Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Popsocket Review

Handy Tool For Cell Phones And Tablets

Let's review a popsocket today. Chances are you have at least seen a popsocket but you might not have known what it was. Basically, they are a type of grip to attach to your cell phone or even your tablet. Of course not all grips are Popsockets but a whole lot of them are.

popsocket
This woman must not have a popsocket on her phone
image courtesy of pixabay.com

These funky looking discs attach to a phone for a variety of uses. Probably the most popular use is for having a better grip on your cell phone making it less likely to drop it. This comes in real handy if you are the type who likes to carry your phone in your hand instead of your pocket or purse.

People who like to take selfies say the popsocket allows them to hold the phone better for snapping that shot. I'm not one that takes a lot of those so I don't know whether it makes it easier or not.

Popsocket and other brands


Not all of the brands of grips perform like the little popsockets. The uniqueness of this brand is that it is collapsible. It can go flat and then pop out once and then once again in an almost accordion like fashion. I like that you can collapse it when you want to place it flat on a surface and when you want to put it in your back pocket. If it is sticking out an inch or two in your pocket it might look rather alarming to someone behind you. 

You can completely remove the popsocket when you want to. The adhesive is reusable. This comes in handy if you want to re-charge your phone with one of those wireless chargers. There might even be a reason to remove it in order to place it in a different place on your phone. 

Why move it around? Well, another use for the popsocket is that you can use it like a stand. Yep, you can prop your phone up for hands-free time. I don't watch many videos on my phone but a lot of people do and with a popsocket they can prop their phone up on a desk or tabletop and watch without holding on to the phone. I would imagine this would be really nice if you are watching a movie on your phone; I would think you hand would get stiff having to grip for so long.

I even saw an example where someone used two of these handy little discs on the back of their phone to wrap the cord neatly from their earbuds. I thought that was pretty clever! 

Lots of choices

Another really fun thing about these little grippers is that you have a multitude of choices in how they look. You can keep it simple or you can find one that is suited to your tastes and personality. There are colorful ones, elegant looking ones and of course whimsical ones. Some can even be personalized to have a saying of your choice on yours. They aren't very expensive so you could pick one or two and switch them out as your mood changes. 

Personally, I think they would make a great little stocking stuffer for people on your gift list. How about you? Have you got a popsocket?



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Monday, October 14, 2019

My Favorite Hallmark Couples Reviewed

Hallmark has become synonymous with the light romantic comedy with a family friendly happy ending - is that a bad thing?


Ah yes, I have seen quite a few Hallmark movies and through the years a few actors have hit upon a winning chemistry and their movies spurred sequels. Yes, Hallmark fans are aware the story lines are romantic, perhaps formulatic. Long lost loves reuniting is a frequent theme - and we are ok with that! Opposites attract and fall in love - and we are ok with that! The commoner and the royalty fall in love at the palace - and we are ok with that!

Enjoy a few of my favorite Hallmark couples and series; bookmark these movies for a nice two hours of happy entertainment.

Lacey Chabert And Brennan Elliott

The All My Heart series:

This duo have been dubbed the Hepburn And Tracy of The Hallmark Channel and their chemistry and comedic timing are evident. The All Of My Heart series began when both inherited a run down country inn; although neither knew each other prior to the inheritance.

Different worlds and different goals collide as they decide to renovate the home into a Bed And Breakfast.

Travel along their humorous journey of inn renovation when roommates turn into soulmates.

 All Of My Heart
All Of My Heart: Inn Love
All Of My Heart: The Wedding

and now teaming together on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel in Crossword Mysteries.

Jack Wagner And Josie Bissett


Seventeen years after Melrose Place and this duo has teamed up for The Wedding March Hallmark movies.

Mick (Jack Wagner) and Olivia (Josie Bissett) are college sweethearts who unexpectedly meet when Olivia's daughter books her wedding at Mick's charming country inn. Of course Olivia's daughter had no idea of their history and the inevitable sparks of unresolved sweethearts begin to fly.

Once again it is the chemistry that is difficult to ignore as the romance progresses. The quips and banter is witty and natural just as one would expect with long time friends and former co-workers.

The Wedding March Series
The Wedding March:
The Wedding March 2: Resorting To Love
The Wedding March 3: Here Comes The Bride
The Wedding March 4: Something Old, Something New

Rachael Leigh Cook And Brendan Penny

Enter the gorgeous scenery of wine country as this couple navigates competing family run wineries and learning to love their craft and each other along the way.

 The In the Vineyard series highlights the witty banter, competitive humor and likability of the couple.

Add to the mix the very different ways each approaches the business of the vineyard and each other which allows the chemistry to shine.

In The Vineyard Series
Autumn In The Vineyard
Valentine In The Vineyard
Summer In The Vineyard




There are of course more favorite Hallmark movies, click here to find my Top Ten Hallmark Christmas movies.




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Sunday, October 13, 2019

Hurricane Style Lamps - An Outstanding Vintage Heirloom Look

Hurricane Style Lamps - Vintage Heirloom Look
I've stayed a fan of unique lamp designs my entire life. Standard lamps, those we see just about everywhere, are lovely as well. However, there's something incredibly gorgeous about adding a lamp that's not like anything you typically see.

Unique lamps, especially those with a vintage feel, can fit with any decor, even contemporary. If your decor style is to bring amazing pieces into a room, vintage lamps, especially Hurricane Style Lamps, meet that criteria.

Back in the 1980s, when we purchased our second home, lamp selection was a meticulous process for us. I'll never forget the moment I noticed the outstanding, custom hand-blown glass Hurricane Lamp featured on this page. We purchased two, and they're still front and center in our home. No matter how often styles have changed, this design has stood the test of time.

What Are Hurricane Lamps
Hurricane Style Lamp
Custom Hand-Blown Glass

The oil lamp eventually became the Hurricane Oil Lamp invented by Francois-Pierre Aime Argand in 1780. The invention of the glass insert protected the flame from the wind and elements. Over the centuries, Hurricane Lamps progressed in design from oil to electric. 

However, a Hurricane Lamp describes the style of a lamp, and styles can vary. Glass designs and shapes can differ quite a bit. You'll notice when online shopping just how vast the choices are.

The lamps we purchased are similar to Quoizel Lamps. Their style, of course, is vintage Hurricane. They've worked in the main rooms of the home as well as the bedrooms. 

Over the decades they've traveled with us from home to home, and we plan to keep them in the family. They're quite substantial in size, approximately two and a half feet in height.

Where Can You Find Similar Hurricane Lamps

I haven't seen any that match ours. However, I have come across a Quoizel Lamp that is close in design. It's slightly smaller in size, but still lovely. You can view it here on Amazon.

Happy vintage ambient lighting!







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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ace Hardware Store Review



Celebrating 95 years of service

History


In 1924, a small group of hardware store owners in Chicago banded together to buy merchandise in bulk for their individual stores. This allowed them to save money by purchasing at the lowest possible prices, enabling even the smallest stores to compete. This was the beginning of the Ace Hardware Corporation. To this day, each store is owned solely by local Ace retail entrepreneurs.


Background




Today there are over 5,000 Ace Hardware stores around the world. These men and women owners are each part of your local community. As small business owners, they live and work locally and are knowledgeable about their store products and also about the local businesses and their needs. That's why they say a visit to Ace is like a visit to your neighbor. Customers call the owner by his/her first name and the employees know the names of all their regular customers.    



Ace is the Place


Ace stores are all sizes and shapes. Since 2016, I have worked part-time at two widely different sized Ace stores, yet they are basically the same; serving the needs of their local communities. 




I worked for a very large Ace store (Islands Ace) located on the islands East of Savannah, Georgia. This Ace serves local residents and many businesses and contractors. Currently I work for a small Ace store (Jerry's Ace) in a small town located just north of the Quad Cities in Iowa. While this Iowa Ace does not carry the large lots of lumber, or decorative paving stones for patios or the large gardening center that the Georgia Ace does, it meets the needs of the local residents and businesses.  

As with all Ace stores, you will find a wide variety of paint, lawn and garden, tools, and just about anything you'll ever need to fix, repair and maintain your home and yard.  If your local store does not have an item in stock, they can order it for you from AceNet, the online website. You can also order online yourself and arrange to have the item picked up at your local Ace Hardware. All Ace stores order from central warehouses and usually have deliveries of new products arrive once a week. The staff at your local Ace calls the arrival "Truck Day". Unloading and restocking keeps us busy. 

They also offer local niche services. For instance, the Georgia Ace I was with before my move to Iowa had the space for a gift department and a clothing department. Located just 10 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and the beach, their clothing department carries a variety of beach-related clothing and their gift department has locally made merchandise from the Savannah area. This Iowa Ace offers fishing and hunting licenses for local residents. Our Iowa Ace also carries snow blowers and snow shovels and other seasonal items not needed in Georgia! 

As you can see, any Ace store will be based on the needs of each individual neighborhood. Ace Hardware stores are most certainly the place with the 'helpful hardware folks!  Ace is such a 'friendly' place and a 'helpful' place, especially compared to the large, impersonal big stores. 


95th Year Birthday Celebration




On October 19, 2019, Ace Hardware will celebrate 95 years of service. Your local Ace Hardware stores will be offering special sales and events to celebrate. Come visit on October 19th, or any day you need a tool or a can of paint or a part for anything around your house or yard. You won't be disappointed. 



Ace is the Helpful Place! 


Quick Link:

Ace Hardware Website


(c) Wednesday Elf review of Ace Hardware Stores. (10/12/2019)




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Friday, October 11, 2019

Anti Fatigue Comfort Floor Mat By Sky Mats Reviewed

Anti Fatigue Comfort Floor Mat by Sky Mats Reviewed
I would be the first to say, I am extremely surprised that these anti-fatigue mats actually work! 

When we visited our daughter a few weeks ago, she had several anti-fatigue floor mats in her kitchen.  One in front of her sink and one in front of the counter they use when preparing food. Honestly, I thought they were the latest gimmick to separate us from our money.  I stood on one of her mats and thought, "wow, this really is comfortable".

Back home, I promptly ordered two anti-fatigue mats for my own kitchen.  As soon as they arrived, they were immediately placed on the hardwood floor.  Since then, I have prepared two recipes that require a lot of standing time.  Shockingly, I did not hurt after standing for over an hour either time.


Anti-Fatigue Floor Mats By Sky Mats 


Make sure you buy the right brand!  I tried several in the local store and most of them slid to easily.  The Sky mats have a backing that holds them in place.  Plus, they have sloped edges.  Therefore, I won't slip and fall.  That non-slip backing is a huge difference when comparing anti-fatigue floor mats.

The Sky Mats are not available in a lot of different colors or patterns.  Getting hung up on "looks" is what caused me to consider a different brand.  I am so glad I tried them in the store first!  I knew I would prefer comfort over appearance. After all, the reason I need the mats is because of the extreme back pain I experience after standing on my hardwood floors for long periods of time.


Anti Fatigue Comfort Floor Mats by Sky Mats Reviewed

I purchased two different Sky Mats.  They are the same matching color, but they are different lengths.  As you can see in the photos, I have the standard size (20x32x3/4-inch) in front of my kitchen sink.  However, I opted for a longer (24x70x3/4-inch) that covers the area in front of my counter and stove top.  This is totally awesome!  I never have to leave my "cloud of comfort" when preparing, cooking, or cleaning.  Plus, the smaller mat is easy to lift and move if needed.

I enjoy cooking and always hated the subsequent aches and pains.  I no longer have to worry about hurting simply because I need to stand at the counter or stove-top for several hours. That makes the meal so much more enjoyable for me! 










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Thursday, October 10, 2019

Photographing Reflections

One of my favorite things to photograph is reflections.  They can add beauty and interest to any photograph.
The photograph  above shows reflections in a nearby lake.  It was taken early on a foggy morning.  In this post I will review reflection photography techniques and show you some of my results.


Where Can You Find Reflections

The good news is that reflections are everywhere.  As a photographer you just need to train your eyes and camera to look for them.  You can find reflections in water, metal, glass, ice and many other surfaces.  A rainy day when many people might avoid photography can also be a great time to photograph reflections.  

In researching tips for this article, I found many different ideas of how to shoot reflections.  In fact some were contradictory to each other.  So here is my best advice on taking reflections.

It matters more on how you look at things than the type of camera you use.  I have taken good reflections photos with my DSLR, a point and shoot and even my camera.  Train yourself to look for reflections in everything and Practice, Practice, Practice.  In doing this you will learn what works best for you.

Reflections on Water


Water reflections on a still, foggy morning can really add interest to your photograph.  As you can see in the photo above the air was very still and the water was like glass.

On the other hand a little movement in the water can add an interesting abstract quality to your photo as in the photos below.



Water reflections are also a great way to capture a different view of landmarks as you see in the photos below of the St. Louis Gateway Arch.


Reflections on Buildings

The cities are full of buildings  with lots of windows and other reflective materials.  When you are taking a photo of a scene take the time to look at the nearby buildings and catch the reflections in them.  In this photo, I was shooting the Old Courthouse in St. Louis.  I turned to go and noticed the reflection of the courthouse in the nearby building.  I think it gives an interesting look to the photo.


Glass Reflections

Glass picks up lots of reflections.  As I looked in store windows in historic St. Charles, I noticed the interesting reflections I was getting of the street and historic buildings along with the items in store fronts.  I did have to be careful as I shot so I did not capture unwanted images in the reflections.

Here is another interesting reflection in glass.  I was shooting a glass full of jelly beans.  When I look at the photo, I noticed the reflections of the jelly beans in the top half of the glass.  To enhance this look, I played with the sliders in Photoshop Lightroom to bring out the reflections.


Unwanted Reflections

Did you ever take a photo and capture yourself reflected in the item you were photographing?  Sometimes this is good, but mostly it is unwanted.  To prevent this you need to be aware of items that will cause these images and move so that you will not be in the photo.  Here is a photo I took of some Mardi Gras ornaments and captured myself in one of the ornaments.  It was not the look I was after.

Enjoy Yourself and Experiment

I do think that getting great reflection photos is a matter of taking your time, looking at your surroundings and experimentation.  So relax, enjoy your self and happy shooting!!

Zazzle Products from My Reflection Photos





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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord: A Review

I took the photo of the book cover from my own copy and added the quote.

Released from Ravensbrück with a Message for the World

Corrie ten Boom's family worked for the Dutch Resistance when the Nazis occupied their land of Holland during World War II. Corrie wrote of their activities and their consequences in her first book, The Hiding Place.

Until she was fifty years old, Corrie had lived with her family above the watch shop her father owned. After the Nazis took power, the ten Boom family helped hide persecuted Jews in a specially built hiding place in their home. But an informer betrayed them. The Nazis arrested and imprisoned the entire family.

Corrie's father died after a few days. Some family members were released. But Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to Germany and imprisoned in the Ravensbrück women's labor camp for several months, where Betsie died. A clerical error caused the Germans to release Corrie a week before all the women her age were sent to the gas chambers.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1985-0417-15, Ravensbrück, Konzentrationslager
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1985-0417-15 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)]

While imprisoned, Corrie and Betsie had tried to encourage those who had lost all hope. The picture above shows the kind of work these women in Ravensbrück did. The photo above was taken at Ravensbrück a year before Corrie was imprisoned there. This link leads to more photos taken of the prisoners in this camp and their life there. You can see why most had little hope. Most did not leave while alive. They saw the smoke from the crematoriums as they worked. Could anything be more depressing?

In The Hiding Place Corrie explains how God was able to work among the women--even in the barracks of the concentration camp. The book was made into a movie. I recommend it. I saw it when it first came out in 1975.




Corrie's Life After Release

After her miraculous release, for I believe God was behind that clerical blunder, Corrie spent some time regaining her health and reconnecting with the remnants of her old life in Holland. Then, for about twenty more years, she traveled the world spreading her message of God's love and forgiveness. She called herself a tramp for the Lord because she circled the world twice, living out of a suitcase, with no real home to call her own. I call her an ambassador for Christ, for she carried his message of reconciliation wherever she went. She chose the title for her book because it reflects her lifestyle during those years. It is the sequel to The Hiding Place.


Corrie's Message Was Consistent


Corrie had suffered hardship and betrayal. She had watched as her sister died due to conditions in the concentration camp, illness, and the cruelty of a particular guard. She had slept with fleas and lice. She had almost starved to death. But still she spoke of God's love and faithfulness to her.

During nightly Bible times  in the barracks, she gave hope to many women without any. She had managed to sneak a Bible in and she used it for spiritual strength for herself, Betsie, and anyone else who wanted to participate. (That story is in this book.)

Corrie's message was one of reconciliation. She told stories as she shared the convicting and healing words of the Bible. One of her most frequent themes dealt with the bitterness that many have when they believe they have suffered injustice or betrayal. She taught that the cure was forgiveness. On p. 59 she says, "If we forgive other people, our hearts are made ready to receive forgiveness."

But God has a way of testing us so that we will know ourselves. Corrie was not exempt from that testing.

One night Corrie spoke about God's forgiveness at a church in Munich. She had told the assembled Germans that when we confess our sins, God casts them into the deep ocean and they are gone forever.

And then she saw a man approaching her in an overcoat and a brown hat. Except she suddenly saw him as she had known him before -- in a blue uniform and a visored cap with a skull and crossbones. The man had been one of the most cruel guards at Ravensbrück. As he thrust his hand out he said it was good to know all his sins were at the bottom of the sea. He seemed not to recognize Corrie. He told her he'd been a guard there, but had become a Christian now.

He said, '...I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips, as well....will you forgive me?' Out came his hand again.

All Corrie's memories of the terrible times and the way her sister died flooded her mind. Corrie wrote: "And I stood there--I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven--and could not forgive."

She wrestled with God internally over the hardest thing He had ever asked of her. She wrote "For I had to do it--I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. 'If you do not forgive men their trespasses,' Jesus says, 'neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.' I refer you to Chapter 7 in Tramp for the Lord to see what happened next.

I took the photo of the book cover from my own copy and added the quote.
Each chapter of Tramp for the Lord is short, but Corrie doesn't need a lot of words to share what she has learned through her suffering and from the Bible. I was impressed most by the fact that Corrie was an ordinary Christian quietly making watches and doing her best to obey God when she was arrested. She had learned to trust God before prison, and she kept trusting Him during those months at Ravensbrück in spite of the horror of her surroundings and the cruelty she suffered and witnessed.

She continued to trust him on a daily basis as she traveled the world as a tramp for the Lord. He remained faithful in providing her needs until her death on her 91st birthday in 1983. When she said "He made me rich" she didn't mean materially rich. He supplied all her needs so she would not have to ask for money. He gave her peace, forgiveness, and the victory that comes with obedience.





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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Kathi Daley Books Reviewed

Prolific Cozy Mystery Author

I'll be reviewing one of my newly found Cozy Mystery authors today, Kathi Daley. From the list of books she has published, she may be one of the most prolific Cozy authors I have come across. I've read many of them by the way but none who have published as many as Kathi Daley.

kathi daley
Living with views like this seem to inspire Kathi Daley
image courtesy of pixabay.com
According to her bio, Ms. Daley lives near Lake Tahoe. I wasn't too surprised when I read where she lives with her family because as I read Answers In The Attic which is book four in her Inn at Holiday Bay series she describes a few scenes at the shoreline. Her words formed a description in my head that made me think, she has seen that scene. She had lived it. It really isn't even an integral part of the plot but it is descriptions like hers that polish a story. I read that she uses her picturesque surroundings as inspirations for many of her books and the series she has created.


A Little Something For Everyone


After reading one of her books, I decided to check out what else she had written. Currently, I'm reading Romeow and Juliet (book one) in the series Whales and Tales. I'm enjoying it even more than the Answers In The Attic. So, out of curiosity I looked to see what else she has written. Mainly to start a list of other books to possibly read. Let me tell you, there is a series by Kathi Daley for just about anyone's taste. I read that in 2014 she published twelve books in that one year. That is a book a month, people! Being an author myself, that is impressive, very impressive. I thought I was cranking mine out in a fairly rapid pace but it takes me longer than a month to finish a book. I digress.

To date, she has twelve or thirteen cozy mystery series to choose from:
  • Zoe Donovan Mysteries
  • TJ Jensen Mysteries
  • Whales and Tails
  • Sand and Sea
  • Writers Retreat Southern Seashore
  • Tess and Tilly
  • Seacliff High
  • The Inn at Holiday Bay
  • A Hathaway Sister
  • Haunting By The Sea
  • Rescue Alaska
  • A Cat In The Attic
I'm probably going to have to sample at least one in each of her series. She has even written a cookbook featuring recipes from one of her main characters Zoe Donovan. I haven't read any in that series yet but I probably need to. There are something like thirty-two books in that series alone. 

I mentioned that the first book of Kathi Daley that I read was one of the books in the Inn at Holiday Bay. I'm not certain but I think her premise in that series is to be able to feature the holidays celebrated throughout the year. The book I read was number four in the series and featured July 4th with mentions of fun things they planned for Halloween. Personally, as an author, I think that is brilliant! I have be honest, it actually has inspired me. There is a new character in my head who is screaming for me to write her story but I hadn't come up with a solid idea for what the series would revolve around. She seems to want to have a bookstore or at least I think she does but nothing solid has come to the left hemisphere of my brain just yet. It just might be fun to have a sub-theme of holidays in whatever shop my new character decides to do business in. I'll let you know when she and I come up with a plan.

Anyway, I thought I would introduce you to this Cozy Mystery author today. I think you will find at least one of her series to be to your liking. Caitlin Hart, the main character in the Whales and Tails series is pretty funny, I'm really enjoying her a lot. If you are looking for a new book to read, I recommend taking a look at her books. I seriously don't think you will be disappointed in any that you might choose.




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Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: The Naturalist's Notebook by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich

The Naturalist's Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You is a beautiful, hardcover book that is an excellent purchase for any person who loves the great outdoors. Whether the reader's interest is plants, climate, gardening, birds or other outdoor pursuits, this is a perfect place to jot a daily note about the experience.


Appreciating and documenting the natural world.

The Naturalist's Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich is part how-to write field notes, part inspirational, and part 5-year calendar. This book is a way to document and appreciate your natural surroundings.


"In the words of writer Richard Mabey, natural history is "a meeting place for wild life and human feeling" - Nathaniel T. Wheelwright 

The illustrations are wonderful. If you click the Amazon link, you'll be able to view some of the artwork using the "Look Inside" feature. I love these type of illustrations.




The pages are thick paper rather than thin paper or glossy paper. This paper stock is good for keeping the journal entries from bleeding through the pages as well as compliments the rustic illustrations. 

The written portion of the book is clearly written by people who love our natural world. Their passion translates from the page to the reader - motivating the reader to immediately begin being more aware outdoors.

The written chapters are:
  • Chapter One - Being Attentive
  • Chapter Two - How to Become an Observant Naturalist I
  • Chapter Three - How to Become an Observant Naturalist II
  • Chapter Four - A Naturalist's Toolbox
  • Chapter Five - Simple Experiments as a Way of Learning
  • Chapter Six - Knowing Nature Where You Are
  • Epilogue - Bird by Bird


Followed by a 5-Year Calendar-Journal. The calendar grid is numbered in such a way that you can begin on any date and any year, by adding the year in the blank spot on the left side of the pages and writing under the number that corresponds with the date. 
  • The Naturalist's Notebook ends with:
  • Personal Glossary for Abbreviations and Symbols
  • Useful Books
  • Metric Conversion
  • Timelines for Species and Events You Follow
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Authors


I am really happy to have this notebook that both validates my love of the natural world that surrounds me as well as helps me to think about my observation skills. This book also helps me to appreciate the efforts of those who came before me. This is not an in-depth study of people such as Lewis and Clark, Henry David Thoreau, and others. But it does remind us of what a great impact their documentation of the natural world had on us. Or a biology text book. 

This book is a timely and important reminder that the natural world is important and lessons come from our own personal awareness and appreciation of the changes and seasons around us. 

Related Link:

I already sometimes document the natural world around me when I'm camping in the mountains. It is easy to notice the wildlife, weather, and plants while I'm at The Shack. I sometimes document through photography but I want to become better at documenting things more specifically. For example: exactly where and when I saw this beautiful newt. I'd like to increase my chances of finding one in the future. As the terrain there changes, I hope newts continue to live there. 

found during my hike in April




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Sunday, October 6, 2019

How to Get Started on that eBook You've Been Meaning to Do for Decades

How to Get Started on that eBook You've Always Wanted to Do

Have You Ever Wanted to Write an eBook But Didn’t Know Where to Start?  

That’s where I was. For decades I kept saying, "I want to do a book of my lifetime poems," and kept putting it off. Finally, I took the plunge and just recently completed the book. The poems were already written, and it took me about a month to learn the ropes and put the book together. It’s a book of personally written poems and lyrics from the age of 8 to 58, entitled "We Will Have Morning Smiles."

As a newbie self-publisher, I’d like to share a few of the tools I researched and used to get this first book on the market. These are just the basics, to learn from the guru’s you’ll have to Google and find the ones you like. I did watch multiple YouTube Videos from various people, and the advice I found most helpful was Self-Publishing with Dale. I tripped on his videos after endless Google research. Compared to some, his video presentations were the easiest to follow. 

My First eBook of Poems
The advice in his videos are helpful, but to be honest, I didn’t follow all of it. One bit of information was that you should use a professional to create the cover of your book (if you can). I didn’t do that; I created my own. However, I do agree that a professional is a better way to go. 

The other is that you should, if you can, hire a professional to ‘Format’ your book. Yep, you guessed it; I didn’t do that. I formatted my own. Formatting isn’t easy, especially with a poetry book, but you can do it if you’re willing to read and learn.

Here are Three Quick Points to Help You Get Started:

1. Create Your KDP Publisher Account on Amazon - This is Where You'll Upload Your Book for Publishing

That part is easy. However, when you start filling all the information in, you'll have a lot of questions. The good thing is, KDP has a terrific help section, and customer service answers questions very quickly.

2. Google Documents or Microsoft Word - Where You'll Write Your Book

I wasn’t sure how to get a book written, formatted, then uploaded to Amazon or any other sellers platform.

After reading multiple articles on how to get started, I was more confused. 

What I found was that most people use Microsoft Word to write their books. Since I don’t have the full paid version of Word on my Laptop, I decided to use Google Documents. However, you do have to save your work in .docx format to upload it to Kindle Create (see more about Kindle Create below). 

To save your google document to a .docx format:

  • Click ‘File’ in the top left
  • Scroll down to ‘Download’
  • Several file saving options will show, choose (.docx)
  • Save the file to your computer. Done.

Oh, and guess how much I knew about Google Documents? Yep. Nada. I never had a reason to use it. However, I should have been! It’s a terrific tool. I’m using it for a ton of things now. So easy. I’m currently helping a family member out with a project and have been sharing work via Google Documents. No wonder people like it!

Here’s another google docs tip for you: 

In google docs, you can auto-generate a Table of Contents. However, on the editing bar, look for the button that says, “Normal Text." There’s a dropdown menu there that lets you choose various Heading options. 

Your Heading choices are essential because they determine what goes in your table of contents, and where:
  • Heading 1 - Puts the title as a Chapter Heading in your Table of Contents
  • Heading 2 - Places it as a Sub-Chapter below a Chapter

With my poetry book, sub-chapters were important. The main chapters are the headings that describe the types of poems, and the sub-chapters are each poem by title below it.
This is the Back Cover
It appears at the end of
the eBook on the inside

3. Download Kindle Create - Kindle Create is Where You'll Format Your Book for Publishing

There are conflicting views on using this. I would guess very experienced self-publishers don't need it.

Since I’m a newbie and Kindle Create was easy to understand, it served my needs. I’ll be using it again, at least until I become some sort of a pro. 

Download Kindle Create to your computer directly from Amazon. Then watch the video tutorials and read the help section. They’re fabulous.

Upload your saved book (either from Word or Google Docs - if that’s what you used), into Kindle Create. 

The file that's created in Kindle Create is the file you'll eventually upload to your KDP Amazon Publisher Account.

A Few Tips to Share: 

  • Kindle create generates a Table of Contents for you
  • However, I still created a detailed Table of Contents in Google Docs
  • I included both Tables of Contents in my book - The detailed Table of Contents with Sub-Chapters is from Google Docs, the other from Kindle Create only features the main chapters (because I designed it that way). You don’t have to do this, but I wanted more of a break-down.
  • It appears you can't directly internally link on your document while inside of Kindle Create. 
  • Do all your internal linking in Word or Google Docs before you upload it to Kindle Create.

Remember, these are the basics for beginner self-publishers like me. I wanted to give you a way to get started on your own ebook because I know how daunting getting started can seem.




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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Reviewing FlexClip, a Free, Online Video Maker

How to make videos for social media sharing for FREE!
When it comes to social media it really seems as though video is king, but how can you create videos to promote yourself without buying expensive video equipment and having to learn new videography skills?   You use an online video maker!   I have tried a few different online video makers and have found they all have pros and cons, today I'm going to talk to you about FlexClip.

FlexClip are a completely free video maker which is awesome, but they also offer 2 other plans - basic and plus which offer better quality videos, longer videos and the ability to do more projects - they also allow you to add a custom watermark.

I love the fact that you can use it for free and see if you like it before committing to buying a plan.   The other thing I love is that when you make a video it doesn't include a watermark as many of the other free online video makers do.

Making a Video from Stills 


Now I am only reviewing using this to make videos from still images, but you can use it with video which I haven't had a chance to do yet.

So the actual making of the video is pretty simple and it tells you exactly how to do it BUT one of the biggest problems I felt with the program was that I could not find out what size images were best to be used.   They have lots of articles for you to read for help, but there doesn't appear to be a search function for you to simply ask the question you have which is a shame.

They list common FAQs for you to search, but when your question doesn't appear in there it is a little disheartening.

My first video was for my Arbonne business and you can see that I should've used different sized images.


What I really liked when I made this video was adding the music, there was a lot of Christmas music available for me to use.

The music that is available is definitely something that I think is good as other online video makers that I have used have not had as many different options as FlexClip.

As I enjoyed making that video I quickly turned around and made one for the offline business I work with, I still hadn't found what size images I should be using so used ones that I thought should be okay - I think they worked.

I used a different text style in this video and there are quite a few different options to use when adding text as well which I think is another positive.


I used both of these videos on Facebook and the quality seemed really good on there.

Adding Backgrounds to Images

I did have a play around and found that where I have images that aren't really the best size for this program I could add a colored background which really seemed to help.

Video Templates


FlexClip also offer a number of video templates which look great and depending on your business you may like to use them.   I have used video templates in the past, but I usually prefer to create my own initially when trying out a platform.

There are definitely a couple of the templates that I could see myself using in the future though.


My Thoughts on FlexClip


I really had my reservations when I first used it because I couldn't get an answer to my image size, but I did like all the other features and I think when I use it more I'll naturally get a feel for the size that works best anyway.

I am keen to try uploading videos and editing them (I only have my phone for taking videos so that could be interesting!) and when I do that I will review that aspect and link to it from here.

I would definitely recommend trying the free version and love, love, love that it doesn't have their logo on your videos as it looks so much better when sharing.   I am also seriously considering purchasing one of the plans as I think it's great for promoting for bloggers, zazzlers, affiliate marketers, social marketers as well as brick and mortar businesses.








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Friday, October 4, 2019

Rubbermaid Mini Cooler (5 quart) Reviewed

Rubbermaid Mini Cooler ReviewThe Rubbermaid Mini Cooler is perfect for the car!

We keep our Rubbermaid mini cooler on the floorboard in our car anytime we are going to be driving for more than a few hours.  

Sometimes, I just like to get out and go for a drive, but I don't wish to go without water.  And, I am no particularly fond of warm bottled water.  I prefer it to be cold, especially during the hot summer months.

Both my husband and I keep a bottled water in the cup holders.  However, if we are driving for a while, we end up drinking all of that one bottle and need another.  That is where the mini cooler becomes a necessity.

Yes, we could stop at a gas station or convenience store for additional water, but there isn't always one around when we need it.  Plus, bottled water or sodas are more expensive when sold individually.

This little cooler has become our regular travel companion in all of our vehicles. 



The Rubbermaid Mini Cooler Features


Rubbermaid Mini Cooler Reviewed
We have had our mini cooler for decades and it has served us well!  We have never felt a need to replace it.  I love things that can be bought once (especially at a reasonably low price) and used forever.  This little cooler has seen more places than I can remember.  Great for picnics, outings, or even pool side for those of us who don't want to track back into the house for a cool drink or snack.

It is perfect for cars, boats, motorcycles (with saddle bags), private airplanes, hot air balloons, or any recreational vehicle that has a small storage area.

It will hold 4 bottled waters (standard size - 16.9 oz) or 6 canned drinks, depending on the size of your blue ice packet.  For the cans, you would need a thin ice pack that can lay on top.  Of course, you could always fit regular ice cubes around the cans.  I started using the blue ice packets because they are less mess than melted ice (water).  Another alternative, there is a threaded hole in the lid for a Rubbermaid screw-in ice pack, but we have never used it.

You could also use it as a lunch box since it would easily hold a drink, sandwich and a few side containers.  In the hot car, I have been known to harbor a candy bar in the mini cooler along with our water or sodas.  

Rubbermaid Mini Cooler Reviewed


The Rubbermaid mini cooler is made of  hard plastic type material, therefore it doesn't get smashed or crashed when packed with luggage.  It has an easy carry rotating handle.  Because it is small, it is extremely easy to wash in the kitchen sink, when needed.  Most of the time though, ours only requires a quick wipe with a damp cloth and we are all set to go for our next long drive. 

We recently made an 11 hr. drive.  When we arrived at our destination hotel, the remaining water was still cool. We carried our little cooler to our hotel room with us. It makes an awesome hotel companion if the room doesn't have a mini-fridge!

I would like to note, my mini cooler in the photos is an older version of the featured cooler below.  I sure would love to have that blue one.  Isn't it pretty?!!


If you prefer, you can buy one like mine on eBay

 








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