Sheila Cicchi, aka Brownielocks is the the webmistress of Brownielocks and the 3 Bears a website that's been online over 10 years. Brownielocks has some truly unusual daily and monthly calendars... Calendars that reveal strange holidays and worldly observances rarely seen before...
Q: Where did you come from originally and where (and when) did you get passionate about creating your Brownielocks and the 3 Bears website and daily calendar?
I come from the United States. I was born and raised in Minnesota, although I currently live a few miles outside of Washington, D.C.
After moving to this area, I discovered how horribly hot and humid the summers were. I wasn't used to it at all and I seemed to be stuck indoors with A/C because going outside in that heat would just drain me. So, that's when I decided I'd try my own website. It kept me busy being stuck indoors during the hot, humid summers here.
I first started it in Yahoo Geocities. But due to all their rules -- and us creative folks hate boundaries on our creativity! ;) -- after 4 months I bought my own domain name of Brownielocks.com.
Years ago, I had a photo of me taken with a few teddy bears and I got nicknamed Brownielocks and The 3 Bears. It stuck. So when I wanted to come up with a website I chose that.
Doing the daily holidays evolved into what it is today. I didn't just do all of that all at once. The listing was there first for about 5 years.
Then someone told me about the calendar software program so I decided to add that to my site a few years ago. However, I'm not a trained software engineer. I know nothing really about computers, etc. So, I have someone else maintain the online calendar because it's too complex for me.
Q: You have a fantastic list of daily holidays and observances in your 2011 daily calendar. How did you discover all these observances and are you still uncovering new ones?
I had met a friend on another internet area whose daughter was graduating college in Library Sciences. I remember how the libraries always have some topics to celebrate and to promote reading books about it. So, I wrote to her and asked her to ask her daughter where the libraries get their information.
One of the Brownielocks word puzzles
She then told me about the Chase's Calendar of Events. I used that because I found a lot of inaccuracies and fake holidays on other sites.
Slowly my visitors would also write and tell me about an observance that I didn't have.
I'd then ask for some validation (I mean, how would I know they were not just making it up?
If I listed something every time someone wrote me, those lists would be enormously long and all bogged down with fake stuff probably outnumbering the valid stuff).
Brownielocks.com isn't just my site. It is a creation of a lot of very sharp people who write me and tell me about an observance, if I've made a mistake (and I do!) and also who write and give me ideas. Some tell me what they'd like to see on my site and others tell me what's on my site that they do not like. I get good and bad input.
To help thank people, I do give them a credit for letting me know about a valid observance. But that's up to them. Some people do not want their names on the internet. I respect people's privacy.
Q: What attracts people to your Brownielocks site the most? Is it the daily holidays and observances calendar (because it's so interesting), your bizarre holidays, jokes or cartoons, or something else entirely?
I think the first thing that attracts people is that it's different. My look isn't sterile. It's all originally created by me
The world's datebook for more than 50 years Chase's Calendar of Events 2012 is the authoritative guide to special occurrences, holidays, anniversaries, celebrity birthdates, religious observances, sporting events and more from around the world. Librarians, marketers, journalists and professionals have come to rely on it to find out what's going on that day, in a week, month or year ahead.
I get criticized a lot for my look. And get put on Worst of the Web sites, site design, etc. But, I'm like your favorite old comfy chair. My site has had basically the same look since day one. I don't change URL page names, etc. I'm reliable. OK, sometimes I'm also a bit cheesy, but I am always there and not going to confuse you with a lot of modern complicated designs, features etc. I'm simply comfy, like a good old chair or pair of shoes.
The second thing is that there's no ads for the most part. I didn't want to clutter up my artistic look with commercial ads. I've also noticed that teachers and parents like that because they do not have to worry about their kids being bombarded by something unwanted on my site. It is child-safe.
What's popular on my site varies. Sometimes it surprises me when I check my stats and see some page that's gotten a lot of hits and I have to laugh.
For example, during St. Patrick's Day, the first year I made that Couch Potato animation, it got a lot of hits. I laughed because it's just so cheesy but people loved it. So you never know what will work and what won't.
Q: I like how you seem to be fascinated with time (like me) and how we celebrate life in all different ways. You also bring a lovely child-like element of fun to your site. Where did this unique approach originate from and how do you view "time"?
I don't wanna grow up! :D I'm just a big kid. So that's how I bring this child-like tone to my site. I've always looked at things on the sillier side. My father once criticized me and said, "You just think life is a bowl of cherries." To which I replied, "Well it is Daddy. It's just that too many people don't enjoy the fruit they just suck on the pits. I spit out the pits."
Q: Another thing I like is your whole silly, crazy and bizarre approach that's almost opposite in a way to the world we live in. Yet you have a serious side to your site too. Do you strive to find more unusual events and activities to talk about and how do you know what to do next on your site?
My first idea was to make learning fun and not boring. No one learns a thing when they're miserable or bored in the process, right? However, at the same time one can think positive and still face the reality that there are unpleasantries in this world. I will not make something serious funny. To me that's mocking or disrespectful. Although I do realize humor is subjective.
Brownielocks and the 3 bears
Yes, I'm always looking for fun and unusual observances to add to my site. But, also to do myself. I've never travelled outside the US (well I went to Canada once), but I do a lot of travelling around the US and have seen some interesting things.
How I come up with ideas? They come from life -- something on TV, on the news, in a magazine and well... sometimes I just lay in bed and say, "God, I need an idea." I usually get one. :-)
Q: Would you consider using say Cafepress or Amazon perhaps to create a physical version of your calendar?
I have a store on Zazzle at http://www.zazzle.com/brownielocks in which I sell lots of items with designs that I've created. One of the items are calendars. But, they are not calendars with holidays in every square. This is what you're referring to right?
The reason is, my lists are not chisled in stone. Every day they are subject to change. I could add something new. I could find an error. I could remove something. Putting that as a physical form on paper would be to me making a calendar that is never 100% finished or accurate then. Would you buy a calendar with incomplete or wrong data? This is why I just keep it on-line.
I also need visitors to my site. So, I do not allow my holiday listings to be copy/pasted to other sites, blogs, Facebook, etc. Or made into a downloadable program. The list (as a group) is copyrighted. It takes a lot of work to maintain that and keep it up-to-date and always accurate. I don't go through all that work just to instantly provide content for someone's blog, website, etc.
I also see a lot of other holiday sites that never bother to care if the information they are offering is accurate. I've seen some with dates that are 5 years old, etc. That's a bit selfish IMHO. And, since I've never started my site to make money, I care more about quality of information on mine. So I won't try to lure people in with fake or outdated information. :-)
A small section of the Brownielocks monthly calendar