Book Review: To Hold The Sun

To Hold the Sun

Description (from iRead Book Tours):

This delightful and engaging story outlines the experiences of a young, poor, and disillusioned reporter who is enticed to do a series of articles about Paul, an unconventional philosopher and motivational speaker. In lieu of payment, he gets to travel to and dive on Roatan, arguably one of the most beautiful, pristine islands in the Caribbean. Through a series of meetings, the reporter gets to know Paul’s innermost philosophies. He learns an alternate way of living from a man who strives to perfect handstands on a dock and practices the art of happiness. 

The author developed the book as a guide to help his children live their lives in a way that would allow them to enjoy the journey. Drawing on wildly diverse disciplines including stoicism, neuroscience, skepticism, behavioral economics, and spirituality; the reader is taken on a journey that exposes the author’s philosophy of life. He demonstrates that happiness is indeed a choice. 

My Thoughts:

I was geniunely interested in reading this book after learning that the author created it for his own children. My son is only two years old now, but as time passes there are so many things I want to teach him about being a happy, well adjusted human being. I started a journal shortly after he was born and continue to write in it every month. I hope one day he will take the time to read it and learn from my words.

I wish to impart many of the lessons cited in this book including, learning to control how you react to situations, asking empowering questions, accepting change, simplifying your life, living without regret, treasuring your health and learning to help others.

I wasn’t particularly wowed by the author’s story, but I did appreciate the underlying themes within it. If you are looking for a quick read that will also help you get a handle on negative emotions and life’s changes this book may be of interest to you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

July 31, 2014 at 11:18 AM Leave a comment

How to Select the Right Vacation Property to Rent

beachhouse

Leasing short-term vacation homes for the summer season or holiday break allows travelers to take a 

break from home without leaving comforts behind. Full-sized kitchens, multiple bedrooms and extra 

bathrooms are especially necessary when traveling with multiple families. Sometimes, home rentals are 

less expensive than nightly hotel rates. Plus, staying in residential areas helps guests soak up the local 

culture. Regardless of reasoning, renting vacation homes is quite different than renting apartments or 

single-family homes. Without annual leases, renters need to be careful about who they work with and 

how deposits are handled.

Unlike standard leases, prospects usually can’t view vacation properties in-person until the designated 

rental period begins. To best avoid any surprises and create a hassle-free stay, use the following three 

tips.



Set a Budget

Unless transitioning between residences, the cost of monthly or weekly vacation rentals on top of 

existing mortgages is expensive. Since vacations are generally considered superfluous expenses, make 

sure it fits within budget. Generally, avoid spending more on a weekly vacation rental than an entire 

month’s housing payments.



Read Reviews

Vacation hosts usually don’t operate as full-time landlords. Services like Airbnb allow qualified 

homeowners and leaseholders to advertise either extra space in their primary residences, or entire 

secondary apartments or homes for jetsetters to lease. Vacation hosts aren’t registered professionals, 

so reading fellow vacationers’ reviews helps circumvent precarious individuals or situations. Not to 

mention, Airbnb has an extensive review process for both hosts and travelers to ensure the physical and 

financial safety of all parties involved.

Reviews go beyond host conduct and performance. Previous renters can share their vacation 

experiences and sightseeing advice as well. While pictures are helpful, they can be deceiving – especially 

with the right lighting and staging techniques. Other travelers are likely to be frank if they encounter 

negative experiences. Keep in mind that some things bother certain travelers (i.e. proximity to train 

tracks or busy roads) that may not bother others. Know which red flags to look out for that would make 

the trip any less than seamless, based on individual preference.



Check the Neighborhood



Hotels are usually centrally located in large cities because they house travelers who require easy access 

to conference centers, museums and shops. Private homes, on the other hand, aren’t usually located 

in the middle of the action. Consider travel time when deciding which neighborhoods are best for 

vacationers, and whether renting a car is a necessary expense. Make sure to factor the total cost of the 

car rental and the more remote vacation home rate. Take the total and compare with more expensive 

homes conveniently located in the city. It might be better to stay closer to town, especially for people 

who are only visiting for a brief time and want to spend the majority of their days exploring rather than 

commuting.

Not every trip is going to be perfect. Staying in a stranger’s home can be awkward and sometimes hotels 

are the preferred travel method. To avoid conflict, ask hosts about linens, cleaning fees, deposits and 

house rules. Keep in mind that vacation rentals are also homes – treat them with respect and care.

Guest Post By Jennifer Riner of Zillow

July 16, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia

Maria Loggia’s kitchen door is always open. Her home and garden are a gathering place for friends and family, who come to share her easygoing enthusiasm and generosity – and her inspired Italian cuisine. In this, her second book, Loggia celebrates the seasons with 16 sumptuous menus – from a spontaneous al fresco garden party to a slow-simmered midwinter feast and a traditional Sunday family lunch.

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia is on a spotlight tour from July 14 to 18.

Author & Chef: Maria Loggia

Category: Non-fiction

Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine, 176 pages

Publisher: Cardinal Publishing

Published: Oct 1, 2012

Amazon.com

 

Try One of the Recipes!

 

Petto di Pollo Farcito con Uva e Noci

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Grapes and Walnuts

 

 

Ingredienti

For filling:

1 tbsp (15 ml) unsalted butter

2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

¾ cup (180 ml) walnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, quartered

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh chives

2 tbsp (30 ml) bread crumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

7 oz (200 g) soft goat cheese, cut in 6 slices

 

For chicken:

6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

6 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, softened

1 orange, cut into wedges

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, each cut in half

5 bay leaves

To serve:

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange

Preparazione

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

To prepare filling: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté shallots until soft, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grapes, chives and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. Leave goat cheese aside for now.

To prepare chicken: Oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or roasting pan with 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil and set aside. On a baking sheet, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise slit in each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. (This will form the pocket for the stuffing.) Rub remaining 4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil into the chicken (including in the pockets). Divide stuffing equally among chicken breasts, stuffing it into the slit in each breast, and top with a slice of goat cheese. Pull the chicken skin over the filling and secure with toothpicks. Smear butter over the skin and season again to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently transfer chicken to prepared tiella. Scatter orange wedges, rosemary and bay leaves around chicken. Roast 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced. Then broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden. Drizzle with orange juice and serve warm with pan juices.

Serves 6

Tips from Maria:

Consigli di cucina (kitchen tips)

The chicken breasts can be assembled the day before, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring chicken to room temperature and cook as instructed. Doing it this way allows the flavours time to meld together beautifully.

Che cos’è? (what is it?)

I’m convinced food tastes better when cooked in a shallow, glazed earthenware dish known in Italian as a tiella. I find earthenware dishes distribute heat slowly and evenly as the food cooks. Aromas and flavours are intensified and casseroles never stick or dry out.

To season a tiella: Before using your tiella the first time, immerse the dish in cold water to soak overnight. The next day, empty the tiella and wipe it dry. Rub the inside with olive oil and place in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 1½ hours. Remove seasoned tiella from oven and place on a wooden board or thick tablecloth to cool. (If placed on a surface like granite or a cold stovetop, it will crack.) To clean a tiella, soak it in warm, soapy water, then scrub with a soft sponge.

 

Meet the Author

 

Maria Loggia is one of Montreal’s best-loved Italian cooking teachers. Her Tavola Mia cooking school in the village of Hudson is a warm, inviting place to learn about Italian cuisine. She also appears regularly on television, is featured in newspapers and magazines, and leads culinary tours in Italy.

Maria finds inspiration in her Italian heritage and draws on family recipes that go back generations. She founded Tavola Mia, her at-home cooking school in 1999. Through her study of Italy’s regional cuisines, which has included numerous sojourns back to her native country, she has acquired great expertise in the art of Italian cooking. Her passion, humor and dedication to excellence have made her an inspiring teacher. Using fresh local ingredients, Tavola Mia celebrates the seasons in authentic, irrepressible Italian style.

 

An Interview with Maria Loggia

 

Maria Loggia from Pierre Blais on Vimeo.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/14703373]

 

Enter the Giveaway!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

July 15, 2014 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

A Tradition Worth Passing On

Baby Shower Gifts

When I was pregnant with my son I received a giant box in the mail filled with wrapped gifts. My husband’s aunt passed on the tradition of providing me with one gift for each prenatal appointment. I loved that I idea so much that I bought presents for my husband’s friend who was expecting their first bundle of joy last year. As fate would have it their child was born much earlier than expected and our goody bag of gifts turned into an impromptu baby shower of sorts.

When a friend of mine from college announced her pregnancy last year I knew that I wanted to continue the tradition once more. This is not the most practical way to provide for a new baby. It doesn’t involve buying items off their registry or buying one big ticket item they might really need. Instead it revolves around buying lots of tiny gifts that the parents-to-be can open each time they visit the doctor. The practical side of me says, “just wait and pick from their registry.” The part that loves this tradition says, “go find fifteen or twenty cute gifts the mother-t0-be will love.”

And so with that philosophy in my mind I went to the store in search of gifts for my friend. I took pictures of all the treasures I found, but unfortunately I cannot seem to locate most of them. It’s unfortunate because some of the most adorable items aren’t included in the photos below. Here are a couple of things I bought:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

 

All told I purchased seventeen items. I actually can’t believe I bought that many and didn’t notice how long the list had become until I wrote them all down! The practical side of me one out after all. In addition to all of these items I gave my friend an old stroller that was a bit too short for my liking. It was in perfectly good shape and I told her honestly that I was giving it away because I hated bending over to use it. For those who might be wondering… she is much shorter so the height shouldn’t be a problem.

July 10, 2014 at 9:31 PM Leave a comment

Buy the Latte and Go on Vacation: Why Conventional Money Myths Are Holding You Back

coffee

We see it all the time: Financial “experts” sharing their ideas for saving money.

“Think about how much you spend on coffee,” they all say. “At $3 per day, five days a week, you’re spending almost $800 per year on coffee!” Or you might hear these so-called experts advising people to purchase off-label or store brand items, to buy in bulk, only pay in cash or save every single penny, to the detriment of their personal happiness.

While no one is in any way suggesting that you should spend indiscriminately and never pay attention to price tags, much of the conventional wisdom about increasing your personal wealth is misguided, or simply wrong.

The Latte Factor Debunked

Many personal finance experts refer to the latte factor as an explanation as to why most people have trouble meeting their financial goals. The latte factor, simply put, is the notion that most spend too much money on little things and if they took the money they spent there and invested it, they could earn significantly more over time.

While it’s certainly true that compound interest can turn the $15 a week you spend on coffee into a few thousand dollars in time, what most people fail to realize is that the money that you spend on lattes doesn’t really add up to all that much, and it takes years to have that investment amount to anything. Other myths that hold you back?

  1. “Always Buy in Bulk.” Many people are seduced by the deals they find at grocery stores and warehouse clubs. Ten items for $10, or an industrial-sized jar of mayonnaise might seem like a good deal, but do you really need all of it? If you end up throwing half of it away because it spoils, is it a better deal?
  2. “The Lowest Price Is the Best Deal.” You can walk in to any electronics store and find a computer or television set for a few hundred dollars or less. But if those items fail in a few months and you have to replace them, you’ve now spent twice as much — how is that a better deal?
  3. “Cash Is Always Best.” Cash is a good idea for discretionary spending; if you can’t use your credit or debit card, you’re less likely to overspend. But never using credit cards for anything might not be your smartest financial move. Purchasing big ticket items on a no-interest credit card, for example, allows you to make the purchase using someone else’s money, as long as you pay it off before the rate expires.

These are just some of the myths that keep you from reaching your full wealth potential. And it’s not just that they can cause you to spend more or take your focus away from the bigger picture. The larger problem with these money myths is that they create a scarcity mindset. When you believe that money is scarce, and that you must avoid losing it, you don’t take the necessary steps toward building wealth. You’re focused on losses, not gains.

How You Can Grow Your Personal Wealth — And Still Enjoy Your Life

So how do you shift your attention toward increasing wealth, while still getting the most out of life?

Wallet

  1. Focus on income, not expenses. Most people concentrate on earning enough money to cover their expenses, not to get ahead. However, the only real way to build wealth is to increase your income, and to do that, you need to stop paying so much attention to what’s going out and increase what’s coming in.
  2. Spend money to make money. Let go of your scarcity mindset and recognize that sometimes spending money will make you more money. This could mean doing the renovations to increase your home’s value or investing in education or training to get a better job.
  3. Use credit wisely. Credit can be a powerful tool for building wealth. Use a card that offers cash or point rewards that you can use for a vacation or other items to pay your monthly expenses; if you pay the bill in full each month, you build your credit rating while also maximizing your income.
  4. Cut expenses realistically. If your pricey daily latte helps you stay productive, then it’s worth it. When you deprive yourself, you risk becoming frustrated and resentful — and more likely to overspend later on. Look for the places you can cut easily, and keep the things that make you happy.

Building wealth takes time, and does require some sacrifice. However, you need to make the right sacrifices and focus your energy in the right places — and that isn’t your coffee cup.

July 10, 2014 at 7:17 PM Leave a comment

Activities for Kids: 50 Things to Do This Summer

Summer

Not sure what to do with your kids this summer. Check out  50 things you and your family can do to combat the Summer Bummer! The list includes recipes, arts & crafts projects, books, educational materials, science experiments, and MORE! 

We’re hosting a party next weekend and I’ve already bookmarked quite a few activities and recipes I cannot wait to share!

This caterpillar is the first I want to complete!

caterpillar

Followed by this wind chime:

wind chime

July 10, 2014 at 2:14 PM Leave a comment

Regrets

paris

My ninety-one year old grandmother recently told me she regrets never traveling to Paris. She mentioned the desire to take a trip there ten or fifteen years ago, but I didn’t realize how important it was to her. At the time I was so entrenched in my own day-t0-day life that I failed to see how valuable that experience may have been for the two of us. If I could turn back the hands of time I would purchase two first class tickets and spend a week there with her. Now she is too frail to travel.

My grandmother is a feisty woman and I love to listen to her take on the world. “Everything is expensive these days,” she tells me. She wholeheartedly believes this to be true. After all when she was younger she earned a dime a day and a visit to the doctor cost her one solitary dollar. It’s amazing how much the world has changed since she was a child. I never get tired of hearing about horse drawn carriages and men who delivered milk and ice each morning. She’s convinced we are killing ourselves with prepackaged foods filled with preservatives meant to last for a decade. She told me she went to the market every day in search of fresh food to cook for dinner.

I hope to live another fifty-five years, but I wonder what the world will look like then. My grandmother’s parents didn’t own a car. How strange it must seem to her that my son can carry the entire world in his pocket via the iPhone.

I have regrets in life but most cannot be changed. I wish I hadn’t destroyed a high school friendship over a boy. I wish I had been nicer to the thirteen year old girl who was teased by all of the other students in our class. I wish I had learned empathy at a younger age and been kinder to those who were undergoing difficulties in their lives.

I wonder if my regret list will grow with time. Right now I have the health and ability to fulfill my dreams, but I know that neither of those two factors are guaranteed.

Photo Credit

July 8, 2014 at 3:18 PM Leave a comment

Stop! I Want Off!

Vitamins

Over the past two and a half years I dramatically cut back on clipping coupons and scouring drugstores in search of freebies. My primary reason was a desire to save time. It was a royal pain in the you know what to drag my infant son around from store to store, pull him out of the car seat, find a way to occupy him while I shopped, distract him while we waited in long lines and strap him back into the car.

I haven’t played the drugstore games for quite a long time, but when I found myself walking out of Rite Aid two weeks ago with $15 worth of +UP Rewards I could feel the urge to restart the coupon clipping madness. You can’t use +UP Rewards on the same day you receive them, which is of course Rite Aid’s tricky way of forcing you to return to the store to buy more items, so I knew I’d be back another day.

I typically purchase vitamins through Amazon’s subscribe and save program.  The combination of already low prices plus a 20% discount makes the final cost difficult to beat. For some reason I marked my frequency of shipments as every two months rather than every month and by the time I ran out it would have taken too long to receive the next bottle, so I dragged myself to the drugstore one Sunday afternoon and paid way more than necessary for vitamins. As a result of that purchase I earned $15 worth of +UP Rewards.

The following Sunday I was back in the store buying other products I needed. This time I spent a mere $1.68 out of pocket and received another $8 worth of +UP Rewards, thereby continuing the cycle. A few days later I was determined to use that coupon and end this madness but couldn’t pass up another deal resulting in a $6 coupon. Each time I walked into the store I spent less than $3, but I still had to plan my purchase, get to the store, wait in line and drive back home. This all resulted in much more time than I wanted to spend. I saved a good deal of money with those last two purchases, but when I accounted for my time it just wasn’t worth it.

What’s worse I found that a combination of sales, coupons and +UP Rewards often isn’t that much cheaper than buying the same products at BJ’s or Costco. So why go to the hassle of driving to the store every week, keeping track of just how much of a product I have on hand, reading through store circulars and clipping coupons when I can stock up on a product at a warehouse store and not need to shop again for three to four months.

I save a lot of time by shopping at warehouse stores three or four times a year. I also think my year end spending is pretty close to the prices I pay at drugstores without all of the work. I certainly spend less on unplanned items. While in the grocery store I was tempted to buy everything from cereal to large bouncy balls. I didn’t need any of those products despite the big signs alerting me to their sale prices.

Needless to say I wanted to end the Rite Aid +UP Rewards cycle and purchased one last item to use my last coupon. Wouldn’t you know the Rite Aid register had something else in mind. It printed out a coupon for $15 off $30 to be used on any purchase. Ugh!

Photo Credit

July 7, 2014 at 9:47 PM Leave a comment

Where Do You Turn For Money in Emergencies?

I am unbelievably fortunate. Since I first applied for a credit card I have never had to maintain a balance on my card. My income has always exceeded or at the very least equalled my expenses. As a result I have never been in debt. Thanks to my parents financial assistance I also left college free of debt. A gift for which I am beyond grateful.

It is easy to see how different choices can result in different outcomes. If I had chosen a more expensive college, stayed in school for a longer period of time or been born to parents who couldn’t afford to pay for my degree I may have started my twenties in debt.

In my mid-twenties I became unexpectedly ill. Luckily I had amazing health insurance and great employee benefits including short term disability, but if my circumstances changed ever so slightly, if I had been unemployed for example, I would have incurred a mountain of medical debts.

Change one key variable, parents who didn’t pay for my education or a job that didn’t include medical benefits and my financial landscape may look very different. The truth is that debt is often associated with carelessness and overspending, but sometimes we go into debt for reasons that are simply beyond our control. Although most of us believe our bodies are healthy and capable it only takes one injury or unknown illness to wipe out our savings and land us in a sea of debt.

Where do you turn when the unexpected begins to impact our finances? Do you have an emergency fund large enough to cover an unexpected crisis? If not, where do you turn? Many use credit cards, home equity loans and even help from friends and family, but what if none of these are available when you find yourself in need?

Some turn to personal loans and payday loans provided by companies like Wonga. In my opinion these services should be used as an absolute last resort. The amount of interest accrued will far exceed any of your other options and the cycle of debt and need to continually apply for more loans may continue indefinitely.

Wonga’s website explicitly states the following:

  1. You should always think carefully before committing to any form of credit.
  2. Our loans are intended for occasional use only
  3. You shouldn’t use our service to manage existing debt or if you’re already feeling the strain financially
  4. Our loans must be repaid within weeks
  5. Our service isn’t designed for long term borrowing and isn’t always the cheapest option

It is extremely important to read the fine print before signing up for any of these services, but sometimes life circumstances provide you with little choice. If you didn’t have an emergency fund, credit cards, home equity or family support where would you turn for money?

July 6, 2014 at 10:06 AM Leave a comment

Unfounded

I’ve always felt old beyond my years. Some children are free spirits. I was not. I was the serious type, always concerned about one thing or another. My parents are worriers and I wonder if I was born this way or if their behavior changed me. I never gave that idea much thought until I had a child of my own. Now as I watch my son I think a lot about who he is and how my actions may change him. I wouldn’t say I worry about it, but I certainly think about it a lot.

I am a worrier. As someone who often felt shy I worried about making friends, fitting in and feeling comfortable in my own skin. I remember reading the class rosters that came out every August and counting the number of classmates I already knew. Oddly enough I never had trouble making friends and despite my fears I often befriended the new kids and exchange students who transferred to our school. Everything always worked out alright.

Throughout my school years I constantly worried about my grades. I had a competitive streak and hard-working drive that made me crave straight As and positive recognition from my teachers. My worries were always unfounded. Throughout the years I always received near perfect grades.

During my teenagers years I constantly worried that I would never find love. I was always tall, finally topping out at 6’1” and little old ladies would often tell me men wouldn’t want to marry someone taller than them. During one very short elevator ride a woman told me men would find it unnatural to marry someone who looked down physically upon them. That woman whose name I don’t even know impacted my self esteem for years. I worried that I would never find love, but eventually married a man who is about two inches shorter than I am. He was never concerned about the height difference and as a result neither was I.

In my mid-twenties I ended up in the emergency room with a pulmonary embolism. As doctors failed to diagnose the cause of my clot I worried that I wouldn’t survive and that I would die of an incurable disease. It took many months to receive a diagnosis and many years to recover, but once again my worries were completely unfounded. If I didn’t tell you about my medical history you would never know that anything had happened to me.

During the time I was sick I worried that I would die, but oddly enough I worried more about the fact that I would never have children. I remember holding back tears as I walked through the neighborhood attempting to rebuild my strength and stamina. When I finally felt well enough to try to conceive I didn’t get pregnant easily.

Nearly six years after my embolism and recovery I now worried that I was too old to bear children. I constantly stared at the calendar dreading having my first child over the age of thirty-five. I got pregnant at thirty-three and delivered my son a few months after my thirty-fourth birthday. My pregnancy was easy. I was amazed that my body that always felt so broken was able to carry and deliver a child.

When my son was small I worried that his speech was delayed. I scoured the Internet for articles on speech delays and treatments. He reached all of his other milestones with such ease that I seemed stuck on the fact that he couldn’t seem to master this one. Since that time his language has exploded. In fact, he now speaks in longer sentences than any of his peers.

Lately I started to worry that we won’t have another child. It took us a year to conceive my son and many months have passed since we started trying for another. First I worried about whether or not it would happen and then I worried that even if it did happen the gap between my first and second would be larger than I ever expected.

On a walk to the playground I began to feel a bit overwhelmed with my worries. I looked deeply into the eyes of my son and forced myself to stop focusing on them. I realized two very important things. First, I am grateful for all that I have and am blessed beyond my wildest dreams. The world is filled with sob stories much bigger than my own. Second, when I started to reflect on all of my past worries I realized that everything worked out in the end.

In every instance I can ever remember things worked out just fine. I made friends, got good grades, found an amazing husband, healed, got pregnant and delivered the most amazing child. I don’t know if we will have another child or not, but I certainly need to focus more on my blessings and less on those things that I cannot control anyway.

July 2, 2014 at 1:42 PM 2 comments

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