Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Rules: Narrowing the Focus for Weekend Herb Blogging

October 27 - November 2, 2008, we are celebrating the Three Year Anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging. After that date, Weekend Herb Blogging will be managed by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. Here is where to find the Rules for Weekend Herb Blogging on her blog.

Lately I've been thinking about the future of Weekend Herb Blogging, the food blog event I created by accident in October of 2005, and which became successful beyond my wildest dreams. The number of blogs and blogging events has exploded during that time, and in order to sharpen the focus of Weekend Herb Blogging so it remains informative and unique, I've been feeling like a little fine tuning of the WHB rules is in order.

I do want to be clear that I'm not having new rules because people are doing something wrong. I'm having new rules because there are now so many events for every type of recipe or food that to keep WHB interesting and useful, I feel it's worthwhile to narrow the focus. More specifically, I would like to see WHB entries be limited to recipes or informative posts where people can learn about cooking with herbs or unusual plant ingredients.

These are the types of posts that I think have made WHB such a popular event. Although the more restrictive rules now make the event slightly more challenging for some people (including me!) I think restricting entries to this type of post will only make the event better. I sincerely feel this, even if people (including me!) have to skip a week now and then because they haven't cooked anything that fits these rules.

Here are the new rules I've decided upon, effective July 20, 2008:

1. Entries submitted for Weekend Herb Blogging need to be posts written during that week specifically for Weekend Herb Blogging and that post cannot be entered in any other food blog event. (The only exception to this rule would be instances where a photo used in a WHB post is submitted to a photo event.) To keep the event manageable, each participant is limited to one entry per week, and entries cannot contain more than one recipe should focus on one recipe or ingredient. (The last sentence was edited to clarify that a post about ways to use a certain herb is perfect for WHB even though technically it may contain more than one recipe.)

2. Weekend Herb Blogging entries should have the goal of helping people learn about cooking with herbs or unusual plant ingredients. With this in mind, only two types of entries will be accepted: a) Recipe posts where an herb or unusual plant ingredient is one of the primary ingredients in the recipe, or b) Informative posts that spotlight one herb or unusual plant ingredient, particularly including information about how it is used in cooking. (Edit: Unusual uses of an ordinary plant ingredient are also fine)

3. Entries must contain the words Weekend Herb Blogging with a link to the host for that week, as well as a link to Kalyn's Kitchen. (I've decided to require a link to Kalyn's Kitchen so I can keep up on entries during the week through Technorati and Google Alerts. Without this, I'm finding it's too time-consuming for me to read all the entries every week once the recap is posted.)

4. Entries can be written any time during the week, but should be submitted to the host for that week by 3:00 P.M. on Sunday. (This is based on Utah time, enter Salt Lake City into this map to calculate the difference where you are.) At the discretion of the host, posts submitted too late will be referred to the host for the following week.

5. Please put WHB in the subject line of your e-mail to identify it for the host. Your e-mail to the host should include your name, blog name, your WHB post permalink, your location, and a photo attached to the e-mail. (Edit: Hosts who wish to do so may request a certain size photo and Kalyn will indicate the size requested by that person's listing on the page of Who's Hosting Weekend Herb Blogging.)

Anticipating Some Frequently Asked Questions:

What does "one of the primary ingredients in the recipe" mean?
This means the dish could not be made without that herb or unusual plant ingredient. For example, chicken with sage cream sauce would be great; grilled chicken with parsley sprinkled on would not be okay.

What does "unusual plant ingredient" mean?
I realize that what's unusual varies greatly in different parts of the world, and I'm not saying people need to seek out something no one has ever heard of each week. Participants can certainly spotlight any ingredient that's unusual to them (for example I've never cooked with fennel, although it's not unsual to some people.) Unsual fruits and vegetables or spices are certainly welcome. It's my hope that this restriction will eliminate plant ingredients that are so ordinary no one is really interested in hearing about them.

What are some things that are no longer eligible as entries?
When Weekend Herb Blogging was a smaller event it made sense to allow things like flower photos, farmers market or garden photos, and somewhat generic vegetable or fruit recipes. Those types of things would no longer be accepted after July 20. (I've submitted those kinds of entries myself, so no one should feel bad about any past entries, please!)

Why don't the rules start now?
I'm having a phase-in period so people have a chance to find out about the new rules and we don't have to turn people down after they've prepared an entry.

What if I still have a question?
Please leave questions as a comment in this post so others can see the answers rather than writing directly to me. Comments go to my e-mail, and I'll answer as quickly as I can.

Thanks Everyone!
Thanks to all my great blogging friends who have supported this event (some of you for years!) The overwhelming majority of posts that people have been submitting are already following these rules. I appreciate all the effort people have been putting into the event, and hope these slightly more focused rules will make it even better.
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49 comments:

  1. New rules, how exciting!

    Much as I love WHB as it is, this all sounds like a great idea. It will be really helpful when reading the round-up in picking out which posts are likely to be of the most interest.

    Long live the new WHB!

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  2. I agree with Sophie that this will be helpful. As soon as I read this I started getting ideas for some more purely herb-focused posts. Anyway, making WHB more, well, herbal, just makes logical sense.

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  3. Kalyn I was thinking of participating in this last WHB but couldn't find which herb I was supposed to use.

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  4. Kalyn, WHB was the first food event I entered when I started my blog (just over a year ago) and I no doubtedly increased the readership through my blog and made some new friends and discovered some wonderful dishes - Thank you!

    Of late I haven't participated as I feel there's an inconsistency of the Round-up Presentation, due in large part by the host's style or computer savvy ( or lack therof).

    Let's face it, photos are what really attract us to a dish and this is very important with a round-up like in WHB.

    I would like to see a round-up format tightened up so that each entry is given a good spotlight.

    WHB is informative and helps the host and founder generate more traffic and quite often, the folks (like myself) to increase traffic too!

    I think a "framework" for the roundups would aid in the mutual benefit of the hosts, founder (Kalyn) and participants.

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  5. Sophie, thanks for the supportive comment!

    Lulu, I agree!

    Barbara, there is no assigned herb. You can choose any herb you'd like. If you ever want to participate, just check "Who's Hosting Weekend Herb Blogging" in the right sidebar of my blog.

    Peter, I do remember well helping you through that first time you entered! How far you've come! With all due respect, I think if you had been the host of a large event like WHB you'd be a lot more understanding. Last time I was the host and did a recap with photos it probably took me more than 8 hours. This time I'm a little faster I think, but it will be at least 6 hours by the time I'm done. For someone with less blogging experience it could easily take them ten hours, maybe more. Since it's such a big time commitment for the hosts, I want to let them be free to do it in the best way they can. Personally I kind of like seeing the personality of the different hosts come through (and plenty of hosts have done a better job of it than I do too, and I've said it many times. I guess I also don't see the event as a way to generate traffic; for me it is much more about learning about new herbs and plants. There are plenty of different hosts (more than 30 signed up right now) so maybe there will be one coming up where you feel like entering, who knows?

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  6. Kalyn,

    I've always been appreciative of the hosts and hostesses and I commend them again for their efforts and the time taken to put together a round-up.

    I wanted to focus on the perspective of the blogger who took the time to research and herb/veggie, play around with a dish, photos, write up and then only to see their entry relegated to a mere link to the entry's title and a dime-sized photo.

    As for hosting...I'm always up for the challenge and if given a little coaching (like when I 1st entered WHB)...count me in!

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  7. It's also a good idea to revamp a great idea (Like Weekend Herb Blogging) and I quite like the new rules. This should make your event more interesting to readers and participants alike.

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  8. Kalyn- Great idea :) I usually only click on the "unusual" ingredient recipes from the roundup anyway because there are just so many! I look forward to being creative and submitting cool herbs!

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  9. This is good. I was afraid WHB had gotten a little too permissive.
    Whip our butts, schoolmarm! Ma'am, yes ma'am. We love it.
    :D

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  10. Great changes Kalyn. I think this will take WHB in a really strong direction which amongst all the blogging events can only be a good thing. I love learning about new plants and I'm sure these changes will give me lot's more opportunity to do that.

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  11. Peter, I believe I may have suppressed the memory of how long it actually took me last time I did photos, because I've just now finished the recap and my clock says 7:28. When I wrote that comment to you at 4:05 I had already spent over 4 hours yesterday writing the entries, an hour today sizing photos, plus 20-30 minutes every day during the week answering e-mails and filing entries. I'm now guessing 10 hours overall. For a first timer, maybe 20 hours. If you're sure you want to spend that much time, send me an e-mail and I will add you to the list. (I'm not trying to discourage you, I just want you to have an accurate idea of how much time it takes so you understand why it's unrealistic to think every host will do it the same.)

    Lisa, thanks. I think this will make it even more interesting.

    Magpie, that is just what I was starting to suspect! Hopefully you'll have a lot more to click on now.

    Cookiecrumb, no permissiveness around here, no way. (And I was sorely tempted to make a Bill Maher joke about "new rules" but I did restrain myself.

    Dani, that's what I'm hoping too!

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  12. kalyn, i support these new rules 100%.

    i've been guilty of the "parsley sprinkled on chicken" post in the past myself, but as WHB has been growing in popularity i have been thinking that restricting entries to herbs and/or interesting plants is the way to go.

    it just helps to highlight fun and interesting recipes, and that's what i read WHB for!

    as you said, "interesting ingredients" really is subjective so i like it most when the posts include some info and/or a story. it gives context to the choice of ingredients.

    but i also agree with peter that visual stimulation is so important.

    i know we want to be flexible about hosts' style, but there's such a long line to be a WHB host and if you're going to have the "honour" of the role then you really should be prepared to dedicate time and respect to the job and include photos.

    i agree with you that it takes a long time to do recaps (i've hosted a couple of times and can verify that!) but now that there's tighter rules i would assume contributors will be putting more effort/time into their posts so our hosts should reciprocate with the recaps.

    it's only fair that photos and a small write-up is included to entice readers to the yummy recipes. there's nothing more disappointing than seeing a list of links when you’ve worked hard on your post.

    perhaps people should include a sentence or two in their emails to help time-starved hosts? that way the host can write their own words or use some of the info provided by the authors if they haven’t got enough time. just an idea.

    wow, this comment turned into an essay. sorry!!!

    in short, great new rules.

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  13. oh, one small thing i'd like to clarify: i understand we're looking for ways to cook "new and interesting ingredients", but what about regular old ingredients cooked in "new and interesting" ways?

    since "new and interesting" is subjective, are you really just trying to direct contributors to be thoughtful and informative with their posts and to try and bring something they consider new to the event?

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  14. I think thats a great idea, Kalyn! A new focus will help keep the spotlight on the herbs and vegetables. Thanks!

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  15. kalyn and everyone,

    I am fully and enthusiastically in agreement to the rules to focus weekend herb blogging. They are largely the very rules I have informally tried to stick to myself when submitting to this inspiring and movingly supportive event (though I have indeed thrown together a vaguely plant-based post a few times to meet the deadline). Oh and by the way, can I just mention how much I have been inspired and felt supported by all of you Weekend Herb Bloggers? I love you guys!

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  16. Hi Kalyn: Any rules you want are fine with me! I'm a little unclear about what qualifies, however. For example, would any of the three recipes submitted this week that use zucchini as the main ingredient qualify? If not, does it make any difference where you live? Zucchini might be mundane for me, but unusual in Singapore, whereas bitter melon would be unusual for me, but probably not so for the Singapore participant. Mind you, I'm not disagreeing with the rule, I'm just trying to fully understand what it means so I don't violate it. Thanks for all your hard work on WHB, Laurie

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  17. PS: If I could pick a rule it would be a requirment that photos be included in the round-up. I agree it takes a fair amount of time to do a photo roundup, but think it is just part of accepting part of the responsibility for doing roundups. You have so many people interested in hosting that I doubt the extra work involved in including pictures would interfere with getting hosts.

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  18. I'm all for new rules, Kalyn! I realised how different the submissions were in scope and character when I hosted a WHB round last year. It makes it much more interesting for people to actually learn something new about a plant/herb, rather than just getting another recipe!
    Well done!!

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  19. Anna, and others who have commented about photos,
    First, I'm hoping I don't come across as defensive about the whole issue of photos, because for a very long time I was one of the hosts who never did photos. I've done them twice now and I'm still not sure it's worth the time, although it's clear that a lot of people like them. (Sometimes I think not seeing the dish is more of an incentive for people to click through if there's an enticing description.) Since for more than two years I did the recap without photos, obviously it didn't hurt the popularity of WHB. Now I'm racking my brain to think of a host in the last six months who hasn't done them. I included a photo with the list of what people should send to the host, but I really do feel uncomfortable making a "requirement" that the host does photos, knowing it makes an already arduous task much harder. I want to encourage people to participate in hosting, not make it even harder. And I also have to say that when it's time for WHB Anniversary #3 and there may be a huge number of entries, that will be when I'm teaching school full time and I may not be able to do photos myself.

    I'm sure future hosts will see this comment stream and realize that many people have a preference for photos, but I am still going to leave it up to the host.

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  20. Anna, old ingredients cooked new and unusual ways are great. For example just this morning I saw an entry for the coming week for Watermelon and Cucumber Curry, great entry under either set of rules.

    Arundathi and TCL, thanks! Do appreciate your enthusiastic support.

    Laurie, your entries are always spectacular examples of just what I am hoping for, but I do understand what you're saying. I don't want to say yeah or nay on entries submitted under the old rules, but any recipe where the herbs are essential to the success of the dish is fine. And any recipe where an ingredient is used in an unusual way is great. I'm not planning to be super-restrictive, I just want to encourage people to seek out interesting things so we can all learn together, and discourage the few entries that might be truly ordinary.

    Pille, thanks for the support!

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  21. Kalyn,
    Not meaning to ask a silly question, but must posts be unusual herbs, or just herb dishes and unusual plants?
    I'm looking forward to the new version, and I'm sure it'll just encourage us to be more creative.

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  22. Cheryl, any kind of herb is fine (after all, it's called Weekend Herb Blogging!) It's just plants where I'm hoping to avoid ordinary things.

    And don't forget things like arugula which are used like a vegetable but which are actually herbs!

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  23. Hi Kalyn, Please excuse what my husband calls my OCD mind - which means I can't stop fretting over things I don't understand. If I get the gist of what you're saying, it's anything with an "herb" as a primary ingredient is okay, but that if what you are using is more accurately classed as a fruit or vegetable it either needs to be an "unusual" one or one used in an "unusual way."

    If that's your intent I'm still a little fuzzy on how to determine unusuality. I get why you don't want to point to any dish that someone submitted as not ok under the new rules - but maybe you could id some of your posts that were okay before and aren't now (or else just make up some examples of what kind of recipes you mean). Maybe it's just me, but my mind just doesn't do well with abstractions (like trying to figure out how the subjective term "unusual" can be applied in an international setting), so concrete examples are really necessary to comprehending. Sorry I'm so slow to understand and, once again, I'm not objecting to the rule in the slightest, I really just want to understand.

    By the way, if you need any help with the 3d anniversary roundup, please let me know and I'll be glad to help.

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  24. Laurie, please don't worry! I can't think of anything you have ever submitted would have been rejected under the new rules! It's not that I am planning to reject a lot of entries, I am just hoping to inspire better ones in some cases.

    I did realize that "unusual" is a very subjective word, but struggled to find a better one. I'll send you an e-mail.

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  25. Kalyn, I'm a little with Laurie in terms of how to define "unusual." I live in an urban area that offers a great deal in terms of global variety, and I am always embracing these goodies. Does this mean that you don't want to see salad or potato recipes unless they use funky ingredients like heirloom varieties? And is ANY herb permissible no matter how commonplace it is, like parsley or basil?

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  26. I think that this is a great idea. We are all fab chef/blog types (no matter how new) who can handle having the ante upped a bit. If you didn't believe we were up for the challenge, you wouldn't have bothered.
    I will try harder from now on to push myself to try new and interesting ingredients to profile in my WHB dishes.
    I have to admit - for the first few weeks I thought I had to grow my own herbs to use in the round-ups, I'm not sure where I got that from.
    Looking forward to the WHB - Master Class!

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  27. Susan, just as with Laurie, I never worry about your entries; they are always excellent. (Just like school, it's always the good students who want to make sure they're doing it right!)

    Yes, any type of herb that's a major ingredient in the dish is just fine. (After all it's Weekend *Herb* Blogging.) Recipes with the most ordinary of vegetables that are prepared in an interesting way, such as ethnic recipes, unusual preparation methods, unusual food combinations, unusual seasonings, or just great examples of seasonal produce are also just fine.

    Really I'm just hoping to eliminate the small percentage of entries where the recipe is so ordinary that people don't find them interesting.

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  28. Natashya, love that description! WHB Master Class is just what I'm hoping to create!

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  29. Kalyn, I think the new rules are a great idea! I've only participated in one WHB so far but I really like the event in theory... in practice, however, I've found myself skimming through the recaps looking for the more interesting recipes. Of course, "interesting" is a completely subjective word, but my idea of it seems to line up with yours, and now I'm really looking forward both to participating again and also to reading the recaps!

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  30. Joanna, thanks. I'm hoping it will keep the entries interesting and help everyone to learn from each other!

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  31. Kalyn, just weighing in to add my support for WHB masterclass! I think we are indeed up to the challenge, and as you mentioned, the number of foodblogging events has really grown, so there is a great opportunity for WHB to bring the focus to herbs and plantfoods!

    I remember my first WHB too - a fruit salad with everyday ingredients (boring?) ... BUT I was living in the tropics of Queensland (AUST), so I guess my 'everyday' ingredients fit in the 'unusual' category, right? :) I really enjoy reading about plantfood (history, growing info etc) and also ways to cook herbs/plants.. I think bringing a sharper focus will only add to WHB's popularity and infamy.

    WHB-on!

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  32. Thanks Zoe,
    I'm really looking forward to the master class!

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  33. Sounds good and more of a challenge.

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  34. Count me in as another firm supporter of the new rules. In fact, I wondered when you would revise the WHB rules, Kalyn. This narrowing down really does make sense, especially because there are so many entries as it is. I can't imagine that anyone will be miffed or offended. And if they are, then they should seek professional help... ;-)

    With regards to whether photographs should be required in the round up, as someone who blogged for ages without even owning a camera, I cast my vote to leave it to the discretion of the host. What I do like to see though is a little description of the post - showing that the host actually read the entry. My favourite roundup framework so far is the one that categorizes the posts by the herb being used. It's so handy to scan down the round up to "sage" or "thyme" to see what people have done with them.

    My only hope is that some tried and true recipes (I'm thinking of something like "focaccia with rosemary" or "hard boiled eggs with chives") won't disappear - as long as whoever posts about those things is very specific about describing why the herbs are essential to the finished dish.

    Here's a question: Would this new narrowing down exclude posting about an herb used as garnish? We had grilled chicken last night - we garnished it with fresh mint and I was amazed at how much the fresh mint added to the finished flavour. I'm thinking this particular grilled chicken just wouldn't be the same without the mint garnish. What's the verdict on this one?

    -Elizabeth, also guilty of adding parsley to garnish a sauce so that it will qualify for WHB....

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  35. Sue, thanks.

    Elizabeth, I don't think you've ever sent an entry with just a little parsley sprinkled on. Truly I don't! I'm just hoping to inspire people for entries where others can get benefit from reading it, I don't anticipate the WHB quality control commissioners rejecting many entries. If you think an herb is essential to a dish, then it is.

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  36. I think these rules are quite reasonable and will make WHB even better. :):)

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  37. Kalyn, I'm looking forward to improving my WHB contributions under the new rules! :)

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  38. Hi Kalyn. I recently participated in my first WHB and I have to admit I was a little unclear on the concept. I appreciate the new rules because they offer clear(er) guidelines. For me anyway.

    I'm not sure what unusual means because I'm from Malaysia, and fennel (for example) is as unusual as it gets. However for WHB I suppose I could unearth some standard Malaysian herbs that no one's ever heard of :)

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  39. Y, thanks (and me too!)

    Dee, you're lucky because a lot of the things you cook are probably interesting to many people, and the goal is just to keep it interesting and have entries that people can learn from.

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  40. Kalyn,

    I fully support your efforts to narrow the focus. It doesn't seem to take much extra time for me on the photos -- probably because I use the "add an image from the web" option. Also I write it mostly in order received so the post is done in pieces in draft form throughout the week so it occurs as less time.

    Given this, I was reading the rules at this moment as I was thinking of participating next week with a highly unusual post. So I won't let the cat out of the bag, I'll write you a separate email about it to see if it's ok.

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  41. hi kalyn - I think it is great to narrow the rules to make this event unique but I agree with Laurie and Susan about 'unusual' vegetables as I think it is often really interesting to see another blogger talk about a vegetable they love and know which I find quite exotic.

    My other comment is that I really enjoy posts which have a lot of unusual information about a usual vegetable. (In fact I have a post in the works that I had thought would be good for WHB for this reason) as I see WHB as a way of learning more about the herbs and veg/fruit that we know and love.

    I think part of what you seem to be trying to do in narrowing the rules is to ask people to really focus on a herb/veg/fruit - is that correct?

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  42. Anna, either way, new rules don't go into effect until July 20.

    Johanna, yes, and to enourage people to choose interesting plant ingredients and/or interesting preparation methods when they're not focusing on herbs.

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  43. Agreed on the new rules, Kalyn. There are now *so* many blog events out there that it's sometimes hard to tell them apart and impossible to keep track of them. I think the tighter the focus of the event, the more successful it will be in the long run. And maybe slightly fewer entries of a more focused nature will benefit everyone - the host (because he/she might take less time to the the roundup); the participants (because your entry won't get lost in a cloud of others); and the readers (because you know that the entries will be of a fairly uniform standard.

    I don't think I was guilty of any parsley sprinkling numbers, but at least I know I did always try to provide an informative post on the vegetable/herb I was using :)

    May WHB go from strength to strength!

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  44. Kalyn, you said: "When I wrote that comment to you at 4:05 I had already spent over 4 hours yesterday writing the entries, an hour today sizing photos, plus 20-30 minutes every day during the week answering e-mails and filing entries. I'm now guessing 10 hours overall. For a first timer, maybe 20 hours."

    I have to wonder if this is a limitation of blogger. For example, sizing photos- are you actually using a photo editor program to resize entry photos? Does blogger not provide for this? (I'm asking sincerely because I don't use blogger and so I don't know what it can and can't do... I use WP which really has the bells and whistles.) I actually would not want someone resizing my photos- I put a lot of work into processing them, including choosing the right size. Resizing them would toss that out the window.

    Anyway, I look forward to the challenge of the new rules :) Maybe someday I'll even host :)

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  45. Thanks again Anna, Johanna, and Jean for the supportive comments.

    Priscilla, it has nothing to do with Blogger. I use Adobe Lightroom to size the photos because I prefer it. I don't change the aspect of the photo, but some are too big for the center column of my blog, and I prefer all photos to be the same size (or close) so the recap looks nice. Blogger has a program that does this too, I just like lightroom better. I really think if you haven't done a round-up like this with over 40 entries you can't possibly imagine how much time it takes.

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  46. One final (I think) question with regards to the first rule: does a post that is labelled as one of Susan's YeastSpotting posts immediately disqualify it for WHB?
    (wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/)

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  47. EJM, yes, submitting a post to Yeastspotting would immediately make it not eligible for WHB.

    BTW, I bought you something today in Chinatown.

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  48. Thank you for the reclarification, Kalyn. (I had hoped that YeastSpotting might fall into the same category as a photo event.) Naturally, I understand the need to keep things narrowed down and will refrain from labelling an upcoming post for both events.

    -Elizabeth

    P.S. You did?! Does that mean the ginger mint is reviving? I hope so!

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  49. Well I'm not sure the mint is reviving itself, but it was still finding something for you. I'm not giving up on the mint yet, but it doesn't look happy.

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Thanks for joining the conversation! I love hearing from readers and even though I can't always reply to every comment, I will always answer specific questions on a recipe as soon as possible. Sometimes I'm answering by iPhone, so my replies may be short!

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