The New Normal: Insourcing

blackberryNews stories report that the sale of sewing kits have shot up 30% as people hem their own pants to avoid the expense of a tailor. Folks are tackling home repair, dying their own hair, and cleaning their own houses in an effort to save money. Insourcing – doing yourself instead of hiring out – is the new wave rolling across the nation.

I am the antipathy of insourcing.

In late January, I bought myself a new toy: a Blackberry Storm. Despite tutorials from the Verizon salesman and later from my friend Gail, I have yet to figure out the Blackberry’s bells and whistles. I can place a call and read incoming email – that’s it. Almost two months later, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never learn the ins and outs of this device on my own; I need to hire a tech person to give me a private lesson. I can even rationalize it as my patriotic effort to boost the tech-guy economy.

Readers who are DIY fans and relish a challenge are probably cringing at my ineptitude.

Paco Underhill, author of the book “Why We Buy,” explained the economic logic behind the insourcing trend:

“There are many of us that have been spending money that we can’t afford to spend and have taken on habits that we had no business taking on. Those time-based trade-offs actually are some of the easiest forms of economizing.”

Prior to these economic times, I’ve had friends who paint/wallpaper, change the oil in their cars, clean gutters, and perform other tasks that I’ve always contracted out. I admire my resourceful and talented friends. I’ve always wanted to be like them. Now, I have compelling financial reasons to follow their lead. Yet I can’t get over my “I-can’t-do-it-Someone else-can-do-it-better-faster-cheaper” mindset.

Do you find yourself thinking about insourcing (or better yet doing it)? I would love to hear how/whether others are embracing the new normal of insourcing.

Just a little Organization tip to start your Week…

dscn08221I’m sitting here on Oscar night trying to figure out what to write.  Should it be about my new venture….no, more on that at a future date… should it be on Google’s new Street Views technology?  Or should it be more on Elaine’s Facebook post last week, and the fact that the largest growing demographic for Facebook is the 30+ crowd?  Of course, this means that our own kids might be bailing at some point in the near future.  Or should it be about Elaine’s post about the wrongful caricature – inspired by the monkey gone wild story in Connecticut … a monkey, by the way, that lives in my neighborhood, and has thrown his boxers into my car as he drove down the street in a convertible with his owner?

Well, all of these ideas I might formulate in the near future into something more meaningful.  But for now, I want to just share a simple organization tip one of my friends told me about a few months back.  Something that I think about quite often, but haven’t gotten around to executing yet.  Although I did clean out the closet where my washing machine/dryer and all the cleaning supplies exist today…so maybe next weekend I can tackle the linen closet.

I open the door to my linen closet and I’m confronted with towering piles of sheets and towels.  Typically during the week, the bed linens are washed, and put back on the beds, so digging around in the linen closet for an extra set of linens is avoided.  But every time I need to pull out linens for a visiting guest, pulling together a fitted sheet, top sheet and two pillow cases that match is a feat unto itself, not to mention matching sheets for a double, queen or twin bed.

So here’s the secret:  Take a pillow case, and put the two sheets and extra pillow case inside the pillow case, so ALL the linens for the bed can be accessed with one hand in a flash.  Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that are the most ingenious.






Better to Receive (Graciously) than to Give (Guiltily)

hand-giftLet’s hope I’m not struck down for taking the time-honored Biblical message (“‘Tis better to give than to receive”) and turning it on its head.

My intent is not to discount the joy of giving. No, it’s to discourage the need for obligatory gift-giving. You know those times when someone (neighbor, coworker, casual friend) unexpectedly gives you a present, and you automatically (often frantically) feel the pressure to reciprocate.

In fact, magazines urge us to stock-pile “emergency gifts” for just such occasions. Feeling awkward and empty-handed? Create a stash of generic gifts –  pillar candles, card games in tins, bud vases, special teas or cocoa, potpourri, and pre-made basket of lotions and soaps — and save yourself from a potentially embarrassing situation.

Let me suggest an alternative strategy: Say “thank you” and simply appreciate the gift and the warm sentiment it represents. There’s no need to scramble and produce a gift out of guilt. In fact, this obligatory sense of quid pro quo often makes the original giver feel uncomfortable and taints the whole experience.

So, receive the gift graciously. And, if at the next gift-giving opportunity, you feel a genuine urge to give that person a present, by all means — do so. As sacred Hindu scripture says:

A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.

P.S. In the coming weeks, remember to …

  1. Leave a comment in support of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and thereby increase the donation amount for this worthy cause.
  2. Enjoy chatting over coffee with the wise women in your life while Anne and I take a break from blogging over the holidays. We resume on January 5, 2009.

Ho! Ho! Huh?!?!

empty-mailbox‘Twas two weeks before Christmas

When I rushed to the box

“Still! No Christmas cards,”

I thought with a shock.

Without a doubt, this is the furthest into December we’ve gone without receiving a seasons greeting in our mailbox. I guess I’m not the only one not sending out holiday cards this year.

Usually, I look forward to thinking up a creative way to say, “Happy Holidays:” a photo (natch!), a catchy saying, and occasionally, an annual letter. The only two years I did NOT send out cards were the year my father died (I was in such a fog I likely didn’t realize it was Christmas) and the protest year (I was tired of bearing sole responsibility for the task, so I just sent out my own personal greeting to my circle of friends and colleagues).

This year, I have no “good” excuse. I simply realize that sending cards would be an energy drain versus an energy boost. And I want to preserve my limited energy to do those things that matter most this season.

So, why might other people not be sending cards this year? Certainly, we can blame the economy … perhaps it’s the $100 we can ill-afford to shell out for cards … or, the gloom-and-doom economic forecasts which kill the holiday spirit.

Or, maybe people are tired of the ridiculously hyped expectations we put on ourselves around greeting cards. I was reminded of this when I read a “quiz” that appeared in the December Real Simple (usually a magazine which is a source of good ideas for our blog, but not this time). The tongue-in-cheek piece highlights the dark, competitive side associated with the holiday card ritual. In this self-scoring quiz, you:

Gain points when you receive cards from dentist, insurance agent, hairdresser, dry cleaner, mailman.

Lose points when card and envelope are same piece of paper, return-address label was provided by charity to which sender may not have actually contributed.

Earn bonus points for gilded envelope, handwritten return address, extremely clever handmade card.

Have you received any holiday cards, handmade or otherwise? What are your plans for sending out seasons greetings (or not)?

P.S. The number of charities nominated for the Wise Women Big Bucks Giveaway has jumped into the double digits! Yay! You have about another week to add your favoritie charity because, on December 18th, we’ll randomly select one charity to be the recipient of this year’s donation drive. Don’t miss out!

One Woman’s Ingenuity and Creativity

A few weeks back, Elaine blogged about different ways to go green. (Click HERE to read her blog).  Stacy, one of our faithful commenters, shared a number of different ways she “recycles” – which has included turning many different objects into works of art.  Clearly she is an artist, as even if I could conceive of some of what she has done, I don’t think I could successfully execute it.  One of my favorite things that she does is buys old pairs of ice skates (white girl’s pairs are particularly charming) at tag sales, paints a winter scene on them, and then hangs the pair on the front door in lieu of a holiday wreath.

So I must ask, what would you do with an old kitchen sink if you found it out in the woods?  Well Stacy found a sink, and turned it into a garden bench with a beautiful mosaic design.  Here are the steps – and the pictures marking the progress of this creation:

1.  Find an old sink.  Turn it upside down – and it obviously (not) has the potential to be a bench:  tn-81 

2.  Get some old plywood to create a back, and place PVC piping, cut in half along it to create a design:  tn

3.  Put PVC piping on the lower front as well, and make arm rests out of wood, with a half of a PVC pipe to make rounded arms. Then cover with a mesh wire.


4.  Mix up some cement, and cover the sink, plywood and piping to create a smooth surface:


5.  Then Stacy used old plates/china that she had collected from tag sales and made a mosaic design:


 It truly is an amazing creation!  And believe me, Stacy has no shortage of ideas.  If I could ever have the vision for this, I would then have no idea where to begin.  Stacy, this could be another calling for you if you ever decide to switch gears!

Ways to keep us Sane – Carpooling

carpool-schoolI write this on Sunday evening, and feel like for the first time in quite I while, I’ve had a productive day. Some good family time, but thankfully for my mental health, I got through some of those things that have been on my to do list for quite a while.  I laugh that a day of paying bills, mailing overdue gifts, putting some laundry in the machine, moving my summer clothes into the attic and bringing down my winter clothes, can feel so good.  And the reason for this weekend being so highly productive was that as of last weekend, soccer for two of my sons is over, and field hockey is over for my daughter.  So coming off of last weekend where I felt like I was drowning – with 1 lacrosse game, 2 field hockey games, 2 soccer games and 2 birthday parties, plus a husband out of town, this weekend was wonderfully clear.

So as I was going through my piles today, I came across an article I had torn out of the paper awhile ago. According to the date, this article has been sitting by my bedside table since April 6th.  (And yes, that pile is now much smaller too.) Anyhow, it was about a carpool management website called It’s a very  interesting premise.  You register by putting in your name and address, your children’s names and their activities.  Then you invite friends and neighbors to join a carpool.  From what I can gather, the biggest advantage of doing this vs. facilitating a carpool schedule through phone or email, is that is calendarizes the schedule for you, maps the houses and destinations, and then sends out update reminder emails or text messages on the day of the carpool, 2 hours preceding the event.

It also has a function called CarLine Manager.  This is a program set up through your children’s school, and enables you to send an update into the school’s administration if you are not able to pick up your child at the last minute, and designates who will pick up your child instead.  I thought this would be a useful tool for those last minute scrambles when you’re stuck in traffic and know you’re not going to make it.

I think the biggest hurdle to overcome in using this is ensuring that this site is safe – as you are putting personal details about your children’s whereabouts on the web. It is a password protected, secure site, and only those you invite can have access to view your personal details.  That being said, it’s still natural to be trepidatious.

But as a mom of four busy kids, who lives in a rather out of the way neighborhood, carpooling keeps me sane, not to mention the fact that it’s a wonderful green solution.  I may just give this a try, when the next activity starts up, as long as I can find some willing guinea pigs!

Do Your Eyes Light Up?

smile1Recently I received the following essay written by a woman reacting to a quote by Toni Morrison.  It’s as simple as this:  for both those people who are most important in our life as well as those we pass along the way in our daily routines, the simple act of a smile, and the conveyance of warmth through the sparkle in our eyes is probably one of the best gifts we can share.

I do my best with this at home – but it’s not always easy.  One of our children may be acting up, three people may be talking to me at once when another enters the scene…I’m rarely in a position to provide my undivided attention to any one person.  And too often, it’s my family who gets assaulted when my patience has been exhausted.  As women, we tend to be multi-tasking queens, but often I feel like what suffers is the quality one on one time I get to spend with my children.

My husband gets the award for living this philosophy almost every minute.  On the phone and when he walks through that door everyday after being at work, his eyes are always smiling, his voice and demeanor are always cheerful, and he’s ready to devote his full attention to the kids.  In the 25 years I have been with this person, his countenance has never changed or wavered.  He is truly a happy person, and you know when you see his eyes, that his family means more to him than anything.  I love this about him, and we all look forward to his cheerful entrance back into our lives at the end of every day.

So now, the sharing of another woman’s reflections…

Do Your Eyes Light Up?
By Saundra Pelletier

Recently I was shown a quote by Nobel prize-winner Toni Morrison that left an imprint on my heart and soul:

When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up?  That is what they are looking for.

Those words are haunting me, probably because I am a mother of an adorable one-year-old baby boy and of course, my eyes always light up when I see him.  But I’m wondering if that will always be the case.  What about when he’s into the “terrible twos” and having the tantrums that are supposedly typical for that stage?  And what about when he’s a teenager and his room (I imagine) looks like a hurricane recently ravaged it?

The wise and wonderful Toni Morrison goes on to say that even though you may think your deep love is always on display because, of course your children know you love them, it isn’t always apparent.  Your children are not mind readers, after all.  So often when they see you, they see a critical face.  You may be thinking that their hair needs combing or they need new shoes or their clothes are rumpled, and that’s what is displayed on your face – it’s the critical face.

Put yourself in their place for a moment.  Think about how your own mood is immediately uplifted when you are greeted by friends or family who display a genuine look of happiness just because you have entered their sphere.  Their eyes light up and your soul is nourished.  This connection is so important.

It’s really about staying conscious – conscious of the words you say to your children, conscious of the words they hear you say to others, conscious of your tone of voice and the expression on your face.  Be conscious too of the food you are feeding them.  We parents are feeding their bodies, minds and souls every moment of every day they are with us.  We are preparing them to go into the world and repeat the behaviors they have learned by watching us because of course, that’s exactly what children do when they grow up.

The family abode should be a safe and sacred sanctuary where children can learn and be nourished.  I am grateful for the opportunity to present the best example for my child that I can.  Anyone can be a parent, but being a good parent is a fine and noble calling.  Thank you, Toni Morrison, for reminding me of that.

Now let me take this one critical step further.  When we hear the word “family”, our first natural inclination is to think of our children.  “Family” also includes our romantic partner, our parents, our siblings and anyone else we deem worthy of including in that endearing term.  Too often we  take for granted the ones we say we love the most.  So also be conscious of lighting up your eyes when you see any members of family as every day we get a new chance to leave a positive impression on them.


Crisp, Crunch and Juicy — Enjoying the Apple Harvest

img_423421Fall is well upon us, and what better way to celebrate it’s crisp sunny days than to be out in an apple orchard picking away? Today’s blog is brought to you by Guest Blogger Sonya – apple picker and apple chef extraordinaire… :)

For me, when the air temperatures change and the early mornings are chilly and turn into sunny days where layers are peeled off, my mind turns to my favorite fall ingredient – apples.

So diverse is this fruit that we can use it in many types of dishes from pork to stuffing and my favorite – dessert.  My family conducted its’ annual picking on one of those picture perfect Fall days; we left with warm jackets and to no one’s surprise, I was carrying 5 of them halfway into our foray through the orchards.  The children tried several new varietals of apples – Stayman, Winesap and Ida Reds (primarily a tart cooking apple) and determined their favorite to be Jonagold.  In the words of my 8 year old the morning after picking, “can I have one of those apples for breakfast, they taste like candy!”  Now there’s an endorsement. 

So, once back with 10 pounds of apples, what does one do?!  For my family a fast favorite has become “Apple Cake” – a wonderful recipe passed to me from a dear colleague, Rose, who heralds from upstate New York’s apple country.  Her recipe calls for the use of Granny Smiths, but in my latest cake, I’ve used a blend of the apples we picked over the weekend and it was still fantastic.  The cake will feel like brick since 50% of the ingredients are apples.

Apple Cake

6 Granny Smith apples (or other varietals that cook well)
3 cups of flour
1 ¼ cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup oil
3 eggs
Optional: ½ cup raisins, ½ cup chopped walnuts

Peel, core and dice apples into a medium bowl.  In large bowl, combine all other ingredients.  Then mix apples (raisins and walnuts) into other ingredients.  Mixture will be thick. 

Pour into greased bundt or angel food cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cool on wired rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto a plate.  When completely cooled, make lemon drizzle:
½ cup powdered sugar mixed with lemon juice until a thin glaze consistency.

Drizzle and enjoy!

So, wise women, do you have any great apple dishes to share??


Time to Talk Garlic

garlicharvest1I know you will think this sounds weird, but I’ve been waiting for the third week in October for almost 5 months now (although yes, I’m most definitely bemoaning the loss of what seemed like a very quick summer). In late May/early June, I was walking through my nature center’s organic garden, where I came across some very tall greens – looking like they were almost ready for harvest.  My little Sam asked, “what are those Mommy?” And I replied, “I think they’re onions.”  Luckily Mr. Organic Gardener was there himself, and he told me it was garlic.  He went on to say that garlic is his most favorite thing to grow in the garden – it’s hardy, it’s easy, it’s virtually animal proof, and it’s delicious.  The garlic we’re used to consuming from the grocery store is typically 8 months old.  He said once you taste fresh garlic, you can never go back.  And there are a huge number of varieties – some very sweet, some quite spicy.

So ever since then, I’ve loved the idea of planting garlic – you plant it in the fall, and it comes up in the spring, ready to pick in early summer.  One of the best things – the deer and chipmunks don’t like it.  You can actually plant the cloves from a garlic bulb you buy at the grocery store, but I ended up ordering a couple of bulbs from – an “Early Italian” variety and “California Extra Select.”  Gurney’s also offers a variety of garlic bulbs for sale – including one that sounds quite interesting – Spanish Roja Garlic which is quite hot and spicy.

If you get the same kind of hankering to do a little late season gardening, follow these easy steps from, on how to plant garlic.  And get those gardening gloves out one last time before those first flakes begin to fall.

Be Prepared and Win Free Starbucks Coffee

starbucks-and-mugHearing all those stories about Gulf Coast residents who had to evacuate before the onset of Hurricane Ike got me to thinking: If I had to leave my house in a hurry – and faced the possibility of returning to a pile of rubble – what would I throw into my car before driving off?

Ideally, a family survival kit would go into the car first. Of course, that means I’d have to ASSEMBLE the kit before packing it up.

I do know I would bring:

My computer … the fireproof box in my closet containing legal documents and savings bonds … contents of my still organized medicine drawers … my jewelry box … my wedding album …hmmm … what else?

My mind stops.

After grabbing these initial items (oh, and the husband, kids and dog), I’m not sure what else I’d bring even though there’s room to spare in our car.

Have you ever thought about which prized possessions YOU would bring if you had to leave home quickly? Let me inspire you to embrace the Boy Scout’s motto of “Be prepared.”

Leave a comment below with an idea(s) of what you’d take with you if forced to evacuate and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a Wise Women coffee mug and a $15 Starbucks card. Submit your comment by midnight (EST) on Sunday, 9/28 and a winner will be picked randomly and announced in Monday’s post.

You don’t have to be exhaustive or particularly creative. Just one idea will do. Our goal is to have you start thinking. So, what’s on your emergency packing list?

... some of us just go along ... until that marvelous day people stop intimidating us - or should I say we refuse to let them intimidate us?
Peggy Lee

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