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Totally Together

Backyard Container Composting

March 5, 2014 by · 5 Comments 

Make a backyard composter out of 3 stacked wooden crates -- can be found at Michael's or garden supply store. No tools needed!

You’ve heard of container gardening, but how about container composting?

I’m on a writing deadline, which naturally means that I am procrastinating by spending way too much time looking up gardening stuff on Pinterest. (that makes sense, right?)

wait. Don’t answer that.

We have a bit of a blank slate with the backyard in this new house, and I’ve been pinning up a storm on my small garden ideas board, and came across a pin for a container composter made from 3 stacked plastic milk cartons– the thick plastic cubes that the dairy provides to ship the milk to the store.

I was instantly intrigued. I’ve wanted to compost (I can use that as a verb, right?) for a few years but only wanted to do it without involving my husband. I liked the idea of the compost bins made from pallets but knew that even if I could find a pallet (and pinterest makes it seem like there are pallets lying around all over town, but even if they were, wouldn’t they belong to somebody?) I’d need Adam to use the saw and make it for me, which defeats my purpose of wanting to do EVERYTHING all by MYSELF.

(I’m sort of like a preschooler that way….)

Anyway — back to the milk cartons. I liked how they were stacked three high, and I liked how no sawing or nails or anything mathematical was involved. But I couldn’t get past the whole stealing them from the back alley behind the grocery store thing—-  so I went to Office Depot to buy some crates.

The only types they had were made out of terribly flimsy plastic and the bottom was solid, which wouldn’t work for what I wanted. I wanted the bottom to be open so worms could get in and for airflow between the stacked bins. Bummer.

plastic milk crate

In a pinch, I figured those could work, but I’d need holes drilled into the bottom, and my worry was that the plastic would begin to wear out pretty quickly in the sun.

I went across the parking lot to Orchard Supply Hardware and looked at their plastic crates. They had some pretty durable ones, plus they had some really cool cubes made of plastic-coated wire that would have worked. The cubes were $14 each, which are a bit pricy, but they would have worked.

And then I saw the bulb display by the door leading to the outdoor garden. In these beautiful wooden crates there were daffodil, garlic, and tulip bulbs for purchase. I didn’t want the bulbs, though, I wanted the display crates. I found three empty ones under the table and brought them to the front of the store. The lady at the counter wasn’t sure what to tell me, and didn’t know if she could sell them as “miscellaneous merchandise.” I was asked to wait about 20 minutes until Sam came back from lunch.

So I did.

The kids and I used the potty and daydreamed about patio furniture. We also picked out a few new paint chips (I limit the kids to 3 chips each — I think it’s wrong to take every color for an art project, but I see that kind of stuff online all the time…  but that’s just me. I got hit pretty hard with the ethics stick.)

When Sam tracked us down, he said that I wasn’t the only person to inquire about the crates and that I could just have them. He said his manager told him yesterday that they had no use for the crates in the store.

wooden crates from Orchard

SCORE!

The funny thing is, that I totally would have paid for them. I had already decided while I was waiting that if they wouldn’t let me buy them I’d go get wooden crates from Michael’s.

I got the crates home and the kids and I got to work rather quickly getting the crates ready to go outside. I wanted the bottom slats to be uncovered, but used garden fabric that we had leftover from our old house to line the 4 sides. This keeps dirt from falling out of the cracks, protects the wood a bit, and keeps the compost ingredients insulated and warm to get them to “cook” faster.

IMG_0776_1

IMG_0779_1

I cleared a space in the backyard against the fence and stacked the three bins. Since the dirt wasn’t perfectly level, I ended up propping up the front of the bottom bin up with two bricks. Not only did this make my stack pretty darn level, it also provides a bit more air flow to the bottom bin. Compost breaks down faster when it gets more air.

I’ve been reading an awful lot about composting and this stack method seems to work well when you don’t have a bunch of square footage available in your yard. To use, simply place your yard trimmings and kitchen scraps in the top bin, and once it’s full, move it to the bottom. Continue rotating the bins until all three have been filled, and hopefully by the time you are ready to use the first one again, the yardwaste and scraps have broken down enough to get incorporated into your garden. Your compost is fully “cooked” when it’s super dark and looks like a moist crumbled chocolate cake.

make a compost pile out of three wooden crates

make a backyard compost stack out of three wooden crates

I ended up putting a small piece of plywood that I had lying around in the shed for a top, and put a heavy terracotta pot on top. This is to discourage the cats or raccoons from digging through the compost and to keep rain out of the bins. You can help break down your kitchen scraps and yard clippings by adding worms to the pile. If the worms don’t find you on their own, you can purchase worms from a fishing supply or garden store, or simply go on a puddle walk with the kids after a rain!

I’m excited about this project — it was something that I really wanted to do for quite a while, but kept getting bogged down with the details. This method is simple, and if I run out of room, I can easily make another one on the other side of the yard.

I go through so many produce scraps when I’m cooking and since we no longer have guinea pigs (they lived a good long life, and were terribly well-loved!) I am happy to be able to put the scraps to good use.

DIY 3-part container composter in the backyard. No tools needed; crates can be found at Michael's or a garden supply store

 

 

 

Bloggers and Narcissism

July 18, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

are bloggers inherently narcissistic?

original photo credit: The Secret of Narcissism

This is part of the Business of Blogging Series. You can see all of the posts, here.

 

I’ve done a bit of speaking this summer at various conferences, and I’ve said a few times to the audience (and been met with great laughs),  “Let’s face it. Bloggers are narcissistic.”

While I do love laughter responses, I’m completely serious when I say that in order to be a good blogger, or to put yourself out in the public eye, you’ve got to have a part of your personality that believes that You Are Better Than Others.

and this is a challenge. It’s a struggle for me, and I know it’s a struggle for many of my friends. It feels wrong, it feels fraudulent, and it feels deceitful to decide when you wake up in the morning that you are going to make and write about THE WORLD’S BEST BEEF STEW.

or the best way to fold a fitted sheet.

or write about a completely ordinary trip to Walmart but in a way you just *know* your readers will appreciate.

or heaven help you, post a #selfie on instagram.

I wasn’t raised to seek the spotlight, I was raised to sit quietly with my hands folded while the grown-ups talked and not to interrupt. And that is how I’m raising my children. Nobody likes a know-it-all who interrupts. Blogging is about interrupting.

DID YOU HEAR ME?

gah. It’s loud, it’s annoying, and it feels icky.

So what do you do? How do you balance the self-doubt, the negative voices, and the twingy feeling that you are doing something wrong when you decide to put your heart and voice online?

I can tell you that it gets easier, but I can also tell you that I personally stress and analyze every time I write anything online. This is the list I weigh in my head before posting (on any of my sites, on facebook, on twitter, and even on pinterest)

1) How does this help my audience? (and helpful can just be a feel-good moment. there doesn’t need to be a lifelesson in everything you put online, nor does it have to be a how-to tutorial.)

2) Am I writing this only because so-and-so has written about (kale) a lot and I feel like in order to stay relevant I need to write about (kale)?

3) Am I jumping on the bandwagon about a certain event that has a lot of drama and I want people to link to me when they, too, write about this certain event?

4) [related to #3] am I stirring an already-bubbling pot? Is that what I want to be known for? Pot-stirring?

5) In 3 days, will I still be proud of my writing?

6) Am I writing this because I’m getting paid to write about it (like a sponsored post)? Have I told my audience this truth?

7) Will my writing be search-engine-friendly? If not, how can I massage my words to help with SEO?

8) and then back again to #1…. am I being helpful to my audience?

If you respect your audience, they will respect you.

If you jump in front of the camera keyboard every single time any fleeting thought passes through your head, you might gain lots and lots of followers initially, but they will leave in the longrun. Build a lasting legacy — something that you enjoy, that you can see yourself working on as your life’s work.

As for the negative thoughts? Embrace them. Listen to what they have to say. Maybe you are posting too often, and without anything valuable to offer your readers. Maybe you are only tweeting 7 times a day because some expert told you that’s how many times a day you should tweet. Maybe you are solely only writing about the latest conference drama because you want to be in the spotlight and want to be someone “in the know.”

and if after some soul-searching you realize that you don’t like your current path, then tweak it a bit.

But don’t let the voices win. We ALL have something to offer. We are all on this life-living journey together, and we all have something to share and to teach. Differing perspectives are fantastic — that is how we, as readers, as humans, make decisions. That’s why we read Amazon reviews — our culture needs to know as much as possible about pretty much everything right now. Right this instant. We can’t even wait to get home to our desktop, we have to whip out our phones in the middle of the store and tweet a picture to the masses to see if these shoes are actually a good buy.

This is a great time to be writing online. Do not let self-doubt or shyness prevail. Yes, bloggers are inherently narcissistic. We have to be.

And that’s okay. Just make sure to acknowledge it.

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

February 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

new year resolutions

We’re approaching the end of February. Do you know where your New Year Resolutions are?

I’ve gotten pretty good at making and keeping my resolutions each new year — and while it’s still not super easy for me to stay on track, each and every year I have a bit more resolve to keep on course.

It doesn’t matter that we’re near the end of February — there is still plenty of time to get your new year goals and resolutions back on track. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, here are some tips to climb back in it and buckle up; there’s a long road ahead until the end of the year.

If you haven’t made any new year resolutions or goals for 2013, or don’t like to because you don’t think that’s “your thing” — okay. But you also can’t change for the better in any way unless you make the conscious decision to do so. And regardless of your personal journey or path, I believe we all could do a bit better each year.

This is it.

You’re not going to get today back again, and it’s okay to want tomorrow to be slightly better.

How to make New Year Resolutions that You’ll Keep:

1) Write it down. This is such a simple step, yet the majority of people don’t do it. Yes, there are plenty of people who have stuck to their resolve to lose weight or get out of debt by not writing down their goals, but if you DO write it down you have a greater chance of success. And who are we to fool around with statistics? If it feels hokey, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to share what you’ve written down to anybody — just keep it in a notebook or folded up in your purse.

2) Tell Someone. I know. In suggestion number 1 I said you don’t have to share your written resolution or goal list with anyone and now I’m telling you to tell someone else your personal wishes and dreams. I promise I’m not losing my mind— you still don’t have to share your written out list, but you DO have to share what you’re working on.

Accountability to someone else is a much stronger motivational drive than an intrinsic one. This means that you are more likely to disappoint yourself than you are someone else. That’s just how human nature is. We are also much more forgiving to others than we are to ourselves —- so if you veer off track, having a supportive someone in your corner is just who you’ll need to confide in and who can help you retain confidence.

This is what I did with the slow cooker site, and what Jen did with her cocktail site. We told the Internet — it’s a pretty big group to be held accountable to!

3) Review your resolutions every single day. However you do this is up to you. You can pull out your list of goals, or rewrite them every morning. Some people have excellent results by writing their resolutions out as if they have already happened. For instance, if your goal is to lose those final last ten pounds, you might start your day by thinking about  how thankful you are that you can fit into the dress hanging in the closet. You can go a step further and visualize  yourself wearing it and hear in your head all the complements you’ll get from your friends.

I have a vision board. I make a new one every year, and I keep it in the bathroom. It’s personal, and I have sayings and quotes, and magazine cutouts on it. I only share it with Adam, and even he kind of rolls his eyes a bit at how particular some of my visions (picture cutouts) are. But that’s okay. Because my vision board makes me smile and keeps me focused on what it is I’m working towards —  I look at it quite a few times a day, and somedays it spurs me on to take action on a certain writing assignment or to go do a few pushups. Other days I just zone out. I’ve decided to believe that even on my zone out days my subconscious is working on something. ;-)

4) Pretend you’ve already succeeded. Or fake it till you make it. This might seem phony at first, but you’ll get used to it in practice. If your New year’s Resolution was to work out every morning, act like a person who works out every morning. What time does that person wake up? What does she wear? Does she sleep in her workout clothes and works out before getting dressed for the day? What does she eat? Do you need different food in the house?

If your resolution was to write every day on your All American Novel, start acting like a novelist. What does a novelist do? Does she get up before everyone else in the house and write for an hour? Does she have a set of index cards with character names and traits? Does she spend 3 hours a day surfing facebook or pinterest, or does she buckle down and work?

5) Reward yourself. This doesn’t need to be elaborate, nor does it need to be expensive, but you have to find a way to celebrate the tiny steps and milestones along the way. Day to Day life is hard enough as it is — trying to change or adapt is even harder, even if you know it’s for the better.

Human nature is to find the easiest and least resistant path. It’s easier to lay around on the couch than it is to lace up your shoes and go for a walk. So reward yourself. Walk to the grocery store and after making a few laps get yourself a pack of sugarless gum. If you’ve gotten through the entire day without yelling at the kids, take a bath. Paint your toes. Do something just for  you that’s a reward. And there is no harm in using the reward as motivation to keep to your goals — “if I don’t use my credit card but instead pay it off, I can use the extra savings in our vacation fund.”

I’m sure you see what I mean.

You don’t have to be in the first week of January to decide to be a New You. Or a Newer Version of You.

You can do this. I know you can.

and it’s not too late.

It’s never too late to accomplish anything you put your mind to.

xoxoox

Make Money Blogging

June 26, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

How to Make (real) Money Blogging

How to make money from your mommyblog — how to make a full-time income while staying home with your kids.

Table of Contents for the Business of Blogging Series.

1. The Business of Blogging

2. Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

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

4. Is Self Esteem Tied to Site Meter?

5. Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

6. You are a Blogger Entrepreneur

7. Creating a (non-cheesy) Vision Board

8. 10 Business-y Books that Changed My Life

9. Time Management and Social Media: An Oxymoron?

10. Working From Home with Small Children in the House

11. Bloggers and Narcissism

 

I don’t consider myself a blogging guru –

I am a mom of three and feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be living my version of The American Dream: I am home, with my kids, while I make a full-time living (six figures) doing what I love  —- writing and helping other women. In my fuzzy slippers.

I have followed my gut, and not the “experts,”

and it has paid off (rather nicely)– and I have written this series as a way to hopefully inspire other moms/women who want to make money from the kitchen table.

You can do this.

If I can, you can, too. If you have any questions, please email or find me on twitter or facebook. I’m happy to help.

I have been writing online for 5 years, and have written 4 books (three slow cooker cookbooks, and one housekeeping shortcut guide). I am truly thankful.

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