Category Archives: bloggers

BlogHer ’13: The one with all the links

I don’t want to just name-check a bunch of people I met at BlogHer. I’d prefer to list them logically, both as a reminder for myself and also to help you find new blogs that interest you. So here we go: hold onto your hats for a whistle-stop tour.

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My BlogHer family came ready-made for me by my wonderful and open-hearted roommates, who – like the best of parents – gave me both a safe space to come back to and the freedom to roam and have my own crazy BlogHer experience. I am more grateful to them than I can say. They just happen to be a thematic group as well, as they came together a long time ago and bonded over infertility, pregnancy loss, and adoption. They blog the hard topics with more courage, grace, and good humor than I could ever hope to have.

ALI bloggers
Justine of A Half-Baked Life
Kathy of Bereaved and Blessed
Erin of Will Carry On
Mel of Stirrup Queens
Amy of Life According to Johnny
Jamie of Sticky Feet

My crazy-night-out accomplices, who let me crash their gang at the Voices of the Year reception and sit on the floor with them; and if nobody sang karaoke, never let it be said that it was for want of my encouragement or enabling. They just happen to all be autism parenting bloggers.

Autism bloggers
Jean at Stimeyland
JennyAlice at Into the Woods, Living Deliberately
Kim at Autism Twins
Mir at Woulda Shoulda

(That night I also met a barman from Galway who’s been in Chicago twenty years. But I don’t think he blogs.) 

People I sat beside at lunch, or on the bus, or even on my flight home. They don’t really fall into a single handy category.

Parenting
Cheryl of Busy Since Birth
Kimberly from Red Shutters
Jolawn from Spelhouse Love 
Gina from Mom Psych
Ruby of Growing Up Blaxican
Louise of Single With
Allison of SilverSpiral
Melissa Langsam Braunstein, who I was standing right beside on the first morning, but didn’t end up introducing myself to until we turned out to be sitting beside each other on the flight home to DC.

Personal
Emily at Zweber Farms, who has the moo-est Moo cards ever.
Kailynn of Ginger Sass
Sarah of Bluegrass Redhead

Food
Stephie of Eat Your Heart Out
Stephanie of Sarcastic Cooking
Mary Fran of Franny Cakes, who filled me in on the vital difference between a macaron and a macaroon.

Style/fashion
Alice of Practically Stylish

Useful stuff
Sarah from USA Love List
Stephanie of SuperMom Tested
Kim and Lisa of Bliss-Chicks
Shannon of Social Moms
Kyle of ShopGab (Hey! You’re a guy!)

Everyone else
Joyce of The Voice of Joyce
Margaret of Nestache
Jenny of Jenny on the Spot
Jo of Media Mum
Kim of Save My Sunshine
Javacia of See Jane Write
Julie Danis
Blondie of Tales from Clark Street

Very important speaker-type people. I went to some really great conference sessions, but my favourites were the writing round-tables. Inspiration and entertainment in one great package. These gals are the pros, and I look forward to learning from their writing.

Turning a blogpost into an essay
Rita Arens at Surrender, Dorothy

The UnMarketing Manifesto
Veronica Arreola of Viva la Feminista
Jenna Hatfield of Stop Drop and Blog
Dresden of Creating Motherhood
Michelle of Burgh Baby

Humor bloggers
Pat Dunnigan of Suburban Kamikaze
Georgia Getz of Bossy
Krista of Effing Dykes
Elizabeth of Flourish in Progress

Anatomy of a story
Vikki of Up Popped A Fox
Jenny Chiu of Mommy Nani Booboo  
Nicole Blades of Ms. Mary Mack
Tanis Miller

Finally, I did manage to meet up with one blog crush. I was thrilled and delighted to meet Stacey of Is there Any Mommy Out There?, who was gracious and sweet and instead of running away when I twitter-stalked her, arranged to meet me in the lobby and let me yammer on at her for far too long. If you don’t already read Stacey’s beautiful, hilarious, eviscerating blog, please proceed directly there. She’s a writer who inspires me. Thank you, Stacey.

Maud and Stacey
I never know what to do with my hands, and it shows.

New-obsessions week, day 3: Coconut oil

If you heard there was an all-natural product that had inbuilt antiseptic properties and was an amazing moisturizer, and so pure you could actually eat it (and it would do you good on the inside too), and that on top of all this it smelled amazing, well, you’d go out and buy some, wouldn’t you?

Well, there is. It’s coconut oil. Go and get some. (Trader Joe’s does a good one for a great price, but they have it all over these days.)

There are a gazillion websites telling you all the bazillion things you can do with coconut oil, from using it as a coffee creamer to curing athlete’s foot to a personal lubricant (ahem) to polishing your furniture, so I won’t ennumerate them all. 

But so far I’ve been using it as a facial and body moisturizer, make-up remover and cleanser, and have put it on mosquito bites (sure, why not) and fried some chicken in it. (I scooped up about a third of the jar into a separate container to keep for cosmetic use, so that I’m not actually eating from the same jar that I’m slathering my cracked heels out of.) I have great plans to do some deep conditioning on my hair with it soon, and make a body scrub with sugar.

The interesting thing about this oil is that it’s liquid at 76 F and higher, and solid (like lard, for instance, or butter) below that. Coincidentally, 76 F is just about where our air conditioning is set in the summer, and upstairs is usually a little warmer. So at the moment, the jar in my bathroom is usually liquid while the one in the kitchen vacillates from one state to the other depending on whether the oven is on. It doesn’t matter; it can turn from solid to liquid and back multiple times daily without doing it any harm; though I do like the soft-butter consistency for a body moisturizer when I can get it.

But the best thing about it is the smell. Remember ages ago I was washing my face with olive oil? Well, that was nice and all, but I did get a little tired of smelling like a salad. No such problems here – unless you hate the scent of coconut, I suppose. Does anyone? Is that possible? Well, I don’t hate it, and to be honest, I would probably buy anything that smelled this good, no matter what was in it. The lovely all-naturalness is just a bonus.

16 oz coconut oil from Trader Joe's for $5.99

It was Emily at The Nest who first drew my attention to this wondrous stuff, and she keeps promising to do a big long post about it, so please do just consider this a mere preview of what the expert will tell us, just as soon as the expert is done taking five children to Germany and back, not to mention all the amazing crafting, painting, homeopathing, homeschooling, doll-making, and baking that she does on a daily basis. Go check out her lovely blog and tell her I sent you.

A very parenthetical list

So I thought if I put my to-do list here maybe it would shame me into getting something done. Something other than drinking cups of coffee and convincing myself that pie is a perfectly valid mid-morning snack. (It was apple pie. That’s fruit.)

(We have an apple pie because I went to a bloggers’ meetup last night and I felt so guilty about leaving B to get Mabel to sleep while simultaneously getting Dash to shut up and stay in his room and go to sleep that I made him a pie. Also because I’d intended to make it on Sunday but then I went shopping instead and bought lots of tops for me on clearance, and didn’t even look at children’s clothes, which is a thing of which I am very proud.)

(I have to give a shoutout to all the lovely DCMoms bloggers I met last night at the Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan where Jennifer and I went to break out of our comfort zones and meet new people and put not so much faces to names as heads on bodies. When you know people as a series of square headshots, it’s always surprising to find that they’re not all on the same level in real life – they’re tall and short and narrow and wide and simultaneously older looking and younger looking and more gorgeous and more approachable and more real in real life than you could possibly imagine from photos. I met Sandie and Allison and Rebecca and Jessica and Jean and Aimee and Elaine and Michelle and Robin and other people too, who I am not managing to remember just now, sorry.  And we ate delicious pizza and the people at the restaurant were really nice to us because they’re lovely people and you should check it out if you’re downtown.)

So without further ado here is my to-do list:

  • Make D’s dentist appointment
  • Fill in application to vote
  • Make appointment at post office for passport application
  • Make shopping list for the weekend’s baking extravaganza*
  • Clean house (but not too soon) (only downstairs)
  • Get B a birthday present of some sort
  • Bake something and freeze it to get a jump on the aforementioned baking extravaganza? 
  • Make pumpkin bread or black-bean brownies for school-lunch desserts
  • Bake bread for my insatiable carb-loving family
  • Sort out that big pile of papers over there
Messy pile of paper

*I have to explain about the baking extravaganza, and for that matter, why I only need to clean downstairs. It’s not that upstairs stays magically sparkly all by itself, but more that nobody will be seeing it so it doesn’t matter right now. We somehow have managed to schedule all our social events for the spring into this weekend – on Friday there’s a block party potluck thingy, for which I have to make something (it’ll be my old faithful kale and quinoa salad, because it’s yummy, vegetarian (even vegan), and can be eaten at any temperature). Then on Saturday there’s a house-party fundraiser for the nursery school, to which I said I’d bring a dessert – as yet undecided; what goes with delicious white sangria made by a real Spaniard? Something fruity . . . jello shots, maybe? And then on Sunday we’re having a party here, hence the house-cleaning part.

Not a kids’ party either. An honest-to-goodness real grown-up party, although it will essentially end up being like all the kids’ parties with grownups that we’ve thrown in the past. But my my adored and much-put-upon husband is turning a significant multiple of ten (hint: more than 30, less than 50) on the 25th, and since I have no idea what to give him, I’m baking him a Guinness cake and making other things he likes and inviting over some of his friends and their children and hoping everyone will have a pretty nice time.

So I have to get plenty of sleep and not have any hangovers and be on top of my game for all that. Yup, that’ll happen. Tell you what, you bribe Mabel to stay asleep all night, and I’ll bake a cake for you as well.

Perfect two

Years ago, years and years ago, we took a few days in the Wesht of Ireland, and we drove there in my tiny wafer-thin car, and at some point along the road to Clifden, or Roundstone, or somewhere like that, I conjured up our imaginary future children in the back seat and made some brave, foolhardy even, remark about how young Ermingarde and Lavinia would react to whatever nonsense had just been said. Not to mention the little fella. We had to think for the little fella’s name, but settled on Murgatroyd, which is the name of a duck, for reasons that are not actually clear to me.

To be honest, I don’t even know if Lavinia was Lavinia, though I know Ermingarde was definitely Ermingarde, unless she was Ermintrude.

That was probably the first time we discussed our imaginary offspring. No, that’s not true. We first discussed names when we’d been going out only a few months, less than a year, certainly; and at the tender age of not yet 21, that’s a long time to be dating and still early on for such weighty discussions. We were in Lisbon, on a bench in the gardens of the Monastery of Jeronimos, I believe, though that’s not important; I’m just giving you a sense of place. B had mentioned that he was partial to a particular girl’s name, and I commented that, since putting it together with his last name would make the name of a famous film star, that would not be practical. Our friend appeared around the corner just as I was saying, “Well, if we have a girl, I’m not naming her that,” and was justifiably a little concerned, no matter how much I reassured her that the whole conversation was extremely hypothetical.

But by the time we were driving to Roundstone it was eight years later and it was all just that little bit less hypothetical, even though at that point our permanent residences were an ocean apart and we hadn’t quite figured out how to get around that fact. This was the trip where we both agreed that we wanted to get around it, although it took another 18 months for events to conspire to let that happen. 

And I think it was then, after conjuring Ermingarde and Murgatroyd and their sister, whoever she was, that we agreed that 2.5 was a good number of children. Two and a half. Very sensible, though maybe not entirely practical. Two, with an option on a third, was how we left it.

And thus it stayed, for a long time. But the option has never been taken up, and it’s due to expire very soon, if it hasn’t already done so. Maybe it’s because I can’t remember what the other girl was called. Maybe it’s because I can’t even imagine having another girl or another boy; or not having one or the other. By which I mean, that if a hypothetical third child was a girl, I’d still be sorry about the boy she wasn’t. And if it was a boy, likewise.

So I think two is it. And two is perfect, because we have two perfect children, no matter how much and how often they drive us both demented, individually and one at a time, and we want to run away and drink a lot of wine and sleep forever. We’ll still keep ’em.


This post is part of a virtual baby shower in honour of two of the Irish bloggers who have welcomed and are about to welcome their own perfect second children. Many congratulations to Aine of (the currently on hiatus) AndMyBaby and Lisa of Mama.ie.

Yesterday’s post in the bloghop was by Laura at My Internal World, and tomorrow’s will be from Kieran at Go Dad Go.

And today’s mystery letter is S.

Present disculpatory

Apparently I was a little distracted when putting Mabel to bed last night. She wrapped herself up in my big brown blanket and I totally forgot that we hadn’t put a nighttime pullup on her. So at eleven thirty she woke up all wet and it took a long time to get her back to sleep.

My big brown blanket is now in the wash.

I’m busy. Which is good. I like to be busy when it’s just the right amount – not overwhelming, not stressful, just busy enough to give me a sense of purpose and a good excuse when the children come wanting me to be a mommy cheetah. (I said “Miaow,” but apparently cheetahs don’t miaow. They don’t roar either. They make a high-pitched chirping noise. I find this hard to believe. I am suspicious of my children’s television-acquired knowledge.)

I’m busy getting us back to normal, whatever that is, but also trying to start exercising again – running and yoga, I’ve decided, this year/semester/term/week – and doing a small freelance job, as well as the writing course I’m taking from Alice Bradley (the wonderful, hilarious Finslippy, and I only partly said that because she might be reading). [Alice Bradley is reading my blog. Hyperventilate, hyperventilate, spend an hour browsing past posts to try to read them with a stranger’s eye; fail.]

And then I had to restock our supplies of peanut-butter and tinned tomatoes and boxes upon boxes of Cheerios (they were on special offer), as well as trying to keep the house from falling into a state of absolute squalor (some squalor is fine, just not absolute), and have a cup of tea every now and then and eat a muffin (somebody’s gotta do it) and also see above re laundry, and so that, what I’m trying to say, is why I didn’t update the blog yesterday.

Live and let die

As we rounded the gentle curves of Dublin’s M50 this afternoon, death was on the children’s minds. In the abstract, probably because we visited an old graveyard in Waterford two days ago and pottered around reading the interesting headstones in the almost-rain.

(Personally, I liked this one, which went off in a big old name-dropping tangent about her brother who had sailed with Captain Cook, even though he wasn’t buried there at all:

[This Stone was Erected in memory of M[iss] Mary Dinn of Passage E. a mark of her burial ground and in memory of her Father Nicholas, her Mother [indecipherable], her Brother Martin, her Sisters, particularly of her brother William Dinn (alias Doyle) who sailed round the globe with Capt. COOK  and was present at the death of that Great Circumnavigator at [illegible] and who died respected and regretted at Stoke near Devonport in England in June 1840 (?), having spent a long life as a warrant Officer in the Service of his Country.]

)

(Speaking of tangents. Ahem.)

This weekend I travelled the length and breadth of half the small country for bloggy meetups, wherein I was lucky enough to meet some of the Lovely Irish Bloggers (not their real name) and put names to faces and faces to blogs for Musings of a Hostage-Mother, Mind The Baby, Mama.ie, Proper Fud, and the currently-on-hiatus And My Baby.

As we drove back from today’s assignation, during which my most accommodating spouse had taken the children to IKEA, because why not, it’s like a little home from home with ice cream, we listened to the Bond theme tunes CD I had put on in the car as a tiny nod to his great service to the blogger good. So at the start of each track – or preferably just before the start, since they were playing in film order – he would announce to us all which song it would be and by what artist.

(You know the way some fathers wait impatiently for the day they can show their sons (or daughters) Star Wars? Well, Dash has seen all six Star Wars movies (in original airing order), but what his father is really waiting for is the day when they can both sit down and appreciate the full oevre of Connery through Craig, including Lazenby for completeness.)

In between these public service announcements, the children posed the following tricky questions:

Mabel: How do the dead people get into the coffins?

Dash: So, do people who go to church believe in ghosts except that they all exist in another universe?

The first was more easily answered than the second, which I think we are still working on.

(Edited after first posting to correct the date of death on the gravestone to a much more likely century. Sorry about that.)

A Half-Baked Auction

Bake sale! Buy baked goods for Christmas! Contribute to a good cause! Help victims of Hurricane Sandy!

Go to A Half-Baked Life today or tomorrow and bid on some delicious home-baked goodies to fill in that awkward gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas, to give to your loved ones, or to pass off as your own creations.

The white-chocolate-chip-cranberry cookies and the gingerbread muffins are my contributions, but I also highly recommend JeCaThRe’s oatmeal cookies, and I bet everything else listed is just as good, if not better.

Sorry, no overseas shipping. If you’re in Ireland, maybe we can do a deal over Christmas, though.

Many thanks to JHL for organizing this in aid of a great cause.

Good deeds and pumpkin bread

Remember Hurricane Sandy? Way back when? Oh so long ago, before Halloween and Mabel’s birthday and November started and all that stuff. We bunked in the basement and the wind blew and things got wet. Ancient history, right?

But not so much for people in New Jersey and New York who are still deep, deep in the throes of cleaning up, recalibrating their lives, starting over, and somehow at the same time getting through the day-to-day requirements of staying warm and fed and dry. Not to mention the fact that nature threw a snowstorm at them a week ago.

Justine lives in New Jersey, and she’s going to use her lovely blog for even more good than usual – as if thoughtful posts, delicious food, and lovely pictures weren’t enough – by hosting an online auction for bloggers’ baked goods on November 26th. As I both blog and bake, I offered to take part. You can read more about it here, and I’ll link again when it’s happening. I predict there will be delicious things available for a really good cause, so you might want to bear it in mind.

Baking a Difference for the Garden State logo

I won’t be making pumpkin bread for it, as a loaf would be pretty heavy to ship, but apparently there’s a great outcry for this, perhaps by now my signature recipe. It’s certainly one thing I bake that both children will eagerly eat.

I found it on the internet somewhere but I’m afraid I’ve no idea where at this point, and the addition of chocolate chips is my own, so it’s almost original. Or else so ubiquitous that it can’t belong to anyone.

Pumpkin Bread
(chocolate chips optional but recommended)

1.5 cups (200g) all-purpose flour (or you could probably use half white, half wholewheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 cup (200g) white (granulated) sugar
1 cup (200g) pumpkin puree (half a 14oz tin)
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup (60ml) water

1/2 cup (85g) chocolate chips (I like semi-sweet)

Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices together in a large bowl.
Mix the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a medium bowl.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just combined.
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Pour into a prepared loaf tin and bake at 350 F (180 C) for one hour or until a skewer comes out clean (without hitting a chocolate chip).

P.S. What do you think of the new banner? Seasonal, yes, but does it make the title hard to read or not? Feedback welcome.

Lofty aspirations

I registered for BlogHer. See, I have a logo and everything. (Look right. Down a bit.)

I have no idea how that will go, but what the heck. There was an early-bird deal, so the actual conference ticket was as inexpensive as it could possibly be (unless I had sponsorship or something, I suppose). If I can’t go, or chicken out, I can transfer the ticket to someone else any time before the end of June, and I’m sure it would be pretty easy to find someone to take it.

It’s in Chicago, which is not exactly down the road, but a flight for one isn’t going to break the bank. I suppose now it’ll be in DC again in 2014, but if I’d waited it wouldn’t ever be. I’ll have to find someone to share a room with; I think there are forums to link up with people. If you’re reading and you’re going and you need a roomie, hi! Consider me! I’m quite tidy and I don’t think I snore.

I don’t know what I expect to get out of BlogHer. I know it’s a huge conference. I know there’ll be bloggers there I read but am too shy to talk to. I know there’ll be bloggers there I’ll start reading afterwards. I hope I’ll meet some people who might start reading my blog. I hope I can manage not to die obsessing about what I’m wearing and how my hair looks the whole time. (Honestly, my hair usually looks good if I make any sort of effort. I’ll be obsessing about how thin I am or am not.) I hope it will not be anything like high school.

Mostly, though, I want to go because more and more I’m identifying as a blogger. It’s what I am, while I’m a mom and an editor (on hiatus) and an ex-pat and a wife. I don’t want to put ads here at this point, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have nearly enough traffic to bother, but I would love it a lot if some day this could become part of, or lead to, something that brought in a portion of income.

So I’m going to go to a conference, because blogging is my self-appointed, not-for-profit job.

Past lives

What I really want to do is retire to bed with my laptop and blog my little fingers out. But that’ll have to wait until I’ve finished all this homework-enforcing (not happening), dinner-producing (only grudgingly; didn’t I feed you two just last week?), bed-putting-to (on my own; husband has watertight excuse of PTA meeting), and nose-wiping (constant, unending, soul destroying) that I have to do for HOURS and HOURS until that glorious moment will finally come.

However, since making the grown-ups’ dinner just involves shovelling some of yesterday’s lasagne onto a plate and thence into the microwave, and I’ve given up on the homework for the moment and they’re watching their beloved TV programme, I’m just going to start this right now in the brief, blessed peace. Standing up here at the kitchen counter is not quite the same as cosily in my bed, but it’ll have to do. It’s closer for nose-wiping purposes anyway.

Kate Takes 5 of the Lovely Irish Bloggers (not their official name) started (started? perpetuated?) a meme this morning, asking what we did before we were “just a mum”. (Just.)

I did a few things. I did a lot of things. I became an excellent waitress when I was 16. And again every year until I was 21. I tended bar in North Beach in San Francisco for a summer. I had regulars who came in just to chat to me on Monday evenings when business was slow. I dated a German who was five years older than me and had a car so he could show me the sights. I camped in Yosemite with my best friend and hiked down from Half-Dome and was beware of bears and ate pizza beside a family of raccoons.

I spent a year in Spain, studying. I mean, “studying”. I can order two beers in six languages.

I got a job in a software company in Dublin during the boom times, despite knowing very little about computers. I didn’t need to; I was an editor. These days software companies have mostly let go of the editing function, but back in the late nineties the software company people were happy to employ a whole department of us to give comma-placement workshops to the technical writers and spend our staff meetings discussing the proper use of the en-dash. Happy, happy times. I had finally found My People.

It was an Irish company, but head office was based in California. I got sent to Redwood City for a month to do, um, something; I forget what. I had a rental car, an apartment, and a company credit card. The following year I was sent to Phoenix, Arizona for a month to train someone. Or something; I forget what. I had a rental car, an apartment, a credit card, and I got to see the Grand Canyon.

This shiny photo of a photo is of me taking a very small hike in Sedona, Arizona. It was pretty nice. Also, I had good hair.

Right now I’m locked in my own bedroom while my overexcited, overtired, anarchic children are whispering on the other side about screwdrivers and sticky tape. I have threatened the light sabers and the halloween candy and none of it has borne fruit and I don’t know how to do bedtime on my own tonight. My hair is greying and in need of a cut.

I thought I was tired when I swept the restauraunt floors at 2am and was back there opening up at 8 the next morning. I thought I could be diplomatic, and firm yet empathetic, when dealing with a managee who started crying in a meeting. I knew I could be organized and systematic when booking a department of engineers travel for a conference in Vegas. I felt I could be convincing and persuasive when arguing my point to a room of non-editors.

I didn’t know I was still in training. This one is the hardest job yet.