Just Heather

menu-plan-mondayI truly believe in the importance of weekly menu planning. It’s the only way to get dinner on the table before bedtime and it keeps us out of the drive thru. However, it always seems to be the first to go when I backslide on any semblance of organization. It definitely went by the wayside during our chaotic summer. I’m determined to get back on track, starting with Menu Plan Monday.

My parents had our children all weekend so Spencer and I could celebrate our 12th anniversary. We spent a chunk of our childfree weekend at the grocery store. Because, really, what’s more romantic than shopping without kids? (Well, pedal boating down the canal, but we did that too!) Our pantry is now stocked, our produce is fresh and we have a variety of meat in the freezer. Meal planning on a week like this is pretty easy, but I’m all about baby steps! By next week, our supplies will have dwindled and the menu will get a bit more creative.

Monday: I have a meeting so this one will be a bit thrown together and/or on Spencer. Had I planned last Monday, I would have been ahead of the game for tonight. I’ll be organized tomorrow next week someday. I hope.

Tuesday: I have a Girl Scout meeting in our home so it needs to be something with easy cleanup. Maybe a pressure cooker roast, potatoes and veggies—only one pot to wash!

Wednesday: Fried Steak, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Thursday: BBQ Chicken, Crash Hot potatoes and sweet corn

Friday: We need something fast before we head out of town for the weekend—I’m thinking a one dish meal with the stew meat we bought. Let’s call it beef stew! I can even toss in any leftover veggies from Tuesday. Bonus!

Saturday: This one is easy. We’ll be at a reception so dinner is done for us.

Sunday: Still out of town with family so we’ll end up with a big lunch and probably leftovers for dinner. Holiday World had also been discussed as a possibility, but not recently so who knows.

Monday: Labor Day – We still haven’t decided when we’re leaving for home. We’ll either leave after hamburgers & hot dogs with my Mom or have to leave early enough to cook them ourselves. It’s kind of a thing. We’ll toss in corn on the cob and baked beans. Probably a last of the season watermelon too.

Today was an epiphany surrounded by laundry, wrapped with a 3-year-old in nothing but underwear and a shirt half over her head. “Help me!” was her muffled cry, but as I made my way to her she was suddenly freed of the tangle. Proudly pulling the shirt down over her head, she announced, “I got it! I don’t need you.” My heart broke just a little bit.

I was taken back to the night several years ago when my oldest declared that she was not a baby and did not need to be tucked in. She marched up to bed all on her own. I curled up on my own bed with tears welling in my eyes. My little baby didn’t need me anymore. Gone were the days of cuddles and kisses, Goodnight Moon and the insistence that it wasn’t bedtime until Mommy pulled the covers over her body.

The tears were ready to flow when I heard a tiny voice call out, “Mommy? Can you come tuck me in?” We both went to bed a little more peaceful that night, me knowing my little girl still needed me (just a little bit) and her knowing I would always be there when she did. For her, that will always be true, but isn’t the point of parenting to raise your children so they won’t need you anymore? One day, all three of my girls will grow up and away – needing me less and less as the years go on. My heart will hurt, but it will mean I was successful.

I don’t think it will happen all at once. Slowly they’ll just need me less and less. One by one, they’ll begin to lean on one another or friends. Or a spouse. Until suddenly I’m not the one they think of first when they struggle, and they have to pencil in “call mom” on the calendar. They’ll probably still think of me when they want to cook their childhood favorites and I’m the one with the recipe in her head. I hope I’m first on the list when they want a night away from their own children.

Most of all, though, I hope they always know that even when they no longer need me daily, I’ll always be here when they do.

I had ordered business cards for my new business from U-Printing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their support of the blog community through their blog sponsorship program. I spent about $25 on 1000 business cards and they are fantastic! The design system is easy to use and they have several great template options, including die cut business cards. I love that you can save a design to come back to it later. I saved mine so that I could do a quick edit on the name/title and order additional cards for other members of my team.

Of course, I didn’t save it properly the first time and was surprised to find nothing in my recent design history when I tried to order a second set. I used the live customer service chat and the fabulous rep graciously tracked it down and uploaded it to my account. Never once did she even hint at what an idiot I am for never clicking Save! I ordered my 2nd set of business cards and everything arrived in plenty of time for BlogHer.

It was great to have them on hand as I was meeting people. I still have a stack of cards to go through here and add to my blogroll or twitter feed, but without business cards all the great people I met would have been long forgotten. Instead of struggling to remember their names or frantically jotting down our contact information, we quickly swapped cards and moved on to the next chaotic event.

I also dropped business cards into several fish bowls for giveaways at BlogHer. That was a gold mine for us—MFJ won a $500 Bill Me Later gift card and I won an awesome shopping cart full of Johnson & Johnson products. (While my new shopping cart is going to be the coolest prop and I love it a lot, I’m thinking I got the short end of the stick!)


And now you, my dear readers, have the chance to win something too! U-Printing is giving 2 of my readers a set of 500 business cards. You can design one of three business card sizes for them to print completely free. These are the same quality cards I received with my purchase—they won’t be including their logo anywhere on the final product. Winner will pay shipping, but I do remember that being a reasonable amount.

To enter, simply comment here and share why you need business cards. Are you heading to a blog conference? Launching a new business? Hoping to meet like-minded mamas at the park for a play group? Let me know how you plan to use your new business cards for your chance at one of two prizes. You can earn additional entries by blogging or tweeting about this giveaway (be sure to leave a separate comment with the link to each entry).

The contest runs from August 26th to September 1st at 11:59pm. Two winners will be notified by email on September 2nd (as selected by Random.org) and must reply within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Open only to residents of the U.S. and cards cannot be shipped to PO boxes. Winner will place an order at U-Printing with a custom coupon code, paying only for shipping.

And then there was one (who still requires a backpack and insists on being in the picture)

And then there was one (who still requires a backpack and insists on being in the picture)

I don’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions because they just aren’t fun. Plus, Back to School time is the real reset in our household. Brand new backpacks, sparkling lunchboxes, newly sharpened pencils and clean, white notebooks—it all just feels so fresh to me. I use an academic year calendar so I can start August with clean, white pages.

It won’t last long—Brenia’s first Brownie meeting was earlier this afternoon. Stacia’s Girl Scout meetings begin next week and my dance class starts the week after that. The calendar hasn’t even arrived yet (of course, it would help if I ordered it!) and already we’re filling it up. School events, Scout meetings, dance class and whatever else the girls will decide to do this season are quickly filling our days.

It’s time to get back on track after slacking off all summer. The first thing I need to do is get back to planning a menu. Chaos has reined for the last several months. I do better with a menu plan and I’m making an official School Year’s Eve Resolution to restart the process. Step 1: Go grocery shopping! Yeah, I’ve been slacking off a lot there too. On the upside, our expenses have been greatly reduced but it will be nice to start having some food around here.

While the girls are at school tomorrow, Lorelai and I are setting out for a series of errands, with a trip to the grocery store at the top of our list. I think I’m going to take a cue from a few of the great gals in the new Inexpensively network and jump on board with Menu Plan Monday. That should provide both a productive use of my blog and proper motivation. Besides, everyone else is doing it!

In the small town where I grew up, Friday nights were spent at the football field in the fall, the basketball court in the winter and the baseball diamond the rest of the year. You might think that were responsible for my love of sports, but it’s really not. Sports from my childhood through high school was all about the social experience. I played on little league teams because my friends did (because we all know it had nothing to do with athletic skill), I sat through swim & track meets to chat with friends and went to ballgames to flirt with boys.

In college, the game was pretty much the same. Only I was older, wiser and learned that if I really wanted to attract the boys’ attention I should probably learn how the game was played. I went to volleyball games, basketball games and football—which was the only one I just couldn’t seem to get. That was a really large field and I kept getting distracted yet again by the crowd in the stands. I did appreciate more of the excitement around the game. I may not have heard of a play action or known what a running back was, but I knew the incredible feeling of watching my favorite team score a touchdown.

Once I set my mind to learning, it didn’t really take long. I am lucky enough to have a very patient hubby who could see the long term value in ruining an entire season to teach me. (Though, I guess having your favorite team go 3-13 means it was probably ruined already.) Now that I’ve spent a few years following not only the Colts but most of the league, I’m ready to try my hand at fantasy football. My new friend Queen of Free is putting together a Twitter Babes Fantasy league. I’m super excited to be playing with some of my very favorite online gals and make a few new friends along the way.

I’m thrilled that my first fantasy sports experience is with fellow females. I love sports, but I am still a girl. I will occasionally select my favorite players based on looks and giggle when they say tight end (btw, Dallas Clark is great at both. And, he has dimples!) Thus, a large part of my sports experience will always focus on this:

Photo by Angie Six

Photo by Angie Six of Just Like the Number

(Although my tastes run more to number 87 than 18—Angie can keep him!)

Today’s 40×40 accomplishment brought to you by Wordless Wednesday:

My first manicure...

My first manicure...

And the pedicure MFJ talked me into.

And the pedicure MFJ talked me into.

It took me about a year and half to actually finish writing my 40×40 list. I wouldn’t stoop to the hubby’s level and cheat (#1. Put 40 items on my 40×40 list.), though. As I got more involved in working towards my goals, I found that the subject came up a lot with my friends, especially MFJ. During one GNO, we window shopped at a mall and saw the cutest shoes. With heels. I commented that I could never wear them because I can’t walk in heels. She stopped in her tracks and told me I absolutely had to learn and she could help. It became #40 on the list.

Enter BlogHer. The one and only professional conference that’s all about the shoes. When celebrity guests include Tim Gunn and Carson Kressley, fashion is definitely at the forefront. MFJ informed me that I would absolutely be wearing heels with my pretty dresses for the BlogHer cocktail parties. She was determined to teach me.


After a week of walking around the house on my tippy toes, we planned one of our infamous girls’ night in. It happened to be National Pina Colada Day so, naturally, that was our beverage of choice. We began with dinner, then moved onto pina coladas (including virgins for the littles). After the pineapple-coconut slushies were consumed, we sent the girls upstairs for their sleepover portion of the evening. After a few quick lessons, I was suddenly circling the house in heels (gotta love an open floor plan). We spent another hour or so walking and talking (and, okay, drinking pina coladas) before she deemed me sufficiently able to walk in heels and we collapsed on the couch.

Yet, I didn’t cross it off the list. I wanted to prove that I could actually wear them regularly. And, let’s face it, I want to be able to graduate to some serious stripper heels. Otherwise, what’s really the point? I wore casual, baby heels during the day at BlogHer, then donned my shiny new black heels each evening when I got to wear the pretty, pretty cocktail dresses. I survived the weekend rather well, I think, but I still didn’t cross it off the list. A few hours each evening just didn’t have me convinced. For BlogIndiana, I rocked the heels all day long.

That should have been good enough. I never tripped, never toppled and never kicked them off (as that would have meant losing their power). I should have stopped there. There really was no need to cavort around downtown Indy, amidst the freaks and geeks. Oh, yeah—stormtroopers! Who spends GenCon weekend in downtown Indy and doesn’t get to see stormtroopers? Not me! It was an absolutely fabulous time hanging with people I adore, great bloggers I’d never met in real life and all new friends, documented much more efficiently by fabulous people who are not me.

All while crossing an item off the list. I have officially learned to walk in heels. And I have the blisters to prove it.

Live Blogging Session #4

Shawn Smith, Netstuffers & IndyMojo

Making Money Formula
Blog + Engaged Users = Money

Growth of Media: Advertising is contracting, but it is still in power
Internet advertising is out there and you can be a part of it!

How Online Advertising Works

Types of Advertising
Most Common: Banner ads

  • Mostly unobtrusive—no worse or better than ads in newspapers
  • Easy to install or maintain
  • Easy to track—you know exactly how many times someone has clicked on an ad
  • Can be built into the layout of your site so it isn’t bothering people
  • Dynamic or Static
  • Widely available
  • Regulated a bit by IAB
  • Con—can be turned off by a user’s browser

Other kinds of online ads:

  • Text links
  • Sponsored Sections
  • Interstitials—breaks into the page a user is heading towards and presents a full page ad
  • Peel Aways
  • Backgrounds—MySpace takeovers are a good example
  • Sponsored Articles—product reviews, etc. (Transparency is key; people should know it is paid content.)
  • Vertical Markets—allowing a company to sponsor a particular section of your website; created pages on your site that are run by a company as opposed to actual website content
  • Pop-Ups—everyone now knows pop-ups are evil

Ad Networks
Gorilla Nation, Quigo, AdBrite, Yahoo, Vibrant, Google, Value Click
You serve their ads—ad networks are middle men:
+Easy to Setup
+Automatic (Kinda)—when you setup a position on your website and they serve the ads to you.
+Lots of Choices
+Great Start

-If users don’t interact, you don’t earn
-take a lot of effort
-low value

As Terminology/Models
CPC – cost per click:
+Based on click through average, so sites with little traffic can still earn
+Most networks still use CPC model
-Earnings are spotty and depend heavily on placement and content
-Awful for discussion forums or comment boards
-Advertisers love them—feel like their getting something out of it
-Needs effort to earn a lot of money

CPM – cost per thousand impressions
+Good for sites with lots of traffic
+Low risk, little effort
+Good for brand awareness
-Little guarantee of success for advertisers (works best for companies that are interested in branding)
-hard to find networks that use it

CPA – cost per action
+very high payout for little response
+advertisers see the ROI for this as very high and are often open to negotiations
-viewed as annoying by some users
-lose banner space in the hopes that someone follows through

eCPM – average

How to Make Money
Do it yourself—you can do much better than ad networks (use them to fill space when you haven’t sold advertising)
To Attract National, you’ll need many uniques
To attract local, you have to have a local niche
To attract both, know your audience.

Key Selling Stats and Terms
Location of your viewers
Unique visitors
Pageviews per user (how many pages are your visitors seeing when they come?)
Time on Site
ROI—can you guarantee a good return on investment because your users are engaged?

Track your users for yourself
Ask information via optional profile questions when people register
Items of interest: age, job status, relationship status, education level, race, favorite brands, sex
Gives you marketability with potential advertisers
Opens the door to targeted ads

Additional Selling Points
User Loyalty
User level of engagement
Consistent Exposure
Tracking clicks and hits

If something isn’t performing well, be honest with your advertisers. Come up with ideas that may help.

Know Your Potential Client
National vs. Local—start with local ads until your traffic is high enough to dive into the national realm
Relevancy to your content
Timely or brand building—is it an event promotion or just brand awareness?
Big pockets or little pockets? Be aware of the budget for the clients you approach

Be prepared to hear “Prove It”—share stats, provide Google Analytic screen shots, offer a free trial

Due Diligence
You’ll have to put in the time and effort, but you’ll see a return.