Libby, Today's Best Free App

In case you haven't downloaded the Libby app, now is your chance.

Libby by Overdrive functions like your personal e-library, and you can download it for your iPhone and iPad at your phone's App Store.

All you need to utilize Libby is a library card. That enables you to check out or "borrow" ebooks and audio books from your library’s collection.

Using the app, you link to your library card. After that you can browse your local library's collection.

Download a book you want to read it. Regardless of the due date, your book will be automatically returned when due. You never have to worry about late fees.

Read all about Libby by Overdrive then use your cell phone to download the app. It's a game changer.

Takeaway Truth

Libraries have come a long way in the last twenty years. If you don't have a library card, get one today and start using Libby by Overdrive.


Sunday Thoughts About Common Sense

For the last year or two my husband and I find ourselves saying,  "What's wrong with people? Don't they have any common sense?"

Frankly, it does seem that too many people have no common sense, that basic unspoken, unwritten treasury of knowledge learned as one grows from babyhood to early teens.

(1) By the time we reach the age of twelve or thirteen, we have a bank of knowledge—things like don't touch a hot stove or you get burned, don't put your hands under scalding hot wataer, don't antagonize a stray dog, don't be cruel to others, help those you meet, never think a gun is a toy, don't jump off buildings, don't disrespect your elders, etc.

(2) Yes, common sense does coincide with common decency.

(3) In the past, children grew up learning thousands of bits of information from their parents and their environment. Some of it was told to us, but a lot of it was observational. We absorbed lessons from watching the adults in our lives. We saw how they acted, what they said, how they treated others, what they did as a normal course of action.

(4) We absorbed it and took it all for granted. If we became parents and parented much like our parents did, we passed on those common sense lessons whether we realized it or not.

(5) Here comes the problem. Many more people in today's world grew up in single family homes where over-burdened single parents often didn't have the luxury to interact with their children. 

Too many children in today's world learn their subconscious lessons from their peers, movies, television, and video games. 

(6) I will never believe the lessons from that media gave them a good foundation for common sense and common decency.

Too much of pop culture teaches young people that if you feel wronged, get revenge. If you don't like what someone says, lash out. If you did something wrong, cover it up and get your parents and friends to cover it up too.

(7) We have the right of free speech in the U.S., but the internet has abused that as well as made free speech, thought, and opinion something one doesn't exercise unless one wishes hordes of trolls making life miserable for them. We were taught to know that not everyone would share our religion, politics, etc. but that they had that right because they were Americans.

(8) I still shake my head when I think about the woman who told me her sixteen-year-old son was hired by a neighbor to remove the fallen leaves from his yard. He gave the kid a trash bag and a rake.

Hours later, he returned to find the bag not even full, the yard still covered with leaves, and the kid laboriously picking up the leaves one by one and placing them in the bag—because he didn't know what a rake was! The mother thought it was funny.

(9) I thought it was sad. Loss of common sense and/or common knowledge. The kid didn't know what a rake was and/or had never seen this common implement used. A rake or other gardening tools is no longer common sense.

Driving faster than the flow of traffic and weaving in and out of bumper to bumper traffic? Lack of common sense. Dropping F-bombs in public where there are dozens of kids? Lack of common sense. Also common decendy.

(10) The lack of common sense explains warning labels on everything from shampoo—for external use only—to poisons—do not eat.

(11) Your lack of common decency is why some women and men won't date you or respect you.

If you're a parent, is your child developing common sense from you or from some other source?

"Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Takeaway Truth

Okay, I'll climb off my soapbox. Some of you may agree with me, and some will disagree.

Fortunately, I have the right to my opinion and to speak it if I choose in my own country because I am an American. 

2nd Chance Reads: The Past Month, September 2022

There's so much good information online that it's easy to miss some posts. Here are a few you may have missed.

First up is one I think is very important in light of the recent Hurricane Ian.

I live on the Gulf Coast of Texas so I've had decades of hurricane experience.

For all of the new residents in Texas from California, New York, and other states, here's what you should know about Hurricane Preparedness.

Inflation Economics

Everyone's worried about inflation. Here are a few articles you might want to read.

5 Things to Do Now to Protect Your Money During High Inflation



Health Articles: Mental and Physical


The Bulletproof Diet Plan (I hadn't heard of this. Supposed to be healthy.)




Takeaway Truth

Have a good weekend catching up on your reading!




Shots Fired at Oakley Ranch by James Moushon

I'm happy to tell you that James Moushon has started a new mystery series.

You've probably read some of the Jonathon Stone Mystery Short Stories James has published. There are 18 of those stories, and they're all on Kindle Unlimited or 99¢ each to purchase.

The new series is Oakley Ranch Cozy Mystery Short Stories.

Shots Fired at Oakley Ranch is the first story in this new mystery series, and I think it's one that's going to hit a huge demographic.


Welcome to Oakley Ranch: An Active Adult Community just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

A quiet day is interrupted with gun shots fired at four golfers standing on a tee in the middle of the park.

Detective Herb Rush and his assistant Officer Rizzo are assigned the incident. After interviewing the golfers, Rush finds two unknowing witnesses.

Sarah Sandberg and her neighbor, Mary, become key contributors to Rush.

Turn of Events: Two days later, one of the golfers is murdered right in the middle of the park and Detective Rush is back, now to investigate a murder.

Sarah, her dog Jethro. and Mary go in a different direction to help the Detective. It’s Friday Night Social time at Oakley Ranch. If you want to hear the latest, this is the place.

As Detective Rush zeros in on the prime suspect, Sarah and Jethro uncover a completely unexpected alternative.

Sometimes the best protection is not enough.

Read more about James and his mysteries at HBS Author Spotlight.

Takeaway Truth

Get Shots Fired at Oakley Ranch and watch for another FREE Jonathon Stone Short Story coming soon.

Simple Truth About Being the Best

Every now and then it's good to remind ourselves of a simple truth. It all has to do with "being the best."

I once read a simple truth that's good advice to live by.

If you cannot be the best, then be your best.

When I first read that, it hit me with the force of a two by four between the eyes because I, like too many people, had been told all my life: Be the best. Be the best. Be the best.

Think about that. Isn't striving to be the best a no-win game?

We all spend so much time agonizing over trying to be #1 or the best writer, accountant, artist, mother, or—fill in the blank with what you're trying to be.

Inevitably we feel dejected or discouraged because someone else is the best, or better than we are. Often  that leads to rationalizing why they're better.

They get lucky breaks. They make better money. Or you obsess about catching up with someone who started out at the same time as you and now has a high-flying career while you’re stuck in the rank and file.

Unfortunately, too many of us spend vast amounts of time trying to be the next Bill Gates or Stephen King or Martha Stewart or whatever the flavor of the week is. Wouldn’t all that energy and time be better spent in trying to be the best you? 

You with your voice, your style, your personality, your skills, your experiences are indeed an original. No one can be YOU better than you. 

Takeaway Truth

Forget about being the best. Be your best.

99¢ Sale on Cinderella Blue

Happy Monday! I hope you have an awesome week ahead.

If you need something fun to read, try Cinderella Blue.

This romantic comedy is one of my personal favorites of all the books I've written.

Price reduced from $3.99 to only 99¢ through midnight CDT, Oct. 5.

Get your sale copy today and have a week of fun  reading!

Reviewers Say

"Fun chic lit, a true rom-com. This book is Hilarious!" —K Is For Cathy Review

"Cinderella Blue by Joan Reeves is fun romp through a police procedural. The first scene where Andie and Benton meet is hilarious. The back and forth between them keeps the book light and funny. And the attraction between the two is scorching. Loved the characters and the plot." —CatQ Review

"This book was so much fun! I loved the humor and the barbs our couple threw at each other. And then there is the electricity between them...." —NetGalley

"Funny and sexy. First time I have read any books by Ms. Reeves and I really enjoyed it. Two people not looking for love but it finds them anyway." —WFTM for NetGalley

Takeaway Truth

A fun romantic comedy at a low price is a great way to start a Monday so get your copy of Cinderella Blue today and have a fabulous week.

Free Book Sunday: The Key To Kristina

Happy Sunday! 

From now until Sunday, Sept. 24, 2022, at 11:59pm PDT, you can get a free copy of The Key To Kristina.

This book has been described as "Brilliant" in several reviews, but you can judge for yourself.

About the Book

When Kristina Rivera is given a key and a clue written on a slip of paper that tells where to find what the key unlocks, she’s reminded of the “treasure hunts” her dad set up for her when she was a child—when she and her parents were a happy normal family.

Handsome, smooth-talking Wyatt Morgan claims her father asked him to accompany Kristina on her Quest to find a hidden treasure and to protect her.

Life has taught Kristina not to trust easily so why should she disrupt her life and embark on a wild goose chase with a man she just met—especially when she has no idea what the so-called clue means?

Or does she?

When Kristina undertakes The Quest, more than a treasure is at stake. 

Danger stalks her every mile of her journey and a surprising romance blooms between her and Wyatt. 

But, in the end, can she trust him when she discovers the meaning of The Key To Kristina.

Get your free copy of The Key To Kristina before the free offer ends tomorrow night, Sunday, September 25 at 11:59pm PDT.

Takeaway Truth

If you like a different kind of romance with a solid mystery and a smart heroine, I think you'll really like The Key To Kristina.

If you do, please post a short review on the book's page. 

Just a couple of sentences saying what you liked will help bring exposure to this book and help others find it.

Happy reading!




Saturday Share: Recipe for Potato and Ham Chowder

Even thought the autumnal equinox was a non-event when it comes to cooler weather, I'm still wanting soup.

Soup is a cold weather dish best served piping hot.

I'm gathering the ingredients to make one of my favorite soups: Cream of Poblano. If necessary, I'll turn the air conditioning down a couple of degrees to better enjoy hot soup.

I hope you like this recipe. I took my mom's homemade potato soup and jazzed it up.

Potato and Ham Chowder

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (usually 1 small onion)
1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
3/4 cup sliced celery
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (Try Frontier Oakwood Smoked Paprika. Smells wonderful!) 
1/4 cup AP flour
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 inch cubes
3 cups of cooked ham, diced
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup heavy cream, half & half, or milk depending on whether you're watching your fat intake

Garnishes, any or all of the following: Fresh finely-chopped parsley and/or fresh thyme leaves, grated Cheddar, bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled.

Directions


(1) Melt butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper. Cook until tender—about 5 minutes.

(2) Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and light golden, about 2 minutes. 

(3) Add the flour, stirring constantly until it's a light golden brown.

(4) Turn heat up, add the wine to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cook about 3-5 minutes until the alcohol in the wine is volatalized, or evaporated.

(5) Pour broth into the pot, add potatoes, ham, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a bubbling simmer. 

(6) Cook until the potatoes are fork tender which takes about 10-15 minutes depending on the simmer.

(7) Reduce heat even further and stir in the cream, half and half, or milk, whichever you choose, into the pot. Stir well.

(8) Increase heat to a bubbling simmer and cook up to 5 minutes longer to heat through and meld flavors.

(9) Taste and adjust seasoning if more salt and pepper is needed. Remove the bay leaf and discard.

(10) Serve warm and garnish with finely chopped fresh herbs and/or grated cheddar cheese.

Takeaway Truth

This is a hearty, delicious soup perfect for cold weather. I hope we have some of that soon—but not too much cold, Mother Nature.

Potatoes & Soup Pot Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.


Friday Facts About Fall Harvests

We're often told to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.

(1) Hardly anything has a season in the global marketplace.

Apples, traditionally harvested from late summer through fall, can be found at any time of the year in the supermarkets of today's world.

(2) The catch is that apples and other fall season fruits and vegetables are harvested far too early so when they reach the produce section they're likely to be not ripe, over-ripe, or not very tasty.

(3) When buying produce, look for a "home-grown" label at your supermarket.

(4) Also, find a nearby farmer's market. 

(5) Locally grown means better taste for about the same or less expense.  It's easy to find organic produce locally too.

(6) Buying locally-grown produce helps farmers in your area.

(7) Buying locally-grown produce means you get fruits and vegetables without residue from pesticides that are still used in other countries but banned in the U.S.

(8) At this time of year, you'll find these fruits for sale in most areas.

Apples of many varieties. Buy the type best for what you want to use them for. Check out my post, Choose Apples Based on Use.

Figs

Pears (We're picking ours now and storing them in the refrigerators. They ripen while refrigerated.)

Persimmons and Pomegranates 

(9) You'll find these seasonal vegetables for sale.

Beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and celery

Salad and stir-fry greens like arugula, chard, kale, lettuces, mustard greens, spinach

Root vegetables like carrots, parnsips, rutabagas, and turnips (cook the turnip greens too)

Eggplant

Pumpkins

Winter squash like acorn, butternut, delicata, hubbard, and spaghetti

Takeaway Truth 

Many farmer's markets are open on the weekends to cater to those who work Monday through Friday. You may also find home canned pickles, relishes, jellies, and jams. Why not locate one today? 

Images Courtesy Of:

Figs Fruit Fresh Ripe Organic Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay.
Salad Greens Image by Joffi from Pixabay.

9 Tips for Small Business Year-End Accounting

Yes, the rest of this month is  perfect to take stock of your business accounting.

If you're a small business—yes, that means you, my fellow authors—now is the time to make sure your financial papers are in order.

Image: Calculator Calculation Courtesy of Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

The year end tango with the IRS or whatever income taxing authority governs you is just around the corner.

Whether you do your taxes yourself or use a CPA, you should have all of your ducks in a row and quacking in unison.

That way your business accounting won't get lost in the holiday rush that begins next month. 

9 Tips for Year-End Accounting

(1) Reconcile all of your bank statements and file them where you can easily access them.

(2) Ensure business expenses listed on credit card statements have been posted to the correct expense accounts.

(3) Be sure your revenue has been recorded and posted to the correct income accounts.

(4) File all receipts correctly so you can pull them in case you're audited.

(5) If you're unlucky enough to have business loans, make sure all payments have been processed and recorded correctly0

(6) If you have accounts receivables, collect the revenue owed you. If accounts are past due, make it a priority now to collect them. 

(7) If you have outstanding bills, pay now so you can deduct it for 2022.

(8) Do a quick preliminary forecast of taxes you may owe. Better to know now and tighten your belt a bit in case you'll have to pay more than you bargained for.

(9) Most importantly, make sure your accounting is posted in a spreadsheet or even an accounting ledger if you're still doing it old school. 

Only with hard data can see what worked and didn't work for you in 2022, how much it cost to promote your product, what the return on that was, and what changes you may need to make in 2023.

If you're intimidated by math or just starting out and don't know about business accounting, here is an excellent guide to de-mystify the whole thing: Accounting QuickStart Guide: The Simplified Beginner's Guide.

FYI: This guide has 942 reviews averaging 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Takeaway Truth

A little organization and planning now saves hours of time, frustration, and money.


Longevity of Digital Photo Vs. Printed Photo

Several years ago a friend who was a professional photographer said something to me that I want to pass on today.

Janis said, "If you take pictures you love on your cell phone or a digital camera, get them printed so they'll last forever."

We went on to talk about the thousands of photos we take with digital devices but never bother to have them printed. Or we print them at home on a laser printer.

Those home-printed photos will last about as long as the old Poloroids taken by our parents in the 1960s and 1970s. My mom had such Poloroids in her albums, and hardly any of them are viewable today.

If you look back at history to discover what lasts, you'll realize that paper trumps digital even in today's world. That applies to photographs and books.

Printed photographs on archival photo paper will be around long afterr you're gone. Think about all the old photographs you may have seen in family albums. I have pictures of relatives that werre made in the late 1800s and every part of the 20th century—except the regrettable Poloroid era.

Thousands of photographs exist in museums and libraries. How much of the digital stuff will last? 

You may be surprised that digital files have a maximum lifespan of only 50 years IF stored under optimal conditions. That life expectance decreases rapidly depending on how they're store as well as the reliability of the components. Cheap flash drives, etc.? Well, you gett what you pay for.

Backstory of Photography

In 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a French scientist, took the first photograph entitled View from the Window at Le Gras. 

Taken from the window of his family's coountry home, the photograph held at the University of Texas is considered the world's oldest photo.

Advances in chemistry and optics and the invention of the camera obscura is what led to the ability to make that first photograph.

(Camera obscura is a dark room with a small hole on one side through which an image is projected onto a wall on the opposite side.)

Daguerreotype

Many people think a daguerreotype was the first photograph, but a daguerreotype was actually the first commercially successful photographic process in which an image was and was named after its inventor, another Frenchman named Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre. 

The word daguerreotype was adopted by most people, meaning the photograph itself. Although widely used from its worldwide acceptance in 1830, its popularity began to wane by 1860 when other easier processes were invented.

Above you see a Daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson by an Unknown Author found in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Why Do I Know This?

I'm constantly checking the historical facts I used in my epic paranormal novel, Stone Angel.

In one scene, the heroine Aurelea talks about a daguerreotype that was taken in Boston around 1840.

I checked to make sure what I'd read years ago was true. I'm happy to say it was. Daguerreotype came to the U.S. in 1839 and was wildly embraced.

By the way, if you want to read 3 chapters—or episodes as they're called on Kindle Vella—free, just click on Stone Angel. You can read on your PC, tablet, or cell phone.

If you don't currently read on your cell phone, just go to the App Store on your phone and download the Amazon Kindle app. It's that simple. Amazon will even give you 500 free tokens to purchase future episodes.

Takeaway Truth

If you love a photo you've taken, get it printed so it will last for generations.

Old Vintage Camera Image by Mario from Pixabay.

Review, China's Van Gogh's: The Village That Paints Thousands of Fake a Year

China's Van Gogh's: The Village That Paints Thousands of Fake a Year is a stunning documentary offered free on YouTube.

I'd not heard of Dafen, a suburb of Buji, Longgang, Shenzhen, in the province of Guangdong, China, before watching this documentary.

The area is an artists' village specializing in replicas of Van Goghs and other classical masterpieces.

The documentary profiles Zhao Xiaoyong and his family who produce Van Goghs, a favorite subject of this oil-painting village. 

Each year hundreds of thousands of masterpiece replicas are produced in Dafen yet if you do the currency conversion, you realize most of these painting studios are averaging less than $2,000.00 a month.

The hours are excruciatingly long. The work is arduous and hard on the body. The painters paint, eat, sleep, and live in the studios. The head of the painting family tries to balance paying workers, purchasing materials, meeting orders which usually number in the hundreds of paintings of various sizes, training new painters, and raising a family.

Zhao Xiaoyong has been doing this since he was young. He desperately wants to go to the Netherlands to visit the Van Gogh museum and take advantage of his main client's offer of hospitality. 

He dreams of Van Gogh and is entranced by the artist and his work, but paying airfare is a sacrifice that means scrimping on other necessities of life.

He goes anyway and is devastated to see his replicas in nothing more than a souvenir shop where his client sells his work for much more than the little he pays Zhao. 

You can feel the painter's depression at seeing his life's work in the paintings on display and realizing his client is getting rich while he is barely making a living.

When he returns home, he has an adjustment period in which he confronts his emotions and begins putting those turbulent emotions into original work done in the Van Gogh style.

His paintings are full of life and emotion. They're stunning. 

He now sells his original artwork as well as taking orders for replicas. The portrait he did of his 92-year-old grandmother is breathtaking.

This visually stunning documentary doesn't just touch emotions—it makes one feel the emotions inherent in the struggle to make a living, the fierce need to take care of family, the childhood hurts that follow one into adulthood, the desire to create that bubbles inside, the discouragement of feeling what one wants is beyond reach, and finally, following what the heart wants and finding peace and joy.

Takeaway Truth

I hope you'll watch this documentary. With the artistic elements aside, you'll once again see that people are the same the world over with the same emotions and desires.

Starry Night by Van Gogh Image by user1469083764 from Pixabay 

Sunflowers by Van Gogh Image by Prawny from Pixabay.

10 Sane Steps to Clutter Free Home

This is a stock photo, but years ago I had a friend whose home looked this way.

No kidding. The first time I visited her, I thought her house had been ransacked.

She had me follow her to her makeshift home office to show me something. I walked down the hall, skirting piles of dirty laundry in the doorways of her kids' bedrooms, I was stunned to see the bedrooms looked like this photo.

She was a wonderful person, but she had a high-pressure job as did her husband. Their life had gotten out of balance because she confessed she and her husband were both "untidy" and when the kids came along, they kept on living the same untidy lifestyle. The end result by the time the kids were in elementary school was what I saw that day.

Clutter Vs. Clean

I'll let you in on a secret. No matter how clean a house may be, if there's clutter everywhere, the perception is that the house is dirty.

My house is organized and clutter-free because I wouldn't be able to work at home if it wasn't. I'd be constantly nagged by "stuff" that needed to be cleaned up. My house is also fairly clean if you don't count the dust that's easy to spot. But everyone is always saying things like, "How do you keep your house so clean?"

Clutter and untidyness are habits. Habits can be changed. It's relatively easy to train yourself and your family to eliminate the daily clutter bombing that goes on in most households. 

Everything listed below applies to training yourself and your family.

1. Make your bed every morning.

I've always done this and wasn't surprised to see this habit touted by motivational speakers as a way to feel you have immediately accomplished something for the day. The emotional boost you get from walking through the bedroom that looks put together is satisfying, and, yes, I think empowering. Serene surroundings can calm your frustration.

2. Take care of snack dishes and glasses immediately.

When you use a dish or a glass for a snack, immediately take it to th kitchen sink, rinse it, and put it in the dishwasher. Even kids can do this. This might take 30-45 seconds, but it saves a lot of time because you won't have to go through the house gathering a glass here, a plate there.

Dishes left out draw insects. Food or drink residue hardens in the dish which means more time needed to soak them or scrub it out. It also saves emotional energy because you don't look around and feel depressed by seeing dirty dishes everywhere.

3. Clear the table immediately after each meal.

Each person carries his/her plate, glass, and flatware to the kitchen, rinses it, and places it in the dishwasher. If your kids are too young to do this all by themselves, make a game of it. Give them something they can carry in a clean-up parade to the kitchen. You and hubby take turns rinsing and let the kids load in the eash things like the flatware into the basket in the bottom rack or the plastic ware. This trains them to grow up clutter-free.

4. Always leave your kitchen clean at night.

That'll pay off each morning when you go into the kitchen and don't have to look at a pile of dirty dishes. Load the dishwasher if you haven't developed habits #2 and #3. Wipe the  counters and stove clean and pick up or sweep debris on the floor. There's something extremely satisfying about going into the kitchen the next morning and not seeing a sink full of dirty dishes and food debris on the counters and stove. That gets your day off to a good start.

5. Have a drop station next to where you enter your house.

This can be a Console Table, a cabinet, or even a bookshelf next to where you most commonly enter your home. 

Put a basket, decorative bowl or platter on top and place your keys, glasses, sunglasses, whatever you need to get going in the morning in it so you never have to conduct a scavenger hunt before you leave the house each morning.

6. When you enter your home, immediately take your essentials to an established place.

Essentials are coat, purse, briefcase, backpack, or whatever you need when you leave the house. Set aside a place where it can be secure and easily located the next morning. That might be a chair in the bedroom, your home office, a coat closet with a hook for your purse, etc. Doing this avoids another time-wasting scavenger hunt.

7. Establish a mail station.

Place a decorative basket or whatever on the drop station table. When you bring in your mail, drop it there rather than stand and go through everything and leave it scattered on the table top. Make a 20 minute routine when getting home. Place your keys, etc. at the drop station, place mail in the basket, put away your essentials, and change clothes if that's what you usually do. Talk to the kids for a bit. After that 20 minutes, take 15 minutes to deal with the mail.

8. Deal with the mail each day.

The secret to mail handling is to handle it only once if possible. Take your basket from the mail station to an established place in your home. A small home office is ideal. This is where you will handle the mail, pay bills, read correspondence. If you're simply using the kitchen table, get some matching decorative boxes or baskets that stack together.

You can find inexpensive to expensive baskets, bins, and boxes. Shown here is a 4-pack of stackable baskets that's about $30.00. 

Find something that fits your taste and your budget. Label them: Bills to Pay, Action Needed, To Be Filed, and Personal. Those are the basics. 

Go through each piece of mail. Toss the junk immediately. If it's something that interests you, put it in Action Needed. If you haven't acted upon it in a month, throw it out.

Clip a bill to be paid to its envelope. Where the stamp goes on the envelop, mark the date you need to mail it with payment, usually 7-10 days before due. If paying online, write the date it's due so you can pay it on time. Paid bills go in To Be Filed. So do bank statements and other important papers that affect your money, job, home, life, etc. (See my follow-up post next week about how to set up a simple home office.)

If something you received requires a response of some kind, it goes in Action Needed.

For personal correspondence, greeting cards, gifts, etc. put anything that requires a reply in Personal. Once you're replied with a thank you note or whatever, place anything you want to keep for sentimental reasons in a decorative box you can keep on or near the desk or a shelf where it looks attractive.

9. Set up a drop station for things that may be carried into the house.

 This could be for kids' backpacks, jackets, etc. or things you purchase and bring home that end up piled on the kitchen table or counters. This is my pet peeve. I hate, hate, hate to have to clear the table off before we can eat or have to clear the counter before I can do food prep. My Darling Hubby is terrible about this. I finally moved a long storage bench into our wide entryway and asked him to start putting the tools he brings in or magazines or things he's bought other than groceries on the bench. That way we can relocate the items each time we walk past the foyer.

10. Take the trash out every evening or sooner if needed.

Have you ever walked into someone's house that smelled like dirty diapers or kitchen garbage? Yuck. Don't be that person. Your house may be clean, but the perception is that it's filthy if it smells.

Already Lost the Battle?

You can still win the war. If your home is already a monument to clutter and disorganization, take your calendar out and make a date with your family for one hour each week to go through closets and cupboards and get organized. Make it a family project and tackle one place at a time. Reward all who participate with a game night, movie rental, special dessert, more time online, or whatever kids and hubby will like.

Takeaway Truth

There's an old adage that says, "A place for everything, and everything in its place." That's the mantra of being clutter free. 

Why not make a decorative sign with a fancy script that says that and hang it in the ktichen as a reminder to what you're wanting to achieve.

Sunday Thoughts About Queen Elizabeth II

Much has been said and written about Queen Elizabeth II since her death a few days ago.

Even though she was 96, I was stunned to hear she had died. She was the queen since I've been in the world.

The best monarchs abdicate a happy normal life for a life of serving the best interests of their nations.

That is exactly what Elizabeth of York did when she ascended to the throne.

She was intelligent and strong-willed with a fierce determination to be of service to her people.

I've read enough about kings and queens to know I would never want to be one. Fairy tales tell of beautiful princesses who marry their prince and live happily ever after. That's not reality.

Elizabeth married but duty came before her husband, before her children, and before her own wishes.

Her dirty linen was often aired in public by the tabloids. She always had to the the Queen, not the understanding, forgiving mother and grandmother.

Much was made of the recent "gutsy" documentary in which most of the women seemed to be celebrities.

No mention was made of Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, Barbara Bush, Condoleezza Rice, or other notable women who were gutsy and paved the way for those who followed and /or served the public. 

I was pleased that the book mentions the late Representative  Barbara Jordan from Texas. I admired her tremendously.

But I digress. Suffice it to say, Elizabeth the Queen did what she thought was right, not what was popular. 

Takeaway Truth

Rest in peace, Elizabeth II.

Friday Facts About Autumn

 Fall is less than a week away. I love Autumn for the sunshine on my face, the cool mornings and evenings, and a feeling of renewed energy.

The word autumn comes from the Latin word autumnus meaning the passing of the year.

Here are some more Autumn facts you may find interesting. 

(1) Winter, Spring, and Summer have just 1 name, but Fall has 2 names since it's also called Autumn. 

Back in the Middle Ages, the English called it haerfest which eventually morphed into Harvest, the season when crops were harvested, often by the light of the moon because the full moon is larger than in other months which is why it's alled a Harvest Moon.

(2) In the 17th century when people began moving to cities, the term harvest moon didn't have as much relevance so they took to calling that time of the year the "fall of the leaves." Eventually that was shortened to Fall.

(3) That beautiful Fall foliage is caused by pigments in the leaves. Different kinds of trees produce different pigments. The purple and red leaves are caused by anthocyanin pigment which is produced ony in the fall when sugars are trapped in the leaves. 

Dry weather and sunlight cause more sugars in the leaves so the foliage is a brighter red. Freezing weather stops the production of red pigment which is why leaves turn brown and die after a freeze.


(4) Actually, all the different pigments are in leaves all the time. You don't see them because the presence of chlorophyll, the natural chemical that makes them green, keeps the other pigments from showing. When the daylight/sunshine decreases, chlorophyll isn't produced as much so the green color fades and the other colors become more prominent.

(5) Bobbing for apples was a popular Halloween party game in the near past. I don't think anyone does it any more. Back in the distant past, it was a British courting ritual. Men were given an apple, and women would try to bob and get the apple from the man she wanted. If she was successful, it was a sign they were meant to be together.

(6) That popular fall drink apple cider takes about 36 apples to make a gallon cider.

(7) Viewing beautiful fall foliage is known as leaf peeping, and it's very popular with tourists. Every year three and a half million tourists go to Vermont to leaf peep and that results in tourism in the amount of $460 million.

Takeaway Truth

If you have the chance to do some leaf peeping, even if the autumnal colors aren't as captivating as in New England, make a day of it and have fun!

How to Get What You Want

We are now 3 1/2 months away from the end of the year. 

That's when everyone engages in a frenzy of New Year Resolutions and all of the "let's make a fresh start" motivation that infects everyone.

Let's talk about the one thing hardly anyone talks about: how to actually get that change you want.

12 Steps to Help You Get What You Want

These steps are great food for thought.Start thinking about it now. Think so deeply that these steps seep into your subconscious mind.

1. Dream.

If you're afraid of dreaming about what you want because you're afraid you won't get it, then you're already lost. Dream about what you, think about it, and make it a dream so rich in sensory detail that it's very nearly a virtual reality experience.

2. Sure, go ahead and set a goal.

Commit to it by writing it down. Write down what you want to achieve and also the price you'll have to pay to achieve it. We all pay, one way or the other. Maybe the price is working toward the goal when the rest of the family is watching TV or playing a game on Xbox. Maybe the price is getting up an hour early or staying up when everyone else has gone to bed. Then ask yourself: "Are you really willing to pay the price?"

3. Develop mental discipline.

Everything worthwhile can only be achieved through focused, consistent work. Focused, consistent work is achieved by mental discipline. Establish how often you will work. Make a schedule and keep to it as if you were being paid a salary.

4. Imagine you have already achieved what you want. Think of yourself as one who achieved what you want. See yourself post-achievement. How will you think? Feel? Look? Let others see you are dedicated to the goal. Believe in your ability to achieve it.

5. Learn the skills and craft necessary to what you want to achieve.

Whatever it may be, know everything about it. Strive always to improve. Start a project that is geared toward what you want to achieve. Complete it. Then start another one.

6. Expose yourself to the best examples of what you want to be or achieve. Meet those who are successful in doing what you want.Ask for insight and guidance.

7. Be willing to put yourself out there. Success isn't achieved by shrinking violets. Be your brand. Build your brand. No one will ever discover you and what you can do unless you let them see you and your craft, skill, and/or talent.

8. Organize your personal work space. If what you want is something that can't be done where you work, set up a personal work space at home. Keep it workable, not a cluttered mess. Enjoy going to that space because it means it's time for you to work on what you want.

10. Manage your time. If you say you'll dedicate an hour to working toward what you want, don't fritter away your time with email, social media, phone calls, or any of the other distractions. Use the time effectively—no matter how small or how large the block of time. 

11. Network. Join in forums and subscribe to lists where others seeking the same goal congregate. Meet them. Share the joys and sorrows. Learn from them. Give so they can learn from you.

12. Celebrate. Always celebrate your triumphs no matter how small. Don't wait for those big scores to pop the bubbly. Big scores don't come along very often. Celebrating the small victories helps you mark progress and keeps you from burning out because getting what you want takes time.

Takeaway Truth

You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything. So figure out specifically what you want, and go for it!


What To Do When the Nest Empties

Many of you may be like our oldest daughter who is starting a new chapter of her life. Her oldest child has left the nest and gone out into the world for his first job.

To her and all of you moms out there who are feeling that empty nest now, I know the emotions you're going through.

Even if you're sending your little one to kindergarten or the final year of high school instead of off to make a way in the world,  there's a certain mixture of relief and pain as you get ready for this new chapter of your life.

What To Do Now

All those things you've put off over the years because you didn't have enough time. Here's a short list that might interest you.

1. Redecorate. Yep, now is the time to get that new furniture, paint away the fingerprint-stained walls, and get things you don't have to worry about being ruined by unthinking kids.

2. Take up a hobby. Now is the time to learn an art or craft or start a collection. In fact, set up a little hobby corner just for you.

3. Focus on your health and fitness. Now is the time to get strong and healthy. Embark on a fitness program so you'll have the energy to tackle those mountains of dirty clothes that your college kid will bring home to dear old Mom. Seriously, instead of sitting around and feeling blue, move your body. It will raise your endorphin level and make you the cheerful happy Mom a kid wants to come home to visit.

4. Take a class. Broaden your mind and keep those brain cells active. Work on another degree. Learn a new skill. Community colleges a abound. Even if you're in a small town or rural setting, online courses in everything are offered.

5. Set aside time to read. Catch up on your favorite genre or read in a new one. Get an ereader device or a cell phone app. You can grab a library full of low-cost and even free ebooks in every genre and nonfiction category there is. Sign up for my free subscription newsletter. I offer a free and/or bargain ebook every month.

6. Be more romantic to your partner. There are no kids to hamper or inhibit your passion. Remember what it was like to be flirty and romantic.

7. Most of all, accept this new phase in your life and be happy. Your children learn how to handle life changes by observing you so be a good role model.

Takeaway Truth

Brainstorm some ideas now, choose one, and take action.


Review: I Came By on Netflix

Wow! If you're looking for a creepy movie that gives you a feeling of dark foreboding, I Came By is for you.

It's also the kind of movie where you know what's going to happen, but you still find yourself shouting at the TV, "Are you nuts? Don't go in there." 

One thing about this film starring George McKay as a malcontent young man who sees something so shocking he decides to be a hero, it stays with you.

Percelle Ascott is his buddy who is smart enough not to follow his friend into a precarious adventure.

Kelly Macdonald is the would-be hero's mom who belatedly figures out what's going on.

Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey is the villain who will repulse you. You'll forget about how appealing and wonderful he was on Downton Abbey. In this, he's a man you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. 

Blurbing the Movie

A rebellious young graffiti artist targets the homes of the wealthy elite but discovers a shocking secret that leads him on a journey endangering himself and those closest to him.

Directed by Babak Anvari and written by Anvari and Namsi Khan, the movie is creepy with aspirations of being a social commentary on power and class structure. Definitely don't let your kids watch.

My 2¢

For me, this had a big ick factor. I bemoaned the lack of common sense and communication skills of the characters who wanted to do the right thing. They were like the dumb pretty girl who goes into the basement where the scary murderer lurks. She's the stereotype of TSTL, and so are these hapless characters. 

Takeaway Truth

Definitely a thriller worthy of that label, but cringeworthy as well.