Boston Parent Bloggers

I Got to Ask Peter Hotton a Question…

Photo Courtesy of Kerry Goodwin Photography

I Got to Ask The Boston Globe’s Peter Hotton a Question (well, actually, two) at the Harvey Building Products Showroom

If you own a house, there are always a few little things (or a ton of big things) that need to be fixed, updated or replaced and if you are handy, terrific but if you are not, well, that’s okay, too. There are tons of good people out there to help you out. While only slightly skilled, I can manage minimal repairs and just yesterday I fixed (inexpensive but still fine) cotton window shades with parts that I scored off another shade. Yes, thank you, I do feel resourceful! How did I get so resourceful? By finding people who know way more than I do (that’s easy enough). For years, one of my favorite weekly reads has been Peter Hotton’s Handyman On Call column in the Boston Globe (every Thursday).

Asking Peter Hotten a question at Harvey Building Products Boston Parent Blogger Network event
Asking Peter Hotton a question

So I was thrilled when I was invited to a Boston Parent Blogger event at Harvey Building Products in Burlington where Mr. Hotton would be speaking (yes, I am that handy-person geek – let’s talk about my air-to-air heat exchanger). Peter Hotten spoke charmingly and knowledgeably to the assembled bloggers and shared stories and advice. He had a great answer to that heat exchanger question, too.

I have to say that this was not my first visit to the lovely Harvey showroom. A few years ago we did some (much needed) work and had a wonderful contractor (John Natale in Woburn), who would patiently go over plans or even hold up pieces of wood to show how a corner would be finished. He also sent us here to choose a roof.

Capability mom at harvey building products
This is my roof!

Thank goodness he did! It’s a great way to look at roofs (or windows, doors or decking material) on mock houses making it much easier to visualize on your house and you won’t annoy other drivers by slowing down or cause an accident by rubbernecking while roof shopping. See, all about the safety!

Harvey has been around for exactly as many years as I have (look it up, it’s a long time) and this local company is a wonderful resource to find contractors, too. While they work primarily with contractors, the bright and beautiful showroom is open to the public. Don’t be shy, head on in and pick out a roof or front door or window. I sort of fell in love with a sun room…

Thank you Harvey Building Products, Peter Hotton, Boston Parent Bloggers and Julie Dennehy for the informative and fun event!

I happily attended this Boston Parent Bloggers Network event and was given a lovely lunch and a gift bag but no compensation was received. All opinions are, as always, my own.

At Joe’s American Bar & Grill – It’s Still Summer!

Some of you know that I am having the Summer of No Cook meals…the idea is to not heat up the kitchen, use the gorgeous produce from my CSA and make meal times easier (more time outside for me). So when Joe’s American Bar & Grill invited some local bloggers for dinner, I happily accepted the invitation. After all, what is more No Cook than someone else cooking? I was on board.

I put the event on my calendar and pulled up Google maps. The directions involved a crazy U turn on some road I had never heard of…sometimes Google Maps kills me…but wait…This Joe’s (there are 12 in New England) is in Shopper’s World in Framingham.

Yes, (ahem) I am familiar with the area. I hadn’t immediately registered that Joe’s was there, possibly because my focus is usually A.C. Moore (craft supplies), Old Navy (t-shirts) with a peek into the Nordstrom (the rack, of course) and DSW (if I have time ; for a little shoe therapy – start at the back of the store for the great sale shoes). So, a happy location for me.

On to Joe’s. I was warmly greeted by some of the lovely staff and a group of Boston Parent Bloggers (some I had met before, some I had just seen on Twitter or Facebook – it was great to connect in real life). We chatted and enjoyed lovely house sangria then were seated at a long table in a private dining area. Great for family events (note to self – my family is huge).

The dinner was intended to showcase the summer menu and the family friendliness of the restaurant – maybe the next event (blatant hint for an invite to another event) should be with kids to really underscore that message and it would be nice to test drive the children’s menu, too. My kids are old enough now that we can take them anywhere but that wasn’t always the case, so I do appreciate a family friendly approach. You know, good, healthy food for kids, nice high chairs, crayons and coloring sheets, a friendly and patient staff and a place that everyone is happy with the menu. A tall order but one that Joe’s can fill.

As we sampled and took numerous food photos, we chatted, exchanged stories and got to know each other a little better. We also learned that there are no microwaves in any of their kitchens (and only a small freezer for ice cream). Good to know! So, everything is super fresh, made from scratch and delicious. The kid’s menu has great healthy choices (all made fresh – no frozen chicken nuggets here) and all kid’s dinners are only $6.

spinach and artichoke dip joes american capabilitymom blog
If you see this at a potluck, I did not make it, I bought it at Joe’s…

American Joe's Baby back ribs capability mom blog

We shared appetizers family style and were happily digging in, sharing amazing crab cakes, skillet mussels and this lovely rib dish when someone thought of passing off the Spinach and Artichoke Dip as homemade for the next potluck – What a good idea! I ; had left my family with only a huge bowl of cut up watermelon to bring to an impromptu block party… Next time, Neighbors!

On to entrees and there were so many options – How to choose? The shrimp and watermelon salad which looked like summer on a plate, and the fish and chips also looked heavenly. Since Joe’s is known for their burgers (The All American BBQ Bacon Cheddar Burger was a finalist in Boston Magazine’s Battle of the Burgers), ; I (going light after all the apps and anticipating dessert) ordered a turkey burger – it was delicious.

Chef Sean McDonald (charming and clearly passionate about food) noticed that we had a slight problem making choices from his wonderful menu, so he ordered one of everything from the dessert menu for us to try – Nice idea! Luckily we were a group with experience at sharing and we all passed these generously portion desserts around (after the photos were taken). I tried a bit of each dessert – fave was the Charles River Pie but I loved them all!

So, my recommendation? Check out Joe’s – here is a link to find the one closest to you.

Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Check out this Summer at Joe’s Sweepstakes where you can win tickets to Six Flags, gift cards and more…

Post BlogHer Post

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Well, I am back from a whirlwind weekend away at the blogging conference that is BlogHer and I haven’t written until now. It takes a lot of work to step out of our lives for even a little while, and while it is easier for me than for a mom with young ones, it was still challenging. I had (first time) sleep away camp to prep for (she packed herself while I was away – well, with help from Dad) and only forgot one thing which I actually had in the car. By the seat of my pants, I tell you.

Here is the thing, I started this post days ago and have hesitated to hit publish because I wasn’t expressing the over-riding feeling I have had from BlogHer. Gratitude. Exhaustion and Gratitude.

Sometimes I have a gratitude problem. It is true. Many of us do. It is easy to criticize, to correct, to suggest ways to improve on something (and I have plenty of suggestions for the organizers, if they care to ask), but here is the main takeaway:

I am lucky that I could go – it is an expensive trip and lucky that my family is supportive.

I learned things (about blogs, social media, conferences, expectations, how to present myself, how to give an elevator pitch).

I met interesting, kind and generous people willing to share their knowledge and experience at the sessions, on the expo floor, in a cab, in a restaurant. Everywhere.

I got to travel in a Blogher Bound bus (Thank you, McDonald’s) to an exciting place that I love and don’t get to often enough.

I won prizes. What? Prizes, you say? Yes. Prizes. Like what? Let me say that as a Blogher newbie, I didn’t even know there would be prizes. I had heard about the swag but really had no idea that it was anything and certainly not why I went.

But, what did I win? A $100 Best Buy gift certificate. I was walking down from the suites on the 42nd floor (TMobile, Hershey’s) because the elevators were so very busy when I got the call and I didn’t realize the expo floor was closing. By the time I got there, the super nice rep from Best Buy was alone in the almost empty hall waiting for me to claim my prize. So nice! Above and beyond, Best Buy! Thank you!

I also won a folding bicycle (a very sweet ride from Gotham Bike) from the lovely people at Advil for taking part in their scavenger hunt. It is really cool and I can’t wait for it to get here! I’ll take my own pictures when it arrives, and I think it has already been claimed by my children.

I got a ride with McDonald’s on their bus bound for BlogHer and learned more about them, and that was really nice. Thank you, McDonald’s.

More, yes, there is more. A $25 Pet Smart Gift card, and some Lysol products. bags, pens, notepads and zip drives. Am I done? Kind of. The stuff wasn’t why I went to Blogher but it’s what I tally when I get back. That and the stack of business cards I am still puzzling over (I did not write on them as I was advised to do. Next time I will).

I met people from Newton, Needham, Boston, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, California and Canada. I enjoyed every conversation and meeting. I had two breakfasts on Friday, the one for newbies and one with McDonald’s. Here is a link to Honest and Truly blog and a transcript of the Question & Answer session at breakfast. I got a recharge massage at TMobile (their tech stuff is awesome).

I went to Getting Gorgeous, had my hair straightened (thank you, GG and CVS, and I love my Extracare card) and it held up in the humidity, and have some more great stuff there. Okay, I’ll share! Super cute dark wash boot leg jeans from Coldwater Creek that make me look smaller than I am, a pair of gorgeous shoes from Naturalizer, and a gift card from Diet Pepsi! There is more but I think that may be another post.

So…Blogher in NYC. Huge. Overwhelming. Loud. Crowded. Busy. Both the city and the conference, so imagine them combined. I like the chaos for a while (as the oldest of five, it is my natural state of being) but then I need a break which I took in the form of a run through Central Park on Saturday morning.central park imagine strwaberry fields nyc manhattan capability mom blog

It was wonderful to connect with bloggers from Boston Parent Bloggers some I met for the first time on the BlogHer Bound bus. We had plenty of laughs (especially at the rest area where seven other buses stopped at the same time, yes, I said seven) and we got to know a little bit about each other, and found out we shared some connections other than blogging (even though that would have been enough). I had a Martha’s Vineyard connection with one super nice, grounded blogger and learned about more about Kegels than I ever thought I would know), talked to another BPB Blogger who is running the Falmouth Road Race to benefit the Melanoma Foundation of New England (something I am into, too) and I met someone who is funnier than I am (it is rare because I think I’m really funny – ask my family).

Once we got there, it was super crowded and chaotic. The elevators were jammed and it didn’t help that FFaNY was in the building (all the rooms on our floor were shoe showrooms except for ours and one across the hall). What a confluence that could have been. Women with sore feet and 14 stories above people selling shoes. Next time, FFaNY, bring shoes to sell. Seriously. Twitter was full of people looking for other shoes because they only packed cute heels.

But I digress. The conference proper is kind of hard to tease out of the side events. While it was great to meet so many people with a shared interest in blogging, writing and playing nicely with social media, it it does seem like it should be easier to find and schedule things.

One of the sessions was so overcrowded (so great that so many people wanted to learn about turning posts into published essays) that I stood against a wall trying to find enough air to breathe, never mind trying to take notes. I think PhD in Parenting was there,too, but couldn’t confirm. That was my main celebrity sighting* and I’m not even sure it was her. I may have been lightheaded from lack of air.

As always, NYC is a great destination and there could never be enough city love time. I wish that some events were “off campus”, as in not in the Hilton (as nice as it is). It is a shame to not explore such a fabulous city.

Pragmatic Mom and I found a great local restaurant (Thank you, Hilton concierge) and had a wonderful dinner where we met some lovely shoe people from FFaNY. We may even have a shoe giveaway with them – Stay tuned!

Best things about BlogHer? The people, the sessions (although they need a better system), the location (more recess time needed if you are in the city), and the sponsors are interesting and varied, which is always good. I saw Advil, Clorox, Lysol, CVS, Verizon, Best Buy, Disney Jr, Poise, Dannon, Samsung and so many more. I’ll go into it later or this will be the longest post ever.

I liked connecting with people, brands, bloggers, seeing new things, learning something new (so like Martha), trying something new, and sharing it all. Did I love every minute? No, I am no Pollyanna. Some things were size and location related, some easy fixes, some more complicated. If you really want to know, comment below! I promise to share and even over share!

*Correction – I did get to see Jeannie Mai, host of The Style Network’s “How Do I Look?” She looked great. I was in a button down and a pencil skirt. Ehh.

Lest this post makes it sound like I was careening hither and yon getting swag, I was not. I went through the Expo Hall and stopped at booths where I engaged in a dialogue with brand representatives and happened to get lucky. I found great new finds and will write about them when I sort through the bag of note and paper…too much paper!

I am a Blogher Newbie

Why Being  Blogher Newbie is a Good Thing

Not only a Blogher Newbie, but a blogging conference newbie (I have a feeling that this conference is so large that  it wouldn’t matter). I am very lucky to have landed in a group of generous, sharing bloggers in the Boston Parent Bloggers.  This incredibly supportive group is kind and helps with anything from favorite plug-ins to how to manage the behemoth* (the second definition) that is Blogher ’12 with their sage advice and kind, calming words.

I did spend a bit of time trying to find clothes that make me look like a slightly nicer version of my usual self (really, you should see how I go out to walk the dog). I tend to over-pack anyway, so imagine how I pack if I am trying to look nice. I am also traveling with neighbor and blogging friend, and consummate under-packer (it is a skill), Pragmatic Mom. It is actually primarily her fault that I even have a blog. Ask her, she will verify this.

I also chose this week to tweak my header image, tagline and title. Sure, good timing. I also played (mostly nicely) with plug-ins, and considered a new theme (wisely I am holding off). I also cleaned the house, co-hosted a party (actually we called it MINoBBot – Mothers In Need of a Bracing Beverage or Two), had two lovely house guests,  cleaned most of the house and, of course, the usual other stuff I do, including a lovely Blogger Luncheon at MGHfC (Mass General Hospital for Children). There I learned about the wonderful facility and staff ( fantastic, dedicated staff, knowledgeable and caring) and met a fellow Martha fan (who agreed to sit with me during Friday’s lunch – Martha is our Keynote Speaker)! ! The always fantastic Katie Couric is the Keynote Speaker for Saturday. We are so lucky to have such an incredible roster of speakers (I can’t even begin to name all the speakers for the break-out sessions) and, not to put him last, and with all due respect, President Obama is speaking via satellite on Thursday. Wow.

Do I sound overwhelmed? I am, a little. I love visiting NYC and the energy and inspiration I get from visiting this dynamic city. I have read the twitter streams, the facebook updates, the emails, the invitations, the non-invitations, the sponsor updates, read the blog posts and I have chosen my sessions although did not know you had to sign up for Geek Bar until it was booked up and am shut out. Oh, well. I will get my geek on, anyway, I always do.

fenway park, sharon schindler photography, capability mom blog
Photo credit: Sharon Schindler

I am excited to meet new people, connect with virtual friends in real life, learn as much as I can to continue to improve (in SEO, writing skills, blog design, making a media kit, (the list goes on), get inspired and share it all here.

For the next few days, instead of driving carpool and making lunches, I will step out of my normal routine and I will be at Blogher ’12 – tweeting, sharing on Facebook and hunching over my iPad with the cool stylus I found at Blik (a favorite art store) and connecting with a bunch of people who probably care more about my header saga than my family does (the glazed looks were the giveaway).

Conversation with teen child after I showed her the crayon/stylus. “Aren’t I cool?” I believe I asked, knowing I had a cool item in hand.

” Mom, you have cool things” was the response. Noted.

This is what I look like at a cool place. There will be more pics of me at another cool place- Blogher ’12!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Behemoth be·he·moth/biˈhēməTH/ Noun:

1. A huge or monstrous creature.

2. Something enormous, esp. a big and powerful organization.

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