Saving Money in the Laundry Room

 Laundry Lessons…

Hard to believe that thirty years ago, my mom was trying to teach me how to do my own laundry as I headed out the door to college. 

Now I have three college daughters of my own who really need to start doing their own laundry…the right way…(So they can’t ever say that their mom never showed them how to do their own laundry…I am writing it here in plain English.)

1.  How much detergent…Too much detergent is a waste of money and produces an excess of suds in the wash. Too little detergent can keep your clothes from getting clean at all.

2.  How many clothes per load…Cramming every single article of clothing you own into one wash load makes it harder for clothes to get cleaned effectively. Use your common sense.

3.  How often should I wash my clothes…Socks, underwear, and workout clothes should be washed after every wearing. Everything else, at least for the most part, can simply be aired out and put away for another day…(no, girls, that does not give you a valid excuse to leave your entire wardrobe all over the bedroom floor)…
4.  What settings should you use…Select the smallest load setting and shortest wash setting appropriate for each particular load…again, use some common sense…or call your mom…

5.  What water temperature should I use to wash my clothes… According to the U.S. Department of Energy, up to 90 percent of the energy used while doing a load of laundry is used to heat the water….

We have been told differently since birth…or maybe since college days…because there was a time when hot water was needed to dissolve powdered detergent, but times have changed…and liquid laundry detergents have now advanced to the point of being able to get clothes just as clean in cold water as hot.

So stop…(stop using hot or warm water, that is…not sure that any of us can get by with not doing laundry, at least not for very long.)

Now that I have started doing smaller loads throughout the week, I am enjoying the freedom of “bachelor washing”…washing almost anything and everything in one load.

Cold water makes doing this “safer”…is gentler on fabrics than warmer water…and helps keep clothes from fading or shrinking. 

Even better, switching to cold water is the simplest way to save money. (There are detergents specifically made for cold water use, if throwing all your clothes into the same water scares you still)…

6.  What water temperature should I use to rinse my clothes… rinsing in hot or warm water doesn’t get clothes any cleaner…it just increases your monthly utility bills.

7.  Which detergent should I buy…Be smart enough to look beyond those super-expensive brands so that you can see the generic and store-brand options.

Read the label to see how best to use a particular product. Forexample, some detergents go into the soap dispenser, others go right into the drum. 

Many of my friends were on a laundry detergent-making sprint back when Pinterest first got big…(I personally never found time to try making my own…too busy on Facebook, I guess)…but here’s a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that was given to me back then…

Homemade Laundry Detergent...3 cups washing soda, 3 bars of Castile soap, 3 cups of Borax, and 1/2tsp essential oil-such as grapefruit, lavender, lime or orange.

Rosemary Mint Fabric Softener...6C water, 3C white vinegar, 2C Suave Rosemary + Mint Conditioner…Add 2Tbsp to your wash cycle for smaller loads, or 1/4C for larger loads. You can also pour 1/4C of the fabric softener onto a clean washcloth and toss it in your dryer just like a store-bought dryer sheet.

8.  How do I wash extremely stinky clothes…Soak very smelly clothes in a machine filled with the hottest water available and 1C vinegar for an hour before washing them as normally would. Add a few drops of essential oils-such as lemon or lavender-to the water in the washing machine. 

9.  How do I deal with that stain “will never come out”...Simply pray hard and then work a few drops of detergent into the stained fabric and wash as usual. If the stain doesn’t come out, you needed a good excuse to go shopping anyway, right?!

  
The Dryer…Your dryer is the most expensive appliance to operate…so using it less will obviously save you money. A wall-mounted, folding drying rack provides the perfect spot to air-dry clothes without hanging your undies in plain sight for everyone outside to see.

Here are a few more ways to save money when drying your clothes.

1. Empty the lint trap and wipe the lint filter clean with a used dryer sheet after each load. Making sure the dryer lint filter is clean before starting each load will ensure peak performance of your dryer and prevent fire.

2. Make your own dryer sheets…Homemade dryer sheets, using the natural smell of essential oils, can be added to your dryer along with your clothes to leave them pleasantly scented. 

Homemade Dryer Sheets…Combine 1C white vinegar with 25 drops essential oil in a Mason jar. Put the lid on securely. Shake vigorously to mix. Dunk pieces of fabric or towels in the solution and wring out any excess liquid before using.

3. Use your dryer during off peak times…Power companies often charge more per kilowatt-hour during peak usage times. This obviously means that the next load of clothes will cost more to dry during these times.
4. Put an extra dry towel in the dryer with the wet clothes to help absorb the water so that your clothes dry faster.
5. Regularly use a small amount of detergent and a toothbrush to clean your lint trap. Also take this time to clean the dryer exhaust vent and clear out the air hose behind your machine.

6. Select sensor dry instead of timed dry, if you have the option.

7. Switch loads right away, instead of allowing your dryer to cool down orrest between loads. Your dryer is built to handle such back-to-back cycles…so do not wait.

Saving Money on Cleaning Supplies

   
   
This year I have been in the process of “detoxifying” our home and our lifestyle. Lately I have been learning to make my own”safe” cleaning supplies.

Making your own homemade cleaning products typically involves combining specific products, such as…

 1. Baking Soda...Baking soda is an ideal deodoriser, disinfectant, anddegreaser.

2. Borax…Borax consists of soft colourless crystals that dissolve easily in water that can be used to make a very effecti all-purpose cleaner that can clean just about everything.

3. Detergent…Detergent helps lift dirt and grime. When shopping for detergent, look for a detergent that is PH neutral, fragrance free and septic tank safe…such as Earth Choice, Morning Fresh, and ecostore.

4. Essential Oils...Essential oils help make both your home and your cleaning supplies smell lovely and fresh. Some of the best essential oils for cleaning are lemon, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, and wild orange.

5. Microfiber Cloths…Microfiber cloth are reusable. Simply throw them into the wash and then hang on the line to dry. 

6. Salt... Salt is an effective scouring agent, deodoriser, and degreaser.

7. Spray Bottles…Spray bottles are obviously important when you are making and using homemade cleaners.

8. Vinegar...Vinegar, a great natural anti-fungal and antibacterial,  can be used so many different ways to clean -to disinfect, cut through grease, de-scale, clean glass, and so much more.

 12 Steps Towards the Fountain of Youth… August 21…Senior Citizen’s Day

   
Today is August 21, is Senior Citizen’s Day…a day to honor senior citizens…and also face the fact that you yourself will probably be a “senior citizen” also…especially now that the age to start calling yourself a senior citizen is 55, which is only seven years away for me.

Aging gracefully and feeling healthy requires looking at the whole picture, every aspect of your life-physical, mental, and social.

Any steps that can be taken now to improve your health and sense of wellbeing, both now and in the future, are steps well worth taking. Here are a few steps that you can do now to move closer and closer to the Fountain of Youth, and the Age of Reality…

1.  Detox your home…
We may not be able to control how many toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis, but we can take steps toward detoxifying our own homes, such as…

  • Filtering water. 
  • Leaving windows open as much as possible for better ventilation. 
  • Replacing beauty products with less toxic and chemical-free options. 
  • Switching from standard household cleaners to environmental friendly versions. 
  • Using glass instead of plastic whenever possible.


2.  Dry-brushing your skin….Dry-brushing your skin not only smoothes, exfoliates, and detoxifies your skin…but also improves blood flow, increases energy, reduces cellulite, and supports the lymphatic system. Working this five-minute, health-boosting practice into your daily routine is well worth the effort.

To dry-brush your skin…
Using a brush with firm bristles and a handle, brush towards your heart with long, smooth strokes…starting at your feet and working upwards. 

3.  Eat more greensOne of the best things you can do for your health is to eat more greens-spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli or bok choy. Your skin, mood, digestive system, and every other organ of your body benefits from your simply eating more greens. This can be done by…

  • Asking for extra vegetables instead of potatoes. 
  • Opting for a salad instead of fries
  • Selecting recipes full of greens that inspire you, and ones that you will actually be excited to eat

    4.  Eat more healthy fats. …Increasing the number of  “fatty” foods-avocado, coconut oil, eggs, fish and nut butters, and olive oil-that you consume can decrease your risk of disease, help fight depression, improve your cognitive function, and strengthen your bones.

    5.  Eat without distractions...Eliminating distractions and being mindful when we eat, instead of sitting in front of the TV or mindlessly looking at your phone as we eat, not only reduces anxiety and overeating, but also promotes weight loss.


    6.  Go to bed earlier.
    …Aim for at least eight hours of sleep each night. Develop a bedtime ritual-such as meditating, journalling, taking a leisurely bath-that actually works for you. Avoid screens-particularly phone and TV-for at least an hour before going to bed. 

    7.  Make a meal plan.…Set aside time each week to create a healthy meal plan and grocery list. Even preparing one healthy meal or snack ahead of time will help you save money and keep you from making poor food choices. 

    Try a meal or grocery delivery service. This may cost more, but will save you money spent eating out every meal.

      8.  Practice gratitude….Gratitude shifts your focus from the negative-fear, anxiety, anger, and depression-to the positive. Gratitude has also been scientifically proven to have the ability to change your life–relationships, self-esteem, mental health, and even sleep. 

      Commit to a consistent daily ritual of writing down three things that you are grateful for each day. Negative emotions will become harder to feel when you are mindfully practicing gratitude day-after-day
      9.  Read food labels…Read labels. Look for foods that contain fewer ingredients and no added sugar, chemicals, and fillers.


      10.  Schedule workouts....The hardest part of making sure your workouts actually do happen is to schedule them into your calendar ahead of time, instead of leaving it up to a time that is convenient and then making excuses not to go.

      Fitness classes that charge a cancellation fee, recruiting a friend to exercise with you, and signing up for a long-term class will help hold you accountable and keep you focused.


      11.  Up your fiber intake
      ….Foods with high fiber content-ground flax seed, beans, raspberries, almonds, kale-is imperative to keep things moving along our digestive tracts.

      12.  Volunteer your time...Ghandi once sa that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Volunteering shifts our focus on helping others instead of remaining caught up in our own problems and isolating ourselves



      Finally, your mother was right…Don’t forget to floss your teeth, sit up straight, and wash your hands.

      Flossing not only keeps your gums clean and removes plaque, but also helps you avoid bad breath and heart disease. 

      Sitting up straight can instantly boost your mood, improve your confidence level, and open up the lungs to receive more energy.

      Washing your hands is a simple habit, but single-handedly the best way to avoid picking up viruses.

        When life gives you lemons, drink them

          
         

        August is also National Water Quality Month.

        Being dehydrated can negatively impact everything from your mental focus to energy and metabolism. 

          
        One of the most important purchases you can make when creating a more healthy home and lifestyle is a water filter. 

        The type of filter that you should buy depends on just how clean your tap water is to begin with.Checking water quality can be done either by checking your municipality’s mandatory Consumer Confidence Reports, an annual water quality summary that’s released each year by July 1st, or using a test kit from the local hardware store. 

        NSF International is a trusted organization that sets certain standards for judging water purity. Filters are tested by adding specific contaminants to the water and then determining how much of each impurity remains after going through the filter.

        • NSF Standard 42...This means that the filter passes for “aesthetic effects,” like making the water taste and smell better. 
        • NSF Standard 53...This means that the filter removes a given list of dangerous impurities, like lead and giardia.
        • NSF Standard 401…This means that the filter also removes trace amounts of prescription drugs and pesticides. 

        To see how your current water filter rates, check the NSF website.

        Water filters range from personal on-the-go filters to pitcher filters, faucet-mounted filters, refrigerator filters, and countertop filters…and also vary as to price, filtration method, and size.

        • Aquacristal 
        •  Aquasana
        • Big Berkey 
        • Brita Everyday Water Pitcher
        • Full Circle Home Wherever Lemon Water Bottle
        • Soma Pitcher

            

           
          A few health benefits of fruits most commonly used in infused water, for example are…

          • Cucumbers…Cucumbers contain 95% water and are actually more nutritious than plain water. Cucumbers help keep you hydrated and also help flush out toxins from the body.
          • Ginger…Ginger helps calm your GI tract.
          • Lemons…Lemons are full of Vitamin C which can help boost your immune system. 
          • Limes…Limes contain citric acid, which is an excellent fat burner and are also full of antioxidants.
          • Mint Leaves…Min leaves can help you lose weight because the leaves stimulate the digestion of fat and help eliminate toxins from the body.

          Fruit infuser water bottles make infused water that much easier to make and keep you from having to deal with fruit and leaves touching your lips every time that you take a drink.

          Colorful infused water full of fresh fruit-such as blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry-will also help you lose weight.

          Water can also be a good way to “cleanse” your system, instead of spending a bunch of money on expensive store-bought cleansing programs.

          A “cleanse” differs from a “detox.” 

          A cleanse flushes out any unneeded bad junk inside your body..

          A “detox” involves cutting the “junk” out of your diet, and perhaps even your home and lifestyle, that are just “dirtying up” your system, making you sick, and causing fatigue, gas, bloating, and water retention. This will naturally feel more alert and awake with much less mental fog. 

          Before you begin a cleanse or detox, be sure cut out all the carb-loaded drinks. alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, sugary foods, and saturated fats at least a week before starting.This will help reduce any withdrawal symptoms and allow you to benefit more from your cleanse or detox.

          Be sure to eat more foods that are high in the healthy fats, such as avocados, raw nuts, and seeds.

          1.  Lemon Cucumber Mint Fat Flush Water... Cut the cucumber into very thing slices and add about a half a lemon and squeeze the juice in. Add as much mint as you like.

          2.  Orange-Kiwi Infused Water..
          ..Combine 2C water or sparkling water, 2 ice, 1 slicedorange, 2 peeled and sliced kiwis.

          3.  Strawberry Infused Vitamin Detox…
          Slightly mush up 1C strawberries in a bowl with 2 sprigs fresh rosemary. Add 2C cubed watermelon. Pour filtered water over the fruit. Chill.

          On the Lunch Menu Today…Baked Fish Filet Sandwiches…Better Than McDonald’s

            

          Baked Crispy Fish Sandwiches

          • Tartar Sauce…1/2C mayonnaise, 3Tbsp pickled relish, 1Tbsp chopped fresh dill, 1Tbsp Dijon mustard, Dash hot sauce
          • 1Tbsp olive oil or butter
          • 1-1/4C panko breadcrumbs
          • 1 pound white fish (halibut, tilapia, cod, etc.)
          • 1tsp salt
          • 1/2tsp pepper
          • 1/2C mayonnaise
          • 1C all-purpose flour
          • 1 tsp garlic powder
          • 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
          • Hamburger or potato buns, split
          • 4 slices of American or cheddar cheese
          • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into rounds (optional)
          • Shredded lettuce

            1.  Prep…Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Heat just the baking sheet for 30 minutes.Remove pan from oven.  Drizzle with oil.

            2.  Make the tartar sauce...Stir together 1/2C mayonnaise, relish, dill, mustard, and hot sauce together in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.

            3.  Toast the panko…Heat the oil or butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering or melted. Add the panko and 1/4tsp salt. Toast, stirring frequently, until evenly light golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer toasted panel to a pie dish or large shallow plate. Let cool completely. 

            4. Bread the fish…Cut the fish fillets as needed into pieces that will fit in the buns. Mix the toasted panko, flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a pie plate. Whisk the egg and milk together in a shallow dish. Dip the tilapia in the egg mixture, allowing any extra to drip off. Dredge in the toasted panko mixture to completely coat, shaking off any extra. Use your hands to press the crumbs into the fish as needed. Place on the heated baking sheet. Drizzle fish with a little vegetable oil.

            5.  Bake the fish…Bake until the fish is golden-brown and flaky, 12 to 14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. 

            6.  Make the sandwiches…Lightly toast the rolls cut-side up directly on the oven rack, about 3 minutes. Top each piece of fish with a slice of cheese. Return them to the oven until the cheese melts. Spread the tartar sauce on the cut sides of both the tops and bottoms of the rolls. Place some lettuce on the bottom half of each roll.  Top with the fish, and top half of the roll.

            National Peach Month

              
            The month of August is National Peach month…a month to honor and enjoy the great flavor of juicy peaches. So…

            1.  What exactly is a peach?

            The peach (Prunus persica) is a deciduous tree native to China that bears an edible juicy fruit also called a peach.

            The scientific name Persia, as well as any variations of the word “peach,”  came from the word “Persia” because peaches were thought to have originated in Persia, or modern Iran. The Romans called the peaches “Persian Apples,”naming them after the country that introduced peaches to the West.

            The tree belongs to the family Rosaceae (the rose family), subfamily Prunoideae, genus Prunus, and subgenus Amygdalus (having a corrugated seed shell like an almond).

            The fruit is a drupe, with a single reddish-brown, oval-shape, 1.5-2 cm long seed encased in hard wood. this seed may also be called the “stone” or the “pit.”

            2.  What Is the True History Of The Peach?

            Actually peaches originated in China, where they have been cultivated since 1000 BC. Today China remainsthe largest world producer of peaches.

            Even today in modern China peaches have special significance and “mystical attributes,” such as the ability to bring luck, abundance and protection. Peaches also symbolize immortality and unity. Peach blossoms are carried by Chinese brides.

            Peaches traveled west via the silk roads to Persia, earning them the botanical name Prunus persica. In Persia, peaches were discovered by Alexander the Great, who introduced peaches to the Greeks around 320 BC.

            By 50 BC., Romans grew and sold peaches for the modern equivalent of $4.50. Once the Romans cultivated the fruit, they were able to transport it north and west to other countries of their European empire.


            3.  Where are peaches grown, other than China?

            Italy, particularly the regions of Campania and Emilia Romagna, is the second largest producer of peaches and the main exporter of peaches in the European Union; 

            Spaniards brought peaches to South America and the French introduced them to Louisiana. The English took them to their Jamestown and Massachusetts colonies. Columbus brought peach trees to America on his second and third voyages.

            In the United States, California produces more than half of the peaches grown…even though so many peaches are grown in Georgia that it became known as the Peach State.

            4.  What are a few of the over 700 varieties of peaches?

            • Clingstone…the flesh sticks to the stone…generally used for canning
            • Donut…flat with rounded sides that draw in toward an indented center, like a doughnut without a hole…a descendant of the flat Chinese peach
            • Freestone…the flesh does not stick to the stone…the kind generally found in supermarkets. 
            • pêches de vigne...considered to be the finest peaches of all…small, red-fleshed…covered with grayish down…grown in vineyards in France and generally found only there
            • Saturn…a flat variety that resembles the rings of Saturn
            • White…typically sweeter and less acidic…most popular in China, Japan, and neighbouring Asian countries, 
            • Yellow…have an acidic tang coupled with sweetness… most popular kinds in Europe and North America

            5.  How nutritious are peaches?

            Peaches are a good source of vitamin A (11% RDA), vitamin B(10%), vitamin C (19% RDA), potassium (10% RDA), and fiber (3 grams, 10% RDA).

            A medium peach contains only 37 calories. One large peach has only 68 calories.
              

            Now for a few recipes…

                 
            Bellini

                

            Peach Blueberry Parfait

                

                Peach Cheesecake

                   
                Peach Cobbler

                  
                Peach Melba

                  
                Peach Pie

                   
                Peach Slushie

                August Dessert of the Month—The Poke Cake

                  
                Poke Cake is more of a process than an actual recipe…and there are as many different variations of Poke Cake as there are…

                (Different flavors of cake mix) x (Different flavors of Jello or instant pudding…

                Betty Crocker makes 27 different flavors of SuperMoist cake mix…Jello makes about thirty different flavors of pudding…that alone makes for 810 possibilities…
                So how do you make a Poke Cake…

                • 1.  Bake a normal cake, either from a mix or from scratch.
                • 2.  Poke holes in the top with some object, such as the base of a wooden spoon.
                • 3.  Pour sweetened condensed milk, pudding, or jello over the holes…(this allows the liquid to seep into the cake and makes it moist and flavorful).
                • 4.  Refrigerate the cake for a few hours so that the liquid has absorbs into the cake.
                • 5.  Top with Cool Whip and other optional toppings such as caramel syrup, nuts, candy bits,  and fruit.

                Making this cake actually doesn’t involve a recipe…it’s more like creating a ice cream sundae…but better…

                National Picnic Month…The Perfect Spread

                  
                 It is important that you first choose the non-food items that will go into your picnic basket, and do this as carefully as you will choose the food items that will go into your picnic basket. 

                Nothing will ruin the mood as much as getting to your picnic site and realizing that you forgot something important, such as a corkscrew to open that very expensive bottle of wine that you were so looking forward to sharing.

                Today I am going to pack the ultimate picnic basket, or at least the picnic basket that I would absolutely love to be able to pull together.

                  

                1. The Blanket…The ideal picnic blanket should be stain-resistant, machine-washable, and waterproof. The blanket should measure at least 5’x8,’ yet fold into a reasonably small size. Padding is definitely a plus also.

                Check customer reviews for any picnic blanket that you are considering to see whether a blanket’s fabric tends to fray or whether that blanket’s threading has a tendency to unravel.  
                Mambe Essential All Season Blanket. This machine washable, 100% waterproof and windproof blanket comes in two sizes…Large…58″ x 84″ …which is ideal for one to four people…and XLarge…84″ x 116″…which is ideal for five or more people

                I chose the larger size. The large blanket folds into the included ultralight stuff sack…to a portable size of 9″ x 15″…and a weight of 3.5lbs.
                The extra-large blanket folds into the included ultralight stuff sack…to a portable size of 14″ x 18″…and a weight of 7lbs.

                The blanket is made of a mid-weight Genuine Polartec ® Classic 200 Fleece on one side, and black waterproof nylon on the other side. 
                The blanket comes with a lifetime guarantee, and is available in ten different colors.I chose the burgundy blanket to take tailgating at Mississippi State.

                    

                The Tools…Even though it might be convenient and easy to entertain using Styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery, and plastic cups…eating outdoors shouldn’t mean leaving a trail of litter in the form of disposable plates and cutlery.

                Each year in the U.S. alone, an estimated 40 billion plastic utensils are used. Each day 500 million disposable plastic straws are tossed away, in the United States alone.

                Instead of contributing to these statistics, we should all consider the three r’s of helping to protect the environment…Reduce…Re-use…Recycle.

                1. Reduce…Buy only what you need….The most eco-friendly option is always to use whatever cups and plates you already have at home. If you have a large crowd to feed, consider renting plates from a local church or community center.

                2. Re-use…If you must buy something, plan on using it and re-using it.
                It does take more effort to use reusable items, but choosing dishes and glasses that can be washed and used over and over again–instead of paper and plastic–saves not only on what goes thrown into landfills but also on having to buy those items again and again.

                Reusable items can also add a touch of class and decoration to a party. 

                Eating with sturdy cutlery is much less frustrating than cutting food on a Styrofoam plate with a flimsy plastic knife.

                Buy a second set of cheap, lightweight plates and cutlery at a local thrift store.

                Serving iced juice or water in a beverage dispenser is not only practical and elegant, but eliminates the need for a cooler full of dripping wet plastic water bottles or soda cans.

                Serve drinks in small mason jars. Write guests’ names on the side in permanent marker, or tie a ribbon around to differentiate. 

                3. Recycle…If you must use disposables, look for paper plates made from 100% recycled paper. This should be considered only as a final option.
                There are several companies who make good quality re-useable, eco-friendly paper and plastic picnic-ware..as well as companies that make environmentally-friendly products from cork, bamboo, coconut, palm, and stainless steel. For example…these from Bambu Home

                • Available…in a package of 8 plates, or in a case of 100 plates. 
                • Cost…$70 per case
                • Made from…100% certified organic bamboo
                • Sizes…7″, 9″, or 11″ round…square sizes too

                  
                Packing the perfect picnic is always about packing the perfect picnic foods.

                Your goal in putting together the perfect picnic menu is to find a lot of small, easily packaged finger foods that travel well and will not spoil if left out for an hour.
                1.  Appetizer…Yet you should not simply settle for the expected picnic fare of apples, carrots, chips, and hard-boiled eggs…starting with a good selection of appetizer recipes, including dips and spreads. For example…

                  

                2.  Salads–specifically pasta salad, potato salad, coleslaw–are also pretty typical standard picnic fare.
                The hearty ingredients in pasta salads and and potato salads hold up well even if they suffer a bit of battering in transit, but leafy salads with dressing can wilt and turn really ugly if left out too long. 

                Wait until the last minute before serving to add dressings and any other final touches.

                  

                3.  Sandwiches…The sandwich is typically lord of both the lunchbox and the typical picnic…which is appropriate because the modern “sandwich” as we know it was actually named after the real Lord Sandwich.

                Supposedly Lord Sandwich, a very conversant gambler, would ask his servants to bring him a piece of salt beef between two slices of toasted bread during his long hours playing at the card table…when he refused to take the time to actually sit down and have an actual meal.

                Soon others that gambled at the tables with Lord Sandwich would also order “the same as Sandwich”, and thus the “sandwich” as we know became standard fare.

                Today these “sandwiches” are probably the most iconic of both picnic and lunch foods, and here are a few suggestions for your next perfect picnic…or lunch. Try these Layered Ialian Sandwiches from Betty Crocker.
                  
                4.  Dessert…Obviously dessert will be the expected perfect finish to the perfect picnic…Try these Five Layer Bars from Epicurious

                  

                5.  Drinks…As important as food may be, drinks can be even more important on a hot summer day in Texas…So be sure to bring an assortment of kid-friendly and adult beverages, such as bottled water and juice….or Iced Green Tea Lemonade from Green Tea Guide.

                The “N” Words of Good Writing

                  

                1. Nab trending topics within your niche while there is still time. Choose your topic and plan an outline for your next post as soon as you publish a post.

                Create an Editorial Calendar where you actually slot the ideas into a calendar over the coming week, month, or longer.

                Figure out where you work best. Block off two hours in a coffee shop to work on your blog each week…free from distractions and very close to high-quality coffee.

                Make the most of your writing time by have a basic idea of what you need to do, what your plans are, and what task needs to be completed next.

                Set aside time to specifically come up with blog post ideas instead of deciding what to write about day after day. Brainstorm and mind map blog ideas. Having the ideas ready to go when you need them will save you a lot of time. 

                Use a timer. Decide a minimum amount of time that you want to spend on your blog each day. Setting a timer forces you to stay focused, get to the point, and keep the schedule you’ve set for yourself.

                2. Nail down your niche. Know your target audience and target your posts. Stay as close as you can to your audience and the topics you cover so that when you finally sit down to write, you are ready to go. Be content with the stage of blogging that you are in…if your niche is truly your niche…and your content is truly your passion…be persistent…

                 3. Name your destination.—Know which direction you are headed. 

                Using a planner will help you stay on track of goals for the week, month, and any other long term goals…as well as what needs to be done and when. 

                Start your work day by making a ‘to do’ list and going through your planner to see what you have scheduled for the day. 

                Set up routines where you can. Routines enable you to complete certain tasks automatically and helps reduce stress. 

                Tracking your time spent during work hours-what you’re doing, when, how long, what you have written. This will help you evaluate and change habits, eliminate wasted time, and increase your productivity.

                4. Nap on it for a while…Before  hitting Publish, take time to actually read and reread your post several times. Does it make sense? Is the post well written? Should I even publish this in the first place?

                Take real breaks. This may seem counterintuitive, but your brain actually needs a break every so often.

                Work smart. Plan out your work sessions. Know what you’re going to get done, so you don’t waste part of your work time figuring out what you need to do.

                5. Navigate your way around your R&R (research and writing) world smartly. Know who you can turn to for advice or facts. Know where to find whatever it is that you are looking for. Know how your creative juices get pumping and how your brain works.

                Divide work on your blog into functions—research, writing, rewriting, reviewing. Carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’. Set achievable goals in each area.

                Go through your daily ‘to do’ list and group your tasks so that you are not constantly going back and forth from one type of task to another and can knock out an entire category of work in no time.

                Know your limits. Learn to say “no” to things you don’t have to do. 

                Limit time spent on social media. Turn off social media notifications.

                6. Neighbor your neighborhood…Each of us has something to offer each individual they come in contact with. Learn from those around you. 

                Take time to actually meet and find fellow bloggers and blog readers within your niche and within your actual neighborhood that have similar interests within your target niche.

                The most important people to have on your team are actually other bloggers. Having a good support system of fellow bloggers should offer education (learning techniques and strategies related to topics such as design, promotion, and branding), long-lasting friendships (the feeling for belonging to something other than writing blog posts in your pajamas), promotion (being able to reach a much larger audience than if you were working on your own), and support (having other bloggers review your site, offer suggestions, and work with you).

                Other bloggers that you choose to add on your team should have large, active and engaged audiences, should be seen as influential or somewhat influential, and should be relevant to your niche.

                As far as places to meet and network with other bloggers, consider…

                    1. Actual Blogs...The most obvious way to find other bloggers is through their own blogs. Leave comments. Start reading their blogs regularly. Send them an email asking them about a previous post. The main thing is “to see and be seen.”

                    2. Blog Conferences—Blog shows held in Texas include…
                    Alt Summit“Altitude Summit is the premier business conference for pioneering and rookie bloggers and creatives in this space.” (Multiple cities)

                    • Blog Elevated“Whether you blog as a hobby but would like to make some money, or you are a seasoned blogger already earning a steady income, we’ll equip you with the training you need to become a professional blogger with a real business.” (September, Texas)
                    • Blogalicious“Hands-on, in-depth workshops with leaders in their fields; advanced topics where we take you to the next level in terms of content; and relationship building.” (November, Texas)
                    • Blogging Concentrated—“Geared to advanced level bloggers who know there are things they could be doing better, faster, cheaper, smarter.” (Multiple cities)
                    • Bloggy Bootcamp—“Known for its intimate atmosphere with assigned seating and brand inclusion, BBC offers a dynamic day of education and networking.” (Multiple cities)
                    • Declare“—A blogging conference desiring to equip, encourage, and support a community of women as we seek to know God and make Him known.” (August, Texas)
                    • Go Blog Social—“Go Blog Social is a digital community and conference gathering for creative individuals passionate about growing their business, blog, or social outreach.” (Multiple cities)
                    • SearchLove—“A two-day event, SearchLove brings together some of the world’s leading thinkers in online marketing.Get up to speed on the latest in search, analytics, content creation, optimizing your website, paid promotions and more.” (Multiple cities)
                    • TECHmunch—“Our blend of networking, panels and demos will inspire even the most seasoned culinary and lifestyle blogger.” (Multiple cities and Virtual)

                    3. Blog Engage ..Blog Engage is a blogging community where bloggers submit articles to be read and voted on by other members. As a blogger trying to meet other bloggers, it is important that you find the right Group for yourself. These Groups allow users to share articles with other members who specifically share a common interest in a topic.

                    4. Blogger Forums…Check out this list of the ten best discussion forums for bloggers from Mint Blogger. My ADHD self honestly had trouble focusing on any of these forums, but this is always an option for meeting other bloggers…

                    5. Blogger Meetups…Meetup offers a database of local groups that meet together in “real life” to talk about a given topic or support a given cause…for example, this calendar of September events in DFW related to blogging.

                    6. Facebook Groups…Facebook Groups can be a great way to connect with various groups of people in the blogging world. Whether you are looking for design help, for connections to cross promote, or for Pinterest boards to collaborate on, Facebook groups are a great place to start looking. They are free and really easy to use and see right in your newsfeed.

                    • Blog + Biz BFFs 
                    • Blog and Business: Moms Who do it All;
                    • Bloggertunities
                    • Blogger Perks
                    • Bloggers United
                    • Blogging Newbs
                    • Christian Women Bloggers Network
                    • Christian Women Blogs
                    • Christian Bloggers Network
                    • Grow Your Blog
                    • Inspired Bloggers Network
                    • Mommyhood Media Bloggers
                    • SITS Girls 
                    • Social Media Network Group 
                    • The Blog Loft
                    • The Blogger Life
                    • WordPress Help for Beginners
                    • WordPress Help & Share
                    • Writers/Bloggers Network

                    7. Inbound.org…Inbound.org is a bookmarking website and learning tool that gives you a large community of active top industry influencers that can help you find inspiration for blogging.

                    8. Local Colleges and Universities...Local colleges and universities are another group of people that can be added to your team. Not only will these provide you with access to other bloggers, but obviously professionals and faculty. I am seriously considering this OMCA® Social Media Associate program from the University of Texas at Arlington, my alma mater…and thisSocial Media class from Tarrant Community College.

                    9. Triberr…Triberr is a social platform that helps bloggers work together to share each other’s content. The site is built around various “tribes” or communities of interest. Once you join a tribe, the idea is that you share the blog content of fellow tribemates to your social following and they do they same.

                    7. Nestle down once you decide where you have been planted to bloom and be able to answer anything anyone asks you about anything about your blog. A few days ago someone asked me what my niche was…I had to stop and think…Is my blog actually useful for aspiring innkeepers, or am I just writing about whatever I want to write about when I wake up each morning.

                     Take as much time as it takes to figure things out, create systems that work for me, and getting into a routine that works for building not only a successful blog, but also a profitable bed and breakfast.

                    Use a Template—Identify the key elements needed in most blog posts. Use this list as a simple, straightforward framework for your blog posts. 

                    8. Never hesitate to tell people about your blog or that you even blog in the first place. If you blog often enough and invest time researching and writing enough, blogging just becomes a habit and a normal part of everyday life.

                    9. Notice those areas that you are not spending enough time or not wanting to even think about. This whole web design and coding thing scares me to death…but am I simply going to be content to sit here in my pajamas and “hunt and peck” for every?

                    Set definite, but realistic deadlines and goals. Remember the importance of preparing quality content, not simply quantity.

                    10. Nourish whatever it is that you’re passionate enough to be writing about. Don’t get so caught up in writing about what you like to do, that you no longer actually do it at all.

                    View writing as a priority. Develop a writing habit. Be diligent about completing your work and you’ll find yourself treating your blog like a business instead of a hobby. 

                    Develop a schedule, but maintain some flexibility. Learn to work around the changes that inevitably occur. 

                    Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking may seem like a good way to get more done in less time, but it actually slows you down because your attention is divided between two activities. 

                    Decide how much time you want to devote to writing each week…along with my weekly two or three hour-long coffee shop sessions, I would like to aim for three half hour sessions per day. 

                    Write as part of your morning routine. The earlier you get it done, the less your day can interfere. 

                      Honing In and Jumping Over

                         
                      Creating and maintaining a blog originally seems so simple—set up your account with a host platform such as WordPress, choose an overall theme, prepare some posts, and publish.

                      But creating a successful blog that draws readers and keeps them requires learning we skills and improving the skills that you already have.

                      1. Ability to Conduct Research…Blogging requires learning how to search for information, verify facts, make meaningful notes, and collate information. You need to develop the ability to efficiently find relevant information not only from online search engines. but also from books, magazines, libraries, and actual interviews with experts in your given field.

                      2. Analytics…Blogging requires learning to set goals for your blog as far as page views and followers, track these statistics, and come up with new strategies for improving these statistics.

                      3.  Audio and Video Skills…Blogging requires learning audio and video skills—the use of sound equipment, microphones, lights, and cameras—for filming videos, conducting interviews, and podcasting.

                      4.  CSS and HTML Skillslll Blogging requires learning some basic HTML coding such as image interlinking, adding alt tags, coding feature boxes and tables, and adding videos. Knowing at least some HTML as a well as the basic principles of cascading style sheets (CSS) will allow you to create a unique theme that will fit in with your branding strategy.

                      5.  Editing…Blogging requires learning to distinguish between good writing and bad writing, to make corrections in vocabulary and spelling and usage, and to realize that sometimes the entire post draft needs to be deleted and started over from scratch.

                      6.  Graphic Designing…Blogging requires learning enough graphic design—programs such as Photoshop and/or other image editing programs—to create and edit images to fit their needs…and to insert relevant images in blog posts. This makes your post look more interesting and beautiful and provides graphic visual information. 

                      7.  Networking…Blogging also requires learning networking skills. Developing friendships with other bloggers will boost your blog traffic quickly, boost your blogging skills, build strong connections with others in your field, and help you find more audience for your content.

                      7.  Online Marketing…Blogging requires learning online marketing skills such as branding, copy, sponsorships, affiliate sales and more.

                      8.  People Skills…Blogging requires learning better people skills. Blogging requires that you interact with readers on a daily basis and that you recognize your readers’ preferences and interests. Engage with readers on a daily basis so that you may easily create posts that they consider relevant. Maintain a consistent and active stage presence.

                      9.  Reading Skills…Blogging requires learning to read insightfully enough to increase your understanding of a subject and gain insight and viewpoints

                      10.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)…Blogging requires learning basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in order to make your blog friendly with search engines and gain traffic.

                      11.  Self-Discipline…Blogging requires learning self-discipline. You must….

                      • be able to meet deadlines.
                      • be willing to invest a lot of time and patience
                      • consider blogging a full-time job
                      •  maintain a consistent and good rate of writing posts
                      • .not become lazy or complacent
                      • not simply get frustrated and lose hope
                      • not waste your time online instead of getting things done. 
                      • stick to a time-table and write and publish posts accordingly

                      12.   Writing…Blogging requires learning how to write engaging, helpful and unique content.

                       As a writer, your posts should have a conversational and friendly writing style that everyone can understand and connect to. 

                      As a writer, you also must be able to share information without getting academic. Keep your posts easy to read and fun.
                       
                        

                      Obstacles 

                      There are many obstacles that people, even successful bloggers, have to overcome.

                      These obstacles could hinder us from achieving my goals or even keep us from even trying to succeed with building our own successful blogs around our passions. 

                        We must allow these obstacles to only slow our progress and make us try harder…they don’t have to mean failure. 

                        Some of the obstacles that bloggers must overcome are…

                        1.  Failure to Make Money…Blogging is a longterm game. At first you may have to be content…then you will start blogging for page views…then you will start blogging for followers…and hopefully one day you too will be blogging for money. Be content with the stage of blogging that you are in…if your niche is truly your niche…and your content is truly your passion…be persistent…

                        2.  Inability to Define Your Niche…The most common problem that people have when trying to start up a new website or blog is finding the right niche.

                        The best advice is to simply write about what you know, even as simple as that might sound. this will allow those people who need your expertise, product or service to actually find your blog or website in the first place.
                        Even if your “area of expertise” seems like common sense to you, it might be very insightful to others.Don’t assume that just because you know something must mean that everybody else must know it also.
                        Break your initial thought about what your niche might be into the “least common denominator,”.the smallest subset that you can think of This will hopefully allow you to become the key expert authority and source of information for your niche.

                        3.  Information Overload...Learning through experience is better than learning by reading other people’s blogs and emails or following their social media. You could sit around “learning” about blogging forever. Take the dare. Write your own content and simply hit “Publish.”

                        4.  Lack of Blog Post Ideas…Lack of content is a major concern in thinking about your new blog or website. you must have valuable content for your readers. The best advice that I can give you is to break down big topics into the tiniest steps and explanations possible.

                        5.  Lack of Computer Skills…Starting a website or blog does require basic computer skills obviously, but does not necessarily require HTMLprogramming language, and/or coding.

                        6.  Lack of Money...Some people argue that setting up a website or starting a blog simply costs too much and does not guarantee results…but the basic costs of building a bare-bones website or blog are a domain name and web hosting…less than $200 per year.

                        7.  Lack of Purpose...Many bloggers start a blog without deciding what they are going to write about and why they are going to write it. Don’t waste time wandering around aimlessly in cyberspace. Find your passion. Write down your goals and your plans. Tell others about these plans. Find people to hold you accountable. 

                        8.  Lack of Time...It obviously does take time to build a successful blog, but probably a lot less than you think. Life as a mother of three whose husband has been deployed five times has required me to learn time management skills through the years. The best advice that I can offer is…

                        • Choose how you spend your time.
                        • Clear away physical and mental clutter.
                        • Delegate what needs to be delegated.
                        • Learn to prioritize your tasks
                        • Learn to say NO. Don’t waste your precious time doing something you don’t want to do just so you don’t hurt some ones feelings.
                        • Learn what works for you and how long it takes you to complete a task.
                        • Make and follow a daily to-do list. 
                        • Plan to work on your blog regularly and persistently.
                        • Schedule time into blocks and set a timer. 
                        • Understand how to break huge task down into smaller pieces.

                        9.  Lack of Traffic...Many bloggers give up too early because they think the traffic is just going to come to them. Content is great, but it’s not going to bring a flood of traffic to your site like many people think. With so many other sites and blogs in the world today, you not only need to have great content, you also need to…

                        • comment on popular blogs
                        • create dedicated profiles and fan pages for your blog or brand 
                        • guest post on other sites
                        • make videos and post them on video sites such as Youtube.com.
                        • participate in forums and social media 
                        • share your content on every social media channel you have
                        • share your content with friends, family, and followers.
                        • spend four hours promoting content per hour actually spent creating quality content,
                        • write articles and post them on free article websites

                        10.  Procrastination…You can spend way too much time analyzing everything, thinking about getting started online, reading every article and book in sight, and never getting anything done…but with all the available resources out there, you will probably still be trying to figure out where to start.Even though you don’t have the perfect plan and are not sure exactly how it’s going to work out, the best way to learn is by doing.