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Being Prepared

When I go grocery shopping, I try to plan at least a week in advance. Before we had kids, when I had more time to be organized, I could even get two weeks’ worth of groceries taken care of in one shopping trip. Of course, if we had more space for food storage that’d help! One day I hope to have a large pantry so I can have more long term food storage. I love the idea of having ingredients on hand to be able to prepare something on the spot if guests are coming over, or if I don’t have time to run to the grocery store. Another aspect I’ve thought of is planning for emergencies. In the part of Texas we’re at, we don’t have a threat of hurricanes or earthquakes, but I still think it’s wise to have emergency food on hand. One day maybe I’ll have the space to be as prepared as I’d like to be!

How much food do you store on a regular basis? And how often do you go grocery shopping? What are your favorite foods to have on hand for when company shows up unexpectedly? I’d love to hear!

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How Secure Are You?

With all the scams you hear about nowadays, being secure is more important than ever. Top that off with how much activity takes place online, and it’s easy to see why security tools are so vital.  Whether you’re worried about content security or application security, there is software out there to protect you and your work. To me, if I’m putting so much time and skill into a project, it is crucial that it’s secure. You can even protect business transactions with services like signature validation. I’m amazed daily by the capabilities of technology!

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Brian Lost His Wedding Ring

Yep… he lost it a couple of weeks ago. He was out in our back yard cleaning up a gigantic mess created by our dog, and he slipped his ring in his pocket to keep it from getting dirty. Apparently it slipped out during the process, so it’s likely somewhere in our back yard. For now he’s wearing a plain band I had, but soon we’ll be looking for a replacement ring. I think tungsten wedding bands are a perfect choice. The metal is tough, and can withstand things like yard work without getting damaged. The black tungsten rings are REALLY nice… there’s one I particularly like that has silver striping around it. They just seem like a cool, non-traditional option for men. I spent quite a bit of time looking at MensTungstenOnline.com and have found several rings to show Brian so we can hopefully get him a new ring soon.

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Buying a Home

We’re thinking about selling our home sometime next year and buying something a little bit bigger. As a result, I’m acutely aware of everything related to real estate. House Hunters episodes on HGTV are even more appealing, because I love looking at the pros and cons to different houses. It’s also crazy to me to see how much the cost of home varies from place to place. What costs $300,000 in a city like Park City, Utah might cost millions in New York. Texas real estate seems especially reasonable by comparison to a lot of other cities!

I’m curious – how do house prices rate in your area?

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How Important is the Landing Page?

I’ve been reading a book about blogging recently, and in it they talk about the value of having a good landing page design. I’m curious, if you’re a blogger – do you have a landing page, or do people come directly to your blog content?  My theme had the option of having a landing page, but I chose not to use one. The theory is that a good landing page provides conversion rate optimization – basically meaning you get more people to act (subscribe, enter giveaways, or in the case of a business, make a purchase). What do you think?

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Tips for Starting a Blog

When I first started my blog, I spent a lot of time planning and doing target marketing research to decide where my blog would fit into the blogosphere. While I mainly wanted to write for fun, I also wanted to, you know, have an audience! I had no clue how many different types of blogs existed; I found everything from fan sites for TV shows to web analytics blogs, and a lot of “mommy blogs” which is where my blog would probably fall.

I thought I’d share a few tips that I learned along the way and that might help you if you’re thinking about starting your own blog:

  • Pick a name that can grow with you. I’ve made my name work as I’ve grown, but I might have picked something broader had I thought it through a little more!
  • Write about what you know, and about what you enjoy. At first I was very narrow in my focus, but then I realized I was missing out on writing about things I really love talking about – cooking, party planning, and crafts have since made their way into my posts.
  • Be clear in what your goals are. Are you solely writing just to write, or do you hope to monetize your blog? Is audience size important to you? How many posts do you hope to publish each week? One year from now, what would you like your blog to be?
  • Pay attention to your stats, but don’t let them consume you. Watch what your busiest days are; some tools will even report back with hour-by-hour traffic, letting you know the best time for posting. There are a lot of marketing analytics products to choose from; play around with them and find the one that works best for your needs.
  • Make friends. Networking is crucial. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers, and have gotten great opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
  • Be social. For a long time I underestimated the importance of presence on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a vital way to connect with readers and let them know about updates – and it’s an easy way for your readers to share things with their friends, vastly expanding your reach.
  • Have fun! It’s not worth spending all your time working on something if you don’t enjoy it – and your attitude shines through your posts, so your readers will benefit if you have fun with what you do.

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PromotionCode.org Review

Whenever we make a purchase online, Brian knows that we always have to search for a promo code first. It’s saved us quite a bit of money over the years, and it’s such a simple thing to do – even easier than clipping out a coupon.

PromotionCode.org is a site that makes hunting for promo codes easy, because it compiles them all in one place. At first glance I noticed there were 60 codes for Apple, 40 for WalMart and 39 for Home Depot. Having so many options for each store increases the likelihood that I’ll find a code that works for my needs, which of course is always a good thing.

I did a search for Target coupon codes and was provided with a list of 26 options. Not too shabby! I really like the way the promo codes are laid out:

At the top of each box it tells you the success rate percentage; some say “Staff Pick” which indicates these are solid codes to use. The comment section in the bottom left was really beneficial – some people shared that it didn’t work on diapers, while others shared exactly where you needed to enter the promotion code for it to work. The other two boxes across the bottom allow users to vote on whether a code worked or failed for them. With just a click of the button you’re able to provide feedback that helps the whole community – brilliant.

The staff at PromotionCode.org is very diligent about keeping the list free of unusable codes. If a code doesn’t work for three days and its percentage of success hits a certain point, the code is removed from the site, saving users from wasting their time.

Another feature I love about the site is the ability to sign up to receive promo codes for stores you frequently shop at. It’s the digital equivalent of having coupons in a newspaper delivered to your doorstep, only it’s free and tailored to your specific needs.

I’ve bookmarked PromotionCode.org and it’ll be a staple for all my online shopping from now on.

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Financing Your Own Business

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? It’s something I’ve thought about on and off for years. I don’t know if it will ever come to fruition but I’d had several ideas – a shop, a cafe, a bakery, or a design firm. I don’t know much about the business or financing side of things, though – that part would completely intimidate me. Places like Lendio exist to help people like me with small business loans and other financing issues. If I ever do start my own business I guess I’ll have to figure out all the details of getting a business loan and writing a business plan. It’s a lot more fun to think of the creative side of it all, though.

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How Do You Pamper Yourself?

If you’re like me (or most moms I know), time to yourself is a rarity. It’s easy to get stressed when you go a long time with no breaks, so I try to do something fun or relaxing at least once a month. Going for a spa day is the ultimate treat – a pedicure, massage, & facial all in one day – not to mention peace and quiet – is so relaxing! My absolute two favorite ways to pamper myself are getting a pedicure or a massage. When I was pregnant with our second son, some really good friends bought me a massage – an hour and a half!! – and it was amazing. I think every pregnant woman deserves at least one massage! I’ve also had a hot stone massage, which was very relaxing – the masseuse placed hot stones between my toes and fingers, on my legs, arms, and back. There are a lot of different types of massage; here are a few I’ve tried:

Swedish Massage – long, smooth motions that are generally fairly gentle

Deep Tissue Massage – targets deeper layers; you might be sore the next day after this kind of massage (this is my favorite kind of massage to get)

Shiatsu Massage – uses localized pressure to release tension in spots. I’ve had this once and it’s my least favorite kind of massage.

Regardless of what kind of treatment you like best, weekend spa breaks would be a lot of fun – I’d love to get together with friends and just relax physically and mentally for a couple of days (not to mention sleep late). Here’s what my ideal spa day would consist of:

  • Hair cut
  • Facial
  • Manicure
  • Pedicure
  • Massage

How amazing would that be to get pampered from head to toe? Maybe that’s what I’ll put on my wish list for my birthday.

How do you pamper yourself? Do you have a favorite spa treatment?

Note: I received compensation for writing this post.

Similac Baby Journal iPhone App

I love my iPhone and use it in a lot of capacities: phone calls and texts, of course, but also surfing the web, e-mailing, scheduling appointments, finding recipes, and entertaining my children. The variety of apps available is astounding, and there are some that are especially useful.

The Similac Baby Journal app is one that I seriously wish had been around when our boys were born, and one I know I’ll be using if we end up having a third child in the future.

When the boys were born, we printed out a sheet to keep track of feedings & diaper changes, because we were so exhausted that it was hard to remember anything. Well, this app takes that one step further and allows you not only to keep track of bottles or breastfeeding (including which side you start feeding on) but also to track trends over a period of day to see how the amount of consumption or length of feeding is changing.

With the bottle feeding screen, you can select how many ounces you start with and then how many you end with.

One of my very favorite aspects about this program is a little button you can push that will connect you with a phone call to get immediate feeding advice. If your child just won’t eat or you’re having trouble getting a latch with nursing, it can be frustrating. Having help at your fingertips like that is invaluable.

You’re also able to keep track of dirty & wet diapers with a touch of the screen:

And you can even keep track of sleep patterns by touching a button on the screen at the start and end of each session:

Along with all the other tools there’s a screen with tips and advice. I like this aspect a lot too, but think it will be even more useful as the resource pool gets larger.

These tools are all really valuable, well-designed and user-friendly. It’s a free app, too – and you can’t really beat free! I would pay for this, though – it’s that useful. If you’d like to get the app on your iPhone or iPod touch, go here or you can find it in the App Store on your device.

Note: I was compensated by Collective Bias – a Similac partner – for my time to review the Similac Baby Journal App. All opinions are my own.

Home Printers

How many of you have a printer in your home? I’d guess that almost all of us with computers have a printer too. Brian and I actually recently bought a new one, because we wanted an all-in-one unit with scanning and copying functions too. We looked at HP and several other brands too until we found the printer that worked best for us. We wanted one that was quick, had good speed, and didn’t use up printer ink too quickly.

I print a lot from home, especially now that I’ve discovered online coupons. I’ve printed photos of the boys, birthday cards, mailing labels, and more. We have an inkjet printer, but one day I’d love to get a laserjet. Its amazing to me the quality of home printers lately – I can still remember the old printer my family had back in the 1980’s – they’ve come a long way!

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Image Editing Software

Both at my job and in blogging, graphic design is a large part of what I do (and love).  Multimedia Software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator is priceless –  with Photoshop especially, knowing how to use it allows me to do so much custom work – for work, for freelance, and for blogging.

Many people, no matter what their profession, are looking for a Digital Picture Editor or an image editing program of some kind. I can honestly say Photoshop is my most-used (and most-valued) software each day.

In fact, I’m using Photoshop right now to update my blog’s look and am really excited about it! Using this program allows me to make things look their best, which makes me look my best.

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