27 June 2013

1000 Posts: My Favourites (& Book Giveaway)

Imagine having 1000 children and having to pick a favourite...? Could be tricky.
Stories are like babies. You labour over them, you pour yourself into them, and then you send them out into the world. You love them all.
But over the years, in the midst of so many stories, a handful have stood out to me.
There are some posts which have almost written themselves; they have gushed out of my soul like a river in flood. Others I have laboured over, crafting and refining until it is just-so. And still others were paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of life's lessons.

Here are a handful of my favourite posts, ever...

Broken (where hearts are like bones)  Written September 2010

Ten Cool Things About Motherhood Written January 2012

I've chosen these posts, from my earlier blogging days, so that if you're new to my blog you can get more of a taste of where I've been and who I am.
I try to "keep things real" here in this space. It's a not a place for showing off or pretending that I have it all together (I DON'T). From my earliest blogging days I sensed that if I was going to connect with other women, I'd need to be real and honest. That's why you'll see plenty of pictures of my laundry piles alongside the pretty ones of flowers and teacups. There is no room for pretending to be perfect or living an idyllic life here... New Zealand is far too small to get away with fakery (and Kiwis will never tolerate a know-it-all.)

We are muddling along, doing our best, fighting battles on all fronts some days... trying to find the Fun on this Rollercoaster called Life.

And when I need to escape the realities of my laundry or my squabbling tribe, I turn to BOOKS.

Which brings me to today's giveaway Prize: I want to give you three of my favourite books. That's THREE people, one book each.

My alter-ego Mrs Readalot has read and reviewed a bunch of books (all listed here on my Bookclub page).

If you win, you can choose from this list:
  • Anything by Jodi Picoult; Anything by Phillippa Gregory, Water for Elephants, The Time Travellers Wife, The Birth House, Anything by Stephen Lawhead, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Help.
To enter, all you need to do is leave me a comment and tell me which one of my favourite posts is YOUR favourite (and which book you would choose if you win). 

Oh, and be following me somehow - GFC, Subscribe, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Bloglovin - your choice.

The Winners will be announced on Tuesday 5th July here on the blog. In the meantime you can also enter my other 1000 Posts Party giveaways...

Winners announced right here on Tuesday 2nd July.
26 June 2013

1000 Posts Party (Day Two): Blog Tips Day

Welcome to Day Two of my 1000 Posts Party. I'm celebrating reaching 1000 stories posted here on my blog by giving you (my lovely readers) (without whom there would be no point blogging) some presents.

One of the things I have enjoyed doing as I've learnt things about blogging, is sharing what I've learnt with others, to help new bloggers make their blogs the best they can be.

I have a whole page of blog tips, covering everything from the basics of creating hyperlinks, to what to do when you've lost your bloggy mojo.

Here are five of my favourite Blog Tips posts...

1. My Guide to Good Blog Design
2. Using Photoscape to Batch Edit Photos and Making Photo Collages
3. Ten Tips I Would Give My new-Blogger Self
4. Make a Grabable Button for Your blog (updated with new generation code)
5. Make Clickable images and Sidebar Buttons

But by far my most popular (and most commented-upon) post is my FREE Social Media Buttons post.

I spent months googling where to find/how to make these babies, and finally found a way to do it, with html code to make the buttons easy to install. I turned a whole bunch of designs into grabable Social Media button sets, in a wide range of designs, for anyone to use for free. All I ask in return is that people say "thankyou" by following me (and who wouldn't want to follow me, anyway, right?? Ha!)

And today in honour of my 1000 posts I'm giving everyone a present. A new collection of Social Media buttons for you to grab and use (in two colourways)...

<a href="https://twitter.com/ YOURTWITTERNAME "><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Twitter" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewritertwittergrey_zpsb1515127.png" width="50" height="50" /></a>
<a href=" http://www.facebook.com/YOURFACEBOOKPAGE "><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Facebook" alt="" src=" http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterfbgrey_zps8e5933c9.png" width="50" height="50" /></a>
<a href="http://YOURBLOG/feeds/posts/default"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="RSS" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterrssgrey_zpsa7d46c7d.png" width="50" height="50" /></a>
<a href="http://pinterest.com/YOURPINTEREST"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Pinterest" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterpinterestgrey_zps3cc80eaf.png" width="50" height="50" /></a>
<a href="YOUR G+ Page URL"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="G+" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterggrey_zps64c181be.png” width="50" height="50" /></a>
<a href="http://instagram.com/YOURINSTAGRAM"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Instagram" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterinstagramgrey_zps5abf35e9.png" width="50" height="50" /></a>
<a href=" http://www.bloglovin.com/en/blog/BLOGLOVIN-ID"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Follow with Bloglovin" alt="" src=" http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterbloglovingrey_zps02e2db48.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href="mailto:YOUR EMAIL" ><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Email" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriteremailgrey_zpse6df4ab0.png" width="50" height="50" /></a>

<a href="http://www.twitter.com/YOURTWITTERNAME"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Twitter" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewritertwitter_zpse1390073.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/
YOURFACEBOOKPAGE"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Facebook" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterfacebook_zps98c4ba69.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href="YOUR GOOGLE+ page URL"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="G+" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterg_zps72af5a9e.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href=" http://instagram.com/YOURINSTAGRAM"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Instagram" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterinstagram_zpscb051004.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href="http://YOURBLOG/feeds/posts/default"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="RSS" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterrss_zpsbd5ef193.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href="http://pinterest.com/YOURPINTEREST/"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Pinterest" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterpinterest_zps4bb5b186.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href=" http://www.bloglovin.com/en/blog/ BLOGLOVIN-ID"><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Follow with Bloglovin" alt="" src=" http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriterbloglovinpink_zps36870c04.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>
<a href="mailto:YOUREMAIL" ><img style="border: 0pt none ;" title="Email" alt="" src="http://i788.photobucket.com/albums/yy162/donnasimone/typewriteremail_zps7fac0399.png" width="45" height="45" /></a>


  • Choose your colour. Select and copy the code above (control+c) then paste (control+v) into a Word document. Save.
  • Replace the coloured text with your own details. Save. (If there are some Platforms you don't use, move the code for those buttons to the bottom of the page and keep for later, just in case).
  • Copy the new code (control+c) and paste into an html gadget in your sidebar. Save.
  • Done!
If these buttons aren't your style, choose from my range of other social media button styles here...

That's my little present to you (my fellow bloggers) for being my readers, blog-colleagues and blog-friends.

And now I want to bless somebody with a Blog Makeover.

Since I've spent the last five years tweaking my blog and learning how to customise stuff at the University of Google Search, I have recently begun to offer my services to people who want a customised gorgeous blog design (which reeks of who they are) but have neither the time, nor the inclination to DIY it themselves.

Today's giveaway prize is a custom blog makeover by Me. (valued at $NZ85)

Now which hoops will I require you to jump through in order to win this handy prize?

  • Make sure you're following me (whichever way you like to follow/read blogs - see my handy follow buttons up the top of the page)
  • Leave me a comment telling me why you need a blog makeover and what you would really really love to change/improve about your blog
That's it. Not too painful aye??
(and if you really want to thank me for all the blog tips and freebies over the years, you could add my Blog Webshop button into your sidebar).

I will pick my favourite comment and let you know the winner(s) at the end of the 1000 Posts Party. You have until next Tuesday 2nd July to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment.

Greatfun Blog Design

See you tomorrow when I will be showcasing my favourite Blog posts of all time and giving away some of my Favourite Books!

P.S. You can still enter Day One's Giveaway - open until Tuesday 2nd July.
25 June 2013

1000 Posts Blog Party (and Giveaway)

This is it - my 1000th post.
Who would have ever thought five years ago (before I'd even heard of blogging) that I would write 1000 stories without running out of things to say?

To celebrate I am going to have three days of giveaways here on my blog, sharing with you some of my creations and favourite things.

I am going to showcase my favourite party posts and give away personalised Party Invitations, from my Etsy shop.

I am going to have a new set of social media buttons (in two colourways) for anyone to grab PLUS a Blog Makeover for someone who needs/wants one.

I'll be sharing my all-time Favourite Posts and giving away one of my favourite things in the world: BOOKS. Someone will win three of my Favourite Books from Book Depository. So make sure you come back and enter my 1000 Posts Blog Party Giveaways (you can enter as many of them as you like).

Party Day Giveaway:
Many of my 1000 posts have been all about kids' parties. In fact, my very first post was a party. I have selected my 12 Best Parties to share with you today, in honour of reaching 1000 posts.

To enter the giveaway, tell me which party is your favourite (and why). Then check out my Etsy shop, GreatfunDesign in case you win and tell me which design you think you'd choose. You can cash in the invitation voucher when your next birthday party rolls around*.

I will pick my favourite comments and let you know the winner(s) at the end of the 1000 Posts Party. You have until next Tuesday 2nd July to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment.

(* you can pass the prize along to a friend if you don't have a kid)

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: Just leave me a comment telling me which party is your favourite (and why). Then check out my Etsy shop, GreatfunDesign in case you win and tell me which design you think you'd choose. You can cash in the invitation voucher when your next child's birthday party rolls around, or pass the voucher along to a friend.

I will pick my favourite comments and let you know the winner(s) at the end of the 1000 Posts Party. You have until next Tuesday 2nd July to enter the giveaway by leaving a comment.

24 June 2013

Grateful Monday (come join us)

This is the sign that greets me in every morning. It sits on my windowsill and reminds me to ask myself the question: What am I grateful for today?
There's always something to be grateful for.

I love that we have now successfully integrated gratefulness into our family dinnertime.
You know something has really caught on in your family, when you are no longer the one pushing/steering it.
You know your kids are catching on if before you have got that first forkful of potato into your mouth, a child pipes up with: "So what are we grateful for today? I'm Grateful for mum cooking this dinner for us..."

Ahhh yes. Gratefulness is a beautiful thing. I love that the kids are catching it. (Thankyou, Meg, for the inspiration).

This week I recorded my gratefuls using the Gratitude Journal app on my phone.
If the sign on my kitchen windowsill failed to prompt me, then the red hearted question in my notifications kept me on the grateful road.

Here's what I've been grateful for this week...

  1. Fit healthy athletic kids and watching them play sport
  2. I am grateful that almost every day I can choose how to spend my time
  3. I am grateful for hubby taking the kids to school for me some mornings
  4. I am grateful for hearts, warm jackets, scarves and umbrellas
  5. I am grateful that the day is only 24 hours (I was reaching a bit that day)
  6. Thankful I am still here (in church) after 23 years
and let me just add to that...

7. I am grateful the greys are finally gone (and I got a haircut NOT done by my hubby!)
8. Loving Spring flowers in Winter sunshine
9. That this is my 999th blog post. Tomorrow = 1000. Party time on the blog to celebrate!

Join in with The Grateful Project
Use #thegratefulproject hashtag on Instagram and your "Gratefuls" will show up here automagically...

If perchance you happen to write a grateful post on your blog, you can link it up below. Use the #thegratefulproject hashtag to join us on instagram (and twitter)... or you can share your gratefuls in the comments section. There's even a button so you can let others know you're joining in...

The Grateful Project

Gratefully Yours,
21 June 2013

Mrs Readalot's Guide to Middle Earth

or "Lord of the Rings: Book vs. Movie Trilogy"

I live in Middle Earth: New Zealand, the proud home of Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings movies. The real-life home of Edoras and Minas Tirith. The place Gimli and Legolas battled orcs and dreamy Aragorn wooed elfin Arwen.

Of course a lot of the imagery in the movies was computer generated but the basic raw beauty of the landscape was 100% pure New Zealand - which only makes me love the trilogy more.

Recently our family spent a couple of weekends watching the movies back-to-back.**(see below)

The Fellowship of the Ring (where there were moments of muting the scary bits and explaining to Scrag about the Orcs being just rugby players with bad makeup), followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King one rainy Sunday.**

I was lost in Middle Earth and I didn't want to leave.
So I did something I haven't done in ten years: I picked up the book and dived right in.

Now, anyone who knows me and my alter ego, Mrs Readalot, will know that I am always a "books are better" kind of gal.
Very very rarely have I watched a movie that I enjoyed more - and thought was better - than the book.

But having watched the movies and THEN re-read the book straightaway, I have to say that I actually far prefer the movie version of these tales.

Firstly, Peter Jackson has literally created Middle Earth on the screen. Where Tolkien's book is top-heavy with overly wordy descriptions, watching Sir Peter Jackson's movies is like seeing what you imagined in your head brought to life. (As to the "SIR": they gave Sir Pete a knighthood for his LOTR efforts - that's how much these films mean to NZ)

Secondly the characterisation is superb. Re-reading the book, I could hear Elijah Wood's voice speaking Frodo, Ian McKellan really IS Gandalf. And Aragorn, O Aragorn - could Viggo Mortenson have been any more perfect? (lucky, lucky Liv Tyler)
The characters come alive on screen. Forever after Sean Astin will be Sam Gamgee, that heroic Hobbit.

Thirdly, the films are much faster paced. The book suffers (as I said) from over-wordiness in places. And too-many characters with too-similar names. And some characters are known by three or four names each.

At the start of the book, between Bilbo disappearing and Gandalf warning Frodo to keep the ring hidden,  and when they actually leave Hobbiton, there is a gap of NINE YEARS! Then once the Hobbits depart with some (but not much) urgency, they take a long, annoying and completely unnecessary diversion through the woods and meet a character called "Tom Bombadil". Whole chapters are given to this encounter, with lots of lengthy descriptions of food eaten, and poems shared. I love that Sir Pete cut this bit out COMPLETELY and just sent them right to the Inn of the Prancing Pony where they met Aragorn. *sigh*

One thing that Peter Jackson also does far better than Tolkien, is picking up on the love story between Arwen and Aragorn. Tolkien hardly alludes to it at all - but has a section in the end pages where he gives the history of Arwen and Aragorn's long desperate all-but-hopeless romance. I call that a missed opportunity. In my humble opinion the book could have been much more engaging if Tolkien had integrated the story in to the main body of the book, instead of it just being an afterthought. How much better to have woven THAT thread through the story, than have those long boring chapters at the beginning.

Although the book picks up pace for and is easier to read in the middle section, at the end it drags out rather painfully.

In the movies, our Hobbit heroes come home to the Shire and find it unchanged and peaceful as ever, where nobody realises wall that they have been through to keep it safe for them.
At this point I got a wee lump in my throat.

But in the BOOK, they come home to find that Saruman has wrecked the Shire while they were gone and so, having just returned from defeating Sauron and destroying the One Ring, now they have to turn around and save the Shire. Poor poor Hobbits and their poor poor (ugly) (tired) feet.

All in all, I far prefer Peter Jackson's Movie Trilogy to Tolkien's book.
But I'm glad I re-read the giant (1083 page) tome, because it allowed me to linger for longer in Middle Earth. Now that I'm done, I have to conclude that Middle Earth is all the better for Peter Jackson's version.

And it only makes me wish that Tolkien had had a really good editor so that this most-excellent imaginative, inspiring tale of good vs evil, hope in the face of hopelessness, friendship and small people becoming unlikely heroes could have been an even better, more readable BOOK.

However: at least we have the movies now. I can only imagine what Sir Pete will do for The Hobbit.
(But I don't think I'll be re-reading it any time soon.)

Have you read The Lord of the Rings? Watched the Movies? Which do you prefer?

You can get the DVDs from the nice people at Fatso:

If you haven't tried Fatso Online DVD rental before, check out my post about why I love it. Then click the box above and use the magic code FAMILY45 to get a Month's Free Trial on the Super Plan (worth $28.99).


**P.S. TO CONCERNED PARENTS WHO MAY QUESTION OUR JUDGEMENT IN WATCHING THESE MOVIES WITH OUR PRE-TEEN KIDS: Ten years ago I would never have dreamed of letting my five year old watch these movies. They are rated [PG13] and do have a lot of battles, tension and scary-looking creatures but no swearing, profanity, sex or adult innuendos. But with loads Parental Guidance, we have watched these as a family, carefully editing it ourselves (with the use of the mute button for the tension-music, and fast forwarding) and explaining how things were made: special make-up, drawn on a computer etc. It helps that my brother was an Orc in The Hobbit movie. So we can say to Scrag: Look, "Uncle John dressed up in a costume like that too". there are so many great themes in this movie that we decided it was worth watching as a family. Friendship, loyalty, bravery, persevering through trials. This was viewed as a family and guided by us 100%. Not one nightmare but lots of great conversation ensued both during and after.