Category: Gear

Tips for Successfully Working from Home

Posted on Jul 25, 2014 by No Comments

If you are like me and you work from home, you have probably spent a lot of time trying to find the best way to make working from home work for you. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You’d think you stay in your jammies all day, close the door, pop some bonbons and just do your work but that is not how it works. There is a lot more involved in working from home.

Here are a few tips to help you survive working from home:

Have a dedicated office with a door that closes. Seriously, set aside a specific place in your house that is used exclusively for work.  If you do so, you will be able to deduct it from your taxes and it will help you to get into work mode.

Cultivate an IT contact so there’s someone to call when the Internet goes kaput or a video conference link doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Mine is my husband. He is an engineer turned IT guy who specialized in graphic design. It’s like he knew he was going to marry a blogger.

Participate in office networking opportunities. I freelance but if you are working remotely and there is an actual office near where you live, making a cameo appearance from time to time is not the worst idea. Not being onsite can make it difficult to form office relationships and even more difficult to advance to a managerial position.

Set clear standards for when you’re available to available to work and to family. Create a daily work schedule. Mine is 8 am-2:30 pm, I break until the girls are in bed at 7, then I usually work again from 8 pm- midnight. On Fridays, I work half a day and on the weekends, I don’t work at all. 

It’s easy to get sucked into being available to work any time, any day, but I have committed to not working when the girls are home from school. The most important thing I do is raising my daughters. Everything else is secondary at this point in their lives and mine.

Make sure that you set well-defined work hours to avoid phone calls and emails without boundaries on your personal time. I don’t take phone calls after 3:00 pm because that is when my girls get dismissed from school.

Pay your taxes. There is nothing worse than a surprise payment of $10,000 on April 15th. Make sure that you set aside some money each month to pay your taxes or at the very least make sure that you expect it.

Last year, I almost had a heart attack half way through getting our taxes done because I realized I was going to owe a substantial amount of money. That’s why it is important to keep track of any money that you paid out for the year for your business or freelancing; those write offs help balance it all out in the end.

What is your best work at home tip for success?

Photo Source: Travis Isaacs

Social Media Engagement for Dummies

Posted on Jul 2, 2014 by 1 Comment

I recently received a copy of Social Media Engagement for Dummies written by Aliza Sherman and Danielle Smith. It’s an amazing how-to book for those who are new to social media, need some guidance in how to work on behalf of brands, or just want to learn to make social media work better for their own brand.

A lot of people use social media these days for themselves, for their brand, and employers but there is a big difference between being on a social media soapbox and engaging in social media. You need to do more than just shout out into the social media abyss to have social media work for your brand.

Social Media Engagement for Dummies will teach you how to use social media engagement to close the deal and turn prospects into customers. Learn how to involve your customer through video, blogs and email.  This book gives you the resources and knowledge to do it.

The key to social media success is engagement and this book will outline success for you.

When you focus on the engagement side of a social media marketing strategy, you’ll build and grow relationships with followers and customers, create appropriate content for customers, analyze response, and keep campaigns on target for optimal reach.

Learn to build trust, spark conversations and use video and other tools. This creative book is a must-read if you want to discover how to successfully use social marketing.

Social Media Engagement for Dummies:

  • Helps you build and foster social media relationships with potential customers, fans, followers, and current customers
  • Shows you how to spark actions, reactions, or interactions–and make things happen
  • Explores the fundamentals, especially for do-it-yourself small-business owners and marketers
  • Covers building trust and credibility, creating connections, encouraging sharing, using social networks to engage, using email marketing or SEO to engage, and much more

Social Media Engagement For Dummies will help you connect on levels you never dreamed of before and make yourself a social media asset for any company that works with you. Social Media Engagement for Dummies is an absolute must-have for any blogger who wants to grow their community and engage with their readers.

What is your favorite social media engagement tip?

Image credit: Amazon

Link Round-up: Summer Camp, Hot Air Balloon Watercolor Art, 4th of July Crafts, and More

Posted on Jun 26, 2014 by 1 Comment

Today’s link round-up has printables for summer camp, hot air balloon watercolor art, and more.

The Thrifty Couple shared a great summer money-making idea.

Suzy Sitcom shared a Pennsylvania Dutch hot German potato salad recipe.

Eighteen25 shared 20 4th of July projects.

link ru summer camp

A Virtuous Woman shared a summer camp care package idea, plus printables.

Design Dazzle posted a fun hot air balloon watercolor art idea.

Homemade Interest shared five tips for a successful yard sale.

We Know Stuff gave us a fun craft—suncatchers kids will love to make.

Photo credit: The Thrifty Couple and A Virtuous Woman

Warning: Your Smartphone May Be Hurting Your Health

Posted on Mar 24, 2014 by 2 Comments

New research at Kent State University has linked poor health in college students with high frequency of smartphone usage. The study was done because, as we all know, television, video games and computers lend themselves to a sedentary lifestyle. They all require a degree of focus and that you sit while using them.

But the smartphone is mobile so researchers were curious to know if, since it was feasible to do moderate physical activity while on your phone, would people do that?

Over 300 college students were surveyed on their cell phone use and physical activity levels. Forty-nine of the 300 had their fitness level and body composition tested. The results showed that student who spent large amounts of times on their phones, some as much as 14 hours a day, were less healthy than those who used it for 1-2 hours a day.

The study revealed that students who were spending 14 hours a day on their cell phones were much more likely to be engaging in other forms of sedentary activities. They were already more inclined to do less physical activity.

Honestly, I work online and I do spend a lot of time on the computer and my smartphone, but even to me 14 hours a day seems excessive.

My assumption is that since the research found that high frequency users were less likely to be physically active, low frequency users were more likely to be more physically active and use the smartphone as a tool to be more physically active.

I would say that this is definitely a case of which came first, the chicken or the egg; the smart phone or the laziness?

I think that people who are more likely to use the phone as an excuse for not working out are simply lazier in the first place and never wanted to workout. The phone buzzing, people calling and texting or them getting distracted by the Internet or an app is simply just another excuse not to workout.

Honestly, if you want to be active, turn the ringer off, pop that sucker in an armband, crank up some music and go for a walk. Use it to keep track of your activity, your food and your measurements. Link it with your Fitbit, or whatever tracker you use.

A phone (smart or otherwise) cannot make you work out or keep you from it; it is up to you to make up your mind and get healthy. The phone as an excuse is just that, an excuse.

There are a million and one ways to get healthy with your smartphone if you have the desire. Today there is a never-ending list of health apps, physical activity trackers, calorie counters, nutrition label readers and even workout guides.

New technology should mean new and ingenious ways to get healthy, but we first have to want it. We have to put in the time, effort and hard work. So, if you spend most of your days surfing the net and sitting on your butt, don’t be surprised when your butt gets bigger. It has nothing to do with your phone or technology and everything to do with you.

Which do you think came first, the laziness or the technology?

Photo Source: Miss Karen

Link Round-up: Flawless Kale Chips, Easter Egg Candles, Cookie Dough Bites, and More

Posted on Mar 20, 2014 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has flawless kale chips, Easter egg candles, cookie dough bites, and more.

Creative Green Living showed us how to make Easter egg candles.

Oh She Glows shared six tips for flawless kale chips.

Twig and Toadstool showed us how to make a rainbow wreath and flowers.

The Ribbon Retreat showed us how to make a cute leash for a furry friend.

link ru lemon bites

Chocolate Covered Katie whipped up some mini lemon cookie dough bites.

Art Projects for Kids inspired “wish pet” art with images of real animals’ eyes.

Picklebums shared 20 drawing ideas for kids to enjoy.

Photo credit: Creative Green Living and Chocolate Covered Katie

The Host with the Most

Posted on Mar 19, 2014 by No Comments

If you are a blogger, you have probably been faced with the choice of who to host your site with. When I started, I started with a free host and then moved to a cheap one because blogging was a hobby, but as my blog has grown I needed reliable service. I found Media Temple and they saved my blog.

If you are a blogger you know how important it is to have a dependable web host. I used to be with GoDaddy.com. I stayed with them until I couldn’t any more. I had every intention of leaving them but I just never got around to it. I was afraid of change. Better to face the devil you know and all that.

After 3 weeks of consistent daily outages, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I kept contacting GoDaddy and every day they would tell me that they were “working on it”. Still, the site would remain down I finally learned my lesson: 1) You get what you pay for 2) Never go against your gut and stay someplace you don’t want to be. I left GoDaddy and my site has been up every day since with NO outages.

Who did I switch to? I switched to Media Temple. Why did I switch to Media Temple? I switched to Media Temple because someone I know and respect, a fellow blogger and friend,  hosts her site with them and recommended them to me – word of mouth.

I am so thankful for her advice. A trusted friend’s recommendation is worth a million unsolicited advertisements.

I followed that up with inquiries on Twitter about the company. I asked any of my other bloggers if they had hosted with Media Temple. Media Temple’s customer service representative, Aaron, reached out to me on Twitter and answered all of my questions and then proceeded to walk me through the process.

It took me another 2 weeks before I got back to Aaron at Media Temple because of holidays and spring break. He remembered me and immediately picked up where we left off. He quoted me the best price available and could even help me get my site migrated over from GoDaddy. I switched to Media Temple’s grid service the next day.

There are options available for all sizes of sites. I cannot convey to you how helpful the whole Media Temple team has been. It was the complete opposite of my experience with my previous host.

If you are like me and you sell advertising on your site or work with brands doing reviews, giveaways and sponsored posts, it’s hard to be dependable when your site is only up and running occasionally. I had to switch and I highly recommend anyone in the market for a new web host consider Media Temple.

What is your favorite web hosting service or word press plugin? Why?

Disclaimer: I was NOT provided any free service or compensation for this post. This is just me wanting to share a fantastic web hosting experience with my fellow bloggers.

Photo Source: Media Temple

Best Educational Sites for Kids

Posted on Mar 14, 2014 by 1 Comment

What are your favorite websites for children? We all try to limit screen time for children but if you are going to allow your child time on the computer or tablet, why not be informed as to which sites are the best and most educational?

I love sites that challenge my children to think outside the box, expand their minds and become more aware of the world past their own neighborhood.

National Geographic Little Kids

National Geographic Little Kids features games, crafts and recipes, science, videos, and animal information. It’s perfect for children ages 5 and under.

National Geographic Kids

National Geographic kids is one of my daughters’ favorite web sites. It has games, videos, information, amazing photos that will keep your kids engaged and learning on this educational site all surrounding its mission to get children outdoors and to care about the environment and planet around them.

Fun Brain

Fun Brain has math and reading video-like games like Mad Libs Junior. It provides a catalog of educational games, online books, and comics. It was created for kids ages preschool through grade 8, offering more than 100 fun, interactive games that develop skills in math, reading, and literacy.

Plus, kids can read a variety of popular books and comics on the site, including Diary of a Wimpy KidAmelia Writes Again, and Brewster Rocket.

PBS Kids

My daughters and I grew up on PBS shows for children, and on the PBS kids site you will find all your favorite PBS characters, each with learning games for kids to play: Clifford, Curious George, SuperWhy, The Cat in the Hat and lots more including  PBS KIDS’ online school readiness program.

Wonderopolis

Wonderopolis is a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Brought to life by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), Wonders of the Day will help children find learning moments in everyday life.

Spatulatta

Get into cooking on this kid-friendly cooking website with lots of videos and recipes. Spatulatta.com’s intent is to present a fun and compelling website that will help foster a whole new generation of young cooks, not only by introducing cooking skills, but also through modeling behavior for using healthy, fresh, basic ingredients with a minimum of processing.

Spatulatta.com will encourage children to eat well, to take pride in their accomplishments in the kitchen, and to understand the connection between farm and dinner table.

A secondary aim is to encourage children to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience they can gain from the adults and elders in their families. By encouraging children to ask their family members and friends for recipes and to cook those dishes together, we hope to strengthen intergenerational bonds.

NGA Kids

This website gives children adventures in art and activities from the National Gallery of Art. NGAkids Art Zone interactive offers an entertaining and informative introduction to art and art history. Featuring a variety of art-making tools that encourage exploration and creativity, these activities are suitable for all ages.

What are your favorite educational websites for your children?

Photo Source: National Geographic Kids 

How to Make LinkedIn Work for You

Posted on Jan 15, 2014 by 3 Comments

Are you using LinkedIn? Are you aware of what LinkedIn is and how it works? LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site. Founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking.

LinkedIn has more than 75 million registered users and is rapidly becoming the go-to place for headhunters looking for people to work in specific fields. Employers are using LinkedIn to find qualified candidates for open positions. If you are in the market for a new job, you better have a LinkedIn account and you better make sure that it is interesting enough to get people to look at your profile.

LinkedIn is your digital resume; it’s a 24/7 networking opportunity. Think of it as a worldwide networking event that is going on all the time. All you have to do is have an interesting and engaging resume ready to be perused. It should show where you’ve been in your career, where you are and where you plan to go. Your LinkedIn profile should demonstrate that you have goals.

How do you use LinkedIn?

Just like Twitter and Facebook, while LinkedIn may be an online resume, it is also social media and you absolutely need a photo. Your photo is your virtual introduction to a potential employer. No one would hire you sight unseen, no more than they would purchase a a home sight unseen. An inviting professional photo can go a long way in the LinkedIn world. Not having one makes you look sketchy.

Use the project option on your LinkedIn profile. It’s a really useful way to add specific work and projects to your profile. I ignored this for ages, but I definitely noticed an uptick in visitors to my profile once I added a link to my writing portfolio in this section.

You can add photos, links and documents to show off the work you’ve done. Utilizing this feature is a great way to make your profile stand out above the rest.

Want to optimize your chances of finding a new job? Do your research and follow companies that you’d like to work with. If you are a writer, follow publications that you’d like to work with. Follow editors that you have worked with. Ask editors and co-workers that you have worked with in the past to write recommendations for you. It shows that you are earnest and serious about your work and your pursuit of employment.

You’ll get updates from the company – everything ranging from job postings to press releases, new products, company announcements, and other news. You can also look up key contacts at companies, do your research and make contact without sounding like a cold call. Knowing who you are talking to is smart business.

Join discussion groups.

Discussion groups, much like Facebook secret groups that are specialized to your niche, are a great way to met other people in your field, find out about job postings and ask for advice. From a networking perspective, it never hurts to join groups related to your alma mater, any professional certifications you may hold or societies you may belong to.

What’s your best tip for optimizing your LinkedIn experience?

Photo Source: LinkedIn

How Technology Has Removed Privacy from Our Lives

Posted on Jan 10, 2014 by 1 Comment

My children are 6-years-old and 8-years-old, They are both proficient in using a laptop, iPad, desktop, and can maneuver their way through just about any piece of technology you put in front of them.

I, personally, have had a computer since I was about 12. It was nothing like the computers of today. It was a monster and not everyone had access to computers. The Internet did not exist and I didn’t get an email account until I was in college.

I didn’t have a Facebook until after I had children and didn’t know anything about Twitter until after I started my blog. There were cell phones when I was in college and I had one for emergencies – it was a monster. No one was carrying that thing in their back pocket. This was way before cell phones had photo and video capabilities. It was just a phone.

Nowadays, everyone over the age of 8 has a cellphone and texts and tweets out photos and videos of themselves all day long. Every minute of every day is accounted for because kids today over share every single second of every day of their lives.

I feel like I know my cousin closely even though she is a freshman in college and grew up across the country from me, because she updated her status so often that I knew when she went to work, how every day went, what she wore and who she was dating. This is the generation of oversharers, spreading their business all over the Internet for all to see for infinity.

These children today have no expectation of privacy because they have never experienced it. It is sad really. The plus side is a world of instant gratification but the downside is that once you put your business out there, you can never take it back.

Sure you can remove a status or change your mind and delete a photo but it’s too late. The Internet has seen it and maybe someone has already screen captured it or, downloaded or copy and saved it and if you do something stupid, it is near impossible to live it down because it never gets old. Just when someone has forgotten about it, someone new experiences it.

Many adults are skeptical because we value our privacy and anonymity. We use pseudonyms and are careful what we post to the Internet. We try not to be too public with our private business because we were around when social media was not the norm. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Tumbler – none of that existed when we were young.

The Internet was not a thing until I was in college. It may have been around but no one was using it. I used my computer for writing papers. Suddenly, I could use it as an encyclopedia and then a phone and then television and soon it was ingrained into my life like the air I breathe, but still, I remember what privacy felt like and I like it in small doses.

This is not the case for your children.

I am cautious about what I post about my daughters. Their lives are private. I chose to share my business but it is not my place to share theirs. I have taught my daughters that once you hit send, it is out of your hands.

Unfortunately, many children do not understand this. They feel it is normal to post and tweet and text every single minute detail of their lives but when someone else takes that from them, swipes a photo or exploits a text, they feel the weight of being exposed and vulnerable.

How do you teach your children to be discretionary when posting to the Internet?

Photo Source: White African