Good For You

New Years Resolutions For The Easily Overwhelmed

One Resolution A Month Works For Me!

One thing that's always bugged me about how January 1st falls on the calendar is how it doesn't feel like the new year. Really one winter snowy day blends into the next. It makes much more sense to me to have the year change at some point that actually feels transitional, like the first day of spring or the start of a school year.

Calendar That said, of course I'm not impervious to marketing. I'm thinking about what I want to do differently in 2009.

Like most Americans, I'm also a total slacker in that I start out strong and forget by March what it was I wanted to do anyway.

I came up with a concept on my drive home today: what if I only had to think about one resolution a month? Wouldn't I feel so much more focused and happy when I accomplish something? I'm just putting this out there as something I'm doing that may work for you. Here's my year:

January: Make a one page list with everyone's birthday on it so I stop forgetting.
Februrary: Make a one page document with all my financial information.
March: Launch my new website.
April: Learn to hip hop dance.
May: Fix everything in my sewing pile.
June: Host a great outdoor party.
July: Spend a long weekend somewhere I've never been. 
August: Submit three pieces of writing for publication.
September: Write a thank you note a day and actually send them.
October: Learn enough Spanish to have a basic conversation.
November: Try 25 new recipes.
December: Relax.

A mixture of having fun, tackling piles that need tackling, and trying new things. Most importantly, only one thing to think about at a time (I have the right to rearrange these at a later date).

So am I jumping the gun on this New Year's resolution thing? Do you have a resolution (or two or eight) you think could inspire people? Comment here as a way to increase your accountability to yourself. And yes, I will check up if you like!

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Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

The Christmas Shop Local Challenge

It's Cheaper and Easier Then I Thought

Early this Christmas season, I decided that I was going to buy all my gifts locally for several reasons.

1) My family owns a small business. (I do too!) It would seem at least a little hypocritical to not support others in my same situation.
2) My Best Buy fiasco clearly illustrates what it can be like to do with the corporation.
3) Living in the community that is heavily dependent on summer tourism, the least I can do is help support the businesses that serve year-round residents like myself. I appreciate not have to drive half an hour to buy milk, or a cashmere sweater for that matter. (Milk happens a little more often in my world.)

I was a little worried about how shopping local this was going to go. Should I buy my brother-in-law that gadget I saw an online gift guide? Will I be able to find the perfect gift for my mother in some small specialty shops?

I realize that two things have happen for me to have success at buying local: I had to be flexible (what! no, insert-specific-item here in purple?!?) and also actually visit storessee what they had. (And as a personal finance blogger who almost never goes shopping, some of these people would never have seen me otherwise.)

I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of items, the reasonable prices, and the friendliness of salespeople who were genuinely appreciative of my business.

Here are a few moments I relished as I finished up my Christmas shopping today:

  • reading through funny children's books to find the funniest on
  • laughing with some fellow drug store shoppers at the now available Clapper Plus
  • running into a potential friend I met last week wearing a really fun hat
  • finding a really great book/gift store that has all kinds of things that I'd go back for (I know, I am not buying books at the moment but I can dream, right?)

All in all, there is no long mall drudgery or battling crowds to buy my Christmas gifts, which made spending money oddly relaxing for me. As a bonus, I actually got to know my community a little bit better and still stayed within budget.

So whether you are completely finished with your Christmas shopping or have yet to start, I urge you to consider a local purchase as your next purchase.

Some good reasons (economic or otherwise) to buy local…
Something to inspire you to shop at a local bookstore…

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Lessons Learned from Love Actually

We all have our favorite Christmas movies. My friend Laura loves "The Christmas Story", and so I think of her whenever I see a part of the movie or hear the phrase "You're gonna put your eye out with that thing!" (Not that I hear that phrase often, of course.) My college buddy  J's favorite was A Garfield Christmas. He's now a nuclear chemist or something for Intel but I bet he still curls up every year to watch it.

Loveactually My favorite holiday movie is "Love Actually". I know, I know…Why torture myself with "the ultimate romantic comedy" at this point in my life?

It's not torture exactly; there is so much going on in the movie that I glean some universal truth from it every time I see it. Jen and I watched it last night and here are just a few things I can think of about it:

1) Humans are capable of so much. What we can go through, how we love. It's amazing really that we can do everyday things like pick up dry cleaning or sit in a cubicle.

2) If you keep putting yourself out there, eventually it'll come back to you. Loving Jamie gets cheated on by his jerky girlfriend but then finds love in the south of France with someone far better for him. Who couldn't be happy about that? I'd rather fall on my face a hundred times for one shot at the Big L then play it safe and stay stuck.

3) Nothing replaces family. Everyone needs a place to go around the holidays whether it is with your born-into family or one you've created. People who will unconditionally love you, even when you blow them off to go find your Porteguese girlfriend, are required in this life.

4) American girls are "real friendly" and some Americans use their powers for the not-so-good. I sometimes forget about what being an American means to the kind of person I am. In a world of global relations, it's more and more important to understand our culture to have better interactions with people. Whether we get that perspective through international media or international friends, it's something we all should do regularly.

5) You have to be fair to yourself. Sure, you love your best friend's wife but as Mark says after he finally tells the woman he can't have how he feels: "Enough." Stop beating yourself up and just keep trying to be better.

Ok, your turn. So what's your favorite holiday movie?

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: So Many Books, So Little Time

My lack of Internet has made me surprisingly productive these last few weeks. Among my accomplishments, I've 1) completely unpacked and settled into my new apartment, 2) reduced my wardrobe to one closet, 3) tried several new recipes, 4) hung shelves, 5) went to the gym four times a week and 6) did a ton of reading.

Somanybooks The last distraction has been the easiest to do. Sneaking in time while cooking and before bed, I've read four books in two weeks, pretty good for me. One book I just finished today (while waiting for the Internet hookup guy) is called "So Many Books, So Little Time".

I came across the accompanying blog a few months before stumbling upon the book at the library. This seemed rather serendipitous so I checked it out.

Basic synopsis: The author decides to read a book week for year and chronicle the whole experience to see how and if reading affects her life (and vice versa). You can use this book as a list of recommendations or a commentary on American life. Sara Nelson is clearly an intelligent woman with a lot of interesting things to say. It also helps that she reminds me of a combination of a couple of my good friends.

What I keep thinking about though is the fact that Sara owns most of the books she read, which are part of a collection of about 3000 books in her New York apartment. As someone who's organized the library with 10,000 books, I can understand how much space 3000 books takes up and how much money they cost.

I've grown up with the philosophy “never throw out a book” but increasingly I wonder about the importance of keeping every single book I've read or what to read. Last year, I started randomly sending books to people that I thought they'd enjoy and I also started swapping books at And with resources like public libraries and audio books subscription services, I wonder if I need to own all my book possibilities.

I'm guilty of certain behaviors talked about in this book: displaying certain books that visitors would happen upon in my house (the intellectual, interesting discussion stuff) and hiding the self-help, I'm-secretly-crazy books. I've publicly read to give people an impression of me. Books are not only recreation in our culture but as a status symbol, like clothing.

This book has made me realize how many great books I have to look forward to and also that I don’t need to go to the bookstore and buy every single one of them. This isn't just because I don't have pretty cherry wood bookcases to put them on like Sara Nelson but also because, as she reminded me, I'm not going to fall love with most of the books I read. And I'm going to save my money and precious shelf space for the great loves.

If you’re looking for some new books to read or want to think about how books play a role in your life, check this one out…of your local library!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Book Review: How To Read A French Fry

I received this book last summer as a gift and I really enjoy the premise. Written by Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times' food editor, the science behind food preparation is explained in a lively narrative.

Howtoreadafrenchfry Okay, I know that sounds really boring but it isn't. Let me give you an example.

When you cut an onion, you cut through the onion's vacuoles and their contents combine to form sulfonic acids (as in sulfur). This is what makes you cry when you're chopping an onion. Sweet onions like the Vidalia onions contain the same amount of vacuoles as regular onions but much less of the sulfuric compounds. You can make onions further sweeter by soaking them in water or rinsing them in vinegar (as they do in Mexico) to get rid of even more sulfuric compounds. And that's just two paragraphs of this book.

Other topics tackled include (of course) frying (using a little "old" oil gives food that golden look), gluten (the differing factor in many bread products), ripening (that fruit you bought is definitely still alive long after it's picked), and marinades (oily marinades and water-filled meat do not mix).

Clearly you can't sit down and read to this whole book without your brain exploding but reading parts of it will no doubt improve your food preparation techniques. A college professor of mine always said that chemists were the best cooks, organic chemists in particular. I think there is certainly something to be said for that.

But this book isn't just for the nerdy people who want to know what's happening to their food on a microscopic level. At the end of each chapter is a bulleted list of things to keep in mind when preparing certain kinds of food. (The book is divided into chapters by food type and/or preparation technique.) One step further than the helpful hints are the recipes at the end of each chapter. The recipes reflect the ideas of combining certain foods/flavors and certain preparation techniques to showcase the best aspects of the food, which most people don't know about, myself included.

So whether you enjoy a good narrative, some science and history knowledge, practical techniques to use in your kitchen, or good recipe, you will get something out of this book. I've been reading bits of it while standing by the kitchen counter, preparing dinner. (Apparently there's a lot of standing around waiting in my kitchen!) I think this book would make a great gift, for the holidays or even just a "thanks for cooking me Thanksgiving dinner" hostess gift.

Bon appétit!

Image: If this book fits in my kitchen, It can fit anywhere!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Women's Week: The Boss of You Book Review

Welcome to my week-long women's series. It's no secret that one issue that I'm passionate about is female empowerment. I used to answer a domestic violence hotline, coach cheerleading, lead a girls technology club in my local middle school, and meet with a monthly girls book club. I'm currently on the board of our county's domestic violence program and doing some writing for the Maine Women's Fund. My point is it's certainly been a common thread in my life no matter where I am or what I'm doing.

So this week, it's about the ladies, and of course money (as usual). Enjoy!

Bossofyou I was drawn to this book at my local library while looking for something new to read. "The Boss of You: What Every Woman Needs To Know To Start, Run, and Maintain Her Own Business" definitely caught my eye with it's fun, sensible cover and complete title. As a woman trying to run my own part-time business, I thought this might me some great professional development information.

I find books like this tend to be one of two things: 1) a little scatterbrained with lots of tips and tricks but a lack of cohesiveness or 2) dense with information and a little on the boring side.

This book was a good balance of case studies of other female run businesses (tips and tricks) but was also well outlined with cohesion throughout.

Sure you can get lots of books about how to write a business plan but there is lots of information in here that works whether you are before or after the BP stage. I enjoyed the exercises where you figure out what you're good at and how that translates to your business as well as the you-can't-do-everything-and-that's-ok attitude.

Emira and Lauren (the authors) are the kind of smart women you want to be friends with and their advice is clearly from the trenches. I know most business people who'd write a book like this would use it to talk about everything they did right but it's more helpful (not to mention realistic) to hear the not-so-ideal parts too. And if I had a business for years, I could still see myself getting something out of the book.

Since the librarians won't speak to me if I renew this one more time, I guess I'll have to surrender this copy next week and ask for my own copy for Christmas to keep as a reference. Oh and if you're more the abbreviated info type, check out the back index full of useable resources (with websites, yay for authors who get the 21st century).

Anyway if you're a woman wanting to start your own business who refuses to buy a book that implies that she's a "dummy" (a little personal bias there), this one is fabulous. I even took it on vacation which means it was worth lugging on a plane in my carry-on.

So learn and enjoy! I continue to myself.

Check out Lauren and Emira's blog here, where you can also order the book.
A good article about self employment taxes from Moolanomy.
Some helpful links for women starting their own businesses via USA Today 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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