By Summer Staub Rothrock, Gamma Epsilon Editorial Board Member With the Internet rapidly growing every day, the amount of content online can be overwhelming. But surfing the Web can also turn up some surprising and delightful finds, including personal blogs. A personal blog is a journal-style website usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of words, pictures, videos and other media. Blogs are utilized to share information, tell stories, communicate with friends and family around the world, make a profit, grow businesses and much more. Here, we take a look at several Sigma Kappas who are using blogs to share their passions. FAMILY National Vice President for Communication Andi Fulton Sligh, Theta Xi, Auburn University, has always had a passion for writing. She first started a blog about running, then a blog chronicling her daughter Sarah Kate's struggles and progress with cerebral palsy. After her son Nathan was born in 2010 with Down syndrome, Andi found her "muse" and started a new blog– "Bringing the Sunshine" (bringingthesunshine.com). Andi explains that her blog name comes from a quote by Anthony J. D'Angelo, "Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." She says, "It's a reflection of my belief that no matter what struggles or disappointments we face in life, we can always find an equal blessing if we just look for it." With her subject close to her heart, Andi soon found that not just friends and family were reading her blog but that strangers from all around the country were visiting as well. Her goals of informing, inspiring and being a positive advocate for individuals who are differently-abled became a reality. Those who read her blog will find a truthful approach and testimonies from a mother who lives and learns each day. Andi's blog began as a creative outlet, but as time went on it has provided her with so much more as she receives feedback from strangers and educates readers on children with special needs. This passion is what Andi says any future blogger needs to get started. She encourages bloggers to pick a topic that they are passionate about and then fill in the knowledge with research if needed. Don't shy away from controversial topics, Andi suggests, as some of her most controversial posts have been the most popular. Andi's primary goal with her blog is to educate, not to make money, but she has completed two speaking engagements and booked two more as a result of her blog. In addition, "Bringing the Sunshine" was recently selected by Circle of Moms as one of the "Top 25 Most Inspiring Families." Focusing on her primary goal from when she started, Andi hopes to see the readership of her blog grow so that more people can learn about inclusion and being "different, but not less." Some have suggested that Andi write a book, but for now, she says, "I'll continue to work toward informing, inspiring and encouraging." FOOD Lauren DeSantis, Delta Theta, Truman State University, is the star of a television show called "Capital Cooking," which chronicles the culinary gems in the nation's capital. Tans of the show can explore more culinary treats with her blog, which started as a behind the scenes for the show but has grown into much more. Lauren created "Capital Cooking Show Blog" (capitalcookingshow.blogspot. com) to further share her passion for cooking. On the blog, as with the show, Lauren says you will find "the latest news in food around town, behind the scenes secrets about filming the show, recipes, cocktails and more." Lauren uses her blog to keep show viewers up-to-date on food news and provide additional information to supplement the show. Between her show and blog, Lauren still finds time to read other blogs. Some of her favorites are "Apron Anxiety," "U Street Girl" and "Girl Meets Tood." "Capital Cooking Show Blog" is an Urbanspoon featured blog and a Restauranteers top blog. In the future, Lauren hopes that the blog will have more frequent readers to whom she can provide the best food information in Washington, D.C. Ashley Lowe Nance, Theta Xi, Auburn University, decided to start her blog when emailing recipes to friends and family became inefficient. Ashley is surrounded by a big family consisting of her husband, four kids and two dogs, so someone in her house is always hungry. She wanted to share her passion for cooking and feeding her loved ones with her family and friends, so "Measure of Joy" (measureofjoy.blogspot.com) was born. On starting her blog, she says, "I thought it would be fun to start a blog that had recipes and stories in one place." Blogging to Ashley is like therapy. She is able to share her stories and learn about others who enjoy cooking and entertaining. Teedback from others who have tried her recipes is reward enough, as Ashley is not blogging to make a profit. The biggest reward, she says, "is knowing that I may be helping another mom serve her family and find a littlejoy in the service." She uses other forms of social media such as Facebook to share her blog with friends and family. Ashley's advice to aspiring bloggers is to "just go for it, but make sure to put yourself into it." She notes that there is no wrong way to blog. In addition to blogging, Ashley enjoys reading blogs including one she finds inspirational by a fellow Sigma Kappa, Andi Sligh, who writes "Bringing the Sunshine" (featured in the Family section of this article). Ashley also enjoys another cooking blog, "The Pioneer Woman Cooks." In the future Ashley hopes to continue sharing her recipes and opportunities for women to make healthy meals for busy families. She strives to post more as life continues to be hectic. Shejokes that she sometimes chooses posting on the blog over sleep. Amanda Kauderer Berg, Beta Zeta, University of Maryland, and her husband combine their love of traveling and dining out in their blog, "Hungry Wanderers" (hungrywanderers.com). While residing in Charlotte, NC, Amanda didn't plan on starting a blog, but she gave into pressure from friends and fellow bloggers, and now she enjoys sharing her passion for personal travel and trying new restaurants. Blogging doesn't just provide an opportunity to share with others - it also gives Amanda a means to document her travels as she notes her lack of scrapbooking skills. Amanda finds many benefits to blogging but sees it mainly hobby, though she does profit from advertising. Amanda encourages aspiring bloggers to choose a subject about which they are passionate. After you find your passion, Amanda says to let blogging remain a source of fun and not stress. "Don't beat yourself up if you miss writing a scheduled blog post." "Hungry Wanderers" has been recognized by Wordpress.com as a top 10 blog of the day for a blog post about traveling in Australia. Experiences in Australia also produced Amanda's favorite post, "Australia's Great Ocean Road." She loves the beautiful photos that were taken on that trip. Her blog posts also appear on Urbanspoon.com, a website for food reviews. The blog was number one for Charlotte Urbanspoon and number two in her new home, Las Vegas. Amanda strives to be number one in Las Vegas very soon. As she continues her blog, Amanda hopes to dedicate more time to organizing the archives and creating a better flow so she can continue sharing her travels and dining experiences with readers. As with many bloggers, Angie Naniot Ahrens, Beta Eta, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found inspiration from friends telling her to start blogging. For Angie this friend was a fellow Sigma Kappa. Angie started with one blog but eventually separated it into two. "Entertaining Life Daily" (entertaininglifedaily.blogspot.com) is about her personal cooking and entertaining experiences, while "City Nom Noms" (citynomnoms.wordpress. com) focuses on restaurant reviews. Blogging has provided Angie with connections to the food community in Indianapolis and opportunities to review restaurants for local publications. Blogging for Angie is about providing more opportunities to share her entertaining and food experiences. This joy is what she hopes future bloggers will find. She encourages new bloggers to write from the heart and don't worry about how many people are reading your blog. She says, "someone will always benefit from reading what you write if you have a purpose." One purpose that Angie loves is any blog about Disney, especially "Disney Food Blog." As she looks to the future, Angie hopes to get more people involved with restaurant reviews on "City Nom Noms" and become more locally recognized. While recovering from a broken heart, Jessica Reddick, Kappa Eta, Texas Christian University, decided to dry her tears by getting into the kitchen and trying her hand at baking. That's how "My Baking Heart" (mybakingheart.com) got started. Jessica grew up watching her mother and grandmother bake but she never got as involved as she would have liked to, so she threw herself head first into learning about baking. Jessica joined many online baking groups to begin tackling complex recipes and techniques to strengthen her skills. After honing her skills, Jessica began using her passion for photography and baking to develop her blog. In addition to healing her broken heart, Jessica has had many opportunities to make new friends, meet famous chefs and authors and attend exclusive food blogger events. Jessica profits from advertising through a publisher relationship with Foodbuzz.com. She has also been asked to review new items from food companies and introduce her readers to those products. Jessica hopes to take her blog even further by opening a bakery in the future. She hopes the blog will be the online front door for her bakery. In the meantime, she will continue creating sweet treats and sharing them with her friends and family. ENTERTAINMENT With experience blogging professionally as a part of her job, Jennifer Gaskin Turner, Gamma Beta, Western Michigan University, decided to give personal blogging a try. She wanted to record things she found interesting ranging from fashion, décor, and recipes to creative ideas and DIY projects, and so "Darling Notes" (darlingnotes. blogspot.com) was born. The blog has a unique format in that posts are sometimes just photos or phrases and not necessarily written in traditional form, which shows that a blog can be anything that the creator desires. Jennifer desired to have a place to share on a variety of topics while keeping her posts "short, sweet and fresh." Of her blog she says, "I am interested in and inspired by so many things, and my blog is a reflection of that. It's like an electronic journal that I leave open for all to read." Jennifer has found many benefits to blogging, from developing her love of learning to virtually meeting bloggers from across the world. She suggests to future bloggers to make their blog what they love – it can be just a collection of images so don't worry about being a phenomenal writer. She says, "be true to who you are, and don't worry about pleasing everyone." As a beginning blogger,Jennifer suggests posting often and commenting frequently on blogs that you enjoy reading to help spread the word about your blog. Jennifer takes greatjoy in knowing that she is sharing her inspirations with readers and was recently honored by receiving the Stylish Blogger Award from another blogger. She was also given the recognition of a Rosebud by the BonBon Rose Girls blog, which means that her blog is in a network of female bloggers who share similar interests and connections. Recognition has given Jennifer a chance to connect with fellow bloggers and to expand her blog's readership. As she continues with her blog,Jennifer hopes "Darling Notes" will become a place people can come for daily style inspiration. Chelsea Becker, Delta Iota, California State University, Chico, was looking to educate her non-sports-savvy friends and give women a fun place to talk about sports, so she created "Cosmos and Cleats" (cosmosandcleats.blogspot.com). Chelsea started her blog, which provides easily understandable sports news and knowledge, after finding herself as one of the only self proclaimed "sports-loving girly girls" she knew. She also had many friends who just didn't understand sports but wanted to learn more. About her blog, Chelsea says, "I wanted to create a blog that would be fun but informative for girls who aren't necessarily sports savvy." Chelsea used nap time while being a nanny to start her blog and since then it has turned into much more. She says, "I've learned more about writing, social networking and marketing, and it's also just a lot of fun." That learning and fun helped Chelsea get an internship with the Bleacher Report, the fourth largest sports website in the world, and now she is a Guest Columnist Associate for the company. While she sees blogging as a commitment, she also advises that bloggers give themselves a break and don't force it or else it will take the fun out of blogging. Chelsea has big goals for the future of "Cosmos and Cleats" - she hopes to partner with a sports website to give women a place to learn about sports alongside men. As she plans for the future, she says, "Usually sports sites are stacked with statistics and too many athletes' names. I think 'Cosmos and Cleats' could be somewhere for girls to learn, laugh and become more confident in their sports knowledge."
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