Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Novel Start to Hope and Faith

Check out the opening to my novel, Hope and Faith, and weigh in with your comments. I've posted the beginning to the novel on my Hope and Faith blog. Does it grab your interest? Do you care about the characters? Should it be a Prologue or a Chapter 1? Do you want to read more? Your comments are appreciated!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saving Money on Your Food Bill

Over the past few years, my husband and I have experienced both un- and under- employment situations. We've had to tighten the belt and curtail spending like so many Americans these days. We can do little about taxes. Saving on utilities is marginal, and only with some effort. So our focus now is on saving on our food bill. Groceries and dining out account for a fairly large proportion of our overall spending, so here are some of the things we are doing to save.

In no particular order – 10 easy and practical ways to save on your food bill each month.

  1. This one is a no-brainer. Eat before you shop. Hungry tummies prompt you to buy more.
  2. Plan your meals ahead of time, and buy just what you need. The easiest way to do this is to make a list and stick to it! Wait...I think this one is two ideas.
  3. Shop alone, or at the least, without kids. The more shoppers, the more eyes to land on tempting point-of-sale displays, which results in impromptu buys.
  4. Use coupons. While it may take a little more time, the money saved makes it worth it.
  5. Grow your own. Fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs are fun to grow and provide unmatched taste, along with cost-savings. Growing healthy foods might even entice kids (or adults) to try them.
  6. Match coupons to grocery store sales. Find the best deals and save the most money by using coupons for items already on sale. The Grocery Game is a subscription site that helps you do just that. For more information, visit If you decide to sign up, I'd appreciate if you entered me as the referring member. They give 12 free weeks for every three members referred. Use this email address: Sheryltut (at) Comcast (dot) net.
  7. Buy generic if you don't have coupons for a particular item. Often there is little difference between the name brand product and generic equivalent.
  8. Frequent shopping trips often result in more money spent. Even though you may only plan to pick up one or two items, it's too easy to add more. Try shopping just once weekly.
  9. Cut out the junk food. Highly processed foods typically cost more because they have to pay for all that...well, processing (duh). Cutting out junk food will not only save you money, but provide you with healthier eating choices too.
  10. Eat at home versus eating out. Keep it interesting by trying different menus. Have your ingredients for meals on hand (from the list you made in item 2), but have a few easy meals ready also for those evenings when cooking isn't an option.

What do you do to save money on your food bill?

Please share your tips and tricks in the comments. I'm looking forward to reading your ideas on saving money on the food budget!

Monday, July 20, 2009

How to Manage Multiple Social Networking and Communications Accounts

Social networking is all the rage, and if you're like me, you've jumped onto the social networking bandwagon and signed up for sites like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. You probably have at least one, if not more, IM accounts, and multiple email accounts too for personal use, work, or hobbies. It's fun to be connected and to so easily share information.

But there is a downside, a huge drawback, and that is how overwhelming it is to manage all the conversations. Whew! It's enough to make your head spin.

Well, I'm happy to share with you an excellent tool I found to help manage all the social sites (OK, it was my friend Victor who found the tool, a fellow writer and Producer/Director). The tool is called Digsby and it's great!

No, I'm not being reimbursed or compensated in any way for mentioning Digsby. It just helps me out so much that I have to share it with my readers. (I previously posted on handling twitter tweets, Handling all those Twitter Tweets – TweetDeck versus Seesmic and will try to share more helpful/handy tools as they are discovered).

Digsby very nicely ties everything together for you so that you don't have to spend all your time logging in and out of accounts and checking for updates yourself. It merges various IM accounts into one manager, alerts you of new events in your social networking sites, and manages multiple email accounts as well. And it's free!

With some very handy icons on my bottom right toolbar, I can glance down at any time and see if new mail has arrived or if there are message alerts on my social sites. With a click, I can open an email or delete one, set my facebook status, IM my buddy, and more. You can visit the site and download Digsby here.

Digsby is a great tool that I highly recommend. What are some of the tools you use for handling all your social sites and communications?

Friday, July 17, 2009

And the Winners of the Book Giveaway Are...

Congratulations to the book giveaway winners!

I'm not sure why more people didn't enter the contest for the book giveaway, but it sure made the odds better for those that did!

The custom random number generator pulled:

#1 lreaves
#2 DG

Lreaves, please let me know which book is your preference. DG, I will send you the remaining book. Both books will be autographed (Death by the author, Dorlana Vann, and A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II by one of the contributing authors, Susan H. Miller). Dorlana and Susan are members of Humble Fiction Cafe' writers group.

Winners, please contact me by email before 10pm Central Time on July 27, 2009 with your address so that I can get the books sent out. You can click on the email icon in the left sidebar. If you have any problems, let me know in the comments to this post.

Again, congratulations to the winners. I would love to hear how you liked the book when you are finished!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Final Day to Enter and Win a Free Book!

Today is the final day to enter to win one of two free books, Death by Dorlana Vann, or A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II. Details posted here (previous post):

Upcoming Book Reviews and Contest!

Great reading by two of my writer friends!

Posted using ShareThis

Friday, July 10, 2009

Upcoming Book Reviews and Contest!

Great news! I've received my copy of Death by Dorlana Vann (containing Jaclyn's Ghost and Passage to Mesentia) and A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II with a story by Susan H. Miller. I first mentioned these books in my post, WordProverb: Writers Group News and Success!

I'll be posting full reviews in the future!

In the meantime, I am pleased to announce my first ever giveaway/contest on this blog!

Da-ta-ta-da!! What will you win? ...drum roll, please

There will actually be two lucky winners. 1st place winner receives their choice; Death by Dorlana Vann or A Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers II. Second place winner will receive the remaining book. I'm working on getting the books autographed too, but can't promise that yet!

I'm so excited and I hope you will be too, because it is so easy to win. To enter, just leave a comment (yes, that easy). Here are the rules:

  • Comments are eligible for the contest until midnight, July 16, 2009 Central Time zone.
  • I will use the Custom Random Number Generator to pick 1st and 2nd place, and announce the winners on this blog on July 17.
  • The winners will need to contact me by email before 10pm Central Time on July 27, 2009 or another winner will be selected.
  • Sorry, only residents of the continental U.S. and APO/FPO and Canadian addresses are eligible.
Please note - to be eligible, your comment must appear on this post on the WordProverb blog. If you are reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, please visit the actual blog post to add your comment.

Thank you and good luck!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Sense of Accomplishment - One Task at a Time

My mother always told me to make sure I accomplished one thing a day, whatever the task, but usually always something house related. I used to follow her advice. But in recent years, it seems I had forgotten that piece of wisdom.

Recently though, something caused me to conjure back that memory, and I've put it back into practice. It works. I truly do feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in getting just one thing completed each day. I’m not a week into this yet, but so far I've:
  • Scoured the bathrooms, including washing the baseboards and woodwork
  • Cleaned the stovetop
  • Washed the baseboard in the foyer and living room
  • Dusted and polished the old piano
  • Rotated the mattress on the bed
Back in our DINK days (Double Income No Kids), my husband and I hired a housekeeper to clean our home every two weeks. We got that “whole house clean at one time feeling” and it was great. But with kids, work, and obligations of life, I’ll settle for the one thing a day routine. It works pretty well. Thanks Mom!

What are your tricks and tips on getting things done? What gives you a sense of accomplishment?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Review - I'll Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse by Michael Franzese

I'll Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse: Insider Business Tips from a Former Mob Boss I'll Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse: Insider Business Tips from a Former Mob Boss by Michael Franzese

rating: 2 of 5 stars

In I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse, Michael Franzese, former capo in the Colombo crime family, shares his insight and wisdom in running and making the most of your business. From the basics, like creating a written business plan, to keeping it legal, Michael offers antidotes and stories that describe how he reached success while a high ranking member of the mob.

But therein lies the problem. There were double standards throughout the book. For example, Michael Franzese tells us to put together a clear, focused, and written business plan. However, not if you are a mobster. A mobster’s objective is always to get as much money as possible, as fast as possible, and they prefer not to have paper trails as these can be incriminating. So if Michael Franzese did it the mobster way, without a written plan, why is he telling his readers to do it another way?

The business information contained in the book wasn’t particularly unique or fresh. Play it straight, learn to listen, put a lid on greed, don’t gamble, and operate with integrity are just some of the significant messages explored in the book, but a lot of the information felt like common sense. Certainly good lessons with moral appeal, but not new, insightful, eye-opening information for most people (perhaps I think too highly of the integrity of the human race?).

One of the best aspects of I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse is its strong message of motivation and encouragement. Michael Franzese devotes an entire chapter to failures. He explains that failure is normal, and that some failure in life is to be expected. But value comes from using the failure as a tool for learning and improving, and the best way to handle failure is to pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Michael Franzese writes with a strong, wise-guy voice that is easy to read and entertaining, but may not be the business book readers think. He writes, “Life is all about the ingredients.” Put in good ingredients and you’ll get a good product. I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse is less a lesson in running a business, and more instruction in living a good moral life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

More Telecommuting Benefits

Do you dread yet another morning sitting in the stalled commuter traffic on Interstate Highway (IH)10? Or is US-59 or US-290 where your stoppage occurs? Whatever your commuter nightmare, perhaps telecommuting is the answer.

Today more and more companies are offering telecommuting options to their employees, and for several good reasons. Telecommuting can be good for the employee, but equally beneficial to the employer. Previously I posted Nine Reasons I Love to Work From Home. Here are a few company benefits to telecommuting.

Most employees like the option to work from home. If even just one day a week, most workers enjoy the break from commuter traffic and the autonomy of working from home. They appreciate the cost savings in gas, wear and tear on their vehicle, and a day in which they don’t have to wear their “work” attire, saving on associated wardrobe costs. This makes for happier and more satisfied employees.

Offering work at home options also enables companies to boast “green.” By reducing the number of staff commuting into the office on a daily basis, the company is helping the environment by reducing auto emissions. Since auto emissions are a major contributor to ground level ozone, this also helps reduce the likelihood of high ozone days, which is a danger to people with asthma or compromised lung functionality.

While not all jobs can be performed on a telecommuting basis, many can, and it’s worth your while to approach your employer about working from home. Do your homework first, and be able to provide your boss with all the benefits to the arrangement. You never know, perhaps the next major bottleneck on IH-10 will be one vehicle less – yours!