Build a Better Blog

Inspiring, overwhelming, humbling, invigorating, enlightening, stunning, and motivating; such a rush of seemingly discordant emotions percolated throughout hours of workshops and sessions during the 2018 WOWsummit. Bringing together bloggers from across the country for a 2-day celebration of this incredible online community, connecting screen names to real faces turned a potentially dry educational experience into a real-life reunion party. Beyond meeting and greeting, the main goal here was to share experiences, build stronger networks, and dispense invaluable advice.

With so much information to absorb packed into each discussion, you could easily fill a book after just one day on the expo floor. Condensing down some of the top tips that resonated with me, my notes are not all-inclusive nor definitive advice for guaranteed success, but bold reminders of how to step up my own game. There’s always more that can be done, whether you’re a complete novice or seasoned veteran, often with little extra effort needed. Want to know what resonated with me most? Here are the top tips that continue echoing through my brain…

Finding Your Voice and Personal Brand:

  • Think about your values
  • Speak from personal experience
  • Understand your purpose, know what you have to offer
  • Establish a mission based on your passion
  • Never lose yourself in branding; a human face is what others can connect with
  • Keep it real, not necessarily polished
  • Check in with your audience to find out what’s important to them
  • Numbers don’t tell the full story; quality over quantity always rules
  • Be honest, vulnerable, relatable
  • Have a focus, define your niche
  • Don’t dilute your brand by partnering with companies that don’t fit with your perspective
  • Define your own success; set goals, personally and professionally
  • Be consistent
  • Engage as much as possible
  • Have a schedule
  • Put yourself out there and reach out to brands you already support
  • Network, create connections with other bloggers

Working with Brands:

  • Make sure it’s a good fit; same audience, same perspective
  • Pay attention to detail (no spelling errors, get names right)
  • Do your research to know what they’ve done in the past
  • Give examples of what you will post, link to past work
  • Be clear about terms, goals
  • Encourage ongoing relationship, ambassadorship
  • Offer many options for collaborations
  • Giveaways, Facebook chats/ask and expert/Twitter party/unboxing
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate
  • Make real connections; talk on the phone, meet in person if possible. Make it personal.
  • Stay in touch, follow up

To say that this is just a shallow overview would be generous. Anyone who’s attempted to blog for more than a day understands what a complex, crazy venture it is, which is why we’re all our greatest resources. What are your best practices for success? What keeps you blogging? Or, if you haven’t started, what’s stopping you from diving into the pool and joining the blogosphere? Come on, don’t just dip in a toe; jump head-first! There’s nothing to lose, and a whole community to gain.

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Sweeter by the Dozen

They say it’s your birthday
It’s my birthday too, yeah

As I struggle to stitch together the right combination of words on yet another post, I find that The Beatles sum up the general premise quite nicely in just a few simple words. My biological birthday was last month, but today is the day that BitterSweet turns twelve years old, an implausible, unbelievable milestone that I find myself celebrating with an even greater fervor. This humble little corner of virtual space has become so inextricably linked with my identity over the years, growing and contracting, morphing and evolving, persisting against all odds, that it really is my own birthday, too.

Let’s not get too mushy here, but there is a deep debt of gratitude that I do owe to you, every last one of you, that has dropped by to comment, like, pin, tweet, re-gram or re-post. That encouragement, reassuring me that I wasn’t just blogging in a vacuum, that there genuinely was interest in my crazy experiments and rambling thoughts- That is what allowed BitterSweet to not only survive, but thrive. It’s because of you that I found my true passion in life, made a career out of it, and continue striving to create and circulate all those adventures (and misadventures) along the way.

It’s given me the opportunity to make friends all across the globe, to connect with people I would otherwise never meet, to share some of my favorite things and find many more. It’s on that note that I’d like to introduce you to one more incredible small business poised to make a big splash…

Noosh turned out to be the sleeper hit on my list of new brands showcasing their wares at the Winter Fancy Foods Show last month. Hidden in a small enclave off to the side of the main floor, wedged into a tiny booth among many, I almost walked right on by without a second glance. How many different types of almond butter do we really need, after all? Just like granola bars and protein powders, isn’t the market already saturated with more options than we know what to do with? Yet somehow I was charmed, drawn in by the slick packaging and straightforward ingredient list. It’s pure, creamy almond butter, but so silky smooth and naturally sweet that you could almost call it almond nectar. In fact, I’ve taken to drizzling it liberally over my morning oatmeal instead of using maple syrup. Since that fateful encounter, I’ve grown increasingly smitten with the stuff, packing my bags with the single serving pouches in case of almond butter emergencies on the go.

As marvelous as the original and chocolate are, this is just the start. Not yet on the market but previewed at the show, I’m not kidding when I say that the Birthday Cake Almond Butter might just be life-changing. Yes, it is THAT good. It’s a challenge to slowly ration out my current supply until it officially hits the market, opening up the flood gates to unimpeded nut butter-based cake indulgence. Whereas many snacks promise a cake-like flavor, doomed to fall terribly short by comparison to the real thing, Noosh actually delivers. I don’t know how they do it, and quite frankly, I don’t want to. There’s a certain magic in that delicious mystery.

Inspired by that fresh-baked flavor and determined to stretch my limited stock just a little bit further, I couldn’t help but turn it into another cake facsimile. Rich, soft, melt-in-your-mouth bites of fudge both look and taste so much like the genuine article, you could easily get away with serving these at your next big party. Comprised of little more than almonds, coconut, and maple syrup, these adorable miniatures will satisfy your sweet tooth without inciting a sugar coma, even if you do indulge in seconds- or thirds.

Mercifully, the tortuous wait for a fresh supply of that ambrosial almond elixir is almost over. After much needling and prodding, I’ve been assured that this incredible flavor will finally be ready for purchase within the coming month. Best of all, so cheered by my irrepressible enthusiasm, Noosh has offered to send three readers a package of their very own, as soon as it’s available. What better way to celebrate a blog birthday than with presents, and of course, cake?

To enter, all you need to do is leave me a comment. If you’re a longtime subscriber, tell me how long you’ve been along for this wild ride. Have you tried any recipes over the years, or do you remember way back when BitterSweet was primarily about the knitty gritty of more crafty ventures? If you’re new to these parts, introduce yourself, say hi! What brought you here, what got your attention?

Log this and additional entries to improve your odds on the official giveaway page until Wednesday, February 14th at midnight PST. Win or lose, don’t forget to come back for the recipe which you’ll want to celebrate all year, every year.

Cupcake Fudge

Cupcake Fudge Base:

1/2 Cup Noosh Birthday Cake Almond Butter
1/4 Cup Melted Coconut Butter
2 Tablespoons 100% Grade B Maple Syrup
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:

1/2 Cup Noosh Chocolate Almond Butter
3 Tablespoons Melted Coconut Butter
2 Tablespoons 100% Grade B Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Garnish (Optional):

Edible Glitter and/or Shimmer Spray

Begin with the cupcake fudge base: Simply mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Spoon the liquid fudge into small fluted cup silicone truffle molds. Let sit for at least 30 – 45 minutes, until completely solidified. Pop them out of the molds and keep them in the freezer.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by going through the same process of blending together all the ingredients, spooning the mixture into spiral (as pictured) or small dome silicone truffle molds and place on a flat surface in the freezer. Let rest for 10 – 15 minutes until they begin to set but are not yet entirely firm.

Take the finished cupcake fudge bases and gently pressure them into the soft frosting fudge. Return the molds to the freezer to allow them to finish solidifying. After 30 – 60, they should be ready to pop out all in one cohesive piece.

Garnish with edible glitter(s) if desired. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month… If you can manage to stay away from them that long, that is.

Makes 20 – 22 Cupcake Fudge Truffles

Printable Recipe

The Eleventh Hour

Staring at a blank screen, the thin cursor blinking steadily, patiently back at me, it’s hard to know just where to begin. That was the case eleven years ago, and is still the case today. Beyond mere numbers, wildly improbable, previously impossible changes have come to pass since then; it’s a far different world now than I imagined back then, or could possibly conjure up in the most outlandish of dreams. Through the good and the bad, this little corner of the internet has been here, a welcoming space for all that may come to pass. Even when I begin a new post without a clue as to what to say, almost 1,500 published pieces prove that there’s a surprising wealth of untold stories left to share.

If BitterSweet was a child, it might be officially be considered a tween now. It would be in the 5th or 6th grade at this point, a miniature adult with real opinions, passions, and friends. It might even be going through puberty, experiencing growing pains or questioning itself as it changes and attempts to find its place in the world. Maybe I’m taking the personification a bit too far, but it’s hard to deny that it all sounds pretty accurate.

Raising and nurturing BitterSweet has been an interesting journey, to say the least. It wasn’t always a conscious decision that guided my parental strategies, and yet in spite of my oversights or misguided judgements, I’d like to think that my baby has turned out pretty darned well. I can’t take all the credit though; it truly does take a village. Without you, my lovely, dearest readers, this space would have become neglected and gone silent long ago. I wish there was something more to add, something I can give back in return, but no small token would ever amount to the gratitude I hold for all your comments, views, likes, and emails have meant to me over all this time. Eleven years may be an impossibly long lifespan for the average blog, but in human years, we’re just getting started.

Thank you for being there, whether it was from the beginning or from just this post today, to help bring BitterSweet into the world and make it what it is. I couldn’t have done it without you- ALL of you. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep on writing, cooking, crafting, photographing, and sharing… for another eleven years, at least, but hopefully more.

Six Years, and Counting

Happy Birthday, BitterSweet! You are officially six years old today.

It was a mundane decision to start a blog, another tiny voice in the sea of millions, that even I had no expectations for. Initially, I didn’t tell friends or family; I didn’t have any online acquaintances; It was just a public journal, filled with craft junk and crappy snapshots.

Nearly 1,000 posts later, it’s hard to put to words the indelible impact it’s made on my life. I don’t even want to imagine what would have become of me if I hadn’t typed out that first meek post and hit “publish!”  With every new comment that comes in, I’m grateful that someone, anyone, took the time to read my lackluster early entries, and stick around for the ride. You guys gave me the courage to keep going, to keep creating, and now I’d never dream of turning back.

So this is all to say….

THANK YOU for reading, lurking, commenting, questioning, and otherwise being there, no matter what stage of the journey you joined in!

I mean it, and I truly do wish I could give out gifts to everyone, but considering shipping costs and logistics, that sort of extravaganza will have to wait until I have the same notoriety as Oprah. Considering how far this blog as come, it could just happen! For now though, I’d like to giveaway another set of my favorite crocheted pot holders to one lucky person.

I’ve made this pattern so many times now, I can almost whip through a set without looking at the color chart. Crafted in a springy combination of blue ombre and light yellow, this particular pair are a cheerful but subtly subversive addition to any kitchen. Made of cotton yarn, they’re functional, durable, and best of all, machine washable.

The winner will be chosen at random, so it doesn’t matter if you remember the awkward beginnings or just clicked over today- Everyone’s eligible! To enter, leave a comment with your name and email in the appropriate slots, and tell me about an awesome blog that’s new to you. It doesn’t have to be newly created, but something that’s recently caught your eye and you can’t get enough of. In honor of the birthday, this giveaway is open only today, so make sure you chime in before midnight, EST.

Spread the blog love; leave a comment today!

UPDATE: Ultimately, I couldn’t possibly turn anyone away, so I allowed a “grace” period of an extra day or two to enter. I owe you one, after all! And so, as chosen by everyone’s favorite random number generator, the winner is…

Commenter #44, Maureen! Congrats!

In case this wasn’t your lucky day, never fear- There will be many more giveaways, and even more pot holders to share in the years to come.