Surviving College on a Shoestring

By Melody Wolf

College is expensive. Luckily, there are many resources out there to lessen the costs, but you have to be willing to put in the work. Bright Futures is one of the many reasons why families pack up and move to Florida to raise their kids. On top of the many quality colleges scattered throughout the state, there is also a scholarship that covers a decent chunk of that tuition. The best part? The scholarship is available to ALL high school students, no matter your race, income or background.


There are three levels for the scholarship – all with different requirements for core classes, service hours and standardized testing scores (SAT and ACT). You can view those requirements here. For those of you looking to meet the minimum score to gain entry into your college of choice, I highly encourage you to go above and beyond in order to achieve the HIGHEST level of the Bright Futures Scholarship. I took the ACT multiple times, but I was only able to qualify for the middle level – this has been one of my biggest regrets of my high school career.

Bright Futures is only for Florida, but other states offer similar programs. Put in the hours of studying and you will save LOTS of money – take advantage of this opportunity! For those of you who want to come out of college owing NOTHING, take a glance at this case study straight from our book: How to Go to College on a Shoestring:

The higher SAT score you have, the greater chance you will have of receiving scholarship awards from private sources and schools. Plus, the better chance you will have at being accepted into the best schools in the first place. Your SAT scores are the equivalent to all of your years of hard work in high school — they are that important. Not only are SAT scores considered a preview of how a test taker will do in college, they have become a yardstick for measuring life potential. Not necessarily fair, but it is true.


You should start studying as early as possible for the SAT by using review books, but if you feel you need extra help, you should enlist the help of an experienced tutor. It is worth every penny, as the payback for getting more financial aid, and a higher quality education, could be tenfold.

By working with you to maximize your SAT score, you will have the extra edge you may need to get into the school that is first on your list and increase your possibilities to receive more grants and scholarships. Ultimately, that will lower how much you will have to pay back. The more prepared you are for the SAT test and the more comfortable you feel with test-taking, the better you will do on this very important test.

For more on avoiding all college expenses, consider purchasing our book: How To Go To College On A Shoestring!51KV5lg8QrL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

3 Types of Dreams

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_547906330For thousands and thousands of years, humans have worked to analyze the purpose and meaning behind the dreams that we see in our periods of sleep. Long ago, dreams were believed to be a way to predict the future, and individuals who could interpret and read dreams were highly regarded individuals.

Leah Fortner, a holistic counselor and life coach, who assists others on dream analysis, talks about three types of dreams that we can have.

One of the concepts that I teach others in my Dream Analysis classes is the ability to use dreams to connect to your higher self or unconscious in order to receive direction or advice about areas of concerns in your life. One method of doing this is to ask your subconscious a question before lying down for bed. I have personally experienced this and have had great insights and helpful information from these methods. Some people have a natural ability to connect and direct dreams, whereas others have to practice in order to create that bond of conscious to unconscious. However, everyone is able to use these tools with commitment and patience.

Learning to control your dreams, known as lucid dreaming, is a very exciting experience. All humans are capable of the same level of consciousness and so are all capable of lucid dreaming. It is something that, if it does not come naturally to you, will take practice. As you spend more time and energy with your dream experiences and practicing different methods for inducing lucid dream states, you will increase your ability to experience this state. The benefits of doing so are infinite and primarily unknown to our scientific culture. At the very least, it offers the dreamer the ability to experience a boundless reality where we can express ourselves freely without fear or caution.

shutterstock_559226803Another type of dreaming similar to lucid dreaming is astral projection, which is the ability to leave the body and experience a higher level of consciousness. There are different astral planes we can experience during these projections. It is a common experience for the dreamer to feel conscious of his or her body but unable to move it, often times occurring in a type of nightmare. This is, however, a form of astral projection, and because we are not used to the sensation of body awareness and conscious separation, it creates a level of fear in the dreamer.

I also believe that psychic dreams are a very real and amazing experience. There is a lack of logical reasoning when we try to understand how these types of dreams occur, but there is no denying it when it happens. A mother wakes in the middle of the night in hot sweats and deep panic because she has just had a nightmare that her daughter was in a terrible car accident and moments later the phone rings, on the other end a messenger shares that her daughter is in the hospital due to a vehicular collision. Can we really doubt the reality of this experience and the psychic energy that played out in her dream? Psychic dream experiences ask us to look deeper into this psychic energetic field and the amazing ability our subconscious has to tap into it.

51jodhiqr+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re interested in learning more about dreams and dream interpretation, check out our book, The Young Adult’s Guide to Dream Interpretation.

Dog-friendly recipes

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_141097474Believe it or not, sometimes our dogs can get bored of their dog food that they eat practically every day. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are recipes out there that are filled with “people food” that even dogs can eat.

If you’ve ever wanted to make your dog a special food that you made with love, we decided to give you the recipe!

Here is a recipe we picked out for sweet potato cookies:

Prep time: 45 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup water


shutterstock_97912838Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook and mash the sweet potatoes. You can bake them or microwave them as you prefer. Put them in the food processor to make them smooth after cooking.

Combine all ingredients and mix together until a dough forms. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter or knife to cut into individual pieces.

Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.

Put the cookie pieces on foil-lined cookie sheet and place in oven.

Bake cookies for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wirerack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

51KWIA6IifL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re interested in other dog-friendly recipes, check out our book, Canine Cuisine!

Back to the Basics: Grow Your Own

By: Melody Wolf

Ever wanted to grow your own garden? How about some fresh fruit? Or even just gain a couple of green friends inside? We’re here to help you utilize that green thumb and assist you in your growing needs! We have an entire collection of helpful gardening books in our Back to the Basics series. For those of you interested in trying your hand at gardening, here are a few tidbits to keep in mind (taken from a few of our many books):

The Complete Guide to Growing Windowsill Plants

growing windowsill

  • For a more consistent-looking spread, match the shape of your pot to the shape of your plant. If you want your plants to stick out more, then consider planting a round plant with lots of volume in a narrow pot. You can design your indoor plants any way you like – you have complete creative freedom!
  • A common misconception is that an indoor plant will require less effort and less care, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! They still require the same basic nutrients, being nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium carbonate. An important note is to fertilize more in the summer and less in the winter.

The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries

growing fruits and berries

  • For fruits and berries, spring is the best time to get the ball rolling… but ONLY in the northern regions. In the southern regions, the exact OPPOSITE is true. You see, in the south, the climate is too hot and humid for the plants to survive, so the best planting season is autumn. Just remember you can spring north but you can’t spring south… Instead, you fall south.
  • When looking for a prime place to plant, check if there are any bugs in the soil. If there are no crawly creatures, do NOT begin to plant your fruit there. If the soil can’t support bugs, odds are it can’t support the life of your plant.

We’ve pulled a couple need-to-know tips from two of our gardening books, now here are some final thoughts for you to consider when beginning your gardening adventure.

  1. Make sure to trim and prune! You want to water the plants – not its leaves.
  2. Keep a calendar. It’s amazing how easy it is to let time get away from you, and before too long you won’t know when you started fertilizing.
  3. Start with the basic plants. Some plants are easier to grow than others. Here are some easy-to-grow plants to start you out on your journey: sunflowers, dahlia’s, foxglove, roses, petunia and black eyed susan’s.

I hope you now have a better idea of where to begin! To continue expanding on your gardening knowledge, dive into our Back to the Basics series! We have a lot to offer to offer both beginners and experts alike!

So You Want To Write a Children’s Book

By: Melody Wolf

Writing a book is such a large task. Some people will spend an entire lifetime finding the perfect words to convey exactly what they’re trying to say because once your book hits shelves, you better hope you’re proud of it. But what happens when your audience still picks their boogers and has an attention span of a two-month old puppy? That’s right – I’m talking about the almighty genre of children’s books.


For those of you that ever showed an interest in writing a children’s book or are actively looking to expand your writing career, here is some valuable advice from Susan Collins, taken directly from our book.

For some reason, I have always liked writing from a child’s point of view, even when I wrote fiction for adults when I was younger. After I had kids and was reading all these wonderful children’s books to them, it just made sense to try writing for children. I quickly discovered it is quite challenging and very fun. What other job would involve dreaming up an iguana who plays the blues? I think there is no better calling than writing for children. Although I do not like preachy books, I do hope to inspire kids and make them think as well as entertain them.

My advice to aspiring children’s book authors:

  • Make time to write on a regular basis
  • Go to a restaurant or a park if you get distracted at home
  • Read many children’s books
  • Hang out with kids, so you can see the world through their eyes
  • Find some writing buddies for critiques or just support

Being an author has been great fun. I love visiting schools and reading my book and talking about writing. I get a kick out of the kids. They come up to tell me stories or show me something they have written or just to give me a hug. Their openness and enthusiasm are inspiring.

If you’re interested in writing a children’s book, consider purchasing our book

Detailing cars and the required supplies

By Kylie Widseth

A task such as cleaning a car is something we all have either personally done or something we pay to get down. Some individuals even like to get their cars detailed so that the car looks just as new as the moment they drove it off the lot.

Have you ever wanted to detail your car yourself or wonder what supplies it takes to make your car squeaky clean with every wash?

We’ve compiled a list of some necessary tools and supplies to detail your car.


  • Pressure washer — Speaks for itself. Gotta have it.
  • High-speed buffer — Used to remove pesky imperfections such as scratches and swirls, you’ll need at least one of these in your arsenal of gadgets.
  • Random orbital/dual action polisher — Used for applying and removing wax and sealants and filling in minor scratches, this bad boy is a value add.


  • Air compressor — Used for cleaning small spaces and ideal for cars.
  • Carpet extractor — Specifically for cleaning carpets, floor mats, and upholstery, this tool comes with a rotary brush shampooer perfect for tackling tough stains.
  • Wet/Dry Vacuum — Slightly less powerful than a carpet extractor, this tool is a decent stand in until you can invest in an extractor.
  • Ozone odor remover — This is a powerful piece of equipment used for removing odors related unwanted smells and destroying bacteria, viruses, and mold.
  • Odor fogger system — This electric thermal fogger discharges chemicals into a car’s interior to remove odors from pets, smoke, and food.
  • Interior dryer — Used for speeding up post-detailing drying, this is a handy tool for the rush job.

Other Basic Tools and Supplies

  • Stainless steel tank sprayer
  • Foam pad cleaning tools
  • Chamois drying cloth
  • Wash mitts
  • Nylon bug sponge
  • Terrycloth or microfiber towels
  • Spray and squeeze bottles
  • Wire brush
  • Nylon brushes
  • Detail brushes
  • Razor-blade scraper
  • Single-edge razor blades
  • Ultra-fine steel wool
  • Sandpaper
  • Heat gun
  • Assorted polishing pads
  • Finishing pads
  • Wool and foam cutting pads
  • Wax applicator
  • Floor mats and seat covers
  • Mechanic’s creeper (for sliding under vehicles)

51qDswFaL5L._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re interested learning more about detailing cars, boats, and even RVs, check out our book, Fast Cash: The Young Adult’s Guide to Detailing Cars, Boats, & RVs.

Top 5 Authors I Met at BEA and BookCon

By Kylie Widseth

Wow. I would be lying if I said I was fully recovered from BEA and BookCon. I’m still recovering but in the absolute best way possible. I’ve always heard that the conferences are a ton of fun, but I honestly never expected it to be that much fun. I keep thinking to myself that I wish events like these happened way more often I’m still trying to process the fact that I met so many amazing people, whether that be people in the industry, authors, or even just fellow booklovers.

One of the most exciting things about these events are getting to meet authors that you’ve always loved. I compiled a list of my top five authors that I met at BEA and BookCon this past week. Yes, five. Trust me, coming up with just five was quite a feat.

5. Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul


I know it kind of seems like I’m cheating because I just listed three people, but I promise they are a package deal. Now, most people either REALLY know who those three are, and others REALLY don’t. Ever heard of Dear Evan Hansen, the musical that’s nominated for too many Tony’s to count? Before I go on a tangent about how utterly beautiful Dear Evan Hansen is (and trust me — it is) their book is basically a script of the entire musical. I don’t think I was supposed to take a photo, but I totally did. It was one of those signings that I ended up hearing about by eavesdropping on someone’s conversation in line (10/10 recommend doing if you want to hear about all the good signings and ARC drops). Still shocked that I had a chance to meet such genius writers.


4. Colleen Hoover

IMG_6029-4Honestly, I myself, am shocked that Colleen Hoover is number four on this list; in any other world, she would definitely be at the top of any list, but that just goes to show the caliber of authors that were at these events. I love, love, love this author! The only sad part was that since this signing took place at BookCon — also just because of how outrageously popular she is — the signing went almost too quick for my liking. Even she herself on Facebook said that she didn’t like how quickly she had to sign at the event. She had also just revealed her next book cover a few days prior, which made it even more exciting. Not gonna lie, I had sorta hoped there might be a small chance that she would have some ARCs of the book, but I know that would have ended in chaos.

3. Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

IMG_5948Again, I question how these women are number three on my list and not number one. I should have just made a five-way tie for first. First of all, if you haven’t read any of their books, you really need to. It upsets me how underrated these two are — their books are phenomenal. I know that I’m not in the exact target audience for their books, but I still really, really like their books. I get all my friends to read their books, and luckily, my friends have loved them just as much as me. The most exciting thing about meeting them? They recognized me from my social media!

IMG_60332. Stephen Chbosky

I never in a million, trillion years thought that I would say I met him. This is what I mean when I say that I’m still processing everything. He is one of the sweetest and nicest authors I’ve ever met (but I also haven’t had many bad author experiences). He’s only ever written one book, Perks of Being a Wallflower, but he has written multiple screenplays. The limit for his signing was three books, so I naturally brought three copies of Perks — he kind of laughed at me for it, but does anyone really blame me? Shout out to him for giving me the most stressed moment of my entire life when he asked what my favorite quote was so he could write it in one of my books. That’s next to impossible. Ironically he signed my most beloved copy of the book that has all my favorite quotes highlighted, but trying to come up with your favorite quote on the spot is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t even come up with one. Still in utter shock I met the man who can craft the most beautiful phrases of words I’ve ever heard.

1. Adam Silvera

IMG_6105I met Adam Silvera twice during the weekend, so I would argue that’s a large reason he took the title of number one author. Don’t get me wrong, I do absolutely love him, and that’s a large reason why I took the time to meet him twice. He is also one of the sweetest and most kind authors I’ve ever met. It’s so cool that he is still able to just walk the show floor. I very much admire the fact that he is not only an author but also just a genuine and true lover of books. I saw him so many times on the show floor that I lost count. As I was leaving BookCon, he was at the OwlCrate booth dressing up in Harry Potter attire to take a photo. I mean that’s honestly how cool he is, and if that doesn’t prove it then I don’t know what will.

I’m grateful for BEA and BookCon because now my list of authors I’m dying to meet has dramatically shrunk. And hey, who knows maybe they will be at next year’s BEA and BookCon!

Prepare Yourself – Standardized Testing Season is Coming

By: Melody Wolf

When applying for colleges, I will definitely say that my weakest area was standardized testing. I prefer human interaction over answering questions with a pencil under pressure any day. In fact, I wouldn’t have been surprised if my test scores prevented my acceptance into UF. Looking back, there are plenty of things I would have done differently, and I would love to share some advice with you people.

It’s never too early to start

I still remember when one of my best friends said he took the SAT his freshman year of high school. I laughed at him – mocking him for taking the “real deal” before most kids even took their PSAT. I thought that he was crazy and that what he was doing was a complete waste of time. Looking back, WOW, was I wrong. The earlier you start, the less pressure there will be – I promise you’ll have a much clearer head while studying!


Find and then focus on your weaknesses

The SAT and ACT are nation-wide. You know what that means? There’s no shortage of practice questions out there. That means you can figure out what you’re not to good at, and then drill yourself with practice questions — you’ll never run out! Standardized testing has a lot more to do with how the questions are phrased rather than what they’re asking. By doing enough practice problems in your area of weakness, you’ll start to grasp how they want you to answer them. That way, even on those questions that seem absolutely impossible to answer, you’ll stand a fighting chance!

Integrate it into your schedule

It’s so incredibly easy to put your ACT/SAT studying on the back-burner. Why? Because there’s no one to yell at you. The only person affected by the outcome of your test scores is yourself (and maybe those crazy parents who will accept nothing less than an Ivy League). You have to set aside time dedicated solely to answering practice questions and taking mock exams. Try writing it down on your calendar. Also, incentives are a great way to keep you motivated. Every time you get five practice questions right, give yourself a treat!


I fully understand that preparing for the SAT/ACT is the LAST thing you want to do. Just remember that scoring well can save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if you plan on staying in Florida. Think of it as a job. I wish everyone the best of luck!

For more help on SAT preparation, make sure to check out our book: College Study Hacks 101 Ways to Score Higher on Your SAT Reasoning Exam.



By Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_400892836Identity theft. I cringe just thinking about the word and thinking about all the headaches that would arise if someone ever stole your identity. You may think you won’t ever find yourself in this situation, but you truly never know.

We all have a variety of passwords we use, but how secure are our passwords really?

Here are some techniques that hackers use to hack into your personal accounts as well as ideas of how to strengthen your password.

The Dictionary Attack: Suppose you could figure out a person’s password by entering every single word in the dictionary. That is exactly how the dictionary attack works. These assaults are sometimes called brute force attacks.

Hackers count on people using simple passwords. Using this type of software, a hacker can sit back and let the program do all of the dirty work. These programs only work on sites that do not require users to choose alpha-numeric passwords or special characters (!, &, *, etc.).shutterstock_520674316

What should you do if a site does not have a stringent password requirement policy? Suppose you can get by with simply entering any eight-letter word? Should you pick a common word? The answer, of course, is no.

You can still stop a hacker by using a word that is not commonly found in the dictionary. Or go ahead and make up a word. Regardless of the site’s requirements, I almost always make up words when creating passwords.

The Hybrid Attack: Hackers are always trying to stay one step ahead of the game. They have no intention of letting a little thing like special characters stop them from figuring out your password. Instead, for sites that require users to create a password that uses both numbers and/or special characters, hackers will hit you with a counterpunch — the hybrid attack. These programs check for both simple words and add-ons. The premise is the same though. The hacker runs the program, then sits on his duff until a match is found.

6125YQ-WcnL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_If you’d like to learn more about how to better protect yourself from identity theft, purchase our book, The Young Adult’s Guide to Identity Theft.

Classic summer with summer classics

By: Kylie Widseth

Just hearing the word “classics” makes us all want to groan a little bit – Trust me, I feel your pain. There is something about the idea of required reading that just makes reading not fun. I totally get it. But maybe, just maybe, you should try reading a few classics this summer and see if the lifted pressure of reading these books on your own time actually ends up making these books enjoyable. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite classics!

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Everyone loves a good romance. Okay, maybe not everyone, but if you’re a fan of the romance genre, you will love this book! Elizabeth Bennet feels the pressure from her family to get married, but she just can’t seem to find the right person. Then, she meets Mr. Darcy and everything changes. I loved this book. It’s not your typical romance novel, and the writing style is hard to pick up at first, but this book is a true gem. When I was in high school, some classmates were in charge of casting the students in the class as characters from the book. I was cast as Jane, which was and still is a true honor.  shutterstock_199509770
  2. 1984 – This book follows Winston Smith who just can’t seem to escape from Big Brother (the government). This book mildly scared me, as I think it does everyone, because of how real it is that we could one day turn into this kind of society – especially with today’s technology advancements. Regardless of whether you see the similarities to our world, this book was very addicting, and I could not put it down.
  3. Slaughterhouse Five – This book tells the story of Billy Pilgrim who becomes unstuck in time. He travels back and forth through his life and can’t ever seem to stay in one time for very long. I studied this book for over a month for a school project I did in high school. I had always imagined that I would be sick of it by the time we were done, but it was such a fascinating book. I also got to role-play as Kurt Vonnegut, which was pretty fun.

No matter what is on your TBR list for the summer, I highly recommend trying one of these classics. Even if you’ve read these while in school, try reading them again and see if the idea of reading for fun makes it just a little bit better!