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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween as a platform for inversion

Of the traditional notable days on the calender, Halloween is the one that is held in the highest esteem by our family. On this day, millions and millions of people get to enjoy the power of inversion... a power that our family enjoys all year long. On this day, people get judged not by how pretty they are, but by how gruesome they are. The more horrific, the more scary, the more revered one is. This is the act of inversion ... viewing things from an opposite perspective. When you do this, you begin to see qualities you never enjoyed before. You begin to see elements of value you never considered before. You begin to identify opportunities you have never seen before. In addition to all this, Halloween provides a comfortable forum for many to release their little inner demon ... scaring the kids, doing tricks, and eating treats.

As usual, the commercial aspect has encroached on this marvelous day, bringing non-Halloween ideas to the table, like dressing up as a fairy or Hanna Montana or a Power Ranger. At first, I wasn't happy about this. Upon further thought, though, I'm quite happy about it. Why? People who really get into Halloween, and invert, see the power of this perspective and they begin to apply it in the regular world all year. This means that others begin to see and use this power nullifying some of the advantage our family has. By having "goody goody" type Halloween costumes and views, people won't understand the power and will remain ignorant of it leaving my family to have an advantage.

Here is an inversion flip exercise that is great on Halloween. Find a movie, that the entire family can watch, with a bad guy whom gets lots of screen time. Agree at the outset that everyone will cheer for the bad guy, identify his redeeming qualities, and boo any character whom stands in his way. You will find good qualities in the bad guy ... usually pride and drive. There will be others, too, that inevitably comes forward. Once the movie is over, reflect on what you saw and ask if the good guy would of even existed had the bad guy not shown up.

So I say, bring on the princess and spiderman costumes. Those archetypes are available everyday and will not create a novel view of the world for those whom partake. That power will remain between us.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Costume - Hair

From the posts earlier this week, you know that KJ is going to be Medusa for Halloween. I was able to construct a dress for her out of fabric that looks like snake skin. Next is the hair. After discussing several way of getting toy snakes to stay in KJ's hair we opted on using curlers.

The plan is to roll KJ's hair in curlers and pull the snakes through the middle of the curlers. So, the snakes will be encircled by the curlers. I was able to find a package of curlers at the dollar store for a $1. We purchased the snakes from Wal-Mart for $5. If we are able to pull this off, we will have made KJ into Medusa for under $15. Not bad for a custom Halloween costume.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wrapping Up The Long Term

We have a birthday party to go to and we pulled out our handy dandy wrapping paper. But this isn't any ordinary paper, it is wrapping paper that cost us nearly nothing.

About 7 years ago, we stumbled onto a place called Mike's Merchandise. You see, Mike buys stuff ... sometimes semi-trailer loads of stuff that was bound for stores and for whatever reason it didn't make its destination, Mike buys items from auctions, Mike buys from all over and simply resales it. Mike's isn't some seedy kind of place and the items aren't stolen. Mike just has a knack for finding good goods. The items in his store vary greatly ... and are as different as the number of semi-trailers crisscrossing the US. His stores are always full and the items can be crazy .... like parts for an F-16, sometimes coffins, sometimes conveyor belts, and so on.

5 years ago, while walking through Mike's, we found a giant, and I mean giant, roll of thick wrapping paper covered in balloons. It was clearly intended for a store that does bulk wrapping but at 50 cents for the entire roll, how could we pass it up? Over the years we've used it to wrapped many birthday presents, anniversary presents, New Years gifts, and more. I'd say we are down to the last 10 percent of the original roll and I doubt we will finish off the roll before we set sail, but boy has that 50 cents paid off over the years.

This is an example of thinking long term that has worked well for us. You see, we saw something of great value, but others saw absurd dimensions that didn't fit what their mindset of what wrapping paper should be (the roll weighed over 45 lbs when we bought it!). Do you see cumbersome wrapping paper intended for a store? or do you see incredible value that you can apply at home over the long term?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Costume - Construction

So from the post, a couple of days ago, you know that KJ had decided to be Medusa for Halloween. Most of what I know about Medusa up to this point, was from the movies. After doing a little research, we decided that a Medusa costume would need to be something that made KJ's body look like a snake and she would need to have snakes in her hair.

I searched the local fabric stores for something that resembled snake skin. I was about to punt on finding the fabric locally, when I found the perfect fabric in the clearance fabric isle of Joann's. There was exactly 2 yards of fabric. Given that I had never made a dress before, I was hoping that 2 yards would be enough fabric. I also saw a sign - McCall $0.99. I asked one of the ladies at Joann's , if all of the McCall patterns were on sale for $0.99. The answer was yes! I found a pattern that would work and was simple. To my surprise the pattern's regular price was $15.95. It was a good thing that the patterns were on sale for $0.99. So the total cost for the fabric and the pattern was $6.99 plus tax. It really was my day!

The pattern was very simple. Just by following the patterns instructions, I was able to make KJ a simple dress with long sleeves. It's not the greatest construction, but I made it for less than $8 and it will work great as a Halloween costume.

Next challenge, the hair!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

$3 Movies at WalMart

Last week, Val was walking through WalMart and in the video area she spied a WalMart employee carting out tons of DVD videos. She watched as the employee took the videos and dumped them into a bin labeled with a giant $3. Val watched as they were loaded in and saw movies we love, to include Dune, Tomb Raider, Mission: Impossible, AeonFlux, and more. The question became, would we watch the movies at least 3 times and break even (assuming a $1 per night rental from RedBox) and would they be movies we would want to take on the boat. The answer was YES! So she snagged a number of movies. It was quite a find. We've since gone back and the bin is now labeled with a giant $5, and we didn't see any of the Tomb Raider or Mission: Impossible DVDs left.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Costume - Deciding on a Costume

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. We start talking about what our costumes will be 10 months in advance. This year, after much discussion, KJ decided that she wanted to be Medusa. What a GREAT choice! Now you can't go into 99% of the Halloween/costume stores and find a Medusa costume. We were going to have to create it from scratch. No problem, we love having unique costumes and creating the costume is half the fun. As an extra bonus, it will give me an opportunity to work on my sewing skill.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Million Dollar Test

A few weeks ago, Val and were lusting after the lotto ... it was at a whopping $170 million. With such numbers, the fantasys can go wild. During the discussion, the question came up .... if we won, what would we do different regarding our trip. Would we hire a crew to sail our boat for us? No. Would we buy a bigger boat? No. Would we go right now? Nope, Dy is still to small. Would we change our sailing route? No. What would we do different? That became the question and it was followed by a long silence. We couldn't identify anything we would do different. That became known in our family as the million dollar test: the moment that your life plans don't change simply with the addition of money, you've become rich. Does it take a million dollars to become rich? That really depends on you.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dinghy Finally Onboard

Ariel finally has a friend. We purchased another dinghy in September. Hopefully, our dinghy saga is over (click here to read earlier post).

In the end, we decided to purchase the 9'4" hard shell water tender boat from West Marine. Cost was $587 with tax and shipping, so that's $263 less than the Pelican Scorpio. We've had it for little over a month now and it is doing great. There is plenty of room for all four of us and cargo. It only weighs 114lbs, so it's easy to lift up onto the bow and it fits nicely there.

Currently, it is operated under oar power. You can get quite a workout oaring the boat to and from shore.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Being Free

Last Sunday, when we were driving out to the boat, the overwhelming feeling of being free came over me. Rolling along at 70 mph, my mind wandered to a thought: you know, I don't owe anybody any money, I have a boat I can live in, I have zero contractual obligations that can't be nullified with minimal money spend, and I have enough money that we could live without working for a long time. Talk about a sense of comfort and calm. The world got quiet, my thoughts expanded, the kids seemed happier, and a smile grew across my face. The thought put everything right in its right place. That feeling is only possible because we've adjusted our life to a style that consumes less than we create, and we've done so without the feeling of loss.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Super Tasty Chicken

I love this savory fast dinner. Not only does it look and taste terrific, but it takes a total of 45 minutes from start to finish. Total cost of the ingredient is $7.45. Not great, considering that we try to keep to the food budget of $10/day, for the entire family. However, we usually have enough chicken and sauce leftover for a lunch so the cost is spread over 2 meals on different days.

The first time we had it, Bill said that it looked and tasted like something we would get in a elegant restaurant. I agree!

Chicken Breast with Balsamic Vinegar and Shallot Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (each about 6 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups of fresh or frozen vegetables

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over high heat in a heavy saucepan or skillet large enough to hold the chicken breasts in one layer. When hot, add the chicken breasts, and sprinkle them with the salt and pepper. Saute, uncovered, for about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the breasts to an ovenproof plate, reserving the drippings in the pan, and place them in the oven and continue cooking for at least 18 minutes but no more than 30 minutes. (Could be less if you have gas oven)

Add the shallots to the drippings in the pan, and cook for about 1 minute over high heat. Add the vinegar and ketchup and continue for another minute. Add the water, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and stir until it is incorporated.

Meanwhile, for the vegetables: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the vegetables, salt, and pepper. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.

To serve, place the vegetables on plate and spread the vegetable into a circle (place a spoon in the middle of the plate and make a circular motion, but don't push vegetables off the plate). Place the chicken breast in the center and coat with the sauce, sprinkle with chives and serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 7 Cents of Balloon Fun

My kids love balloons. When there is a balloon to be had, they magically gravitate towards it. Heck, balloons are fun for me too. While running around a store last week, I saw a bag of 144 animal shaping balloons for $9.99. Normally I would have not picked up the bag without checking out other stores and prices, but my instincts said, "Ahh, go with it! It will be fun!" The instincts were totally right.

That one bag of 144 balloons has been a blast for everyone in the family. We've easily had 5 hilarious hours of balloon time, and there is at least 100 more balloons to go. On the dollar per hour fun meter, we are already easily spending less than $2 per hour for all 4 of us (coming out to less than 50 cents per person) and with each passing hour that cost goes down. The fun is different and varied. We've done the static balloon game, made all sorts of animals, chased balloons as their air rushed out of them, shrieked as they popped at unexpected times, had sword fights, balloon bounce contests, and so much more. Even watching the kids try to blow up the balloons and having the air race back out at their faces provides lots of laughs.

So, go out and buy a bag of animal balloons... the value per hour will easily be there. Maybe you will find the artistic talent to create a balloon dog, or flower, or even a hat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Corn Chowder Recipe

With the onset of cooler weather, I've started making soups for dinner. Corn Chowder is quickly becoming a favorite. The recipe is super easy and take about 30 minutes from start to finish. The really nice thing is that it cost $3.87 to make and serves 6 adults. In our family we usually have enough leftovers for lunch the next day. I serve it with sweet corn bread. I know it sound like a lot of maze, but it goes really well together.


• 3 tablespoons good olive oil
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup minced scallion
• 1/2 cup Green Hot Salsa or less for a milder soup
• 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes in sauce
• 1 (28-ounce) can white hominy (about 3 cups kernels and juice)
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
• 4 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
• About 1/2 teaspoon salt (less if using canned chicken broth)
• 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn or a can of corn)
• 1/2 cup (lightly packed) fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the garlic, onion, and scallions.
Cook for 3 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the corn and cilantro.
Bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes.
Stir in the corn and cilantro, return to a boil, and serve.

Monday, October 19, 2009

$12 of food for $1 at McDonalds

With Halloween right around the corner, some McDonald's locations are selling Trick or Treat coupon packs. The intent of the packs is for adults to buy them, then hand the coupons out as treats to trick or treaters. However, that is not how we use them!

For $1 you get 12 free item coupons! The coupons include 3 x either a free hamburger, or a free apple juice/milk, or a bag of apple dippers, or a small ice cream cone. Each of these items individually make the coupon pack worth while. The restrictions on the back of the coupon make it clear that they are to be used by kids under 12. We have 2 of those. ;) Oh, the expiry date is 31 December 2009.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Dinghy Search

When we purchased our first dinghy, we thought it was going to be perfect. The reviews for the Pelican Scorpio, online, raved about the boat. Once we received it, we thought it was a nice boat except for one itty bitty problem. The gash in the hull, at the buoyancy, tank left us doubting its worthiness. If you are not familiar with our first dinghy saga want to read the other post, click here: post 1, post 2, and post 3.

From the Pelican Scorpio we concluded that we would like our new dinghy could be shorter in length. Our thinking is that a 8.5' to 9.5' boat would work just as good and would fit on the bow of the boat a lot better than the Pelican Scorpio.

Next finding a boat!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Play the Damn Lotto!

One of the great sources of imaginary fun we have in our family is the buying of one lotto ticket. Whenever the lotto in our area has a jackpot above $100 million, we take $1 and buy 1 lotto ticket. When we share this fact with folks, many times we are greeted with looks like we have snakes coming out of our ears. "What? You guys play the lotto?" Yeah, Mr. and Mrs. WatchOurMoney do play it. After sharing our reasons, some people just shake their heads in disbelief while others say, "Yeah, I can see that."

Why play the lotto? That is the million (or multi-million) dollar question.

  • Firstly, for $1, you get hours of fantasy time. We spend our $1 and talk about what we will do with the money ... giving some to this relative, none to that relative, walking into work after riding in a giant limousine and delivering the resignation notice while wearing a Hawaiian shirt, taking a trip up to the space station at $40 million per head, and so on.
  • Secondly, for $1, you get a chance at a lot of money. Sure, the odds are incredibly slim like 1 in 175,711,536. But hey, that is better than 1 in 0, which is what the odds are of winning if you don't play.
  • Thirdly, the anticipation feeling you get when you check out the winning numbers is pretty damn cool.
  • Fourthly, it emphasizes the power of interest nicely. For every $1 million dollars you have put away, you earn about $50,000 in interest per year. Now imagine if you have $100 million ... that is $5,000,000 in interest per year!! WOW! Talk about having some fun with that!

Okay, so you elect to put your $1 away. Every $1 is a nickel of free money the rest of your life. I totally get that (and have posted many blogs on it).... but I am willing to forgo a nickel the rest of my life for the lotto when it passes the $100 million threshold. I recognize the odds, but for a buck, it is an easy thing to try. Hell, I pick up a buck on the ground in loose change in any given week, so I think it is okay to try my hand at the wheel of luck for a buck! Oh yeah, I put the rest away since I probably won't hit the lotto.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wellness Checkups

As you may know, we have two girls. KJ just turned 4 years old and Dy is 18 months. Wednesday we went to the doctor for their wellness checkups. The girls had been feeling fine and received their immunizations like real champs. All was well, until 6:30 pm. Dy started acting different. I picked her up and kissed her head. She was hot! Really hot! I immediately gave her a dose of infant Tylenol, then a dose of infant Motrin to break the fever. It did the trick.

Around midnight, Dy woke up. She was running another high fever (103) and she had vomited. I immediately put her in the shower to cool her body temperature and then give her another dose of Tylenol and Motrin. This brought her fever down substantially, but did not break the fever. Bill and I decided to take her to the emergency room. Fortunately, we live near Children's Hospital. What a GREAT place. Everyone was super nice, even at 1:30 am in the morning. The hospital was quiet, we had missed rush hour by 2 hours. Within 30 minutes of getting to the hospital, Dy had been seen by a PA and our fears had been mitigated. Again, what a GREAT PLACE!!

Bill and I thought that Dy was having a reaction to one of the immunizations that she received on Wednesday, but the experienced staff at Children's said that was highly unlikely. It was much more likely that she picked up a virus, at the doctor's office. So the Wellness Checkup ended with a run to the emergency room. Some wellness checkup.

I'm aware that most people at the doctor's office are there because they are sick. I did take extra precautions by wiping the girls hands with antibacterial wipes several times. Just goes to show that some viruses are very persistent.

It just hurts my heart to see my sweet little girl sick.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hosting Another Operational Cost

Our battle to lower operating costs continues. Val recently posted on her revelations regarding her cell phone and the lowering our monthly expenses as a consequence. About a month ago I identified another area that we could save money on, our website hosting costs.

Our websites, SailboatFamily.com, BillAndVal.com, BillPeer.me, and a few others are "hosted" (or stored) on computer systems that are part of the Internet. Not only do these systems store and present webpages, but they also serve other functions for us like email. Unfortunately, many of the features we leverage are not part of free systems.

I've kept hosting our various websites at the same company (websitesource) for the past 5 years at a price of $119 per year. For all the features they provided, they were priced very well and totally satisfied our needs. I've never had a service failure reason to cause me to want to look else where. The current years contract is ending in November, and I was tempted to simply renew. However, we want to lower our operating costs as much as possible and Val suggested, even though we were happy with their services, I begin looking for another web hosting company that could fulfill our needs at a lower price.

After about an hour of searching, I found one that was not only cheaper, but one that has fantastic service experienced first hand by me, and that is with a company called GoDaddy (you may have seen their sensuous Danica Patrick TV commercials peddling their services during various sporting events).

This past week I moved all of our websites to GoDaddy's computer systems, and we now pay $72 per year! That is nearly $50! Within 2 years, I will have saved enough to cover another year and some months of hosting. Great great great!

If I take in the hour of searching for the next right hosting company, plus the time I spent moving the websites (about 4 hours), that results in about $10 per hour ($50 / 5 hours). The cool thing is now that same amount ($50) will be recouped next year too, but with no additional hours spent (this years $50 savings + next years $50 in savings), giving a value of $20 per hour. This just keeps going, year after year after year ... $30 per hour, $40 per hour, and so on as the net effect of investing the time. Plus, the time is already spent.

Even if you are happy with service you are being provided, you should still check around to find lower costing alternatives. You may find, as I did, something that satisfies your needs equally well as before, but cost your family less money.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No, I don't want your service!

Back in April, we cancelled our TV service. We had noticed that we were watching the TV instead of spending time with each other. This had to stop. We decided to suspend our service for 6 months to see if we still wanted it. Suspending the service allowed us to stop the service and the bills without disconnecting from the service. This would save us the connection fee if we decided that we wanted to keep the service.

Well I received a call from our TV service provider the other day to remind me that my service would be turned back on mid-October. I immediately told the representative that I wanted to cancel our service. When the representative asked why, I said that we haven't missed it in 6 months and I see no value in continuing the service. To cancel the service the representative had to transfer me to someone else. They tried and tried to get me not to cancel the service. They offered me all kinds of discounts and credit for free months, but I stuck to my guns and told them to cancel the service.

Not having the TV service saves us $55 per month or $660 per year. We spend our nights having dinner, playing games, talking, reading, and just being together.

You may not want to cancel your TV service, but you can use the possibility of cancellation to obtain free service and credits from your provider.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A whole lot of fun for less than $4 at Old McDonalds

The Golden Arches are magnets for kids. Our daughters, 4 and 1.5 years old, see them and say, "Look Daddy! Old McDonalds!" They see the playground, the clown, other kids, and the vibrant colors. It magically draws them in. Given that we don't have cable or satellite TV, the only marketing draw mechanism is the facility itself.

Do we deny our children the delight of going in and enjoying this part of their childhood? No. We elect to talk with them about why the place seems so alluring, and then head in to have fun!

We usually start off by playing on the equipment ... spending a good 20 minutes enjoying the playground. Next stop, bathrooms to wash up. Then we buy just a few food items.

  • At breakfast, we buy 2 or maybe 3 sausage biscuits at $1 a piece and get cups of water all around; we split the biscuits off and put grape jelly on them and enjoy a full meal .... this provides more than enough calories for the morning.
  • Past breakfast, we will get 2 or 3 hamburgers, at $0.89 a piece, plus 1 small fry, and get cups of water all around.

We take about 15 minutes to enjoy the food, talk about the fun we are having, and get ready to play some more. We wash up again, and then re-enter the playground for another 20 minutes.

All this fun for an hour, and sustenance, is had for less than $4.... and at McDonalds! So, our kids don't "miss out", and we don't, "Spend out."

Monday, October 12, 2009


Does your family own two vehicles? Do you own more than one computer?

Redundancies. On a self contained boat, redundancies are very important. When you are out at sea with no land in sight and your sails have been riped to shreds by a squall, you will be glad that you have an engine or extra sails. What if the engine wouldn't start? Without another system of propulsion you would be at the mercy of the ocean.

Redundant systems are good, but it is more important to have non-integrated multi methods of accomplishing a task. That way if one of the methods is destroyed or not functional, we will still have another. Examples of other systems that we have that have non-integrated multi methods are water, power, and navigation.

On the boat we need the redundant systems, because most of the time we will be somewhere were we will be the only repair shop for a 100 miles.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It Is Your Life. Live It Accordingly.

A book was recommended to me that nails much of the view point I've come to at this juncture in my life ... the view point that made this sailing trip a reality. To sum up my sentiments, from page 126:

It’s easy to believe that you came into the world with a prearranged program you must follow. After all, long before you arrived, other people figured out how you should live, what laws you should obey, what your obligations are, the whole structure for a “proper” life.

Most people accept that program. They try to find the proper rules and hope to follow them faithfully. They do everything possible to live up to the images that others declare to be “moral,” “rational,” “in,” or acceptable.

The tragedy is that each of them has only one life and he throws that life away trying to live it as someone else has dictated. He accepts the traps without question.

He allows the world to act upon him — instead of creating a joyous world for himself. As a result, he comes to accept as part of life many discomforts, problems, and aggravations. When he gets into a box, he accepts it as his lot.

It is tragic.

As you consider the prearranged programs that others hand you, remind yourself that you have only one life. Ask yourself whether you’re willing to trust it to someone else’s information, ideas, or plans. Are you willing to give up the one life you have in order to conform to the way others think you should live?

Your life is all you have. What could possibly be important enough to warrant throwing that life away?
The book is, "How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World" by Harry Browne.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Navigating Our Way

People ask, “where are you going?” Well, anywhere and everywhere. The follow up questions is “how will you find your way?”. Answer, navigation charts and GPS. While out on the ocean we will use charts to navigate by and use the GPS as a check. I should say GPS(s) since we will have more than one.

Navigation charts can be very expensive (anywhere from $80 to $500, for a set of charts). So we will probably purchase mostly used charts from eBay and other sailors. We purchased our first set of charts yesterday and can't wait till they arrive. The charts are of the West Coast of Florida and the Keys. We purchased them on eBay for $33 including shipping. Not bad considering, that the same charts cost $150 or more at online retailer and then you have to pay shipping.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Each $1 Spent

It is very easy to forget that each dollar we spend represents some unit of work. Money represents a unit of work. Money was introduced to help remove some of the issues introduced in the barter system.

Each time I spend a dollar, I ask myself, "Was it worth x minutes of my life in exchange for this item?" When I do this, I find that I'm much less apt to spend on the "frivolous" things ... things that really don't matter to me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Resolution of the Dinghy Saga

If you recall, back in July we purchased a Pelican hard shell boat to serve as our dinghy from Gander Mtn. and it was delivered with a long gash in the side (if you want to read the prior post click here). After noticing the damage, I contacted Gander Mtn. and they in turn contacted Pelican International. The next day, we had an appointment scheduled to the pick up of the damaged boat via FedEx Freight. Pelican International and Gander Mtn. handled everything. The only thing we had to do was get the dinghy back to shore. Our marina let us borrow one of their storage bays, to keep the dinghy, until FedEx came to pick it up.

Both Gander Mtn. and Pelican International have been a pleasure to work with. This was one of the best web purchase/returns I have ever had. We wanted to exchange the boat, but Pelican International does just-in-time production and has decided not to produce any more of the boats this year. Last week, Gander Mtn. refunded the entire purchase price to our credit card.

Time to consider new dinghy candidates.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Impending Doom

Ever notice how there is always some impending doom? It could be H1N1, or North Korea, or the banking industry collapse, or whatever. There is always some "crisis" event that hangs over our collective heads. The pressure is always there and it isn't new. What is new is the named crisis.

With each new impending doom, we, as a populace, focus in it to such an extend that we forget that it is merely another in a long line of calamities that will thrust mankind into a death spiral that we will never recover from. Yet, we recover each and every time. All the mental energy spent on "what if"s is wasted.

It is mentally tiring worrying about each individual critical crisis. I'm electing to actively remind myself at the onset of the next big thing (and there will be one) that, in the big picture of issues, it is just another in the conga line and that I should enjoy the dance. Another will come along soon enough and supplant the last one.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fun Filled Day for $5

Twice a month, KJ and I have a Mommy/Daughter day. This is a day were we get dressed up, go have breakfast, and do something together. Our recent Mommy/Daughter day was spent at a local festival. We spent the day collecting balloons, looking at art, thanking the local firemen and police for their service to the community, getting our face painted, building a bird house, making corn husk dolls, watching a dog parade, listening to music, and the list goes on and on. It was great! We had a blast! The best part was that all of this only cost $5. The $5 was my admission into the festival. KJ got in free, because of her age. We brought a small bag with water and snacks with us, but so many booths were giving away water and snacks that we never opened our bag. We only spent 4 hours at the festival, but we could have spent the entire day.

Below is a picture of some of the stuff we collected.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A month's worth of wages for free!

We did a lazy money round up last Wednesday night. $55!!! We pulled together $55 that was just sitting around, doing nothing. We searched high and low, cars, desk drawers, change cups (filled from picking coins on the ground) that hadn't been emptied yet, couches, and so on. We ended up with 1 $5 bill, 6 $1 bills,3 rolls of quarters, 2 rolls of dimes, and 2 rolls of nickles. That was $55 sitting around doing nothing. It wasn't money actively being used, so it was lazy. Heck, the $5 bill was stuck under a book. Since we didn't even know it was there, we obviously didn't need it.

Our lives continued on in the ignorance of the $55 of lazy money just fine, so the next day the money was deposited into an investment vehicle earning 5%.

For the rest of our lives, as long as we don't touch that $55 we didn't even use, we get $2.75 per year! I NEVER have to work for that $2.75 again!! Each year, I will be handed $2.75 with no strings attached. Ahh, that feels good and nice. You know, after awhile, these $2.75's add up nicely. Heck, if next year I don't touch that free $2.75, it too will start to generate free money ... about $0.13 per year, and that too will start to generate even more free money!!!

While typing this up, I began to wonder about the U.S. Federal minimum wage and how much would be required to be put away so that every year I would get one free hour of minimum wage.

Currently, the U.S. minimum wage is $7.25 so that implies that if I put away $145 and never touch it, each year I will get $7.25 in interest, equalling 1 hour of work by a minimum wage earner. Now that is awesome!! One hour of labor ... mine, or buying another person's time. A mere $145. Nice!

Let's extend this a bit further. Let's assume a 40 hour work week. The minimum wage earner makes $290 in a week. Mathematically, if I put away $5,800 and never touch it, that gives me a free week of labor!! I could work for a whole week, at minimum wage, to make this amount or simply put away $5,800 and get that free week the rest of my life.

Okay, this is now really fun. How do we get a month of free labor? 4 times $5,800 = $23,200. So, for the price of a car, I could have an entire month of income! What takes someone busting their ass for an entire month at minimum wage, I get with zero work! All I have to do is not touch the $23,000! I like that. A whole month, I could be sitting on my rear while someone else is working and we would make the same amount of money!!! Imagine the compounding effect if one were to make that free month of money AND still hold their regular job. :)

If you are in the position that $5,800 is a lot, focus on the $145. Do the $145 units. From experience, I can tell you that by being diligent about putting $145 units away, you will hit $5,800.

Oh, as an aside, our investments are tied to inflation. :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Warm and Cozy Project

I love this time of year. The nights are cooler and there is a nip in the air, but not cold. Perfect weather for cozing up with the ones you love. But it can be hard finding a blanket that will cover 4 people. So we made one.

The girls and I went to Hancock Fabrics and picked out a fleece print that we liked. Can you guess which print we picked? Ariel. Right! Then we picked out a coordinated solid color fleece for the other side. We purchased 3 1/2 yards of each, because we want to make a really long blanket. Then following the instructions found at http://www.exploringwomanhood.com/homelife/ideas/pom-jan03.htm we made the blanket, together. Well, Dy watched and ran up and down the blanket supervising as KJ helped me make tie the double knots.

It was a lot of fun! KJ learnt to make double knots and we had a fun afternoon activity for about a week. (It doesn't take a week to make the blanket, I could have made it in 3 hours.)

The blanket we made ended up costing us $45. That was because the Ariel fleece was expensive, but there are lots of fleeced to choose from and I could have made the same size blanket for $25.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reframing Stress - It is all perspective

We all have stress in life and I've shared in the concept of, depending on experience, what constitutes a stressful situation for one person is different than for another. Even if it is the exact same situation! Recognizing this is one way to help extricate yourself from a stressful situation. This is part of a broader technique known as reframing.

Reframing is the approach of looking at your situation in a new light. It is actually very simple.

When I was a consultant on the road building large complex technology systems for big well known companies, the stress use to get quite high. My right eye would twitch, and my sleep would be non-existent. I learned to change my view. What I did was say to myself, "I'm one person, in this one building, in this one city, in this one state, in this one country, in this one hemisphere, on this one planet, in this one solar system, in this one galaxy, in this one universe." This statement helped me reframe ... the stress of getting system X up by a certain date and time was really inconsequential in the scheme of the universe! :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Prepaid vs. Monthly Mobile Phone Service

Last month, my mobile service contract expired. It was time to really consider what to do with my mobile phone service. Should I cancel mobile phone service completely? Should I switch to a prepaid mobile phone?

If I could completely get rid of my mobile phone service, I would. But I'm not comfortable doing that given I have two small children, don't have a land line at home, and live in huge metro area.

Prepaid phone services are now offered by all the major provider. The variety of plans and options for prepaid service, revival that of monthly service. After reviewing the plans, I was able to determine that prepaid mobile phone service is an option for anyone who talks less than 200 minutes a month. However, if you talk more than 200 minutes the prepaid service become more expensive.

In the end, I decided to stay with my monthly service plan of 450 minutes for $34. It is cheaper than what I would be paying for the same service utilizing a prepaid mobile service plan.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Synchronize your life? Ready! Set! STOP!

Most of my years in computers have been spent writing programs. Although I've not written an actual production application in the past 5 years, my mind still thinks in a computer program sort of way. One of the interesting concepts of programing is "Threads."

Threads, in computer programming, are independent streams of program execution. One "Thread" may weave together one sequence of logic, just like one single thread may weave together pieces of fabric in a dress. In computer programming, it is possible to have multiple threads running at the same time... just like a dress may have multiple threads holding different pieces of fabric together. Interlacing independent threads in the right way makes a computer program work just as interlacing fabric threads in the right way makes a dress stay together.

In the world of computers, threads sometimes have to rendezvous together to share information and/or be started or stopped to avoid thread collisions. One thread executed a certain piece of logic and has a part of the overall result, and another thread executed another piece of logic and has another part of the overall result. Or 2 different threads may have to execute the same piece of logic and that particular piece of logic was not designed to operate with 2 threads in it.

These junctions and rendezvous of threads is called synchronization.

Human beings are like threads. Each of us is operating independently, each of us collecting results along the way. But we must synchronize at various points. While driving the car, that synchronization often happens at stop lights. Some threads are halted while other threads are allowed to proceed. Another synchronization happens each morning at 9AM, when people are expected to be at work. Or at noon, when people are to have lunch.

It becomes more clear that time is a huge synchronization mechanism for us human beings. We coordinate around each other based on time. What were to happen if we became truly independent and didn't have to synchronize? Would you execute more efficiently if you didn't have synchronize? That is, what if time didn't matter... what if it didn't matter what time you did anything? Talk about extreme processing! You could just operate and you wouldn't have to wait on, or synchronize, with anyone else. You moved at your pace. No stop lights! :)

Living in our society, removal of all synchronization wouldn't be possible. However, how many synchronization points have you inserted that you really don't need?

A friend of mine always ran her dishwasher at 8AM. No matter what, that is what she did. She created an artificial stress on herself to have that damn thing going at 8AM. She always had clean dishes for the day, but she was always rushing in the morning to get all the chores done. I boldly suggested that rather than do it at 8AM, that she simply do it when her thread had vacancy.

She did this, and the results have been dramatic. Her dishes are still clean each day, but she has so much less stress in her life, she spends more time with her kids, and finds she can accomplish more chores in the day (she applied this principle to many parts of her life). Extreme example? Maybe, but do you have a dishwasher in your life?