Andy Bargery at Londonbloggers.net has done it again. He has secured generous sponsorship for our bloggers’ meetup tonight, from Bacardi Breezer (the 100 calorie version) and House of Fraser. Epic Brother will be joining me at the meetup because I’m encouraging him to take to his keyboard and blog. It should be interesting for him to mingle with the blog-erati of London, whilst enjoying a low-calorie Breezer or two from the folk at Bacardi.
In anticipation of tonight’s festivities at Verve on St Martin’s Lane, Andy posted a competition. This time we had to say our most enjoyable methods of losing 100 calories and needless to say, because it’s a family-rated site, no indoor games of an adult variety were appropriate, not that I’d know any.
When I racked my brain, I don’t really have FUN losing calories, especially as the Epicurienne waistline has grown since co-habiting with Monsieur, due to our shared love of all things gastronomic and therefore I’ve been working hard recently to lose those extra pounds. None of it has been particularly enjoyable, although I’m happy to say that it’s working and I’ve dropped more than a dress size. My tips? I highly recommend coordinating the move of a large office, working 12 days straight, developing a chest infection and eating sea bass for Christmas lunch in order to kick start any weight loss plan. After that, eating less in the evening and swimming three times a week should work wonders along with a bit of Wii to combat the bingo wings.
When I thought harder about fun ways to lose 100 calories, I could have said that the achievement of climbing Ben Nevis was fun, but it wasn’t. It was bl**dy hard work going up and we got lost on our way down and my group included Little Miss Moany-pants, whom I dearly wanted to kick down the side of the mountain at one point. To make it worse, once we’d checked out the summit, which was freezing and looked like the moon, we realised that going DOWN the mountain hurt our legs more than going UP. It was a complete ankle-cracker. No, it was not fun. The best part of climbing Ben Nevis was the last 200 metres when we could see the pub.
Then I thought of kayaking. I love kayaking and so does Monsieur, but there’s a good reason why they call a tandem kayak ‘the marriage wrecker’. The last time we stepped into one of these boats, Monsieur and I had been engaged for a mere 48 hours. By the end of our little trip down the Dordogne, I think we could both have burned a further 100 calories by beating each other over the head with our paddles. No, I couldn’t put that down as fun.
I don’t ‘do’ gyms, apart from swimming, which I love. I no longer have the stamina for clubbing but I do like dancing around the living room. I can do certain Wii games but I’m embarrassing at others, and when I tried to play PS3 at the weekend, Monsieur got so frustrated with my lack of skill that he had to leave the room. (I think my somewhat vigorous abuse of the console may also have contributed to his exit.) How else can we kill those calories? Well, I heard once that housework burns them off, but I’ve never enjoyed shaking a feather duster or vacuuming, so cross those off the list. However, in the course of my research I found that pretty much everything I do during a typical day contributes to burning those calories, from blogging to cooking. Yes, my friends, you can even lose weight whilst whipping up some dinner.
So that’s what I decided to write in my entry – a Day in the Life of Epicurienne. I also had fun playing around with my avatar and the Paint application. Hmmm. I may not be a whizz at Photoshop but you just may see more Paint-ed pictures here soon. Here’s my entry:
Here’s another Blog08 post, originally written for Londonbloggers.net
Pete Cashmore, the famed creator of Mashable, the social networking news site, was the first speaker at Blog08, telling us how to build a blog empire. He should know, because, as the Blog08 site tells us, Mashable has 5 million monthly pageviews and Cashmore was recently named the 22nd most important Web Celeb by Forbes.com
(Forgive the shot; the light and people’s inconveniently-placed heads conspired against my dream of a Magnum photographic moment at Blog08! )
The twenty three year-old English-born, Scottish-raised internet entrepreneur was at ease on stage as he imparted his wisdom to the crowd. He confided that he’d been unwell as a youngster so hadn’t been able to attend college or university, concentrating on the money-making opportunities that the internet could provide him. At first, Cashmore had wanted to build his own social network, but while he was working out how to do this, he started blogging about the social networks that already existed or were then in development. That’s how Mashable came about and now his site is THE authority on social networking.
In a nutshell, Cashmore says that in order to build a blog empire, you have to eat, live and breathe the business, which is exactly what he’d done himself. In Mashable’s early days, Cashmore existed on four hours’ sleep per night, but the effort paid off, didn’t it?
Here are his main tips for blog success:
- 1. Build something you love. No one fell in love with a market opportunity.
- 2. The passion for what you do will help you work hard with little sleep if necessary.
- 3. Don’t waste too much time making your blog look good. Content is king. If you blog about what you’re passionate about, well enough and for long enough, eventually someone will take notice.
- 4. Just do it.
- 5. Read, write, comment, improve – and repeat. Blog, eat and sleep – for years, if necessary. Seek out interesting blogs related to what you do and subscribe to them. Use Google reader. Do not worry about funding yet.
- 6. Use WordPress as your platform. In Cashmore’s opinion, WordPress is the most extensible platform for a blog.
- 7. ANALYSE. Look at your stats and steer into the areas where you’re successful. Find out what’s working on your blog. Extend it. Serialise it. Give readers what they want. Use analysis sites like Woopra, getclicky.com and Google analytics, which Cashmore thinks is the best. Check out your referrers and stats twice every day. If people are checking out your site via Digg, then target Digg.
- 8. MONETISE. Mashable uses Google Adsense but Cashmore doesn’t think it’s that effective. He says that CPMs are not that great either. Look into niche advertising and find a network selling ads across your niche. Think about direct selling. (Mashable sells ads on its sidebar). Consider creating a marketplace or job boards.
- 9. Cashmore’s favourite networks are:
- TWITTER: This engages your audience, reaches friends, creates ripples so you don’t need a big hit. It’s a good tool for tracking conversations and syndicating headlines and for finding negative feedback about your site quickly so you can act on it before it becomes farther-reaching.
- FLICKR: Isn’t great for traffic-building but is good for creating community.
- FACEBOOK is most effective if you work with groups but loses effectiveness at scale. How many REAL friends do you have on Facebook?
- DIGG: Here you can vote for the best stories. It’s useful for learning how to write a rocking headline. A blogger asks “Is it okay to DIGG yourself?” Cashmore replies: “Yes, but the system is starting to make this harder.”
- STUMBLE UPON: this is a useful tool for watching what’s popular but here it is not so good to vote for your own site.
Cashmore then takes us to the next stage: you’ve built a successful blog and it’s been recognised, monetised etc. YOU’VE GOT COMPANY! His tips about staffing your blog company are simple:
HIRE carefully, frugally and remotely. Personality isn’t that important if you’re working with someone on an internet platform, so if you like what you see of their internet presence and it’s what you need at the time, then that should be sufficient proof that they can help you.
FIRE quickly, decisively and mathematically. Remember that people are assets so they need to make you more money than they’re costing you.
Then, before leaving the stage Cashmore took some audience Q&A, providing us with the following nuggets of information:
- Cashmore IS Pete Cashmore’s real name. Someone thought it might not be, probably because this internet guru has more cash than he can shake a stick at! He said he’d rather have been called ‘Cashman’, however, because it sounds funnier.
- Cashmore as a name has it’s origins in meaning ‘castle man’, which is what castle caretakers were once called.
- He receives about 400 e-mails per day.
- His view is that a blog takes a long time to set up properly, but once that’s been done, it’s stable.
Sadly, by the end of Blog08, Pete Cashmore still hadn’t invited me to a Mashable party, insisting I wear party-on clogs. I suppose there’s still time. As some consolation, however, I did get to sit next to him at dinner and his chocolate lasagne dessert looked amazing. But that’s another story…
Get clicky: http://getclicky.com/
Google analytics: http://www.google.com/analytics/en-GB/
Cashmore reviewed by Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2007/12/18/web-celeb-fame-tech-cx_de_07webceleb_1218top_slide_23.html?thisSpeed=20000
Recently, the London Bloggers Meetup Group got together at the London Headquarters of drinks magnate, Diageo, for an evening of Blogology. The evening was the brainchild of Rax Lakhani and team at Splendid Communications and, as far as sponsors go, they really outdid themselves!
We were greeted with Moscow Mule cocktails, made with Smirnoff red vodka and ginger ale, before joining the queue to watch our own cocktails being made, the recipes of which had been cleverly designed to match our blogs. Yes, the Splendid team had sat down, trawled through each and every blog belonging to the bloggers on the guest list, to create bespoke cocktails, one per person, to reflect what we blog about. Clever, or what? It was most impressive, especially considering how much time all that cocktail recipe writing must have taken.
We even had a pair of dedicated mixologists, who quickly got to work and didn’t pause for breath as they shook their stuff behind the bar. Ridiculous laughed about his Ridiculous cocktail, which seemed to have a bit of everything in it, while Mex, blogging about the London Underground, sipped on a cocktail made by matching potential ingredients to tube line colours. Inspired.
Here’s a clip of how to make a few different types of Moscow Mule:
And here are our clever mixologists who worked hard all night shaking our drinks…
a lot of concentration went on behind that bar to ensure our cocktails were mixed to perfection and not a drop wasted…
yep, he got every last bit of fruit out of that shaker… Or so he thinks.
“Is that a fly in there?”
“No, love, it’s just a bit of blackberry.”
Here I am with The Epicurienne, a fizzy special featuring inspiration from England (strawberries), France (chambord) and New Zealand (pineapple. They said they didn’t have kiwis and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that pineapples don’t grow in New Zealand, but they do grow in many places around the Pacific, so it was good enough for me). Splash in some Smirnoff, naturellement, top up with ginger ale and voila! The Epicurienne! Mmm, tasty.
(Thanks to Katie Bargery for this snap.)
In case you’d like to try The Epicurienne, here’s the recipe:
Meanwhile, in another part of the hip Diageo bar, a cocktail bartender competition was taking place, only we didn’t realise until an announcement was made towards the end of the evening. Unbeknownst to us bloggers, the entrants had been busy making drinks to impress the judges. Ah! The penny dropped for Katie B and me, as we’d spent ages watching some Michael Schumacher lookalike in a chic waistcoat fashion a chunk of ice into a perfect tennis ball shape for a whisky on the rock (singular), only to have the guy he was making if for walk off and leave it. How rude! we thought. That was before we realised that the rude person was a judge. I guess it’s best not to get drunk on the job if that’s your vocation. Such restraint! Anyway, we rescued the drink and gave it to Andy. Waste not, want not.
As if the evening wasn’t exciting enough, we were all sent home with goodie bags of Smirnoff Red and ginger ale so we can try to Make The Mule At Home! I think Monsieur has a cocktail utensil set somewhere so I might just have to give it a whirl, only I’m pretty sure it won’t taste as good as when shaken by the Smirnoff mixologists. I guess I can but try.
Hey there Awesome Readers,
I’m pleased to say that I’ve been invited to contribute to a new joint blog called The Awesome Squad.
Considering we contributors only really started contributing posts on Saturday, it’s already got a lot of weird, whacky and giggly content. Considering that we are in the midst of a Credit Crunch which sounds like a chocolate bar but is actually causing a lot of stress and job loss around the place, I figure we need somewhere to go and let our marbles loose. We may not be everyone’s cup of darjeeling, but at least we’re not a set of graphs or statistics that will make you tear out your hair, suck your thumb for the first time since you were three years old or sit rocking in the corner. No, siree. We are The Awesome Squad, a bunch of friendly nutcases with a different agenda, even if we do call Sigmund Freud a friend.
Click on the link up above or on my blogroll to see how nutty we are, and how much potential we might have to get much, much worse.
In the meantime, please forgive my irregular posts. I, too, am stuck in redundancy-ville, only for the moment, I am the schmuck trying to help people accept the fact that they don’t have a job tomorrow. Life’s rough. It’s emotional. I’m seeing grown men and women cry. I hate it. That’s why The Awesome Squad couldn’t have come at a better time. I may have Blogger’s Block, but sharing a laugh is precious therapy.
For some time now I’ve been pestering my blog-buddy, Adam, for help with planning our trip to Vietnam. He’s been saintly in his advice, recommending all sorts, from sights to guides, whilst whetting our appetite for this amazing country with his evocative photos. How does he know so much? Adam Hurley’s the man behind the blog, Vietnam Travel Notes.
Monsieur and I will hopefully soon be sharing a beer or three with Adam in Ho Chi Minh City, where the former Australian with a penchant for vegemite now lives with his family. Before Monsieur and I set off on this trip, I sent Adam one of my Epic Online Interviews so I could post the answers here to help introduce him to anyone who may not have come across his blog yet. Here are his responses to some of my questions about his life, his blog and his advice to anyone wanting to travel to Vietnam:
When did you take up blogging and why?
I started several years ago after I started learning a little about web design. I love travel and photography, and just found that blogging was more user friendly and less time consuming. Plus I enjoy writing and showing people my photos from around Vietnam.
How long have you lived in Vietnam?
I have been in Vietnam for 7 years now, how times fly!
What took you there?
After spending 10 years in the Australian Army, I just wanted to lose the green uniform and hit the road. I headed to Kenya first where I taught English as a volunteer for a year. After that a friend showed me an ad in the paper for a tour leader position in South Asia and here I am!
Vietnam was my first choice as I had actually never been here, but was really interested in the history and loved the food.
Why did you stay?
Besides loving Vietnam, I met my wife here. We actually met on the train from Hue to Hanoi while I was leading a group. I’d like to say she fell for me straight away, but it I think it was the other way! We now live in HCMC and have a 2 year old son.
You’re a native of Australia. Will you ever return?
Maybe one day, we have no immediate plans for going back. Perhaps once our son is older, we’ll look at Australia, especially for his education.
What do you miss most about Australia?
Not a lot really! Family and friends I miss of course. One thing do I miss is a good Aussie style pub and live music! It can be hard to find in Vietnam.
Name three things that made you fall in love with Vietnam.
1 .The people are amazing in this country, really friendly and welcoming. This is probably the one thing I love most about Vietnam.
2. Food – you’ll never go hungry with so much choice and the fresh seafood is to die for!
3. The craziness of Vietnam (and Asia as a whole) is also something I love. Every day is different, every trip the market is chaotic, but it’s what Vietnam and Asia is all about! Where else are you going to see buffalo’s on motor bikes?
(Epic note – he’s not kidding. We’ve seen buffalo on the back of a mo-ped, a crate of 3 full-grown swine, a massive cage of poultry – all clucking away, and a lot more. You don’t book a van here. You stick it on your two wheeler with anything that will hold it vaguely in place.)
Do you like Vegemite?
(Hope you’re reading this, Wise Woman…)
Can you buy Vegemite in HCMC?
To date we are struggling to find Vegemite in HCMC. There are a few places in Hanoi where you can get it. But the bottom line is, if you visiting Vietnam please bring a large jar for me, my contact details are on my blog!
What’s your comfort food?
With out a doubt – Lamb Roast! T-Bone Steaks rate highly as does a feed of Italian.
Cheese cake to finish!
Where is your favourite place to eat in HCMC and why?
Some many! For western fixes I like Wild Horse in District 1. They do great lamb and steaks!
For Vietnamese we tend to hang out in District 3 along Ly Van Si Street which has a huge range of places to choice from. There’s also lots of great food to had around District 5 (China Town).
If you could recommend one souvenir of Vietnam, what would it be?
Paintings are my favourite souvenir, simply because they tend to showcase the country you visit, plus they’re easy to carry home.
The Vietnamese Conical hats are a great thing to buy as well; they also make fantastic lamp shades if you’re in to handicrafts.
What’s the most frustrating thing about living in such a foreign culture?
The one thing I hate (and I don’t like to use the word too much!) is people spitting, it’s horrible, but men especially, continue to do it. Also there is a lot of urinating in public!
I remember reading somewhere about Vietnam, “If you hold hands or kiss you partner in the street people will be shocked, but if you urinate against the lamp post or on the side of the road, no one will look twice!”
What is the biggest change you’ve witnessed in Vietnam in the past five years?
I would have to say the people. Some 60% of the population were born after the Vietnam War ended and many are beginning to/have been influenced by Western ideas and ways of life. Their dress, the way people talk and act, where people hang out it’s all very different to when I first arrived.
There are tons more cars on the road now as well. This causes plenty of congestion, pollution and problems such as parking.
Are you now fluent in Vietnamese?
I would be lying if I said I was fluent! But I can definitely get into trouble and out of trouble!
What’s the best aspect of the Vietnamese people?
They are a just happy, friendly, welcoming people.
Do you ride a mo-ped in HCMC? If so, have you ever crashed?
I do ride yes! It’s great fun. I haven’t had any major crashes yet (touch wood) but one or two minor bumps with no damage or injuries. Vietnam only made it law on the 17th December 2007 that rider and passenger must wear helmets. Before that you just wore a peaked cap!
What’s the worst thing a foreigner could do when visiting Vietnam?
It’s actually really hard to upset Vietnamese in general. But a few that help include:
· Dress conservatively when visiting homes, pagodas and historical sites.
· Remove hats/shoes when entering a house or pagoda.
· Never get angry. Loss of face in Vietnam is huge.
· Don’t be shy, ask questions and chat about whatever. Just do so with a big smile.
· Don’t hang out in District 1; visit other areas like District 5 (China Town), District 3 (great food) or get the car ferry across to District 2 and have a wander (great photos).
Is the Vietnam War a conversational no-go in Vietnam?
Not really, if you are friendly and easy going most will talk about it. That said, much of the population was born after the war so they are quite happy to talk about the war or anything else (within reason)
Name three of your favourite ingredients in a Vietnamese market.
2. Fish Sauce (don’t like the smell, but it’s great in cooking!)
3. Fresh fruit. It looks great, taste great and is so cheap!
Where will your next holiday take you?
Destination unknown! I would love to go to Myanmar and my wife wants to visit Angkor Wat.
So I guess Cambodia is next………………!
If you could change one thing about blogging culture, what would it be?
I actually wish everything would slow down so I could keep up with it!
A few weeks back, Sheila Rahman of the Malay Mail contacted me to say I’d been blogspotted and would I like to feature in their Cyberspot page. Would I ever? As a result, Gabey Goh wrote me up and yesterday the Malay Mail featured Epicurienne.
Here’s the link:
If you want to read about some other bloggers who’ve been blogspotted, just google “Malay Mail Blogspot”. It makes for some interesting reading and an introduction to all sorts of blogs that we might not ordinarily stumble upon.
My first ever crush was on Tom Selleck when he was Magnum PI (and we’re not talking the re-runs here). At the time, I was young enough not to know that man + red Ferrari = mid-life crisis, nor did I realise that his shorts were too short to be decent and too tight for healthy male fertility. I loved his moustache, his wicked wink, his Detroit Tigers baseball cap and his endless wardrobe of crazy Hawaiian shirts.
One year, our family went to Hawaii for a holiday. There we were, walking along a quiet part of Waikiki Beach when, no, it couldn’t be, Magnum PI was there on the sand in front of us. My tiny little heart pounded madly as we took photos of him shooting a scene with Rick at the beach bar they hung out at so much. I was in LURVE. Back at school, my teacher gave us a project to write on that dangerous topic of ‘anything you like’. I wrote mine on Magnum PI. How sad is that?
Years later, I still thought Mr Selleck was a bit of all right when he appeared in Three Men and a Baby, and Three Men and a Little Lady. When he finally made it to Friends as OCD-suffering Monica’s latest squeeze, I sat back in appreciation of his moustache-less face. Gosh, will I ever grow up?
So what’s this got to do with Epicurienne, travel and cooking? Someone has created The Tom Selleck Cake.
Sometimes the world is simply TOO surreal.
To find out more about the talented creator of this work of art, a blogger and cake-maker extraordinaire called Alicia Policia, click here.
Last night, I was surfing the WordPress foodie blogs when I found Evolution of a Foodie. This San Francisco-based food-lover with a paralegal day job features all sorts of weird and wonderful gadgets on her site, including the Ex knife block, the voodoo toothpick holder, and my favourite (so far, anyway) the Hillary Clinton nutcracker. There are also useful kitchen tips that you probably won’t find easily elsewhere, such as how to poach salmon in a dishwasher, and no, I’m not on happy pills.
Whether or not you love food as much as I do, this is a fun blog to keep an eye on. This is a foodie with a serious sense of humour!
If you know someone called Bill who needs his nuts cracking, check out this link.