Happy 2017! How is this possible already? I have no idea. Time flies when you are having fun or, uh, working all the time. Why do we work so hard? Something to ponder in 2017, for sure.
Although I did work more than I expected to this past year, I managed to squeeze in some fun too. Here are my highs from 2016 — note that this is not really food-related — I might do a restaurant post when I’m caught up…
10. Getting upgraded to business class on my London to Austin flight on my birthday!
9. Visiting Venice for the first since since I was 19!
2. My first visit to Hong Kong in 18 years: I ate all the dim sum and rode that Star Ferry back and forth across the bay all day long.
1. My all too few days in Chiang Mai. I fell in love with this northern Thai city and all its temples and expat-friendly culture — plus all the delicious food. Future early retirement destination? Possibly!
Lows (In no particular order…)
Working a lot
Having to fly to the US for work on my birthday (but see high re: business class upgrade)
Experiencing colon hydrotherapy (don’t ask)
Getting my UK taxes done (kinda similar to colon hydrotherapy)
The American I met in Bulgaria who told me that I won’t be able to learn anything after 50
The gal who I really think was just trying to be nasty when she said “You don’t look a day over 37.” (Thankfully, I was carded at Waitrose not long after that.)
Spilling a glass of water on my laptop. RIP Lenovo. Then, buying a new HP laptop too quickly without doing enough research. I liked my old Lenovo better. It was light! And it had a touch screen! And it was quiet. Now I have a honker of a laptop. Do you know they’re not making solid state hard drives in large sizes? So if you want 1 TB like I need, you’re screwed. Honker it is. 15.6 inches too! Ack. Also, the world wants you to move everything to The Cloud. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
What will 2017 bring? I’m trying to eat less, exercise more, see more of the world, and make more money off the internet. Also, romance. Let’s hope that all happens! Wish me luck and all the best for 2017!
Yes, I have left my job. “Quit” sounds no negative. I did quit, it’s true. But I prefer the term “left.” I have a lot of thoughts about jobs these days. I’ll save them for when we have coffee. (Keep reading.) Here’s what I’m going to do next…
1. Have fifty coffees with fifty people. My friend Antonia told me about this article in Inc. about making big life decisions. I like it. I’m going to do it. I’ve already started doing it. Do you want to have coffee with me and talk London and travel and social media and life changes? Let me know and I’ll add you to my list of 50 people to have coffee with. (Also, it doesn’t necessarily have to be coffee. We can eat too. Or drink. I’m kinda on a fiscal diet though, just to be clear.)
2. Do the things I said I was going to do in this post and do them soon. Like this summer. Before the August bank holiday weekend, if I have to give myself a deadline.
3. Do more with social media. Instagram, Twitter. In the early days, 3,000 followers on Twitter was a big deal. Now it is nothing. London moved on in the four years I was gone. (Four years!) Things changed. People changed. The London restaurant blog scene changed. I’ve changed. I’ve been working too much. I gotta get back IN IT. I can’t decide if I should do more with Vine because part of me thinks I should concentrate my efforts on one photo/video platform and Instagram lets you do video so why should I use Vine too? Please advise. Also, I have looked at Snapchat but I am not sure about that one either, but maybe I will try it out and see. I will set a goal of three two Snapchat videos by the August bank holiday weekend. That sounds good.
4. Get rid of stuff. I am trying to lead a simpler life. I’ve downsized a lot already — stuff expands to fill the space, my people — but I want to downsize more. Purses, shoes, old documents I’ve been carting around. A lot of it has to go. I want to live in an oasis of calm. I want to be able to move at a moment’s notice.
5. Spend more time with my London restaurant blog. I love my blog, even though I hate it (and WordPress) sometimes. I’ve missed my blog. It makes me a better person. I plan on spending more time with my blog. (“More” is to be defined.)
6.. Go to cardio boxing more often. Like I said before…stuff expands to fill the space.
7. Go to Berlin in July. And travel more, in general. I’m at 48 countries so far. I’d like to hit 50 before the year is over.
I think seven goals is enough. Don’t you? Oh and before you think I’m totally crazy for leaving a good job with a good company — my parents don’t think I’m crazy and that’s very important! Everything is going to be a-ok!! I promise. I’ve got a new gig that I’ll tell you about soon…when we have coffee!
After a long period of drudgery — I think it had something to do with falling out of love with Chicago and winter boots and snow — I’ve fallen back in love with my London restaurant blog. I’ve been trying to give the site some TLC after all these years. I’ve made a huge Google Doc of things I want to do with the site…there are 110 projects on the list as of this writing. I’ve already completed 24 of them and four are currently in progress. This is the problem with my historical career in the online world. I used to manage financial websites all over the globe and I always had a long list of projects to work on.
To have a website that doesn’t change and stays static feels weird to me. Having lots of projects for Passportdelicious.com feels good. Maybe I should set up a Jira!!
The projects for my London restaurant blog run the gamut. A few are pretty simple…For example, I wanted to create an Amazon store of Travel products I like. (Complete!) I also wanted to implement social media icons in the right sidebar for Twitter, Facebook, etc. (Complete!) Other projects are more vague. “Figure how how to use Bloglovin,” for example. (Someone please tell me because I don’t really get it.) Some projects are a lot of hard work…like fixing all my old Urbanspoon links that got messed up when I moved to WordPress in 2010. Some I don’t even want to think about…like resizing all my photos so they fit into a different site layout. Uggh.
It would be impossible for me to do all this work myself, so I’ve been doing some experimenting.
The first experiment was with Fiverr.com. Fiverr has people who will do lots of jobs for you and your website for $5 USD. I wanted to get some feedback on the structure and speed of my site, so I paid a guy $5 to run some reports and tell me what I needed to do. One of his main recommendations was that my site was TOO SLOW. Over the years, too many plugins and too many photos have really been dragging things down. I’ve already removed about 15 plugins and then I paid Bluehost, my hosting provider, $89 to do some site optimization for me, which improved my load times immensely. I still have a lot of other work to do based on the Fiverr report, but I’ve already made a ton of progress. And I am down to just 23 WordPress plugins!
The second experiment was with99designs.com. My site needs a redesign. I want it to feel cleaner and more modern and less blogg-y. Also, Google is now penalizing sites that aren’t truly mobile responsive/mobile ready. So I started a design contest on 99designs to see what people could come up with. I didn’t put a lot of money forward — I just ran a “bronze” contest — which was maybe a bad idea. I wasn’t too impressed with the results that I got. I need to call them and get my money back. Would I try 99designs again? Assuming no one reads this and volunteers to redesign my site…probably…but I would pay more money to access the more experienced designers.
This kinda all leads me to monetization. I don’t particularly like having ads on my London restaurant blog, but I need them. (I did take the ad out of the header though.) My site hosting with Bluehost costs me about $144 a year. (They are very pleasant people and I recommend them.) Backup Buddy costs me $30 a year. Moo cards…£50? After my scare last summer with the crazy song that kept playing whenever I loaded my site, I also purchased Sitelock at another $30 a year. And don’t even ask me about that day recently when I renewed all my domains for the next 5+ years and how much that cost me. If Adsense can help me recoup some of that spend, that’s not a bad thing. So the ads will stay for now unless you have other suggestions for how I can break-even if not make a little bit of money. Also, I have some life changes coming up and truth be told, the money would be most welcome. (More about the life changes later this month.)
Ah, and content. I have made a list of 51 posts I want to write! 51 posts! Let’s see how far I get. Content is king! I need more content.
And people! The 1 year anniversary of my return to London is next month. I know I haven’t seen a lot of people that I spent a lot of time with in the days of old. That has everything to do with me and the work and the job. People, I am coming for you. Soon. I promise. Get ready for coffee.
I’m an analyst. I always have been. I like tables, data and lists. New favorite WordPress plugin? TablePress!
Frequently, some PR or another will ask me for my follower stats. Now, me and my London restaurant blog are out there on the Internet. I am not hard to find. You can find me on Twitter and on Instagram and on Facebook. And yes, you can find me on Pinterest and Vine too. It’s really not that hard. I would argue that any PR worth their salt should know these things before extending invitations.
With a little time on my hands this morning, I decided to make life easy for everyone. I created my own collated data table. I took at look at 20 London restaurant bloggers on Urbanspoon and put together stats on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers. I also included the number of restaurants they’d reviewed with an Urbanspoon tag, just to provide a rough order a magnitude. I read a lot of snotty things on the Internet that suggest that bloggers don’t know what they’re talking about. Well, if you’ve been to 200+ restaurants in London, I dunno…I think you probably know restaurants more than most people.
(I used very unscientific methodology with Urbanspoon to pick my 20. I just used the Top 10 London restaurant bloggers of all time, plus 9 listed on the “most recent list.” There was overlap between the two lists so I just kept going until I hit 19. And then I, uh, added myself. Hey, why not? It’s my table!! This actually underscores a point…I’m not in the Top 10 on Urbanspoon, but I still have a lot more reach than most.)
All of this data is as-of around 8:30 am on Sunday, February 1st 2015. Social media data changes frequently, so please consider this all a snapshot and not gospel truth. It will be interesting though for me to rerun this at some future date and see if anything’s changed.
In some instances, it was hard to find people on all of the platforms. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough. I tried to check each website for clear links to Facebook and Instagram, in particular But I wasn’t always successful. Please drop me a note if I’ve missed something.
Other flaws in my methodology…to calculate “Reach,” I just added together Twitter + Facebook + Instagram. Obviously, there is usually overlap between the three platforms. (For example, I follow the preeminent London restaurant blogger Chris Pople now via all his platforms.) I don’t have the magic social media tools to determine the actual unique intersection, so we’ll have to make do with this sum for now. (Although I am open to suggestions on how to get some sort of figure on total unique followers.)
Big flaw…you could have a lot of followers any platform, and they could be of the “make money online” variety. A number doesn’t provide any indication of quality.
Biggest flaws: Some people on this list have stopped blogging about London restaurants. And some people choose not to use Urbanspoon. (Example, Kang over at London Eater.)
Sad that you didn’t make my list? Don’t be sad. Like I said, this was highly unscientific. If you blog about restaurants in London, I’m happy to add you. Just comment below and I will do some reconnaissance and add more rows to my table.
As I put this data together, I had some natural questions. I’d appreciate your thoughts on these, along with any questions you yourself might have. Let me know.
Why are some popular Tweeters not popular on Instagram?
Why are some popular Instagrammers not popular on Twitter?
Why don’t most bloggers permeate all the platforms? Speaking for myself, I use my blog, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram regularly. Why don’t others do the same? Andy Hayler, for example, you seem like the perfect candidate for a Facebook fan page! (I am talking to Andy directly here because I know him personally!)
Yes, I’m on a gratefulness kick these days. Let’s see how long it lasts. It’s Day 2! I’m optimistic. Today I would like to take the time to thank the London restaurant bloggers and other websites that have provided me with traffic over the last 12 months. Without you, well, I’d have no traffic. I’m grateful for you. I wish there were more people like you, especially these days when no one cares about blogs and sidebar links anymore. (We live in a “Twitter is the New RSS” world, my friends.) Thank you, those in this list, for being a friend. I appreciate it. (Although given that a few of these sites are no longer blogging, maybe I should find some new friends??)
1. Tehbus. EUWEN! Where are you?? Because although you haven’t blogged about London restaurants in a while, your site still serves as a powerhouse of referral traffic. I’m sorry I haven’t seen you since that night in Camberwell. Let’s have an adventure, soon. But not the type with crazy taxi drivers like that one time.
2. AllWomensTalk: Proving that SEO does still exist, this post about the best Chicago Food Blogs still is bringing them in, even though I don’t live there anymore. Thank you, AllWomensTalk. Even though you ranked me LAST. I am grateful to you.
3. LondonChow: One of the old school London restaurant blog crowd! Hello, LondonChow! Thank you for sending me traffic. I am not sure we have ever met though?? That is weird. We should remedy that soon. (Although we’ll have to agree to disagree on BBL in your Top 10. They just don’t do it for me.)
5. Gourmet Chick. I miss my friend Cara, source of many London restaurant adventures. I moved to Chicago, she moved to Melbourne. I’ve moved back to London but she is still in Australia, far far away. But the magic of Twitter and Facebook brings us together now and then and for that, I am — you guessed it — grateful.
6. Mmm-Yoso. I don’t even remember how I discovered these guys, but it was ages and ages and ages ago. (I vaguely remember a work trip to San Diego back in 2007?) And they’ve been sending me a nice amount of traffic ever since. Thank you, people of California!
7. 3 Guys on A London Bus: I don’t know who these guys are, but I remember at the time when they posted this piece, I was hit with a huge avalanche of traffic. Proving again the power of search engine optimization, this one little blog post is still delivering hits all these years later. Powerful stuff. Thanks guys!
8. Roam & Home: My Chicago partners-in-crime. We met via our blogs and have had many adventures since. Chicago! London! Bogota! Paris! Karen and Bob are the best!! And I miss them since moving to London. 🙁
10. The Blog about Nothing in London: I got to meet fellow London restaurant blogger Odo when he came to visit Chicago the other year. (Don’t let his blog’s title fool you.) We had crazy cocktails at The Aviary and then he ate the biggest hamburger I’ve ever seen in my life at Little Goat in the West Loop. That’s skillz. Since I have been back in London, we have yet to reconnect! Must remedy this soon!
So…that’s it from me for now. Gotta get back to this other gratefulness stuff…and find some new Internet friends. Ciao.
Yelp London is useless! Barely any reviews for a lot of places.Where is everyone leaving their reviews? No one writes reviews on Time Out anymore. I am left with Foursquare, and even that is kinda sucky and lacking in reviewness. HELP. I want the voice of the people. Help me.
What is with hair color on women? I’ve seen a lot of washed out pink and blue hair. I don’t like it. It looks tacky. If you’re going to do it ladies, MAINTAIN IT.
Flowered trousers…perhaps a bigger thing when the weather was warmer but the patterned blousey trousers on women thing. I don’t know if I like it? Oh wait…hold on, my phone is ringing and it’s MC Hammer…
Smoking…After spending the last four years in the U.S., I have honestly forgotten that people still smoke. On the sidewalk/pavement in London as I’m walking, at work when they need to take breaks and then return to stink up the meeting room, everywhere, everywhere. Smokers are everywhere. Stop putting fire in your mouths, people. It is going to kill you a lot faster than a lot of other things.
Flats owned by people in Singapore and Hong Kong: I had no idea that this was a thing until I started flat-hunting this summer and when I would ask about the landlord, 9 times out of ten, they would tell me, “Oh, he/she is in Singapore/Hong Kong.” Apparently, people in Asia have bought up all the new construction property in east London these last few years. That’s fine, but if you’re going to do it love, hire a property manager. I’m not calling you in Hong Kong when the boiler’s out.
Taking a shower is still hard. In my new flat, I’ve got the two-and-a-half-foot bath and the shower half-glass. I have conquered the two-and-a-half-foot bath (I think) but I HATE THE HALF-GLASS. How do British people take showers?? I do not understand it. I flood the bathroom all the time, and if my bathroom floor tile is any indication, the last tenant did too.
They don’t bag your groceries for you anywhere. They just stare at you (or make no eye contact whatsoever) and then they wait for you to leave. #AWKWARD.
The importance of the past: I learned this hard during my first tour-of-duty. In my experience, British people don’t forget any sort of past. I’m not saying that Americans forget the past, but in general, my take is that Americans have a mindset that’s much more like “Ok, that happened. That was the past. Hindsight is 20/20. Let’s move forward.” Take me out for anything Japanese/Chinese/Vietnamese and I’ll tell you more.
Toasters everywhere but no toaster ovens. I just want an English Muffin pizza. Personally, I’m afraid of toaster-toasters. I’m always afraid the toast will catch fire inside. And I don’t want to fire up the broiler just for some cheese on toast.
Tethering: My iPhone came with a wifi hotspot, as opposed to in America, where you have to pay extra for that functionality. So if you’re in London and you wanna tether to my hotspot, you just let me know.
UHT MILK!I love long-life milk because you know, British milk goes bad in like less than five days. (American milk lasts a lot longer, like two weeks.) So I buy UHT milk and it lasts forever. I probably don’t want to know what they did to it to make it that way, do I? A lot of people use UHT milk to make yogurt, apparently. Me, I just use it for my morning coffee.
Charging for plastic bags: London started doing this ages ago. I believe California just started doing it. The U.S. is BEHIND.
Pizza Express Salad dressing: Haters, don’t be hating. This stuff is STILL delicious and I go through it like white wine.
The roads are smooth! I don’t know if it’s because I was unlucky enough to live in Chicago, but London roads are SMOOTH! There are no potholes! It’s amazing! I can ride my bike anywhere and not need any dental work!!
Recycling: My building recycles, we recycle at work, and anywhere I go around London, there’s one of those handy separators for recycling. Me and my empty Diet Coke cans feel so virtuous. Saving the world, people. Saving the world!
Direct debits! No checks! I’ve been here four months and I haven’t written ANY CHECKS. It’s amazing. I cannot believe that in America, people still write checks. It is crazy. My debit card is my favorite thing.
Kettles, kettles everywhere: I love my kettle. I use it more frequently than my microwave.
The weather! It’s NOT SNOWING! It’s not frigid. It’s nice. Thank God for that. Honestly, words cannot describe. On January 6th 2015, I am going to throw a “-40 degrees is where Fahrenheit and Celsius intersect” party. You’re invited.