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When I’m not here, I’m there

I’ve been writing elsewhere a bit and wanted to share a couple of recent posts. I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to go over & leave a little comment love!

First, I went to Sonoma County for Travel Mamas, and wrote about my adventures there. Now I totally want to go on a romantic retreat with hubby.
Fun for couples along the Wine Road in Sonoma County

And then I wrote about my favorite social media management tool, Sprout Social, for Fandom Marketing. PS) There’s a t-shirt giveaway, so please go and enter!
How Sprout Social helps brands spread the love

Small Business Saturday – supporting local businesses

SBSLogo.jpgThanks to American Express for sponsoring my writing today about small businesses. American Express is presenting Small Business Saturday, a way to honor the local merchants who are the backbone of the economy, this Saturday, November 27. They’re offering statement credits to people who shop at small businesses, advertising for small-business owners, and donations to Girls Inc. for “Likes” of the Small Business Saturday page on Facebook. Join the celebration by clicking the “Like” button and then visiting the Facebook page to learn more about the program and read the terms and conditions that apply.

One thing I love about San Diego is the variety of small businesses we have here. You can find almost anything you’re looking for. It’s great to have so many choices available. When I want to avoid the big bookstores, I can go to Warwick’s in La Jolla. For fantastic, locally brewed coffee, I would definitely hit up Caffé Calabria (I just wish they were open a little longer in the afternoons!). If you look hard enough, you’ll find a local alternative for so many things.

Dining Details

Like personal chef services. I know that may sound strange coming from me, as much as I go on and on about hubby and I cooking things at home. But when I heard about Dining Details and got to know some of the services they offer, I was amazed. First off, Chef Julie Frans is a fellow mom and is quite active on Twitter. She has a fairly new baby girl who’s cute as a button. And she knows her stuff. In just the past couple of weeks, she offered cooking classes geared toward Thanksgiving – and it sounded like both the novice and experienced home cook could learn something.

But what I love most about what Julie does is her passion for fresh, healthy ingredients. Last spring I got a chance to see her in action as she demo’d several dishes for a group of local mom bloggers. She gave us great tips and advice about preparing amazingly healthy and tasty food for our families. It was fun and I learned several new things, including how to make a homemade alternative to store-bought creamers.

Chickpeas

The other thing that’s great about Julie’s biz is her enthusiasm for getting healthy lunches in the hands of school children. And that’s where Dining Details’ sister company, Chickpeas, comes into play. Chickpeas offers organic and all-natural lunches to kids in schools. Some schools have Chickpeas actually handle their lunch service — how awesome is that? I would absolutely love to have such well-prepared food in the hands of my kids when they’re in school.

It’s local businesses like this that I love to seek out and try. What’s your favorite local San Diego small business? Please feel free to share in the comments – even if you have more than one! I’m always looking for a great local place to give my business to. (PS – Julie doesn’t even know I’m featuring her biz – she has not asked me to do so and has not asked to be included in this post. I just really love what she does and hope others hear about her and do, too.)


Small Business Saturday

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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Dreaming of Our Ultimate Family Vacation

Sponsored By

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read mine, Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes.

A lot of people, when they think of vacation, do not think of visiting family. For them, a vacation is getting away and doing something different. When I was a kid, all of our vacation time was spent going to see grandparents. And it turns out that as an adult, my vacation time is still allotted to family.

I’m okay with that.

I look forward to – and dream about – going home for Christmas. Nothing fancy, really. But since we don’t live close to our parents, it’s something to look toward to and anticipate every year. We don’t do exotic things or over-schedule ourselves with every tourist attraction imaginable. We just… relax.

And it’s liberating. No worries about work schedules. No obligations to be anywhere or do anything. Just the chance to decompress and enjoy family.

Sometimes I think about where we’d travel and what we’d do if we had unlimited funds. Ireland. Scotland. England. Italy. Spain. France. I’d love to do our own little photo tour of Europe, taking as much time as we needed to explore the photographic and culinary opportunities in a variety of places. But while our kids are little, I’m happy to spend that time letting them get to know their grandparents.

Someday… maybe. Right now? Family time IS my ultimate family vacation. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Don’t forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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The façade

The façade collapsed
as the carefully constructed walls crumbled.
The foundation buckled
as the supports evaporated.

Alone.
Unsure.
Nowhere to go.
Broken.
So very alone.

Learning to eat healthier

loads of kaleLast week I got to listen to an awesome chef talking about how we can serve healthy, tasty food to our families without spending a lot of extra time in the kitchen. What? Sign me up! I know I need to buy fresh food — it’s the prep and cooking time that kills me. See what we learned that night.  

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Book Review: Jesus Lives by Sarah Young

I recently took a look at a new devotional book, Jesus Lives by Sarah Young. This devotional is written as if Jesus is talking directly to you. The author includes Bible verses that support each devotional and they do fit right in with each theme. I even think she does a good job with her writing – it’s intimate, easy-to-read, and understandable….

The rest of this review is on my review blog.

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There is actually such a thing as a free meal

Hey Southern California friends – want to win your entire Holiday Meal for free? Go and check out my review and giveaway from Golden Share Foods. Hurry, contest ends on December 4th!

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Fearless by Max Lucado

It is so easy to be fearful these days. The news constantly reports the bad things. Fire, famine, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis, volcanoes… it’s enough to make you fear walking outside your door. Add the human element of crime: robberies, shootings, terrorists, plane crashes, diseases and it’s a wonder any of us get out of bed. Throw in a little economic uncertainty and we could easily become recluses….

This is a book review of Fearless by Max Lucado. You can read the rest of it by clicking here.

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Beautiful Mess by Diamond Rio

Beautiful Mess is the story of the band Diamond Rio. If you’re familiar with country music, you’ve probably heard of this band. For twenty years they have kept the same core group of musicians. Through ups and downs, they have stuck together in a tough business….

This is a book review. You can read the rest of it by clicking here.

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The State of the Momosphere – revisited

I’ve been thinking a lot about BlogHer and I think I’m finally able to process something that’s bugging me. More on that soon. For now, though, I thought it would be interesting to go back to BlogHer 07 and look at a session I blogged, called The State of the Momosphere. If we thought things had changed a lot two years ago, it has changed even more in the last four. Or has it? Take a look at the discussion that we had back then – do we still have the same concerns? Has much of anything really changed? Are we still having the same arguments over and over?


Session description:


The State of the Momosphere

It’s no secret that MommyBlogging has changed a lot in the past two years. Sort of like actors who toil away for years before becoming overnight sensations, MommyBloggers are now seen as power influencers by marketers and the media. Whether managing what amounts to small publishing juggernauts, or cranking out posts mostly for family and friends in their not-so-copious spare time, MommyBloggers are getting a lot of attention…individually and as a “segment.” Has the attention and opportunity affected the way you blog? Should it? What are some of the non-negotiable boundaries you have when you consider commercial relationships? Has all the attention and increasing opportunity also affected who you read? This panel will take a look at how MommyBloggers continue to express themselves, support one another and build their platforms under a microscope. It may also give those outside the Momosphere a better understanding of what MommyBloggers want, and how they want to be engaged, if at all. Come join the discussion and answer the questions above for yourself! Jory Des Jardins leads what is sure to be a lively discussion amongst the diverse community of MommyBloggers, including Catherine Connors, Lena Lotsey and Chris Jordan.
This session is sponsored by Five Moms.

The State of the Momosphere.

Jory, moderator. Catherine, Lena, Chris – panel.

Why we’re here: previously we had a conversation about mom bloggers. Sponsors started realizing the potential of marketing to moms. Today: Is the momosphere changing? Is there stratification? There are mom bloggers and the companies that want to market to them (why Jory thinks we’re here).

What about monetizing? Threat? Good thing?

Catherine Conners, Her Bad Mother. Part of BlogHers Act Canada. We’ll talk about her views on the politicization of mom blogs.
Lena Lotsey, Cheeky Lotus & Mamapop. She blogs about everything under the sun, not just mom stuff. So, what makes a mommy blogger? We’ll talk about that.
Chris Jordan, Notes from the Trenches. She’s been blogging 3 years. She blogs about being a mom. Jory called her a blogging “purist” because it’s about being a mom. Do we change our blogs, the more attention we get? We’ll explore this, too.

Why are you here? A journal for your children? To make money?

The darker side of mommyblogging. Is there division? What about money, and being approached regarding content? And privacy, how do you handle it? Are we able to agree on this?

All of these are themes that Jory is bringing up for us to address in the session.

First question, why do you blog?

Catherine: She found blogs and parents having the same experiences that she was. She could get back into writing outside of academia, and talk about being a mom.
Lena: She blogged about her post-partum depression. She started reading Melissa at Suburban Bliss. And she found a lot of people pouring out support and advice. Her family resources didn’t tell her what she needed to know about a colicky, preemie baby. And she found it through mommy blogs. And eventually inspired to start her own.
Chris: Started blogging without knowing there were a lot of blogs. She thought she’d try writing online. It evolved from being like a journal.

Stratification:

Catherine: Non-political in the political sense. It’s a community. But even communities will have politics (negative social interaction that causes bad feelings). Not politics in the sense of people trying to get into a certain position. More like a big cocktail party where groups form and break apart. Makeup of the groups shift and change. The political scientist in her doesn’t see it as strictly political (in the traditional sense).
Lena: “Political” doesn’t have to be negative. It’s a more natural thing. But it is like high school to those who feel left out. Maybe you link or comment and share your story, but you don’t get the response you wanted.

Catherine’s response: It can feel like high school, certainly. People were actively excluding people. But she doesn’t see real active exclusion.
Lena: Newer bloggers feel that they don’t have numbers and the audience as others do. And they worry about what their traffic’s like. (She’s read comments about this.)

Jessica, kerflop.com:
Not being linked on a blogroll feels like an act of exclusion?

Chris
: Maybe you’re not reading someone – how do take someone off, maybe because you’re just not visiting their site, without hurting feelings.

Audience: Small blog, but high school in the sense that the bigger bloggers talk to someone and you feel like a freshman getting talked to by a senior.
Catherine: Even just someone who’s writing you admire, you can sometimes gush. There’s a difference between it feeling like high school and it actually being like high school in the sense of how she experienced it.

Jen Lawrence: Noticed a huge difference between in the beginning receiving “real” comments, people going through the same thing. As stuff got picked up (like “Tom Cruise is an idiot”) the politics changed. People just came by to comment and get their url in the comments. Felt like less of a community then. More of a strategic blogging at that point.

Sarcastic Journalist: Blogging since 03. Awards going around that weren’t nice. Hers: blogger who thinks she’s funny but who’s not. (She doesn’t think she’s funny.) She emailed the person who gave the award. Why? SJ hadn’t responded to the person’s comments. But SJ has two small children; you just can’t respond to everything. Is that going to get you an “award” like that? Will people go after her children? So it seems that things have become meaner. How can she go to everyone’s blog? You can’t. Maybe not meaner, but bigger.

Catherine: It’s impossible for a growing group to remain the same. Things shift. These are new waters to navigate. How do you become a good blog citizen? Yet if a blogger you like doesn’t visit you, it’s not personal. “There are some mean-ass blogtards out there.”
Lena: We’re writing about life, our kids. We’re pouring our hearts out. It’s emotional. It’s not a product. It’s hard not to take things personal. It’s personal – it’s about us.
Chris: There’s more blogs, more niche communities. Room for everyone, she thinks.

Audience: Building a brand. Do you think issues are just in the momosphere? I.e., insincere comments. Or is it blogging in general?
Chris: When you write personally, it is personal. So many emails saved, mean to respond to them. But can’t and eventually have to delete them.
Catherine: Sometimes you enter a new stage, but you lose old friends. So you go into blogging to meet more friends. We want to enlarge our community.

Veronica, goddess musings: Started blogging in 2000 (post-election depression). After had daughter, felt she lost some of her feminist audience. Did anyone else see a shift?

Jennifer, imperfect mom: lost some audience.
Danielle, foodmomiac: All of her readers are moms. She thought her audience would be foodies (she’s a food blogger).
Jory: does anyone struggle with being a mom blogger over other types.

Amie, mammaloves: Mommyblogger label seems dismissive sometimes when with other bloggers (non-mommybloggers). Struggles between being a mommyblogger and a blogger who has kids.

Catherine: Her empowerment has come from being a mommy.
Kim, hormone colored days: Yes, gaining respect from marketers as a mommy blog, but not sure what to make of it.

Kris, crib ceiling: Experienced losing influence in real life as a mom, not online. Found empowerment online by blogging.
Amanda, goody blog/ parents magazine: They have the problem with the magazine as well. They do crafts, food, etc. People don’t take their food editor seriously. It’s not just a blogging thing. It’s a cultural thing.

Catherine: Ignoring the mommyblogger label disempowers us as mothers.

Sarah, sarah & the goon squad: She tells everyone that she’s a mommyblogger. But what would happen if she told everyone she blogs about football?

Jess, drowning in kids: She’s noticed she lost traffic as her kids grew up from babies/ toddlers.
Yvonne, joy unexpected: Never identified as mommyblogger until she got pregnant with her third child. But then she was suddenly a mommyblogger.

Joy, gingajoy: She didn’t identify at first. Women with younger children suddenly identify as mommybloggers (seems that way).

Rita: Doesn’t get responses all the time. When she wanted to reach out as a community thing, putting her question in the subject line, she got messages back. She was asking for help/ advice. And then she got responses. But the other bloggers aren’t really trying to ignore you.

Why won’t you take money?

Beth: Choose not to monetize to not draw the trolls. She doesn’t want someone to say she’s making money off of her child. She has enough problems without that.
Catherine: Why is it acceptable for foodies, etc. but not moms? (monetizing)
Amy: High status job, uses as hobby.

Catherine: It’s great as a hobby. Those that can’t afford the leisure time, then they would do it to get paid. For some, it’s a hobby. For others, they can’t afford to do it as a hobby.

Stephanie: high status career. Can do it as a hobby. But she decided to monetize anyway. She doesn’t see anything wrong with it, with her hobby making her money.
Mary Tsao, momwrites: stopped taking ads. Took her blogging out of hobby status into checking stats. So she stripped out the ads.

Jory: Have you had to change because of the money?

Jenn Satterwhite, mommy needs coffee: You can’t take long hiatuses. Doesn’t want to change her writing, but it has changed some of what she does.
Catherine: It happens for some people, but not for her. Reveling about being in writing and not academic writing. She found her voice as a blogger. Not concerned about exact numbers, but tries to write well to have an audience.

Christina, a mommy story: Monetizing has provided (in some ways) validity in her non-blogging life. It was just a hobby. Now, she can say that she has to write. It’s made it a legitimate hobby.
Liz, this full house: When she started, you signed up for reviews. But she kept at it. If you want to make money at something you love to do, writing, and it’s something nice, It’s your choice to earn money.
Audience, a girl and a boy.com: Not about kids. But she hasn’t heard before about women losing respect when they started blogging as moms. But it helps others understand even just reading about moms.

Heather B., no pasa nada: She likes how honest mommybloggers are. She finds it refreshing and she will know what she’s getting into. She’s not a mommyblogger, but she loves them. And they do a service for those who don’t have kids.
Lena: We’re writers and we have children. We like to read about each others lives: husbands, mother-in-laws, politics, etc. She says she’s a writer, not a blogger. That will always be hers, even when her daughter grows up.

Audience: Strange that monetization is a big issue. Is it a female thing? Do we have to do something selfless to get respect from the community?
Catherine: History of women’s work is that it’s private work. Long-standing cultural bias. The issue is that we don’t get exploited as bloggers. That you are empowered to get what you want from it. It’s great to be recognized, but we need to make sure that we’re not getting exploited.
Jory: Are there ads that don’t work for bloggers?
Chris: Important that we realize as women and mothers that our work deserves value.

Jory: What are the things that bother you about marketers? What works, what doesn’t?
Danielle: Example from someone’s blog re: nasal aspirator. The marketer actually read the blog and emailed the mom about a particular product. (I’ll have to check this: I think it was Kristen from Cool Mom Picks.)
Jessica, oh the joy: Has responded by telling them that she’s a consultant and here’s her rate per hour.

David Wescott, it’s not a lecture: Apologizes on behalf of corporate america. Big fan of Jenn (mommy needs coffee). Two things for marketers: you must read their blogs, and respect their time (it’s valuable). If they aren’t willing to work on your terms, they’re not worth your time.
Jeremy: Make sure that someone emailing you cares about what you’re writing about (re: marketers). It should be a relationship at both ends.

Kelly, mocha momma: When are you going to tap into mommy blogs of color? Tired of being excluded. What about diversity?
[ed note: for more discussion on this issue, go and see Kelly’s site to continue the conversation]

Judy, house in progress: Mirrors real life in the diversity and value issues. Transparency – disclose that you’re being paid. It’s a credibility issue. How do you feel about that?

Stefania: Tired of the BS from marketers. She gets pitched at citymama, but not kimchi mama. Asians have diversity concerns too.
[ed note: for more discussion on this issue, see Stefania’s site]

Jory: next issue, privacy.

Elisa Sherman, babyfruit.com
: Not anonymous. Our current relationships (spouses, small children) – how is not being private affecting your family? Her husband cringes. Her private life is also her husband’s and her daughter’s life.

Audience (from silicon valley moms): Raising children with special needs. Doesn’t want to be ashamed, but one day her son will ask what this is all about. She struggles with it. Did she reveal too much? She will probably struggle with this as long as she writes.

Shash, diary of a crazed mommy: Also a special needs child. Blogging about her son with asperger’s. Her son knows he’s blogged about. For him, it’s another way to get the voice out that he doesn’t articulate well.

Catherine: We are busting out what used to be private, behind closed doors. What’s radical is we’re sharing what people wouldn’t have said out loud. And we’re empowered by busting down those doors. And that’s the most radical thing about mommyblogging.
Chris: Has older children. Once they reach a certain age, it becomes their story and not yours. You’re not anonymous and don’t think you are. Someone found her, even though she thought she didn’t use the details.

Lena: Sometimes a false sense of security when you think you are anonymous. It’s important to have an anonymous IP. But she blogs under her maiden name. It’s her story.
Sarcastic Journalist: Someone from PETA had a problem with her. Got threats, and things posted about her so Google would pick it up. It was scary. You’re not private.
Jory: Just be aware out there.

End of session (we went over time by a bit).

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