with these “Life Lately” posts on Fridays for the next few weeks. These past few weeks have been so busy, that come Friday morning, I’m so ready for a few minutes at my desk to simply sit and reflect on all that’s happened this week. Here’s a little snapshot of my week and what’s been on my mind:

  • I’ve been getting home pretty late in the evening which hasn’t left much time for making dinner, but one of my favorite go to 10 minute dinners is black bean nachos. I line a baking sheet with whole grain tortilla chips, spoon on a whole can of organic black beans, a heavy dose of fresh salsa, top with some cheese,  and bake at 400° for ten minutes. I serve the nachos with pickled jalapeños,  more hot sauce, and greek yogurt (instead of sour cream). A simple salad alongside makes this a really satisfying dinner!
  • We just wrapped up the first season of Homeland and omg is that show good. I know, I’m a little behind on that train. In other news Smash is coming back! And Glee returned this week. #ilovemusicaltheater #nojudging
  • Today is the last day to apply for our contributor position! To all of you who have already applied, thank you so much for all your thought and hard work- I’m truly blown away. We still haven’t made any selections so you have until this evening to apply.
  • I had these incredible ricotta pancakes at brunch last weekend (pictured above), and am thinking a need to recreate them for CC- would you guys be interested in that?
  • Yesterday I came down with a lovely sore throat and cold, so Brandon made Giada’s Marinara sauce over penne for dinner. It was so warm and comforting and reminded me just how good a simple marinara can be.
  • I’ve got a serious travel bug right now. Brandon and I are talking about doing a long weekend trip to Austin in the next few weeks (anyone from Austin??), but I’ve got even bigger hankerings beyond that. Our trip to Italy in September feels so far away, and I’m really craving some time outside the country… maybe Croatia? That’s been on my to vist list for years. Any top travel places on your list?

We’ve got visitors again this weekend and I’m squeezing in a photo shoot for work, so not much slowing down around here. Hope you have a wonderful weekend! xx

Brooklyn Makers

January 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I think one of the coolest things is getting to peek into the creative world of artists and artisans. I love learning about what inspires them, and especially about where they go to work each day. I was so intrigued when I heard about The Makers project, because it literally takes you inside the studios of different artisans, and lets you spend a bit of time with people doing what they absolutely love.

I picked a few of my favorites to share below. I love how each studio is so different. They range from rustic and homey to dark and industrial, and the people have as much personality as their ‘offices’ do. I encourage you to check out the rest of the artisans, too!

Do any of you have a work space like this? One can certainly dream…

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All photos courtesy of Jennifer Causey

Artisan websites: Amy Merrick / Lily Stockman / Appalachia Press / Brvtvs

Biz Notes: “Do not be afraid to want a lot”

January 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Donna-Karen-Collection-shot-by-Jamie-Beck{Donna Karan’s Spring 2013 Collection shot by Jamie Beck}

Yesterday I came across an interview with Debbie Millman, host of the acclaimed radio talk show Design Matters– among other things- like writing five books, and heading up the design division at Sterling Brands. You know- the usual wonder woman.

Admittedly I’ve never listened to one of her shows or read one of her books, but I was so struck by this line in her interview- “Do not be afraid to want a lot”- that I immediately subscribed to her podcast, and downloaded a preview of her most recent book on my Kindle.

I do want a lot. I want a lot that I don’t necessarily reveal. It’s mostly fantasies I have in my head like being on television, writing a book, hosting my own podcast someday, or starting some sort of product line. There’s a level of guilt which comes along with those desires, which is why I don’t share them too openly. I mean, saying I want to be on television kind of implies I think I’m good enough to be on television in the first place. So I’m essentially afraid of sounding like I’m full of myself. But I still want those things. I do. Aaaand I think I can do it. I say fantasies, but I assure you- I’ve painted a pretty detailed picture in my head.

Do you ever feel that way? Like you’re afraid to own up to what you really want career wise- even just to say it out loud? I clearly do, but Debbie’s advice brought new purpose to what I want. It not only made my desires feel more acceptable, but made me want to come forward and speak up about them.

I’ll leave you with her full response from the question, “If you could give a piece of advice to a young person starting out, what would you say?”

“Do not be afraid to want a lot.

Things take a long time; practice patience.

Avoid compulsively making things worse.

Finish what you start.

Often people start out by thinking about all the things that they can’t do. Once you take that path, it’s very hard to get off of it. Shoot high and shoot often.”

Ok, off to shoot high!

Dressed to Entertain: Pretty Pleats

January 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

channeling contessa dressed to entertain 3

Lauren Santo Domingo / earrings / blouse / skirt (on sale!) / shoes

I have been obsessed with that yellow Carolina Herrera dress, shown above, since the very first time I spotted it. The bright color, paired with intricate origami-style pleats and an amethyst belt, is just perfect. I thought it would be fun to bring some of my favorite elements of that dress into an outfit that anyone can pull off. The skirt is definitely the focus of the outfit, but I particularly love the blouse. It has so much detailing while remaining as easy to wear as a t-shirt.  Of course, you can never go wrong with a little leopard to top it all off.

Inspiration: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

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