Sunday, December 7, 2014

Awaken your Five Senses to create a Home for the Holidays!

Create a Home for the Holidays with these simple tips to awaken the five senses!

Scent it up!

Stepping into a home with a waft of a pleasant aroma immediately puts everyone into the holiday spirit! Light a yummy scented candle, hang a cinnamon stick broom near the door, put some pine cones in a basket, bake some ready to bake cookies or even spritz your favorite holiday pillows with a scented spray.  This will awaken your sense of smell!

Put on some music!

While you are decorating, put on the holiday cheer.  Pandora, Spotify, the Music Channel, your iPod,.... music is so easily accessible these days!  Better yet, make it karaoke night and carol your way through the   classics. Your sense of hearing will be happy!

Hang those stockings!

Decorations don't have to break the bank! Save those boxes from your online shopping deliveries and wrap them up, place them all over the house.  I have all sorts of Christmas wrap from over the years, I'm sure you do too!  Even better, take your pictures and wall art down and wrap them up too! Put on a nice bow and now you've got cool pieces of Holiday Art! Your visual sense will be wowed!

Break out the Brie

There are just some foods reserved for the holidays!  Trader Joe's makes my mouth water with their selection of cheeses, crackers and desserts!  I also love tamales this time of the year, especially the corn and pineapple ones! There's something special about sipping a savory soup on a cold winter night!  Treat yourself and your loved ones with those holidays goodies! Your sense of taste will be tantalized!

Plan a family night!

The holidays are all about spending time with your loved ones.  Arrange a simple family / friends night and break out an old-school board game, (my favorite of all time is Pictionary!) or turn the tube on and catch a Hallmark movie with some hot cocoa and popcorn.  Or light the fireplace and write your letter to Santa. One can never be too hold to create a wish list!Your sense of touch will be in action!

Hope you enjoyed these five simple tips to AWAKEN YOUR SENSES and create a Home for the Holidays!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

8 Tips to Game Plan a Great Black Friday!

1. Do your homework!
Look through the ads, make a list of items you want to buy and make a road map of what stores to hit and in what order. Mark down what time each store opens! Make sure you also have all of your store coupons, credit cards, etc.. for more savings!

2. Fuel up! Literally!
Don't leave the house without fueling your body with some energy! Grab a protein bar and bottled water to eat if you're really in a hurry.  Put some mixed nuts and some other snacks in your purse to tide you over until lunch time.  Fuel up your car too! Don't want to waste time having to stop to get gas, someone else will be getting your bargains!

3. Dress for the day!
No stilettos or flip flops on Black Friday, get out your running shoes. If you plan to try some clothes on, wear some easy on/easy off clothing.  Layering is always good, but nothing bulky! Wear something you can tie around your waist if you get too warm.

4. Be hands free!  All you really need is your wallet, coupons, phone, and snacks! Don't bog yourself down with your handbag that can hold your miniature dog, leave that at home! Wear a cross body bag to so that your hands can shop. Also, don't bring the little ones, they will slow you down. Call in that babysitting favor, you'll have a better experience!

5. Tag team it!
Lines can be super long at these stores, bring a buddy along to hold your place in line while you go after your bargains. You guys can trade places later so he/she can shop too. This keeps you moving along the line while getting the stuff you want! Parking can sometimes be a problem too, have your line buddy drop you off and start shopping while they find a spot. Of course, courtesy calls for you to grab something for them off of their list too! 

6.  No carts or shopping bags left? No problem!
Quickly go to the luggage section and grab a duffel bag.  Boom, go shop!  You don't have to buy it, you're just using it while in the store!

7. Bring the store ad!
Why?  If you're not familiar with the store, find an employee, show them the item and ask them to point you in the right direction.  Also, many stores will price match, why travel to another store? If you have a Target red card, they price match and you get an extra 10% off (used to anyway, hope they still do)!  Extra bonus!  Have the ad ready to show the cashier at checkout! 

8. Use your device! 
If you're travelling a bit to your favorite store, use an app to check traffic.  Find an alternate route if necessary.  Follow social media as there may be additional giveaways or bargains mentioned for Black Friday.  Don't forget to back your spare battery or charger! And if you don't enjoy the rush and chaos of Black Friday, hey, turn on your computer and shop online in the comfort and peace of your home! 

I hope my tips help you have a great Black Friday experience!!! Leave your tips in the comments below!

Six Ways to Send Your Kid to College!

  1. Start saving something when your kid is born
Ok, maybe not when they're exactly born 'cause I know you need money for diapers, bottles, and such, but decide on an amount that is realistic for your family. Let's say you start saving when your kid is 2. Putting away $20 a paycheck for example can add up over the next 15 years.  Yes, I'm calculating when the kid is 17 because what happens during junior year - uhhh, something called SAT tests with possible SAT prep classes that aren't free! You may also want to start touring some local and not-so-near colleges, that's gas and lodging to think about too.

     2. Put your money somewhere where you won't see it
Sure, put it in a 529, but a 529 has some restrictions. I had one for one of my kids, but you know what worked better? My Roth IRA and stock accounts.  As long as I only took out what I contributed and didn't touch the earnings, my taxes were ok.  Whatever you choose, be disciplined about contributing regularly and not touching it until your kid is 17!!

      3. Establish a college-going culture
Wherever we went for a family event, vacation, a road trip somewhere, we always included at least a drive through of the local university.  By the time my kids were 8 and 10, they saw over half of the UC schools and quite a few of the CSU campuses, plus many private institutions.  We would walk the campus even if only for a half hour or so and always stopped by the student store to pick up a t-shirt.  I looked at the souvenir as a way of reinforcing in my kids that they were going to college one day.

    4. Fuel your kids' passion
Does your kid love something in particular and they're good at it?  Let 'em go at it! As an application reader for a local university, the kids who stand out to me are those that pursued their passion.  Your kid wants to start a catering business,? Let 'em! Your kid wants to fund raise for those affected by Typhoon Yolanda? Help 'em! Your kid wants to break a Guinness Record for most days without sleeping? Get some snacks and activities together and cheer them on!  It's our job as parents to expose them to all sorts of experiences and support them!  These are the kinds of things they can write about in their personal statements that will get a university reader's attention and get them into their top choice school!

   5. What, a scholarship for being a twin? Yes, money is out there! 

All you have to do is research and of course apply. They have scholarships for all sorts of people, twin, South Paw, wants to be a farmer, wants to design cars, everything!!!  The applications (and sometimes interviews) can be a lengthy process, but hey it's a paycheck at the end of the rainbow. Scholarships are offered to students as early as sophomore year, so it doesn't hurt to start hunting early.  Once students have a  well written essay, they can tweak it to fit the topic if the scholarship requires an essay.  Popular topics are tell us about yourself, or tell us about a time you were challenged and overcame it, etc...Gauge whether the scholarship is a very competitive one (i.e. only one in the nation given) or one that you really have a chance at (i.e. 20 scholarships will be given...)  As the money purse holder, I helped my girls with these.  I had a spreadsheet of the scholarships they were eligible for, when the application would be available (many are now strictly done online) and also the deadline and notification dates and copies of each application all in a binder.  For big name scholarships I would send the applications by certified mail.  Both my girls won over $20K their senior years, which certainly helped to defray college costs. Some scholarships were also good for four years!!

6. A loan is ok! Really it is!

Even after saving for years, applying for scholarships, and financial aid, with the rising cost of tuition, room and board, electronic devices, etc... there's always going to be a gap with what you have and what your kids need.  Having your child take out their first loan can be scary, but really it is okay.  I think of a college education as an investment into their future.  We all know a college degree doesn't guarantee anything, but there's evidence that folks with a degree make as much as four times more than those that don't.  My oldest has had to take loans to meet college costs, and I'm sure my second one will have to as well, but once they start working, it'll feel good to pay that off.  They give you ten years on average to pay it off. A student loan will help build credit and rates right now are at their lowest in history.  I took a loan out for my master's degree, and since I became a math teacher, my loan was forgiven! How 'bout that!

I hope these six tips help you plan for your kid's future college career! 

Six Ideas for Entertaining Without Extraordinary Spending!

  • Potluck it!
Yes, in fact make it the theme of the night!  "Make Your Own Pizza Night" and everyone brings a different ingredient, you provide the crust, sauce and oven!  Win bragging rights for the most creative ingredient, best tasting pizza, etc...You can also have a fried rice night or a salad night, anything where there are lots of ingredients!  Or just let everyone bring what they want.  The site is great for organizing a potluck.
  • Have an Exchange!
Another idea is to host an exchange of some sort.  A cookie exchange is a popular one.  Everyone knows ahead of time how many people will be in attendance.  Each person bakes a certain amount of his/her favorite cookie so that each attendee takes some home with the recipe provided.  You get to sample homemade cookies and bring some home to share! A clothing exchange is another idea. Invitees bring gently used clothing to exchange with each other. Bring an item, take an item. Anything not taken can be donated to charity afterwards. 
  • Play a game!
For $1.99, you can download "Heads up" on your tablet or phone, even kids can play this game.  The video it records is worth the money alone for double entertainment.  Have you played Left, Center, Right?  This is a super fun game and all you need is three die.  Google the instructions.  Play with quarters and the game will go on and on! You can also host an "Unwanted Gift Exchange".  We all have that gift that we received and it gets stuck in a closet somewhere. Who says it has to be Christmas to play, play it anytime of the year! Last but not least, a deck of cards is always a good time, betting encouraged but not required.
  • Take a Trip Down Memory Lane!
Break out old photos/videos to share! Its always fun to go back in time and remember when! Dated clothing and hairstyles usually become fodder for laughter.  You'll be saying, "Dang, I was skinny then!!!"  But, this is only fun if everyone can see. Make your photos into a slideshow and hook it up to the big screen TV or projector.  
  • Create a "Mommies Only" Area!
Sometimes moms just want Quality Time with their girlfriends!  Pick someone's house where there is ample space and have a mommy sleepover!  Tell your friends to arrive in their comfy pj's, enjoy a kid-free, spouse-free night where everyone can be a kid themselves! Have some cheese, crackers, fruit, and wine, or offer a dessert bar and get ready for a night of distraction-free adult time!

Or ask everyone to pitch in and hire a sitter for the night, maybe one who has a job at a kid gym or something like that so they really know how to occupy the kids. Kids can stay in a separate room with food and all their needs met in a different area, leaving you all kid free.  It doesn't hurt the wallet too much if the cost is distributed.
  • Bargain hunt for a Mom's Night Out!
My friends and I tried our first paint night at a local restaurant last year. It cost us twenty dollars each. We found a deal on Groupon.  We have also been able to enjoy food at a discount by buying coupons and the like. Do you know someone who does makeup? Invite them over for a lesson with the girls!  Do you know people who need to put in their hours to become a masseuse or beautician?  Volunteer yourself and your girlfriends and make a party out of it!

Have an idea to share, please comment below!

This Foodie's Top Ten Easy Anytime Snacks!

Easy Anytime Snacks!
  1. Fruit with some Taijin! Or shall I say sweets with some heat? Taijin is a spice mixture that brings some edge to your snack!  Cut up some mango, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew, banana, whatever fruit you have and sprinkle some Taijin on it and you'll be addicted just like me!
  2. Boiled salted peanuts!  Soak some raw peanuts in water for about a half hour.  Pour them into your crock pot and add some generously salted water that covers them. Set your crock on high for about 3-4 hours, stir them every hour or so and their done when the texture is to your liking! I like mine tender but not mushy.
  3. Toasted bread with some butter and drizzled honey on top, yummy! 
  4. Siopao! Is that a snack? Well for me it is! Siopao is like a Filipino hot pocket! It is a white pillow of soft dough with some meat inside! I like pork filling the best! If your siopao has been refrigerated, wrap it in a wet paper towel and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds or less!
  5. Pita chips and some hummus and tabouleh!  Yes, I'm international.
  6. Nachos!!!  But it must be nacho sauce cheese, not some shredded microwaved cheese nachos, yuck. With jalapenos of course.
  7. Sunflower seeds. I like cracking them with my teeth!
  8. Eggs, any which way.  Boiled, scrambled, over easy, egg salad, I just like eggs!
  9. A hot corn tortilla with some refried beans and cheese inside! This is where the shredded cheese variety comes in!
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