15 things you should do in 2015

Yeah, I know. Resolutions are so last year… Ha! In all honesty, I don’t really believe in making resolutions. I don’t know of anyone who makes a resolution and actually keeps it. Nearly everyone fails by mid-January anyway and then just gives up. I think it’s better to identify things in your life you want to do and just work at doing them. Set dates if you want, turn them into goals to meet, however you want, but I promise I won’t judge if you don’t get to everything. Of course, I think you should. And please, share your stories with me! I’d love to hear which of these ideas you take to heart.

One last note: this list is dedicated to all my single ladies, but is really applicable to everyone.

262919_10150337448083296_1774068_n1. Explore a local ‘hood. Have you ever spent time wandering the downtown area of your local town? Ever thought about actually stopping in one of those towns you drive past on the way to somewhere else? Do it! You might discover your new favorite restaurant. Or find the perfect gift. Or even meet some new friends.

2. Learn something. Take a class – cooking, bartending, pole-dancing, scuba diving – keep expanding your brain and your life experience.

3. Make something with your own hands. Cook a fantastic meal from scratch. Sew a decorative pillow. Pinterest is full of great ideas – find one that interests you and make it!

4. Travel somewhere you’ve never been. Go as close as the next state over, or travel to a distant land. Take in the scenery, marvel at the architecture, learn about the culture.  However you do it, get out there and see the world!

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Adventures in speed dating

A few weeks back, a coworker of mine, Kelly, invited me to join her and a friend for speed dating. Honestly, I didn’t think speed dating was actually real. I thought it was just something they did in movies. You say speed dating, I think 40 Year Old Virgin:

This is what speed dating is all about

 

But despite that, I have committed to trying new things, and this actually sounded like fun. And then our coworker Robert decided to join us too. We tried to tell him that he’d be going in with two less options if he joined us (he already has our numbers and we’re not interested!), but that was ok. Then, another team member suggested we needed to have questions prepared. I was not even thinking about that! A quick shout-out to my Facebook friends, and I had some questions prepared (more on that later). Kelly and I also talked a bit about how we should probably check in throughout the night and make sure we didn’t write down the same names. Dating the same guy could be awkward. We decided on rock/paper/scissors as the deciding factor.

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Be a grateful guest when staying overnight

In my last entry, I shared tips on how to be a gracious hostess when having overnight guests. Now it is time to turn the tables and share how you can make sure you are not a burden to your hosts. The principles are the same – communication is key!

1. Prepare your host appropriately for your arrival.

  • Be accurate with your arrival/departure plans. Showing up early can cause problems – they want to be sure they are ready for you. And showing up late is just rude. You don’t want them to spend hours waiting for you.
  • Notify your host ahead of time of any special needs. It seems like a given, but make sure that it is ok before you bring pets, or children. If you have any allergies, make sure that your host is able to accommodate your needs. If you have any disability or any physical needs, or if you need more privacy that they will need to accommodate, make arrangements beforehand.
  • Also, if your host offers you their own bed, you should decline. Of course, if you have a disability or injury, are an elderly person, or have children that need a confined space, this is a definite exception. But, as much as your host may love having you live with them, it is still a sacrifice to provide for you. You should make it as pain-free as possible.

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How to be a gracious hostess to overnight guests

Last fall, I shared tips on how to be a fabulous hostess for dinner parties. With summer upon us, you may find yourself hosting overnight guests. Whether it’s friends or family, hosting overnight guests can be tricky. Follow these recommendations, and hopefully your visit will go off smoothly. (Quick disclosure, I did find these fabulous posts from Simple Mom and Classy and Fabulous).

1. Prepare your guest for their living situation. If at all possible, provide a private area for your guest. If you have a guest room, this is easy. However, you may not. If that is the case, be sure to set that expectation with your guest so they are prepared – ear plugs, more modest sleeping attire, etc. Keep in mind your guest’s personal situation. If they are older, have an injury or disability or kids that need to be contained, you should absolutely offer to let your guest use your room. A gracious hostess will always offer her room to any guest staying in your home – however, a good guest will decline (unless one of the above factors is in play). Also, if you have any house rules (No shoes? Lights out at 11?) be sure to communicate these ahead of time. Having these conversations ahead of time will allow your guests to feel at home when they arrive.

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About owning a gun

In my previous post, I talked about the different ways that I’ve found to feel safer in my home and community. One of those ways was purchasing a gun. This is, of course, a very personal decision. It is not a decision you should rush into. The first, and most important question to ask yourself is, “If someone is coming after you, or someone you love, would you really be able to shoot, and kill them? Really?” If the answer is yes, then you should consider it. If not, just don’t. I would highly recommend a book called The Cornered Cat. This book is from a woman’s perspective of owning a gun, and many considerations you should make.

If you’ve decided that you would like to purchase a gun, you need to do some research. Learn the local laws on owning a gun. Some states require registration, some do not. You may need a license. There may be restrictions on when and where you can have the gun. Be sure to research the laws before you purchase.

Beyond just researching the laws, you also want to determine what type of gun you are most comfortable with. Grab a friend and head to a gun range. Try different guns – .22, 9m, .45, etc. Try different sizes, different calibers, different grips, and see what you feel comfortable with. My first gun I really liked, but the grip was too large and I just couldn’t hold it as well as I needed to. Be sure the gun you end up with fits your hand and is comfortable to you.

Once you’ve done the research and purchased your gun, you need to keep it accessible and safe in your home. Here are some tips on keeping a gun in your home:

Basic Gun Handling & Safety

If you own a gun, you need to know the basics of firearms safety. There are many variations of firearms safety rules they can be summarized into four basic easy-to-remember rules. These rules build upon each other and are almost bulletproof (pardon the pun).

1. All guns are always loaded

Treat all guns as if they’re loaded, even if someone told you it’s empty or you know that the gun was empty before. Check it again. It is always a good practice to check the gun to see if it’s really empty every time you pick it up. Ammunition has a strange way of finding itself in the gun. Check the gun, by first removing the magazine, then pulling the slide back and looking into the chamber for any ammunition.

2. Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy

Imagine a laser beam coming out of the muzzle and don’t sweep or point it at anything you don’t wish to destroy. By following this rule, if you fail to follow one or more of the other rules and the gun goes off, the bullet will not hit anything important.

A good, safe way to hold the gun is with your muzzle pointing down, not up like Charlie’s Angels (which is an insanely bad way of carrying a gun). If the gun goes off pointing up, it’ll go through the roof and kill someone nearby when it comes back down.

IMG_37583. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target

With all the modern safeties in guns these days, guns cannot go off on their own. It’s physically impossible for a gun to go off if you did not pull the trigger. So, make sure that when you handle the gun, your trigger finger is straight along the side of the gun, until you have the sights on target and you’re sure that you’re ready to shoot.

IMG_37614. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Be sure of what you are shooting and what is beyond. If it’s dark, as it most likely will be in a violent encounter, you need to be sure the person you’re shooting is not someone you know. That’s why a light is important to identify your opponent. Also, bullets go through almost everything in the home, especially dry-wall. Make sure you know what’s behind your target as well. You don’t want to accidentally send a round through your opponent, the wall behind, and your friend or loved one in the other room.

IMG_3763Gun storage

Finding a place to store your gun is important. You want to be sure that it is kept in a safe, dry place. Safe away from prying eyes/hands and yet, it should be easy for you to retrieve it when the need arises. I keep my Colt 1911 in a gun case, locked and loaded, under my bed. I don’t have kids and friends rarely come into my bedroom anyway. It’s there so I can get to it when something happens at home. My ammunition is kept in ammo boxes that you can buy at most Surplus stores for $10-15 each. These are sturdy metal boxes that are waterproof. I also keep my cleaning equipment in them.

Gun Use

Owning a gun is not enough, you need to be comfortable with it. Shoot it often. Find a gun range that has ladies night where you get to shoot for free. Drag some of your co-workers or friends along and practice shooting your gun. It’ll keep your skills up, get you comfortable handling a gun and ensure that you gun is always operational.

Maintaining a gun

Once you’ve shot it, clean it. As with every other hardware you own, like your house or car, cleanliness is important. Some people might tell you that you don’t need to clean certain guns, but doing it will ensure dirt and grime won’t build up and run the risk of causing a malfunction. Also a clean gun is a mark of respect for it. By knowing how to take apart your gun and clean it, you’ll build confidence in handling it.

What to do when friends are around?

Are you just hosting a party? Or are you having house guests staying with you? As for a party, leaving your gun under the bed is a safe place to store it as no-one will usually be in your bedroom during the party. If you’re having a house guest, have an open conversation about it and find out what they are comfortable. If you trust them, leave the gun where you normally do. If not, be sure to hide and lock it away during their stay.

When travelling

If you own a gun, it is your responsibility to ensure that the gun will never fall into someone else’s hands, or worse, used in a crime. The best thing to do here is to invest in a safe, not only to store a gun, but your other valuables as well. Have the safe kept in a safe place and bolted to the ground. If you don’t have a safe, and know that you’ll be travelling for a while, then perhaps the best way would be to ask a friend to keep it for you. Make sure your friend is comfortable with keeping/caring for your gun and that he/she is trustworthy.
There is plenty more I could cover, but honestly, I don’t want to start a gun blog. Please, do your research. Use some common sense. And do all you can to ensure your own safety.

Feeling safe in your own home

I truly love living alone. But, I have to admit that I continually have a heightened sense of awareness. Even after a year, I still am always conscious of my own safety. And I think that’s not a bad thing. A single girl, or any girl really, should be cautious and have a plan to protect herself. Here’s what I have done to make myself feel more safe in my home, and in my neighborhood.

Be aware of your home and neighborhood

IMG_3741The neighborhood I live in is not the safest. My area is cute and family-oriented, but just a few blocks away is a high-crime area. My car has been broken into twice, and my outbuilding and fence has been tagged with graffiti. The one thing I have in my favor is that I’m on a corner lot, with a street light nearby. But, I’ve done a few things to make it safer:

Lighting. I installed motion-sensor flood lights on my outbuilding, and along the alley that lines it. Hooking it up is not too tough, and even the neighbors have thanked me for it. My back door has a motion-sensor light also, as the back door is hidden from the street. I don’t have a motion light on my front door, but the light is always on. And I’ve added solar lights on the path leading up to my front door. Having a well-lit outside makes an intruder think twice.

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Spring is almost here! It is not to late to start planting seeds for a home-grown vegetable garden!

When I was a kid, I hated my parents’ garden. Mostly because it restricted where I could play, required me to weed, and determined the direction in which I could blow dandelions. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to love the feeling accomplishment found in growing my own vegetables. The accomplishment is even greater when I start those vegetable plants from seed. Sure, you can buy plants, but it is cheaper, more satisfying, and you’ll have more selection if you start from seed. (and no, that’s not a picture of my garden. Wish it was though!)

Each year, I find myself planting later than I should, but it is still not too late! You, too, can start your own vegetable garden!

Here’s what you need to start:

1. Seed starting kit. I like these. You can find them at all home improvement stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware), as well as many drug stores, Walmart/Target and other home stores.  They come in various sizes – from 9 – 72 pellet sizes. I also like them because you can keep the plastic container and buy pellet refills. But, if you don’t like that option, you can also purchase small pots and potting soil and start seeds that way.

2. Seeds. Determine what you want to grow and buy the seeds. Some people are picky about organic seeds, name brands etc. You can find most seeds in the stores listed above, or at local nurseries.

3. A way to label. Always mark your seeds somehow – whether drawing a grid on paper, or by writing on markers. Seedlings tend to look similar and unless you know the difference by sight, you’ll want to know what you’re growing!

4. Water and Light.  Keep your seedlings well lit and watered. More on this later.

Getting Started – When to Plant

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On Living Alone–Part Two

I was pointed to an interesting article yesterday. The original article, from the New York Times, was modestly titled “One is the Quirkiest Number – The freedom, and perils, of living alone.” Of course, Gawker got right to the point, declaring “NYT reports that living alone makes you behave like an insane person.” Now, a couple months back, I wrote a post about my experience living alone for the first time, which has truly been an overall positive experience. After reading the NYT article, a friend suggested I write a counter-piece – so here we go.

First, to Gawker’s point, “insane” is a bit much. Here are the examples they give from the NYT article. None are terribly insane. A little odd maybe. And some are downright normal.

  • Running in place during TV commercials (a bit strange, but if I had an elliptical in front of my TV, I’d totally do that. Well, I’d say I did anyway. But would probably just hang my bra on it (see below))
  • Talking in conversational French to themselves (I’ve been known to talk to myself in Spanish. Just because I can)
  • Talking to their cats (Ok, here’s the thing. Cats have ears. That means they can hear. Which means talking to them is not strange. It is perfectly normal to talk to anything with ears. Now, you start talking to your sofa, then we have problems)
  • Using their dryers as dressers (I can’t judge. I’ve had my laundry basket full of clean clothes in my living room for a week. I’ve pulled all my undies from it this week – no clean ones in the drawers. You may call this lazy. I say to you with roommates/significant others: you’re just jealous!)
  • Leaving their bras on the kitchen counter (Hmm… I don’t clean my counters enough to agree with this. But the coffee table, couch, recliner, floor, night stand…)
  • Wearing special “home alone” outfits, such as “white flax bloomers that go down to my knee” (Ok, I don’t dress any different alone than when I was married. Am I wrong in thinking it’s normal for married people to hang around their houses in sweats and junky shirts? That’s why you get married – to not have to dress up anymore. What I enjoy most about living alone is that I can run around the house without clothes and not have to worry that I’m giving anyone “ideas” or having someone think I’m in the mood for “that” rather than just not being in the mood to wear clothes.)
  • Subsisting “largely on cereal” (Depends on the type. Lucky Charms? Crunch Berries? Or Bran Flakes?)
  • “Grazing” on “nuts and seeds” (Or Sour Patch Kids and Good N Plenty’s. Potato. Potahto.) Continue reading

Thrift Shop Mojo

I am a thrift store junkie. I remember when I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. Every summer, my family spend a week in Auburn, WA at Lake Tapps. Auburn had tons of thrift stores and we’d go each year to pick up clothes for the school year. So, I wasn’t the most fashionable kid in the school, but I learned to love the adventure. That love for thrift stores persists today. I’d say about half my shoes and clothes come from thrift stores – a handful of handbags too! It used to be a necessity for money reasons, but today, I can afford new clothes. But I am used to thrift pricing now. ($100 for jeans?! HA!) And honestly, I just love the challenge and the hunt for a great deal.

Thrifting has become trendy recently. One of my favorite blog sites, Hello Giggles, has a whole series of posts about thrifting. The new CBS show 2 Broke Girls (which I find funny, but all my friends think it sucks) had a hilarious episode where the street-smart broke girl took the former rich-bitch broke girl to the Goodwill. Especially in today’s economy, and with increased sensibilities to ‘green living’, thrifting is a fantastic money-saving, reduce/reuse/recycle option. All it takes is some common sense and a sense of adventure. With a dash of patience. And hand sanitizer.

Look for these

Clothes. This is the easiest category. I only own one pair of jeans that did not come from a thrift store. Most of my dresses (I have a lot!) are from thrift stores. You will need to try things on – especially jeans. I have to try on 15 pairs for every 2 I go home with. But I have some nice jeans – Hilfiger, DKNY – and not a single pair cost more than $9.99. I have found cute tops, great sweaters – never spending more than $15 for any item. Here are some of my faves:
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(Not Extreme) Couponing

Regardless of your opinion of couponing, it is a notable ‘trend’ recently. Yes, coupons have been around forever, but with the TLC show ‘Extreme Couponing’, there is a lot more attention on it. From local church seminars on couponing to mom blog tutorials to CBS’s show 2 Broke Girls, couponing is more present than ever.

While I can’t imagine anyone being opposed to saving money, some folks are going to the extreme. Have you actually seen ‘Extreme Couponing’? I’ve seen a couple episodes and am equal parts impressed and appalled. These people have figured out how to get hundreds of dollars worth of groceries and supplies for tens of dollars. Sometimes free! Impressive. But they’re buying things they don’t need. I saw an episode where a guy had converted his entire garage into aisles of shelving for hundreds of bottles of shampoo, tubes of toothpaste, and dozens of other items he will never use. The episode did show him donating a few hundred packages of diapers or something that he managed to get for next to free – which is fantastic. But, for the most part, he was essentially hoarding. He had a collection of things he’ll never use. Honestly, I find it a bit disgusting.

With all that said, coupons have their place, and I do use them. The trick is to use coupons for things you actually use. Every week, most of us get a flyer with coupons in the mail. Occasionally, you’ll get a booklet from a local drug store, the monthly Val-Pak envelope of coupons, or grocery coupons.

Here are a few tips on how to use coupons effectively, without them taking over your life (or your garage!)

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