What It’s Like To Attend A Blogging Boot Camp

I spent the past weekend at an all-day boot camp for bloggers. Yes, that’s right: a boot camp specifically geared toward people who want to step up their blogging game. The two day camp was hosted by Leah Bergman, who runs a really fun lifestyle blog called Freutcake. (Go there for DIY, recipes, and some truly amazing food porn photos.)
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The camp was held in Pasadena at a large park called Descanso Gardens. I’d never been out that way and, if I’m being honest, I make it out to Pasadena about once a year. But it was like being in another world very removed from Los Angeles. There were rows and rows of oak trees, strip malls, and dare I say it… fresher air. We ate breakfast and lunch on picnic benches in the woods, then retreated to a small room inside the gardens to get down to business. (Did I mention that the lunches were amazing? Like the one pictured above, which had sushi, fresh veggies, and teriyaki chicken.)

The first day there, we were given really beautiful tote bags filled with goodies. Things like notebooks, pins, Post-It’s, pens, Blue Diamond almonds, a mousepad, and even a funky little apron. I’ve never had an apron, always wanted one, and it felt like Christmas!

Leah led the discussions each day, and topics included Photoshop, how to use social media to improve your audience, and finding your voice. I think some of the most important things I learned included the importance of being true to yourself so people can get to know you. I think the web has a tendency to make us present the best versions of ourselves, (i.e. filters, selfies, and everything in between), when it’s really important to include the honest parts too. Like, for example, my pants are unbuttoned right now, because I’m wearing my skinny jeans and I really am not at a weight where I should be. THERE: HONESTY.
Freutcake BagsI’m not really a camp person. I didn’t do sleep away camps, I was never in the Girl Scouts, and group projects are kind of my nightmare. But going to Freutcamp was really a nice break from my routine, and it helped me to get out of my comfort zone. When you’re a writer, you spend a lot of time in your own head, and that can get very isolating. So being surrounded by smart women who want to improve their online presence was really inspiring and refreshing. I think it just goes to show that when you have the opportunity to be around people who will motivate you to be better, DO IT.

The experience also inspired me to get an Instagram account, and you can follow me here. The above Instagrams came from fellow attendees: @inmyredkitchen, @raina_rain, @fromraintoshine, @joannepio, @jacolynmurphydesigns, and @chelseaandthecity.

 

Mulled Wine To Keep You Warm

The first time I met a steamy glass of mulled wine was through my friend Allie, who runs the delicious blog Brunch or Bust. I was hosting a holiday party, and she brought a bottle of Swedish Glogg with her. At the time, I’d never even heard of Glogg, let alone tried it. But I have to say that it quickly became one of my favorite go-to holiday drinks to serve. It’s super easy to make, and a wine-based alternative to cider.

Mulled WineRight now it’s starting to get cold in Los Angeles, and by “cold” I mean it’s in the 60s. (Don’t judge me!) Regardless, that’s just chilly enough to give me an excuse to make this drink to warm myself up.

Here’s what you’ll need, and get ready for this to be ridiculously easy and yummy:

Crock-Pot Mulled Wine:
  • 1 bottle of fruity red wine (I use a Cabernet)
  • 1/4 cup of brandy (this is optional, but I think it adds a nice kick)
  • 1 large orange
  • 3 whole sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (Trader Joe’s has a nice one!)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 3 coriander berries
Directions:
  1. Set the Crock-Pot to low heat, and combine the wine, brandy, allspice, coriander, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, honey, cloves, and star anise. Stir until well combined.
  2. Slice the orange in half, and squeeze the juice into the pot. Then add one half of the squeezed orange into the pot.
  3. Let the ingredients simmer over low heat for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Keep the Crock-Pot on low for your party, and serve the mulled wine with gingerbread or other holiday treats!

Important Lessons I’ve Learned From My Relationship

EandEBirthdayYesterday, we celebrated my boyfriend E’s birthday. It was a small party at our place, and he wanted to turn 31 with pizza and cake. (Why this food combo isn’t utilized more often is beyond me.)

I’ve been dating E for a year and a half now, and I can honestly say that it’s unlike any relationship I’ve ever been in. It’s not just that I think the world of him, but I really feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself, and what it means to be in a healthy relationship because of him.

Here are a few of the things I’ve gleaned from dating E: Continue reading

Perfect Fall Recipe: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Cream Cheese Frosting

pumpkinI first made this recipe last year when I was invited to dinner with E’s best friend from college. At the time, his friend’s wife was pregnant with twins, and I needed something that would be so yummy it could satisfy pregnancy cravings and impress his best friend. (We were in the very early stages of our relationship where every meal and every moment feels like SO MUCH PRESSURE. Or at least it did to me, ha!)

So begun the great pumpkin whoopie pie experiment! In practice, I’ve always been a taster of whoopie pies more than a baker. But since they’re one of my favorite desserts, in that they involve cookies and frosting, I figured it might be worth a shot.

I originally found this recipe c/o Martha Stewart, but I’ve since made some alterations… Continue reading

5 Perfect Books To Read This Fall

1. And Sons, by David Gilbert

and_sons_wtrI love reading books about novelists, and this beautiful work of fiction just so happens to open in New York in the fall. Winter coats abound, there’s plenty of fall foliage to be had, and a very Royal Tenenbaums-esque family drama unfolds. Totally worth the read.

2. The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

tfios2E just tore through this book in three days. He wasn’t able to put it down, and he even LOL’d a few times, even though it’s a totally sad book about two kids who fall in love while dealing with cancer diagnoses. The page turner quality, coupled with the fact that it’s an easy read, make this an ideal book to pair with some hot cocoa, and finish over a weekend when it’s too cold to go outside.

3. Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks

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If you’re looking for a great non-fiction read for fall, then I think you’ve got to get Hallucinations. I remember hearing about this book on NPR when I was driving home from Comic-Con, and listening as Dr. Sacks talked about hallucinations in a way that made them seem eerily common. Almost like everyone has them, but nobody talks about them.

After reading the book, I was a bit surprised to learn that I have, in fact, experienced hallucinations. (i.e. whenever I think I’ve heard my phone beep. That’s a hallucination, sorry folks! We all do it.) Rather than exploring something specific, like schizophrenia, this book covers the wide range of hallucinations that people experience, and discusses reasons for why they happen in the first place. For example, many elderly people experience hallucinations after the loss of their eyesight, because it’s the body’s way of compensating for that lost sense. The book really is fascinating, and will give you some cool talking points at all those holiday parties.

4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

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Everyone is talking about how great this novel is, and you will be too after reading it. Much like The Fault In Our Stars, this is one of those books you won’t be able to put down and will finish one cold and wonderful weekend. It clocks in at 700 pages, but once you start reading about Theo Decker, a 13-year-old boy who’s just lost his mother, you truly won’t want to stop.

5. Blankets, by Craig Thompson

blankets-craig-thompsonThis was the first graphic novel I ever read, it’s 600 pages, and I loved each part of it. Blankets is a memoir by Craig Thompson, and it’s all about his first love. It’s epic, and tragic, and will make you feel like you’re in high school again, dealing with your first crush. It’s a great book to read as people are starting to go back to school, and chances are there will be some moments where you’ll tear up. (In a good way.)

 

America Leads The World In Nobel Laureates and Lawnmower Deaths

 

My colleague, Robin Edds, posted about this little gem on BuzzFeed: it’s a map that shows exactly what each country is best for.enhanced-buzz-wide-3486-1382362336-25Much to my surprise and pleasure, America does not lead the world in obesity or reality shows. Instead, it leads the world in Nobel Laureates and number of people killed by lawnmowers. (Seems that the Mad Men episode where someone’s leg gets mowed off wasn’t that far fetched after all…)

enhanced-buzz-wide-21727-1382361419-16If you want to see more closeups of each country, click here.

 

 

This Is Kind Of Every Girl’s Dream, Right?

Posing with a celeb to get revenge, I mean.

tumblr_muz6fqb6L71qa1veoo1_1280When I was 15, I’d just figured out how to straighten my hair, and I remember very vividly that there was a boy in school I utterly despised. Not because he was my ex, but because he was pretty mean to me. It would be a euphemism to say that I had “curves” as a kid. And, of course, because it was high school, plenty of people made fun of me for being chubby.

That being said, had any mildly attractive famous person agreed to take a photo of me, it would have made my life a whole lot different. (Or so I’d like to think.) My dream person at 15 was probably Taylor Hanson, if I’m being perfectly honest.

Who would’ve been your ideal celeb to pose with at 15??

 

Pumpkin Decorating Without The Carving

October is my favorite month of the year for a few reasons:

  1. The weather starts to drop, which means I can bust out my boots again!
  2. Pumpkin spice lattes, candy corn, and pumpkin shaped cookies return.
  3. The approach of Halloween means that I can have my friends over to celebrate with some pumpkin decorating.

kristinI hosted a pumpkin decorating party last weekend in honor of #3. Because I live in an apartment in Los Angeles, gutting a pumpkin and carving it isn’t ideal. (i.e. I don’t have a stoop to set the pumpkin on, which means any bugs that come to enjoy a hollowed gourd will soon become my new roommates.) But I do have a lot of acrylic paint and brushes, which means it’s time to craft.

IMG_1697I asked people to come with their own pumpkins, and I would provide the rest.

paintI picked up googly eyes, sequins, bat stickers, Halloween tape, fake mustaches, extra black paint, and glitter bowties from the craft store.

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I also found some plain face masks that could be decorated as well, just in case people came without pumpkins, or wanted to create something they could wear on Halloween night.
IMG_1704I think they came out pretty cute, actually.

table2E and I also made sure to decorate the apartment to get everyone in a spooky mood. (Case in point: blood stained cloth from Target. So scary, you guys.)

rats

E had a lot of fun putting his own touches around the place, like these rats trailing across the top of our new TV. (They are still sitting on the TV, staring at me as I type this.)

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Plus we put out plenty of Halloween treats. (If I’ve learned anything, it’s that painting pumpkins works up an appetite for candy.) We had a snack bar set up in the kitchen, plus little hints of candy sprinkled around the house.

ciderFor drinks, we had beer, wine, and I made spiked apple cider in my crockpot. (All it takes is a half gallon of cider, dark rum to taste, plus a few dashes of cinnamon and 3 whole cinnamon sticks on low heat for 4 hours.)

eInstead of using my own glassware, I opted for some orange solo cups so people could draw on those too.

pumAnd if people were done crafting, I also had corners set up for Halloween-themed games, like this “Pumpkin Toss,” which was something like a carnival game and involved trying to toss a couple of balls into the buckets. It was actually much harder than it looks.

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The results were a lot of fun, and in the end we’ve got two great looking pumpkins to keep out for the rest of the month. (Bonus tip: If you plan to paint your pumpkin, make sure to scrub it down in the sink with a brillo pad beforehand to help the paint stay on.)

pummyE’s pumpkin is the striped one on the far left, and mine is the all-black pumpkin next to his.

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Inspiration: Lily Myers’ “Shrinking Women”

I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to poetry. In that I hate writing it, but I love listening to it. In particular, I think some of the best poetry is slam poetry, where you can really feel the person’s intention with each word.

When I watched “Shrinking Women,” performed by Lily Myers, I was just floored. Every word she used is perfect, and she gets it all across in three minutes. I’m not a poet, but this is a great reminder that you don’t need 100 pages to prove your point.

Does Carrot Top Even Make Sense, Though?

Once upon a time, I created a blog for redheads with my friend Tommy. He’s a redhead, like me, and one of my very favorite people. This was one of the early doodles I made for the site, based off of a conversation we had about people making fun of our hair.
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Among many of the nicknames I was given growing up, carrot top was definitely one of them. I never understood it, though. My hair wasn’t green…

I was more aptly called French Fry With Ketchup On Top, Little Orphan Annie, and Ginger, though. (The latter clearly stuck.)

What were some of the things you were called growing up? Don’t be shy, this is a SAFE PLACE.