Sunday

2013 Here We Come!

I haven’t blogged for a while; the news just seems to go from bad to worse.happy-new-year-2013-wallpapers-hd-03 Our president got re-elected and then promptly amps up the regulations and refuses to budge on any budget issues.  It truly seems he wants our economy to fail.  Maybe the plan is that he then gets to come in and save the day and look like a hero?  Who knows.

Troubling issue #1: the fact that many companies that hold strong religious beliefs that are counter to new Obama Care laws may be forced to go against those beliefs anyway!  Hobby Lobby, a Christian owned company has stated that they are determined to not institute the portion of the health care law that requires them to offer abortion inducing drugs to their employees.  Catholic schools and business are in similar predicaments.  Their request for an injunction has failed and they will face massive fines each day if they do not comply.

First Amendment—states that “Congress shall make no law that respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Troubling issue #2: Is our Second Amendment right to bear arms about to get trampled on too?  The rash of recent mass shootings has people all over our country calling for tough gun laws and even outright bans in some cases. How short-sighted can everyone be.  The people who are intent on doing evil will obtain whatever weapon they want, regardless of any law!   Taking guns out of law abiding citizens weakens our nation to no end.  Now, I don’t particularly like guns, but I know historically what has happened in countries where strict gun laws and even confiscation has occurred.  Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy are good examples. Gun confiscation paved the way for the evil tyranny and the inability for the general populace to stand up for themselves.

[Note: One New York newspaper is even publishing the names and information on legal gun owners!  http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/12/29/NY-Paper-Doubles-Down-Publishing-More-Gun-Owner-s-Names-and-Addresses]

Troubling issue #3: Is our horrible economy.  It continues to surprise me that the famed “Consumer Confidence” ratings show any confidence by consumers – at all.  For some strange reason the general population of the United States believes everything is going pretty OK, maybe not great, but OK.  Well, in 2002, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted 7.4% U.S. debt of GDP in 2012.  Guess what?  It is over 74%!  That is absolutely unsustainable.  When will people wake up and see that we are in serious trouble?  Check out the analysis by James Pethokoukis here from the Public Policy blog of AEIdeas.

We hear about this “Fiscal Cliff” which apparently is going to hit our country in January.  Neither the Congress, nor our President can seem to negotiate any kind of deal to put together a plan that strikes a balance between cuts and tax hikes.  It is all about which side wins.  That means none of us win.

There are more issues; I think of them everyday.  But here are just a few to start out our new year.

In spite of these issues, I’m personally excited about 2013.  Except for a bout of the flu these last two weeks, my health has been fantastic.  My job has been challenging, but stable.  Hubby is back to work and the finances are in great shape.  Our plan to spend more time alone together is set in motion as of yesterday.  We put money down on a beautiful Motorhome (owned by his boss) that we will take possession of probably around May/June, just in time for summer.  I’m excited to take weekends away and explore our beautiful state. We will plan a nice long vacation in 2014 and take my dad with us; I’m thinking Yellowstone, or maybe back to Bryce Canyon.  We loved the scenery and hiking when we were there in 2011.

So, Happy New Year everyone! 

 

Friday

Is There a Storm Brewing?

ID-10039226It has only been a month since I read in the Seattle Times that housing prices here in the Northwest were finally starting to climb again and then we get hit with more bad news.  It seems not a day goes by when I don’t see some economist or another stating dire predictions for Europe and the Euro and the ramifications for us here in the U.S.  It’s a global economy now, so all that impacts us whether we like it or not.

We see things like: the stock market has taken hits these last few months after looking better earlier in the year and overall consumer confidence is down (see article here).  Just today, employment/unemployment numbers came out and the U.S. job situation took a big hit with lower than expected jobs created in May.  Jon Talton, a writer for the Seattle Times states, “With the decline in labor-force participation, the unemployment rate badly underestimates joblessness” and that "average hours and weekly wages fell.” These job numbers resulted in stocks plummeting – yet again.  It seems it is bad news, bad news, and more bad news. 

Are we in for a triple dip recession?  Did we ever come out of the one we’ve been in? I don’t think so.

So what am I going to do about it?  I’m going to continue my quest to become more self sufficient. I like what Phil Burns called “standard of living insurance” in his Five Principle of Preparedness article. He says, “we can provide our families with the assurance that we will be able to maintain a certain standard of living.  This standard of living is dictated by the level of preparedness we are able to achieve and maintain.” He reminds us all that we have house insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance and other types of insurance to help us get by when something ill befalls us.  But have you thought about food, water, electricity, and other bare necessities if something occurs to disrupt the supply of those crucial items?  As Phil says, “a hedge against calamity”. It doesn’t even have to be a economic, natural or other type of disaster even.  What if there were a job loss, or someone got ill and couldn’t work to the point it impacted your ability to purchase these necessities?  Being prepared is a lifestyle choice not many people make; however, I urge anyone reading this to consider stocking up on essentials. 

Our modern world has seen us become a nation of people who live week to week off of what we can buy in a store.  That, my friends, is not being prepared.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday

Ouch!

For the last year I’ve been blogging about economic struggles that I believe will only get worse for some time to come.  I to continue to encourage frugality, learning how to be self-sufficient by getting back into baking, canning, gardening.  It is important to keep our vision clear about the truth of where our economy is headed and not keep our heads in the sand – in denial – about the fragility of our situation here in the U.S.

For the last few years the alarm bells were being rung only by a few, usually considered conspiracy theorists. Today we hear the chime getting louder with mainstream media joining in.  I used to blog about this several times a month, but it has gotten so prevalent that I can’t even keep track of all the gloomy economic news.  Not a day goes by where I don’t see or hear about the fall of the Euro or the decline of the dollar.

I’m not afraid or worried though.  Our family has worked hard over the last two years to get out of debt.  We have been gardening, canning, and learning how to bake.  Those are skills that most of us have lost (or never had) since the by-gone days of our grandmothers.  I can proudly say I can make a great loaf of bread from scratch; in an oven, not a bread maker.  I can make great soup out of dried beans.  I have a  wonderful recipe for butternut squash soup that my daughter and I concocted.  It is truly a comfort food recipe. I even cut my husband’s hair now.

However, it seems we can’t get away from dismal news.  Yeah, the unemployment figures fell below 9% for a change (though I believe that it simply means people “fell” off the unemployment rolls because their benefits expired).  I was tweeted a link to an article in the Business Insider by Joe Weisenthal, 12/3/2011, just this morning about a continued decline in the housing market.  This one really hits home because we have a rental business with many houses in our portfolio.  Michelle Meyer, the well-known housing analyst for Bank of America’s mortgage lenders, says it's "far from over" and that prices still have another 7% to decline.  This is due to the huge inventory of homes in foreclosure with more to come.

Ouch!

So, I’ll tighten the belt more so we can be positioned for success for years to come, regardless of the markets and overall economic outlook.  I’ll make a bigger garden next spring and figure out how to make a better whole wheat loaf of bread.  I’ll work on buying only things I need and of good value that truly contribute to our home; cutting out the frivolous spending.

I needed to lose weight anyway.

Friday

Are You Kidding Me!

The big recession ended in 2009, right?  Ask anyone on the street and see if they agree.  I read a CNS News article this last week where the Democratic National Committee Chair (DNC) said that “…anyone can see the economy is improving.”

Are you kidding me?

Robert Kiyosaki, the author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and other titles, is even warning of a possible economic collapse.  I heard an interview with him the other day where he said the situation is dire and  estimates about a 20% chance of collapse.  Sure we’ve handled dire economic struggles in the past and survived, but the issue is that we are so much more “global” now with technology, that even if we were doing ok, the economic downfall of other nations affects us now.  Add in that we are NOT OK, well we all are feeling it.  High unemployment, rising taxes, higher food prices, home foreclosures, and more.

1. The 2010 census shows the housing bust is the worst since the Great Depression, with home ownership falling to 65.1% last year. (AP article on 10/6/2011 by Hope Yen)

2. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, says that the “World is facing the worst financial crisis since at least the 1930’s ‘if not ever.'” (The Telegraph article on 10/6/2011 by James Krikup)

3. Moody’s cut the rating on 12 UK financial institutions this last week.  (CNBC article on 10/7/2011 by Antonia van de Velde)

4. Credit rater Fitch downgrades Italy and Spain – again. (Reuters article, 10/8/2011)

5. Per person debt is now $44,980 up higher in the last 2 1/2 years than that from all presidents combined. (CNSNews.com article 10/5/2011 by Terence Jeffrey)

6. Bank managers surveyed don’t believe home prices will recover before the year 2020. (CNBC article 10/1/2011 by Karina Frayter.)

7. The Biggest quarterly drop in the stock market since the 2008 financial crisis.

 

Anyone still think we’re in recovery??

Sunday

New York, Tomato Soup, and Berries

fruit-bowl

What do New York City, Tomatoes and berries have in common?  I can think of a few things off the top of my head like: each have a “seedier” part, and some people like them, some don’t.  But what I really had in mind was that they are all things my husband and I enjoyed this last week.

New York City

Why is New York City called “The Big Apple” anyway.  I didn’t see a single apple tree growing – anywhere.   I had to find out so I turned to my favorite source of information: Wikipedia.  It turns out that a writer for the New York Morning Telegraph, John J. Fitz Gerald, coined it in the 20’s and continued to use it repeatedly in articles.  Other writers joined in over time and, there you have it. (See the Wikipedia article on it here).

I managed to find a great airfare sale and got tickets for New York for $450 round trip for both of us. We had visited back in 1999 and James had always wanted to go back.  So, when the sale popped up, I snagged it.  I really needed a break from a busy work schedule, so the short trip was just what I needed.  We spent the first day with a car and headed south into New Jersey to visit the beaches. 

250px-Sandy_Hook_lighthouseWe picked Sandy Hook to visit and weren’t disappointed.  What an amazing place.  It has the oldest working lighthouse in the United States.  It also used to be a huge fort that protected the waters going into New York. The spit of land is very strategic as it juts into the lower New York Bay.  All boats pass it as they head into the large city.    There were quite a few bunkers, guns, and buildings all still intact.  There is still a row of  large officer homes, most in disrepair, that face the west and have lovely views of the water and beach.  Some of the homes and buildings are now museums.  We climbed up to the top of the lighthouse and even with a muggy, grey day, we had great views of Staten Island and Brooklyn which was directly north. You could faintly see Manhattan beyond that.  Sandy Hook is part of a large park system called Gateway National Recreation area that is one of the largest on the East Coast.  It covers three separate large areas of Brooklyn, Staten Island and Sandy Hook which contain a total of eleven parks. The vast bay separates all three areas.

The following day we took a shuttle into New York and found our hotel. We spent the next few days riding the “Hop on Hop Off” bus and catching the history and memorable areas of the city.  We visited Times Square the most.  We found out that advertisers are required to keep those signs lit up 24x7.  There are serious consequences if they don’t stay lit, fines and repeat offenses can result in the ads being booted off the famous square.

Tomato Soup

My garden has been producing a LOT of tomatoes.  Even with giving many away, I have way too many to eat, so I made home made tomato soup.  Now that is a comfort food.  Sautee some onions, garlic, add in a lot of chopped tomatoes, broth, basil (also from my garden), simmer, add in some cream and then blend up in the blender.  As Rachael Ray says “Yummo!”

I still have more tomatoes, so I think I’ll make some spaghetti sauce next.

Berries

I live near a walking path that is rarely used and is LOADED with blackberries (with no sprays or intervention by man).  We picked some about two weeks ago and made a home made cobbler.  It was hot out of the oven and oh so tasty!  I’ve decided that I need a lot more so I can make some jam.  That sounds like a great way to store up fresh, organic preserves that will last the winter.  I’ll probably do that today.

So I’m prepping for winter by getting myself rested on a nice vacation, putting up my tomatoes, picking berries, and oh yes, I almost forgot – I bought two big sweaters in New York.

Fall – bring it on.IMG_0123