in 3 easy ways…

Online shopping is so convenient. You can be anywhere and with the click of a button, make purchases for almost anything. As an avid shopper who’s also frugal, I am always searching for ways to save money.

01

Google Shopping

I check Google Shopping to compare prices across online retailers before completing general purchases. It is a quick and easy way to make sure I am getting the cheapest price based on product cost and shipping. 

02

Paribus

Paribus is a free service that checks for price reductions after you complete a purchase. It monitors your emails for receipts and transaction confirmations. If they see a price change that is in your favor, they will work on your behalf to get money back.

Most of my cash back has been with Amazon transactions. With Amazon, they track your deliveries and if they are late, they reach out to Amazon for a credit which is applied directly to your Amazon account.

03

Ebates

Using Ebates, you can save money simply by clicking a link prior to completing your online transaction. Stores pay Ebates to send shoppers to their websites and Ebates shares that commision with the shopper. There is no charge to sign up for or use Ebates and there isn’t a limit on how much you can earn in rebates. As of this post, I have earned over $397 in 2 1/2 years. It’s FREE money! 

Click here to use my referral link and sign up for Ebates. You will get $10 in rebates once you spend $25.

 

Aruyvedic hair care


What does aruyvedic mean?

the traditional, holistic approach of medicine and body care that is based on diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.

As a woman of color with natural hair, maintaining healthy hair can be a bit of a struggle. Our hair is so unique and typically an assortment of textures all in one.

Recently, I came across an article on aruyvedic hair care. I was intrigued. I purchased several aruyvedic herbs and oils, looked up DIY recipes, and started the clock towards healthier, fuller hair. 

what are the benefits?

Aruyvedic hair care routines use natural herbs in powder or oil form. These herbs are claimed to have nourishing, straightening, and growth enhancing properties. After some research, I learned there are some herbs that are definitely staple in aruyvedic hair care.

FYI – I found all of the powders listed below on Amazon and have provided the links. The links are affiliate links and allow me to receive a small commission for qualifying purchases.

 

 

list of herbs:

amla (amalaki)

Amla is great as a hair conditioner. While conditioning, it strengthens, nourishes, and increases hair luster. Full of vitamins (particularly Vitamin C), minerals, and antioxidants, alma oil relieves scalp irritation and infections with its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and cooling effect. Amla has been reported to prevent hair loss and graying hair (wish I had known that sooner), fight dry scalp and dandruff, and increase circulation and strengthen hair follicles which promotes hair growth. Amla restores your scalp to its optimum pH levels to aid in overall hair health.

 

neem

Blocks Acts as an antibacterial powder which is widely used to cure, or control dandruff, therefore promoting a healthy scalp. Best used as oil, neem oil is the best remedy to combat dandruff, dryness and lice (anti-microbial properties). Neem oil also prevents hair loss and promotes hair growth.

brahmi

Brahmi is known for its antioxidant properties, ability to reduce hair loss and premature greying ability to promote growth and hair strengthening. Head massaging using Brahmi oil increases blood circulation in the scalp and makes the roots of the hair stronger. Brahmi oil is used to treat dry, flaky scalp and dandruff. One bonus benefit of Brahmi is that can aid in reducing stress and clearing the mind.

 

bhringraj

Used as a natural conditioning agent as well as hair loss reducer, Bhringraj is also known to prevent pre-mature greying. Bhringraj fights against hair loss by strengthening the hair follicles, fighting dandruff, and improving hair colour and texture. It is also known to improve sleep and fight against skin allergies. 

 
shikakai

Shikakai  means “fruit for the hair” has several hair benefits such as cleansing the hair, promoting hair growth, preventing dandruff, detangling,  and strengthening hair follicles. Shikakai’s low pH level prevents it from damaging or stripping the hair of its natural oils.

 
Hisbiscus

Hisbiscus conditions the hair, prevents hair loss and also known to thicken new growth. It combats dandruff, premature greying, and increases shine. Hibiscus is high in vitamin C and A, iron and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties. 

 

methi (fenugreek)

Methi is also known as fenugreek and is exceptional for hair care. It prevents hair fall, promotes growth, soothes dry, itchy scalps and eliminates dandruff. Full of folic acid, calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, iron, potassium, and lecithin, fenugreek seeds have a high protein and nicotonic acid content which aid in treating hair thinning and baldness. 

 
henna

Henna is a natural dye as well as a hair strengthener and shaft thickener. It promotes shine and smoothe hair.

 

I found some Brahmi Amla Hair Oil on Amazon too that was a great additional to my hair oil compilation.

 

You can apply these powders by making a paste mixed with a oil such as coconut oil, jojoba, sweet almond, Jamaican Black Caster Oil, etc. Spread the paste evenly on your hair as a mask. After 10-15 minutes, remove and carefully rinse out all of the residue. In some cases, I have even added the powdered herbs to my deep conditioner instead.

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you have a great product or service idea and just don’t know how to start your business. In the last four months, I have started two businesses, All Things Swain, LLC and Swain Things, LLC. Honestly, the process was overwhelming at first until I began researching and realized there is a wealth of information and resources online. I chose to create Limited Liability Companies (LLC) to remove personal liability.  decided to outline the steps in hopes that someone else may benefit from this information.

Note: I live in New Jersey so the information I share will be specific to New Jersey. If you live in another state, you can likely find the equivalent information for your state online as well. Either way, this information can be used as a guide.

Before we begin, I want you to know that many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click here to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Form and Register your LLC

  1. Identify your product or service. What are you offering consumers?
  2. Use your creative juices to create your business name. Now before you get 100% sold on your name, you need to make sure that name is not currently in use or too close to an existing business’ name. It’s also important to make sure the name does not have any negative connotations to it. Check the name for usage on the following ways:
    1. State where you will be doing business: New Jersey offers a Name Availability Look-Up Service which will check if a business name is available for use. You can also search all business names on file with New Jersey here.
    2. General Internet search: the name should not have negative connotations or be associated with negativity before you even launch.
    3. Domain search: you should be able to purchase a website domain that makes sense for your business name.
    4. Social Media search: how is this name used across social media platforms?
    5. Trademark search: Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office If you need more information about the difference between trademarks ™, registered® and copyright©, check out this blog.

Knowem can search social networks, domain names, and the USPTO Trademark Database all at once.

True story: I did not know the importance of Step 2 and spent days brainstorming and surveying business name ideas with friends and family. Once, I had selected my top two choices, I was shocked to realize that the name was so popular online and variations of the names was already trademarked or registered in New Jersey.

 

  1. Legally form your LLC. In New Jersey, you will have to form your business before you can register it. This will cost $125 for most business types (LLC, LLP, etc.). If you complete the formation online, there is an extra $3.50 fee. You have 60 days to register your business after it’s formed.

 

  1. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and identifies a business entity for tax purposes. New Jersey requires this number to register your business although other states may not. It is good to obtain an EIN at the beginning of your business creation regardless of whether you will have employees or not to separate your business from your personal identity.

 

  1. Register your LLC. This process is what legally allows you to conduct business. There is no cost associated with registering your business in New Jersey. You can complete the registration online.

 

  1. Create an Operating Agreement. This document will define the ownership structure of the business and duties of each business owner (referred to as members). It also defines the working and financial relations amongst the members. There are several websites that have templates that can be customized with your business arrangements. LawDepot has a free trial during which you can create and download legal documents.

New Jersey offers a Business Portal and Business Action Center on their website which provides a lot of information and resources for business owners. Definitely check them out!

 

Build Credibility

  1. Apply for a business banking account. You can start with the bank you use for your personal banking. Research other banking institutions to compare fees, services, etc.
  2. Get a separate business phone number. It doesn’t cost much to get a separate line just for business purposes. Many of the popular telecommunications companies will offer this service. RingCentral, eVoice, and Grasshopper have virtual phone services. T-Mobile offers extra phone numbers with their Digits service that links to your mobile phone.
  3. Get a fax number. Faxing documents online without a telephone line is a big thing for small businesses. There are many companies that offer this service: Plus, Fax.com, MetroFax, FaxBetter, and GotFreeFax are highly rated by business.com.
  4. Get a separate business address. Starting out, it may be hard to even think about leasing office physical office space. You can give a positive impression of your business by having a business address separate from your personal address. This also protects your privacy. Explore your options with USPS, Regus and The UPS Store.
  5. Apply for a D-U-N-S Number. D-U-N-S Numbers establish your business identity for lenders and potential business partners. It is free to register for a D-U-N-S Number.
  6. Open vendor accounts. Vendor accounts that offer Net-30 terms and report to Dun and Bradstreet (see why you need that D-U-N-S Number) are what you need to begin establishing business credit. This article lists five vendor accounts that will help build your business credit.
  7. Monitor your business’ financial health. Know what lenders and business partners will learn if they are deciding to do business with you. Equifax offers several options to monitor your business’ financial health. You can also obtain your business credit report and search other businesses financial health as well.

 

Build and Market your Brand

I made a poor attempt at designing my own logo using a free logo generator online. Thankfully, I discovered Fiverr before I launched and I was able to get a professional to design my logo for a reasonable cost. You can hire a Fiverr professional to assist you with each of the steps below. I would recommend purchasing packages that include the source files for your designs in case you need to make design changes later.

  1. Design your logo. Your logo is an important part of branding your business and should be designed carefully. Consider how it will look on multiple platforms: website, social media, stationary, business cards, etc. to ensure you have a look that is versatile.
  2. Create your slogan or tagline. I have not come up with a tagline yet for my businesses but I plan to do so in my next round of stationary design.
  3. Create social media accounts
    1. Facebook page.
    2. Instagram
    3. Twitter
    4. LinkedIn

Decide which social media platforms are best for your market. Every platform is not for every business. You can hire social media designers and managers on Fiverr.

  1. Design your stationary and business cards. Many of the Fiverr professionals offer stationary designs with some of their packages.
  2. Build your website. Your website is a big representation of your business. Building and designing a website is not an easy task. I would definitely recommend hiring a professional for this if you are not technically savvy. Once again, Fiverr offers this service.

 

Starting a new business is exciting but hard work. I hope that I have been able to help you navigate some of the areas that you are struggling with or unaware of. A good friend and fellow business owner told me “outsource the things that you don’t do well”. It was solid advice. Know your strengths. This day in time, most business and creative tasks can be outsourced; leaving you to focus on what you do best. Of course, outsourcing comes at a cost so you will have to weigh the pros and cons as a new business owner. Let’s go…Start your business today!

 

P.S. – If you are interested in starting a nonprofit business, check out this

 

 

Advertising Disclosure: Swain Things and its owner(s) are participants in several affiliate program. We receive compensation from qualifying clicks or purchases via our posted links. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.

 

Preparing for school and work each night is an ordeal in my home. With 4 school-age kids, 1 child that goes to a sitter, and 2 adults, the amount of money and food we go through just on lunch alone is CRAZY! One of the biggest problems with packing meals for everyone is that it can quickly seem monotonous. I mean how many days in a row can you eat boiled eggs, PB&J sandwiches, or salads? It also doesn’t help that everyone has their own ever-changing list of food likes and dislikes. Ok, so I don’t have any suggestions for that but I do have suggestions for the things you can control….LUNCH GEAR!

Since my oldest was in 1st grade, I’ve been purchasing Land’s End backpacks and matching lunch bags for them because they come with a lifetime warranty and are so much more durable. They also come in so many cute designs. I’ve noticed however, that kids lunch gear tends to lay flat instead of sitting upright. This can make for a messy situation when the bags are being transported.

After many trials. I’ve found that Rubbermaid’s LunchBlox kits are the perfect fit for all of us regardless of the type of lunch bag or food. I love how they mix and match between the sets. The lids are tight and sturdy. I’ve never had a leakage from anything. The kits each come with an ice “block”. The containers tightly snap with the ice “block”. Best of all, they are priced very reasonable and I’ve managed to purchase most kits for under $10 each.


I have ordered the sandwich kit the most because it is the most versatile. Sandwiches can fit (normal width breads) and the container is an appropriate size for a lunch meal. It also comes with 2 snack containers and 1 side container. The snack containers are great for nuts, toppings, condiments, dressings, and anything else you’d want to eat in moderation. The side container is the one we mostly use for fruit or veggies.


The salad kit is great if you make a lot of salads. In my head, I’d eat more deliciously creative salads. In reality, I get bored very quick with salads. This kit is deep so it would only work with an upright lunch bag (you’re in luck…Rubbermaid makes a companion lunch bag). I do love that there’s a 3-section insert that sits at the top of the container for your toppings.


If you need more space than the sandwich kit or perhaps are feeding a person with a bottomless stomach, the entree kit can help you. This kit is longer than the other two kits so you would need a full-size lunch bag to hold it. The main container has a section for a side and there’s 1 additional side container included separately as well as the 2 snack containers.

 

I mentioned this earlier but it’s worth noting again that the kits are interchangeable. Now maybe some of you can keep up with lids and whatnot, but in my house, lost lids (or even containers) are the norm. Additional containers are available a la carte, if necessary. They do come in different color combinations but we aren’t picky about the colors of our containers; it’s more about what’s in them. I hope you find them to be just as perfect for your needs as they are for ours.

 

Disclosure: Many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click  here  to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.

320 X 60 Animated

 

This blog here is a collection of modest apparel and accessories for children and women. I will include boys items as I see them but since boys items are typically easier to find, it won’t be my priority.

Disclosure: Many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click  here  to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Layering Tops

Dresses

 

Skirts

Hats

Note: Style/color variations are available once you click on the link.

 

Boys

 

Great websites below for additional modest apparel. I love that I can search for modest clothes for my daughters and myself in the same spot! It makes shopping easier especially when you have 3 girls.

Style J

Kosher Casual Big box

About 1 month ago, I joined a weight-loss challenge hosted by a dear friend of mine. In the beginning, I focused on just trying to eat better. I renewed my subscription to Weight Watchers (WW) just in time to take advantage of a promo that included a free Weight Watchers Bluetooth Body Analysis Scale. I also signed up for a 14-day trial to Noom.

In 2016, I had managed to lose 20 lb using Weight Watchers so I knew that if I disciplined myself, it could work again. I was interested in trying another weight loss app to see how it would compare. Both programs focus on a building and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a similar price point. Both also require daily tracking of food and promote regular exercise. Noom is newer so their inventory of food items aren’t as robust as Weight Watchers. They surpass WW on the coaching aspect though because their subscription includes a real online coach and group coach. Each day there are also informational lessons and quizzes that help you understand the scientific and psychological whys of weight gain (and loss) and how our environment and brain can conspire against us our efforts.

I realized early in the challenge that I needed to step my game up as my competition was killing me in the fitness arena. I mean, although I had a Fitbit Charge 2, and am excited when I make my 10k daily step goal, I didn’t do any form of regular exercise. It was time to get busy.

My friend kept posting YouTube exercise videos and the first one I tried was a 7 min ab workout video. I felt so accomplished. The next day I completed a 5k mile walking in my home. Now I am hooked. The convenience of being able to workout from home, at any hour of the day, is so ideal. Honestly, I’m unsure why I’d never looked up exercise videos previously.

In order to increase the variety of workouts, I needed to purchase some gear/equipment. I needed some weights and saw these weighted gloves on a video. I am thrilled with them. They are so much more convenient than traditional weights. I also purchased a weighted vest and a light resistance band to start out with. It is rather long but I’ll make it work for now. I had a yoga mat but with years of not using it, I have no idea where it is so I guess I’ll be ordering one from Amazon soon.

I’m very excited about my progress thus far. I feel stronger and more energized each day. I can actually jog lightly now without feeling chest pains. I have a ways to go but I’m optimistic I’ll get there.

 

If you want to give Weight Watchers a try, use my referral link for 1 month free https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/checkout/iaf/?iaftoken=26193AAD00

 

Disclosure: many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click here to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Kids learn and live through books. I LOVED reading as a child. I always had a book with me or picked 
up one wherever I was. I started this catalog of books in my quest to give my children more books with 
minority characters or by minority authors. I'm sure there are many more books that I am missing but 
here's what I have so far. Note: the order is random.

Many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, 
purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click here 
to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.

​The Logan Family Saga Book Series, by Mildred D. Taylor

Toni Morrison



Nikki and Deja Series, by Karen English


Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Keena Ford Series, by Frank Morrison and Melissa Thomson


Latasha Perry


Debbie Allen and Kadir Nelson


Crystal Swain-Bates



Angela Johnson






Sophie Washington Series by Tonya Duncan Ellis


Lola and Leo Series by Anna McQuinn




Jabari Asim


Trish Cooke




Jaden Toussaint Series and other books by Marti Dumas



Clubhouse Mysteries by Sharon M. Draper


Sassy Series by Sharon M. Draper


Sharon M. Draper



Junebug Series by Alice Mead


Pat Zietlow Miller


Ada Twist Series by Andrea Beaty


Miscellaneous Titles













Alright, I admit I have a small appliance addiction and I am working on it. NOT!!  I currently have 3 multi-cookers, an Power Air Fryer XL, rice cooker, popcorn machine, Nutri Ninja Personal Blender (BL482), food processor and spiralizer, waffle maker, stand mixer, Omega Juicer (J8004), cappuccino/espresso maker, toaster, microwave, etc. By far, my favorites are the air fryer and multi-cookers although I am waiting to try my new SKG 2LB Multifunctional Bread Maker.

The multi-cookers have been great for meatballs, soups, spaghetti, whole chicken, rice, veggies, and boiled eggs (best ever). I’ve been exploring yogurt and cheesecake recipes and will try that soon. For some reason, I’ve been thinking about making rice pudding in it as well but I’ve never made rice pudding before so we’ll see.

The options are vast when selecting the right multi-cooker. I have the Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt, Instant Pot Ultra 8 Qt, and Power Pressure Cooker XL 10 Qt. I found the 6 quart too small but the 8 quart is perfect for my family of 7. I use the 10 quart occasionally if I’m cooking for a larger group.

One thing for sure is that you definitely need some accessories to maximize your use. Below are the accessories that I’ve purchased and used.

 Glass Lid for when you don’t need to seal the cooker and want to keep an eye on your food. 

 An extra set of sealing rings. I read a great suggestion to keep one sealing ring for desserts and the other for aromatic dishes.

Stackable insert pans for Pot in Pot (PiP) cooking. This method is great for cooking 2 separate items at the same time and reheating foods you want to remain moist.

Steamer basket which is great for boiling eggs or steaming veggies

Silicone lid

If you don’t already have these appliances, I’d suggest you bite the bullet and purchase them. I’ve frequently seen discounts on Amazon or other online retailers. The investment is definitely worth it if you enjoy food but simply don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen so you need appliances you can rely on.


  

 Disclosure: many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click here to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.