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Coupon Binder or Bible?

One of the first things that I did was create an organized Coupon Binder or for better words Bible which I got the help of from The Krazy Coupon Lady, she has it already laid out for you section by section all you need to do is spend the time and gather the goods to create your Bible and assemble. This is one of those times I say “why reinvent the wheel” when she has done it so well and nicely designed too!

You will need:

1 Binder: I chose a 2” thick binder which I think is a good size and mine has a little clipboard on the side for anything extra I might want to bring or a pad of paper.

41 Heavyweight Sheet Protectors: I will tell you I had bought some at Target which were very flimsy so I used some others I had from Staples which were much better. I figure these will take a pretty good beating being flipped back and forth, sorry Target but this product of yours wasn’t up to par.

60 Pages of Baseball Card inserts for the clipped coupons

Assembly is as easy as 1, 2, 3~

Love love love bright designs from Target

couponing bible

There are even a few pages for you to customize should you have the need. You should organize by category to keep things easy to find.

Hadley's Page

Clipboard good for extra coupons and pad for notes

clipboard

Clip coupons and add to Baseball Card inserts in each area. I think it is best to add them in date order that way you can have what expires up first and duplicates behind.

OK, your turn, shoot me your link when you have it done, i’d love to see yours!

My new life as a Couponista!

couponing 101

Being a special needs mom my budget sometimes gets stretched a little tight due to unforeseen medical expenses and I have been trying to figure out a way to cut back and recently became very interested and intrigued after watching shows on TV about “extreme couponing”. I don’t know about extreme or fully understand how those ladies purchase 10 full carts of food for $50 but I sure got the bug to figure it out and save what I can. So I’m proud to say that today is the first day of the rest of my “couponing” life. I will no longer be a coupon virgin!  So after studying and reading everything I could from a number of “experts”…What have I learned? A LOT (!) which I will be sharing and carrying forward with you.

The Basic Rules of Couponing

  1. Cook according to what you have “in stock” do NOT go out and buy food based on making weekly recipes; which is how I have shopped most of my adult life.
  2. Lose the membership to Warehouse clubs they are not worth the expense, and who needs a 10 gallon bottle of ketchup really?
  3. The way to really save is to visit ALL of the stores in your area NOT just the one around the corner that is the most convenient; sorry Giant; “Hello” Safeway, Harris Teeter, and Whole Foods, which will also force to get in the car and drive more which for me right now is also a “good thing!”
  4. Build what I will call “The Coupon Bible” which will house all of my weekly coupons, circulars, and store coupons *hello Balducci’s 10% off coupons which I often left at home.

I’m ready to “do this” I feel like I have my game hat on and I’m ready to play the game of math, which wasn’t my best subject, so here I go and I hope to help you along the way. I’d love to hear any of your tips you might have too!

Top 5 Things to Bring To The Hospital

hospital signphoto credit: Parker Michael Knight

I am an “organizational nut” I Know I admit it, but somehow I feel it is like the “always be prepared” oath I must have taken as a child and being the oldest of 6 and all that entails. So when I was getting my husband prepared for his surgery last week, I kept making lists of things to bring, things he needed to get to bring, things I should remember to leave at home so I thought this might make an interesting post for others!

The following hospital list includes the most important things to bring with you when you are admitted to the hospital:

The Patient:

1.    Hospital Papers:

We received a number of pieces of mail from John Hopkins telling us where to go and what to do the day or surgery; I put these in my “Kenny binder” to bring with me to remind me of anything I might forget.

2.    Legal Documents:

When you arrive at the hospital to check in you will most likely go to Admissions. You will be asked by hospital personnel for the following

  •  Driver’s license or identification card, you will defiantly need this to prove you are the patient!
  •  Insurance cards (You should already have called your insurance company that you would be undergoing this procedure a few weeks before. In my case I called our insurance company in early January to make sure there was not anything they needed from the surgeons office prior to being admitted-this might make the billing process move a little smoother; that is a topic for another whole series of posts!

Depending on the extent of surgery it might be wise to bring:

  • Copy of power of attorney, living will and/or advance directive (if applicable)

 3.    List of Medications you are currently taking:

This is really important for family members who don’t even know all of the medications that a family member takes. My husband was asked a number of times prior to surgery and on the day of surgery his medications. In the midst of the “craziness” of getting ready for surgery I can see this is one thing that can get overlooked easily but in my husband’s case where he takes a number of medications I would have been out of luck if I didn’t go over this with him before hand.

It is important to know:

  • Name of medication
  • Dosage of medication
  • Frequency of medication
  • Time of last dose (Another red flag here, make sure that you discuss with your surgeon what you can and cannot take the day of your surgery, something this simple can have you cancelling your surgery if you accidentally take something because you always do without discussing it with your surgeon!) 

4.    Comfy clothes:

 In my husband’s case this was same day surgery and he knew once he recovered we would be on our way home after an hour or so drive, so I knew he would want to be very comfy with his leg wrapped from his calf up to his thigh… So the weekend before we went out and looked from a “stylish” because somehow my husband thought there would be a Red Carpet where people would want his photo taken and “couldn’t be seen” in anything less than stylish. Thank you Hugo Boss! Yes, that is what who he was wearing. And don’t forget the “shoes’ or in his case slippers, again, BIG discussion at our home because you KNOW everyone would want to see “who he was wearing” so thank you UGGS for the backless soft lined slippers that I had just gotten him for the holidays… but depending on your surgery bring something comfy to change into for sure!

 5.    got glasses?

Another thing easy to over look and leave at home if you only wear these for reading, however,  you will need to sign consent forms and will need to know what you are reading so don’t forget to bring these, a family member can hold them for you while you are in surgery.

Family Members:

1.    Your cell phone:

 In this day and age when cell phones are never far behind, make sure you bring yours with you and it doesn’t get left behind in the haste of getting everything together and keeping “calm.”

 You might need a list of family and friends if they are not already in your contact information to update everyone as the surgery progresses.

 John Hopkins happened to let family members use cell phones in the family waiting room, however there are hospitals that do not allow the use of cell phones so you might need to bring a few prepaid phone cards for payphones to keep in touch with family and friends.

2.    Your “entertainment”

I am a magazine junkie, I will admit it, I subscribe to a bunch and then there are “those” that I call the forbidden ones that I pick up while getting my nails done or at the airport, you know the gossipy one, this is the kind of day you can stand some “mindless” and idle gossip to see what the “stars” are wearing or doing…

I have found a new love for crossword puzzles so a book for them might help pass the time for you too!

3.    Pocket Change:

I wouldn’t recommend going to the bank and taking out your weekly money that you use prior to this day, but I would recommend having enough cash on you that you have change for a vending machine, or the cafeteria.

And I would make sure that the patient does NOT bring any money with them, actually there really isn’t a need for them to bring their wallet or purse, it is just one more thing for a family member to hold because you wouldn’t want anyone to have access to it while your clothing waits for you while you are in surgery. My husband left his wallet behind and I held onto his id.

4.    Snacks:

Yes, we all know I am living the “fresh” life at the moment, but I halted my food for the day since I didn’t know long the whole day would be. But water, fruit, or whatever will keep your tummy happy that day is a wise thing to have on hand. Also, for the patient water on the way home is a huge help with getting the anesthesia out of their system and in our case an hour drive, lots and lots of water for a guy who is always thirsty was a must!

5.    Photo’s:

Again, in the day and age of cell phones everyone has a photo or two of their family members to look at while the time passes and it surely will help the patient to see a few before they head to surgery!

Things to leave at home:

1.    Jewelry; the is for the patient, this is NOT the time to put on your best watch or ring, leave it home it might get lost in the Pre-Op room or heaven forbid stolen. It is best just not to bring it, as a matter of fact before my husband headed to surgery, the last thing the anesthesiologist asked him was if he could give me his wedding band, now that was a surreal moment. First thing I did in the Recovery Room was put it back on his finger! 

2.    Credit cards and cash; again this is for the patient, there is NO need for them to have this! No one in the Pre-Op room is going to be “guarding” your “stuff” so your basic clothes and shoes are all you should leave behind there.

Hope this helps you get ready and speedy recovery!

What is the big deal about a name or logo anyhow?

logo designComing up with a name for your playground or organization is usually the first “official” thing you will be doing. Remember the “name” will be how you are known for the life of your organization. Are you honoring a child? Memorializing someone who you loved? Come up with a name people will understand.

After you have decided on a name of your organization you will need to come up with a logo. But before you design a logo, you must understand what a logo is, what it represents and what it is supposed to do. A logo is not just a picture; it reflects a business’s commercial brand through the use of shape, fonts, color, and or images.

Coming from a design background I did understand that when it came time to sit down and come up with our logo that this was a very important meeting. A quality logo design combined with the branding of an organization or company can become one of the most powerful forces in today’s society. Take a look above at some of today’s most common logos and think about how each has become an icon in today’s world. You want to come up with a great logo design which inspires trust, recognition and admiration for your organization.

Ok so how do you come up with this great logo?

• Brainstorm; sit down around a table with your key people and write down:

1. Who are you?

2. How do you describe your organization?

3. What idea are you trying to get across?

4. What type of image/style are you trying to portray?

5. Write down “key words” which you think of when it comes to your organization

• Check out people who have worked in a similar field and see how they portray themselves through their logo design.

• After you have the above questions answered have everyone start to come up with a few sketches of their own thoughts and concepts. You should have paper, colored pencils and crayons around for this creative meeting. Understandably everyone is not an artist but when people draw their own ideas down some great collaborations come together.

• You want your creation/logo to be memorable.

hadley_logo

• In general it is better to keep your logo design simple and clean. The main idea behind this is that you want the logo to be able to hold up well in all sizes. Remember you will be using your logo as your “calling card” on all of your PR materials, written as well as t-shirts, stationery and even in large scale on a sign.

 

volunteers at hadley's park ground breaking • As important as the image of your logo is similarly it is important to have your text “go” with your image i.e. you don’t want to have a futuristic image and a calligraphy type.

• You should have a great tag line! A tag line is a three to seven word phrase that accompanies your logo. It expresses your company’s most important benefits and or what you want your customers to remember about you. Think of it as the words you want to linger describing who you are.

Hadley's Park Sign

• And last but definitely not least, everyone’s pocketbook will be different and you need to keep this in mind when creating your logo, can your logo look good in black and white as well as color? Do you only have the funds to create a one-color logo or can you afford two-color or more?

hadley's playground at dulles town center sign

Just remember, keep it fun and simple and if you can understand what the image is telling you, you’ve done a great job!

So how did you come up with your logo?

It’s all about Pillar Content

Today’s lesson is from ProBloggers First Week of blogging and is a very important topic for all bloggers new and old. Pillar Content; how to come up with it? 

For many coming up with great blog ideas is easy, and they just “flow” from your mind.

However, I know from past experience, sometimes our brains just seen to shut down and we get “nothing” which can be very frustrating. The sentence that we always hear “content is king” holds true not only for our readers but for search engines who pick up our posts.

What Is Pillar Content?

Pillar content is foundational or basic content that is essential knowledge for anyone in your niche. It’s evergreen content – it never dates or loses relevance – and it’s the kind of information that people within your audience would search for using Google, Bing, or another search engine. As you can imagine, pillar content is an important aspect of many blogs.

The key here is not to knock yourself out and try and come up with 365 new ideas but to use ideas you have already written about and expand on them.

An example..

 

In Problogger’s example, he uses a mind map to illustrate the various sub-categories that can be built around a topic for a pet and grooming blog. You can see he takes a main idea topic or original post and expands on it.

Just take out your pen and draw a line from your main idea or post title and then extend to bubbles with various ideas or sub-topics. It is a wonderful way not only to organize but to come up with great new material.

  • Pick up a question that a reader asked in the comments and answer it.
  • Take the opposite point of view
  • Write an opinion view
  • Write a piece that helps people “do it”
  • Do you have a picture that would relate to this or video

Take 15 minutes to do this exercise, when completed you should have a page full of new and exciting material that will make your readers want to dive deeper into your posts.

Weekly tasks:

Utilizing the concept of pillar content, your challenge today is write a post after coming up with a subtopic from your mind mapping and don’t forget to link back to the original post if you can!

After you have written your post don’t forget to link it up here and please take the time to read a post or two and leave some love for everyone!

So do tell, how many mind maps did you create and how many new posts did you get out of this process?

So you want to start a non profit 10 Things you will need to know.

start in scrabble lettersphoto credit: jake and lindsay

First let me say, “Congratulations for wanting to be the change in the world that makes it a better place.” Coming up with a dream is a wonderful thing but actually taking it to the next level and making that dream an organization is both exciting and a lot of work.

Today’s world is filled with paper work whether it be from your state, county, maybe even city and sometimes it feels like it takes weeks on end to go through all of it and at times it feels unnecessary but it is a task that must be completed. You need to make sure that you have covered your entire trail or something will come back to bite you in the end. So PLEASE, make sure you cover all of your bases. Ok, that is my little soap box lesson on “covering your bases” of paperwork. There is so much to starting a nonprofit so let’s just jump in and “go” there are dreams waiting…

1. You need to come up with a name for your organization and you will need to come up with a logo which describes to the world who you are.

2. You need to form a Board of Directors.

3. You will need to come up with a mission statement that explains in one clear sentence what it is you are trying to accomplish and why it is important.

4. You need to file all of you legal paperwork to form your organization.

5. You will need to file with the IRS to get a Tax Id number.

6. You will need to register with the Secretary of State of your organization as a business.

7. You need to open a bank account.

8. Join the professional organization which your organization will help. Start networking with people in that community.

9. You are going to have to come up with a budget for your project and find a way to “fund your dream.”

10. And last but definitely not least, you will need to find volunteers who believe in your mission because it takes a lot of man power to build a dream!

Each one of these is vital to starting and running a successful nonprofit organization. Over the next few months I will dedicate a post to each one of these and then some. I know this might sound like a lot but remember I did it and if I could do it, you can do it! *Cheering*

Although I am your biggest cheering section I would also like to say this information is based on my personal experience and it is my hope to be used to help you as a guide but not to be used in place of legal advice. If you have any questions at anytime feel free to drop me an email or leave it in the comment section.

Did someone say “shopping?”

the mall shopping centerphoto credit: Hans van de Bruggen

The holidays are coming up on us rather quickly, frankly I’m not sure where this whole year has gone but that is another topic. So today we are going to take a little “trip” away from our computer, yup, that means we all have to get dressed and head outside. I’m sure the fresh air will do us some good too!

The mall is an inspirational place; just as a magazine gave us lots of ideas for our blogs the mall does similarly.

Now here is the exercise:

  1. As I said to do this exercise you must first leave your computer and head out to the mall.
  2. Don’t forget to bring a notebook and pen if you are like me and if you are like everyone else in my family your iPad. (I still am a pen and paper kinda gal, I love looking back on my filled notebooks!)
  3. I live just outside of DC where there are a number of malls at my finger tips, but I realize this might be a little harder for those of you in rural areas but there has to be something near you, I hope… maybe even a Wal-Mart.
  4. When you get inside the mall or shop take a half hour to walk around and just observe…
  • Who is there? Who are they with?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are they buying?
  • How does it look like shoppers are make their buying decisions?
  • What are the retailers doing to get people’s attention and stand out?
  • What messages are the stores using in their marketing?
  • What colors are in at the moment? (other than the holiday decorations which have already gone up here!)
  • What other things are ‘chic’ or in fashion?
  • What type of sales techniques is the staff using?
  • What are retail outlets doing well? What are they doing poorly?

5.  As you watch, jot down some notes.

6.  Once you’ve spent half an hour or so on ‘observation mode’ find a spot to sit down with a coffee (perhaps a pumpkin spice late, or gingerbread late) and go over the things that you’ve noticed and see if there’s any lessons there that you might be able to apply to your blogging.

This process might seem a little random – but it’s something that I’ve done on a few times over the last few years and each time that I’ve done it I’ve come away with at least one new idea that I want to apply in my blogging and I am sure you will too.

Now do tell, what happened on your trip to the mall, and I don’t mean the new shoes that caught your eye…. However I am sure they are very nice!

We are on a “Mission”

mission statement wordscreated with: wordle

After creating and running a nonprofit I fully understand the meaning behind a Mission Statement. It should just run off your tongue when explaining the meaning or heart and soul behind your business or in our cases here blogs. However, when was the last time you stopped and thought about your Mission Statement? When I ran Hadley’s Park, our Mission Statement was painted on just about every wall in our offices.

I believe this is an important piece of information that we should each understand for our blog therefore today’s lesson which ProBlogger originally wrote about in his strategic blogging series is about understanding your mission.

‘Why do you exist?’

This is it people, the moment you need to ask yourself “what is the purpose of my blog? What is it all about?”

‘Why do you blog?’

Get ready because today we are going to begin to craft our mission statements. Let’s start by taking a few minutes (or better still a few hours) to ponder this question. What is it that you blog for? What are your core motivations? Be honest as you answer this question because it’s important to nail it down as much as you can as everything else comes from this.

Some blogging ‘missions’ might include:

  • ‘I blog to make a living’
  • ‘I blog for recreational purposes – to help me relax’
  • ‘I blog to keep a record of the life and times of me’
  • ‘I blog because I want to help others’
  • ‘I blog to because I want to connect with others’
  • ‘I blog because it’s fun’
  • ‘I blog because I want to build profile – I want to be known

Understand as unique as each of our blogs are there is no right or wrong answer here rather to come up with something that is distinctively “yours”.

So why do we need a Mission Statement?

  • Because understanding why we blog then helps us to work out how we should blog to best reach our mission.
  • It will keep you focused.
  • It will keep your content “original” to you, *stop playing the compare game.
  • It will help you keep the type of content you will be proud of.

Today’s Task: post a comment below with YOUR newly crafted or updated blog mission statement below.

Now let’s talk off on our missions…

Pick up that magazine

Magazines

Let’s use the pile of magazine I have in my family room, or your family room to come up with some great bloggy ideas! I am all for finding inspiration all around, even where you least expect it. So today, I am going to make it my business to go through the serious pile I have stacking up and look for some great ideas.

What you need:

Magazines

Sticky pads

Pens or pencils

Open mind!

60 minutes, I’m even timing it!

 

Analyze a magazine with the intention of helping your blog:

I imagine if you are like me a lot of the magazines that you subscribe to are of topics you cover on your blog, for me food, healthy food, wellness, and design, and all of these are on my site.

The Cover- What is it telling you? Short words? Ideas for lists? Giveaways if that is your thing? Take a good look at the headline; what inspired you about this topic to pick up this magazine if you just purchased it?

In the sheets- What colors are being used? What is the chic new type-face? Is there something there that you might incorporate into your site?

The Stories- Nine times out of ten I will find something in a magazine that I “rip out” and put in my “idea folder” be it a title that inspires me, or content that reminds me of a story that I’d like to share with my readers. Read with an open mind…

Niche Ideas-Is there a story that relates to your niche that inspires you to write a post? Is there a new statistic or information that your audience would appreciate if you chose to share it in a post?

It’s all about the interaction- Take a look at how companies interact with their customers; how do they run giveaways or promotions? I know you are thinking “hmm I’m not Pillsbury” but sometimes it is not about the money that the companies spend rather the viral marketing which costs little more than your time.

Our weekly exercis

Go to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for an hour, set the timer if you must.

Bring a few magazines with you and your sticky pads and pen or pencil to make notes.

Quickly skim the magazine from front to back cover.

Notice what “jumps out at you”

Now start over, upon returning to the beginning make a note of what were the things that “jumped out at you.”

Now go back one more time and this time take your time to think about the following:

  • What drew your attention on the front cover? What techniques did they use to capture your attention in various places?
  • What are the headlines saying? Are they affective? Did they make you want to jump and look for the article?
  • How is their use of photos?
  • How is the magazine formatted?
  • What it the magazines “call to action?”
  • Can you learn from their ads?
  • Who would read this magazine?
  • What do you like about the magazine? What don’t you like about the magazine? Is there something you can use on your site from this magazine?
  • Use your sticky pad to write ideas for posts and “rip” out the pages for the idea folder.

For this week’s lesson:

I would like you to take the hour to review a magazine and go through the above questions. Then either write a post that was inspired by a topic in the magazine, the headline, a photo, or something that “jumped off the pages” at you.

Come back and link up and take a few moments to review a few of the others posts in the group.

Hello it’s Me!

3D character rolling e-mail sign.

Blogging is all about connecting with people. Bloggers write for business or pleasure, either publicly or anonymously, (which I do understand because I wrote anonymously for a year), but at some point you need to let people know how to contact you. After a while someone is going to want to get in touch with you to ask about some kind of opportunity be it advertising, a PR agent, or someone in the media who read your post and wants to follow up for a piece they are working on. And the way to do this on your site is to make sure you have a Contact page. I believe this has to be the second most important page on your site followed up right behind your About Me page.

A lot of time readers want to get in touch with you and offer a little more than a note in the comment box and they would rather send you an email. To be a better blogger you need to keep the lines of communication open with your readers, and you want to make this as easy as possible for them.

I can’t tell you how many people I have personally tried to get in touch with after reading a post and spent up to 5 minutes looking for a way to contact someone to no avail, and I believe this is frustrating! And I don’t think you want to frustrate people who could potentially be contacting you for some kind of business, do you?

I just went through a complete re-design of my site and this summer spent a great deal of time on various pages and this was one of the pages that as simple as it seems I made sure I  included. It has my email, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Digg as well as a link to my other site that I Co-Founded with my daughter Sarah  The DC Ladies. I left off my phone number because that is just “me” but to many others this is important and the place to be. I also made sure that at the top of my home page all of my social media icons are just a click away. (But this does not replace a Contact Page)

If you have a Contact form on your page, please do not let that be the only means that someone can get in touch with you, again that pushes the frustration button and seems impersonal, add all of your information.

As an experiment and task for the day take a look at your site and see how easy is it for someone to get your contact information so they can get in touch? If nothing else, email please!

If you have a Contact Page, test it! Make sure all of your links work and take you where you want them to go.

Now, Can I contact you? Let’s link up our Contact Page in the McLinky below! Please take a moment to stop by and visit the lovely blogger before you and leave some love for them too!