5 Podcasts Perfect for Halloween

5 Podcasts Perfect for Halloween

Halloween is tomorrow! It’s the time everything spooky and creepy (and pumpkin spice?) comes out to play. I have some awesome podcasts to get you in the mood, ranging from the fairly benign to the downright creepy.

1. Stuff You Missed In History Class

Every October, the ladies of Stuff You Missed dig into Halloween-themed episodes. There haves been topics like “Was there a real Sweeney Todd?,” “The History of Halloween Candy,” and biographies on some of the most famous horror actors of the 20th century. They have an extensive backlog, so you won’t run short on historically-based Halloween episodes.

2. Thinking Sideways

Thinking Sideways is a trio of mystery enthusiasts that delve into the unknown. Each Halloween season, they go over their grisliest cases, which usually includes a lot of murder. A few of my favorites have been the Miyazawa Family Murders, The Murder of Martha Moxley, and The Lake Bodom Murders. If you like a good mystery and fantastic hosts, this podcast is for you.

3. Two Girls, One Ghost

If you ignore the weird title, this is one spooky podcast. Friends, Corinne and Sabrina, go through paranormal encounters on a theme, from listener emails, and their own pasts. They truly believe in the paranormal, which makes this podcast even creepier. I don’t really believe in the paranormal encounters, but I had to stop listening to this at night.

4. My Favorite Murder

This is hands down my favorite podcast. It has a lot of murder and a lot of laughs, which is perfect for anyone who gets creeped out by grisly murder. In each episode, the hosts talk about what is happening in their lives and cover two murders. I loved the episode about Ted Bundy (#61) and the Spiderman of Denver (#85). While this podcast can be an acquired taste, I would suggest checking it out if you are interested in true crime.

5. The Generation Why Podcast

This podcast that covers a lot of unsolved crime and is much more serious than the previous podcasts. They cover one mystery a week and discuss the possible theories behind it. There are a lot of murder mysteries in their backlog, including several episodes about the Zodiac Killer and other serial killers. Check them out if you like a well-researched mystery.

Have a Happy Halloween! I hope it’s as creepy as you want it to be! If you have any comments about these selections or want to tell me your favorite podcast, please comment!

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How I Schedule My Day as a Virtual Assistant

How I Schedule My Day as a Virtual Assistant

One of the joys of being a virtual assistant is that I don’t have a boss. There is no one looking over my shoulder as I go about my days, I’m in charge of my own time. I’m going to tell you the way I spend my days as a virtual assistant.

Morning

I’m usually out of bed by 8:00. I’ll usually shower, eat breakfast, and plan out my day. I use three things to structure my day. First, I look at my to-dos in my OmniFocus. Then I add the things I want to get done into my bullet journal so I can see them all on one page. Then I use Google Calendar to map out how long I want things to take throughout my day. This also reminds me of any appointments I might have. Usually, this step takes me about 10 to 15 minutes.

Business Work

I use the first hour of my day, from 9-10, to work on my own business. I’m still in the process of finding clients, so it’s important I prioritize this, which is why it’s the first thing in my day. I usually check my email and send any emails I need to. I also source clients and brainstorm improvements I can make to my current business plan. Once I have the number of clients I want, I’ll move this to later in the day or make it fewer days in the week. Until then, it will continue to be in the most important slot in my day.

Client Work

I then do client work. The duration of this is different every day depending on what I currently need to accomplish for my clients and potential clients. It’s hard to generalize since each day is different, but I prioritize based on deadlines and work hard during my client’s time. I want to get the most amount of work done while I’m on their dime.

Other Work

During the remaining part of the day, I get my odds and ends done. I usually spend time working on my proofreading course and on this blog. I also babysit three days a week, so I spend time with a baby most afternoons. These odds and ends are less important to get done, so I put them later in the day.

Fun

Around 4 or 5 I usually complete my day and then I can do things purely because I like them (though I do enjoy my job quite a bit.) Usually, that means crocheting in front of the TV (the show I’m watching right now is NCIS.) I also enjoy baking and hanging out with my friends. It’s whatever I want to do. Since I don’t have set hours in an office, I need to make sure I’m not always hustling and have time to relax.

Nightime

I start my bedtime routine around 9:00. I have a pretty strict evening routine. I shut down my computer, tidy my house, layout my breakfast for the morning, and brush my teeth. I usually get to sleep around 10 or 11. I know that I need a lot of sleep so I try to get to bed as early as I can.

This is a general idea for my day. Every day is a little different and I can bend this day however I need to, would like, which is one of the greatest perks of being a virtual assistant. If becoming a virtual assistant is something you want to look into check out this article by Gina Horkey. If you have any questions, just leave a comment. I always respond.

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10 State Parks of the Florida Keys

10 State Parks of the Florida Keys

One of my favorite places I have ever traveled is the Florida Keys. The combination of blue waters, swaying palm trees, and rich history satisfied my wanderlust and I hope you get to visit there one day. While I was there in July 2016, I got to see a few of the state parks that call the Keys home. Here is a list of all ten and the various activities you can do in them.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

This park is located in Key Largo just north of where Hwy. 1 comes onto the key. The biggest draw to this park would the miles of hiking trails including six miles of trails that are accessible with a backcountry permit. If I had gone to Florida during a cooler time of year, I would have loved hiking in this park! There are also a whopping 84 protected species of plants and animals in the park. If you are looking for an experience with nature, definitely go to Dagny Johnson.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

This next park is located in Key Largo just south of Dagny Johnson. It’s the first undersea park in the United States, so it has excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. It even has a glass-bottom boat that goes out to the coral reef and kayak and canoe rentals. In the upland part of the park, there are three beaches, camping, a boat ramp, and a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium in the visitor’s center. There are even replicas from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck in one of the swimming areas. I only got to be in this park a short time, but I absolutely loved the beach and would have gone on the glass-bottom boat if there had been more time.

The view in John Pennecamp State Park onto the swimming area with replicas of a 1715 shipwreck.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

This small park is located in Islamorada and is the site where Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad mined limestone. The railroad stretched all the way from the mainland to Key West until it was destroyed in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. A lot of the keys’ history centers around this railroad and this state park is an excellent place to learn more about it. You can view the walls where they used to mine, see old mining equipment, and walk any of the five self-guided trails.  I didn’t have time to go here while I was in the Keys, but it’s on my list for the next time I go.

Indian Key Historic State Park

This state park is on its own island south of Islamorada. To get there you need your own boat or a boat tour out of Islamorada. Indian Key is one of the few places that has nearshore areas for diving or snorkeling the coral reef. It’s also the historic site of people who made their business salvaging cargo from shipwrecks in the area. The would be a neat place to go to get away from the high traffic of Hwy. 1.

The view along the Golden Orb Trail in Long Kay State Park.

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park

I definitely checked the spelling on this one several times. Lignumvitae Key is north of Indian Key on the other side of Hwy. 1. Again, this park is on its own island and the only way to get here is your own boat or a boat tour out of Islamorada. On the island, there is a house built by a Miami chemist in 1919. It’s a wonderful way to get a feel for the Keys in the early 20th century and get away from the busyness of the rest of the islands.

San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park

After growing up in Wisconsin, the idea of a state park that is entirely underwater is strange to me. Located 1.25 nautical miles south of Indian Key, this park contains the remains of the shipwreck of the San Pedro, a Spanish ship that sunk in 1733. This is the perfect park for people who enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving.

The Atlantic Ocean from the Overseas Railroad in Bahia Honda State Park.

Long Key State Park

This park is located on part of Long Key, named so by Henry Flagler because it comes right before the longest bridge he had made up to that point. It’s also the location of a fishing resort destroyed in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. There is a lot going on in this park including swimming, kayaking, and oceanfront camping. I walked along one of thier nature trails called the Golden Orb Trail. It’s about a mile long and goes through four different habitats. It was a wonderful way to see the island and get great ocean views along it.

Curry Hammock State Park

This park is located in Marathon and includes several different keys. There is a beach, camping, and kayaking and they also host the Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival each year. I had lunch there and enjoyed the picnic area that was right on the beach. I still regret not renting a kayak and exploring lagoons in the park. There’s always next time.

A section of the Overseas Railroad on the left and Hwy. 1 to the right from a beach in Bahia Honda State Park.

Bahia Honda State Park

This park takes up nearly the entire island of Bahia Honda, which is located right after Seven-mile Bridge, the longest bridge on the Keys. I had the chance to stay at this park and absolutely loved it. It has 80 campsites spread throughout the park, 6 cabins, two swimming beaches and a boat ramp. It also has access to a small part of the Overseas Railroad where you can walk to see an awesome view of the island and ocean. There are also opportunities to rent snorkeling equipment and kayaks. This park really has it all when it comes to the Florida Keys and I would suggest making this park a must-see.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

We are at our tenth and final state park. This park is located on Key West and is the southernmost park in Florida. It has a beach and hiking, but probably the coolest thing is the fort. It was completed in 1866 and was important in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. I really wanted to see this, but I got there after tours had closed. There are a lot of things to see on Key West, so make sure to prioritize based on the time they close. This park also boasts the best view of the sunset on Key West.

The Florida Keys are a wonderful vacation destination, especially for people who love the outdoors. If you ever visit, make sure to visit some of the state parks that encompass the natural beauty of the area. Which park sounds the most interesting to you? If you’ve been, which is your favorite?

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How to Organize Your Desk

How to Organize Your Desk

I had a desk in my bedroom growing up. It was cheap, faux wood with a single cupboard on the right side. It always had a ton of clutter on the top. In fact, I cannot remember a time that I actually sat at the desk and used it. Do you feel this way about your desk sometimes? It’s really easy to get too much stuff on your desk to the point that you can’t really use it. I have a quick and easy guide on how to conquer your desk, so you can use it to aid your productivity.

What Do You Use Your Desk For?

The work you do on your desk shows you how you should organize it. I use mine as a space for my computer, so most of my time at my desk is computer time. Therefore, I can have a lot on my desk, because I rarely need to use physical space for my work. I have a friend who is going to grad school, so she uses her desk for school work. She needs plenty of open space, so she has room for her textbooks and notebooks. Figure out what you use your desk for and make sure that space is favorable for that.

Take Off Everything That Doesn’t Belong

If you are anything like me, you tend to get stuff on your desk that just doesn’t belong. For me, it’s most often notebooks, but for you, it could be paper piles or art project from your kids. For now, take all of the things off your desk that isn’t related to your desk’s purpose. Either put them away where they go or set them aside for the moment. This should leave you with a clear desk. I only have my computer and its accessories (and a cat window seat, but that isn’t actually ON the desk, so it doesn’t count.)

Give Your Clutter A Home

No matter what clutter ends up on your desk there is always a way to give it a home. If you have a lot of pens on your desk, buy a pen holder and put it in a prominent spot (mine is a pot my mom’s friend made.) I struggled with notebook clutter, so I got an inbox for my desk. At the end of the day, I put all of my notebooks and other clutter in it and I clean it out once a week to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.  Whatever your clutter is, there is a way to manage it. Brainstorm a way that fits into your work style.

Set a Reminder

Now that you have your desk a little more organized. Set to-dos for the future to revisit it. Try a week, a month, and two months from now. At the three month mark, reevaluate your process and identify any systems that aren’t working. You know how you need to use your desk space! Make sure that you are keeping your desk in line with that process.

I hope your desk is easy to use now! I know I always feel better after I organize my desk. It makes it a lot easier for me to give my full attention to my work. How do you use your desk? How does organization help you to feel more productive? What tips do you have to keep an organized workspace?

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10 Things That Make Me Happy Right Now

10 Things That Make Me Happy Right Now

Sometimes, things get hard. We get lost in the things we have to do and how much time we have left to do them. It’s tough when things don’t go the way we expect. I invite you to put those things aside and let yourself have a quiet moment to think of ten things that make you happy right now. Here are the ten I came up with.

  1. My Cat Hazel
  2. Birds on my Feeder
  3. Hiking
  4. Crocheting
  5. Axel
  6. Reading Helpful Blogs
  7. Ed Sheeran Pandora Radio
  8. Podcasts (my favorite podcast is My Favorite Murder)
  9. Running
  10. Plants

Even this little activity can help you to remember that everything in life isn’t hard and not everything is life makes you mad either. Some things are just there to make you happy.

What is your list of ten?

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25 Places to Visit in Seattle

25 Places to Visit in Seattle

Despite the rain, Seattle is an awesome place to visit! There are multiple gardens, parks, museums, and so much more, enough that you would have to spend a week here to even scratch the surface! I’ve made you a list of 25 of the best places to visit in Seattle.

The Fremont Troll (and that’s a real VW Bug under his hand)

Space Needle

♦ Fremont Troll

You can see it in movie “10 Things I Hate About You.”

Seattle Great Wheel

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour

Wake by Richard Serra in Olympic Sculpture Park

Kubota Garden

♦ Seacrest Park

Go here at night! You can see the whole skyline lit up.

Alki Beach Park

Seattle Aquarium

♦ Olympic Sculpture Park

Washington Park Arboretum

Seattle Japenese Garden

Gas Works Park

♦ Woodland Park Zoo

♦ Ballard Locks

If you come during the fall, you can see salmon jumping up the fish ladder to spawn.

♦ Discovery Park

West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park. You can see the Olympic Mountains in the background.

Museum of Flight

Seattle Public Library

Seattle Art Museum

Pacific Science Center

Museum of Pop Culture

Museum of History and Industry

Edith Macefield House

Nighttime view of Seattle from Seacrest Park

♦ Pikes Place Market

First Starbucks

Be prepared for a long line.

Seattle Meowtropolitan Cat Cafe

I have a Google Map that includes places in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellevue that could be interesting. If you have visited Seattle, please tell me your favorite place! If you haven’t visited yet, tell me which places are the most interesting to you. As always, if you have any questions, just comment below.

Last updated on 10/12/2017

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3 Areas for Easy Orchid Care

3 Areas for Easy Orchid Care

You have probably heard it said that orchids are hard to grow. Maybe you have even had an orchid die while in your care. It can be very frustrating. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be as difficult as everyone says it is! I’ve boiled my orchid care down to three main areas: potting medium, watering, and sunlight. If you can get these three areas on lockdown, then you can care for your orchid!

Potting Medium

The best potting medium for an orchid is bark, since it can hold a little water, but is also loose enough that the roots can breath (which they like.) My first orchid died because it had moss packed too tightly around its roots so it was never able to dry out. The roots literally rotted away. I learned to replant any moss bound orchids as soon as they were done flowering. You can find orchid repotting mix at any home garden center, I’ve included a link to the equivalent I found on Amazon.

Watering

Watering can also be another concerning thing in orchid care. I’ve found a really simple way to do it once the orchid is potted in bark. Once a week, bring your orchid to the sink and run water over the bark. I usually let the water start to fill the pot before I set it aside. Be careful not to let any water sit in the base of the leaves; this will also rot your orchid. Use the corner of a paper towel to mop up any extra water. Then you let orchids drain before putting them back.

If your orchid is still in moss, I would use the ice chip method. Put enough ice cubes to cover the surface of the moss and let them melt. This means less water is being introduced to your orchid, so it has more of a chance of drying out between waterings. I wouldn’t use this for orchids in bark because the water won’t penetrate down to the lowest roots.

The lighter color on this leaf is scarring from sunburn. I’ve learned my lesson!

Sunlight

Orchids are finicky with light. They like a lot of sunlight, but if they spend a ton of time in direct sunlight, they will get sunburns (yes, plants can get sunburnt.) The key is to find a place where it’s bright a lot of the time, but the direct sunlight is low. In my current house, I have the orchids on my desk in a window that gets a lot of light in the morning, but because of trees, doesn’t get much of it directly. Look around your house for a window that gets light for hours a time, if anything, you can put up a sheer curtain to offset the light.

Once I figured these three areas out, I started collecting more orchids. I have five in my care right now that are all happy! Of course, that wasn’t without trial and error (I’ve also killed two orchids to learn these tricks.) If you have any questions about caring for your orchids, please ask them! I have a Pinterest board dedicated to plants if you want to check that out. Happy growing!

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How to Create a Content Calendar

How to Create a Content Calendar

If you are serious about your blog, you need a content calendar. Hands down. Creating a consistent posting schedule is the first step to having a successful blog. It gives you structure and goals to work towards. It also encourages you to post more often. Here is my content calendar and the various tools I use in it.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my content for my blog and social media accounts. You could use Google Calendar, too, if you are a visual person. I have my blog’s content calendar in the picture above. The columns are pretty self-explanatory; I like to keep it simple.

I usually plan out for the next month at the beginning of the month previous. The first post for a month is always the thoughts from the previous month. After that, I fill in the rest of the month from my list of ideas. I try to have an equal amount of all the categories in each month, which is easy to see when I have it laid in front of me like this.

The notes column is probably the most important. I use this to track where I am in the course of making a post. As I complete different pieces, I delete them from the list. This way I can quickly look at my list to see what I need to do next. Once a post is completed, I color it green. Until then, it’s orange.

You can use a similar model for posting on social media. I have rough categories for each day of the week to make it easier for me to brainstorm and I write out what the post will say. I schedule all of my content using Buffer.

I got started on my content calendar using a post from Mommy Sanest. Hers is a little more complicated than mine. I’ve made a Google Doc of my content calendar, which I encourage you to save and modify for yourself.

Please tell me about your own content calendars! Has it helped you with your blogging? Do you have any suggestions for someone getting started? Do you have any questions about getting started?

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Thoughts from September 2017

Thoughts from September 2017

Another month has come and gone. It feels like I learn so much about myself and my business with each passing month. October marks two months since I moved to Washington. It’s still the best choice I could have made! I’m learning endurance both in my mind and in my body. My business continues to grow and I’ve been working on learning more and more about how to run it successfully. Overall, it’s been a great month.

Links I Love

Olympic Peninsula and Mowich Lake

I took two awesome trips this month. The first was to the Olympic Peninsula with a friend of mine. We got to see Lake Quinault, Gatton Creek Falls, the Pacific Ocean, Forks, and La Push. Which means I got to check off a few more things on my Olympic Peninsula Bucket List! I also went on a hike later in the month with the aunt and uncle of a friend of mine.  We hiked up from Mowich Lake, saw Mt. Rainier, walked down and around to Spray Falls. My heels got shredded, but it was so awesome!

Two Clients

I finally have a second client! It may seem strange that it’s taking me so long to get clients, but it’s really normal. There are many people I’m talking to about becoming clients, but it can take a while to actually make them clients. Which is understandable, we both need to make sure it’s a good fit and my skills match the task. I’m really excited to get started and continue growing my business.

Babysitting Axel

The final thing happening this month is starting my babysitting job. My friend needs a babysitter for her son, Axel, three days a week and I get to be the one he spends time with. It’s only for a few hours a week, but I’m so excited to have baby time and another form of steady income. Wish me luck!

This month has been very good. I’m looking forward to seeing what October has to offer. I know I’ll be going down to Portland for a day and my goal is to get two clients from the people I’m talking to at the moment. Hopefully, it will be as good as September!

How was your September? What good things happened to you? What does October have in store for you?

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Questions to Ask to Keep Yourself From Buying Things You Don’t Need

Questions to Ask to Keep Yourself From Buying Things You Don’t Need

We all do it. We enter a store looking for one or two items and end up leaving with way more than we intended. This not only hurts our wallets but can lead to owning too many things. I’ve developed four questions that I ask myself whenever I start to divert from my shopping list, so I only go home with things that I actually need and can afford.

1. Do I need this item?

This is pretty simple, is this item something you need or something you want. Toilet paper and lettuce could be things you need. On sale wrapping paper or a cute pencil holder could be things you only want. I use this question to gauge if it’s something I forgot to put on my list or a passing fancy.

2. Have I been wanting to buy this for a while?

Have you been wanting to buy a new bathmat for months and you just found one on sale? Maybe this is the time to finally buy it. But you haven’t been thinking about buying that glassware set, in fact, you don’t really need new glasses. Skip it, even if it’s on sale. This gives you the freedom to take up low prices, but only on items that will actually help you.

3. Do I have the money for this?

This is the big one: can you afford it? Even if it is something you need and it’s on sale, you can still not have enough money at the moment to buy it. This is particularly true for pricier items. However, if you check out the price and realize you have that extra money in the budget, go for it!

4. Will I (or my spouse) be disappointed I bought this in a few days?

Even if you answer yes to the first three questions, you can still say no to this one. Maybe you have been craving a new video game and you just found one you’ve been wanting to play on sale! Then you remember that your spouse has been complaining about needing new work shirts. Sure, there might be yeses to the first three questions, but you know your spouse will be disappointed to wait another paycheck before getting new clothes. So you pass on the offer.

Only you can answer these questions truthfully and use them to help your spending habits. Usually, I only get to the first question and put the item back. Remember, there will be a time when you will have more disposable income, but until then, learn to recognize the difference between what you want, what you need, and what you can afford.

What are some of your tricks to curb your spending? Do these questions help you?

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