Monthly Archives: August 2018

Project A.S.K.

Saving the Children

Project A.S.K.

We are going to take a little trip today. A trip down memory lane. I want you to take a second, close your eyes, and think about grade school. Go back as far as you can. Try to picture your classmates. Picture the odd one. The kid that kind of smelled funny. The one that seemed to always wear the same clothes. The one that maybe other kids made fun of, and didn’t seem very smart. The one that had holes in his or her shoes, or never had a jacket. Now take a minute and think about how you would react if you saw that kid today. Not the person they may have grown into, but the child that you remember. You as an adult may realize that there is a very real possibility that he/she needs help. That something just isn’t quite right. That the situation this child finds his or herself in, is through no fault of their own.


All too often a scene just like this one plays out, and when it does, people are quick to admonish the parents. “Who lets their kid go out like that?” “Why don’t they buy that kid some shoes?” “Why isn’t he wearing a jacket, it’s freezing out here?” People seem to forget about the child that’s freezing right in front of them. It doesn’t matter how that child ended up in this position, he/she needs help right now.


Just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania there is a program that does exactly that. It is called Project A.S.K., and they help kids. They help any child that needs them within the West Shore School District. I mean it, every single one, and they’ve been doing now for 5 years.


As I tell you about Project A.S.K.’s methods and partners I want you to keep thinking back. Don’t forget about that kid. As a matter of fact I want you to expand the journey. Try to remember all of them. As you progressed through school, people come and go. Some move away with or without notice. Some just seem to fall off of the face of the planet. Sometimes we are the ones that move. Whatever the reason we don’t usually continue our path through school with the people we started it with. The only constant, is that there was always at least one kid that would have benefited from a little help. Think about that for just a minute. The sheer amount of people that pass through your life during your school years. How many different children do you think you saw or knew that may have been picked on or ostracized for a crappy situation entirely outside of their control?


Do the kids in your memories, the ones that needed help, seem a little below average? Were they always struggling to complete their assignments? Did they have trouble comprehending what you thought was common sense? Step into present day for just a minute. Think about a time you were having a particularly bad day. Maybe you were running late and missed breakfast. Maybe you spilled something on your clothes. How hard was it for you to concentrate that day? Were you more concerned with whether or not people could see the stain, or hear your stomach rumble then you were with the office meeting? Did you have trouble doing your work that day? Now try to sympathize with those children from so long ago. Were they not as smart as everyone else, or were they just hungry? Were they ashamed and embarrassed of their old or torn clothing and unable to concentrate?


I’ve recently learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy depicts human needs as a tiered pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom. The needs at the bottom of the pyramid (Food, water, warmth, sleep) must be satisfied before needs higher up can be attended to. To quote the current president of Project A.S.K. “In the face of hunger, bullying due to the lack of clean clothes, improper clothing for the climate and multiple other issues, learning to multiply 3 x 3 can seem impossible.”

The needs of students and children.

The Mission

My high school has over 2000 students with 17% below poverty line, 1000 in my middle school with 19% below the poverty line, and 600 students in my elementary school with a whopping 42% below the poverty live. This isn’t yesteryear’s problem. Those are today’s numbers. I know putting it in those terms make it seem like a societal or governmental problem, like if we raise the minimum wage or stabilize the rising cost of living we can reduce those numbers. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. I do know trying to go that route Will Not help any of the children in school now. By the time those things begin to make a real change current students will have children of their own.


This is a problem that we cannot fix by treating the cause. Going straight to the root is forgetting that there is a kid freezing right in front of you. Figuring out why so many families struggle to make ends meet does not feed children starving right now. It does not put kids in clean clothes and let them walk the halls head held high, instead of trying so hard not to be noticed.


Project A.S.K. operates completely without judgement, behind a firewall, and under a cloak of anonymity. The idea is to provide assistance while hiding the identity of the recipient of said assistance. They do this by working through a social worker, and the school nurses. They don’t want students to be pointed out to their peers as needing assistance, in whatever form it may come. One of the ways this is accomplished is all 14 schools in the district is kept stocked with what is called Nurses Supplies. This is a bit of a misnomer because they are actually supplies for needy children, to be distributed as needed at the nurse’s discretion. In this case “needy children” does not necessarily mean poor or under nourished, it literally means a child with a need. Throughout the year things happen. Pants rip. Someone gets sick on themselves or someone else. Food and drink is spilled. There is a stock of season appropriate clothes kept on site, in as many different sizes as needed, dictated by age of students. Everything from boxer briefs for boys and bras and panties for girls, up to pants, shirts, leggings, and even socks. Complete wardrobes are kept on hand for whatever occasion. Sometimes the occasion is that a student showed up for school in shorts and a t-shirt when it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside. There is also a supply of bottled water, granola bars, cereal bars and other snacks. Any student can request items from the nurses with no restrictions. The ability to give these things to absolutely anyone who asks, helps encourage kids in trouble to come ask for things without fear of ridicule.


Anything outside of those basic necessities comes through the social worker. Parents or even the students themselves can request help from the social worker, and whatever she can’t find through regular programs will get forwarded to Project A.S.K. or one of its many partners. It takes a village to raise a child, in this case it takes a village of charities and nonprofits to fill all of the holes in government programs. Project A.S.K. has fulfilled all manner of requests from basic school supplies of a kindergartner, to a senior who had all of the required credits but still needed a cosmetology kit to graduate VoTech. The district social worker identifies need within the community, and provides a buffer between the students and the volunteers of Project A.S.K. This buffer stops unfortunate events like the complete public embarrassment of a high schooler when a volunteer sees them in the grocery store and asks them how they like their new clothes in front of their friends. Because sometimes even the most well-meaning individual can, entirely unintentionally, cause more harm than good. That is the last thing Project A.S.K. wants to do.

Project A.S.K.


The important thing to remember is the kids. Could some of the parents asking for help be gaming the system? It’s possible, but it doesn’t matter, because only the kids matter. There are children within the program that don’t take the clothes they are given home because they are afraid their parents will sell them. But because of the social worker, who genuinely cares, they have a safe place to come to school shower and change into their good clothes. Think back to those kids you have been remembering. Would a few extra sets of clothes changed their life? What about easy to prepare food to take home over the weekend? Remembering those children, what would you do to help them?


If you continue to come back to this site you will hear much more about Project A.S.K., and the other groups they work with. I have been close with the family that started Project A.S.K. in 2013 as Compassionate People Who Care before they joined CCU and rebranded for many years. I don’t see that relationship changing anytime soon. The current president is my girlfriend, and I am helping revamp their warehouse inventory management program. So if there is anything you wanted to know that I didn’t cover, it may be coming soon, but you could always leave a comment below and ask. I know the biggest question is going to be “Why only the west shore school district?” Honestly it’s only because they aren’t big enough to take on any more territory. If they thought they could handle it they absolutely would. One of the things they always say is, “If you can put together a group to do the same thing in your area, we will teach you how. We will lay out exactly what we do and show you how to do it.”


If you would like to help Project A.S.K. in their mission you can snail mail  checks or money orders, payable to Project A.S.K., to C.C.U., 413 S. 19th St., Harrisburg, PA 17104. Unfortunately, they are not able to accept digital donations at this time. Or contact C.C.U. directly at (717) 230-9550 to make donations or volunteer your time.


If you are interested in expanding Project A.S.K. to your area, and are looking for the building blocks to do so, let me know and I will put you in touch with their president, I have an in.

Off page SEO techniques for beginners

Off Page SEO for Beginners

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This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.


Check out this video made by Google about how search engines work.

SEO Strategies

When I see someone ask for tips on increasing traffic to a newer blog, there is always a host of people crying “do SEO.” As though SEO is something that you do. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a strategy comprised of many techniques involving the formatting of your page, the text used on your site, backlinks, and internal links just to name a few. There are on page techniques like optimizing keywords to acquire your target audience, and off page SEO techniques like social media marketing. Saying “do SEO” tells a new website operator absolutely nothing. It is an unhelpful tip parroted by people who don’t know any better because it’s the only advice they got when starting out. Let’s see if we can help lay out some of the strategies involved in “doing SEO.”


Just using the right keywords and headers isn’t enough to get ranked highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). There is so much more to it than that. Search engines are getting smarter, not like AI take over the world getting smarter, but they are being consistently updated to give users the best experiences possible. Google for instance wants to continue to be the most used search engine. The only way they can do that is to continuously improve the user experience. That is why tactics previously used for search ranking, like invisible text, and keyword stuffing no longer work. Google wants to ensure that when a user performs a search that they only receive truly relevant results. Search engines are now being programmed to read and translate the text on a page and rank its value to the search performed. Then that is taken into account along with roughly 200 other things to weigh your placement on SERPs. One of those things is your sites’ DA (Domain Authority) which is of course effected by backlinks.

Off Page SEO

Off page or off site SEO is by its most basic definition actions off of, or outside of your site taken to acquire “mentions”, or backlinks from reputable sources. That’s the gist of it. Google can read a mention even without a link. So if someone writes “I really love The Ragged Writer” but doesn’t backlink to anywhere on the site, google still recognizes that. It does not carry as much weight as a link however. Any time another site voluntarily links back (backlink) to your site without the rel=no follow tag, they are “vouching” for its authority. To simplify this post, or to not complicate it further, we are going to assume all backlinks are “do follow” links.


Just to clarify we are talking mainly about naturally acquired backlinks. By voluntarily I mean not compelled to in any way. Not payed for links, or link for link exchanges. No transactional interactions that may be considered “Black Hat.” Links that are payed for often end up on sites with a large number of outgoing links, and without any real value to the end user. These sites are classified as spammy, and links to them actually penalize your site rather than boost its authority. Excessive link exchanges are considered “link schemes” by google and will also penalize your site. They never clarify exactly what is considered excessive, or how the penalty is applied. If you participate in only a single link exchange, but partner with someone whom has engineered over a hundred, do you get caught up in their link scheming? Please use caution when exchanging links.

Social Media Marketing

So how do you get organic backlinks or brand mentions? I’m sure you have heard the phrase “content is king.” You have to create quality content that adds value to the end user. Plainly put, you have to write good stuff. For someone to share, cite or reference your page, it has to equal or surpass their standards, be relevant to their audience, and they have to like it.


Once you have created your well written work of art, the next step is to market it. Just plastering links over Facebook again and again isn’t what we are talking about here. Link building through social media requires deliberate and targeted marketing techniques. The idea is exposure to website/blog owners relative to or within your niche that may reference or cite your material. This is different from using social media to build your audience. Use Facebooks targeted advertising and twitter searches to get your posts in front of the right eyes.

Guest Posting

When thinking of off page SEO techniques guest posting or guest blogging is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately most people use guest blogging incorrectly. Let me explain. One of the factors used to determine DA is domain age. As a website ages its DA increases in what google calls an “expected pattern.” One of the expectations of growth is acquiring backlinks over a timeline. If you go on a guest posting campaign to build links, then you will acquire too many too fast, and be judged as trying to manipulate the system. Google does not look kindly on attempts to manipulate the algorithm. Keyword stuffing and low quality backlinks are examples of attempts to manipulate the system. The latter was the cause for Google’s Penguin update. Which addressed link spam and put more emphasis on the quality of backlinks rather than the quantity.


Guest blogging just for the link is falling back into transactional interactions. There it is. There is the moment that you think to yourself “This guy is an idiot, then what is the point of guest blogging?” Exposure. You do it for exposure. I can see the hair on the neck of all you freelancers standing straight up. “We don’t work for free.” In most cases I agree, but this isn’t writing for someone else. Link building is a dying strategy. Google puts much more weight on links earned through valuable content. Google can tell the difference between a link built on and inserted into a post on (self-built link) vs (natural link) one built on for example. Link earning is slowly taking over as the top off site SEO technique, and you earn links by creating great content. Am I saying that you should not include a backlink in a guest post if offered the opportunity? Absolutely not. I am saying that that backlink does not carry as much authority as one earned editorially, and links should not be your motivation for guest blogging.


Within the strategy of link earning, the point of guest blogging is to put quality work in front of a new audience that will result in added traffic back to your site, and backlinks from related sites. When you are starting out getting a post on a site with 500-1000 visitors a day is a pretty big deal. Hell, I’m 6 months in and it’s still a pretty big deal to me.

How do you get approved for guest posts?

Look for sites or articles related to your site, topic, or niche. Backlinks from completely unrelated sites carry very little weight and are often spammy. Check their guest post policies, the stricter the better. Stricter policies indicate they are trying to avoid spam posts and likely have higher quality content, and higher authority backlinks. After identifying your target spend some time cultivating a relationship. Leave comments on blog posts or Facebook pages. Follow their site or tweet their posts. If you tweet their post make sure you @username the site operator. Read their posts to identify their audience, voice, and what kind of posts they are looking for. Once you’ve done your research, email your pitch. Since you have been interacting with them they will recognize your name and be more susceptible to your ideas.


When you get approved to submit a post do not include affiliate links or self-advertisements. Only place a backlink in the body of the text if previously agreed upon and it fits. Don’t just shove your link in there, it looks tacky and unprofessional. Be prepared to promote your work. Sometimes so many Facebook or Twitter posts are part of the deal. Check back on your post a couple time a week for a few weeks and respond to comments just like you would on your own site. It shows you’re genuinely interested in keeping the professional relationship and could attract more opportunities.


If you have been here before you have probably noticed all sorts of mistakes and inconsistencies in this site. I stated from the beginning that I was going to allow this site to be a road-map of the mistakes I make building this site so you can use it to avoid them. My onsite SEO practices up to now have been atrocious, but they are improving. One of the things I am not doing is going back and fixing mistakes as I learn the correct practices. I want to be sure that you can learn from my mistakes as I have. 

Sites That Are Offering Guest Posting Opportunities

When I was gathering the information for this post I asked around for any sites that accepted guest posts and wanted to be linked on my page. Surprisingly only a few cared enough to actually follow directions.


Website- Adventures of Southern Motherhood


Niche: Motherhood & Lifestyle

Basic description: I am a Motherhood and lifestyle blogger who loves to help other bloggers with their blogs.

Guidelines for guest writers: 400+ words, must promote on social media, no vulgar language.


Website- The Frugal Mom Guide


Niche: Parenting, Frugal Living & Blogging Resources

Basic Description: I help moms (and dads) with parenting hacks, frugal
living tips and money-management in general. I also share my info on my
blogging journey.

Guidelines for Guest Bloggers: Posts must fall within one of the above
niches (parenting/frugal living/blogging)


Website- SIM Tourist


The site includes general travel content / tech reviews, and guest posts are wide open – so long as it is something that might interest our readers. We are particularly interested in content relating to France.

Guest posts must be at least 600 words long, and of course original!


Website – Tech Shout Us


Niche- blogging & SEO

Description- Tech Shout Us is a Blog for Bloggers which helps you to become a better blogger. Tech Shout Us comes to rescue by helping you with quality and easy to follow Tips, Tricks and Tutorials to make a successful Money Making blog.

Guidelines for guest writers- minimum 600 words of post. With unique article.

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Back to School

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.


I am 40 years old, and I am beginning a journey that most start at 18 or 19, and it’s absolutely fucking terrifying. Not just terrifying, no, that doesn’t do it justice. I cannot find the vocabulary to describe the level of fear I feel without the quantifying and wildly versatile “fucking”. Let’s see if I can break this down for you. I have spent periods of time homeless. I have been shot at, both randomly and deliberately. I have been mugged at gun point twice. I have been in a house when S.W.A.T. kicked the front door in looking for someone else, and I almost got shot. I have been stabbed by a girlfriend and by a stranger, separate occasions. I was once intentionally hit by a car driven by a friend, looking at you Brother Bear. The thing that scares the hell out of me, is going back to school.



Out of all of that I guess the question is, is it necessary? Is it necessary to put myself though everything involved in getting a degree at this age, or in fact at all? I think it is, for me at least. I need to prove to myself I can do it. Whether or not it is for you, I guess that depends on what you want out of life and what makes you happy. A large number of people get through life perfectly happy without a higher education. Some never get the opportunity, and some absolutely love working with their hands. This doesn’t make anyone any less intelligent, everyone has to walk their own path and they have their own reasons. If it weren’t for changes in my life in recent years I would never even consider making the attempt. I just didn’t realize that such options were open to me, and even when I learned that if I really want it, that there are ways to do it, I still waffled.


I want to, but I’m already 40 is it worth it, it will be great for my career, but will it really, and back and forth. Back and forth. Right up until this very point, I doubted. But. While I was looking for resources to reference for this post, I found this page. On it are anecdotal stories of people that went back to school at an older age. Most of them are actually quite a bit older than I am now.  In Nancy B. Irwin’s story, who went back to get a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, she stated that you have to get used to answering the question, “How old will you be when you finish?” Her answer was, “The same age I’ll be if I don’t finish!”


Shaw Academy Ltd


That struck a chord with me. It wasn’t till I read that that it occurred to me. Depending on work/school schedules, it could take me 4-6 years to get a Bachelor’s. Whether or not I go back to school, those 4-6 years are still going to pass. Deep in the back of my mind I worried that the time spent at school would keep me from accomplishing other things. That it would feel like I wasted it. Realizing that the time would pass with or without me changed the way I saw things. Not that I didn’t know that time moves on. I was taking it for granted. Sometimes common place things are so commonplace that you forget that they actually have an effect on you. Driving is only driving, until you’re in a car accident, then it’s a dangerous act that must be taken seriously. Until you get used to it, and it again becomes commonplace for you. Walking at night is no big deal, until you’re shot at for the first time.


The realization of Nancy’s statement was like a shot across the bow. It woke me up, if for only a moment. Wouldn’t I be better served working my way up in a new job for those 4-6 years? Gaining experience and cultivating contacts? Experience has taught me no I wouldn’t. That without a degree, they will only let you climb so far. Spending time climbing a ladder to nowhere. That would truly be a waste. There isn’t anything I could do better with my time, than spend it bettering myself.


Earnings and Unemployment by Education


From what I can tell, that graph right there is pretty damn close. I’ve been walking the line of High School Diploma’s earnings for a few years now. If that’s the case, then not jumping on the opportunity that has been given to me would be idiocy. By no means am I saying that everyone should go back to school. Everyone’s life goes differently. I’m doing it more for the chance to prove that I can, than I am for the career path it may offer.


iMBA - 728x90


After she received her degree, Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht. wrote a book about the challenges of going back to school at 44 after being a stand-up comic for so many years called Your-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife. Everyone knows that writing is my passion, that’s how this blog started in the first place. Maybe one day I will also have a book about the changes I’ve made in my life.

Did you go back to school later in life? Brick and mortar, or online school? Leave your comments below.

How to make your qualifying sales as an amazon affiliate.

How to Make Your Qualifying Sales as an Amazon Associate

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.


To a newer blogger the Amazon Associate program looks like an untapped gold mine ripe with ore. Who doesn’t like Amazon? They announced >310 million users in 2016, with 562,382,292 individual products as of Jan. 2018, and it’s only gone up since then. Everyone can find items to market within their niche. In most cases all you have to do is search for your keywords and Amazon will find items for you. Amazon will find products for you even if you can’t narrow down your niche. A search for the word “Blog” returned 20 pages of items. This is why the Amazon Affiliate program is often the first affiliate program new bloggers sign up for, because it appears to be a sure thing.



Even with all of that going for it, I see conversation threads every day about people not making the necessary sales to qualify for the program. If you don’t make three qualifying sales in 180 days, your application to the program is rejected. Hell, I didn’t make my three sales the first time around.

In a prior post “Tips for Amazon Associates” I went over some of the pitfalls I had fallen into. So when I received the notice that I did not qualify I was disappointed but not surprised. I had a pretty good feeling I wasn’t going to make it. So I took a week off from “selling”, and wrote about “Experiencing Life.” Over the next week or so I examined my past posts and selling techniques, identified some of the problems, and tried again.


After a few weeks and a few posts, I wrote a post, reapplied to the Amazon Associate program, added links to the new post, and posted it the same day I reapplied to the program. Within a week I had my sales. All it took was a little research, a little self-evaluation, and some passion.


How do you make your first qualifying Amazon Affiliate sales?


To start off you can’t be nonchalant about it. I insert quotes in a lot of my posts. In “Look Out for Sharks” I quoted “Rounders”, so I inserted a link to buy the movie. That link didn’t get even one single click, much less a sale. Just dropping a link for the sake of the link doesn’t convert. It’s not much different than putting a food display next to the bathroom. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but no one wants to eat food stored near the toilet. It’s not an extra opportunity to make a sale, it just makes you look desperate and untrustworthy. A blog isn’t like a convenience store, you aren’t going to get many impulse buys. People ended up on your site because they were looking for something specific. Try to keep your advertising along those lines.



Take this into account when placing advertising banners in your posts also. Keep the banners related to the content. If you have written a post about the 5 best mountain biking places in the Midwestern U.S., don’t include a banner advertising Amazon’s Baby Registry Bounty Program. Which I didn’t know they had by the way. Again, it just looks desperate for a sale. If your readers trust you, they will take your advice and purchase products you say are worth their money. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one. That’s why you write to a niche in the first place. If I wanted to get into mountain biking, and I just read that post I would take your opinion into consideration when purchasing a mountain bike. However, I would have no reason to click on your baby registry banner. If I’m looking to go ride the 260 mile Sheltowee Trace in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, I probably don’t have a baby on the way.


You have to be deliberate. Once you are 100% approved for Amazon’s Associate program you can open up your options a bit. Until then you need to pinpoint your best options to make a sale and target your audience.


I came across a post last week that was titled “10 best books for Bloggers” or something similar. Naturally I wanted to see what those books were. When I got to the page I saw that it was comprised entirely of 10 hyperlinks. That’s it. No reviews, no descriptions, no actual text at all. Just 10 book titles that linked to amazon. I immediately closed the page. How am I supposed to know those are the 10 best books for bloggers? It didn’t tell me anything about the books. I’ve never been to that site before so I didn’t have any reason to trust it. Not only did it not sell me any of those books, I didn’t even have a reason to believe the post author actually read the books he/she was trying to sell.


You have to intentionally sell the product to your readers. That doesn’t mean you have to resort to sleazy tactics, or a used car salesman persona. Actually it’s the exact opposite. It’s easier by far to sell an item you have used and believe in. I made my qualifying sales from “The One Thing Every WordPress User Should Own”, because I was open about the problem I had, and how the book helped me overcome that problem. I realize it may not be possible to try out every single item you want to promote, but you damned well better do your research. I don’t mean just read the first 3 articles after a google search. You should know everything about the item, and report on its flaws as well as its features. It never hurts to be honest, people will only trust you more.


Writing a post specifically to promote a product or multiple products is essentially a long form sales ad. Identify a problem or question your audience may have, then offer them a product that answers their questions or solves their problem. Keep your language simple, and write conversationally. Write like you are speaking to your readers face to face, almost exactly like you would speak in person. There is no reason to use sesquipedalian words, but you don’t have to use a monosyllabic tone either. See what I mean? It’s obnoxious, and irritating.


Use multiple links to the item in your post. You never know which paragraph or sentence will convince someone to buy the item you are promoting. When it happens you don’t want them to have to search through the post for your link. A link every other paragraph or so should be sufficient, if you are mentioning the item. Don’t try to unnaturally shove posts in the text. 3-5 hyperlinks is enough for a 1000-1500 word post. You don’t want to spam your readers either, it’s a delicate balance. Try to be sure a link is always on screen as you are scrolling through the post.



The last tip I have to make your sale in the 180 day time-frame, is make sure you have a CTA (Call to Action) on your posts. You didn’t just write all of that for the sake of writing it. You want readers to purchase the item you are promoting. So, tell them so. Even something as simple as “Click Below to Buy One Now”, or “Get Yours Here” will help convert. You want a clear and concise CTA instructing readers exactly where to click and why.


Also, please make sure you adhere strictly to Amazon’s Terms of Service. It’s an awful lot of work to go through to make your three qualifying sales, to end up being rejected for violating the ToS. I have a post here, about common mistakes Amazon Associates make when first starting out. Be sure to check it out if you have any questions or doubts.

Throwing a Harry Potter Themed Party.

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.


If you have been following along then you know that I want to work with charities, and that I know a few people involved in local charities. My girlfriend’s family founded a great charity based just outside of Harrisburg called Project A.S.K. (Assisting Students and Kids). They mainly provide necessities such as clothing, lunch money, or basic school supplies to underprivileged kids in the local school district. It’s through working with them that I met, stay with me here, my girlfriend’s mother’s best friend, who we will call MJ. Did you follow that? MJ sits on the board of Project ASK. I know this is a little round about and confusing, just try to bear with me for a few minutes.


Hanging Candles 2 HP


MJ asked us to help her throw a surprise birthday party for her husband. As a group we have decorated, catered, and hosted many parties and special occasions in our church, or for fundraisers for Project ASK, so this wasn’t at all an odd request. MJ does a lot for other people, she is generous with her time, and genuinely cares, so of course we offered to help her.


Luggage Cart

Luggage Cart Decoration For Harry Potter Party


She wanted to make it special, even bordering on over-the-top and that’s what she got. After a few questions about her husband’s likes, dislikes and hobbies it was narrowed down to either a “Lord of the Rings” theme or a “Harry Potter” theme. We quickly dismissed “LoT”, I mean really, how would that look? How would you decorate for that? Random rock formations around the room covered in goblin blood? A stray battle axe or arrow here and there? That sounds awesomely boring and not even a little safe. You can’t have random axes AND an open bar, someone will get very hurt, and that someone often ends up being me. Besides we thought going with Harry Potter opened up many more options for decorating.


Getting the decorations together took about a month of sporadic planning here and there. Then about 3 weeks of build time with the first week being mostly purchasing supplies and doing a lot of printing. After that we were kind of sequestered in our own groups with our own projects. My main job was recreating the pictures that hung in the great hall. My girlfriend’s mother who we will call M, and another one of her friends that we will call J, are both retired and worked on this project like it was a full time job. They actually did most of the DIY projects from M’s craft room, putting in about 8 hours a day, for at least two weeks. My GF did all of the planning and most of the designing and generally helped in all of the projects. She helped me make the pictures and she came up with the fantastic creations below.


Book of Monsters






I know all of the initials can get irritating, but as I am writing this I realized I haven’t asked anyone if they care if I use their names. I may be going overboard but I’m just trying to be respectful of them and their privacy.

There were a few things that we purchased from amazon, such as one of Harry’s brooms, and of course the Talking Sorting Hat, and a Golden Snitch that we hung from the ceiling in front of a broom like it was being chased, and of course Hedwig, but most of the decorations were hand made. M and J were particularly proud of the way the wands turned out. They should be because they were amazing.

Place Settings


The venue was divided into two areas. One was the dining area, and the other had the bar, bands, and dance floor. The dining area was decorated as The Great Hall. We hung plastic sheeting on the walls that gave in that block wall look, and over 100 L.E.D. Candles from the ceiling with a thin wire. The second area had representations of a few shops from the movie, the sign in table and luggage cart, and elements of  Quidditch hanging from the ceiling.


Honey Dukes Candy Shop

HoneyDukes Candy


Slug & Jiggers Apothecary


Ollivander's Wand Shop

Ollivander’s Wand Shop


The party was a huge success. The guest of honor was thoroughly surprised, and MJ was ecstatic about the level of detail that went into recreating elements of the movies. Their grandchildren got to keep a few of the wands, and everyone got to take a golden snitch home with them.


Party Favors


Aside from all of the hard work the volunteers that helped us put in, the things that really helped make this possible were Etsy sellers, and M’s Cricut Printer. Most of the designs for the labels on the HoneyDukes candy or on the Slugs and Jiggers jars and containers were created by someone from Etsy, then printed and cut out by M’s Cricut printer. The wings that you see glued to Ferrero Rocher candy for 80 guests, would have been impossible without the Cricut.

If you have any questions about exactly how we made anything feel free to leave a question in the comments. There are far too many pictures to post them all here. It would take almost a week to write out all of the projects step by step here, and since there were so many people and places involved I didn’t get pictures of individual steps on any of the projects except the picture wall.