All photos: Amanda Wilens
Today I'm very excited to introduce Amanda Wilens of food-centric blog Feed Me With Amanda to the A Creative Minute With... series! Amanda was one of the first creative bloggers that I connected with (on Instagram!) when I moved to St. Louis, and I've loved watching her brand grow and blossom over the last nearly two years that I've lived here.
Have you ever wanted to start a blog...but don't know where to start? Or maybe you've wondered just how much work goes into launching a food blog? Amanda is sharing her story below!
Q: Share a bit of your story with us: what’s your creative background, and what led you to pursuing and launching your blog, Feed Me With Amanda? What does your recipe-formulating, baking, writing and content shooting process look like?
A: As a young kid I grew up outside of Chicago where my parents ran a business called Wedding Connections. They did all of the flowers, music, and videography, and then connected folks with venues, caterers, etc. So I really grew up surrounded by a lot of creative folks with a lot of passion. When we moved to California when I was seven, my parents bought a flower shop, which where my deep love of flora stems from. They allowed me and my sisters to be creative, take music lessons, dance lessons, and participate in theater. I've always had a deep love of music and basically got my minor in music at school (minus 1 credit since the class was unavailable my last year and I wasn't going to stay enrolled for that!). I took up photography while in college, which lead to a lot of fun projects and family photo and engagement sessions for friends.
As for my blog, that really got started when I moved to St. Louis two-and-a-half years ago. I knew no one except for my boyfriend and his classmates (the reason why we're in St. Louis is for his PhD program). So I thought about creating a community or how to become a part of the city. My favorite part of St. Louis is the food and atmosphere/culture around it. I love reading Feast Magazine (who I now write for) and checking out new restaurants. I also have always loved cooking at home, so it just seemed like a natural fit: a blog about food!
My process is interesting and really comes from a place of looking ahead at the month: do I have collaborations coming up? What holidays are we prepping for? What are the in-season produce or herbs, etc. From there I try to create something that people at home can and want to make. A lot of it stems from my own family recipes and what I grew up making. Then comes the prep, finding a time I can actually make the food, shoot images and more. This can be hard because of my full-time job. So a lot of it happens on the weekends. I create the recipe, I cook or bake, I shoot, I edit the photos, then I write the post. I shoot in my dining room where I have the most natural light and a big table, but I have to use a lot of surfaces and tools to make it look the way I want it too.
Q: I always love to ask! What does your workday routine look like, and how do you try to maintain a balance between managing content for your blog, maintaining an awesome social media presence, carving out time for photography and freelancing for food-centric publications?
A: Whelp, it's a lot! I work 40+ hours each week at my 8-to-5 job event planning. Monday-Friday really doesn't come with time to focus on my other work – it's hard. So a lot of time my social media happens in the evenings or on my lunch breaks. I use Planoly to work on the look of my Instagram, but rarely use it to post...which is silly and I need to work on that. But most of my photography, social media building, and freelancing has to happen on the weekends.
So, when it's a "workday" at home it really can be a mess! Sorry if that's too honest, but it's real. I create the recipe usually in the evenings after work, and I shop for the ingredients then, too. Then on a Saturday or Sunday morning I get to work. I cook or bake in the morning, then I shoot in the early afternoon. My light is mostly all natural, so I also need a REALLY sunny day since the light is so wonky in my apartment. I have best times to shoot in the different seasons, and sometimes that means baking or cooking at night and shooting in the morning. Editing usually happens on my couch almost immediately after shooting. I edit with the TV going, usually The Office, Parks and Rec or Parenthood. Then during the week, in the evenings again comes the writing of the blog posts. After a post goes live, I share it for the next few weeks on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Writing for food publications can be an entirely different beast, but follows the same procedure!
Q: What are a few of your favorite ingredients to incorporate into seasonal recipes for winter?
A: For the winter I feel like I am constantly using chocolate, peppermint, molasses and a ton of herbs. I love all the flavors of rosemary and sage that come into play. And of course, with the holidays, I love peppermint. Even when I'm making traditional Jewish foods, peppermint is just so tasty and fun!
Q: What’s next for Feed Me With Amanda in 2018? We’d love a preview of any exciting projects that you’re working on!
A: I'm not always great at thinking super far ahead. I hope to make more time for my blog, although that's not always possible, especially with my new promotion at work. But I am hoping to host some more workshops – I just hosted my first one recently! I'd love to host an additional workshop in time for Galentine's day.
In addition to that, I hope to have more fun collaborations with companies. I plan to add in more events into my calendar for styled shoots. But first, I really need to sit down and plan out some goals for the year. My number-one goal right now is to perfect my camera skills and create a super cohesive look.
"My best advice is to just get out there and make it work: like, actually run with your idea and reach out to others to work with."
Q: For fellow women who are seeking a creative outlet or want to take their creative business to the next level, what would your greatest piece of advice be?
A: My best advice is to just get out there and make it work: like, actually run with your idea and reach out to others to work with. I always hear from people, "I never would have reached out because I'm afraid someone will say no." Well, it's better to reach out and have them reject you than never ask at all! So yes, get out and actually start your business. And from there, continue to always reach out to others: for help, collaborations, inspiration – whatever. I have gained my biggest and most important learning experiences talking and working with others. It inspires me and makes me work harder.