Happy New Year 2014 - Hope and Resolutions

On this side of the first storm of the year, we're hunkered down, cooking and baking and grateful for our work-at-home status. We've got about one foot of snow so far and north of the city (where Doc works) they got two feet!

I guess I missed my opportunity to empty the pots and clean up my fire escape garden...

Snowy pots

I saw this tip on a Pinterest board and added it to my Beautiful and Useful Things board. I love the look, as well as the idea of putting something out for our feathered friends. If you're on Pinterest, come find me and see what I'm curating there. I have boards (essentially virtual or online bulletin boards) on various interests from travel, to Eating and Drinking, clothes, Cookbook Hoarders, random interesting things. I've just started a board on Chinese New Year and on New Year, New You. I have a board for Kitchen Confidence tips, too.

And now that it's up - we wait for the birds to discover this wreath of cranberries, sunflower seeds, spelt flakes and amaranth seeds.

Hoping, Resolving, Doing

As we look forward to the New Year, think about ways to look after others - whether birds or people. I'm hoping to develop a regular habit of small kindnesses. But hope only gets us so far. Resolutions, too. Rather than resolutions (often grand statements that are not quantified and to which we lose accountability round about mid-January), why not think of resolving in this way:

  • Take a broad goal, such as "eat more vegetables" and make it quantifiable.

Goals we can count, measure, track have a much greater chance of being incorporated into our lives than mushy, if well-intentioned ones. How about "make one new vegetable dish per week?" Even if you chose per month by next January you would have tried a dozen new things!

You can take something familiar, say carrots. And learn a new way to eat them. If you currently only eat them in juice or salads, learn a roasted carrot recipe. I'm very intrigued by roasting carrots, (try with cardamom and oil or add a touch of honey and vinegar at the end). Or simmer with parsnips and finish with butter and cream if you want to add some indulgence. Or bake into muffins.

Alternately, you can pick an entirely new vegetable. Kale Chips anyone? If that's not new to you, how about celtuce? Or Shanghai bok choy?

Sometimes it helps to have a group that you can be accountable to. I began 30 day fitness challenges a couple months ago and am now on my fifth having done abs, arms, squats, butt. Thanks to Vivian for the inspiration! Now doing burpees and alternating days of the others. Crazy. You can find the Omni Fitness Challenge group on Facebook if you want to join us.


I saw another idea I liked, I think the author called it a happiness jar. Each day random moments of joy or happiness happen, then we forget about them. Her idea is pause to write them down. Then she puts the paper scraps in a large jar. Later in the year, I guess on a bad day it would be particularly useful, you can reach in and pull one out to remember. I suppose you could use social media like Twitter, or Facebook to mark these moments. I try to end each day with a pause to think about what I'm grateful for. Usually, I forget. A new habit with a physical presence might help.

I would suggest a stack of pretty paper, like origami paper, next to a jar. That would be a visual reminder. This would be fun with kids.

  • Want to do a food challenge? Root vegetables? Grains? What would you choose? 
  • Are you on Pinterest? We could do a group board and we could pick one vegetable a week and each post how we made it.

What are your goals? What creative ways have you adopted to bring these ideas into practice?




If Content is King, could Curation be Queen, and Pinterest your Pawn?

On the heels of Adam Japko's excellent webinar on Content Curation (here are a few of the tools he referenced), I have been mulling over a couple of striking ideas. One is etiquette and how it's changing in the online world. The other is the notion of curation as a lens through which to view the old adage "Content is King." Maybe a co-leader is a better term? Curation as Queen? Queen

It's not that SEO is dead, or that content is passé, it's that the massive amount of information available to anyone today creates an unmanageable flow of data. Like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. We need curation, if only to help us identify which stream of info is important to us. Once we do that, then we can write or share content with SEO in mind.

So aggregators, feeds and the need for such things are driving a ton of new apps and services - Adam shared a whole list which I'm looking forward to exploring, see link above for some. We absolutely need help identifying the things that we think matter among the vast array of data coming at us every minute of every day. These apps work like funnels, or off-ramps, sieves or straws, a redirection and sorting for you in ways you determine through choices, search preferences and such. You get the idea.

Pinterest and Smart Curation

In the meantime, consider Pinterest. If used well, we can drive traffic to our sites, create value and establish authority by harnessing the power of curation, and by doing a few smart things with it, or any other social media tool.

Here are some key pointers I shared in comments at TECHMunch a while back, many of which are echoed in this list of Pinterest mistakes new users make. Adam and I both use the cocktail party analogy in coaching people on social media best practices, probably because we both love parties, but also because it's an apt and accessible analogy.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, and think of the last party you went to.

  • Someone there was probably very self-absorbed and you tried to avoid them.
  • Someone else was a little interesting in that they talked about a lot of new ideas but might not have had something unique to say about those things.
  • And someone at that party really piqued your interest because they had something interesting to say about most things, whether it was a fresh perspective on something old, or a viewpoint on something new.

Be that person on social media (or at the next party) and you will rule. Even if ruling isn't your thing, you'll at least establish yourself as someone that people want to hang with, online or in real life.

On Becoming Queen - Three Tips

1. Share the why, not just the what. It's less interesting to simply share a data point (as in a RT) without context. It's harder in the scope of 140 characters, sure. In other places, like Facebook or blog posts, share your unique spin on something to add more value, be more interesting than that simple RT.

2. Don't just amplify, connect. Sharing a link is good, adding your unique spin is better. Connecting others who share this interest but may not know each other - ka-ching! Be that person at the party that says "Oh Adam, you have to meet my friend Rich, you both know a lot about wine."

3. Adopt/adapt, experiment. Change is constant and it seems to be more rapid than ever. Try out new tools as they come along, many have no cost so the only barrier is your time. Adapt as needed. They used to say "find one niche and be all about that, only that".

I actually believe the complexity and diversity of ideas and information available makes it possible to be a more complex and diverse content provider. People can pick and choose which of your posts, tweets or comments they care to respond to and ignore others. Most of us are more than one thing and have more than one interest. Denying things you are passionate about cuts you off from that audience, as well as the joy of being in the space you naturally gravitate toward.

Experiment and don't be afraid to discard what's not working. This is where the speed of change will work in your favor. I used to write a sports blog ("The Sixteenth Minute - because anyone can be an expert for 15 minutes - it's the sixteenth minute that counts.") Probably no one even remembers it. But I've found sports fans on Twitter. Does it dilute my "food writer" cred? I don't think so.


Coming up...

Look for my next post on N'etiquette - avoid alienating audiences or making your followers flee. Old rules, new world.

» What are your pet peeves in terms of etiquette online? Irritating offenses? Practices you find downright rude? Drop a comment here and I may include them in the post.