Monday, June 28, 2010

Penny pinching...

Penny-Pinching Is Fine, But It Won't Save the Profligate

by Alina Tugend
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
provided by
The New York Times
Sometimes I read about ways to pinch pennies and I feel good. We turn off lights, often buy in bulk, use compact fluorescent light bulbs and put tap water in our reusable bottles instead of buying disposable ones.
A pat on the back for us.
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Then I read another list and realize there are some things I just don't want to do. I don't make my own cleaning supplies. I am pretty hopeless about remembering coupons. I rarely wash out baggies.
A kick in the pants for us.
It turns out there are a million ways to save small amounts of money, and not all of them are going to fit all of us. I know some people who have elaborate coupon systems that work well for them, but it's just not something I want to spend time on. I do use every rewards card I can, though, to rack up points toward a free movie ticket, meal or flight.

I'm not saying my choices make sense. I'm simply saying that saving is as individual as spending.
And perhaps, despite common wisdom, the small ways to save don't really help us. They can even but hurt us by fooling us into believing we are making genuine financial changes when we're not.
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"We've read so much about economizing -- here's how to clip a coupon and save 10 to 20 percent," said Jeff Yeager, who wrote "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches," (Broadway Books, 2008). "But what we're missing is the golden epiphany of the time -- not can we save, but what do we need?"
Cutting out the little stuff, what's known as the latte factor, "works on paper, but not necessarily in reality," said Mr. Yeager, who also runs the Web site "It's analogous to the easy weight-loss plans -- that you can save in a quick and painless way."
If we're living way beyond our means, drinking a little less coffee may make us feel as if we're doing something, but we're really avoiding making the more challenging decisions.
Rather, we need to focus on the big choices in life, like buying a smaller house or downsizing the one we have now, Mr. Yeager said. Or living at home during college so we don't run up debt and then moving out when we graduate (rather than, as seems to be increasingly necessary, moving back in with the parents after college).
I can see these issues are important to think about and even act on. But can we start a bit smaller?
Yes, Mr. Yeager said. How about this idea, which is a common one, but worth repeating? Eat out much less. Forty-five percent of the average family's food budget is spent on meals prepared outside the house (that includes fast food). Imagine how much we can save by eating at home.
I don't have to imagine it. I know. That's one of the things we cut back on last year, and it has made a difference.
But notice, I said cut back. We haven't eliminated it altogether. There are times when a Chinese takeout or a restaurant dinner is just what we need. And that's O.K., said Rebecca Schreiber, a certified financial planner for Solid Ground Financial Planning in Silver Spring, Md.
"People tend to focus on the smallest areas that have the least impact," she said. "The key is satisfied spending." That is, don't just spend out of habit, but because it's something you really want. For instance, many people eat lunch out almost every day. It may be because they enjoy the food, but part of it is the activity surrounding the meal -- getting outside and socializing.
So try to do that in a cheaper way, Ms. Schreiber said. Instead of going to a restaurant, buy some fresh lunch options at a grocery store. Then meet with friends and eat outside or in the work cafeteria.
"You can get a salad for $4 at Trader Joe's," she said. That may be more expensive than making one at home, but it's less than ordering it in a restaurant.
When working with a client, "we get into the weeds of the behavior," she said. "We listen to the frequency and timing of the spending." For instance, one client says she goes shopping every weekend with a friend, not because she needs anything, but because it's something they always do.
"You might need to stop shopping with that friend, and find a less destructive habit," Ms. Schreiber said. "I used to take my 4-year-old son to the mall every weekend and think of something to get. What I really wanted to do was just get out. Now we go to libraries, playgrounds and museums."
Another big place to save, Mr. Yeager said, is cellphones. Don't have one.
I fear this is a battle Mr. Yeager is waging largely in vain. But his argument is that most people spend at least $1,500 to $2,000 a year on cellphone bills (I did a quick calculation, and that is true for us). While most of us tend to believe that having a cellphone is not just a convenience but a safety issue -- how else do I keep track of my children? -- the number of people killed using phones while driving belies any true safety claim, he said.
While I'm not going to give up my cellphone, I did go to the Web site fixmycellbill.comand plugged in some information to see if I was on the right plan. People waste a lot of money paying for add-ons or minutes they don't need. The site will, at no cost, tell you how much you could save by changing plans or carriers. For $5, it will give you a detailed report.
I was happy to see that our plan was the most economical one available on our carrier, but apparently if I switched carriers, I could save about $600 annually. Something to check out.
Here are some more ideas I picked up. They may not help you climb out of a deep financial hole, but if you just need to trim your budget slightly, they're worth considering:
• Your printer is a place you can save bucks. Change the font on the documents you print. A Dutch company,, found that Century Gothic and Times New Roman use significantly less ink than some of the more common fonts. It found that Century Gothic, for example, uses about 30 percent less ink than Arial. And I've found that ink bought on the Internet from companies like is far cheaper than in major stationery stores.
• If you were already considering buying a new refrigerator or clothes dryer, many states are offering a cash-for-appliances rebate, modeled on the highly successful cash-for-clunkers rebate program. Each state is administering the program differently, but if you act fast you might get a rebate if you buy a new energy-efficient appliance.
• Taking a shuttle to the airport or paying for parking can run into hundreds of dollars. My neighbors and I started a reciprocal deal. If the timing allows for it, we drive and pick up her family and she does the same for ours.
I rejected a few ideas out of hand. Flattening the toilet paper roll just enough so people can easily pull out only a few sheets at a time seems, well, pathetic. It might save a few pennies, but that's one lifestyle choice I don't want to live with. I'd skip the latte instead.

Friday, June 25, 2010

No bathing at Godiva

We patiently waited for the busy and somewhat flustered Godiva SA to take our order.  There were two young men (college-aged) ahead of us in line. I noted their respectful and grateful attitude toward the SA as she handed them their shopping bag; and they bid her "Adieu".  She then turned her attention to us. While she filled our order of White Chocolate & Rapberry iced drink (for me) and a tube of White Chocolate Pearls for the kids & hubby, she told us more about the men:
 They were from North Carolina (no wonder they were so respectful!) and  were part of a Group on a cross-country Treasure Hunt.  That day, they had $40 in total to spend for the members of the group.  After walking around the mall, they chose Godiva. The SA suggested Bed, Bath & Beyond to get the most bang out of their buck, but Noooooo!  Seems that one of the rules of their Hunt was that they were NOT allowed to shower nor bathe until it  was over.  So, no reminders, please!
As noted, they were respectful.
It was the 7th day of their adventure.
And, within approximately 2 feet away, they did not smell bad.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ignorance... exhibited by a welfare recipient

(my friend included this in his e-mail regarding the video: "I found the problem----they allow people like this to vote!  How could someone like this lady belongs to this nation? We should no longer wonder why the people are screaming for "change, change, change"! Stay home, do nothing, and the "anointed one" will give you everything ... that's outrageuos! Just listen and decide for yourself"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Need a Clarinet Instructor?

For those in the Chicago-land area who are interested in Clarinet lessons, here's something that might be of interest to you.   I personally vouch for Lacy as a Clarinet teacher as she is currently our son's instructor:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pancake for Lunch

Yesterday (Father's Day) and we were again late for church service, but Kris and Brian drove into the parking lot right behind us.  What a pleasant surprise!  One of my favorite senior-citizen speaker was the main speaker, so the morning was off to a great start.  After the service, K & B invited us out for lunch to celebrate Father's Day! We went to Baker Hill (my first time).
The newly-weds

Greek Salad ~  Onion Soup

Chicken Tenders

Raspberry Blintzes

Cinnamon/Apple Pancakes (before & after)


lemon chicken & rice Soup ~ Mushroom Burger

Just so I do not forget, here are the ingredients for the Greek Salad ---

Imported Greek cheese, Kalamata olives, tomato wedges and cucumbers over crisp greens; topped with Anchovies and sprinkled with Oregano

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mulberry Tree --- thank you, God!

pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

I don't post all of the daily battles I face on this blog; but when someone on another thread was  thanking God for the end of their work week, I had to post this list as to why I was thankful to God (and I meant it in all sincerity):
Hello, and Thank God's Friday... I'm alive and healthy... my children are safe... my marriage is intact ...and the a/c is working!! 
1.  It's Friday; the last day of Grace Church's Daily Vacation Bible School.  The children learned more about God, had a ton of fun, and met up with old friends and made new ones
2. Some people never wake up.  God chose to take them during their sleep. I am thankful that God added another day to my life
3. The children, far and near,  are safe by the grace and mercy of God
4. The Lord has kept my marriage together, in spite of our many difficulties 
5.  Central air is a God-send!

After I dropped off my youngest two at Grace Church, I saw a lady picking berries from a tree. I had noticed on previous days that the ripened berries were falling in abundance on the ground.  I said hello, and without prompting, she shared a piece with me.  She loves Mulberries and adds them to her ice cream.  I also picked a few to take home.  This is another of God's blessings.

Friday, June 18, 2010

If Israel goes down, we all go down

June 17, 2010:

If Israel goes down, we all go down
Anger over Gaza is a distraction. We cannot forget that Israel is the West's best ally in a turbulent region

By José María Aznar

For far too long now it has been unfashionable in Europe to speak up for Israel. In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion.
In an ideal world, the assault by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara would not have ended up with nine dead and a score wounded. In an ideal world, the soldiers would have been peacefully welcomed on to the ship. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organized a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.
In our dealings with Israel, we must blow away the red mists of anger that too often cloud our judgment. A reasonable and balanced approach should encapsulate the following realities: first, the state of Israel was created by a decision of the UN. Its legitimacy, therefore, should not be in question. Israel is a nation with deeply rooted democratic institutions. It is a dynamic and open society that has repeatedly excelled in culture, science and technology.

Second, owing to its roots, history, and values, Israel is a fully fledged Western nation. Indeed, it is a normal Western nation, but one confronted by abnormal circumstances.
Uniquely in the West, it is the only democracy whose very existence has been questioned since its inception. In the first instance, it was attacked by its neighbors using the conventional weapons of war. Then it faced terrorism culminating in wave after wave of suicide attacks. Now, at the behest of radical Islamists and their sympathizers, it faces a campaign of delegitimisation through international law and diplomacy.
Sixty-two years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment's peace.
For years, the focus of Western attention has understandably been on the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. But if Israel is in danger today and the whole region is slipping towards a worryingly problematic future, it is not due to the lack of understanding between the parties on how to solve this conflict. The parameters of any prospective peace agreement are clear, however difficult it may seem for the two sides to make the final push for a settlement.
The real threats to regional stability, however, are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel's destruction as the fulfillment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.
The core of the problem lies in the ambiguous and often erroneous manner in which too many Western countries are now reacting to this situation. It is easy to blame Israel for all the evils in the Middle East. Some even act and talk as if a new understanding with the Muslim world could be achieved if only we were prepared to sacrifice the Jewish state on the altar. This would be folly.

Israel is our first line of defence in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos; a region vital to our energy security owing to our overdependence on Middle Eastern oil; a region that forms the front line in the fight against extremism. If Israel goes down, we all go down. To defend Israel's right to exist in peace, within secure borders, requires a degree of moral and strategic clarity that too often seems to have disappeared in Europe. The United States shows worrying signs of heading in the same direction.
The West is going through a period of confusion over the shape of the world's future. To a great extent, this confusion is caused by a kind of masochistic self-doubt over our own identity; by the rule of political correctness; by a multiculturalism that forces us to our knees before others; and by a secularism which, irony of ironies, blinds us even when we are confronted by jihadis promoting the most fanatical incarnation of their faith. To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.
This cannot be allowed to happen. Motivated by the need to rebuild our own Western values, expressing deep concern about the wave of aggression against Israel, and mindful that Israel's strength is our strength and Israel's weakness is our weakness, I have decided to promote a new Friends of Israel initiative with the help of some prominent people, including David Trimble, Andrew Roberts, John Bolton, Alejandro Toledo (the former President of Peru), Marcello Pera (philosopher and former President of the Italian Senate), Fiamma Nirenstein (the Italian author and politician), the financier Robert Agostinelli and the Catholic intellectual George Weigel.

It is not our intention to defend any specific policy or any particular Israeli government. The sponsors of this initiative are certain to disagree at times with decisions taken by Jerusalem. We are democrats, and we believe in diversity.

What binds us, however, is our unyielding support for Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. For Western countries to side with those who question Israel's legitimacy, for them to play games in international bodies with Israel's vital security issues, for them to appease those who oppose Western values rather than robustly to stand up in defense of those values, is not only a grave moral mistake, but a strategic error of the first magnitude.

Israel is a fundamental part of the West. The West is what it is thanks to its Judeo-Christian roots. If the Jewish element of those roots is upturned and Israel is lost, then we are lost too. Whether we like it or not, our fate is inextricably intertwined.

José María Aznar was prime minister of Spain between 1996 and 2004.

> Article is from HERE

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The myth of a "good" divorce

by Michael Medved for AOL:


Opinion: Al and Tipper and the 'Good Divorce' Myth

Updated: 18 hours 35 minutes ago
PrintText Size 
Michael Medved
Michael MedvedContributor
(June 15) -- The separation of Al and Tipper Gore after 40 years as husband and wife produced a flood of commentary concerning what's purportedly impossible, and possible, in modern marriage.

According to rapidly calcifying conventional wisdom, the Gore breakup shows it's impossible to uphold the old ideal of "til death do us part," while their dignity and discretion demonstrate the real possibility of a "good divorce."

Actually, both conclusions contradict reality. 

Statistics show that loving, lifetime marriage isn't just possible, it's prevalent. And common sense and sad experience expose the notion of the good divorce as a destructive myth, since the end of every marriage brings pain, problems and damage to society.

Concerning assumptions that marriages all go stale or sour over time, The New York Timesrecently reported a major study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who monitored brain function in long-term couples to check survivability of romantic love. To their surprise, a full 40 percent of these veteran partners showed intensely romantic neural reactions to each other, resembling the excitement of newly formed relationships. The other 60 percent displayed less spark and heat, but most of them still expressed satisfaction with their spouses, reflecting frequent surveys showing 75 percent of couples registering high contentment levels. 

Why, then, do 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce?

The simple answer is, they don't. The 50 percent divorce rate is a pernicious myth that's never been true and grossly misstates the current situation. The divorce rate (measured as number of divorces per population) peaked in 1981 and has gone down dramatically ever since.

Rates of marital failure remain notoriously hard to gauge since no one knows which current marriages will last and which will fail. But the Census Bureau still provides the most authoritative information, listing in the latest available data (2004) the percentage of American adults who've ever married (72 percent) and the percentage ever divorced (22 percent). This means that 70 percent of those who ever married remain with their first spouse, or stayed in that first marriage until the spouse died.

While loving, lasting marriages are, in fact, common, "good divorces" are not. There's an elusive ideal of the amiable, painless dissolution of a dysfunctional relationship that every separating couple says they want but very few actually achieve. 

Al and Tipper, for example, may display no public signs of strife, but their broken relationship is already connected to real-world damage: Shortly after they announced their separation, their daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, announced her own breakup from her husband of 13 years. Failed marriages produce children themselves more likely to divorce, and though causation may be arguable, correlation is not.

My own family exemplifies that reality: My late parents split after 28 years of marriage, and three of their four sons (including me) have also experienced marital breakup.

In my case, I worked closely with my ex-wife to make our divorce as painless as possible. We had no children, and our assets were modest enough to avoid big fights over money. Still, our separation brought discomfort and sadness to everyone we knew, and we failed in our determination to maintain a long-term "friendship." 

I've been married to my wife, Diane (the mother of our three children), for 25 years now, and I've had no contact at all with my ex (who's also remarried) for at least 15 years --- other than the wistful exchange of condolence notes at the death of our respective fathers. 

Not every divorce must become a nightmare, but they all bring some sense of failure and they all cost money. Aside from legal bills, there's the added expense of setting up two separate households to replace one, plus unavoidable awkwardness at holidays, birthdays or other family occasions. 

No one has written better about the "ruinous ripples" of divorce than my wife, Dr. Diane Medved, in her 1990 best seller, "The Case Against Divorce." Those closest to the couple feel the impact most -- particularly children and parents, who often see the abrupt end of relationships they once valued. The negativity spreads from there, affecting friends (perplexed by conflicted loyalties), communities (divorces can devastate a church, for instance) and society at large, with costs in lost savings, stability and even health. 

The problem with platitudes about the good divorce is that they inevitably encourage marital breakup, just as the myth that most marriages are bound to fail discourages wedlock.

If we kept the situation in honest perspective, high-profile separations like Al and Tipper's shouldn't reassure potentially divorcing couples, or in any way alarm the American majority who strive to sustain their long-term marriages.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Party, party, party!

First, on Saturday we dropped off Jill at camp.  Later that evening was Mylene & Bernard's party at the Ferrer's home in Round Lake.  The next day was Baby Zachary's 1st birthday/dedication.  Last event for the day was Baptist Bible Church's 25th anniversary celebration.  Whew!

The busy camp cafeteria where Camille, Jared & Jill are working for the Summer

At the Wedding Shower in Round Lake

Zachary's Birthday/Dedication

At Baptist Church's Anniversary
Grace with Baby Jace

the magician's bunny

air hockey!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

They're going to be fine in Nashville ...

(So unlike New Orleans....)

When the government and the media think you are not important enough  to deserve  more than 15 minutes of national news coverage, then you KNOW you're gonna be a-okay.
Imagine that - - no whiners, no debit cards, no political correctness ----YaY!!  I love  the U.S. of A !

Monday, June 7, 2010

Glass Ceiling

Dear hubby took the 3 kiddos to Willis (Sears) Tower.  They were also at the Planetarium and Field Museum, but that will be posted later.  Funny store while they were in line to get into the Willis Tower --- Romy noticed the tight security, so he excused himself and left his pocket knife the men's washroom.  When they were done with the tour, it was still there, haha.

view from the Planetarium

view to the North

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beware: Bottle Bombs on your lawn!

Kids are trying this in Michigan careful and do not pick up plastic bottles that contain liquids and a cap from your property.  Watch the video at the Snopes website to see the effects of this kind of bomb. Go to the Snopes web page below and watch the video.  

1. A plastic bottle with a cap. 

2. A little Drano. 

3. A little water. 

4. A small piece of foil. 

5. Disturb it by moving it; and BOOM!! 

6. No fingers left and other serious effects to your face, eyes, etc... 

People are finding these bombs in mailboxes and in their yards, just waiting for you to pick it up intending to put it in the trash. But, you'll never make it!!! It takes about 30 seconds to blow after you move the thing.