An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Monday, November 20, 2017

Do You Really Act Like That?

In a world full of paid influencers, how can you really tell if your favorite online personalities are truly who they say they are?

Over the last two to three weeks, the universe has been aligning in the CRAZIEST of ways over here. Does anyone else ever notice how that happens? Kinda like the proverbial "when one door closes, another one opens"? Most of this "stars aligning" nonsense is blog related for me, from both a paid perspective in talking directly to brands, through PR companies, and in conversations with my followers. None of these people know each other, but it's so crazy how they're all talking about the same thing to me. It can be boiled down to a snarky comment (that I snort-laughed at) from a follower of mine who asked me after watching a series of my Instagram Stories, "Do you really act like that in real life?"

While this person was coming from an obnoxious place, it got me thinking. And it got me thinking about several conversations I've had with brands and PR companies alike in the past month or so. I had the pleasure of having a brutally honest conversation with a brand manager at one of my favorite PR firms to work with. He was letting me know that I likely didn't get a paid gig with a particular brand because I was too edgy in my content. To which I replied, "hey I totally get it - I'm not everyone's cup of tea!"

He then replied in the most unexpected way. I'm going to paraphrase here, but basically he said, "Look Paige, don't ever underestimate a brand to get in their own way and ruin their own marketing campaign with boring influencer content that interests no one and gets zero clicks. That's on them. There are SO many influencers that are ho-hum. The fact of the matter is, the market is too saturated for bull$hit content (he didn't edit out the s like I did and I love him for it). Keep doing you, because you're doing it right!"

In fact, four of my biggest contracts in 2017 have been by brands pitching ME, and citing some of my raciest online content as pieces that drew them to me. Pieces that I was a tad nervous to publish because I was afraid of any partnership/monetary repercussions. Low and behold, they had the opposite effect of what I had feared!

Here's the thing: The brand manager at the PR firm was spot on. There's WAY TOO MUCH CONTENT from influencers to be mediocre and be successful.

I've been blogging for about three and a half years. I've been making money blogging for two and a half of those years. This profession has exploded, and and expanded to include social media only influencers, too. This summer I hit a wall. I got sick of the whole thing: Sick of how fake-nice other bloggers are in online support groups, sick of how once they hit certain numbers, they no longer talk to bloggers "beneath them", sick of watching BAD Instagram Stories of nonstop sponsored content that quite frankly, watching paint dry would be more interesting.

So I decided, you know what? I'm going to stop editing myself so much online. I'm going to blog about things I love and am passionate about (but keep it safe to read at work!), I'm going to show more of my personality on my social channels, and I'm particularly going to try to make my IG Stories something worth watching. When I'm feeling feisty or animated about something, I'm going to pull out my phone and be entertaining about it!

So what happened as a result of this "bigger" online personality? Of more opinionated blog posts? Of being more of who I am around my friends and less of who I felt I should be online as a blogger?

August saw a big uptick in income. September even better. And by October, I was making the same money I did in my last 9-5 as a director of fundraising for a $22MM nonprofit. November is pacing to be even better than October! That's not to brag on my business skills (although you certainly need them to be a paid blogger). It's to say that when you are authentically you and you cut the bull$hit of online influencer marketing, brands notice. And they want to work with you.

So to the commenter who asked me if I "really act like that in real life", the answer is, yeah I do sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes I'm really that riled up about something. Whatever it is that I write about here, I'm absolutely passionate about. My photos on Instagram are all live-shot candids that really happened - nothing is staged. (Although I do sometimes change my boys' shirts so that my color scheme is consistent.) My goal is to be as authentic as I can be while being as entertaining as can be. And I hope that that continues to resonate with all of you!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Holiday Haystacks Party Appetizer

This easy to make appetizer is affordable for large parties, and festive for the holiday season

This post is sponsored by Barilla and Galbani, but all opinions are my own.

One of the best parts of the holidays are all the holiday parties to go to. "Friendsgiving", Secret Santa brunches, or the good old fashioned cocktail party, this time of year is so fun to get together and celebrate the season. However, I've been a host of such fun parties, and man, is it a ton of work! From cleaning the house to getting the decorations, preparing the menu and doing all the shopping - hosting a party is no small commitment! In the spirit of keeping things easy and simple this holiday party season, I've partnered with Barilla pasta and Galbani cheese to bring you a SIMPLE, easy and tasty party appetizer - what I'm calling Holiday Haystacks.

There's a few things that are so great about this recipe. First, there's a whopping 10 ingredients in it. Only 10! So it's super simple to throw together. Second, from start to finish you're looking at a half hour of time. So it's simple and quick to boot! Third, I've used mini-muffin tin cups to bake the pasta, so not only are we talking about a handheld app (no need for the extra dishes or utensils!) but it's also portion controlled, making it easier to keep consumption levels in check.

Shopping was also insanely easy forthis recipe. All the ingredients are available at Walmart, from the Galbani ricotta to the Barilla pasta and traditional sauce. Plus when you buy all three products, you can get $2 off from Ibotta!  A quick visit to the spice aisle (if you don't keep a well stocked one already) and you've got this appetizer made for under $10. The holidays are always so focused on large roasts of meat, we often forget that pasta is a great way to get together and enjoy the season too! 

Holiday Haystacks Party Appetizer
- 1 box Barilla Mostacciolli pasta
- 3/4 cup Barilla traditional pasta sauce
- 1 15oz container Galbani ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic poweder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried onion flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- halved grape tomatoes and julienned fresh basil to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil water for pasta and cook the pasta to al dente instructions. Do not overcook the pasta because it will continue to bake in the oven - make sure to drain it while it still have a bite to it!

While the pasta cooks, mix together the ricotta, eggs, and seasonings. Salt and pepper the mixture. Add the mixture to the drained pasta and stir together. Spray a mini-muffin tin pan with a nonstick spray, or brush with olive oil. Fill the tin with pasta, arranging the pasta within the tins somewhat vertically (to look like little haystacks - and also, to ensure each pasta is touching some of the sauce, which will congeal in the oven and make it a hand-held appetizer).

Bake the pasta for about seven minutes. Cut the grape tomatoes in half, and julienne the fresh basil (cut it into long strips). Add one half tomato to each muffin cup and sprinkle with fresh basil. Bake for another three minutes or so, until the pasta is starting to get golden brown, but isn't crispy or crunchy.

This easy to make holiday appetizer is affordable and easy to serve to large or small parties

Let the pasta rest in the muffin tin pan until mostly cooled. Transfer to a party platter and enjoy! This holiday haystacks party appetizer is packed with flavor, easy to make, affordable, and festive for the holiday party season.