We launched Journey to the Garden August 31st of this year and wow, what a wild ride it has been. Our broad goal was (and is) to provide readers with healthy and easy-to-make vegetarian recipes, but also to bring people back to where their food comes from ….. the garden. Due to living in cities and shopping at big box stores, it’s amazing how many of us are disconnected from the earth that provides us with all the nutritious food that we eat. We need constant reminders of this link, a relationship whose very existence is so important. This blog is one way to maintain that connection.
And how did our first foray into food blogging go? Well, sit back and we’ll share some of our experiences …..
From the enormous learning curve, hard work and unexpected success, we’ve been both surprised and humbled by the experiences of being food bloggers and partners. Cleo (me) has done most of the recipe creation and preparation, the photography and social media management. Charles is, at this point, steering the ship, making most of the executive decisions and pointing the blog in a direction that will make it a viable and successful entity. He also fine-tunes some of the recipes. The plan for next year is for him to compile some feature posts and he will delve more into the business management as the blog continues to grow. So look forward to hearing a little more from the silent partner.
Getting back to the growth aspect of Journey to the Garden, we were so pleased to have between 75 – 85% growth each month, with the exception of December, a slow month, yet we still grew approximately 65% that month (which is not yet over). Our Instagram followers grew from between 56 – 135% each month and our Pinterest monthly views growth was usually around 1000% per month. I have no idea how this compares to other bloggers, but just looking at the stats, if we continued to grow at at least half this rate, we’ll be very pleased.
Yet, while growth is important, we were more happy to be able to engage with, not only other bloggers, but readers who are using our site and recipes. From my dear friend in India, Cirtnecce, who is a faithful follower, to a lady I met who shared that she successfully used our Apple Cider Vinegar Manuka Honey Cough Syrup recipe, and then to responding to comments on our posts, each interaction is valued and important to us in a way that goes beyond mere blogging. We look forward to meeting many more of you this coming year and encourage you to comment as you use this site so we can get to know you better!
And to recap a year, what better way than to share some funny and interesting anecdotes that highlighted its passing:
Most Embarrassing Moment
I locked myself out of our site! I can’t believe I locked myself out of our site! Somehow my security system blocked one of my own functions and then saw my IP address as an attacker. How embarrassing! With help from Daniela at a Teaspoon of Vanilla I finally got myself out of this possible disaster. I hope I don’t look any older because of it, lol!
My inclusion of Terra Organic and Natural Foods in my Liebster Award post led to a highlight of our blog on their Facebook page and an opportunity to be part of their Health and Wellness Fair that is happening on January 27th in Bellingham. We’ll take some Journey to the Garden bookmarks with us and meet lots of people who love good healthy food. We’re so looking forward to it!
I do try to have Charles taste-test about 60-70% of what I make. Though I’m generally a kind person, in this case it’s not out of the goodness of my heart. He has very astute and well-defined taste buds that can target ways to improve recipes with a startling accuracy. However, there was one recipe this year where, personally, I think his taste buds were sleeping that day.
When I made the Vanilla Orange Blossom Ice Cream at my house, after people had a small taste, they were crawling over me to have more. I had to fight them off to photograph it. But when I let Charles taste it, there was a different reaction …… Charles looked at the sky …. then he looked at the dish ….. then he looked at me with a slight smile hovering at his lips …… then he looked at the dish again. “Well?” I inquired. He looked away, then into the dish, then finally at me again. “It’s ….. well, it’s ……. it has an interesting flavour ……..” I’m not known for my patience. “Do you like it?” I insisted. “Well,” he paused again, then looked at me with apparent concern, “Have I hurt your feelings?” ……..
More Tasting Memories
Words and Thoughts; Men and Women; a Cook and a Marketing Agent; …… Partners:
Let me share another memorable tasting anecdote when I gave Charles a dish with half of my Chantrelle Mushroom Pasta Bake to taste.
Charles: What is it?
Cleo: A pasta dish with Chantrelle Mushrooms and baked with Gruyère cheese on the top. Didn’t I just tell him that a day ago?
Charles: So give me your detailed instructions on how to reheat it. (Said with a grin and a pointed look)
Cleo: So he’s trying to be cute and at the same time, tease me for being particular with my food. Hmmm ….. You put it in the oven at about 300ºF with a little liquid, either water or vegetable broth. Don’t microwave it!
Cleo: Seriously, does he actually microwave food? No, absolutely not!
Charles: Oh. (Looks at Cleo) Do you have a fork?
Cleo: (pretending nothing’s wrong) Yes, here. Is he actually going to eat it cold?!!! It won’t taste right. He won’t get the full effect of the dish!! This is really WRONG!!! (she is trying not to freak out and curl up into a little ball)
Charles: (eating it). This is really good. What type of mushrooms are these again?
Cleo: Chantrelles ……. (Her thoughts at this point are unmentionable ……!)
The most feared aspect of blogging for me was photography. Although I had taken a photography class eons ago, in fact, I was a rank amateur who was being put in the position of producing good (at least) photographs. While the photography for my first few posts was rather stressful, as I practiced more I became better at it. In fact, it’s one of my favourite times of blogging now, where I can just play with the food or dish and try to see it in different ways. Now, instead of being stressful, it’s becoming relaxing. I’ve attempted both outdoor and indoor shoots and my arsenal of staging equipment and props is beginning to grow. Our photography board on Pinterest is one of the more popular boards, and I’m really looking forward to continuing to improve this craft in 2018. Meanwhile, here are some more photography vignettes ……
I had a professional photographer come to my house and take me through a photoshoot, then afterwards he helped me increase my knowledge of Lightroom. I was able to get some great tips and he assessed some of my photos, which has given me insight into composition and staging. We also talked about lighting. When I see some of the amazing photographs from blogs such as The Kitchen McCabe and The Simple Green, I know I have a ways to go but if I keep practicing, I’ll keep improving — a step at a time and I’ll get there.
My Award for My Favourite Photograph:
The photograph for this award was sooooo hard to choose!! I find I enjoy taking photos of the fresh ingredients more than the finished dish so many of my favoured photographs are of fresh food. So I decided to choose the photograph from my collection of completed recipe photos, which would be more of a challenge. While I loved the photo of my Creamy Eggnog Rice Pudding in the three jars, and also my photo of the Christmas Pain d’Espices piece on a plate, the choice for my favourite photo of the year comes from my recipe for a Pineapple Spinach and Pomegranate Smoothie. From the dish of pomegranates in background, to the scattering of spinach leaves and the deep vibrant jewel-red of the pomegranates on top, I think it deserves the title.
Did any our readers have a photograph that you particularly enjoyed? If so, please let me know in the comments!
My Award for My Worst Photograph:
Lest you think (most incorrectly) that food bloggers ALWAYS take the amazing photos you see in the recipe posts, this confession will correct any delusion you might be under (if you were). Please look below:
Have you seen this recipe on the blog? No, because I’m going to have to make it all over again and take a photo that I won’t be embarrassed to claim as my own. Seriously! Was I insane?! What was that? How could I even have thought this would be even close to an acceptable photo? I’m happy to report, I would never ever THINK of styling food in this atrocious manner now. Looking back, I can laugh at it ……. well, almost! 😉
New Blog Discoveries
And lastly, I discovered many new and wonderful food blogs this year, but here are a few who particularly captured my interest and my foodie-heart:
The College Housewife: Elizabeth makes you feel right at home on her blog as she shares flavourful and always unique recipes with a warmth and friendliness that is very endearing.
Blume Nutrition: a nutritionist, Serena models her blog on healthy and delicious food with a few guilty pleasures thrown in here and there. Her recipes always have something special and are thoughtfully created and excellent to share.
The Road to Honey: I’m in awe of Lynn’s awesome photography, which often distracts me from her recipes, which is a HUGE mistake because her recipes are just as amazing. If you’re looking for great recipes that are a creation of love, look no further.
And so, as we say good-bye to 2017, we are so excited to meet 2018 with excitement and joy, eager to see what this new year will bring. And to those of you who are following us, or even have just discovered us, we are so appreciative of your support and patronage! 2018, here we come!