Daughter Number Three

Daughter Number Three is responsible for the Daughter Number Three blog. Of course, right? Well, this writer maintains her blog incognito and has asked for her name to not be revealed, which is alright by us at the Twin Cities Spark! Not surprisingly, she is the third of four daughters. Raised in a rural area outside of a small town in upstate New York, she is now living in the Twin Cities area, making media and immersed in other people’s media. Her blog is her method of creative self-expression, often taking the form of stunning cultural observations and poking fun at other people’s bad writing mistakes.

What specifically drew you to blogging?

I’m one of those failed creative writers who thought she would be a novelist, but somehow never got started. Job, kid, life all happened in the meantime. In 2007 I took six months off work and promised myself writing would be a goal for that time, including setting up a blog. But when the leave ended, I hadn’t written much.

I should say I love newspapers and magazines, but I have the bad habit of talking back to them, and I’d been keeping a clip file for years that contained what I considered great examples of writing and argument, or really terrible mistakes and oddities. Finally, in December of 2007 I reached my tipping point on blog procrastination: it was inspired by a recipe in Parade magazine that included a photo of a raw, stuffed turkey breast that looked like an insect larva. Somehow, that was enough to finally get me to start my blog.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to creating new content? How do you overcome it?

Overcoming mental fatigue from having a job, a family and a significant amount of volunteer work. More often than not, though, working on my blog helps me deal with the stresses of everything else because it’s different from the rest. It’s a chance to say what I think about things without having to berate my family. I get to make connections among the ideas in books I’ve been reading, which was my favorite part of being in college. It’s a place to share the things that amuse or outrage me about the world… and there are a lot of both!

Sometimes when I’m stuck, I look through the categories I use on the blog and think, I haven’t written anything for this one in a while. What can I add? Other times, I admit to looking through my photos and putting up something easy. Just once I posted a photo of my cat because I was too tired to do anything else.

I try to balance the long with the short; the thoughtful with the light-hearted. It’s a struggle sometimes. I think of these two types of posts as stock and flow and use that idea as a spur to work a little harder to create a piece of stock as often as I can.

I kicked caffeine about a year before I started the blog. I’ve recently discovered that just a small amount of that evil drug once in a while makes it much easier to write.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Daughter Number Three?

I don’t explore a single topic the way some blogs do. In fact, I have a hard time saying what my blog is about, except it doesn’t cover what I had for breakfast or my family’s life. I don’t review products. There’s a lot of media commentary (much of it local), examples of good and bad technology, and funny language usage. I have a lingering love of young adult fiction, so those types of books crop up pretty often, along which a lot of nonfiction.

I hope my readers feel as though they’re part of a conversation. I hope they realize I challenge myself intellectually. I try to push myself over the edge of cognitive dissonance as much as I can stand it. We all should.

How has blogging changed your life?

Writing every day is a discipline that’s been good for me. I fear I’ll be one of the unlucky ones who are susceptible to Alzheimer’s, so I try to keep my mind moving.

It has put me in touch with some other local and nonlocal writers, which is fun. It has made me read more nonfiction than I probably would have.

New media theorist Clay Shirky talks about the “cognitive surplus” – the mental capacity we all have left over when we work only an eight-hour day. From the 1950s on, most of it was poured into watching television. I watch a lot less television now, because I’m using up most of my surplus on the blog.

Bloggers often draw inspiration from each other. What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

Some of my local favorites don’t write very often, but here goes:

A Little Brown Blog

Maggie Koerth-Baker, excellent science writer at Boing Boing – she’s local!

The Deets

Across the Great Divide (Charlie hasn’t been writing much lately, but his archives are great!)

The Same Rowdy Crowd (although many of their commenters drive me crazy)

The Heavy Table

Simple Good and Tasty

Fair Food Fight

MinnPost, especially Susan Perry on health issues

David Steinlicht

Blissed-Out Grandma

What do you love the most about living in the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

I’m a transplant from upstate New York who knew just about nothing of Minnesota before I moved here in the 1980s, but I’ve found it great living along the boundary between the Big Woods and the tall grass prairie. I love our huge number of food co-ops, the active nonprofit community, and our excellent theaters and museums. And book stores. I support my habit at stores like Micawber’s, Uncle Hugo’s, Red Balloon, The Book House, and Common Good Books.

Twin City Sidewalks

Quasi-journalist, ardent bicyclist, and self-proclaimed devotee of communities and urban planning activist Jane Jacobs, Bill Lindeke of St. Paul writes the twin city sidewalks blog. Bill is in the PhD program at the University of Minnesota’s Geography Department studying the politics of alternative transportation. Through his blog he reports what’s happening on the Twin Cities streets, with a primary concentration on politics, urban infrastructure, media infrastructure, and neighborhood life here in the metro. Lindeke states that “Our cities are changing fast. Are we getting enough information about how and why this development is happening?”

What specifically drew you to blogging?

Probably a mixture of narcissism and curiosity. I started my first ‘website’ back in 1996 on a platform called Geocities that doesn’t exist any more. I’ve pretty much had a website or a blog ever since, somewhere to post writing, somewhere to stare at my reflection late at night. The cool part about that history is that I now have an archive of my blogging and writing that stretches back for more than a decade.

Twin Cities Sidewalks has been around for over 5 years. How has it evolved since you first started it?

When I started the blog, it had a totally different purpose. I wanted to make a clearinghouse for local planning and development news. Anytime I found an article or bit of information about land use, transit, new condos, or whatever, I’d put a link and comment on the website.

Well, this proved far far too time consuming, and the blog evolved into something that, I think, is both less of a time-suck and far more interesting. I try to post 4-5 times a week, and its a mix of photos I take on the streets of the Twin Cities, short essays, occasional punditry, link dumps, and more ‘journalistic’ pieces. The blog evolved slowly, gradually complexifying and branching out. I’m always trying to think of something new to try out. There are a number of recurring features: photos of dogs left tied up to benches called “Sidewalk Dogs”, a bi-weekly summary of the Highland Villager (a local St Paul newspaper that is not yet online), and my favorite, little essayistic odes to interesting spots in the Twin Cities called Sidewalk of the Week.

I used to have a great feature called “Classic Sidewalks of the Silver Screen” that was little clips from old movies that took place on sidewalks, but since YouTube started cracking down on embedded films, I’ve stopped that.

What is the most rewarding aspect of maintaining your blog?

Well, most obviously, its meeting people. I’ve met a bunch of really terrific and creative people through the website. This can’t be overstated!

But I also enjoy the feeling of having a project, like a detective. When I’m walking around the city during my everyday life, I always bring my camera along. So, for example, each time I see a street musician, an interesting doorway, or a handwritten sign in a shop window, I am compelled to stop and take its picture. I then post them all on the blog. That’s really rewarding.

I have to add, too, that it’s rewarding to be able to write from the heart. At the University of Minnesota, I find myself writing about the same kinds of topics — urban planning history, car-dependency, architecture — but I have to write in a very specific, painstaking, and citation-filled way. On the blog, I can just write for fun, and that’s a huge pleasure.

In fact, in a great many ways, the blog has kind of launched me on my career, helped get me into grad school, helped me make important connections and decisions. It’s kind of amazing.

What is one thing you hope your readers learn/understand from reading Twin Cities Sidewalks?

The goal of the blog is to entice people to go for walks. I’m trying to share the things that I love (or hate) about walking around as means of transportation. I’m trying to shine a light on what Americans are missing by spending so much time in cars or houses.

Obviously, that’s a tougher sell this time of year. But honestly, one good winter coat and you’re all set for December strolling. Take advantage of the delicate sunlight, the snow falling, and the pale hue of the sky’s blue.

Bloggers often draw inspiration from each other. What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

I used to read a lot more blogs, but I’ve become busier lately. I try to restrict online browsing time to urban planning news that comes through my RSS feed. My favorite blog is probably called “If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger, There’d be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. Its just an eclectic and eccentrically organized and always surprising collection of wonderful old photos. BldgBlog and the famous Bike Snob NY blog are two of my other favorites.

Blogs I read locally? I try to read things written by people I know. I read all the local planning bloggers, like Brendan Slotterback’s NetDensity. I like Ken Avidor‘s sketch blog.   I’m an avid reader of local online news, actually. TC Daily Planet, MinnPost, all the mainstream outlets, the Southwest Journal. We have a lot of great reporters in this town, and most of my online browsing time goes there.

I worry about the future of journalism. How will reporters make money in the future? Who will get paid to do research and legwork for important stories? Who will cover the city council or the legislature?

What do you love the most about living in the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

Its a tie between the huge difference in seasons during the year and the wonderful coffee shops that aren’t too full so that you can actually hang out there all day without spending more than $4, and also tied with a great arts and culture scene filled with creative people.

2011 is right around the corner. Are you making any big plans for your blog in the New Year?

I’ve a few ideas. I’ve been wanting to have a ‘skyway week’ where I try to get to the bottom of what, exactly, the skyway system is all about.

I also want to do a NCAA bracket-style competition for ‘Twin Cities worst planning mistake’, where there would be voting between big-time SNAFUs such as the Lake Street K-Mart, the Metrodome, and Block E. Eventually we would crown a 2010 champion!

Bombshell Beauty

St. Paul plus size fashion and beauty editor Sara Bartlett is writer of Bombshell Beauty. Her blog reaches out to full-figured women, helping to show them the increasing variety of available plus-sized fashion and demonstrating how to put together outfits for the most stylish impact. She also does some in-depth product reviews. Though her blog is primarily aimed at plus-size women, her tips can be used for women of any size. Big or small, short or tall, through Bombshell Beauty, Sara introduces clothing resources, style and beauty ideas that help women express themselves.

What is the most rewarding aspect of maintaining Bombshell Beauty blog?

Hands down, it’s the community of fellow plus size fashion/beauty bloggers and readers.  It’s very surreal to me that anyone cares what I have to say about fashion and beauty, so it’s incredibly gratifying that so many people take the time to read my blog and comment on it.  And I’ve had the opportunity to meet (both virtually and in person) some really wonderful bloggers – it’s been my experience that the plus size community is very supportive of one another.  It’s so rewarding to feel that support and be able to pass it along to my readers and fellow bloggers.

If you had $500 extra dollars, what clothing, shoes or beauty-related items that you don’t own would you purchase immediately?

I love all things Kate Spade; I think the brand is a physical embodiment of my own personal spirit.  (At least that’s what I like to think!).  So I would log onto KateSpade.com immediately and snap up:
Nylon Flower Skipper – perfect with jeans and an embellished cardigan or a party dress
Cheers Necklace – could wear this with everything, all the time (cocktail, optional).
Darla pump – the strap and bow combination makes me so happy.

What are five fantastic skin care, hair care or other beauty products you could not live without and why do you love them?

My medicine cabinet is packed with Mario Badescu skincare products – everything is priced reasonably and does exactly what the product promises.  Standouts include the incredibly soothing Cucumber Cream Soap &  the Silver Powder- a strange concoction that smoothes bumps and makes skin glowy.

My hair has been incredibly happy since discovering Nick Chavez Honey Glaze Styling Gel.  It smells like honey from a pot and makes my hair so shiny and smooth.

I rely on the Exfoliating Body Wash from St. Paul’s very own Garden of Eden to keep my skin smooth and moisturized.  It’s not abrasive but combats dry winter skin like a charm.  I scent mine with Almond – so good!

And last but not least, I keep a tube of Bobbi Brown’s Sheer Color Cheek Tint in Sheer Raspberry close by at all times.  It creates a really pretty flush on the cheeks and lips – and it feels really nice on.

What is the single most important piece of advice you would give to someone who might need a little help nurturing her (or his?) inner bombshell?

Make an effort every day to dress in a way that makes you feel saucy- you’re worth the extra time & energy it takes to pull together a fun outfit.

Bloggers often draw inspiration from each other. What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

I’m often inspired by one of the many (many!!) blogs that I read each day, several of which are based out of the Twin Cities.  My favorites include Adventures of VAMHEat Drink PrettyPrimp Boutique’s blog, and Spoils of Wear (to name just a few).

What do you love the most about living in the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

I love the way the Twin Cities can feel like a really big small town.  For all the access we have to art and music, fashion and beauty, culture and more – it’s so easy to live here.  And I love the independent spirit of the people who make the Twin Cities their home.  There’s very little pretension, especially in downtown St. Paul where I live, because everyone is united by their differences.  You can be who you want to be; it makes everything more interesting.

What is your favorite aspect of winter in Minnesota?

As a resident of downtown St. Paul, I love how beautiful Mears Park is after a great snowfall – especially when all the trees are decked out with lights.  I also love walking into Candyland in the middle of winter; warm popcorn never smells better than coming in off the street when it’s absolutely freezing outside!  And I also like to cozy up by the window at Bin Wine Bar to sip red wine and watch everyone rush past on the street.  For as cold as Minnesota is, there are so many places to warm up!

My Boyfriend is Only Sort of Annoying

Heidi Schatz used to have an obsession with blogging, but never really had anything to blog about, except for her activities and daily life. One day, after stumbling upon the blog called “My Husband is Annoying,” she had an idea: Use her own long-established relationship with a boy, who often does things that are annoying, as blog fodder. When a person lives with that sort of mild irritation every day, how better to make it more bearable than to blog about it and share her somewhat frustrating experience? Enter the My Boyfriend is Only Sort of Annoying blog.

Your obsession with blogging propelled you to start a blog. What specifically was it that drew you to blogging?

“Back in the day” it was the “cool thing” to do. I’m pretty sure every geek I knew in high school had a blog (Xanga!). It was also a competition to see who had a more exciting life (not me). I remember my first blog posts were all about how great I was at Halo or what clothes and gadgets I got for Christmas. Stuff no one cared about, which is why I now have a blog with a purpose!

In your first post you indicated that My Boyfriend is Only Sort of Annoying could be a leaping off point for you. What other subjects do you think you might like to blog about?

I actually only have one more “genius” idea for a blog, which I simply do not have time to keep up with. I’m one of those people that catches mistakes in movies or TV shows. I also notice the awkward extras standing in the background or people who thought they were going to make it big but really only had one line (i.e. the butler at the end of Pretty Woman). I wanted to draw attention to those people just because they tried so hard! And because most of them are terrible actors.

I suppose I could also blog about my first year teaching, but that’s nothing new…

How did you meet your boyfriend and how long have you been together?

My boyfriend and I met my sophomore year of college at the U…through my old boyfriend. We were best friends for a year before we dated. I guess it took that long to realize how similar we were. We bonded over games of Hearts, Little Nemo in Slumberland, and Stars albums. To get even cheesier, he won my heart with Regina Spektor’s “Samson” after I caught him listening to it over and over again.

We just hit the big 0-3 in “dating” years.

What social media sites and gadgets can you not live without?

I don’t think I could live without Facebook, which is odd because I still remember my life without it. As much as I pretend not to care what other people are doing, I’m completely obsessed with looking at pictures of their cats, seeing that they were dumped by their “perfect boyfriend”, and reading about what they ate for breakfast.

I also can’t live without my iPhone. I mostly use it to look up beer ratings when I’m in a bar and to search for restaurants in new cities. (Because all I do is eat and drink beer.) I recently used it to find a great pizza place in Madison, order the pizza while we were an hour away, and navigate us to pick it up. Those are true survival skills.

What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

I like to “read” blogs with lots of pictures, like The Selby. And though I have no intention of getting married until I’m rich, I love Once Wed and Southern Weddings. I also love Hipster Runoff because it’s hilarious (and we live in Minneapolis, hipster central). I am subscribed to way too many blogs on my Google Reader, but that is a good sampling.

For local blogs, I love LOL/OMG and The Minneapoline. I guess MN Beer is local as well, and a very valuable resource!

What do you love the most about living in the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

There’s always something to do! Concerts every night and museums a step away from my apartment! I have a whole list of restaurants and bars I still need to try, too. And I’m a marathon runner, so I love the lakes and trails! I only pretend to like the snow.

2011 is right around the corner. Do you have any big plans for the New Year?

Oh, yes. I will be done with graduate school (for a few years) in the Spring! (I’m getting licensed to teach high school biology.) My boyfriend and I are also going on a trip to Ireland with his family, and I’m hoping to have enough money saved for a trip to Namibia in August. And of course, I’ll have another wonderful year of bloggable events.

Dr. TriRunner

Minnesota native Erika Sperl-Imhoff has had a tumultuous life over the past three years and most of it is documented in her blog, Dr. TriRunner. She started the blog as RunRoamRecycle when she was a college freshman studying architecture, and it has evolved with her through a move to Boston and back to Minneapolis, where she is now a med student. In between changing locations and her career path, she broke her femoral neck, found out she had fibrous dysplasia, and got hit by a car 12 days before her chance to run in the Boston Marathon. Yet through strength and perseverance, she presses on, inspiring others and hoping to one day bestow her own patients with the same skilled care which she has received from doctors in her life.

What drew you specifically to blogging?

Oh man – I had to dig up some throwback posts to remind myself of that one. According to my very first post, March 31st 2008, my blog was supposed to be a “real nonchalant thing.” Nonchalant? Three years later and I’m still not exactly sure what I meant by that. At the time my main priority was to highlight my running and racing. Funny because in that first post, I mentioned the 17 mile run I had just finished with my running club, followed up with Dunn Bros coffee. a) I remember that run perfectly, and b) that still sounds like the perfect Saturday to me!

Dr. TriRunner has evolved over the years. What was the inspiration behind starting the Dr. Tri Runner blog, back when it was called RunRoamRecycle?

RunRoamRecycle started in the spring of 2008. At the time I was done with high school cross country and track, and getting ready for Med City Marathon – the first marathon I would actually race (Run). I was also preparing to move to Boston for the architecture program at Northeastern University – the first move I had ever made out of Minneapolis (Roam). The Recycle portion of the name came from my focus in sustainable architecture and green design. I’d like to think that was “my thing” before Victoria Secret started printing Love Pink, Live Green on the butt of their sweatpants. :)

What do you hope readers take away from their time spent at Dr. Tri Runner?

The focus of Dr.TriRunner is pretty different from the origins of RunRoamRecycle. I’m obviously still a runner, but I’ve moved back to Minneapolis, changed majors, and changed my athletic focus.
Dr. – I am now a senior in the Kinesiology program at the University of Minnesota in the Clinical Movement Sciences track, which is seeding me for a health profession. What will that health profession be? I’ll let ya know as soon as I know. ;)

Tri – My main athletic focus switched from the marathon to triathlon after having a mini-hardware store installed in my hip in December of 2008. My femoral neck was fractured about 2/3rds of the way through before I knew it due to a diagnosis of fibrous dysplasia – yikes! My rehab plan had me on the bike and in the pool a lot, and due to a elementary school background on the swim team, I didn’t feel like I was going to drown after 400 meters. I even remembered how to do flip turns! My thoughts were something like well that’s convenient… I bet I could do a tri! I am now a member of the University of Minnesota Triathlon Team, as well as an endurance racer for Peace Coffee Racing.

Runner – Running is still my one and only true love. I can work up a sweat on the bike, and get the heart rate up in the pool, but nothing does it like running for me. My favorite quote – “Running to him was real, the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” -John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner

So what do I want readers to take away? Essentially, if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish it. Running was new to me at one point, and so was the sport of triathlon. Here I am though, doing the best I can, and learning something new every day. Changing my major from architecture to medicine was a big leap of faith, and excuse my over-confidence in this, but steeplechased that one. Training, full time school, family, friends, a job (or two) – it’s doable! Come back from injury is possible. Starting over is possible. But to get there, you need to believe in yourself first.

How has blogging changed your life?

I don’t think I could say enough about the blogging community. Sure, I get to hold a giveaway now and then, but I have met so many amazing people that I wouldn’t have otherwise! Local athletes, physical therapists, others who have fibrous dysplasia, I found out I have a twin in southern California, Moms at my church, tips from other athletes who are wayyy beyond my realm of competition. It’s amazing! Having a stranger recognize me from the blog is something I’ll never get used to… but who am I kidding, that feels pretty cool!

What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

DR: TRI’ing 4 Iron – a local athlete and DAD blogger (!!) who is going for his first full distance Ironman in 2011

Go Big Green – Julia is fast. Ridiculously fast. AND she’s a physical therpaist. And she’s in the masters division. And did I mention she’s amazingly fast?

Nicole M Lavoi, One Sport Voice – Dr. Lavoi is a professor of Sport Sociology and the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport. She blogs about things sport and enables readers to look at issues with a different perspective. The work she does is really interesting to me, and not at all helping me narrow down my career choice. Hah!

Minnesota Tri News blog is my go-to source for anything and everything triathlon. Local races, local athletes, local contributors, all spreading the love. :)

Groucho Sports is an up and coming local athletic apparel company. Their tagline is High Performance, Human Powered. They’re brand new, but I love them already!

You left for Boston for a year, but returned to the Twin Cities. What did you miss the most about Minnesota and why?

15% of my return to Minnesota was because I had changed my major back to the health sciences field, and since Architecture was my main reason for moving out to Boston, it just made sense. But the other 85% was due to family, and my love for Minnesota. In that year in Boston, I came home once to have hip surgery, and then home for summer break. Missing cousins’ state hockey tournaments at the Excel center, thanksgiving, and birthdays… it just wasn’t flyin’ with me. Boston is amazing, don’t get me wrong. But Minneapolis is, and will always be, home.

What has been your favorite Minnesota fall activity that you have done or are looking forward to this year?

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. There is nothing better than the crunching of leaves underfoot, carving pumpkins, the beautiful colors, even the air smells amazing! I have been injured in the fall before, so I am extremely thankful to be running this season. I’m praying that someone will teach me how to cross country ski this winter to make it a little more enjoyable. :)

Old and In the Way

Gary Sankary is a native of Stockton, California, now proud to call himself a Minnesotan for over 15 years. Married and the father of three children, this Twin Cities blogger writes about the fun of Middle Age and raising kids, with the occasional smattering of politics, music reviews, and Jewish topics in his OLD AND IN THE WAY blog. He writes mostly to amuse himself, but occasionally other people as well. Though he describes himself as “old, fat, and ugly,” his blog has been described as “Red Foreman meets Erma Bombeck” – a description that is all right by Gary! He says “I often give my kids sage and wise advice followed up by ‘dumbass.’”

What specifically drew you to blogging as your form of amusement?

Bottom line, I like to write. I like to talk actually but I’ve kind run out of people who like to listen, at least to me. By blogging I can ramble on about stuff and never know when people politely tune out and click off somewhere else.

I’m also somewhat prone to over sharing, both my own thoughts and stories about stuff that goes in my family. The family stories seem to get the best responses from folks and are typically pretty hilarious. I view life through a certain lens that says everything is funny in some way. I see it as my role to show others that same lens.

How or why did you choose the name OLD AND IN THE WAY?

I’m and old guy, 47 years old, past the half way point now, in the blogging/social media world I’m a dinosaur, around my office I’m getting to the point where I more in common with co-workers parents than with them. It also has a nice tie to the Grateful Dead, as do it. Old And IN The Way was the name of Jerry Garcia’s Bluegrass band , being a fan of bluegrass and of the Dead and since most days I actually feel sort of old and in the way, it fit.

Blogging is a big time commitment – what makes it worth it to you?

I spend too much time with family as it is, they appreciate that I have something to do other than ask them what they’re up to every 20 minutes. Really though, what has really made it so cool for me is the little community I’ve found in the blogsphere. I’ve made a few friends along the way, some local who I see all the time, some from around the world who I only know through the blog or Twitter and Facebook. Blogging has become a way to connect with them and a way to meet and learn and engage. It’s a very powerful medium.

I also like to write so it’s a nice place to keep my thoughts in one place where I can go back, and reference them when I forget stuff.

What is a mistake you’ve made with your blog? What did you learn from that mistake which other bloggers should know?

Two things drive success in the blogsphere, at least in my experience; frequency of posting and content. The more you post the more people you attract. I used to go up a week with out posting. Once I figured out the metric thing and could start tracking the numbers per day/hour/minute who were on the site I started to understand the direct relationship between frequency and hits.

One mistake that I continue to make, I underestimate the value of using “tags” on my posts. Lots of time I’ll just put one or two tags on an entry, and lots of time I leave the tags blank. Big mistake. By and large most of the new folks I’ve met and 100% of the times I’ve been “found” by third parties it’s been because they were searching on a given tag. My advice, over use tags, type in every one that comes to mind no matter what. The only “silly” tag I know off is the blank one.

Bloggers often draw inspiration from each other. What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

My most favorite blogs are listed on my blog roll. Some notable ones;

The Idiot Speaketh- I was introduced to Mark and his wild blog about a year ago when someone suggested that I start reading it because “he writes just like you.” And while I’d be flattered to be compared to his blog, truth be told, we could have been separated from birth.

New Kid On The Blog- This one I found or he found me years ago. The author, The Rev. Alastair McCollum is an Anglican Priest in the UK. He once paid me one the nicest comments I’ve ever received on my blog. I like his writing for it’s intellectual challenge and the spiritual challenges.

Local blogs that I love-

Lazy Lightning. Bill Roehl is my hero. His blog gets more attention in 20 minutes than I get in a year and it’s well deserved. He writes well, has great credibility and successfully pokes people in the eye. His wife describes him as the “South Metro’s biggest pain the ass” and I’d concur.. in a good way. He’s also one of the other great Grateful Dead themed blogs out there.

Just One Year In Jerusalem. This is a new on for me. This is a Minnesota Native pursuing his Rabbincal studies, which require that this first year be spent at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Years ago, had I had it to do all over again, becoming a Rabbi might have been a good career option for me. Too bad I can’t learn foreign languages very well. I’m finding this blog fascinating and look forward to the posts.

There’s others listed, and they’re all good, these are just the ones that have been front and foremost in my mind.

You are a Californian transplant who has taken to Minnesota like a duck to water. What do you love the most about living in the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

I’m never all that happy no matter where I live, I like to complain a lot. Now that I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for the last 15 years I truly consider this area to be home. My kids have grown up here, my career has been here, California has become more of memory than a reality for me and I’ve never missed. Except, and this was the only time, when the Giants won the World Series this year, then I had some tangs of homesickness, mostly because I’ve really not been back to California since we moved here.

I love the Twin Cities. As much I like to think otherwise, really I’m an urban guy. I like living in Cities and taking advantage of all that cities have to offer; cultural events, dining, sports teams, good newspapers, and the chance to interact with the educated. But, I also enjoy the idea of small town connections and I love the outdoors. The Twin Cities really offers the best of mix of both worlds of anywhere I’ve ever been. We’re not so big, like Chicago, that a trip across town takes hours and hours, but we’re big enough that there are many different neighborhoods to enjoy and different vibes around town to take advantage off. I really like that an hour in almost any direction gets you to the country. Three hours gets you to wilderness. Minnesota is unique in that it supports a one of the nation’s premier theatre companies and the lower 48’s largest population of wolves. Sort says it all.

The other thing I like about Minnesota, and this is a Midwest thing, the pace of life and expectations of what success looks like are much more aligned to my personal values than they were in California, or would be out East. Things here are a wee bit simpler, there’s a greater value on relationships and making due than trying to keep up with the Jones. I like that a lot.

What is your favorite aspect of winter in Minnesota?

I love winter; actually I love the seasons here. Each in its time of course. I like the idea that in January there’s snow on the ground and no yard work to do, I have time to write and do indoor stuff without feeling guilty about it. I tell folks back home, one question that get asked almost every time someone finds out I’m living in Minnesota “how do you stand the cold?” Those are people who haven’t taken a walk in the winter where having one of those snowstorms when the massive flakes are falling damping all sound and making the world look like post card. I actually deal with cold weather better than I do hot weather. I like wearing jeans and jacket more than I do shorts and a tee.

By the same token, sitting on the deck at the lake place in the summer isn’t an experience that I would have had in California, there aren’t that many lakes and the most of the ones they do have are fake.

How do I pass the winter? I’m good for a few ice fishing trips every winter. I like the whole ice fishing experience, which has very little to do with fishing BTW. More about screwing around on a frozen lake. Driving on a lake, that alone is such a paradigm shift for a Cali Boy. When we moved here I told a friend, on seeing my first frozen snow covered lake; “You could have sold this to a Californian open land and they would have never guessed they’d been suckered until the ice melted or they tried to dig a foundation.”

My kids grew up playing hockey, that was fun in it’s time, got me out of the house in the winter. I also enjoy skiing and have ice skated, although I stink so bad at it that I’m afraid of breaking something and don’t do it very often. Some day I would like to learn to cross country ski. I have trails in the park behind me and for 15 years have said that every winter. I see the folks out there through my back window and think “that could be me.” And then I go get another cup of coffee and think about something else.


Twin Cities resident Anna Torborg is the well-traveled and well-read domestic goddess behind the Twelve22 blog. Anna is quite a busy person! She freelance edits and designs book covers, publishes books, creates papers houses, dabbles in photography, maintains her home, keeps a vegetable garden, cooks vegetarian meals from scratch, and somehow still manages to find loads of time to read. And blog. She has been maintaining this blog in various forms since 2000. Its content tends to evolve with her interests, which are currently food, plants, décor, cats, and the occasional crafting project.

Your blog has been around in one form or another for 10 years. What was your motivation for starting what would eventually become Twelve22?

My family got on the internet when I was about fifteen, and I had a website pretty much from the get-go.  Why be a silent observer when you can throw your own hat into the ring?  But I usually say I started blogging in December of 2000, as there’s more of a straight-forward evolution of what I started then to what I’ve got now.  I was a freshman in college at that point, and weblogs were just starting to be a ‘thing’ – I actually was rather disdainful of them at the time, because it still felt like a site should be ‘about’ something and not just a person’s journal.  That changed pretty quickly!

I was only eighteen and on my own for the first time, so a lot of that early blogging was about discovering life.  I didn’t write with that theme in mind, but when I go back and read from those early years (which are archived only on my own computer!), that’s how it feels now.  Riding the bus!  Buying my own food!  Emotional turmoil!

How did you choose the name Twelve22?

I started using the twelve22.org domain in 2004.  I wanted something that wasn’t topic-specific and that I wouldn’t grow tired of over time.  Something that wasn’t just a fad in my life.  I guess I figured I would be blogging for quite a while, because I was hesitant to set up shop under annatorborg.com (which is now my professional site), assuming that I would one day get married, and it would become obsolete.  So what never changes?  My birthday – December 22nd.  I had a hard time figuring out how to format the title (twelvetwentytwo? 1222? twentytwo12?), but I finally chose something that was short enough and aesthetically pleasing to my eye.

What do you hope readers take away from their time spent at Twelve22?

I hope I can just amuse or inspire people.  I write the blog for myself, really, and I’m always surprised that people keep coming back and care about the things I say.  The subject matter has shifted from random, college-aged musings to mostly crafts to food to a smattering of topics.  I think the audience has shifted over the years, but a lot of people who started reading about crafts have stuck around to hear about my cats and garden and running and cooking.  I suppose twelve22 is a ‘lifestyle’ blog, so if I can have a positive influence as far as how people live their lives, that would be a bonus to my writing.

How has blogging changed your life?

Honestly, my life would probably look nothing as it does if I had never started blogging.  One of my current best friends, Rob, stumbled upon my blog back in 2003 and e-mailed me, and that resulted in my move to London, two years of living together, and the job I still have (although I am technically now a contractor working out of my home).  I’ve met several real-life friends through twelve22, and it was through blogging that I became inspired to compile The Crafter’s Companion back in 2005/6.  That book has made it to parts of the world I would have never expected, and it always makes me happy to hear that it’s brought somebody joy and a feeling of belonging.

As a seasoned blogging veteran and published writer, what tips could you pass on to our readers to help them with their blog?

With any type of writing, write what you know and what you’re passionate about.  Blogging is about connecting with others in a fairly personal, day-to-day way, so be comfortable opening up about whatever’s happening in your life.  I don’t mean that in a tell-all, juicy secrets way – on the contrary, it’s the everyday stuff that’s the most interesting.  It’s okay to try to fit into a category of blogging (crafts, baking, healthy-living, etc, etc), but YOU are your ultimate niche.

Writing is a lot like photography, in that you just have to stick at it to improve.  Write about everything; take a million photographs.  It doesn’t all have to make it to the light of day (really, most of it shouldn’t), but only experience will truly teach you how to craft an interesting sentence or how to compose a fantastic photo.

And I’ve always said that blogging is about community.  Read others’ journals and leave comments.  Most people don’t like blatant self/blog-promotion, but an honest presence around the blogosphere will help you get known.

What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

I read a lot of blogs whose authors are interested in the same things as I am or live a similar lifestyle.  Three current favorites in that category are Never Home Maker, Healthy Exposures, and the Edible Perspective.  As a food photographer, I tend to gravitate towards bloggers with a good eye.

Besides my good friend Ms. Franzen (http://unicornsforsocialism.com/), who you’ve featured, I also get a laugh from Emily at Because Emily Says So.  She and I were teammates for the 2010 Great River Ragnar Relay.  If you’re going to be stuck in a van with seven other people for two days straight, you should always make sure they’re folks with good senses of humor.

What do you love the most about the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

It wasn’t until I moved back from Minnesota after four years of college (in Wisconsin) and two years of working in London that I properly fell in love with the state.  I love the Twin Cities for everything it offers, from events to dining options – it’s a fantastic place to be a vegetarian!  There was always TOO much going on in London; it’s hard to find your place there and discover the events that you’ll actually enjoy.  The Twin Cities manage to strike a good balance of diversity and accessibility as far as what’s on offer.  I just like the Minnesotan sensibility.  Level-headed, proud, more interested in hard work than showmanship.  And it’s a gorgeous part of the world to live in, if you can stand the winters.

Howlin’ T-Wolf

Jonah Steinmeyer is the 19-year-old writer behind the Howlin T-Wolf blog. A journalism student at the University of Minnesota, he aims to graduate in 2013. He has always been a huge Minnesota sports fan, especially when it comes to the Timbwerwolves. Like every kid who loved basketball, he used to dribble the basketball in the alley behind his house, pretending he was an NBA star. Though it hasn’t always been easy to be a Wolves fan, he is devoted through and through and will continue his allegiance until the end. Originally founded in 2009 by Patrick Hodgdon, Howlin’ T-Wolf has transitioned itself through many ups-and-downs as a basketball blog. Now that Jonah has completely taken it over, he aims to bring readers the best commentary, analysis, and entertainment that a Timberwoves blog can offer, in a pristine journalistic format.

Founded just last year by Patrick Hodgdon, what is the story behind how Howlin’ T-Wolf ended up in your hands and how it evolved as a basketball blog in that time?

Patrick Hodgdon founded Howlin’ T-Wolf in the Spring of 2009 looking to impact the sports blogging world, and more specifically, the Timberwolves blogging community. Shortly after Howlin’ T-Wolf’s birth, Patrick was invited to be a part of the popular blogging community known as the Truehoop Network on ESPN.com. About halfway through the season, Patrick was looking for some help to post some daily links and chip in by writing an occasional game previews/recaps as his life grew hectic. I was reluctant enough to receive these duties as part of an internship starting in December and quickly became the main contributor as Patrick had all sorts of obstacles to hurdle in his every day life. After a career switch, a move from Florida to Minnesota and the birth of his brand new baby boy, Patrick decided that his time with Howlin’ T-Wolf was done or at least limited to a very minimal extent. Patrick handed the reigns over to me, and now as a college student studying Journalism, I am the key contributor on one of the top hits grabbing Timberwolves blogs on the web.

Who or what are your top resources for Timberwolves and general sports news and information?

I use a number of different sources to relay information to my viewers. ESPN, Yahoo and Sports Illustrated are just a few to name, as well as both local papers, Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. I also receive information directly from the Minnesota Timberwolves on account of being a devoted season-ticket holder.

You have said that you have always been a Minnesota sports fan and remember dribbling a basketball in the back alley pretending you were Kevin Garnett. Can you pinpoint how or when you became a true “die hard” fan?

I’ve always enjoyed basketball my entire life and it mostly sprouted from my mother’s love of the game. Her and I were very close before she passed away from cancer earlier this summer and basketball just made our bond that much stronger. But the moment I probably felt like a true “die-hard” fan was the magical run the Timberwolves produced during the 2004 season/preseason. KG, Spree and Sammy C; those three injected this city’s faith in the Timberwolves franchise and rejuvenated what it meant to be an NBA fan. I spent most of that season screaming at the television with my mother when the team underperformed and jumped in each other’s arms with joy when they played up to par.

After that season, the Wolves production fell off and as a result the rebuilding project began with the trade of Kevin Garnett going to the Boston Celtics. After that, my mother and I and tons of Timberwolves fans lost faith in their team and went on to cheer for bigger and better things here in Minnesota.

Even though the Wolves are still suffering, my passion for the game was jumpstarted when I started writing for Howlin’ T-Wolf as well as the passing of my mother because it reminded me of all the good times we shared together by simply watching a basketball game. Hopefully they can start turning things around a little bit so it would actually be the cool thing to be a Timberwolves fan yet again.

What do you like/dislike about the sports blogosphere, and what would you say its role is in the sports world?

One thing I like about the sports blogosphere is the amount of freedom you have. You have no limitations to what you can write and how you want to write it, whereas a news reporter has to stay objective when writing an article. Who wants to do that? I’m not just a reporter that follows the team; I’m also a fan, so I should be able to write about the team as a fan. Plus, I don’t get paid, so I don’t care what people think!

One thing I dislike is how many blogs pounce on speculation when it hits the web. A simple rumor could be leaked and so many blogs jump on it to give their opinion as if the rumor was specific fact. I try to stay away from that as much as possible because I don’t want to get in murky waters with the readers by saying things about something that may never even happen. It seems like a waste of my time and my followers could lose faith in my credibility.

How has blogging changed your life?

Blogging has changed my life in that it has given me a medium of release from my every day life. It’s so easy to get lost in what you’re doing every day that you lose focus of what you really love and have a true passion for. Howlin’ T-Wolf helps me focus my thoughts and free myself from daily stresses all while letting me intertwine two passions of mine: Writing and basketball.

What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

One blog I truly love reading is www.twolvesblog.com. Those guys entertain me day in and day out.

What do you love the most about the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

I’ve been living in Minnesota my whole life, so how can’t I love being here? We have some of the best sporting teams around, and being the avid sports fan I am, that’s very important. Even though the Timberwolves aren’t the creme de la creme of the Minnesota sporting world, I still have plenty of other teams to root on while in season.

The Deets

“You want The Deets? You can’t handle The Deets!” The message at the top of Minneapolis resident Ed Kohler’s blog is direct and to the point – and well-heeded by people who aren’t ready for what he has to say. At The Deets, one can read all about what Ed thinks of local news and events, political issues, and media analysis. Given the current nation’s mood and looming November 2 elections, The Deets has been a busy place. Ed does talk about less volatile topics, though. His occupation is web strategist, helping organizations and businesses set and achieve realistic goals for their website. Because his job requires that he travel, Ed often posts hotel reviews and bits about projects he is working on at The Deets.

What was the inspiration behind starting what would become The Deets blog?

My first dabbling with blogging was inspired by stupid things I’d hear on right-wing talk radio (something I really shouldn’t listen to). At the time, I hadn’t called the site The Deets yet, and didn’t tell many friends other than a few politically passionate friends about the blog.

Then, I met a few friends of my wife at a party who were chatting it up about how much fun they have blogging, and I decided to get more into blogging about the kinds of things I find interesting AND my friends might find interesting too. Basically, I shifted from having an audience of “I don’t care if anyone reads this” to “let’s see if I can make my friends laugh or learn something”. That’s when it became The Deets. I already owned the domain name but had no plans for it, so I used it for the blog.

How would you describe what The Deets is about to someone who has never seen it before?

The Deets has a few posts a week about stuff that interests me. This ranges from things I find interesting around Minneapolis or Minnesota, things I see while traveling for work or vacations, local political issues, and media analysis.

What do you hope readers take away from their time spent at The Deets?

On a good day, I’d hope that someone reading The Deets might learn something about an issue I decided to take a borderline unhealthy obsession with. On an average day, they might be entertained.

How has blogging changed your life?

I’ve met a lot of really cool people because of the blogging I’ve done. Many local, and some in other states or countries. One cool thing is that it seems to get conversations moving in more interesting directions quicker when I meet up with someone. If they’ve read my blog, they’ll have some sense of what sort of things interest me or what I’ve been up to lately. It turns out that quite a few people share similar interests, so that makes our conversations richer.

What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

I read blogs through Google Reader, which tells me that I currently subscribe to 542 news sources, the vast majority of those being blogs. Some of my favorite sources include Techdirt which covers the convergence of the tech and legal industries, Techmeme which is an aggregator of high quality technology related blog posts. Locally, two of my favorite blogs are aggregators of news stories and blog posts. MinnPost’s Daily Glean and Secrets of the City’s MNSpeak both do a good job covering interesting local reporting and events. MinnPost is more news heavy, while MNSpeak does a good job finding interesting stuff on local blogs, events, or ridiculous local news comments worth chatting about. I also enjoy seeing what comes across on the Minneapolis tag from WordPress blogs where I discover new local bloggers who are doing some cool stuff.

But, what I really like is reading what my friends are writing. Most of them rarely post anything, but when they do I read it because it shows up in my Google Reader.

What do you love the most about the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit. The nature of the work my wife and I do would allow us to live in pretty much any major city in the United States, but we’re here, so there must be some reasons. I like living in a place with relatively clean air, where the seasons change, where creative people are doing interesting things that help make the world a better place, and lots of options for recreational activities like running, biking and rollerblading.

I also like living in a metropolitan area that’s large enough to have seriously talented and smart people, great restaurants, yet the ability to drive just about anywhere within 30 minutes.

Is there any particular Minnesota winter activity that you are looking forward to?

One thing that I haven’t done in Minnesota to date, but would like to try this year is go snowshoeing at Afton State Park. I’ve run the trails of the park many times, but haven’t had a chance to get off the trails the way one can in the winter on snowshoes. Hopefully we get some serious snow this winter to make it fun.

The Girl Next Door Grows Up

At The Girl Next Door Grows Up blog, Minnesota-native Erika writes about her family. Married to husband Tyler, the couple has two girls: Emily, age 10, and Sarah, age 3. Additionally, her crazy parents live right next door, providing vast amounts of fodder for Erika’s blog. A wind-fearing dog named Jack, a brand-new British black lab puppy named Millie, Sam the cat, and a pair of scissors named George round out the rest of the family. Erika always tries to look on the bright side of life, and that shines through in her writing. Whatever is going on in her life, she puts a humorous spin on it. Read just a few of the quirky, real-life stories of what is happening in her family-filled world, and you’re sure to come back to read more.

What was the inspiration behind starting The Girl Next Door Grows Up blog?

I have always loved to write and tell stories for as long as I can remember.  My mom has written all of her life and both her and my dad worked for the Star Tribune so it must be in my blood!

When things happen to me, I will actually write in my head while I am doing chores around the house.  Sometimes I would write those thoughts down to submit to magazines or to put into a book, but I never did. It just seemed too overwhelming and unreachable.

Up until last year I had no idea what a blog even was until I stumbled upon one online.  After some research, my mouth dropped open and I just knew this was something that I needed to try.  I knew that blogging was for me.

It took forever to decide the name of my blog because I am more than just a “mommy.” I feel like I am continually growing up and learning and I wanted potential readers to know that through my blog title.  I think because of that I draw in a wide range of readers.

How do you think an avid reader would describe your blog when they recommend it to their best friends?

Ha!  I think an avid reader would say that they always leave smiling and with a chuckle.  And that is my goal.  I want to make people smile or laugh.

Yes, obviously life is not always sunshine and roses, but even during the time when our dog got cancer and had to have her leg amputated,  I wrote posts that had a laugh or two amongst the tears.

I also purposely keep my posts short so that it is easy and quick to read.  I realize people don’t have all day to read so I want to make coming to my site as enjoyable and easy as possible.

In January I created a series called “Feel Good Friday.”  My intention is to get people to focus on the positive things that have happened during the week no matter how many bad things that have happened, I challenge people to find and look for 5 good things.  It is something I am really proud of and I love reading what others write.

You started The Girl Next Door Grows Up in October 2009. During that time, what has been your biggest challenge in maintaining it and creating fresh content?

I never have a problem coming up with content… ever!  I have lists and lists of things that happen that I haven’t had time to write about yet.  My parents are our neighbors and just quick popping over to their house can generate 2 posts in 10 minutes!!

As far as maintaining the blog, my biggest problem has been time.  When I was smaller I was able to reply to everyone every single day.  Then in April – May I was getting 40+ comments a day and that was hard to do.  I only blog during my daughter’s naptime and sometimes at night, so it has been hard to maintain my goals.

When summer came and school let out, blogging became much more difficult, plus I had also switched platforms and found myself spending way more time than was expected on technical issues.  It really upset me more than I thought to not be able to just blog.  Thankfully I switched platforms again and I am able to get back into a routine and connect with my readers.

How has blogging changed your life?

I never really thought there were people “out there” who thought like I did.  With blogging I can tell you that I have a pair of scissors named George and I can tell you all about how it happened, but in real life I am not going to go up to an acquaintance and tell them that or they’d think I was insane!

I am pretty shy in person, but through my blog I will tell the readers anything.

Blogging brings me so much joy, it has amazed me.  I lead a very happy life anyway so I had no idea that this would be so powerful.

Frequently I receive emails from non-bloggers who have just found my site.  Some are sick, some are sad and they all tell me that whatever random post they read, made their day.  I can’t even begin to tell you how that makes me feel.  To think that my writing has had an impact on someone is very meaningful to me.

What is the funniest or most outrageous thing one or all of your kids have done that you have blogged about?

I don’t write a lot about my girls.  It is my parents who are the lunatics!  My 66 year old mom just started dying her bangs red for fun.  We did a vlog together that was outrageous, but people loved it so I guess that’s what counts!

Then there is my poor dad who paints portraits.  He can do everyone perfectly, but me, and I have had a lot of fun with that.

My 3 year old did go through a phase where she had to have her crocs cooled in the fridge!  That was a hum-dinger.

What other blogs do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite local Twin Cities bloggers?

I love quite a few bloggers and I always hate not being able to include everyone.  Laundry Hurts My Feelings is one of my favorites by Joann Mannix.

Also Susan Tipton of Daily Coping Skills is probably the most intellectual, witty and underappreciated bloggers out there.  She is a remarkable woman and her posts bring me so much happiness and joy.

I just recently met a handful of Minnesota bloggers and had no idea there were so many out there!  I would have to say that I really enjoy the writing of Beth, The Anti-Supermom who is also a delight in person.

What do you love the most about the Twin Cities / Minnesota and why?

I have lived here all of my life and I love it all!  The seasons, the lakes, the culture…  We truly have it all here, plus the people are so kind and down to earth.  I never plan on leaving.