Thursday, June 30, 2005

[Blogger] - Banner -> Home

Hidden in the Comments section of McCauliflower's recent thought-provoking post about Blog Branding was a question raised by Jen which I thought deserved its own post. She said:

"Please, if possible, make your banner work for you. Make it a link to your home page! It is so frustrating when I expect a banner to click back to a home page and it doesn't."

I am not sure about other software templates, but with blogger, the banner head works well as a home-returning device except when you are in an archive. Once in an archive, clicking on the head banner takes you nowhwere.

On my own website I was frustrated about this so I made my photo of me and Fred in the top right side column perform the function of taking me home from wherever. Trouble is, I guess I haven't made it clear to all my readers. I don't want to spoil the picture by adding the word home. Maybe I need to come up with another solution.

Anyway - anyone have an better ideas, or know how to fix blogger so that this annoying problem doesn't happen when in the archives?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

(Misc) Food Writers Sought

I'm sure this got sent to everyone, but just in case anyone didn't get it, and was interested, passing it along:

... I recently visited your weblog and wanted to ask if you have
Japan travel experience, or if not, perhaps you know someone
who does. I'm editing a travel guide for Things Asian Press
and need about 50 contributors to write about their travel
and food experiences in Japan. Pays by the word.

If you are interested, please reply and I will send you full
details on the project. Thanks and best of success with your

Celeste Heiter
Napa Valley, CA
Things Asian Press

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Know Thy Template

first homework

This test, er I mean homework assignment, is primarily aimed at those who use blogger to create their blog, as we will be using blogger's playground for our exercizes. However, everyone interested in gaining control over how their blog looks can benefit from this playtime. I'm going to be talking bare basics. I'm not a professional, (but my sweetie is) so I'll be using everyday language to describe what we are doing. I figure its easier to start out basic- everyone can always take off from there with their own play ideas.

I understand that we may be a bit shy about our blog's playground behaviors (untamed things that they are). To give ourselves a private playground- simply go create a new blog. This will allow us to play around without messing things up.

Set Up

So, go to blogger and create a new blog using the same default template that you use with your food blog. Though my blog was created outside of blogger, I'll be playing with the first choice-Minima if anyone wants to play along. It may be helpful to name your test blog after your food blog. For example a title of "My Recipes Test". The beauty of this is that if you ever committ the ultimate fear of really messing things up- you can always delete your test blog and create a new one, say "My Recipes Test2".

The crux of the issue is understanding what is going on in your template. If only it were as easy as simply reading the darn thing! Unfortunately we have to get down with the lingo just to figure out what the parts of your blog are. As Sam has mentioned, this deceptively simple process can eat away days of your time.

Getting Into Your Template- CSS

Lets first make sure everyone can find their banner. This exercize will also show you the exact space on your blog that your template designer decided to call the banner.
Clicking on your Template Tab at the top of your basic options blogger page brings you to a page in which your template code sits in a text file. Scrolling down the Minima info, I come to:

Blogger Template Style
Name: Minima
Designer: Douglas Bowman
Date: 26 Feb 2004
----------------------------------------------- */

This is the beginning of my style sheet information for the template. It is below this space that we will be playing around. Your Cascading Style Sheet, or CSS, is different from your html code. Your css tells your page a general set of aesthetics for your blog... what your link colors will be, what your background color will be, and even how wide your content space is.

Scrolling down my css I quickly find a title that looks like this:

/* Header
----------------------------------------------- */

The information that is indented under this title all descripes how information within your Header will look. Lets first get in and change some colors to find out our defined space. This is just like using a highlighter pen. The first block of my header css, I'm going to change the numbers for my background color from white (#fff) to red(#cc3333).

#header {
margin:0 auto 10px;
border:1px solid #ccc;

#header {
margin:0 auto 10px;
border:1px solid #ccc;

Hit your preview button- and this now shows the exact box on your blog that your CSS defines as your Header. Excellent! Play with changing the width line, from 660px to 50px. Note how your text in your banner behaves. Breaking your blog in this manner tells you alot about how your blog is trying to think. For example, my text still shows up- even though I definied the space it goes in as being too small for it. Also, my text still starts out at the center of this tiny box.

You can also see that your banner can have a border around it. The default defines it as a solid color (#ccc, which is a grey). The default also says that this banner is going to be skinny, only one pixel (or px) wide and a solid line of color. Borders can be fat or non existant (try 0px). Borders also don't have to be a solid line. They can be dotted, dashes, a double line, even grooved. Replace the word solid with either: dotted, dashed, double, ridge, inset, or outset. Do you see a change?

Check out W3 School's website for examples of ways to define your border. Also, look at their css tutorials. You can skip ahead and see how to play around with your text, and heck everything else!


The color language we grew up with (red, yellow, etc) is defined a little bit differently on your blog. Note how we refered to colors as numbers and letters, white is fff(shorthand) or ffffff. Play around with which colors you like by plugging in numbers from these color testing websites...
  • This Color Lab shows you colors and the corresponding codes for them.
  • This ColorTester lets you plug in the hexadecimal (it takes 6 places to define a color) code and see what comes out

Notes to Yourself and Others

As you figure out what your css is really saying, go ahead and make a note in language you can understand. Including your notes in your code is called commenting. To tell your blog that it shouldn't try to read these like they are code, we bracket all comments like so:

/* seems to be white*/

Check out Sam's comments in the Food Blog S'cool code for examples of working comments (in your browser go up to edit, select View, select Page Source). These comments are where you can talk about what a color really is... or an easier way to remember where a particular part of your blog is. Just remember to always bracket them with /* and */.

Next Time

These same ideas apply to all the spaces in your blog as defined by your css. Play with your background colors in other parts of your blog. Play with the border around your entire blog (my favorite way to add a nice splash of color. Look at other blog's Page Source (though not all blogs will have their style sheet visable).

Next time we'll play with templates that use images in the banner area.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

[Blogger] type face size change

some time today the size of the type I use for my main posts suddenly grew one notch bigger and I don't like it. I am pretty certain I didn't 'do' anything that should have caused it. Does anyone know where or how I can put it back to what it was previously?

Blog Branding and You...


A recent sneak peak at a fellow food blogger's new web design got my fingers typing away on the subject of blog design, in particular visual branding. I hope to continue this discussion here and give my fellow bloggers some design ideas to chew on.

Each of us has our own reasons for putting our culinary adventures online. We may be seeking fame and fortunes, or we may just hope to never lose a cherished recipe again (trusting of the electrons we are...). Whatever your reasons, your blog is getting drooled and poured over by your adoring fans- the best of whom return to your blog for continued hits.

A viewer's interaction with their computer, and hence your blog is a complex thing. Our blogs elicit attention by roping in readers through visual cues (a future posting about making sure your blog is helpful to screen readers is forth coming- please don't forget that the blind love to read about your food too!) as well as enticing words. Our posts may be crafted with careful detail, but its the visual state of your blog that will first get someone to pause and help them remember who you are.

The first thing a visitor to your site will typically see is your banner- that first space at the top of your blog. Ideas to consider regarding your blog's banner:

  • Does your banner have an image or is it your blog title only?

  • Does your banner convey the feelings and ideas of your blog?

  • Is your banner unique?

Blogs are as unique as their owners (well, the good ones are). There are no right answers as to what your banner should be. However, you'll soon begin to notice that the really good blogs all have something going for them... groovey banners!

Banner Samples from My Foodie Web Travels

My own banner creation simply was a riff on my blog title, Brownie Points. I figured being self referential was in order since my blog title has such a concretely defined word in it (that would be brownies...). If I created a banner that didn't have anything to do with brownies, I'd probably end up confusing my viewer. Traveler's Lunchbox does a similar banner with an image reference to its blog name. This tactic is a surefire winner and will keep your banner identity inline with your blog.

Pastry Life creates an interesting visual identity with banner imagery that stretches into the blog template. Right off the bat we know what this blog is about- pastry in an urban setting. And that information came even before I read the blog's by line.

Some blogs establish a visual brand without a typical banner. Check out Taste Everything Once's banner concept. Instead of the traditional defined "headline" field, we see an identifying image in the right hand corner. This de-emphesis relies on a signature layout to brand the blog rather than letting the banner space do all the work. Nordljus plays with banner expectations as well and breaks out of the blog mold with a left sided vertical banner. Plus this banner does double duty- working as an image gallery!

An interesting twist in the use of a banner for blog identity can be seen at Delicious Days. Nicky has managed a special feat by integrating a changing banner concept in her blog design. If you have a well defined sense of your blog's aesthetic, this is a delightful approach to take. Nicky changes her banner monthly, and yet her blog viewers are never confused about whose blog they are visiting... the sign of a gifted designer. This blog entices me to bring about seasonal color changes to my blog!

I am an image junky. I eat pictures like I eat pringles (in other words, keep 'em coming!). However I recognize the value of an image-less banner. They help a blog load quickly and set the stage for what really matters... your entry! 101 Cookbooks accomplishes this with a combination of a clean layout (white helps the food images jump off the page) and careful font choice in the blog title. A La Cuisine takes a similar tactic.

If you feel that creating an indentifying banner is still a bit overwhelming to take on, I ask you to consider the following blogs. Our own hard working and relentless Sweetnicks has made the best use of a standard banner by augmenting it with a charming "about me" photo. Anne's Food and Orangette have also successfully taken this simple approach that helps their viewers remember who they are.

I see many blogs, some especially famous food ones, that simply fail to establish who they are with their banners. I don't offer criticism unless its asked for, so I'm not naming names.

I urge all bloggers to rise above the included banner image/graphic that comes with a free template. Your banner space is a beautiful opportunity to create a bookmark for your viewers... why settle with something that isn't unique and doesn't speak of your own desires?

Flickr features

I use Flickr as an image-hosting service. It is easy to use - you just upload your photos, then you can blog right from their site or copy and paste url's they assign to your photos.

They give you a choice of sizes to use, too.

I just discovered a new feature - you can create a "badge" - a strip of photos that you have uploaded to use on your blog. The badge links back to your flickr account so people can view all your photos even if you have never blogged them.

I just made a badge for Snackish but I am on a rather terrible iMac with system 9 (don't ask) at work, and I don't know how it will look when I get home. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

[Advertising] Typepad adds AdWords feature

Just thought y'all might think this is an interesting read. Typepad is adding the ability to have adwords (links to ads from keywords in your posts) on your blog -- and the money you earn goes against the cost of your subscriptions.

I am way too much of a control freak to put this on my blog, but thought it was an interesting development.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

[general] Tips on changing URL

Any advice from more experienced bloggers on how to move a URL without losing visitors? I changed my URL this afternoon for ease of use but I don't want to leave people behind. So far I have:
  • Put up a redirect from the old site.
  • Emailed people who link to me asking them to change the URL in their links section.
I don't want to put anyone off by being annoyingly geeky. Any words of wisdom from experienced "movers"?

Chinese/japanese/korean characters

Hello from Taiwan!

I was wondering if anyone knew whether there's a way to post chinese characters into blogger. My attempt at posting some (trying to cut and paste the characters from Word) failed. Is there something I should be doing? some software?

Not to make anyone too envious, but lychee are just coming into season this week here and oh, they're selling 4 jin for $3 US (nto sure how much jin equals a pound, but 4 jin is a lot of lychee!). I'm totally pigging out. This is really the only reason to be in Taiwan in June (oh, and to study chinese, of course :-)

Friday, June 17, 2005

RSS feed

I'm trying to set up an RSS feed for my blog, but since I don't publish to blogger, I've been having some trouble. Any advice?


More HTML problems

Similiar to the previous post: how can I widen the margins of the main body of my posts to accomodate larger photos (see Brandon Eats )? I re-sized them so that, when viewed in Internet Explorer, the entire center wouldn't shift down to the bottom of the page (my sidebar is fine) but then I don't like the size or quality of the smaller photos. I too am a novice at HTML and really don't want to destroy the template of my blog when I don't know how to fix it. Any good sites about basic HTML out there? Most I've seen are not so helpful (they assume more knowledge than I have). I don't have this problem in Netscape or Firefox. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

AQIS Rules [Food Exchanges]

There has been a recent interest in food exchanges and questioning on what can be sent to Australia. I found some resources and have put the links on my blog. This is the permalink
I hope this information may help other food bloggers, but I offer no guarantees that any products following these guidelines wont be confiscated by AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service). I thought that other bloggers might like to find the information for their country and post it here too.

Html Problems

I have a little glitch on my blog that I haven't quite figured out how to fix. It has something to do with html I suppose, but I suck at it. So I hope some one can assist me with this:

I just changed my layout but now, I realise that for certain posts, my entry would be suspended in the middle of the blog and not appear at the top where it should be.

Thing is, I have plenty of links on the left column, so that makes the length of my blog rather long (which means alot of scrolling down). So for my shorter posts, which doesn't quite fill up the space, there would be an awfully huge white space at the top, before my post appears mid point. Not sure if I've explained it properly. But it's something like this: Example

I'm getting rather frustrated... but I think it could be solved with some simple html? But because I am bad at it, I'm in quite a fix. Anyone out there knows how to solve this? Would really appreciate it!

[legal] electronic frontier foundation

just thought i'd share a website that the editor of a fairly large blog here in l.a. shared with me. i haven't looked completely through all it but thought it might be helpful, with all the recent discussion. there's information about what's legal for bloggers to write, answers some questions about intellectual property, copyright, etc.

electronic frontier foundation

Interacting with Journalists

I had what I think was a pretty good experience with a food journalist at the Edmonton Journal (our local paper) recently. When the article came out this morning I noticed there were a few errors, probably honest ones (i.e. maybe I didn't say something clearly, or her notes got mixed up) and honestly, none of them are earth shattering....unless our stellar headmistress is upset at having been credited for the special effect on on the Matrix! The bit about Blog-Appetit is incorrect in a number of ways - but that probably wouldn't be apparent to anyone that hasn't participated in it and don't know if anyone who particpated would particularly care.

As I know there are a few journalists by trade amongst our numbers, and as this was really my first encounter with journalists, I was wondering if I ought to contact the writer to clarify the mistakes? It's not like there's justification for posting a correction notice or anything. If I was in her shoes, and there's nothing that can be done about it now, I don't know whether I would want to know. I think I would, but that's just me.

I'm keen to hear what others have done in this circumstance. Do you contact the journalist and let them know? Would they be able to do anything about it anyway? Do I have an obligation to let her know?

Monday, June 13, 2005

[meme] two announcements

Sorry if there's a better way to post and categorize follows Sam's annoucement of some upcoming events.

You can help help Sam spend the gift certificate she got to Sur La Table for her birthday by showing off your favorite cooking utensils in her meme, Utensibility! Brilliant name, brilliant meme, brilliant theme :) (hey! that rhymes!)

I commented about Dine & Dish in Sam's previous post here.

The theme for Dine & Dish number 3 is...THE FRESHMAN, and it's now open season for restaurants in their first year!

There is general information about the event here, and more details about this particular edition here.

Hopefully everyone can play for both!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

[Technorati] beta

Check out the new Techonariti look via this link

You can also now list your technorati links in order of authority. For those who care. I am writing this in small letters so it doesn't become another big issue.

[Misc] Announcing Food Blog Memes

Everyone knows by now - it is difficult to keep up with all the memes in the Food Blogging world. Ronald's IMBB site is a great place to go to check in on the 'original big memes' like IMBB, WBW and SHF, but many others have sprung up which he doesn't cover. (By the way - if you are hosting a meme, or have invented one - don't forget to write and tell Ronald - he may put it on his site if he has time). Also - I don't know about you - but I often have problems loading up the IMBB site and then can't find the info I need quickly enough there. No harm, then, in repeating it here.

The long and short of all this is - please feel free to post about any food memes you stumble across in your daily blog reading here on this site. (make a new post for the announcements - no need to bury them in the comments). It will help the whole community for us all to have an extra reminder of when and where they are happening. Food Blog Scool shows up on food porn watch so announcing memes here just might help more people to meme aware.

Talking of food porn watch, it's creator, has announced the latest Sugar High Friday on the theme Tantalizing Titillating Tempting Tarts Deadline: Friday June 17th. That's soon - get baking.

And Viv, at Seattle Bob Vivant is hosting IMBB 16 - on the theme of eggs which I could happily post about every day between now and the deadline of June 24-26, cos I love me some eggs.

Also check out I Heart Bacon for this months (brand new format) Does My Blog Look Good in This food photo meme, which, incidentally, was started by Ronald at IMBB.

Friday, June 10, 2005

[Blogger] go moBlog!

Fred just sent me this (he has my best interests at heart seeing as he bought me a very snazzy new phone for my borthday this week, bless)
Blogger has announced a moBlogging facility, woo hoo!

check all the info out here.

Ownership Rights

The last post about Chowhound and their ownership policies made me wonder a little bit about rights of ownership to our blogs. Does anyone know what claims we have to what we do own? And what rights do we have as people who post our original thoughts into cyberspace. Do any of you know of anyone (a blogger) who persued anyone for taking their writing without permission? (That's just nosy curiosity.)

I looked at the Creative Commons site and think its all well and groovy, but not really good for protection of what I consider mine (Mine! Mine I say! Mine!). I have had my posts reprinted elsewhere, which I consider very flattering, and they have always been attributed, but I do wonder...

From the post "Why do you blog" I see a few of you are hoping your blogs may end up as book deals (or in some of your cases, they already are, or will be), so is this a concern to you? And if it is, what do you do to ensure your writing remains yours?

Thanks everyone!


Thursday, June 09, 2005

[Misc] Chowhound Blog Policy

If you read and post to Chowhound, this post applies to you.

I think that I was out of town when this blog policy was originally posted in late April stating that Chowhound does not want people to post saying "I just wrote about that restaurant on my blog ... read it at the link below."

One of Chowhound's requests is that, rather than redirecting people to your blog, you repost the blog text into a Chowhound post (or they ask that you encapsulate the post).

Just a word of caution to anyone who does this: the Chowhound terms and conditions read that " reserves the right to republish any material contributed by our readers. By posting to our message boards, you expressly grant the right to to republish the content in any form."

Some of you may know that Chowhound recently came out with a couple of books, and I heard surprise from several people that Chowhound takes ownership over content.

My suggestion is that you do not re-publish your blog posts on Chowhound. If you participate in that forum, do so with separate comments and then post a signature line with a link to your blog.

I personally would never re-publish my content there because I feel real ownership over what I write and don't what anyone else to be able to use my content. Your blog may be protected by copyrights or Creative Commons or something, but your Chowhound postings are not.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Food Blog S'cool now has a google search button.
I hope it tides you ever until I have time to try and set up some intelligent archives.


Friday, June 03, 2005

[Blogger] Please, Please can anyone help our Rachael

Rachael, one of our members from Fresh Approach Cooking down in LA is quite rightly in a tizzy. Can anyone help her? I don't know the answer to her question and as I am working this weekend so probably will not be able to look into it in time either. She wants to get it fixed so she can enter Paper Chef .
Please read her dilemma and help if you can. I am posting this on her behalf, as she can't log in to blogger.

[Rachel you could always ask nicely to Owen to see if he could post your entry if you can't fix it in time. I don't want to encourage that, because it is up to the hoster, but this time I think you have a pretty good excuse]

These words from Rachael...

My question is about Blogger Log In:

Three days ago Blogger suddenly stopped accepting my password. When I
click "Lost Password" to get my password re-sent, the link they email
me simply brings me back to the log in page (versus, a "reset your
password" page.) I have written to them eight times and every time get
an auto reply saying "try this". It's beyond aggrevating. I have
followed all of their "try this" ideas, (which, have really thrown me
into a tizzy, since they cancelled all of my other preset passwords)
including: Reset cookies, delete cache, turn off computer, log on from
another computer and turn off firewall. I am at a total loss and sad I
may miss Paper Chef! Can anyone help?

Thanks! Rachael

Thursday, June 02, 2005

[Photography] What camera do you use?

My camera is crapping out! I'm just starting my search for a replacement. I'd really like to get one that allows for better close-up shots. What camera are you using for food photography and do you recommend it? Thanks!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Food Blog S'cool Admin - the blog roll, Accepting an Invite & You!

I have recently updated all invites and the Blog Roll.
There are several people on the Blog Roll who have not actually accepted their invitations despite being added to the blog roll. (Admin nightmare!)

As the roll is really reserved for people who actually go the full hog & sign up, I am going to remove the people on the blog roll who haven't actually accepted their invitations. If they still want to join up they will need to send another email to me at

I won't do this for several weeks, this is just a heads up to try and encourage everyone who showed interest and was sent an invite, to actually sign up. Remember: once you are signed up you can start your own threads too.

post any Qs regarding this in the comments rather than to me directly.

Mail any sign up requests to me directly with your email, your blog's name and your full blog url including http:// in the main body of your mail.

Thanks everyone, this makes the admin go faster.


Back Up My Blog?

I'm sure this is super basic (at least I hope so) but I just can't seem to find a solution...does anyone know how to save your blog onto your hard drive? I dont mean just the template, I mean the whole kit and kaboodle.

I had a dream last night that Blogger went out of business and all my work was gone...(I doubt it, but hey, you never know. But can you believe I dream about Blogger? Yikes! LOL) so I thought it would be a good idea to have everything tucked away here someplace too. Thanks for your help!