Monday, December 29, 2014

Draw a Fox

The breakdown of how to draw a fox based on the basic shapes.
How to Draw a Fox: Triangles, Ovals, Hearts, and Moons
Pinterest and Etsy are pretty foxy this year. Whether you're into pottery, fabrics, figurines, or prints, you can find your favorite covered in foxes.

The abundance of foxes on these, my favorite Web sites, inspired me to paint a few of my own  foxes on an old canvas I'd been dying to use.

Drawing and Designing Foxes

Before I could start painting, however, I had to design my own characters.  Folk figures are relatively simple to design when you think carefully about how basic shapes combine to create the "essence of" the animal. For example, as you can see in the blue illustration above, my fox's basic shapes are the triangle, heart, oval, and moon. Follow along with my How to Draw Foxes on Slideshare to get a more in-depth lesson on the way I broke it down, or experiment with basic shapes in your sketchbook.

Practice Designs in a Sketchbook
After practicing the combination of basic shapes a few times, I started adding color detail in my sketchbook with Prismacolor pencils.   I used photographs of foxes help me choose the right color combinations and markings.

Painting Foxes - Supplies

In order to keep my painting folksy and simple, I chose to use the same three colors and a high gloss medium.

  • Mars Black
  • Titanium White
  • Red Ochre
  • High Gloss Medium

Painting Foxes - Step by Step

I started the painting by brushing alternate horizontal and vertical strokes, similar to a basket weave, using Mars Black mixed with the medium.

Red Ochre is the Perfect Fox Fur Color
Once the background black was dry, I outlined the basic shapes with a very fine line of red ochre. In order for the foxes to really "pop" on the canvas, I left the paint flat, unmixed with a medium, so the background would reflect light, but the foxes would not.  I then filled in all but the white spaces with the red ochre, following the general lay of the fur.  The key was to use a light, dry brush technique so as to allow some of the background black to show through the red ochre.

Before the paint was completely dry, I went back with a clean brush to fill in the white areas, letting the white and red mix slightly at the edges for a soft blend.

After the white paint was dry, I added a bit more red ochre where I would be painting the legs and black accents for shadows.  Lastly, I added the black nose, eyes, legs, ears, and shadows.  I mixed the black with the newly added red for an even softer look, wanting to avoid the look of a graphic design.

Happy with the results, I am glad to report the new painting now sits on my hearth next to the fireplace.  However, these little foxes were so much fun to draw and paint, I have a feeling I am not done with them yet.

Want to read more about painting?  Try

Painting Supplies for Beginning Acrylic Painters
Escoda MARFIL Series Brushes for Acrylic Painters
Golden Heavy Body Artist's Acrylic Paint

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grief and the Holiday Season

There is a club to which many of us belong.  We didn't ask for membership. We didn't want membership, and we never want to see our friends join the club.  

Until a person becomes a member, he or she has no quantifiable way to understand how it feels to be such a member. The club is reserved for those who have dealt with loss on such a scale that "grief and grieving" aren't strong enough words to describe a member's raw emotions.

When people are lucky enough to have not yet been initiated, they may say things to members like, "Cheer up!  You'll feel better, soon!" or "It's been years.  Shouldn't you feel better by now?" Every so often, these lucky folks will even say, "My dog died when I was in high school, and I still miss her sometimes," or "When are you going to snap out of it?"

Although these sorts of comments are meant to help cheer the grieving, they more often than not do not. So what can the uninitiated say to the initiated to help ease them through what might be a difficult holiday season?

Here is a rundown of the two most common bits of advice offered by a variety of Web sites.

Assisting the Grieving

If the person just lost someone, identify a need the grieving person may have, like a need for a ride to the store or church, a tissue, a meal, or a batch of freshly laundered towels, and humbly help the person with that need. Offer that particular service, or depending on your relationship, you may feel comfortable jumping in to help.  If the person is experiencing grief or sadness because of the loss of a loved one in the past, you may want to ask what he or she might need or might want to do to honor that loved one during the holiday season.

Listening to the Grieving

Also, be sure to refrain from trivializing the loss by uttering platitudes such as "It was for the best," or "We all need to move on," even if the death took place several years prior.  Perhaps support the grieving person by letting that person speak while you listen.  On the other hand, the person may simply want to remain silent while you are there, in the person's presence. Recognize that everyone's grief and grieving process is different.  Avoid comparing your loss with that person's loss or telling the person how he or she should feel "because it's Christmas" or "because it's Hanukkah."

Most importantly, watch for warning signs of depression, and kindly encourage the person to seek help if necessary.

Although the holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, those people who have been initiated into the "grief and grieving" club may need a little more help from their friends than others, may need a little more time for quiet reflection than others, or may just need a hug or two extra. With sensitivity and compassion from friends and family, everyone can have a happier Hanukkah or a merrier Christmas.

Want to read more about the holidays?  Try

Using the Nice Dishes
It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)
Crochet Christmas Tree Ornaments

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Critical Thinking and Argument: Grading the Argumentative Essay

The Breakdown and Assessment
of Argumentative Essays

Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau define a formal argument as “a discussion that takes account of possible counterarguments, that relies chiefly on logic and little if at all on emotional appeal, and that draws a conclusion that seems irrefutable” (pg. 106). An argumentative essay is that formal argument shaped and crafted into a written document.   

Skills related to argumentation and the writing of argumentative essays span the breadth of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.  In order to construct an argument, students must collect and evaluate sources, examine the available evidence, come to a conclusion, compose an original thesis statement, organize and draft a paper, and within that paper carefully and thoroughly explain their reasoning

Argumentation is a Process

Students who do not complete any one of the many tasks related to writing the argumentative essay are missing a key component of the overall activity.  Argumentation, after all, is a discussion, an ongoing process, not a product.  Therefore, faculty who have not already done so should shift the assessment or grading of the argumentative essay from an evaluation of the product to an evaluation of the process.

A Model for Assessing the Argumentative Essay

One such model for assessing argumentation and the argumentative essay includes an assignment for each of the major elements of argumentation: a prewriting activity to help students find and narrow a topic, an annotated bibliography to help students learn to evaluate sources, an outline to show organization skills, and a paper taken through several drafts to demonstrate an ability to formulate complete thoughts and explain their reasoning to others.  Faculty evaluation of each of these four assignments can help assess students’ strengths and weaknesses before a final paper is submitted.

Subdividing Measurable Skills and Tasks

If and when necessary, generally depending on students’ levels of knowledge about the writing process, each of those four assignments can be further subdivided.  Students in a 100-level research writing course will, in other words, generally need more assistance than those in a 300 or 400-level research writing course.  For example, a prewriting assignment can be divided into several subsections: discussion of a topic, preliminary research, brainstorming, clustering, or the drafting of research questions.  The annotated bibliography can be introduced and created over the course of several lessons about research and information literacy, citations and style guides, or types of sources and evidence.  Because the outline can only be created after a student comes to a conclusion about the argumentative topic, a natural subsection is the composition of the thesis statement and topic sentences, which can even be introduced before or after an informal in-class debate.  This type of teamwork can also serve students who work together to revise one another’s papers.

An additional way to think of these assignments, or subdivided assignments, is to think of them as learning objectives for the overall course broken into lesson or assignment outcomes for individual units within the course.  Whereas an overall learning objective of the course might be for students to “evaluate source content,” the annotated bibliography unit may break that objective into much smaller pieces.  Before evaluating source content, students must first be able to “find authoritative source content,” “summarize the main ideas within a source,” and “research opposing views or authors.”   

Whereas the course objective may be difficult to assess or grade without taking into account multiple tasks, the lesson outcomes can be assessed and remediated in the immediate.  When students have difficulty “evaluating,” there could be a number of factors contributing to the confusion: The confusion could stem from an inability to find appropriate sources, to skim or comprehend the sources, or to learn more about the credentials of the source author or authors.

A Proficiency Rubric

A rubric associated with the main course objective, therefore, must also include a breakdown of the aggregate skills.  Is isn't enough to grade a student’s work based on whether or not the student evaluated a source, a simple “yes” or “no.”  To truly assess a student’s ability, we should also perhaps ask, “At what level of proficiency was the student able to accurately summarize or paraphrase the claims and evidence within the original source?”  “At what level of proficiency was the student able to explain or compare and contrast opposing views?”  Furthermore, we must make judgments about the level of proficiency we expect students to demonstrate by the end of a course.  Grades should align, mathematically, with the level of proficiency we expect students to have in each of the skills and subskills.

Argumentation is a process, not a product.  There are several skillful tasks that must be mastered in order for a student to argue successfully.  In the assessment of argumentative essay writing, each of these tasks related to writing and argumentation must be taken into account.  This can be accomplished with the breakdown of the written essay assignment into several smaller skills and tasks, rubric graded to reflect proficiency in each skill or task.


Barnet, S. & Bedau, H. (2014). Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument. (8th ed. ). Boston, MA: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Grief and Healing: Using the Nice Dishes

Family China from the early 20th Century, trimmed in red and gold and decorated with Magnolia flowers.
Using the Special Dishes for Everyday Occasions

Last night I drank my tea from one of my great grandmother's tea cups. I even used a saucer, and I thought, "This is special.  Why don't I do this more often?"  I've had her set of dishes for over a year, now, and it's only the second time I've used one of those beautiful little cups.  

The Positive Effect of Special Things

There is evidence to show that things can have a positive effect on affect, especially special things. Family heirlooms, for example, offer owners a "sense of continuity" or belonging, and "provide meaning and self-expression" or a sense of identity (Abelson & Prentice, 1989, pg. 365). These things, though perhaps unimportant or redundant on a functional level, can connect owners to their pasts, their fond memories, and thus to positive emotions.

Using Special Things for Special Days

Yet, if these special things make us feel good, why don't we use the nice dishes every day?  Why do we only pull them our for the holidays?  We should stop asking, "Why use the nice cups when I have everyday cups," and start thinking of every day as a special occasion.

Fear of Loss, Identity, and Memory

Generally, people do not use the nice dishes every day because of fear, mostly fear of loss, like accidentally breaking something irreplaceable.  If we break something irreplaceable, we fear we may therefore lose some piece of our identity or a connection with the past, relatives, or memories. However, it is unhealthy to allow the fear of the loss of an item to prevent that item's potential positive effect on our emotions.  It's important to remember that memories and identity are not products of things, but rather extensions of the memories and identity.  Even without things, we remain who we.  Even without things, we retain our memories.

So, as this holiday season comes and goes, think about leaving a few of the nice cups in the everyday cabinet and a few pieces of silver in the everyday drawer.  Start thinking of every day as a special occasion and allowing special things to have a positive effect on your affect.


Abelson, R. P. & Prentice, D. A. (1989). Beliefs as Possessions: A Functional Perspective. In Pratkanis, A. R., Breckler, S. J., & Greenwald, A. G. (Eds). Attitude, Structure, and Function. (pp. 361-381). Florence, KY: Psychology Press.

Want to read more?  Try

It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)
Learn to Crochet for Stress Relief
Instead of Watching Television

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's Time to Count My Blessings (Instead of Sheep)

Try counting your blessings for a restful night's sleep.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and it’s time, once again, to renew my gratefulness practice.  

It’s time to take more seriously Bing Crosby’s crooning advice to count my blessings.  

It’s time to pay closer attention to the science and study of gratefulness, and to not only be more grateful, but to express that gratitude more often.


Singing "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)"

Irving Berlin wrote the classic crooner’s song, “Count Your Blessings” in 1954 for the film White Christmas.  Undoubtedly, when Berlin wrote the lyrics, “When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep” he understood the effect such a practice could have on the practitioner: Gratefulness helps a person feel happier and sleep better.  However, what he did not know in 1954 is that scientific studies have been conducted that prove the merit of this sage advice.

The lyrics of the song from the 1954 film, White Christmas.

The Science of Gratitude

A study by scientists Algoe, Gable, and Maisel (2010) published in Personal Relationships, suggests, in the words of the writers, “Gratitude may help to turn ‘ordinary’ moments into opportunities for relationship growth, even in the context of already close, communal relations” (pg. 232). Additionally, Sheldon & Lyubomirsky (2006) found that a long-term practice of counting one’s blessings helps keep the counters in a positive mood.  

Furthermore, being more grateful and counting my blessings “instead of sheep” can truly help me sleep better!   “When falling asleep, grateful people are less likely to think negative and worrying thoughts, and more likely to think positive thoughts. It appears that negative pre-sleep cognitions impair sleep, and gratitude reduces the likelihood of such thoughts, protecting sleep quality. Equally, it appears that positive pre-sleep cognitions have a positive effect on sleep, and that gratitude facilitates these thoughts, leading to superior sleep quality” (Wood et al., 2009, pg. 46). Who knew?

Preparing for the Holiday

So, as I prepare for Thanksgiving this year, in addition to making pies and peeling potatoes, I’ll be sure to prepare in one additional way.  I’ll count my blessings each night, instead of counting sheep.



  • Algoe, S. B., Gable, S. L. & Maisel, N. C. (2010). It's the Little Things: Everyday Gratitude as a Booster Shot for Romantic Relationships. Personal Relationships, 17: 217–233.
  • Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to Increase and Sustain Positive Emotion: The Effects of Expressing Gratitude and Visualizing Best Possible Selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(2), 73-82.
  • Wood, A. M., et al. (2009). Gratitude Influences Sleep through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48. 

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prepositional Phrase or Phrasal Verb?

A sentence diagram that contains a prepositional phrase and a phrasal verb, "called off."
Is the preposition part of a prepositional phrase or phrasal verb?
Sometimes when we diagram sentences we must determine if a preposition that appears in the sentence is part of a prepositional phrase or part of a phrasal verb.  Our interpretation of the preposition's purpose in the sentence will change the diagram.

What's a Prepositional Phrase?

A prepositional phrase modifies a verb or a noun.  It's made up of the preposition, the object of the preposition, and any words that modify the object of the preposition.

For example, the following sentences contain prepositional phrases.  The prepositions are in orange, and the entire prepositional phrase is underlined.  The noun that acts as the object of the preposition is in purpleAs an additional note, in order to find the object of the preposition remember that it will always be a person, place, thing, or idea.

At noon, the girls left to go on vacation.
The tomatoes from the farmer’s market are better than the tomatoes from the grocery store.
In spite of her mother’s wishes, she is leaving at noon.

What's a Phrasal Verb?

A phrasal verb is a verb made up of more than one word, and the final word is always a preposition. Phrasal verbs are often idiomatic, meaning that we know what the verbs mean because we've been taught to know what they mean; they do not necessarily make logical sense.

For example, the following sentences contain phrasal verbs.  The prepositions are in orange, and the entire phrasal verb is underlined.  Any objects of the preposition are still in purple.  Notice that nouns that follow phrasal verbs are direct objects, and nouns that follow prepositions are the object of the preposition.

If you come upon a snake while hiking, back away slowly.
We called off the hike because of the frigid weather.
If she doesn't eat on time, she might pass out.

An Exercise for Identifying Prepositional Phrases and Phrasal Verbs

Which of the following sentences contain prepositional phrases, and which contain phrasal verbs? Identify each sentence as containing a PP or PV. Next, go back and circle all of the complete prepositional phrases.

Let’s log in and check our profiles.
The passengers are aboard the airplane.
Because of the storm, we are running late.
The baby in front of me is sleeping peacefully.
According to the captain, we will take off shortly.
We are running against the clock.
He got caught, so he made up a lie.
Until dinner, I will be hungry.
He will drop by later.
I ran into him yesterday.
We just flew past my house!
There are birds outside my window.
Despite the delay, we will get there by tomorrow.
All of our luggage is in the cargo hold beneath us.
His poker face gave away nothing.

Answer Key:

So, how'd you do?  Were you able to correctly identify the phrasal verbs and prepositional phrases? Were you able to find all of the complete prepositional phrases?  If so, great!  If not, try, try again. Memorize common prepositions, and remember that a prepositional phrase is a modifier, and a phrasal verb is an action.

Happy Learning!

Want to read more about diagramming sentences?  

Try my complete textbook, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language. Already have it?  Try my supplemental materials text, Additional Exercises for Diagramming Sentences!

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

There's Nothing Great about Multitasking

A reminder to "give every task your full attention" because "There's nothing great about multitasking."
For better results, give all tasks 100% of your attention.

Got a lot to get done today? Think multitasking is the answer?

Unfortunately, multitasking might actually cost you more time and energy than it saves.  

When you divide your attention among several tasks at once, you're actually rapidly switching from one task to another. Subsequently, each of those tasks takes longer, and each of those tasks will suffer from more mistakes than if you tackled one task at a time.

Prioritize for Better Outcomes

To think of this "don't multitask" message in a more positive, results-driven way, think of this: Giving tasks your full attention can help you achieve more and achieve better results.  When you prioritize your workload to account for deadlines and the complexity of a project or task, your outcomes will improve.  

Learning to prioritize is a soft skill everyone should master.
Think of this example of a student who has been assigned three research papers in three different classes in one term.  

Trying to write three papers at once might cost this student a lot of mental energy as he struggles to keep his topics, thesis statements, and research sources separate from one another. Finding the right files, sorting them, and trying to focus on three topics and all their subtopics while searching the library databases would take a lot of time and energy! He would have to spend many units of mental energy, called ergs, just keeping his tasks and materials organized.

But! On the other hand, if he begins his projects early and works on one paper at a time, day to day or week to week, he will not have to spend time or energy struggling to stay organized.

Rapid task-switching allots only a portion of energy to each task.
The remainder is spent switching gears.

Why Give 33% When You Can Give 100%

In other words, dividing his mental energy and focus allows this student to give only 33% of his potential effort to each of his research papers.   

Prioritizing his time and mental energy would allow this student to give 100% of his potential effort to each of his research papers.


A Multitasker's Test

Still not convinced that multitasking isn't the way to tackle your to-do lists?

Dr. Nancy K. Napier, the Executive Director of the Centre for Creativity and Innovation and Professor of Strategy and International Business at Boise State University, shares the following short test to demonstrate the principle of divided ergs and multitasking.  Complete this test to see how multitasking, or rapid task switching, compares to tackling one task at a time.

Part A

1. Start a timer.  
2. Draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper. 
3. One the first line, write "I am great at multitasking."  
4. On the second line write out numerals 1 - 20.
5. Stop the timer.

Part B

1. Start a timer.
2. Draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper.
3. On the first line, write "I."
4. On the second line, write the numeral 1.
5. On the first line, write "a."
6. On the second line, write the numeral 2.
7. Continue switching back and forth between the first line and second line until you complete the sentence, "I am great at multitasking," on the first line and numerals 1 - 20 on the second line.
8. Stop the timer.

Dr. Napier and I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that you took less time to complete Part A, and that you also made fewer mistakes during Part A.  Were we right?  

During Part A, you were tackling one task at a time.  During Part B, you were rapidly task-switching and spending more time "switching gears" than actually completing the tasks.   Most of the time this extra use of energy goes unnoticed as people become accustomed to the stress of rapid task-switching in daily life.  However, you will achieve better outcomes and achieve more each day if you can learn to prioritize and concentrate on one task at a time.


Napier, N. K. (2014). The Myth of Multitasking. Retrieved from

Want to learn more about being a great student?  Try

New College Students and the Nature of Learning
I Hate My College Classes! Help! 
Improve Learning by Thinking About Learning (TEDx Talk by Todd Zakrajsek)

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to Create APA Headings and Subheadings

A frog shows her class how to divide the human brain into sections.
Plan Sections and Section Headings Based on Your Outline

Add clarity and organization to a paper by using headings and subheadings to divide your paper into smaller sections and subsections.  Headings will help create a hierarchy within the paper that mimics an outline or a table of contents.  Most importantly, headings and subheadings help a reader follow your thoughts.

APA Headings and Subheadings

There are five levels of headings explained in the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.  Examples of the five levels appear in Section 3.03 (2010).

An example of formatted APA headings and subheadings.
Use the ribbon toolbar to help you center, italicize, and create boldface type.

Additional Notes about Headings and Subheadings

Please note that an introduction does not receive a special heading, but that the title of the paper will appear in title case at the top of the first page of the body of a paper. The abstract and references pages will also have headings in the same font as the body of the paper, centered, but with no bold or italic type.

All papers start with an introduction.  Therefore, you do not need to label the introduction.

When planning your headings and subheadings, return to your outline.  Remember that headings and subheadings are hierarchical, just like your outline or a table of contents. Sections of a paper may or may not need headings and subheadings; it all depends on the complexity of the paper and your division of ideas.  The purpose of headings and subheadings is to point out the divisions of ideas to your reader to assist your reader with understanding your research and your claims.

Want to learn more about APA formatting?  Try

How to Set a Hanging Indent for an APA References Page
How to Create an APA Title Page Using Word 2010
How to Create an APA Running Head
How to Format APA Citations for "Personal Communication"

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New College Students and the Nature of Learning

A little red car speeds down the road, the driving hauling everything he or she has.
Face and embrace anxiety and confusion in order
to prepare yourself to learn new things.
Learning is like driving your car in a strange place: It's exciting, it's a little scary, and you don't really know where you're going.  

When you drive your car in an unfamiliar place, you may not know which lane to use, which road to travel, or where to turn.  You might get confused, or frustrated, or tempted to give up.  Learning can be like that, too.

However, after you live in a place long enough, or visit a place often enough, you don't even have to think about your way, and you forget that you were ever lost. But, where would you have gotten if you had given up?  Would you still be sitting on the side of the road?

Embracing Anxiety, Excitement, and Confusion

When a student first goes to college, whether or not it's in a new town or a new place, professors expect students to learn about new things and to learn new ways to do things. Having previous knowledge of a topic or task is a great starting point, but without a little anxiety, excitement, or confusion, there may not be any real learning taking place.  Without pushing beyond the limits of the familiar or what a student already knows, there may not be any real learning taking place.  Students should expect a little anxiety, a little excitement, and a little confusion.

Problems occur when students are unprepared for the frustrations and discomforts that accompany real learning.  It's essential students are taught that these feelings are not only okay, but expected, and a sign of progress.  Embracing these feelings is especially difficult for students who have never been taught to cope with uncomfortable feelings, who have never previously had to struggle in school, or who have always been at the top of the class.  For some students, these feelings are entirely foreign, and are therefore discouraging, as well.  These students often want to shout, "But I have already done this!" or "I already know how to do this!"  Yet, real learning will only take place if those students accept and embrace the struggles of real learning.

Combating Discouragement with Open-Mindedness

To combat discouragement, students should remain open-minded and remember that learning is a lifelong process.

Open-mindedness entails accepting that there are multiple perspectives to issues; issues that sometimes have either no solutions or multiple solutions.  It also entails a willingness to learn about those new perspectives, or new ways to solve problems, make decisions, or communicate effectively. All experiences have the potential to be real learning experiences when a student is open-minded.

Students must also stay open-minded to the fact that learning is a lifelong process.  Giving up on learning is akin to stopping on the side of the road and refusing to drive any further.  A student can only get to where he or she is going by driving, and driving takes time.  Learning, like driving, takes time - a lifetime, in fact.

Want to read more about being a great student?  Try

I Hate My College Classes!  Help!

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Product Review: All-n-One Knitting Loom

 Knitting looms are hot ticket items for Christmas this year. Take a look around and they seem to be everywhere, from craft stores and big box stores to grocery stores and dollar stores!  These looms come in sets, or singles, for a wide array of price points.  They're round, long, spiral, small, hand held, big, brightly colored, pale, adjustable, "sock" loom size, bulky weight gauge, light gauge, double knit, single knit, plastic, wood, and even metal.  Holy mackerel! It's a lot to consider, isn't it?

I was a bit perplexed by the choices, myself, so I emailed the nice folks at Authentic Knitting Board and asked them if they had a product that would solve my particular problem: I didn't like the toy-like plastic sets that allow for only bulky or double-strand knitting.

To paraphrase, they said, "Never fear!  The All-n-One is here!"

Authentic Knitting Board's All-n-One Loom does just about everything I want to be able to do on a knitting board or round loom. It's a knitting board, round loom, and sock loom in one. It can also be used with a variety of yarn weights, which gives finished projects the coveted look of needle knitted items.

Why the All-n-One Loom Is the Best Choice in a Sea of Choices

This loom by Authentic Knitting Board has several competitive advantages.  First and foremost is its versatility, which gives more bang for the buck.  That's closely followed by the company's obvious dedication to educating customers.

Versatile and Classy Design

The All-n-One Loom is versatile and classy.  

Its base is a lovely, finished wood, and its adjustable parts are held together with metal nuts and bolts - sturdy, reliable, durable, and easy-to-replace if lost. The grooved pegs are made of a stiff, ivory plastic. I could hold the loom in one hand while working with the other. I felt, as I was knitting last night, like I was playing a fine instrument.  I felt like I was making something special.

The board is 18" long and came well-packaged in a box that looks quite modern and sophisticated, while still indicating this is a fun, but useful, tool.   The knit hook is included, and it is also made of wood and metal.    The interchangeable 5-peg sliders and spacers are what allow for both knitting in-the-round and double-knit board knitting. The pegs are spaced 3/8" apart, which is what allows for the use of worsted weight yarns.

Although I did have a few concerns about the design when I first looked at the product, once I started to use it, I was no longer concerned.

First, I was concerned it would be difficult to ewrap between the 3/8" spaced pegs. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it really was.  I had no difficulty finding a way to wrap that was easy and speedy: I set the board upright in my lap and wrapped around the pegs with the yarn at the tips of my fingers like I was holding a pencil.  Voila!  And I had no wrist or hand pain!

Also, I did have a concern about the wing nuts used to hold the sliders in place.  I thought I might bump them while using the board, but the wing nuts were no problem at all.

Dedicated to Customers and Dedicated to Educating Customers

Authentic Knitting Board stands behind a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and one look at their Web site makes it easy to see they have a serious and heartfelt dedication to educating customers.

This All-n-One kit comes with a very thorough, easy to understand instruction booklet and 4 projects to get a knitter started.  The images in the booklet are clear and crisp, making them easy to follow and understand.  The instructions are also written in clear, concise language, which makes it easy for beginners like me to understand.

Furthermore, the Authentic Knitting Board Web site offers video tutorials, free patterns, and how-to basics.  

They even have a Yahoo! discussion group!  The FAQ page helps customers decide which board to buy without any hard sell language, wishy-washy language, or upselling. They are as proud of their basic loom knitting kit as their  scarf size Tadpole Kit knitting board product as they are their 38" afghan knitting board.

What I found most heartwarming on their Web site, however, is this particular piece of their mission statement:

"Our mission also involves assisting women's relief groups with knitting boards and personal instruction.  Our goal is to see these individuals grow in self belief that they, too, can create beautiful, useful, warm garments for themselves, their families, and as a means to supplement their family income."

How could anyone ever doubt this is a company worth supporting?

An A+ Product from an A+ Company

All in all, the All-in-One is an A+ product from an A+ company.  The versatility of the board, its classy design, and the company's dedication to educating and supporting their customers makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as a new afghan.  The All-n-One Knitting Loom would make an excellent gift for any crafter this holiday season.  

Want to read more about fiber arts and arts and crafts?  Try

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Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lulu versus Amazon: Which is the Better Publishing Platform?

The homepages for Amazon KDP, Lulu, and CreateSpace
Customers and Costs are Two Major Considerations

Are you considering publishing using either Amazon or Lulu?  There are benefits and drawbacks to each.

Within the last year, I have published both print books and electronic books using both Amazon and Lulu. There are drawbacks and benefits when using either of these two publishing platforms, but I do prefer Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing over Lulu's publishing platform.

Although other publishers may hold opposing views, here's the skinny according to Amy Lynn.

The Pros and Cons of Publishing Using Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing 

The Benefits

The three most important reasons why I prefer Amazon to Lulu are all related to Amazon's infallible ability to sell sell sell.

First and foremost, Amazon's  pièce de résistance is its number of shoppers and the level of trust those shoppers have when placing online orders.  I, myself, lose hours on Amazon some nights just by browsing arts and crafts supplies.

Also, for publishers like me, there are some ways to capitalize on those numbers and that trust while at the same time benefiting the reader - a win win!  For example, I can set Kindle Countdown deals, free giveaway days, Kindle Matchbook pricing, or Lending Library settings for each of my books, helping me promote and gain reviews. Furthermore, Amazon will also, at times, reduce the price of my print book while I make the same royalty via my CreateSpace agreement and settings.

Furthermore, Amazon's ability to sell sell sell to readers means they do not try to hard sell me on their packaged publishing services. I know there is help available,  but their system is easy enough to navigate, and their rules and formatting guidelines are easy enough to follow, that I do not need to purchase those services.  Did I mention they do not push their professional services to me every time I access my account?

The Drawbacks

As with all good things, however, come a few bad.  The two worst things I have to say about publishing with Amazon are to do with revenue and bookkeeping.

Amazon Kindle Direct and CreateSpace do not allow for multiple payees to be set in their payment systems.  If two or more people collaborate on a book, only one of those people will receive payment from Amazon.  That places the burden of the split on one person, most likely a person who has little to no experience with bookkeeping.  Come tax time, that could be a nightmare.

It's also very difficult to project Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library revenue. Because it is a sliding relative scale and pool from which writers are paid, no one really knows what to expect month to month.  Part of good business is being able to project pipeline income, but with this particular system it is nearly impossible.

The Pros and Cons of Publishing Using the Lulu Platform 

The Benefits

So, why, you may be asking, did I publish through Lulu if I appreciate Amazon's ability to sell sell sell?

I have one answer only: With Lulu, I can set multiple payees per book with adjustable revenue percentages per person.

In the past I have never truly made profit (or even regained the capital) on published poetry chapbooks.  Thus, there wasn't any revenue or royalty to send poets. With Lulu, however, I can offer a revenue split with no capital lost to printing costs.  The poet can order and sell as many copies as he wants at any price.  In the meantime, the book is also available online to order as an eBook or as a hardcopy. Again, it's a win win!

The Drawbacks

Unfortunately, although the multiple payee system is a BIG benefit, it is really the only benefit to using Lulu instead of Amazon.

Lulu's Web site is more difficult to navigate than either the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing Web site or the CreateSpace Web site.  Part of the reason it's difficult to navigate is the abundance of ads for their publishing services that are inserted into the publication process fields or as major sections on each page.  It's a very hard sell and could confuse self publishers into thinking these are services they must use instead of services they have the option to use.

Even more of a drawback are Lulu's costs per book.  Their print books cost more to order than CreateSpace books.  For example, to order my own 30-page book from Lulu costs around $11.00.  To order my 150-page book from CreateSpace costs $6.00.  Both books have full color interior pages. That discrepancy is glossed over in Lulu's sales pitch that writers will "make more" on Lulu.  What they do not mention is that the reader also has to pay a lot more, thereby lessening sales.

In the end, I would much prefer to use Amazon's publishing platforms over Lulu's publishing platform.  Even though Lulu's platform allows better management of payments to collaborative teams, Amazon offers many more opportunities for sales and lending than Lulu can offer with sales alone.

Learn more about self publishing your poetry!  

Sign up for my discounted online course on Udemy, Publish Your Own Poetry Chapbook,  with over 10 lectures and 1.5 hours of content with lifetime access!

By the end of the course, students will know how to plan, produce, and distribute a poetry chapbook.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Product Review: MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel

MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel in a One Ounce Pump
My face is smoother than I remember it being, ever.

I recently tried a MICA Beauty Cosmetics product called Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel (Affiliate Link).  To get right to the heart of the review: I love it, but I don't think I'll buy it, again.  Here's why.

Why I Love Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel

I purchased my Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel from Carlos Perez with Heat Lounge Express in Atlanta, Georgia.  I have been using Vita-C once a week for the past month, as directed by the salesperson, after showering.  I place two pumps on my fingertips, place the dots on my cheeks and forehead, and then use small circular motions to remove dead skin.  I can see the dead skin coming off, which is both "Wow" and "Ew."

After I rinse my face with lukewarm water, I use my Clinique Clarifying Lotion and moisturizer, and again, I have to say "Wow."  My face is smoother than I remember it being, ever.

I have tried a lot of other products for exfoliation: Mint Julep Mask, Clinique Seven Day Scrub, honey and baking soda, baking soda and lemon, Buff Puffs.  Nothing else has come close to this level of smooth and silky, and nothing else has worked for so long.  I really only need to use this once a week.

"So, why," you may be asking, "will you probably never buy it, again?"

Why I Will Probably Never Buy Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel Again

Amy's hand, covered in balls of dead skin that's been released with MICA's exfoliating gel.
The Vita-C Gel rolls the dead skin right off the back of my hand.
When I purchased the product, the very nice salesperson, Carlos, told me to use the product once a week, after showering, on my face and neck.  Using it as directed, he told me the product should last about one year. It's one ounce, and after using it for one month on just my face, I am not convinced it will last one year.  At the time I am writing this review, that one ounce costs $149.95.  That just isn't in my budget at this time for a cosmetic.

I also have some concerns with the ingredients.  According to the MICA Beauty Web site, the ingredients are as follows: "Water, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Polysorbate 80, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Polysorbate 60, Methylparaben, Cellulose, Triethanolamine, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium, Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Lactose, Fragrance."

I am perfectly happy with the first four ingredients, but I get a little nervous when I start seeing ingredients that end in "ethanol."  Hypocritical of me, perhaps, since my Clinique products also contain "ethanols," but at this point I am trying to stop using products with ingredients I do not fully understand.

Now, if the price is no object and "ethanols" don't bother you (as I said, they are in a lot of products), you will not regret your purchase.  I absolutely love what it does for my skin, and I am really keeping my fingers crossed that it actually lasts a full year . . . even though it makes me say "Ew."

Want to read more about beauty and skin care products?  Try

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.