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Totally Together

A Review of Kiwi Crate Art Projects for Kids

March 14, 2012 by · 8 Comments 


Spring Break and Summer Vacation are sneaking up on me. We’ve got Spring Break the week leading into Easter, and then have another day off to recover from the holiday. That’s 6 days of me being home with all three kids that I’ve got to figure out how to fill so I’m not subjected to days upon days of Netflixed episodes of The Wizards of Waverly Place or (#someonepleasehelpme) Caillou.
[side bar: did you know there was an I Hate Caillou page on Café Mom? Hysterical.]

Anyhow, when BlogHer asked if I’d test out the subscription-based Kiwi Crate art box, I said #yespleaseandthankyou right away.
[another side bar: I had this as a work-from-home business idea back in 2003. I was going to call them Preschool Packets and make up worksheets and art projects and sell them online, and on Ebay. I think I have a domain name or two that I'm still paying for...]

My idea was complete amateur hour compared to the Kiwi Crates. This is a very well designed and executed product. I initially thought the art boxes were kind of pricey at $19.95 each, but once I saw what they entailed, I changed my mind.

The “crate” is a thick cardboard box–the kind a really expensive pair of shoes comes in-and the kind that my kids COVET for all of their collections (more often than not the “collection” is gum wrappers, or Popsicle sticks, or soda can tabs. #Icantevenexplainhowmuchthisannoysme) and the art supplies are wrapped in tissue paper.

The presentation worked on my kids–they were instantly excited and could hardly wait to dig in.

Our box contained three art projects: a stained glass mosaic, a color-your-own spinning top, and a canvas art bag that was colored by wetting tissue paper squares with a water dropper. Totally cool. The box also contained two bluntish Fiskars kid scissors, markers, and 3-D glasses.

We invited our neighbors over, and pulled out some construction paper and stickers to keep the babies busy. I had 2 seven-year-olds, a ten-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 2-year-old all sharing the supplies from this box (along with the aforementioned stickers and paper for the little guys).

The kids worked straight for about an hour, and really enjoyed themselves. The markers were small and were a bit dried out; so I replaced them with our own Crayola washables.

All the kids occupied themselves long enough for my friend Jen and me to make and enjoy two cups of coffee. And gossip conversation.

That is so worth $19.95.

Also, we have enough leftover for a few more collage projects, and the kids are enjoying the canvas art bags (good quality; the baby put in a bunch of pointy rocks and dragged it around outside) and the Fiskars scissors will last a life time.

If I wanted to buy everything at Michael’s and put this together myself I’d spend more than the $20 and would have to prep everything–not something I’m honestly going to do.

I really like this as a gift idea. I’m going to see if I can get the grandparents on board and get an annual subscription for the kids for Christmas this year. I think the kids will get a kick out of opening a new box with a new activity/project each month and the anticipation of awaiting a new arrival. They really like mail as it is.

In the mean time, I’m going to sign up to get us through the summer months. We’re laying low again-I hate paying for lots of activities, and I really like having the kids home with me, even if they argue and bicker more than I’d like them to. (socialization! in action!)

And the projects are cool. My tweenager (#notmymostfavoriteterm) was all into the art supplies, and I can definitely see her and her friends working on these types of art activities together out in the yard.

Before they head off to middle school next year.

Which isn’t okay with me.

I wonder if Kiwi Crate has some sort of time machine project where I can have the kids on “pause” for a while?

Pinterest and Feelings of Inadequacy

February 17, 2012 by · 46 Comments 

I admit it. I got sucked into the Pinterest bubble. I find this site *fascinating.* I’m fascinated by how quickly it’s grown, what a monumental force it is in driving web traffic, and how it’s such a colossal waste of time.

fascinating. utterly fascinating.

I must admit, though, that there is definitely a feeling of anxiety and insecurity when it comes to Pinterest. It’s easy to feel that if you aren’t already engaging in the site you’ve missed the boat (not true), or if you are on the site that you aren’t doing it “right.” Again, not true.

I did a little work for BlogHer this week. I spoke on a social media and how it effects women’s commerce panel, and wrote a little fluff piece on how Pinterest is a big traffic driver and shouldn’t be ignored. I still feel that way–this site should not be ignored.

I stayed away for quite a while (I joined last month at the encouragement from an IRL friend) because I was scared to get sucked into yet another THING. I’m kind of tired of having to “check just one more thing” before logging off the computer.

And then I started tracking my google analytics and realized that this THING was driving a crapload (technical term) of traffic my way. Pinterest is now my #2 traffic driver to the slow cooker site (after google) – I easily get thousands of hits a day from it. This isn’t someTHING to ignore.

(embarrassing disclosure: I’m not a typical BlogHer member. I’m a very late adopter to technical things. My slowcooker url is still on blogspot, I don’t have a facebook account, I was late to join twitter, and I don’t own a smart phone).

That said: If you aren’t on Pinterest yet, I’m going to boldly suggest that you poke around a bit, and create an account—even if you’re just doing so to claim your name. To see what from your site has been “pinned,” type the following into your browser bar:

It’s important to see what has already been pinned so you can then maybe re-link or refresh these particular articles, and to see what type of writing is currently the most appealing and most likely to be shared.

I wrote those words on Wednesday. Today is Friday. I still stand by them, but I have one caveat: be careful. If you are the type of person who gets intimidated easily by women sharing all the (perceived) wonderfulness of their lives, tread carefully.

Don’t follow as many people as you can; follow your friends (maybe even your in-real-life friends, not your blogging friends). Don’t believe that just because so-and-so repinned a photo of a “fabulous mudroom” her mudroom actually looks like that. Don’t assume that EVERYONE is doing art projects with their kids every hour of every day. Don’t get sucked into wanting to throw away all of your clothes to buy all new ones. Don’t make the mistake of judging a person’s bank account because they repinned a pair of $450 boots. They probably didn’t click through to see what the boots cost.

at least I hope that’s the case. otherwise my own boots feel terribly unworthy.

Pinterest is women-driven. And although most people (men) would think that men are the competitive sex, I’m going to suggest it’s actually women. Women want to do everything well all the time. Or at least we want to make it look that way. The fact that Pinterest is actually a vision board is quite telling. This isn’t real. This is a fantasy. Take a deep breath and remember that you are already good enough. You don’t need to have rockhard abs while whipping up 37 different varieties of cheesecake in order to feel good about yourself.

just be you.

further reading:

56 Ways to Market Your Business on Pinterest on CopyBlogger

Stop Being a Pinterest Sexist on Clever Girls

How I Grew a 1000 Visitor a Day Source of Traffic to 3000 Visits a Day on ProBlogger

You Need Pinterest. I’ll Bet You a Bubble Bath on BlogHer

What are your thoughts on Pinterest? Important? A Waste of Time? Just another social media THING? (my pinterest page is here, pinterest/stephanieodea)



The Business of Blogging series:

Part 1: The Business of Blogging

Part 2: Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

Part 3: Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul

Part 4: Is Self-Esteem Tied into Sitemeter?

Part 5: Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

and other stuff:

10 Best Business-y Books

Creating a (non-cheesy) Vision Board

Working from Home with Small Children in the House

Conversations with Coke Recap

June 20, 2011 by · 13 Comments 

This is a compensated post. Coca-Cola paid for my travel, lodging, and activities in Atlanta, and BlogHer is paying me to write this post.

I am back, safe and sound from Atlanta from the Coca-Cola event. I feel fresh and renewed, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with the insane amount of Coke Zero I had on this trip.

For the record? I really like Coke Zero. I was too cheap to buy and test it out myself, but since Coke flows freely and readily within the mothership, I had the opportunity to taste test approximately every 3.5 seconds. I am not a Diet Coke fan, but like Coke Zero.
A lot.

I got an awful lot of rather um, interesting comments and questions about this trip. I was ready for these questions, but the tone and the (perceived) anger from some of them kind of threw me for a loop.

To the point that I kind of wanted to hide in a corner and suck my thumb and twirl my hair.

And that’s not okay.

I will never ever ever try to get you (or you, or you) to buy something you do not want to. I would never try to make you feel bad for your choices or for what you choose to feed or serve your family.

Please don’t do that to me.

I’m not an all-or-nothing kind of girl. I like all-natural, organic food, but I also like Cheese in a Can. I try my hardest to get us to all sit down to eat dinner together at the table, but sometimes the best thing is to spread out a blanket and watch TV while shoveling it in.

And I’m okay with it.

I’m supposed to write what I learned these past few days at Coca-Cola’s headquarters. I should probably write that the nutritionist and scientist told us that your body metabolizes high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and cane sugar the exact same way. I should refer you to their website: to read the studies and form your own decisions.

I should tell you that McDonald’s sponsored our lunch (McDonald’s is the largest distributor of Coke products) and that the Asian Salad is quite tasty, the dressing is Newman’s Own (NOT GLUTEN FREE) and only has 90 calories (the dressing, not sure what the whole salad has, but that  info is readily available online) and that the new smoothies taste fantastic and my kids really like them for an afterschool snack.

One of the biggest and hugest highlights of the trip was listening to representatives of Coke’s Women in Leadership program. They spoke about the importance of listening to women and understanding their background. That women everywhere struggle with balance and feelings of guilt and worries of not “being perfect.”

The powerful quote of the day was their leadership motto: Lift as You Climb.

I learned that women need to be nicer to each other.

A LOT nicer.

And we need to learn how to support and nurture each other and stop making snap judgments.

Because at the end of the day, everyone is just doing the very best they can within their own circumstances and situation. And you should love and cherish that person—even if their choices are somewhat different than your own.

And these women? I couldn’t have been happier with this amazing, powerful, confident grouping. I feel honored beyond words to have met and spent time with them.

Women truly CAN change the world. I know it. But first, we’ve got to stop pushing each other down and start holding hands and supporting.

Lift As You Climb.

I am thrilled to introduce (starting at the top right and working down the stairs):
the guy is Phil, he was our Coke tour guide and archivist. super nice guy.

Creating Motherhood, Calliope

Doobleh-Vay, Amy Turn Sharp

Sweetnicks, Cate O’Malley




Joy Unexpected, Yvonne

The Meanest Mom, Jana

Home 2 3 Duncan Boys, Lakeitha Duncan

Three Kid Circus, Jenny Lauck

Bongga Mom

Kirida, Mona

Take the time to meet these women and read their stories. We can learn so much from each other.

I’m in the midst of a new site redesign (nothing will change, but it will all be different. don’t freak out.) and would like to start an everyone-is-included blog/website roll. If you have a site that you’d like included and you’re a REAL person and not some spam monster, please email me at (I’m the contact!) with the subject line: blogroll and I’ll get you on the list. This roll will constantly be updated—it’s time we reach out and support one another.

Thank you for your love and support, and have a wonderful day.

Happy Wednesday!

March 30, 2011 by · 5 Comments 

Spread some joy today.

The sun is finally here to stay in my neck of the woods (I don’t sound like an 80-year-old man when I use that phrase, do I?)

no need to answer…

and all of a sudden the world is fine again. Sometimes I forget how desperately I need the sun and it’s marvelous Vitamin D, but I guess I do.

I’ve been soaking it in the past few days, and all of my worries seem to have quieted. I’m so glad. It’s been a hard first quarter for pretty much everyone I know.

let’s clink glasses (cranberry juice; maybe I have a UTI? is that TMI?) to a MUCH better second quarter.

I did go to BlogHer BET (business, entreprenuers, technology) conference last Friday and enjoyed myself. I almost chickened out at the last minute when I got an email suggesting I have a pitch deck and bring it along.

But you all calmed me down (THANK YOU) and I attended empty-handed and open-minded. It was the right thing to do. If anything, it made me realize that I should “get out there more” and meet new people with new ideas. It also made  me realize that I don’t have to have a bunch of letters listed after my name to hobnob with the bigwigs (now THAT made me sound like an 80-year-old-man, I’m sure of it).

One of my favorite sessions was the Branding session (led by Gina Garrubbo, who I could listen to talk about the mating practices of slugs and be interested) and got me thinking about how what you put on the internet stays on the internet, and that will “brand” you forever. Since we’re raising kids in this digital age, it’s something we need to be very aware of for them.

There have been some interesting PR bumbles this past week that I find fascinating. I know I’ve mentioned before that part of running a business is keeping track of what is said about you, and to respond appropriately. The best way to do this is to have a bunch of google alerts in place (your name, your site’s name, your site’s URL, etc).

this is why you should monitor:

Let’s say your an author and you don’t like an online review (including an Amazon review, btw) DO NOT go in and try to defend your work or your name. Ever. Nope, not even then. let it go. Why? Here’s why. I feel terrible for this poor lady. I really don’t think she knew how the internet works and how to play the game. I felt as if I was reading a transcript for Punk’d.

You are a celebrity cake judge on National TV. You have been cast as the villain. Do not allow your people/friends defend you when Kristy Sammis (hysterically, I may add) satires you. It makes you look like you can’t keep your people inline.

Or maybe you are a bonafide celebrity chef and you don’t realize that your “people” denied a critically ill child’s request to meet you. Twice. And so they took it to the Internet. This is why you should have a google alert out! so then you know!

What about the stupid, ridiculous remark you made on Facebook poking fun at those with Celiac Disease or those with other VERY serious medical conditions who require a gluten free diet? What if you happen to be a chef at a restaurant and admit on this Facebook page that you PURPOSELY gave customers regular wheat pasta “because they wouldn’t know any better?”

So there you go. All of those names (specifically not written out because HELLO, GOOGLE ALERTS!) will forever live on in Internet archives, and not in a good way.

Grace Duffy, whom I met at BlogHer BET, just wrote on She Posts an interesting article summarizing just this: the Internet Doesn’t Forget.

have a great day! remember: spread some joy today. and vacuum under the couch cushions. it’s been a while…

here’s a bit of joy, right off the internet. Talking twin babies. :-)

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