Jan 17
One of the views from Colorado Springs

In Colorado Springs, you can sometimes see Air Force flybys, as pictured here, or visit Library 21C.

There are a lot of great places that you can visit in the world, and there are probably also a lot of really great places in your own backyard as well.

I'd like to review some of the places that you can visit sometimes.  I've lived in Colorado Springs for a little over two years now, and of course, I've lived in other places that you can visit, so on some Mondays, I'd like to review some of them.  If you don't live in these places, maybe they won't be interesting to you right now, but if you ever visit, then you can check out the review.

There's never a bad time to check out a book from the library.  There's always something to read.  Library 21C is probably my favorite library (we might as well start with the best, right?).

Library 21C's biggest strength is its technology.  They have tons of things that you wouldn't normally associate with the library of your childhood there.  You can find 3D printers (open to the public at certain hours if you take a class and learn how to use them), computers, gaming machines, and other technologies.  They teach classes on all sorts of technologically-related classes.  They even have fitness classes!  You can visit their web site for the latest details.

The library has quite a few meeting rooms that your group or organization can sign up for.  They range in size and some have different capabilities.  Many have whiteboards and large computer monitors.  You can also check out equipment to use when you are borrowing the meeting rooms, like dry erase markers and erasers.

The main downside of this library is that it doesn't have a LOT of books.  While there are areas with books for children, teens, and adults, a lot of the space that is often reserved for books in a library is packed with all this great technology.  Not to worry though: Library 21C is part of the Pike's Peak Library District, and you can have any of the books in this library system reserved and brought to this library for you to pick up.  You do have to think ahead if you want a book that's kept at a different library, but that's a small drawback for all the advantages that this library has.  You can always check out digital books at any time (without even leaving your house).  The library also has a nice variety of new books if you're interested in browsing newer releases.

So if you've moved to Colorado Springs recently or are here visiting and want to spend a relaxing day of reading, you might want to check out Library 21C.

Jan 17

US CurrencyWe're still less than a week into the New Year, and perhaps, if we made New Year's resolutions, we've already forgotten about them.  Or maybe we're keeping them.  At any rate, it's never the wrong time to think about improving our finances.  I'm sure that most of us can work in that area.

One of my favorite finance guys is Dave Ramsey.  He has a daily radio program, writes books, and has a Financial Peace University that goes through all the major aspects of household finance.  He focuses on getting out of debt, saving for emergencies and beyond, and then building up a nest egg.  He tells us to "live like no one else, so that later, you can live like no one else," that is, sacrifice today, so that later you will have a decent amount of money and you can give to others like no one else.

If 2017 is the year that you want to get your finances in order, you might want to consider reading Dave Ramsey's Complete Guide to Money.  It's the same book that they use in the Financial Peace University classes, and it covers almost everything that you need to know (although the hard part can sometimes be actually living the principals).

The book covers everything that you need to know about getting out of debt, building a savings, and even dealing with creditors, if you've gotten into trouble in the past.  It talks about getting a home, getting a bargain when you're shopping, and investing.  It also has all the forms that you'll need to use to get a budget started in the back of the book (although you'll probably end up using an Excel spreadsheet, since you'll want to do a budget every month).

If you're not familiar with Dave Ramsey, he suggests going though several different baby steps on your road to financial freedom:

  1. Put together a baby emergency fund of $1000 (in case something catastrophic comes up.
  2. Pay off all of your debts (with the exception of the house) from smallest to largest.
  3. Put 3 to 6 months of expenses into savings.  This is in case something catastrophic comes up, like a job loss.
  4. Invest 15% of your income into retirement.
  5. Save for your children's college.
  6. Pay off the house.
  7. Build wealth and give a lot of it away.

The farther along you go down these baby steps, the better it feels.  Sometimes, unfortunately, things happen and you can slide backwards (it's happened to me... we've had the baby emergency fund and then the emergency happens) but if you have don't have a plan, it's never going to get done by accident.

The Complete Guide to Money is well-written, easy to read, and if you live it, it really works.  The closer my husband and I live to this plan, the better we feel about what's going on financially.  It provides inspiration with little sidebars about people that have lived the plan and have succeeded.

If you're looking to win with money in 2017, and you haven't learned the basics of financial planning yet, I definitely recommend this book.

Jan 17

"It's all fun and games until your pants don't fit".

I've seen that meme floating around on Facebook a couple of times, and perhaps you have as well.  My only honest response that I can make to that sentence is "yeah, don't you hate it when you've been exercising so much that your pants are falling off of you?

Fitbit Zip (Magenta)

My Fitbit. Thanks to my kitty for allowing me to use her black fur as the background.

Right now, that's about where I am.  Half of my pants are falling off me, and whenever I go to the store to get new pants, it seems like one size is ready to fall off, and the next size down is too tight.  Maybe I'm just so used to my pants being loose that I don't want anything that is too tight fitting?  I don't know.  I even ended up putting a shirt that was too big into the Goodwill box for the first of the year :-).

At any rate, my pants aren't fitting very well, and I can partially thank my Fitbit for that.  My parents got me a Fitbit Zip for Christmas a year ago, and it's a nice little motivator (they got me the magenta one, but it comes in other colors as well).

Before I got my Fitbit, I was using a Wii Fit Pedometer.  The Wii Fit pedometer is fun to use, and I like the way that it syncs with Wii Fit and has your Mii walk around virtual tracks or climb virtual towers, but it does have some drawbacks.

One advantage of the Fitbit pedometer is that it stays attached to your clothes a lot easier than the Wii Fit pedometer.  The Wii Fit pedometer fell off of my clothes on multiple occasions (usually when I was getting in or out of the car).  The clip just doesn't grip tightly to your clothes.  This caused me on more than one occasion to walk around frantically trying to find it.  Although it did cause me to walk more steps, those steps weren't counted.

Pokémon Kitty in the snow

I rescued this poor kitty from the cold while having fun with my Fitbit.

Another advantage that the Fitbit has is that it can connect to a lot more applications that are fun to use.  For example, I participate in virtual walks at Walking 4 Fun.com.  I've been doing the Pacific Crest Trail for a while now, and I'm almost out of California.  My Fitbit syncs automatically, so even if I forget to log into Walking 4 Fun, it counts my steps anyway.  Fitbit also connects to Sparkpeople.

I almost always remember to put my Fitbit on (even when I'm trying to fall asleep and I have to use the bathroom... don't want to miss out on those extra 25 steps).  I've thought about getting one of the Fitbit watches before, but I hate the fact that they have "silent" alarms and I don't trust them to not wake me up in the morning (maybe somebody has experience using those; if you do, please leave a comment).  I don't really want to have to wear a watch and a Fitbit.  Maybe, since I'm good about taking off and putting on my Fitbit at night, I would remember to put on my watch before I went to bed.  Maybe I'll try that one of these days.  I do have a loud backup alarm clock just in case anyway.

My Fitbit takes one of those little flat batteries (CR2025).  They aren't rechargeable, but they do last for several months.  I've found that once the batteries start going, they will go fast, and you'll want to have an extra on hand to replace it as soon as possible.  I bought a 10-pack of these batteries for pretty cheap on Amazon.com; I think I've had to replace the battery four times in the last year of constant use.

The Fitbit App that works for your iOS device (and I'm assuming Android devices too, but I've never used it) allows you to easily track your steps for the day, see how far you've walked, and participate in challenges with your friends.  You can also earn badges for losing weight, and hitting different walking milestones.  You can also log into Fitbit on your PC.

If you're looking to move more in the New Year, and you're hoping that you're having so much fun and games that your pants don't fit any more (too big, of course, not too small), then maybe you want to try out a Fitbit.

Jan 17
mexican ruins

Visiting some ruins in Mexico.

Hello!  Welcome to my new blog, Brooke Reviews and Sweeps!  Since this is my first post, let me introduce myself.  I'm Brooke, and I've been a "Momtrepreneur", in a way, since around the year 2000.  I've done several different things over the years, including content production, entering sweepstakes, and writing reviews (one of the first things I did to make money on the internet was writing for Epinions.com, where I was one of the Top Reviewers).

I hope that I'll be able to do a few things with this blog.  For one, I hope to be able to provide reviews of different things and places in my life, like books that I read, places I go, etc.  I live in Colorado Springs, so my place reviews will probably include places in Colorado, but I've been blessed in that I've been able to go a lot of places, so you never know, maybe I'll end up writing about Kentucky Fried Chicken in Jamaica!

I suppose that some people might think that I'm a little eccentric, so although some of my posts might be normal, you might also find a few things in my blog that you won't find in many typical "mommy blogs".  For example, I just finished reading A History of Modern Europe from the Renaissance to the Present, so I might end up reviewing that.  But I'll also be reviewing more normal things, like Veronica Roth's new book Carve the Mark, which I've already pre-ordered and will probably have finished reading on the day it comes out or the day after (I read all three Divergent books (in English) in two days).

Here are five things about me that will affect what ends up here:

  • I'm a Christian. - Okay, that one's pretty normal, but it's an important part of my life, so it comes first here.  My husband works for a non-profit here in Colorado Springs, we go to church almost every Sunday, twice, and are in the choir.  So don't expect to see a review of the next 50 Shades of Gray movie here.  One note, however: some of the sweepstakes I enter offer gift cards as prizes and might be sponsored by products that I don't endorse.  I'm not going to blog about theology here, but being a Christian does affect my worldview.
  • I'm a polyglot. - It's possible that some people wouldn't consider me to be a polyglot, so I'll say what I mean by that.  I speak English (obviously), am fairly proficient with Spanish and German, am okay with Russian, and I dabble in several other languages, including Portuguese, French, Italian, Irish, Danish, Hebrew, and ASL.  There may be some others that I'm forgetting.  Languages, for me, are like... ooh, an ardilla (squirrel)! and then I want to go learn it.  If you want to post in some of these languages listed, go ahead (I can always get Google Translate to help).  Sometimes I might throw in a foreign word here or there, but if I do, the meaning should be obvious from the context.
  • I'm a homeschooler. - Homeschooling is a lot more common than it used to be, but it's a big part of what I do.  My kids are currently in 5th and 9th grades.  We're still hoping to add to our family (which is part of the reason why I'm starting this blog, but more on that another day), so eventually, we'll probably have younger grades to teach again.
  • I read non-fiction for fun. - I'm not sure if this is strange or not; after all, some people are buying all of these books.  I was on a waiting list at my local library for months in order to borrow Pendulum, so I know that I'm not alone here.  While you will see some fiction books reviewed here, there will be plenty of history books included here as well.
  • I'm into health and fitness. - I try to live a healthy lifestyle, even when it's not the time of year that people make New Year's resolutions.  I'm not, in fact, making any New Year's resolutions this year.  I'm just trying to continue to do what I'm doing.  I drink kombucha, use essential oils, exercise, prefer organic when I can, that sort of thing.

So that's a little bit about me, I'm hoping to get to know some of you in the future!  Leave a comment and say hi!