Archive for February, 2009

Day 28: ‘Tis the Final Day of No Spend! Rejoice!

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

I am so proud of our family and what we have accomplished on this No Spend Challenge. I can tell you that we spent $55 overall for the month. $10 was spent on my trip to Blissdom and $45 was my recent trip to New York. I am sad that the total was not $0, but we did the best we could with some unexpected travels and expenses.

Let me share with you a little bit about what our family learned through our No Spend Challenge.

  • I am more resourceful than I gave myself credit for. Committing to stay within our grocery budget was more difficult than I had expected. I did not realize how often I ask my husband to stop off at the store for one or two items for dinner. I found that many times I could whip up some really great cooking substitutes for the ingredients I needed or I was able to make those items I would have bought.
  • Cooking every night is harder than I thought. I love working from home, but it can be challenging to get all my work done and get dinner on the table. Often I am in conference calls or working on a project until my husband gets home. I do love to cook, but I also love the occasional break so I can just relax. I realized during this month how often we actually do eat out. Trying to be inventive in the kitchen every single day was a challenge. I discovered that a box of macaroni or sandwich night was a wonderful way to still give myself a night off without spending money. I also learned the art of stretching a meal as far as it could go, reinventing it, or even double-batching meals helped give me the nights off I needed when I was working.
  • I can still give to others. Do you ever feel like you can make very little impact on someone because you don’t have the money to do it? I can admit that I feel that way often. There are so many around me that are affected by job loss, medical problems, and depression. Many times I feel so helpless to these situations because I don’t have the financial means or connections to help someone out of these situations. It has been weighing very heavy on my heart these days. That is why I am so proud to tell you that I was able to provide five meals for others during this month and hosted countless engagements at my house caring and serving my friends and family. You don’t have to have a lot to make a positive impact on someone else. What seemed like small gestures to me means a lot more to someone than you might think. We are so hurried, so busy, so tired. I know I often feel like I have nothing to give anyone. I realize now that a woman of small means can still give with her whole heart and make a big difference to someone else.
  • My social calendar needs some revising. I never realized how many of my social engagements centered around spending money. Meeting up with friends for dinner, grabbing lunch for a play date, sharing coffee with a girlfriends are just some examples of things that are typically on my calendar. I will admit that I was a little bummed to miss some of these activities, but I was determined to approach this challenge creatively. We hit the library, we went to our friend’s houses for play dates, we packed our lunches, and I hosted my friends at my home instead. What I found was that I had a deeper connection with the people in my life when I could sit at my kitchen table and our children played at my house then I would have at a play area where I am running around after my kids and dealing with crowds.
  • I feel more grounded when I am home and not spending. Since we weren’t out spending money, we ended up spending a lot more time at home. I suddenly had the time to tackle all of those projects I didn’t think I had time to do. In fact, I had time for things that I loved to do. I haven’t read a whole book in probably a year and this month I read four entire books in one month. I baked bread. I weeded through things that needed organizing in my house. I actually got caught up with laundry a few of those days. I hung out with my children. I finally felt centered. I felt like a calendar addict who was just given permission to take four weeks off. That first week I felt the withdrawals, but by the second week it began to feel wonderful. I used my “No Spend Challenge” as my excuse to detach myself from anything and everything so I could just relax and do the things I truly enjoy.
  • The best things in life really are free. Comfort food. Homemade bread. Fresh clean towels. A delicious little library book. Giggling with my friends over coffee. Playing those dusty board games. Helping others around me. Snuggles from my sweet children. Good music. Dancing with my kids. Knitting. Soaking in the tub. Warm gooey brownies. A good movie. Snuggling up with my hubby on the couch. All free and all wonderfully perfect moments.

Overall, I am really proud of how well we did with our challenge! There were two things that people wanted to know when our challenge was over…what did we do with our saved money and what was the first thing I was going to buy when I could spend again?

I am happy to tell you that with the money saved, we were able to put down a deposit to refinance the interest rate on our home and moved from a 30 year mortgage to a 15 year mortgage, saving our family $90,0000 in interest. That is an investment that was worth every penny invested.

And what is the first thing I want to buy after this challenge is over? I scheduled myself for a good haircut, I am giving myself off a night from cooking, and I’m getting a little yarn fix over at Hobby Lobby. It is the little things that I missed, but the No Spend Challenge brought us great perspective and I am so thankful for the lessons I have learned from this experience.

Please feel free to rejoice with me. Toot your own horns about what you learned from this experience. Heck, I would be honored if you just gave me a pat on the back for my resourcefulness this month- I want to celebrate, friends!!

Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Bursting With Excitement for Twilight Fans Everywhere!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I am wrapping up the final book in the Twilight series. I just haven’t wanted it to end, which is why I have been savoring these last few pages. This will be the end of some of my best reading in a long time. If you would have told me that I would be sitting on the edge of my seat reading a young adult vampire novel, I would have laughed at you. I have never been into the vampire books or anything that would resemble this genre before, but I somehow got sucked in. It is a book series that transcends generations and all my mom friends are equally as excited about these books as myself!

And this is why I am bursting with excitement to announce to you today that I am partnering up with Walmart on a very exclusive and exciting project. I am going to be hosting a BlogTalkRadio show with Taylor Lautner, AKA Jacob, on a very special interview while they are on location for the second film (“New Moon“). I will be co-hosting this on the “Stardish Radio” program March 9, 2009 at 9 pm (EST). Speaking from the set of The Twilight Saga’s New Moon, Taylor will take questions from fans “logged in” to BlogTalkRadio with host Jo Ann Kubasek (Stardish Radio) and myself. I will definitely be updating you as details arise about this exclusive interview and I hope you can be a part of this with me!

Walmart has launched a Twilight site for you to get the scoop on the DVD release, e-bites (instead of e-vites) that you can use to host your own movie party at home, and loads of exclusive fan gear at really affordable prices. Walmart plans to give fans thirsting for more Twilight a good reason to be at its 24-hour stores late Friday evening, Mar. 20 as they await the midnight DVD movie release. Among store activities will be ideas and products for fans looking to host their own Twilight viewing party. And, especially for Twilight super fans, Walmart has reserved special exclusive Twilight gifts for those first 50 fans in line to purchase the DVD movie at each 24-hour store.

In addition, customers can visit the Twilight pages on to see new behind-the-scenes movie footage and to download a widget that tests their knowledge daily with Twilight story trivia.

Many of the Eleven Moms will be offering exclusive fan gear gift packs and other great Twilight giveaways. I know we are all equally excited about this fun program and getting to be part of this fun adventure with the movie!

And if you haven’t read the books, perhaps you will now!

Freebie Friday: February 27, 2009

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Happy Freebie Friday, everyone! Please swing by and leave Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, some get well wishes. Since she is feeling under the weather, she is extending her giveaways by a week so be sure to get your entry in to win. A BIG thanks to Heather for her assistance each week on Freebie Friday.

Since I was out of town, I wasn’t able to post our Apron Full of Giveaways, but we will be back with this round-up next week. In the meantime, be sure to enter to win a year’s worth of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars Soup complete with a handy little thermos!

Enjoy your freebies and weekend, everyone!

Health & Beauty

Kashi Frozen Entree
Parent’s Choice Infant Formula (Walmart)
Metamucil (Walmart)
Benefiber (Walmart)
Land ‘O Lakes Simple Goodness House Party
Dairy Queen (for bloggers)
Ile de France Cheese (for bloggers)
Bob Evans Free Kids Meal & Drink Offer (sent via email after you sign-up for the club)


Upcoming Freebie Events:

Please call your local store or restaurant to confirm they are participating in these freebie events.

28 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic – Make a 48 race car

7 – Bruster’s PJ Day – Free single scoop waffle cone if you wear your PJs
7 – The Home Depot Kids Workshop – Make a HD Raceway

14 – Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinic – Make a Tabletop Basketball

Day 25: A Sweet Little Pick-Me-Up

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

The month is coming to a close and this last week has been dragging a bit for me. I think that is why I was so touched when I got the most wonderful package in the mail that was totally unexpected and unprompted. In it were these beautiful little felt pins and the kindest note thanking me for featuring her site in the notebook entry. It was so kind that it brought tears to my eyes and I want to publicly thank Kimba, from A Soft Place to Land, for sharing this sweet gift with me. She makes the most beautiful handmade things in the world so please, please think of her when buying your next gift and head over to her wonderful Etsy Shop to pick up a pin for someone special in your life. It will make any outfit you have special and I have somehow found how to work one of these pins in with everything I wear. Even my aprons. Or my sweat pants. Or my television appearances. Thank you, Kimba, from the bottom of my heart!

As if that wasn’t enough, I got another completely unexpected package in the mail. It is the boxed set of Anne of Green Gables. I hang my head in shame and tell you I have never read these books and I have never watched the movies. In fact, I think I was clueless that I was entering a contest on Metropolitan Mama and was just commenting on family films we had recently seen. I am horrible about entering giveaways and rarely enter them so that is why it was like a wonderful surprise when I found out I won.

I love a little pick-me-up when I am down, don’t you?

Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Simplify the Bedtime Resource List

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Thank you all for joining me this week on MomAdvice Simplified and the discussion on simplifying the bedtime routine. I just wanted to gather up a resource list, from today’s episode, to help you manage the bedtime hour a little easier. You can still listen to today’s show, just by visiting the BlogTalkRadio widget on the left. I am having some weird audio problems on today’s episode so the first five minutes cut out, but we are working to fix this, as we speak!

Bedtime Bootcamp- Nickelodeon’s ParentsConnect and Dr. Marc Weissbluth are proud to present Bedtime Bootcamp to help parents establish healthy family sleep habits. Dr. Weissbluth is highly regarded among parents for being one of the biggest names in sleep-training, and now parents can participate in what is quickly becoming all-the-rage online: Bedtime Bootcamps, hosted by Dr. Weissbluth himself. Each week for four weeks, Dr. Weissbluth will post a challenge on Nickelodeon’s where parents can discuss with the site’s community of parents, and apply what they learn at home. From implementing techniques to wind down after school, cook healthy dinners that promote good sleep, ritualize bath time and story time, Dr. Weissbluth will help parents get a good sleep routine in place, and he’ll answer their questions online along the way. He’ll even comment on parent’s routines if they post them on the site.

Sleep Rules– These are the rules that Dr. Weissbluth recommends for getting your child to go to bed and stay in bed. These guidelines, in particular, are designed for children who are over 2 1/2-3 years old.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child– One of the country’s leading researchers updates his revolutionary approach to solving–and preventing–your children’s sleep problems. Dr. Weissbluth outlines proven strategies that ensure good, healthy sleep for every age. This distinguished pediatrician and father of four explains with authority and reassurance his step-by-step regime for instituting beneficial habits within the framework of your child’s natural sleep cycles.

Sleep Deprived No More– Although there are many books on getting baby to sleep, Sleep Deprived No More focuses on someone else who isn’t getting any rest — the mom! Organized trimester by trimester both during and after pregnancy, this guide is straightforward, accessibly written, and easy to navigate so moms can quickly get the help — and rest — they need. Covers sleep conditions common to pregnancy and afterward: In addition to erratic feeding schedules causing moms to lose sleep, there are many sleep issues specific to pregnancy and new motherhood, including Restless Legs Syndrome, Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and more. Tips and tricks for making it through the day: Mindell also gives moms the lowdown on how to catch up on sleep and stay focused throughout the day, even if you’re waking up every few hours at night. Includes sleep advice for baby, too: Included also is the author’s expert advice on the best ways to get baby to sleep through the night, making this an all-in-one resource.

Great Sleeping Tips- These are some of the tips that I highlighted in today’s episode that can help you get your child to sleep.

Just Call Me Ticketmaster– This is the rewards system we used to get our son to go to bed nicely and head to school nicely and is a fun variation on the Sleep Rules Chart that Dr. Weissbluth recommends.

On next week’s show…
I have a very exciting episode scheduled and a guest that I think you are really going to enjoy hearing from on simplifying the after-school chaos. Olympic gymnastic champion, Mary Lou Retton, joins our show to discuss how she simplifies and deals with the after-school chaos in her home. As a mother of four girls, she offers helpful real-life tips she uses with her family, and supplies a game plan that will help you conquer after-school chaos. I would love if you would join us as we discuss making after-school time easier for your family.
This show will air on March 5th at 2PM EST!

MomAdvice Simplified: Simplify the Bedtime Routine

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

On MomAdvice Simplified, my weekly podcast for moms, we will be joined by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago and founder of The Sleep Disorder Center at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a practicing pediatrician.

Is bedtime an hour of stress in your house? Are you constantly battling with your children at bedtime? Are you struggling with getting sleep yourself?

Dr. Weissbluth will be joining us to share his expertise to help with those bedtime blues. Dr. Marc Weissbluth & ParentsConnect are proud to present Bedtime Bootcamp to help parents establish healthy family sleep habits.

Dr. Weissbluth is highly regarded among parents for being one of the biggest names in sleep-training, and now parents can participate in what is quickly becoming all-the-rage online: Bedtime Bootcamps, hosted by Dr. Weissbluth himself.

He joins my show this week to share some tips for nailing the bedtime hour and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Just as a reminder, you can listen to the show live every Thursday at 2PM EST or you can listen later right here on my the left sidebar! Check back after the show for our resource list so you can explore all of the great links to book and advice that we share during our half hour.

Day 23-24: The New York Edition

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I am back from The Mike & Juliet Show and am trying to recover from a terrible head cold that I caught on my way out there.

You can watch the segment here on Work-At-Home Scams. I am sure I don’t have to tell you that I am disappointed that I did not get to share with women what a wonderful resource could be for helping moms navigate working-from-home. My soul purpose to leave my family for two days was to be able to help educate women on work-at-home scams and showcase a true work-at-home success story. Time ran out and I am very sorry for that because I had a lot to share.

You can’t control live television, I have discovered, and sometimes the opportunities pan out and sometimes they don’t. I once did a news segment on behalf of a company and they would not agree to say my website and the company I was representing because it was too long. After hours of preparation and a sleepless night trying to get ready for it, that was my first taste of how things different things can be, particularly when you are working with a show that is not local.

As I stood backstage this week, I talked with another one of the guests about that mystery shopping scam that was highlighted in the segment. I told her that there are legitimate opportunities out there and that I would be happy to share with her real information on mystery shopping. Perhaps, that was my moment and the reason for me coming there or maybe my story will help another mom who is struggling financially and looking for work. It is desperate times like these in the economy, when people find themselves victims of these scams because they are trying to put food on the table for their families.

I spent $45 on this trip on just eating. It was one of those things that I obviously could not control, which makes me sad since I had done so well on the No Spend Challenge so far. I am bummed, but I am still proud of how well I have managed this month with three out-of-town trips.

Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

Amy’s Notebook 02.25.09

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I love these little knitted duck slippers (@ Scribbit)

These triple chocolate brownies look delicious (@ Chocolate on My Cranium)

I love this portable camping lantern made from a recycled peanut butter jar (@ Made by Cynthia Rae)

I want to try these chocolate chip angel food cupcakes (@ Baking Bites)

This is a great tutorial for making shoe bags (@ betz white)

This yoga mat bag made from an old pair of pants is brilliant (@ CRAFT)

I want to try this chocolate chip cookie recipe (@ Joy the Baker)

These broccoli calzones look so delicious and I love this how-to video on shaping calzones (@ Baking and Books)

I bet my children would love these cinnamon waffles (@ Annie Eats)

These are some great ideas for affordable architectural personality (@ The Inspired Room)

This mudroom makeover makes me happy (@ whatever)

This is a great post on how to talk money (@ Simple Mom)

I want to bookmark these thirty things you can make as inspiration for this next month (@ Tip Nut)

I have never seen anything in my life like this micro-knitting. Unbelievable (@ whip up)

I want to make some of these homemade breakfast burritos as a quick breakfast in the morning (@ The Simple Dollar)

I can’t wait to try this new waffle recipe (@ Serious Eats)

I love this post on what the author loves about her kitchen (@ Food Woolf)

This quick color makeover is so smart! (@ Small Notebook)

Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Waffles That Are Light As Air?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Experiment: Can I make waffles that are as light as air?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 02.25.09

Materials Needed: Please see Serious Eats for the full instructions.

Results: I loved all your feedback last week on my failed pretzel experience. I thought it was important to share that I can totally flop in the kitchen just like anyone else. I have had many failed experiments over the years, but I probably do not share those as often as I should. I try to only showcase the tried and true recipes, but there are those days where the cooking isn’t very stellar in this house and I want to share that with you too!

That failed experiment though did not stop me from attempting another recipe in the notebook. As soon as I saw this recipe for waffles, I knew that I wanted to try it. I love my waffles, but often wish that they were not so dense so that is why I was intrigued by this recipe. I decided to make a double batch, hoping they would turn out and make a fun breakfast for the kids out of the leftovers.

There were several things that made this recipe different from others I have tried. There was no vanilla in it, no sugar even, and it required you to separate the yolks and whites in the egg, whipping the whites until they were at the stiff peak stage. After mixing the batter together, you then fold in the egg whites which created a lot of volume and airiness to the batter.

This combination of ingredients was absolutely perfect and folding in the egg whites helped to create the perfect balance of crispness and airiness that I have been looking for in a waffle recipe. The lack of sugar in the recipe also made it so the waffles were not so sweet and could be heavily coated in homemade pancake syrup without making them too heavy.

Best Waffles Ever (Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 egg whites

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.

2. In another bowl beat egg yolks slightly. Stir in milk and oil.

3. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just till moistened (should be lumpy).

4. In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up).

5. Gently fold egg whites into flour and egg yolk mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white, Do not overmix.

6. Spoon waffle batter into your waffle iron, making sure not to overfill it.

7. Serve with real maple syrup and unsalted butter.

Side Note– I doubled this recipe for my family of four and we had enough for three extra Belgian waffles

I will make these waffles again and again because they were absolutely perfect. They truly were the best waffles ever and I look forward to serving these again for a fun brunch or weeknight meal!

Want to join in on the MomAdvice No Spend Challenge? Make sure to add your name to the linky list and read more about our challenge. You can also join our No Spend Challenge Flickr Group and upload your pictures of what you did each day.

To read all the entries on not spending, you can visit our No Spend Challenge category!

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Wednesday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster’s blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can’t wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

Play It Again, Momma: Five Commandments for Blogging

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Starting this website has been a lesson in success and failure for me. When we started doing this site, I would have never dreamed that I would become so devoted towards something like this or lovingly refer to the site as “my other child,” but something about writing and sharing in this way has really clicked with my life right now.

When you enter the world of blogging, people can start their blog with several different ideas for what they hope to gain from the experience. Some use their blogs to share about something they are passionate about (photography, sewing, politics, cooking) and use their blogs to vocalize their passions. Some bloggers are parents who use their blog as a way to keep family up-to-date on everything that their children are up to. Still other bloggers enter the blogging arena as storytellers and they share their beautiful prose or funny stories with the world.

What you shouldn’t enter into this equation with is the hopes of earning wild and crazy money. I will be honest with you and say for the first year or so, I had little more than $20 a month to show for my efforts. If I was doing it for the money, I think I would have abandoned this gig a long time ago. No, money shouldn’t be a powerful motivator for blogging because few actually bring home enough to even cover a trip to McDonald’s…and yet, we continue to blog. We blog for burgers, we blog for pennies, and some of us blog for not a single dime. I respect all of those scenarios.

This year has been a bit of a new experience for me because new opportunities have come my way and I have been trying to keep the careful and beautiful balance that I am desperately trying to create here. Regardless of what has been thrown our way, I have tried to not compromise my content or to lose focus on why I started blogging in the first place.

Some things that I have discovered about myself….

Thou shalt not exploit thy children for money.

I love my kids so much and I would never ever want to exploit them in any way. Our family is the most precious thing in the world to me and I will never use them negatively in my writing. I try to be a positive parent even when stuff gets tough and I don’t want them looking back on things I have written and be mortified that their mom shared the stuff that I did. Gosh, if my mom wrote about some of the stuff I did when I was a kid, I would have been so hurt by that. I have even tried doing funny mommy stories and it just didn’t work for me because I am a private person and it didn’t feel comfortable for me. Blogging about parenting solutions or ways that we save our family money felt like a more comfortable platform for me and that is why I leaned towards it. It felt true to me and true to what I try to share with people. My mommy stories are better shared around a cup of coffee with my girlfriends than through the internet.

I recently was approached by a bigwig site to write a guest post and complain or rant about my kids and I know it would have boosted my traffic considerably. I turned that opportunity down and have had no regrets. I hope people see that writing in a positive way can be just as wonderful as writing negatively. In fact, I would much rather read someone who gave me solutions rather than to focus more negative attention on the problems I have. My life is not all rainbows and sunshine, but I hope to create a little piece of that for our readers. It makes me feel better about myself if I can be a positive person and surround myself with this positive community. I have had slow growth because of some of these decisions, but I would rather have ten really amazing people read my work than fifty who come to hear me rant and complain daily.

This is not to discredit all of the people out there who do that, but I knew I had to be true to myself and true to my kids to create the type of environment that I wanted in my life.

Thou shalt not worship the loot or the people who give it to you.

When I first started getting products, it felt like Christmas. I would fall over myself thanking people for the things they sent and making sure that they really loved my review. “Does this sound okay to you, PR person? I hope you love the review I wrote! XOXO, Amy” This was wrong of me and wrong to do to my readers. I would take anything that anyone wanted to give me, and I would write a glowing review. Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I look back and know that it didn’t feel right and wasn’t cohesive with the parenting site I was trying to build.

I am now very hesitant to take any loot because 1) I don’t want the PR people writing me over and over again to see if I wrote what I was supposed to as soon as I received it. 2) I don’t want so much stuff in my house.

I have learned to request only the things that our readers will really and truly love and I took it a step further…I give you guys as much loot as I can. If a company sends me a product now, I ask how we can benefit our readers. To me, this feels like a win-win solution and it makes me a lot happier to hear how much you are enjoying the stuff than to write about how much I am enjoying my stuff that you can’t have. If the reviews all seem glowing now, it is because I only pick things that I know I will like. For every ten things that come our way, we pick two of the best ones and feature those. Since we are more choosy, it results in fewer opportunities and sometimes fewer reviews to read, but I would rather preserve the quality of the things I can share on and give them away to others. If the company doesn’t do a giveaway with us, most of the products do end up getting donated to charity. I will admit that I have kept products too that our family would use, but we try to review items in all age ranges and if my kids are too old for a product or we are out of those stages (or not in those stages) we share them with others in the community. It feels good to do that and I hope to be able to do more of that.

Thou shalt not allow the blog to rule thy life.

It is hard to not let the blog rule your life…or reading other people’s blogs, or reading blogs about blogging, or listening to podcasts about blogs, or reading books on blogs. Basically, blogging can be a giant hole that can suck up your time and it can be easy to forget why you blogged in the first place. Let’s use my blog, for example, because I am narcissistic like that and love to talk about myself. I started blogging because I wanted to share ways that we save our family money and to show inexpensive solutions for homemakers. I also knew that I wanted to be a better mother and to be a “fun mommy” and share our ideas for things I do with my children. Now if I am on the computer all day and blogging all day, I end up doing none of those things. I am not being a fun mom, I am not saving money for our family, and I bet I can’t get dinner on the table because I was too busy on the computer all day.

I have learned to take advantage of nap time and after the kids go to bed to do my work. The majority of the rest of the day has to be focused on my family life. I try to jot down ideas or even start drafts of things that I want to write about, but those posts might be weeks or months down the road before I get the time to do them. I do the best I can and I am realizing that our readers will still be there if I write three times a day or three times a week.

Thou shalt not hog the spotlight or forget to network.

I have discovered that a big part of whether or not a blog is successful is really based upon the network and the community that they build. Even though I think really good writing and a good design are the most important things, the networking comes in a close third. You can have a fabulous blog, but if you have no one reading it, then it is just a private show for you. Where do you start? Start commenting on other people’s blogs and networking within a community of people who will find your stuff interesting. If you blog is about photography, for example, start commenting and linking to the people that you admire most. Do a round-up of great stuff about photography. Highlight blogs that illustrate points you are making in your own entries and email the people that have enjoyed reading to tell them what a big fan you are. Don’t spam them, but tell them what their work means to you. Offer feedback, share questions you have (which they could use for future material and even link back to you) and just be a groupie to the people you really love. In turn, they may link to you or might highlight you in an entry.

Thou shalt be open-minded towards things other than blogging.

Once you have built your community and have a great blog, other opportunities might start coming your way. Some of these might be paid gigs (speaking engagements, spokesperson opportunities) and others might not be paid gigs (television and print interviews, providing quotes for articles, reviewing products). Realize that whatever you do, you will be representing your blog/site and you will want the things that you say and the things that you do to reflect what you are doing in these other opportunities. For example, if I am a blogger who shares about cleaning & caring for your home, I wouldn’t want to go on the news and discuss the pros and cons of fast food. It just wouldn’t work together! When these opportunities come your way, make sure they are a good fit for you and what you hope to convey to others. Be open to those great paid opportunities, but understand that many opportunities don’t pay out. I look at the unpaid jobs as opportunities to prepare myself and practice for the paid opportunities. If you do something for your local news, save it and when a paid opportunity comes along you can say, “You can view my segment here and see how I do on camera.” That opportunity might not have paid anything, but it gives those paid gigs a better chance of happening because they can see exactly how great you are. Once that happens, you might start realizing that you get paid… just in a more roundabout kind of way. (image source: nbklx17)

What is one of your commandments for blogging?