Welcome to Heart and Mind, Please visit me at my new site
Heart and Mind. Hope you see you there!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays and New year!

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays and Happy new 2010 year!!! Have fun and stay safe. We will be celebrating with family and will not be posting for a few weeks;

I want to leave here with some of best articles that I like; hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

10 ways to help during bad economy

20 ways to be romantic for free or almost free

13 ways to be compassionate

Health Vs. Wealth

Also, do not forget to help Blog with heart challenge post

Thank you.


Photo: GPS  Magazine

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gifts from heart during Holidays

Christmas is around the corner and many of us share or exchange gifts with friends and family around this time. Many times, these well meant gifts from people, after a few days or weeks, goes unused in some corner of our house and life. How should we give gifts that can be well liked and used by the receiver? Often time, it is possible to do with little thinking on our part. We will discuss a few type of traditional and not-so traditional gifts to give and receive.

1. Give gift of time
Giving gift of time is cost free, but very helpful. For example, give time for babysitting to someone who has small kids, so they can nap, go out or do something they like. You can take your elderly neighbor shopping, who may not be driving well. You can visit someone who is sick, deliver food, help someone with cleaning up their house, garage, mow their lawn etc., possibilities are endless. Make sure you know some tasks that may require longer time, volunteer and offer what you truly can, otherwise you and receiver both will resent it.
Sometimes, just listening others and being there in their time of need is more appreciated than any store bought gifts.

2. Gift of experience
Zenguy used to fly small plane, it has been a while since he has given up this expensive hobby. However, he has taken me and other friends, relatives on city flying tours and it has been wonderful for all of those who received it. You do not have to fly a plane, you can someone to a Museum they always want to go or subject they wanted to know more about. Cooking together also works, I cook meal with R, who makes mess of kitchen but it is a experience he will remember being part of. Watching stars, going camping, learning and doing something together will remain in our mind, long after, compared to silly plastic toys or gadgets.

3. Home made gifts
Simply made handbags, cookies in jar, soups in jar, hand made sweater or blanket, quilt has much more meaning to recipient. Here are some suggestions for home made gifts ideas from web.

Gifts and Crafts from a jar

50 home made gift ideas from the web

Free crafts and gifts made by you

4. Other suggestions
 a. Give cash instead of gift cards, as some of the gift cards charges hidden access fees and expires as months rolls by.
b. If you buy store bought gifts, take gift receipt to recipient, so they can exchange freely without being guilty.
c. Ask them what they truly need or want before buying something you "think" they want.
d. Give partial or all money towards a big items they want/need to buy.
e. If you have large family, draw up names so every one needs to buy one or two gifts only, instead of 22.
f. Consider giving to others less fortunate people than you, charitable donation does not need to waited for Christmas time, and can be done through out the year.

Gift Free Christmas

How to celebrate Christmas without money

No Christmas gift this year has unique ways to letting your friends and family know about no gifts and suggesting alternatives instead. Check it out.

Remember, giving gifts from heart is more important than any expensive item. If we can not pay it with cash, or have money to pay when credit card arrives, we should not purchase it. You can celebrate Christmas without money or gifts and still have great time with family and friends.

How do you celebrate holidays with friends and family? What do you like or dislike about the gift givings? I sure would love to hear from you and your suggestions.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Screw productivity : at least for a day

                                                                 Source: iqwolf.org

We all have our "to-do" list, life to live, work at office, and at home. Rushing to and from meetings, social gatherings, cooking, dishes, and other everyday mundane but needs to be chores leaves many of us exhausted by the nightfall.

We are also constantly trying to improve our life, productivity, ourselves. There are tons of books on self help and productivity improvement in the market. We are often obsessed with constantly improving ourselves, myself included. Most of the time, rightly so, however, maybe we should ditch all those list for just one day, and refresh by not doing anything on your list today.

This weekend, I single handedly managed to screw up our whole weekends plan by doing absolutely nothing on my to-do list, unknowingly of course, and we survived. For one example, I planned a local museum outing for kids on Sunday, but Zenguy and I watched slept late on Saturday night watching some random stuff and talking important things. Next morning we woke up late, had late breakfast and did everything late and lazily. Finally we decided to drive late to museum only to realize that they will be closing in 40 minutes, by following winter time schedule. That did not leave much time to explore with 2 small kids, so we decided to skip it completely and revisiting on later day with more time.

So, now we had a long drive to and back from museum without any fruitful outcome that I envisioned, I was livid  at myself, as a generally organized and planned person that I am. But you know what? Little P, got to take much needed nap during our drive back, R got to see different part of town. We detoured our plan by filling gas in a van, grocery shopping and eating at our local favorite hangout and we managed to still have fun. Of course, apart from my hurt ego, everyone was okay. Lesson learned, ditch your plans sometimes and go with flow.Who knows you might survive, might even have fun and recharge yourself for your next day's to-do list.

Go ahead, try it.

This should work for most cases other than life threatening emergencies, so decide first before having a lazy moment or day!!

Have you ever lost your productivity by chance and still things worked out? I would like to hear your stories.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kids talk: series

This is a part of series on cutest things kids say. Sometimes my R, my 4 years old says things that makes me chuckle or sometimes makes me laugh out loud.

Even if you have kid or not, kid talks can be amusing, inspirational and may make us smile and make us feel good. I am sure, you will find it fun, even if you are not a parent, or parent many smart little ones.

To see previous post click here .

We shop at Trader Joes near our house for many of our house groceries need. Trader joes at the check out, often have stickers for young kids.

When R was about 3ish, he wanted more stickers, so he asked "I want more.". The check out lady, told him; "You will get more stickers, if you tell me the magic word." (Obviously, she meant word "please".) But R told her within seconds; "Abra ka Dabra!!!."

People around us all giggle, some laughed out loud, including check out lady. She said; "I will take that answer", and she gave R lot of stickers. :-) He did say another magic word finally: "Thank you".

Did you like the story? Do you have any kid story to share?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

White Friday: No shopping day

Black Friday is one of the most busiest and most commercial shopping day in the USA, shopping frenzy is unbelievable. Some of our friends and relatives are big in to shopping Black Friday and has so many strategies to get best deals. There are many websites that promote "leaked" deals and how to get best shopping deals and how to stay safe while you are out there. If you are looking for tips to make a best shopping experience, you will not find it here.

All these tips and wisdom are lost on me. I am too lazy to wake up 4 AM to shop and too frugal to buy things that we do not need. I wrote about how about holidays were hectic in past here and how we are changing it to be more enjoyable by doing less and buying less and doing more things for inner joy instead.

So, as a part of enjoying holidays more, we are having a what I call, a White Friday on November 27, 2009, meaning, we are getting up late, staying in, and not going anywhere near shopping malls or stores.

Actually, we avoid all terms of shopping (other than groceries, and gas filling) from November 20th until January 15th. Why so long? Because, stores are busy with people buying Christmas gifts for themselves and others until December 24th and then going again in store to return/exchange gifts they received and did not like, from December 26th-January 10ish. Staying in long lines to purchase and return items nor getting pushed and shoved while shopping is not my idea of enjoyable holidays, although that is exactly what I have done in past. Not anymore.

About a few years ago, we decided to simplify our shopping and holidays, and it sure has made my life stress free and yet more meaningful. I am not the first to do this, nor alone in this way of thinking. Matter of fact there is a huge following on Buy Nothing Day , which has been getting successful here in US and a few other countries by avoiding shopping on Black Friday.

Here is what Thanksgiving means to me;

Thanksgiving: Giving heartfull thank you to everyone an everything that keeps me alive;

a) People you know, and who has helped you (your inner circle)
b) People you do not know and has helped you (your city, country)
c) People you know and who has helped others (your city, country)
d) People you do not know and has helped others (other countries)
e) People you know, who has not helped anyone but surviving life (your and other countries)
g) Animals/plants/insects/fish/bees who indirectly help us with food, life and love.
h) I am also thankful for clean drinking water, air and land that our planet has, for us to live on.

It may sound idealistic, but if you really think of it, there are so many reasons for us to be thankful and blessed without any store bought gifts. You can not put a price on that. And shopping may provide instant joy for a few people, but it does not bring long lasting joy of being content.

What are you thankful for? How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?


Photo: Adbuster Buy Nothing Campaign

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blog with Heart: Challenge from "Make it Happen" and "Goodlife Zen"

My blog is too new and with a few readers, and Mary and Arvind sure do not need my small help, still I wanted to point out to few of my readers of this blog to a Blog with Heart Challenge by Arvind  At Make it Happen and Mary Jaskch at Goodlife Zen .

To find out more about it and join this worthy cause and help alleviate world poverty and help others see following links; Please help and join, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is one of the bloggers who have joined this Challenge.

Start to alleviate world poverty today in a fun way : Make it Happen

How we Can Start to Alleviate world's Poverty: Good life Zen

Mary's article on Leo's Zen Habits

Hope you can help.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Are you a silent Vegetarian?

I am a vegetarian since birth, it is not strange as my parents are also vegetarian, they raise me and my siblings as vegetarians. When we got older, peer pressure (or so we thought) from high school friends made us feel we were different. My parents explained their strong religious, personal and ethical beliefs with us, and strongly suggested benefits of being vegetarian but never really forced us. In a way, it helped me remain vegetarian.

I really never missed not eating meat, although I have eaten it by mistake on a few occasions and my taste buds did not care much for it. As a lifelong vegetarian and aspiring vegan (I eat yogurt and cheese occasionally, no milk, honey, eggs) I have learned to ask ingredients before ordering in restaurant and seeing labels when buying things in a store.

When I got in college, there were fewer of my friends were vegetarian, somehow peer pressure happened to me again. No, I did not started to eat meat but I became silent vegetarian. Meaning, I just ate what I wanted and passed meat around hoping my friends thought I was picky eater instead.

When I was in college, I was invited to thanksgiving party at my friend's parents, when I could not visit my own family during the holidays. I went to my friend's house without telling them my being a vegetarian, hoping it will turn out fine. Unlike my childhood gathering, this gathering had huge selection of turkey and other meat dishes. As a silent vegetarian at the table, I passed everything and took and ate a few side dishes and dessert dish only. I was starving, host saw this and ask why I was not eating much and if food was not to my liking. Very quietly I told I am a vegetarian,

My friend's mom told me to wait and she made some quick vegetable dish for me, I was so thankful. No one there judged me or lectured me on being a vegetarian, even though I was the only vegetarian there. I felt normal and accepted. Since then I have changed and I tell people I am vegetarian and partial vegan before going to gathering and I bring a dish to share, even when gatherings are not potluck. It has two benefits, one I will always have something to eat and often time, my friends actually love eating tasty vegetarian dish.

Why I am telling this story now, after many years? One, if you are vegetarian or vegan or have any other special diet, speak up when you are invited to thanksgiving or any food gathering, or bring a vegetarian/vegan dish to share. If you are hosting thanksgiving party, make sure every one have something to eat. Most meat eaters/omnivores can eat vegetarian or vegan dish, but not the other way around.

When I host any gathering, I ask everyone about their diet choice by phone beforehand. In my circle, some are vegan, some are meat eater, some have diabetes, some have high blood pressure (meaning less salt food), some have nut allergies and some are just plain picky. How do I deal with it all? It is not hard, I make my meals all vegetarian. I use less salt, no nuts in anything, and I use pure molasses as a sugar or splenda for dessert so all of us can eat most of the things. If someone new is coming, I generally call to make sure about them too. My meat eater friends are fine with vegetarian meal for one evening, and some share their mock meat dishes, so this works.

Even though I am no longer silent vegetarian, I am not loud vegetarian. Meaning, I want to respect my own beliefs while maintaining respect for other's beliefs.

Do you have your story to share? I would love to hear if you have suggestions.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stress Free Thanksgiving Party

In past, my holidays during thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings were hectic, stressful and hurried. I did not enjoy it as much as I should have. I was so busy trying to impress my friends and family to top previous year's recipes, new decorations, giving creative goodies bags to kids and adults all alike, just because I thought that what made happy holidays. How wrong I was.

Now our thanksgiving party has become smaller, more meaningful and lot more enjoyable. Here are a few changes that made it possible and maybe you can too.

1. Do not accept every invitation, be selective, who you invite or whose party to go to. If you get no invitation, plan one your self or enjoy alone time volunteering many thanksgiving food charity.
2. If you are hosting, plan a simple a menu or plan a potluck. Make sure, everyone gets different food, so you do not end up with 6 pumpkin pie and no main course.
3. Do simple decoration and entertainment plan. Simple pumpkin, or colorful foliage leaves can make a great center piece.
4. Have everyone say 2 things (at least) they are thankful for at the dinner table.
5. Buy and do prep work before the party, delegate some work to others.
6. Use nice plates and glass. If you must use paper plates, use biodegradable. It is better for environment.
7. Have a few people pitch in to clear up table, do the dishes while a few adults can entertain/play games with kids in other area. Do that for other host too. Work gets done faster and host also gets to enjoy without pile of dishes waiting for them.
8. If you must give goodies bag to every guest, make it home made, simple that will be used.
9. Everyone can do craft and take it go home. For example, everyone can paint a small wood frame and put thanksgiving picture (later) to display.
10. Make sure there is dedicated camera person, so you will have memories to share. Make sure camera person in a few pictures themselves too.
11. If you have extra food, share it with neighbours who are alone (or invite them), share it to homeless people or people who are unemployed, or at shelter.
12. Write your own reasons for being thankful in colorful construction paper, make a nice leaf cutout and put it all those leaves on rope and display through out Holiday season.
13. If you can not be with family or friends, enjoy with your spouse or kid(s), if you are single, you can still can celebrate. (See #1 above)
14. If someone has made your life helpful, please say thank you to them in person, handwriting letter, or call them to say thank you.
15. Be thankful and kind to others whom you do not know, but are helpful by working on thanksgiving day such as some gas station, police, hospital people, day labor folks, homeless people, air port employees etc.
16. Make a simple tradition to do with your family that is not materialistic but meaningful. Repeat every year with family without pressure to top it.
17. Do not try to impress your loved ones, they are already your friends and family. They will love you, even if your house is bit messy, your recipe is not better than last year.
18. Just relax and enjoy.

What are your stress free holiday party tips? How do you enjoy the thanksgiving?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

13 ways to be compassionate

How do we feel and treat other with compassion? Maybe you see someone struggling to carry large bag, do we help him? Maybe someone is feeling dizzy and fainting, do we rush to help or move on our way hoping she will be alright? If you hear a small child crying in grocery store, do you feel annoyed or do you feel bad for mother or father and ask them if they could use help? On flip side of the coin, what if you were offered the help, and you get annoyed by them? Are we ready to offer and ready to accept help and compassion in this society without being judged? I sure hope so.

I believe most of the people are good natured and kind hearted and ready to offer help but somewhere along our hectic life, we may become annoyed at others, or we think our privacy is being invaded when someone offers the help. However, we can still live our life relatively fine and help others and accept the help from others. Here are a few ways to be compassionate and helpful.

1. Trust others, most people are nice and not out there to hurt you, or con you.
2. It is good karma, what goes around will come around.
3. Try to think of it from their perspective, really, walk a mile on their shoes before judging them.
4. It will make you feel good.
5. Someone who you helped will be truly sending you best vibes/wishes your way. It may make
your life better, somehow.
6. The person you helped will be inspired to help others, starting a chain of "pay it forward" goodness. Can you imagine the impact of it?
7. Truly listen to person or people asking for help, before saying no, yes or even maybe.
8. Be open minded.
9. Do not just help person in suit, or good looking girl/boy, help someone who needs help, regardless of religion, looks or status.
10. Do it from heart, without any expectations.
11. You may pass it on to your kids, spouse, or friends, being nice and kind that is.
12. For little time and effort the feeling of satisfaction you may get will be 10 fold.
13. Just do it, you will be glad you did.

How do you feel compassionate? Do you help others when they ask? Do you help when they do not ask but yet you see them needing help? Do you feel compassion is important? How do you feel when someone offers you help? Do you graciously accept or act like you have it under control? Some answers may not be easy, but if we think about it, it just may be easier to accept and offer help to total strangers and be happy about it.

Go out and do one random act of kindness today, if you can.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to reuse leftover halloween candies

Many of us, may have good supply of Halloween candies and pumpkin leftover after the holiday. We sure do!! Zenguy offered to sacrifice and eat up whole 2 bags of candies by himself, as he said it was not healthy for kids and me, you can tell he has a major case of sweet tooth!! Here are a few better ways to reuse of leftover candies/chocolate and pumpkin.

Some uses of leftover Candies/Chocolate:

1. Share leftover goodies with your friends/neighbours/office co-workers. You may do candies exchange and try various different type of candies that your friends may have. (Note: before you share with small kids ask parent/care giver to make sure there are no nut/sugar allergies/issues)

2. You can re-use some chocolate and candies to make good sweet edible things to eat; Some suggestions include brownies, Rice Krispy or peanut brittle with chocolate, chocolate dessert pizza, chocolate calzone, cookies, cake, caramel popcorn, candied apple, chocolate milk/shake, Chocolate moose and many more. One of my friend, freezes chocolate candies and reuses during holidays in her dessert recipe.

3. You can impress other friends, family members or kids (your own, nieces, nephews) with candy science experiments. Here are some suggestions from Candy Experiments.com.

Floating M's
M&Ms sink in water--mostly. To see what floats, try this:

What you need:

* Cup of water
* M&Ms

What to do:

1. Drop the M&Ms in the water.
2. After a few minutes, look for floating letters. (Do not stir the water--you might break the m's.)

What's happening:
The white m's on M&Ms are printed with edible ink that doesn't dissolve. When the rest of the candy shell dissolves, the m's peel off and float. Some of the letters break into pieces, but a few should survive intact.

This also works with Skittles.

Chocolate Bloom

Chocolate is made of cocoa butter, cocoa solids, and other ingredients that have been mixed together. Can you take them apart?

(Chocolate after several weeks in a warm car)

What you need:

* Chocolate candy
* Heat

What to do:

1. Heat your chocolate in a sunny windowsill, with a hair dryer, or in a low oven, until it starts to melt.
2. Let it cool overnight or in the refrigerator.
3. Repeat these steps until you see light brown spots or streaks. (This may take several heating attempts.)

What's happening:
When the chocolate heats and cools, the cocoa butter starts to separate from the rest of the chocolate. This forms the light brown layer.

Density Rainbow

Sugar water is denser than water--the more sugar, the denser. This experiment shows you how to layer different densities into a rainbow of color.

Density rainbow created with Skittles

What you need:

* Five small cups for mixing
* A clear glass
* A wide spoon
* Skittles
o 5 red
o 10 orange
o 15 yellow
o 20 green
o 25 purple

To do:

1. Fill five cups with 3 Tbsp of water each.
2. Dissolve the Skittles, each color in a separate cup. If the candy is not dissolving, stir frequently or heat the water. (The waxy film floating on the surface can be removed or ignored; it won't affect the experiment.)
3. Pour the purple water into the clear glass.
4. Holding the spoon over the purple water, slowly pour the green water down the back of the spoon. If you do it slowly enough, the green water will float on top.
5. Repeat with the other colors, and admire your rainbow.

What’s happening:

Since the water with less candy is less dense, it floats on top of the denser layer like oil on water. Unlike oil and water, your sugar water layers will eventually mix together, muddying the color. So admire it while it lasts!

Use of Pumpkin

1. If you have carved pumpkin, you can cut it up and use it on your garden soil as a compost. We also use it with my 4 year old R, as science project to see how food decomposes and becomes part of land. It is good for environment and learning life cycle science project as well.

2. If pumpkin/Gourd are fresh, it can be used as a pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pasta dressed up pumpkin sauce, Pumpkin and cheese filled ravioli, Savory pumpkin samosa, pumpkin baby food, pumpkin bread to name a few recipe choices. I will post a recipe soon for Pumpkin Samosa after making it first and (if it turns out good).

How do you reuse your leftover candies/chocolate and pumpkin/gourd?

(Pictures: From candyexperiment.com)


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kids talking: Series

I am starting a series on cutest things kids say. Sometimes my R, my 4 years old says things that makes me chuckle or sometimes makes me laugh out loud.

Even if you have kid or not, kid talks can be amusing, inspirational and may make us smile and make us feel good. I am sure, you will find it fun, even if you are not a parent, or parent many smart little ones.


I was talking about music to R and we talked about Beethoven and his music, his life etc. R got so impressed by Beethoven and classical music, he asked many questions and when he told me he will be as good or even better musician, I was smiling as he wants to be best Fireman, Policeman, Robot, and million other professional jobs he is fascinated by.

Until I heard him tell Zenguy that, he will be better because he will be Beetho-two or even Beetho-three!!! (sure beats Beetho-one)!!!!!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Laidback Mornings: without an alarm

A few years ago, before we had kids, Zenguy and I both used to work in a corporate world. Our weekdays mornings were hectic and much hurried to say the least. Waking up to several alarm beeps (we needed it, as we kept hitting "snooze" button and going back to sleep) quick shower, toast/breakfast bars on the go, tea on go, while we listened to TV or radio traffic news and sitting on traffic jam till we reached office, finally breathing before getting to routine of day to day work issues.

Now, that I am at home, life is lot less hectic for all of us. We have not woken up to sound of alarm in years. We now wake up to sound of our children R (4.5 years) and P (8 months) in the mornings. It takes us a few minutes to be fully awake and than play with kids on bed for 10-15 minutes before getting up with them. Sometimes we wake up to sound of birds, that is also very soothing.

There is no radio or TV news sound in morning for us, we still eat toast or quick breakfast choices sometimes, but leisurely. Now, I am not saying, our every morning is perfect, some days kids are sick or cranky and some days we are so sleep deprived from previous night wakings that we become cranky :-) but despite all of these issues, mornings are much less hurried compared to when we both worked. When we have to go to preschool or work, Zenguy and I work as a team to get kids ready and fed. Zenguy is very sweet, some days he lets me catch some sleep in morning while watching both kids.

Our mornings are not sexy but they are lot satisfying and less hurried now. Best thing about it is, waking up to kids cooing (or crying) is lot better than alarm beep's harsh noise.

How is your morning routine? What works for you? I understand our situation is different, as I am staying home with kids and Zenguy has somewhat flexible work hours. I understand this routine may not work for everyone, but even if you are working, with no kids, you can try waking without an alarm or other harsh noises. For starter, try waking up one of the weekend day without alarm; just night before you lay your head on a pillow, wish or say time you would like to wake up next day and imagine yourself doing it. It has worked for me 98% time, without alarm, that is not bad, right?

When you wake up naturally, morning and day tend to go much smoother in my opinion. Try it, let me know how it worked for you.


Friday, October 9, 2009

11 reasons we hoard on things

Why it is hard to let go of stuff and why it is easier to hoard things in our life. To simplify our life and be more free, we need to keep only items we need, and use often.

When we start decluttering, it is overwhelming to go through it all. There are many reasons we hold on to stuff such as;

1. It holds past, precious memory of your childhood, your first time living alone, or first love, first trip, or all firsts you did in your life. It is hard to let go of those memories.

2. We have spend too much money on it.

3. We may need it someday syndrome keeps us getting rid of stuff.

4. If we have kids, it is little hard to simplify. (Not impossible, just hard)

5. We do not know where to begin.

6. We think our current system works, why fix it? It is part of your comfort zone.

7. It takes too much effort and time to clean it all.

8. It will be clutter again, why bother?

9. It might be valuable in 10 years, we can sell it then at better price. We are not hoarder, we are collector.

10. We'll just move in to a bigger place, or buy more storage system to place it all.

11. We as a species always hoarded things to survive since early days , so what we are doing is natural process. Blame early ancestor (early human) for our hoarding habits.

My biggest problem is kids ever changing stuff and "I may need it someday" syndrome and I have to work hard to overcome it. What are your reasons for holding on to your stuff? How do you overcome those reasons?


Monday, October 5, 2009

10 Creative and Frugal hacks

I get inspired by many blogs/articles and people around me, which keeps me learning new things and makes my life easier, frugal and better.

Betsy Bargain at Talk Thrifty to me is author of the one of the blog that inspires me, she wrote a recent article about Tweak your routine to sneak in savings . It has many wonderful ideas and suggestions, please check it out this and other articles there, if you have not done so already.

It made me think of some ideas/hacks I use at everyday. Here are some of the creative hacks I use in my house, instead of buying new items, use what I have at home;

1. Instead of buying new plastic or other types storage boxes, use unused luggage bags to store winter or summer clothes or extra stuff. Use shoe box to fill up smaller items such as crafts, glue, pens etc. One can glue or wrap used wrapping paper to make it unify and make it easy on eye

2. After using canned food, wash and unwrap can and wash it with soap, use it to store small pens, crayons, pencil holder. Use larger can to hold serving utensils. Larger used cans can be used for small pots outside or inside plants. It can also be used as a flower holder, straws holder.

3. Reusing gift wrapping paper is popular with most frugal people already. Another great idea is to use extra colorful cloth with raffia tied as a wrapping gift. Sunday comic page also make a good wrapping paper for kid's gifts. Gift basket and gift bags can be made with simple things from home. Used brown bags from groceries can be used as a gift wrap, one can stencil some nice stencil design made out of cut apples or cut potatoes and stamp with colorful pattern.

4. Reuse leftover food in soup or veggie burger, it hides and holds better. Use tired and over-ripe fruits and vegetable in to chutneys or soup instead of throwing it out. Blacked out mushy banana makes a wonderful bread or muffins.

5. Use old plastic bags cut to tie up plants that need support. Make craft out of used plastic bag such as parachute or kite for kids. Cut up 4 plastic bags and join them with tape on edges to make a large plastic catch all for kid's messy games.

6. Use old yogurt container for storing leftover or freezing items. It can be used to make also home made yogurt. I use small individual yogurt size container for juice Popsicles, it is also perfect for seed starter too in spring time.

7. Use old and unusable CD to make craft mobile, CD curtain on strings, frame or toss game for younger kids.

8. Use cheap/free baskets and plastic tote bags to store kid's toys, arts/craft supply.

9. Use old T-shirts, towels as a Rag, cleaning clothes. Use newer, small pieces of clothes to make small and simple quilt napkins. Join various pieces of small carpet pieces to make a larger size rug, using duct tape to seal joints on bottom.

10. Reuse old calendars for art pieces in your house, laundry or garage. One can decoupage Calendar or old magazine pictures on glass coffee table or room door to personalized and unique art in your home.

What other creative ways you use reuse items you have at hand, instead of buying it? Please share your ideas.


Friday, September 25, 2009

20 ways to be romantic for free (almost)

In the beginning of the relationship courtship, we (guys and gals alike) tend to go out of our ways to please some one we like, even spending lot of money on the dates to impress our loved ones. How do we still feel and be romantic when we are in long term relationship for awhile, and do not have much money left to impress our partner? There are a few ways to still be romantic on free or cheap, and shows you care from a heart.

1. Say "I love you" from a heart and mean it.
2. Smile, hug and kiss. Let him/her know you are happy to see them,.
3. Tell jokes when he/she is down (or not), cheer them up, be clown for them.
4. Be honest with them, do not hide things, also trust them.
5. Cook together some new recipe or old one, for each other.
6. Let him/her sleep in late, Massage back or feet for them.
7. Clean up house, car, garage and surprise them.
8. Do something special he/she likes but you may not; such as watch chick flick with her, go to a car show for him.
9. Write down top 10 reason why you love him/her.
10. Remember how you fell in love, share and recreate memories.
11. Hold hands and sit in peace, doing nothing.
12. Watch sunrise or sunset together.
13. Write special note or poem for him/her, even when you are not a good writer or a poet.
14. Send flowers or baloons just because (Some guys like that as well, as it is unexpected)
15. Say "sorry" when you are wrong/or have messed up.
16. When he/she is talking something from heart, listen without interrupting and without thinking of response to give back. Be open minded.
17. Create some ritual together and do it every year.
18. Stand up and support him/her when someone is not fair to them (even when he/she is not present)
19. Know your partner's moods and act accordingly.
20. Be supportive, Be flexible, Be understanding.

While these suggestions may not be flashy but they sure are from heart and will take an effort on your part and your partner sure will cherish it longer. While sometimes we like to and want to spend money for our beloved, we can still show, we care for them even when are low on cash but high on love.

How do you show you love someone? Do you spend money? Do you have ritual? What does your partner does that makes you feel loved? Usually best things in life are free and not things that you can buy.


Friday, September 18, 2009

10 Ways to declutter your house

Not too long ago, I wrote about 7 ways your clutter costing you , check it out, if you have not read it yet. In this post, we will take a look at a few ways to start decluttering, as it is often overwhelming to start, at least for me.

1. Start small, such as one drawer of dresser, or one small area near entrance or corner. Set a timer for ten minutes and clean as much as you can in those 10 minutes. (I can not remember where I have heard this 10 minutes tidy concept, if someone knows, let me know so I can give proper credit where it is due)

2. Involve your family: spouse, kids etc in it. Make it exciting as a game.

3. I usually get 5 large boxes/trash bags and label them, Keep box, Donate/sell Box, Throw away box, recycle box, and I keep one "maybe" box as well. I put that "maybe" box in one area for 2 weeks and If I do not miss it, out it goes in donate pile.

4. Start in one area/room and finish that area before moving on to other things. Sometimes, looking at old books/letters/photos can be distracting as I usually go back in time looking at old memories, keep those in "to-look-at later" box, when you finish with your 10 minutes tidy time.

5. Room will look messier and worse before it will start to look better, so do not worry. It will all come together at the end. Once you finish 10 minutes tidy time, and you think you want to continue, do so until you are ready to take a break.

6. If you have not used an item for 2 years, it should go in donate/sell pile. If you have an emotional attachment to it, see if it possible for you to keep a picture of it, or small piece of it, instead of whole thing. When in doubt, do not get rid of it, put in "may-be" box for awhile. It works for me usually.

7. Once you sort out items in area, find an appropriate storage place for all "keep box" items. Create appropriate storage area for incoming mail, outgoing mail, postage stamps, envelopes, etc in office space. Trash expired medicines, vitamins and makeup items. Also, throw away non repairable toys and electronic items.

8. Always recycle and reuse items first if you can. While you are purging your house, do not buy new gadgets or items for house, it will just defeat the cleaning process.

9. If it gets overwhelming, stop or work while you listen to upbeat music. Once you start to see small progress, it will encourage most of us to finish it all the way.

10. Show and teach spouse, kids and other family members where item should go, they will do it themselves next time. Maintaining is much easier once the process is in place.

Start it slow, everyday little time devoted to decluttering will make whole process easier. Once you have a cleaner house with less stuff or just enough stuff, everyone will be happier and finding things right away. Happy cleaning.

What are your decluttering methods? What works for your house?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

10 ways to simplify your health

Prevention is always better than cure. There are a few steps we can take to simplifying our health.

1. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day.

2. Eat rainbow colors fruits and vegetables and whole grains to get vitamins and nutrients.

3. Get 20 minutes of sunshine everyday to get your vitamin D.

4, Limit processed food, fried food, sugary food, soda, alcohol drinks.

5. Always eat breakfast. Eat 5-6 short meals through out the day.

6. Eat before you are famished and stop before you are full. It takes 20 minutes for brain to register you are full.

7. Cook and make simple salad and other meals from scratch, you will save money as well your health.

8. Walk, bike, dance, climb, Jump, have fun exercising. For a good exercise you do not need quality gym equipment or sport outfit.

9.Get 8 hours of sleep. Nap in afternoon for 15 minutes, if you can, short rest does wonder to your body and mind.

10. Take deep breath, slow down and enjoy the roses, garden, children, people around you.

How do you stay healthy? What works for you?


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Healing the hurting heart

Life is funny in a way, as we do get most hurt by people closet to our heart, and not by someone whom we barely know. People close to us, be it close friend, sibling, cousins, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, parents, can hurt us emotionally, sometimes with words and sometimes worse. We are going to talk about hurt by words, a emotional hurt here.

How to heal, when you are hurting and move on, when it is hard and you do not want to? I wrote a post not too long ago about being Have you gotten hurt , it was and is very hard for me to deal with.

We can not prevent of getting hurt by other person, as it would be impossible unless we lived alone in woods. But we can steps to minimize the pain and move forward. How so? Let's explore.

1. Write down in journal or write a letter to them (Do not mail it, or give it to them, just write it for your eyes only) Write everything down you feel. Talk your feelings to someone else who will understand and not judge you. If you can not find/trust anyone to listen, that is okay, you can talk to a stuffed toy or picture of your friend and let it know how you are hurt and how it is making you feel in details.

2. Once your initial anger/frustration is out, you can try talking to a person who hurt you in person. Make sure, timing is good for both of you and there are no other distractions. When you talk, keep flow and mind open. Do not accuse or attack person but talk about situation in focus. Once you talk, listen to other person's explanations. It simply could be that person, never realized that he/she was hurting you.

3. Once you talked your feelings out, see how genuine other person's feelings are. If they are truly in dark or truly sorry, you can forgive and be friends with them slowly.

4. Sometimes, most of us are not so lucky, and other person may not feel they have done anything wrong and they accuse you instead. Try to remain calm but firm in your beliefs. Sometimes, you may have to walk out on that relationship for short term or permanently, if you think it will not work out.

When relationship ends, it hurts a lot, specially, if you have invested so much of your time and efforts and your kids and their kids life have intermingled. Make a choice and stick to it, as it is not easy to do. Remember, your pride and dignity is important too, once you let someone walk all over you, they may do it again. Truly forgive them but you can choose not remain friends.

5. Forgive yourself for your feelings, it is okay to cry (yes, for guys too) but do not blame your self ,if relationship does not survive. One can not clap with one hand, you will need both parties willing to work out situation.

6. Friendships and relationship with people are complex as human emotions are complex. All of us want to be liked but sometimes, we can not please everyone. Do what you feel right for you and follow your gut feelings. Do not stop making new friends because old one hurt you. Sometimes taking a risk will benefit with new friendship that will be better suited for you.

No matter what happens, try to be open minded and calm and try to resolve situation first. If you have hurt someone by mistake, tell your apology from heart, if you think you were not wrong, explain your situation and tell them you never meant to hurt them. All of us like to keep relationship intact but when it is not possible, move on without feeling guilty or blaming yourself.

Life teaches us new things and sometimes we became a better person because of it.

Do you have a story to share? Good or not so good ending? How would you handle your hurt emotions?


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

10 ways to help during bad economy

When economy is down, most people stops giving to many worthy charities. Often people will help with food, money and time during Christmas time, but come January and most of us are busy with our lives and our new year resolutions.

As there are more people and charities that need help during this down economy right now, how can we help, when we ourselves are strapped with money woes ourselves? There are a few ways, let's explore.

1. Give your unused items to homeless shelter, or pet shelter. They are always looking for blankets, stuffed toys, coats and other clothing items. There are low income pregnancy organizations can take your unwanted maternity clothes, baby clothes and baby items. A few organization may take your business clothes, for getting low-income people ready for new job interviews. Many charities take car donations too.

2. Give your time, many places can use volunteers to help out, specially shelters, temples, churches, or local community centers. Many places you can help out with answering phone such as PBS or crisis hot line center for abuse and suicide.

3. Bring hot cooked meals to community centers, senior citizens, your neighbours who might be sick or just had a baby, or homeless person near by your area.

4. Give unused toys to hospital, or community preschool for low-income family.

5. Help not only your close friends, family, but also strangers, animals, birds and insects. Compassion for all lives. For example, put up bird seeds for you local area birds and water bath near by for them.

6. Trust family and friends when they ask for small loan. Give amount you can afford as a gift and tell them it is not a loan. Many times good relations goes bad when loan comes into a picture.

7. Give blood donation to someone who needs it.

8. Volunteer in your local library, local free tax helper, deliver meals or groceries to people who can not drive themselves. Volunteer to watch your family or friends, kids sometimes giving much needed break to their parents.

9. Did you know you can donate unused miles, credit card points to worthy causes? Find out and pick the one you choose.

10. Little help goes long ways too. For example, pay some one's parking meter, when they run out of the time, pick up trash and put in trash bin, help someone while waiting in line at post office, doctors offices and other long lines. Smile and say hello to strangers.

I am sure there many other creative ways to help others without big money. Would you like to add other suggestions? How do you help during bad times?

Photo Source: Art Box Images RF

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Learning from 4 years old

She was very tired, and had not slept well since pregnancy and now with infant who was teething, and busy preschooler, 8 hours sleep was far fetched dream, if she ever found any time to dream that is. Her back was hurting, eyes were red from lack of sleep.She had not been out in days and not seen much social life lately, other than doctor and hospital visits. She felt unattractive, under appreciated by her 24-7 job that only paid in smiles and hugs.

All she wanted to do was sit in passenger side seat without kids attached to her, while her husband drove with family to get much needed groceries. She hoped that her 4 year old will keep busy with crayons and 5 month would fall asleep, and she can rest, have an adult conversation with her husband or just look outside or catch a small snooze.Instead of her hopes of infant falling asleep, he started to scream in car seat in middle of the drive to store.

She closed her eyes, wishing it to be calm next minute. When 20 seconds passed, which seemed like an eternity, with screaming infant, she sighed and reluctantly decided to go back in seat, sitting in middle seat on ground between her infant and preschooler, not the best comfortable position to entertain a child in driving car. Yet she knew she must.

She tried to calm her infant with various toys and silly faces song routine. That was a scene to be seen :-) However, her efforts met with persistent cries as infant wanted to be lifted in mommy's arms. It was tough, and not possible without stopping the car, maybe feed him and then start to drive again. However, she thought, that would delay things further, with shopping, going home and cooking and feeding kids, cleaning, doing dishes and much more time wastage than she had energy for.

But stop they must, so they did in nearby small parking lot. She lifted her infant in backseat and started to feed him, but infant was already simulated and crying and fussing continued which seemed like forever. Then it happened, something snapped inside her and she broke down, her mind was clouded with doubts and she started crying. She thought, why other infants seemed so content and sleeping through the night and do not cry, what is wrong with her infant? Why is he like that? It must be because way she parents her child. Tiredness has caused her to think more negative on situation, which she knew she might not have, if she was rested. As she fed her infant crying her tears over flowing over her cheeks to her infant cheeks.

She told her husband, she can not do this longer as she was not good mother, wife or even friend, she seemed to be failing at many things. Her husband tried to say something intelligent but it just made her more sad and depressed. Everyone sat in car in silenced and tense. Infant now satisfied with mommy, fell asleep in her arms. she felt more worse seeing his dried tears on his cheeks despite now him sleeping in peace.

Till her 4 years old spoke, "mommy don't cry, Do you know, you are bestest mommy in whole tide world. Baby is small and he can not talk so he cries when he wants something. Don't cry mommy. When he will be old like me, he will not cry, he will talk and be good boy like me. It will get better, you see." (Not type-error, actual words)

Listening this her sadness started to go away, and only tears were flowing now was tear of happiness, as she was so proud of her small preschooler, who was wise beyond his age. She hugged him and told "you are right, things will get better with time and your brother may turned out to be good kid just like you. Mommy loves you".

After awhile, as they drove to grocery store in peace, with infant sleeping safely in car seat, she knew, she may get bad moments and days in future, but she will get through those moments with loving kid, family around her, slowly and one step at the time.

Friday, August 14, 2009

7 ways your clutter is costing you

Having clutter around not only cost us our money but also our piece of mind and happiness with it. Your house might be filled with piles of books and magazines you mean to read it, the smaller size clothes in your closet when you get back to your college weight, every toys that kids got from family and friends, many bills are just a few of example of clutter that most of us go through in our lives. Kitchen, bathrooms and office are worst places in a house for clutter to pile up easily. Instead of you owning the stuff, your stuff ends up owning/controlling you. Here are few ways, clutter cost us more than we bargained for;

1. You misplace bills to pay or check to deposit in your huge piles of paper. By the time, you find anything, bill is past due and check is no longer cash-able (after 90 days). You have just lost money and added interest or fees on bills too.

2. You buy item, only to realize months later, that you had that same item in your storage pile somewhere in the house. It was hard to find and hence forgotten. Sometimes, you may buy same items a few times over the years, not remembering, costing you more money.

3. You panic when someone called for unannounced to visit, as it will be overwhelming to clean up clutter in such a short time. Either you are embarrassed when company comes or choose to do less social inviting on purpose, either way you are losing social life with friends and family because of your clutter.

4. You do not want to come home as cluttered and messy home does not make you feel better. So you tend to eat out more often and do more outside shopping to make yourself feel good, adding clutter to your already cluttered house.

5. You may think it is wise to put all extra storage in storage place, leaving your house cleaner. However, you may pay $50 a month for your junk and your house slowly begins to be cluttered again.

6. You may lose your valuable time finding things in the house. You may search every morning your car keys under the stuff pile, or you may find that food in your fridge has gone bad, wasting food and money both. Your self esteem may take hit.

7. You are not living your true potential life, due to all clutter. You are waiting for some miracle to make it all better, clutter robs you from happiness. A happiness you get when your sink is empty and kitchen is clean and your bills are paid on time. You will get so much joy once work is done and you can truly relax and enjoy your home.

Is clutter costing you in some ways? In future we will look at a few ways to get started on path to simplifying and de-cluttering.

Photo source: Comstock: Gettyimage


Monday, August 10, 2009

8 items to spend money on;

There is a frugal in me wants to save money as much possible when purchasing an item. However, with time I have learned that spending money on a few quality items that get used everyday is often is worth it. As we will use those items for years to come, thus saving money in long term.

Here is my list of items that I would not mind spending money on;

1. Good cooking set
Cooking at home everyday will not only save you money, but you can make variety of food in healthier way too. Having a good cooking set that includes 2 skillets, a saucepan, a stockpot with lid will be good enough for most cooks. There are very reasonably priced anodized set available in most stores and if used properly, can last you years saving you money.

2. Education/Knowledge
Knowledge is very important for all of us. Education is knowledge. It does not need to be from private school or ivy league college but from any good, above average school or college will do. Even those who make it rich without degree on paper, have keen sense of learning and yearning of knowledge. Sometimes spending money and time learning things that you are interested in, will give your career and self worth a huge boost.

3. Health/Medicine
First step should be prevention from any health issues. However, if you still get sick, getting proper care and medicine is important and usually not time to save money on. Yes, I am all for getting generic drugs and home remedies but, here I am talking about getting care by medical staff, if you are in accident, need surgery or have complicated health issues. I believe health is greatest wealth, as if you are healthy, you can earn more later on.

4. Good sharp Knife
This is another kitchen tool that is very helpful if you have sharp and easy grip knife, cutting becomes so easy and fun. I generally use 3 knives for most of my cutting vegetables and fruits. I have been one small paring knife, all purpose chef's knife and serrated knife to cut bread loaves and tomatoes. Once you have a good knife and learn techniques on how to use it properly, cutting becomes easier and faster.

5. Tools
Even if you are not a Do-it-yourself type, having some fix-it tools helps you out in house and car maintenance. Everyday situations such as putting up framed pictures, curtains will be done with simple home tools. For DIY-ers, getting good tools that can be reused again and again can save lot of money on tool replacement cost or labor cost done by professionals. If you are going to be in a house, invest in some good enough tool set, you will be glad you did.

6. Organic/Natural Food/groceries
I am vegetarian and partial vegan (occasionally eating cheese and yogurt). In addition to getting organic fruits and vegetables, we try to get vegan clothes, shoes, shampoo, medicines etc too. Sometimes it is tough to find a right choice and often time is bit expensive, but for us it is worth it.

7. Good comfortable and right fit shoes
If you love to walk, getting a comfortable shoes is a must. Getting a right size and fit also helps.It is a good for normal day to day walk and also for jogging, small hiking and exercise.

8. Comfortable couch/sofa chair
Having at least one comfortable couch or sofa chair is house is must for me. Somewhere to curl up and read a book or take a small nap. Having a good quality chair that does not sink in when you sit yet soft and cushiony is a small bliss when I am tired and need a quick pick me up.

For which items you think spending more money is worth it?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

8 items to save money on

There are certain items in life we like to spend our good hard earned money and feel good about money well spent. While, there are a few items, I rather save my money on, as they do not need to be the best available choice in my life. For everyone, this maybe different as it is based on personal choice and priorities. Here is my list of 8 items and my reasons for not spending extra pennies on;

1. Play/everyday clothes
Now, that I am SAHM (Stay at Home Mom) and not a corporate employee, my cloth style is to wear loose and comfortable clothes. I am not talking about formal/business attire here, I am talking about day to day clothes, one that you wear at home or causual outing such as grocery shopping, walking your dog type. Most of my everyday wear clothes are simple, fair quality clothes that will mix and match with other clothes in my small but functional wardrobe.

2. Kid's clothes and shoes
Infant and small kids tend to grow out of their size in short time, it would be waste to spend $30 on a cute outfit that will be worn maybe once before it is outgrown. My 5 month has already grown out of his 6 months clothes. Until kid has learned to walk, spending money on cute and for show-off sandals or shoes is waste of money. One pair of shoes is okay, for special function, wedding etc, but it does not need to be very expensive ones. Save your money and buy basic and functional clothing and shoes items.

3. Special Kid furniture
As soon as marketer put "Kid" or "children" name with of any wooden furniture, price gets doubled. For example, a child dresser would be twice as expensive as regular dresser, instead just buy the horizontal regular dresser as a kid's dresser and color it as you or your child like it and change knobs to kid friendly theme and save your self money and headache, as you will not be tensed when you preschooler paints all over your cheap dresser.

Also, save some money on diaper changing table as once your infant starts to rollover and move, table becomes dangerous place for wiggling infant and changing on floor is better and cheaper option. For some purchase of crib is worth it and others it is not. Find out what works for you before you buy that $300 crib.

4. Brand name Shampoo
I used to believe brand name shampoo will make my hair shiny and wavy like those in commercials. It did not. However,I was able to get similar result for generic store brand shampoo at a much lower cost. In addition, putting little coconut and olive oil on my hair did my hair much more good than those expensive shampoo and hair nourishment products did.

5. Bottle water
Unless you are getting muddy, cloudy and weird tasting water, bottle water is useless stuff to spend your hard earned cash on. Did you know, most of bottled water is actually tap water, only purified? Why spend money when you can get same benefit by buying small filter for home use.

6. Designer Paper plate/cups etc.
There are so many types of brand name design paper products now available for your party, some are as expensive as non disposable products. I would suggest to save your money and also environment by using re-usable plates, cups. If you must use paper plates, generics are as good as most pricier name brands.

7. Big house
When buying a house, most people are told to buy biggest house they can afford. These types of advice makes most of us buy far bigger house than we need or can afford. For 2 people with out kids do not generally need 5 bedroom house with 3 car garage, smaller house will do much better in most situation. We do not need bigger houses, we need less consumer stuff in the house and our house will be large enough for most of us. Less is more sometimes.

8. Big car SUV/Hummer
Same argument as above #7, why buy big car, gas guzzler that costs a lot? Small car gives a better mileage, easy to drive, park and cheaper priced. If you must buy large vehicle due to large family, there are other options such as smaller fuel efficient minivan instead of big SUV or hummer cars.

Did you like the article? Which items you save money on?

Next we will look at items we should more money on, huh? Stay tune for it.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Health and Wealth

What are similarities between health and wealth? Except, all of us want it, and worry about it when we lose it. I suppose, they also could be used in a rhyming poem :-). However, there is much in common between health and wealth than it meets the eye. How so? Let's explore.

For example, for wealth, we must earn more than we spend and for health, we must burn more calories than we eat. However, most of us are failing to do either and are suffering because of widely available cheap consumer goods and cheap unhealthy food, we tend to overspend and overeat. A lose-lose scenario for sure.

In addition to, if we have health problems, medicines, doctor's visits, hospital bills can cause drainage of our money in big way. Medical bills are number one reason , people in USA file for bankruptcies. And if we have lot of debts so collection agency and creditors are calling day and night causes us to lose a sleep, not only that but also, it can causes other health problems such as headaches, insomnia, indigestion and depression etc,.

In order to be free, we need to pay off debt, we will need to make a serious plan and follow through each steps. Paying minimum on card will not get us out of debt fast enough, we have to pay every extra pennies towards debt to be free of burden. Similarly, if we are planning to lose extra few (or a lot) of pounds, we will need a healthy eating and exercising plan. Starting small is good, however each extra steps will speed up the the final result. As every extra penny towards debt has same effect as walking extra steps to lose weight.

We can not really enjoy one without other. For example, a wealthy person who is very sick, can not make his/her disease go away, no matter how much money he/she willing to spend for it. However, A poor but healthy person has a possibility of being happy though. That is why, I will choose health over wealth anytime. As philosopher Virgil has said "Greatest wealth is health". But sure does not hurt for us to have both, and that should be the our goal.

How to you stay healthy and wealthy? What works for you?


Photo source: Comstock, Getty Image

Friday, July 31, 2009

20 money saving tips when eating out

I used to eat out often, now as I am trying to reduce my debt and be more healthier, so I eat in more often. If you can afford it, eating out occasionally is harmless and can give you temporary relief from cooking, cleaning kitchen and dishes for that day. Best ways to save money is to eat at home of course, however, you can always save money when eating out by using following tips and actually enjoy the experience.

1. Use coupons if available by using Restaurant.com or Food Coupons site from various restaurants. You can always check the restaurant's official website for coupon code, some of the places may offer it.

2. Get a entertainment book , you can buy these entertainment books by year and by your local area. We know a friend, who buys this entertainment book for travel too, as it has coupons for not only fast food, sit down nice restaurants, but it has coupons for movies, museums and other fun things to see and buy. You will recover the cost($20) in 2 outing or less. It might be worth it, and you can buy 2009 book for 50% off right now.

3. If you eat at one restaurant often, find out if they have frequent diner program or club which you can join. You can sign up at official website with an email and get coupons and special deal information via email. Here is an example for joining frequent diner club for Fresh choice restaurant.

4. Do not order drinks, Tea, Coffee, if you do, do it occasionally only. As drinks can add up to $2-$5 each. Same thing about ordering wine or speciality drinks.

5. Go to restaurants which offer free appetizer while you are waiting for your order, such as some Mexican restaurants offer free chips and salsa with order, a few Italian restaurants offer free bread, butter with order.

6. US restaurant portion sizes are huge, so spilt a entree with a family member or friend you are dining with. Order appetizer instead of full entree. If you can not spilt entree, take it remaining half to go, for dinner or next day's lunch.

7. Go to 'all you can eat' buffet places. These places are best for most people as for fixed price you can try out variety of food items, including, appetizer, drinks, salad, main entree and dessert too.

8. Eat out near college town/city restaurants, which caters to students so usually food item prices are reasonable to cheaper there.

9. Order water. It is free. If you like Coke or Pepsi, Coffee, find out if they have a free refills, it might be worth it, if you drink more than one glass/cup.

10. Look for special deals day or times when some restaurant may offer, 'kid eat free' day or 'buy one, get one free' deal. That may stretch your dollar further when eating out.

11. Some restaurants may have happy hours time, during which they offer drinks and appetizers at 50% off. Times for happy hours are usually early at 5PM and usually on Fridays.

12. Eat at small, take out place or fast food type of restaurant, you can avoid 15% tip. If you do eat at sit-down places, please do not save money on tip as waiter's wages usually counts tips towards their pay.

13. Go for lunch or brunch. During dinner time, price is usually bit higher.

14. If you order dessert, ask for extra spoons and share it with whom you are out, as dessert are huge and pricier.

15. Work part time at restaurant, you may some discount when dining in. :-)

16. Work as a mystery shopper, sometimes you will get paid to survey restaurant and can get free or discounted meal. Check out here for more information.

17. Sometimes, valuable coupons mailed with "Value Pak" promotion , look for coupons and deals for local restaurant or newly opened restaurants which may offer discounts.

18. Choose more vegetarian choices when eating out, generally vegetarian items are cheaper to
meat choices.

19. Stay away from cream, butter and cheese food choices, as it will be pricier or unhealthy.

20. Some restaurant offer free small food/meal to birthday girl/boy, check it out here and go there on your birthday or friend's birthday.

Last remember, If you are out, enjoy the food, chew slowly and forget the guilt. That may not save more money but at least you will enjoy the experience and you will not have to do dishes for that time.

Do you have any other tips to add? How do you save money when eating out? How about where you live? What works with your budget and eating out plan? I will be curious to know more.


Image source: Feng Zhao, getty Image

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More about Zengirl

I am Zengirl, married to my best friend zenguy for a long time. We have two lovely zenkids, both boys, our first is R, who is 41/2 years old and second one is P who is 5 months old.

I have electric engineering degree and uncompleted MBA. I stopped my MBA when I got pregnant and kids have occupied my time well for now to finish the MBA, but it is on my goal list. Zenguy and myself, we both used to work in tech industry, now I have become stay at home mom to my 2 boys and enjoying the work politics free lifestyle. While I miss my salary and social aspects of my work life, I do not regret my choice of being at home with the kids.

My interests are many and keeps me busy: home cooking, simple living, frugality, saving environment, gardening, oil painting, sketching, writing poems and stories, listening classical music, natural remedies and natural lifestyle, reading classic books,watching funny movies,
social life with like minded people and kids, quite meditation, yoga,reducing physical and mental clutter, attachment parenting, homeschooling.

I am a vegetarian since birth and I am working towards being a vegan. I have given up milk, honey, egg etc., for past 3 years, occasionally I eat yogurt and cheese, which I am working on quitting it.

I do not wish to be millionaire. I want to just have enough for us to be debt free and save some for kids future. I have started on this path a few years ago, it was rough and slow start but it is much easier now. There is always room for an improvement and everyday is little new achievement.

I am "jack of all trade and master of none" type of person and not an expert on any subject. I have many habits which I am trying to change for better. I hope to learn about myself by writing my thoughts out on a blog. Hope you can enjoy and learn along with me.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Have you gotten hurt?

I am out of balance, out of harmony right now and it is not good feeling at all. I have failed.

It has been a long road for me, to let go and forgive certain aspects in my life. A while ago, I was able to forgive, a group of close friends that hurt me emotionally, while I was pregnant with P, my 5 month old. It was not easy but I felt lot better inside, when I finally did forgave them. Or I thought, I did.

Now months later, an email from one of them have opened the old wound again. I did not think, it would hurt since I believed, I have moved on from that petty issue. It sure hurts. Now I wonder, did I really forgave the first time? If I truly did, shouldn't I be more calm and cool? I am not sure of answers yet.

While, I am working on finding an answers and my balance again, I thought of leaving you all with a few quotes by a few wise people, on the subject to ponder over.

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.”
Joan Lunden

"You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”
Lewis B. Smedes

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”

“The folks you help won't remember it and the folks you hurt won't ever forget it.”
Bill Clayton

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.”
Dalai Lama

“If you are never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take chances”
Julia Soul

“When you can't remember why you're hurt, that's when you're healed.”
Jane Fonda

“Pain in the present is experienced as hurt, pain in the past is remembered as anger.”
Gaelic Proverb

Did you ever wonder why the one closest you, can hurt you the most? Have you been hurt by friend, lor oved ones? How do you pick yourself up again? What suggestions would you give?


Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Zengirl?

I am a huge fan and follower of Leo Babauta of Zen habit . I believe most people in world knows about Leo and his well deserved famous blog, for the remaining 3 of you, who do not know about him, check out more about him and his blog here . It has amazing articles and he and his blog are the reason, I am inspired to start a blog. Hence, I chose the name Zengirl, as I aspire to be more zen-like in my life.

I have made a little progress so far and continue in that path of simplicity, simple productivity in life. Hopefully, writing about it in blog will inspired me to practice and follow a path that will lead to a balance and calm in my life and hopefully yours too.


Why happy heart and mind Blog? a story behind a name

There is a story, albeit very small one behind the name for this blog. Here is the explanation.

My mind and my heart, often wants different things at the same time. Same thing is true for most of the people I know. Maybe it is true for you too. Is it?

For example, my heart often says, I deserve to buy some book or movie, just because ..'so and so reason', while my mind is saying, I should be saving that money for bills and borrow that book/movie from library or friend. Who should I listen to? Of course my mind.

Other example would be that when my 5 months old wake up at yet again 7th time in one night (he is teething), my mind wants to sleep and not get up next day with raccoon eyes, but my heart just can't hear small baby crying and wakes up all the time. Who should I listen to this time? Heart wins!!

While it is good for a heart win sometimes and a mind win other times, I want this conflict to turn in to a productive and happy compromise position, where my mind and my heart is in happy balance. I am true Gemini so having two side each story is always thought of and discussed. Also, I am learning that just like two different side of coins and life can be in harmony if issues are simplified after being well thought of. Hence, the title of this blog is happy heart and mind.

Do you have two side talks with your heart and mind? Are they in harmony? Do you care?

Thanks for reading, this small tidbit behind the blog story.


20 things mind desires

Following is the list, that my mind likes to do, or want to learn more about it.

1. Being consumer and mortgage debt free
2. Automate my financial system
3. Save for retirement, kids college, emergency
4. Keep learning, for example sewing
5. Finish my MBA (I stopped after being mom)
6. Pursue Math and Science related learning
7. Put less impact on environment
8. Learn to Garden and compost well
9. Being thankful for things I have
10. Learn to make things at home, DIY instead of running to store for every little thing
11. Frugality
12. Teaching kids of all things money, compassion and caring
13. Using cash envelope system
14. Being content
15. Learn to forgive and forget
16. Not forgetting to laugh, when worry overcomes
17. Learn to enjoy silence, Do nothing, Not run after every "to do" lists.
18. Stop procrastinating
19. Focus on positives instead of negatives in life and people
20. Being patience, Take it slow.

This list has a lot of things, I am still learning and trying to practice everyday. It has been said, you need to do something for 21 days, continuously to make a habit. It is easier said than done. However, starting is a hard point, once most of us get started, each step gets easier.

How about you? What does your mind desires and are you already practicing it?


20 things heart desires

Following topics my heart likes or interested in learning more about, so I may explore it more in this blog.

1. Love and compassion towards all living being (Including animals, plants, insects)
2. Respecting individuality, religion, choices
3. Mushy and Classic Romantic stories and books
4. Mushy and Romantic Movies
5. Talking to friends, family and strangers
6. Learning new and old (history) stuff
7. Being lazy (at beach, at home, every where)
8. My two little adorable and busy bee kids
9. Zen guy's silly jokes and dancing
10. Aroma of spices during cooking
11. Meditation and yoga
12. Oil Painting and sketching
13. Being crafty
14. Being worry free
15. Simplicity
16. Music and silly dancing, Bathroom singing
17. Giggling and laughing for no reason
18. Old fashioned way of slow cooking, home remedies
19. Nature hikes, Nature site seeing
20. Travel and learning from people

Some of the things I already practice, while other things in this list, I need to practice more to make a habit into my life. What does your heart like and desire? And are you already doing it?



Welcome! This blog will represent my thoughts on how to have a happy heart and happy mind together. As usually for most people, heart and mind do not want same things at the same time.

Would you like to join in my journey? More the merrier.