Category Archives: Guest Writer

Caring for the Poor

11,000 hits is here! Let me introduce the newest guest writer at A Little Bit of All of It. Keri is a wife and mother of two boys. In her free time she likes to write articles for her blog, The Grace Post, and plan events for her non-profit organization Women of Acts. (You may remember that I blogged about Women of Acts not too long ago, great organization!) Today Keri is sharing her heart with us and I know it will be beneficial to all of us to read this.

via chuckwarnockblog.wordpress.com

“Blessed are those who are generous, because they feed the poor.” Proverbs 22:9

This is a verse that is short but says so much. Throughout Scripture we are admonished to care for those who are less fortunate. There is no underlying motivation other than to show the love of God for people by caring for the physical needs of others. Generosity is not limited to donating cash to a person in need, although that is a wonderful thing to do. Generosity is a state of the heart. It is a mindset that truly what we have is God’s. He has given us stewardship over it, and we are to use it in a way that pleases Him. A person with a generous heart toward the poor will be blessed for that spirit. They don’t have to question whether the financial decision to help the poor will please the Lord. They know it to be so.

You do not have to have large wealth to have a generous spirit. The widow with two mites who gave her all is seen as the biggest gift even though monetarily it was the smallest. A person of great wealth who gives their required tithe but does so without generosity and love has missed the mark of what God asks of us.

As I’ve studied what the Bible says about our responsibility to care for those in need this verse is the most forceful in my mind:

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 48:9

The people of Sodom had everything they could want. When the Bible lists their sins it doesn’t just mention their pride and gluttony, it mentions that they ignored the poor around them. So self absorbed that they just turned a blind eye to those who were hurting and needy in their community. It tells me that God cares deeply about those who are poor and needy around us. Intentional giving to the poor in our community is expected of us. It is not just a mark of a virtuous woman. By not caring for those around us we are actually committing sin.

I feel like just saying that is radical. Maybe it is our American mindset that tells us that we just need to work harder to achieve greatness. Truly the ability to work hard and achieve success is a great thing. It is something we relish in the United States. The reality though is that this work ethic often leaves us feeling entitled to our wealth. Like we have somehow earned it through our hard work and now our money is ours. Arrogance that the wealth is ours and not from the blessing of a good God who cares for us.

Now, I know most of you already know the truth of what I just said. What matters more than my explaining a Biblical truth is how we apply to our lives. Maybe you don’t have much. That is ok. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer at a food bank
  • Use coupons and fill a bag with your deals for a family who really needs it
  • Give your nice used clothes to a family who needs it instead of consigning them.
  • Get a group of friends together and collect coats and blankets for a homeless shelter
  • Donate coupons to a shelter
  • Keep $5 gift cards for fast food in your purse and give them to someone who is homeless

These are just a few ideas I’ve come up with. I’m sure there are hundreds more, so be creative! Involve your kids in a project like these this summer. That way instead of simply telling them to be generous, you show them how to live generously.

We need to open our hands to them in generous and abundant ways. The poor in our church. The poor in our community. The poor in our world.  The care of the poor and needy should not be left to others. God has called Christians to this work. Do it with an loving and generous spirit, and you will be blessed!


For the Love of Mom Bloggers

10,000 hits is a big milestone here at A Little Bit of All of It and we are celebrating with a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers! Kelly is a first time mom and blogs at Becoming Crunchy about her family’s changing landscape from mainstream to granola. (Her husband very occasionally joins her on the blog.) She likes to talk about the challenges and rewards of making the world a safer, healthier place for her daughter, along with what she’s learning about natural parenting, pregnancy and birth, and more. I know you are going to enjoy her post below!

Why is Mom Blogging So Important?

Why is Mom Blogging So Important?

I am so thrilled to be over here at A Little Bit of All of It today, and honored to be able to share with you here in your community.

There’s a question that’s been on my mind lately...how are there so many mom bloggers who give so much great information and get so much active feedback every day?

I never set out to be a mom blogger. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in saying I didn’t even know about the whole mom blogger movement until after I became a parent. I even used to blog – both for myself and others as a ghostwriter – but it was mainly all business type stuff – this world was totally not on my radar.

And it’s kind of become a joke of sorts…become a mom, start blogging! But this isn’t just a bunch of random women nattering on about baking cookies (although of course, blogs about baking cookies are awesome). This is a phenomenon. This is something that is affecting hundreds and thousands of families today, and will likely only grow in influence.

This is fascinating!

Because I have become part of it all and because I’m something of an analytical type, I want to set down some of the reasons I’ve seen for the amazing emergence of the mom blogger – not just to explore it, but to make my thanks known as well – I certainly don’t know what I’d do without them!

And that leads into reason number one: Moms need community.

Back in the day (before cities, essentially) women didn’t lack for community anywhere there were groups of people living together. I don’t want to idealize it – I believe those times were tough. But things that we struggle with for lack of support – breastfeeding, discipline, loneliness…they didn’t have to deal with it. The whole village literally was raising each child.

I believe there is a need for that within us still, and because the community of support may not be surrounding us in real life for various reasons, we’ve turned to the village of the blogosphere. Is it any less significant because it takes place over internet lines and long distances?

I like to think that Julia and you and all kinds of other people I’ve never met are part of my village – the women surrounding me who are actually helping me to raise my child. And it’s not to say that these interactions in real life are not important – they are, and we should take them when we can get them. But we often can’t, or if we can the opportunity is limited. Mom bloggers have stepped in to fill this gap.

So how is it that so many of them are so popular? Wouldn’t you think people would be sick of us by now? ;)

Here’s what I think (my reason number two): Moms have wisdom.

There’s a post here from Emerging Mummy that I feel sums up beautifully a small part of the wisdom that is unique to mommies – it very much elucidates something I’ve felt for a long time.

Being a mom gives you a secret understanding that no one who has not had the experience is privy to. That doesn’t invalidate those people. It certainly doesn’t mean that we are all knowing or super special or exempt from making mistakes.

But we do have a unique opportunity to have our worlds turned upside down by tiny, new beings. We have the chance to see a totally new way of looking at the world – through the eyes of someone who is experiencing it for the first time. We have the awe and terror of being responsible for guiding a person through this life.

I don’t think there is anyone who can go through the experience and not learn something – or a lot of somethings! – from it. And the exciting thing about mom blogging is that we can share that learning – that new wisdom. We also get the chance to learn it from others – things we may have never even contemplated.

The world of a living room filled with toys, a computer on a coffee table and a child upstairs napping can be mind-blowing.

And that community, and that wisdom, lead into reason number three: Moms need to hear each others stories.

The idea of the Mommy Wars is one that is well established. These battles do take place (though not as often as some media would have us believe), but the concept itself is ugly. I know for me, when I was a brand new mom, the fear of people judging me for my choices was something that terrified me in that extremely vulnerable state.

But the more I’ve shared my stories, and the more I’ve read from other moms…the more the judging and the arguing seems to fade into the background.

True, we all tend to mainly seek out people we resonate with, so the chance for disagreement may not actually come up that often. But I have found that when it does, it’s often not as bad as I thought it would be. And the reason behind that is that we have less and less opportunity to make assumptions about people’s decisions when we begin to hear and understand and really get their stories.

It’s a human tendency to think the worst of people, or to at least believe that we know the reason behind someone’s decision based on our assumptions. But these stories break all of that down. The more we hear them; the more they are told…the more the walls of judgment and ignorance can come crashing down.

And I truly believe we are longing for this. It’s why we’re all out there, posting that blog. It’s the basic need and desire to be understood, and understanding others comes right along with it.

So that’s why I love mom bloggers. There are probably many more great reasons they are so popular, but those are my top three. What do you love about mom blogging?


The Last Lecture: Book Review

As promised, here is my second guest post! Shannon is a mother, wife artist and teacher. She blogs about maintaining an attached parenting style while working full time on her blog The ArtsyMama.  She also contributes to Natural Parents Network and Everything Cloth.

The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch with Jeffery Zaslow

I first read this book a few years ago and I thought to myself – this will be a book I share with my children.  I was struck by the honesty and feeling with which this book was written.  The premise of the book is that the author Randy Pausch is dying and wants to share what he learned in life with his children.  The book stemmed from the last lecture he gave at Carnegie Mellon where he was a professor.  He gave his lecture to his students and the faculty there at the university but the real “head-fake” was that the lecture was actually for his children who were too young at the time to understand what was going on or to understand the lessons he wanted to share with them.

The author frames his message through his childhood memories.  He discusses the plans he made as a child and what he did with those plans.  If you are looking for a book that touches on the spectrum of human emotion and is reflective of a life well lived, though cut short – pick up this book.  The book also has a companion website.

The Last Lecture is available on Amazon.com in hardcoverpaperback, Kindle edition and audio book formats.


When Pigs Move In: Book Review

8,000 hits are here and I have 2 guest writers this time! Today’s guest writer is Amy Phoenix. Amy is a gentle, yet direct parenting guide and healing facilitator dedicated to sharing insights and practices to transform frustration and anger, heal the past and nurture conscious relationships. You can visit her at Innate Wholeness. I hope you enjoy her book review below.

A few years ago I had a spiritually transforming experience when faced with death and cultivating an inner relationship with Christ has been a moment-to-moment journey ever since. In many ways it is about undoing negative influences in my consciousness to let God lead. I admit I was intrigued when a friend told me about the book When Pigs Move In written by Don Dickerman, who was spiritually anointed to help people become free of demonic influences.  The title of the book comes from Matthew 8:28-34, when Jesus drove devils out of a man and they asked to go into the pigs rather than the abyss.

via cdn.arsenalbooks.com

Although I have a broad view of Christianity and When Pigs Move In challenges how I would usually discuss spirituality, I have never been given a book that was not beneficial for my life. Dickerman, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, highlights the many ways Satan’s army robs, steals and deceives. Instead of this being some weird account of demonic possession and exorcism, it is a very straight forward book outlining how dark forces are responsible for many, if not all, of our ills. This ranges from negative thinking to depression to diseases of the body. He discusses how these demonic influences find ways to attach to us, what purposes they serve and how to remove them.

I appreciate passion and Dickerman employs it throughout the book. He was led to this type of ministry when he was preaching to people in prison. One evening after he spoke with a group he went to his hotel room feeling like he was not doing enough. He would lead people to Jesus only to see them still suffering. He fell on his knees asking God to show him how to really help these people. In the following weeks he had visions of God healing people through him. He was told that he may not know what to do, but that healing would take place. The book outlines situations where people who were previously tormented in various ways were freed through deliverance.

When Pigs Move In may bring up some core fears for Christians and it can also put those fears to rest. If you question how much influence dark forces can or are having in your life, this book can help you make that determination. Dickerman bases his work on Biblical scripture and gives clear directions for delivering one’s self from the traps of sin and evil through Jesus. Readers who do not have a stomach for strong Christian language or the evangelical approach may want to set judgment aside and ask God to lead them as they read.

View Dickerman’s video explaining his reason for writing When Pigs Move In.


What Makes You So Special?

7,000 hits is here! As is customary here at A Little Bit of All of It, we have a guest writer since we have hit another 1,000 hits. I think you are really going to enjoy our guest writer this time! Let me introduce you to Cindy Winter-Hartley. She is a proud wife of nearly 24 years and the mother of three sons. Nathan is almost 21 and attends the United States Military Academy, Aaron is 16 and has a servant’s heart for the Lord. Isaac is an athletic eighth grader and the family “ginger.” She blogs at My Awesome Olive Shoots. Be sure to check out her blog for some inspirational stuff!

Before you do one more thing today, I want to encourage you to ponder this question. What makes your family unique?

Throughout the day, whether you are changing a diaper, emptying the dishwasher, (yuck!); whether you are in a carpool or gathering a few moments of quiet in a bubble bath (wouldn’t that be nice?), devote this day to searching the qualities which make your family special.

To get you started, here are a few ideas. Are there physical features common to your family? Do you have a special ethnic heritage? What are some special skills or weird talents you share? How about foods you all like or hate? Notice things you do together, the overall personality of your family – once you begin to do this, soon you will see a family identity. This is the beginning of cultivating a rich sense of oneness in your family.

We began to create a family identity when our children were young. When our boys had high-pitched voices and no facial hair, nearly every day, we gathered around the table and sang a silly song about our family. We even had a family cheer which they all loved to do together. Sometimes we would place a globe on the table and say to them, “Do you realize that there are only five Winter-Hartley’s in the world???” Their chests would puff with pride as we would remind them how special it was to be a member of our family.

Think of your own family. Doesn’t it just humble you to pieces when you think that God, in all His wisdom, divinely choose YOU to be the parent of your child? I could still cry when I attempt to take in the privilege the Lord has given me to be the mother of my three sons. Despite all my flaws and issues which the Lord is perfectly aware of, despite my husband’s imperfections which pale in comparison to mine, the two of us were chosen to be our sons’ parents! Wow! He could have placed those babies anywhere in the world and the Lord decided to grace us with the honor of being called Mom and Dad to three splendid yet very human children! We truly have a reason to celebrate being a family and so do you.

Lest you think we encouraged our sons to be conceited, let me explain what we consistently told and remind them. Our family is no better than anyone else’s. We don’t act stuck up but we do stick together. We call our family a five-piece puzzle. The puzzle isn’t complete without each of us because we can depend on each other. Now our sons are young men. They have matured, they shave, they have big muscles and they are all taller than me. But guess what? When our oldest son comes home from college, I can still hear him tell his 14 year old brother “good night, I love you!” as Isaac drifts off to sleep. Our 16 year old middle son Aaron will be talking on his cell phone with a friend and without a hint of embarrassment tell Isaac the same thing each night. That’s the power of family identity.

One day our boys will forge out and make families of their own, I can’t wait to hear their family cheers and see their families blossom. Though our children are older, still the concept of family identity holds a prominent place in our lives.

It’s all too common to hear about the dissolution of family and personally, I want nothing to do with that notion. Neither should you. Your family is unique and wonderful, today is the day to embrace that.


Made From Scratch: Book Review (and a Recipe for the Perfect Salad!)

6,000 hits is here and with it is a new guest writer! Melissa from My Journey to Lean has some great things to share with you. Enjoy!

I have enjoyed reading Julia’s blog for several months now. She and I met in our adult Sunday School class at church, but we didn’t really get to know each other well until we both got into blogging. Since then, I’ve realized how much she and I have in common. We both have a passion for God and all things natural! One difference is that she’s a mom and I haven’t had that privilege yet. But I’m filing away her tips on cloth diapers and homemade baby food for when that day comes. Julia asked me to write a post to celebrate her reaching 6,000 hits on the blog! I had a hard time deciding what to write. After much deliberation, I decided to do a quick summary about my blog, a book review, and a quick recipe.

MY BLOG

My Journey to Lean is about a personal journey to eliminate the unnecessary elements of various aspects of my life. It started as a physical journey to lose excess pounds and body fat. It continued as a spiritual journey, realizing that all aspects of life are ultimately spiritual, and that I can’t do anything on my own. Then it began to touch every aspect: social networking, entertainment choices, organizing and decorating my home, recipe creations, organic food options, and the list goes on. I’ve always been a journaler, so blogging came naturally. The only part I don’t like is that it’s not on paper (I still love an old-fashioned journal and pencil). There’s something about a blank page that speaks to me: it’s a world of opportunities and, call me crazy but, I just love the smell of paper and freshly sharpened pencils.

BOOK REVIEW

I picked up this book at Mast General Store over the weekend and thought it would be the perfect highlight for this blog. It’s called Made from Scratch by Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm.

Cover of "Made from Scratch: Discovering ...

Cover via Amazon

The author, Jenna Woginrich, caught a dream from a coworker who owned her own farm. She learned how to raise chickens, angora rabbits, and grow vegetables at a small rental house, how to play mountain music in TN, and eventually bought her own farm in VT, and started sheep farming. She loves antiques and simple living, including percolated coffee, knitting, and gardening. She believes it’s time to slow down and loves using hand-powered kitchen tools, like hand-cranked coffee grinders and antique cheese graters. She’s my kind of girl!

This book gives you insights (and even step-by-step dos and don’ts) regarding raising chickens, rabbits, and training dogs. She has a delightful narrative style. And what I appreciated most was her advice on page 12:

“I think the real trick to finding that sense of satisfaction is to realize you don’t need much to attain it. A window-box salad garden and a banjo hanging on the back of the door can be all the freedom  you need. If it isn’t everything you want for the future, let it be enough for tonight.

Don’t look at your current situation as a hindrance to living the way you want, because living the way you want has nothing to do with how much land you have or how much you can afford to spend on a new house. It has to do with the way you choose to live every day and how content you are with what you have. If a few things on your plate every season come from the work of  your hands, you are creating food for your body, and that is enough. If the hat on your head was knitted with your own hands, you’re providing warmth from string and that’s enough. If you rode your bike to work, trained your dog to pack, or just baked a loaf of bread, let it be enough.

Accepting where you are today, and working toward what’s ahead, is the best you can do. You can take the projects in this book as far as your chosen road will take you. Maybe your gardens and coops will outgrow mine, and before you know it you’ll be trading in your Audi for a pickup. But the starting point is to take control of what you can and smile with how things are. Find your own happiness and dance with it.”

The last section of the book contains all kinds of resources for each topic discussed in the book. I found my copy at Greenville’s Mast General Store on a buy-one-get-one-free sale; you can get yours on Amazon for about $10, too (also available for Kindle)!

I think it’s great anytime anyone tries to make small changes towards simpler living, whether it’s setting aside an hour on Saturday morning for a quiet cup of coffee and a good book, choosing an organic head of lettuce instead of conventional from the grocery store, starting your own garden, or buying a farm, take one small step at a time and enjoy every moment of it! This book doesn’t necessarily have a Christian worldview, so remember that whatever you do is for the glory of God. If you have a desire, recognize that it may be from God, and trust Him to fulfill your dreams. As a side note, you might be interested in the Simple Living section of one of my new favorite blogs: Frugal Granola. And feel free to stop by my blog anytime and leave your comments!

RECIPE: The Perfect Salad

 

1.       A Leafy Green Base: the darker the green, the more nutritious. Be creative and try a new lettuce variety, especially if you’re stuck on Iceberg; Bibb, Red Leaf, and Romaine are always good options, or you can branch out and add spinach, kale, or other greens likes collards, mustard greens, or Swiss chard. My favorite is the Organic Girl brand at Publix (when I can’t get it from my own garden).

via eating-in.com

2.       Add Some Color: I suggest at least one from each color group below…

a.       Something Red: grape tomatoes, red pepper, strawberries, pomegranate arils, sliced beets, dried cranberries, radishes, apples

b.      Something Orange or Yellow: bell peppers, carrots, banana peppers, mandarin oranges, mango salsa, corn

c.       Something Green: peppers, cucumbers, sprouts, green beans, granny smith apples, pears, zucchini, artichoke hearts, celery, broccoli, peas

d.      Something Blue or Purple: blueberries or other berries, purple cabbage, grapes, purple carrots, raisins

e.      Something White: mushrooms, onion, cauliflower, garlic or shallots

3.       Add a Protein: this can be grilled chicken or salmon on top of the salad, or something simple like a half cup of rinsed and drained beans (kidney beans, black beans, whatever your favorite is), a hardboiled egg or an ounce of low-fat cheese.

4.       Add a Healthy Fat Source: 1 Tbsp. of olive oil or chopped olives, ¼ avocado, or a small handful of nuts and/or seeds. You need healthy fat in your meal if you want to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins available in the rest of your salad!

5.       Add Some Flavor: balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, fresh herbs, freshly cracked black pepper, etc. Stay away from high-sodium and saturated fat laden options. Something crunchy is always fun too (depending on what you’ve already added): whole wheat croutons, asian noodles, or these salad toppers from Oh She Glows are all fun ideas.

Bon Appetit!

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you! And Congrats to Julia on 6,000 hits on her blog! Keep up the great work, Julia!

Enjoying the Journey, Melissa


Yellow Elm: Giveaway!

Lisa Felt Headband

My first Yellow Elm product came from my mom. She bought my daughter a headband for her Candyland birthday party. I’ve been in love ever since! I have baby headbands, baby clips and clips and headbands for me, too! That’s why I’m so excited to offer a giveaway to celebrate 5,000 hits from Yellow Elm to share their wonderful products with you all, too! Scroll down to the bottom to check out the beautiful baby headband I’m giving away and to see how to win! (PS: Yellow Elm is local, too if you live in the Upstate of SC!)

I interviewed Yellow Elm owner Elizabeth Blanton to give you some more information about Yellow Elm straight from the source!

What gave you the idea for Yellow Elm and how did you get started?

I learned how to felt in a fiber arts class I took as an elective in college and immediately fell in love with the process. After making some large felt wall-hangings for the class, I used some leftover felt to make brooches as gifts for my friends and got a great response, so after college I decided to make more wearable art and see what happened with it. There has been a huge trend recently in crafts and handmade items and I’m so excited to be a part of that.

What do you love most about the pieces you make?

I love the uniqueness of each piece. I can never make two pieces exactly alike, so everyone who wears Yellow Elm can truly know they have an accessory that no one else has.

Baby Brooke Barrette

What’s your favorite collection?

My favorite is usually what I’m working on at the moment. I’ve just started making small brooches with beads on top in soft spring colors, and those are my favorites right now.

Do you have plans for any other products besides headbands and brooches?

Yes definitely! Jewelry, purses, hats, and scarves are all possibilities for future products. I’m working on a vintage line of headbands and brooches as well that I’m pretty excited about.

Do you prefer selling on etsy or selling to stores?

I love both for different reasons. It’s always fantastic to find a shop that is the perfect fit for Yellow Elm and I really enjoy working with shop owners to get just the right Yellow Elm pieces in their stores. I am so glad to have an etsy shop as well because I can reach so many people with the internet–people all over the world.

Do you have a favorite fellow etsy artist?

So many great choices I could never pick just one! I keep my “favorites” page on my etsy shop pretty current and always mark a favorite shop or item.

A Little Bit of All of It is giving away this precious baby headband!

headband1

Yellow Elm Baby Headband

It is a baby headband with a soft blue piece of felt on a bright blue fabric band, with a black & polka dot fabric button and some simple baby blue embroidery.

How to Enter

There are 5 ways to enter. You can do 1, a couple or all of them. Obviously the more you do, the better your chances of winning are. I’ll draw a winner randomly using random.org on March 17th! The winner will be contacted via email.

  1. “Like” A Little Bit of All of It on Facebook and come back and leave a comment here that you did with your FB name.
  2. Go to Yellow Elm’s etsy store and come back and leave a comment with the name of your favorite piece.
  3. “Like” Yellow Elm on Facebook and come back and leave a comment here that you did with your FB name.
  4. Subscribe to the Yellow Elm blog and leave a comment here that you did.
  5. Subscribe to this blog and leave a comment here that you did. (To subscribe, see the top righthand corner of the blog.)

How Did We Survive Our Childhood?

5,000 hits! This is a milestone I’m excited to celebrate with my husband as a guest writer! He blogs over at Cella’s Sweets which is also the name of his bakery. (You can check out his cool creations on Facebook.) I also wanted to do something else fun to celebrate 5,000 hits so be looking for a giveaway, too! Hope you enjoy the post!

As my daughter continues to grow up, there are tons of things that I have to worry about. I don’t mean four year old boys pulling up on their tricycles and whisking her down the hill. I’m talking bigger things, things that will keep her safe and healthy and aid her in developing mentally. Things like: is she eating enough vegetables? When do we turn her car seat around? Why doesn’t she know her times tables yet? When do I introduce her to the Mario Bros.? All these choices make me wonder one thing, HOW DID WE SURVIVE CHILDHOOD?

via photobucket user utopuluxe

I mean come on, as infants we slept on our stomachs in cribs covered in a lead-based paint. We got a little older and we rode in the back seat with the seatbelts stuck under the seat half of the time. We grew up on a steady diet of whatever fast food joint had the coolest toys at the time. None of us had “flame retardant” clothing. We had toys like Lite Brite, a toy that took a flammable piece of patterned paper and placed it 4 inches from a thousand watt bulb to make the colored dots glow. We watched cartoons that strapped rockets to a coyote on roller skates, and taught us that if you got shot in the face during “wabbit season,” the only consequence was a black face and your hair slicked back. There were chemistry sets which allowed unsupervised children to mix chemicals in a test tube to see what happens, and don’t even get me started on lawn darts and M-80s.

via cowancollectionanimation.blogspot.com

The funny thing is our parents wanted the same things we want for our children. They wanted us to be as safe and smart and healthy as possible. Phrases like, “Why don’t you go outside and play?” and, “You won’t get any dessert if you don’t eat your peas,” were heard often in my house, along with “Stop hitting your brother,” but that’s for another day. They read books to us with hidden messages like “The Cat in the Hat” (use your imagination and clean up when your done playing), and “Ferdinand the Bull” (being different is ok). They would count with us and teach us to spell. They would stay up late helping us study for those hard subjects like… spelling and math. They always made sure we were buckled in before we left the driveway…when the seatbelts weren’t stuck. What I’m getting at is that they cared.

So if our parents did care, and I can still rattle off a list of what now seems obvious dangers, what harms are we subjecting to our children? Will my daughter look back and wonder why she was allowed to play with the iPhone as a toddler, or will studies show that infants should be bound from the ankles and hung from the ceiling for optimal safety while sleeping? Fortunately, with the internet (and I’m sure our kids will look back and say “I can’t believe they put our pictures up where total strangers could see them”) information is at our disposal. There are sites that give us safety recall information so we can limit the dangers in what toys or products our kids are using. There are studies on TV’s affect on our children and sites to help them develop mentally. We can even keep track of the ever- evolving food pyramid.

I guess what I’m getting at is every generation cares for their family in the best possible manner. Our generation is fortunate in that in our Google.com era information is at our fingertips, and we have tools to protect our children like no other generation, to stimulate our children’s minds like no other and to keep our children healthy while under our care.


Home Renovations – Which Ones Are Really Worth It?

A Little Bit of All of It has reached 4,000 hits so it’s time for a guest writer! I have been wanting a male voice here on the blog so I’m excited to welcome Josh Lyall! He blogs regularly for Jackson Marketing Group where he is involved in offering research-based strategic marketing solutions. I hope you enjoy something from the male point of view today here on the blog!

First, let me acknowledge what you are already thinking: “Josh is a weird name for somebody writing on a mommy blog.”  It’s true, I’m a dude – so what am I doing on a mommy blog?  Well, I thought about turning down the invite to guest-post, but this blog is just so warm and inviting compared to the normal ones I write for (marketing/business/technology blogs), that I just had to stay a little longer once I visited.

I know I could earn bonus points with my host if I wrote on one of her favorite topics like the upcoming National Hug a Pug Day (Note to Self:  March 23rd – make more effort than usual to avoid people with pugs) or my discovery of some sort of granola and green tea based exfoliating cream.  But instead, I thought I’d just write about something that is occupying a good percentage of my free time right now: home renovations, and deciding which ones are worth it.

My house is getting to the age when the second wave of more serious repairs/renovations kicks in.  At 15 years old, the house has been through a round of carpet and linoleum replacements and the normal paint and appliance/HVAC system repairs, but the bigger stuff is looming – roof, gutters, full HVAC replacement, etc.

It is with these larger repairs looming that I have been considering renovations.  The goal is to not incur significant costs that would limit the ability to complete larger projects that come up, while still making the house more livable and more re-sellable when the time comes.  As I went down the list of potential projects for the house and began to investigate their related costs, the need for some supporting research became clear (I don’t make decisions without data).

The Cost vs. Value Report published annually by the National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine provides a good resource for evaluating which home renovation projects give you the most value for your investment in the long-term appreciation of your house.  The data can be viewed broken down by the region of the country the house is in, which provides some interesting insights into the different average costs of projects throughout the country.  The most interesting information is definitely the average percent of project cost recouped.  Looking at different regions of the country, you’ll see things that make sense, like the value added to your house by adding a deck is higher in the Southeast or Pacific West than New England (where you’d need to shovel your deck to use it most months of the year).

For my purposes, I screened the data for the Southeast and compared all the potential renovation projects that were on my list.  It quickly became clear that several projects made the most sense, starting with a minor kitchen overhaul.  It is interesting that a minor overhaul (done well, of course) actually lends 4% more return on investment than a major overhaul.  Plus, both a minor and major kitchen overhaul are in the top ten for project costs recouped, putting them among the best projects to help your potential resale value.  Other high-return renovation projects are entry door and garage door replacement, changing to vinyl windows, and of course, adding that deck (assuming you’re in a climate with less than 10 months of winter – sorry Minnesota).

During a time when selling your house might not be possible and improvements are needed to make staying more enjoyable, it would be advisable to do a little investigation into which projects you will be able to get the most value out of when the housing market turns around and a move is possible once again.

Well, I’m heading back to tearing up flooring in my kitchen – thanks for the respite in the land of the mommy blogs.  And if someone does start selling green tea granola exfoliant, I want a cut.


Anniversary Giveaway- CaughtREDhanded Jewelry!

I’m SUPER excited about our second ever giveaway on A Little Bit of All of It in honor of my first full year of blogging! CaughtREDhanded is giving away one of their pieces to one of my readers! CaughtREDhanded is handmade original art trapped under glass. The brand carries pendants, earrings, bracelets, belt buckles, rings and does custom work as well. I asked owner, Amy Galon, some questions and I’ve shared them below. To enter the giveaway, follow the instructions at the end of the post.

What do you love most about the jewelry you make?

I love that it is original, handmade in the USA by a stay-at-home mom! You can not find another piece of jewelry out there just like ours–it is like a little stamp of myself that I get to put on the world.

Luna Garden from the Pebble Collection

What’s your favorite piece?

That is hard. I guess, right now, I am favoring our new Pebble line (I love NEW!). If I had to pick a favorite piece I would have to say Luna Garden.

What’s a typical day like for you at CaughtREDhanded?

Ha! There is no typical day when you run your own business, chase after a bebe, and take care of a home! But, this is the way a typical day “should” go:

Pack up any orders ready to ship in the morning and start any new orders.
Go to the Post Office.
Finish making orders, call customers, follow up on leads etc. in the afternoon.
I keep on working (making, taking pictures, emailing, packaging, ordering, customer follow-ups, etc.) through late afternoon.
After dinner I set all the jewelry made in glass.
Depending on how busy I am that week, at night my husband comes to help me pack up jewelry or we get to watch a little TV together before we pass out. :)

Eden Pendant and Earring Set

You recently created an earring line and a bracelet line. Tell us about those.

They are my favorite new collections (I told you I like new;)). I wanted to expand our line past just our staple pendant line.

What do you love about selling on Etsy?

The exposure. Etsy is where it all started and without it, I would not have been able to stay at home with my son, Sebastian, and pursue a passion that I love. I am truly blessed and Etsy was a major catalyst in this dream of mine.

Do you have a fellow Etsy artist that you buy from over and over again?

Oh yes! I have some favorites for sure!
Cori Dantini–she did some design work for us and I order Christmas ornaments and customer work from her ALL the time. She is fantastic!

I often buy cards from another favorite artist Irene Suchocki. Her photography is amazing.

My husband, Jim, orders from Man Cave consistently as well. I bought him a shave set from their shop last year and he loved it so much he consistently buys refills.

These are just a few of my favorites that I order from but there are sooooo many more I could mention!

How to Enter

There are 5 ways to enter. You can do 1, a couple or all of them. Obviously the more you do, the better your chances of winning are. I’ll draw a winner randomly using random.org on December 1st!

Gypsy Love Waist Candy

  1. Post a comment and let me know your favorite post here on the blog and why.
  2. Go to CaughtREDhanded’s Etsy store and come back and leave a comment with the name of your favorite piece.
  3. Post a picture on CaughtREDhanded’s Facebook page wearing a CRH piece and come back and leave a comment here that you did with your FB name.
  4. Become a fan of CaughtREDhanded on Facebook and leave a comment here that you did with your FB name.
  5. Subscribe to this blog and leave a comment here that you did. (To subscribe, see the top righthand corner of the blog.)

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