Go Ahead Take A Bite

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Time To Spill It ~ Life, Passion and Food

Ahhh... sailboats moored at sunset. Looks peaceful, doesn't it?

No... We didn't buy a new boat. Hell, we don't even have an old boat. So. Why the picture? Well, I guess I'm just doing a bit of wishful thinking. It was a really long Winter and I can't remember a time in all of my life when I was this happy to see a new season on the horizon. I realize that Spring has sprung for some regions of the country, but at the moment, my neck of the woods has been doing a cruel, flip-flopping dance between late winter and early Spring. Last Tuesday, the temperature topped out at 80 degrees. On Thursday, the thermostat never crept over 48. Today's forecast says it's supposed to reach the mid to high 70's. The last time (about an hour ago) that I looked at the thermometer, it was 64. But, that's enough about the weather...

Earlier this morning, I was looking at some of the "discussion" posts on a LinkedIn group that I belong to  and someone had asked the question: "Do you consider yourself a foodie?" (It's a group for foodies, of course) So, I  took a gander at a few of the replies and it got me thinking about my own obsession with food and why so much of my life is centered around it.  Let's see....

I love going out for dinner.
And lunch.
And breakfast.
And dessert.
I cook.
A lot.
I host (and cook for) the majority of my family's holiday celebrations and special occasions.
I collect cookbooks.
And I read them like most people read novels.
I have cupboards and drawers and shelves and boxes, filled with pots, pans, utensils, gadgets, table linens, dishes and serving pieces.
I get more excited about grocery shopping, than I do about clothes or shoe or chotchki shopping. (and I really love to shop for clothes and shoes and chotchkies)
I talk (a lot) about food.
My food board on Pinterest has 10 times more pins than any other 10 boards, combined.
I blog about food.


Yeah... it's a little cluttered, but it works for me. :~)
How long has food been an obsession a passion for me?

Well... there was a time in my life when I had planned to become a professional chef. I was 16 years old and a junior in high school; and like most teenagers, I was absolutely, positively and unequivocally sure, that I had it all figured out. My parents were behind the idea 100%... for about a minute. Then, (insert sounds of screeching breaks here) common sense, aka fear, took over and they decided that life as a "cook" was not at all what they'd envisioned for their daughter. Nope. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, N.O. (insert visual of deflating balloon here)

Source: Google Images
So, life went on. Time went by. I started a career, got married and had babies. Not necessarily in that particular order, but these were all things that my parents had envisioned for me.

All in all, it's been a damned good life, so far. Of course, there have been difficult times, too. Roads to cross. Tough decisions to make. Tears have been shed. Many tears. But, that is what life is. For all of us. We all experience the same duality in our lives. Good and not so good. (I don't really care for the "b" word) Positive and negative. Yin and yang.

There have been people sharing this journey with me. Good people, who've brought light into dark days, comfort when there's been pain, strength to a fearful heart and hope to a grieving soul. Loving people, who have fed my spirit. And isn't that the kind of food that matters most of all?

So, yeah... I'm definitely a foodie.

How about you... Are you a foodie too?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Saying Goodbye To Google Reader

Google Images

Since I'm seeing headlines and post titles like "Google Killing Google Reader" and "Google Reader Alternatives" all over the place, I'm sure that most of you are now aware that Google will be "retiring" it's popular RSS reader, as of July of this year. (2013) That means that GR users will have to find a new place to subscribe to and organize our various guilty reading pleasures. There are plenty of other options out there, but I was unfamiliar with many of them and had no idea which direction I was going to take once Google Reader was gone, so I started looking into it further.

If you're a more hands off blogger when it comes to "techy things" and/or you're not familiar with readers or RSS feed subscriptions, click HERE for a cute little video, called "RSS in Plain English" that describes in basic terms what it's all about. Keep in mind that the video was made shortly after readers became available on the web and way before Google decided to retire GR.

During the course of my research, I noticed that several bloggers have been asking their current RSS subscribers to re-subscribe or re-follow them on Bloglovin'. Now, both of my blogs are available through Bloglovin' and I currently follow several blogs there myself, but it's a pretty basic service and doesn't really have all of the tools that I'm used to for organizing and managing my subscriptions.

I also realised that it's possible that not all of the good folks who subscribe to my blogs, have (or want to sign up for) a Bloglovin' account. Of course, if you have a Bloglovin' account and you wish to follow me there, I'd be honored.

Well, I continued my research and I've found a reader that I'm happy with. I've switched over to Feedly.com  So, why did I choose **Feedly?

1) It's the closest thing that I've found, both in layout and in function, to GR.

2) When you sign up, (which is free, btw) Feedly gives you the option to automatically import all of your files from your GR account. I don't think it took more than a minute to import all of my subscriptions and I'll still be able to access them on GR, if I change my mind. (At least until GR ends in July)

3) They've recently added a feature called the "Feedly Mini" that places a small semi-transparent icon in the bottom right corner of your browser, that allows you to share a post, recipe, article, etc. from a website or blog to Facebook, Twitter, Buffer, G+ or even email it to a friend... all with just a couple of clicks of your mouse. You can choose (in your preferences) to enable it, or not.

4) Feedly.com has been around since 2008 and it's growing and gaining tons of new users every day, so I feel pretty confident that they're not going anywhere, any time soon.

5) Feedly is "Cloud Based" and is available for iOS, Android, Chrome, Firefox and Safari, so it's both mobile and desktop friendly.

If you'd like to check Feedly out for yourself, just click HERE.

I also found a pretty extensive list of available readers and a brief review of each, from a fellow named Jared at HostDime blog. You can go check his post out by clicking HERE.

If you're currently a GR user, which reader/subscription option are you planning to use to replace it?

**This is not an endorsement for Feedly.com and I have not been compensated in any way for mentioning them in my post. The opinions expressed are my own and are meant only to inform readers about my personal preferences/choice.

If you currently subscribe to either of my blogs through GR, I'd be honored to have you continue that subscription through another source. Both of my blogs will continue to be available through other RSS readers and through email, Bloglovin' and any/all of the other "follow" options in my sidebar or in the social media bar at the top of the page. (Go Ahead Take A Bite is the only blog that currently has a social media bar. I'm working on one for Spilled On The Kitchen Table at the moment)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bling Out Your Blog ~ How To Create and Install Social Media Icons


**Update: It's been a while since I wrote this post, so it's possible that some (or all) of the links to free social media icon sets that I have provided below, might or might not still be available. If they are no longer viable, I apologize, but it's pretty simple to find other sites that do have them. Just do a search for "free downloadable social media icon sets" (without the quotation marks, of course) and you'll find tons of them. Now... My anti-virus softwear has a feature that lets me know right on the search results page, if a site is safe for me to visit or not, but if yours doesn't do that for you and you are wary of just clicking on any old link, you can follow the advice provided by one of my favorite go-to sites for all things interwebs, C|Net.

You can view the C|Net Video HERE

Welcome to the newest installment of my tutorial series; "Bling Out Your Blog"!

Please note: These instructions are for Blogger (blogspot) hosted blogs only. I'm not familiar with the inner workings of Wordpress, Typepad or other blog hosting sites, but I'm sure if you do a search, you can easily find someone who can help you.

Also, I'm not a web designer. I've learned most of what I know from my fellow bloggers or trial and error. I'm certainly open to questions about my tutorials, but please know that if you ask highly technical questions about code etc., I probably won't be able to answer them for you.

So... Why is it a good thing to install a social media icon bar on your blog?

Most popular social media services have a "follow" widget that you can install in your sidebar, which is OK and they work... for the most part. But, studies have shown that having all of your links to social media in one tidy little space, makes new readers more likely to follow you on those sites. (I'm working on one for this blog at the moment)

OK. Let's get to it, shall we?

First, you need to find an icon set that you like. There are hundreds of sites out there that offer free downloads of a myriad of icon sets. You can find everything from simple, basic icons to highly customized graphics. Keep in mind that you will need to unzip most of them once they're downloaded to your computer. If you don't have WinZip, there are instructions for unzipping compacted files without it HERE (Note: If you have an old, expired version of WinZip on your computer, you will need to uninstall it before trying these methods)

If you don't know where or how to find icon sets, here's a link to a Pinterest board that I found with pins of different sites that offer them. I can't vouch for the authenticity of every single site listed on this board, but I found several good sites and if you have a Pinterest account, I'm sure you already know how to check the website or source of a pin. ( Fair warning: I went through a lot of them before I found the right ones for me - There are so many, it can become a bit of a distraction. lol) You can also find a plethora of sites by doing a general web search for "free social media icons". And of course, there are also sites that offer full sets of icons for a just few bucks, if you don't mind paying for them. Many of these sites will even customize them to match your blog design and will also work up the codes that you need for a little more. It's totally up to you.

Here are a few sites that I found just by doing a Google search:

Find these HERE

Find these HERE
I also found this Etsy shop that does really cute hand drawn sets for about $5 or $6 (US) per set.
Find these HERE
Or, this one on Etsy for $6.50 (US)

Find these HERE
Once you've found the icons you wish to use and have downloaded them to your computer, you need to upload them to a host site, like Photobucket, Picasa (or whatever you use) and take care of any editing that needs to be done. ie., resizing them to fit your blog layout. (many sets are offered in several sizes already, so you might not have to edit them at all, but you still need a place to host them)

The size that I use here on SOTKT is 64px and the size that I use over on my other blog,  Go Ahead Take A Bite is 48px, but you can choose whatever size will fit best in the location you choose to put them. The two sizes that I listed above simply wouldn't fit in my sidebar, so I ended up putting it above the "Blog Posts" area in my layout. Didn't know that you could put stuff there? Neither did I, until one night, (out of pure frustration) I decided to try it. Whattayaknow? It worked!

Of course, you can always resize your side bar in the template designer. If you don't know how to do this, you can find the instructions that were included in a previous tutorial, HERE.

Next, you need to gather up the URL's (the www. address) for the social media sites that you want to represent, in a work space. I have a test blog that I keep private and use for editing and trying out different apps and layouts for my public blogs, but you can use Notepad, Word, Google Docs, etc. You just need a space where you can copy and paste things together, before placing your finished icons in your blog layout.

To keep a new (or make an existing) Blogger blog private:
  • Go to your Blogger Dashboard
  • Choose "Settings" 
  • In the Basic section, scroll down to "Permissions"
  • To the right of where it says "Blog Readers" click "edit"
  • Choose "only blog authors"
  • Then click "Save Changes"
Now, back to the icon tutorial...

Once you have all of the icons in your host site and all of the corresponding URL's gathered together, this is the way you would lay them out in your work space. (You can copy my examples and paste them into your work space. Just be sure to delete the highlighted parts, so those areas can be filled in with your own data)

<a href="your Twitter URL"><img src="direct link code to your twitter icon" /></a>

<a href="your Facebook URL"><img src="direct link code to facebook icon"/></a>

And so on... Just follow this same format for each of your social media accounts, then group the links together, end to end, without spaces.  Like this:

<a href ********** <a/><a href **********<a/>

Now, you can add the entire block as a text/html gadget to your blog layout. Et, voila! You have a personalized social media follow bar!

If you find that your icons look or fit better with a space between them, you can add a space by typing <br/> after each link. If you want them to be centered in their location, add <center> immediately before and directly after the entire block of code. (this is also how you would do these things when editing the html code in your blog posts)

For instructions on finding the URL for your Blogger (blogspot) RSS feed: Click HERE.

If you have a Facebook page for your blog, just go to the main or home page and copy and paste the URL that's located in the address bar. This is also called the permalink address.

For Bloglovin', Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. you just do the same.

I do not use a social media icon for email subscriptions. I've found that it's much easier to keep track of my subs by using the available (Feedburner) Blogger widget for email subscriptions in my sidebar.

There's a cute little video called "RSS in Plain English" that explains what an RSS subscription is: HERE.

I hope that I've explained this so that it's understandable. If you have problems or questions of any kind, please let me know and I'll do my best to help in any way that I can.

Your comments and suggestions would be very helpful in putting together future tutorials and if you have any specific requests, I'd be happy to oblige, as long as I know how to do it! :~)

Be Well!
(and have fun!)


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