Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve - Taking Time to Ponder

It's just after noon on New Year's Eve and it's raining. Which is adding wetness to our blanket of snow. Which turns it into a mess. Which reminds me why I'd rather be inside. But this gives me the perfect opportunity to ponder the past 12 months and the coming year.

I'm definitely ready for 2010. Although a lot of good things happened in 2009, I'm happy to move forward. I'm not happy, however, with the quick passage of time! I have so much to do and the years are jetting by with no regard for my wishes. I guess that's just the way it is as we age.

My goals for 2010 are to increase my writing and the resulting income. This is about the most fun I've ever had making money. Except for quilitng, of course. So I'll still be doing that, as well. I mostly need to get organized so I can accomplish tasks more quickly. And how does all that fit into being "retired?"

Hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year's Eve. We're staying home (where we live, what would be our other choice?) and having some traditional prosperity foods for dinner - black-eyed peas, pork and cabbage. I'll be going to bed at the regular time. I'd much rather usher the New Year in bright and early than stay up to see what it looks like at midnight!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wrapping Up 2009 and Looking Toward 2010

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! I enjoyed a few days away with family and friends but am home again now and wrapping up the year. I like to spend the last few days of December looking toward the coming months. While I discontinued making actual resolutions a long time ago, I usually do have a few goals in mind that I’d like to work on. I find creating long term improvement is easier when implemented through small changes. For instance, last year I wanted to make daily stretching a habit so my goal was to stretch 5 days out of 7 each week. Well, it’s a habit now. If I don’t stretch, something is missing from my day. Haven’t decided what my new goal(s) will be but I have a few days to figure it out!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

Christmas Eve is just two days away. I’m actually more ready than I thought I’d be when I last posted to this blog although I am going to end up doing my final shopping on Christmas Eve which has NEVER happened before – EVER!!! How on earth did this happen to me this year?

Thank goodness for the Internet! I’ve actually ordered a couple of gifts this year and had them shipped direct. How slick is that? It cost $4.99 each for the shipping but would have cost me at least that much to ship them myself after paying the $4.99 to have them sent to me. So I saved there for sure. I’m also sending an Amazon gift certificate by email, which is even better than sending a gift direct by mail. But next year, for the sake of my sanity and health, I just have to be better prepared. This last minute stuff drives me crazy!

Rather than kicking myself repeatedly for my failures, I guess I need to focus on my successes of late. Since embarking on my freelance writing journey in late July, I’ve made close to $700. Not a fortune by any stretch but a good use of the time I’ve invested. I’m also developing residual income streams, which is where the real earnings potential lies. In addition, I’ve been keeping up this blog pretty well. Plus, I completed a custom memory quilt in November. So I’m making some money at home with every indication of continuing to do so at an ever-increasing rate into the foreseeable future. I guess that’s not a bad trade off for being a little unprepared for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

Christmas seriously sneaked up on me this year. I guess I could blame it on a late Thanksgiving, which is usually the trigger to get on the ball. Maybe my new freelance writing career is keeping me busy. Maybe I’ve just had a series of life events that have demanded my attention. Maybe it’s age. Whatever the reason, the result is the same. It’s only eight days until Christmas and I’m NOT READY!!!

After some deep breathing, I’ve come up with a plan. Rather than detailing specifics, I’d like to share some general ideas that can be used by most anyone. No rocket science here, just practical tips for avoiding the consequences of too much procrastination.

Gift Cards

Always popular and appropriate for most anyone, the easiest last minute present is a gift card. Available from local merchants, chain stores and online retailers, a suitable gift card can be found for anyone, anywhere. For increased versatility, opt for a VISA gift card.

Admittedly, the drawback of giving gift cards is the expense. While cards can be purchased for a small amount, the value of the card is what the recipient will have to spend. Consider giving a family card to increase the spending power. For instance, for a family of five, $10 each may not buy much. With a $50 gift card, however, the family can choose something nice to be used by all members.

Homemade Candy and Baked Goods

If both money and time are short, consider making some holiday goodies. Many of the ingredients needed are probably already on hand. Think cookies and popcorn balls. Homemade fudge is my personal favorite and seems to be eagerly anticipated by those on my list.

Gift Baskets

Customized baskets or gift packs are appropriate for both young and old. No, I’m not talking about the ones you can buy in most every store this time of year. Consider putting together your own. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to find an appropriate container and fill it with a variety of small items. Think crayons and coloring pads for small children, specialty tea in a nice cup for a friend or several types of nuts with a nutcracker for an uncle.


Give the gift of time. It doesn’t have to cost anything and the actual event can be scheduled for after the holidays. For instance, for a family with children, give parents a gift of babysitting and the kids a game or craft night. Take an elderly neighbor shopping or a small child to the park. The memories created through the gift of time are free but priceless!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Type 1 Diabetes Hits Close to Home

A few days ago our 8-year-old granddaughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, which is also known as juvenile onset diabetes. In retrospect, there were warning signs over the past few weeks but all could be easily attributed to other non-serious causes. Apparently, when the pancreas shuts down, it can fluctuate and may take a while before becoming a crisis. She had reached the crisis stage with a blood sugar level about 8 times higher than normal.

After spending several hours in the emergency room at our local rural hospital, she was taken 45 miles by ambulance to the next larger town to be flown to Sacramento as no hospitals north of there deal with paediatric diabetes. Fortunately it was caught early enough that it appears that the extremely elevated blood sugar levels and resulting ketoacidosis did no lasting damage.

After just a few days, she’s home now and learning to deal with her diabetes. This condition requires frequent finger pokes to check blood sugar levels and insulin injections after each meal and before bed. While this is a life changing condition, it is manageable and a lot of progress has been made in recent years.

Anyway, when starting this blog, I resolved to post 2-3 times a week. Obviously I’m a little behind and now you know why. For more information about juvenile onset diabetes, see the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Internation website.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mola Tribute Quilt Closeups

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving - we sure did! Good food and family are always a winning combination.

Thought I'd upload some closeup shots of Mola Tribute. I am totally in awe of the elaborate stitching and fine workmanship of the Kuna Indian women who created these beautiful Mola panels.

I am especially impressed with the stitching on this one with all those little points that are turned and stitched by hand. Really intricate.

The Kuna women often use a mixture of traditional motifs and modern themes when creating the Mola panel designs.

The different colors seen through the cutouts in the black are actually small pieces of fabric sandwiched between the fabric layers and then exposed through cutouts made in the top layer.

For more Mola Tribute pictures, see the posts back to Nov. 6 on this blog or the Mola Tribute page at my Custom Memorial Quilts blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mola Tribute – the BIG Reveal

Here it is! A beautiful quilt in a mediocre photo. Unfortunately the lighting outside wasn't cooperating with us the best and we got some heavy shadowing. But the huge crow that kept alighting in the limb above the line makes me nervous enough that I don't intend to take the quilt out again. I've had way too many experiences of re-washing the sheets after some sweet bird left blackberry poo splotches on them. Not fun and not something I intend to allow to happen to a customer's quilt! At least it wasn't raining or snowing so I guess I should be thankful for the sun.

And here's the promised shot of the label. Can you read it? The color you see on the Kuna Indian woman's arms and legs is beading. How artistically talented are these people anyway? The other photo was taken in Panama of Catherine, long time collector of Mola panels and now owner of this beautiful quilt.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mola Tribute Quilt is DONE!

The name of the quilt is Mola Tribute. It is finished as of this evening. Tomorrow will picture day, weather permitting. I always like to hang the quilts on the line in natural light to get the best shots. It turned out REALLY good. The label tells a little about the Kuna Indians and how the molas came about. I'll post a picture of it, as well.

Until tomorrow . . .

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quilting Complete! - 4 Days Later . . .

The quilting is complete! I used an invisible tacking method that is so invisible, I can't even see it. Can you?

And no, the white is not it. That's just the basting stitches outlining the mola panels. I did the invisible tacking every inch or so around the perimeter and inside each mola panel.

This backing is perfect as it has a 1/4" grid with the black lines that hide the black thread used to tack the backing to the top. How great is that?

To give you another chance, I took a close up. I know the stitches are there but I can't even find them in real life unless I run my fingernail across the little black stripes. And then it's still iffy. I sure would hate to have to remove any of these stitches.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mola Quilt – Top Complete!

The mola quilt top is done! Actually it has been for a couple of days but I’m just now getting around to posting the pictures. I’m VERY pleased with the way it has turned out.

I’m disappointed in my pictures, however - they just don’t do justice to the color and vibrancy of this quilt. But I am not a photographer so have to get by as best I can. I know just enough about photo editing to get myself in trouble and make the pictures look really bad so I’m trying to refrain from trying to adjust them. Reminds me of when I thought I should save money by cutting my second grade son’s hair and had to call the barber at 7am and beg him to open early for me as I couldn’t send the poor child to school after what I’d done to his head. So now you know that I don’t cut hair well, either!

Anyway, here are some close-up shots of the upper right and lower left sections. And yes, the upper right was taken from the other side so is directionally opposite of the other pictures.

Now I’m attaching the backing using an invisible tacking method that is working out so well that I can’t even see where the stitches are right after I put them in! It’s made me realize the importance of good lighting and that I may need to up the strength of my glasses.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mola Quilt - Progress and Perfectionism

The challenge when piecing the mola quilt was to get all the panels to fit together in an aesthetically pleasing manner despite the variation in panel size and shape. To ensure that none of the design was lost during the sewing process, each panel required custom trimming to the 1/8 inch. Therefore, none of the panels were of a standard size that would easily fit together as a whole.

To build this quilt, I concentrated first on the center panels that were of the most importance to the customer and worked out from there, adjusting as necessary as I went along. As there was no trimming area on the long, skinny rectangular panel, I used it as the starting point and pieced around it.

Initially I chose to err on the side of caution and allowed myself plenty of room for adjustment by opting for sashing that I knew was wider than necessary. I certainly didn’t want to get to other portions of the quilt and find out that I’d have to cut into part of a panel’s design to make it fit into place! After the upper right was pieced, however, it became clear that the first section needed to be tightened up. So I set about un-sewing and moved things up by about an inch.

No, I’m not kidding. I really did un-sew just to tighten things up that tiny bit. But compare the before and after and you’ll see that it was the right thing to do!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Microwave S'mores - Instant Gratification!

I admit it – I’m a chocoholic. In order to feed my addiction, I am ever on the alert for ways to increase my dietary intake of chocolate. I’m also not much of a cook – in my book, the less complex the dish, the better. So pairing my chocoholism with my innate desire to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible makes me a big fan of microwave S’mores.

Wanting to spread the joy, here's all you need to do to enjoy microwave S'mores at home. Just put a graham cracker on a plate, add some chocolate chips, balance a couple of marshmallows on top and nuke it for about 30 seconds. Immediately press a second graham cracker over the puffy marshmallows and enjoy! Great for a little sweet treat any time the mood strikes.

Warning! Preliminary studies suggest that microwave S’mores may be habit forming.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Serendipitous Moment

A very cool thing happened the other day. I’ve been on a quest to declutter and fulfill my 100 Things Challenge. I had three quilt books to let go and decided to give them to one of the owners of our delightful local quilt shop, Textile Traditions. I’ve known Sue a couple of decades and figured she’d either have a use for the books herself or would pass them long to the rightful next owner. Well, guess what? One of the books was the third in a series and Sue already has books 1, 2 and 4! How cool is that?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Creating a Quilt - Making Money at Home Doing What I Love

Got a custom quilt order this week from a local lady who began collecting mola blouse panels while in the Peace Corps in Panama a few decades ago. This project includes several firsts and I’m really looking forward to it. Normally I create custom memorial quilts from clothing that I carefully deconstruct and then sew into blocks that are joined to form the quilt top. The mola blouse panels are already blocks, being rectangular and of similar size. Another first is that, in addition to this being a memory quilt rather than a memorial quilt, I actually got to meet with the client to discuss the project and plan the layout. What a treat!

Mola blouse panels are intricately appliqued and embroidered by Kuna women. They are connected to a yoke and form the body of the blouse. The panels adorn both the front and back of the blouse and are usually similar or on the same theme. According to my research, many of the panels are from blouses actually worn by the Kuna women who deconstruct the garment and sell the panels when they tire of the blouse. These panels entrusted to me memory quilt creation are simply unbelievable in person! I applique and embroider and I can tell you, the detail and quality of the stitching is incredible.

I took a few pictures and am sharing them. Please keep in mind – I’m a quilter and a writer, not a photographer! But these pictures should give an idea of the detailed stitching in these beatiful panels.

For more info on the Kuna people and mola panels, check out the University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology site.

Here are before and in-progress pictures. The first is just the layout, photographed from the side, and the whole top row is missing - there are three more panels outside the picture on the left. The challenge was in getting the panels to fit together with an even outer edge while filling in the center.
This second photo is the same layout but with the sashing in progress. The panels will be thinly sashed giving the impression that they are swimming in a sea of black. I can't wait to see it when it's all done!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Cool Way to Save Some Cash

Dropped a box of books off yesterday at Budman's Book Mine, our local new and used bookstore. Credit received for these 10 destined-for-donation books (couldn’t sell any of them online - no bites when checking them on BookScouter – or trade any away through TitleTrader) came to almost $25.

One of the paperbacks I was letting go included the first two books in a three book series and I wanted to read the third. The credit received from the Book Mine is used toward books purchased there. The discount for used books is 60% so I got the third paperback in the series for $1.45 including tax. WOW! When I swap books on TitleTrader, the postage costs more than that. So lesson learned. Looks like the local option may be the best in many cases.

The Book Mine also allows credit to be used toward new books but at a lesser percentage discount so I will be keeping that in mind as they can order anything that isn’t in stock. How this will help me in my 100 Things Challenge I not sure but if I’m buying books anyway, at least I will save some money. Right? So remember to check your local used book dealer when letting go of good condition used books that are not finding a home elsewhere. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Favorite Day Come and Gone

Well, it’s happened again. That annual extra hour I so appreciate. I love setting the clocks back and getting an hour added to my day. I don’t much like it getting dark so early, however. I guess it’s a trade off. Anyway, I never waste my extra hour on sleeping. I use it instead as an opportunity to re-develop the habit of getting up earlier. I prefer the quiet of the morning before the rest of the household is awake and painlessly adding an hour to that special time – well, what could be better?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Make an Easy, Luxurious Tied Quilt for Someone Special

I made this beautiful, luxurious lap quilt for my adult son a couple of years ago and thought I’d share. It’s so easy, just about anyone could make it! You don’t even have to have a sewing machine although finishing the edges will take less time if you do.

I’ve posted a how-to on Quilting and Sewing with Kids (QSK link below) with the materials list and specific instructions. You can seriously complete this project in less than a day so may want to make several as gifts this Christmas. I found the furry fleece on clearance and used a top sheet and yarn that I already had so my cost was minimal.

As you can see, I also made a matching throw pillow to go with the lap quilt. The pillow cover is simply a long rectangle of the furry fleece that overlaps in the back to provide access to insert a pillow form. I turned under the ends of the rectangle to provide a finished edge and then folded it, right sides together, to the correct size with the ends overlapping. Once I’d stitched along the raw edges, it was done! Now how easy is that?

Here are a couple of photos with additional detail.

Photo credit goes to my delightful SIL, Karen Balvin, owner of Sunlitway Photography.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5 Wishes - Worth a Read

I was recently introduced to 5 Wishes – How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come True by Gay Hendricks. He relates how a chance conversation literally changed his life from that moment on. In this conversation, he was told to imagine he was on his deathbed and was asked whether his life had been a complete success. The answer is yes or the answer is no. If the answer is no, the next question is about what things he wished had happened that would have made it a success.

Not wanting to spoil the book, I’ll just say that he came up with 5 things – hence the title, 5 Wishes. As this conversation took place about three decades ago, he has a lot of progress to share. This book is certainly worth reading and even includes a chapter dedicated to helping readers discover their own 5 wishes. Definitely a lot of food for thought!

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate, I will receive a little kickback if anyone clicks this ad and purchases the book. As always, unless you prefer to own a copy, check with your local library first and see if it's available for loan.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best Diet Book Ever!

Quite by accident, I’ve discovered what I consider to be the best diet book ever! And I’ve read a LOT of diet books. Lose Weight and Stay Slim – Secrets of Fad-Free Dieting by Eve Cameron is part of the 52 Brilliant Ideas series published in the UK by The Infinite Ideas Company Ltd. If the other books in the series are anything like this one, I want them all! (Well, several of them anyway.)

Great Layout

Separated into 52 stand-alone ideas, this book can be read from any point. Just flip to the idea that most interests you at the moment. Each idea includes reference to another idea so you can go further, if desired. Each also includes a quote, a supplemental idea and a Q&A page. Read the ideas one right after the other, enjoy a few at a sitting, or take the time to put each into practice by choosing one each week over the course of a full year. However you read this book and implement the ideas presented, you won’t be disappointed!

Metric Conversion

As the 52 Brilliant Ideas series is published in the UK, most calculations are done with metric measurements. This should not present a problem as conversions are referenced part of the time and those that aren’t shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out.

Get a Copy

I was lucky and got my copy for free from TitleTrader, the online book swap site where I’m a member. I’ve included an Amazon link to this book and another I found on Amazon by the same author, Drop a Dress Size. In looking through the table of contents on the second book, it appears to contain much of the same information so might be a good alternative for anyone wishing to take advantage of Amazon’s Super Saver Shipping. Not sure when I post links to items that are only available through other vendors whether, as an Amazon Associate, I get a kickback from purchases generated by my links. I wanted to mention the possibility, however, as it’s important to me to disclose any potential financial benefit I might receive through this blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Money for College

Seems there’s a lot of information floating around the Internet about a new Obama program to help single moms go back to school. In researching what this “new” program might be, I’ve come to the conclusion the “new” program is nothing more than an expansion of the federal Pell Grant program. It appears that the intention of these articles is to simply draw folks in so they can be redirected to a site that offers entry into a drawing for a $10,000 scholarship in exchange for registering with the site. Not having gone further, I don’t know what they’re trying to sell but it must be something!

Pell Grants and other Government Financial Aid

Applying for college financial aid is easy and you don’t need anyone’s help. You also don’t need to be a single mom. To start, you must fill out and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most of the information required is taken from your federal tax return. Most need-based financial aid is determined through the calculations resulting from the information submitted. Once the college financial aid office receives your FAFSA results, you will be sent an award letter outlining the types and amount of financial aid you can expect to receive.

Private Scholarships

There are often private scholarships available. Check with the financial aid office of the college you will be attending. Scholarship information may be available through the college website, as well. Often these scholarships are based on area of study or some demographic factor so is sure you meet the requirements before submitting an application.

Scholarship Search Service

While a scholarship search service may be convenient, there is absolutely nothing they can do for you that you can’t do for yourself. So if there’s a fee involved, save yourself some money and take a little time to research what’s available to you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Few Ways to Make Money at Home

Generating some income from home is a key part of my early retirement strategy. Since leaving paid employment 7+ years ago at the ripe old age of 44, I’ve created a couple of small money streams (ok – trickles) that work for me. It didn’t happen overnight and actually I’m just now really getting into the swing of things. So patience is a plus – there are no get-rich-quick schemes here!

Cash In On Your Hobby

First, I turned my quilting hobby into a business. I started by finishing quilts for others and then branched out into creating custom memorial quilts, which I’ve discovered is where my true passion lies. Over the years, I’ve also sold a few baby quilts and other sewn items through local venues. I haven’t made a ton of money but my original intention was just to support my quilting habit and I’m doing ok on that front. The point is, most people have a hobby that can be used to generate at least a small amount of income. What’s yours? If you’re having a hard time figuring out ways to make your hobby pay, leave a comment and we can brainstorm some ideas together.

Selling Books Online

As discussed in a previous post, I recently discovered selling books online. One of the boxes I shipped off last week has been received and my PayPal account is $12 healthier. Of note is that it should have been $15 but one of the books was rejected. Still yet, not bad for decluttering my home and making a little money in the process. The other package of three books netted me another $4.25. Keep in mind that these books were destined for donation so the amount I got, though small, was like found money! And the buyers paid the shipping so it didn’t cost me anything. I will continue to sell books as the opportunity arises and I suggest others do the same.

Online Writing Opportunities

In the past few months I’ve gotten on the online writing bandwagon. I found out about this quite by accident and I’m so glad I did! It’s fun, hones my writing skills and keeps me learning new things. The sites I’m concentrating on right now are Textbroker and eHow. There are many other sites – these are just the two with which I am familiar. For a wealth of information on these and other online writing opportunities, visit the No Job For Mom blog which is where I’ve found out at least 90% of what I know on the subject.

Textbroker pays up front. Clients post orders and authors choose which assignments they’d like to complete. Payment is made through PayPal and can be requested twice per month providing there’s a minimum of $10 on account. Authors are rated and may only accept assignments at or below the level of that rating. I’ve been with Textbroker since late July and have completed about 75 assignments. My earnings to date exceed $360 and since my goal is to earn $25/week there, I’m ahead of schedule despite being away from home for a few weeks in Aug and Sept. Pay ranges from .007 to .014 per word for levels 2-4. Level 5 pays much higher but appears difficult to attain and I rarely see any assignments listed at that level, anyway. I’m happy with my level 4 and will continue with Textbroker for the foreseeable future. I’m not getting rich but earning $1,300/year ($25/wk x 52 weeks) at my leisure in my jammies is nothing to sneer at. I figure it finances Christmas and birthday presents for the all kids and grands with a little left over for a trip north to visit those that live farther away.

With eHow you can earn residual income. (Update: revenue share prgram at eHow has been discontinued.) I joined eHow in late July and have posted just 14 articles so far. I was trying to post more over the past few days but the system is so glitchy right now that I decided to better use my time elsewhere. I’m thrilled with my eHow earnings to date, however, even though they total less than $5. Felicia at No Job For Mom earned almost $2,700 in residual income over the course of a year. I don’t foresee that level of earnings for myself as I am not posting at the same rate – I believe she did 100 articles in her first 30 days. I do see the earning potential, however, and am anxiously awaiting a fix on the system so I can get back with the eHow program.

I’m in the process of researching other avenues that might generate a little income and will post about any that pan out. I don’t do multi-level marketing schemes or party plans or sales of any sort so don’t ever expect to see information of that type here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Developing the Daily Aspirin Habit

Saw an episode of Dr. Oz's new show where he was speaking on women’s health. He recommended aspirin daily – 162 mg (two baby aspirins) taken at breakfast with a half glass of warm water before and a half glass of warm water afterwards. Finally! Something I can actually fit into my existing routine!

Old Advice Didn’t Work

Due to my age and slightly elevated blood pressure, I’ve been trying to develop the daily aspirin habit for years. Quite a long time ago, I saw another Oprah where Dr. Oz indicated that to do any good for blood pressure, the aspirin had to be taken at bedtime. Well, that didn’t work for me. Not only was there no easy and logical place to slip aspirin taking into my regular evening routine, when I did remember to take it, it upset my stomach and disturbed my sleep. Not good.

New Advice to the Rescue!

The beauty of the new advice is how easy it is to implement. I’m a total creature of habit. I do exactly the same thing every morning that I’m home. I have a glass of water while my tea water heats. Then I have tea, breakfast and more tea - and all while at my computer. So now I have the baby aspirin on my computer desk where I can’t forget if I try and I take two aspirin right in the middle of the second round of tea. How cool is that?

But Will It Lower My Blood Pressure?

Good question. Maybe I misunderstood or am misremembering Dr. Oz’s previous advice. Maybe there’s been new research. Maybe the aspirin in the morning is for some other health reason, not blood pressure. Who knows? But at this point it doesn’t matter. I’ll just keep taking it and see what impact it has on my blood pressure readings, if any. At least now I finally have a way to easily incorporate it into my day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Financial Honesty – First Step Toward Financial Freedom

The old saying “the truth will set you free” is never truer than when referring to finances. So many people spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need and can’t afford to impress people they don’t even know. Instead of presenting themselves honestly to the world, they choose to present an image instead. To become financially free, honesty is essential.

Get Honest with Yourself

"Truth Creates Money, Lies Destroy It" is the first chapter in The Laws of Money by Suze Orman. In this chapter, she cautions against living a financial cover-up, pointing out that “The truth does not change no matter how much you wish it would or what you do to obscure it.” Basically, the truth is the truth. To be financially free, you must be honest with yourself about your financial situation. You must face how you got where you are today and take steps to correct the financial mistakes you’ve made and make wiser decisions from here on.

Get Honest with Others

Honesty with others does not mean disclosing details of your financial life to perfect strangers. It doesn’t even mean disclosing the details to your friends. What it does mean is not spending money that you don’t have or would more wisely use elsewhere. It means having the courage to say no to expenditures without guilt or embarrassment. It means demonstrating who you are by your actions rather than giving a false impression through material goods.

Modify Your Vocabulary

Remove “I can’t afford it” from your vocabulary. Replace with “That’s not where I choose to spend money right now” or some similar phrase. Financial honesty is not about deprivation but rather about freedom – the freedom of choice, freedom from debt and freedom from financial worries. Just because you’re focused on paying off credit card debt and forego a new outfit or turn down a ski weekend this year does not mean that you won’t have the resources for these things in the future. Modifying your vocabulary to affirm your freedom of choice rather than affirming a lack of money empowers you in your quest for financial freedom.

Bottom Line

There is no getting around it - truth is the foundation to any effort to become financially free. If you sincerely seek to portray truth at all times, your finances will improve. It may be a slow process – you probably didn’t get where you are no overnight. How long did it take you to get in the current situation? It will probably take at least that long to get out. But it’s worth it as there is nothing quite like freedom from financial stress!

Included here is an Amazon link to purchase The Laws of Money. I have an Amazon Affiliate account so if you buy one by clicking on this link, I’ll get a little kickback. But if you'd just like to read it rather than own it, check your local library or ask around - a friend or family member may already have copy that you could borrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One of the Many Joys of Retirement

Just returned from spending a couple of days with my youngest grandchild. He got an ear infection last week and his mom needed to get back to work but wanted him to be able to stay home a couple more days. So Granny to the rescue. He's such a sweetie and we had a lot of fun together! The freedom to drop everything and hang out with a grandkid or two may just be my favorite part of being retired. Wish I had some pictures to share but although I've figured out how to take them with my cell phone, I have yet to discover how to transfer them to my computer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Strength is a Must!

Read a tip on RealAge today titled The Benefits of Strong Hands and Knees. Basically, people 70+ with a strong grip and strong knees are less prone to being hospitalized. And we’re talking a 50%-70% reduction in risk! So taking a little action toward strengthening your grip and knees can go a long way. And it’s never too late to start!

Try a Door Gym

I’ve had a door gym for several years. In fact, I’ve about worn out my second one (the bands do eventually get stretched out). I use it just about every day that I’m home and have developed a routine that works for me. I combine some of the door gym exercises with a little yoga and other stretching. As I’m not out to build hulking muscles but just want to maintain strength and flexibility, the door gym is perfect for me. While the exercises I do will definitely help strengthen my knees, I doubt I’m doing anything that impacts my grip. Guess I’d better come up with something to add!

Where to Get One

If you’d like a door gym, they can be found for under $40. The brand I have is Altus and I’ve included an Amazon link so that you can see what it looks like. It’s really easy to set up and use - just hooks over the top of a door. I have an Amazon Affiliate account so if you buy one by clicking on this link, I’ll get a little kickback. But check around first. Your local Wal-Mart may have them cheaper. Or try Bed, Bath & Beyond, especially if you get coupons from them in the mail. I’m sure they’re available a lot of other places – those are just the retailers I know about personally. With Christmas coming up, they may even be on sale. And don’t forget thrift stores or yard sales. All kinds of exercise equipment gets purchased on a whim and then re-sold for next to nothing.

Please Note: I’ve included a link to the door gym, which I use every day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

100 Things Challenge Revived! Care to Join Me?

Got reminded today of my original blog – the one that quit letting me upload pictures last Dec so I took my marbles and went elsewhere to play. Anyway, someone stumbled on it and left a comment last month but the moderation notice got lost in my inbox until today. So I visited my own neglected blog and remembered that I’m in the middle of the 100 Things Challenge!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Make a Little Money at Home Selling Your Used Books

A couple of days ago I ran across a cool site that will help you turn your used books into cash. At you simply enter ISBNs from the books you’re interested in selling and Bookscouter searches 37 sites that buy used books to find the best offer. The sites are all rated (just click on the site’s name once you get a list of offers) and you can read comments posted by other people who have sold books there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can You Really Lower Blood Pressure by Eating Chocolate?

Actually, the answer may be yes!

A study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007 showed that eating dark chocolate daily over the course of 18 weeks effectively lowered blood pressure – and without weight gain. Now is that good news, or what? But not just any chocolate will do – it has to be DARK, and only a small amount is needed. (Sad, I know.)

Dark Chocolate 101

Cacao is the name of the plant from which cocoa is made. Dark chocolate has a high percentage of cacao or cocoa, terms which are used interchangeably when labeling chocolate – so don’t get confused! For our purposes the chocolate needs to be at least 70% cacao. Unfortunately this means that Hershey’s Extra Dark (60%) and Cacao Reserve (65%), both of which are (readily available just about anywhere candy is sold, both fall short. But do not despair! There are plenty of options, just not the Hershey brand.

Dark Chocolate and Blood Pressure

So what’s the deal with dark chocolate and blood pressure anyway? Well, apparently there’s something in that chocolate that causes the release of nitric oxide that in turn causes blood vessels to dilate which increases blood flow. The other good news is that improved circulation has also been linked to improved memory! Now couldn’t we all use that as the years go by?

Consult Your Doctor

Let your doctor in on what you’re doing. Make sure you continue to take whatever blood pressure medications have already been prescribed. Do not even think about adjusting your dose without your doctor’s blessing! Remember that dark chocolate does not replace hypertension medications, but a little each day may help reduce blood pressure.

Putting it to the Test

To test whether dark chocolate will work for you -
  • Buy some of the appropriate chocolate. Read the label to ensure it contains at least 70% cacao (or cocoa). Readily available options include DOVE® Extra Dark Chocolate (71% cacao), Ghiradelli Twilight Delight (72% cacao), and Lindt Excellence Intense Dark (70% cocoa) or Extra Dark (85% cocoa).
  • Once you have your chocolate, check how many squares are in the bar and determine how long it will last. The amount to eat each day is only about ¼ ounce (yes, I was disappointed, too). For example, a 3.5-ounce Lindt bar with 10 squares (about ⅓ ounce each) will last 10 days.
  • Enjoy one piece of dark chocolate each day. Sit down and relax. Play soft music, if you like. Really enjoy your chocolate!
  • Buy more dark chocolate, as needed, and continue this experiment for 4½ months. Be sure to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis and track your results.
More Info

A variety of information is available online. Just do a search for 'dark chocolate and blood pressure' and you should come up with the latest info.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Early Retirement Red Letter Day!

Today is it - my first official day as a retiree! Although I haven’t received the official confirmation letter yet, I did receive acknowledgement of my application and show as a pending retiree on the pension plan’s website. I’d like to share the process through which I chose to take my retirement at 51½ rather than waiting until 55.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas

Already? It’s only October! True, but early preparations save stress later on. I must be already feeling it beings I had a dream that I was in a store frantically shopping right before closing time on Christmas Eve. In my dream I wondered how I was going to get the presents wrapped and delivered, especially those that had to be sent out of state, so I was much relieved when I awoke and realized I still have plenty of time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Free Time Journal – Read and Enjoy!

I recently learned about a cool vacation option available to our neighbors across the Atlantic. In reviewing Free Time Journal by Derek L. Porteous, I was transported into another world, able to experience the beautiful countryside through the diary he kept during 5-months of traveling along the English canal system aboard his narrowboat, “Free Time.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Early Retirement - What Makes Me An Expert?

I thought I’d address right from the get-go why I’m writing this blog and why anyone should listen up. What makes me an expert on early retirement? Well, I’m not. But I did manage to quit my regular job at the ripe old age of 44 and start enjoying the rest of my life

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Early Retirement and Social Security

Job Losses, Early Retirements Hurt Social Security was a Yahoo News headline today in the top, featured, most popular, politics, and business news categories. The article talks about the current state of the system and that some people, due to job layoffs and the economy, are starting to draw their Social Security retirement earlier than expected. But just yesterday on talk radio I heard a question from the other side of the aisle.

The caller to a financial advice program wondered what effect quitting work at 56 would have on his monthly Social Security check when he reached retirement age. By not paying in for several years, he would be reducing the number of years of income on which his benefit would be calculated. What comes to my mind is that the system’s trouble will be compounded with fewer people paying in whether people start drawing early or not. Where exactly is the security part? Does anyone know?

So I have a word of caution. As there can be serious ramifications and unintended consequences to early retirement, whether you’re discontinuing paid employment or applying for Social Security benefits, be sure to consider all factors. Do your research. Discuss your options with a financial advisor, if necessary, so that you understand how various choices will impact you now and in the future. At the age of 44, I chose to discontinue my 9-5 job and more fully enjoy my life. Before I made the plunge, however, I realistically analyzed my situation and projected to the best of my ability whether this was a prudent decision. I also took other steps prior to resigning, such as eliminating all debt. I haven’t regretted it one minute, and the older I get, the happier I am that I courageously moved forward with my dream. Who knows if Social Security will even be around when I finally reach my mid-60s. Whatever form it takes will probably look very different than it does today. But it’s not the only egg in my basket and I have the benefit of time to modify my plans based on the current reality when the time finally comes.

My Longest-term Friend’s Birthday

To celebrate her birthday, I spent Friday evening and most of Saturday with my longest-term friend. Can’t say she’s my oldest friend beings she’s not age-wise – but we have been friends since 8th grade so she is the friend of longest duration. Having a close friend for nearly 40 years is a gift. We went through the teen years, marriages and kids together. And now we’re doing the second half.

No Job for Mom Blog

Many people who are dreaming of early retirement are looking for ways to make a little extra money at home. The No Job for Mom blog contains a wealth of information on just that topic. Felicia Williams is a freelance writer and blogger who is supplementing her family's income while raising her kids. Seems she's figured out how to have the best of all worlds and she's willing to share! She also recently started an email newsletter that I'm very excited about. The current issue, which I received today, explains a little about her and how she went from commuting to work to working from home. So check out her blog and sign up for her newsletter. She's been an incredible help and inspiration to me!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Homemade Salsa Anyone?

To deal with the abundance produced by our gardens and fruit trees, my husband set up a simple and inexpensive outdoor kitchen. Consisting of a salvaged 10-foot long, one piece stainless steel counter with double sinks and a multipurpose cooker he made from an old propane tank, this outdoor kitchen allows us to efficiently process large quantities of fresh fruits or vegetables.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cash Money Retards Blog

It’s rare that I run across a blog that is not only informative, but highly entertaining as well. I recently found one, however, and I’d like to share. Cash Money Retards is the diary of Dave Lopan, a young dad who is trying to supplement his family’s income through various online endeavors. Not only have I learned a lot by reading his blog, I’ve also laughed a lot. He’s very witty and I know you’ll enjoy him, too. Whether you follow his progress for the wealth of information presented or just for the entertainment value, tuning into Cash Money Retards is time well spent.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Early Retirement – Is It Feasible?

Most people dream of an early retirement, especially while they’re at work! But is retiring early an actual possibility? Whether you can afford to retire early depends largely on your definition of retirement. If you envision retirement as spending your days soaking up the sun in a tropical paradise with nothing to do but read and enjoy drinks with little umbrellas, early retirement is extremely unlikely. If your idea of retirement living, however, is freedom from the daily grind of going to a job and having the flexibility to pursue other interests, then your answer to the early retirement question may well be a definite yes!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What I'm Reading Now - 50 Things To Do When You Turn 50

Just got this book through, an online book swap site I joined a year or so ago. Haven't read much yet but have looked at all the chapter headings, the first of which is Stop Complaining. Good advice for any age!

Anyway, the book is broken into eight sections, as follows:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Loving Life at 80 -

Today I had the opportunity to visit with a delightful lady who recently turned 80. She's quite sprightly and obviously enjoys life. When asked what her secret is to staying young, she said that she stays active and is involved with a lot of people. She has a wide circle of friends, travels with a specific bus tour company on a regular basis and socializes frequently, participating in game nights and other activities. I’ve realized of late just how important these human interactions are as we age, especially for seniors living alone. People who are isolated for one reason or another seem to experience a decrease in communication skills. Once those skills are gone, they are difficult to re-develop. Don’t let this happen to you! Cultivate friends of all ages, stay connected with a variety of people and keep up your communications skills.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Did You Say?

Having to ask people to repeat themselves is all too common as we age. Just how important is your hearing anyway? Have you given this much thought? Of the senses that tend to lessen with time, I believe hearing is the most essential. While loss of vision separates us from the world around us, loss of hearing separates us from other people. Connecting with others is what keeps our minds young and active. The ability to hear also allows us to appreciate music, savor the sounds of nature and enjoy the delighted laughter of grandchildren.

Preserve What You Have

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How Long Do I Really Have?

The women in my family tend to live long, healthy lives. My grandmothers both lived independently into their late 80s or early 90s. One actually tried an assisted living facility but decided it wasn’t for her so found a small cottage to rent. My mother is still very youthful and active at nearly 70.

Some of the men aren't doing so bad in the longevity area either. My dad is going strong at almost 77 and his oldest brother intends to hit 100 (he's close to 90 now). So these are the examples I look to. I plan to go to at least 100, so I guess I’d better get started!


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