"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BlogHer Countdown

Do you know the way to San Jose?...

Right about now thousands of bloggers are pondering that exact question. Well, that, and also what to wear. It's time for the 10th annual BlogHer Conference, this year being held in the techie heart of Silicon Valley. 

It's a circling of the laptops, a pilgrimage of the tribe, a search for shared truths, knowledge...and just maybe commercial sponsorship and book deals. Fingers crossed.

Personally, for my own maiden voyage to the blogging center of the universe, I am hoping to learn how to make my "share" buttons bigger and enjoy what I am sure will be a hilarious and insightful keynote address by blogger and author, Jenny Lawson (pictured here) AKA, The Bloggess. No pressure, Jenny. 
In preparation, I have uploaded this year's BlogHer app on my phone, perused the Blogher Guide, confirmed reservations and read reviews of previous conferences by bloggers who have been there, done that. From what I can surmise, it appears what was once a cozy get together of like-minded cyber souls has morphed into something bigger, shinier and arguably more powerful. Since none of us really hanker for sweeping change of any sort, reviews of the upgraded event are mixed.
To combat the clique-ishness and sense of overwhelm that invades most established conferences, BlogHer has ramped up opportunities for Skype meet-and-greets with other attendees in advance, and initiated a BlogHer Buddy System -designed to pair up new initiates with veteran conference goers.

Since my natural tendency veers toward introvert, I initially thought I would adopt a default, lone wolf approach -until I read the bios of a few of the volunteer Buddies: Patricia A. Patton is the blogger behind Boomer Wizdom, a trained linguist who once sold wild salmon burgers on the Jersey Shore and recently launched the website OnlineGrannies.com for "modern grandmothers"; Mona Darling from Darling Propaganda spent 20 years as a dominatrix before become a mommy blogger and life coach; Ananda Leek of Digital Sisterhood is a former lawyer who now describes her mission as, "Empowering U2BU through creativity coaching, Reiki, self-care, social media, volunteerism, and yoga.” And Alexandra Rosas of Good Day Regular People, is a first generation American who has performed as a national storyteller with TheMoth, and is the Grand StorySLAM champion for Milwaukee.
Who wouldn't want to meet these people?
I immediately checked out their blogs, signed up for their Twitter feeds -and plan on stalking them, seeking them out, at "chat groups" on site at the conference. Watch for selfies here...
Bottom line, it should be interesting. Do I know the way to San Jose? Yes. The question I most look forward to answering, however, is where will I go from there?

Stay tuned -and follow my progress on Twitter @ThsAmericanHome. Wish me luck peeps! Bigger buttons here I come!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Life's a Beach: Sandcastles

 It's July 22 have you built a sandcastle yet?

If not, there's still time to grab a shovel, a bucket and head to the beach.

When you do, pack sunscreen and a few tips I learned from Bruno, a professional sandcastle craftsman (really!) who plies his trade at a Caribbean resort. Some people have all the luck...On the day I took these photos, Bruno was actually on his own vacation in Rockport, Massachusetts and without his regular tools -but still willing to entertain an enthusiastic audience.
 Bruno's Beach Building Tips:
1. Have fun!
2. Keep the sand damp with hoses (when available), buckets of water or spray bottles. The moisture helps pack the sand and keep it molded in shape.
 3. A sturdy shovel is essential! He dug the sand into high, dense piles before beginning to carve. The stairs were made using the edge of the shovel, and the windows using the pointy tip.
 4. Let your imagination go!

 5. Use a garden rake as a finishing tool to create a 'frame' for the masterpiece. A simple step makes a big difference!
6. When possible build it far enough away from the tide that your kingdom will endure -at least for a little while...
 7. Finally, sign your artwork!
8. Then sit back and enjoy the view, you are officially summer royalty.

Friday, July 18, 2014

New Bookazine: Organize! Back-to-School

 My newest bookazine, Organize! Back-to-School has finally hit store shelves! Woohooo!
(After weeks of research, interviews and writing --seeing it come together never gets old!)

Organize! Back-to-School features tips and advice from organizational pros, teachers, health and wellness specialists, educational experts and authorities on a wide variety of kid stuff. It's designed to be a guide for getting your student (and yourself!) ready for a successful new school year from Pre-school through college.
My favorite part of writing a bookazine (or any project) is the people I meet in the process and this journey was no exception. I have found that it is usually the busiest, most successful and professional experts who are willing to share their time and expertise to speak with me. I know you'll meet my new friends when you pick up a copy of Organize! but many of them have books, blogs, podcasts and great Twitter followings of their own.  Not to mention, they're just plain awesome. 

To go behind the scenes check out: Karen Bantuveris at VolunteerSpot.com; Joshua Becker on his blog, Becoming Minimalist; Dr. Nancy Berk through her book or her radio show, Whine at 9; teacher Susan Case on her blog, Kindergarten Basics; Eddy Chavey AKA Mr. Breakfast on his website by the same name; Donna Goldberg via her book or her website, Organized Student; Kristen Howton on her clever blog, Rage Against the Minivan; Katie Hurley in her upcoming book or blog, Practical Katie; Kathy Jenkins at TheOrganizingTutor.com; Leslie Josel on her website Order Out of Chaos; Katie Norris on her blog, Mommy With Selective Memory; Maureen Owens on her website Organized by Owens; Mary Pankiewicz on her website Clutter Free & Organized; Debbie Pincus on her website; Steve Pines at the Education Industry Association; Dr. Roland Rotz on his website; Janice Russell at Minding Your Matters; Heidi Shulz on her website, Heidi Shulz; Helene Segura at Living Order; Geralin Thomas on her blog and website, Metropolitan Organizing; author Jim Trelease on his website; and the Manners Lady, Judi Vankevich at The Manners Club.

Several of the amazing educators I spoke with don't have blogs or websites to visit, but I was thankful and tremendously inspired by the dedication, commitment and A+ advice from veteran teachers: Michelle Martin, Nancy Lopez, Patsy Sarmiento, DeAnna Shelton, Danielle VanDivort, and Lisa Kilcourse. You rock!
In addition to the pros whose expertise informed the content, the whole shebang would not have come together without the amazing (and patient) editing skills of Susan Elkin; the sharp eye of copy editor Laurie Lieb; photo researcher Livy Sandro; editorial consultant Barbara Stewart; and 22 MediaWorks president and creative director Lary Rosenblatt. I feel privileged and blessed to have been a part of such a winning team and an inspiring project. 
 I asked a total stranger to take this...okay, crazy lady...I may have scared her.
Right next to Beach Horses...of course.
See you at the news stand! I'll be the one lingering and rearranging the bookazines...

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