Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Interview with "From Smiler, with Love!"

When I started participating in the meme Thursday 13 I was immediately drawn to Smiler's blog. She is a world traveler, a talented writer, posts about stuff I never knew existed - and poses in the bathtub! She's way cooler and smarter than I ever hope to be, and this was my chance to pick her brain on how she thinks the universe, or at least blogging, opperates.

Q: Why did you start a blog?
I started From Smiler, with Love to help me communicate with friends and close family members who live all over the world. It allows me to easily exchange with my mother who lives in France on a daily basis. She’s a writer and we enjoy bouncing ideas off each other. My father who lives in Israel is also a regular reader. Another reason I started this blog was because I needed a creative project that could encompass my eclectic tastes. I worked in magazine publishing for a number of years so it seemed like a natural fit, while giving me the kind of freedom I could only dream of when working with print.

Q: What has blogging brought to your life?
It’s given me a sense of continuity. I’ve traveled and changed living arrangements many times in my life, so it’s nice to know that wherever I go, the blog will still be there, and that I’ll still have access to some of the people I enjoy exchanging with regularly. It’s also given me a place where I can put down seemingly random things, and write out some of my memories and somehow find a continuous narrative through it all. That’s ended up being very therapeutic for me, especially when I find other readers responding to some of my experiences.

Q: What advice do you have for new bloggers?
Keep in mind that there isn’t a “right” and a “wrong” way to blog, so don’t be afraid to explore and experiment. Visiting other blogs will give you an idea of what some of the possibilities are for your own blog. I’d say do keep in mind though that everything you write on your blog ends up on the web and you have no control over who reads it so if you’re not sure you should share certain things, it’s best to save a draft and come back to it again fresh. Also, don’t worry about traffic at first. That takes a while to get going and gives you the opportunity to build up content so when new visitors come they’ll find more reasons to want to come back.

Q: What are your favorite blogs?
There are too many to name here which is why I’ve created a page especially for all my links which is aptly named Link Love

Q: I see motherhood as…
A lot of work! I seriously admire moms who are able to be so giving and put their own needs second, as is usually required, especially if there are young children to take care of. I don’t think every woman is necessarily cut out to be a mother and I came to the conclusion I was one of those. I’d rather put what little energy I have into creative projects such as writing, photography and painting. I’m always very careful when I talk about that around moms because I don’t want to make anybody feel like I don’t aprove of their choices which couldn’t be further from the truth. I just think to each her own and we’re amazingly lucky to live in a society where we can make those choices for ourselves.

Q: What keeps you going?
I’m a student of life. A lot of times just getting out of bed seems like a major accomplishment since I’ve been battling with a serious mood disorder all my life and the depressions are debilitating. But no matter what, there’s always something new to discover. Everything is an inspiration to me and I see many things as possible material for a creative project. That’s what keeps me going. If there were nothing to feed my curiosity and no outlets for my creativity, I don’t think I’d be interested in going on. Luckily it’s not possible to ever run out of either.

Q: Name an artist, photographer, musician, or author that you like or admire:
I’ll name just one from each category (it’s hard enough to narrow it down to one!)
Designer: Milton Glaser. Because he’s more than an artist or a designer, he’s a mastermind.
Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White. For a long time photography was practiced almost exclusively by men. She was one of the great women pioneers in news photography.
Musician: impossible to narrow down, but I’ll say Schubert (composer)
Author: Kahlil Gibran (for The Prophet)

Q: What inspires you?
Practically everything! Travel, nature, city, people, animals, objects. The one which usually blocks my creativity is an office setting.

Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and what would you do there?
I actually posted a partial list of 13 places for TT a few weeks ago. I’d really love to go to India eventually take photographs and stay in an ashram for a few weeks. But more immediately I’d like to go to France to see my mother and spend some time in Israel to see my dad.

Q: What's your favorite gift to give?
We’ve never been big gift givers in my family, but I like giving books mostly.

Q: In 2008 …
I’ll continue living one day and one moment at a time.

-- Peace, love & namaste!

Please be sure to check out some of my interviews including:

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Too much going on -- I need to take a break until Friday.

Please check back with me then for my interview with the amazing Smiler!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

WFMW - Our RED Valentine's Day Menu

When it comes to holidays that are entwined with cuisine, Valentine’s Day ranks high on the list. We’ve been married too long to battle the crowds, and with this year’s Valentine’s Day falling during the week we’re celebrating with a simple RED meal at home. We’ll be lighting the candles (I believe in doing this EVERY night), putting on some nice music and quizzing the boys about what girls they might have a crush on.

Our Menu
Salad: Spring salad mix, Craisin’s cranberries, pine nuts and balsamic vinaigrette
Tomato-Basil Risotto
Chicken Parmesan
Red Velvet Cupcakes (see video)

Wisit other Works for Me Wednesday particpants here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My Interview with Anne Glamore of My Tiny Kingdom!

If I could pick my neighbors, I’d want Anne Glamore, of My Tiny Kingdom fame, to live next door. She’s glamour-ous, loves her kids madly, and has a kick ass sense of humor. I read her blog so much that I’m afraid that if she checks her stats she’ll think I’m a stalker.

:: Why did you start a blog?

I did it because my friend, Halsted Sullivan, who is a Hollywood writer and thus very plugged in, suggested it. He'd been the recipient of many of my Tales over the years, and we'd talked about putting them together in book form. We'd get all excited about it, then I'd go off and have spine surgery, or twins, and the idea would get pushed aside.

In early 2005 he emailed me about blogs and told me I should start one. I looked at a couple and thought it was a great medium for me.

I viewed the blog as a way to discipline myself to write on a weekly basis, with the hope of developing an audience acting as a motivator. Halsted was convinced that publishers were trolling the web looking for writers, and that something bigger could develop.

Fifteen minutes after we concluded our emails back and forth, I set up the blog-- from work. (I'd never heard of Dooce.)

As it turned out, Halsted and I were both right. I've kept up a regular writing schedule for three years now, and I'd only been blogging for 5 months when I was contacted by a national women's website and asked to become one of their first five bloggers.

:: What has blogging brought to your life?

It sounds trite, but blogging has opened up a whole new world for me. I had no idea all these people were out there writing about knitting, or pottery, or cooking.

I've made friends blogging-- people I've never actually met but don't hesitate to call or email for advice, like Busymom, Suburban Turmoil, Boomama, and MetroDad.

Technical stuff is not my thing, but to the extent anyone's the expert in my house, it's now me. My HTML coding skills have been hard won. I've slogged through Flickr, installing ads, setting up Facebook and MySpace pages, and podcasting.

Blogging has also presented me with some fabulous opportunities: writing for iVillage, getting to speak at a seminar with Gay Talese and Richard Schickel, speaking engagements and writing assignments for local magazines.

I have a fantastic record of the last three years. I might not have remembered some really old stories, like the time I finally concluded Porter wasn't a complete idiot.

Blogging has made me a better writer, especially when I have a deadline. I'm also a more ruthless editor. I used to save every word. Now I'll write four paragraphs and realize that the last sentence is the beginning of the story and delete the rest without sobbing.

On days when I look around my house and think my whole life is Tostito crumbs and dresser drawers left open, I can look at my blog and see something I've accomplished that doesn't bleed, scream, complain, or ask for lunch money. It's a wonderful addition to the family.

:: What advice do you have for new bloggers?

My advice differs depending on a blogger's purpose. For this question, I'm going to assume that you're like me, and that you see the blog as more than just a place to spill your guts and drama.

From the beginning, I've hoped, and still do, that the blog would lead to bigger and better things. I've set goals for myself. The first year I learned how things worked technically, tried to find my voice, found a schedule that worked, and learned about creating a blogroll. Last year I worked on marketing the site, and really increased my readership. This year I'm expanding into podcasting and selling myself, not just my writing.

Listen to your readers, because they'll let you know what they enjoy reading and what doesn't quite work. Comments can teach you whether a joke came across or got lost. Occasionally I'll just ask a reader what they liked about something, and people have been great about responding. I often go back and edit old entries to improve them.

Read other sites, so you know what the new hot thing is and whether you want to try it, whether it's Twittering, the Blogrush widget, Feedjit, or whatever.

From the beginning, and until very recently, I viewed my blog as a place to publish "stories," and that's what I did. Twice a week I'd publish posts that are long by typical standards, and they'd be polished and edited. This is because I started by posting stories that had already been written, and then my iVillage columns were essay-like, not stream of consciousness. The result is that I've built up quite a portfolio of columns that are between 800 and 1500 words, which is great.

The down side is that I rarely published short posts that captured the mundane or frustrating parts of life, because I just wouldn't have time to write them up and polish them to my standards. I think readers enjoy those tiny moments, though, and so I'm trying to sprinkle in more posts that are just dashed off. Yesterday's post about the snow is an example. I'm a Type A lawyer, and I can get caught up in taking the whole thing so damn seriously! New bloggers should avoid that trap, as it will suck the life out of you. Plus, you'll burn lots of dinners and your family will protest.

:: What are your favorite blogs?

Dude! I have a feed reader full of blogs, but I don't mind hurting some feelings by pulling out a few as my particular favorites.

Consumerist- I'm hooked on this site, in which consumers tell tales of customer service woe. Sometimes a former employee of a national chain such as Best Buy (ALWAYS getting smacked on here) or Radio Shack will reveal how they're trained to treat customers. Maybe there will be a story about a store that refused to accept cash for a purchase and insisted on a credit card. Every once in a while they'll post emails and phone numbers of the head honchos at big corporations so a hapless customer can bomb the company with emails in an attempt to get justice. It's a kick.

Smitten Kitchen- Deb and I wrote together at iVillage and then she launched this beautiful cooking site. She has a post where she reveals how she creates such breathtaking food photos. I admire her ability to take them, because when I write about cooking I generally forget to take a picture until the meal has been eaten, and I just have a shot of a plate with a few crumbs. In case I forget to write about it myself, go read her post where she adapts The Red Cat's zucchini recipe, because Aunt Lulu and I made it over New Years and it totally rocked. Plus, Aunt Lulu says D'Agostino's carries zucchini already cut into matchsticks, so this dish is now super simple for those in New York City.

Perez Hilton- Yeah, I'm snobby and highbrow and read The New Yorker every week, but I've been known to panic when my US Weekly fails to arrive on time. I also need a daily shot of Perez, mainly to check on Amy Winehouse. He's as obsessed with her as I am, but has better sources.

Flotsam- She's a beautiful writer, whether she's being funny, which she frequently is, or whether she's going through an extremely tough time, as she is now. Her voice is true and distinct.

Pub Rants - I keep up with plenty of literary agents' sites. Kristin's is updated regularly, sounds like a note from an old friend, and often contains bits of wisdom that I hope to need in the future. She's located in Denver, which is unusual in that most agents are in NYC, but she has an enviable client list, so clearly her location is no drawback. Also, her music rocks.

:: Being a mom is…..

Being a mom is a job that requires me to argue with the persuasiveness of a lawyer, to pray with the fervor of a pastor, to mop blood automatically like a nurse, and to cook what's on the menu and accept both compliments and complaints like a chef. I issue orders brusquely like a captain, I rule on fashion choices with the certitude of Tim Gunn, I schedule activities with the expertise of Oprah's personal assistant. I rule in arguments with a judge's wisdom. I dispense money, factoring in fines and pay, with the mathematical genius of a CPA. The mom part comes in when you find yourself doing something you swore you'd never do, like pulling a booger out of your kid's nose, or spitting on your finger and wiping that smudge of Ovaltine off his mouth because it's picture day at school.

Mothering can consume you, but if being a mother is preventing you from making love, you’re carrying things way too far.

:: What keeps you going?

The alarm clock and the promise of the morning's first cup of coffee.

:: Name an artist, photographer, musician, or author that you like or admire.

It's hard to beat E.B. White's essays. They're simple and evocative. Plus, I'm in love with his dog, Fred.

:: What inspires you?

Whoa, that's a deep question.

:: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and what would you do there?

I'd like to take the whole family to China. I've never been, and it would be thrilling to see a culture that's so different. We're way into trying wacky food, and China ought to provide plenty of opportunities for that. Most important, there's been a long-running debate in our family between the twins and Finn as to whether the Great Wall is held together by sticky rice (the twins' view) or a more standard substance such as mortar or mud. No one will be satisfied until we view it in person.

:: What's your favorite gift to give?

A book called Bitter With Baggage Seeks Same- The Life and Times of Some Chickens by Sloane Tanen.

In 2008… I'm going to keep cooking fancy dinners for my family, but I'm going to relax and not treat the recipe like the Bible. If the recipe calls for pearl onions, which are a pain in the ass to peel, and red wine, and I'm out, I'm tossing in regular onions or shallots and some port or sherry and the hell with it. It'll eat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday 13 - Go Go Google Gadgets

Gadgets powered by Google are miniature objects created by users that that can be placed on your iGoogle homepage. Google is so good at this stuff I’m hoping they’ll move in and run my life. Thirteen of my favorite gadgets on my iGoogle pages include:

:: A reader link to 43 Folders
:: Recipe links to: Simply Recipes, My Recipies and CD Kitchen's crockpot recipes
:: Thinkmap's Visual Thesaurus to help improve my vocabulary.
:: National Geographic's Picture of the Day – incredibly inspiring
:: A reader link to Zen Habits. This site rocks my world.
:: A reader link to Lifehack because there is so much I don’t know.
:: Zytu's Interesting Photos of the Day from Flickr.
:: A weight Watchers point calendar (I joined WW last week)
:: Mark Mason's Daily Photo Tip
:: Brain candy for Artist of the Day
:: WikiHow's How to of the Day
:: My Google calendar and
:: Comedy Central's Joke of the Day. I am totally addicted to blonde jokes.

I’m sure I’m missing some great ones. Are there any you recommend? Which ones can you not live without?

Link to other Thursday Thirteen Participants here.
Please check back here tomorrow when I post
my interview with Anne Glamore of
My Tiny Kingdom!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Looking for a free version to your phone service's 411? Try Google's version for business numbers and locations by calling 1-800-GOOG-411. Check it out for yourself or watch this clip for more information:

YouTube - 1-800-GOOG-411: Google's 411 service

Please check back here Friday when I post
my interview with Anne Glamore of My Tiny Kingdom!
And be sure to check out my post Friday featuring
my interview with Ann Kroeker!
She has a lot of good information for bloggers!
Check out other great ideas at Shannon's Works for Me Wednesday
on her blog Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Honoring Dr. King

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

- Dr. Martin Luther King
I Have a Dream

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