Happy National Coffee Day and my Cupping Experience at Cameron’s Coffee

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cameron’s Coffee. All opinions are my own.
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National Coffee Day is one of my favorite days of all! This year I am especially excited to be celebrating it in partnership with Cameron’s Coffee. Cameron’s Coffee is a Wisconsin founded and now Twin Cities based company that focuses on delivering the best coffee to those of us who enjoy making coffee at home and getting it tasting just right.

When I was in Minneapolis earlier this month, I got a chance to visit Cameron’s Coffee offices and be a part of the cupping experience they arrange for all of their new employees to learn more about coffee. I can only compare this experience to wine tasting, but better. The real purpose of cupping is to taste the different coffees and make sure they are up to our standards, as well as look for any imperfections or irregularities in the batch.

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Below is a detailed description of my experience, and while it can get pretty technical, I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves coffee. I also learned that I have absolutely no talent when it comes to defining coffee flavors.

The best part of the experience was meeting Patrick, Cameron’s Roastmaster, who walked me through the cupping experience. We cupped 4 flavors total:

  • Mexico – light
  • Brazil – sugary
  • Colombian – solid, balanced, sweet
  • Sumatra – earthy, big bodied

And while I am letting you know what each blend is supposed to taste like, I went into this completely unknowing what was going to happen.

Cupping happens around a table which resembles a huge lazy susan, that way you can spin the table and don’t have to walk around. There were 12 ceramic cups (you can also use tempered glass), 3 for each coffee flavor. All cups must be identical in measurements and come from the same manufacturer. You will also need a cupping spoon, which is a special kind of spoon with a large bowl. It works best if the spoon is silver or silver plated.

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To get a little bit more into details all beans are roasted within 24hours of the cupping, and can rest for 6-8 hours. Samples are ground immediately before cupping and grinds are coarser than what is normally used for paper drip. And finally, a few important numbers you should know: the coffee to water ratio for a cupping is 8.25 gm to 150 ml.

The cupping process step by step:

  • First, you smell the ground sample
  • Then you add water to the coffee sample, the water should be freshly drawn and approximate 200 degrees F
  • Make sure to let the coffee steep for 4 min
  • Ensure the coffee is plenty cooled off before drinking, you don’t want to burn your tongue or mouth and ruin your palate for the day
  • Once the coffee is cooled off break the crust that forms on the surface by lightly pressing with the spoon (no more than 3 times), get your nose up to the cup so you can smell the aroma after the coffee is broken
  • Remove the rest of the stuff that doesn’t go to the bottom after breaking
  • Let cool for a few more minutes, usually 8 to 12.
  • Tasting the coffee, using a spoon with a large bowl. Fill the bowl of the spoon, slurp the coffee while aspirating the coffee to cover your entire palate.  Then either drink the coffee or spit it out. Rinse your spoon and repeat at next cup. This was my favorite part, because I got to slurp in an office environment J

Should you ever get an opportunity to participate in cupping, here are a few tips for you:

  • Before you cup, try your best not to eat anything or drink anything potent. You don’t want to already affect your senses before trying coffee.
  • It’s also best if you don’t wear any perfume!
  • Cameron’s Coffee CEO even suggested smelling your own skin in between smelling in each coffee so your “palate gets cleansed”

Make sure to follow Cameron’s Coffee on social media Instagram, FacebookTwitter and stay tuned for some upcoming holiday giveaways! Love my Cameron’s Coffee mug and Tee? These are going to be available on the website soon!happy-national-coffee-day

This post includes photos by Say Hello, Story

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Cameron’s Coffee Perfect Summer Cold Brew Recipe

Dsiclosure: This post is sponsored by Cameron’s Coffee. All opinions are my own.
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Cold Brew Recipe Camerons Coffee

Cold Brew Recipe Camerons Coffee

I love coffee in all shapes and forms, but in the summertime cold brew is my favorite. I remember first learning about it through a Facebook post that one of my artsy friends did. He made it sound like an incredibly complicated process like at home beer brewing. So, for a couple of years I simply ordered my cold brew at local coffee shops and carried on. Thanks to my collaboration with Cameron’s Coffee I learned that I can make my very own delicious cold brew at home. There is a very handy blog post on their website with detailed instructions that are simple and easy to follow.

You can make cold brew using a French press, any glass container, or a mason jar. I chose to go with a mason jar just because I have a lot of those in my kitchen and they do look cool in the photos. There is also a cold brew system that you can purchase like this one.

For my coldbrew I used 8 oz of Roastmaster’s Blend, 8 oz of water and 1 tsp of spices. Now spices are optional, but I wanted to play around with some flavors. This specific spice mix includes ginger, cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg. I combined all the above in a mason jar and left in my fridge overnight. It’s best to let your coffee to sit for at least 12 hours. Then I ran it through a coffee filter, added some ice and milk and stayed caffeinated for the rest of the day.

If you like your coffee strong, then you can go ahead and drink the cold brew as is, or mix it with water, 50/50 is usually a pretty good ration. Since I add ice and milk, I tend not to, but that’s again up to you.

I hope you enjoyed this post and it encourages you to try making your own cold brew at home! Please make sure to share with me if you do.

I highly recommend following Cameron’s Coffee on social media as well! They are always posting helpful tips and share their coffee knowledge.

Cameron’s coffe Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Check them out and give them a like or a follow 🙂

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Monday Mode Link Up is Back – March 27

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Happy Monday! Rachel, Jewel and I are back with Monday Mode Link Up! I hope you are as excited as we are 🙂

From New York to Minneapolis, to finally coming back to Milwaukee, I can’t wait to get back to my routine. I never thought I would say that, but I am really excited to go to my regular gym classes, dive into work and start cooking healthy meals again! What are you excited for this week?

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How to Become Popular on Pinterest

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First of all, let’s make it clear, it’s not PinInterest, its Pinterest. There I said it! Now let’s cut to the chase. How can someone, how can you, how can I become popular on Pinterest?

A lot of fashion and beauty bloggers will agree with me, Pinterest drives traffic, and depending on the popularity of the pin, it can drive hundreds of people to your site. Add that to FB, Twitter and Google traffic, and you are looking at a pretty popular blog here.

I am going to share what works for me, what works for other, and what doesn’t work.

Here is what doesn’t work:

Pinning the same image to every board. I have several board related to fashion, whether they are personal style, outfits you can see on my blog, thrift finds, or wish boards, they are all pretty much the same. But if I pin the same image to all of them, what’s the point? It only gets annoying.

Sitting and waiting that followers will come. That’s just plain stupid. Everyone should realize by now that there is a lot of people out there and while some of them couldn’t care less about followers, some are very competitive and everyone wants to be a social media manager these days. You get the idea.

Here is what should be self-explanatory:

Connecting Pinterest to other social media channels.

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Using the appropriate hashtags. I recommend using ritetag.com to help you discover the appropriate hashtag for the pin, related to its’ theme.

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Filling out not just the name, but the board description and category, when creating something on Pinterest.

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Here is what works:

Professional photos and collages: When I create look books, and pin those images, it’s what drives the most traffic.

Following, commenting, inviting your friends to join Pinterest. 

Joining Pinterest link swaps. You can find a lot of them in theme related Facebook groups.

Joining group boards. When you check out my Pinterest Profile, you will notice that all my boards start with The… (The DIY, The Style, The Vintage, The Weekly Wear, etc), all the other boards are group boards. A group board allows several pinners to add to it. There are many benefits of being a part of the group board.

Adding a Pinterest widget to your site. If you are a blogger, I am sure there is room on your sidebar for that! And while you are at it, add the hover “Pin It” button too! Since I blog on WordPress, I use plugins for that.

I hope you find these tips helpful, and good Pin away!

Questions? Comments! Feel free to connect with me on:
Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Minneapolis a la Mode // Bloglovin’

 

Google Plus Guide

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There is still a lot of misunderstanding and confusion when it comes to Google Plus. That’s why I created this guide.

I struggled with Google Plus for a while. And even though it may not be your social media network of choice, I hope it will become in the top 3 after reading this post. Besides I will always prefer Google + over Facebook. 

One of my Twitter friends Michael shared this helpful tip: “My strategy is all about adding circles upon circles.  It’s not like Twitter where there’s a followers/following ratio which is great.  Find people within your niche and add the hell out of them.  Then create the same content that’s successful on your other platforms.”

  • Start with creating your profile. Make sure to add your best picture, just like on your other Social Media networks. Choose a header that represents you/your brand or your blog. Google does offer a few really nice images, but creating your own will always make you stand out. (That’s something I need to work on).
  • Add people to the circles. These are some of my circles: Fashion Bloggers and Contacts, Beauty Bloggers and Contacts, Social Media/Creative. I hope that gives you the idea. Once you start adding people to these circles, Google + will automatically suggest more people you can add. And of course don’t forget to add your contacts, friends and family. 
  • Join communities. That’s as easy as 1-2-3. Most communities are open, but some do require approval. So far I’ve always gotten accepted, so you should too. Some of the communities I am a part of: Blogging, Independent Fashion Bloggers, Budget Beauty’s, Minneapolis-St.Paul, etc.
  • What’s Hot: Just like Twitter shows you what’s trending, Google + shows you what’s hot, you can see the most popular posts, hashtags, etc. (You will find it under the Explore tab)
  • Google + on your phone: The app is pretty fantastic, I’ll be honest with you! I use it all the time. Try it!
  • Hangout: It’s pretty fantastic, easy to set up, and a great alternative to Skype. 
  • +1: Don’t be shy and show some love to the posts in your feed, comment, it’s all about interaction after all!

I am not going to go into details about customization, editing posts, adding photos, links, etc. This is more to get you started. Feel free to comment with any questions, or concerns that you may have. And feel free to follow me on Google +.

Another tip if you are on Klout: It highly takes Google+ into consideration for it’s score.  You can gain 10+ Klout points just by being active on Google+.

Let’s connect:

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Minneapolis a la Mode // Bloglovin’

 

 

Working With Brands

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So you want to work with brands? You see other bloggers do it, and you think to yourself – Why not me? Great! If you are one of the bloggers who doesn’t want to work with brands, I would still recommend you read this post, it’s going to be interesting. I promise. We are going to discuss:

What does working with brands do for you as a blogger?

What does working with you as a blogger do for the brand?

How does it affect your readers?

How does it affect you?

Where to begin?

Let’s say you’ve been blogging for a while, and have done several reviews, or outfit posts, or any type of post where you mention a brand, company, etc. I started out like that – I would do reviews on products I bought myself, or made lists of products that worked for me in the past (for example this post). When it came to outfits, I took pictures of what I wore on a daily basis. Now, having been blogging for over 3 years, I do sometimes put together outfits just to shoot. The “brand” (and here I mean the PR/marketing person) will see your blog and think – I like the way s/he is doing that! Maybe she can do it for us? – and will contact you.

But what if you have been doing all the above, and still nothing? Reach out to local brands, smaller brands, indie brands. Don’t be afraid to pitch companies! And consider singing up for networks like iFabbo (their shop has amazing products), Brand Backer, Klout (actually everyone should go sign up for Klout! Right now! Go!), and the like. They are not affiliate programs, but more of a middle man between the brand and you. They pitch to brands, and then offer products to bloggers. Sometimes it can depend on your Social Media following though. 

About the Social Media following… I have met so many people who start blogging, write a post once a month, and expect to go viral overnight. Has anyone read Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy? In the book she goes on Twitter, and is obsessively counting her followers. It’s hilarious and helps you understand that there are wrong and right ways of doing social media. Don’t expect people/brands/companies to follow you. Twitter is about discussion, interaction, meeting people. There are multiple twitter chats that you can join on a weekly basis to grow your twitter circle. 

Brands do pay attention to the number of followers that you have, and while not everyone has (insert your number)K followers on Twitter, or Instagram, it’s good to have some, and keep that number growing. 

About self-promotion… That can be a good or a bad thing. I had people ask me how to stop my updates from showing in their Facebook feed (Burn!), but I still post on Facebook! Why? Because there are groups, pages, communities that actually appreciate my posts and do the same thing. I see nothing wrong with self-promotion. There are millions of people on Social Media, and by the time you post a new update or tweet – the previous one is history.

That email address… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – always have your email available on your blog, some users even put it in their “about me” section of Twitter and Instagram. One of my best friends runs a successful freelance business through Instagram (she is an editorial hair stylist in New York, and her pictures are worth millions of words) 

So you got that email saying brand X loves your blog and is interested in working with you. What now? Here is where the questions I asked in the beginning of the post come in. But before you begin answering them, remember this – Know your worth! Don’t sell yourself short! If a brand offers me a free product, I am going to think twice before agreeing to do the post for them. I don’t do brand giveaways unless I try the product first. I don’t do samples. I don’t do discounts. I will review a product if:

It’s a good fit for me. It’s a good fit for my blog. My readers will enjoy it. I would buy it with my own money!

That’s why I like Social Fabric, Clever Girls Network, and the other websites I mentioned above – they let me pick and choose what I want to try and review on my blog. 

The next step is $$$ I didn’t start getting paid for content right away, I tried running ads for a while, but it wasn’t for me. My blog has evolved so much though, that I see nothing wrong with asking for a certain amount of money per post. Be it $100 or $500, it’s marketing, PR, and as a blogger, you can reach out to audience the brand might not have been able to reach in the first place. 

Great Ideas Sell! In the end of the day, it’s all about ideas. Is there a celebrity look you want to recreate using bran’s X mascara? Are you going to a fashion/style event and want to stand out with brand Y’s necklace? Will you make a video tutorial? A vlog? Be creative, and think outside the box, and you will be successful!

Let’s connect:

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Minneapolis a la Mode // Bloglovin’

10 Blogging Tips from Being Zhenya

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Being a style and beauty blogger is wonderful, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been doing it for over 3 years now, and have been loving and grateful for every opportunity that’s come my way, BUT…

… having a full-time job and being a full-time blogger is a challenge. I am going to be honest with you. I’ve been able to get away with it both at work and at home though. Do you want to know how I do it? Today I will answer some of the most popular questions I get asked and share some blogging tips!

1. Who takes your pictures?

The camera! It really does. Thanks to the voice activated feature in my Samsung Galaxy gadget, all I do is set up the tripod, and say “smile”. No need to set the timer. Though Sam sometimes takes my photos, especially when we are out and about.

Tip 1: Clear and beautiful pictures are a must! Yes I often edit mine, especially in the winter, but learning to play with your camera and finding the right person to take your photo will make fashion blogging so much easier. 

2. How can you afford all the outfits?

It’s simple, I thrift. 75-80% of my wardrobe came from a thrift store of some kind. I also recycle a lot of clothes by refashioning them, or finding something I thought was long lost in the depths of my wardrobe.

Tip 2: It’s not about the trends, it’s about your personal style. You don’t need to post a new outfit 7 days a week, otherwise you’ll go broke. Recycle, combine, mix and match! Styling is fun!

3. When do you find time to blog?

I blog at night after work, in the morning before work, on my lunch break at work, and of course during the weekends. What does my husband say about it? He is busy studying for CPA!

Tip 3: Never let your blogging get in the way of your personal life. Family and friends come first!

4. Where do you find inspiration? 

Usually from fashion magazines, and blogs. My father-in-law just came back from a trip to Japan and Hong Kong, and I got 3 new fashion magazines from that part of the world! I can’t describe how fascinated I am!

Tip 4: It’s all about an open mind and an open heart. Allow new experiences, new friendships, new opportunities in your life.

5. How are you always posting on your social media channels?

I schedule tweets/posts through buffer, and then Instagram pictures that I took beforehand throughout the day.

Tip 5: Lunch breaks and coffee breaks are perfect for a little social media check up. 

6. Do you get paid for anything?

Yes, I write sponsored posts, and I always disclose that. I decided against ads (I used to have them when I blogged on WordPress.com), because they are distracting. I also do social media campaigns for different blogger networks. I also receive beauty and fashion products for free through sites like iFabbo or BrandBacker. 

Tip 6: To be discovered by brands, build relationships with them first on Social Media, Twitter is especially good for that. And make sure to always have your email address on the “About Me” page of your site.

7. What is the best part about blogging?

You are! I love my readers! Did you think I was going to say free clothes?

Tip 7: Never forget why you started blogging. 

8. Would you ever consider blogging full-time?

Yes, and it’s in my plans! But because I don’t want to do ads, it’s definitely going to be challenging. So I need to find ways to make money without sabotaging my reputation.

Tip 8: Set goals for your blog. Know where you are headed. 

9. What is your favorite/least favorite social media channel?

Twitter is definitely number one, Instagram is also in the top 3. But when it comes to Facebook, I am sorry, I just can’t!

Tip 9: Set up a Google + account and start posting, adding friends, creating circles, joining communities. NOW! 

10. What’s one advice you would give to a new blogger?

Don’t start a blog to get FREE stuff, make sure you really have something to say/show/share. And find your niche (I know it’s hard to do, especially for lifestyle bloggers), because it will help you in the long run.

Tip 10: Ask yourself this: If I was a reader, would I read my own blog? Would I comment on it? Like it? Share it? What can you do to make your blog more appealing to others?

Let’s connect:

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Minneapolis a la Mode // Bloglovin’

St Jude’s Red Carpet For The Cure {Minnesota Golden Globes}

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The only Golden Globes viewing party in the US took place last night at the Metropolitan Ballroom, and as you have probably guessed by the title, it was organized by St Jude’s Children’s hospital. Having lived in Minnesota for the past 2 years, I am definitely familiar with St Jude, last spring we had a trike-a-thon at work to raise money for the cure at work. But it was so nice to be able to learn more about what they do, what the survival rates are, and what their goals are! It was a truly inspiring night. The evening included a cocktail hour, silent auction, live auction (where a trip to New York with an exclusive behind the scenes access to Badgley Mischka show went for almost 20K!) The donations part of the auction alone raised almost 56K! And it’s all for the CURE! It’s all to stop CANCER! If you ever ever think about what charity to donate to, donate to St. Jude’s Hospital! And the families that walk through the doors at St. Jude’s, they never have to pay a dime for all the treatments their child is receiving!

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It was also so much fun to meet and talk to Ashley of Crunchy Frugalista, and Jamie of Toys in the Dryer! You ladies are amazing and I loved swapping goodie bag lipsticks with you! And of course thank you Ali for making it possible for me to attend this event!

Happy Monday and enjoy the photos!

Zhenya

PS. I was really excited to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine get the globes, as well as Jennifer Lawrence! Who were your favorite nominees?

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Fear Not

My biggest fear was I was going to hate it! Having lived on the east coast for 2 years, one year within a 30 minute train ride from Manhattan, one on the Upper West Side, New York had it’s spell over me! But I had the fear of being delusional. The night before I left I couldn’t sleep. Whether it was stress, or my sinuses infection, I kept waking up on the hour every hour. Less than 2 hours on the plane and it’s like I never left. The flipping each other off cab drivers, the view of Manhattan, it was all there and it was the same. I changed. New York didn’t. It stayed true to itself. And for this, I am grateful.

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Goodwill Easter Seals Blog is Up and I am in!

That’s my big news everyone, starting this September I will be regularly appearing on the Goodwill Easter Seals blog as a guest blogger, along with other amazing local thrifters! This project has been in the works for quiet some time now, and I can’t believe it’s launched!

You are more than welcome to check us out here(blog) and here(Facebook)! And see my first post here! Because it’s all about fall fashion and how to make it fab!

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Have a great weekend everyone,
Z