Okay, this is an odd topic for me to post… but I don’t know where else to post it.
This is actually something I wrote in a private forum, and then realized I should save it so I don’t have to repeat myself, later.
Someone asked me how to start a business using Amazon (and perhaps other) affiliate links. He’d already selected a niche and had a lot of products to talk about.
Here’s my reply…
You have an idea and a niche. I assume you’re also in the Amazon Affiliate program, so your affiliate links earn money or you. That’s the foundation. Yaayy!
Next, you could start with YouTube. If so, Think Media is one of the best free resources; they have lots of YouTube videos. Also, Vanessa Lau (also at YouTube) has excellent ideas for staying organized once you have a channel and want to do marketing to get more exposure.
Or, you could start with a website. (Or both a video channel _and_ a website… but start small. This can get overwhelming in a hurry.)
There are paid options like Wix and Squarespace, and I’m not sure what else. (I have my own websites that I maintain via Namecheap – also an affordable domain name resource – but I’ve had websites for decades. Really.)
WordPress (dot com) offers free hosting and it’s pretty easy, and you’ll learn to use WordPress software, which is what I use on all of my sites. The free WordPress (dot com) site can use your own domain (or not) and will have their ads on it, but – if you like this – you can later pay them a fee for the ads to go away. (Or just graduate to your own hosting, but that’s a bigger step.)
Mostly, I suggest starting small – and free – to see what you like.
Then, to promote your channel or site, choose two (at the very most) social media-ish sites… InstaGram is a favorite for some, others swear by Facebook (it comes & goes in popularity).
For the latter, look at Facebook Pages. Under one of my pen names, I have hundreds of enthusiastic followers who share my Facebook Page posts. (Pages are less time-consuming for marketing than Facebook Groups are.)
I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on with Twitter, so I can’t recommend that until the dust settles. Ditto Tik Tok, which has some red flags in terms of security and stability for U.S. followers.
And then there’s old-school Pinterest, which is still popular among shoppers… but it’s a little different from what I’d consider social media.
Gary Vaynerchuk – aka “Gary Vee” – has a lot to say about social media marketing, and he’s all over YouTube. Warning: He’s delving into Web 3.0 in a hurry, so he can be overwhelming to listen to… but also worth noting for the future.
(For a good intro to Web 3.0, do a quick search for Aifediyi Viktor’s article, If Web2.0 + 1 = Web3.0, what is “+1″? but be prepared to be overwhelmed. I certainly am, looking at some of this… but also loving the opportunities!)
Watch out for the get-rich-quick crowd. If it sounds too easy and they’re trying to sell you something (especially with a 7 in the price), look elsewhere. You don’t need to spend a cent to get started and – in my opinion – shouldn’t; not until you have a good idea of what you want to do… what feels right and seems like fun. (Keep it fun, okay…? 😉 )
That’s pretty much all I can tell you, because so much of this is a matter of personal taste, time, interests, and what feels right for your audience. I hope it’s helpful! 😃
So there it is. I hope it’s useful to someone else!
Today, going through my photos as I restore this website, I stumbled onto this photo.
I’m reminded of how much we loved our Orlando apartment… just not the latest management and the sometimes-shady new neighbors they eagerly let move in.
Oh, I was sympathetic. By 2021, the economy had shifted, radically. Rents had nearly doubled, regardless of location or quality of living.
Anyone looking for an apartment in our area chose more luxurious (and quieter) accommodations a short distance up the street. Yes, those rents were higher but, relatively speaking, worth the extra cost if you could afford them. (At that time, we couldn’t.)
The problems began in mid-2020, when people most likely to move into our complex were groups of people – sometimes three generations, or a team of workers – needing to pack six or more people into one- and two-bedroom units.
And, to meet corporate demands, the managers of our complex looked the other way. (Today, if reviews are correct, they’re not even in the office during the day. Trash is piling up on the sidewalks, and so on.)
Though it was clear that we had to move, and could no longer afford soaring Orlando rents, I look back on the six years we lived in that apartment.
And how, until 2020 – when Disney World closed for months during the peak of the pandemic, and most of our lovely neighbors moved out – we absolutely loved living there.
I’m a little nostalgic, looking at this painting I created a year ago. We’re missing Disney a lot, too.
But I’m also looking forward to our next home, and – in a way – this reflection on the recent past helps me understand what makes a “perfect home” for us.
It includes a fun location with things we love to see and do, as well as friendly, smiling neighbors who share our outlook on life.
First, I’m trying to rebuild this website after a crash. The bad news is: I didn’t have adequate backups.
The good news is: I can reconstruct a lot from social media posts. It’ll simply take time.
Meanwhile this morning, the post office delivered a very large stack of boxes to me. All are from Amazon. The larger ones contained six to eight items, each.
Unpacking them and breaking down the shipping boxes took about 30 minutes. Then I spent another 45 minutes photographing what had been in them, unboxing style… and that was just half of what had arrived.
I was ready for a Wordle break. (So far, my current streak is 69 consecutive puzzles solved.)
Then, Amazon nudged me to catch up on reviews. I’m in their Vine program, which means I have lots of opportunities to review products.
What it’s like to be in Amazon Vine
Often, the Vine products I select are things I might have purchased anyway, like the very fancy coat hangers that arrived this morning. (I’ll probably review them tomorrow.)
Other items are cool things from my “maybe/someday” shopping list, like the drone camera we tested this past week, and the second, different drone camera that arrived this morning. (That may take a week to review, because we’ll put it through its paces.)
Another favorite in today’s shipment: A multi-purpose cordless vacuum cleaner. (My husband thinks it’s hilarious that I go all starry-eyed over cool vacuum cleaners… but he also likes how clean our home is.)
I’ll review the vacuum cleaner tomorrow, too.
And then there’s the stack of clear plastic boxes that will make it so much easier to keep my art supplies organized.
And… well, I think you get the idea. Lots & lots of fun items!
Being in Vine isn’t “free stuff on request.”
If you’ve visited the Amazon Vine page, you’ve seen that I can select products from a list of thousands of items.
However, I also have to test each item and then write an honest, insightful review for every one of them.
One-line reviews don’t cut it.
And, since it’s me…
Well, I write long, chatty reviews. I tell people the kinds of things I’d like to know before buying the respective item.
Amazon has guidelines I must follow, but I do my best to be frank in each review, even when the product disappoints me.
For the past month and a half, this has been a novelty. It’s like Christmas every day.
(In fact, a friend in Vine says that her mailman announced his daily arrival by shouting, “Santa’s here!” lol )
Seeing everything I received today, I realized I need to scale back how much I’m requesting through Vine. And I’m kind of glad that Vine is the only review team I’m part of.
Otherwise, reviews could devour my entire day, every day.
Meanwhile, at my easel…
We’re still taking my Blue-on-Blue painting to quirky locations, taking photos of it.
A couple of weeks ago, we scrambled over rocks at Rye, New Hampshire, to photograph it surrounded by rocks and with waves crashing in the background.
This weekend, we focused (no pun intended) on scenes including fall foliage. Here’s one of those pictures.
This project is for a book I’m working on. Sort of like “the roaming gnome,” but with a very large, geometric painting.
We’re having tremendous fun with this!
And then there are my websites, like this one.
October is always a busy catch-up month for me.
Halloween is just the start of what can be a hectic time for content creators like me.
Soon, it’ll be Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. After that, it’s New Year’s.
Every one of those holidays provide easy themes for content, and – housebound by wintry weather – plenty of people eager to read articles, watch YouTube videos, and so on.
So, I’m going to do my best to restore this website and add to its content. I’m also going to include some reviews of the more notable products I receive. (They won’t be exact copies of my Amazon reviews. Also, they may be more direct.)
But, if I’m quiet for the next week or two, it’s because I’m testing products, writing reviews, working on art, photographing my Blue-on-Blue painting, creating content, and preparing for a busy and fun holiday season.
On Saturday, we went to Rye Beach for some sunshine and fresh salt air… and to take photos of my Blue-on-Blue painting in yet another quirky setting.
All those black dots in the water…? They’re surfers at Jenness Beach (Rye, NH).
After the hurricane (Fiona) had passed the New England coast, the surf was pretty remarkable. From the license plates, surfers were here from Canada, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and – of course – New Hampshire.
There were lots of them from Hampton (NH) to Portsmouth (NH). Hundreds. Really.
And yes, those are the Isles of Shoals in the distance, and the clearest view we’ve ever seen.
In past posts, it may sound like most of our family is in Florida.
Much of my family – especially cousins – are scattered throughout the northeast, mostly in Massachusetts.
I grew up there, in Belmont, among families connected – as mine were – to Harvard and MIT, as well as artists, diplomats, and so on. At the time, Belmont was sort of a “best-kept secret” among families that wanted a very comfortable hometown where everyone seemed to know – and like – everyone else.
So, it’s lovely to be back here.
A couple of weeks ago, my wonderful son flew to Boston from Brazil. He and his fiancee have been working remotely, as part of a longer adventure, touring the Americas. (It started pre-Covid, was paused as the world went into lockdown, and that trek may continue later.)
He was here to pick up his skiing equipment (in storage) before a week’s vacation at Breckenridge.
We met him for lunch in Portsmouth (NH), at The Friendly Toast restaurant. It’s eclectic, boisterous, a bit noisy… and a favorite place to get together.
He arrived with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers for me. They remained fresh for over a week, in a vase in our hotel room. Here’s the photo:
This was a happy reminder of why we’re back in New England. It’s not just my husband’s job, or the climate, or the culture, but perhaps mostly because our extended family is here – or at least visits here, regularly – and it just feels right to be here.
(Regardless of your religious views – if any – that site is worth visiting, if only as a quiet haven in a busy city. And for its magnificent sculptures, inside and on the grounds. Even better, it’s free to visit… a bit unique for Orlando.)
Yesterday, from our 15th floor hotel room – now accustomed to the scope of what we can see from here – we noticed something else.
It was startling. Those weren’t rain clouds or fog hanging over the landscape. It was smog.
Most of the day, it looked like that photo, but growing worse through the early afternoon, and then lightening (only slightly) at dusk.
And, as you can see, the highway traffic was very light for this area. (Cars are leaving I-4 at the main exit for Disney World. I think it’s Exit 68.)
The heavy pink/grey cloud over the landscape reminded me of when I used to live in L.A., back when smog was a big problem there.
Now I’m wondering about the air quality in Orlando. Until yesterday, when I could see the bigger picture (literally), I had no idea what I may have been breathing for the past ~8 years.
Wow. Maybe that’s why I always washed my hair (which seems to hold onto pollen and pollution) every time I’d been outdoors for more than a few minutes. Otherwise, I’d be congested for the rest of the day and sleep poorly.
This morning, the air looks fairly clear. Far better than yesterday. But if we were staying here, I’d definitely check the air quality regularly.
While my husband is winding down projects at his Orlando office, we’re staying at a Disney Springs hotel.
After that, we’ll be on our way to New England, that’s where my husband’s new office is. Yaayyy!
The blue balloon in the photo at right… that’s an attraction at WDW’s Disney Springs. It regularly goes up in the air – using cables – for a great view of the area, including theme parks. We can walk to it in about 20 minutes, maybe less.
Weirdly, our very upscale Disney Springs hotel was one of the least expensive options, among some shady looking deals in Kissimmee (nearby) and other parts of Orlando.
So, even after close to 30% in additional fees (not disclosed by Priceline)* which – fortunately – we could cover, this was still a good deal… among Orlando hotels.
Most of the views from our 15th-floor tower room… are spectacular.
We also have access to a private, outdoor elevator reserved for tower rooms. (The daytime view, above, is from inside that elevator.)
At night, the scenery can be amazing. One wall of our room is a floor-to-ceiling window (formerly a sliding door opening to a mini-balcony, but now locked closed).
At night, looking straight out the window, we can see all the way to FunTown and ICON. (In the photo, those are the red/pink lights at the middle of the horizon.)
East of us, we clearly see I-4 commuters on their way to downtown. (The latter is off the right side of that photo.)
The hotel’s private pool on the ground floor is magnificent and clean. It’s also very popular, and has a large in-ground hot tub nearby.
So, this is “home” for another week.
All in all, it’s been fun. Far more expensive than we would have liked… but good enough. We’ve started joking, “It’s not an A resort, it’s a B resort.”
Visiting Disney World soon? Expect crowds. Big crowds.
Since we still have WDW Annual Passes, we’ve visited Disney World several times. After all, our hotel is on Disney property, and a leisurely 10-minute walk from Disney Springs.
But now – in February 2022 – the crowds at the Magic Kingdom have been kind of overwhelming. Clearly, Disney is eager to attract as many guests as possible, to make up for financial losses during their Covid-related shutdown.
I’m not sure packing the parks with guests will serve Disney well in the long run. The experience isn’t nearly as much fun as when the crowds are kept within reasonable limits.
For us… try to navigate the dense crowds makes Disney uncomfortable.
However, there are ways to avoid some of the worst crowds.
For example, one recent night, we chose to walk from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian Hotel, then to the Polynesian Resort, and then to the Ticket & Transportation Center. That took at least 45 minutes, but was more comfortable than standing shoulder-to-shoulder, waiting for the monorail or ferry back to the TTC.
How to estimate Disney crowd sizes before you go.
Since that visit, we’re relying on the Touring Plans app to gauge the current and anticipated crowds. If you’re going to Disney theme parks, we recommend checking an app like that before making travel arrangements. (If the crowds are estimated at 5/10 or higher… think twice. Even 5/10 can be daunting.)
That’s why we were at Epcot last night, when the crowds were super-light. (The breeze was brisk and chilly, and a lot of people were elsewhere watching the Super Bowl on TV.)
We walked right onto Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction, which usually has a 35-minute wait line. Even better, we had an entire row of seating to ourselves, and – thanks to sitting in the middle of that row – that big-screen attraction’s scenery had minimal distortions.
After a romantic fish-and-chips dinner at the UK pavilion in the World Showcase, we walked the entire loop (1.2 miles), pausing at different countries’ pavilions. It was a lovely way to spend the night before Valentine’s Day.
Choosing a hotel? Stay at an actual Disney hotel.
Though this hotel was a good value during a busy week (it’s “cheerleader season” at WDW right now), it’s far more expensive than staying at any of the budget hotels owned by Disney.
If you’re looking for a low price, any of Disney’s “All-Star ____” hotels are fine. All are clean, spacious, and offer steady, free transportation to all four Disney parks.
Also, I’m not sure any of the hotels on Hotel Plaza (where our hotel is) are very quiet. I-4 (a very busy highway) is right next to us. We’re glad our room doesn’t face that highway; even on another side of the building, I’m using earplugs at night.
There are no required vehicle inspections in Florida, so some people drive without an engine muffler. The noise can be impressive.
Also, most Hotel Plaza hotels charge – in addition to the quoted room price – local and state taxes, and some sort of mandatory “hotel fee” of $15 – $65/day, plus around $24/day to park your car in their parking lot.
The “hotel fee” supposedly includes housekeeping services and access to the nearby hotels’ shuttle bus service to Disney. So, if you’re going to stay at one of those hotels, expect to pay $100/night more than listed online hotel prices. (For more info, see the “extra fee” categories at the Touring Plans website.)
Well, we’ve never been charged for housekeeping at other hotels, and – at our current hotel – “housekeeping” means guests can put trash in the hallway to be collected, and pile used towels in the hall to be picked up. (After a few days, we had to ask the front desk for clean towels.)
We haven’t used the shuttle bus to Disney, but have been advised that it’s better to drive yourself. The Disney Tourist Blog was one among many that advised, “I would only use this in a pinch–presumably you will have a rental car if you’re staying here. Use it.”
So, for a true Disney experience, my advice is: Stay on the Disney property. It’s well insulated from the noise and busyness of the outside world. And you can find far lower prices than most reliable hotels near Disney. Reserve your room early for the best price; all Disney hotels fill quickly during vacation weeks and the summer.
(Avoid any Orlando hotel with a per-night room fee of $50 or lower. Many serve as alternative, affordable housing to families and groups of “hospitality workers,” meaning: waiters, housekeeping staff, etc., from local hotels and restaurants. Btw, Disney Cast Members have their own housing.)
What’s next for us.
We’ll miss many things about Orlando, especially local family get-togethers, and – of course – Disney World.
But while the theme parks and hotels are getting back on solid financial footing, we’re happy to head back to New England. We love that area’s beaches, mountains, and other wide-open (and free) attractions.
We’re glad we’ve had this opportunity to stay in a Disney Springs hotel, while putting the finishing touches on our move north. It’s helped us understand vacation visitors’ Disney experience, both the good and the bad.
Will we return to Florida in the future…? Maybe, but probably not.
We know we’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have years living next-door to Disney World. During that time, we visited WDW – mostly Epcot – an average of twice a week. (Florida residents can buy deeply discounted Annual Passes that include free parking.)
Now we’re looking forward to other adventures, among happy, chatty people and in a four-season climate.
And after all, there’s always Disneyland Paris. Their 30th anniversary starts in March 2022, and – by plane – travel time to Paris looks pretty good.
Meanwhile, if you’re planning a Disney World vacation, I can only recommend staying at a Disney-owned hotel.
I stare at what’s left in our apartment and blink. I’m promising myself that we’ll never accumulate this much stuff, ever again. Not until we actually put down roots and stay in one place. (That may be New England, but – long-term – it may be England or Ireland.)
This has been a very long month of packing to move north – over 1k miles – preparing to use our car to shuttle most of what we own.
If I’d known that moving companies’ rates were soaring due to a shortage of truck drivers, the decluttering might have begun sooner. (Even if we were only moving six bankers’ boxes – the standard boxes with built-in handles, sold at Staples – discounted moving costs were estimated at $1088. Six medium moving boxes would cost nearly double that. Really, we can ship them via UPS for far less. But this also means we won’t be moving any furniture. The cost would be ridiculous.)
Also, had I known that giving things away* – and packing – would take so much time, I’d have started sooner.
Of course, some things can’t be packed until the last minute, but still… This didn’t have to be such an exhausting task.
But, lest this sound like a whine-and-complain post, I think we needed this experience.
It was a major “ah-HA!” realization about:
how much we collect,
how disorganized it’s been, and
how little we really need to live comfortably.
In the future, we’ll make more mindful choices.
So now, here’s the update:
First, moving things out
Last week, a lot of furniture went out the door. We gave it to a family that can use it.
The sofa bed is gone.
Ditto my beloved exercise bike.
Some folding tables, suited to crafts fairs, are gone, as well. And our queen-sized bed. And bookcases.
And so on.
As the sun came up this morning, our living room looked like this. Everything but the window blinds, the triptych, and the salt lamp will go to a new home: Our remaining guest room bed frames, mattresses, and the entertainment center. (We’ll be sitting on the floor when we want to watch TV… also on the floor.)
But also some shopping
Of course, we’ve also been shopping. Our Florida wardrobe isn’t warm enough for February in New England.
Recent shopping trips revealed some stunning effects of supply-chain issues.
The biggest shock was Nordstrom Rack.
In the past, we’d go there for designer and top-quality, durable clothing at very nice prices. Linen shirts for my husband. High-grade cotton blouses for me. And so on. The kind of clothing we’ll wear for years and years. (Because: sustainable choices matter.)
Last weekend was a rude awakening. The merchandise at the local (Millennia) Nordstrom Rack was like a low-end version of Marshall’s. We saw almost no items that we’d consider owning. (My husband did buy a pair of nice, real Ralph Lauren pajama bottoms/loungewear. Other than that… nothing tempted us. Not even a little.)
The contrast in the store’s shopping bags said it all. On the right is a typical Nordstrom Rack bag from about a year ago. It’s heavy plastic, and somewhat discreet. We’d saved it because it’s been handy to use as a tote.
On the left is the thin plastic bag from last weekend. It screams the brand name. The quality of the plastic…? No. We should have said, “Thanks, but we don’t need a bag.”
Weirdly, we found ethical, better quality merchandise (and prices) at TJ Maxx. And we’ll be visiting our favorite second-hand shops once we get to New England.
So, we’re still on track to make our first trek north this weekend, though – as I’m writing this – Mother Nature may have other ideas. Weather predictions warn of 10″ – 20″ of snow, just as we’d be arriving in New England.
*We offered our furniture (and everything useful that we’re not moving) on a regional, “free stuff” page at Facebook. Despite setting appointments for pickup, fewer than half the people actually showed up. So, everything left as we approach moving day – it’ll go to Goodwill.
We don’t know how soon we’ll find a rental that suits us. So, we’re scaling down the everyday items that we’ll carry in our suitcases.
For me, that means haircare and skincare products, as well as makeup.
Shopping at Ulta for travel-sized shampoo and conditioner, I stumbled onto something wonderful. It’s eye shadow in colors I haven’t seen since my early 20s.
They’re colors I’d loved. Colors that match my eyes. But when Aziza discontinued those colors, I never found anything similar… until now.
They’re part of a palette called “High Tide” by ColourPop. (It’s not available at Amazon.com right now, and – with the risk of the cakes cracking if handled roughly during shipping – I recommend visiting an Ulta store instead.)
The “Currents” shade (top center on the palette) works well on my eyelids, but I apply it very lightly and then whisk most of it off with a makeup sponge/wand. What’s left is just a hint of color… Something people may not notice.
The darkest shade in the palette is a smoky teal color that works well to suggest eyeliner, though I still use a dark brown liquid eyeliner. Meanwhile, I’m not using anything on the browbone.
My husband is amused that I’m so giddy over eyeshadow, but really, I’d been looking for these colors – in a quality product – since forever. (The cheaper versions…? “Mutton dressed as lamb”* and truly garish colors comes to mind. lol )
NYX pencil eyeliner in Gypsy Blue – A very soft, waxy eyeliner. I use it along the lower eyelid rim, to offset redness. If you’d used and loved a blue “brightener” eyeliner pencil – like the one by Neutrogena – that was discontinued years ago, this is a good replacement.
An inexpensive, stretchy, beaded bracelet that matches my makeup colors. I’m not sure where I got this, but I wear it a lot.
Lancome lipstick in “Code Red.” It’s a red with a touch of coral, and that color was discontinued long ago. I think L’Absolu Rouge is fairly close to it, but while we’re all wearing masks… well, I rarely bother with lipstick.
So, silly or not, I wanted to share that discovery with you.
*Speaking of that whimsical/snarky expression, “mutton dressed as lamb,” I recently bought and read Ari Seth Cohen’s books, Advanced Style and love-love-LOVED it. I also read Advanced Style: Older & Wiser, and it was fun and inspiring, but not as much as the earlier one.
If you’re looking in the mirror and not thrilled, or if your style feels faded or dated, I recommend the first Cohen book, and then – perhaps – the Sarah Jane Adams one.
(The latter is more for lifestyle inspiration and sheer fascination, as opposed to something to adopt yourself. Well… maybe. I’ll share more of what I’m doing with style, after we’re settled in our next home.)
And though she’s far younger than me, I like the honesty in the blog, “Not Dressed As Lamb.” Her blogroll is good, too, though some of those blogs haven’t been updated in some time.
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