Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Welcoming Baby Without Blowing Your Budget

Anyone who has had a baby, or is preparing to welcome one into their family, knows that it can get expensive. How does one little person need so much stuff? Cribs, strollers, car seats, clothes, diapers, toys, bottles, etc. The list goes on and on, and it can quickly take a toll on your household budget.  The expenses add up very quickly if you're buying brand new items at your local store. Even if you just happened to find everything you need on the clearance rack - which is highly unlikely - you're still going to spend a bundle (on your new little bundle).

But don't get discouraged just yet. There are ways to save money while still getting the things your baby needs, and that starts with realizing that your baby does not need all brand new items. Invest in secondhand furniture, see if any of your friends who have already had babies can lend or give you their hand-me-downs, and even check out online baby equipment rental, because sometimes it's cheaper to rent than to buy. I had no idea there was a whole site full of baby goods to rent.  You can find toys, furniture, and even small appliances like miniature fridges. The best part of that is that all merchandise is thoroughly inspected for safety, then sanitized and wrapped in plastic, so it stays clean and ready to use.

GarageSaleStuff 003One of my favorite options, back when I had babies, was going to garage sales. Babies grow out of everything so quickly - sometimes they only wear a particular outfit once - and you can usually find some barely worn baby clothes for a good price. Of course, this isn't the best time of year for garage sales, but many people offer their used baby clothes, furniture, bottles, diapers, and many other baby needs online through Facebook marketplace sites and/or eBay. (things have changed a bit since I had babies 27 years ago)

Of course, when you shop Goodwill, garage sales, or even eBay, you will want to inspect the items to be sure they are in good shape. Many baby things are very gently used because, as I mentioned earlier, babies grow so fast that they sometimes only wear an outfit once. They're also changing and developing so quickly, especially during the first year, that many items, especially toys, are quickly outgrown and discarded as baby moves on to something new.
You'll also want to be aware of current safety standards when buying cribs, strollers, and car seats. I just learned recently that car seats have an expiration date, so be sure to check on that - even if you're borrowing one from a friend.  If the car seat is expired, you'll need to find a new(er) one. Your baby's safety should be of primary importance.

Babies need a lot of stuff, but with all the options out there, you can get all that stuff without completely ruining your budget. And, it can be a lot of fun tracking down those deals and collecting all the things your baby is going to need while you wait to welcome her into your family.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book List 2017

I've been reading all my life (well, as long as I can remember, anyway), but it wasn't until 2008 that I started putting together a list of all the books I read each year. I use Goodreads to keep track throughout the year and then list them all here once the year is over. It's always fun to go through them, and see how many pages and how many hours of reading I have.

Also, once again I'll link to any reviews I did. As always, I have good intentions to review more of the books I read, but I don't always follow through. Let's see what 2017 looked like...

Again, all books are listed the month I finished them. Even if I started listening or reading the previous month - or even at the beginning of the year as with the Bible reading plan. I don't always include my Bible reading program, but this year I started in January and finished in December, and it just fit.

January
  1. Brotherhood in Death - J.D. Robb (audio) - 13 hrs 37 min
  2. Donny's Brain - Rona Munro (audio) - 1 hr 27 min
  3. The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane (audio) - 4 hrs 33 min
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware - 352 pages
352 pages | 19 hours and 37 minutes

February
  1. He's Still Working Miracles: Daring To Ask God for the Impossible - Dana Rongione - 180 pages
180 pages

March
  1. 11/22/63 - Stephen King (audio) - 30 hrs 44 min
  2. Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22) - Janet Evanovich (audio) - 6 hrs 27 min
  3. Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23) - Janet Evanovich (audio) - 6 hrs 16 min
43 hours 27 minutes

April
  1. Apprentice in Death (In Death #43) - J.D. Robb (audio) - 13 hrs 6 min
13 hours 6 minutes

May
  1. Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lover's Mystery #1) - Jenn McKinlay (audio) - 7 hrs 23 min
  2. Echoes in Death (In Death #44) - J.D. Robb (audio) - 13 hrs 43 min
21 hours 6 minutes

June
  1. How Ideas Spread - Jonah Berger (audio) - 5 hrs 53 min
  2. The Chamberlain Key: Decoding Startling Messages from God, Hidden for Centuries in an Ancient Biblical Manuscript - Timothy P. Smith - 224 pages
  3. Tidewater Inn (Hope Beach #1) - Colleen Coble (audio) - 8 hrs 56 min
224 pages | 14 hours 49 minutes


July
  1. Room - Emma Donoghue (audio) - 10 hrs 52 min
10 hours 52 minutes

August
  1. Pennies for Hitler - Jackie French (audio) - 9 hrs 18 min
  2. The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) - Stephen King - 422 pages
422 pages | 9 hours 18 minutes

September
  1. Vivian Apple at the End of the World (Vivian Apple #1) - Katie Coyle (audio) - 8 hrs 6 min
  2. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls - 304 pages
  3. Words in the Dust - Trent Reedy (audio) - 8 hrs 27 min
  4. The Sign - Shawn Boonstra - 127 pages
  5. Once (Once #1) - Morris Gleitzman (audio) -  3 hrs 8 min
431 pages | 19 hours 41 minutes

October
  1. Room for One: Learning to Love God, Cast Out Idols, and Bring Your Faith to Life - Kelen Caswell 125 pages
  2. When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife - Jennifer Grant - 192 pages
217 pages

November
  1. You Can't Do it Naked: From Exposed to Fully Clothed in the Armor of God - Kim M. Snyder 116 pages
  2. The Advocate - Randy Singer (audio) - 15 hrs 4 min
  3. Secrets in Death (In Death #45) - J.D. Robb (audio) - 13 hrs 2 min
  4. Between Me and You - Allison Winn Scotch - 358 pages
474 pages | 28 hours 6 minutes

December
  1. The Pursuit of God - A.W. Tozer (audio) - 3 hrs 17 min
  2. Tips for Living -Renee Shafransky - 328 pages
  3. Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4) - Stephen King - 672 pages
  4. Touching His Robe: Reaching Past the Shame and Anger of Abuse - Leslie G. Nelson - 172 pages
  5. The Queen's Poisoner (Kingfountain #1) - Jeff Wheeler (audio) 10 hrs 25 min
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version - 1326 pages
  7. Collapsible: A Novel of Friendship, Broken Bones, Coffee, Shenanigans, and the Occasional Murder (Collapsible, #1) - Ruth Buchanan - 231 pages
  8. Love Story (The Baxter Family #1) - Karen Kingsbury - 368 pages
3097 pages | 13 hours 42 minutes

  • Total books - 36 (compare to 38 in 2016)
  • Total pages - 5180 (compare to 6574 pages in 2016)
  • Total time - 178 hours 55 minutes  (compare to 182 hours 16 minutes in 2016)
Page counts courtesy of Goodreads; audio lengths courtesy of Audible.

My reading goal for the year was 40 books, so I didn't quite make that - unless I count each individual book of the Bible and all the books I read to my grandson, but that seems a bit like cheating. I haven't yet decided what my goal for 2018 should be. Maybe I should just keep reading and see how it's going before I commit.

I didn't do too well posting reviews, either - only 15 this year. I really ought to get better at that - even if just a few words... Once again, scrolling through the list, I see several books that I really meant to write a review for, but somehow I just didn't do it.

How many books did you read in 2017?  I'd love to hear some suggestions for my 2018 reading list.

*if you happen to click any of the book covers and buy from Amazon, they say they'll pay me a small percentage.  Every little bit helps, and I thank you for your support!

Monday, January 08, 2018

New Year New You

A new calendar year rolls around, and we begin to see it all over again. The health clubs are offering special sign up deals and affordable monthly rates, the stores are advertising exercise clothing and exercise equipment, and people are starting new diets and new exercise programs, hoping that this year will be the year. This is the year they will finally lose that weight, get in shape, and take back the life they know they should have.

Are you ready? Will this be your year? Utilize some or all of the techniques outlined below to begin pursuing optimal well-being now:

  • Join A Health-Based Community.
    One of the best ways to take your mental and physical health to a new level is by joining a health-based community. Joining a community ensures that you will have support and encouragement as you implement lifestyle changes that promote healthy eating, regular exercise, etc. Use Internet-based resources such as www.meetup.com to determine which local communities you might join to take your health to a new level. You'll find information about different communities that may be active and alive in your local area. Sign up. Get involved. Make some friends and have some fun!
     
  • Start Meditating.
    Meditation is one of the most important activities to engage in if you're serious about making wellness an integral component of your life. This technique can work in numerous ways, and the outcomes are not the same for everyone. For example, many people find that meditation engenders sustained introspection and self-awareness, thereby empowering them to cultivate a life that is more conducive to their personal values or professional purposes. Some of the other positive outcomes that can result from regular meditation include better sleep and boosted immunity.
     
  • Take Care Of The People Around You.  

    While many health experts acknowledge that self-care plays an integral role in promoting optimal wellness, it's also important to know that taking care of the people around you can engender a profound sense of well-being. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that practicing empathy can create happiness by making life feel more meaningful. This process can transpire as an individual experiences the emotions of another person and then takes strides towards alleviating their suffering. Your acts of empathy do not have to be confined to the human world. Taking care of pets is also a wonderful way to demonstrate empathy. Note that finding a cat care clinic Washington residents can rely on to offer exemplary pet services is a wonderful way to keep your feline happy and healthy. 

Will those New Years resolutions and goals quickly fall by the wayside? Like every other year? Not if you start now by intentionally implementing new strategies in your pursuit of good health and optimum living. Take one step at a time; make one small change at a time, and then make another one. And remember, if and when you fail - pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Today. Tomorrow. Don't wait for another new calendar year. Every day is a new day, one day closer to your goals.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy Solstice!

or, so that's where the 12 Days of Christmas came from...

I signed up for a free ebook last night. (I admit, even though I will never have time to read them all, I am seriously addicted to downloading every free ebook that crosses my path) This morning I got an interesting email from the author entitled Yule - The Pagan Holiday That Celebrates the Sun.
Celebrated on the winter solstice, Yule is a holiday dedicated to the return of the sun. Pagan deities associated with the celebration include: all newborn gods, sun gods and mother goddesses. Kris Kringle, the inspiration for Santa Claus, receive the honour of becoming the Germanic Pagan God of Yule. The winter solstice, as the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, has been celebrated for centuries. It signifies the return of the light, as the days become longer and the countdown to the life-giving spring begins. The Yule festival lasts for 12 days and involves great merriment and feasting, as well as many traditions each with its own meaning.  (read more)
I wasn't expecting that - guess I should check out that free book soon.

Dec 21

Seriously, I've known all my life that the origins of Christmas stem from paganism, though I don't really know all the details or haven't paid that much attention. Or actually care that much. It's enough for me that God gave us days to celebrate, and I have no need to look for replacements.

I have wondered what this 12 days of Christmas thing is when my calendar only has one day marked.  (and these days it seems that one day is stretched out more and more) Of course, the 12 days of Christmas come from the pagan holiday too. Why am I not surprised? (I think extending it beyond that is all retail)

Of course, there are many people who have celebrated Christmas all their lives with no clue that it has any meaning except for celebrating the birth of our Saviour. Others used to know the pagan origins and believed God when He said that He is not pleased when we attempt to honor Him by adopting the ways of the nations (pagans) around us, but somehow they have forgotten or decided it doesn't matter anymore. Or maybe God changed?

I'm pretty sure God hasn't changed. That would call into question a whole lot of other things besides holy days and whether or not pagan traditions can somehow be made acceptable and even honorable. So, I'm going to continue celebrating the days God set aside in the Bible - appointed times that remind us just who God is and what He has planned for us. Settling for pagan traditions painted and prettied up by man seems kind of hollow by comparison.

Monday, December 18, 2017

When You Need a Lawn Service

We currently take care of our own lawn, but many of our neighbors have a professional service come in and take care of theirs. They mow, they trim, they spread chemicals to take care of weeds, and whatever else needs to be done. I'm not sure we'll decide to hire a lawn care company anytime soon, but the following information may be helpful should we decide to look for one.


In order to find the best lawn service, you need to ask important questions and then compare several different lawn care companies to ensure that you get the highest quality lawn care all year long.  The following are five key things you should look at when searching for a reputable lawn care Tampa service.

This shot is a result of failure...
  1. Compare various standard lawn treatments from different companies
    Compare treatment programs offered by several different companies.  Are shrub and ornamental tree care offered along with turf care?  Do they tailor their lawn care treatments to the kind of turf you have?  For instance, your cool-season grass has different needs than the warm-season grass in your neighbor's lawn.
     
  2. Services go beyond basic yard maintenance
    Your yard's needs will vary from one season to the next.  You'll want to find a lawn care company that offers additional services beyond basic yard maintenance so that they will be available when you need them.  Some important services include service calls in between your regular lawn treatment appointments, diagnosing and treating pests and diseases, and aeration.
     
  3. Make sure the people treating your lawn are qualified
    The individuals who will be caring for your lawn need to know how to safely and properly apply grass treatments.  They also should be willing to answer any questions you might have regarding the treatments being used and the basic needs of your yard.  It is best to have the same dedicated technicians working on your yard if possible so that they become very knowledgeable about your yard and can keep up with any problems that may arise.
     
  4. Search for a preventative lawn care service
    Ask for information and tips from the lawn care service.  Depending on the area that you live in, there most likely will be certain lawn diseases, pests and other kinds of problems that arise with shrubs, trees, and lawns.  Once you know what to look out for, you will be able to give your lawn care service provider a call so they can come out and diagnose and treat any potential problems before extensive damage occurs.
     
  5. Check out customer reviews
    Customer reviews are a great way to get information on a lawn care company's customer satisfaction level and performance.  You can then contact the companies with the best reviews and interview them to ask additional questions so that you can determine which one best suits your needs for the finest lawn care service. 


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It Really Is the Doorway!

Have you heard that walking through a doorway can cause you to forget why you went into that room in the first place? Sounds crazy, right? Though I'd rather believe that than thinking it has anything with being old enough to have a couple grandchildren.

I just read this article that does a very nice job of explaining why walking through doorways makes us forget, and it actually makes sense. That doesn't make it any less annoying though!

I have figured out how to remember - walk back through that same door! At least it worked once, and I only discovered that accidentally. I ran upstairs to get something - I can't remember what it was now, and I could not remember what I was looking for when I got upstairs. I stood in the bedroom and looked around, but nothing jumped out at me. So, I gave up and went back downstairs. As soon as I walked back through the doorway into the kitchen, I remembered exactly what I had been upstairs looking for.

I immediately turned around and ran back upstairs to get whatever I went up there for in the first place - repeating over and over again in my mind what exactly it was I was going up there for. Success! And extra exercise.

No promises that it will work the next time, but it kind of makes sense - walk through a doorway and forget; walk back through that same doorway to call back to mind the thing you've forgotten. It's worth a try anyway. Either that or carry around a notepad and write everything down.

How's your memory?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to Keep Your Home Protected Through the Winter Months

With winter fast approaching, it's only natural that you'd want to make sure your house is fully prepared for all of the harshness that the weather can bring. Given all of the issues that can arise from an improperly maintained home, it's no wonder that many people are worried about how to make sure their house is as well protected as possible. With that in mind, here's a look at some of the best tips out there to make sure your house can handle everything that the winter brings and then some.

Waterproofing

Although it's easy to think that the biggest problem with the winter is the coldness it brings, the dampness can actually be one of the biggest problems. For one thing, damp areas typically attract insects, and that's a fact that's no different in the winter than it is in the summer. If you want to avoid all manner of pests breeding in the area around your home, then you'll probably want to make sure that you invest in some kind of exterior waterproofing. This system can help ensure that your house doesn't get any unnecessary leaks and that you and your family aren't exposed to anything that might cause you to get sick.

Snowy RoofReinforcing Your Roof

You'll also want to do something to make sure you're not letting go of any of that valuable heat you have. If you find yourself running an incredibly high energy bill, then it's likely that the issue lies with how your heating is being handled by your house. More specifically, your roofing might be to blame. If you can hire a contractor to take care of your roofing needs, then you should be able to help keep your heat contained so that it won't become a bigger issue when the winter really picks up in ferocity. Similarly, if you have a fireplace, you should consider investing in some kind of maintenance service for that as well, as you can never be too careful.

Getting Your Furnace Checked

Consider hiring a professional to check your furnace at the beginning of the cold weather season to ensure that it is working at full capacity. Sometimes just a small thing can make a huge difference in the efficiency of your furnace, and in your power bill. If you can't hire a professional, at least be sure to change the filter regularly.

While protecting your home may require an investment of both time and money, it will ultimately be worth it in the long run. No one wants to see their home fail to provide proper shelter for their family, and these steps will hopefully ensure that you keep the cold outside where it belongs and the heat inside with you and your family.

home again, home again

Thursday, November 16, 2017

How to Genuinely Enjoy a Road Trip

Lots of people have planned a road trip absolutely thinking that they will enjoy every second of the trip, only to actually get out on the road and find out things aren't exactly as they envisioned. Now the only thing they want is to get to their destination as quickly as possible and just get this trip over with.

Here are a few things that can help you genuinely enjoy a road trip:

It is important to strike a balance between planning too much and not planning enough. If you over-plan, you will get frustrated if everything doesn't work out according to the plan you have set up. However, if you do not plan enough, you may end up having to stay in nasty hotels, eat unhealthy and gross food, or even get lost on the way to your destination. It is good to have an overall idea of which route you will take, which hotel and restaurant options are available, and also what kind of entertainment you could enjoy along the way while still being flexible and able to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves.
Donuts
The amount of time that you have designated for the road trip (and other factors) will determine how much you can see along the way. No matter how much or how little time you have, it is always a good idea to take a little bit of time to relax, see something new, and enjoy yourself. This will make the road trip genuinely enjoyable. It may be something like taking a detour and staying in a relaxing hotel for a couple of days. Or it may be as simple as stopping at a unique bakery Chicago IL in order to enjoy a fresh doughnut - as opposed to just stopping at any old convenience store to grab a snack. Do at least a couple of things along the way that you will truly enjoy and that will make the road trip memorable.

are we there yet?
Consider the individuals who will be traveling with you. If this is a family road trip, make sure that there is plenty of entertainment (and plenty of snacks) for the children. Otherwise, you are practically guaranteed to hear, "Are we there yet?" coming repeatedly from the back seat. Many vehicles nowadays come equipped with DVD players, so don't forget to pack the movies! Or, for some family fun, check out this handy list of games to play in the car.  If you need to get to a destination quickly, consider driving at night so that the kids can sleep most of the way. Take into consideration the preferences of each individual in the car so that everyone stays happy and enjoys the trip.

And last but definitely not least, make sure your vehicle is in good condition.  This cannot be overstated. Dealing with car trouble along the way can turn a trip that could have been quite enjoyable into a nightmare. A few weeks before your trip, have your mechanic check the vehicle over. If you do all you can to prepare your car beforehand, you will likely avoid car issues along the way.

So, who's ready for a road trip?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?

I recently finished one of the books on my reading list - When Did Everybody Else Get So Old?: Indignities, Compromises, and the Unexpected Grace of Midlife by Jennifer Grant.
Jennifer Grant is a writer, editor, and speaker. A former health and family columnist for the Chicago Tribune, she is the author of four previous books, including the adoption memoir Love You More. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, four children, and two rescue dogs. Find her online at jennifergrant.com or on Twitter @jennifercgrant.
I received this one in exchange for a review, so I bumped it to the top of my ever-growing reading list.

This is a fairly quick read, and I saw glimpses of myself and my life in Jennifer Grant's. No, we're not all the same, but chances are if you're in that same time of life, you'll find glimpses of yourself in there too.

She takes us through the changes as our children grow up and get ready to move on into their own lives, starting college and moving out. After all that time of singular focus on the children, the questions emerge - What now? Who am I besides mom? 

Jennifer shares her insights and the things she learned, simply by living it, not without a bit of humor thrown in, sometimes at her own expense. And, yes, she even talks about S-E-X.

I read some reviews from people who laughed out loud and cried when reading this book. I didn't experience any of that, but I did come away with a strong sense that everything is going to be OK as perhaps we're all old (and wise) enough to accept our lives and ourselves as we are. And maybe this next phase has plenty to offer, too. 

Overall, a very enjoyable book, and I especially liked many of the quotes from books she had read and her special take on them. I plan to troll her Notes section for some additional reading. (like I really need any more books on my to-read list)

Thanks to Herald Press for the review copy of the book.

What Should I Look For In A Landscaping Company?

In today's world, many residential and commercial property owners find themselves in need of excellent landscaping services. If you're currently looking for landscapers in Toronto, it's important to know what to look for when choosing a service provider. To ensure that you obtain the cutting edge, customized landscaping services that will get your property in stellar condition, make sure that the company in question possesses all of the following attributes:
    IMG_0462
  1. Extensive Experience In The Landscaping Industry.
    One of the first attributes you should seek out in a landscaping company is extensive industry experience. This is immensely important because it ensures that the professionals of the firm will have a great deal of knowledge regarding the industry. It will also ensure that the landscapers in question have plenty of hands-on experience enabling them to handle a wide range of landscaping issues with ease and precision. Typically, you can learn how long a landscaping company has been in operation by reviewing their website.
  2. Stellar Feedback From Clients.
    In addition to seeking out a landscaping company that has been operating for an extended period of time, make sure that you find a team of professionals who regularly receive stellar feedback from their clients. Taking this step is important because it will ensure that you're selecting a team of professionals who are known for doing a great job. One great resource you can utilize to see what people are saying about a particular landscaping company is online reviews. Note that over 80% of consumers now believe that these online reviews are just as valuable and accurate as a conventional, word-of-mouth recommendation.
    In addition to reading through online reviews, be sure to take the time to look at the customer testimonials that appear on a landscaping company's website. These testimonials can provide you with even more information regarding the specific reasons that a certain team of professionals can be trusted. At the same time that you may find customer testimonials valuable and accurate, note that many businesses will refrain from posting testimonials that do not put their company in a positive light. Therefore, you may need to take these testimonials with a grain of salt.
  3. Comprehensive Services.
    Another trait you should seek out in a landscaping company is comprehensive services. This attribute is important because it ensures that you won't have to go through multiple companies to obtain all of the landscaping services you need to keep your residential or commercial property in exemplary condition. Some of the key services you may want to look for include:
  4. Up the garden path.
    • Interlocking Stone Installation
    • Flagstone Installation
    • Gardening Design
    • Fencing/Decking Installation and Repair
    • Sod Fertilization
    • Grass Trimming and Hedging
    • Snow Removal 
  5. A Great Better Business Bureau (BBB) Rating.
    When you start looking for the right landscaping company, note that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a wonderful resource to use for the purpose of learning more about the organization in question. Specifically, the BBB is known for producing ratings about businesses that provide the public with a clear, accurate, up-to-date understanding of how effective they are in serving the public. If you find that a specific landscaping company has been rated and maintains a rating of A or higher, it's safe to say that you can count on attaining effective, expedient services from the organization. 
  6. Complimentary Consultations.
    One final attribute you should seek out in a landscaping firm is complimentary consultations. These consultations give you the opportunity to interface with the landscapers in a "real life" setting through which you can make determinations about things like their level of friendliness and how willing they are to listen and give you what you want. The live setting will also help you to determine whether the company culture is conducive to your own value system, personal preferences, temperament, etc. Finally, the complimentary consultation can be a wonderful time to request a free estimate for the specific landscaping services you're seeking! 
Find The Right Landscaping Company Now!
 If you're ready to obtain high-quality landscaping services that keep your property as pristine and perfect as possible, hopefully the information here will help you pick the perfect company for your project.