Sunday, December 7, 2014

11 Reflective Blogging Tips & Ideas

Why Blog?
You don't start blogging for awards. Although they're very nice!  More about awards at the very end of this post.
Do not let anyone force you or guilt trip you to start a blog. You blog because you are passionate about your profession, and have ideas & content to share with potential readers, or want a living, growing on-going journal of your professional life.
If you blog it, they will come. Eventually. It may just take a while! Don't give up! I blogged for YEARS out the aethernets and for a handful of readers! And you surely don't start blogging for comments. If you are expecting comments when you start blogging you're gonna be quickly discouraged and give up. I get about 6 or 7 comments per blog post and most all of those are spam. That's why I treasure and am grateful for each and every REAL comment I get!
Now, I am in NO WAY saying I'm an expert blogger, (or writer! Ha!) but I do have some reflective ideas and tips for blogging that I've gathered over the years that I'd like to share. Why 11 tips? Because 11 is 1 more than 10. (Bonus points if you catch that movie reference!)
1. Start When You're Ready & Not Before!
I started my first blog in 2006 after my first AASL05 in Pittsburgh. It was an epiphany! Why struggle with a static library web page when I can have an ongoing conversation with my students, parents, & community with a blog?! However, my first year I wrote only eight posts — that’s it. I started this professional blog after being inspired and emboldened to go transparent after the DC NECC09 (ISTE) conference.
If you choose to blog, it is a long-term relationship.
If you're just trying to start a web presence my  advice is to start with a Wiki, Twitter, or Scoopit, and not a blog! (blogs are hard work!) Blogs are like pets - they require a lot of care and feeding; Wikis are like a cactus plant - you can water them occasionally. Wikis don't judge you, wiki's don't give you internal guilt trips, and wikis can be neglected a bit. I'm a longtime Wikispaces fan. Bonus: they're also super easy to use and don't intimidate the new or reluctant tech user! But if you start a blog you should try to maintain it.

2.  Be Reflective
Think about your profession and share your successes and more importantly, your failures. Try to be honest but upbeat. Think of that first year teacher librarian or classroom teacher reading your blog and how you could possibly save them time, ease their stress, and give them encouragement to go on. Reflective blogging also helps you remember HOW you did something! As I get [coughs] older,  it's really helpful to re-read my blog postings sometimes to see how I did a lesson & what handouts and graphics I used. Reflective blogging is also a journal of your growth.

3. No Excuses!
When blogging, do NOT apologize for not posting! Ever. Have you ever landed randomly on a blog & started to skim past posts and noticed that almost every other one started with "I'm so sorry I
haven't posted in a while I've been so..."  (insert lame excuse here) People don’t want to hear that!  It's boring,  it's pathetic, it's unnecessary,  and yes, I've done it myself! Why? Because it's also human nature! We innately feel self-induced guilt for not writing... FIGHT IT! Here's a challenge - go back and check your past blog posts and if you've started more than one post with that - take the time to edit that out & promise never do it again.

4. Schedule & Plan It
I try and blog on Sunday mornings. But be flexible. Having a schedule helps me "git er done" but if I'm traveling over the weekend or just don't feel like it, I don't blog. If I'm inspired & excited to share something on a Wednesday night - I blog Wednesday night! Whatever. It's a balance....having a schedule but not being a slave to it.  Plan for blogging success. When you see an interesting Tweet or think of something that might make a cool blog posting - Scoopit, bookmark it, file it away, or jot it down. I sometimes keep blogging ideas in my Gmail drafts folder or my blogger Drafts folder. That way, whenever you feel like blogging but just can't think of a topic - then you can go to those brainstorming ideas. It's like creating a little safe-deposit box of blogging awesomeness!

5. Get Graphic
Show pictures. People love reading blogs with graphics embedded that help illustrate what you are sharing.  Wrap those images around your text. Alternate left and right. Don't just float small pictures in the center of your blog post. Make it look like a magazine! If you don't want to get as graphically saturated as this blog, with a picture for almost every paragraph, try to at least find a coordinating picture for the top of your blog post. You can easily (and for FREE!) use Flickr Creative Commons or one of the many copyright free image resources.  You can edit or tweak those graphics with the awesome PicMonkey   Just always give attribution!

6. Share Shamelessly
Share the content you create enthusiastically and shamelessly. If you invent a wheel (or even a spoke!) share it so that someone else (remember that first year librarian or teacher?) doesn't have to re-invent that same wheel! This goes for lesson plans, activities, reading promotions, and cool products.
  • Use Slideshare to embed your PPT's & Docs
  • Use Flickr or another easily navigated photo sharing site for your pics & graphics
  • Link to your wikispaces or web page for complete lesson plans
  • Use Google Docs & Google forms 
Techie Tip: Every time you share a link on your blog, make sure to check "Open this link in new window" that way your reader won't be navigated away from your original post and can easily come back to it via an open window or tab.

7. Be Transparent
Buy your name. Think long term. If you name your professional blog by your school name, what happens when you switch schools?  If you build a readership do you lose them going to another school and starting another blog? Sure, start a school library Edublog named after your school, but keep your professional blog about you. As you grow in your profession, your blog will grow with you. This way you can create and model a positive digital footprint.

8. Be You!
Speak from your heart. Speak your truth. Be original and authentic. Be passionate, be positive, and always be professional. People will connect with you if you sound like you. Be personal, but don't be private. I share personal information on my blogs and Tweets but I don't share private information. There's a difference! It's the difference between my sharing that I've watched Catching Fire on Netflix 4 times or that I adore a mani-pedi, versus how many times I've been married! ;-) 
Don't negatively vent about your profession or trash talk your students. The kiddos we teach are in our trust and just like a doctor or lawyer we protect our kids by not talking about them in any way that could be negative. I'm privileged to have that privilege. Cheering their successes is a whole different thing. We all have frustrations in our jobs but a blog is not where to vent them. Don't blog yourself out of a job. Doug Johnson has a great post about this! BFTP: Blogging and a little common sense

9. Give Credit
Don't forget to credit your sources, quotes, inspiration, graphics, & more! The more you give the more you will get back. Giving attribution is hot! Creative Commons - it's not just a license, it's a way of life! I wonder how many times I've used the term Attribution in this post! At least 4!

10. Be Thankful
If someone took the time to leave a comment on your blog, Tweet a thanks! Or comment back! Better yet, go to their blog - read one of their posts, & give back a nice comment. If you get a lesson idea from someone's blog - post about how it worked for you! Include any changes or adaptions you made, printables, graphics, and pictures. Credit, link back, and thank them in the post that they were the font of inspiration.  I've even sent a little present to their school or made a surprise phone call! The personal touch is really appreciated.  Pay it forward! 

11. Be stubborn!
The school library Blogger I started in 2006 was blocked by my district a few years ago and it really threw me for a loop. I blogged about how Life is Not Filtered & moved my MHMS Daring School Library Media blog over to EduBlogs - I didn't migrate the old posts (I'm lazy, right?) and I had to learn a new publishing format - Ouchie! In the end, it was for the best. So, if you're starting a new education related blog whether it's a professional or school blog, I'd recommend an EduBlogs. Doubtful your district will block those. But, you never nimble, be daring, be digital, be flexible, be ready to roll, and always have fun! Thank you for reading!

What are YOUR blogging tips? What works for you? What did I miss? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 
I was honored to be named and nominated by my EdTech colleagues as a finalist in the global Edublog Awards - I've been fortunate to be a finalist for 5 years, but I've never won! Argh! LOL
For all those dear readers who voted for this blog, Thank you! I came in 3rd. Not too shabby - maybe someday I'll win!! 
So Why the Edublog Awards?
  • It's a global recognition award. Any education blog in any country can be nominated and win!  For example, The Russian language educators are passionate & proud of their edublogs! And boy do they trounce us in the votes! Bless their hearts!
  • It's crowdsourced and democratic. The finalists are chosen by the amount of bloggers doing the award nominations. I am always honored to be recognized by my peers - it makes me squirmy, happy, and go squee that people still read my blog!
  • It's positive! Paying it forward and recognizing hard work is great! Highlighting educators who are sharing shamelessly and promoting a positive digital footprint to the world is a good thing. 
  • It gives me a great new list of people to follow and learn from!
Don't like the Edublog Awards? Try the EduBro Awards! They're all about AWESOME!

Credits & References:
This is an updated post that I penned almost 4 years ago - it was due for remix!
Storm Trooper Minifig photos are by Kristina Alexanderson and I learned about them from my amazing and inspiring friend Jennifer LaGarde! Screenshots from my blogs & wikis. (links on right)
The chunky font I used for a lot of the graphics is, of course ---wait for it, --> HanSolo
The scripty print font is called TrashHand. All FREE!
Some quotes were from a Washington Post interview -What is Literacy Today
My Blogs are Blocked-Life is Not Filtered

Sunday, November 23, 2014

14 Fabulous Finds - A Daringly Geeky Gift Guide

I love buying gifts for family and friends! So, I thought I would share a few of my favourite finds both luxury and geeky to help give some good gifting ideas for the season. Most of the links take you to Amazon because I'm a Prime member and their delivery and prices are the BEST. I want to assure you though,  I haven't gotten any kickbacks from writing this post.  I have included some promo and referral codes to you for some products I love - I see that as a win/win. If I ever DO get any freebies I promise to give them away as a prize! How fun would that be!? Enjoy! Free stuff is after the 14 fab finds.
1. Twelve South BookBook Travel Journal - Travel savvy with a case that looks like a leather bound book but hides all kinds of tech and accessories. It features soft tweed, leather accented interior - with all kinds of pockets, straps, and compartments.
  • Genuine leather "book" cover
  • Contains over a dozen pockets and straps to organize your gear
  • Stores iPad, headphones, adapters, chargers, batteries, stylus, cables
  • Old-world book design discourages theft while on the go
  • Separate plush pocket fits all iPads
This is the kind of thing you can leave on your car's front seat without worry about an immediate window smash and grab. And hello? It's geeky & bookish! Average price $99 Follow on Twitter

 2. Belkin SurgePlus 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB -I love this gadget and have blogged about it before for my conference packing tips post! The plug swivels so you can fit it anywhere! The 2 USB ports work great & is terrific when traveling! Average price $20 Follow on Twitter

3. Quirky Pivot Flexible Surge Protector Power Strip -I'm buying this for our family's thieves market gift exchange. Perfect for all those things you have to plug in that have big bulky AC adapters. Comes in many colours & even a smaller travel size. Average price $20  Follow on Twitter

4. Quirky Space Bar Keyboard Organizer & USB Hub -I bought this for my desk at work. It's awesome - slide the keyboard under it and get extra USB ports that are easy to reach!
Comes in a couple variations - silver and white. I chose brushed silver. If it's not available on Amazon (it sells out!) try eBay. Average price $86  Follow on Twitter

5. Birchbox - 3, 6, or 12 month luxury beauty and grooming samples for women or men! I'm getting this for both my Mom & my Media Assistant (And no, they don't read this blog! [smh] LOL) It's just so nice and fun to get a beautiful box of goodies once a month...and to give that experience to someone you love for only $10 a month is to me a no-brainer. If I don't like an item, I give it away to a friend (I HATE Lip Gloss -too sticky!) but I've really discovered some super product favs because of my Birchbox. Use my referral code to get a VIP invite and bonus stuff. Read my previous blog post for more pics and info!  Average price $10 a month - $110 a year. Follow on Twitter

6. Cashmere Travel Throw Set - You don't have to fly first class to feel first class luxury. This super snuggly soft cashmere blanket and pillow with matching eye mask makes travel and hotel stays a dream at a great price! I have this in Grey - it's WONDERFUL! I even left an Amazon review. Average price $160

7. All About Down travel pillow. When you have a cashmere travel pillow doesn't it deserve down? Some hotel pillows are awful! Plus, I love sleeping on a plane and I've read a lot of articles about how they do NOT wash the airplane pillows & blankets. If they even supply them.  I'm not a germophobe.. but... Ok, maybe I am! This pillow has just enough soft with also downy support. Bonus: This company has some of the BEST customer service I've ever dealt with. I also ordered a custom Euro 26X26 down square pillow for my new West Elm Mongolian Lamb Pillow Cover. Average price $44

8.  PicMonkey -  Give the gift of Win!
My favourite online digital photo editing site - it's awesome and FREE but the Royale features make it mighty!  A year of Royale Digital Membership Average price $33 for one year. Follow on Twitter

9. Amazon Echo - Like a hands-free voice activated Siri - $100 off for Prime members! I want for home and to put one in my Library, too! And no, I don't worry about spying. I have stock in Skynet. ;-) Watch the hilariously awkward promo ad! Look at the Mom's facial expressions! Average price $99 for Prime members & $199 for everyone else.

10. Phillips Hue - Mobile & Interactive starter light kit - Through your smart phone or tablet, recreate millions of different colors, set timers and alarms, connect to your favorite apps and dim the light. You can also create your own colourful scenes for your app and also to share with the world.  Average price starter kit $188 includes base station & 3 bulbs. GREAT customer service! Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

11. Keurig - the BEST thing I ever got...ok, after my MacFamily of products and my Rav4. LOVE my Keurig! Here's my first in 2009. I've gifted this SO many times! I also bought one for our library kitchen for PD events.  Average price $130 - DO NOT buy the single. I had one and it sucked!

12. Ultra Sonic Jewelry Cleaner - As my Aunty would say DDDS - or Dirty Diamonds Don't Sparkle! I also bought this for my library kitchen - to offer jewelry cleaning during my Tech PD! Professional Development that Sparkles! #Shameless After you use up the included jewelry cleaner make your own w/ a few capfuls of bargain amonia, water, and a few drops of Dawn dish washing liquid.  Average price $32 various colours and including one bottle of jewelry cleaner.

13. iPad Air 2 Feeling spendy? The new iPad Air 2 is super thin, light, and amazing!  This will replace my iPad 2 which I will trade into Amazon (LOVE this service - it works - FAST! see more below) 

It really is amazing how Apple can transfer all your Apps, preferences, photo, data & stuff from the cloud to a new device. It took about an hour all told to get this new iPad up and running. I had to sign into a few apps to get them going but what a far cry from days of old with installation disks and flashdrives! Remember those days? I also enjoyed this feature when I set up my iPhone 6+! I do pay extra $ to get more iCloud space, but it's onlya dollar a month or  $12 a year and it supports 2 iPads and an iPhone. iPad Air 2 Average price $499-699  Since Apple isn't on Twitter, I follow Apple CEO Tim Cook

14. Omaha Steaks - For the carnivore man (or woman!) who has it all! Like my Dad? One word - meat!  This is a great gift for the guy or gal who likes to grill year round. Sign up and look for the FREE Shipping offers. When I'm stumped as to what to give the person who has everything, consumables is the answer!   This gift saves my Mom, too! For a limited time, use the embedded referral code in the Tweet below to get $20 off $50 for your first order! It's a win/win! I buy so often (birthdays, father's day, thank you for the iPad day) that I get Steak Rewards! Nom nom! Follow on Twitter (Ps. they are VERY responsive and helpful on Twitter!)
Need $$ to Fund these Finds? Amazon Trade-in Rules!

Recycle Your Stuff & Make $! 
Want to earn some Amazon gift cards to help pay for Christmas gifts? You definitely must check out Amazon’s Trade-In Program. Go through your home and find any DVDs, Books, Video Games, or electronics you no longer need or use. Do a search on the Amazon Trade-In Store to see how much Amazon will pay you for a Trade In. If the price seems fair, click through to verify the condition, title, and price.You just print out a shipping label and take the nearest UPS store. Amazon gets it, and if they agree it's in the shape you said they automatically deposit the $$ into your Amazon account. I did this with my iPhone4S and got $165. I actually under estimated the value and they gave me $10 more! Note to my future self, keep the original boxes of new technology. 

FREE Graphic Gift from Me to You!

My TV studio kiddos are Tech Ninja's! Esp. my Head Techs! I was inspired by a teacher in Canada to create this for them and ANYONE who wants to use it with their own Tech Team or Geek Squad as a Badge! It's Creative Commons, Take, Use, Share....with Attribution!

Go to my Flickr Page to get different sizes - but if you want the that cool kind of transparency of the background you have to use or download the ORIGINAL size  make sure the file name to end in .PNG - Cheers!

FREE Owl Wall Decal
Hurry! You only have a few days more to sign up for this super cute wall decal! Offer ends Nov 30!
"In celebration of Picture Book Month, Live in a Story is giving away this wall decal based on Brian Won’s picture book, Hooray for Hat. " Sure, it's a little elementary-ish but I LOVE Owls! And who doesn't love FREE?
Follow on Twitter

Here are some cool suggestions from my Twitter family!

I invite you to leave your best tips in the comments! Every educator who leaves a non-spam comment gets an automatic Twitter follow from me- I love your comments! 

Do you NEED Geeky Google SWAG?
OK, so like 10 years ago Google used to send me SWAG like this much loved tie dye T-shirt as a thanks for promoting their products at conferences through my ed tech presentations.  This was WAY before I ever became a Google Certified Teacher and got the awesome SWAG above in Seattle. But if you're a Google fan and want to share that obsession devotion, why not get some SWAG at their Google online product store? I got my Google Lava Lamp here that my kiddos so adore!  Anyway, thought you might enjoy it!

Ok....of course, you know I like to add stuff, right?  Here's something fun my Dad found at Walgreens for $21 - get got a set for our beach place and a set for me, too! Remote controlled colour changing flickering candles! My question are they totally tacky or just AWESOME!?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cooking with the Daring Librarian

Hello dear readers!  I'm in the mood for a break from the usual, and with the holidays coming, I'd like to share a few cooking ideas! Some of the ideas I've posted before, but I thought I would put them all together here, in one blog post for ease! Disclaimer:  I'm not a chef and most all of these recipies I've gotten from other people or places, put my spin on it,  results are not guaranteed & your mileage may vary! LOL

I think I found this while I was lost in a forest of Pinterest pins - or drowning in a Pinterest pool - you know, you go check on something on Pinterest (or YouTube or BuzzFeed or Awkward Family Photos) and you get "lost" and stumble upon things that are super cool! This recipe was one of them that I HAD to try! 
Baked Cauliflower Buffalo Bites - the best of the buffalo wing taste but with yummy cauliflower all baked in the oven and served with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks. I know this sounds hard to believe that this could give wings a run for their money, but they do!

A full head or already chopped cauliflower florettes (In a hurry? You can buy them in a bag or get them at the salad bar), 2 tbs butter, Frank's hot sauce, flour, garlic powder, paprika, milk, and blue cheese dressing & celery sticks (for serving). See photo above.

Mix up the batter (just milk, flour, paprika and garlic powder).

Dip cauliflower in batter and shake a little bit to get rid of the excess batter & place on a baking tray covered with (my fav!) nonstick aluminum foil.

Melt the butter & add Frank's hot sauce to taste - stir and set aside

425ºF until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove from cooking sheet, place on wire rack so they stay crispy, make another batch - toss this batch with the sauce or have it on the side for dipping (so they don't get mushy) and serve with bleu cheese dressing & celery sticks. YUM!  

Inspired by Caulifower Buffalo Wings
from The Tasty Kitchen

When I was kid I didn't like Brussels sprouts - probably because I had them cooked from frozen or canned but when I got older & I had them roasted - WOW! They're like crack! (Not that I know what that's like - sorry Walter White -I've always been straight edge!) Add in your veggies of choice - roast them in the oven and whammy! You've got a great side dish, served either hot or cold and a great addition to all kinds of meals! Nom nom! 
1 bag of Brussels sprouts cleaned (cut off the bottom, pull off any wilted leaves, & I cut them in half)
1 large sweet onion sliced, 
6-8 garlic cloves sliced in half (I love roasted garlic!)
1lb. Asparagus cut into 2" lengths, and whatever hearty veg you like
Simple vinaigrette: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices, and a squeeze of lemon juice
Salt (I use French grey sea salt) - and add only at the end - cooking w/ salt will leach out the natural juices of the veggies
Want a spicy kick? Sprinkle Chef Paul Hot Sweet Pizza Pasta Magic (SO Amazing!) on it!  

I've also added sliced mushrooms (see above - cooking at the beach!) and, being of Welsh descent, I've of course added leeks!

Preheat oven to 375 F. Trim the tough stem off of all of the Brussels sprouts and discard. Cut the smaller sprouts into halves and larger sprouts into quarters. Remove any loose leaves as well. Just set
View a bigger size for full Nom Nom effect
the loose leaves aside; they will be roasted also.  Place all of the sprouts and leaves onto a rimmed non-stick or olive oiled baking sheet or Pyrex casserole dish. Mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar and any seasonings you like in a small bowl or measuring cup - pour over veggie and toss to coat.

Roast covered with aluminum foil for 20 min, remove foil, stir and turn the veggies and check to see if they're done. Roast uncovered another 10-20 min. When they are done, the loose leaves will be crispy and browned and the sprouts will be fork tender. Ovens vary, I have a Kitchen Aid convection oven so I always have to adjust.
When done, sprinkle with the salt, toss, and serve! Nom, nom! I take a big container to school for lunch and I also keep one at home for dinners.

Dinner Ideas: 
What to make with this? You can top a Trader Joe's frozen pizza (this can sometimes fool picky nephews to eat some veggies) --- sometimes!
You can also add the veggies to corn & shrimp chowder, Maryland crab, or any kind of soup
You can toss them chilled with a light vinaigrette & serve with crispy bacon pices for a picnic
Add them to an omelet with cheddar cheese
Toss them warmed up with pasta, parm, & herbs
What would YOU do with them?
Drunken Sugared Nuts & Brie
Great for a holdiay party!
14-ounce round of Brie
1/4 cup of brandy
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts or pecans or better yet, a mix of the two! (see photo)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

Mix the sugar, nuts, and cover with the brandy all together in a covered container and chill in the fridge for at least 24 hours up to a week (or 2!)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Place the brie on an ovenproof dish or pie plate. Bake for 4 or 5 minutes or until the brie is slightly softened. Spread the sugar mixture in an even layer on top of the warm brie and bake for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the sugar melts and gets all awesome bubbly!

On Town House Crackers or with apple or pear wedges. Enjoy! 
Adapted from a Paula Deen recipe
Easy Sausage & Onion App! 
Here's my favourite, easy to make and always popular party appetizer recipe! My friends like it, my nephews fight over it, and it only takes about 10 min from start to finish...and you can make it days ahead of time, it just gets better! (originally posted last Christmas)

1 half onion, sliced - yellow, white, or sweet Vidalia!
2-3 tbs (to taste) Maile grainy mustard
2-3 tbs (to taste) Dijon mustard
2-3 tbs (or more) Brown sugar
2-3 tbs water
1 package Smoked sausage, whatever is on sale, regular beef or turkey  - sliced into rounds
Combine first 5 ingredients into a microwave-safe container or dish and microwave about 4 min- stir well before and after.
Add sausage slices, stir to combine coating all as best as possible, add maybe a couple extra tablespoons of brown sugar over the top & microwave 4 additional min.
Take to party or refrigerate overnight. You can even make it a day or two ahead of time - it just gets better!

Zap in the microwave to warm through, stir from the bottom up to get the now savory sweet sugar sauce, and serve!

For presentation you could, right before serving, sprinkle a little brown sugar on the top for a nice cover.
Serve with tiny silver appetizer forks (used in seafood, too) or toothpicks!

Turkey in a Blanket?
You can also take these slices & onion slices wrap them up in 1/4th of a crescent roll triangle and bake for a type of pig in the blanket.  Enjoy!

All my cooking pictures on Flickr

What are your favourite recipes? Please comment with your ideas, feedback, or if you have a "go to" easy app or recipe to share!  


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...