November 21, 2008

October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

I hadn't formally planned to participate in this year's Blog Action Day, but today's mail delivery brought a serendipitous item combining two of my favorite pastimes - shopping and helping others - that also just happens to fit with this years' Blog Action theme of poverty. This item was a beautiful 75-page catalog filled with some of the most unique gifts and handcrafted items I've ever seen.

The catalog was from SERRV, a nonprofit organization that works for social and economic parity by promoting fair trade practices and empowering low income communities across the globe. SERRV gives artisans and farmers the opportunity to conduct business in a larger market by bringing their unique handcrafted and organic products to consumers around the world.

It was such a pleasure to page through the catalog and read about the villages where these beautiful baskets, pottery pieces, toys, food items, stone and wood sculptures, articles of clothing and other artistic and practical things originated. I was particularly delighted when I came to last page of the catalog and saw a selection of gorgeous candle holders. These will make great gift additions for the people on my list who were already going to be getting my candles!

Like many Americans, I am planning to cut back on excessive holiday shopping this year. The large corporate manufacturers of the same old pieces of assembly line junk do not deserve my hard-earned money. The artists represented by this catalog, however, really do. And they offer much more valuable products in return. I think a few special gifts thoughtfully selected from sources like SERRV will do so much more to promote the true spirit of the season.

October 03, 2008

Goodbye, DVDspot

A few days ago I visited DVDspot, one of my favorite websites, to add a listing and rating for my recent viewing of the Sex and the City movie. To my dismay, I was greeted with a notice that the site will be closing on October 15th. The site creators want to focus on other projects. I can't blame them at all, they put together this incredible database driven application and then offered it to the online community for free. If their "other projects" have the potential to earn them a little money or will be a more practical use of their personal time, then more power to them. But their innovative site for cataloging a personal DVD collection and tracking movies that are owned, rented and watched will be missed.

Fortunately, they're offering a way to extract stored data in a spreadsheet format so viewing records and personal collection lists will not be completely lost. I've already retrieved my data and now I am looking for a comparable online site that will allow me to continue to track my movie watching and catalog my DVD library.

Here are three sites I've located so far:

  • Chasing the Frog

  • I Heart Movies

  • Movie Collector Plus

    I will be taking a closer look at these sites over the next few days and plan to join one soon so I can get my collection back online and continue where I left off tracking my movie viewing for 2008.

    If anyone has any opinions on any of these sites, or knows of any options I haven't listed here, please comment and share what you use!
  • September 10, 2008

    Win Some Pizza Hut Pasta is having a contest to win a certificate to try Pizza Hut's new Bacon Mac 'N Cheese pasta dish. If it's half as good as Pizza Hut's Alfredo pasta, this will be quite a delicious prize!

    Entering is easy, just click on over and leave a comment on the contest thread:

    Pizza Hut’s Tuscani Pasta - Premium Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese Giveaway

    September 07, 2008

    Interesting Wedding Photo Idea

    My sister is getting married next year and I've been having a lot of fun planning the event with her. So much has changed since my own wedding years ago that it almost makes me wish I could get married again just so I could make use of cool ideas like this one for inviting your guests to share their digital pictures of your Big Day with you on the Internet.

    Of course, weddings aren't the only events where there are likely to be multiple candid photographers. So, maybe I'll do this for the next kid birthday party, holiday gathering or graduation!

    August 31, 2008

    Gift Basket Idea

    I was browsing though one of my book club websites today and discovered this book on sale for 4.99. Suddenly it hit me: This would make a great basis for a holiday gift basket!

    I think I may buy multiple copies of this title and place them in baskets with candles selected from Gold Canyon's Homespun Holiday collection. Maybe I'll finish it off with an edible treat of some kind (candy?) and a Gold Canyon scented bookmark.

    August 24, 2008

    Only 123 More Shopping Days Left!

    Christmas is four months away and I am off to a pretty good start with my shopping. I have a few things for the kids, some things for the hubby, and a list of ideas for other people.

    This year, most of the ladies on my list will be getting something from my own catalog, of course. Candles have always been a gift-giving staple of mine - so many people I know and buy for love them as much as I do. This is the first year I'll get to buy them from myself!

    August 15, 2008

    Scrapbook Page Maps: Sketches for Creative Layouts Scrapbook Page Maps: Sketches for Creative Layouts by Becky Fleck

    My review

    rating: 4 of 5 stars
    I think this may turn out to be the best scrapbooking idea book I've ever purchased. Everything about this book has been well thought out, from the fantastic sketches to the beautiful color examples to the fact that the book is spiral bound so it can lie flat on your work surface. The punch-out (and therefore portable, for shopping purposes) mini layout cards at the back of the book are an excellent bonus.

    I anticipate getting a lot of use out of this one!

    View all my reviews.

    August 06, 2008

    It's Here! It's here!

    My candle business starter kit arrived yesterday. I opened it right away, of course, and drank in the smells of several of the samples near the top of the box but didn't have a chance to sit down and really experience all 100+ samples provided.

    Until tonight.

    My sister came over and she and I had our own little mini party paging through the catalog and locating each scent in the kit. They. Were. Awesome!

    I have always loved vanilla scented things and there were plenty of those to please my palate. I was very impressed. But what surprised me was just how good the scents that I am not usually a fan of (florals and "clean linen" types of things) were. There were a couple of the 1/2 dozen or so smells in the linen line that were exceptionally pleasant.

    The fruits and other summery smells were heavenly and the baking scents were divine. We even got to sample a few things that hint at what is to come in the Fall and Winter catalogs, such as warm, spicy things like "Autumn Walk" and deep, invigorating Evergreen combinations.

    Of course, we had a delicious smelling candle with blends of melon, strawberry, banana, jasmine and vanilla burning for most of the evening. I can still smell hints of it now and it's been extinguished for about an hour.

    This business is going to be a blast!

    August 01, 2008

    I'm Going to Earn While I Burn

    I registered for my new candle business website this morning. Within a few hours of submitting my information they had my consultant site up and running. All I had to do was personalize the My Story page!

    July 31, 2008

    DailyLit - A Great Way to Start Your Day

    I've discovered yet another reason to love the Internet: reading free and inexpensive books by email.

    DailyLit has a selection of over 1000 titles to chose from, including everything from classic works of literature to non-fiction on a variety of subjects. Each entry in the catalog indicates its price (many are free) and tells you how many email installments to expect. Sign up for something that sounds good and beginning reading in minutes.

    Site registration (also free) gives you access to forums for discussing the things you're reading and a place to manage your subscriptions. You can set the time, frequency and length of the installments you want to receive. And if what you're reading is too good to wait until the next scheduled installment, you can click on the link at the bottom of your most recent email to have the next installment sent to your Inbox immediately.

    Check out the My DailyLit widget in the right sidebar column to see what I'm reading now.

    July 30, 2008

    I got an email just before Noon today saying that my candle business starter kit has been shipped! With any luck it will get here before Saturday so I'll have catalogs to share at my nephew's birthday party.

    I'm SO excited about this!

    July 29, 2008

    My Exciting New Venture

    I've dabbled in network marketing / direct sales before and have worked with some wonderful companies with terrific product lines, but I have never enjoyed the level of success I desire and know I can achieve. Part of the problem may have been timing. The Internet has changed a lot since I first tried marketing a business online. I think maybe now it may be possible to build the kind of business I always imagined.

    Even more important than getting the timing right is choosing a product you really love and can enthusiastically demonstrate to others. I have always adored scented candles. They soothe and relax us, they make a home smell inviting and they make exquisite gifts. Candles and related products are a perfect match for me.

    I researched several companies and have slected one that I feel is right for me. I registered as a consultant earler this evening. This weekend I will get my website and will post a link here when it is ready to roll. I can't wait to get going on this!

    If anyone out there is also into candles, I'd love to hear from you. Maybe someday we can even work together . . .

    My website is online! Check it out.

    June 19, 2008

    Last month I discovered Hulu, an entertainment website featuring full length movies and complete television show episodes for FREE. My favorite place to watch movies and television shows online just keeps getting better and better:

    On June 16th, Hulu started their Hulu Days of Summer promotion. Each weekday from now through mid-August, Hulu will unveil new content for our viewing pleasure. Check the widget to the left for the continually updated schedule!

    June 18, 2008

    It's All Too Much: Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff It's All Too Much: Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh

    My review

    rating: 2 of 5 stars

    The suggestions in this book for getting rid of useless clutter (junk mail, old receipts, clothes that don't fit, etc.) are practical, but nothing that hasn't been said before by the hundreds of other organizing gurus out there. I was a little put off by Walsh's tone and the fact that he has little sympathy for bibliophiles - I could never abide by a "buy a book, get rid of one" philosophy, nor would I want to - but I am willing to put the author's snarkiness aside and try to de-clutter things that are not part of my vast book collection.

    I guess what I really need is a book that offers unique ways of organizing what you have and want to keep!

    View all my reviews.

    April 06, 2008

    In my first post about the wonder that is the Good Reads website for bibliophiles, I mentioned that my plan was to primarily list only books that I'd read since the start of 2008. A few days ago, I decided to go ahead and list a few of my favorites that were read prior to 2008. I'm doing this because I am pretty stingy with the five-star rating and wanted to list a few of the books I've read in the past that I do consider to be worthy of that distinction. I'm also entering a few other 3 and 4 star selections that I especially enjoyed. Eventually I will probably go back and add some of the titles I remember reading in college.

    Have I mentioned how much I love this site?!

    March 24, 2008

    Tracking My "Good Reads"

    I'd heard of Good Reads before but hadn't had a chance to register for an account and play around with it until this past weekend. It's a really fun place for bibliophiles to keep a record of books they've read, books they'd like to read, and books they'd recommend to others.

    It's a social networking site, so there are plenty of opportunities to build a friends list and join special interest groups of readers who are interested in everything from art to zoology. Within my first 48 hours of becoming a member, I made 7 friends and joined the YA, Banned Books, and Rory (as in Gilmore Girl) Book Club groups.

    Adding books to your collection is very easy. You can search by title, author or ISBN, and pull data from sources such as Amazon. You can categorize your collection by creating "shelves" (i.e. "tags") to label and sort your titles.

    I am a life long reader and couldn't begin to recreate a comprehensive collection of the books I've read over the last thirtysomething years, so I have decided to start my Good Reads collection with just the dozen or so books I've read since the start of 2008. I'm still using LibraryThing, of course, to assemble an online catalog of my entire book collection as it exists now - including things I own but haven't read (yet). While I'm working on the catalog project, I can track my current reading activity at Good Reads.

    March 09, 2008

    Heads Up to King Fans

    If you're lucky enough to have Chiller in your cable television line-up and you happen to be a Stephen King fan, you might want to tune in for one of tomorrow's scheduled episodes of Tales from the Darkside. According to my TV listings, "Word Processor of the Gods" is going to be on.

    Fire up those VCRs and Tivos!

    January 28, 2008

    Chiller TV

    Last month I was surfing my way through and discovered the website for the Chiller television network. I was intrigued by the schedule which included old episodes of Night Gallery and airings of old (sometimes cheesy, but still fun) horror flicks. I tagged the site immediately, lamenting the fact that there existed yet another really cool network (like the Independent Film Channel) that my local cable provider did not provide.

    Today the cable was out for a little while they upgraded the system. I'd known that when it returned the line-up would be renumbered for some channels, but I didn't know that a handful of new channels were going to be added, as well. Imagine my delight to find Chiller TV among them!

    I've been watching it on and off pretty much all day. I started with some Night Gallery, a show I am familiar with but haven't seen in years; I caught some Tales from the Crypt; and I was introduced to Tales from the Darkside and Night Visions, two old series that I'd never seen before.

    This is going to be so much fun . . .

    January 23, 2008

    It's National Pie Day

    The American Pie Council created National Pie Day to celebrate a slice of American heritage and promote the enjoyment and sharing of pie. So, feel free to indulge in a piece of your particular favorite variety today.

    If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a Bakers Square, you can celebrate with a free slice, no other purchase necessary. Find the required coupon here: Celebrate Pie.

    If you're in more of a DIY mood, look for a tempting recipe at one of these sites:
  • All Recipes - Dessert Pies
  • Pie Recipes

    Enjoy it!
  • January 17, 2008

    Spicy, Sweet & Sour

    Did that title get your attention? It's the first part of the dinner I made last night and it was really good!

    I found the recipe at The recipe is not specific about the size of pineapple can, so I used 1/2 of a 20 oz. can. I also used two 10 oz cans of ready-to-eat chicken in place of the 2 cups of cooked chicken called for in the recipe.

    It was pretty spicy - it has onion, garlic, red peppers AND hot sauce in it, after all - but not overly so. The raisins and pineapple provided a nice balance to all the heat.

    If I had been thinking like a true Project365-er, I might have taken a photo of the finished product before we ate it, but alas I did not. I'll try to remember to have the camera ready the next time I'm feeling adventurous in the kitchen.

    January 12, 2008

    Book Review: Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids

    I've finished reading my first book of 2008 and it was probably the best thing I could have chosen to start off the year. In Writer Mama, author Christina Katz provides a realistic outline for working writing time into even the most hectic of schedules and provides aspiring writers with a plan for developing their skills and marketing their work.

    The book itself is constructed of short, information packed chapters and interesting side bars that are conducive to reading in the short periods of time that are like gold to a busy mother.

    Katz's tone makes her reader feel as though the two of you are sitting down for coffee together and are chatting about the writing life. Her enthusiasm for writing drips off the page and inspires you to run out and get started as soon as you can.

    Since reading the book, I've re-enrolled in a writing course I began years ago and am eagerly awaiting my materials so I can see where my renewed enthusiasm and resolve finally take me. I can't wait until I have my first "writing success story" to share on the Writer Mama Blog!

    January 04, 2008


    I registered for a PhotoBlog account yesterday so I'd have a place to keep track of my Project365 photos this year. Compared to some of the really incredible work being posted by other members, my pics look pretty amateurish, but I'm hoping to be able to track some improvement over the course of 2008.

    If anyone else has a PhotoBlog, post a link in the comments so I can check out your work!

    January 01, 2008

    Happy New Year!

    I've been meaning to get back to this Blog for a while now and the beginning of a brand new year seems like the perfect time to start. So let's kick things off with some chat about resolutions. The topic is a bit cliche for an early January post, but this is how I'm going to kick start my renewed and more prolific Blogging adventure.

    Here are some of the things I'm going to work on in 2008:

  • Reading More
    I have a LOT of books and I love to read, but sadly, I don't always find the time to do as much of it as I'd like. Last year I had the idea that I would try to read 50 books in a year. That didn't quite work, so this year I'm relieving some of that pressure by just committing to reading at least a little bit every single day. Some days it may be only a page, others it will be entire chapters, I hope. But no matter what, reading will be happening.

  • Writing Every Day
    This is going to be the year that I seriously begin pursuing the life I am meant to be living. I know in my heart that that life centers around writing. 2008 will see the beginning of a new lifestyle for me, one in which I begin to make a living doing what I truly love. In order to accomplish this, I need to develop some good habits, hone my skills and carve time out of my already ridiculous schedule to make my dreams come true. I'll start with writing something - anything - each and every day.

  • Organizing My Entire Life
    This may seem overly ambitious, but that's why I am giving myself the entire year to complete it. I want to live in a completely organized and efficient house, where everything is dust free, neatly stored or aesthetically displayed. I am starting this one tomorrow, and I'm tackling my Study first since it is currently a mass of empty post-holiday boxes, discarded wrappings and piles of 2007's junk mail. I also want to be more organized online, and I am in already in the process of streamlining my files and folders and transferring my massive list of Favorites to the wonderfully fun, useful and addicting site.

  • Revisiting My Scrapbooking Hobby
    I can't recall finishing a single layout in 2007, and that is just inexcusable. Even before I discovered the incredibly satisfying hobby of scrapbooking I always loved taking pictures and putting together photo albums. Now I have, in a corner of my Study that I can almost see over the tower of boxes and trash, a huge stash of largely untouched scrapbook supplies and tons of great pictures that no one ever sees. This year a lot of those materials will be transformed into finished pages, layouts and albums.

    Related to this resolution is the development (pun intended, I think) of my photography skills. I stumbled upon Project365 today and was fascinated by the idea. Taking a photograph a day is a simple but brilliant idea and I'm looking froward to seeing what comes of this a year from now.

  • Learning Spanish
    Despite three years of high school German and four semesters of French in college, I can only speak English. I think becoming conversant in at least one language other than your native tongue is a noble pursuit, and this year I have decided to give Spanish a try. I've found several promising online sources to make use of, including an interesting podcast course called Coffee Break Spanish.

  • Losing Weight
    When I originally made this resolution I had a number of pounds in mind to lose and ideas about which diet plan I might want to start this time, but I have since decided to try this Secret style and just "put it out to the universe" that I will gradually, naturally and effortlessly be losing weight this year. Seriously. After struggling with thyroid issues and failing at "dieting", I have decided to stop counting calories, stop worrying about food, start falling back in love with my body - whatever it looks like - and just see if thinking less about food issues might actually make weight loss happen a little more. Even if it doesn't work, I plan to be a lot less stressed about the whole thing, which may work to my metabolic advantage as well.

    So, there you have it - my outline for a fun, more productive and less stressful year. ¡Deséeme la suerte!