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Archives for April 2011

Lilly is known for bright colors but today the pink for love stands out!

make a wish layout
photo credit: A Colorful Blog

My heart was just “touched!” Which is really something that I needed lately. Today I decided to give a “spring break” to all of my 31dbbb review participants because well it’s spring and with the spring comes flowers warm weather and yes, new “Lilly.” I love Lilly! Being a color loving kinda gal the Interior Designer in me just wants to leap out every time I pass a Lilly store. Unfortunately I don’t really have the shape for a lot of Lilly clothes but my daughters do, so you know what they say… those who can’t…. shop for others lol.

But when I opened my mail today with an update of the latest from Lilly I popped by their blog and saw this most heartwarming story. (You have to know how happy this made me after the debacle that Ina Garten pulled)

Lilly Pulitzer welcomed 6 year old aspiring Fashion Designer, Kylee, for a magical visit to the “Pink Palace.” Kylee and her family joined everyone there for a day of print, painting, designing…and of course SHOPPING! Now this is the special and wonderful way to treat a Make a Wish Child….

• Kylee and her family arrived at the Pink Palace in a stretch limo

• Greeted by Janie Schoenborn, Fashion Director she gave Kylee a very special VIP tour starting with a tour of the office, the distribution center and then visited the Merchandising, Design, and Product Development where she met a lot of the faces behind the company and showed her the process of creating one of their fab shifts!

• If this wasn’t every little fashion plates dream, Kylee then went on to the place where the real magic begins… the print design studio! Kylee was met by print designers Stacey and Paige, as well as Fashion Designer, Abraham. And then they gave her the special tools and let her creative side come out; apparently Kylee has a knack for colorful styles as her drawings are supposed to be fab!

• Lunch was every kids fav PB & J and pink and green floral cupcakes… how cute is that?

• If a morning like that wasn’t enough Kylee was then whisked away in the “Lilly Jeep” to one of their stores where she had a ball trying on lots and lots of clothes, and it only seemed fitting to these wonderful people to let Kylee have all of her choices… 4 shopping bags full and even a dress for her to match her mom!

Now that’s what I’m talkin about… that is a wish… for a special little girl… with a dream… fulfilled by a special company! Yup, that is something to smile about!

A List is a List is a List…

list
photo credit: the italian voice

Happy Thursday, you know what that means to me; “Hello to all of our ProBlogger 31dbbb participants!” and those of you who want to review the program in a more leisurely manner…

Today we are going back… way back… to the beginning of the ProBlogger challenge and to Day 2: Write a List Post.

The purpose of a list post is to provide your readers with information that is easy to read and spread. And after going through the challenge we all learned that people like to read these… So let’s take a few moments to discuss why…

• Lists can be serious or fun

• List posts are often amongst a blog’s most popular posts

Let’s take a look at the 10 Steps to build the perfect list via ProBlogger

1. Decide on the number of items in the list

2. Keep each item in the list similar

3. Brainstorm more items than you need

4. Order the list logically

5. Break very long lists into sections

6. Consider making your list a series

7. Be consistent in how you write each item

8. Always number the items

9. Invite readers to add to the list

10. Choose a great title

If you would like to go back and review the original Day 2 in the challenge I have linked it here

Remember that if your head is running on empty at the moment you can always hop over to Digg or Delicious for popular stories which might inspire you to write a list post.

Questions:

Do you have a great tip for writing list posts?

Have you had any hugely successful lists on your blog?

Homework for this week:

Answer the above questions below in comments

Write a list post this week and come back and put the link here.

If you missed last week’s review lesson it’s OK, just pop by and check it out! Day 14: Update a Key Page on Your Blog and remember to leave a link to your updated page!

Let’s all remember to take a few moments to leave a comment on everyone who leaves a link here!

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly… and so does that child of mine…

little bird on branch at dusk
photo credit: greg westfall

First smile..

First tears..

First word..

First cold..

First steps..

First friend..

First day of preschool..

Chickenpox..

First “A”..

First fight..

First kiss..

First dance..

First pageant..

First time driving… and first car..

Graduation from high school..

Bid Day=becoming sisters and the legacy lives on..

Graduation from college..

So many memories…

8330 days…

And it’s over in a heartbeat…

And now my little bird is ready to spread her wings and show the world how she can fly..

So proud of you Sarah, go on now..

fly to great heights!

Top 10 Bloggy Secrets From Some Pretty Good Experts

finger to lips showing secret
photo credit: steven depolo

For my friends who followed me as we went through the ProBlogger 31 days to build a better blog challenge; we know some days were more writing then reading. However I believe Day 6 was probably the most reading…

I know it was practically impossible to read all of this in one sitting and none the less in 15 minutes (ha-ha Darren) so I would like to take today to go back to Day 6: 27-Must-Read Tips and Tutorials for Bloggers and take a few hours and see if you can read all 27 tutorials.

Key points:

1. Build a brand, you are building a brand with everything you do online (even comments on other peoples blogs).

2. Be consistent and focused on your brand and topic in all your posts, have foundation, cornerstone articles/eBook/training course/how to etc. (your brand again!) around which everything is built.

3. Generously share your expertise freely and add your value (i.e. your brand) to other blogs.

4. Use large creative commons images, they look better than paid for stock photos.

5. Be the expert or be unique in your niche and give, give give.

6. Post consistently i.e. fulfill the expectations you have set. Setup an editorial calendar and record all your past post topics in it (we will def rework this one!).

7. Include links to your blog in all your outside social media profiles (e.g. twitter, LinkedIn, facebook etc).

8. Build trust with privacy policy and contact details etc.

9. Have a long term strategy. How does this article improve my blog as a whole and my brand.

10. Make sure your titles are SEO friendly (include keywords) and at the same time catchy and attention grabbing.

Questions:

• Did you read all 27 posts?

• Which of these posts and authors resonated with you the most?

• List one nugget of bloggy wisdom you learned that you want to share with the group?

In case you missed last week’s review challenge: Day 14: Update a Key Page.

And in case you haven’t seen our little grad button over on the forum here it is!

When you are finished with your reading leave a commenthere answering the questions and if you wrote a post today link it here so the lady before you can come and visit and leave you some bloggy love!

The big bad dirty oven


My not so clean oven

Yes, I have a self-cleaning oven… Well it would be one thing if I used the “self-clean” every once in a while but who has time for that? LOL Instead we use it and use it however when it came time for the Eco-Green Kitchen Cleaning Challenge to clean the oven, I took a good look inside and thought Um, Yup this is much needed. OK, I have to put a little disclaimer here I do clean it but just not that often… As I said, who has time to wait the 4-6 hours for self clean?

In keeping with the Eco-friendly challenge I came up with this “concoction” which seemed to do the trick pretty good.

Chemical Free Oven Cleaning Concoction

Ingredients:

5T Baking Soda
3 Drops of Liquid Dish Soap
4T White Vinegar
Lemon

Directions:

Mix the above into a thick paste.


Watching it bubble reminded me of an old chemistry experiment


Use a sponge to apply to the oven cleaning concoction to the inside of the oven


Let sit for an hour or so


Get ready to work those arm muscles and scrub


Use a lemon to scrub some more and get rid of the vinegar smell


Rinse thoroughly with water and wipe dry

*a little tip before baking in the oven after cleaning I would take some bread and bake it to “absorb” the smells so it doesn’t end up in your next dish.

I don’t know about you but I have a “little” problem with food breaking the boundaries of my pans sometimes and messing up my oven floor. Obviously it is best to try and stop this from happening so here are a few tips:

Muffins: Use a measuring cup with a spout to pour batter into muffin tins neatly, avoiding drops on the tin that can burn and “hop” off. To make sure your muffins don’t topple over never fill the tins more than ¾ full.

Casseroles: Put a cooking sheet on the rack below with aluminum foil inside. If anything spills over it is as easy as throwing up the foil.

Pies: I find that it is best when cooking pies to use a silicone mat (for baking cookies) on a baking sheet below. Again, that way the mat will catch the bubbling fruit that almost always runs over the sides.

Somehow those are my worst culprits for “overflow” hope this helps and remedies… What do you use and tell me how often do you clean your oven? Remember no judgments coming from me!

If you want to check out my other DIY Eco-friendly Kitchen Cleaning:
Shelley vs the Kitchen Sink DIY Style
8 Ways to a Mean Green and Clean Dancing Machine Cook Top

Key Pages through the looking glass

the looking glass
photo credit: lilivanili

In reviewing everyone’s comments last week about which day’s they would like to review it was unanimous that most people would like to review; all! I sat and was a bit surprised, but then I thought about it and the time I spent working on the challenge and thought: “Ya know, I completely understand how everyone wants to review it all again.” There is so much wonderful information in the 31 Day Challenge and the way Darren presents it is easy to read but as I said before it is almost like a spider web where he links and interlinks, *which “hello!” is what he is telling us to do, and you can see it “does” work if it is done properly. So I took a look at the list of days and thought about what everyone said they were looking for and came up with Day 14: Update a Key Page on Your Blog as our first-Redo.

Take the time to read what Darren has to say and then sit down and take a look at your site and all of your posts.

If you would like to review the original Day 14 in the challenge I have it linked here.

What are your 10 pages or post that you found the most important?

• Can you do this right off the bat? Or like me do you need to go and check this out.

• Obviously our Front Page is a no brainer, I would hope people took this seriously when we began the challenge but for one reason or another which I can completely understand might not have happened.

• Look at your header or logo does it need an update?

• Does it work with what your elevator speech has to say?

• Can someone sum up your site by looking at your Home Page?

The second Page that I recently received may hits on is my “About Page” which I worked on during our last go round.

• Did you work on your About Page?

• What changes did you make?

I have a little confession to make now to our wonderful group, on Friday’s when I ran my contests I tried very very hard to find people’s email addresses. I decided if someone didn’t leave their email address I would “attempt” to find it and if I could I would enter them but I was really surprised at how many people did not have a Contact Page with their email information. I then understood the importance of having a Contact Page; what if I was a Book Agent, or a PR Agent? Anyone who I couldn’t have gotten in touch with might have missed that “one time call” that could have changed their life.

That reminds me of the time that Oprah called my husband and he missed her call! He had been waiting a longgg time to get that call, understandably. However, that was it; he tried to get back in touch with “her people” but when you miss that one call sometimes it is harder to get a second chance. True story, just put it into bloggy perspective. Don’t miss the call or in our case could be e-mail. Contact Page people!

High Traffic Pages: Google Analytics has become my new found friend. I try very hard not to take it so personal with the bounce rate but now understand these a bit better and really take to heart where people are coming from to my site and what posts they go to and leave from.

• So what are the highest traffic pages on your site?

• Do you know how people get there?

Other Key Pages: Advertise with us, Recommended Readings, or Subscribe Pages. Take the time to review these if you have them and if you don’t and think they will help people navigate through your site and spend more time there write one!

Remember; Key Pages could bring you the call that changes your life; don’t miss it by not having one!

Homework for the week:

1. Update a page or two

2. Leave a comment here with the link(s) to the page(s).

3. Review the link to the person who commented before you here and leave a comment for them on how you think this helped you navigate through their site.

8 Ways to a mean green and clean dancin’ machine cook top!

This morning I am working on Day 2 Greener Cleaning Kitchen Challenge: How I Clean My Stove top with Natural Cleaners, Woot Woot!

This morning I picked up on my second Eco-Green Kitchen Cleaning Challenge. I picked up some handy dandy tips (from the world wide web) for cleaning glass tops which I will pass onto all of you, as well as a wonderfully smelling green “concoction” that left me feeling great and dancing around my kitchen to “beautiful girl” and all I kept thinking was “beautiful stove top!” lol

8 Ways to a mean green and clean dancin machine cook top!

1. Verify that the cooking surface has cooled down before attempting to clean it. Monitor the “hot surface” light feature on your stove.

2. Wipe and clean the glass top with hot soapy water or a mild, non-abrasive cleanser with a damp cloth or sponge as soon as possible once the cook top has cooled down. For more of an elbow cleaning kind of day try the concoction below to get up old grease and grime!

3. Clean the glass top cooking surface after every meal so food does not become baked on and stuck on the next time you cook. You’ll really regret cooking with a dirty stove.

4. Soak heavy, sticky spills such as candy, jellies, syrup and sauces, as soon as possible. Hot water will help soften the spill.

5. Use a scraper made specifically for glass top stoves to help lift and scrape away stubborn spills, being careful to not scratch the surface. Continue to clean the entire cooking surface using a mild, non abrasive cleaner (baking soda is the green abrasive!) and a damp cloth or sponge.

6. Try the cleaning concoction below! This will become your best friend for cleaning white film, metal specks from the bottom of your pots, heavy soils marks, dark streaks and any other strange discolorations that may appear. As well as glass tops!

7. Remember that your glass top stove is not a new counter top. Avoid placing objects on it,such as plastic bags, that may accidentally melt or adhere to the surface if it is still hot. Be sure to monitor the “hot surface” light before setting anything on it.

8. Use gloves! Baking soda will take a toll on your hands.

What You’ll Need:

Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) A deodorizer and gentle scrub; softens hard water, removes acidic stains, and polishes shiny surfaces like stainless steel without scratching

Plant-based liquid soap Gentle soap made with oils such as olive (“Castile soap”), palm, and coconut, rather than petroleum derivatives or animal fat

Essential oils Aromatic plant oils; some, including eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree, are natural disinfectants and antifungals. Pure essential oils can irritate eyes and skin upon contact, so handle carefully

Before photo’s:

Basic Soft Scrubber Formula:

1/2 cup baking soda

Enough liquid soap or detergent to make a frosting-like consistency (see note, below)

5 drops antibacterial essential oil such as lavender, tea tree oil, or rosemary (optional)which I just happened to have picked up when I visited Canyon Ranch last summer. Yay for aromatherapy cleaning!

Directions:

Pour the baking soda in a bowl

Slowly pour in the liquid soap or detergent, stirring all the while, until the consistency reaches that of frosting.

Add in lavender or tea tree oil, mix together, be prepared to be whisked into stress free feeling cleaning my friends!

Scoop the creamy mixture onto a sponge, wash the surface, and rinse, and don’t forget to throw yourself into the rubbing and scrubbing!

Note: If you have hard water, you will want to choose a liquid detergent instead of a liquid soap. Most health food stores offer all-purpose liquid detergents and soaps. These are the best choices because they include no synthetic perfumes and dyes, and tend to be the most concentrated.

Also, use gloves! Silly me didn’t and the baking soda and tea tree oil did a little number on my hands..

I left the cleaner on the stove top for about 5 minutes to harden a bit and then came back with my little rag, cranked up my little music box and started to burn some serious calories scrubbing. It was elbow grease time; I wanted to see if I could really make this sparkle and impress the old hubby! So circle, circle, rinse, repeat with a few little dance moves mixed in and after about 15 minutes I was done. Oh my goodness, well you tell me what you think…

*only sorry you missed my mad dance/cleaning moves… maybe another time! lol

Do you dance and clean?

If you missed last weeks Challenge it was to clean the kitchen sink: Shelley vs the kitchen sink DIY style

Annie Leibovitz I’m not… but I’d like to be!

Ohh, a mere 27 years ago I graduated from college with a BS in Interior Design and a minor in Landscape Architecture, my goodness 27 years, where did the time go? OK, that is not the reason for this post… Photography is!

I do enjoy photography, I loved taking it in college “back in the day” when we actually learned to develop film for our projects and loved my trusted Canon AE1 but recently it has become impossible to “find” film. I think it is practically extinct! So sad!! But times have moved on and so have I; finally last year for my birthday I broke down and purchased a new update. I couldn’t stray away from my Canon so I chose the Rebel T1i; pretty much the same as my old Rebel X but now “digital” so no more hunts for film, and so much lighter!

I have photography envoy! I admit it! I love looking at people’s photos and wishhhh I could take expressive pictures like others… Great collages… such feelings… Oh stop it Shelley I know you can do it *say’s little voice in my head! So you have to know how happy I was when I got wind that my friends at SITS were going to start a photography series in the forum. I was so there, hand up! If you are a SITS girl, you know my hand is always up for these amazing women! So I’m here to tell you “GO!” “Go to the SITS site” and join in… if you like me have photography envoy. I promise you it will be rewarding… Have I ever let a SITS girl down?

sits springphotobadge Join the SITS Spring into Action Photo Challenge!

The series is going to be for two weeks, from April 4th –our good old tax day the 15th. Lynda will be heading the series and will have a daily lesson for everyone on the site along with a few challenges prompting you to try a technique that we discussed. If you just want to focus on improving your photography, that’s fine too as you can share your photos on the forums, Flickr, Twitter or Facebook.

These are some key points from Lynda’s intro post so you have an idea of what this is all about:

Photography:

Basic photography techniques which rely more on you holding any device that can capture images than knowing what aperture, ISO, RAW, SLR, f-stop, shutter speed or any other number of photography terms. (This post might just be the only place in the series where those words appear at all!) Instead, we’ll focus on:

Composition

Perspective

Lighting

Lines

Repetition

Color and Black & White

Blogging with Photos:

Tools and photo tips to help you better incorporate original photographs into your blog and social networking presence, such as:

Free Online Photo Editing Tools

Making a Collage

Photo Sharing via Social Networking

Styling Your Photos in Your Articles

Image SEO

Protecting Your Photos

Six Reasons why you should join Lynda and Participate!

1. You do not need a fancy camera. This series will feature photos taken on cell phones and archaic pen cams. No special equipment is needed other than any device that can take pictures!

2. You do not need to know anything about photography. We’re not going to get too technical.

3. Professional and Amateur photographers are welcome to participate! If you do know a thing or two about photography, your knowledge and feedback will be invaluable. We hope you’ll participate, join in the discussion and refer us to articles you’ve written.

4. Taking pictures is fun and creative!

5. Social networking is enhanced and expanded with the addition of photography.

6. Readers are more engaged by original photography on a blog.

And joining in is soo easy and somehow I keep forgetting to mention it’s FREE!

How to Get Involved!

There are a number of ways to get involved, promote your site and find some new, great reads! This is not a time sensitive challenge and you may join in at any time!

Sign up on the SITS Forums! If you plan on participating, visit this thread to sign-up so we can follow along together! There will be daily discussions, additional questions, prompts and exercises in our discussion forums. You can also upload pictures there and post links to your blog entries related to the topic!

Twitter. Use the hashtag #SITSPics on Twitter! You can join in the conversation and follow along using our hashtag! If you need help getting set up on Twitter, check out this post I wrote What’s with all the Tweetering?

Flickr. Join the SITS Spring into Action Photo Challenge Group to share photos or screenshots of your blog entries related to the topics! (If you’re not sure what Flickr is or how to use it, we’ll be covering that in-depth on Day 4!)

So come on join in the fun, I am so excited about being a part of this group. Let’s go and learn together… and then maybe Annie Leibovitz will let me be her assistant or maybe just “hold” her camera! LOL

Ahoy there Pirate Booty


photo credit: Pirate Brands

Dear “Pirate Booty” Producers,

I recently came across your little fluffy balls of rice or air or whatever they are and I just want to tell you I am in love! Thank you so much for creating a crunchy and sinfully delicious um do I dare say “nutritious” and guilt free snack…. Butt, please please please can you come up with a honey barbeque flavor that rivals Frito’s flavor; I just yearn for that sweet and salty taste and I don’t want to be forced to abandon my “healthy living” and run back to the “dark side” of snacks… Um K! Thanks so much,

Your little snacker!
Shelley

Who is with me? What is your guilty pleasure?

*Oh food that is a guilty pleasure; my nutritionist is going to have a hay-day if she sees this!