Tag Archives | blogging

Should You Start A Blog? The “Do’s” and “Dont’s”

I started my blog after writing my book, The Organized Cook.  Unlike many of my fellow bloggers, I didn’t just wake up and decide to start a blog one day.  Rather, the branding agent for my book urged me to do so.

“I’ve never even read a blog!” I protested.  But he assured me that writing a blog was the best place to start in promoting my book.  “But I wouldn’t know what to write about.”  I continued.

I guess he knew better.  Come to find out, I had lots to write about.  In fact, I had more to write about than I had time for… even now.  After I set up my website, I kept a journal close by for me to jot down blog ideas.  That journal became a magnet drawing ideas from my brain when it was close to me.  It must have had a really strong pull, because even when it wasn’t close by, I stopped what I was doing often to go running for my journal before the idea left my brain.  Sometimes I would jot down ideas on the back of receipts or torn pieces of paper to later tape into my journal.  Before long, my journal was full of thousands of ideas.  I still have that “little journal that could” and love to revisit often for inspiration.

According to Forbes Magazine, there are over 40 million bloggers in the U.S. right now, and the power of the “mommy blogger” cannot be denied.  However, I’ve witnessed some bizarre trends recently in blogging where people looking to jump on the blogosphere space shuttle forgot to stop and ask themselves if they should start a blog, instead of just asking if they could.

So here’s my advice to anyone wondering if they should start a blog.


3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting A Blog


1.  Will You Write Your Own Content?

Without content, your blog doesn’t actually qualify as a blog.  I know this may sound like, “duh”, but an alarming number of “blogs” out there in blogosphere actually have no original content.

So the first thing you must figure out is what you will write about.  Is there one particular topic you want to explore and share, or are you wanting to build a relationship with your readers by sharing intimate details of your life?

For example, one blogger decided to start a small blog about school cafeteria food and wrote daily about eating in the cafeteria.  She shared details, suggestions and the irony of feeding our children unhealthy lunches while many other options are just a brain cell away.  Her blog became an internet sensation much to her surprise.

Another famous blogger is the Pioneer Woman who decided to share all aspects of her life including home schooling, cooking and parenting while living on a ranch.

2.  Will You Take Your Own Photos?

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is even more true on your blog.  Photos lure and inspire your readers.  Fortunately, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to take alluring photos.

Before I began blogging, my photography skills didn’t surpass anything beyond what a “point and shoot” camera could produce.

I quickly learned that I needed to quickly learn how to be my own photographer.  Food was my main subject so I purchased a DSLR camera and macro lens.  It didn’t take long for me to begin creating photos with a lot of taste appeal.  My family soon began my next subject and photography is now one of my biggest hobbies.

3.  Will Blogging Be My Source of Revenue?

If you’re looking to make money blogging right away, prepare yourself for a disappointment.  While blogging has many perks, it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to turn your hobby into an actual business.  Believe me- I know.



A.  If You Don’t Have Anything To Write About

If you plan to copy and past content from other websites, don’t start a blog.  Again, ‘duh’.  You would be surprised at how many bloggers have copied content from my website and claimed it as their own.  Last year a blogger tweeted out, “check out my recipe for Sparkling Cranberry Punch“.  The only problem was, the recipe was not hers- it was mine.  My Sparkling Cranberry Punch was a recipe that took me days to create, write and photograph while another blogger took five seconds to hit “Ctrl+C”… “Ctrl+V” to copy and paste my photos and recipe onto her website.

On the same token, it’s absolutely okay- fabulous even- to feature content from other bloggers on your blog, so long as you have original content of your own.  For example, a blogger I met at BlogHer in San Diego writes mostly about being a new parent.  Since she’s not a recipe creator, she often shares my dinner recipes with her readers each Wednesday for her “What’s For Dinner Wednesday” feature.  I’m helping this blogger by providing recipe content for her parenting blog, while she helps me gain exposure for my food blog.  Win.  Win.

First Comes Loyalty, Then Comes Product Reviews

Writing product reviews with no other original content on your blog is a gray area for some.  There are so many blogs out there that post nothing but product reviews and giveaways.  “I like this cheese.”  “My kids love that toy.”  “Enter to win this cookbook.”  These opinions don’t mean a lot when there’s no relationship or loyalty established with your readers.  These bloggers may have a large social media following because of the giveaways, however they’re not there to read any content on the website.  And the fact is, brands and businesses are catching onto this.

So how do you establish a relationship with your readers?  Loyalty is built through the very thing that has made bloggers so successful, and that is through your writing.   Any product review you do should be set against a content-rich backdrop where you’ve established a trust with your readers by sharing something real.

A product review from a blogger who has created a loyalty and trust with her readers is far more meaningful than a review from a blogger whose relationship with their readers is based solely on giveaways.  Those readers are not really readers- they’re simply visiting the website to enter a contest and then leave.  That’s not blogging in my opinion.

B.  If You Don’t Take Your Own Photos

Pinterest is a wonderful creation.  I’ve been a Pinterest fan from the beginning and love pinning photos from my blog and other websites onto my boards.  If I pin a photo onto my Pinterest board I’m helping that blogger because anyone who clicks on the photo to find out more about it will be directed back to that blogger’s website.

Followers can click on food and craft photos to visit my blog if they want to download a recipe or find out more about the photo.  It drives me bananas when I see an image on Pinterest that I want to find out more about, but when I click on it I’m directed to someone’s “blog” where the photo has been copied (stolen) from Pinterest and pinned onto a page that has nothing to do with the photo.  It’s intentionally deceiving.

Stock photography will ruin your blog.  Your readers don’t want to see photography taken by a professional that you paid $2.99 for at Big Stock Photography.  They want to see real photos from the person they feel like they’ve come to know.

Soon, your creative tank will be overflowing with artistic imagery and you’ll find that you look at the world and your daily life differently.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the kitchen or somewhere else doing something mundane and realized how beautiful the composition and lighting were before running for my camera.  Even smart phones can produce aesthetic imagery for your blog.  Last weekend I was making a breakfast frittata for my friends and snapped these beauties with Instagram.

C.  If Blogging Will Be Your Main Source of Revenue

Yes, it’s true.  There are many bloggers in the industry who have taken their hobby and evolved it into a successfully financial venture.  And I believe in the saying, “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow“.  The only question is…. how long until that money follows.

It take years to truly learn how to turn blogging into a business.  Many bloggers worked a paying job and then later quit when their hobby took off as a paying venture.

If you truly stick do enjoying blogging as a hobby, the money will eventually follow, but don’t put you and your family in severe financial risk at the promise of making money right out of the gate.



A.  If You Want To Share Your Story

Everyone has a story to tell.  Before starting your blog, decide what you will share and how often.

Don’t worry about marketing your blog initially.  Rather, keep the content flowing and consistent.

Once you’ve started gathering a following and established a relationship and loyalty with your readers, set your guidelines on how you will do product reviews and how often.  Keep the trust with your readers by disclosing any free product or compensation you received from doing the product review.

If writing and sharing your story brings you personal spiritual growth, that’s even better.  It took years before I decided to start writing about my experiences with my son, Connor, and then another year before I decided to begin sharing that story.  Writing my blog, Because of Connor, has been so therapeutic for me and helped me reconcile, organize and heal a lot of those open wounds that I just covered up for years.

The reason bloggers have been able to successfully change the landscape of product marketing is because of the loyalty they bring.  So find joy and inspiration in your writing and photography because your readers will find that same joy and inspiration by reading it.

B.  If You Take Your Own Photos

The reasons your blog will be successful include that bond you share with your readers.

Blogging is sharing.  So taking and sharing your own photos is in itself a form of blogging.  In fact, there are many fabulous photo blogs out there like my favorite New York Through The Lens.

It may seem intimidating at first.  When my Canon T2i showed up, I didn’t even know how to change the lens.  Of course you could take a photography class, but I’ve found that YouTube is a wonderful creation for learning how to do just about anything.  Simply search for “how to change Canon lens” and you’ll be amazed at how many fabulous visual tutorials you will find.

Ignite your creative side by becoming your own photographer.  Join Clickin Moms to connect with other bloggers who’ve turned photography into a career by visually inspiring others.

You don’t have to drop a thousand dollars on camera equipment initially, just work with what you’ve got.  This photo came from Instagram through my iPhone and graces my blog now:

C.  If You’re Not Taking A Large Financial Risk

Stick to enjoying blogging as a hobby.  Share your inspiration with others and the money will indeed eventually follow.


Ready to start a blog, but don’t know where to start?

RECESS and the ladies of Sandbox Revolution and our Many Moms Money Club can help.  Download our “The ABC’s of Blogging” E-Book here as a free gift!


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Love Hangover- BlogHer’12 NYC

It was that time of year again.

Each August thousands of female bloggers, social media fanatics and techies from across the country- along with hundreds of brands- converge onto the chosen city to meet, tweet and learn about the undeniable force of the female blogging industry, as Forbes Magazine described in a recent post, “Does Anyone Really Take Mommy Bloggers Seriously?”.

Last year, the powerhouse BlogHer conference- with the “who’s who” in the social media industry- was held in San Diego, and for me was all about learning and networking.  This year, however, BlogHer’12 lent the backdrop to my biggest love affair of all.  New York City was the chosen spot for this year’s conference and played both the setting and the focus of my affection.  I fell in love with the city and its people and came home with the biggest love hangover I’ve ever had.

During the conference President Obama addressed our more than 4,000 attendees.  Both Martha Stewart and Katie Couric gave keynote speeches (not together).  I connected with brands that I use in my cooking and everyday life, and networked with respected bloggers.  But nothing could sway my attention from my new found love- New York City.

It’s seems hard to believe I’ve never made it to the Big Apple before this.  Many opportunities to visit came and went but the timing was never right.  Vacationing with my husband always took us to someplace he would enjoy, where beach side relaxation and margaritas were as far from any “hustle and bustle” as possible.  I never really pushed the New York trip because I knew he wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I…. plus, margaritas by the beach are never a bad alternative.

Call it “women’s intuition”, but I always knew deep inside that when the timing was right, I would experience NYC for the first time in a light and circumstance that would validate everything I’ve ever dreamed about it.  What a gift from the heavens this trip was.  This year’s BlogHer conference gave me an all-girl pass to experience the city in a way Holly Golightly and Carrie Bradshaw would be proud of… with just me and 4,000 of my closest girlfriends.

So, here’s a little “behind the scenes” tour of my trip and love affair with New York City for BlogHer 2012.

Toni and The City

Toni and The City

The Red Eye

6:00 a.m. New York time came a little too soon for this 3:00 a.m. Pacific-Standard Time girl.  But the excitement of being in the Big Apple got my blood pumping as I changed, applied makeup and threw on my heels (of course) in a JFK Airport bathroom while waiting for my business partner, Barb, to arrive on a 7:00 a.m. flight.  With a cup of coffee and a few Visine drops, we were off in a taxi and on our way into the city.

Barb had our jam-packed schedule all organized while I had no idea where we were off to next…. the entire trip.  “You have a 9:00 a.m. workshop with Adorama called Blographer”, Barb explained.  “There’s no time to go to the hotel first, so we’re going to drop you off at the workshop and I’ll just see you at our 11:30 luncheon at Rue 57.”  So not only was I in NYC for the very first time, but I was about to be dropped off by myself somewhere around West 18th Street…. and only after four hours of sleep.

The city had an instantaneous affect on me and I couldn’t stop myself from telling each and every person I met how this was my first time visiting.  Attending the workshop, I met two New Yorkers, “I’ve only been in NYC for about 30 minutes now!”, I said with more enthusiasm than even 8:00 a.m. east coast time warranted.  One of them tweeted this out:

What can I say, Sheena?  Your hometown just warms my heart.

Blographer Event hosted by Adorama and Clickin Moms

at Blographer- no makeup, no sleep… don’t judge.


The Blographer workshop was held in the Metropolitan Pavilion and sponsored by brands including Canon, Olympus, Samsung, Tamron, Adobe and SanDisk (just to name a few).  This all-day event hosted by Clickin Moms would have been even more educational had I been able to stay, but my 11:30 lunch meeting beckoned me to leave early so I could find my way to my next destination.

Blographer Event

The Blographer Event hosted by Adorama


Navigating Manhattan

Following the blue dot on my iPhone GPS navigation made me believe that a two-mile straight walk to a restaurant called Rue 57 was not only possible, but preferable… what better way to see the city and walk off my sleep deprivation than on foot?  A two-mile walk in Las Vegas is nothing (except boring) unless it’s in the summer.  Sure, I could’ve taken a taxi, but what fun would that be?  I swapped my pumps for some sandals, and while walking down 6th Avenue, I honestly could not wipe the smile off my face.  I felt like I was home for the very first time in this life.

After about a quarter of a mile and about 5 blocks, I realized that it would take me another 30 minutes to reach my destination and figured an alternate mode of transportation was necessary.  Still not wanting to be defeated by the choice of a taxi, I passed several subway stations and deduced that it must be very simple to hop on a train here and arrive a mile and a half up the street, but I was too nervous to venture in.

I ducked into Starbucks and while analyzing the map on my iPhone, made friends with the man behind me in line.  After he helped me download HopStop, a mobile application for navigating Manhattan, and giving me the “run down” on how to make my destination, I insisted on paying for his coffee while everyone there looked at me like I was from Mars.  See, it’s only 11:00 a.m. and I’ve met three New Yorkers already and they’re all so very nice, I remember thinking, I don’t know why they get such a bad rep.

Manhattan Subway

“Hail, The Taxi’s”

I walked down into the subway station feeling as if I had entered the forbidden tower because of a promise I made to my mom that I would not venture the subway alone, “please promise me that you won’t ride the subway”, she had insisted.  I watched people beyond the metal gates getting on and off the trains.  I studied the subway map on the wall and looked at the ticketing machine.  I then turned around and walked up the stairs out of the subway to find a taxi before realizing that I had never hailed a taxi before either.  It can’t be that hard, I remember thinking, after all, I had watched Carrie Bradshaw do it a hundred times.  After spotting a taxi I apprehensively stepped off the curb and made eye contact with the driver; and then after giving an unintentional demure eyebrow raise, he responded with a suggestive head-tilt motioning me over.  I walked over to the taxi and opened the back door to my victorious first-ever “hailed” taxi.  “That was really easy”, I remember thinking and wondered why everyone made such a fuss over it.

Within seconds I arrived safely at the lovely Rue 57 restaurant, and only a few minutes late (but fashionably, of course, after throwing my heels back on in the taxi).

Rue 57 Restaurant

Rue 57 Restaurant

BOKS Luncheon Hosted By Reeboks

What can I say about BOKS?- not enough, that’s for sure.  Sponsored by Reeboks, Build Our Kids Success (BOKS) is a program started and promoted by the most powerful force in American schools today- moms.  Kathleen Tullie is the BOKS Founder and Executive Director (and mom), and spoke about her amazing journey to start this program that empowers other moms to bring this much-needed program into our schools.

You can watch a short video here about the BOKS Program.

BOKS Luncheon sponsored by Reebok

BOKS Luncheon sponsored by Reebok with Barb Likos, Denise Albert from “The Moms” and “Mommy Niri” (and me still with no makeup)


It’s Party Time

After bidding the wonderful women of BOKS a farewell, it was time to check into our hotel at the Sheraton in Midtown.  Being in the city for nine hours straight from the airplane gave me the will to rest for about 30 minutes before showering and dressing for the evening’s parties.

Mimosas and swag at the Iconix Brands party


The first part of the evening was hosted by Iconix Brands, with names like Truth or Dare by Madonna, Badgley Mischka and Mossimo.  I didn’t feel like standing in the long line to get all the free swag they were handing out, but enjoyed some champagne and cupcakes while bumping into fun friends like Amy Bradley-Hole from BeBetterBranding.com.

Iconix Party Blogher'12

Iconix Party Blogher’12


Truth or Dare shoe Line

Madonna’s Truth or Dare shoe line at Iconix Party

After leaving Iconix, we passed by majestic Central Park as we made our way over to trendy eatery Rouge Tomate for a party hosted by Stonyfield.  I couldn’t help but snap these beautiful photos.


Stonyfield, maker of Oikos yogurt, is a brand and product I work with a lot with in The Organized Cook, and am part of their upcoming “Clean Plate Club”.  The party was lovely with samplings of tapas fare made from Oikos Organic Yogurt, and offered the perfect stage to hear more about event co-host Healthy Child Healthy World.

Barb and I at Rouge Tomate in NYC for the Stonyfield Party

After a glass of wine and some green healthy food from Stonyfield, Barb and I set out for the Viacom building in Times Square.

Oikos Organic Yogurt at the Stonyfield Party, BlogHer’12


Big Toy Book’s Exclusive “Sweet Suite” Party

Standing on the balcony of the Viacom building during the exclusive Big Toy Book “Sweet Suite” party hosted by blogger, Complicated Mama, I became conscious of the fact that this was an amazing and fortunate way to spend my first evening in New York City.

View from the Big Toy Book’s “Sweet Suite” Party at the Viacom Building overlooking Times Square (love me some Instagram)

Inside, the party housed toys as far as the eye could see from nearly every toy brand with popular products like Xbox Kinect.  I joined the other bloggers in playing with and learning about the latest, greatest and upcoming toys.

Big Toy Book’s “Sweet Suite” Party during BlogHer’12


But the real action was on the party’s balcony, and not only because that was location of the bar.  Pinkberry was dishing up delicious yogurt treats for guests while the folks at Charm It! had a make-your-own-bracelet bar.  But none of these fabulous gifts could take me away from the magnificent views of Times Square.


Times Square

View of Times Square from Viacom building


View from the Viacom building overlooking Times Square

I was happy to call it somewhat of an early night.  I probably hung out with the other gals in the lobby lounge a bit too long, because then it was time for the inevitable trip to Steak and Shake, just a block away for a burger and milkshake.


Kickin-It Rockette Style

Again, 6:00 a.m. came way too soon.  I would have gladly hit the snooze button for any other item on the agenda, except this one.   According to my invitation, I had to be in front of Radio City Music Hall by 6:45 a.m. for my dance session with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes hosted by the makers of Centrum and Caltrate.  Wow, someone up there went all out to make sure my first NYC experience was one I would never forget.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall at 6:30 a.m.

The girls were so sweet and fun and taught us a few “8 counts” from a popular number from their famous Christmas extravaganza.  I was having so much fun, I hardly realized that it was, again, 4:00 a.m. according to my circadian rhythm.

BlogHer Rockettes

Kickin It with The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall


BlogHer Expo

I went straight to the conference from Radio City Music Hall- sweats and all- to catch some breakfast and the tail-end of the morning’s keynote speaker.

After showering and changing back at the room, I headed back to the conference to join the excitement of the BlogHer Expo.

BlogHer 12 Lorax

My new friend

Here are just a few brands that had me buzzing at this year’s conference:

Got Milk and The Breakfast Project

Got Milk BlogHer'12

The Milkmen from Got Milk?’s The Breakfast Project

Martha Stewart Home and Office Organization at STAPLES

Martha Stewart Staples

Martha Stewart line of home and office organization products at STAPLES



Red Carpet Star-Studded Movie Premier of “Won’t Back Down”

During the BOKS luncheon, Barb and I received an unexpected invitation from The Moms to the red carpet movie premier of the upcoming film “Won’t Back Down” starring Maggie Gyllenhall, Viola Davis, Rosie Perez and Holly Hunter.  “Do you have something to wear to a movie premier?”, asked Barb.  I told her that I could probably dig something up from my suitcase.

Barb had another dinner party across town in the Meat Packing District, so was planning to meet me at the movie premier.  As I left my hotel room to head downstairs to catch a taxi to the premier, I was in the elevator looking up the address of the movie event on my iPhone when it finally struck me that I was setting out to an event by myself where I really didn’t know anyone.  I felt a twinge of nervousness but assured myself that everything would be fine.  When I reached the lobby I realized that I had left my room key in my room, so as everyone else got off the elevator, I stayed on to go back up to my room when a young gentleman entered the elevator.  “Aren’t you getting out here?”, he asked in a rich Brittish accent.  “I forgot something in my room”, I murmured.  “How’s your day going?”, he asked after the doors closed.  And, in keeping with my chatty behavior from the trip I went on to tell him that it was my first time in New York City and how I was on my way to a movie premier…. blah blah.  I may have also let on that I was nervous about attending the premier on my own.  As we got to his floor he began to exit the elevator before turning to me and saying in the most Harry Potter of all accents, “Would you find it cheeky of me to ask to be your plus one?”  I was a little stunned and before I could answer him, my higher self answered for me, “sure”, she replied.  I had to trust that higher self because she typically knows what she’s talking about.

The movie premier, hosted by Denise Albert and Melisssa Gerstein from The Moms, was an amazing event.  But what was even more amazing was this groundbreaking movie.  Being released September 23rd, “Won’t Back Down” is a film I urge everyone to see, especially if you’re a mom.  The movie shows us that no matter how small our lives may seem, we hold the real power to make change, especially in an area as crucial and in need of change as our public school system.

Won't Back Down Movie Premier

Denise Albert, myself and Melisssa Gerstein from “The Moms”- love these ladies!

After the movie, the stars sat on stage and answered questions from the audience.  It didn’t take long for me to conclude that Viola Davis was now my most favorite actress.

Won't Back Down Movie Premier

Rose Perez, Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhall with The Moms at the Won’t Back Down Movie Premier


After leaving the movie premier, a late-night walk in Central Park in my Tiffany-blue pumps made me feel like Carrie Bradshaw.  With each breath I took in as much magic as possible from the city to my soul, where it still resides.


My New York Moment

A late night dinner after the movie premier in a gorgeous restaurant overlooking Central Park with good friends can be topped by only a few things in life.  As the noise and crowd in the restaurant slowly started to dwindle and we realized that we were almost the last table left, I walked over to a window to check out the scenery.  What I saw at that moment can define my entire New York love affair experience.

As I’m writing about this now, it feels like I’m talking about some long lost love- which I am.  But I didn’t fall in love with someone, rather it was someplace.  As I looked out the window with Central Park on the left and majestic buildings center stage, there was one building across the street that jetted out triangularly (I should know the technical name for this, as my ex-husband is an architect), where the almost-full moon hung right over the building, looking close enough to reach out and touch, and producing the most breathtaking scene I have ever witnessed.  The feeling that movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sex and The City and, my favorite, Moonstruck evoke could all be summed up in this one image.

There it was, right in front of me, outside this window in this amazing restaurant with beautiful new friends nearby- my New York Moment.  I didn’t go running for my camera or iPhone, rather I stood there and just soaked it all in.  Weeks later I can still see the image I’m describing as clearly as if it were seconds ago; it’s one photo that I didn’t need to capture with a camera because my mind heart will never let me forget it.

Here’s a clip from one of the best movies of all time to give you an idea of the magic that can happen when the the moon and New York City decide to come together:


The Glamorous Luncheon

The next morning brought more BlogHer conference events and expo.  I then went back to my room early to take a quick nap to shake my slight hangover before the exclusive “Glamorous Luncheon” hosted by Glamorous Moms, Shannon Lazovski.

The luncheon started at 12:30, so of course I jumped up in bed and looked at the clock to see that it was 12:37.  I shot out of bed to change my clothes and was still dressing on my way down to the lobby.  I put on shoes while waiting for the elevator, snapped on jewelry in the elevator and zipped up my dress in the lobby before running out to the doorman, “I need a taxi to Ruth Chris Steak House on West 56th Avenue”, I gasped with my out of breath voice.  The doorman looked at me like I had just lost my mind.  “That’s right around this corner”, he said.  I ran to the restaurant in my pumps to make my apologies for being tardy.

Me and Shannon Lazovski from The Glamorous Moms

The Glamorous Luncheon was, to sum it up in a word, glamorous.  The food was amazing and I had the best time talking all things “girl” and “glamorous” with some of the most well-connected bloggers around.


My Time. Girl Time.

After the luncheon I made the conscious decision to skip the Katie Couric keynote speech and get in some “Toni and The City” time.  I walked 5th Avenue, Park Avenue and Lexington and shopped at Juicy, Sephora and Steve Madden.  I love how you can do something alone in New York City like shopping but never feel alone.  Not having to share this stolen couple of hours with anyone in particular brought me even more appreciation for my surroundings.

shopping in Manhattan

Barb called and it was time to meet her and the girls for a late lunch near Times Square, “just grab a taxi”, she urged.  But after pulling up the restaurant location on my navigation, I realized this was one trip I would rather take on foot.  One of the many things I love about Manhattan is how you’re never really too far from anything or anyone in the city.  On my way to the popular and overcrowded restaurant, Carmine’s, to meet the girls I passed by the most adorable little cafe that took my breath away.  “Tomorrow I’m returning here to eat lunch”, I told myself.  I didn’t catch the name of the restaurant, but I remembered exactly where it was.


At Carmine’s we ate a fabulous and authentic Italian lunch… or rather, dinner according to the time.  After we ate it was time to head over to Bryant Park for a private party sponsored by Southwest Airlines.  Bryant Park is impressive in itself.  Set smack dab in the middle of the most heavily traveled streets in Manhattan, Bryant Park is a gorgeous Oasis of gorgeous green park and entertainment including an outdoor movie screen.  And, in the southwest corner of the park is an outdoor restaurant appropriately named “Southwest” where the private party “Super Fly” hosted by Southwest Airlines was taking place.

The party was beautiful, and once again I couldn’t help but soak in more of the city’s magic with its little pearl of a park, tranquil and still, with the chaos of Times Square just a block away.

Barb and I at the Superfly Party sponsored by Southwest Airlines


After Barb retired for the evening, I met friends for more drinks and city time, all the while wishing sleep wasn’t necessary.  And once again I tiptoed into my hotel room past Barb at about 3:00 a.m.


Moon River

In the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s there’s one scene where Holly and her beau take a day out of their typical routine to walk around the city and enjoy it’s attractions including a trip to Tiffany’s.  Before my trip to New York, when I watched that movie I could feel what that day felt like.

On the last day of my trip I got to experience that “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” day first hand.  With a chivalrous companion at my side, we walked Central Park, rode the subway (finally) to Little Italy, said a few prayers at St. Patrick’s, and best of all- remember that little bistro that my heart was so drawn to?- we found my little restaurant which turned out to be French (oui, oui) and had the most fabulous lunch imaginable, with champagne and all.

Toni and The City


Farewell, My Summer Love

Sadly, it was time to head to airport for a 9:00 p.m. flight home.  As soon as I checked in for my flight, it started pouring down rain outside shutting down the airport and delaying my flight.  I believe in signs.  In fact, a good majority of my daily decisions are based on signs.  So please don’t think I’m crazy when I write that I had a fleeting thought that this rain was the city’s way of letting me know that it was sad to see me go as well.

After a four hour flight delay, I arrived in Las Vegas at 4:00 a.m. and was happy to be getting back to the kids and my home, but a part of my heart will always be in New York City.
This is how I felt when I got home:


Next year, BlogHer’13 will be held in Chicago, so everyone should plan on seeing more of me at the conference.


And, if you’re interested in watching President Obama’s speech to the BlogHer’12 attendees:

Katie Couric’s message to BlogHer 2012:

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What A BlogHer Food Conference Looks Like

If you’re not a blogger, you’ve probably never attended a blogging conference.  Or, perhaps you are a blogger, but still haven’t attended one of these social media jubilees.  This past month I attended BlogHer Food, one of the largest food blogging conferences, if not the largest, for three days of eating, meeting, writing, talking, tweeting, learning and photographing food.

I met fellow recipe creators, a stock image food photographer, a “small-bites” pastry chef, several registered dieticians, a coffee bean roaster and one mom-blogger who writes only about Moroccan food (I’ll be visiting that blog very soon), in addition to many women who descended upon sunny (at least while I was there) beautiful Seattle, all in the name of food.

You may (or may not be) wondering what a food blogging conference looks like.  Just picture hundreds of women in one place who write, tweet, photograph and talk about one thing.  Food.


BlogHer Food 2012

This is what it looks like when hundreds of women share breakfast while listening to people talk about food.

BlogHer Food 2012

Breakfast Keynote at BlogHer Food in Seattle 2012


This is what the beautiful Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Downtown Seattle looks like.

With grand windows and magnificent classic chandeliers, the hotel for BlogHer food this year looked more a backdrop for The Sound of Music than a social media learning experience.  Spiraling intricate staircases led me past evocative sitting areas to meeting rooms where I felt like one wrong turn would find me in some nostalgic entertaining quarters, where Captain VonTrapp would burst in and ask that I kindly remember that there are some rooms which are not to be disturbed.

BlogHer Food

Fairmont Olympic Hotel at BlogHer food 2012


Fairmont Olympic Hotel


Oh, to back up a minute, this is what it looks like to arrive in Seattle thanks to Southwest Airlines.




This is what it looks like to get ready for a day at BlogHer Food.

The essentials for attending any conference, especially a food blogging conference are: iPhone, camera, iPad, laptop, business cards, notepad and pen.  Oh yes, and lip gloss.


My Epiphanie camera bag


This is what a Silkology private party looks like.

The ladies from Silk were kind enough to invite me to attend a private party near the hotel in downtown to eat and sample drinks made Silk products.  Silk has created a menu of innovative and drool-worthy cocktails all made with products like Silk Soy or Almond Milk and Silk Fruit & Protein called #Silkology.  Artful drinks named “Colorado Blossom” and “Lovely Lavender” were created by “Silkologists” and looked much to gorgeous to drink.  But I did drink them, and they are amazing.  In fact, you’ll see some Silkology beverages at my next “Mom’s Night Out” party indeed.


Silkology’s “Lovely Lavender”





This is what a trip to Pike Place Market looks like.

Words cannot express the energy of Pike Place Market.  Just a few blocks from the hotel, an excursion of food bloggers descended upon this bustling market of seafood, vegetables, flowers, jewelry and much more to explore; and what we found more than one blog post could ever cover.  It would take many trips for me to gain my bearing, get over the awe and decide on one thing to write about- I had a hard enough time choosing which restaurant to eat lunch.


BlogHerFood PikesPlace


This is what Leroy looks like.

I don’t know who Leroy is.  But on our way to Pike Place I couldn’t resist the urge to get this shot.

BlogHer Food


This is what a disgusting wall of gum looks like.

Apparently, this wall is legend.  Just outside of the Market Theater in Pike Place Market, it has been tradition to stick chewed gum on this wall before entering the theater.  The question of the day was, “Is it art, or just disgusting?”.  I have to go with the latter because it honestly still makes my queasy just looking at it.


Wall of gum outside Market Theater


Wall of Gum Market Theater

Art or disgusting?

This is what a photo of someone I don’t know looks like.

Don’t you love it when you snap a photo only to find someone got in the way of your shot.  The only problem with discarding this photo is that it’s a great shot of whomever this is.  If this is you in this photo, shoot me an email and I’ll send it over to you.

Is this you?


This is what the first Starbucks looks like.

If you’re a Starbucks fan like me, then you know Seattle is the birth place of our favorite mermaid coffee shop.  And, the reason “Pike Place” may sound familiar is because Starbucks has named a roast after the place of the first Starbucks coffee store in Pike Place Market.  A long line graces the entrance as I wonder what specialty items would make me wait in that line when I could just walk a block in either direction and be at a Starbucks with no wait.  Do they hand out free souvenir glasses?  I guess I’ll never know because my Iced Venti Chai addiction could not wait.

The first Starbucks


This is what a day of learning at BlogHer Food looks like.

Some bloggers write about national food trends and issues pertaining to food supply, while others write about dietary specific topics like gluten-free, vegan or paleo.  No matter who I met at this conference, I already knew that we shared one powerful connection, and that was our love of food.



This is what a trip through Downtown Seattle looks like.

In between sessions or during breaks at BlogHer Food, I never resisted the urge to make a quick trip through Downtown Seattle.


And, this is what the flight home from BlogHer Food in Seattle looks like.

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Stealing Creative

My morning today started off the same: breakfast with the kids and getting them off to school, morning coffee and morning emails.  What made this morning different was an email tipping me off to my first “highjacked” blog post (you know who you are, tipper,- thank you!).

Last November I wrote a blog post sharing a family recipe for Sparkling Cranberry Punch that family and friends have enjoyed in my home at Thanksgiving for almost a decade, with photos I shot myself.  Hours of my time, if not an entire day, went into the photo shoot and writing for this blog post.  Sparkling Cranberry Punch

Who Is Toni Spilbsbury?

And in one mouse-click it was copied by another blogger, photos and all.  With the addition of a short intro (a sentence or two) from this blogger, their post was an exact carbon copy of mine (say copy-and-paste everyone).

To be honest, I don’t even have a problem with this.  In fact, I’m overjoyed and honored that someone found my recipes and photos interesting enough to post on their blog.

The problem I had is there were no links whatsoever to my website.  And the one mention of me as the creator mispelled my name!

Twitter Etiquette

To make this matter worse, I checked out this blogger on Twitter- 165,000 followers.  Good for her… seriously.  So, when she tweeted about “her” blog post for Sparkling Cranberry Punch, is it just me, or would proper etiquette be to mention me in the tweet?  A small token for using my hard work?  The fact is that I’m still building my Twitter following.  So, I’m thinking that an entire day of my work is worth at least a @mention in return, right?

If I’m not right please feel free to comment below because I’m not an expert on Twitter etiquette, but like to think I know something about common sense.

What Is Blogging?

For me, blogging is creating.  I’m creating menus, creating recipes, creating photo shoots and writing which is the essence of creating.  When I look at my photos from Sparkling Cranberry Punch I think of the fact that was my first photo shoot with my first professional camera and how difficult it was for me to shoot while my daughter was pouring.  I think of how many friends and family have enjoyed this punch in my home and how much work went into it for me.

So what is blogging really?  I hear this morning that this type of “blogging” (highjacking) is common and that many bloggers simply copy and paste content from other websites as part of their blog.

I think this is entirely different than doing a “review”.  A review, from my brief experience, is the bloggers “take” on a product, or work.  In fact, here is a brilliant and well-written review of The Organized Cook from 100Directions.com titled “Leftovers Are Not The Enemy“.  What’s so authentic about her post- other than the fact that it’s indeed… authentic- is that I couldn’t have titled it better myself.  She used graphics she created herself and her review was from such a personal perspective.  She even used her own food photos when she could have very appropriately used mine.

So how does the “blogosphere” world feel about this type of blogging?  Am I being whiney? I honestly don’t mean to be.  Like I said before, I’m working to build a following, so copy away!… I think?  The only payment need be are some links and mentions.

All Is Good In The Neighborhood- or is it?

Instead of firing off a cease and desist letter or something of that nature, I simply emailed the blogger.  I’m happy to report they responded back and have since created appropriate links to my website and are sending out a token “tweet” today stating,

We received your message this morning, and apologize for any confusion.   We’ve updated the link to your site, and added more references to you.  Please take a look and let us know if this looks good. We are more than happy to edit the post in any way you’d like, or add more info about your amazing blog. We are huge fans of your site and thought that……readers would love your recipe!

I offered in the future to simply email me and I would be happy to explore even providing a guest post for them in the future.

Am I being a pushover? Am I basically saying, “for more photos, content and recipes for your blog, visit ToniSpilsbury.com?”.  At least my name is spelled correctly… and the link works.









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