Frugal Shoppers: Spread the Coupon Love to Military Families Living Overseas

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Coupon clipping isn't new for me, but with my recent forays into serious money saving I find myself with extra supplements and coupons that I don't use (or worse, let expire!). Going through my neighbors' recycle bins has proved very rewarding! Between the circulars and all the coupons I've started getting in the mail I'm overflowing.

I posted on the military commissary section of offering up my extra circulars and got responses right away. Military families living overseas can use coupons up to six months after they expire (but it's best to send ones that aren't more than 3 months expired to account for overseas delivery). They can go regular postal mail to an FPO/APE address. I crammed as much as I could into a flat rate priority mail envelope and paid $4.95.

If you have access to lots of coupon circulars please consider sending anything you don't use overseas to a military family. There's a really big need and the families are so grateful.This would be a great community service, church or scout badge program. Let me know if you'd like to help and I'll walk you through it.

*Not a sponsored post, just passing along goodwill toward men.

For Phil: Who's A Really Great Dad

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My husband is the "fun one" in the family. He can be silly with Tyler, wrestle with him on the floor, and is generally more open to playing than I am. Last night, Tyler asked if they could go out and play Nerf tag. 

Despite still being tired from vacation and spending his day in meetings at work and trying to make a dent in an overflowing Inbox, he said "absolutely" with no hesitation.

I don't tell him often enough how much I appreciate him as a father. 

Thank you honey for being so willing to put on goofy glasses and wear a target on your chest in front of the neighbors! 


Hey, Hey, Hey Goodbye!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

After nine awesome days, we kiss our first Disney vacation goodbye!

Wordless Wednesday: Epcot Center Through A Child's Eyes

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I gave Tyler the camera for a little while today at Epcot. I love seeing thing's through his eyes. There are more of his pictures on Flickr.

Monetizing A Personal Blog 101: Blissdom Wizard of Ads

Monday, February 15, 2010

A few beginner's tips on monetizing a personal blog

All of the panels at Blissdom were awesome and so informative. I'm sure all the panelists could have used and extra hour to give their information. I spoke on the Wizard of Ads panel. Mary Anne had so much info to cover in such a short time, I didn't chime in as often as I wanted to, but I really appreciate how much she let me into the conversation.

Alli and Paula wanted me on the panel to talk about monetizing from a personal blogger's perspective, as it's an entirely different beast than advertising a site (like 5 Minutes for Mom) or niche blog, and it's even more challenging for blogs like mine, which are new and still growing.

If I'd had more time I would have given these examples of my experience in terms of the mistakes I made and things I wished I'd done differently. Hopefully I can help anyone who is just starting out. I think I'll break up the information into more than one post since I want to cover appearance, stats and influence, ad networks, and media kits.

My first layout wasn't practical and didn't meet my needs anymore. It wasn't ad friendly and didn't have the look I wanted so I changes it to the current one. When looking for a template, keep a list of which blogs you currently visit that appeal to you visually and take note of WHY you like them: width of the sidebars, size of the header, the navigation bar, the footers, fonts etc. etc. 

If you're hiring a designer, they will ask you for this information. Give them as many links, screen shots or examples as you can. Find a theme that can accommodate more than one ad size. Then, look online for free themes and templates that match your likes as closely as possible. Before I contacted my designer, I created a test blog and downloaded a few themes so I wouldn't have to worry about screwing up the main blog.

Now that my current layout has been live for awhile it's not working as well as I hoped so I'll be changing it. I'm also going to change my header. I love my header. It's cute and fun. But, as the direction I want with the blog has changed, I know I have to sacrifice cute and fun for practical. The header takes up way too much real estate that I could be using more effectively. Having ad space above the fold is key. My header is eating into that space and my re-design is going to take that into account.

Stats and influence:
As you're growing, it can be a little depressing at times to monitor your stats. But, that's the way the game is played, so be prepared to know yours. Information on our stats is pretty accessible. Having to provide them to a company can seem like doing their research for them. Plus, I think stats can be inflated and aren't an honest measure of influence, but until some other metrics are brought in, you're going to need to them.

I have three different monitoring services: Site Meter, Get Clicky and Google Analytics. You don't need three, but each one offers something a little different and I like to cross reference. Another set of data you should have on hand is demographics. Knowing about your readers can be invaluable when submitting your blog for PR opportunities or reviews. You can create a free survey on sites like Survey Monkey. I did one awhile ago and it was very helpful. 

Being able to tell a marketer that 42% of your readers are women aged 35-45 and 58% have children under the age of 18 will set you apart and establish you as a professional. Your blog is your resume. If you don't have numbers on your side, include any other areas of your life, both online and offline, where you frequently interact with others like guest posting or book club. Don't be afraid to sell yourself!

I'll talk more about ad networks and media kits in a future post. If you want a more detailed account of the Wizard of Ads session, Angela England did a great job taking thorough notes. She has other sessions recapped as well.

Wordless Wednesday: Side View Mirror Sunset

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blissdom 2010 Recap: Blissfully Inspired

Monday, February 8, 2010

What to say about Blissdom? If I only could only use one word it would be fabulawsome. In the airport on the way home, I wore my tiara from the pajama party because I wanted the feeling to last just a little bit longer.

Alli, Paula and Barbara wanted to create a welcoming, comfortable environment and they succeeded in spades. Even in a space as ginormous as the Opryland they managed to make it an intimate experience (seriously, I was having 3 Day flashbacks with all the walking we did!).

Even though I didn't know too many people before the conference, now I feel like I have a whole new circle of friends. It's always so nice to meet the people behind the avatars and blog posts. And can I just say, y'all were an amazingly beautiful and well dressed bunch of women! (Southern nod to Rachel and Robin)

I will have a lot more to say about Blissdom in future posts, but here are a few of my highlights:

*The workshops. I went to Vlogging and Editing, SEO, Advanced Social Media and caught the tail end of Media Training. I got a lot out of all them and hope to put what I learned into practice and make this a better place for you to hang out.

*The opening keynote. Man, did Kevin Carroll knock it out of the ballpark! We laughed, we cried and then laughed some more. I will never look at a soccer, basket or kickball the same way ever again.

*Hanging out with my fellow Tastemakers and watching Jessica showcase her inner cheerleader (someone, please tell me they got that on video!?). The event (the whole experience) was fun and different. I appreciate the chance to participate and embarrass  myself in front of a live audience. Congrats JoLynne and Rachel!

*Getting to see Renee, Danielle, Christine, Stacie, Casey, Audrey, Julie, Melanie, Erin (and her adorable baby!) and so many others again. A virtual hug just isn't the same as a real one.

*My first (but hopefully not last) speaking opportunity. It was slightly out of my comfort zone and all the faces in the audience made me want to faint but I'm so glad I did it. Having people ask me questions at the end of the session was incredibly gratifying.

*Being alone in the hotel hallway with Harry Connick Jr.! He was on his way backstage and I didn't want to bother him, but holy regrets I should have asked for a picture. Listening to him sing wasn't too bad either.

*Finally meeting Redneck Mommy (more on that later, she threatened me, and I liked it).

I learned so much at Blissdom and have so much to think about, both personally and professionally. I must also give a special thank you to Liz Strauss. At the Personal Branding session, she answered my question about bringing more of myself into the blog and her answer smacked me over the head and was exactly what I needed to hear. 

There will be way more Melanie coming out on these pages soon. I hope you'll like her, I hope you'll respect her voice and appreciate her desire for increased authenticity. I hope she doesn't scare you away. But, if she does, she will have to be OK with that. She'd rather lose traffic and followers than to keep losing any more of herself. She learned that at Blissdom too.

Other things I took away:

We are powerful.

We are trendsetters.

We are trail blazers.

We are loyal.

We are experts in our own rights.

We are amazing!

What did you take away from Blissdom?

There are Blissdom recap posts all over the place. JoLynne and Tamara are hosting link ups.Christine has a giant linkfest. There are tons of Flickr photos too, including ones for Annissa. If you feel the need to know about every spectacular moment, search the #blissdom hashtag. Pictures coming soon!

Thank you to everyone who made attending Blissdom possible: To Alli and Barbara for asking me to speak. I am still beyond flattered. To Jessica, Liz and Brittany; Fleishmann-Hillard and the US Potato Board for sending and taking such good care of me!

Blog Stats, Traffic and Followers: The Only Way to Measure Reach?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are your blog stats holding you back?

A few weeks ago I submitted my blog to be considered for a product testing opportunity. I was really excited because the product is something I feel I need, I can see myself using for more than just its intended purpose and really feel would impact my life greatly.

The PR company sent a survey asking about my traffic, other stats and any accolades I have received. Basically, they wanted to know how popular I am. I submitted my answers and knew I probably won't have a shot at participating. I'm bummed because I know I can give a really thorough review based on the areas I see myself using this product. I've already got several post ideas as to how I would use it. Now I'm not so sure I'll get the chance.

The panel I'm participating in Saturday at Blissdom is about advertising. Working with the other panelists on the presentation got me thinking about blog stats and traffic and how those things are measured. In my mind, blog numbers don't always paint an accurate picture of a person's influence.

So many of us have smaller, personal blogs with low numbers comparatively. But, so many of us are on the PTA, lead girl scouts, are active in our childrens' classrooms, on their sports teams, we volunteer, we have busy social lives, etc. etc. And, if we're active within our social media circle, then there's even more of a chance something we talk about will also be talked about by other influencers. 

I hear so many times that PR and brands want to develop long lasting relationships with us, but the first questions I'm asked are almost always about my stats. It's frustrating and I feel like I'm caught in a vicious circle: my blog isn't big enough for some opportunities but the chance to talk about those opportunities could help my blog grow. I'm not sure what the formula needs to be to include other avenues of influence, but I hope someone figures that out soon.

I'm hoping some of the things I pick up at Blissdom will help me find a way to make the most of the opportunities that do come my way, and open the door to new ones. How have you overcome the stats challenge? What have you done to help you get noticed?

Photo from Google Images and

Living With Boys, Never a Dull Moment

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tyler had Martin Luther King day off of school. We got up on Tuesday and started getting his breakfast and lunch ready. He must have still been in vacation mode, not realizing he had school that day, because I came out of the kitchen to tell him his breakfast was ready and saw this:

Love this kid!
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