Giveaway Junkie, I'm Going To Chop My Ear Off Any Day Now

Win A Custom Jack-o-Lantern from Go Jules Go!

Halloween-GoJulesGo

Yes. Yes. Yesyesyesyesyesyes!

It’s my favorite time of [the bloggy calendar] year! Time for…

The World’s Most Amazing Halloween Contest*

*according to me

The rules are always a little different, but the prize remains the same: A custom jack-o-lantern, designed and carved by yours truly. I base the design on you/your entry, and am so excited to see what this year will bring.

2011 Winner: Deb from The Monster in Your Closet

PumpkinPrep5_Deb

Pumpkin3_Deb

2012 Winner: Misty from Misty’s Laws

Pumpkin-GoJulesGo-2012-5

Pumpkin-GoJulesGo-2012-7

Jack-o-Lantern-GoJulesGo-Halloween-2012

The Rules

I mentioned in my last post that I made a spicy pepper-infused apple pie. Today you can find out it if it sank or swam on my hub, Peppermeister’s, blog.

Sometimes Frankensteining (eh? Get it?) a recipe together goes awry, other times it blows your mind.

To enter the contest, simply tell me about an unusual food or drink combo you’ve invented or sampled. You can a) leave it in the comments section below, b) blog about it and link back to this post (note: this contest is open to everyone – not just bloggers!), or c) email me: Julie.Davidoski@yahoo.com.

I’ll pick a winner based on insanity originality – it doesn’t matter if the recipe fails or flourishes, just that you gave it the old college try.

The Prize

A custom jack-o-lantern designed and carved by Go Jules Go.

Like this, only, you know, for you, instead of my dog, Uncle Jesse, (this is him cheating while playing Uno).
Like this, only, you know, for you. (This is my dog, Uncle Jesse, playing Uno, obviously.)

Oh and Uncle Jesse says there might be an autographed picture in your future.

He doesn't do this for just anyone, you know.
He doesn’t do this for just anyone, you know.

The Deadline

Monday, October 28th, midnight EST. Winner announced at 7am EST on Halloween, October 31st.

Happy Frankensteining!

~*~*~*~*~*~

Blogging

On Blogging & Bacon: The Balance

A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “On Blogging & Bacon,” which covers the top three things I’ve learned about blogging. Essentially, I said in a super charming and funny way I got out of blogging what I put into it.

I feel this slipping… Oh dear god. Not the bacon!

Ironically, shortly after that, I realized I’d put too much time into blogging. I wasn’t able to write new blog posts, respond to comments, and read and comment on other blogs without devoting several hours a day.

I’d been eating way too much bacon (is that possible?) and neglecting other responsibilities and relationships. It wasn’t healthy.

Between working full-time as a project manager, part-time as a freelance writer,  earning a web design certification, maintaining personal relationships, a marriage, home, and dog, I had to find the right balance between blogging and the rest of my life – fast.

But one thing was certain:

I needed this blog.

I needed you.

You were, and are, my Jack Dawson (go with it). You opened my eyes to a whole new world, and if you jumped, I’d jump. And I think we all know there’s enough room on this blog for both of us.

Rather than struggle alone, I reached out to some of the busiest bloggers I know. Bloggers juggling kids and/or full-time jobs and/or other writing gigs. I wanted to know how they struck the balance, and where blogging fell on their priority lists.

Angie is my hero. In so many ways. Here she is on a totally regular day.

How, for example, did they make time for both family and blogging? Angie from Childhood Relived shared her 9pm cut-off rule, at which point the computer goes away and she spends time with her husband. Darla, from She’s a Maineiac, took a hiatus for part of the summer to spend more time with her children.

And what about how often to blog? How important is it to post regularly? Would I lose readers if I started posting less, or more sporadically?

Deb Bryan – lovely inside and out.

Nina Badzin posts once a week. “If I’m guest posting elsewhere,” she says, “then THAT is my post of the week.” Deb Bryan blogs 1-2 times a week in the hopes that it will allow her to “maintain an online presence without doing so at a huge cost to [her] offline life.”

You should see Renée in a bikini.

One of the most comforting pieces of advice came from a phone conversation with Renée Schuls-Jacobson. In a [chipmunk] nutshell: No one was going to stop following me because I didn’t publish a certain amount of new posts every week. Her words reminded me that while I want to hold myself accountable to writing goals, I never want to stop having fun. And ‘forced and rushed’ don’t equal ‘fun.’ For anyone.

One of the biggest struggles for me was finding the balance when it came to reading other blogs. If I tried to keep up with more than a few blogs a day, minutes turned to hours and Peppermeister (Husband #1) got that puppy dog look.

The bloggers I interviewed also agreed that they had to get real about how many blogs they tried to read each week. Following more than 30 blogs was unanimously impossible, though some of us had, at one point or another, tried to follow over 100.

Renée shared my desire to want to get to everyone, but she also reminded me that using all my time to follow the same blogs meant denying myself the opportunity to meet new people. I decided I didn’t need to read and comment on every post. Even my favorites.

It’s still a hard pill to swallow. I still worry people will take it personally.

After all, we bloggers rely on our community.

I heart D-Pants.

As Darla put it, “I am grateful that I have a chance to show a slice of my world to people and they respond in a positive way. So over time, we are able to form a relationship that’s full of laughs and tears. That is my favorite part of blogging. Making a genuine connection.”

“The best part of blogging,” according to Angie, “is friendships with the other bloggers.” Deb said, “Thanks to blogging, I’m able to see life through the eyes of so many other observant, compassionate eyes.”

Don’t hate Nina ’cause she’s pretty AND smart.

And if you’re still wondering why I called you my Jack Dawson, I’d like Nina Badzin to speak for me: “I love that blogging has allowed me to just be more ME. …Even in real life now I feel more confident and have a stronger sense of self.”

Thanks to all of this wonderful advice, I feel much more comfortable reading blogs and writing new posts when I genuinely have the time, and hope that this approach won’t alienate the community I’ve come to cherish.

But if there’s one thing I could change about my blogging experience? I’m with Darla: “I’d have WordPress install a button so that every time I clicked ‘publish’ I’d get five bucks. Or some beer. Or Skittles. Something.”

A heartfelt thank you to Darla, Renée Schuls-Jacobson, Nina Badzin, Deb Bryan and Angie Z. for taking time out of your busy lives to openly share your experiences. I look forward to blatantly misquoting you in the future for my own amusement. My blog and I are the better for knowing you!

How do you strike a balance between blogging and everything else? To non-bloggers: How do you balance work/family life with your other passions? If that question bores you: What’s the coolest bacon-themed product or website you’ve ever seen?

And okay – enough of the serious stuff – on Friday we kick off the September ‘Stache Glasses Giveaway!

Just For Fun, Lists

GoGuiltyPleasures Will Cure Your Monday Hangover, er, Blues

Most likely you’re still nursing your post-St. Paddy’s day hangover, if I’m to believe those who dialed into NYC’s most popular radio station, Z100, this morning. One woman woke to find her prosthetic leg in a tree, another man discovered himself in bed with his ex-girlfriend…and ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

I’m taking all of this to mean that you have the most raging case of the Mondays to date. Me too. Let’s turn these frowns upside-down with a few things that make me grin, giggle and guffaw (in that order), despite the fact that an endless week of fake niceties and spastic colons (thanks, Hoops and YoYo) await.

#1 – Going Bald for Good

Many of you have read that two of my favorite bloggers, Deb (The Monster In Your Closet) and Chris (From the Bungalow), will be shaving their heads this coming Saturday, for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer charity. For immediate inspiration, head over to their blogs by clicking their names above; I encourage you to offer words of encouragement and/or a donation.

Not much guilty pleasure in that, but there IS guilty pleasure in finding a website that lets you try on Halloween wigs (for free) without leaving the comfort of your home:

Morning, Carl. I'm saving you from talking about your kids at the water cooler. No one wants to hear it.

#2 – Hoops and YoYo Sympathize

Hoops and YoYo are Hallmark’s rock stars. I love them. They sum up what Mondays feel like better than I ever could:

#3 – The John Krasinski Cure-All

A recent comment from the talented (and hilarious) Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) inspired me to dig up a clip of one of my favorite actors, John Krasinski, doing his marionette man. If this doesn’t make you smile, you have a lot in common with things that don’t smile.

Happy Monday!

What gets you through the Monday blues?