The Gallery > Green

This weeks gallery theme is Green.

The two photos I’ve chosen represent two fond memories of good quality family time – you know, the kind of time when you’ve managed to switch off from work and just enjoy the moment.

Dodge Charger

The above is a mint green Dodge Charger. I’ve always wanted a Dodge Charger – ever since I watched the film Vanishing Point. Great film. Epic looking car. The one above was at The Hotrod show at Beaulieu, New Forest on Father’s Day.

New Forest

The second photo was taken in the New Forest, Hampshire. We’d just had a really lovely weekend at Sandy Balls and stopped off here on the way back. Epic colour, wild ponies and a nice way to end a really great weekend with my family.

How to share family photos with Evernote and Pistachio

There are countless services out there that provide a safe(ish) place for you to share photos of your children and your life with family and friends. Facebook is a good example, so too is Google+ but most of my family aren’t on Facebook or Google+ so I’ve always ended up just sending them random photos via email.

Readers of this blog will soon realise that I’m also an Evernote fanboy. I like to store as much stuff as possible in Evernote.

I use Evernote as a family journal. This journal includes snaps of us out and about as well as private musings about life in general. I try to take a photo of the boys everyday so I can look back on how they’ve changed. I also snap their art work and learning – more on that in future posts.

Wouldn’t it be cool though to share just a few of these notes and images in a private place on the web with loved ones? Especially loved ones who aren’t using Evernote?

Well now that’s possible by using Evernote with Postachio. Postachio basically uses Evernote as a Content Management System. So you create the content in Evernote (or Dropbox) and you can then share this content via a Postachio site.

The great part about this is that you can choose which notebooks to share and it also only posts notes that are tagged in Evernote with “published”. This means I can share my family photos but not my private notes about life simply by adding / removing the “published” tag.

Postachio also allows you to make the blog private by using a password.

Here’s a short guide on how to get started.

How to share family photos with Evernote and Postachio

The first thing to do is to make sure you’ve got an Evernote and Postachio account.

Then head to the Postachio dashboard and create a site.

Create a new siteThen name the site. You can use custom domains also, so it’s great for blogs and websites.

Name the site

Now it’s time to connect Postachio and Evernote. Postachio will bring back a list of available notebooks from Evernote when you choose to connect (you will need to authenticate). Choose the notebook you want to sync.

Connect Evernote

Once you’ve connected you’ll get a confirmation message with details of the connected notebook.

success

You will then be asked to create a test note in Evernote and tag it published – and then to sync.

Evernote test post

You’ll then be able to view the new site you’ve created. The default theme is pretty decent and in the image below you can see the test post. Awesome – now Evernote and Postachio are working together nicely.

Synced post on website

Now it’s time to password protect the site otherwise anyone can get access. Head back to the Postachio dashboard and edit the site details. There is a section at the bottom for protecting the site. Check the box and then enter a password. This is the password you will need to provide to family and friends.

Password Protect Site

Now when you visit the site you’ll be prompted to enter a password. Enter the password and login. You can get your browser to remember the password is needed.

Site with Password

In this shot I also changed the default theme. The standard themes are pretty good.

New Design

You can now start adding content to Evernote. The following is an image I dragged in to Evernote but of course you could take photos with the Evernote app on your phone too. The note is in the correct notebook and is tagged “published” which means it should now show on the site.

New note in Evernote with picture

And yep – here is the same photo now on the site.

Site with photo

Here is the test post and the picture post side by side.

Test and Picture

And there it is. A private site on Postachio powered by Evernote. So you can keep the content in Evernote and simply by adding/removing the tag published and syncing Evernote you can add/remove content from the site. A great blogging platform but also a great way to share photos.

Rob..

How to self publish a book – a short guide for busy parents

Last week I published my first book on Amazon – Remaining Relevant and Employable – a book about progressing your career and landing a great job.

As a busy parent it’s tricky to find the time in your busy schedule to sit down and write a book. It’s very hard indeed.

In this post I’ll share with you some of the ways in which I was able to carve out time for my book and finally get it released on to Amazon.

How To Self Publish Image
How To Self Publish Image

The book took about 9 months to write and a further 3 months to edit and get ready for publication. It certainly wasn’t easy but now the book is done I feel I’ve achieved a milestone and completed a life goal.

Writing a book has always been a dream of mine and it was made even more special by the fact my boys were able to search on Amazon and see my author page. They found it funny that daddy was on Amazon. I was quietly proud.

The reason it took so long was because I couldn’t commit much time to it. Life is busy for many of us and that busyness can be amplified when you have kids.

So here are some ideas about how to self publish a book as a busy parent.

Flesh out your idea

The first step to making the book writing process smooth is to flesh out your idea. Use whatever tool or process suits you best.

My advice would be to give yourself an initial hour to sit down and brain dump ideas about your book. You’ve probably been storing ideas about the book for a while, so this may just be a case of bringing it all together. For others it may be the first time you see your rough content together.

The key point is to bring all of these ideas together in a single place. When you see them all together you’ll start to see how the book might evolve and how elements of the book will work (or not work) with each other. When I first did this I realised I had two books. I therefore took some content out of Remaining Relevant and stacked it ready for my next book.

Evernote is a pretty good tool for doing this activity as it allows for collecting of notes, snippets and resources in one place. I personally tend to start with mindmaps and use XMind for this.

I was thinking about my book Remaining Relevant and Employable for a few years before writing it so I collected a huge amount of ideas, research, quotes and references in a variety of tools. Probably way more than necessary.

Once I’d done my research and collected resources and ideas for the book I started to outline the chapters of the book. For this I used the wonderful tool Workflowy. It’s a fabulous tool for outlining pretty much anything. Getting the order of the book right will help you tell the story/message in a clear and fluid fashion. You probably won’t get the order right first time so don’t worry if it still doesn’t feel like it flows right – there’s plenty of time before publishing the book to rework the order. In fact my book was re-arranged many times before it finally became what it is today.

Write the book

Now the really hard work begins. It’s time to write the book.

Don’t be under any illusion about how much work is involved in writing a book. It’s truly hard work. Just trying to find time between dealing with your day job, spending quality time with the kids and carving out time to make your relationships work is tough.

It’s important to find the right amount of time to create. Creating something often requires an uninterupted block of time to get in to the flow. This is tough when you’ve got kids. Very tough.

There were times when I would wake at 5am to write only to find that one or all of the kids would also get up. Or I’d seek out some time in the evening but feel guilty for not helping my wife get the kids lunch boxes and school bags ready. It’s really hard to find a block of time.

I thankfully found a process that worked for me, but it took weeks of experimenting. The key thing is to not give up. Don’t stop trying to find time. You might find that you can write something meaningful in just a few minutes, you might find you need a whole day.

Experiment to find what works and discuss this with your family. Can they support you in this project? Can they help? Can they be more understanding? Can you take some time at the weekend?

Writing a book is a painful process and it’s not just painful for the writer.

It took me ages to get started when I first set out to write Remaining Relevant and Employable. I got distracted and couldn’t fight the resistance (brilliantly discussed in Steven Pressfield’s awesome book).

And then I found a process that worked for me. I discovered a quiet place at work that I could use during my lunch breaks. I found a suite of tools that suited my work. I found my space to write.

Every lunch time I would disappear to this secret place and write for an hour. Every single weekday for about 6 months. Every day I would complete a part of a chapter, sometimes a whole chapter if I was on form, sometimes just one or two lines.

The tools you use to write the book should be whatever works for you. Anything that works is good. There is no right or wrong tool or process. If it doesn’t work, try something different.

I like to write in simple text format so I created individual text files for each chapter. I stored these text files in a folder on Dropbox.

When I was ready to write I would close all other apps and select all of the text files and open them in a Mac tool called TextWrangler. This would open all of them up in one instance of TextWrangler. I could then choose the chapters (individual text files) in the file finder on the left hand side and have the text displayed over on the right.

I’m not a very linear kind of person (I tend to flit from idea to idea) so don’t worry if you don’t feel like starting at the beginning. To kick start the momentum I would often pick easy chapters, or add a few references here and there. I tended to write what I felt like writing and then leave the hard chapters to last. This meant I could almost see the finished book when I took on the really hard chapters. It made it easier. At no point did I not write something though during those lunch breaks.

I know of many people who just sit and blast out chapter after chapter in the order that the book flows. I’m not one of those people.

Find what works for you. It doesn’t really matter how you approach it as long as it works. The key point here is to just write. Write words. Every day.

Don’t edit when writing

I would suggest turning off all grammar and spell checking in the tool you are using (if you can). The mere presence of a red squiggly line is enough to stop my train of thought and make me return to correct the mistake. By using a simple notepad style writer I was able to blast out my thoughts and sentences without worrying about the correctness of them. Only after I had finished did I put them through Microsoft Word spell and grammar check.

Ensuring that I could open my laptop and just write was important. To avoid succumbing to the Internet and other distractions I would ensure all other apps were closed and all notifications turned off.

Editing and Proof Reading

After writing the book it’s important to read through it and proof it. I printed the book out and spent yet more lunch times editing it. My wife kindly reviewed my final draft before I got it ready for Amazon Kindle.

The book was also reviewed by a colleague.

The proof reading and editing process is very time consuming but a worthwhile step.

Getting the book ready for Amazon

To get the book ready for Amazon I needed to get the book in to a .doc format. I did this by simply copying and pasting the content from the text files in to Microsoft Word and then inserting any images. You could also use Google Docs or Pages or Open Office.

Once I had the book in the right format I needed to just make some final tweaks for the Kindle platform.

There are a couple of tweaks needed with the Table Of Content to ensure the book is ready for Kindle.

A dynamic table needs to be added. Simply follow this guide here. That same guide also provides details on how to add start and TOC bookmarks. This part of the process apparently needs to be done on a Windows version of Word.

Once I’d done the above tweaks I saved the file in HTML format (as per the above guide also) and zipped it.

Upload the book

Uploading the book is a doddle. Simply create your KDP account and follow the instructions for uploading. I used the ZIP format and everything uploaded fine first time. I did have some problems with my bookmarks not working when I tested using the emulators. This is quite common apparently but it did seem to work on most devices.

I needed a front cover so I used the amazing Canva service and created a simple front cover for the book.

When you create your account and upload your book you will have to fill in some tax details.

It sounds daunting but it was actually quite straight forward. You basically need to get an EIN code from the US Tax office. So I followed this wonderful guide and got my tax code. Without the EIN you’ll have some of your royalties withheld so best to get it sorted.

I used Skype to make the call to the US and it cost me £1.20. I called at 2pm and my call was answered very quickly indeed. Once I’d got my code I could complete the relevant form and start publishing my book.

Create your author page

Once you upload the book and make it public you’ll get an email from Amazon with some ideas on how to promote the book. One of the key things is to add an author page. I created my Amazon UK page but I’ve still yet to create my US and France pages – it’s on my backlog.

I also created a basic landing page for the book which I am redoing and including as part of my Parent Brain domain.

Tell the world

With that done it is now time to market the book. And that is a giant task in itself :)

I’ve recently finished reading Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick’s short, but excellent, book The Art of Social Media and there is a sample set of ideas on how to promote a book. I’m slowly working my way through them.

My final thoughts are that you should just write it. It’s an emotionally draining and rewarding process and once it’s published you can say to yourself “I’ve published a book”. This alone gave me peace as it’s been a lifelong goal of mine. It is hard work but if you want to publish your own book then there really is no time like the present.

Good luck with your book and please let me know how you get on.

If you’re interested in reading Remaining Relevant and Employable – a book about personal career development, finding good jobs, writing killer CVs and rocking an interview – then feel free to head over to Amazon.

Rob..

Surviving A Conference – Free Guide

I’ve been speaking at and attending conferences for a very long time now. At these conferences I always meet many new people who aren’t sure how to make the most of being at a conference.

Well that’s why I wrote The Blazingly Simple Guide To Surviving A Conference.

You can download the free eBook here, or click on the lovely image below. Enjoy.

THE BLAZINGLY SIMPLE GUIDE
THE BLAZINGLY SIMPLE GUIDE

 

If you liked this, why not check out my new book on finding jobs, creating a great CV and then rocking the interview? Remaining Relevant is available on Amazon right now.

Parent Car Scene – A community for parents

I’ve launched a new private Google+ community to gauge interest in running a family friendly motoring meet-up called Parent Car Scene.

Classic Mercedes at Goodwood Festival of Speed
Classic Mercedes at Goodwood Festival of Speed

If there is interest then I’d like to organise a meet-up and eventually have the community spreading more so it can become an online place for parents to talk about cars.

My goal for the community (both online and off) is to help nurture interest and affection for cars and motoring in our children. It’s not going to be about redlining or donuts. I’m hoping it will be a child friendly event with lots of interesting cars from modern sports cars to classics and a whole host in between.

The community is private right now but please head over and request to join and let’s see what interest there is for the event.

Here is the blurb from the community:

The Parent Car Scene is a community for parents to talk about cars and inspire their children to have an interest in motoring and motorsports. I’m hoping local in-person meet ups will also happen. I’m gauging interest in a local one in Winchester, Hampshire in 2015.

Parent Car Scene is going to be a family friendly environment. I’m hoping that the children at the event will also take photos and videos and we can mash that all together to share with the wider world.

Nothing like a car event from a child’s perspective.

—-

If you are interested then request to join : https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101063417376750842275

How to remain relevant and employable – the book

I’m really proud to announce that I launched Remaining Relevant and Employable on Amazon this week.

Remaining Relevant Book Cover
Remaining Relevant Book Cover

The book contains loads of advice on how to up-skill, build a learning system, find good jobs, write stand out CVs and then perform well in the interview. In a nutshell it’s a book for those who want to remain relevant and employable.

The book is available to buy here on Amazon here.

I’m very happy with the final version. Many thanks to all who helped me get the book live.

The book is available on almost all Amazon International websites priced at £2.99. Just search for remaining relevant and you should find it.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon UK (aff link).

Here is a link to the books official landing page on my central website.

An Evening With Rick Stein

This year we chose to head to Padstow, Cornwall, for our summer holiday and whilst there I spent an evening with Rick Stein.

Padstow is often referred to a PadStein given that the chef Rick Stein has made Padstow famous. Rick has several restaurants in Padstow along with a cookery school.

I joked with my wife that I would tweet Rick Stein and see about meeting up for a beer. She laughed.

I then checked out his website and noticed that he would be in Padstow that week doing “An Evening With Rick Stein” event. Fate.

Rick Stein
Rick Stein


So I took the plunge and spent a reasonable sum of money of buying a ticket.

Rick Stein is one of my food heroes. I love cooking and I love food but I don’t watch many cookery programs. I find them boring when it’s just the chef cooking a dish in their trendy kitchen, or their garden, or whatever. But I do love watching shows when the chef heads out in to the world and explores different cultures and cuisines. Rick Stein’s later shows are about travel and culture, and that appeals to me. He marries travel, culture, other people’s lives and food together.

Rick himself has a laid back approach to cooking where the eating and socialising is as important as the food. He makes mistakes and is a little clumsy – he’s human, and his dishes are not too ponsy for my roots. I like this natural approach.

So when I got the chance to have an evening with Rick Stein and meet my food hero I jumped at it.

And he did not disappoint.

I rocked up early and got a seat right at the front.

Rick Stein preparing a salmon dish - Page 99 of his new book
Rick Stein preparing a salmon dish – Page 99 of his new book

Rick and his personal assistant pitched up and some of his chefs were mingling around helping to prepare some of the food.

Rick spent the evening talking and cooking three dishes from his new book – Fish and Shellfish. He told some wonderful stories and got on his soap box a few times. All good stuff. He’s a good presenter and has a natural way of engaging with an audience.

Members of Rick’s team were serving some amazing wine and his chefs were in the back cooking individual portions of the food for each guest to eat.

It was a fabulous evening and something I’m pleased to have done. It was an expensive few hours but it’s a memory I’ll hold on to for a long time.

The great news is that he’s going to be opening a new restaurant in Winchester, Hampshire in late October 2014. My home city – great.

The evening was of course a chance to promote his new book – Fish and Shellfish – which I have bought. I’ve already cooked the hake dish he prepared on the night. Simple, but amazing – my family enjoyed that dish.

The book is great. It’s got lots of information about buying and preparing fish, as well as loads of great recipes.

On the evening he cooked Sliced Salmon with ponzu and pink grapefruit (page 199), then hot and sour squid salad (page 249) and finally grilled hake with mash (page 142).

The Hot and Sour Squid Salad - Page 249
The Hot and Sour Squid Salad – Page 249

You can buy the book on Amazon…for a lot less than I paid on the night :)

Wine List
I’m not a fan of white wine normally and out of the three I only really tasted a decent amount of the first one which was The Crossings Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from NewZealand. It was beautiful. Really crisp and refreshing.

Me and Rick Stein :)
Me and Rick Stein :)

 

Rick Stein fielding questions
Rick Stein fielding questions

Links in this post are affiliate links to Amazon. It costs you no more to buy through an affiliate link but I do get a small percentage of any sales to help keep this site going.

A year with the Fitbit Flex

I’ve spent a year with the Fitbit Flex and I’m mightily impressed despite some little irritations.

Fitbit versus Omron

As a numbers geek I inevitably set out to see how accurate the Fitbit Flex was compared to my trusty old Omron pocketable pedometer.
At first there were some marked differences in steps with the Fitbit Flex suggesting I’d done more steps than the Omron.
After a week or so it settled down and they were within about 5% of each other. I soon stopped using the Omron and settled on the Fitbit Flex.

The Fitbit Flex
The Fitbit Flex

Comfort
The Fitbit Flex is really comfortable to wear.

I don’t shower with it on and often don’t wear it at night but all day it sticks to my wrist. Here’s a picture of it on my arm as evidence :)

I’ve not yet had it fall off and it’s uber comfortable. I’ve had no problems with rashes, itching or other nasties like other users. In fact most of the time I forget it’s there.

Silent Alarm
The feature that I really like is the silent alarm where the Fitbit vibrates with no sound. I use it to wake me up or simply remind of things I need to do like take my anti-biotics or get up and go for a walk :)

It’s a great feature.

Steps and Dashboard
If you double tap the Fitbit is indicates, using flashing lights, how many steps you’ve done.

The flashing lights offer some indications as to how many steps you’ve done against your goal. If your goal is to do 10,000 steps, for example, then each flashing light (5 of them in total) would be around 2,000 steps. It’s a rough indicator but useful for a quick snapshot of how I’m getting on.

Fitbit graphs
Fitbit graphs

I don’t really use the online app and instead rely on the Android version on my phone. It’s awesome and it’s super easy to see a lot of interesting information. The phone app has everything I need it to do.

Linking to MyFitnessPal
I’ve got my Fitbit account set up and linked to MyFitnessPal  so that when I record food I’ve eaten in MyFitnessPal it shows as calories on my Fitbit dashboard. It’s a great feature and the Fitbit service connects with many other services too.

Does it inspire more walking?
It absolutely does. I often check my steps and if I’m miles away from my daily goal then I’ll do some more walking. It inspires me to do even simple things like taking the stairs or parking my car further away from the shops. It’s all about the steps now and making sure I get my daily goals.

Any Problems?
Yep – there were some. In the early days the Fitbit would simply stop recording steps but a firmware update soon solved that one.

I tend to do a lot of DIY and activities like drilling a hole or hammering a nail triggers the Fitbit Flex in to sleep mode which is frustrating but innevitable. Even clapping can trigger the sleep mode so be warned – it’s sensitive.

But the above are just minor niggles in an otherwise issue free ownership. The Fitbit Flex just works, it’s not intrusive and it’s helped me lose weight and walk more…can’t say better than that.

(I use Affiliate Links within my posts to Amazon. Please see my Affiliate Link information here.)

How to organise parent paperwork using Evernote

It’s amazing how much paperwork we receive to do with our kids. We get letters, forms, contracts and other paper stuff from nursery, child minders, school, clubs and of course, the UK Government. Here’s a simple way to organise parent paperwork using Evernote.

There is a growing amount of paperwork and other related information that needs to be stored and sorted. Some of this is digital, some of this is physical. All of it needs somewhere to live.

I’ve started to scan all of this information and put it in to Evernote as a master source of information. There are always bits of paper we need to keep that cannot be discarded, but most of the paperwork that comes from having children can be binned after being scanned. The stuff I need to keep goes in the minimalist filing cabinet.

Storing it in Evernote keeps it in one place and makes it super searchable. Don’t worry about losing it all. You have a local copy of the database on your machine, which you could backup with a service like Dropbox for example.

I scan the paperwork using my Scansnap s1300i (aff)  scanner (it’s awesome) connected to my Mac Mini. It does the job easily and quickly meaning I don’t have the paperwork hanging around.

I tag the scans liberally and store them in a central notebook. I use an offline notebook for this so that the notes are not stored online. This limits the devices it’s available on but it does mean it’s more secure. Anything more private is encrypted within the note also.

It’s a great way to minimise the amount of paperwork hanging around and after a while it becomes a fairly seamless routine to get on top of.

(I use Affiliate Links within my posts. Please see my Affiliate Link information here.)