Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006


And the Winner is ….

Litlove, with 35% of the votes, as decided by the voting public! Litlove, since you are not a chocolate eater, you get first choice of any of the books reviewed or mentioned in my last post. Dad Who Writes, who is runner-up with 30%, may decide if he wants German confectionary or a book from the last post. Leave a note for me in the comments or contact me via email. Well done to both of you!

Seeing we’re housekeeping, I’d like to mention that my beautiful new website just garnered me my first work and I have spent the weekend copy-editing a book that is about to go to print. I’ll link when it’s live. I’m also going to link to some magazine articles I’ve just written for EMBOencounters.

That’s all, folks. Have a splendid Monday.


Big Bad Bloggers’ Competition – The Poll

I disappeared there, under the weight of chocolate and some great new books. Last night I finished The Loss Adjustor by Aifric Campbell and today I’m having Eleanor Catten’s The Rehearsal along with my Easter eggs. Reviews to follow, as promised in my blog relaunch. There’ll be no more lazy blogging around here.

I’ve selected my top five responses to the Big Bad Bloggers’ Competition and now you get to choose the winner, who will be the recipient of either a box of German Easter goodness, or a book. The respondees had to define their blogs in six words.

Here they are. You pick:

And let no-one say it’s not democratic around here.


Fresh Life for an Old Blog

Charlotte’s Web recently turned four, which in blogging years is about eighty. This blog sits in a corner all by itself, rocking and remembering the good old days when blogging was new and it was a whippersnapper. Instead of consigning it to the scrapheap of ex-blogs that lanquish in the dusty corners of cyberspace, I decided a revamp was in order. We’ve plucked the old lady’s whiskers, lashed on some red lippy and got her ready to face the world again.

Here are the things that are changing around here:

1. The Look: Renaissance woman Lilalia, whose blog Yum Yum Cafe many of you know, designed me a lovely new header. She gulped when I told her my favourite colour is white and she took it bravely when I described in detail a dream I’d had about a seagull and a hill and a road going nowhere and how my new blog header should look that way. Using the art of gentle persuasion, Lilalia helped me choose the image you see above.

2. The Tecchie Bits: These were done by Canadian graphic designer Kim Hadley, whose beautiful work you can see here. Kim has also designed my new business writing website, and you don’t have to look carefully to see how she whipped up a theme for me. It would be ambitious for a micro-business such as mine to claim branding, but the two sites have a similar look and feel, and I’m thrilled with them.

3. The Side Bits: As promised, I did some spring-cleaning and sorted out the blogroll. I have a main blogroll, a list of publishers’ and agents’ blogs under the heading Required Reading, and a roll of writers. Please check which category you are in and let me know if you not happy with it. Also, if you are a regular reader, new or not, and I haven’t linked to you, let me know. This is your moment! I could let the blogroll go mouldy for two years again.

4. The Content: Lilalia and I had a meeting, face to face, with lots of coffee (me) and tea (her) and worked out some new topics for Charlotte’s Web. These are the some of the post ideas we came up with:

  • Interviews with writers published and unpublished
  • Book reviews
  • Posts on the process of writing a novel
  • Posts on the process of trying to get that novel published
  • Thought-pieces on feminism and other issues I like to contemplate/get hot under the collar about
  • Anything else I want to write about because I’m the boss here

But mostly this blog revamp is about having fun and bringing the playfulness back into blogging. And that’s where you come in: go over to the Big Bad Bloggers’ Competition and enter yourself for some mystery prizes.

This old lady’s kicking up her heels and going dancin’. Want to join her?


Blogs That Make Me …

Well, I wasn’t chosen to be a finalist for the South African blog awards (watch the infighting here), but I WAS chosen by Courtney to receive a Thinking Blogger Award. Yay! Thanks Courtney! This means I get to put a nifty little icon up and I can nominate five other blogs that make me think. This was started by The Thinking Blogger in an attempt to improve content on the web. Many wonderful, thinking bloggers have already been nominated, so I won’t repeat their nominations here.

Without further ado, here are five bloggers who make me think:

Aphra at Danger of Eclectic Shock
Solnushka at Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things
Ms Melancholy at Confessions of a Psychotherapist
Ms Make Tea at Make Tea Not War
Ms Penguin at Penguin Unearthed

I’m not stopping there! I’m in the nomination mood! It’s a rollercoaster ride from hereon in! Below you will find the Charlotte’s Web Awards for Blogs that Make Me …

Inspired to write:

Helen at A Was Alarmed
YogaMum at Yoga Gumbo
Nova at Distraction no. 99
Diana at Diaphanous
JadePark at Writing Under a Pseudonym

Want to make art, sew and cook:

Lia at Yum Yum Cafe (every post is accompanied by a beautiful collage)
Megan at The Scent of Water (if I keep mentioning the green and white quilt often enough, maybe she’ll make me one)
Kerryn at White Thoughts (I still haven’t forgotten her white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. And she knits.)
Kathryn at From Page to Plate and Kathryn Cooks With Jamie (cooking, but with added erudition)
Ash at Stitched in Holland (watch the girl cook, knit, embroider, quilt and garden)


Ree at Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
Reed at Out of Ideas
Ms Waffle at Belgian Waffle
Domestic Slackstress at 8 Centimeters Deluded
Bindi Nestor at epossums

Go places:

Ms Healing Magic Hands at The Havens (If she could take me rafting, that would be good. I’d like to see an otter.)
Jennifer at Coasting Richly (Her photographs make me want to see South America)
Kit at Food and Family (Makes me want to go home)
Tanya at Just Me (A trip to the Cadbury’s factory would be good, or a return visit to the potteries, perhaps …)
Wendz at A Baguette on My Table (France is calling.)

And last, but not at all least, an award (or more of a prod) to the Blog That Makes Me Want to Hear More. My oldest friend – in that she’s the friend that I’ve known since I was six, not that she is elderly – and favourite wit, I give you, tah dah …

The Pillow Blogger (Come on, Ms PB, you know you want to …)

Now I’m off to my Oscar party, clutching my icon. I shall try very hard not to get drunk and start a fight with the organisers of the SA Blog Awards.


May I Introduce You To …?

Don’t you love blogging? You write, your friendships with people deepen, and then out there, blog-leaping, you come across great new blogs that you want to support by writers you want to befriend. I had almost given up on the WordPress tag surfer. Every time I went there, it wasn’t serving up anything of interest to me. And then last night, I had a run of great good luck. In a space of twenty minutes, I found three great new blogs (two new this year, one new to me) that deserve some attention. I’ve subscribed to them all, because I think they are going to be very rewarding. You might want to have a look at these:

My Dear Lizzy, who blogs at No. 1 Mouse Place. She’s a mother, a cook and a Jane Austen fan. She has recently moved to Pakistan with her husband and small daughter, and she writes beautifully.

Momma Muse, who’s blogging about issues close to her heart: parenting, feminism, women and work.

Last night, I also found Ag in Africa, a British woman working in Johannesburg for an AIDS/HIV non-profit organisation. She’s just written a really great, non-emotive post on crime in my home country, aptly named Fear and Loathing in South Africa. Sometimes I think it takes an outsider (I don’t mean that pejoratively) to have a clear-headed view. I also like her pictures of animals. I do miss warthogs!

Then, I’ve also come across Confessions of a Psychotherapist, a great blog about psychotherapy, politics, feminism, parenting and a host of other things. I’m looking forward to having a nose through her oeuvre and her blogroll, but here’s a taster on women who have professionalised motherhood (ie the Yummy Mummy).

Lastly, but absolutely not leastly, I’ve found 8 Centimeters Deluded, whose tag line is: “I birthed them in my bed, now I have to lie in it”. She’s hilarious (watch the vlog where she puts a stocking over her head as a gift for her mother’s birthday), but also hard-hitting. Her latest post is on the public breastfeeding furore that is rippling across the USA – apparently MySpace is withdrawing pictures women have posted of themselves breastfeeding. What is it about Americans and breasts?

What are your new favourite blogs?


Housekeeping in the Name of Beauty

I see from a recent Dooce post that she has been springcleaning. (And I feel sorry for her, so I’m giving her some link love – she really needs it.) There has been some springcleaning going on chez Otter as well. We have disrobed the Christmas tree, prior to putting it out on the street where, for a small donation, a charity will collect it and give it a humane ending. All the Christmas decorations have been packed away in the cellar. This has inspired other housekeeping action: a severe edit of the children’s art table (I threw out two black bags full of outdated artwork), finally turning Lily’s bedroom from a room with a bed to a stunningly pretty (even if I say so myself) little girl’s room, and some tidying action on the other childrens’ bedroom.

I’m finding the newly edited spaces rather beautiful. I don’t have any real resolutions this year (except to bake bread and write more, you know, just little things), but instead have made a theme for the year. My theme is beauty. I want my eye to light on it and my heart to be warmed by it. If I have to purchase something, it must be beautiful and more importantly, be beautiful to me. For many years, I have subscribed to other people’s asethetics and I’m finally feeling grown-up enough to champion my own. From a style point of view, I think that if you love something it will work in your home. I don’t like homes that look like show houses, or as if they have been lifted straight from a decorating shop. I like houses that are lived in, friendly and welcoming, and that work for the people who live in them. So I have no style, per se, but I do have a house full of things inherited and new, and all there because I love them. If there is anything here that I don’t love or find beautiful, be sure it will move on this year.

There are still spaces that need attention – a nasty little corner in the kitchen where I file pile all the papers we should be dealing with, along with notes from the kids’ teachers, bank statements and bills, and of course THE WHOLE CELLAR. Whether we get to that or not is not yet knowable. We hope, we plan, we intend to, but it’s so large and so horrible (my mother-in-law refers to it as The Dungeon), that we may just sweep it under the carpet and not let anyone go down there in case they get lost and are only found months later having survived on dust bunnies and mouldy rainwater.

Moving on swiftly, I am busy doing some housekeeping here at Charlotte’s Web. I’ve given myself a new tagline, more in keeping with the book that inspired the name of this blog. I’ve created a reading list, more for my own purposes than anyone else’s, to keep track of what I read this year. I’ve also subscribed to Bloglines and moved my entire blogroll there. I’m already finding it amazingly useful for keeping track of what’s new, instead of clicking through my blogroll here, as I used to do in Luddite-style, to see if there are new posts. I will keep the blogroll though, but only for people who write regularly and with whom I’ve developed some kind of commenting relationship. So if you haven’t posted for two months, and don’t find yourself here, I’ve haven’t thrown you out in a fit of tidiness but moved you to my Bloglines list. Or if I read you, but we have no commenting going on (I just don’t know why Dooce doesn’t read Charlotte’s Web), I’ve moved you over.

I also would like to achieve beauty here at Charlotte’s Web. You may find I’ll be experimenting with a new look over the coming weeks. I think I’m ready for something lighter and brighter. Some colour in these grey winter days.

In a brief fit of ego-surfing, I checked on Bloglines to see how many subscribers I have (15) and how many Dooce has (4,009). Sigh. Only 3,992 subscribers to go till I’m a grown-up blogger. But I’m going to be a beautiful one, damnit.


I Am Not a Celebrity …

… but apparently I am a male C-list blogger. I guess that’s the blogging equivalent of being the guy who was voted out of Big Brother in the first week for peeing in the shower, or being a celebrity gardener’s second cousin. I am the one who carries the toolkit for the DIY guy on Changing Rooms whose name you can never remember. I am not Posh Spice’s mother’s hairdresser, I am the kippie who brings her coffee when she’s in the salon. But I am proud of this:

C-List Blogger

To find out your very own bloglebrity, go to Kineda. You enter your URL and a widget calculates whether you are A, B, C or D-list via your Technorati authority and the frequency of your posts. It’s all about link love, darlings. Plus you get the cute little icon above.

And just to show how committed I am to my blogging friends, let me give credit where credit is due. First I went to Litlove, had a nose around her blogroll. There I found No Dependencies/No Logo, which led me to Kineda.

Another fun thing to do when you’re sick of deleting spam and fluttering around cyberspace like a tired pigeon looking for somewhere to land, is the Gender Genie. This I found courtesy of Aphra. You cut and paste your text into the Genie and it assesses your gender via your writing style. I write like a girl. Except for this post, which the Gender Genie believes was written by a man.

Bidding you a warm farewell, your male, C-list blogpal, Charlotte … Just off for a back wax.