29 March 2012

Yep, today is my blog's fifth birthday!  I wrote my first post on March 29, 2007.  Actually I posted twice that day, an introduction and reason why I started the blog, and my first posted recipe, Spicy Mixed Nuts.  As you can tell by the url of the introductory post, my blog was originally called "Culinary Tales." I knew that wasn't a great name, but I was itching to get started and couldn't think of anything better.  It wasn't long before I came up with Edesia's Notebook.  Much better, if not just because it was more interesting and memorable.

Some (if not most) of you may be quite surprised that I have been blogging for five years now.  I posted very sporadically at the beginning, and it wasn't until 2011 that I really got serious about it, posted regularly, and started getting more involved in the food blogger community (thanks mostly to Facebook).    There was a lot going on in my life in the first few years that I had this blog.  Two months after starting the blog, my husband graduated from Seminary, was ordained, and took a divine call here to Michigan.  Moving from St. Louis to Michigan was quite demanding of my time, and a couple of weeks after we settled in, we found out that we were pregnant with our first child.  The first trimester was rough, to say the least!, so food was the last thing on my mind for a long time.  Then, once I started feeling better, we moved again to our first house in the next town over.  I didn't post very often the year Lena was born; it took some time to get into the swing of motherhood!  Then daughter no. 2 came along in 2010.

Okay, enough of my life story.  I want to share with you the card I got in the mail yesterday.

My mom's hobby is card-making, and she made this super cute card for me!  She printed off graphics from the blog, and even used my category labels as the background!  I love it! Thanks so much, Mom!

Okay, now I would like to share with you some stats from my blog's first five years.  I have posted a total of 358 recipes.  First up, my five all-time most popular posts (as determined by number of page views):

1.  Slow Cooker Garlic-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

This one caught like wildfire on Pinterest last year.  Somebody pinned it and it got over 200 repins.

2.  Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole (Cream Soup Free)

This was my 300th recipe.

The only recipe in the top five not posted in 2011.  This was a very early one, from October 2007.  This one is popular because of Google searches (see below).

And now, the top five referring sites to my blog.

1. Google search
2. Pinterest
3. Facebook
4. Google.ca
5. Bing.com

Three of the top five referring sites are search engines.  This is one reason why I am very particular about how I name my recipes (making sure they accurately represent the dish) and why I title all my posts with the name of the recipe.  

The top five keyword searches bringing people to my blog:

1. stovetop chili
2. chicken broccoli rice casserole
3. weenie wraps (I forgot I even had weenie wraps on here!)
4. corned beef and cabbage soup (this was something I posted just earlier this month!)
5. stove top chili

Very interesting!  And now a little bit about you!  The top five countries that compose my audience:

1. United States
2. Canada
3. Germany
4. United Kingdom
5. Russia

Wow, my blog is popular with Russians? Who would have thought? :)

This is going to be sappy, but I really want to thank all of my friends and family for supporting me in this endeavor.  As a stay-at-home mom, I don't get much interaction with other adults on a regular basis, so having this outlet is really important to me.  I would also like to thank each of my 71 followers through Google Friend Connect, each of my 530 Facebook fans, every one of you who has ever commented on a post, shared a post, talked about my blog with your friends, or just dropped me a line to tell me how much you like my blog.  Those things really mean the world to me.

This will sound weird, but I would also like to thank my camera.  Every single picture on this blog was taken with my now over seven-year-old cheapo digital camera that is literally being held together with electrical tape.

This is why I am totally amazed whenever someone comments on a picture on my blog.  I have absolutely no photography training, so when a seasoned food blogger with amazing pics herself, compliments a photo of mine, it totally makes my day!

But mostly I would like to thank my husband, Jim, who puts up with a lot of annoyances in order for me to food blog.  He waits very patiently while I set up my "foodio" in the dining room, hoping that the food doesn't get too cold while I am taking 20 pictures to get that "one" perfect shot.  He doesn't complain when I ask him to eat the ugliest muffins because I still need to take pictures of the prettiest.  He has been such a sport whenever I try a new food that he isn't crazy about, or when I put too many onions in something.  He has supported me 100% from the beginning and I can't thank him enough. I love you, Babe!

5 Years/500 Fans Giveaway

Okay, enough mushy stuff!  Let's get to the giveaway!  This giveaway is not only in honor of my fifth blogiversary, but also in honor of reaching 500 fans on my Facebook page earlier this month.  I thought for a long time about what I should give away to my lovely readers.  Finally, I decided to give one lucky reader a little "taste" of the great spices I use and am constantly going on and on about.  Penzey's!! This giveaway is in no way, shape, or form, sponsored by Penzey's.  I have decided to use every bit of the small amount of money this blog has earned me to reward my readers.  So I am sponsoring this giveaway all myself.  I am doing this because I really love Penzey's spices and think they are pretty much the greatest thing ever!  If you don't live near a Penzey's, it's hard to give them a try, so I am making it easier for someone to try it.

Here is my Penzey's collection:

The giveaway is for an assortment of Penzey's spices.  The specific spices included is subject to change, but will most likely be these:

Tuscan Sunset (used in pretty much every Italian dish I make, and also Slow Cooker Italian Beef & Veggie Soup)
Bicentennial Rub (really good on grilled steak or roasted chicken)
Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle  (great topper for spaghetti)
Tsardust Memories  (really good on pork chops)
Fox Point Seasoning  (really good on salmon
Mural of Flavor  (really good in tuna salad or other seafood)  

The total value will be about $52.

The winner will receive 1/4 cup jars of each of these spices.  I chose the spices very carefully.  Most of them are blends unique to Penzey's, therefore you can't buy them anywhere else.  These are the ones I use most often and you have probably seen them listed in recipes here on this blog.  I have listed how I use each spice, so if you are the winner, come back to this post after you get them in the mail and you have a list of recipes to use them in.

So, to enter, please leave a comment telling me the name of one spice, herb, or blend that you have yet to try.  Here are a few rules for the giveaway:

1. Please like my Facebook page and follow my blog through Google Friend Connect, if you haven't already. You don't have to tell me that you did this.  It's one entry per person, but I will be able to tell if you have done these things if you win.

2. No anonymous comments and please enter your email address when posting your comment.  I will contact the winner via email, so this is important.

3. Winner will need to provide me with their valid mailing address.  I am really, really sorry, but I have to limit this to U.S. only.  I will be placing the order online to be shipped directly from Penzey's and they don't give shipping costs to international addresses until 48 hours after the order is placed.  I can't place an order not having any idea how much shipping will be, so U.S. only please.  Again, sincere apologies to my international readers!

4. The giveaway will close on Wednesday, April 4th at 11:59 pm.  Winner will be chosen on Thursday, April 5th, and notified by email.  Winner will have 48 hours to reply with his/her address or I will chose another winner.  I will probably also announce the winner here on the blog.

Remember, it's one entry per person, so if you comment more than once, I will delete all but the first comment.  

Thank you so much for indulging me in this anniversary post and actually reading all of this! I love you all and can't wait to see what the next five years brings!

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  1. Krista@EverydayMomsMealsMarch 29, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    Congrats on all your hard work! I love the card your mom made. As an avid card maker myself, I appreciate the work she put into it! I too take all of my photos w/ my small digital camera, and am always so excited when one actually looks great :) I think "not letting the food get cold" is something all of us bloggers face!! I've never used Penzey's spices, but my friend has and raves about them, so I'd love to try! 

  2. Ekeysiacasiotra@gmail.comMarch 29, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    Hi! Quierston here. I found your blog thru Pintrest and have been hooked ever since. I've shared many of your reciepes with family and friends - they love you too. I've never used Penzey spices but my best friend swears by them. I'll be visiting soon. The spice I'd most like to try is the Bangkok Blend. I've have yet to try to cook Asain food and I would LOVE to start with Thai Fried Rice.

  3. Lesa, Congrats, congrats, congrats!!!!!! So glad you are my foodie friend. Also glad to say you were one of the first blogs I followed when I started my blog and learned of the wonderful foodie community out there in cyber space.  I definitely get the love and support from my "computer friends" sometimes carrying me through a rough day, definitely the best. 
    Love the camera, makes me feel better about mine, lol, a pink cyber shot with flour smudges most of the time. 
    Hubby is a good man letting you get your shots, but then he also gets all the wonderful creations you make so it's a fair trade off. 
    I've never heard of Penzey's (living in the small town, middle of nowhere, we don't have a broad selection of items in the store) so would love to try them. 

  4. Hi Lesa! I'm new to your blog and very excited to be here! like you, I do all my pictures with my phone since my son broke my last 3 cameras and i need to invest some good money on a new one, but i'm not ready yet! Just liked your page, and followed you on pinterest. Come by and visit my site! I never heard of Penzey's but if I'm the winner i promise to use it all the time!!!<3 Bia Rich

  5. Congratulations!!!  5 years, that is truly a milestone!!!  I just found you through Joan's (Chocolate, Chocolate and more Chocolate) post on FB about your blogiversary.  Can't wait to check out all of your recipes.  That Bacon Roasted Cabbage has been bookmarked because we NEVER have cabbage at our house, so will have to try!
    I've never used Penzey's spices, but they sound wonderful, especially the Greek Seasoning.  LOVE Greek food!!

  6. Nothing warms my heart more that seeing your success and knowing you are enjoying what you do.....wait maybe your Chicken Cordon Blue Pizza....that REALLY warms my heart! Thanks for everything you have taught me. I am getting more into Asian cooking now and have enjoyed Penzey's Chinese Five Spice Blend but really want to try the Bangkok Blend also. You made me a Penzey's lover also. Happy 5 Year Blogiversary!

  7. Congrats on the 5 years! I love that card! SO cute. I would love to win these spices. I have never tried curry powder when cooking. Strange, right?

  8. First of all, congratulations on all of your accomplishments.  I would love to blog, but I just don't have time and I am very appreciative of all you bloggers who share your lives with me!  I am not familiar with Penzey's spices, but I would love to become familiar with them!  My first purchase would probably be Northwoods
    'Fire' since we like things spicy in Texas!

  9. I so enjoyed reading this lovely post and I look forward to being a new follower!  I have my own food blog and Facebook page (The Fountain Avenue Kitchen) and I take photos with my phone and try hard to snap a good one before the meal gets cold!  Congratulations on five years--I look forward to my first anniversary!--and please visit my page any time!  Thanks for a thoughtful, insightful read: )  

  10. Congrats on FIVE years! What an accomplishment! I don't think I've tried hardly any of those spice blends but they all sound fantastic! Congrats again, Lesa. So happy to have "met" you through food blogging!

  11. I have never used Tsardust Memories .  We love pork dishes and this sounds like something I would like to get my hands on.  Congratulations on your anniversary and your 500 bloggers, too.

  12. Thanks for sharing :) And congrats on 5 years! What an accomplishment :)   I follow via GFC and like you via FB. I would love to try the Northwoods Fire Seasoning.
    family74014 at gmail dot com

  13. Happy Blogiversary!  How exciting!  I love penzey spices, and I used to have one across town, but kind of out of sight out of mind thing... I know, a little crazy, but sometimes convenience and urgency wins.  :-)  The Arizona Dreaming sounds really good, I really like that name.  
    Blessings to you

  14. Wow Lesa!  Congrats!  I *love* reading your blog... it has become a total inspiration for family dinner!


  15. Congratulations on 5 years!!  Your blog is one of the first places I go when I am looking for an idea/help for dinner and I have a bunch of your recipes printed off and in my recipe box!   Your blog is awesome and I hope you continue if for many more years!  I have not heard of Penzey's spices, but I would love to try the Greek Seasoning with my turkey burgers!  Thanks again for a wonderful blog!

  16. Hey!  Just "liked" your Facebook page!  CONGRATS on blogging for 5 years!  I think I just hit 5 months, so I can only imagine your accomplishment!  Hope you have many many more :)

    kpm679  (at) gmail.com

  17. Thanks, Krista! My mom sells her cards at craft shows around Fort Wayne and at a shop in Auburn. Do you sell yours?

  18. Thanks Quierston! Bangkok is great and Thai Fried Rice is one of my fav recipes.

  19. Penzey's isn't sold in grocery stores. They sell via internet, catalog, and they have like 50 stores nationwide. I checked it out and the closest one to you is on the north side of Atlanta, in Silver Springs. You have to go if you are ever in the area. You will fall in love! www.penzeys.com

  20. Thanks so much, Bia. Always great to make new bloggy friends! :)

  21. You won't be disappointed with that cabbage!

  22. You are missing out, Mandy! Curry is awesome, even in non-Indian dishes. I buy the sweet curry so it's not hot at all. But I have started mixing it with a tiny bit of the hot sometimes!

  23. Thanks Martha! I spent a year in Texas; I think Northwoods Fire would be great for you!

  24. Congratulations on 5 years!  I am a relatively new follower, I found you via the thumbnail photos on another blog in a post about the secret recipe club, and am excited to try more of your recipes.

    I am fortunate to live in a city that has a Penzey's brick and mortar store - let me tell you it is dangerous to send my husband in there! 

    I would like to try the pork and chicken rub 33rd and Galena - we recently purchased Northwoods Seasoning - yum!

  25. I would love to try the "Bangkok Blend"

  26. Congrats on 5 years!!  That is such an amazing accomplishment!  The card your mom made is awesome! 
    What a great giveaway.  I went to Penzey's once, but only bought 2 things.  Wish it was closer so I could go back.  I really want to try the Bangkok Blend.  We love Thai and Asian flavored foods, this would be great!

  27. Congratulations Lesa!  I have been following you for a while now.  I love your recipes, have tried several, and love to see your girls pictures on your blog.  You have a great family and I also love the card that your mom made.  She is so creative!  It has been a while since I have seen any of your family and miss you all alot!!!  The spice that I have never even heard of is the Northwoods Fire Seasoning.  We love spicy things and think this would be a good addition.

  28. Couldn't get Google Friend Connect to work! I would like to try the Tuscan Sunset as we really like Italian dishes here!

  29. Hi, Lesa. Congrats on your first five. As you've seen in our FB group, I'm a fan of things that bite me when I bite them, so the Arizona Dreaming or Northwoods Fire sound particularly intriguing. Should I win, you can reach me here: pastor.snyder [@t] xrysostom [dott.] com (I do what I can to try to keep the $p@mm3rs @ b@y.)

  30. Congratulations on 5 years! You're an old pro now! That is such an accomplishment. One to be proud of.  The card your Mom made is so cute and your giveaway so generous. I have never tried the Fox Point seasoning and have been eating a lot of fish lately so would be perfect.  Here's wishing you 5 more delicious years of blogging!

  31. I would be excited to try any of those spice blends, except for a miscellaneous bottle of Greek seasoning in my cupboards I don't own any blends and would love to give them a try.

    Congratulations on your five years of blogging!

  32. Congratulations!  I found your blog through Cooking with Lutherans and Sarah Krenz.  I have never heard of Penzey spices.  I would love to try the Fox Point seasoning as we eat a lot of salmon out here in the northwest.  Keep up the great work!

  33. Thank you, Rachel! I'm glad to have "met" you too! :)

  34. Tsardust is one of my husband's favorites. It's a Russian-style blend and has just a hint of cinnamon in it. A little unexpected for savory meat dishes, but really good!

  35. Great choice, Alaine. Thanks for entering!

  36. I definitely understand about convenience. While I am grateful to have a Penzey's near me, I sometimes grumble about how it is on the side of town farthest away from me and it is quite a drive to get there. I keep a list of spice needs in my kitchen and only go about once every 2 or 3 months. Then I stock up!

  37. Thanks Brenda! That is the best compliment I can receive; helping people with dinner ideas for their family. :)

  38. Thanks Brenda! Hearing that I am helping people make dinner for their families is the best compliment I can receive!

  39. You are so sweet, Addie! I'm so glad you have found some recipes that you like.  Greek Seasoning would be awesome on turkey burgers. We often season burgers with Greek Seasoning, them top them with olives and feta cheese. Yum!

  40. Thank you for the like, Krista! And thanks for sharing your blog. I'm definitely going to check it out.

  41. 33rd and Galena is actually one I haven't tried yet. Northwoods is awesome. I know what you mean about the store; it's dangerous to send ME in there!

  42. Bangkok is great in Thai food. It has a lot of flavor but isn't too spicy. Thanks for entering!

  43. Thank you so much, Erin. I wish I could go into Penzey's and only buy two things! Thanks for entering.

  44. Thanks Dunyale. It's so great that you have tried some of my recipes. I love hearing that! Northwoods Fire is awesome. It has chipotle in it, which is hands down my favorite pepper. Thanks for entering!

  45. I LOVE Tuscan Sunset. It's way better than any Italian seasoning you can get in the grocery store. Thanks for entering, Caroline!

  46. Thanks for entering, Pastor Snyder. Arizona Dreaming isn't actually too spicy, but makes an awesome taco seasoning (it has a hint of citrus in it which is very intriguing). Northwoods Fire definitely lives up to its name as it contains chipotle, my favorite pepper.

  47. Thank you for entering, Virginia. Yes, Fox Point would be a great choice for you Northwesterners!