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I am really tired of throwing away good money on cat scratching posts that don’t hold up very long. I have thought about re-covering the old, tattered, worn out ones for way too long….  I finally decided to do something about it.

in need of a makeover

in need of a makeover

The two girls have been really good about using the cat scratching posts over the course of their 13 years, until recently. One of them has decided to use the corner of a chair, so I have four cat scratching posts in that area AND SHE STILL GOES TO THE CHAIR! There is another scratching post in our bedroom that she uses A LOT and that is the one you see in the photo. It is long overdue for a makeover!

I removed most of the original sisal rope

I removed most of the original sisal rope

Why would I want to take the time to re-cover these scratching posts?

  • Frugal
  • It is really easy to do
  • Recycling some of the old (Yes I still had to buy the rope)
  • I am tired of spending money on something that doesn’t last very long anymore. (Scratching posts used to cost $20 or less, now they are closer to $30+

 

making progress

making progress

Supplies I needed:

  • Sisal rope
  • wood glue
  • blue painters tape or masking tape

I started by removing most of the older rope. I unwound the new sisal rope before I started so I wouldn’t be fighting with it as I needed it. Right away I could tell this was going to be a job that would go faster with three hand…. but I only have two. I applied glue to the round tube a little at a time. If I tried to glue a section, I just managed to get glue on my fingers and dripping off the tube, so i just glued enough to wrap the rope around once, hold it in place with my hand, then glue another ring.

When I would get a 6″ section done, I would then take the tape and go over it to help hold the rope in place until the glue dried. I am not sure I needed to tape the entire post, I could have used the tape every 3″ up the post and been fine I think. I will have to try that on the next post (I have a few more to do!)

Done!

Done!

I feel pretty good about how this project turned out. I fell better about being able to re-use most of the original scratching post and keep it out of the landfill. I also feel good about most of the supplies I used. I will take a bit more time to see if I can source some sisal rope made in the USA.

Have you taken on a project lately that has saved you money?

Sincerely, Emily

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Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

 

 

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It seems that my list of bookmarks on my computer just keeps getting longer and longer, and I just keep adding to it. The bookmarked things ranges for herb websites to blogs of all sorts, recipes and crafty things I would like to try. (ya, I have heard of pinterest, and I should probably use it more, but it seems I get lost in time when ever I log in there)

Every time I bookmark something it ends up at the bottom, and the bottom seems to be pages and pages down there, so I started working on organizing the bookmarks and as I did that I came across things I had forgotten about (what a concept!)… so I decided to try to either do something, like a craft, each week or try a recipe or read a certain blog I bookmarked but never got back to.

I have a lot going on right now, so I picked a few simple things that wouldn’t take up too much time. I started with a bookmark. I figured it would be perfect for my niece that had a birthday this week. This was a super frugal gift, because I used some of those left-over scraps of paper that I save. I found the original on The Girl Creative.Book marks 1I tweaked the pattern for me and simplified it. The original bookmarks are cute, but my niece is 11, and I wanted something a bit more tailored for her.Book marks 3I picked out some designer card stock/scrap-booking papers that I thought that she would like (blues and greens) and made a few. Another niece likes hot pink and animal prints, so I made a few for her at the same time.Book marks 5This was a quick and easy project for me to do and it felt good actually getting around to one of those things I had bookmarked off the internet.

Do you have a long list of bookmarked things? How do you organize them?

Do you ever have things you want to try? Do you ever get around to them?

Sincerely, Emily

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I went to my first swap this past April. I had heard of swaps but didn’t find one in my area until a friend found this one on a MeetUp page and told me about it.

Swap July 2013

Swap July 2013

The organizer set up a few guidelines and the rest is history. She holds it once a month.

There were a few guidelines to follow:

  • No money was allowed – this is all about the trade and bartering with what you have for what you want/need.
  • Items should be sustainably-minded. Something you have grown in your garden, something you conned/cooked/brewed/baked/preserved/dried, etc. Something your animals made (goat milk, hen eggs, lamb wool, etc.) Something you sewed/knitted/re-purposed, etc. Items to do with sustainable interests are also good (Mother Earth News magazines, cookbooks, cooking/camping gear, etc)
  • The items you should leave at home: this is not a garage sale, items should be about sustainability. Leave the knick-knacks at home.

Once we set up, we were allowed 15 minutes to walk around and check out the items other people brought so we could see what we were interested in.

Lemon pickles, Dill pickles, Homemade Teriyaki sauce

Lemon pickles, Dill pickles, Homemade Teriyaki sauce

Each month I have been posting about the swap over on my personal blog. About a month ago I realized that I hadn’t posted about the July swap and I thought it would be a good topic to post here. I have known the swap and barter system is out there and alive, and I realize that there may be others out there that are interested, but don’t know were to look or even how to get started.

Here are the other swap posts I have done”

Here are a few places to look to find swaps in your area: Note: I will add additional information to this post as I find it or as people comment. (updated 19 Sept 2013)

Would you go to a swap if you had one in your area?
Are you participating in a swap in your area?

Please use the comments to let others know about how to find a swap. If you out there participating in a swap, please comment with the general area you are in and add a link to the swap information.

Sincerely, Emily

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Grams yarn hangersI am taking a chance and posting this before Christmas, hoping that my nieces are not reading! This is all about Gram’s hangers. Now, I know my Gram wasn’t the only person out there making these, but she was the only person out there making them for me when I was younger… hence, Gram’s hangars.

When I got a bit older (I’m guessing 10 or 12 years old), she taught me how to make them. I searched all of our closets looking for one of Grams hanger. Do you think I found one? NO!  I just wanted to look at it and work out how I was going to make them. Do you think I remembered how to do them?  Yes, and no! I worked it out rather quickly, but I knew mine are a bit different. In fact, when I took the hangars I finished to MN this past fall to wrap them up and stash them away for my nieces, my mom came in to see what I was doing and then started pulling hanger after hanger out of her closest. All Gram’s hangars! She has all of them! I couldn’t help but laugh.

Started at the base of the hookWhat I love about using these hangars is that my clothes don’t slip off the hangar (and I made them by recycling old wire hangars and gave them a new purpose in life)

You start with two metal dry cleaner hangers that are of equal shape and size.  Tape them together in a few spots so you are fighting to keep the hangars together as you are working your yarn around them. You need two balls of yarn. They can be the same color or different colors, that is completely up to you, but the yarn does need to be in balls (not skeins). I could not remember how much yarn it took to make a hanger, so I bought two skeins of blue (for one niece) and two skeins of pink( for the other niece) and started wrapping them into balls. Make your yarn balls a manageable size so you can handle it easily enough and not be fighting with it to get it through the triangle form of the hanger at each pass. I made two hangers for each niece and have TONS of yarn left over. I could probably make them two more hangers each year for several years and still not run out (and hope they still like the colors I have!)

Make a loop

Make a loop

I started at the bottom of the neck where the hanger branches out and the worked my way around the hanger ending up back at the neck and then worked my way up to the top of the hook and back down to the neck. I know working my yarn over the hook and back gave it a bit of extra bulk, but I didn’t want to end at the top of the hook and have loos ends and knots up there where it gets most of its wear as it is put on your clothes rod and taken off over and over.

pass you yarn over the hanger and through the loop

pass you yarn over the hanger and through the loop

Tie both balls of yarn onto the bottom of the neck of the hangers leaving about a 6″ tail to work with later.  You want to keep one ball of yarn on one side of you and the other ball of yarn on the other side of you. I hold the hangar between my legs so that my hands are free to work with the yarn balls. I will mention that the chair that I sit on in our living room is an old swan neck rocker. It has open arm rests which isn’t the best situation because there isn’t much room on either side of my body to rest the yarn balls without them falling through the arms rest, off the chair, and unrolling out on the floor.

Pull tight

Pull tight

To make a “stitch” make a loop with your yarn and then pass your ball of yarn over the hangar and through the loop. Now pull it tight. The tighter you pull the more loops you will need to make to cover your hangar. The loosen your “stitches” the lass yarn. I made mine rather tight. From time to time you can also push your “stitches” so they are tighter together also. There are no rules here, do what ever you are comfortable with.

You can do one “stitch” with each color yarn or more. I did one hangar with single “stitches” and the other with two “stitches” with each ball of yarn before working the other side.

used single stitches on left and double stitches on right

used single stitches on left and double stitches on right

I finished by knotting my ends together and leaving about a 6″ tail on each end. I added pom poms that I made out of the same yarn and used the tail ends to attach them to the hangers.

Crossing my fingers that my nieces will love them.

Have you ever made yarn hangers?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I’m a brand new knitter. I love it. I love the stockinette stitch: it makes me giggle all over with happiness. I’m new to knitting, but i’m not new to crafting with yarn: i originally learned that ‘other’ yarn art: crochet. Some deem crochet low brow, kitchy, less advanced or somehow just not as refined as knitting. But you know what? Crochet is just as good as knitting, it’s just DIFFERENT (and usually way faster!)

Although i’ve been spending most of my time working on knitted hats, scarves and recently trying out lace (all with my handspun yarn) i took the time to write out a pattern of sorts to help folks reintroduce themselves to the functional art of crochet. Ever seen someone shopping at the farmer’s market carrying one of these sexy market bags? Want one for yourself? You could spend $25 on one of them and support an artisan, which is nice in its own way. OR you could learn how to make one yourself, and them make dozens of them in all sorts of sizes and colors for mere pocket change! Hold your onions in the kitchen, shop for tomatoes at the market, throw in some paperbacks for a day at the beach: the possibilities are endless! *Disclaimer: i am not a master crochet pattern writer, and i usually just ‘wing’ these bags. The pattern i wrote out is not the end and be all of the best way to make them, in fact – if i did it over i would have all the mesh holes be much smaller – so learn this pattern, then fiddle with it to suit your needs.

Visit my two part series (one, two) over at An Austin Homestead for the tutorial, and post photos of your crochet craft at my Flickr group. Just want the quick basics? Already know how to crochet? Make an easy crocheted market or produce bag by following these basic guidelines:

  1. Crochet a flat circle, first using single crochets, then doubles, then triples until you have a circle about 9-10 inches wide
  2. Build the height of the bag by alternating triple crochets with simple chain stitches, crocheting around the chain below, in between two crochet stitches to create a mesh
  3. Keep going until you get as tall as you like!
  4. Finish by alternating double crochet and chain 1 several times per mesh hole, then weaving a draw string through the top

Visit An Austin Homestead for the full shabang!

Do you crochet or knit? Do you ever ‘wing-it’ or are you a strict pattern follower?

*This market bag pattern, and all tutorials found on An Austin Homestead, or re-published at Not Dabbling in Normal are presented for your personal use only. Tutorials and/or objects made from my tutorials may not be sold commercially (that includes Etsy or Ravelry!). If you want to sell something based on one of my tutorials, please email me at gonudesoap at gmail dot com and we’ll try to work out a fair deal. Please play nicely!

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“It’s about time” is a series I have started over at Sincerely, Emily this year. Basically, it is about finally getting around to doing some things I keep putting off for one reason or another.

We all have our “lists” don’t we? Please tell me I am not the only list maker out there. Some of you have them in your head (that was me when I was 23 yo) and some of you have them on paper, in your phone or on you computer (paper for me thank you!)

I tape a list to the kitchen cupboard when I find I just keep forgetting certain things I need to do.  I tape a checklist to the door so when I am leaving for a meeting I can make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. It is terrible when you arrive at you culinary group meeting to find out forgot the dish you cooked! (I haven’t done that yet, and I really don’t want it to happen – therefore, a list)

I have a notebook in my purse with one page dedicated to grocery or shopping related things – everything is written in one place and that works for me. (like the dimensions of the oven rack I need because I did this!)  That notebook serves another purpose; it is always in my purse so when I am out I can add to it, jot down something I need to email someone, things I need to do, etc.

We all have things we need to do: take out the trash, clean the bathroom, call the dentist, but this is different. I am talking about things that I want to do (after I have cleaned the bathroom or taken out the trash). I don’t have to make kimchi… I want to (I want the healthy benefits from fermented foods). I don’t have to make this or that… I want to. It will help reduce the amount of other items that I buy. It will help reduce packaging, and reduce the amount of commercially made things I buy. It will improve our health because I make it and therefore I know what the ingredients are. I don’t have to plant flowers… I want to. These flowers will attract bees and birds. In turn, those bees and birds will help pollinate my veggies and eat bugs out of my garden and I can later save said flower head for making lotions of salves (calendula) or use it to make tea (chamomile or hibiscus.)

So far, this year, I have managed to check 3 things off my “list.”

As this year goes by, some months may be more productive than others when it comes to these things on my list, but each month I am planning to make or do a few things that I have put off. I know I am heading in the right direction.

I did a post here a few weeks about my best intentions and my plans for making up some tinctures and throat lozenges. Well, this is the year to do it.

You would think with all these “lists” I make that I would have one for all these “things” I want to do. Nope. So I am finally making a new list…It’s About Time !!!

What do you have on your list?

Sincerely, Emily

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I was knocked down by yet another cold this season. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around (especially in the cold-induced foggy state.) I have been healthy and cold free for about 2 years and this year is completely different.

I have learned a lot over the past few years about herbs and foods and characteristics that are helpful, but I have also found that my best intentions haven’t prepared me to fight these colds.

I want to grow elderberry bushes so I can make immune boosting syrups and tinctures and even wine. I want to grow calendula and chamomile, horehound and stinging nettles. I want to grow sumac and dandelions and ginger. I know I can grow these things. I have a few growing now. It just takes time and I have to realize that I can’t do it all overnight!

Even though I can and will grow these things, it isn’t practical to think I can grow and make my own “everything” all at once. I need to step back and realize that I can (and should) buy some of these wonderful dried herbs and fruits and just start making the tinctures and syrups and throat lozenges so when I am hit with a cold I am prepared. When my bushes and trees and herbs mature I will then know what to do with them and be thrilled I can use my own.

Drying some horehound to make throat lozenges

There are a few things I did during this last cold that helped me to fight it off faster. I drank hibiscus tea and I also drank garlic tea. Garlic is chuck-full of great antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. I cook with garlic a lot, but drinking the garlic tea is another way to get it into your system and help fight off the effects of the cold or flu. You can read about garlic tea right here at Not Dabbling in Normal.

Along with losing my appetite I also lost my sense of taste and smell. To help get me through this cold I made a healing chicken soup that I know helped nourish me and get me through this much quicker. I made a bone based chicken broth and threw in ginger, onion, hot peppers, dark leafy greens (kale and chard and spinach), turmeric, and garlic along with basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos while I was sick, so the photo you see below is the second batch of soup I made when I started to feel better.

This past week I got together with a culinary group I belong to. The theme this month was “soup.” One of the ladies brought an “Immunity-Boosting Winter Soup” and it was the first soup I ate that night. It was so much like the one I make, but hers included freshly harvest dandelion greens.   We talked about her soup along with the ingredients and the properties that each ingredient has. I was thrilled to know I was on the right track with my soup.

What went into my healing soup?

  • Ginger – works on congestion & great for nausea
  • Spinach/Kale/Chard – full of vitamin C, and A, folate and potassium
  • Hot peppers – help to relieve pain and stimulate endorphins
  • Turmeric – antibiotic properties
  • Garlic – an expectorant, natural antibiotic
  • Red Bell Pepper – high in Vitamin C & A

The immunity-boosting soup that my friend made also had a pinch of cinnamon (infection fighter), calendula flowers (immune stimulator), dried thyme (antibiotic & expectorant), astragalus root (help to strengthen the immune system) and dandelion greens (high in vitamin C & A and many trace minerals and is especially high in potassium)

I am back on my feet and the fog has cleared. I attribute that to the things I ate and drank. Now I better start making a list of things I would like to order so I can get some syrups and tinctures made up to help keep my immune system in tip-top shape.

Do you have any herbal or home remedies that work for you?

disclaimer

Sincerely, Emily

You can also read what I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily

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Some of my fondest memories are of cooking with family members. In our family everybody cooked, even the fellows. Grandparents took their time, allowing me to be part of the process. I remember how slowly and perfectly Grandma Dorothy sliced onions and potatoes, and how we peeled tomatoes for canning. Grandmama was the queen of braided bread, chicken and noodles, and all things sweet. She taught me to savor food. Poppy was the ultimate breakfast cook, preparing eggs, bacon, and pancakes or toast every morning. The younger generations like to experiment a bit more: Mom introduced me to crepes; my stepdad is the reigning champion of baking desserts; my uncle, in his own disturbing way, got me to sample deer and rabbit; and my brother, well, let’s say he was one prime reason I was a vegetarian for some time.

kidhelp collage

It’s amazing the memories that food invokes. If a smell can trigger a memory, then the impact of food has to be tenfold. These are some of the reasons that I love to cook with my daughter – so that when she leaves this nest that she’ll have the knowledge and good memories of family and food.

There are some keys to cooking with children. Allow plenty of time for play and mistakes, let your child experiment, and never tell your child that something’s gross unless it’s unhealthy for them. My daughter’s favorite foods include eel, oxtail, squid, and spinach because we’ve tried not to negatively influence her relationships with food.

orange peel scraping

Let your child play with the tools except for those that can be dangerous. One way to allow your child to explore kitchen tools is to make “Bathtub Soup.” We like to gather sieves, strainers, ladles, slotted spoons, measuring cups, bowls, pans, and so on and dump them all in the bathtub with her. It’s like a science kit for the bathtub. She gets to see firsthand how many bubbles fit in ½ cup versus 1 cup or how the turkey baster sucks up water into its bulb.

butter making

To reinforce the importance of the family dinner, I involve my daughter in every meal. She has the responsibility of setting out the silverware and napkins. As she gets older she’ll have more responsibilities. On weeknights I’ll allow her to help stir or pour things into a pot, but our biggest experimentation comes on the weekends when we have more time. I allow her to help make decisions, like deciding on a side dish. On Friday nights we make pizza and she’s allowed to help with the dough and decorate her own dinner. She is also a big part of our garden. She helps to harvest our fruits, vegetables, and herbs, giving her ownership of what we’re preparing. She was 5 years old the first time I allowed her to use my chef knife – and I taught her the first time how to use it properly and without fear. Cleaning up is included in her responsibilities to dinner, and as she gets older those responsibilities will all increase.

Common sense comes from experience. I have had to remind my daughter every time we cook together the three most important rules before anything begins: 1. Fingers away from the cutting board while cutting utensils are in use. 2. Never assume that the stove is ‘off’ 3. No cooking without a grownup (one day I’ll share the story of a certain 5-year old that tried to make oatmeal all by her big self in Mommy’s new pan). I occasionally add a few extras like keeping hands clean or enforce the no double-dipping rule. Now that we’ve cooked together on many occasions, my daughter knows these rules exist and that there are no exceptions.

snowman

Above everything else, remember to have fun and don’t let mistakes discourage anyone. Involving your children in cooking will teach them a skill, build creativity, and create bonds and special memories – each of which will last a lifetime.

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This past Thursday Warren posted about creating financial security by investing in the stock market.  A few days before that Kim posted about real estate investing as a way of creating financial security.  Now it’s my turn.

We don’t have a “retirement” plan.  Retirement is not a concept I understand.   It is certainly not a way I could live.  I can’t imagin being “done.”  When they put the last shovel full of compost on me I’ll retire.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a plan for the future.  We do.  We recognize that we will not be able, or willing, to work forever at the same things or with the same intensity that we do now.  Life is change.  Being prepared for that makes life enjoyable.  So here are some of the things we are doing to be prepared.

1. Avoiding debt.  Right now we have a very small mortgage on our house and farm and no other debt.  That is a choice we make every day.  We bought our farm about 5 years ago and put a lot down.  We had money from the sale of our previous home which made a big difference.  But the biggest factor was we bought something that needed A LOT of work.  Because it needed so much work we got it for about 1/3 the price of a similar house in better condition.  Instead of following the bankers advice and adding a second mortgage to use to remodel the house we have been doing it ourselves, paying as we go.  5 years and we are still not done.  Only three more rooms and a porch to go.  It is a slow process, but the house will be paid off soon and we will be debt free.  We have also done the same with cars.  Our two, a 14 year old van and a 20+ year old truck, are paid for and we just keep fixing them rather than buying something new.  That probably won’t work for ever, but it’s working for now.

2. Creating a self-supporting way of living.  We are actively investing in creating a place and a way of life that supports it’s self.  Some of that is through micro-businesses we are developing.  Some of it is through the gardens, orchards, and animals we are adding to the place.  The rest comes through changes in how we live, how we generated our energy, where our water comes from, etc.  It’s not done yet.  Even on paper it changes from time to time.  But the goal, the vision is out there, written down, used as the target for all our planning. 

3. Investing our resources to meet future needs.  We stayed with CC’s parents before we moved here.  Her dad had been in a care facility and was coming home.  We were there to help with that transition.  It gave us a glimpse into the future.  We took that knowledge with us when we came here and wove it into our planning.  We have a stock portfolio through CC’s work.  It’s far from perfect (we are looking at ways to use it to support greener things) but it is matched by her company, and building up some future financial reserves is an important part of meeting future changes.  If we the money, I’d rather have some planned savings we can take it from instead of adding debt to the farm.  We also did things in the house as we remodeled that we wouldn’t have done.  We have a room on the first floor that can (and someday probably will) be used as a bedroom.  The first floor bathroom has an accessable shower rather than a bath.  ETC.  We saw some of the future and are using our resources to prepare.  We are also investing time in building community.  As a culture we have become more isolated and disconnected.  We are actively building connections here.  Taking care of people, sharing, supporting, and allowing others into our lives and accepting their care and support (for me that is the hardest part.)

4. Insurance.  We have insurance.  Health, home, car.  We are working on ways to reduce our need for some of those and the financial burden they place on us.  But, we are also investing in insurance every day.  Not life insurance, but insurance for life.  It’s called EDUCATION.  College is not an optional thing for our kids.  They will go.  They will get a degree in something.  Having that piece of paper is a kind of insurance.  CC and I keep up on our training and skills.  We are both employable, though not both employed right now.  Having a spouse with the skills, training, current licences, etc that allows them to be employed is a better insurance policy than any life insurance you could buy.  Same with the kids.  Instilling in them a good work ethic and a desire for education is a huge step toward insuring their future.

So, that’s some of what we are doing to finance our future.  What are you doing?

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