By Brittany Dale
Thursday, March 20, 2014
One of the best feelings I can think of is to receive a letter or package that came from a human being I love. My name scrawled with ink from a pen and a real stamp affixed to the top. I love getting real mail. We get junk mail every day, piles of it. The amount of junk mail floating around makes my heart hurt. A couple of weeks ago I grabbed the mail as I hopped in the car to run an errand with my boyfriend. I wondered how the mail person even carried the stack to my mailbox. As I was sifting through the abyss I noticed a handwritten envelope. I looked at my boyfriend, smiled and tossed the rest of the mail into the back seat. My grin stretched from ear to ear as I opened the lovely note from my best friend and college room mate. Real mail is wonderful. She later told me she found the card in a thrift store and thought it was so creepy she couldn't help but buy it. Perfection.
If getting mail is wonderful, sending mail is equally gratifying. I don't send as many just thinking of you letters as I should. I once had a goal of sending at least one letter each week. That dream kind of ended up like most new year's resolutions. Maybe I should try again.
Sending a letter can get fairly expensive depending on how you do it. Yesterday, even though I used a coupon for $1.50 off of 3 greeting cards, I spent $8.00. While I think it's worth it to buy a real card every once in a while, I also really like to make my own. A few years ago I experienced a moment of “I'm absolutely going to use this package of exactly 1 million matching card stock and envelopes.” I'm still making good on that promise with around 500,000 cards to go.
The cards are simple and sometimes I write silly or sappy heartfelt things. If I'm feeling particularly crafty I will add detail or drawings but just the card itself is enough. I believe the tiny effort can make someone else's day.
The world wide web is an excellent resource for free or cheap ways to tell someone hello. I searched “e-cards” and not surprisingly found hundreds of resources. Most e-card sites are completely free which is an added bonus. Your intended target will receive an email with whichever card you chose. The process is simple and magical... oh ya, and free.
Another very popular option is sending a photo as a card or postcard. Sites like snapfish.com or shutterfly.com allow you to create photo greeting cards and send to family and friends. Any printing facility such as Walgreens or Target also has options for printing photos in various ways. While this option isn't free, it's a creative and enduring way to let your loved ones see your beautiful face... or someone else's if you prefer. Books, mugs, shirts, hats.... the options of places to plaster your photos are endless!
Take a moment this week or weekend and send a card. Just one. Send it to anyone for any reason and know that you made someone's day. You might even get one in return. Mail is a beautifully easy and affordable way to show you care.
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
This is Frankie. So named because it was put together by various bike parts we had at home.
Frankie is my commuter bike. When the weather is nice I ride it to work to save on gas money. I don't live far away, about a 12 minute bike ride, and riding my bike means I not only save on gas, but I get "free" exercise too! You know you've got a bike back there in the garage that just needs its tires pumped up and its chain cleaned. You know you do. If you don't, that's ok. Maybe you can find a used one in the classifieds or maybe you can even walk to work!
Sometimes, like today, I drive to work in the morning when it's cold, but go home at lunch and grab my bike. Usually I go home for lunch anyway, so it's not like I'm making an extra trip.
You don't need a lot of fancy gear to ride your bike to work. I roll up my work clothes and put them in a backpack. I add in whatever I might need for touching up hair and make-up when I get to work and then pack my lunch and put that right on top. When I get to work I lock up my bike, change clothes and am ready to go! In the spring and early summer I'll ride my bike down to the Riverfront Trail (where the above photo was taken) and eat lunch down there. I've saved on gas, a trip to the gym, haven't spent any money on lunch and now have a great relaxing lunchtime view as well!
Biking to work can really save you money. If you bike to work enough to save yourself one fill-up every other month, that's (for my car anyway) about $180. Add in the cost you've saved on a gym membership and you're really saving some cash. You save in other ways too, though. If you've got a desk job like mine, you need to get up and move around. There are so many articles and studies out there about the desk job and how it increases your risk of stroke, heart disesase, etc.,etc. Biking to work can help you to counter the effects of sitting for 8 hours a day. So in the end, you're not only saving money on gas and gym memberships, you're saving money on health costs and hospital bills too.
While Grand Junction isn't the most bike-friendly city around, if you live in Palisade, Fruita, the Redlands or Orchard Mesa you can pick up the Riverfront trail to get downtown. North/South streets like 5th, 3rd, and 10th all have great bike lines and others like 8th and 6th aren't very busy. There are plenty of East/West streets that parallel the busier ones like North Avenue and Grand. I bike a lot on Colorado Avenue; Gunnison and Ouray are also options. Even Orchard Avenue now has bike lanes near the college!
Start exploring and find a route to work. You can use sites like Map My Ride to help you find good routes and also to track the distance of your rides too. Just try it one time, on this year's National Bike to Work Day, May 16th. Who knows? You may be hooked!
By Brittany Dale
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
No, I don't mean the place you go to pick up chicks (or dudes, or both) and order things like a Fuzzy Navel or Skinamarinky Dink. Can you tell I don't get out much?
I mean these:
In our house, we don't necessarily live on these but hiking, bike riding and gym workouts require that little bit of extra energy that is easily acquired with these kinds of bars.
Most weekends the lovely 10 for $10 sales can keep our costs down. On restocking weekends we end up spending at least $20.
Sam's club in Grand Junction has 24 count packages of Clif bars for $19.34 which makes each bar around .80 cents. Depending on taste preferences there are a couple of choices that can be much more affordable. The downside with buying in bulk in this scenario is lack of variety.
The other problem staring me in the face is the ingredients of some of these bars are just not that great. Clif and Kind bars are fairly natural but are the more expensive option.
Running into REI or City Market and demanding they give me 100 bars of my choice for .20 cents each doesn't sound like the brightest idea or something I could being to fathom. Making my own bars would be both cost effective and give me assurance that I know exactly what went into them but who has time for that honestly?!
I am gently reminded each week in various ways that I will just never be the cookie cutter gal. I have never even baked cookies on my own! I guess I'll have to wait until I find a magical energy source to make my own energy bars.. hmm, sounds like the chicken or the egg situation.
By Julie Norman
Monday, March 17, 2014
Are you a coffee shop junkie? Do you love stopping by there every morning on your way to work, or taking a mid-morning break to go grab a nice latte with whipped cream on top? Do you realize that if you spend $3 every weekday on a coffee beverage that, by the end of the year, you'll have spent almost $800 on coffee? Is it worth it? Maybe it is. Maybe that's your thing - coffee. My things are skiing and biking. I'll save money in other places to have it to spend on those hobbies.
My point is, just try skipping the coffee shop. I know office coffee can suck (trust me, I KNOW) but Starbucks VIA is a pretty good gourmet "instant" coffee. You could also invest in a French press and, for about $8, get a nice bag of freshly ground coffee beans for it. That's what I do. I use the bulk beans at Safeway, grind them in the store, and a pound lasts about 3 weeks. I make a cup for home and then put more in a thermos to take to work. You can buy vanilla syrup if you want, or keep a special creamer or whipped cream at work for your coffee. I'm just saying...TRY IT! You may find that you don't miss your Starbucks that much after all.
By Julie Norman
Friday, March 14, 2014
Just in time for Spring Break, this article from US News' "Money" channel popped up on my radar today. While I'm not heading anywhere for Spring Break (mostly because we don't get spring break here at the Sentinel...though perhaps I should suggest it!), I know plenty of you are! Here's hoping you find some tips that will help you relax while also saving you some $$$.
Brittany's got a great link here to The Happiness Project.
This is a link to the Happiness Project website. I believe the book was first and started a movement. This website is completely free! While you can find her book for uber cheap in various book stores and online, the website has tons of tools to get your happy on… for free!