Tuesday, February 11, 2014

10,000 Shades of Green


As Squidoo’s new “Green Living” Contributor, I have a dream of pioneering an entirely new kind of online ecovillage.  Together, you and I, along with other kindred spirits, can build something uniquely vibrant that has the capacity to make a real difference.

We hear a great deal these days about living green, but what does that really mean?  It means something different to each one of us.  I like to say there are 10,000 shades of green.  Though my shade of green is off grid green, not everyone has the desire or immediate capacity to take that leap.  And that is okay.  Be your own shade of green.

When I first made the decision to live more sustainably, I had a lot to learn.  Come to think of it, I still have a lot to learn.  That is the best part of finding my inner green… growing every day.  The thing is, it is much more rewarding to grow together.

What if we thought of our online interactions as a form of human photosynthesis?  Being bathed in the light and energy of those who care about leaving the world a better place is one way we increase our own green.  One hour of sunlight makes a huge difference to a plant.  Just imagine the power of one when it comes to shining your light in a way that greens up the planet.

I invite you to bring your green.  Be the photosynthesis you wish to see in the world.  Tell us your story.  Review the green products you use and love.  Share a tutorial that shows us how you do green.  You can start by taking a moment to visit our new village green.  While there, if you haven’t yet become a Squidoo member, please take a few seconds to join.  It’s one more way of increasing your green.

As Tom Bodett always says, “We’ll keep the light on for you.”  In this case, it will be the light of your new Squidoo friends.  Welcome home.



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Monday, February 10, 2014

Gunpowder In The Winter



“I prefer winter and fall, when you can feel the bone structure in the landscape---the loneliness of it---the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it---the whole story doesn't show.” 
 
Andrew Wyeth

There is a special beauty during wintertime in the mid-Atlantic region. The four seasons here provide that change, the death of winter followed by the birth of spring. Because much of the mid-Atlantic coastal region experiences relatively mild winters, the whole story is only barely hidden from our view.  We wait, knowing that it will be only a very short time until the spring story is revealed.

On a Saturday afternoon in early February, we walked the Gunpowder South Trail.  That the name that trail signs still proclaim and how it is referred to in older travel books. However, it is also a very well known section of trail in the fishing community and has since been dedicated as the Lefty Kreh Fishing Trail.

This area includes a handful of miles just under the Prettyboy Dam.  It doesn’t matter which name you use for the trail.  The important thing is that you should experience it if you have the opportunity.



We parked in the far lot, up the hill from Falls Road bridge.  We walked from the lot down the steep Highland Trail.  Despite having been whirled around in the Polar Vortex for much of the season, it was a glorious day. Warm and quiet. Just cool enough for the snow to remain solid and our feet dry.  No threat of bad weather approaching. The snow on the ground still lay undisturbed, marred only by infrequent footprints of man or wild beast.

We followed a feeder creek to the South/Lefty Kreh trail, along Gunpowder River.  We passed a pair of hikers as soon as we turned onto the main trail.  We didn't see humans again until we were exiting the trail at Falls Road bridge.


It was a glorious day, spent on a Maryland trail.  To keep updated about my adventures, please join me on my  mid-Atlantic travel page on Facebook.









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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Writing for the Party Planning Niche

This week, I was asked the following question and I wanted to address it here on the Review This! blog. A visitor (lurker, really -- she reads a lot but is afraid to dive into the writing) asked me:

"How can you tell a story about party planning? You have a very hard task!"

Glad you asked! I'm gonna tell you.

The Basics of Storytelling

You can tell a story about almost anything. Stories are told day in and day out in print, online, videos, television and radio. Commercials are mini-stories -- or at least the good ones are. I apply the storytelling philosophy to everything write -- whether it's on Squidoo or on one of my websites.

People react well to stories. They look for parallels in our lives -- things they can relate to and then act or react accordingly.

So how does all this tie in with writing for a party planning niche? Easy. Tell the story.

Parties in Our Lives

Every single one of us has planned and/or hosted some sort of party(ies) in our lives. 1st birthday, a sweet 16, a weddding, a St. Patrick's Day party, an anniversary, a Super Bowl party...

Write about that particular party and your specific experiences.

For instance, last year, my niece turned 16. My sister asked me to help her plan the Sweet 16 party. I did, it was a blast and I wrote a lens about it -- Sweet 16 -- Let the Planning Begin.

It tells the story and gives examples (pictures) of ideas others can build on for their party planning needs. It also showcases some products I used during the planning. That's the key. Display products that you actually use(d) and tell people "How" you use them. Otherwise, your lens or article will sound like an ad copywriter spewing features of something they need to sell.

Yes, we sell. There is no shame in that. But, we sell what we use, have experience with and tell a story of what, where, why and how we used it. That's valuable to internet searchers. How do I know?

Because the Sweet 16 lens I just mentioned above --  on average, it stays in the high 2nd teir, makes sales and has been pinned 364 times from the Squidoo page (others repin the pin). I have had more than one person contact me (I do suggest you make sure your Squidoo contact button is turned on) asking specific questions and even sending me photos of their party my article inspired them to plan. That's a great feeling.

Start Writing About Your Parties

Think of the parties you have helped with or hosted. Did your neice just turn one? Did your sister have a baby shower? Are your parents celebrating a big anniversary? Did your brother have an engagement party? Did your son just graduate from high school? Are you hosting your annual St. Patrick's Day party?

All these life occasions usually involve celebrations of some sort. Let's hear about them, brag about what you did! It can help others that are looking for ideas and inspiration!

I came across a lens recently that does a great job of telling the story of planning her daughter's birthday party. It's titled Monster High Birthday Party Ideas written by BellaMommyDesigns. She wrote from her experience and shared photos, products and ideas to inspire others in their party planning.

So, as long as you attack the writing from the perspective of relaying personal experience or storytelling, anyone can write about planning parties! Come join me and let me help you promote your writing! Visit me at Party Planning Contributor at Hubpages. Can't wait to read what you write!


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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Recycle in the Garden and Grow Gorgeous Plants

Keep Your Garden Growing with Homemade Compost


If you have a yard, it's free and easy to make compost from the yard waste left behind after you've mowed the grass, pruned the shrubs and raked the leaves.



Hello Recycling Fans!



It may still be winter, but it's time to start planning a spring garden. While you're busy thumbing through seed catalogs and polishing the rust off your garden hoe, remember to make space for a compost pile.



There are many ways to approach composting. A couple of weeks ago, I challenged my friends to Review Your Favorite Composting System. There were a variety of tips, tricks and product reviews that came from this challenge.

Here is some of the composting fun that these friends shared. They all approach composting from a different perspective but all of them love having a never-ending supply of home-brewed fertilizer for their garden plants.

Paperfacets is thrilled with her witch's brew pot in the corner of her backyard. She tells us that there are 10 Exciting Reasons Why I Love to Compost. I really enjoyed her excitement over the little critters that grow in her compost pile.

LadyMermaid asks us to reduce our impact on the environment. Her motto is Compost - Go Green. She has some great tips on the kinds of trash to compost and some ideas to help you get started if you've never composted before.

The fun part of composting is that there's no real right way to compost and no real wrong way to compost. As long as you add the right materials and give the pile some air, you can create compost almost anywhere.


If you live in a suburban neighborhood, you may not be able to have an open compost pile. I lived in one of these Deed Restricted communities for a few years. The fashion police were constantly on the lookout for any yard that looked a mess. I hid my unsightly compost pile by Making Beautiful Compost with the Envirocycle Original Composter. If you look in the background of the garden picture above, you'll see just how attractive this closed, barrel-system composter looks.

I hope you've been inspired to recycle in your garden to grow gorgeous plants and that you've learned something new about composting. Don't throw your yard waste away. Use it to fertilize your garden the natural way.

Until next week, may your days be blessed and may your compost pile grow beautiful blooms.

Coletta



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Friday, February 7, 2014

A Little Romance with Elvis

 A Little Romance with Elvis
Most of us have great memories associated with Elvis and his music. We can remember the first time we heard Elvis sing. We remember his movies, his good looks and his charming smirks. To this day, I am tickled when I view videos and I see him do that little half smile while he is singing.

Many of his songs are important to us and are associated with someone we knew, dated, fell in love with or even married. Elvis touched our hearts in his own special way and we all know where we were and what we were doing when his death was announced. 


Elvis changed music, he influenced lives and he left us wanting more.


The writers featured here today share their memories, those magic moments that included Elvis and his songs.
 


Can't Help Falling in Love


These are both most excellent reviews of the same song, but from a totally different perspective.  I can easily identify with each one.  I have absolutely no problem believing Elvis sang this song to both a woman and to God.  The expression of not being able to help "falling in love" would easily be true for either and I do agree with TheCureforYouthMinistry, Elvis did love gospel music and I do truly believe he loved God.  I don't doubt for one second that he did smile over the use of this song in church.

https://amzn.to/2CCtlYz
Cherylfay shares her own personal memories of falling in love and her association with this song in Can't Help Falling in Love.  She recalls in vivid detail exactly how she felt when her own blue eyed babe winked at her.

This is truly a fun article to read.  Who knows.  She just might make you start remembering too!

TheCureforYouthMinistry shares a completely different perspective in this article, The First Time I Heard Elvis in Church.  I have personally never heard anyone sing "Can't Help Falling in Love" in church, but I think it is totally applicable and appropriate with just the portion of the lyrics that say "take my whole life too".  I also love the idea of using popular music to make a spiritual point.  I would have thought that was awesome as a youth or young adult.  Even now, I can truthfully say  I will never again hear the song exactly the same way now that TheCureforYouthMinistry has caused me to listen to the song in a totally different way.   



 

Love Songs with Elvis

https://amzn.to/2GCaJur
Grammieo  delights us all with Can Anyone Say SwoonJust the title of the article says it all and made me smile.  

I can understand why Grammieo decided to review the full album instead of just one song.  It really is difficult to choose just one favorite.

Join Us and Share Your Elvis Memories

It is not too late for you to join us! We would love for you to share your memories and tell us all about your favorite Elvis song.

Would you believe there are over 100 romantic songs by Elvis?  Feel free to review more than one song if you so desire. 

 

Don't Put Off Until Tomorrow, What You Can Review Today!



Forever Hopeless Romantics on Facebook





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Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Camera for Everyone

In today's world most everyone has a camera!  Camera's come in all sizes, shapes and price ranges.  A week or so ago I wrote a lens inviting people to review their favorite camera Review Your Favorite Camera .  On this page I listed 50 different popular cameras and challenged people to write a review on one of the ones I had listed or if their favorite camera was not listed to write a review on it. 

I was delighted to see all the great reviews.  There were a wide variety of reviews on many different cameras.  I read reviews on point and shoots, iphones, SLR's and a wonderful review on an inexpensive film camera.  The reviews below show some of the wide variety of "favorite cameras" that were reviewed.
  • In this lens, Debs tells us why she enjoys using a Holga.  It is an inexpensive film camera.  Discover Lo Fi Slow Photography with a Holga
  • Grammeio loves her Canon point and shoot camera because it is easy to take with your everywhere.  She tells you why it is her favorite in this review One Great Little Camera
  • Paullenton had a favorite Christmas camera this year and reviewed it in this lens Nikon coolpix 1820
My two favorite cameras right now are a Canon Powershot sx40 and a Sony A57 .  My Canon is a great point and shoot that can be used in both automatic and manual modes.  It also has a 35 times zoom that makes it great for trips when I want the ease of a lightweight camera but with the versatility of a zoom lens. 

My Sony is my workhorse that I use when I am out photographing lighthouses.  Here is a photo I took with it this past summer.


One of the fun features on my Sony is the wonderful picture effects that I can get on some of its automatic settings.  Here is a favorite that I took of our Christmas tree this year setting it on the black and white with a red pop setting.

You can read about some of the other picture effects on this page Camera Picture Effects.


I now have Photo Bug pages on Pinterest.  I hope you will join me there to share ideas about photography.

If you haven't written a review on your favorite camera yet, I'd love to see one from you.  Be sure to tell us what features you enjoy on the camera and why that particular camera is the best one for you.  And of course, be sure to share some of the photos you took with the camera.

Happy Shooting!







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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ask Yourself Out on a Date

Photo Credit: Renaissance Woman

The next time you are looking for writing inspiration, or a creative boost, take yourself on a date.  I first got this idea from Julia Cameron’s bestselling book entitled The Artist’s Way.  Cameron encourages us to schedule time for a weekly artist’s date.

The kind of date you choose will depend on your particular writing niche.  My most recent date, because I contribute to the home renovation niche, took me to Home Depot and Lowe’s.  I wanted to experience the hottest new home improvement products and gather firsthand information regarding trending do-it-yourself projects.

In addition to sparking ideas for my next home renaissance project, which involves natural ledgestone tile and cable lighting, the date made it possible for me to snap some photos, obtain product samples, and take home everything I needed to immediately get to work on both my renovation projects and related product reviews. 

One of the Hottest New Natural Stone Tile Products
Photo Credit: Renaissance Woman
You may not be a DIY artist, but the same concept applies to any niche.  Your date might take you to a bookstore, party store, craft supply store, electronics emporium, theater, museum, cooking class, local festival, or even an organic foods cooperative.  The point is to go somewhere stimulating.

After last week’s artist date, I was inspired to write about the Dremel Saw-Max, my newest home renovation tool.  To my delight, that review was featured as a Review of the Day.  Had I not gone on my artist date, I might never have written that review. 

Best of all, I now have two new love interests in my life – Max and Ledge Stone.  I’ll be writing more about Ledge, as he is featured in an upcoming product review.  I just know you are going to love his rock solid presence and craggy good looks.  Who knew DIY dates could be so romantic?  Stay tuned to discover who ends up being my Valentine’s Day date.

What kind of creative date might you choose for your writing niche?



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Monday, February 3, 2014

Get Kitted Out for Crafting


As any fan of crafting with kids will know, having a supply of craft essentials on hand is a must for when your little ones cry, "I want to craft!" or "I'm bored!"

This is where craft kits can come in very handy. My personal favourite craft "kit" is our own haberdashery box of recycled household junk, bits of ribbon, material offcuts and so on, that we can delve into and use to create something new and wonderful. However, you do need a few things to help you turn the junk into gems - and for kids, you need to be thinking googley eyes, pom poms, pipe cleaners, sequins and sparkles (along with a set of paints and pens, of course!). We love this jumbo craft jar pictured left - Santa brought it two Christmasses ago and it's still going strong!

Recently I've been asking craft-loving folks to review the best kids craft kits for the under-fives. If you have a favourite kit, whether it's shown on this list or not, please share a review with us!

I've been enjoying the reviews of everything from basic kits to paint your own sets, and adding a few reviews of my own, including this one of our favourite kit to dip into, the Mister Maker Doodle Drawers.

Groovyfinds reviewed the fabulous "My Crafty Kit" by Alex Toys, which not only comes jam packed with lots of crafting goodies, but also comes packed in a handy case with a handle, so perfect for little crafters on the go!

Another great-sounding kit is the Faber Castell Big Fun Crafts Kit, reviewed here by tonyleather after it proved a big hit with his granddaughter. 

Once you've got your basics covered, you can delve into more specific kits, such as paint-your-own models, sequin and mosaic designs, decorate-your-own kits, first sewing kits, stamping sets, cutting sets and many, many more. One such kit which my little girl would love is the Breyer Paint your Own Horse Kit which has been reviewed by KarenTBTEN.

So, if you have a craft kit at home which your preschoolers adore, please share! Or if you make your own kits up, why not write a how-to on making your own craft kit?


Tips on Reviewing Craft Products:

  • Tell your readers an overview of what is in the kit
  • Review the quality of the items, whether there is value for money, the variety inside
  • Share photos and descriptions of some of the things your child made using the items
  • Did your child like it? 
  • Would you recommend it to others, or buy it again? 
  • What could be improved, or was it just right? How does it compare to other kits you've used? 

In the meantime, happy crafting! If you're stuck for ideas, why not stop by the Little Crafty Kids community on Facebook or Pinterest?

There are several great themes to explore crafting this month - we'll be:
  • Making Brighid crosses and paper spring flowers for Imbolc (2nd February)
  • Making heart-themed crafts for Valentine's Day (14th February) 
  • Making friendship bracelets to celebrate International Friendship Day (and sending them to my daughter's penpals) 
  • Crafting little bird houses and feeders for National Wild Bird Feeding Month

How about you?

Photo Credit: Our Jumbo Craft Set before we started delving in and having fun with it!




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Sunday, February 2, 2014

How to Write for an Internet Audience -- Party Planning Niche

As the Party Planner Contributor on Review This, I have been spending some time on the topics that include parties -- checking out the articles, promoting them and seeing what areas/party topics are lacking in suggestions and advice.

Let me first say, there are a lot of awesome articles about parties. YAY! However, there are a few that niche that could use some help, as well.

This is what I want to talk about today -- giving people what they want and need in our writing. Being a successful and valuable addition to the internet.

Filling a Need with our Writing

You see, we (the Squidoo Community) know that internet searchers are real people looking for real solutions to real problems -- all sorts of problems. The bottom line is -- no matter the subject -- they value experience.

When you have done something and write about it on Squidoo, a blog or your website, you are sharing your experience, what you learned and how/if you would do it the next time. This is valuable information we can share with each other.

This, of course, includes party planning. When I search for ideas for parties online, I want to know specifics, read your real-life experience, the planning and the final outcome. I want to know what worked for you and decide for myself if it will work for me.

What I don't want to see is an article that isn't really an article but a glorified shopping list. Where's the value there? I can go straight to the party supply sites and order anything I might need.

When I started my internet search, what I wanted was some advice, suggestions and assistance. Sure, if you are thrilled with a product that really made your party perfect... I want to know. But, if all you are offering me is a bunch of links to other sites, then why should I visit your article, page, website or blog in the first place? Again, there is no value.

Value is Real and Tangible 

Think about it in this context... The advertising world uses actors to portray real people in real situations to sell their products. Why? Because society is programmed to believe that an announcer "telling" us why the product is great can be deceptive. But, if we see people using it, happy with it, showing us how to use it -- we are much more likely to believe we need or want it.

I guess what I am saying -- and I, personally, think -- is that regardless of the topic you want to write about or whatever your niche is -- Be Real! Share your experiences, what worked, what didn't, how to is a wonderful format to write an article or post. Additionally, if you use "How To" in the title, internet searchers can see, right away, that they need the information.

Bottom line: make it personal, share your experiences, successes and failures. You've already been in our shoes. We can learn from each other and all be better for it.

Writing for the Party Planning Topic/Niche

What does all this mean to anyone wanting to write for the party planning topic on Squidoo? It means tell us about a particular party or event you planned or were a part of. Show us pictures, share your decisions -- good and bad -- tell us the story of hosting or planning that party for that specific occasion.

Instead of writing an article titled: Dora the Explorer Party Goods

Write this: My daughter's Dora the Explorer Birthday Party

Instead of this: Planning a Wedding
Write this:  How I Planned my Entire Wedding Myself

Instead of this: Planning a 4th of July Party
Write this: Ideas from our Annual 4th of July Patriotic Party

You get the idea... By sharing from first hand experience you build credibility and authority with searchers and with search engines. We'll believe you and listen to your advice.

Now, head off to Squidoo and write a party planning article that will help others. If you are not sure where to start or need inspiration, try reviewing a product you have used from one of the following lists: Party Planning Books, 3 Tiered Stands and St. Patrick's Day Party Items. Or, strike out on your own. Either way, I can't wait to read it! Good luck!




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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Take the Upcycle It Challenge

Happy Saturday, Recycling Fans!

I hope you all had a good week and found one new opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle. Today, I'd like to introduce you to a few of the RocketSquids on Squidoo.

NOTE:  On August 15, 2014, Squidoo announced that it had been acquired by HubPages. This program is no longer available on Squidoo.

The RocketSquid program was Squidoo's web writing bootcamp for new Squidoo members. Each week, RocketSquids were presented with a writing challenge and reading material to help them become successful on the Web. Their completed assignments were reviewed by experienced Squidoo writers who provided RocketSquids with encouraging critiques and helpful tips.

Last week, Squidoo's RocketSquids took the Upcycle It challenge and wrote stories about their adventures in recycling. Their assignment was to spotlight something that they upcycled, recycled or transformed into a new object.

The challenge motivated me to start a project involving pressed flowers from a floral arrangement that has special meaning for my family. My creativity sparkled with an idea to Recycle Memories of Love and Flowers. I gathered the assortment of pressed flowers, then searched for a picture frame and fabric to complement the flowers. Adding a bottle of glue, a precious memory will be forever enjoyed.

As a kid, growing up in the 1960s, we used all kinds of trash to make art. Magazines, Popsicle sticks, tin cans, fabric scraps. Anything with color and anything that would stick to glue. My favorite was to cut up magazines and make collages.

My mom is always recycling old blankets and scraps of fabric. With the best pieces, she makes baby blankets and donates the blankets to a pregnancy aid center for low-income families. These Homemade Organic Baby Wipes are much gentler to a baby's skin than the disposable baby wipes. And, you can use a soap that does not irritate baby's skin.

What do you do with old mattresses? When I bought a new mattress, I wasn't sure how to dispose of the old mattress. A scrapper, making his run through the neighborhood alleys, offered to take the mattress off my hands. It went in the back of his truck, on top of his collection of scrap metal. Away to the recycling center he went.


I hope you enjoyed these Upcycle It stories and found some inspiration to create an upcycled project with stuff you find tucked in a corner of your basement.

Until next week, keep on recycling!

Coletta



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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

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