Thought Cloud

Wordle: Untitled

Thursday, August 5, 2010

10 Expenses You Don't Need

Confession: I hate to pay for parking. Unless it's as hot as Iraq or raining cats and dogs, I will do whatever it takes to find a legal space on the street, preferably free. And I'm good at it. It mainly takes faith, patience and experience. Recently, I found a spot on Chicago's North Avenue next to the famous Second City comedy club on a Saturday night, saving the $17 the building's garage demanded -- and the half-hour wait to climb the ramp after the show. I've done these kinds of things for years.

In the spirit of trading personal convenience for cold cash that remains in your wallet, here are nine other everyday expenses you don't need:

Banking Fees of All Sorts - Banking fees are generally small -- a couple dollars here, a couple dollars there -- but they can add up to hundreds throughout the year if you're not careful. Don't pay money just to manage your money. You can take easy steps to avoid these fees:

• Overdraft fees. Sign up for low-balance alerts via e-mail, and link your checking account to your savings account to move money as necessary to avoid $35 fees for insufficient funds.

• Checks and postage. Pay your bills electronically instead. You'll also avoid any late fees and black marks on your record if the postal service loses your payment.

• ATM fees. Know where your own bank's ATMs are located, even in other states, so you can save $3 every time you get cash out of the wall. Or consider switching to a bank that offers free ATM usage regardless of which bank's ATM you tap.

• Coin-counting commissions. Save the 5% it can cost you to cash in your nickels and quarters at the supermarket. Coin counting is gratis at hundreds of TD Bank branches in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Florida, whether or not you have an account. (Just pray the machine, called Penny Arcade, isn't down for service. That seems to happen a lot.)

Basic Investing Advice - There are plenty of wise reasons to engage a financial planner or adviser -- but there are also pointless ones. If all you want is help choosing mutual funds, especially if your choices are basic index funds inside a retirement plan, it's silly to fork over as much as 1.5% of your savings each year for someone to run a common software program to do this for you. You can arrange your money among different investments yourself or build a simple portfolio with little effort. Then rebalance every quarter or six months to restore your weightings.

By all means, get an excellent estate planner or an accountant when it's time to think about taxes and bequests. But you don't need help for everything.

Help Applying for Financial Aid - Commercial sites like will help you complete and submit the important application for student aid for $79.99. But at the U.S. Department of Education's site,, you can fill out the application for free -- with all sorts of guidance on how to assemble the proper personal information.

Pet Care - Pet-sitting is big business these days, with brand names, franchises, uniforms, logos, and even lobbyists and consultants. But if your little guys are healthy, you can save the $50-a-day boarding fee while you're on vacation by asking a responsible neighbor, friend or family member to feed, walk (if needed) and hang out for a bit with your cats and dogs -- provided you volunteer to do the same when they're away. Make sure your helper knows who your vet is, and, obviously, don't be so informal if your animals have health problems that mean you should board them with the doctor.

Insurance on Rental Cars - The rental-car clerk will offer you a collision-damage waiver (sometimes called a loss-damage waiver), which can cost $10 to $20 per day. The CDW shields you if the rental car is damaged or stolen. But as long as the rental is for personal use and you have collision coverage in your own auto-insurance policy, you're covered without the CDW (with the same deductibles that apply to your own car).

Your credit-card benefits supplement your auto coverage. Most cards will pick up your deductible, and premium cards offer beefier coverage. Keep in mind that credit-card protection doesn't include liability. And if you've dropped comprehensive or collision coverage on your policy, the rental car will not be covered if it is stolen or damaged in an accident.

Credit Reports - Don't fall for sites that offer "free" credit reports, which often end up enrolling you in expensive credit-monitoring programs that you usually don't need. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once every 12 months at It's a good idea to stagger your reports -- getting a free one from each bureau every four months -- to keep an eye on the status of your credit and spot potential ID theft throughout the year.

Warranties - The other day I bought the snazziest new Samsung smart phone from T-Mobile at the fair price of $249. The sales rep couldn't let me go, however, without asking me to pay $125 more for insurance against me dropping the unit or otherwise ruining it. The cheaper electronics get, the less these warranties make sense. Same's true with appliances. Now, if I could insure the suits I take to the dry cleaners -- or the luggage the airlines throw around -- we might have something to talk about.

Shipping for Online Shopping - At, you can find coupons and codes to secure free (or deeply discounted) mailing or delivery from hundreds of retailers. Some of these are constant offers as long as you make a minimum order. Others are occasional deals with a limited life. And if there's no cost for mailing, you can't get hit with that mysterious charge for "handling," right?

Water - There are times you'll pay anything for a cold bottle of premium H2O. If you're driving through the desert, riding your bicycle on a hot day or dealing with grimy yellow stuff in your pipes, price is no object. Once while on vacation in Florida, a construction crew accidentally cut the water lines to our residence. Off to Wal-Mart it was -- or we would've been unable to cook, wash or even make coffee for 12 hours. But why pay for bottled water all the time? Is it actually safer? Bottled-water makers aren't required to test their water or make their test results public. And few brands reveal important details about the source of their water and what it contains. Heck, about 25% of bottled water actually comes from the same municipal sources that deliver water to your home.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Follow Up On An Earlier Post “Clever Ideas Worth Knowing...”

I have decided to do a follow-up on my “Clever Ideas Worth Knowing…” because I recently had to try a couple out. I’m grateful for these kinds of quick tips because they minimize my annoyance level and don’t require putting a dent in my bank account!!

Re-opening Envelopes: If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

When I returned from my ‘vacation’ to Chicago…oh how I wish I was still in the city…I was working on ‘thank you’ cards. After I sealed the first one up…OOOPPPSS….I forgot to put the small gift inside! I put the envelope in the freezer…it worked beautifully!! It even resealed afterwards. I was worried that it wouldn’t stay sealed so I put some cute stickers on it just to be safe. Saved me from having to use another envelope that would have given me an odd number of envelopes to go with the cards, which just happens to be one of my pet peeves.

Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

These little bugs drive me nuts! I always think I’m losing my mind when I see them. They were a little out of control when I returned from vacation. They were living inside my ivy plant. Pulled out the Apple Cider Vinegar and dish soap and within a couple of days I didn’t have any in the house. I didn’t even mind the smell of the Apple Cider Vinegar! FANTASTIC!!

Newspaper Weeds Away: Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

One of my subscribers posted that she has been using wet newspapers in her garden for a long time. I haven’t had time to try that yet, but it is on my list. Thanks for letting us know that it works!! If anyone has another home remedies or quick household tips to share, please do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Busy Busy Busy Busy

I'm back from my vacation to Chicago.  I had the time of my life!  What happens in Chicago...Stays in Chicago!!  I really went there for business, believe it or not! I attended The Pampered Chef National Conference.  I am really energized about my Pampered Chef business now.  My goal is to be a Director by June 30, 2010!  What an AMAZING business I am a part of!!  I love this job!

I'm going to start a new audio series...Go for No!  I'll post some thoughts and tips about this program as I go through it.  I hope you'll give me your feedback and ideas as I work through it.  This program, from what I have gathered so far, is to help you accept the answer 'no' as motivation.  What a concept!!!  I can't wait to get going!  More to follow...

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task."

Number two on the list of 175 ways to be more productive is to focus on starting tasks rather than finishing them.  The greatest challenge is taking the first step and getting started. 

I am a Pampered Chef Consultant.  One of the hardest things about selling Pampered Chef is picking up the phone and starting to make calls!  Someone told me that the phone weighs 400lbs when you need to make those calls.  I am starting to overcome this...I take a deep breathe, pick up the phone, and start dialing.  As the evening goes on it gets so much easier. 

KIDS ROOMS!!  That is a nightmare for me! I know I need to go through their rooms and all of their clothes, but its so hard for me to start that task!!  I love the feeling of accomplishment when complete, but I would rather have a tooth pulled!!!  

How about mowing the yard?  If my back yard was smaller I may not avoid it so much or if I had a riding lawn mower.

Exercising! Is that everyone's worst area?  I wish I had the drive to work out on a regular basis.  Maybe a  little OCD about exercising would be a plus!! 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Know Where Your Time is Going

It always helps to know where your time is going.  Keep a log of how you spend your time for a couple of days. 

I will admit, I spend WAY TOO MUCH time on Social Networking sites.  Lately however, I have been trying to use these as tools to increase my motivation and remind myself to be positive.  If my message helps someone else…BONUS! I have stopped playing games on FB...Lord only knows how much time I wasted playing Farmville!!!

I find myself spending too much time being frustrated at work with other people's lack of a work ethic. How do you get past this? I know I'm not the only one that feels this way...

Another thing I do that is terribly frustrating…I spend time getting ready to do work/chores at home instead of actually getting the task at hand accomplished.  How many of you do this?  I cannot cook dinner unless the kitchen is spotless or start laundry until my room and the laundry room are spotless...a little OCD?  I think yes. 

What does your log show?  Are you investing too much time in people or things that are not really important to you or your goals?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Clever Ideas Worth Knowing...have you ever heard of these??

Bananas:  Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store.  If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster..

Cheese:  Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!

Peppers:  Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating.  Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

Beef:  Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef.  It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

Eggs:  To really make scrambled eggs or omelets rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream in and then beat them up.

Brownies:  For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.

Garlic:  Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.

Apple Dessert:  Leftover snickers bars from Halloween make a delicious dessert. Simply chop them up with the food chopper. Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place them in a baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes!!! Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.

Reheat Pizza:  Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

Easy Deviled Eggs: Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

Expanding Frosting: When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

Reheating Refrigerated Bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

Newspaper Weeds Away: Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers, put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

Broken Glass:  Use a wet cotton ball or Q-t ip t o pick up the small shards of glass you can't see easily.

No More Mosquitoes: Place a dryer sheet in your pocket. It will keep the mosquitoes away.

Squirrel Away: To keep squirrels from eating your plants, sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn't hurt the plant and the squirrels won't come near it. (Wonder if this works with rabbits? Sure gonna give it a try)

Flexible Vacuum: To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

Reducing Static Cling: Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and static is gone.

Measuring Cups: Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water.  Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

Foggy Windshield: Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

Re-opening Envelopes: If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include s om ething inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

Conditioner: Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It's cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It's also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn't like when you tried it in your hair.

Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it 1/2' with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup an d gone forever!

Get Rid of Ants: Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it 'home,' can't digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Extreme Couponing With Carmen: Getting Started With Coupons

Extreme Couponing With Carmen: Getting Started With Coupons: " I am sure most of you have heard about extreme couponing as they call it on the internet, news or even on the radio. Well I am here to..."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

“The Daffodil Principle"

"Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over."

I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead "I will come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and reluctantly I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren.

"Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her.

"But first we're going to see the daffodils. It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."

"Carolyn," I said sternly, "Please turn around."

"It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, " Daffodil Garden ." We got out of the car, each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight.”

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, and saffron and butter yellow. Each different colored variety was planted in large groups so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn. "Just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.

On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking", was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read. The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time--often just one baby-step at time--and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years? Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.

She was right. It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Harder than I thought!

I have within the last year become a single mom and have discovered its a lot harder than I thought! Trying to keep the balance between my kids, my full-time job, my home-based business, and keeping up with the house is not as easy as some women make it look.  I admire those women that can do this and still keep a positive attitude.

My committment to myself and my family...stay positive and count to 150 when I feel like I'm getting angry so I don't explode!  

I attended a Mary Kay "PARTY" last week and was given excellent insight on how to live up to my committment.

1. God first, family second, career third.
2. Look forward, not backwards

I also attended a dinner and heard Sherri Coale (OU Women's Basketball Coach) speak.  She is an amazing lady and a great speaker.  She spoke of the Daffodil Principle...its going to be what I model my life by.  Make the most of the time you have and do something to make a difference. 

What do you do to make a difference?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kitchen Saving Tips

Some of my favorite recipe books have great tips on how to reduce your time in the kitchen in all of their recipe books. Some of my favorite tips include:

• Plan a menu a week ahead, choose recipes accordingly, determine what perishable ingredients are needed for the week, and restock the pantry with items that are running low.

• When chopping vegetables for tonight’s recipe, chop a little extra for another meal in the next few days.

• When a recipe calls for a half pound of cooked pasta, cook the entire box and refrigerate the rest for another day.

• Freeze left over broth or wine in ice cube trays, then place cubes in freezer bags for quick flavorful pan sauces.

If you are interested in seeing more of these tips and recipes, send me an email at and I will tell you how to get them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Essential Items for Working Moms

What tools do you use to make your life a little easier? Do you regularly use a slow cooker? How about your coffee pot, could you live without it? I know I couldn’t! The only thing that keeps me going most days is the first cup of coffee, and the second, and the third…etc…

I am a Smart Phone addict. I have it in my hand everywhere I go, almost glued to my hand. This little tool keeps me in touch with my 13 year old that is constantly on the go and I have both my kids’ teachers easily assessable because I can send them an email on the go. Amazing how much direct-selling business I can do just by text messaging certain customers. Granted, most customers I wouldn’t dare do business in that manner, but my younger generation customers prefer this method of communication.

Maureen Lipinski has a list of ‘Essential Items for Working Moms’ and I think she is right on target. Here are some of the things that she says are essential:

Slow Cooker
Smart Phone
Grocery Delivery Service
Warehouse/Discount Store Membership
A Good Support System
A Coffee Pot
Dependable Childcare
Solid Morning Routing
The Ability to Say “No”
Me Time
What do you think? Anything you see missing from this list?


Saturday, February 6, 2010


Welcome to my blog! 

I'm a busy mom hoping to share ideas with other people on how to spend less time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning so I can spend more time with my kids.  It always seems like if I am not running to a different practice/recital/game, I am in the kitchen cooking or washing dishes or even in the laundry room under an endless pile of clothes. 

Send me your favorite websites for household shortcuts or just general ideas on how to make life easier.  One site that I have enjoyed is  I tried signing up for the emails and it quickly became obvious that I would never be able to keep up with the numerous emails that weren't sent out daily.  Don't get me wrong, they have great tips and ideas on how to get your life organized and products available for purchase, but it would be fabulous if you could get a daily or weekly digest instead of 50 emails a day. 

I look forward to hearing your stories and tips!  Hope you'll visit my blog often!