We’re not done yet. Living with thyroid cancer

Living with Thyroid Cancer

Cancer sucks. There’s no way around it.

April was daffodil month in Canada. The daffodils are a sign that the individuals who wear them support the fight against cancer and those living with cancer.

When I was a kid I always bought a daffodil pin. When I worked in the business district, I would purchase the live daffodils to brighten up my office.

Sadly this awful disease touches most families at some point, including my own. However, I never really thought I would fall into the “living with cancer” category.

I’ve told the beginning of my story (you can find it here) and I was really hoping it would be more of a short story or magazine article as opposed to a chapter book. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going for a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows size novel around here.

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January 2014 and had surgery in March of that year. To follow-up on my surgery and radioactive iodine treatment that took place in 2014, I had a follow-up “tracer dose” of radioactive iodine in October 2015. This is apparently standard procedure. Patients who’ve had treatment typically need a second full body scan to check if the original radioactive iodine treatment worked.

After my “tracer dose” in October,  my doctor’s assistant advised me that my scan was clear – yay! I was super excited when the doctor’s assistant told me that there was “no evidence of cancer”.

My family and friends were thrilled and everyone said it’s about time we heard some positive news.

A few weeks later (yes, weeks) I received a call from my endocrinologist. He asked me if he’d ever followed up with me after the scan in October. I told him that I had not heard from him, but spoke to his assistant who said my scan was clear.

At that point in our conversation he said, yes, the scan was clear but we received some blood test results and they came back showing a higher level of tumor markings than he’d hoped. Ok, I said, so what does that mean? Unfortunately for me, it looks like there are still some stubborn cancer cells running around in my body causing trouble.

This conversation was very upsetting. I was angry at my doctor – why didn’t he call me earlier and tell me these results instead of his assistant giving me a false sense that everything was ok and I was all done?

I had to go back to my husband, parents, family and friends and explain – I still do have cancer. It’s microscopic but still there.

Now everyone asks me “what can you do about it?” According to my endocrinologist, nothing. There’s nothing I can do right now. This is how it is and for the next little while I have to continue to living with thyroid cancer.

My journey continues. I hoped it would be finished by now after surgery and two treatments. Unfortunately this is unclear. I’ve worked very hard to learn how to live with and deal with uncertainty in my life but sometimes, as with this situation, it can be too much. I’m tired.

Living with Thyroid cancer and uncertainty

I really strive to be a positive person and look at every situation as one where the glass is half full rather than half empty, but I feel like this set of circumstances is particularly difficult to shade with rose coloured glasses.

I’ve followed up with my endocrinologist who has advised me that thyroid cancer is a marathon. Unfortunately for me (and my family) I’m only at the 10 mile mark. Even still, I have no doubt in my mind – I’m going to keep running and try to pick up my pace.

To be continued…

 

Low iodine diet friendly vegan gluten free muffins

Low Iodine Diet Friendly gluten free and vegan muffins

Please note – this post contains affiliate links

I’ve adapted this recipe for Vegan Gluten Free Muffins from one of my favourite cookbooks. The recipe is based on Oh She Glows Out the Door Chia Power Doughnuts from Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows Cookbook.

It’s easy to make these muffins low iodine diet friendly, as long as you don’t add the salt and make your own nut milk using raw almonds. I would also double check that the chocolate chips are vegan and that you are allowed to use them. If not, you can always replace the chocolate chips with blueberries, which would also be yummy I’m sure.

Ingredients to make LID Vegan Gluten Free Muffins

Ingredients for LID vegan gluten free muffins

3/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (don’t add salt if on the low iodine diet)
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup maple syrup (pure)
1/3 cup nut milk (make your own if on the low iodine diet)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (double check they are allowed if you’re on the low iodine diet)

Instructions to make LID Vegan Gluten Free Muffins

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and place muffin liners in large muffin tins (start with six and you might need a couple more).

To make oat flour (use gluten free) put the oats in your food processor – I use my baby bullet since it’s small, quick and not too noisy.

Process the the oats until you’ve created a flour.

oats for vegan gluten free muffins

ground oats for LID vegan gluten free muffins

Once the oats are ground into a flour, place them in a large bowl and add in the chia seeds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt (if you’re not on the low iodine diet).

Combine the dry ingredients.

dry ingredients for LID vegan gluten free muffins

Once the dry ingredients are combined, add in the wet ingredients: maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla and the chocolate chips. Mix everything together. My “dough” is often very runny but don’t worry it comes out once you’ve baked them.

all ingredients for LID vegan gluten free muffins

When all of the ingredients are mixed together pour the dough into the muffin tin. I used 1/4 cup for each muffin.

LID vegan gluten free muffins

Then bake the muffins in the oven for 22 minutes. You can test to see if they are ready by placing a toothpick in the middle and making sure that it comes out clean.

These muffins are healthy, high fiber and yummy. They usually keep in a tupperware container for a few days.

LID vegan gluten free muffins

vegan gluten free muffins

9 Twitter tips for Beginners Part II

9 Twitter Tips for Beginners part 2
photograph by Haute Chocolate

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post on Twitter tips for beginners. I thought I’d be able to write it in one shot but apparently I have a lot to say on the subject!

Here’s part 2 and I hope you find these Twitter tips useful as well!

Be Helpful

When I started using Twitter I did it for fun. I just shared anything and everything I thought was interesting from a wide range of different topics.

As I started using Twitter in my job search, I began tweeting items  that were law and education related because that was the job market I was hoping to enter. By doing this, I kept myself up to date on key issues. I also became familiar with the various thought leaders and the trending topics.

My Twitter following grew substantially at this time. I think it’s because I was focused more on sharing interesting stories than gaining followers.

Since starting the blog, I haven’t changed my strategy much other than to follow other lifestyle and mom bloggers whose work I enjoy reading. I only promote my own posts maybe once a day (if I can remember to schedule them – more on that below).

Use Google Alerts for Tweets

I think I first heard about Google Alerts when I was listening to one of Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcasts. In the podcast he suggests setting up alerts for topics of interest to use as inspiration or content across social media.

Google Alerts is quite easy to use. If there’s something you’re interested in, type it in the search button, enter your email address and create an alert. Every day you get email updates on your topic(s) of choice.

I have a few of these set up and I go through them at the end of the day to choose which articles I’ll schedule for future tweets.

Personally, I like to read the articles before I schedule them to make sure they offer useful advice. After reading the articles, I’ll either create my own tweet or use the tweet button on the article and then paste it into my scheduler.

This is a great way to make sure you never run out of scheduled tweets.

Schedule your Tweets

Speaking of scheduling… I know that there are a number of different Twitter schedulers out there and I’m sure they all work very well.

Personally, I’ve only tried Hootsuite and I really like it. I use it for work and for my personal account. I love that it’s free – key when you’re on a budget and it does the trick.

It can take a few tries to get used to the dashboard and how to schedule but once you are comfortable with the dashboard and set up it’s easy.

After you link up your Twitter account you can choose different streams (columns) for your screen.

I use:

  1. “home” stream – my Twitter feed
  2. “my tweets” – the tweets that I’ve sent out
  3. “scheduled” – the tweets that I plan to send out; and
  4. “mentions” – if someone has tagged me in a tweet
  5. “retweets” – to keep track of any retweets of my posts

At the top of the screen there’s a little box where you can write your tweet, schedule it using the calendar icon and add media using the paperclip icon.

If you’re sharing a link, Hootsuite also lets you shorten the link to make the tweet more concise. When you add your link you just click the “shorten” button and voila you have a much shorter link to share.

Tweet Often and at Different Times of Day

I probably tweet about  6-10 times per day with maybe one tweet of my own content and the rest other people’s posts, articles, events etc.

I’m sure many Twitter gurus would have a different ratio of sharing others work vs your own but I’m focusing more on growing my audience and as that grows, more people will be exposed to my writing as well.

In terms of scheduling you can either choose your own time or have Hootsuite auto schedule it for you. I’ve done both and haven’t seen much of a difference either way.

The convenient thing about using auto schedule is that you don’t need to worry about tweeting too close together, or too often in the same window of time.

Have fun with Hashtags

A hashtag is the pound sign (#) tweeters put in front of a word or phrase. You can search hashtags to see which ones are popular in your areas of interest. This allows you to identify what other people are discussing on your topics.

For example, if you want to see what other people on Twitter are saying about homeschooling, just type #homeschool in the search window and a bunch of tweets will come up. If you want to add to the conversation, write your tweet and add the hashtag at the end (in front of the key word).

You can also use Hashtagify to find out related hashtags. Searching Hashtagify for #homeschool I find that related hashtags include #education, #kids, #math, #parenting etc. You can add these to the tweet as well. What’s great about this, is that now, your tweet will be found not only by people searching for #homeschool but people searching for #education or #kids or whichever other hashtag you add.

Your tweet could look something like this:

Check out these amazing tips from @homeschoolexpert www.hse.com #homeschool #education #kids

Twitter Parties

So, I find Twitter parties to be their own unique thing. Some people love them, other people hate them. Personally, I find them fun to participate in depending on the topic.

Usually Twitter parties are hosted by a few different bloggers and/or brand ambassadors. These individuals promote the party on their networks and spread the word. To participate, you often have to follow the hosts on Twitter and sign up for the party on the host’s website.

The parties start at a specific time and usually the hosts set out a number of questions and people answer them. The questions usually start “Q1:” “Q2:” etc and when responding party goers typically put “A1:” “A2:” in front of their answers. People will often add the host’s twitter handle to the answer and use the specific hashtag that has been created for the party.

Mommy Blog Expert has an amazing Twitter party calendar that she updates every week and you can see if there’s a party of interest to you. Also, if you follow influencers they will often tweet out about upcoming parties too.

So Fab Chats also has a great list of parties and if you login to their site they have a platform that lets you follow along easily.

Hope you’ve found these additional 6 Twitter tips helpful!

What are your best Twitter tips?

How to Help a Friend with Cancer

How to help a friend with cancer
Photo by Helene In Between

The other day a work colleague told me that one of her old friends had just been diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer and the doctors were trying to figure out the next steps to take in his treatment.

My colleague knows that I am living with thyroid cancer (I’m very open about it with everyone including the people I work with) and she asked me how she could help her friend. This question got me thinking about the best way to help a friend with cancer (or any illness really) and I’ve come up with some tips.

How to Help a Friend with Cancer

Be there for your friend

My colleague told me that she had been speaking to her friend a lot over the past few days, offering to help as much as possible and emailing him articles, courses and other items that might be of interest to him. She asked me if this was all too much and if I thought she might be driving him crazy with all of this attention.

I told her it sounded to me like she was doing all of the right things.

I’ve found that depending on your friends and their own circumstances, some people can back away when something goes wrong. For whatever reason, sometimes people can’t handle the idea that a close friend is ill, in pain or needs help.

I understand completely how difficult it can be to see your friend or loved one sick, but this is the time that your friend or loved one needs you most.

When a person is sick, knowing that their friends and family are there to rally around them can really help.

If it’s challenging for you to see your friend ill, think about how your friend feels. If you were in the same boat, what would you appreciate? A visit? A phone call? A quick text to check in?

There’s no need to spend hours by your friend’s side but please do make an effort to reach out to your friend and check up.

Distractions

When someone isn’t well, she likely doesn’t want to constantly be reminded of her sickness and likely doesn’t want to always be talking about it, thinking about it or be made to feel different because of it.

This is where good friends come into play – go to a movie together, out for coffee or to get your nails done. Tell your friend about what’s going on in your life and with your family. This is helpful because it can take your friend’s mind off all of her troubles and allow her to offer you support as well.

If your friend isn’t strong enough to venture out of her house, bring the distraction to her – magazines, books or watch a funny movie together on Netflix.

Often, just having company can make a huge difference in brightening someone’s day.

Play dates

If you and your friend both have kids, get them together for a play date.

Having been in this situation, one major source of anxiety for me was knowing whether or not R was being taken care of, happy and having fun. I was lucky, R was in full time daycare at the time of my surgery and RAI treatment so not much in his routine changed. Because he was in daycare, he was able to keep hanging out with his friends without much involvement from me.

Had R been at home with me, I know I would have appreciated friends dropping by with their kids to keep R entertained and busy. This would have been especially true had I been bedridden for a certain amount of time.

Support your Friend’s Partner

Like many women, I worry more about my family than I do about myself. In addition to being concerned about R, I was concerned about E’s well-being.

Your friend’s partner likely won’t ask for help but reach out to support him or her as well. I can only imagine that there are so many emotions and challenges that can come along with having a sick partner and he or she needs support too.

Help with Day to Day Activities

The day to day activities like cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the house are often the tasks that get put off when you’re sick.

I think that any help you can provide a friend would be greatly appreciated. From baking muffins and bringing them over to arranging for a cleaning service to help with the house – all of these show concern and an understanding for what your friend and his/her family are experiencing.

Has one of your friends dealt with a difficult health challenge? What did you do to help your friend?

9 Twitter Tips for Beginners Part I

Twitter tips for beginners part I
photo from HauteChocolate

Twitter can be lots of fun or super overwhelming. I initially started on Twitter a few years ago when I was home with R. It was a quick way to get news, celebrity updates and keep up with different topics of interest to me. I also found Twitter helpful when I was looking for a job a couple of years ago.

In my current position, I promote different programs to undergraduate students. Twitter happened to be one of the most effective ways to get the word out. From there, my own Twitter following began to grow and now I have over 2,000 followers.

I know that’s nothing in comparison to some of the super Twitter personalities out there but I’m amazed that 2,000 people are interested in what I’ve got to say. I feel that if people are going to listen to me, then I have to help them and give them meaningful and useful content.

In using Twitter for work, blogging and personal reasons, I’ve learned a fair bit about the platform and have come up with a few Twitter tips for beginners.

I totally didn’t realize how many Twitter tips I would come up with so I decided to split this post into two parts. The first part explains a bit more about Twitter and then sets out the first three Twitter tips for beginners. I’ll share the rest of my Twitter tips in a subsequent post.

Let’s start from the beginning:

What is Twitter?

Twitter describes itself as “an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140 character tweets”.

Who is on Twitter?

According to Twitter, there are over 320,000,000 monthly active users on Twitter (whoa that’s a lot of people).

Celebrities, politicians, CEOs, college students, stay at home moms and everyone in between are on Twitter and most of us have it hooked up to our smartphones.

Should I go on Twitter?

If you’re not already on Twitter, then you should be. It can be a great platform to keep up with friends, stay current with the news and promote your work.

What’s with all of the acronyms?

Since you only have 140 characters to express yourself, people use a number of short forms. The most important ones are:

RT – which stands for re tweet. If you want to share a post that your friend tweeted you can either press the retweet button or add your own comment plus RT and the twitter handle.

For example:

If the original tweet from @MrClean reads “Top 10 Cleaning Hacks: http://mrclean.com…”

You might retweet it and write: “Great cleaning tips RT @MrClean Top 10 Cleaning Hacks: http://mrclean.com…”

MT – stands for modified tweet. If you’re sharing someone’s post using a different way to describe the post, you would indicate this using MT.

For example:

If the original tweet is from me and reads: “Look how much I love my mom! Check out these great gifts: http://theprofessionalmomproject.com/gifts”

You might change it and write: “Great gift choices for mom MT @nicole_salama http://theprofessionalmomproject.com/gifts”

But no one’s following me. What do I do?

Here’s where my Twitter tips come into play:

Start following lots of people to get the lay of the land

Depending on your reason for entering the twitosphere your strategy will be different.

If you’re hanging out for personal reasons and to keep up with friends, then go to the search box on the top right hand corner and search for your friends. If they have Twitter accounts, those accounts will show up and you can follow them. I’m pretty sure your friends will follow you back 😉

Also, follow different organizations that interest you – news, fashion, diet, health – everyone is on Twitter and they all provide helpful bite sized tips.

If you’re building a business, then I’d suggest finding out who the leaders in your sphere are and following those people. They likely won’t follow you back at the start, but following these experts is a great way to learn.

You can also look at who else follows the business leaders you are interested in and follow some of those individuals. If you have similar interests and you provide helpful information, it’s likely that those individuals, who are also starting out, will follow you back and you can grow your following together.

Use Crowdfire

Crowdfire is one of my favourite apps. You can link up your Twitter profile and it will tell you:

  1. who has recently followed you;
  2. who has recently unfollowed you;
  3. who your “fans” are (the accounts that follow you, but you don’t follow back);
  4. who your “non-followers” are (those accounts that you follow, but that don’t follow you back); and
  5. which accounts that you follow who don’t actively post on Twitter so you can unfollow them if you choose to

You can also use the app to find out who near you is on Twitter, which might be useful if you have a local business you are looking to promote.

If there’s an influencer that targets your key audience, you can also type in that account name under the “copy followers” button on the app and find out who follows that influencer. Once you find out which accounts follow that particular individual, you can follow them as well.

Personally, I’m a bit addicted to the finding out who has recently “unfollowed” me. By getting this info in a quick and easy way, I can decide if I want to keep following that account or delete it from my feed. It feels a bit sneaky, but since there are so many people out there who follow you just to get the follow back and then stop following you once you follow them, it’s worth keeping track of. Personally, I don’t get that strategy – especially if the person is in your area why not just follow back?

All of these features are free which is fantastic if you’re blogging on a budget.

RT and MT tweets by people you want to connect with

I find it super flattering when people take the time to RT or MT one of my blog posts or tweets. After someone does this I usually send a quick reply tweet to thank that person and check out his or her profile. If the person’s interests are similar to mine then I’ll follow that person.

I’ve found this technique particularly useful to connect with other bloggers. Not only do you tweet out some interesting articles, the person who you re-tweet or mention gets notified and that’s a great way to get on someone’s radar.

This isn’t something you necessarily want to do a million times if you’re not getting the response you’re hoping for but it’s worth a try.

I’m going to post the rest of my Twitter tips in a later post, but in the meantime, are you on Twitter? What’s your Twitter handle?

38 things I’m grateful for on my 38th birthday

38 Things I'm Grateful for on my 38th Birthday

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and it got me thinking. Usually, I’m not great with birthdays. There’s something about them that just doesn’t sit well with me. I’m a generally optimistic person (or I try to be) but getting older every year doesn’t make me bubble over with happiness and enthusiasm. Especially as I watch the wrinkles get deeper and the steadily increasing number of grey hairs popping up on my head.

I often use my birthday as a time for reflection – how did I do this year? Am I where I want to be? What do I need to figure out before my next birthday?

If I’m not 100% content with where I am in any given year I feel like a failure and as though the year that has gone by has been worthless.

As I write this out I’m realizing that I am putting way too much pressure on myself. No one is perfect, just getting up and going forward on a daily basis is an accomplishment I should be proud of.

I’ve been through a lot and it’s taking me time to get back on my feet but that’s ok. I’m putting one foot in front of the other, going in a positive and productive direction and there’s not much more I can ask of myself.

I recently read a post on The Mighty by Melissa Fuoss entitled 37 Little Things I’m Thankful Cancer Couldn’t Take From Me.

I found Melissa’s post inspiring and decided to countdown the 38 things I’m greatful for on my 38th birthday (in no particular order):

1. Sunshine on my face

2. Having a wonderful family that cares for me and will support me no matter what

3. Snuggling with R before bed and listening to him fall asleep

4. Being married to a kind, funny, thoughtful and all around amazing man

5. Resting my head on E’s shoulder

6. The smell of my mom’s house on Friday night

7. The first sip of a yummy latte on a cold day

8. When R sticks out his hand for me to hold

9. Coming home to a clean house (doesn’t happen often with a little boy at home but when it does it’s amazing)

10. Cooking a great meal and enjoying it with friends and family (however I could do without the clean up part…)

11. Living so close to my parents

12. That we have the ability to financially contribute to charitable  causes we care about

13. That we have the ability to travel and explore new cultures and share these with R at such a young age

14. Putting on comfy sweats at the end of a tiring day

15. Listening to R sing while he plays

16. The moments of quiet that E and I occasionally get to share

17. Visiting R’s junior kindergarten class and watching the students laugh, play and sing together

18. Chocolate cupcakes

19. That my body is still strong despite cancer

20. That my resolve remains strong despite cancer

21. That I’ve had the opportunity to visit many wonderful and amazing destinations around the world (and I look forward to visiting many many more)

22. My education and the opportunities it has afforded me

23. The friends I’ve made along the way (so far)

24. Getting engrossed in a good book and having the time to read it

25. Having a good laugh – whether with friends, family or just watching tv

26. The ability to purchase food and necessities when we need them

27. Working in a relaxed environment doing a job that is helping people

28. The sound of the ocean

29. The lovely, cozy feeling of getting into my bed at night

30. Fresh flowers – tulips, roses, sunflowers. I love them all

31. Having the ability to grow our own veggies in the garden and maybe eat them before the bunnies, squirels and racoons get to them

32. When a kind person opens the door for me or lets me go in front of them in traffic

33. The sound of rustling leaves underfoot when I go for a walk in the fall

34. The look of wonder on R’s face whenever he sees something he’s never seen before

35. An air conditioned room on a really hot day

36. The feeling of getting on an airplane knowing I’m going on vacation

37. Falling back asleep on a Sunday morning when E and R are downstairs together

38. Looking through pictures of all of our amazing memories

We all have many things in our lives to be grateful for. From our children to the roofs over our heads and the food on our plates. Creating a list like this reminds me that despite my challenges there’s much to be thankful for and to look forward to experiencing.

What would be on your list?

 

 

Baked Mac and Cheese

I love this recipe! This baked mac and cheese is healthy, high in dietary fibre, easy to make and comfort food at its best.

Baked Mac & Cheese Recipe from www.theprofessionalmomproject.com

I’ve been making this recipe for several years and I’ve refined it and changed it over time. It’s based on Skinnytaste’s recipe for Skinny Baked Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ingredients to make Baked Mac and Cheese

2 1/2 cups of 100% whole grain short pasta (I used rotini)
4 cups of broccoli or cauliflower (or a mixture of both)
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
2 cups of skim milk
2 cups of reduced fat cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Herbes de Provence to taste
4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

Instructions to make Baked Mac and Cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray a casserole dish with olive oil spray. I use an oval-shaped casserole dish and it seems to work well.

Bring lightly salted water to a boil.

Once the water has boiled, cook the pasta per the instructions on the box and add in the broccoli/cauliflower so it gets cooked as well.

Broccoli cauliflower and pasta for baked mac and cheese

After the pasta is cooked al dente (still a bit firm), drain the pasta and the broccoli/cauliflower and set them aside. Once the pasta and veggies cool down, chop the cooked veggies into bite sized pieces.

drained veggies for baked mac and cheese

Using the same pot you used to cook the pasta (to make clean up easier and faster), melt the butter on low heat (so as not to burn the butter or the pot).

Melting butter for baked mac and cheese

When the butter has melted, add the whole wheat flour and mix until fully combined.

melted butter and whole wheat flour for baked mac and cheese

Then add in the skim milk, season lightly with salt and pepper and add in the Herbes de Provence to taste.

mac and cheese sauce with spices

Bring the milk mixture to a boil and let simmer for around 5 minutes, mixing with a wooden spoon several times. When the milk mixture has thickened a bit, add in the two cups of cheddar cheese. Stir the cheese in the milk mixture until fully melted.

baked mac and cheese sauce with melted cheese

Once the cheese has melted, add in the pasta and broccoli/cauliflower. Combine the pasta, veggies and cheese mixture until fully covered.

baked mac and cheese before the oven

Place the pasta, veggie and cheese mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Flatten out the top a bit to make sure that the pasta is evenly spread out. Then top the pasta mixture with the grated parmesan cheese (if you happen to add more than 4 tablespoons don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone…)

mac and cheese ready to go in the oven

Bake the casserole uncovered for 20 minutes.

baked mac and cheese

Let me know what you think once you’ve tried this one.

 

5 Blogging Mistakes I’ve Made (and you don’t have to)

5 Blogging Mistakes I've Made (and you don't have to)
Photo Source Haute Chocolate

5 Blogging Mistakes I’ve Made

So, in December I started this blog after reading some blogs about blogging, listening to podcasts and joining a few Facebook groups. I wrote about my first month of blogging in January and gave some tips for new bloggers just starting out.

My journey has been far from perfect and I’ve realized that I’ve made a number of blogging mistakes so far. My hope is that by sharing my blogging mistakes with you, perhaps you can avoid them.

My Biggest Blogging Mistakes so far… (in no particular order)

Not Starting Earlier

I found being a stay at home mom with R difficult. I had a few friends on maternity leave at the same time, but I found that everyone was always busy and doing their own thing. I joined a bunch of baby groups, participated in classes and tried to get out as much as possible. Despite all of my efforts, I still found it a challenge to find a community to rally around.

Instead of going back to work after taking the year maternity leave, I decided to quit my associate job and take a few extra months to figure out what to do with myself.

Looking for a new job is difficult, stressful and anxiety provoking and looking back, I think it would have been a great opportunity for me to have started this blog as a healthy outlet of expression, for the fun and community.

Now that I’m working, have faced some major health issues and run after R on a daily basis it’s more difficult for me to fit the blog into my life. I’d love to be able to publish more than once a week and really engage with the blogging community but it’s just not possible given my current life constraints.

So if you’re reading this and thinking about starting a blog but aren’t sure – go for it!

Not Choosing a Domain Name Right Away

It took me a really long time to decide on a name for the blog. Most of the ones I thought of were taken or didn’t fit with the objectives of the blog.

On Black Friday Siteground (which has been great so far) (affiliate link) had an amazing sale and I couldn’t pass it up. I signed up using a temporary name to get the sale price. As a part of the price, I received a domain name as well. Since I couldn’t decide on the name right away the free name was my temporary name.

Once I finally decided on using The Professional Mom Project, I had to switch it over and pay for another domain name. It wasn’t expensive but just an extra step that I would have preferred not to take.

My advice to you is decide on your domain name before Black Friday so you can sign up with the real name you’d like to use!

I Signed Up for Amazon Associates too Early

I signed up for Amazon Associates shortly after starting the blog. When I listened to podcasts and read people’s success stories on their blogs in seemed pretty easy. Pop a link to Amazon Associates up on my blog and the sales would roll in. I figured if I could pay for my hosting and domain name that would be great but…

Being an Amazon Affiliate is difficult! Since I don’t have very many regular visitors to the blog I’ve realized that I don’t have the level of traffic and readers necessary to sustain an Amazon Associates account.

I’m just waiting for the email from Amazon telling me that I’ve been taken off due to a lack of sales 🙁

Hopefully as my blog grows and I increase the number of people who stop by I’ll be able to figure this monetization thing out.

If I was doing this all over again I would wait until my readership was stronger and then start the monitization process.

I don’t have a Plan or Editorial Calendar

In all of the blogging posts on how to blog and webinars I’ve attended each one of them states how important planning out your posts and having an editorial calendar are to achieve blogging success.

Right now, because my time is so limited, I’m just working on posting once per week and otherwise trying to publicize my posts and keep up on social media.

I would think that if I had a proper plan – what to do each day, a posting schedule going a few weeks into the future etc it would make writing my posts and planning what to do next a bit easier. Now I just need to wrap my head around how exactly to put this plan together (any tips are very welcome!)

Based on my experience so far, I would suggest figuring some of this stuff out ahead of time. It’s too bad I didn’t think about this earlier and plan a bit more before I started.

Now I just have to figure out how to make a calendar and a plan with a couple of months of blogging under my belt and to avoid any major sense of overwhelm (which leads me to…)

I signed up for way too many Emails, Facebook Groups and Webinars etc.

It’s important to build your email list, grow your social media profile, write epic posts and create pin-able images!

Wow. I am totally overwhelmed with all of this blogging stuff. Everywhere you go one successful person is saying one thing and someone else is saying something completely different. There is so much information out there about how to blog and what to do it’s really difficult to see through to your end goal.

I value all of the information I receive and find that I’m learning so much about areas I never knew about. I’m learning about how to set up a website, social media marketing, photography and building a sense of community. The downside is that with all of this learning going on, it can be very overwhelming at times.

Every day I get several emails with webinars to sign up for, e books to read and posts to visit. I’m not sure who to trust, which posts to read and which classes to sign up for. I’m trying to read through what I can and not stress too much about what I might be missing out on. My hope is that as long as I keep going and keep learning I’ll be ok.

My blogging journey is just starting and I’ve encountered more than a few bumps along the way but I plan to keep with it and see where it takes me.

What mistakes did you make when you first started blogging?

Nana’s Special Chicken Recipe

Nana's Special Chicken Recipe from www.theprofessionalmomproject.com. Healthy, quick and kid approved!

Nana’s Special Chicken Recipe

My mom (R’s Nana) is an amazing cook. For all of our holiday meals she makes delicious chicken soup with matzoh balls, turkey, roast potatoes, her world famous meatballs and awesome deserts.

Every Friday night we go to my parents’ house for a relaxing family dinner. One Friday night my mom made this fantastic chicken recipe. Eventually, after several protests, R finally tried the chicken. He gobbled it up and then suggested that I find out the recipe to make at home for him.

I’m not sure where my mom originally found the recipe – I think it might be from an area newspaper but it is delish and kid approved!

Ingredients to make Nana’s Special Chicken

ingredients for nana's special chicken recipe

Chicken pieces of your choice (my mom uses bone in chicken thighs and drumsticks but I use chicken breast)
Flour (enough to dredge the chicken)
1/2 cup of apricot jam
1/2 cup of BBQ sauce (I use Bullseye)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of tamari sauce
A drizzle of honey

Instructions to Make Nana’s Special Chicken

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees

Prepare a baking pan by lining it with tin foil and spraying the surface with olive oil spray

Put flour in a large ziplock bag. Add salt and pepper to taste.

nana's chicken recipe chicken and flour

Place your chicken pieces in the bag and shake it up until the chicken is covered in flour

nana's chicken

Once the chicken is covered, place chicken pieces on the prepared pan in a single layer.

nana's chicken

When using thinly cut chicken breasts place them in the oven for 6 minutes, flip and then put them back for another 6 minutes (at 425). When my mom uses bone in chicken legs and thighs she places them in the oven for 10 minutes on each side (at 425).

While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce by combining all of the ingredients together and mix with a fork.

nana's chicken sauce

Once the sauce is mixed, spread it on the chicken and reduce the oven temperature to 325.

nana's chicken baked with sauce

For the chicken breasts we put them in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. If using bone in chicken, it will take a bit longer – usually around 40 minutes.

Serve with your favourite side dishes, as a chicken sandwich or on top of a salad and enjoy!

Nana's chicken recipe from www.theprofessionalmomproject.com

 

 

Tips for Stress Free Travel without Kids

Tips for Stress Free Travel without Kids

How to Travel without Kids

Usually, my focus is on how to travel with my son, however, earlier this year E and I went away on our own for three nights for the first time.

I was very apprehensive about the whole thing worried about how I would feel leaving him with my parents and mother in law and worried about how he would do without us at home.

R is a creature of habit preferring the same routine, the same breakfast everyday and knowing what’s going to happen next.

My parents and my mother in law (who are all wonderful grandparents) also seemed to be a bit nervous about the whole thing so my goal was to make everything easy for us, simple for them and not too outside of R’s comfort zone.

We ended up having a fantastic time and R had a wonderful mini vacay with his grandparents. Here are some of the strategies we used to make prepping for a trip without the kiddo relaxing, enjoyable and stress free.

Tell your child about the trip well in advance

R likes to know what’s going on. He’s not a huge fan of surprises and likes to know the master plan. Since we know his personality, we told him about our trip well in advance and started getting him excited to spend time with his grandparents.

This worked so well, that every time we tried to Face Time with R he would hang up on us. Apparently he was just having so much fun with his grandparents that he didn’t notice we were gone. This was a bit deflating for me but both E and I were happy that R was enjoying himself and not missing us.

Email/speak to key people – teachers, school staff etc

Before we left we sent emails to R’s teachers and advised his after school caregiver that we would be away for a few days. Not only is this of practical importance, so that the teachers would have the correct contact information, but in case R had a hard time that week we wanted the teachers to understand what might be the cause.

This was also helpful for my parents since R’s teachers etc gave them an extra hand.

Go shopping for anything you might need early on

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, R is a very picky eater. He likes having certain sandwiches for lunch and won’t eat unless there’s stuff in his lunch that he likes.

To ensure the lunches were packed to his picky 4 year old specifications, I  went so far as to take a picture of his lunch and sent it to my parents so they’d know what to give him.

Pack extra clothing and let your kids pack some of their own toys, books and stuffies

R really enjoys packing his own bag for any trips we take, so we gave him the same opportunity here. He has a ton of toys at my parents’ house but we wanted to give him the chance to take what he wanted to bring as well. As a result, he packed a small bag full of his toys, stuffies and books to take over.

My family lives very close to us so even if we’d forgotten something it would have been easy enough for my parents to go back to our house and pick it up, but we thought it would be best to avoid that if possible.

Create a schedule

R does a bunch of sports and other activities on the weekend. We know he enjoys them, it keeps him in his routine and those classes are expensive!

I created a detailed daily schedule for him and emailed it to his grandparents. It might sound very controlling, but they found it helpful since they knew what time to take him to school, what time to pick him up and when he should go to bed.

We also  set up all of the equipment for his activities before we left and gave it to my parents so they would just need to put the equipment in the car and get R to the program on time. This saved time for them and resulted in less stress since everything was already where it needed to be.

When we left I was totally nervous about leaving R behind. Now that we’ve done it once I’m ready to start planning our next couple’s vacation!

If you have children, do you often travel without kids? What are your tips?