Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lending to Friends? Beware!


Times are tough and credit is tight. You might have some friends who are in need of a little financial help and you are the one they are looking to for that assistance.

If you're considering lending money to friends, here are a few things to keep in mind before handing them the cash.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Finding Inspiration in Your Personal Finances


It can be difficult these days to find any sort of inspiration in your personal financial situation. If you search hard, work at it, and dig deep enough though, you might find a glimmer of hope when it comes to your money.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Costs of Having a Hobby


Hobbies might be an important, maybe even an integral part of your life. They can keep you from boredom, help you teach others, can provide great satisfaction and enjoyment, and may even make you money. At the same time however, these activities could end up costing you money. While you may feel your hobby or hobbies should not be dictated too tightly by financial aspects, the money you are spending on these activities will likely still have to be a consideration.

Affordability
One of the most important considerations of having a hobby is affordability. How much money will your hobby cost, and do you have the money or time needed to devote to your hobby or hobbies? It can be frustrating to enter into a hobby only to find that you can’t fully take advantage of the opportunity it presents, or participate in the activity due to lack of funds.

In order to determine whether the hobby or hobbies you have selected are economically feasible, it might be a good idea to speak to others who are involved in the particular activity, do some online research or visit your local library and check out a few books or magazines on the hobby to determine associated costs. Whether it’s camping, caving, golf, or collecting, hobbies can often range greatly in costs depending on how involved the participant decides to become or what the hobby is. It may therefore be a good idea to get more than one opinion or read more than one publication to get a better idea of how much you’ll be spending on your hobby. Once you have a general idea of how much a hobby will cost, it can be a good idea to lay out a budget.

Hobby Budget
Hobbies are meant to be fun, but costs can get out of control if you let them. Once you have an idea of how much a hobby might cost you, it’s time to determine how much you can afford to throw at it. Many hobbies will require a reasonably sized initial investment to get started. You may have to buy gear, equipment, supplies, a membership, or other items needed to partake in your hobby of choice. As with camping, you could find that the initial costs for a tent, sleeping bags, backpacks, cookware, and related equipment is quite high, but after those items are obtained, the cost of camping as a hobby can drop off dramatically as your equipment (if maintained properly) may last for years or longer.

Other hobbies might not call for such a large initial buy-in but will require continuous reinvestment due to the regularity of re-supply costs or as in golf, club membership dues or rounds of golf, cart fees, etc. A hobby such as collecting dishes, silverware, antiques or similar items, might not call for much of an initial financial outlay, but over time may become a regular expense as the collection builds and items are found on shopping trips.

Going into your hobby with a budget can help provide a general idea of how much it will cost as well as how much you can afford to put toward your hobby. A budget can help avoid unforeseen surprises when it comes to the cost of your chosen pastime and may allow you to better enjoy your hobby without overdoing it when it comes to costs.

Earnings
Sometimes hobbies can make you money. This might be a fantastic, not to mention unexpected aspect, since you’ll hopefully be doing something you love while making money at the same time. You may even find that your hobby pays for itself. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves quite yet. A hobby is something that is meant to be enjoyed, not necessarily a money making venture. If you are able to tie the two together though, you may get the best of both worlds.

Whether your art is selling by way of your paintings, ceramics or weaving, you’re writing freelance articles, reselling antiques or collectibles, making a profit as a woodworker, make a bit from selling your gardening products, or just enjoy reselling items at garage sales, there are numerous ways hobbies can earn you a buck or two. However, it’s often important to the enjoyment of your hobby that you don’t let making money detract from the joy you receive from your pastime. If the two can comingle, so much the better, but if a hobby becomes work, it may no longer be a hobby!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Aunt's First Novel!!!


My aunt just published her first novel, Bondage and Freedom: A Civil War Romance. Here's a brief summary of the book from her publisher, AuthorHouse's bookstore page.

"When the Yankee nurse's wagon overturns, she does not expect a captain of Confederate cavalry to rescue her. Unable to reveal her identity to the enemy, Lydia remains silent until Brinton's tender care overcomes her fear. In the final days of the Civil War, Lydia and Brinton strive to serve their causes in East Tennessee and find something more powerful than hatred. The bondage of war gives way to freedom in their love for each other."

To find out more or order your copy CLICK HERE.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How to Deglaze a Pan


While I’m no food expert, or even a great cook, I do enjoy a good gravy, and I HATE to waste food! Deglazing is not only a delicious but economical way to pick a pan clean. This process involves using the bits of meat and juices that remain in the bottom of a cooking pan to create tasty and natural gravy. The techniques involved in deglazing can be as simple or as extravagant as you want. While I’m still a novice at the technique, here are a few things I’ve picked up so far that you might be interested in hearing.

Let’s start with the basics. Some of the best gravy I’ve ever tasted has been completely natural, using only the bits of meat, skin, and juices left from a cooked bird or a roast. Adding a little water during the cooking process can help to ensure that there is enough juice to work with and that the bits of meat that have adhered to the bottom of the pan are moist. Water can also be added once the meat has been removed and the gravy gently brought to a boil.

Health nuts out there may recommend attempting to remove any fat or bits of meat from the mixture before serving. In many cases though, dishes such as duck, goose or large roasts are most often prepared around the holidays and one should be ready to indulge. However, if you are adamant about watching your waistline, then straining out all the good stuff is always an option. The remaining gravy will probably still have more natural flavor than store bought, although it may not be quite as thick.

There are plenty of variations to deglazing a pan. Some people like to add a stock of some sort, possibly beef, chicken, fish or vegetable. Still others choose to flavor with wine, cider, brandy, or assorted fruit juice or alcohol. As a safety side note, if you decide to use straight alcohol, make sure to remove the pan from an open flame before adding. One might also select from a variety of herbs and seasonings including, garlic, salt, basil, oregano, fennel, rosemary, etc. or any combination thereof.

Smaller dishes, such as filets and cutlets, and all types of meats including fish, chicken, steak, pork, and even vegetables can be deglazed. One trick to deglazing just about anything is making sure you use a pan in which bits of meat will adhere to the bottom.
This can ensure you have a little something to work with for your deglazing process. Another key element in the deglazing process is ensuring that you don’t overcook the meat, thus evaporating the meat’s juices and oils, which are essential to producing the flavor rich stock with which to make your gravy. Sometimes, giving the meat a slight basting while still cooking, will ensure some of the meat’s juices seep to the bottom of the pan.

If, upon checking the status of your gravy while heating, you find it is not thick enough for your liking, there are several options. One of these options consists of using a mixture of fat from the drippings of the meat and butter as a thickener. Another is to use butter mixed with flour. Probably the most effective technique though, is mixing a little cornstarch with a bit of cold water and stirring it into the gravy until you have the consistency you are looking for. If your gravy becomes lumpy, you can always toss it in the blender or hit is with the hand mixer when no one is looking. Your gravy is then ready either to be served in a separate serving dish for individual portions or drizzled over the meat itself, thus enhancing the overall flavor of the meal.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emergency Food Supplies


Part of efficient and effective living is planning ahead. Here are a few of my thoughts when it comes to what to stock for an emergency food supply.

The scope and range of possible emergencies in the 21st century are broader and far wider reaching than ever. From natural disasters such as floods, storms, fires, epidemics, and droughts, to man made catastrophes like terrorist activities, financial collapse, civil unrest, environmental destruction, even the crash of technology based services such as internet or electronic banking, emergencies can encompass a variety of possibilities. These disasters can last from a few hours to weeks or even months, and can affect very specific areas and societal demographics or be spread across vast regions, countries, even the entire world.

Having a stock of food and water available for yourself and your family is one of the best ways to be prepared for an emergency. Simply having a supply of food isn’t enough though. You must ensure that you have certain types of food on hand and that they are properly stored. Storing your food supplies in a cool dark place, rotating them by freshness and expiration dates, and having well packaged, non-crushable containers for easy storage and transportation, are all factors to consider when compiling your emergency food stores. But you can only stock so much, so what foods are best to have on hand during an emergency?

If space is a factor, you aren’t going to want to have many items like chips, pretzels, crackers, etc. that are poorly packaged, low in nutrition, take up a lot of room, and are easily crushable. This type of item is better replaced by high protein foods that are compact and will keep for long periods such as peanuts, peanut butter, granola, etc. When it comes to your emergency stockpile, forget the frills. In an emergency, you want the necessities, so in most cases you won’t be stocking the condiments, milk, butter, eggs, etc. You need food that won’t spoil quickly and is easy to transport and store.

Necessities

First off, you won’t be getting far in an emergency without water. While you will need it to drink, it is also quite difficult to cook many types of food without water. Therefore, bottled water should be the first item you stock in your emergency food supply. Besides water though, you should have flour, sugar, powdered or condensed milk, salt, and dehydrated or powdered eggs. These items have a long shelf life, don’t take up much room, and in a long-term emergency these ingredients will provide a long list of foods and meals you can create.

Staples

Items that are canned or dried can often be great additions to your emergency food supply due to their long shelf life and easy storage. Dry cereals such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, granola, grits, etc. are perfect for your stock. Regular boxed cereal can be good as well, although you have to watch expiration dates more closely. Other good staples include noodles, pastas, dry soups, peanut butter, peanuts, and dried meats. If you don’t want to have to add water to make your meals, consider canned fruits, vegetables, pastas, and other canned, ready to eat foods.

Special needs

If you have someone in your family with diabetes or hypoglycemia, you should consider storing special items to meet their needs. Fruit juice, powdered juice that can be mixed with water, raisins or dried fruit, and candy can be good for getting blood sugar levels up. Low carbohydrate/high protein foods such as dried meat, tuna fish, peanuts, and peanut butter, are other good foods to have in your emergency supply for helping to regulate blood sugars. Since the majority of these foods can be eaten by those without special needs, and typically have a long shelf life, they make great additions to your emergency food supply.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Why Are You Wasting Your Money?


There are plenty of ways to waste your money, and in this current economic environment, wasting money is not a wise move to make. The problem is, you could be wasting money and not even realize it. What might seem a normal expense to you, might be an unnecessary expenditure to someone else. If you want to save a couple of bucks or think you might unwittingly be tossing your hard earned money down the drain, here are a few areas in which you might be able to cinch up your belt a bit and hunker down when it comes to where your money is going.

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