Case of The Pseudo Blog
Publishing a vibrant blog on your website can produce huge benefits. One of the biggest rewards of having fresh content rolling in on your blog is growing a loyal audience.
Publishing a vibrant blog on your website can produce huge benefits. One of the biggest rewards of having fresh content rolling in on your blog is growing a loyal audience.
They say it’s the smell of roasting chestnuts, the scent wafting through the busy streets of recreated Victorian London at Daly City’s Cow Palace. The warm sweet smell floats on the crisp ocean air even before we make it into the building. Later in the day, a friend would offer me a chestnut to taste. Eager to try it, due to the advertised aroma, I was disappointed when the nut turned out to be ordinary.
Besides the delicious smell, the Dickens Christmas Fair transports visitors to another time and place through many theatrical methods. One of the most obvious conveyances is what people are wearing – royal officers in uniform, Queen Victoria parading in a silk ball gown, unsettled Mad Hatter, and everyone else working at the fair in mid-1800s period correct costumes.
Hundreds of noses are deep inside newspapers
Another striking visual is the use of newspapers. When entering the fair, you’re given a newspaper detailing all of the festive events. Hundreds of noses are deep inside newspapers…a scene that’s extinct nowadays, only to be revived at the Dickens Fair.
Guests are welcome to wear whatever fanciful outfits they’d like or not get dressed up at all. I’m a half-hearted costumer myself. I’ll wear historical dresses I’ve sewn to costume dances but I don’t feel like wearing a hoop and corset all day at the fair. There are too many practical things to consider: clearance to pass people on the London streets, sitting comfortably at a crowded picnic table, and especially maneuvering in tiny bathroom stalls.
A little effort was all we needed to feel like we belonged
My husband and I opted for hybrid costuming. He wore a tuxedo coat, top hat and black jeans. I wore a Victorian-inspired velvet jacket over my normal clothes. A little effort was all we needed to feel like we belonged at the fair.
Last year at the fair, I noticed a parlor room with art easels set up for drawing. My husband, an accomplished artist, would have lots of fun participating in something like that. So he brought his backpack full of art supplies and took part in two different life drawing sessions. A string of interesting characters sat for the artists: Mark Twain and a sprightly green fairy to name a few. Unique participant activities like this are sprinkled throughout the London buildings.
My new partner confirmed that I did, in fact, know the choreographed waltz well.
While my husband was occupied with art, I ran off to Fezziwig’s Warehouse accompanied by friends who met us at the fair. Fezziwig’s is a large dance floor where costumed dancers and performers lead guests in vintage dancing. A live brass band, Bangers & Mash, play polkas, waltzes and other dance music. Free of my husband I got the chance to dance the Congress of Vienna with another partner. My new partner confirmed that I did, in fact, know the choreographed waltz well. It felt strange however dancing in pants when I’m used to a swaying dress!
My friend and I got in to see the much anticipated Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue. The show was an interesting mix of history lesson and naked people. If you’re over the age of 18 and want to get a seat for the French Postcards pick up your tickets early at the telegraph office – seating runs out quick!
When Postcards ended for the evening, Cow Palace event security was out in full force. My trio was actually escorted to the exit during the sweep of the building. My husband was surprised at how fast the day went and couldn’t believe it was already time to go. Every trip to the Dickens Fair brings opportunities for new experiences – activities to try, characters to meet, shows to watch. But something that always remains constant is the wish for a very “Happy Christmas.”
Plan to Go:
Weekends through December 17th, 2017
10am – 7pm
Cow Palace in Daly City
This month I’m celebrating one year in business as a freelance writer! Here’s a peek into why writing is my passion.
Learn New Things
In order to write about a person, subject or organization I have to know what I’m talking about. I love to educate myself and expand my knowledge. A trip to the library, internet search, or firsthand interviews are just some of the ways I get the info I need to start writing.
Often I get to write about interesting people who do interesting things. One of my favorite interviews so far has been with a Hawaiian musician who belts out a killer falsetto. I learned about his music and got a Hawaiian history lesson sprinkled in for context.
Craft of Writing
With the research in front of me, I sift through it all and make a story out of it. I’m in control of where the quotes go, how to weave the facts in, and I set the tone – funny, serious, melodic.
In the past year, I’ve had writing published in a book, blogs, and newsletters. It’s always exciting to see my words shuttled out for people to read. And I have a few fans! I recently went to a ball (yes, a costume Regency era soiree) where at least three people told me how much they love reading my blog.
I have written about so many different things this past year: camping, film festivals and construction projects to name a few. I’m constantly challenging myself by learning new subjects and switching gears from project to project.
In Person Networking
As a solopreneur I need to get the word out about my writing services. One of the ways I do this is through going to local networking meetings, and mixers to meet the community. I’ve picked up a few clients this way and met with people that could be future interview subjects.
The focus of my blog is the exploration of the beautiful San Francisco Peninsula. With so many points of interest in close proximity, I don’t have to worry about running out of content to write about. Experiencing where I live has been refreshing and gives me a greater appreciation for the area.
I’m also celebrating ten years of publishing Imitation Fruit, the online literary journal that I created and edit once a year. The skills I developed working on the journal and doing layout at a print shop have equipped me for taking on newsletter publications for clients. I’m currently newsletter editor for Midpen Media Center and enjoy the publication process and project management aspect.
I love to be the one with the answers and the ability to pull off writing and publication projects for clients. I can step in and produce newsletters, examine websites for areas of improvement or take on writing assignments that need to be done.
Work in PJs
Umm yeah, freelance writing has its perks!
I thought the window of opportunity to get lost in the gigantic hay maze at Arata’s Pumpkin Farm in Half Moon Bay was closed. I’d been looking through pictures taken late September a few years back. The pictures captured green corn fields, dingy yellow stacked hay bales with orange pumpkins dotting the dusty earth. It was already mid-October. I realized it might be too late in the month to spend an enjoyable afternoon at the farm.
Last year, my husband and I went to Arata’s the weekend before Halloween. Which was a big mistake. All of the parking spaces around the perimeter of the farm were taken when we got there. Farm staff directed us to drive up to the top of a hill. Pumpkin hugging pedestrians swarmed around our car on their way back up the hill. After much searching, we arrived at a muddy parking spot on the hill’s plateau. Then we became a part of the stream of people bounding downhill to the festivities.
Once inside the farm I realized I wasn’t going to enjoy myself. People were standing in half-hour long lines to get tickets to the amusements and to buy pumpkins. The hay maze itself was full of frolicking children and parents. Yes, that’s what the maze was created for but I was used to a relaxed saunter through the maze not a frenzied push. So we wound up walking around the farm to stretch our legs, then hiked back up to the car without a 30lb gourd and slowly drove through the crowd back out to HWY 1.
So when I started thinking about the pumpkin farm this year it was already coming up on two weeks before Halloween. But my mind started plotting a way to go to the farm and enjoy it even though it seemed like the odds of having a great time were slim. I kept my work schedule light for Friday and asked my husband to take Friday off too. We made our escape mid-day and headed to the coast.
In years past we’d stuff a backpack full of sandwiches and drinks to eat inside the maze. I’d bring a beach towel to spread out on the moist ground in the nook of a dead end. Maze-goers gasp in surprise when they stumble upon us eating our deli sandwiches. We shake our heads at them and say in unison “dead end.” But this year we stopped at a seafood restaurant on the way to keep things simple.
South HWY 1 greeted us with views of crashing waves, clear blue sky over the ocean and brownish green rolling hillsides. Turning into the farm we had our choice of front row rock star parking spaces. I stepped out of the car to notice an autumn chill that hung on the air even though the sun warmed my skin.
We weren’t the only ones at the farm on a Friday. A school bus load of kids and plenty of families were around picking out pumpkins and participating in the festivities. But there was no problem getting our maze tickets and we were quickly on our way to getting utterly lost.
The epic play structure was vast enough, twisty enough, tall enough (four bales of stacked hay) to obscure the view of average height participants. We had the choice of portals to take to get into the heart of the maze. After a few wrong guesses we found the right path.
After several years of stalking through the Arata Farm maze I’ve noted some tricks that can help you make it through in better time – if that’s what you’re going for. If you’ve hit a place in the maze where there are several choices to make, wait and see if people come out frustrated from one of those paths. Then don’t go that way. Notice if people leave trash inside the maze, you can use this as a marker and know you’ve already tried the route with the soda can. Also the maze builders like to put in gates made of hay. Go through these gates – they were put there for a reason.
Once we made it out of the maze we scrutinized pumpkin size and shapes. My husband picked out a tall medium 20 pounder. I was surprised to find a bin full of orange pumpkins with what appears to be legions of bulbous green and orange warts. I decided to go for the diseased looking pumpkin because I won’t need to decorate it at all. It was born scary.
I don’t recommend going to Arata’s this coming weekend. It will be a mad house. Mark your calendar for the end of September or first two weeks of October next year to discover the maze. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Hey, writing is hard even for professional writers. Nowadays everyone from established businesses to solopreneurs has to crank out blog posts, newsletter articles, social media conversations and more to build their audience. Most likely the focus of your business is on a widget or service that has nothing to do with mastering the skill of writing. So when those deadlines loom to get something new posted, cutting and pasting a great article (someone else wrote) into your layout might seem like the perfect solution. But it’s not.
The word for taking someone else’s writing and putting your name or your company’s name on it is plagiarism – which is another word for stealing. Writing is like any other product. It takes time to research the subject matter and tons of thought goes into crafting the message. So yeah, if someone’s writing is stolen they’re going to be upset.
Let’s look at three ways to create fresh content to broadcast to your followers. The best part is you’ll be proud of the content because you can legally call it your own.
Write it Yourself – This is a no-brainer. You’re the expert. We want to hear from you about what’s going on in your industry. Tell us about what you deal with every day and how your products or services are helping people out. If you’re having trouble coming up with things to write about check out my article on just that, “7 Tips to Finding Your Next Writing Topic.”
Hire a Ghostwriter – In this scenario, you can put your name on a professionally written article and take full credit for it. That’s because you hire a writer – and let them know that it’s going to be a ghostwritten piece – to write as if they were you. They’ll perform the magic behind the scenes to make you look great in front of your readers.
Link Up – This solution involves you (or your ghostwriter) writing an introduction to your topic of choice then listing one or more articles that you’ve enjoyed on this topic. Refer your readers to these articles with a live link and a short reason why you think they should read it – without giving away the heart of the piece. Then cap off your article with your words of wisdom.
These solutions enable you to create valuable resources for your readers without stooping to anything shady. If you’re looking for a ghostwriter you can find me hiding under my desk! Booo.
I never really thought about Lodi and I wasn’t sure where it was on the map of California. Visions of swinging metronome cow tails propelling flies and golden fields of waving grain pop into mind when I read the Evite inviting my husband and me to Lodi for a family celebration.
The town of Lodi is located in the vast farming region of California’s Central Valley, I learn as my husband researches area hotels. We decide to make a weekend of the trip not wanting to feel rushed to get back to the Bay Area after the festivities.
The family party was held at Micke Grove Regional Park where there’s a ton of things to do. Kids enjoy a small zoo, carnival rides, playgrounds and other activities. The large picnic shelter booked for the party shaded us from the 90-degree summer heat. Cupcakes exposed to the sun’s rays melted into a sweet congealed mess.
When it was time to say goodbye to the family, we found our hotel on a long strip-mall motel lined thoroughfare. Some establishments screamed for remodels or even tear downs. Thankfully my husband picked out a fresh looking AAA approved hotel. The blue swimming pool called out to me from across the parking lot to take a refreshing dunk but my travel partner wanted to explore downtown instead.
So we got back into the car and directed the GPS to navigate the way to Lodi’s historic region. The Lodi marque that stretches across the main road into downtown welcomed us. The arch was reminiscent of Spanish colonial architecture – white adobe bricks, red Spanish tiles and hanging brass bells. Surrounded by early 1900s buildings showcasing Lodi’s flourishing industries – bridal shops, breweries and wine tasting rooms.
The Lodi Beer Co. was our choice for dinner and we didn’t regret it. Beer brews in large vats that fill the center of the room with restaurant seating placed around them. Beer label banners full of colorful artwork hang on the walls like heraldry banners in a castle. When our food and beer arrive we fall in love with our meal. The food I had in Lodi was delicious everything from the hotel make your own waffle breakfast to our pub food.
During our time in Lodi, we put the proliferation of wine tasting rooms and local winery marketing together and decided there must be some wineries in the area worth visiting. On checking out of the hotel the receptionist recommended Michael David Winery.
On the way there we passed new housing developments with modern shopping squares complete with Starbucks on the way out to the fields. Pretty soon we were amongst hundreds of rows of grape vines.
Michael David was a wood-paneled ranch-style building with a wrought iron fence protecting it from the road traffic. A homey diner with sturdy wood furniture serves breakfast and lunch and shares a room with a gift shop selling local produce shifting off into a wine tasting bar. The room was packed with people waiting for a seat in the diner. I followed someone I saw go outside near the wine bar.
Once outside trickling water, outdoor furniture – couches, glass-topped tables, oversized shade umbrellas – and a second tasting area in a modern building were before me. The large fermentation tanks set just outside the public area of the winery with colorful billboard-sized wine labels wrapped around them.
First, we went to check out the grounds. The water feature was a huge rocky pool with waterfalls creating soothing background noise. Several wine-sipping nooks were set up around the shaded pool from above and below. A bridal party in flowing resort wear took over the largest sitting area where bottles of wine were shared.
Bocce ball courts were set up near a flower garden full of colorful blooms. Small kids romped in a gated children’s play area with a slide and Wild West façade. Right next to the play area was a chicken coop with several red hens. This extensive wine sipping area abutted the onsite grape vines. Large purple grapes hung on the healthy vines.
We went back to the quieter tasting room in the modern building. The room had high ceilings, wood beams, and extensive windows. The cool countertop felt good under my bare arms as the day was already a hot one. My husband and I shared a tasting of limited and reserve wines, keeping tabs of which one we liked the best. We decided on the 2015 Ancient Vine Cinsault made from Lodi grapes.
A little tipsy after the wine tasting we relaxed in the shade next to the water feature. The sound of clinking wine glasses and laughter drifted on the warm breeze.
Browsing the web you’ll come across sites that look like they haven’t been touched since the day they were launched. A “What’s Happening” page full of events from three years ago or an attempt running a blog fizzled out after three posts point to abandoned websites. Visitors question if the business is legitimate or if they’re still in existence. If you want to engage potential customers and build an online audience you can’t let your content fester and stink like a dead fish.
Keeping your website current may seem challenging but it doesn’t have to be. The good news is you’re already making news as you grow your business. You just have to identify things to add to your site.
If you’re thinking that you haven’t done anything worth adding to your website in a while then it’s time to swim out the door and do something. Having a website should motivate you to stay active in your industry so you can have something to share with your visitors.
Easy Website Updates that Keep Your Business Swimming Strong
Front Page – The most visible web page of your site is a place to get to know you and your business. It’s an opportunity to display important or major new offerings, products, promotions or insights.
Event Page – Get out and do things – tell us where you’re going to be so your followers can come visit you!
About Me – Every six months to a year look this page over. I bet you’ve done something new you can add to this page to keep it current.
Credentials – Good job! You have a new certification, award, or license to enhance your knowledge and skills – Let your visitors know you’re serious about your business by updating this info.
New Clients + Testimonials – A strong list of people you’ve worked with and happy client blurbs always look great and build potential client’s trust in your brand. Keep this updated so we know you’re still making people happy.
Publications – Have you published an article on another website? Has someone written about you and your business? Keep an ongoing list of links to these publications on your website so we can learn even more about you.
Just by adding, updating or moving around information, you stir the water of your site and prevent it from going still.
Driving over the gravel road that swoops around the front of the historic ranch house we bounce in our seats. Climbing slightly in elevation acres of empty farmland stretch out before us on the way out to the Pacific Ocean. A variety of hearty coastal grasses blanket the field in thick tufts and thin seed laden stalks that brush against the breeze. Green rolling hills cradle the estate to the East with larger forested hills beyond.
The view of the ocean often times obscured by wispy fog or diffused by sea mist was clear for our visit. The ocean carved inland up the coast to the crescent shaped Half Moon Bay.
The James Johnston House built in 1853 doesn’t have a stitch of architectural ornamentation but manages to be the most striking historic home on the Half Moon Bay coast. From head-on, the home is two stories, painted simply in white with ample glass pained windows trimmed by forest green shutters as the home’s sole decoration.
Approaching the house from the side reveals something unusual: the roofline slopes down to one story in the back. Ah yes, it’s the two stories becoming one at the back that catches Californians cruising past the site off guard. I liken this architectural maneuver to a hi-low dress hemline but on a building. This style of home is called “saltbox” and was a popular colonial design originating around the 1650s on the East Coast.
James Johnston, a gold rush entrepreneur, built his saltbox home while established Californio families lived in Spanish adobe and his American peers were putting up in vogue Victorians. Johnston’s sentimental choice of architecture was based on the home he grew up in, in Ohio.
Whizzing by on the highway before I knew much about the James Johnston House, I thought that it could be a Civil War movie set. I’d never seen another structure like it. An out-of-fashion Yankee Colonial in gold rush era California connected the frontier to the deep rooted nation established back East.
The home became abandoned over time and was unprotected from the stormy coast and grazing farm animals. A picture of the home from 1965 shows the back one story level had been hacked off, the exterior paint stripped and window frames void of glass. The coastal community and outside preservationists recognized the uniqueness of the structure and worked over many years (mid-1960s to present) to bring the Johnston House back to life.
Walking up to the house, visitors pass a rose garden with white picket fence. A pair of partially salvaged fence posts atop weathered wood pillars mark the walkway.
Entering the home through the back door, the brown shingled roof hovers inches away from our heads. The one story section of the home houses a small gift shop and museum office. Victorian costumed docents greet us and start the tour at the front of the house. Our tour guide wears sneakers with his black pants and burgundy vest, eager to show us around.
Original Johnston family furnishings are on display throughout the house along with period correct decorations. A sample of the original wallpaper was found preserved inside a Catholic alter within the home. The paper, mostly white featuring strokes of silver, was recreated and placed on the walls. The white of the paper keeps the interior of the home bright and cheerful on cloudy days.
One bedroom was left unpainted so that visitors can see the fine locally sourced redwood paneling that was used as building material. A patch of wall beam is uncovered by paneling to display the mortice-and-tenon construction work used to create the home.
The living space that was created by the dramatic roof slant is triangular in shape and runs the whole length of the home. I stood comfortably at the start of the room but ducking is required to occupy the lower region. The space was used to house ranch workers and was also available to coastal travelers needing shelter for the night.
The docents comment that they find new items in the house during the monthly tours. A “new” child’s rocking horse in the kids room or a new painting on the wall of the living room. Continued restoration projects and gardening help bring the house back to life inside and out. The coastal architectural curiosity reminds passersby of another time and another place.
The home is open to tours January through September on third Saturdays between 11am and 3pm.
If you write articles for your personal, company or club newsletter or blog, it’s a good idea to keep a list of possible article ideas to pull from. Avoid the stomach sinking worst case scenario of having nothing to write about. Prepare yourself for your next article by keeping track of issues that come up in your area of expertise and/or industry.
I used # 7 to create this post. I asked potential clients in my networking group what they wanted to know about writing. One of them asked “How do I come up with a list of topics for my industry newsletter?” Check out the following steps for my answer.
If you want to keep track of ideas on paper consider also keeping an ongoing Word Doc file (or equivalent) to track web based publication links.
1) Find out what’s being said on Social Media (Twitter, LinkedIn) about your industry across the nation or worldwide. Cut and paste interesting conversation threads or links into your Word Doc.
2) Keep note of what issues YOU face throughout the month and how you handle these situations.
3) It’s okay to jot down the obvious issues in your field…your insider solutions may not be so obvious.
4) Listen to what your co-workers are chatting about and write down the issues they’re experiencing.
5) Ask your higher ups what issues your industry is facing as a whole.
6) Research what your competition is up to online.
7) What questions do your clients have that you can write about?
Give yourself some time before your deadline to go over your notes and highlight the most compelling issues and trends listed. Pick one of those issues to be this month’s article topic.
Looking for a quick escape from the daily grind? A local garden may be just the place to breathe deep and collect your thoughts. There’s a number of in bloom historical garden get-a-ways throughout the San Francisco Peninsula. Grab your sun hat and check out these relaxing respites.
Gamble Garden is tucked away in Old Palo Alto, a neighborhood of older homes with architectural variety. The garden surrounds the 1902 home of Elizabeth Frances Gamble descendant of Procter & Gamble’s co-founder. The garden is close to the Stanford Shopping Center and University Avenue, a perfect spot for a mid-day retreat.
An edible herb garden with sun faded scarecrow greets visitors entering the gardens from the back of the property. Sunshine fills the gravel lined walkways off the central gazebo. A bush trimmed into the Easter Bunny patiently awaits the seasons to change back to spring.
At the far side of the property a tranquil water fountain trickles, its sound mingles with that of the breeze flowing through the tops of surrounding trees. A circular rose garden, encompassed by a 6-foot tall hedge, offers droopy white blooms shedding petals to the ground.
Benches dot the property situated under shade trees invite guests to stay awhile. Watch birds, bees and squirrels move about their daily garden life.
The Peninsula is home to an English country estate museum house and extensive gardens. The home at Filoli estate was completed in 1917 with the gardens following soon after. Filoli is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Prepare to meander and contemplate in Filoli’s many gardens. Soak up the sun’s piercing warmth with clear blue sky overhead framed by a variety of swaying tree tops. Eye catching lush green lawns complement red brick footpaths. The fountains and reflecting pools produce the soothing sounds of water.
As the afternoon progresses, watch the fog push over the coastal redwood hills at the foot of the property. The seeping dry ice effect of the cascading fog creates a feeling of magic.
Wonder further back into the gardens, passing through archways in ten-foot tall hedge walls. Discover a variety of vegetation throughout the property: rose garden, herb garden, and squash gardens to name a few.
Find activities enjoyed by the inhabitants of the estate placed throughout the garden. A relaxing spa like pool house offers seating for visitors steps away from the sparkling swimming pool. Tennis courts are a short walk from the home and placed at the outskirts of the garden. Walk all of the way to the back of the gardens and find the “High Place” a great place to look out over the estate.
San Mateo’s Central Park was once the site of a mansion estate. The ornate brick and iron fence lining El Camino and the cast iron dog statue guarding the rose garden are remnants from that time. The rose garden with trellis gazebo and the many tree varieties throughout the park are cared for by the San Mateo Arboretum Society.
The rose garden is full of colorful flowers abuzz with honey bee activity. Sniff the buds of pink, yellow, white and red roses. Check the names on the plates next to each rose variety because they can be pretty funny like “Hot Cocoa” or “Barbra Streisand.” A row of benches line the garden under shade trees, a perfect place for visitors to sit and smell the roses.
Don’t miss the Japanese Garden in Central Park. It’s walled off by a traditional Japanese wood wall with a large gated entrance. Step inside to experience a peaceful escape in the middle of downtown San Mateo. The garden is built around a central koi pond with tons of large and playful koi pushing around tree debris at the water’s surface and splashing in water spouts.
Walk around the pond on a slim pathway, under dangling trees or cross the water on stone bridges. Several pagoda temples and statues made of stone or bamboo are placed throughout the grounds. Relax on the tea house benches to take in the colorful fish and idyllic scenery.
Visiting the Gardens:
1431 Waverley Street, Palo Alto CA 94301
Garden open daily during daylight hours
Main House open Monday through Friday 9 am-2 pm
86 Cañada Road, Woodside, California 94062
Tuesday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
General Admission $20 adults
Central Park San Mateo
Open day light hours
Monday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm
50 E 5th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94401