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14 Jul

Why I’m so Dang Thankful to Win Best Blogger and Local Influencer in Fort Worth

Christy Dunaway Smith Fort Worth Magazine Winner for Best Blogger/Local Influencer

The Years, the Tears and the Triumph

Last month, Fort Worth Magazine named me the city’s Best Blogger/Influencer. It was a Reader’s Choice award, meaning the votes came from people who actually knew So Fort Worth It and loved it — and took the time to let the magazine know it was their favorite. I have been so honored, so grateful and just totally blown away that I have been unable to write about it. Weird, right? Well, I figured now is a good time to share some of the raw stuff.

Even though my professional life revolves around writing, every time I sat down to write about winning this amazing award, a wave of emotions would overcome me. The memories of everything I’ve endured since I started blogging back in 2012 would rise up like a tsunami and flood my brain with negative and paralyzing emotions.

But I also know that storms make you stronger, and after every storm, the sun shines again. I feel like this award is my sunshine. God’s timing is perfect and so spot-on; I just had to hang on for the ride and have faith. So if it’s OK with you, I’m gonna share my stormy So Fort Worth It story with you. I hope you find something that inspires you or motivates you through the mountains and valleys I have endured. 

Christy Dunaway Smith Fort Worth Magazine Best Of Blogger and Local Influencer
Christy Dunaway Smith Fort Worth Magazine Best Blogger/Local Influencer
Christy Dunaway Smith Fort Worth Magazine Best Local Blogger/Influencer

It All Started with a Christmas Card

For years, I sent out a newsletter with our Christmas card – my maternal grandmother started the tradition, and naturally, my mom and I followed suit. In 2010, I announced in our holiday card that I was going to start a blog. Blogs were just getting big, and I had so much to say and share, I figured it was the perfect outlet to express my creativity.

As it happens, Hal Brown, the owner of Fort Worth Magazine, and his wife Camille were on our Christmas card list (along with half of Fort Worth). Hal must have made a mental note of my blog (or maybe he just secretly loves reading about holiday lights?) because in 2012, he asked me to start my blog under the Fort Worth Magazine umbrella.

Smith Family Christmas Letter 2010

Overjoyed, but Overwhelmed

Having the endorsement of Fort Worth magazine gave me an instant audience, helping me build an organic following much faster than I ever could have on my own. But it turned out to be a very mixed blessing. You see, I wasn’t just blogging, I was also juggling chairing and co-chairing three super major charity events at the same time.

Fundraising for non-profits has always been near and dear to me, but between blogging and volunteering, I had little breathing room left for what mattered most in my life: being a wife and a mother. Add in the everyday stuff like grocery shopping, doctor appointments, family obligations, room mom duties, birthdays, holidays, pets and, well, you get the idea. It was chaos. 

2013 was the Year that Broke My Back

Literally! A mere 48 hours before we were opening our home to 500 people for the Wish with Wings Kitchen Tour, I fell down our staircase and fractured Lumbar 1-3 and broke two ribs. I remember laying on the floor unable to move, thinking to myself, what it would be like living in a wheelchair or if and where we could install an elevator. I prayed for the strength to go about life with positivity and joy despite possible permanent disabilities. 

And even though I was taken to the ER by ambulance, I was able to get out of bed, get on my feet and make it through the event thanks to the magic of Big Pharma…and maybe a glass or two of champagne to boot. Luckily, I was able to heal from my injuries, for the most part. During my recovery, I had a lot of time to think about my life and what was truly important. I knew I needed to slow down and this was God’s way of tapping me on my shoulder. 

A Wish With Wings 2013 Smith

I was Burned Out, then Burned Big

In 2015, I decided to take on the World Wide Web on my own and I parted ways with Fort Worth magazine. (It’s all good, though – we just celebrated a joint birthday for Hal and my husband.)  By then, though, I’ll admit, I was burned out. I didn’t have the energy or the enthusiasm anymore. You could say I didn’t give a Fort. It just wasn’t (so fort) worth it to me anymore.

Obviously – and thankfully – my friends slapped some sense into me and told me I’d be crazy to quit. I agreed – kind of. Remember that part when I said God’s plan was perfect? Well, it didn’t seem so perfect at that moment. Long story short, I hired a good friend’s company to build a brand new website with all the bells and whistles, but after nine months, the entire deal ended up stinking like a big fresh turd. When I finally walked away from the steaming pile, I had lost a $10,000 investment and, even worse, a friend. The layers of violation I felt from her almost cut me in half. Now that’s some next level s** right there.

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Putting on My Big Girl Panties

Not only that, at the exact same time the website fiasco unfolded, I was diagnosed with several health issues. I felt defeated and broken and I couldn’t stop crying. I was a mess. But my amazing husband scraped me up off the floor, helped me get focused, and stood by my side as I started all over again. I put on my big girl panties and hired the ace team I have today, former IT director for The Veritas Project and Branding By Nicole. I relaunched SoFortWorthIt for the second time in the Fall of 2017, and the rest is history.

Haters Gonna Hate

Has it been all rainbows and unicorns? Of course … not. To be honest, some of my lows made rock bottom seem like higher ground. The worst stuff involved mean people commenting on my posts. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that a few of my 25 thousand followers would turn out to be Satan-spawned Internet trolls. At one point, there was an entire Gang of Girls on Facebook working overtime to post hurtful words about me. I mean, who has that kind of time on their hands anyways. Can I get a hard eye-roll please? 

But at the end of the day, I realized that’s all they were – hurtful words. They weren’t real, and they didn’t change who I was. They didn’t affect who my friends were or change how much I loved my family and how much my family loved me. Hater’s gonna hate. I prayed for all of them (and still do) to learn how to find the good in people and have kindness in their hearts. I keep trying to learn, grow and be stronger through the storms in life.

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s a work in progress, y’all, but I am still here, and SoFortWorthIt is not just surviving, it’s thriving. And not one single bit of this success could have happened without YOU! Thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in me, for following me through good times and bad, and for voting for me to win Fort Worth Magazine’s top blogger/influencer! It really, really meant everything to me on this crazy blogging journey of mine, and one day when I start earning mad cheddar, I am going to pay for the rights so I can have Journey’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believing” start playing right at the moment you start reading this paragraph. 

Until then, stay tuned for my next two blog posts about a job search I’m listing to find the perfect rainbow unicorn assistant and my sensational Tata Harper Skincare experience at Neiman Marcus with a giveaway you won’t want to miss. I can’t wait to write it and share it all with you. xoxo

 

26 Mar

Knives Up, Wallets Out! How My Cooking Raises Money for Kids

My Cooking Raises Money for Kids! (For Real!)

If you had told me this time last year that I would be using my cooking skills to raise money for kids, I would have told you to put your crack pipe down. In all seriousness, I actually did raise a LOT of money for kids, had a great time, and scored a sweet auction deal that brought a celebrity chef to my home kitchen for an epic party. And in less than one week, this event will happen all over again!

It is called Cookin’ for Kids, and it’s a delicious dinner party wrapped around a high-energy, fast-paced Iron Chef-style cooking competition. It all goes down Sunday, March 31 from 6-9 pm at the Cendera Center in Fort Worth. Tickets are $150 each, and you can win a pair of them with a few other incredible goodies just by reading my full post and clicking the link at the end — how’s that for incentive!

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But first, I am sure Enquiring Minds want to know:
• What crazy nonprofit was willing to risk poisoning its supporters by asking me to cook at its benefit?
• How in the holy Texas hail balls did I cook something that raised gobs of cash?
• Who was the celebrity chef who came to mi casa, and
• What’s the deal this year?

Kids Who Care Musical Theater is Awesome!

The nonprofit behind Cookin’ for Kids is Kids Who Care. Its mission is to provide musical theater education and experiences to young people, which it’s been doing for more than 30 years. You may have seen one of the incredible original plays it puts on, or you’ve sent your child to its awesome summer camp.

But here’s something you may not know: Kids Who Care serves kids aged kindergarten through college, is inclusive of all kids regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, orientation or ability, and it has never, ever turned away a student because of his or her ability or family’s financial hardship.

In addition to music, Kids Who Care also fosters cross-cultural connections through its international exchange programs and it develops leadership skills through programs to teach creative confidence, entrepreneurship and arts management on stage, at all developmental stages.

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How I Cooked for Cash and SMOKED the Competition!

Last year, Kids Who Care asked me to be a Fort Worth Notable, which is what they call the volunteer competitors who go spatula-to-spatula with an “arch nemesis” in the culinary deathmatch which makes up the main event at Cookin’ for Kids. My arch nemesis was none other than Hal Brown, publisher of Fort Worth Magazine. Hal is actually a dear friend, but that night it was ON like Donkey Kong: Magazine Publisher vs. Internet Blogger!

Of course, I knew I was going to DOM-inate, and here’s why. Every Notable gets paired up with a real, live chef for the competition, and my chef partner was the epicurean idol Blaine Staniford of GRACE restaurant.

Now take a breath cause I wasn’t the one preparing real food that people had to eat, but I did assist. And my hair looked really full and shiny thanks to those extensions I got at Novak Hair Studios before we attended the Academy Awards. I was the chic-est sous whoever did sous!

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Obvi we were the dream team and the CLEAR favorite to win, especially since Hapless Hal’s chef-partner was some no-name part-time burger flipper. (OK, it was really John Piccolino, the meat maestro of B&B Butchers & Restaurant, but this is my blog post, so I get to embellish the story.)

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On your mark, get set… we greased up the pans, cranked up the gas and said, “Wonder Twin Powers ACTIVATE!” For the next 45 minutes, I followed orders and micro-chopped the Buh-Jeez out of everything. Just like on the real Iron Chef TV show, every team had to include a specific “mystery ingredient” in their dish.

Cookin For Kids 2018

In the past, it’s been really rando stuff like boba bubble balls, Dr. Pepper, and pop tarts. Ours was gold leaf – so you know I felt totally at home, even though most of my interaction with gold involves wearing it, not eating it.

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We had a lot to deal with, y’all. Guests were coming right up to our table to check out the action. My arch nemesis was heckling us, and then there was the stress of the countdown clock! Then, it was over: Three, two, one… knives down! With the help of my sidekick, had concocted the most delicious masterpiece known to man.

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A team of people swooped in and whisked our plates off to a secret back room where James Beard winner and Head Judge Jon Bonnell and other local talented chefs critiqued the Holy Night out of our gold-infused gourmet grub.

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Here’s how my dish brought in the benjamins: Each plate of chef-prepared food transformed from a contest entry to an AUCTION ITEM! Guests could literally put their money where their mouth was and bid on whose dish they wanted to devour. Each plate of food also came with a spectacular collection of prizes.

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My sad competition was looking a little smug over there in the corner! They knew what was about to hit them. TOTAL DOMINATION!

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Our prize package consisted of a curated seven-course, wine-paired tasting dinner for four at GRACE, along with a killer collection of sports tickets and a VIP suite for your squad. I even threw in a bottle of DOM (remember, I told you we were going to DOM-inate!). Going once, going twice, and SOLD to Ronda & Walter Stucker!

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On top of auctioning off a dish to some poor unfortunate soul, Jon and his posse of judges were doling out awards to the best Micheline Masterpieces of the night. Oh yeah, you know it! Yours truly WON an award! To be honest, I was kinda expecting it! If you’ve dined at GRACE, you know what I’m talking about! Am I right?

Also taking home some cake that night:

  • Angelique De Luca (Hollywood Actress) & Laura Johnston of Bittersweet
  • Robin Greenhaw (The Balvenie) & Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena’s Hal
  • Hal Brown (Fort Worth Magazine) & John Piccolino of B&B Butchers
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It was a big win for us, for the Stuckers and of course, for Kids Who Care. Jason and I ended up bidding on a package offered by Keith Hicks of Buttons and Disc Jockey Erin Wilde another Notable/Chef team that night, and that’s how I ended up scoring a day on the air at 92.1 HANK FM and my FABULOUS DINNER PARTY …

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All About My Party and Being a DJ for a Day!

Bidding in a charity auction is a fun way to donate to a great cause. But let’s be real here. I do it because j’adore the VIP-ness of it all. I mean, most of what’s on the block are ultra-exclusive experiences that otherwise DO NOT EXIST – they are literally not available anywhere else at any price! Case in point, the Kinderfrogs auction item that allowed us to attend the Oscars.

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Cookin’ for Kids is no exception. When I won my prize package at Cookin’ for Kids, I felt a bandit who had made off with a real treasure. Not only did I get a unique and priceless experience, but the full amount of my purchase price went to Kids Who Care. Not only that, our involvement with the event last year helped raise the most money EVER in the history of Cookin’ For Kids.

Here’s my full winning prize package: Co-DJ-ing with Erin Wilde of 92.1 HANK FM for the day, including production planning and having the ONE, the ONLY, Mogul of Soul Food, Chef Keith “Buttons” Hicks host a turn-key experience in a private home for 12. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water for the specialty organic fried chicken and grass-fed tenderloins he cooked just for us. Check out the photos, y’all:

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This Sunday’s Celebrity Chef/FW Notable Line-up!

As amazing as last year was, I am confident this year will be bigger, better and even more delicious! Hal and I were asked to be Honorary co-chairs this year, and we’ve been working feverishly to line up the very best of everything.

Joining us as Notables, we’ve got famous country singer Pat Green and his lovely wife Kori, jewelry and handbag queen of America! (hoping he’ll bust out with a spontaneous serenade!) And get this, I made a quick call to my two girlfriends, Carter Martin and Hannah Davis, who just so happen to be heiresses to the Amon Carter and the Kimball Art Museums. It’s a full-on Clash of Cultures! Oh, and have you ever wanted to see the GMs of Autobahn and Park Place Mercedes go at it neck to neck? That will definitely drive up the price of their dishes, especially when paired with what can only be unbelievably unique LIVE auction packages. What’s a charity fundraiser without Julie Hayes and Kim Johnson, Fort Worth’s top two decorators to society elites. Don’t be shocked if there’s hair pulling by nights end! Bringing up the tail end are Kristi Mayfield and Tara Wilson, former Merrill Lynch Stockbrokers Gone Wild.

Ok, I bet your mouth is drooling to see who are the top 10 Cuisiniers from the very best restaurants our city has to offer – AKA the folks who will actually be doing the cooking. Did you know that almost no one turned me down when I asked them to participate? We have chefs from the top French, Mediterranean and Steak restaurants! We also have the very best in Southern, Soul, and Mexican.

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Tickets are $150 each or you can grab a bunch of friends and fill a table starting at $2500. (Sorry, $1500 tables have sold out.) And if any of my friends or friends of my parents are reading this, you best PURCHASE HERE to get yours asap, or you might end up on my poop list! $eriously, your $upport would mean the world to u$!

Photography by Laura McCarthy & Zuilma Gonzalez

SoFortWorthIt GIVEAWAY!!!

And, as promised, here’s my contest, and as usual, it’s a good one!

  • TWO tickets to Cookin For Kids, but wait; there’s more. $300 Value
  • Pair that with FOUR tickets to a Kids Who Care performance. $100 Value
  • Plus ONE week of Kids Who Care Summer Camp. $295 Value
  • And you’ll also get dinner with wine for FOUR, personally cooked for you by Keith Hicks’s at his restaurant, Buttons. $300 Value

Good luck everyone and I’ll see you this Sunday – bring your wallet and be sure to wear your eatin’ pants, because you will not want to miss out on one tasty bite!

*** Must read the Terms & Conditions in the Rafflecopter link below for the official rules and disclaimers for this giveaway. I would hate for you to miss follow all of the steps and your entries not qualify.***