Stop Being So Practical! No Risk No Reward: The Fine Art of Being Adventurously Practical


Today I did a little reflecting and I discovered something about my life. Being overly practical can stunt your growth.

I consider myself a pretty practical person. Not all the time, but enough. Every once in a while I say “screw it, you only live once”.

I have done some pretty amazing things in my life that make me feel like I have lived my life to the fullest. But, I was amazed at just how few things I’ve done.  I look back and wish I had done more of those things that make me feel happiest.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, that I decided that I want to do more than just live sometimes. I want to live the best life I can live as much as possible. I want more memories and more accomplishments..

But how the heck do I do that?

On the surface, It seems like a pretty easy task right? Just do more things that you want to. Done! Well it’s easier said than done.

In order to understand how to have a more memorable and rewarding life, I examined my life as far back as I can remember.  I grouped my life into 4 general categories based on how I remembered my life..

My life broken into 4 categories of memories

1- Memorable Years, 2- Amnesia Years, 3- Forgettable Years and 4- Tragedy Years.

1– Memorable years were the years where I had a clear memory of doing something that made me feel happy.  It could be big or small. it didn’t matter.

I want more memorable years because these are the years that I remember the best and have the fondest memories. I want to understand and duplicate the Joie de vivre I had from those years and apply if today for future memories.

2- Amnesia Years are the years where I can’t remember anything. Nope not a damn thing. Not so good.

3- Forgettable years are the years that I remember but didn’t do anything worth remembering or that didn’t give me a sense that I lived to my max potential. Not so good.

4-Tragedy years are the years where I remember something because of some tragic even. Unavoidable and part of life.


In my life, and probably yours too, there are moments that I remember clearly. I can remember minute details, conversations, feelings or accomplishments. These memories make me feel warm and fuzzy inside and I relish those times.

Like the time my husband and I eloped and married in Edinburgh Scotland.  Or the time I took off work and spent the whole day in my PJ’s reading. Having bonfires with my kids and friends in Santa Cruz CA. Surfing lessons from my husband. The birth of my children. I could go on.. You get my drift. I remember all these things. No regrets. I smile thinking about them ALL.


Then there are distinct gaps in my memory. HUGE gaps of time that I CANNOT REMEMBER! I’m talking months and whole years that I can’t remember.  Like a black out or amnesia.

I would tell you about them, but I can’t remember them. I just draw a blank when I think about certain times. It feel as though those years are wasted. Why didn’t I do something memorable?.


Then there are those years that I remember but they are really just unmemorable. These memories are mostly associated with work or monotonous parts of my life.

An example would be, I worked for so and so company and made X amount of money and got this promotion. Or that was the year I commuted over an hour each way to work everyday for a couple of years,

YIKES! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had jobs that were interesting, challenging and stimulating but… I’m disappointed that there are whole years where all I remember is going to work everyday and my commute. BLAH!! 


And finally there are those years where something shocking or tragic happened.

The day my father was hit by a car and the day’s leading up to his death when we literally had to pull the plug. The next couple of years I spent raising my then 14 year old brother. 911, the day my dog died. The time I almost drowned scuba diving.  These memories are there and I accept them. They are memories that I can’t change or there was nothing I could have done to change them. I learn from them and they make me appreciate my life more.


Looking back on my life, it’s the good memories that add value to my life. It’s so very fundamental and basic yet day in and day out I make choices that  will effect how memorable my day and my life will be.  Why did I let so many days, weeks, years pass before doing something that would create happy memories while other years I have vivid memories that make me feel like I really lived life to the fullest?

The secret to leading a memorable life is to be a little adventurous and less practical.

I’m not advocating throwing caution to the wind. Oh no. I am the queen of practicality.

Here me out. What does it mean to be practical?  In a nutshell, It means you choose or make a decision to do something or not do something based on how safe it is and how much risk is involved? Being practical has it’s place in this world.

  • When crossing a busy street, look both ways and WAIT for all the cars to pass
  • Use the restroom before you leave the house especially after large cups of coffee.
  • Don’t jump in a cage with a Lion


But in life, there is a fine art to being practical while still living the best damn life that’s worth living. You nee a little adventure to grow and live life to the fullest. It’s the classic risk vs reward situation.

Looking back at my life, the times that I can’t remember. The times that are the least memorable are the ones where I was being overly practical. I took no risks. I was content with my life and I became complacent and to be honest I think a little inertia set in. I just trotted along life not doing anything extraordinary. So Sad.

But the moments and times when I was adventurous and took risks are the times that I remember. And it’s those moments that make me the most happiest. It’s that feeling I want to re-create.


Helen Keller once said “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Unfortunately, people are afraid of living that daring adventurous life because of the fear of the outcome or the fear of what they will lose if they take a risk. But rather than looking it as a win lose situation. Look it as an opportunity to grow. It’s when we grow and experience life that life is at it’s best. you have to push yourself outside of you comfort zone

Srinivas Rao  from the Skool Of Life said “as our tolerance for risk decreases so does our potential for a life without limits”


Life is meant to be an adventure. No one wishes their life to be mundane or routine day after day after day. It’s not even sustainable. At least I don’t think so.

There are so many choices that you can make to live an amazing life full of adventure. make yourself a bucket list and start knocking things off the list one by one.

They don’t have even be that crazy. You can take Charleston lessons with your spouse. Learn to cook something totally weird. Travel to a another country. Take Judo. Learn a language. You can still hold true your practical ways.  But ask yourself, is it really practical to let life slip right by you.

so as David Thoreau would say.


If you like this post please hit the share button on Facebook or tweet it on twitter.

And let me know what you think. Do you have any Amnesia Years?  Memorable years? Talk to me. Leave your comments below.

Dear Amazon STOP Wasteful Packaging! Or I Am Leaving You!

amazon stop wasteful packagingDear Amazon STOP Wasteful Packaging!
First let me thank you for always having just what I’m looking for. I’ve enjoyed all the little things I’ve bought from you over the years.  I’m especially enjoying my eBooks as of late.

You are great But….

You have great prices and super lightening fast shipping.  For this I am truly grateful. You have saved my butt several times when I needed a last minute gift. Like the time I ordered that radio control helicopter for my son at Christmas 4 days before Christmas. BUT…………………

I’m concerned about something that just doesn’t sit well with me. Let me explain

You Sent Me A Ridiculously Huge ASS BOX

I wondered what this HUGE box could contain and who it was from. I surely did not order anything remotely big enough to fit in this monstrosity of a box.

I Thought What Could Be In This HUGE BOX?

I smiled and wondered if it could be something from my Amazon wish list.

YES! Perhaps my husband secretly looked at my wish list and saw that I wanted a mixer. Not any mixer. A Persimmon Orange Artisan 5QT Kitchen Aid Mixer.

Oh yeah, cookies and pastries here I come…

I picked the box up and my heart sank. It was too light to be my orange mixer.   Bye Bye Mixer… image

Still curious, I reached for the nearest sharp object I could find which was a fork and began to cut the tape that bound the box open.

Ha Ha, The Jokes On Me!

It took me a few seconds to register but my initial reaction was “IS THIS A JOKE?”.

Did someone send me a large gag gift filled with plastic air bags galore? Who would do this to me? I don’t think I have any bad Karma coming my why?

WAIT WAIT. I see something underneath it all.

amazon stop wasteful packaging

Two small boxes surrounded by a mountain of packaging.

Puzzled, I thought there must be more in the box.

amazon stop wasteful packaging

We finally got to the bottom of things and to my horror, it was true. In this huge box, there were only 2 small items.  Why oh why? How hard can it be to find a box to ship items that match the size of the item being shipped?

Even my then 4 year old daughter could figure this out. It really isn’t that hard.

I’ll gladly pay a little bit more. amazon stop wasteful packaging

My Guilty Conscience.

My daughter and I pulled out all the plastic bubble bags. There was a lot of it. Over 20 feet I think. I must say though that I am impressed that the bags are recyclable but still, it was a lot.

I felt a twinge of guilt for so much waste. I felt like we had to do something to right this wrong of wasteful packaging so that I could at least say that the extra large box and yards of bubble bags were used for something useful. amazon stop wasteful packaging


So we played with the boxes and packaging and we had a blast for a good hour or so before Catherine finally popped them all.

(It’s true, kids love to play with packaging more than the actual items in the boxes).


You can see, there is no need for such wasteful packaging. Can you please contact your shipping department and let them know. Maybe a VP can do something about this wastefulness.


amazon stop wasteful packagingI am not the only one who has found that their item was shipped to them in a grossly oversized box. I did a search on Google and found a multitude of people with the same problem.

Look at this photo to the left. It’s an iPod Nano shipped in a box big enough to put 1,000 Nano’s.

So please Amazon, I don’t want to destroy more of the Amazon rainforest than I have too. I feel bad enough as it is with all the wasteful things I do on my own.

No pun in tended with the Amazon Rainforest comment.


I love you and always will, but I’m not sure I can continue this relationship with you if you continue on with your wasteful ways. I wish I could say it’s not you, it’s me but I can’t.

This time it really is ALL you. If I don’t’ say something than it will be as much my fault as it is yours.


imageI don’t want to make you cry, and you did send me exactly what I was looking for.

My husband loved the metal French coffee press that I bought to replace our glass one that broke. It makes great strong coffee and  It hold 3 cups of coffee  We’ve taken it on long road trips and made coffee on the go in our hotel rooms and even in the car.



imageAnd I love my USB charging port that looks like a coffee cup. I use it to charge my laptop and phones in the car when we are on long road trips.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart.


So thank you thank you, you are not all bad but please change this one little thing for me otherwise it’s over between you and me.

Amazon Stop Wasteful Packaging

Don’t cry, hugs and kisses

Annie André

The American Dream

Is The American Dream Dead Or Alive and Why It’s not for everyone!

Is the American Dream dead or aliveKeep an open mind when you read this.  I know this may piss a few people off.

You’ve heard of “THE AMERICAN DREAM” right?

OF COURSE YOU HAVE: But what is the American dream and is the American Dream Dead?

What is the American Dream?

The American dream is a belief that in America, “You have the freedom to reach your goals, and if you work hard enough you can rise to fame and prosperity.” The classic rags to riches credo.

Immigrants have been flocking to America in hopes of achieving this dream for a long time.

There is nothing wrong with the American dream, nevertheless, it makes me want to scream bloody murder.  Not because it is bad or wrong.

The problem was that that the American dream which I sought was actually not my dream at all. It was someone elses dream which I thought I wanted. The big house, the big salary, the 2 car garage, 2 week vacation and all that comes with that life style.

I would like to think that I actually achieved that American dream and had it for a very long time.

But then something happened when I was living in this dream. I woke up and realized it was not a dream…It was actually a kind of nightmare. 

Here’s why.

My American Nightmare

A few years ago, I was your typical suburban wife living your typical suburban life. After years of climbing the corporate ladder, I achieved what I thought was  the “American Dream”. My husband and I had great jobs making not one but two, six figure incomes at a software company. We lived in a great area in Silicon Valley California. We took our yearly ski vacations, Hawaiian vacations, played golf and had lots of stuff. Life was good! Or so we convinced ourselves.

Underneath it all  I didn’t want to admit it, but I was burnt out from life. Burnt out from chasing after that carrot.

I woke up and realized my dream was actually a nightmare. An American Nightmare.

The Carrot On A Stick!

The American dream has been like an illusive carrot hanging in front of me that I keep chasing. Every time I think I catch it, it is yanked out of my hands and I have to start chasing it again.

I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen other people stressed out with barely any down time. The weekends were no better, they are spent doing chores, catching up on paperwork, shuttling the kids to their various activities.

Most people won’t, no they DON’T admit that they are burnt out by this continual cycle of work with very little personal freedom and time.

We are conditioned to think that we need to endure this for the greater prize that we will see later. WHEN WE RETIRE? No thank you.

You know it’s true. Why else are people so dissatisfied with their lives? Why else do so many people feel like they are in a rut? It’s because they are on this treadmill of life chasing a carrot. Who wouldn’t get fed up? But if you would have asked me then, I don’t think I would have ever admitted to wanting to live differently. I worked so hard to have and live the way we lived. I would have defended my values to the end.

The American Dream: What has it become?

Today, “The American Dream” has taken on a new meaning. It has become a very individual idea and depending on who you talk to, it can mean different things.


In general, the idea of the American dream has become the pursuit  of material prosperity. People work more hours to get bigger and fancier homes, nicer cars, the latest gadgets. –  All in the name of “keeping up with the Joneses”.

The working poor have to work two sometimes three jobs just to ensure their family survival. And middle class families are kept busy working long hours, living beyond their means and racking up their credit card bill just to keep up appearances.  And for what?


Is the American Dream dead or alive given how much it costs to maintain

Because you are chasing this illusive dream, the chase is endless. You are left with a massive loss. You have more things but you are left with a deficit. You have….

  • Less time to enjoy those riches.
  • Less time to do the things you love
  • Less time to spend with your family
  • Less time to experience life
  • Less time to live to the fullest

You don’t have to live that way

Despite popular belief, there are other ways to live. Some, myself included are looking toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simpler more fulfilling life.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have all the things my heart desires. And there are certain creature comforts I will always need like my metal coffee press and some really good lip balm. But I refuse to live the way I used to because it just wasn’t sustainable.

My dream has nothing to do with being American. It has everything to do with living my life to the fullest. Experiencing life. Creating lasting memories. Pursuing my passions. Creating a life that allows me to have time to enjoy the fruits of my labour now and not after I retire.

It’s as individual as I am.

This picture of my daughter Catherine sipping on a strawberry Milkshake in a diner on a road trip through Pennsylvania is much more memorable to me than any material things. I would rather have a hundred more memories like this one vs. all the material things I can spend my money on.

Is the American Dream dead or alive. is it worth it to you

If I had to do it all over again, I would have left Silicon Valley a lot sooner and sought to live in an area where the cost of living was more affordable. Where 50% of my salary didn’t just go to pay for my rent and another 20% went to child care. But that’s water under the bridge, and we’re not concerned with appearances any more.

So what is your dream? Do you agree with me?  Have you felt like you’ve been chasing a carrot? Leave your comments below.

Fail Fantastically: When Life Slaps you in the face, Smile And Slap It Back: DO IT!

“SLAP” That’s the sound of life slapping me and my husband in the face. AGAIN!!

We had no jobs, we were unemployed for over 2 years, and we just got notice that we need to find a new place to live. that’s just the tip of the ice berg.  I’ll explain in more detail in just a bit.

I should be huddled up in the corner holding my stinging red cheek crying like a baby. I should be worried that we can’t find jobs, and we live out of suitcases.

BUT I’M NOT! bawling my eyes out! In fact, I welcome a good slap in the face once in a while. LIke getting a cold glass of water to shake you awake.

Because every time life has lifted it’s mighty hand, I have learned how to better cope and become more resilient. In fact, it’s usually during these down trodden times that I actually make progress towards goals and dreams that have been on the back burner.

Life causes Inertia

I like to think of the blows that life delivers as wake-up calls, or check points. Without them, some of us (ME, maybe you too), would be caught in a terrible condition called Inertia, which I equate to being in Limbo.

INERTIA: in life is a state of being where you move neither forward or backward. You live almost without purpose.You can be unhappy or unfulfilled but things are not bad enough for you to want to take action to change things. So you stay in this constant state of dissatisfaction.

So Back to my story. It’s been a life altering 3 years that started a few years ago.  Prior to 2008, I was burnt out from trying to maintain my American Dream life.  But then something counter intuitive happened.  Dreams I never thought I would chase suddenly came to life. Made possible by a continued barrage of what seemed like bad luck.

Each set-back that life has doled out to me and my family has been used as a catalyst to improve our condition or achieve some positive outcome towards a greater goal. Goals that I thought I would have to wait for until retirement age like moving to France. (update we moved to France)

Below is a brief summary of each thing that has altered the very foundation of our lives and in it’s place the positive changes.

Face slapping timeline:





SLAP #1: Since late 2007: We (my husband and I) have each been laid off twice and unemployed for a total of 2 + years. Unemployment checks stopped coming bullet_go I start my own business making specialty sleeping masks from home. I’m working on a second business as of this writing.
SLAP #2: August 1st 2010: We left our friends, our lives and our home in California and moved across the country in search of jobs. bullet_go I’ve dreamt of moving from California to the east coast to be near my extended family. My husbands family is back east too. Our jobs kept us tied to our lives in California.
SLAP #3: August 1st 2010: We decide it’s prudent to cut our expenses by staying with my elderly aunt in Montreal while we do our job search. We pay her 1/7 what we were paying for rent in California (a good thing we did. ) bullet_go We cut back expenses by 80%. I have breathing room to work on my home business now that we have less bills. We also get to spend a lot of time and my kids get reacquainted with their family which we couldn’t do before when we lived across the country. It was too expensive.
SLAP#4:  September 1st 2010: Because my dad didn’t think to register my birth as a Canadian Citizen, I can’t put my boys in school in Canada so we homeschool 2 teenagers.  (so so hard) bullet_go Homeschooling has given me a better understanding of my boys needs. It also gave us the flexibility to come and go as we please rather than being tied down to the school year holidays. We get to visit sights, spend quality time together. BOND!
SLAP #5: March 2011: After 7 additional months of job searching while in Montreal, my husband decides to stop wasting his time looking for jobs all together. He spent several hours a day looking for jobs and drove to countless interviews, but no offers ever materialized. bullet_go My husband decides to pursue his own consulting business doing what he did in the corporate world.  He starts a software testing and QA consulting business.  In progress He is for hire people. And he’s good at what he does.
SLAP #6: August 1st 2010 – Present: Meanwhile, we live out of suitcases because we put all our stuff in a storage unit just outside of Boston 4 hours away from Montreal. (where we thought we would be living when we moved, but couldn’t find any jobs) bullet_go We discover that Boston is not the place for us to live. (NO OFFENSE BOSTONIANS). We decide we want to live somewhere where we can afford to enrich our lives and also work on our business. Long term travel to France is on our radar. One year or more. But we need to get our ducks in line and paper work straightened out.  This was a retirement goal but we can do it now while our kids are still young. Yeah! vive la France.
SLAP #7: April 2011: We need to leave my aunts home in Montreal, but have no idea where we are going to go. We are in between homes, all our stuff is in storage. we are waiting till after august to figure out if we can go to France so renting a home is out of the question and vacation homes seem to be way too expensive. bullet_go We way our options and decide to visit my husbands sister for a few weeks, then his brother. And maybe even rent an R.V. and visit all the beaches up and down the east coast of the U.S. and Canada for part of the summer of 2011. ROAD TRIP and beach bon fires here we come. We’ll see

Before 2008, I never thought I could do any of the things that my family is doing or planning. My Inertia kept me on track with the idea American Life even though I was burnt out and wanted to change. If it weren’t for the life altering events, I don’t know when or if I would have done any of the things I’ve done so far.

Don’t wait until life slaps you in the face to do something

Don’t wait till life slaps you.  If you are living life without purpose other than to work, eat, sleep and own things. If you are tired of waking up everyday and coasting through life with nothing to show for it other than a hectic schedule then

STOP! Take action.

Climb mount Everest, Go to japan, learn to salsa, take up kick boxing, start a new career. Do more with your life than just barely living it.  Do something that is fulfilling so you can live a life with no regrets. You don’t have to take great risks, you can do it smartly but do something for god sakes.  Anything but stand still.

It’s worth the effort to try, even if you don’t succeed, at least you will have tried and don’t have to wonder ‘WHAT IF?”

Good luck. Leave your comments below and let me know what dreams you have been putting off, what fails have lead you to your successes…….

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

How We Ended Up Living In France with Our 3 Children

How we ended up living in France with our three kids

The path you take when you finally decide to move to France will be unique to you and your circumstances. Our decision to move was set in motion by the great recession and unemployment followed by a series of circumstances. Here is a brief look at the events leading up to the final decision that made our move to France possible.

Move to France: We never thought we would or could until…

Although living in France has always been a dream of ours, we never actually believed it was something we could achieve any time soon. Our lives, our mindset and the golden handcuffs of our jobs kept us chained to our perpetual lives. Lives that were good by most people’s standards maybe even great. But for two people like Blake and I who had itchy travel feet, life seemed a little mundane. Each day melted into the next and each day looked like the previous day.

We worked, played, ate, slept and took the kids to school. Rinse and repeat with the yearly 2 week to 4 weeks off for vacations.

We lost our jobs-The Catalyst!

laid_off gave us the balls and courage to take the next stepIn 2007 my husband and I both lost our jobs during the Great recession– the worst to hit since the great depression of 1929.

We didn’t know it at the time but everything changed that day and
getting laid off would be the catalyst that set us in motion towards moving to France. It would just take a while to get there.

Between 2008 and 2010, we bounced between unemployment and working at a couple of company’s which laid us off as well- something that was not all that uncommon in Silicon Valley. Only now, it was harder to find a new job and some of our friends couldn’t find work at all or took on whatever job they could find.

Being unemployed does something to you. Yes it scares you financially but it can also force you into a situation to do things you would never do if you had a full time job or do things you never knew you were capable of doing. At least, that is how it was for us.


“We started to worry”. It’s not cheap living in the San Francisco bay area and the life we created required 2 high paying jobs to maintain that lifestyle. We knew we had to do something. Rather than stick around and deplete our savings, we decided this was our chance to make our exit, cut our losses and get a fresh start on the east coast. Something we always wanted to do to be closer to our families. The east coast also was appealing because the cost of living was much lower than the San Francisco Bay area. We thought in the least, our money would last longer in a less expensive area.

We left our home and our friends behind in California

In 2010, we had had enough and left California for good but by that time we had not planned on moving to France YET!

Instead we planned on bouncing between my family in Montreal and Blake’s sister in Maryland while we looked for work around the Boston area. Once we found work, we would rent a house and settle down.

Strategically speaking, Boston was in the perfect location. Not only was it in New England near the water, but it was also directly located between my family in Montreal and Blake’s family in the states. It seemed like the perfect place for two ex silicon valley workers like us to look for jobs, settle down and start new lives.

Or so we thought!

We changed our mind-set: lived like vagabonds outside of social norms and it changed us

For a year we carried on this way, living somewhat unconventionally as a semi nomadic family of five. We carried only what we needed with a few extra things for each of our three kids: small toys for Catherine, a skateboard, guitar, etc. We shuttled between our two homes family homes in Montreal and Maryland every few months in a big green Toyota Tundra Pick up truck.  The rest of our things or what was left of them were in a storage unit somewhere in Massachusetts. 

We were breaking the mould big time and It felt strange. Even though we were doing what we thought was right, I felt a little guilty living the way we were thanks to a North American upbringing where it’s implied that there are certain lifestyle conventions that we should all try to achieve. (Some people call it the American Dream). If you break from that mould then you are doing it wrong or hurting your children and family.  At least that’s the sense I got.

To make matters worse, it we were spinning our wheels looking for jobs that didn’t pan out, didn’t exist or didn’t pay enough.  Both Blake and I became disheartened, stressed out and in some ways a little desperate.

Something strange or interesting happens, depending on how you look at it, when you are backed into a corner , hit rock bottom or run out of choices.

We decided to do move to France or at least try

Our situation made us get creative and we started looking at options outside of our comfort zone. That’s when we entertained the idea of moving to France for a year. Both Blake and I had lived abroad before meeting one another however neither of us had any experience living abroad as a married couple let alone with three children in tow.

We had discussed it before however there were always road blocks. We had jobs, a house, lives and friends. But now, all those barriers were gone. Our stuff was conveniently in storage. We could go anytime now so why not? Money! That’s why. 

We worried about money and how we could afford it

We had already overcome the idea of living unconventionally but like any normal family, we had concerns about money and how to pay for our trip.  After brainstorming, we came up with some possible scenarios.   We knew that if we could somehow manage the money part than we would be one step closer to making our move to France a reality.

  1. Use what we have: Make our current rental income and savings go as far as possible.
  2. Freelance: Earn money by leveraging our skills and strengths by freelancing or consulting. This would give us the ability to earn money anywhere we land. 
  3. Find jobs in France. (almost impossible, we tried this and it never panned out because we are not EU citizens).
  4. Upgrade our skills: Believe it or not this blog is a way for me to keep my skills updated should I ever decide to return to the workforce. I write, I promote, I troubleshoot, I create all my own graphics. I do it all. You can hire me to help you if you like.

Obviously we overcame all our obstacles because as I write this we are living in France.

What’s my point in sharing this with you?

We all have our own set of circumstances, road blocks or whatever it is that is stopping us from making our dreams come true.  Sometimes it takes an unfortunate event to make us break from the mould.

Why wait? 

If you really want to do something don’t let your fears stop you. Don’t let other people tell you how you are supposed to live. If you think it is a good idea or the right thing to do than do it. It may take you a while but eventually you will get there and you will not regret it because anything worth doing takes work which makes the victories of your success so much sweeter.

So there you have it. What issues are you struggling with? What’s stopping you? 

Get Creative: 11 Ways Families Can Survive Long Term Unemployment

My husband and I were unemployed so long, we used all our unemployment insurance benefits and we stopped looking for work all together.

DID YOU KNOW: in the U.S., if you are unemployed and stop looking for work or if you take a job where you are underemployed just to make ends meet, the government doesn’t count you in the official “Unemployment rate”.  At the time of this writing, these people account for nearly 600,00 people.  That’s a lot. According to, these people are called “discouraged workers”.

I Feel Your Financial Painimage

Whatever your situation, however you came to be unemployed, you’re probably stressing out  and financially boot strapped trying to figure out how to maintain your life on one income or worse, a no income family. Maybe you’re also digging deep into your savings or retirement.

Both my husband and I lost our jobs on the same day. After long-term unemployment, we had to make some hard decisions to survive. It all boiled down to reducing our expenses down, our savings, investments and so on. Then we had to figure out what we wanted to do with out life going forward and then finding the time and a way to make it all happen.

The first thing I want you to do is ask yourself “ what do you want out of life”. You need to re-evaluate your life’s goals for you and your family and match that against your financials to figure out what is possible and what isn’t.

Here are 11 things you can do to survive this very scary time in your life. Many are actual tactics we used, while others are just common sense.

1- Pump Yourself Up. Official Pep Talk

Before, I get into that there’s one thing you must do. Keep Calm And Carry On: Try to keep it together for the sake of your family. Exercise, eat healthy and stay productive.

It’s normal to feel anxious and stressed out. Don’t wait until you have no choices. Anticipate worst case scenarios and take action now. The earlier you take action, the more choices you will have. And the lest stressed you will be because you won’t be backed into a corner to make a decision. My family opted to leave our expensive home in an expensive area. We anticipated not being able to find jobs in our area.  Had we waited, we might have burnt through all our cash.

2-RE-EVALUATE: Conventional Wisdom? American Dream? or Antiquated Nightmare?

If you’re going to survive, you need to change the way you think. Now might be a good time for you to re-evaluate whether you want to stay where you are in life and try to get it all back. Or maybe, just maybe, the conventional wisdom and the American Dream are not the end all to achieve happiness and security. Don’t get me wrong, It has it’s perks. But at what price?

Conventional wisdom tells us to endure it so that we can have the good life and retire well. Endure, the long days of work and commuting. Endure the busy, hectic, stressful rat race doing a job that you might like, but don’t LVOE. The kids spend most of their days with strangers in day care. After work there’s just enough time to make diner and help the kids with homework before it’s time to go to bed so you can wake up to do it all over again. Don’t get me started about the weekends.

Is that the life you want to go back to?  We decided NO, it’s not. Once you’ve let go of the idea that you MUST live THAT life that is so engrained in our society, the one with the two cars, the good schools, the hectic days and day care than you can move on to the next step.


So you’ve decided you might not want to go back to the 9 to 5 rat race. It’s time to give your life a hard re-boot. What have you got to lose? I have to admit, when we had jobs, it was hard to give up. But, when we lost our jobs, the decision to seek other jobs that was more in mesh with our goal to spend more time with family vs. seeking another six figure job was easier because you have nothing to lose.

Now you need to rebuild a new life that lets you live a more meaningful life. The best life you can live. One that lets you do what you love, spend more time with family and have more fun while still supporting your family. I know, your asking, But how? I ‘m unemployed. I can’t find a job.

That’s exactly what I thought too. So pull out a can of courage and roll up your sleeves. It’s not going to be easy. But it will be satisfying. Trust me.I’m not just talking the talk. I’ve walked the walk.

3-Decide What You Want To Do. Start Working Toward Those Goals

Once you decide you want to re-boot, you need time and money to sustain you for a while to make your plan come to life.  You need to make your money go further, you need time to make the plan for you new life. But how do you do that, when you have bills, kids and you can’t find a job?

You need to do whatever it takes. If you are living in an expensive home, than move to a cheaper home. If you can’t afford to move, sell some things to make it happen.  If you have car payments, get rid of one. Go live with relatives if you can. Do whatever it takes to get out of that lifestyle that used to require you to work like a dog at a job that you despise with no time for yourself or your family.

My point is this. If you want to get out of that rut and move onto a better life that’s actually sustainable than you have to cut back your expenses, tighten that belt and make the decisions to get out from under that crushing weight of all the physical things that are keeping you stuck in that soul crushing lifestyle.

Only you can decide what it is you need to do. Let go of the notion that you need to stay where you are, or you need to keep doing what your doing. You don’t. You can do what you want, you just need to know what it is and make it happen.

4- Get The Family On Board

Whatever you decide, your family has to be on board for this to work.  It’s going to effect everyone and everyone has to do their part.

I decided I wanted to work from home and start a small business making specialty sleeping masks. My husband decided he wanted to do Software QA consulting.

We knew it would take months, maybe even a year or so before we saw anything concrete. We couldn’t afford to live where we were in California and also pursue our goal, our dream to have businesses that we’re passionate about. So we moved in with my family, 6,000 miles away on the East Coast of Montreal Canada. We moved there because it cut our costs by thousands of dollars each month.

You’re not going to be able to do something like that unless, both you and your spouse agree to it. Our two older boys had to leave their school and friends. We had to tell them why. They had to now be homeschooled. If you get everyone involved, you’ll get less back lash from everyone. Plus, you’re going to need the help of everyone both morally and physically.

5-Become a minimalist at heart

Now is the time to start getting rid of the things you don’t need. All the clothes in your closet. The unused sport equipment, the old stuffed  toys. Slowly you will get used to living with less. It’s not so bad. I felt depressed at first but then something amazing happened. I felt liberated. I didn’t even miss all those “THINGS” I had. I replaced things with experiences with my family, which is WAY more gratifying.

6- STOP Buying Stuff: Shop at thrift stores if you have to.

This is a hard one. I used to buy things whether I needed it or not. If I had a hard day, a little retail therapy always fixed it for me.  Don’t ask me why, it just did. So don’t buy anything unless you absolutely have to.

Be smart about your purchases. Figure out ways to get what you need without spending too much. Shop at thrift stores. I buy all my daughters clothes from there. Kids clothes are always in great shape. She has gap jackets and other name brand clothing. It literally costs me 30 dollars for a years worth of clothes for her. For myself or my boys, I shop at marshals or other discount stores when I have to.

7-Cut Expenses

You will have to cut expenses so that whatever cash reserves you have will last long enough to achieve your goals. . Our goal was to start our own businesses that we were passionate about and enjoyed that also let us spend more time with family.  Cutting our expenses gave us the extra time we needed to preserve our cash and build our businesses. Had we cut our expenses, we would have been forced to seek searching for non existent soul sucking jobs.

8- Re-examine Your Budget

I know, I know. You probably already did this. But take a second look. Make a spreadsheet or jot everything on paper into groups to figure out where you can cut back. Rent, Food, Clothes, Movies, restaurant etc. Use your debit card to pay for all transactions and than log on to your banking account and download all activity to your computer. Then use a program like excel to put all your expenses into categories. I guarantee you will find something you can cut back on.

I discovered that groceries was my biggest area where I could cut back. I stopped buying name brand boxes of Scooby doo cookies. We started making cookies instead. We drink more water and no more soda. No more bags of Doritos. We were able to cut several hundred dollars of foods. So don’t be afraid to cut back on food. It’s probably junk food anyways.

Oh and please, QUIT SMOKING.

9- MONEY: How to save $500 per month right now

You might think you thought of everything. But just in case, here are some things you can cut back on. I have to admit, I didn’t think I could live without cable t.v. but it’s amazing how much more productive I am now.

Get rid of cable: Save $30- $120+ per month: Don’t wait until your down to the wire. Cut this out  right away. If you must watch T.V. or movies then here are some free and really cheap alternatives
– Watch Free T.V. Online at place like
Rent movies from the library for FREE
Get a monthly blockbuster or Netflix movie account. *for about $9.00 / month you can watch movies from Netflix online and rent movies through the mail. Not bad for 9 bucks/ month.

Get rid of land-line phones: Maybe even cell phone: $10 – $40 / month:
-Make internet calls: using web based companies like It’s free to call other Skype users. Pay 2.3 cents per minute or pay $2.99 per month for unlimited calls to U.S. and Canada. People can even leave you a voice mail on your SKYPE account if you are not at your computer and can’t answer.
Use a pay as you go phone: Be careful, this can get pricey if you are a heavy user. So only use this as an emergency phone and to schedule interviews etc.

Cook Diner Every Night: Always make leftovers for lunch the next day: Results Vary $200 – $400 / month
Eating out is very expensive; especially for a family. We are a family of 5 and we manage to spend less than $25 dollars a day on food. 3 meals a day and we eat very well. No hamburgers or boxed mac and cheese. We eat lots of fresh veggies and herbs with smaller portions of meat which is actually better for your health. I personally love to make Thai food, Chinese and Risotto. All very cost effective and everyone raves about my cooking.

Leftovers:You can maximize the output of your effort with minimal extra effort. Meaning, if you cook dinner, make a little more so that you will have lunch for the next day. Freeze the leftovers and pull it out for a meal when you don’t have time to cook.  You free up your time to do other things. Just warm and serve.
Buy or use one cookbook that you are trilled about: Or print recipes online: it’s important to make diner a fun process and something you’ll love to do at home in order NOT to feel deprived of going out to eat. In our home, everyone helps. Even the kids. It can be a fun thing to do in place of dining out. It brings your family together and diner becomes a fun family event. My sons cook entire meals that rival some grown adult cooks I know. Even my 3 year old daughter helps out. Try it. You’ll like it.

Shop around for cheaper car insurance Save: $20 to $500: Maybe you haven’t done this because you thought it would be a ton of work. But it’s really easy with the internet. In fact you can compare multiple competing insurance companies at once. Here’s one that I found online that lets you compare up to 14 competing care insurance company rates at once

9-MONEY: More Extreme

One of the best things we did was squeeze a little cash our of thin air. Not quite but, these are definitely more extreme ways for you to get a little cash to give you a little more mileage and time so you can reach your goals for your new life.

Sell your car: Extra Cash: This is a hard one. If you have a second car that you don’t think you will need, than consider selling it. If you’re in the city this might be easy. But if you live in the suburbs and need 2 cars to get around than this might take more planning with your significant other. Especially if you have kids. But, it’s possible. We did this for a while and survived.

Rent a room or basement out: Renting a room for an extra $200 to 400 dollars per month might be the extra cash you need to get you by for a few more months. We never did this because our house wasn’t big enough, but if you have the room why not.

Move to a place with cheaper rent: You’ll need to downsize your life and get rid of all the stuff that won’t fit in your smaller less expensive place. We have a smaller cheaper place in Montreal. We did put some things in storage, but its still cheaper than the total cost of our old place by a long shot.

Move in with family and friends? Living with relatives is not ideal. But when you are trying to survive and outlast the bad economy, a temporary situation might be what you need so you can figure out what you want to do. Start a business, change careers, move somewhere where the cost of living is next to nothing.  Use your time wisely to work through what you want to do. .

10-Extra Cash

This is a good way to just do a little cleanup. Lighten your load a bit. Plus, get a little more cash too.

 Sell your unused stuff online: Extra Cash
We went through all our stuff and we sold a few thousand dollars worth of things. Look for things that are hidden in your closet that you don’t use very much.  I found a camera lens and a video camera among other things. My husband sold things in groups. He had a bunch of potted plants that were not worth a lot if sold individually, but together he got over $400. Take your books to a local used bookstore and while you are at it, get rid of unused clothes and donate it to goodwill. Make sure to keep the receipt for a tax write off.

11- Find Ways To Make A Little Extra Money On The Side

You can’t look for a job all day long right?  You’re going to have some free time. Why not spend that time looking for part time gigs or start your own business.

I started a home business a few months after I was laid off. I make close to a thousand dollars a month now from a few hours of work a week. It’s not much, but I absolutely love it. Plus, I’m keeping my business skills honed.

You can also try freelancing your skills. check out for freelance work. You’ll find all kinds of stuff you can do ranging from data entry and copy-writing to web design and programming.  It’s the eBay of freelancing. Also look on Craigslist in their job section. Sometimes they have one off jobs like contract sewing. I recently saw a guy who put an ad on Craigslist for his services. He rented himself as a part time handy man. He did repair work for ladies who couldn’t’ fix little odds and end in their home.

Good Luck to you.

There are a lot more things you can do to survive long-term unemployment. I hope these spark new ideas for you. I would love to hear your best tips for how you are surviving long term unemployment.

Today, we are making strides to rebuild a better life that doesn’t require 2 six figure incomes. It is already a more meaningful life because we are living more authentically. Our number one goal is to build a life that benefits our entire family: have more quality family time, more experiences vs. more stuff. Climbing the corporate ladder is not our number one priority anymore because the corporate ladder can get tipped over way to easily.

how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move

How To Minimize Your book Collection When You Need To Move Or Travel

how to Minimize your book collection before you pack them and move

Whether you are moving to the next city or across the ocean to another country, you are going to have to downsize your book collection or get rid of all your books all together. Here are the steps I took that helped us tackle our monstrous book collection.

My First Minimalist Baby steps

It broke my heart but we had to do it. We had to sell, donate and throw away our books or pay hefty storage fees to keep them in some storage unit. We opted to get rid of most of our books and just keep the ones which had sentimental value which we thought would be easy but we were wrong!

Why we had to get rid of our books and many of our belongings.

We were leaving our life behind in California to start fresh on the east coast or so we thought.

See also: Why we decided to leave California before: Before we moved to France.

See also: How we downsized our stuff

We had no jobs so the plan was to store our things in a storage unit near Boston until we found jobs and then find a place to live near that job. We had no idea how long it would take to find jobs so we wanted to minimize our belongings as much as possible and get the smallest unit possible.

  • First we sold, donated or threw away the things we knew we didn’t need. That was easy. Clothes, old toys, furniture that was stored, cheap furniture and plants. Lots of big potted plants like a maple tree, bamboo plants and my beloved Kafir tree that I used for Thai cooking.
  • Then we got rid of the books we knew we didn’t need or would never read. We kept the rest. You’ll soon learn why.
  • Once we thought we were done minimizing our belongings, we rented the biggest truck we could legally drive- a 26 foot long Penske truck.

Unfortunately, even after we reduced our belonging by half, we discovered we didn’t have enough space in the truck. OUCH. This also meant that our stuff would not fit into the storage unit we rented on the east coast. Double ouch!

We had to learn how to become semi-minimalist within a couple of days.

We decided to take care of the elephant in the room. The books.

Collectively, my husband and our three kids had enough books to open up a small used book store or two so the obvious place to reduce even more was our book collection. We ended up giving up over 85 percent of our books but we should have gotten rid of more. For now what books we have are sitting in a storage unit waiting for us to return to pick them up one day, someday.

I wonder If I will be glad we paid to have them stored or feel like an idiot that we stored them for so long.

Below are my tips to help you minimize and pack your book collection. 

My advice to anyone is never store any books if you think you will store them for more than a year. It’s just not worth the extra storage cost. You can easily replace the books you get rid of or sell with the money you save on storage fees. But if you have to store them, here is my advice on how to go about doing it. They may seem like common sense but if you have tons of books like we did, you’ll need to pack them in an orderly fashion otherwise you’re going to have boxes over filled, too heavy or unorganized.

STEP 1: . Start early In The Morning.

You are the freshest and most clear headed in the morning. Unless you have some ultra human stamina, you will be exhausted by the evening. Save the evenings to relax and if you have to, continue the following morning.

STEP 2: Have sustenance on hand

The last thing I wanted to do was cook. We ordered some take out and had plenty of drink and snacks on hand. Food will help keep you stable and avoid low blood sugar which can make you grouchy and cloudy headed. This turned out to be a brilliant idea.

STEP 3: Clear a large area on the floor:

We used the living room as our staging area because it was big and wide enough so we could spread out all our books on the floor to clearly see them all in one place.

Step 4: Start making small book piles:

Start making small piles of books based on whatever organization method that makes the most sense. I broke up books by genre. For instance, Art books, French books, math books, sci fi books, historical fiction books etc. I also had books broken out by person. For instance, our youngest daughter had boxes just with her box and so did my sons.

Then I had “keep” and “don’t keep” piles followed by a “maybe keep” pile. If you have kids, you can ask them to do the same for their books but in my experience they will just keep everything like ours wanted to do.

STEP 5: Get your boxes ready (IMPORTANT!!! THEY MUST BE SMALL)

Books are heavy. We made the mistake of choosing boxes that were too big and when it came time to move them, we almost broke our backs lifting them.

We decided to re-pack the boxes only half way which posed another problem. The books shifted and moved around in the boxes and when we stacked them up they collapsed on each other. DOH! Plus half filled boxes just was a waste of limited truck space.

In the end, we took a box cutter and trimmed down our boxes to make them smaller. The boxes were lighter, we filled them to the top making them easier to stack and carry but they were not cut evenly and some were lopsided. Again not good for stacking in our moving truck.

STEP 6: Start Packing your piles of books

Remember those piles of books you made? Take all the books you are sure you want to get rid of and put them aside, drive them to goodwill or whatever.

Now is the time to step back and look at all the books you have left. Can your get rid of more?

Then put all the books you have tagged as “MUST KEEP” in the boxes. Label the boxes with a sharpie on at least two sides. This will help you when loading them onto the truck to see that it’s a book box and what’s in them when you eventually unload them.

Remember, you have limited space in your moving truck. Do you really want to keep them all. If you have to, let a day pass instead of making hasty decisions.

Now go through all the book piles tagged “MAYBE KEEP” and decide whether you really, really, really want to keep any of them. We thought we did but then when we saw the books which we already had decided to keep, we thought it best to just get rid of the “maybe keep” pile. We just didn’t have the space to keep them all.

STEP 7: Tape up all the boxes

Once you have all the books you want to keep in the boxes, tape them up. If you can, do a dry run and load them on the truck. Otherwise, you are done. One last thing, try to be strategic with regards to where you load the books in your truck or car. We found that it was best to load them first so that they were against the deepest part of the truck against the wall. This way there was no shifting and they would get unloaded last.


Getting rid of books is hard.  It will be painful at first but time will heal your wounds.

If you are brave, you will get it down to one box. We couldn’t but now that we’ve been away from our books, I don’t miss them at all. I’ve gone totally digital. My husband Blake who is old school who said he would never read eBooks now does reads e-books from time to time. He still buys used books from time to time but he promptly donates them or discards them.

ps..Don’t forget to pick up plenty of packing tape along with a tape dispenser. Having plenty on hand will come in handy if there are multiple people packing. Plus, we kept misplacing our tape so it was nice to have extra rolls lying around just in case.

15 ways you can afford a sabbatical year abroad

15 Creative Ways You Can Save Money Now So You Can Live Abroad Later! 1 Year Sabbatical Or Gap Year

15 ways you can afford a career break or spend a sabbatical year abroad to live in France.

My husband and I always dreamed of living in France but we didn’t have a job or company willing to sponsor our move and we didn’t think we could afford to do it on our own either. We were wrong. With some clever planning, a dash of courage and a pound of persistence, you can make that seemingly impossible dream of a career break or sabbatical year to live abroad a reality.Here are 15 clever, creative and simple ways you can save now for that year abroad later.

Here are 15 ways to make your 1 year sabbatical year dream a reality

Not only do you not need to be rich to take a 1 year sabbatical, you can use a one year career break or sabbatical from life to do something enriching including learning a new skill to advance your career for when you return.

1- Ask your employer if you can take a year off  (ask him for a sabbatical year).

Insurance can get expensive in the US if your footing the bill yourself. It might be a long shot but it’s worth asking your HR department if you can take leave of absence. If they agree, a lot of the stress of returning back home will be removed because you have your job waiting for you after your one year sabbatical. While you’re in HR’s office, see what your options are for health insurance abroad. Thy may have an option for you that will cover you while you are living abroad.

2- Can you do your current job part time and or remotely?

Technically, if you are working remotely, you are not really on a  sabbatical year. But if working remotely is your only option than take it. You can always work remotely from some beach.

Or first year living abroad in France, I did not work but now I do and I am fine with that. I actually like working remotely because I make my own hours and get to work in my pyjamas.

3- Cut back on your expenses and save

Before we ever started packing or applied for visas, our family of five cut thousands of dollars from our annual expenses by simply cutting  the fat out of our lives. We ate out less, we got rid of cable T.V., shopped at thrift stores and didn’t buy anything unless we absolutely needed it.

Yes it was hard especially if you are used to eating sushi once a week buying new shoes every month but if you really want to make that 1 year sabbatical a reality, than you need to do it especially if money is tight. It’s hard at first, but once you start seeing how much money you are saving it turns into a game and gets easier and easier.

4- Sell Your Unwanted Stuff

It’s amazing how much crap you can accumulate over the course of a lifetime especially if you have kids.

Instead of trashing it, try selling your unwanted stuff to fund your 1 year sabbatical abroad? My advice is to first do a big garage sale for the smaller less expensive things. Then sell your more valuable items one by one on or craigslist. Don’t forget to announce your garage sale either. If you’re in Canada, try Kijiji.

5- Volunteer Abroad/ Trade For Lodging and Food

If you would rather volunteer or or work in exchange for lodging and food while abroad, there are volunteer programs over the world. You should know that most of these places you find online will charge you money to match you up with a volunteer program. And they arn’t cheap. I have seen some programs charge a few thousand dollars for less than 6 months.

Don’t be discouraged because there are some volunteer programs where you don’t have to pay but they are hard to find. Let me know if you find one.

6- Home Exchange

If you live in a highly desirable place like San Francisco, New York or another popular destination then you could try exchanging your house with someone who lives  abroad in an equally desirable location.   Check craigslist and do a search on Google using keywords house swap or house exchange. Here’s one that looked pretty good, it’s called Home exchange

7- Rent Your Home To Offset Costs.

Consider renting your home or subletting your apartment. Renting our your place is a good way to offset your costs while also ensuring you have a place to stay when you get back from your sabbatical. If you rent your home fully furnished, you can rent it for even more. Look at places like

8- Go Somewhere Where The Cost Of Living Is Lower

Going to Thailand for your one year sabbatical. If you are from the US or Canada, the cost of living will be much less and your money will last much longer than if you live someplace like Paris for a year. Popular cheap destinations are South East Asia  South America and Mexico.

9- Start your own consulting business

If you have some skill that you can do over the phone or video or over email than consider starting a consulting business that you run completely online.

I know lots of people who travel full time with kids for years on end because they work as consultants, web designers, copywriters etc. All jobs that can be done from anywhere in the world.

10- Teach English or Music over Skype

This falls under number 9 but I thought it was a good idea to call this one out because so many people just don’t know what business to do remotely.

If you speak English or play an instrument for example, you already have a skill that you can teach others. All you need is a computer, internet and skype and a simple 2 page website to start.

11- Become a virtual assistant and do administrative jobs remotely for various companies and people

The web is full of entrepreneurs and businesses looking for other people to do small odd jobs, administrative tasks or higher level duties like Data entry, freelance writing, designing logos etc. go and check out Elance or They have thousands of jobs posted by people and companies looking your help. Some people make a living this way.

12- Sell your photography

If you have an eye for photography, and you love taking pictures you can sell your photos on stock photography sites like Istockphoto. People go there and pay you the rights to use your photo. There’s a lot of competition and it doesn’t pay much but if you love doing it then not get paid for your hobby.

13- Live simply while on sabbatical

Maybe you won’t be able to live it up in a posh area of Paris but there are lots of affordable places or things you can do on a sabbatical.

Some ideas are to buy a used RV and drive across the continent visiting famous landmarks. There are whole families doing this so why not you? If you have your heart set on France, consider living in a very rural area where you can rent a home for less than 500 euros a month.

14- Use your savings, retirement fund or sell stocks

Do this at your own discretion.  When and if you return back to your homeland, can you start over? You’ll have to do a lot of soul searching for this one I suspect.

15-Sell Your Home

I know several families who have sold their house to fund their travels. Only you can know whether or not this is the right option for you to take.  Were you planning to sell anyways?  Is the market up?


There are so many more ways you can pay and afford to take a sabbatical to travel. You will need to pick and choose the ones that best suit your situation, your comfort level and your goals.  Just remember, there will always be an excuse why you CAN’T take a sabbatical. The truth of the matter is, many of your obstacles are mainly fears. If you really want to make this happen than make it a priority and do it

Why we left California

Why We Decided To Leave California: Before we moved to France

Why we left California: before we decided to move to France

Why would anyone leave life as they know it behind in order to start over somewhere else?  We all have our reasons for the things we do. Here are some of ours that eventually lead up to our decision to move to France.

Back story

The decision to leave California was slow in the making and quick in the coming. What does that mean? Annie and I, both with East Coast roots, had been talking about moving East for several years. Recent vacations had been to Montreal, Quebec City, Washington D.C, and Annapolis.

Meanwhile, every now and then we’d read in Outside Magazine or some similar publication write an annual article about “The Ten Best Places to Live.” Here are a few recent examples:

As I noted in my previous post about lifestyle design, California no longer appealed to us. So the seeds for change were there, but they had not yet started to grow.

The Catalyst To Leave California

Then, in the Fall of 2007, the company where Annie and I were working had a lay-off.

The lay-off package was very generous. With a bit of frugal living, we had about a year’s cushion of money. Using COBRA we continued our family health insurance through Blue Shield.  We used the time to travel, including an extended vacation to Paris and Edinburgh.

The Decision

We worked on projects that we never had time to before.  Annie began to prototype some ideas for her business, and she was now able to formally launch it. The result was Le Neko Noir ( – Cute life inspired handmade sleeping masks.).

With this, Annie decided she never wanted to go back to working for someone else. She wanted to run her own home based craft business, and also be at home for our three kids. I fully supported Annie’s decision, but it meant the loss of a six figure income.

So what happened?

Time Off Gives You A Chance At New Perspectives

The year off clarified a few things for us. We liked having our time for us, and not for some other company. If possible, we did not want to work for someone else. We liked to travel. We liked hanging out together. We wanted to continue to live this way. This meant moving. But,

we had to decided where we wanted to move.


We were opening Pandora’s Box, and it was going to be fun, hard, crazy, and rewarding.

Make Your Own Super Easy Gift Tags or Product Hang Tags

This post has nothing to do with France unless of course you are selling handmade goods to earn some extra money on the side for your future move which is exactly what I did.

So you have a handmade product but no product tag for them? You know, those little tags that tell you about the product you are about to buy?  You could buy them but what if you’re not not ready to commit to buying a large quantity of professionally printed hang tags?  What if you just need a few hang tags that you can adjust and tweak until you’re ready to outsource the production of your product hang tags?

Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goodsBuyers of handmade products love to know more about the maker. We feel more connected with the maker and object when we we meet them or know more about them.

Adding a hang tag with a little bio about you, the designer and the product is the next best thing you can do to meeting the potential buyer. It gives the buyer or browser a sense of whom and what went into the design and work for each product. It’s where you can make you and your work shine. Call out all the best features like “hand stitched”, “organic”, “made with love” etc. Best of all, it increases the perceived value of the product which possibly translates into more sales.

Need a craft fair checklist?  Here you go! 

The solutions

Here is a really cute, elegant, affordable and simple solution. It adds a nice final touch to your work. It’s scale-able too, so if you wanted to add more info about your product or business, you could just add a few more pages to the booklet.

Below are the instructions. Please forward any photos of your work if you use this tutorial. I would love to link to them and see them in action.

Supplies Needed

Time: Make a hundred of these in less than an hour.

  1. Heavy Card stock or
  2. Printer
  3. Sewing Machine or Glue
  4. Scissors or Paper cutters
  5. Thread (optional)
  6. Paper Hole Punch (optional)
  7. Mini Safety Pin (Optional)
  8. Custom Rubber Stamp (Optional)


  1. Write a Bio about yourself, your product, company or wish someone a happy birthday if your making this into a gift tag. I put my hang tag info in a word document and made a table within the document to hold my information. Download the word template which has a table that is 4 columns by 3 rows. You can download the template Template: for gift tag / hang tag tutorial
    Tutorial: How to make your own Product hang tags / Gift tags for your unique gifts and handmade products

  2. Print
    out the template after you have finished writing your bio and product info.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods
  3. Get your sissors or Xacto paper ready.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

  4. Cut
    out each mini booklet. These will become the pages inside of the booklet.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods
  5. Measure each mini booklet. If you used my template and didn’t adjust it, Each one should measure about 2.5 x 5 inches. This is Important, because this will determine the size of the cover or outer booklet page that you will be cutting from the heavy card stock. I made it so the outer booklet is slightly bigger than the inner pages. See next step for size.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods
  6. Get your heavy card stock, measure 3 x 6 inches and cut out. This is slightly larger than the 2.5 x 6 inches that we just cut for in the step above. This is because we want the outer cover to completely cover the inner pages like a book would.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods
  7. Now you are almost ready to start assembling the pieces.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods
  8. Fold each of the inner and outer booklets in half. Make sure to make the creases strong.
    Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

10. Assemble: Place the inner pages ( the template that you wrote your bio and product info on) inside the folded heavy card stock.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

11. Attach: You can glue the pages to the cardstock or you can use a sewing machine. I chose a sewing machine because I wanted my hang tag to have that stitched appearance.

Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

12. If you are sewing, just stitch from end to the other.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

13. Your handmade hang tag is almost done.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

14. Now you have to snip off the little threads at each end.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

15. Punch a hole in the back of the hang tag with a paper hole punch. This is where you will thread some thread through.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

16. Get some string, I used embroidery thread, and tie it through the hold you just made.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

17. The next steps are optional. Depending on what your product is, you could just loop your new handmade hang tag to your product of gift. I can’t always do that, so I bought some mini safety pins and attached one to each hang tag.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

18. Admire your work. Here’s what your hang tag booklet should look like.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

19. Lastly, you could add a little extra touch. I stamped my logo on the outside of the hang tag booklet. I had some custom rubber stamps made up for my business. I use them to stamp stationary, customer bags which I use to put customer purchases in at craft fairs, thank you notes with shipped items. It really comes in handy.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

20. One last thing, I hand wrote thank you and sign each one.
Make your own product hang tags for your handmade goods

That concludes my tutorial on how to make your own product hang tag for your handmade products and gifts.

Good luck and happy crafting

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