BOLO 2015 – Our Emcee

Postcards From The MothershipI’m happy to announce that Blog Out Loud this year will have a totally awesome emcee – Dani Donders of Postcards from the Mothership. Woot!

If you’re a parent in Ottawa, Dani’s blog is, quite simply, a must-read. She’s a bubbly, friendly, upbeat person with a giant heart and an even bigger love of life. Her blog is the place to go for silly, crazy, and fun stories about parenting, and specifically about parenting in Ottawa. She’s got the insider track on a hundred of the best places to go in town, the little out-of-the-way places that are like secret treasures for you and your kids. Her fun and detailed adventures will have you wanting to go where she does and do what she does – or at least have a good chuckle while you read about it.

Dani’s also well-known for her amazing photos – after a few years of taking daily pictures and posting them on her blog, she’s grown into a bona fide photographer, one who captures incredible beauty in everyday life. Her shots of her own family, pets, Manotick home and Ottawa locales are bright, colourful little slices of life that bring new perspectives and a sense of warmth to scenes that we all know well. She also brings her beautiful style to her own photography business, Mothership Photography. Between that, and writing, and working full time, raising three boys, it’s even more impressive that she manages to be so sunny and bright, but somehow, she makes it all happen.

We’re delighted to have Dani be a part of this year’s Blog Out Loud event. Come and say hello to one of Ottawa’s best-known bloggers!

BOLO 2015 Readers – Richard Spencer of Remagine It

Remagine itRichard’s been through more in the past five years than most people experience in a lifetime. On his blog, Remagine It, he’s completely frank and open about what he and his wife have been through: job loss, cancer, infertility, IVF, and the devastating loss of their twin baby boys. It’s almost impossible to imagine living through all that, but Richard has managed to do even more – he brings hope and comfort to others in similar situations by sharing his stories. His writing is direct and heartfelt, and although his extraordinary life has been sad, there is a kind of peace and calm that he manages to bring to the telling. His simple willingness to use his own experience as a hub for others to come together to find common ground is inspirational.

Happily, Richard finally became a father earlier this year to a beautiful baby girl. Although she was born with Down Syndrome, he and his wife are happy to welcome such a smiley, sweet girl into their family and to shower her with love. Richard is a great activist and source of support, and now he can add great father to the list, too.

Come and hear just one of the many touching stories Richard has to share at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Brenda Labelle of Bjütie

BjutieBrenda Labelle of Bjütie is truly a belle of the ball. She’s all about beauty – make up and fashion and style – but it’s more than just how we can change ourselves on the surface. Her writing explores our inner beauty, as well – what makes us feel good about ourselves, and what can be done about social and political issues that affect how we feel about out personal appearance. By looking at her own life and experiences, she finds fantastic stories that we’ll all relate to, stories about how self-esteem and self-worth are often closely tied to personal appearance. She’s still learning and growing, following her dreams and figuring out what it means to be Brenda – the whole package, inside and out.

It’s not all serious and weighty, though – there’s plenty of fun and fizz on her blog as she dishes on Oscar fashion, make up trends, and the beauty of women’s shoes. Her tales are light and sweet and, above all, entertaining – the perfect mix of frivolous and thoughtful, little essays that give you a bite of life to chew on. You’ll hardly even realize that she’s managed to change your viewpoint on so many things.

It’s been a busy year for Brenda – she’s left the hip neighbourhood of downtown for a low-fashion home out in the wilds of the Ottawa fringe. But she’s still thinking about self-growth, be it urban or country. Come and hear what she has to say about this beautiful life at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Brad Stewart of CHEO Moms and Dads

CHEO Moms and DadsBrad is one of a group of bloggers writing at CHEO Moms and Dads, a blog written by parents who have been in the trenches and know their way out. There’s personal and practical stories on the blog, everything from how to improve sleep habits to how to handle preemies to how to help your kids stay active. There’s advice and ideas, tales of parenting struggles and successes. It’s a place to share information and find encouragement just to make it through the day.

Brad’s stories stem from his role as dad to four young children. Despite being as busy as you might imagine, he still finds time to stop and take a breath – to notice that life, as it is rushing by, is pretty darn good. To appreciate the (rare) quiet moments, to value the little people buzzing all around. To cherish even the hectic times, and to try to carve out a little serenity when possible.

In his day job, Brad makes really cool videos for online marketing – just another way to showcase his creativity. Come and hear Brad’s innovative and original voice at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Melissa Dimock of Refashionista

RefashionistaMelissa of Refashionista is one of our brand new voices at BOLO this year, and it’s a voice well worth hearing. As mother of four, she’s always learning – about parenting, about children, about life. She’s a thoughtful, kind, gentle writer who shares beautiful stories of the good and the bad in life, putting it all into perspective.

There has been loss in her life, and her sadness has led to some absorbing and captivating posts meditating on birth, death, and the cycle that surrounds us. There has been plenty of joy, too, as three boys led the way for the birth of her new baby daughter this winter. Through it all, Melissa tenderly and humanely leads her family to explore what it means to be a part of this world, and a part of this earth. In addition to growing as a person, she also seeks to live in harmony with the natural world as much as possible, reusing what she can, making what she can, and cooking delicious recipes from scratch. She’s also a collector of adorable vintage items, and sells the ones she can bear to part with in her shop, Retro Rooster.

Melissa has a way of finding harmony and peace in motherhood, life, and her writing. There will be a generous serving of thoughtful serenity passed around by her words at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Janet Lalonde of Cartoon-Coloured Glasses

Cartoon-Coloured GlassesA picture is worth a thousand words – and in the case of Janet’s blog, Cartoon-Coloured Glasses, maybe even more. There are certain moments in a young parent’s life – when your kid wants to “help” you do yoga, or when you have a Netflix hangover, or when you’re trying to dress a toddler around the toy cars in each hand – that make for charming stories and great memories. Janet takes them one step farther, though, turning them into cartoons – sometimes strips, sometimes single panels that magically capture every little nuance of what being a parent is all about.

There’s the facial expressions on the parents – priceless renderings of herself or her husband with the perfect combination of exasperation and delight on their faces. There’s the drawings of her two young boys, showing innocence and mischief in equal parts. And there’s the way she can boil an anecdote down to a few phrases and frames that are at once meaningful, moving, and totally hilarious. Simple stories and acute observations of her sons and their daily life make for posts that will have you giggling over similar events from your own past – you know you have them.

Personally, we can’t wait until Janet pulls all her great drawings and stories into a marketing empire – we’ll be the first in line for a t-shirt, mug, and coffee table book. But in the meantime, catch her unique way of telling tales at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Amanda Jetté-Knox of The Maven of Mayhem

The Maven of MayhemIt’s been a big, big year for Amanda Jetté-Knox, a.k.a. The Maven of Mayhem. She’s always been a writer with a strong, clear voice, a writer that invites you in with good-natured self-deprecation as she examines her own life and the nuttiness of her family. Despite several challenges with her three kids, and taking a while to figure out what she herself wanted out of life, Amanda always manages to write with hope, hilarity, and heart as she welcomes you to her life with two wide open arms.

This year, her writing got a new focus when her middle daughter bravely told her parents that she was trans, and looking to transition from male to female. Amanda immediately met the situation as we all would hope to – with love and caring and passion about raising her daughter to be the happiest person she can be. With her daughter’s full permission, Amanda has been sharing their journey as she learns all she can – and sometimes muddles through the new parts – with absolute positivity and acceptance. The mixture of touching stories with laugh-out-loud commentary makes for compelling reading as we follow them both through a time that is sometimes stressful, but most of all full of joy.

The trans world could not have asked for a better spokesperson at a more critical time – but setting aside any importance, Amanda’s writing just makes for a damn fine read. We’re lucky to be able to share one of her great stories at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Ross Brown of The Brown Knowser

The Brown KnowserRoss is becoming a fixture at Blog Out Loud, but that’s only because his writing is just so darn good. Over on his blog, The Brown Knowser, Ross isn’t afraid to get personal. His stories often tell tales from his past, exploring his thoughts as a child, as a teen, as a young man – and today, as a husband and father. He has a way of turning small moments into turning points, into significant details that seemed small at the time but, looking back, had a big impact on who he has become.

He’s constantly pushing himself to grow more, too. He’s into photography, and the images on his blog – often of cool and unique spots around Ottawa or from past travels – are always lovely, fascinating studies in texture and colour. This year, he’s pushing himself outside of his comfort zone by asking 100 strangers on the street for a quick portrait on the go. He’s already exploring the world with his new camera and seeing things from exciting new perspectives.

He’s also about friendship, and relationships, and what it means to be a part of this world – how we relate to each other, and what his role is in all this crazy stuff we call life. His blog is his life – and it’s a life worth examining. Listen in on one of his thoughtful tales at this year’s Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Astra Groskaufmanis of The Dustbunny Chronicles

The Dustbunny ChroniclesAstra Groskaufmanis knows hockey. As a long time hockey mom, she’s spent hours in early-morning rinks, nursing a coffee and inhaling zamboni fumes, and she’s captured all the bitter glory on her blog, The Dustbunny Chronicles. With three kids hitting the rink on a regular basis, there’s plenty of fun and funny stories to tell.

Her upbeat, affectionate tone finds all the sweet moments in at the very heart of Canadian life, creating a perfect portrait of her life as a mom. Whether she’s talking about poutine and Beaver Tails, politeness standoffs at Tim’s, or interesting news items from the CBC, Astra is sure to be sharing a story with an “we’ve all been there” quality. There’s something about life in Canada that runs a common thread through our lives, and Astra can always put her finger right on the funny bone of what it means to be a part of this great country.

Astra also brings the slapstick (ha!) to her role as humour columnist over at HockeyNow, and she’s bundling some of her favourite hockey stories into a memoir to be released this spring called Offside By A Mile. Come get a little window into her storytelling as she takes centre position at Blog Out Loud.

BOLO 2015 Readers – Joe Boughner of The Naked Dad

The Naked DadJoe Boughner of The Naked Dad is one funny, funny guy, and there’s one thing he knows how to do perfectly: go big or go home. His writing is sharp and witty and walks the fine line between big and over-the-top – like a true master of humour, he manages to somehow keep it all just barely under control. Parenting, politics, and personal relationships all come under fire and, when given the Joe treatment, will have you thinking about the big issues while laughing your butt off.

Whether he’s writing an ironic ode to his daughter’s Koosh balls, a biting indictment of winter (“the Nickelback of seasons”), or offering up sincere praise of those who coach kids’ sports, he has something real to say, and a sweetly snarky way of saying it. He’s a smart guy who gives a lot of warm-hearted thought to how he can be a better parent, how he can make the world a better place, and how he can find a truly great breakfast sandwich, and it all combines into a really entertaining blog that will give you lots of meaty stuff to chew on with a side of smartass.

As one of just two dads over at the Yummy Mummy Club collection of blogs, Joe brings a unique and welcome point of view to the parenting conversation. Come laugh your butt off with Joe at Blog Out Loud.