Ask Away...: January 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Giving Back with The Kalu Yala Institute

I love organizations that give back to the community and provide new experiences for the people that are doing the work.  So today I wanted to introduce you to an organization that gives back and tell you the truth about Kalu Yala. Despite some of the Kalu Yala criticism you may have come across, it's really an amazing idea and I wanted to explain that to you.

Kalu Yala is in the process of building the world's most sustainable modern village deep  in the Panamanian rainforest.  Their goal is to do this in an ecologically-responsible way.  In order to achieve this goal they are focusing on creating the foundation of the town in Kalu Yala AND developing relationships with the nearby town of San Miguel. 

There are outdoor seminars every Monday that go over the Foundations of Innovation, Creativity, and Sustainability, and many other interdisciplinary and cultural programming is offered.  To navigate any Kalu Yala problems they are collaborating with and learning from Panamanian contacts in various academic fields and from reputable institutions. 

It's an amazing learning opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding of rainforest systems and even work with local farms to maintain a seasonal local menu.  For construction, participants become familiar with post and beam carpentry and structural masonry.  And when it comes to hospitality they learn how to manage a visitor experience that's built around human connection to nature.

Impressed yet? There are still so many more aspects where participants gain knowledge on various topics. For political science participants dive into rural challenges and solutions for Latin America and for public health and wellness they learn what constitutes the wellbeing of people and communities. 

On an environmental level they use media arts to reinvent the way we tell stories about sustainability and the world as a whole and for outdoor recreation they enhance their skills and knowledge of the outdoors by being out in the field.  The truth about Kalu Yala is that so much can be learned and experienced that benefits the participants and the community.  Community internships are so beneficial and the experience you take with you lasts for life.  Participants enjoy off-the-grid living, sustainable education, farm-to-table meals and even free Spanish classes! 

Each semester lasts for 10-weeks and you can even explore financial aid and scholarship options.  Tuition covers housing, meal plans, transportation to and from the airport instructors, program and project supplies, and other needs that directly relate to the amazing experience participants will get. 

I hope I've enlightened you and possibly even motivated you to look into something like this.  

Accident That's Not Your Fault? The Steps To Take

Sometimes in life we can find ourselves in situations that are not our fault. Accidents happen, and out on the open road, they can be more frequent than we would like. Of course, we can always place ourselves highly as to being great drivers. Always paying attention the road, free from distractions while driving, but of course, the one thing we can not control is how other people drive, and this can often be the reason that you find yourself involved in a motor accident. But, if you do find yourself in this situation, don’t despair. Taking necessary steps can help you get some sort of resolve. Conclusion and even compensation for the accident you find yourself in. I hope informing you of the best steps to take can help you in the future.

Remain calm
One of the first things to do in this situation is to remain calm. It might seem very difficult to do that at first,especially if you are completely overwhelmed about the accident itself. But remaining calm will allow you to act appropriately during the next few steps. It will also help you to keep control of your emotions, especially as at this moment they could be running extremely high.

Document as much of it as you can as soon as you can

The next big step to take would be to document the scene as best you can. You need to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to document where you came from, where anyone else involved in the accident came from, and even the route taken, the damage and other people involved. You could take pictures, video the scene, and even do a walk through all via your smartphone to ensure that you give anyone needing to know the full break down a well documented version of events.

Phone any necessary insurance companies and the authorities
You need to then make sure that you inform anyone that has an investment in the situation, such as your motor vehicle insurance company. You may also need to let any local authorities know. Especially if there is injuries, or other issues with road blockages. Police and ambulance services can therefore calm the scene and get things back to some form of normality.

Seek legal advice

Once you have done what you need to do at the scene, you may want to seek out some legal advice. You could do this straight after the event while the version is fresh in your mind, or wait a few weeks for you to calm down. Seeking out advice from attorneys like Derrick law firm could be the way forward. At least then you will know where you stand and what you need to do.

Take care of any injuries you have incurred
Finally, take care of yourself and get any injuries you have incurred checked out. You may need to see your doctor or you may even require a trip to the hospital.

I hope that these steps help you if you find yourself in a motor vehicle accident.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tips to Grow Your Instagram

How To Grow Your Instagram

If you're a blogger, there is a 99% chance you use Instagram to help promote your blog.  And if you're just a social media influencer than there's probably still a really good chance that Instagram is one of the platforms you use.  Each month I'm going to try and give some tips on different platforms whether it's a blog or a social media channel.  This month I wanted to focus on Instagram since I took advice from other people that seems to be working and I hope it will work for you. 

Some of these tips are things that I figured out on my own and some are advice from other people but just keep in mind that something that works for me or someone else may not work for you.  No matter what advice you receive, do what works best for you and what brings you the results you want. 

|Link Your Blog|

Obviously if you are a blogger and you use Instagram you NEED to link your blog to your bio.   Then when you are writing a caption under a photo referring to a new post on the blog you can simply say "See link in bio".  If I don't see a link in your bio, I'm probably not going to try to find your blog.   The other thing you can do if you have an easy short blog address is put it in parentheses in the caption.  Sometimes I'll say "visit for the post!" and since it's a simple and catchy URL people have told me they actually do go and type it into their browser right away.

|Sell Yourself in Your Bio|

The bio is where you get to quickly tell people that come across your IG, who you are, what you post about, and why they should follow you.   I always type my bio up in the Notepad App on my iPhone because it's easier for me to format and add hard returns.  Another blogger, Lindsay from Lindsay's Sweet World did  (right here) actually gave great tips that I used and it worked for me but what really sold me was the Instagram bio.  So for mine I put that I own 4 Chihuahuas (since they are in LOTS of photos on all of my social media channels) and that I'm a blogger.  Then I put home d├ęcor, fashion, and food since that's what you'll find photos of on my IG.  Then per Lindsay's advice I put a way to contact me because before I assumed if a brand wanted to work with me they'd just message me or go to my blog and look for a contact link.  But then I realized that it really IS much easier if the email address is already written out for you.  You can check out what my bio looks like by finding me on IG - EllenR886.

|Bright + Crisp Photos|

When I stumble upon someone's IG I take a quick look at how their photos look.  If they are dark and blurry it will actually frustrate me to see those in my feed so I won't follow them.   Make sure your photos are bright and taken with good lighting.  Some of the Instagram filters are nice but I personally think a lot of them darken the photos so all I usually do is go in to edit my photo I just uploaded and select Adjust, Brightness, and then make it go up.  If you are taking pictures of products, use a white background or a faux fur blanket.  White backgrounds look nice and attractive. 

|Good Captions|

Captions are like blog posts, you need to give information in them (or give entertainment depending on your niche) but then ask some sort of question to get feedback.  So for instance if I upload a photo of my newly organized closet since I'm an advice blogger I might make a caption that says something like "Just organized my closet again and used these awesome dividers to separate my shoes.  It saves space and looks nice.  What do you use to organize your shoes?"  People usually do respond. 

|Paid Advertising|

It's nearly impossible these days to grow your social media presence without doing some paid advertising through the platform.  I actually did promote a few posts through Instagram and I liked the feedback and clicks that I got.  When you promote a post you actually can choose to have an option that takes people to your site.  You can't do that without promoting it. Also, in order to promote you will need a business profile and if you're a blogger trying to make money or any kind of social media influencer - you should probably consider switching to business.  Plus, you can write your advertising fees off as a tax expense. 

|Interact With Your Visitors|

When someone comments on a post make sure you like their comment or reply to it.  It makes people more likely to return because they know you're a real person that reads all their comments.  Ask questions back like "how did your method of organizing work? Do you have pics?" and don't be afraid to visit their page and follow them. 

|Reach Out to Others|

At least 2-3 times a week you should peruse your feed and like photos and leave REAL comments.  I get really frustrated when people leave the generic one word comment like "Cool" or "nice" or "<3".  So when I can't think of anything to say about their photo I just say something about myself.  If they have a photo of themselves wearing leopard print, I might comment and say "I love leopard print! I have several scarves and bags with that print".  It's a great way to get a little convo going.  Also, if you see someone follow you, follow them back!   And look for people to follow. Sometimes I go check the feed of the people I follow to see the posts they like, and that's how I found a bunch of new people to follow.

|Make Time|

So how are you supposed to do all of these things in your already busy daily life?  Well trust me, I get it because I have a full time job and a house full of furry children.  I don't have time to sit around and play on my phone.  So I do it any chance I get.  If you're a human being that has to use the rest room, you have time then.  I'll check my IG comments and feed while I'm walking to the rest room.  I also do it during commercial breaks when I'm watching TV, while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store, and when I'm in a doctor's office waiting room.  You just have to make the time and make it part of your routine.  If you get into work half an hour early, spend a few minutes of that time checking your IG.

It's an exhausting thing to keep ANY social media site exciting but it's what you have to do if you want to gain followers and keep your Instagram interesting you need to put in the effort.

What tips do you need to work on or what have you already tried and seen great results from?  

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We All Worry, But Can We Make It Easier On Ourselves?

The word “security” alone brings about several positive connotations. Assuredness, stability, safety, ready for everything, sadly for us, in the modern world it it not so easy to feel very secure. Secure in many senses of course, but mostly on an existential level. We are creatures who worry, that’s that is our nature, and whether we like it or not, it’s hard-coded into our DNA. We care about the ones we love, about events that interest us, and often most prominently, we care about ourselves. Not because we are selfish per se, but it’s probably still our survival instinct kicking in and doing its job. Now, despite how insecure we might feel on a day to day basis in a world full of happenings and ads trying to make us feel bad about not having the latest supercar or the latest iPhone, it is indeed possible to feel more at ease. How you may ask? Well, if you are interested then just keep reading.

Image source: Pexels

You are not alone
Despite how lonely it may feel out in that concrete jungle sometimes, we walk the streets with hundreds, thousands and even millions of people who are just like us. Maybe not 100% carbon copies of ourselves, but they probably have somewhat similar goals in mind, are probably in the same situation as us, and if you got to know them, they might be nice people. Not to mention, your friends and loved ones are probably there for you more than you might think. Other than your loved ones, we may thank capitalism for encouraging businesses to go for any money-making opportunities they can find. This includes purchasable peace of mind. Well, maybe it’s not guaranteed peace of mind, nothing is a panacea nowadays, but it’s as close as it gets, and if you happen to have some money that you are willing to spend on it, then you can find some experienced car accident lawyers under this link Just about everyone drives a car in this day and age, so if you feel like having one less daily worry, in this case crashing your car, then look no further. This is not going to take away all your problems straight away, but it definitely is a good starting point.

Image source: Pexels

Find comfort in stability
Everyone’s heard the same old spiel about saving money. Saving money for the sake of saving money might often prove to be a less than appealing option for the average person, as it doesn’t provide any concrete payout. After all, most people want to live their life, rather than save up for living their life when they are old and have no energy to actually enjoy it. Despite that, this does not mean you should not save money at all. Some sort of savings will often prove to be a life-saver, as life tends to have this nasty habit of throwing us under the bus when we least expect it. Be it unexpected medical bills or the sudden need to move house, it’s hard to predict what life may have in store for us even tomorrow. It’s good to have a few thousand stashed away “just in case” something happens, but don’t be that person who refuses to buy a pizza with their friends because “they need to save”. Life is short, and while being able to be somewhat responsible is most definitely a virtue, don’t let it stop you from enjoying life.

Monday, January 29, 2018

3 Tips for Managing Your Debt

Debt is something that almost everyone out there has at some point in their life.  Some people manage to pay their debts off completely and some seem to spend their entire life paying down debts like student loans or mortgages.  Debt can be very overwhelming and very stressful.  Debt is something used to weigh on my mind every minute of every day before I managed to pay off all my credit card debt completely.

Today I wanted to put a couple of quick tips together that you should keep in mind when it comes to tackling and managing your debt. 

1. Know Who and What You Owe
One of the reasons I always felt overwhelmed by the idea of my debt was because I didn't even know the exact figure of what I owed.  I was afraid to figure it out but once I did, I felt a lot better because I had an actual dollar amount that I could work towards paying off.   You also need to make sure you have a list of what amount is owed to whom.  And before you get nervous because you envision having to deal with creditors, just know that there are companies like Nationwide Debt Reduction Service that have ongoing relationships with those creditors.  They can negotiate on your behalf. 

2. Create an Action Plan
Once you have sorted out the details of your debts, you need to figure out a plan of attack.  Are you going to pay the biggest debt down first or are you going to enjoy little victories and work smallest to largest.  Are the amounts too big for you to tackle?  This is another case where a debt reduction service can help. Often times a service like this can negotiate with your creditors to settle on an amount that you can realistically pay and then they devise a payment plan to get you to that goal in a certain amount of time.  If you have creditors after you, time is definitely of the essence and you need to decide on a payment schedule that you can follow to eliminate these debts and satisfy the creditor.

3. Focus on the Goal
Your lifestyle may need to change which means less spending and more conservative actions with your income.  Working with a debt reduction service is a great way to start a commitment to achieving your goals but the hard work is done solely by you.  You may need to give monthly luxuries up in order to pay that money towards your debts.  If you make the sacrifices now, the payoff will be great but you can't expect to resolve your situation without changing your behavior.  When I paid off my debts, I was so glad that I could go back to a more comfortable way of living where I was able to buy myself a coffee here and there.  The way I lived while paying off my debt actually helped me change for good and I am forever more careful with where my money goes. 

Debt can feel crippling but with a few important actions on your end, you can head down the path of eliminating your debts and living a more financially fit way of life. 

The Best Ways To Spend Your Personal Time

Personal time. It’s something we don’t get a lot of these days, and when we do, it’s usually only from about five minutes to an hour out of our days. When you’re a full time parent, and a full time worker, there’s a lot of responsibility on your plate. And yet, you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself too! So once you’ve got the kids playing with the building blocks and not crowding around your phone, let’s focus on you and what you want to do. Here’s some quick and easy ways to settle yourself in for the bit of time you have alone.

Open Up a Journal

When it comes to spending time alone, a good way to make constructive use of it is to pick up a pen and start writing. Invest in a nice notebook that immediately makes you feel productive as soon as you touch it and you’re good to go!

Pick up some nice stationary as well, as being productive means you can be cutesy at the same time; the aesthetic always makes it feel like more of a project you want to devote your efforts to. Putting your thoughts down on a bit of paper can make your life feel a little less cluttered, and it means you’re going to be better at stating your own needs to other people when it comes to needing more time to yourself.

Open Up Your Unnecessary Apps Folder

We all have one on our phones! That makes relaxing into a fantasy world a lot easier than booting up the games system, digging out the HDMI cable again, and then forgetting where the game discs are. So when it comes to settling down with some you time, make sure you’re browsing the app store.

A good way to sink your teeth into the world of mobile gaming is to get a new empire in Final Fantasy 15. It’s a game beloved by many with hours of work for you to do; strategy games always do offer a nice challenge after all! If that’s not for you, there’s a lot of sudoku and classic word puzzle apps on the market for you to check out; we’ve all lost hours to those!

Get Outside

So instead of reclining on the sofa for a few more minutes, why not try taking a walk? Even just a few minutes up and down the block can have a lot of benefits for you, and it means you’re getting plenty of fresh air away from the commute and in your own time.

When you’ve got streets, fields, and downtown areas all to yourself, you’ve got a lot to try out with your walking shoes. The cardio exercise is going to be great for your legs, and you can decide how far to go each time!

There are a lot of good ways to spend your time, so make sure you’re indulging in them! Relaxing comes differently to different people after all.

Books I Recommend You Read [January]

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Life's been getting in the way lately so I haven't read as much as I would like to but I still read a few great books.

The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy

This is a great read about a girl who is raising her sister and how she is very intimately connected to several people in her life.  It has a little bit of mystery to it but is also a very down to earth story line.  

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

This was a great read taking place at a summer camp where a girl goes to be a counselor.  Meanwhile she's struggling with her mom's battle with cancer and then she finds out a big family secret.   This one pulls at the heart a bit but it's an awesome story line! 

The Best of Us by Joyce Maynard
This is an endearing but tragic memoir about Joyce and her husband Jim who married late in life and after just a few years of being together learn that Jim has pancreatic cancer. This is the story of their final 19 months together.  It's beautifully written!

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan 
Oh my god this freakin' book.  I don't want to give anything away because the real touching part happens towards the end but wow! It's about two people whose lives intersect in ways they shouldn't and how they recover from that and how their relationship affects the people around them.  Then something huge happens and everything changes in a heartbreaking way. 

Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls
This is a novel that's based on real life.  It's the story of Jeanette Walls' grandmother who grew up in the early 1900's.  Jeanette Walls is the author of the memoir The Glass Castle which I absolutely loved.  This book however provides a great look into Jeanette's bad-ass grandmother and how she took the world by storm.

Say My Name by Allegra Huston
This is a beautiful story about two lovers - one a married 48 year old woman and the other a young man in his 20's.  They meet randomly and have an exciting romance with no "commitments" and the book followers how her life evolves after that and how his evolves as well.  It was a nice little love affair book that was easy to read and beautifully written.  

The Fall of Lisa Bellows by Susan Perabo
This was one of those books that feels like a movie while you read it especially with how it goes back and forth from one "world" to another.  A middle school girl is in a deli when it gets held up at gun point and her classmate disappears with the suspect.  Meredith (the girl) is deeply upset and in her world she plays out a fantasy of what she thinks happened.  It's a great read and is so well written that you can see each seen playing out very vividly.

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Making the Full Switch to Digital Payments

If you’re like many people in the world that grew up using cash and coins, then you’ve probably been somewhat wary of completely switching your payment methods over to digital alternatives. After all, having some cash in your pocket is always nice to pay for things like toll bridges or for tipping waiting staff, but is it finally time to make the full switch to digital payments?

Coping With a Full Digital Switch

Not only is it safer to not carry too much cash around with you, but it’s also more efficient and elegant. Even phones nowadays have the functionality to take and receive payments, so you don’t even need to carry a wallet with you to pay for simple things.

The only issue with digital payments is coping with them and making the switch. It’s strange to take your phone out to pay for something and many people have yet to learn all of the new security concerns, and this gives digital payment methods a slight learning curve. However, it’s best to learn it sooner than later.

Just take a look at the infographic below to see just how quickly physical money is dying out in favour of digital payment methods. Sooner or later, we’re all going to be carrying around plastic instead of cash and if you’re late to the party, it’s going to be frustrating to make the switch and learn all of the new features and customs with digital payment methods.

Friday, January 26, 2018

3 Ways To Make Extra Cash When You're In Debt

If you’re struggling financially it’s usually because your income doesn’t match your outgoings and you have to borrow to close that gap. When you’re trying to get out of debt, cutting back on your spending is sometimes enough but in some cases, you’ll still have a deficit there. In that situation, your only option is to bring in more money. You could always look for a job with a higher salary or alternatively, you could find ways to earn a little extra money on the side to supplement your wage. There are all sorts of different ways to earn a bit of extra cash, here are some of the best ones.

Driving Jobs

There are loads of different jobs that you can do with just a car and a driving license. It’s easy to register as an Uber driver and start making extra money on evenings and weekends. You choose how much you want to work so you could do just a few hours a couple of times a week if you want to. You could also do a few nights a week as a delivery driver as well, you’d be surprised how much money you can make in tips on top of the hourly rate that you’ll get paid. If you’ve got a heavy goods vehicle license, you could get some work as a truck driver which pays quite well. You’ll have to work longer hours but if you’re just working part time at the minute, it’s a good way to boost your earnings. If you are going to do that, it’s worth getting in touch with some truck accident lawyers in case of an accident. Being in a truck accident could put you out of work altogether for quite a while so you’ll need to claim some kind of compensation.

Virtual Assistant

Trying to fit extra work around your normal day to day schedule is difficult so any work that you can do from home is perfect. A lot of companies that are trying to save on office space are starting to use virtual assistants instead. You’ll answer emails and phone calls from the comfort of your own home and you’ll get paid a decent amount of money for it. It’s perfect for families where one parent needs to stay home with the kids.

Stock Photos

Websites and blogs are always after license free photographs that they can use for articles and somebody needs to take all of those shots. If you’re keen on photography and you’re taking pictures all the time anyway, you might as well try to sell them and make a bit of cash from them. You can get pictures of pretty much anything, just try to avoid getting any brand names or anything else that might infringe on copyright, and always remember to ask permission if you’ve got somebody in your shot. You’ll need to spend a bit of money on a decent camera but after that, you’ll start making some good money.

These are all great ways to make a bit of extra money fast, without disrupting your schedule too much.

New Year || New Feet

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So listen, I know it's a weird topic but I am very serious when it comes to taking care of my feet.  The reason I'm dedicating an entire post to feet is because your feet are SO IMPORTANT.   You use them ALL THE TIME except when you sleep.  They help you balance and get places and in order to return the favor we need to take better care of them.  

When I was just 21 years old I was suffering from plantar fasciitis which came from wearing flip flops ALL THE TIME with no support.  Then when I slept I tensed and curled my feet up and it made the fascia tight.  It took a few doctor's appoinments, some anti-inflammatory medicine, and lots of stretching and foot massages till I was doing much better and now I stay on top of my foot health.   I'm telling you guys if you don't take care of your feet you will regret it.  This means you have to get good quality footwear that has proper arch support and doesn't pinch or cut your feet open.  

But taking care of your feet doesn't end with what's underneath your socks.  Love your feet and show them off with beautiful shoes and amazing products that pamper your feet.  So yes, today's post is all about feet and what I do to pamper my own feet especially going into a new year! Some of the products I'm going to feature come from a company called Solemates, a company which I blogged about before here and here.

Solemates has a lot of products that come in handy for practically anything having to do with your feet and footwear.  For instance, when you slip into the grass because you're wearing stilettos? Yeah, well Solemates has little covers that go over the pointy part of your heels so you don't have to worry about that.  So anyways here are some things I'm doing lately for my feet and totally loving! 
Protecting My Shoes from Nature
Ah the elements can be a terror when you live in a region that gets lots of rain and has snowy/icy winters.  The salt alone can destroy your gorgeous new boots so it's important to protect your shoes.   

Solemates Protector Spray helps protect leather, suede, and fabric on your shoes from the elements.  I actually just keep it on my dresser and when I'm all dressed in the morning before I leave for work I spritz it on my shoes and finish my other household chores before going back to grab my shoes and head to work.  It goes on clear and sprays out really nice.   I'm all about making my shoes last as long as humanly possible since they are so pricey for good shoes with arch support.  

Keeping My Feet and Footwear Fresh
So this is embarrassing but I'm going to talk about it because I know I'm not alone.  There are days my feet and my shoes STINK!   I hate it and it's so embarrassing but I can't help it.  I sit at my desk all day long at work wearing boots in the winter and it gets hot in those suckers. So it's no surprise that by the time I get home my feet don't smell like flowers and my shoes aren't so pleasant either. 

Solemates Freshen Spray is an all natural anti-bacterial spray that dries quickly and removes odors from shoes.  It doesn't contain any harsh chemicals and I can spray it before I wear my shoes and even after I take them off. I love the baby powder scent.

Then I always make sure to let my shoes air out overnight.  They need to breathe! This spray is especially important for shoes that are worn without socks or just with tights like formal pumps and boat shoes. 

Protect My Feet from My Shoes
Yes I actually have to protect my own feet from my shoes sometimes and I KNOW you can relate.  Nothing is more tragic than getting a new pair of shoes and then getting horrendous blisters the first few times you wear them.  I know it's a part of breaking them in but I just can't deal!   

Solemates Blister Blocker is an anti-friction balm that's all natural and very effective.  It gives you 3x blister protection and goes on clear.  There's no scent and it lasts all day! Finally I don't have to suffer from chaffing, friction, and annoying rubbing.  And I don't end up waltzing around in band-aids for the next week. Blister Blocker is so cute and comes in the perfect size for travel and keeping in your bag.  I seriously don't know how I got this far in life without it.  Oh yea, that's right with band-aids. 

So yea, that's how I do it.  You have to make taking care of your feet and footwear a major priority or else you'll never get to enjoy that feeling of walking through the office in your gorgeous new heels as you go confidently into your first meeting of the day. 

What do you do for your feet?

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