"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Still Looking Elsewhere

>> Thursday, January 31, 2008

My motivation is still off today. And I know it’s bad because I can’t even bring myself to work on more vacation planning. Maybe it was because I was looking at all those Ireland listings yesterday and realizing that what would be affordable in US dollars was not so affordable when it came to euros.

Or my motivation could be off because it’s just so freakin’ cold here. Global warming, my a$$. So, since I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else I checked out some Panama properties.

Panama uses the US dollar so there’s no converting. And it’s warm. Which, even for this non-beach girl, is a big plus right now.

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Not On This Bandwagon...

A little bit ago I posted that I had hopped on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon.

But there is another bandwagon that people seem to be hopping onto that I don't plan to get on. It's the John McCain bandwagon. How this man came back from last place to be leading the Republican nomination is beyond me. Does noone remember the McCain Feingold Campaign Reform Bill? How about the McCain Lieberman Stewardhsip Act? Does McCain Kennedy Immigration Reform mean anything?

Obviously not.

Ugh. While I gather my thoughts I want to give you this to chew on: How many illegals break the law?


Answer: ALL of them.

OK, back to McCain. Yes, the man is a war hero. But he is no conservative. The only thing I agree with him on is to win in Iraq. And I'm not really sure he means that half the time. But looking at his issues the man scares me.

I see he has a tax cut plan, yet he voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. He says that our borders must be secure, yet he went "across the aisle" to Kennedy and called those who were against amnesty racist- until he realized that the majority of Americans were opposed to it.

The more I read his plans the more terrified I become. If he wins we may get a Republican in the white house but we certainly won't have a Conservative.

Anyone else think it's time for a legitimate third party- for Conservatives?

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Know When to Hold 'Em

Here’s something I don’t get: the economy sucks (according to the media) yet if you look at Las Vegas people are still visiting in droves and filling the seats at all those high buck shows and casinos.

OK, I get it a little. It’s kind of like playing the lottery with your last $10 and hoping to hit the numbers. But if you’re going to play in Vegas why not play at something that makes sense- buying a condo.

Now, if you don’t have the money for your own house just forget I said this and move on. But if you are looking to invest in property Vegas is a place that makes sense. The cost of buying is down right now and sales are up. It may be the only place in the nation where homes are selling.

The ONELas Vegas condos feature the privacy of home with the fun of the Las Vegas strip. Heck, this may be one "sure thing" in Vegas...


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Hopped On The Bandwagon

I went out and bought both Total Money Makeover and Total Money Makeover Workbook by Dave Ramsey. The workbook had to be ordered, so I'm not sure if I needed it or not... But I'm sure it can't hurt!

I'm pretty amped on this whole debt free living thing and I actually believe we can be without debt (other than our house) by the end of the year. Besides, with the Republican nominations being led by McCain (who is so not fiscally conservative!) I figure we need to have as little debt as possible before we have a completely liberal power in DC.

While I was reading the book I realized just how much stuff Doug & I have that we don't need- or use- or even really notice. Thankfully we are able to pay cash so we aren't racking up debt. But what we aren't doing is working toward paying our debt down quickly.

So, what am I doing... Well, I've figured out our debt snowball plan, as that is the second step. I'm hopeful about this plan because you can see debt disappearing faster. Everything I've ever read says "high interest goes away first". By getting rid of the smallest stuff first you see progress faster- which keeps you going. Simple, yet brilliant.

I'm slowly going through our house and taking everything we haven't used in the past year and moving it to my garage sale pile. This includes DVDs that we bought, watched once, and don't care to see again. There will be piles of DVDs.

Other than that I am just cutting costs as I am in a holding pattern until step 2 is done.

Obviously a vacation isn't "cutting costs" but we paid for that with cash and will have cash from our tax refund to use for it (as well as cover costs from Doug missing a week of work) so I'm not too stressed about it causing a problem. But I will be watching what we spend money on while we are there...

I'm hoping Doug gets excited about this. Right now I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm a bit crazy and is waiting for it to pass.

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Chocolate For All!

I like chocolate. A lot. In fact, I’m kind of a chocolate snob. Because there really is a difference in chocolates. With a good, rich piece of chocolate I am able to really saver one piece (ok, maybe two) and be done. With inexpensive chocolate I just can’t get the same fulfillment. So I eat more.

I honestly wasn’t aware that you could even buy Organic Valentine's Chocolate, but it makes sense as you make chocolate from cocoa beans.

KatesCaringGifts.com carries a variety of organic chocolates (and even vegan varieties) created by master chocolatiers and specially packaged for Valentine’s Day. Searching the site I also found organic chocolate massage oil and passion candles.

Any gift ideas popping into your mind?

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Here's What I've Been Doing

>> Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I just can't get motivated... So I have been looking at real estate- in Ireland.

I found a Gothic Church, a couple of castles and a few homes that seem like they were built as B&Bs.

I would so sell evrything and go...

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Is Your Phone Just a Phone?

I remember my first cell phone. It was roughly 2 pounds and looked like a cordless phone did- about 10 years ago. It wasn’t “the brick” but it was much bigger than what I have today.

Phones are so much more than phones, now, too. My phone keeps track of my schedule, take pictures, send email and serve as my alarm clock. Oh, it makes calls, too. With Cell Phone Wallpapers, customizable ring tones, screen savers and games your phone can be practically anything you need it to be.

Is your phone more than a phone? What's your favorite feature?

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No Motivation

My day began with a nightmare at 5:30 am. Nothing like a terrifying dream to get your heart racing and your butt out of bed.

It did, however, get me on the elliptical machine earlier so I was done & showered before the girls got out of bed. I've been on my lovely elliptical every morning this week (yea me!) so at least I have the energy to get through this long day.

Brenna had school this morning which left Caelan and I to run errands.

First stop- the accountant. I needed a price point list for itemized donations of clothing and household items. My appointment with him is Friday. I have everything in order and am looking forward to a nice return to get back to us before we leave on vacation.

Next- Target. I had a few items on my list (jeans for Brenna since she had a growth spurt, Puffs, frozen chopped parsley (love this stuff! You use it just like fresh but it doesn't go bad. Yes, I plan to grow my own- I hope- this summer), a magazine that I thumbed through and didn't end up getting.... And a few things that weren't on my list 3 shirts for me (Merona makes a T shirt that is double-layered on the front. I heart them), baggies for Brenna's V-Day goodies (from the dollar bin), dessert for the girls and I tonight as Doug will be gone.

I ran into a woman from church who told me that she had recommended me to the ladies who are planning our Women's Retreat. They are looking for new topics and she said that I could speak on a myriad of things- kid friendly food, travel with kids, blogging for fun and profit... :)

Then it was off to Family Christian Store. Veggie Tales Lord of the Beans was on sale (think Lord of the Ring)- and I had a coupon. I also had a coupon for "Buy One Get One Half Off" so I got the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover (so I can write in it) and the workbook.

Panera is right next to FCS so we ran in for bread to make Friday's dinner- Pumpkin French Toast. Yum!

Then to the insurance agent's to drop off an HSA application.

Whew! Doesn't sound like I was without motivation this morning, does it?

But now, here I am at my desk, plenty to do... And I only want to veg in front of the TV.

The available PPP opportunities don't thrill me- and if I'm not interested I know you won't be- and the pile of items in front of me just don't look inviting.

Hmmm, work or relax? Relax or work? Yeah, I'll probably end up working.

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And the Winner Is..


Yea! Just tell me what kind of chocolate you like and it will be delivered to you door along with all my handpicked goodies!

One item for next month's scrap bribing is already on it's way to me... A really fun market tote by Janine King.

Guess you'll have to come back to see what I put in it!

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How Well Do You Know Your World?

>> Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This travel IQ game is making me crazy! It's so freakin' addictive.

Traveler IQ Challenge

Prepare to be amazed at what you don't know!

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Financially Set for 2008?

There seems to be a lot of fear and panic in the media about 2008 being a bad year, financially, for many people. This really bothers me as 2008 has barely begun the media seems to breed fear and doom like rabbits breed, well, rabbits.

I’m really not too worried about our financial situation. I am working on reducing our debt and paying off the few annoying credit cards we do have. I actually sat down and figured out that if we actually work at our debt reduction (instead of just playing at reducing it) we could have no debt, other than our house) by the end of the year.

I was telling Doug that we would be able to destroy all of our credit cards. “But we need at least one”, he tells me. Hopefully I can get him to change his mindset, but if I can’t you can bet I will compare credit cards to get the very best rate.

I will be working quite hard to make sure my plans follow the path I have laid out. If I have my way we won’t need to look for any secured loans in the future.

While I was clicking through BeatThatQuote.com I noticed they have a "debt help" section. I kind of dig this: Their GOOD (Get Out Of Debt) steps to financial RECOVERY-
R: responsibility is yours so accept it
E: extent of debt you are in
C: create ways to increase your income
O: obliterate or reduce none essential spending
V: verify which debts require immediate action
E: embark on short-term repayment negotiations
R: reassess your debt situation for the long-term
Y: you are in control

Good advice. You can check out more from BeatThatQuote.com if you click here.

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New Stuff... And Basic Rambling

Did you all notice the new toy on the right? Yep, the one that says "Our Favorite Things". These are all things that we have, use and love. Many of them are reviewed on my travel blog, complete with detailed photos and the fun we have with them.

In fact, I just reviewed a new mess-free toy yesterday. Popover and check it out. I'll be here when you get back.

Yesterday I borrowed Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover from the library. I'm half way through it (no small feat with two little ones crawling all over me every time I sit down) and will probably buy it soon as A)I can see myself referring back to it often and B) I know I won't get Doug to read it before it has to be returned. I have to say that the stories submitted by real people who followed his plan are encouraging. I've got to set the TiVo to record his show...

Today holds no excitement for Casa Geek. After yesterdays warmth and melt off today brought frigid temperatures and driving winds. We don't have to leae the house- so we aren't. I forsee laundry, cleaning and banana-chocolate-chip muffins in our future.

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Well, That Ruins My View

I can honestly say that I don’t do windows. Well, other than a quick spray with Windex and a swipe along the interior glass. Does that count?

I can also, with much certainty, say that I will not be cleaning the exterior windows of this house. And, unless it involves a garden hose and some of that spray on cleaner that you attach to said hose, neither will Doug. Never mind the fact that we don’t have the tools to clean our large windows; I have a fear of heights. And ladders wobble.

You might wonder why I am thinking about this today when the wind is howling and snow is blowing horizontal to the ground. Well, a bird let loose in flight and now my picture window is rather, um, disgusting.

I saw this Window Cleaning service online. Unfortunately their closest location is in northern Missouri. If they were closer I’d be making an appointment.

Bird poo. Yuck.

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Now I have a reason to watch

I hope this is true. President Bush may not spend the money Congress critters from both parties want to spend. The rumour is that he'll make the announcement during tonight's State of the Union address.



UPDATE:
Well, it doesn't cover the $140 Billion just spent as earmarks, but it will cover future earmarks. I'm calling it a partial wuss-out.

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Wanna Go Someplace Warm?

OK, I'm sitting in frigid Iowa so warm, sunny places are quite inviting right now. Budget Travel has a contest going on right now and the prize is a trip to Australia. All you have to do is unscramble the puzzle. It's really quite easy- and once the pieces are in the correct spot they can't be moved.

Besides, it's rather fun.

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A Paid Off Geo vs. A Jeep Loan: An Analogy

I’ve been deeply in debt and I’ve been debt free. Being debt free was much, much better. Of course, that was after I had sold my house to move to Iowa. I made money on it and paid of absolutely everything. It was an incredible feeling.

Since I have become more aware of the economy it scares me to see all the ads on TV and in the mail for credit cards, pay day loans and consolidations. I know just how easy it is to fall for those…

When I was younger my goal was to own a Jeep Wrangler. Unfortunately I was self employed and had no credit to speak of. So I decided to buy a mini version of what I wanted- a Geo Tracker- and pay it down quickly so I could build the credit I needed for what I really wanted.

And that was just what I did. I had that sucker paid off in 9 months and traded it immediately on my dream vehicle. Of course, that took me from a fully paid off vehicle into another auto loan. Not entirely brilliant, I know. And it just enforced the thought that owing money is a way of life, which got me into trouble later on.

Now, I know that there are times that loans are a necessity- like when you buy a home or need small business loans to get a business started. It’s just important to know the difference between a need and a want. It’s those wants that get you in trouble.

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Have You Entered?

>> Monday, January 28, 2008

Tomorrow is the final day to enter this month's Scrap Bribing.

Now,I know I have a few male readers, yet only one entered. You bad boys! This would make a great gift for the lady in your life - even a daughter! And it includes Godiva! And you don't have to buy it!

I draw Wednesday morning- get entered!

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Green Baby

Organic is big business these days – especially in baby goods. Due to chemicals being stronger to combat resistant insects the likelihood of pesticides and chemicals remaining in products is higher. And, because of our antibacterial society, many small children are more sensitive than ever before.

This site for organic baby clothes and products is very easy to navigate, if bland.

Their sidebar lists organic items, in a general sense, and gives you a breakdown of organic vs. traditional products.

Under that is a header: Organic Baby Websites Reviewed. When I clicked that I expected to see a review of the named website with a link to it. Instead these were just links to websites. Although I would have liked to know why these sites were recommended (especially the sites that aren’t in-your-face organic) I think this website, overall, is a good resource for someone who may be interested in learning about organic baby items.

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Shhhh...

Well, the morning is over (school for Brenna and lots of errands for Caelan and I) and quiet time has begun.

It's almost 50 degrees outside but the wind destroys any chance of outside play this afternoon. And tomorrow will be back down to 22. Gotta love the midwest.

So much to work on today... Bills to be paid, volunteers to round up for the nursery at church, insurance paperwork to fill out...

And I want to get something new up over at my travel blog (the pretty link there to the left).

I suppose I should get on it, then.

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How Far Did Your Apple Fall?

Once upon a time I took an online genealogy course. I really enjoyed it- and my grandmother enjoyed me taking it as she (and her sisters) spent a lot of time working on various family trees. They have made great progress… One day I hope to have time enough to help them- I’m thinking a key ancestor may have come from Ireland through Canada before settling in the astern US.

I came across this great site, TribalPages.com, that lets you build your family tree for free. It even includes a custom URL to share with family. Their tools are so neat- family tree charts, maps, photo trees and a relationships tool.

If you have any interest in genealogy you gotta check out this site. Seriously great stuff… And it’s free.

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Because it worked the first time

>> Sunday, January 27, 2008

Terrorists were planning on another attack just prior to elections.

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Not Sure...

Not long ago I wrote about grocery savings and asked for advice. I checked out the Grocery Game as I had heard good things about it.

I read through it and decided that, for $1 for a 4 week trial, I had nothing to lose. So I put in my zip code... And it offered two stores to me- HyVee and Walgreens.

Now, I do my grocery shopping at HyVee, but we also have two other grocery stores in my town, as well as Target and WalMart. I gotta admit that I am not impressed so far. Most of the coupons are for items we don't buy so I won't use them even if they are on sale.

I guess I'm on my own with this, anyway.

I did, however, look into Dave Ramsey as so many of you swear by him. I'm gonna talk to my church about having one of his classes. Otherwise we'll visit another church's classes. I have to have DOug on board with this- it's a waste of time for me to do it alone.

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Slammed

Doug and I are pretty sure our credit score has gone up because we are getting slammed with dozens of credit card offers. One of our credit cards offers our FICO score… But it only comes from one source and I’m not sure where all these cards get their info.

Now, I’m gonna be honest, 99% of these offers get shredded. We are sitting rather well with our credit and have no need for any more. But if the opportunity to Apply for a Cash Back Credit Card came at us with really nice terms (very low interest and no annual fee) I would hop online to apply for it.

I do as much as I can online… It’s quicker and less people actually handle your information. Does anyone mail these things in anymore?

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Psychic

It really doesn't matter what time Caelan went to bed or how icky she feels (she's fighting a nasty sinus cold) the kid has some sort of inner workings that tell her when I am awake.

Like today. I need to head in to church soon and get the nursery set up, so I am awake early. We had a family birthday last night so the girls got to run & play with their cousins and came home exhausted- and went to bed over an hour late.

And yet I hear Caelan upstairs playing in her crib and babbling.

sigh

At least she's being quiet.

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What Do You Think?

>> Saturday, January 26, 2008

I love to find fun things to add to the blog. Today I found this great- and free!- site where you can create your own voting polls.

Being the geeky girl that I am, I had to create one. In under 4 minutes I had signed up and made this very fun little questionnaire for all my bloggy readers.

So, scroll down a bit, take my little poll and then go and make one of your own.


























free pollsDo you enjoy taking polls?
Sure,I have nothing better to do.
No, I'm sure it's rigged.
Depends, what's in it for me?
Honestly, don't you have anything better to do with your time?







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Janine King Designs

>> Friday, January 25, 2008

Do you all remember the great laptop bag I got a while back?



Yep, it's a sweet bag.

Well, today I received it's little sidekick. Of course you will all recall that I got a Flip video camera for my birthday. No? Well, go check the link... I'll wait.

Welcome back.

Now, the Flip comes with a little velvet bag which is nice but not padded. So I asked for an "official" Flip case for Christmas. Which my brother and SIL got for me. And it sucked. (Amanda, I'm bringing it to you tomorrow. You can use it until you get what I'm about to show you.) It just didn't fit the Flip Ultra as well as I would have liked and the little clip that I wanted (so it wouldn't fall out of my purse) broke.

Besides, I like my stuff to be all matchy-matchy. So I ordered this great gadget keeper from Janine King Designs.

It fits my Flip so much better, the quality is so much better and the little clip- actual metal! It's nicely padded so I don't worry about my toy getting banged up. I absolutely love it!


Now, Janine has been creating these great bags for over 15 years and she has a great selection of fabrics and styles. Looking at her Etsy page I see she has some great bags on sale- including a laptop bag just like mine.

Oh, boy, do I know what will be included in scrap bribing next month! Until then, go over and check out her stuff. I really can't say enough good things about her!

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Not that the media noticed

The Dow is up by almost 300 points from last week. It still has 220 point to go to get back to 2 weeks ago. However, if you scroll down the page, you can see similar up and down trends going back through the life of the report. This activity looks more like "normal" than it does "recession".

Could it be because we are in an election cycle, the Iraqis are taking over their own security, Clinton's war in Kosovo is still being fought that the media has to....errr...."frame" a growing economy with reduced unemployment as "bleak"?

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How we lost the media war

Then and now.


In unrelated news...

Since the media NEEDS a storyline (it seems that independent thought in the media is frowned upon), bucking that line is punished. He should have taken Michael Crichton's approach and blame the Aliens...errr....something.

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A Seriously Cool Gift Idea

Doug is a big fan of oil paintings. We have quite a few around the house. So when I saw that I could take a photo and have it made into an oil painting I added the website to my “gift giving” favorites.

If you are still searching for one-of-a-kind valentines gift ideas you have to check out Photofiddle.com. They can recreate your photo in 30 different ways- including pop art color squares (think Warhol) and film strip.

Seriously cool.

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Another Day in Paradise

Really, I love staying home with the girls. I gladly give up the "extras" we could have if I were working to be a full time mom. There is nothing I would rather do. Really.

Even on the days when Caelan's nose is so gooby that we carry around a "boogie blanket" so her nose won't get raw from tissues.

Even on the days when Brenna is hacking like a pack-a-day smoker and refuses to nap.

Even on the days my house looks like a tornado hit it (and I wish it would have just been carried away).

Yep... today is one of those days. How did you guess?

We're calling it "pajama day" but in reality I am wearing yoga pants and jacket and Brenna is in sweats. Caelan is still in pjs, though, and probably will be all day.

Big plans... Cleaning... Laundry... Bake a cake for my sister's birthday...

Tonight Doug is going to a Men's Game Night that our church is sponsoring. I'm thinking I may try to work on scrapbooks after the girls go to bed. Unless my sister comes over to watch the travel shows I TiVo-ed for her. (She is tagging along on her husband's business trip to France.)

Yep, it's all bon-bons and Oprah, as Doug says.

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Never Too Soon to Think About College Funding

Every time Doug & I meet with our investment advisor he asks us when we plan to set up college savings for the girls.

And every time he asks I tell him the same thing: until we are completely debt free and have our retirement funds maxed we aren’t. My logic is that there are plenty of ways to pay for college but only one way to pay for retirement.

That said I do want my girls to go to college (if they wish). They both have savings accounts and lots of bonds. I also plan to have them fill out every scholarship application they can possibly qualify for.

Of course our college days are still quite a ways off, but if they are closing in on your kids you should definitely visit Scholarships.com. They can direct you to the scholarships that your kids may qualify for as well as help with scholarship request letters, college searches and info. Did I mention it's free?

If you have a bit of time before you have to think about college, make sure to bookmark this site. I did.

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Duct Tape In Hand- Here I Go

>> Thursday, January 24, 2008

I think that I will begin by saying that if I ran my household the way the federal government runs our country my family would be living in the south (because it's warm there), under a bridge, my kids would be begging for money (because who can resist a kid begging) and Doug & I would be searching for soda cans in dumpsters.

I don't think that anyone can deny the government spends like Britney Spears in a 7-11. Cheetos and soda for all! This, of course must be fixed.

Now I will interject that I am not a politician nor am I an accountant. What I am is a mom who must balance the books of my household. And the plain and simple fact of our life is this: if we don't have the disposable income we don't get "extras". Period.

Next I want to address the comments from my last post:

Jarod: OK, these people pay taxes, but they get everything back when they file. So, in essence, they come out even. Or, in many cases, they make more money. Let us not ignore a fact right in front of our faces: Our sister-in-law's sister. She actually makes money when filing her taxes because she is an unwed mother. So, in essence, the government is paying her to have her children.

Fritz Facts- Social Security is, as Doug pointed out, a different "pot" of money that we all (in theory) get back when we retire.

KL- thanks for the link, I'm gonna add it to this post. I'm not sure that giving cash to the bottom of the payscale is really a good place to begin. As you point out, you will be using your "rebate" to pay credit card bills and your upcoming taxes. And while the people at the bottom of the payscale won't have to pay in come April 15th (which is about the time we can expect these checks to come out- coincidence? I think not) they will probably use the money to pay bills. I'm not really sure how exactly that will stimulate the economy since initial purchase was made months ago.

Unless, of course, our government is hoping people will see this as some sort of "windfall" and spend it unwisely. Cheetos and soda for everyone!! Now, honestly, how has that helped the bottom of the payscale people? They still have debt and low paying jobs. OK, so they have a new TV but id doesn't do much good if they can't keep the lights on.

Now, KL did point me to a nice post over at RothCPA. In it is a graph that disputes the "fact" that the working poor get nothing from the government. Hmmm.. I can think of a few federal and state programs right off the top of my head that are pretty damn easy to qualify for. In fact, Doug & I could get state health coverage for the girls right now instead of paying for it ourselves. Oh, and I could easily walk into an agency and walk out with food stamps. Don't believe me? I qualified when I gave birth to Caelan. A state worker was in my room every day until I filled out her stupid paper work.

Onward....

These "rebates" are going to cost $150 billion dollars. And where does this money come from? Taxes. So why not just lower taxes? Instead of sending everyone a check why not just give everyone a tax credit in the amount you plan to send? Doesn't it all add up to the same thing? People at the bottom of the payscale will still get the money... And I'll get to pay just a bit less.

Now I am going to climb up on my food stamp soapbox. (I can go there- I don't joke when I say I grew up dirt poor) This is a program that is embarrassingly easy to get on and difficult to monitor. With food stamps you can buy everything from soda to chips, snack cakes to frozen pizza. Of course you can also buy meats, milk, veggies and fruit. However the new data that shows poor kids are fatter than rich kids leads me to conclude that processed foods are much more prevalent in low income homes. And low income homes often receive aid. Notice I didn't say everyone.

A great way to combat that would be with a WIC style program- only healthy items allowed. If the kids had apples instead of Apple Jacks I bet you would see a change.

I also saw this in the bill:

To address the mortgage crisis, the package also allows Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac — government-sponsored companies that are the two biggest U.S. financers and guarantors of home loans — to buy home mortgages much larger than the current
$417,000 limit. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and chairman of the House Financial
Services Committee, said that lending cap might reach as high as $700,000 in
areas with the highest home prices.


Why are government sponsored companies giving loans up to $417,000 in the first place? If you can "afford" a house in that price range why do you need government assistance? Geez... Hmmm... Maybe we should look into that.

I guess I'm most annoyed by the fact that personal responsibility has gone and is being replaced by the proverbial "government tit". We cannot expect our government to give, give, give. In case noone has noticed we have a national debt of 9,193,945,322,817.09. Nine TRILLION dollars.

Ever wondered just how the national debt works? This should sufficiently scare you- it did me. One thing it really sets in my mind is that I want to erase all my debt ASAP because when our government goes belly up- which it will if our politicians keep spending and not slashing programs- I want to have money (more preferrably gold because US currency will be worthless) to live on.

OK, now that I am sounding completely crazy I will stop.

Doug is trying to talk me off my ledge. He tells me the economy is growing. But, I asked him, if any of the democratic candidates become President will our economy continue to grow? The answer, easily, is no. Large corporations will have to pay more taxes, have more regulations, etc, which will mean layoffs as they won't be able to afford as many workers. If fewer people are working that will mean more will be unemployed and collecting money from the government. Which means more taxes from fewer people.

Really, I must stop... But I am beginning to think I should start a garden. And maybe invest in some chickens and pigs.

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Duct Tape! I Need Duct Tape!

To keep my head from exploding!

I cannot believe this "economic stimulus" package.
For now I am just going to link you to this article from the Baltimore Sun.

And I am going to wonder, out loud, why people who don't pay taxes are getting rebates???

OK, I've got to go get my babysitter and visit my dermatologist. (Which is not covered by my medical insurance that I pay for myself). But I'm not done with this topic.

Oh, and I'e got to buy some duct tape- my head is about to explode.

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No Habla Espanõl

I remember my 9th grade Spanish class. It was awful. I’m not even sure our teacher had ever been to a Spanish speaking country. She was dull and I dreaded her class.

Sadly, I really wanted to learn Spanish. Well, really I wanted to learn French but it wasn’t offered in my small-town school, so I settled. And learned nothing.

Even more disturbing is that I believe I have learned more espanõl from Dora and Diego than I learned in a year of Spanish 1.

I do, however, expect my daughters to learn a foreign language and, living in the US, I think Spanish is probably a good first choice. Of course I hope to learn some, too. I could probably even keep up if I used an online program like eLanguageSchool.net. Their website is really easy to navigate and offers “guests” to try the program before investing.

And I see that they also offer French…

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E85 Doesn't Like Cold Weather

Just a little FYI for anyone using E85.

I loaded up the girls this morning to head to the dentist for a final bit of dental work. Because it is a bit of a drive and I knew I couldn't get E85 where we were going, I stopped to fill the gas tank.

After filling the tank I couldn't get the truck to start. It tried... And tried... And tried. But it wouldn't catch. Thinking I had possibly flooded it, I waited a couple of minutes and called my mechanic.

While on hold for him the truck finally started- but it really didn't want to. My mechanic made me come right over to put something "better than Heat" into the gas tank because "E85 gels up in frigid temperatures". Which makes complete sense as it is less gasoline and more ethanol.

So, just an FYI if you use E85- get some Heat. Trust me.

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Come On Baby, Let's Play

I don’t consider myself lucky. Oh, I suppose I have been when it has really counted- like with Doug. But before that “lucky in love” is not how I would have referred to my romantic interludes.

As for games and contests, I’ll just stick with the phrase “not so lucky”. But I enter anyway because, as the lottery says, “you can’t win if you don’t play”.

With that in mind I will let you know that Overstock.com's "Game O Love" begins tomorrow. Now I know this is going to age me, but the minute I saw the title these song lyrics popped into my head:

The purpose of a man is to love a woman,
And the purpose of a woman is to love a man,
So come on baby let's start today, come on baby let's play
The game of love, love, la la la la la love


Yes, you can all thank me for that song being stuck in your head.

But I gotta admit that I really like the idea of Overstock.com's Valentine's Day Game. You just sign up and pick out an item that you want to win for your sweetie (or an item that you want- it will save him the trouble of shopping and keep you from getting jewelry you won’t wear).

With our trip to Ireland in mind I picked out some amazing hard side luggage. In red. Hey, it is a Valentine's game, after all.

It's free to enter the Game O Love; you have nothing to lose. And a great Valentine's gift to gain.

OK, I'm dense. I had this whole "Top O The Mornin" thing in my head with the "O" in the game title. It just hit me that "It's all about the O"... Duh. I can be so clueless sometimes...



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A Graduation (of sorts)

There are few real milestones when it comes to riding in the car.

The first one you encounter is at one year of age when your parents turn you forward and you realize there is much more to see than the seat back or a colorful toy. The outside world as seen from a car is fascinating!

The second milestone is moving from a car seat to a booster. Brenna reached that point today as she surpassed the height of the seat and buckling was becoming a hassle.

While I was in Target today (grabbing some great sale stuff since it's still winter here but they are making way for spring items) I saw that the Graco Turbo Booster was on sale. A $13 savings... I was all over it since I knew we needed it. It's the VIP (Very Important Princess) seat. Hunh... Pink. Go figure...
Brenna was, understandably, very excited about her new seat and couldn't wait to sit in it. And it has "magic" cup holders that pull out from the base- on both sides. Ta-Da!


And Caelan, well, she just likes to be like her sister. It kept them occupied for a while.
And the next milestone? Well, no car seat at all. Since this booster has a removeable back I think we'll be waiting a while- maybe 6+ years- til we reach that one.

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We Got Ears

>> Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I think I am a bit of an enigma to some of the women I know. Granted, none of them know my past, bD (before Doug). I think it’s better that way because they are all good Christian women and I don’t think they need to know what kind of wild child (until I was 30) I was.

The fact that we travel- and take the girls with us- sets us a bit apart. The fact that we take our daughters overseas sets us farther apart. The fact that I try to create income by writing about it, well, that’s just strange to most of them.

So I was kind of surprised when one of the moms asked me for advice on an upcoming vacation she and her family were planning to California. Her sister had moved out a year ago and they wanted to take the kids out to see her- with a side trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth”.

Now, having not been there I didn’t have much real experience to give her on Disneyland, but I had plenty of handy tips for the trip. Then I went through my handy list of favorite travel sites and pointed her in the direction of TravelHero.com. There I found a great deal on a Disneyland Anaheim hotel as well as a rental car. She was so excited with the savings- because you know we did comparisons- that I have been promised mouse ears for the little ones. Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!

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Bye, Bye Fred

Yesterday my choice for President withdrew his candidacy. I was, of course, saddened by this and a bit disgusted.

I am just curious why it was considered "late" for him to begin campaigning in October 07.

I am curious when it became OK for people to begin barraging us with "vote for me" political speeches within weeks of the country voting for President the last time. Some of these people have been running for President for 3 years already!

And I think I am most annoyed at the politicians who are currently representing us in Congress and Senate. You have a job to do, yet you are out, trying to get a new job, and shirking the responsibilities we are currently paying you to do.

Why are these things OK?

I'll tell you why- it's because we, the people, don't tell them (the politicians) that these things aren't OK.

Alright, enough with my rant.

Now I have a new thought... We were way in the minority at our church when we were supporting Thompson. I'm wondering if we will be stoned for supporting Romney. Yes, we go to an "evangelical" church. I keep telling them that I'm not looking for my Commander in Chief to help me on my path with the Lord- I'm looking for one who can run my country. And I don't think Huckabee is that man.

Nor is McCain. I think he would step up the Iraq war- kick ass and take names, as it were. But as for domestic stuff... McCain/Feingold ring any bells? How about the McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill? No thank you, sir.

That leaves Romney. Not crazy about your health care plan, sir. But I think you can pull together a fix on our economy- you've produced results with businesses and the Olympics. But I have to beg you- dump the "stimulus plan". Giving people money to spend... Please. Just concentrate on cutting our federal budget. Maybe get rid of some programs, cut some welfare. Make people earn the money they so freely spend. When a woman buys meat for her dog because she can't buy dog food with food stamps I think it's time to rethink foodstamps. Just sayin'. And I'm pretty sure there are more programs that are being misused. Let's do that instead of a rebate, huh? "Cuz my rebate (if we qualify) isn't gonna go to buying things- it's gonna go to paying my heating bill.

So, there you are. My second choice moves to the front.

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Surfin' USA

I’m not really sure how it has happened but my two little ones are water babies. I honestly believe that bath time is their favorite time of the day. They lay on their tummies and “swim”, they roll around like seals, they splash and laugh and would stay in for hours (if the water would stay warm). Brenna has begun asking about the ocean, swimming and surf lessons. I blame the Backyardigans for that… Darn Tiki Beach episode…

Because we live in Iowa- a place not known for beaches or surfing, if the girls still have this affinity for water we may have to look into summer camps on the coast or in the Caribbean.

I found a place that does kids surf camp in North Carolina, teen summer camps in Florida, the Bahamas and Barbados (to name a few) and even overnight camp for family surf lessons in the Caribbean and Hawaii. They even do a women’s only surf camp. Of course I would have to get over my fear of drowning…

WBSurfCamp.com has a great video that will give you an idea of their program. It definitely looks like a summer camp that kids would enjoy going to.

Even if you aren’t a water baby, check out their video. If you’re sitting in below-freezing temperatures, like I am, it may warm you a bit.

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Stupid Headlines - Magazine Edition

>> Tuesday, January 22, 2008

To continue the topic of stupid headlines, I have another one from the cover of the February 2008 issue of Popular Science. The online version is still showing January, so I'm not able to link to the article yet. But, please buy this magazine, I usually love the articles. Usually. Anyway, the front cover for February is "Hydrogen Hyper-Jet: New York to London in 2 Hours - Emission Free". The title of the article inside the cover on page 48 is "Green Skies at Mach 5". The story is about a concept vehicle that would use liquid hydrogen as fuel and would be able to go Mach 5 carrying passengers. Very cool stuff and most of the technology already exists.

I know what you are saying, this is all very good right? Well, my exception to the headline is that it does produce emissions. The article even admits that it produces greenhouse gas emissions in the caption under an artist's rendering of the craft. As any science geek can tell you the byproduct of using a hydrogen fuel is H2O, water. So, not only is the "emission free" part of the headline is wrong, it produces the number one greenhouse gas. But, this is a good thing. Without the greenhouse affect, there wouldn't be life on this planet. And, in this case, the water vapor will return to Earth in the form of rain.

The article makes several references to "carbon footprint". This is another thing I find the media misconstrues. We are a carbon based life form and produce carbon as a byproduct of breathing, growing hair and skin cells. We eat other carbon based life forms like plants, fruits, nuts and animals (mmmm, steak!). We interact with carbon constantly. You can't help it, anything "organic" contains carbon as well as anything made from hydrocarbons - plastic for instance. It is safe to say that we can't live without carbon. We would all die by not being able to exhale.

Also, plants need this carbon in the air in conjunction with light for photosynthesis. More carbon in the air, means that plants make more energy and grow big and strong and send their seedlings off to the very best gardens. It's this whole cycle you see. Carbon is not created by us or by any action we can take. It's cycled around.

Let me queue up Jeopardy music while I ask this simple question. Has human activity added or reduced the amount of carbon on Earth, hereafter called Earth's carbon footprint?

Time is up. What is your answer?

The answer is humans may have actually reduced Earth's carbon footprint. Humans can't create carbon, it is just cycled and recycled. However, humans do build satellites and have sent craft to other planets that will never return. The carbon in those craft is lost to the cycle on Earth. Don't worry though, all of those meteorites you see at night add to Earth's carbon footprint. It's the only thing that can - until we humans start making factories in space and sending the goods down to the planet.

The moral of the story is if you are concerned about carbon dioxide, then plant a tree. Or better yet, donate to organizations that plant lots of trees. Of course, the world's oceans do more carbon exchange in one day than all human activity for a year. Keeping the oceans healthy is a good idea. One which we are doing better at. Polution in the oceans have been falling steadily for the past 30 years.


Doug's Update: I should say that I prefer hydrogen as a fuel rather than oil products. It's not because of the carbon emission from oil, but rather the other impurities that don't get burned up in the combustion process. Many of these are rather noxious. Of course my main question is why are we still using internal combustion engines at all for autos - it's 1800's technology.

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Just Tragic

Heath Ledger was found dead in New York today.

That's sad. I really liked him in "A Knight's Tale".

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Grocery Savings?

I usually grocery shop on Monday mornings while Brenna is in school. Then I only have one child to deal with. And since the bakery gives free cookies to kids I am able to shop in relative peace.

I had a pretty extensive list yesterday, but I didn't think it was bigger than usual. The bill, however, was. I scoured the bill to make sure there were no multiple items that added up, but everything seemed correct.

There were a few unusual items on the list: disposable sippy cups, sporks & spoons, table covers & bibs for Ireland (the cups and cutlery were on sale and the table covers and bibs are store brand and half the price). And I did buy some ice cream - also on sale. All totaled that only came to about $18 max.

I am always on the lookout for ideas to save money and I had a new comment from Jennifer and went to check out her blog. She had a post on saving money. So I went to the sites she mentioned.

The first was Supermarket Savings. I, quite honestly, read through this and completely disregarded it, mostly because of the six free ebooks. While I am sure I could find a couple of tips I am pretty sure I utilize the majority of her tips. Yes, I deducted this by looking at her summaries. Yes, I could be wrong. Have you tried this? Tell me...

The second site is the Grocery Game. Again, another pay service. There is a special now, 8 weeks for $1, so not a big loss if it doesn't work. Have you done this?

But let me tell you why I am sceptical of these things.

  1. I take a list. I rarely deviate from it.
  2. I buy store brands (although there are some things I don't skimp on: milk (in recyclable glass from a private dairy), meat (because bad meat often has to be trimmed and will cost you more in the long run) and peanut butter (we eat Omega Smart Balance- no trans fats and it doesn't have to be refrigerated) ** by "bad meat" I don't literally mean bad, I mean less expensive cuts. I'll use chicken breast as an example. The less expensive chicken breas has more connective tissues and fat that need trimmed so a pound isn't really a pound, if you know what I mean.
  3. I buy very few prepared or processed foods. I enjoy cooking and baking. I would say that 80% of our food is "from scratch".
  4. The local grocery stores here don't double coupons. I am, quite honetly, amazed that stores do that anymore. Where are they?
  5. I won't use coupons for products I don't normally buy.
  6. I will clip coupons for brand name items if I normally buy the off-brand. However, I don't blindly grab what I have a coupon for- I always compare sizes/prices. Often the couponed item is still more expensive.
  7. I subscribe to coupon websites and check namebrand websites for coupons that I may need.
  8. Fresh veggies rarely have coupons.

So, do any of you use either of the methods I referred to above? Or do you have a tip that you swear by? I really want to cut costs but am unsure what else I can do.

Also, I've heard quite a few people mention Dave Ramsey lately. I like David Bach quite a bit. Can anyone tell me the difference between the two?

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Chocolate? Lingerie? Race Car Driving?

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?
Anonymous


Luckily I have never received lingerie as a Valentine’s gift. And even more thankfully I have never received lingerie and chocolate- at the same time. It’s like saying, “Here, eat all this fattening stuff and then put on this skimpy thing.” Yep, sexy.
So, guys, skip the skimpy stuff, (Doug, you can get the chocolate. Dark. Godiva.) and treat your loved one to an experience.
RedLetterDays has great valentines day gifts that are unique and exciting. Now, most of them are in the UK (Hey! That would be a great gift!) so if you aren't close to a location you can certainly get some good ideas. And you can subscribe to the "chocolate of the month" while you're there...


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Stupid Headlines of the Day

Just as an FYI, the economy has expanded every quarter for the past 6 years and the past 25 years have been one long, steady expansion with small dips and bumps. Read this guy, before continuing. Really, it sets the stage....



Done with James Pethokoukis? Good, now lets examine today's headlines.

Global Stocks Plunge as U.S. Crisis Spreads
Why it's a stupid headline:
  1. The fear of massive defaults, not anything tangible, is being blamed. Since any ARM keyed on the Fed is either the same or LOWER than a few years back, many adjustable home mortgage holders WON'T be paying more when they adjust.
  2. That leaves the silly people that bought over their means. But even that isn't a crisis - more like the status quo. It's not an entire market segment that's affected, just people that would have been in trouble with or without the "Subprime Crisis (TM)" that sells newspapers.
  3. In the middle of the passage is probably the key - "Many market analysts argued that stock markets in developing countries have appeared to be overvalued for some time, which would suggest that some of the market declines were necessary." Except that isn't as big of a headline. Put the word 'Crisis' in the headline and you sell newspapers.





Fed Cuts Key Interest Rate as Asian Markets Drop for Second Day
Okay, this is a decent headline, but this caught my eye: "Oil dropped below $90 per barrel on fears that a recession would stem demand." Hmmm, oil drops below $90 a barrel on "fear of recession", but that's not page one news. Last week it was page 1 news when it went over $100/barrel. Do you think the opinion writers will change their talking points because of this? I don't think so either.




The Des Moines Register really had a strange one....Here are two headlines, both on page 1, above the fold.
Stocks plunge on recession fears and Stop shortfall of vocational workers, say educators. Again with the "fear" of recession. A recession is defined as 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth. We didn't have as much growth last quarter as forcasted, but it still grew. Not meeting projections doesn't make a recession, just like a 6% increase isn't a cut, even when you asked for 8%. An increase is still an increase. But I digress. So we have one headline saying doom and gloom and hide under your bed and another saying that we don't have enough workers. Which is it? Are we going to need more employees, because the economy is expanding, or will people be laid off because of a recession?





Did you catch something in these? Notice that there isn't any hard data to support these fears? The only thing that is close to a hard data point is that investors overextended themselves in the home mortgage sector. Gee, sounds like the investor overextention of the tech "bubble" in 2000, doesn't it? Here is a tip that I hope is not a surprise to anyone. If you don't understand the business plan, or you don't understand how a business can make money, then don't invest in it. It really is that simple.

The important thing to remember is that you want to buy low and sell high. Sounds simple, yes? But how many of you reading this were considering selling a stock or changing retirement fund allocation because of the blaring headlines the past couple of weeks? If you sell now you are locking in the loss.

Let me say that again - If you sell now you are locking in the loss. Ask yourself this question, what do you think this stock will do in 2 to 3 years? Why do I ask this? Because now isn't the time to sell stocks. Now is the time to buy. But like everything, you have to do your research. You have to know what the company does, how it makes a profit and who the executives and directors are. You have to know it, not just your broker or the guy at the water cooler who sounds like he knows what he's saying (myself included).

Do you have a retirement plan? This affects those funds too. Pay attention to the rate of return. Check the prospectus, they are usually available on-line. Go to a plan that makes sense to you. It's your money. If your plan/employer/fund doesn't let you make changes, it's time to get a new one. Talk to a broker, they can help you move your money to an account that suits your tastes.

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Community Education

Our local community education booklet came a couple of weeks ago. I always like to browse through it because there is usually some fun stuff in there- and it's relatively inexpensive to take the classes.

This offerings weren't too terribly different from normal: soap making, painting, glass making, pottery, spin your own yarn (ok, that's a bit granola for me), lots of computer classes, dancing classes (including Celtic step dancing), exercise classes, baking, investments, gardening, sewing, writing... You get the idea. Lots of stuff.

But there was one that really stuck out to me: Make a 19th Century Coffin by Hand. It's a two day class and the wood and materials are provided. It is being taught by the staff at Living History Farms, a local historical complex.

My question: What would you do with this? I know the price of a funeral is expensive and the cost for the class is only $214 so that would be a great savings on the coffin... So if that is your idea, I get it. But what would you do with the coffin until you died? Add shelves and display photos and knick knacks in it?

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Investing Wisely

Everyone is hearing how bad the real estate market is. The thing that is (almost) never mentioned is the personal responsibility of the people who made the purchase. There are very strict guidelines financial institutions must follow- and I doubt that every one of them failed to disclose the terms of an ARM.

The only good thing to come of this (for those who didn’t fall “victim” to bad judgment) is that the market is ripe for investors in both residential and business properties.

CardeaCommercial.com has great resources if you are looking into a TIC Investment or just want to know more about property investments.

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Cleaning House

>> Monday, January 21, 2008

Well, not technically. Although I should be as my house is a mess. What I am actually doing is "cleaning harddrive". I am going through all the photos on my computer, figuring out what is saved on the external HD, what is in my offsite storage, what is already on a disk somewhere, what should be on a disk and what can be discarded.

It's a big job. And one I hate. Because even though I know that putting my photos on a disk is actually the safest way to keep them (ok, the safest thing is to have photos backed up in at least three locations- CD, external HD & online storage) it makes me nervous to delete them from my computer. It just seems so final...

OK, one disk down...

And away they go. Hello disk space...

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You Can Call Me Four Eyes

It’s time for me to get new glasses. I hate getting new glasses- for a few reasons. 1) We don’t have optical coverage. 2) Glasses are so freakin’ expensive and I usually hate them. 3) The “designer” frames cost a fortune but are usually the only attractive frames available.

A couple days ago I made a Great Discovry:$ 8 Prescription Glasses From Zenni Optical. Yep, you read that right- $8. And they are cute. But I could “splurge” on some really fun frames for $19.


Seriously, if I hate them I can get another pair- or 10- for what I usually spend on one pair. I am so gonna do this.

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Customer Service- I Heart Crayola

As we all know far too well, customer service is lacking in so many businesses. You would think it would be the other way around as we, as consumers, have so many choices companies should want to keep our business.

Unfortunately we are often shown the opposite.

Which makes me want to share great customer service with you. Not long ago I wrote a little review on my travel site about the Crayola Color Wonder Activity Tote. Because I am always looking to promote myself I sent an email to Crayola and included the link to the post.

Just a few days later Crayola called me. They thanked me for the review and wanted to let me know that they were sending a little "gift" to show their appreciation. The next day I received three large coloring banners and $4 worth of coupons for Crayola products.

Now, personally, I think that rocks. They certainly didn't have to do anything. Which makes their consideration important. They are a well-known brand, my little endorsement really doesn't amount to much.

I suppose the moral of the story is: let your voice be heard. The worst that will happen is you will be ignored. And the best... Well, free stuff ain't bad.

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Try A Tour

Being a history nut- and being married to one- makes picking destinations easy. Having small children makes it a bit more difficult. Many of our “gotta go” trips have to wait until the girls are older to really appreciate them.

Like Philadelphia. One of my girlfriends is from Philly and I joined her on a trip back once- a long time ago. Unfortunately those who live there can walk past the history that surrounds them and not notice it. I, on the other hand, was fascinated. She had family drama while we were there and I didn’t get to do anything I had looked forward to. Bah!

So I keep Philadelphia information in my favorites folder, under travel. As you can imagine, it is a large folder. One thing I made sure to do was sign up for Trusted Tours & Attractions newsletter. They have all kinds of great sightseeing tours,including a hop-on-hop-off bus tour (these are great!) and a horse drawn carriage tour. They also have a special city pass that includes six not-to-miss destinations including the Philadelphia Zoo and Constitution Center.

Right now Trusted Tours & Attractions has a great promotion: If you sign up to receive their newsletter you are entered to win a GPS.

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Valentine's Day Scrap Bribing

>> Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh, did I have fun picking out the goodies for this month! The ladies at Archivers know me well and help me pick out fun stuff. Wanna see what we found? PS: Guys- this would be great to get to give as a gift! I'm just sayin' since I know there are a few of you that come by...

This looks like some good stuff... But that's not all of it. Before I get to the rest let me 'splain what we've got here:

We'll begin with 5 sheets of 12x12 paper. These sheets coordinate so nicely with eachother. I love to use them as mats on solid sheets. Fun, fun.

And a closer look at the other goodies...

Stamps! I love these little clear stamps. Great for borders or cards. I even included a small stamping block.
Two sheets of stickers for homemade valentines or precious scrapbook pages. Two bobbins of Valentine ribbon and-oh, I love this!- self adhesive fabric tape. Five ribbons of varying widths. Love,love, love this stuff! And you didn't think I would give you stamps and no ink, did you? Six cat's eye pigments in lavendars, reds and pink.
To make the little gifts you give absolutely adorable I have this great gift box kit. It will make 4 gift boxes and includes the tags and chains.
For that very special someone I have this hand made accordian style card.
Lots of room for little notes, photos, poems...
Stuff I don't want to know you write...
And what is Valentine's Day without chocolates? I will torture myself and enter the Godiva store to purchase a lovely assortment of your favorite- dark or milk.

So, that's it. And entering is so easy! Just leave me a comment!

Of course this little game is called "bribing" for a reason. If you write a nice little post about this giveaway of mine and link to it (be sure to let me know!) I will enter you twice.

And be sure to have your "peeps" drop your name when they enter- I'll give you another chance to win!

Now go! Write me a little love note!

PS- I will draw the winner on January 31.

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Professional Space

Doug has a “side project” that he has been involved in since before we got married. It used to involve quite a bit of travel and may again, now that Doug is working a regular week.

The only problem with travel is that you really don’t have any professional place to hold meetings. The other day I found BusinessSuites.com- luxury office space available on a pay-per-use basis.

Right now most of the customers are in Texas (due to the language barrier doctors have with some patients). The Dalllas Office Space (or Houston or Austin) could come in handy.

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W-I-O-Wa

>> Friday, January 18, 2008

OK, this will be two Backyardigans posts in one week. I think I may have to turn on the TV for something that involves real people.

The premise of todays Backyardigans was that Tasha and Uniqua were news anchors at W-I-O-Wa looking for a "big scoop". Pablo and Tyrone were corn formers who wanted everyone to know that they had the best corn crop ever. Austin was a cameraman. (I put that in just in case you are an Austin fan as it was a very bit part). The farmers lure the news reporters to their farm by making a crop circle. Which then leads to the fun misunderstanding of aliens. Oh, yes, crop circles and aliens.

Just in case you don't understand why this episode stuck with me, please remember where I live.

And allow me to share the lyrics that will surely stick in your mind for days:
Reporters are brave
Reporters are proud
Reporters like to talk real fast and loud
With my microphone and my camera operator
I say Back to you instead of See you later
I will find the news no matter the place
And make that serious reporter face
On W-I-O-Wa
The corniest station in the nation

Really, the lyrics don't do it justice, go over and listen yourself

Oh, and I dare you to not listen to any of the other tunes. Numbers 6, 12, 19 (for the Queen-like- guitar) and 22 will stick in your head.

And in case you feel you have to ask, I am pretty sure this CD will be finding it's way into our home upon it's release next week.

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Thank you IowaHawk

Boy, this leaves a mark....

This is a direct response to the NY Times problem with those that defend all of us.

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Hey, Federal Government! Instead of a Bailout Let's Try This!

I gotta admit that there are days that I miss our “old” house. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the house we are in and most times the extra room we have here is a blessing. There are some days, though, that the extra room only means extra mess.

Today was one of those days. It seemed like every time I turned around there was a new mess to be cleaned, a new spill to be wiped up, a new disaster to be averted. And I wished for less space.

Of course we haven’t lived in this home long enough to have any equity… Heck, I doubt we could break even if you figure interest and such. So we will be staying right here… For the next 20 years.

Of course, if we needed to, there are ways to sell your house fast. Almost every city has “home investors”, people who buy homes at a fair price- for cash.

I would think that in this “terrible economy” when so many people “can’t afford their mortgage” a company like WeBuyHouses.com would be in high demand. I can definitely see how they could help relieve the stresses people may be feeling and help them go forward with life.

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Honestly

The living room was clean 15 minutes ago.



Really, it was.

The "twin tornadoes" have blown through and caused mass destruction.

sigh

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Where's My Mail?

Did you know that the minimum the post office will hold your mail is three days? I find that kind of annoying. We like to have little getaways- leave on Friday, return Sunday. Only two days of mail service, but who wants two days of mail sitting out side just waiting? Especially during tax time if you get tax papers in the mail. That’s a lot of personal info just asking to be lost or stolen. And I am kind of freakish as I look forward to the mail when I’m home. It’s like an adult visitor come to save me from the sure insanity of sticky fingers and spilled milk. So there is no way I am going without it when I am home. Federal holidays are bad enough. Or days like today when it hasn't come yet. It's after 6 for the love of pete.

We have plans to use the leftover bricks that are under our deck to make a nice mailbox that we can put a locking mailbox into. And, you know, it’s not really that I am worried about someone stealing our mail, it’s more that I know our postal employees really aren’t that careful. I’ve found my mail on the ground before. Heaven forbid there is already mail in the box when they try to deposit more.

www.mailboxes.com has some really nice, secure mailboxes. Of course that would mean that anything that won’t fit in the slot will have to be brought to my door. Heaven forbid they have to get out of their truck...

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Really, Wells Fargo Doesn't Want Your House

I’m pretty disgusted to see that Wells Fargo is being sued by a city. Not by individuals, but by a city.

The lawsuit accuses Wells Fargo Bank of targeting black homeowners in Baltimore
with high-interest loans and deceptive lending practices, costing the city
millions in tax dollars and resulting in one of the highest foreclosure rates of
any lender in the city.

It is being claimed that Wells Fargo targeted African-Americans with inferior product that has resulted in 313 foreclosures since 2000. (That's 44 per year)

Now, what I see in the quote above is that the city is losing taxes. Because you know that's why they are suing- they really don't care that people are losing their homes...

In another article it reads that

The Mayor and Council have demanded damages to make up for the loss of property
revenue and for the extra costs it has had to incur for providing police
protection to prevent arson and looting. The entire neighbourhood has become
danger zones sitting in the middle of abandoned houses. Suzanne Sangree, who
is
the chief solicitor of Baltimore city’s department of law, says that the
foreclosure slur on the minority localities cancels all the development work
that had been done in the distressed regions so far

So, people are looting and burning houses... I think that says more about the people than about Wells Fargo.

Baltimore is also stating that Wells is
charging higher rates from black borrowers. It was mostly the blacks that
availed of the sub-prime teaser rates because they did not have the credit
worthiness for prime loans. They had hoped to improve their life style and move
into houses of their own. But with interests doubling and sometimes trebling
they are the most likely to default.


Last I knew the person who approves your loan never actually sees the borrower; all they see is your credit score. The way loans work is quite simple: if you have bad credit you pay a higher interest rate. Race is not a factor- it's a numbers game.

Buying a home is not like buying a car- you can't just walk in and do it in a couple of hours. If you are smart you shop around for loans. You review your options. You do your homework. I just have a hard time believing that all the homeowners had no idea their rates would go up. I'm more likely to believe that it didn't matter to them at the time- and maybe that they purchased a house they couldn't really afford.

And, just to play devil's advocate...If this "crisis" wasn't going on right now and Wells Fargo wasn't writing loans for people who couldn't afford a prime loan do you think they would be sued for discrimination? I don't think it's a stretch to imagine.

Bottom line- banks don't want your home. They don't make money on foreclosures; they make money on interest. It's very unlikely the bank will profit from repossession of any of these homes.

The very bottom line- live within your means. Personal freakin' responsibility, people. Unless we learn it we can look forward to government housing and breadlines for all.

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Ireland, Chocolate & Deals

The cheesecake is in the oven, a load of clothes was just taken out of the dryer and the washing machine is on a cleaning cycle. So I checked my emails and got a reminder that my grandmother’s birthday is coming up. On February 14- Valentine’s Day.

That means I have a few things to buy. Because you all know what comes after Valentine’s Day this year- IRELAND!

Because I always try to get the best deals on great stuff, I decided to head over to Coupon Chief to see what kind of deals I can find.

We still need some travel stuff so I was really happy to see the Magellan’s coupons. They have lots of stuff that I can't easily find here and great brands.

And since Valentine's Day is all about chocolate (yes, it is!) I went directly to the ChocolateSource deals. They have premier baking chocolate- and I love to bake.

Of course I can always fall back to my standby- Target specials. I can always find good stuff there.

Do you do anything special for Valentine's Day?

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Sigh

I just looked around my house and all I could do was sigh. I know I have a lot that needs done today. I must make a pumpkin swirl cheesecake, begin a Potato Gouda Cassarole and make sure I have all the ingredients for a green bean cassarole and tangy broccoli salad for our final Christmas tomorrow.

I also really need to clean. There are toys strewn all over my living room and Toby has been shedding like it's July. There is fur all over my house. And the vacuum on the main level quit so I have to haul the two ton Kirby upstairs. And the kitchen still has dirty pans from last night to be washed.

I would really like to exercise sometime today as I feel weak and blah and exercise always helps me perk up.

My mind has just gone blank. I've been looking at this screen for 5 minutes... and not typed a thing.

I really hope you skipped this post. How depressing...

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Gadets and the Goodies That Go With Them

>> Thursday, January 17, 2008

I’m a gadget girl. Oh, I’m not so bad as I once was, but I still like my gadgets.

Take cell phones, for example. I would love to have one that is basically a mini computer that happens to make phone calls. I don’t need it, of course. I most likely wouldn’t even use the features that I find so fun. Heck, the one I have now can connect to the internet- and I rarely do that!

But because I like gadgets I also like the goodies that go with them. There are so many Cell Phone Accessories that I didn’t even know existed! Cases and charms, headsets and scratch remover. My local store doesn’t have half this stuff.

SFPlanet has tons of gadgety goodies. I found stuff for my camera and my laptop. Nothing for my Flipvideo, though. They say, though, that if they don’t have it they will try to find it… I really want a decent case.

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Feel Like Pizza?

I just put a new recipe up on Fab Food Friday. Meat and cheese calzones.

I made them a week ago and YUM!

It's a great recipe- but kind of extensive as everything is made from scratch. It's not difficult, though. I promise!

Give them a try and let me know how you liked them!

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For "The Girls"

Central Iowa is in the middle of a three day “weather event”. That’s our meteorologists way of saying, “Stay home, you losers. It’s freakin’ cold out and if you end up in a ditch ain’t no one allowed to pull you out”.

It’s cold and snowy. So why am I going to talk about swimsuits? Because Brenna has decided that because swimsuits are showing up in the malls it is time to talk about going swimming next year.

I don’t mind swimming as a whole and I know my girls are water babies. What I hate is buying swimsuits. It’s not that I don’t like my body, because overall I’m OK with it. Unfortunately swimsuit manufacturers don’t know how to make a swimsuit to fit “the girls”. Or it it fits "the girls" it is much too big for the rest of my body. Very frustrating.

Well, I found a website that deals in full busted lingerie and swimsuits. And the swimsuits are just S, M, L, XL- which we all know means your body is bigger, not just your bQQbs. No, these swimsuits are in cup sizes- which means you can actually get a top to fit- and buy the bottoms separately. Or you can buy a one-piece with underwire for support.

Finally! Maybe I can find a swimsuit that fits my whole body this year.

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Happy New Year, TKW!

TKW has been a part of my blogroll way back when she was just Momma Duck, mommy of the Duckling, and living in Austin,Texas. Since that time she has moved to the "Land of Snow and Cheese", given birth to the "Peanut" and now has another little bun in the proverbial oven.

Never politically correct, with a wicked sense of humor and always textbook-worthy drawings, TKW gives SAHM a whole new twist.

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For the Organizer in Me

I am on countdown to our vacation. Because there are five of us going, two of them under the age of 5, making sure we have everything organized is very important.

Especially in the airport. Regulations being what they are, you can’t take much on an airplane any more. Our flight from Chicago to Dublin allows one carry on bag 22”x18”x10” and weighing no more that 13 pounds. Not a lot.

In order to maximize my personal item I bought a Buxton Bag . With interior mesh pockets and exterior zippered pockets it appeals to the organizer in me.

I ordered the tan and I am pretty sure my mom ordered the black (it also comes in red). The across-the-body strap will be great for security- no slipping off the shoulder- and the outer pockets will keep cameras in easy reach.

I am pretty sure this will be my new favorite travel accessory.

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Baby, Baby! You're Here!

>> Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It took a while and I know mommy & daddy were wondering if you would ever join us on the "outside", but baby Zoe Lynne is here.

She arried at 7:19am, weighing 7 lb 4 oz and is 20 inches long. She spent the first bit of life crying- probably about the cold. Mommy is tired but doing well (She went into the hospital at 9pm Monday) and Daddy is very proud.

Here is Zoe just minutes after joining us:

Very proud Daddy holds his new bundle of joy:
Poor Mommy. She may kill me for putting this photo up.
Zoe enjoys a nap in Daddy's arms:
Sweet baby...
Congratualtions to Jarod and Amanda!

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What Does He See?

I have to admit to being fascinated by psychics. I’m not sure why, exactly. I’ll blame the fact that I enjoy Medium. So when I came across Tana Hoy’s website I did a bit of clicking around, just to see what he had to predict.

After reading his predictions I’m not really sure where I stand on his abilities. Many of his predictions strike me as vague, although I will say I am very interested in the weather predictions, especially the hurricane he has predicted for Asia this summer. He does have three pages of “hits”, though, so his abilities may very well be real.

I will admit to being intrigued. It would be interesting to see what his personal psychic readings would predict.

His website is very user friendly, so if psychic readings interest you, head over and check him out.

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Baby News- Or Not

>> Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Well, it's 8pm and there is still no baby. It's closing in on 24 hours since my SIL went in to be induced. It's almost 16 hours since her water broke. She had an epidural about 2 hours ago.

I'm heading up to the hospital as support for my brother as both my mom and Amanda's mom have to leave.

Hmmm... Maybe before midnight?

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5 Seconds

Everyone that comes here knows that I am a Mommy first and foremost. And I plan to be a Mommy until my girls no longer need me on a daily basis. It is my job. And everyone knows how much you earn being a mommy.

Today I have earned boogies wiped on my shirt, one stinging hand from a quick swat on a tiny tukkis, 15 minutes of cuddling and book reading, a whole body hug on the back of my legs and wet, sloppy kisses. Even with the “debits” of food on the floor and a screaming headache it’s still the best paying job out there.

Of course real cash is nice, if I can get it. I just discovered Net Audio Ads. It’s been around for 2 ½ years and has over 66,000 advertisers. And website owners earn 100% revenue of their traffic- with no “clicking”.

The way it works is that the reader hears a 5 second ad played when they open your page. That’s it- just 5 seconds. And it only plays once, so your readers won’t be interrupted every few seconds by an ad.

It’s really a very cool idea, and they have an affiliate program going on now. If you’re interested in having your website work for you just a bit more, check out Net Audio Ads. Read their “long sales letter” in the bottom right corner.

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