Happy happy happy weekend to you all! Can you tell that I’m glad it’s here?! I’m sure many of you are on the road or in the air today as you embark on Thanksgiving travels. We’ve gone out of town every single Thanksgiving for our entire adult lives, so I’m pretty stinkin’ thrilled that we are staying put this year. After the busy week we had, we are definitely looking forward to an ultra quiet weekend. 🙂
As far as this week’s featured blogger goes, I cannot tell you just how long I’ve been waiting to shout from the rooftops about her! I’ve known for months that her feature was coming, and I’m so (!) glad to tell you about Claire. She was one of Jamie’s college classmates, so she and I became friends when I would run up to New York to see Jamie. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and I really just adore and admire her. Now our worlds are colliding with blogging!
Claire’s blog is OUTRAGEOUS. She’s a food blogger with killer recipes, an excellent layout, and photography skills that will knock your socks off. Her site is less than a year old, but dang… you’d never know it. I am 1000% positive she’s going to “make it” in the food blogging world. I hope you love “meeting” her today!
Q: Claire! I’m so excited to have you on here today! In three sentences or less, give my readers a brief idea of who you are. 🙂
A: Thank you for having me! I’m a wife, boy mama to two sweet boys (Lleyton is almost 3 and Easton is almost 1), veteran and West Point graduate, ultramarathon runner, and food blogger! After 5 years on active duty in the Army and about a year and a half in corporate America, I’m now a stay-at-home mom with a food blog that I hope to grow over the next few years. I grew up just outside of Chicago but was stationed in Washington State while in the Army and my family has made our forever home in a Seattle suburb.
Q: When did you start getting the itch to start a food blog? What were the first steps you took to figuring out how to get it going?
A: I actually had the idea to start a food blog about a year before I actually did. I had a good job in corporate America, but I was itching to stay home. I knew that I would need an outlet for my passions, ideally something that I could work on in my free time and potentially grow to a career by the time our kids were in school full time. I have always loved to cook. I love reading food blogs, buying cookbooks, and coming up with my own recipes. I developed a passion for cooking VERY young; I remember roasted a whole duck for dinner for my family when I was 11 or 12!
I did a lot of research before starting and then finally started when Easton was about 6 months old! The research that I did was related to the basic steps in starting a blog (thinking of a name, hosting, etc.), as well as aspects specifically related to the food niche (photography, recipe development, etc). I found the basic steps for starting a blog from Abby (at your recommendation!) of Just a Girl and Her Blog. I also wanted to make sure that my domain, For the Love of Gourmet, was available on all social media platforms that I wanted to use for consistency’s sake. I worked with Lani of Restored 316 Designs for my website design, and took a one-hour WordPress tutorial from Stephanie of Stephanie Hellwig Designs. I wanted to start strong with a clean, pretty, well-organized site. I also listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast hosted by Bjork Ostrom, who is married to Lindsay Ostrom of the wildly successful food blog Pinch of Yum. I am constantly learning! Frequently I’m in the kitchen recipe testing while listening to that podcast. I try to take advantage of every minute of my kids’ naptime to put out quality content. I have also learned that the key to having a successful food blog is to put out quality, consistent content. I post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! Most food bloggers find that their traffic jumps after a year of writing. There’s some science behind that due to SEO, etc., but it also just takes time to build a following!
Q: Your photography is incredible! Is this a hobby of yours? How did you learn to take such incredible, creative food pictures?
A: Thank you!! I’ve always loved looking at beautiful photographs but didn’t start taking pictures or using a DSLR until I started the blog. I’ve followed other food bloggers for years and am constantly inspired by their gorgeous photos and food styling. My husband, Kevin, purchased a food photography school from the food blog Minimalist Baker and I’m working through the video tutorials when I have time. I quickly learned that unless you have a really good indoor lighting set up, natural light is the best for food photography. Seeing what makes a good food photo from other food bloggers has made such a difference in my own photos. Some of the food blogs who inspire me most are How Sweet Eats, Pinch of Yum, Half-Baked Harvest, Minimalist Baker, and My Name is Yeh.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the process you go through in order to put a new recipe on your blog. When you cook, best time of the day to take pictures, how you pick your recipes, etc…
A: I have a list that I maintain of recipe ideas that I add to weekly, if not daily! I’m inspired by other bloggers, cookbooks, food-related magazines and websites such as Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Food52, and The Kitchn, restaurants, and food that I grew up having or have had in the past. There are so many places to be inspired! I find that ideas just pop into my head and I immediately write them down. Looking at this list, I make my plan for what I am going to cook for the blog at least a week or two in advance and incorporate it into the meal plan for my family. I grocery shop once a week to get everything I need because dragging both boys through the grocery store is something I try to only do once a week! I’m very, VERY lucky to have both boys napping at the same time in the afternoon, and that is when I cook and photograph. If I don’t have a recipe that I’m testing or photographing, I’m spending that time writing blog posts, editing photos, or doing development for the blog such as learning more about food photography, Pinterest, etc. I photograph in the afternoon, ideally no later than 3pm during this time of year. Being as far north as Seattle is, it starts getting dark here very early. I shoot my photos outside on a picnic table that I have set up with marble tile! I style everything outside and take my pictures. Thankfully we have a covered patio, so even when it is raining I can still take pictures outside. When I started the blog I took my pictures inside and it makes such a difference taking them outdoors. The recipes that you see on the blog were tested, photographed, and written prior to that week. For example, if you see a post go up on a Wednesday, I completed that post the previous week. That way, if I get behind on post-writing I can do that on the weekend and I’m not scrambling the day before a post to cook, photograph, and write the post.
Q: What is your most popular recipe so far?
A: This is a great question! My banana almond butter muffins are the most popular (http://fortheloveofgourmet.com/banana-almond-butter-muffins/). I found that a lot of my followers who are parents were looking for quick, healthy breakfast ideas. These muffins are naturally sweetened and use Greek yogurt instead of butter. They’re a favorite with my kids and I love keeping a few extra in the freezer for busy mornings.
Q: I know this a loaded question, but tell us a little bit about your military background and career.
A: I attended West Point for college and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry when I graduated in 2010. I commissioned as Military Police officer and went to Fort Leonard Wood, MO for about 6 months of training. This is where I met my husband, Kevin. After that training I reported to Joint-Base Lewis-McChord, Washigton, and my husband deployed to Afghanistan for a year. I spent 15 months working as a platoon leader and was then selected to move to a different company to take over as executive officer and deploy with that unit. I learned of this deployment just three months after my now-husband returned from Afghanistan, and the same week that he proposed. Deploying as an executive officer is a tough job simply due to the responsibilities of that position, so it was a very busy time for me. I deployed in early December 2012 and returned home 6 months later. I then moved into the position of Rear Detachment Commander, which meant that I was responsible for the personnel and equipment for the part of a company that didn’t deploy. While the rest of the unit deployed, I was largely responsible for supporting families and maintaining the rest of the unit. During this time I found out that I was pregnant with our first son and decided to leave the military. Thankfully between my maternity leave and terminal leave (i.e. the remainder of my vacation days that I had saved), I was able to be home with Lleyton for almost 5 months before starting my civilian job.
2012 was a very busy year, I found out I was deployed, got married 5 months later, then deployed 3 months after that!
Q: What do you and your husband miss about being active duty? What do you enjoy most about civilian life?
A: Honestly, I don’t miss a lot! Our decision to leave active duty (Kevin still serves in the National Guard) was planned and well-thought out. The first thing that I miss is the amount of vacation time and time off. I know that the Army demands a lot and requires frequent time away from family and long nights. But the 3 or 4 day weekends that you got every month, as well as 30 vacation days a year, just can’t be beat. I also miss being paid to work out! In the army your day starts at 6:30 with physical training. Kevin and I both wake up at 5am Monday through Friday to work out before the kids get up and he leaves for work. It was certainly nice having it built into my workday!
I love that we don’t have to move, that’s probably my favorite part about civilian life. Even though Kevin is in the National Guard and could deploy someday, his unit will always be based in Washington. We bought our house just before Lleyton was born and have lived here over three years. It’s so nice to know that we can be here for as long as we want to. We also love being more in control of our careers. It’s no secret that the Army sometimes struggles with officer career management; there are plenty of articles written about it. Thankfully Kevin and I were always in positions that we enjoyed and challenged us, but not everyone is so lucky.
Q: Finally, I know you’re so humble, but please tell everybody about the longest race you’ve ever run. 🙂 Would you ever do something like that again?
A: Haha! I started running ultramarathons while I was at West Point. There was a military school that I tried out to go to, but while I was physically fit, it simply wasn’t enough. I started learning about endurance sports and became fixated on ultramarathons after reading the book “Ultramarathon Man” by Dean Karnazes. In it, he writes about the Badwater Ultramarathon, arguably the world’s toughest footrace. It’s 135 miles through Death Valley in July, starting in the Badwater Basin and finishing up Mount Whitney, which are respectfully the lowest point and the highest peak in the continental United States. When I learned of the race, I saw that the youngest female at the time to complete the race was 27. I was 19 at the time and decided that I wanted to have that record. To apply to be accepted to Badwater, you have to have completed three 100 mile races. Within 6 months of me hearing of Badwater I ran my first ultramarathon, a 50k. I ran my first 100 miler at age 22, and at age 23, in 2012, I completed the Badwater Ultramarathon and achieved my goal of being the youngest female to do so. Since I got married just 6 weeks after Badwater and deployed shortly after that, I took a little hiatus from ultrarunning, but ran a 50 mile race in July 2013 and a 100 miler in 2014 shortly before getting pregnant with Lleyton.
I would LOVE to race competitively again. I competed in a 100 miler when Lleyton was 9 months old and had to drop after 54 miles due to injury. I had put a lot of pressure on myself to do that race and looking back, it was too much to do with a baby who was still breastfed and while I was trying to find a balance as a working mom. That race took a toll on me, physically and mentally, but I’m now back at it and am planning to run a 50 miler in April! When we are done having kids I definitely have other running goals and other 100 milers I want to run. I’m ok with training for a “shorter” race right now since I simply don’t have the hours in the day to train for anything longer. When I trained for Badwater I was running 120 miles a week, waking up at 4am on weekdays and not getting home until 7-8pm so I could get in another short run and train in the sauna. A schedule like that wouldn’t be sustainable right now!
Q: Where can new readers start on your site?
- Our Five Year Anniversary ( http://fortheloveofgourmet.com/our-five-year-anniversary/ )
- Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie, one of my personal favorites (http://fortheloveofgourmet.com/biscuit-topped-chicken-pot-pie/ )
- Bend, Oregon Family Vacation (http://fortheloveofgourmet.com/bend-oregon-family-vacation/ )
Q: Where can we connect with you on social media?
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fortheloveofgourmet/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fortheloveofgourmet/
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/fortheloveofgourmet/
And just for fun…
- Board game or card game? Board game! My three brothers are all excellent card players and I never enjoyed getting beaten by them all the time.
- Would you rather go for a long run in the middle of a southern summer or New York winter? New York winter! Going to West Point I did plenty of runs in the New York winters, but when I visit my husband’s family in Atlanta in the summer I just about melt in the heat!
- Big breakfast or big dinner? Big breakfast if it’s Sunday brunch or after a Saturday long run! Otherwise big dinner.
- Swimming or laying by the pool? This is a tough one! Probably laying by the pool. I’m not sure splashing in the water with my kids counts as “swimming” and any chance I can get to read a book with a cold beverage in hand while laying in the sun sounds pretty good to me. 🙂
Thank you so much, Claire!
Is this your first time to Whimsical September? Welcome!
Hello! I’m Erica, the blogger behind Whimsical September. I created the “The Saturday Sit-Down” series in January 2017 as a way to give back to the blogging community and link readers with new bloggers whom they may share similar interests with. Click here to discover more bloggers that have been featured on “The Saturday Sit-Down”. I promise you – there’s some GREAT ones!
Want to be featured in this series?
I have openings starting in the spring of 2018 and would love to feature you! Please fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch with you.