Build Your Blog Conference 2013 – Part 2 of 2

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(And now let’s get on with Part 2, the recap of Saturday, conference day, YAY!  If you missed part 1, click here to see how the story started.)

After deciding I was good with only 20 business cards I headed to bed and got about four hours of sleep.  If anyone is keeping track, I’d only slept about four hours the night before as well so I was feeling a little tired.  I think the only thing that got me out of bed was excitement that the Build Your Blog Conference was finally here!!!

It was a beautiful morning and I found my way to the conference center which was just a mile or so down the road.

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I met up with Julie, Holly, and Lori from the night before which was great.  Seriously, if you can connect with some people before the actual conference, it makes walking into that huge room by yourself so much easier!  I’m very thankful the Six Sisters organized he meet-up the night before.

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McDonalds was one of the Sponsors and they were handing out smoothies that morning which I was very thankful for.  We also got a swag bag when we checked in so we checked all that out before things got started.  Swag bags are definitely fun!

It’s a chance for Sponsors to get their info to you in the way of free gifts, samples, brochures, coupon codes, etc.  The gals had some other goodies in there for us too like water, a granola bar, and some colored gel pens.  Oh, and a huge bar of chocolate!  The snacks were much appreciated since I hadn’t brought any with me – another thing I should remember for next year along with my business cards!

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Emily Benson from The Benson Street, a crafty DIY blog, also sat with us and she was so cute!  Check out the fun stick candy she handed out with her business cards… “Stick” with me and friends we’ll be… how adorable is that!  And memorable too which is a great thing when networking with SO many people, you want to try to stand out in some way if possible.

My way was being the girl who forgot her business cards, haha!

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The Six Sisters had the awesome idea to set up a business card table where you could leave a stack of yours and then take one of everyone else’s, they even had a metal ring and a hole punch so you could keep them all together.  Since I didn’t have cards to contribute I felt bad taking the ones that were there, so I didn’t.

While I love the general idea I decided that I’d rather collect cards from people I actually met, that way I’d have a connection to those cards instead of just a huge pile that I didn’t associate with any faces.  That’s just my personal preference, but I would love if they came out with a list of all the attendees so I could check out their blogs at some point.

I saved my 20 business cards to hand out to Sponsors I spoke with, but I was prepared with some post-it-notes (hmm, that sounds familiar), so I could still swap info with people.  And I was hoping that Will Run for Pasta was a fun enough name that people would remember it if they were really interested, you know?

Then it was time to get started!  Camille from Six Sisters gave a little welcome speech and introduced Brooke Walker (she’s the one to the left of the podium taking a picture of the crowd, haha).

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And then it was Brooke’s turn and her speech was so inspiring!

It was all about the difference between a Blogger and an Influencer, and asking “which one are you?”, and she shared six ways to be an Influencer:

  • Find a focus
  • Add your voice
  • Ask interesting questions
  • Play up the positive
  • Balance the bucket (based on this children’s book)
  • Leave a lasting impact

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Next up were two sessions of classes and for each session there were three we could choose from.  The first one I went to was Blog Design 101 which was done by Lindsay from Artsy Fartsy Mama and Ashton from Something Swanky.  They both had great ideas and tips, and they both have great sites you should check out – Linsay offers Blogger blog design through her design site Happy Potamus and Ashton has a bunch of PicMonkey tutorials and also a great post on the 10 things she learned at BYBC which was also her first in-person blogging conference as well.

Then it was back to the big room for the Food Blogger Forum featuring Laura from Real Mom Kitchen, Erica from Favorite Family Recipes, Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod, Nikki from Chef in Training, and Amanda from Kevin and Amanda.

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I am not a food blogger at all but there was no way I was missing this forum!  I have been reading Maria and Amanda for forever and the idea that I could meet them in person was just too much to handle.  They were actually in Oregon last year and were posting photos of where they were at in Portland on Instagram, usually eating lots of cupcakes, and I seriously thought about “accidentally” running into them but that felt too stalker-ish, haha!

I was actually surprised that this session wasn’t packed out, but I was more thankful because that meant I got to meet my favorite bloggers and actually chat with them for more than 10 seconds.  Maria and Amanda are both just as sweet in person as you’d imagine them to be, and I know they’re just regular people like me, but I was definitely a little starstruck.

I posted this on Instagram – and seriously said a little thank you prayer that it turned out so well because it’s going on my fridge, haha!

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Then it was time for lunch where I got some pictures with other bloggers I had been wanting to meet as well… here I am with Emily from Sweet Bella Roos and Ashton from Something Swanky – both from Online BlogCon.

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Also from Online Blog Con, but before that we “met” through Red Faced Runners, is Sarah from Food, Fun, and Life in Waukesha.  It was so fun to meet her in person after liking and commenting on all or our Red Faced Runner check-ins on Instagram!

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I actually met everyone on my Online BlogCon list but didn’t get pictures with any other ones because I felt like a dork asking, no idea why though!  So, I also met:

I had to go hunt some of them down because I was determined to meet them all, and by the afternoon I was feeling a little more comfortable going up to people and just introducing myself.  I was still out of my comfort zone but I knew I’d regret not making it happen so I just did the ol’ “fake it until you make it” routine.  And you know what?  It works!

Unrelated to Online BlogCon, I also met Kelly from Dixie Dollar Deals (no picture, but she’s the one to blame for the umbrella shoes you saw in yesterday’s post – Old Navy clearance), and Carrian from Oh Sweet Basil.

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Not my best angle as the photo taker was sitting down and we were standing, but that’s okay.  Carrian was so sweet!  I almost didn’t approach her but like I said, I was getting brave by the afternoon and I just went up to her and said something like “you have no idea who I am but I just had to say hi and tell you I made your Maui Baby Nachos for Super Bowl Sunday and they were so good”.  She asked what my blog was and when I told her she said something like “I do know you, I see you on Twitter”.  Ahh Twitter, I love you!!

During lunch the Sponsors each spoke for a few minutes on their company, what they do/offer, and how they hope to work with Bloggers.  I connected with three Sponsors that have products right up my alley and am looking forward to possibly working with them in the future  – Bona Dea (a fertility and uterine health supplement), doTerra (essential oils), and Bosch Mixers (kitchen appliances).

As for the afternoon, there was again two sessions and three classes to choose from for each session.  I would up staying in the big room and going to How to Make Money Blogging and The Next Level: Tips for Seasoned Bloggers.  Not that I’m a seasoned Blogger yet but I figured I should plan ahead, right?  And both of those classes were done by the father of the Six Sisters who now works for his six daughters – how cool is that?!  He brings a lot of info to the business end of blogging and I hope he speaks again next year too!

After the final sessions there were giveaways announced, most Sponsors had drawings you could enter for free product, and then Camille gave a closing thank you speech and that was that.  I stuck around for a casual information class on doTerra and then it was back to my hotel for some much needed sleep.

I stopped at Chick-fiil-A to grab some dinner since we don’t have any of those in Oregon and I always hear how good it is.  I wasn’t trying to make a political statement either way, I just wanted some nuggets and it was practically right next to the hotel.  It was tasty!

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After eating on the hotel bed (and somehow NOT getting any sauce on the white bedspread!), I went through and organized the stuff from my swag bag and got as packed as I could since I had to leave early to get to the airport.

I got to bed around 10pm and then woke up around 12:30 and was so thirsty I thought I was going to die!! <—a little dramatic maybe.  I finished the water bottle I had which wasn’t enough so I grabbed a couple dollars and found the vending machine by the elevator.

It wouldn’t take my dollars.

So, I ventured down to the lobby desk in my pink pajama pants, black jacket, and umbrella flats to ask for quarters.  I figured the lobby would be empty at that time but nope, it was as packed as I’d ever seen it.  Got some quarters, took them back to the vending machine and it took them!

But it wouldn’t give me anything for them and it wouldn’t give them back to me.

So, back to the lobby I went, explained my situation to the nice guy – “I just want some water” – he gave me a $3.00 bottle of water and we called it even.

Grabbed some ice on the way back to my room, drank half the bottle, and went back to bed.

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Well, I tried to go back to bed.  I couldn’t sleep even though I was so darn tired I wanted to cry.

I finally fell asleep around 4am and then my alarm went off at 6am.

If you’re counting, that’s 12 hours of sleep the last three nights!

I made it to the airport, returned the rental car, got checked in and grabbed some breakfast on my way to the gate – somewhat healthy to offset the Chick-fil-A.

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My flight got into Portland around 10:30am and the same friend who dropped me off also picked me up and took me home – I seriously owe her something for doing that, it may have been no big deal to her but it was a big deal to me and I am so thankful for her!

The first thing I did after getting home was get back in my car and go pick this cutie up from PetSmart where she had been staying since Thursday.

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You’d think I would have gone straight to bed after that but my mom and step-dad were in town from Seattle visiting some friends in Beaverton so they came out to see me and we had a late lunch and then went down to Woodburn for some outlet shopping.

And then I came home and went to bed.

Despite the lack of sleep, this trip was so much fun and I have already purchased my conference ticket for Build Your Blog Conference 2014!  I am thankful though that I have almost a year to save and budget since airfare, hotel, car, and food (and pet boarding) can really add up!

Every penny was worth it though!  I feel like this was a great conference for a newbie blogger and a great conference for a conference newbie and I’m both of those!  It was certainly out of my comfort zone and travelling alone was an adventure but knowing what I know now I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

If you have the chance to go next year I highly recommend it, and you have almost a year to get ready for it, so start planning now and we can meet up in Utah in February!

I’m excited to implement the things I have learned and to compare where my blog is today vs where it will hopefully be by February.  I’m feeling inspired but also overwhelmed and it will be a slow process I’m sure but I really do want this to be a fun blog where I can share info people need and want, and get to know my readers better.

If you want to follow along, feel free to join me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and now BlogLovin’ to see what’s up!  <– yep, shameless social media plug 😀

Have you been to a blogging conference?  Which one?  Would you recommend it?

Build Your Blog Conference 2013 – Part 1 of 2

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(I know this post is longer than usual, it’s so detailed mainly because I don’t want to forget all that happened!  I also have friends who have been wanting to hear about it so I went for the play-by-play.  This is the recap of Friday, the travelling and meet-up day before the conference.  If you want to skip to Part 2, click here.)

Let’s talk BYBC, baby!

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Like I mentioned the other day, the Build Your Blog Conference was my first in-person blog conference experience and I loved every second of it!

Like I also mentioned about Online BlogCon, I have no idea how it was that I found out about BYBC, I honestly just can’t remember.  I do know that I found out about them around the same time, and actually found BYBC first.

It was put on by the gals from Six Sisters’ Stuff and was held in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Mr. Won’t Run and I had chatted about him coming with me and we’d make it a long weekend and explore the area but he wound up with a work trip that same weekend, so it didn’t work out but my fingers are crossed for next year!

Right after we found out he couldn’t come, Brenna from Life After Laundry emailed and asked if I wanted to room together and I said of course, I had actually been thinking of emailing her the same question!  Brenna had won a conference ticket through the Six Sisters’ Stuff blog which is how I originally “met” her.  We started chatting, and when I checked out her blog and saw that she was a Christian and a Dave Ramsey fan I knew we’d get along great and she ended up doing Online BlogCon too.

Unfortunately, life happened, as it tends to do, and Brenna wasn’t able to go to BYBC :(

Because she is so sweet, she inquired and got approval to give me her conference ticket which worked out perfectly since I had procrastinated and hadn’t bought mine yet.  I love her for that but I know how much she wanted to go and that it was a hard decision for her to make.  I was really looking forward to meeting her in person and hopefully we can meet up at next year’s conference, if not before then somehow!

With Brenna not able to go, and with Mr. Won’t Run having a work trip of his own, this meant I would be travelling by myself.  To say I was nervous would be an understatement.

For some reason the part I was most nervous about was driving myself to the airport and figuring out where to park and then how the heck to get to the terminals from there, all at 6:30am or earlier.  My dear friend and co-worker heard that and offered to take me and pick me up which was a huge blessing.  Although we were so busy chatting we missed our exit and crossed over the Columbia into Washington, haha!  It didn’t’ help that it was foggy and our landmark (the huge IKEA sign) was obscured.

She chauffeurs to the airport a lot so she dropped me off in the arrival lanes because she knew where the Starbucks was at!  Like I said, huge blessing!

I grabbed coffee and a bagel, headed upstairs to the Southwest area, and sat down to have my breakfast and watch the people checking in.  I flew once last February and before that I don’t even know how long it had been so I was a bit out of practice and unsure of the procedures so I figured I’d sit and watch and learn while I ate.  And people would think I was just hanging out, not observing first so I didn’t look stupid.  It was easy enough with those fancy computer check-in screens and then I was off to security.

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Going through security always makes me nervous.  Not that I have anything to hide or am trying to sneak anything onboard, it’s just so stressful!  Making sure I have all my identification handy, then grabbing those bins to put my coat, shoes, and laptop bag in.  Heaving my carryon up there too.  Oh wait, take out my Ziploc bag of liquids so I don’t hold up the line.  Oh wait, take off my belt.  Then you get through and it’s a mad dash to get yourself re-dressed as you move along the belt with your things as more items are coming through.  It’s as stressful as bagging your own groceries at WinCo!

I found my gate, had a short wait, and then we were in the air.  The flight was uneventful, the most exciting part being descending out of the clouds in Salt Lake City to see everything covered in snow!  It was so pretty but made me nervous about driving since I was renting a car.

When I got off the plane I just went with the flow, following the mass of people and then looked for signs to Transportation/Rental Cars.  I was pretty sure I had everyone fooled and that it looked like I knew exactly where I was going, like I’d been through the SLC airport a hundred times before.

I made it to the Enterprise counter, got situated in my Hyundai Accent, and got on my way.  Thankfully the roads were totally clear of snow but I still almost drove off the road looking at the scenery.  The snow covered mountains, the sunshine, and the clear blue skies were breathtaking.  And I don’t say that in a cheesy way, it was seriously beautiful.

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I made the 20 minute drive down to Sandy and found my hotel without getting lost.  It probably helped that I Google Mapped my route a million times before leaving and brought a printed copy with me.  I will say that Utah drivers seem to be speeders!

I got to the hotel a few hours before check-in and the room wasn’t quite ready yet so I asked the gal if she had any lunch recommendations and I also posted the question on Twitter.  I was told that Café Rio was a local favorite and that I had to get the pulled pork salad so that’s what I did.  I guess it’s a chain in a bunch of states but not in Oregon so it was new to me.  I mapped it on my phone, found it easily enough, and had the hugest and yummiest pulled pork salad ever:

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I decided to eat there (by myself!!) since I had some time to kill and this was my lovely snowy mountain view:

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On the way back to the hotel I decided to go find the Paradise Bakery that attendees were meeting up at that evening so that I would know exactly where it was in relation to the hotel.  Thankfully it was really close and there was a Target across the street which would come in handy later that night but I didn’t know it yet.

Speaking of Target, this is the view when you walk out of the store:

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I got back to the hotel, checked-in, and had a few hours to kill before the meet-up at 6pm so I got on my laptop to watch some videos.  I knew that the Six Sisters had done segments on the local KSL Studio 5 lifestyle show so I found those and decided to watch so I could get to know them a little better.  And, the female host of that show, Brooke Walker, was going to be the keynote speaker at the conference so it was great to see her in action as well.

At this point I was starting to feel really great about myself.  I had just travelled by air and car by myself without incident.  I had found my way around a town I’d never been to without getting the slightest bit lost.  I was like an actual, real adult living life in the actual, real world, and I was owning it!

And then it dawned on me.

The one and only thing I forgot to pack.

The thing that was still sitting on the kitchen counter.

My business cards.

So much for being a responsible adult.  Seriously, Sarah?!!  The one thing you forgot which is the most important thing to have at a conference for networking.  Come on!!

I played it cool though, couldn’t do much about it at that point since I had to head out to the meet-up.  I decided I’d just hit up Target on the way back to the hotel for some craft paper and a paper cutter and I’d use the hotel’s business center to do some printing and it would all be fine.

So off to the meet-up I went!

I’m terrible at social networking things like this.  I’m just not a jump-in and introduce myself type of person.  I was completely out of my element and just kind of standing around like a dork.

Before leaving for BYBC I posted on the Online BlogCon Facebook group to make sure I knew who else was going to I could be sure to meet them, and I was so relieved when I saw Julie from Confessions of a Cooking Diva walk in!  I went right up to her and we found a table and started chatting.  She had met Holly from Happy Food Healthy Life before, another OBC attendee, so she joined us when she got there, and so did Lori from Lori’s Culinary Creations.

The four of us had similar feelings about this type of social situation so we stuck together at our table and would chat with people that stopped by and we’d exchange business cards.  Except for me, of course.

After hours and hours of chatting and meeting new people, my cheeks were hurting from all the smiling and laughing, and I still had to hit up Target and work on my cards.  I don’t remember what time it was exactly but I’m pretty sure it was after 10pm.  I got back to the hotel, worked up the cards how I wanted them (or close enough anyways) and used the business center to print them out on colorful cardstock.  By this time it was even later and I was fading fast from only four hours of sleep the night before.

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I got about 20 cards cut out before I couldn’t see straight anymore and decided that if people wanted to remember me they would.

So, off to bed I went for another four hours of sleep before the big day!

Aaaand I’m tired of typing now.  I’m also sure you’re tired of reading (if you still are), so I’ll have the conference day recap for you tomorrow.

If your eyes haven’t given out yet.

Bloglovin’ Bandwagon

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In case you haven’t heard, Google is doing away with Google Reader.

At first I was sad about this because I just discovered it within the last year and I loved it.  I had most of the blogs I wanted to read all in one place, and the ones that didn’t offer a subscription option with Google Reader I signed up to get delivered to my inbox.

I had been seeing Bloglovin’ pop up in recent months but never bothered to check it out because I had Google Reader and I loved it.  Or so I thought.

Thanks to this blog post that someone posted in our Online BlogCon Facebook group, I found out there was a lot to love about Bloglovin’.

  • You can import everything from Google Reader with the click of a button!  It was the first thing it asked me when I created my account.  It actually said it experienced an error but when I went to my Bloglovin’ dashboard everything was there.  If I’d had to transfer Google Reader subscriptions to another account by hand I would have pulled my hair out.
  • You can create categories!  I always wished there was a way to organize/group blogs in Google Reader (maybe there was and I just never figured it out?), so I think this is pretty cool.  Now I can remember who I’m following because I met them at Online BlogCon, or through Red Faced Runners, etc.
  • You can give the bloggers page views!  This is important because page views = that blogger getting paid if they are working with advertisers.  The number of page views a blog has is also something that brands look at when they are considering working with a blogger.  They want to know that if they partner up people are going to hear about their product.  Yes, there are ways to tell how many people are subscribed to your blog via email or a reader, but in the blogging world, page views are King!
  • Since you’re viewing the post on their blog it’s much easier to comment!  I rarely commented so I’m happy about the way Bloglovin’ is set up because I won’t read the post in reader and then have to click over to the blog if I want to comment.  Yes, I know, it’s one click, I’m lazy.

I’m still figuring out my way around it but I am really liking it so far.

So come on, hop on the Bloglovin’ bandwagon with me and let’s have some fun.

All the cool kids are doing it!

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Considering Emeals

Will all of my meal planning talk recently, the latest Groupon Portland deal on Emeals (thru Friday 3/15/13) seems like kismet!  Have you heard of www.emeals.com?

It’s basically a one-stop meal planning service which sounds awesome!

I would just get the dinners option for $29 (that’s a meal plan every week for a year, for only $29, normally $58), but they have a few different plans based upon which meals you cook daily, and then you can choose your food style:

Classic, Clean Eating, Simple Gourmet, Paleo, Low Carb, Low Fat, Portion Control, Natural & Organic, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free

You also choose whether you need a plan that serves 3-5 per meal or 1-2 which I find very helpful since it’s just two of us. Leftovers are nice but realistically they wind up in the trash most often.

Somehow they also connect with some of the grocery store sales for that week so you can pick the store you shop at the most:

ALDI, Kroger, Publix, Ralphs, Safeway, Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods

I’m typically an Albertsons or Fred Meyer girl myself, or WinCo if I feel like making the drive (and maybe I will if it’s just once a week), but I think just having a shopping list will save me money, even if I’m not at one of the stores listed above.

Every week they’ll email you the next 7-day plan with all the recipes and it totals up all of the ingredients that you’ll need so you can go through and cross off what’s already in your pantry and then shop for the rest.

Check out some of these sample plans… classicsimple gourmetnatural & organic.

Fun, right?!

I realize that meal planning in itself isn’t THAT hard, just write down the recipes and what you need, but that still takes precious time and right now I just want it done for me. This makes it a total no-brainer, just print the list each week and go.

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It will also give me some new meals to try without having to hop on Pinterest for “just a minute” to choose some recipes.  Inevitably that minute turns into three hours and I’ve only written down one recipe to make but I’ve added another 30 on my to-try board.  Not that I’m giving up Pinterest, I’m not saying that at all!!

Oh, and another selling point?

Dave Ramsey is a fan which means it MUST help you save money, right?!

I think I’ve just talked myself into doing it but I’d love to hear from anyone that has any direct experience with it, good or bad, I’d love some real life reviews if you’ve got them!

Cheeseburger Pasta

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Yeah, still no BYBC recap for you yet. Yes, I know the whole world is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for it! I’m working on it!!

How about an update on that meal plan?

Cheeseburger Casserole Pasta Bake Pasta

I made the Cheeseburger Casserole on Sunday but I have renamed it Cheeseburger Pasta.  Mr. Won’t Run is “allergic” to casseroles, and a “pasta bake” is just a fancy casserole so we’re calling it plain ol’ pasta.

His stomach was feeling a little off on Sunday so he skipped dinner but I had some and actually really liked it.  It wasn’t like “oh my gosh, best thing I’ve ever eaten”, I mean it was a casserole after all, but it was tasty and I’d make it again.

I took the leftovers to work with me, shared some with the two pregnant co-workers who each gave it four thumbs up, and I finished the last of it today.  Funny thing though, the Mr. was scrounging through the fridge last night and asked where the pasta was!

Oops, guess I’ll have to make it again soon.

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I’m not posting the recipe here because I didn’t change a single thing – but you can check it out on SkinnyTaste.com!

I kicked Koko “OUT OF THE KITCHEN!” and she got all pouty and forlorn.

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I still have the Indian Butter Chicken and the Spaghetti Aglio e Olio on the plan for this week but Monday night the Mr.’s stomach still wasn’t right – I can’t remember what I ate for dinner, Tuesday night he had crab at a late lunch so he wasn’t hungry – I ate a leftover baked chimichanga (with ranch), and tonight he’s working late – I ate a leftover baked chimichanga (with ranch).

I did come up with an interesting dessert though!  We had some leftover brown rice that I had been thinking about using as a hot cereal this morning but didn’t (because I slept as late as possible and then didn’t have time to fix it #livewithoutpretending), so I doctored some of it up tonight and wound up with this… brown rice with Artisana Coconut Butter and a few milk chocolate chips:

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Okay fine, it was a little more than a few, more like 45, or a “heavy sprinkle”.

Microwaved it for 33 seconds because it’s quicker to hit 3-3 than moving you finger all the way down the keypad to hit 3-0 (am I right?), stirred it up, and you get something that resembles Cocoa Krispies but without the snap/crackle/pop:

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Hmmm, you could probably serve this as a Halloween maggot dessert!  You’re welcome.

It was actually pretty tasty and satisfied my chocolate craving and I will totally do this again even though the Mr. will think it’s crazy.  He thinks I have an obsession with mashing/mixing things together in bowls.

I kind of do.

And then I put ranch on top.

But never when there’s chocolate involved.  Or maggots.

Do you have any bowl obsessions or weird desserts combos?