Thursday, September 28, 2017

5 Must-Have Resources For the Self-Employed

This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated.
All content and graphics provided by VSP Vision Services.

The results* are in: baby boomers are rethinking retirement in favor of  'Encore Careers' working for themselves. Are you one of them? If so, you may be wondering where to start, and how to make it work with the life you already live. Here are just five of the many must-have resources available for your "second act". A full list of resources for the self-employed can be found here.

1) ALTERNATIVE WORKSPACES - Many towns and cities offer pay-as-you-go or affordable short-term workspace. Co-working options include informal open spaces with shared amenities like break rooms and fitness desks, or more formal offices that mimic the corporate environment. Perhaps "maker spaces," "commercial kitchens," or "incubator space" suits your business. Check out local social and traditional media for shared workspace locations near you.

Sites like Rewardli or AppSumo leverage the power of the crowd to save money on office supplies, travel services, and more. Research group-buying sites with the best offerings for you.

Banks have specialists to help self-employed people manage their banking and credit card options. Online financial services groups like Lendio make it easier to get small-business loans. For that retirement nest egg, self-employed folks can create a Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account (SEP IRA).

Self-employed individuals are three times more likely to be uninsured than the national average. But, there are lots of individual insurance options from major insurance brands like VSP Individual Vision Plans, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Delta Dental, Cigna and Humana. Coverage can be the key to thriving in the new economy because it reduces the stress related to working for yourself and makes it truly financially rewarding. Talk with your eye doctor, physician and dentist about the care you need. Research plans to identify the one with the most coverage for your budget.

Many Chamber of Commerce and industry groups like the Freelancers Union offer member discounts and deals that more than cover the cost of joining.

And speaking of vision coverage...

Did you know nearly 50% of Americans don't have vision coverage? And many are self-employed and/or retired. Some may think vision coverage is unaffordable.

Luckily, that's a misconception, thanks to VSP Individual Vision Plans. With individual and family vision plans, people who work for themselves can have the same benefits and savings as they would under an employer's plan.

Visit for more details or to enroll in an individual vision plan today. Enrollment is open year round so you can be covered in as little as five days after enrolling in a plan.

Eyes do more than help you see; they have an impact on your quality of life. From increased effectiveness and productivity at work, to fewer headaches and reduced eye strain, it pays to keep your eyes healthy.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Spooky Spotlight!

"Halloween-ery" has extended its sticky tentacles deeply within my family, infecting yet another generation. Mommy recently caught two year old Austin intently poring over a catalog, exclaiming with glee, "Want that! Need that! This, too!" at every spotted spider, hallow-eyed haunt, and gasping ghost within its pages. Two years old! Could this be an inherited trait? Any aspiring geneticists out there in pursuit of a dissertation topic? We'll help you prove this thesis with a hearty supply of test subjects for your case study experiments!

I offered a day of respite to Austin's mommy last week when daddy flew overseas on business for ten days. Meals, snacks, housework, babysitting, crafts.....all graciously accepted with only one specification: HALLOWEEN PROJECTS, please, grandma?!

And so, today I focus my spooky spotlight on Austin and older sissy, Brielle,* for a trio of satisfying seasonal crafts easily doable with your very own little grand-goblins!

*(One year old brother, Channing, still can't be trusted not to eat glue sticks. That's okay. We'll reel him in next year!)

Pumpkin Portraits!

This ages-old decorating exercise is suitable for the five year age span I entertained here. That was my biggest challenge. Which activities would keep Bree engaged while not frustrating Austin?

Prep was as easy as the embellishing both kiddoes enjoyed. Wide open mouths invite a collection of teeth cut from the paper scraps you'll provide along with safety scissors, glue, and glitter! Dig out your craft punches to supply giant, friendly eyeballs!

Haunted House!

My grandkids are sticker crazy, and quite frankly, so am I! Problem is, sometimes these pesky little things (also known as "tickers!") end up on inappropriate surfaces - windows, walls, shoes, and dogs' ears! So, whose fault is it when there's not a worthy place to plant them?

Leave it to grandma to find the best solution at Sarah Jane's! This ultra-creative lady provided exactly what I was searching for - full instructions and a free haunted house template sporting open-and-shut windows that invite filling with small spider, cat, and pumpkin stickers.

This one takes a bit more time to prep than the pumpkin portrait, but the kids were delighted with the 3-D effect, and I was treated to many exuberant challenges to "Open it, grandma! See what's inside!" I wore myself out fainting in horror over a flutter of bats and grinning ghouls peeled from the pages of these books priced at only one dollar each at JoAnn Fabrics! Hurry on over if this one appeals to you - or if your pets need earfuls of cute "tickers!" :)

Spider Races!

Time for something the kids don't need to work at! I constructed every component of this game myself, although kids as young as four could put it together with a bit of help. All you'll need is one game board, and a pom pom spider and paper straw for each player. Then stand back and watch the competitive fun!

The board is a 12" x 24" strip of orange paper - piece it together if needed. I used decorative craft tape to indicate a start line as well as interim markers. Lay out a web opposite start line with purple craft tape (or draw it with a marker.)

Spiders ("pie-ders!") are 1.5" craft pom poms. Glue on a pair of wiggle eyes and yarn strand legs to complete each one - different color bodies, legs, or eyes suggested for each competitor.

Ready for action?! Place your runners on the start line, pick up your straw, and BLOW! First one to reach the safety of the web without flying off the board is the winner of each fast paced heat! Prizes optional - although when grandma's in charge, I think you already know they're an "everybody's a winner!" requirement!

And finally! Enjoy rattling the funny bones of your grandkids with hoots of laughter while they craft and play. Challenge them with the 47 howling cute Halloween jokes you'll find here, at Grandma's Briefs. Thanks, Lisa! (she's my ghoul-friend!)

Bet you don't know why the skeleton didn't dance at the party!
Well, I do!
He had no body to dance with!

Monday, September 11, 2017

STEAM-ing Along!

Back in the day, my sisters and I decided we needed a backyard swing set. Crayon met paper, and blueprints for a carefully engineered three-seat contraption of sticks and strings emerged, promising a soaring summer of giggling glee.

But grandpa caught wind of our plans, was appropriately appalled, and instructed mother to take his money and install the best in store-purchased backyard entertainment "before those girls break their necks!"

Dear, sweet, indulgent grandpa. He meant well. But sometimes drafting, calculating, and trial and outrageous error are the best parts of unrealistic dreams nurtured among siblings who see the stars and seek to glide among them on scrap wood seats secured with jump rope knots.

I am delighted to see the preponderance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art/design, and math) toys available today for purchase for my grandchildren. Books and toys that tease, unleashing the brain, are all I ever plan to buy for the near-monthly frequency of birthdays I face today. Once these ten kids hit the age of six, look out! Here comes grandma with her bag of favorites, the fruit of well researched and well tested creative satisfaction!

This is not a sponsored post. I just enjoy sharing the success I've had with these excellent mind-enriching products!

The Kiwi Company ranks "number one" with me. While most commonly recognized as a monthly subscription service delivering age appropriate STEAM projects directly to a child's door, I also like the convenience of Kiwi's online store. Here, we pick and choose reasonably priced, individual "crates" that contain everything needed to build enticing, quality projects. Cranes. Electric Circuits. Pinball Boards. Hydraulic Valves. Lanterns. Bottle Rockets. We've bought 'em all - and love 'em all!

Four year old Ava (top) holds an endearing yarn critter, part of the Arcade Kiwi Crate. Twin sissy (right) made one, too. Many kits keep more than one kid busy.....

Eight year old brothers built the accompanying wood claw, and all four siblings enjoyed operating it to grab critters for points. Crafting! Engineering! Cooperating! Family Fun! All in one!

My faves are the mechanical sets (Tinker Crates) for older kids. Below, our young electrical apprentice concentrates on the construction of a trio of translucent multi colored battery operated lanterns. Easy and clear step-by-step illustrated instructions allow kids as young as eight to do-it-themselves while grandma sits nearby, taking pictures and beaming with pride!

Everything you need is included. Everything! 

Take a look and see what you think! This link will net you a $10 discount on a year long subscription!

Okay. Switching to dinosaurs now!

Mindware offers a product I heartily endorse. Open the box to a slab of plaster-like material. Grab the included archaeological tools and a cup of water and begin chipping away! You just know there's something here that needs finding! DIG IT UP! 

The fearsome favorite T-Rex! Triceratops also available!

I passed these out at Grandma Camp to the older kids; six year old Brielle, and eight year old twin brothers, Nick and Sae.

For nearly an hour, heads were studiously bent over the puzzle before them......

Finally! Pay dirt!....a hint of something just beneath the surface! Smooth, shiny, and "rib-cagey!"

More digging!
Is this project a mess? Oh heck yes! Just the way kids love it! Perfect for a sunny day out on the deck!

What? An hour of work and all we get is this pile of bones?

There! That's better! A quick session of easy snapping yielded a trio of (14") take-home treasures just RAWR-ing to go!

Mindware DIG IT UP! Dinosaur kits can be found in my Amazon Gift Shop on page 15.