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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): August 2007

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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Location: United States

After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Different Way to Get Rid of Your High Interest Debt

We don't mean to, but sometimes our spending spirals out of control. Before we know it, we have a mounting, exponentially growing pile of debt in front of us. If you've had many sleepless nights, not knowing where the money would be coming from or if you've already been to your bank and been denied a loan, read on.

Before I talk about what you're going to do though, I want you to honestly sit down and realize how you got to be where you are in the first place. If you're spending more than what is coming in, you have a debt problem...and you're part of the majority here in the US. It's in our culture and in our very being...but that doesn't mean you have to go along with it. Take the time to break free from it now!

The easiest and best plan out there to get you digging...cause you know you're going to be digging yourself and your family out of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Many churches also offer his Financial Peace University. I have no affiliation with the guy, but I have read some of his books and listened to his radio show. I do believe he has some mostly sound advice that can easily be followed..that is the key steps heading in the right direction!

Keep in mind, if you are activated Reserves or National Guard, you can get a 6% interest cap on your loans and credit cards, due to the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act. Call your creditors and get your rates negotiated down to this amount. There are also other benefits you can read about at the site above.

If you are not an activated Reservist or National Guardsman, keep reading! Get out all your credit cards, payday loans and any other high interest loan paperwork together. You're going to estimate how much money you will need to get rid of your debt. You are going to visit the fairly new peer-to-peer lending site, Prosper. Their max loan amount here is $25,000. The gist of this site, is that everyday people, sign up and loan money to other everyday people who register on the site, asking for a loan. The loanees lend anything from $50 on up, per loan...until it adds up to the final amount of your loan. Once that happens, your loan is funded, and you will almost immediately, get your money.

The beauty of this site, is that you have a VERY good chance, even with poor credit and ratings, to get a fairly low interest loan. Lately, those with poor credit, have been getting loans in the 11-19% interest range. And, if your credit isn't already tarnished, you can easily get under 10%. Why such low rates? I think most of the loaners on the site are just plain inexperienced and tend to give out money more readily. The site has only been around just over a year, and this is all still a new concept. Some loaners even use their emotions to choose who they want to loan money to! The "prettier faces" tend to get more attractive loans than those with no pretty faces to be seen....yes, you can upload a photo of yourself or even your dog!

Once you sign up as a loanee, the site does a credit check on you, and posts basic credit information, job information and a few other tidbits that can be used to determine your credit risk to the loaners who peruse the listings. You are not identified in any way other than the user name you choose. You also upload any photos you choose. With that being said, I urge you to be honest and to visit the pages below to learn more about Prosper. Learn how you can best write up your listing. Once your loan is actually funded, loaners will continue to bid down your interest eBay-style!

What if you fail to pay back your loan? Prosper will treat you just like any other debtee who doesn't pay. Your file will get sent to a collection agency, who will pursue you just like any other collection agency, and your credit will be adversely affected. I say this because I honestly think some folks who visit the site don't take it seriously or try to take advantage of this new concept. The lender message board is full of posts from loaners who lost money on one loan or another.

Decide to turn over a new leaf today. Take the time to look HONESTLY at yourself and your spending habits today. Recognize your problem, come up with a plan and start getting on the road to recovery TODAY. I have read and heard countless stories from many people who are in your shoes or worse, and they managed to bring themselves back from the can to!

Already been there, done that...or are about to? Then how about posting what helped you along?

Image provided by Jupiterimages


Easy Pantry Meal Maindishes...with Ingredients Already Onhand!

Sometimes we really get caught up in...well, life. Even though I like to call myself organized, every once in awhile, I find myself staring into the dark confines of my pantry or freezer, wondering what I'm going to make for dinner. Or maybe, you had a serious of unfortunate events that kept you away from your regular shopping trip. Regardless, we're going to put together some pantry meals. If you have a freezer and a pantry, then give these recipes a try. The important point with these recipes, is that all ingredients can be stored for longer periods of time and prepared and served without a trip to the store!

Try these:

Baked Ziti

1 pound dry ziti pasta (or can use macaroni)
1 TBS freeze dried onions (or use some onion powder)
1 pound lean ground beef (just take it right out of the freezer; can also microwave it first)
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
1-1/2 bags Italian shredded cheese (make sure it is mostly Mozzarella and/or Provolone; can be stored in the freezer if you don't use shredded cheese too often)
1- 1/2 cups sour cream (I have substituted Ricotta with good flavor but this dish tends to be a bit drier; sour cream lasts longer than you think; I always have a small cup on hand)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat. Add dried onions. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer 1/2 of the ziti, 1/2 of shredded cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, remaining shredded cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
4. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are nicely melted.

I like to make this meal with a green salad and some home baked bread! Enough for leftovers too.

This next meal isn't completely last minute. You do have to thaw the meat in the refrigerator three days beforehand (for a big roast), but I just had to include it, 'cause the kids just love this!

Crockpot Southern Pulled Pork On Buns

1 TBS minced dried onions
1/2 TBS minced dried garlic
1/4 TBS chili powder
1 bottle tomato based chili sauce (find this next to the BBQ sauces in grocery store)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke (also next to the BBQ sauces)
1 boneless pork shoulder (2-3 lbs; defrost in refrigerator 3 days before needed)
4-8 hamburger buns (can keep these in the freezer until the day of cooking)

Place roast in crockpot. Add all ingredients (except buns) and cook on low for 10-12 hours or high for 6 hours til falling apart. Shred meat with two forks and mix with sauce before serving. Serve with hamburger buns.

These buns will have your husband and kids wiping their chins! Serve this dish with a pasta salad and some baked beans, and you will be exalted at your house!

This next recipe is nice enough for company.

Chicken and Bacon Rice Bake

6-10 frozen chicken tenderloins
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1-3/4 cup water
1/2 to 1 lb bacon
2 boxes long grain and wild rice
1 seasoning packet from rice

Bake bacon on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F and save the grease (my husband uses some of the bacon grease to doctor up canned cream soup). Or cook bacon in the microwave on paper towels, pouring some of the grease in your 9x13 baking dish. Put dry rice on top. Put frozen chicken on top. Mix soup with 1-3/4 cup water and pour over chicken. Sprinkle with rice seasoning packet. Cover with foil. Bake about 1-1/2 hour at 400deg. When dish is done, it will look a little runny. Let sit before serving. While it's sitting, I like to take a big serving spoon, cut all the chicken pieces into chunks, and then mix everything up.

I like to serve this chicken and ric meal with a platter of sliced up tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella pieces (see your gourmet food section). Sprinkle salt and pepper and a few swigs of balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes and chunks of cheese. To make the tomatoes even tastier, grow a pot of basil on your windowsill and use a few snips of that before sprinkling this dish with the vinegar.

You can find more great pantry recipes at Busy Cooks, Meals from your Pantry.

Do you have any recipes you'd like to share?


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Make Your Kids Smile...Today and Tomorrow!

Have you run out of ideas of what to do to make your kids feel really special? Or you find yourself doing the same old boring things, over and over? Take the time to re-connect with your kids and try these neat little ideas.

  • Get a little stuffed animal. This will be the "I LUV U" creature. Any family member can present it to any other family member....but the catch, is that it has to be without their knowledge. For example, if your child has had a rough day but knows he has to empty the dishwasher. Give him a break. Empty it for him and put the animal in the top tray so your son sees it when he opens the dishwasher door. The animal can show up in backpacks, on tops of beds, in the bathtub (but not in the catbox)...anywhere and anytime a family member needs to be reminded of your love for them! This is just another way to show it!
  • Since school has started, mom has been writing "Words of Wisdom" on their napkins, neatly folded in their lunchboxes. These notes have become so popular in just this past week, that everyone at the lunchtable eagerly awaits the message for the day.
    • Some quotes we have already used to get you started:
      • "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar"
      • "The early bird gets the worm"
      • "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"
      • "Fall seven times, stand up eight" - Japanese saying
      • "Don't look down on anyone unless you are helping them up" - Jesse Jackson
      • "Courage is about doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." - Eddie Rickenbacker (WWI flying ace and Medal of Honor winner)
      • "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss
      • "Be yourself. An original is always worth more than a copy."
      • "Nobody will think you're somebody if you don't think so yourself." - African-American proverb
      • "If you want to accomplish anything in life, you can't just sit back and hope it will happen. You've got to make it happen." - Chuck Norris
    • When the kids get home, discuss with them what it all means. As long as you use age appropriate quotes (especially the funny ones), they'll feel special and love you for it
  • Instead of getting on their case when they screw up, how about noticing when they do a good job and praising them for it? Focus on the positive and reward them with words, hugs and/or kisses
  • I believe every child, as soon as they are walking and talking, should have some kind of chore, preferably, more than one. Things such as emptying the trash, clearing out the dishwasher, feeding the pet and setting the dinner table are just a few examples of chores that can be done by small to school age children. They should have a set allowance amount a week (a good guideline is half their age in dollars). If they do a chore above what is required of them, they can earn extra money. Have a chart that lists other chores and what they are worth in $$$. This also teaches children the basics of accounting, as they count their money. Encourage them to save a portion of their earnings, have them give about 10% at church (or to charity) and use the rest for treats now and then. If they want a big ticket item, then they must save up their spending money. My kids do not get any toys or kiddie purchases unless it is Easter, their birthday or Christmas. If they want something throughout the year, they must pay for it themselves!
  • Read with your child on a regular basis. I know many of you did this before your child could read, but you'd be amazed what gets talked about while you are cuddling up with your child, watching them read a book. We love to do this before bedtime. Make the time to do it tomorrow!
  • If you have more than one child, it's important for each of them to try to have "alone time" with one parent; plan an outing, a bike ride or even a trip to McDonald's. This is just another opportunity to make them feel special.
Do you have any interesting things you do with your child to make them feel special?

Read this article and many like it at Carnival of Family Life presented by Down with the Kids - Modern Australian Family Life.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Opt Out Completely...It Actually Works!

About ten months ago, my mailbox was overflowing with junk mostly...well, there were some bills and a few nice letters and cards, but for the most part, it was just junk that went directly into the trash. After awhile, I resented having to go through the pile. Not to mention, I didn't like getting all these credit card offers. I finally took some steps to try to eradicate the crap, and you know what? The other day, I realized that I hadn't gotten any significant (or should I say un-significant) junk mail in a long time! I might get one or two pieces of junk a week...but that's it! Let me tell you how I did it.

Carefully follow these steps, and you'll get rid of your junk mail too. Some of the steps might be tedious, but you will only have to do this pay attention.

  • Write up a list of all the companies you have to do business with (your phone company, credit cards you want to keep and the like). You are going to call each one and say that the only mailings you want from them are bills. Tell them you don't want all the inserts they stick in your bill either. They will actually comply (and are bound to do so by law)!
  • While you are on the phone with the company, tell them not to share your information with third parties. This will take you off the junk mailing lists they sell. When you first sign up with a company, always read the fineprint. There is sometimes a checkblock or a number or website you must check before having your information removed.
  • Print out this form and mail it to the Direct Marketing Association. Be sure to fill out the appropriate information such as your name and address (do it for your husband too). They even sent me a nice letter back saying that my information had been removed. Most legitimate companies are members of the DMA and therefore, cannot use your information. If you don't want to send something in the mail, you can use their online form (where they will charge you $1).
  • This next step is the most tedious. You are going to write each company below that maintains mailing lists, and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Be sure to give the information for you and your husband. Again, most of them sent me back a letter saying our names and information had been removed. These names and address came from the Junkbusters Guide to Reducing Junk. Feel free to use the form letters on their site.
    • Metromail Corp., Consumer Services, 901 West Bond, Lincoln, NE 68521 (1-800-228-4571, Ext. 4633)
    • Abacus Direct, PO Box 1478 Broomfield, CO 80038-1478 (1 800-518-4453 or 1 303-410-5294)
    • InfoUSA, Attn: Product Quality, PO Box 27347, Omaha NE 68127 (1 888-633-4402)
    • Donnelly Marketing, Inc., Data Base Operations, 416 S. Bell, Ames IA 50010 (1-515-382-5441)
    • The Polk Company Attention: Opt-Out Coordinator, The Polk Company, 26955 Northwestern Highway, Southfield MI 48034-8455 (1-800-873-7655)
  • To try to track who sent you that last piece of junkmail, whenever I request a catalog from a company I want to do business with, I like to add a new middle initial. This way, if you receive a new piece of junkmail, you at least know who the culprit is. Be sure to call them!
Do-it-yourself: Stop Junk Mail, Email and Phonecalls has even more interesting tips and tricks...some even I didn't know about!

What do you do to reduce your junkmail?

Read this article and other articles on personal finance at Advanced Personal Finance - Moving Beyond the Basics.

Update 9/20/2007: Another great tip to add here from Money Magazine October 2007, "always write 'no mailing lists' on product warranties or rebates you send in".

Clipart provided by GRSites


Monday, August 27, 2007

Military Discounts Anyone?

There is one really nice perk about being affiliated with the military and having a husband who is currently serving...the freebies and discounts! I've gone ahead and scoured the internet as well as my own circle of friends, to share some of the discounts we've been privileged to get. Take a look...

Before we get started, not all stores will carry the same discounts across the board. For the most part, national retail chains will honor these discounts, but I have come across some independently owned stores, where they will not honor them, and there are a variety of reasons why they may not be playing....Regardless, follow these tips:

  • I make it a point of asking in every new store or restaurant I go to, even if it is a local "mom and pop" store. You just never know, and I've been pleasantly surprised MANY times.
  • If it's a store you've never shopped in before, check the customer service desk first. I've made the mistake of loading up a cart and then asking at check-out and being denied. That's embarrassing!
  • Ask "Do you have a military discount?" and make sure you have your dependent ID card with you. They may or may not ask to see it at checkout.
  • After they ring you up, check your receipt to make sure you got it (sometimes the clerks can get distracted) and always thank them and smile
  • Sometimes, stores change whether they will offer a discount or not (case in point, Home Depot and Lowe's). So even if they don't do it one year, they may the next!
10% Discount

Best Buy
Circuit City
Marriot Hotels
Home Depot
some movie theaters

20% Discount

Sears Portrait Studio
Franklin Covey

30% Discount

Daytimer military discount use code "182868"

50% Discount

Johnny Rockets Restaurant

Free to Military

San Diego Zoo (active duty free; dependents 10% off) free entrance to Seaworld/Busch Gardens/Adventure Island/Water Country USA and Sesame Place (1x annually for service member and up to 3 direct dependents)

"Beach Homes for the Brave" complimentary stay and amenities in Palm Island, Florida beach houses for wounded servicemembers

Other Options and Discounts

  • Always ask for the goverment military rate at any hotel and compare that price with the other prices being offered
  • Some places that have varying discounts include Alltel, Bass Pro Shops and Hampton Inn
  • AT&T/Cingular 19% w/2 year contract in military member's name

Websites and Programs to Check Out in South Florida's List

4 Military Families

Military's Discounts

Free Stuff for Military Families

Have you been able to find some good discounts?


New Bible Helps Spouses of Deployed Soldiers Cope

A friend of mine just emailed me about this new Bible made especially for the spouses of deployed soldiers. Read below to see why this Bible is different than others, and why it is something that can really help you out in your time of greatest need!

I'll have to provide a more in-depth review when I can get my hands on a copy, but until then, I have read some of the other editorial reviews online, and it looks like it can be a good resource. The cost is only $3.99

Military Families Get Help for Victory on the Home Front

IBS-STL releases new Bible edition for military families

Colorado Springs, CO (August 23, 2007)—IBS-STL U.S. released a new Bible edition to help spouses of deployed soldiers with the challenges at home. This Bible, titled Finding Hope Beyond the Battle, was released August 22, 2007 at the IBS-STL office in Colorado Springs.

The military family Bible fills a long-standing need that Lorrie Pies, wife of an Army soldier, understands all too well: “Military service is always a family experience, not just the soldier’s job. Like many spouses left at home, I’ve battled depression, loneliness, anger, and other emotions while trying to deal with the challenges of daily life. This Bible helps me know I’m not the only spouse who struggles with life in the military. Finding Hope Beyond the Battle is a timely help for winning these battles and strengthening me to care for my family. It guides me to God, the source of hope and help.”

Military spouse Jennifer Dale also relates. “This particular Bible gives me hope,” she said. “It tells me that there are others in the same boat as me who can only rely on the utmost hope, Jesus Christ. He comforts me when I am lonely or discouraged. He sees my husband on the battlefield and at the same time keeps His eyes on the children and me here at home.”

For those in unexpected marital conflict after the long deployments end, this Bible leads the reader to remember God’s faithfulness and draw upon His power to restore relationships.

Finding Hope Beyond the Battle is a New International Version special-edition Bible with 13 additional color pages of stories from 12 wives and one husband left at home. The stories show the pain, sorrow, anger, and other fiery emotions spouses felt and how God faithfully demonstrated His control in each situation. These include difficult good-byes, fears of loss, loneliness at holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays, waiting for phone calls, child-birth and life threatening diseases, and crying alone at night. In Lorrie’s words, “Real catastrophes were transformed into beautiful pictures of hope and trust in the Lord.” Every story guides readers into God’s Word and His presence and power in our lives.

Chuck Adams, retired Army chaplain and Director of Military Ministries for IBS-STL U.S., showed preview copies to chaplains. ‘The reception has been one of great excitement and enthusiasm,” Adams reported.

Starting today, 55,000 copies from the first printing, covered by donations, will be distributed free through military chaplains to families of deployed troops. Donations through help IBS-STL provide more chaplains with copies of Finding Hope Beyond the Battle. For more information about the Bible, go to .



Friday, August 24, 2007

Websites for Freaky Friday

I thought I would post some of the fun websites I like to visit. It's Friday and time to let loose, so have a little bit of fun!

Go ahead and sit back and peruse some of these sites. Be sure to add some of your own favorites below!

Just Snipe - Don't sit around waiting for the end of an eBay auction. Put in your maximum price and this utility will snipe in the last few auction seconds so that YOU get the goods and not the other gal. I like this site, because it's free (for a limited # of snipes).

How Much Will My CD Be Worth At Maturity? - This handy calculator figures out the numbers for you after calculating fees, rates and taxes on any CD you may be looking at...kind of a bummer, but hey, you need to know the truth!

Samuri Appliance Repair Man - This guy is a trip! He is so funny! He has even walked me through repairing my old stove a few years ago...for FREE. His articles and forums are archived, so chances are, you'll find the answers you need when it comes to your appliances.

You Are My Friend - An interesting way to tell someone you are thinking about them. I still remember when someone sent this to me when I was down...a nice alternative to e-cards!

Test Drive Your Dream Job - If you ever wanted to try out another job or career, this is the place to do it. This also makes a perfect gift for your hubby...try finding something close in your hometown to cut down on the can be anything from a beer brewer to a horse trainer and everything in between.

Retro Junk - I Remember That! - Remember all those old Saturday morning cartoons and commercials from your youth? How about your favorite old movies? You can actually watch them here...brings back fond memories.

The Dollar Stretcher - Lots of useful articles and even an email list with tips and tricks for stretching your money. This is well worth a visit.

dMarie Time Capsule - See the highlights of whatever day in history. This makes a fun little thing to add to a birthday gift. Just roll it up and tie it with a pretty ribbon to the top of your package.

Jacquie Lawson's Animated Card Site - You probably remember Jacquie's animated Christmas cards, where you click on parts of the card and follow along with the story...well, she has much more than Christmas cards...see the St Patrick's Day kids roll on the floor laughing after seeing that one.

MSN Gas Prices - Before I fill up the tank, I find the nearest station with the cheapest gas...I've seen all my local places listed here, except for Walmart and Sam's.

Armed Forces Vacation Club - Discounted stays at resorts and timeshares. I realize the Caribbean ones are kind of pricey by the time you add up airfare and the cost of amenities (which you pay extra for), but I have friends who stayed in lodges up in the Rocky Mountains and loved the cheap rates...give it a try.

Do you have any to add?


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Before Going on Vacation, Do This

I am such a worry wart...I really am. I found that the best way to deal with that kind of personality is to make lists. I'd like to share my list of things I do before going on vacation.

Follow these steps, and you'll never waste precious vacation time wondering what you did and didn't do before you left home!

  • About a week or so before your trip, start making a list of items to take with you. Use lists on-line as a guide, depending on your location and activities planned, such as general packing list, cruise packing list, overseas packing list
    • I also like to include babywipes, Ziploc bags, empty grocery bags (to use as laundry bags), disposable cameras (include a few underwater ones if you will be near water), crush-proof snacks, water, juice, hats, sunblock, insect spray, lightweight rainjackets and things for the kids to do
    • If you are traveling by plane, remember to follow the latest TSA guidelines
  • Make another list of items to do before you walk out that door. Here is a sample of some of the things on my list
    • Go to USPS Hold Mail and stop your mail
    • Call your newspaper or go to their website and stop the newspaper delivery
    • Tell a trusted neighbor you will be gone and leave them a key for emergencies (as well as a secondary code for your alarm system)
    • Call the alarm company or fill out their vacation form online
    • Many sheriff's offices have a form you can fill out (ours is online) to request more frequent police drive-by checks while you are gone
    • Put a few ice cubes in a Ziploc bag in the freezer; if you come home and they are stuck together or are one solid mass, you can get a better idea of how long your refrigerator might have been without electricity and power; dump affected food accordingly
    • Clean out the refrigerator of leftovers and things that could go bad while you're gone
    • Straighten up the house; I like to make sure the house is clean and that everyone has fresh sheets when we get back...that's just me though; can you believe I had a friend who didn't even know her home had been broken into until a week after she got home because it was so messy?
    • Try to have one car parked in the driveway (or ask your neighbor, they'd be happy to I'm sure)
    • Check that the stove is turned off and unplug your coffeemaker and toaster oven (I had a neighbor leave her little toaster oven plugged in and something fell off the plant shelf above it, depressing the "on" button; she was lucky she had only stepped out for a short time and things were just starting to smoke)
    • Time your porch lights to turn on at dusk and buy random timers at your local hardware store to work some of the lights inside; I hesitate to leave lamps on while no one is home as this could be a potential fire hazard; use ceiling lights instead (you can time these at the switches)
    • Follow the steps in 5 Minute Proofing Your Home
    • Turn off the water hoses to your washer; I also turn off the ones under all the sinks and dishwasher; if you won't be running an automatic sprinkler system, shut off the main water switch; better to be safe than sorry
    • If you have gates to the backyard, lock them
    • Make sure all entrances and windows to your house are locked
    • Arm your home security system, including all motion sensors
    • Give your trusted neighbors contact information and let them know when you will be back
    • Make sure your garage door is closed (don't laugh; I had a neighbor who had backed into the driveway to load up their van, and then left without closing the door; I had to call them and ask for their garage code to close it)
Do you have any tips you'd like to share?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Reminder that the Sea is Unforgiving (Boating Safety)

I hesitate to write about boating safety...we've all heard it before, but in light of this week's harrowing events where my father and two other relatives (one a 10 year old boy) were almost lost at sea, I think it is worth repeating.

After being thrown into the Gulf of Mexico, a few miles out from shore, my dad did not have a lot of time to think and react. As I talked to him after his ordeal, his voice scratchy with seawater, he recounted the events and what he could've done better. He also discussed what went right and some general things that every one who steps onto a boat should know.

The trip started out friendly enough, on a day with crystal clear skies off the coast of Gulf Shores, AL. As they fished a few miles out, the hull of the 15 ft boat seemed to have a major malfunction and crack open. The boat immediately filled with water and flipped over...all in about 10 seconds. There was absolutely no warning!

  • Everyone should be wearing lifevests at all times, especially children. If you absolutely refuse to wear one, make sure one is available right next to you and not stored in some compartment somewhere. If you go this route, you had better be a VERY good swimmer, able to tread water and swim for a few hours at a time in not the best of conditions (such as 5 ft waves). Lifevests these days are a lot more comfortable than the old standard and now come with locating beacons and lights, a worthwhile extra expense. Also keep in mind that if the boat flips over, or an oar pops up, you could be knocked unconscious with no chance to put on your lifevest.
  • If the boat is still floating, try to release as many floatable items as you can. Not only will you have more things to hang onto to but also a greater chance of being seen.
After the boat sank, they had to make the decision whether to stay in the area or to swim towards land, which they thankfully were able to see. They also were able to see some boats in the distance. Pappy, made the decision to try to swim to a boat that looked to be close by. My father and the 10 year old stayed put as best they could. The 10 year old was the only one wearing a lifevest.

  • Conserve your energy. Boats seem closer than they are, and it would take a herculean effort to even try to reach one. It is best to have a flashing light, signaling mirror, whistle or air horn to try to attract attention. Make sure lifevests are brightly colored and don't waste money on camouflaged vests. A lone person in the water is very difficult to see, and your voice does not carry far over the wind and waves. You need every bit of help you can get, to get noticed.
With Pappy out of sight, my dad made the decision to take the 10 year old and attempt the swim to shore. The currents were strong, but my father encouraged the boy to keep going. Land was in sight, and this was their best chance for help. Since my father had no lifevest, he fell farther behind as he had to rest and float numerous times. He is no spring chicken!

  • Again, make sure everyone who boards that boat, has a brightly colored lifevest. As the boat sinks, also look for anything that can float, to include coolers (if they close tightly) and gas tanks, even seat cushions could mean the difference between drowning and staying afloat for an extended period.
With his strength waning, my father spotted a channel marker, a buoy. He attempted to swim towards it but got caught in a current and was carried farther away. He thought he would float for a bit longer this time and then attempt a final effort.

  • Don't allow yourself to give up. If you are caught in a current, try swimming perpendicular to the direction you are being pushed. Rest up by floating on your back and put extra effort into the task at hand.
As he raised his head and looked around, out of nowhere, he saw two shrimp boats bearing down on him. At one point, he frantically swam as the one boat was headed dead ahead towards his location. Since they did not hear his initial shouts, he thought he'd better try to get out of the way if he could. He eventually heard shouts from the first boat, saying that they saw him and to sit tight. Once they got to him, they held his head out of the water until the Coast Guard was able to get to the area. He was so exhausted and the boat was so high, they were unable to get him into the shrimpboat. They had to wait for Coast Guard assistance. They also quickly found Pappy, also exhausted but alive and heard through the radio that the 10 year old had made it to shore.

In hindsight, my father pondered some of the other things he would've done, both to prepare himself and to give himself a better chance of survival. It was touch and go at times, and for now, he said he has had it with boats. He'll stick to the hotel pool for now. Please take the time to read some of the tips below and visit the recommended sites. You never know when you will be a passenger in a boat, and it's best to be well informed and to take responsibility for you and your family.

  • Always listen to a marine weather report and know the expected conditions for the day and dress and bring gear accordingly.
  • Give an approximate location to family of where you will be (it pays to have a handheld GPS device with you as well). Also, let them know when you will be back and stick to that plan.
  • Take a cell phone with you. You may have reception out there. Keep it in a brightly colored waterproof case on your body.
  • Have and wear brightly colored lifevests that have emergency beacons and signaling devices attached.
  • It's important for adults to attend a boating safety course. if you haven't had one in awhile, get a refresher. It'll make you more confident on the water. Don't put all your faith in the boat's captain, even if they are highly experienced. Take responsibility for yourself and your family.
  • Know how to work the boat's engine, basic equipment, radio, GPS, fuel and safety equipment. Do not totally rely on the captain in case something should happen to them. Believe it or not, more captains than you think happen to get knocked unconscious and go overboard. Know what to do!
  • Distribute weight evenly when storing your gear and seating passengers. Especially in small boats, do not stand up suddenly and move to one side or the other.
Here are some websites you might find of interest:

Foremost Boaters Water Safety

USCG Boating Safety

Weight Distribution in Boats to keep from capsizing

If you can think of any other tips or would like to share your own boating experiences (good or bad but inspirational), I would love to hear them, as I'm sure our readers here would too!

The article is also showcased on All Things Boating.

Read this article and others on boating at Pacific Northwest Boating.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Order for All You Recipes

There really is a simple solution to keeping all your recipes organized, and it's not a box of overflowing index cards or recipes cut out here and there and strewn everywhere! Oh God, that sounds like the start of a children's rhyme...I digress again. Really....there is honestly a better way to keep track of all the recipes you want to try, plus your favorites and having the ability to change and get rid of recipes that no longer float your boat! Here's how...

  • You are going to buy (or use what you have):
    • a large (at least 2") sturdy binder with inside pockets
    • a package of document protectors
    • plain computer paper
    • looseleaf dividers (not necessary but if you REALLY want to be organized go ahead and get them)
    • gallon ziploc bag
    • tape and scissors
  • Start cutting out recipes, making copies of library book recipes or printing off recipes online
  • As you collect recipes, put them in the Ziploc bag
  • Organize your binder by putting in the dividers and label them (Appetizers, Drinks, Breakfast, Soup, Lunch, Chicken Main Meal, Pork Main Meal, Fish, Meatless, Breads, Salads, Sidedish and Desserts)
  • Put those document protectors between the dividers, with a sheet of paper inside each protector
  • Start trying the recipes in your Ziploc bag; as each recipe passes the test of something you'd like to make again, tape the recipe onto a sheet of paper in the appropriate category (use front and back); try to keep similar recipes together
  • Tired of a recipe and don't want it in your binder anymore? Then just throw it out, leaving space for a new one
  • Finding space for new recipes can almost be as fun as trying out new ones
Now you have a recipe book that is flexible and can change as your tastes and interests change. I also like to keep a blank page in the front where I keep track of cookbooks and authors that have become my favorites (you can even write the source next to the recipe). How do you keep track of your favorite recipes?

Read this article and others like it on Make It From Scratch #28 at Summer's Nook.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Search and You Will Find...Many Surprises!

Have you ever wondered about your neighbors? Do you know your child's friend's parents? Do you like to be aware of your surroundings and who you come in contact with? There are some steps you can take to protect you and your children. While you're at it, also find out how much your neighbor paid for his house, how many bathrooms it has and even how big his mortgage is. And while you're on-line, find copies of those websites that are no longer in service, have been changed or disappeared, along with many other tips to keep your family safe...and informed.

Why am I writing an article on something that makes me seem just plain nosy? Well, to tell you the truth, I used to have no idea that many of these records were public knowledge, and to me, it was mostly an eye-opener of what is available out there on each one of us. Plus, I wanted to know a little bit about my neighborhood (okay, so I am a bit nosy), should I plan to sell our home or decide to rent it out.....I can't tell you the countless times I have done some genealogical sleuthing (my other hobby), only to find that the website no longer existed, but that didn't stop me either....let the digging commence...

First things first. The main reason I started digging on-line was to protect my children. Everything else I stumbled upon, blossomed out from there. Here are some resources that can get you started:

  • Check records of the Clerk of Circuit Court for your state. Plug in names of folks you do business with and who your child comes in contact with. Google your state and "clerk of circuit court" to find your county's database. Not all counties are on-line, but more are being added every month. To see an example, check Hillsborough County Florida's Database. Here I can search not only birth, death and marriage records but also criminal records, mortgage information, liens, judgments, deeds, domestic relations court cases and just about anything that goes through the circuit court...even traffic citations.
  • Check the property appraiser's website for your county. Again, google "property appraiser" and your county and state. Here you can see what your neighbor paid for their property and if they own their home. Some states even include the mortgage information here. An example is El Paso County Colorado Property Appraiser's Site. Also be sure to check the commercial site, Zillow for more home information. Zillow is not always accurate, but it's a good tool to get started on home values and other homey tidbits...all for free.
  • Check the sherrif's office website for your county. There should be a link for on-line services or databases, such as this one for Hillsborough County Florida. Here I can check if anyone has ever been arrested (whether they have been convicted or not), jail inmates and population, warrants, road closures, and incidents by date and location (including every call the sheriff's office received that they responded to, to include domestic disturbances as well 911 calls, accidents, burglaries, fraud, mailbox smashing and everything in between with locations and addresses listed)
  • Search statewide records. Some states even have it together enough to consolidate a lot of their records on-line. See an example of Florida's Official Records which allows you to order copies of records on-line. The actual records are not located here, but at least you know there is one.
  • Find out if your home was built on a toxic waste dump. Plug in your address at the EPA's site. Hopefully, you won't see any surprises!
  • Check your home's place on the local floodmaps. You want to stop by FEMA's site and plug in your address. You should also be able to find more detailed versions of this map at your official county government website. This will give you a good idea of your risk.
  • Check to see if you show up on your state's umclaimed property website. Remember that utility hook-up you canceled when you moved, which still had a credit of $40? I didn't either. I also found some money from a deceased relative which we were able to claim. Google your state and "unclaimed property" to see if you are missing out on any money. Here is Florida's Unclaimed Property.
  • Check out potential tenants before renting out your home. Tenant Verification is cheap and buys peace of mind. Find out the credit status and get help identifying if that tenant really is a such a good bet. I've used this service for years and have been very happy with it.
  • Go back to the past and find a website that no longer exists or is currently unavailable. This especially comes in handy in my genealogical research, but I have used it for other reasons too. Copy the internet address into Internet Archive and get an exact copy of that website's pages on one of the dates listed (you choose which version you want to see).
  • Check out your doctor and your childrens' doctor. Simply google their full name, state, and specialty to see what articles you can find; I picked my doctor after finding him involved in a lot of community service as well as noting his service on the State Board of Medicine. Healthgrades also gives you basic information (and the "malpractice/what they charge report" is reasonably priced). Also check your state medical board, the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association to check for the proper board certifications.
  • Google yourself. This can be an eye-opener all by itself! I suggest that when you post or comment on-line to always use a false name and temporary email address, because it's amazing what can be put together on you and your family and the less information that's out there, the better it is for you and your privacy! This also cuts down on spam to your "permanent" email address. Yahoo lets you dream up alternate emails and allows you to change them on a whim (such as when you start getting too much spam). Mailinator lets you set up a temporary email on the fly, easily check if you got any mail and keeps junk out of your "real" email account.
If you have any sites or tips you'd like to share, we'd love to hear them!

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Friday, August 17, 2007

A Day at the Theme Park - Prepare Yourself!

Yesterday, we were off to Busch Gardens in Tampa. As I traipsed around on this sizzling hot day, I started thinking of things that were making my life easier that day, and also what I could've done differently to make it an even better stress-free and safe day.

Before you even go, start planning:

  • Go to the theme park's website and look for any special restrictions, discounts and notices - when we went to Kings Dominion earlier in the year, the kids could not go on some of the waterslides because their swimtrunks had metal rivets; we might have averted some sad faces had we checked on-line first; alternatively, google the theme park to find some customer reviews
  • Get some background information and safety record on the park - I always visit Theme Park Insider to get the scoop on what has happened there in the past safety-wise; also, lots of good information on the individual rides
  • Check on-line for discounts - I've gone to eBay and also googled the name of the park and "discounts";'s Theme Park pages also have some good tips to check out on saving while on your trip
  • Always ask for a military discount - If I don't see it on the park's website, I get their 1-800 # and call asking for military discounts; all the Busch Entertainment theme parks have a special Here's to the Heroes program, which gives one free visit a year to servicemembers and their families (up to three dependents); if you need more tickets, buy a discounted one at your local ticket office on-post; you will also find tickets for other local attractions at your ITT office
  • Prepare your family the day before - I always make my kids drink lots of water the day before, especially in the summer; put plastic bottles of water in the freezer (everyone gets one bottle and as they drink at the the theme park, have them fill up at water fountains to keep the ice and cold water going); also pick some crush-free snacks to take along; when I really wanted to save, I also packed some sandwiches (most theme parks allow you to bring in outside food, that's why you need to check the website ahead of time)
  • Write up an easy packing list - I always write up a list before we go somewhere and glance over it before we head out the door; it's the only way to make sure you didn't forget anything; I suggest that mom carry a backpack to make herself hands-free and to put your money, ID and credit cards elsewhere (I have a little wallet I can carry around my neck or you can use a fanny pack if you are not too fashion conscious)
    • Sturdy backpack
    • Frozen water (I keep it in a different compartment to keep other things dry)
    • A small towel
    • Camera
    • Cell phone (my husband and I both carry ours so we can communicate if need be)
    • Snacks and/or lunch
    • Sunblock
    • Sunglasses and hats
    • Swimsuits (the kids wear swimtrunks because they dry faster)
    • Stack of babywipes in a ziploc bag (you don't want a hard case; you are traveling light)
    • antibacterial gel (we petted birds at the park, and they had already run out of their supplied gel)
    • Extra clothing (especially if I have younger ones; someone always seems to throw up or make a mess on themselves; that's why mom would have extra clothes too; for older kids, I'd bring one set that either could wear to cut down on bulk)
    • Small compact umbrella (I tend to bring one; if I have one, then it won't rain I usually say; but if your bag is already heavy, this would be the first thing to go)
    • Theme park related gifts (if you have young kids, buy things ahead of time and then give them to your kids at the park; you will save loads of money; for older kids, I have them save up their allowance and have them bring a pre-determined amount to spend; when that is gone, that's it)
  • Discuss stranger danger and the family meeting place - as you go into the park, remind your kids that if they get separated from you, to go find the nearest theme park worker (make sure they can recognize their shirts); make sure they know your name and phone # (some parents will write a cell phone # on their child's arm or put a piece of paper in their pocket); pick the highest structure in the park as the meeting place for older kids (something you can see from throughout the park)
  • Have fun, stay hydrated and covered (sunblock) - Follow the tips above and everyone should be happy as a clam; if you have any tips, please do share them
See this article and others at the Carnival of Family Life #1 at Sandier Pastures!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review: "Military Spouse Magazine Vol 3/Issue 1

I recently had the chance to review the new Military Spouse Magazine. I think it was a long time in the making and was just recently released. Here are my first impressions.

The Stats:

  • 66 total pages
  • 18 full pages of ads
  • 6 sections
  • 3 small ads
My initial impression:

Clean cover with eye-catching headlines that included an interview with Catherine Bell from Lifetime TV's Army Wives; cost was $3.99; the magazine itself was fairly thin and lightweight

Inside the cover:

As I flipped through the pages, the printing was clean and crisp with lots of graphics and photos. Most of the articles discussed the challenges and rewards of a working military spouse. Almost all the articles were pretty generalized and written in a motivating tone of voice to get the reader fired up. There were also a few other articles on children, finances, travel and even a "follow me" fitness section. The writers are fairly unknown (at least to me), although "Wives War and Politics" was written by Tanya Biank. Tanya's claim to fame is being the author of Crossed Sabers, later re-named Army Wives and becoming the basis of the show on Lifetime TV.

I must say I enjoyed "Career Profile", which I think is a regular feature. This particular issue showcased the career and family life of an employee of USAA and how she was able to balance military life with her career and family.

Articles in this issue included:

Childcare Center Versus Homecare (very general)

Sealed With a Kiss (good tips to keep the romance going)

Military Work at Home Moms (the perks and the challenges; very basic information)

The ABCs of War (how deployment can impact children; good article)

To Work or Not to Work (things to consider when working; simple tips)

Wives, War & Politics (views from wives on the war and dealing with the issues; very good article)

Catherine Bell Interview (on portraying a military spouse; motivating and caring interview)

Featured Spouse Group (Naval Officer's Spouse's Club San Diego; photos and blurb are a good idea; I assume this is a regular feature)

Have You Lost that Loving Feeling? (4 ways to get it back; some good information)

Back to Work in Style (a few gadgets to buy for the working spouse; actually these are good bets for anyone; offerings were scant though)

Career Profiles (profile on a military spouse working for USAA; good feature)

Career Intel (highlights from the Spouses to Teacher Program; good Q&A on the program)

Career Harmony (balancing military with life; a few shared stories, no real advice)

What Food is Your Hometown Famous For? (Pittsburgh's Primanti's Bros sandwich this month; photo did not do the sandwich justice...looked terrible and unappetizing)

Welcome Home: Bringing Baby Home (how to design your nursery; some nice tips to get you started)

You Can Do It: Appliances (this was supposed to be about maintenance tips; I thought it was mostly about extended warranties rather than tips though after the first paragraph)

Money Matters (can you afford to work? good article with basic pros and cons)

The Cheap Date (stretch your dating dollar; only a few tips and they left out some valuable resources)

Chocolate (good for your conscience too; nice lighthearted article)

Back to Our Roots (good travel article on Pennsylvania)

Operation Wake-Up Call and Sgt. Ken (military inspired fitness exercises with photos and good explanations)

Would I read this magazine again? Considering that this is a fairly new magazine and that every new magazine has to get the kinks out, I would say yes. I would like to see more detailed "how to" articles, a heftier size (I realize this means more ads, but as long as they can be valuable resources for the military spouse, then it's okay). There is definitely a niche audience, receptive to assistance, support and comraderie, so this magazine really does have a chance! I wish it the best of luck and look forward to the next issue! Have you read this magazine? Let's hear about it from you!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lifetips #1 - Making Your Daily Life Easier

Have you ever wondered what you could do to make your daily life just a little bit easier...or maybe a whole lot simpler? I'm no household expert, but through the years, I have picked up quite a few little tips and tricks that DO make my own life easier. I thought I would share a few, and if you have any favorites of your own, please consider sharing.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • No more hair all over the bathroom floor - Every time I brushed my long hair, I would have hair all over the bathroom floor; I finally solved it by standing in the shower or bathtub and brushing my hair; now I just swipe it up in one pass and it's gone
  • Never hunt for your keys again - Don't remember where you put your keys again? I have a basket on the table by the front door for keys and other little items; if you don't have a table, you can get nice inexpensive hooks at any of the local stores; for those things that don't have loops to hang up with, get a shallow bag or basket with handles and use that to temporarily store items
  • Never be late again rushing out the door - Have your outfit laid out BEFORE you go to bed (kids too) and put the breakfast dishes and cereal on the table the night before; also have backpacks, purses and other items you regularly need by the door (I use a big basket)
  • Don't waste time sorting laundry - Have one laundry bin for darks and another for lights; the kids have two bins in their bathroom; my husband and I have two laundry bags in a frame in our closet; it's just a matter of grabbing all of one color when each bin is full and doing the laundry
  • Do not save laundry for the weekend or one day - Laundry will be much less of a headache if you do a few loads every day or every few days (when you have a full load); I like to do ours first thing in the morning (if I'm home) or in the evenings right after dinner if I've been out all day
  • Don't buy expensive food storage containers - You're going to laugh, but somehow I figured out how to use those shower caps my husband brings home from his business trip; these things fit over anything from a platter to a small bowl and you can even rinse them out and re-use them; along those lines of junk brought home from trips, I collect those small shampoo and toiletry bottles and donate them to a local shelter
  • Don't forget a birthday or important holiday every again - Since I am online almost every day, I thought I would send myself email reminders before these important dates; right now, I am using Amazon Special Occasion Reminders; I've also used Memo To Me
Again, if you have any tips of your own, please consider sharing them!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gift & Christmas Shopping Without Panic

You are thinking, "who is this nut talking about Christmas shopping in August?". Well, first of all, I'm not a nut, and second of all, if you follow these steps below, you are going to have the most restful, peaceful and stress-free holiday in your entire adult life, whether you celebrate Christmas or something else! You might as well also get a handle on your general gift-buying techniques too while you're here. I'm guessing I have your attention by now.

One thing that has always unnerved me, is how our Christmas list tends to grow exponentially every year. Not only are we making more friends, but there are more children, nieces, nephews, teachers and everyone in between!...Arrrggh, we'd have to be printing our own money to get something for everyone! Here are some ideas on how NOT to break your bank!

  • Decide in January, who you are going to be buying a gift for; make a list; for my family, I buy things on-sale throughout the year (and hide these things in a closet); no last minute shopping
  • If you don't mind crowds, let me suggest that the best deals can be found on Black Friday; DO NOT go shopping on this day until you've read the Gotta Deal site along with their forums; die-hards start discussing deals up to two months early on this site
  • Visit, a site with a cult following, offering up one item (most are electronic) per day at truly rock bottom prices, and once they're gone, they're gone
  • Throughout the year, do buy some generic-type gifts, such as candles, albums, books for females and yard, car, sports or BBQ stuff for males; you'll always have a small stack of gifts to choose from last minute when needed (not just during the holidays)
  • Do buy all your wrapping paper right after the holidays; preferably solid colors, such as green or red that can be used for other occasions
  • Save money on greeting cards by buying cardstock and printing cards online, try American Greetings and Blue Mountain; or get the kids to make homemade ones to send out; also have some generic (blank inside) store-bought ones (buy them on-sale) and keep them on-hand; my kids love doctoring up the artwork on the front and adding their own writing inside
  • If you are going to be shipping your presents, get them packed up early to take advantage of lower rates; Collect boxes out of dumpsters behind gift or party stores; I get all my boxes behind our local Tuesday Mornings store (nice, sturdy and clean boxes) and the girls there even help me pick out the best ones (I do always ask first when I find a new dumpster and have never been told "no")
  • Get the largest roll of cellophane that you can find, cause it's cheaper (try eBay or a local craft store) and then buy some inexpensive baskets at yardsales, Goodwill or another resale store; you'd be amazed at how pretty even ordinary objects look on a bed of crumpled newspaper, in a basket and then tied up with cellophane and a bow (I've made some beautiful baskets that contained such simple items as magazines, Kleenex, soup, candy, cough medicine and a DVD - as you've already guessed, this was for a sick friend)
  • If you have relatives or friends who collect things, how about going to a local estate or antique auction? You can get some real deals on some very pretty things; I regularly visit Auctiontecs to get a list of Florida auction companies; you can also google "auction" and your city or state to find them online; also check your newspaper
  • And if you are REALLY cheap, visit this FREE Sterling Silver Jewelry site; it looks like a scam but I personally know a few ladies who order from this site regularly...yes, almost every week (they are jewelry freaks themselves), and they swear by the quality; you only pay for shipping and they change the deals every few minutes
  • Instead of buying an individual gift for a teacher or coach, take the initiative and contact other parents in the class or team to each pitch in a few dollars: then go buy a giftcard from a store in the area, like Blockbuster, Wal-mart or Target; you can make this easy by typing up a note to the parents and asking the teacher if you can drop them off in the kids' mail slots or if you can put them in their homework folders (I've done both)
Please share your ideas. I'd love to hear them!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Five Minute Proof Your Home & Keep It Secure

We just thought about setting up a security system in our new rental home, so of course, I cruised the internet looking at all the overwhelming options out there...and no, I didn't just check out ADT and Brink's, although I made sure to read what they had to offer (don't forget to download their discount coupons). But then, I stumbled upon a security system dealer's website up in Canada and had an "epiphany-like" moment as I read about all the scams and downright incompetence in the home security business! I had no idea!

Please be sure to visit "5 minute proofing" your home. There are some very simple steps you can take to get burglars to bypass your home completely, as well as how to slow them down, should they actually get in your house. There is no such thing as completely burglar proofing a home...even homes with the most elaborate security can be breached...BUT you can make it tough for a burglar so that he won't even bother with you and your home. Be sure to also click on the "home security tips" category and read some of the other great articles on securing your home. This guy, who works for (and I think owns) Provident Security researches break-ins, in his area, and gives tips on how the home owners could have averted the trouble to begin with.

I'd like to add a few more things you might want to think about:

  • If you have a dog, keep it inside; even the peskiest little barker will make most burglars move onto the next house
  • Instead of hiding a key in your yard or under a rock somewhere, leave a copy with a trusted neighbor or friend
  • If you have an alarm code, do not make it a number someone could figure out (a birthday or anniversary) and if you must share your code with someone, give them a secondary code (ask your security company how to do this)
  • Encourage neighbors to look out for neighbors; I would think nothing of stopping and chatting with someone I saw walking around with a ladder, or worse, climbing up on someone's roof
  • Do not leave upstairs windows open when you leave; secure them, even if it's "just for a few minutes"
  • The next time you buy that expensive plasma TV or another nice gadget, don't put the box out early on trashday; wait til the last possible moment to put it out there...don't advertise what ya got!
  • Keep your car doors locked at all times; we just had a rash of burglaries from simple things such as Ipods being left in unlocked cars; don't ask for things to be taken
  • Before you go to bed at night, make it a routine to check all doors to the outside and make sure your garage door is closed; I can't tell you how many times I've driven through our neighborhood late at night and see a garage door open (and yes, I do call them or ring the doorbell, because most of the time, they don't intend to do that)
Do you have any tips you'd like to share?

Photo courtesy of Andrew Edmark


Friday, August 10, 2007

Read the Latest Bestsellers....For FREE!

You really can stay on top of all the latest bestsellers, and there's a way to do it where you don't pay a dime. The only thing needed is a bit of patience and due diligence and you're golden. Here's how.

  • Buy a small spiral notebook (you should always have one of these in your purse to begin with)
  • Browse the aisles and books and write down titles that interest you
  • Make sure you have a library card to your local library
  • Our library here in Florida makes it easy to access your account online and make book requests for the books you would like to put on hold
  • Our library does tell you what your spot is in the queue; with that being said, I have NEVER had to wait more than two months to get a book (for DVDs I have had to wait up to four months for the most popular titles)
  • Find out from your librarian how to do Interlibrary Loan (ILL); our library does not make it simple simon on their website; you have to know exactly where to go; we then get notified by email or phone (your choice) when our titles come in
Following these steps will really cut down on your spending, not to mention the clutter in your house! I still buy books now and then, but it's always a book I have already read, and it's one I plan to use again and again.

Here are some great books from our local library I have recently read:

  • Richistan - Pry into the lives of the super rich...find out how they got that way and what their day-to-day lives entail; it also gives an interesting peek into a butler school (yes, there is a shortage of household help these days)
  • Army Wives - the TV series "Army Wives" is based on this book; it provides a look into the life of a few Army wives at Ft Bragg; unfortunately, this book does dwell on all the negative aspects but it does provide a glimpse of what life can be like
  • Supper Swapping - The title sounds risque, but it's not; there are some nice and easy recipes in here; my next thought was that you'd have to have a pretty good friend to swap suppers with, but I liked the concept
  • The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me - this is a shockingly simple book riddled in common sense, but if you have no clue how to get on the road to riches but want something simple and easy to read (and want to bypass all the other books out there), then this is the book for you
  • Dixie Before Disney - I had always wondered what happened to all those roadside attractions of my youth; you'll find the ones from the South in this book; it's like walking down memory lane with a hint of sadness 'cause the book tells you what happened to those places after the boom; lots of photos; nice book
  • Air Travel Tales from the Flight Crew - a collection of tales, tips and gossip from a flight attendant; he gets vomited on, got food poisoning and gets hassled by angry passengers; the book isn't the most well written thing, but I did have to laugh at many of the stories; I always wondered how things went "behind the scenes" on an airplane at 35,000 feet
If you have any tips to share, please drop me a line.

Photo courtesy of


Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Property Inventory and Your Next Move

Many of us love going to a new place but hate the actual moving process. In fact, in all honesty, I despise it! I have found some tools though that can make your move a lot less stressful and worry free. At the forefront of getting your house and stuff in order, is making sure you have a good record of everything you have of value.

Follow these simple tips to get organized and ready to move.

  • Set a dollar value amount of things that you will track (I chose $20, meaning I won't track anything of lesser value unless it is some kind of heirloom or something you think you will have a hard time replacing)
  • Whenever you buy something new, keep the receipt; put these receipts into an envelope which will go in your fireproof safe; alternatively, you can scan that receipt into your computer (label these jpgs with the name of the item and the date and put them all into a property inventory folder); keep a backup; I will talk more later about some tools that will take your property inventory to the next level
  • Get a notebook (a graph paper notebook works best) and write in the following columns; if you are computer savvy, you can write up a spreadsheet instead
    • Date purchased
    • Item Name
    • Manufacturer
    • Store (where you purchased item)
    • Serial Number (if it has one)
    • Purchase price
    • Value (sometimes the value is more, such as for a collectible)
    • Photo (annotate "X" if you have taken a photo or it is on video)
    • Info (any other info you think is important)
  • Start filling this information into your notebook (this may be tedious if you've never done it before, but it is worth it once it is done)
  • If you have a lot of items, you may want to just videotape (and make a copy); otherwise, take a photo of each item or group of items
  • Make sure you have two copies of your inventory and keep one copy off-site (I have one copy with a relative)
  • For collectibles or something of greater value, I like to print off a page from the internet that lists the same or similar item for sale; try to find a collectible item for sale that also lists some of the history or background on the item too (for reference)
Congratulations, you've got a workable home inventory! I've heard countless stories (many I read in the USAA magazine) of people who had to PAINFULLY reconstruct their purchases, which sometimes took many months and countless numbers of hours of effort after the unthinkable happened! Save yourself the time NOW and get it done NOW...while the going is still easy!

If you've read this far, then you want something more. Okay, let's hear it you say. I have taken it one step further myself and invested in two little products that have made my property inventory so easy to manage, change and track. The first item is a software program called Frostbow Home Inventory. This automates your inventory and stores it in a database format. It is also compatible with Microsoft Excel. The program allows you to print out a variety of charts and reports. What I like best about it, is that for each record, you can scan in a receipt and a photo. You can do also do searches. You can annotate when you loaned something out, broke it or got rid of it. If something is a heirloom, I write out why in the description. I think it's important for our kids to know, what has sentimental value and why we are still hanging onto that particular item!

After awhile, I did get tired of using our large all-in-one printer to scan receipts, so I invested in a small pocket scanner called the Neat Receipts Scanalizer. This little thing has the added benefit of scanning just about anything, and my next project is to scan important documents before our next move, so I can start whittling down some of the papers in our file cabinet...but that's a whole other story!

So, before it gets to being crunch time before your next move, get a head start and get your household in order now. Do you have any tips to keep track of your growing household stuff?

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Stolen Wallet, Now What?

Hopefully, this doesn't happen to you...or to me either. But, as with anything else, it's best to be prepared. I've never been robbed before, but my grandmother...yes, my 84 year old grandmother, was robbed a few years ago, and she's still recovering from it...both financially and emotionally. There are some things you can do now to avert the "panic mode" and to alleviate some of the stress involved should you misplace, lose or God forbid, get robbed of your wallet!

Get prepared ahead of time:

  • Follow the advice in "What's in Your Wallet?"; keep a record of everything in your wallet and the phone numbers you need to call should your accounts be compromised
  • Some things to NEVER keep in your wallet
    • Anything with your SSN on it; if your driver's license has your SSN (some states and insurance cards still do), you have the option of calling the issuer and getting it changed to another number
    • Your business cards, if you have any (you don't want a thief to know where you work too!)
If your wallet should disappear (yes, you'll be ready):

  • Call your bank first (if you have a bankcard in your wallet)
  • Since you already have a list of phone numbers for your credit cards listed in another place (your car, computer or at home) from the article "What's In Your Wallet?"; call them and let them know what happened; get new cards issued to you
  • Call each of the credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert on your name (let them know your wallet was stolen); be sure to get a free copy of your credit report (you can get a free report if you put a fraud alert on your account)
  • File a police report (the police may or may not be able to find out who stole your wallet but more importantly, you will have proof to show creditors and those you do business with, should any accounts be compromised)
  • Keep track (on paper) of who you talked to and when, when calling your banks and credit card companies (you want a paper trail should something go even more wrong); some folks even follow up with certified letters to their credit card companies
Now that you know ahead of time what needs to be done, you can consider yourself well prepared. What do you do to stay prepared?

Photo courtesy of