It’s a Party in the Front, but All Business in the Back

Today I’m participating in a weekly series hosted by HomeTalk.com.  You may remember we recently met with, and interviewed, Miriam IllionsHomeTalk’s Director of Community Development.

This article today will be shared with some of the many talented and creative home type bloggers that participate in this still growing social community.

Miriam sent some questions, and I am going to do my best to answer them, well, the best I can.  Thanks for having me M, and here we go … Let’s go!

First Getting into Blogging

jb bartkowiak

So … this is how it went:  Having been laid off from my job with the big builder Toll Brothers, I began working on a business plan.  While working through such things as branding, graphics, etc. with old friend and Long Island-based graphic artist & painter Jack Pierce, Jack says to me, “Have you ever considered blogging?”  I guess he couldn’t keep up with all the reading I was sending him in my long-winded emails.  Ha! No, I am pretty sure … that is in fact what it was.

I added AgentsofMoxie.blogspot.com into the website I had already been building (mostly myself, and I have since taken that site down).  I started posting to AOM (as I came to call it) in November of 2008. However, I really didn’t consider it much more than a “webblog.”  That is, it was nothing more than a place I could journal my thoughts about building a business.  Many posts were, well, essays, most with no images.

jb. (2000)

l to r: Barry Morgan, Barry Morgan. (2011)

Barry Morgan

In the Beginning

Looking back, I feel like it was sorta like … practice blogging. I didn’t have the Comments turned on, Google Friend Connect was not enabled and I didn’t even have it tied into any social platforms.  So, not real blogging, and mainly because I really didn’t care who read it.  While it was just for me, I guess a few folks did read it, and I even got tweeted or re-tweeted a few times (a good feeling).

Albeit, I am very thankful for the few connections I made in that period.  Most importantly, a carpenter out of Delaware named Barry Morgan. A little later, Barry and I would come up with the idea of and the design for Building Moxie (the blog) as it is.  Though I have always handled the day to day, together we put this site up (and I started blogging for reals) in March of 2010.


What is it?  I have almost given up on trying to describe what BuildingMoxie.com is.  It just is.  Like so many unexplainable things –  We’re kinda like the (reverse) mullet of home improvement blogs – “Business in the front, but party in the back.”  But usually the other way around … sometimes. … Or something.

Where Our Name Came From

Building Definition

Moxie Definition

Building Moxie is the Service-Marked name of my real world business.  While I am not actively selling any services related to this business, it is still part of my big-picture, long-term life vision.

bottle moxie in the frigThe word “moxie” may also be taken to mean “skill”.

Oh! And I also wanted to name my first daughter this after hearing a buddy had named his dog “Moxie”.

Blogging is Our Side Hustle

I’m what I like to call a full-time side blogger. I currently have a corporate-type job, on a fairly large web development team.  It is wholly unrelated to what I am passionate about – i.e. home improvement, and honestly, this does, at times, drive me nuts.

While the job comes complete with a way-too-long commute, it does also provide a roof (though sometimes that too means work), food, insurance and part of the means for putting our two daughters, now seven and nine, into private school. I am lucky to be with a good company (sincerely, thanks for that), but it, like any other full-time gig, has its fair share of demands, deadlines and stresses.

So … Professional blogging for me is like, idk, a full-time hobby, but not.

The First Project Post Posted

My first post was a two part essay I had written in honor of my grandfather.  I think it explains a lot of who I am, and needless to say I am very proud of it. (Both are now archived.)

Once I Saw My Grandfather Tune an Engine with a Box Wrench (Pt. 1)

Once I Saw My Grandfather Tune an Engine with a Box Wrench (Pt. 2)

captain and firstmate

Cedric Dellone & jb. (circa 1982)

I guess I should say I did move some of the posts from AOM over to BMoxie.

But not this one.

American Standard Girls Hall Bath

token project pic :: Girls Bath. (2012)

Sorry, did have to chuck a project photo in for this crowd.

Popular Projects Posts (2013 Edition)

It’s almost funny that the word “project” is used here, because most of my project-type posts result in, well, nothing but crickets. (I’ll take the blame on that and possibly on how I sometimes present them.)

Yellow farmhouse in Baltimore

my current project. (2010)

Of the posts that get the most traffic (there are a handful that do decent), I want to share ones that help serve the simple point – “you just never know.”

What Does the Numbering on Phillips Head Screw Bits Mean?

 – Interesting because all the information in this post is actually contained in the comments.

Emotional Architecture

 – When Venezuelan architect Ana M. Manzo asked about submitting this article, I didn’t realize she was communicating with me using Google Translate.  While English is not her first language, you can tell – “talented” works in any language. I think we did a fine job of getting it out, and to this day, it still gets a very steady stream of traffic. (*ahem* May the blogging gods never strike me down for not sourcing these images. Thank you.)


Building Moxie Does Mid-Century Esoteric with Modern 50

 – Almost as rewarding as the post with Ana above, my interview with real life friend Dino Paxenos continues to surprise.  The traffic of course a result of his beautifully styled photographs, and his finds – some of which have appeared in such movies as The Smurfs and Inception.

Maple Block Table Modern 50

One Way to Remove a Broken Key from a Lock 

 – Really, I’m just picking one here … fun ’cause absolutely zero effort went into these photos. (I happen to have a few that are like that.)

The Moxies (aka Friends & Family)
AgentPhoto Jennifer Ingool Long and Foster

Truthfully, I am not so “out” about my blogging.  My dad and his wife Joan are faithful followers (via email and thank you guys).  I tell my mom “I blog” and she looks at me as if I were in high school again and I had a party while she was at work one night and she, on returning home, found all the butter, more than a pound, missing from her frig.  And like I was the guy that had to explain something like that.  … Anyway.

Mrs. Moxie is supportive enough . . . and she will even swing by and drop a comment every now and then. I don’t think she necessarily shares my level fondness, but my posts featuring the Mrs. are simply some of my most all-time absolute favoritestest.

pregnant lady overgrown yard with weedwacker mothers day

Gotta love Mrs. Moxie || 8 or so months pregnant. (2005)

I’d probably get less grief if I would’ve posted this one … instead.

couple plastic bags on head

painting a textured ceiling. (1999)

Oh Wait! … Doh!

Gotta admit too … I also really enjoy writing about my girls (and at least they know what a blog is).

7 year old and a doll house

life of a pricessitect :: Evyn now 9. (2011)

Eva Peeling Tape Back

Eva now 7. (2012)

Partnerships & Opportunities (How Blogging Changed Me)

Beyond adding time to home projects and the heightened degree of self-consciousness that now comes with them, there’s no question that the single biggest highlight of blogging has been, and is, all the great people (including of course the HomeTalkers of the world) that I have met both through the internets and in real life.

There have also been a few new places, thanks solely to blogging.  New Yorktwice, New Jersey, Louisville, Chicago, Portland, Portland, Barry went Akron . . . and I’m off to Providence (JLC Live) in March.  Maybe I hit a neighborhood near you soon. (Warned!)

HomeTalkers in Portland

Pennington Seed :: Portland, OR. (2012)

Our Blogging Schedule (2013 Edition)

When we originally launched, we thought it would be a daily (weekday) blog . . . but it really didn’t take long before I completely melted down on that.  I officially removed the word “Daily” from our tagline in 2011.

We do receive, and post, quite a few guest contributions.  I mean – We couldn’t do this alone.  Surprisingly, because of this, I still post most weeks five days a week.  Some weeks I have done more.  A few weeks a year I will quietly close up shop and go on hiatus (Feb. 2013 happened to be one of those months, and actually I’m really just working quietly in the background).

Personally I can do about two posts a week.  And I often fill in where needed. Three is kinda pushing it, but amazingly – I have had a few weeks where I’ve actually done four. (Building Moxie’s First Ever Photo Week – Day 5: Week in Review :: Google Street Style.)  If I had it my way, I’d post each and every day … or even more.  While I have played with, I guess old habits, we usually post at 6AM EST.

our first house (tech. 2nd) :: green screen door, purplish cornice @ left. (year unknown)

That’s it. Thanks for having me and thanks for reading all. Be well.  ~ jb


Building Moxie 4 yard tape

just ’cause I like it. (2012)