Monday, April 29, 2013

How Long Will It Take Me To Hang These Curtains?

I'm playing a little game today. It's called, "How long will it take me to hang these curtains?"


Curtains
Photo by photo-gratis

My hubby and I bought curtains for our bedroom. We purchased them on March 16, 2013. Yes, your math is write--that was six weeks ago.

Have I bought curtain rods?

No.

Have I taken the curtains out of the packages to iron them?

No.

Where are the curtains now, you ask?

On the floor of my bedroom closet. In their packages. In a plastic bag.

I'm sure if I
a. bought curtain rods,
b. asked my husband to install them,
and c. ironed the curtains,
the process of hanging them would take roughly fifteen minutes.

But...

It will probably take me four months, thirteen days, seven hours, and fifty-three minutes to actually get them hung. It's called procrastination, folks, and I'm good at it!

Have you purchased something for the home only to let it languish unused for months on end?

(Happy birthday, Mom!! Love you!!)

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why April Messes with My Head

April in northern Ohio (or Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin--any state experiencing 6 months of winter) can really mess with your head.

it's there somewhere
Photo by polandeze

Sure, snow seems fun and pretty when Christmas is around the corner, but by mid-January, I can't help wondering how much longer I'll have to wear my sweaters. I'm not talking about the cute, light sweaters with an open neck or anything, either. I'm talking layers, heavy sweaters, and a blanket on my lap.

By February, my skin becomes translucent. I could star in a vampire movie, and no, I wouldn't be the human heroine. I'd be the almost dead victim or the vampire.

March comes along and a tidbit of hope arises. Maybe we'll have a few nice days. Maybe spring will chug, chug through by the end of the month. Dare we put away our winter coats?

Of course not, silly!

Winter is not over. It's a practical joker, a teaser, the annoying kid on the bus who won't stop mocking you. You will want to slap it.

It's now April 26 and we haven't had two nice days in a row all year. Every day this week it has either rained, snowed, or rained and snowed. On Tuesday, we had a beautiful, sunshine-filled day only to get drenched in a relentless downpour at baseball that night.

The weather makes me want to pull out my hair--and not because the barometer rising and falling has given me a headache, although that happens all the time too.

I stared at my closet this morning. Dare I hang up my T-shirts? Should I unpack my Capri's?

It's the middle of the afternoon and 47 degrees. I will wait on that. I'm still wearing that winter coat, and I predict my boots aren't heading into storage any time soon.

Is your weather driving you to madness, too?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Addicted to Reading

I'll admit it. I have a problem. It's called addicted to reading. I can usually keep up with my magazine subscriptions, must-read romances, and various non-fiction and fiction from the library, but April and May aren't conducive for reading in my world. I have to squeeze in a chapter here and an article there. Do you see my pouty lip? I don't like this.

Another problem with this time of year is that I pile things. Then maybe--let's just say this could happen--I accidentally hit the ottoman and the piles tumble. And let's imagine that I toss a few more publications on top.

What you end up with is pictured below.
(Yes, that's my ottoman. With the scattered piles.)


I'm dying--dying!!--to read the two contemporary Christian romances that arrived in my mailbox this week, Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade and Catch a Falling Star by Beth Vogt. Mm, mm! You will be hearing about them later this month on my blog.

Oh, and I got a free subscription to a new magazine, Modern Farmer. (Free!!) No, I'm not a farmer, but I garden, like looking at chickens, and I have cousins who farm, so I figure that's good enough. It's full of interesting information about global farming, organic solutions, and it has tons of pretty pictures. Try it! You might like it!

You'll also see the array of UsWeekly's--I'll share my lil' nugget about that later--Midwest Living, RWR, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Woman's Day, Redbook, and a book about baseball by Yogi Berra.

So the UsWeekly thing. Recently I sat on the bleachers with one other mom, waiting for our sons' baseball game to start. The other team's coach came up to me and asked, "Are you the bookkeeper?" I replied, "Not unless the book is an UsWeekly." Then I chuckled to myself. It's good to make yourself laugh now and then.

Okay, what was the last thing you said that cracked you up? And what are you reading?

Have a great Wednesday!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Things I Need to Google Today

The past three weeks have been crazy busy. C.R.A.Z.Y. We spent the weekend at a baseball tournament in a little town in southern Ohio where I lived for a few months when I was nine years old. Although we didn't have time to see the town, driving through the hills brought back fond memories.


Baseballs
Photo by txnicole

My son might have pulled a muscle while pitching. I need to Google how to treat it.

Also, the weather here is driving me nuts. 30's and 40's aren't cutting it in my world for the end of April! (I AM thankful we aren't experiencing the snow of MN or the flooding of surrounding states.) I need to Google the weather. Sometimes a good forecast brightens my mood!

Um, the piles of library books around the house? I really need to Google my library to find out when they are due. Pretty sure the due date is soon. Whoops!

This week my daughter has a track meet at a school I'm unfamiliar with. I need to Google a map and directions.

By the end of the day I'll have done half a dozen Google searches, and that's normal for me. It's so easy to take the Internet for granted, but it enhances my life all the time! I'm grateful to get answers without having to leave the house or make phone calls.

What is on your agenda today?

Have a great Monday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Blogging The New Challenge Part 3: Use Feedly

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 3

Read blogs in a Reader such as Feedly

This week we've talked about the challenges facing bloggers in 2013. On Monday, I asked if blogs were still relevant. On Wednesday, we discussed ways of finding new readers. Today, I'm talking about reading blogs using a service called Feedly.


How do we fit reading blogs into our lives easily without it taking too much time?

Confession--I've gone through periods when I haven't read blogs.
I've been:
a. too busy
b. too discouraged
c. too distracted
d. out of town.

But I always get drawn back to reading blogs.
Why?
a. I feel connected to the author
b. I learn something new
c. I've been questioning something and a title offers the answer
d. I like to read!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I find blogs through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, my Blogger subscriptions, search engines, and recommendations. But it's hit-or-miss. I want to keep up with a few dozen favorite blogs on a regular basis. With Google Reader disappearing, a new RSS Reader is the most obvious choice.

Melissa Tagg (@Melissa_Tagg, Tag(g)lines) Tweeted, "If only all of life was as easy as switching from Google Reader to Feedly..." She's someone I trust, so I immediately Googled "Feedly."

Feedly is a Reader similar to Google Reader. It allows you to organize your RSS subscriptions (Google Reader, YouTube, Google News), and it's a great place to read blogs and share links to your various social media sites. You can sign up for a free web-edition in Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. You can also download an App for your smartphone or tablet.

I am using the Google Chrome free version. Feedly effortlessly brought all of my Google Reader information to my Feedly account. I then spent twenty minutes thinning out my folders and reorganizing the blogs into new folders better suited to my current blog-reading habits.

I was not shocked to see more than half of my subscriptions were no longer active (nothing had been posted in more than thirty days). 

If you're familiar with Readers, you'll be pleased with Feedly's easy-to-navigate layout. A column on the left lists any folders you've created. Click on the folder name for a list of current posts of all the blogs in that folder. You can either read the post in Feedly (and share it on your social media sites with the buttons that appear), or you can click on the link to the left of the post to go directly to the blog address. It's up to you!

I'll be paying attention to the trends as the year goes on, but right now, I am committed to continuing my three-day-a-week schedule. The way I see it, with author blogs dwindling, mine has more chance to get noticed. I'm a glass-half-full type of person! And I will always want to read blogs. I enjoy them!

If you read blogs, do you use a Reader? If not, what do you use? Would you be more likely to read blogs if you had an easy way to organize them, like using Feedly?

**A friend contacted me when this post went live that her comments got eaten. A few weeks ago, I switched to not allow Anonymous comments anymore due to the increase in Spam. I have a feeling WordPress bloggers might be having trouble commenting on my site. I have since gone back to anonymous comments, but I have comment moderation on after 1 day of the post going live. Sorry if this is inconveniencing anyone. I'm trying to avoid Captcha's! Please e-mail me jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com if you are trying to leave a comment and it disappears without saying "your comment is waiting moderation." Thanks!!**

Thanks for spending the week with me! Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 2 Finding Readers

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 2

New Methods of Finding Readers

On Monday, we talked about the current reality of dwindling blogs and the loss of Google Reader. You can read about it in, "Blogging: The New Challenge Part 1." Today we're discussing how the current blog climate is forcing us to use new methods to find readers for our blog.



A few years ago finding readers for your blog was as easy as offering a few subscribing options in your sidebar, following other blogs, and sharing your posts on Twitter or Facebook.

Oh, how the times have changed!

As with all good things, there can be too much of a good thing. The blogosphere became flooded with aspiring authors. Many of them saturated Twitter with promotional links. Although I love sharing other blogs, I completely stopped sharing links on Twitter for several months. It felt like  noise. Twitter shouldn't be about shouting, "Buy this! Read that!" at other people. It should be about having a conversation, saying, "hey, you guys might like this post, I sure did."

Also, at one point I had eight different folders in Google Reader and each folder contained 20-30 blogs in it! I couldn't keep up, and I didn't bother trying. Occasionally I would click on a blog from my Facebook feed, but mostly I relied on Google Reader.

My blog reading changed about nine months ago. I no longer went to Google Reader--seeing over 1000 unread posts every time I went intimidated me. Instead, I found myself reading blogs I noticed on Google+, Facebook, and, sometimes, Twitter. I also clicked through pictures on Pinterest that linked to an intriguing blog post.

I can't speak for other blog readers, but here are reasons I read a blog.

1. The author is a friend. I put high priority on my friends' blogs. It's one of the ways I feel connected to them.
2. The title grabbed me.
3. The blog post was right there in front of me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
4. It was recommended to me.

How do I find the blogs to read?

1. It's linked on one or all of the social media sites I frequent.
2. Someone I follow shared the blog, and the title interested me.

Since Google Reader was eliminated, I no longer subscribe to a reader (with the exception of Blogger). This means that almost every blog I read, I found through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or it's written by a friend.

Why is this information useful?

Many bloggers stopped feeding the link to their current blog post on Facebook and Twitter. But by doing this, they're losing me as a blog reader. I read 3-4 blogs every weekday, and I find most of them on social media sites. If your blog post isn't there, I'm not likely to read it.

Google+ confuses many writers, but it only takes a few seconds to share your blog post on the site. I read more blogs shared on Google+ than I expected to when I started using this service. Google+ does an amazing job with sharing. I can see the title, the first few sentences, and the photo for the post. The posts are easy to navigate.

Pinterest is another place to find readers. Edit a stockphoto or personal photo to include a "hook" to lead people back to your blog (see the photo above). If someone "pins" the photo, it's automatically linked back to the post. This is an easy way to tempt new readers.

Staying social online still has benefits. By taking the time to comment on active blogs, you increase your odds of connecting with the author, who in turn will be more likely to support your blog too. I made so many friends through blogging--I can't put enough emphasis on how this has added to my life.

As time passes, some of your blogging friends may seem to disappear. You might even find that the majority of your "core blog friends" have chosen to spend their time elsewhere. Be open to new blog friends. There are always up and comers out there. A few newer bloggers I enjoy are Lindsay Harrel, Jeanne Takenaka, Susan Tuttle, and the new Married...with Fiction (a group blog written by Jennifer Major, Becky Doughty, and Heather Day Gilbert).

Keep your eyes open to what other successful bloggers are doing to increase their traffic and find readers. Don't be afraid to try their techniques!

The other behind the scenes factor: SEO.

Another way to find a blog is by typing a topic in a search engine. If the search engine determines your blog is a match (through tags, keywords, labels--search engine optimization), your post will pop up in the results.

This is one reason I always recommend typing your author name into the "tag," "label," or "keyword" section. Every post you write will be related to your author name. Regular, frequent blog posts keeps your name and blog relevant with search engines.

When authors get published, they want readers to find their books. Readers might type the author name in a search engine (I do all the time). What does an author hope the reader finds? The author's website/blog, of course! From there, the reader should be able to easily navigate to find out about the author, what books she's written, links to buy the books, and a way to contact the author to tell her she's fabulous.

Type your author name in a few search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing...) and see if links show up leading a reader to you in one way or another. Ideally, you want your website/blog to show up as the number one result.

Blogging in 2013 is challenging. Authors have to get creative and keep an open mind about where a reader might find their blogs. Don't be shy about continuing (or starting) to feed your blog posts into Facebook, Twitter, Google+. You never know who might find your blog this way! And don't get discouraged. If you enjoy writing a blog, stay with it!

Do you have a blog? What challenges are you facing with it?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 1

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 1

Is Blogging Still Relevant?

I started blogging in 2008, and I instantly loved it. Writing a blog provided me a different outlet for my writing--one that meant no plotting, no characterization, no worrying about pace--just short, informational, casual pieces.


Until a few generous souls went out of their way to help me, I struggled to find readers. Who knew a "Google Friend Connect" button would rock my blogging world? I thought it would only show readers how unpopular I was!

It didn't take long to see the Golden Rule worked beautifully with my blog. By reading other fabulous blogs and commenting, I found plenty of new readers. It was slow, time-consuming work, but it was worth it.

I tried other outlets too--I had my blog fed to Networked Blogs on my Facebook account. I signed up for my posts to automatically post to Twitter when they went live. I included my blog link on every social media site to up my odds of having new people stop by.

Through it all, my blog thrived with the support of fellow bloggers, Twitter users, Facebook friends, and the like. All the shares, retweets, and links helped boost my readership.

Over the last year, I've noticed a trend. Many of the blogs I followed no longer showed up in my Google Reader (Google Reader has since been eliminated). Some of their blogs still exist--the bloggers chose to stop posting new articles. I also noticed my blog comments went down, but I figured a large part of it was the fact I'd trimmed my blog reading time by about 75% in order to meet my writing goals. I'm realistic--when I don't take the time to comment on other blogs, I don't expect people to flock to mine.

But then little things jiggled in my conscience. More friends reduced their blog posting schedules. Google Reader disappeared. I used to see tons of blog posts on Facebook every day--I started seeing only a handful.

Was the blog dying? Was my blog dying?

For years I've tracked my social media stats. On the first of each month, I log the number of followers I have on various sites, how many page hits my website gets, and how many page views my blog gets.

The comments might be dwindling, but I still get thousands of hits every month on my blog. Maybe it's just a perception that blogging is dying.  Still, I asked myself, Would my time be better spent somewhere else?

(For a terrific article about this topic, head to Jody Hedlund's "The Changing Nature of Blogging for Fiction Writers."

If I only view my blog (or a Twitter account, Facebook Page, Pinterest Board, etc...) in terms of pageviews (or followers, likes, repins, etc...), it will only lead to disappointment. But more than that, it isn't the question I should be asking.

I went in to all of my social media accounts with one purpose: to increase my author name exposure.

That's it.

I want my author name everywhere. I want a web presence wherever a reader might be.

For me, blogging IS still relevant, because I'm still accomplishing my original goal. I'm sure I'll get flak for admitting my main goal with blogging isn't to get a million hits each month.

The reality is, every time I publish a post, search engines pick up my name and my topics. Regularly submitting posts keeps my author name out there.

This blog means a lot to me. It's where I show up every week whether I'm two millimeters away from quitting or flying high with great news.

This is where I share my life. Maybe one of you will be inspired to buy that used leather purse and attempt to restore it because I posted about it. Maybe you'll try a book by a new-to-you author because we had a party for the release here. Maybe you'll nod when you read that I struggle with disappointment, or you'll share my happiness in a plotting breakthrough.

I don't know, but I do know I appreciate you. I love that I have the opportunity to connect with you here!

What are your thoughts on blogging in 2013?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll tackle Blogging: The New Challenge Part 2--Finding Readers.

Have a wonderful day!

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Waste Produce Every Week

Here's one of those lingering guilt issues I deal with regularly.

I waste produce. Every single week.

black white banana
Photo by wrote

It may be a quarter of a cucumber or half of a somewhat soggy onion. Two black bananas (yes, I freeze old bananas but I have limits on how many at a time!). A pile of shredded brown lettuce. A bunch of mushy baby carrots.

Have I thrown away an entire pineapple with mold on the bottom because I waited too long to cut it? Yes, multiple times.

I loathe wasting food, but every Monday, I'm tossing the contents of two or three Tupperware containers, the wilted, grody stuff in the veggie crisper, and a few slices of stale bread.

Two black bananas are staring at me as we speak. Do I throw them in the trash? No. They stay on the counter, mocking me, adding to my irritation with myself.

Why didn't I eat them for a snack when they were ripe?

I know why. I chose m&ms instead.

So that brings on an entire new layer of guilt. Not only am I wasting food, I'm also eating unhealthy. Great. Guilt on multiple levels. :)

Do you throw away more food than you'd like? Does anyone have a good compost solution for a small, suburban yard?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Party Time! Celebrating A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund!

Jody Hedlund (one of my very favorite authors!!) has a new release, so we are having a party on my blog! Woo-hoo!! I love parties!!

Grab a beverage...

A company to warm the heart & a cup of hot chocolate to warm the tummy.   P1000382   Hot tea
Photos by:  alittletuneartandlanguage, and suzettesuzette

And a scone, donut, or muffin...

Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam   Six Donuts   A few good muffins
Photos by: calgaryreviews, rene-germany, and leszekleszczynski




 
And let's talk about Jody's latest book!!


A NOBLE GROOM

Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can’t prove it.

Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

For nobleman Carl von Reichart, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He’s been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn’t commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he’ll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa’s farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.

Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He’s gentle, kind, and romantic–unlike any of the men she’s ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love–but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.

***
I was blessed to receive an advanced reader copy of A Noble Groom! I read it last weekend in one sitting--I couldn't have put it down if I wanted to! Here's my review:
 
5 Stars for A NOBLE GROOM
I know I'm going to love a book when I'm cheering out loud by page 14! I've read all of Ms. Hedlund's books, and this is her best yet, which is saying a lot since I devoured her first three! From page one the stakes are high, and they continue to rise until the powerful ending. 
Jody Hedlund is one of the rare authors who gives readers very different stories while staying in the historical genre. A Noble Groom takes place in mid-Michigan in the early 1880's. The heroine,  a young mother, faces desperate circumstances due to her poor German roots, unpredictable Michigan weather, and having to rely on an unworthy husband.  I won't give any spoilers, but the twists and turns in this story delighted me! With its fast pace, sympathetic characters, and excellent writing, I read this book in a day and didn't want it to end. In fact, I found myself wishing there would be another book giving the heroine's sister a happy ending too!
I'm from mid-Michigan and have German roots, and I found myself nodding at many of the family attitudes and the plight of the farmer. A very authentic, finger-nail-biting, romantic book!
 
**I received an advanced reader copy of this book with no obligation to review it. All opinions are my own.**


 
Want to purchase A Noble Groom? Head to Jody's Books page (linked)!!
 
***


 
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning and bestselling author of inspirational historical romances.

As a busy mama-writer, she has the wonderful privilege of teaching her crew of 5 children at home. In between grading math papers and giving spelling tests, she occasionally does a load of laundry and washes dishes. When she’s not busy being a mama, you can find her in front of her laptop working on another of her page-turning stories.

She loves reading almost as much as she loves writing, especially when it also involves chocolate and coffee.

***

I'd love to know--where did you grow up? 

Thanks so much for partying with us!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Spring Break Project: Restoring Leather Purses

I love purses, especially buttery leather ones. When I browse the racks at TJ Maxx, I touch the purses and always manage to select the most expensive ones! Stone Mountain products always, always find their way into my hands.

While I love soft, quality handbags, my budget doesn't. I've yet to purchase a Stone Mountain purse. Even discounted, they're usually over one hundred dollars.

So I was browsing local consignment shops and thrift stores, and I came across not one, but two genuine Stone Mountain purses! (I also came across a fake Coach purse, but I left that one on the rack. I'm not big on fake products.) The smaller, tan purse was beat up. It felt dirty, had a few scratches and dings, and the color was mottled in areas. The black purse was in better shape, but the leather was dull.

The price tags teased me. $5.99 and $7.99 for authentic Stone Mountain purses! Could I pass them up? Really?

Of course I couldn't.

I snagged both, headed home, and promptly Google'd "how to restore leather purses." E-How had an informative article which you can read here, "How to Restore a Leather Purse." I figured even if I ruined both, I would be out less than twenty bucks.

Here are the Before pictures (my camera didn't capture the condition very well):

 

 

Next, I had to try to find leather cleaner and mink oil. I tried PetSmart and Pet Supplies Plus, but neither carry horse products. I checked Lowes, thinking they might have leather products, but they didn't. Two weeks went by, and I stopped at our local Tractor Supply Company--they had the soap and mink oil. Yay!

As with all "projects" I've learned not to rush anything. I sprayed, scrubbed, and cleaned the purses one night and left them on the counter to dry. The tan one looked ten times better just being clean. The black one already started to reclaim its previous luster.

The next day, after verifying they were dry, I applied the mink oil. One of my concerns was the oil would smell bad, but it had a pleasant scent, and I lathered it on thick. I let it soak in a few hours, then buffed both purses until all traces of the oil had disappeared.

The end result? The black handbag had started out in better shape, and it looked the best. The tan one, my favorite, still had a few dings, but it looked and felt so much better, I happily began using it the next day.



Total costs:

Tan Stone Mountain purse: $5.99
Black Stone Mountain purse: $7.99
Leather cleaner: $4.99
Mink oil: $4.99

Total? $23.96

Time spent:

I wasted time hunting down the leather cleaner and mink oil, but won't include that here. :)
Vacuuming out the interior of the bags: 10 minutes
Applying leather cleaner and wiping both bags: 40 minutes
After drying, applying mink oil: 20 minutes
Buffing purses free of mink oil: 30 minutes

Total? Roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes

I still have plenty of leather cleaner and mink oil, so I may be snatching more used purses up in the future!

Do you ever tackle small craft projects? What was your favorite?

Have a lovely Monday!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Preparing for Sports Season Vlog

April is here, and with it, the crazy sports' schedules of our two kids. I shuttle them to different activities all year round, but both kids gravitate toward spring/summer sports, so it gets intense this time of year.

I am not complaining, though! Allowing our kids to be involved with things they enjoy is a privilege I'm thankful to give them.

So I have my own way of "training" for this busy season. Here is my latest webisode of the 2 Minute Resolutions series!

Preparing For Sports Season



What extra responsibilities does April bring for you?

Have a terrific weekend!!