I feel like this chapter of my life could be titled “Tales From a Semi-retired Influencer.” From the first post I published on my old Blogspot blog to the present, it’s been a wild ride. Here are some thoughts that have been whirring around my heat and heart lately as I reflect on joys, regrets and learnings from sharing myself online for much of a decade:
Three weeks ago I left Facebook.
It feels weird.
I’ve been on Facebook ever since my sophomore year of college. Back then it was for college students only. Facebook slowly added one college at a time to access the network. I mean, the social network lollll. We celebrated the day Facebook finally added our college.
We excitedly added the high school people we hadn’t thought about for three whole years and our new college friends.
Before all of the privacy settings you could totally stalk your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend or you could poke people. Statuses were limited to “[Insert name] name is ________.” We also wore ties as belts, bra straps as head bands, and blazers over graphic tees. It was a strange time.
As a paying ticket holder at the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conference, I was provided with the option of signing up for pre-conference trips. I chose to spend part of a day in Stillwater, MN. Pre-bex tours such as this are included in the admission fee.
This weekend, I got to celebrate Minnesota with hundreds of other travel enthusiasts at TBEX, a travel bloggers conference. Like many other Midwesterners, I was thrilled when the official announcement dropped: Minnesota would host the conference.
I looked forward to TBEX for six months. The event signified so much to me. A celebration, learning experience, and networking opportunity. A homecoming.
“You do you.”
This is the best blogging advice I’ve ever received. This is the best life advice I’ve ever received.
It’s hard to believe I began this blog over five years ago. I was in a really different place as a newish college grad. It never occurred to me that I’d live anywhere other than the Twin Cities. I was completing my first year of graduate school towards a M.A. of Marriage and Family Therapy and apprenticing with one of Minnesota’s only Registered Herbalists.
I tried to follow in the footsteps of my favorite food bloggers of the time who wrote about dining experiences. For someone who had never published anything online before, this struck me as exciting (and terrifying). If you take a look at my old posts, you’ll find many overwrought restaurant reviews. I’ve since tried to remove the most unnecessarily snarky ones. They reflected my experiences with 100% truthfulness, but, three-five years later, we’ve all had time to grow.
If you write about it, people will find you.
Blog analytics programs are fun. They tell you how many people visit your website each month and how long they stay. You’ll discover what links people click on the most and the websites that refer the most readers. My favorite feature lists some of the search words and phrases people enter that lead them to your blog. Since I began blogging over four years, I’ve written about everything from learning about bird mites on Animal Planet to trying my first sip of Arak, a traditional Lebanese spirit that tastes like anise. This range of topics results in some interesting key word searches.
A few of the most popular searches seek information about cooking frozen pizzas, making knoephla soup, and 90’s Midwestern cafeteria food. This post shares some of my favorite examples. Some of my posts provide answers to the questions; others, not so much. If anyone knows how to bake a cake filled with rainbows, I’d love know! My own thoughts and answers follow in bold italics.
HOW TO COOK A FROZEN PIZZA
Never would I have predicted that my cousin Brian Dahlen’s guest post on how to make the perfect frozen pizza would become one of my top posts of all time. People’s questions about cooking frozen pizzas bring the most traffic to my blog.
“How to warm pizza in slow cooker”
how to oven pizza: “Oven” as a verb. I love it!
how do keep frozen pizzas from curling: Good question. We had the worst luck with Jack’s and Tombstone varieties.
half cook frozen pizza on rack then move to pizza stone
“How to cook frozen pizza in hot water”: Depends on your definition of “cook.” Technically, yes. . .
“do you add or subtract 65 frozen pizzas 10 is baked each day”: Oh no, is this a math story problem? Story problems made me cry in grade school.
beth ciles pizza recipe: “Hey Beth, did you ever post a pizza recipe?” Beth: “No.” Wrong Beth C.
I wasn’t the only one searching for more information about that school cafeteria food known as “Mexican Pizza.” Technically, it’s a hexagon because of the six sides, but I had to look that up, too. For more information on finding today’s version of The Fiestada, visit this post.
fiestada school pizza
school mexican pizza recipe
mexican pizza from school cafeteria
octagon school pizza
hexagon school pizza
North Dakota introduced me to knoephla soup and now it’s one of my favorites. This German-Russian comfort food is served at nearly every restaurant and cafe in North Dakota. It’s a creamy soup filled with potatoes, chicken, and flour dumplings. Here’s how I make it at home. The best version I tasted is served at the Home Plate Cafe in Fredonia, ND. Josie’s made my favorite version in Fargo, however, they don’t serve it every day.
how to make good german knoephla
does flour make knoephla soup broth thicker? Thicken with roux.
kroll’s knoephla soup recipe: A popular rendition served at a local chain of diners. Not my personal favorite, but a reliable and easy to find bowl.
bismark airport knoephla soup
how to make knoephla soup without having my dumplings dissolve: Knoephla dumplings are easy to find in the freezer sections of grocery stores around North Dakota. The homemade version I learned to make is like pasta and is too firm to dissolve.
THE ST. LOUIS GATEWAY ARCH
will i get claustrophobic in the st. louis arch? Yes.
the arch saint louis how to reach the summit?
Pizza Lunchables were a big deal when I went to grade school. Here’s my adventure revisiting this product.
lunchables with soda / lunchables that come with can of Coke: They once came with pop? Who knew?
truth of the 90’s pizza lunchables: Wow, there’s a pizza Lunchable truth? I need to know.
that’s a lot of stuff down in the basement by the sink all kinds of lunchables
We learned a lot from purchasing a house without blinds. I did research and ultimate decided to install our own blinds purchased from Menards.
menards blinds / menards faux wood blinds
menards confessions: Intriguing! Is this a romance novel?
FOOD NETWORK PROGRAMMING
People still land on my blog post listing my six suggestions for improving the Food Network’s programming. Here are a few examples:
how come the foodnetwork tv has so many reruns
why is guy fieri on food network tv schedule so much as he is not a cook
why is there never anyone over 35 in giaidas cooking themed shows
CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY AT JOE’S CRAB SHACK
I’m learning there are lots of people curious about what it’s like to celebrate a birthday at Joe’s. They now have my personal account. As a word of warning, they might write something suggestive on your bib.
joe’s crab shack birthday / what does joe’s crab shack do for birthdays
what do you write on joe’s crab shack bib
restaurant mason city ia spaghetti: Northwestern Steakhouse is one of North Iowa’s most famous restaurants. Everyone recommended me order a side of spaghetti. We felt our meal of Greek-style steaks and spaghetti tossed in meat juices & Parmesan cheese was completely worth the hype.
good cake recipe i’m sorry: Whatever you do, don’t bake this cake that I made as an apology for forgetting my mother-in-law’s birthday. It was disgusting.
sorry birth cake: Oh my.
bake a cake filled with rainbows: Sorry, I don’t know how to do this.
QUESTIONS THAT I CAN ANSWER:
do i need a boarding pass air choice one: Yes
how much is it cost for the course on world wide auctioneer in iowa: As of today 11/27/2015, tuition costs $1,395 with a $250 non-refundable deposit 15 business days before attending. Tuition costs $1,495 if not paid 15 days before attending. See the college’s website for exact details about tuition, deposit, two person discount, due dates, etc. Transportation to and from school + hotel reservations & most meals are the student’s responsibility. Read about what I learned from auction college.
what can you learn about the hierarchy below stairs downton abbey: Read Margaret Powell’s memoir Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” & Downton Abbey
does butter have to be refrigerated if spread on lefse: No. Hard butter will tear lefse. I leave my butter out at room temperature, anyway.
is apricot jello still being made: Yes, although I had trouble finding it at North Iowa grocery stores. Learn more on JELL-O’s website. You can also try to contact JELL-O via their Facebook page. It looks like they once provided a woman with a list of stores near her that carried Apricot Jell-O.
story telling porn: I’m sorry to bitterly disappoint you with my blog, sir/madam.
parchment mites and birds: I hope this has nothing to do with parchment paper because there’s some in my pantry.
geisha past life quiz: Maybe I should take this quiz to confirm what the strange man told me.
crackpot beef and chicken adobo recipe: I can help you with a crockpot beef adobo recipe, but am not well versed with the crack pot.
the pastor changed into a snikey: What is a snikey? It sounds like a mythical creature.
little brown balls in my egg salad: Throw it out!
Do you have any answers to these questions? Bloggers, I’d love to know the most interesting search words that have brought people to your blog. Feel free to leave a comment.