Disclosure: Zaarly reached out to me to help spread the word of their Austin launch and sent me some friendly baby gifts, pictured below. Beyond that, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.
As new home owners, Chris and I have recently discovered how unhandy we are. Sure, we can paint, install shelves, and do minor repairs. But when it comes to the big stuff? Or even stuff that seems small but is actually a huge pain in the ass—like installing a ceiling fan—that’s when we need to call in the experts.
And Austin’s got a lot of experts. I mentioned in a previous post that we’d hired help with our renovations and it was a mixed bag. Some of the people were great, some…meh. Normally one might hire this type of help using referrals from friends, but with a labor shortage in Austin, this isn’t always possible. So what do you do?
What I did was search Yelp. And Googled away. And asked on Facebook. And approached strange men in work trucks. In the end, I did find a bunch of guys to do our work in a somewhat timely manner, but it wasn’t the most efficient method I could have used. Nor did I have any guarantee that the work would be completed well or on time. So when I heard about Zaarly, it struck a chord.
The platform makes it easy for users to search for help in three categories: Cleaning, Landscaping, and Handy Services. Each vendor lists their specialties, service areas, and in some cases, prices. In choosing a vendor, the user can ask questions within the platform and will receive a response within three hours. It’s all very convenient.
But for me, what makes the platform really worthwhile is that all vendors are licensed and insured, reference-checked by Zaarly, and they’ll even back you up to $10,000 if something goes wrong. So they do the vetting for you and take away some of the risk. If you’ve never had a bad experience hiring someone, you might not realize how big a deal this is. But trust me, it’s big.
Do you have any projects you need accomplish? If you’d like to try out Zaarly and get help with yard work, HVAC, plumbing, electrical work, flooring, or want someone to give your place a good cleaning, use code MADBETTY to get $25 off your first service.
And since I’m curious, if you’ve ever had a great experience (or horror story) getting help around the house, please share in the comments.
Don’t you love these clickbait titles that proclaim the death of everything? Is rock and roll dead? Is SXSW so over?! Who killed art?!
I’m seriously asking though, is blogging really dead? I guess a more accurate question is “Is blogging dying?” Because clearly it’s not dead. There are plenty of blogs. Too many blogs. But does anyone care? Is anyone reading them? Are we all just stroking our own egos by putting our thoughts out there and thinking our opinions matter? What’s the point of a blog anyway?
For some, it’s a place to express themselves. Maybe there’s no other place to comfortably speak the truth and the anonymity of a blog provides a much-needed outlet. For some it’s merely monetary. Sigh. Some use their blogs to curate the image of an ideal lifestyle. (I call these the “pretty” blogs.) Many are passionate subject matter experts and want to contribute. Some just want to keep a record. There are endless motivating factors to start a blog.
My own motivation was that I enjoyed reading blogs. (Blog = Good. Me do blog!) At the time I started this blog I was working a job that left me uninspired and it gave me lots of free hours to learn WordPress. Blogging made me look at my life differently. The notion that everything I did/ate/watched/listened to could become fodder to write about was exciting. Rather than a place to hide, it opened up my life, encouraging me to see more, do more, take pictures, remember details. Abuse commas.
Like all lives, mine has changed plenty over the last several years. I have less time to focus on my blog and less of a need for a creative outlet. I’m busy. I write and I get paid for it. So why keep Mad Betty going?
One reason is that I’m in the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and there’s a minimum quota to stay in the group. It’s important to me, and I want to continue my membership, so I make sure to write about food. Another is that I pay for my domain and hosting, so I feel the urge to keep things at least sporadically active. Another reason is the guilt of leaving something unfinished. I feel stressed out if I haven’t posted in a long time. When I have deadlines to others, my own writing falls to the bottom of the priority list. Many nights I’ve found myself falling asleep at my laptop, trying to get a post together for the morning. I’ve failed to be as prolific as I’d like.
As a trend, blogging is down. Most of my friends have blogs and I’m noticing that people post less, read less, care less. We don’t talk about blogging as much as we used to. Our blogging dates don’t happen anymore. What was once so important to us feels like a thing of the past now.
I do think that Instagram is partially to blame, because we can document our lives, curate the hell out of everything, and all become visual stylists. It’s an easy format to engage in. You can like a photo or comment and it doesn’t come back to annoy you like Facebook. I relish double-tapping with reckless abandon because it’s kind. It’s easy. People like feedback. Even the social media weary can still muster the energy for Instagram.
I find myself reading less blogs and maybe that’s because I’m getting a synopsis on Instagram. I don’t need to read about your meal/vacation/life, because I already saw all the photos. We’re all so busy. Why read? Why write? WHY BOTHER?!
And that sucks. Because in whatever form it takes place, I’m an advocate of reading. And of writing. Writing makes you concentrate, think things through, use your voice (or someone else’s voice) and gives you the satisfaction of having done something substantial. It sets apart the lazy and the non-lazy.
I’m not making a case for maintaining a blog forever. I think it’s a passing phase for many writers and that’s okay. I’m not sure what the end point is when you have a blog and want to stop. I guess these things just peter out. Trends come and go and the internet is beyond oversaturated as it is. Social media has given people multiple free outlets to express their every thought. There’s no need to learn a platform, build an audience, or make a commitment. So maybe the death of blogging is inevitable.
But here’s a thought: The satisfying part of blogging is in the creating. The exhausting part of blogging is the work involved in marketing it. The building an audience, monitoring traffic, constantly prompting people on social media to “look at meeee! Look what I wrote!!” It becomes a job and an undignified one at that. This blog makes a few bucks, but by no means is a pro blog. I have no reason to constantly try to drive readers here or work to build a huge audience. There’s no need for Mad Betty to “keep up” with other bloggers. Sometimes I forget that.
Letting go of the metrics or the desire to cut through the noise is quite liberating. I’m hoping other bloggers feel the same and that those who have lapsed but still possess even a small ember of desire will continue blogging. Maybe we’ll see the trend swing back around to passion blogging, where the content is executed with personal intention alone. People creating something just for the hell of it, expecting nothing in return but the reward of having done it. Or maybe it will die off and we’ll look back and say, “Remember when blogs were a thing?”
A month into parenthood, I can look back at the following weeks and am grateful for our survival. I’ve mostly been hunkered down at home with Violet following her endless demands for food, diapering, and snuggling her tiny face into my neck. I’ve accomplished little else and am finding it difficult to even respond to texts or emails. My house is messier than I’d like it to be. So it’s been an adjustment, having little control of my days. I’m learning to go with the flow…most of the time.
But overall, it’s been less stressful than I anticipated. I have to credit much of that to my fabulous friends who have taken such good care of Chris and I. My friend Mary Helen organized a Meal Train, which essentially is an online scheduler where people can sign up to drop off meals at a specific date and time. And sign up, they did! We didn’t have to worry about cooking for weeks. Almost everyday brought a new visitor, along with something tasty and nourishing.
In fact, since Violet was so late, we had some meals delivered before she was even born. Nelly made some of her famous salads, South Austin Foodie hit up Central Market’s one-day barbecue special and brought us sandwiches, and Addie worked on a crab cake mac and cheese recipe for The Statesman and we reaped the rewards.
Having a bunch of foodies for friend certainly has its perks! We had homemade stromboli, lactation cookies, dal, and Linda‘s sausage mac and cheese. Lots more salads. Beef noodles and salad and kimchi with produce right from Melody and Pete’s garden. Jambalaya and cheese biscuits from an authentic Louisiana girl. Beautifully presented enchiladas and salted caramel bars from Girl Gone Grits.
This list is by no means exhaustive, nor are the photos. Chris and I would dig in and relish every bite and then I’d jolt awake from my food and baby induced delirium and realize I didn’t take a picture. In addition to all the homemade food, we had lots of restaurant favorites, too. South Austin Foodie and Jodi brought us Vietnamese noodle bowls. Michelle knew we couldn’t go too long without Indian and we dined on curries together. Elizabeth brought a decadent Cuban feast from Whole Foods. Natasha brought us popcorn tofu sandwiches from Wheatsville and yummy vegan cupcakes.
So, yes. We ate well. And we are so very spoiled by the kind and generous friends around us who showered us with love. I shed more than a few tears over the thought of each of them taking time out of their busy lives to feed us, choosing things that were special, that they knew we would love.
To those of you reading this, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
In my defense, I was celebrating someone else’s birthday the same week, too. World, meet Violet Carol.
Chris and I couldn’t be happier with our sweet newborn girl. Here’s her birth story for those of you who are into that kind of thing.
Cheers to four years of blogging. Hopefully I can get my act together for my five year anniversary next year and do a big giveaway or a happy hour or something. Until then, thanks for reading and be on the lookout for some fun things on the horizon for Mad Betty.
What’s happening to this poor blog? Ignored, barely updated, a ghost town of its former self. I did exactly what I swore I’d never do, which is become one of those bloggers who is just “too busy” right now.
But the truth is, I am too busy. For the last month (plus) Mr. Betty and I have been immersed in renovating our new house, taking baby classes, and just dealing with time-consuming nature of all these big life changes.
For those of you who don’t already know, we have a baby joining us around August 1st. To answer the most common questions:
1. It’s a girl
2. I feel pretty good
3. We’re still talking about names, but won’t announce it until she’s born
This blog isn’t going to turn into a “mommy blog” which is another question I’ve been asked. Mad Betty will remain about pop culture and Austin. Even though blogs about parenting and coupons get thousands and thousands (millions, really) more hits than I do, I still plan on being the same old me. Just more tired and with more love. Anyway, I started a tiny blog to share news with friends and family back home, which you are welcome to look at if you want. Now I have another blog to fail at! Hooray!
Anyway, that’s the scoop. Right now we’re overwhelmed with house stuff and I spend my days painting, sanding, hiring and paying various helpers, looking at furniture, and yes, also working. I’m tired and haven’t had time to paint my nails or even watch one new episode of Mad Men yet. (I know!) I’ll do a separate post about the house and the vendors I used and recommend. Other posts coming up will include:
Features on Banger’s and St. Philip
Weird Homes Tour
Musings on late night TV
How to buy sunglasses
A recent Sephora haul
Anyway, sorry to be absent for so long. Thanks for sticking around. Please leave me a comment and tell me about your life these days.
So you can’t shell out for a pricey badge, nor will your job pay for you to attend SXSW 2015. Does that mean you have to miss out on the fun? Hell no! Each year the unofficial events get as much, if not more, press than the official programming. There’s no reason why you can’t join in on the fun!
First, if you haven’t participated in South by Southwest before (or just need a refresher) you can check out my survival guide. Whether you are in it for the swag, the free noms and drinks, parties, networking, etc, you’ll want to be prepared for long days, crazy nights, and sensory overload.
Here are my picks for free events and parties at SXSW this year. This is not a comprehensive list, not even close. Don’t forget that you can tap RSVPster to do the legwork for you. Note that RSVPing does not guarantee you’ll get in to anything, so show up early to the events you really care about.
Startup Crawl. Austin’s finest pre-conference (March 12) kickoff is a night of startup hopping downtown. It’s free and you can hit as many offices as you like, most of whom have free booze, casual eats, and kickass DJs. Those of us who live in Austin get to do this twice a year, but the excitement of the spring crawl can’t be beat.
The BIG BASHH. Another regular local event, the Big Ass Social Happy Hour is how many of us network, blow off steam, and just enjoy Austin’s fun professional scene. The big BASHH, the one that leads into SXSW is the best of the year. It’s buzzing with energy and those who travel in for the conference know that’s the best place to get a real taste of Austin with the locals. (March 12)
Umbelmania. Local tech company Umbel will pack the Moody Theater with interactive attendees (and the general public) with live performance by Spoon and (my personal favorite DJ) DJ Chicken George. RSVP and do your best to get there early as badge-holders will get priority access. (March 13)
Gigya Grill. Those seeking refuge and some satiation can stop by El Sol y La Luna for complimentary breakfast, lunch, or happy hour, 10-6. More than just some free noms, Gigya offers networking opportunities and panels. (March 13-15)
Spotify House. Five days of music and fun, plan on waiting in line to get in. But waiting in line is part of SXSW, so embrace it and make friends with the people around you. (March 15-20)
Do512 Family Picnic. For family-friendly fun, head out of the crazy zone to Midway Park for music, food trucks, face painting, magic shows, and more. It’ll be crowded, so bring the kiddies closer to 2:00 and hope they can stay awake till 8. (March 17)
Hype Hotel. The tenth year of this event promises big names paid for by big sponsors like Mazda, Taco Bell, Miller Lite, and Tito’s Vodka. Crazy crowded, plan to be packed in like a sardine any day or time that you go. (March 17-21)
Music Tech Mashup. The fifth anniversary of this event brings a really good music lineup to Empire Control Room and Garage. RSVP on the Facebook page for a chance to win VIP entry. (March 17)
Waterloo Records. The line-up is always fantastic at our favorite little local music shop. This is always the first place I recommend for those who want free access to the biggest acts. It’s a classic Austin location that we’re all so proud of and they always bring some of the magic of SX to locals who may otherwise feel left out of the festival. (March 18-21)
Pandora Discovery Den. Four days of eclectic bands means there’s something for everyone: Electronic, Hip Hop, Americana, and Rock. Head to The Gatsby 1-6 when shows are open to the public. (March 18-21)
Ray Ban\Boiler Room Official Showcase. As hip hop becomes increasingly popular at SXSW the showcases get more and more impressive. You might have a shot at getting into this one to see Ghostface Killah and plenty more great acts by applying for a ticket on their site. (March 18)
KUTX Live at the Four Seasons. Early birds flock to the Four Seasons where $10 gets you entry to four hours of live music, breakfast tacos, coffee, and granola bars. First come first served, there’s no RSVP list. (March 18-21)
Austin Party Weekend. There’s not much info about the APW party yet, but you can show up at Empire Control Room and Garage for day parties March 18-21 and you’ll be sure to have a good time. Don’t forget to RSVP.
Culture Collide. Rainey Street is normally a perfect spot for more intimate—if packed—shows and surprise artists pop up there from time to time. More than 100 bands will be on three stages. RSVP and scroll through the website to handpick your music schedule. Bonus, SouthBites Trailer Park is close by so you can sample the yummiest trucks when you get hungry.
Party in My Pants. The Live Vibe day party will take place at Little Woodrow’s March 20-21st with new bands each hour. Should you hang out all day you’ll get to taste a nice chunk of the music offerings this year.
If you want to check out even more parties and events, Austin 360 has a handy, easy-to-search database of every side party. You can also see who applied for city permits this year, both official and non-official SXSW events.
Want to tell share another event? Leave a comment with the details.
Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excited the sensitive soul to tears. -Edgar Allen Poe
I’m sure my overly sensitive brothers and sisters out there can relate to Poe’s quote. My emotions are right on the surface and I’m quick to cry at a sad storyline, be it in real life or written. Beautiful things make me cry, too, like the swell of an orchestra or once, an entire opera in Florence from opening to closing notes. I literally cried through the whole thing and for about 30 minutes after. Tears spring to my eyes when enthusiasm is high like a sustained applause or someone else’s eyes welling up.
Because that’s the thing with sensitivity, it’s easy to catch. I grew up in a house of overly sensitive people. It was not uncommon to blow something small out of proportion, express feelings about it, and move on. We all took things personally and were unapologetic for our emotions. The good thing about living that way is that you don’t bottle up many things. To this day, if I can express a concern or feeling, I’m able to let it go. I don’t believe in holding grudges and the few grudges I do have are because I’m unable to be honest with the other person.
The bad thing about living that way is how exhausting it can be to take everything so personally. And often the emotional turmoil isn’t warranted or worth it. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to just…not care so much.
As a writer, I’ve had to learn to detach my emotions from my work. I’m not exactly writing heart wrenching novels or anything, but pouring your effort and concentration into any piece of work can make it tough to take criticism. I don’t take issue with edits or people adjusting my copy anymore because, truly, it’s rarely personal. I see the struggle new writers go through and the resentment they feel over simple suggestions and I’m glad that’s not me anymore.
That makes me wonder, are there other areas in which I should try to desensitize a bit? I do believe that cooler heads prevail and the truly successful usually are able to compartmentalize their emotions. Even in creative fields, I believe this must be beneficial to some extent. Is it possible to harness our emotional power and wield it at times when we need it—like those creative times—and hold back when it’s less appropriate to reveal our inner human side? Or is it simply a way to dimming our passions in the hopes of gliding through life a little easier? It smart to reign in that which makes us human or is it a denial or self?
I don’t know the answers. It’s just something I’ve been pondering lately.
Wow. Here we are. The end of another year. I’m always a little shocked at how quickly the years seem to go by and 2014 felt like the shortest year of my life. I guess that’s what happens when you’re constantly busy. Time just seems to slip away. I guess Beck summed it up best:
Time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite who’s choking on the splinters.
Rather than recap my year, which is what I’d normally do, I’d rather talk about 2015. If you want a reminder of what I did in 2014, just scroll down and read back on the blog. Or look through my Instagram. 2014 was a good year and I know 2015 will be good, too.
I have a couple good things on the horizon. Kind of a delayed Christmas, I’ll be heading back to NJ in January to visit both my family and in-laws. And most exciting, I’ll get to meet my new little family member, my niece Julia Rose. Isn’t she cute?
Hopefully Mr. Betty and I will be able to take another little vacation of some sort in 2015, as it’s been a long time for us. But nothing on the books just yet.
Other things to look forward to:
Speaking at SXSW (and finally having legit badge access to Interactive and Film)
Watching Mr. Betty’s SXSW panel. I’m thrilled that we get to experience this together!
I’ll be upping my volunteerism next year by taking over as the president of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance. Those who know me know how important this group is to me and I’m honored to be a part of the positive impact they make on Austin.
I’ll keep pushing myself to make Giant Squid Media a success and have plans to expand my services and work with more companies on content, social media, and brand consulting. I love what I do and feel lucky that I live in a city where opportunity is everywhere.
I’m also planning on evolving the content here on the blog. Because Mad Betty isn’t a true niche blog, I can really make it about anything I want. Over the years I’ve defaulted to a lot of restaurant posts because, frankly, that’s what people have responded to the most. And with restaurants opening at breakneck speed in Austin, it’s a never-ending well to draw from. But it was never my intention to write so much about food.
Blogging is a weird thing. There’s nothing to drive the work beyond our own desire to do it. So when you need a break, such as I did for the past couple weeks, you take that break. But the loss of momentum (for me, at least) proves to make it that much harder to resume writing. And the truth is, I’ve felt uninspired lately.
So it’s time for a change. I’m not sure what that’s going to look like yet—and no, I’m not abandoning food writing altogether—but I’m going to try some new things and see how it feels. I’d like to expand my lifestyle content as well as get a little more personal. My favorite blogs are the ones that are relatable and give glimpses into real lives.
What do you have planned for next year? Any major changes? Are you happy to say goodbye to 2014?
The other day I was having lunch with a friend and conversation turned towards our fears. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. On some level, I consider myself a pretty brave person. I’m not afraid to move across the country and start a new life, or jump in a cage in the middle of the ocean to get closer to massive sharks, or drive on the Jersey Turnpike. I’m not afraid to fly or speak in public or be the only one dancing.
However the smallest of spiders will stop me in my tracks, filling me with sheer terror. I don’t remember an instance where I didn’t have this fear; I guess I was born this way. People asked if there was an incident that caused this, but I can think of lots of incidents. Every encounter with a spider has been jolting, leaving me reeling for days. To the untrained eye, I don’t appear to be a basket case. The casual observer wouldn’t know that I scan the walls and ceiling of every room to search for the offending beasts. I minimize the danger by not going to the jungle or going camping or hanging out under trees.
But my crazy is right under the surface. I’ve pulled over numerous times to ask strangers to kill a spider in or on my car. Once, I just jumped out at an intersection when there was daddy long legs on the radio console of a borrowed truck I was driving to help my mother move furniture into her kindergarden classroom. Did it matter that I left my mom screaming in a truck with a stick shift that she couldn’t drive? No. Because all rational thought goes out the window when you’re running for your life.
Mr. Betty says he knows when there’s a spider because my screams reach a different pitch then normal. Luckily he’s not afraid, so I have a spider-killer on hand to take care of business. He smacks them with a shoe or paper towel or whatever’s on hand and in a slow southern drawl says, “He deaddddd.” I’ve accused him of missing them and lying to pacify me, so now he always tries to show me the corpse. No thanks.
I’m in good company with many, as arachnophobia is the most common of phobias. We’re not just afraid of the terrible beasts themselves, but also of photos, seeing them on TV, the webs, killing them ourselves, and everything even remotely related. Even other people’s spider stories scare us. Revisiting the lunch where fear was discussed, my friend told me she and her mother saw a tarantula the size of a rabbit in New Mexico. Mental note: Never go to New Mexico. I’ve searched for this monstrous spider-rabbit hybrid around my apartment complex ever since, because it probably hopped to Austin by now. I’m sure it will kill me in the mail room one day.
I guess my other major fear is not as easy to talk about, and I guess most can relate it it, but death is pretty high on my list of terrors. I saw a therapist when I lost my nana years ago and while I don’t think it helped me vanquish all my grief, the hypnotherapist did help me relax a bit during those sessions. Later, I lost a grandfather and then another grandmother. That’s when the panic and reality set in that I —and worse, everyone I love— will die. I let these dark thoughts ruin me for about five years before I was finally able to shove them back down to an unaccessible place where they will surely bubble up again one day.
Eventually I will have to make peace with death. I’m not ready to confront this devastatingly sad and lonely reality, but I know I need to. As for spiders, well, that’s just not something I’m willing to accept. One by one, Mr. Betty will eradicate them all. We simply cannot coexist on this planet.
What are you afraid of, my friends? Leave me a comment and let’s hash it out.*
*Note that if you send me photos of spiders I will (for the first time ever) censor your comments and not post them. Yes, I’m pretty messed up. Sue me.
SXSW 2015 is months away, yet it’s time to start thinking about it. South by Southwest hopefuls have submitted their ideas for next year’s conference and now the community gets to vote for their favorites.Votes account for about 30% of the decision and it’s a highly competitive arena. I submitted a proposal among the 3,000 others in the interactive category and am crossing my fingers that we make the cut. And you can help by checking out the panel picker and giving thumbs up to my entry and any others you’d like to support. Even better, leave a comment and contribute to the conversation in the SXSW Panel Picker.
My panel New Journalism: Black & White & Reddit All Over(which can also be accessed by clicking on the web tile just to the right) will be a conversation about the (often contentious) relationship between bloggers and traditional journalists. We’ll seek to address issues about credibility and bias among writers, and about how people get their information today. The part that excites me the most is the prospect of exploring these issues with two people I respect very much: Corrin Foster and Mike Sutter. So please, give us a thumbs up and share in the comments what interests you about this panel.
Another panel I’m also pulling for You Can’t Sit With Us: Craft Beer Subculture, is about the exclusionary attitude that can take place in craft beer culture. Mr. Betty put together this one with other knowledgeable people in the craft beer community. As someone who sits on the fringe of craft beer culture, I’m intrigued by this topic.
You’ll notice that the panel What Every Marketer Should Learn from Weird Al has generated a lot of buzz and for good reason. This crossover of innovation, business, and art is what SX is all about and Jason Wesbecher is just the person to speak about it. This one’s going to be popular, you guys.
In a discussion about a topic that affects all of us, Addie Broyles will interview the Supermarket Guru about the future of grocery stores. Addie’s a pro interviewer and always gets right to the heart of what people want to know.
A related topic, Building a Better Breakfast, will focus on sustainability and making healthy eating affordable. This will likely draw a big crowd who want to see Andrew Zimmern speak.
And, here are a few more fun ones that I’d like to see happen:
Those are my picks! I, and my fellow SXSW submitters, would be so grateful for your votes. It doesn’t take much to set up an account and vote, just an email and password. (And SXSW doesn’t bombard you with emails; I think I get two a year…if I submit.) Voting closes September 6, 2014.
Did you submit a panel? Please leave a link in the comments so we can vote for you.