Tag Archives: Problemsolvers

The Two Biggest Problems You’ll Need to Solve – Ever



Did you take the challenge?  Where is your money going?  Remember the goal at this point isn’t to get ammunition for beating yourself up, it’s just to know how you’re currently putting your dollars to work.  Are you cool with it?  Do you wish you had more money for  (What?)?

On the flip side – do you wish you had more time for (what? – friends?  Hobbies?)?

If you haven’t taken this challenge yet, what’s holding you back?  The first step to financial happiness is knowledge.  Knowledge is POWER! When you have power, you can gain control.  When you gain control, you can put things in balance -tweak a thing here, tweak a thing there until, at least for the moment, things are how you like them.

The two biggest problems you’ll ever need to solve are being in control of your time and being in control of your money.  Thankfully, the entire universe is in the same boat.  To get things started, a great tool for tracking your money is Mint.com, it’s free and owned by Intuit – the company behind TurboTax and Quicken.  Use it all the time.

Time tracking is a little trickier, but there are countless apps out there to limit your FB time wasting, etc.  I use a simple timer on my phone, but there are lots of sophisticated ones out there.  What do you use?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Best Family Dice Games

I love games and the great thing about dice games is that they tend to be very portable, easy to learn and fast to play.  Some on this list take five minutes or less to play and learn.  All get the Lisa Sharp seal of approval for cost, playability and fun.  Some are even educational.

Zombie Dice is one of the best games of all time.  It’s compact.  Easy to learn, easy to play, fun for anyone who can count to 13.  I do carry it in my purse and we do play it at any opportunity.

Sequence Dice is deceptively educational. The manufacturer says 8 and up, but we played with our first grader. It is a great way to teach basic math and have fun as a family.

Rory’s Story Cubes is another fun, highly portable game. Keep them in your purse for entertaining even the youngest children while waiting for appointments. Simply roll the cubes and let the images inspire you and/ or your children to create stories. Warning: can get very silly!

Phase 10 Dice Game is another game that fits in a purse or backpack. Much like the card game, Phase 10 Dice requires players to complete phases to advance. Very fun, very portable game.

Yahtzee is a classic. Much like Kismet, another favorite dice game of mine, Yahtzee is both fun and educational. helping kids recognize sequences, pairs, add, and multiply single digit numbers.

Bunco is a wildly popular party game. You might not realize it can be played with as few as two players because it is so much better with a larger group. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Last, but not least, Pass the Pigs is a portable, easy to learn and score game for the whole family. Another dice game easily fitting in a purse or backpack, this game is suitable for any number of players of any age. Expect some good-natured disagreements about the position of the pigs while playing this game.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but represents some of my favorite Dice-based games.  Dice games are fun because they tend to be fast and easy to learn, play and enjoy.  Think about throwing one in your purse or briefcase to brighten up any day and make waiting less dull.

20 Minute Challenge Update

This week, I have been working on organizing paper after realizing (to my sheer horror) that I forgot to pay a bill on the 15th.  Grr…

So I have been putting our financial house in order with Mint.com.  For those of you unfamiliar with this free webservice, it is owned by Intuit, the company that owns Turbo Tax (my filing software for the last… oh forever, but there are other great free options if you need them – just ask) and Quicken.  I am a slightly disgruntled former Quicken user because Quicken went away when Intuit bought Mint.  But, Mint works.  But it’s not Quicken It works just fine.  It even works with my Po-dunk little bank and brings all our accounts under one roof.  Student Loans included.  Setting all that up was my 20 minutes this morning.  By twenty minutes, I mean an hour because I had forgotten all my logins and had to call to get them reset.  Fun.  Times.  (Question:  How do you track fifty different logins and passwords?  I try to keep them mostly the same but it’s just not always possible.  Leave me a tip in the comments?  PLEASE?)

Features of Mint include income and expense tracking, automatic updating of accounts when you log in and, of course, budgeting and goal-setting and tracking features.  I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll get an e-mail when you exceed your budget.  That being said, round up for your loan payments when you enter the budgeted amounts or Mint will round down and every single month you’ll be over budget.  It’s kind of annoying, but the work around is simple.  I just explained it.

Consolidating all our accounts in one place makes it easier to get a snapshot of our current situation.  Good thing.  I set up a goal for an emergency fund, a travel fund and our plan to pay cash for a house.  It even has a Debt Snowball Feature!  Look under Goals and select consolidate loans and/or consolidate credit cards as appropriate.  Thankfully, we don’t use credit cards so we don’t have that to worry about.  Just student loans.  Lots and lots of student loans.

So as it sits right now, I have organized our money so that DH and I can sit down and have a little chat about where we are, where we want to go and what we’re willing to do to get there.  Do you do that?  How often?  Are you on track?  We’re moving the right way, but I’d like to be moving a little faster.  I feel really strange having done this cleanup.  Light in some ways, heavy in others.  Honest here?  Every time I think about my student loans, I feel a little nauseated.  All that money and for what?  Now, to claroify, I don’t regret my education but I sure wish I wouldn’t have had to take on all that debt to finance it – especially the masters which I haven’t exactly leveraged since I got it.  I love learning, but dayum that cost a lot of money.

Is your financial house in order?  Did you ever have an awakening about your money?  How’d it go?  I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

One more question:  What’s a reasonable grocery budget for a family of six?  I am thinking about trying to keep it under my hubby’s BAS.  Am I nuts?

Please Help!

Dear Blog Readers,

They’re ganging up on me.  The children.  My nemesis and his adorable little friend (pictured above).  Even Mother Nature is giving me the finger.  This morning I awakened at 4:00 for a drink of water.  I went to the kitchen to discover that either the above dog has gotten incredibly intelligent or one of my children went on a midnight snack run and left the refrigerator door open.  In the refrigerator was a pound of beef liver that I had boiled but not yet cut up for training purposes.  The key word at this point is was.  I found an empty plate (otherwise undisturbed from its resting place – she’s that good) and was met by a very unrepentant dog.

This morning, I discovered half of my favorite pair of shoes destroyed.  One hates rugs, the other hates yarn.  Maddie cannot stand area rugs to the point that any efforts to stem the flow of snow into my house are met by her bunching up said rug and moving it out of the doorway.  Bucky will grab my current knitting project and attempt to carry it away.  He doesn’t care about other projects, just the one I am working on now.    The vet said he was four or five.  I think the vet is full of shit mistaken because of all the “puppy behaviors” he displays – chewing, etc.  Shoes, legos and K-nex are not. safe.   And he knows nothing.  Not sit, not stay, not off.  But he has a personality that makes it hard to stay mad at him.

Then we will add the weather.  This week I have spent roughly $100 on equipment for wearing these two naughty little hounds out.  I bought my first pair of snowboots in a very long time, a split lead so I can take them both on one leash, a backpack for Bucky so we burn more energy on our walks.  (I’m reading a dog training book that recommends it for all medium and large sized dogs).  Gloves, warm gloves.  I am ready for anything!  But this shit is ridiculous.  So, of course, they’re whining to go outside every ten minutes.  This process requires me to put on my full winter battle rattle which takes five minutes and then they only want to be outside two minutes because they’re too cold to do all their business.  We come back in, they warm up, I take off my battle rattle and repeat.

It’s going to be a long day.

Send cocoa.  With schnapps.



Make it Monday – Hacks and Helpful Hints

I know I’m a day late.  Monday straight up got away from me with the whole UAV to the shop thing and the hunting for my nemesis thing.  So I’m sorry.  I know that all six of my readers are forgiving souls who will just appreciate the advice I’m going to throw down here.  I didn’t get anything non-edible made this week, so I thought I’d share some of my edible food tips with you.

What I did make last week (much to my boss’ dismay) was homemade soup and french bread.  My french bread is almost always fabulous and I use a recipe out of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 15th Edition (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid).   This is my go-to “cookbook for idiots” (any cookbook with a recipe for fried eggs falls into this category).  I have used it for years and replaced it at least twice.  The french bread recipe is simple:  Flour, yeast, water, salt, egg wash.  I won’t steal it from the book and type it here, sorry.

If you normally fail at bread,  odds are it is your yeast.  Remember yeast is alive.  In the jar it is in a dormant state that you awaken with heat.  If the liquid you add is too hot, you’ll kill the yeast.  Too cold, you won’t wake it up and your bread won’t rise.  Use a thermometer to make sure the liquid is no hotter than 130 degrees and at least 120.  Yeast can also get old and stop working.  Like me.

Take care not to add too much flour (the reason every recipe lists a range is that the amount of flour is contingent on humidity) or your bread will be hard and dry.  It should be sticky to the touch but not so much that it still sticks to your fingers.  Err on the side of slightly sticky fingers if you must.

Another failure mode in bread making is kneading.  If you don’t knead the bread enough, it will not be successful.  Follow the guidelines in your recipe to the letter until you’ve mastered the “feel” of bread:  Soft, light and slightly sticky.  Make sure you are patient with the rises as well.  It will help to use a straight-sided vessel to know for sure the dough has doubled.  An old plastic ice cream pail washed carefully is perfect.

My two hacks for you today involve cake.  A dear friend is a professional baker and suggests adding a small pack of pudding to a box cake mix.  I have tried it and the result is a cake that is much moister and more flavorful than the mix would have been without adding pudding.  For a simple, wonderful dessert, frost it with pudding too.  Poke holes in the finished cake with a wooden spoon and pour the pudding carefully and evenly over the top.  Refrigerate and serve.  Fabulous and, I daresay, healthier than frosting since pudding is made with milk and most frostings have some sort of fat as a primary ingredient.

A second trick is even easier and makes a great, moist cake lower in calories and fat than the original version.  Instead of adding eggs, oil and water as indicated on the mix box, add a 12 oz. can of soda pop.  Combinations worthy of consideration are any type of chocolate and cherry coke (or diet cherry coke, dr. pepper, etc.), white cake with fruit-flavored sodas, and (the boys’ favorite) yellow cake with root beer.  Your options are unlimited.  My family likes it so well that no frosting is necessary, but fat free cool whip would be nice and you could dress it up with fruit, chocolate shavings or whatever strikes your fancy.

These are go-to, proven tips in my house.  I hope you enjoy them and forgive me that they are a day late.  If you try them, let me know! Leave me some comment love 🙂

Also don’t forget you can say thank you and win $120 (and counting) gift card for Amazon from my friends at Grammarly, the world’s best grammar checker.  The deadline is January 31!