An Interview With Karen Sugarpants

I joined Neil Kramer's Great Interview Experiment, which meant that the commenter before me on the post was to interview me, and I was to interview the commenter following me. It turned out that I was interviewed by Seven, and I interviewed Karen Sugarpants.

Firstly, I want to introduce you. What weblog entries best work to describe Karen Sugarpants?

I haven't been blogging here very long, after taking a hiatus from my old blog, I had a nervous breakdown last year and blogged the entire thing. I wasn't speaking in British accents and skipping court or anything, but I sure lost a lot of friends by being a general abrasive bitch, and stirred up debate just to be a shit.

With friends who stuck by me ( even some who didn't realize the impact of a short email) and a rock of a husband, I managed to get out of the black hole I was in and I'm healing quite well.

Sugarpants was created to be a light, fun place that I could still be me, but without all the angst. I'm finding that I enjoy blogging a lot more now that I'm not putting as much of me out there to be criticized. Having said that, I'm picking and choosing entries from the old blog to bring over - from times that I was proud of my writing, from the Parentless crew, and entries that just make me laugh. Oh and I killed Vodkarella. She was a wanker.

I still have my moments of stressed-out wackedness but I try to keep it light and airy. Especially with what's been going on with the sale of our house since forever.

You have an incredibly active internet life. As well as running your weblog, Karen Sugarpants, you are a staff writer at FameCrawler and a web designer at Swank Web Style Design Studio. Is this your chosen career path, or are you an accidental tourist?

I've been on the net for about 10 years and once upon a time I had one of those free web pages with my oldest's ultrasound pictures and such. While on maternity leave with Dylan (my 9 year old), I taught myself Photoshop. Over the years I've switched over to Corel's Paint Shop Pro. I worked outside the home in the print industry from when Dylan was 10 months old, until a layoff when he was about 4. In that short time I went up the ladder so quickly, I was making $70 grand a year at 28 years old. Despite the high salary, SugarHubs and I did a little kitchen math and decided I would stay home and we would try to get pregnant again.

One thing about me is that I can't sit still. I HAVE to work. So I started a daycare. During that time, SugarHubs and I struggled to get pregnant. I went on Clomid and turned into somebody completely different. It was awful - crying, anger, collapsing into tears again... I don't know how our marriage survived that. Daren is a SAINT.

After Thomas was born, I started Troll Baby (the blog) while dealing with PPD. I also picked up the graphics again, and started Troll Baby Graphics in 2005. TBG took off like a shot and back then I did blog designs for $75. Now we charge just under that per hour! I joined Swank about a year ago and haven't looked back. I love my job.

The Famecrawler gig came by accident. I was IM'ing with Stefania and she casually asked me if I wanted a job. I gratefully took tips from Mir and Chris at Droolicious and worked with them for a couple of months before requesting to work at Famecrawler, which I found more interesting to me. Over there, Sassy (one of my best friends), Whit, Marsha, Catherine and I have a lot of fun blogging about celebrity parents and their children.

What internet tools do you use most often? Which tool is your
favourite, and why?

Firefox is my one and only browser and it pains me to open IE to test designs for Leslie, my Coding Goddess. Leslie joined Swank this month to be a designer and my go-to woman for html/css coding. We make a great team and I loves her.

Wordpress for blogging. I recommend it to all my clients too and have converted so many clients who all fell in love with it.

Twitter for when I need to vent, link to something of interest, "hang out" with all my Twitter buds, or just catch up on the going-ons of the internet. One guy I've discovered on Twitter makes a good living blogging about blogging. I find him and his writing fascinating and now stalk him daily. He's absolutely brilliant. You may have heard of him: Darren Rowse of Problogger? Great guy. Great blog. Great tips. Darren, that cheque is in the mail, right?

Bloglines - call me old school, but Google Reader never did it for me.

Trillian: Messenger for all formats: MSN, Yahoo, AIM...

Offline: Corel Paint Shop Pro, Smart FTP, The Font Thing (to keep track of over 9000+ fonts)

What did you do for your first paycheque? How did receiving that first paycheque affect you?

My very first paycheque? Geez, I was 14 and worked at the local library as a "Student Page." I re-filed books, and I remember coming home one day and telling my mother that I'd learned the new process of bringing the books back into the library system. "I learned how to discharge books today Mom!"

"That must have hurt," she said. Ba-dum-bum.

Knowing my mother, I probably had to bank my paycheques. Honestly, I can't remember!

Have you found it difficult to balance being a partner, a mother, a web designer, a writer, and now a dog owner* under one roof? If you have found a good balance, how did you do it? There's more than a few of us who could use some pointers if you have any.

It can be difficult, especially when your house is on the market and you have to keep it clean and get kicked out all the time! Some things that help me include:

- The Husband - he takes over when I have insane amounts of work to do.

- I keep a general schedule: Famecrawler in the morning, design all day, family at night. Once the kids are in bed, I get back on to design if the hubs is sleeping on the couch anyway. I try to get to bed by 11, since we're up at 6:30.

- Coffee.

- Know when to shut it off.

- As for housework and kid/dog duties, it helps me to be interrupted. That way, if I have to get up to let the dog out or get a kid a snack, I'm up and I'll reboot the laundry or throw dishes in the dishwasher. I'm constantly doing something different - so much so, I may have ADD. :)

- Take care of yourself in terms of sleep, exercise and nutrition.

- Drink lots of water.

- Read before bed and make yourself go to bed!

- The work will still be there tomorrow.

- Choose your battles: "Is it going to matter in 10 years?" If not, stop sweating it.

*Not new to the dog owning, but Mylie sure is a spaz. Ruffy is enjoying all the new attention, that's for sure:


Show me your workspace where you work all your internet goodness. Do you have a haphazard arrangement of a big armchair and a teatray as a laptop support like I do, or are you all grown up with a desk and a chair with wheels?

I do the Famecrawler gig in a big brown recliner with the laptop, often with Mylie snuggled up to the laptop fan.

Design work is done here (click to enlarge):

Sugarpants Workstation

In light of the SugarRecipes section on your website, I take it that you are a bit of a foodie. What is your favourite food and your strongest memory attached to it?

Oh that reminds me I have more to add to that section. Trouble is, I keep forgetting to take pictures while cooking!

To answer your question, my favourite food memory-wise is Thai Food. With the nervous breakdown, I also had a lot of trouble eating, as I was starving myself. It was an anorexic relapse, basically. Thai Food from the local joint was the only thing I'd really enjoy and I watched Daren's face as he encouraged me to get better by eating "something - anything." His love for me is what really pulled me through and those nights of Pad Thai and loving glances lifted me up.

Do you love where you live? If you could, where would you choose to put down roots?

I don't love the house we live in. Well the house is fine but it has a tiny strip of backyard, and two larger side yards, surrounded by chain-link fence. I long for a real backyard our family can enjoy. We're slowly moving towards that. This house has been on the market on and off since last August and the property line is what has been shying buyers away. We've picked the new lot in a smaller town nearby, and if all goes well, we should be in our newly built home by the summer.

The new town is a hockey town, complete with the school we want for our children, a community that is welcoming and friendly and it's convenient for Daren's work. I can't wait.

What is your favourite spot on planet Earth? A fort from your childhood, a vacation destination, a room in your house?

My favorite place is home. I love to be home. We have such a nest here of love and warmth, there's no place I'd rather be. Daren built a family room last year and it has everything for us. We enjoy a ton of family time down here.

What is the best thing about you that makes you shine?

Oh gosh. I just don't know. I mean, I'm a good mother, a teammate to my husband, and my family comes first. I think despite a few bumps in the last year or so, I'm a good person and certainly have a creative side that I'm proud of.

Thanks Schmutzie, Neil and Karl!

No, thank you, Karen!

Head over to Neil's website, Citizen of the Month, and check out the other participants' interviews.

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