As a blogger myself, as well as an avid blog reader, I am always really happy to discover new (to me, anyway) bloggers who capture my attention and interest in a really compelling way. I am talking about the kind of blogs where after just a visit or two, I am hooked, and I become a regular reader because I want to keep up with what comes next on the blog and in that blogger’s life or work. Just a few years ago, the blogosphere was much less crowded, and I found it easier to find new bloggers to add to my Google Reader (RIP, beloved Google Reader), but these days, holy moly! There are thousands and thousands and thousands of blogs and bloggers out there, and sometimes — okay, most of the time — I find the space so crowded that it becomes kind of overwhelming. As a result, I find that I don’t do as much blog-exploring as I used to do. Instead I stick to my tried and true favorite reads (see the blogroll over at my own blog for a list of what those blogs are). These days, I find that the best way for me to identify blogs that I want to at least check out is when a friend or another blogger takes the time to specifically recommend one. When that happens, it kind of clears the way for me to focus on a new blog or two, and I find that I still take the same pleasure I always have in first encountering a blog where the blogger’s story, or her (or his) writing or photography or subject matter just makes me say, “Wow.” Given how much I appreciate it when people I know or read regularly send me in the direction of new, interesting blogs, I thought I would share some blogs that I really love, but that perhaps you haven’t come across before. In this mix of ten, I think there’s something for everyone, and I hope there’s a new (to you) blogger here that you end up loving as much as I do. I know most of these bloggers personally in one way or another, so that makes it even more fun to get to send you in their direction. I’m breaking my list of ten into two parts because if I had a list of ten blogs thrown at me at once, I’d probably be less likely to actually look at any of them. Five at a time seems like a good way to go. Sooo… here are the first five bloggers that I’d like to recommend to you, and I’ll be sharing Part II with the second five within the next week. I look forward to hearing from any of y’all who discover a new read that you really like among the blogs on my list.
To view the next photo in the slideshow, just click the red arrow to the right of each slide.
Blog #1 1 of 5
Blog: The Water Is Wide
Blogger: Beth Arky
I discovered Beth Arky's brand new blog through my dear friend Kimi (actually, she's more like my for real big sister, and she's also my daughter J's godmother). Beth and Kimi were Tri Delt sorority sisters at Northwestern back in the day, and the two of them have stayed in touch over the years. I had the pleasure of meeting Beth in person at BlogHer 2012, almost two years before she finally took the leap and launched her very own blog.
Beth is a graduate of Northwestern's highly esteemed journalism program, but as she shares in one of her first blog posts, she has always worked behind the scenes as an editor, including for some big time national publications. Although she felt that she had things to say as a writer, she held back for all these years, instead working to make other writers' work better, meaning they got the byline while nobody knew the role that Beth played as editor.
But now, Beth has finally found her voice and has launched a personal blog she's named, "The Water Is Wide." When I say that this blog is brand new, I'm not kidding; Beth has only penned a handful of posts so far. But once I read just one of them, I knew she was a blogger to watch. The post I'm referring to is one she wrote right after Halloween this year about the experience of living as an overweight woman in a world of fat-shaming.
"My BMI is an SOB," writes Beth.
And also, "Unlike, say, alcoholism, the evidence of food addiction can't be hidden easily."
I think many women can totally identify, and Beth writes about this often painful topic with smart honesty.
So go check out The Water Is Wide, and leave Beth a comment encouraging her to KEEP BLOGGING.
Blog #2 2 of 5
Blog: Looks Good From The Back
Bloggers: Marianne and Adrien
If you love the blogs Go Fug Yourself and Jessica Quirk's What I Wore, Marianne and Adrien's blog, Looks Good From The Back will be right up your alley. The two bloggers behind LGFTB are friends and fashionistas with a wicked sense of humor and an ability to translate fashion blogging into the real world. They also throw in some swoony and hilarious commentary on various super hot men.
But my fave part of LGFTB by far is when Adrien and Marianne (who happens to be a co-worker and friend of mine) dig into a photograph taken straight from a current fashion blog or magazine, and then proceed to jointly dissect what the model is wearing. Here's their exchange regarding a photo of a woman wearing some really bad jeans in a fashiony sort of way.
A: What is happening here? And, what? Is happening? Here?
M: I just. Those jeans. Those everything.
A: I don't UNDERSTAND. The sweater is fine? The shoes, while not my taste, are certainly fashiony. Why go ironic just in the middle? All or nothing. ALL OR NOTHING.
M: I am sure they are very comfortable.
A: Those literally might be her boyfriend's jeans. If she's dating Dexy's Midnight Runner.
M: While I would not wear them if you paid me (the horrors!), it's kind of refreshing, really. Comfort!
A: Those shoes undo any comfort she might be feeling.
M: The shoes are the only thing keeping it from being a house painting outfit. From the Delias catalog in 1993.
A: My house painting outfit comes from Target. Circa 2003.
M: I have a feeling she paid...more than 2003 Target dollars for that.
A: I'm just way, way ahead of the game here. Bring it, designer lounge pants with a sagging elastic waist!
M: Let's do this, saggy banded waist sweater!
A: POWER TO THE COMFY PEOPLE.
A: But seriously, she looks cray.
Yeah, these two are entertaining.
If you like fashion blogs but also see the humor in them, and if you would love two see two real women's own fashion choices in regular "What I Wore" photo blogging, head on over to Looks Good From the Back. You won't be sorry.
Blog #3 3 of 5
Blogger: Merrilee Liddiard
Seven years ago when Jon and I (and Henry, J and E - this was pre C or G) moved into our house, we had the most adorable and sweet couple living next door, along with their equally adorable and sweet toddler son. The family had moved to Knoxville so that husband Jon - an actor - could pursue his graduate degree in theater at the University of Tennessee. While Jon was busy with grad school and performing in plays, wife and mother Merrilee spent her days caring for their little guy while also quietly (I say "quietly," because it was a year before I realized what she did and how much of a big deal she was in her field) working as one of the most in-demand illustrators of children's books in the country.
In addition to both having creative careers, their home and personal style were equally creative. Merrilee always looked like she'd just stepped out of a photo shoot for Anthropologie or Free People, and the interior of their house - all designed and put together by hand by Merrilee - was SO AMAZING! The creative use of color, the way she pulled together quirky finds and artwork, and the welcoming feel were just jaw-dropping. I loved, loved, loved their home, and my favorite room was their little boy's nursery, which was so sweet and offbeat and livable.
It would be easy to hate these people, but it turns out that they were just incredibly nice, down to earth folks, whom we really enjoyed having next door. During the time they lived here, I continually gushed to Merrilee about her sense of style, and I encouraged her all the time to start her own blog to showcase her design aethetic. I also continually urged her to apply to become one of the designer contestant's on HGTV's Design Star (now known simply as HGTV Star). In fact I repeated my suggestions that she start a blog and try to land a spot on HGTV's show so often that I am sure Merrilee got really, really sick of me, but she was much too polite to say anything.
After Jon finished his graduate program, the Liddiards moved to L.A. so Jon could pursue his work as an actor, and my own Jon and I were so sorry to see them go. However I had zero doubt that these people were headed for big things in their respective careers.
Fast forward five years or so, and Merrilee is now one of the hottest design and DIY bloggers around. And as it turns out, I now work for HGTV! (I still really hope that Merrilee goes after a spot on HGTV Star at some point.) I loooove Merrilee's incredibly beautiful and sweet blog, MerMag and so do a whole lot of other people. As a blogger, she's been featured in places like high profile places like Apartment Therapy, and she collaborates with companies like Gap Kids.
I am so thrilled for Merrilee's growing success, but not a wee bit surprised. She's awesome. I think you will find her awesome as well when you go check out MerMag, where you will be both inspired and entertained.
(Hi Jon and Merrilee! Hope all is well with you guys. The kids are SO gorgeous. We send our love and best wishes from back here on Grainger Avenue!)
Blog #4 4 of 5
Blogger: Stefani Ansgtadt-Leto
Stefani Angstadt-Leto is another blogger whom I met when her husband and she, along with their cutiepie 3 year old daughter moved to Knoxville so that husband Eric could attend grad school at the University of Tennessee. It seems like just yesterday Stefani and her family lived in Knoxville, but it was actually - gasp - 15 years ago! (How is that even POSSIBLE?) But anyway, even before I met Stefani in person, she and I were both active members on a listserv (remember those?) for breastfeeding mamas, and so when she and the fam moved to Knoxville, I felt like I already knew her.
Stefani and Eric and I quickly became fast friends, and my two (only two then!) children, Henry and J, who were 3 and 6 years old when the Angstadt-Letos first hit town, loved playing with Stefani and Eric's little girl.
For two or three years, we all hung out together all the time. I loved these guys, and I found Stefani both a wonderful friend, but also one of the most productive and interesting people I'd ever met. Before becoming a mother, she had left her PhD program in English at the University of Virginia, telling her advisor that she was "dropping out to become a farmer." She had decided to make a huge U-turn in her life by leaving her prestigious grad school program to stay home with her (yet to exist) home-birthed, family bedded, breastfed, home schooled children, and to create a cozy home for her family where she would grow and preserve and cook almost all the food they would eat.
At the time that Stefani moved to Knoxville, she was well on her way to composing the life for herself that she wanted, and I was in awe of everything she knew how to do - from growing anything to knitting to baking to, well, you name it.
Fast forward, and Stefani and her family - which now includes four kids - have been settled in the Bay Area of California for more than a decade. And sure enough, she absolutely lives the life she imagined for herself. While Eric has a work outside the home professional job, Stefani's life revolves around their home and her urban farm. That cute little girl we loved when she lived in Knoxville is now a college freshman, just like my J. She was homeschooled from kindergarten thru high school graduation, and Stefani continues to homeschool her three younger siblings. Plus, Stefani has become one of the best known urban farmers in an area of the country busting out with them. She really does grow or raise (she has bees and chickens) most of her gorgeous family's food in the not-so-big backyard of their Berkeley house.
I love reading Stefani's blog because it makes me dream of having a slower pace of life where I, too, could fully indulge my newfound love of gardening (Back when Stefani lived in Knoxville I NEVER imagined I would EVER want to grow ANYTHING for pleasure. Gardening sounded tedious and dirty. Moral: Never say never.), as well as turn more of my attention to my now-underway plan to raise chickens in my own backyard. As someone who still can't cook so well, I also take vicarious pleasure in seeing the beautiful and mouth-watering dishes that Stefani prepares for her own tribe, with stuff she grew herself. And to top it off, Stefani happens to be an exceedingly talented writer, so I getting to read what she writes about her life as an urban homesteader and parent is always a delicious pleasure as well.
If you have ever dreamed of creating your own self-sustaining life for your family, and need some real-life inspiration, be sure to head over to Stefani's blog. I predict you will love it as much as I do.
Blog # 5 5 of 5
Blog: Life In Every Limb
Blogger: Leslie Sholly
Leslie Sholly makes me want to convert to Catholicism... or at least be more like Leslie Sholly, a blogger I love reading who happens to be proudly, authentically and joyfully Catholic.
While Leslie's faith is evident in the way she lives her life, and thus in the way she writes about her life on her blog, Life in Every Limb, it isn't a blog about Catholicism. Instead it's a blog about living life as a woman who tries every day to truly live her faith in a way we rarely see in modern American life.
Leslie writes wonderfully; she's funny, smart, thought-provoking and willing to take a stand. As a Catholic who defies the stereotypes - she's outspokenly progressive on most social issues while remaining staunchly pro-life - Leslie is a breath of fresh air in a culture where we are all supposed to fit in neat little idealogical boxes...and then go scream at each other on the internet, or in front of women's clinics.
Leslie and I met online - I honestly don't even recall exactly when or how - but we've since become "real life" friends, although we don't see each other often enough. She's as smart, funny and self-deprecating in person as she is when she blogs.
Why do I regularly read and always enjoy a "Catholic blog" when I'm not a Catholic myself? Well, because Leslie Sholly writes it, and her voice would be compelling and thoughtful whether she penned a "Hindu blog," or an "LDS blog" or a "Pastafarian blog."
Go check out Life in Every Limb, and I think you'll see what I mean.