Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life-Changing Habits for the New Year

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Do you plan to? Maybe you're into "goals" instead? Or do you forgo the whole resolution process beings it's usually doomed to failure anyway?

Well, have I got an alternative for you! Marcus Sheridan over at The Sales Lion recently posted about 20 Life-Changing Habits That Will Make 2012 Your Best Year Ever. Instead of listing things you SHOULD do, Marcus highlighted 20 things to STOP doing. I read them through and I have to say - it's brilliant! What a way to think outside the box - well done, Marcus!

Of the 20, I've already stopped doing some, such as watching the news. But is it cheating if you don't even have television? Well, I used to spend way too much time with the news online and it was a huge benefit when I quit filling my time and head with a bunch of negatives. Truthfully, when I'm away from home and get exposed to tv news, I'm appalled. I mean, really, how many times can they run the same bad news over and over and over and . . . Isn't there any good news? I know the answer is yes but you certainly can't tell by watching the news on tv. Ok, enough of that rant.

The main thing on Marcus' list that I want to stop doing is:

"19. Stop Consuming So Much Information without Doing Anything

Seriously, do you really think that next eBook for $27.99 is going to tell you way more than you already know? It amazes me how many people would rather ‘consume’ all day than actually apply the teachings they’ve been reading and hearing again and again and again.

The fact is most of us don’t need any more information, we just need to actually do something."

Was he thinking of me when he wrote this? Seriously. I think he was! I have several folders on my computer filled with eBooks telling me how to do this and how to do that. And today I almost bought yet another "get organized and get it all done" eBook. I really DO need to stop consuming info and TAKE ACTION instead!

So there you have it - my New Year's resolution. Now why don't you head on over to The Sales Lion and read about the other 18 things to stop doing in 2012?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yes, YOU CAN Lose Weight After 50

How to lose weight after 50.

Who wants to lose weight in 2012? Or, even if you don’t want to lose weight, who wants to be less flabby in 2012? Yep, that’s what I thought - YOU do. Me, too! While I don’t actually need to lose weight any more (been there, done that plenty over the past 40 years), I sure would like what I have to be firmer (and positioned a little higher up would be nice, too - gravity can be so unkind!).

But is it even possible to lose weight after 50? Or does the 50+ metabolism slow to a snail’s pace and prevent you from shedding even a few pounds? Actually, the answer to the first question is YES. In fact, losing weight after 50 (or at any age) is simple. Not easy, but simple. Losing weight is a matter of consuming fewer calories than you use. Period. See? It is simple. But I know from personal experience that it is anything but easy!

How to Lose Weight After 50

Josh Farrell is a regular 50+ guy who shares his weight loss experience and advice in The Over-50's Guide to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off. Full of tips and nuggets of wisdom, Josh’s guide gave me a lot of food for thought. Keep in mind that I have dieted off and on for over 40 years. I’ve counted calories, I’ve counted carbs, I’ve done liquids, I’ve eaten just certain foods or at just certain times - if there’s a weight loss diet out there, I’m sure I’ve tried a rendition of it at some point. But what I found in the Over-50s Guide was refreshing. Not new, necessarily, but refreshing.

You see, Josh’s approach to weight loss is more about attitude than rules. And yes, what I have learned over the years is that losing weight, and then maintaining your ideal weight, requires a change in your attitude toward food. Or maybe your relationship with food is more accurate. But anyways, Josh has it covered.

What I Like About the Over-50s Guide

First off, the Over-50s Guide has a nice layout - landscape orientation for reader-friendly column width and easy-to-read font size, which I especially appreciate with my aging eyes. Secondly, Josh clearly presents his no-nonsense, doable approach to weight loss. Third on my list of things to like about the guide is that it is concise - no fluff or filler to pad the page count and waste my time. And fourth, the guide is reasonably priced at just $9.98. Good job, Josh!

What You Won’t Find in the Over-50s Guide

If you’re looking for the latest fad or some magic trick to lose weight, then this guide is NOT for you. Josh presents simple, practical info and tips that will work for anyone, even you. But there is no magic, no gimmicks, no strict diet.

So what are you waiting for? If losing weight is one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2012, grab a copy of The Over-50's Guide to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off!

Please note: Josh was kind enough to send me a review copy of the guide and I liked it enough to sign up as an affiliate. So if you click on a link and buy the guide, a portion of your purchase will go to me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Blessings to All

May you have a blessed Christmas filled with love and laughter.

(BTW, who let the elves out?)

Monday, December 19, 2011

DIY 7 Minutes to Whiter Teeth!

You all know that I'm totally into DIY, right? Well, I just found out about the easiest, most inexpensive way to whiten your teeth at home. Are you ready? Plain old hydrogen peroxide. You know - the stuff you can buy at any grocery store or pharmacy for about a dollar? All you do is swish it around your teeth, spit it out, and then rinse your mouth with water. Takes about one minute each morning and I noticed results in one week. Seriously. Noticeable results in just 7 days!

But is it Safe?

I was going to get all complicated and do a ton of research into this very question. But after reading some info from the American Dental Association and a few other websites, I went to check to make sure exactly which product I had. Guess what? Right on the label it recommends using hydrogen peroxide as a mouth rinse. So I guess that pretty much answers the safety question. Also, my dental hygienist told me a couple of years ago that I could swish with hydrogen peroxide daily as needed for gum health - she just didn't tell me it would whiten my teeth, as well, so I did it only a few times.

So how white are my teeth now? Not blindingly white, but I don't want them that bright! I'd just like to keep ahead of the tea stains that build up between my annual cleanings and this is definitely a way to do that. So far, I've had no negatives other than the stuff tastes nasty so I avoid getting it on my tongue as much as possible. Anyway, if you want whiter teeth for mere pennies, give hydrogen peroxide a try.

PS - I was too lazy to go take a picture of my peroxide bottle so the image is an Amazon affiliate link. But seriously, unless you're housebound or just prefer to have items delivered to your door, go to a grocery store or pharmacy. And for REALLY frugal teeth whitening, wait to buy until the hydrogen peroxide comes on sale.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Got any last minute gift ideas?
Yikes! Christmas Eve is only 10 days away! Are you ready? Well, I should be but I'm not. Although my daughter got me started in August, do you think I could finish up my gift shopping without a last minute crisis? NO! I've still got two neices left on my list.

So what to do? Well, I'm taking a really easy way out - it's called delegation. After brainstorming all the possible options to get me out of my pickle, I called my daughter and cried the blues. Well, it worked. She's going to do my shopping for me. And better yet, our shopping trip to Kohl's last weekend netted us $40 in Kohl's cash, which has to be spent by the 18th, so I may not even be out much money.

Wait a minute - how does this encourage me to get it together better next year? Hmm. I guess it doesn't. But anyway . . .

Last-Minute and Consumable Gifts

For those of you who are in a panic and don't have a willing love-to-shop daughter (and who don't know my daughter's phone number), there are several other last minute gift options. For a few ideas I've used each year, check out the following articles I wrote at Suite 101 two years ago.

What are your favorite last minute gift suggestions?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Homemade Fudge, Anyone?

I've been making homemade fudge every Christmas since 1974. I know some may think it's cheating but I like the kind made with chocolate chips and marshmallow cream. Why? Because it's easy and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. Not that marshmallow cream is a common kitchen staple but I buy enough when it's on sale each year to get me through.

Easy Homemade Fudge

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz package)
7 oz jar marshmallow cream
1 tsp vanilla
1cup chopped walnuts

  1. Combine the sugar, butter and milk in a sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted.
  4. Stir in marshmallow cream and vanilla, then beat with an electric mixer for a few minutes.
  5. Stir in chopped walnuts and pour into a lightly greased pan.
  6. Let set until firm, then cut and enjoy!

That's it! And you'll have about 3 pounds of delicious homemade fudge for gifts or to enjoy at home. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Affordable Christmas Shopping with Kids

I’m taking the local grandkids Christmas shopping at the dollar store this coming weekend. Although there are four of them now, one just turned a year old so I think I’ll have big sister shop for her. My daughter comes along so we’ll have two adults and only three kids, ages 3, 8 and 10. The 10-year old can also help the 3-year old so each child will be able to find appropriate gifts for everyone on their lists, including my daughter and me, without spoiling any surprises.

Our Christmas shopping goal is threefold:
  • Allow the kids to experience the joy of giving.
  • Teach the kids to be wise shoppers.
  • Provide enough guidance that the gift recipients don’t end up with junk.

Can we meet this goal at a dollar store? Absolutely! Although there is a lot of junk at dollar stores, there are also many nice items. The trick is to pick the treasures from the trash, which is a valuable skill for consumers of any age.

Last year, for instance, the 2-year old picked out a dishtowel for his aunt. He was going for color only but coincidentally chose one that seemed the best of the lot. Well, I saw the thing in auntie’s kitchen last week and it looks just about as good as when he bought it last Christmas. I know it’s been washed repeatedly and used this whole time so there’s a firsthand testimonial for decent quality finds at the dollar store.

Also, there’s usually a nice selection of:
  • Coloring/activity/puzzle books for all ages
  • “Consumable” gifts, such as stickers, note pads, kitchen scrubbies, etc.
  • Colorful calendars

An Early Christmas Memory

I remember shopping as a very young child. My parents took the three of us to the dime store. Remember dime stores? I guess they were the dollar stores of the 60s. Anyway, we’d each have some change in our pocket and off we’d go, up and down every aisle looking for treasures, in search of just the right gift for each other and our parents. What a treat! Well, at least for us - how my poor mother survived taking three kids under the age of five or six Christmas shopping is beyond me. But she did and it started a tradition that I continue 50 years later with my grandkids.

How to Shop with Kids

To make your dollar store shopping trip a success instead of a nightmare (I’ve had both), follow these tips:
  • Help each child make a list of everyone they are shopping for. This is best done in advance, like the night before. Limit the number of gifts to buy (we go with 10 because that’s how many quarters are in a roll) and start with parents and siblings. Then let the child fill the remaining slots on the list with anyone they want but help them remember close family and friends, teachers, etc. If they have more than 10 (or whatever your limit is), they need to cut back the list. Provide guidance but let them have the final say (with the exception of parents and siblings, although they could buy one gift for the parents to share) - after all, it is their list.
  • Make sure everyone is well fed and has used the potty before leaving home. And I mean everyone. Go shopping in the morning for best results (less crowded store, less cranky kids) and plan around naptime, if necessary.
  • Hold on to their money for the little ones. Trust me, they will lose it. Then give them their money when they check out so that they can have the grownup fun of paying.
  • Postpone your own shopping until another time - this trip is just for the kids. Do buy some Christmas gift bags if you want, to make wrapping easy for the little ones.
  • Have a little extra cash for sales tax, if applicable. If you live in a state that collects sales tax, pay it out of your own pocket when each child checks out. The kids need to focus on selecting gifts. At the dollar store, they should be able to get one item for each person on their list without having to worry about setting aside extra money for sales tax, too. There’s nothing to spoil holiday shopping like getting to the register and being a tad bit short of funds so pay their tax for them.
  • Pair an adult with each child under eight or so. Put anyone under four or so in the shopping cart. Have older kids pick an adult with whom to shop. Take the little ones around the store to the areas you know are most appropriate given the people for whom they are shopping. This helps them focus and avoid getting completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices. Let older kids take you around the store and help them make wise decisions, as needed. Your job is to educate them as consumers while letting them have the final say.
  • Swap kids with another adult, if needed, so that each child can shop for each adult without spoiling the surprise.
  • Limit your trip to just an hour or so. You want this to still be fun when it’s done!

Gift Wrapping - the Fun Continues!

Take the kidlets straight home and have some lunch or a snack. Then help them wrap and label all their gifts. If you bought gift bags, this part should be easy. If not, be sure to have blunt scissors and LOTS of paper and tape!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can You Avoid Holiday Weight Gain?

We spent the four-day Thanksgiving weekend with kids and grands. In addition to the turkey day food-fest, we also celebrated a birthday on Saturday. What all this means is food . . . LOTS of food. In fact, according to my daughter's digital scale, I gained 2.4 pounds on Thanksgiving alone!

Now, I know that isn't even possible. In order to gain that much weight, I would have to consume over 8,000 more calories than I burned. Even if I did nothing but lie on the couch and eat ALL DAY, I don't think I could possibly gain 2+ pounds overnight. But it got me to thinking about how easy it is to gain weight after 50 and especially over the holidays.

Holiday Weight Maintenance Secret

So how can you avoid holiday weight gain? Portion control. That’s right, control your portions. I know, I know . . . easy to say but hard to do. But yes, it really is that simple.
  • Eat what you want but in moderation.
  • Enjoy each meal but leave room for desserts.
  • Use a small plate.
  • Take small helpings of your favorite foods.
  • Decline foods that you don’t absolutely love.
  • Forego second helpings.
  • Limit your indulgence to just one day, not every day between Thanksgiving and January 1st.

Ok, so who am I to give advice? After all, I’m the one with the 2.4 pound overnight weight increase, right? Well, yes and no. The scale did show the increase but there are many things that can cause overnight weight gain, such as excess sodium, different clothes, etc. - pigging out on just one day won’t really do it. Pigging out day after day, however, is another story . . .

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 Reasons I am Thankful . . .

Photo collage by Karen Balvin, Sunlitway Photography (
Thanks, Karen!

Aren't grandkids the greatest?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Live to Be 100: Should You Take Baby Aspirin Every Day?

Aspirin therapy - yes or no?
The November 2011 issue of Reader's Digest has 12 tips on how to live to be 100 (see page 187). Number six advises asking your doctor about taking a single 81 mg low-dose aspirin to help prevent heart attack, stroke and cancer. The article also cautions that aspirin use has risks, so be sure to consult your doctor BEFORE starting.

Then I read a September 2011 Costco Connection article on how to make your real age younger (page 37 - and yes, I'm behind on my reading) which states, "If you're over the age of 40 (women) or 35 (men), take two baby aspirin (162 mg total) at breakfast; just make sure to get  your doctor's approval first."

Ok - so which is it? One or two? I'm well over 40 and have been taking one baby aspirin each morning for quite some time. Do I now need to double up? If so, no problem because it's already a habit.

But wait! Further research online turns up some interesting info at the Mayo Clinic website. According to Daily Aspirin Therapy: Understand the Benefits and Risks, "You should consider daily aspirin therapy only if you've had a heart attack or stroke, or you have a high risk of either. And then, only take aspirin with your doctor's approval."

What? I get the second sentence but have not previously heard the first. So do I have a high risk for heart attack or stroke? No. And what about cancer prevention? The Mayo Clinic article doesn't even mention that. It does address stopping aspirin therapy, however, and this may be even more important! In answer to what happens if you stop taking aspirin every day, the article goes on to say that “. . . stopping daily aspirin therapy can have a rebound effect that may increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.”

Are you kidding me? Is this a case of damned if I do and damned if I don’t? What happens if I just miss a day or two? Will that trigger the rebound effect that increases my risk? Or does it take longer? Hmm. Well, beings I have my doctor's blessing to take one baby aspirin each day, I'll continue on with that. But I guess I need to start taking it when I’m away from home, as well. And the next time I go in, I'll ask if I should up my daily intake to two.

So, what about you? Have you talked to your doctor about whether or not you should take baby aspirin every day?

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Hairdo - the Big Reveal!

Finally! Some photos of my SHORT hairdo taken with my daughter's cell phone the day of the "correction." I'm also re-posting the before picture from my original DIY hair donation post for comparison. And if you missed the backstory on this new do, you can get the scoop in my DIY Hair Donation Update.

Having short hair has been kind of fun (except it's a little cold - I probably should have done this in the spring). I've gotten mixed reactions to this new look but even the naysayers seem to have gotten used to it now. Mostly folks commend me for sacrificing my hair to help some woman I will never meet who has lost hers while battling cancer. Well, that was exactly the point. And I'll do it again when it regrows if I'm not too gray by then to be eligible.

Before hair donation.

After hair donation.

So . . . what do you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blogging for Beginners by Felicia A. Williams

Old cover . . .

Blogging for Beginners Make Money Blogging is a new eBook just released by Felicia A. Williams that gives a newbie basic info and techniques to be a successful blogger and earn money blogging. For those who don't know, Felicia is a full-time blogger/writer that I "met" online a couple of years ago. Since that time, I’ve become a faithful follower of No Job for Mom, the little slice of cyber-heaven where Felicia shares what she’s learned to help others “free themselves from the rat race in order to have a more fulfilling life . . .”

Read Blogging for Beginners Make Money Blogging to learn everything you need to know to, well, make money blogging. In classic Felicia-style, you will find no tricks, gimmicks or get rich schemes. What you will find is clearly presented, solid information on setting up your blog, choosing blog topics, posting frequency, search engine optimization and much more.

NEW cover!!!
So what are you waiting for? For just $9.98 you can grab yourself a copy of Blogging for Beginners Make Money Blogging and be on the road to success! (And yes, that image is an affiliate link but I would still have gladly written this post without it. After all, if Felicia were a rock band, I would be her biggest groupie!)

Please note: This post was updated 11/18/11 to reflect the new title. It's the same great info but with an updated cover that gives a clearer indication of the contents.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Goodbye ArtFire

After reexamining my goals and evaluating the numbers, I’ve decided to let my Wilderness Crafter ArtFire studio go. I’ve enjoyed selling there but spending more time and money to maintain the studio just doesn’t make sense. While the site is easy to use and very seller-friendly, my sales volume does not justify the monthly fee - and I really never wanted to have a handcraft “business” anyway.

I don’t remember how I found out about ArtFire but it was shortly after I started selling on Etsy. My primary goal at both venues was to destash my excess (mostly vintage) craft books and supplies "so my daughter never has to" with the secondary idea of maybe unloading some of the excess handcrafted items I’ve made over the years. Although I usually dig into my stash to make Christmas and birthday gifts, there is a limit to the amount of handcrafted stuff that even I can off on family and friends.

When I joined ArtFire, the basic account was free. I didn’t have access to a lot of the cool seller features but the basic studio more than met my needs. Then about 13 months ago, I signed up for a special pro-seller rate when they started to transition their business model toward paid seller accounts only. I figured I’d give it to the end of 2011 and then make a decision on whether to continue. Well, it’s not quite the end of the year, but the correct decision is obvious.

So How Will I Destash Now?

So how will I continue “destashing my stuff now so my daughter never has to” if I close my ArtFire studio? Well, I still have my Etsy shop although it’s set to vacation mode indefinitely. I had such trouble signing up there (I’m sure it was me, not them) that I don’t want to delete my account just yet. As Etsy’s business model includes listing and transaction fees but no monthly fee, it won’t cost me anything to take my time on this decision.

As mentioned in a previous post on hobby clutter, I also belong to a few Yahoo Groups on which I can list sewing/quilting/craft supplies and materials. Posting to these groups has proven to be a much more expedient way to find new homes for my excess stuff. It’s a little tricky to keep track of all the posting rules, however. For instance, one group prohibits the sale of items “related to business.” Although I never intended to be in “business” selling crafting supplies or handcrafted items, apparently I will NEVER be able to post any item to this particular group that was ever listed on ArtFire. In addition, any material that was used in any handcrafted item ever offered for sale in any venue is prohibited - even if the handcrafted item was simply made to use up my stash and not originally made to be sold.

So What Have I Learned?

I think the biggest lesson from nearly two years with ArtFire is that it is easy to get distracted from my real goal. If my goal were to sell handcrafted items and crafting supplies, it would have been time well spent. Since my goal is to simply reduce 40+ years of accumulation to a manageable level, there are better ways to go about it. Add in the fact that there are usually a couple of months each year that shipping is nearly impossible because I’m not willing to snowshoe a book or pattern 5+ miles so I can get to the car to drive 20 miles to drop it in the mail. So part of the year, I need to pull back and focus my attention elsewhere (like on drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire).

The second lesson I learned is that the simplest solution is often the best (and I think this holds true in most areas of life). Posting items on sites like ArtFire and Etsy is very time consuming, as you have to take, edit and upload multiple photos, and write detailed, creative descriptions. When you have mostly singular items for less than $10 each, it’s a lot of work for little return. Posting to the Yahoo Groups is easy, however. Potential buyers usually know exactly what you’re selling and don’t require sales copy or photos from every angle.

So Goodbye ArtFire! It’s been fun but I’m moving on. And if anyone has suggestions for groups or sites on which to list sewing/quilting/craft stuff, please leave a comment and let me know.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Back to Selling Used Books Online

Sell Used Books Online - Quick Cash, Free Shipping, Free Quotes!I can’t believe it’s been over two years since I last posted about selling books online! It’s become something I just do every once in a while when the declutter bug bites and I guess I forgot to write about it. Well, Felicia over at posted about selling old books on Amazon and there’s been quite a discussion going on. There’s always something new to learn there and I am so happy to have found out about!

The beauty of, other than the recommendation by another commenter on, is that there’s no minimum dollar amount or number of books. Many of the buyers require that you have at least $10 worth of books to sell, which can be a deal breaker if your books are only bringing in a dollar or so each and you can’t find enough that you want to get rid of to reach the $10 minimum.

My Book Sales Experience

Over that past two years, I’ve shipped off several small boxes of books and have been paid by check, through PayPal and with credit. Although the amounts received are small, the buyer provides a prepaid shipping label so there’s no cost involved. To date, I’ve sold mostly to Powell’s because they require “a minimum of 3 books or $5.00 of credit,” which works best for me as I rarely find $10 worth of books to sell at one time. I’ve also transitioned from going for the cash to opting for credit with Powell’s because I get more for my books and I’ll always be able to spend it to get books that I want for free.

Now that I know about Cash4Books, I have another option for my book sales. I’m so pleased about this that I’ve added a graphic link to this post and to the sidebar (both affiliate, btw). I’ve already found one book to sell and am on the lookout for more. But if I don’t find any, they’ll take just the one! How cool is that?

So far my online book-selling experience is just with sites that buy titles based on their needs at the time - and there are MANY. Check out to compare offers from numerous sites for your books. As for selling on Amazon? I haven’t tried that simply because they require that you ship within two business days and there is no way I can commit to doing so.

So What’s the Deal with These Oregon Book Buyers, Anyway?

A little thing I find interesting is that Cash4Books is an online used book buying service owned and operated by, which is located in Beaverton, Oregon. Powell’s is in Portland. Beaverton is just a few miles west of Portland. I guess I noticed this simply because I have family in the area. I’ve actually been to the Powell’s store a couple of times, which I highly recommend if you’re ever in Portland, and I’ve driven through Beaverton many times. Obviously this all falls in the insignificance category but is just one of those small-world coincidences that pop up every now and again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Looking Forward to the Time Change

I am SO looking forward to the time change this year. In previous years, it hasn't mattered to me much, but this year I'm excited! Since I started walking each day before breakfast (which is working out really well, btw), the absolute darkness remaining later and later as the days go by has become a nuisance. And maybe it's even a little bit of a safety issue. There I am, traipsing around out in the woods - yes, I'm on a nice path but when there is no light, rocks just seem to jump out to trip you! And I'd hate to surprise myself and a bear. Highly unlikely one would be out at that time but who knows? Also, I'd really like to eat by 7am, but when it's still too dark to walk without stumbling over rocks until after then . . . Well, let's just say that when 8am becomes 7am in just two more days, I will be thrilled!

Monday, October 31, 2011

DIY Hair Donation Update

Well, it's done - at least the cutting off part. So my hair donation in honor of my cancer-survivor friend and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month will go to Pantene Beautiful Lengths in the mail tomorrow. As you can see with the pieces laying on the label sheet (8.5x11 inches), I far exceeded the 8 inch donation requirement.

DIY Hair Donation Lessons Learned

So how did it go? It's a little shorter (ok, a lot) than anticipated. And we learned that shaping is best left to a professional. In fact, I plan to have it evened up the next time I'm out, which will probably be Nov. 8. Yes, I know that's a week and a half away, but I don't think I have any reason to make the 50 mile RT to town before then. Anyway, I'll post a picture of the new do once it's finished.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cash for Hobby Clutter

Get cash for hobby clutter!
I am so excited! I’m actually making money decluttering my hobbies! Over the years, I’ve accumulated an insane amount of sewing/quilting/craft stuff. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even know what all I have. Really. Kind of embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Well, enough is enough! So I’ve gotten serious about finding buyers for my excess. And trust me, MOST of it is excess.

First Step: Letting Go

The hardest part is letting go. I’m sure I have inherited hoarder tendencies (thanks Grandma H), which are compounded by living so remotely for much of my adult life that it just makes sense to have whatever you might need for any project always on hand. So I had to ask myself what is my REAL goal - and the real goal at this point in my life is to clear out the clutter. I have a ton of hobby stuff I will never use due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • No longer interested in that hobby
  • Aging eyesight and/or hands make it less enjoyable
  • I can’t possibly live long enough to use all this stuff

 Although I’d like to recoup some of what I’ve spent, making money is not the primary goal.

 Second Step: Finding Buyers

Although yard sales and Craigslist are common ways to sell your stuff, I haven’t used either for a variety of logistical and practical reasons. I have used both Etsy and Artfire with some success, but my best return for time invested lately has been Yahoo Groups. I’ve been a member of three very focused groups for years - Sew It’s For Sale, Craft Items For Sale and Quilter’s Flea Market. I used to be mostly a buyer but now have turned to just selling. (Well, I did backslide two days ago and order four books, but for the most part, I’ve been good!) The beauty of these groups is that I have a super-targeted audience looking specifically for the kinds of stuff I have.

In the past week+, I’ve unloaded nearly three dozen yards of fabric, six quilting patterns/books, five packs of grosgrain ribbon, and 11 fashion discs for a Singer 503A. After PayPal fees and postage, I’ve netted almost $250 - for stuff I no longer want. How cool is that? Am I going to get rich? No, but that isn’t the goal. Is this a long-term moneymaker? No, I WILL eventually run out of excess (yippee!). But for now, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy converting my clutter into cash.

So How About You?

Have you ever made any money decluttering your hobby? If so, how? And even if you haven’t, do you have some ideas to share?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DIY Hair Donation - Who Knew?

My hair before donation.
Did you know that you can donate hair from home? I sure didn't! Maybe this is common knowledge but somehow I missed the memo. Anyway, I've always wanted to donate my hair but thought you had to go to a salon authorized to wash and cut the hair and then they send it in. The logistics (and expense) of having a professional cut don't work for me so I've yet to donate my hair.

Well, beings it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my longest-term friend (since 8th grade!) is a cancer survivor who did lose all her hair during chemo, and I'm about desperate for a trim now, I Googled "donate hair" and guess what? I can do this myself at home! Although there are several programs that take hair, I'm planning to send mine to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which is a partnership between Pantene and the American Cancer Society. Another excellent program is Locks of Love, which provides wigs for kids, but they require 10 inches of hair and Pantene will take just 8 inches.

To donate to either place, you just wash and dry your hair without styling products, put it in a ponytail, and cut above the rubber band. Then you put the banded hair in a ziplock bag and send it in a padded envelope. How easy is that? So if you'd like to donate your hair, hit the websites for specific requirements. For instance, some accept colored (but not bleached or highlighted), permed or gray hair and some don't. Also, length requirements vary. So just read the donation requirements to make sure your hair can be used once it is received by the program.

So now all I have to do is get my SIL or DD to cut my hair. Once it's done, I'll post an after picture.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our Univited Guest

My uninvited guest.
Well, I woke up to an uninvited guest in the kitchen this morning. That's right - somehow this scorpion found his way into our sink. Where did he come from and how did he get there? I sure would like to know! And he's not the first. I found a teeny, tiny one on my bathroom counter a few weeks ago. And another on the wall a few years ago. And even had one in my pant leg several years back (they sting, btw - good thing I'm not allergic).  Hmm. You'd think I live in the wilderness or something. Oh yeah, that's right - I do!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Debit or Credit - Which Card Should You Use?

Debit and credit cards are both convenient ways to pay for things without carrying cash. The beauty of using a debit card is that you are spending your own money in real time rather than borrowing it from your credit card company at what is most likely an exorbitant interest rate. I rarely use my debit card, however, except to withdraw money from my bank. I also NEVER pay interest. Let me explain.

I use my VISA credit card to pay for most everything that I can, including our car and home insurance, vehicle license renewals, etc. I then pay the balance IN FULL and on time each month, avoiding interest and late fees. My account has no annual fee and even earns points based on the amount spent, so each year I actually get a little back. But even if I got nothing, I’d still use my credit rather than my debit for one simple reason:

Fraudulent Charges

That’s right – fraudulent charges. I have two family members who recently dealt with fraudulent charges on their debit cards. Although unrelated, at different banks and months apart, both had charges of several hundred dollars originating in the UK hit their bank accounts. In both cases, the charges were obviously fraud but still took quite a bit of time and effort to resolve. We’re talking several phone calls, personal trips to the bank and paperwork. In the meantime, they were out the money – not a good thing if you have bills to pay.

In contrast, I noticed fraudulent charges on my VISA credit card account a while back. A simple phone call resolved the problem – the charges were immediately reversed and I was out nothing, not even for a minute. I also had the option of taking care of the problem online. I did have to wait for my new card to arrive (and I had my old number memorized – dang!), but that was the only inconvenience.

Should YOU Use Credit Instead of Debit?

So is using a credit instead of a debit card right for everyone? Only if you use your credit card like you would your debit card and spend only what you can pay in full each month. If you don’t have the self-discipline to do so, I guess you'd better stick with the debit card.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Walking in the Rain

First real rain of the season.
It's the little things you do every day that matter over time. This is true is all areas of life - money, health, relationships, etc. Fitness, for instance, requires regular exercise. My preference is walking each morning, followed by a routine of yoga and other stretches. Well, this morning was my first walk in the rain for the season. It was so fresh and clean smelling! It's amazing what a little rain will do - no dust on the trail, everything a little "softer" underfoot - really nice.

Do you have a regular fitness routine? If not, develop one NOW. Don't wait another day. Figure out what works for you and do it consistently. If necessary, try new things until you find the perfect fit. And if what you're doing quits working into your real life, tweak it. At any age, quality of life is key but it becomes increasingly important during the second half. Develop the habit of daily fitness to preserve your quality.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Couple of Ways to Manage with Half

Cut your dryer sheets in half.
Gip over at So Much More Life recently posed the question, "Could you manage with half?" This got me to thinking, so I decided to share a couple of ways I've been managing with half for years.

Use Half the Recommended Amount

Over 25 years ago I started cutting dryer sheets in half as soon as I opened the box. Just grab out little stacks of a dozen sheets or so and cut them across the middle to get twice as many loads for the same price. And if you have a load you fear will still have static, splurge and throw in two halves!

Using half the recommended amount of many common products often produces satisfactory results. So why don't you give it a try for a week or two and see where you can manage with half?

Make Items Do Dual Duty

We use pint canning jars as drinking glasses. They're sturdy, stable, work equally well for hot or cold beverages - what's the downside? And we have a ready supply! Well, we do sometimes run a little low if we have company during canning season, but  . . .

So look around. What do you have that can serve a dual purpose?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How to Live the Good Life - Part 1

I'm currently reading The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing. For those who don’t know, the Nearings left New York City in the early 30’s to pursue their ideals in rural Vermont and are considered the premier forerunners of the back-to-the-land movement so popular here in the U.S. several decades ago. While I don’t agree with them philosophically - in fact I totally identify with the native Vermonters - Scott and Helen Nearing do provide an interesting and detailed view of how they set about creating what for them was the “good life.”

When reading about the Nearings, I thought about how different the definition of “good life” can be, based on individual preferences, needs and wants. Then the question became - how does the average person today go about creating their vision of the good life? Hence this post, which I’ve dubbed Part 1 as I’m pretty sure I’ll have more to say on this subject.

Step 1: Define “Good Life”

How do you go about setting up the good life for yourself? Well first, you must define what “good life” means to you. What I think is good and what you think is good are likely very different. I know that what the Nearings saw as the good life is NOT how I would want to live.

So what is your ideal life? Really think about this - and make some notes! To get you started, consider the following five questions. And remember, there are no wrong answers.

  • In what type of place do you prefer to live? (City, country, deserted island, remote mountaintop?)
  • What kind of climate appeals to you? (Warm, cold, wet, dry, distinct seasons?)
  • What people, pets and/or possessions are close at hand in your ideal life?
  • How do you spend your time while living the good life?
  • What areas are non-negotiable and where are you flexible?

Most people can imagine of more than one scenario that could be the good life so don’t think your answers to these questions are set in stone. Also, your ideal can (and usually does) change over time. But what is it right now? While it’s never too late to start creating your own good life, you won’t get there if you don’t even know what it is.

So how about it? What would be the “good life” for you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Will You Become a Millionaire?

An AP-CNBC Poll reported on Yahoo News this morning shows that folks aren't too confident about becoming millionaires these days. In the US, Great Britain and Australia, less than 30 percent of those surveyed think it's likely that their personal net worth will total at least a million dollars/pounds in the next ten years. In fact, the US weighed in at just 21 percent and Britons at a dismal eight percent.

Reading further, it's no mystery why those quoted won't make it. Although the stated priorities if they had a million include "save it, invest it, buy real estate, pay down debt," no one seems to be doing any of that now. Instead, they're waiting to win the lottery or marry into money while spending whatever they make and maybe even more. I know, I know - saving money in this economy is impossible for the Average Joe. But guess what? Making wise financial decisions is possible for anyone every single day.

Is Being a Millionaire the Answer?

It's easy to confuse accumulated wealth with financial independence, but they are two very different things. Many people assume that a million dollar net worth equates to financial security. But think of the lottery winners you've heard about that are broke again in a few years. If you don't make wise financial decisions with what you have now, you are unlikely to start when you have more money.

The real key to the question here is not whether you need a million to be secure but how to be secure with what you have. Consider this: true financial security is not determined by how much you're worth but rather by how little you need. Granted, having more money can make it easier, but only if you use it wisely. If not, you can be back to scraping by in a hurry.

So how about it? Are you making wise decisions with your current finances, or are you just skating by wishing for your circumstances to change?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is Simplifying Ever Simple?

Ok - so I'm on a quest (yet again) to simplify my life. I have a to-do list started and am adding to it as I think of things - and at the top of this list are my convoluted Yahoo Groups memberships. You see, over the years I've created three yahoo email accounts and have subscribed to several groups under each one. This strategy made sense at the time but has long since outlived its usefulness. It's been so long, in fact, that I'm not sure I even know how to sign in to one of them. And I'm only active on a couple of groups, and that's intermittent, so . . . Anyway, I figure I'd just go in and delete everything, right?


Well, I finally get into obsolete account #1 and guess what? It's tied to my facebook account. That's right - since I joined fb a year or so ago, every time someone posted on someone's wall or made any of the countless other moves on fb that trigger an email, that's where it went. I'm up to 900 or so - and that's just because I only have a few dozen friends. So I obviously can't delete the Yahoo account in question or I'll be getting all that crap on my real email. Not good!

Why is it So Hard to Simplify?

Let's face it - it's very easy to get way too much going on. Sometimes it's conscious and sometimes things just slip by unnoticed at the time. Then all of a sudden, the realization hits - THIS IS CRAZY!

Yearning for a simpler life seems to be common these days. Just about everyone I know personally wants to cut back on clutter - material possessions, activities that take up so much precious time, digital and mental clutter, etc. So I've been spending a little time on the blogs of like-minded folks for inspiration and motivation.

Getting started paring down any area of your life is tough but following through and letting go is often even more difficult. That's why simplifying is so hard. And then there are the unforeseen roadblocks, like my yahoo and facebook accounts being tied together.

What To Do?

So what are my options? Well, I could just delete the Yahoo account, but I think that would have consequences that serve to complicate rather than simplify. I could leave everything as-is, but then I've made no progress whatsoever. I think my best course is to immediately eliminate what I can (900+email messages and five groups) and then work toward slowly transition elsewhere everything that I need to keep.

How are you simplifying your life?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Do You Hate the New Blogger Interface Too?

There's no denying that I am resistant to change - especially when the change is for the worse. Take the new Blogger interface, for instance. I must have at some point clicked the "Try the updated Blogger interface" link and brought this on myself but I don't remember doing so. At any rate, I HATE it! And not just a little bit. And not just because of my aversion to change. It really isn't an improvement in any way, shape or form that I can see and I have been posting way less often because it's so difficult and unpleasant.

If You Can't Say Something Nice . . .

On the other hand, I want to say that I am extremely grateful to Google for providing Blogger to us all for free. What a great opportunity for anybody to have a little piece of internet real estate! But the features of the old interface are so much better - why change? They say it's a sleeker design but to me it's sterile, unfriendly and not intuitive at all. Maybe I'm old.

How to Switch Back

The good news is that I accidentally found out how to switch back. There's a little checkbox next to some wording about Blogger in draft. Click that box and you should be using the old interface again. Happy blogging!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Casserole

Last night I made up a new recipe using a pound of ground beef and leftovers I found in the refrigerator. Now this may not sound like news – and it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve used leftovers to create a meal. What is newsworthy is the outstandingly yummy result! Who knew that would happen? I expected it would be edible but was pleasantly surprised that is was such a big hit.

Here’s what I found in the fridge (measurements approximate):
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 1½ cup steamed zucchini
  • ½ cup baked beans
  • 1½ cup grated cheese
  • 8 or 9 large corn tortillas

Here’s what I added:
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Sliced black olives

Here’s what I did:
  1. Sauté chopped onion until brown.
  2. Add ground beef and cook, stirring often.
  3. Puree leftover steamed zucchini and beans with about ¾ cup water in the blender.
  4. Stir pureed mixture into beef and heat through (looks like hamburger in gravy at this point).
  5. Tear up leftover corn tortillas and spread a layer in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.
  6. Top tortilla layer with about half the meat mixture and half the grated cheese.
  7. Lay on another layer of torn-up tortillas.
  8. Top with rest of meat mixture and rest of cheese.
  9. Sprinkle liberally with sliced olives.
  10. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove cover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes.
  12. Let sit 5 minutes or so and then serve.

We topped our casserole with sour cream and had freshly steamed zucchini (it’s about the only thing that’s producing well this year) as a side dish. Quick, easy, cheap and delicious – you can’t get better than that!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents

My SIL sent me a link to an outstanding article about what teachers really want to tell parents in which award-winning teacher Ron Clark lays it out on the line. Two key points I’d like to share are:
  • Quit with all the excuses. Do you ever make excuses for tardiness to class or late assignments? Enough already! Let your child deal with the logical consequences that follow specific behavior – such as detention or an F. What do you think is going to happen later in life when your child is late to work or fails to complete assigned tasks? It’s best to learn these lessons in school to develop punctuality and a strong work ethic for use in the real world when the consequences may include job loss. And now for your reading enjoyment here,  a relevant excerpt from the article “If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.”
  • Be a partner instead of a prosecutor. New flash! Your kid is not always in the right. Nor is it likely that your kid being persecuted. If the teacher has a problem with your child, don’t get defensive or assume it’s the teacher’s fault. Work with the teacher to correct the problem even if it means correcting your child’s behavior. Kids need to learn to deal with all kinds of personalities and situations to become successful, functioning adults and they need parental guidance to do so. That being said, don’t blindly assume it’s your child, either. There are a few truly horrible teachers out there – like the one my daughter had in the 5th grade. But with four kids going through the public education system, that’s the only truly horrible teacher I encountered. So, let’s see – if each child only had one teacher each year for 13 years (including kindergarten), one teacher out of 52 is still less than 2 percent. Considering that children usually have multiple teachers from about 6th grade on, in reality it’s probably less than 1 percent. So there’s not a lot of chance of getting a truly horrible teacher.
Note to Grandparents
I know the grandkids are cute and all. I know they’re just too, too sweet. BUT – don’t be blinded by love and adoration. Do the little darlings a favor and forward a link to What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents to your kids.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Save Big Money on Christmas Gifts at Department Stores

Christmas is coming!
Are you ready?
With the exception of gifts for her child, my daughter is done with her Christmas shopping. Yes, that’s right, DONE. And it’s only August. And she saved a ton of money. It doesn’t get much better than that! Here are a few examples of how she did it.

Upscale Department Store Sales

Most department stores have sales year-round. If you check the weekly ads, you can get good ideas and good prices, even at upscale department stores. For instance, my daughter found a small kitchen appliance needed by a key person on her list at Macy’s for 60% off. So she was able to stay within her budget and get a nicer model of this particular item for $20 (instead of $50).

Combine Discounts and/or Partner Up!

Moving on to another store, she got a great gift on sale at Kohl’s. The price was so good, I don’t know how that store even stays in business! Anyway, without giving away the secret, she found an 11-piece set that is regularly $299 for $135. Yes, that’s right, $135.  (Hint: shop early for additional discounts – the sale price was actually $180 but was even further reduced the first few hours.) As she doesn’t buy gifts that expensive for anyone on her list, she partnered with me. She also had 20% off that day and $10 Kohl's Cash, so the total price was less than $100. My budget for this particular recipient is $70 so that’s what I chipped in, which brought her share down within her budgeted amount. How cool is that?

Don’t Waste Those Coupons

Then she had a $10 off any purchase coupon for JCPenney’s and found a really cute gift (regularly $40 on sale for $15) for one niece, spending just $5. A couple of days later she got a $10 off a $25 purchase coupon so went back and got a nice gift for another niece.

What Are You Waiting For?

So check the sale ads. If you don’t get sale ads in the paper or by mail, not to worry! Most of these same ads can be viewed online. Just go to the store’s website (usually and look for a link to the current local ad.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? If not, why not? Bottom line is you can save big if you shop early, shop the sales, and take advantage of coupons. So do yourself a favor and beat the Christmas rush. Don’t wait until Black Friday or later sales - take advantage of the slower pace and shop now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

See My Gallon-of-Berries Pie!

My Gallon-of-Berries Pie!

We’ve got blackberries - and lots of them! My sweet hubby went out picking this morning and I’ve been washing and freezing berries on cookie sheets to be put in freezer bags for later use. Well, I decided to use my new birthday pie dish (thanks, Karen!) and make a delicious blackberry pie, as well.

What I didn’t realize is how BIG a pie I was going to make! I knew the pie dish was large but thought it was just about twice the size of a regular pie pan. Wrong! It’s really more like triple the size! So here’s the result - a blackberry pie with about one gallon of berries.

Easy Blackberry Pie How-to
For those who’ve never made a blackberry pie, it’s really easy. For one regular size pie:
  1. Just toss ½ cup sugar and ½ cup flour with 4 cups blackberries.
  2. Line your pan with your favorite rolled crust and spoon in the filling.
  3. Put on the top crust, roll and pinch the edges, and then cut some vent holes in the center.
  4. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes and then turn the heat to 375 degrees and bake another 20-25 minutes.

Tip: To avoid a mess in the bottom of your oven, put the pie pan on a cookie sheet.

Oh! And if you’re going to make a double or triple size pie like me, leave it in 2-3 times as long at 375 degrees. You’ll know it’s done when you can see the filling bubbling through the vent holes.

Now What?
Now the question here on the home front is: What on earth are two 50ish couples and a geriatric diabetic going to do with a gallon-of-berries pie?