Showing posts with label Site Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Site Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: Should Homeschoolers Sell Used Curriculum at Homeschool Used Book?

Review: Should Homeschoolers Sell Used Curriculum at Homeschool Used Book?
Some of the Books I'm Selling at Homeschool Used Book, © B. Radisavljevic

A New Site for Homeschoolers to Shop and Sell


Before I started blogging, I was a homeschooling mom. When Jason died in 1991, I became a homeschool vendor, exhibiting at conventions on both coasts. That adventure ended in 2015 when Hubby's knees gave out. So I turned to selling online.

I built a website, and sold on many used book listing services.  In 2014 I had neck surgery and couldn't ship in a timely manner. I had to take my books offline. It's amazing what two months without a web presence can do to your customer base. So I retired the business and started blogging. It hurt to have to sell the same books sitting in my warehouse as an Amazon affiliate instead of selling them direct and shipping them.

That's why I was so happy this week to discover a new way for homeschoolers to shop for and sell their curriculum and living books: Homeschool Used Book.com. Since I still have a house and shed full of books, I read the vendor friendly terms and signed up to sell. I have temporarily turned half the guest room into a shipping area until I can redo my office.

I started listing on July 13 and sold my first book the next day. Homeschool Used Books sent my shipping label the next night and I shipped the book the next afternoon. I couldn't be happier.

Review: Should Homeschoolers Sell Used Curriculum at Homeschool Used Book?
Book Labeled and Ready to Go, © B. Radisavljevic


The Pros of Selling on Homeschool Used Book

First, Homeschool Used Book is not for selling just any used books. It's a specialized marketplace designed for homeschoolers to help each other out. Those who are homeschooling know what is useful to homeschoolers. They know what's popular and what's hard to find. They list what they have used or thought they would use and list it when they no longer need it. It is not a place for general booksellers who have not been part of the homeschooling community to expand their markets.

These are the reasons I believe Homeschool Used Book is a good deal for vendors.

  • They don't have to build their own sites
  • They don't have to collect money
  • They don't have to pay for a shipping account to print postage and drop off packages without standing in line at the post office
  • They don't have to maintain a database themselves
  • The listing interface is simple and easy to understand
  • Payments can come either through PayPal or as credit to buy books on the site. 
  • Vendors pay fees only when they sell something. No listing fees. 
  • When a sale is made, the vendor gets the listing price minus a 12% commission. 
  • Each vendor gets a "store" space to introduce themselves and let customers see all their books in one place.  
Because Homeschool Used Book absorbs most of the overhead I had selling on other sites, it's ideal for me. One reason I quit selling was that my website had become obsolete and I had to rebuild. That's hard with a 600-page website. I didn't want to do it. I also had to pay for Endicia's shipping program to get the best shipping rates, print labels at home, and skip the line at the post office. 

To get my merchandise into one of the large used book selling sites online (ABE Books, Amazon, etc) with the least effort and fees I needed to use a listing interface that allowed me to upload easily to one or more sites and keep track of inventory and customer data, print packing slips and invoices, and help make catalogs. 

Until 2015 I used a version of Booktrakker that did all I needed and more.  I could install the program on my computer and get the new updates for a one-time price. Every couple of years there was an additional charge for a major update. About the time I recovered from surgery, there was a major update. I could no longer use the version I had to upload to the various sites.

Instead I would need to subscribe to an internet version. I didn't want to start paying a monthly fee with no guarantee I'd sell enough to cover it. I don't need my own database to sell at Homeschool Used Book. That saves me $20 a month in fees that I pay whether I sell anything or not.

I calculate that I save at least $40 on monthly charges by selling on Homeschool Used Book. I also save by not needing to accept credit cards directly. What's not to like?

The Cons of Selling on Homeschool Used Books


So far I haven't found many. Because I'm so new, I haven't experienced a payday yet. My one sale did not total the $50 needed for a payout. I can live with that just as I do on every other site that pays through PayPal. I have no reason to believe I won't be paid what I'm owed when it gets up to $50. 

Parts of the site are a bit clunky in the vendor area. I've had the most trouble getting my vendor "store" to look right. Be that as it may, I doubt if that will keep someone who wants one of my books from buying it.

While trying to compare my prices to those of other vendors and to see if the book I want to list is already there, I've used the search function a lot. It returns a lot of inaccurate results, but that could be due to vendors putting their products into too many categories just to get them seen by more people. 

Another con may be limited traffic. I have no idea how many homeschoolers search here for their materials. I made one sale quickly. I see others are making sales, as messages pop up saying who bought what when, but some of the sales reported were over a week old. This is probably not the first place homeschoolers go to shop -- yet. As more people begin to list, it should attract more buyers and increase sales for all the vendors. I hope this post will help get the word out. 

The thing I liked least when making my first listings was not knowing how much weight is allowed for packing material. I used to be able to weigh the complete package before printing a label. Now the site takes the weights I've provided for individual items, adds them, and estimates how much my packaging will add to that. If they guess wrong, the package can be returned for not enough postage. I've just found out they calculate two ounces for every additional one to two pounds. So it might be a good idea to adjust your weights if you anticipate your packing may weigh more than allowed in the estimate. Shipping more than one product to a customer may mean the difference between using a bubble bag or a box that needs extra padding. 

I checked at the post office today and discovered there's no way I can pay extra at the post office before shipping if the package is overweight. It's hard to predict which items may be combined in an order going to one customer and whether that will mean shipping in a box or a padded bag. So I'm now adding extra weight when I list something that may require non-standard packaging.

So Far It's Been a Smooth Experience

Review: Should Homeschoolers Sell Used Curriculum at Homeschool Used Book?
My Hall Bookcase Stores Part of What I'd Still Like to Sell.  © B. Radisavljevic


I'm actually enjoying being a bookseller again. This abundance of books has stolen a lot of my joy, not to mention how much of my house I can use. I want my living room back. If you need children's books or homeschooling materials, I hope you'll visit my store at Homeschool Used Book. While you're there, you can check out the other vendors, too. And if you've got used curriculum to sell, give the site a try. You've got nothing to lose and you may have much to gain.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Review of Medium Partner Program: Should You Pay to Earn?

What is the Medium Partner Program?

Review of Medium Partner Program: Should You Pay to Earn?
Image by PixLoger from Pixabay, edited on PicMonkey


I joined the Medium blogging platform in 2016, before the beginning of the Medium Partner Program (MPP.) A blogging friend had said the platform was a good place to have a presence. I discovered it was a good place to keep some of my posts from sites that had died until I could post them elsewhere. So in 2016 old posts I'd republished were all I had on Medium, and only a few of them. I didn't post anything else because at the time there was no way for someone like me to earn money at Medium.

In February 2019, my HubPages friend Glenn Stok told me about the Medium Partner Program that now provides an opportunity for writers like me to earn money. But there's a catch.

It takes money to have that opportunity. One must pay $5.00 a month or $50 a year to join the Medium Partner Program. That link provides all the program details and everything else you need to know in order to join the MPP. Only you, though, can decide whether it's worth the money to get this opportunity.

Should You Join the Medium Partner Program?


I asked Glenn, "Is it worth the money to become a MPP member?" His answer convinced me to give it a try. No one gets any affiliate commission by recruiting members, so he had no reason to exaggerate his results and I don't think he would anyway. He wrote a comprehensive article on Medium and the Partner program so I see no reason to try to rehash it here. He did an excellent job. Here's the link to Glenn's article: How to Make Money Writing Articles Without Ads on Medium. I prefer to tell you my own opinions based on my results and the other opinions I found was I was surfing the web.

My Experience as a Medium Partner Program Member


February 2019


I joined the Medium Partner Program on February 5, 2019. At the time I had nine posts there left over from 2016. I put five of them behind the paywall. The other four did not meet the content guidelines for the program. The pay period ended on February 24, so my work was only behind the paywall for 19 days in February.

Here is a chart of my first payday on February 27, and the money did go into my account on time. Post titles are on left. Earnings for each post are on right. Red letters are for posts removed from dead or non-paying sites. Green letters show posts I removed from HubPages, revised, and reposted on Medium. Blue letters show the name of Medium publication where a post was accepted and now appears. You can see that not all my old posts made money, but some did. Articles published on Friday-Sunday of a week often don't start getting views counted until the next week. Pay weeks go from Monday - Sunday. Where there is no publication, it means I didn't submit to a publication or the publication didn't accept that article.

During this same period, with 44 featured hubs, I earned $5.10 on HubPages.


Review of Medium Partner Program: Should You Pay to Earn?

March, 2019

In March I revised and republished more of my old stories and added some new ones. Here are the results. Again, the blue script shows what publications accepted the articles. The red shows where the revised articles originally appeared if they weren't on the last February image. PP stands for Persona Paper. Bub stands for Bubblews. Some articles from either of those sites may have appeared on both and I can't always remember which only came from Bubblews. Green still represents hubs (HP) revised and moved here.

During this same period, with 44 featured hubs, I earned $9.27 on HubPages.

Review of Medium Partner Program: Should You Pay to Earn?

April 2019


I have not repeated the sources here, but I have included the publications that accepted my posts. I did not  repeat the publications for the articles that earned nothing this month. You can see that although I made more money this month, some of the articles that earned money last month earned nothing this month. Unlike sites like HubPages, an article may have a short earning life.

During this same period, with 44 featured hubs, I earned $12.45 on HubPages. (Note: I have not written anything new on HubPages for a long time and interact there rarely now, but I do publicize my Hubs on social media. )



Review of Medium Partner Program: Should You Pay to Earn?

Conclusions from My Results

Unpublished Posts Moved from Other Sites Can Earn On Medium

I currently have thirty posts on Medium. Twenty-six are behind the paywall. Four are not. Of those behind the paywall, only eleven were written just for Medium. "Starved for Attention," which made the most the first month, made nothing the next two months. It was previously on another site, revised, and moved to Medium. "Jason, I'll Always Love You" was picked up by a popular publication, P.S. I Love You, and earned only .18 in February. In March it was my highest earner. It still did well in April.

Articles Published by Publications Usually Get Seen by More People than Those Published Independently

In the second month, some of the articles were picked up by publications, some of which I didn't even submit. Articles that appear in popular publications with lots of subscribers are distributed more widely than those one self-publishes. However, inclusion in a publication does not guarantee more earnings.

Curated Articles Get Wide Distribution and Usually Earn the Most. 

My three curated articles have performed best for me so far. When you put your article behind the paywall you can also choose to have it sent to the curators for consideration. They pick which articles Medium itself will promote in its newsletters that go out to all Medium subscribers. Curation gives articles the best chance to be seen by lots of eyes. These are my curated articles so far.


Medium Earns More for Me Than HubPages on New Articles

On the other hand, older Hubs retain more earning power than older Medium posts. Working together Medium and HubPages give you the both of best worlds. Would I make more on HubPages if I kept submitting more hubs and interacting as much as I do on Medium? Possibly. The statistics I gave for HubPages above my earning charts are for my original account. My Squidoo transfer account makes almost nothing there, and it's those articles I plan to revise and transfer to Medium or somewhere else. 


Review of Medium Partner Program: Should You Pay to Earn?
Image by isuru prabath from Pixabay, edited in PicMonkey 


Medium Is a User Friendly Site for Readers and Writers

After a struggle with the quirks of the WordPress and even the Blogger editor, Medium's editor is simplicity itself. One can just concentrate on writing. It's the words and the images that are important. No quizzes, polls, videos, etc. are considered important post ingredients as they are on HubPages. The focus is on what you say. I  like not having to sell anything to make money. I would like to focus on stories and ideas as opposed to products. 

As a reader, I also like reading Medium posts because they're not full of affiliate links and ads. You can read all the way through a Medium article without encountering one pop-up asking you to subscribe to a newsletter. Readers can concentrate on content. I think many people subscribe for that reason. 

There is a wealth of interesting content on Medium. Many Medium members are not writers, but readers. They are not part of the Medium Partner Program, but they are the ones who read our work and help us earn for our writing. 


What I Like Best About the Medium Partner Program


Medium allows me as much freedom as I want. I can write in any genre. I can apply to a publication or not. I can write on any subject, though some subjects won't earn as much as others. As long as I follow the guidelines for the Medium Partner Program, I can put any article I want to behind the paywall. Of course, that doesn't mean it will earn anything. 

Medium treats me like an adult. It lets me take responsibility for my own work. I can publish it independently without submitting it to a publication editor and waiting for approval and publication. That means I am also free to publish inferior work that is less likely to earn than more polished work.

Proofreading is my responsibility alone. Publications want quality, so they do have editors to make sure what they publish is worth reading and is free of errors. But they don't correct it for you. They send it back to you or reject it outright. If a publication rejects your work, you are still free to publish it yourself. 

For an article to earn, other Medium subscribers need to see it, read it, and interact with it. Curated articles are most likely to get a kick start leading to more views on Medium. Articles in publications also get help from a newsletter the publication sends to its members listing new articles. 

Views from promotional links on social media don't usually bring in paid views. Traffic from Twitter automatically gets past the paywall for free. Most writers usually post a friend link when they post to social media so that readers can bypass the paywall if people click through. That means a well-promoted post with lots of traffic may not earn much if the readers aren't Medium members. 

Writers for publications often have their own Facebook groups for promotion. Koinonia is one of my favorite publications for Christian writers and it has an active Facebook Group. I know of three other active Facebook groups that are open to any Medium writers for discussion and threads for sharing posts. All these promotion opportunities and the support from other members is very helpful to new Medium writers. 

Most Medium publications encourage personal articles. They like authors to share what they've learned about  relationships, family life, work, mental health, business, and a number of other topics. Unlike HubPages, they prefer articles written in the first person rather than the third person, unless they deal with science or other very objective subject matter. Articles that speak directly to readers with a personal voice seem to do best.

Medium makes it easy to build your own following. You can even start your own publication on Medium if you don't find another that suits you or you want to keep your work in one place to make it more accessible to your followers.




The Downside of the Medium Partner Program


You are making an investment of five dollars a month or fifty dollars a year. There is no guarantee you will earn it back within those time frames. I'm on my eleventh week. If my earnings hold to their current pattern I will have covered my first year's membership by the end of the twelfth week and the rest will be profit. There is no guarantee that will happen. But I've never yet earned back with ads and affiliate links what it cost me to self-host a WordPress blog, and that was a far larger investment. My membership also allows me unlimited reading behind the paywall, and that's been worth the fee by itself.

You cannot include affiliate links or a call to action in a post that goes behind the paywall. You can, however link to another Medium post you have not put behind the paywall. In that post you may have an affiliate link or a call to action. You just need to make sure it's not interpreted as writing a post behind the paywall that only exists to point to another site.

If your posts aren't curated or promoted by a publication, they may not get much traffic. I have four posts that have received no fans or applause. Three were first published somewhere else between 2014 and 2016 and their original publishing dates followed them. If I publish older posts again, I will not use the importer which retains the original date. I will unpublish from the first site and revise for Medium.

The other unloved post was a rant published just for Medium. A few people read it, but no one liked it enough to applaud. That happens. I'm wondering if I should tweak the title and republish it.

If my current results on Medium hold up until the end of the year and my earnings keep growing, I will join again next year. A full year will help me see whether this is the direction I should go. But even if it's a wonderful year and I earn even more than I expect, there is that final downside. Medium can change the terms of the MPP any time they choose. They could stop paying. They could even close the site, though I think that's unlikely.

I have written the obituaries for many sites. One was What Can We Learn from the Fall of Bubblews? It was first published when Bubblews was still alive -- to answer questions about the living site. Some of the original predictions remain intact, but the post itself has been updated many times as things changed. I updated it once again and changed the title when when Bubblews finally died. Many of us who used to rely on Squidoo for income were crushed when it died.

We can never depend on any site we don't own for future income. It's always better to own your own site if you can make a profit. Meanwhile, as we build an audience, we can introduce ourselves to new readers on sites like Medium and  HubPages.

Possibly the biggest downside to writing for Medium is that you may be tempted to to neglect your own blogs. I have. I've also neglected other sites like HubPages. It's always a good plan to back up one's work on all sites, just in case, and not to put all one's eggs in one basket.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Friday, April 5, 2019

How to Create Your Own Videos Ads with Ripl Video Creator

How to Create Your Own Videos Ads with Ripl Video Creator

Reviewing Ripl Video Creator - Online Website - Basic Plan is Free


Here is a simple tutorial on how to create your own video ads that can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and YouTube.  Plus, you can save a copy of your created video on your own computer.

The Ripl Video Creator website is fairly easy to use, especially if you have ever used a photo editing site.  It takes only a few minutes to create a basic video ad since Ripl provides free templates to get you started.  There is also a paid version available that offers more templates.  With the paid version, you can also replace the Ripl logo in the right bottom corner with your own logo.

I use Ripl Video Creator to create ads for several websites and my Ebay store items.  It could also be used for Etsy store items, Zazzle store items or even to promote a directory that shows the variety of places you can be found online.  Because you can add text to the video, you could even add the url location on the video.

Here is the complete video of the still image shown above.  Because I saved the video on my computer, I can easily upload it to Blogger.




Or, I can insert the copy of that video ad from YouTube to Blogger or my websites.

 

 

Basic Tutorial to Get Started on Ripl Video Creator 


You will need to create an account on Ripl to get started.   To do so, you can click the link here, or simply type Ripl.com in your browsers address bar.


1.  Choose a Ripl Template


Sign in to Ripl Video Creator and select the template you like.  You can change templates as you design your ad if you don't like the way your original template selection looks.   

If you have previously started a video but not published it, you will see it labeled as "draft" and can select it from the template options. 



If you start the "post from scratch", you will be redirected to the workshop area where you can choose to see "more designs" in the left sidebar. 




When you are redirected to the templates, the free templates are shown at the top.  Simply click the one you wish to use.  The free templates change often.  There are always new options for upcoming holidays or seasons.





2.  Select Font and Add Text


A font is pre-selected for each template, but you can change the font by choosing a different choice from the right sidebar.  As you can see in the screenshot below, you can also change font colors.

Add the text in the "primary" and "secondary" boxes.  

Adding music is also an option.  Simply click the music notes to select the background music.




3.  Add Photos

Click the "photos" box in the right sidebar to upload your own photos for slideshows.  You will see a "caption" box that allows you to add text to that photo only.  Double click the caption area on the photo to add the text, move the text box, or resize it.






Note:  If you change the text color here, it will change the text color on all images in the entire slideshow.



In the case of the video slideshow ad I have used here for the example, it was at this point that I decided I preferred a different text and text background color.  The background colors are pre-selected based on the font color you choose.



3.  Publish and Share Your Created Ripl Video

After you have added all of your images, added your text, and selected font colors, your are ready to publish your video ad.

Click the right top arrow to move to the publishing page on Ripl.



Add all of the facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Linkedin accounts in the account setting, on this page.  Be sure to slide the buttons on the right of each one to "on" if you want the current video added to that particular social media page. 

Remember to turn "on" the "save to computer" button too if you wish to download a copy of the video to your computer.

Then, click the "Share Now" button.




Shared On Twitter
Shared On Facebook

 

Please Share Your Ideas


I have shared how I use the Ripl Video Creator, but I would love to hear from you! 

Tell us in our guestbook (comments section) below the ways and places you have used Ripl to promote your websites, stores or products.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Monday, April 1, 2019

Spring 2019 Hummingbird Migration

Reviewing the Hummingbird-Guide website
I put my first hummingbird feeder for 2019 out on Saturday. I am excited to see my first visitor of this year. According to the hummingbird migration map, a few ruby-throated hummingbirds are already close to my area (Maryland).

Reviewing the Humming Bird Guide Website


Did you know that there is a hummingbird migration map online?  I have used it off and on for the past few years. Last year, I didn't use it and only thought about hanging the feeder when I spotted a hummingbird hovering on the other side of my balcony sliding door; looking at me as if to say, "come on lady, where's the food?"

Saturday morning, the closest sighting submitted to Hummingbird-Guide.com was in northern North Carolina. I've driven from Baltimore to North Carolina. If the birds basically fly straight through, they should arrive at my house any day. 

In addition to allow you and others to submit their first hummingbird sightings, the Hummingbird-Guide site has many links for different information: blog, migration, attracting, flowers, feeders, inspirational stories and so much more. 

Hummingbirds at my Apartment


This year, I made sure to consult the map. My first visitor will have a meal as soon as he/she arrives. Actually, I seem to have one pair that comes to visit me. And it may be the same pair every year - they've become comfortable enough to perch on the hanger and on a plant shelf on my balcony.

I have had the best luck attracting hummingbirds with the 1:4 sugar water and boiled water recipe.


  • Boil water. 
  • Mix in 1 part of sugar to 4 parts water. 
  • Fill and hang a hummingbird feeder


I don't like to store the sugar water in the fridge, so I add 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of boiled/cooled water. I like working with a small amount. I have left the sugar water in the feeder for too long of a period of time and it started to turn cloudy with mold forming in the "flowers" of the feeder. For me, using only a small amount forces me to clean my feeder frequently. 

Hummingbird watching me while
I watched him/her

Related Links:

I LOVE hummingbirds. And for years I wasn't able to attract them. I now look forward to their return. I like books and movies about these winged miracles. Below are some links for those who loving these little birds.

Renaissance Woman wrote a book review about the Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear. Read the review to see why this book about hummingbird rescue and rehab is highly recommended.

Grammie O loves hummingbirds too. She wrote 5 Ways to Guarantee Hummingbirds Will Come to You. One of the things that attracted hummingbirds to her yard were Canna flowers. Check out her article for her other tips.

Super Hummingbirds is a mesmerizing video by Nature. I can't really describe how awesome the film is. If you love hummingbirds, you'd love to see this beautiful film of them.

2014 was the first year I was able to attract hummingbirds. 2015 was the year that I documented their visits more carefully. If you think you can't have hummingbirds visit your balcony, you may be  wrong. I was wrong. You can see my balcony visitors of 2015 here and here on my Budget Balcony Living site.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pet Partners Therapy Dog Team Review

Finn Looks Deeply Into Each Heart He Encounters
When you have a dog with special gifts, like I do (and many of you do), it would be selfish not to let him fully develop and use those wondrous strengths to bring cheer into the lives of those aching for connection and comfort.  Having adopted a joy dog, it just seems wrong to keep all of that great goodness to myself.  In the case of Finn, a dog that was previously kept locked away from the outside world for all of his life (until rescued), the best possible antidote to having been shut away and hoarded is to bring all of his beauty into the light of day. To share Finn, is to share love in its purest form.

In our determination to lift the spirits of others, Finn and I are on a new year's mission.  Though we have engaged in animal welfare and educational outreach work on a daily basis over the past year and a half (since Finn became a part of my forever family), we want to take this work to the next level by going through a rigorous screening process to become a registered therapy dog team.  Anything worth doing, is worth doing to the highest level of professionalism and integrity.  To that end, we have chosen to pursue approval through Pet Partners.

The Pet Partners Organization and Website

There are a number of organizations through which volunteers can seek an official status for their therapy team service.  We chose Pet Partners for several reasons:
  • Theirs is a very reputable organization with a well-established history;
  • They put animals first;
  • Their process provides unlimited opportunities for demonstrating team growth;
  • They provide quality resources that enhance both animal and handler skills;
  • Their community is one that connects teams of beautiful individuals; 
  • They provide insurance coverage for registered teams; and
  • Membership can bring a greater credibility to volunteer therapy teams.
Quality of Life is the Soul of the Mission
Once the decision was made to align ourselves with Pet Partners, Finn and I jumped right into our training.  First, I enrolled in the required handler's course.  Taking the course online was a good fit for my learning style and was also the best option given the distance I would have had to drive to attend an in-person class.  I found the course to be very informative and helpful in preparing me to set Finn and myself up for therapy dog team success.  Most importantly of all, it was a reminder that we are in the business of generating quality of life experiences... that we are to exude a reverence for life in all that we do.

Having passed my course, our next step is to visit Finn's veterinarian to get him signed off as healthy and fit for therapy dog consideration.  Because he has a disability, Finn's vet will need to indicate appropriate accommodations (like the use of Finn's K9 cart and/or dog stroller during therapy visits and the assessment process). Once Finn has passed this medical exam, we will be eligible to sign up for our team evaluation session.

Finn and I must prove ourselves both in terms of aptitude and skills.  Our evaluation process seeks first to confirm that both of us have the heart for this service.  I know, without a doubt, that therapy team outreach is a calling for me.  And, having watched Finn display his "people whispering" essence over the many months since his adoption, I feel sure that he is also well-suited for this mission.  Finn leans into this work, rather than merely tolerating it.  That is the key qualifier when it comes to passing our aptitude testing.

Finn is a Willing Student, Teacher, and Therapist
When it comes to skills, Finn and I must demonstrate that our encounters with strangers will be predictably safe.  Finn must be responsive to my guidance at all times. In addition, Finn must show a tender restraint in his dealings with a wide range of individuals.  Before even considering therapy service, I spent over a year socializing Finn to ensure that he developed the confidence necessary to meet with new people in a wide variety of settings.

Finn came to me with no prior training.  He knew no commands when we began our pursuit of this quest.  We currently set aside time every single day to push the boundaries of our learning.  Finn must show a mastery of a number of commands: come, sit, down, stay, and leave it, for starters.  He will be tested in a number of role playing situations common to what he is likely to encounter during visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities.  Right now, as a part of his preparation, I am focused on immersing Finn into the most common types of experiences he is likely to have when he officially starts his therapy dog work.

You may be wondering what Finn gets out of all of this.  As a mix of two of the most intelligent breeds of dogs, I have found that Finn needs a great deal of stimulation.  He is a combination of working dog breeds.  In my rehabilitation work with rescue dogs, I have seen the importance of providing smart, energetic animals with a job and a purpose.  As a Border collie mix, Finn would normally be involved in herding, or agility, or some form of highly evolved activity engaging both body and mind.  He seems to really enjoy stretching his mental muscles during our training sessions.  Finn's emotional tank also appears to be filled up by all of the attention and affection that comes his way as a result of our interactions with others.

Finn is a whole new dog compared to what he was on the day of his emancipation from the life of a shut-in.  In many ways, I feel his people-whispering nature is what it is due to his having overcome such a barren existence during his early years.  Finn has a way of cracking people's hearts wide open and making them feel things deeply—things that are healthy, and lovely, and healing.  How do I know this?  Well, Dr. Finn began by practicing on me.  A dose of Finn every day has been the best prescription for living a life filled with what matters most.  My desire is to give as many people as possible a taste of this good medicine.

Author's Note: If you enjoy reading about the healing power of animals, you may be interested in my book review about Bella and Jean.  Joy Unleashed tells the story of how they have been transformed while touching lives in beautiful ways.  Another book, Moose! The Reading Dog, will appeal to the children in your life.






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Monday, January 14, 2019

Reviewing Sam's Pizza Crust Recipe

Pizza crust from scratch is easier than I thought.
Over the years I have tried to make homemade pizzas. And over the years I have repeatedly failed. But today I made homemade pizza, just the way I like it, using a pizza crust recipe from Sam's Place. My little pizzas turned out great and I can't wait to bake some more.


Sam's Homemade Pizza Dough Recipe

Sam's Place is a blog site with a collection of recipes. Sam's recipes are generally easy and tasty. He writes about his passion for "preserving family recipes and creating new ones". I visit his blog regularly and see that he shares quick and easy recipes. 

When I decided to try to make pizzas at home again, I went directly to his blog. I found his dough recipe here. I only needed yeast, oil, water, flour, and salt. 


I spread the dough out on the pizza stone - baking stones are great! I pressed the dough into a thin crust with my fingers. I didn't worry that they weren't round. On each pizza, I added sauce, mushrooms, cheese, and  coarsely ground black pepper. Yes, that is one of my little pizzas in the photo above.



Old Stone Oven Round Pizza Stone




Why I Tried Making Pizzas Again


Recently I was watching a cooking show on television. Lidia was making little pizzas for the grill. She gave me a craving for pizza. Grocery store pizzas are okay, but not my favorite. Pizzas delivered from a local restaurant are divine but expensive. And I never end up eating the entire pizza. Even if I try eating all the leftovers, I either forget or I grow tired of eating pizza and inevitably I end up wasting food.


In the past I have tried making my own pizzas. I don't remember making any pizza that tasted better than the cheapie pre-made pizzas in the freezer section. Frankly, I eventually gave up.


But after watching that television show with the grilled pizzas and remembering Sam's easy dough recipe, I gave it a try. I dug out my baking stone and started up my KitchenAid mixer. Also, I have had good luck using SAF instant yeast. Previously, I failed when baking anything with yeast. But between using the SAF yeast and the fact that my water comes out of my tap at just over 100 degrees, I have been successful making breads. And now I'm successful with making homemade pizza crust.


Imagine making your own pizzas, personal sized or extra large, thin or thick crust, just exactly the way you like them!



The second pizza I made today. Doesn't it look tasty?


Related Links:


Cynthia reviewed the Kitchen Aid Pizza Wheel. She recommends it because it is "strong, durable, and ergonomical". Take a peek at her review for more details. I need one of these.


I bought my KitchenAid mixer two years ago. I had always thought it was an extra and over-priced gadget that I didn't need. But since I have it, I LOVE IT!  This is a purchase I've never regretted. 


Heather has been a KitchenAid Artisian mixer fan longer than I have. In fact, her review helped convince me to get one of my own. Heather's article also includes information about the annual timing of sales on these mixers. Get that important information here

Sam also has a Fresh Tomato Spinach pizza recipe. I'll try that next. 

Because Lidia's Kitchen show is what started this recent pizza craving, I'm including a link to her Grilled Pizza recipe. Yum! 


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Wedding Forward Website Reviewed

When A Wedding Is In Your Future

wedding plans
Wedding Plans image courtesy of Pixabay.com
I thought that a review for a website for planning a wedding would be appropriate today. Here in the US and in many places of the world this article is being published on Christmas Day. Many men have chosen to "pop" the question to many a gal either on Christmas Eve or on the morning of Christmas. So, there are some weddings that will need to be planned. 

A truly awesome site to visit if a wedding is in your future is: Wedding Forward. As a soon to be bride you will find a plethora of ideas for every aspect of your special day. There are ideas for themes, dresses, hairstyles and so much more on this elegantly designed and easy to navigate website. 

A few of the categories that can be found on Wedding Forward are: 
  • Dresses & Attire
  • Flowers & Decor
  • Wedding Planning
  • Hair & Makeup
  • Photography & Video
You will see those top categories when you first land on the site but don't stop there! Scroll down the home page to find other very helpful categories to help you decide what you want for your wedding day. There are ideas for the music to be played, games to be played at your bachlorette party and tips about wedding vows. Ideas are shared for gifts and favors to be given to your wedding party and guests. Trending and traditional cakes are featured, too. There is also a convenient section with the Wedding Checklist that will be invaluable to you while planning your day to be the memorable event that you want it to be.  

If he just asked "will you" and you just responded with a thrilled and happy "yes", you should take some time to look over the website that will offer you some delightful and most helpful advice and ideas: Wedding Forward. The website can walk you forward from the time of his slipping that engagement ring on your finger to the moment that the words "I now pronounce you" are spoken. I feel certain that the ladies who contribute to the site will help take the stress out of the planning for you. 

Oh and I almost forgot to say, "Congratulations!" May your life be filled with joy and may you grow old together on one pillow.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Thursday, November 29, 2018

DesignCap Free Online Poster Maker Reviewed

DesignCap is the free online poster maker offered by PearlMountain to make all your poster and flyer graphics easy to make and easy to design. The variety of templates, colors, text and background options are endless and will whet your appetite to make free posters in a few minutes for all your events.

WYSIWYG What You See Is What You Get


The DesignCap software is WYSIWYG which is very helpful for all levels of poster designers.
Beginner designers will enjoy the ability to change a template with the click of a mouse and the visual changes are immediate. Graphic designers with more advanced skills will find the templates easy to adjust with the text, color and image options.

DesignCap is an online program which is a bonus as software is not required to download to your computer; design the poster and simply save the poster as a download for its' future use.

I used the cover of my cookbook to test DesignCap and loved the ability to upload an image and change the background in a few seconds.

Background Options DesignCap

DesignCap offers a large variety of background colors and one can get lost (in a good way!) browsing through the options and making changes.

This is the DesignCap template I used for my cookbook.



This is the same template with a different border using the background menu.
The Low Oxalate Cookbook

The border was changed with a quick of the mouse when browsing the background menu. It was very helpful to have different colors and designs available to change the colors of the background.

Intuitive Design

Overall I found the menus easy to use and intuitive. The text menu to change the font size was less intuitive; however this is more than likely dependent upon the skills the designer has prior to using DesignCap. Two options exist to change the font size: the A+ or A-  or the font size can be changed manually. I like the ability to choose the font size manually; however, a first glance it appears the font size is limited to the drop down menu sizes when in fact any size font can be chosen by typing in the size. DesignCap offers tutorials for assistance and step by step guidance through its' menu options.

Image Size


The design can be saved in either jpg or png format. Remember this is a poster therefore the size is large. The image can then be scaled down if necessary or optimized prior to using on a website.

PearlMountain

DesignCap is the latest online design program from PearlMountain along with the established Fotojet and DesignEvo, the free online logo maker. The mission of PearlMountain, "We aim to make professional photo editing and graphic design capability accessible to everyone."





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Monday, October 1, 2018

Reviewing Vistaprint for Business Cards

Business cards from Vistaprint
I am in the process of starting a small business. An Etsy store to offer my crocheted items to an audience beyond my circle of friends. In this beginning stage of the process, I quickly decided that I wanted a "business card" to include with my sold items. I chose Vistaprint and am thrilled with the service and product they provided. So thrilled that I'm writing this review to share the information with you.


Vistaprint - The "Everything to Market Your Business" Site


I see the Vistaprint commercials frequently. This constant advertising is why I checked out their site first. Sheer laziness on my part. I ordered with some skepticism - as some businesses that advertise the most are not the best. But I am glad I ordered my cards from Vistaprint. Before I start rambling, the mini-review is:

  • Super easy-to-navigate website
  • Many business card styles to choose from
  • Choices ranging from completely designed by you (including your own photo) or use one of the existing designs
  • Preview function that shows you exactly what you have created
  • Fast service (ordered on 8/22 and received on 8/29) even with standard shipping


My Business Cards


I knew I wanted a somewhat "rustic" design. The purpose of the card would be a thank you and continued advertising with my store URL. I needed a thicker paperstock as I would be punching a hole in many of the cards and attaching them to my handmade item with a ribbon.

I was able to choose rounded corners (to avoid snags in my yarn), "standard glossy" front of card (to add to the durability of the card), and print on the back of the card (for a more personal message). Not feeling creative enough to design my own card, I quickly found one of their templates. The overall front design of the template was not adjustable, but I could add customize with my store name.  I could also choose a couple of color variations.  Scroll to the very bottom of this article to see a very small sample of some of the designs. 

The back of the card allows for print. So I added the personalized printed message I wanted. The back of my card is not glossy paper.


I had expected to receive flimsy, poor-quality business cards (like the ones we have at work). Instead, I received cards that I am thrilled with. I paid $25.58 for 100 cards and shipping. 

I will continue my orders with Vistaprint, adding fabric care cards to my packaging. I have also begun to consider purchasing postcards for advertising after seeing all of the fantastic design possibilities.

If you are in need of business cards and other paper products for your business, I highly recommend Vistaprint

finished and ready for delivery - with card attached


Related Links:

Our own Tracey (The Savvy Age) recently reviewed a free online logo maker called DesignEvo. If you feel more confident in your creative abilities than I do mine, DesignEvo Free Logo Maker may be a great site to use. I LOVE the logo she created in "2.5 minutes". 

My Etsy Store. My goal is to retire at The Shack; tending my garden, chickens, and land. That retirement dream includes sitting in a rocking chair on the deck and crocheting. If that crochet adds a very small bit of retirement income (aka more money for yarn) all the better. 


an extremely small sample of some of the existing business card designs on Vistaprint




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Saturday, August 18, 2018

DesignEvo: Free Logo Maker Reviewed

Need a logo in minutes? DesignEvo is a free online logo maker which gives users the ability to make a logo in minutes; whether a novice or graphics professional DesignEvo provides the online software to make, create and design a logo quickly and easily.

Easy As 1-2-3

 

DesignEvo promises that a logo can be made in minutes and what is promised is delivered. I actually timed the making of this logo with a DesignEvo template. I used my lifestyle website and tagline to explore designing a new logo.


How To Use DesignEvo


I launched the free logo maker, scrolled down to my chosen category (Letter), scrolled through the options, entered the website name (or Company Name),  tagline and voila! Total creation time including download and social share =  2.5 minutes.
After creating the logo I quickly modified a few parts of the design. I tweeked the size,  modified the dot icons, changed the background color and then proceeded to download the logo and the required social share.

The requirement for a FREE logo to download for your use is very simple; a social share is required prior to downloading and credit on your website or blog. After downloading you will find a zip file with the logo as a jpg, png and a readme file with the share requirements.


What You See Is What You Get

The design interface is very user friendly and intuitive. Once the logo is created a Preview is available to see your logo on business cards, letterhead or media products.

This is a very nice program for novices to instantly create a logo by using the provided templates; for those with more advanced graphic skills the online software has the features to further customize the logo.



Customize Your Free Logo

Your logo can be easily customized with the color, font and transparency options. If you have the HEX colors for your company then the color of your logo can be changed with a few clicks of the mouse. The interface is clean, self explanatory and easy to navigate; if help is needed video tutorials and FAQ's are available under Support.


Who Is DesignEvo?

The About page of DesignEvo gives insight into the evolution of DesignEvo. Pearl Mountain developed Fotojet, a free online collage maker and is also the creator of DesignEvo. The logo maker is free or users have the option to purchase advanced features for a one time annual fee. Logo features such as resolution, copyright, vector files are restricted to the paid version.


Recommendation

I enjoyed the ease of using DesignEvo, the user friendly interface and the instantaneous results of a ready to use logo within minutes.  Colors, fonts, icons and graphics are just a click away to personalize your logo to your brand or create a brand new logo with a customizable template.




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The Review This Contributors

Cynthia SylvestermouseCynthia SylvestermouseDawn Rae BDawn Rae BMary Beth - mbgphotoMary Beth - mbgphotoBrite-IdeasBrite-IdeasBev OwensBev OwensWednesday ElfWednesday ElfBarbRadBarbRadOlivia MorrisOlivia MorrisRenaissanceWoman2010Renaissance
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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner