Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Open to Opportunities

This post is the second half of a two-part series.  Didn’t read the first part?  It’s right here!

Sometimes I try to figure out why I keep writing this blog, putting myself out there in what feels like a very public way.  It’s a food blog, yes, in the sense that I talk about food and recipes and cooking a lot.  But it’s also more than a food blog.  It’s a blog about me and the way I interact with the world.  As the title suggests, it’s about life and love.  Those topics are so enormous that it can seem like a daunting task, trying to write in such a way as to capture some whisper of truth or wisdom.  Sometimes it feels much safer to write about oatmeal or cabbage.

My friend Ammie encouraged me to go beyond the food, to put myself out there in a bigger and bolder way.  She should know something about putting one’s self out there; I maintain that she is one of the most incredible writers I’ve ever read, and her stuff just keeps getting better.  Still, even with encouragement, being vulnerable in public is scary.  It can be embarrassing too, as I’ve proven to myself with a pair of posts that I can’t even read now because they’re so…I don’t know.  Awkward and weird, like I’m trying too hard.  Perhaps because I was.  I wanted to keep following the narrative thread of how one finds comfort and peace in an imperfect relationship, with an imperfect yet wonderful and kind person.  I wanted to better understand how to take responsibility for my own happiness even as I confess that my happiness is connected to other people.

Is that not the ultimate paradox for the modern person?  We’re supposed to be happy on our own, without a romantic partner, but deep down inside, many of us long for romance and connection.  But then we fear that we’ll have to sacrifice too much for that romance, to the point where we feel like we’ve lost ourselves.  It’s no wonder that I spent the better part of my twenties feeling lost and confused: I did not know how to resolve all of these conflicting ideas.

I got really, really lucky when Matt came into my life because he’s got his act together.  That meant that I could be the messy, uncertain one in our relationship, and I like to think I’ve done justice to that role.  For his part, Matt has been very gracious about the mistakes I’ve made and the way I’ve pushed against boundaries, real or imaginary.  He has consistently been my biggest cheerleader and my best listener, and his influence in my life is easy to see.  I doubt that I would have stayed in the lab after my difficult years in graduate school.  I also doubt that I would have come to the decision to embrace the unpredicted challenges and opportunities that this blog and my writing life would bring to me.

It was Matt who pointed out to me that the material benefits to blogging are, to be quite frank, not worth that much money.  Up until now, I have been very uncomfortable with the idea of blogging to make money.  I’m not sure I even want to make money from Life, Love, and Food, though I did receive four pounds of peanut butter and a really great knife, which I’ll tell you more about in a moment.  I realized that if and when I received offers because of this blog, I could decide at that time if I was interested.  I hated the idea of being a blog whore, someone who is obviously getting paid to convince her readers to buy stuff.  Whoring goes against the spirit of this blog.  I give it up for free!

So I decided to be open to opportunities, open but picky.  The picky part was Kath’s suggestion, whom I e-mailed a long time ago.  I asked her how she navigates all the offers she gets through KERF, and her answer was spot-on: she looks for offers that fit the spirit and theme of her blog, and she makes no promises.  She remains in control of her writing and her opinions.  I like that.

A few months ago, I got the best offer a control freak could want: $60 toward any item from CSN’s on-line stores, then write a review about the item you chose.  The timing was perfect because I was already dreaming about buying a Santoku knife, and CSN’s cookware.com sells a great selection of Santoku knives in a wide range of prices.  I picked out this beauty, a J.A. Henckels knife to match the rest of my set.

Shiny Beauty

This knife is awesome.  It’s big and sharp, yet lightweight enough that it doesn’t strain my hands.  I have small hands, and sometimes chef’s knives feel heavy and overwhelming.  But this Santoku knife is just right: all the power of a chef’s knife with a sleek design that makes it easier for small hands to wield.  The straight edge of this knife works well for me too, as I am an up-and-down chopper.  This knife doesn’t cut things—it glides through them as though tough vegetables were butter.  I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, but it really is a pleasure to cook with my new knife.

There’s more to the story too.  When I placed my order for the knife, I got confused, as I often do.  I didn’t fill out the on-line form correctly—I missed the spot where I was supposed to enter the code for the gift certificate.  Without fully intending to do so, I ordered the knife without using my gift certificate at all.  I panicked a little bit and contacted Caitlin, my CSN person.  The very next day, she wrote back to me and together we straightened out the whole mess.  Just a few days after that, I received my shiny new knife.

I was really impressed with the way Caitlin handled my mistake.  She was a total pro, kind and speedy, and not once did she make me feel like a moron.  There’s nothing worse than a store that makes you feel bad for not being the ideal customer.  I would buy something from a CSN store just for the great customer service.  In fact, I did buy something else from cookware.com, and the whole process was flawless.  And that purchase, a gift for a loved one, is making its recipient happy in the kitchen, which is what I care about most.

Recently, Caitlin contacted me again, asking if I wanted to host a giveaway or something similar on behalf of CSN Stores.  I wrote back, saying that I felt like I ought to let more time pass, or else I risked diluting the qualities of this blog that make it unique.  But now I’ll pose the question to you, dear readers.  Would you like the chance to win a prize from CSN Stores?  After all, a giveaway is really about making YOU happy.  What do you think?

Happy cooking, friends, and thank you, as always, for reading.


Laurie said...

Reading here makes me happy, or makes me think, or makes me feel less alone in the blogosphere. I'm here because I like what I read; you're discrete and honest at the same time. I aspire to that. With that in mind, host contests when it makes you happy. Trust your gut. This reader, and I'm sure others, will be pleased with the results.

PS Awesome knife!

Rosiecat24 said...

I think I'm blushing! What generous compliments! Laurie, wow. Thank you. I'm actually wordless now--I don't know what else to say, so I'll just repeat myself: thank you.

JD @ run-thru-life.blogspot.com said...

I have knife jealousy! We almost got knives when we we got married, but decided against it. That was not a good choice. As you know we are in the kitchen, well more like AMPD is in the kitchen A LOT, and our knives leave a ton to be desired.

I have often struggled with the same idea of privacy vs. letting it all out. As we all know, there is a reason that gossip magazines sell. My blog, which is horribly out of date (see two jobs and new baby), never got personal, more out a expressed opinion on that by the wife. I think you have struck the right balance here, which is commendable, and difficult. I read for food, but also to stay in touch, if only through words, with you :).

Rosiecat24 said...

JD, I bet you could build a nice knife set piece by piece, especially if you buy from a maker who has been around for a long time. It's an investment, certainly, but I think it's worth it.

I suppose that in this age of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest, we ALL have to figure out the right amount to share. I think it's nice to share personal things because it gives a topical blog a more human touch. And with food, my lifestyle absolutely influences what I do or don't do in the kitchen. So I feel like it's an important part of the narrative, though obviously I share more because I like sharing.

Thanks for your sweet comment! I can't wait to see you guys next month.

daine said...

I fear I may be too late to weigh in on this issue (it's not my fault, med school started this week and I've been a busy bee getting everything together), but I think you've got the right idea. Sponsors want to use your blog as a platform because it's well-written and fun to read (the reasons we're here). You obviously have incentive to open up to some advertising because you're giving up so much time and effort without remuneration. I think a fair balance is in order. Obviously, if you devoted your blog entirely to selling products and no longer posted your own thoughts or recipes, everybody would be disappointed. Advertising every once in a while, however, especially if it's only for products that you actually trust or experiences you've actually had seems like a win-win for everybody. I never would have found CSN without your contest a few months ago, but I am very pleased I did. I too have had great experiences with them as a company. I'm interested in your thoughts and opinions on food and cooking, so I think it's only logical that I'd be interested in your thoughts on consumer products or services. If those providers are willing to pay you to review their products or give your honest opinion, I think that is completely fair.

Rosiecat24 said...

Daine, thanks for your supportive comment! I have many of the same thoughts, especially about not emphasizing products/ads over interesting content. To be honest, I think it would be less fun to write if I didn't have as much freedom as I do now. To me, the freedom is a big part of the appeal of blogging.

I thought you were going to mention how it took us a little while to get you your prize from the first CSN contest! That delay is the only time I worried about doing business with CSN, but we did get it straightened out and you got an awesome knife. But I'm glad that on the whole, you've been happy with CSN. I have been too.

PS I finally added your blog to my link list! It's about time.

Rosiecat24 said...

Daine, one more thing: I'm so excited for you, starting med school! I hope you are enjoying your first days of classes. I know you are going to do a great job.

Unknown said...

ooh, what a sexy knife! ;) i always love reading, rose-anne, as you are so much more eloquent with your words than am i!

Rosiecat24 said...

Oh yes, sexy is the right word for this knife. I'm totally crushing on it, Shannon! But soon, you'll have a chance to win one of your own--stay tuned!