I’ll be at BlogHer’s upcoming conference

rp_BH15_VOTY_Honoree.pngDress selected, shoes picked out, blogging business cards located from the back of a drawer. All that’s left is the excited anticipation for attending the #BlogHer15: Experts Among Us conference in New York City. That, and the packing.

I will be appearing onstage during the Voices of the Year Community Keynote, for which I am humbled and a little (OK, a lot) freaked out. Some blogging friends and my husband will be there, too, though, so that makes me feel reassured and excited.

For now, it’s a secret which video of mine will be awarded at the Community Keynote, but I’ll share all the news when I get back from the conference.

(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish business card

#BlogHer15 | #VOTY (Voices of the Year)

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Postcards from Outside Your Comfort Zone {3}: Dancing with the Stars

{In this series, readers send in postcards from outside their comfort zones. Celebrate your courage: Send me a postcard.}

Comfort zone postcard 03 Dancing with the Stars

I was so impressed when I opened my local paper and saw my friend Julie, who took on Quinnipiac University′s “Dancing with the Stars” challenge, even though she’d never had any formal dance lessons. She danced brilliantly and was an inspiration to us all.

Thanks, Julie!

Whose postcard will be in my mailbox next? Maybe it’s yours. (Mailing directions)

Marcy checking mailbox

Send me your postcard!

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The Middle Ages

Marcy out of zorb
Farmington River tubing
Sunrise Machu Picchu Inca Trail Day 4
Cuzco plaza at night
Abandoned car Storm Nemo
Two boys then and now
Dan Marcy David Puno at night


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50 Years of Great Rock: You Say It’s Your Birthday

Hop on a 14-minute journey through the history of rock and roll. Starting with the classic rock of the Who in 1965, you’ll hear hard rock, psychedelia, roots rock, Southern rock, funk, punk, new wave, a quick nod to disco, eighties pop, grunge, indie rock, and beyond….

The rules:

  • one song a year
  • the song has to sound like its year
  • each band just once

(Video link)

1965 — My Generation — The Who
During the year of my birth, rock really got rolling with this song. Released as a single and on the album My Generation in 1965, it reached #2 in the UK. The BBC at first refused to play the song because it didn’t want to offend stutterers, and it has one of the earliest bass solos in rock (Wikipedia). Check out the video of the Who performing the song on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967) with Townsend destroying his guitar at the end.

1966 — Ramblin’ on My Mind — John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers
This song features the sweet sounds of a young Eric Clapton singing the blues with John Mayall’s band after leaving the Yardbirds. That’s Eric Clapton reading the comic book Beano on the cover of the album.

1967 — For What It’s Worth — Buffalo Springfield
A famous protest song, Stephen Stills said he wrote it about conflict between the police and young club goers regarding a curfew, but it is now associated with the protest movement against the Vietnam War (Wikipedia).

1968 — White Room — Cream
Here is Clapton again in this psychedelic song powerfully sung by Jack Bruce. The song is from the double album Wheels of Fire.

1969 — Up on Cripple Creak — The Band
“Up on Cripple Creek” is from the Band’s second album. I love the live version from The Last Waltz too, especially when Levon Helm says, “I sure wish I could yodel.” {Related: 10 more movies you’ve never seen, but should}

1970 — Get Back — The Beatles
It’s the closing track of the 1970 album Let it Be. There are a few different versions of the song, including a single  released in 1969. It hit #1 on the UK singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100. At the end of the famous rooftop concert, John can be heard joking, “I’d like to say ‘thank you’ on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.”

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Beyond Excited to be One of BlogHer’s Voices of the Year

Beyond excited with Emerson quotation

#BlogHer15: Experts Among Us Voices of the Year HonoreeI’m beyond excited to share that I’m one of BlogHer’s Voices of the Year, and I’ll be appearing onstage during the BlogHer15: Experts Among Us Community Keynote in New York in July.

Just where is “beyond excited” on a map of my timid and squeamish heart? Terrified. That’s where “beyond excited” is.

I thought describing my reaction would be only a story of my stage fright, but after sitting on the secret for a few days, I finally got to look over the list of the other Voices of the Year honorees. I am humbled and inspired to be among them, and I am looking forward to meeting them and joining them on the stage.

Send your positive thoughts my way on July 17. Better yet, if you are attending the conference, please let me know. I would love to meet you in real life!

#BlogHer15 | #voty

Updated with illustration

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Leave some milk in a dark cupboard to make homemade kefir

{Welcome to MultiMEDIA Splice #15, a link party. Join me by linking up a “milk”-themed post or a multimedia post on any topic.}

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Have you heard of kefir? A fermented milk drink that’s a cousin of yogurt, kefir is loaded with healthy probiotics. My husband started drinking it (from the grocery store) after having some intestinal problems. We soon learned that it’s easy and cheap to make at home.

Place the grains in a cup of milk and store at room temperature in a dark place for a day or two

Place the grains in a cup of milk and store at room temperature in a dark place for a day or two

I ordered some kefir “grains” on the Internet as a starter for making homemade kefir. The first step is to cover the grains, actually a little colony of bacteria and yeast, with about a cup of milk and put it in the cupboard to work its magic at room temperature for 24 hours. I had to do this process about four times with my newly arrived colony, to wake it up after its travels.

Strain out the kefir "grains" and use them as a starter for your next batch of kefir

Strain out the kefir “grains” and use them as a starter for your next batch of kefir

I strained out the starter and put it into a new jar of milk in the cupboard. The new batch will be ready in about a day or two, depending on how thick and tart I want it.

I blended in some mixed berries and a little honey and refrigerated my homemade kefir smoothie.

I’ll admit it took a leap of faith to drink it, knowing it had sat at room temperature in the cupboard for a day. People in Eastern Europe, though, have been preserving milk this way for centuries, so who am I to question it?

How was it?

Homemade kefir smoothie

Homemade kefir smoothie

My homemade kefir had a pleasant, mild taste and was thinner and less tart than the grocery store version. Letting it ferment for a longer time would make it more tart and thick.

I liked that mine had real fruit rather than strawberry juice concentrate, and my husband guessed there were more active probiotics (based on the taste) than were in the grocery store version.


 (Video link)

Have you tried homemade kefir?

Related content:

Make homemade kefir Beyond 101 Things: Make homemade kefir

Homemade kefir strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #15

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Searching for Dan Donnelly’s right arm

{Welcome to MultiMEDIA Splice #14, a link party. Join me by linking up an “Irish”-themed post or a multimedia post on any topic.}

The Hideout Kilcullen Ireland

I walked into the pub and tried to act nonchalant, but just how do you bring up that you’re looking for the preserved arm of a bare-knuckle boxer from the 19th century?

Slowly. That’s how you bring it up.

I ordered a Bulmers and sat down at the bar, where the bartender was watching an Irish rugby match. I knew nothing about Irish rugby, so I threw in some color commentary that consisted of “oh no” and “what?”

I had seen a little blurb in a guide book that long ago gravediggers had stolen the body of Dan Donnelly, a famed bare-knuckle boxer with arms so long that it was said he could button his knee-breeches without stooping, and that his right arm had eventually ended up at the Hideout, a pub in Kilcullen, Ireland.

I felt a bit squeamish. Still, drinking a hard Irish cider, chatting up a friendly Irish bartender, and watching a tough Irish rugby match created an Irish trifecta that allowed me to summon up the courage to bring up the arm.

Dan Donnelly poster at the Hideout“So… I hear you have an arm here?”

“What was that, miss?”

After a panicked moment that I was in the wrong place, I blundered on.

“Uh, Dan Donnelly, you know, the boxer?”

“Oh!” He was thrilled with this. “We did have his arm, but we don’t have it anymore. Just a moment.”

He disappeared into a back room and emerged with a rolled up paper.

“Here, you can have this,” he said, as he presented me with a poster that told the tale.

So that’s why a poster of Dan Donnelly, the bare-knuckle boxer, now rests above the little bar in my basement.

Dan Donnelly poster

The arm itself eluded me. I afterwards learned that while I was in Ireland, it was in New York, a two-hour train ride from my home. It has since returned to Ireland, and I hope one day that Donnelly will be reunited with it.

I leave you with a clip from my favorite movie about an Irish bare-knuckle boxer: Snatch, featuring Brad Pitt in hilarious mumble-mode.

(Video link)

Pubs of Ireland collage

More of Ireland:

Dan Donnelly strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #14

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Planet Amsterdam and Other Worlds

{Welcome to MultiMEDIA Splice #13, a link party. Join me by linking up a “planet”-themed post or a multimedia post on any topic.}

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”
Gary Snyder

When you travel, do you feel like you’ve stepped onto another planet, a complete world of different sights and sounds, foods and moods, laid out just for you to explore?

Planet Amsterdam
Planet Amsterdam
Canal houses in Amsterdam with a row of bicycles out front
See also: Absinthe in Amsterdam

(Scroll down to see the source photographs and vote for your favorite little planet.)

Planet Aegean
Snorkeling with David and Daniel in the Aegean Sea

Planet Chicago
Planet Chicago #littleplanet

“The Bean” in Chicago, reflecting the skyline

Planet Brooklyn Bridge
The Manhattan skyline as seen from Brooklyn
See also: Birthday on the Brooklyn Bridge

The Photoshop tutorials below warned about having a crack in the center of my little planet (which happens when not starting with a panoramic photo), but I kind of like this effect for the Brooklyn Bridge. I experimented with copying and flipping the bridge in the photo below. What do you think?

Planet Brooklyn Bridge (Alternate Universe)
Planet Brooklyn Bridge (doubled)

Planet RappellingPlanet Rappelling
Rappelling down a waterfall in Costa Rica

Planet Mykonos
Planet Mykonos
White houses on a hillside in Mykonos, Greece
See also: Something fishy about this pedicure

Planet Tennis
Planet Tennis #littleplanet

Serving in a tennis match

For the above image, I played around with putting in an undistorted torso for the tennis player (my son David). In my other version, I didn’t like how the distorted left arm came out. You can see it here: Planet Tennis.

Planet Buddha
Planet Buddha
Sukhothai Historical Park, Thailand

Planet Trapeze School
Planet Trapeze School #littleplanet
Trapeze School New York
See also: Confronting the Abyss at Trapeze School New York

Planet Yacht
Planet Yacht
Sailing in Greece: Yeah, this one didn’t work out, but I liked the mast and lines.


I made the little planet photos by manipulating these photos in Photoshop (tutorials below):

Amsterdam canal houses  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  The Bean Chicago  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Rappelling in Costa Rica  Mykonos Greece  Tennis doubles at Copper Valley Club  Buddha Thailand  Trapeze School New York  Sailing in Greece

Please take my one-question poll.

 How to make a little planet photo:

(Video tutorial) Photoshop tutorials on making little planet photos: Full Circles make me happy and Create Your Own Planets. #littleplanet  


Planet Brooklyn Bridge strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #13

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Down South in New Orleans: A Family Mardi Gras

{Welcome to MultiMEDIA Splice #12, a link party. Join me by linking up a “parade”-themed post or a multimedia post on any topic.}

Leaving a blizzard on the East Coast to drive down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 2007 was easily one of our best family vacations. My boys were only 9 and 10, but we had been assured we could make it a family-friendly trip. We didn’t quite manage that, with flashes of private parts, bras hanging from fishing poles, and a woman standing topless in broad daylight chatting with some friendly cops as we headed back to our hotel with our Frosties. Still, we adopted the mantra, “What happens at Mardi Gras stays at Mardi Gras,” and the boys didn’t give us any complaints.

When we left the blizzard, we entered a different world. I got groped within minutes of arriving and nearly fought a man on the street, but from then on things looked up. The parades, the screaming for swag, the food, the music, the second lines, the beads, the beads, the beads, they all blurred into a thrilling celebration of the city as it continued to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

(Video link)

We headed home four days later, the streets quiet and filled with litter, but getting quickly cleaned up by an army of workers and volunteers. I would love to go back to New Orleans someday and experience the beautiful, friendly city again, away from the chaos of Mardi Gras.

Let the good times roll.

Mardi Gras New Orleans 2007

Mardi Gras New Orleans 2007

Have you been to a Mardi Gras celebration?

Mardi Gras strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #12

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From Bees to Brain Waves for Aliens: Unconventional Love Letters

{Welcome to MultiMEDIA Splice #11, a link party. Join me by linking up a “love”-themed post or a multimedia post on any topic.}

“Only a crazy man would write a love letter that takes eight years to arrive.”
–Harry Joy, “Bliss”

Voyager 1 distance from Earth 2015-02-07 at 9.14.53 AM

Distance as of Feb. 7, 2015 (Source: NASA )

A probe traveling 19 trillion kilometers from Earth contains an unconventional love letter recorded long ago. In the 1970s Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan worked together to compile sounds, photographs, and greetings from Earth on the Golden Record, which was rocketed into space aboard the Voyager 1. While working together, Sagan and Druyan fell in love. For one of the artifacts, Druyan volunteered her own brain waves be recorded, and during the recording she focused on her love for Sagan.

“My feelings as a 27 year old woman, madly fallen in love, they’re on that record,” says Druyan (Source: NASA). “It’s forever. It’ll be true 100 million years from now. For me Voyager is a kind of joy so powerful, it robs you of your fear of death.”

My husband tells his science students this story every Valentine’s Day. Somewhere, sometime, in a galaxy far, far away, will an alien life form decipher Druyan’s feelings long after we’ve all left this mortal coil? As heady as that is to think about, I also think of my husband’s students hearing this story in a sleepy first period classroom and carrying it silently with them until they meet the person who ignites such devotion inside of them.

The Sounds of Earth Record Cover - GPN-2000-001978

The Sounds of Earth Record Cover (Public Domain)

Golden Record

Another unconventional love letter comes from a movie seen long ago. (Spoiler alert) In Bliss (1985), a man loved a beekeeper, but as so often happens in the movies and in life, the man messed up and lost the woman. He set out to get her back by planting a particularly special tree that blossomed in April, a bad time for honey at her home; he cared for the special trees for eight years until they were ready. When the woman tasted the honey her bees made from these trees, she knew it was something special, a love letter that took eight years to send.

The scene from the movie (spoiler alert! It’s the end of the movie.)

 (Video link)


This unusual way to express love comes from writer Jen Brunett: “My polish heritage celebrates Dyngus Day, which is the day after Easter. To share expressions of love and fertility the guys would drench pussy willows with water and chase after the girls switching them and soaking them. In turn, the girls threw dishes at them. Now it’s just a big party in Buffalo (and other places), but the willow whacking still continues. All for love.”

Pussy willow

Romance also comes in a recipe for stewed carrots. The recipe-maker’s meat-loving brother fell in love with a vegetarian. With barbecued stewed carrots standing in respectably for pulled pork, among other recipes, the man was able to woo the woman.


From writer Nathan James comes this delicious play on words from one of his favorite films: “In Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell’s character presents Maggie Gyllenhaal’s bakery-owning character with a bouquet of flours (not flowers).”

 (Video link)

Bouquet of floursFinally, from Germany, small villages still carry on a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. At the end of April, men march into the forest to cut down birch trees for the women who strike their fancies. A woman who wakes up on May 1 with a decorated birch tree under her window knows that she has a suitor. (h/t DW.de)


May tree

Long ago, I worked at a bank with a man as shy as I am. We developed a friendship over a summer of never-ending conversations. Our feelings crept toward something more, but neither of us could say it. He finally handed me a mixtape of love songs that could say what he couldn’t. So as we approach our 25th wedding anniversary, maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for unconventional love letters. (I wrote more about it here: Love in a Mixtape.}


What’s your special story of love? Please share it in the comments or by linking up a post.

Love in a Mixtape strip

MultiMEDIA Splice #11

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