I consider myself a lucky person. I typically focus on the positive over the negative and I wonder how that impacts my overall experiences in life. Do good things happen because I push aside the negative in favor of happy thoughts?

Here’s an example: It took my husband and I two and a half years to conceive two children. The good news: we have two children. I believe my struggle with infertility makes me appreciate their existence that much more.

Here’s another one: I suffered from not one but two fairly significant medical traumas over the past ten years. The good news: it could have been worse. I could have suffered from more serious problems or even died. Those medical issues have changed my outlook on life and in some strange way I am grateful for the wakeup call they created. I was lucky enough to have a husband who stayed with me, (WITHOUT WAVERING), throughout my medical crises.

And another: I was laid off days after giving birth to my first child. The good news: I had a high paying job that allowed me to save a significant amount of money during the twelve years that I worked. I made smart financial moves in those early years and had a healthy financial cushion in place to catch my fall. So healthy in fact that I decided to remain out of the workforce after my son was born.

There have certainly been negative things in my life, but I prefer to focus on the positive. A family member recently asked about my son waking in the night. I told her, “I am not sour at the idea of losing sleep. I am grateful that I have a child to tend to.” Of course, I crave more sleep, but looking at the bright side certainly helps me through those early morning hours.

Life seems too short to focus on the negative. There are so many amazing things to feel grateful for!

May 22, 2015 at 2:51 PM 1 comment

Simply Annoyed


In just a few days my family will leave for our annual beach vacation. We take two major trips to the beach each year; one that marks the start of summer and one that marks the end of it. I’m in charge of figuring out everything we might need, packing it up and more often than not trekking it out the car.

As my three year old is constantly growing I decided to order new pajamas for our trip. I walked into a children’s store and walked out with two new sets pajamas. For some silly reason I decided to search for a few similar sets online and noticed that the price was $4 less for the exact same pair I purchased just a few hours earlier.

The store is nearly an hour away from my house, so it certainly doesn’t seem worth a round trip that would save me less than $10. I know this is not a ton of money, but it still irks me.

Today I encountered a similarly frustrating scenario. I bought a pair of blue water shoes online for my son. I didn’t notice that the shoes came in multiple colors and simply purchased the color displayed on the screen. The next day I decided to buy a second pair, (my son isn’t a fan of putting on cold, wet shoes), and discovered that any color other than blue was at least $7 less. Ugh.

I know these types of things won’t make or break me. In the big scheme of life it is only $7 here and $8 there, but I’m still super annoyed because I feel like both scenarios could have been prevented.

In the first case I could have searched online before buying the pajamas in store. In the second case I could have searched for various options and compared prices before pushing the checkout button.


May 18, 2015 at 6:58 PM 2 comments

Book Review: Lucky Strike

Book Description:

By the award winning author of ‘The Dogs of Winter’, Bobbie Pyron.

A rich, southern voice tells the unforgettable story of two vulnerable outsiders, the lightning strike that turns their world upside down and the true meaning of lucky.

Nate Harlow has never had a lucky day in his life. He’s never won a prize, he’s never been picked first, he’s never even won a coin toss. His best friend, Genesis Beam (aka Gen), believes in science and logic, and she doesn’t think for one second that there’s such a thing as luck, good or bad. But only an extremely unlucky person could be struck by lightning on his birthday… and that person is Nate Harlow. By some miracle, though, Nate survives, and the strike seems to have changed his luck.

Suddenly, Nate’s grandpa is the busiest fisherman in their small, beachside town. And Nate finds himself the center of attention, the most popular kid at school, the one who hits a game-winning home run! This lucky streak can’t last forever, though, and as a hurricane draws close to the shores of Paradise Beach, Nate and Gen may need more than just good luck to save their friendship and their town: They need a miracle.

My Thoughts:

I think of myself as a lucky person. In fact I talk about quite often and I’ve written about it a few times too. I am fortunate in more ways than I can count, but I feel straight up lucky too. I’ve won my fair share of raffles and contests. A couple of times I’ve felt a certain tingly sensation in my body prior to winning. During one particular raffle I read the numbers on my ticket aloud and just knew I’d win.

My brother feels the complete opposite way. He often says I received the ‘good luck’ from my dad, while he received the ‘bad luck’ of my mother, but I wonder how much is really luck and how much is perspective. My brother tends to approach situations negatively, whereas I typically think positive thoughts my just turn my luck around.

I love how the author discusses luck throughout the book and how the character Genesis Beam attempts to understand it.

After Nate tells Gen how his luck has changed she discusses the concept with her mother. She says, “I keep telling him there’s no such thing as luck, good or bad. Although it is an interesting theory, and it does seem things have been going his way. But that could just be self-fulfilling prophecy, couldn’t it, Mama? I mean because he thinks he’s lucky, he has succeeded more, right?”

Her mom responds, “Well that could be, honey. Maybe he’s gotten more self-confidence because he believes his luck has changed, and you and I both know Nate’s never had an abundance of self-confidence. But on the other hand, how do you prove the difference between the the power of belief and the magic of luck?” I love that question. I have often wondered if I am lucky or if I just feel that way.

I connected deeply to this book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If you’ve ever thought about luck and what makes a person lucky I highly recommended it.

May 15, 2015 at 8:00 AM 3 comments

Book Review: Going Against the Grain Italian Style: A Gluten-free Life Guide and Recipe Book

against the grain

Book Description:

This two-part book is a vital adjunct to any home attempting to be gluten-free. The first part guides you through early diagnosis and is an essential guide for any beginner diagnosed with celiac disease or some form of gluten sensitivity. You will learn how to identify symptoms of the disease, how celiac disease is diagnosed, and the consequences if left untreated. It will help you to understand how to read labels and how to manage your gluten-free home in a shared environment. It outlines practical advice for parents of children with celiac disease as well as tips for eating out and dealing with social settings such as special occasions or when traveling. Honorary foreword provided by renowned Dr. Peter HR Green, MD – Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.

Growing up authentically Sicilian, Nuccia Ardagna thought that getting rid of gluten meant giving up her favorite traditional foods, but that could not be further from the truth! Nuccia combines her passion for eating amazingly Italian with her new dietary needs to bring you scrumptious, traditional Italian (and Sicilian) recipes. From simple, classic appetizers to decadent desserts you thought you could never enjoy, every recipe is easy-to-follow and offers beautiful full-color pictures throughout. You can feel confident about entertaining guests and family with these mouth-watering recipes. You can eat healthier, feel better, and truly enjoy living gluten-free while never having to sacrifice great taste! In this book, Nuccia not only shares her personal story with celiac disease but also the recipes she grew up with at home and uses to entertain guests. Look for the bonus section at the end of the book along with a section dedicated to her favorite links and resources.

We hope you enjoy the book and find it helpful in your journey.

My Thoughts:

This is certainly not your typical cookbook. Before digging into a plethora of delicious recipes the author, Nuccia Ardagna, provides specific details about celiac disease and her own struggle with this disorder. It seems many doctors failed properly diagnosis her illness.

The author personalizes the disorder by providing a personal account and history of the disease within her own life. As someone who has suffered from rare disorders it was interesting to read about the events and illnesses that ultimately led to the author’s proper diagnosis. It took over four years for doctors to uncover the disorder that made her horrendously ill.

The author advocated for herself and persisted through a series of misdiagnosis before finding a doctor who could classify her illness.

Ardagna is not a doctor so she provides an introduction to the book by a doctor who specializes in this disorder. She also provides information to help those who think they may suffer from celiac disease. She writes about the specific tests that lead to proper diagnosis including blood tests, endoscopies and colonoscopies.

The author also discusses the changes required to keep a gluten-free home. She writes in detail about cross contamination and about sticking to the gluten-free diet even after you begin feeling better.

Ardagna’s goal is to provide gluten-free recipes that are just as tasty as similar recipes that include gluten. She covers a wide range of appetizers, desserts and main courses with step-by-step instructions and gorgeous color pictures of the dishes you can create.

Whether or not you suffer from celiac disease these recipes look absolutely scrumptious. I can’t wait to try out a few this week!

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

May 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM 1 comment

A Mother’s Day Gift to Myself


My husband came home this week and told me his coworkers seemed stressed and annoyed with the expectations of Mother’s Day and the gifts they need to buy their wives. I’m not a fan of all the fluff and stuff associated with major holidays. A few years back a male coworker said “I don’t want to disappoint my wife, but I have no idea what to buy.” That seems like a lot of unwanted stress; a husband feeling stressed over his wife’s disappointment.

I’m a fan of giving gifts and performing nice gestures at random times throughout the year. I’d give up holidays like Mother’s Day in a heartbeat for a nice back massage on a Tuesday evening or french toast cooked on a Sunday morning alongside my newborn and three year old. Forget fancy jewelry and roses, both seem like a complete waste to me.

The best thing my husband could do is exactly what he did. Yesterday he processed the hundreds of photos I shot over the past two weeks.

I’ve always been a perfectionist and before my children were born I absolutely refused to pick up my husband’s camera. I didn’t think I’d master the art of photography so why even bother.When my son was born my perspective changed completely.

The first photographs I took were too dark, improperly focused and poorly balanced, but I didn’t care. The sweet face looking at me through the other side of the lens was worth capturing no matter the end result.

I’ve picked up that camera multiple times a week for the past three and a half years and now have two beautiful children to capture.

One of the best mother’s day gifts is one I gave to myself. The ability to look back over thousands of photographs that capture the tiny, miniscule changes as my infant son transformed into a little boy.

Alongside the photographs are hundreds of videos that capture the sights and sounds from a baby who cooed and giggled to a toddler just learning to speak. I pull that video camera out a few times a week and record events that seem utterly mundane. There we are cooking dinner together. There we are watering the flowers, washing rocks and picking flowers.

When I look back I remember how my son talked, the sounds he could or couldn’t make, the phrases he repeated and the way he skipped and hopped throughout the rooms in our house. I have memories of many of these events, but its so easy to forget the tiny details.

When my son was just a few months old I began writing a journal. My initial intent was to record my thoughts and feelings so that he could know how much I loved him. As time progressed I realized the journal was a gift to myself. It’s like a time capsule that I can open anytime I want. A time capsule that reveals my most intimate feelings.

On this Mother’s Day I looked through the photos, both new and old, watched a few videos and revisited the journal I began so long ago. My intention was to leave these gifts as a legacy to my children. I now realize the true gift is for myself.

May 10, 2015 at 5:42 PM 1 comment

The Future of Consumer Financial Freedom: Mobile Point of Sale and P2P

The last five years has seen a radical shift in the ability of consumers to move their money quickly and efficiently. Two major technologies that have changed the way consumers send and receive cash are mPOS (mobile point of sale) and mobile P2P. The Mobile payments infographic shows that 40% of North American consumers are using some form of mobile payment – this lags behind Africa and Asia. By 2016, there will be an estimated 447.9 million mobile payment users throughout the world.

As smartphones, tablets, and other wireless devices are integrated into consumer daily life, the demand to utilize these technologies for payment purposes is a natural progression. Mobile point of sale converts smartphones and tablets into cash registers, allowing small businesses and individuals to process credit and debit cards. Person-to-person (P2P) allows individuals to transfer money to one another using mobile apps or social media. Both technologies seem to have picked up steam with consumers, and promise to branch out in the future.

mPOS implementations allow people and businesses to perform financial services in place. Common services that profit from this arrangement include hairdressing, food services, and artistic services. Although mobile POS only made up around 0.01% of total retail POS volume in 2012, experts predict that over the next six years this payment form will reach almost $5.4 billion. P2P is the new kid on the block in terms of mobile payments. Mobile apps and social media networks are developing ways to allow consumers to give money to each other for everyday things like splitting the checks at restaurants and paying utilities. Forrester, a market-research firm, predicted that mobile P2P payments in America will reach over $17 billion by the end of 2019.

The next few years will see an outrageous growth in mobile point of sale and P2P. Although these technologies have given consumers more control over how and when their money is processed, it also presents the need for competent mobile payment processing. Experienced mobile payment processors like, can help consumers process mobile payments and ensure against the issues of fraud and chargebacks that can occur.

May 8, 2015 at 5:11 PM Leave a comment

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl PART FIVE

Aoleon The Martian Girl PART 5

Book Description:

Aoléon, Gilbert, Bizwat, Helios, and Zoot make it to their final destination – Cydonia where Aoléon’s parents are being held captive. They infiltrate a secret underground base and are confronted by a small army of sentrybots.

Bizwat lends Aoléon and Gilbert some of his advanced combat skills via a psionic brain dump. However, this may not be enough to save them from overwhelming hostile forces that will do anything to stop them.

They finally meet Pax – the Martian who originally set them out on the mission to discover the truth about the Luminon and his plans to invade Earth. However Pax is not who he seems to be, and through a turn of events, they uncover the true power behind all that has been happening on Mars.

Will they be able to rescue Aoléon’s parents and save Earth from invasion?
Read part 5 to find out!

My Thoughts:

If you enjoyed reading the first four parts of the Aoléon the Martian Girl series you will certainly have fun reading this one. The story kicks off right where part four left off with Aoléon and Gilbert attempting to put a halt to the Martian invasion of Earth.

The action packed adventure includes a series of battle scenes as the two main characters attempt to fight off the evil Martians who are intent on stealing Earth’s cows.

The author includes many images in this book that help the reader visualize the alien creatures as the struggle between good and evil persists. It would certainly be fun for the reader to use his or her imagination to form a mental image of the aliens and the world they inhabit, but I enjoyed viewing the colorful, computer generated images created by the author. The depictions of battle scenes are filled with bright colors and scary alien faces. I particularly liked the interplanetary images of planets and spaceships. There is a realistic approach to the pictures. The wheat in the Nebraska farm appears three-dimensional and the light bouncing off the planets reminds me of images from the international space station.

In this book the author returns more to the action and adventure aspect of the series and focuses less on the character development realized in part four. While I enjoyed reading about the armed conflicts I must admit that I missed the character building of the previous book. The action and activity were interesting and fun but I hoped the in-depth and insightful conversations between the characters would continue throughout the final chapters. Nonetheless this was a fun book to read and a good way to end the Aoléon series.

Meet the Author:

Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys. He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel. He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

Connect with Brent:   Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Aoléon: The Martian Girl

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

May 8, 2015 at 8:00 AM Leave a comment

Book Review: Bridges of Paris

Bridges of Paris

Book Description:

Bridges of Paris is a large-format coffee-table book, with over 350 original color photographs, which casts new illumination on the City of Light. The 37 bridges over the Seine River emerge as beautiful, historic destinations rather than unnoticed thoroughfares. The book features stunning portraits of each bridge as well as intimate riverside moments. Once you’ve experienced this river tour, you will never see Paris the same way again.

Living as a Parisian for a year, author Michael Saint James left his American lifestyle and spent his days and nights capturing images from over, on, beside and under the bridges of Paris. With over 30 years experience as a photographer, educator and world traveler, Michael immersed himself in French culture to search out his authentic artist self. The result is a visual treasure to share with everyone.

My Thoughts:

Fifteen years ago my grandmother mentioned her desire to visit Paris. Her interest in fashion and aesthetics drew her to that one particular spot on the globe. One afternoon we talked about her lifelong regrets; the various decisions and actions that she would change about her past. The things she would do differently if only a magic genie could grant her the chance to change her personal history. Number one on that list was failing to visit Paris in her twenties.

At well over ninety years of age her opportunity to visit the city has passed. She has neither the means nor the stamina to travel long distances. If she miraculously managed the flight she certainly wouldn’t be able to walk the cobbled streets. Her romantic vision of pausing to look in store windows and stopping to dine in French bistros is no longer possible.

When I was offered the opportunity to review this book I jumped at the chance. I knew my grandmother would love to look at the images and I decided to pass this book along as soon as I finished reviewing it. The book contains hundreds of photographs of the city’s bridges.

The author includes both large-scale photographs of the bridges as well as detailed pictures that capture the intricate designs and engravings.

My favorite photographs were captured in the early evening as the sun sets over the city and at night where the lights seem to dance off the page.

This is a beautiful coffee table sized book that I know my grandmother will love. The next best thing to visiting a place is watching documentaries, reading books and looking at pictures of a place you long to see. I know my grandmother will love seeing the people and sights captured by Michael Saint James.

Author’s Bio:

Michael Saint James’ artistic pursuits include award-winning book design, film editing, and sound recording, as well as his first love, photography. Saint James is a world traveler, having visited more than 50 countries – doing everything from photographing penguins in Antarctica to trekking the Himalayas.

As an educator with California teaching credentials, he has taught media production and technology arts as well as photography, art history and visual storytelling. He is an expert speaker on Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Indeed, he walked in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps through the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in order to immerse himself in that troubled master’s vision.

The father of two grown children, Saint James once owned a café in Berkeley, California. He has bicycled from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C. and is rumored to play a mean blues harmonica.

Connect with Michael:  Website Twitter  ~  Pinterest

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

May 6, 2015 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

Is It Time To Fix Your Home Loan?

The main question on most people’s minds, particularly in our current financial climate, is whether it is time to fix their home loan. So what’s the difference between a fixed and a variable rate home loan?

A fixed home loan has the same interest rate for the duration of the fixing period. Most home loans are fixed for 1, 2 or 3 years, but you can also fix your interest rate for 5 years. The longer the time frame, the higher the fixed interest, so banks can off-set any potential losses if interest rates rise. At the end of the fixed period, your home loan reverts to a variable rate, unless you re-fix the interest rate for another term.

A variable rate home loan has a varying interest rate, which is calculated daily and in general reflects the RBA interest rate. As the RBA varies its interest rate, so the interest rate on your home loan also varies.

You don’t have to settle for one type of loan, you can actually fix part of your home loan and leave the remainder variable. This gives you the advantages of both worlds and gives you a buffer if interest rates rise dramatically.

Now you understand the difference between these two types of home loans, here is a short list of the advantages and disadvantages of a fixed interest rate.

Advantages of fixing your home loan

  • If you fix wisely, you can lock in a very low interest rate for up to five years.
  • If the interest rates sky rocket all of a sudden, you won’t suffer from escalating repayments.
  • If you are on a tight budget, you always know what your repayments will be each month.

Disadvantages of fixing your home loan

  • You can’t take advantage of interest rate drops, because your repayments are fixed.
  • You can’t make extra monthly repayments.
  • You might be able to make an extra payment every 12 months, but this is capped.
  • Fixed rates are usually higher than equivalent variable rates, at the start of your loan.
  • If you want to refinance, you may have to pay a penalty to break the fixed time frame.
  • If you want to repay your home loan, you may have to pay a penalty to break the fixed loan.
  • Redraws on extra yearly payments is not always available.

In general, the most common reason people fix their home loan is because they are on a low income and it is easier to budget for fixed monthly costs. Another good reason is when interest rates are very low – but you must accept the disadvantages of a fixed loan as well as the advantages.

Call Newcastle Permanent home loans for more information on fixed and variable mortgage rates.

May 5, 2015 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

Storing Versus Buying at a Moment’s Notice

toy box

My husband and I are not always on the same page about money. In his recent quest to rid the house of unwanted clutter he’s discussed a new philosophy I’ve nicknamed just buy it again. He told me to get rid of everything I don’t want to part with fully knowing that nothing is particularly unique and that everything can be purchased again.

The frugal side of me is fighting against the clutter-phobic side of me. If I had to pay to store these items I would get rid of them in a heartbeat. I would simply sell and donate everything we owned and start again when and if the need arises. But since I don’t have to pay to store them, (I can find space somewhere in my house), the penny pincher in me doesn’t want to risk paying for things a second time.

Space now exists where stuff once stood and my husband is adamant that we stick with our minimalist basement. When our monthly shipment arrived from Amazon’s Subscribe and Save he nearly lost his lid. “How many tissues do we need? How much toilet paper?” The answer is quite a bit. My son often refuses to use a tissue more than once. The result: a lot of tissues end up in the wastebasket each day.

Along with the just buy it again philosophy my husband is attempting to institute a just in time approach to our belongings. His philosophy is not to keep a lot of stuff on hand. There is no need to stock up on supplies when Amazon Prime can ship most packages to our home within two days. The prices aren’t as low as they would be with sales and coupons, but they are most definitely lower than the retail price at most brick and mortar stores. He is willing to pay a little bit more to keep our rooms spacious and open.

I’m still struggling with his concept. We have very limited storage space at our beach house and my son has outgrown the majority of toys we keep there. Our younger son is at least a year or two away from playing with these items. Is it in our best interest to donate the toys we own and simply buy them again when the time arises or try to cram them in some small space just so we don’t have to buy new toys many moons from now?

The answer seems simple; donate the stuff we don’t need and buy it again if we need it in the future, so why can’t I convince my frugal self to do that?

May 4, 2015 at 5:54 PM 4 comments

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