The Bleach Disaster

The Bleach Disaster

The cleaning lady worked hard today getting the place clean and sparkling. I always enjoy the shining countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms on cleaning day.

Unfortunately, she’s a big fan of bleach. The house reeks of bleach by the time she finishes. We usually have the doors open to the lanai so the fresh air moderates the fumes. Today was cooler, so the doors were closed.

The worst part of the bleach is the residue left behind. If I unthinkingly lean against the counter while making a cup of tea, I’ll regret it. I did it again today, so guess I’m a slow learner.

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The original bleach stain on my blue shirt.

The khaki skirt I wore today has a big bleach spot on the front. The stain could be covered in future by wearing an untucked shirt with it.

There’s no way to conceal the big white spots on my blue shirt though. Darn, darn, darn. I wiped down all the counters with a wet cloth and hope nothing else gets ruined.

Now here’s the funny part: I decided to do a spatter paint project on that shirt to see if I could turn it into something artsy. I did this in the garage, adding bleach dots and flicking bleach across the fabric. Interesting result and I might just wear that shirt sometime.

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My bleach stains turned into graphic designs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the sense to wear an apron and ended up with 3 bleach spots on a favorite pair of slacks. I’d changed into those from the bleach spotted khaki skirt. Darn it.


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I outlined the additional bleach stains with an indelible marker. Since it looked like a map, I added fantasy place names to it.

(Original article was published in 2014 on the Bubblews site)

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Crafting, Crafts



Becoming a Top Amazon Reviewer

Becoming a Top Amazon Reviewer

If You Love Reading, Consider Writing Reviews for Amazon

I’ve been an Amazon reviewer for over 10 years now and managed to work my way up to Top 100 Reviewer ranking. As a retired librarian, I have more time to read now and posting reviews on Amazon helps me keep track of what I’ve read and how I felt about it. Even as a child, I kept lists of what I read. I get nostalgic looking back through my notebook to see the titles scrawled in my childish handwriting and remember what I was reading in those days.Yes, I was a bookworm.

Book Illustration of a Girl Reading Postcard
Girl Reading – Postcard
See other Book Postcards at zazzle

Now with my reading list online, I have more than just my memory to tell me if I liked a book and what it was about. My feelings and opinion of the book is posted on Amazon for my future reference and for all the world to read.

Writing Book Reviews Helps Libraries and Librarians and Authors

Upon retiring, I wanted to volunteer in a library or school or adult literacy center. Unfortunately, our frequent trips and erratic schedule didn’t match with those volunteer opportunities.

Luckily I stumbled upon another way I could share my experience from 30 years as a librarian. It made use of my love of books, but could be fitted in with our coming and going. I volunteer as a book reviewer for Amazon. The reviews on that online book site benefit librarians selecting books for their collections and help any reader trying to find the right book for their enjoyment or informational needs.

Now I read anything that appeals to me, then share a description and opinion online. It’s particularly satisfying if mine is the first review for that item. Readers rate the reviews as helpful or not and that determines the ranking of the reviewer. When I reached the TOP 500 REVIEWER ranking, I knew my reviews were helping other readers and librarians.

At that point, authors started sending books to me to read and review. It was gratifying to add “authors” to those who benefit from my reviewing efforts. I hadn’t thought about that aspect, but I’m helping get the word out about good books and identifying the appropriate audience.

I’ve expanded my efforts on the website by compiling book lists on varied topics. I have 88 of these lists so far.

Any reader can contribute reviews to Amazon and you can fit it around your own schedule and without even leaving your house.

Books on shelves at Wakefield Library

photo by Virginia Allain

There’s no pay, but it can be addictive to rise through the ranks as a reviewer. Here are ways to achieve Top Reviewer ranking. It took two years for me to reach the TOP 500 Reviewer ranking.

The third year, I was ecstatic to reach TOP 100 Reviewer ranking. Since then, I’ve slipped a little and fell to below 1000. It requires a lot of reading and posting of reviews to stay at the top. Update: After shifting most of my energy to Squidoo and other online writing, my reviewer ranking dropped quite a bit. The last time I checked, it was around 1,200.

Diligently post reviews on every book you read whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Others need to know about that book. It helps if you’re already an avid reader. If you only read 2 or 3 books a month, then it will take much longer to reach the top reviewer ranks.

Writing a Critical Book Review

If reviewing a best seller, it helps to get the review posted quickly after the book’s release date. More readers see the early reviews and vote on its helpfulness. The reviews with the highest number of helpful votes get posted near the top and get more viewings as time goes by. If there are already several hundred reviews posted for a book, yours gets pushed to the bottom and gets little attention and few “likes.”

It’s important to post a quality review. Don’t just put a sentence or two. Say why you did or didn’t like the book. For fiction, give enough of the plot for readers to know if it’s their kind of book but don’t spoil the suspense by telling the ending.

Free Books!

A bonus of reaching Top 500 Reviewer ranking is authors start offering free books for you to review. These books are yours to keep after your read them and post a review. I didn’t receive hundreds of books, but a nice sampling of titles. One author sends me her Disney World guide every time she puts out a new edition.

You can encourage this by adding onto your Amazon profile that you welcome review books. Now, it is more common for authors to offer an ebook copy to a reviewer. Too bad, as it was nice receiving a copy in the mail. After reviewing it, you could give it away or sell it.

Reviewing Non-Book Items

Think about reviewing household items as well. What about your camera? How about the lamp on your desk? Do you like them? If not, why not? Other people need to know what features work well on a product and what are duds. Amazon carries an amazing range of products and reviews of those products. Electronics and software reviews get a lot of votes.

Reviewing Music, Movies, and Software

Don’t limit yourself. Put reviews online for the music CDs you listen to on the way to work. Put a review on for the movie you watched on TV last night. Review the software that you use on your computer.

If you post a negative review on a popular movie, it will get lots of votes that it was unhelpful. Unfortunately, that brings your ranking down. Sometimes I chicken out and just don’t post a review for a movie that I thought was dumb.

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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Books, Reading


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Customize GlassGiant Graphics

Customize GlassGiant Graphics

You’re ready to post on your blog but don’t have a suitable picture for your topic. Here’s a solution for that problem.

The keyboard you see here is just one of the graphics that a site called GlassGiant  has. You can change the wording to whatever you want, then save the resulting image to your computer. I keep mine in a folder called graphics so I can find them easily and use them again.
post keyboard
I created keyboards graphics with words like “review,” “search,” and “post.” Those work for a variety of topics that I might not have a photo to match from my own collection.

The site is free to use and enables bloggers or content writers to make pinnable images to use online. I never post on my blog without a photo, since pinning to Pinterest is such good advertising and that requires a picture. Keep this site in mind when you don’t have an image of your own that suits your posting.

Take a look at some of my other images I made using GlassGiant. You can customize the message on the chalkboard, on the neon sign and on the diamond bling.


GlassGiant bling graphic “unclutter” created by Virginia Allain


The neon words can be anything you want and you can change the background for it and the color of the neon. Cool, isn’t it!

pet peeves neon

Neon graphic created by Virginia Allain using GlassGiant

Spell out your name or your topic in shiny diamonds.         vallain bling

You can customize the words on the cookie and even the shape of the cookie. The heart shaped cookie looks good. I also like the bar of chocolate with your words added on it.

glass giant favorite cookie

GlassGiant cookie graphic with the words, “What’s Your Favorite?”

The blackboard graphic that they have proves useful for many topics. I could have used the keyboard graphic, but used this blackboard instead. Check out the site and have some fun creating your own images to use with online content writing. pet peeves blackboard

(Previously published on Bubblews by vallain on November 11th, 2013)


Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Blogger


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Quilt of Souls – Recommended Reading

Quilt of Souls – Recommended Reading

As you know, I’m a family history buff and love old quilts. Maybe those affinities predisposed me to like the book Quilt of Souls. Even if you aren’t a history and quilt lover, you’ll find this book worthwhile.

I read a lot of memoirs but Quilt of Souls by Phyllis Lawson grabbed me and lingers in my mind even several months later. Here’s the message I emailed the author: “I really see your book as equal to Maya Angelou’s writing.”

She replied, “Thank you, Virginia, that’s a pretty high compliment and praise. To be compared to Maya Angelou is an honor. She was one of my favorites.”

Aside from her story which is compelling, I felt she brought up historic patterns and influences in black lives that both whites and blacks may be unaware of. The Black Lives Matter movement is tapping into many unresolved issues in race relations. Her book shows how this traces back to slavery days.

quilt of souls author visit

Quilt and photo of Phyllis Lawson’s grandmother.

As a four-year-old, Phyllis fell to the care of her grandparents as her overburdened parents struggled to make a living. Feeling abandoned in a strange place, she gradually blossomed while learning life skills and family history from her aged grandmother.

As she learned the basics of quilting from Grandma Lula, the vintage fabrics from relatives’ discarded clothing served as links to the past. The stories shared as they stitched these into quilts told of hardship, oppression, and fortitude. It was the story of our country’s mistreatment of a race through slavery and through structured repression but brought to life through the oral history of her ancestors.

Her vivid descriptions of her childhood take us to that dusty yard in Alabama where a fearful child hid under the porch. Light filtered through to her while overhead the grown-ups fanned themselves and talked about their lives.

Please check out the author’s webpage, Quilt of Souls and her Facebook page for the book. The author page lists upcoming events from California to New York City. You can contact her publicist, James Fontenot, at or 703-946-9111 to arrange for her to speak at your quilt guild, genealogy club or other groups.


quilt of souls author visit

Here’s the Quilt of Souls author (in black shirt) at a book signing in Florida.


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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Reading



Bouncing Back from Super Tuesday

Bouncing Back from Super Tuesday
I woke up early to stew over the losses in yesterday’s election. 

I’m composing a letter to send CNN, MSNBC, etc. They are big contributors to Trump’s rise. It’s not the voters or Hillary that I want to bash, but the mainstream media. Their focus on Trump just because it gets viewers to tune in to see what outrageous thing he will say next has boosted that buffoon to this dangerous level. Their suppression of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in some misguided allegiance to Wall Street and to their own big paychecks is a disservice to Americans who hunger for some hope for political change. To see how far Bernie has come with an almost total media blackout amazes me. They are missing the biggest story of the decade.

If they only care about ratings, they should start showing the huge crowds that line up for hours for Bernie’s giant rallies. His followers crave news of their champion. Give Bernie Sanders some features and people will tune in. The pundits need to quit being so patronizing, so negative whenever they mention Bernie.

Several million people came out to vote for Sanders in Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio yesterday. This is not a marginal campaign. The changes that he calls for are resonating with the electorate. The voters want an outsider, and if Hillary Clinton faces off with Donald Trump in November, I fear the worst.  

If we have a President Trump in 2017, the media can blame itself for setting up this mess. The voters are sick of politics as usual. If the media continues to suppress coverage and diminish Bernie Sanders impact, then a final ballot between Trump and Clinton sets up a disastrous win for the hate-spewing billionaire. 
It’s the morning after and I see the Facebook groups for Bernie Sanders starting to bounce back from their disappointment in yesterday’s election returns. Our belief in this incredible candidate, a once-in-a-lifetime champion of the people, runs deep and strong.
OK, everyone, it is time to go back to phone banking, to canvassing and to donating to Bernie Sanders. He lost Missouri by a mere 1,600 votes. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again.
trump vs bernie

Do you want to vote for the billionaire who’s admitted to trying to buy politicians, or the politician who refuses to be bought by billionaires? Meme from Facebook (Being Progressive)

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Posted by on March 16, 2016 in Politics



Mardi Gras Golf Cart Parade

Mardi Gras Golf Cart Parade

It’s fun each February to see how the people in our retirement community decorate their golf carts for Mardi Gras. There’s even a parade and people wear costumes and masks and have fun tossing bead necklaces to the crowd.

This year the parade was early. That means there’s still time for you to steal some of their ideas for decorating your own cart. You see a lot of purple, gold and green, so try to work that into your decorating. Click the link to see ones from previous years and tips on how to decorate a golf cart for Mardi Gras.


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They did a great job on this mask for a golf cart. Really fits the Mardi Gras theme. 


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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in Solivita



Taking Applications for a Social Secretary

I’m really in need of a social secretary. How lovely it would be to delegate all the petty tasks to someone so I would have my time free for what I consider important things, like amusing myself. Unfortunately, the days of social secretaries did not survive past the Edwardian era. There are virtual assistants nowadays, but it’s not the same as having someone standing by to take care of daily trivia.


Just last week, I could say, “Jenny, call around to the neighbors to see who does their house cleaning. Since the housecleaner called in sick, we need a substitute right away.” Instead, I scrubbed and bleached the shower and took care of a minimal number of household cleaning tasks so we wouldn’t be too dreadful before Linda returned next week.

Today, I could shove the dental reminder and the list of events for the RV club at her and say, “please put these into the Google calendar with automatic reminders.” She could then take care of running to the post office to mail some packages for me, and while she’s out, she could pick up my allergy medicine at the pharmacy.

When she returned from that errand, I’d have her pull together all my receipts needed for tax deductions relating to my writing. Then she could reformat my short, nonfiction ebook to submit for Kindle Direct Publishing.

While doing that, she would need to remind me that I had a one p.m. line-dancing class to attend. Before leaving at the end of the day, she should remind me of the genealogy program, Finding Your Roots, coming on PBS at eight p.m. tonight.

If there’s time after formatting my ebook, she could study the instructions for using the portable IRIScan and demonstrate it for me. Then I could scan some family photos and clippings this evening. Better yet, I could set her to work digitizing the boxes of pictures which would take her several weeks.

Enough fantasizing. I’d better get busy on these tasks, and I’ll have to remind myself not to miss my exercise class.


Posted by on February 2, 2016 in photos, Time Management




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