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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Let Me Buy YOU an E-book! Love, Chocolate, and Beer by Author Violet Duke

I am proud to introduce you to a friend of mine. Her name is Violet Duke (at least that's her pen name) and I had the fabulous fortune of interviewing her recently (you can find the interview here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2013/12/interview-with-violet-duke-new-york.html)

Today she released her newest book: Love, Chocolate, and Beer 




I just downloaded my ebook copy and I want to buy one for YOU! Leave your comments below telling me one (or all for extra credit) of the following:

1) What do you love about my blog? How did you hear about me?

2) What is your favorite type of book to read? and why?

3) What is your favorite book by Violet Duke?

Good luck in the giveaway and hugs from me to you! A winner will be chosen randomly on February 14th (yes, Valentine's Day) and will be announced in the comments of this post as well as on my business FB page: https://www.facebook.com/successwithrelax

~Crystal

Synopsis
Romance has met its most unlikely match-up…

Luke Bradford is a chocolatier on a mission.  After moving his chocolate shop, and newly single life, to the quirky town of Cactus Creek, Luke wants nothing more than to devote all his energy into making his business a success—by taking the romance market by storm.  But his grand plans get thrown for a loop when he locks horns with the feisty beer-brewing beauty next door who calls his ‘romantic idealism’ a load of fairytale bull.  Soon, driving the woman sparking nuts becomes another wickedly fun priority he simply can’t get enough of.  
In his defense, she’s addictively easy to incite…and plain impossible to resist.
Beloved local brewmaster Dani Dobson is beyond riled up.  It’s bad enough the new shop owner in town comes locked and loaded with both a distractingly rugged charm and sexy flashing dimples, but the whole only-in-the-movies variety of romance he’s selling—the kind her world has been crushed by before—is really doing a number on her allergy to unrealistic clich├ęs.  What’s worse, he’s created an annoyingly clever ad campaign that dubs ‘beer joints’ like hers as the “cave where romance goes to hibernate.”  The nerve of that man.

Combustible chemistry or not, damn it, this means war.  The stakes…very likely, her heart.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Babywearing Thoughts

I probably chose the wrong title for today's post. My thoughts on babywearing would simply be: you won't regret doing it! This post title should probably be something catchy about which babywearing 'device' is best...but I'm not sure that is accurate either. Let me take a stab at explaining.

I didn't wear the other children. I tried...but I thought my only option was the ring sling. It didn't seem to work until my second child was a toddler and then he finally decided it was cool. By then...my back decided it wasn't quite so cool. I didn't know anything about Baby Wearing International or the support groups, and I certainly didn't realize all the options when it comes to carriers. There are soft carriers, carriers with buckles, carriers with rings, and you name it it's out there.

This time around I decided I had no choice but to baby wear. How else would I keep the house clean, feed calves, help older children with homework, nurse the littlest one, and maintain my sanity? I started things out with two Moby Wraps. I thought they were the best thing on earth. They really are quite fabulous, but 5 yards of fabric is a bit much to master in the snowy parking lot of the grocery store. I decided the Moby was best suited for wearing at home and I purchased an ErgoBaby carrier for trips to town. It took a little getting accustomed to. The Ergo has buckles and it's a much different feel than the soft natural Moby. I still can't nurse with the Ergo ... supposedly it CAN be done, but this girl can't figure it out. The Ergo is very pretty and has a nice little 'hood' thingy you can pull up for baby's privacy (which doesn't really do much for me since the nursing thing is an issue...but don't let that stop you). If you're starting with the Ergo, remember to purchase the infant support which is an added cost to the already $100+ you're spending.

Every once in a while I pull out the  SlingEZee ring sling too...it's nice if I'm reading and my little man just wants to nap close and I have used it a time or two while typing or doing books in the office. I'm not super natural at putting the ring sling on though and I've seen ladies make it look easy, so I'm sure it's just me.

What carrier do I like best for the here and now you ask?

Right now my little man is 18 weeks and just over 17 pounds and my absolute favorite carrier (the turn back around and get it because I left the house without it carrier) is the Baby K'Tan. Now - the K'Tan isn't the cheapest, and you need to make sure you get the right size. A friend bought one that was too small and she absolutely hated it. The K'Tan has the soft feel and versatility of the Moby without the scads and scads of fabric to deal with. It doesn't drag in the mud or the snow...which is super important in Wisconsin and on a dairy farm nonetheless. There are multiple carrying positions and if you and hubby are close in size you'll both be able to use the K'Tan. That said, the Moby just fits every body so that would be something to consider...if your caregiver, hubby, and you are going to be baby wearing, you might like the Moby better? At our house, I'm the babywearer so that wasn't an issue.

The K'Tan allows for kangaroo care, nursing privacy, multiple positions, and it's so soft you won't want to take it off...the cute little matching cap for baby is sort of cute too...lol

Hopefully this post will help you decide which carrier is best for you. None of them are cheap, so do your homework, ask other moms what they think, and don't be afraid to ask a friend if you can borrow one for a day or two and get the feel for what is right for you and your little one (or ones...and speaking of which the K'Tan easily works for twins too!)

Hugs,
~Crystal

Here's what you'll see if you simply google Baby K'Tan...so seriously....see what other people are doing! These other parents are a great resource!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Product Review - Rachel Ray 10pc Cookware




5 Stars for Rachel Ray's 10Pc Cookware Set!

I've owned plenty of other cookware but keep coming back to Rachel Ray. Five years ago I owned a set and foolishly let them walk out the door (my ex got custody of the cookware...pout pout). I thought I'd replace them with a less expensive set. I was incredibly unhappy with the cheaper cookware and recently purchased another 10pc set of Rachel Ray cookware. My new set is yellow and absolutely gorgeous. I love the easy grip, cool to the touch, handles. These are absolutely non-stick and make everything from eggs and pancakes to spaghetti a breeze. I've given my Rachel Ray cookware 5 stars because they are stylish, made well, and they are a great value!


Just remember - read the directions carefully...my particular set is NOT dishwasher safe. I am okay with that and don't mind washing them by hand. If you want something dishwasher safe, Rachel Ray makes those too...you just won't want to choose the colors (they fade with the high heat and chemicals used in the dishwasher).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Product Review and Giveaway - Medela Calma

When Breccan was born I had a goal of breastfeeding him until his first birthday. I wanted him to be exclusively breast fed and I swore I wouldn't give him a bottle. Well...here we are 17 weeks later and he doesn't like to latch and though he still drinks breastmilk, my goals seem laughable as I hold him in my arms and bring the bottle to his lips. Even though he does drink from a bottle, it was important that the bottle we chose would be as close to the real deal as possible. That's where the Medela Calma comes in.

Here's how it's advertised:
Breastfeeding is always best for your baby, but sometimes it is not possible to breastfeed naturally. Calma is an alternative to breastfeeding for mothers wishing to feed their babies with breastmilk.


Now that he's older, Breccan has decided he likes the Tommie Tippee better, but for the first few months, the Calma was the only bottle we would use. I didn't worry about him getting too much or too little because HE controlled the flow. Because I was pumping and then feeding him I was saving a few steps because the same bottles I was pumping into (with my Medela Pump in Style and/or my Medela Freestyle) would just come off the pump and be ready for the nipple. The nipple itself comes apart for quick and easy cleaning and there's never any spilling (as long as the nipple isn't on crooked..says the sleep deprived mommy). I give this bottle 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only thing that would make it better is if it were more breast like. The sucking action is very breast like, but as far as Breccan is concerned, there's not enough squish.

If you live in the U.S and you'd like to win one of these bottles (retail value $19.99) to try for yourself, complete the Rafflecopter form below. A winner will be chosen on Monday, February 9th and announced in the comments of this blog post.

Good luck and lots of hugs!
~Crystal


This contest is open to Us Residents only. Giveaway ends on February 9, 2014 at 12:00 am CST. One lucky winner will be randomly chosen that same day via Rafflecopter. We verify all entries to make sure they were entered correctly! Once the winner is selected, the announcement will be made within this widget and as a comment on the original blog post. We will also follow up via e-mail. Winner has 24 hours to respond or we will choose another winner. Good luck!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Inquiring Minds Have Asked: What IS a Blog Tour?


"I use Grammarly's online plagiarism checker because one of me rambling is enough and two would push too many of you over the edge!"


I am often asked about my position as Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing. I thought a chilly Sunday in Wisconsin would be a great day to share a little more about what a WOW! Blog Tour is so you’d have a better idea of what it is I do. First a little background: I started doing book reviews in addition to my blog and my writing offerings through my small business (Relax Consulting). I entered a few writing contests through WOW! Women on Writing and subscribed to their email lists. They put out an advertisement for an open position as a Blog Tour Manager. I didn't exactly understand what it was, but I applied. Now I am proud to say I AM a Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing...and here is what a Blog Tour Is:

Here goes!

WOW! Blog tours are an effective way to publicize an author’s book to a vast, yet targeted,
audience of readers across the web. A blog tour is similar to an author’s book tour but it’s
hosted online instead of at, say, bookstores. The touring author visits a number of blogs
(otherwise known as “blog stops”) over a set period of time—typically, a month. Authors use
this format to buzz their book, connect with readers, and drive traffic to their Amazon page
and their website/blog. This format of publicizing an author’s book is one of WOW!’s most
effective and popular promotions.



Blog Tour Package:

·        Dedicated e-mail announcing author’s blog tour launch in the WOW! Events
            Newsletter (20,000+ subscribers)
·        Interview on WOW!’s syndicated blog, The Muffin
·        15 stops on highly trafficked blogs targeted to the author’s book genre/topic
·        Book reviews and/or interviews from blog owners
·         Links to Amazon.com and author’s website, blog, and multimedia if available
·         Targeted book giveaway contest to encourage reader buzz
·        Social media buzz Facebook, and Twitter
·        Custom animated book banner (created by our graphic department: 120 pixels x
            340 pixels) linking to author’s site or Amazon page and featured issue-wide on
            WOW! for one month with indefinite archiving
·        A blog tour manager is assigned to the author to guide her/him throughout the
            process and keep them on schedule

Author Requirements:
The author’s book must be approved by the editorial board to gauge suitability for the WOW!
audience. Books can be fiction or nonfiction. Established authors welcome. Debut authors
are encouraged to enroll in this promotion as we enjoy highlighting fresh voices for our
readers. Authors must be available and willing to be interviewed, write blog posts tailored to
the topics in their book, and provide a book to each blog owner for review and/or a giveaway
contest. We also encourage that authors be present at blog stops to answer questions from
readers and participate in discussions.

TERMS:

·        Payment in full is required before we can begin work on the tour.
·        WOW! provides reader addresses. Publisher or author handles all mailing
 of ARCs and review copies.
·        Books by both women and men authors are welcome, upon approval.

NOTES: Want testimonials? We have tons! Please e-mail us at:  ads@wow-womenonwriting.com


if you would like testimonials or have any questions.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Oh Fancy Baby Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Laura of Oh Fancy Baby. Laura was also gracious enough to offer a free diaper in one of our recent giveaways (check out the giveaway for my review). I fell in love with Oh Fancy Baby products when Breccan was just a few months old. I bought an outfit (pictured here) and immediately started snapping pictures, which led to tons of compliments about his outfit, which led to even more outfits! Now who says diapering can't be fun?

Check out this great interview with Laura and be sure to mention this interview when you order your very own Oh Fancy Baby products!

Hugs,
~Crystal

Crystal: Laura, what prompted you to start your own company?

Laura: When my second daughter was born she had very sensitive skin, she ended up being allergic to disposable diapers. It was actually my husband who brought up the idea of cloth diapers. I laughed at him and said I would never wash poop and that it was disgusting. After some intensive research and realizing that cloth diapers wasn’t poking pins and swishing in a toilet I decided to try cloth diapers out. I fell in love, and wanted to share my love with world. OhFancyBaby was born the Summer of 2011 and has grown so much over the past 2 years.

Crystal: Isn't it crazy how we sometimes go back and do something we said we would never do? That's totally how I felt about cloth diapers a few years ago...and now I'm addicted!!!! Good thing we have supportive husbands.

So, speaking of support - who has been your biggest supporter?

Laura: My biggest supporter has been a lot of moms and dads on facebook. I have done a lot of advertising on various sites, groups and pages on and off facebook, however my biggest supporters or rather, FancyFans comefrom facebook and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Crystal: Facebook can certainly be a great way to connect with people. In fact, I think that's where we met (on the cloth diaper swap, if I remember correctly). Gotta love social media!

Other than the facebook tips above, Laura what advice would you give other female entrepreneurs?

Laura: My best advice would be don’t give up and be persistent, the first year is the roughest. But it does get better, as a mom of 3 girls it is easy to get distracted while running OhFancyBaby. I have to put my husband and kiddos first to keep my household on track. Make schedules, post them and follow them. There is nothing better than a good routine.

Crystal: That explains why your customer service is so great! I've never had any ordering issues and really appreciate how prompt you are!

Do tell...what's in store for Oh Fancy Baby in 2014?


Laura: This year I plan to add more FancyMama’s to OhFancyBaby. I love to showcase other mom’s who sew, craft or have another gift to share. I work with other mom’s like me and together we create FancyMama’s. Right now we currently have mama’s who sew cloth wipes and create fabulous hair bows. There is always room to grow and always room for more mamas.

Crystal: Thanks again Laura! I absolutely love your products and it is such a pleasure working with such a great mom and dedicated business owner!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Giveaway & Guest Post by Author Bette Lee Crosby

Check out this GREAT guest post by author and friend Bette Lee Crosby! Once you've read her post, enter to win a copy of Jubilee's Journey. Bette is graciously offering readers: 1 ebook copy and 1 paperback (paperback available to US Residents only).

Thank you Bette!

Bette Lee Crosby Shares How Jubilee's Journey Came to Be!
Writing Jubilee’s Journey was somewhat of a trip down memory lane, not because of my own memories, but the memories of my mother, who so generously passed them down to me.

My mom was born in Coal Fork, West Virginia; as was her sister Ruth. They were two in a family of eleven siblings.  Times were hard and the family didn’t always have the luxury of living under the same roof. Once the girls were old enough, they were sent to live with relatives who needed house help; the boys went to work in the mines or became farm hands for neighbors.

When my mom was not yet twenty, she married a city boy from Charleston and moved away. Her sister Ruth married one of the men who worked in the mines. The part of Jubilee’s Journey that tells of life in the mining community is based on the truth of how it was.

After Ruth was married, she and her new husband moved into a tiny four room house wedged into the side of the coal-mining mountain. Did they own the house? No. Did they rent the house? No. In the little community of Coal Fork, there was no owning or renting; if a house stood empty and you had need of it…you simply moved in. Of course the house was little more than walls and a floor, there was no plumbing, no electricity, just a cast iron coal stove used for both cooking and heat.  But it was a house and it was free. It had a stretch of land suitable for some farming and a well that had a plentiful supply of cold clear water – water far better than anything you’ve ever tasted.

In Jubilee’s Journey, Ruth’s husband is named Bartholomew but in real life his name was Clifford. He was a miner who lived a life very similar to Bartholomew’s. He and Ruth had four children, the eldest of which was my cousin Paul. And the Paul I knew was my model for the one I created. He was wise, strong, loyal beyond belief, and filled with love and Faith.

I spent many summer vacations visiting my cousins and the memories I have are truly treasured ones. Despite the fact that Ruth’s family had very few material possessions, they were wealthy beyond compare. They were rich in the things that no amount of money can buy—love, faith, trust and hope. Like Bartholomew, Clifford hoped his boys would never see the inside of a mine…and they didn’t. All four of my cousins earned scholarships and went on to become professionals in the fields of education and ministry.

I have always been inspired by the goodness in the life they led, and that inspiration is what led me to write Jubilee’s Journey. I hope the book inspires others as the truth behind this story has inspired me.


Bette Lee Crosby

This first 'widget' is for the E-Book Copy (open internationally):





This second 'widget' is for the Paperback Copy (open to US Residents Only):




Good Luck!
Love,
~Crystal

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Cloth Diapers - My thoughts, ideas, reviews, AND a giveaway for YOU!

So I found myself (at age 36) with a baby on the way. Things had been a bit different with the older children (5,6) and I had some ideas on how I wanted to raise our new addition. This time I work from home and we own our own business so I decided cloth diapering would be a great way to save money and the environment. I knew NOTHING about cloth diapers (except they make excellent burp rags). I still don't claim to know it all...but this is what I do know:


You would spend at least $2500 on disposable diapers for one child and use over 4000 diapers (2,788 of those in the first year).

You only need about 25 cloth diapers to fully cloth diaper one child full time.


I received some hand me down diapers, and I found some wonderful diaper shops. I traveled out of town and found diaper shops. I talked to moms. I found blogs. I read articles. I learned about the different styles of diapers. I tried some diapers and swapped them for others because I just didn’t like them. I wrote to companies and asked what I was doing wrong. I tried new diapers. I asked for ideas. And now…I have some favorites and some not so favorites. I cannot show you my entire stash, but I want to tell you about some of my favorites. Included with my review of my favs, there is also an interview with the owner of  Chubby Elephant Diapers and a giveaway for one diaper from each company. The giveaway ends this Thursday January 16th at noon (CST)

It took a while to find the perfect nighttime solution for our little one. He loves to sleep in as much as his mommy does and we were leaking through many popular diapers. I even tried wool covers and just couldn't wrap my head around the entire lanolizing process and it seemed complicated. I tried pre-folds and snappies and though not as difficult as the pins of days gone by, it just wasn't for me. That's when I learned about 'fitted' diapers and AI2 which stands for All In 2. I chatted with some mothers who recommended trying the AI2 from Chubby Elephant Diapers. These diapers are amazingly absorbent, breathable, and oh so cute! The owner of the company is just as wonderful as the product too! These diapers are well worth the money and as much as we love them at night, they are just as great for daytime. If I know we will be gone a while and I am worried about leaks, this is what I'll use - because they have lots of absorbent layers!! 

INTERVIEW


Crystal: Where did you get your name from? 

Chubby Elephant: I have always loved elephants. Had a bit of an obsession with them in high school; they are fascinating animals. I was trying to come up with a name for my business and just liked the way Chubby Elephant sounds

Crystal: I love the way it sounds too and I smile each time I see your logo on my chubby little man!

What prompted you to start your own company?

Chubby Elephant: I have been cloth diapering since 2010 when my son was born. I started out with mainstream brands, found disappointment, then discovered WAHM diapers and became addicted to all the fun prints. My husband lost his job so I sold almost my entire stash to fund a serger to make my own diapers. I came up with my own pattern and started sewing diapers for my son.

Crystal:  I am seriously jealous! I wish I could sew - just sewing a button frustrated me!

Who has been your biggest supporter?


Chubby Elephant: My husband has definitely been my biggest supporter. I think he was very happy to see me sewing my own diapers to begin with and when I started selling them he was proud of me.  
Crystal: What a great hubby!!!! I can just tell you're smiling recall that memory!

What advice would you give other female entrepreneurs?


Chubby Elephant: Just do it. If you have a talent for something and you want to share it with others, just go for it. There is a certain amount of bravery required. You also need to give it time, success doesn't happen overnight. For me personally, I make diapers to stock and they sit in my shop for weeks. I have to keep going. I'm not interested in becoming the next best thing out there, but I hope to get to a point where diapers aren't sitting in my shop for weeks.  
Crystal: Just do it is very sound advice - taking that plunge can be the scariest (albeit most rewarding) part of any new adventure!

How do you advertise?

Chubby Elephant: I mostly do reviews/giveaways with bloggers. A little advertising on hyena cart right before my store stocks.  
Crystal: I'm so glad we found one another - I would say you do just the right amount of advertising and I'm so glad I can be part of that for you! 

What would you change if you could start over? Why?

Chubby Elephant: I would have set up my books from the beginning. I am so not looking forward to taxes this year, it's going to be a mess...


Crystal: Well, I can completely understand that! Taxes can be such a nightmare and I'll admit I'm not super with book-keeping either.

What's in store for Chubby Elephant Diapers in 2014?

Chubby Elephant: I have another work from home business so my free time is divided between the two.

Crystal:  I hope you'll come back and tell us more about your other business and keep us up to date with any new developments with Chubby Elephant - thank you so much!!!!!

Hugs!
 
I love the Oh Fancy Baby diapers because of the fun designs, trim fit, and their great customer service. My orders are filled very quickly and everything is high quality. The first purchase I made was a little cap, leg warmers, and a fuzzy diaper. The set was adorable and made for great pictures of my little one. Laura who owns Oh Fancy baby is wonderful and answered all of my questions. The diapers are the pocket style and come with a bamboo and microfiber insert. They aren't something I would use for overnight...not because they leak, but because I use a different style for nighttime diapering. I guarantee you'll be pleased with your Oh Fancy Baby purchase and the customer service is just as fancy as the diapers and accessories! 

Within the next week, I will feature an interview with Laura from Oh Fancy Baby - stay tuned! In the meantime, please feel free to register to win your very own Oh Fancy Baby Diaper! (below)




Disclaimer: I did not receive any products in exchange for my reviews. I purchased these products myself - and when I offered to do the reviews the company offered MY READERS the freebies....so my opinions were not swayed in any way!

Hugs,
~Crystal




Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cloth Diaper Reviews COMING SOON!!

I can't believe it's been over a month with no posts or reviews! Where does the time go?

I haven't been working on anything new writing wise ... just the few blog posts, reviews, and author interviews you may have caught on WOW! Women on Writing's blog: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Other than that...I have been completely immersed in motherhood. We are having a blast with cloth diapering and all things baby. Stay tuned for some fabulous cloth diaper reviews and maybe even a giveaway or two. I don't want to give away too much just yet, but the picture below says a lot about our favorite new diaper: