How to Get Dinner on the Table in 3 Steps and 10 Minutes

15 Jul

Instagram: Join the Billionaire’s Club

9 Apr

Facebook has announced that they are buying Instagram, the free, photo-sharing app. Instagram was launched in October 2010 initially as an app for iPhones but last week became available on Android phones. Instagram is a free app that allows users to apply filters to the pictures they take and then upload them to the app. Users have followers and those they follow. It’s almost like tweets but just pictures and they say pictures say a thousand words (a lot more than 140 characters). Instagram has more than 30 million users and more than 5 million pictures are uploaded each day.

Paul Kedrosky, tech investor and author of the Infectious Greed Blog, says:

“I understand Instagram has 13 employees – so at $77m a head that makes it the most expensive business deal in history that I can think of.”

WOW…

From Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page:

I’m excited to share the news that we’ve agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook.

For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.

We believe these are different experiences that complement each other. But in order to do this well, we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.

That’s why we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

These and many other features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure.

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

We’re looking forward to working with the Instagram team and to all of the great new experiences we’re going to be able to build together.

Many tech experts believe the success of Instagram after joining Android last week prompted Facebook to jump on the Instagram band wagon. What do you think? Is Instagram worth $1 billion?

Why Your Company Should Be Using Social Networks

2 Apr

A social network is defined as “a social structure comprised of individuals who share similar interests and/or common bonds.” 4/5 Internet users visit social networks. Companies can use social networks to reach internet users directly. Traditional marketing (commercials, print ads, mail-ins) are expensive and really can’t be molded to fit each and every target public. With the use of social media companies can participate in the conversation, they can build relationships and maintain relationships with their customers.

Some tips from my social media class on how to successfully use social networks:

  • Engage your publics
  • Avoid the sales pitch. Instead, use social networks like a cocktail party. If you went up to a group of strangers at a cocktail party with the intention of “selling” your business to them if you started out with “I sell insurance. You should buy insurance from me.” They would probably walk away from you and ask the host why you got invited. Instead, listen to them. Hear what they’re talking about. See if there is something that you could say to catch their attention. Get them to like you, get them to trust you and then sell.
  • Provide content your audience wants to see
  • Solicit and act on feedback from your audience
  • Answer questions
  • Have a genuine, credible profile
  • Link to your online content

Remember, when using social networks it’s quality not quantity. A company should determine which social network is right for their social media plan according to their customer’s preferences. Do not spread yourself too thin, if you want to successfully use social networks you have to do it right.

‘The Face’ of Social Media

21 Feb

Blankenship, Charles and I doing 'The Face'

It was my first blind date, well not exactly blind for me since I’ve seen his face a few times before. Jackson Blankenship, a freshman ATO studying engineering, met me Sunday at Starbucks. As I waited for him to arrive I drank my coffee nervously. Would he bring ‘the face’ with him?  Should I be making the face so he knows whom I am? I went with the casual handshake approach. Jackson doesn’t drink coffee so I suggested he get Passion tea with lemonade. He warned me if he hated it he would throw my composition notebook at the wall and leave. He liked it, so we proceeded. Blankenship, a Tuscaloosa native, has been making the face for years and decided to take it to the courts at the Ole Miss game on Feb. 4. The giant face gained media attention and may be the best distraction in college basketball. Blankenship used his Twitter account (@jack_____enship) to gain media attention and followers. The YouTube video of him with his ‘face’ now has over 1 million views!  However, the Ole Miss game wasn’t his first public appearance; Blankenship displayed the face during a high school trip to New York City in April 2010 behind the The Today Show’s Al Roker doing the weather. Blankenship tweeted the picture a few days ago and shortly thereafter was emailed by an NBC producer.

Blankenship behind Al Roker in April 2010

Blankenship is heading to New York City once again but this time to be on The Today Show, which brought upon the sudden realization that I was hanging out with a celebrity. “I’m packing the face in checked luggage, it’s more important than my clothes,” said Blankenship. A random fact about the face, also known as Charles, is that his favorite artist is Soulja Boy.

After talking for a while ‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic began playing boisterously in Starbucks which we enjoyed until we realized it was our cue to leave. Things were going so well he invited me back to his dorm to meet the face. We headed over to Bryant Hall and found the face safely in his bed, Blankenship cuddles it before bed and then the face sleeps on the wall. But, sometimes he oddly wakes up next to it. After meeting Charles I  was put through a face workshop. First, flare your nose. Next, frown. Thirdly, raise your eyebrows. And lastly, breathe in deeply and open your eyes really wide. The face did not come naturally to me but Blankenship was very encouraging. We hung out with the face for a while, talents of Charles include staring contests and poker. Charles hasn’t really been much of an asset to Blankenship in the dating department. “Charles found a girlfriend through me but so far he has not found me one,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship is a very intelligent young man. He has used social media to his advantage, gaining followers and subscribers. Even landing him a trip to New York City! It just shows how creativity and social media combined is an excellent way to get noticed. I think he has a very bright future ahead (a head…get it?) of him.

 

Update: Since posting this blog Jack Blankenship has continued to gain fame. After appearing on the Today Show Jack and his face caught the attention of the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon producers. Jack also appeared on the Conan O’Brien show. THis past week the Crimson White, the University of Alabama’s student newspaper, posted a video of Jack Blankenship running for President of UA. Check it out here, trust me it’s hilarious.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

Yesterday I made one of my favorite Valentine’s Day treats. Chocolate covered Strawberries. So easy and a cute gift.

I buy Baker’s Dipping Chocolate in milk chocolate and dark chocolate, the containers are convenient because you can microwave and dip all in the same bowl. Obviously, you’ll need to buy some strawberries. If you like toppings you can dip the strawberries in crushed up walnuts, almonds, sprinkles, etc.

 

Happy V-Day, Love Birds!

The Dark Origin of Valentine’s Day

6 Feb

Whether taken or single, you are probably glad that Valentine’s Day or SAD (Single Awareness Day) is over. It’s a day filled with anxiety for many and disappointment for most. So where did the holiday come from?  The day is often referred to as a “Hallmark holiday”, one created by Hallmark to boost card sales. 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent annually, making it the second most popular card holiday behind Christmas. Not surprisingly, women account for 85 percent of all valentines purchased. It’s the holiday associated with love and all that mushy stuff but the day has much darker origins than Hallmark.

Lupercalia was a Roman celebration from Feb. 13 to 15; men would slaughter a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. The men would then whip the women with the hides of the slain animal, in act embraced by the Roman women because it was believed to bring fertility in the coming year. During Lupercalia a matchmaking lottery would take place in which the men would draw the names of women from a jar. The matched up couples would be ‘paired’ for the remainder of the year, often ending in marriage.

St. Valentine is the patron saint of Valentine’s Day, shrouded in Christian and ancient Roman tradition. The story of St. Valentine is quite sketchy. One legend claims that Valentine was a priest during the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided that single men were better soldiers than married men with families so he outlawed the marriage of young men. Valentine, outraged by this injustice, continued to perform marriages for young love birds in secrecy. Claudius discovered the secret marriages and ordered Valentine to be put to death.

Other stories of St. Valentine claim that he was killed for helping Christians escape from unforgiving Roman prisons. According to one legend, while Valentine was imprisoned he sent the first “valentine” to a girl he fell in love with, allegedly she was the jailor’s daughter who would visit Valentine. Before he was put to death, Valentine wrote the young girl a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is commonly used on February 14.

At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius deemed Lupercalia “un-Christian” and declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. Lupercalia was still acted out by the Romans but without the pagan rituals. The festival was toned down, no more sacrifices but a lot of drinking. The day continued to be about fertility and love. In France and England during the Middle Ages it was believed that February 14 was the beginning of the mating season for birds, which added more of the romantic feeling to the day. Hence, ‘love birds’.

Americans exchanged hand-made valentines dating back to the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland (“Mother of the Valentine”) created and sold the first mass-produced valentines. Esther used lace, ribbons and colorful pictures to decorate the cards. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20thcentury that Valentine’s Day gifts were extended to roses and chocolates. And lastly, in the 1980s the diamond industry saw gold in Valentine’s Day and began promoting and advertising the day as an occasion for jewelry.

The average consumer will spend $116.21 this year on traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise

Pinterest Baking: Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

1 Feb

I probably would never attempt to make those Cookie Monster cupcakes. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it tastes good so I usually strive for taste over aesthetics. Therefore I probably wouldn’t be likely to choose a recipe where the end result is supposed to resemble a famous character, person, etc. I think it’s an adorable idea however it’s not very practical.

I’ve done a few recipes off of Pinterest, this past Christmas I got the idea from the site to give out chocolate covered pretzels as little holiday treats. The directions say to use caramel but I didn’t like the way those turned out.

My Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

They were ridiculously easy to make. Here’s what you need:

I prefer semi-sweet chocolate chips to white chocolate chips that’s why I didn’t use as much. I haven’t tried dark chocolate but I bet that would be good, too!

First, set up your station. I laid out wax paper and lined up little cups of the ingredients I put on my pretzels. One cup of M&M’s, one cup of sprinkles, one cup of coconut (you get the picture). Then I melted the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 1-2 minutes until the chocolate was melted. Then I dipped the rod into the chocolate and just sprinkled the different toppings over the rod as I turned it. It was so easy and I had a broken pinky finger at the time making my left hand useless. So I can literally say I did this with one hand.

While writing this blog I realized that these rods would be  really cute Valentine’s day  gifts. Stores are stocked right now with different Valentine’s Day baking supplies…

After you’re done with all the pretzels and they are lined up on wax paper you can move them into a container to put in your refrigerator over night. These suckers dry super fast, after I was done with my last rod I was able to start loading up the first batch into a container to put in the fridge. It doesn’t matter if you have to stack them on top of each other, they won’t stick together. The next day I put them in cellophane gift bags and tied them up. Really easy and everyone loved them.

Enjoy!

J