Now that I’m just wrapping up a year-long adventure in food blogging, I’ve been reflecting on the things I’ve learned from this experience. I gave myself this project out of the blue one day in January last year. I received an email from Applebee’s that it was National Chocolate Cake Day and, being the lover of food I am, it dawned on me that there might actually be a national food every day of the year. There was. They weren’t all amazing. Actually, some were not worthy of having a celebratory day of their own at all. However, I went ahead and ate them all. I really did. Here's what I learned.
1 - Blogging daily is an inhumane task
Want to know why I use my iPhone as my camera for my blog? Because it does the job and it’s fast and easy! Sure, I don’t have the most gorgeous photos of food on my blog, but that’s because I have plenty of other things to do with my time too. The blog posts are what I fit in when I have successfully begged my son to allow me some rare time to myself. There’s a reason that professional (paid) bloggers put out new content only once, maybe twice, a week - it’s a TON of work! I was so eager to take on this task that my crazy self went through the entire calendar on day one and set myself up for the year! It wasn’t my goal from the beginning to cook everything myself, but I was immediately excited about that aspect. I look back on this journey and am in shock over the fact that I created new content on a daily basis while sharing recipes, photos, and anecdotes. It's not a task to be taken on for the faint of heart! Would I do it again? Probably not!
2 - Don't eat everything, just a little
Over the course of this year, I somehow managed to not gain 50 pounds! It was quite the opposite really - I lost weight, gained muscle and strength, and increased my activity and energy levels. Who am I kidding? I’m still constantly tired, but that’s mostly because I’m a stay-at-home mom with a very energetic 4 year old boy on my hands all day long. I can’t tell you how many times friends, and even some complete strangers, asked how I stay so thin if I’m a food blogger. I always laugh and tell them that it’s not like I’m eating an entire pie in one sitting. I have a slice. Sometimes, I have a bite of a slice. Or two or three. It really just depends on how delicious it is. The one thing I said over and over with this blog was, "Everything in moderation."
3 - Cooking is entertaining
What better way to show someone you love them than to have them over for a meal? Can you believe that I prepared an entire Thanksgiving meal for myself and three other families this year all by myself? I’ve even gone as far as inviting my girlfriends over just to make our favorite zucchini muffins together. I love having company in the kitchen. I love having a friend help me out with the slicing and dicing and measuring and mixing. It makes the time fly by. It makes the laughter abundant. It makes the meal taste even better. It makes me a happier person to share my happy place with loved ones. I love hearing my son ask if he can help me in the kitchen! I let him lend a hand every single time! My hope is that he takes on my love of cooking too.
4 - Pinterest is the best place to find recipes
I don’t even bother googling recipes anymore. Now that Pinterest is a household name, they are the leader in providing instant access to countless recipes with gorgeous photos to further entice you. Over the course of this year, I was also a big fan of trying to take the literal day to a higher level and reinterpret what I had to work with. Pinterest was amazingly helpful in that respect! Just check out how I celebrated National Spaghetti Day!
5 - Print those recipes!
When you’re elbow deep in flour and cookie dough, there’s nothing worse than having to look at your phone for the 30th time to make sure you’re following the recipe exactly! I learned that lesson way too late in the life of this blog! Take my advice and print out those recipes so that you've got something to reference quickly!
6 - I have some new favorite dishes I’ll be going to again and again
I still look back on National Fettuccine Alfredo Day as my favorite food day this past year. Incidentally, it coincided with Super Bowl Sunday but I whipped up a fresh from scratch batch of fettuccine alfredo for lunch from the ingredients in the fridge. And it was amazing. I don’t even know that it’s a recipe I could successfully recreate again, but I’ve come across some real game changers as well. Prior to this blog, my bag of tricks was pretty limited - tacos, enchiladas, lasagna, spring salad… I can now say that I've successfully expanded my kitchen horizons and I'm loving it!
7 - I’m actually a pretty good cook
I shocked myself on more than one occasion with just how insanely delicious something I made with my own hands turned out, like on National Baking Soda Day! I tend to underestimate my abilities but my tongue can’t lie. When something is good, I know! I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried new cooking techniques, like candy-making and deep-frying. The results have overwhelmingly been more positive than negative.
8 - You can never have too many spatulas or whisks or measuring devices!
I like having a clean kitchen, so it’s perfectly normal to look for something in the kitchen drawers or cabinets only to find it in the dirty dishwasher. Isn’t the dishwasher the most amazing clutter hider?! I own three whisks and silicone spatulas and two sets of measuring spoons and cups but they seem to always be dirty! Although I never seem to have enough on hand, I always talk myself out of buying more when the opportunity arises. Consider this your permission to splurge and get one more set of anything you’re lacking in the kitchen!
9 - Plan ahead
I always had to plan out my upcoming food days pretty far in advance. There was one time that I had to celebrate National Turkey Neck Soup Day and couldn’t find another food to eat in its place. I searched high and low for a suitable replacement but that blasted soup continued to haunt me. I had to go to Iowa Meats, a specialty butcher here in San Diego, for 6 frozen turkey necks that I had to boil up, pick the meat from and discard. It was the biggest waste of time ever! I had to force myself to not think about the gigantic turkey necks I was holding in my hand as I forced them to fit in my biggest pot that seemed so teeny tiny at the time. The soup itself contained way too many ingredients and then when it came to actually tasting it, I had high hopes, after all the work that went into it, but it came up short. I’ve never been more disappointed with a dish in my life. Well, I guess I have had some pretty awful fettuccine alfredo in the past… My point is that these things need to be planned for. I had my grocery list ready and updated for shopping at least once a week. I had to! I suppose that is one good thing about this blog coming to an end. No, make that two - I’ll get back some much needed free time and I won’t be buying so many “unnecessary" ingredients at the grocery store any longer. Those are two pretty great things to look forward to!
10 - It doesn’t have to be perfect, just do it
Like I said in my first point, I used my iPhone as my camera for the blog. I could have stressed about pulling out my professional camera every single time and setting up just the right shot with perfectly styled settings for the past 365 days, but chances are that if I’d listened to my inner-perfectionist, I wouldn’t have gotten anything done. Just go out there and do what makes you happy. Sing, dance, write, photograph…whatever it is, do it with pride and joy. Practice makes perfect after all. It’s not like the great American novel is ever an author’s first draft!