Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Small business "how-to's"

First, let me preface this post by announcing that, yes, this is my 500th post on this blog!  Many thanks to my followers and please spread the word!

So I felt it appropriate to use this post to address a topic near and dear to me - small businesses.  Many of you may know that I have a wine charm business - growing by baby steps via retail partners, Facebook connections and my website (yes - ok, since you asked!  See www.charmedbyarizona.com)  

For those of you interested in starting any type of business on your own, here are some great resources:

  • US Small Business Administration:  www.sba.gov
  • Family businesses:  www.fambiz.com
  • The Family Business Network:  www.fbn-i.org
  • Family Business Magazine:  www.familybusinessmagazine.com 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Making memories

So we've addressed lots of scrapbooking and photo ideas over the past couple of years, but what about a "memory making" collection?  Here are two great ideas from Martha Stewart -

A family recipe saver - see marthastewart.com for her version, though I did these a different way for each of my kids for when they graduated from high school. I used recipe card boxes decorated for them and wrote family recipes (old and newer ones as well) on index cards decorated with scrapbook stickers and baubles related to food and cooking.  Now when they are on their own (one already is), they have these with them.

Another of Martha's ideas is "vacation jars" - use small jars (about 8 oz) and inside put sand, shells, stones, souvenirs...anything to represent each trip you've taken.  Label these with permanent file folder labels.  Simple but memorable and fun to display.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A chip off the old...?

Getting ready for your holiday guests with a fresh coat of paint?  Check out 
Sherwin-Williams' online tool at www.letschipit.com.

This site allows you to instantly generate perfectly matched paint chips from any image on the web (and, yes, it's free!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Running late again?  Here is an amazing idea - "dry shampoo."  REALSIMPLE.com (9/12) did a "road test" of over 75 variations of dry shampoo and selected their best bets.  These will "instantly refresh and revive your hairstyle and render the rushed shower unnecessary"  - ok, let me know if these work for you!  (FYI, the much earlier version of this was brushing talc powder through your hair - and, yes, it did work!)

My version would be for hair that needs help with body so I'm looking at Arrojo ReFinish if I read this correctly.  It runs $22, but that may not be bad for my travel needs since this won't be an everyday product for me.  If you have curly hair, you are in luck - they recommend Suave Professionals Waterless Foam Shampoo at only $3.40 at drugstore.com.  Sigh...always wanted natural curl!

Check out the other options at www.realsimple.com (9/12).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ever hopeful...!

As always, I want to be sure to blog about topics that are important to you...I try to cover a wide range, but your input would help me in discussing issues that are relevant to my readers!  Please post topic ideas whenever something comes to mind - I am happy to look for answers, deals, etc. for you!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dog tired from the dog park!

At least twice a week I take our basset, Baxter, to our local dog park.  He runs as if he were still a puppy and it's a great opportunity for me to meet people from our neighborhood.  Best of all, it is free entertainment for all of us!  Check out one in your area by visiting www.dogpark.com.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Feel like Cinderella left home from the Ball?

Here is a great idea from REALSIMPLE - and, yes, I plan to try it as I just spent all day trying to catch up on too many tasks around here!

Rather than trying to do your cleaning (or any other tasks) all at once, aim to complete one specific task or chore every day.  Write your key chores on index cards and select one per day to complete.  Everything gets done weekly, but without the added stress of overloading yourself!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some things never change (even after a long break from blogging!) - I am still very concerned with animals of all types and sharks should not be an exception!

Check out www.oceana.org/scaredforsharks to help save the whale sharks around the world.  Thank you!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Micro" workouts can lead to "macro" results!

According to REDBOOK, a recent study in Ontario, Canada, suggests that by even slight activity increases in your daily life (walking down the hall vs emailing a colleague or parking farther away from the store when you shop) can potentially decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by 15%!

No this does not give you a free pass to avoid the gym or order chili-cheese fries, but every little bit helps, right?!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Too hot to handle!

With ceiling fans all over our Phoenix home, lightbulbs are constantly burning out and just when I need them in precisely that room!  Saw a great idea for taking out a still hot lightbulb - use half a tennis tennis ball (hollowed out) to put over the bulb to unscrew it safely.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I'm back....!

And just when you thought I would never return...I thought taking the summer off would let me catch up on the rest of my life.  But I am back, well before the holidays, to provide you with more ideas for saving money on all aspects of your daily life.  And, as always, please post your comments, ideas and recommendations!  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Coupon Cache (or is that "cash"?)

I thought I was the Coupon Queen, but here is an idea that never occurred to me!  Ellen Madere (ellengetsitdone.com) from CT, suggests storing coupons in your car's glove compartment so they are always readily available when you need them.  What a great idea!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Digital Bouquets - Sweet Thoughts!

Redbookmag.com mentioned recently that their art director who was dating a guy long-distance frequently received texts with images of flowers...how sweet and easy!  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day Treat?

So here's a cool (pun intended!) treat for Father's Day - "special" freezer pops (don't share these with the kids!).  Redbookmag.com has some great recipes for adult freezer pops with just a touch of alcohol.  Pina colada looked amazing:
Takes 5 minutes to make and 24 hours to freeze so think ahead!

2 cups fresh sweet pineapple chunks (about 12 oz)
1 (15 oz) can sweetened cream of coconut (i.e. Coco Lopez)
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup light rum or coconut rum (and this is optional if you want the non-alcohol version!)
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
pinch of salt

Puree ingredients in a blender until smooth and transfer mixture to a large pitcher.  Pour into ten
3 oz. freezer pop molds and insert sticks.  Freeze at least 24 hours before unmolding.

Check the website above for other fun recipes! (Where were these on Mother's Day?!)

Here's to your health!

Good Housekeeping (5/12) provides a list of reliable sites and apps to find answers and info regarding health issues you and/or loved ones may be facing:

Visit goodhousekeeping.com for others that may help you get the answers you need!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

OCD with DVDs!

I have an entire 3-shelf, hall-length closet filled with videos and DVDs! This is so cramping our storage space, but what to do? Well - the VHS tapes are old-school and still probably require at least one shelf all their own, but the DVDs? REALSIMPLE.com suggests putting all the DVDs in a single hard-case DVD organizer...Probably should have thought of this before, but this could actually mean linens fitting in a linen closet! Who is with me on this?!

Monday, June 11, 2012

And while we are on the topic of road trips...

With several of us potentially vacationing together, airline prices are a bit steep for us.  And gas for a road trip is still sky-high too...what to do?

Check out www.FuelMyRoute.com and select a grade of gas and enter your starting and destination points.  The site will identify the cheapest gas prices all along your route!  


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Drive-by readings!

Hitting the road for vacation with the family or just you and your significant other?  Bypass the videos and the iPods for awhile and listen to audiobooks together.  With the kids, consider The Magic Tree House Collection or A Wrinkle in Time.  No kids along for the ride?  What about a great biography or a new James Patterson thriller?  And better yet...you can check them out from the library so no added expense for your trip!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

One scoop or two?

Love REALSIMPLE.com's suggestion for sand-castle building...take along an ice-cream scoop to use with the wet sand.  Your kids will love it (actually I want to try it out this summer)!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Financial makeover...make more money!

We can cover all kinds of topics on this (major ones are found at redbookmag.com) but a good starting point is finding out if you are underpaid!

You can compare your salary to the industry averages at glassdoor.com - too low?  Consider the best ways to approach your boss for a raise!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Virtual Garage Sales?

Craig's List is becoming well-known as a source for finding (or selling) that special something at just the right price.  But watch out, because Oprah.com (Mar.2012) suggested a new online marketplace:  www.zaarly.com.

I've checked it out briefly, but see what you think...wonder if this is the new "garage sale"?!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sachets to pack the winter sweaters away

By now I hope we've all said farewell (or good riddance!) to winter!  If so, now is the perfect time to pack your winter clothes away (woolen items, especially sweaters) until the snow flies again.

You can make your own sachets to store along with them in your closets and drawers - they will keep them fresh-smelling and fend away the moths. (Thanks go to marthastewart.com - April '12)

Use cotton muslin bags - small ones like those used to mull spices.  Fill each bag with fragrant dry ingredients such as thyme, cloves, lavender, mint or cedar.  Tie the bags shut and place them in closets and drawers to keep your wardrobe fresh.  (Personally cedar reminds me of my grandparents' attic - I'd say go with lavender, thyme or mint!).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Pantastic"! (yes it's a pun!)

Ok, so we already know I have unfulfilled dreams of being super-organized and I know all kinds of resources to get me there...I just never quite get to my goal!

But this one idea may get me out of the doghouse with my husband who hates that I haphazardly stack cookie sheets, pie tins, etc. in one sad little cupboard!  One magazine clipping I ran across suggested using a metal file sorter (though I think plastic would be better) to store these pans and cutting boards in.  Makes it easier to find the one you need and keeps them from sliding out of the cupboard. (It's the little things in life!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Baby Showers Made Simple

So admittedly, I won't be having another child (phew!) and I'm quite a way from being a grandma, but for those who are expecting or know someone who is this link could be your answer to all things baby shower:  www.realsimple.com/babyshowerideas.

They give you ideas for themes, invitations, decorating and refreshments, so relax!  It will be easier than you thought!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Keep the "Happy" in Happy Hour

Happy Hour always sounds like a good idea after a tough day, but did you realize that those fun frozen drink concoctions are about 200-500 calories each?  Better ideas?

Try club soda with a slice of lemon or lime.  Wine coolers, mojitos and champagne are also lower calorie drinks.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stand up for fitness!

If you are like me, you want to exercise...you have great intentions, but it's tough to find the time to fit it in with work, family, etc...I will admit I'm doing better - gym a couple of times a week and one yoga class per week.
But anything that augments this effort would be really helpful!

AZ Magazine (3/12) suggests avoiding sitting as often as possible.  They state that "a sedentary lifestyle can be as dangerous as smoking."    Here are some ways to burn calories by simply NOT sitting!

  • Get up from your chair - even if you just stand and do absolutely nothing, you will burn calorie per minute more than sitting and doing nothing.
  • Set a timer to remind you to get up and fill a water bottle or take a walk around the house/office.
  • Do simple stretches at work/home.
  • Stand up while you talk on the phone (even stretches while you are talking).
  • Exercise while watching TV - standing, stretching and even doing hand weight lifts.
Stand up for yourself and lose some pounds!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't think you have time to volunteer?

You would be surprised at what little time it takes to make a difference in someone else's life!  If you only took 15 minutes of your day you could:

Register to be an organ donor
Donate blood
Read to a child
Donate a gift card from your grocery store to a homeless shelter
Check in on a homebound neighbor or friend
It takes so little time to give a gift from the heart!

(For more ideas check out AZ Magazine, March 2012)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

If you want not, then waste not!

The Oprah Magazine (3/12) offers some great ways to donate those items you find in your spring cleaning/foraging so that they find good uses/reuses!  Some of the ideas:

  • Donate gently used baby/toddler clothes your children have outgrown (sizes 0 to 12 months) via www.lovedtwice.org.
  • Have old tape dispensers, dried-up pens or highligthers or even old 3-ring binders?  Check on www.terracycle.net to donate these for recycling into park bences, flowerpots and plastic lumber!
  • Drop of old towels and blankets at a local animal shelter to make comfy beds for animals housed in kennels with concrete floors.
  • Old and even broken mobile phones can be donated at www.hopephones.org to allow medical workers in 14 developing countries to text each other re: patients and treatments!
  • Don't need that old iPod or some old DVDs any longer?  Go to www.tunes4thetroops.com to find out how to ship these directly to U.S. soldiers stationed in Kuwait, Afghanistan or Africa.
  • Old baseball bats, balls, and gloves can be donated at www.pitchinforbaseball.org for distributed to impoverished kids worldwide!
Know of any other donation websites or locations?  Let us know!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Apps to get you organized!

Here are a couple of apps you might find useful:

"Remember the Milk" app creates master "to-do" lists and allows you to set reminders and sort tasks on your Android, Blackberry, iPhone or Windows Mobile (did I mention it's free?)

The "Lemon" app lets you scan and catalog receipts so you can track when and where you are spending. The app is free for Android and iPhones!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Some lavender for your honey!

A close friend of mine used to adore lavender honey in her tea. In her later years, I was forever trying to find someplace that carried this specialty item (in AZ you can find prickly pear honey, but lavender...that's another story!). I wish I'd found this recipe years when I needed it, but for anyone interested in this here you go:

Lavender Honey

Bring 1 cup mild honey and 1/4 cup dried lavender flowers (available at Sur La Table stores) to a boil,
stirring frequently. Reduce heat; simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Gently reheat to pourable consistency and strain through cheesecloth into a heatproof container.

Relax and enjoy - you deserve it!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gifts from the heart!

"The best gifts come from the heart. Being thoughtful doesn't have to be expensive." -- Alice Wood (Wealth Watchers founder and author).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Daily discount overload?

OK, admittedly I am always looking for a great deal, so I do subscribe to a wide range of "daily deal" sites (i.e. Amazon, DealChicken, GroupOn, Dealfind...you know the list!). And, while I actually do partake of their offerings once in awhile, I do get overwhelmed by the amount of "deals" that fill my inbox! Check out www.familycircle.com/dailydeals to discuss your problems or successful buys on these sites. The magazine also addressed (3/12 issue) ways to get the most out of these sites and their offerings. My favorite suggestion was using an aggregator such as Dealradar.com or TheDealmap.com to collect all of your daily deal offers in one place (either via you visiting the website or having one e-mail sent to you). Your thoughts on this?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Thought for the day!

"A wise person once said, 'Parents who give their kids everything give their kids nothing.' There's nothing wrong with telling kids, 'It's not in our budget." -- Alice Wood (Wealth Watchers founder and author)

Friday, April 13, 2012

A sweet way to help end childhood hunger!

Are you looking for a great project for your club, Girl Scout troop or other group? Consider holding a "Share Our Strength's Great America Bake Sale!" Visit www.chsugar.com/bakesale to register and also to find easy recipes for treats to sell.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another online "helper"!

Earth day is April 22nd and you can do your part by cutting the paper in your mailbox! Download the free Google Catalogs app to your iPad or Android device to get instant access to over 400 digital catalogs. Life just got less cluttered!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Free online home planner!

In a daze from trying to redo a room in your home? Check IKEA's website for a free online planner to help you use a selection of their furniture to try out sizes and scale before you do something "drastic"!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Inexpensive yet far from ordinary fashion fixes!

With Spring comes the need to go for something new and fresh! Linda Moran Evans, the Family Circle magazine Beauty & Fashion Director, suggests two sites for interesting shopping:

Bonanza.com has unusual and vintage jewelry, furniture and stationery among its many unique offerings.

Bauble.com offers trendy costume jewelry many of which are under $50.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gardening with a historical twist

OK, my family will swear that I am the worst person in the world to talk about gardening tips. I have killed a wide variety of houseplants including a cacti (not kidding!) and don't get me started on planting flowers outside!

But for those of you with a greener thumb than mine, these seeds sound like a unique addition to your garden this Spring. Check out www.monticellocatalog.org to order seed varieties that Thomas Jefferson would likely have grown at Monticello. Seeds are only $3 per packet! If you try it, post a photo of the results on the blog for us to see!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Postcards in a snap!

Here's a new twist on sending postcards while you are on vacation! Check out the POSTAGRAM
app (a free download for iPhones and Androids) then snap a photo with your phone (or choose one from your library or Facebook), add a message, and a real postcard will be mailed to your friends/family anywhere in the world for a mere 99 cents! Say "cheese"!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring is springing!

When Spring arrives, I want to bring flowers inside, but I never seem to have enough vases and don't want to break my budget buying lots of them! Here's a great idea that you can check out at Facebook.com/HomeMadeSimple:

All you need to make stylish, colorful vases is: assorted clear glassware (bottles will work fine), a drip tray and latex paint in spring colors (try lavender, white, green or yellow). Clean glassware and dry it completely. Pour paint (over tray) down inside walls of the glassware and swirl to coat it (add more as needed). Once done, hold it upside down and drain off the excess paint. Set vessels upside down to dry for about 30 minutes and then turn upright and let dry for 24 hours. Don't fill with water or drinks as paint may wear away. Use these as vases for dried or silk flowers/green or fresh ones without water.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring break memories...

Spring break trips create fond memories (ok, in college you may not remember them...) and it can be fun to recreate reminders of the fun times! Maps remind you of your special trips - find stylish ways to display them at HomeMadeSimple.com/maps.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Alas lads and lassies, I am way behind on me posts! But this will soon be remedied!
Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day celebrations and be safe!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Easy does it - bill paying

I found a site that appears very helpful (though admittedly I have not yet tried it). User beware and then keep us posted (just kidding) - www.manilla.com says it is "the easiest way to manage your bills." Anyone tried this?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quick organizers!

I am on a roll with trying to organize our house...one kid has moved out (way out...to Japan!) and the other is half way out the door at 19! Too much house and too much stuff - so I am sharing any odds and ends I find along the way.

Per a recent issue of Redbook magazine, here are a couple of easy organization ideas -

Spray paint and old cookie sheet and then place stones (from the beach, a craft store, etc.) to cover the sheet. Use it as a shoe/boot dryer - ok, so here in AZ this isn't practical, but it will be in lots of other regions!

For craft fanatics or those who are "gifted" with wrapping (get it?!) use a pants hanger to hang and group spools of ribbon by color, shade, width...(very crafty, huh?).

More ideas as Spring approaches! Please share yours with us!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Trade in gift cards!

Are you still hanging on to gift cards from the holidays from stores you can't imagine shopping at?
Cash in on your gift at www.cardpool.com. You can trade your card(s) for an Amazon card of equal value or get 92% cash back. Fill out the information for your car and mail it in or enter the online
code. (FYI - you can also by gift cards from dozens of retailers for up to 35% off...!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Celebrate your ancestry!

Visit The Peopling of America Center in New York to experience the view from Lady Liberty's torch via webcam (a site not seen in-person since 1916)! And, if you can't visit the exhibit in-person, trace your family history on the museum's website at EllisIsland.org. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Light a single candle...

Hart Main, a 14-year-old from Marysville, OH, has designed a line of candles in "man scents" including "Sawdust," "New Mitt," "Grandpa's Pipe," and so on. His candles are made in cans recycled from his donations to a local soup kitchen -- over 10,000 sold so far at $9.50 each!

Check out the selection at man-cans.com and support this young entrepreneur!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A taxing situation!

The Penny Pincher is admittedly a fan of lists, color-coded files and cute post-its. But for those of you who are not "Type A," here are some organization tips to ease the pain of tax preparations! (courtesy of Avery Dennison Corp.):

  • Categorize: create separate files for each type of tax document (income, expenses, deductions, etc.)

  • Color code: within each category, sort using colored tabs (i.e.: within deductions - pink for healthcare; green for charitable donations, etc.)

  • Keep a checklist: track all documents that you receive in the mail.

For more tips, check http://www.avery.com/.