Journey to the Garden - 2017 in Review

2017 in Review – Bloopers, Fun and Much More!

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.

Garden Potatoes ~ Chieftain and German Butter
Chieftain and German Butter Potatoes Grown in My Garden!

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!

Farmer's Market Cauliflower
California Farmer’s Market Cauliflower (photo courtesy of © Libby McCelland)

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!


Promotional Highlight

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!


Tasting Memories

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!

Charles:  Oh?

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 ……!)

Australian Shepherd
One of my chief tasters! (No, this is not Charles, ha ha! Meet Finn!)


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.

Pineapple Spinach Pomegranate Smoothie ~ a healthy breakfast that it beyond delicious!

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!


46 thoughts on “2017 in Review – Bloopers, Fun and Much More!”

  1. Cleo this was so much fun to read! I had a good laugh a few times throughout. My boyfriend is also the taste tester and he indeed is very critical of my recipes and won’t let me slide with a mediocre dish haha! I guess it’s good for us that we have such harsh judges, it only makes us want to make better food right?! I am so happy for your growth and I am exciting to see your growth throughout 2018! Here’s to a happy new year!

    1. I’m glad I could add some positive humour to your day! 🙂 As much as Charles tries to be sensitive, his natural inclination is to be sincere, which I really appreciate because, as you say, it only helps the recipes to become better. Happy new year to you too and all the best in your food blogging adventures in 2018!

    1. You’re so welcome, Heidi, and you deserve the praise. You can tell when someone really puts their heart into something creative, making it art instead of a mere process. It’s nice to have bloggers like you who can set examples and give new food bloggers a high bar to shoot for. All the best in 2018 and have a fabulous new year!

  2. What a fun read!! Thank you so much for sharing and including me in your post! You have a wonderful blog and I’m so happy to see that you care so much about nutrition and health. All the best and much more success in the New Year!!

    1. You’re welcome, Sebrena! For a relatively new blog, I’m so impressed with your content and photographs (we’ll have to talk photography sometime soon!:-) ) And I also love your focus on health and nutrition. Only the best to you in 2018! Have a great New Year too!

  3. Loved your year end ‘wrap-up’ on the food blog. Many thanks for the links to other blogs of ‘food’ interest! I’m making Xmas morning Cinnamon Rolls I saw them on College Houswife! Tomorrow I’ll be really tested: making poached (get jitters while slipping egg into bubbling hot water!) eggs to serve with leeks.

    1. I loved writing it too and was chuckling myself! Thank you also, my friend, for your faithful following! Your comments inspire me on to yet better recipes. Elizabeth is charming and her recipes are top-notch too so enjoy her site. I had my eye on those cinnamon rolls, but I’ve eaten too much over the holidays and need a cleanse. Happy cooking!

      1. Update cinnamon rolls: this is a bread dough and I think I prefer a brioche (lighter) dough the next time. I would lower the sugar from 1 c to 1/2…the brown sugar makes the rolls too sweet. And don’t even think of making them in a cast iron dish ( see foto)…they really expand durning cooking. I used a cookie sheet. 🙂

        1. Wow, can you be my recipe tester? 😉 You might want to leave this comment on Elizabeth’s site so she knows. As much as we test our recipes, the feedback is always valuable. After all, we’re trying to improve and learn and what better way than having comments from our readers?! And now I have this information for when I make them! 🙂

          1. Oh, I just love to cook…and any feedback is meant to be contructive. Nevertheless I can’t avoid mentioning my personal preferences ( too sweet!). After the holidays I have returned to a ‘weekend’ cook and try to keep the sauces and extra’s ( glass of wine) to minimum during the week. We will keep in touch!

          2. I’ve been avoiding most things sweet and will continue to do so as I’m participating in the Sugar-Free January (see my comments in my next post on our Citrus Turmeric Detox Drink). Are you still running? I need to get a consistent exercise program going this year too. All the best, Nancy!

  4. Beautiful photographs! It’s hard to believe that this was a fear of yours when starting your blog. I think your photos capture something special about life and nature. Great job, sounds like you had a fantastic year.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Heather. I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying the photography now. I even bought myself a new lense after Christmas. I can’t wait to keep improving. And thank you for noticing the nature portion of the photography. I do love photographing the fresh ingredients and through this process, hope to further connect people with food. You have a fantastic year too in your endeavours!

    1. Thanks, Kim. I love that recipe but when I saw my photos, I nearly cried. Ugh! So I’ll have to make it and shoot it again, if I can get over this photo shoot first, lol! Have a great day!

  5. You read my mind—totally thought the dog was Charles when I stumbled upon his photo in the middle of the story, haha!

    I really appreciate your focus with trying to get people to connect with their food. I live on the outskirts of a large city and luckily we have a booming farmer’s market, but it’s evident that a lot of people are disconnected from it all. Hopefully it only gets better!

    Sounds like you’ve been have great fun and success. Keep it up!

    1. Lol, you made me laugh! I could just picture Finn holding a dish of ice cream. He couldn’t quite get the expressions of Charles though …. 😉

      We have some farmer’s markets but even so, people still don’t always experience them. When I helped out in my daughter’s grade 1 class, none of the kids knew the different kinds of apples, although one recognized McIntosh as a computer! *** face palm *** Hopefully we can do our small part in helping people reconnect with fresh food. Thanks for your kind wishes and have a great 2018!

    1. I’m amazed at how much I’ve improved and have become much more acquainted with my camera. We’re friends now, lol! Thanks so much! A wonderful 2018 to you too!

    1. It’s going to be fun when I do a review on 2018 and then I can look back and see how far we’ve come! Thanks for stopping by and have a great new year!

    1. That’s neat, Jenni! I hope you’re having fun and success at the same time. Thanks for the wishes and all the best to your too in the new year!

  6. What a joyous celebratory post!! I am not sure why you seem to think you need to mention me…this is all your hard work and honestly, this is beginning of all the great things to come! Many congratulation on the FB Mention, (that is just way too awesome!) and all the very best for the Health and Wellness Fair! You guys will ROCK! I love the interactions between you and Charles BTW; reminds me of my interaction with my ‘Charles’ !! Here’s to many more grander successes in 2018 to both of you!

    1. I appreciated anyone who is as loyal and devoted as you. I’ve had so much fun creating recipes, eating them, of course, and blogging away! However you know that I’d like to have more time for reading. Hopefully I can fit more in in 2018! Thanks again, my friend, and a wonderful 2018 to you!

  7. Finn reminds me of a friends dog. Those are Australian sheppard dogs no?
    Oh wow purple and yellow cauliflower. Those really stand out at a farmer’s market. Getting locked out of the wordpress site can happen. I wish you a happy new year and another fun filled months of blogging. 🙂

    1. Yes, Finn is an Australian Shepherd. 🙂 Aren’t the cauliflower beautiful? I was amazed when I saw them. I’m glad the lock-out has happened to other people. I was so shocked and horrified when it happened. In any case, I hope you have a wonderful 2018, Helene!

  8. I love your year end review. Thanks for sharing this, it’s exciting to see what others are doing and how their launch and growth is full of wins and embarrassments ( locking yourself out of your website, glad you got back in! ). Good luck!

    1. Thanks, Nicoletta! I’ll have to check out your duo as well. Finn is a dear and his favourite food …….?? Apples! If you can believe it! A peaceful and prosperous 2018 to you too!

  9. Sounds like a fantastic year and congrats to you on all your success! You’ve captured some amazing highs and lows! Definitely set yourself some goals that are going to be hard for you to reach…you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it!

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