Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gift of Love

I get a warm feeling every time I think of this story, so I thought I'd share it. One year when my dad was struggling with employment and I was making more than I needed, I splurged on Christmas for my folks.

First I picked up a coupon organizer like this one:

Then when I went home for Christmas I went around their town and picked up gift cards for them from places I knew they liked or thought they'd have fun trying. I sorted the gift cards into the different sections of the coupon book. For example:

Produce: Chili's and Appleby's
Meat: Outback
Dairy: Dairy Queen
Beverages: Starbucks
Seafood: The Gangplank
Sports: Wingers
Entertainment: movie tickets

My folks loved the present. They have always enjoyed date nights, and during the following year they were able to use their coupon book of gift cards to go out and spend quality time together doing what they loved, even though times were especially tight.

A year and a few months later, my father passed away very suddenly. I wrote a tribute to him here.

A few months ago Mom thanked me again for the present, which by then I'd mostly forgotten about. But she told me it meant so much to her now, because she'd been able to go out on all of those fun date nights with Dad during that last year he was alive. She said they are memories she will treasure forever.

I love you Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Making Christmas treats with young children

Olivia LOVED making "Muddy Buddies."
They're chocolate and peanut butter covered Chex cereal coated with powdered sugar.

Liv's favorite parts?
Stirring the chocolate and Chex together.
Tossing them in powdered sugar.
No cooking waiting.
Calling them "Lil Buddies."

The real Lil Buddy!
What does his shirt say?

Don't tell his sister!!

Another favorite treat is making Christmas cookies with Dad.
The best parts? Using the (ancient) cookie shooter.
Touching every cookie as it came out.

A Potential new favorite: Ice cream cone Christmas trees.

We haven't tried these yet, but you just get some sugar ice cream cones and flip them upside down. Then let the kids frost them with green frosting and decorate with little candies. I don't know how this could fail to be a hit.

Click here for the Muddy Buddies recipe.
Click here to head back to "Works for me Wednesday" for more great ideas.

Christmas tree

I took the kids to get our tree on Saturday. Sadly, the camera was lost that morning, so I can't show you the muddy shoes and runny noses.

Bummer, huh?

I'm so in love with our tree! On the farm she was such a petite and dainty little lady surrounded by big, spectacular giants.

In our house she's the perfect size, with soft needles and a citrusy pine perfume.

Isn't she a little princess?

"But where is your tree topper?"
you might be asking.

Oh there it is,




I should probably trim that a bit.


Click here to see a close-up section of my tree on flickr, where I labeled some of my most very favorite ornaments of all time.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

WFMW: O Tannenbaum

I've decided we're getting a real tree! A couple of farms nearby have fresh trees and I'm going to take the kids to get one this week. I'm so excited for how much they're going to love it.

Even though we're going to have a real tree, I'm still going to use this Christmas scent that I discovered last year. If you have a fake tree and want the fresh Christmas tree smell, you have to get Tree:

"Tree is the perfect blend of fresh douglas fir, sweet musk, warm vanilla, crisp winter air and enchanting Christmas magic."

(I didn't realize Christmas magic smelled like anything, but if it does, it smells like Tree. Tree works for me. And for my sister.)

I mentioned this scent in a post from last December. It's one of my favorite posts so I'm putting a slightly shorter version of it below:

I've been thinking a lot about what makes Christmas at home magical for me. My family has always had a lot of traditions and I want the same thing for my kids. We trimmed the tree tonight and I had to laugh at what will eventually become the new Christmas traditions for our children.

First, instead of going to the woods, or even to a Christmas tree lot to pick out a tree, Mike made the trek into the storage room in our basement and hauled up the giant box that holds our fake Christmas tree. It comes out of the box looking more like a green rectangle than a tree, so we spent a good half hour pulling the branches apart and trying to make it look "real." This is a painful process because those wires are really jabby!

While we trimmed the tree I wanted Christmas music, so I set up my laptop and played youtube Christmas slide shows set to Nat King Cole, Andy Williams and Karen Carpenter songs. My daughter decorated the bottom half of the tree with kid ornaments and I did the top with nice ones, and maybe I will re-do it while she's sleeping tonight. My mom always did, and Mike says his mom did too.

After we finished the tree we washed our hands. Not because of sticky pine sap. Mainly because of the lead warnings on the tree and on the lights. Seriously, can't we make anything without lead in it?

Finally, I plugged in a pine scented air freshener to get that Christmas tree smell in the air. It is good and actually does smell like a tree! After decorating the Christmas tree I wanted us to sit down to a nice dinner of comfort food, so Mike warmed up a can of soup for him and Olivia to share.

What wonderful traditions our children will have to look back on and try to recreate with their own kids, haha. The best part is that Olivia really DID have a great time. I think maybe Christmas can be magic regardless of whether the soup's from a can and the tree smell is an air freshener. Maybe the magic is about family doing Christmas things together.

What are your family's holiday traditions?

And for more great ideas, go here for Works For Me Wednesday!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Men in my Life

My two favorite guys!

(This wasn't posed, I swear. If I was posing this I would have made sure the baby's eyes weren't half open. Both my kids do that with their eyes while they sleep.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving Top 20/Bottom 10

It would take me weeks to cover our whole Thanksgiving extravaganza, so I’ve got a Top 20/Bottom 10 list for you instead. These are in no particular order:

TOP 20
Spending Thanksgiving with family
Pioneer Woman’s Lasagna
Mom’s shrimp dip
Pilgrim hats for dinner

The relationship between my mom and her grandkids
Black Friday in a small town
Free doughnuts
Home-made pumpkin pie

Christmas shopping mostly done
Thoughtful helping around the house
Paper plates and plastic cups

Puerto Rico board game
Turkey dinner left-overs
Xander learning to clap and crawl
Matching cousin dresses

Nothing really bad happened, and we were all safe (see bottom 10)
Playing in crunchy piles of leaves
Tired children sleeping in
Spending Thanksgiving with family (deserves to be said twice)

Missing family that wasn’t with us
Undercooked turkey
FIRE in oven during dinner and a broken heat element

Emergency brake repair on Black Friday
Olivia’s infected sty
Having to force-feed medicine to kids
Getting thrown up on
Needing new brakes, a new oven and a new computer all at once
Overtired child wetting the guest bed

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just Desserts

Here is an equation that sums up my husband:
Turkey dinner + sports(football) = happiness

I like turkey dinner okay, but I'm more of a sweets person. And since I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year I get to make the menu, but I can't decide on which desserts to make. They all sound sooo good!

(I'd like to forget about entrees and sides and plan a week of just desserts!)

Of course I should probably make pumpkin and apple pies. But I feel so limited by tradition.

I really think the pilgrims would approve of this pie: And I am very thankful for chocolate.
Click here for the recipe.

What treats are you making for Thanksgiving week?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dear Stock Market

I know it's been a while since we last talked. What's been going on? I stopped by yesterday to see how you're doing and was really shocked at how awful you look.

It seems like you're having a rough time, but I would like to remind you about our agreement. You're supposed to give me a nice cushion like this, in case I ever need something to fall back on:

I thought things were good between us, and my cushion was coming right along. Maybe even respectable enough for us to visit my brother and his family in Belgium next Spring.

But yesterday when I stopped by, I saw THIS, and frankly, I am appalled. This kind of poor performance is unacceptable. I expect you to get your act together and stop messing around.

This is your last warning.

P.S. - Sorry I can't write more, but I have talk to the house about its lack of appreciation too. Seriously, what's wrong with you guys?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reasons today is nice

I've been saving some chocolate from Belgium for a special occasion, and today I'm eating it. Thanks to my sister-in-law for the delicious treat, I sure miss you guys!

Xander's little wheeze is just a virus and it's not down in his lungs.

Splashy, bath-time FUN

My mom is going to be here in less than a week to see my darling boy for the first time since he was born in January.

A friend that has been trying to adopt was just chosen by a birth-mom! Their new baby girl will be born in January. Click here to see her blog and the cute advent calendar she just made.

My sweetheart dropped Olivia off at preschool on his way to work, even though it made him a little late.

And he kissed me goodbye
just a little lingeringly

(Is that even a word? Because that's what it was like.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

WFMW: Toy Storage on a Budget

This is just a cheapo over-the-door shoe organizer from Target.

It's the best toy organizing system I've ever had. It is perfect for all of the little things that would normally get lost in her toybox.


When the door's open it is completely hidden. She can't reach the top toys without help, so I rotate them. When she starts getting bored with something I put it on the top and move the ones on the top row down to the bottom.

(If I was super organized I could even print photos of her toys and tape them behind the plastic so she would put each toy in a certain spot.)

Before I started using the door organizer I made a place for her to keep her Barbies. This is just an under-the-bed storage container.

I made the dividers by cutting strips of foam board and then using moving tape to attach them inside the box. Once all of the Barbies, sidekicks and accessories are stashed inside, we just hide it under the bed, completely out of sight.

If you like these ideas or have other suggestions, please leave me a comment!

And for more great ideas, head on over to
Rocks in My Dryer for Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Give us this day...

Today was beautiful but cold. Autumn is turning into winter so fast. It even snowed a little bit today!

I decided the day called for some good comfort food: Mom's minestrone soup and home-made bread.

It was the first time I've ever made a loaf of bread without a mixer or bread machine and it turned out perfect. I think I've had 8,709 pieces. Or 5. A lot, anyway. Can you see the butter melting on the bread? Can you see how perfectly it would soak up the soup?

Can you blame me for eating so much?

For dessert I had the creamiest, coldest eggnog from a local farm. It was so rich and decadent.

Xander's been refusing to eat baby food from a jar. Tonight I cut up the veggies in our soup and gave him minestrone mash instead. He loved it! I love the forehead carrot look.

It was a perfect day to usher in the cold weather.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Things I Love About My Sis

She comes to visit me after I have a baby.

Taking road trips with her.
She remembers the strangest things from when we were kids.
Like, the flower press.

She's crescent fresh.
We go to Collective Soul concerts together.

Our cats were best friends and now so are our daughters.

She sang in a band.
She thinks she can load a dishwasher better than me.

If I was stranded on a desert island, she's the one thing I'd bring.

She's beautiful.

She came to my rescue when I moved far away from home.
Wild turkey tall-tales.

She loves my kids.
And she's my best friend.

Happy birthday, Lynzee!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pizza Night

Friday I picked up some whole wheat flour and fresh mozzarella cheese to get ready for our first time making pizza from scratch.

Here's Olivia mixing the dry ingredients and Alexander licking the salt shaker while threatening to fall off the counter.

What concentration!

I'm not a big salad fan, but I love this one. I made it while the pizza was cooking and then bribed Olivia to eat it by offering her a cheesy poof for each bite of salad she ate. Strawberries, feta cheese, candied nuts and dressing, yum! Thanks to the Oak family for introducing me to this treat.

I don't think pizza baking should be so smoky!

Here's a picture of the finished product. It is pesto, mozzarella and tomato. We also had buffalo-style and regular cheese with black olives. This one turned out the best.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fun in Bed

Not that kind of fun!
This was what my bed looked like when I got up this morning.
(Notice that no one is sleeping on my pillow?)

Not a lot of room left over for the official bed occupants!

I also found out today how to do color and different sizes in my posts, yay!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bellaziza's Favorite Things

I am a closet stroller addict. I love looking at all of the fancy strollers, and sometimes I go into those high end baby stores and test drive them. I push the kid(s) around and kick the tires, etc.

When I had Xander I thought that finally I'd be able to justify one of the really cool double strollers they have now, but when it comes to plopping down $800 for a stroller, there is just no way. Never going to happen.

That means I'm going to have to win one if I ever want one!

So I'm putting up a link to a giveaway for a Phil and Ted's Vibe stroller. The idea is you enter once by subscribing, then you can post a link to them for another entry.

Now, even though it reduces my odds of winning if you subscribe, if this sweet ride goes to a friend instead of to me that's okay. The website has some nice, high-end giveaways too, check it out. Good luck!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mean Girl

Why are kids so mean to each other? Siblings especially. Like why do they hit and fight and punch and bite? I know as a kid I did it, but the reasons why I did it are completely lost to me. I have no memory of why I liked pushing my little brother's buttons so much. It's possible I did it just for the sake of pushing them and watching him fly off the handle.

So now we know where my daughter gets it.

On multiple times I've seen Olivia reach over and just hit her baby brother on the head for no reason. Once I was able to wheedle out of her that she did it because she wanted to see what it felt like.

The one that really blew my mind though happened last week. The two kids were sitting on the floor and Liv had a pointy Halloween witch hat and was "this close" from putting the point in the baby's eye.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fridge of Doom

After we got home from church I was getting some tortillas out of the fridge and noticed something sticky on the package. Uh-oh. It had been a while since I'd cleaned out the zillions of optimistic leftover containers, and I thought something had probably tipped over and spilled.

I'm not particularly a fan of cleaning out the fridge. In fact, I frequently feel that the fridge is sort of lurking over in the corner of the kitchen, full of dark secrets that I don't want to know about.

However, I have learned (from hard experience) that it's better to clean up fridge spills as soon as you spot them. So I started pulling things out to find the source of the sticky and realized it was worse than I thought. Not one, but two cans of soda had frozen and then exploded at the very back of the fridge.

Needless to say, I didn't get any writing done today.

Friday, November 07, 2008

How to Write a Novel in a Month

Some of you might have seen the new little counter thing on my right sidebar. It is counting how many words Lahdeeda and I have written in November as we try to write an entire novel in a month.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's been around for 10 years. I couldn't believe I'd never heard of it until this year. Anyway, there are thousands of people around the world trying to write 50,000 words in a month. And what's our secret?

The trick is that you don't worry about writing the next Pulitzer. You don't even worry about writing something publishable (yet). The trick to writing a novel in a month is that you just write. Every day, you just write. You write down the flat characters, the cliched descriptions, the non-exciting action and the stale dialogue. Once you stop worrying about how awful it is, something changes (at least for me it does) and the story and characters start to feel kind of real. And they start sounding better.

It's been really exciting to see a novel actually taking shape as I write. I've always thought I could do something like this but never took the steps to actually do it. Now I am and it's an eye-opening experience.

Keep an eye on my counter to see my progress. I am pretty behind already, but I'm just trying to make my daily goals instead of catching up. And even though I am behind where I want to be, I'm still 5,000 words closer to finishing a novel than I've ever been before! Wish me luck. :)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Warhammer Winners!

Thanks for so many fun and complimentary comments. It was great hearing how many of you want to play the game or are already enjoying it. I was so inspired I decided to give away BOTH of my prizes and some consolation prizes as well! (Also, I just have way too much of this Warhammer stuff sitting around.)

Grand Prizes:
  • Becky N. - Warhammer game
  • Toohotforturtle - Warhammer "swag" bag
Consolation Prizes:
  • Mitch - Warhammer mug
  • T - Warhammer Christmas picture
I'll be contacting the winners via email. Happy daylight savings weekend everyone!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Smug Bug

My baby is going through a "mom preference" phase. One thing that cracks me up about it is whenever someone hands him to me he immediately snaps his head around to look back at whoever just had him. He gets this look on his face as if to say, "Nyah nyah nyah!"

My mom made up the perfect term for that look: "Smug Bug."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Warhammer Online Give Away

Deep down, I feel I have an artistic soul. I want to make beautiful things. I've tried my hand at knitting, sculpting clay, painting, music, sewing, cross-stitching, landscaping, scrapbooking, photography, etc, etc, etc...

And on this, my first give away, I want to give away something I've made. Luckily for you though (especially considering some of my work), I'm giving away something I made at my job, not as a hobby.

I work for Mythic Entertainment and we just launched a new computer game, so I'm going to give away a copy of Warhammer Online, Age of Reckoning . I've been working on it for three years and am so excited and proud that it's doing so well.

The winner gets to pick a prize!
  • Choice #1 - Free copy of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
  • Choice #2 - Goody package of Warhammer Online stuff. This is random "loot" I've gotten at work. Some of the things I have to choose from are a coffee mug (more like a tankard), a coffee table book, playing cards, a graphic novel, posters.
The game would be a great Christmas present, but if you already know someone that plays the game (not hard to imagine since we've already sold over 750K copies!) they might enjoy the stuff from the grab bag instead.

What you need to do: Post a comment stating which prize option you want and what you'll do with it if you win. Easy!

Deadline: October 31st at midnight EST. I'll pick a winner the next morning (or really late Friday night if I'm not passed out in a sugar coma from swiping my kids' Halloween haul).

For more fun giveaways this week, head over to Bloggy Giveaways

Edit: I should add - I will be deleting posts that aren't entries or are from Warhammer gold sellers or hackers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

To the Haters

To everyone in the rest of the world that hates the U.S. and wished that we would get what was coming to us... Hope you LIKE IT. :(

(that link used to take you to an article about the market crash of '08)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nickel and Diming

When my oldest daughter started preschool this fall I paid them a pretty good chunk of money. They had an option to give us a 5% discount on tuition if we paid for the whole year up front. I had been socking away some money for a while and had enough to manage this, so I went ahead and did it. Better making 5% on the money than 2% in my savings, right?

I felt really lucky to have had the money to be able to do this. We’ve been through some tough financial times in the past, and I think we learned some really valuable lessons about debt and savings. That’s not what I want to write about today though.

What I want to write complain about today is how this preschool has been squeezing us for more and more money, and it hasn’t even been 2 months yet! Just off the top of my head, here are all the things they’ve said we need to pay for on top of tuition:
  • Ice cream day
  • Field trip
  • School shirt to wear to field trip
  • School pictures
  • Yearbook
  • Book Order
  • Candy to throw from parade float
  • Birthday treats to share with the class
I am not a stingy person. I want my daughter to have things the other kids have, and I want her to be happy and enjoy school. However, this is just completely over the top. We paid for preschool already, not to mention paying an ENROLLMENT FEE and a great big BOOK FEE. This isn’t even a fancy shmancy preschool. It’s a nice church-based program.

So what gives? ME. Hahahaha.


Really – does a 4-year-old need a yearbook? It’s ridiculous. Matching t-shirts for a field trip? That’s what they tried to get me to buy this morning and it finally set me off.

The note says, “All students are to wear their L.S. Preschool T-shirts and/or hoodies.” I didn’t even know they had L.S. Preschool gear. And of course the field trip is tomorrow.

Did I pony up the money for the t-shirt? I know you’re wondering…

I did not. I refused. I told her teacher that it was too last minute and I didn’t have the money for it. She’s a good woman, and I caught her nodding her head when I inadvertently (I couldn’t stop them!) rolled my eyes about buying shirts for a field trip that we are chaperoning.

Later I complained to my husband about how that school is nickel and diming the heck out of us. He agreed and was very sympathetic while I ranted about how all these $5's and $10's are adding up. Even though he hasn’t been the one forking over the money on a practically weekly basis, he is dealing with preschool while he’s off work this week, and he’s the one going with her on the field trip tomorrow. So I told him it was his call.

And guess what?

He is going to buy her a t-shirt when he picks her up today. He says she can use it multiple times throughout the year and it’ll be fun for her to have a shirt with her school’s name on it. I totally bet he gets the hoodie too.

In the words of Precious Roy…. SUCKER!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Birthday Fun

This year my little girl turned 4. I had no idea that 4-year-olds would already be into Barbies, but I decided to go with it. So for her birthday cake... let me first say that I am not a baker. I am not a cake decorator. So although this cake is no big deal to some of you Cake Decorators Extraordinaire, this was quite an accomplishment for me.

(Before I tell you about the beginning of her day though, one more cake-related thing: After we sang and my daughter blew out her candle she looked at her cake and then ran to the other room and brought back the advertising insert that came with her birthday Barbie. She opened it to a page with a photo of a store-bought sheet cake with a picture of Barbie screen printed (or however they do that) on the top and told me that was the cake she wanted. Nice, huh?)

Anyway, this year for her birthday I decided to try to start some new family traditions. The first thing we did was give her a stack of 4 donuts for breakfast since she was 4. She was beyond thrilled. This is the girl that gets maybe one doughnut/year and here she was with 4 all for herself. Her birthday was on a Sunday, and I should have gotten her up earlier since she dawdled over those doughnuts like you wouldn't believe. It was a lot of fun though.

I had the dining room decorated and her pile of presents on the kitchen table when she woke up, but we didn't let her open any presents before church. Instead, while she ate lunch after church we hid her presents in different places and hid clues with them. Then she got to go on a treasure hunt to find her presents. This worked out SO GREAT! She typically gets bored and tired of opening presents after just a couple (can you imagine? Bored and tired of presents. Poor thing.) But with the treasure hunt she got to open a present and then go running around the house looking for her next present. This really kept her excitement level up and it was a lot of fun for us too.

I am going to skip the nostalgic writing today about how my little girl is growing up so fast. But I couldn't resist a photo from then and now.

My little girl is growing up so fast!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crisco - The New Health Food

This weekend I was in the baking aisle and decided to see how much trans fat was in Crisco. I haven't cooked with Crisco in ages, despite my deep and abiding love for fried chicken and the texture it gives chocolate chip cookies.

Here are the ingredients listed on the label:


Here is the nutritional info:

Serving size - 1 Tablespoon
Amount Per Serving - 48 Calories 110
Calories from Fat 110
% Daily Value
Total Fat 12g 19%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%

Doesn't this seem so fishy? A product made with this much hydrogenated vegetable oil is still able to claim on its label that it is trans fat free.

Then I did a little bit (not a lot, I've got 2 kids and work full-time!) more research, and it turns out fully hydrogenated oils don't contain trans fats (except maybe a little bit that slips in but otherwise), not like the partially hydrogenated oils do. Seems a little suspect, but okay.

Am I going to start using Crisco again now?


Friday, September 19, 2008

Warhammer Launch Day

My Guys

(Yes, his onesie really says WAAAAGH!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Until now, I haven't written anything here about my job. I really prefer to keep work and blogging separate, especially given my industry.

However, this morning when I was looking at my site I noticed that one of my Amazon ads on the sidebar is for the product I've been working on for 3 years . We had a limited launch yesterday, more tomorrow, and we'll be fully launched by the end of this week. I'm so proud of myself, my husband and my whole company for finishing our project, I just HAVE to brag for a minute.

I work for Mythic Entertainment, acquired not too long ago by EA Games and we've been making the game called Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. It's an MMORPG, which basically means that lots of people play it at the same time, and they can role-play or just fight and do quests.

What I'm most proud of being involved with on the game are the public quests. I wish I could say they were my idea, but they weren't. However, I did have the opportunity to be invited to some of the earliest brainstorming meetings when public quests were in their infancy, and give some feedback that possibly had a tiny impact on them.

Later I was the Lead for the Public Quest focus team and was able to work with a team of brilliant guys that turned a lot of public quests into fun, exciting works of glory.

I am so relieved and exhiliarated to be sending our game to the players. I wonder if it's a little bit like sending an offspring out into the world. Yesterday was our first phase of the launch, so a small number of people started to play. Tomorrow we'll be getting more players and by the end of this week everyone should have access and you'll see the game in stores.

I'm thankful to work with my husband and that we both support each others' career choices. I love working with him and getting to take lunches together. I'm thankful for my kids for putting up with hanging around the office on some weekends and late nights while we tried to meet deadlines.

Blah blah blah, this is so sappy, huh? One of these days soon I will start posting about my kids again. But Warhammer Online is another creation that I collaborated on and I am so proud and excited to have been a part of it from the beginning.

WAR is here - WAAAAAGH!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stock Market for Idiots

Politics and Finances. It's like my blog is getting a life of its own. Don't give up on me though. :) I just wanted to write about how I got started in the stock market because it's something you can do too, even if you don't have any money to invest.

I didn't have any money either!

In 2001 I had just moved from Idaho to Maryland to take a job that quickly folded when the company went under. I was stuck waiting tables and literally living day to day on the money I made in tips and the food I nicked from the kitchen.

I promised myself that if I could just get a regular job again I would invest and make sure I had a cushion, because you just never know when something like this is going to happen to you.

After about 6 months I got a new job and decided to learn about the stock market. I'd always been intrigued but intimidated by it, and I thought you had to have a lot of money to start... It turns out you don't!

I went to Yahoo Finance and made a pretend portfolio. I picked out some companies I knew a little bit about and added them to my portfolio, choosing to own 10 shares of each one. Then every day I'd check my pretend portfolio to see how they were doing.

Some were winners (Netflix), some were losers (Tiffany's) but before long I was wishing I had real money in the market.

After a while I finally had a couple hundred real dollars extra in my checking account and decided to go for it. I went to Etrade and opened up an account. It was so easy. I gave Etrade my bank account number, then waited a day for processing and I was ready to start. I bought maybe 10 shares that day - 2 each of 5 different companies. I think invested about $300 dollars and it was as easy as buying something on Ebay.

After that is where it got fun. I re-did my Yahoo portfolio to track my real stocks and I started checking it at least every hour. It's the closest I've felt to Vegas style gambling without actually being there. Some days I'm up and I feel like I hit a jackpot. Other days are gloomy, but I grit my teeth and hang in there. I'm not going to get rich overnight this way, but I usually average higher than a 7% profit and that's a lot better than my savings account.

Here are some things I've learned:
  • Start small.

  • Don't invest money you can't afford to lose.

  • Don't sell winners. If you have a stock that is doing well, hang onto it. Chances are it will do even better.

  • Buy stock in companies you know something about.

  • Be tough. Don't sell because things are looking down. Grit your teeth and hang in there.

  • Have fun.

I'm certainly not an expert, but leave a comment if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Does Sarah Palin Belong in the White House or Her Own House?

I have to admit I've been a little bit conflicted about having Sarah Palin on the ballot. The first thought I had when I heard that a mother of 5 would be running for vice president was:

1 - Will she put her kids first or her country first?

And then as we learned more about her family challenges I wondered:

2 - Who needs Sarah Palin more - her kids or her country?

I really like a quote in this article from CNN:

"I have no problem with a woman being president, but I'm going to hold her to the same standards I'd hold a man."
That's exactly how I feel about it too.

After the birth of her 5th child (what a cutie!) Palin returned to work just 3 days later.

Her speedy return to work answered my first question. Palin's the type of woman who can put her job first. But she's still breastfeeding, which shows me she's trying to be a good mom too.

The fact that she's chosen to run for VP while her family faces challenges is receiving all kinds of criticism, particularly from the mothers who imagine themselves in her situation.

Isn't it ironic that we finally have a chance to put someone in the White House that can relate with our challenges and actually represent who we are as women, and yet so many of us are telling her to stay home 'where she belongs?'

We are certainly our own worst enemies.

Sarah Palin has the chance to change history and the world's perception of women and of working moms, and she's making no more of a sacrifice than any number of us make every day when we go to work and leave our children in someone else's care. It's a tough decision but it's a personal one that can only be made by the family involved.

Now - what I really want to know is how the Palin's got baby Trig to sleep through the Republican Convention! He and his sister Piper stole the show in this adorably unscripted moment.

It reminds me of once when I asked my daughter what she was doing and she replied, "I'm putting my tongue-lick in the baby's hair."

(And yes, that makes TWO political posts for me this year. What is the world coming to??)