Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Today Is a Great Day


TODAY is a great day. Why, you ask? Three reasons:
  1. Hunger Games premiere! I know, it's all the rage. Can it really be that great? YES! I can say because I just got home from seeing it :) If you're not into movies, The Hunger Games books are amazing!
  2. It's MEGA SWAGBUCKS DAY! Every Friday, Swagbucks offers bigger wins for searches. Mosey over to the Swagbucks Facebook wall if you don't believe me :)
  3. SWAGBUCKS CODE! If you haven't given over to the wonders of Swagbucks yet, NOW is the time to do it! Starting today through the end of the day April 2nd, Swagbucks is offering a 70 SB sign up bonus! When you register, enter the code MARCHSWAG and get 100 SBs at sign up instead of the usual 30 SBs. This will put you a quarter of the way toward your first $5 Amazon gift card, and all you have to do is enter your name and email address. I mean, hello?! There really is no better time to join! (Use any of the links above to sign up.)
I'm sure there are many more reasons why today is a great day. Can you think of one? Share! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Swagness -- GET EXCITED!

March Swagness has come to Swagbucks - it's all about you earning bonus Swag Bucks while doing all of the things you’re already doing on Swagbucks. Every day thy’ll give you an earning goal, which you’ll find on their homepage. As you earn Swag Bucks throughout the day, that meter will fill up and when it’s full, you’ll have earned your bonus for the day. The bonus will always be 10% of that day’s goal.

Be sure to check in everyday, as the earning goal for any given day could be higher or lower than the day before. Your total bonus amount will continue to accumulate each day, and your bonus amount will be applied at by April 5th – this special promotion runs through April 2nd. If you hit the earning goal every single day of March Swagness, your bonus amount will be doubled!

EVERYTHING you earn on Swagbucks counts towards March Swagness – including (but limited to) Search,Surveys, Tasks, Swag Codes, Special Offers, Referral Bucks, Winning TTPTP, Hashtag and Comment hookups – if you earn it from us, it counts towards the day it was earned! Get your March Swagness on starting today, when the goal will be 50 Swag Bucks!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Easy Individual Lasagna

I came across this recipe on Pinterest (hello, muse) and loved the idea of it! I love lasagna, but it's just time-consuming. I'm starting to think it takes me forever to make because I just don't do it that often. I think it would be easier if I did it more! Anyway, there are two things about this recipe that were calling my name: 1) the "individual" servings and 2) putting the meat in the food processor. Why do these excite me? 1) We have a wee one at home, but the only people eating real food are me and my husband. I love recipes that allow me to freeze stuff in individual portions so we can eat them later. 2) My husband is a VEGGIE HATER. Seriously, corn and potatoes are the only vegetables he will eat. (Ok, let me be fair -- I have converted him to asparagus. But it took forever! Though he does love it now, so I guess it was worth it.) Anyway, in this recipe, she puts the browned meat in the food processor to chop it up super fine and get that pretty sauce that restaurants always have. I couldn't care less about pretty, but a light went off in my brain -- mix in veggies! If they're ground up, they're imperceptible! Woo! Here's my version of the recipe which diverts from the original a decent bit...
Pin It
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (or Italian sausage or whatever meat you love!)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 container Ricotta cheese (15 oz)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 box of uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 zucchini
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Brown meat in high-sided pan. (You will be adding your sauce in here, so use a pan that gives you enough room.) While the meat is browning, put on a big pot of water to boil your noodles and chop up your zucchini.
3. Once the meat is done, drain off any excess fat. Put the meat in the food processor and pulse until finely ground. You're looking for an even texture all through the meat.
4. Once you get the meat out of the pan, put the zucchini in the pan and saute until soft. Add the zucchini to the food processor and grind it up with the meat.

You won't even notice me once I'm all chopped up!
5. Add the meat and zucchini back into the pan and pour in the sauce. Stir occasionally while you prepare the rest of the dish.
6. Once the water comes to a boil, ADD TONS OF SALT and then add the noodles and cook until al dente. (Just follow the directions on the box.)
7. While the sauce simmers and the noodles boil, mix your Ricotta cheese with the egg and add salt and pepper to season. Add 1.5 cups of Mozzarella cheese and 3/4 cup of Parmesan. I used a Parmesan/Romano blend. Just use whatever you have!
8. Once the noodles finish boiling, drain and lay them out on waxed paper or cookie sheets in a single layer.
9. Prep your pan by covering the bottom with a thin layer of sauce. This will keep the noodles from sticking.
10. Spread the cheese mixture onto the noodles. The original recipe called for 1/4 cup per noodle. I just heaped a spoonful on and spread til it was covered adequately.
11. Once all the noodles are cheesed, spread a heaping tablespoon of sauce on top of the cheese.
12. Roll the noodles up "jelly roll" style and place them seam side down in the pan.
13. Top the roll ups with the remaining sauce and cheese (1/2 cup Mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, or however much you like!)
14. Cover with aluminum foil (use toothpicks to keep the foil off the cheese if this is an issue for your pan) and bake for 35 minutes. Take the foil off for the final five minutes of cooking if you'd like your cheese to brown up a bit.


My husband loved this recipe -- LOVED IT! If you have veggie-haters in your home, try this one out. You can sneak anything into that sauce! I've also found that it freezes really well. We've been eating it off and on for a week! Hope you enjoy.

OH -- by the way, I have some Ricotta cheese left over. (The big container was on sale.) What's your favorite thing to do with Ricotta? I need some ideas!

Friday, March 16, 2012

3/16/12 Swagbucks Update AND a Tip!

Aaaand I'm a day late on my monthly Swagbucks update, BUT I didn't do much Swaggin' yesterday, so my stats should still be pretty accurate. This marks my third month as a Swagger (these are terms you pick up from spending time around other Swagbucks fanatics. ha), and I am proud to say in my three months with Swagbucks, I have earned a lifetime 20,756 Swagbucks! This translates to roughly $230 using the $5 Amazon gift card as my rate of exchange (90 SBs = $1). Amazing! Here is a screen shot of my redeemed gift cards:

That's right, it goes onto a second page now :) I have redeemed $125 in Amazon gift cards, $50 in Paypal gift cards, $10 off at Diaper Junction (we're trying out cloth diapers), and $5 at Barnes and Noble. That's $190! From searching! And surveys! And filling out offers! AHHH! I could not love Swagbucks any more than I do. It is simply wonderful!

As I looked over these stats, I was curious about my biggest moneymakers. If you are a Swagbucks member, you can look at your ledger (hover over your name at the top of the SBs page, click on "My Swagbucks", then click on the Ledger tab) and arrange it by Category using the drop down menu on the left.  Special Offers are my biggest money-maker. Even excluding the 3600 SBs for a credit card offer I completed, I've earned over 7000 SBs from Special Offers! (Surveys -- almost 5000 SBs -- and Tasks  -- almost 2000 SBs -- follow up in second and third places.)

Here's my tip for today:

My best resource for finding out about good offers without spending my life searching the pages is through Facebook. Occasionally, people will post offers they have completely successfully on the main Swagbucks Facebook page. I have also found the Swagbucks Offers That Credit page to have a wealth of information, including follow ups, cancellations, and ticket submissions. I will note that people are less careful of Swagbucks official rules on that page. They often talk of using false information to complete offers which is not acceptable according to Swagbucks and is just downright dishonest! However, I find the page to be infinitely useful and I owe it much credit for my crazy-high Special Offers total.

I'd love to hear about your Swagbucks experience! What is your biggest "money-maker"?

If you aren't a Swagbucks member, I hope my experience will encourage you to sign up! Referrals are another way to earn Swagbucks. Once you are a member, if people sign up through you, you can earn matching Swagbucks up to 1000 SBs. Consider signing up through me and then tell all your friends and earn Swagbucks from them!

Monday, March 12, 2012

In My Pinterest Queue

If you use Pinterest (which necessarily means you are obsessed... I mean, come on, it's awesome), you'll know what I mean when I say I won't live long enough to try all the things I've pinned. If you're not a Pinterest fanatic,  let's just say it's like internet hoarding -- which is dangerous because the internet doesn't take up space... the hoarding knows no bounds! I pin in the hopes of a "someday" when I will actually be able to make or cook all the awesome/delicious looking things that other people have made and cooked. One day, my friends, one day. Here are a few things in my Pinterest Queue:



4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Granola Bars





















Source: foodformyfamily.com via Aleah on Pinterest
Mini Berry Pies on a Stick




















Homemade Vanilla Extract

See what I mean?! Aren't these things AMAZING!? Sigh. Do you have anything pinned that you can't wait to try?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Biannual Blogathon Bash Kick Off!

Biannual Blogathon Bash

It's time! This weekend is the Biannual Blogathon Bash. Can you say, OVERWHELMED??! Having a new blog means there is so much I could be doing to improve my blog. I am going to really try to focus my goals to make this weekend as productive as possible. Here's what I'm looking to do...

GOAL: At least 15 hours of blogging! 

15 hours isn't an insane amount, but I have a five-month-old and my in-laws are coming, and I believe in realistic goals :) this is something I can achieve! It will be a stretch to work this in, but it is going to be so worth it in the end. Here are a few things that I would like to accomplish:
  • Create a posting schedule and write up a few posts.
  • Research Alexa Traffic Ranking (so excited for this mini-challenge!)
  • Brainstorm ways to make my social media work harder for me
  • Streamline a focus for my blog
  • Tag all my posts to make them easier to search through
  • Work on three month Swagbucks update
I'm so excited to be linking up to other blogs doing this too. I'm sure their to-do lists will inspire more for me! Even if I can't get everything done this weekend that I would like, it's nice to have a group to keep me motivated :) happy blogging!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge -- GOOGLE PLUS

For your Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge in Social Media, start here.
Google+ is a newer social media outlet, but with Google's vast reach, it is growing rapidly. Google is one of the most popular mail platforms, and Google allows all their email users to link their accounts to a Google+ profile. It operates in much the same way as a Facebook profile. You have the option of creating a Google+ profile or a Google+ page. If you already have a profile that you use for personal connections, it would make sense to create a separate page for your blog. If you have a separate email address for your blog, it is probably just easier to create a profile. The instructions for both are included below.


To create a Google+ profile:
  1. Set up a Google account by signing up here.
  2. Once you create your account, you will see the link to your Google+ profile on the top left. For example, mine says "Aleah+"
  3. Just like on your Facebook page, you can fill in your profile with information about you and your blog, your blog address, location, and search settings. You definitely want to make sure that anyone can access your page for optimum access!
  4. Google+ has "circles." On the left, you can see who you have in your circles and who has you in theirs. This is similar to Facebook's "Likes" -- it allows you to see how far your reach extends.
To create a Google+ page:
  1. Sign into your Google account.
  2. On the right side of your stream, click on Create a Google+ page.
  3. Pick a category for your page: Product or Brand; Company, Institution or Organization; Local Business or Place; Arts, Entertainment or Sports; Other. If you already have a Facebook Page, pick the one that is most consistent with your category there.
  4. Click Create and then get to work filling in the info just like you did for your Google+ profile or Facebook page!
How can a Google+ profile or page grow your blog? You can share your posts to your page and people can either share them or "+1" them. The "+1" button is basically a "Like" -- it indicates that people think it is worth reading. The more "+1"s you get, the more reach your blog has!


Leave a comment on this page once you complete the challenge!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge – FACEBOOK

For your Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge in Social Media, start here.




Facebook is the most widely used of all the major social media outposts. It has become a kind of "must have" for anyone and everyone on the internet. People can share things they find interesting in all sorts of formats. Most bloggers choose to set up a Facebook Page as opposed to a Facebook Group. Facebook Help has a great breakdown of the difference in their article here, so I won't go into the details. A Page allows you to reach more people faster and easier. Your blog might reach a point where creating a Group makes sense, so you could always keep that in mind for the future. Onto the "how"...
  1. Login to your Facebook account. If you do not already have a Facebook account, you can create one specifically for your blog or you can set up your own account, and create the page from there. Here are Facebook's instructions for creating an account (although they are basically as simple as Twitter's -- name, email, password, boom!).
  2. Once logged in, go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php. Facebook allows you to choose what kind of page you will create -- Local Business or Place; Company, Organization or Institution; Brand or Product; Artist, Band or Public Figure; Entertainment; Cause or Community. Most bloggers select "Cause or Community" because most blogs are a sort of mini-community. One of the other categories might fit your blog better, so choose with your blog in mind.
  3. The first step will be to upload a picture. This can be your blog "logo" or a picture of you or something that represents your blog in some way.
  4. Then you will fill in your "About" section. You can describe your blog -- its goals, main features, etc. Then enter your blog address as the website. If you have a Twitter and Google+ page, you also have the option of adding in those links too!
  5. The next page you will see is the "Admin" view of your Facebook Page. Here, you will see several features about your page:
  • Notifications: You will be notified anytime someone writes on your Facebook Page wall, comments on a post, etc.
  • Messages: People can message you through your Page and it will show up on your Admin view at the top.
  • New Likes: The beauty of a Page is that people can "Like" your Page. This shows up on their profile, their friends see it, click on it, and they can "Like" your page too. It has this sort of viral effect, streaming from one person to the next. Facebook will tell you when you have new "Likes" so you can keep up with your reach.
  • Insights: Once 30 people "Like" your page, Facebook will start tracking activity to your account. You can see when people come to your page, what they do while they're there, how long they stay, and exactly how many people you are connected to through the people that "Like" your page. This is very valuable for you to track what your high impact actions are!
How can Facebook grow your blog? Through Shares and Likes! Share all your blog posts on your Page and people who have Liked it can see your latest posts. You can also update your status to advertise upcoming events and share other blogs you like. You can create a "poll" to gauge your readers' interest in different topics and help you find a new direction for your blog. If your readers "Share" your posts, all their friends will be able to see your posts and your Page.

I will use my Page as an example. Even though my blog was new, I chose to participate in a giveaway and used my Facebook page as my sign up link. People could "Like" my Page for an entry into the giveaway. In less than three weeks, I got over 1,300 Likes! According to Facebook's data, I have access to over 374,000 people through the friends of those 1,300 Likes. This is an incredible audience for just three weeks of exposure! Most of my readers access my posts through my Facebook Page and, if they share them, all their friends get to see them too.


Leave a comment on this post once you complete the challenge!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge – TWITTER

For your Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge in Social Media, start here.




Twitter is, by far, the easiest social media account to set up.
  1. Go to http://twitter.com
  2. Type in your full name, email address, and create an account password (not your email password). Click on the "Sign up for Twitter" yellow button. Use whatever email address you use for your blog.
  3. On the next page, create a username. Ideally, this username will connect with your blog. For example, my blog's name is Bake Sew Write. My Twitter username is bakesewrite.
  4. Double check all the info you entered to make sure it is correct.
  5. You now have a Twitter account!
Once you create an account, Twitter will suggest people for you to follow and will guide you through filling out your profile. Include your blog address as your website in your profile, and create a little tag line that briefly describes who you are/what your blog is about. Once you have your account set up, you can begin "tweeting" all your blog posts by writing a little description (140 characters or less) and pasting the blog post URL at the end.

How can Twitter grow your blog? First, a lot of people check their Twitter accounts on their phone and when your posts pop up, they will read them. Secondly, Twitter has a "retweet" feature that allows people to share your tweets with their followers. Finally, the best way to use Twitter is to "hashtag" your tweets. What does this mean? When you create a tweet, you can tag keywords by using a hashtag -- # -- the pound sign, number sign character. For example, if you post a recipe for lasagna, you can tweet a description and at the end put "#lasagna". This links your post to any searches done for lasagna and will allow it to pop up as someone is browsing through recipes.

Leave a comment on this post once you complete the challenge!

Biannual Blogathon Bash Mini Challenge – SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS


One of the best and fastest ways to grow your blog readership is through social media. Facebook alone has over 500 million users (as of the end of 2011). When you add in Twitter's 175 million users and the launch and growth of Google+, social media has a lot to offer a blogger in search of an audience. We are at a point with advancements in social media that I would argue every blogger should have at least one (if not all three) of these main social media accounts. It makes sharing and promoting your material easy, fast, and extensive.

My mini challenge for you today is to create a new social media account for your blog. I will go step-by-step through setting up a Twitter account, Facebook page, and Google+ profile. Pick one of these three to create for your blog and follow my steps! If you already have all three social media accounts, your challenge is to "polish" them up. A lot of times, our blogs take turns, grow, and change, but our social media accounts stay stuck where our blogs were when we started them. Streamline your vision for your blog and apply that to your social media accounts. Make sure your Facebook and Google+ profiles are highlighting the same features and sending the same messages. If you feel like your pages are all up to date and looking snazzy, spend a few minutes networking with other bloggers through your social media pages to increase your reach. We can always be working to improve our network of followers!

And now, the tutorials:
The most important part of your social media presence is a sense of consistency. Make sure all your profiles send the same image of your blog and feature consistent descriptions of your blog's features. You will find your blog growing by leaps and bounds in no time!

Leave a comment on THIS PAGE about how you completed the challenge and maybe link up to your new social media page if you want to show it off! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Joseph Kony & The Power of Mothers


Of all the people in the world whose hearts should break at the thought of children being stolen from their homes and forced into a life of slavery, sexual or military, mothers are the ones who should be screaming loudest. If you are a mom, you know better than anyone else can how much love, time, patience, care, hope, and power fuel your relationship with your child. Mothers in Africa feel what you feel and have their babies ripped from them. If you have not had the opportunity to watch this video, YOU MUST. You can choose to turn away, but you must know what is going on in the world outside your door. You must be informed.

I propose that mothers be the next group to join in with full force again Joseph Kony. Invisible Children's video shows the youth of America, moved and gaining momentum to stop this evil. They connect to the children who have been robbed of their childhood and safety. Their hearts break at the thought of what their lives could have been if they hadn't been blessed to be born in America. Mothers are the other side of that coin. We can connect to the women who are left in their homes, weeping at the loss of their sweet, sweet babies. Our hearts can break at the thought of how we would feel if these were our babies.

It is so, so simple. The call to action is to spread the word and use the great power that we have been given -- our voices. You don't have to start a riot or devote the next year of your life to working in Africa. Just pick up your phone or a pen or open a new tab on your browser. Call, write, or email the key representatives who have the power to continue American support for African troops who are seeking Kony. Skip your Wednesday morning latte and give the $4 to Invisible Children so they can equip children with education and economic opportunities. Spread the word. Share this video on your blog and make your own call to action.

You've seen the power that your posts can have. You've seen people pin your recipes, share your cleaning tips, and take advantage of your coupon match-ups for cheap diapers. These are all valuable and beneficial. They bless lives and families around the world. But this -- this has the power to shape the future. This has the possibility to change nations. This can save lives.

KONY 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Biannual Blogathon Bash

Biannual Blogathon Bash

I am excited to be participating in the Biannual Blogathon Bash! My blog is a baby, so I have been working hard (a lot of behind the scenes stuff) to make it everything I want it to be. This blogathon will give me the much-needed motivation to take Bake Sew Write to the next level!

Bloggers, consider joining in on the bash. Sign up here!

Readers, what would you like to see more of in this blog? I'm excited to have some ideas for product reviews, more recipes, and a new sewing project. Ultimately, though, I'd love to explore your interests. Let me know what you'd like to see from Bake Sew Write!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In the Moment


I'm a new mom -- like, 5 months new -- and I'm totally inexperienced. I never babysat. (And when I say never... that's really what I mean. Never. Like not even once.) I have a younger brother, but I was not quite four years old when he was born, so I didn't have any substantial part in taking care of him. I went to babysitter, but she didn't really keep any babies once I was old enough to help. I had changed maybe two diapers ever in my existence before someone handed me my own kid and said, "Good luck!" as they waved me out of the hospital. (Ok, this didn't really happen...)

All this to say, forgive me if my observations are, like, DUH. They are all new to me! I was watching Baby J earlier and it struck me. My kid lives totally, 100% wholeheartedly... IN THE MOMENT. Right now is the only thing he knows. He's just... here. Or there. Or wherever he is. But he certainly isn't anywhere else.

What do I mean? I mean, he doesn't know that there is a future to be worried about. He doesn't know that he could be mulling over the past. He doesn't think about where he'd rather be or what he wishes he was doing. Sure, sometimes he gets uncomfortable or bored and he cries. But that's not because he knows what will happen next. It's because in that moment, he knows he's not ok and if he cries, I'll come fix it. I guess you could say that counts as him thinking about the future, but it seems more to me like he's trying to fix his present, this moment, the right now.

If I cut on a light, he stares at it, mesmerized. If the dog walks by, he's like WHOA! If I crumple up some paper, he stares at it and then at me and then back at the paper. If he sees his toes, he grabs them and does everything he can to get them in his mouth. It's all about the right here, right now for him.

I am not that way. Not even a little! I'm always thinking about what to do next or what I just did. I'm never just... HERE. Then I hang out with my little man, and suddenly, I'm like, "You know what, electricity is pretty amazing! You're right -- dogs do look like living stuffed animals! Why does paper make that sound when you crumple it? Let's do it again. And holy cow, the human body is just a world of wonder! Why hadn't I ever noticed that before?"

Obviously, we all have to be adults and do adult things like pay bills and make life plans so we don't all go spiraling into hunger and cold. But often, I mean, at least once a day, we should take a moment to just look around us and go -- WHOA.