Monday, August 3, 2015

Reader Question: How Do You Plan, Write, and Organize Blog Posts Methodically?

It's tricky to write high quality blog posts quickly and consistently, especially when you first start out. It's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed or to eventually burn out. Consistent, quality blogging, particularly ones with frequent DIY posts, takes planning over time. When you incorporate blog planning into your lifestyle it can be very simple. Here's a few things I've picked up over the years to imagine, plan, write, and organize my blog posts methodically:

Behind the desk is my editorial calendar. I use sticky-notes so I can move my post order. 

1. Always have a notebook to write every single idea that comes to mind.

I have composition books full, I'll never run out of ideas!

2. Branch the initial ideas into supporting posts/subjects.

You can turn one posts into dozens easily. I recently did a post on Kombucha. I could write follow-ups like:

Topic: How to Make Kombucha
Related Sub-Topics to Turn into Posts
-Kombucha Flavoring Tips
-Uses for Kombucha SCOBYs
-Ways to Use Kombucha Topically
-Specific Kombucha Health Tips
-Favorite Brands of Store-Bought Kombucha
-Octopus (I kid..)

Think of how to expand on a topic and you, too, will have notebooks full of topics in NO TIME. I'll go into digital tools you can use to come up with even more ideas in a future post!

3. Always learn/do new things.

A writer will always be inspired when he/she is exploring and learning. I'm in school (and at this rate, I will always be in school! so, many, classes!) and this opens the door to hundreds of topics as I learn every day. I also get out and explore new things at every chance, camera in-hand. Speaking of which...

4. Always keep your camera on-hand.

I love to compose editorial style photos, but that's not always realistic with time constraints. (And now recently for me, camera troubles.) Keeping your camera on-hand and your environment photogenic (aka, clean!) makes it easy to snap shots for posts as you go about your day.

5. Write posts with every free chance you get.

I write posts/ideas for posts/outlines for posts in my notebook when I'm waiting at the DMV/car repair shop, when I'm a road trip passenger, or even during lulls in class. Then, all I have to do is type it into the computer when I get home.

6. Eliminate posts that monopolize energy, or effort until you can (and still want to) take them on.

This is my former process. I still follow a lot of those rules, but now I don't have to snap dozens of photos for a single post! I used to have to do this for my extensive "thrift haul" posts. These posts were my bread winner, but I cannot stress the monumental effort they took from sourcing the items, to cleaning, research, description writing, hundreds of photos, photo editing, and then post writing. It was a nightmarish two days, and then the items cluttered every inch of my life.

I got a big push-back on not doing those haul posts regularly (more are coming, I still hunt) or vintage reselling anymore, but you have to do what's right/healthy for you. I'm less stressed and my home is almost completely clear again. Even if you love to do a certain type of post, if it's monopolizing too much time (most bloggers don't get paid much, if at all, remember that!), you may need to cut that post temporarily or diminish its frequency.

7. Plan Ahead

I write posts on post-it notes, then put them on my calendar to plan posts ahead of time. The post-its make it easy to move the posts if desired, which I do a lot! I write my posts ahead of time, try to write your post a day ahead of time if you can. When you re-read your post the next day typos will pop out at you, you can't see them soon after writing them because you know what you wrote and your mind fills in the correct word. Hence, every publication's need for editors.

8. Be Prepared For Changes

Have back-ups in case planned posts fall-through. More on this below, but having some posts you've written quickly just-in-case (like round-ups) or interviews are helpful.

9. Decrease the Amount of Posts

I went from posting 5-6 days a week to 3 days a week, it saved my sanity! Often, less is more! Post one day a week if that's what you have to do to ensure quality consistent posting.

10. Have a "Post Schedule"

Right now my schedule is: (I think I'll change it up seasonally, Fall is looking like a "budget" theme for Mondays. For summer it's been organization as I deep purge my apartment.)

I have the image above clearly on my side-bar so visitors know what to come back for, and it makes it so much easier to keep organized and posting consistently when you have themes like this.

Bonus Tip: Keep one stupid-easy  post series on your roster to balance your work-load. I have a travel re-cap series for Fridays because I live to travel and will always have photos to share for it. It's easy for me to do, and a nice "palate cleanser" for the week of informative posts to come the following week. (You don't have to think as deeply into this shit as I do, I just enjoy it!) Another easy posts are round-ups (like this one) of previous posts. I used to think this was silly and redundant when I have archives, but people love these posts and they tend to perform extremely well traffic-wise, too. It's not that people are entirely ignoring the archives, but it's hard to identify common themes with long lists of posts to go through. Everyone likes things made simple. It connects (and re-connects) new and old followers with content that's still helpful. These are very shareable posts social media wise so people can come back to the helpful "list" and re-read them for the helpful recipes or tips.

I'll follow up with post prompts and tools, but for the most part, the biggest take-away, particularly with lifestyle blogging, is to make small changes for a big difference. Photograph what you're doing throughout the day anyway (think your dinner would make a neat recipe post? shoot it and that's one part of one post down). When you have your posts planned ahead of time, you can accomplish them in steps and have them ready for publication faster and easier.

What's your blog post routine? I'd love to read any tips/tricks you use. Also, feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
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Friday, July 31, 2015

A Small Island Town "Budget Pool" - The Ocean Pool of Playa Rosada, Puerto Rico

The same day we experienced a slice of paradise in Caracoles, Puerto Rico, we went to see another island wonder! Playa Rosada build a deck and enclosure in the warm Caribbean sea, creating an ocean pool!

I rushed my camera out, took some swift shots, then tucked it safely away so I could dive in! The enclosure prevents critters like jellyfish, but most beaches in Puerto Rico are so calm and beautiful if can be enjoyed with or without it. It was still such a fun novelty to behold! There's breath-taking natural beauty around every corner on this little island, I adore exploring every inch of it that I possibly can every time I'm there visiting family. Now I need to put that same dedication to exploring every inch of my state, Florida is also rich with gorgeous beaches and nature.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Make Your Own Kombucha Fermented Tea + What it is, Why it's good for you


You've probably seen or bought Kombucha from your health food store. An acquired taste to some, it's a fizzy, tangy tea drink that's purported to help you lose weight, increase energy, and generally improve health. But why? And how can you make your own and save on buying some, as most bottles cost around $4.00!? I've made galloons of kombucha with various methods now and feel confident saying it's stupid easy to make your own healthy kombucha tonic

How it's Made: Your kombucha tea is fermented by a bacteria culture (The "Mother" or "Scoby" for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.) All you'll need is sugar, your scoby, and black tea to make your fizzy health drink. Most sources recommend black tea but I've made it successfully with rooibos, hibiscus and even ginger tea.

Why It's Healthy: Modern North American society is obnoxiously germ-phobic. Everything on store shelves is heated to the point of killing beneficial bacterias and many vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. The healthy bacteria (probiotics) in fermented food like sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha and raw vinegar alkalize your body and speed-up/aid in digestion. With less energy spent on digestion, you should feel light and more energized. Your cells can then dedicate more time to repairing and improving, too. They should be a go-to to prevent and/or solve any digestive issue, especially constipation. It can be used externally as a hair and skin softener, too! It's a tonic that improves all areas of health, since good health starts with robust nutrition and digestion.

Store Bought vs. The Home Made: Home made kombucha is not only monumentally cheaper than the stuff you'll buy for $3.75+ a bottle, it's also healthier. The FDA forces companies to pasteurize their kombucha. Probiotics are then added back to the bottles. They're still beneficial and delicious, I may buy a bottle on-the-go, but they're as healthful as the kombucha you'll make at home.

Taste: Making your own kombucha means you can play with the flavoring. You can fermented it longer for a more sour taste or ferment it less for a sweeter taste. You can play with different flavored teas. All kombuchas are delightfully fizzy and a touch vinegary. I enjoy the hell out of the taste, it may be an acquired taste to others.

Supplies To Make Kombucha:

  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 4-6 black tea bags to taste
  • Starter Culture- SCOBY- for best results, harvest a SCOBY from a store-bought kombucha container (the slimy part in the bottle), or from someone you know
  • 1 Cup Starter Liquid (this can be a store bought kombucha tea)
  • Purified Water (You're supposed to avoid tap water due to the chemicals like chlorine and sulfur. I've forgotten this step and my tea still came out fine. Oops!)
  • Tea Kettle or Pot
  • Brewing Vessel (I use recycled pickle jars)
  • Cloth Cover or Coffee filter
  • Rubber Band
  • Thermometer (optional)
  • Funnel

Step 1: Steep your tea in 4 cups of water for 5-10 minutes, add and dissolve your sugar.
Step 2: Fill vessel 3/4 full with cold water. Wait until the tea is room temperature to proceed.
Step 3: Add your starter liquid
Step 4: Cover your jar with a cotton cloth or coffee filters and secure with a rubber band
Step 5: Set in a warm, airy spot away from direct light or prep of greasy/aromatic food for 7 days
Step 6: Taste your kombucha in 7 days, refrigerate it if you want it to stop fermented. (This puts SCOBY to "sleep".) 

You can blend your kombucha with other beverages to yield tasty results, experiment! I've had ginger, grape, green-drink, chai, green tea, pear...lots of varieties! It's not hard to blend away any trace of it's natural acidic flavor.

Tip: Clean EVERYTHING that will touch your SCOBY with apple cider vinegar before you get started. Spray your hands with it and swipe the jar with a cloth soaked in it.

When you run out, use the same SCOBY and start over! You'll notice your SCOBY will readily grow and reproduce like crazy. You can "separate" it (you can "peel" the layers) or cut your SCOBY into pieces and have them in several jars so you have lots of kombucha brewing at once, sell them, give them way, dehydrate them into pet treats (VERY healthful for your pets, especially sick ones), eat them yourself, or even use it as a super rich plant fertilizer. 

I'll follow-up with more things you can do with/more benefits of kombucha. It's an incredibly health-boosting beverage and damn tasty, too! Let me know if you have any questions now or along the way in the comments or via e-mail. It's scary at first, but once you get the groove, it's too easy to make your own kombucha health elixers.

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