Monday, January 10, 2011

The Savvy Source: Food Blogger Dishes on Career and Cooking

The life of a freelance writer has it's perks - no boss, the freedom to work in pajamas and to spend some quality time with Oprah... But on the flip side, it's totally up to you to stay focused, pitch creative story ideas and land assignments. When I wrote for NicoleWilliams.com, I met Michelle Hainer -- a fabulous writer (for InStyle, Country Living, The Nest, RootSpeak.com and more), editor and food blogger. Thanks to her blog, Made by Michelle, I did the unthinkable - baked a pumpkin pie, from scratch. This is a huge culinary milestone in my humble opinion. So I figured, we could all benefit from some career and cooking advice from Michelle.



What's your morning coffee ritual?
I have my coffee pot's timer set so that when I wake up my coffee is just beginning to brew. I've recently started grinding my beans the night before which gives the coffee a deliciously fresh flavor.

What's your favorite snack to get you through the work day?
Dark chocolate or Kettle Brand Baked Potato Chips in Sea Salt. I don't know how one serving only has 3 grams of fat. They taste just like fried potatoes!

What's the best career advice you've ever received, that you actually use?

I landed my first job at a magazine I had been interning at and it was hard to make the transition from intern to staff member. Suddenly I was competing for stories with women who I used to make copies for and I was often getting the assignments. Though I was flattered and excited, I also felt weird and uncomfortable. One day, one of my editors took me out for lunch and she told me that I was a star and I shouldn't be afraid to believe that or allow other people to make me feel bad about my abilities. I still remember that advice. I'm not saying I wake up every morning, thinking "I am a star" but it's a valuable lesson in not dimming your light, which I think a lot of women do.



As a writer who works from home, how do you stay focused when you have to be your own boss?
It can be hard some days. I try not to watch TV during the day, because it's a slippery slope to watching The Lifetime Movie Network all afternoon. But I really love the idea of making my own schedule and I know that if I choose to take an afternoon off to go shopping, I may need to put in a few hours that evening in front of my computer. You really have to be disciplined to work from home. 

What do you love most about your job?
I've wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old and I still can't believe that I get paid to do what I love. No matter how many times I've seen my name in print, the thrill never goes away. It's very gratifying. I also really love the freedom of freelancing and being able to work on lots of different projects. It keeps me from getting bored.

Your blog, Made by Michelle, is all about eating seasonally, locally and organically. Why is that so important?
People need to think more about where their food is coming from and what's in it, not just for their health, but for the entire planet. There are 5 million fewer farms in the United States than there were in the 1930s. And produce that wasn't grown locally typically spends 7-14 days in transit before it hits supermarket shelves. We need to start supporting our local farmers. A chef I once interviewed told me to start with what your state grows or produces and move outward from there. That's really good advice. And as far as organic goes, I like knowing that the food I'm eating isn't covered in pesticides and I'm really committed to supporting brands and companies that use sustainable practices in producing their products. If we vote with our pocketbooks, the bigger companies will be forced to change their practices too.

What are some of your favorite organic or natural ingredients/products you're cooking with now?

I love anything by Organic Valley. That's a company you can totally trust. I also like Arrowhead Mills, King Arthur Flour, Kettle Brand Potato Chips and Stonyfield Farms.

What's your favorite healthy, easy to make, and delicious dinner? Too much to ask? 
Not at all. :) I'd have to say quinoa. Quinoa is so tasty and ridiculously healthy. I usually serve it as a side, but it also works as a meal too. Here is a link to my favorite way to make it. 

Must-have kitchen gadget:

My Le Creuset pots and also my hand held juicer, which I got at Crate and Barrel for like 16 bucks. You'd be surprised at how much more juice you get out of citrus when you use a juicer.

Favorite winter comfort food:
Butternut squash soup or chicken potpie. And of course a burger and fries goes down easy any time of year. :)

Any other cooking or career tips you want to share?

If you want to write, start a blog. I can't believe I didn't start mine sooner. It's a fantastic creative outlet and you'll be surprised at how many people are interested in what you have to say. In this day and age you don't have to wait for an assignment from an editor to become a published writer. Just start writing. Today.

Get more great career advice from The Savvy Source - here!

1 comment:

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