Showing posts with label Brite-Ideas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brite-Ideas. Show all posts

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Review of 3 Free Useful Services for the Self-Publishing Maniac

3 free self-publishing tools

As many of you already know, I've been on a self-publishing journey for several years. 

I have to say that I understand what it means to truly love what you do! I find all I want to do is create activity books.

Self-publishing is an endless learning curve. I spend a ton of time listening to "Guru" training on YouTube and investigating products and services to make the process easier.

If you're a self-publisher, I thought I'd share some must-have tools. 

1. ISBN Barcode Generator

If you are using your own ISBN numbers (the number that goes on the back of your book, on the pricing barcode), you'll need to generate a barcode to put on the back of your book. 

My favorite free service is Bookow - here is the link to Bookow

The service is free, but they do offer an opportunity to make a donation if you so choose.

There are many other free barcode generator services online, but Bookow is my favorite.

2. KDP Cover Calculator:

If you're self-publishing books through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Amazon's self-publishing service, you'll want to keep the KDP Cover Calculator page saved for easy access.

To ensure the cover's margins are correctly allocated, you'll want to create a template you can save and bring over to the design platform you're using to make your cover. 

You'll need to know how many pages your book is, so don't bother creating your cover until you do! 

KDP Cover Calculator is easy - simply fill in the blanks and download the cover template.

Here's the link to KDP Cover Calculator.

3. Canva for Professional Cover and Interior Designs:

Canva offers a free version; however, I've recently switched to the paid version. 

The free version works perfectly fine, and if you're just starting your self-publishing journey, go with the free version to start. That's what I did. 

There's a learning curve with Canva; however, it's worth it! In 2019 I published my first book and had no idea how to create my own cover from scratch. Eventually, I was able to use KDP's cover creator and import my own front page. 

For a while now, I've been able to fully design my own covers with my own ISBN numbers and barcodes. I was baffled and intimidated about all of this a few years ago! After much practice and reading, it is much less daunting today. 

Once you get the swing of it, you'll be able to create some gorgeous covers using Canva.

This lady on YouTube has an excellent beginner tutorial on Canva.

You can check out Canva.com here




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, September 18, 2022

A Portable Air Purifier For Single Room Use - 5 Star Review

Portable Air Purifier - Review

We needed an air purification system for our bedroom that was non-intrusive and effective.

Fortunately for us, our son already had this particular model in his room for several years.

Since we knew the product had been tested, we decided to go ahead and get one for our bedroom.

The RENPHO Hepa Air Purifier Filter Replacement

Before purchasing this item, I asked my son about filter replacement. 

There are two dogs in his room, so it's safe to say that this filter gets a run for its money.

Although you can't wet this filter, he extends the use by cleaning the external dust off of it with a small portable mini-vacuum. 

He doesn't replace the filter very often; he said a few times per year is all. However, he pointed out that his filter gets a good workout because of his dogs. Since the dogs aren't in our bedroom, I expect that replacing the filter will only be once a year for our room - maybe twice.

What I Like About the RENPHO Hepa Air Purifier

  • It's lightweight. It only weighs about 6.5 pounds.
  • It's not very large and sits comfortably on a tabletop surface. 
  • It measures 11 by 5.7 by 11.4 inches.
  • No assembly is required, just remove all the plastic and plug it in.
  • No batteries are required.
  • It has rapid purification refreshing the air 5 times an hour in a room of 103 ft² / 9.6 ㎡, and is made for a room of approximately 206 square feet. Our room is about 300 square feet, and it cleans the air nicely.
  • It has a three-in-one Hepa filtration system capturing 99.97% of airborne contaminants as small as .3 microns (such as pet hair and dander).
  • Has 4 fan speeds.
  • A quiet feature also reduces the fan noise and turns off the light at night.
  • Easy to use. Plug-in set your fan speed, and that's it.
Here's a photo of the filter on our dresser:




We purchased our Hepa Air Filter from Amazon. There's additional detailed information at that link on the Amazon page. 

If you need a compact air filter, personally, I give this product five stars.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, September 4, 2022

How to Get an ISBN Number for Self-Published Books and What is an Imprint?

 

How to get an ISBN Number for Self-Published Books and What is an Imprint

Over the past couple of years, I've been sharing my self-publishing journey.

Although I've published 16 activity books to date, built a website to promote them, and created a social media following, I'm not an expert! I wanted to stipulate that upfront. 

This article addresses some of the questions I had about ISBN Numbers and Imprints and what I've learned firsthand.

After checking out this article, you should google this topic; there are so many incredibly qualified professionals on this subject. 

During my many hours of research, this is one of my favorite articles on the topic of Imprints - worth the read.

My Own Googled Questions About ISBNs and Imprints:

1. What is An ISBN - For the purposes of this article, I include it for You

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It's the little hard-to-read 13-digit unique number inside the Barcode on the back of a book. It identifies the book nationally and internationally. I won't get into much more about ISBNs for this article. There's more to understand, but we'll leave it here.

2. Every Book (Other than Low Content Books) Needs/is Assigned an ISBN Number on Amazon (and other Self-Publishing Platforms) - However, you can put your own ISBN on low-content books

If you've ever self-published on Amazon, you'll understand what I'm talking about. 

During the Amazon KDP book upload process, you'll be asked whether you want to provide your own ISBN and associated Barcode or if you would like Amazon to provide one for free. 

I started self-publishing in 2019, and due to a lack of knowledge, I opted for Amazon's free ISBN.

As a side note, eBooks don't need ISBNs, although I assigned my own to every ebook from the beginning. I did that because I knew I wouldn't have to worry about how in the heck to get a barcode and put it on the darn book! 

Barcode uploads and where to get them, along with the ISBN numbers, had me in a pickle when just starting out! 

So I took the easy way out in those early days. 

That was smart for me because I wasn't sure how long I would be committed to this self-publishing journey. Today, in 2022, I'm fully committed, so it was time to learn much more!

3. Where to Get an ISBN Number?

Canada:
Canadians are very lucky; ISBNs are free through the Government of Canada (ISBN Canada, also known as Library and Archives Canada). Sign up here, create an account, get your numbers, follow the instructions, and best of all, the customer service is fantastic! 

USA:

For those in the United States, you can get them through a company called Bowker. Unfortunately, they're not free, not even close to free. As of this date, one ISBN can cost approximately $125 and ten ISBNs are $295. You can view their pricing page here.

4. Where to Create a Barcode to Upload Onto Your Book When You're Providing Your ISBN?

The Barcode is pretty easy to create. This is the website I use to create my barcodes

5. Use Amazon's Template Generator to Figure Out Where the Barcode Goes When Creating Covers

Here is a link to Amazon's template generator. It creates a template you can put over the top of your book cover, so you know the margins and where the Barcode goes. 

*TIP* If you're using Canva to create book covers, drag the template over the properly measured custom design and increase the transparency so you can see through the template.

6. What is an Imprint? This confused me the most!

Amazon asks for the 'Imprint' information when you're providing your own ISBN.

I will not attempt to give you an in-depth explanation of  Imprints because, honestly, I could never do it justice! 

Provided below is a summary and a link to an excellent article from Ingram Spark about Imprints:

According this Ingram Spark Article: "The Imprint Page is the page that appears on the back of the Title Page. It contains everything we need to know about who wrote the book, who the publisher is, how we can contact them, where the book was printed, what the ISBN is"

7. Choosing An Imprint Name

There are so many things to consider when choosing your imprint name. Yikes. That's a whole other topic.

Famous publishing companies have multiple Imprint names. For example, Penguin House has nearly 275 independently published imprints. 

From what I've read so far, an Imprint doesn't have to be a legally named identifier. However, for goodness sake, don't pick a name that could be a copyright violation against another company!

With ISBN Canada, where I register my ISBN numbers, there are alternate identities (besides my own name) that I can list that relate to my book(s). 

Since I built a website called StumpedRiddles.com and feature all my activity books there, I added "Stumped Riddles" to my ISBN Canada profile as an identifier attached to my name. I use Stumped Riddles as my Imprint name.

You can get creative with your Imprint identifier that goes inside your book.

Here's the Imprint I created that will go at the bottom of my book's copyright page.

If you're in the USA and using Bowker to get your ISBNs, I'm sorry I can't help you with whether you can list alternate identities for the purpose of Imprints associated with the ISBN. 

8. Did You Know You Can Search for Any ISBN Online?

There's a website called ISBN Search that allows you to enter the ISBN for any book to help you find it. 

Ok, that's enough for today; self-publishing is a constant learning curve!

Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

  1. Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher
  2. Matte or Glossy Book Covers
  3. Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher
  4. 5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools
  5. 3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher
  6. How to Get Started on Your First eBook
  7. 5 Handy FREE Tools for Self-Publishing
  8. Newbie TikTok for Business 

Barbara's Author Page on Amazon 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, August 28, 2022

Self Publishing 100 Activity Books - A Huge Personal Goal

Self Publishing 100 Activity Books

Most of you who know me know that I have a goal of publishing 100 activity books.

Although this goal is ingrained in my being, I had no idea how to achieve that milestone.

My Newest Activity Book, Easy Sudoku for Adults, Helped Me Breakthrough Being Stuck - Let me Share How

Since 2019, I've published 14 activity books and 1 poetry book for a total of 15 books. That figure includes the newest book "Easy Sudoku for Adults." I've been stuck, and it is absolutely part of the process.

"The How Breakthrough"

I'm not one to wallow in problems. Without a doubt, finding solutions is part of who I am. In the case of finding a way to publish 100 activity books, I've had to think and think and think!

There are numerous 'how-to' videos on self-publishing; I've watched many of them. The guidance is out there; however, finding what works for you and how to implement suggestions is hard.

Most importantly, many how-to's include an automation process that isn't personal. 

Automating is essential, but not at the expense of your product's quality or personalization. Having said that, I've found an efficient way to automate WITH personalization.

So, in summary, work as hard as you can to automate and duplicate, but still, keep your books personal to you. In other words, don't just upload auto-generated activities or content, but do find a way to generate them so you can personalize them!

Never Compromise Quality

  • Finding programs that generate your puzzles (or whatever your project is) can help. However, they are not the answer to speed! 
  • To achieve volume, you need speed, but not at the expense of quality.
  • You still have to find a way to personalize your book. Make them a reflection of you!
  • Check the negative reviews on the competition of other books in your genre. Use those negative reviews as tips for your newly created book.
  • When creating a book, always think about fulfilling a need or solving a problem. 
  • Think about the consumer.
  • Take pride in your creations; after all, your name is attached to them.
  • Oh, that's another thing; I only use my given name, which keeps me honoring my own personal level of integrity.
  • Don't take negative reviews to heart. You will get them; they do hurt. But use those to improve your books! 
  • With Amazon self-publishing, I aim to stay within a three to five-star review rating on each book. So far, so good. 
  • I'm all over negative reviews! I read them, and if the complaint is legitimate, I modify my book based on that review ONLY if it makes sense!
  • Don't be afraid to completely revamp a book if you believe it will help your overall reviews to be positive. I re-did the layout of all 7 of my riddle books for both paperback and ebook versions! That project re-do took me three months!
Automating Includes Developing a Functioning, Duplicatable System
  • Find and use a word processing systems that allow for easy duplication for the next book in a series.
  • Develop consistent templates that can be used, reused, and modified.
For Those Who Don't Have Expensive Word Processing or Other Graphics Programs, Here's What I Use
  • I don't have the paid version of Microsoft Word, so I downloaded "Liberty Office" for free. I use those for my Riddle Books.
  • I use the free version of Canva for my Wordsearch and Sudoko books and probably all other activity books I have yet to create.
  • I create my own book title pages using the free version of Adobe, Adobe-Spark.
  • I use the free version of "Gimp" to change the DPI on my book covers to printable quality.
Create a Website That Will House All of Your Books
  • I plan to expand to other self-publishing companies. I'm only publishing on Amazon's KDP, but my long-term plan is to expand to other self-publishing services. I'm in the middle of learning more about that process. My brain hurts, lol. With your own website, you can direct all your marketing to your website so that when you do expand to other self-publishing companies, you can simply add those options directly to your website. 
  • I rarely ever direct link to Amazon when marketing my books. I don't like having links out there that could potentially change! For that reason, I link to my website.
  • Decide upon a navigation system on your website that makes sense with the books you are creating. I have created a menu on my website that features; Riddles, Answers, Wordsearch Books, and Sudoku Books. I can expand that as I make more books. 
  • When you're creating your site, give thought to your planned growth.
My Final Tip for Today:

You HAVE TO LOVE what you're doing. If you don't, doing the work necessary to achieve any goals is challenging.

I've been stuck along the way, and it's very frustrating. So frustrating that I questioned myself about my goals. But I've long since realized that my goals are real and attainable. 

The biggest tips I can offer anyone taking on a project/passion like this are:
  1. Don't quit.
  2. Keep going.
  3. Take breaks.
  4. Develop duplicatable systems.
  5. Be willing to learn from your own mistakes.
  6. Be ready to make changes.
  7. Take breaks when you're fed up.
  8. Celebrate every book you publish.
  9. Don't let that look of doubt on the face of others affect you in any way.
  10. Monitor the sales activity for the books in your genre.
  11. Keyword research every book you create.
  12. Make sure your goal is what you want.
  13. Visualize where you want to be in a year.
  14. And as my friend Margaret said to me once, "Trust Yourself." I have carried that piece of advice with me for years. Thank you, my friend.
Introducing My 15th Activity Book - Easy Sudoku for Adults




Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

  1. Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher
  2. Matte or Glossy Book Covers
  3. Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher
  4. 5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools
  5. 3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher
  6. How to Get Started on Your First eBook
  7. 5 Handy FREE Tools for Self-Publishing





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Newbie TikTok for Business Tips - Check it Out

Newbie TikTok for Business
A Review of Newbie TikTok for Business Tips

In my last post, I talked about how I was just starting out with my plunge into the world of TikTok

Today's post will expand a bit further on some of the additional things I've learned.

The Previous Post Focused on How You Can Upload Photos to TikTok, Versus Creating Videos

Many who stay away from TikTok for Business do so because they don't want to put themselves on video. 

Most of us small businesses can't afford to hire companies to create videos, so we believe TikTok is not a viable business tool.

I was like most everyone: I thought TikTok only worked for video creations. Having said that, uniquely interesting, useful, and even funny video creation is the best way to market for business on TikTok.

However, because I write Riddle Books featuring my own written riddles, I found myself potentially being an exception to that rule. 

Using TikTok to feature my riddles is an excellent marketing tool. 

I upload my created graphics for each riddle, then enhance their interest with special fun characters and music.

Do you have interesting images you could enhance and promote on TikTok?

You can enhance your photos with:

  • Text to Speech
  • Voice Over (if you want to use your voice)
  • Special Elements (funny icons etc)
  • Text
  • Background Music

Did You Know There Are Places Online to Get Royalty Free Video?

I hadn't really thought about it before ... that I could access royalty-free video just like we access royalty-free photos.

The two places I've used so far for photos and videos are Pixabay.com and Pexels.com. Be sure to check the commercial license use for each image and video.

When you select a video for TikTok, use a vertical video.

Newbie Ways to Use TikTok for Your Small Business - Ask Yourself These Questions:

1. Do you have premade, attractive graphics that people would find interesting to look at? 

If the answer is yes, consider TikTok. Enhance that photo with special elements and background music.

Here's an example of one of mine on TikTok.

2. Do you have text that you've incorporated on your photo?

If the answer is yes or no, consider TikTok. With TikTok, you can add text to your photos, so there's no need to make photos with text if you prefer not to.

Here's one of my riddles on TikTok with a plain photo background, text entered from TikTok, with text-to-read activated, directly on TikTok:

3. Would adding text to a stock video be appealing for your product or brand?

If the answer is yes, consider TikTok. I'm currently experimenting with this by putting riddle text typed onto the background of stock videos. It's working artistically so far.

Here's an example of one of my riddles on TikTok using a stock video.

4. Are you able to make short videos from your cell phone?

If the answer is yes, consider TikTok.

These videos don't have to be fancy.

Just panning my backyard, I was able to put a short background video together. 

I uploaded that short backyard video to TikTok, and commenced the creative journey. You can view that riddle here.

Here's an Example of One of My Riddle Graphics Used on TikTok:

Check out how I enhanced this for TikTok




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, August 7, 2022

My Plunge Into the TikTok World for Marketing, Business and Fun!

Stumped Riddles TikTok

I reluctantly took the plunge into the TikTok marketing world.

Out of pure stubbornness, I vowed to avoid that particular social media platform. However, I had a come-to-reality moment, encouraged by my son, that my riddle business would be served well by that platform.

In quite a short time, my son has nearly 27,000 followers and over 263,000 likes, all with approximately 40 personal video uploads. That's not easy to do and quite impressive!

His TikTok handle is @charles.mackenzie if you want to take a peek. Just an added note, in all fairness to us mere humans, my son has a knack for being in front of the camera. However, as I detail below, you don't have to be on camera to benefit from TikTok.

I'm A Newbie TikTok User for Business - The Basics

Since I'm a newbie, I can't give you any big secret tips, but I can provide those of you with a business, some of the things I've learned so far as it relates to my own riddle business:

  • Go to the APP Store on your cell phone, and download the Tiktok App
  • Yes, you can log in to your TikTok account on your laptop; however, I found all the creative features more accessible via my cell phone.
  • When you download the App, you're on the service, not registered yet to use it. You can scroll through the videos and have fun. Oh yeah, it's a bit addictive.
  • Create your account to set yourself up to use TikTok for business. I won't go through the steps; simply follow the instructions and prompts.
  • I converted my account to a Business Account. There's no charge for that. Here are TikTok's instructions on how to do it; it's easy.
  • In your profile, you tell TikTok your interests so that videos that align with your taste are displayed on the front "For You" page. In my case, I selected media/entertainment, inspirational (or something like that), home decor, and a few other topic areas.
The "For You Page" on TikTok

What I've learned about the "For You Page" is that every user who opens the App is immediately connected to their For You Page to watch and start scrolling videos. 

You can like, comment, save, share, or scroll past videos. This differs from other platforms in that you go directly into the content. Content is presented to you; it's not something you choose (except via the interests you indicated in your initial profile sign-up).

I've learned that the "For You" page is a powerful marketing tool. Everyone wants their videos to land on everyone else's "For You" page. 

In fact, you'll notice that some people use the hashtag #foryoupage or #fyp to try and encourage the TikTok algorithm to place their video on other people's "For You Pages." I have no idea if that works or not.

I discovered via the Analytics area that many of my own videos were put on other people's "For You Pages" before I started using or even knew about the For You Page hashtags.

The Bottom Bar Appearance When Logged In to TikTok
  • HOME: (that's where you get to all the fun and sometimes hilarious videos to scroll through -um, be careful, it's so addictive!)
  • FRIENDS: (that's where you can quickly access the videos of your friends that you've connected with)
  • + Plus Sign: (That's your prompt to start the upload process of videos or images - yes, you can upload images)
  • INBOX: (That's where you get notified that you have responses to your videos or new followers)
  • PROFILE: (That's your personal profile that features your content, and your logo/image and blurb about you)
I Avoided TikTok Because I Had No Interest Or Desire to Put Myself on Any Videos!

You don't have to put yourself on camera or even make videos.

You can upload a static photo/graphic and enhance that page with fun sticker elements and commercial-free music provided by TikTok.

For my business, static Riddle Graphic photos are perfect for this! 

I've already created nearly 1000 photo riddles for my website and books, so uploading them to TikTok with music and some fun sticker elements is a perfect marketing fit.

The TikTok Voice-Over Feature

If you decide to type text on static photos, you can ask the TikTok AI Voice-Over feature to read the text! You don't have to use your own voice! It's easy to use. 

How Am I Doing So Far? 

I started using TikTok on August 2, 2022, and today, as I'm typing, it is August 6, 2022

In 4 Days:
  • I've uploaded 11 riddles
  • I've had 5,441 video views (mainly on the "For You" pages)
  • I've had 29 profile views
  • I've had 43 Likes
  • I've had 17 Comments
  • I've had 13 Shares
  • I've had 5 Follows
I'm delighted with the potential TikTok offers for my Riddle business. Perhaps it's something that could work for you as well?

The Biggest Problem:

Other people's videos can consume your time - especially the funny ones. Seriously, some are hilarious!



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Have You Ever Felt Stuck? - A Personal Diary Entry

Have You Ever Felt Stuck in Life
Feeling Stuck - An Emotion Review

At the moment, I feel stuck.

However, I know I'm not stuck. Plus, I live by being grateful for life no matter what's going on or what I'm feeling. 

What we feel is king, so I suppose if I'm feeling stuck, I'm living that way, whether I know it or not.

Feeling stuck is new for me; it isn't something I've felt very often. In fact, I'm a bit confused by this emotion.

After Researching, Here are a Few Reasons That Might Make Us Feel Stuck:

There's a great deal of psychoanalysis online about what triggers this particular emotion. 

1. We Aren't Living Our Own Values - For Me, Maybe?

There are certain things in my life that do not fit with my values, nothing major, subtle things. So I'm coping with this by trusting and accepting that I'm doing the right things, living the right way, and accepting that each of us has to find our way and live our truth. I'm falling back on that old quote: "There are two things you can't change, natural law and other people." So maybe this is one reason I feel stuck?

2. We're Losing Hope - For Me, No Chance

Ok, this is a bold-faced, no way! No matter what goes on in my life, I never lose hope. In fact, I live for hope. Every day is another chance; that's how I see life. I can cross this one off the list.

3. We Are Conflicted About Making Big Changes - For Me, This One is a Yes

Some changes are coming our way (I'm not sure when), and I am very conflicted about this. One thing that is saving me is prayer and the belief that when the change is made if it's made, it will be wonderful.

4. We Are Overdoing It, Feeling Burnt Out - For Me, This is a Yes

It isn't that I'm overdoing things physically (although I am sometimes guilty of this). The mental pressure of life's challenges is consuming me. I've been working on the mental strain of this quite a bit by meditating, praying, writing, watching movies, and doing the things that need to be done, so the list doesn't pile up. 

5. We're Not Surrounded by Enough Like-Minded People - Yes, This is Big For Me

Obviously, we can't be around 'yes' people all the time. That's not what I'm missing. 

I'm feeling alone in my beliefs, values, and tastes. Taking this one ridiculous step further, I miss being around people who like the music, topics, discussions, and general life chit-chat I do. Maybe the isolation of Covid is a significant contributor to this? 

Writing has become my way of expressing myself and putting my beliefs and values out there. So I suppose I deal with this primarily via writing.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Sunday, July 24, 2022

The Best Memorial Gift for Cat Lovers - A 3D LED Cat Crystal Ball

A Unique, Thoughtful Memorial Gift for Cat Lovers

My friend recently celebrated another birthday, and finding her a special gift is as much fun for me as it is for her to receive!

My friend is a cat lover. Actually, that's putting it mildly; she adores cats to the depth of her soul! Unfortunately, she recently lost her beloved pet and has been grieving for months. Cat lovers, and pet lovers, will completely understand how hard it is to lose an animal, and how choosing a gift is a delicate process.

My friend and her kitty were family for eighteen years (or something like that), so needless to say, kitty's passing was brutal for her. She's still crying over her loss.

I Found An Appropriate Cat Gift to Honor Her Beloved Pet

I wanted to give my friend a gift that celebrated her kitty, but I also didn't want to give anything that would trigger a negative emotion.

After spending a few hours searching online, I came across what I thought would be the most loving memorial gift, a crystal ball LED rotating music box featuring a cat and a lighted ceiling projection of a lotus flower

Well, I was right to choose this gift! She absolutely loves it. In fact, the other day, during a power outage, she turned on her LED Cat Crystal Ball and sent me a photo of how beautiful it was!

Here's the Crystal Ball Kitty

This photo doesn't really do this product justice. When you visit the product link featured below, you'll get to watch a video and see the music box in better lighting. Be sure to check it out; it's worth it!

This is the size of the Lotus Light on the ceiling!

Features of the 3D Cat Music Box:

  • The K9 Crystal Ball features 3D inter-engraving technology that engraves the pattern into the crystal ball
  • When the room is dark, and the lighted crystal ball is turned on, it features 12 LED lights that evenly disperse the light through the crystal ball onto the ceiling, where a lotus flower is featured
  • Rotate the bottom of the crystal ball to play lovely, soft music - the music is featured below
  • The battery is built in and can be connected to computers, mobile phones or mobile power supplies for charging - Charging time is two to three hours, lighting time is eight to twelve hours
  • Includes a gorgeous gift box!
  • The crystal music box measures 3.94 by 2.76 by 4.72 inches and weighs 31.22 ounces
What Music Does This Ornament Play?

This gorgeous lighted cat music box plays Castle in the Sky. If you're wondering what that song is, I've included a YouTube video. If you don't see the video below, you can link to it here.



This Crystal Music Box Comes in Other Design Styles as Well!
  • A Clover
  • A Prince
  • A Deer
  • A Panda
  • A Rose
Of course, this gift isn't restricted to being a memorial gift; it makes a unique, thoughtful gift for all cat lovers for any occasion.




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Sunday, July 17, 2022

A Decorative Safety Handrail for Front Porch Steps

A Quality Handrail for the Front Porch

We should have installed a handrail for our front porch steps decades ago!

When we were younger, we could manage the stairs without an issue, but as we've aged, not so much. Also, the handrail provides additional safety during those long winter months.

We noticed our neighbor installed a handrail; of course, we liked it and thought it would also match nicely with our home. They informed us they acquired it from Amazon and forwarded the purchase link.

7 Features That Make This Handrail Awesome

Anodized Aluminium Handrail

  1. It is Anodized Aluminum which makes it more corrosion resistant than regular aluminum
  2. The satin black color matches our existing black porch railing
  3. It was a quick delivery from Amazon (for our home location)
  4. It meets commercial strength building codes
  5. My husband appreciated that the brackets pivoted to align with the studs, which according to him, made the installation a lot easier
  6. There's an anti-slip vinyl insert that installs underneath the round top part of the railing giving the railing an excellent secure grip when holding on
  7. We required the 4ft railing to extend down from the top of the porch to the bottom of the third step, and it did so perfectly!



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Sunday, July 10, 2022

Review of a Mini Sound Bar for TV with an HDMI ARC Connection

Sound Bar with HDMI Arc Connection
Sound Bar with HDMI Arc Connection

So, we bought a new smart tv for our bedroom. 

We put the old one in our make-shift hippie bedroom in the unfinished basement.

The Smart TV we purchased was not that expensive, and I think we discovered why; the sound wasn't perfect. 

We like the TV and the Smart Remote, so we decided to keep it and improve the sound with a Sound Bar.


Let Me Save You Some Time Before You Buy a Sound Bar for a TV

1. HDMI(Arc) Connection - ARC Stands for "Audio Return Channel"

The first Sound Bar we purchased had to be returned. 

It didn't have an HDMI(Arc) connection. 

You can still hook up the Sound Bar and get it working with an "Optical" connection, or standard audio connectors, but to get your volume control to work on your other remotes, you must connect the Sound Bar using the HDMI(Arc) connection. After googling my brains out, I found that out!

Most TVs have an HDMI(Arc) connection, but double-check that your TV has one! 

Our TV's HDMI(Arc) connection is located in the first HDMI port, or as most of us know from our TV screens, HDMI 1.

2. This Sound Bar Did Not Include an HDMI Cable

No matter the Sound Bar you decide to purchase, check to see if it includes an HDMI cable. 

Most Sound Bars come with an Optical connection cable, standard audio connectors, and sometimes USB connectors. However, the Sound Bars I purchased did not have a USB cable.

3. Which Connection is Best

Based on what I've read, the best connection for a Sound Bar to a TV is the HDMI(Arc) connection. 

The Optical connection is good too, but like I mentioned above, you can't get your other remotes to control the sound from your Sound Bar unless you use the HDMI(Arc).

4. Can You Use a Standard HDMI Cable, Being that it's going into an HDMI(Arc) port?

Yes. Just use a standard HDMI cable. Here is the type of HDMI cable we purchased; it works fine.

5. Do You Have to Change Settings in Your TV Menu to Hook Up a Sound Bar?

Yes, you do. 

Our TV is a new current Smart TV, so it was easy to figure out. There's an option to switch the Audio Output in your TV menu to Arc or Optical. 

Follow the instructions for your TV. 

On our TV, we had to select another option called "PCM" in the output audio section. 

Another option in the Settings section on our TV made the Sound Bar sync to our other remotes so that when we power down the tv, the Sound Bar switches off as well.

6. Another Tip to Get Your Sound Bar to Work

At first, I couldn't get the darn thing to work! 

Sheesh, I knew I had it hooked up correctly. 

I discovered that the Sound Bar remote control has input options; Arc, Opt (for Optical), and Aux for standard audio cables

I forgot to change the input on the Sound Bar's remote to Arc

Duh!

7. Does the Sound Bar Come with a Remote?

Yes, it does. 

There are other sound options on the remote; 3D, Surround Sound, Music, etc. 

We simply selected one and operated the sound from our other remotes. 

But yes, you can use the Sound Bar remote to adjust the volume and the type of sound you want.

The Sound Bar unit has controls on the side should you misplace the remote.

Mini Soundbar with HDMI Arc Connector
Mini Sound Bar with HDMI(Arc) Connection

Here's the Mini Sound Bar with an HDMI(Arc) connection we selected from Amazon.




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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Affordable Warm Sherpa Comforter and Shams - A Personal Review

 Warm Affordable Comforter Set

Recently we had to add another sleeping area to our home. We have five bedrooms already, and hadn't anticipated needing a sixth!

Our basement isn't finished; it's only partitioned and has all the electrical hooked up. I decided to use one of the unfinished basement rooms to create an extra sleeping area. 

The "Hippie Bedroom"

That's what we call it; the Hippie Bedroom. It's genuinely a hippie room, with comforters nailed to all the walls and extra furniture that gives the space a bedroom feel. We've also added a TV, Fan, and Portable Heater. 

It's a funny-looking mish-mash, but it solves a problem and, believe it or not, is actually cozy.

A Warm Comforter with Matching Shams

Since the central air conditioner can make that space quite cool, even cold, I wanted a comforter that looked sleek but had warmth.

I wasn't seeking anything decorative; however, as you can see from the photo below, it's pretty.

Warm Sherpa Comforter with Matching Shams
At the foot of the bed is an extra blanket, purchased separately

I Do Recommend This Soft Micromink Sherpa Comforter Bed Set - It's Good Value for the Money

  • This set comes with a comforter, and two shams (1 Sham for twin sets, I presume)
  • It's available in multiple color choices
  • For us, it arrived quickly
  • It's available in sizes Full/Queen, King, and Twin
  • It's a nice quality
  • It's warm
Make shift hippie bedroom with warm sherpa comforter set
Check out this make-shift Hippie Bedroom! The Sherpa blanket adds more warmth
The blanket at the end of the bed is an extra blanket, purchased separately

This bedroom set would be ideal for a guest room or a room that's not particularly warm. It would even be suitable for a child's room. Since it's not that pricy, it's a set that can safely take a little bit of use or overuse without too much risk.

You can find this set on Amazon here.




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Sunday, June 19, 2022

LED Integrated Outdoor Wall Lights Have Numerous Benefits - Check it Out

Integrated LED Outdoor Wall Lights
Review of an Integrated LED Outdoor Wall Light

We needed a new outdoor wall light for our backyard. 

Like most people, I did my research.

I researched standard outdoor wall lights that use lightbulbs and tripped on integrated LED wall lights.

What is an LED Integrated Wall Light? A Point Form Summary 

  • It doesn't use light bulbs.
  • The wall light has built-in LEDs.
  • The one we purchased says the LEDs will last 15,000 hours, or generally 7 years, based upon having the light on about 3 hours a day. 
  • After 7 years is up, I'm honestly not sure what has to be done to replace the LEDs, but we rarely have the light on, so I'm sure it will last much longer.
  • It costs next to nothing in terms of electricity usage.
  • There are many designs to choose from.
  • You can get LED outdoor wall lights from multiple stores, including Amazon.
  • We purchased ours from Home Depot - I wanted to see it in person before purchasing.
  • And yes, it's bright!
Integrated LED Wall Mount Light
Integrated LED Flush Mount Wall Light


Things to Consider Before Purchasing an LED Integrated Wall Light:
  • Check the size of the opening of your existing outdoor wall light. I purchased one from Amazon but had to return it because the base that mounts to the house didn't entirely cover the current opening.
  • Our base needed a minimum of 5 inches wide.
  • Do you want one that comes out further, or do you need one that's relatively flush to the wall? 
  • Ours needed to be fairly flush because it was beside a patio door, and we didn't want the taller people in our family worried about banging into it when turning right outside the patio door.
  • Check the distance out from the wall base to the light to ensure it meets your requirements.
  • Do you want the light to point upwards or downwards?
  • Where does the light shine from? The top? The bottom? The front? Or all of these locations. The one we selected radiates light in all these directions.
  • Most LED lights indicate the type of light it emits, from "warm tones" to "cool tones." We selected one that was more on the warm side of brightness.
The Integrated LED Flush Mount Wall Light Lightens the Entire Patio!

As mentioned above, you can get these lights at multiple stores, but I did notice that after purchasing our light from Home Depot, there were less expensive choices on Amazon. Be sure to shop it before buying.

Here's a closer look at the one we selected - We love it; it's bright
The light shines out of the bottom, the top, and the entire front face




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Sunday, June 12, 2022

A Tree Stump Vase - Great for Outdoor Decor

A Tree Stump Vase


Unfortunately, we recently had to have our gorgeous English Oak tree cut down. We've had the tree since 1994, so needless to say, it was a difficult decision.

After an Arborist confirmed it was dead, we had to call a Tree Service company to safely perform the sad removal.

We were given a choice to have the tree stump ground down or left standing.

We decided to keep the tree stump and decorate it with flowers.

Why Did We Choose A Tree Stump Vase?

We wanted to feature flowers on top, and since we weren't digging a cavern directly in the stump, we needed to safely secure a weather-resistant outdoor vase to the top.

We talked about a metal vase and a plain plastic vase; however, neither seemed safely practical.
The tree stump is located between two driveways; thus, we needed something lightweight yet durable should it ever break loose after we secured it to the stump and gawd-forbid damage our cars!
Here's a peek at the tree stump vase secured to the stump:


This tree stump vase is painted with weather-resistant UV paint to prevent fading and weathering. It's also designed to insulate plants from extreme heat or cold.

The one we purchased measures 10.5 inches in diameter and 9 inches high. They do come in other sizes. We verified the diameter of the tree stump beforehand. Also, we didn't want anything that stood too tall.


Here's another look at the tree stump with the flowers lifted.

We choose a tree stump vase primarily because it's lightweight, blends with the existing stump, and looks good without flowers. 

In the fall, we'll change the flowers, and come winter, we'll come up with something creative to fill the tree stump vase.

The finished look with the Tree Stump Vase filled with flowers

We selected flowers that trail over the stump. They still need to do some growing.



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Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Best Cosmetics Storage Holder - According to Me and Others!

Makeup Cosmetics Organizer

Even though I don't wear much makeup, I do have specific items for that 'five-minute face.'

For decades, the frugal me would use little storage baskets or small decorative gift boxes with lids to store cosmetics. The problem with putting makeup in a box is digging to find what you need and forgetting about the items buried in the bottom.

A Five Drawer Stackable Transparent Makeup Organizer

After researching various products, I decided to get "A 5 Drawer Stackable, Transparent Makeup Organizer." The one I purchased on Amazon Canada is here. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the exact same one on Amazon USA; however, I did locate an even larger acrylic stackable makeup holder on Amazon USA here.

Be sure to check out the sizes. I have two stackable items that fit low enough against my mirror.

The Organizational Problem I Solved

To do my five-minute face, I use specific items and pulling each one out was taking up surface area on my vanity table. 

I've wanted a better organizing system for cosmetics for years but was never willing to treat myself! I'm so glad I finally bought myself this bonus gift!


As you can see in the above photo, each cosmetic drawer is sorted according to what I use. Best of all, when I need something, I simply pull the drawer open, use the item, put it back, and close the drawer. Nothing has to go onto the vanity table, taking up space.

Here's How I Sorted My Own Personal Cosmetics Unit Based on What I Use:

  1. The top drawer has eye makeup
  2. The second drawer has lip related items, nail files, scissors, and clippers
  3. The third drawer has blush and brushes
  4. The fourth drawer has mascara and my favorite under-the-eye brightener. 
  5. The fifth drawer holds some musk oil, some cream, and hair bands
Since I essentially use everything until it's gone, I don't have drawers or containers filled with old, unused makeup. For that reason, two stackable organizers are perfect.


In the above photo, notice that the bottom drawer is deeper. That's another reason I selected these two stackables. The top stackables are narrower drawers, but I needed at least one deeper drawer.


Here's a close-up photo of the narrow drawers. As you can see, the cosmetics in this drawer (mascara and under the eye cream) fit perfectly fine.


What I like about this unit is being able to put an eyeshadow collection box directly on top. It fits nicely. I made sure the width of the organizer would comfortably fit the eyeshadow box.


Notice the thickness and quality of the plastic. This is NOT a cheap flimsy piece of plastic. When you slide the drawers open, they stay in position nicely. Don't pull them too far because they'll come out. However, that's not an issue either because they quickly go back in place. 

Notice the non-slip black sheet that's included in each drawer. The non-slip insert is not only ideal for keeping things in place but also adds a decorative element.


You don't have to stack them. If your space is more conducive to a side-by-side storage system, you can position them beside each other.

Where to Get This Cosmetics Organizer - A Re-Cap

The makeup organizer above, that I purchased on Amazon Canada is here. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the exact same one on Amazon USA, however, I located an even larger acrylic stackable makeup holder on Amazon USA here. It's just as nice.




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