Blog Awards: To Accept or Not to Accept?

Blog award nominations: to accept or not to accept? That is the question….

In my three years as a WordPress blogger, I have received several nominations for blog awards. While I am flattered that people read and enjoy my blog enough to nominate me for awards such as the “Blog on Fire award” and the “One Lovely Blog award”, I have several reasons for turning down nominations. Initially, in my blogging youth, I did accept them but I recently made the decision to say thank you and decline the award.

Blog awards: a question of netiquette…. (Public domain image source)

  • The main reason why I say no is because I dislike the ‘chain letter’ aspect of blog awards: they all require the recipient to pass on the award to a specific number of blogs. Yes, it’s great to share the blogging love but I prefer to do that by commenting on posts which I like. I love giving and receiving blog comments and, with a few exceptions, I rarely follow blogs whose authors never respond to comments. In my opinion, the comments section of a blog post is like a conversation. You wouldn’t ignore someone if they spoke to you in real life, would you?

 

  • Another reason is that I don’t follow a huge amount of blogs; I have a select few which I like to read regularly. Because one of the conditions of accepting a blog award is to nominate other blogs, I would simply run out of blogs to put forward. I wouldn’t want to ‘spam’ my favorite blog authors by bombarding them with awards.

 

  • Responding to awards is time-consuming. I appreciate the sentiment behind award nominations and I hope I don’t offend anyone by declining them. But they do require the recipient to spend a lot of time putting together an acceptance post.

 

  • Admittedly, sometimes it can be fun to accept awards and answer the questions which come with them, but if I accept one award then I feel obligated to accept others, so it’s easier just to say no to all of them.
What do you think about blog awards? If you’re a blogger, do you choose to accept or decline them?

Cultural Life is three today!

Today, June 2 2014, marks my third ‘blogiversary’. Thank you to all the great bloggers who follow and support my blog. 🙂

I am taking a hiatus from blogging until next week because I have exams tomorrow, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. But then I will be back!

Public domain image source

We need to talk about language

I am catching up with the Daily Post’s Zero to Hero blog challenge today. One of the great things about the Zero to Hero challenge is that you don’t have to take part in every single task. It isn’t a blog challenge where you have to publish a post every single day; some of the challenges are about working behind the scenes on your blog, such as personalizing your theme.

I am unsure about changing my blog’s theme. Maybe it’s because I like routine but I also like my blog theme. It is clean, fresh and it works well for me. Additionally, because my theme is a fairly old one I am unsure whether I could change back to it if I changed my theme and decided I didn’t like it. Fortunately, WordPress allows you to preview themes before clicking the final button so I will do some experimenting with different themes today and who knows? Maybe Cultural Life will get a new look soon, or maybe not, depending on what I decide!

The assignment for Day 6 of Zero to Hero was to “publish a post that includes a new-to-you element”. I have chosen to do something which I have never done before: include a poll in my post. I always appreciate readers’ comments but this time I am interested in seeing your votes, although I would also love it if you left a comment as well. The poll is at the bottom of this post. As you have probably guessed from the title of this post, I am going to talk (albeit briefly) about language.

Language Acquisition wordle. Created by Grace @ Cultural Life using wordle.net

Language Acquisition terminology. Created by Grace @ Cultural Life using wordle.net

Last weekend I read an article written by Harry Ritchie in The Guardian which talked about the lack of discussion about language. I think about linguistics a lot but that is unsurprising, considering I am studying it! But there are no news reports or Oscar-winning documentaries about language and one of the points that Ritchie makes is a suggestion that the world should be told about the amazing and fascinating discoveries made within the field of linguistics. Although, like every academic discipline, linguistics can seem dry and dull, it is a science and so much of it is fascinating, all the more so because we all use language every single day.

Also, the article mentioned the fact that child language acquisition, specifically environmental influences on it, is something which is not being researched as much as it could be. Theories and hypotheses abound as to the exact nature of how children acquire language because no one knows for certain how they do it! Some of the theories, concepts and terminology are floating around in the Wordle above. And that brings us to the subject of the poll: “How do children acquire language?”

I would like you to vote in the poll without referring to any other sources, for example, doing a Google search for the question. There isn’t a single right answer – simply pick the one you feel most drawn to – and I am simply interested in seeing the outcome of the vote. The poll is anonymous but it would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments section below this post. Now, what are you waiting for? Get voting!

Re-introducing Cultural Life

I'm a Zero to Hero Blogger!

I have been blogging since 2011 (has it really been that long?) and I have learnt a lot about blogging and my aims for Cultural Life since then. However, I think there is always more to learn and so I decided to begin my blogging year in 2014 with the Daily Post’s “Zero to Hero: 30 Days to a Better Blog” challenge.

My regular readers already know me pretty well but for those of you who are new to Cultural Life, day 1 of the Zero to Hero challenge starts with a question-and-answer introduction. Hello and welcome!

Why are you blogging, rather than keeping a personal journal?

I started blogging to share my thoughts and writing with others and to meet other bloggers who share similar interests with me. I think an important part of blogging is about taking part in a community and that is one of the reasons why I started blogging via the WordPress platform. It feels so inclusive and welcoming!

What topics do you think you’ll write about?

After much deliberation and consideration I chose the name, Cultural Life, because I wanted it to be broad enough to give me scope but still give a sense of what my blog is about. Culture can be interpreted in many different ways and it means different things to different people.

Merriam-Webster contains several definitions of “culture”, including the “acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills” (Merriam-Webster). That neatly sums up my principal blogging topics. I write about books (I am a keen reader), language and linguistic science (my passion), movies and cinema, travel, food and other aspects of culture. Sometimes I write fiction, although that tends to be infrequent.

Here's a pretty picture of somewhere I visited last year (Scone Palace in Scotland). Because all text and no pictures in a blog post isn't fun.

Here’s a pretty picture of somewhere I visited last year (Scone Palace in Scotland). Because all text and no pictures in a blog post isn’t fun.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

I am open-minded but I enjoy connecting with other people who share my enthusiasm for discovering new things: new books, new films, new recipes… I love good book and travel blogs.

If you blog successfully throughout 2014, what would you hope to have accomplished?

Well, I would love to be featured on Freshly Pressed again. One of my posts was Freshly Pressed in February 2013 and it was so exciting. I was thrilled and the response from readers was wonderful!

Failing that, I would be very happy to achieve my goal of posting a minimum of one post per week. Also, I would like to increase active participation in my blog, for example, through readers’ comments. I have come a long way since I started writing in 2011 and now I rarely receive zero comments on my posts but it is always great, as a blogger, to know that your writing is actually reaching someone’s eyes and not simply floating unread in a blank void!

Thank you for reading and if you are a new reader, I hope you will stick around!

A guest post for Protect My Public Media

Image copyright Cultural Life (2013). Created using wordle.net

Image copyright Cultural Life (2013). Created using wordle.net

Today I am a guest blogger for the organization, Protect My Public Media, where I share the reasons why I love public radio and my This American Life obsession.

You can read my post by clicking here.

Funny and random search terms people have used to find my blog

"Search" Public domain image by Kosta Kostov: source

“Search”
Public domain image by Kosta Kostov.

I recently looked through the search terms which people have typed into Google and then come up with my blog as the result. Some of them are pretty random. And yes, some of them are simply the result of typing errors but I still think they (and the images they conjure up) are amusing. Perhaps you will too.

If you’re a WordPress blogger you can find the search terms for your blog by going to your blog stats page, scrolling down to the section “Search Engine Terms” and clicking on Summaries.

spanish deserts without an oven – those Spanish deserts are simply full of pesky ovens. Seriously, can’t they just clear off? I’m hot enough in a desert without needing an oven.

is my house clapboard – I don’t know. I don’t live in your house. And reading my blog is probably not the best way to diagnose the building materials of your house.

beetroot hummus with peeta bread – somebody has been reading too much of The Hunger Games (Peeta is one of the main characters and he also happens to be a baker).

Pita/pitta bread! Whatever way you choose to spell it, it is delicious! Photo credit: jeffreyw at Flickr. Photo used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Pita bread!
Photo credit: jeffreyw at Flickr. Photo used under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Greg Getten – who’s he? Whoever he is, you won’t find him on this blog. Sorry to disappoint you.

sinister snow globes – I always knew Santa was up to something suspicious.

labradors are actors – Oh, really? Well, that’s news to me.

Expect to see this pup at a Golden Globes ceremony very soon! Public domain image by Alice Birkin.

Expect to see this pup at a Golden Globes ceremony very soon!
Public domain image by Alice Birkin.

Do you have a list of amusing search terms with which people have found your blog? Share them in the comments!

Cultural Life turns two!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Cultural Life! Public domain image - Happy Birthday In Sand by Petr Kratochvil

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Cultural Life!
Public domain image – Happy Birthday In Sand by Petr Kratochvil

My WordPress blogging journey began two years ago today. I have enjoyed every minute of blogging so far and I am glad to be a member of the WordPress blogging community. In the past year, a lot has happened in my blogging life: my number of followers has grown significantly from a mere 60 this time last year to 619 (and counting!) at the time of writing this post. And I was Freshly Pressed in February! That was a wonderful experience and getting a personal email from the editor of WordPress made me feel very honored.

To mark my second blog anniversary, here are a few highlights from the past two years of Cultural Life:

Reasons why I want to move to Maine – this post, with wonderful Maine photos courtesy of Karen at Back Road Journal, is one of my most popular posts. It seems that a lot of people Google “reasons to move to Maine”!

Saying Goodbye – This is my Freshly Pressed post, about the emotions I felt when saying goodbye to my mother before she was wheeled into an operating room for lifesaving surgery.

Valencia Orange Cake – a delicious recipe with no flour, making it perfect for gluten-free diets. The cake is simply amazing, especially when served with cream.

Photo Challenge day 1: Resolution – I took this photo on the first day of this year; it’s a pretty view from outside my home.

Thoughts on reading The Hunger Games – when I first read The Hunger Games in November and December 2011, I became hooked on the series. When I was going through a stressful time last year, I re-read the series a couple of times. I find that I take inspiration from Katniss’s grit and determination.

Thank you to my readers for supporting my blog and here’s to the next two years – and more! – of Cultural Life.

A blogging milestone

This post marks the 100th post and the third blogging milestone for Cultural Life, after my first ‘blogiversary’ in June 2012 and the delightful surprise of being Freshly Pressed in February this year!

All milestones should have cake or some form of dessert. 😉 And so I celebrated my 100th blog post by baking this apple streusel cake:

As a Brit, I was initially confused by the name of this particular cake. If you say “coffee cake” the image that springs to the minds of most Brits is something like this: Nigella’s coffee and walnut layer cake. In England, coffee cake has coffee in it. It’s always interesting to learn how cooking and baking terminology varies on each side of the pond.

Linguistic differences aside, this apple streusel coffee cake turned out to be very delicious indeed, despite the fact that I unintentionally ignored the instructions to bake in a baking dish and not in a round cake pan. Hence, the flatness of my cake!

Recipe text from this page reproduced with kind permission from Mama’s Gotta Bake. Do check out her lovely blog….your mouth will water!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Brunch!

The Cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped (I like to use a tart Granny Smith apple)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease an 8-inch baking dish.

2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or I used an electric hand-mixer) beat the egg and then mix in the milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the apples and walnuts to the mixture and pour into the baking dish.

3. To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cold butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl by pinching them together with your fingers until combined. Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and then cut into squares.

January, we had fun

January was a great month on the blog.

I made some delicious soup (Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup), took part in a photo challenge (highlights below) and published the post which was Freshly Pressed, to my delight, on February 1!

I kick-started January with the First Thirty-one Photo Challenge, welcoming in 2013 with a photo a day.

Browse highlights from my entries below:

Day 1: Resolution:

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Day 10: Gorgeous hand-knitted socks, knitted by a friend

socks

A wintry photo entry for day 14’s “Frost” theme

snowy tree

Day 19: Fur

fur

Day 31: snowdrops signal the end of winter

snowdrops

I also enjoyed challenging my writing skills with challenges from The Daily Post

My dream trip: a writing challenge about traveling set my imagination on fire.

Another writing challenge: Starting Over, a short story set in Mexico.

Cultural Life celebrated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with this post:

January 28 1813.

And on January 31, I published this weekly writing challenge post, about saying an emotional goodbye to my mother at the doors of the operating suite. It was Freshly Pressed! I don’t often use the word “awesome” but being Freshly Pressed was the embodiment of that word. Thank you to everyone who commented, liked and shared my post. Welcome to my new followers and thank you for helping to create a great blogging month here at Cultural Life!

Photo challenge day 1: Resolution

Happy New Year!

I have chosen to take part in a 31-day photo challenge which I discovered via the blog, Fourtuitous.com. Starting off 2013 with a photo every day sounds like a fun idea to me!

Day 1: Resolution.

My resolution for 2013 is to get outside and go places. I want to spend more time outside, exploring the world, and less time sitting behind the steering wheel of my car.

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Resolution: to get outside and go places

I used the photo-editing website, picfull.com, to have some fun with applying filters to my photo.