A blog about "nothing"!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Selling on Ebay--More tips!

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about selling on Ebay and how to get set up.  I thought I would write another post with some things I've learned over time that might help someone out in regards to shipping your items after the sale.

Packaging is always an issue for someone selling on Ebay.  For those in the US you have several options.  First (and my favorite because it is recycling at its best) is to find someone you know that works somewhere that they get a variety of boxes in and that they aren't required to send them out for recycling.  My husband has been a great help in this as he is on the road to a variety of places and he just checks their garbage area while he is there to see if there are boxes that might come in handy.  Worst case scenario is you end up throwing them out yourself.  Another option is to go to the US Postal service website and order some of their free boxes.  The only downside to this is that they are always Priority Mail boxes which does cost a little more to ship.  The nice part is they will deliver them to your door, they have a variety of sizes, and you can order in bulk.  Worst case scenario is to have to purchase a box--I avoid this whenever possible, it cuts in to your profits and adds more garbage to the planet. 

Packing materials--always a bit of a hassle, but I've found a great way to make this sooooooo much easier.  I did have an out of pocket expense in a giant roll of bubble wrap at Walmart since I knew I was going to be shipping quite a few delicate items.  Buying the large roll is a huge money saver (as well as time saver), it was about $16 for an enormous roll of it that I bought over the summer and still have tons of it left.  Then I started saving every catalog or sale flyer that came in my mail--and ran them through our shredder, giving me great additional padding in my boxes.  I usually just have an afternoon of shredding to make up a bunch in advance, storing it in several large boxes I have (a trash bag would work great too).  When I get down to less than a full box of shredded material, I do it again.  Old phone books work great for this purpose as well.  And again, you are recycling instead of throwing those old catalogs and such in to the landfill.  I DO NOT use anything that might have sensitive information on it (statements, bills, etc) as you don't want something accidentally falling in to the wrong hands. 

Use the tools on Ebay to keep track of your progress--be sure to mark items that have been shipped and add tracking numbers.  This is not only helpful to the buyer to know when to expect the item to arrive, but also for you to be sure it made it to its destination.  Be sure to leave feedback for the buyer too.  I am surprised at the number of buyers who don't leave feedbackfor sellers though, I would say about 1/4 - 1/3 don't which kind of defeats the whole idea of this system.  It is meant to help buyers decide who best to buy from--and who to avoid like the plague. 

Another timesaver is to have return address labels printed in advance for putting on packages.  I just buy labels at Staples and preprint multiple sheets of them at a time so I have them readily available.  As for addressing the item for shipping--get yourself a good Sharpie marker, fine point.  You can get them for $1 at most dollar stores and it is worth every penny.  Sure, you can print your own labels, but unless you are 100% sure that your ink is safe from water, it's best not to use that.  Ebay also charges a small fee to print labels via their service.  I avoid this since I'm not shipping mass quantities, it only takes me a minute to write the address directly on to the box, reducing the chances of it running due to weather, or worse yet, falling off! 

Tape--buy good packing tape!  I've had some really crappy stuff, so be sure to get some quality stuff that not only sticks well, but isn't a nightmare to use.  You can also get free tape at some post offices--keep in mind it is also intended for Priority Mail packaging only.  The Priority Mail tape is awesome though, very sticky and for the most part weatherproof.  I actually used some of this tape when I broke my ankle to make a completely waterproof covering for my cast so I could shower, and it worked like a charm.  Took the hair off my legs along with a little skin, but a minor price to pay ;)

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Take: Downton Abbey, S4, E6 (No Spoilers!)

This season has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, one episode dull as heck, the next almost too much going on.  This episode had a lot going on in it, but not so much that you couldn't process it, and I'm sure a lot of it leading up to cliffhangers for the end of the season.  So far it's my favorite episode this season though, and one scene in particular I absolutely loved--Tom, Mary and Isobel, remembering their late spouses and talking about love. 

1) Tom and Mary should end up together (even though both actors have denied this happening).

2)  Well played Mrs. Hughes, well played!

3) "Only stupid people are fool hearty."

4)  Awww Daisy :(

5)  Sometimes it really does pay to know the right people.

6)  Edith--karma's a bitch, isn't it?!?!?!

7)  Get Carson the Xanax--NOW!

8) Rose really is a slut.  Or a tease.   Or a tart.  Take your pick.

Friday, October 25, 2013

BOO!!

I have wanted to make a Halloween banner for a while now, I had all sorts of fun ideas pinned from Pinterest.  It was just a matter of finding some time to actually make it.  Today was finally the day.  It didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped, but it's still cute.  Other than the basket that the Trick Or Treat candy will go in, this is the extent of my Halloween decorating for this year.  Just not in to it for some reason.......it doesn't help that we don't have many little persons that come to our house anymore, they have all grown up.  I've been contemplating selling some of my Halloween stuff on Ebay!


In case you are wondering, the main "body" of each piece was cut using the Big Shot Top Note die.  Most of the things were cut out by hand except for the smaller ornamentals, those were a sheet of stickers from Paper Bliss that I had in my stash, and the letters were cut using my Slice, "Spook Alley" disc.  My inspiration for this project came from this pin. 

Back on the wagon!

Now that I'm home again, I can concentrate on my weight loss plan.  I was doing well until the week of my birthday and it all fell apart.  First it was DQ on my birthday, and dinners out.  Then I got sick and due to changes in my blood sugar because of the illness, I was ravenously hungry for several days.  Add no energy to exercise (or time).  Toss in our wedding anniversary, the trip to Niagara Falls, Sweetest Day and lots and lots of chocolate--yikes!   Fortunately I only gained about 3 pounds back from the 15 I had lost, but it was still annoying.  The good part is that I officially went back to my way of eating yesterday and I really didn't notice being hungry or anything, so maybe it was a case of my body just needing a break.  Timing is everything.  I'm hoping maybe it will jump start me again.  I was at a plateau before that, keeping my fingers crossed that I am back on track again.  This time of year can be difficult for people to lose weight to begin with, particularly in cooler climates where the natural reaction is to eat to build up body fat for winter.  Toss in the holiday season and it can spell disaster for some people.  One of those times of year where I am actually grateful for food allergies!  Still shooting for the spring goal of none of my clothes fitting me right--I already noticed that some of the things are definitely loose, and a few pieces should probably be donated.  Still trying to think positive :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Happy Girl

Today is my first official day of being at home again--Laney is one happy puppy right now.  At this moment she is sleeping by the front door, I'm sure she is glad not to have to be in her crate.  I have a zillion things I should be doing right now, but instead I'm playing with my blog, trying to change a few things.  Some successfully, some not.  Oh well, I'll figure it out.  Apologies if you encounter problems while I'm playing!

"I'm so happy mom is done working!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Take: Downton Abbey, S4, E5 (No Spoilers!)

This was an unusual episode, new characters introduced that I think will be around for a bit and a secret revealed that has major repercussions.  Some out of character behavior.  And some other dangling question marks that will hopefully be answered over the next several episodes and not just forgotten.  Hmmmm............

1) Mrs. Patmore really does not like new fangled things.

2)  "I made it up.  I thought it was rather good!"

3)  What is Thomas up to now?

4)  It sucks to be Bates.

5)  Rose is a waste of air time, send her back to Scotland.

6)  Carson!!!  That was just mean!!!!

Til next week.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

VPN--worth it???

I recently subscribed to a VPN (virtual private network) service.  I did it for two reasons--to watch "Downton Abbey" as it was being shown in the UK and for increased security.  I'm still trying it out, it has been an interesting experience to say the least.  As for the being able to watch UK television, it works great.  I'm still not 100% convinced on the increased security.

A VPN is a direct connection to another point in the internet--a "tunnel" so to speak.  Many companies use VPN technology to permit their employees access to their company computers without the risk of outside sources hacking in to their systems.  The company my husband works for uses one since most of their employees are on the road.  I was impressed with the way it works so I decided to try it myself.  I surfed around the net and did some reading and finally decided on one.  It charges a monthly service fee (currently $6.95 per month) but many of them offer a significant reduction if you subscribe for an entire year all at once.  There was some software to download and once I had my user ID and password, I logged in and I was pretty much ready to go.  I did have a little trouble getting logged in, but later found that the problem was on their end, not mine.  I hadn't picked the best time to decide to try it!  I haven't had any problems with it since though, the most complicated part was figuring out how to disconnect it or change locations, but once I learned how, it is easy peasy. 

The company I am using offers connection from several different countries as well as numerous connections in the US.  This is great for someone who travels a lot.  If you have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu or another streaming service, you will find that you can't access it from outside of the US.  With a VPN connection, you could be in Japan, but set it up through one of the US servers and now you can.  If this is what you are going to be using it for you will need to do a bit of research on the different companies to find out where their connection points are set up, I was amazed at the different ranges that were offered by various companies.  How does this work?  When you connect at a different point through a VPN, you are assigned a new ISP number for where that point is.  For example--if I don't connect via VPN, my ISP number says that I am in Pittsburgh, PA.  If I go through the VPN, I can connect through various points from other locations and my ISP number reflects that location.  If I want to watch UK programming I simply select a location in the UK to connect through and suddenly I'm "transported", giving me access to things that might have been blocked if I had been using an ISP based in the US.  Sounds complicated, but it's really pretty simple to use.  I do get a chuckle when I am connected via a UK location, suddenly all the ads and such are now for UK based companies and any money references are in pounds instead of dollars.  That took a bit of getting used to.  Keep in mind this works both ways too--some US sites will not permit you to log in from a foreign country, so you may have to change your connection point to a US based site if this happens.  This is why you need to do your homework on the connection points in advance and subscribe to the plan that best suits your needs. 

Now for the security point--since you are using a direct connection instead of bouncing all over the internet for the first available open spot, you are at a reduced risk of someone getting access to your information.  To me this is a great selling point for anyone who does any kinds of bill payment/banking transactions on the internet.  However, I am not convinced that this completely eliminates ANY risk, just reduces it.  I have noticed a significant reduction in the amount of SPAM emails that I am receiving.  Usually I get anywhere from 20 - 30 of them overnight in my one account, you can imagine how surprised I was when I only got 3!  You can also change your connection point every single time you log in to a banking location making it next to impossible for a hacker to track you, reducing your risk.  I'm still playing around with it to see what works best, but I have found this very interesting. 

So the big question--is it legal?  YES, a VPN connection in the US is perfectly legal.  There are the "hacker/geek" types who have the know how to set up a VPN connection to use it for illegal activities.  That isn't legal.  But subscribing to a VPN in the US is not illegal, in fact most of the subscription services have very strict rules as to what you can use the VPN for and if you violate them, you're out.  (and possibly the FBI or some other law enforcement agency may come to visit!)  Watching television in foreign countries via VPN currently is a gray area in the US.  The reason is that many countries outside of the US charge their residents an annual licensing fee (I know for a fact the UK does) and they have no way of collecting that from someone outside of the country.  I imagine they aren't thrilled about this technology being used this way, but as long as you aren't abusing it (ie. making copies and selling them) , I don't think they are really going to pursue doing away with it.  One thing I have noticed recently is that the time between shows being aired in the UK and the US are getting shorter, and several shows in particular are showing the newest season here within days of it being aired there.  Perhaps they have realized that there are ways around their technology and have adopted the "if you can't beat them, join them" philosophy. 

Right now I am doing the month to month fee, I am still not sure I want to continue with it.  If I do I will probably pay the annual fee and be done with it, you end up getting a whole year for just under half price that way.  I'm going to give it a couple of more weeks to see.  I haven't been home enough lately to use it to it's full potential.  I will keep you posted!  If you have had experience with a VPN, be sure to post in the comments section.   If you would like to learn more and understand geek-speak, there is a great explanation of VPN on Wikipedia.  I tried best to explain it in a black and white version.  :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Take: Downton Abbey, S4, E4 (No spoilers!)

I was annoyed after I watched this episode--not that there was anything wrong with the episode itself, but I went online to see what others thought of it, and just by typing in "Downton Abbey" in a search engine, one of the very first articles that popped up gave away a major spoiler in the headline!  This ticked me off big time, they won't show the series in the US even close to when it is shown in the UK, but you can't safely even look something up online without accidentally stumbling across spoilers.  This happened to me last year and the main reason that I decided to spend the money to see it ASAP instead of waiting until January.  Grrrrr........................on to my thoughts. 

1.  "Don't be transparent mama, it doesn't suit you."

2.  Oh Tom, what were you thinking?!?!

3.  Daisy is going to punch someone before this is all over with.

4.  Mrs. Hughes knows EVERYTHING!

5.  Julian Fellows must have re-read "Pride & Prejudice" just before he wrote this episode.

6.  Isobel is a class act.

7.  The Thomas I love is back!!!!  (YEAH!!!!!)

Later..............

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Garden Update...............(really!)

I never dreamed that on October 13th I would still have any veggies coming off my plants--but I do!  The green beans are long gone and the lettuce too, but I still have some stragglers on the tomato plants, the onions are still doing well (I've used quite a few of them) and the peppers---oh my!  They don't seem to want to give up and with the mild temperatures we have been having, we managed to get another whole batch off of the plants so I could make another dish full of sausage stuffed peppers with several to spare.  And there are still quite a few on the plants in various stages from just past the bud stage to almost mature.  I never would have thought that I would still be getting peppers at this point in time.  Unfortunately cooler temperatures are coming, so I may have one more good harvest of them before the plants are ready to be pulled out for the season.  I am hopeful.  I really thought we were done a few weeks ago.

A couple of my surprise peppers!
 
 
One more week of working, timed that about perfectly, because I want to pull the onions that are left to dry out for storage.  Not really a lot of them left since I've been using them to make several recipes including fresh salsa.  I haven't bought onions since at least August though, so I would call that planting a success as well.   
 
Next year I don't think I will bother with the green beans for several reasons--we had a constant battle with the birds for all the more we got, and Lee accidentally broke the container.  For the expense involved I am probably just as far ahead to buy them from a local farmer.  Everything else though was a great success and I will be growing them again for sure.  Maybe I will try something new in the spring, not sure what yet.  'Til next year!



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Take: Downton Abbey, S4, E3 (No Spoilers!)

Last week I was lamenting the boring episode--none of that this week.  It was an interesting episode the whole way around, with a very serious plot twist that NO ONE expected.  It makes a car wreck, the Titanic sinking, being gay and death from pre-eclampsia seem like little stuff.   I am curious to see how this plays out in the coming episodes.  I will advise you, if you are trying to avoid any accidental spoilers regarding this episode, avoid most things about Downton for a while, this episode drew more controversy than any episode previously and is being widely talked about in the British press.  You've been warned......

Back to my take:

1.  Jimmy needs to quit showing off.

2.  Mary is getting better at accepting reality.

3.  Poor Tom, such a fish out of water.

4.  I miss O'Brien and Thomas smoking/scheming together.

5.  "Am I the only member of this family who lives in the 20th century?"

6.  Alfred can cook?!?!

7.  If all this keeps up, Carson is going to need a Xanax.

Till next week!!!



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

MMMMMMMmmmmmmmm..........................

We didn't buy any souvenirs in Niagara Falls.  I don't need any t-shirts or anything else with "Niagara Falls" emblazoned on it.  Over the years I've picked up a couple of things, but not a lot.  I did see a hockey style shirt that I liked, but really didn't feel like spending $50 on it.  I DID make a trip to the grocery store though to pick up some chocolate.  I do this every time we go to Canada, to me there is nothing as good as Cadbury from Canada (or the UK).

 

My addiction to Cadbury chocolate goes back to when I was a kid.  My dad was an engineer in the natural gas industry and he had a colleague from Canada who used to come and visit fairly often.  Every time he came to visit, he brought me a Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar.  I looked forward to his visit because there was nothing in the US as good as that candy bar. 
 
Eventually Cadbury became available in the US and I was a regular customer.  My all time favorite is the Wispa bar (aka Dairy Milk Bubbly in Canada).  Unfortunately Cadbury decided to sell the licensing to their name in the US to Hershey and things have never been the same.  If I want my chocolate to taste like a Hershey bar, I'll buy a bloody Hershey bar!!!!   So, I look forward to trips to Canada, the UK and Ireland, where I can buy a REAL Cadbury bar. 
 
 
This morning I had my cup of coffee with a Caramilk Bar--sheer heaven!  Yesterday it was with a Dairy Milk Bubbly.  I'll be sad when they run out, but also thankful that cooler weather is here so I can order some and have it shipped to my home when I get desperate ;)  Perhaps I should order some Blue Monday candy bars from Kentucky while I'm at it?  (another story I'll tell another time......."Tales of the Chocoholic")

Monday, October 7, 2013

A VERY wet weekend in Niagara Falls

We spent the weekend in Niagara Falls.  Thank heavens it wasn't our first time there as it was kind of a mess.  It had rained a lot before we went, it rained some while we were there, and continued to rain a lot yesterday morning.  So much so that it made just seeing the falls difficult.  When it rains hard, it makes the water rushing over the falls that much faster and harder which creates even more mist.  There were times when we couldn't see much more than 1/4 of the Canadian Falls from where we were!


 
See those little boats down there?  That's the Maid of the Mist which takes you fairly close to the falls.  On a good day you get pretty wet.......I'm sure most of these people were hoping they had a change of clothing somewhere......

 
Hee hee, these poor people have no idea.........

 
We didn't do any of the touristy stuff, we have been there many times before and have had the chance to do most of the things we have wanted to do already.  We also are both getting over some sort of cold/flu kind of thing, so our energy levels weren't the greatest.  It didn't matter because we were here for one thing, and one thing only: 
THESE GUYS!!!!
 
Chip Esten wasn't there because he is busy filming "Nashville", Joel Murray (actor and little brother of Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray) was there in his place.  HILARIOUS!!!!  Definitely worth the trip for anyone who is a "Whose Line Is It Anyway" fan, most of the evening is similar to what they do on the show with a few changes.  They still take suggestions from the audience and pull some people to participate.  A fun evening the whole way around.
 
We headed back earlier on Sunday than we had planned, it poured some more overnight and was still raining, so not fun.  It took us an hour to cross the border back in to the United States--nutso!!!!!  I couldn't help but notice as we were sitting on the bridge that the mist was even heavier than it was on Saturday, you couldn't even see the buildings on the hillside. 
 
Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Take: Downton Abbey, S4, E2 (no spoilers!)

This had to be the dullest episode of Downton Abbey in the history of the series.  I am hopeful that some of what went on is setting things up for future episodes. 

1.  Robert is still a pompous ass.
2.  Poor Moseley.
3.  Isobel and Mrs. Hughes make a good team.

4.  Thomas hasn't changed a bit.
5.  Lady Edith wore the ugliest dress ever in this episode.
6.  Rose is a tart.  (and definitely no replacement for Sybil.)
7.  "Prison was an education"
Stay tuned...............