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Plant the Perfect Vegetable Garden

Oct 19, 13 Plant the Perfect Vegetable Garden

There are more reasons to plant a vegetable garden than I can count. By growing our own food we can eat for cheaper and ensure our vegetables are organic and safe. Most people think starting a garden is tough but it’s actually quite easy. A little bit of planning and a few weekends of work is usually all that’s required to get started.

The first step is to determine how much space you have for your garden. I usually recommend container gardening because you have more control over the soil quality and you don’t have to tear up your yard. Most vegetables will need about 6 hours of sunlight a day so make sure you find areas that are well lit.

After figuring out how much space you have it’s time to figure out what types of vegetables you want to grow. This is usually one of the best parts because you get to spend time imagining all the amazing food you’ll be eating with your fresh veggies. If you know what type of vegetables are best for your environment that can help you decide what to plant. I recommend visiting your local home and garden shop to get some recommendations. They should be able to help you figure out the types of plants that do well during each season and and how to care for them.

While you’re at the garden store is the perfect time to buy your containers and soil. I recommend investing a little extra in the equipment you’ll be using to start your garden because you’ll be able to use it for years. While it may initially seem expensive remember all the money you’ll save by growing your own food.

After you set up your containers and fill them with soil it’s time to plant the seeds. When planning where you’ll plant each type of vegetable it’s a good idea to group like plants together. So if you have more than 1 type of lettuce plant put them close to one another and put the hardier veggies, like broccoli and carrots next to each other.

To plant the seeds dig a small well in the dirt about three inches deep and place a single seed in each hole. Loosely cover with dirt and repeat until you’ve planted all the seeds you have space for. Seeds should be planted 3-6 inches apart so make sure you don’t overcrowd the vegetable bed. After planting, water the vegetable plants 2 times a day, once in the morning and once at night, until you start to see small sprouts. Keep in mind that some plants grow faster than other so they may not start growing all at the same time.

After they begin sprouting you can limit watering to once every other day unless it gets too hot then you may need to water daily. Lettuces and tomatoes will grow quickly and you may be able to start eating them in less than two months after planting. Larger veggies, like broccoli or artichokes take more time.

A few months after planting your first garden is a good time to put down a layer of compost. The compost provides nutrients to the soil and will ensure it stays healthy and can support future gardens. Keep an eye out for aphids or other small insects that may be eating your plants. A great way to control them naturally is to introduce ladybugs to your garden. They will eat the harmful insects and help pollinate your plants. You can actually buy them at most garden stores or online for pretty cheap.

So I hope you’ll get out there and start growing your own veggies. It’s a great way to stay healthy and you’ll have a whole new appreciation for both farming and food.

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Why I Always Buy Travel Insurance

Oct 18, 13 Why I Always Buy Travel Insurance

When I’m planning a trip, cost is usually a pretty important factor. It helps determine where I’m going to go and how much time I can be gone for. I do my best to cut out unnecessary expenses which is why I pack light, buy tickets online after shopping around, and stay is reasonably priced hotels. I love to travel, and want to do it as much as possible, and cutting down on expenses helps me make the most of my trips.

One expense I learned the hard way not to skimp on is travel insurance. When I first started venturing out on my own in my mid 20’s I never even considered buying travel insurance. I was young, healthy, and if I lost my bag it was no big deal, my clothes weren’t worth very much anyway. However, on a trip to Honduras I was on an extended backpacking trip when I fell on some slippery rocks and broke my leg.

Luckily I had a guide with me who knew a shortcut back to the road but it still took us several painful hours. We flagged down a car and the driver took us to a hospital where I spent a few days recovering and getting a cast. The doctors did a great job and I was fully healed after 6 weeks but the ordeal ended up costing me over $12,000 and wiped out my trip budget for next few years. It was then that I realized the benefits of travel insurance.

Before I left on that fateful trip I had a job that provided excellent insurance coverage which I naively thought would cover me while traveling. Boy was I wrong. Most insurance will only cover you in your home country and won’t do anything for you when you’re abroad. When I was in Honduras I was lucky enough to have a guide but if I had been out by myself and had needed to be airlifted out it would have been devastatingly expensive. However, most travel insurance will cover evacuations in the event of a medical emergency.

Another benefit of travel insurance is trip cancellation protection. Now you won’t always need this, especially if you’re just taking a low cost weekend flight but if you’re planning a high cost trip of a lifetime it’s a must. Imagine you’re going to Europe for 3 weeks, taking a cruise through the Mediterranean, and then finishing your trip with a week on the Champs D’elysee. You probably only get to go on a vacation like that once and would be absolutely devastated if you got sick before leaving and had to forfeit your cruise deposit and the airline refused to give you a refund because you purchased non-refundable tickets. With travel insurance you’ll be able to file a claim and get reimbursed for all those expenses.

Other benefits, in addition to health and cancellation coverage, include lost bag insurance which is a must if you’re travelling with a laptop or expensive camera. So my recommendation is, if you’re just going on a short trip or staying domestically you can probably forgo insurance but if you’re travelling internationally or for an extended period it’s a must.

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Games to Play on Your Next Road Trip

Oct 18, 13 Games to Play on Your Next Road Trip

Road trips are amazing. Traveling hundreds, or even thousands of miles by car is the best way to see the world, meet people, and experience new cultures. However, I’ll be the first to admit there are definitely periods of monotony, especially on days when you’re in the car for 6+ hours at a time. And if you have kids, they can get restless after 15 minutes!

My family likes to play games when we’re traveling. It makes the time go faster and gives us something to talk about. And a little friendly competition is a good release for the pent up energy you experience after hours of sitting. So here they are, our favorite car games:


Ghost is a spelling game that can be played with two or more people. Pick a person to start and they begin by selecting a letter. Then, moving clockwise, the next person picks a letter, and on and on. The goal is to NOT be the person to spell a word. You have to choose letters that are part of an actual word, but you don’t want to be the person to finish the word. If you are left no choice but to spell the word you get the letter “G”. The next time you finish another word you would get the letter “H”, and on and on. The first person to spell GHOST is the loser. So if person 1 picks “N”, person 2 selects “O”, and person 3 goes with “T”, person three would get a letter for spelling the word “not”.

There’s a surprising amount of strategy in the game so be sure to pick your letters carefully.

20 Questions

20 questions is a road trip classic. One person begins by thinking of an object and the other players can ask 20 questions to try and figure out what it is. And no, you can’t just ask “what is it?”. The most common way to start is to ask if it’s an animal, vegetable, or mineral. That will help you figure what your follow-up questions should be.

Punch Buggie

This game can get a little rowdy, which may or may not be what your road trip needs. Everytime you see a Volkswagen beetle you you yell “Punch Buggie!” and get to hit your adjacent passenger in the shoulder. When I was growing up this game led to a bunch of fights with my brothers but we loved it anyway. We still play it sometimes just for old times sake. There’s no real winner but it keeps everyone alert with their eyes scanning the road.

The Picnic Game

If nothing else this game will help improve everyone’s memory. You work your way through the alphabet choosing an item you might bring on a picnic and repeating the items everyone else has chosen. So pick someone to start and they say “I went to a picnic and I brought apples”. Then the next person would say “I went to a picnic and I brought apples and blueberries.”. Continue moving clockwise around the car until someone makes a mistake. This game can be tough on the driver sometimes but it’s great for everyone else.

So there they are, my family’s favorite road trip games. Happy travels!

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The New 7 Wonders of the World

Oct 18, 13 The New 7 Wonders of the World

Not many people know this, but the original 7 wonders of the world were determined by the ancient Greeks and only included sites around the Mediterranean. While their original list was certainly impressive, it included the great pyramid of Giza and the hanging gardens of Babylon, there was an effort recently to create a worldwide list of wonders.

The new 7 wonders of the world was voted on by people all over the globe and includes amazing man-made structures on 4 continents. I hope to be able to visit them someday but for now I’ll just have to contend myself with reading about them. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is a beautiful white marble structure located in Agra India. It was built in the early 17th century by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife. The Taj Mahal is considered by many to one of the most beautiful structures ever built by man. Emperor Mahal must have really loved his wife!

Chichen Itza

Built over 1200 years ago, the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza (pronounced by elderly tourists as chicken pizza) is located on the Yucatan peninsula in eastern Mexico. Chichen Itza was one of the largest, if not the largest Mayan cities and the pyramid is thought to have been a place of worship and sacrifice.

Christ the Redeemer

This statue of Jesus Christ is over 100 feet tall and is located in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro. Completed in the early 1930’s, the statue is a prime example of the art deco style that was prevalent during the first part of the 20th century. The statue is located on a mountain on the outskirt of town and depicts and open armed Christ looking down upon the city.


Built by the Roman Empire nearly 200 years ago, the Colosseum is considered to be their most impressive architectural achievement. While everyone knows it hosted gladiatorial contests, it was also the political and social hub of Rome hosting plays, concerts, and political speeches. We may never know how many people the Colosseum could hold when it was at full capacity, but experts have estimated it to be as high as 80,000 people!

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was built over hundreds of years beginning in the 7th century B.C. and is the only man made structure visible to the human eye from space. The wall was built to protect the Chinese empire from attacking forces but may have also served as a form of border patrol, ensuring that all goods entering the country were properly taxed. In total, the wall stretches more than 5,500 miles!

Machu Picchu

Located in Peru, the city of Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the mid 15 century. The city is remarkable for a few reasons. First, it was built entirely of stone at an elevation of nearly 8,000 feet. Second, it was one of the few Inca sites not destroyed by the Spanish when they invaded in the 16th century. In fact, the city was virtually unknown to anyone outside that region until an American archaeologist wrote about it in the early 20th century.


Nothing elicits a sense of adventure like the final site on this list: Petra. Located in Jordan, and the site of my favorite Indiana Jones movie, Petra is an amazingly beautiful and complex structure carved directly into the side of a rock cliff over 2,500 years ago. Possibly one of the most amazing facts about this locale is that they figured out how to provide running water to all the different building by carving canals through the rock. They were definitely ahead of their time!

I don’t know about you, but this list makes we want to get out and see the world!

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Writing your First Story

Oct 18, 13 Writing your First Story

Writing a story is a skill that can be developed at any point in a person’s life. But starting early will give you a lot of time and opportunity to improve your craft. And if you continue working on it, you may actually end up with a published book.

Like most good things in life, the way to successful writing requires a lot of sacrifice and work. Completing your first story can take a lot of your energy and time. You’ll probably find the process tedious at some point but organizing a couple of things will help you write better. What’s harder to do is to remain inspired and to be able to let your ideas flow freely.

The core of writing is all about nurturing ideas in your head and putting them down in written form. Let your imagination run free because this is how unique stories are born. They are results of the creative energies of different people. Use a notebook to write down the ideas that come to you, whether day or night. It does not matter if they are all useful – you can sort them out later on. What’s important at the start is to allow your ideas to develop.

When you have jotted quite a bit, you can categorize your ideas into general themes or concepts. This way, you will have a ready reference for other stories that you’ll write in the future. Focus on a topic that has the strongest attraction for you, it could well turn out to be your first story. Make an outline to highlight the progression of events as the tale unfolds. You can include the timeline and the central characters along with this. Include a description of the main characters and the memorable scenes in the story. Having these basic points will help you work through the details of your piece.

If you feel stumped at one point, take a deep breath and relax. It happens to most writers and the best that you can do is to give yourself some breathing space. Engage in an activity that calms you down like reading a favorite book or seeing a film that you love. This can help loosen you up and inspire you to continue writing some more. There’s no limitation to what you can put in your book so let your creativity flow. At the very least, writing will give you a positive outlet for your imagination.

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The Wonderful World of Books

Oct 18, 13 The Wonderful World of Books

The importance of encouraging children to read books cannot be stressed enough. The role that reading skills will play in the lives of children as they grow up is so invaluable that it would be a disservice not to give them this advantage.

Some of the benefits of reading books include nurturing a child’s sense of discovery as he gets introduced to different topics that ranges from the sciences to the arts. It also helps in the development and enhancement of his language skills. Reading also allows individuals to remain updated on the latest news about technological tools and devices.

While there are doubts about the advantage of using multi-media devices over books, these two resources share one thing in common – they require the individual to read the information. So it does not really matter if it comes in printed or digital form, a person still has to read the reference to know more about the topic, appreciate a story or get the answer to his question. The Internet has just made it possible to access a lot of information from different sources easily. This opens up another valuable skill that reading supports - the ability to analyze the material that you are reading and weigh its value based on other information that you come across.

Critical thinking is also enhanced by reading. Going through a new story or a book allows children to think about the material - which among the characters they like, why the events happened and how they want the story to end. And the great thing about all this is that as they read through more books, they’ll become more addicted to it. In time, they will view it as an enjoyable activity, something that they can turn to no matter how old they get.

Some of the popular authors of children’s books include C.S. Lewis who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, Dr. Seuss for Green Eggs and Ham, E.B. White for Charlotte’s Web, and Beatrix Potter for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, to name a few. By introducing memorable characters through their stories, these authors have given children a great place to go to. In turn, thousands of readers have continued on to keep the characters alive over the years. These classics continue to be a great treat to new readers as they explore the magical world of talking animals and wondrous places.

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