finances

Blog Round-Up: Fave Posts on Finances, Recipes & More

As you can tell, I don’t stick with one subject (or niche) on this blog. I like to write about a variety of subjects: finances, self-improvement, recipes, etc. I also follow a number of other bloggers. So this week I’m doing a blog round-up, sharing with you those blogs and posts that I find interesting and that go along with some of the same things I write about.

Finances

Earning Money Online

  • The Selling Family-Jessica Larrew does a great job of helping you through every detail of selling on Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). I haven’t started this side hustle yet, but I’m reading all the emails from Jessica as I have time so that when I’m ready to begin, I’ll know what to do. I’m hoping when I have the finances for it, I’ll have a great little side business. Here’s her post “A Beginners Guide For Starting An Amazon FBA Business“. You can also sign up for her Amazon Boot Camp.
  • Side Hustle Nation-Nick Loper is fantastic! He has so much information on his website. There are a lot of ideas for side ventures and tons of interviews and tips to get you started. financesAmazon FBA is also one his side hustles, but my favorite post from him is “99 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today”.
  • The Work at Home Wife-blog by Angie Nelson. She has a lot of great work-at-home tips and ideas. I joined her Facebook Community Group and posted a concern about my blog and she answered it with a great tip. I’ve noticed that she really tries to help out others trying to make a living at home.

Saving Money

Personal Development

  • Live Purposefully Now-Elle Sommer and her staff writers provide tons of self-improvement posts. One such post is “5 Ways to Cultivate Self-Love and Reclaim Your Life“. There are many others.
  • The Grief Toolbox-Offers information about the grieving process and tools to help you through and find hope once again. A great website if you’re coping with loss and/or feeling alone in your grief.
  • Steve Pavlina-Steve’s blog is all about “Personal Development for Smart People”. He talks about “conscious growth” and finding your purpose. Along with Elle Sommer, he has a lot of self-improvement information.

Food

Crochet

  • My Merry Messy Life-Sara provides posts on crochet patterns, food, and living green. She has lots of great ideas. This link will take you to her free crochet patterns page.
  • There are just too many great crochet blogs out there to list very many, so I’m just going to provide a link to my Pinterest board for crochet patterns. There are some absolutely darling ones in this board.

I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out these blogs and pins. I’d love to hear from you about them, especially if you’ve tried any of the recipes or tips.

Chicken Goulash Recipe Challenge

I have a challenge for you today! I’m sharing a chicken goulash recipe I came up with the other day and I want you to try it and make variations to it. Then I would love, love, love it if you would comment and share what you did!  We can all use new recipe ideas for dinner.

I wasn’t sure what to call this, but my boyfriend said it was chicken goulash, so I’m going with that. While it’s not technically a goulash recipe, It is much like it, minus the tomatoes and broccoli. And it’s possible it would be good with a can of tomatoes. I may have to try that next time.

So I had this big pack of boneless chicken tenders and I wanted to do something different with ingredients goulash recipeit. I also had a few mushrooms and half a head of broccoli that I didn’t want to go to waste. I get mad at myself when I don’t use up veggies before they go bad.

I went to the pantry for some type of pasta to throw in and a box of mac n cheese caught my eye. I grabbed the cream of chicken soup while I was in there, but I bet it would have been just as great with cream of mushroom soup since there are mushrooms in this goulash recipe.

The jalapeno pepper came into play because someone gave us a few from their garden. I don’t like really spicy food so I just put a small amount in, but obviously, you can leave it out or put more in according to your taste.

I didn’t use measurements on the veggies, but as you can see from the photo, I only had a small amount of each. This is the kind of recipe where you can change up everything. That’s what makes it so easy, tasty, economical, and versatile. Here’s a link to a hamburger/pasta recipe that’s along the same lines.

Chicken Goulash

  • 1 T. oil
  • 2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, cut in half length-wise and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tsp. jalapeno pepper, cut very small and thin
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • broccoli florets
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 box macaroni and cheese dinner, including cheese
  • red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Brown the chicken in oil. About halfway through, add the sliced onion and jalapeno. When the chicken is browned, add the rest of the ingredients. Cover lightly and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

This is quite economical to make. I used off-brand mac n cheese and soup. And using up whatgoulash recipe you have in the fridge is a great way to save money. It certainly beats throwing food out.

A can of tomatoes might do the trick to make this dish more pretty as it’s not very colorful, but all in all, it turned out great and was a huge hit.

I hope you make this goulash recipe and will share the changes you’ve made to it. Don’t forget my challenge! 🙂

Earning Money with the Smart Crowd: A Review

I’ve talked about the Smart Crowd in some previous posts. You can find those posts here and here. I didn’t go into much detail then so I thought I’d review it for you today. It’s a great way to earn a little extra income, but you probably won’t be able to make enough money to support yourself.

What is the Smart Crowd?

The Smart Crowd is a crowdsourcing data entry website, meaning that the work available is done by a group of people online from home. It’s run by Lionbridge and used to go by the name Virtual Bee.

Workers are paid 35 cents per 1,000 keystrokes on most files and 60 cents per 1,000 keystrokes on a few others. So as you can see, you’re not going to get rich from this side hustle, but it adds up faster than you might think.

Data entry workers are paid through Dwolla, which is just like PayPal. You are paid twice a month as long as your balance is at least $30 by the 15th and last day of the month. The Smart Crowd transfers your earnings to Dwolla which you can then transfer to your checking account.

How to Get Started with the Smart Crowd

To register, go to their website and sign up with your personal information and choose some interests and abilities. You will then be able to take some short keying and reading comprehension tests-nothing very difficult. Once you have completed the testing all you have to do is wait for an email from them, approving or denying your registration.

It seems like it took several weeks before I heard back. As a matter of fact, I had forgotten about it altogether. But I did hear back and I’ve been keying for them for a little over a year. In that time I have earned over $800. Keep in mind, though, that part of the time I worked a full-time job and after that I was busy with this blog and other online interests. So all in all, I think I’ve done pretty well.

Types of Work Available

I’ve included this screenshot so you can see what kind of work I do for the Smart Crowd. It may vary per worker depending on your skills, including speaking other languages.

Inline image

As you can see, I’ve earned $7.02 today and $60.68 this month in only the first 10 days of August. I’ve worked 2-4 hours each day while watching TV. The work available to me at the moment of this picture was Dollars Only and Numeric. You key one line at a time and hit enter.

For Dollars Only, you key only dollars, no cents. Sometimes the files will be Alphanumeric, Multiple Choice, Decimals, and others. There are instructions for each type, but generally nothing confusing.

Depending on your evaluations, there may be other types of work available to you, such as searching online for pay.

Final Thoughts

I totally recommend the Smart Crowd to earn some extra pocket money. I wouldn’t count on it to pay your bills, but it’s still a great little side hustle.

You may have heard bad things about the pay. I admit, the pay isn’t much, but recently they discovered an error in their system. We weren’t getting paid for certain types of entries, but the error was corrected and they back paid everyone. I received over $60 back pay. Now that it’s fixed I’ve noticed a big difference in my earnings each day.

If you’re looking for ways to earn money from home, the Smart Crowd is a trustworthy side job. Let me know if you sign up or any thoughts you may have.

Grandma’s 5 Hour Stew Recipe

I have a great stew recipe to share with you today. Although I don’t make this stew very often, it’s special to me because it was my Grandma’s recipe. Every time I do make it, memories come flooding back of her in the kitchen. She was a great cook, having learned a lot from her German mother-in-law.

The difference between this stew and others I’ve made is that you don’t brown the meat andstew recipe you bake it at a low temperature, instead of on top of the stove. I guess the slow-cooking is what makes it tender.

I’ve written the stew recipe out just as she had it. I’ve made some changes and note them below. I’m not sure how many years ago she began making this stew, or where the recipe came from, but she’s been gone for more than 30 years, so it’s an oldie!

Five Hour Stew
2 pounds stew meat
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
3 onions, thinly sliced
6 carrots, sliced fairly thick
1 cup celery, sliced fairly thick
4-5 potatoes, cut into large pieces
1/2 cup seasoned croutons
1 T. salt & sugar
3 T. minute tapioca
1/2 cup red wine

Don’t brown the meat.  Mix all ingredients in a covered casserole.  Bake covered for 4-5 hours at 250 degrees and stir occasionally. I’ve found that it works best in a dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.

Rather than using red wine, I use beef broth or add water and a bouillon cube. I do one of these variations because I don’t usually have red wine in the pantry.

Instead of minute tapioca, about 2 hours into the cooking time, I mix a little water and flour together (make sure it’s smooth) and stir it in to the stew-that helps make it a little thicker.

I have no idea what the croutons are for, but I always add them-you don’t even know they’re there when it’s finished.  I’m sure the croutons could be left out, though.

Serve it up with some nice crusty French bread and real butter and you’re sure to have a crowd-pleaser.

I hope you enjoy this stew recipe and it becomes one your stand-bys. For more recipes, check out some of my other posts.

If you fix this great dish, please let me know what you think of it and what changes you may have made. Or share your own recipe; that would be awesome!

free activities

20 (Mostly) Free Activities for the Kids

Summer is in full swing and the kids are home climbing the walls, right? Need to get them out of the house or entertained? I’ve come up with some ideas for (mostly) free activities to do withfree activities your children to help the summer pass by more smoothly.

Some of these ideas are probably no-brainers for most parents, but I threw them in the list anyway. 🙂

Outdoor Adventures

  1. Most towns have a small local park. Take them to play on the equipment and have a cheap picnic on the ground. Sometimes county parks have low-cost paddleboats for rent.
  2. Go swimming. One of our local water parks is half price after 4 p.m. And you can search the internet for discount coupons or coupon codes. Or find a lake where you can swim for free.
  3. State and national parks are free! Cumberland Falls and Perryville National Historic Site are(mostly) free activities two that are fairly close to my home. Sometimes there are special events at these parks, so check their websites before you go. Along with some exercise, you can use these excursions as learning experiences. The last time I went to the Falls there was a cool reptile show.
  4. Take a walk and explore. Pretend you’re on safari or digging for bones. Kids love this kind of stuff and it fuels their imaginations. My friend’s grandma always did those types of things with her and it’s among her fondest memories.
  5. Go camping. You can find cheap campsites, especially if your camping in a tent. Or you can pitch a tent in the backyard, make s’mores, and tell stories around the fire just like you’re in a campground.
  6. Go fishing. Fishing is a relatively cheap activity if you’ve already got all the equipment. You can get a dozen nightcrawlers for $2 or $3.
  7. Get out the Slip ‘n Slide or sprinkler and let the kids run through the water. Guaranteed to bring shrieks of delight!
  8. Go to the zoo. Most zoos have discount packages. The Cincinnati Zoo offers AAA discounts, money-off tickets through Kroger, and military discounts. If you take your own lunch it will be even cheaper.

Free Activities Indoors

  1. Gather up all your board games and have a game night or game day. Be creative and make up your own rules.
  2. Movie night! Watch movies from Netflix, Hulu, or the Red Box. Red Box frequently has discounts. Alternatively, you could go to a free movie under the stars. A lot of towns offer Friday Night Flicks.
  3. Have a dance party. Pull up appropriate kids music on Pandora and let ’em get their groove on.
  4. Have a crafting party. Most of us have all kinds of paper, crayons, and other craft items. Let the kids create some cool things. Maybe they could even come up with homemade holiday gifts. Check out Pinterest for some ideas.

More Indoor Fun!

  1. Take them to a museum. There are many small museums that are free, mainly ones located in parks and historical sites. You may also be able to find art, history, and children’s museums that are free and offer free activities for the kids.
  2. Libraries are awesome free places to take your children. Most have summer readingfree activities programs and offer free activities as well. Book stores are great too, and some of them also  have summer reading programs. My favorite is Half Price Books. Their kids books are so inexpensive!
  3. Go bowling. KidsBowlFree.com and Coupons.com have coupons for free bowling for your kids!
  4. Go out to eat. Many restaurants offer free meals for kids. Here is a website listing lots of restaurants with offers and discounts for children. And here’s another one. 🙂
  5. Take them to the skating rink. Kids Skate Free is a website offering free skating for the young ‘uns.

More Great (Mostly) Free Activities

  1. How long’s it been since you’ve gone to a drive-in? Remember those clunky microphones you used to have to hook up to your window? Even though you listen to the movie through your radio these days, it still makes me feel nostalgic whenever we go to the drive-in. Ourfree activities drive-in gives you a coupon for 2 kids half-price next time you come. And you can always surf the net for discounts. Just stay away from the costly snack bar.
  2. Take them to a free sports clinic. These are generally offered on college campuses.
  3. Vacation Bible School. Even if you don’t have a home church, you can still send your child to VBS. Many churches offer free pick-up and drop-off services.
  4. Last but not least, take the kids to local events. There are all kinds of little towns around me that have free festivals and car shows with musical entertainment.

Don’t forget, no matter what you decide to do, check the internet for coupons, coupon codes, and other discounts. Groupon is one place to check as well as sites like Fat Wallet and Slick Deals.

Most importantly, have fun and stay cool. For more money saving tips check out a couple of my other posts. Please comment if you have any other great cheap ideas.

The fascinating way whales experience grief.

A new report suggests that whales and dolphins mourn similar to humans.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.upworthy.com

grieving

9 Ways to Help a Grieving Widow/Widower

Another post on grieving you ask?

Yes-it seems to be a subject that continually comes up in life. Grieving is a difficult process and something I feel I know a little about.

As you know if you’ve read my posts I’ve lost a husband and a boyfriend in the last 5 years. I don’t bring this up for pity, just understanding that sometimes I feel the need to write about this subject.

The need today is the fact that my brother has lost his wife. It happened unexpectedly just a couple of days ago. They were married almost 40 years ago, when I was 8. It’s brought up a lot grievingof feelings for me, but it’s not about me. It’s about him and all the other folks grieving from a recent loss.

I wish I could come up with something new and fresh to say about the pain we all have to deal with eventually, whether it’s a spouse your grieving for or some other important person in your life. It really sucks that we can’t control death.

Nothing is going to take the pain away for the remaining spouse, but there are actions we can take to let them know we care.

9 Ways to Help the Grieving:

  1. It can be uncomfortable figuring out what to say, but don’t let it stop you. You don’t really have to say anything except that you’re sorry, give them your number and a big heartfelt hug.
  2. Check-in occasionally. Don’t let them feel forgotten. Call and text from time to time. Along with letting them know you’re thinking of them, it also helps you gauge how they’re coping.
  3. Invite them out to lunch or dinner once in awhile. They may not accept your invitation, but it’s good to throw out the option in the hopes they’ll get out of the house and among other people.
  4. Let them talk. I talked (and sometimes still do) incessantly during my early bereavement. It probably drove people crazy, but for some of us, that helps work it all out in our mind.
  5. Don’t push the grieving to straighten up, get it together, or move on. Unless their actions or attitude seem harmful or long-lasting, let them work through it at their own pace. Everyone deals with things their own way.
  6. Encourage them. If they have a special interest or hobby, encourage them to keep up or start back with it. Or introduce them to a new hobby. If you admire them, this is a great time to tell them so. As long as you don’t hound them, positive reinforcement can be helpful.
  7. If you’ve never lost a spouse, don’t tell them you understand what they’re going through, because you really don’t.
  8. If you have experienced this type of loss, it doesn’t make their pain go away, but spending grievingtime with the grieving spouse will give them hope that they can get through it just like you did.
  9. In some cases the surviving spouse may not know how to pay the bills, use the lawnmower, etc. because they never had to do it before. Offer to teach them.

Conclusion

For me, knowing what to say is the hardest. And making sure I keep in touch can be a tough one too. Over time we tend to get caught up in our own lives and forget to contact others.

I can only do a few of these things for my brother because he lives 1200 miles away. But I’m with him in spirit and hurting so badly for him and his sons right now. It’s heartbreaking. I do intend to contact him every day until the funeral and then frequently after that. Maybe I can talk him in to coming to Kentucky for a week of hunting and fishing when he feels better.

Please don’t forget your grieving friends and family. When the funeral is over and they have to get back to life it’s tough and they need your support.

Marinade Recipes & Blackberry Cobbler Too!

It’s grilling season and blackberry season too, here in Kentucky. I’ve come up with 2 marinade recipes that work great on the grill or in the kitchen. I’m going to share those as well as a recipe I developed using leftovers. For a great ending, I’ve included a link to a homemade blackberry cobbler recipe.

Marinade Recipes

All marinades should include an oil and a citrus. These are what helps break down the fats and tenderize the meat.

First up is a marinade for chicken. I made this one last week:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 lb boneless chickenmarinade recipes
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 1/2-2 tsp. dry ranch mix
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lime juice

Place the chicken in a large zippered baggie. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together and pour over top. Seal the bag, letting out the air. Turn the bag every once in a while, making sure the marinade covers all the chicken. Marinate for several hours or overnight. When you’re ready to cook, throw the chicken on the grill.

I served this with alfredo broccoli fettucine and peas.

The day after we had the chicken, I made a marinade for beef kabobs:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. stew meatbeef kabobs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 Tb. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. lime juice

Just like above, whisk and pour the ingredients over the meat in a large baggie. When you’re ready, place the beef cubes on wooden or metal skewers and grill. If you use wooden skewers, be sure to soak in water for a few hours to keep them from catching fire on the grill.

These would have been great with veggies too, but I didn’t have anything appropriate for a kabob, so I served corn and pasta salad with ours.

Leftover Recipe

So the third day, I had leftover fettucine, corn, and peas. I incorporated these into a hamburger helper-type dish:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. hamburger
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover pasta (I had cooked 2 pouches of pasta sides the first day and used what was leftover)
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 sm. can mushrooms
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt, pepper, garlic, minced onion, red pepper flakes to taste

Brown the hamburger and drain. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes or so.

This was pretty darn good. I love to find ways to use leftovers. I don’t like to be wasteful.

Homemade Blackberry Cobbler

I found this recipe in Kentucky Living magazine. I haven’t tried it but I’m sure it’s delicious. Here’s blackberriesthe link to the recipe and article about Berrylicious Orchard in Woodburn, Kentucky.

Speaking of blackberries, my farm is full of them and I’m thinking about picking and selling them this year. They’re almost ripe enough to pick.

If you have any tips or ideas on how to make these marinades even better, please comment. Or share your own marinade recipes, leftover hacks, and dessert ideas.

For Your Inspiration-Favorite Quotes

In a slump? Losing your creative edge? Feeling blah? Sometimes we just need a little inspiration in our life to give us a nudge or reminder of what we have, what we need, and what we want.

Hopefully this list will provide some inspiration for your day, life, project, whatever. 🙂

Lack of Purpose?

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.
– Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.
– Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

We’re so engaged in doing things
to achieve purposes of outer value
that we forget the inner value,
the rapture that is associated
with being alive, is what it is all about.
– Joseph Campbell

inspiration

Lack of Confidence?

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Phil 4:13 (KJV)

The probability that we may fail
in the struggle ought not to deter us
from the support of a cause we believe to be just.
– Abraham Lincoln

The secret of making dreams come true can be summarized in four C’s.
They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy;
and the greatest of these is Confidence.
– Walt Disney

The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.
– William Jennings Bryan

Lacking Inspiration Creatively?

Trying to force creativity is never good.
– Sarah McLachlan

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.
– Scott Adams

Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.

– Rita Mae Brown

Empty your mind. Go out and enjoy nature. The peace and beauty will refill your mind with ideas. (Click to Tweet)

This was just a handful of things that bring me inspiration and I hope they’ll do just that for you! Please comment some of your favorite quotes. 🙂

How to Earn Money Online with Fiverr Gigs

I thought it was about time to get back to earning money online this week. Have you ever heard of fiverr.com? It’s a great site (and app) where you can perform tasks (gigs, as fiverr calls them) for $5 each.

You can also search for a task you need performed for $5. It’s unbelievable how many original ideas people come up with, like “I will make your face appear on a cool glass of beer”. There are a lot of professional gigs available that can help you with social media, research, marketing your products, making a product for you, etc. The list goes on and on.

The gigs all start at $5 but then there are add-ons that can be done if you require a little more work than what’s being offered in the seller’s basic package. For instance, I just started a gig where I will research any subject online and provide 4 research links and 500 words for $5. If more extensive research is required, a buyer can choose an add-on of 2-4 more links and 500 more words for an extra $5.

So how do you get started with fiverr?

Set up your fiverr profile and, if you want to be a seller, add your abilities and education info. They don’t ask for a lot, just if you have a degree and from where and if your abilities are beginner, intermediate, or expert.

Fiverr takes you through each step. To sell, click on create gig and fill out the overview by choosing a title, category, description, and three tags. Tags are keywords that buyers may use to search on fiverr. As an example, I used research online, summary, and research paper. These tags will help your gig to be found.

On to pricing. I’ve included a video explaining how to set up different packages. I just stuck with a standard package, but you can charge up to $400 with different add-on services. This section is where you will include how many days for delivery, s&h fees, and charges for additional services such as quicker delivery. You can also indicate how many orders you want in your queue at one time so you don’t get behind.

The next section is Requirements. If you are selling a product, such as a crocheted dish cloth, you will need to say something like, “Tell me what color you would like”.

The last step is to add at least one gallery photo and any videos you may want to include. From here you will click save and preview to make sure everything looks good. Once you save everything your gig will be pending until approved, which usually only takes a few minutes.

Keeping track of your fiverr sales, purchases, and other stats

The Dashboard section keeps you informed of sales and purchase stats. There are also analytics for how many page views and clicks you’ve had on your gigs. This can be helpful if you’re not getting many views as it lets you decide if maybe you need to change your wording or tags in order to get more hits.

On the dashboard as well are sections for your inbox and names of those who have bought from or sold to you. I would think that this could be used for additional offers you have that may interest these folks.

What are the fees and how do you get paid with fiverr?

Posting a gig on fiverr is absolutely free; however, there are fees involved if your gig sells. Fiverr will keep 20% of your gig revenue, which seems like a lot, but if you offer add-ons of value to the buyer as well as to yourself, you have the ability to make decent money per gig.

The best payment method is probably PayPal. When you request your balance to be transferred to PayPal there is a 2% fee up to $1. There are other ways to get paid but the fees are higher.

So basically, if you sell a gig for $5 you will receive $3.90. If you offer an extra $5 add-on that sells you will receive $7.80.

Keep in mind, though, that if you have a talent for something special you can charge up to $400 using different packages with lots of different add-ons.

Special offer

If you are interested in buying on fiverr, here is a link for a special offer. You will receive 1 free gig service with this link. And if you join, refer a friend. If your friend spends $10 or more you will receive $5! So you may as well give it a shot. It’s easy to set up an account search for services, and create gigs.

Let me know how you do. I would love to know if you’ve tried fiverr and what your experience has been.