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Veganism is feminism, feminism veganism, Sir! A benefit for Food Empowerment Project from Feminist Drinking Club

Intergalactic Feminism

I meet once a month with a group of awesome ladies and a few awesome dudes to talk about smashing the patriarchy and other stuff over drinks and snacks.

We’re called Feminist Drinking Club.

What does feminism have to do with a vegan blog, you may ask? Well, veganism is about the equality of all beings. Feminism is about the equality of all beings (mostly a focus on human beings, I guess, but really, all should be included). See?

In addition to drinking and eating and talking, Feminist Drinking Club sometimes also actively does stuff for women and animals.

On October 17, we present to you Intergalactic Feminism: The raddest dance party the universe has ever known! Shake your space booty all night to groovy tunes by DJ Coldheart (Mr. Peter Keller, for those of you who know him) while enjoying drink specials, a drawing with out-of-this-world prizes (including gift certificates from Hothouse, Seattle Cookie Counter, No Bones About it, and more!), a dance-off (ALL YOUR 80s MOVIE DREAMS CAN COME TRUE), and more.

Costumes encouraged (I’m wearing leggings with cats floating in outer space) and the best news: HIGHLINE WILL OPEN THEIR FULL KITCHEN FOR THE EVENT!! Because it is at a bar, it’s 21+ only. Sorry, kiddos.

The best part? 100% of the proceeds benefit the Food Empowerment Project, a non-profit organization working to change the food system and aid underserved communities. It’s really the whole package: bettering the world for animals, the environment, and people

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door (if it isn’t sold out)!

PS: like the graphic? The wonderful Tammy at TBVC Design created it for the event. Go check out her work!!

PPS: the title of this post is an homage to a poem by an old dead guy and one of the greatest episodes of the Simpsons ever.

PPPS: GO TO THE DANCE!!!

Meet your new best friend at Seattle Humane Society’s Meow Mixer

I adopted Zeno when he was 8 weeks old from Purrfect Pals. He was super cute (see below), but I am never, ever getting a kitten again.

While the love of a cat is a priceless joy, kittens are (adorable) little terrors. They wake you up at 5 a.m., poop and pee themselves and your bed indiscriminately, and scratch your face while you’re sleeping. Plus, they get into little crevices and cracks that you can’t really reach into and bite you when you try to get them out.

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Ugh. The worst.

Zeno, while still a jerk, is much mellower as a full-grown fuzzball. When I do get a friend for Zeno (not in the near future, since my roommate already has two cats, though I already have a ton of future cat names picked out), it will be a grown up. Adult cats are calmer, their personalities are already formed, and there isn’t as much of a demand as there is for kittens (suckers).

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Adult, and especially senior, cats just aren’t adopted as much, which is why Seattle Humane Society’s Meow Mixer on October 24 from 6 – 8 p.m. is such a good idea.

SHS says,

We hope that our Meow Mixer event will spotlight some of our overlooked adult senior cats who are in foster homes. For foster cats, coming back to the shelter can be a stressful change of routine and environment so this event held in our offices will help create more of a home setting for them. Foster parents always have plenty to say about their foster cats who have been with them for a month or many months!

Plus, Seattle Humane is serving vegan wine from Northwest Cellars (confirmed vegan by Megan) — if Zeno is my best friend, vegan booze is a close second.

So, drive/bus/bike to Bellevue on October 24, enjoy a glass of vino, and possibly go home with your new best friend.

Vida Vegan Con 2013 — a (sorta) wrap-up

Hey guys. Long time, no see, right?

So, a couple of weekends ago, I attended this little thing called Vida Vegan Con. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

It’s just 300 or so awesome vegans coming together for a long weekend of education, togetherness, and partying.

Shenanigans pursued. Some of us got cattoos. Some of us came back with a lot of $2 bills (*wink wink*). Some of us roomed with awesome ladies and took hot prom shots before the Galarama.

All of us made new friends and met old heroes.

To be honest, I didn’t just attend this time (like I did last time) — I spoke at it, with Dawn. This was a huge, huge honor. Our presentation (which didn’t actually work at the conference — curse you, technology!!) is here:

This post isn’t a recap of the conference — for that, you can read Vegan Culinary Crusade; Diet, Dessert and Dogs; Vegan Eats and Treats; Bonzai Aphrodite; Vegan Crunk; Sews Before Bros (she has a ton, so you kinda have to search); or many others. Nor does it discuss food, though as Vegan Yack Attack demonstrates, we ate very well.

I’d rather focus on what I learned and mulled over as a result. Let me share my three biggest takeaways with you.

Don’t favor one cause (veganism) at the expense of others

Megan paraphrased something that Jamie said on panel that I did not attend, but it was the most powerful sentence of the conference:

I don’t think we should throw other movements under the bus.

Just because veganism/animal rights is an important cause, and the most important cause to me and probably you, doesn’t mean that other problems aren’t equally relevant. Poverty, homelessness, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental degradation, epidemics, access to clean water: these are all also critical issues.

To try to solve everything that’s wrong with our world is impossible and would drive you crazy, but don’t think that because you live a plant-based lifestyle you’re off the hook for everything else, or worse, degrade other movements or think of them as “lesser.”

Causes don’t need to be mutually exclusive — you can be pro-vegan and pro-environment and pro-social justice, simultaneously. For example, many of us have fallen into the trap of being so excited to find pleather shoes at Payless that we forget that these kicks were made by children in a sweatshop from materials that destroy the environment.

Veganism should be completely, utterly, positively compassionate to all and cruelty free — no palm oil, pleather, or packaging.

Being a forced ambassador for veganism

This came up in the Vegans of Color panel with a racial/cultural context attached to it, but I feel like veganism is still so fringe to many people (seriously — more folks in the US believe that lizard people control our government than champion a plant-based lifestyle) that we’re all ambassadors, no matter the color of our skin or our heritage.

Laura Hooper Beck mentioned in a different panel that she’s always seen as “the cool vegan.” This resonated with the room — it seems all of us, all different, are “the cool vegan” in our respective social circles. But wait — how can we all be “the cool vegan”? Maybe because the uptight, judgmental, outspoken vegan myth won’t die? Maybe because vegans are shockingly normal, once you get to know us?

As Mo and Terry asked the Vegans of Color audience to demonstrate, no one has the same idea of what personifies a vegan, and we’re all up against this shape-shifting stereotype.

We’re rich white women who practice yoga and shop at Whole Foods. Or we have eating disorders. Or we’re paint-throwing activists. Or we’re radical anarchists. Or we’re dirty, hemp-wearing, patchouli-showering hippies. Or tattooed punks. Or high school girls going through a “phase.”

And we all. love. freakin’. Morrisey.

As a well-educated white woman, I fit a few of these stereotypes, but not most of them, and I always wonder if what I am is somehow turning people off from veganism.

Do they look at my bad skin (totally genetic) and think that veganism caused it?

Or think, “she’s just a crazy cat lady — of course she’s too soft to hurt animals”?

Do they somehow judge my style or what they see me eating and think, “that’s not for me — I won’t do it” and not realize that they have so many, many other options?

What other perceptions and preconceptions do I need to diplomatically overcome in my forced ambassador role?

I guess the idea is to be yourself, and not be a jerk, because you never know through which lens folks are going to be viewing you, and no one likes an asshole. While there are always going to be some situations where you might not want to let your freak flag fly (leafletting a rodeo? Might want to take off the liberal message tee. Oh wait — did I just throw down a stereotype? Yes I did!!) mostly just winning people over with kindness and openmindedness is the way to go.

What I’m doing with Vegtastic!

As my faithful readers know (thank you, all both of you), I haven’t updated Vegtastic! much in the past year.

It’s been a strange 12 or so months, with many transitions, and I’ve been trying to determine how food blogging fits into this. I’m not the best photographer or a crafter of lush prose or a great recipe developer or a passionate AR activist or a lovely fashionista, but I am really good at being a low-key everyday vegan.

So, I’d rather focus on showing that veganism is easy and approachable. And that’s where I’m gonna take this thing.

But I really want to make it more about just veganism, to fit in with the first thing I leaned at VVC. As corny as it sounds, I want it to be a “making the world a better place” blog. Or, more realistically, a, “f@#$ing up the world less” blog.

Thanks a ton, Janessa, Jess, and Michele, for another great VVC!!

Vegan Haven bake sale this weekend

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Vegan Haven (formerly Sidecar for Pigs Peace) is holding a bake sale this weekend: Saturday (December 15th) from Noon – 8pm and Sunday (December 16th) from 10am – 7pm. Joan designed the awesome flyer you see above!

I’ll be there, pricing goodies (and hopefully not eating too many), so come say hi and pick up some festive sweets.

We also still need bakers! I already detailed the baking requirements, so email me at bakesale@pigspeace.org if you’re interested in contributing.

All proceeds benefit the pigs at Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Arlington, WA. Go to the website, look at their faces, and then try not to whip up a few dozen cookies to drop off.

Vegan MoFo 2012: Cooking from cookbooks

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just a sampling of my personal collection

I live in a pretty wired world. I have a degree in digital media communication, work for a web-based company, and heck, even put together presentations on social media just for fun.

Consider a conversation I had with a college acquaintance at my friend Diana’s wedding:

him: what do you do for a living?

me: I train lawyers how to blog.

him: okay — what do you do for fun?

me: I write a blog.

him: ummm, what would your ideal job be?

me: probably manage blogs for a company. Or write for a blog. Or get my blog to the point where I could just blog all day blog blog blog.

him: [stops dancing with me]

However, I’m pretty sure that the Internet is killing me. I love what I do, but some days I just want to drop out of online society and open a vegan bakery. I’m realizing more and more that to be successful on the web (or really anything you do), you need to periodically step away from it.

So, I’m going a little analog for Vegan MoFo this year: cooking from the cookbooks I own. I have a ton of cookbooks, vegan and otherwise, but instead of ever using them, they sit on the shelf while I turn to Google for recipes. All those pretty pages, yearning to become dog-eared and spattered. Each has a story.

It’s not the most inspired or creative theme (that designation is totally going to Julia this year) but it’s one that needs to happen for me.

Simple. Basic. Tangible.

Also, I’m not going to blog about my experiences — I’m going to broadcast them via Morse code and smoke signals. Old School.

JK.

I posted something every single day of Vegan MoFo 2011. That’s 31 posts in 31 days. I’m not going to do that this year. I definitely have more than 31 cookbooks, but there is the whole “Internet is killing me” thing and I don’t want to burn out from something I love. I’m hoping to post on all weekdays, but realistically it may end up just being 3 times a week, which is still a heck of a lot more than I’ve been doing recently. (Is this MoFo cheating? Possibly.)

Super thrilled to be participating in Vegan MoFo a second year!

And the winner of the Vida Vegan Tech Seminar Series ticket is…

Licorous!

The number I picked was 57, so while she and Violet were both equally close (47 and 67 respectfully), Licorous won by the “Price Is Right” tie breaker of closest without going over.

Ms. Licorous, I will be emailing you separately with more information.

Thanks to everyone who entered!!

Vida Vegan Tech Seminar Series + exciting giveaway

As I’ve mentioned before, Ms. Vegan Moxie (the lovely and talented Dawn Quinn) and I are going to be speaking at the Vida Vegan Tech Seminar Series at the Seattle Public Library on November 3.

Our topic is “Next-Level Social Media,” and we’re totally geeking out putting the session together. We’re going to be covering aspects of building community, establishing your goals and identity, examining emerging networks, and how to stay up-to-date on what’s next in social media.

As a digital media nerd, I am super pumped about the entire day — there isn’t a single presentation that I don’t think won’t be helpful.

The other sessions are:

  • Blog Design in an Ever-Changing Digital Landscape
  • The Nuts ‘n’ Bolts of a Web Page
  • Podcasting on a Budget
  • Shooting, Editing & Integrating Video

Classes are limited to 50, which means attendees won’t be too totally overwhelmed to ask questions.

Plus, Veggie Grill is providing lunch. What could be better?

Well, maybe this: I have a ticket to give away to the Tech Seminar! Vegtastic! has never before hosted a giveaway, but I’m really excited about this one: it’s not just a cookbook or a product, but the opportunity to educate someone else on blogging, something I’m passionate about.

To enter the Vegtastic! Vida Vegan Tech Seminar Series Ticket Giveaway Contest (“Contest”), just leave a comment below with a number between 1-100. I’m not going to make you tweet about it or link to me or anything like that — the Contest is purely about spreading awesomeness, not getting inbound links. I’ve picked a figure in the 1 – 100 range, whispered it in my cat’s ear, and the person who is closest (just closest — no Price is Right rules) wins; I’ll select and announce the Contest winner at noon PT on September 26 (I’ll also email you, future winner).  You’re not allowed to pick a number someone else has picked. In the event of a tie, Price is Right rules (closest without going over) will apply. You don’t have to be vegan or have a blog or live in Seattle to enter the Contest, but I’d really like for you to go and be enthusiastic about it if you do win.

Can you tell I work with lawyers?

International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) 2012

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I spent about 20 hours a week editing recipes and managing social media for Foodista in grad school. I love, love, loved it: loved the people, loved the work, loved the community. I had to find a real job when I graduated (which I like, too, don’t get me wrong), but I look back on that year fondly.

Now, in addition to being a blog and recipe site, Foodista is one of the co-organizers of the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC). I attended the first one back in 2009 (because that’s when I interned there), volunteered for a shift in 2010, and then went down to Portland to volunteer at IFBC 2012 August 24-26.

So, I did some work, but mostly got to experience the conference as an attendee. Such a good time.

Here’s my recap. It’s a little long, but there’s a picture of my cat at the end.

Also, I value transparency in blogging and the merit of honest feedback, so I want everyone to know that though I volunteered and used to work for one of the organizers, I have no affiliation with the conference and these are my thoughts alone — my pro-vegan agenda is slightly critical of a few of the sponsors, so wanted to put this out there.

Day 1

Wardrobe disaster strikes

Foodista co-founder Sheri asked volunteers to arrive at the hotel hosting the convention at 11 for orientation and swag table set-up. I put on the flowey purple dress I wore to Diana’s wedding, and hopped on my bike, because I always take my bike down to Portland with me.

About halfway between my hostel (Inn at Alberta Arts — highly recommend) and the venue, my skirt got caught in some mechanism. Thinking I’d have a better chance of freeing it while not in motion, I slowed to a stop. As it turns out, the fabric was caught in the brakes, and thus the act of stopping shredded the hem.

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Crap.

Introducing speakers and possibly facilitating questions being part of my volunteer obligations, meaning I’d need to stand in front of a bunch of fashionable bloggers with a destroyed dress, I panicked. I figured I could just cut the hem, since shorter-in-the-front frocks are hot right now, but fortunately the hotel was across the street from Lloyd Center. I ran into Macy’s, grabbed a handful of dresses in my size, and 15 minutes later walked into the lobby of the Doubletree wearing a cute dress that earned me tons of compliments throughout the day. Tax free, too. Whew.

Swag bag set-up

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Our first task as volunteers was to set up the long banquet table that was to house, buffet style, the content of the swag bags. Karlyn, Val, Vanessa, Janelle, and I (and the organizers) spent a couple of hours lining up bags and boxes of goodies from a variety of sponsors. These ladies made it so much fun! Val and I instantly became friends after learning we’d both lived in Brookline, MA, and it was awesome to reconnect with Karlyn. Vanessa and Janelle are both hilarious and full of personality. We laughed and joked and lined up goodies.

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fruits of our labor

Intro and live blogging session

There have been complaints about lunch (this is entirely on the sponsor, not the organizers) but I’m going to add my two cents: apples are not a viable gluten-free or vegan lunch option, Organic Valley. Your soy milk is dead to me.

ANYHOW, the rest of this first part of IFBC 2012 was lovely. Bruce Seidel, CEO of Electus’ YouTube Food Channel, Hungry, kicked things off with the keynote. He talked about his time at the Food Network, and gave us a peek at Hungry, which looks like it has some really fun shows:

Supposedly, they are looking for a vegan host…

With attendees seated at 30 or so tables, a series of 10 or so local food and drink purveyors then came around with samples for us to consume, photograph and pretend to live blog about in a live blogging session. While many of their options were not vegan, I was very pleased with the 9 Rocks vodka and Chocolate Decadence, umm, chocolate. It was a fast-paced hour and a half (or so).

Actually, let me say something about Chocolate Decadence before I move on: hella delicious. Highly recommend.

After, since they missed our table, I drank a sample of delicious Pfriem beer at the end before running off to set up the first session.

Niche Blogging Session

If you move to Portland, you have to have a vegan blog. They give you 6 months, and then they make you leave. – Michele Truty

The Vida Vegan Con ladies — Jess, Michele and Janessa — led a session on niche blogging. They were super easy and didn’t have any A/V stuff for me to set up (thanks!), but instead created an engaging discussion among the attendees. While I don’t really see veganism as being niche per se (and I think one of them commented on that at some point too), their insights and anecdotes were still valuable to everyone in the room, ranging from the typical vegan and gluten-free to blogs focusing on specific cuisines, like Persian or Filipino cooking.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Celebrate your niche. Are you claiming it (i.e., Persian food), or did you stumble upon it (being diagnosed as gluten-free)?
  • Don’t be afraid to let your niche evolve. Rebrand if needed.
  • There are many different ways you can describe your niche! Vegans can be plant-based, vegan, cruelty-free, etc. depending on audience.
  • You can tell when someone isn’t passionate about their niche. Even if you’re doing it to make money, you need passion.
  • Money and freebies can create trust issues — be transparent.
  • People will find your blog through anything — your audience will change if your focus changes, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  • Not everyone may know the terminology you mention within your niche — consider adding a resources page.
  • Storytelling: You can persuade people to like your niche food through the stories you tell.
  • Don’t steal recipes. Email an author & ask for permission, even if you change 5 things. Google a recipe first to see if it exists, or type it into Eat Your Books.
  • Own your words!!
  • Online forums & discussion boards help you find community, not just promote your blog.
  • You’d be amazed how many people do what you do. You may be the weird one in your family, but others exist! Set yourself apart.

Oregon Wine networking session

Not to be a smartass or anything, but I’m always amazed by how many vintners don’t know whether their wines are vegan (or what makes a wine not vegan) — I want to film all of their baffled reactions to this question (always the exact same puzzled face) and juxtapose them into one YouTube video.

Most of the wineries at the networking session did tell me their wines were vegan after I clarified why a wine might not be vegan (which also involves clarifying — rimshot), so I sampled quite a few — all delicious. I talked to Seattle friends like Jameson, creepily confessed my love for MailChimp to Marcos because they sponsored his attendance, and finally got to meet Emory, the adorable Foodista baby.

The highlight of this session was probably meeting another vegan: Rachel of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook, who blogs with her mom (aww!). Rachel lives in the suburbs of Dallas, and is exactly what I think a Southern girl should be: super sweet, cute as a button, and very easy to talk to. Living where she does, Rachel needs to cook more for her family than she otherwise might to maintain a vegan lifestyle, but if you look at her tasty recipes, she’s certainly up to the challenge.

A Taste of Oregon and Gourmet Fair

pickled watermelon, vegan kanten, agedashi tofu, selection of buns

The final event of Day 1 was a smorgasborg of food in the main hall. Portland restaurants Departure, Boke Bowl, Veggie Grill, Biwa, and others managed to please everyone with their awesome offerings. Lavishmint Vodka and House Spirits Distillery whipped up some great beverage samples, and Karlyn, Val, and I had tons of fun in the photobooth.

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We vegans didn’t starve! Nay, we left full! So full! The vegan selection at the dinner was wonderfully plentiful and delicious, and nicely sprinkled in with the other stuff so that non-veg attendees also tried it.

I totally could have done without the hog butchery demonstration, however.

Casa Diablo

Yeah, I’ve already written about my visit to Portland’s vegan strip club — knock that one off the vegan bucket list.

Day 2

Breakfast — Pork Propaganda (“Pork: Responsible, Ethical Farming. An age-old institution restores public trust as it leads the way in modern farming”)

I knew this sponsor breakfast was a) going to make me angry and b) probably going to be lacking in vegan options, so I got a bagel with Tofutti from the Black Cat Cafe and snuck in late, right when someone on the panel declared that pigs actually prefer gestation crates (maybe I heard that out of context).

Groan.

I think they did have some potatoes in the buffet line. And maybe more apples.

Creating Supercharged Content to Drive Traffic and Build Your Brand

Marissa Brassfield is so cool! She writes blog posts for Foodista (in addition to a ton of other things), and knows her stuff. I wasn’t sure if I would get anything out of this session, since I coach people on blog content, etc. for a living, but she had a bunch of new points to teach me (and the other stuff served as reinforcement).

My notes are below, and her presentation, “Seasoning with Words,” is also available:

  • If I was to search for my post, what 2-4 words would I use? Put them in title, URL & 1st or 2nd sentence. Then forget it.
  • Reach new readers by crafting titles that stick out. Title easy to retweet? Stand out in RSS reader? Engage the senses.
  • Not just name of recipe (i.e. chickin’ fajitas) in post titles, but “5 minute” or “kid-friendly” chickin’ fajitas. (yeah, I veganized that. She said “chicken.”)
  • Content repackaging: expose existing content to new readers. 80/20 rule. 80% of traffic from same few posts.
  • Lists, hows, & gallery/slideshows get much more traffic than anything else – they compell action
  • Take current events and add how they relate to your issue/niche. Or, write a manifesto.
  • Try a Traffic Day (like Gawker does), examine Google Analytics, use Google Insights to optimize, and experiment.
  • Google is getting better at figuring out which keywords should go together (i.e. BBQ & barbecue)
  • SEO section of Google Analytics lets you see where you rank for certain terms. Enable it in Webmaster tools!
  • Trim URLs, but only prior to publishing! Post publishing, leave URLs alone — otherwise, you 404 yourself!
  • Which days should you target to post? Analytics will tell story for you.
  • If you’ve used Twitterfeed to sync up your blog with social media sites, it’s broken. Dlvr.it is a better solution.

SEO for Recipe and Food Blogs with Rand Fishkin

So, first of all, I want to say that SEOMoz CEO (and fellow yellow shoe afficionado) Rand Fishkin is one of the most animated speakers I have had the pleasure to observe, so this was both the least blurry picture I took of him and the most fitting. I suck at embedding things, so I’ll just link to Rand’s slides from the session.

He engaged the audience for 90 minutes, clarifying some misconceptions about SEO and giving plenty of helpful tips:

  • Social is on the rise, but search is rising more rapidly — 3 billion Google searches/day.
  • SEO vs. paid search: do we click on ads? Rarely! Users mostly choose organic search.
  • More content, more in search engines, more links, more traffic.
  • Wondering which platform to build your blog upon? Wordpress = good for solving mechanics of SEO. Google endorses it. Yoast has great SEO guide + plugin.
  • You want your blog/website to be on your own domain name running Wordpress. No algorithm difference, but easier to remember a .com than .net. (D’oh.)
  • Even if you aren’t doing SEO actively, if you do just a few things right, SEO will naturally build on itself.
  • Wordpress forums have good threads for converting Typepad, etc. to WP. migrations will exp. a dip, then a bump. Do a 301 redirect.
  • Set up Google Webmaster Tools. Feedburner is good for syndication, but not much activity lately, though Rand is skeptical the that rumors that Feedburner is going away are true.
  • For, email subscriptions, Rand says to include the whole post rather than just a snippet, but include images so you can get open stats. Focus on reach vs. visits.
  • Unique visitors are a dead metric — multi devices make this obsolete. Focus on visits & traffic sources.
  • Bounce rates: benchmarking is tough. Don’t worry too much about it w/o context of time on site, bounce rate over time, etc.
  • Bit.ly = good way to track sharing.
  • Sharing other people’s stuff makes friends!
  • When choosing keywords in Google AdWords tool, use “exact,” not “broad” for titles. “phrase” match = part of phrase.
  • Competition in Google Adwords is only what people are BIDDING for, not how hard it is to organically rank. Ignore.
  • Don’t create a category for just one post, and Rand doesn’t recommend tags on posts from an SEO perspective — it confuses Google when you create too many similar pages at once.
  • Long title? Make sure the slug has keywords, but you don’t need the whole title in slug.
  • How much traffic a post generates during the first 24 hours determines its SEO success.
  • Choose keywords that aren’t competitive. Ex: “things to do in Lima” vs. “Pisac Market Food.” (the Long Tail)
  • 1/5 Google searches have never been seen before — yes, really.
  • Not every post needs to be keyword targeted. Just write something beautiful that you care about for your audience. More about people loving your posts than following a formula.
  • Don’t chose keywords that you don’t have expertise in.
  • Authentically earned links have zero risk. Personal link acquisition efforts have minimal risk. White/grey/black hat get into risk.
  • Be willing to fail at blogging for a long time.
  • Rel = author allows you to link Google+ to blog. Photo shows up in Google search. People like photos. Think also about title + meta.
  • Use Google Reader to search for other blogs (and to see how many subscribers they have).
  • Followerwonk helps you find Twitter influencers.
  • 10 Tips for Food Bloggers to Use Google+
  • Don’t worry about Klout!
  • Panda: don’t worry about it unless your site is covered in ads &/or you have low quality content. Penguin more of a concern.
  • Over optimized keyword text or overt back-scratching = candidate for Penguin shunning. A big Penguin update coming soon.
  • Image search SEO: name image phrase, have alt text as phrase, have phrase near it in text. Most image searches = low traffic quality.
  • Recipe SEO: plugins specifically for schemas. Use Google’s schema when writing recipes.
  • How to add your picture to your Google search item

Lunch

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Lunch was a buffet, but they did serve up a nice little stir-fry for the plant eaters. Slow cooking maven Stephanie O’Dea demonstrated Ninja Cooking System’s newest ware, and told everyone in the audience they were getting one! OPRAH MOMENT!!! (To steal what someone else tweeted.)

Anyhow, Dawn, there may be a (slightly) used crockpot in your future soon after my shiny new Ninja arrives.

Writing and Selling a Winning Book Proposal (x2)

I didn’t take a picture of Diane Morgan (even though I sat in on her session twice) but she is adorable! And I have been seriously craving lotus roots ever since her presentation, since she used her new cookbook, Roots, as a case study.

My favorite thing she said was that even though Roots was her 17th book, she experienced the same feeling as her first upon holding the finished copy for the first time.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Book trailers on Amazon/website are the new thing!
  • Tell everything about the book in your proposal. 6-40/50 pages to convey your message.
  • Editor needs to get your voice in your proposal. Show you are THE ONE to write this book and that it’s viable on a crowded market.
  • Your proposal needs a title page. Include your name and your agent’s name. Table of contents is important too. Shows you’re organized.
  • Book overview: synopsis (w/ persuasive points), photos, special features that are essential to the book.
  • Audience: why are you the person to write this book? Built in audience (niche) for topic? Include statistical data.
  • Do not bash another book in your proposal — there is a difference between differentiating yourself and being negative.
  • Right to first refusal: publisher you’ve worked before with gets to see your next proposal first.
  • Existing literature: use Amazon or Powell’s (i.e. place w/ out-of-print/used selection) to research competition. Create list.
  • Differentiate yourself within your niche in your cookbook proposal! You can no longer just be a gluten-free baker (or vegan, etc.)
  • Publicity: months of getting your book out there. Convince editor you can market it. Outline action plan.
  • Name drop! Get your famous friends to write blurbs. Use your connections.
  • Proposed table of contents: guts of the book.
  • List of recipes by chapter. Sample chapters. Don’t have to be recipes that already exist, but what you think would work.
  • Need sample chapter w/ 6-10 well-written, perfectly edited & tested recipes, complete w/ yield & special features, in your proposal.
  • Can put some stuff from your blog in book, but most needs to be origina content. Otherwise, why publish the book?
  • How have restaurants listed their dishes? Imitate this. Compelling titles determine whether folks will cook your recipes.
  • Include your bio in proposal, but keep it relevant to book (they don’t need to know where you went to school). Include clips/posts.
  • Agent or not? Diane self published her first two books. Great story, but a lot of work. Agent takes 15%, but knows people.

Evening

Being in introverted need of some alone time and craving vegan junk food, I got a drink in the hotel bar with Val (another highlight of the weekend), then skipped out on the Farm to Table dinner (pics of the meal looked super-gourmet, so I regret this) and MailChimp afterparty (super thoughtful Karlyn grabbed me a MailChimp hat!) to treat myself to a buffalo sub at Sweet Hereafter and watch a former LexBlog coworker’s band Battlehammershark play their first show at what was possibly Portland’s shadiest bar — I won $0.85 in the Oregon State Lottery, met a dude with a skull tattooed on his face, and earned the undying and creepy love of a grizzled old biker. (Longest single-sentence paragraph ever.)

It was a great time.

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free tiaras at the Battlehammershark show!

Day 3

Vegan breakfast by Nutiva

I don’t want to be too negative on a vegan-friendly business, but I felt like Nutiva missed out on an opportunity to wow all attendees with the many possibilities of vegan deliciousness — they served bagels. Hemp bagels.

I know that hemp and other superfoods are their thing and all (and I love hemp and superfoods), but when I am trying to convince people on the many mainstream possibilities of veganism, I don’t serve them dry bread with hippie seeds. The potatoes fried in coconut oil were really good, however.

However, Nutiva’s Coconut Manna spread is freakin’ out-of-this-world awesome. It has a frosting-like consistency and is naturally sweet with coconut sugars — I’m totally going to use it as icing when I make baked goods for Katy from now on. So, I hope I balanced out that little bit of negativity with something positive. Great product, Nutiva.

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Food Photography Session

Volunteers arrived just after 7 a.m. on Sunday morningto help set up the final session: a food photography lesson from Andrew Scrivani, cooking demo with Chef John Mitzewich, and the opportunity to then photograph the food that John made (with a few props from Sheri’s personal collection).

In helping set up, I got to watch John and Andrew behind the scenes — they were every bit as affable setting up as they were presenting together. The two made a hilarious duo, riffing off of each other and making fun of their collective baldness. Paola at MirrorMirror has a funny recap, plus some amazing photos from the session.

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I live tweeted the sh*t out of Andrew’s part:

  • Take your camera out of auto mode and always shoot raw
  • Put a film over your light source and balance light and dark in shot w/ large cards. Helps redirect intense light source.
  • If you have lots of texture, bubbles, etc. (ie smoothies), get close. If it’s monochromatic, shapes are key. Light, color, shape.
  • Negative space and shape. Not all food is beautiful, so make it interesting! Break the crackers. Show the cookie cutter.
  • Backlighting adds an ethereal quality that’s great for food. especially citrus, crystallized stuff, etc.
  • Use black outside the frame to give glassware an edge — trick of the trade.
  • Using props and backdrops? Manage the light differently. Light changes color.
  • Never shoot food with a flash! Flat. No dimension. Depth of field in photos created by both aperture & lighting.
  • Photos arranged in diptychs and triptychs tell a story. Creative alternative to same pic over & over.
  • Ugly food can be saved by props. Think about ugly food when shopping for props. Yard sales are great places for food photography props!
  • It’s okay to be literal, messy, Martha Stewarty in your photos.
  • Get away from the diner’s perspective in your photos to make it art.
  • Figure out what makes something special when on vacation, then recreate at home to capture time & place.
  • Smokes, flames & drips give a primal (and good) reaction.
  • Sometimes getting the right photo involves invading someone else’s personal space.
  • Create an architecture — height is your friend. So are chopticks, for creating height. Pile things.
  • Look at how the Dutch masters did still lifes with food. Learn from them.
  • Eiko BCA lamp in metal casing with scrim = nearly daylight quality light.
  • have extra ingredients on hand when shooting food.
  • Old school trifold foamcore posters, A clamps (home depot — 22 for $10) & gaffer’s tape = inexpensive photo studio.
  • Shoot with a white shirt! It will push light onto your subject.

Then Chef John took over with a cooking demo, making white gazpacho (vegan!), onion rings (vegan!), cold-brew coffee affigato (could be vegan!), and shrimp (definitely not vegan). He added some sage words of wisdom:

  • People think way too much about garnishes
  • Salt in onion ring batter will not pull moisture out of onion
  • Wet hand dry hand method: one hand in batter, the other in panko (works for about 5 minutes.)
  • Don’t even think about buying a knife that’s not forged
  • Oil is part of the recipe, not just what you cook the recipe in

Afterwards, attendees distributed themselves throughout the room to different stations we had set up with food and props to practice what Andrew taught.

The best one I took was of the shrimp dish, but obviously I am not going to post that here.

Conclusion

The next IFBC is going to be in Seattle September September 20-22, 2013 (not September 13-15, as originally announced, because of Yom Kippur), and I am super pumped for this — as much fun as it is to be in a different city, nothing beats a great conference close to home.

Many thanks to the Foodista crew for extending me the invitation to volunteer. I’m way too shy to introduce myself to awesome people like Diane Morgan, Rand Fishkin, or Andrew and John without some sort of reason to do so, so getting to help them set up their sessions broke this ice conveniently. It’s been great to see how IFBC has evolved since the first one in 2009.

Some of my fellow attendees wrote great recaps:

Finally, many thanks to my mom for watching Zeno while I was gone!! He’s been through a lot lately (blog post on my cat’s new stress disorder to possibly come at a future date…), and it was great knowing he was in good hands and getting love and attention.

And thanks to YOU for reading this 4,000+ word post! Here’s the picture of Zeno that my mom sent me on my way back to Seattle.

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If you’re going to NW Folklife…

1) Be careful.

2) Treat yo’self to a Mighty O Donut on Fisher Green.

3) Eat at Viva! Vegetarian Grill (located in the Theatre Commons & Food Triangle) — everything they serve is vegan, including Polish soysage, BBQ sandwiches, tempeh skewers, and soft-serve.

I got the tempeh reuben; David got the vegan cheesesteak.

David’s cheesesteak was better (super tasty), but my reuben was okay: seasoned tempeh and a bootyload of sourkraut on toasted Dave’s Killer Bread and some special sauce.

I’m seriously now planning a trip to Eugene just for these guys. Well, and Ninkasi. And maybe some Voodoo Doughnut Tres. And, uhhh, some anarchy?

Seattle’s weird enough, though.

Seattle vegan blogger meetup in photos

Vegan bloggers from around the Puget Sound descended on the home of one Ms. Vegan Score on Friday, February 17 for drinks, conversation, and oodles of delicious vegan food.

We feasted upon:

  • Dawn’s version of the spiced nuts from Bryant Terry’s new cookbook, The Inspired Vegan (so perfect with cocktails!)
  • Megan’s pigs in a blanket and fantastic stuffed mushrooms
  • Brittany’s dreamy black-bottom cupcakes
  • Bethany’s melt-in-your-mouth cheddar scones
  • Alicia’s savory marinated mushrooms
  • Molly’s decadent 7 layer dip
  • Rugelach and gumdrops from Whole Foods, brought by Kent (I like his paintings quite a bit)
  • Rhean’s OMFG-amazing soy curl sloppy joe’s, coleslaw, and mini buns
  • Anika’s fresh-squeezed juice cocktails

I made some lemon-chili-nooch kale chips and the brownies from the Joy of Vegan Baking.

Here are some pics of us all noshing and chatting (my apologies in advance for iPhone photo quality and any closed eyes or chewing mouths):

Thank you, Anika, again for opening your home! It was great fun.

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