Oct 282016

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Oct 272016

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When looking something to add to our school day, Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal For Kids caught my attention.  It looked fun, the picture on the cover intrigued me, and the idea seemed silly enough to hold the attention of my kids.

George has several variations of books such as this one, he tends towards the artistic thinking.  Jack, however, does not have any such books.  He is usually a black and white thinker, taking to artistic things only if it suits his fancy.  I was not sure how he would react to this book, though was hoping for something unexpected that he could do during the day when he was bored.  It would also act as a journal of his life at this point in time.

Me: A Compendium was picked with Jack in mind.

When the book came, I called him into the living room, handing him the book without saying anything.  The look in his eye was one of excitement, “Is this for me?!”  Seems it was going to be a hit with my practical child.  (George was a bit jealous, till I reminded him that he already had two books like this.  He still wanted to ‘help’ fill in some of the pages.)

As with any new book, I encouraged Jack to get to know the book before doing anything with it.  Starting at the most obvious place, the cover, he asked why it was blank.  “That is for you to fill in.  You write your name in the blank rectangle, either only your first or any combination of your names you choose. This is your book.”

Turning it over to the back cover, the questions continue.  The child is asked for favorites, descriptions of various body parts, and other information about likes/dislikes.


The biggest surprise, though, was the inside of the cover.   “Super Secret Stuff” was a hit with this 7 year old.  He did not even want me to tell George or Dad about it.  “Mom, it is secret!  That is what secret means; others do not know about it.”  We had not even cracked the cover yet and he was already smitten with the book and the notion of filling it in as he saw fit.


Several pages were filled in the first day.  One of them surprised me, “This is what I’ll be doing when I grow up…”  Up till this point, he has always wanted to be a construction worker, or a constructions worker who works part time as a policeman.  This was the first time he said he wanted to, solely, be a policeman, “to help keep people safe”.  Being safe is a common thing he worries about, so this was not so surprising.

“As long as you do not want to be the person the police are chasing, I think it is a great idea”, a comment of mine that resulted in the oh so cute, “Mooooommmm” with the accompanying eye roll.

me-compendium-book-collageThe second picture took a bit of interpretation on his part before I understood what was going on – playing Frisbee with Dad.  Again, not a surprise, as this was drawn at a time where my husband was busy and not able to play with them as much as he, and they, would have liked.

Knowing Jack is not a huge drawer, I was very surprised and pleased to see how quickly he wanted to pick up drawing utensil and get to work filling in the paper pages.  If this is what it takes for my fine-motor activity adverse kid to draw, I will buy these books all day long.

I have no doubt Me: A Compendium will last us quite a while.  The cover is hard back and the pages are a heavy paper.  The drawing and fill-in-the-blank prompts are diverse, helping keep it interesting through the whole book.

Since drawing in it the first time, Jack has asked several times where this book was, as he wanted to work on it more.  This fact alone makes it a five-star book in my opinion, especially as it is not a particular cartoon construction worker and his builders, nor an alien race that can morph into various vehicle forms to fight other bad mechanical alien here on Earth.  This is a book that makes him stop or slow down, think, and transfer those thoughts to something outside of himself.  There are no right or wrong answers, and no grades.  So, if your police car looks more like a lump of coal, that is okay. 😉

I thought I would give Jack a chance to share his thoughts, in his own words.  Here is what I got:

Me: Jack, what did you think of this book?

Jack: (glancing over, sees the book on the screen, and gives a sly, shy smile, goes back to building his Lego creation.)

Me: Well, what did you think?

Jack: I don’t know.  I haven’t finished it yet.  I can’t tell you what I think of it till I finish it.

Me: Well, up till now, what have been your thoughts?

Jack: (silence, but smiling.)

And there you have it.  He liked it but was unwilling to put it into words, the normally accepted form of communication for creatures of our species, yet a form that Jack often does not like to use.  Hey, at least he did not spell it out in the air, as he is inclined to do at times.  That would have been harder to transcribe.


As I was writing this review, I had another thought, “This would be great for a kid in Foster Care.”

Why? It would help create a scrap book of sorts, a place to write things down and store memories at a time where other forms may not be available.  At times there are gaps in a child’s photographic history or “This is Me in Grade ___” papers from school are lost.  Giving them a sturdy place to record various facts from their life at this moment, a way to possibly even share them with the adults in their lives, is a great way to encourage emotional connects, a connection with their personal story, and a record of this time in their life.

Me: A Compendium does not require batteries, is gender neutral, and easy to transport.  As the holiday season approaches, if you are considering being a part of a gift-giving effort, even if not for Foster Care specifically, this would be a great gift option to keep in mind.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Oct 262016


Cleaning out your garden shed is often on gardener’s spring cleaning list.  For this gardener, though, it is an item that gets done at whatever part of the year provides the time and motivation.  As I have been cleaning out items in the house, transitioning that motivation to the garden shed, and counting it as ‘outside time’, was a natural transition.

Part of what needed cleared out was the portable fire pit, specifically the ashes.  As it was sitting directly in front of the shed door, it was one of the first things tackled.  Cold ashes from  our occasional small backyard fires are normally added to the compost pile.

Over the year(s), the soil in these boxes breaks down, compacts, and/or settles.  For whatever reason, usually a combination, adding extra soil, compost, and mulch yearly is a routine part of their upkeep.  Taking a page from Lasagna Gardening, I added it directly to the bed it was intended for, which also happens to grow directly under a row of overhanging everygreens.  At this time, the only plants growing were a row of mature tomatoes at the back.  It was easy to work around these.

As long as I was adding the ashes, why not add sand as well?  The sand in the sandbox needed to be removed and the soil in the boxes needed to have some larger particles added to them to help balance out the compaction I have noted taking place.  Into the garden bed they went.

Once I made my way into the shed, discarding broken pots, discarding pots I thought I would eventually use but found myself 3 year later staring at them, discarding cans of stain left over from the previous owners, discarding broken toys full of triggers for great memories, and made enough noise to send the spiders into hiding, I came to the half-filled bag of peat moss.  Can you guess where it ended up?  That is right, into the garden bed it went.

As I was about to get my hands good and dirty, a distraction came up.  It seems the natural consequence I was waiting for had taken place – one of the boys was hurt in their loudly wild stick swinging chilverously brave sword fighting.  While I tried to reassure them that no blood was flowing and therefore I was not needed.

“See the garden, boys? Mama finally gets to play in the dirt and does not need to do mom things right now.”

They did not agree.

It seemed that only Mom’s knowledgeable hands could fix the horrors of what brother had done.  My question to them was, “do you think it wise to keep swinging sticks at each other?”  I received the appropriate answers, knowing the lesson would stick for all of 5.4 seconds … so I left out the bottle of liquid bandage.


Back in the garden, knowing the kids had moved on to something as equally smart as rapidly swinging long sticks at each other, I made quick work of mixing together the three ingredients, top dressing the soil and smoothing it all out.  In the spring, these will get mixed into the soil during planting time.

As Autumn begins to wind down, mulched leaves and other items may still be added to the top of this bed.  Doing these activities now will create a bed ready to be planted in come spring.  The soil will have had time to incorporate nutrients, items will have begun to break down, and if all goes well, the soil structure in this particular bed will have improved.

Working in small spaces can sometimes feel over loaded with limitations.  However, it also has a host of benefits, such as being able to tailor actions on a small scale, addressing the needs of a particular bed rather than applying an action to the whole garden.  Lasagna gardening has been a life saver for me on more than one occasion.  The ease it provides, while also encouraging a natural approach to your garden, quickly made it one aspect of gardening I have continued to follow over the years.


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Oct 192016
Plantings Of All Green Need Not Be A Bad Thing

The planter box above is made up of fairly small growing plants.  The area gets a fair amount of sun, is about 3 feet off the ground and around 2 feet wide.  Using more petite plants keeps this area from being overwhelmed.  Instead of using one regular sized or larger plant, at least 4 smaller […]

Oct 132016
Get a Year of Web Hosting for $1, Plus a FREE Domain

Swagbucks (the online rewards site that puts cash back in your wallet) has an AMAZING offer through Bluehost where you get 3500 SB (which is the equivalent of $35 in gift cards) for signing up.   Bluehost is a leading web solutions services provider. You can try it out for 12 months at a special discounted […]