Blogging With Big Grey Horse Media: Three Amazing Years

I’ve reached a milestone. I’ve been blogging with Big Grey Horse Media for three years, and it’s been one of the best experiences in my life.

As a writer, you’d think that maintaining a blog would be easy to do. During the last three years, I’d say the majority of the time this blog was a chore to keep up with.

I started blogging around Thanksgiving in 2010. I’ve had periods where I blogged and more periods where the blog stagnated. Honestly, it was more work than pleasure. To be brutally honest, the majority of these three years, I only blogged because I felt it was part of my responsibility to do so. There was one period in the past where I happily showed up to post.

The majority of the time, this blog was an afterthought. My client work always took precedence. After all, that’s what paid the bills.

I reckon that for most bloggers, this is a common occurrence. You start off strong and you fade quickly. Or you start with the best of intentions and fizzle out but keep going…without inspiration…and your blog sucks. But you keep posting, because you think it’s the right thing to do.

It’s not. One thing I do know is that blogging because you feel you must is wrong. Your readers will know your game and leave.

I love how my company’s grown. I’m very proud of what we do and the customers we serve. What amazes me the most is how this blog has evolved, developed, and grown. From where I started in late 2010 to where we are now, three years later at the end of 2013, is a completely different place.

My blog’s canvas certainly has painted a different picture from what I imagined it to be.

When I dug in last summer and dedicated my time to regular posting, I realized that this is really where I want to be. I love visiting restaurants and doing reviews. I enjoy working with other writers and having their voices be part of Big Grey Horse Media. I love the PR we’re getting and I love seeing folks come from UrbanSpoon and Foodio54.

I dig how Big Grey Horse Media’s social media channels send hundreds of readers our way each month.

If you were a newbie blogger and asked me how to do it, I think my answers would mirror what I said when I wrote this blog post. However, I’d also add this to the mix:

Be willing to grow with your blog. Setting goals and planning editorial calendars is something every blog owner must do. You gotta have a road map to work from.

Keep your eyes open, however, to the signposts along the way. Sometimes a side adventure is waiting for you. More so, a new road may appear that will take your blog to super stardom.

This coming year, Afriel and I have all sorts of fun planned for the Big Grey Horse Media blog. As always, we invite your comments and thoughts. Feel free to contact us here or email laura@biggreyhorse.com.

Thanks to each of you who visit Big Grey Horse Media’s blog. We appreciate you so much – we couldn’t do it without you! Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing. Happy holidays to you and yours!

 

Texas Pepper Jelly Foodie Review

Texas Pepper Jelly Star Sampler Pack
Texas Pepper Jelly Star Sampler Pack

Texas Pepper Jelly’s been close to my heart for a long time. Somewhere along the way, I sampled some of Craig Sherry’s hotter that hot jelly and fell in love. I’ve watched the Texas Pepper Jelly site and read the blog. I even subscribed to the newsletter for a few years.

This month, I decided it was time to give Texas Pepper Jelly a proper review. The disappointing part of this review was how non-responsive the company was regarding my review and order. I emailed Texas Pepper Jelly, introducing myself and Big Grey Horse Media. I explained my objectives and that I would appreciate any additional company information, press kit, etc. that could be included with my order since this was a review.

I never heard back. Not a peep.

After placing my order online, it was a bit strange that I never received a confirmation email. I say this because every other company I do business with either sends a confirmation email or sends me to a confirmation page at the end of the transaction. I was a bit nervous and wondered if the order went through. What assuaged my concerns was seeing that the payment had been processed for my credit card.

Now to the good stuff. I ordered the Star Sampler Pack. It showed up via Federal Express within a few days of placing my order.

Cranberry Habanero Texas Pepper Jelly
Cranberry Habanero Texas Pepper Jelly

The promptness of the delivery was great! I often wait over a week for items because I rarely pay for expedited shipping.

The jelly was packed well. The wooden star that the sample jelly jars were packed in was attractive. For this order, you pick six jelly flavors to fill the sampler. I chose strawberry, cranberry, apple, apricot, pineapple, and raspberry. When the order arrived, a handwritten note inside explained that the cranberry habanero jelly only comes in a 5 oz. jar, so Texas passion habanero was substituted in its place. I also received the cranberry habanero jelly, gratis, in its 5 oz jar. Now that’s good customer service!

I am the first to admit that I dig spicy. I’m a chili head from way back. I’ve sampled Texas Pepper Jelly in the past and really liked it. Hold onto your hats, however, because the jellies that showed up were s-p-i-c-y. All of them are habanero based, so I expected a punch and a kick. But I’m here to tell you, these jellies are fierce!

I sampled each, over a period of a few days, first by dipping a spoon into the jelly and trying it straight. The berry jellies are definitely the most authentic in flavor. While each of the jellies I tried were good, the pineapple probably loses my vote as least flavorful. I didn’t find anything pineapple about the taste; it’s just a sweet jelly with lots of spice.

Sampling Texas Pepper Jelly
Sampling Texas Pepper Jelly on crackers with cream cheese.

The Texas passion habanero jelly was interesting, because it’s a mix of fruits laden with habanero. I honestly couldn’t pick out any of the fruits listed, but overall, the jelly has a sweet, pleasant taste. I guess I was looking for a distinct fruit taste, and I couldn’t find it, which was a bit of a let-down.

The cranberry was okay, as were the apple and apricot. These are flavors you can recognize. The true winners, in my book, were the strawberry and raspberry jellies. I distinctly found the berry flavors and there was nothing artificial about the taste.

I ended up doing the rest of my sampling with HEB water crackers, a thin layer of cream cheese, and Texas Pepper Jelly on top. This is the ideal way to eat these jellies. While the jellies remained overly spicy (too much pepper blasting out the good fruit), the combination of the bland cracker crunch and smooth cheese made eating the jellies a fun treat.

If you don’t like spicy foods, leave Texas Pepper Jelly to the folks who do. You won’t like these – they are strong! In some ways, a bit too strong for me. When the fruit taste came through, as in the strawberry and raspberry jellies, the strong pepper vibe made sense. It didn’t make as much sense with the jellies where the taste was little more than sugar with peppers thrown in.

In spite of my disappointment, I want to say that I love what Craig’s done with his company. And those who love habanero peppers mixed with jelly should dig what Texas Pepper Jelly has to offer. I am game to try more products and give the company a fair shake. I will say that what I sampled in the past was spicy, but I seem to recall the fruit flavors being clearer. I’d also like to incorporate the jellies into recipes.

While Texas Pepper Jelly’s online ordering may be a bit strange to me (no email confirmation or confirmation page), this order arrived quickly, was attractively packaged, and contained a nice note, an additional sample, and swag (a Texas Pepper Jelly refrigerator magnet that’s a 2014 calendar and a blue, rubber Texas Pepper Jelly coaster). Everything was a very nice touch and it helped to make up for my confusion about the order.

This story will continue. Thanks, Craig!

 

Takeaway

Texas Pepper Jelly is an online store. The phone number is 713-702-3489. You can also email sales@texaspepperjelly.com.

 

Do you need help branding your company? We work with businesses that struggle with marketing, content marketing, and social media. Let us take care of your marketing campaigns while you run your business. Contact me to get your project started!

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Review

Collin Street Bakery Logo Collin Street Bakery on Foodio54

Collin Street Bakery on Urbanspoon
I ordered a tempting, luscious Collin Street Bakery fruitcake for a review. I learned about the company from my writer, Danny Gallagher. He suggested Collin Street Bakery as an ideal Big Grey Horse Media feature story (and yes, Collin Street Bakery, you’re on the editorial calender for 2014).

Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This fruitcake is excellent and I recommend ordering it for Christmas parties and as Christmas presents for the special people in your life.

It’s sad that no one else in my family adores fruitcake the way that I do. I guess the upside of this is I get the fruitcakes family members receive as presents but don’t want. Remember Afriel’s re-gifting humor? In this case, freshly made fruitcake is an excellent thing to pass on to me!

When you order a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake, you can request to have it sent immediately or you can ask that the fruitcake be sent as soon as it’s been baked. I opted for this. Fresh fruitcake is one of my favorite Christmas desserts. And what arrived was worth a few extra days’ wait.

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Plated

Given that I requested my fruitcake be baked fresh and it’s the holiday season, I figure the order came within a reasonable time frame. I ordered online December 6 and had the cake by December 17. The fruitcake was nicely packaged and lovely to unbox.

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Tin

Inside the Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Tin

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Wrapped

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Unwrapped

Impressive, eh? This is one rich fruitcake, folks. Certainly up to the standards I hold for a fruitcake. I’ve eaten fruitcake since I was a tiny child. Every Christmas, someone in my mother’s family made a homemade fruitcake. My mom’s family is full of great cooks and bakers, so I am quite the snob when it comes to how I judge the holiday cake.

Collin Street Bakery fruitcakes are moist and not very cake-like, which I think is the hallmark of a quality fruitcake. The Texas pecans Collin Street Bakery uses brought back plenty of good memories of my hometown and old friends. All of the ingredients in this fruitcake were fresh and tasty. It’s as if the fruitcake is encouraging you to take another bite. Or two. Or three.

Collin Street Bakery Fruitcake Plated Close UpBecause of the fruitcake’s richness, however, I can’t eat more than one small piece in a sitting. But I think that’s the beauty of a good fruitcake. You eat a little at a time, every day, and before you know it, the cake’s gone!

I ate this fruitcake as it came, meaning I didn’t douse it with alcohol. I’ve had fruitcake both ways, and I think that when done properly, an alcohol-laden fruitcake is out of this world. If you want to age your fruitcake with a bit of hooch, Collin Street Bakery’s website offers instructions.

Collin Street Bakery didn’t return my phone call regarding a media kit or sharing additional information for a product review. Sad to say, because I hoped to speak with someone about this order. The website does say, “And our Bakery officers still personally handle every order the Bakery receives.” Remember customer service, folks. When people reach out to you, especially those who are reviewing your company, be available to answer questions and provide information.

Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

Takeaway

Collin Street Bakery is located at 401 West Seventh Avenue in Corsicana, Texas 75110. The phone number is 800-292-7400. You can visit their website to order products and obtain details about the company and their history.

Sweet, Savory, Pulled Pork Tacos Recipe

Pulled Pork Tacos Recipe Have you ever stumbled upon a recipe that you just knew would be right? A few years ago, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives went to a kick ass restaurant where a lady made awesome, homemade Mexican food. Guy Fieri was able to film the lady making her family’s pulled pork tacos recipe. Needless to say, I was in heaven.

The ingredients sounded a bit strange, but I was ready to give it a go. Afriel and I bought what we needed during our next shopping trip. This recipe takes patience while the pork cooks, but it’s one of the easiest recipes I make. All you have to do is put the ingredients together in a pot and let it cook. That’s it!

Top the pulled pork tacos with chopped white onions and fresh cilantro. You can use corn or flour tortillas. Both are equally good, but corn tortillas are traditional. The only thing I don’t like about them is they tend to fall apart. Corn tortillas taste better with pulled pork, in my opinion.

This recipe is my version of what I saw on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I didn’t write down exactly what was put in the pot during the episode, but what I make is very, very good. Enjoy!

 

Pulled Pork Tacos

Ingredients

Pork shoulder

1 bottle of Coca Cola

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 head of garlic

1 T cumin

sea salt to taste

Cut off the bottom of the head of garlic so the roots are gone. Take off a few layers of the outer skin. You don’t have to break up the cloves or take off the skins completely, although I’ve cooked the pulled pork tacos this way, too. It depends on the end result, and if you want to pick out the garlic skins or not.

Put the pork shoulder into a large pot that’s heated to medium high heat. Add the other ingredients. I put in the cumin to taste, but I’d say you need at least a tablespoon. I also use about about a tablespoon of sea salt, too. Stir the liquid to mix everything up and add water until the pork shoulder is completely immersed.

Bring the pan to almost boiling and then turn the heat down to low. Cover the pot and check it periodically. Let it cook – slowly – until the meat’s falling apart. This takes hours, folks, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

When the pork is so tender it melts in your mouth, put it on warmed tortillas and top with chopped white onions and cilantro. That’s all you need and I guarantee you’ll be back for seconds.

Pulled Pork Tacos Recipe Up Close

 

 

Fast and Easy Ways to Get Facebook Likes for Your Fan Page

Facebook Like
Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

You set up a Facebook fan page for your business. You want it grow. But nothing happens. If you’re baffled because no one came except friends and family (who don’t buy from you anyway), it’s okay. Facebook isn’t that difficult to figure out. Once you do, you’ll get Facebook likes without a problem.

We grew Big Grey Horse Media’s fan page from zero to 112 fans in less than three months. While that number may seem small, it gigantic in terms of growth with very little exposure or advertising.

However, you can grow your Facebook fan page to even larger numbers of fans. Through targeted advertising and promotion, you’ll easily surpass what we’ve done with our Facebook fan page.

Best of all, you’re doing this legally. You never want to put your web property in jeopardy by succumbing to black hat methods like buying traffic. Never. Ever. Ever.

Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts with your business. The internet is vast and it can take awhile to conquer your part of the web. Frustration about traffic means you need more promotion. And most of that promotion takes effort and time.

The fastest and easiest way we’ve found to gain Facebook fans – and quality fans, at that – is through advertising. The first promotion I did was deliberately broad, and we only picked up a few handfuls of new fans. It was a good experiment, however, because I found that across the U.S., there’s not much interest in a Texas destination blog. The other thing I could have done to increase our fan base was to run more than one ad. I remain pleased with the first campaign because it taught me where my real fans are.

It was money well spent. How much did I spend? $35.

For our second advertising campaign, I bought three ads at $5 per day with a $35 cap. I then targeted those ads to Texans, and further targeted those three ads based upon what I know about our fans. There’s a high population of mobile users, our fans like animals, many like horses, and they’re foodies. Based upon this knowledge, we gained 75 fans in seven days.

The advertising was cheap and well worth it.

Best of all? These are real people. This is real traffic. While our fan page is brand new, more people are engaging as time goes on, and we’re not losing fans.

That’s been my objective from the get-go with Big Grey Horse Media. Whether it’s the blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or our Google+ page, I want traffic that matters. I’m interested in people who want to get sticky and engage.

With quality content spread across these channels, we’ve done just that. Our growth across the board in less than six months is phenomenal! You, too, can have this.

What I love about social media is most of it’s free. Gone are the days of paying for traditional advertising methods. Those ways have their place, but know that you don’t necessarily have to use them. In fact, many companies will never need a television ad or a print ad in a magazine.

The money you pay for online advertising is cheap! Compare the cost of my two Facebook advertising tests to what I’d pay for an ad in Texas Monthly.

See what I mean? It’s exciting, the results are measurable, and most of all, social media is FUN.

Facebook has strict rules about how you advertise. Of course, the methods of advertising are self-serving, but hey, we’re all in business, right? It’s fair enough to say I appreciate what Facebook’s doing even if it’s costing the pages more to gain fans. If you’re not clear about the rules, Facebook’s advertising guidelines are here.

Our clients should look at long-term campaigns on Facebook. Growing a new page, or an existing page that needs love, isn’t a short-term strategy or an overnight fix. Social media and content marketing campaigns are planned, targeted, and implemented over the long haul. These campaigns are also a way of life for your brand.

Do you need a social media manager forever? (That sounds scary, doesn’t it? Especially if you have a small marketing budget.) My answer is this: If you don’t know how to work through social media, hire a social media manager. Get started, grow your brand online, and when you’re ready, get trained to do it yourself. You can’t afford to not be online. Seriously.

If you spend $10,000 for a small campaign, and that $10,000 yields $350,000 worth of new business, would you say that $10,000 was worth it?

That’s how social media works.

If you will never have the time for social media, either hire an agency like us to do it for you, or hire someone in-house. Either way, you’ll need someone to take care of your brand or it will die on the vine.

Getting Facebook fans is easy. And fast. Invest the money in your campaigns. We’d love to help you! Click here.

 

The Difference Between Cheap vs. Expensive Writers

Some businesses complain about it. Many writers are perplexed by it. Content mills, agencies, and brokers take advantage of it. What’s the difference between cheap vs. expensive writers?

In most cases, there’s a world of difference between a cheap writer and an expensive writer. Remember the adage, “You get what you pay for.” It’s so true.

Money’s a funny thing and it’s all relative at the end of the day. I’m sure there are writers you can commission for low rates and get a perfectly good product. For the most part, um, no. How do I know that?

First of all, writers working for one penny a word (or less) are not going to research a topic. Heck, writers that are paid five to ten cents a word don’t want to bother with too much research.

And what happens when your copy isn’t researched?

YOU GET CRAP. That. Doesn’t. Convert.

I know some writers who work for low rates. They can do this because they either have second incomes or they work on volume. They churn out content as fast as their fingers can type.

Some companies groove along with crap on their websites. We don’t do that at Big Grey Horse Media. Never. Ever. Ever.

I think A-list blogger Steve Pavlina wrote that his blog posts took hours to craft and perfect. Guess what? He’s not the only one! Big Grey Horse Media’s blog posts can take days to write depending upon the topic. And yes, we’re extremely proud of producing content that readers enjoy.

Here’s the deal. You can hire cheap writers and get your work turned around quickly, sometimes within 24 hours. Sure, you think that the copy should be easy because it’s a 400 word piece about bird watching.

And when you pay a writer $10 to write that piece, you’re gonna get, at best, five minutes of research that’s been quickly read over and then vomited back onto the page. Regurgitation is the hallmark of cheap writers. I’m sorry to offend my fellow writers who do this and I don’t mean to alienate you. If I were writing for $10, I’d do the same thing.

What I despise hearing even more is “I just write it off the top of my head!” Ugh. Really? I’m sure your clients don’t appreciate that. And if they do, all the more power to ’em. If I pay a writer, I expect quality, not the top of someone’s head or vomit on the page.

We have a completely different mindset around here. I dig:

  • Interviewing my clients.
  • Determining goals.
  • Researching and digesting marketing collateral.
  • Working out strategies to reach those goals.
  • Defining what didn’t work in the past.
  • Refining copy until it fits.
  • Testing as we go.

There’s more, but that’s the core of what we do at Big Grey Horse Media. When we’re hired, we become a partner. We’re just as invested in your business as you are. When you succeed, so do we.

Your business with Big Grey Horse Media is an investment. We see your need to grow and reach higher and we help you climb. We take your goals seriously and we’re in it with you, every step of the way.

Why are some writers so damn expensive? Again, money’s relative. A small business that’s boot-strapping isn’t going to appreciate paying $500 per blog post when the biz doesn’t have a marketing budget. A large corporation or a well-funded start-up takes $500 a post in stride and places an order for a package of 15 posts. Consider that the $500 blog post has unique photos, is placed within the company’s content management system by us, is fully linked, optimized, and part of the company blog’s overall structure, brand, and also is part of a specific content marketing campaign.

That’s the difference between a $10 post and a $500 post.

It’s not to say one writer is better than the other, because I truly believe many cheap writers would love to increase their rates and work for better clients. Most writers won’t because the truth is, they don’t want to. And that’s fine.

When you’re building your company brand, however, do you really want what’s basically spun content on your site? Think about it.

When you work with us, the sky’s the limit. Grow your brand the right way.

We love content marketing – click here for more information.

 

Twitter Decoded: What Does #FF Mean?

TwitterIf you use Twitter (and who doesn’t – except my mom) you’ve seen it: the #FF hashtag. But what does #FF mean? Do you know how to use it properly? I’ll explain some Twitter mysteries and etiquette in our Twitter Decoded series.

#FF means “Follow Friday.”

How to Choose

How do you choose who’s worthy of tweeting about and following?

  • New Twitter accounts that only have a small group of followers but are HOT and need to be noticed.
  • Brands that you love and want to share.
  • Individuals or brands that you want to shout out about simply because those people and businesses are awesome.

How do you use #FF?

Use #FF on Fridays. Write a tweet and include #FF in the message.

Here’s some examples:

Check out @BigGreyHorse for Texas eatery reviews! #FF

#FF My recommended list of cool friends @MaryeAudet, @PinOakHouston, @KarinHernandez3, @UncleBillys.

When your followers see your #FF tweets, hopefully they, too, will follow the folks you recommend. It’s exposure, PR, and a personal recommendation neatly wrapped up in 140 characters or less.

Twitter Etiquette

Twitter etiquette dictates that you send a “thank you” tweet if you are recommended via #FF.

How do you thank someone properly? You send a tweet back saying “Thanks.”

Here’s an example of the right way to do it:

Thanks @BigGreyHorse for the #FF!

Do NOT thank someone for a #FF by sending the entire message back.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to do it:

Thanks @BigGreyHorse! #FF My recommended list of cool friends @MaryeAudet, @PinOakHouston, @KarinHernandez3, @UncleBillys.

Never send back the exact tweet you were mentioned in. It’s lazy and laziness isn’t professional or thankful.

Another thing to remember is clarity. Twitter moves at lightning speed. I recommend not mentioning more than four of your tweeps in #FF lists. Some people say that #FF tweets shouldn’t have more than one individual or business mentioned. That isn’t a bad way to go, but you can list up to four names. (Some folks recommend a list of up to five names.)

Twitter isn’t hard to understand. Once you get on board and play with your account a bit, Twitter becomes easier to understand. The help section is informative, too.

Need help maneuvering through the Twittersphere? We can help. Contact us for more information. We LOVE socializing Texas style!

 

Writing With Steve: How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession

Money MoneyIn his blog post “How to Make Lots of Money During a Recession,” Steve Pavlina gives the upside of a down-turned economy. All in all, I agree with Steve’s sentiments.

Here’s the truth, folks. You can make money whether the economy sucks or everyone’s riding high on a great wave of money. And if you don’t know that you can make lots of money no matter what’s going on in the world around you, it’s time to re-educate yourself about how money works.

When the economy’s heading south, the best thing you can do is sit still. If you’re employed, hang in there. Don’t offer to leave in lieu of a nice severance package, don’t start a business that no one wants, and don’t listen to the media.

The worst thing you can do is make hasty decisions based on what others are doing. Truth is, the crowd usually gets it wrong.

Ways to Not Freak Out or Be a Freak During a Recession:

  1. Turn off the television.
  2. Ignore negativity from family, friends, acquaintances, and anyone else who spews bad vibes.
  3. Stay balanced and peaceful.
  4. Create your own reality.

Steve says, “We can live without…gas-guzzling SUVs for a while. Those non-essentials can be put off.” Obviously Steve Pavlina’s never been to Texas. Bigger is better here, whether you’re rich or poor! (Not that I disagree with Steve – SUVs and pick-em-up trucks on Texas roads do nothing but guzzle what little gas we have left on this planet. Just try taking those big, ugly toys away from the Texans that own ’em. Them’s fightin’ words!)

I’ve heard, first hand, from middle class folks who lost their jobs in 2007 and 2008. These were good people, working in the high-tech industry in Austin, with families, mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt. Add to that no income, no severance pay to speak of, and no more health insurance. The result was a group of ashamed, bewildered people who were down on their game. Things like losing your job wasn’t supposed to happen to them. After all, Austin’s a happening place with plenty of money, right?

It’s very true. Central Texas continues to attract businesses, and people from around the nation are flocking to Texas. Doesn’t mean there won’t be some companies that have to pull back and tighten their belts due to over-expansion.

I hope that by now the people I met back in 2007 to mid-2008 have started their own businesses and are doing fine.

I know the recession happened. I’ve heard how hard it’s been for plenty of folks over the past five to six years. I still don’t see it, however. Maybe it’s the area where I live, maybe I see what I want to see, or maybe the reality I’ve created is bomb-proof. Not sure where the insulation comes from, but I truly believe that if you don’t buy into it, it’s not going to happen. Or at the very least, you’ll be minimally affected.

What to do During a Recession:

  1. Fill the void and provide what people need and want.
  2. Remember that no matter how bad times are, some people still have money and are spending it.
  3. Be creative and think from a higher place.

There are holes everywhere that need to be filled. There’s always a way to make money, and it makes me sad to see people thrashing about and agonizing over not having money. I don’t know, call me overly ambitious I suppose, but if I wanted money, it’s never been a problem. If I told myself there was a cap on my income, then I had problems with money. When I felt unworthy and undeserving of having money and nice things, guess what? I had no money and I didn’t have nice things. And those little opportunities to make money in different ways were non-existent.

When I’ve looked for ways to make extra money or start a new job, the path was always wide open. All I had to do was make up my mind that things would be a certain way and so it was.

Manifesting Money and Providing Value

Steve isn’t shy about the fact that he’s against manifesting money. Course, it’s easy to say this when you’ve got plenty of money. I disagree on this point, too, simply because manifesting money and financial abundance doesn’t mean your focus is only upon separating cash from people’s wallets. I think that you can focus on manifesting financial abundance and money AND deliver quality, value, and good will.

It depends on your personality and what you’re about.

Steve is absolutely right when he suggests businesses that don’t offer value for their customers will find themselves without any customers.

I think having money goals, and very clear ones at that, are the foundation of creating money. For me, knowing how much money I need in order to create a better lifestyle or simply pay the bills is imperative.

Focusing on money to the extent that you mistreat others through manipulation or lies or tricks is wrong, however.

Being at Peace No Matter Your Financial Situation

Steve speaks from the heart when he says, “If I could learn and apply this lesson while going bankrupt and having less than $100 in the bank, surely you can apply it today.”

Since I walked away from my healthcare position and into the world of self-employment, I’ve had the mindset that being self-employed would work for me. No. Matter. What. In spite of some speed bumps, self-employment has worked for me, and is infinitely better than being someone’s employee.

And I think this is what’s carried me through the past six years. Guts, determination, and a clear vision of where I was going and what I wanted to do.

How can you find peace when everything around you is falling apart? Sit still! Like I told you in the first few paragraphs of this post, sometimes doing nothing is the only way to go. It’s especially the best way to go when you’re tempted to do things you’ll regret. Or engage in non-productive activities that lead you away from your goal instead of moving you towards it.

Some people find peace through mundane activities like doing dishes or cleaning the house. Others find meditation or deep breathing to be relaxing and balancing. However you get to a place of peace, do it and stay there. Balance is how you move forward and make good decisions for your future.

When you’re broke and bill collectors are nipping at your heels, the urge to hide and panic is real. Hiding isn’t going to solve your money problems, but work will. Panicking doesn’t help you work efficiently, so forget about being a freak. Go about your business as usual and make money. This economy offers a multitude of solutions. The money may come quickly or it may come slowly, but I promise there’s a variety of new ways to create cash flow into your life.

Where Steve and I Disagree

Steve says recessions are necessary and that they weed out businesses that aren’t needed. Steve also says it’s better for thousands of people to be out of work than to continue to work for businesses that are antiquated. I disagree with this – it’s never better for people to be looking for work when they could be productive. This latest recession is living proof of what happens when people get laid off or fired – we have millions of people who’ve existed solely because of unemployment benefits and state programs like Medicaid, food stamps, and WIC. While I agree that some companies are dinosaurs that need to get with the times, people out of work isn’t good for our country, and it’s not good for the economy.

As I see it, people who are out of work are looking at employment the wrong way. Just the other day, there was a woman who was discouraged about finding a job. I hear this complaint again and again. Thing is, this woman, like so many others, has marketable skills. She has a good education. She knows and understands people and this woman knows her way around the online world. Why not start a company using the skills she has? That’s exactly what I told her, and I hope she takes my comments to heart. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t be able to start a viable, money-making business.

People want to be employees. It’s a sickness in the American culture. What blows me away is that people still crave being an employee – people who are perfectly able to freelance or start companies. I, too, used to think this way, but I moved with the times out of necessity.

You must move with the times if you want to succeed. Being an employee is dangerous in today’s world where nothing is permanent. Starting your own business or freelancing is the only way to fly, as I see it.

And folks, that’s how you make lots of money during a recession.

  • Figure out what you want to do.
  • Determine if there’s a market for it.
  • Create a product/service that delivers high value to your market.
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • Move with the times. If the market changes, change your business model.

What have you done to make money during the recession?

 

If you want to read Steve’s post, you can find it here.

 

Festive, Fresh, Delightful Broccoli Con Olives Recipe

Broccoli Con Olives RecipeIf you’re looking for an easy, tasty recipe, this broccoli con olives recipe delivers. If you’ve seen my other recipes on this blog, then you know I’m all about food that’s quick, no fuss, and delicious. Broccoli con olives has been one of my favorite dishes since way back when I lived in Houston.

This recipe came from Houston Home & Garden. As of today, I’ve absolutely no idea what that means. Probably a magazine, but who knows. I copied this recipe onto a little recipe card many, many moons ago (I was around 18-19 years old), stuck the card into my recipe holder, and forgot the source except to write down the name. If any of you know who and what Houston Home & Garden is, or was, let me know.

There’s not much to this recipe. Don’t let the list of ingredients fool you, however. You’re getting plenty of good nutrition from the fresh broccoli, olive oil, garlic, and olives. The combination of spices and lemon add that special something that tops off the taste.

I dig eating this dish by itself, but you can pair broccoli con olives with a pasta entree, seafood, fish, a side salad, or even a hearty soup. The best time of year to serve broccoli con olives, in my opinion, is during the holidays. The colors are so vibrant – the fresh pimento, broccoli and black olives are quite festive.

Steamed broccoli for the broccoli con olives recipe.
Steamed broccoli.

My tweaks on this recipe include adding more garlic and steaming the broccoli. I used two cloves because one isn’t enough for my tastes. If you’re not a garlic freak, or are feeding others, I recommend going with one clove. If you don’t want to steam the broccoli, simply cook it in water over medium-high heat for about eight minutes. The main thing to remember is the broccoli should not be mushy. You probably could stir fry the broccoli and get good results, too.

Cooking the Broccoli Con Olives Recipe
Cooking the broccoli con olives. All that’s left to add is the pimento!

Once you get going with this recipe, you’ll find it cooks quickly. The key is to have everything prepared and ready to go. Enjoy, happy holidays, and let me know what you think. Cheers!

 

Broccoli Con Olives

Ingredients

1 bunch fresh broccoli

1 clove garlic, minced

4 T olive oil

1 lemon

1/2 cup chopped, pitted black olives

salt and freshly ground, black pepper

Pimento

Cut the broccoli into medium-sized pieces. Julienne the stems. Steam the broccoli until it’s tender, but not mushy. Set aside.

In a skillet, saute the garlic in olive oil for two minutes. Add the juice and zest of the lemon. Add the chopped olives. Add the cooked broccoli and season to taste. Gently toss to combine.

Garnish the dish with strips of pimento. Serve hot. This recipe serves four.

Texas Wine Lover Series: Sugar Ridge Winery Loves Wine And People

Sugar Ridge Winery
Sugar Ridge Winery

I like wine. I like Texas. And here’s a really cool thing about Texas. Wineries are popping up all over the place. I’ve seen them in various regions in Texas, but I’ve never had the pleasure of going. Sugar Ridge Winery was my first trip to a local winery.

Normally my husband is the designated driver, but he was working. I called Edye, a close friend, who’s probably as crazy as I am, and we headed to Sugar Ridge Winery for an adventure. When you’re middle-aged, adventures are few and far between.

Sugar Ridge Winery is in the country, on some beautiful acreage that’s been in the family for generations. As Edye and I drove in, we were greeted by an extremely friendly dog. We headed into the winery, introduced ourselves, and got down to business.

The owners of Sugar Ridge Winery, Don and Michele Andrews, have been making wine for coming up on three years. I got to speak with Michele, who is, as you can imagine, a very busy woman!

When asked how she got into the business of making wine, Michele said she received a wine making kit for Christmas. She created some wine, shared it with family and friends, and she was hooked. Michele and Don started Sugar Ridge in April of 2011, and they are still in the growth process. In fact, Michele and Don work full time jobs in addition to running the winery.

I asked Michele what she liked best about having a winery. It only took a second for Michele to say her favorite part was meeting people.

I believe it.

Wine tasting is a fine art, much like coffee cupping. The entire point is to get the wine to spray across as many of your taste buds as possible. This makes you slurp. If you slurp too hard, you’ll pull the liquid into your bronchial tubes and spend the next ten minutes coughing. (Not that anyone I know would do that.)

The light white wine at Sugar Ridge Winery.
The light white wine.

Some wineries give you tiny cups for their tastings. Not so at Sugar Ridge. We were given a generous amount in a regular wine glass. (Not a full serving because, after all, you don’t want to have to call a cab to get home safely.) As the wine was poured, we were given a little background: How the wine got its name, the label, flavor, and any awards that it had won. We had a chance to savor the wine, and then the glass was rinsed and the next wine was poured.

Sugar Ridge Winery rotates wine tastings, but these are the wines we tried during our visit.

Unique wine labels at Sugar Ridge Winery.
Unique wine labels.

Light White

Light White is a un-oaked Chardonnay. It is very fruity and has a sweet finish, but not so sweet that it’s a dessert wine. I liked it a lot.

Sunshine Lemon

This white wine smells like Sprite and tastes like lemon drops. Very light, very refreshing, and I’m told it makes an awesome slushy.

Little Green Apple

This wine was described as tasting like a green Jolly Rancher. The funny thing was that the wine did. It won a silver medal in the 2013 Southwest Wine Challenge.

Legends

This wine was a gold medal winner in the Southwest Wine Challenge. I loved it! The wine was smooth, smoky, and very full bodied. I got hungry for some good barbecue when I was tasting this one.

Heritage

I really liked Heritage, but it was a little dry for me. It’s a Cabernet and Merlot blend. I think it was Edye’s favorite.

Mora Negro

I was really looking forward to this one. Merlot with blackberry flavoring? Yes, please! This wine won a silver medal in the Southwest Wine Challenge. Do you see a pattern here? Anyway, it was good, but it wasn’t my favorite. It lacked the complexity of the other wines and was more like Kool-Aid.

Sangria

I could have guzzled an entire vat of this wine. It smells of mixed citrus fruit and it’s somewhat sweet. The wine’s a fruity blend of oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, and grapes.

Party Pear

My mom used to make spiced pears. She’d pack them in jars and pour a hot syrup over them. On those days, the entire house smelled like cloves and cinnamon. Guess what? This wine smells just like that. It’s deliciously pear-tasting with a hint of cloves and cinnamon. The winery serves it warm but I liked it better at a cool, room temperature.

Cranberry Cowboy

This wine is a Chianti with a sweet-tart, cranberry flavor that’s unique. It was delicious but not my favorite.

Sugar Ridge Winery Gift Shop
Gift Shop

While we were there, a couple came in to stock up on some wine. The winery doesn’t sell through many stores, but they do ship. It seems like people come in mostly to chat, pick up wine, and maybe a few things from the gift shop – tee shirts, ornaments, corkscrews, and things like that.

You know how small towns are. We started talking and joking around. One thing that become apparent to me was the customers have a relationship with the owners. This isn’t like walking into Spec’s and getting out as quickly as you came. This is about neighbors and friends. When you go, you’ll find Sugar Ridge Winery, and Don and Michele, warm and welcoming.

That’s the reason I like to buy from small, local businesses. I’ll definitely make this trip again.

Once the customers left, we headed back to where the vats were. Those things are huge!

Wine vats at Sugar Ridge Winery.
Wine vats

I was surprised at the small space. You’d think making and selling wine would require a lot of space, but apparently it doesn’t. There were several huge stainless steel vats, an area with a sink, and boxes stacked up against the wall.

One of the most interesting things was that this building was once an old horse barn. Don and Michele turned the entire barn into the winery and tasting area.

Grapevines at Sugar Ridge Winery.
Grapevines

The inside area is really too small to hold many people, but there’s a gorgeous patio area with chimeras, tables, and chairs. You can sit and sip your favorite wines in this relaxing atmosphere. The Andrews will even build fires for you when it’s chilly.

The landscape is rolling and dotted with trees. I’m told that it’s especially beautiful during bluebonnet season when the fields are covered with that gorgeous, Texas blue.

I gave Edye a solid hint that anyone with an April birthday (that would be me) might love to have a little get-together here. When I say solid hint I mean I told her flat out.

 

Takeaway

Sugar Ridge Winery is located at 353 Sugar Ridge Road in Ennis, Texas, 75119. The phone number is 972-666-2888. The hours of operation are Friday, 12 p.m. until 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. until 5 p.m.

 

If you loved what you read, check out our other post about Texas wines. We’ve begun a regular series that will continue to grow, wine by wine.

 

Photos courtesy of Marye Audet.