Thursday, October 1, 2015

All about Owls

Whoooo doesn't like owls? They're cute, they're mysterious, they're super trendy. They are certainly a bird you won't forget seeing! Historically, they've also been viewed mystically as full of evil boding. We think of them as wise. Their swiveling head is surreal, and their talons: fearsome.

Did you know there are over 200 species of owl? Whoo knew?! If getting a layman's glimpse into the variety of owls piques your interest, Matt Sewell's book Owls: Our Most Charming Bird is definitely for you. The books covers 50 different kinds of owls, conveniently divided by region: Dessert Owls, Tropical Owls, Wilderness Owls, and Woodland Owls.

Each owl gets a page spread - on one page is a watercolor illustration of the owl, drawn by Matt, and the other page is his description of the bird. The owls are hardly Audubon's but they do whimsically capture the essence of the bird while being highly recognizable. The text is no more than a couple paragraphs for each bird, and is hardly scientific. In fact, the descriptions are largely fantastical, imaging birds as various concoctions of leg of newt, coal ash, and dragon fire. That doesn't mean it's all irreverent, he does also mention what makes a particular owl unique or how that particular bird was viewed historically.

My biggest disappointment with this book was its size. Like with Things I've Said to My Children, I expected a coffee table display sized book. Instead, it's small, only about 5.5"x7.5" - admittedly, given the brevity of description, it doesn't need to be larger, but the book is definitely more pocket-sized that coffee table sized.

The pages themselves are crisp, clean, minimal, allowing the focus to truly be on these magnificent, quirky, unusual birds. He even includes a "field guide" checklist at the end of the book, in case you want to go searching for these solitary birds, so you can mark which ones you see.

As with most books on nature, there are comments assuming evolution as fact and jabs at humans if a habitat is diminishing. All in all, though, if you are looking for an amusing take on these distinguished birds, and not a scientific one, this is sure to be an enjoyable addition to your library.

And, not going to lie, the artwork is totally frameable and would be super cute as a collage on a wall. Even if you don't like the descriptions, it could be worth the purchase just for the gallery you'd get. Or buy two copies. The gallery idea is really enticing. Just saying.

I received a complimentary copy of Owls from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sing Freedom! (A True Story)

History is filled with unusual events. We are, alas, familiar with war and bloodshed and countries vie against each other, or seek independence. What is less common are successful, peaceful protests that have lasting national effect - Estonia truly must have a story like no other nation.

Sing Freedom! A Country Wins it's Freedom Through Song is a tastefully written and illustrated book for children about the true story of the unique singing revolution in Estonia that freed the nation without bloodshed. Seriously? The nation won independence through song, not war. Crazy! The story is easy to understand, but there is a glossary in the back of the book for potential problem words. The pictures are well done and easily communicate mood. 

I highly recommend this book. I received a complimentary ebook in exchange for my honest review, but like the book so much I want to get a printed copy! This is a great book to add your home library and use in your elementary homeschool or classroom!

This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Creep Factor {and Existing Double Standard}

Women, how many of you have encountered something like the following? You're out watching a movie and hear guys behind you making comments about the woman on the screen. You're scrolling through facebook and see a couple guys going on about the hot waitress who served them last night. A couple old guys are sitting in front of Cracker Barrel ogling the women who walk by.

I bet you're mad. Furious. Creeped out. Maybe you even give them a piece of your mind.

But how many times has something like this shown up in your facebook feed amid likes and laughs and encouragement?

 "That's funny," we might see written, or "you go girl!" 


Why are we upset or grossed out by the one, but not the other?

Why is the reaction any different when it comes from a woman?

It shouldn't be.

There should be no complacency when it comes to females doing the same thing we abhor from males.

We have a cultural double standard, it seems. Women can do whatever they want sexually like this, because women were subjugated and now we're empowered. We need to show the men that we're equal to them - by degrading them into sex objects? 

Since when did equality mean degradation? 

I know, some of you will tell me I need to lighten up, that I'm too serious.

But this IS serious. 

Even if the spirit is one of jest, how would you feel if a man made that kind of joke about a woman? It's inappropriate, and it's not becoming. Especially not for a Christian. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Things I've Said to My Children

By now, you've probably seen the posters on the internet that graphic designer Nathan Ripperger has shared of bizarre things that left his mouth because of his children. He also sells the prints on Etsy for about $12 a piece.

But if you love his work in this area, there's really not much to see. I mean. The same posters appear everywhere with pretty much no variety. And, if you're a parent like me, you know this can't be because he's only said a handful of weird things to his kids. If this has bummed you out, his book is releasing today!

This book features all the ones that pop up on the internet, plus many new ones. While the book is 96 pages, with only a handful of words on each page, it goes by fast. And some of the graphics are double spreads. 

So here's the thing: if you love what you've seen from him so far, you'll love this book. And with a list price of $15, this is the route the go. You couldn't buy two of his prints for this price! If you are amused, but don't love his work, I'd skip it. This is the camp I fall in. The posters mildly amuse me, but just don't really strike my funny bone. 

Honestly, though, the biggest thing I am disappointed in is the size of the book. I was expecting a large coffee table kind of book. The kind you can set out that sparks interest and conversation. This is a rather small volume considering it contains poster-type images on every page, measuring just over 8x7 (but over half and inch thick). 

Still, the volume isn't too small to appreciate his graphic talent, and, honestly, if you want some of his prints for the wall, these are of frameable quality, if you're ok with their size. Some of these could be pretty cute in a playroom collage, reminding all parents that kids really do bring out the bizarrest phrases from us. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Best Survey Site

Surveys are often touted as a great way to make some extra income on the side. I'm been participating in surveys off and on since I was in college. Quite honestly, most are less than impressive. When I first started taking surveys there was discrepancy between how much your points would get you in actual dollar value.

This meant some survey sites were great and others were less than stellar. It was also common for there to be a tiered system, meaning, the longer you held on to your points waiting to redeem, the more value you would get for your points.

This is not true anymore.

Point values have largely been standardized. Basically one point = one penny. So whether you are going through Swagbucks or Ipsos (the two I still actually do recommend) you're honestly largely looking at a waste of your time. Is 90 points for a 30 minute survey really worth it? That means you're making $1.80/hour. Or 45 points for a 20 minute survey - $1.35/hour. We're talking really meager pickins.

I participate in these when I have to be stuck sitting down ... which pretty much means, when I have to pump, or maybe during lunch. I mean, if I HAVE to be immobile for a few hours a day when I can't do much anyway, I might as well make that time count for something. So I do these surveys, and I read.

My by-far favorite survey site, though, is YouGov. The reasons why this one is superior are manifold.

  • If they send you a survey, you pre-qualify. None of this taking 10 minutes to answer a bunch of questions and then get a consolation penny or nickel. Instead of one point equally one penny, however, it takes twelve points to make a penny. Even so, this is a better deal than the other sites! Read on to see how
  • Every survey earns you at least 500 points. This means about $0.42/survey
  • Their surveys ALWAYS take me less time to complete than they estimate. This is almost unheard of. Most survey sites say "20 minutes" ... it may take 20 minutes, but many times I'm going ok this is definitely more like 30 minutes ... or more. Additional time for no extra points decreases value.
  • YouGov usually estimates their surveys to take 5-10 minutes to complete. This means you're making $2.50-$5.00/hour. Except usually the surveys don't even take me that long, which is a value adder. Score! This is easily double (or more!) the other survey sites out there I've found. I consider that significant.
  • The options for redeeming your points aren't exhaustive, but they're still helpful - Michael's, CVS, Regal Cinemas, Lowes, Old Navy, Target, and more are all options for gift card redemption. (Note: I usually redeem in the 30,000 points for $25 gift card, 60,000 for $50 gift card is the same point value as the former, but takes longer to achieve. The store options do differ though. The best point to dollar value is the 100,000 for $100, if you don't mind waiting that long for redemption.)
For a long time I was super sporadic in answering these surveys, so it took me a long time (read, years) to earn enough for a $25 gift card. I changed my settings now to get survey invitations as frequently as possible. That was one month ago, and I'm already over a quarter of the way to my next $25 gift card!

This isn't your get-rich-quick-site, but it is a way to easily bring in an extra $100/year without much time or effort. That's nothing to sneeze at. They take marginal time, are actually enjoyable, and don't waste my time. This is one survey site I heartily recommend to everyone.

I like using my points for Regal gift cards. Going to movies isn't something that is in our budget - it's so expensive! - but it's something my husband really likes doing. This way we can have free date nights...Woohoo! 

Bonus! If you sign up through my referral link, you'll earn an extra 2,000 points ($1.67) once you complete 3 surveys, putting you that much closer to earning your first gift card. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

By signing up through my referral link, we both will receive 2,000 points credited to our accounts upon completion of your first 3 surveys. YouGov did not ask me to write this post and is providing me no further compensation. This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive compensation for referring business. All opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The #1 Way We Save Money

Cell phones.

What an integral part of our lives, something we turn around to retrieve if we leave at home. But they cost us how much a month??

When I had to get off my lovely $10/line (unlimited calls, no texts, no data) as a part of my parents family plan because I was the oldest and my younger brother needed to be added, I started researching. I couldn't afford to pay much more than I currently was. At the time, I switched to the cheapest plan I could find: $30/month plus tax for 1,000 texts, 1,000 minutes, and 1,000 KB of data.

When I met my now husband he was paying $57/month for 450 minutes (unlimited night and weekend calling), 250 texts (for those outside the network, unlimited in network), no data

Shortly before we married we heard of a startup called Republic Wireless. Their concept was to offer the lowest rates possible by having the users use WiFi for calls, texts, data whenever possible. They weren't open to just anyone at that point, but they were looking for beta testers. My husband and I both joined.

That was almost three years ago.

We haven't looked back.

Since we joined Republic the service has only improved as have their phones.

And we only pay $20/month for TWO phones ($10/each) - unlimited text, calls, and WiFi data (plus local fees and taxes, which are less than $5/month for both phones).

That means we save over $60 every month

I might be a little excited about that. How can you save money on your phone bill?

I'm glad you asked. You did ask, right? Because who doesn't want to save money?

Republic Wireless offers three options for plans:

  • The $5/month basic WiFi only plan
    This plan offers unlimited calls, texts, and data from WiFi, but nothing via cell towers.
  • The $10/month unlimited texts and calls via cell with WiFi only data
    This is the plan we use. You have unlimited calls and texts whether you are using WiFi or cell, and unlimited data use, as long as you are connected to WiFi. If you want data via cell, check out option 3.
  • The $10/month+ unlimited texts and calls via cell with pay-for-what-you-use data WITH cash refund!
    This is just so cool. So like the above plan, you get unlimited calling and data, then for $7.50 you can add a minimum of 0.5 GB data to your plan. The testers for this feature used, on average, only 0.3 GB data, which means they received an average of a $3 refund for the 0.2 GB of unused data.

    A CASH refund. No gimmicks. No rollovers. You purchase what you estimate you need every month in 0.5 GB increments, and Republic refunds you for whatever data you don't use. Basically, the more you use WiFi, the more you save. Awesome!

    The average price per month for this feature after the cash refund is $14.50.

You can buy either the Moto G (our choice) or the Moto X from Republic to use with their phone service. Yes, you have to buy one of these phones from them because what they are doing is unique and requires specific hardware design. With the savings we experienced from switching when we joined their beta testing three years ago, we were compensated for the costs of the phones within a year. 

Another way we benefit from using Republic Wireless? We can actually afford internet! Woohoo! Before we simply didn't have room in our budget for internet, cell phones, and our other necessitates. We pay $15/month for internet service, which allows us to do the $10/month plan from Republic. If you include internet in our "phone bill" category, we pay $35/month, plus tax and local fees. That is still a monthly savings of about $50!

And Republic Wireless is about to roll out seamless transitions from wifi to cell and back. This used to be buggy, but I was just part of a test lab for this new feature and it worked flawlessly. I am so excited about this.

Really, the only "downside" to using Republic is if you are a brand loyalist. If that's you, I really encourage you to give Republic Wireless a try. You get great service and save a ton of money. Did I mention there is no monthly contract? Yeah, it's a month to month service that you don't have to stick with.

We have been with Republic since pretty much their beginning, and we plan to stay. Like a good cheese, Republic Wireless has only gotten better with time.

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Republic Wireless did not underwrite this post. All opinions and experiences and mine. This post does contain affiliate links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What Does it Mean to be "Set Apart?"

— set apart
:  to reserve to a particular use
:  to make noticeable or outstanding
(merriam webster)

There are many verses one might point to as evidence that, as Christians, we are set apart for God. But what does this really look like? All too often, without insider knowledge, I wouldn't be able to tell you which of my friends were Christians and which didn't believe. On social media, what is talked about and shared is, with few exceptions, the noticeable the same.

A few of my friends who claim Jesus say this is intentional because facebook (etc) isn't the right place to share anything about their faith. That's something to do in person. On some level I understand that. I mean, it's easy to misunderstand someone or come across wrong and not realize it if you can't read body language and hear the tone of voice. But is it an adequate reason? And, to be honest, many who claim that don't actually talk about Jesus or the Bible when they are face to face with people either.

The point is - your life on social media is an extension of your actual life.

If you can't tell a difference as to who is a Christian and who isn't on facebook, where can you?

If we are set apart for God, shouldn't there be a difference in our lives? Something that characterizes us, marks us, makes us different?

This question has been tumbling in the back of my mind for awhile.

When I picked up Leslie Ludy's book The Set Apart Woman, all I really expected was some nice sentiment and a pat on the back for being God's daughter. But you never know, so I read it in spite of my misgivings.

Plus, it had a pretty cover. That's always nice.


Sometimes I like being wrong.

I really appreciated the words offered in this book to help us be intentional about our set apart-ness. Leslie reminds us that our actions overflow from our hearts. That we need to make sure you spend time with God each day. As a busy pregnant mom with two little ones, it's easy to be "too busy" to pray or read the Bible. Leslie makes the point that particularly in those seasons we ought see it as being too busy NOT to pray! 

The problem isn't the busyness of our life, it's when we try to go about our lives on our own strength - like Martha, who was "distracted with much serving" instead of making spending time with Jesus her #1 priority. 

How true is that for many of us?

Recently, I've started being more intentional about how I spend my time, with the key areas being what I do right before bed and the first hour or two after I wake up. This has really helped me be less stressed and has created time where I can grow spiritually again. This has dovetailed beautifully with reading The Set Apart Woman

I highly recommend reading this book. It is directed to women, but that doesn't mean men couldn't benefit from it as well. May we all take steps so that when people look at us, they see Jesus.


Do you also want to have more peace, less stress, and feel more productive each day? Want to make sure you are able to spend quality time with Jesus every day? I found the Make Over Your Mornings ecourse extremely helpful in this regard. 

If you're unsure if you want to invest in this course or not, the first day of this 14 day course is currently available for free, so check it out. Also, if you aren't satisfied with your purchase, your money will be refunded if you let them know within 30 days! This is a win-win-win situation, where there's really only things to gain, and nothing to lose.

I received a complimentary ecopy of The Set Apart Woman in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

This post does contain affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive commission for referring business. Thank you for your support!

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