A blog about "nothing"!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Photo of the week, January 26, 2015

Mrs. Cardinal stopping by for a snack!  I can't believe it's the last week of January already, where did the weeks go?  I hope everyone is warm and safe, I know the East Coast is getting pummeled with a storm system that is dumping snow in feet, not inches.  We lucked out here, we didn't get nearly as much as they thought we would.  Happy to have dodged THAT bullet.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Brainwashing of the American Consumer

Sorry I haven't written much lately.  There are a lot of reasons-lack of time, lack of ideas, I haven't even been doing much thrift store shopping, so I can't even share that with you.  I went yesterday, but came home empty handed, selection is poor at best for some reason, plus I really don't need much.  I think I need to make a trip out of town!

Yesterday my husband mentioned something that set me off.  Not at him, but at the stupidity of Americans when it comes to this subject.  What is it?  The tendency to take the word of others in regards to our financial stability, instead of looking at the big picture, and going by our own comfort zone levels.

If you live in North America, you have had the good fortune of watching gasoline prices plummet over the past few weeks.  It's crazy how far they have come, it certainly is nice for the wallet.  Yesterday the hubby heard an advertisement for a car dealership:  "Gasoline prices are at an all time low, now is the time to buy that new truck you've been wanting!"  ARGH!!!!  The part that bothers me with this is unfortunately, there will be a portion of the public who will actually believe this.  That drives me bananas.  Seriously, gas prices have been going up for the past 15 years, what makes you think that this drop in prices is going to stay this way?  Especially if you've done any reading in to some of what is causing this.  If you are one of those stupid people who falls for this sales ploy, don't come running to me when you can't afford to fill the tank later on.  Idiots.

This is nothing new.  I remember being appalled (I hope it didn't show on my face) at the story a customer told me about how they bought a much bigger house than what they'd planned because "their real estate agent told them they could afford it."  WTF?!?!?!  OF COURSE THEY ARE GOING TO TELL YOU THAT!!!  Are you really that dumb?  The lack of common sense of the average American is mind-blowing.  The bad part is the final outcome, which we all got to see a few years ago when the bottom fell out of the mortgage industry.  Too many people fell for these lines, fed to them by unscrupulous mortgage brokers and real estate agents.  When we bought the house we currently live in, not only were we questioned as to why we were wanting to go backwards in our home value (we moved from a larger house with acreage), but also, gee, did we want to borrow more money than we were asking for because we qualified?!  This wasn't the first time we had ever encountered this either, when we took out a loan to do some home improvements, we ran it fairly close to what we knew we would need and nothing more, but the bank wanted to hand us extra money.  Thanks but no thanks.

Back in the early 1990's I read a book called "The Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyzyn.  Written originally as a newsletter, it was a compilation of all of the best tips previously published.  To me, this book was invaluable as not only did it have lots of great information, but it also was a great contributor in changing my attitudes towards money.  I had only been married a couple of years at the time, but the lessons I learned in that book served me well over the years.  Probably the biggest thing for me was learning to distinguish a need from a want.  This is something that too many people have the inability to do.  It doesn't mean that you can't buy yourself something nice once in a while.  But you should have certain things in order before you do.

Another good influence for me was a television special called "Affluenza".  Produced in the late 1990's, it focused on the social, emotional, and financial affects of mass consumerism, but done in a fun way.  Throw in Suzi Orman, Clark Howard and Dave Ramsey--if you haven't listened to any of these folks, you really should.  Sure, some of what they have to say has a certain amount of salesmanship, but deep down, there is some really great information that can change your attitudes towards money. 

The simple fact is we, as a society, have been brainwashed in to believing that living a good life isn't based on experiences, but more on what you own.  HOGWASH!  I think back to an interesting experience I had back in the late 1990's.  I left my job to take some time off and pursue my photography further.  We were living off one income, and doing just fine, we just didn't have tons of extra cash to spend on frivolous stuff.  Not long after I quit, our VCR died.  While it would have been nice to have just run out and purchased another, it not only wasn't in the budget, but to us it wasn't a necessity.  My gosh, you should have heard the comments when people found out we didn't have a VCR at the time, I was stunned.  I never realized that not owning an electronic item directly affected my net worth as a person?!?!?!  It didn't change my attitude though.  We did eventually replace it when I went back to work and our finances were better, but it was more because we wanted it, not because of what anyone said.  We are currently experiencing a similar reaction when people find out we don't have satellite or cable anymore.  Sorry, but I like that $90 in our bank account far more than I need to watch some brain numbing television program.  (oh, and by the way, we still have that VCR!)

I recently read an article that was based on a number of studies involving consumerism and addiction.  To quickly sum it up: "consumption without need is the hallmark of addiction, and "consumerism" is defined as "the equating of personal happiness with the purchasing of material possessions and consumption." *  After some of what I've seen and personally experienced, I can say that this statement is probably close to 100% accurate.  As a result, we've become self centered, disassociated, depression is at an all time high.  And advertisers, retailers, sales people, etc. have all been taking advantage of this, much in the same way drug dealers tempt their clients.  Scary, huh?

My advice?  Quit listening to those who want to sell you things, and to those who seem to judge your self-worth by what you own.  Figure out where you are comfortable when it comes to money and debt.  Only YOU can ultimately control what you spend and what you have. 

For further reading:
Your Money Or Your Life by Vicky Robin, Joe Dominguez and Monique Tilford

Clark Howard

*"Are You Unhappy? Is it Because of Consumer Addiction?" by Charles Shaw

Monday, January 19, 2015

Photo of the Week, January 19, 2015

This isn't the world's greatest photo by any means, but it has a funny story behind it.  When we lived at our other house, we hired a friend of ours to do some remodeling work.  Two rooms needed gutted down to the studs and redone.  He was working on gutting the second room when he popped out and said "by any chance was there work done on this house done by the Amish?"  I told him that we'd been told that they had done some work, but had no idea what exactly they had done since our family didn't build the house.  He told us we needed to see this.  I guess this was our confirmation!  Byler is a very common last name in the Amish community where we live, and seeing as we knew there hadn't been any work done in that room for at least 38 years, this served as our official answer. 
You never know what you might find behind those walls!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Photo of the Week-January 12, 2015

Here is Miss Laney at about 5 months, she was such a cute puppy!  She looks like she's smiling, doesn't she?  That was such a horrible winter, and she was a champ when it came to house breaking, poor thing got lost in the snow it was so deep.  She certainly grew in to a beautiful dog and she makes us laugh all the time, she's a natural born comedian.  I'm always amazed at how dark some of her hair turned when I look at her puppy pics.

I hope all of you are safe and warm, the past week has been a challenge for so many people due to bad weather.  As much as I hate to say it, I'd rather have snow than frigid temperatures.  I think ours are finally over with, I sure hope so.  I think every joint in my body was aching before it was over with.  I'm ready for spring!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Photo of the Week, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year!  You're being watched!!!  This is a photo of a cat we used to have named Little Guy.  She used to love sitting in the front window, watching birds and whatever else wandered into our yard.  She frequently peered out at us like this. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.  I have to laugh, my last post I had said I was on a break.  Talk about predicting the future.  That very afternoon I noticed a scratchy throat, a little sore.  Over the next few days I had the worst sore throat I've ever had in my entire life.  Then it turned into nasal congestion of epic proportions, then in to my throat, and I spent the entire holiday season coughing my head off.  I felt so lousy that our Thanksgiving celebration was postponed from Thursday until Sunday.  It's almost gone now, I'm almost afraid to even say that for fear of jinxing myself, I've never had anything hang on quite like that.  Apparently it is now reaching epidemic proportions here in the US, news reports say the flu virus that they gave the inoculations for this year mutated and now no one is protected.  Needless to say, I didn't get much done that I had planned for the holiday, it was definitely a "wing it and hope for the best" season.

Anyhow-hope this post finds everyone in good health or at least getting better if you've been sick.  2014 was a challenge for so many people I know in so many ways, so I'm wishing everyone a wonderful 2015 full of good things. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Photo(s) of the Week, November 24, 2014-and taking a break!

One thing I really miss about our old house is putting up bird feeders.  Sure, we could put them up here, but the neighbor behind us feeds squirrels.  When they are done eating at her house, they like to come empty our feeders.  Uh, I don't think so!  Nevermind.  I do remember seeing a feeder for sale that flings the squirrels when they get on it, that could be rather entertaining...

I'm taking a break from writing on this blog for a couple of weeks for a number of reasons.  First off, we've had several family issues come up that have left us kind of reeling.  As a result, we are way behind on getting ready for the holidays.  Then when I went to look for photos to share for December, I realized I didn't have anything!  I don't take many photos in December and what I do take is mostly family events.  On that note, I guess I will see you after the new year. 
So...Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My latest "guilty pleasure"

We all have them, guilty pleasures that maybe we do or maybe we don't want to admit.  My husband laughs at me over this one, but I'm finding out that there are quite a few people who are admitting this one lately.  What is it??? The television show Masterchef Junior.

Masterchef Junior is based off the cooking show Masterchef, the difference being that all of the contestants are kids.  They have gone through an audition process of sorts, narrowed down to 24, and then before the airing of the first show, down to 16.  Each week they are presented with several different cooking challenges and at the end of show, several are eliminated. 

First off, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous since Gordon Ramsay is one of the hosts.  If you are even the least bit familiar with him, you know that he can be a bit intense, nasty and has a foul mouth.  Even with all of that, I am a big fan of his, and I usually prefer to watch the British versions of his shows as opposed to the American ones, they tend not to be as caustic, I really think that the producers of the American versions tend to push that over the top persona.  Not necessary IMHO, he's a talented chef with a great personality for TV.  And I was very pleased to see that we get NONE of that nasty side on this show.  He's joined by the two other judges from the original Masterchef, and both of them are also very pleasant.  It's nice to see a different side to this kind of television.

The real stars of the show though are the kids.  At first I couldn't quite grasp why I was so hooked on this show until I read an article on it at the NPR website.  They really pinned it down quite well-these kids are actually nice to each other!  There is none of the backstabbing, badmouthing behavior that seems to be so prevalent on the majority of reality television shows.  When one of them is having a bad time with something, the others seem genuinely concerned about their colleagues.  They all realize that while it is a competition, there is something else to it too, and they all seem to get along quite well.  They also seem to be very well balanced kids, none of that bratty Veruca Salt "I want it now" behavior. 

The other thing that blows my mind completely is the level of cooking ability these kids have.  The set up for the competitions is pretty much the same as most other cooking shows of this type, and these kids DO NOT disappoint.  Some of the stuff that they have made has left me completely speechless.  I wouldn't even try and make some of the things these kids have cooked even if I had a whole day to make it, and they are on a time limit!  Their knowledge of ingredients, technique and equipment is mind blowing.  This particular season the participants are aged 8  - 12, and they all seem to have an extensive knowledge of the kitchen.  The most recent episode had one of the girls decide to use truffle butter in her recipe.  She's 9.  When I was 9 I barely knew the difference between butter and margarine!

At the moment it would be difficult to pick out who the winner is going to be, these kids are really talented.  After last nights elimination we are down to 8.  I'm not going to say too much more about the eliminations in case you haven't seen the show, but I do believe we definitely have the top 8 competing.  Not that the other kids weren't good, but these ones just have that little bit of extra something that it takes. 

I will say that I'm super excited that my favorite of the group from the very beginning is still in it.  Abby is only 8, making her the youngest competitor from both seasons.  She's just cute as a button, says she has been cooking since she was 2 (wow!) and has the confidence to pull it off.  She reminds me of an American Girl doll come to life, maybe that's why I like her so much.

I didn't watch the first season of this, but once this one is over with, I probably will go back and see it.  In case you want to watch, the entire first season is currently available on HuluPlus and season 2 is partially available as well, episodes are posted for the free version approximately one week after airing.  Just be prepared to be completely amazed at the cooking skills of these kids. I know I am. 

Photo from the Masterchef Junior Website
Masterchef Junior Airs Tuesdays at 8:00PM on Fox, with a repeat airing on Fridays at 8:00PM in some markets.