Wednesday, May 19, 2021


Did you receive a call from 1-833-664-3312? If so, it's a scam.

Yesterday, 5/18/21, I received a call from a Renee Bennett, who claimed in a voicemail to be with the mediation department of a law firm called Jacobson and Wright. Renee, who knew my name, claimed that I was in a breach of contract, and that there were allegations against my Social Security number, including allegations that I may not be aware of. She said it was important I call her back at 1-833-664-3312, ext. 105.

I'm posting this here as a sort of public service announcement. Sadly, many people fall victim to calls like this, and I seek to do what I can to educate others about these types of calls. Two major clues that quickly stood out in my mind that this was a scam call - I know I haven't entered into any contracts lately, and it's safe to assume that a legitimate concern or dispute would have prompted a letter to be sent to me. I've received no letters in the mail. Furthermore, Renee mentioned "allegations" against my Social Security number, which immediately smells fishy. I didn't call Renee back, but if I did, I most likely would have been prompted to "confirm" my Social Security number, and/or "verify" other personal information.

Be on the lookout for calls like these, and do not respond.

For more tips, check out this previous post, Protection from hackers and scammers.  

Friday, May 14, 2021

The benefits of a community garden

Get to know your neighbors by creating a community garden

Creating a community garden is a great way to get to know your neighbors. After all, the seeds of friendship are often planted as people work together toward a single goal. Even valuable networking opportunities can grow out of a community garden project.

So, what's the first step in creating a community garden? Deciding when and where to hold a community garden meeting. Ideally, aim for a date in early spring before planting season arrives. Once you've decided on a place and time for the meeting, post the meeting details on a community notice board or spread the information between neighbors through word of mouth and/or social media. Many neighborhoods and subdivisions now have their own social media pages and groups where news, information, and recommendations are shared by neighbors and local businesses.

On the day of the meeting, have the group decide the specifics of the garden. Will it be a visual garden, a vegetable garden, or both? Also, decide who from the group will obtain any needed gardening supplies and take up a collection to cover the expected expenses.

Once it's time to create the actual garden, seek out the experienced gardeners in the group and pair them off with the group's novice gardeners. Such pairings can create instant connections among group members and will allow those of all skill levels to contribute to the project with greater ease.

Please note that certain locations require residents to obtain a permit or other permissions before implementing a community garden project. If this is the case in your area, then be sure to get the proper permissions before undertaking such a project.

End-of-season clothing sales

Save money on clothes by shopping at end-of-season sales

If you don't mind not having the very latest fashions, you can save plenty of money by shopping at end-of-season sales. Moreover, if you can wait for an item to reach the most discounted rack in the store, then you can expect to save up to 80 percent on your purchase.

To give you a better idea about when to shop for your different wardrobes, here is a general timeline for end-of-season clothing sales:

Spring clothes: April through June
Summer clothes: July through September
Fall clothes: October through December
Winter clothes: January through March

It should also be noted that certain specialized items tend to go on sale around the same time each year. These items include formal party wear in January, bridal gowns in April, athletic clothes in May, and bathing suits in August.

Also, keep in mind that while the larger discounts do tend to occur near the end of a sales cycle, the longer you wait, the less of a selection you'll likely find. If you wait too long before buying an item, it may sell out at your local retailer. If there's a particular piece of clothing that you have your heart set on owning, consider purchasing it at a mid-range discount to lower your odds of it selling out in your preferred size, color, or style.

Save money on non-essential spending

Save money by tracking your non-essential purchases

It's easy to lose track of your spending if you don't pay attention to your purchasing habits. Inexpensive non-essential purchases, in particular, can be especially harmful to your overall budget because minor splurges tend to fly under the radar more often than larger, more substantial purchases. To get a better handle on your finances so you can find areas of potential savings, consider using a spreadsheet or notebook to track your non-essential purchases.

When tracking your non-essential purchases, take note of the categories in which your purchases fall. For instance, if you grab a drink at your local coffee shop each morning, consider labeling such purchases as "morning coffee" so you can better track the true cost of your morning ritual. Regardless of the specific labels you choose, just remember that the more categories you track, the easier it will be for you to spot areas of potential savings.

After a month or so of tracking your non-essential purchases, you should have a decent idea about where most of your discretionary money is going. This information is key and if used correctly, can help you save money. After all, once you know where most of your discretionary money is going, you can cut back on your spending in the worst offending categories. Armed with this knowledge, the rest is up to you. So long as you commit to making a serious effort, savings should be noted almost immediately.

Best season to buy a house

Real estate buying tips: When is the best season to buy a house?

Many eager home buyers are quick to create a list of must-haves and preferred neighborhoods. Most of these same buyers, however, end up overlooking the benefits and drawbacks of going house shopping in a particular season. That said, do seasons really matter when buying a house and if so, is there a "best season" for prospective buyers to make a purchase? Well, the answer will depend on your personal circumstances. Below are some of the benefits and drawbacks of buying a house in the spring, summer, fall, and winter, so you can better decide if you'd benefit from purchasing a home in a particular season.


Spring is typically the season when the highest number of real estate listings hit the market. That's why it is the perfect shopping season for home buyers wanting the largest selection of homes to choose from. Unfortunately, spring is also the busiest season for buyers, so you are likely to face heightened competition if you choose to buy a home during the spring.


Summer is the preferred buying season for most families with school-aged children as moving over the summer won't interrupt the school year. Unfortunately, the convenience of moving over the summer often drives up home prices as many families enter desperate bidding wars in hopes of securing a deal before the new school year begins.


Fall often coincides with better home prices due to the decreased interest among families with school-aged children. While the inventory of available homes does tend to decrease as fall arrives, you may find that many sellers become quite motivated to make a deal at this time of the year so they can avoid a winter move.


Winter is usually the slowest time of the year for real estate sales and as such, house prices are generally at their lowest point during the winter months. If you are looking for the cheapest home prices of the year, then you should probably buy a house in the winter. Unfortunately, winter moving does present certain challenges like having to deal with adverse weather conditions and colder temperatures. Another downfall is the further into winter you get, the less inventory you'll likely have to choose from.

There are various benefits and drawbacks to buying a house during a particular season. While it's entirely possible to find the perfect home in any season, you may find that shopping during a specific season better compliments your personal circumstances. Hopefully, now that you know some of the benefits and drawbacks of buying a home in the spring, summer, fall, or winter, you have a better idea about which season's benefits fall more in line with your personal circumstances.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Christmas trivia

Did you know? Christmas trivia edition

With Christmas just around the corner, there's no better time than now to expand your Christmas knowledge. To get you started, here are three interesting facts about the December holiday.

1. If you were to gift your true love with all of the gifts mentioned in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", you'd be gifting them a total of 364 gifts.

This includes 12 partridges (each in their own pear tree), 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens, 36 calling birds, 40 gold rings, 42 geese a-laying, 42 swans a-swimming, 40 maids a-milking, 36 ladies dancing, 30 lords a-leaping, 22 pipers piping, and 12 drummers drumming.

2. The Statue of Liberty is quite possibly the world's largest Christmas gift ever given.

The French gifted the United States with the Statue of Liberty on Christmas Day in 1886 to commemorate the two countries' allegiance during the American Revolution. The statue stands 151 feet tall from the base to the torch.

3. The first and last American states to give Christmas Day legal holiday status were Alabama and Oklahoma.

Alabama became the first American state to give Christmas Day legal holiday status in 1836. The last American state to do so was Oklahoma in 1907 when the state joined the Union. While Alaska and Hawaii were not yet part of the Union in 1907, both territories had already made Christmas Day a legal holiday in years prior.

If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in our previous post, "How to save money on Christmas gifts".

How to save money on Christmas gifts

Five ways to save money while Christmas shopping

It's far too easy to overspend while shopping for Christmas gifts - especially if you don't know what you want to buy and if you leave your shopping until the last minute. So, to help keep you from overspending this holiday season, here are five ways to save money while Christmas shopping. After these five tips, we also discuss the Four Gift Rule, another easy strategy you can implement to save money on your Christmas gift list.

1. Start early.

Your gift options will be limited if you wait too long. This means, you'll probably end up buying anything that grabs your interest, regardless of how much the items cost. By starting your Christmas shopping early, you can take advantage of additional sales cycles and be more selective about what you buy.

2. Make a list.

Before you go shopping, make a list of people you need to buy for with ideas about what you'd like to get each person. Bringing a thorough list of the items you'd like to buy can help keep you from accidentally buying too much for certain people. Overspending on certain people often leads to overspending on others to maintain a sense of balance.

3. Shop online.

Online shopping allows for easier price comparisons, so shop around online to find each item's best price before spending any money. Do be sure to factor in the cost of shipping when comparing prices, however, and look for free shipping options whenever possible to further increase your savings.

4. Get couponing.

There are various couponing apps and websites that provide coupon codes and printable coupons for many of the more popular stores. You can often save fifteen percent or more by simply typing in the right coupon code or handing over the right printed coupon during the checkout process.

5. Use moneyback apps and credit cards.

Moneyback apps and certain credit cards will give you back a percentage of your total spend amount from every qualified purchase you make. By simply clicking through an app or paying with the right credit card, you can receive a little money back each time you purchase a gift.

Saving money while Christmas shopping doesn't have to be an impossible task. By starting early, making a list, shopping online, couponing, and using moneyback apps and credit cards, you'll be able to avoid overspending this holiday season and maybe even get a little money back in return.

Christmas on a budget: The Four Gift Rule

If you're strapped for cash this Christmas, you might be looking for new ways to cut back on your spending. One way to do this is to enact the Four Gift Rule. So, just what is the Four Gift Rule? It's exactly what it sounds like, but with a small twist. While the main idea is that you only give four gifts to each participating person, the small twist is that you must prepare a gift for each category of want, need, wear, and read.

By following the Four Gift Rule this Christmas, you can drastically cut back on your overall gift spending, while ensuring that each recipient receives a gift they want, a gift they need, a gift they'll wear, and a gift they can read. Be sure to consider each gift carefully because the key here is quality, not quantity.

Another benefit of having a four gift Christmas is that you'll also save money on wrapping supplies, which too can be quite expensive. Plus, you'll spend less time picking up piles of wrapping paper after the gift exchange, so you can spend more time enjoying the rest of your day with family and friends.

It can be hard to find ways to cut back on Christmas spending, especially if you have a large list of people to buy for. That is why ideas like the Four Gift Rule can be quite useful during the holiday season. So, if the Four Gift Rule sounds like something you'd like to try this Christmas, then don't hesitate to suggest the idea to any family members or friends that you tend to go a little overboard on. If all goes well, then the Four Gift Rule might even become your newest Christmas tradition!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Conserve water with native plants

Conserve water by stocking your garden with native plants

As the fresh water supply is on the decline in many areas, people are continually looking for new ways to conserve water. One little used method of conserving water is to swap out your garden’s current selection of plants for ones that are naturally found in your area. Doing so may require a visit to your local nature reserve or nursery, but in the end can be well worth the extra effort.

Though it can take a little research to figure out which plants are native to your area, a good place to start is your local nature reserve. Here you will be able to find an assortment of plants that could do well in your garden. When looking for plants, try to look for ones growing in similar soil conditions to that of your garden. If your garden is typically dry, look for plants that are thriving in sandy or stony soils. If your garden is in a marsh-like or otherwise moist area, look for plants thriving in wetter conditions.

Though most nature reserves do not allow you to dig up and remove their plants, some will allow you to collect seeds from certain areas. Always be sure to check with reserve personnel, however, before removing any plants or collecting any seeds just to be on the safe side.

If you aren’t allowed to remove any plants or collect any seeds from your local nature reserve and are unsure about what a particular native plant is called, then take a few pictures of it and leave a message in a ‘what type of plant is this?’ forum thread. More often than not, a forum member will know exactly what kind of plant it is and will be happy to tell you what it is called. Knowing the name of the plant will allow you to search for it in online seed catalogs and make a purchase.

Another place you can look for plants native to your area is your local nursery. The nursery’s staff should be quite knowledgeable about their inventory and should be able to point out any kinds of plants currently for sale that are native to your area. They should also be able to help you decide which of their native plants would do well in your yard’s typical soil conditions.

Once you have found a native plant to add to your garden, it will be time to prepare your soil. This may include adding some sand, stones, or organic material to help your plant thrive in its new location. For best results, always try to replicate the soil conditions from the plant’s original location.

Also be sure to water any newly planted seeds, seedlings, or plants to help them adjust to their new area and promote growth. Once the plants have sufficiently adjusted to being in your garden, you will be able to wean them off any additional water as your area’s natural rainfall should be more than enough for the plants to thrive.

Do remember, however, that native plants will still need to be watered on occasion. If you are experiencing a drier than normal stretch, be sure to water occasionally so the plants in your garden will survive until the next rainfall. A rain barrel system used to naturally collect rainwater can prove very useful when trying to both conserve water and keep your garden watered during periods of drought.

As native plants will have no trouble thriving on your area’s natural levels of rainfall, they can be a great addition to your water-conscious garden. By choosing to use plants that are native to your area instead of ones imported from around the world, you won’t have to water your garden nearly as often as before, allowing you to conserve more water around the yard.

Growing an herb garden

In this post, we discuss how to grow an herb garden. In particular, we look at lighting needs for specific kinds of popular herbs, and how to harvest, dry, and store your fresh herbs when they're ready for picking.

Herbs, whether fresh or dried, are a wonderful way to quickly add rich flavor to all kinds of dishes. Depending on what herbs you're growing, they can greatly enhance pizzas, pastas, salads, salsas, eggs, meat and seafood, desserts, and more.

Ideal lighting conditions for growing popular herbs

Different types of herbs thrive under different lighting conditions. The following list includes the ideal lighting conditions that should be adhered to when growing many of the more popular types of herbs.

Herbs that prefer to grow in full sun include:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
Herbs that will thrive in full sun or partial shade include:
  • Chamomile
  • Chives
  • Lemon balm
  • Mint
  • Parsley
Proper lighting is an important part in the success of any herb garden. By growing your herbs in an environment providing their ideal lighting conditions, you will be helping them to reach their full potential in size, fragrance, appearance, and most importantly, flavor.

How to harvest, dry, and store fresh herbs

Fresh herbs from the garden are an excellent way to add a little spice to your life. Drying some of those herbs allows for that same spice any time of the year - even when they are out of season. Not only is drying your own herbs a cheaper alternative to purchasing them at the grocery store, but it's also very easy to do. The following four steps will explain all you need to know about how to harvest, dry, and store your own fresh garden herbs.

#1 - Harvesting the herbs

The best time to harvest fresh herbs is just before the plant begins to flower. At this time, the flavor will be at its peak. The type of herb will determine where it should be cut. Annual herbs should be harvested from ground level, while perennial herbs should be cut from about one third of the way down the stem.

On the day you decide to harvest your herbs, you should do so during the late morning hours - preferably after the morning dew has dried, but before the leaves have started to wilt in the afternoon sun. Certain herbs like oregano can be harvested multiple times per season to obtain the maximum harvest from the plants. Each variety of herb is different, and some extra research into the specific types of herbs you plan to harvest is recommended.

#2 - Washing the herbs

Wash the herbs quickly using cold running water. Be sure not to over-wash the herbs as this might affect the flavor. As you are washing the herbs, remove anything that appears less than optimum. This includes herbs with wilted, discolored, and diseased leaves. Once the plants are clean and the unusable ones have been removed, lightly pat them dry with a paper towel and set them aside.

#3 - Binding the herbs

Separate the washed herbs into small groups and remove the leaves at the base of the stem. Two or three inches of clear stem works well. Use a twist tie to tightly hold the stems together and then hang them in a warm, dry, dust-free, and well ventilated area away from direct sunlight. It is important for the stems to be tied together tightly as a small bundle, or the stems will shrink and the herbs will fall.

#4 - Drying and storing the herbs

Actual drying times will depend on the moisture content of the individual herbs. Most types of herbs such as bay leaves, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme will dry in around two weeks. Once they have completely dried, remove the stems and store the leaves (either whole or crushed) in an airtight container. Store in a cool place.

Check the container daily during the first few days of storage. Moisture from herbs which haven´t been fully dried can quickly lead to mold in air-tight containers. If you spot any condensation, remove the herbs and continue drying until the remaining moisture is gone.

Fresh herbs from the garden can be a welcomed addition to any meal during the summer months while they are readily available. Now, with a little extra effort, anyone can enjoy the flavors of home-grown herbs throughout the rest of the year, as well.