That Time When I Talked Myself Right Out of Being a Blogger.

selfieSeveral months ago, I saw an advertisement on a local website looking for people that would be interested in teaching a “How To” class at the local library. It could be any topic, any interest, any hobby. I thought it would be incredibly fun to teach a “How To Start a Blog” class. I called the local library and signed myself right up to teach this quick 60-minute class, and I was incredibly excited about it.

I had been blogging for over 8 years, surely I would have some pointers to share, right?

Over the next few weeks, I researched and planned. I had an outline, a really super cute powerpoint presentation with accompanying packets for each participant… and I practiced over and over what I was going to say.

I had a handful of people attend the “How To” class that day, and I was excited that they seemed really interested in what I had to say. They really wanted to hear my advice, and listen to my experiences.

In the workshop, I told the participants that the most important thing about starting a blog was one simple task. One thing that needed to be done before deciding on a name, before choosing a platform or a template, and before writing a first blog post.

The almighty advice that I stressed was so important?

Find your niche.

As the class went on, and for days after I came home… I kept thinking about that important piece of advice. And then this crazy question popped up in my head.


Where do I fit in the blogging world? I’m not a foodie, I’m not a crafter, I don’t blog about anything specific. I don’t write about travel, or photography or even the latest clothing trends.  My posts in one week could run the gamut of whatever words I could eek out in a few minutes of free time.  My Facebook and Twitter followers were growing by leaps and bounds, but there was nothing of substance that was keeping them around.  I had no niche to settle into.  No main topic, no specialty that I could call my own.

Well, unless you count “word vomit” as a specialty. I write about whatever the heck I want. I write about something I hear on the news, a book I just finished, a story about something my husband or daughters did, or even a giveaway I’m hosting for the week.

After a couple weeks of thinking about what direction my blog was heading, I learned that my blog was really just a website that had a severe case of ADHD. I hosted giveaways, I had a weekly Sunday linky, a weekly Iowa blogger feature, and then I just threw in whatever else I could think of. I was so busy trying to post something every day that I lost myself in the blog. I had no direction, no plan, no NICHE. Instead of focusing on CONTENT and trying to just write, I spent my time trying to get followers. I didn’t take my own advice that I was teaching to those workshop participants.

And that, my friends, is when I talked myself out of blogging.

So now, here I sit… almost five months later, missing this blog like crazy. So many times I’ve thought of things to write about, and so many times I’ve sat and started at a blank screen. I dropped off the face of the blogging world, and I struggle to find my way back in. The fluff is going bye-bye, and it’s time to get back to basics. While I still don’t have a niche or a specialty, I know that I enjoy writing and would like to do more of it.

Stay tuned.

{Book Review} The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hazel Lancaster is a smart, sassy teenager. And she’s dying of cancer. She begrudgingly attends a Cancer Support Group to make her mother happy, where she catches the eye of a young Augustus Waters, who is in remission from cancer but is attending with a friend. The two talk, end up becoming friends, and then fall in love.

I mentioned this book on my Facebook page several weeks ago because I had heard so many people talking about, and I had read that it was being made into a movie. And it is. The Fault In Our Stars comes out in theaters in June 2014. I knew I wanted to read the book first before the movie came out, because sometimes the movie just spoils it all for me. I like picturing the characters in my head the way I see see them, not the way someone else casts them.

Anyway, I digress.

The Fault In Our Stars came highly recommended from several blogger friends of mine, whom all suggested I read with a box of Kleenexes close by. They were absolutely right. This book is a tear-jerker. Not in a sappy way either. This book is gut-wrenchingly sad, and is beautiful story of young love fighting through adversity and pain.

View all my reviews

Featured Iowa Blogger – Stacie from “Sincerely Stacie”

SincerelyJenni FIB ButtonI was trying to remember how long Stacie and I had known each other in the blogging world. We have been reading each other’s blogs for a long time, and she is the one person whose opinion I ultimately trust when it comes to book reviews. When she reviews a book on her blog, I usually end up buying it for my Kindle or Nook within the hour, or wind up at least placing it on my wish list. I have yet to be disappointed by a book she recommends. So whether she has a flair for good reading, or just matches my tastes in what makes for a great book, there’s gotta be something there!

I can’t even remember how Stacie and I found each other online but it’s funny that we have similar blog names. Unless I was searching for something and found her, it’s just been so long I can’t even remember anymore! Smile Anyhooo…. take a few minutes and read about Stacie and her wonderful blog. Then head over to Sincerely Stacie and check out her blog home.

What area of Iowa do you live in and what is your most favorite thing about it?
I live with my husband and our three children in a small town of about 700 people just west of Cedar Rapids. I grew up in NE Iowa on a farm and once I went to college in Cedar Rapids, I knew I wanted to stay in the area. We have lived in this community for just over 10 years and really love the people and school district. I like that I can make it to Target in 25 minutes, to my parents in less than 2 hours and to Des Moines in 1 ½ hours.

IMG_20130731_193136_038How long have you been blogging and what made you decide to start?
I started my blog in 2007 as a way to journal and share things I loved with others. I began with book reviews, products I loved, and recipes as well as offering inspiration, tips, and peeks into our family life. As I shared more and more book reviews, I felt like I found my niche. The interest in my book reviews started growing and requests for reviews started showing up in my inbox. My blog has turned into mostly book reviews with recipes, tips, product reviews, and snippets of our daily life mixed in.

How did you come up with your blog name?
I wanted something that started with “S” for the alliteration with my name. Since I started writing as a journal, I thought that signing each post with Sincerely, Stacie was a neat way to close each post. I also felt it conveyed the idea that I was being honest and sincere with my readers. Especially with the reviews I share, you can be sure that I am giving you my honest opinion and not some fluff to impress the publisher or company. I felt Sincerely, Stacie encompassed all that.

IMG_20130728_185253_941Besides blogging, what’s your “real job?”
Before I became a mom 14 years ago, I was a social worker. Then I spent my years at home with our 3 children. Once our youngest entered pre-school I took a class to be a Substitute Teacher in our Middle School/High School. This allows me flexibility, to work the same hours our kids are in school, and the opportunity to still volunteer and do the things I like to do. This is my 4th year of subbing and I still love it!

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Pat and I have been married for 15 years. We have three children, Patrick 14, Bennett 12, and Reagan 9. Our kids are very active in sports and music, so no matter what season it is, we are running to some activity with at least one of our kids. My husband owns his own Financial Planning business and has an office right in the town we live in which has been very nice since it used to be in Cedar Rapids. My husband has 3 siblings that all live just 20 minutes away. I have 2 sisters that live in NE Iowa along with my parents.

Shuffle your iTunes playlist. What are the next 10 songs that come up?
Hard to Handle by The Black Crowes
All Shook Up by Elvis
Firework by Katy Perry
Blessed Be Your Name by Tree 63
Believe by Josh Groban
The Luckiest by Ben Folds
Just Give Me A Reason by Pink
My Hallelujah Song by Julianne Hough
You Are Holy (Prince of Peace) by Michael W. Smith
Hang On Sloopy by The McCoys

As you can see I have a wide range of Oldies, Rock, Top 40, Country, Christian, and Christmas music. This is exactly the variety of music I would listen to throughout my day.

If you could be on any reality show, which one would you choose and why?
Well, my favorite reality show is SURVIVOR. I’ve seen every season and episode and love the drama and analyzing the players. But, I know I could NEVER EVER handle the emotional and physical aspect of it. I also a fan of DANCING WITH THE STARS and I would love to be on the show. Clearly, I am not a star, so it doesn’t look like it is going to happen. Unless they change the show to DANCING WITH THE MOMS, I will just have to continue watching it from home.

meheadshotlowresWhere can you follow Stacie?

Sincerely Stacie
• Facebook: Sincerely Stacie
• Twitter: @sincerelystacie

Would you like be a Featured Iowa Blogger? Visit my Get Featured page for more details. If you’d like to read about previous Featured Bloggers, here they are!

Sincerely Sundays Giveaway Linky 4/13/2014

Sincerely Sundays banner

Welcome to “Sincerely Sundays”, and another great week of awesome giveaways!

If you are a blogger, please use this linky to spread the word about the giveaways you are hosting by linking them up below.

As long as you’re here, please support your fellow bloggers who have also linked up and enter a few giveaways yourself. You just might end up a winner!

How does “Sincerely Sundays” work?

  • Add a direct link to your giveaway in the linky tool below.
  • Do not leave links to your blog’s main page, social media accounts or affiliate links.
  • This is open to blog giveaway promotions only. All others will be deleted.
  • Please make sure to give a good description of the prize, any restrictions, and the end date. (Example: $100 iTunes gift card – US/CAN – 12/31)
  • If you are not a blogger, WELCOME and enjoy looking through & entering these fantastic giveaways!

Please make sure to stop back each week to add any new giveaways, as there will be a new linky up every Sunday. Also, please share this on Facebook or Twitter so I can get the word out.

If you’d like a list of other sites you can list your giveaway, visit my Blog Giveaway Listings.

Thank you!

Featured Iowa Blogger: Debbie from “Debbie’s Midwestern Kitchen”

SincerelyJenni FIB ButtonWhen I first started blogging, I don’t think I knew of anyone in the entire state of Iowa besides myself that actually had a blog. I knew people from across the country, but no one close by. Over the years I finally stumbled onto a few Iowans, but over the last couple years, the Iowa blog scene (is it a scene? Is that the right word for it?) has really exploded. But what is truly ironic is that being good ol’ small-town Iowa, the Iowa blog world is just as small town as the state itself  The small town connection I discovered that I have with with Debbie, my featured blogger this week,  was pretty crazy. I’ll let you read all about her, and tomorrow you can stop back and see how Debbie and I have a pretty cool connection with each other. Smile Enjoy.

What area of Iowa do you live in and what is your favorite thing about it?
I was born, raised, and still live in my hometown of Mason City , IA. A town with a population around 28,000, Mason City is located in North Central Iowa just a few hours north of Des Moines and a few hours south of Minneapolis , making a trip to the big city quite convenient.

There are many things I love about Mason City . Along with offering countless historical tourists attractions, such as, Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes, Meredith Wilson’s boyhood home, and the Historic Park Inn this is the place where most of my family and friends live. It’s a place where there’s always a familiar face or someone willing to lend a hand. The small town feel that Mason City offers, while still having the conveniences of a bigger city makes it a wonderful place to live.

Mahi Mahi with Tomato Basil Relish - featured on Debbie's blog.

Mahi Mahi with Tomato Basil Relish – featured on Debbie’s blog.

How long have you been blogging and what made you decide to start?
I have been blogging for a little less than a year, but I really just started doing it faithfully since the beginning of 2014.Over the past 2-3 years I have really developed a passion for cooking and baking. I started reading food blogs and fell in love with the idea of being able to create a recipe in my own kitchen and then write a story about it. I’ve always loved writing and this seemed like the perfect fit.

Really, what the heck is your blog all about?
My blog is primarily about the foods that I cook and bake in my Midwestern kitchen…hence the name Debbie’s Midwestern Kitchen. I like to experiment with different recipes and use my husband and my 2 ½-year-old son as my taste testers. Not all of my attempts are successful, and I write about those times as well! My cooking, baking, and knowledge about them are a work in progress and I like to share the journey with others. I’m far from perfect in the kitchen, but I’m getting better.

I also enjoy anything running and fitness related and like to share workouts that have worked for me and other tips.

Debbie & her family.

Debbie & her family.

Tell us about your family.
I am married to my best friend, Mike. We have been happily married for 8 years and have a 2 ½-year-old son named T.J. The girls still outnumber the boys in the family with our sweet 10-year-old Springer Spaniel, Peaches and our little princess Callie, who is a 6-year-old Maltese/Poodle Mix. Callie still thinks she runs the show, but T.J. is quickly teaching her otherwise.As a family we enjoy anything sports related. Most of our free time in summer is spent on the golf course, and we love watching Hawkeye and Cyclone football and basketball games during the fall and winter.

They are the joy of my life and I feel blessed to wake up to them each and every day.

If you could switch places with another blogger, who would it be and why?
REE DRUMMOND! Why? Because I adore her and might be a tiny bit obsessed with her. She is such a talented cook, baker, photographer, and writer. She has a beautiful family and home. And she may be one of the most successful food bloggers out there. Why would I not want to switch places with her…as a blogger. Of course, my family would come along as part of the deal!

I have an irrational fear of…
Driving next to semis on the interstate. Just the thought of it makes me break out in hives!

After completing the Country Music Marathon in Nasshville, TN - April 2013

After completing the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN – April 2013

What is something that your spouse/partner does better than you?
Mike is a much better golfer than I am. He introduced me to the sport so I didn’t really start playing until after we got married. He has played ever since he can remember, spending countless hours on the golf course as a child and even played in high school and college. I wish I was as good as he is but I’ll settle for hacking my way up and down the fairways J I still love it and spend most of my free time in the summer on the course with Mike and T.J. or my friends.

If money and jobs weren’t a factor, what 1 place in the world would you live?
Nashville, TN!!! I’m a huge country music fan and have been to Nashville several times. Our favorite thing to do there is to spend our days on their beautiful golf courses and our late afternoons and evenings on their main strip listening to the talented musicians that populate their city. Mike and I even recently ran a marathon there. Not only is it filled with talent, but the hills of Tennessee that surround Nashville create one of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever seen. I hope some day my dream of living in Nashville comes true…now, if only I could carry a tune.

Where can you follow Debbie?
Debbie’s Midwestern Kitchen

Would you like be a Featured Iowa Blogger? Visit my Get Featured page for more details. If you’d like to read about previous Featured Bloggers, here they are!