Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hard Currency for Hard Times

Ok, I've actually bought some silver.

I have 3 ounces in the house, and 13 more on the way. All from e-bay. Some are in 1 troy ounce coins, and 8 oz are in mixed pre 1964 us coins.

I have set up a budget about how much I am going to spend each pay period on hard currency. If we need it, then I'll feel great because we had it when times were tough. If we never do, then great, my nephew will get it one day.

But, the more I see the market slide and watch our government print useless bills to pay debt, the more I think that this is going to be an important component of our security and supply.

Oh, I found this wonderful explanation of the credit crisis.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cutting out sugar has almost become a habit now. I'm not craving it as badly as I was and I don't feel tired, other than the tired I feel from being sick. I did have Starbucks yesterday. It's the first one I've had in long time. It didn't taste quite as good as I remember. Luckily it didn't send me back into sugar mode.

I haven't been working out because I've been sick, but I'm looking forward to some time on the treadmill tomorrow.
Did anyone else watch Oprah yesterday? I was shocked! It was about the effects of the recession on America. Lisa Ling was doing a report from Sacramento about the tent cities popping up there and not only there but they said they are popping up in most large cities.

I had no idea.

Almost all of the people they interviewed that have been hit hard by the recession said the same thing over and over....

They had not spent wisely. They had lived beyond their means. They had not saved anything.

And, what would they do differently? Save, save, save and not spend, spend, spend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More about Money and Financial Stuff

If you've been to my blog and watched the 'Financiall 9/11' video then you'll know that my alert level on the financial state of the US has ratcheted up significantly. Now I'm deciding what to do about it personally.

I have started buying hard currency (silver coins - gold will follow as I can afford it), and I had already changed over my 401K about 5 months ago to the super secure Treasury bills fund.

Then I got this article

It's kind of a chewy read, I felt like I wanted a vitamin and a latte first. But it really spells out how and why things may or may not work like the government is hoping it will.

The other things I'm thinking about and planning for kind of make me feel like a survivalist whack-job so I'll save those for later.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Becky and I are having a conversation in the comments of my last post regarding the labeling of our struggle with food/eating. In thinking about the conversation and searching for information, I came across some interesting articles that I want to share. I'm interested in your thoughts. For my entire life food has either been my friend or my enemy depending on the day of week, time of month, or phase of the moon. I've always looked at this struggle one dimensionally realizing on some level that there were other factors involved but never pointing the finger at them. Just now, in a single thought, food became neutral ground. Food is only the ammunition I use against myself. I'm still trying to sort this all out. I'm not sure my thoughts make sense.
Anyway, here are the links.

I'm really interested in continuing this conversation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'd love for this to be the post where I tell you how amazingly easy it is to do without sugar. I'd love to tell you that in the battle between Sandra and cupcake Sandra won, but it wouldn't be true. I gave in to temptation today and had a cupcake. Blasted cupcake! I didn't even enjoy it if that makes up for it. I did wrestle with myself for an hour before giving in. What I found is that I wanted the texture of the cupcake not the sweetness of it. I'm not sure there is a substitute for cake/brownie like texture that doesn't involve sugar. I'm going to try an apple sauce cake and she if that does the trick.
I did skip on pasta for dinner. I almost just said screw it and loaded it on my plate, but in the end sanity won. I loaded up on sweet peas and zucchini instead.

I have a friend that's been on a no sugar diet for three years now. I guess it's a lifestyle change after that long. She also uses over eaters anonymous, which is based on AA, to help her through it. I went to a meeting with her once, but thought it wasn't anything I needed, but I'm changing my mind. When I think of my relationship to food I can see pretty clearly that it's very similar to what any addict must feel. The ease of giving in to temptation. The way I tell myself just one more won't hurt anything. It's even more tricky because my battle is food and I have to eat. There is just no way around it. What I realized today after eating the cupcake is that in the past once I give in to that sort of temptation I just give up on myself. I'm not giving up this time. I may slip a million more times, but you'll still find me trudging up that hill.
Learning to live without, well with LESS, salt....

normally when I grab a piece of celery, or a cherry tomato, or just about any other thing I eat I also grab the salt shaker. I've said in the past that if the little thin extra salty pretzels had any kind of nutrient value I would live on them. I salt everything.

Rethinking the way you eat sounds like a really hard thing to do but I'm finding it is not really all that hard once you just actually do it.

I can not eat pretzels (and live)
I can pop a cherry tomato in my mouth without salting it first.
I can eat a stalk of celery plain with nothing whatsoever on it.
I can sit down and eat a meal without salting all my food.

And am finding very quickly that it doesn't make all that much difference. I still like the taste of the food.

Who Knew?????

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's the end of day three and I'm tired, but I feel like this is doable! The food is getting easier. I picked up some raw almonds and chick peas today. I'm going to try Becky's tip of roasting them. I'm also going to make some humus. I'm back and forth on the idea of using sugar free items. I have sugar free Jello in the fridge, but that's it. What do you think? I had natural peanut butter and celery today and am amazed at how full it made me feel! I'm not a huge celery fan, but I can eat it. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Levi found the coolest website the other day ... it has tons of food facts. We have been reading about the benefits of the super foods, you just can hardly believe the benefits of some foods... like celery. I knew it was good for lowering blood pressure but I had no idea it was SO good for so many other things.

check it out
Yesterday was tough. I had no sugar at all. I drank my coffee with only half and half. I skipped on the tortilla when we had fajitas for dinner. I had a two egg white one whole egg omelet with two slices of turkey bacon in half a whole wheat pita for breakfast. Lunch was a grilled chicken salad with two tablespoons of light sugar free Asian dressing. I had half a banana with sugar free cherry jello for a snack. The banana probably has more sugar than I need, but I'm not going to beat myself up over that.
There were far to many temptations! David and Erin had candy from V-Day left over which seemed to be everywhere. The brownies I made a few days ago were still on the cabinet. And to top it all off, it was my step-moms birthday and the only thing she asked for was some of my cranberry apple bread! So, I made her some. If I can avoid all of those things, I know I can do this.
I've had the same breakfast today and made it over to my dads house to workout on the treadmill. I'm going again this evening.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"The Shoulds"

What's one thing that you just can't stand doing, but you know you should do it? Yeah, I know, we shouldn't be motivated by "the shoulds" but we should motivate each other to do good, right?

I hate wedding and baby showers. I don't know why.I feel like I'm not a good woman if I don't like these things.

But there are some that I should go to.

You guys are probably all way past this stage of grappling with "the shoulds" but any input would be nice to hear.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

So, I'm making a commitment here in hopes that you ladies will check up on me to see if I'm sticking with it. Starting on Monday I'm cutting sugar out of my diet and working out a minimum of 4 days a week. I want to lose 20lbs before I have surgery and 30lbs by my birthday. I so easily fall into a complacent attitude when it comes to weight. David loves my body regardless of the extra pounds and while I adore that about him, it doesn't help me in the motivation area. I'm tired of looking in the mirror and not recognizing the person I see. I'm tired of using food as my crutch. Things have gotten out of hand since Hayden was born, and I need to regain control. I turn 30 this year. What better reason is there to lose the extra pounds?

What I've Learned About Customer Complaints

My wonderful husband got me beautiful roses for Valentines' day, and he ordered them off of a very popular website. The order was fulfilled by a florist local to where I work. They were absolutely gorgeous when they arrived, and my husband was so pleased that finally his online order was exactly what he had wanted me to get (I sent him a phone picture). The men were extremely worried at work, and feeling inadequate, the women just loved them along with me.

However, the next morning when I arrived at work the next morning I had a couple of flopped over heads. The second morning (Friday) they had ALL flopped over. Cut flowers should last a week. Particularly when my darling husband spends a week's pay on them.

So, I e-mailed the local florist and explained my situation. I got a fairly tepid response "e-mail us a photo and we'll see if there is anything we can do for you". That was less of a customer service response than I was expecting. So, I called them and we talked for a few minutes and still there was a mildly tepid answer, so I said that I'd be happy to bring their flowers by on my way home. They mentioned again that they weren't sure they could do anything......

On my way over, I deliberated my response. I decided on this approach: I was going to give them the opportunity to fulfill my husbands order properly; but that I simply could not let my husband see these flowers. He would be so upset. I also decided that if I had to I would let them know that I was a wedding photographer, and if they decided that these flowers were good enough to represent their company, I'd let them know I'd have them up on my website by that evening along with the florist's name.

So, I walked into the store with my flowers, a pleasant smile on my face and "Hi, I'm Cara Vinson, we spoke on the phone how are you today?..... and the florist assistant at the desk was aghast. The owner walked out and he was Horrified! They both apologized profusely, and made me a new arrangement on the spot. The owner custom cut the stems right in front of me. The assistant and I chatted, and she thanked me for being so nice, and I told her that I wanted them to be able to show their suppliers what had been delivered as well.

I came home with the beautiful arrangement you see here, and this morning we do not have any bent heads. I believe that these will last the week.

I never shrink from letting a vendor know when their product or service is not up to their promises, and I take my promises to my clients very seriously. However, I always start out on the setting of 'nice'. Direct, yes. Most of the time I get exactly what I want with an extra helping of gratitude for niceness. My next setting is what I'd call Vulcan... Intractable logic, veiled threats, little emotion". Third setting : BITCH. I think I've used it twice. Once got someone fired.

My other thing is to talk to authority immediately. You're going to end up talking to them anywhere, so might as well save yourself some time. Once CV and I were at a restaurant and we were sitting in the bar at a table with plans to eat. People all around us were seated after us, and for 30 minutes we watched them order, get drinks, get food etc. Waiters and waitresses looked at us, but nobody spoke one word to us. I decided to wait the exact 30 minutes, then I went to the front and asked for the restaurant manager. I explained the situation, watched as the manager went to the bar and questioned every bartender and waitress fairly emphatically. She then came back to us and we were reseated elsewhere with our meal on the house. Our new waitress took gold star care of us. We tipped her what the cost of our ticket would have been, and asked her to make sure she told the bar group that we did. We thanked the manager for the meal on our way out.

So here's my humble lesson on Customer Complaints: expect what you pay for, be nice, know your response, speak to authority. Go forth and get your money's worth!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

One of the best articles I've read recently about the economy

This is a fairly partisan piece, but it explains thing so very well. Try to take your party affiliation hat off for a moment and just digest the economics. Then go put $200 in a mason jar and buy 50 lbs of dry beans.


A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to economic recovery. Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clich├ęs about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.

It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world.

Consumers, their wealth decimated and their optimism shattered by collapsing home prices and a sliding stock market, have cut back their spending and sharply increased their saving — a good thing in the long run, but a huge blow to the economy right now. Developers of commercial real estate, watching rents fall and financing costs soar, are slashing their investment plans. Businesses are canceling plans to expand capacity, since they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. And exports, which were one of the U.S. economy’s few areas of strength over the past couple of years, are now plunging as the financial crisis hits our trading partners.

Meanwhile, our main line of defense against recessions — the Federal Reserve’s usual ability to support the economy by cutting interest rates — has already been overrun. The Fed has cut the rates it controls basically to zero, yet the economy is still in free fall.

It’s no wonder, then, that most economic forecasts warn that in the absence of government action we’re headed for a deep, prolonged slump. Some private analysts predict double-digit unemployment. The Congressional Budget Office is slightly more sanguine, but its director, nonetheless, recently warned that “absent a change in fiscal policy ... the shortfall in the nation’s output relative to potential levels will be the largest — in duration and depth — since the Depression of the 1930s.”

Worst of all is the possibility that the economy will, as it did in the ’30s, end up stuck in a prolonged deflationary trap.

We’re already closer to outright deflation than at any point since the Great Depression. In particular, the private sector is experiencing widespread wage cuts for the first time since the 1930s, and there will be much more of that if the economy continues to weaken.

As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out almost 80 years ago, deflation, once started, tends to feed on itself. As dollar incomes fall in the face of a depressed economy, the burden of debt becomes harder to bear, while the expectation of further price declines discourages investment spending. These effects of deflation depress the economy further, which leads to more deflation, and so on.

And deflationary traps can go on for a long time. Japan experienced a “lost decade” of deflation and stagnation in the 1990s — and the only thing that let Japan escape from its trap was a global boom that boosted the nation’s exports. Who will rescue America from a similar trap now that the whole world is slumping at the same time?

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.

So what should Mr. Obama do? Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh. What matters now, however, is what he does next.

It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

something that may or may not help you..

If you are like us you have insurance out the kazoo... I hate insurance companies and wish I could just drop it all (and threaten to do so on a regular basis) but because of mortgages and fear I keep it.

Yesterday I got a new policy in the mail (nothing unusual) for the Kubota (tractor) and happened to notice that the deduction was only $100.00. I never do that.(found out that is was done automatically) I always go for a higher deductible to save money on premiums (and because I figure we will never really need it or use it)So, I called my agent and we started talking. We went over all the policies I have with them (five). I upped the deductible on the tractor policy and saved 25% annually! and I also upped the deductible on the house which allowed me to up the coverage and keep the premium the same.

Today I went over all my State Farm policies (six of them), the only change I made was to drop the insurance on the four wheeler. It is a year and a half old and has probably dropped in value by half so I decided it wasn't worth having insured. That saved me $86.00 a year.

So, if you haven't done it in a while you might want to go over you coverage and see where you make adjustments.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Minor Miracles -- In Body and Excercise

I have been running for four weeks.
I have not twisted an ankle, tweaked a knee, or sprung a muscle -- thanks to a very expensive ankle brace and careful mileage gain.
I am running five miles on Sunday, three-four on Tuesday and Thursdays. I hope to get up to ten-twelve miles on Sunday and six-eight on Tuesday and Thursday.
It's exhilarating.
I don't think I will ever quit doing this again.

I am watching the processed carbs and sugar and limiting portions. Ten pounds down from Christmas, five pounds from less than high school weight. This is beginning to feel like a lifestyle.

If you need a home workout, I totally recommend Jillian. Started doing it at my mom's during Christmas and have now adapted it (sans video) to my off days. Lots of jumping and weights -- my body really responds to it.

I don't usually post here anymore, but I am just so excited about what consistency has wrought that I wanted to share. I learning to push -- I love pushing.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I thought Oprah might be interesting today since it was supposed to about being thrifty but it was not really. I didn't hear anything new, pretty much the same things we have discussed here and actually we have better ideas than I heard on Oprah. They talked a little about barter and exchange, a lot about coupon clipping which I am just not ready to do (because in the past I have found that you can just buy an off brand and save more money than using a coupon for a name brand), mostly about using common sense.

I was a part of a church once where the ladies from several churches got together once a year and did clothing exchange. It was fun. You brought stuff you wanted to exchange and when you went in you got a number - the number of things you brought to exchange - and you could pick out that many things to take with you. The things that were left over went to the Salvation Army.

So, I didn't' learn anything new to report and overall it just sort of pissed me off to sit there and listen to Oprah who has more money than all of us put together talk about the need to be thrifty.