It’s Only Too Late if You Don’t Start Now

I love to knit. That is not to say that I am a fast knitter or even that good at it. Mostly I make things that turn out marginally, then I tear them out and start over on something else. 

combination knitting tutorial

photo credit: Inter Urban House

But here’s the funny thing: It’s not the finished product that I find so enjoyable. It’s the process.

It’s the gentle rhythm, the pulling of one loop of yarn through another, over and over again.

Curiously in all of knitting—and I’m talking about even the most complicated and breathtakingly beautiful works of knitted wear—there exist only two stitches: knit and purl. That’s it.

No matter how fast I knit or how slow—how intricate the pattern or ordinary, one thing is sure: I can make only one stitch at a time. And one stitch makes absolutely no visual difference in whatever it is I’m working on at the moment.

Now and then I come to the last stitch, bind it off and surprise myself by what I’ve created. How did that happen? It’s remarkable really that just one stitch at a time can bring such pleasing results.

I love the story author Jaroldeen Edwards, “Things I With I’d Known Sooner, (Deseret 2010) tells of the trip she took with her daughter one bleak and rainy day. She wasn’t that thrilled to drive more than two hours to see flowers some woman had planted. But her daughter was insistent. “You’re going to love this, Mom!” And tell me what mom could resist going along with that kind of enthusiasm.

How to Knock Out Serious Mold and Mildew Problems

Dear Mary: Here’s the short version of a long story: Due to an undetected slowly leaking pipe in our home, the basement got very wet over a period of time. The leak has now been fixed and the basement has mostly dried out. But I’m detecting mold and mildew. The smell is awful.

32311072_m

We called the pros to get a price on treating this smelly situation. They are estimating between $1,800 and $2,000 to kill the mold and mildew. Do you think we could do this ourselves for less using the product you recommend for smelly situations? Thanks, Hank

Dear Hank: Before I answer your question, I want to make sure that all of my readers know that mold is a serious situation, and can have adverse health ramifications for humans and animals alike. Mold is not something you want to live with.

Now to your question: Yes, I believe you can do this yourself.

Most people—myself included, until I did more research—assume that household bleach will kill mold completely. We assume that because it bleaches the dark color. Not so.

Even freshly manufactured household bleach is unable to kill mold. Bleach that sits around store shelves or in your home continually gets weaker over time. Even the manufacturers’ usage directions do not recommend using it to kill mold. If you want effective mold kill, I absolutely recommend that you use Nok-Out (use code DPL for 10% off any order). And not to get too technical, Nok-Out is guaranteed to maintain its efficacy within a two year shelf life, when used according to the manufacturer’s directions. It is effective against mold spores because it structurally disassembles the cell so that it cannot revive to re-infest. Nok-Out does indeed kill spores. 

How to Stop Making Bad Decisions

I saw the funniest sign recently. But it wasn’t funny for long because I started to think about it. Suddenly the humor melted away.

030215image

Ouch! Those 15 words hit hard. I’ve made my share of bad money decisions in my life. 

I’ve come a long way from that dark season of my life. I am determined to not go back, but also to not live with regret for what might have been. Instead of living with my eyes on the rearview mirror, I want to stay focused on the present with eyes toward the future. Which begs the question: How can we stop making bad decisions when it comes to money and personal finance?

Get smart. Despite the fact that research from the University of British Columbia released in November 2013 found the smallest part of the human brain is integral in the decision-making process—and the fact that we do seem to repeat our mistakes—it is possible to become a better decision-maker. With practice, awareness and a bit tender loving care for yourself, you can learn to make better choices. I’ve had lots of feedback from readers of this column who tell me that over the years, they feel as though they have gained the equivalent of a degree in personal finance—one random 500-word column at a time.

Simple Ways to Wake Up a Cake Mix

If I didn’t know better I’d swear that boxed cake mixes reproduce in the dark of night on the shelves of my pantry. One day I counted 18 boxes of cake mix.

Chocolate Cake

Here’s how that works: Cake mixes go on sale routinely. One week it will be Duncan Hines, then Pillsbury takes its turn and so on. The typical sale price for a cake mix is typically $1.50 or less. I hold onto my cake mix coupons until that particular brand goes on sale. With a $.75 or even $1 off coupon, rarely do I pay more than $.50 for a cake mix.

The challenge for me has been to find better ways to make a boxed cake mix taste homemade. 

022715image

photo credit: BakedBree

Check these quick hits plus five of my favorite recipes that use a cake mix as one of the ingredients:

Forget the water. Use whole milk (or even buttermilk) in place of the water called for in the package instructions.

Devil’s food. Any kind of a chocolate mix will really perk up and take on that wonderful homemade taste when you use strong brewed coffee in place of the water, and toss in a handful of chocolate chips, too.

Counteract the sweet. Cake mixes are very sweet with a distinctive “cake mix” taste. Adding 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice to any white or yellow cake will counterbalance the sweetness and hide the tell tale taste of the mix.

Butter is better. Instead of the oil called for in the box mix instructions, substitute with melted butter.

Your TV May be Watching YOU

I took a little heat the day my son walked in and noticed the tiniest piece of Gorilla Tape I’d strategically stuck over the built-in camera on my MacBook Pro. “Paranoid much, Mom?”

022615image

Ever since I’d read a news story about how identity thieves are hacking into webcams and computers to do their dirty work, that tiny dot-sized camera had become a giant eye staring at me and it was giving me the creeps.

I figured some do-it-yourself pre-emptive action on my part couldn’t hurt, if only to give me some peace of mind. It worked.

I didn’t think much about it again until I watched my friend and cybercrime expert, Bob Sullivan, on TODAY discussing Samsung Smart TVs. It seems that these Smart TVs that come with voice control (also known as voice recognition) are super smart with an interactive feature that allows its owner to use many of its features with voice commands. Simply put, you talk to the remote control instead of fiddling to figure out which buttons to press. 

Samsung SmartTV is listening all the time, too. It not only collects what you say into its remote control—Samsung uploads and stores everything Smart TVs hear from the room  without encrypting it. You can read about it in Samsung’s privacy policies

“That means anyone who can insert themselves between your TV and Samsung’s collection devices and its partners can hear what you say on your couch. Not a surprise,” said Bob. “New gadgets always arrive with features first, security second.  Watch this pattern play out again and again as The Internet of Creepy Things invades our home.”

Samsung is not alone.

25 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill

Need a foolproof way to cut your food/grocery expenses by 25 percent this month? Announce to your family that there will be a complete ban on the consumption of food during the first week of every month. There. That should do it!  25 percent right off the top.

022515image

What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. Here are some less painful—and I hope a bit more realistic—ways to get a handle on your food expenses.

Make out your shopping list at home when you are hungry. You will be more creative and thorough.

Never shop when hungry. You will be compelled to buy everything in site regardless of what’s on your list.

Leave the kids home. You will stick to your shopping list with much less frustration and stress if you fly solo.

Don’t shop at convenience or specialty stores. You won’t find many bargains there.

Enlist a kid. When you need to make milk and produce runs between your regular major shopping trips, make a precise list and engage the services of an errand runner (like a responsible child.)

When Frugality is Not Fun

I was not born frugal. Everything in me wants to spend, acquire, achieve and amass. I am drawn to luxury. I live with visions of grandeur and opulence. My fondest dreams include custom tailored clothing, domestic staffs, $600 silk bed sheets, manicured gardensDooney & Bourke All-Weather Leather, fabulous cars, limousines and private jets.  That’s just how I am.

25296597_m

For me, practicing frugality is not really fun. Oh, there’s an occasional situation from time to time when scrimping might be slightly amusing but on the fun meter of life, planning and budgeting, paring down, doing without when it seems that everyone else in the world is prospering beyond belief—none of that can hold a candle to carefree shopping, living and spending as if money were no object.

My dilemma is that I do not have the means to indulge in a life-style equal to my natural-born tendencies. Those of you familiar with my story know that my feeble attempts to play out my natural tendencies landed me in a lot of trouble. I took the treacherous path of incurring debt to acquire things I couldn’t afford. I learned firsthand that living under mountains of debt is not living … it feels like dying.

So if living naturally brings pain but living frugally isn’t fun, is there any hope for the unnatural frugal type? Yes! It requires new behaviors. Voluntarily.

Hidden Benefits in Your AAA Membership

When I pulled out my AAA membership card to get a discount for Sea World tickets  this past weekend, I locked eyeballs with “YEARS AS MEMBER: 40” printed on the card. I nearly nearly passed out. That seemed absolutely impossible, until I did a little mental calculation. It’s true. AAA has been an important part of my life for four decades.

If you are a member of AAA, it’s likely that you depend on it to get you out of an automotive bind with a roadside jumpstart, a gallon of gas or a tow. Just so you know, they also come to the rescue should you ever lock your keys in the car. Or a sleeping baby. Let’s just say that AAA has saved my bacon on more than one occasion.

022315image

photo credit: EdenPictures

AAA membership has so many other benefits that just roadside assistance—some I’ve taken advantage of in the past, but many others I didn’t even know about. If you’re a member, perhaps you’ll be surprised too, by all of the hidden benefits in your membership.