Organizing and Planning Ahead For A Trip

Be Sure To Organize Ahead Of Time For Your Travel

Organizing prior to a trip isn’t hard, it just takes time management.

plane

Planning for a trip, of course depends on what kind of trip you are going on.  Is it a family vacation, are you flying or driving? How many people are going?  Is it a business trip and you’re leaving the family at home?

For this post, I’m going to plan for a business trip with one adult going from the family.  For our family, this has been me doing all the traveling. Dave doesn’t travel for work, but for the last several years, I have been traveling multiple times throughout the year.

I’m planning this week for my trip next week to Bentonville, Arkansas for our first Collective Bias conference, SoFabCon. I’ll be gone for a week from home.

Plan at least two – three weeks prior to your trip

Plan what you are going to wear. Go through your wardrobe to make sure you have the clothing, shoes and accessories you’ll need for the trip. More than likely, you’ll have all you need, but there might be occasions that you do need to shop for something new prior to the event.

If you have to order sometime online, you should probably plan out further than 3 weeks to be sure you receive it on time, and it fits.
You want to give yourself enough time to return or have something altered if needed.

Be sure to check your accessories to be sure you have any jewelry, cosmetics, crazy socks etc that you might need.

Plan Week Ahead

1) Plan out meals for your family, or at least make sure needed grocery items are stocked in the house.
2) Get all the family laundry completed before you go.
Personally, I do this because if my hubby needs to do laundry, I come home to baskets full of clothes that I can’t tell if they are dirty or clean (nothing folded when it comes out of the dryer). He will use my sorting bins to put clean clothes in, I find my sorting bins upstairs in bedrooms.. oh my – an organizers laundry nightmare!
3) Prepare a packing list.
It is so easy to forget things when you are packing.  Make sure you add things on there like business cards, extension cord (if you take your laptop etc with you), phone chargers, camera download cords etc. In this day and age of electronics, there are a lot of accessories needed to use them.
4) Prepare a Family “To Do” List
Especially if you are going to have teens at home without you. When do they have to be at practices, events? Does anyone take daily medicine that needs to be remembered? Will they remember to feed, water and walk the dog or clean out a litter box. What day is trash day?
5) Make a copy of your itinerary.
Make sure your spouse knows how to get hold of you, what flights you’re on and where you’re staying.
6) Be sure to print out any tickets or passes you might need. It’s great to have everything on your phone, but if you can’t get service, you could be in a bind if you count on having important documents stored electronically.

Couple Days Prior To Your Trip

1) Start packing for your trip. You won’t want to pack any clothes that will wrinkle until the last minute, but have them ready to go. You can pack underclothes, jewelry and other items that you don’t have to worry about the “wrinkle factor”.
2) Prepare any food items you’re family might need while you’re gone

Planning ahead will make you’re preparation go much smoother, and generally you have what you need while you’re gone. It also will help to decrease stress for you and the family while you’re gone.

 

 

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The SXSW Experience

Heading to SXSW last month was quit the experience. I joined the Collective Bias crew in Austin, TX for the SXSW Interactive week.

Enter the  ”Jambulance”, which is an old ambulance that was souped up with music, cooling machine and seats inside.  There was a charging station on the outside and used it as the hub for our “Cantina De Social”.  From Friday, March 8th until Monday March 11th, we had the Jambulance set up in a parking lot  with picnic tables and food trucks, from which we were able to offer food from. Being able to invite people over to have a meal, have something to drink and eat some awesome ice cream sandwiches, was an easy way to find out what their companies did, and let them know more what Colletive Bias is and what we do.

The CB crew giving us a “Awkward Stretch” in front of the Jambulance.

The culture at CB is like no other. How many CEO’s do you know that have fun doing an “awkward stretch” and encouraging it do you know?

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Inside the Jambulance. Seats, music, pillows, more music.

jambulance

The culture of SXSW is outlandish. There are SO many people, that you see all kinds of interesting get ups, trying to get your attention. The pedi-cab drivers were no exception.

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south by

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These guys were promoting a new cab company that was coming to town. Where individuals drove their own cars for pick ups. They were offering piggy-back rides. Melissa took them up on it. One offered for me to get on… I told him that I’d never do that to him. {I’m sure he was relieved!}

consumer queen

We got to try and dunk one of our Vice Presidents, Brad Lawless

Brad lawless

Brad Lawless

Our CEO Co/Founder, John Andrews

John Andrews

john andrews

And our Chief Social Marketing Officer, Ted Rubin. All in the name of Charity! What great sports these guys are. Keep in mind it was only in the lower 60′s on these days… it was cold!

ted rubin

ted rubin

On Monday, March 11th, we ended our time at SXSW with a party at the Bungalow. It gave us a chance to invite clients, potential clients, associates,  and bloggers  to join us for a great evening with food and fun.

cb party

I play photographer most of the night. I did miss having bloggers there. We were hoping to see more, but there were very few. Courtney, Melissa and I had a great time.

courtney melissa sandy

Christine Young showed up after she saw a picture of us on Facebook and realized we were in Austin. She and her husband were there on a visit, not for SXSW, but they came by to say hi.

christine and melissa

We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. I think everyone had a wonderful time, enjoying the company, food and friends.

cb party

Yes, I had fun taking pictures of the cupcakes.

cupcake

And yummy food. I stopped Brad Lawless before he could take a bite of this, so I could get a picture! Mine, was too boring looking to take a picture of.

taco

Courtney with one of the CB pillows. You can’t see the whole pillow here, but they are little talk bubbles, so it looks like the CB logo.

courtney velasquez

We had another “awkward stretch” moment at the party.  Notice the photo-bombers outside the window.

awkward stretch

SXSW is a different kind of conference to go to from the perspective of a blogger. This was the interactive portion of SXSW. You probably won’t find more techies together in one place, then you will this week. I was thankful for the experience of being there with CB, as I went as an employee.

sxsw

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Agree to Disagree

March 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Blog, Conference, Blogging and Social Media

With this being Easter Weekend, I wanted to speak my mind a bit. Can’t we just agree to disagree?

Social Media (world issues) having been kind of blowing up right now. I can think of three biggies that have prompted me to write this post.

Screen shot 2013-03-29 at 9.07.41 AM

What I don’t like to see in social media is for people to be bashing other people for what they believe. Do you really think you’ll change their mind by arguing with their Facebook post? I don’t think so.

I do my best to stay out of the “drama” of politics and religion on social.  It isn’t worth it to me. Do I have strong believes in both areas, sure I do… as many others do. I’m Christian and conservative and I am not into the “everything has to be organic” food issue. I SHOULD be able to put up my feelings about issues, marriage, guns, what foods I want to eat – but I don’t want the drama. And I know there will be drama.

I get it, I know people feel they are convicted in what they believe in. Great! Post it on your page. What I don’t like is when people go to other people’s pages, who believe differently and tell them they are wrong. I don’t go to your pages and try to tell you that I don’t like what you posted or that I believe differently?

I don’t like when people bash a Brand or bloggers who support that brand, because it’s different than what they think is right.
I don’t like when people tell me I shouldn’t have a gun, or I shouldn’t have “liked’ an article I liked.
I don’t like that I don’t feel I can express my opinion on marriage on FB without repercussions.

We are always going to have different views. I’m not going to try and tell you that your view is wrong. I don’t think anyone should. I know it happens on both side.  Seriously, why can’t we just post what we want, not yell at others for what they believe, not attack Brands that are working to promote their product, or bloggers who think that product is fine … and just Agree to Disagree.

 

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Exercise Tools – Nike FuelBand vs FitBit

Do I Like To Exercise? No – But I’m Going To Learn To Love It!

Do I Need to Exercise? Absolutely… big time!

exercise

I’ve gone through so many phases in my life, and even on this blog, where I’ve started to exercise and get in shape. I’ll do good for awhile, and then I tend to fall back into my old ways. I think there is a part of me that doesn’t think I can ever be one of those “in shape” people. I know that sounds dumb, but after watching my mom struggle off and on for years with exercise (Jack Lalanne and soup cans.. for some of you who might remember), I just have this block in my head – that I’ll never be that person out running a marathon.  Do I have a desire to run a marathon. Nope. Would I like to be able to run for a few miles? Yes!

I have a zillion excuses, I have plantar fasciitis and my Podiatrist said that walking should not be an exercise for me. The nearest club is over 1/2 hour away and my work schedule won’t allow it. My heart rate goes into the 200′s when I try to jog. Oh… there are more, believe me. But I have to break through those.

At the beginning of this year I decided I have to get 70 pounds off.  I did it in 2008, I used Jenny Craig and took off 50 pounds, but I went off their plan and slowly gained it back.. plus another 20 pounds. Menopause hasn’t helped either… along with sitting on my butt for at least 12 hours a day working.

When I lost my 50 pounds, I wasn’t exercising. This time I have to do both. Now I have the fat arm stuff happening, the big belly.. (I never knew your boobs could touch your belly when you sit certain ways! lol) As always my hips, legs and butt are huge. There are things I never have experienced before. I was always very thin growing up.. and this extra 20 pounds in the last year has thrown me over the edge. I’ve had to buy new fat clothes, the backs of my arms will bother me because things are too tight. It’s the pits and I feel gross.

Nike FuelBand

Part of my inspiration is because I feel terrible.  The other part is watching all my co-workers at Collective Bias show all their pictures of running and working out on Path and Facebook. This company is so awesome to work for that they gave us all Nike FuelBands this Christmas. How cool is that? John Andrews and Jay Thornton both got a Fuelband and liked it so much for themselves, that John decided to get them for all 50+ of us.  For a company to care so much about it’s employees, that they REALLY want to see us healthy. That is just one of the reasons I love working at CB. Not because they gave us a cool gift, but because they really care about us. They want the best for us. Love that!

nike fuelband

This is really neat. I love the look of it. It comes in a white/clear one or a black/clear one.. or this solid black. You get fuel points for your activity. If you are walking or working out, doing laundry etc. It also tells you how many steps you’ve walked, calories burned and what time it is.  You set a goal and you work to meet it each day. The little red dots at the bottom.. go across as you work towards your goal. They get green when you are into the good zone. Then you can share on Facebook or Path your progress and compare with your team. That is where Collective Bias has been really productive with this. There are several runners at CB, and many of us that aren’t, but they have had fun with sharing their fuel points with everyone. It shows the path they have run, or walked. It syncs with your computer and your phone, so you can easily track what you’ve done.

I think this is an awesome tool if you want to get in shape. If you want to track your progress for the day, have competitions to see who can get the most fuel points or just track it yourself. It is a great way to inspire exercise. You want to get more fuel points to hit your goal for the day.

FitBit

Before I knew I was getting one, I had asked Dave for a FitBit for Christmas. He got me one, so now I have both tools. I also got one for Dave for Christmas. He’s been using it and is happy to show me how far he does walk at work everyday, inspecting the job site he manages.

exercise fitbit

They are both awesome tools to tracking your exercise and activity. I highly recommend them both. The FitBit is small and clips onto your clothing. Dave wears his clipped inside his pants pocket. I wear mine clipped to my bra. It tells you your steps for the day, calories burned, time of day and a growing flower for your progress. It has an automatic sync (this model of FitBit at least) to your computer and your phone. You can also share with your friends and post to FB or Twitter.  Very similar features of the Nike FuelBand.

What it does do that is different, than the Fuelband  is that you can track your food intake and it also tracks your sleep. There is a wrist band that you slip the fitbit into. It comes out of the rubber clip you see above and easily slips into this Velcro wristband. Then you just hit the timer to start it. In the morning you turn the timer off. The wristband doesn’t bother me at all to sleep, although I did see on a few people who reviewed it, that they didn’t like it.  I like being able to see my sleep patterns. I was surprised I woke up as much as I did through the night.

exercise fitbit

This also has an alarm feature on it. It will wake you up in the morning. I have yet to figure out how to set that, but I think I saw a way, and just haven’t taken the time to try that feature out yet.

This is what the dashboard looks like. You can earn badges for your accomplishments. Climbing stairs, steps, miles.  You can see where I did my short work out in the morning.. where the yellow spikes are.

exercise

The feature I like the best with this FitBit is that I can track my food intake. I picked a program of easy, medium or hard (I picked hard) in order to lose my weight. It has me losing 2 pounds a week, so that I’ll hit my goal of 70 pounds in August of this year. It then calculates your food intake (you plug in the food and there are many options that come up to pick from. If those don’t fit, you can enter your own food item with the portion and calories.) and exercise for that day.

It tells you how much more you can eat for that day… or if you’ve gone over your calories for the day. Several times when I’ve gone over, then it has inspired me to go up and do more exercise.

exercise

For me, because I am trying to lose weight along with the exercise.. the FitBit is a better exercise tool. It has been more inspiring to me due to the calorie intake feature, than the Nike FuelBand.  If your main goal is the exercise and getting in shape, then I think the Nike Fuelband would be ideal. I think the guys like the look of the FuelBand.

The FitBit One that I have is $99. I got mine for Dave at BestBuy. He got the one for me online.
The Nike Fuelband is $149.

I can highly recommend both of these exercise tools, and I’m very thankful to Collective Bias and my husband for giving them to me. Neither one expected or asked for a review – I just wanted to share part of my big inspiration for exercising and losing weight.

So far since January 1st of 2013, I’ve lost 8 1/2 pounds. What I was thrilled with, was that it also included a six day trip to Bentonville, AR for work, and I’ve always gained weight when I’ve traveled before. I’ve always had an attitude of “I can eat whatever I want when I’m traveling, because it’s too hard to try and eat healthy”.  But not this time. I exercised 3 of the 4 available mornings I was there with Debba from Girlfriendology. Of course she was far past me in her running and exercising abilities, but she was great encouragement and  inspiration while I was there.

 

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Collective Bias Company Retreat #cbias

Great Collective Bias Retreat In Branson

This was my first trip to Branson, Missouri – what a fun location for our Collective Bias company retreat. I flew into Bentonville, AR and spent a couple days in our offices, before we all drove to Branson together. Thanks Jon Lemire for being the chauffeur to a truck full of woman, what a trooper!

Collective Bias

We had a few fun surprises waiting for us.  Our first evening there, we were treated to the Dixie Stampede Production.

Dixie Stampede

We weren’t allowed to get pictures inside.. which was a real bummer, because there would have been some awesome ones.

dixie stampede

Monica Johnson @MonicaJohnson and Melissa Garcia from ConsumerQueen.com were waiting to go in.

collective bias

Wouldn’t this be a fun dress to wear? lol… I’d love it.

dixie stampede

I had a great evening with everyone, and you can’t imagine how much food they served us! I was extremely full!  There is no silverware! You had to eat it all with your fingers, including soup (the bowl has a handle to drink from)! I have to admit, that made it a lot of fun.

The next day was a day of meetings.  We were all together and I thought it was time well spent.  We heard from each department on what they did and what their visions were for the coming year.

John Andrews from Collective Bias, started us off on the right foot.. an emotional and heart felt one.

john andrews

I got to meet some of the team that I’d not yet be able to meet. Kristen Brown who is running our newly established Minnesota office was someone I hadn’t had a chance to meet yet. Can’t wait to spend more time with her.

kristen brown

We had some great laughs from the Production team.

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They did some skits from a “Day in the Life of an Account Executive”

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branson

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While John is capturing it on his ipad

john andrews

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We took some photos of how Collective Bias has grown from the the beginning with Amy Callahan, Brad Lawless, John Andrews and Jay Thornton (on the screen) in 2009

collective bias 2009

To the growth in 2010

collective bias 2010

To 2011 (Yay.. the year I came on)

collective bias 2011

To the current group in 2012.

collective bias 2012

The pictures were a spur of the moment idea, and clearly my camera was not set up for the lighting in this room. I’ve told them… I’m no professional photographer. lol

There were “Awards” given. Amy Callahan presenting Mailena Urso her award.

collective bias

The Dev team also won an award. lol.. You just never know with Collective Bias!

dev team

We got to rock our new Collective Bias t-shirts around Branson.

collective bias

branson

A group of us went to dinner together and had a great meal, by the water.

dinner

We were able to go to see a Live version of the Price Is Right show that evening if we’d like. There was a big group of us that did go.. and had a great time. None of us were called to “COME ON DOWN”.  Bum! We were all so psyched and ready to go!

The next morning we were all busy connecting with our Social Fabric members.

branson

Our SoFab community is the heart and soul of Collective Bias, and we wanted to thank them and give them some support.

collective bias

 

courtney rix

 

mama bzz

 

randi and brad

jerra

 

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Yes.. I was there too.

sandy jenney

Here are a few other fun shots from the retreat.  Kim Janocko Crafty Mama of 4

kim janocko

Mel Lockcuff from Mama Buzz

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And of course… I couldn’t forget the awkward stretching pics!

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joan

Great Retreat Collective Bias!

branson

 

 

 

 

 

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Are There Communication Barriers In Social Media?

Communication Barriers Can Be An Issue

This post was originally posted on the Collective Bias Blog on September 26, 2012

The same avenues that increase our communication between people can also be the ones that can create a communication barrier to “true” communication. The message we are trying to convey, may not be the same message that is received.

communication barriers

We are becoming a “social” world. Social in the sense that we are communicating with people we would have never been able to communicate with prior to the internet, texting, Twitter, Facebook, emails, etc.   What an awesome powerful tool we have to use! I personally love being able to communicate with friends from High School, extended family, my boys that live out of state and many other friends. That is one half of the equation for me. The other half is the business side of social communication.  Being able to actually “talk” and communicate with CEO’s of major communies, other bloggers, that I never would have met and being able to live in Ohio and work out of an office in Bentonville, AR, have been absolute dreams for me!

Along with the new lines of communication that we have adapted to over the last several years, comes the problem that can occur while utilizing this form of communication.. which is – lack of communication with our communication.

What? That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?  We communicate more, and yet… we are communicating less? While communicating via written word, such as email, twitter or Facebook; it is really easy for your words to be miscommunicated.

I think we have all experienced it.  You are in a great mood, reply to someone’s email while you are laughing and send a little joke. The person who receives the email is having a terrible day. They read your joke, but don’t see it as a joke. They get offended, and the problems ensue.

I think we often forget that our voices aren’t being heard, our smiles aren’t being seen, our body language is hidden.  We have learned some ways to get our messages across.  Capitalizing all the words, generally mean that you are angry. Using “lol” (laugh out loud), smiley faces :) and other happy expressions are ways we try to show we are happy, we are conveying a joke or humor.

We have become lazy when it comes to using the phone, or meeting in person for lunch or a chat.  For those of us who are working online most of the day, it can almost seem like a stumbling block to call someone. We have become so used to sending an email, or a tweets or Facebook message to them to communicate. It is “Safe” communication.  We are “protected” from hearing a tone we may not want to hear, or having to say words that might become difficult or strained.  We have become “used” to our new form of communication and it’s comfortable.  We all like comfortable.

But, we have to remember that the real relationship is built in person, or on the phone. Really being able to communicate.  I don’t think I would have been working for Collective Bias if I hadn’t stepped out and gone to Blogging conferences and met those who started and run it in person. It is the real life connection that is going to ultimately “connect” you.

I saw this Facebook post via Zipporah Sandler and had to share. It is so true.

“ To the people who seem to be filling my inbox. If you want to get offered opps, trips, reviews and paid work with brands – put in the WORK and foster relationships with these brands and reps. If you do, you’ll find yourself working with the brands, and more importantly PEOPLE that you love.
BTW, the contact list in my cell phone and skype look like a who’s who of PR and in-house marketing people, and I don’t only call when I WANT something, but also to just to say hi, let’s go to lunch, or what’s doing in your life?” ~Zippy Sandler

What I think is the most important thing here is that she says she calls the PR  & Marketing people.  She calls just to say hi, or to have lunch! It’s obvious why she is getting so many offers from the Brands, is it not?

 

The Social Fabric Community Weighs in

I asked them the following three questions:

1) What are some common mistakes people make when communicating online?

2) What are some ways that you feel these mis-communications can be prevented?

3) What are some tips for better communication?

 

Common Mistakes

One thing that most all of those who commented from the Social Fabric community agreed on, was that spelling errors and poor grammar were the biggest mistakes people made when communicating via the written word online.

Utilizing spell check and proof reading are simple ways these errors can be prevented.

 

Tips for how mis-communications can be prevents & better communication from our Social Fabric Members:

Read aloud what you’ve written, even if it’s just to yourself. ~ Monique Burkes @ArmsofaSister

If I’m trying to make a joke but it doesn’t come across as such, I’ll either put LOL or a smiley face or something to let them know I wasn’t being serious. ~Carolyn West @TemysMom 

They need a sarcasm font.   A “lol” helps diffuse a sarcastic statement. Christine @MammaCupcake

Read what you typed out loud to check for tone and clarity before publishing your comment, post, or FB update. Also use smilies to emphasize your tone. ~ Karen  @_Karen

Forgetting that sarcasm and humor do not always translate online. We often forget how much tone and body language conveys to the listener. Oh, and beware of inside jokes in a public forum. Those can go all shades of wrong. ~Andrea @notimeMom

Written communication is so tough because it is all about the attitude of the person writing it and the attitude of the person reading it. I will often use “haha” or “:)” to lighten the mood. I also might think about what I’m going to write before I write it. ~Janet  @JanetGoingCrazy

I also think writing in anger is a big mistake. It’s better to cool off and respond rationally than in the heat of the moment. Written communication needs to be very clear and concise. ~Melissa @MsMissy62

You know, I’d really just be happy these days if people would remember to run spell check, or pay attention to that little red line that crops up under words when you’re typing on FB and in forums. As well as remember some basic 7th grade grammar rules – their, there, they’re; lose, loose; affect, effect; etc. ~ Amanda @HouseHoldSix

I agree with Christine- a sarcasm font would be great. ~Samantha @HaveSippy

If you have information you know is sensitive or may be interpreted the wrong way, pick up the phone or have a face-to-face conversation. ~Sarah East9thStreet

I think tone is also a huge issue. You may think something sounds cute or funny, but it may come across as rude to someone else. It helps to read through what you’ve written with skeptical eyes before publishing. ~Jennifer @TheSimplePen

 

Communication via the written word is wonderful! It has opened our worlds to meeting and talking to people we otherwise would never have been able to make.  But everything wonderful has pitfalls. We need to be vigilant and try to prevent those pitfalls, and remember that written communication should not be our only means of communication.  It should be in addition to speaking in real life. That is where the real connection continues to be made and nurtured.

 

 

 

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10 Travel Tips To Help Dad When Mom Travels

Here Are A Few Travel Tips To Help Your Home Run Smoother While Your Away

As bloggers, many of us are now traveling to conferences and events frequently. I’ve heard several moms who need some travel tips to help their husbands have an easier time while they are gone. I use the term “husband” or “dad” throughout this post. It might be that the caregiver is your mom, or a sitter, relative etc. This is all applicable. So know that “husband” is interchangeable for whatever your circumstance might be.

travel tipsI wanted to share a few tips that seem to help my home run smoother while I’m away. I have to admit that my husband is pretty self sufficient while I’m gone, so I don’t have the issues that I’ve heard some moms have. (I say that and knock on some wood because I am traveling as this is posted). The kids I still have at home are also very self sufficient (11 year old triplets) and know our routine.

Several of these ideas take some preparation prior to your trip. Even though we are often stressed trying to get ourselves ready and it’s not much fun to do some extra work before we leave, it can often help things run smoother.  Keep in mind, if things aren’t too bad while we are gone, then going the next time isn’t going to be such a big deal.. right?

10 Travel Tips to help your home run smoother while you are gone.

1) Clean your home right before you leave.

If things are in order before you leave, then it might not seem as over whelming to your spouse. If the house is already a mess, then he will feel the pressure of cleaning too.

2) Pre-plan meals

Depending on your husband, and his level of expertise in the kitchen (or lack there of) have meals prepared ahead of time. Either frozen (with directions telling him when to pull them out to thaw) or in the refrigerator.  Label the meals and have a guide prepared with directions of how to heat them up.

3) Prepare lunches ahead of time.

You can even pre-pack the lunches if you have room in your refrigerator for that. Make sure you have purchased plenty of lunch supplies before you leave.

4) Have all the laundry washed and put away

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of my husband in the laundry room. He likes to “help”. Which in turn, means I have to rewash clothes that I’m not sure are clean or dirty. He tends to let clothes sit in the washer over night (and sometimes a couple days!) and you all know the sour smell that develops when you do that. So I generally re-wash anything that he has “helped” me with, once I get home.

5) Leave a detailed itinerary of the kids activities, sports practices and directions if necessary.

6) Leave a list of phone numbers, Doctors, Dentist, neighbors, car pool, babysitter, school etc.

7) Leave a list of the routine the kids are used to (if Dad,  doesn’t know)

8) Leave your itinerary and schedule of your events.

Husbands like to talk to us, and as busy as some of these conferences or events can be, they are already feeling left out (if any of you have had your husbands travel… you might know the feeling well yourself. My ex husband traveled a LOT and I relate very well when I hear one of my blogging friends say their husband is “needy” when they are gone). Both of you get skype and plan times that you know you’ll be at your computer and can skype with him and the kids.

9) Have a back up plan in place.

In case one of the kids gets sick, school is cancelled due to weather etc, someone misses a bus.Leave instructions with Dad and the kids as to what will happen or who will take care of the kids in these situations.

10) By all means… make sure the soccer socks are clean and laid out.

Quick story: On one of our trips to Vegas, where we were two hours earlier than home – Kim @CraftyMamaof4 hubby called her about 6:00 in the morning. Her husband and son were in a panic because they couldn’t find a soccer sock for his practice that day. We (@ZipporahS) were cracking up because she was so embarrassed that he woke up all of us calling that early over a soccer sock.  Moral of the story – make sure every piece and part to every thing you can imagine is clean, laid out, prepared, written down and posted before you leave.

More work on us? Yes… a lot! But the benefit would be not getting awakened at 6am with a frustrated husband looking for a soccer sock.

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Blogher 2012 Impressions

Sharing My Thoughts On The Blogher 12 Conference

I really enjoyed Blogher this year. It was very large, yes… but I always think of Blogher as huge… so I didn’t necessarily feel like it was So much bigger than before.

blogher

I did not get the conference pass this year, I only got the expo/party pass.  Why, you might ask?  This was the forth time I’ve been to Blogher, and the first two years I did get the full conference pass.  I quickly learned that with so many Brand events and networking going on… I was so caught up in those, that I did not have much time for the blogging sessions.  That seems a bit backwards, I know. It should be that the blogging sessions to learn more about blogging should be first on my list and networking with fellow bloggers and Brands, should be last on my priority. Right? No, not in my book.  I have been to dozens of conferences over the last four years, and love every one of them.  I have learned SO much and have oodles more to learn! But I believe that the smaller conferences pose a much more valuable space to learn in.  Smaller rooms, plenty of space to sit, amble opportunity to ask questions, hands on workshops, and no problem hearing the speaker.  That is a much better learning environment for me.

blogher

With that being said, I can evaluate Blogher 12 for their sessions this year, or the actual conference, because I wasn’t truly a part of it.  I had a an objective of networking and meeting our Social Fabric bloggers and meeting new bloggers. If there happened to be a Brand that I really wanted to work with personally, or I thought was a fit for our Collective Bias company, then, so be it. If you have noticed, I do very few reviews now, unless it is something that I REALLY want to review. So trying to chat it up with all the Brands was not something I was terribly worried about.

I did visit the expo… and got to see things like Melissa @ConsumerQueen in the Chuck-e-Cheese ticket booth!

And  Courtney posing with a “Greek statue”

Being able to increase the bonds with those I work with was also vitally important to me.  Since I am a remote employee, we don’t get to see each other in person very often.  I think it is important in any company to have a good working relationship with other employees and often times that can be built through fun/work related activities, such as traveling & rooming together for conferences.

This is Courtney Velasquez (One of the VP’s at Collective Bias), Kim Janocko (Senior Community Manager at CB), Mel Lockcuff (Community Coordinator for CB) and me. We had adjoining rooms and had so much fun meeting members of our Social Fabric Community!

wicked

I was really excited to see friends I’ve met through blogging and meet new friends.  That is really the coolest aspect of blogging. We meet so many people online, and you can get to “know” them …. to a point. But there is nothing like meeting them face to face…. giving them a real hug rather than a virtual one…. and really getting to know them.   I think the relationship is what grows your brand. The relationship, not only in real life… but through twitter, Facebook and through comments on our blogs.  Ted Rubin says it in regards to Return on Relationship™ and business, and even though I run Organize with Sandy as a business… I often don’t feel like a business, I feel like me… and I want to be able to take that same stance on a personal level…. it’s the relationship that is most important.

Here are some of our Social Fabric bloggers that we ran into at one of the parties we went to.

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So, to bring this back to Blogher 12 this year.  I had a wonderful time… meeting some clients at a CB client dinner, meeting several of our Social Fabric Bloggers at our coffee meet up, and a few at some of the Blogher parties… but most of them I saw and met as we were going to different Brand events, walking into the hotel lobbies of The Sheraton or The Hilton, and wondering around NYC.   I didn’t feel stressed to run to every event, and I even bowed out of several of them (very unlike me, if I have RSVP’d.. not proud of that), but having some down time to get some work done, chat with friends and rest my feet (ouch!) also was on my agenda.

blogher

I actually was not looking forward to going to Blogher this year in NYC. I was overwhelmed at Blogher 10 in NYC (I’m not a big city girl by any stretch of the imagination) racing from place to place… trying to be at two events at once, and not being able to figure out how to get from here to there. I couldn’t hail a taxi for the life of me (they make it look so easy on TV!) and without my subway navigator, Kim @CraftyMamaof4 I would never attempt that method of transportation on my own. (yes… total whimp here!)  This is Kim and Mel @MamaBzz as we had been down in the subway waiting for a train for about 20 minutes. It was SO hot down there…. but these two are the subway queens, I couldn’t talk them into a taxi for this trip. lol

kim and mel

I’ve seen many blog post this year on how big Blogher was.. and it has grown too big … and they didn’t know anyone… and they didn’t want to return…. and that’s ok for them.  Personally, I don’t see that as a negative. There were plenty of familiar faces to me, and new bloggers means new relationships. I think we always need to be growing our circle of friends.   But, I kept my Blogher experience smaller, by only choosing the expo pass, by not feeling like I had to be at every single event, and by making the relationships my priority…. rather than connecting with all the Brands, as my priority.

I of course didn’t take pictures of all the Social Fabric members and new blogging friends I met while at Blogher…I think half of them I was using Courtney’s phone to get pics of her with them! lol   I love this fun picture of Courtney @CourtneyRix

Here are a few other pictures I have of sites around New York City

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Bryant Park area

nyc

 

nyc

 

 

nyc

I am not as scared of New York City as I was… and do look forward to returning at some point.  The conference next year is in Chicago and I’m really excited about it.  I do plan to go, and look forward to all the new faces I will meet and all the hugs I’ll get from faces I’ve met before!

 

Collective Bias, my employer; sent me to Blogher this year.

 

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The MegaBus

The Megabus – What an Experience!

Riding the megabus to New York was an experience and thankfully we didn’t have any accidents, like the megabus did in Chicago!

megabus

I undertook the adventure of going with two of my best blogging friends and co-workers to ride the megabus from Pittsburgh, PA to NYC for the Blogher 12 conference.

Why in the World Did we Take the Megabus?

Because the tickets we got were only $10 each way!  Yes.. really!  My round trip bus fare from PA to NYC was $20.50.  lol!   I know I didn’t want to drive  or park in New York City, and airfare was pretty hefty.

I was very concerned about getting sick on the bus, because I suffer from that lovely affection called motion sickness. That pain in the butt thing that keeps me from trying a cruise, doesn’t let me ride in the back seat of a car, and often people try to tell me is only in my head.

Kim has ridden the megabus several times back and forth from NYC… because she LOVES NYC and she is able to sleep the whole way.  Because she was the seasoned megabus pro, I listened to her guidance (not that I didn’t grip about it… right Kim? lol)

We did get to sit in the front, on top.. both ways – so that pretty much solved that problem and I was ok.  You can see Kim @CraftyMamaof4 and Mel @MamaBzz up in the front seats we had.  We made it there at 5:30am so that we were the first in line for our 6:40am bus trip.  Kim and I got on in Pittsburgh and we picked up Mel about 3 hours into our trip in another part of PA.

megabus

I drove to Pittsburgh the day before from my home in Ohio and spent the night at a hotel, since we had such an early bus.

The ride was very bouncy…. especially on the way home. (Different bus… different bounce).  As we were coming into NYC, we hit a bump and the bottom of the bus evidently hit the ground. It was SO loud and scary… everyone on the bus screamed and you just waited for that moment that you knew the bus was going to lose control…. or pull over because we had a flat tire.  Neither of those happened and we continued on our way…. a little more frazzled than we had before.
It took 8 hours from PA to get to NYC.  I was not able to sleep at all. Even though we had a little more room in those front seats, I was not able to get comfortable enough to go to sleep.  It was a LONG ride.

It was the funniest/scariest thing.. once we hit New York City, our bus driver turned into a NYC driver! We were laughing & screeching  so hard!  We were sure that we were going to either hit a car or run down people!  Keep in mind the front of the bus is flat and we were looking straight down from the 2nd story of it. Our bus driver was beeping his horn like crazy… and was bound and determined that everyone should get out of his way!

Once we got to NYC…. you should have seen me (so pathetic) trying to lug my big suitcase and heavy backpack from the bus stop to the subway…. down all the stairs… maneuvering through the turn styles (thank you Kim for helping with that) … onto the packed, standing room subway…. then back up all the stairs (one … at…. a…. time…. lol) and to the hotel.  OMG… I was dripping wet with sweat and bright red.  I think it took me about 45 minutes to cool down once we hit the air conditioned lobby of our hotel.  Now granted… if I was in better shape… it would not have been such a sorry sight!

Mel and I were bound and determined we were going to rent a car and drive home, rather than repeat the performance.  It also didn’t help that we had just heard about a deadly megabus crash that  happened in IL on August 2, while we were at Blogher. From one report I heard, the woman who was killed, when the bus blew out a tire and hit a bridge embunkment had been sitting in the top front seats (where we sat).  But we soon learned, after multiple calls that you can not rent a car from a local company and drop it off at another local company going just one way.  I think we could have done from airport to airport, but that wasn’t workable for us. So we finally gave in to the fact that we were going to have to return on the megabus to get home. As I looked for the article on the August 2nd bus crash in IL, I found this article from the Chicago Tribune that there was another accident and a pedestrian was killed by a megabus in Chicago. omg! That is so horrible… and yet, after experiencing our driver in NYC, I can very easily see that happening!

Plus, one of our good friends Beth, @plussizemommy and her family came in the day after we did on the megabus… from Pittsburgh to NYC. They were supposed to get in at 2:30 pm like we did… only their bus kept over heating. It finally broke down 2 1/2 hours out of Pittsburgh and they had to wait inside the hot bus (no air) and did not get to NYC until 11:30 pm that night!!! We felt so terrible for her!!

One of my requirements was that we were going to take a taxi from the hotel to the bus stop (not station .. remember). I paid for it… and it was NO big deal. $9 including the tip. I wish we would have done that one the way to the hotel!

Here we are…. at 5:30 in the morning, waiting on a “not so nice” street, near the Hudson river.. for the megabus. I took this picture and Kim said… “Put that camera away Sandy… we are NOT in a good area and I don’t want someone mugging us for your camera!” oops!

megabus

We were first in line again, and rewarded with the front top seats.  We were praying we didn’t have a tire blow out! The return bus was a little newer, and somewhat nicer… but much more bouncy.  Considering in 2010  there was another megabus accident (one of several in the last couple years) on it’s way to (or from… not sure) NYC.. where the bus driver went under a bridge that was not tall enough… and 4 people were killed in that bus accident….  we were just a little leery when we went under the bridges… and there were bumps.. and the bus would bounce!

We were able to get a few pictures (most of them were blurry because we were literally bouncing that much!) since we were in the “good seats”.  It was a really cloudy, rainy day when we went home.

megabus

Going through the tunnels was a little scary, we just had to remind ourselves that the buses took this route every day…. and we would fit just fine.

megabus

We had a lot of rain on the way home…. and just like the bus driver on the bottom….. we had wind shield wipers on our window too!

megabus

I was SO excited to see the Pittsburgh skyline …. here is my tweet!

megabus

It is an experience that Kim, Mel and I will share….. laugh at and enjoy (now that it’s over)… and one that I don’t foresee ever having again!

 

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Social Fabric Meet Up at #Blogher12

The Social Fabric Community in Collective Bias Met at Starbucks

We love our Social Fabric community and so many of you we’ve never met in real life!  We feel like we know you because we interact online and in our Social Fabric forum, but there is nothing like a face to face hello and a real live hug!

Social Fabric

From L to R: Back Row: Mariah Moon, Michelle Kay, Courtney Velasquez, Kim Janocko, Mel Lockcuff, Hanan Webster, Lela Davidson, Yolanda Machado  Front Row: Melissa Garcia, Staci Salazar, Carolyn West, Caryn Bailey

We planned our meet up ahead of time in the Social Fabric forum. Anyone who was in NYC was welcome to come and meet up!  Kim Janocko found the largest Starbucks for us to meet.  It was in Time Square, about 10 blocks from the conference hotel. But we wanted to be sure to have enough room for everyone!
Social Fabric

From L to R: Daniel Garcia, Melissa Garcia, Mel Lockcuff, Carolyn West, Kim Janocko

I know there were many more Social Fabric members that weren’t able to make it. There was SO much going on at Blogher and being in a zillion places at once isn’t always possible.  Even though we all think we can do it… reality hits!

social fabric

Courtney, Mariah and Staci

It would have been great to have had a place to sit down and relax while we drank our coffees. But I do think the standing caused us to mingle a little more and meet everyone.  It was fun to see others walk in and match up their avatars to the real live person.  I’m sorry we didn’t get a group picture at the end, when everyone was there.

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Jacqueline Cromwell and Melissa Pezza

We even had a beautiful baby join our meet up! Hanan had her darling little girl with her.

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Hanan Webster & her baby girl

We met from 9am – 10am. The time really sped by (time also spent standing in line to get some yummy coffee) and I’m sure there were several others who would have loved to have had more time together.

social fabricMelissa G., Jacqueline (in mid blink) and Melissa P.

Even though we live in on “on line” social world and our relationships are usually online, there is nothing that compares with meeting the real person. Being able to see personalities, hear voices and see expressions.

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L to R: Carolyn, Hanan, Lela (tucked back there) and Caryn

We had to retreat outside after a little while as we were taking up the standing room area.

social fabric

Lela, Courtney, Melissa and Hanan

I met Margarita at Blogher 2011 for the first time. She joined our community after we met. She is also a professional organizer and She drove here from Canada.

social fabric

Margarita Ibbott, Sandy Jenney

If it wasn’t so hot outside, I think we could have all visited for a longer time. Oh, except for the fact that we all had places to be and other people to meet!

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Melissa G and Leanne Heilman

We saw several of these ladies throughout our several days going to different Blogher parties and Brand events. A little more visiting and pictures and we were then on our way to find our way around New York City and the Blogher conference.

social fabric

L to R: Melissa Garcia, Leanne Heilman, Lela Davidson, Courtney Velasquez, Melissa Pezza and Hanan Webster.

Thank you to all our Social Fabric bloggers that made their way to the Starbucks to meet up with us! We know it was a bit of a walk/ride to get there and we really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to come out.  There is nothing like meeting each of you in person!

A portion of my Blogher trip was sponsored by my employer Collective Bias. 

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Organizing for Blogher

Are You Going To Blogher This Year?

Blogher is a conference for bloggers.  This year it is being held in New York City.  It tends to be a conference in it’s own league for bloggers.  It is big and busy and oodles of Brands show up.

blogher

Why are all the Brands (Companies) there?  They realize the value of the blogger and they want awesome bloggers to try, review, experience and hopefully write about their product or service.

Blogher has been known not only for it’s awesome classes to help bloggers learn more about bloggers, but also for many Brand events and parties which also yield  swag.  Not just a little swag…. but a whole LOT of swag.  Why is this important?  Because it brings on an entirely different slant when you are packing for a trip there vs packing for a return trip home.  Does everyone like this component to this conference? Of course not, many people wish that they did away with all the swag (and maybe one year they will).  Like it or not, if you are a blogger, and you attend events, you will be handed bags full of swag. (If you choose not to accept them, that is your decision). You need to prepare ahead of time on how you will get it home. If you are flying or taking a bus or driving in a car full of other bloggers, and you want to keep most of the swag, I can guarantee you will not have enough room.

Planning ahead will help.

Make a packing list

Being prepared ahead of time, makes packing a simple process.  I prepare mine on excel.  Think through all the items you will need.  I also like to make a selection of items that go in my backpack or purse when I fly or travel.  It’s easy to forget things like clearing out your purse of any items you can’t take onto a plane, like nail clippers or mace.

blogher packing list

Charge Electronics Before You Leave

Because we are all involved in social media, we have a lot of electronics we deal with. Phones, laptops, ipads, cameras and video recorders. Of course all of these items need to have chargers and or batteries.  I always make sure to charge everything before I leave home, so that I will be able to work on my flight or bus ride.

Be sure to write down all the devices you will need, including chargers, connectors and download cords.  I suggest bringing an extension cord and power strip if you want to use your laptop or ipad on the go.

Label all your cords & connectors!

Gather Your Business Necessities

blogher packing

Bring your business cards, and plenty of them!
I also suggest either having all of your events and conference pass, hotel confirmation, flight confirmation printed out for safety. I keep them in a sleeve for easy access. I know that most of you keep them on your phones, and that might be enough for you. But consider if your phone was lost, broken or the connection lost. What would you need to have (confirmation wise) that you would not be able to access?    I print mine out and keep them in a folder in my backpack.   I also have a calendar of all the places I’m supposed to be and when I’m supposed to be there.

 

Packing

 Suitcase

Decide what your travel regulations are for the size and weight of your suitcase.  Most airlines charge for your bags and if you go over their weight limit then you pay a premium on top of your normal fee.

Since I’m taking the Megabus to NYC from PA for the first time, I’m learning their regulations are even tighter.  There is a 50 pound weight limit and size limit.  If your bag weighs too much or is too big, it isn’t as easy as paying more to take it – they simply won’t let you even ride the bus! You will be booted!  I also can probably take my backpack on the bus, but I can’t carry my backpack and a purse.

Packing

Plan your outfits to reuse as many clothing items as you can (without being all stinky and dirty of course). Jackets, skirts, pants and shoes.  Check into laundry facilities or service at your hotel before you leave to see if this is an option to reuse some of your items that need laundered first.

Be sure to roll as many items as you can to fit down along the edges.  This can be a real space saver.

I pack my heaviest bulkiest items on the bottom and then work and fit in the smaller items.

If you think you will not have enough room for some swag to take home, you might want to consider throwing in a roll of packing tape and maybe a broken down box, and sharpie marker. It will come in handy in order to mail items home. It will also give you a limit on what you can mail home.

Once you have prepared yourself completely, you can relax and enjoy Blogher with all your social media friends!

blogher

This post is also posted on the Collective Bias blog.    I am attending Blogher12 as an employee of Collective Bias and also as a blogger.

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5 SEO tips

SEO tips

Does the term SEO make you crazy? You hear one thing at one conference or from one source and something completely different from someone else. I have been to many conferences and I’ve heard a LOT of contradictions.

It always seem totally over whelming to me to think about going through my zillion of blog post and changing things.  I am far from an expert, so there may be things you disagree with on this post.  Feel free to let me know, I’m always learning.

I did want to share a few tips I’ve learned from an SEO plugin (I guess) on my wordpress site.  I have been trying to understand the whole “No Follow” bit and I’m not totally there, but realize I have to go back through all my posts and make my links no follow links.  (ewwww.. )

But as I’ve been going through (only about 65 posts so far) and making these adjustments, I’ve noticed that my Alexa score has been decreasing again.  It has been gradually going up the last couple months and the only thing I’ve changed in the last few days are these SEO tips I’m going to share.

When I go into my dashboard of my WP site and click on “All Posts”, I get a list of all my blogs.  They now either have a Gray, red, yellow or green dot after them.   This post has a red dot.  One of the things I had been messing up was that awhile back I was told to use all of my “Tags” as Keywords. I’ve been copying and pasting my entire list of tags to the keyword spot forever.  I now know that it wants just one keyword.

 

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1) Keyword

  • Use in the title of your post
  • Use in the first paragraph of your blog post
  • Use it several times throughout the post
  • Use it in at least some of your descriptions/alt tags on your images.
  • If you adjust your title of your posts, then make sure you also adjust your url (permalink)
You can see the WordPress SEO by Yoast that is now on my blog.  Under the Focus keyword it will be red (if you haven’t done it right) or green if you have adjusted correctly.

SEO

 

 

2) Meta Description

I’ve never added a meta description before because I know that it will pick up your first sentence and use it.  But the SEO seems to like it, so I’ve been adding one now.  (I don’t know if it really is necessary or not)

seo tips

 

3) No Follow Links

Make out going links “no follow” links.  I wish I could tell you all the “ins and outs” of this, but I can’t.  Here is a post that Jerra from Collective Bias did on No Follow links that may help.

Add    rel=”nofollow”  right before the word “Target” in the outgoing link.   Here is an example:   The above link that I just added for “No Follow Links is this (although I didn’t finish the link out, because I didn’t want to make it a no follow since this is your example. lol

<a title=”No Follow Links” href=”http://blog.collectivebias.com/2012/05/14/i-follow-you-follow-no-follow/” target=”_blank”>…..

I am going to put the  rel=”nofollow”  right after the  ” and before the word target … so it will look like this:

<a title=”No Follow Links” href=”http://blog.collectivebias.com/2012/05/14/i-follow-you-follow-no-follow/”rel=”nofollow”  target=”_blank”>…..

 

4) Length of your Blog Post

Your post need to be over the 300 word count.  This post is already 561 on the word count, so I’m fine.

word count

5) Outbound Links

Try to have at least one outbound link. I have one in this post and you can see that listed in the line items this guide gives you.   Here is what I’m being told about this blog post.

Seo

Once you have finished your post, you should have a green dot by it… like this post.

blog post

 

I know there is a ton more things that you can do for SEO, but I wanted to give you just a few to help with your blog post.

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Organizing Your Blog

Did You Organizing Your Blog Can Help Your Blog Views?

Did you know that organizing your blog can be really helpful to others trying to navigate your blog?

I started out early (very early) this morning with a simple task of adding a Travel tab to my blog. I will be doing more traveling and have done a lot in the past and it made sense to highlight it.

I added the tab to the top (after having to refresh myself on how to do that).

But from there it morphed into going through all the categories and  weeding them out, moving things together and creating new categories.   I actually had to make myself stop because I have other work I have to get accomplished today. But I have plans to separate my travel tab into vacations, conferences, reviews and organizing. I’m also going to bring over some of my reviews that I’ve done on my Explore Ohio with Sandy blog.

When I started going through all the categories, I realized that many older blog posts were not placed into newer categories.    I have many older posts that also do not even have tags. When they were moved over from my blogspot blog, I was told that tags weren’t necessary. I’ve since learned different. I’ve spent time going through some of my older posts and tagging them, but I’ve never made it through all my posts (over 700 now).  Obviously this is a big job.

I do need to keep working at it and I do plan to do more organizing of my blog.

For those of you who don’t realize it, I want you to know that I have drop down boxes from my tabs at the top. Just scroll over the tabs and you will see the drop down boxes with the categories. It makes finding your way to a post much easier.

 

 

I still have a lot of work to do on my blog, but wanted you to realize it is always a work in progress – as with most things we do.

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The Kindle

Get free Ebooks From Your Library For Your Kindle!

Did you have any idea that you could get books for your Kindle at the library? I didn’t…. well, until last night.

kindle

I got Dave a Kindle Fire a few weeks ago.  I didn’t know anything about the Kindle Fire other than I had been seeing all these people talking about it.  I just figured it was the same as the regular Kindle and didn’t know what all the hype was about. I had no idea you could get onto the internet and get your email, play games, read books etc.

Kim from CraftyMamaof4 told me how much she loved the Kindle Fire after she got them for two of her kids.  I went to Best Buy a day or two later to look at one for Dave.  He doesn’t do much with Social Media, but he loves playing Angry Birds if he has a few minutes here or there and he does like to read (on vacations), and likes to use the internet to look things up. I wasn’t sure what he would think of it, he didn’t ask for it and was totally shocked when I brought it home to him.  He loves it!

I told him that throughout the year he comes home maybe once a month with flowers for me… just because, so why couldn’t I get him something… just because? This was his “flowers” for the year.

I’m really impressed with the Kindle Fire. It responds fast, picture is really clear, colors are good,  it is a nice size. I have an ipad 2 and love it, but had I not been given my ipad 2 this Christmas, I would probably buy myself one of these.  There is no camera on it, and it accesses Amazon apps rather than the Apple apps, it doesn’t have the memory the ipad does.. but it is a great alternative at a great price.

We went out with some friends last night and got talking about the Kindle Fire because our friend had one also and she told us that you could get free ebooks from The Columbus (Ohio) Library.   They are still building theirs lists and don’t have everything yet, but it is growing. They also encourage you to let them know what books you would like to have for your Kindle and they will try and get it.

Great way to save money and save storage space from having regular books all over.   It is also a really good way to encourage reading for kids. Reading a regular book doesn’t seem nearly so fun as reading one from a Kindle. (just sayin’).  I have to admit that I would love to be able to get the triplets each one of these.

I just wanted to share with all of you. I will admit that Dave hasn’t actually gone through the process and has not downloaded any ebooks yet himself. We just got on it this am and he hasn’t had time, but I know it works because my friend, who told us about it,  uses it all the time.  I have not been sponsored or asked by anyone to write this post and I paid full price for the Kindle Fire. The picture and thoughts are totally my own (as they always are)

 

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Disney World

Who Doesn’t Love to Go To Disney World?

Just about one year ago today I was posting about Disney World on a trip with Murphy USA and Collective Bias.  This post was originally posted on my Chat with Sandy blog on 1/30/11. Enjoy the sites of Disney again.

disney worldI was asked to attend the Murphy USA National Manager Meeting in Orlando FL (Disney world Coronado Springs resort to be exact) this last week, you might have seen my last post.
They asked six blogger to go to their meeting so we could help educate and sign up their mangers with whrrl and discuss how social media could benefit their business.

We were all paired up with a manager from Murphy USA that we would be traveling with. We were asked to be sure to take lots of pictures and whrrl them along the way. I was paired up with a manager from my area and met her at the airport. Jennifer Davis was my manager.

Disney WorldI had no idea there were 40 Murphy USA gas stations in Ohio. I only know of 2, one in Newark in front of the Walmart and one in Whitehall.  (I’ve not been to that one)

We arrived in Orlando and were all staying at the Coronado Springs Resort. There is a convention center attached to it, so it was perfect. It was so beautiful.

coronado springs resortWe had a meet and greet with some of the managers before dinner the first night. I am not sure if it was the regional managers, but it wasn’t a huge group (and there were over 1000 managers there). I know the president Hank Heithaus was there and the new president Tom (from Scotland) was there. Hank is retiring and just announced it. This picture was at one of the general sessions where Hank (left) is basically saying goodbye and introducing Tom on the right.

Disney WorldTheir theme was “We The People” because they were making sure their managers knew that it was all of them that made Murphy USA successful.

murphy usaJay Staggs who I had a picture of in my last post, was in charge of running the show.  They had a good time with it, bringing in Tammy and Tommy through out the conference along with “their parents” for comic relief.

Disney WorldThey had a speaker Peter Wahl do a speech/painting… lol  He is a motivational speaker and he painted these 3 paintings during his talk. He would have a music video on the screen while he was painting (in like 2 min) these paintings. He used his fingers (Bruce Springsteen’s hair) and spattered paint… really incredible to watch.

peter wahlEach of us bloggers had to work a 2 hour shift in the Murphy Whrrl booth in the expo hall on Tuesday. It was a lot of fun. Teaching the mangers how to sign up for Whrrl and helping to try to get them to understand how it could help their business. This was my manger Jennifer on the left.  She had been signed up for FB already and I think even signed up for whrrl.. or did it at the airport. But she was all for it and was great to travel down with. We ended up not getting to really see each other much once we were there. It was crazy for both of us.

murphy usa boothWe had managers signing up via their smart phones, via text on their phones, or by computer. They could also sign up for a Facebook or Twitter account.

Melissa Garcia from the Consumer Queen had several managers recognize her from her picture being on the pumps or her fun Murphy videos.  Ok.. Melissa on the left.  The Red Strike girl on the right. Disney World

John Kim from Whrrl was there to help the managers and he also helped me… as usual with my problematic phone.

john kimThe managers could win a $50 gas cards and chances to win this autographed  Slash guitar worth over $900 just for signing up and checking into Whrrl.

murphy usaI took this picture of Casey from Murphy USA with the Slash guitar and then posted it to Whrrl.  The screen it came up on was just outside the booth in the expo hall.

murphy usa We had time to go and check out the rest of the expo hall. It was really huge and there were a lot of fun things to do. Wii games were set up, prizes to win… hippies to see

hippiesMars Candy  and Wrigley’s were there in a both together. Neither of them knew much at all about social media or how it could help their business.  Melissa and I talked to them about it and told them bloggers would love to work with them!

M&MI mean.. really? Who doesn’t love M&M’s?  They had a new candy bar for us to try, actually 2.  There was the new 3 Musketeers Truffle Crisp and the Peanut Butter Snickers.

3 musketeersHere is my verdict.  Loved the 3 Musketeers.  I was actually surprised. Well… I mean I love # Musketeers anyway, but when I first broke it in half. It didn’t seem gooey and it almost seemed… well…boring inside. But… I took a bite and it was so light and it was like the chocolate was so creamy and just filled the whole taste. I loved it!  It gave you the feeling of Dove chocolate (not sure if I should say that or not… but that chocolate is about my favorite.. so it is a big compliment) creamy and light… oh… I WILL be buying more of these. Just not in high numbers since I have really been trying to not eat as many sweets.

I tried 1/2 of the Snickers bar. It was actually in 2 square pieces, so unlike a normal Snickers. I ate half on the plane on the way home and was saving the other half to take a picture of when we got home. But …. my dog found it first in my purse. Oh yeah.. nice.  It was good… the peanut butter wasn’t over powering. But do I think I would pick it over a traditional Snickers… no, probably not. I love the regular Snickers too much.

wrigley's and marsHere are the 2 reps that were in the booth. Nice guys, but they need to realize how social media can  help them!

Wrigley was giving out packs of their new gum, Prism.

prism gumThere are 15 pieces of sugarless gum in the pack. This was electric watermelon. I will tell you what. The smell of watermelon is strong, you can smell it as soon as you take the wrapper off the box.  The green foil that wraps the piece of gum looked kind of cool too. Different you know? My mouth was watering before I put the piece of gum in. I thought it was really going to be a gum for kids…. sour and all. But it wasn’t. As strong as the smell was, the taste was nice. I mean it was totally watermelon, but not a sour one. It is good… and with just a hint of that gum mint to it after you chew it for a little bit. (does that make sense).  I know the kids will love it, but it is a refreshing favor for adults.

iceeThere were ICEE’s there. I love Icee’s! I have always liked the Coke best. They are coming out with Root Beer float and a blueberry one (oops forget the name of it). I tried the root beer. It is awesome! It really tastes like a float. The foaminess of the Icee is just the right consistency.  I do have a new favorite favor.  You will have to watch for them to be released. (Try the root beer!!)

Dr. PepperDr. Pepper was there… giving away guitars and pictures with a couple cute girls.  What did I like? They had diet Dr. Pepper. It is one of my favorites. Really nice people too… also learning about social media and how it could benefit them. (Yes…. I had 2 diet Dr. Peppers that afternoon.. although there were other drinks I could have picked from.)

murphy usaAre you used to seeing gas pump handles?  I wasn’t.. I thought they were cool.

disney worldWhat about a full size gas semi?  I wanted to get in and see the cab… but I didn’t.

John Andrews from Collective Bias was there. This is who these people need to talk to about social Media.. he knows first hand how the power of bloggers and social media can benefit the Brands. (That is what Collective Bias is all about)

John Andrews

The announced to the whole group of managers that they were taking us all to Disney World on Monday evening. That was about 3:30 and we had about 45 minutes to get ready to be on the buses.

sandy with piglett

I got to have dinner with the Collective Bias team that was there, Jerra and John and also with Casey from Murphy USA and John Kim from Whrrl. Also Kerry and Kristine from Nomadic were there.

mamabzzUs bloggers ran around together at Disney. Mel Lockcuff from MamaBuzz and Leigh Caldwell from Theme Park Mom

collective biasAlong with Courtney Solstad from My DFW Mommy and Melissa Garcia from Consumer Queen, Jerri Ann from Mom~e~Centric was on the trip but didn’t come to Disney.

dole whipMel introduced us to Dole Whip.. it was good.

I also got a picture with Eeyore. what fun!  I don’t know… I guess there is still kid in all of us!

Disney World

Jerra from Collective Bias looked so cute with Piglet.

piglettWe had a full day on Tuesday and they announced all the Murphy USA Circle of Winners. After that they again surprised everyone with a trip to Sea World. I felt terrible because it was pouring rain, and storming.  But they had rented out half of Sea World and 2 roller coasters and I think everyone had fun anyway. Thanks so much Murphy USA, Collective Bias and Whrrl.. it was great fun!

Disclosure: My trip was sponsored by Murphy USA and Collective Bias.

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Twitter Party Tutorial

 Want to Join a Twitter Party? Not Sure How?

I’ve designed this twitter party tutorial to help those of you who want to join in, but not sure how to do it.

Twitter parties can be really crazy and fast.  I think mine will be a good one to start with.  It won’t be as big as some of the others.  But I did want to give a little help for those of you who are new.  I have my tutorial and there are a couple links for other tutorials that might be of great help too.

There are many different avenues you can use to follow a twitter party. I am going to show you my favorite.  I use Tweetgrid.com

The reason being is that I can see several screens going on at once.

Step 1:  Go to Tweetgrid.com and look at your options.

twitter partyThe 1×1 and 1×2 are the number of columns across and down.  I like the 1×4.  Single columns – 4 across.. It is lower on the page and I have it highlighted.  But see what you are comfortable with.

There are helpful links at the top of the Tweetgrid page that can help you too.  Here is the 1×4 tweetgrid set up.  See… just 1 column down and 4 across.

twitter party tutorialYou can delete the info in the “tweet” area at the top.  Then fill in #MonopolyStreet (or what ever your hashtag for your twitter party is – if you are looking at this for another twitter party) This way you don’t have to keep adding the hashtag for every tweet and that saves a lot of time.

Filling out the column headers

Column #1 – Delete the current info in that header (I think it is like @twitter) Put in your hashtag #MonopolyStreets   and hit “Search”   This will now show you every tweet that is being tweeted that has the #MonopolyStreet hashtag in it…so you can follow our party.

2nd column - You can add @OrganizerSandy in there.  You will be able to follow my tweets and it will also show you ppl who are tweeting me.

3rd column – Add @EAPlay there.  That is the Brand following for EA Games/Hasbro who will be joining us tonight.

4th column – This is where you will put your own twitter name @(and your name).  This way you can see if someone is talking directly to you.

After you have this filled out you have to log in (or you can log in before filling this out too) Look right above the columns and underneath where you tweet your message from.  You will see user … look over to “log in”.  Click that.

twitter party tutorialHit “allow” and it will take you back to your tweetgrid page. You name will then be in the “user” space. You are ready to go.

I will be tweeting out several questions.  They will be labeled Q1, Q2 etc…  This is discussion.  This is not going to be a race to answer the question type of twitter party.  So relax….

I’d love it if you would RT the questions too.

I will be picking winners 2 at a time.  I will use Random.org to pick the winners.  It will be off the rsvp list.  I will check to make sure that person is actually attending the party. So even if you are overwhelmed…be sure to do some tweeting so that I know you are here.

You won’t be able to read every tweet – things move fast.  Just do your best, follow what you can and look for the questions to answer.

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Twitter Tips

Eleven Important Twitter Tips

Twitter is something that some people love and use all the time, or something that people just don’t get.  I didn’t get it at first either. But soon realized the reach and potential it could give me.  

Working recently with Ted Rubin for cbSocially I have learned a lot of things that I didn’t know from Ted.  I did know that you need to engage and talk on Twitter and I strive to always be positive.  I do not like to use twitter to grip. There might be a time and a place it is appropriate, I’m not saying that – but I do not like to engage in “fighting” on twitter. Not cool.

Engaging with others is key!
Twitter is a two way street… it isn’t a one way street meant for you to just shout your message out and not pay attention to anyone else is writing.No         one wants someone shouting at them all the time. If you only tweet out YOUR stuff, that is what you are doing.  Talk to them. Respond!

Be Positive!
Be encouraging, inspiring and up beat.  Who wants to hear someone complain all the time?

Use Their Name 
Look for the person’s name in their profile. Use it when thanking them. Thanks Sandy for the RT!  It is much more personal.

Keep Your Tweets Shorter than 140!
If your tweets are less than 122 characters, it is easy to RT them. If the other person has to take the time to shorten a tweet, chances are
they won’t take the time to RT the message.

Don’t ever begin your tweet with the @ sign! 
If you do, then it doesn’t go into the main stream. It only goes into the stream of the person you are addressing.  Use a word or RT, or if nothing
else use a period before the @ sign. For instance  .@OrganizerSandy

Respond to Every Tweet Directed To You.  
Thank them for their RT’s.  Say Your Welcome if they are thanking you for following them. In real life you would respond, if someone
was speaking to you… So respond! (If the tweet is inappropriate I do not respond. If nasty I will unfollow or block that person)

 Do Not Use the RT Button on Twitter!
It will not show up in Your stream. Copy & paste if you are on Twitter. This way you get the added benefit of your tweet being seen again by your followers. More traffic, means higher klout scores. On Tweetdeck, HOotsuite or Seesmic make sure it is set “Old Style RT”
You want every tweet to help in your stats.

Using a Hashtag 
If you have a group that you follow that uses a # then be sure to use it. We are using the #cbias  for our community. Why? Because it is a way
to easily identify the tweets our community members tweet.  RT’ing each other is simple and builds relationships. Being able to find your
friends tweets is simple and will increase your chances of engagement.

Don’t Over Use Hashtags    
When someone sees a tweet with 3 or 4 hashtags in it, it is only a turn off. Limit hashtags to one or two at most.

Follow Back 
Follow back those that follow you.  I don’t follow the spammers, porn, foul mouthed or languages I don’t understand ; but I try to follow everyone
else. Your tweet goes into their stream and is seen by their followers.  Why wouldn’t you want to follow back as many people as you could? Plus
if someone is trying to grow their handles (like I’ve been doing with the cbSocially handles) then they will unfollow those who do not follow
them back.

DM & Validation services
I have become really frustrated with DM’s.  I rarely use that feature anymore and don’t even check it often.  It has become just full of spam and auto DM’s.  Auto DM’s are where people have read somewhere that it is a good idea to send out an automatic message to anyone that follows them.  They have also been told.. better yet link up your blog or your FB page because then everyone will follow you there too. In my personal opinion I think that is terrible advice.  I will not click on any link that is DM’d to me unless I actually know and trust the person. There is too much spam.  It has totally taken over my direct message box to the point I don’t use it anymore. Sad.   As for the validation services, they are a pain. I do not take the time to go in and click a link and put in a code in order to follow you.  Really? What are you really validating…. that you are a person and not spammer? To me it is almost another piece of spam. Again… fail in my personal opinion.  

If you are starting a new twitter handle, a good way to get conversation going is to thank your followers.  Use their name, make a comment about something on their twitter page or blog link.

The most important thing to remember  is to talk to others on twitter… don’t shout out your one way message. Put your message out there, but respond, be a real person. If no one actually talked to anyone on twitter and only put their “commercial” out there.. would you use it?  Would you watch TV is there were no shows, just commercials? I don’t think so.

I’m @OrganizerSandy on twitter. Would love to have you follow.

 

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Seagate Go Flex External Hard Drive Review

Back Up – Back Up – Back Up!

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, it is really important to back up your information.  This is something that should be on your to do list routinely. It goes along with organizing your important information.

I’ve had a couple different external hard drives that I have tried over the years.  Guess what one I bought myself? I bought a Seagate. It was a 1T desk top model. I feel more secure with Seagate.  It wasn’t a sponsored thing, it was a…. research online, go to the store, check prices and storage options and pick out the 1T Seagate.

But I recently did get a Seagate Go Flex to try out!  Look at this thing… it is awesome! It is small and a fun color (would love a pink or lime green….. just sayin’ Seagate) and holds so much.

I have put it right next to my iphone so you can see the size.

seagate go flex external hard driveThis is a 500 GB hard drive!!!  I have backed up with this several times already. I currently have well over 20,000 pictures on my laptop and lots of videos! I just backed it up again today and I still have 243 GB of storage left.

What I love about this is how portable it is.  I can SO easily take this on my trips with me.  That is great for a couple of reasons.  The main one is because I like to back up my computer before I travel.  I often download pictures that I am taking on trips while I am on the trip and with this along I will be able to back up the new pictures and info before I travel home.

The other reason it is great is because if something would happen to my computer while I was away and I lost information on it, I would have all my info with me. Or even worse if my computer completely broke and there was something important I needed to do I would still have my info with me if I needed to borrow someone else’s computer.

This is thin and light weight too.

seagate go flexThere is a lot of technical info I could look up and give you about it, but techie I am not. That is one of the reasons I like this.  I just plug it into my computer with the cord (by the way, that little bottom part by my hand detaches. There are different options that you can get for it… you can see those on the web site that I link to) and go to my time machine (I have a mac) and turn it on and it backs up. Simple .. simple

Here is a screen shot of the time machine when I started backing up today.

I will continue to back up with my desk top Seagate before I go on trips so I have a back up of this back up. But this is so nice to have with me. Just a piece of security.

I did receive this Go Flex from Seagate and MARS advertising. I was not asked to do a review or blog post and was not compensated financially.  I chose to do this post. I wanted to show it off and also encourage everyone to back up their computers.

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I’ve Been Boo’d!

What a Cool Halloween Surprise!

The kids and I got home from running some errands this morning and I found this box had been delivered!

boo'd
The kids were saying, “Open it.. I think someone has Boo’d us!”  They were practically jumping up and down with excitement!  I knew we had were had some Boo’s going on at Collective Bias called Don’t Be The Dark House-  but I had NO idea I would get one!!  (I was excited too… just sayin)

boo'd
Look how cute!  Then there was a bit of a thank you from my “Boo-er” .   I’m pretty sure I know who it is from the last name on the return label…
Now to see what is!

Oh look… there are five boo bags!!!  Plenty for the kids!

boo'd

When I actually told them to sit down and handed them each one you would have thought it was Christmas morning!  They were SO excited.  I just realized looking at this picture that 2 of them don’t even have their coats off yet from when we came in the door.


Then they went to it…

Mini Snickers and Snickers Peanut Butter, MilkyWay and 3 Musketeers bars!


There were also little decorations in each bag..


and some mini pumpkins.

I was going to leave the other two bags for my teenagers…. but the dogs were driving me crazy. They kept sniffing one of the bags left in the box…

Look what we found… the dogs got a Boo bag too!!!  lol  Love it!!

I had a hard time getting any good pictures of them.  Sadie (the one in this picture) is scared of my new camera.  When I first got it, it was programmed with the “beep” when I took a picture. She is scared of that tone due to a shock collar for an invisible fence we had when she was younger. Anytime she hears it she gets scared. Even though I immediately reprogrammed my camera without the beep… the damage has been done.  So I had to get a couple quick ones when she was almost more enticed by the food than her fears.

 I have to tell you this… in total honesty. I asked Alex to bring me out the candy so I could see exactly what was in there for this post. I heard Zach saying, be careful Alex. I said.. why do you have to be careful bringing me in the bowl of candy?
“Because… look what we did with it!!!” he said… I was shocked!! Absolutly no lie I had NO idea they had arranged it like this. Isn’t this cool?

Thank you much Lisa from East Texas Saver – I know for sure it is you after I just found your post!!!  You totally made our day!!!

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My Blog is Back!

October 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Conference, Blogging and Social Media

Evidently I Was Linked To A Site That Was Being Blocked

My site has been down since October 4th.  I guess some people could get into it, I was still receiving some comments etc.  My blog designer worked on it for over a week before I heard back from her. She said she couldn’t find anything. She went through all kinds of files and finally deleted WP and reinstalled and had to reinstall all my plugins.

Then I had to go through the process of submitting it to Google for reapproval.  I’ll tell you what, this is where my “untech” comes in and I get so frustrated.  I’m trying to find how to do this and I kept getting information pages, I was looking for a form. Then it came up that I didn’t have my sites verified. What? Are you kidding? I’ve done that!  Ding Dong me finally realized that I was signed into the wrong Gmail as I was checking all of this.

Finally figured out how to submit it and waited….but nothing.  I waited over 48 hours and then contacted Chris from where I work. He got in and looked at it and said, “Do you have a link to Standard Post Card .com”   I said, “No, I’ve never heard of that”.  But I went into my site ( I could still get in the back end of my blog the whole time) and decided to check a button I had in my sponsor spot. They had paid for a spot months ago.  But it was for PS Sprint.  First thought was… nope.. that isn’t it.  But I looked at the html code of the link and guess what! Yep…. it had that Standard ….  link in it!!  I was SO excited!  I deleted it Chris resubmitted to Google for me and I’m up about 12 hours later!!

I wanted to let you all know just in case any of you have issues, be sure to check your widgets and links.  I’m so thankful he was able to help me!

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