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New Year’s Resolutions….there’s an app for that.

It’s not even halfway through Janury yet and almost everyone I know has already started losing their steam on their resolutions.  So, here is some cool stuff to get you all remotivated and tickled pink about getting to your goals.  Yup…there’s an APP for that!

Top resolutions? (Totally unscientific…just looking at all the ones that I’ve tried and lost my will on over the years. )

Lose weight.  Check.

Exercise more.  (OK…did that one.)

Make more money. Check.

Spend less.  Check.

Save more money.  Check.

Quit smoking.  (Did that one.)

Etc, etc.

There is a company, Tecca , which is a gadget site for women (love that!) and they’ve actually come up with a selection of their favorite resolution apps.  Here you go:

1. Save time and your waist-line by eating at home- Answer: Ziplist (free for iPhone and Android)

Make meal planning and shopping a breeze by saving your favorite recipes from the web or even TV to your iPhone or Android. The best part is that with a click, the ingredients to any recipes can be added to your mobile shopping list, guaranteeing you never forget your list when you hit your grocer.  Shoppers save time by not having to back-track through the store, or forget those little impactful ingredients like a pinch of parsley. And by eating at home, you are more likely to save money and eat healthier because you know all the ingredients.

2. Succeed at Weight Loss- Answer: MyFitnessPal

Lose weight with MyFitnessPal, the fastest and easiest to use calorie counter for Android. With the largest food database of any Android calorie counter (over 1,100,000 foods), and amazingly fast food and exercise entry, we’ll help you take those extra pounds off!

3. Keep Track of Personal Finance and Budget- Answer: Mint  [Note:  I use Mint and I love it.  A great service although they try to solicit upgrades. JS]
This personal finance app puts all your bank, credit card, investment and loan accounts in one place, making it easy to stay on top of your budgets and spending. You can add cash transactions – a handy on-the-go feature that will help you track where your money goes at all times.

4. Quit Bad Habits- Answer: MyQuit Coach
MyQuit Coach application allows you to design a personalized plan to help you quit smoking. Through this intuitive iPhone app, you’ll evaluate your current status, set attainable goals and adjust preferences according to your needs. You’ll have the option to choose to quit smoking right away or gradually decrease your daily nicotine intake. Personalized inspirational photos, motivational tips and progress charts will keep you on track while achievement badges will reward you for progress. And you’re not alone with a
built in social support circle and the ability to update your Facebook and Twitter as friends cheer you on. [Note:  I think this one is a good idea now that it looks like Nicotine gum and patches aren't doing the trick. JS]

5. Get Organized and Improve Time Management- Answer: Action Complete
Action Complete app is a task manager allowing you to create Projects, which are the larger goals comprised of individual Actions, Waits and Pending items that may come with completing a project. Every task and project can be tagged and associated with specific people and places, and the app offers several sorting options to sort by tag, people, places, urgency, or project. [Note: I'm a big fan of Google applications -- and I use Google Tasks relentlessly.  Takes time to transition to a paperless to-do list, but it really works well. JS]

Let me know how you are doing on your resolutions and if any apps you have found are doing the trick for you!

Goat Rodeo Sessions …live

January 31st is my daughter’s birthday and I always seek something special on that day.  And I think I’ve just found it.  Due to the technology that allows it,  on Tuesday, January 31st, my daughter and I will attend a virtual concert of The Goat Rodeo Sessions LIVE featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Stuart Duncan and guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan.

NCM Fathom and Sony Masterworks have brought the four string virtuosos together to  perform songs off their collaborative album, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, at the House of Blues® in Boston, which will be broadcast live to theaters nationwide.

Tickets for The Goat Rodeo Sessions LIVE are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com. For a complete list of theater locations and prices, visit the NCM Fathom website (theaters and participants are subject to change). The event will be broadcast to more than 430 select movie theaters across the country, which I think is extremely cool on many levels.  It is rare for most people to afford to go to a live concert with artists of this calibre.  It is even rarer for mainstream population to have access to these artists unless they are in a city where a tour is taking place.  This brings the power of live to 430 different venues across the US and the chance to see such talent in this type of collaborative effort is stunning.  The music is not for everyone’s tastes.  The combination is like a blue-grass, jazz, structured jam session.  It is exciting music, with unexpected and intense twists, jumps, and turns.  From Sony:

While each artist is a prominent figure in his own music sphere, the group came together as a unified ensemble on a most remarkable and organic cross-genre project.  The Goat Rodeo Sessions is an 11-song recording of original compositions that has been dubbed “genre proof” by the group. The music feels both new and familiar – it’s composed and improvised, uptown and down home, funky and pastoral, and above all, uniquely American.

I agree.  For a partial sound sample of the released album, here you go.   “Attaboy” will have your heart racing, your feet tapping and your head bobbing in about 5 seconds.  And “No One But You” will have just have your heart.  Great talent and great music. LIVE. Enjoy. At $15/ticket, I know my daughter and I will!

Guest post from About Plastic Surgery

There is a new search site/community board focused on plastic surgery (breast).  At About Plastic Surgery,  you’ll find FAQs on topics from breast augmentation to breast reduction. There is a national surgeon locator and other good information on the topic.  The following advertorial, from the staff at ABS, previews some of the info you’ll find there.

Many people do not understand exactly what the process of a plastic surgery procedure entails. Generally, we have been socialized to think that plastic surgery options are sought as artificial enhancement to retain their youth.  And, while this view is not entirely false in all cases, it is important to know, if you are curious about the subject of plastic surgery, that there is often more to
it than this. While plastic surgery does indeed involve artificial changes in appearance,  we all know of the broad scope of applications — from breast enhancment, to recontruction and reduction.

A good procedure to use as an example in exploring this assertion is breast-centered plastic surgery, often referred to simply as breast augmentation.

Breast augmentation tends to be an easy surgery to point to for people who are cautious regarding plastic surgery. Regardless of the reason (cosmetic or surgical necessity), breast surgeries address all sorts of different issues that people may have with their bodies.  Many women with naturally large breasts explore plastic surgery as a means of breast reduction, due to soreness or discomfort resulting from heavier breasts. Additionally, many women who have battled cancer and had to have part or all of their breasts amputated, turn to plastic surgery for reconstructive purposes. Our site, About Plastic Surgery, offers specific and focused information on this topic, explaining different types of breast surgeries, and the specific medical procedures involved in them.

While breast augmentation is often used as a procedure for enlargement, researching some of its other uses can help you to understand the general scope of plastic surgery, and its implications.  Understanding the full scope of the concept and range of procedures may help you to determine your own feelings on the subject.  Some people turn to breast augmentation, liposuction, rhinoplasty, etc. out of a desire for more youthful and attractive appearances. Others seek to address natural imperfections, or areas affected by sickness or injury. Whatever the case, and whatever your feelings on it, the capability of plastic surgery reaches beyond what you might expect.

What gift to consider this holiday season…for that person who has everything!

There is nothing more frustrating, especially when you are scrimping and saving on every last dime, to find the right gift for those you love, know well and…who basically…don’t need anything.  So here is the first installment of some of the sweet pickings I’ve been able to find.  Unique, interesting, and since they all appealed to me, I figure they might appeal to you!

First is an unusual memoir/cookbook by none other than the always amazing Linda Evans.  Yes, I have a fireplace, and yes, I LOVE to curl up with a good book.  But what I love the best is when I can curl up with a good book and smell dinner cooking in the other room.  For those of us boomers who watched every episode of Dynasty with bated breath, Linda Evans was beauty personified.  But who knew she was a great chef, too?  In her truly delightful book, Recipes for Life, My Memories, Evans weaves her life story with recipes from those periods in her life, including recipes from many of her celebrity friends (like Leslie and Tony Curtis’ Lemon Souffle with Raspberry Sauce!).  It’s an inventive take on creating a memoir and the peek inside her life and her ability to rebound (with gusto) from the bumps in the road of her life, make for a really fresh read.  Here’s a freebie recipe:

Linda’s Famed Artichoke Dip
By Linda Evans,
Author of Recipes For Life: My Memories

I’ve been making my artichoke dip for years. Practically everyone who has ever tasted it has asked me for the recipe. It’s perfect for large parties or for smaller, intimate gatherings. Or when your husband’s ex-wife comes to dinner! The secret here is to use the artichoke bottoms, not the hearts. Artichoke hearts may be easier to find, they don’t produce the same results. The recipe easily doubles or triples for large gatherings. You can also replace the artichokes with 7 ounces of lump crab meat for a delicious variation.

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Tabasco (or more, to taste)
1½ tablespoons thinly sliced scallions (white part only)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (I prefer Parmigiano-Reggiano)
1 (13¾ ounce) can artichoke bottoms (not hearts), drained and finely diced

Preheat oven to 350°F.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese with the mayonnaise. One by one, blend in the Tabasco sauce, scallions, and Parmesan.

Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the artichokes (don’t use the mixer for this).

Spoon the mixture into a 3-cup baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with crackers.

The above is an excerpt from the book Recipes For Life: My Memories by Linda Evans.

Here’s a coupon site that gives as it receives.  What if every purchase you made at 2,500 retailers (from Amazon to Zales) earned a free donation for your favorite charity?

GoodShop.com is an online shopping mall that donates a percentage of each purchase from more than 2,500 stores to the charity or school of your choice.  I’ve tried it out and while I couldn’t find some of the charities I wanted to donate to, I was able to find enough to make this site worthy of a mention.  It also provides over 100,000 of coupons and free shipping deals so you save a bit of money. If you are an online shopper, like me, this is a good find.

Chocolate.  Chocolate.  So many choices and isn’t it nice to find something new and interesting in the world of chocolate?  Yum…Frangelico Truffles are created by renowned chocolatier, Maribel Lieberman, chef/owner of MarieBelle Fine Chocolates in New York.   

The truffles are available at Neiman Marcus stores and online (for those without a Neiman Marcus near them) and come beautifully packaged in five different assortments to chose from, starting at just $15– a reasonably priced for the chocolate lovers in your life!

Forever in Blue Jeans, Baby.   The master of making a Boomer swoon, Neil Diamond, is justabout to release a long-awaited compilation CD of 23 of his best-loved hits from the 1960′s to 2008.  With his inside recollection liner notes and the authenticity behind the original studio recordings, who wouldn’t want this as a Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or … ANY kind of reason for a present?  Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings The Very Best of Neil Diamond – The Original Studio Recordings on Tuesday, December 6.

I’ll let you know what else I find that is super special.

A job is becoming a dim memory for many unemployed

Far too many friends and acquaintances have been unemployed for more than a year.  Some since the recession hit and the first wave of layoffs came roaring in.

It is no surprise that our aging Boomer population would be hard  hit, but the length of unemployment is. Watching savings dwindle to zero and finding yourself unemployable due to age and often skill set, can be heartbreaking.  Here’s a rundown of the pickle we are in.

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_6775/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=XKi5F7Ys

Changing homes

If I’ve been suspiciously silent over the past few weeks it is because I was caught up in end-of-summer business frenzy combined with selling my old home and moving to my new home.  I held onto my home of 12 years after having decided when I initially moved in, to move in 3-5 years.  And before the blink of an eye, I had stored a decade plus of memories inside those lovely walls.

It was very hard to make the choice to move (I had my house on and off the market for about 2 years) but I saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  To sell my house (yes…at a big markdown because of the housing market collapse) and convert the remaining equity to a home that would satisfy my needs for another decade.

As a self-employed person, it was almost impossible to get a mortgage (just as it is impossible as a small business owner to grow a business other than self-financed and organically in this bank-driven market).  I can personally say that the banks have the money and don’t want to lend money, even to those that can prove they can repay their debt.  But I found the one bank and loan officer that were willing (and excited) to partner with me.

The conversion from one home to another will only increase my monthly outlay by a small bit, and one that I can shoulder, even if the economy recedes a bit. So that was the financial challenge.

The process of moving, both financially and emotionally, so greatly parallel the political arena that I am compelled to make the comparison.  In order to get the credit, my past laurels didn’t count.  I had to show I could repay debt in a way that the banks would accept.  That was tough.  Virtually impossible and required leveraging  every possible opportunity.  My family came through where I needed them to, and I’m financially beholden to them now, in addition to the banks.  I doubt that blood will pursue me for favors as a lobbyist would, but, say I were running ….  I don’t know…let’s say…a country…those that had given me money for my house might want to use a bedroom, or a bathroom, or part of the garage from time to time, if they needed it.  And I’d have to agree.

The emotional challenge was something else and much worse.  Like a political party, my memories and emotions were deeply entrenched in the home I had lived in.  My daughter’s childhood flavored the wood walls.  My dogs scratched their ways across the oak floors.  My mother and I enjoyed many an afternoon breathing in the scents of rose and lavender and jasmine from our beautiful garden.  We had a multitude of family gatherings and celebrations around our dining room table.    We shared zucchini and freshly baked muffins with our neighbors, watched their cats and dogs when they needed help with a feeding or a potty break.  My daughter learned to ride a bike on our street.  We ate peaches and apples from our trees.  Knew the best candy at the best houses on Halloween.  Built a community. Shaped my life and my business around my home.

Packing up was painful.  What to toss, what to keep, what to donate.  What furniture was a must keep and what was a do not move?  In the end we tossed about 50 full garbage bags of unusable items (found in every nook and cranny you can imagine), donated about 20 full bags and boxes of items to Vietnam Vets, gave away a piano, washer, dryer and fridge.  I deliberated over so many items and cried many times due to my reluctance to give up my past.

When we walked away from our home for the last time, I thought my heart might break.  My daughter hated me for ripping her away from her home and my mother was definitely a bit wobbly on her feet after, literally, a month of packing and a couple of years of wavering upheaval.

Fast forward, exactly a month later.  I didn’t think about my old home with any sort of regret from the moment I set foot in my new home.  Nor has my mother.  Not one second.  That surprised me more than anything else.  My daughter hated me for a couple of weeks, but is starting to love me (and her new room) again.

Big lesson learned? Much of the furniture I had such angst over keeping (and which is now here) doesn’t match this house in character or style, and I should have donated or sold it without batting an eye.  We took our old memories and let them drift into this new home.  What is really clear is that those old memories really are in the past.  The new home is for new rules, new memories, new celebrations, new budgets, new neighbors, new resources, different and new.

When I ponder the standoff between the two political houses (well, really 3 now with the fractured Republican/Tea party) I see them sitting in their houses, glaring at each other across the aisle (like neighbors fighting over building a shared new fence), holding onto past glories, past doctrine and…basically…the past.

Obama gained traction because he really thought he could effect change, and in our imaginations, we thought he might be able to.  The Tea Party (I don’t agree with their position, but recognize their popularity) gained traction because their supporters really thought they could effect change.  No one expected this level of stalemate, posturing and obstructionism.  Occupy Wall Street is continuing to gain traction, because the people have had it.  The political dysfunction needs to end.  To change a house, all parties really, really need to move from the old house.  Toss out old, carefully choose who they accept favor from (not just go for the money) and create a different house.  New, different, no old furniture.  A new kitchen and see how to make an omelette in a differently configured workspace.  Shore up the infrastructure, fix the electric panel so the house doesn’t fry, forget the fence feud and make friends with the new neighbors, cut down the big tree if the roots are threatening to pull up the entrance to your driveway (cuz you HAVE to be able to go in and out), fix the sprinklers if the grass is dying of thirst, and change the pool water if it hasn’t been emptied in 25 years, cancel DirecTV, Netflix, and landlines, if you need the extra $ to balance the books, buy local and organic to support your new ‘hood and build this new experience from a new perspective.

Hang an old picture in a new spot.  Buy a new picture.

Buffett: Rich Should Pay More Taxes

This is a must-read. Tell me you don’t agree with Warren Buffet… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/15/buffett-rich-should-pay-m_n_926839.html

NYT: Voices Faulting G.O.P. Economic Policies Grow Louder

Such a dramatic juxtaposition of the disconnect between ideology and governance.

A post on Time Goes By captures Tea Party members cheering to news of the S&P downgrade of the US economy.

Today the NY times talks economic necessity for America.
http://mobile.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/business/economy/voices-faulting-gop-economic-policies-growing-louder.xml

Debt reduction…the new American Dream

Well, as a country we are in a bit of a pickle.  The government is being held hostage by a very right wing agenda.  The concept of compromise, which is the foundation of any good functioning government, has been replaced by intransigence.  The rich will get richer and the middle class, working classes and disenfranchised are at the short end of the stick.  Our debt load is too high from 8 years of Bush-era spending and then the Bush/Obama infusion of capital to the finance industry…again, on the backs of our children and grandchildren.  It’s not looking pretty.

As I ponder all this in my apparent addiction to the news and the messages coming from both parties, I can’t help but think of my own house and  how most Americans survive when revenues fall short and costs climb.

So here’s how most of us do it.

1) We look at our revenues so that we know what is coming in.  In my case, being a small business,  I have seasonal trends and an unstable revenue stream, but I generally know what is coming in and can project what will be coming in based on the economy as it is today.  A huge number of people are on unemployment and that income may be all they have to count on.  Another chunk of the population are working part time or are bringing in virtually no revenue at all.  In the past, Americans counted on increasing their debt load to manage revenue shortfalls in order to pay the bills.  Currently, all those with challenged credit either have no credit cards, lines of credit or any equity to leverage, or have chosen to go the cash only route.

2) We look at our expenses.  From mortgage or rent payments to chocolate chips cookies.  We look at all of it.

3) We figure out what is a must-have and what is a nice-to-have.  For each person those definitions are slightly different, but I think we can agree on shelter, transport, food, education, health care, shoes, clothing (things to cover our otherwise naked bodies), emergency fund.  Everything else can go if money isn’t there to support it.

I’m a single mom.

I must care for my child — have a safe place for her to rest her head at night.  If I had no money for my rent or mortgage, I’d have to move in with friends or family.  If I had no friends or family in LA, I’d have to move to where friends and family were willing to help.

I must have a car in Los Angeles.  In other cities, I could abandon the car.  In LA, not an option.  I don’t need a new car with high payments.  I could have a used car, or even a severely used car as long as it was safe.  If I had to give up the car, I would.  I’d bike, take public transit, change my routine if possible.

We must eat healthy food, she must go to school and we both need shoes and clothes.   We do eat healthy — it costs a bit more, but we also give up buying packaged and preserved foods.  It balances out but we are healthier as a result of good, fresh food.  My daughter goes to public school.  If she were in private school, I’d transfer her to public school in order to make ends meet.  We could both make do with one or two pairs of good shoes and a few changes of clothes.

Medical coverage – If I could continue to afford my medical coverage, it would remain a top priority for this family. If I needed government support, I’d take it.

Austere?  Yes.  But we’d survive in the short term.  In the long term, while we could survive in austerity, we wouldn’t grow.  Because we’d be stuck in poverty.  So I’d have to look at my revenue options.  Ways in which I could earn money.  If my business dried up, I’d look at anything from cleaning peoples homes, to consulting on small business and everything in between, until I figured out a way to bring in sufficient revenues to climb out of the hole.

Does that ring true to you?

Wouldn’t you like to see all our politicians live on unemployment for a year and see how they’d do?  What would they do?  Where would they cut and how would they find ways to bring in additional revenues while cost-cutting.  At some point they’ll remember what life for most Americans is.  And maybe at that point they’d understand how to balance out the country’s budgeting woes, stop catering to the top percentage of the uber-rich who will continue to earn tremendous amounts of money as they swoop in and buy bargain price stocks yet again.  You can cut costs all you want, but in a recession/depression/shrinking world economy/double triple dippity-doo, KNOWING that your tax revenues will falter, you have to look at where to possibly bring in more tax revenues and from those that are hurting the LEAST, not suffering the most.  In your own house, you would NEVER say you wouldn’t look at ways to bring in more revenue.  That’s shooting yourself and your family through your two pairs of shoes.

Myths and Facts About the Debt-Ceiling Compromise | The White House

If you haven’t received this via email (you can get on the email list at www.whitehouse.gov), here is a good schematic that shows you a top line view of what the debt ceiling agreement contained and how it was structured. 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/08/03/myths-and-facts-about-debt-ceiling-compromise?utm_source=email125&utm_medium=graphic&utm_campaign=deficit