House TalkN is a fun lookiloo at houses, houses, houses. It will answer pressing questions like, "When folks build a McMansion on a small lot, what are they compensating for?" or "Was the real estate agent drunk when they staged this house?" or "Why don't the Smiths' ever leave their drapes open when I am on a harmless walk-by?"

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Awkward Moments At BlogHer

Yesterday, I shared how amazing it was to meet my friends that live in the computer at the Blogher Conference.
Today, I am telling the rest of the story. There were a few...ahem...awkward moments.
Here you go...


If you went to BlogHer and your loved ones are sick of hearing about it, come back tomorrow and link up your BlogHer recap. It's a link par-taay, yo'!
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Friends That Live In The Computer

Whenever I reference one of my online friends, unnamed loved ones often ask, "You mean your friends that live in your computer?"
Why, yes. Yes, I do mean those friends. 
When I started blogging, I had no idea that I would really and truly become friends with women I had never had gin and tonic coffee with. Women whose voices I had never heard. Women that were making their way in the world- in cities far away from my own.
Women's friendships are powerful and no one was shocked more than I to find that online friendships can be equally powerful. 
Many of us met at BlogHer Conference last weekend. While the conference was informative and my head is still reeling with all that I learned, the best part of the conference was connecting with my online friends.
Many of these pictures were snapped on our phones (excuse the lack of quality photography) but they capture the experience perfectly. 
We were thrilled that Ilana of Mommy Shorts brought her cutiedoodle baby. 
"Fairy Blogmothers"
Robyn of Hollow Tree Ventures is possibly the sweetest (and funniest...and smartest) person on the planet.
This is just me...holding Keesha of Mom's New Stage and Ilana of Mommy Shorts just a little too tightly. My bad. 
A trip to Chicago would not be complete without a wild cab ride and cab dancing.
Elevator shenanigans with Kim of Let Me Start By Saying, Kelley of Kelley's Breakroom and Katy of Katy in a Corner.
Due to my constant photobombing, Anna of My Life and Kids and Hillary of Because My Life is Fascinating mocked my skill. 
My favorite photobombing moment was with Katy of I Want a Dumpster Baby and Rebecca of Frugalista.
These ladies are hilarious! Janel of 649.133 Girls, the Care and Raising Of, Nicole of Ninja Mom, Stephanie of I'm Still Learning, and Kim of Let Me Start By Saying.
Ellen and Erin put the "sisterhood" in the Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms! 

One of the best parts of the conference was gathering for meals. Nothing brings women together like carbs and booze good conversation.
Every week, I join other In The Powder Room contributors to bring you the funny. It was great to yuck it up around a table instead of through a computer screen.
This is my favorite picture. It sums up the entire weekend. Laughing, sharing, and spewing out of our noses! This is Kim of Let Me Start By Saying. Let me start by saying that her face is like sunshine. 
BlogHer should be renamed, "HugHer!" We had never met each other and we were hugging like we had won a year's supply of Godiva chocolates.
THE BOOK SIGNING!
Kim, co-author of I Just Want To Pee Alone, arranged a book signing and reading at her in-laws deli, Bongiorno's Pizza & Italian Deli.
It was the first time that so many of the authors were gathered in the same place. You can imagine the shenanigans and the laughter that ensued with funny women like Karen of Baby Sideburns, Tara of You Know It Happens At Your House Too, and Andrea (also in the running for sweetest person on the planet!) of The Underachiever's Guide To Being A Domestic Goddess.
As women came through the line, I was again stunned at the instant connection. Meeting women who have been so generous with their comment love and who took the time out of their busy lives to show support and meet us...I was overwhelmed. I battled the urge to leap over the table and squeeze them. 
I stood on the curb, waiting for my ride. I watched my friend and ITPR editor, Leslie of The Bearded Iris,  walk away. There she goes. There goes my friend.
We are all going back to our own corners of the world. Tomorrow, we will be back to our online shenanigans. 
But now, I will hear their voices when I read their words. 
Now, I will chuckle to myself about the time four of us shared one hotel room. 
I will remember that no one makes me snort laugh harder than Nicole Leigh Shaw.
When I read Jen of People I Want To Punch In The Throat's rants, I will remember how she teared up telling about a connection made. (Don't tell her that I said so, but she is a total sweetheart!)
I will remember that we are friends.
COMING SOON! Really soon, like this Thursday!
BlogHer was more than a hugfest, y'all! I joined forces with funny ladies Anna of My Life & Kids and Katy of Katy in a Corner to bring you some vlog love. Stay tuned for "How To Network At A Conference And Other Tips on "Professionalishness!" Here is a sneak peek...
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Monday, July 29, 2013

Want To Badmouth Your Spouse? Be Careful!

Consider this a PSA for newlyweds. (Or, if you are an old dog like me, looking for new tricks!)
Sure, sure, you can't imagine ever badmouthing your schmoopy. 
Just in case, ahem, that day arrives- I am sharing some advice on how to proceed with caution. 
This is advice that I received as a newlywed. Did I listen? No, I did not. Please, let this be a lesson to you.
Meet me In The Powder Room and we'll chat.
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Conference NO-NO's!


Last summer, I attended my first blogging conference, Haven 2012.
I left for the conference, repeating my mantra, "DO NOT EMBARRASS SELF...DO NOT EMBARRASS SELF!"
I was mostly successful...except for that unfortunate breastfeeding situation. 
This week, I am attending the BlogHer Conference in Chicago.
I thought it might help to make a NO-NO list. 
Lists can be very helpful in times of stress. They can keep us focused and act as reminders of our goals. 
My goal? DO.NOT.EMBARRASS.SELF.
1. Do not run and jump into the arms of bloggers that I admire. I am 6 ft tall and might injure the less agile of the group.
2. Do not lick, sniff or feel up said bloggers. I am a tactile person, ok?
3. Do not use profanity. This is tempting because I spend a lot of time with children- years of f-bombs have built up, just waiting to spill out.
4. Do not talk too loudly. Not only am I deaf in one ear, which makes me unaware of my volume, but I also grew up in a large, rowdy family where if you wanted to be heard, you had to shout. Not appropriate for conference schmoozing, I'm guessing.
5. Do not tell dirty jokes. I love dirty jokes but I can tell by the heavy sighing and eye-rolling that some folks do not appreciate vagina jokes.
6. Do not badmouth chevron, spray paint or thrift stores in front of the DIY crowd. House bloggers love that shit stuff and would run me right out of the conference.
7. Do not sing. I am the worst singer on the planet and 9-1-1 would be called.
8. Do not dirty dance. No one needs to see a 41 year old blogger humping a horrified Pioneer Woman!
9. Do not ramble. I'm a nervous talker and when I don't know what else to do, I ramble. Before I know it, I hear myself saying "And, then came the 80's...I like big hair and blue eyeshadow...don't you wish they would come back in style? What say we go back to my room and give each other makeovers?"
10. No hillbilly speak. I have an alter ego, Loretta MayJoe. When I am either nervous and/or vlogging, she takes over. Please, Lawd, save me from Loretta MayJoe. 
If you are also attending BlogHer and you happen to witness any rule breaking, feel free to slap me hard across the face and shout "GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF, WOMAN!" 
In the meantime, I will be hiding in my powder room practicing my appropriate greetings, comments and body language.
I will watch and re-watch "How To Be A Better Blogger!"

Good blogger body language:

Bad blogger body language:

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Chalk One Up For Team Mom

There are many days that my scorecard reads: Children- 672. Mom- 0.
There are always witnesses when I am on the ropes. I always seem to be at the grocery, ballpark, church, soccer field, PTA meeting or doctor's office when my children pummel my dignity into the ground. 
"Step right up! Gather around! See this mother lose her f*&^$%-ing mind!"
Well, I finally scored a victory for moms everywhere. Sadly, there weren't any other mothers to bear witness. I practically gave myself a high five. It was a beautiful moment. Party for one.
I'm telling all about it In The Powder Room today. Meet me there and share your own parenting victories. 
If we meet on the street, feel free to offer a high five or chest bump. 
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

HouseTalkN With Casey Wakefield

I am excited to share another feature from the series "HouseTalkN With..." - a lookiloo at how local movers and shakers live. While we all enjoy the aesthetics of homes, what really counts is how we live in them. I have teamed up with fellow house nut and journalist, Julie Wurth, to explore how local folks make their houses a home. 
"MEET THE WAKEFIELDS"

From the outside, Fred and Casey Wakefield's house may appear to be one of those magazine-perfect showplaces, but there's much more to this family home.
The picturesque gray two-story on Armory Street, just across from the Champaign Country Club, is spacious but doesn't overwhelm its neighbors.
Inside, it boasts plenty of to-die-for features – rich painted woodwork, coffered ceilings, gorgeous kitchen, huge stone fireplace, stylish mudroom, and a finished basement with a man cave that would make any sports fan drool. (Former NFL football stars do have cool memorabilia.)
But you don't have to look far to find signs that three children live here – a chalk wall signed by neighborhood kids in the basement playroom; the guinea pig cage in one bedroom; Legos scattered on the carpet upstairs.
The Wakefields, who are both from Tuscola, have lived in the house since August 2011 with their three children, Jamison, 11, Carlee 9, and Emma, 6. They moved back to Champaign toward the end of Fred's career as an NFL lineman with the Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders. Before that he was a standout at the University of Illinois. 
Fred is now studying for an MBA, and Casey recently formed a new business with two friends, That's What She Said, to encourage young women to live a purposeful life.
They initially lived in the Trails Edge subdivision in west Champaign but bought this house when it was about half-completed. They liked the layout, and while the builder had already chosen the stone and cedar shake-style siding, they had input on the interior. The entire downstairs is done in neutrals of cream, tan and cocoa.
“It was something we were comfortable with,” Casey said.
The entryway features an alcove with a large family portrait taken the first summer they moved back to Champaign.
It opens onto the expansive family room/kitchen, where the traditional cream cabinets blend with speckled granite countertops and dark wood floors. But it's not fussy – nothing is upholstered (easier to clean, Casey said), and the kitchen table has seen plenty of kid traffic. 
“I'm sure there's permanent marker there somewhere,” she said.
One item stands out: a white and blue milkglass coffee cup on top of the range hood, a keepsake from her great-grandmother. Under a silhouette of two people at a table is the familiar blessing, "God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.”
Her late father's side of the family is Amish, and the tradition is to pass down dishes. On the bottom of the cup is a piece of tape with the words, “Old Grandma Miller's,” written by Casey's grandmother.
“I remember seeing it in my grandma's kitchen,” she said.
French doors open onto the deck and back yard from both the family room and kitchen eating area, creating a nice flow for parties (and kids chasing each other). 
Outside, a fire pit is the perfect spot for making s'mores or gathering with friends visiting from out of town on chilly fall football weekends.
The mudroom off the kitchen has wooden lockers with drawers and nooks, which help keep everyone's backpacks and shoes corraled during the school year.
In the master bedroom suite, a nook gives Casey a place to sit and read, surrounded by framed family photos and art work by her children. The porch just off the bedroom provides a quiet spot to have morning coffee or watch golfers across the street – complete with a plastic owl to keep birds from flying into the windows. It didn't work.
A wide staircase leads to the kids' rooms upstairs. The two girls' rooms – in pinks, purples and blues – are connected by a bathroom, with a vanity for each. (Carlee's room has the guinea pigs.)
Across the hall Jamison's sports-themed room also has its own bathroom. The pennants hung above his bed include the Cardinals, Raiders and Illini, of course, but also souvenirs from the Colts, Bears and other games he's attended.
 His dad's office downstairs has a similar d├ęcor: helmets from Fred's playing days – Oakland, Arizona and the UI – and others signed by the state champion Tuscola football team, former Illini Dave Diehl of the New York Giants, and Cardinals' star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. A nook with shelves holds Fred's awards, including Big Ten All Conference in 2000.
The theme continues in the basement. The giant TV  is perfect for Super Bowl parties, and Fred's jerseys line the wall, along with framed photos of Dick Butkus, Brett Favre, Gale Sayers, and several from Fred's playing days. There's also a signed jersey from “Mean” Joe Green, Fred's former D-line coach at Arizona.
Completing the basement are a workout room, guest suite and kids' playroom. “In the winter this is where the neighborhood kids hang out,” Casey says.
The Wakefields are thankful to be back close to home, and Casey's mom now lives in Champaign.
“The people here are great and we've made good friends,” she said..
Casey, who has a master's in elementary education, put aside her career aspirations while her children were young. Her new business (The She Said Project) is dedicated to empowering other women to “be what they're called to be, not just what they think they should be doing.”
Too often, she said, young women go off to college and pick a major they're supposed to do, rather what they really love.
“I want them to feel free if they want to be an art major to be one. You never know where it will lead."
Enjoy the tour:


















Link Par-taay at:
http://www.houseofhepworths.com
http://www.savvysouthernstyle.net/
http://www.notjustahousewife.net
http://myuncommonsliceofsuburbia.com
http://www.alderberryhill.com
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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Good Mattress Makes All The Difference!

We have had the same mattress in our den of love for almost 20 years. Our pals at Illini Mattress hooked us up. I remember trying out each mattress, practicing my peaceful, resting positions. Had I known what was coming, I would have tested the mattress by beating it with a baseball bat. I had no idea that this mattress would hold not just me and husband, but it would wind up being the "go to" spot for our 4 children and 2 dogs.
Dog afraid of a thunderstorm? Our bed. 
Child had a nightmare? Our bed.
You threw up in your bed? Our bed.
Movie night? Our bed.
Need to hide from the person ringing the doorbell? Our bed.
Twenty years later and it's time for a new mattress? Illini Mattress!
Remember the neighborhood mom office, the moffice? Sometimes, we have moved the moffice to the bedroom. 
Like this:
Then, there was that unfortunate Elf On The Shelf situation...
Most comfortable mattress ever? Illini Mattress.
Here is the best thing about Illini Mattress. Not only are they a locally owned family business with amazing inventory, they also have the best customer service on the planet. 
Owner, Ed Stout is known for house calls. He has also been known to help carry groceries for clients while on said house calls. 
Need a mattress? Take my word for it. Illini Mattress.

*elf not included

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Watch Your Mouth...

One of the many things that I love about working in my neighborhood mom office, the moffice, is that I can count on brutal honesty.
While trying to come up with a phrase to describe the speakers for our show, That's What She Said, we were rolling like we always roll. Everyone shouting out at the same time. 
"Fearless Women!"
"Women Who Rock!"
"Women's Women!"
That's when I shouted out, "LIFE LIVERS!"
Screeching halt followed by hysterical laughter.
"Did you just say 'Life Livers?' It sounds like a gross organ entree!" 
It was possibly the dumbest thing I had ever said. Well, besides that time I offered to breastfeed a colleague.
I am In The Powder Room today talking about phrases that have caught on but make me want to gouge out my eardrums. Meet me there and tell me what phrases make you twitchy.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Reading Giveaway!

summer reading giveaway
Picture yourself poolside, or lounging on the beach. It's nice, right? But it could be better. What you need are some great books to make you laugh, and some seriously stylish summer accessories. Well, we have you covered. First up, we're giving away six (count 'em, SIX) funny books that you probably already own because you have such great taste. But if, by chance, you've been busy reading the dictionary cover to cover or you tried to buy these and Amazon was all like, "Sorry, too slow, sucker. Sold out!" today's your lucky day!
At Least My Belly Hides My Cankles
At Least My Belly Hides My Cankles: Mostly-True Tales of an Impending Miracle is the debut novel of the amazing Paige Kellerman, of There's More Where That Came From. In it, she props her cankles up on the coffee table of your heart and tells the tale of her pregnancy with twins, from the reluctant announcement of the pregnancy test results to the experience of being hoisted awkwardly (is there any other way?) onto the delivery table. You'll be able to relate to every word, and Paige's unique storytelling style will keep you laughing, guaranteed.
Abby Still Has Issues
Abby Still Has Issues is the second book by Abby Heugel of the award-winning blog, Abby Has Issues. It features a ton of laugh-out-loud essays that could only be plucked from that wonderfully neurotic head full of issues we all love so well. Laugh along as she admits to being smelly (it's not what you think), converses with her pants, and reveals why other countries hate us (hint: it's our eyelashes). Intrigued? YOU SHOULD BE. Because it's full of awesome.
I Just Want To Pee Alone
I Just Want To Pee Alone, a hilarious collection of hilarious essays about motherhood by 37 hilarious mothers, covers every parenting topic from planning for your baby, to being driven insane by your children, to... wait, are there other parenting topics? Yes, don't be silly, of course there are. There's something for everyone in this #1 best selling humor anthology which, I don't mind saying, at one point ranked ahead of Tina Fey's Bossypants - a fact that many of the co-authors plan to have engraved on their tombstones.
Ketchup is a Vegetable: And Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves by Robin O'Bryant of Robin's Chicks is full of funny stories about motherhood, sex talks, the terror of car trips, and all those eye-roll inducing, forehead-vein popping, laugh-out-loud things that bond parents together under the flag of Oh Thank Heavens, It Isn't Just Me.
Also win a copy of Adrian Kulp's hilarious book Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-Home Dad, which is based on his popular blog DadorAlive.com. With chapters like "She's Gonna Have Daddy Issues" you know this book will be funny, relatable and just a little bit twisted (in the best possible way).
And we understand that you'll need to keep the kids occupied if you're hoping to get enough time to yourself to read a book with more than eight syllables per page. That's why we're also giving away 75 Ways To Have More Fun At Home, a fantastic e-book by Anna of My Life and Kids that's absolutely bursting with activities for your kids. These are cheap-to-free, unique, realistic ideas for things that real people could and would actually do. You don't want another summer day to go by without it!
I can say, without fear of hyperbole, that you're entire summer will be a complete waste of time if you don't read these books - so in the event that you don't win this amazing prize package, check out the links and buy your own copies. You'll be glad you did. Now, while you're enjoying these fabulous books, you want to look fabulous too, don't you? Never fear, we have that covered, too! A Girl and Her BandTo keep the hair out of your face while you're reading (or while you're serving up a wicked ace on the beach volleyball court), you'll need headbands and hair ties from A Girl and Her Band. These suckers are nonslip, moisture wicking, antimicrobial and machine washable, not to mention cute as all getout. A Girl and Her Band is a company started by regular (but fantastic) mamas who support and empower active girls, and give back to the community by donating a portion of all website sales to a different charity each month. They've generously offered up three headbands of your choosing, and they're throwing in a 5-pack of matching hair ties, too! Their company makes your heart feel as good as your hair will with this essential set of accessories. As if that weren't enough to make you look like a million bucks while you're enjoying your summer reading, you'll also get a Vera Bradley Summer Pack, which includes a Vera Bradley sarong, a small mesh tote, and a beach towel in the gorgeous Go Wild pattern.
AND, just in case we missed anything, we're throwing in a $125.00 Amazon gift card so you can treat yourself to something special (I don't know if Amazon sells fruity drinks in coconuts with little umbrellas in bulk quantities, but I'd look into that if I were you). ENOUGH ALREADY, you say! I'm interested, so how do I enter?!? To qualify: You must be able to read, or know someone who is willing to read to you, and live in the United States. Recommended: Tissues, for laughter-induced tear blotting. Large-rimmed Jackie O sunglasses for increased mysterious cool factor. A few seconds of free time here and there for reading. Required: Do the little Rafflecopter thingy. Winner will be chosen at random and notified after the giveaway closes on Sunday, July 21. If there's no response from the winner within 24 hours, another winner will be chosen and so on until I decide just to keep everything for myself. (I'm kidding, of course. OR AM I? Yes, I'm kidding.) a Rafflecopter giveaway
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