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November 2016 Blog Income Report: Affiliates Wanted

november-blog-income-report

Hi Everyone!  I have big news!  The Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck book is here!  The series will run through June of 2017 so get the book and have all of the amazing knowledge 7 months early!

Affiliates Wanted!book-cover

Yes, I’m also looking for affiliates for both of my books.  Check out the books here.  Affiliate commission is 25% of the sale.

TO APPLY TO BE AN AFFILIATE:  Click here or  go to the Store Affiliates link by hovering over SHOP in the menu.

I will provide a free copy of one of the two books to each affiliate by email and provide further instructions manually once you subscribe.  I look forward to working with you!

 

Now on to the stats!

This Month’s Top Post: Blogging Vulnerability (Vlog) – 264 Views

This Month’s Runner Up: We’re Building a House! – 263 Views

This month was a huge month for me in terms of follower growth.  Not so much for income though.  I turned down quite a few sponsored post opportunities this month because I wasn’t too fond of the product.  I want to make sure to only promote products I would use.

November 2016 INCOME STATEMENT

Revenue
Ads – $101.89
Sponsored Posts – $3.50
Total: $105.39

Expenses
Tailwind – $10..00
Giveaway Buyin – $10.00
Post Supplies – $8.97
Total: $28.97

NET INCOME: $76.42

VIEW PREVIOUS BLOG INCOME STATEMENTS HERE.

november-monthly-updates

Last month I mentioned that I had made a trendline to project my follower growth.  I was quite impressed when my following grew by 375 last month to put me at 3804 followers.  This month, my projection said I would be at 4500.  That’s 700 new followers and I definitely didn’t think it was remotely possible.

Excitingly, I gained 903 new followers this month putting me at 4707.  How crazy is that!  I cannot believe the growth!  Thank you so much for supporting me and my blog!

My goals for this month were to work on the Paycheck series and do a bit more on YouTube.  I definitely succeeded on both of these tasks because the Paycheck series is complete and I have a ton of new YouTube ideas!  Yes, this month my first vlog got the most views out of any of my posts.  I am going to be posting updates on the new house and the building process starting in December!

My focus for December is to maintain.  I’ve had a lot of growth over the past few months and I want to make sure that everything goes smoothly with gaining affiliates and maintaining my posting schedule.  I definitely don’t want to grow too fast and let the details slip away.

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How I Made Over $1500 Blogging!

how-i-made-over-1500-blogging

**This post contains affiliate links**

Today’s post is a very exciting one!  I began blogging in July of 2015 and by the end of October 2016, I had made over $1500!  I began this blog because I thought about it one day and realized that I no longer had any hobbies.  I had previously been in grad school, working 50 hours per week, and buying my first house.  This definitely left me no free time.

A few years after life settled down, I was working 40 hours per week and had no side obligations.  I thought about creating another book but I wasn’t really in the mood for a long drawn out project.  Thus, I began the blog with no idea what I was going to write about!

In November of 2015, I made my first $9 on Izea. I think I just got lucky with this one.  I hadn’t been trying to make money blogging at this point but I did know if was something I wanted to look into.  At this point I decided I was going to take my blog more seriously in 2016.

The first steps

The first step I took towards monitizing my blog was to become self-hosted through wordpress.org.  I made this transition at the end of 2015 and in January of 2016 I added Google Adsense.  Adsense has been by far my most consistent income source.

Here is a rough breakdown of my income sources.

Ads – $1020.00
Freelancing –  $410.00
Affiliate –  $15
Sponsored – $140.00
Product Sales – $8.00

Ads

Ads have been by far my largest income source.  I use Google Adsense and Media.net but I’ve only made about $4.00 from Media.net.  The rest comes from Google Adsense.

I do have a trick for Google Adsense.  The more present I am on my blog and social media, the more money I make.  There are quite a few Facebook Groups that I use to gain interaction through my site.  As long as I’m consistently participating in these threads, I see the reward.  One thing to note is that you cannot ask anyone to click on your ads!

Freelancing

Earlier this year,  Izea had a survey for Ebyline, a company they bought that creates product descriptions for Ebay.  I participated in their projects for two months and earned over $400.00.  I haven’t had any freelancing work since.

Affiliate Programs

I’ve heard a lot of great news about affiliate programs but honestly I haven’t been that impressed.  I’ve made about $15 in affiliate programs and could list all of the ones I belong to but, I wouldn’t recommend using any of them.  Plus, it just adds a bunch of unnecessary selling to a page which could turn off your readers.

Sponsored Posts

Sponsored posts are something that just starting working for me!  Early in the year, I had a couple of small sponsored posts through Izea (roughly $10 total).  Once I hit 3000 followers, I was able to sign up for Linquia.  I have now participated in two campaigns and have made about $120.  Something to note here is that I also turned down two campaigns because they didn’t align with my blog or my opinions.

Product sales

This area is one of my goals to improve over the next year or so.  I have a couple digital products on Etsy and I have my book.  Once I finish my Paycheck Series, I will compile the posts into a digi-book.  At this point, I haven’t seen very much activity or income generated from Product Sales.

Something else to note is that I don’t have a large following.  I get roughly 3000-4000 page views every month.  This stat also just increased from the 2000-3000 range a couple months ago.  Anything is possible.  Best of luck to all of you bloggers!  Let me know if you have any tips as well!

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Choosing Your Budgeting Tools

choosing-your-budgeting-tools

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

Choosing your budgeting tools is one of the most exciting parts of budgeting.  This is where you begin to fit your budgeting to your style.

There are so many different types of budgeting tools to choose from.  Before picking out the types of tools that would be best for you, take a step back and think about your daily life.

Do you find yourself on the computer often?  If so, what types of things are you doing on the computer?  Do you use the computer just for games and chatting or do you also use the computer for emailing, school work, or for your job?  What is your comfort level with the computer?

Now that you’ve begun to think about the tools in your daily life, think about your comfort level with those tools.  Is using the computer a chore to you?  Or, do you enjoy the computer?  This could be a big hint as to which tool you should use.

 

Some of the most common budgeting tools include Computer programs, Computer or Phone Apps, Spreadsheets, Printables, and Envelopes for money storage.

These tools are not to be mixed up with the budgeting system you chose (Cash or Digital).  You can absolutely mix and match the systems with any type of tool.  For example, you can create digital envelopes or tangible envelopes.  You can also use an all cash banking method but use a digital tool to track your finances.  Or on the flip side, you could use a hand written register to balance your electronic funds.

 

With any tool you choose, make sure that the tool fits your lifestyle and that it will not cause you to go out of your way to use it.

 

Still haven’t quite decided on your tool of choice?  Consider your phone usage.  Do you have a smart phone? If so, do you use your phone for mobile banking currently?  Do you use an app to track your grocery list?  If so, an app may be a great option for you since it will fit in well with your routines.

Not comfortable with apps or computers?  A handwritten register or a printable may be the best option for you.

Once you decide which tool or tools you want to use, use them for a few months.  If you find the tool annoying or too time consuming, feel free to switch to another tool.  The point of budgeting is to make your life easier, not harder.

 

Join me in Part 4 as we talk about how to put it all together.  I will go into depth on all of the different budgeting directions, systems, and tools.

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Host the Perfect Holiday Party with Stella!

stella

What better way to start the Holidays than with a family get together?  I’m proud to be partnering with Stella Cheese for this post to kick off the holiday season!

Stella cheese feature a rich flavor that goes great in so many combinations!  My holiday party tray was inspired by my fiance who works in a wine bar.

I was getting ready to make a cheese platter with pepperoni, crackers, and cheese when he completely changed my mind.  The platter is now more elegant and fancy, perfect for the holidays!

Purchase Stella Cheese for your upcoming holiday parties.
stella-cheese-bears

My cheese platter features Stella Fontinella cheese, three colors of apples, crackers, bread, and honey.  While it may sound like a bit of an odd pair, the honey brings out the richness of the cheese and is so delicious.  Just spread some honey on your bread and top with cheese.  MMM.

It’s also your lucky day because Stella is hosting a contest to win a trip to Napa Valley, California!  For more information on their contest and to enter to win, visit Stella here.

Stella makes your holiday party planning stress free because you know you will have a snack everyone will enjoy!

stella-platter

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Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing

crock-pot-chicken-and-stuffing

This crock pot chicken and stuffing recipe has been my go to meal for the last few months. I originally saw the idea on Pinterest and noticed there were quite a few variations.

This recipe is super simple and great for the winter!  Also with Thanksgiving this week, adding turkey instead of chicken can make a quick Thanksgiving meal!

Ingredients

Chicken or Turkey Breasts
Cream of (your choice) soup
Boxed stuffing mix
Instant potatoes

Directions

  • I line the bottom of my crock pot with thawed chicken breasts (usually 3) then season as desired.
  • I then pour one can of condensed soup over the chicken.  This can be cream of chicken or any other creamy soup.
  • Next, I prep the stuffing.  In the images above I added 2 cups of water with chicken bullion in it to the boxed stuffing mix.  I’ve since adjusted the recipe to only one cup of water without any extra flavoring.  The first go around was a bit too salty and the stuffing was more watery than I desire.  Feel free to adjust the water until the stuffing comes out just how you like it!
  • Once the water is all absorbed into the stuffing mix, I dump the stuffing into the crock pot so it evenly covers the chicken.

I’ve gone back and forth about adding the potatoes into the crock pot or making them separate.  I’ve been using instant potatoes which are super quick to just boil some water in the microwave then mix.  In the pictures above, I kept the potatoes separate but recently I’ve been adding them to the pot.  It turns about about the same either way.

Hope you enjoy!

 

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Blogging Vulnerability

 

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Join the mailing list to be the first to know when a new post is published!

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Cash For Christmas: 2016 Giveaway!

cash-for-christmas-giveaway

As I grow into my blog, I’m getting to participate in more and more things!  Today I’m participating in a Giveaway!  There will be multiple winners for cash prizes.

Enter as many times as you would like below!

To get that Holiday spirit started, I’ve decided to reminisce a bit.

Merry Memories – Christmas Caroling

In high school and college I was very into choir and my Christmas Caroling group.  One of my fondest memories in choir was performing with my show choir on the stage in Magic Kingdom Disney World.  As great as all of my choir memories are, my favorite memory from my school days is caroling.

When I was in elementary school, one of my friend’s brothers needed to earn a badge by doing something good for others.  His mom suggested caroling and they invited me to go along.  We went to a nursing home down the street to carol.  This was my first experience with this kind of a performance and it was amazing!

Everyone knew all of the words and was able to sing along.  The pure joy and happiness I saw on all of the resident’s faces was amazing!

I specifically remember one lady in the Alzheimer’s unit who had a baby doll.  She had such a blast singing along to her doll.  You could tell that she was having one of the best days she had had in a long time.  This is when I decided I wanted to carol every year.

We continued to carol every year until about mid high school when friendships began to change.

~~~

I decided that I could not let the magic of caroling be lost because of a lost friendship.  I gathered up a large group of friends, planned the event with the nursing home and even had a couple rehearsals prior to the day of caroling.

The caroling group changed a lot over the schooling years.  My fondest memories of caroling are from my college days.  Everyone in my caroling group was a music major except myself.  This left me a bit out of the loop but, my business major came in handy with coordinating the events.

We performed multiple times at the Zoo, multiple Botanical Gardens, and of course quite a few nursing homes.  One of the nursing homes even paid us!  Of course, in the spirit of Christmas, we donated the money to Charity.

I have a few videos from a set part of our caroling.  This was in the dining hall of one of the nursing homes.  After the set performance, we were able to walk around and sing with all of the residents.

The Holly and the Ivy/Up on the Housetop mashup was one of my favorite songs!  We start out traditional, then speed up the beat, and then transition songs in harmony. (don’t mind the camera quality from a decade ago)

Here’s another one of my favorites.  Much more traditional than the Holly and the Ivy.

As I’ve grown, I haven’t been able to coordinate a group of singers every year but I’ve done decently.  After moving across town and into a new neighborhood, I was able to find some neighbors on Facebook to carol with.  This brought back all of my fond memories but just wasn’t the same.  Everyone had a million different things on their minds that took away from the overall experience.

I am determined though to get back into caroling.  It is such a rewarding and enjoyable experience and I can’t wait to share the experience with people who come into my life.

On to the Giveaway

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Are you getting geared up for the shopping season? Do you need extra cash for Christmas?? Don’t we all!

We are so excited to be giving away $330 in cash prizes for you to use starting Thanksgiving weekend. Here are the prizes:

1 – $100 Amazon Gift Card
1 – $75 Target Gift Card
2 – $25 Walmart Gift Card
1 – $25 Kohls Gift Card
3- $10 Starbucks Gift Card

There will be 8 winners in this giveaway. Each winner will receive a gift card code to use on the online store or in the actual store.

Now its time to meet our wonderful co-hosts who have made this giveaway possible.

Cash for Christmas

Starting at the top row we have:

Terri – Christmas Tree Lane, Melissa – The Farm Girl Gabs, Christine – Your Strong Tower, Audrey – That Recipe & Munofore, Dana – Goods Giving Back, Tammy – Creative K Kids, Trish – Creative Simplicity by Trish Sutton, Kim – Shopping Kim and Enter Online Sweeps, Ali – Home Crafts by Ali and Ali’s Book Nook, Kelly – Typically Simple, Kim – The Resourceful Mom, Katie – The Ramblings of an Overtired Mama, Angie – God’s Growing Garden, Sarah – Devastate Boredom, Karen – Raising Little Superheroes, Gina – Money Savvy Living, Beverly – Eclectic Red Barn, Melissa – Deliciously Savvy, Beth – Our Pretty Little Girls, Meredith – The Mom of the Year, Laura – Michigan Saving and More, Debbie – Heartbeats ~Soul Stains, Carol – The Red Painted Cottage, Tiffany – A Wandering Vine, Monica – Mommy & Love, Holly – Keeping Life Sane, Sinea – Ducks ‘n a Row, Cindy – Simple Steps for Living Life, Tammy – My Life Abundant, Kari – Keep It Simple DIY, Danielle – Dancing with My Daughter

Please stop by and say hi to these wonderful ladies and their blogs.

The giveaway will end midnight on Wednesday, November 24th, the night before Thanksgiving. You will have 48 hours to respond to the email claiming the prize. If you respond right away, we will get you the gift card code promptly so that you can shop with it on Black Friday! If we don’t hear in 48 hours, we will choose another winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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We’re Engaged!

were-engaged

Hello readers!  I have some very exciting news today!  Nick and I got engaged!  Actually, we got engaged on October 1st.  Since I make my posts a month in advance, my timing is a bit off.  But, this gives me ample time to soak up every exciting moment!

Everyone always asks how the guy proposes!  So, here’s the story.

We’ve been looking at rings all year.  Literally, since like January.   We weren’t seriously looking though until a few months ago.  The big event that got us really looking to find ‘the ring’ was that we decided to build a house!

For us, each new step of our relationship is a step we want to take together.  So, I was definitely not surprised by the proposal.  Quite the opposite actually.  I was included in the planning!

Since my ring is more expensive than Nick’s, I bought him a drone.  And, of course because we’re building a house and the footage will be amazing!

Luckily, we finally found a ring that I liked since I don’t really wear jewelry to begin with.  Once we had the ring in tote we went over to our new property to capture some drone footage.

Nick walked up to me, got down on one knee and then looked at me.  I looked at him and said ..”what?”.  Fully knowing what he wanted to say.  I told him he has to actually ask for me to say yes!  haha!  His reasoning was that the drone doesn’t have a microphone so it wouldn’t be recorded!

So, take two was really cute.  He said that he can propose in any way and then lifted the ring out of the box towards me and asked me to marry him.  Of course, I said yes!  This was just perfect to me.  It was simple and cute.

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October 2016 Blog Income Report

october-blog-income-report

This Month’s Top Post: 10,000 Cupcakes Challenge – 253 Views

This Month’s Runner Up: Why I Don’t Buy Bottled Water – 225 Views

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween!  I’m drafting out this post while handing out candy.

This month I started off to a great start!  I got all of my posts planned for November and December and even created most of my Pinterest art in the first week of the month!

Speaking of Pinterest, who else was irked by the layout change?  Since my old board covers no longer fit the new layout, I created all new ones!

While I was being productive, I decided to make all of the pins for my #TBT posts.  I was able to get all of November and December’s art done.  This means that I’m now done creating Pinterest art for older posts!

I noted last month that I was starting to write a bit more personally.  I now have a few posts about my life and all of my new excitement!  I am both thrilled and anxious to be sharing my life on the internet.  Either way, I’m diving in and  hoping for a good outcome!

OCtober 2016 INCOME STATEMENT

Revenue
Ads – $153.85
Sponsored Posts – $58.20
Affiliate Programs – $1.81
Total: $213.86

Expenses
Tailwind – $10..00
Etsy – $0.50
Post Supplies – $3.85
Total: $14.35

NET INCOME: $199.51

VIEW PREVIOUS BLOG INCOME STATEMENTS HERE.

october-monthly-updates

This month I was able to grow my following by 375  people!  What’s interesting with this finding is that it completely follows my trend line.  Last month I created a trend-line on my followers graph just for fun.  The amount of exponential growth seemed unrealistic to me (and still does).  But, this month, I was on point with the projections at 3804 followers.  (3800 Projected)

Last month I mentioned that my plan was to focus on my Paycheck  series.  I was able to write three sections for the series last month.  One was posted in October, and then one is for November and the other December.  Next month, I will continue to work on this series as I am hoping to be able to put the series into a digital E-Book at the beginning of the year.  I will then continue to publish one section per month.  **Eek.  Here’s to accountability.  I hadn’t written this goal for the public yet.  This just means I need to wrap it up!

Next month I also plan to do a bit more with YouTube.  I used to really love making YouTube videos when I was younger and I’m excited to get back into this and share a bit about myself and all of my new adventures.

Thank you all for your continued support!

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Join the mailing list to be the first to know when a new post is published!

Wondering how to Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck? New posts to the series on the last Saturday of every month!

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We’re Building a House!

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I have very exciting news!  Nick and I are building a house! We’ve been looking at model homes for about a year now.  Our intentions weren’t necessarily to purchase a home but one came up that is just perfect for us!

The new house is double the size of our current house and was a lot cheaper than we were expecting.  The housing market is crazy high where we live right now.  We got lucky because I bought my current house when the market was low so my house almost doubled in value!

Our lot line goes from the yellow fire hydrant to somewhere on the other side of the neighbor’s foundation.  Not quite sure yet.

snapshot-2

A few months ago, I created a post of the 10 Must Haves in My Next Home.  When we move into this house, it will have 9/10 of the must haves.  The only one missing is the movie room in the basement.  We plan to finish the basement on our own when we are ready.  Then, this house will be a 10/10!

The building process will take ten months and I know I will talk a lot about each part of the house.  For now, I will mention my favorite part about each level.

Next to the pantry in the kitchen is a little nook that I am going to use for my blogfice.  I typically just blog on the couch so I don’t need much room.  Did I mention it’s close to all the snacks?

slide1

My favorite part about the upstairs is that we have a walk-through shower!  Yes!  I had never seen a walk through shower before seeing one of this builder’s homes.  This is perfect for us.  The shower is out of the way and we don’t have a lot of dead space in front of the sinks.

slide2

Nick and I are so excited for this whole process and I’m excited to document along the way.  We will be taking drone footage and trying our hand at editing and may even attempt to vlog the building process.  We shall see.  I don’t talk very naturally to the camera.

Stay tuned!  So much excitement to come!

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Wondering how to Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck? New posts to the series on the last Saturday of every month!

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Choosing Your Budgeting System

choosing-your-budgeting-system

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

Once you’ve determined which budgeting direction you will use, you need to start to layout the specifics of your budget plan.

One of the fundamental parts of creating your budgeting plan is to choose between a cash budgeting system and a digital budgeting system.

These are not to be confused with budgeting tools such as envelopes, check registers, and other types of tools.  All of the tools for budgeting can be customized to fit the system you decide to use.

A cash budgeting system is exactly that.  It’s cash.  No credit cards, just cash.  Of course, when you get to the point of saving, it could be a good idea to open a savings account rather than keeping a large supply of money around, but we’ll get to that later.

A digital budgeting system utilizes credit cards, checking accounts, online interfaces, apps, and many other technological opportunities.  All of your budgeting and tracking is kept in digital form and you are responsible for sticking to your budget without having tangible money to stop you from over-spending.

There are many benefits to both a cash system and a digital system.

Cash Budgeting

Cash budgeting is great for you if you like being able physically hold your money that way you know exactly how much you have at all times without having to log into an app or account.  Cash budgeting is also a great option for you if you dislike or have trouble with technology.  The system you use for budgeting should easily fit into your lifestyle.  If you don’t like being on the computer or phone, a cash budgeting system may be best for you.

Digital Budgeting

Digital budgeting is also a great budgeting system.  This system is good for you if you enjoy technology and find it easier to look in your app to see what your balance is.  While the digital world makes so many things easy for us, you need to pay special attention to your spending.  Unlike the cash system, where you literally can’t spend anything more than you have, the digital system shows no boundaries when you pull out the credit or debit card and run a transaction.  On the other hand, with digital budgeting there are a ton of options for charting your spending so you can analyze where all of the money is going.

Whichever budgeting direction you choose, make sure it fits in with your lifestyle and your budgeting needs.

 

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Halloween Kittens

kittens

spider

benji-pumpkin

lola-spider

pumpkin-benji

halloween-kittens

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The Teal Pumpkin Project

teal-pumpkin

A few years ago I came across the Teal Pumpkin Project while searching online.  The Teal Pumpkin Project is a way for neighbors to show that they provide treats for all children including children with food allergies.

Placing a Teal Pumpkin on your front porch on the night of Trick-or-Treating shows that you have treats that are not only food products.  Some ideas include spider rings, tattoos, stickers, and other fun trinkets that children love.

This project was especially important to me because for over five years I had a ‘mystery diagnosis’ so to speak and I was unable to eat anything milk related.  It was so severe that I couldn’t even eat something that had been touched by a utensil that had also touched any milk product.

My mystery has been solved and now I am happily back to normal, but not everybody is so lucky.

For the kiddos who don’t have a choice and have nut, milk, gluten, or any other allergies, the Teal Pumpkin project is a great way to show your support and offer them their treat on Halloween!

I am in no way affiliated with the Teal Pumpkin Project but here is their link if you want more info!

Have you participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project?  Tag me in your photos on Instagram!

Like what you’ve seen so far?
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10 Things to Know Before Becoming a Homeowner

homeowner

Becoming a homeowner is a very exciting time.  The freedom of having your own home and being able to make any changes you want is very fulfilling. With this freedom comes a whole lot of responsibility.

  1. You have to put the trash out on trash day. Unlike apartment living where there is always a dumpster to throw your trash, neighborhoods have trash picked up once per week. If you miss it, you will have to store your trash an extra week which quickly piles up.
  2. You need to own fire extinguishers. Granted, you should also own a fire extinguisher if you live in apartment. I never thought of it before owning a home though. I have two fire extinguishers in my home. One on each floor.
  3. You need to maintain the lawn. This is a big one for me. Many of my neighbors do a horrible job at maintaining their lawn which makes the neighborhood not as pleasant to live in. Nobody wants to be going on a walk and have to climb over your grass and duck under your trees that are impeding the sidewalks.
  4. You need to shovel the driveway in a timely fashion – be sure to own a shovel before the winter season starts is you are in an area that gets snow. In many cities it is mandatory to remove the snow from the sidewalk in front of your house within 24 hours of the snowfall ending.  This is for the safety of everyone walking. It is typically not required to shovel your driveway but it does make your home look more presentable and helps avoid slipping on the ice.
  5. You need to change the filter in the furnace monthly – You should change the filter in the furnace each month. I have to admit, this has probably been the one thing that I still struggle with remembering to do.  But, it is very important because it helps provide clean air for your home and can prevent fires.
  6. You may need to blow out your sprinklers – If you live in an area with freezing temperatures in the winter, you need to blow out your sprinklers and exterior pipes for the cold season. Otherwise, the water in your pipes will freeze and expand causing the pipes to burst.  But, you won’t know they’ve burst until it’s warm again and you go to use the pipes.  Then you are in for potentially a huge mess and the pain of repairing the pipes.
  7. You may need to disconnect hoses in the winter – This is for the exact same reason as blowing out the sprinkler. If you leave a hose connected to the spout, the pipes are more likely to freeze.
  8. You need to trim the trees – As a neighbor, this is one of the things you can do not only for yourself but for your neighbors. Of course, a trimmed tree always looks better than a tree that hasn’t been maintained but have you walked around your tree and noticed if it’s covering anything?  Is it going over your neighbors fence or hanging onto their driveway?  Does it hang over the sidewalk blocking the path or making your neighbors duck?  Nothing is more annoying than being on a peaceful walk and having to duck or maneuver to avoid a tree that hasn’t been maintained.  Well, mosquitoes are more annoying but this is still pretty high on my list.
  9. Neighbors can still hear your loud music – Just because you live in a house does not mean your neighbors can’t hear your music. Yes, we can still hear your loud music even if you live down the street and our windows and doors are all closed.  Please be considerate and keep the music at an acceptable level during acceptable hours.
  10. Having two fridges makes it easier – This one is very helpful! I’ve had two fridges most of the time that I’ve owned my house but for a majority of the time I only used one of them.  Now, it’s a habit to use both and it is so helpful!  No more freezer Tetris!

What tips do you have people who want to become homeowners?

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Crock Pot Hot Wings

hot-wings

 

Welcome back to my Blog!

I am very excited about this post because I have been obsessing over all things hot wings recently!  I came across this extremely simple way of making hot wings at home and had to try it!

The first step here is to buy chicken wings.  I’ve tried multiple kinds of wings and I’ve realized that I like the King Soopers brand the best.  They may not be quite as cost efficient as the Costco brand but I like them better because the skin is thinner.

This recipe is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3 as cheesy as that sounds!

Step 1: Drop as many chicken wings as you would like into your crock pot.  Add enough sauce to the pot  to lightly coat the wings.  If your chicken wings are frozen, just set the temp to high and give it about 6 hours or so.  If your chicken wings are not frozen, you may need to add a bit of water to the pot.

crock-pot-hot-wings

Step 2: Once the chicken wings are fully cooked, remove them from the crock pot and put them on a foil lined cookie sheet.  Brush the tops with another coat of sauce and pop them into the oven at 450 degrees for 5-10 minutes.  This step is of course optional but makes them taste so much better than straight out of the crock pot because it dries them out a bit.

oven-hot-wings

Step 3: Serve and devour!

hot-wings

I’ve also been obsessing with Anthony’s Pizza’s Cranberry Habanero wing sauce.  Has anybody else tried it?

 

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Zucchini Boats and Casserole

zucchini-boats

 

I’ve mentioned in a few past posts that this year was my first year trying my hand at gardening!  I’ve shown some recipes I’ve made using basil and scallions from my garden and here is a great recipe I’ve been making from my zucchini plant!

I actually made this recipe with a store-bought zucchini prior to starting my garden this summer.  The zucchini from my garden are so much larger than the store-bought zucchini!

Seriously!  Huge!  Banana and Benji for reference. 😉

zucchini-benji

This recipe is actually quite simple.

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef
medium sized zucchini (or one really large one)
cup of your favorite cheese
cup of marinara sauce
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
Italian seasoning, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*
  2. Brown the ground beef on the stove
  3. Cut the zucchini in half long ways and scoop out the center to make a boat
  4. Grease a baking pan and add the zucchini to the pan.
  5. Add the center of the zucchini into the pan with the ground beef
  6. Add the breadcrumbs, marinara, and cheese to the ground beef
  7. Add seasoning as desired.
  8. Add the mixture to the boat.  Cook any extra meat mixture in a side dish as a casserole.
  9. Cook until the zucchini is soft.

This has become one of my favorite meals!  It also makes a great freezer meal for the crock-pot.  For the crock-pot variation, I chop the zucchini instead of making boats.  I pre-cook the meal and add the cooked ground beef, chopped zucchini, breadcrumbs, seasoning, and cheese to the freezer bag.  I put the marinara in a sealed sandwich bag prior to adding it to the large bag with the rest of the ingredients.

When I’m ready to make the meal, I let the bag sit out long enough that I can get the ingredients out of the bag without difficulty and I add everything into the crock pot together.  The general rule of thumb is 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

Have you made something similar?

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Why I Don’t Buy Bottled Water

Bottled Water

bottled water is expensive

I am quite cheap and spending a dollar or more or even $4 in airports for bottled water is just absurd to me!  Water from the sink and water fountains is so much cheaper that the amount of water you drink from those sources is practically free!  Also, airport trick, empty a reusable water bottle prior to going to the airport and fill it up once you are through security.

bottled water tastes gross

I’ve heard many people say that tap water tastes gross and in some places, yes, I agree.  Where I live though, the tap water tastes fine.  If I get water from my fridge it is also filtered.  For some reason bottled water just has a distinct weird flavor to.

bottled water takes up so much space

I’ve seen people with their shopping carts in the stores with stack upon stack of bottled water and I wonder where they store it all.  Even with two fridges I still don’t know where I would store much water.

bottled water fills creates too much waste

Ok, yes, these bottles are recyclable but they still take up a ton of space.  We are each supposed to drink 8 – 8oz cups of water per day.  What is this?  about 6 water bottles per person on average?  In a house of 4, this would be one entire case of water each day or 7 cases each week.  Imagine the recycling bin full of seven cases of empty water bottles.  There wouldn’t be room for anything else.

bottled water is not more convenient

I take a water bottle with me everywhere I go.  Literally everywhere.  Before I go to bed at night I fill the water bottle and put it in the fridge (on workdays only).  Then I just grab it in the morning the same way I would with a bottled water.  Filling the water bottle is about as much work as opening the package, taking out a water bottle, and putting it in the fridge.  Also, if I’m out and about I can just find a water fountain and fill up.  Otherwise I would need to find the  water in the store, bring it to the register,  find the appropriate money, and complete the transaction.

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September 2016 Blog Income Report

september-blog-income-report

This Month’s Top Post: Pineapple Island Teriyaki Chicken Legs – 293 Views

This Month’s Runner Up: August 2016 Blog Income Report – 173 Views

Last month I mentioned that I was quite burnt out from the blog and that I had taken a little break.  That break ran through the beginning of September but I regained my energy and was able to get my posts planned for October.

September was more of a learning month for me.  I studied my analytics and follower trends and I dug deeper into the ins and outs of Pinterest.

This month, I also completed my Media Kit.   This is one of my favorite pages because it is completely automated.  It took me a few months to get it how I wanted while being optimized for both mobile and web interfaces.  I am so happy with how it turned out and am excited to share how I made it!

In September I actually turned down a sponsored post because I didn’t want to overload myself.  This made my  income be lower than usual.  Overall though, the knowledge I gained about blogging is far more valuable than an extra few bucks would have been.

September 2016 INCOME STATEMENT

Revenue
Ads – $78.50
Total: $75.50

Expenses
Tailwind – $10
Etsy – $0..60
Total: $10.60

NET INCOME: $67.90

VIEW PREVIOUS BLOG INCOME STATEMENTS HERE.

september-monthly-updates

I mentioned that I was diving into learning Pinterest above.  One of the very valuable lessons that I learned is that I should first pin my posts to my own board and then share them to others so it acts as a re-pin rather than a new pin.  I had scheduled all of my pins from my blog directly last month and it brought my page views down a bit.  I also noticed that each pin had to see how it fared on its own from only that one board I pinned it to.

Here are my views that came from Pinterest since I started using Tailwind.

JUNE: 153   JULY: 239   AUGUST: 658   SEPTEMBER: 444

My plan for October is to focus on content, especially my Paycheck  series.   I also am going to start writing a bit more content about my personal life.  This is something that I hadn’t done previously because well…nothing going on was interesting.  I’ve been doing the same thing for years and you run out of things to write about.  Unless you guys really want to hear about cleaning the litter box every day.  Wait…blog post idea! 🙂  Stay tuned!  I have a lot of exciting things coming up that I am so excited to share with all of you!

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10,000 Cupcakes Challenge

10000-cupcakes-challenge

As many of you already know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and every year there are a ton of amazing opportunities to hep support the Cure!  There are many ways to get involved from participating in the Susan G Komen’s Race for the Cure to baking cupcakes and sharing them online to Cook for the Cure.

Breast cancer has affected quite a few people I know and is something that runs in my family.  Like all types of cancer and other diseases, breast cancer is devastating to a person and family.  It takes a toll on your mental and physical health and leaves everybody feeling helpless.

Thankfully,  there are many people out there searching for the Cure and we can all help them!

slide2

I am very excited to be teaming up with Kitchen Aid and their Cook for the Cure 10,000 Cupcakes Challenge.  

The way this challenge works is that for every original picture you of a cupcake you share to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags #10000cupcakes and #donate, Kitchen Aid will donate $1 towards finding the Cure.

This challenge is so fantastic because Kitchen Aid will donate up to $10,000, so share those cupcakes!

slide1

To learn more about Kitchen Aid’s 10,000 Cupcakes Challenge and to enter for a chance to win a KitchenAid stand mixer, visit the Cook for the Cure website here.

slide3

I’d love to see all your cupcakes!

 

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25 Questions Tag

This post is quite different from all of my others.  I remember back in the days of MySpace before Facebook was popular.  We did survey after survey and so on for hours on end.  I love nostalgia. 21 Questions
25 QUESTIONS TAG!

Question 1: Do you have any pets?
Yes, I have two cats. Lola and Benji.

Christmas

And, I can’t forget my Grayson who passed away last year at just a bit over a year old from FIP (Feline Infectious Peritinosis).  It’s a very rare disease that is always fatal.  There are two types of the disease, wet and dry.  Grayson had the dry form which only 1/4 of the cats that get it have.  It was just bad luck for my poor little guy.  He was my first little kitten and I miss him so much.

Grayson

Question 2: Name three things that are physically close to you.
Laptop, bowl, spoon (there used to be cereal in the bowl)

Question 3: What’s the weather like right now?
Dark – It’s nighttime.

Question 4: Do you drive? If so, have you crashed?
Yes I do.  I have not crashed into anything or caused any crashes but yes, I’ve been in a few.

Question 5: What time did you wake up this morning?
I woke up at 7:30.

Question 6: When was the last time you showered?
A few hours ago

Question 7: What was the last movie that you saw?
Secret Life of Pets

Question 8: What does you last text message say?
It was a picture message.

Lola

Question 9: What is your ringtone?
I have no idea.  It’s one of the pre-programmed ringtones.  My text message tone is a cat meow though.

Question 10: Have you ever been to a different country?
Yes, I’ve been to Mexico once.

Question 11: Do you like sushi?
Nope.

Question 12: Where do you buy your groceries?
King Soopers – a branch of Kroger

Question 13: Have you ever taken any medication to help you fall asleep faster?
No.  That just doesn’t sound healthy

Question 14: How many siblings do you have?
Zero

Question 15: Do you have a desktop computer or a laptop?
I have a laptop but I connect it to a monitor sometimes and use it like you would a desktop.

Question 16: How old will you be turning on your next birthday?
28.  Reunion year!

Question 17: Do you wear contacts or glasses?
I have glasses but I don’t wear them because my site isn’t that bad.

Question 18: Do you color your hair?
I used to religiously color my hair but in the past two years I’ve stopped.

Question 19: Tell me something you are planning to do today.
Go to bed.  It’s getting late.

Question 20: When was the last time you cried?
I teared up during an emotional video today.

Question 21: What is your perfect pizza topping?
Has to be all three together.  Cheese, pepperoni, and black olives.

Question 22: Which do you prefer, hamburger or cheeseburger?
Cheeseburger, with an over-medium egg on it.

Question 23: Have you ever had an all-nighter?
Yes, I once had a job where we had lock-ins at night so I had to stay up.  I also had a couple all-nighters with friends in my early 20’s.

Question 24: What is your eye color?
Hazel

Question 25: Can you taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke?
Yes.  Pepsi is sweeter than Coke.  I took the Pepsi Challenge at Water World (local water park) once in my tween years.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Choosing Your Budgeting Direction

Choosing your Budgeting Direction

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

Deciding between Reverse Budgeting and Forward Budgeting is one of the first things to do when creating your budget.

Reverse Budgeting in three steps

    • Determine your savings goal
    • Save a set amount each month to reach your goal.
    • Revisit your goal and adjust as necessary

Reverse Budgeting is good for you if any of the following apply:

  • You have a hard time sticking to your budget.
  • You succeed with a strict and well planned structure.
  • You know how much money you will need and when you will need it by.
  • You prefer to have clear goals

Forward Budgeting ‘Forward Roll’ in three steps.

  • Project your future savings.
  • Roll over extra funds at the end of each period
  • Repeat

Forward Budgeting is good for you if any of the following apply:

  • You are disciplined with your money
  • You succeed with a flexible schedule
  • You prefer fluid goals

Take this quiz to see which budgeting type suits you best.  Feel free to use a made up name. Or, if you prefer to take the quiz by hand, the questions and scoring are listed below.

Which Budgeting Type is Best for You Survey

1. You earn $100 extra cash.  What do you do?

  • a. Put it towards rent or other bills
  • b. Put it in a savings account
  • c. Buy something for yourself
  • d. Enjoy a night on the town

2. You are saving up for a new car and need $5000 more.  What do you do?

  • a. Put a set amount into savings immediately after each paycheck
  • b. Watch your spending carefully and spend as little as possible
  • c. Work overtime and put as much money into savings as possible
  • d. Get discouraged and give up

3. Which of the following best describes your five-year plan?

  • a. I live life one step at a time. Plans will change so why make plans?
  • b. I have specific goals and have strategized how to achieve them.
  • c. People actually plan that far in advance?
  • d. I know where I want to be and I will take whatever path presents me with success.

4. How do you prepare your grocery list?

  • a. I don’t, I shop each time I need to cook.
  • b. I prepare a shopping list before and only veer from it occasionally.
  • c. I don’t write a list but I have a general idea of what I need when I go.
  • d. I eat out, so I don’t grocery shop.

5. How do you handle household chores?

  • a. I write a to-do list and check each item off the list as I complete it.
  • b. I let it go as long as possible then clean right before company comes over.
  • c. I have a routine that I follow to keep me on track.
  • d. I don’t clean unless I have to.

Scoring

Add one point for each of the following options you chose.

    Question 1: a or b
    Question 2: b or c
    Question 3: a or d
    Question 4: b or c
    Question 5: a or c

Results

1-2 Points: Reverse Budgeting – You thrive in a structured environment.  You like to be in control of what happens and would prefer not to encounter many unknowns.  You’ve realized that money is not the most important thing in life.  Reverse budgeting is best for you because it allows you to create a structured budget to follow but still allows for carefully planned changes.

3-5 Points: Forward Budgeting – You are organized and proactive.  You know that there are multiple ways to reach an end goal and that as long as you keep moving forward, you will get there.  You are also responsible with your money which allows for some flexibility in the budget.  Forward budgeting is best for you because it gives you the freedom to make changes to your budgeting strategy at any time.

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My 11 Favorite Blog Plugins

My 11 Favorite Blog Plugins

Throughout my blogging adventure, I’ve had many times where I thought of an idea that was absolutely fantastic but had no idea how to make the idea a reality.  Each time, my Google searches have brought up a plug-in that can do just what I’m wanting to do.  In no specific order, here are my 11 favorite plugins.

One Click Child Theme – It took me over a year of blogging to create a child theme.  Not because I didn’t know the importance of the child theme.  Trust me, I definitely lost my site design in a Theme update once.  My temporary solution was to save a copy of my Stylesheet in a word document so I could just copy and paste it at need be.  I didn’t create a child theme because I had the hardest time figuring out how to do it.  I searched multiple times on multiple days and I kept finding posts about how to do it manually by adding the three files in manually.

The idea of that was quite overwhelming because I have also messed up the files and had to restore to a previous version when editing before.  Since then, I tell myself not to edit the files directly even if I have a saved copy of the originals.

The final search I made for a child theme brought up this plugin which I had to try.  This plugin was simple and got the job done correctly.  I first saved the text from my Stylesheet and Custom CSS page into a word doc, installed the plugin, and pasted the text into the new child theme files all within WordPress.  After I set up the child theme, I still hesitantly updated my Theme.  This time, success!  My website design did not change.

Editorial Calendar – WordPress has a section that lists all of your past and upcoming blog posts but I found that this was hard to navigate when scheduling my posts.  The Editorial Calendar is a calendar view of the posts and is very helpful for scheduling.  It shows a visual of when each post is scheduled.  It also allows you to drag and drop the posts to change when they will go live.

Display Posts Shortcode – This allows you to show most recent or specific posts by adding shortcode.  I use this plugin on my home page to show the most recent post for each category that I write about.  The plugin has directions for how to write your shortcode and is very user friendly.

Display Posts Grid, List Without Coding – This plugin does basically the same thing as the Display Posts Shortcode but has a user interface with a preview that helps for planning out the layout of your posts.  I use this plugin for my Pages so I can show all the posts in a category on one page and have it automatically update each time I publish a new post.

Popup by Supsistic – This plugin adds a pop-up to my page to try to encourage people to become a follower.  I’ve used this in a few ways.  When I first downloaded the plugin, I used it to show a freebie and a subscribe field.  When I started trying to increase my Facebook following, I changed the pop-up to a Like button for my Facebook Page.  This plugin has many options for what, how, where, and when your popup shows.  I have also had other bloggers directly ask me which plugin I use for my pop-up and then I’ve seen it later on their blogs.

Revive Old Post – This plugin automatically shares your old posts to Facebook and Twitter.  I only use this plugin for Twitter because the post frequency needs to be the same for both social sites and I don’t want my Facebook page getting cluttered with old posts.  You just set how often you want your old posts to cycle and then it does the work for you.  This is fantastic because I don’t have to use a scheduler to repost the old posts.  The plugin will just do it all for me.

Simple Download Monitor – When I started my mailing list, I knew I wanted to have a free download of my book for anybody who subscribes.  This download is very simple and lets me do just that.  I can set a link to go to a specific download page or I can set a link to automatically download.  On the back end, I can see stats for how many times each download has been downloaded.

Social Count Plus – I just started using this plugin and have found it so helpful.  I’m working on my media kit and I didn’t want to have an extra task of changing my social follower counts each month.  I’m using it to just show the followers count by an image that I’ve custom made.  You can also use their pre-made social icons with follower counts.

Widgets on Pages – This one is pretty self-explanatory.  This plugin allows you to put any widget on any post or page that you create.  This is fantastic because it opens up so many opportunities for what you can put into your post.

Sassy Social Share – One of my biggest pet peeves with social icons is when a blog is not consistent with the icons.  There may be one style of share buttons on the side bar and a different at the bottom of the post.  Or even worse, two different sets at the bottom of the post.  I’ve often seen blogs have one set of share icons for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest at the bottom of their post and then directly under it have another set of icons that have many more options.

This plugin includes a more button so you have all of the social sites.  You can also customize your icon shape and color.  In addition, you can show a share count.  I have mine set so the share count on the side bar of icons shows the total count of shares.  The share counts at the bottom of the post shows the total shares per each social site.

WP Post Signature – I’ve noticed that many people share links below their posts and I’ve always thought it would take a lot of work to copy and paste the links onto each post.  Of course, they don’t actually post the links on each post, they use a signature.  I downloaded the WP Post Signature plugin to try it out and it did just what I wanted.

 

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Garden Scallion and Cheddar Cornbread

Cheddar Cornbread

This is the first year that I tried my hand at gardening.   I saw a post showing how to regrow scallions and I decided to try it out.  After buying a bundle at the grocery store last May, I’ve been regrowing the scallions ever since!

I found a recipe that was just about what I was looking for and substituted out quite a few ingredients.  The only thing that I didn’t consider was the quantity.  The batch was huge!  It filled up one 12 cupcake tray, one 24 mini-muffin tray, and one tortilla tray.

Print Recipe
Garden Scallion and Cheddar Cornbread
Course Breads
Cook Time 25-35 Minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Breads
Cook Time 25-35 Minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in a second bowl.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients slowly.
  5. Fold in half of the cheddar and scallions.
  6. Pour the batter into any greased pans and top with the remaining cheddar and scallions.
  7. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

I also made some basil butter to put on the cornbread.  Post coming soon!

Basil

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Garden Basil Butter

Basil Butter

This summer I tried my hand at gardening for the first time!  I haven’t posted about the process yet but posts are coming!

I started my basil inside in early May.  It was a slow start.  The sprouts were so tiny and fragile and I definitely thought they weren’t going to grow.

Well, I was very wrong.  I transplanted them outside into a pot while I was still building my garden base.  They looked so pathetic.

Within a week or so, they got much stronger and I had a few little sturdy basil sprouts.  About two inches tall.

I transplanted the basil once again, this time into my garden and it took off!

I have had more basil than I’ve known what to do with.

Here’s one of the recipes I’ve made this summer.

Garlic Basil Butter

  • 1 Stick of Butter
  • 8 basil leaves chopped
  • Lemon Pepper Seaoning

The recipe is very simple.  Let the butter get to room temperature then mix in the basil and seasoning.

Enjoy!

Basil

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Favorite Features of the PC Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Windows Anniversary Update

Windows has been rolling out updates for the one-year anniversary of Windows 10 and I am so excited about the new features!  I’ve always been a fan of the Windows operating system on all devices including the Windows Phone.

There are so many new options with this update but here are a few of the improvements that caught my eye.

 

Quick Assist

This is the new feature that I am so excited about!  I am always trying to explain how to do something to my mom over the phone and it is a nightmare.  By the time we are a few minutes in we are both completely frustrated and haven’t gotten anywhere.  I’ve used products like TeamViewer in the past but even to navigate to the address bar was tough because she usually uses Google or Favorites to get around.  This program is very simple to use and I’m certain it will be very helpful!

Calendar App on Taskbar

This is fantastic!  I can now easily view my calendar events that are synced to my phone by clicking on the taskbar calendar.  I am always using the calendar in the taskbar to count weeks and days and plan for scheduling and the addition of the events is perfect!

Start Menu Apps List

I had no qualms with how the menu has been laid out in any of the previous versions, but after this update, the menu is the easiest to navigate that I’ve ever seen.  I have my favorite programs pinned as tiles and all of the programs are listed on the left.  This is very similar to the layout on my Windows phone with the only difference being that I scroll over to the right on the phone rather than looking at the left on the computer.

Smart Sticky Notes

At first I wasn’t very fond of these smart sticky notes because the ‘smart’ section covers up some of the note.  Most of my notes had a note and a web link.  Then, I was sitting at my computer and I thought of something that I wanted to do at a later time.  Typically, I would then pick up my phone and schedule a reminder in the calendar.  Instead, I decided to try using the sticky notes.  I wrote the reminder on the note and then clicked it to schedule to the calendar.  It was so easy!

Answer calls from PC

This feature hasn’t been rolled out to my computer yet, but Windows says you will soon be able to answer calls from the PC.  I can already text someone from the PC and the computer lets me know if I missed any calls.  I’m very excited to see how the phone call part works.  I did notice that the texting wasn’t the cleanest app and I had some troubles loading and knowing if the text was sent.  I haven’t tried it in a few months though.

Windows Ink

As a blogger, this is the one that I am most excited about.  Windows Ink is currently an over-app experience and it seems that you can’t save the ink.  The Windows Insiders are currently testing Windows Ink in the Microsoft Suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, others.  This gets me very excited because I create all of my graphics in PowerPoint.  This will make my customization so much easier!  I’ve already played around with the new feature over the screen a few times and the ruler feature is just perfect for making straight lines.

 

I am always so impressed with all of the cool things Windows creates.  I love all of their products (and no, I’m not sponsored or an affiliate for Windows).  Last year I actually switched to an Android phone for about two months to bridge the gap between one phone breaking and a new phone coming out and I absolutely hated it!  I complained every day about something and of course, switched right back to the Windows Phone as quickly as I could.

The seamless connection between the phone and computers and all of the great features on both products makes my blogging life and personal use so much easier!

Windows Phone Features

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New Etsy Shop Blogging Graphics: + Coupon Code

New Etsy Graphics

Hello everyone!  I’ve been working on my Etsy Shop recently and have some new graphics for you!

use coupon code: “Newgraphics” for $2.50 off any order

Now until October 31, 2016

Blog Planner

Blog Blog GraphicsMint Icons White Icons

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August 2016 Blog Income Report

August 2016 Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: Laundry Hack: How to Put Away an Entire Load of Laundry in Minutes – 447 Views

This Month’s Runner Up: Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: The Basics of Income – Published 2/27/2016 – 282 Views this month

This month was a very crazy month for me so I took a bit of a break from the blog.  But, to my readers, you probably didn’t even notice!  In July I worked on my blog every day.  Yes, every single day.  Participating in Facebook groups, sharing on Pinterest, and creating posts.  August was not at all the same.  I was just a bit burnt out and needed a break.

I mentioned a while ago how I like to plan my blog posts and create them early which really helps when I run into ruts where I’m just exhausted and ready for a break.  I had actually created all of my posts for August during July that way I didn’t have to stress about creating posts when I didn’t really feel like it.  I’ve always used the blog as a hobby and a way to express myself and have fun so whenever I”m in the mood to write or edit or create graphics, I create as many as I can during that time.

Of course, since I wasn’t in the writing mood during August, Septembers posts are not all created.  i do have enough for one each week but I’ve been posting twice per week.  I’m not sure if I will try to create more posts to stick with my Tuesday and Saturday schedule yet or if I will just go for Saturdays this month.

 

In other news, I created my first LInquia campaign this month!  It was definitely a success!  I also figured out how to create a part of my Media Kit that I’ve been working on for over a month.  Now there is just one more part I’m stuck on and then it’s done!  Hopefully by the end of the year I will have it complete.  I’m really taking my time to make it perfect!

I also finalized my new 2017 blogging planner early this month!  Check it out!

2017 Blog Planner

This month, I saw a large decrease in Ad revenue which is directly related to the break I took from sharing my posts.  But, sponsored posts increased and brought me right back into my $100-$200 range that I’ve been in most of this year.

August 2016 Income Statement

Revenue
Ads – $86.67
Sponsored Posts – $60.00
Total: $146.67

Expenses
Tailwind – $8.72 (pro-rated)
Etsy – $0.80
Blog Photo Supplies – $2.87
Post Supplies – $3.00
Total: $15.39

NET INCOME: $131.28

View Previous Blog Income Statements here.

August 2016 Monthly Updates

This month’s big achievement is that I hit 500 Pinterest follower!

Last month I also mentioned that I had just started using Tailwind and I have seen a huge difference!  I started using Tailwind toward the end of July.

Here are my page-views that Pinterest referred over the last three months:

June: 153                  July: 239                  August: 658

I am so excited that I’m able to see growth even when I take a huge break from the blog!

For September, I plan to keep afloat.  I think August was a great break for me but I don’t want to over-do it.  Hopefully I will be able to figure out the last part of my Media Kit so I can make it go live too!  I can’t wait to show you!  Hopefully I will also be in the mood to work on Etsy downloadables.  I have a lot of great ideas!

 

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Pineapple Island Teriyaki Chicken Legs

Pineapple Chicken Legs

We have recently fallen in love with these island teriyaki chicken legs.  They are super simple and taste great!

I start by thawing the chicken legs.  Once they are thawed, I put them on a greased tray and then bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of the legs.

Once the legs are almost completely cooked, I pull them out and cover them with the Soy Vay Marinade & Sauce, Island Teriyaki, add a few pineapple rings, and put them back in the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or so.  In the last couple minutes, I add a bit more sauce to the legs.

The chicken legs are great with spinach although since I used the legs for lunches at work, I had to reheat them which caused the spinach to cook.  Next time I’ll keep the spinach separate.

Do you have a favorite sauce for your chicken?

 

 

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Budgeting Basics

Budgeting Basics

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

Creating a budget is necessary in order to maintain financial freedom and live well within your means.  If you don’t have a budget, how would you know what ‘within your means’ really is?

There are so many different ways to budget and each person needs to budget in a way that works best for them.

One thing to think about is whether you will use Forward or Reverse Budgeting.  Reverse Budgeting is where you determine your savings goal for a future date and plan your savings based on that goal.  Each paycheck, you put aside the money for savings first and then divvy up the rest for other expenses.  Forward Budgeting or the Forward Roll is where you use projections to estimate your savings at a future date and you roll your extra money into savings at the end of the month.

Another aspect of budgeting is the budgeting system.  There are many different types of budgeting systems, but to keep it simple, there is a Cash System and a Digital System.  The cash system is exactly as it sounds.  All in cash.  No cards, no accounts, just cash.  The digital system similarly is all in savings accounts and credit/debit accounts that are primarily accessed digitally.

With either direction or system, there are many different tools that you can use to support your budgeting plan.  Some tools include the envelope system, the paper system, computer spreadsheets, and computer apps and programs.

Finding the right options for yourself can be a daunting task, but with some guidance, the right system can be chosen to maximize your productivity and potential success.

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Low Carb Taco Lettuce Wraps

Taco Lettuce Wraps

I’ve recently decided to start eating less carbs to help flatten my stomach for swimsuit season.  So, I took to the internet to see what great foods you can make with minimal carbs and I found Lettuce Wraps!  Simple, yes.  I’ve learned so many things to do with a lettuce wrap being substituted for a bun.

My favorite Lettuce Wrap currently is to make a taco in the lettuce wrap.  I’ve got cheese, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, and ground beef with taco seasoning.  The one thing I found odd about this recipe is that I wanted all of the items to be more stuck together than when making a regular taco so I cooked all of the items in the pan together.  I also typically do not use black beans and avocado in my tacos but I figured why not since it was all going into one pan.

What great lettuce wrap’s do you make?

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How to Make Your Own Blog Photos

Make Blog Photos

Creating your own blog photos or photo stock is very easy and inexpensive.  This is great news since photos can get quite pricey.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Buy some blogging goodies.  Things like paper clips, clothes pins, note pads, and anything else you would like to see in your photos.  My favorite place to get these things is at Target in the front $1-$5 section when you first walk in.  Other places you can check are the dollar store and Amazon.
  2. Find a suitable background.  I happen to have a white table and a white desk that I use as my background.  You could use designed paper, styled wrapping paper, the table or counter, or any surface you would like.  If you don’t have a white background, you can always use a piece of paper and just scale smaller.
  3. Create a collage out of your goodies. This is the fun part.  Lay out a set of goodies and take pictures at them from different angles.  Switch out the goodies as you’d like.  With just a couple dollars worth of items, you can create thousands of different pictures.
  4. Edit your photos. There are many photo editing programs and apps out there that can be a bit confusing.  I like to use PowerPoint for editing my photos because it’s so easy.  I usually edit the brightness and contrast of my photos to one of the pre-set values.  Sometimes I adjust the sharpness of the photo.
  5. Crop and Design. Once your photo quality is where you want it, you can begin creating your blog photo.  Use the entire photo or crop any portion of the photo to be the background for your graphic.  Then, just add text boxes, opaque backgrounds, and fun fonts and colors

There you go!  A very fun and inexpensive way to create your own unique blog photos.

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The Fried Puppy Chow Experiment

Fried Puppy Chow

I had a fantastic idea the other day while thinking about fun munchies.  In the summer, funnel cake is the most amazing thing ever.  In the winter, I’m a huge fan of puppy chow, also called monkey munch by some.

So, onto the fantastic idea, Fried Puppy Chow!  Of course if you have two amazing things and you put them together you have one fantastic snack!

I call this recipe an experiment because I learned a few things in the process.  I’ll explain what I did and then I will explain what I think will make it even better!

Chex Mix Ingredients
3 cups  Chex
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/6 cup peanut butter (2 2/3 tbsp)
1/12 cup butter or margarine (1 1/3 tbsp)
1/3 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

First, I mixed up a small batch of puppy chow.   I combined the chocolate chips, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla in a microwave safe container and microwaved for about 45 seconds, mixing every 15 seconds.  Then, I poured the mixture over the Chex as you normally would for puppy chow.  My original idea was to add the chocolate to the Chex before frying and then add the powdered sugar after frying.

Then, I mixed up the batter ingredients in a separate bowl.

Frying Batter Ingredients
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons  milk (I used soy milk)
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 quart oil, for frying

For frying, I heated the oil then did a test with the frying batter to check the temperature. Then, I took a spoonful of the Chex  and dumped them into the batter.  I made sure to get them fully coated with batter then took them out a couple at a time and dropped them into the oil.  Once they were cooked, I took them out of the oil and set them on a paper towel to dry a bit.  Lastly, I dusted them with powdered sugar.

The fried puppy chow turned out delicious but there wasn’t as much of the chocolate peanut butter flavor as I had hoped for.  Here are a few suggestions to make this treat even better!

  • Use chocolate Chex and fry before dipping in the peanut butter mixture.  Once the chex have been fried, drizzle with the chocolate peanut butter mixture and powdered sugar
  • Double the chocolate peanut butter mixture, fully coat the chex, then freeze for thirty minutes before frying.


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7 Ways to NOT Become Rich

7 Ways to Not Become Rich

Now we all know money can’t buy everything. In fact, sometimes money can be more of a hindrance than a help.  So, for those who say they never want to be rich because of the headaches and hassles that come with the territory, here is how you make sure to succeed.

Don’t sign up for 401k – Employers who offer 401k will match your contributions up to a certain percentage. This is a sure way to at least double, possibly even triple or more because of stock and bond increases.

Don’t create financial goals – Financial goals can cause stress and confusion.  Might as well live for the day and not worry about tomorrow.

Don’t track your spending – Tracking your spending shows you where each dollar goes.  It can bring on buyer’s remorse and can cause you to decrease your spending habits.

Don’t clip coupons – Coupon clipping can save a ton of money but can also take some time. Is all that time really worth it?

Don’t live like you are poor – Spend all of the money you earned and enjoy your spoils. You earned it. Now go relax with a drink.

Max out your credit cards – What a concept, using tomorrow’s money to pay for today’s fun.  And since tomorrow never comes, the credit card bill won’t either right?

Eat fast food or at restaurants – Let’s face it, food that somebody else prepares tastes so much better than the standard home cooked mean.

Now you may be wondering if I’m crazy for suggesting all of this. Well yes, I am crazy but if you remember the basic fundamentals of how we were all raised, you will understand. It has been engrained in many people since childhood to go on their own path and not follow the norm. Or, simply, do the exact opposite of what people tell you to do. Especially if those people are your parents. So all we need to do is mix the signals of what is the norm and what is being unique and we create success.

 

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Aloha Obsessions

Aloha

Almost every summer day when I get home from work, I make a smoothie.  Each day they are different and recently I’ve found a new love for Aloha products.  I recently purchased the Superfood Smoothie Kit and could not be more impressed.  (Click here to enjoy a free sample)

I begin to make my smoothie as I usually do with a cut up frozen banana and some soy milk.  I cut up the bananas prior to freezing them to make it easier to chop up in smoothies. Then I add the Aloha product of choice.

Aloha Smoothie

Thypically, I avoid all things vanilla.  Especially milky type of products.  But, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Aloha vanilla protein mix.  It was my absolute favorite out of the bunch!

Aloha Packets

 

Shop ALOHA Online

 

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Ragu Homestyle Chicken Pasta Parm


Here in Denver, there’s been a recent cool front which is much appreciated since there has been so much heat!  This cool front also brings the first hint of fall weather with the cool air and warm sun.  The slight breeze and cool evenings.  This is the perfect weather for a Homestyle meal!  When I think of a Homestyle meal, I think of a cool day and night with a warm and hearty dinner.  The foods that make you feel cozy and content.

So this brings us to today’s great recipe brought to you by Ragu and their new Homestyle  Pasta Sauces!

Chicken Pasta Parm

I’ve always loved Spaghetti and Chicken Parmesan.  I’ve also always made them for completely separate meals.  This time, I figured I’d try something I’d never tried before and make them together.  Can’t go wrong!  Two amazing Ragu Homestyle meals in one dish!

The recipe for this is very easy:

Ingredients

  • Ragu Homestyle Pasta Sauce
  • Your favorite Pasta (I used bow-ties and only used about 3/4 of the box)
  • Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (a heaping handful)
  • Diced Chicken (I breaded mine but the recipe would be just fine without breading too!)
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Boil the noodles and drain the water once cooked.

Noodles Ragu Homestyle

In a separate pan, sear the chicken until fully cooked.

Chicken Cooked Ragu Homestyle

Add the chicken to the noodles.

Ragu Homestyle Chicken Cooked

Pour Ragu Homestyle pasta sauce over the chicken and noodles and mix then top with cheese.

Ragu Homestyle

And there’s a fantastic way to spend the upcoming cool nights.  A warm home cooked, homestyle meal.

I made this meal with enough to have leftovers for lunch a couple times throughout the week and was so impressed with the Ragu Homestlye sauce!  Honestly, I usually go for the cheapest canned sauce I can find but after tasting the Thick & Hearty Traditional, I just may never go back to canned sauces again.  This sauce has the perfect amount of flavor and just the right amount of sweetness.

 

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JULY 2016 BLOG INCOME REPORT

July 2016 Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: DIY Upcycled Garage Shelving – 300 Views

This Month’s Runner Up: 1 Year Blogiversary – 288 Views

July was definitely a surprising month. My page views went up and my unique users went down.  The views on my top posts were lower than previous months as well.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why this could be and I’ve thought of some possible explanations.

In July, I used the Click Through and StumbleUpon posts in the Grow Your Blog Facebook group every day.  This could explain the higher amount of views and lower amount of visitors because of the repeat visitors.

In most other months, I do have a few posts get quite a few views from StumbleUpon.  This month was very surprising in that none of my posts gained much attraction from StumbleUpon. I was hoping that because I switched from blogging once per week on Saturdays to twice per week, Tuesdays and Saturdays, that I would have more opportunities to appease the SU crowd.  But, with quantity doesn’t always come the highly desired post.  I’ve also thought that perhaps because I had more posts, my views per post went down because I didn’t promote each individual post as much as I normally would.

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to hit 5000 page views in one month at some point during the year.  Out of luck, I hit that goal in March when two of my four posts got thousands of views each from StumbleUpon.  Last month, I set a new goal which is to reach 5000 views per month consistently.  I’m not quite there but for the last three months, I’ve been right at 3000 page views per month and this month I reached 4000.  I’m getting closer!

With the extra page views came a bit of extra income as well. Here’s the breakdown:

July 2016 P&L 

View Previous Blog Income Statements here.

July 2016 Monthly Updates

This month was quite amazing for new opportunities.  I reached 2500 social followers and was able to join Linqia which sounds quite promising.  I also continued editing my old posts for Throwback Thursdays.

Last month, I did a lot of research on Pinterest.  Many other bloggers note that Pinterest is their top referrer for visits and page views which seemed so odd to me because I would get literally zero visits from Pinterest.  So, after much reading, I realized just what I needed to do.  I joined quite a few group boards and began pinning consistently.  Halfway through the month I was starting to see one or two visits here and there. I continued researching and decided to try Tailwind.

Now I’m scheduling about 30 pins per day with around 5-10 being my own pins and the rest being other pins that I like.  Because of all of the group boards, I’ve been able to schedule a pin for each new blog post daily for about two to three weeks depending on the topic of the most.  Now, I’m starting to see 10-20 and sometimes even 30 views in a day from Pinterest after only about two weeks of using the Tailwind scheduler consistently.

Focus for Next Month
Next month, I plan to focus on keeping up with the new routine of two posts per week.  This doesn’t seem like a lot but I was starting to feel like I had more work that I had to do at home on the blog than I did at work.  So, it’s time to refocus a bit and figure out a new pace for the increased post-load.

 

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Laundry Hack: How to Put Away an Entire Load of Laundry in Minutes

Laundry Hack Infographic

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SAY GOODBYE TO LIVING PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: Tips for Teenagers

Tips for Teenagers

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

It is at this point that the conversation switches from the parent to the child.  Teenagers are at an age when real responsibility starts to become apparent.  Getting to work on time for their first real job, maintaining the gas level in their car, and much more.  The responsibilities keep multiplying exponentially each day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The teenage years are a crucial time to set the foundation for your financial success.  Financial security doesn’t come easy, it takes work.  But, there are many things you can do to get going on the right track.

Get a Job
Yes, of course, the way to get money is to get a job.  But, really at this time, the job is to teach responsibility and discipline.  By starting early, when you begin your career, you will know already have gone through the learning curve of holding a job.  Also, save as much money as you can.  No more 50/50 rule.  Just save, save, save.  You will be thankful for it later.

Get a Credit Card
Really!  But, be responsible with the credit card.  Credit is very important to your future success.  If you want to buy a car or buy a house, you will likely need multiple sources of credit.  It is quite easy to get credit at a young age because you haven’t yet done anything to negatively affect your credit score.  Start with a card with a low limit and pay off the card every month.

Just because you have a credit card does not mean you have a money fountain.  You still only have as much money as you make so spend wisely.  If you are worried about over spending, set a rule for yourself such as ‘only use the credit card for gas purchases’.  This way, you won’t be tempted to overspend but you will be building your credit.

Get Another Credit Card
No, I’m not kidding.  Once you have mastered having one credit card, spending a minimal amount on the card, and paying the card off monthly, get another credit card.  Banks love to issue credit cards to people with low risk.  On the flip side of this, banks are cautious about issuing credit cards to individuals without any credit who’ve been in the adult world for many years.  Don’t think you can just wait until you are 25 or even younger in some cases to apply for your first credit card.  The process will be much more difficult.

Do not, under any circumstances, max out your credit cards!  Do however be sure to keep each credit card under 33% of the credit limit at all times.  Remember, one day you will want to buy a large item like a house.  It is essential that you have a good credit score.

Live with Your Parents
I can hear it now.  “I’m 18, I’m an adult.  I don’t need to live under my parent’s roof.  I want my freedom.  I’m responsible. I just need out!”  Or something like that, right?  Of course, we’ve all had these thoughts.  The freedom from living on your own is fantastic.  But, with that freedom comes the responsibility.

Once you move out, you will have bills galore!  Rent, water, electricity, internet, phone, gas, food, and the list goes on.  There is no need to throw all of these responsibilities onto yourself so early in your life.

Chances are, if you move out young, you probably don’t have a job that allows you to pay all of your bills and save money.  You may even struggle to get all of your bills paid on time.  This is not how you want to start off your life.  Starting on this path will inevitably lead you towards a life of living paycheck to paycheck.

So, if at all possible, stay at home and save as much money as you can for as long as you can.   Let’s also put this into perspective.  Do you have a significant other?  Do you plan on getting married one day?  You’ll probably want a house at some point.

Houses all around the world cost different amounts, but let’s go with a standard $200,000 house for example.  You will not only need to have your sources of credit showing financial responsibility in order to buy your home, you will also need a down payment of 20%.  Yes, it is possible to buy a home with less than 20% down but it is way more expensive because of extra fees.  So, 20% of $200,000 is a whopping $40,000!

It is possible!  Without having to deal with expenses, you can almost literally dump your whole paycheck into your savings account.

Let’s say you make $10/hr and you work 20 hours per week during the school week and 40 hours per week in the summer.  That’s $200/week during the school year and $400/week in the summer.  Without including taxes, in one year, you could make $8000 during the school year and $4800 in the summer.  That’s $12,800 in just one year!  Back that down to $10,000 assuming taxes and other fees.  So, in just one year, you are a quarter of the way towards having your down payment.

Let’s say you start working at 17.  This means that it is possible to have saved $40,000 by the time you turn 21.  And yes, it is possible.  I did it and began looking for a home at 21.  I didn’t find my home until I turned 23 but that just gave me more time to save money.

Choose a Local College
Yes, college can be expensive but it is very important towards your future career and financial success.  By choosing a local four-year college, you can get a Bachelor’s degree with $30,000.  If you start school right out of high school, four years later you will be 22 and given the above example, you will have saved $50,000.  Paying for school leaves you at $20,000 and by 24 you will be back up to $40,000!  Plus, in those last few years you just may have landed a fantastic job paying $20/hr instead of $10/hr which would of course justify the expenses of living on your own.

Do Side Jobs
There are many opportunities for side work in the teenage years.  Babysitting, dog-walking, lawn-mowing, snow shoveling, concession stands, house-sitting, etc.  The teenage years also bring the most energy so do as much as you can while you are young because the older you get, the less energy you will have to take on side project.  As with every job, save, save, save!

Make Time for Friends and Family
While this may not seem like it can help you save money and avoid the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, it definitely can!  Success happens more often when people are happy with their life.  Friends and family bring a lot of happiness and it is important to always make time for them.

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Low Carb Cloud Bread Recipe

Cloud Bread

After searching and searching and finding so many different recipes for cloud bread with a each recipe containing different ingredients, I found a quick and easy cloud bread recipe.

I decided I would make this recipe for only one small loaf because I wanted to make sure I was going to like it and I conveniently had only one egg left in the house.

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 and 1/3 Tbsp Protein Powder
Dash of Salt
Coconut Oil

While the ingredients seem simple, this actually was a bit more work than I expected.  Use the coconut oil to grease the pan.  Then, Separate the egg white from the egg yolk.  Beat the egg white until it becomes a whipped texture. I of course, do not own an electric mixer and did this by hand.  Not fun.

Once you have the whipped cream texture, mix the salt, egg yolk, and protein powder together then fold gently into the egg whites until completely mixed.

Bake at 350% until lightly golden then enjoy!

Cloud Bread 2

Cloud Bread 3Cloud Bread 1

 

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DIY Upcycled Garage Shelving

Shelves

After two years of saying I was going to put up some shelves, I’ve finally done it and am so happy with the results!  These shelves were in my master closet when I moved.  After trying a few things,  I couldn’t find any functional use for them so I removed them.  You can see the wall the shelves came from in my post about patching the holes the shelves left behind.

Since then, I’ve put a shoe rack in place of the shelves and I hung my  necklaces about eye level above the shoe rack.

Before putting up the shelves, I bought a few extra mounting brackets and screws to replace ones that were damaged during removal.  Other than the couple of dollars spent to get the extra parts, the shelves are 100% up-cycled.

I chose to mount the shelves right by my door to the house for convenience.  I also bought bins from the dollar store to hold my painting supplies, gardening tools, and other yard and outdoor supplies.  The four shelves  fill up the wall perfectly and I even have enough room to fit my lawn mower underneath.

What are some things you’ve up-cycled?

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Easy Taco Dip

Taco Dip

One of my favorite summer time snacks is this simple Taco dip that we made every summer when I was growing up.

Here are the ingredients:

1 Pint of Sour Cream
1 Package of Taco Seasoning
Shredded Lettuce
Diced Tomatoes
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Tortilla Chips

Simply mix the taco seasoning and the sour cream together then spread evenly along the bottom of a serving dish then add lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.  Serve with your favorite style tortilla chip.

#Sponsored Links

 

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5 Step Blog Post

5 Step Blog Post

Creating a Blog Post can seem like a daunting task at times, especially during writer’s block.  With my blog, I’ve told myself to only write when I’m in the mood to write that way I don’t burn out.  Just because I’m in the mood to write though doesn’t mean I have a great blog post idea.  So, I have five tips for creating a blog post.

Decide a Blog Post Subject – When I’m wondering what to write about, I think about what I’ve done during the day.  Any organization/cleaning, cooking, projects, or anything outside of my daily norm.  If any of the things I’ve done are post worthy, I’ll choose that.  Sometimes nothing sticks so I look into things I would do to improve an area of my life.  For example, improving my finances, personal improvement, goals, etc.  If I still can’t find a topic, I just go for a fun and trendy post by searching Google and Pinterest for ideas.

Determine Post Formatting/Outline – Once I’ve found a topic, I decide how I want the post to flow.  I don’t actually write an outline for blog posts, but I do take a minute to think about the plan for the post before I get going.

Create an Awesome Graphic – Depending on my mood, I either add the fluff or create the graphic first.  Most times, I create the graphic that way once the fluff is added the post is ready to publish.  Be sure your graphic is Pinterest friendly.  Longer graphics with a simple message or title with fun fonts are best.

Add the Fluff – This is the part I where I really need to be in the mood to write or it really shows.  When I’m in the mood, the words just flow and I can knock out quite a few blog posts pretty quickly.  I find it most enjoyable to write a few different types of posts consecutively because the styles of writing are quite different.

Publish and Share – Once I create my blog post, I schedule the post to auto-post to the blog, my Facebook and Twitter pages, Bloglovin’ and my email subscribers.  I also participate in Facebook groups to help promote the posts and share old posts from time to time.

Most importantly, blog posts should be fun.  No matter how you make them, be sure to enjoy! 🙂

 

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Flower Garden Upgrade

Flower Garden Upgrade

When I moved into my house, I removed a bush and created a small flower garden.  Since then, I’ve increased my curb appeal by giving my garden a complete makeover.

This project was especially cool because of how much of my landscaping I was able to reuse. I moved the rocks into my back yard to create a rock and vegie garden (more to come on that later) and I moved the grass from the back yard into the front yard.  I used the backyard grass to add a layer to the front yard and to patch in the new areas that didn’t have grass.  My front yard had sunken and water had been piling up everywhere.  Now, not so much and the grass is all starting to look whole.

It’s also funny how the garden changes throughout the season.  The pictures below span over two and a half months.  Also, check out those roots from my huge tree!  The roots are about an inch and a half thick.

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June 2016 Blog Income Report

June Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: Summer Breakfast Favs – 554 Views

This Month’s Runner Up: How I use Smart Things for Home Automation – 409 New Views – 500 Total Views – Post Date: January 23, 2016

This month I finally felt like I was really in the grove of blogging.  Before, I was constantly posting on Facebook groups trying to promote my content and little by little I’ve been backing off of the Facebook threads.  I used to try to do a Stumbleupon and a Click Through thread daily with other threads here and there but this month I only did the threads on Sundays and then on the last few days of the month.

Even with cutting down significantly on sharing, I was able to maintain around my goal of 100 views per day or 3000 views per month.  I’ve decided since now I’ve been reaching my goal pretty consistently, it’s time to set a new goal of 5000 views per month.

I’ve been strategizing about how to increase my page views and one way is by increasing the amount of posts.  When I first started this blog a year ago, I was posting three times per week.  Needless to say, I very quickly burnt myself out and took a couple month break.  Since January, I’ve consistently blogged once per week (Saturday) with an occasional extra post here and there.

For July, I am going to publish new posts on Tuesday and Saturday and see how it goes.

Even though I’ve continually decreased the amount of marketing of my blog, my income hasn’t decreased.  At this point, I’m mainly only using ads to generate income but if a sponsored post comes up that fits with what I like to write about, I’ll take it.

June 2016 Income Statement:

Revenue
Ads – $100.76
Sponsored Posts – $0.00
Freelancing – $0.00
Affiliate Marketing – $0.00
Personal Sales – $0.00
Total: $100.76

Expenses
Total: $0.00

NET INCOME: $100.76

View Previous Blog Income Statements here.

June Stats

This month I also continued editing my old blog posts.  It was a goal for the last few months to finish editing all of the posts so the images won’t be blurry (somehow my images blurred when I transferred from .com to .org).  I did get about eight more posts done this month but now I’m planning to finish the rest in batches.

As I’ve been nearing my blogiversary, I’ve been thinking of new ways to bring up old content.  So, I’ve started posting old content to Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest on Thursdays.  This goes hand in hand with creating Pinterest worthy images for my old posts and revitalizing the posts.  This sharing schedule is also helping me to have a deadline for completing the old post updates.

I also did a lot of research on Pinterest this month.  I redesigned my Pinterest Board images and I joined a handful of group boards.  I’ve started using the free trial of Tailwind to schedule pins and am excited to see the results.

Most excitedly, I created a goal to reach 500 followers on Facebook this month and not only did I reach 500 followers, but I exceeded 600 followers!

Focus for Next Month
Next month, I plan to brainstorm post ideas and see if I will be able to continue with two posts per week.  I also am going to jump into Pinterest and see what scheduling pins is all about!

Earlier this month, I felt stuck and like the blog wasn’t really going anywhere because my page views haven’t been increasing as my followers grow.  Luckily, I remembered an old saying.  “When you feel like you are about to give up, don’t.  Success is right around the corner.”  This thought re-energized me to continue.  I hope the new strategy pays off!

 

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1 Year Blogiversary

Blogiversary

I am very excited to say that I have reached my One Year Blogiversary!  A year ago I felt lost without any hobbies because during grad school, I didn’t have time for anything but work, sleep, and school.  So, all of my hobbies turned into distant memories and when it came time to have free time again, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  All of the hobbies that I’d once loved didn’t seem relevant or interesting to the person I’d grown into.  So, there it started, I began this blog.

I started off strong, posting three times a week but after two months completely burned myself out and didn’t touch the blog for a few months after.  At the beginning of 2016, I picked the blog up again and decided to only post once a week until I could get into a good rhythm.

Great news is that one post per week has been entirely doable.  I typically try to create all of my posts a month ahead that way if I decide I want to take time off from the blog nobody will notice. 😉  So I’ve realized, creating posts is probably the easiest part of blogging.  I had no idea what all I was getting into when I began this journey but I am loving every bit of it!  From promoting, to website design, to monetization, blogging can easily take up my whole day if I’m not careful.

Of course, it was not all fun and games and I had a few pitfalls along the way.  Here are my top three blogging pitfalls from year 1.

  1. Blogger vs WordPress.com vs WordPress.org – I started my blog on a blogger site because I was familiar with the platform and it was easy to use. I quickly realized that WordPress was the place to be but of course didn’t realize the difference between .com and .org so I ended up having to completely move my blog two times instead of one and lost stats both times.  I should have known because I used to have a website for my old business and it was on wordpress.org.  Who knows but that was definitely a mess to sort out.
  2. The Burnout – I definitely went too hard to fast with the blog and learned my lesson pretty quickly. I now make sure that I only write when I’m in the writing mood.  If I get in the mood to write, I’ll keep writing posts until I’m no longer in the mood.  This keeps me ahead and gives me a buffer just in case I don’t feel like writing.
  3. The Importance of Pinterest – When I began blogging, I was very against taking the time just to make a fancy photo for the blog post. I figured if I had the text and I had the photos supporting the text, why make another photo.  Oh how I’ve learned.  Well of course, to entice people to click on the photo and get to the website.

Year 1 Social Following

Now on to a more fun topic, the stats!  I’ve seen many graphs showing exponential growth on blogs and I wondered what would it take to experience something similar.  Well, I’ve figured out that it takes dedication and hard work, of course.  In just one year, my social following has grown to five times the size it was when I began.  I’ve found many Facebook groups to help gain followers and with each follower I gain, I see a bit more regular traffic.

Once I got back into blogging in January, my views started to increase and even spiked to over 6000 in March when I had two of my four monthly posts picked up some wind from Stumbleupon.  It was my unspoken goal this year to be around 3000 views per month.  When I started blogging, 100 views per day seemed so huge, but now, I’m roughly at this goal!  As I also hit 5k views in one month during year one, I’m anxiously awaiting the day when my monthly stats come in saying 10k views in a month.  Hopefully this will happen in year two!

Year 1 Page Views

I was also able to earn some real money during year one which I did not expect to happen so soon.  I had a big spike during February and March when I was working on a side project through Ebyline.  Since the project has ended, I’ve made less income but I’ve really been able to focus on other aspects of the blog.

Year 1 Blog Income

And for the most important part, my top five wins in blogging year one.

  1. Earning over $400 blogging income in a one-month period
  2. Automating my landing page and category pages to update when a new blog is posted
  3. Getting featured on two Linky posts – the only two I posted in actually J
  4. Gaining roughly 2000 followers
  5. Enjoying my time blogging and being excited about what’s to come

In Year two, I’m going  to do weekly #TBT – Throw Back Thursday to feature last year’s posts and hopefully keep the traffic alive on the older posts.

Join me on year two of this adventure!

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Happy 4th Of July: + Dessert

4th of July

Happy 4th of July!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend with their families.  It’s a tradition in my family to go to the Independence day event near my parent’s house on July 3rd and then do the events by my house on July 4th.  How did that work out so well that they are on different days?

Anyways, I know we’ve all seen it before, but I figured I’d add my fun of making the infamous flag cake desert.  Don’t tell my friends and family but most of this cake is actually healthy fruit. 😉

For the cake part, I used angel food cake.  Then of course, blueberries and strawberries.

Have a great weekend!

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Dear My 21 Year Old Self

Dear My 21 Year Old Self Rectangle

I am so proud that you are following your dreams and keep trying to push the status quo.  They say ‘nobody really takes you seriously until you are 25’ but you doing everything in your power to prove them wrong.  Unfortunately, though, this is true.  You won’t be taken seriously until you are 25.   But, every little thing you’re doing to try to prove them wrong will help you so much in the future.

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You’ve been working so hard on your book Alex and John’s Scientific Adventures and have done a great cost analysis of materials for printing.  Enjoy your book release party!  It’s coming up in a few months and will be a day to remember.

Be thankful for all everybody has done and will do for you.  You will be so humbled to reconnect with teachers from your elementary school days at your book release party and even more surprised to see that even though you were one person in a class of thirty in just one school year out of their teaching career, they still remember you, and care about you, and will even bring your old school projects for you to sign.

You have already started your MBA and I promise yes, one day, school does end.  I know you’re quite concerned.  And still, even though you aren’t yet 25 and taken seriously, you are building a great foundation for future success.

Little do you know, but by doing the cost analysis for your book, you realized how great of a tool Excel really is.  With your new financial background, you will become determined and decide to create your entire personal accounting system within Excel and will become an Excel expert.

Life isn’t always perfect though.  Where there are hills, there must also be valleys.  Remember to keep your head up through all of them and keep pushing on as you always do because one of those times, it will really pay off.

There will be times when you are so fed up with work, bored out of your mind at home, and just contemplating starting from scratch.  Keep pushing.  All of the hard work you’ve done along the way will pay off.  I know, people always say that, but it’s true!

You will bring a copy of your book and your personal finance spreadsheet to an interview for a job that you so desperately want because your current work situation is so stressful it’s made you physically ill.

And just when you are ready to give up, you’ll get a call back and you get the job that will allow you to really start enjoying your life.  All of the hard work you’re putting in along the way prior to turning 25 will pay off.

Be proud of the foundation you’ve built, your determination, and your positive attitude.  Never give up, always be humble, and take the skills you learn and use them to help others.

PS. I know you are so anxious to know if and when you will ever find someone you will fall in love with. Take a look around because the man of your dreams is right next to you but you won’t know who he is for a few more years.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Beginning Growth

Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck Beginning Growth

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

The pre-teen years are great for reinforcing budgeting skills learned throughout childhood.  This is when the need for money becomes a bit more prevalent. Kids may want to go to the movies with their friends, run to the local candy shop, or buy that new trendy item.

One method to use to reinforce budgeting is to remind your pre-teen about the 50/50 rule. Half of money they make from allowance, dog-walking, babysitting, or any other side jobs needs to be put into savings and the other half can be spent.  This not only helps improve their financial responsibility, it helps set them up for success when they need a down payment on a car, need the first and last month for rent deposits, or even purchasing their first home.

I highly encourage all pre-teens to get a savings account if they haven’t already.  That way they have a safe place to put their saved money where it also won’t be a temptation.  While having a savings account is a big step in the right direction, knowing how to care for a savings account is also just as important.  The pre-teen should be taught how to reconcile their account monthly so they know how much they are saving and so they can double check that the bank didn’t hit them with any fees.  It should not cost any money to have a savings account.  If it does, look for an account elsewhere.

The other 50% of the money they earn can be spent however they want.  The most valuable lesson for the spending percentage is saving up for something that takes a bit of time to get to.  This is a very rewarding task and teaches a work ethic as well.

For the parents, it is also important to decide what types of things you will require your child to use their own money for.  While you may pay for your child to go to the movies, maybe any movie theater snacks are their own responsibility.  It’s important to start slow as they are still dependents.

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10 Things I Learned in My First Year of Blogging

10 Things I Learned Blogging

1. WordPress.com and WordPress.org are Two Completely Different Things – I started blogging on Blogger and shortly decided to switch to WordPress after reading multiple posts about how WordPress is the place to be.  What I didn’t realize is that there is the .com and the .org version.  So, I picked the free version.  I eventually realized the difference and had to transfer everything over again.

2. Branding and Consistency is Important Across All Social Platforms – Your viewers need to be able to recognize your work whether it’s on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or any other social media outlet.  Making a statement by branding your blog helps readers to pick you out of the crowd.

3. Pinterest Optimized Photos Are A Must Have – I used to think that creating images for each post was silly because the important part is the words.  I’ve since realized that in order to get viewers, you have to entice them with the pretty pictures.  Creating Pinterest Optimized photos has actually been one of the most fun parts of blogging!

4. Facebook Sharing Groups are a Big Help – Getting views without giving a push start is virtually impossible when beginning to grow your blog.  Luckily, there are a ton of Facebook Groups to help with that extra push.

5. Viewers Love Free Downloadables – Yes, anything free and easy to access really entices viewers.  Downloadables have also been another fun part of blogging.

6. Giveaways are Overrated – I tried a little giveaway but I used a free plugin rather than paying for the standard ones.  So, it was hard to navigate and didn’t have much success.  I was also thinking about the Giveaway Process and decided I’m going to hold off for now.  Giveaways seem to be something that will work a lot better for me once I have a larger following.

7. You Can Make Money Without Many Views – At first I was under the impression that you had to have at least 10k views to start making money.  All you have to do is be determined and put your feelers out there.  In the first year of blogging, I made around $1000.

8. StumbleUpon is a Fantastic Way to Validate Your Post – Most of my posts get around the same amount of views but every once in a while, I will have a post gain a bunch of views because of StumbleUpon.  It is very exciting to see this happen and sometimes surprising.  In one month, two of my four posts skyrocketed.  BBQ Uglies and How to Complete Your To-Do List in 5 Steps.  I expected the To-Do List post to get a lot of views, but was very surprised by the BBQ Uglies post.

9. Keeping a Consistent Schedule Is Important – When I started blogging, I was blogging three times per week.  I quickly realized this was too much and took a couple months off of blogging.  I then jumped back in and began posting only once per week, on Saturdays, and I have enjoyed it much more.  I’ve been able to be consistent which brings viewers back to my blog, and I’m not overwhelming myself.

10. Only Work on Your Blog When You Want To  – After getting burnt out from blogging, I decided I was only going to blog when I wanted to and that I was going to blog ahead just incase I got to a point that I didn’t want to blog.  This has happened actually.  In April, I really didn’t feel like writing, call it writer’s block.  Luckily, I’d created all of my blog posts in March when I was in the writing mood so April I was just able to do some sharing and glide by.  I always try to stay about a month ahead in my writing.

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Summer Breakfast Favs

Summer Breakfast Favs

It’s beginning to feel a lot like SUMMER!  I am so excited about summer breakfasts!  Of course, we eat breakfast year round but in the summer it just seems a lot more fun and like there’s a lot more energy involved in making breakfast.  Here are four of my favorite breakfasts to make in the summer.

Sausage Egg Muffin

Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Muffin

This one is great for when you’re craving the fast food breakfast but decide against it.  All you do is toast the English muffin, fry up an egg, and microwave some pre-cooked breakfast sausage and throw it all together.  I also zap it in the microwave for a few to melt the cheese.

 

French Toast and FruitFrench Toast

I’m not a big fan of syrup so instead, I add some powdered sugar to my french toast and dip it into whipped cream.  Usually the banana is in the same bite. 🙂  Did anyone else just emphasize the ‘Whip’ (whowip) haha?  I can’t seem to say anything with the ‘wh’ without emphasizing anymore.  I also love frozen berries so blackberries it is this time. 🙂

 

Berry Pancakes

 

Mini Fruit Pancakes

Once again, I’m not a big syrup fan but adding some fresh fruit and whipped cream always does the trick. 🙂  I also like mini pancakes better than regular sized pancakes.  I know it makes no difference but they are so much better!

 

Memaw’s Psst RollsPsst Rolls

These favs have been in the family for a long time.  They got their name because they are made from the rolls in the containers that are terrifying to open because of that ‘pop’.  I actually prefer the Kroger brand for these rather than Pillsburry because they don’t puff up as much and are a bit smaller.  Just squish a roll into an oval, dip in butter, then dip into a cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Give the roll one twist and set on a cookie sheet.  Bake and then enjoy the magic!  These are a very cheap way to make breakfast too!

What are your favorite summer breakfasts?

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May 2016 Blog Income Report

May 2016 Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: The Ultimate List of Blogging Groups on Facebook – 554 Views – 37 Comments

This Month’s Runner Up: Soft Chocolate Cookies – 409 Views – 10 Comments

May was a great month for me for growth.  Even with taking a week off from promoting the blog, I still gained over 450 followers between all of my social platforms.  This month I also focused on using Pinterest to gain page views and began to see a decent increase.  I had about 100 views that were referred from Pinterest.

I also have an unofficial goal of reaching around 3000 views per month which is about 100 views per day.  This month I definitely exceeded this goal!

May 2016 Income Statement:

Revenue
Google Adsense – $68.88
Sponsored Posts – $0.00
Freelancing – $0.00
Affiliate Marketing – $1.00
Personal Sales – $0.00
Total: $69.88

Expenses
Etsy Listings: $0.80
Total: $0.80

NET INCOME: $69.08

View Previous Blog Income Statements here.

May Social Stats

This month I continued editing my blog pages and old blog posts.  I still have a couple to do but I’ve made some great progress.  I also began scheduling posts for #TBT to help recycle older posts.

Last month I’d said I was going to look into scheduling pins on Pinterest and I was using Viral Woot and not loving it so I am back to the drawing board on that.  Once I get the Facebook #TBT posts lined up, I’ll be able to put more time into Pinterest again.

Focus for Next Month
Next month, I plan to finalize the archived blog posts and learn more about scheduling pins for Pinterest.  I also hope to continue on reviving old posts to give them Pinterest worthy images. Also, I’m very close to 500 Facebook followers so I’m hoping to be able to reach the milestone in June right before my blogiversary.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Creating the Roots

Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck Creating the Roots

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

The value of money is something so exciting to your young child.  The smallest amount of money seems so large and can be extremely motivating to them.  Around first grade or six years old, schools begin to teach students all about the value of money.  Children learn about pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and all kinds of bills.  They also lean about dollar bills, face values, and how to add and subtract with all of their types of money. This new skill comes at a great time to begin teaching children how money is used in real life situations.

In order to create a life of financial stability, the school aged years are prime for teaching, modeling, and interacting with money. In the school ages years, children are very capable of understanding chores and allowances which can be used to show that we work to make money and then we have different options for what we do with the money. Each family should determine their own method for kids to earn money based on what fits best into their daily routines.

Once your family has put a system into effect for how their children will make money, the children need to be taught how to handle their money.  As adults, we all handle our money differently. Some people spend tomorrows money today by using credit, some spend only what they have but spend every penny each paycheck, and some save as much money as they can.  In order to create a lifestyle where living paycheck to paycheck isn’t the way, it is important to teach children how to save their money from the beginning.

To begin teaching saving to a child, you will need something to put the saved money into like a piggy bank or even a savings account, or both depending on the age of the child and how well they understand the value of money.

When the child gets money, let’s say from chores or an allowance, teach them to save by having them put a percentage of money each time into their savings. For example, you could give them $4 per week allowance and have them put $2 in savings and the other two they can spend or use to save up and spend at a later time.

Not only will this teach your child how to save up for something that they want, it will teach them how to save for a later date.   This concept is very important to learn at a young age because as an adult, we should each have a savings account for a rainy day.  For your children, I bet they will be very happy after saving a percentage of their money for years when they decide to buy a car or move out on their own.  Having taught your child to save their money from a very young age will give them a great head start in their young adult years.

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The Ultimate List of Blogging Groups on Facebook

The Ultimate List of Blogging Groups On Facebook

I’ve been blogging for a little under a year and the tool that has been the best referrer for me is Facebook.  When I first started my blog, I joined three Facebook blogging groups and shared very regularly in all of them.  Over time, I’ve discovered many other groups.  It has since become too difficult to try to remember which groups have which type of threads each day so I’ve created this list of groups and thread types.

I know the images below are hard to read, so I’ve added a download link for the excel file. 

Key

Low Member Facebook

Mid Member Facebook

High Member Facebook I find myself doing the Click Through and StubleUpon threads in Grow your Blog and the Pinterest and Twitter threads in The Sparkle Group daily.  I also do the monthly follows in Bloggeres2Brands.

I also do every Saturday/combined weekend post because I post my blog posts every Saturday morning.

I know there are many more groups than on my list so I will hopefully be able to maintain this as a working document.  What is your favorite Facebook group for blog promotion?

Here are links to all of the mentioned groups:

Blog + Biz BFFs
Blog Beautiful
Blog Buzz
Blog Engagement and Promotion
Blog Promo Community
Bloggers Social Media Support
Bloggers Supporting Bloggers
Bloggers United
Bloggers2Brands
Blogging Boost
Blogging on Your Own Terms
Grow Your Blog
I <3 Pinterest
Inspired Bloggers Network Promo
Learn to Blog
PinChat – Pinterest Chat
The Blog Loft
The Blogger Life
The Sparkle Life

 

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Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies


You can find the recipe here.  I live in a high altitude area and typically add a few tablespoons of flour to all of my recipes.  In this recipe, I forgot to make the change so the cookies turned out a little flatter than others have shown.  They were still delicious though!

Soft Chocolate Cookies

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April 2016 Blog Income Report

April 2016 Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: My Favorite Face Products – 317 Views – 2 Comments

This Month’s Runner Up: The Ultimate BLT – 279 Views – 21 Comments

April was great month for rest!  I had my birthday, went on a trip, and took a pretty big break from blogging.  I typically post in Facebook share groups on Saturday when I add new posts, and also on a few threads each day during the week.  This month, I only posted on Saturdays with a few extra days, but not many.  I was very impressed to see that my stats were about the same place they usually are but I did a lot less work.  That shows improvement right?

I also started receiving direct views, search views, and Pinterest views this month.  Until now, I rarely had a view from any source other than Facebook.  I can only imagine if I create killer posts, share them on media daily, and post more often, how much the blog would grow.

This month, I did not do any freelance work and because I wasn’t participating in Facebook groups regularly, my Adsense total was lower than usual.  This is quite all right though because the blog is more about having a fun hobby than making money.  I won’t complain about any money though 😉

April 2016 Income Statement:

Revenue
Google Adsense – $44.84
Sponsored Posts – $5.00
Freelancing – $0.00
Personal Sales – $5.18
Total: $55.02

Expenses
Total: $0.00

NET INCOME: $55.02

View Previous Blog Income Statements here.

April 2016 Monthly Updates

This month, I increased my total social following by 8% which I find extremely great because I didn’t participate in the follow threads that I usually do.

I also decided this month to take Guest Blog posts off of my goals for this year.  There were a few reasons for this.  If I create a post, I want to be able to use it on my blog.  Also, I may not agree with every post written on another blog and I want to make sure to be involved in only what I agree with.

My focus for this month was to focus on editing my blog pages and old posts.  I searched high and low and with a lot of coding, figured out how to do everything I wanted to do.  I now have a new home page and have updated pages that auto-populate when I have a new post.  I still have to go through some of the old posts and edit, but I did get about halfway through my archives.

Focus for Next Month
Next month, I plan to finalize the archived blog posts and learn more about scheduling pins for Pinterest.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Building the Foundation

Building the Foundation

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

Like most life skills, learning the value of a dollar is an important concept that if not taught at a young age is hard to grasp.  The best time to begin teaching this concept to your child is when they are able to comprehend what you are asking them to do and are able to do the task requested.

I know, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this because the series is called “Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck” and of course, children this young do not even know what a paycheck is let alone what it means to live paycheck to paycheck.  Through my years teaching all ages and different tasks, I’ve found that I have best learned the topic at hand when I am teaching the topic to someone else.

Many times, as adults, we want to skip to the end solution.  So, instead of looking at what a dollar is, how much it’s worth, how many dollars you need to pay off your credit card and how much work is required to reach that goal, we often look straight to the end goal by trying to find money really quickly by being dishonest or giving up because the goal seems unattainable.  It is important to always take a step back and analyze.

So, from the beginning.  Your child is starting to understand your requests and act them out.  This is a very exciting time for you as a parent and for your child!  I bet you’ve started with teaching your child how to clean up their toys by taking them from the floor and putting them into their toy chest.

So now that your child knows how to do this simple task, why not teach them another like putting food in the dog bowl, watering the flowers, or dusting their bedroom furniture.  Whatever the task is, you need to decide ‘Is this a task something that is expected or is this something extra’.

Here’s where learning the value of the dollar comes in.  If this task is something extra that is not required of your child but they could do it on occasion when they want to, then this task is a great opportunity to teach your child about money.  If you had said that the task is something expected, I suggest not using the task as a way to learn money because it could teach your child that anytime they do what they are supposed to be doing they will get money.  Instead, use something else that’s interactive like maybe playing a learning game together after an expected chore is completed.

Since your child is young, most likely either 2 or 3 years old, you do not use much money to teach the concept.  Let’s say if your child decides to feed the dog, they get a quarter.  They can then put this quarter in their brand new piggy bank.  (Or you can use any type of token or counting toy to avoid the choking risk.  Granted, stay with your child to teach the whole lesson and the quarter will be in the piggy bank long before your child decides it’s best as an afternoon snack.

Here comes the important part.  Your child will need to have a reason to connect with the quarter.  This is something that can be personalized from one family to another, but one way to do this is by explaining to your child that when they get four quarters, they can go to the dollar store and pick out any toy.  Each time they get a new quarter, take out all of the quarters, count the quarters, and explain again that when they get four quarters they can get something from the dollar store.

Of course, nobody wants to be going to the dollar store every other day, so make limits as you see fit.  Maybe you go to the dollar store every Monday and your child can bring their money with them.  Or maybe once they get to 10 quarters you go to the dollar store.  Of course, 10 isn’t easily divisible in dollar terms but the number is great for learning how to count.

As your child grows and learns, you can do fun things like creating a chart to show different values for different tasks.  You can also begin to teach them money skills that they would otherwise be learning in the first grade by simply explaining each step as you go.

Money Chart

Free Download of the Editable Money Chart

Ex:  This is a quarter.  When you have four quarters *Show four quarters and count, 1, 2, 3, 4*, you can get a dollar *Show a dollar bill* and trade the quarters for the bill.

This concept will be harder to understand but it will begin to teach your child the worth of money and will save you from having to get a roll of quarters from the bank.

Remember, the goal here is to begin to learn the value of money, not to complete the tasks to perfection.  Of course, with the dexterity of a toddler, it is likely that dusting will not be effective.  But, the takeaway is that they do the task and get the money which they have to save to get something that they want.

Happy learning!

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Behind the Scenes of Writing My First Book + BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY!!

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Welcome to my special Birthday post!  In celebration of my 27th birthday tomorrow, I am not only giving a little behind the scenes scoop on writing my first book, but I’m also hosting a giveaway!  I will be giving away 5 hard copies of Alex and John’s Scientific Adventures: The Big Explosion! to one lucky winner and will provide a personalized message in each copy.  Giveaway details are at the bottom of the post.  For more information about the book itself, click on the link title or the cover photo.

Birthday

 Back before my days as an accountant, homeowner, and MBA grad, I was a 21 year old undergrad who had been working at a job that was so fun teaching kids about science in ways they could easily enjoy.  The learning was not only hands on and interactive, but it kept the children’s interests and inspired me to write the series Alex and John’s Scientific Adventures.

It was the summer of 2010 and I was teaching a science summer camp.  Each day, we would go outside at lunch time.  While the kids would play on the park, I’d sit on the bench watching and writing, that is when I had a minute from counting the kiddos to make sure they were all accounted for.  The idea of my first book came very easily.  I jotted down a quick plot and then began writing.  And like that, after the week of summer camp and writing during lunch, I had my first draft.

I quickly typed the draft into my computer and began the never-ending editing stage.  I edited and edited, probably to the upwards of 50 revisions over a year and a half.  I had many friends read the story and provide feedback and for that I am so grateful.  I’ve also added a little Special Thanks section of the book to show my gratitude.

So finally, I had the story exactly how I wanted it and I had the page formatting down.  It was time to hire an illustrator.  One of my close friends had been following my journey through creating the book the entire time and just so happened to be an illustrator.  So, without hesitating, we began working together.  But, it was not all happy.  I felt like there was a lack of quality and timeliness.  Not because she had poor quality work but because I had a completely different style in mind.

When we were close to completing the book, we toured around a printing facility, picked out the paper type, and I ran all the behind the scenes numbers.  While crunching numbers, my illustrator and I were talking about shares and it all went downhill.  My illustrator felt like she had done half the work for the book and wanted 50% of the profit but that was too much for me.  I wanted to split the profit, part for whomever sells the book, part for the publisher (Oh yeah, I also had my own business ABCmile, LLC once upon a time and used it to publish my book)  I’ve since dissolved the business), part to the illustrator, and part to myself.  This did not leave room to give the illustrator 50%.

Since we were unable to come to an agreement, I decided to go another direction.  I called the printing company and had them put a hold on the order and went searching for a new illustrator.  Firing my illustrator was a great move for my book hands down.  But, I did end up losing a good friend because of it.  But now that I think about it, I’ve lost touch with all of my friends from that era of life anyways.  We all move on.

Somehow through the third degree of separation, I got in contact with a teenager on the complete other side of the country.  We signed an agreement at the beginning of the project and she did fantastic digital work for the entire project.  I was so impressed with her professionalism and the quality of her work.

So, back to the printers I went after countless edits and rearranging pictures.  Of course, the day after the books began printing I was reading the story to a child I was babysitting and I noticed a typo.  URGH!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  It was a typo that was created because of moving the pictures around so many times.  Since printing had begun, there was nothing I can do and I decided to be okay with that.  It’s not the first book to have a typo in it.

Book Release Party

After over a year of anticipation, on September 24th, 2011, I hosted my Book Release party!  I was so excited to see my friends and family come out to support me but what blew me away is that many of my teachers came to the event.  Most notably, my favorite teacher from high school, the business teacher, and two of my elementary school teachers.  I had searched high and low to get in contact with my previous teachers and two of my teachers from my elementary school time came!  Not only did they show up, they both brought work of mine that I had done in their class for me to sign.  I didn’t even know teachers kept work that long!

I do have the second book in the series ‘The Rocket-Ship Adventures’ written but I haven’t been quite happy with it.  It’s been in the editing stage now for five years.  If anybody wants to take a look and add their input, feel free to send me an email to kari@keepitsimplediy.com.

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How to Remodel Your Bathroom

How to Remodel Your Bathroom

 After moving into my house, I decided to get started on renovating.  I quickly decided to refinish my kitchen cabinets and then redo my master bathroom.  All that left was the other upstairs bathroom that needed to be updated.  Both of my bathroom upgrades cost about the same amount.  See the breakdown of the expenses here.

wp_20150311_16_09_39_pro v__07ee

Of course, I always forget to take the ‘before’ picture so I’ll try to explain how it was.  There was a tall oak cabinet with only one door and a Formica top.  This left me with no counter space or storage space.  The wall was all the tan that is shown on the top of the wall in the picture below.

Step 1: Remove the Existing Vanity – I forgot to take pictures of this step, but I started by unscrewing the counter from the vanity, unscrewing the PVC pipe, and unscrewing the water lines.  Then, I lifted the sink and counter directly off the cabinet together.  After this, I was able to pull the vanity out.

Step 2: Paint the Walls and Trim – I decided to go for a two-toned look so I started by painting the lower half of my wall the the trim both Aspen White.  When painting a light color over a color that’s darker, it’s best to prime the wall before painting.  I skipped this step and ended up having to paint this part of the wall three times.

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Step 2: …continued – Next, I used a gray to paint the top half of the walls.  This only took one really heavy coat.

Step 3: Hang the Light Fixture –  Once the wall was dry, I took the opportunity to hang the new light fixture because there wasn’t a vanity in the way.  I started by removing the old fixture and then installed the new light fixture based on the directions the fixture came with.  One problem I ran into was that I needed an electrical box to mount the new fixture on because my old fixture was mounted directly into a stud.

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Step 4: Hang the Mirror – I then hung the mirror level with the medicine cabinet.  Hanging the mirror was the same as hanging any heavy picture.

Step 5: Add the Backsplash – This was my favorite part of both bathrooms.  I had my back-splash pre-cut and was able to lay out my pieces in order on the ground and simply add the adhesive to the wall and then press them in firmly.  Once the adhesive dried, I mixed the grout and applied to the tiles.  After the grout dried, I just rinsed the tiles off with a sponge and water and the grout was complete.  After a month, I went back and added sealant to the grout.

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Step 7: Adding a Chair Rail – I had painted my chair rail in the garage at the same time that I painted the white portions of the bathroom.  I also decided before painting the walls that the chair rail would be at the same level as the door knob.  I hung the chair rail by nailing it to the wall.

Step 8: Caulking – Once the chair rail was hung, I caulked around the sink at the base of the back-splash, and at the top of the chair rail and back-splash.

Step 9: Flooring – I chose not to do the flooring on my own because of the added expenses of the equipment I would need.  So, once my bathrooms and kitchen were finished, I selected the flooring I wanted and scheduled installers.

Step 10: Decorating – I then chose a theme for the bathroom and decorated away.
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My Favorite Face Products

Fav Face Products

For years, I swore by all things AcneFree.  The toner pads were just about the only thing on the market that worked well with my naturally oily skin type and the gentle acne scrub while not pleasant smelling, left my skin feeling fresh and light.

Then, the day came and the toner pads were discontinued and my face showed the difference.  My breakouts that I hadn’t had since the middle of high school slowly started coming back and I felt like I was fighting an uphill battle.

Without being able to use the toner pads, I started looking for a new set of products to use.  I tried product after product.  For the acne wash, either the scrubs left my face with an oily feeling layer or they didn’t exfoliate and left my face feeling like it had an extra layer of skin.  All of the toners that I tried for years either didn’t help my acne, were too wet when applied, or burned when applied.

Luckily, about a month ago I found products that I am so excited about.  Both products have good scents, leave my face feeling clean, exfoliated, and non-oily, and have cleared up my acne once again.

The new scrub I’ve been using is St. Ives Blemish Control Apricot Scrub.  This scrub has felt so great on my face and I can see my face getting cleared up by the day.  This scrub is also oil-free, which is a must for my oily skin.

Most importantly, I have now found an astringent to replace my former AcneFree pads.  The Alba Botanica astringent has left my skin feeling clean and fresh afterwards without having to suffer through the burn that many other astringents cause.  To keep my routine as similar as possible, I’ve also purchased some cotton pads to apply the astringent.

*This is a Sponsored post courtesy of Target.com.

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The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

BLT’s are one of my favorite quick and easy meals for lunch or dinner.  I typically just make the standard BLT sandwich that includes the Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato on some bread with mayonnaise, but once in a while I like to add a special treat to the sandwich.

To make the Ultimate BLT sandwich, the two special ingredients are an egg over medium and sliced avocado.  The perfect addition to any BLT.  I just wish I had used Sour Dough Bread! 🙂

BLT Creation

BLT

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March 2016 Blog Income Report

March Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: How to Complete Your To-Do List in 5 Steps – 2588 Views – 9 Comments

This Month’s Runner Up: BBQ Uglies Recipe Review– 1547 Views – 17 Comments

This was a very different month for me.  The first week and a half or so I worked very hard on freelancing projects.  As soon as I finished the project I was working on, my BBQ Uglies post got more views than any post I’ve posted.  I did a few sponsored tweets here and there but for the most part, took it easy this month.

I’m not sure how, but once the ride from my BBQ Uglies post ended, my To-Do list post got a lot of attention as well and completely crushed the stats I had just gotten for the BBQ Uglies recipe.  Because of these two posts getting a lot of attention, I was able to surpass my goal of getting 5000 views in a one-month period during 2016.

March 2016 Income Statement:

Revenue
Google Adsense – $69.20
Sponsored Posts – $5.00
Freelancing – $310.00
Etsy Shop – $2.65
Total: $406.85

Expenses
Blogging Supplies: $31.57
Etsy Ads: $0.30
Total: $31.87

NET INCOME: $372.98

View Previous Blog Income Statements here.

March Report

This month, I increased my total social following by 13% and got a lot of projects in the works to help me complete some of my 2016 Blogging Goals.

My focus for this month was to complete my blog posts for the next month and plan some posts for future months.  I am happy to say that I was able to succeed with this and have all of my posts for April ready to go and have a few great ideas and photos for future posts.

Focus for Next Month
Next month, I plan to focus on editing my blog pages and old posts.  Somehow when I switched to self-hosted WordPress, my photos became blurry and need to be adjusted.  I also know more about Pinterest now and want to create better images for some of my older posts.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: The Basics of Expenses

The Basics of Expenses

 

This post is part of a series.  To start the series from the beginning, click here.  To browse through the series, click here.

Next, we look at are your expenses.  An expense is anything that costs you money during the month.  It can be anything from your phone bill, to rent, to that ice cream cone you just had to have.

It is always a good idea to keep a list of all of your regular expenses and when they need to be paid each month.  Try creating your list starting with the items that get paid first in the month.
 
For example:
Rent – $500 – 1st of the month
Electricity – $75 – 10st of the month
Water – $50 – 15th of the month
Phone – $50 – 15th of the month
Credit Card – $200 – 20th of the month
Internet – $50 – 20th of the month
Total monthly expenses: $925.00

Expenses can get complicated when you take into account any late fees, bank fees, interest, etc.  For now, we will keep it simple.

Now that we know our income and expenses we can figure out two things:

  1. Is it possible to pay all of our bills?
  2. How to make it happen.

For the first question, the employee plans to work her full 80 hours during the next two pay cycles.

$9.37/hour * 80 hours = $749.60 Gross pay = $599.68 Approximate net pay
 
$599.68 per pay cycle * 2 pay cycles = $1199.36
 
Our employee’s income for the next two pay cycles will be around $1200.00.  Since the employee’s expenses will be around $925.00, it looks like yes, it is possible to pay all of the bills.  Income from one month will more than likely need to be saved for the following month.

For the second question, timing is everything.  Let’s say that the employee just got paid on the 30th of the previous month and is expected to get her following paychecks on the 9th and 23rd.  (I mention the previous paycheck because it will be used to pay the rent for this month and there are no other expenses scheduled from the 30th through the 1st.)

Let’s take both the income and expenses and add them into a table with a running total line.  The running total is calculated by taking the previous total and adding the next paycheck or subtracting the next expense.

Description Date Amount Running Total
Paycheck 30th $562.20 $562.20
Rent 1st $500 $62.20
Paycheck 9th $600 $662.20
Electricity 10th $75 $587.20
Water 15th $50 $537.20
Phone 15th $50 $487.20
Credit Card 20th $200 $287.20
Paycheck 23rd $600 $887.20
Internet 20th $50 $837.20

Let’s take this one step further.  The paycheck following the 23rd is scheduled for the 6th of the following month.  Let’s extend this table to make sure there will be enough money to cover all expenses until the next paycheck by repeating our expenses.

Description Date Amount Running Total
$837.20
Rent 1st $500 $337.20
Paycheck 6th $600 $662.20

Everything looks good.  It is estimated that the employee will still have $337.20 after rent and before the next paycheck.

Note: You can make a table like the one above to organize your expenses.

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How to Complete Your To-Do List in 5 Steps

How to Complete Your To-Do List

How to Complete Your To-Do List in 5 Steps

We all get overwhelmed by out to-do lists every now and then.  The tasks keep piling up and there seems to be less time each day.  When this happens, I, like many others fall into the bad habit of dreading the to-do list so much that I end up spending more time thinking about all of the tasks I have to do than it would take to just do the tasks.

For this month, I’ve decided that I’m going to finish my to-do list, or get pretty close.

Step 1:  Write out tasks
Dishes
Laundry
Clean the bathroom
Vacuum Upstairs
Vacuum the Stairs
Scrub litter box
Clean kitchen counters/floors
Hose down front of house
Wash car
Fix/sand walls and corners
Repaint baseboards
Repaint sanded walls
Reconcile Bank Accounts
Sweep and Hose Garage
Dust the tops of fans
Dust low surfaces
Put away desk supplies in office
Patch holes in kitchen

Step 2: Reorganize the tasks into two columns –  One column for tasks that take under 15 minutes to complete, and one for tasks that take over 15 minutes to complete.

Tasks < 15 minutes  
Dishes
Clean the bathroom
Hose down front of house
Repaint sanded walls
Sweep and Hose Garage
Dust the tops of fans
Put away desk supplies in office
Dust low surfaces
Tasks > 15 minutes
Laundry
Scrub litter box
Vacuum the whole house
Clean kitchen counters/floors
Wash car
Fix/sand walls, corners, holes
Repaint baseboards
Reconcile Bank Accounts

Step 3:  Organize each column from most important to least important and combining similar items. 

Tasks < 15 minutes     
Dishes
Clean the bathroom
Put away desk supplies in office
Dust the tops of fans
Hose down front of house
Repaint sanded walls
Dust low surfaces
Sweep and Hose Garage
Tasks > 15 minutes
Laundry
Scrub litter box
Vacuum the Whole House
Clean kitchen counters/floors
Wash car
Fix/sand walls, corners, holes
Repaint baseboards
Reconcile Bank Accounts

Step 4: Each day, complete the top item from each column or do a few similar items (such as all painting in one day)

Ex:
Day 1: Dishes & Laundry
Day 2: Clean the bathroom and scrub the litter box
Day 3: Put away desk supplies in office & Vacuum the house

Step 5 – Be Flexible with your to-do list

There are always things that come up that either need to be added to the to-do list or can take away time from completing items on the to-do list.  The most important thing is to be flexible and willing to make adjustments to the to-do list when necessary.  If you know you won’t be able to do anything off of the to-do list, plan ahead and do a few extra tasks one day.  As long as you are consistently making progress, the to-do list will no longer run your life!

 

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BBQ Uglies Recipe Review

 

Uglies Recipe Review

I give this recipe FIVE STARS ★★★★★

The other day I was making stuffed tomatoes and realized I had double the amount of beef that would fit into the tomatoes.  Luckily, I had just seen this recipe and the first few steps for each are exactly the same.  Turns out, we liked the Uglies so much better than the stuffed tomatoes.

This recipe can be found at AllRecipes.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cups barbeque sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) package refrigerated biscuit dough
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Here’s are the brands that I specifically used for this recipe:

  • KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce
  • Pillsbury Butter Grands
  • Kraft marbled cheddar

5 Things I Loved Most About This Recipe:

  1. Uglies are cheap.
  2. Uglies are delicious, even though they look like a mess.
  3. Uglies are easy to make.
  4. Uglies are freezable, although they do taste so much better fresh
  5. Uglies are something everyone in the family loves.

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February 2016 Blog Income Report

February Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: 10 Must Haves in My Next Home – 552 Views – 18 Comments

This Month’s Runner Up: January 2016 Blog Income Report – 391 Views – 19 Comments

This month went very well.  Overall, I improved on everything blog related in the last month which is quite exciting considering I took a vacation from my blog for the last week of the month.  I can’t believe I’ve increased all of my stats with only working 75% of the month!

This month, my main focus was working on Pinterest to try to gain more views and followers.  I was able to join Pinterest for business, clean up my Pinterest boards, and am now consistently making Pinterest worthy images for each post.

This month I also made real money which is also quite exciting! You can find my past income statements here.

February 2016 Income Statement:

Revenue
Google Adsense – $153.53
Sponsored Posts – $2.00
Freelancing – $100.00
Total: $255.53

Expenses
Blogging Supplies: $6.00
Total: $6.00

NET INCOME: $249.53

February Stats

This month, I increased my social following by 24%!  This exponential growth is very exciting yet a bit overwhelming.  But, overall, it’s fantastic!

Focus for Next Month
Next month, I am going to focus on my blog posts.  I like to write a month’s worth of posts during the previous month.  For example, I currently have all of this month’s posts written and scheduled, this being the last post I wrote.  Staying ahead helps me to focus on growing my blog rather than struggling to maintain it.  That being said, I am hoping to create a few great posts this month to use in future months.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: The Basics of Income

The Basics of Income

*This post is part of a series.  Start the series from the beginning here.

FREE DOWNLOAD of the Excel File used in this post

As with everything in life, before one can begin, they must start with a foundation, the fundamentals. Saving money is no different. Before we can start saving money and building an emergency fund, we must first know what money/ income is and how it is distributed in and out of the bank account. While this seems to be basic knowledge, there’s much more to it than having your paycheck directly deposited into your bank account and pulling the money when the bills are due.

 

The first thing to look at when working with your finances is your income or amount of money earned. It is important to note when and how often you receive your income, and approximately what amount of income you expect to receive each paycheck.

With regards to your income, you may hear the terms gross income and net income. Gross income refers to the income you make before any taxes, insurance, 401k, or any other amounts are taken out. This is not the amount of money you should use when creating your budget. Net income however, takes into account all of the pre-tax expenses and is the total amount you will have in your pocket for a given paycheck. Net income is the amount you should use for your budgeting.

The downfall to net income is that you won’t know exactly how much you are going to receive until you actually receive it. Luckily, we can use the gross income to predict how much net income will be received.

The first step to determining your net income is to state out the facts.

Are you paid per hour, per week, per month, per week?  Remember that you may be paid every other week but still be considered hourly.

Let’s determine your gross yearly income.  Choose the option below that best suits your pay type:

Hourly: Your hourly Rate * 2080 = yearly gross income.

(52 weeks/year * 40 hours per week = 2080 hours)

Weekly: Your set Rate * 52 weeks = yearly gross income

Bi-weekly: Your set Rate * 26 weeks = yearly gross income

Twice Per month: Your set Rate * 24 = yearly gross income

Monthly: Your set Rate * 12 = yearly gross income

Salary: Your salary = yearly gross income

Your Annual Gross Income

You are likely either an hourly or salaried employee but are paid bi-weekly.  This means that you either have an hourly rate ex. $10/hr and are paid for the time worked during the last two weeks or you have a set amount you are paid yearly but you are paid this amount in smaller equal portions throughout the year.

If you do not have a set pay schedule or a set paycheck amount, a good practice is to take the total pay you claimed on your previous year’s taxes and divide by 12 to see approximately how much you can expect to make each month if you follow the same pattern as the year before.

Of course, there are many other options for how one can get paid.  Just choose the option above that best fits your situation to get started.

Now that you know how to determine your gross income, you can estimate your net income.  The amount of taxes, 401k, insurance, and other deductions from pre-tax money varies greatly from person to person.

To determine how much is typically taken out of your check, gather your last three pay stubs and do this calculation for each one:

1-(Amount of Check/Gross pre-tax income)

For example:  If you made $1500 during your pay cycle but the check after deductions was for $1250, the equation would be:

1-($600/$750) = 1-0.8= 0.2 or 20%

Withholdings

Thus, 20% of your gross pay is deducted for this paycheck.  Try the equation with your other two paychecks to see if they have a similar result to the first paycheck.

If they are similar, you are good to go.  With my example, I can assume that 20% of my check will be taken out for taxes, 401k, healthcare, etc.

Let’s return to net income.  While each paycheck may vary from one another, we can now estimate how much you will get on your next paycheck.

Let’s say you are an hourly employee making $9.37/hour.  You worked 40 hours last week but this week you only worked 35 hours.  You know that your paycheck will be short but by how much?

 

Let’s start by determining your gross pay.  Using the equation above, we get:

$9.37/hour * (40 hours + 35 hours) = $9.37/hour * (75 hours) = $702.75

To estimate your net income, use your deduction percentage from above. My deduction percentage above was 20%.  I can do this one of two ways.

$702.75-($702.72*20%) or $702.75*80%

I typically choose to use the second option.  Remember that when multiplying by percentages, you may need to convert to a decimal.  20% = .2 and 80% = .8.

In our example, we have an estimated net income of $562.20.  This is the number you should use when beginning any of your budgeting.

Estimating Your Paycheck

 

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Cheese Doritos Meatballs

Phototastic-1_10_2015_f2c9d033-6972-420a-97c6-4662a1125111

This recipe comes from the ‘Beef it’s What’s For Dinner: Thirty Meals in 30 Minutes’ recipe book.

I’m a big fan of cute appetizers but I always find that when it comes time to host a party I don’t want to try anything new just in case it doesn’t turn out.  Because of that, every so often, I made little appetizer sized lunches to try out new things.

This has been one of my favorite recipes because it’s so easy and tastes delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 can mild green chilies
  • 16 cubes of Cheese (1/2″)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups crushed nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips

Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons thick taco sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*F.
  2. Combine beef, taco seasoning and chilies.  (I left out the chilies)
  3. Divide the mixture into 16 portions and set aside.
  4. Cut 16 cubes of cheese
  5. Wrap each portion around a cube of cheese
  6. Beat an egg white into a bowl (I used the whole egg)
  7. Dip the meatball into the egg and fully coat then press the meatball into the chips (I used Spicy Nacho Doritos).
  8. Place the meatballs on a greased baking pan and cook for 15 – 20 minutes.  (Be careful to watch as it gets close.  The cheese all melted out a bit too much for me)
  9. Combine the sauce ingredients into a bowl for serving.

 

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10 Must Haves in My Next Home

10 Must Haves In My Next Home

Ok, so maybe these are my ten top wants in my next home.

A Laundry Room with storage on the same floor as the bedrooms.

Master Suite Bathroom and Large Walk in Closet

Mud Room/Drop Station

Kitchen Island

Blogging Office

Movie Room in the basement – with great acoustics 

Backyard with room for a hot tub and fire pit

Large Baseboards

Angled wall or something that stands out architecturally

and last but not least, a 3 Car Garage so we can fit both cars and outside maintenance equipment.

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January 2016 Blog Income Report

January Blog Income Report

This Month’s Top Post: Home Made Decorative Wreaths – 260 Views – 9 Comments

Runner Up: How I Use SmartThings for Home Automation – 144 Views – 7 Comments

This month went quite differently than planned.  I stated in my last monthly update that I was looking forward to slowly growing my blog over 2016 and working my way into becoming self-hosted by in 2017.  Well, as I was working my month, I realized that little by little, every new thing I would try required me to become self-hosted.

So, I took to the internet to learn about self-hosting and research Blue-host which seems to be pretty popular.  I quickly realized this would be a pain since my domain was at 1&1 and I didn’t want to deal with transferring.  I then realized that I should check with 1&1 because that would be the only way I would be able to keep my domain where it was.

Luckily, 1&1 was extremely cheap compared to Blue-host and I was able to become self-hosted for $1 per month!  (all of which I’ve made back already).

January 2016 Income Statement:

Revenue
Google Adsense – $44.89
Total: $44.89

Expenses
1&1 hosting – $11.88
Etsy Posts – $1.20
Total: $13.08

NET INCOME: $31.81

*View past blog income reports here.

January Updates

I’ve been slowly but surely cooking away at my 2016 Blogging Goals.  I am currently on track to reach my goal of 60 posts for the year and I received at least 3 comments on every post.  I’ve begun working on a followers strategy and have added my book for free download for all subscribers.

Outstandingly, I surpassed all of my social following goals for the year within the first two weeks of the year!  This month, I increased my social following by 56%!  I’ve learned that if I have a goal I will keep pushing until I reach it.  I should have known this, I’m always this way.  I do everything as soon as I possibly can.

Focus For Next Month – Branding and Images
This month, I realized that it’s best to pick a topic to focus on to grow.  I focused on my followers and had amazing growth!  Next month, I plan to focus on Pinterest and making each new post have Pinterest worthy art.  Hopefully I’ll have time to update some pages and old art while I’m at it and clean up my blog categories.

In the spirit of images, I’m hoping to create a logo and banner that I can use across all of my social platforms.

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Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck: The Facts and Speculations

Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck 1

**Dreaming** Here we are, in 2016, the year of endless possibilities.  Jobs are popping up everywhere, housing prices have reached an affordable rate and families are gaining financial stability each moment.

**Wake-up Call** It’s 2016!  The housing market is still growing at an exponential rate even though it is predicted to grow at half the rate it did in 2015.  Jobs are still hard to come by and more and more families are struggling to make ends meet.  Worse off, somewhere between 40 and 76 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Now let’s get the facts.  In 2014, the median household income was $53,657.  This is not to be confused with the average household income which I can’t even seem to find a stat on.

The median of any data set is the middle number.  So, take all of the people in America, sort them by their income then find the income of the person in the middle.  This is said to be the median income.  The average or ‘mean’ income would add all of the incomes together and divide by the population.  This number would be much higher taking into account millionaires, billionaires, and trillionaires, oh my!

Of course, there are always circumstances that can affect income and to account for this, the Census Bureau has further broken down the household incomes into Family and Non-Family households.  The median income for a Family household in 2014 was $68,426 while the median income for a Non-Family household was $32,047.

So where in this lies the poverty line?  In 2014, 14.8% of Americans lived at or below the poverty line.  But, somewhere between 40-76% of American’s live paycheck to paycheck.  Something isn’t adding up here.

It would be easy to say that if you aren’t living in poverty you shouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck but in all reality, that’s not the truth.  There are many factors that affect a family’s bottom line including housing, transportation, education, childcare, credit card debt, and so much more.

All of these factors can make it nearly impossible to get ahead and even more so, can bring down any expectations of being able to get ahead in the future.  Que the average college student: “I’m never going to be able to repay my $40,000 loan so I should just pay the minimum for the rest of my life”.  This attitude towards debt while legitimate is just depressing.

What’s the point of going to school in the first place if you aren’t going to ever be able to get ahead.  Que the high school or college drop out.  Now, education is important but it’s not for everyone and that’s okay too.  Over the past few years I’ve personally seen many friends enter into different trades and come out way ahead of anyone who even attempted to continue with school.

And, aye yai yai.  Imagine having all these student loans piling up and then realizing you need a roof over your head.  In the Denver suburbs, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment is over $1200 per month! Rents and housing prices are so high that if I hadn’t bought my house when I did, I would be having to write a little faster to figure out how to get away from living month to month.

While I’m not a parent, I know that the average childcare costs $972 per month or $11,666 per year!  Luckily, the range is from $300 to $1564 monthly and you can choose where you would like to have your loved ones play and learn while you are at work.  But then do you choose the more expensive day care hoping for a better education or for your child to have more individualized attention or do you go for the less expensive school so you can build up that college fund?

Anyone overwhelmed yet?  Somewhere between 40-76% of American’s live paycheck to paycheck.  I would imagine that somewhere between 40% and 76% of Americans are beyond stressed and overwhelmed in correlation to their financial state.

While there is no over-night remedy for the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, I truly believe that there is hope and possibilities for everyone out there and that with a lot of work and dedication, small steps can happen.  And from small steps come larger steps and leaps and bounds.

It’s not an easy process, but a lot of times, finding where to start is the hardest part.  Please come along on the ‘Say Goodbye to Living Paycheck to Paycheck’ series as we begin to scratch the surface and hopefully spread a bit of hope.

Go to the next post in the series here.

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How I use Smart Things for Home Automation

 

How I use Smart Things for Home Automation

I previously posted 5 reasons why I love Smart Things.  Two of the reasons I mentioned was that it is versatile and fun.

I use Smart Things for both Security and Home Automation.  My home is set up with open/close sensors on every door, a siren, a garage door sensor/opener/closer, a front door deadbolt, thermostat, and multiple light bulbs.  I thought long and hard about whether to use light bulbs or light switches.  But, this is for a future post. All together, I have 25 Smart Things that all work together in my Smart Things app.

Smart Things has a great feature called Routines.  This is where you can set your automation however you’d like.  I have 13 Routines that help me get through my day automatically!

Kari Wakes Up – This routine is the beginning of my work day.  It is set to happen only within a 30 minute window on the days I go to work.  Once the motion sensor in my room senses motion (which is usually me turning off my alarm), it turns on the light at my night stand, the lights in my bathroom, and the lights lining my way out of the house.  Additionally, all of these lights are set to only turn on to 20% so they aren’t too bright for the early morning.

Good Morning – I have Good Morning set to disarm the system when I trip the motion sensor in the family room for the first time on any day of the week.  On my weekdays, this one prevents the siren from going off with the following routine.

Garage Open – Like Kari Wakes Up, Garage Open is set to only occur within a small window on the days I leave for work.  When I walk downstairs (where the lights are conveniently already on), I trip the motion sensor in the family room which cues the garage door to open.

Garage Close – I have this routine set to automatically close the garage door at the time when I’m always out of the house by.  This routine is mainly set up for ‘just in case’ rather than every day use because I use the button in my car to close the garage door that way it doesn’t stay open unattended.  Usually, it just verifies that the garage is closed and on the off chance that it isn’t, it closes it.

Kari Leaves  Once my phone leaves the geo-fence or once a set time after I leave occurs, this routine turns off all of the lights that were turned on when I woke up, makes sure everything is locked, and re-arms the system to night mode since others in the house are still sleeping.

~~~

Bathroom Lights On – This routine turns on only the lights in my bathroom when I walk into my room and the mode of the house is set to Disarm.  This has actually been the routine I’ve had the most problems with because my logic side wasn’t working so well.  For a few days, the lights were turning on when I was still asleep because I would toss and turn and I had the routine set incorrectly.  I think I’ve got this handled now though. 🙂

Bathroom Lights Off – After a set amount of time, I have the bathroom lights turn off.  I tried using the motion sensor in my room for a bit but I noticed that the lights would turn off while I was taking a shower with that option.  So, I chose the amount of time it takes me to get the shower ready, take a shower, and get back in my room as the amount of time between when the lights turn on and off.

Lock front door – Anytime the front door closes, this routine will automatically lock the door.  This is both my favorite and least favorite routine because there have been times before Smart Things when I would go to bed and not know the front door was unlocked.  I’m very particular about locking the door right when I use it but sometimes I forget that when other people use the door, they don’t have the same OCD about the door as I do.  So, while it’s great that the door locks automatically right when it closes, it locked me out quite a few times when I was taking down the Christmas lights.  Luckily, the door also has a code pad so I wasn’t really locked out.

Goodbye – This routine is set to change the mode to away when everyone in the house leaves.  It does this when all of the cell phones that are programmed as devices leave the Geo-Fence.  With this routine, the system checks to make sure doors are locked and the garage door is closed and if they aren’t it will lock and close them for me.

I’m back – I’m back occurs when any phone re-enters the Geo-Fence and disarms the system.

~~~

Lights on at dusk – I have this routine set to turn on the light on my nightstand, the lights in my family room, and the lights over my stairs 30 minutes before dusk.  I have always turned these lights on at night and now they turn themselves on for me!

Good Night – This is the only routine I typically use with Windows Cortana.  Good Night is set to turn off all of my lights in the house and verify/adjust all doors to make sure they are locked and closed, and arm the system.  With Cortana, you can use phrases like ‘Hey Cortana, Smart Things, Good Night’ and Cortana will at least attempt to perform the routine for you.  This isn’t perfect yet because sometimes Cortana will open the app but won’t be able to get all the way to the routines which are still quite nested in the app.  There is note that the Windows Smart Things app will be updated, but it has not happened as of yet.  I hope for this to improve because I love that I don’t always have to log into the app and go through multiple screens to get to the Good Night button.

Disarm at Night – I go to bed before others in my house get home at night so I use Good Night to arm the system and Disarm at Night disarms the system and turns on the family room lights when another person arrives from the household arrives in the Geo Fence or opens the interior garage door.

The last step of the day is for the last person in the house to use the Good Night Routine.

I also have a smart Thermostat in my house which I got when there was an automatic rebate through our electricity provider.  I have the thermostat set to change temperatures at different times of day rather than when someone is or isn’t home.

The next Smart Thing I will get that will be added to routines will be an irrigation system control.  Last year, my control panel stopped working (actually, somehow during one month, 10 times the amount of water was used – without any puddles or any leaks or anything.  I’m not quite sure how this happened but as soon as I started manually turning on the sprinklers, everything went back to normal).  So, there also happens to be a great rebate for the Smart Irrigation Control that I plan on getting before watering season starts.

 

Does anybody else use Smart Routines?  What types of routines do you use?

 

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Home Made Decorative Wreaths

Every once in a while I get the creative bug and want to do some arts and crafts.  This time, I was going to make some wreaths.  One for Christmas, and one for every day to match my house colors.  So, I took myself to the Hobby store then to Walmart since they of course are a million times cheaper for most items.  I gathered enough to do two types of wreaths but quickly learned that I do not have the same patience as I did when I was younger.

Here’s the style of wreath  on making for the teal wreath.  This is a wreath I made back in I believe middle school.  I also believe it’s the best one I’ve made yet.  Something about the young creative mind.

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Once I decided not to use the above method for the teal wreath, I had to find another way.  So, I grabbed the wired wreath and had to think a bit.  I ended up cutting the teal fabric into about 8″ x 1″ strips then tying them in double knots around the wire alternating sides.  I ended up with ends of these strips sticking out everywhere so I decided to pin them to the back of the wreath.

Here’s how the wreath turned out.  I added the ribbon and flower as an extra touch.  I’m quite happy with how the wreath turned out but of course ended up returning the extra supplies since I didn’t make as many wreathes as I had planned on making.

 

 Home Made Decorative Wreaths

 

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Mmm Meatloaf – Family Recipe

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While Winter can bring freezing temperatures and shoveling can be miserable, Winter does bring some of the most cozy meals.  Today’s meal is meatloaf, a recipe my mom made often when I was growing up.  I of course have put my own spin on the recipe by making mini-meatloaves instead  of one large meatloaf because I typically bring them to work and it is easier to have them pre-portioned.  And, the cook time is way lower when they are smaller.

Before we get started, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and gather your ingredients.

For the loaf, you will need:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • onion powder and garlic powder to taste

For the glaze, you will need:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

 

I began by adding all of the ingredients for the loaf into my mixing bowl.  As I was done with each item, I put the item away.  I always clean as I go when cooking because there is nothing worse then feeling accomplished in your cooking endeavors just to turn around and see a big mess.  Don’t forget to leave out the ketchup since it will be used for the glaze too.

 

After mixing the ingredients together, I turned my attention to the glaze and simply added all of the glaze ingredients into a smaller bowl then mixed them together.wp_20151213_18_58_50_richwp_20151213_19_03_18_rich_liwp_20151213_19_04_59_rich_li

 

Before rolling the loaves, I prepped my cookie sheet by lining the sheet with foil, placing a cooling rack on top, and greasing with a cooking spray to avoid the loaves sticking to the sheet.

Finally, I rolled the meat into six mini-meatloaves and put on a coat of glaze.  Save the extra glaze as you will need to re-coat the loaves a few minutes before they are finished cooking.  Each loaf is quite small which is perfect for my lunch at work.  If you are making this for dinner, I suggest you make at most four loaves from this recipe.

 

 

Here’s the finished product!  These taste great side with mashed potatoes or baked potatoes and a salad on the side.  I hope you enjoy!

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mmm-meatloaf-family-recipe-www-keepitsimplediy-com

 

 

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Social Sharing Tips

 

social-sharing

Hello again and Happy New Year!  Like you, my last post was all about my New Year’s Resolutions and how I want to grow my blog in 2016.  With this, I took to the blogging networks and asked other bloggers a few questions about Social Sharing.

I asked each blogger how many monthly views they have, their top three referring sites, and any tips they would like to share about social sharing.

I am very pleased to say that I gathered quite a bit of information from fellow bloggers and would like to share it with you all here.

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Keep it Simple, DIYThis is currently my third active blogging month and I have around 4.5k views for the month of December

My top three referring sites are StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Facebook.

My tip: “Try a few different things at a time and use what sticks.  What works for one person may not be what will work for you”

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Suzi WhiStart a Mom Blogtford  of startamomblog.com  has been blogging for 3 months and has around 4.2k views for the month of December.

Her top three referring sites are catholicnewsagency.com,  carrotsformichaelmas.com, and Facebook/search engines.

Her tip: “My #1 tip so far is to be nice to others – favors are often times returned.”

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Anthony D. GreeneAnthony D. Greene of tonygreene113.com has been using WP for little over 9 years and has around 200k views for the month of December.

His top referring sites are Facebook, Google, and Pinterest.

His tip: “To get the widest dispersion and saturation I use viralcontentbuzz.com and the sharing groups here on FB. G+ has a much better SEO and google saturation. Join communities there with people in the same niche or two.”

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Because I'm Cheap's Profile PhotoJennifer Peters of BecauseImCheap.com has around 30k views per month.

Her top referring sites are Google Search Engine (SEO), Facebook, and StumbleUpon.

Her tip: “Make sure your SEO optimized. If people can’t find you, they can’t read your fantastic content.”

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Jay Gray of jaydgray.blog.com has around 250k views per month.

His top referring sites are Google, Twitter, and Instagram.

His tip: “Work harder and invest in yourself any way you can!!”

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2015 Review and 2016 Goals

Happy 2016 Everyone!  I just rounded out my first year, well half year, of blogging and decided to share my stats and goals.

In June of 2015 I decided to create a blog for all of my hobbies.  I had previously owned my own business and managed a website and blog for years, but I wanted this to be different.  A blog just for me, just for fun.

I started really strong posting three times per week and I felt I was doing great.  I even got my first sponsored post not long after starting the blog.  Then, I lost all my motivation for the blog out of nowhere.  I still don’t know why I lost interest but I’m betting I was burnt out.

After a two month break, I came back to blogging in December and excited to dive more into blogging in 2016!

*New monthly review design.  What do you think?*Welcome 2016 Update

2015 Top 7 Posts

2015 Top Page

2015 Achievements

  • I started blogging!
  • I earned $9 on an Izea post my second month blogging
  • I transferred my blog from Blogger to WordPress.com
  • I bought a domain and applied it to my site
  • I increased my social following by 84%
  • I posted to my blog 40 times
  • I had over 4500 views in December.
  • I was featured in Bloggers Spotlight with  Modest Couponing Tips

2015 Social Following

2016 Social Following Goals

2016 Blogging Goals

  • Write 60 Blog Posts
  • Maintain an average of at least 3 comments per post
  • Create 2 guest blogger post/ be a guest blogger twice
  • Reach 5000 blog views in one month
  • Create a financial planning spreadsheet and have it available for download
  • Create a media kit
  • Create a work-with-me page
  • Develop a strategy and begin executing to gain WordPress/email followers
  • Create 2 YouTube videos
  • Create 2 Posts about my eBook: Alex and John’s Scientific Adventures: The Big Explosion!

2016 Behind the Scenes Goals

  • Research sponsors and their requirements
  • Discover new ways to get viewers
  • Prep to transfer to WordPress.org for 2017
  • Regularly engage in Facebook blogging groups
  • Participate in Linky Parties regularly
  • Use Instagram and create photos for blog posts
  • Use a blogging notebook for organization
  • Create a standard logo/banner photo

 

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10 Windows Phone Features I Can’t Live Without!

Windows Phone Features

When I first heard about Windows Phones, I was so excited to see what they were all about. So, as soon as my first upgrade came, I switched from Android to Windows. Almost instantly, I fell in love with the platform and couldn’t wait for all of the new features to come. The most anticipated upgrade for me was the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. I could not wait for Cortana and even downloaded the preview version for developers so I could put it to use before hitting the market.

Well, recently, I was up for upgrade again and decided to try to use an Android again for the sole purpose of cutting cists. I was trying to get off of monthly payments because I felt like payments were consuming my life. After only three months with my new Android phone, I had had enough and decided the payments weren’t bad after all and that I should get myself a new Windows Phone. So, now I have the new Microsoft Lumia 950 running Windows 10.

When I switched to android, I realized that Windows Phones had quite a few features that I just couldn’t live without because they had been a part of my day to day phone experience. Below are my ten favorite features.

  1. Live Tiles – Not only can i see which apps have notifications from my glance and lock screen, the app tiles are live and show how many notifications are outstanding. The added bonus to this feature is that the tiles rotate through each notification with a short description so you can know what the notifications are before even opening the app.
  2. Camera Button – Since the creation of cameras, there’s been the idea of Point and Shoot. This offers familiarity, nostalgia, and simplicity to the photo taking process. Windows has made sure to include this button on their phones to help save time and bring back this known feature. This feature is very beneficial and also helps to keep the phone steady and avoid blurred images.
  3. Syncing between devices – Windows is an all-encompassing experience. If you have a Windows phone, tablet, or computer, all of your data can easily be easily accessed from any device at any time. You can just pick up right where you left off! And, the mobile apps are just as friendly as the desktop programs!
  4. Tile Picture Background – This is one of my favorite useless features of this phone. I always have a photo I love as the background of my phone/desktop/etc, but with other phones, I have to cover the photo with the apps. With Windows, the photo becomes the tiles and a white ‘grout’ type section separates the tiles. The lines make it easy to tell one tile from another without taking away from the photo.
  5. Folders – Folders are something new that have come to the Windows phones. Androids have had folders for quite some time, but I just never liked the way they opened or were able to be used. The Windows folders on the other hand are very perfect. Each tile that is inside the folder can still perform live updates while in the folder and when the file is opened, the tiles neatly add a row and then close back up when the folder is closed. This is very helpful for putting similar items together or saving room on the screen.
  6. Glance Screen –The glance screen was the feature I missed the most. Being able to look at the phone to see how many notifications I have and which apps the notifications are for us a huge convenience. Not to mention, there is a night mode so the text color can be changed. I prefer white font during the day because it’s bright and red font at night because it’s not as harsh. There were a few apps that tried to act like the Windows glance screen on the Android platform, but ultimately, none of them even compared.
  7. Pinning tiles – Can’t find the app you’re looking for? No problem, just find the mobile webpage and pin it! Or, pin your favorite contact or a Facebook group. There is so many different things you can pin. The experience is extremely customizable.
  8. Driving Mode – Ok. This one I really really hated living without. Driving mode to me is not only for myself but for everyone I know. When I am using driving mode, the phone will not let me know I have a text message. Instead, it will text the person who texted me to tell them I’m driving and it will hold the notification until I look at the phone (which won’t be until I arrive because I don’t know there’s anything waiting for me). So, my friends are taken care of with the text back and then I’m taken care of because without the notification, there is no temptation to see what the text says. I have Bluetooth in my car so I choose to allow phone calls to come through while driving, but you can easily turn these off during driving mode as well. Android had a few apps that claimed to be this feature, but once again, none of them compared.
  9. Hey Cortana! – Cortana was my most anticipated feature at the Windows 8 to 8.1 upgrade. I was so excited about this feature that I downloaded to preview version so I would be able to use it before the official version was released. My favorite way to use Cortana is to tell her to remind me of something either at a certain time, certain place, or when I talk to someone. She can also track packages, routes, and much more. My new favorite thing to do with Cortana is to say ‘Hey Cortana, Smart Things – Goodnight’ and then she opens my Smart Things app and turns off all the lights in the house an makes sure my doors are closed and locked.
  10. Text From Computer – Ever since texting, I’ve wondered why you can’t just text from your computer. Of course, computers have instant messages but when I’m typing on the computer and I get a text message, it’s a pain to have to switch keyboards. But, I’ve heard recently that Windows is going to be syncing the calls and texts so you can reply from Cortana. Yes! I have used accounts such as Text Now to be able to text from the computer but you can’t use your own phone number.

Lastly, one thing I’m extremely excited about is the Lumia 950 doc to connect the phone to a monitor and use the full Windows 10 desktop experience.  Now at this point, I already have a computer hooked up to the tv, a laptop, a tablet, and my phone so I’m not quite sure what good this doc would do me but when it’s time to get a new computer, I may just consider downsizing to the doc.

 

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Now What, Bananas?

now-what-bananas

Do you often find your bananas looking like this before you can get to eating them?  I definitely do.  The old trick is just to throw the bananas in the freezer to use for baking at a later date.  I’ve added a small but helpful spin to this old trick by slicing the bananas prior to putting them in the freezer.  More specifically, I use one sandwich bag per banana to help manage quantities for recipes and avoid having multiple a big frozen banana ball.  Not only does this make storing the bananas more compact, it also alleviates the need to try to un-peel an overly ripe frozen banana. 

Bananas have so many uses from ice cream to baked goods.  Here are my three favorite ways to use the overly ripe bananas. 

1. Pancakes – I thaw and mash the banana in my mixing bowl then in the same bowl add the all of the standard pancake ingredients.  Once mixed, I’ll add a bit of syrup to the batter then bake in muffin tins.  This allows the pancakes to stay moist and even be used as breakfast on the go. 

2. Smoothies – This is where the slices really come in handy.  Rather than grabbing a handful of ice cubes or a couple scoops of ice cream, I just grab a baggy of banana and add to the mixer then fill with my favorite ingredients.  It makes me feel a like I’m drinking something healthy even if my smoothie is loaded with chocolate syrup.

3. Banana Bread – Yes, the old favorite.  Banana bread.  For me, I end up with so many bananas throughout the year that I just can’t stomach that much banana bread.  On the off chance that I have so many bananas that I can’t find anything else to do with, I will make banana bread, but with a twist.  Last year, I made some coconut (coconut milk) pineapple (extract) banana bread in the summer and just recently, I added cocoa powder and chocolate chips to my recipe to make a delicious chocolate banana bread.  

I made a double recipe because I had that many bananas available and realized that I didn’t have two bread pans.  So, I used the taco bowl tortilla pans that I have and it worked out great! 

 

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Mid December Update

 

Monthly Updates3

Hello again!  It’s been a few month’s since I’ve really been involved with my blog.  At the beginning of September, I did a lot of behind the scenes.  My main focus was switching from Blogger to WordPress.com so my site would look more aesthetically pleasing.  Now, the site is fully transferred, except for losing all of the stats…Boo :(, so I figured I would give you all an update.

It’s been an interesting mind game to see views in the single digits for a day since I was used to being in the double digits each day, but my stats are starting to come back up on the blog side.

What I am very excited about is that my social presence has grown by 10% in the last third of 2015!  Most of while I was taking a break from my blog.  The support is truly appreciated and it has re-motivated me to get back into the game!

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5 Reasons Why I Love SMART THINGS

5 Reasons Smart Things

1. SMART THINGS is discrete – I love the good ol’ home feeling when it comes to my house but as we are in this century of cool new toys, I get so excited about every little time saving opportunity.  The Smart Things hub allows me to bring all of the new excitement to my home while only taking up a small amount of space in one of my many cubes.

2. SMART THINGS is easy – The Smart Things app walks you through the process of installing devices and allows you name and organize your devices.  Day to day utilization of the app is very straight forward and you can do almost anything you can think of.

3. SMART THINGS is secure – With Smart Things, I can set notifications for if doors and windows were unlocked or if there was motion in any part of my house.  On the off chance that a door was left open all day, I can check the app to see if the door has been opened while I was away before going into the house.  Not only does this give me peace of mind, it saves time of finding that baseball bat and opening every closet in the house.

4. SMART THINGS is versatile – The creators of Smart Things built their hub and application with the plan of expansion.  They know that there will be many future opportunities for this program that currently do not exist and they’ve left the platform available to use new features as they are created.  Not only that, Smart Things also allows users to create codes for non-standard smart equipment.  A quick Google search will bring up just how to use the new device you want to use.

5. SMART THINGS is fun – Even though being secure is most important, I find that I most enjoy the home automation aspects of Smart Things.  On a standard day, I get up and stumble downstairs in the dark, trying to not trip over anything because turning on a light would mean that I have to walk back and forth in order to get all the lights off by the time I leave the house.  I now have Smart Things to enhance my morning laziness.  I have a motion sensor in my room that is activated when I wake up and turns on the light in my bedroom and the hall.  Then, when I get to the family room, another motion sensor activates and opens my garage door.  Once I close the garage door, the lights in my house turn off.  How fun is that?!

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Delicous and Easy Crab Bisque

delicious-and-easy-crab-bisque

As part of my September savings, I gathered up some ingredients I had stocked in my pantry and set out to make something I never had before.  Soup.

So here it goes.  OK…something else I really don’t do is line all of my ingredients up for a picture but since photos are the rage on these blog posts I thought I’d try it and of course, I screwed it up!  See that vinegar in the photo?  It said ‘red wine’ on it so I grabbed it.  Surely though, I needed the cooking wine, not the red wine vinegar.  The photo of the cooking wine I used is beside.  Sigh.  haha

Ingredients:
1 – Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup
1 – Cream of Asparagus Condensed Soup
1 – Can of shredded crab meat
2.5c – Milk
1/2 – Stick of Butter
1/2 – Red Onion
3 T – Cooking Wine
imag0192
Quick Steps: 
1. Melt the butter and saute the onions.
2. Add some cooking sherry (about a tablespoon or so)
3. Add both cans of soup and stir until heated
4. Add the milk slowly (I did 1/3 at a time and let the mixture return to boil each time)
5. Add the crab meat and bring the mixture to a simmer.
6. Perform taste test. 🙂  I added more cooking wine at this point and then let the mixture simmer for a few minutes so the flavors would combine nicely.
7. Serve as desired.  I added some parsley for the opening picture.
imag0194

 

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Editing Tips

editing-tips
                  Buy the digi book here.    Buy the hard copy here.

So, you have your story complete and you are ready to edit, but you don’t know where to look.

Firstly, edit your work before you send it to anyone else.  When you edit your work, be sure to make sure you stay in the same tense throughout your story.  Also, check to make sure your storyline fits into place.  If it doesn’t, change it up.  Once you are sure that your storyline is firm, check for the ‘juice.’  Every story needs to contain spice to gain interest and engage your reader.

Next, have others read your story.  You can start by either going to your target audience, or going to a third party.

If you choose to go to the target audience, ask them what they like about the story, what they didn’t like, what they wanted more of, if there are any new ideas that could take the story to the next level.  Sometimes it’s hard to write for an audience if you are not part of the audience yourself.  For example, we have all been children at a point in our lives, but how many of us can truly put ourselves back in those shoes and feel as passionately about something that to adults seems so small?  Children are great for adding the imagination and magic to stories.

By going to a third party, ask them to make sure your formatting is correct, you are using proper grammar, you don’t hinder too long on a part of the story that is not necessary, etc.  They can also answer the same questions as the audience.  Each editor will be coming from a different point of view, and will have something new to add to the piece, so seek out many people to edit your piece for you.  If you do not agree with something an editor is saying, don’t change it.  Ultimately, your voice is what needs to be shining through in the piece.

Did I use a professional editor?

No, I did not use a professional editor.  I had around ten people edit my story and I read my story to children in the age group for it.  One person who edited for me is great with the imagination and bringing the story to light.  Another, is great with grammar.  I have some who were good at catching formatting or other errors.  Without each different editor, I would have missed out on improving in one or more of these areas.

Would I recommend using a professional editor?

I can’t say yes or no to this question.  There are positives and negatives to it, as there is to everything in life.  An up-side is that you know your work is in good hands and will be edited very thoroughly.  However, hiring a professional editor has its financial costs and could be straining on a strict budget.   Also, if you are hiring a professional, are you hiring a team or an individual?  You still want to make sure you are getting a variety of editors from different reading backgrounds because your audience will all be coming from different backgrounds.

Other thoughts:

Do not rush your editing.  It may take fifteen edits before your piece is ready to move forward, but it will be worth it to be patient and put as much in as you can.  Plus, it’s better to catch any issues before you start preparing your work to be finalized.

Do not take offense to the feedback you receive.  The feedback is a way for you to improve and make your story more memorable.  Everyone has room for improvement, and the best opportunity is when someone shows you where those areas are.

Thank your editors.  You can do this any way you would like. You could give them a gift certificate, write them an appreciative letter, mention them in your book, etc.  With the AJSA series, I’ve chosen to mention my editors in the book to show my appreciation.

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Low Spend September – 5 Tips

Low Spend September

Every year around early fall and also in mid winter, I get the bug to stop spending money.  This is probably because I’m so into my home projects that I go crazy in the warm and sunny months completing as many projects as I can.

This summer was no different.  I completely re-decorated my downstairs and also redid all non-carpeted flooring in my house and one bathroom.  While I made sure to never go negative on my spending, I’m ready to go positive for a few months and get that savings back up.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past and plan on doing again.  Let me know if you have tips as well!

  • No large purchases – At this point most of my spending is because of large items, tables, couches, etc.  Since there is really no room in my house for any new items, I’m saying no large purchases (which includes outdoor furniture which is my next project area).
  • Limit random spending to $25/weekend – I’ve learned that since having my house I’m always ‘needing’ something new.  I also know it’s impossible to knock out all of my spending, so I’m giving myself a small limit to get random items that come up.  –I finally found placemats and towels that match my kitchen after looking for five months!  That’s where my money went this weekend.
  • Take advantage of freebies and rewards – With all of my redecorating earlier this year, I racked up some rewards points at Wayfair and was actually notified that my points would be expiring soon.  So, I looked around the site and found bought a kitchen knife (we’ve been looking for good knifes).  The rewards I had covered the expense and shipping!  I also signed up for some of those mail freebies which is something I did last year and got quite a bit of stuff.  The main things that stand out are 5 packages of Nesquick mix and 4 tea k-cups.
  • Clean out the cupboard and freezer (and use the items) – Like most people, I’ve gotten in the rut of buying groceries without using all of the groceries I have in my house.  Many times, the items I’m restocking are processed easy to prepare foods which is not good on so many levels.  So part of my savings this month is to use up as much of the food I have on hand without going to the store except for a few perishable items.  I’ve done this in the past and it’s very helpful to save from spending and helps me to eat healthier, and helps with refreshing the cabinets and avoiding expiration dates.
  • Ditching recurring payments – Some other things I’ve done or plan on doing once contracts are up is unsubscribing from television, Netflix, and security monthly recurring fees.  With videos, there are so many ways to watch that there is no need to pay a recurring fee for methods I don’t ever use.  And with the security, I feel that managing on my own will be just as safe as if it was managed by a company because I really just need to know if something has gotten into my house before me so I don’t walk in.  If I’m already home then either way I’d be out of luck.

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The Only Way I Make Bacon

the-only-way-i-make-bacon

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Who’s getting up and making some breakfast for the family today?

With that in mind, today’s post is all about BACON!  MMM  Bacon, bacon, bacon.

Childhood Days:
When I was growing up, bacon was one of those things that didn’t happen very often, and for good reason.  My parents would always cook it on the stove top with one of those splatter shields.  It was a huge pain, literally.  The grease would splatter out of the pan causing little burns to whomever was cooking, the grease would also splatter all over the stove which was a clean up nightmare, and then once you finally have the delicious bacon, you are left with a pool of grease to figure out what to do with.  Anybody else have a coffee can under their sink for this reason?  GROSS!

So, of course, now that I’ve got my own house, there is no way I’m causing all of that mess!  And, I’m really not one to stand over the stove and watch something cook.  So I took to experimenting and here’s how it went.

Apartment Days: 
Materials: 2 Plates, many paper towels
During my apartment days, I tried desperately to find a quick and easy way to cook the bacon.  My main method was to put paper towels on top of a plate, then add the bacon, then more paper towels and cook the bacon in the microwave.  This worked well but created a lot of messy paper towels.

Homeowner Days:
Materials: Dollar store cookie sheet and cooling rack, foil
Now, to my homeowner days.  Similar to the stove issue, I didn’t like how much mess the microwave option created so I kept searching. I also became a huge fan of my oven since buying my house.  I can just walk away and it does all the cooking for me.

Take 1:
It took a few tries to get it right though.  The first time, I put the bacon straight on the cookie sheet.  Then when I took the bacon off, I had to put it on a few paper towels because it was dripping with grease.  With this one, I decided to let the grease dry on the pan and just throw it away.

Take 2:
I had to fix the problem of the bacon sitting in the grease so, out came the cooking rack. and, we have a success!  Perfect bacon!  Although, still a mess in the sheet and another cookie sheet got to meet the trash can.

Take 3:
Eurica!  We’ve got it.  Aluminum foil covering the cookie sheet completely!  So, I finally made my way to perfection.  After the cookie sheet cools and the grease is a bit hardened, I just wrap it up in the foil and the mess is cleaned.  Except for the cooling rack which just needs a little scrub and it goes into the dishwasher.  This is now my only way of cooking bacon.

And of course, to bring it full circle, I told my mom of this method and now it is her only way of cooking bacon too!

Happy Bacon Making!

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August Review and September Goals

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This month went quite differently than last.  Last month, the blog was the only thing I ever wanted to think about.  I was constantly commenting on Facebook groups, reading other blogs, and doing everything I could to ‘force’ traffic to my page.  This month, I focused a lot more on using multiple social media outlets rather than posting on multiple Facebook posts.

I opened a Bloglovin’ account and claimed my blog, created a Facebook page, and reclaimed my old Twitter account.  For the first two weeks of the month, I posted in every Facebook thread I could find so I could drive traffic to all of my new social media sources.  Once I began driving traffic, I reopened my old Hootsuite account and scheduled some automatic posts.

This automation came just in time because I lost interest for a week or so because I was spending time with people, actual people, in person, not on the other side of a computer somewhere.  This was much needed and I’m happy that I had my blog posts created a few weeks ahead of time so I could take a few weeks off without anybody noticing.  Didn’t notice, did you?

As of now, I’m back to creating blog posts shortly before they come out, but I’m set on getting back up to being a few weeks ahead again that way I can take a break when I need to.

My goals for September are pretty short because I want to solidify my blogging routine and automation.  This month is all about maintaining.  I feel like my blog has grown very quickly for only being two months old and I don’t want to push it so fast that it pops.  Right now I’m getting about 20-30 views per day without having to push a lot.  Of course, those numbers are pretty low in the general scheme of blogging, but to me, an individual, sitting alone in my house, 20-30 views means that 20-30 people are looking at my blog each day.  That’s like a whole class worth of people who come from who knows where (well my stats say from all over the world).

I did do one sponsored post last month through Izea which worked out very well.  I’m keeping my eyes opened for sponsored posts but I have to be 100% on board with the concept in order to think about putting it on my blog.  I plan to keep sponsored posts pretty low for the blog’s first six months while I’m working on stabilizing the blog.

Anyways, here’s all the fun stuff!

August Stats
Blogger/Pinterest: 1229 Page Views, 100 Comments
#1 Post: How to Paint a Diamond Accent Wall, 102 Views, 16 comments, Google +2, 10 Pins
#2 Post: How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets on a Budget, 88 Views, 22 comments, Google +3, 8 Pins
#3 Post: Master Bathroom Upgrade – On a Budget!, 74 Views, 7 comments, Google +4, 3 Pins
Facebook: 57 Likes
Bloglovin: 15 Followers
Twitter: 388 Followers
Sponsors: IZEA – 1 Sponsored Post, $9.00

August Tasks
-Create sharing schedule to feature current and past posts
-Sign up for Bloglovin’ and claim my blog
-Create a Facebook Page
-Pin all relevant past and current posts to Pinterest
-Begin to grow social media sites.

September Goals
-Create Twitter schedule for top blog posts
-Update ‘Follow Me’ section
-Create posts 1-2 weeks in advance

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Money Saving Patience

 money-saving-patience

 

I have the smallest backyard ever!  At least, one of the smallest backyards in my neighborhood.  One of my biggest issues with my backyard is that I can’t turn the lawn mower around while mowing the lawn.

So, after three summers of using a freebie lawn mower that was on it’s last leg when I got it, I’ve decided that this is the last summer I will struggle with the large lawn mower.

My search began with browsing my standard internet sites, Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot.  I decided on the type of lawn mower that I wanted.  A small cordless, electric lawn mower.  The idea was brilliant.  Easy mobility, no having to pump and pull a cord endlessly, and it wouldn’t take up as much space.

Now for the downfall.  These smaller lawn mowers were upwards of $250.  The cheapest I found with what I was looking for was over $220 at Walmart.  Being a very frugal person, I knew this wasn’t the option for me.  I may just have to continue to struggle with the mower I have.

With that, I stopped looking and decided that on Labor Day weekend I would check the sale papers to see if there were any good deals.  Well, we haven’t made it there yet.  Labor day isn’t until next week.


BUT, as I was cruising Facebook Sunday afternoon, a post on the neighborhood Treasures page caught my eye.  Could it be exactly what I’ve been looking for?

Bingo!  A small, cordless, electric lawn mower, only one year old for $100!  I did second guess the price because the lawn mower was used and without asking, the seller came down to $80.

I’m usually not the most patient person, but this time being patient paid off big time!  Sometimes you find what you are looking for when you really aren’t looking for it at all.

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Sweet and Sour Chicken

sweet-and-sour-chicken

Original recipe here from Made It, Ate It, Loved It

How do you make your sweet and sour chicken?  I’ve seen so many different recipes and each of them tastes completely different.

Growing up, sweet and sour chicken always included pineapple and those little hard noodle looking wheat things.  I was never a big fan.

I recently made this sweet and sour chicken which was delicious but I would actually prefer it to be more sour.  What do you use to make your chicken sour?  The recipe above uses vinegar.

Please share your favorites!

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Writing Styles and Editing Your Book

writing-styles-and-editing-your-book

Buy the digi book here.

Buy the hard copy here.
After finishing your story outline, you are ready to write your first rough draft.  This is where knowing your audience is really important.Let’s say I was writing about a bouncing ball.  Watch how the simple story ideas change as the audience changes.  Can you guess who the audience is?

I love to be outside.  I eat outside, I run outside, and I play outside.  I like to play with my ball outside.  I throw the ball in the air.  It comes down and bounces up real high.  I like to play with my ball outside.

One day, Isacc and Naveah were playing catch in their backyard.  Naveah threw the ball to Isacc so hard that it almost knocked him over.  Since Isacc didn’t want to be hit with the ball again, he came up with another idea.  They were going to have a competition to see who could throw the ball the highest!  Isacc took the ball and threw it as high as he could.  When the ball came down, Naveah caught it and threw it up to see how high she can throw.  On the way down, the ball hit the ground and bounced back up as high as the top of the tree.  Both children laughed and they continued throwing the ball high into the air.

There are many benefits to young children playing with bouncy balls.  They can learn hand-eye coordination and depth perception, as well as shape and color recognition.  Additionally, they will learn sharing skills by interacting with other children and the balls. 

According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object needs to have an external force exerted upon it in order for the object to be set into motion.  The object then uses kinetic energy while it is moving, and when the object returns to its motionless state, it is said to have potential energy.  For example, a ball sits on the floor.  At this point, it has potential energy.  Then, Jimmy picks up the ball and bounces it.  Jimmy provides the external force, which comes from him bouncing the ball.  While the ball is bouncing, it is using moving energy, or kinetic energy.

Did you say that the first example was for toddlers and early readers?  Or that the second was for elementary aged children?  How about the third being geared towards parents?  Or the last being geared towards students, teachers, or researchers?

Things to Remember

For children’s picture books, the main purpose is to have the story be a learning experience for the child.  The child will use the book as a guide towards how the world works.  There is always something, whether physical or moral, to be learned.

For children’s chapter books, the main purpose is to encourage the child to read.  To do this, you need to make reading fun.  Children this age love adventure, mysteries, and being able to pretend they are in the character’s shoes.  Make sure to add a lot of extra description to the main story line to peak your reader’s interest.

When writing for adults, remember to maintain a certain level of professionalism and respectability.  Try not to use slang in your writing as it makes others more skeptical.  At this point, your audience is completely capable of pulling out hidden meanings and translating metaphors.  Use less description or ‘juice’ as you would for a children’s chapter book because the adult likes to be able to create the fantasy in their head.  Leaving a little for mystery is a good thing; just make sure not to overdo it.  You still need to have your story line firm.

Lastly, when writing for research and learning purposes, use a guide to ensure that you are formatting your work correctly.  Each piece of educational literature has a rhyme and a reason for how it is done.  Make sure to research enough before you attempt to create your piece.  Don’t forget to maintain professionalism in your writing as your target audience is adults.

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Reconciling your Savings

reconciling-your-savings
Last week, we discussed how to reconcile your checking account based on your projections.  This week, we will begin reconciling the savings account as well.

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In our projections example, the first month we transfer to the savings account is April.  To reconcile this transaction, begin by reconciling the checking account the same as previous months.

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When you get to the ‘Transfer’ line, C37 in our example, we will use an equation to get the total amount to transfer.  You could also grab the transfer amount from the Projections page but I prefer to use the equation because it acts as an extra check point.

Because we want to keep $1500 in the checking account at all times, we want to transfer everything over $1500 to the checking account.

To do this, subtract $1500 from the running total.  This is the amount that you want to transfer.  Make sure to put this amount in as a negative amount since we will be taking it out of the account.

Here’s the equation:

  • =-(D36-1500)

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Add a tab titled ‘Savings’ and create the same header as we did for the checking account.  Add the Transfer as the first transaction.  Continue adding on for following months.

 

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Smoothie Central

smoothie-central

I started this summer off by making a smoothie of some form every day after work.  While we are getting closer to fall, it’s time to get in our last few summer smoothies of the year.

Before getting into the ingredients, I use a Bella Sport single serve blender.  You can see the blender bottle in the red smoothie picture.  The blender was $15 and I am now on my third blender because the gasket keeps breaking.  I’m wondering if it would make sense to get a better blender or to just keep replacing the gaskets.  Any ideas?

I typically don’t make the same smoothie more than once.  I try to use a variety of different fruits or water enhancers to keep the from getting bored.

Here’s what’s in my smoothies.

  • The yellow smoothie on the left includes banana, coconut milk, and orange Mio (water flavor)
  • The smoothie in the middle is actually more of a slushy and is just orange Mio and ice
  • The final smoothie contains bananas, raspberries, black berries, soy milk, and some chocolate syrup.

You may have noticed that the first and last smoothie do not have ice or ice cream in them but are still frosty.

Here’s what I do:

When my bananas get brown (or start to get brown.  I just don’t like the sweeter banana taste on it’s own), I slice the bananas and place in individual baggies.  Then, when I get ready to make a smoothie, I take out one baggie and add the bananas to the blender as I would if I were using ice.

This saves the need to microwave the bananas to get the peels off thus losing the frozen texture.

 

 

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The First Steps of Writing a Book

book-writing
The first proof of  AJSA – The Big Explosion  2011
Buy the digi book here or buy a hard copy here.

 

Remember back to the days of first grade when we were all learning how to write.  As simple as it seems, this is exactly where to start.  These steps do not need to be done in this order.  Often, they are all created simultaneously.

  1. Choose a topic. What do you want to write about?  (I chose scientific adventures as my topic.)
  2. Determine the problem and solution. What happens, and what is done to remedy it?  (Problem: Messy explosion in kitchen, Solution: à you’ll have to read the book to find that one out 😛 )
  3. Choose a setting. Where does the story take place?  (The boys’ house.)
  4. Develop a Beginning, Middle, and End. How does the story start, and what order do the events happen?  (Beginning:  Breakfast and planning of experiment, Middle: à read to see, End: à read to see.)
  5. Define your audience. Are you writing to young children, adults, teens?  This will help you determine how you will lay out your book.  (school-aged children)

An example (not pertaining to the AJSA series):

Topic:  Summer games

Problem:  Frisbee gets stuck in tree.

Solution: Use a Ball to hit it down.

Setting: Park

 

Beginning: Two kids are playing Frisbee golf.

Middle:  One kid throws the Frisbee and it gets stuck in the tree.

End: The kids throw a ball up at the Frisbee until they manage to hit it down.

Realize how the Beginning, Middle, and End correlate with the Problem and Solution.

Now that the basics of the story are developed, it’s a good idea to create your characters that way you can include their mannerisms in your outline.

Kid 1:  Name: Jessie, Age: 7, Look: clean and precise, Other: Likes puppies, is nice to everyone, has a lot of friends.

Kid 2: Name: Tommy, Age: 7, Look: clean with shaggy hair, Other: Likes video games, doesn’t usually play outside, follows his friends leads.

At this point, you have the basic framework of your story and you know where you need to take it.  I like to delve a bit more into the planning process before I start writing by creating an outline of the story.  The outline will help me know exactly what is going to happen, and what time it will happen at.  It will also serve as the backbone of the story.  After the outline is complete, all that is needed is the juice!

(Beginning)

  • Jessie and Tommy are playing Frisbee golf in the park.
  • Another kid comes up and asks to play.
    • Who is this other kid? Time to create another character!

Kid 3: Name: Jared, Age: 9, Look: dark clothing, short hair, Other:  seems hostile upon first impression, but he is very sweet and gets along well with others.

  • Jessie and Tommy won’t let Jared play with them.

(Middle)

(Problem)

  • Jared runs between them and grabs the Frisbee out of the air and throws it into a tree.
  • Jessie and Tommy go get a parent.
    • Who is the parent? Is this character of enough significance to explain who they are?

(End)

(Solution)

  • The parent tries to reach the Frisbee but can’t.
  • The parent grabs a ball and throws it at the Frisbee and the Frisbee comes down.

Alright, now we have our outline, but it looks pretty bare.  The next step is to add the juice.  Get your creative thoughts flowing to add fun extras to create the rough draft.

Juice Ideas to Get You Started

-Amp up the setting:  How was the weather?  What was going on around the boys?

-Describe the characters physically and non-physically.  Make a mental image for the readers.  Maybe use some foreshadowing and say a bit about a mysterious boy (Jared).

-Explain how they are playing.  What are the rules of the game?  Are they just tossing the Frisbee?  Maybe add a funny scene of throwing the Frisbee too high and trying to jump to catch it.

As you write, your story line may change from the outline.  That’s okay!  It comes with the process.

Congratulations, you have just finished your rough draft!  On to editing.

 

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Reconciling Your Monthly Expenses

reconciling-your-monthly-expenses
Last week, we learned how to use our spreadsheet to build a savings account or rainy day fund.  This week, we will use our spreadsheet to reconcile our monthly balance of the new checking account.

Let’s begin by labeling our tabs.  I’ve labeled our current worksheet ‘Projections’ and then labeled a new worksheet ‘Checking’.

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Open the Checking account tab and begin by building the headers.  I started my labels in cell A1 and used the following labels:
A1: Date
B1: Transactions
C1: Amount
D1: Running Total

I also made my row 1 Bold because I find it easier to read the table if my headers are bold.

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From there, we will add the information from our ‘Projections’ tab into our checking account.  It is assumed that all transactions that occur throughout the month are done through the checking account.

The order of the transactions here doesn’t need to match the order of the transactions in the projection’s tab.  Use the transaction date to create the order for your transactions.

To enter the amounts, I use a function rather than entering them by hand to avoid errors in typing.  For income, I type the equals sign, click on the projections tab, then click the cell I want.

  • For Paycheck 1, the equation would look like this:  =Projections!B3

For expenses, I use the same process but add a negative before clicking projections so the amounts will be debited from the account

  • For January’s Rent, the equation would look like this: =-Projections!B8
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To fill in the running total (I made all of column D bold), we need to start by pulling our first transaction.  To do this, type the equals sign, then click on C2 in the same tab. You can also type the equation =C2.  This is the only cell you will use this equation.

In cell D3, type =D2+C3 or click on the cells to add the cell numbers to the equation.  This will take the previous balance in the checking account and the new transaction.  Fill down using the methods discussed earlier in the excel budgeting series to complete your running totals.

Make sure that your end balance for the month is the same as the end balance for the month in the Projections tab.  (This example’s end balance is $475.20).  If they are not the same, your account does not balance and the transactions need to be double checked for accuracy.
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Use the same process to add additional months, making sure to double check your totals. In the above example, I added February and March.  Next week, I will show how to include the transfer to the savings account that happens in April of our example.

Side Note:  I also like to use colors to separate my months so I can quickly glance and see the entire month.

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Quick and Easy Oven Chicken Meal

Oven Chicken
4df52-wp_20150512_20_03_27_pro
As always, I’m not one to measure or be exact.  I just throw a bunch of ingredients together and hope for the best.  This one has turned out to be one of my favorite meals.  It was extremely simple and turned out delicious!  Added bonus:  Minimal clean up!
Ingredients
Chicken Breasts
Onion
Tomatoes
Potatoes
Salt
Pepper
Parsley
Oil
Quick Steps:
1. Add your preference of oil to the bottom of your cookie sheet.
2. Dice the Onion,  Potatoes, and Tomatoes and add to the cookie sheet
3. Half the chicken breasts and place on the cookie sheet.
4. Lightly coat the ingredients with oil and add spices.
5.  Bake until chicken and potatoes are cooked through.

 

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July Review and August Goals

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After my first month of blogging, I’ve created quite a few daily habits and am loving this new way of spending my free time.

About a year ago, I switched jobs from one where I would work random hours of the day and have basically no time for myself on work days to a job where I have six and a half hours to myself every day!  It took a bit to find a hobby for all of my extra time, but now I’ve found a hobby that I really enjoy.

July Stats
Blogger: 633 Page Views, 49 Comments, Views from 10 Countries
#1 Post: How to Refinish Kitchen Cabinets on a Budget 76 Views, 16 Comments, Google +2, 5 Pins
#2 Post: How to Paint a Diamond Accent Wall 74 Views, 6 Comments, Google +2
#3 Post: Modest Couponing Tips  43 Views, 4 comments Google +1

July Completed Tasks
-Created a blogging schedule and began blogging on the schedule
-Joined 2 Facebook Blogging Groups
-Posted in blogging groups a couple times each week
-Worked on organizing Pinterest

August Goals
-Create sharing schedule to feature current and past posts
-Sign up for Bloglovin’ and claim my blog
-Create a Facebook Page
-Pin all relevant past and current posts to Pinterest
-Begin to grow social media sites.

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The Plus Side of Having Your Own Domain: + Coupon Codes

Having your own Domain

One of my biggest accomplishments so far in my life is that I am the author of Alex and John’s Scientific Adventures.  This is a project I started while finishing college and proudly created my very first book.  At the same time, I knew I needed to do so much in order to get my book out there.

While writing my book, I was also teaching ‘How to’ classes to both children and adults on a variety of different subjects.  With all of these opportunities, I knew that I needed to start a business that would save me from being liable if something unfortunate were to happen.

With that, I turned to some friends who do business in social media to gain knowledge about how to start a business and what all is needed.  Of course, on top of all of the legal mumbo-jumbo, they helped me create a website (hosted through their website).

There was one problem with my website.  It was not easy to navigate to if you didn’t know that I was using WordPress.  I wanted everyone who know of my book to be able to get to the website without having any trouble, so I decided that I needed to have my own domain name.

With the new domain name came many benefits:

  • I could create email addresses that included the domain name.
  • My guests only needed to remember the book’s name to get to the website.
  • My website looked and felt like ‘MINE’
  • Being able to put my domain name in my book made everything feel complete.

used 1&1 for my domain hub and actually liked the service very much.  

***Update:  This blog is now self hosted through and of course through 1&1.  I highly recommend them.  I paid less than $1/month for the first year and they are great to help when any issues arise.

 

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Easy Chicken Curry

Easy Chicken Curry
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This is one of my favorite easy five ingredient meals!

Ingredients
Chicken
Rice
Coconut Milk – Canned
Five Spice Powder
Curry Powder

*Base your quantities of chicken, rice, and coconut milk on how many people you have for the meal. If you have over three large chicken breasts, I’d suggest using two cans of coconut milk, otherwise, using one would be plenty.

Quick Steps

1. Slice the chicken into your desired shape and size.  I prefer skinny strips for this meal,

2. Cook the chicken in a skillet without any spices.

3. Prepare the rice.

4. Heat the coconut milk in a shallow pot/pan until boiling.

5. Add the spices to taste.  The original recipe I used years ago called for 2 tablespoons of each which I found was not enough.  Remember, you can always add spice but you can never take it out.

6. Let the sauce mixture simmer until it cooks down a bit then add the chicken.  You can add the sauce to the chicken but I find it’s easier to add the chicken to the sauce that way the I don’t spill.

Bringing it all Together

7. Add rice to a plate or bowl and top with the chicken and sauce mixture.  Enjoy!

Do you have any suggestions for this meal?  I leave out ginger because it’s not something I typically have in my house.

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$2 Makeup Organization

$2 Makeup Organization
For years, my makeup has been all together in one drawer.  Recently, I’ve become fed up with always having to dig through all of the make-up to find what I’m looking for and decided it was time for a change.
I researched multiple make-up organizing techniques to and found a lot of cute ideas, all that required needing more storage space and quite a bit of money.
Since neither of those were feasible, I took a trip to the dollar store and for $2, I was able to get some storage bins that fit well inside my drawer. Now, I’ve got all of my face makeup in the front, brushes in one section, and eye makeup in the others by shape and size.
Now I ask, why did it take me so long to do this?  It’s so simple and makes my morning routine so much easier!

 

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Using Your Excel Spreadsheet to Build Rainy Day Savings

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Now that we have our savings account created and have determined our saving schedule, we can use our spreadsheet to predict how long it will take to build a Rainy Day Savings.

It is good practice to always have six months worth of expenses in your savings account just in case something unexpected happens.  We could also include the money in the checking account, but I would always prefer to air on the side of caution because my motto is ‘better safe than sorry’.  Because of this, I will only include the savings account total.

In our example, we know that the monthly expenses are roughly $1050.  Six months of expenses would be $6300.  By looking at the savings account total in column M: December, we see that the total amount in the savings account is $3900.  This is not enough to last six months.

To project further, we will need to add another year to our example.

Using the techniques from before, we will highlight all of the the December column (M1:M21) and drag across to column Y.  Highlight all cells in the sheet by pressing the Triangle in the top left corner then double click on  line between the column headers to widen the fields and remove the pound signs.  *If you have trouble with this step, please refer to the first tutorial’s video.

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Next, add a column between December and January to separate the years.  You can add the year in this column if you would like.  Example: 2016.

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Now that we have our projections extended for another year, we can see that the savings account will reach $6300 in June of year two.

If we were including the checking account, the savings account will reach $6300 in February.  None the less, the more savings the better because you never know what will happen next.

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Cream Cheese Monkey Bread

I saw a recipe on Pintrest that looked amazing so I decided to give it a try.  My comments and review are at the end.

Here’s the original from Pip & Ebby, I’ve modified a bit Cream Cheese Monkey Bread.

 Ingredients
Dinner Rolls
Cream Cheese
Butter
Cinnamon
Sugar
Brown Sugar

Quick Steps

1. Put the rolls into a pan.  I used a round pan because it would be easier to clean than a bunt pan as used in the original.

2. Use your finger to make a divot in the rolls then add some cream cheese.

3. Melt enough butter to cover.

4. Sprinkle a good amount of cinnamon, sugar, and brown sugar over the top.

 5. Bake until complete.  I know it’s done because the smell begins to fill my house.

See the final cooked product at the top of the page.





Review and Comments

The picture in the original recipe looked so much better than mine!  Overall, I think I should have added MORE SUGAR!!!

1. I don’t think I used enough sugar.  More sugars would have made it have more of a consistent taste.

2. There is too much bread!  When I’m eating something sweet, I don’t like much of the original dough to be un-coated. Because the dinner rolls are thick, much of the inside of the bread tasted just like a typical dinner roll.

3. The cream cheese threw off the flavor a bit.  I’m a big fan of cream cheese but I think because the cream cheese was just inside a large piece of dough, it was a bit boring and bland.  A suggestion to remedy this and add flavor is to use a flavored cream cheese, Brown sugar and Maple would have been a great choice.

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How to Patch 3/8″ Holes

When I moved into my house, I had four shelves awkwardly hung on one of my closet walls. (I have now moved them to my garage) They stuck out farther than the door which made them always be in the way and did not have much storage space.

I quickly decided to take the shelves down and put a shoe rack against the wall instead but taking the shelves down meant having many pretty large holes in the wall.

Lucky for me, I always have Spackle around the house.  Typically, I buy the Spackle that goes on white because I like that it seems to have a more gritty texture.  Although that may be my imagination. But, last time I went to the store, I actually got my Spackle from Walmart and pink is all they had.

Good news though, pink Spackle makes for easy demonstrations.

Step 1: Put a small amount of Spackle on a putty knife or your finger.  I prefer to use my finger for these small jobs and only use a putty knife for large holes.

Step 2: Fill the hole with as much plaster as can fit and smooth as much as possible.  If the hole is large, it will not fill all the way at this step. Just add as much as will fit without making a bump on the wall.

Step 3: Repeat the process for all holes and then let dry.  With this Spackle, I knew it was dry when it turned completely white.  



Step 4: Add a small second coat to completely fill the holes. Notice that I didn’t go out nearly as far because I was applying significantly less Spackle for the second coat. I also used my finger to add a little texture to the patch rather than making it smooth.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 for all holes.

Step 6. Let dry overnight (or at least until dry and hard)

Step 7: Take a piece of high grit sand paper and lightly buff over the tops of all of the patches so the texture will look more uniform.

Step 8: I will eventually get to this step…  But, the wall now needs to be painted.  If you have touch up paint, great!  That makes this really easy.  For me, the house was all painted in flat paint when I moved in and I’ve since changed to semi-gloss but have yet to paint the closet.  I guess this will be a winter project.  But what color?  Anyways…to paint the wall, I’d suggest putting a quick coat over the patches first since they will soak up a lot of paint.  After they dry, paint the entire wall including the patches.

Did you notice the jewelry hanging?  Here’s how I’ve got it laid out.  They are hanging with clear push pins. 🙂

 

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Working with Your Excel Budgeting Spreadsheet

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Last week we made our spreadsheet a bit more robust by adding in a Checking account and Savings account rows.  If you need to review, you can find the post here.

This week, I will explain how to use this spreadsheet on an ongoing basis as your expense tracking tool in addition to being a budgeting and projecting tool.

Let’s start with the most fool-proof way of sticking to your budget and meeting your projections. Each month, in our example, remove $300 (the incidentals) from your checking account.  You can do this all at once at the beginning of the month or split it up.  Maybe $150 on the 1st and $150 on the 15th.  This all depends on your comfort level with managing your spending.  Here’s the kicker:  DO NOT TAKE ANY ADDITIONAL MONEY OUT OF YOUR ACCOUNT.  Period.  Of course, occasionally there are emergencies such as a blown tire or a medical bill but, if it’s not an emergency, don’t do it!

This money is yours for the month.  Use it however you please remembering that you will need to buy gas and groceries out of this money at some point. If you do not use all of the money in the month, decide what is best for you.  Would you rather hold it as your spending money just in case, save for a larger treat, or put it in your savings account.

If you are trying to build credit but can’t get approved, consider opening a secure credit card where you deposit your money into the account and you can only use how much you have.  With this option, you can have an automatic transfer that takes the money out of your checking account for you and deposits it to the secure account.

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Tracking your expenses is more than entering in about what you think your expenses will be for the month.  While this is a great tool for predicting, it only acts as a placeholder when it comes to utilization of your spreadsheet.

My suggestion for tracking your expenses is to color code your cells.  For all income and expenses where the amounts change each time they occur, I change the text to Blue.  For all of the expenses with set amounts, I keep the text Black.

As I get my bills and paychecks, I add the correct amount over the blue estimated amount and change the color to black.  This shows me that I have already accounted for the item and helps me track where I’m at in the spreadsheet so I don’t have to look up to the months each time.  Once the month is complete, there should be no blue words left.

1. Take the incidentals money out of your checking account.
2. Update your spreadsheet with every new income or expense.

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