Monday, August 16, 2010

CSN - A Place for Exploration

  Have you ever been to the Mall Of America located in Minnesota?  I haven't and I can only imagine how huge it is!  I understand that it is so crowded with people that they don't even use heat in the main mall area during those cold Minnesota winters because the body heat of the crowds is enough to raise the temperature to a comfortable level! is just as huge, and you can shop in the comfort of your own home minus the crowds!  You can browse through whole stores of  bedroom furniture sets or look at the many cookware stores, baby supply stores, etc.  You name the product, and you will find it.  They are second to none in customer service and they are very generous with their shipping.  You can find many products that have free shipping.

 Here are just a few examples of the many beautiful 4 poster beds that I found at first glance!  Gorgeous!

I have had the privilege of working with for awhile, doing various reviews and giveaways.  I am going to be doing so again, with a $70 Gift Card to one of my readers!  Please check back within this week because I will be posting that giveaway soon!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Working Directly With A Company vs. PR Firms

Update:  Blogging has changed so much since I started and since I wrote this post!  Nowadays you still have PR companies that broker relationships between the company and the blogger.  Some of these companies are now run by the bloggers themselves. Again, I say that some of these organizations are good and reputable, but others are there just to exploit new bloggers and make as much money off of them as possible, without giving the blogger much of a chance.  I hope bloggers are aware that they can dictate what they are worth and that content is still king!  
I've been happily doing reviews and giveaways on my blog for a few months now (less than a year still) and have enjoyed most of it.  I have had the chance to work directly with a lot of companies and have also worked with PR firms who represent certain companies.  Let me tell you, folks, from my experience, I prefer working directly with the companies, hands down.  Can I just tell you a few reasons why?

When I work directly with a company, I am not going through a middle man, trying to get me connected to the company through them.  I am able to speak directly with a company employee, who can then expedite my requests immediately.  I am also able to tailor my blog article more specifically to that company's needs, based on my conversations with the company rep.    It's so much more involved to request your review product through a PR Rep.  You generally have to visit the review site, use a separate form to go back and tell the PR Rep and then hope that they go back to the company and get your order correct.  The order usually comes much later than I had hoped.  Mistakes are bound to happen because PR Firms represent multiple companies and it's hard to keep every company's policies and procedures accurate. 

PR Reps are getting paid by the companies that are being reviewed.  They want to get the job done so they can get their payment.  I have found that these companies will promise things to you and not follow through with their verbal/written agreements.  If they can get you to produce a great review, all bets can be off once the review is up and running.  Sadly, I know this through experience.

A great example of working directly with a company is  They have PR reps who work directly for CSN and are on their payroll.  They are apparently given a lot of freedom to offer great incentives for bloggers, who can choose to either do a review or a giveaway, depending upon what they would like to do.  They generally don't pay cash for these services, unless you are an affiliate.  I appreciate because they actually look for blogs who might be interested in doing this.  I was approached by a CSN rep early on in my blogging experience.  They asked me if I'd like to do a giveaway and they told me that it would help drive traffic to my site.  I was SO excited that CSN would have the faith in me and my new blog to let me host a giveaway!  It really validated me as a blogger and yes, it drove traffic to my site!  So, naturally, I am a HUGE fan of in general.

Another similar online firm who I won't mention by name, has chosen to hire a PR Company.  This PR company who I will not mention either, approached me and asked me to do a review on said anonymous company.  I had actually had experience with this particular online company.  The PR Rep asked me to put up 5 links, for which they would pay me a certain amount per link.  I wrote up the review and submitted it for approval.  I heard nothing.  I again e-mailed and said that the post would not go up until approval and payment.  The PR rep then e-mailed me back telling me the post was perfect and could I add one more link. I did so....and then my mistake.  I put up the post.  (I was just so happy with the post!)  I never heard anything back after that.  So basically, this rep got paid and I got nothing.  I am obviously ticked.  It's not necessarily because I didn't get paid, it's the fact that the PR rep worked me.  I will never work with that PR rep again and not sure if I'll work with that company again.  I will certainly not post ANYTHING until they come up with their end of the bargain, whatever that may be. 

Another example of a PR Firm, although not so dramatic, just annoying--A PR Rep contacts me and we actually put together two reviews and giveaways.  Although it is a much more tedious process to go through this PR Firm and not work directly with the company, it worked out alright.  But then I am asked to do and am assigned several more reviews and giveaways, which I indicated I would do.  I made the appropriate arrangements, etc.  I just never heard back. Kind of nonchalant about the whole thing is what my sense is from this guy. So any schedule planning I might have for giveaways and reviews or any sense of timing is out the window.  Phoooey on that!  I will blow that one off too.

What I have learned through all of this is that I need to come up with a firm set of guidelines myself and stick to them, certainly not give things out before the companies themselves have produced their end.  It's a sad fact of life, you will get worked if you don't protect yourself.  I am a believer that my little piece of the internet, albeit a very small piece, is valuable!  My time is also valuable and I won't be taken advantage of again!  If a company comes to me and asks me to put up a coupon code or do a review, I had better know something about it first with at least a product experience and maybe even some cash for my time.  After all, companies are saving millions of dollars by using bloggers to reach their extensive sphere of influence for comparative pennies. An ultimate goal for some would be to just find the right blog that will do it for nothing! Some bloggers are willing to prostitute their blogs for nothing--a cyberspace wink and pat on the butt is all they need!  It might even get them a couple more followers!  Wow!  And combine that with the million blog hops that are now going on, they could get to 1000 followers easy.  Just cut and paste this - "Hi I'm your newest follower!  Please follow back at http://...."    But I digress.  I have no problem with blog hops when I have the time and interest.  I certainly am not a cut and paste commenter and don't welcome those on my own blog.  (Although, some of the biggest blogs out there are cut and paste blog hop commenters, sorry to say!)

I hope that you have been or will be wiser than I was when dealing with those who approach you with great "opportunities"  to promote them on your blog!  I know I have learned---BIG time!



Disclaimer: This is just my own opinion and does not reflect all people's experiences.  There are many GREAT PR Firms out there and I've worked with a few of them.  I value them even more!  

Friday, August 6, 2010

$10 Target Gift Card Giveaway!

Congratulations to #9, Jackie!  Thanks to all of you for participating and giving me great feedback!  Hugs!

Hello Lovelies!  Just wanted to let you know that I am giving out a $10 Gift Card on August 13th!  It's just a little motivation for some of you to read and make a comment on my newest post, 'Couture Fashion On A Recessionista Budget'.  I'd really appreciate it!  Here are the entries (You must do the first one, the rest are optional):

Target, A Great Place To Shop!
  • Take a peek at my article, then make a comment there and come back here to let me know you did!
  • Sign up for my e-mail updates!
  • Tweet this - "Couture Fashion On A Recessionista Budget!  Win a $10 Gift Card to Target"!
 I will select the winner with on Friday, August 13th and let the winner know with e-mail!  I will then have the card shipped that weekend!  This is totally my own little incentive giveaway.  Hope you enjoy!  Thanks so much for participating!  Check back here for the winner because I will be posting it here!

Couture Fashion On A Recessionista Budget

Even tho' most of us are more strapped for cash than say, 5 years ago, we don't want to look like it has taken a toll on our fashion sense or the quality we want and need in our fashion items!  So let's take a look at one of the best stores out there for high quality at the best possible prices!  It's called!  Ever heard of it?  It first caught my attention when I kept hearing 'Go For the Big O!'  I thought, "Wow!  I think I'd like the big O.....what is it anyway?"  Thus my awareness of was born.  (Brilliant marketing ploy, I must say!)  I since have learned that they are based in Utah and are one of the brightest and fastest rising stars in the online shopping industry!  Why, you ask?  Because they have great stuff and really great prices!

Now, let's talk fashion!  Your sunglasses are the last things you want to sacrifice quality on.  They are also such personal fashion statements.  This year, many women are choosing aviator sunglasses.  They look good on many kinds of face shapes and are chic and casual.  Here is Julia Roberts sporting a pair!

You can find a variety of name brand aviators at in the sunglasses area, plus many more styles for a much lower price than you would pay at a retail store.
Womens Shoes are an item where we could be on our last dime before giving up the cute styles that come across the runways each season.  Let's take a look!  First a ridiculously frivolous but adorable shoe that we all secretly would love to wear on a night out on the town with our special someone! 
Charles David, $180
Here is an alternative answer and every bit as stylish shoe found at

'Nine West' Consuela $37.49

Also, if you haven't noticed, Gladiator Sandals have a huge following.  Here is a yellow studded gladiator that could turn heads with a price tag to match!  These are from Jeffrey Campbell, $104.  But here are some adorable studded gladiators  found at  Guess how much?  Just $27.49!  Good for a summer of fun and at those savings, not a big deal if you wear them out by fall! 

Our men and children deserve great fashion and quality too!  Of course they need our help in that area. Here is a quick example of a practical, no-nonsense ensemble that would be great to outfit our great guys in, all for less than $40.00  So when you order your shoes, you can just throw in this great pair of  casual mens jeans and this shirt. Shipping won't be any more because all orders ship for $2.95! (Ex. AL, HI and Int.)

And look what I found for a sweet little girl!  A Jo Jo Designs Ladybug Baby Girl Outfit!  It's almost half off the price you'd pay at the designer's site!  It's $22.49 compared to $41.99--Adorable!  Find it in the Children's Clothing Section.
I think I've saved a whole lot of buckaroos on this little shopping adventure and for all of that, a token of gratitude and appreciation is in order!  Santa baby, give me a ring!  I've been really good and this one is really pretty! (And only $33.24 in the diamond ring section!)

For those friends and loved ones whom we are not fashionably responsible for, but whom we love nonetheless, check out these lovely gift baskets!


P.S.  For those of my readers who made it through this post, I have a special surprise.  If you go to and enter this special discount code at checkout, you will receive an additional 10% off your entire order!  The code is:  121728

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ginger (Not The One On Gilligan's Island)

My friend, Patti, whom I have occasionally mentioned here on the blog because she and I are good friends and have Special Education backgrounds in common, asked me to mention here that she has got the cutest Olde English Bulldogge female puppy for anyone who loves the breed!  Her name is Ginger!  Just look at her!  This is the last one and the sweetest one in the last litter

This is the sweetest pup ever and so good-natured.   She is light-eyed and is papered, vet checked, has shots and wants someone to love her!  If you are interested, or know of someone who is, just let me know and I'll put you in contact with Patti, who will give you a great deal on this pup!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Great Giveaways!

 I love beautiful pictures.  My featured image is from the beautiful state of Utah and You really should come and visit!  
Win 2 great hair care products from Misikko at The Nutritionist Reviews!  Ends 8/8/10!

Win a $100 Gift Certificate to CSN at Lady Katherine Tea Parlor!  This is truly a $100 post as well!  The pictures are beautiful!  Ends 8/23/10!

Win a $60 CSN Gift Certificate at Lily Bean Designs!!  Ends 8/12/10! 

Win $100 from CSN at Cake Blast!  Ends 8/20/10! 

$40 Gift Card to CSN at Lime Green Dreams

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blog Hop Friday

Today I would love to enter as many blog hops as I can!  I really don't know if I will get around to all of them.  My goodness!  But I'm giving away a Casio Exilim EX-Z550 Camera!  It will be for followers only, not my normal mode of operation, but I want to thank my followers you see!  So if you're not in the following mode, that's totally OK, because most of my giveaways are no follow required!  Thanks to Review Retreat for the list!  And have a great weekend!

Casio Exilim EX-Z550 Camera Giveaway!

Drumroll please!  The winner of the Casio Exilim EX-Z550 Camera is #2 Sable!  The winner was chosen through a random number generator,, and will be notified with e-mail.  You have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected!  Thank you ALL for participating!
The beautiful Casio Exilim EX-Z550 in pink

I'm SO excited to offer this giveaway to my own followers!  I want to extend this to my followers to show you how much I appreciate that little extra effort when you opt to subscribe to or follow my blog.  No one made you, but you did it anyway.  Thanks so very much!
This camera is absolutely beautiful!  It offers a longer 4X Zoom and intelligent modes that offer versatility and simplify photography!  It can record HD video and has YouTube capability. The retail price is $169.  

As you may be aware, Casio offers a wide array of fine products.  I own several of their calculators, all of which are wonderful.  I now also own this very camera and I love it!
So, let's get to the giveaway!  Casio is extremely kind to offer one of my followers a Casio Exilim EX-Z550 in their choice of color!  Please complete the mandy before all other entries!

Visit this page in Casio's on-line catalog and tell me a feature that you like about this camera.  You must also be a follower on Google Friend!

Additional Entries:

+1 Go here and tell me what color camera you'd like!

+1 Go here to tell me what other products Casio offers and which one you're interested in besides the camera!

+1 Sign up for Casio's newsletter!

+3 Sign up for my e-mail updates!

+1 Follow me on Twitter and tweet about this giveaway!  (Good for one entry per day)

+1 Tell me how you found my site!

+1 Enter any of my other giveaways and let me know which ones you entered!

+2 Grab my button and post it on your blog!  Leave me the link

+3 Blog, Facebook, Stumble it or Link it up on a linky!  Leave me the link where you did it!  You can do as many of these methods as you'd like for 3 entries each!

Well, I think that is about enough entries, don't you?  This giveaway will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, August 15th MST.  I hope that you have fun entering this giveaway!  I personally hope that someone who really needs this camera will win!  Thank you Casio for this great giveaway! I was given this camera because of a win on another blog and I really needed it.  Joyce at Casio kindly consented to do a giveaway for my blog as well!  Also, thanks to Shauna at Trying To Stay Calm!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Great Giveaways!

 Win a $35 Gift Card to CSN at My Four Monkeys! Ends 8/2/10!

Win a Doggie Doo Drain for your pets waste at Pets And The People They Own!  Ends 8/15/10

Win 'Personal Training With Jackie' DVD at The Nutritionist Review!  Ends 8/1/10!

Win a 10" Open Skillet from Xtrema Cookware at Leslie Loves Veggies!  Ends 8/8/10!

Win a $70 Gift Certificate to CSN at Great Blog Giveaways!  Ends 8/7/10!

Win a $100 Amazon Gift Card at Freebies and Much More!  Ends 7/31/10!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Friendly Wednesday

I just ran across a new meme that looks really fun and so here it is!  Friendly Wednesday at Feeding Four!  This gal feeds her family on $25 a week!  That is impressive and I am so interested in how she does it.  So she definitely gets my follow for that!  Go check it out! 

Wednesday Whimsies

I am excited this morning.  I just read a very interesting article about exercise effectiveness!  Apparently, not only does exercise help with the obvious things like body fat, weight loss, heart disease and diabetes, it also helps with brain function and the production of the all-important HGH!  But it needs to be a certain kind of exercise.  The common low-intensity aerobics and strength training exercises won't help build HGH.  It's only the high intensity plyometric exercises that do that, combined with strength training.  
 The good news is that you don't have to do it very long OR very often. Also, never ever eat sugar or fruit juice 2 hours after exercise.  It totally kills the HGH effect. Anyway, before I go off on a tangent, I want to try these exercises for myself.  The first thing I need is a heart monitor b/c you need to get your heart rate up to a certain level and it's easy to under-estimate your heart rate during exercise   You can read more about this here

Next on the agenda is a new blog hop that I'd like to try out. It's called Green Blog Hop Wednesday and is found at Going Green With Noah, And Then There Were 4 and Tales of The Wife!  It's for those of us who are interested in trying to improve our planet and our lives by using more natural things, recycling, being kind to animals, etc.  I think I fit into that category somewhat because 1) I prefer using products with natural ingredients and do my best to find them, 2) I believe in recycling as much as possible and not wasting things, 3) I love animals and promote kindness to animals.  If you feel like you fit into the green category at all, you can join this blog hop today! 

I would love for you to enter the giveaways I have up right now, if they interest you.  Later this week I will be putting up another giveaway that you won't want to miss for a Casio Elixim Camera with YouTube capability!  Entering my current giveaways will count as extra entries.  So please feel free!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Apricot Jam Escapade

My husband and I have noticed for several years that a local park in the area has a couple of trees that get loaded with apricots every summer.  They fall to the ground and get stepped on, making a squishy mess underneath the branches.  This year we decided to help the situation.

Early one morning this week, we snuck over went to this park with a ladder, a tarp, a bucket, a rake and our dog.  We spread the tarp under the branches of the tree and Greg started shaking and hitting them with the rake.  As they fell I gathered them up and put them in the bucket.  We did this for about an hour.  Afterwards, we played frisbee with our border collie, Evee!  It was an all-around good time. 
 The work began the next day.   The apricots were washed, pitted but not peeled (hey, more fiber that way), boiled with pectin and sugar, put in jars, lidded and put in the bath.  Since neither of us are canning experts, we under-estimated the amount of apricots that we needed in order to make 12 jars of jam.  We ended up with 8 jars of jam and some left-over apricots to give to some friends.  I even made a batch of freezer spread with a recipe I got over at Tight Wad In Utah.  I actually like the spread better because there is less sugar.  But for those cold winter mornings, there will be nothing better than hot, buttered toast with a glaze of homemade apricot jam!  I'm glad that hubs likes to do this kind of thing with me.  It makes it more enjoyable!

SafeTPet Collar Giveaway

Congratulations to #37, Clenna, winner of the SafeTPet Personalized Pet Collar!  She said:
#3 I friend you on FB but sent you a message instead of) writing on your wall (couldn't do that till you ok the request = so I sent email instead You will be contacted with e-mail and notified!  Thanks to all who entered!  Also, thanks to SafeTPet for this fun giveaway!

SafeTPet has a great selection of designer collars, for your dog or cat!  Any cat would love to wear one of the exclusive designer kitty collars!

And any dog would love to sport these yuppie canine collars!
One of their best-selling items are their personalized collars for both cats and dogs!  They are sturdy, high quality, and are responsible for many a happy reunion between owner and pet.  I'm glad that I've got one for my pet.  You can get one for your pet too!  Personalized dog collars are $14.99 and personalized kitty collars are $11.49.   Of course SafeTPets has much more than just collars.  For instance, I love the idea of a food scoop that doubles as a food bag clip!
SafeTPet would like to give away one of their personalized cat or dog collars!  Here is what you can do to get one!

Complete the mandy first: Visit SafeTPet and tell me something they have besides their dog and cat collars.  

Other entries (leave a comment if worth +1, leave multiple comments for entries worth more than one:

+2 Follow me on Twitter! Leave your Tweet handle! 

+1 Tweet out this giveaway! You can copy and paste this: 
#Giveaway for a dog or cat personalized collar w/ your choice of color from @melahelen 8/10/10!   (1 entry each time you tweet.  1X daily)

+1 Do you have a dog or a cat? What do you love about your pet?

+2 Read my review about SafeTPet and leave a comment.  Let me know you did!

+3 Friend me on Facebook and leave me a comment over there! I love those comments!

+3 Grab my button and post it on your blog! 
+2 Follow me on Google Friend (publicly please)!
+2 Follow my RSS Feed with any reader you choose!

This giveaway will close on 8/10/10 at 11:59 pm MST!  Thanks for participating and thanks to SafeTPet for the chance to review and host this giveaway!  The opinions in this blog are mine and are honest and candid.  I was provided a product to sample and review!  Winners are chosen with!  The winner will be announced at the end of the giveaway here on this post!  Check back to see who won!  



Just The Right Fit

Have you ever met my dog, Evee?  Let me introduce you to her!  She is our Border Collie.  We got her from an ad in our local paper for $50.  The owners just couldn't handle her in their small twin home with the tiny backyard.  They had great intentions...but she was just too much dog for them, at 10 months old.  She had developed some horrible habits.  She snarled at anyone who approached her, including me when I met her for the first time.  It really unnerved me and I thought I was a seasoned dog lover.  She chased down anything moving in her field of vision, including bikes, scooters, joggers, walkers, bikes and cars.  And she was so energetic that she was a pest.  She always wanted to play with toys and fetch her squeaky ball. 

After much deliberation and going back and forth, we decided to get her.  She was to be the replacement for our beloved dog, Daisy, who passed away from Lymphoma. See my tribute to her here

Without going into details, we have had Evee now for about 10 months.  She has really come far with her behavior and maturity.  As she approaches the 2 year old mark, we are so glad that we got her.  One of the big problems she had with her former owners, is that she is so very intelligent.  With all that intelligence and no cognitive stimulation or exercise, a dog is bound to get into some really bad habits.  Since I wanted a dog to encourage me to get out of the house and onto the trails, Evee is a perfect match for me.  We get out everyday and run or walk.  I can't, as of yet, take her to crowded places because she still likes to chase things and people.  But she is getting better.  I have taught her how to catch frisbees and she absolutely loves that.  I feel that with time Evee will mature into the ideal dog that Greg and I were looking for.  
 Finally, a word of advice and caution for all those who are looking to bring a new pet into their lives.  Make sure that you have the  right information about the type of dog you want.  If you can't devote a lot of time to your pet, you don't want to get one.  I know of people who have dogs and who never take them out, even to the bathroom.  I feel so sorry for these animals. Animals deserve care and attention, too.
Recently, I was introduced to a company that provides specialized pet products.  I was really impressed with the prices and the high quality of their personalized dog collars.  The company is called SafeTPet!  I ordered a personalized dog collar for Evee that I absolutely love.  It is very high quality and has her name and phone number  sewn onto it.   Most I.D collars have metal buckle type fastners and the end of the nylon collar dangles and frays.  These don't. There is no extra material dangling down.  You provide the exact measurements of your dogs neck and it is made to fit!  The site is simple to navigate and I like the large color selection. These I.D. collars are great for agility dogs because they are not allowed to wear metal or dangling tags in the ring!