Monday, November 18, 2013

Loving this new fangled contraption

So I have been an absent blogger - which is bound to happen from time to time.  

While i hope I would be able to work and do everything else I want to do, I have to say; that is just not happening.  My hours have increased over the summer and I am now officially a full time worker bee.  I have no complaints, as I really enjoy the people I work with, I love getting out of the house more, I love having extra money --- and I win awesome things like this mini iPad that is pictured above (and that I am typing on).  I have been exploring my new toy for this past week, but today I got a keyboard for it.

All that being said I thought I would post a bit for today :-D

I will try to post on a regular basis again, but my focus may have shifted a bit. For example, I don`t bake or deal hunt right now.  At the moment I am loving on our rats, catching up with some reading and TV, a little gaming and trying my best to balance parenting and working.

Even if I don`t update as much here, be sure to follow me on Instagram, as I am constantly updating updating there.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sponsored Post: The Blog Workshop (#TBW): An Interactive Community

The Blog Workshop | Where Blogging Meets business

When asked to review The Blog Workshop website, I expected to find a large promotional site dedicated to the courses offered.  And while the courses offered by the site look fascinating and exceptionally helpful; I was surprised and delighted to find the vast community offered to bloggers completely free of charge.

As a free member of the site I have access to the following:

Groups:  Just like it sounds, this is a section of the site dedicated to specialized groups, similar to what you would find on other social sites.  The big benefit to this groups on this site is they are all dedicated to bloggers.  As a blogger I know how important it is to network with other bloggers, and a site like this can prove to be an invaluable resource.  There are also groups developed to support the site's students for their courses and University.

Forum:  This section of the site offers a site wide discussion board that can easily be used as a sounding board to all of the bloggers on their site.  It is a great way to get the discussion going between new and old members alike, even if they aren't a part of the specific groups. (see above) This kind of communication between all bloggers enable each of us the learn from each other from resources you would least expect.  You will find boards dedicated to general discussion, their workshops offered on the site, the University and the online conferences offered by The Blog Workshop.

The Blog:  This is where the creators of The Blog Workshop site have handpicked valuable tips to share with the community.  These tips range from the importance to a blog community to twitter demographics.  Readers, whether they blog or not, look for this kind of information from well informed sources; The Blog Workshop offers information to you for free.

I know that monthly memberships are available for a small price ($10 per month), what is mentioned above is what I was able to access and look at for free, I did not create a group or post, but did receive invitations to joins existing groups as a free member.  As a paying member, it appears you would have more leverage to create within the community and have access to more content.

#TBW University | Where Blogging Meets Business

  • The Blog Workshop University is the pay portion of the site where you can access class description and times, download the brochure for the university, and anticipate what you can learn from the valuable resource.
  • The University offers courses in:  Blog Design, Blog Writing, Blog Business, and Blog Marketing.  The entire set of course work lasts a year, with each section spanning over 3 months of in depth education on the subject matter.  These courses will begin Spring of 2014.  Find more information at their FAQ
  • The Workshops include a variety of subject including the upcoming workshop:  Surviving S.E.O.  A Subject I know we all could benefit from.  These workshops are separate from the university courses and can be payed for on an individual bases.  Pricing for these courses are very affordable, and provide a way of learning exactly what you need right now.
#TBW Surviving S.E.O. from the writer of Letters from Dan

"Dan R Morris helps bloggers overcome burn-out by teaching them how to employ leverage in their business, identify with precision where they are generating revenue and how to take the steps necessary to make align their blog with their dreams.  Dan the is founder of, a website dedicated to improving your revenue stream from online efforts. Dan is an infomercial producer, blogger, niche website owner, product developer, author, internet marketer and Mastermind leader. Dan actively encourages marketers to take that extra step so that “Hope” doesn’t become the marketing plan.  Dan has been seen speaking at: SoFabCon, Savvy Blogging Summitt, Social Media in Action Conference, The Blog Workshop and more."  The Blog Workshop Website.

  • There is a lot more to explore on the site, but in closing I would like to point you toward the 'Resources' tab of the University section of the site, where you can read more about applying for a scholarship or grant toward their University courses starting Spring 2014.  These programs are developed for current bloggers who would like to learn more about their business as they progress in this new media.  You will see that one of the requirements for both the grant or scholarship require that you have an active blog of at least a year.  This is an excellent time to get in applications before they are no longer accepting them.
Sign up now, and get in on the ground floor to this community and exceptional education opportunities:
#TBW Community

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Using to promote your blog.

add your blog post to pingler

For bloggers that choose to profit at least a little from their writing efforts, they will need to find other means of promoting their site besides blog hops and blogging groups.  More than likely they also want their blogs to be seen be people outside of the blogging community.

Part of this can be done through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and in the past, this was easily done by using keywords through out your site and each of your posts.  There was a science to how often and which key words you will use, but just as technology and marketing techniques change and grow, so does the way in which (the top search engine) weights key words versus links back to your articles in ranking pages. Link backs have become more important over time, and the algorithm derived by Google to rank their pages is smart enough to know when you are swapping links and will weigh them less than other links to your site.  Swapping links is still effective, but just like any stock portfolio you want to make sure you diversify what you are doing to promote your site.

I prefer to find free or very inexpensive ways in which to promote my site, one of my favorite methods is using  What Pingler does is shoot your URL out to several sites to publish your article.  By doing this you also target specific groups of people by choosing the subject of your post.  This works great for a blog like mine, since I write about a few different subjects. When using Pingler you want to keep a few things in mind:
  • Submit the URL for your specific post/article, not the general link for your site (you can do that, but make sure you also cover specific posts)
  • You can submit up to 5 URLs in a 24 hour period.  So don't hesitate to submit some older posts that your current reader, or you, love.
  • If the title of your post/article is keyword rich (it should be, for other SEO reasons) then use it, otherwise change it to make sure it is rich in keywords, think about what words the average person would use to find your article.
Here is a quick video made by Pingler telling you more about it:

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Cable Schmable! How to cut your TV Costs: Cost Breakdown

streaming TV a cost breakdown

If you are seriously thinking about cutting the cord to cable, here is what I have found for costs.  The breakdowns are for what I know and use; I do not use Apple TV or iTunes a lot, so I can not tell you about thier costs.  Thier box is $99, if you are an iTunes user then you may alread know the cost of watching TV and Movies through them.
  1. You will need a device that will enable you to watch these services.  The ones I have used have been the Roku box, and the Wii.  Smart TVs have this enabled, and a lot of Blue Ray players also allow you to connect to these services.  Since I already had a Wii, I used this until we were able to get a Roku
    • Wii costs $150-$200 - Does not have a huge selection of applications to download for streaming TV, but the major ones (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon)
    • Roku costs $50-$100 - Opens up a lot more channels including VuDu, Pandora and Crackle)You will need to subscribe to Streaming Services, below are the ones I recommend.
  2. You will need to subscribe to streaming services, below are the ones I recommend and thier costs.  You will find common shows/moves across all platforms, but some series are only available on specific streaming services.  For example, Lost Girls is only on Netflix, I have only seen The Closer (all seasons) and NYPD Blue on Amazon.
    • Netflix:  $7.99/mo for up to 2 devices at the same time, 11.99/mo for 4 devices.  We opted for the lower cost one, and have not felt the need to go up.  Through Netflix you get access to a ton of movies, most of them are older movies (they just released Hunger Games for streaming about a month ago) and television series.  Not every movie is available, but they do have a large selection.  Netflix also has some excellent original series
    • Hulu:  $7.99/mo, I did not see where there were any more options.  This is by far the best way to keep up with your network television shows.  Not all of the networks are Hulu friendly, and you will still have to use your browser to watch them.  CBS is stingy with their shows, and you will need to go to to watch them.  ABC, NBC, The CW and FOX are generally very good about airing their series on Hulu.  You will be able to watch them the day after thier air, sometimes right at midnight.  Cable networks are also not available, including TNT and Syfy channels.  Some Syfy shows can be watched via Netflix, but they are a season behind.  For the most part you can go to their website and catch up, but Lost Girl is not available that way (Defiance and Warehouse 13 are).  TNT is similar to HBO in that you have to log in via your cable provider to watch their shows.  You can get them one by one on Amazon - which I will talk about next.  There are movies available on Hulu, but I prefer Netflix or Amazon for my movie watching.  Some people complain that Hulu has commercials, in all honesty it is only a couple - and you also get commercials with cable, which you pay a lot more - I will gladly take the trade off.  Hulu also offers a lot of great original programming.
    • Amazon:  This is where I rent current movies (well, ones that have been released on DVD), we have an HD TV, and while spending the $1-2 extra for an HD rental, it doesn't make a huge difference to me, and we tend to stick with the regular streaming.  You can also subscribe to Amazon Prime and get access to hundreds of movies and television shows at no extra charge.  For the most part you will find the movies are the same as Netflix, but the TV shows are not.  you can purchase current seasons of some of your favorites (including TNT shows, but not HBO shows) for $1.99-2.99/episode (the more expensive being HD)  Off season shows are often found on Prime (e.g. The Closer and NYPD Blue) at no extra charge (if you are a member).  It costs $79/year for a prime membership, and you can test it out for 30 days for free first to see if you will use it (the most generous out of all of the subscription based services)  You also get reduced shipping costs at thier website as a Prime members.
    • Vudu:  You can also rent movies from this service, but I have found Amazon is usually cheaper.  They do offer daily deals and packages, so keep an eye out for that if you are in a movie watching mood.  I have Vudu on my 'must have' list for Roku because Wal-Mart often does deals with them.  If you buy the DVD from Wal-Mart then you also get the digital copy on Vudu.  I purchased Breaking Dawn Part 2 at Wal-Mart and was able to get Parts 1 and 2 on Vudu as part of a promotion. 
    • Crackle:  This is a FREE service.  They have older movies available for your viewing pleasure; granted they interrupt with short commercials - but again ... this service is FREE.  They have some great movies available, such as Bad Boys I and II, Pineapple Express, Made, S.W.A.T., Nick & Norah's Unfinite Playlist, Resident Evil, etc.  The movies they offer are for a limited time, but I haven't seen where one was offered for anything less than a month.  I also use this on my phone a lot - if I am crafting in a game or just questing I like to watch an old movie via crackle to make the time go by faster.
    • YouTube:  We all know about YouTube, but did you know some channels offer series?  My favorite uses for YouTube are free exercise video/classes from channels like: BeFitHASFit and series from channels like:  WIGS among other great stuff on YouTube.
    • Pandora:  Finally, Pandora, for Internet radio.  While you can subscribe to Pandora for a nominal fee - this is only necessary if you use it a lot - I use the free version (commercials and all) to keep the dogs from barking at every passing car.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cable Schmable! How to cut your TV Costs: Pros, Cons and the Bottom Line

living cable free

Since December 2012 our house has been cable free.

We have survived!

We haven't killed each other!

  • Cheaper than Cable
  • Watch what we want when we want
  • Catch up on your favorite series
  • Pay for what you want (within reason)
  • Less commercials (or none in some cases) than TV

  • No HBO! or TNT.
  • All series shows are available the day after they air
  • Need another device to watch on TV
  • Forget about Sunday/Monday night football (unless you have an antennae)
  • There is no Science and History channels for my husband.

To save about $100/mo my husband and I decided to cut cable out of our house and use our Wii to watch streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.  Here is the low down on costs and what you need to watch streaming TV on your television.  Tomorrow I will break down devices that I use and subscription costs.

Bottom line(s):  

  • I am able to keep the family relatively happy with out cable through internet streaming services.  
  • Our monthly costs have been reduced by over $100/month
  • If cable channels like TNT and HBO do not start offering their programing a la carte soon, then I will get cable again - just so I can see some of my favorite shows (Rizolli & Isles, Major Crimes, Perception, Game of Thrones, and True Blood) but I won't have a problem shutting it back down when those series are not on.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sponsored Post: Coupons for Games

Board Games by Peter Griffin

Board Games, Card Games, Video Games - it doesn't matter.  I love games, and games that you can play with your family ... even better!  I believe that playing games with your family offers a great time to be had by all, while helping you create scenarios in which you can teach your children how to win or loose well (or show them what not to do, hehe)

With that in mind I like to make sure I share coupons I find for games, make sure to print them while you can - and enjoy!!

$3.00 off SCRABBLE or CONNECT 4 Game $3.00 off any one TWISTER or OPERATION Game

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Rift is going Free to Play

Cheekie on Greybriar Shard
For those that are active in the gaming world - you most likely already know that Rift is going Free to Play today.

This is a sad, but seemingly necessary trend in the Massive Multiplay Online (MMO) games.  I think the only MMOs, that have been out for more than one year, that still has a straight subscription base is World of Warcraft (WoW) and EVE.  There may be some older ones that are still active that I don't know about, but a lot of the biggest players are now adapting the Free to Play model.  These games are:  EverQuest 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic Online, etc.  WoW still holds to the traditional MMO model, with few micro-transactions.  That franchise still sells expansions and charges a monthly fee to play; whereas EVE exists more off of their monthly payments schedules, and their PLEX system.  This is where a player can buy game time, but sell it in game to other players for in game currency.  This enables some players to never pay for EVE after the first few months of playing.

Of course, Free to Play is a bit of a misnomer, as the company will make up for the lack of subscriptions through what is called micro-transactions.  Most games, even the off-line ones like The Sims 3, have these transactions. Some of the companies still offer a subscription to forgo some of these micro-transactions (EverQuest 2 does this), the player will still need to shell out a few bucks here and there to ensure the playability of their characters.

What is the difference between a free to play game versus a game like Guild Wars 2, which has never adopted a subscription based model?  It comes down to content and expansions.  In a free to play game a user will need to buy an item to access a new area, or buy the ability to increase your character's level cap, and so on.  However, in a model like Guild Wars, the new area and level cap, along with some new items, are included in the purchased expansion.  So both companies are making their money, you just get it in pieces with you are playing a game with the free to play model.

Some believe going free to play is equivalent to the death of a game; but that is not always the case.  It depends on what is offered for free, and the cost of getting the game back to what you are used to; if there is a huge disconnect in what it would cost to upkeep a subscription and get expansions vs. having the same thing through micro-transactions, then the game will have some difficulty keeping past players.  However, by making it free to play it will bring new and old players to the game because they have let thier subscriptions subside due to hard economic times.

I will reserve my opinions as to whether or not Rift has done well in this transition after I play it some.

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