Monday, June 30, 2014

The Most Awesome Book Series for Kids You Have Never Read

If your family hasn't read The Sisters 8 series created by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, her husband Greg and their daughter Jackie, you need to get yourself to a bookstore. NOW. Seriously. NOW. I'll wait.

Are you back? Okay. Hopefully, you picked up Book 1: Annie's Adventures. The series is centered around the 7-year-old Huit octuplets,  a group of intelligent, snarky, sassy and creative female problem solvers. When their parents disappear on New Year's Eve, the Huit girls aren't sure what to do. At first. They find a cryptic note in a loose fireplace stone stating that each girl has a yet to be discovered power and gift. Fearing that if they call the police or a relative that they will be separated, this tight-knit clan decides to figure out how to survive on their own without letting on their parents are missing.

The peeps and I just started Book 5: Marcia's Madness. They beg me to read with them each night, and I admit that I'm always curious as to what happens next. We can't get enough of the suspense and the humor, and we love reading about how the girls solve the various problems usually reserved for adults (paying bills, driving a car, cooking food). Fun illustrations and hilariously evil criminals add to the experience.

We are excited about our summer book series! 

Trivia: I read about the series on The Simple Dollar blog post Five Children's Books That Teach Useful Money Tactics.

Have you discovered The Sisters 8 series? If so, share your thoughts!

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing  ... Keep It Real.

Monday, June 23, 2014

5 Mesmerizing Memoirs All Women Should Read

Every once in awhile, I delve into a memoir. I tend to gravitate toward the recollections of women who have had to navigate their way through a male-dominated world. I've gleaned so many life lessons by reading how other women handled themselves in tough situations. I find their stories about their unimaginable struggles, overwhelming heartbreak and disappointing setbacks fascinating. I find myself thinking about what I would do should I ever find myself in similar situations. More than once I've thought, "I would have totally given up."

But these women don't. And I find their bravery, determination and perseverance so encouraging and inspiring.   

Here are five books that make my list of the most mesmerizing memoirs. 

Travels with Myself and Another - Martha Gellhorn

Personal History - Katherine Graham

Madame SecretaryMadeleine Albright

Breaking News: God has a Plan: An Anchorwoman's Journey Through Faith - Harris Faulkner

What about you? Are you into memoirs?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing  ... Keep It Real.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Project 2014: Mark Twain, I'm Just Not That Into You

slow no wake
This year, I decided my themed reading project would center around Mark Twain. You can read the story here

I started out strong, but here it is June and as you can tell by my progress (check out my Project 2014 page), it's been slow going. The first two volumes I picked out of our collection were short stories and clips. While some showcased Twain's clever brain and sharp, I had to force myself to make it through  most of them.  

I started reading Tom Saywer Abroad, but finally decided to ditch it. It just kept going on and on and on. Plus, I got sidetracked by The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, which I read for a book club. Highly recommended.

Recently, I resurrected Twain from the book pile on my nightstand and read Tom Sawyer, Detective. Loved it! I just started reading The Innocents Abroad, and although I'm just a few chapters in, I think I'm going to enjoy it as well! 

What I'm discovering is that I don't care for Twain's shorter pieces, essays and commentaries as much as I do his novels. The shorter stories seem too disjointed, too rambly, too something that I can't quite put my finger on. I just can't get into them.

What's your favorite Twain piece? Why? Or are you not a fan? 

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Monday, June 9, 2014

From Blog to Website: How Do I Know When I'm Ready to Make the Move?

My Ideal Reality

One of my professional goals this year is to create a website for my freelance editorial services. Here is it June, and I have yet to get started. I have ideas floating around, but haven't acted on many of them. Honestly, moving from a blog site to a web site seems a bit daunting.

Whenever I start looking into it, I begin to realize how much I don't know about converting a blog into a website. Never mind the whole website maintenance issue.Or host selection. Or design. I've seen some really fun designs, and I want to measure up. After all, visual appeal is what gets people in the door these days, right? And what about promoting it? Marketing is a whole other animal.

Before I make the leap, I want to be sure I truly need a website. It's a big commitment. Part of me thinks I should focus on building my client base a bit more before diving into this project. But part of me thinks it would be easier to build a client base if I had a website to promote. Chicken before the egg scenario.

To get things rolling, I took two baby steps. I updated my About Me page, and I created a Hire Me page on this blog. I know there are freelance gurus out there who would say this is a no-no. But, I'm going to try it. It's what makes sense to me right now. I've never been a bandwagon jumper, and sometimes I like to take the long way home. I'll make this work until I'm prepared to take the giant step.

What about you? How did you know when you were ready for your own website? And what one piece of advice would you give a website newbie?

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Time is Money: How I Track My Freelance Time

easy tempus smartphone app
As a freelance editorial services provider trying to make a living, delivering a quality product with quality service to my clients is my No. 1 priority. Running a close second is tracking my time. Until recently, pen, paper and an Excel spreadsheet were my go-to tools. They served the purpose, but sometimes I forgot to log my time. Of course, this oversight always worked to the benefit of my clients because I always erred on the side of caution, shorting myself instead of running the risk of overcharging my clients.  

One of my professional goals for this year is to put even more effort into building my client base, making the need to track my time more efficiently that much more important. Enter Easy Tempus, a free app for Android devices. 

Easy Tempus is the perfect tool for me. I can organize multiple clients by project and task, and I can track my time by either running a timer or setting a start-and-stop period. The app generates a detailed history, tallies my earnings  and creates reports to view or export. I can also take photos and write notes, although I haven't had the need to do so yet. The premium version (just a few bucks)  lets users generate invoices, view an expanded history timeline, sync to Google calendar, and store expenses and receipts. 

The app definitely helps me more precisely track my time on hourly projects, but I also use it for flat-fee projects. By doing this, I can gain a better understanding of how long various projects take me to complete. Over time, I will be able to use this data to develop project-based rates that are fair but competitive and that more accurately reflect my talents and the value I provide to clients. 

(True confession time: I do still enter my time into an Excel sheet. Old habits die hard. I just like the security of a hard copy backup.) 

How about you? What time-tracking tips have your discovered for your freelancing adventures? 

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing ... Keep It Real.   

P.S. No one paid me to use Easy Tempus or write a review. This was all me.