Friday, September 11, 2020

Home Renovations Under Quarantine

 Why is it that so many of my blog posts recently have been about doing things in quarantine? It seems like our way of doing things has changed in so many aspects since the beginning of this year, from shopping, to eating, to visiting with friends, to attending Church...not much is the same simple, everyday life we had just six months ago! Thankfully, we are slowly returning to a semblance of normality, but "everyday life" still looks so different in 2020 than it did in 2019. One bonus that did come out of the lockdown period for our family was having the time to actually get some of those home repairs done. You know, the kind that have been on a to-do list for  forever, but we never have the time to get around to them? We did hours and hours of cleaning, clearing out, redecorating, and repairing the home during quarantine and the house looks much better for it!

One of my ongoing pet projects is the kitchen. We had new wooden cabinets put in several years ago, but to be honest, they already need some repair. Knobs have come off, a couple have been damaged, and they definitely need a new paint job. We were able to get the bigger work taken care of a couple months ago, but we still need to do the paint and knobs. I recently found an incredible deal online for beautiful bronze knobs that I just love and they match our kitchen color perfectly! I also looked at some lovely backsplash tile for the kitchen that I will be keeping an eye on. I hate how messy the sink area gets, and backsplash makes it so much easier to keep clean. Plus, backsplash just looks so bright and cheery!


Another room we've been doing work on is the guest bathroom. Repainting, hanging new mirrors and medicine cabinets; we even put a new bathroom vanity and shelf in. All of these are items we could have gotten some great savings on if I had known about Build.com a few months ago!

One biggie in the home that we just have not found the time to do yet is replacing the bi-fold door to our entertainment room. Our house is an older farmhouse, and trying to find just the right door has been difficult in the area we live. The closest home improvement store is 45 minutes away, so online shopping is a huge plus, especially when it comes to something like this. I have been able to find so many beautiful doors, just the right size, and we can match it to the room colors and decor. I am especially loving the barn-door look of this one pictured below. I can not wait until we find the time (and hopefully a coupon or sale) to get this door replaced!

As I mentioned earlier, unfortunately I didn't know about Build.com and the deals you can get online for home repair. Now that I do, I think it's time we tackle the rest of our to-do list, starting with the aforementioned bi-fold door. Not having to drive 45 minutes to shop, plus adding in the home repair discounts you can find at Slickdeals means we can get the rest of our house in tip-top shape much easier and at less cost. Let's do this!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Tool Sets For Everyday Use

 Over the past several months (during quarantine or whatever you'd like to call it), I've been doing a lot of thorough housework. This means clearing out junk that has accumulated that we don't need, making any small repairs I find, adding some new home decor - basically giving our home a facelift, so to speak! It was a great opportunity to get so many little things done that I've had on a mental checklist for forever but never could find time to accomplish. One thing I found absolutely necessary for so many of these home projects is a good tool set


One of the main projects I had was finally hanging up all those family pictures and cute or inspirational quotes we had sitting around the house. Hobby Lobby is one of our favorite stores to just spend a couple hours wandering, so of course we end up with a lot of wall decor that somehow usually just sits in the back room gathering dust until the time some brave soul ventures in to find a piece they'd like to hang. There are a couple tools necessary for this; the first and most obvious being a hammer. I'm rather picky about my hammer; I don't like the overly big, designed-for-major-construction-projects hammers. Something small, light, and easy to wield in small areas, such as if I'm hanging a picture in a corner and don't have room to maneuver a larger hammer. In addition, I like to use a tape measure or ruler to make sure that everything is level and even. Some larger pictures have two hooks on the back for hanging, so it's especially important with these. But even to just make sure your entire decor is not going to look sloppy and haphazard, it's a good idea to use a tape measure before driving those nails in!

A screwdriver is another must-have for frequent use around the house. Whether it's hanging a set of wall shelves, fixing a cupboard door, or putting a new door handle on, screwdrivers are essential. Some people prefer the traditional separate flat and phillips heads; I have a kit with the bits in different sizes and heads. This make it super simple to swap from project to project without needing to carry multiple screwdrivers around. Mine even has the bits tucked neatly into a carrier inside the handle of the screwdriver, so it's super easy!

One other item you'll want in a home tool kit is a wrench. This probably won't receive as much use as the hammer and screwdriver, but it's still common enough use that having one handy is important. Tightening nuts and bolts won't come up as often around the house, but just when you think a wrench isn't important, you'll find yourself needing one! Of course, what you need/use most often will determine what you want in your tool kit. I like to keep a pair of scissors, some pliers, wire cutters, and some nails and screws in varying sizes in my kit so I'm prepared for whatever the day and project may require. What does your home tool kit have?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Components of a Business Plan

 Hey, friends! Are any of my readers business owners? Small business, home business, or maybe a booming online enterprise? I'm not, but I have to admit, the thought has crossed my mind numerous times how much I would love to open a bakery and coffee shop. Making a limited amount of fresh baked goods every day (cinnamon rolls would be the cafe's #1 menu item since they're my specialty) and serving all sorts of coffee beverages to go with the sweets. It's not something I really think I'll ever do simply because I know the statistics about restaurants failing as well as not having the capital to start something like that, but it's nice to dream. 


I was reading recently about what are considered the top 10 components of a business plan, and found some helpful and extremely useful information. So, in case any of my readers are business owners or are contemplating starting a business, I thought I'd discuss a couple areas I thought especially important.

First, the customer analysis. Who are the people your business will appeal to? What specific group of customers will you be targeting? Are you going to attract moms and families? Is it something that young people will be drawn to? Maybe senior citizens? Singles or couples? I feel like figuring out who you are trying to bring into your business is a huge part of making sure your enterprise gets off the ground and running smoothly.


A second point I thought was very helpful was discussing the marketing, sales, and product plan. If you don't have a plan in place to market your product/service/business, you are pretty much guaranteed to fail. Social media marketing is almost a must in our day and age, but there's so much more than just starting a Facebook page for your biz. Do you know how to use social media effectively? Are you familiar with what hashtags and headlines will catch the eye of potential customers? Do you have an eye for photography to present your products in the best light? Moving away from social media, what is the image you want for your business/brand? Are you going for a hip look? Do you want something traditional and trustworthy, maybe the "family-owned-and-operated" image? Or do you have a unique thought in mind that you want your brand to convey? The possibilities are endless, but it's important to have these questions answered before you open a business, whether it's online or a brick-and-mortar store.

Lastly, having a solid financial plan in place is of the utmost importance. Do you know what it will cost to get your business up and running? How long will it take before you start to see profits? What is the minimum you need to make to cover day-to-day costs? Finance is, without a doubt, the one thing you MUST have calculated and arranged long before opening day.


Cool Craft Project #Crafting #QuarantineActivities

 Hey, y'all! I don't know about anyone else, but during the quarantine/stay-at-home/whatever you'd like to call it, I got bored pretty quickly. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the extra time with family, but with most of our normal day-to-day life shut down, I knew I had to find something to keep myself occupied. I was very thankful when craft stores opened back up, and spent numerous hours wandering trying to find projects to work on. I finished one just recently, and I absolutely love how it turned out! I got the inspiration from a project guide in the store, but I didn't follow their specific instructions; I struck out on my own and put together what I thought would work best for my needs. 



Most of my room is done in a western theme; I've always loved horses, western style clothing, cactus, Texas...you get the idea. The colors are pretty much a sky blue to turquoise color, all complimenting each other and keeping with a western look. I'm not really sure what this project would be called, but it's a magnet board, necklace hanger, and assorted catch-all in one single piece. I started off with an unfinished wood plaque from the craft store that already had a metal sheet in one section. Obviously painting was the first step; I opted for a chalky blue that gives it a sort of rustic feel. Along the top section, I used a piece of leather and attached it with cactus-shaped thumb tacks. Then I found some turquoise mini clothespins that work perfectly to hang necklaces from the leather strip.


The second part, the magnet board, was pretty much all set. So the next step was painting a dowel rod and some caps for it, then finding hooks that were just the right size to hang the dowel from. It took some doing, but we finally discovered some decorative hooks that worked well. After sliding the rod in, I found some metal hanging buckets to attach onto the rod. The rod will hold three of these cups, and this is what I call the catch-all part. I can stash my sunglasses, leather bracelets, pens, and many other little extras that never seem to find an actual home. 


I have to admit, before this project, I never would have considered myself any sort of craft/artsy person. This is honestly the first crafting-type project I've ever completed that I actually felt proud of! It's obviously homemade, but I think it has the perfect rustic look, and fits perfectly with a western theme. The best part is, no matter what theme/style your room is, you can change it up to work. Different board, different colors, different materials...this is just an idea of what you can do with a few craft supplies and some spare time!

Monday, August 24, 2020

How You Should Prepare For a Walking Tour

 How You Should Prepare For a Walking Tour


There's nothing quite like a walking tour to get you outside and ready to explore.  Whether you're on the Great Wall of China or making your way through the Grand Canyon in Arizona - it's exciting to think of everything you'll see.


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Unfortunately, it's not all fun if you're not prepared.


Here are a few ways you should prepare for a walking tour to make the most out of yours!


Take Care of Your Feet

Since this is a walking tour, your feet have to be kept in mind.  Trim your toenails the night before so they don’t rub in your sneakers and socks.  Wear sneakers that you’ve worn before, and that are broken in.  You don’t want to have to break in your shoes on a long hike where you may end up with blisters or sores.




Drink and Bring Water

Whether you're trudging through the Australian outback or walking around looking at Pittsburgh houses for sale, you need to keep hydrated.  Don't go overboard, drink when you're thirsty, and your body will be able to handle the rest.  The best thing for your body is water, but if you don't have food on hand and feel fatigued, the sugar in natural juices can help. 


 


Sunscreen

If your walking tour is outside during the day, wear sunscreen.  This step will save you from sunburns or rashes and help protect your skin in the long run.  Instead of worrying about a painful burn, you'll be able to concentrate on the beautiful views around you.  Go for an SPF of at least 30, since that will block 93% of UV rays from getting into your skin.


Mobile Charger for Your Phone

It might sound nice to cut yourself off from technology and enjoy the views around yourself but keep a spare phone charger.  You'll be able to take pictures of the beautiful scenery around you and have your phone in case of an emergency.


Stretch

A walking tour can be strenuous if you're not used to being on your feet that long!  Stretch your body so that you can face this walking tour with ease.  The most important place to focus your stretches is on your legs and feet. Warm-up these muscles and joints, and prep them for the workout ahead.




Eat Something

Don’t walk with an empty stomach!  An empty stomach can leave you nauseous, dizzy, and make poor decisions like not drinking water or resting.  Eat some food before you go, and take a couple of snacks with you so that you can refuel your body while you're walking.


Small First Aid Kit

Although most walking tours don't require a ton of dangerous activities, you must bring a first aid kit to protect yourself.  These kits can help if you trip and scrape a knee, or if someone in your group gets hurt.  The hope is that you'll never have to use it, but it's good to keep one in your bag in the off chance it's needed.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Sportswear Shopping On a Budget

Hey, everybody! Do we have any Columbia fans among our readers? When I hear Columbia, I typically think of two things: their outerwear and their athletic apparel. Truth is, my uncle is a huge fan of their casual shirts, but my favorites are, as I said, exercise tops and jackets.

I think my first experience actually wearing anything Columbia brand was not too long ago when my sister and I were visiting northern Kentucky and had forgot to bring any jackets with us. *Insert facepalm here.* Yes, we took a trip in October, it was warm where we were coming from, and we didn't think to bring even a lightweight jacket with us! Thankfully, we had a friend who loaned us a couple of jackets and, you guessed it, they were both Columbia brand. I promise, it's not just my chattering teeth speaking when I say that was one of the most comfy jackets I had ever put on! I ended up buying another jacket on our trip, but I was loathe to give that one back to the owner. Needless to say, that drew my attention to Columbia from that point on. Yes, I had seen their apparel in various stores, numerous friends wear Columbia, but that was my first time actually feeling the Columbia comfort for myself.


Next to the jackets, my favorite Columbia product line is their athletic shirts. I'm pretty active, I go biking/walking/running at least 4 days a week, and we also take day trips to go hiking whenever possible. No matter what the occasion or location, Columbia is sure to have the perfect shirt for it. You can always count on Columbia to have comfortable fit and practical style, all wrapped up in a lovely design. Whether you need a long sleeved base layer for a winter hike, a short sleeve tee for a summer jog, or anything in between, or even casual athleisure wear, Columbia has you covered.

Now, Columbia isn't the most pricy apparel brand by any means, but they are typically going to be more expensive than your generic store-brand clothing. In my opinion, the old age stays true; you get what you pay for. To me, they are worth the extra few dollars to get the quality and comfort that far outlasts other brands. (For example, said jacket that we borrowed from a friend was about ten years old and still in great condition!) However, I understand it's not always easy to justify or even afford the price of quality. I consider myself a great budget shopper, deal finder, whatever you'd like to call it, and have often astounded friends with the bargains I can find. Most people would be surprised how easy it is to find insane deals on Columbia apparel. I usually shop around a bit, either online or in store, and decide what product(s) I'm interested in, but I definitely don't purchase right away. I like to wait, check out what sales are going on or will be starting soon, find coupons, and do all the research I can to make sure I'm getting the best deal possible. My favorite department store often runs sales and coupons in conjunction with each other, so I love when I walk out with a bag full of goods and see on the receipt that I spent maybe $47 and saved over $300! It's an incredible feeling for sure! You can also find great deals online at places like Slickdeals, among others. Don't settle for just buying something the instant you see it-check out what bargains you can find, and you'll be amazed at how much you can save!


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Unique Must-Try Desserts That Make the Perfect Present

 

If you know someone who is truly in love with food, you can use this love to find them the perfect gift. If you are looking for something for your foodie, consider these unique gifts that will be sure to offer them a truly one of a kind experience.

Spicy Meets Sweet

For foodies out there, you can harness their love of tastes and flavors and what better way than through combining those in strange and exciting ways. Gifting them with gourmet spicy chocolate can be a great way to embody their love of something rich and sweet with something that will be sure to exhilarate their taste buds.

Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate Truffles are the ultimate in chocolate gifts. What girl doesn't love the exquisite beauty and taste of a box of gourmet chocolate truffles? Whether it's a gift to say I Love You or a just-because from a friend or family member, chocolate truffles are sure to be received with pleasure.

Chef Extravagance

If you are looking for something truly exquisite, you can order extravagant desserts, made from some of the most renowned chefs. Consider Milk Bar and place an order that can bring the wonder of this extraordinary birthday cake to your friend or family member’s doorstep. No longer do you need to travel to foodie hotspots like New York City, and instead, you can enjoy these decadent desserts from home.


Make Your Own

For your food lover, if they prefer a more hands-on experience, you can send premixed recipes that they can enjoy from the comfort of their kitchen. Whether you send them unique dessert mixes or meal kits, enjoy the fun and experiential options available for every type of foodie.

There is something wonderful about sharing a love of food, and you can share that joy and excitement through these unique and delicious ideas. You will be sure to thrill and excite your loved one with these unique and fun flavors that are sure to commemorate a memorable celebration.

Chicago Life

Any of my readers live in or around Chicago? Or have any of you visited the Chicagoland area? I can still remember my first visit to the Windy City about ten years ago. A friend invited our family to spend a few days there, and we took in so many sights! From the Magnificent Mile to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, the North Shore, various restaurants including the famous Portillo's/Barnelli's...we did it all! I had been to New York City a few times previously, and while I enjoyed NYC, I definitely like Chicago better. It's busy but still a more relaxed pace than NYC, the people are overall friendlier, and you never run out of things to do or see!

One of my favorite aspects of Chicagoland life is the amount of bookstores in the area. Our family loves books and each of us, to some extent or another, collect various genres, authors, and series of books. In addition to some used bookstore chains, there are also numerous local used book shops that you can spend hours in looking for that certain book. Whether it's religious, fiction, history, art, music, or any other genre you're looking for, it's almost certain you'd be able to find any book in a Chicago bookstore.

Another plus to Chicago living is, as I mentioned previously, the amount of things to do and sites to visit. We've been to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, ice skating in the park, various events and festivals, Gospel music concerts, Navy Pier, Millennium Park (to see the giant bean), an architecture river tour, and so many other fun and interesting things! It's often educational, you get family time together, and to be honest, it is just plain fun! 

If you love to eat, Chicago is a city you'll love. On the aforementioned first trip to Chicago with a friend, we were introduced to two new experiences that became favorites. One was Chicago deep dish pizza. You have not had deep dish pizza until you try Gino's, Giordano's, or Pizzeria Uno/Due! The first time I ate real Chicago style pizza, I could not believe how thick it was! It's always fun bringing other friends to try it out and see their responses now. The second Chicago specialty we were introduced to is Portillo's/Barnelli's. This is a chain that is known for their Italian beef, Chicago style hot dogs, sandwiches, and of course, the world-famous chocolate cake. Some locations have the Barnelli's pasta joint inside, some are just a Portillo's, but whichever you find, make sure to stop and eat! It's a must-visit!

If you don't live in the Chicago area but are looking to move, it can be a daunting task. Which part of the city do you want to live in? Suburbs or actual city? Where are the best/closest schools, eateries, shopping, etc? It may be hard, but it's not an impossible task to find the perfect apartment to rent during your tenure in Chicagoland. Using an apartment search resource makes the process so much smoother and easier! You can search by location, number of bedrooms or bathrooms, price...an apartment search resource is literally a lifesaver for anyone looking to move to Chicago. 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Personal Finance and Savings

 Personal finance is an area that most people would probably say they struggle with in some form or another. It is, sadly, not something that is covered in many schools, so oftentimes young people come into adulthood with all its responsibilities and expenditures without being truly prepared.

I'm a planner by nature and finance falls into line with that, but I will be the first to admit, I'm not always as strong in my financial planning as I am in, say, planning a family vacation with all of its lodging, dining, and activities. I'm a transcriptionist full time with a seasonal job that I work a few times a year, and I have a reasonable idea of my income for each year. I like to sit down near the end of each year and look at/plan any extra output I may have for the upcoming year, be it travel, vehicle expenses, or maybe a necessary purchase such as a laptop or phone. Obviously, we all have those unexpected surprises like a home repair, vehicle breakdown, etc that we can't plan for in detail. However, by figuring out what trips we'll be taking, what tool or device I have that may need replaced soon, and a general idea of what/if my car might need some work done, I can get a decent idea of my extra expenses for the year. This gives me the ability to put some money away each paycheck to be used specifically toward those costs, in addition to my regular savings that won't be touched except in case of absolute emergency. A savings goal calculator is a great help to see just how much that little bit each week will grow over the years.

One thing I have started working on recently is to stop spending little bits of money here and there on extras, and instead to put that money into my savings. I love coffee (as if my blog name didn't give that away!) and it is all too easy for me to swing by Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts to grab my favorite beverage whenever I pass by. Even the cheaper of the two options ends up being a $10 or more expenditure every week if I stop in 5 days. Doesn't sound like much, right? And yet, that adds up to over $500 a year that I'm needlessly spending on coffee! Add in the fast food, snacks, and sodas I pick up just because it sounds good (not a necessity while traveling or in need of an actual meal), and I realized how quickly I spend a good amount of money on "extras" in my day to day life. So, the plan I came up with recently is to allow myself an occasional splurge (pumpkin spice latte season is just around the corner, after all!) but to honestly look at what I'd normally spend on coffees or other extras, and put that amount of money into savings each week. It may not sound like much, but I'm excited to see how my savings will grow as I put this into practice.

I recently read a study that said Americans in 2019 spent an average of $18,000 (in one year) on non-essential items. They broke it down into categories such as eating out, impulse purchases, etc. While some of the categories don't apply to me (I've never used a ride share service and don't have a gym membership, for example), the coffee was calculated at $20 per month and I KNOW I spend more than that on coffee each month! So, after seeing the aforementioned article and then taking a good look at my own expenditures, I am determined to make changes going forward.