Jazzing it up in New Orleans with Zatarain’s

Every once in a while, life hands us opportunities that leave us thinking how fortunate we are.  This past weekend,  I joined four other VIP bloggers as part of the 2012 Zatarain’s Ambassador Program, aka the Zatarain’s Krewe.  In New Orleans, a krewe (pronounced “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade or a ball for the Carnival season.  And let me tell you… the five of us paraded around town from restaurant to restaurant with the fantastic people of Zatarain’s and had a ball!

We began our weekend with a tour of the corporate office and the facility.  Wow! just upon entering you could smell the spices! If you’ve ever opened a box of Zatarain’s jambalaya, you know what I am talking about!  We learned many interesting facts about the brand that even an imported “local” like me didn’t know.  For example: Mardi Gras traditions, the difference between Cajun and Creole cooking, and some interesting uses for root beer extract.

The Krew in protective gear to take a "spicy" tour: Myself, Kristen, Jim, Rachel & Steph

We also enjoyed an amazing jambalaya for lunch made in a big, I mean… BIG pot! It was… delicious.  What’s great about jambalaya is that you can literally add anything and it usually comes out great.  Because I am only a southern “import” I still personally rely on the Zatarain’s box when I make it; and so do most locals unless you are Chef John Besh.

I’ll admit that I rely on the jambalaya, dirty rice or gumbo mix when I’m entertaining at my house.  When I am cooking for large crowds (like our monthly family get togethers or tailgating parties) I like that Zatarain’s captures authentic local flavor that is consistent to what southerners are used to.  Hey, if I lived in San Francisco like Steph and Jim my guests wouldn’t know the difference… but I have the most experienced and pickiest palates for Cajun and Creole cooking!

The weekend continued with exquisite meals at Borgne, Domenica, August and Brennan’s restaurants.  We were treated to a historical culinary tour of New Orleans that was beyond informative and fun.  We also closed the weekend watching a Mardi Gras parade with the Zatarain’s team and our amazing hosts (Desta and Mananya).

Although I’ve been living here for over ten years, there were many things I didn’t know about the New Orleans culinary culture and Mardi Gras.  Ok, it is true that New Orleaneans live to eat… and that we possibly have some of the best and oldest restaurants in the nation in one place.  Since I can’t possibly share all the fun in one post… stay tuned for recipes from this past weekend, more photos, restaurant reviews, and a little culinary history.  Like they say down here… “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez”

Zatarain's Krewe: Jim, Rachel, Myself, Steph & Kristen **photo credit

A few teaser photos:

Dessert table at August. Bloggers = cameras & phones at all times **photo credit

Pizza at Domenica

Made just for us with Zatarain's at Borgne

Turtle Soup at Brennan's **photo credit

Zatarain's Boiled Crab pizza & Amazing pasta Carbonara at Domenica

My Strawberry Crepes at Brennan's

Brennan's famous bananas Foster

So much good food will leave you licking your spoon! **photo credit

 

**Starred with Photo Credits thanks to the Amazing Steph at Lick My Spoon

Disclaimer: I wrote this post while participating in the Zatarain’s 2012 Ambassador Program.  I was compensated for my time but all opinions are my own.

How Social Media Has Helped My Business

I spend a lot of time online doing research, looking up recipes, writing, blogging, visiting Facebook, and Twitter.  Just last week, Twitter gave me an honorable mention in their addicts anonymous  group.  All joking aside, I love social media.  I’ve written about it several times on this blog: here, here, and here.

A couple of weeks ago, Monique Neely asked to interview me for her blog feature “What’s Your Social Style?”; a section dedicated on how people (usually business owners) use social media in their lives and business. Monique is a business owner, a military wife, mother, and lover of life!  Of course… she’s part of my social media addict support group too.  I encourage you to pay her a visit and read about how I find social media useful for my business, my blog and how I try to keep everything in balance.  Read the interview here.

You can follow Monique on Facebook and on Twitter

 

Inexepensive & Easy Gift: Homemade Soap

A little over a month ago, I met Ruth (ok, not in real life but still) the editor of The Better Mom on Twitter.  I mentioned that I am a regular reader (I subscribe to their posts) and I wanted to know if they needed any contributing articles.  She mentioned that she was looking for homemade natural products.  Hhhmmmm, funny enough, I had just tried out how to make homemade soap!

Ruth, kindly offered me a spot to share my crafty adventures (if you know me, you know I’m not crafty at all!).  This soap was super easy to make and it comes out great in the foaming dispensers! It is all natural and a fraction of the cost of store bought organic soaps!

Hop on over and check out how to make this easy recipe yourself!

Read More…

SUPER MOM Is NOT Real

When I started writing this blog, I wanted to connect with other moms who were also into social media and learn a thing or two before I launched MOMables™.  Yes, it was all part of the grand plan.  What I didn’t know, however, is that I would fall in love with writing, sharing information, and getting to know other people.  I typically blog about the things we do as a family, our little adventures, some of my thoughts and mostly how I try to manage it all.  It isn’t easy working full time, running the house and being a mother to my kids… but I do love my life and I am really grateful for the many opportunities this blog has provided.

This past week, I talked with Lorraine Ladish via email and on Twitter and I instantly clicked with her.  It’s an amazing thing when that happens! To think, that we are connecting with people over the internet!  Anyhow, after several emails she offered me the opportunity to write over at VOXXI as a weekly contributing writer on all things working mother.

As I contemplated what to write first, I instantly knew I had to write about my little world in Southern Suburbia and keeping up with Super Mom down the street Mrs. Jones.  Hop on over and check out SUPER MOM IS  A FAKE and let me know what you think!

xoxo

Laura

Your Blog: From Good To Great – Part 2

If you missed Part 1 read it here.

 

Welcome! You are wondering what “tips” I am going to give you that will bring huge changes to your blog’s traffic, right?  Well, let me remind you that traffic always depends in the value you provide (through content and media for example) and your ability to share what you wrote with others.  Are you promoting your posts? -That’s another post. 

Here are some suggestions on easy but immediate changes that can make a big difference on the appearance of your blog:

  • Don’t mix “ads” with “navigation” options in the same sidebar (if you have two sidebars).  Dedicate one for navigation purposes, the other to advertising.
  • Your top widgets should be: a way to rss and email subscribe and your social media contact icons (Facebook, Twitter…etc).
  • Remember to have an email subscribe option besides the rss. Why? because many people do not use a rss reader.  We like reading our subscriptions from our phones when we are in line at the bank, carpool, or waiting for an appointment.
  • Can your blog post be read easily on an iPhone or other smart phone? My stats show that over 50% of my readers are reading my posts on their phone!  I better make it easy to read for them!
  • Have a tag/category cloud in your navigation bar.  You are already going through the trouble of tagging your posts, why not let readers select similar posts on that topic?
  • Recent posts. I almost considered omitting this one but if you have it and want to keep it… make it simple (5 latest posts are enough, I don’t need 20).
  • Do you have an easy way to “share” the post?  I can’t tell you how many times I stumble upon great content and there is no way for me to “click & share” right then and there. This is an easy plugin that will create more traffic to your site.  Sadly, some people are not going to cut your link url and paste it in all the social networks.
  • Another way to keep people reading through your page is with suggestive posts.  There are plugins like LinkWithin and Outbrain that will do that.  Suggesting further reading is just like the Starbucks lady asking if you’d like a cookie or whip cream with your mocha.
  • Get rid of “recent tweets” from your side bar (specially at the top!). Seriously, how many times have you been joking around twitter with a friend late on a Friday night?  Those tweets show up there too and you never know who is reading.  I already have a way to click and visit you on twitter, so why post it there?
  • Get rid of the dark background; unless you blog about a super hero/Darth Vader…lol, then it’s ok.  I am not against darker backgrounds for your blog, I am just suggesting that the column where people read should not be dark.
  • “Grab-my-Button” is at the top.  Ok, I might want to grab your button but it’s not my priority. Reading your post, finding a way to contact you, and being able to make comments are.  Consider moving it further down or create a separate page for this.
  • Have a good navigation bar.  Some websites have really good navigation bars that make up for all the advertising on the right.  I can find everything I need quickly.  I love it!
  • Blogging widgets.  What if you contribute to other websites, attend conferences, and are involved in lots of social media groups?  Please, please, please don’t put them all on your side bar.  It’s more important to toot your own horn respectfully with “as seen on” than to have a dozen buttons from past conferences.  I mean… you’ve earned it, right? You’ve been featured!! Show your stuff.

That should give you a few pointers on some quick and easy changes you can do on your own.  You can always check out your Google stats and see how long people are staying in your site. Check out Blogging with Amy for some fabulous ideas on how to do just about anything on your blog on your own.  She is extremely helpful and can show you a lot of valuable info from how to move your current blog to WordPress (yes, all on your own!) to making some simple changes that will immediately make your blog better.

Do I always bounce out of pages who don’t follow my preferences? Not at all.  I just thought that since you are spending so much time writing your posts, you might as well have more people read them (this is assuming you’d like more people to read/follow your blog).  The next post I’ll give you examples of blogs I read and why I like them even when they don’t follow some of the suggestions above; which by the way, you don’t have to follow all of them at once… they are… of course… just my opinion.

What are some of your pet peeves that you see on blogs you wish people changed?