The Death of Blogging?

The Death of Blogging?

Okay, okay. I admit that the headline is absolute click bait, but three things happened this week that made me think that the death of blogging is truly upon us.

1. On September 4th, The Atlantic published an article called “Can Mommy Bloggers Still Make a Living?” It tells how a blog (Dooce) that used to make enough income to support both Heather Armstrong and her now ex-husband (plus two kids and an assistant) to being barely active in 2015.

Several quotes are rather telling. The article quotes “well known blogger” Jason Kottke as saying, “The short window of time in which individuals could support themselves by blogging is closing rapidly.” Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester research, at one point is quoted as saying, “If you can generate enough content to attract a good enough audience by working all by yourself, and you’ll be happy with an income of $50,000 a year, you’ll be fine.” But the last paragraph which is a quote from Armstrong herself is the one that most of my blogger friends on Facebook pointed out:

“I wrote a blog because it was fun, and I loved doing it,” she said. “Then it became my job and I hated it. You never want to get to the point where you’re like ‘Ugh I have to go do that thing that I love? Ughhhh.’”

2. The Cul de Sac comic strip by Richard Thompson that was published on September 8th was next. You can click to link to go see it, but this is what happens:

Little boy: Did any puppets come with this puppet theater?
Little girl: Yeah, there’s a king, a queen, a princess, a wizard, a dragon and I don’t know what this one is.
LB: It’s a blogger!
LG: Oh, what great puppet theater!

As I posted on Facebook, blogging – Oh, what great puppet theater indeed.

3. Then, yesterday, on the MacBreak Weekly podcast, guest host Mike Elgan offhandedly referred to bloggers as “floggers”. Hmmm…

See, here’s the thing – $50K from blogging full time? I don’t think I know any blogger who can claim that and I know a lot of bloggers. Most of us are thrilled if we can make enough to cover the costs of our web hosting and domain registrations.

We blog (or publish web content, if you prefer) because we have a passion for the topic. Years ago, Merlin Mann and John Gruber pointed out that a successful blog needed three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. I’ve written about this before and it’s still true.

But, in a world where apps and songs cost 99 cents, is that enough any more? If no one is willing to advertise with you or pay for your content or give you any respect (see Mike Elgan’s comment above), it may not be.

— Carla

Why Disclosure Matters

The issue of users of social media disclosing their connections to the content they are sharing has been around a long time. In fact, it pre-dates social media and actually goes back to journalism (both print and broadcasting). But, with the rise of citizen journalists and easy to use blogging software, the issue needs to be addressed repeatedly so that the folks who don’t have a J-School background understand.

I first realized what a major problem this was back in 2009 when I attended BlogHer in Chicago. It was a rude awakening in many ways, but one thing that really stuck me was how demanding (and clueless) some of my fellow bloggers were. At the trade show, a representative from a major camera company shared a story of a blogger insisted that they “had” to send her two cameras (one to giveaway and one for her). Why? Because she blogged.

At a panel later in the conference on the topic of disclosure, the discussion among the members of the panel and the audience got a bit heated. Finally, one of the bloggers shouted, “But journalists get things sent to them all the time!” I couldn’t take it any more and yelled back, “But they send them back!”

A recent post on the Six Pixels of Separation blog raised the issue again. As Mitch Joel points out, with the FTC now monitoring blogs and now holding publishers responsible for “misleading consumers with native advertising”, disclosure is even more important now. Even Facebook or Instagram likes can be taken as a sign of you and/or your blog endorsing a product. Same can go for retweets on Twitter and so on.

Lack of disclosure also does something else. It makes your personal brand less authentic. And when it’s less authentic, it’s less valuable to your readers and to you.

On both RadioCarla.com and Hoperatives, I’ve tried to be totally open about when I’ve received a review unit or been invited to a soft open to try out a new better beer location as their guest. But, I’m planning to go back through all of my posts to make sure I was as authentic as possible.

I had an interesting Twitter conversation with a long time blogger and friend recently about this issue. She mentioned that she had started waiting to review Disney events/attractions later rather than sooner. She was skipping the private events and going when the general public could also go. She mentioned that it was “funny when you want to post a disclaimer that you did NOT get anything for free.” I replied that I had seen (and done) that on occasion and think it adds authenticity to the review or post.

It’s true. Unfortunately, because of lack of disclosure too often in social media/blogging, I’ve come to assume that when certain users use social media to talk about being at a play or new restaurant opening, I immediately think they must have gotten comp tickets or a free meal. At that point, nothing they say about the event or location is valid for me.

I’ve written before about how you need to be careful what you blog. It’s even more important now with the FTC watching. Now, please be careful how you share on social media too. If you are live tweeting an event for any kind of compensation, be sure to make an early tweet about whether you are being compensated or if you have a connection with the event or product.

And those of you who are trying to get your clients and their products placement in blogs and other social media? Please stop rewarding the ones that violate disclosure rules all the time. How valuable is that placement if the person giving you coverage isn’t authentic?

Round Up: Blog Posts on Disney Travel UPDATED

Posts On Disney Travel UPDATED

When I relaunched RadioCarla.com last May, my plan was to start blogging about Disney (especially Disney travel) a bit more here. But, I’ve been lucky enough to get several opportunities to blog about Disney travel on other blogs so I decided to share them here.

Last year, I started a five part series on Disney travel for the Family Friendly Cincinnati blog. Under the heading “Mouse Magic for the Queen City”, the first two parts were published last year and the final three will be posted soon. I’ll add the links when they become available. have been added now.

Guest Post: Planning a Disney Family Vacation – When to Go?

Guest Post: Planning a Disney Vacation – Best Ways to Get There

Guest Post: Deciding Where to Stay at Disney World, Part 3

Guest Post: Tips for Dining at Disney World, Part 4

Guest Post: Tips For What to Do at Disney World, Part 5

I’ve also written three blog posts for The Mouse For Less web site. A online Disney community that was originally called Disney Dollarless, it’s been my home community since 2001 and I’ve met so many great people there.

A Walt Disney World Trip… Without Any Attractions!

Surprises at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Traveling Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line on Oxygen

Most recently, I wrote a blog post for The Magic For Less Travel blog. TMFLT is the travel agency that I have worked for and I’ve been there over ten years now. I was very excited to be able to share my experience of sailing on the Disney Fantasy over the Christmas holidays this past year.

Celebrating Christmas on the Disney Fantasy

Finally, my main blogging time is spent blogging about better beer in the Cincinnati area. But some of our most popular pages on the web site are actually about beer at the various Disney travel locations. This past Tuesday as one of our regular Traveling Tuesday posts, I wrote a post talked about those pages and discussed bringing your own liquor (including better beer) on a Disney Cruise Line ship.

Traveling Tuesday: Beer and Disney

I can definitely see more Disney travel posts from me here on RadioCarla.com. You never know when the Disney muse will strike me! If you would like a free, no-obligations quote, just contact me at carla@themagicforless.com and I can help you plan YOUR magical Disney vacation.

— Carla

Battling Burn Out (In Blogging and In Life)

I was at a beer event recently where I was talking to the brewery’s owner about beer blogging. He asked if I ever got burned out. Thinking he meant burned out on beer, I answered that there were days when all I really wanted was a glass of pinot noir or some bourbon. But he replied that he meant blogging, do I ever burn out on blogging? At the time, I answered that, because of the way Hoperatives is structured, I start working on our “This Week in Beer” posts many weeks (if not months) ahead of time and the “Tastings and Growlers Report” post start with the one from the week before so that helps. Posts for the rest of the week lately have come from information sent to us about local news and events plus our new “Local Beer Blogger Spotlight” posts. In other words, I gave him the PR answer without realizing it.

Burn out is something we fight in blogging and in life. We all know of blogs that have either been officially shut down or that haven’t had a new post in years. Starting a new blog or project is exciting and gets your heart pumping. But, after the adrenaline levels go back to normal, many people decide that the work required isn’t worth it. This is especially true if the person starting the blog sees it as a get-rich-quick scheme or a way to get free stuff. Even if you have a blog you love to work on, it can become a drag on your time after a while.

Part of the reason I re-launched this blog was to have somewhere to write about things that weren’t beer related. I’ve learned that there is a need for my little app and other tech reviews. And people like my recipe posts too and even my occasional observation posts (like this one). RadioCarla.com isn’t going to become Engadget or the Pioneer Woman, but I knew that going in this time and I take pride in how it is slowly growing its audience.

Hoperatives will be five years old on January 1, 2014. It’s grown and evolved just as the Cincinnati beer scene has. I’m pleased with our relationship with Cincinnati.com, but I really wish we could attract some advertisers. I wish people would send us more information so I didn’t have to spend so much time combing Facebook and the web for information. Then there are the time of us getting comments and emails from people shocked we didn’t have information on a beer event at their favorite beer location that was only posted at said location. Add in the time it takes to stay active on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

So, yes, I do get burned out on beer blogging. But, I soldier on and try to continue to do the best I can. I try new things. I keep what works and leave behind the things that don’t. I try joining new blog groups from time to time, but to be honest, some blogging groups are nothing but greedy people looking for free stuff or so full of infighting that the groups implode. Both of those things are just time sucks and drama that I don’t need. Enough already.

Whenever I consider why I blog, I think of Merlin Mann and John Gruber’s definition of a successful blog needing three things*: “obsession + topic + voice”. So I try to do what it takes to stay obsessed. As long as I’m a “believer in better beer (in Cincinnati and beyond)”, I’ll keep blogging at Hoperatives.

As far as battling burn out in life? Well, that’s a blog post for another day.

— Carla

Battling Burn Out

*I’ve mentioned this before, but if you missed it — Merlin Mann and Jon Gruber gave at SXSW in 2009 called “149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility!” You can find more information about it at http://www.43folders.com/2009/03/25/blogs-turbocharged. I summarized the talk this way:

…a successful blog must have three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. If you have those three things, you can “become the go-to person for whatever your topic is.” Consider this: “How do you know it’s time to start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up.” And finally: “When CPM becomes more important than making readers happy, you’ve lost it.”

The High Cost of Selling Yourself Out: Be Careful What You Blog

In my last post The High Cost of Free Software: Be Careful What You Download, I included the following quote from Ed Bott of zdnet.com:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that software developers are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their installers with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make a frightful sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the software business.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that this could be paraphrased to apply to bloggers:

Basically, there’s a dilemma that [BLOGGERS] are in. They can either go with these monetization companies which load up their [BLOGS] with “special offers” and which in turn allow them to make [SOME] sum of money or they can take a day job and get out of the [BLOGGING] business.

Of course, one of the main differences between software developers and bloggers is that a great number of bloggers already have day jobs (myself included). The urge to try to make the blogging a paying gig can sometimes lead to unfortunate decisions.

When you start a blog, one of the first questions you need to really ask yourself is why are you writing this blog? What content do you want to share with your readers? What unique perspective can you bring to an already large blogosphere?

Back in 2009, I wrote a post for BlogHer.com called “Why I Blog About Beer“. In the post, I mentioned that Hoperatives was actually the third blog I had started. The first one was an earlier version of this blog and didn’t have much focus. I mainly rambled about various topics and didn’t really offer anything new. The second one about our experience on a liquid diet was too focused and really was only meant to last a short time.

I also mentioned a talk that Merlin Mann and Jon Gruber gave at SXSW in 2009 called “149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility!” You can find more information about it at http://www.43folders.com/2009/03/25/blogs-turbocharged. I summarized the talk this way:

…a successful blog must have three things: “obsession + topic + voice”. If you have those three things, you can “become the go-to person for whatever your topic is.” Consider this: “How do you know it’s time to start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up.” And finally: “When CPM becomes more important than making readers happy, you’ve lost it.”

Since blogging has become more popular and accessible, I’ve seen a growing trend of people starting a blog just because they think it is an easy way to get free stuff or make money. But it’s not. Blogging is hard work and takes a lot of time.

Is it worth going to a bloggers event if you are just going to learn about the entity hosting the event? Back when I worked in radio, we called that a press conference and it was part of my job to attend them. Since I was paid by the radio station, I attended many press conferences on topics I didn’t personally care about.

As a blogger, I only go to events directly related to what I blog about: craft beer in Cincinnati for Hoperatives and technology, theater and a few other topics here at RadioCarla.com. Any time I broke this rule and went to an event that really didn’t interest me (usually as a favor to someone), I was miserable. It was a lose-lose for both me and the hosting business.

The word “free” sounds good except it usually isn’t really true. I’ve been to many, many trade shows over the years ranging from the National Restaurant Association, the National Association of Broadcasters, EarMarked for Disney travel agents, Cruise360, BlogHer and the national Beer Bloggers Conference. At first, all the free swag is great. Then, it’s the end of the day and you’re carrying around this bag of crap. And then the bag of crap is in your home taking up space. Was it worth it?

The same idea applies to blogging. If you want to write a blog just to get free stuff, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Is it worth shilling a product you may or may not like on your Facebook page and Twitter stream? Is it worth losing readers and Facebook likes and Twitter followers for a “free” product that you could have easily bought yourself (if you really even wanted it)?

All in all, it goes back to the question of why are you blogging. What is your obsession? What is your topic? What is your voice? Your voice is really your brand in blogging. Is it worth diluting your voice for a cheap plastic spatula with some company’s name on it that you’ll just throw away the next time you move?

In my last post, I suggested that you think before you download. Now, I’m suggesting that you think long and hard before you give away your voice. Don’t pay the high cost of selling yourself out.

— Carla

plastic spatula - high cost of selling yourself out

Re-Post: Inspiration at the Pool

While I’m traveling this week, I’ll be re-posting some of my past work from our now dormant blogs (Diminishing Returns and Tag Team Tech).

Unless you are a regular member at the R.C. Durr YMCA, you probably don’t know that it is a designated training and testing site for the Navy SEALs. SEALs, which is short for Sea, Air, and Land Teams, are the Navy’s main special operations force. As you can see from the video on this web site, the training is rigorous and demanding.

Almost every day that we’re working out in the pool, we can see the SEAL wannabes being put through their paces by their military fitness trainer, a petite blonde woman with a pony tail. She is amazing to watch in action. One day, she’ll make them swim the length of the pool and then jump out to do about 50 or so sit-ups. Then, it’s back into the pool to swim back to the other end and then 50 or so push-ups, sometimes with lying on top of them to add more weight to their efforts. Today, she had two of them carrying what seemed to be heavily weighted bags. They had to run with them across their shoulders or do deep lunges down the hall way. Tom saw them on the way and mentioned that they didn’t look very happy about this exercise. I would imagine that some of these SEAL trainees have nightmares about blonde pony tails!

While the SEAL trainees are one type of inspiration, our pool buddy Nancy is another. When Nancy first started coming to the Y, she had to use a walker to get herself around. She couldn’t use the steps to get into the pool, but rather had to be lowered into the pool via a special chair they have for members with mobility issues. She told us that what got her to the pool was an incident where she fell in her home and couldn’t get up. I’ll always remember the look on her face when she told us that it took six firefighters to get her up. That was it. It was time for a change.
Change doesn’t happen over night and it didn’t for Nancy. First, she was able to use the stairs to get into the pool. Then, she was able to switch from the walker to a cane. Now, she doesn’t even need the cane. According to her last weigh-in at her doctor’s office, she lost 80 pounds. And she knows she’s lost more because she has recently needed a smaller size of pants. She’s taking less medication now too.

Change like that isn’t easy. She works out at the Y six days a week. She put her health first and it shows.

Whether it’s a young person training to be a part of one of the most decorated parts of the armed forces or an older person like Nancy (she always calls us “young uns”), there are so many stories at your local Y that will inspire you.

As we say at the R.C. Durr pool, come on in… the water’s fine.

–Carla

Re-Post: Why and How We Left GoDaddy

When we quit writing our tech blog Tag Team Tech last year, it was always interesting to see what posts continued to get traffic. This one was easily our most popular right up until Posterous shut down and Tag Team Tech was no more. While ostensibly co-written by both of us, you can definitely tell it’s mainly Tom, especially his expertise and wicked sense of humor. And, while GoDaddy commercials have gotten better since they hired James Hinchliffee as a spokesperson, we still are glad we made the change.

We had been using GoDaddy for both our domain name registration and web hosting for a very, very long time. We started using them way back before there was such a thing as a GoDaddy “girl.”

This was a time when most web hosting was done with small local companies who couldn’t afford to provide things like guaranteed 100% uptime or weekend tech support. Sometimes, not even any tech support. Go Daddy had those features and many others in addition to very competitive pricing. Sure, it was a long distance call to tech support, but you always got a knowledgeable person who wasn’t in India. During our time with GoDaddy, we frequently would request the post-call survey so we could let the company know how great the tech support person we talked with was.

Then, the television ads started. And they kept getting worse. Can you say sexist? Can you say misogynistic? Every time one of the ads came on, you couldn’t help but feel dirty giving money to a company that objectifies women that way.

And then there was the elephant hunt video. If you missed it, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parson posted a video of himself hunting and killing an elephant in Zimbabwe. Parsons has since responded to the not-surprising outcry by saying that each year he goes to Zimbabwe and hunts “problem” elephants. Problem elephants? Really? Is the problem really with the elephants? He claims that it’s “one of the most beneficial and rewarding things” he does. We’d really hate to know what he does that he thinks is less beneficial and rewarding.

So more and more, we kept talking about moving off GoDaddy and last weekend we made the move. For the record, we went with Hover.com for our domain registration (Thanks Leo Laporte for telling us about them) and we chose Media Temple for our web hosting because Tom has used them on other projects. We decided to separate hosting from domain registration so hosting is a bit more portable. Plus we like to support TWIT’s advertisers.

So here’s what you see when you log in to GoDaddy with your account information:

GoDaddy My Account

Here’s what you see when you log in to Media Temple with your account information:

Media Temple Account Center

Any questions?

Remember there are at least three parts to moving from one web hosting company to another:

  1. Getting all of your content from your old hosting company and putting it on your new hosting company
  2. Getting the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) to understand that you’ve moved
  3. Getting everything to work

Fear, rage and the eventual loss of hope in both God and Man are all optional steps.

Now here’s the deal: you want to do them in that order. Move your stuff first. Get things working as best you can (more on this in a minute), then do the DNS work. When that finishes, clean up whatever doesn’t work.

The trouble for Tom was that step two was the most psychologically satisfying part of the whole exercise, at least at first. Every time he told the Internet “No, we’re not using GoDaddy for that anymore” it felt good. Real good. He was going to do just one domain just to test things out, but then couldn’t stop himself. He did all of them. And it felt even better.

Right up to the point that nothing worked anymore

You see, he was using the fabulous tutorial that Hover.com has written to assist you in transferring your domain registration to them. The very first thing it says is that GoDaddy will shut down all your DNS services beyond the bare minimum as soon as the domain transfer is final (and you can make it final in less than an hour). You know what? They aren’t kidding. All of our sites, except for our main domain, were suddenly invisible to the Internet.

Oops.

It wouldn’t have been so bad had Tom been more prepared to move the domains. Here’s a tip: write down all of your old DNS information before you start. Then write down what your new DNS information is going to be. If you can’t write out both things, you’re not ready for do Step #2. Since Tom was a moron and didn’t do this, he failed to notice all of the DNS records were still pointing at GoDaddy long past the time GoDaddy considered us a customer. It took an incredibly nice and helpful support tech from Hover.com to point that out. Had Tom done this correctly, this blog would have been inaccessible for an hour or two. As it worked out, it was most of a day. All due to Tom getting in a hurry.

So copy all your content over to your new web hosting company and then do the DNS changes. This blog and a couple of others we have are hosted on Posterous so there was no need to copy anything. (Posterous isn’t active any more.) Our blog Hoperatives is self-hosted on WordPress and there are a couple of other domains that have a number of static pages along with a separate WordPress installation. All that stuff got downloaded from GoDaddy to Tom’s local machine, then uploaded to Media Temple. It is possible to send files directly from GoDaddy to elsewhere, but he wanted the assurance of a local backup.

WordPress was surprisingly easy to migrate. The fact that the WordPress Codex documentation site has a wonderful how-to about moving your site doesn’t hurt. The necessary databases from GoDaddy were backed up and copied to Media Temple. An empty database with the same name was created on Media Temple, then a database restore was performed from the backup. Media Temple has an extensive documentation center that has articles on just about every aspect of this. Once that was done it was a matter of editing four lines in a configuration file in WordPress to tell it to use the new database instead of the old one. The blog came back as if it hadn’t moved.

The thing is, you can move and partially test a WordPress installation before you change your DNS settings. Tom didn’t, but if he had, we’d not have had any downtime. The trouble is that you can’t fully test everything until you throw the switch on the DNS changes. You see, your self-hosted WordPress blog likely thinks of itself as www.yourhost.com (or whatever domain you use). Until you let the Internet know what IP address www.yourhost.com uses, it’s going to have a hard time finding things like CSS files and such. In our case, before he made the DNS change for www.hoperatives.com, Tom could only see a version of our main page that had no styling whatsoever. That was enough, though, because it told him the database migration worked just fine.

Tom didn’t know about this tool when he was actually doing all this, but he wishes he would have known about viewdns.info. Things would have gone much smoother. The thing about DNS changes is that they take time to spread across the Internet. It’s kind of like the “Twilight Barking” system in 101 Dalmations where messages are passed from dog to dog. It takes a while, but the message does eventually get there. It’s always important to check your work, and the tools at ViewDNS.info help you do that.

The last step of migrating is making sure everything works. That part has been pretty painless because nearly everything came over flawlessly. Tom had to make a change in the WordPress control panel to change the path of the directory where images are stored, but that might not happen to you (ours was funky to accomodate GoDaddy). There were a couple of other minor issues that took a grand total of five minutes to fix (and were related to plugins we use). All-in-all, that part went really smooth.

A couple of things to keep in mind. GoDaddy isn’t going to give you any money back for any domain registrations you’ve made with them unless it’s within five days of registering them. We’ve asked for a pro-rated refund of our hosting fees and we’re still waiting to hear. Hover.com doesn’t staff a call center on the weekends or late into the evening, but they do respond to e-mails and tweets very, very quickly. Tom sent an e-mail with some questions and just a little while later our phone rang and it was a tech from Hover. It was pretty clear that she was willing to stay on the phone for as long as it took. She said that, but it was pretty clear from the way she was talking that she meant it. Did we mention that this was on a Sunday morning?

We left GoDaddy because we decided it wasn’t a company we wanted to give money to anymore. We chose two companies to replace it for equally personal reasons. Our reasons may not be the same as yours, but if you choose to leave your hosting company for another, take your time and research prices and features. If something isn’t clear, pick up the phone and call. How that call gets handled is probably going to be a pretty good indication of how things will go for you. Make a step-by-plan with all the information you’re going to need to make the switch, then plan for it to take some time. If you prepare in advance, it’ll all work out fine in the end.

And you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror again.

Re-post: A Kick in the Butt

While cleaning out my Google Reader subscriptions in preparation to move to another RSS reader, I came across this post I wrote for the non-extinct Cincinnati Losers blog a while back. I recently added a piece of technology that builds on what I discuss here. I’ll be reviewing it very soon.

Four years ago, I weighed 281 pounds. For the second time, Tom and I began a liquid diet through a local hospital and, by April of the next year, I weighed 221 lbs. for a loss of 60 lbs total. (You can read about our journey on that diet at Diminishing Returns.)

As of this morning, I weigh 303 lbs., 22 lbs. more than when we started the liquid diet four years ago and 82 lbs. more than my lowest on the diet. A lot of things happened between then and now (my mother died, we started blogging about beer, my work stress level got even higher), but it all comes down to me and what I was doing. Or rather, what I wasn’t doing.

In the beginning of 2009, I started training for walking the Flying Pig half marathon in addition to continuing our water aerobics. I got all the way to walking 8.5 miles one Saturday. But, I made the mistake of walking in cold, damp weather with a chest cold. It got much worse and I got to stop training for a while to recuperate. The slide that had already begun got steeper at that point.

Since that point, I have started and re-started SparkPeople more times than I can count. Last year, I was asked to join Cincinnati Losers and I managed to post all of two times. Our trips to our local Y to do water aerobics got so infrequent that we tried taking the months of January and February off this year to see if that would help push us a bit when March arrived.

All this time, I kept thinking something’s going to happen to get me back in the weight loss mode again. I won’t buy new clothes so I’ll have to diet to fit in the ones I have. Yeah, right… That didn’t work. When I go over 300 pounds, it will shock me into losing weight. Well, that happened in last September and I’m still there.

It was a conversation on Twitter that made me think I need something more. As you’ve already read, I’m not shy about sharing my weight unlike most people I know. About a year ago, Leo LaPorte of the TWiT Podcast Network was talking about the Withings Scale on This Week in Tech. This scale can be set up to send your weight directly to SparkPeople or even tweet your weight. In my search for the something that will make me get serious again, I bought one and set up a twitter account for it – https://twitter.com/#!/carlas_scale. I was talking with someone who was interested in the scale and he mentioned being reluctant to tweet his weight. I pointed out that “Not saying the number out loud doesn’t make it not true.”

That phrase kept sticking in my mind. And then, over this past weekend, I realized why certain diets and plans worked for me and others didn’t. I need accountability. Not so much public humiliation, but being held accountable for my actions. So when Shannan asked about creating a Facebook fan page for Cincinnati Losers, I was one of the first to say “YES!” I need that kick in the butt every once in a while that gets me back on track. I need to know that someone is paying attention and someone is watching my journey.

So, I’m asking… both my fellow Cincinnati Losers and those of you following us on Facebook… please ask if I got to the Y this morning. And have I tracked my food on SparkPeople. And did I get my water in today. And, most of all, please kick my butt when the need arrives. My goal is to make it a smaller target to kick as each day goes by. Many thanks in advance!

– Carla

Review: Smashburger paired with Moerlein Beers

Last Thursday night, Tom and I were invited to a media event at the Highland Heights Smashburger to try out their new food pairings with Christian Moerlein beers. Neither of us had been to a Smashburger so we didn’t really know what to expect. We decided to split the blogging responsibilities on this one. Tom will cover the beer and beer pairings over on Hoperatives (review on Hoperatives) and I’m going to cover the food offerings here.

We started with a sampling of the many sides available at Smashburger.

Fries

These included Smash fries (tossed with rosemary, olive oil and garlic – so nice) and sweet potato fries. (Regular fries are also available.)

Pickles and Peppers

Then, there was fried pickle chips and the very unusual fried banana pepper rings. Personally, I was so happy to see fried pickle chips instead of spears. Chips are so much better. These things were damn addictive.

Onion Rings and Veggies

Finally, there were Haystack onions (really thin onion rings) and what they call Veggie Frites (green beans and carrots that are flash fried). Really good! And these last four sides all came with their own dipping sauce.

After we were all settled down and had enjoyed the sides, Smashburger owner (and former Cincinnati resident) Tom Ryan and Moerlein VP & Lager House Brewmaster Richard Dube walked us through the pairings. Each burger or chicken sandwich is pictured below with the Moerlein beer it was paired with (except the Classic Smash Burger photo where I forget to position the beer in the right place. It was paired with Helles by the way).

Classic Burger

The Classic Smash Burger is your basic burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion and mayo. I liked the fact that it was on a multi-grain bun to make it a bit different. Basic, but very well done.

Mushroom and Swiss

This was my favorite. The Mushroom Swiss burger has sautéed baby portabella mushrooms, mayo and aged Swiss on an egg bun with no produce on it. That was a good decision for this particular burger. Lettuce, tomato or even onion would have been too much. And the cremini mushrooms were such a good choice for this.

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger

The BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar Burger (with BBQ sauce, applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar and haystack onions) was my second favorite. So decadent that this will probably be my “special occasions only” choice at Smash Burger.

Buckeye Burger

This burger is one that is only available in our area. Take those fried pepper rings I talked about earlier add American cheese, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Put it all on an egg bun and you have a very unique burger for the Buckeye state.

Black Bean Burger

The Spicy Veggie Black Bean Burger (with fresh jalapenos, guacamole, pepper jack, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle mayo on a spicy chipotle bun) lived up to its name. The texture of the burger though reminded me more of falafel than black bean burgers I’ve tried in the past. This veggie option is also available in a non-spicy version. (Believe me, the spicy version is definitely spicy.)

Chicken

The chicken sandwiches at Smashburger are different than your usual “throw a chicken breast on a bun” sandwiches. Take that chicken breast and pound it like you’re making chicken schnitzel or chicken parmesan. Then marinate it in all sorts of wonderful flavors. The result is a chicken sandwich that cooks in the same amount of time as a burger, but stays moist and flavorful. I’ll be ordering more of these.

Chicken Club

For this chicken sandwich, take the chicken we just talked about and then add fresh avocado, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch dressing and mayo. Place it all on a multi-grain bun. I only wish that the avocado had been sliced a bit thinner. I would probably forego the ranch and mayo next time too. The avocado is enough.

We finished the night with samples of their Häagen-Dazs milk shakes. I’m not a fan of fake fruit flavors ever since I had a bad experience with Froot Loops as a child. This strawberry shake was not fake at all and the strawberry flavor was not overpowering. As Goldilocks would have said, it was just right.

By the way, while researching this post, I discovered that the Smashburger web site has both their nutritional information for their entire menu and also the allergen information too.

All in all, I’m really looking forward to our next visit to Smashburger so we can enjoy their burgers and Christian Moerlein beers together. Now, if they would just open one in Burlington or Hebron…