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* Name: Tiffany Merritt.
* Age: 32.
* Hometown: Enterprise, Ala.
* Education: Bachelor's degree in urban studies from Rhodes College, master's degree in theological studies from Harvard University Divinity School.
* Occupation: Blogger.
* Family: Husband Tim Moreland is city planner; two daughters ages 3 and 1; family moved here from Memphis in 2010.
* Civic involvement: Member of Junior League of Chattanooga
* Hobbies: "I used to have hobbies before I had children. All my spare time is spent blogging."
Make baked potatoes in a crockpot. Wash each potato, then puncture with a paring knife a couple of times. Wrap each potato in aluminum foil and put in the slow cooker for 31/2 hours.
"It always seem so hit-or-miss in the oven. These will be perfect," Tiffany Merritt says. "You can cook one or two or a whole slow cooker full of them. It's great when you have a crowd over to make a baked-potato bar. "I've been doing this for years and I thought everybody knew this trick. I was surprised how many people didn't -- including the folks at Reynolds."
* See a video of Tiffany Merritt in the kitchen at http://tinyurl.com/ctbfa6c
Tiffany Merritt knows the power of social media.
She's built her own loyal following in the blogosphere over the five years since she started Stuff Parents Need. It's a witty, straight-shooting blog in which she dispenses parenting tips, evaluates new products, hosts product giveaways and tries out new recipes -- all supplemented with her own home video.
"I like to provide details about how products and services can integrate with a mom's busy life, especially when they make cooking and cleaning in the kitchen easier," says the 32-year-old mother of two who lives in Chattanooga.
Merritt parlayed her media savvy to wrap up a new, year-long gig with Reynolds Consumer Products. She's just been named a "Reynolds Real Mom" -- making her an official spokeswoman for the well-known line of aluminum foil and its ubiquitous line of kitchen products.
Each month for the next year, videos of her sharing tips on how to prep, cook, store and clean up meals using Reynolds products will be posted on the company's website and Facebook page.
"I really feel like I represented the people they were trying to reach," Merritt says. "I think it's really cool that they didn't go the celebrity route, and that they wanted to connect with the people who use their products every day."
She just returned from a Reynolds-sponsored training and professional video shoot in Chicago last week, where she met with company executives to hear their talking points. Two weeks ago, she participated in a Reynolds cooking school in Richmond, Va.
In the coming year, she'll travel on behalf of Reynolds, conduct phone and satellite interviews and represent the company at blogging conferences. In August, her face will be splashed across print advertisements in national magazines including Better Homes and Gardens, Parents and Every Day with Rachael Ray.
"But I'm not holding my breath waiting for Hollywood to call," she jokes.
Jessie Weaver, also a blogger at Vanderbiltwife.com, says she reads Merritt's Stuff Parents Need and calls her "a hoot."
"She's the same as I am -- she likes to poke fun at herself," Weaver says. "Tiffany's tips are real, and I think that's something people are looking for in bloggers -- someone who's willing to show they make mistakes and don't have a perfect little life."
Merritt says she applied for the new job on a spur-of-the-moment impulse after hearing about Real Moms from another blogger.
"I glanced through the application ... thought it sounded very cool. I happened to have both of my girls asleep at that moment -- which happens about once a week for maybe 20 minutes," she says. "So I turned on my camera, shared some thoughts I had about why I wanted to be considered and sent it in."
Six weeks later, she was one of 10 finalists, all of whom were bloggers.
"It seems they were seeking people who had some kind of social media influence," Merritt surmises.
Each finalist produced new content on their blogs and videos for Reynolds Facebook page. Merritt says they were given a topic such as "comfort food" or "30-minute meals" then left to their own creativity.
Viewers to the site voted, and in April she was named a company spokeswoman. The five other winners include a pair of sisters from Texas who are furniture makers and have eight children between them; and several foodies who blog about cooking.
Each winner received $5,000 and the added perk that their blogs will be linked to the Reynolds Real Mom webpage.
"Each winner brings a wealth of passion, experience and creativity to how they use our products," says Ken Lane, vice president of marketing for Reynolds Consumer Products. "We can't wait to see the ideas, tips and techniques they will be sharing with other moms in the coming months."
Merritt says her new role has already changed the way she works in her kitchen -- and yes, she really uses Reynolds products, raving about her first try of the company's slow-cooker liner, which she calls "a life-changer!"
"It is awesome because you line the crockpot with it, then just remove the bag when you're through. I made mac and cheese, and you can imagine what that in a slow cooker is going to look like -- a complete nightmare to clean up," she laughs.
"I was like, 'Where have you been all my life?'"
Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...